Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

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

6 Fantastic Ways your Imagination can turn Possibilities into Reality

When you think of the imagination, do you think of it as as a sacred magical expression of your true self, or do you treat it as a childish fancy, something to be boxed away and forgotten? For many people, the answer unfortunately is the latter...they treat it as a childish fancy and as a result ignore its power, to their detriment. For even when you treat your imagination as a childish fancy you are still applying it to your life, but not in a way that truly empowers you. Your imagination is a double-edged sword and if you don't learn how to work with it as a sacred magical expression you'll miss out on applying one of the most potent magical tools you have that can help you transform possibility into reality and align fortune in your favor.

So how does imagination turn possibility into reality?

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An Open Letter to the City of Philadelphia and the Mummers

 

(Author’s note: For those of you unfamiliar with this particular Philadelphia tradition, you can find information about it here: http://www.phillymummers.com). Because mumming is a tradition that arose out of European Pagan folk practices beginning with the Swedes and Finns who first settled in the area, I felt an especial need to address this years’ parade.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for this column - 2015 was indeed been a year of seeing the realities of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny -
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    Oh I sure hope so!

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When Long Shadows Fall.... Artists Get to Work!

When long shadows fall and dwarf the trees at evening 
When white winter light burnishes the streams 
The I will bring you a coat of soft lamb's wool 

To keep your back from the keen northern wind

When snow shames the sheep that huddles to the leawood
When snow drops peep form darkness unfurled
Then I will bring you boots with fur linings
To keep your feet dry as you walk o'er the world

When home becomes a prison and snow drifts lock the door
When February fill dyke drenches the moor
When black rain freezes and whips at your hand
Then I will bring a carriage with wheels of wind
To take you away from this barren land
 
~ From "Winter: Long Shadows" by Maddy Prior

 

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Ubuntu: My African Journey

I spent fifteen days walking the sands of another continent this year. Fifteen days eating the fruits of another land, looking into the eyes of people I had never met, and marveling at the infinite beauty and potential of the human spirit. The cultural immersion trip I participated in was sponsored by my school, Iliff School of Theology, and led by two of my professors who are originally from Harare Zimbabwe. 

During the course of those fifteen days we interfaced with universities, non-profit organizations, orphanages, climbed the rocks of Great Zimbabwe, witnessed the power of Victoria Falls, toured the Apartheid museum, and walked the halls of the prison on Robben Island. The trip was simultaneously amazing, exciting, and excruciating. In other words I will never forget it.

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Patience & Fury, Part 2

 

This is the second of a series of blog posts on how to move more gracefully through the turbulence of current events in the world. Each post can stand alone, and the order does not matter, but I suggest reading the whole series as they support each other. I am calling this series “patience and fury” though I could just as well call it “empathy and apathy”, “mercy and punishment”, or “hope and despair”.

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4 Reasons to work with Villains in Pop Culture Magic

Sometimes, with pop culture magic, you want to work with the bad guy, the villain, or the monster. The reasons why can vary from person to person, but I think one reason that stands out to me is that the villain is a character people relate to. S/he is flawed and shows those flaws more readily than the hero might. At the same time, there villain rarely thinks of him/herself as an actual villain. S/he has reasons for taking action and those reasons are sometimes quite valid. The problem is that the action is what makes the character villainous because it isn't the right action (at least according to the mores of society). Working with a villain can be very effective because the villain isn't bound to societal standards and may come up with some creative solutions (as Emily Carlin shares in a post she wrote on the same topic).

Recently Vincent Piazza wrote a post about horror magic, where he explores the history of horror film. One point he makes is that horror films show the ills of society and what happens if we don't learn to work with the shadow within us. That's wise advice and the second reason to work with villains because sometimes what we learn from them is something about ourselves and how to avoid making the mistakes the villain has made. Of course, if we do choose to work with a villain or a monster, some caution is warranted in how we work with them, but in all honesty the same cautions apply to working with any pop culture character.

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Meditations on Hávamál: 61-65
 61.
Þveginn ok mettr
ríði maðr þingi at,
þótt hann sé-t væddr til vel;
skúa ok bróka
skammisk engi maðr
né hests in heldr,
þótt hann hafi-t góðan
 
Washed and fed
shall a man ride to the Thing,
though he be not clothed well;
of his shoes and his britches
should no man be ashamed
nor of his horse neither,
though he not a good one.
 

The Thing was the assembly to settle differences, plead suits and socialise in all kids of ways; in Iceland, the annual national gathering, the Alþingi is still the name for their governing body though the no longer meet out in the valley in tents (a few politicians have suggested that doing so would make the government work a little faster). Traditionally the law speaker recited at least a third of the laws that he had to keep memorised. Thus legal matters were decided there: as much as Icelanders pride themselves on having the longest existing democracy, the medieval version demonstrates that might (usually through having supporters, but sometimes through outright violence) made right. This verse counsels that one must make the best appearance possible. If your clothes were not the best at least make sure they are clean and mended, your shoes clean and your horse stepping out the best she can, even if she wasn't going to win any races -- or in the case of male horses, any fights. Horse fights were a brutal but popular sport.
 
62.
Snapir ok gnapir,
er til sævar kemr,
örn á aldinn mar;
svá er maðr,
er með mörgum kemr
ok á formælendr fáa.
 
Snapping and stretching,
when it comes to the sea,
the eagle to the billowy sea;
so is the man,
who among the crowds comes
and has few supporters.
 

The man without sufficient supporters is like the eagle who swoops down at a fish only to see it disappear beneath the waves. Don't wait until you get to the gathering to form your alliances. Much of viking life was about gift giving and hospitality because you never knew when you would need an important ally. Feuds could break out over fairly small disagreements -- about where your land ended and your neighbour's began, or who got to use a certain path to summer pasturing.Alliances were essential.
 
63.
Fregna ok segja
skal fróðra hverr,
sá er vill heitinn horskr;
einn vita
né annarr skal,
þjóð veit, ef þrír ro.
 
Ask and reply
shall each of the wise ones,
he who wants to be called sensible;
one must know
but another shall not,
all the people know, if three do.
 

Wisdom is highly prized: we have seen several verses on that topic. But being able to hold your own counsel is also important, the poet tells us. You should shrink from sharing secrets with anyone at all if you can avoid it. If you tell someone and they tell a third, then the secret will not be kept and everyone shall know. If you are heading to the Thing and bringing a suit, it's best not to let the cat out of the bag until you are certain you have sufficient support.
 
64.
Ríki sitt
skyli ráðsnotra
hverr í hófi hafa;
þá hann þat finnr,
er með fræknum kemr
at engi er einna hvatastr.
 
His power
should each of the wise
have in moderation;
then he finds that
when he comes among the bold
that none is keenest of all.
 
Power in this sense seems to be connected to the idea of anger (as the wise man said, 'Anger is an energy.') I connect it with the previous verse: just as you should not show your cards until you're ready with a firm phalanx of supporters, you should not show your anger until you read the room (or the tent). If your opponent is even more angry, he may be able to sway your supporters -- perhaps simply to not support your action, but worse, over to your opponent's side. Hold your anger in check: the sagas are full of unwise men who let their emotions lead them into rash decisions.
 
65.
-- -- -- --
orða þeira,
er maðr öðrum segir
oft hann gjöld of getr.
 
 
[missing lines]
For those words,
which a man says to another
often he gets repayment.
 

In a similar vein, your angry words can be repaid by more of the same, while your measured speech may meet with likewise thoughtful responses. In the medieval world people were much more cognizant of being part of a community. Ostracism -- including outlawry and banishment -- put people in a truly vulnerable position that many could not survive. Men like the famous Grettir only survived such a fate because they were able to call upon both the friends they had made prior to being banished and were extraordinary enough to convince people to offer help despite the risks of aiding a fugitive.
See more of the verses here.
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