The debate over refugees in Europe and America continues. Analysts wonder why it is America's youth are more comfortable with the word "socialism" than their elders are. And Bollywood star Aamir Khan sparks controversy in India after saying he and his wife are concerned with rising "intolerance" in the country. It's Fiery Tuesday, our weekly segment on political and societal news from around the world. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
To many, winter is a time when the grief of loss strikes hardest. The symbolic death of spring and summer combined with the cold have us turning inward, some seeking a spiritual hibernation.
For me, this grief has been compounded by my mother's December birthday. This year she would be turning sixty. One of my friends grieves both her parents today, while another sits in a hospital waiting for her mother's unconscious body to relinquish its hold after a stroke....
Recently I saw Spotlight, the movie. Set in 2001-2002, the film chronicles how the Boston Globe's team of investigative reporters revealed the pattern of child sexual abuse rampant among Massachusetts' Catholic priests — and the Boston Archdiocese's systematic cover-up.
Early on, the film gives us psychotherapist Richard Sipe. He's been braving the Church's opposition and documenting this pattern for decades. He cites one aspect of the problem's origin: the secretive atmosphere surrounding priests' sexual activity.
Sipe estimates that, at any point in time, about half of all priests are engaged in a sexual relationship, despite their vow of celibacy. Given the film's timeframe, Sipe's "metric" indicates that 6% of all priests are molesting children. With further research, Sipe later revised that figure to 9%.
Recently I also read Margaret Starbird's book, Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile (Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2005). Another of her books on Mary Magdalene, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, was a central, inspiring resource for me back when I was writing The Woman's Belly Book.
Starbird presents a convincing argument that Jesus, being Jewish and according to Jewish custom, would most likely have been a married man. His partnership with Mary Magdalene as wife, consort, and colleague would have testified to the wholeness, and sanity, of creation.
Starbird links the Church's 12th-century rule of priestly celibacy with its denial both of Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus and of the Sacred Feminine:
In the aftermath of scandals involving Roman Catholic priests, people are now, for the first time in centuries, seriously asking, "What else did they forget to tell us?" Because the current crisis of confidence in the Catholic hierarchy is directly related to this hierarchy's dissociation from the sacred feminine, the relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is entirely relevant to the problem. Enforced clerical celibacy, after centuries of devaluing the feminine half of creation, was mandated in 1139 when an edict by Pope Innocent II forced married priests to abandon their wives and children. (p. 150)
Absent Magdalene, insanity arises in a multitude of forms.
Spotlight shines the light on one form of insanity: Nearly one in ten Catholic priests have engaged in sexually abusing children.
Updated from Between the Shadows, November 22, 2014:...
It’s the first day of December, and most of the leaves are now down from the trees where I live. There’s one little ash tree that is, somehow, still mostly green but the yellows are creeping in there, too. It’s been a matter of weeks since enough leaves fell from the horsechestnut to reveal the bird feeder I put there last year.
During the summer, bird watching is a difficult activity because there’s so much cover. Seeing a whole bird isn’t easy unless you can put up a bird table and lure them out into the open. In years when I’ve been able to do that, it’s still not been easy to see birds in summer because most of them prefer to be in the trees or out in the fields. I’ve noticed that birds tend to return to urban gardens in the winter, they’ve got wise to bird feeders....
This photo is my altar for a holiday sumbel and blot, such as Yule. Sumbel is the toasting and blot is the blessing.
Altars for different purposes will have different things on them. This one is a portable altar used for community ritual. A permanent altar dedicated to a god or ancestor or to the gods generally, also called a shrine, would generally have fewer working tools and more symbols, and would probably include representations of the gods or other beings to whom it is dedicated, such as statues or pictures, and possibly sacrifices to them. Some Asatruars keep shrines and some don't, but any Asatru community ritual includes a sumbel, and most include a blot.
The altar for a sumbel has to include something to drink since sumbel is a toasting ritual. Asatru uses a drinking horn for this ritual. We use a cow's horn to honor Audhumla, the sacred cow who was the first self-aware being. Our mythology says that before time began or the World Tree grew, Audhumla licked the gods and the giants out of the ice and nurtured them on her milk. So a cow's horn represents the Great Mother.
There are two bottles and two horns on the altar in this picture because one bottle and horn set is for alcohol and one is for a non-alcoholic beverage. This altar also contains a bottle opener. This isn't a dedicated holy bottle opener, just the normal one from my kitchen, but being used for ritual means this opener is going to have a bit of specialness about it even after being returned to normal use. It is traditional to toast with mead, but other beverages work, too.
The altar for blot almost always contains all the things for sumbel as well because sumbel usually comes first and then blot. In the old days, the blot bowl caught the blood of a sacrificed animal, keeping the blood from touching the ground, and then the blood was sprinkled over the participants to bless them. In modern times, the bowl is partially filled with water, and then the dregs of the horn are poured in the bowl after the sumbel, and the mead / water mixture is sprinkled over the participants to bless them.
The pine branch on the altar is the asperger, which is used to sprinkle the water onto the participants. This pine branch is from a sacred pine tree I maintain at my home for this purpose. Before the main ritual, I ritually cut the asperger from the tree with this ritual knife. The knife can then go on the altar, on my belt, or can be put away.
This basic altar contains only the things necessary for the ritual. It can also be decorated with seasonally appropriate decorations, symbols of the gods, and anything meaningful to the godhi or gythia (the conductor of the ritual) or to the ritual participants.
Bryan Fuller details his plans for the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The trailer for the film Gods of Egypt is analyzed and critiqued. And Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind films such as The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea announces a new film. It's Airy Monday, our weekly news segment about magic and religion in pop culture. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!