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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Love for Orlando

I am going to delay the next article in the series "Blurring the Lines of Community" for an obvious reason.

The LGBT community has been deeply wounded.  That community has been the inspiration of many of the things we have been trying to do over the years in the Pagan Community.  I have often held up the LGBT Community as an example of what can be accomplished by a repressed, suppressed, and marginalized community.  Same sex marriage is now the law of the land.  Battles over equal rights continue, but the LGBT Community has done an amazing job over the last few decades of moving the discussion from one of pure hate and complete lack of understanding to an emerging view in America that their members are simply other members of the larger community.  There is still far to go, but the LGBT inspiration has had a massive impact on the Pagan Community and how we are now attempting to become more accepted by the legal system and American society as a whole.  There would be no "Pagan Pride Day" if it weren't for the LGBT Community blazing a trail for us.  

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The Otherworld and the Sidhe (Shining Ones)

These past few months I’ve been working with the Otherworld and the Sidhe, trying to come to understand them from an experiential point of view rather than a mythological or academic perspective. We can read about it all we want, but the Otherworld must be experienced for it to be truly integrated into a particular tradition.

I’ve written previously about the Otherworld and the concept of duality last year on my other blog site as we approached Samhain, and have been pondering it ever since.  Preparing myself for a conscious encounter, so to speak.  I’ve encountered the Otherworld before, meeting beings on my wanderings out and about the landscape, but haven’t made a concentrated effort to really connect with them, whatever they may be and wherever they may originate.  I’ve had difficulty in the concept of an Otherworld, for to perceive a conscious split between this world and the Otherworld interferes with my ambition of pure integration. Or so I thought.

The premise that I am now leaning towards is not so much a separation between the Otherworld and this one, but more of an overlay, a deeper perceived reality than what we can experience with our physical and mental awareness when it lies half-dormant.  The Otherworld is this world as well, but on a deeper level.  It is a Deeperworld, where beings exist that require a deeper connection to the landscape than on a superficial level. Perhaps I was simply getting too caught up in the name, the Otherworld. For me, in my journey towards pure integration, there is no Other. 

The pitfalls of taking things too literally.

And so I made my journey to the nearest tumuli, a Celtic burial place that lies halfway between an old Celtic settlement and a ritual henge along the Suffolk coast. I had planned to meet with the Sidhe, those beings who dwell in the Otherworld and who can traverse the perceived realities between the worlds with greater ease than we can.  I had a friend come along to share in this Beltane ritual, and also to keep watch.  But the energy was not quite right, the timing was off.  The hawthorn had yet to bloom at the beginning of May, the weather was all over the place, sunshine one minute and hail the next.  As our ritual progressed on the hilltop next to the tumuli, a headache turned into a migraine that left me feeling really rather ill.  As I still persevered in my attempts to contact the Sidhe, the Shining Folk, my head pounded and I suddenly heard “Come back when the May is in bloom”.  And so we ended the ritual, strange energies swirling round our ritual site, the low clouds threatening, and made our way home.

A few weeks later, the hawthorn blossomed and I had my chance to get back to the tumuli. I originally had planned to spend the night there, but plans had changed, and so I was given only a couple hours grace to visit the site. Alone, I hiked there, the scent of the May blossom heady in the hedgerows.  As I approached the tumuli, walking through grazing sheep at the base of the hill, the warm sunshine opened out over the landscape and washed it with light, almost making everything sparkle with life.

I walked around the tumuli as I always do, past a small flock of beautiful black and white goats resting in the shade of an oak tree.  The energy around the site was calmer than the previous time, for which I was glad. It was more settled, but very strong, almost clear.  After circumventing the tumuli I walked to the top and sat down, simply breathing and attuning to the place, a squirrel  running through last year’s leaf fall, collecting nuts and acorns from his hidden caches.

When I felt fully connected with the landscape, not merely an observer or traveller to this land but a living, breathing, active and aware part of it, I placed my hands on the ground before me and let my soul sink into the soil, opening my nemeton to the spirits of place.  Almost instantly I felt a presence all around me, a small group of beings, three or four, standing in a circle looking at my form sitting on the earth, hands pressed to the ground. Not wanting to break the moment, I kept still, my eyes closed, and saw them with my mind rather than my physical senses.

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Something has happened on this site that delighted and empowered me. 

I've repeatedly come across blogs here stating ideas that make me post a comment along the lines of  "Me too, me too! I've been teaching my students that for years!" This is lovely for me.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Trees as Teachers

The trees are almost in full leaf now, with only the ash and aspen yet to join in the greening. It's been an odd Spring, with the oak trees in leaf before the hawthorn has come into flower here in Suffolk.  Only now are the first blooms of the May tree coming out, and with it the signs that herald for me the coming season.  The warm days have certainly been a blessing, and the light rain that falls today is equally welcome after long hot days of full sunshine and cool sea breezes.

It's at this time of year that I am reminded of just how important trees are to me, not just in their life-giving properties but also in their spiritual presence.  The deciduous trees with their lush foliage always bring a smile to my face, and after a long winter of sleep to see the beech tree at the bottom of my garden joining in the party that the younger birch trees have started fills my heart with joy.  The grass is lush and green, and everything just feels so very much alive. I welcome the greening with all my heart and soul.

Trees are magnificent teachers. They are so much larger than we are, both spiritually and physically.  They remind us of what it means to live a life in service to the whole, to live a life filled with integration and harmony, sustainable and at peace. Trees teach us of communion and integration, both at the deep root levels of our soul and reaching out towards the heavens of our soul's awakening. They teach us of symmetry and asymmetry, of co-operation and anarchy.  They are a legion of souls across this land, swaying in the wind, living their intention and benefiting all those around them by doing so. There is no sense of "I" with a tree; rather, it can instigate a better sense of "You" (or "yew", pun intended).

When we develop a relationship with trees, we think about ourselves less, rather than think less of ourselves. We are reminded that we are a part of an ecosystem, that the ecology of our spirituality is all important to our everyday lives. This ecology is absolutely integral to who we are as a species, and part of a place and environment, as part of life on this planet. We cannot separate this ecology in any shape or form. It is in everything that we do.

We are not far removed from our cousins who still live in the trees. We're all just monkeys with car keys, after all.

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Blurring The Lines Of Community: Jury Duty

This is part of a continuing series exploring ways that Solitary Pagans can connect not only with the Greater Pagan Community, but how we can connect with our local communities and bring our unique perspectives and beliefs into the fabric of those communities.

Few words elicit dread the way that “jury duty” does for a lot of people.  Personally, I find this drive to “get out of” jury duty to be disturbing as I have always wanted to serve on a jury but have never had the chance.  I personally think this anti-jury duty perspective is based on the quite unrealistic way that juries are portrayed on television and in movies.  I think most of the rest of it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of jury duty and how it works.

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Earth Day Tips for Reducing our Animal Consumption

Blessings, Earthlings! In celebration of the day I wanted to share some resources and ideas. Thinking about environmental challenges that we face these days can be overwhelming. Everywhere we are hearing that we need to reduce our carbon emissions, but it can feel like individual actions are pointless when whole nations of others, let alone our own neighbors may still be refusing to do so. But there is hope. Reducing our carbon footprint and our ecological impact involves more than just how many cars are on the highway, or what factories and industries may or may not be willing to concede to. One thing that each of us has control over, that can have a surprising impact on carbon emissions, is how many animal products we consume.

If you would like a quick and easy download of information about this positive environmental impact that you can have, check out this link. It gives some quick and basic info, followed by very detailed links to practical advice for making more plant-based choices. So check out: http://www.greenyourdiet.org/

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Prayer - it's not a one-way street...

A television show that I enjoyed, which originally aired in the late 90’s through to 2002, is Dharma and Greg. It is about a free-spirited woman with two hippy parents who is very spiritual, very loving and very funny. She marries a conservative born and bred lawyer, and the exchange, dynamic and growth between the two is what makes this such a great show.

At one point Dharma is praying in a hospital chapel, and her spirit guide, a Native American named George whom she connected with personally before he died, comes to her aid and offers advice in her time of need. He hears her praying, trying to have a conversation with whatever deity will listen in the multifaith chapel, and offers these very poignant words which I remember to this very day.

Dharma is feeling remorse because of harsh words she had about her mother, and now her mother is in danger of losing the child that she is carrying.

"George, my Mom might lose the baby."

"And you feel like you made this happen."

"It feels like it."

"Well if you did, they should put your picture up here on the spinning God Wheel", he says, indicating the multifaith prayer icon on the altar.

"Whether I did it or not, I was thinking it."

"Because you were angry."

"So what should I do now? Do you think I should stay here and pray?"

"What do you mean by praying?"

"I don't know - talk to the universe, to God, the Great Spirit, whatever It is."

“Huh. So, you’re having a conversation with the Great Spirit, the Maker of All Things, and you’re doing the talking?”

"Oh, right."

This, indeed defines for me the nature of what prayer is seen as today. Even if we are not asking for anything, a lot of prayer in our culture and society consists of a one-way conversation between the individual and the deity/spirit in question. Prayer is a relationship, for me, and as such necessitates a give and take in everything, including both spoken and unspoken words. Too often in prayer, we forget to listen. When we speak and then listen, then we are communing. Otherwise, we are just talking.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Great reminder, Joanna. We love Dharma and Greg, too, and George is a genius character. There are direct parallels between Nativ
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    I think all earth-based traditions will have many similarities I do love that saying as well. So very true. x
  • Kim Campbell
    Kim Campbell says #
    Thank you for this post. You make an excellent point that we all seem to forget.
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Thanks, Kim! x

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