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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Shared Bed Is Warmer

A shared bed is warmer.

(Nils-Aslak Valkeapää)

 

Beltanes up at Sioux Portage were always cold, and that was the year that it snowed while we were dancing the Maypole.

I was skinny as a boy well into my 30s. In the time that it took to empty my bladder and fumble my way back into the tent, I was already shivering uncontrollably.

Fortunately, I had offered tent-room to my friend Daniel that year. Though we weren't lovers at the time—that would come later—in an act of pure body hospitality, only half-awake, he wordlessly opened his arms to me and enwrapped me in primal mammalian comfort. Willingly I dove into those warm waters.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Language of Serpents

In the dream, the whole coven is over for New Moon. We're discussing the writings of occultist Dion Fortune: in particular, a passage in which she writes that, after disincarnation, she will return as a golden serpent. We discuss whether or not this could actually be so.

It so happens that the long-time partner of one of us, a magician who sometimes attends our rituals, is himself conversant in the Language of Serpents.

As one, we turn toward the temple's snake-hole. (Since the days of Knossos, every good temple has had a snake-hole.) In the Language of Serpents, with his arms extended and palms turned down, M— delivers the invocation.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Breaking the Wheel

At Paganicon in several weeks' time, we'll be doing something profoundly non-pagan: anti-pagan, even.

We'll be singing seasonal songs out of season.

The pagan's work is to Turn the Wheel: to make sure (inter alia) that the Sun comes up in the morning. (Whether to read this literally or symbolically is up to you.) The greatest pagan sin is to try to stop the Wheel or (worse) to break it.

It's our conviction that to sing the right songs in the right season helps to Turn the Wheel. So to sing the songs of other seasons now in this season raises some deeply theological problems.

Well, the pagan world is a place of gradation. What needs to be done, you do in the best possible way that you can.

For my upcoming workshop All Around the Wheel: Sacred Songs and Dances from the Midwest's Oldest Coven, we'll be singing songs from all the firedays, not just the current one. That's the point of the entire endeavor: to teach songs for the whole year.

So here's what we're going to do to make it magically palatable.

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Pagan Place, or: There Are No Generic Pagan Rituals

A local festival asked a friend of mine if he would write a ritual for them.

“We can't guarantee that it's going to be in any particular location,” they told him.

“Sorry,” was his reply. “If you can't give me a place, I can't give you a ritual.”

Corollaries:

  • There are no generic pagan rituals.
  • All pagan ritual is place specific.

Take, for example, the kachina religions of the American Southwest. You couldn't really pick these religions up and practice them in, say, Minneapolis. They've evolved as a perfect unity of place, people, and religion: what in Witch we would call Land, Lede (“tribe”) and Lore. This unity constitutes the pagan ideal.

I look at my coven's Wheel of the Year. Nearly every one of our rituals has evolved to fit a specific place. You could, theoretically, enact them elsewhere, but it would require a re-envisioning and a recasting of the rites to fit the new location.

The Paganicon 2020 committee asked if I would be interested in crafting Opening and Closing rituals for the upcoming event. As you'll have gathered, I'm not much one for casting circles and calling corners in ballrooms, but if things were to go as I foresee, our rites would mark the tribal Ingathering with what heathens call a “land-take."

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The Year the Yule Tree Saved the Coven Jewelry

The coven had been together for not quite a year when we all decided to move in together. Hey, it was the 80s.

Soon our second Yule together rolled around. Naturally, we had our discussions about whether or not it was ethical to kill a tree just for purposes of decoration. Like I said, it was the 80s.

Some felt one way, some another. As it turned out, though, we didn't have to kill a tree for Yule. Instead, one offered itself.

Just before Yule, an early blizzard blew through town, dropping lots of heavy, wet snow. The weight of the snow snapped off a tall, slender arbor vitae in the back yard.

(By the way, for those of you who didn't happened to grow up speaking Latin, arbor vitae means “tree of life.” Interesting.)

So we dragged the tree into the house and decked it out. Goddess will provide.

This being early on in our pagan careers, we didn't have much in the way of Yule ornaments between the lot of us. So we hung the tree with jewelry instead. Pagans, of course, have lots of jewelry that looks good on a Yule tree. Interestingly, the German word for Yule tree ornaments—Tannenbaumshmuck—means exactly that: fir tree jewelry.

So that was our first coven Yule tree together. But there's a coda to the story.

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Those Prodea Witches, or: How Does a Coven Manage to Stay Together for Nearly 40 Years?

Come Harvest Home (= autumn evenday) this year, Prodea, the coven that I'm part of, will have been together for 39 (= 3 x 13) years, a significant number.

Given that the life expectancy of the average coven comes to something around three years, that's really a pretty remarkable achievement.

So at Paganicon 2020, we'll be throwing a public bash to celebrate.

 

How Does a Coven Manage to Stay Together for 40 Years?

In Celebration of Prodea, Paganistan's Oldest Working Coven

 

We'll start off with a little panel, so you can meet the folks. Prodea members (those that want to, anyway) will offer stories and reflections on 40 years of life, and magic, together.

There will surely be singing and dancing. (It wouldn't be a Prodea event without them.) Eventually—since there is no witchcraft without food—we'll get to the cake and ice cream.

Reportedly, our celebration will feature yet another culinary masterwork by the indefatigable Janey S., baker to the gods, who (speaking of tales of Prodea) for our 13th anniversary, actually baked a cake with 13 layers.

So cut a notch in your calendar-stave, and we'll plan to see you there.

 

Because if we can do it, so can you.

 

***

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A Night in the Life of an Urban Coven

Ah, summer in Lake Country. There's no humidity like Midwestern humidity.

One steamy New Moon night in July 1984, we gather in Loring Park to greet the First Crescent, hoping for even a breath of air movement.

Alas, there is none.

We retire to my nearby deficiency compartment to continue. In the thick, airless humidity, we strip off and sit on the bare floorboards.

In the center of our circle stands the coven goddess: earthen, tall as a child of two years. There she rises: dancing, naked, smiling her mysterious smile. Of us all, only she looks cool.

We chant, savoring.

new is moon

moon are we

we are new

blessed be

The sweating jar passes from lap to lap, a lunar coolness. With sea-sponges, we wipe each other down with the cold water.

As the jar circles, we begin riffing off of our chant.

We are nude, I deadpan. There is no witchcraft without self-satire.

Laughing, Magenta points to the Goddess.

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