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Our last blog post was Part 1 of building the Cernunnos Shrine. Picking up here right where that one left off….
A Lost-Found Dobunni Folk-tale
There was once a man who, feeling the approach of death, summoned his sons that he might divide his wealth among them.
When all that he owned had been distributed, it was found that he had overlooked his youngest son.
Father, is there nothing for me? asked the boy.
Alas, my son, said the man, There is nothing left but this old copper kettle. But I give it to you with my blessing.
The boy took the kettle without complaint.
When I talk about Minoan spirituality, people tend to recognize the names Ariadne and Dionysus, and maybe Rhea and Minos as well. But there's one that often leaves them shaking their heads: Amalthea. I actually had someone ask me one day if Amalthea was one of the characters from Game of Thrones. Um, no. LOL
Amalthea is a Minoan goddess who, like Ariadne and the others, was absorbed into later Greek myth as something less than divine (FYI the Minoans weren't Greek). But I promise you, she was originally a full-fledged goddess and not just a goat-herding foster mother of Zeus. In fact, you'll note that Zeus is a Greek god, not a Minoan one. Like the Romans, the Greeks enjoyed equating foreign deities with their own, both as a way to understand other pantheons and as a handy method for taking over those cultures and absorbing them. So when the Greeks say that Amalthea was the foster mother of "Cretan Zeus," they're talking about Dionysus, the Minoan god who is born in his mother Rhea's cave at the Winter Solstice. And Amalthea plays a role in that story....
Long-time readers of this blog have watched me go through a strange journey. After 25 years as Priestess of Freya, comfortable with my spiritual routines, it was weird to suddenly have Loki crack open my head and funnel all the other gods in, all because I walked out of a movie saying, "I bet I could write something more authentic than that."
It's had it's up and downs, but my life is so much better now. Some of the changes have been big, some small. Sometimes it's the small things that impact everyday life. Once, one of my friends on social media asked rhetorically "Who needs more chaos in their life?"
Well, I did. Or at least, I needed less order. I needed to be less rigid in my personal rules for myself. I had thought there was something wrong with drinking tea from a coffee cup. My mom, with whom I share a house, thought there was something wrong with making a kettle of tea and using a real teacup for a single cup when I could just microwave a coffee mug. Rather than either argue with her or use the "wrong" cup for my tea, sometimes I wanted a cup of tea and didn't make one. Loki reduced my excessive rule-following. He showed me it was OK to have tea in a coffee cup.
One of the processes Loki led me through was to break each of my unthinking routines, one by one. Each one had to be examined to see if it was really useful or if it was unnecessary. The useful habits were kept, and the unnecessary ones jettisoned, just like going through an old closet and trying on the clothes to see which ones to keep.
I got used to being able to drink my tea from a coffee cup and not feel uncomfortable. And then-- presto! About a year later I found a box of gorgeous antique teacups in the garage. My gramma's, I guess. So now I can drink tea from a teacup again-- a better one. And that's Loki all over.
A couple weekends ago I went to Paganicon 2017 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. There were all kinds of amazing workshops, rituals and conversations with great people that I had which I will discuss in following posts. At the final panel discussion was about making space in the broader culture, which is especially important as many religious and other types of minorities are currently experiencing a resurgence of fear and pressure to choose blending into the background or being more assertive about who we are. One assumption that kept being made is one I want to challenge. The idea that Pagan conventions, festivals or other places in which we are more open, such as Burning Man, Renaissance festivals and so forth are not "the real world" that other people who don't get what it is that we are doing are mundanes, Muggles, cowans or whatever term. Now I understand that has a spiritual side to this, particularly with rituals in which sacred space is created, we are going into a gathering in which somewhat different social norms apply. However when we reinforce this dichotomy, we erase and negate our own experiences and identities as Pagans, Witches, polytheists and esoteric practitioners in the rest of lives. We may purify ourselves, put on special clothing or jewelry in preparation for holidays, prayers or ritual or set aside a piece of furniture, room, or even a building for spiritual use. We may not be as visible in our day to day lives as distinct minorities. But we are still Pagans the rest of the time. I know for myself, it's difficult to remember not so much due to the influence of Christianity per se, but consumerism and alienation of overall society. Conversely, around people sincerely practiced their religions, and folk customs I feel much more at home. This is one reason I feel much more comfortable in the very multicultural, multi-religious neighborhoods in which I live and work, in spite of many comments I get from others about how "scary" they perceive these places to be. I think their ignorant comments are much scarier. And yet I refuse to be intimidated. The ancestor shrines in Korean, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants remind me of how around much of the world, and most of human history animism is the rule, not the exception. In the very Mexican-American neighborhood in which I work, the Virgin of Guadalupe can be found everywhere from ornaments on cars to arm tattoos and yes, shrines in businesses and yards. While many of these neighbors identify as Buddhist or Catholic, or even secular rather than Pagan, I can see those commonalities. In small Midwestern towns you may hear tales in Lutheran church basements of nisse, tomten and trolls and in suburban malls teens spread rumors and Internet legends that are as recycled as many of the Hollywood movies that they come to watch! My favorite way to discover "suspiciously pagan" things is from both atheists and conservative Christians complaining about superstitious things members of their flock do. It's like the modern version of learning about folk customs from missionary accounts.
Weaving has long been a winter activity. As the last vestiges of the cold hang on hereabouts, the thought of spring still seems distant. But friends have been sharing pictures of their new lambs so it's coming nonetheless. The whole cycle from wool to woven begins again.
There has long been an association of magic with weaving. While dismissed as 'women's work' often, its intricacies inspire wonder at its mysteries. If you don't know how to do a thing, the process can look like magic. Indeed the association goes back to the Moirai, the Parcae, the Norns and even Macbeth's three witches. The threads they weave, measure and cut -- how do they affect our fates? And what are the incantations they mutter over the threads?...