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
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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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • 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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On *A* Pagan Community Statement on the Environment

If you’re reading this, you’ve seen notifications of a Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.  Inspired by the environmental statement released by CoG in 2014 and statements from other religious organizations, blogger John Halstead invited 66 assorted Pagans, about 48 of whom collaborated on the piece that became the final product.

The final statement was a months-long, complex collaboration of diverse Pagans.  That fact in itself is, to me, remarkable, given that Pagans can be a fractious lot.  For me personally, the fact that this exists demonstrates a certain sense of solidarity.  We Pagans are a fringe demographic, and each Pagan path, sect, and individual is an even smaller fringe demographic.  We tend to work hard at distinguishing ourselves one from the other.  And that tends to fragment us as a demographic.  So when this many Pagans from many Pagan perspectives can come together and manage to agree on something of paramount importance to all of us, and to publicly proclaim our stance — well, that speaks to a stronger presence in society, and perhaps a louder, clearer voice not usually heard in the clamor of other Abrahamic dominion-inclined, religio-spiritual voices.  I think Pagans bring an important perspective to society.  And I think if this small effort can grow big enough, we might actually make a difference beyond ourselves.  Needless to say, this statement is meant to be noticed. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    No, you're not dreaming, Steven. :-)
  • steven manley
    steven manley says #
    Am I dreaming? Or did I just find a rallying cry for our Blessed of all Mothers, our planet Earth. Finally some greater interest a

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál: 57-60
57.
Brandr af brandi
brenn, unz brunninn er,
funi kveikisk af funa;
maðr af manni
verðr at máli kuðr,
en til dælskr af dul.
Torch from a torch
burns, until it burns out,
flame kindles itself from flame;
man from a man
knows truth from speaking,
but folly from the fool.
 

Like breeds like we might say: just as the flame passes from torch to torch, so the light of learning passes from a wise one to a willing student. It burns brightly as long as there is fuel for it -- an eager mind. It's a constant refrain of the verses, but if you listen to fools you learn nothing but foolishness. Be mindful of where you sit. Better silence than foolishness.
 
58.
Ár skal rísa,
sá er annars vill
fé eða fjör hafa;
sjaldan liggjandi ulfr
lær of getr
né sofandi maðr sigr.
He must rise [early]
who would gladly have
the wealth or life;
seldom will the lolling wolf
get the lamb's thigh
nor the sleeping man victory.
 

We know all about the early bird getting the worm; here the advice is the same but with the vivid example of the busy wolf grabbing the lamb's 'ham' or thigh. The sleeping warrior will not get victory any more than the sleeping wolf her dinner.
 
59.
Ár skal rísa,
sá er á yrkjendr fáa,
ok ganga síns verka á vit;
margt of dvelr,
þann er um morgin sefr,
hálfr er auðr und hvötum.
He must rise early
who has few workers,
and get right to his work;
many things will delay,
he who in the morning slumbers,
yet half the wealth to he who's keen.
 

In typical Nordic litotes, to have 'few workers' is to have only yourself. Rise up early and don't procrastinate, because there is no one else you can count on. Half delayed is half unpaid! While this may seem more puritan than viking, they have in common a harsh life with a lot of tedious chores to maintain food and comfort.
 
60.
Þurra skíða
ok þakinna næfra,
þess kann maðr mjöt,
þess viðar,
er vinnask megi
mál ok misseri.
Of dry sticks
and bark roofing,
of this a man ought know the measure;
of this wood
which should last
a quarter or a sixmonths.
 

This stanza is a little more tricky. The basic sense is clear enough: practical knowledge will save you work. Knowing what kind of wood lasts longest before you use it as roofing is very wise. It plays with the concept of 'measure' both as a way to evaluate knowledge and as actually measuring wood for building. The lengths of time aren't terms we use as often now; some translators just use "short and long" for the seasons, but clearly the difference was more specific and meaningful in this agricultural community.
See also Meditations on Hávamál, 52-56, Meditations on Hávamál, 48-51, Meditations on Hávamál, 44-47, Meditations on Hávamál, 40-43, Meditations on Hávamál, 35-39, Meditations on Hávamál, 31-34, Meditations on Hávamál, 27-30, Meditations on Hávamál, 23-26, Meditations on Hávamál, 19-22, Meditations on Hávamál, 15-18, etc.

 I use the Evans edition of the poem to begin and compare with translations here and here. The original text comes from the Heimskringla site in Norway. I also received a new translation of The Poetic Edda from Hackett Publishing; when I get a chance, I'll review it.
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The Value of Taking a Moment of Stillness

Every day I make it a point to give myself a moment of stillness. That moment of stillness isn't a short moment either. It's as long as it needs to be. Usually it occurs shortly after I've had breakfast and before I've started my work day. I do it then because I'm still just waking up and its an optimum time to still myself before getting into whatever the day will involve. This moment of stillness is my meditation time. I do a series of meditation exercises, all of which lead me deeper and deeper into a state of stillness, which unfolds within it non-conceptual awareness.

Non-conceptual awareness is the experience of being without doing, judging, categorizing or filtering anything. You just are. The value of that experience is that it allows me to just be without stressing about anything I need to do. Sometimes in the process of doing that work, some emotions will come up or some thoughts will happen and I don't go out of my way to dismiss them. I just let them be as well, because I find in doing that it really brings my awareness to where I need to be, present with whatever is coming up that needs to be worked through, accepted, or otherwise processed.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
How Old is Art? And Does it Matter?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Helena who liked to make drawings. She went off to kindergarten and on the first day of school, each child in her class was given crayons. When the time came for recess, Helena went out into the school yard and saw very large rocks that already had drawings on them. (She did not know yet that this was graffiti). She figured the rocks must be a very good place to make pictures, so she started drawing very large pictures on the rocks with her crayons. She didn’t realize what was happening when her teacher came up and began yelling at her. She was in very big trouble indeed.

As we can see from the perspective of my five year old self, that urge to leave a mark somewhere is fairly basic and perhaps even primal. In this article, I will be exploring how old that urge is and where it might come from.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Lovely. Thanks for this!
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    Thanks so much Byron - just seeing this now. Yay Mercury Retrograde!

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