Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

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

Frau Harke, Goddess of the First Harvest

Around Lughnasadh or soon after, I saw my first mourning dove at our Appalachian farmhouse. We’ve lived here since March, and while I’ve seen blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, falcons, crows, and more, mourning doves were conspicuously absent. And then there it was on our white post-and-rail fence. The next day, I saw another, and then more appeared in the bushes and trees over the next weeks. This morning, there were five perched on the fence, observing me as I let out our dog.

I think of Frau Harke when I see them, thanks to Jacob Grimm, who wrote in Teutonic Mythology that "Harke flies through the air in the shape of a dove, making the fields fruitful” (Vol. 4, p.1364). Harke is a giantess of German folklore in the Brandenburg and Thuringia regions. Her name means “to rake,” calling to mind the harvest and care of the earth. While usually a dweller of wild mountain forests, she does travel about during her holy days, like other goddesses of her type. Folklorist Benjamin Thorpe wrote that "At Heteborn, when the flax was not housed at Bartholomew-tide [August 24], it was formerly the saying, 'Frau Harke will come'” (142).

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John Barleycorn & the Ale Wives

There's an Old English riddle from the Exeter Book that is part of a long tradition about the abuses of alcohol through the ages. While there is much to celebrate in the joy of drinking, there is a dark side, too, that many have fallen prey to over the years. The poem goes like this:

Biþ foldan dæl     fægre gegierwed
mid þy heardestan      mid þy scearpestan
 mid þy grymmestan     gumena ge streona ·
corfen sworfen     cyrred þyrred
bunden wunden     blæced wæced
frætwed geatwed     feorran læded
to durum dryhta     dream bið iinnan
cwicra wihta     clengeð lengeð
þara þe ær lifgende     longe hwile
wilna bruceð      no wið spriceð
 þōn æfter deaþe     deman onginneð
meldan mislice     micel is to hycganne
wisfæstum menn     hwæt seo wiht sy.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    Very interesting. Thank you!
Monsters in the Closet: Echoes of Household Spirits

For about a year, my son had a mild fear of goblins, ever since he saw the kidnapping scene at the beginning of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – nothing that kept him up at night, but something he mentioned frequently and required reassurance about.

What I find particularly interesting was his belief that goblins reside in and enter from his closet. His belief was so strong that, for a few months, my husband and I had to tie his closet doors shut with ribbons every night to reassure him that the goblins couldn’t come in. The closet seems a natural residence for fearsome things -- it is the darkest place in a room, especially at night, and we fear what we can't see. Yet this belief about spirits in storage places isn't new.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading about old stone axe heads being regarded as thunderstones. Those definitely qualify as ancient artifacts. Th
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    I love Natsume Yuujinchou! I know he'd be a big fan of Nyanko-sensei (but who isn't?), but some of the more aggressive yokai would

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My Spiritual Pilgrimage Day 2

On the second day of my spiritual pilgrimage to the confluence project sites I drove into Oregon and toward home, because the sites actually led back that way. The first site I visited was Celillo Park. It's currently the only site where the project hasn't been installed, but I wanted to go there anyway. It used to be underwater, because of the falls that had been there. It was supposed to be a protected fishing site for the Native Americans But in the 1950's the U.S. government built dams, which changed the Columbia and silenced the falls. 

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We are the Weavers

Ic wæs þær Inne þær ic ane geseah
winnende · wiht wido bennegean
holt hweorfende heaþoglemma feng
deopra dolga daroþas wæron
weo þære wihte ⁊ se wudu searwum
fæste gebunden hyre fota wæs
biid fæft oþer · oþer bisgo dreag
leolc on lyfte hwilum londe neah
treow wæs getenge þe þær torhtan stod
leafum bihongen Ic lafe geseah
minum hlaforde þær hæleð druncon
þara flan on flet beran

The Anglo-Saxon riddle above falls in the group usually classified as 'domestic' items: better to call them work tools. The aim of the riddle of course is to disguise a very familiar object with an unexpected description. Here's Paull Franklin Baum's translation (because it is hot even in Scotland, too hot to come up with my own translation!):

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Lots of great info in Max Dashu's book: https://feminismandreligion.com/2016/09/19/weaving-and-spinning-women-witches-and-pagans-b

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My spiritual pilgrimage Day 1

On the first day of my spiritual pilgrimmage, I drove out to the chief Timothy Park. It's the one site which most resembles what Lewis and Clark saw on their journey to explore the west. It's also the beginning of the confluence project. When I got there, I walked this path to site of the confluence project memorial, which is this place where 6 stone layers are set into the land, with writing that describes the significance of the site as well as the ritual done to commemorate the site.

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My Spiritual Pilgrimage Pt 1: Preparing for the Journey

In a bit less than a week from the time of this writing, I'll be going on a short spiritual pilgrimage in the Columbia Gorge. My partner and I will be traveling up the Columbia River Gorge to check out the Confluence sites, and learn more about this region we live in. 

One of the reasons I'm doing this journey is because I've felt a powerful connection to the spirit of the Columbia River. I feel that by traveling to these sites, walking the land and learning the lore I can develop a deeper relationship with the spirit of the river, while also honoring the past and present.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think there was a Columbia River episode on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmer. I remember him stopping at a little fishery/marke
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I live in the area so I am fortunate to enjoy it in general and to give thanks.

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