PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

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Recent blog posts
Book Review: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers is a Canadian Pagan author who has done two very difficult things.  One is that he has broken out of the Canadian market; the other is that he has broken out of the Pagan market.  He's a professor of philosophy in Gatineau, Quebec and this, plus his background in Druidry and Humanistic Paganism have come together in his 2008 book The Other Side of Virtue: Where Our Virtues Come from, What They Really Mean, and Where They Might Be Taking Us.  I've had a signed copy of this book sitting on my "to read" shelf since I saw Brendan at the Western Gate Festival a couple of years ago, but only now finally got around to finding time to read it.  I'm sorry I waited.

This book could be a modern manifesto for humanistic Paganism; but its theories can also be applied to most modern Pagan practice.  And it could also be read and enjoyed by humanists and naturalists of any faith. It could possibly even be held up to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking as an answer on the value of philosophy.  Philosophy is not dead, Myers argues.  It has merely changed form.  A hard-core rationalist might ask "What use does philosophy have in the modern scientific and rational world?"  The answer is "to teach us how to live a good life without faith to fall back on."  But that being said, it does not challenge the existence of faith; rather, it suggests that ethics and values are essential and positive driving forces that cross the boundaries of religion or spirituality, and are equally applicable to everyone.

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Activist Clergy: Protesting from the Sidelines

I wrote this piece to the discordant music of police helicopters circling above.  Monday night my friends and colleagues marched through the streets of Berkeley, CA, protesting the killing of unarmed black men in the United States.  While many of them went home after awhile, some stayed to shut down Interstate 80 for a time.  Those dozen or so folks were part of a group that were cordoned off, surrounded by the police.  While they awaited arrest, the chaplains and ministers I spend my days with here at the Pacific School of Religion led the two hundred or so activists in Christmas carols, pop songs, and hymns.  Our Professor of Worship served a communion of almonds and tea to anyone who wanted to partake.  The group sang to the police for hours and the peaceful presence of the religious leaders kept things calm on both sides. It is the kind of work that I think religious leaders are well suited for.  I was with them many hours before, offering energy-based activist training and my loving support as they prepared for this action.  I've shed many tears this last week, filled with anguish for the injustice I see happening in my country and frustrated with my body's inability to march in the streets.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    This brings back memories of my past protesting at Lawrence Livermore Lab when I, too, was a student at PSR. Though it's been deca
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for all the work you did readying the group and supporting in the long hours that followed.
  • Kai Koumatos
    Kai Koumatos says #
    THANK YOU, Lizann, for your gentle invitations and unwavering support. You are a gem.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Waiting

So the Mother comes to the birthing-stool. Painted with white clay patterns of birth, she waits.

Around her the animals gather in silent expectation. They say that at midnight on Midwinter's Eve, they will speak. They wait.

They say that at midnight on Midwinter's Eve, the trees will burst into blossom. They wait.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    This is lovely!
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Just pulling together the pieces, Molly. Glad you like it. My experience has always been that the best stories are the most speci
  • Alana Erickson
    Alana Erickson says #
    Makes me want to get clay in my hands again and make some little figurines for yule time!
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Around Big Mama on her stool, the under-the-tree menagerie just grows every year: the Minoan bull, the faience hippo, the Proto-Ge

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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For the past hundred years in the early hours of December 12, traditional Aztec dancers, devout Mexicans, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples all over the Americas rise early to honor Tonantzin, the Holy Mother of Guadalupe. December 12 is her Feast Day. She is known as the Holy Mother of the Americas and combines sacred symbols of the Aztecs with the image of Mother Mary brought by the European settlers. Regardless of her conflicted and ambiguous history, it is without question that the Guadalupana is a revered and adored Divine Mother with reverential followers across many ethnic and national identities.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Sympathy for the Devil

Sure, I love bad boys. They’re sexy, rebellious, often funny, deliciously scary.  But why I really love them? Because they’re honest. Because they know how to suffer. On those days when Facebook is filled with “humble brags” and Pollyanna affirmations, I find myself on the side of those who aren’t afraid to complain. 

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

 

Next week my coven will be celebrating the Winter Solstice and instead of writing this blog post I should be writing our sabbat ritual. I'm sure the inspiration will come, eventually, but for now I'm going to continue to procrastinate (and perhaps daydream about an Oak King/Holly King scenario).

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Poetic Inspiration

Although I had not formalized a patronage relationship with Odin on the day I had intended to (see post The Day I Swore Myself to Freya), I received poetic inspiration from him. Some of the poems I wrote definitely felt like me writing them, that is, I was doing the work of writing. Others felt like I was just taking dictation. Some poems were in the heathen style, some modern, and some were ‘filk,’ which was the word among science fiction and fantasy fans for folk music related to the genres. It was my hand on the pen when the poem about the goddess Skadhi came into the world, but I've always felt that it was Odin who wrote it. 

 A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

     “At an Asatru festival I sang my filk version of a Canadian folksong by the campfire, and Vampyre Mike, the lead singer from the band who played acoustic pagan songs at the Festivals and hard rock in the mundane world, liked “Bajor’s Privateers” so much he sang it over and over for the rest of the festival.  His lady Pasha called to me, “You’ve created a monster!”

Bajor's Privateers was one of the songs I felt that I had actually written myself, although there might have been a touch of inspiration as well. It was a conscious parody of the folk song Barrett's Privateers, and I definitely worked at writing it. The poem Skadhi: Water Cycle was one of the ones I felt that Odin had written and I just noted it down. At this point in my personal journey, in the early 1990s, I was learning the bersarkr tradition (see post The Berserker Trance.) I was working with both animal spirits and with Odin and Freya. As I learned to open and close the door in my mind to admit Odin for the bersarkr trance, I grew closer to him and received more poetic inspiration. This is the way of the warrior-poet.

I received an invitation from Paul Edwin Zimmer to read at the Bardic Circle at Greyhaven. I had published some of his poetry in Berserkrgangr Magazine. I published that magazine mostly for the nonfiction, as a way for bersarkrs and others of similar traditions to connect and share information, but it was also a literary magazine, with fiction, poetry, and art. I published some of my own poetry in my magazine, and he must have liked it. We became colleagues and friends of the sort who gave each other our poetry chapbooks.

There were other heathens at the Greyhaven Bardic Circle, some of whom I recognized from the heathen festivals I had attended. Diana Paxson played the harp. I debuted my poem Skadi: Water Cycle at Greyhaven, and Diana liked it. It was an emotional high point for me for my poem to be appreciated by established authors. 

Of course, I felt that it was really Odin's poem, not mine. I had heard it in my sleep, woken up and written it down. I wondered, how can I take credit for what felt like taking dictation, not creating? Eventually I realized that it was not just my hand on the pen, it was my mind that Odin put this poem in. It was my effort and self-sacrifice that allowed me to open the door in my mind and let him in. (And the sacrifice to study the bersarkr tradition was hideous; more on that in my next post.) So yes, it is my poem, just like any other gift belongs to me once I've been given it, whether it is a poem from Odin or the flesh with which I receive it and write it down, flesh that began as part of my parents, flesh grown by the gifts of the earth through food and water and air, flesh that therefore also comes ultimately from the gods of nature, and yet is my flesh, my body, which I own entire. Everything I have comes ultimately from the gods, and yet is mine: my poem, my body, my breath, my mind, my soul, my life. I would not tolerate anyone trying to take my body or my life or my breath; I would fight. Even though my body is made by eating food, and food comes from the blessings of the gods, it is still my body; my art and writing and song come from the gods, too, but they are mine. Therefore, my poem:

Skadi: Water Cycle
by Erin Lale

Skadi scried the sky one day.
Blue was Baldur's beckoning eye,
Yellow as yew-wood the young god's hair,
The clouds that covered the coming sun.

All the east was ought but gold,
Blue below, the boss-shield snow,
Was Skadi. Sky-scattered clouds
Burned as beauty blazed forth

Down the deep snow-drowned ravines,
White-hot, whelming, whispering secrets.
She melted, and mickle and mild she found him.
So fair his fire she fain would go,

To marry the man, from her mountain home.
He unfroze the ice of her eyrie white,
Meltwater he made her, merry on stones,
Leaping laughing to the land below:

The gardened game-field the gods had made,
Where spirits spent in sport were happy.
A new game now, to net a husband,
Devised they very valiantly.

So fair of foot he fooled the snowmaid,
Niord named, not Baldur,
The gods' game gave to her.
The sun she sought, the sea she found.

To the ocean the icequeen overland went,
Merged at the margin of her married estate
With the salty sea as the sun looked on.
Her tears tended trees of kelp.

With watery waves wove she by day,
Niord's net-knotting daughters.
With women wily washed she by night,
Niord's nine naughty daughters.

Roamed with Ran to rend a dragon,
Long laughed loud jeers
At mighty men their maids never
Would welcome warm and winningly home.

She tried to tear her tears away
In making men meet their deaths,
A special sport a sport to forget,
From Baldur's bright beauty hiding.

But said she, "Sundered from the sun forever?
No more!" As mist, from her marriage-bed
At Ran's rim, she rose and flew,
Glad of a gull's gift of flight,

For Baldur abandoned the briny sea,
For Baldur broke in breakers white,
For Baldur bent her body up,
Climbing coastal cliffs as fog,

Sailed from sea to sundrenched air.
Yet the young god yearned she for
Too high held his head so bright
For a foamy flying maid.

Just one jutting jewelled place,
In all the upper air was there
Could Skadi skiff with skill and luck,
As crystal cloud keeping whole,

On land to lie and live all winter,
On rock and rowan resting, as ice
Spread, for spring to spring her up,
Waiting wan and wantingly.

The craigs and cliffs, kestrel-perches,
The spire-spears, sprite's castles,
The groves of granite growing high,
The meager meadows, less milch than stone,

The piney peaks she pined for strong,
Where first she felt the fiery sun,
Where last she lived a life of joy,
The much-missed mountains of home. 

This poem, along with other poetry and art, is available in the poetry chapbook Renaissance Woman. Link: 
 http://www.amazon.com/Renaissance-Woman-Collected-Poetry-Erin-ebook/dp/B004PLNLX8/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417153012&sr=1-8

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