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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Witches Do Not Bend*

Allow me a moment's irritation that this persistent misinformation continues to get shared. The 'witch' of witch hazel or witch elm is *not* that witch. This is the Proto-IndoEuropean root *weik

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Sound and Silence

The real in us is silent; the acquired is talkative.” – Kahlil Gibran

In my first post here, “An Introduction to Creating an Element-Based Spirituality”, I pointed out that Native American tribes, in addition to the four elements, also include in a fifth element of Sacred Sound. Shortly after I published that, it occurred to me that this was something I might want to verify.

I had remembered reading (or hearing) it some time ago in what I had believed to be a reliable source but now I can’t even remember where I read it or, by extension, just how reliable it may have been. Nor have I even been able to find any references or information online regarding any such specific belief.

Naturally, I know that sound is indeed sacred and powerful in Native American tribes and culture, as is illustrated by its use for healing (among many other spiritual contexts) via flutes and drums. I know that the Thunderbirds are sacred and dwell in the watery quarter of the West. I know that many vocables and wordless chants were also used for multiple purposes.

However, I’m no longer so sure that there actually was believed to be a fifth element of sound, per se, as far as any Native Americans were concerned. This served as a reminder to me of just how much modern, “New Age” and “Neopagan” information and enthusiasm regarding Native American spirituality, while usually well intentioned, is often simply completely erroneous.

I am loath to spread misinformation or fall victim to misappropriation (these days often unfortunately confused with the relatively less harmful and seemingly inevitable term and action of “appropriation”), so unless anyone can comment and maybe enlighten me as to where I may have heard/read this or if it actually has any basis in truth, I will have to clarify that, while a nice idea, it may not be contextually accurate.

That being said, Sound is still a very powerful and sacred force and my search to correct myself led me to reflect on it and realize that maybe it can still be considered a sort of element. On the same token then, so too is Silence.

Many creation stories have to do with sound, a word or words being used to create realms and life. Or to destroy them. In the Finnish epic poem, Kalevala, the main hero is called a wizard and a minstrel, and his famous singing of legendary songs leads a young rival from the North to challenge him to a fantastic, mountain-crumbling, ocean-heaving duel of magical songs and chants that have power of their own.

Sound is vibration, more technically defined as pressure change, particle displacement, and simply the changing motion of molecules through matter. So, sound has the power to influence or create, but sound itself is the result of something else that already exists and that is moving and vibrating, thus putting out compression waves. Creating sound is a great power. In all our different practices we all know about names, words of power, of sacred songs, chants, mantras, etc.

We also know, at least on some level, that even all of our everyday words have power. Yet this seems to be something easily forgotten, particularly in an age where communication is made faster and easier all the time, yet ironically leads to more communications breakdowns and misunderstandings. “Raise your vibrations” is first accomplished by raising your standards of both behavior and speech, both of which put out and define your vibe.

How often do even the most intuitive, learned and “enlightened” of us still say things we don’t mean, things that hurt others, or that attract energy we’d rather not want? Probably far more than a lot of us realize. Perhaps you’ve known someone who simply loves to hear the sound of their own voice, someone who will carry on and on talking about everything they (think they) know, everything this god told them or that they read in that book or this UPG or that thing that so-and-so claims that is actually bullshit, so on and so forth? Or have you simply had your heart broken or your world turned upside-down by hateful or false words?

Well, ‘tis the season to be silent. Literally. We’re coming into Winter now, a time when life slows down (in theory, natural life anyway), much life even ceases, blankets of snow muffle the Earth and fluid, babbling water freezes up into her solid, silent form.




Water is a very relevant element this time of year. It is the only element – pretty much the only thing – that exists in three different states: solid, liquid and gaseous. What if we would truly “be like water”? What if we allowed ourselves to shift and adapt more naturally, to really mirror the energy of the season, to know when to flow and when to freeze? When to speak and when to be silent? There is such power in sound and speech, and there is just as much power in silence; in knowing when not to speak or make sound.

When was the last time you sat in complete silence for an extended period of time? I realize I might be putting the question to the wrong crowd, albeit rhetorical, assuming that many of you do indeed meditate in silence regularly, or otherwise spend significant time not talking, not typing away texts or emails, not blaring music or a show in the background. However, I think we could always use even more silence.

This is an overstimulating age in which so many people are competing to be heard, in which we often can’t go to any social setting and have conversations without everyone talking over and interrupting each other. There is still a general desire, even expectation, to fill everything up with sound, noise, talk, busy-ness, distractions. Much of this gives many people, or is the result of, an inflated sense of self-importance. Mankind in general has a terribly grandiose sense of self-importance and feels like it just needs to make noise because it can, like an infant shrieking while discovering its own voice.

Winter humbles us. Winter silences us. Winter wants us to go inward, to reflect, to think, to really know ourselves long before we start opening our mouths and letting all kinds of energy and noise spill forth. We need to learn our truths instead of trying to tell others what theirs are or should be, in any way. We need to know how little we know, and understand that even what we do know doesn’t have to be shouted out all the time. We need to enjoy the sound of silence.


After all, as Maurice Switzer put it, "It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt of it."


Featured image: The Hermit (detail, enhanced) by Pamela Colman-Smith
"Seasons - Winter" by Erté

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Comparison of Heathen and Romani Spiritual Words Part 2: Chaos and Cosmos

Comparison of Heathen and Romani Spiritual Words and Concepts

Part 2: Chaos, Cosmos, and the Nature of Time

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    A decade or so ago I go a video game called Xenosaga. One of the characters was a tall android woman named Kosmos. Another chara
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Hi Anthony, that's cool. I like the "dance partners" image. Cosmos and Chaos are of course words derived from ancient Greek, so t
Comparison of Heathen and Romani Spiritual Words Part 1: the Soul

Comparison of Heathen and Romani Spiritual Words and Concepts

Part 1: the Soul

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Notes in response to criticism I have received off of this blog: 2. It should be obvious that if one is reading a blog subtitled
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Notes in response to criticism I have received off of this blog: 1. Despite stating in both parts of this report about the class

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacred Feathers

Lend flight to thoughts; waft away the mundane to make room for the sacred spirit journey.  Seeming to be at the mercy of the wind, feathers float on the breeze to be gifted to those who seek.  Yet the feathers direct the thoughts to a higher plane.

Feathers have been used as spiritual artifacts in almost all cultures.  Even today each State has a state bird, which is exempt from hunting and held as sacred.  Emperors, Priests, Goddesses have all been adorned with the sacred feather from a variety of birds from the peacock and parrot to the eagle and ostrich.  Some feathers are so sought after that the birds are now protected.  It is important to only pick up found feathers and not take them from living birds.  Be cautious about buying feathers as well - some are limited to only certain Native American tribes for their religious rights.  

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Trees are wisdom keepers. They stand in a single place on the earth’s surface and faithfully witness the unfolding of time. Like people, trees observe their surroundings, root where welcomed, reach toward nourishment, and hold close where limited.  They form scar tissue when wounded and can adapt to change.  Examining the lives of trees offers critical insights for human wellbeing and survival, showing us when life thrives and falters.

“Witness tree” is an expression used for trees that mark boundaries, act as signposts and directionals, or witness key events in history and local culture – celebratory and tragic.  Trees also witness the in-between moments that are precious and informative in their own right. Through this collaborative witnessing of trees and people, we hope to foster a world that is richer and more sustainable for both.

My dear friends Rebecca Power, John Steines, and I partnered over a year ago to create Witness Tree, an art exhibit at Commonwealth Gallery in Madison, WI – with the two of them as artists (along with many others they invited) and me serving as facilitator of group activities and community conversations.  The above is our statement of purpose, and below is a picture of our world tree gallery where we gathered for circles of story, poetry, meditation, conversation, and leaf-making.

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More recently Rebecca and John joined with other tree-minded artists in a fabulous follow up Tree of Life art exhibit at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. Again, my role was to support the artists by facilitating a community conversation at the gallery to draw people into a more intentional experience of the Tree of Life exhibit. To kick of the conversation, we guided participants to reflect on their experience of the art and then to share in single words on slips of paper how the art inspired their personal connection with trees and the Tree of Life as metaphor for the connectivity of all living things.

We then collected the words to create a word cloud as a collective representation of everyone’s experience of the Tree of Life art.  Perhaps you can imagine the diversity of art in the exhibit through this “reverse experience” of viewing the visitor’s words rather than the works of art themselves.

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As you view the trees in your home place over the next days and weeks, you might collect your own words of response and create a word cloud as an alternative, or in addition, to a journal. You can create your own word cloud with the tree or other shapes at http://www.tagxedo.com/

In alliance with the trees,
Anne

Credits: Thanks to Math Heinzel for the Witness Tree panorama, Amy Fenn for creating the word cloud, and the many others who contributed to the art exhibits and associated programming.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Irene bryson
    Irene bryson says #
    My name is Irene and I am new to this, don't know how I came across it but have always been interested would love to enter into th
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Thanks so much for this! Your affirming the witnesses and caretakers of transitions is a healing for me. As a shaman, I often find

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Sacred Words

 


I am back to writing my blog after taking a break to take care of myself and the many lovely people in my life. My blog should be back on a weekly schedule, barring times when the priorities of my life are more pressing than an online presence. My heartfelt thanks to those that reached out to me and also to those who gave me space. I was also away at PantheaCon and will write about how it touched me next week.

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