Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Of Flags and Symbols

I really, really wanted to write about the art of Mesopotamia for my next blog post, especially in light of the destruction of Mesopotamian art and artifacts by the Islamic State, but I have really found myself a wee bit sidetracked by the horrific events of June 17, 2015 when a young man named Dylann Roof sat in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina before turning his gun on the group. Nine people were murdered that day. Accompanying this news has been the debate about what has come to be known as the Confederate flag, and calls for it to be removed from the state capitol grounds of South Carolina. For those who may not be American, or have not followed the story, South Carolina not only continued to fly the Confederate flag on its state building lawn after the massacre, it was not even flown at half mast.

The Confederate flag has been a subject of much debate in the United States I would argue, since the end of the Civil War. For black people, it represents slavery and a horrible time in United States history. For those who fly it with pride, it is said to represent liberty. The argument has been heated and vehement on both sides. Why is this symbol so polarizing?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    I am going to have to check out your response. I have been hanging back a little as I've watched the deluge of information about t
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Your initial comment and my reply inspired me to write something for W&P on the flag and Southern culture amnd how Pagans can have
  • Rianna Stone
    Rianna Stone says #
    Perhaps the household I grew up in was the exception then. Racism was not tolerated by my family and no one I knew tolerated it ei
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Rianna- I have just posted my response, inspired largely by your criticisms. I think you might find it rather different than you
  • Rianna Stone
    Rianna Stone says #
    The reason why the flag wasn't lowered is because it cannot be lowered without something from the legislature to make it happen. W
The Subjectivity of Spiritual Experiences

Lately, in my meditation group, we've been doing some work with space/time magic meditations and with spirits associated with space and time. In our most recent session I had the group do a meditation with Purson, a goetic demon who has some specific skills related to time. What I also told the group was that it's important to recognize that their experience of Purson is subjective and that he is only as real as that person wants him to be. That may seem like an odd statement to make, but the group was comprised of people that ranged from atheists to people who believe in the objective existence of spirits, and so I felt it was important to acknowledge that a wide range of experiences could happen that would nonetheless be significant to each participant and wouldn't necessarily invalidate any of the experiences. All the participants accepted that explanation and then we had our various encounters with Purson.

Spiritual experiences, by their nature, are subjective. For example I believe that spirits are objective beings in their own right. Note the word believe. Believe is a word rooted in subjectivity. That's what I believe, but I can't really prove it. I can tell you about my experiences and I can cite other people who've had experiences in their own right which tells that what they encountered is real, but its ultimately subjective. For that matter so is the argument that the spirit is just a psychological aspect the person is drawing upon. Again we can find a variety of people who will argue that position and draw on their experiences, but it's still subjective.

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(I wrote this in 2005, before I had embraced Paganism.  So please forgive the absence of the usual buzzwords, and feel free to insert your own.) 

We survive the trials of life because our brains change.  The brain creates new neural pathways in response to fresh information.  Each time we encounter a different piece of the cosmic puzzle, be it pleasant or unpleasant, the brain readjusts its “wiring” to integrate that information into our total reality system.  By this process we gradually increase the sum total of what we understand.  At the same time, we raise the threshold of what we are able to endure.  

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

In the early hours of morning, I found myself in a shining reality where Ravyn and I were sitting comfortably on a pillowed living room sofa, holding our sweet puppies in our laps.  Augie and Muffin - healthy and happy, resting in our arms.  As I looked at the sweet upturn of Muffie's muzzle and nose, and stroked both of their soft, warm, silky heads, I reminisced with Norie/Ravyn about all the terrible times we had survived - ill health and pain, car accidents and worse, bankruptcy and financial ruin - and we discussed how grateful we were to be finally made whole once again, and able to take care of our dogs properly.  

In my dreamy reverie, I was trying to remember who the kind person was who had taken them into her care for us when we could no longer pay for their upkeep and medical expenses, and who had kept them safe and well until the day when we could finally welcome them back again.  I asked Ravyn if she could remember that person's name - after all, it was a wonderfully selfless act she had performed.  Imagine caring so well for such sweet beings, with no thought of being paid back - and then willingly restoring them to us, healed and whole, without feeling any attachment or desire to keep them for herself!  It seemed vaguely strange to me that I could not recall the name of such a wondrous person, but I was so comfortable and peaceful that it did not bother me much.  Ravyn was equally forgetful, mellow and happy; and it occurred to me, as a sort of disinterested afterthought, that all four of us had perfectly functioning youthful bodies.  All traces of gray were gone from our hair and its natural color had been restored, as had all the skin smoothness and muscle tone that we had possessed when first we met. 

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you. Sweet reminders are the best.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Temples: Ancient Pagans and Sacred Space

In my last article, I put forth the notion that we humans have had the need to create art encoded into our DNA. Along with the need to create images, humans have had the need to “make special,” to “make sacred,” and art can fulfill this need. By bringing art into a space, humans make the space special. When the art reflects beliefs about the divine, the art that inhabits that space makes it sacred. I spoke at length about cave paintings in my last entry, and I believe that those paintings could in fact have been making ancient caves into sacred spaces.

As humans moved from a hunter gatherer existence into something more settled, areas where they settled often included sacred places where their relationships with the divine could unfold – temples. When I was in graduate school, I strove to understand what installations were and what “site specific” art, as installations are more commonly called these days, were and where they fit into art history. Temples themselves are “site specific,” created to meet the needs of a particular people in a particular place. In this article, I will look at some pre-historic peoples and their need for the creation of permanent sacred space.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Theological Reflection

[Note:  I wrote this piece for my students at Cherry Hill Seminary on the subject of Theological Reflection -- a practice that I feel is essential for anyone undergoing theological studies (in this case specifically in a seminary setting).  In reflecting on this and the seminary experience I think it could apply to anyone who is a serious student theology with a desire to understand how Divinity is moving within their life.  So I share it here for the benefit of others.]

Theological reflection is the process of reflecting upon experiences and responding to that experience based upon one’s values and beliefs.  The goal of theological reflection is to promote personal transformation through insight into the working of the Divine (as one’s sees the Divine) in their life and in the world.  Theological reflection is a good practice for anyone seeking a more grounded and fulfilling spiritual life; however, it is an essential and necessary practice of the seminary student.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Paganism and Freemasonry

Within the fraternity of Freemasonry there is the designation of "operative and speculative" Mason.  The operative Freemason are those Masons who actually used the working tools of Masonry (level, plum, square, et al) and built structures from stone -- as the mythical history of Freemasonry tells the story operative Masons have their genesis in the building of King Solomon's Temple as well as the medieval stone masons guilds of the Middle Ages.  Speculative Freemasonry is the symbolic use of the operative masons working tools to illustrate a spiritual, moral, and ethical story on how an individual Freemason should live his life -- "meet on the level and part on the square."  Therefore, Masonic Lodges throughout the world are populated by "speculative" Freemasons.

I joined the Masonic fraternity in 1997.  I have also joined other Masonic bodies such as the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite and the Ancient Arabic Order of the Noble Mystic Shrine (Shriners), and even The Order of DeMolay (a Masonic inspired youth organization for boys).  I currently serve my Masonic Lodge as chaplain -- which I very much enjoy.

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  • Jim Goltz
    Jim Goltz says #
    I was very glad to read your article. I too do not attend lodge regularly (for various reasons) and do not have traditional Chris
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    I'm pleased you liked the essay. I was talking with some Masonic friends lately and one of the topics that came up was the foundi
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    The only stipulation regarding religion within Masonry is that a would-be Mason cannot be an Atheist and must believe in God, but
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Merry Meet David. A few years ago a long time Mason joined our coven. His lodge was in Europe where he had served in the US mil

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