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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Black Thread Charm

In 1841, Georg Waitz discovered two magic charms in a 9-10th century codex in the Cathedral Chapter library of Merseburg, the only surviving literary remnants of Old High German heathenry. In the second Merseburg charm, Woten heals a horse's sprain after other gods have failed.

Variants of this charm, with different gods and saints, survive all over northwestern Europe—the Germanies, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Shetland, and the Hebrides—but a similar spell preserved from Vedic India suggests that it may be ancient of origin indeed.

The charm is of the type known to scholars as a historiola: what linguist Philip A. Shaw defines as “a charm in which a narrative is employed that in some way represents or symbolises the achievement of the desired outcome of the charm” (Shaw 62). Magic-workers have been harnessing the driving power of story to propel their charms for millennia; modern spell-smiths take note!

 The Old Craft version of the charm cited below invokes, as one would expect, the god of witches in his person of Wild Rider.

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PaganNewsBeagle Airy Monday March 16

In today's Airy Monday, we've got challenges to patriarchal (Catholic) theology; religion vs. academia; Iron Age clothing; Romans in Japan; Ireland before St. Patrick.

As Pagan theologies grapple with our ever-changing world, it can be helpful to note that we aren't alone: this article describes four new fields of study (post-colonial, queer, feminist, and eco-thealogy) are impacting Roman Catholic scholarship.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Pentagram That Wasn't There

When you look at the twigs and branches of bare trees, do you ever see pentagrams?

I thought so. Me too.

It's March in Minnesota: there are certainly plenty of bare branches to be seen, and the random patterns that they form as they move in the wind keep making pentagrams. Looking out the window this morning, I actually saw the pentagram before I saw the branches, as if it were standing in the foreground of my visual field, between me and the tree. Weird.

It's called pareidolia, literally “image instead of” (Greek eidôlon also gives us “idol”): the tendency of the human mind to interpret random stimuli meaningfully. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, identifying patterns in random data. Our kind is really good at this; it's the basis, for example, of divination.

I used to wonder if it meant that I've been living in the broomstick ghetto too long. In Rosemary Edghill's novel The Book of Moons, one of our heroine's coven-sibs tells her, “Bast, you really need to get out more and read some history that doesn't have witches in it.”

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  • Linette
    Linette says #
    Thanks! So much enjoyed this post

I have just returned from a Women and the Land  conference held in Point Reyes, California.  It was a wonderful series of panels, whose presenters were almost all women authors: poets, essayists, and fiction and non fiction writers. Given my interest in how the feminine and ecology fit together  as a unified theme in needed cultural changes that might yet save our nihilistic Western culture, I expected to enjoy it. And I did, far more than I expected.

             That said, this column and the next will deal with an error I heard there, and with its solution. I think the error runs through the thinking of many women and men whose hearts are in the right place. And its solution is easy once we recognize it and take the time to digest its implications. It is also very relevant to Pagans.

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  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Thank you Connie. BB
  • Connie Lazenby
    Connie Lazenby says #
    I just loved this. Being very connected to nature and the spirit of a place, i have different rituals that end with the same resul

While we haven't had the hard winter that Boston and much of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States has had, it has still been a rough season here in Texas. Late February snow and ice, followed by a series of overcast days, have kept me in my home and away from so many of my favorite early spring activities. I am grateful for the much-needed water that will (hopefully) help alleviate the long drought we've been suffering here in the Lone Star state. And yet when the weather turns dark and moody and cold and wet, I find myself often turning inward. This inward state is not self-reflective or introspective as it might otherwise be. No, my winter "turning inward" is often a function of depression -- what I call my Black Dog -- and is as hard to shake as the Texas gumbo mud on my shoes. This winter has been one of re-evaluation, principally of the career which has been the center of my life for more than a decade. I am finding less and less joy and more and more frustration in the classroom, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the exploitative nature of part-time faculty life. And yet the idea of changing my path is fraught with emotional landmines -- a sense of having given up, of having failed, of being adrift and not knowing what to do or where to turn next. In many ways this is my relationship with the Element of Water -- it is so easy for me to give into the darker side of my emotions, to pain, to self-pity, and to fear. Perhaps because I have always lived in land-locked places, the idea of open water terrifies me. And the sense I've had of being adrift upon a vast sea has, of late, been really stoking my fears.

And so this week, Yemanja (otherwise known as Yemaya), the Holy Queen Sea of the Yoruba pantheon, has come to remind me that when we fight the current, we drown. But when we can surrender to the flow, we float.

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  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Thank you so much, Connie. Surrendering to the flow is hard -- I'm a make-it-happen kind of gal -- but I know that this is exactly
  • Connie Lazenby
    Connie Lazenby says #
    Susan, i found myself in much the same position during the summer and fall of last year. Thankfully the decision as to exactly w

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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I offer what I offer
I give what I give
I share what I share
I am who I am…

via The Warrior-Priestess

When planning a ritual involving children, I always have to remind myself to keep it short and simple! Just in time for Spring Equinox, I'd like to share the simple ritual of spring welcome that my family and I enjoyed over the weekend with a group of our friends. This ritual is designed to be done at night around a campfire and to be followed by a drum circle...

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Putting Vesta & Faith in Historical Context

I’m a classicist at heart.  Since first meeting a Vestal priestess in 1989, I’ve been captivated by the ancient Roman world.  Before law school, I studied Latin, Roman history, mythology, art and culture at university.  If it had “Roman” or Greco-Roman” in the course description, I signed up.

As a follower of Vesta – goddess of the home and hearth – I find great significance in putting the Vesta tradition in historical context.  Not only does this deepen my understanding of this faith, it alerts me to the ways that it must adapt to 21st century humanist values so that it can survive and continue to bring comfort, meaning and happiness to the lives of its faithful.

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