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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in household practice
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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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Protecting the Threshold

Just as a field has a fence or hedge, and every forest an edge, so does every household have a boundary, a liminal space in which, for perhaps no more than a split second, one is neither in nor out. One is in between.

Power lies in these in-between, or liminal, spaces – power that can be benign or malign. Scholar Claude Lecouteux describes the house as a "protective cocoon, one that is sacred and magical" (48). As ancient homes tended to be passed down from generation to generation, it was common for a man (as women often joined the homes of their spouses when they married) to be born in the house in which they lived and to die there. This means that inherited homes were also the places in which one's parents, grandparents, and so on had been born, lived, and died.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    We have two Foo lions who guard our front door (male and female) and an iron dragon who watches the back. We also painted protect
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Very nice! I also have a bindrune written beneath our threshold that I created for protection. Love your guardian figures as well.
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Informative and interesting, Thanks!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My parents kept a wreath on the door most of the year. Theirs was just decoration I'm sure but the habit probably grew out of ear
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Thanks for sharing! Very cool that your parents carried on that tradition with their wreath. I'm not very familiar with Jewish or

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Whispering Hearth

The hearth has long been a place of power. We have already explored its position as a place of healing and protection. In many European cultures, it is also traditionally a place for communion with spirits, where offerings are left and knowledge from them can be gained. In Germany, the space between the back of the stove and the wall was called Hölle, “hell” (Lecouteux 70). It’s important to note that the words Hölle and hell originate not in Christianity but from a Proto-Germanic word meaning “a hidden place,” i.e. the underworld (Online Etymology Dictionary). People have long sought out the insight of the dead and other spirits regarding the future, and the hearth or stove was one common site for divination.

 

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Broom Lore for Walpurgisnacht and Other Holidays

Every year in late April, I thoroughly clean my back porch for the first time since the descent into winter. Over the winter and early spring, things tend to collect -- dust, dead bugs, spider webs, tree pollen from early spring. The latter (especially from the pines that surround my house) makes it futile to do this any earlier because all of my hard work -- sweeping, hosing it down, vacuuming, and mopping -- would be nulled a few days later by a thick film of yellow powder. But by mid-spring, everything seems to calm down enough to make the deep cleaning worthwhile, which ends up putting this ritual right before Walpurgisnacht and May Day, which I celebrate to honor my German and Scandinavian roots. I won't go into the history of Walpurgisnacht here because it's already covered on a wealth of websites and books; I'd rather focus on one household tool that has a significant place in the lore of this holiday (especially to me personally): the broom.

Brooms are often featured in many spring holidays. At Easter in Sweden and Finland, the festivities take on a more Halloween- or Carnivale-esque character than in other places, and little girls dress up as Easter witches, wearing kerchiefs on their heads and carrying small brooms in their hands. On Walpurgisnacht, a Wild Hunt of witches and specters rides across the night sky to hold their revels on the Brocken. It's common knowledge that the broom as a flying implement is a development of the magic worker's staff. For hundreds of years, it has served as a symbol of feminine power masked as a common, humble household tool.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Altars - A ritual in the making

I recently wrote a piece about Pagan tattoos. Hundreds of people posted pictures of their artwork and many more folks told the stories of how those designs came about and why they were so compelled to etch them indelibly into their skin.

And this got me thinking - Tattoos are altars, of a kind. They are permanent representations of a moment or a belief or a particular rite of passage. These permanent, personal altars are like touchstones to those important times. In most cases, they are carefully thought out. They are planned. The placement, the design, the colours, the images and the symbols are all considered. Then there's the actual "building of the altar" itself.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Linette
    Linette says #
    A number of years ago I taught a class on altars. Many of the participants said they had no idea where to begin with an altar, or
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Linette - Yes. So much this. I love the simple, everyday altars that we all instinctively create.
  • Asa West
    Asa West says #
    This post is lovely. Thank you! When I first read it, I thought, "well, I only have one altar in my house--my working altar." But
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Hello Asa, I think that's it exactly. I realized that I have even more altars than I thought. There are several in the front and
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Oh Elizabeth, it makes a great deal of sense! What a treasure that altar is and such a brilliant way to highlight that altars are

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. The host had and has many tasks in his process, but the guest had/has an important part to play as well: the guest is expected to be courteous and not be a burden to the host. The house was a sanctuary in ancient Hellas with a lot of social rules attached to it. Guests could not enter certain parts of the house, and male guests were kept away from women at all times. Long term guests had a slightly different status, as they became part of the oikos, but they were still subject to restrictions when it came to social an religious behaviour. This practice was known as 'xenia' (ξενία), and we'll be talking about a very special version of it today: xenia related to Gods and heroes.

Xenia is described a lot in mythology. Especially the more general form of it where Theoi disguising themselves as beggars or undesirables and come to the door of an unsuspecting mortal features in many myths. The host is judged on the hospitality offered; good things befall those who treat guests with respect, very bad things befall those who do not. One of my favorite Hellenic myths shows this in great detail; it's the story of how Baucis and Philemon received some unexpected visitors. You can read the myth here.

Theoxenia is a little different, it's a specific ritual meant to bring the Gods closer to us and invite Them into our home. Heroxenia is the same practice, but for the heroes of Hellenic mythology. In short, theoxenia and heroxenia were a kind of Hellenic sacrifice in which worshippers presented foodstuffs to Gods or heroes (not usually at the same time, or at least not at the same table), who then attended the meal as guests, or xenoi.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, That's great! I really like these rituals. Thanks for sharing!

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