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Family Reconnections and the World Reversed

Healing a family rift is a tricky thing, especially when it’s something that you didn’t know you wanted at the time you should be wanting it. It’s a matter of acknowledging a missing piece of yourself when you thought you were whole in the first place.

I thought I was whole and ready to marry my fiancé. I thought a lot of things. And I thought I could do it without my father and stepfamily in my life. And I was wrong.

Backstory: I hadn’t spoken to my father in 15 years prior to 2 days before my sister’s wedding last year. I knew he would be there. I knew I would have to face him. Knowing I would have to didn’t make things any easier... it was something I would have to face head-on.

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Pagan savings challenge, week ten:  hardships

This past week has been a tough one on the household budget.  If money flows, then my household was at the top of a hill watching it flow down and away at an alarming rate.  When money is leaving faster than it's arriving, it can lead to some interesting reactions . . . such as a stronger urge to spend what you've got, to stock up for bad times.  Or to choke off the flow entirely and preserve what you've got, even though this will also likely stop the inward flow as well.

It's hard to save money when it feels like you don't have any.

On the other hand, it's a good week for this moneyworking Hellenist to continue saving anyway.  Last week found me saving on Noumenia, and today is the eighth day of the Hellenic month, sacred to my patron Poseidon, who is the financial securer.  I needed this reminder that money's flow cannot be stanched in one direction only, and that security should not be confused with stagnation.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

You are a graceful goddess, our Earth:

poised on tiny feet, powerfully hipped,

you sing a song of becoming as you dance,

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Eschewing money

Money is a power that we have given disproportionate influence in our lives.  One of the ways that some people -- Pagans and others -- try to deal with that is through voluntary poverty, avoiding the stuff entirely, or as much as possible.  It's a choice that is controversial and poorly understood, and its impact isn't entirely clear.  As part of my money ministry, I'm trying to wrap my head around the many ways we can relate to it, including its rejection.

One thing that has become apparent to me is that there are limits on how much one can change through voluntary poverty or other money-avoidance schemes, such as simplicity and joining an intentional community which doesn't use it internally.  That limit is explained nicely by Lynne Twist in her book, The Soul of Money.  In the first chapter, Twist tells the tale of Chumpi Washikiat, a member of the Achuar people of the Amazon, who has been designated by his community to go out into the world and learn about money.  He moved into the author's home in the United States to do so.  Twist writes,

"His education about money was more on the level of inhaling.  Everywhere he went, the language and meaning of money filled the air, from billboards, advertisements, and commercials, to price cards on muffins at the local bakery.  In conversations with other students he learned about their hopes, dreams, and prospects for life after graduation, or as they put it, 'life in the real world' -- the money world.  He began to see how it is in America:  that virtually everything in our lives and every choice we make -- the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the schools we attend, the word we do, the futures we dream, whether we marry or not, or have children or not, even matters of love -- everything is influenced by this thing called money."

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Addendum: my source would like to clarify that e considers eirself to be one of the poor people, not apart from them. "Also, the
  • guy fawkes
    guy fawkes says #
    What strikes me about this whole discussion is that people never stop to question what money is in the first place. For instance t
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I don't think money is a mass delusion at all. I do, however, think that it's one of many ideas that we have intellectualized so
Cultural Appropriation or Creative Expession?

I opened up my Facebook account today and was greeted by a long discussion focusing on cultural appropriation, vis-a-vis belly dancing. It appeared to be based on a Salon article titled "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."

The first thing that struck me was the confrontational nature of the headline: It wasn't belly dancing performed by white people that the author couldn't stand, it was the belly dancers themselves. If this doesn't put people on the defensive, I don't know what will. Then again, it's part of the inflammatory nature of online "journalism" these days, which uses hot-button language to increase the number of hits. (Full disclosure: I'm white, but I'm no belly dancer, and belly dancing isn't something I go out of my way to watch.)

The author of the article describes an instance in which "a white woman came out in Arab drag — because that’s what that is, when a person who’s not Arab wears genie pants and a bra and heavy eye makeup and Arabic jewelry, or jewelry that is meant to read as 'Arabic' because it’s metallic and shiny and has squiggles of some kind — and began to belly-dance."

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  • valkyr dragonborn
    valkyr dragonborn says #
    as an amateur American "bellydancer" this article both astounds and disgusts me- noted professional Middle Eastern artists, musici
  • Literata
    Literata says #
    I appreciate your points about the impossibility of achieving purity. Like Carol Christ, though, I can also see the author's persp
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I was intentionally careful with my wording on the parody point: I wrote that it was "one" key question rather than "the" key ques

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Thanks to all you pancake-eaters out there: this week here in Minneapolis we had our first above-freezing temperatures in over two months.

Was Winter really appeased by our offerings? Do the gods hear prayer?

Reply hazy: try again later.

But whether they do, or whether they don't, we make our prayers and offerings because that's what we do. That's what our people have always done; they're part of our spiritual technology.

And pancakes sure are good food.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

At the time of writing, several friends of mine are engaged in formal initiation proceedings, leading me to consider my own experiences with initiations.  It was easy to pinpoint those formal initiations such as being initiated into the National Honor Society, or being initiated into a co-ed social group at my college that I can only explain as being modeled on the Merry Pranksters.  But the experience that first came to mind when thinking of initiatory experiences was working the Twelve Steps.

Anyone who has a desire to stop using can become a member of a Twelve Step group.  You do not have to work the Twelve Steps.  However, the process of working the Twelve Steps is the manner in which one draws closer to the program or becomes truly initiated.  It is how we begin to view fellowship as family.  Since we work the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, we are forced to reach our hand out and ask for help.  No longer are we able to sit in the back of the room, not talking to anyone.  We must make connections in order to move forward.  As we reveal ourselves to our sponsor, we learn how to become open and more vulnerable.  We become open to taking suggestions, and learn about humility.  These are essential elements for being part of a society instead of being a party of one.  Not only does the process of the Twelve Steps change us into better people, but we also learn how to be with people as we work the steps.

The many tales of underworld descents provide a poetic structure through which to understand a program of recovery. Much of what we do is painful, and involves spelunking around in some of the darker neighborhoods of our psyche.  If we persist, at the end of the experience we are reborn.  As in the Sumerian tale of Inanna’s descent, there are seven gates (steps) we must pass through in the Recovery version of the Underworld, and at each of them we must turn over some part of ourselves just as Inanna was required to turn over a symbol of her power and wealth.  In Step One, we hand over our attachment to the idea that we shall ever be able to exercise any power over our drinking or drugging.  In Step Two, we give up the specter of self-sufficiency.  In step Three, we turn over our will and our lives.  We hand over denial and self-delusion in Step Four, and in Step Five we part ways with our pride.  In Step six we relinquish our attachment to our character defects, and then in Step Seven we actually ask for them to be removed. As Inanna became stripped of the symbols of her holy priestesshood, so too do we become more naked and vulnerable as we go along.  When we question, as Inanna did, why we have to do this or that, our sponsors or old-timer’s might snap at us as the Chief Gatekeeper, Neti, snapped at Inanna, “Quiet Inanna, the ways of the Underworld are perfect.  They may not be questioned.” We’ve all met the Big Book thumpers who talk like this!

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Touching the Earth

Pre-dawn yoga. As we flowed from pose to pose, the teacher’s words emerged from the rhythm of her own movement:  “Since we were in the womb…the universe has never stopped… supporting us. That’s why…we are still…alive.”

I knew in my bones it was true. Looking at the moon, wandering the woods, touching the earth, I find that truth again. When I disappoint myself, I know the trees and the sky do not judge. Good or bad, I am held in the web of life and known by an awareness that goes beyond my own. 

The other truth I know is that “surrender rules the gods.” Not in the literal sense of compelling the deities, but in the sense of finding power within through ceding outward control. I think of Shiva lying down on the battlefield where his lover Kali raged, trusting that when she came to attack, she would recognize him and drop her weapons. I think of Odin, pierced by his own spear, hanging on the World Tree to gain the runes.

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  • Archer
    Archer says #
    Thanks, Ted. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is great, Archer; it really speaks to me! OM Mani Padme Hum.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The following practice was developed through my experimentation as a Yogi and meditator.  Most mature practitioners, I think, will identify with my experience of working in prescribed ways for many years until I had gained enough "life creds" to begin adapting the techniques to suit my own inner promptings.  Those who insist on slavish adherence to rock-ribbed, inflexible traditions may complain that our altering the old ways makes us apostates; but it seems to me that every famous spiritual teacher we can think of was exactly that sort of innovator.  If the great religious, philosophical and scientific lights of our civilization had ceaselessly followed the old paradigms without adding some breakthrough insights of their own, we wouldn't be honoring their names today!   

Another way of expressing this is, "Make it your own."  For example, in order to convincingly portray a character such as Hamlet, whose story everyone knows and whom thousands of great actors have played in the past, today's actor must "make it his own."  He must find the core truths about the part which resonate for him.  If he is successful, his fresh insight will stimulate thought in others and make it worthwhile for audiences to buy tickets. 

The same is true of any significant goal which we wish to achieve in our lives.  Until we make it our own, we'll just be photocopying what so many others have already done before us.  It's the difference between the beginner practicing scales and the maestro imbuing a concerto with soul.  I would like to offer you a little concerto of my devising, with the hope that it may inspire you to create your own unique variation. 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
enLIVenING with the Muses

Creativity is my passion and the inspiration of the Nine Greek Muses has touched my life and those within it profoundly. This energy set the stage for my pursuit of a classical ballet career, ignited my love of music and stimulated my hunger for great literature. Heeding their call to inspiration has been the fertile ground from which the seeds of the efforts of my writing have blossomed and grown into a continual source of pride and joy in the sharing. With the coming of the Spring and the creativity of God and Goddess ready to reveal itself the call of the Muses is strong and clear in its intent to inspire; ready to awaken and weave their magick within all who answer.

This is the first of a series of articles about the Nine Greek Muses of inspiration and their impact on magickal and mundane practice. Their gifts of music, art and literature became the tools of expression that have continued to be the means through which humanity interacts, responds and finds resonance with our surroundings and others. And, my hope is that you will find the place of resonance within yourself as you embark on a journey of creative exploration with me. 

The Nine Muses were Greek Goddesses who ruled over the arts and sciences and offered inspiration in those subjects. They were the daughters of Zeus, Lord of all Gods, and the Titaness, Mnemosyne, who was the personification of memory. The Muses have appeared throughout history and the development of cultural and artistic ages in varying numbers and attributes. Homer refers to them as one Muse and as many Muses, living on Olympus. Plato lists eight muses connected with eight mythical spheres. And, the Greek poet, Hesiod whose epic poem The Theogony relates the Greek Cosmology and order of the Gods, refers to them as the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who were born in Pieria, which is described as watered by the springs flowing from Olympus.

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This poetic essay originally appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer Magazine 2011

I.

 The restaurant — hole-in-the-wall with age-darkened brick wallpaper, old-lady peony-pink damask table cloths, the color my Chicago adopted grandmother used to like in homemade church blouses, eyelet white lace curtains festooned with paper ribbons in the ceiling, entwined with silk flower vines, glitter easter-eggs, feather butterflies in “old-lady chic” the guidebook calls it, ribbons hanging from the trophy animals, dusty green-red pheasant I can’t see his tail, two deer heads with gold mardi gras beads wrapped ’round dead necks and antlers, soft orange carrot salad a feast of hunter’s stew between potato pancakes plump meat chunks tucked in a surprise the old man with Andy Warhol hair arguing cheerfully with the middle-aged waiter reading a conservative fantasy novel, this food is better than your mother’s he says with a straight face, expecting the rejoinder as my husband checks out, tart herbaceous currant juice, the color of crushed berries — it tastes like secrets –

 

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  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks, Courtney! Unfortunately I don't live in the Metro area anymore-- I miss the Polish food, Central Park and the Met-- but I
  • Courtney Weber
    Courtney Weber says #
    I love this! I've had those same thoughts about the 168th subway tunnel--glad I'm not the only one who noticed. I live in the ci

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Uni is the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon.  She is part of a ruling triad together with her husband, Tinia, and the goddess Menrva.  The Etruscans were distinct culture that occupied a region north of Rome.  They were most likely an aboriginal people conquered by a Near Eastern culture which was then influenced by Greek traders (as I understand it any way).  Originally they overshadowed their Roman neighbors who took on a lot of the Etruscan culture, especially religiously.   Eventually the Etruscans became subordinate to the Romans and essentially disappeared into the Roman Empire.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I spent a bit of time in my garden yesterday, and one emotion overwhelmed me more than any other: despair, and yearning.

Well, that’s a bit dramatic. But I’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking about the Wheel and how it relates to my practice, and the seasons too, and this season is definitely my least favourite. For me, the seasons are intrinsically connected to my practice, which is indeed earth-centred and intimately connected with the land. Working with, and not against, the land can be a challenge at times. Especially when the seasons turn harsh and the spiritual struggles that accompany, particularly the sense of ‘waiting’ can be the bane of the more impatient amongst us!

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Sorry for the sloppy communication, Lee; in my case, at least, I was referring to ME as the whiner - not you. As I was here in th
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Yes, Greybeard, as a Phoenician I was thinking the same thing. My wife and I have lived here for 30 years - and yes, Lee, I unders
  • Lee Pike
    Lee Pike says #
    As much as this post is a 'whine', it has been confirmed the hottest summer on record for Perth, Australia, including the hottest

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Supernatural, not really…

The 'supernatural' is often considered the sine qua non of religion. Certainly the Gods and Spirits must be considered supernatural, yes? Well…not necessarily.

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  • Richard Norris
    Richard Norris says #
    Aquinas, of course, based much of his work off of Aristotle, who was previously considered a kind of Platonist. Aristotle suggest
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    Richard, Thank you for your comment. There are a number of us working out a philosophical basis for our Pagan ways. Posts here, a
  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    never been one to use the term supernatural. if it happens it's natural. anyway. why can't 'matter' or the physical be independent

As Pagans, we're more used to being discriminated against than to discriminating against others.  Those of us who run businesses or sell our wares are, especially in these economic times, generally only too happy to get a new customer.  And so we're usually quite happy to read Tarot, even for the devout Christian who slips off to see us behind her pastor's back, or to perform a computer upgrade even for the atheist who thinks that devotion to any deity is a sign of mental illness.  After all, we're pretty much a live-and-let live group.  We're not out to convert others to our ways and we generally don't presume to determine what religion is best for anyone else.  (Heck, I can think of a number of people whom I hope don't become Pagan.)  Honest pay for honest work or honest wares is generally all we ask. 

Our main concern with laws (such as the one that was recently vetoed in Arizona) that would allow businesses to discriminate based upon "religious convictions" has been the impact those laws could have on QLTBG, etc. people.  Of course, those laws could have been used to discriminate against even those of us who are "straight but not narrow," as well.  Wear a pentacle around your neck when you take your child to the farmers' market and the lady selling apples could refuse to sell your child an apple because her religion teaches her that you "shall not suffer a Witch to live," and selling apples helps you to live.  If the sleeve on your jacket slips, the nurse at the 24-hour medical center could see your tattoo and refuse to sew up the cut that you got doing woodwork because he says that your pentagram offends his religious sensibilities.  You finally grab a cab late at night in a sketchy part of town only to be told that the cab driver doesn't believe that women should be out, unescorted and won't give you a ride.  If you get mugged a few minutes later, well, that just proves his point.

It's easy to imagine that the next step is some method that will allow the discriminating religious to easily determine whether the potential renter, car buyer, or restaurant patron meets all of the necessary requirements.  (Why stop at refusing to sell a cake to a same-sex couple?  What about a couple that includes a previously-divorced person or a couple not willing to specify that they are entering a "covenant marriage" where the man will "exercise headship."  (Don't blame me; that's the way they talk!)  What about selling nursery furniture to prospective parents who won't agree that sparing the rod spoils the child or selling a house to people who won't commit to attending your church every Sunday?  To voting Rapeublican since they are generally more favorable to rightwing Christians?)

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    One of the problems with laws is that they apply to everyone. Suppose a gay couple is running a bakery and the Westboro Baptist c
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I think it's ironic that a group formerly subject to oppression (see the Decian persecution) now seeks to impose its beliefs on ot
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    So is it now illegal to refuse to purchase GMO food because you believe it is harmful? I can see why big corporations would oppos

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Hope Springs Anew

    

 

Sumer is icumen in, / Lhude sing cuccu! / Groweth sed and bloweth med / And springth the wude nu. / Sing cuccu!

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    In my first ritual group we embraced the pagan themes of Christian culture. And we enjoyed becoming like children again, coloring
Welcoming the Light at the Spring Equinox

The sun rises ever earlier, the days becoming longer. Soon the balance will tip, when the night gives way to the lengthening days. The spring equinox falls on March 20th this year, and after a very wet winter I am very much looking forward to it.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Here in my garden in Greece Henry the tortoise sunned in the garden for a little while then went back to sleep when it clouded ove

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
PantheaCon upon Reflection

Thursday Night thru Saturday Afternoon

To avoid the hassle of driving busy Bay Area freeways during the day, and because I’m not an early riser, I drove down to San Jose late Thursday evening.  I anticipated that this would allow me a few more leisurely visits with other early arrivers, especially those from afar, before the Con got nuts.  I was right.

I had printed out schedules of the events I was most drawn to ahead of time, together with some hospitality suite schedules and meal dates made in the previous weeks.  Over the years I’ve relaxed my schedule by not applying to do a presentation of any kind, rather only sitting on panels now and then when asked, or performing a ritual role when invited to do so.  I try to get to the most appealing presentations, but some of them are too crowded.  I know that some of them I can see at other venues.  If I happen to get involved in a compelling discussion or a tête-à-tête and miss something I wanted to attend, I can follow where I’m drawn, or I can break away if I absolutely have to be somewhere.  This year I played it loose.

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  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I'm sorry I missed Sabina's presentation. I've been a fan of her "Witching Culture" for some time. I chose a different event at th

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Wiccanate Privilege: What Now?

There's been a good deal of conversation online about the term "Wiccanate privilege" the past few days, and I think it illustrates the importance of choosing our words carefully when communicating important issues - especially those that others might find sensitive or take personally.

I have to admit the phrase rubbed me the wrong way to some degree. Whenever this happens, I ask myself why, and my attempt to answer that question usually starts with establishing definitions. When I looked up "Wiccanate" in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, it told me, "The word you're looking for isn't in the dictionary" and advised me to try another spelling (the top three suggestions were "wagonette," "white and" and, disconcertingly, "witch hunt"). It came as no surprise when the word failed to show up, as it seemed like one of those terms coined for the sake of convenience or because nothing else quite seemed to fit.

Next, I looked around online and found references to it. Among the most helpful definitions was one I found at a blog called Finnchuill's Mast, which described it as "referring to practices either specifically Wiccan, or of traditions like Feri and Reclaiming that share many reasonably similar practices like circle casting and working with four elements." My first reaction is that the term could be seen as artificial and offensive (I know of at least one person who described it as such). What if someone were to label your tradition "Paganesque" or "Reconstructionistic"? You might not take too kindly to that. Shorthand and jargon can be convenient, but it also can come off as flippant, dismissive and/or exclusionary - the last because only certain people will know what it means.

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  • Nova
    Nova says #
    Woops somehow I doubled post they really need to consider some edit options.
  • Nova
    Nova says #
    I agree that the minority word does need to be heard and I understand that when someone gets offended or a bit tired of one thing
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Rather than trying to create a universal Pagan ritual for pan-Pagan events like Pagan Pride Day, how about we celebrate our divers

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Sorry I've been a bit remiss with my blogs. Crazy times, as with everyone. But I've decided to definitely continue on. I'm hoping to write somewhat shorter blogs, but with more frequency. So, here I go:

Since the season of Brazilian Carnaval is upon us, I thought I might spend the next few sessions discussing the history and meaning of this tradition. Wait, you say! Aren't you supposed to be blogging about Brazilian folk religions? Well, yes I am. And you really cannot separate the Carnaval celebration from the Afro-Brazilian religions. The music played, the rhythms, the instruments, the dances, the costumes, and more all cross over into the Brazilian religions. So bear with me while I talk about the history, what Carnaval is like today, the Samba Schools. and the story of the parades. After that, I'll talk about various instruments and their functions both in the celebration of Carnaval and in the religion. Besides, this stuff is interesting and will give you a more in-depth picture of Brazil and Brazilians (at least I hope it will).

History of Brazilian Carnaval

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