PaganSquare


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

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Recent blog posts
Thowing Stones: D.I.Y. Crystal Divination

 Give your tarot cards a rest and create a one-of-a-kind divination tool: a bag of crystals you can use to do readings.  It is very easy to do.  Collect stones you have picked up on travels, and keep your eye out for crystals as you go about your daily business.  You can gather up relatively inexpensive stones such as garnets, agates, amethysts, and tiny citrines at your favorite metaphysical five and dime.  Select a favorite velvet bag, and when the need arises, turn to crystal visions for your enlightenment.  Most of us cannot afford diamonds in our bag of crystals, so substitute clear quartz here; for emeralds, switch to peridots, and garnets can substitute nicely for rubies. 

 

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Rite of the Witch-Fire

The Craft is like Fire.

Last weekend the folks from our new daughter-coven came into town for the Rite of the Witch-Fire.

For more than 30 years now, the Fire has burned continuously here at the covenstead.

Now we pass it on.

In the Fire's Presence, we gathered in the temple and kindled from it New Fire. This Fire now burns at our daughter group's new covenstead.

Truly, the Craft is like Fire.

Though you give your Fire away, the giving in no way diminishes you.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Beards

Recently, a heathen US soldier was granted permission to wear a religious beard. This has sparked controversy in the heathen community.

The religious beard exemption in the US army was created for the benefit of Sikhs. Many Asatruars and other heathens think it's wrong for heathens to use this exemption because heathens don't have the kind of religion in which our gods require all their followers to follow commandments in order to achieve a proper afterlife. (In heathen lore, there is only one way into Valhalla, and that is to die in battle. Most of us are going to Hel. And that is not a bad place.) Asatru has no central authority, and so different groups and individuals vary in their practices. One group may wear beards while another group does not. Individuals may be given personal taboos not practiced by the rest of their community. The soldier in question is a member of Norskk, which is an organization within the Forn Sidr sect of heathenry, not Asatru. However, many Asatruars are asking in heathen forums whether they can also get religious beard exemptions, so I am attempting to address that here.

As it happens, I've been working on a new edition of my book Asatru For Beginners, in which I am rewriting a lot of the sections dealing with folkways such as wearing beards to account for the rise of modernism in the generation which passed since I first wrote my book in 2001. During the early part of the revival of heathenry, it was the heathen's task to reconstruct what was, to determine what the actual practices of ancient heathens were, based on "the lore" (written literature), archeology, surviving folk practices, etc. Many heathens went so far as to practice a living-history lifestyle. Some still do, but in recent years modernists have arisen whose task as a heathen is to fit what we already know of heathenry into modern life.

Wearing religious beards, clothing, weapons, and so forth are part of what we call the folkway. The folkway is a way of life based not on holy scriptures but on how our ancestors lived, and the folkway is just as important to traditionalist Asatruars as is the worship of our gods. The folkway is a combination of traditional practices that survived Christianity and were passed down continuously, such as maypole dancing, plus revived practices based on pre-Christian cultures, such as wearing beards. Lore-based folkways were reconstructed as part of the early reconstruction of Asatru. Different sects of heathenry were based on different cultures and time periods, so, the folkways of an Asatruar are different from the folkways of a Theodsman. Different groups within Asatru developed different folkways from each other. In the 20th century, most American Asatruars practiced both the religion and some sort of folkway. Recently, modernist sects have arisen which practice the religion without the folkway.

Because the question of beards in the military is being framed as a question of how similar Asatruars are to Sikhs, let's talk about that. Sikhs grew from Indo-European roots, as did Asatruars. If one goes back far enough into history, there are some shared cultural tropes. Adult male Sikhs wear blades as part of their Sikh ways. Asatruars (regardless of gender) who practice the folkway wear weapons, typically blade weapons but other types are acceptable, to symbolize their free status in the community.

Another part of the folkway which is ancient and similar to Sikh practice is the prohibition against cutting the hair.  Sikhs of both genders do not cut their hair, and male Sikhs wear religious beards. In some traditionalist sects of Asatru, men wear religious beards, and women do not cut their hair. Unlike the Sikhs, in Asatru this is not a religious dictate in that it is not required to achieve a proper afterlife, because Asatru does not have that kind of religious dictate (the word of Odin in the Havamal is advice to humanity, not commandments.) Rather, in Asatru beards are a cultural tradition. While traditionalists might or might not practice that part of the folkway, modernists don't practice any part of the folkway.

There are exceptions to the no-cutting rule even among the most traditional groups in Asatru. Women can remove their facial hair and body hair. Professional warriors, including military, police, mercenaries, etc. retain warriors’ honor even if they cut their hair and shave their beards. The reason for this exception is because of Germanic mercenaries who served the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Germanic tribesmen who served Rome or Byzantium conformed to the standards of Roman soldiers and shaved their beards. They were considered to retain warrior's honor. The Germanic mercenaries had great admiration for the Roman Janissaries. Janissaries were slaves but had warriors’ honor. So there are both practical (they shaved their own beards) and theoretical (they counted warrior slaves as warriors rather than slaves) historical precedent for warriors shaving beards. Even in very traditionalist Asatru sects warriors are allowed to shave their beards. The soldier in question is a member of a heathen sect that looks to Norse sources only, not to Germanic sources, so his group does not acknowledge that exception.

The wearing of weapons, uncut hair, and religious beards in traditionalist Asatru all signify free status. Like most other ancient societies, the ancient heathens had a slave class. Short hair was a social signal of being a thrall or prostitute (this is the reason the cutting of Sif's hair in the lore story was told as a wrong that had to be made right); an iron collar signified the same. In modern society, slavery is illegal, and no one is actually a thrall, even among the Theodish where that word is used for a novice. However, there are people even in modern society who do not have free status. Prisoners of various kinds, including criminals in prison, prisoners of war, and the involuntarily hospitalized, are not required by religious obligations to wear weapons or religious beards or to refrain from cutting or shaving the hair, if they are required to be weaponless or beardless by those in power over them. Even among the most traditionalist, those who do not have free status are neither required nor entitled to have the markers of free status. This is not relevant to the case of the soldier, but has come up before when heathen prisoners request a religious accommodation to wear a beard.

Modernist sects do not practice the folkway, and some traditionalist sects do not practice this part of the folkway either. For those who do, wearing religious hair and beards is just as important as it is for members of other religions who wear religious hair and beards for cultural reasons. The majority of heathens would not say a soldier must have a beard, but that doesn't matter for purposes of determining if the soldier in question has a sincerely held belief, which is the standard that employers in the US adhere to for determining religious exemptions. There is no Asa-Pope, there is no one heathen organization that determines how all heathens must live, and there is not majority rule either. Each Asatru organization, kindred, or individual determines for themselves whether to adopt folkways and if so, which ones.

...
Last modified on
QUESTION: Revisiting Lemurian Seed Crystals

I recently had a question about Lemurian Seed Crystals and felt it would make a good blog post. We will return to the alphabetical review (Curved crystals) later.

Without further ado, here is part of the conversation I had, with the questions paraphrased to fit the format and expounding on the concept both from me and Venus:

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Balance and the Leap Into Spring

Balance is something so many of us strive for-- we talk about ‘work-life balance’ or a balanced diet or balancing the budget. We try to find that place where all things come to rest, where all the ends meet and there is nothing lacking, nothing superfluous. A place of moderation, of poise, where struggle ends and we simply land on our toes, and are suspended, as if in thin air. Many of us strive for this place of balance and call that perfection.

                But that moment is brief and elusive, because that balance is an illusion.  The moment passes and things are no longer in balance, things no longer hang perfectly between one extreme and the other. IT evaporates so fast as we tip, towards one side or the other, back towards one extreme or the other. At the Spring Equinox, night and day are of equal length. For one brief moment, it is said that one can stand an egg on one end and it will stay there perfectly balanced…for a moment.  We stand with one foot in the Winter that’s ending, and one foot in the Spring that’s blossoming in front of our eyes. And whatever late season storm may come, every moment in Spring beings us farther away from balance, farther away from that moment of repose before big changes come.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Spring Rituals

Spring rituals mean for me that it's time to get outside and in the fields.  I've not lived on my family farm for nearly forty years but every spring when the snow melts away but we still have the ice in the breeze, I want to be on the land.

This year, I was driving to work and saw the farmers out with their huge tractors discing (not as invasive as a plow) the soil.  The gray which I relate to winter was replaced with the rich dark coffee color which means it's time to start planting.  There's a smell in the air which I have never been able to describe but it is spring.  

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Propitiations

 propitiate v. To conciliate (an offended power); appease [Latin propitiare, “make favorable, gracious”]

 

Hawaiians are making offerings to Madame Pele, Lady of Kilauea.

As well they should be.

Those of us who live in places prone to natural disasters understand that—whatever else they may be—the gods are real, active powers Out There. Who cares about the Pele Within when a geyser of molten rock has just erupted in the backyard?

Volcanoes, hurricanes, blizzards: those of us who live with these things—these beings—know that, in the end, it all comes down to relationship, and—as with all relationships—to maintain good relations takes effort.

During a recent eruption of Mt. Etna in Sicily, I heard a story about an old woman who had lived on the mountain all her life. Her village was being evacuated because it was in the direct path of the lava flow.

Last modified on

Additional information