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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in axis mundi

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Och, it's the same every year.

The Yule house-cleaning, though not finished, is well under way. The gifts, though yet to be wrapped and sent off, are all bought. Now arises the prospect of the next job-lot of work, and the annual question: to Tree, or not to Tree?

Every year, I remind myself: this is a choice.

Every year, I remind myself: it will still be Yule without it.

And every year—so far, at least—I do it anyway.

Oh, the Yule Tree: that indoor Yggdrasil, that heart and axis of the season, that island of light and color in a bleak white winter sea.

Long ago, I settled in my own mind the ethics of the matter: these, after all, are farmed trees, born for this sacrifice. (Still, though, I try each year to see at least one tree planted in recompense: the traditional life for a life.) Cutting the tree, I make the wonted prayers and offerings.

Oh, but the work involved.

Decking is the least of the matter. That's a joy, seeing again after nearly a year the old well-loved treasures, some of which have been in the family for more than a hundred years. (There's not much room in the steamer trunk of an immigrant, but somehow for these they managed to find a place.) Each ornament bears a memory, if not a story. Each ornament is a prayer.

The lights, that's the issue. Putting them on will be the work of several hours, taking them off again the same, with the added prickly discomfort attending the fact that invariably I leave the Tree up too long. Is it really, I ask myself, worth all the work?

Then there's the expense. Trees hereabouts this year are running $10 a foot. Seven or eight foot's-worth of Yule tree could buy a lot of groceries.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Pagan Nativity


Among the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush,

who alone among Indo-Aryan peoples

still hold to their old pre-Vedic religion,

all expectant women give birth

in the bashali, the house of blood. There

(as always until Enlightenment

doctors, pleading ease of access,

laid them out on their backs)

they squat to push, with gravity

to pull, bracing their labor against

the building's central column:

axis mundi, the typical Tree of Life.

Just so Leto clutched the bole

of a palm tree, bearing Apollo

and Artemis. Even Maryam

the virgin (in Sura xix) brought

forth Isa embracing the self-same

date-palm. Now in these days

of darkness, under the usual

tree of stars, how many

straining mothers crouch

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Is the Yule Tree an Ancient Pagan Custom?

Short answer: No.

In his magisterial Stations of the Sun, Ron Hutton explains that in many places the ancestors were wont to deck their holidays with whatever greenery and flowers were then in season (34): at Midsummer, with broadleafs, at Midwinter, with evergreens.

But there's no evidence at all in antiquity for decorated trees per se at Midwinter. The modern Yule tree, rather, has its roots in Renaissance Germany: ironically, the period of the Great Persecution.

So it's really a Christian custom.

The operative question here is: does it matter?

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've come across two stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. The 1st one is that the ancient Germans had a sacred Oak tre

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Standing Stones

What's more pagan than a standing stone?

I say, let's raise them all over the place. Front yards, back yards, large, small, public, private, no matter. We need our standing stones. A landscape needs its standing stones. Shrines. Axes mundi. Herms. Facts on the ground.

Garland them, wreathe them, anoint them, rub them with ocher. Lay offerings at their feet. Wrap them (yes, I've seen it done) in strings of lights. Dance around them. Pray to them. Standing stones.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    When I was going to Virginia Commonwealth University back in the 80's there was a book on phallic stones in Japan. I just looked
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Sounds like a good ritual, Anthony. I'd love to be there! The ancient Semitic cultures were big on standing stones. Unlike Englis
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    When you asked what could be more pagan than setting up a standing stone. I immediately thought of the Biblical patriarch Jacob a
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Novelist Alan Garner (Brisingamen, Owl Service, et al.) writes that in the part of Cheshire he comes from, every standing stone ha
  • Linda Boeckhout
    Linda Boeckhout says #
    I love standing stones. They represent both cultural and geological history of the land (as they are often found where a glacier u

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Axis Mundi: The God-Pole Rite

After decades of juiceless talkie-talkie Men's Rituals at pagan festivals here in the Midwestern US, Sparky T. Rabbit (of Lunacy fame), Frebur Moore and I decided that we'd had enough. So we put together the kind of Men's Ritual we ourselves had always wanted to attend. The Rite of the God-Pole premiered at Pagan Spirit Gathering 2009 at Camp Zoe, Missouri.

One hot, steamy night in late June, some 60 men ceremonially bore an eight-foot phallic wooden menhir through the camp and together raised it on a sandy little spit jutting out into the creek that flowed through the valley. We anointed and garlanded the God-Pole, sang songs of praise, danced, and poured libations. I knew the Rite had been a success when immediately afterward many of the men tore off their clothing and dashed naked into the cooling waters of the creek. I'll tell you, they should all end that way.

Our theological point was that, like the Women's Mysteries, the Men's Mysteries are at heart biological: the Red Mysteries and the White, the Blood mysteries and those of Semen. Like women's bodies, men's bodies have their own cycle that every man knows in every cell of his body: the cycle of quiescence, erection, love-play, and ejaculation. The Mysteries, by their nature, express Primal Truths.

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  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    We men are way behind to women when it comes to men mysteries and what to we want being a man to be for ourselves. Just like the w
  • Wizard Garber
    Wizard Garber says #
    This is good as far as it goes, but unfortunately you seem to have fallen into the same trap as most men -- that is to say that me
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I think, Wizard, that we're seeing here some of the semantic limitations inherent in symbolism and ritual. Over the decades, my ex
  • Grant
    Grant says #
    Oh the God pole Ritual, I fondly remember this ritual fairly often, when I had the pleasure of taking a role in it at PSG 2010 and
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    That was really good. Men's rituals are often not very good. I had a similar experience organizing Men's Ritual at PSG back in

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