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It doesn't take much reading in ethnology to notice that many tribal ethnonyms—the names by which a people knows itself—tend to mean “the People,” with an extended sense of the “Real People,” the “True People,” the “Original People."

Well, that's how I see pagans.

Pagans are the Original People, by definition. Up until a few thousand years ago, we were all there were. Until recently, all non-pagan religions grew out of pagan soil. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, it's pagans all the way down.

(Of course, back in pagan times, we didn't know that we were pagan; we just were. In this, we're like Native Americans. Encounter with others always imbues a new sense of self.)

Now there are more non-pagans in the world than pagans, but that doesn't change history. We were here first; we're still here; we'll always be here.

Savor this delicious corollary: human beings are inherently, instinctively pagan. Left to our own devices to figure the world out for ourselves, what we come up with is (by definition) pagan. To be human is to be born pagan; anything else you have to be made into.

Therefore, even those of us (like myself) who were raised in the ways of the un-Original people, by our embrace of the Old Ways, thereby rejoin our birthright status of being one of the Original People.

The implications here are dizzying, paradoxical. No matter how much paganisms may change, they're still Original.

A danger inherent in this way of looking at things, of course, is the potential to view non-pagans as somehow less than human. That way always lies danger.

But non-pagans were born pagan too, just like us; they've just, in a sense, forgotten who they are.

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Crystal Clear

Over time, you will doubtless adorn your sacred altar space with many beautiful crystals. Whenever you acquire a new crystal, you need to cleanse it.

Gather these elemental energies:

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Note to Reader:

I thought that I'd posted this one years ago, but--if so--I can't seem to find it. So here's a repost, following the news of Kingsnorth's recent reception into the Orthodox Church.

 

Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake (2015). Graywolf Press

 

If you read only one novel this year, let it be Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake.

The emergence of post-apocalyptic narrative in early “twenty-first” century fiction, cinema, and television is an intriguing and suggestive phenomenon, offering rich possibilities for satire, cultural critique, and reflection on direction for possible futures.

But of course, as every heathen knows, when it comes to Apocalypse, we've already been there and done that. In human history, Ragnarok comes again and again. This is how Kingsnorth can characterize his novel, now newly released in the US and currently long-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize, as “a post-apocalyptic novel set 1000 years in the past.”

Imagine that you've lost everything: your property, your possessions, your family, your culture itself, even your gods. This is the tale that Kingsnorth tells in The Wake. The year is 1066.

Buccmaster, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is a sokeman—an independent, landed farmer—in the Fens of northeastern England's Danelaw, on the eve of England's most cataclysmic event: the long echoes of which, as Kingsnorth judiciously notes, are still to be felt in our day. A millennium after the Norman Invasion, 70% of land in England still belongs to 1% of the population. 1000 years after Hastings, you can still look at my friend David and I and say: that one's the Norman, that one's the Saxon.

I've withheld some important information about our hero. He's also heathen.

it is like my grandfather saed to me like what I saed to ecceard to these wapentac men this hwit crist he lies. it is hard to sae these things they moste be saed in thy hus only if thu is hierde the preost and the thegn and the gerefa and the wapentac they will tac thu down. but it is lic my grandfather saed before the crist cum our folcs gods was of anglish wind and water now this ingenga [inganger = foreign] god from ofer the sea this god he tacs from us what we is. there is sum of us saes my grandfather still cepan alyf the eald gods of angland efen in these times and he wolde spec to me of these things when my father was not lystnan a thrall was he to those who wolde tac from him what macd him man (Kingsnorth 23).

The language of this tragic and compelling novel is, as you can see, a time-travel English, an English entirely Anglo-Saxon, lacking French vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation: what English might have become had Hastings never happened.

As a boy, Buccmaster's grandfather took him to the drowned grove where the old gods once lived.

and the gods he saes the gods them selfs waits still beneath these waters for us to cum baec and when angland is in need if we call them they will cum all of them from the old holt [grove] below this fenn mere and feoht again with anglisc men agan any and heaw [hew] them down (Kingsnorth 54)

In the face of the death of his culture, Buccmaster cries out:

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If you haven't read Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake yet, you should. (You can read my review of it here.)

Imagine that you've lost everything: your property, your possessions, your family, your culture itself, even your very gods. This is the tale that Kingsnorth tells in The Wake. The year is 1066.

In despair, the novel's protagonist, Buccmaster, calls to the Old Gods for succour.

And lo! one of the Old Gods hears: hears and and answers.

One of English literature's fresh new voices, Kingsnorth has been a lifelong eco-activist, though in recent years, despairing of the possibility of reversing the momentum of ecocide, he has come to refer to himself as a “recovering environmentalist”. (“Environmentalism is the catalytic convertor on the silver SUV of the global economy,” he wrote in a 2017 essay.)

He's also a pagan—or was. “Call me a heathen,” he writes in “In the Black Chamber,” his striking essay on the Palaeolithic art-cave at Niaux and the nature of the sacred, adding parenthetically, “I'd take it as a compliment.” His collection of Green Men watch him as he writes. For a while, he was active in Alexandrian Wicca. (English by birth, he now lives in Ireland where, as I gather, Alexandrians are thick on the ground.)

Hence my surprise (and disappointment) to learn that he was recently baptized into (of all things) the Romanian Orthodox Church.

(His baptism, aptly enough, took place in one of Ireland's sacred rivers, the River Shannon: a more “Nature”-adjacent initiation than anything that most pagan groups have on offer, I suspect.)

“In 2020, as the world was turned upside down, so was I. Unexpectedly, and initially against my will, I found myself being pulled determinedly towards Christianity,” he said. “I started the year as an eclectic neo-pagan with a long-held, unformed ache in my heart, and ended it a practicing Christian.”

There, he found, the “ache” was “gone and replaced by the thing that, all along, I turned out to have been looking for.”

My heart hurts to hear his words, but I understand them.

Organized religion has a lot to offer that (let's be frank here) the paganisms mostly don't: stability, depth, commitment to community, a sense of continuity.

But in Kingsnorth's case, I suspect that the roots run even more deeply.

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Moon Mojo: Clear A Space and Make It Yours

To purify your space with as much of your own personal energy as possible, a broom you have crafted by hand is best. You don’t have to wait until you are holding a circle or performing spellcraft; it can be after a squabble with a loved one, to rid yourself of a bout of the blues, or any upset you need to sweep right out of your home. Many a kitchen witch begins the day with this simple ritual of a clean sweep to freshen surroundings and to make room for good energy in your life. This is, of course, not a white glove-type cleaning; it is a symbolic act that is effective in maintaining your home as a personal sanctuary.

You can make your own purification broom from straw bound together and attached to a fallen tree branch, or you can add mojo to a store-bought broom. Wrap copper wire around the bottom of your broom handle and also use it to bind straw to a sturdy stick or branch for the DIY kind. Venus-ruled copper lends an aura of beauty and keeps negativity at bay. Attach crystals to the handle with glue to boost your broom’s power. Recommended crystal for space clearing and purification are as follows:

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As pagans in the Northern hemisphere prepare to celebrate the feast of the Many-Named Goddess of Dawn and Spring, I would invite us all to contemplate Her many titles.

I've written out some here as an extended litany; the list, of course, could be extended indefinitely.

 

 Litany for the Dawn Goddess

 

Many-Named Goddess

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Springtime

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Daily Spring

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Yearly Dawn

Lady of Dawn

Dayspring

Lady of Dawn

Ever-Young Goddess

Lady of Dawn

Undying Goddess

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Color

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Birds

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Birdsong

Lady of Dawn

Lady of Eggs

Lady of Dawn

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Energy Management: House Blessings

This magical tool was born centuries ago from the practical magic of sweeping the ritual area clean before casting a spell. With focus and intention, you can dispel negative influences and bad spirits from the area and prepare a space for ritual work. In bygone days, pagan marriages and Beltane trysts took place with a leap over the broom, an old-fashioned tradition of hand fasting, the classic witch wedding. Over the centuries, this rich history combined to capture the imagination as the archetypal symbol of witches.

Your broom is an essential tool for energy management. Obtain a handmade broom from a craft fair or your favorite metaphysical five and dime. This should not be a machine-made plastic one from the supermarket, though I did get a long cinnamon-infused rush broom from Trader Joe’s that I use in my witch’s kitchen. A broom made of wood and woven of natural straw will be imbued with the inherent energies of those organic materials.

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