When I visited the city of Bath in western England, I didn’t realize it was the site of an ancient goddess temple. I knew about the Roman baths, of course, and I was vaguely aware of Jane Austen’s connection to the town, but it wasn’t until I rounded a corner in the museum and came face to face with an image of the temple that once stood there that I realized I was at a goddess site....
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I returned from the West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival last evening. The festival site was set in farm country in western Kentucky and vast fields of soybeans formed a crescent around the encampment. A rooster crowed up the Sun each morning and coyotes yipped through the long, cool nights. We had one wet night and one cold night and days filled with one of the most diverse groups I've seen in my (admittedly limited) Pagan festival experience.
There were workshops, rituals, classes and plenty of networking with colleagues from as far away as Toronto. The food was good, the company cheerful and remarkably even-tempered. Lots of nice vendors tempted us all with their pretty wares and I can't even complain about the late-night karaoke simply because the folks doing it were having so much fun.
I presented three workshops--one of them was "Willful Bane," a workshop I've been giving for a number of years on the ethics, history and techniques of hexes and cursing. It's got some surprising ideas contained in it, ideas that are sometimes difficult for modern Pagans to swallow. It was fun to present it to a group who didn't feel particularly challenged by the idea of hexing as an extreme healing modality and understood the concept of justice that permeates some aspects of this work....
Whether it's your local metaphysical shop, farmer's market, or hardware store, buying local is an easy path to intentional spending. The 3/50 Project is my preferred method of encouraging local spending, because once you get past the sometimes-confusing name, it's an easy way to redirect existing money to local businesses.
The 3/50 concept is this: take fifty bucks each month, and spread it around three local businesses instead of using it at chain stores, franchises, or online. The project has a pretty specific definition of local business that focuses on the amount of money which stays in the community. One thing I like about the concept is that it stresses balance -- don't avoid big-box stores entirely, if that's where you get the best deals on some items, but do spend some money in businesses owned and operated by your neighbors.
I love dinner table time. Always have. It's a time where we all sit around and talk, laugh, throw each other under the bus and have deep conversations.
A couple Saturdays ago was one of my favorite nights. The kids were all talking about stuff, nothing out of the ordinary, just general stuff. Then my youngest (who will be 10 in a couple weeks) says that she sometimes sees us and God together, as if the Earth is inside God's stomach and when someone dies he is given birth again through God. Hmmmm, that was an interesting concept, one that I wouldn't have thought that she would think of.
Immediately after, my 14 year old son pipes in and says that he thinks that God was an actual person that humans met a long, long time ago, like the beginning of time. He goes on to say that he thinks that it is in our genetic make-up the memory of this person. Again, deep discussions. This one line of discussion led into talking about transplant recipients and how they can have genetic memories of the donor....
Yesterday I got an interesting question from a reader named Wendy, who has allowed me to print part of her e-mail and my response to her so as to accomodate others who might be struggling with this question. It went as follows:
The equinox is upon us, bringing light and dark again into balance, so it is again time for us to turn our minds to our toothbrushes.
That's right, toothbrushes.
I'm a big believer in using visuals to honor the change of seasons, and changing my toothbrush has long been part of my personal practice. Dentists think it should be changed every three months, and what do you know, seasons happen every three months, as well! My hygienist friends are pleased because I remember a task that many people don't, and it's also helped me remember that I really ought to respect the cycles of nature as the flow past me, so it's a win-win. And if you factor in the environmental and social factors that I lay out below, it's either a win-win-win or a win-win-win-win....
In a foreign warzone, some of the trappings of a traditional Asatru holiday are forgone out of necessity.
There is no alcohol available, fires become a security concern as well as a highly regulated event when they are permitted at all, and feasting is limited to carry-out plates from the chow hall if you are fortunate and Meals Ready to Eat if you are not. Hard copies of Eddic Sagas and study materials take up too much space and weight where both are premium commodities, and the infrastructure (and safety) doesn't support portable options like smart-phones to use as the ever-present resource they have become back home.
What we are generally left with is near-beer, companionship, and memories of our favorite components of our lore. I can say without reservation that my Winter Finding experience was the best heathen holiday I could have asked for....
Celebrate the inward journey
Join Persephone as She descends
Mother Earth turns toward Crone
As we dance the last dance
Half is Day, Half is night
Harvest moon, orange sight
Bless the dance, bless the rite
Half is Day, Half is Night
Spiral out, Spiral In
Harvest, death, rebirth again
Goddess-selves bless us all
Who spiral out and spiral in
Equinox, when the scales are again balanced in perfect equilibrium, honors equal day, equal night. On September 22, Mother Sun enters the sign of Libra, balancing cardinal air sign, as she crosses, the equator, traveling south. The Full Moon peaks on September 19th on the Water and Fire Pisces-Aries cusp. The great wheel turns as the tide of summer recedes and Persephone (Kore) goes underground until spring. The second harvest is threshed and the days lengthen, as we spin into darkness. The Sun Queen of summer becomes the Lady of Shadows: sailing West, we follow her into the dark. Life declines, the season of bareness is upon us, yet we give fervent thanks to the Goddesses of plenty: Habondia, Demeter, and the Corn Mothers, for the feast we have been given. Tonight we share this harvest with those who do not have enough....
Dark clouds snaked through the overcast sky like an airborne river, grumbling warning of impending deluge that summer afternoon in Orlando, Florida. I was a ten-year-old sorceress with blonde curls and a need for magical sand. My nine-year-old cousin and apprentice sorcerer collected the sand beneath the overhead bars as we discussed his infant sister, whom we knew was destined to be the most powerful sorceress of all.
The river in the sky grumbled louder, flashing a bit of lightning at us in warning. I leaned against the metal bars, raised an eyebrow. "Larak," I said, calling the thunder god by the name I'd given him, "You can just wait until we get home. When I'm standing under the carport, you can pour all you want then."
My cousin cast a worried look heavenward. "I think we have enough sand," he said. "Let's get back before we get soaked!"...
Of the blogs I’ve written so far, this one by far has taken up the most of my time, frustration and with not nearly enough to show for it. I’ve got more questions than answers. This week’s deity is from the Mesoamerican pantheon. This area is widely known home for the Mayans, Aztecs and Incans. Their pantheons overlap so much it is hard for a layman to pick one out from the rest. So I’m going to tell you what I found on one of their deities that caught my attention, listing it in the order that I found it. I make no promises of the accuracy, so this is mostly just an information dump to start you on your own search or for you to throw more information to aid me in mine.
In reviewing an item, I came across a deity named Acat who was described as a Mayan deity of tattooing and tattoo artists. Now I thought this was pretty cool, so I wanted more information. Commence headache. The majority of the information I found in English was the same thing ad nauseum.
Acat, Acat-Cib, Acaat, Ah-Kat: god of tattoos, tattooing and tattoo artists; god of fetal growth and development; God of Life; possible Becab(Bacab) of the East...
Covering and modest/plain dressing can be an act of subversive feminism. Hear me out, because I'm sure some people's knee jerk reaction to this is gonna be "I didn't come this far to get sl*t shamed and told to cover up." I'm a feminist myself and I'm not a fan of sl*t shaming either; people that do that can f right off as far as I'm concerned. So for me, the right to veil or engage in modest dressing has nothing to do with the body being impure, or other such puritanical BS; it has everything to do with a person's prerogative to show as much or as little of their body as they want. I'm using "they" here because men can be feminists too, and I know a gentleman who is participating in veiling as a protest against laws restricting a woman's right to cover.
The Second Annual Covered In Light Dayis tomorrow, Friday, September 20th. I personally cover for ritual, but tomorrow I'll cover all day in support of those who choose veil and dress modestly, because bodily autonomy is a feminist principle, and because I am the sole arbiter of how much or how little of my body you see, no matter where or when.
If you'd like to join in, but you aren't sure where to start, here's a video on tying a tichel-style veil, which is how I usually veil when I'm covering....
“Most of the books I read concentrate on the Goddess, and often ignore the God altogether ... I understand traditional witchcraft is more god-oriented. Are there any easy ways of connecting with ‘Horned God’ energy?” SBW (Ayrshire)
With the school term having started again, things are crazy-busy for me here. Still, I wanted to post something for the Fall Equinox, since it begins my absolute favorite time of year. This is a little something I wrote a couple of years ago. Enjoy, folks.
I adore this time of year. There’s a crispness in the air, the herald of colder, darker things to come. The leaves are just beginning to change into what, in my region of the US, will soon become a riotous panoply of color. I live in the belly of the mountains, in the Hudson River Valley and fall is something to be celebrated here for its beauty alone. It’s as if the lines of varied color show, for a few brief weeks, the very and varied musculature of the mountains, rippling, stretching and preparing for the long sleep of winter. It’s an awe-inspiring sight.
Of course I would celebrate Autumn anyway. I’ve never been a summer person and I greet the cooling days with immense joy. They bring me vitality, a renewed sense of purpose, and the feeling of an immense burden being lifted (i.e. the paralyzing heat of the summer!). Fall provides a feast for the senses: the smell of burning leaves, the sweet chill of cooling nights, the spice of Thanksgiving-time sweets, the rich tapestry of color inherent in the trees and harvest vegetables, and above all the transformation of nature’s green into the reds, golds, oranges, siennas, and browns of autumn. What a glorious relief! What a joyous sight! Moreover, these seasonal changes remind me that we’re rapidly passing out of the time of Harvest and moving instead into the time of internal reflection and quiet that can, ideally, be part of Winter. That is no small thing to honor....
Ah the fermented grape. How many ways may I sing your praises? You age to sometimes sweet or paper dry perfection. So many different varietals, so little time. Since the days of ancient Greece, wine has been a heartily enjoyed fruit beverage of choice. Here's a little suggestion for the autumnal equinox: hold an old-fashioned Greek symposium. Invite a round table of your nearest and dearest and pick a good juicy topic of discussion. If you really want to get authentic, take a nod from Plato and get a spirited debate going about the different kinds of love.
Have everyone bring a different bottle of wine. Stick with the Greek theme. An excellent choice is always a fresh and sassy Roditis. Serve feta, Kalamata olives, grapes, pita bread, hummus and a couscous salad with fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Shake up a dipping dressing of yogurt and honey on the side. When the discussion has waned and perhaps people are slurring their words a bit too much to continue to debate intelligently, make a toast to Dionysus, lusty god of wine and the dance.
Unwinding is an act we all must allow from time to time. Daily stresses take their toll and wear us down. Pain can be a result and can often be untraceable to the source. A visit to a train massage therapist can assist us as he or she holds the body in specific positions, gently stretching it in a unique therapy to allow the body to proceed down a path of release and healing. One of the common feelings during an unwinding session is of feeling lighter as the body corrects itself. Tissues loosen and the channels of energy are once again allowed to flow.
Often meditation is not enough to aid our bodies into their proper balance and connection with the Goddess Energies.The body will release its trauma when it is correctly positioned for the trauma to be set free. This treatment allows fluids to move throughout the body to nourish the tissues, spinal column and cranium in a balanced way freeing the nerve endings and easing pain-this feels like butter melting. Soothing music is often played in the background allowing the client to focus on deep breathing and relaxation; and connecting with the Goddess energy.
Potency of the Breath of Life has an action that generates rhythms within the fluids and tissues of the body. The concept of the Breath of Life is perhaps the universal or divine intention in action. In some cases, emotional release can also occur or be induced during the unwinding process, as the body unwinds, it may shake or tremble, get hot or cold and suppressed emotions can surface....
According to various Native American myths, our earth wouldn't be here without the Turtle. When all that existed was water, it became clear that humans could not exist under the waves. So Muskrat scooped dirt from the ocean floor and formed it into a ball. It was Turtle, however, who volunteered to carry the ball on her back to the surface of the water. Over time, the ball grew and became the world we now know. Some Native Americans call the U.S.A. "Turtle Island" in honor of the great Turtle who carries the world to this day. Now as spring approaches we can celebrate life and Turtle, who supports it by making... Turtle Pancakes (no turtles were harmed in the creation of this meal!)
Number of servings: 6 (Or one really hungry pre-teen)
Total prep time: 15 minutes, cooking time: 20 minutes...
The Autumn Equinox is coming up this weekend, so this is a good time to look ahead to the rest of the year, since (as you know if you’ve been reading this blog) charts of the solstices and equinoxes, also called cardinal ingress charts, are predictive for the quarter ahead.
I arrived in Afghanistan in the last week of August, just as many other members of the American armed forces do- a long flight, a refueling stop, a processing station in the former Soviet bloc, and then to one of the main airbases from which we are all parsed out to our respective assignments. I ended up in the city of Kabul, with the mountains a short trip from the city and a lot of unpleasant flatlands in every direction.
Before I left for Afghanistan, I knew that I would want to connect with the pagan/heathen minority when I arrived- as I have said, I am not much for ceremony and ritual, but it is good to have someone to talk to when you're staring down the barrel of several months in a foreign land. I began by reaching out to a great organization called Open Halls Project, a Facebook group owned and operated by Josh and Cat Heath with the goal of supporting heathens in the military. The result was connection with one heathen on the exact camp I was going to- a relatively unlikely event given the size of our faith and the number of possible camps across Afghanistan.
By pure serendipity, I ran across another heathen assigned to the same location, who introduced me to a third. For the first few weeks, even with our intense work schedules and commitments to the lives we suspended back home, we managed to cross paths twice and converse....
I want to apologize for the mothballs covering this blog. I've been keeping up with my personal blog, but somehow, PaganSquare fell off the radar for a while. It's been nearly a month and that is unacceptable to you, kind readers, and to myself as well, as that was not the deal I made with Anne when I took the opportunity to blog at PaganSquare. A lot has happened here while I was away dealing with a boatload of personal issues, and I have no opinion on that for now. Perhaps at a later date. All I want to say about it right now is that I have never felt attacked, unwelcome, or in any other way uncomfortable at posting here. I stick to my own subjects and because of that, I seem to stay clear of a lot of trouble. It works for me. I'm not here to argue, I am here to share information. Please, be sure that my absence had nothing to do with these issues. For now, I would like to post on the strong link between prayers and hymns in the ancient Hellenic religion and modern Hellenismos, with a promise to resume regular postings here.
Probably the best definition of 'prayer' I have ever happened upon was by William D. Fuley, who says: "prayers (and hymns) are attempts by men and women to communicate with gods by means of the voice". It is simple, elegant, and accurate. Especially in the ancient Hellenic religion, it was important to raise one's voice when hymns were sung, and especially so when prayers were made.
I am going to generalize here and say that a hymn was sung to the Theoi, with the aim to please the God in question. They have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning contains two things: a note that the hymn is about to begin, and an announcement of whom the speaker/singer is addressing.
What happens when your magic fails?
This is a question most magicians and pagans never want to ask or answer, but I think it's a question we need to ask and answer. It's a question that likely makes you squirm just a little bit, because it raises the spectre of "What if all this is just in my head?" The thought that it's all just in your head and that perhaps what you're doing is just a deluded fantasy is hard to face. It can cause you to feel some real doubt about magic and whether its real or just make believe. I think feeling such doubt can actually be healthy, because it teaches you to question critically and carefully what you're doing and how you're doing it. It also teaches you not to take magic for granted. If you assume that your workings will always be successful, you may be shocked when a working isn't successful. By cultivating just a bit of critical awareness, you can look through your magical workings and figure out why it didn't work as well as what you can do to improve your workings.
A good place to start is to actually determine how many of your magical workings have been successful. See if you can calculate a percentage and then determine what types of workings they were. Was it practical magic to resolve a problem, or was it a working to make contact with a deity or inner contact? Was it some other type of magical working? So for example, perhaps you calculate that 90% of your magical workings in the last year have been successful and you realize that a quarter of the workings were practical magic and the rest were devotional, theurgic workings. Once you have estimated the successful number of magical workings, then you can look at the remaining magical workings, the ones that didn't work and determine what type they were. You might discover that 75% of the workings that weren't successful were practical magic workings. What this will tell you then is what you need to work in your magical practice. It shouldn't be hard to determine these figures if you are keeping a magical record of some type and diligently updating it....