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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Heathen

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Huffington Post recently got the chance to compare Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Oprah Winfrey, which already lets you know that things have gone off the rails. The short of it is that each of these people took someone and projected their own religion upon them; Dawkins and Maher projected Atheism upon President Obama and Pope Francis (I wish I was kidding) respectively, while Winfrey projected a vague sort of theism onto her guest, Diana Nyad (an Atheist). The article goes on to elaborate upon how crude such presumptions are, no matter their intention. Assurances of “no really, you're the same as me!” may be spoken with a mindset that is complimentary, but the reality is that it just ends up as a subtle insult.  It leaves their religious viewpoint up to consensus rather than the dictates of their own soul.

Respect for the religions of others is, like many things, easy to talk about but much more complicated in practice. It's easy to stumble without meaning to, and modern Paganism has a pretty unique stumbling block that seems to effect people on all sides.

An interview with Larisa Hunter over at Northern Runes Radio revealed that she has just started her own publishing company (Saga Press). Part of her reason to start this venture, she said, was that that their was a few issues in communicating concepts with her previous publisher. “Working with a Pagan publisher, I did find it difficult to convey that Heathenry was different and it had to be expressed in different ways.” she said, “”A lot of the terminology is not the same, so putting generic terms in a Heathen book doesn't work. So that was my frustration; it was butting heads [because] they didn't understand that Heathenry had specific terms for specific reasons and we like those terms.” (This part of the interview occurs between 5:10 and 5:40, though the entire video is worth watching.)

I suspect the disconnect that Larisa is referring to is quite common. It certainly finds a level of comparison when contrasted against the actions of Dawkins, Maher, and Winfrey, though it comes from a much more benign place in my opinion. The modern Pagan revival really came into it's own in the 1990s partly because it was good at finding similarities and common ground.  Many historical and modern Pagan paths had a strong tradition of syncretism. It is true that some less scrupulous authors used the zeitgeist of the time to publish poorly researched works and turn them into a paycheck, the desire to find similarities and build connections was still a noble one. They learned to take a look at the spiritual actions of many separate cultures, compare the commonalities between those actions, and than make something new from the complementary elements.

This makes it easy and sensiable for some people to look at the Heathen practices of Spae-work and go, “Oh! That's just like our techniques for ritual magic!”. If you know someone who practices Spae, have them read the previous sentence. Watch the expression that they make. I'll bet you a dollar it isn't a pleasant or pleased one.

Yes, it is a form of magic, but it's not the same as yours. Some of the conceits of Spae are much different from the baseline of ritualistic magic work that exists today. This is the point where I suspect those who specialize in the mystical practices involved in chaos magic, Kabbalistic techniques, Gardenerian Wicca, and other traditions are nodding their head. The things which drew some of us to these particular practices were their unique structure and beauty.  For those passionately drawn to such work, seeing those sacred and ineffable differences disregarded can be painful if not downright insulting.


a1sx2_Original1_Gaston-and-Magic-with-a-K.pngThis is not a judgment of Eclectic Paganism, but rather highlighting a diplomatic pitfall that can occur easily. Looking for a commonality to use as a bridge between the paths of two very different people is not a weakness; it's an act of unity. The problem isn't with the comparison itself, but rather in how such a comparison is made and presented. To provide another Heathen example, Galdr could be compared to many different forms of ritualistic chanting and/or singing. Galdr certainly is a form of such practices, but it follows it's own rules, it's done for specific purposes, and is performed in it's own ways. The differences have equal value to the similarities, because those differences are what have created our traditions and paths. Recognizing the similarities is wonderful, but discarding the differences in the process is throwing out whole chunks of what some of us have spent our lives trying to understand and embrace. This isn't a one way street either, as I suspect that those of more reconstructionist based methodology are equally guilty of actions that are equally crass and marginalizing.

What is at work here is no mystery, as it represents a huge part of how humans develop socially.  Both as individuals and as cultures, we are dawn to seek the ties that bind. Finding similarities and connections is not wrong, so long as we go about it in an intelligent and respectful way.  That's the good news here; the mistake is easy to make, but it's even easier to avoid.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Yes. Yes.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

My name is Harrison Hall. You might know my writing from the work I at "Kvasir Amongst the Gods" over at Wordpress. A few months ago, one of my fellow bloggers suggested that I apply to write over here at Witches and Pagans, as she thought my writing style would be a good fit. I did so, and I was graciously and somewhat surprisingly accepted. This process took about a month. That neatly brings us up to the present.

That's not very interesting. Feel free to pretend that the month of processing was actually a cover so I could go forth and battle an army of genetically enhanced velociraptors that were trying to take over the world. You're welcome.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    As a soft-polytheist I commend your sentiments, Harrison. Thanks, also, for taking care of those genetically enhanced velociraptor
  • Harrison K. Hall
    Harrison K. Hall says #
    Well, you do what you can...both in terms of interfaith diplomacy and dinosaurs.
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    Yay! So happy to see you here.
  • Harrison K. Hall
    Harrison K. Hall says #
    So happy you encouraged me to come here! Thanks again!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Heathenry in Afghanistan

I arrived in Afghanistan in the last week of August, just as many other members of the American armed forces do- a long flight, a refueling stop, a processing station in the former Soviet bloc, and then to one of the main airbases from which we are all parsed out to our respective assignments.  I ended up in the city of Kabul, with the mountains a short trip from the city and a lot of unpleasant flatlands in every direction.

Before I left for Afghanistan, I knew that I would want to connect with the pagan/heathen minority when I arrived- as I have said, I am not much for ceremony and ritual, but it is good to have someone to talk to when you're staring down the barrel of several months in a foreign land.  I began by reaching out to a great organization called Open Halls Project, a Facebook group owned and operated by Josh and Cat Heath with the goal of supporting heathens in the military.  The result was connection with one heathen on the exact camp I was going to- a relatively unlikely event given the size of our faith and the number of possible camps across Afghanistan.

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  • nolongerhere
    nolongerhere says #
    Thanks for sharing your experiences again! Looking forward to updates on your adventures. May you and your company come home safel

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 27-30

27.

Ósnotr maðr,
er með aldir kemr,
þat er bazt, at hann þegi;
engi þat veit,
at hann ekki kann,
nema hann mæli til margt;
veit-a maðr,
hinn er vettki veit,
þótt hann mæli til margt.

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Greetings, gentle readers, I’m Heather Freysdottir and I’ll be your Lokean Swamp Witch. I’m a Godspouse, which is a type of mysticism that involves sharing day to day life with a Deity, Loki in my case. I know that some would consider that odd, but for me, it’s an extension of my understanding of the sacred. Yes, Loki is holy. I am holy. You are holy. The goal and desire in this Union is to acknowledge the sacredness of this World and Elsewhere, and to bring them together, and be present and aware of both.

When we cast a circle, it’s often said that we create sacred space, but in truth, every space is sacred, and by casting we acknowledge and create awareness of its holiness, and our own, and create a bond of kinship with the humans and Spirits participating in the ritual. A godspouse’s relationship is much the same. We come together with our Beloveds and go out into our communities and create awareness of the bonds that unite us to the Gods and the Land. We are a circle.

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  • Liza
    Liza says #
    So excited to see you here!
  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    Thank you!
  • Beth Wodandis
    Beth Wodandis says #
    Yay! Welcome to Pagan Square!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 10-14

10.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
auði betra
þykkir þat í ókunnum stað;
slíkt er válaðs vera.

11.
Byrði betri
berr-at maðr brautu at
en sé mannvit mikit;
vegnest verra
vegr-a hann velli at
en sé ofdrykkja öls.

12.
Er-a svá gótt
sem gótt kveða
öl alda sona,
því at færa veit,
er fleira drekkr
síns til geðs gumi.

13.
Óminnishegri heitir
sá er yfir ölðrum þrumir,
hann stelr geði guma;
þess fugls fjöðrum
ek fjötraðr vark
í garði Gunnlaðar.

14.
Ölr ek varð,
varð ofrölvi
at ins fróða Fjalars;
því er ölðr bazt,
at aftr of heimtir
hverr sitt geð gumi.

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Anglo-Saxon Yuletide

This is a bit of a chestnut, but like the holly evergreen: the longest night of the year has already begun here in Scotland. If you need some ideas for tomorrow's celebrations to welcome the return of the light, here you go:

The Anglo-Saxons settled Britain in the early fifth century, giving their name to the land now known as England. Very little remains of the native culture of the Anglo-Saxons.  We learn from the Venerable Bede, a seventh century Christian historian, that the months we now call December and January were considered “Giuli” or Yule by the Anglo-Saxons.  According to the historian, his Anglo-Saxon ancestors celebrated the beginning of the year on December 25th, referred to as “Modranect”— that is, Mothers’ Night.  This celebration most likely acknowledged the rebirth of Mother Earth in order to ensure fertility in the coming spring season.  An Anglo-Saxon charm for crop fertility, recorded in the eleventh-century and known as “Aecerbot,” refers to the Earth as “Erce, [the] Earthen Mother” and contains the following praise poem for her:

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