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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Hermes Kriophoros (detail) | Hermes(?) carrying a ram. [Roma… | Flickr 

Tale in a Time of Plague

 

As Pausanias tells it, the god Hermes once saved the city of Tanagra, in Boeotia, from a pandemic.

At the time, the plague raged all around the city, and the Tanagrans feared it was only a matter of time until it came to their doorsteps as well. Then Hermes, that ever-young god, was seen walking the circuit of the city's walls, bearing a ram on his shoulders.

Not one Tanagran died of plague.

Ever after, Hermes Kriophóros (“the ram-bearer”) was accounted the city's patron, and on his festivals the handsomest youth in town would ceremonially walk the circuit of the city's walls, bearing a lamb on his shoulders.

(Although Pausanias does not say so, presumably the lamb would have been borne ultimately to the god's temple, and there given to him in sacrifice.)

In Classical art, Ram-Bearing Hermes became a common icon of philanthropy, humanitas, and divine protection. The motif continued into the Christian centuries and, indeed, to this very day.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mistletoe: What’s Love Got to do With It?

Our holiday decorations often include a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway or in the middle of a room. We may put it in place and think of the elaborate cutting ceremonies of the Druids as noted by Pliny or associate it with the Norse god Balder who was slain with it but later resurrected. Today, kissing under the mistletoe is a token of love, a wish for peace, and a bid for good luck.
        In the past in England, it was believed that sweethearts who kissed under a sprig of it were destined to marry but only if the mistletoe was burned on Twelfth Night (January 6th). A woman who was single and not kissed under it would forever be a spinster. But where did the smooching come from?
        It harkens back to the Roman Saturnalia, which generally took place from December 17th to the 23rd. Held in honor of the god Saturn, it was a celebration of the end of agricultural work for the year and the winter solstice. It was a time to kick back and enjoy revelries and excesses. There was a suspension of rules and anything goes promiscuity. Mistletoe was a prominent part of the decorations and an import symbol.
        Mistletoe was revered because of its liminal nature but even more so when it grew on an oak tree, an uncommon occurrence. Oak trees were associated with the most powerful gods in many cultures and mistletoe berries were believed to confer the power of fertility because they held the male/life force essence of the god. More than love and happiness, mistletoe symbolized the desire for fertility and not just for husband and wife. Sprigs were hung in cattle sheds, too, although I doubt that Elsie the cow received a smooch.
        As with other things, Roman customs were taken to Britain. Christmas in England was close enough to coincide with Saturnalia. The Christmas revelries went on for twelve days and was a celebration of the end of the annual agricultural work. The medieval Church put a damper on Pagan associations but people still decorated their homes with the traditional greenery, which of course, included mistletoe. Eventually, they all found their way into churches, too.
        By the eighteenth century, kissing boughs were adorning kitchens. In the nineteenth century there was a rule that a man could kiss any number of women under the mistletoe but he had to pick a berry from the bough for each kiss until there are no more left and the kissing was supposed to end.
        While we may not have mistletoe rules and the beliefs and reasons for hanging it may have changed, I think it’s nice to know that we are carrying on a very ancient Yuletide tradition. And that’s what love’s got to do with it. We’re using an ancient symbol that has been associated with love for centuries to mark our own celebrations and revelries. So, raise a glass under the kissing bough and give a toast to Yule past, present, and future.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 The People Before the People

 

Mark you, lad, that little wee Saturn-planet hanging in the Yule tree's uppermost branches, rings and all: and can you guess for why?

Well, for the Saturnalia, of course: December 17th, this very day.

(Not that the Red Crests would have known their Saturn thus, mind you, but we do: for this is our remembering, not theirs.)

Not for that we keep the Saturnalia—though there be them in Romeburg as still do—nay, not with our Yule, the torch-lit Yule of the fathers and mothers in all its shining glory a few days hence, but for that we remember.

For are we not the Witches, and children of the Dobunni?

We are, and they—the Dobunni, them of the Two Bands—the People that were the People before the Hwicce, them as gave us our tribal name.

Aye, them we were, and them we are still.

 

Dobunnitas

 

For there in the South, among our old tribal hunting runs, we came early-by to Redcrest ways, even before the coming of the Redcrests themselves. Did not our own kings mint their own coins then, back in our days of freedom?

(And do we not mind still the Silver Lady and the Three-Tailed Stallion?)

And then when the Redcrests themselves were come, did not we ally ourselves with them against our foes, the Cats of War—the Catuvellauni, they were called—for that they had taken to themselves of our people's lands, and would have had more, were they not thus thwarted?

Yes, and did we not stand shield-to-shield with the Redcrests during Boudica's War, against those same Catuvellauni, in their standing by her? ('Victorious', they named her, but in the end, she knew defeat.)

So by little and little we came to Redcrest ways, what they called Romanitas; but never did we forget our own Dobunnitas.

No, nor have we ever forgotten.

 

The Witch-Year's Torch-Lit Yule

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Charging Your Jewelry with Magic

Charging a gem or crystal imbues it with your intent. Upon charging your jewelry, you can use it in spell work or anytime you want to surround yourself with the magic you put into the gemstones. While picturing your truest wish and hope, and what you ultimately want to achieve through this process, anoint a candle with an essential oil that most expresses your energy. Perhaps it is rose or, as in my case, amber. Begin by lighting the candle and gazing into the flame. Then, place the piece of jewelry in front of the candle and say aloud, “Into this jewelry, I imbue my essence and the power of this blessed earth. This gem of great hue is charged until my magic is through. So mote it be!”

You can further empower the jewel by scratching your desire into the wax of the candle. Then, each time you burn the candle, place the gem before it and think upon your quest.

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 BOOK OF SHADOWS Celtic Tree of Lifeby Jen Delyth - Celtic Art Leather Gifts  and Celtic Tree Gift

 

The woman four people ahead of me in line, the one with the hennaed hair, is clearly a pagan. I really wish she weren't.

I also wish she would shut up.

Ugh: evangelical pagans. Oh, I understand the sense of homecoming that finding answers to your questions can bring. There's something profoundly unpagan, though, in the wrong-headed (not to mention condescending) belief that my answers should be your answers too.

I can't help but pity the poor stranger that she's evangelizing so aggressively, who listens along politely, but is clearly wondering what she did to deserve this.

Like most bores, Henna Head leaps from topic to topic: breast-feeding, polytheism, Youtube, the Goddess, exploitation of workers in the sugar industry, the moral superiority of veganism, routine circumcision. Like most bores, she maintains the pretense of conversation as she monologues. Occasionally, she solicits agreement: Don't you think? She never pauses to listen for an answer, though. Why should she? Why listen to anyone else, when you've already got all the answers?

Gods. Was I ever this obnoxiously evangelical? (I hope not.) Was I ever this smug? (Probably.) Was I ever this predatory? (Absolutely not.)

People incapable of self-doubt always amaze me. Are they lying to themselves? Or are they too immature—or maybe just plain too stupid—to conceive the possibility that they might be wrong?

Our Pagan Preacher is wildly indignant about all the injustices of the world. I empathize, but her story is always the same story (and a non-pagan story it is at that): Us v. Them. It's Moral Dualism, Good Guys/Bad Guys all the way, with never a moment of doubt as to which Side she's on. From self-pity to self-righteousness is not very far.

From victim to perpetrator is not very far.

Evangelism, whatever the flavor, is always ugly. You'd think that pagans, of all people, would understand this.

Like the other good Minnesotans in line, I think loudly, but say nothing. Eventually the line moves on, and the nonstop Gospel According to the Goddess, mercifully, comes to an end.

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Moving in Slow Motion

Dreams about moving in slow motion can be taken as a sign to slow down in your waking life. You might be rushing into new relationships, experiences, or responsibilities without taking the time to process what is already around you. Pay attention to the people, places, and things in your waking life. Work on increasing your mindfulness and appreciating what you already have before you start seeking out more. You probably need to focus on taking life one step at a time—otherwise, one day, you’ll regret not living in the moment. These dreams can also draw your attention to overlooked details. When you are moving in slow motion, you might notice things you never would have if you were moving along at a regular pace. In the same way, try to soak in all the details and hints in your waking life that you would normally gloss over. There might be something for you to learn there.

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Magical Jewelry

A marvelous way to take fuller advantage of the power of your gems and crystals is to wear them in jewelry. Even better, you can make the jewelry you own magical by charging it—imbuing it with intention and purpose and power. Also, you can craft your own magical jewelry, which is perhaps the most powerful option of all because you hold your desires in mind as you put your enchantments together step by step and gem by gem.

As you wear a gem, you’re not only decorating yourself but also experiencing its interaction with your energy systems. A large portion of this book is devoted to explaining the energies of each of the major crystals and gems along with some of the rarer rocks, so you must read through the descriptionary part to determine which stones are best for you. Not all will be, by any means, and some will conflict with your personal energy, as I also point out herein. Give a lot of thought about what constructive changes you wish to see in your life or what good qualities you want to develop further in yourself.

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