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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Seeking Sekhmet

Sekhmet is an interesting goddess; long before I traveled to Egypt, I’d begun to feel pulses of magic from the lioness-headed statues I encountered in various museums, and even in the land of the Nile, it was in a museum that I first felt a pull toward her. At the time, it struck me as a bit strange that I’d feel resonance not with the sand beneath my feet, but with the massive black granite statues of the goddess, but it makes a certain amount of sense. It’s widely believed that tremendous statues of Sekhmet guarded Egypt’s ancient borders, and some even say that in times of invasion, the statues were brushed with poisonous spores to infect the would-be invaders as they crossed into Egypt. It’s no wonder that the statues of the Lady of Pestilence pack a punch; these icons are loaded with power!


I hadn’t expected to feel so strongly drawn to this goddess during my pilgrimage to Egypt; I’m an Isis girl all the way, and while I’ve always enjoyed the other Egyptian gods, I’ve never felt pulled to work with them. But Sekhmet was insistent, from the first time I faced her in the beautiful museum in Luxor, and by the time I ventured south to the Temple of Kom Ombo, I couldn’t ignore the intense emotions her image stirred in me.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Many thanks to Nick Sagala for sharing his traditions with us ♥

Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead--is a holiday dear to the hearts and souls of people who love their ancestors. The Santa Muerte is the goddess connected to Dia de los Muertos. She pre-dates Christianity in that part of the world, and the Mexica knew her as MICTECACIHUATL, Lady of the Land of the Dead. She was believed to be a protector of souls residing in the dark underworld, and she is depicted as a woman in a skull mask and traditional dress decorated with flags which were put upon corpses prepared for cremation.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Spiraling into the center - A Samhain Ritual

 

I normally write about daily rituals and devotional practices, the kind we all do or all can do if we are so called to. Today, however, I'm going to focus on one of the largest, longest running public rituals I know of or have ever had the pleasure to participate in - Reclaiming's 35th Annual Spiral Dance.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Yes indeed. And that, I think, is the thing to do. Remember them. Sing their names and carry on the work they began.
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    We have lost so many Mighty Dead this past year. May they return to us. May we honor them by carrying their work forward.
PaganNewsBeagle Watery Wednesday Oct 15

In today's Watery Wednesday we are concentrating on the Element of Water -- literally! A Viking-style burial at sea; bottled water and the California drought; coastal cities under threat due to sea-level rise; thirstiest plants; California water witches; and swimming the wild waters of New York City.

A recent Viking-style burial drew attention from Heathens and Pagans who'd like to do likewise. The Wild Hunt's Cara Schultz has the story.

Uh-oh. Many of the major bottle water companies are based in drought stricken parts of the country -- primarily in California. Check out the map (and the story) here.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Berserker Trance

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, when I was studying at the University of Kalinin (now Tver), USSR, I experienced the berserker trance during a street fight, although I had not yet begun studying the martial art of Bersarkrgangr. This was one of the events in my life that qualified me to study it. 

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

It was broad daylight, and I and another American were walking to the post office. Tale of the tape: I was 5'3" and weighed about 117 lbs. My opponent, whom I only saw briefly before going into a berserker trance but whom I will never forget, was about 5'10" and about 170 lbs. 

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

     “The crowd pressed in on all sides, so I had no warning alarms go off in my mind when a man came very close.  He grabbed me by the left breast.

     Light.

     A flash of light, and nothing else.  No sound, no sensation.  Bright white light.

     I was inside the post office.  I was standing in the lobby, busy people flowing all around me.  I stood staring at a police officer sitting on his stool.”   

I still have a total blank where any memory of what I did would be, but I guessed that I had run away. I may or may not have punched or kicked him or did any other martial arts moves, but I had to have run off because I was out of breath and a block away when I came to awareness again, with a wave of berserker fury crashing over me. It bothered me that I had run. I had this self image as this badass kung fu fighter, and the berserker in me ran away.

I only considered reporting the incident to the policeman for about a second. This was a Soviet militiaman, there to guard the post office in the midst of the anarchy of what was obvious even then was about to be the fall of the Soviet Union.  This was a city where the black market traded openly in the daytime and street gangs ruled the night, zipping along on their motorcycles with AK-47s they had bought from corrupt soldiers who were trading them for food because the army’s pay was worthless in the middle of a currency collapse. I had already witnessed numerous assaults on the street and knew that street crime might as well be the weather for all the attention it was going to receive. Plus, I was an American, and was not someone they would automatically protect. So I just went about my business.

Later, this was one of the life experiences that the teacher of the martial art of the berserkers considered one of my qualifications to learn Bersarkrgangr. Bersarkrgangr was a traditional martial art of the heathen culture, and still is, although it has undoubtedly changed over time. Learning it was one of the major experiences of my life, and this street incident was one of the things that led to my learning it, so although I started having flashbacks to the childhood sexual abuse after that incident, on the whole I actually have to say it was a positive turning point, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time. From the perspective of 25 years later, I look back and think, four things happened after my dedication to Freya that felt very dark when I was going through them, but which I see now shaped me into the person she wanted me to be.

The first person I ever really talked about this incident with was the Bersarkrgangr teacher, several years later. I expressed my embarrassment at having run away, but he relieved my guilt about that. He said, "Erin, you won that fight. When I was in Vietnam, I sometimes went on scouting missions. We weren't supposed to engage the enemy, just go out, look, and report back. If they came too close, I hid. (He told a story about climbing a tree and pretending to be a bird while the enemy passed beneath him.) It's not cowardice. It's completing the mission. You weren't there to fight anybody. Your mission was to go mail a package at the post office. You used only the amount of force necessary to disengage, escaped unscathed, retreated, and accomplished your mission. That's what warriors do." 

I've written a paper about Bersarkrgangr, which is available free here: https://www.academia.edu/8013139/Bersarkrgangr_The_Viking_Martial_Art

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
'Tis the Season: The Ancestors

I’ve been thinking about the Ancestors a lot lately; it’s that time of year. In fact, they’ve even asserted themselves when I wasn’t seeking them, such as the day I experienced a vision of a Minoan priestess undertaking a rite of prophecy through the ancestral spirits. From the earliest times, the Minoans revered their ancestors. At the Autumn Equinox they held celebrations of the dearly departed, feasting and performing rituals in the shadows of the beehive-shaped tholos tombs where their ancestors’ remains were interred. Some of the tombs had pillar crypts beneath them, providing another place for offerings and communication with the dead.

My own experience with shamanic practice centering on the Ancestors and Minoan spirituality suggests a reason for the beehive shape of these tombs and the connection of the Ancestors with the Bee Goddess. Like many shamanic practitioners, I have experienced a particular sound when I connect with the ancestral spirits, a sort of multi-pitched buzzing that almost exactly reproduces the noise of a hive of swarming bees. And of course, honey being such a delicious prize in cultures that did not yet know how to refine sugar from beets or cane, I can totally relate to the idea of bees being sacred representatives of the Ancestors and, later on, the gods (or goddesses, to be precise). I keep a miniature beehive on my Minoan altar to remind me that the Ancestors were just as much a part of Minoan spirituality as the goddesses and gods.

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The Holiday that Dared Not Speak Its Name, or, Samhain: The Correct Pronunciation

Sam Hane. Sam Ane. Rhymes with coven. Rhymes with towin'. Rhymes with plowin'.

The first New Pagans of America mostly started off by reading books. In the absence of an oral tradition, we made do. With pronunciation of weird words, for instance.

Sam Hane. Good old rule of thumb for American English: pronounce it like it's spelled. What, you've never heard of Sam Hane, Druidic god of the dead?* (Not to mention his consort, Belle Tane, goddess of life. Sounds like quite the couple.)

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Internal polyvocality. You make me jealous, MPC! I suppose one could draw up a dialectal map of the pagan community according to
  • MizPixieChris
    MizPixieChris says #
    This was the first post I found at this community - and it pushed me to sign up and join, so thank you! In my area people seem to
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    This whole Samhain pronunciation issue, as well as the "Which God of the Dead is this? I've never heard of him..." issue are 2 rea
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've been playing around with Summer's-End and Winter's Eve myself. I don't see any reason to canonize one name. We're the people

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