Another week brings us another post from Star Foster considering leaving the Pagan community over some minor controversy:
I want to know when Paganism is going to grow up. Because it’s really tempting to check out for a few years and come back when it’s reached maturity. There are days, and not just today, when it feels like Paganism is plagued by waves of stupidity and high school politics.
One of these days Alice, one of these days…
Which is really too bad, because while I do disagree with about 80% of what she says Star does, occasionally, have a decent nugget of wisdom to drop on us. Such as her insight on why polytheism is vital to paganism:
It’s the grand cosmic joke. Nothing we do isn’t done by some branch of the Abrahamic faith, and it is done by more of them, with more respectability and wider recognition. We own very little. We don’t own animism or panentheism or pantheism or necromancy or ancestor reverence or divination. We own very little. But we own polytheism. The Pagan and indigenous peoples of the world own polytheism. It is quite distinctly ours and not theirs. Even the Catholics with their legions of saints have spent a great deal of energy and thought to prevent themselves from being labeled polytheists.
Anne of Random Card Rolodex discusses syncretism:
Syncretism is about being in sync, in a balance, wherever you happen to be and with whomever you happen to be with. The ancients didn’t mind sharing Gods – because it’s an ancient notion of ‘Hey, they’re doing pretty damn good, I think I’ll worship their Gods as well, for some good ju-ju to come my way too.’ Says a Greek man in Babylon.
Or maybe ‘They kicked our asses, maybe their Gods are stronger.’ Says one tribal man after a battle.
Or possibly ‘Sybil speaks to me, I heard Her in Her temple. I will revere Her too, alongside my own Gods of Freya and Ishtar.’ So sayeth the Nordic merchant’s wife.
Speaking of which, here’s a very dapper Zeus-Ammon:
Signy Ragnvaldsdottir talks Heathen daily practice:
This is one of the problems with being in a reconstructionist religion. Religions that have continued uninterrupted for millennia tend to be rich in daily rituals, from starting one’s morning bathing in the Ganges to reciting prescribed morning and evening prayers to making offerings to various gods and spirits. Since most of what pagan Scandinavia did religiously on a daily basis is lost or filtered through a Christian lens, modern believers must take what they can from the existing lore or treat bits of knowledge like seeds for growing a practice.
M. Horatius Piscinus tells us how to garden the ancient Roman way:
In the garden our first ritual is to orient the land onto the winds. This is performed in accordance with an ancient ritual explained by Pliny the Elder. Previously the land would have to be prepared. But before this could take place a ritual is performed to ask permission of the local spirits of the land, the genius locii.
Ruadhán deals with the aftermath of Z. Budapest’s hex.
Charlie Glickman makes an astute observation:
In many ways, a lot of porn is comparable to junk food. It’s a highly distilled and concentrated formulation that is engineered to tap into some of our most basic urges. As a culture, we’re really good at taking something that’s good for us or fun and distilling it to the point of toxicity. In the case of food, it’s salt, sugar, and fat. In the case of porn, it’s formulaic, unrealistic sex that follows predictable conventions and neglects genuine pleasure. In both cases, real diversity and variety is removed and instead, superficial differences are promoted. When it comes down to it, what’s the difference between Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos, etc? They’re all corn products, with salt, fat, and variations in flavoring additives. Their purpose isn’t to nourish- their purpose is to get people to buy their products so the producers can get as much money as possible.
Carnivalia considers the ethics of prayer:
It is commonplace for people to pray for other people without their knowledge or consent and I suppose that when it comes to a religion like Christianity it can be assumed that, whatever the denomination, all Christians ultimately pray to the same God. We all know that Christians (and perhaps Muslims and Jews as well) will pray for anyone even those who they consider to be ‘sinners’, ‘heathens’ or whatever term it may be. Being of a pagan persuasion I’ve wondered how other pagans, quasi-pagans and the like deal with this particular ‘problem’ of prayer. Basically, is it lawful to ask one’s Gods to provide any of the myriad things we ask for ourselves but in the service of another or is that a violation?
And Pete Helms ponders religiously motivated violence:
I know a little about religious violence from my own experience. Part of my job as an analyst was to monitor tensions between nations in what were at least partially religiously motivated conflicts, including tensions between India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, as well as Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq. Some others you may know about include the conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland, the religious civil war in the Philippines, the tension between churches and the government in China, and the issue with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Damn, that’s a lot, huh? Oh wait, I forgot all the miscellaneous tensions in Africa and South America between missionary groups, indigenous populations, and even their own governments. Violence isn’t limited to any one sect, faith family, or theology. Even the ancient Hellenes had their own religious wars among themselves. Yet, as much as the neopagan establishment wants to think otherwise, the world was not all peace and matriarchy–ever.
Want to know about erectile dysfunction in the Middle Ages?
Or how about Pagan traces in medieval and early modern European witch-beliefs?
The Medieval clerics who resisted the imposition of celibacy?
How about the relationship between the imperial cult and the cult of the saints in late antiquity?
Ever wondered why Plato wrote?
Or about the role of decapitation in Anglo-Saxon saints lives?
Or the legendary prostitute saints?
Suz of suzsmuses shares a lovely story about Dionysos and the Dryad who lives in her yard:
He came to her years ago, a shy suitor, tentatively touching her from his home in the nearby pines. She stood aloof from the others, lovely and lone, not needing the close company of the thicket. Her confidence and solitary splendor entranced him. When his initial overtures were not spurned, he became bolder, lacing her needle-tipped fingers in his, draping her sloping shoulders with jeweled globes of tiny wild grapes, sliding between her knees with his rough, eager hands.
Jason Mankey believes that his religion is just as fake as yours:
About the only time I really get bothered is when someone tries to “explain” me, and acts as if they have some sort of secret understanding of Paganism that I’m too ignorant to comprehend. When someone from one faith community chooses to belittle another faith community they need to be careful of hypocrisy. Scholars are going to disagree with nearly all of us who are spiritual on a number of levels. You can’t use academia to discredit my faith because I can use it just as easily to discredit yours.
Iullia of Musings of a Roman Polytheist in America discusses offerings:
The giving of offerings is an extremely important factor in Roman reconstructionism: in fact, the phrase do ut des, which has been in the minds of scholars and cultores deorum alike for years and years is a good sum of Roman reconstructionism. What it means is “I give so that you might give.” Essentially, the religio Romana is a religion of reciprocity between gods and humans.
Aidan Kelly reminds us that the Craft is actually hard work if you’re serious:
Without that deeper level, the Craft is as silly and inadequate as the Sunday School version of Christianity: pablum for infants. As a Trappist monk, a friend of Thomas Merton, once said, “If people understood the joy of this life, they’d be breaking down the doors to get in.” But if you are not willing to give up your middle-class lifestyle (I mean the values, not the income level), you cannot understand, let alone do it—and if you have kids to raise, you must not give up on your responsibility to them. In India, one becomes a Sunyasin only after your last child has become an adult. All that applies to learning and living that deeper level of the Craft.
Galina talks shop, specifically dealing with clients:
I see a lot of clients. It’s part of the job of being a shaman or a spiritworker. People come to me for divination, to get their spiritual problems sorted, and they come to me in the midst of spiritual crisis. This is par for the course. I’m also a clergy person, so I do quite a bit of pastoral counseling and yes sometimes the line between priest and shaman cross in this. Yes I have the appropriate training. So I’m going to answer this question as honestly as possible, drawing on the response I gave to my student about client X: “On a purely emotional level, why would I be pulled in? This wasn’t a friend or colleague after all, it was a client (although an unexpected one). My job was to sort him out and give a [spiritual] prescription or refer him (and I did a bit of both). I chose to get as involved as I did because the Deity involved with that client is most beloved in my House and I wanted to see the situation righted for the sake of Deity. I knew going in that it was unlikely X would follow the prescription but my job was done the moment it was given. I rarely become emotionally involved with my clients. I often find myself having to triage the worst of them, the ones that persistently refuse to take responsibility for themselves. I do what any good psychotherapist would do: I remind myself that it’s a job and I debrief with a colleague to make sure I’m not risking transference. But I have no feeling whatsoever toward “X.” (or generally any other client). This is part of the job.”
Galina’s friend and former student Sophie Reicher also has some relevant things to say about dealing with people and the law of contagion:
The solution? Don’t leave your personal concerns lying around. Here’s an example for the women reading this. When I travel to a friend or colleague’s house and I happen to be menstruating, unless I am 110% that I’m in absolutely safe space, I take a bag with me and I bring my used sanitary pads home to dispose of – and I may do it anyway even if I AM in safe space. I don’t leave them in random trash cans. Why? Because some practitioners are not averse to picking them up and storing them away just in case one needs to do a magical smack down on a person in the future. I’ve done this. I’ve also randomly collected hair from the hair brush of a person who was being particularly vexing. I just asked to use the toilet and when I was there, took a bit from her brush. Did I use it? No, but I took it and kept it tucked safely away just in case I had need to do so in the future. I also keep several of my partner’s used condoms on ice in my freezer. Consider it old time life insurance.
Once again I am so very, very happy that my Work only indirectly involves others.
Sarenth praises the Old Ones:
The bones sunk deep in earth
The ashes scattered wide
I seek Your sacred places
Where Your spirits still abide
Carnivalia has a gorgeous piece for the Dark Venus:
Venus under the light of the Sun
Prefers roses and pretty little flowers
But Venus under the light of the Moon
Leaves aside her train of amorous sprites
To lull the shady ones out (with Hekate’s consent)
For, you see, Venus loves the poisons too
This is probably the closest I’ve come to seeing someone else talk about the version of Aphrodite/Venus I’m drawn to. And to think, this came from a person who isn’t too fond of poetry!
And here is Aidan Kelly’s take on the Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer:
She raised a ram’s horn to her lips;
A tune she blew of memory.
A while she blew; a while she sang;
She met me by the Holydun tree.
In courtesy to her I knelt,
And feared my heart would burst in three.
I bold rose up and seized her hand:
“O Queen of Heaven, take pity on me!”
“Nay, Heaven’s Queen I’m not,” she laughed,
“For I never took so high a degree.
It is of Elfland I am Queen,
And I ride here after my wild fee.”
Apuleius reminds us that Gerald Gardner was a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms:
Gerald Gardner was as good as his word. As a volunteer ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden, he had already begun distributing the few weapons he himself possessed (including pikes and coshes) to his fellow wardens. In addition, Gardner took an inventory of the privately held weapons among his neighbors, which he found lamentably inadequate for the task at hand: “We expected Hitler on the seashore any day. We had no weapons worth the name. In my three-mile beach sector there were six shotguns, my Luger and Donna’s revolver, and a few other pistols, with about six rounds apiece for them. Then there were my pikes and swords.”
Elizabeth Vongvisith has some wise words to share about possession:
The sad fact is that being possessed is not something that is democratically available to everyone who wants to do it, just like not everyone gets to be a genius at math or an Olympic athlete or a great artist. Even if you’re capable of aspecting or drawing-down-the-moon, or otherwise partially carrying a god or goddess while still being self-aware, that does not equal having the capacity for full-on possession. For some people, possession just won’t happen at all, no matter how hard they try. That’s just how it is — some of us have capabilities that others do not. Horsing isn’t something that all Pagans or all spiritual people or all god-touched people are automatically going to be able to do. Nor are we owed the experience.
To which Del made a very thoughtful response:
In fact, I take is as a moral imperative that I never excuse behavior that my body does, or words that my mouth utters, by passing the blame onto the Deity in question, even if that’s really what happened. I feel strongly that I am the gatekeeper here – I gave the Deity in question permission to use my body, I am the one who negotiated limits and boundaries, and if the Deity does something hurtful, or even worse, illegal, while wearing my skin, it’s ultimately me who has to pay the piper. I mean, would you actually consider telling a police officer, “Sorry I was running naked with a knife dripping in blood, but it wasn’t me, Sir. It was Kali Ma, who had possessed my body”? I didn’t think so.
Doctors remove spider hiding in woman’s ear canal. Yes, the pictures are every bit as horrifying as you are imagining.
Watch Terry Gilliam’s commedia dell’arte-inspired short here.
Take a trip through Paris’ empire of the dead.
Michael Gilleland discusses the cult of Envy.
Here’s a brilliant review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Don Cheadle is Captain Planet. I would do the exact same thing.
And for our last offering, here is Dver announcing a new section at Goblinesquerie:
And that’s all I’ve for this week. Wait. How could I forget DOPETHRONE?