Pagan Studies

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Studies Blogs

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

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Tethys Speaks

Tethys Speaks


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The Magic of Childbirth: Rites of Protection

Violet Moore Higgins, "Three days agone - I found a tiny fair-haired infant"

This year has been a year of changes for me, some of which have yet to occur and others that have already occurred. The biggest, of course, was the birth of my second child in August. With her came the upset of routine, family dynamic, sleep, and all those other disorienting but completely natural shifts inherent in bringing a new life – a new spirit (or spirits, depending on your conception of the Self) – into this brilliant, dynamic world of the living. Of course, thanks to modern medicine, childbirth for me was a much less daunting experience than it was for my ancestors (and, sadly, for those today who live without access to adequate medical care).

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Soul Cakes: An Old Tradition and a New Recipe

Image via Lavender and Lovage 

God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round your table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store;
And all that dwells within your gates,
We wish you ten times more.

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Tethys: The Waters Below


The Waters Below

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Ancestors at the Hearth: Hallowe’en Edition

I love the word Hallowe’en. It conjures all the warmth and mystery that I associate with the middle of the harvest season, and having celebrated it secularly throughout my life doesn’t diminish my now more spiritual experience of the holiday; instead, it accentuates it. Maybe it’s just me, but I find so much satisfaction in deepening my experience of the familiar, seeing beneath the surface of what is already around me. Making Hallowe’en sacred to me as a pagan is a rewarding experience.

While Hallowe’en, or All Hallows Eve, is a later, Christian term denoting a holiday that stems from the more ancient Samhain, it can still be relevant to pagans. After all, to “hallow” means to sanctify or venerate – to recognize something as sacred or worthy of veneration — which is what many of us do during this time. We pay homage to the dead: family members, beloved dead, cultural and/or spiritual ancestors, and sometimes even the dead with whom we have little to no emotional connection but who have walked the same earth.

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By now the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas is old news, the shooter a mystery who will never have to answer for his actions in a courtroom since he chose suicide after murdering 58 and affecting thousands more.
b2ap3_thumbnail_vigil.jpgVegas was not a vacation destination I ever would have chosen. And I did not need to play the hero by rushing to volunteer in the aftermath. But I was asked to be part of the Red Cross team, so I packed my suitcase on Monday night, rose in the dark and landed at noon local time barely a mile from the concert/shooting site.
One cannot drive from the airport into town without passing the Mandalay. Two broken out windows with ragged plastic blowing out are a jolting reminder that this is not a made-for-tv photo shoot or footage from a documentary, but the real thing. Yellow crime scene tape reinforced the surreal knowledge that less than 48 hours ago this had been an apocryphal scene.
b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20171008_184613180.jpgSurreal may be the best adjective to describe Vegas, generally and in better times. The lights on the Strip are eye candy that one cannot ignore. But behind the good-times face put on for tourists, not one person I encountered was not grieving or at least shaken to the core. A woman in a business suit waiting on her order at Panera Bread who broke down when she saw our Red Cross badges. The person checking me into my hotel room, who quietly admitted that one of their staff was killed, her friend, but still unnamed at that time. The paramedics who wondered out loud to me whether they would have been as brave as their coworker who was off duty that night but raced to the scene, rescued people, rushed them to a hospital, then repeated the process over and over again.

b2ap3_thumbnail_cops-with-posters.jpgAfter being on site a few days I became acutely aware that in our time we have created a new "client population," a diaspora of those who endure a tragedy like Route 91, then return home and try to go back to work, to families, to whatever was normal for them before. Because nothing will ever be the same again. Normal is no longer a relevant word for them.

A chaplain (or Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer, as Red Cross calls us) does not dispense anything that will neutralize what victims have been through, what anyone connected to a tragedy will wrestle with for a long time to come. Our role is to be there, to listen, to ensure that no one has to live through the aftermath alone, to offer prayers if asked, to connect individuals with that which best serves their soul.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20171009_114038308.jpgWith 22,000 people present at just this one shooting, you can be sure, wherever you live, that someone connected to you has been affected. In fact, every one of us has been affected. In Red Cross spiritual care, we say that our goal is to be changed but not wounded by our work. But I see that our society, our nation, the entire world, is wounded by the violence. As Pagans who feel compelled to serve others, we can be prepared through solid training at Cherry Hill Seminary. I never planned on being a chaplain, but I'm so glad studied and did the work.  
We can also make healing and peace our personal mission. Temple Osireion (my local group) has been holding an interfaith circle every few months since 2016. Our goal is to give people of various and no religions a safe and sacred space in which to grieve, ponder, heal and build peace. (I'm happy to share our ritual with you if you are interested, just email me.) 
This Samhain I will be thinking of the many who were unexpectedly, prematurely, shoved beyond the veil this year. I will not call them to me, but I will wish them peace that passes all understanding, because I certainly do not understand.
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Medieval Consolations

The test of any philosophy is how it helps you survive difficulty. It is simple enough to hold the line in good times, but when your misfortunes seem to know no end, your patience and perseverance were truly tested. The Anglo-Saxons had a trust in wyrd both as pagans and as Christians. The thought might best be summed up in the refrain from the poem Deor:

Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg. 

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