Culture Blogs


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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs
Fire and Flood, Wind and Rain: Balance at the Equinox

The Autumn started this morning, and I went looking for balance.

                Is there balance in between the fires that charred California, Oregon, and Montana, and the floods that drowned Houston?

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    There was balance n the earthquake in Japan, for sure. Usually when there is one on one side of the world, here is one on the othe

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Harvest Hymn

Anglican vicar Henry Alford wrote the original lyrics to the Harvest hymn Come Ye Thankful People Come in 1844; it's generally sung to George Job Elvey's tune, St. George, Windsor. You can hear it here in Steeleye Span's version from their 1980 album, Sails of Silver. (The song Marigold comes first; the first verse of "Harvest Home" comes at the end.)

Here's our version of this Harvest classic, as we've sung it at our Harvest Supper every year for the last 38 years now. High Anglican diction and heavy-handed imagery notwithstanding, it still chokes me up every time.

 

Come Ye Thankful People Come

 

Come ye thankful people, come:

raise the song of Harvest Home.

All is safely gathered in

ere the winter storms begin.

Earth our Mother doth provide

for our wants to be supplied.

Come ye thankful people, come:

raise the song of Harvest Home.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Tasha, and a Happy Harvest to you. Most covens have a Book of Shadows; we have a songbook instead. After Yule and Beltane,
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    This is so very lovely. Thanks so much for sharing. I do enjoy your columns, Blessed Be, Tasha
YIN/YANG QUARTZ CRYSTALS – Physically, What Makes a Crystal Yin/Yang ?

The last couple of posts, we have been reviewing Feminine and Masculine crystals. Before we finish the three part series by talking about Yin/Yang (part Masculine, part Feminine) crystals, first a note:

As always, whenever I mention Masculine or Feminine in regard to crystals, people tend to flip their lids! This time was no exception. It would seem that in our societal complex right now, anything to do with "gender" is triggering knee-jerk reactions in people. If you find the use of these terms in relation to quartz crystal offensive, please take a deep breath and allow me to explain.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_petroglyph-hands-patagonia.jpg

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

~John Donne

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Does Your Coven Have a Secret Name?

Even after 40-some years inside, the Craft can still surprise me.

A friend was telling me about her group.

“What are you guys called again?” I asked.

She looked a little embarrassed.

“Well, the real name's secret” she said, “but we go by N.”

Like most good ideas, the notion that a coven should have a secret name seems perfectly obvious—once someone else has thought of it. People have secret names, cities have secret names. (Rome's, for instance, is Flora.) It makes perfect sense for a coven to have one too.

Now, when it comes to covens, I feel like I've won the jackpot in the Paganistani lottery. I'm part of the oldest continuously-operating coven here in Witch City; this year, we'll be celebrating our 38th Harvest Home together.

But in that moment I'll admit to having felt some envy.

“I wish we had a secret name,” I whined to myself.

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Little Gods

Back before Hebrew became the First Language of monotheism, it was a fine old pagan language in its own right, with words (for example) for “standing stone” (matsevá) and “stone circle” (gilgál).

The Hebrew word that usually gets translated “idol” is 'elíl. Scholardom has generally read this word as a cacophemism based on the root √ ' L L (alef-lamed-lamed) meaning “weak.” This even though words similar to 'elil occur in other Semitic languages—for example in Sabaean, the South Semitic language of the Arabian kingdom of “Sheba”—in religious contexts as well.

It occurs to me, however, to wonder if the derivation from “weak” is really the correct one. Hebrew (like its sister Semitic languages) has a pattern of word-creation called “reduplication,” in which the second part of the word is repeated; reduplicated words are usually diminutives. Hence, kélev, “dog” becomes k'lavláv, “puppy”; qatán, “little” becomes q'tantán, “teensy.”

I wonder if 'elil is the same. 'El = god. 'Elil = “little god.”

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Shana tova, ya Ariel.
  • Ariel Aron
    Ariel Aron says #
    Thank you for sharing this lovely hymn.

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Come Ye Thankful People, Come

The Autumn Equinox: it's a holiday of many names.

None of them—to be perfectly honest—quite there yet, if you know what I mean.

Equinox, of course, comes from Latin: “equal night.” It has the advantage of being readily comprehensible, at least. The down side is, of course, that it's ambiguous, since it's got a twin in the spring. And somehow it's got that clinical sound to it.

Then there's Evenday. This is a modern loan-translation from the word for “equinox” in the Scandinavian languages. (Interesting that, to describe a time when day and night are of equal length, the Southrons focus on night and the Northrons on day; make of that what you will.)

“Evenday” has a nice, colloquial sound to it, and is probably relatively transparent to anyone with light behind the eyes. Interestingly, it has already developed two pronunciations, and (curiously) I find myself using both of them: Even-day and Even-dee, just like the days of the week: the formal and less formal options, respectively.

Wishing folks a “Happy Evenday” has a good sound to it, certainly. But, of course, there's still that vernal-autumnal ambiguity.

So far as we can tell, the ancient Kelts did not observe the sunsteads and evendays as holidays (focusing instead on what we would call the “Cross-Quarters”), so there were no traditional names for them in any of the Keltic languages. To rectify this situation, Druidic Revivalists in the 19th century coined Welsh names for them; the autumn evenday is now called Alban Elfed (supposedly, “Light of [the] Waters”), and the name has gained a certain currency in Druidic circles.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Ariel; the poem is the first verse of a song that we sing at the Harvest Supper every year, our version of a 19th century A
  • Ariel Aron
    Ariel Aron says #
    Nicely said I love reading your stuff. I also love the little poem.
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    "Usage determines correctness." No it doesn't. Pronouncing ask as arks does not make it correct no matter how many people do it,
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Given that living languages are in a constant state of change, Andrew, who then gets to decide what's correct?
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    Definitely not people who didn't know how to pronounce a word correctly in the first place.

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