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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How to Make an Oak Leaf Crown

Across the North, the two preeminent sacred trees of Midsummer's are the ("male") oak and the ("female") linden.

On the linden, whose spicy flowering perfumes the longest nights of the year, more in a future post. But for today, the oak.

The Oak is the tree of Thunder, most virile of gods,* whose thunderstorms rumble spectacularly across the prairies at this time of year—the Ojibway call July "Thunder Moon"—and, they say, "holds fire in its heart." (In his youth, the Horned hid the fire of the gods there after he had stolen it from Thunder's hearth, but that's another story.) Fire drills used to be made from oak, and their "cradles" from linden wood. Extinguishing all the fires in the village and kindling the New Fire from wood on wood is an old, old Midsummer's tradition.

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Why Pagan theology is so unimportant among Pagans

When I first become a Pagan many years ago, I tried to find theological studies of What It All Meant within our literature.  I found many discussions of rituals, magick, and how Witches were correctives to patriarchy. But beyond some brief (and good) discussions in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and the Farrars' The Meaning of Witchcraft,  there was almost nothing on the underlying meaning of a Pagan reality.  As I learned more about the broad Pagan tradition I began exploring literature discussing African Diasporic and Native American Pagan religions. Here to, by monotheistic standards the pickings were remarkably thin.

In Brazil I learned most Pagan literature consisted of spell books and details about rituals.  Among the traditional Crow people in Montana, individuals had different interpretations of their practices’ deeper meaning and of the status of figures like Coyote, but no developed theology.  Within my own coven I learned my coven-mates had different beliefs about who the Gods were. Classical Pagan religious writing was rarely sectarian and the major one that could be so described, The Golden Ass, was more an adventure story than a treatise on the Gods.  Pagan cultures were not particularly peaceful, but I know of no adherents to a Pagan religion waging war on those of another for not worshiping the right Gods. Unlike the monotheisms, unity of belief didn’t seem very important in the Pagan world.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    Can you see the irony in the fact that you've defined Paganism as superlatively permissive, but then have marginalized an entire f
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Absolutely no irony here at all. None. Beginning in your first paragraph you distort my argument. I wrote Pagan religion is room
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I will add one more point about thinking theologically about our own experiences as a way to deepen them and perhaps improve on ou
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I also tried to "like" your comment Macha, but it doesn't work either. So thank you!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks, Gus. I think I'll print this for the men in the San Quentin circle.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Summer Yule

Yule : Midwinter :: Lithe : Midsummer.

8th century Anglo-Saxon historian Bede of Jarrow calls it Líða: Midsummer. Along with its winter equivalent, Yule, it was one of the two hinges of the Old English year.

Like Yule, we don't know what Líða meant originally. According to Bede, the word denotes “gentle” or “navigable” because at this time of year “the calm breezes are gentle, and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea” (Shaw 49). Likely this is just a guess; it's certainly not a particularly compelling explanation.

In the English-speaking pagan world, many today refer to the summer sunstead (solstice) by its Anglo-Saxon name. If the word had continued in current use, as Yule did, we would today speak of Lithe. (Rhymes with scythe.)

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Janette and Greybeard both: the OED confirms that well into early Modern English "lithe" retained its old association with
  • janette nash
    janette nash says #
    As a Brit, I have no trouble believing it means smooth, and refers to the water - a lot of old sayings relate to the weather, and
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Our best guess is that Litha was a Saxon word that essentially meant June. And "after-Letha" meant July.
Who Wants to Win a Mini Silver Charming Oracle Set?

Who wants to win a Mini Silver Boyer Charming Oracle? It comes in a sparkly snowflake bag and includes twenty silver charms (it was one of my beta sets I used to test our oracle).

You may have saw me mention our shiny charms and how they can be used for meditation, ritual, vision boards, altars, creative writing and divination. Now, you can have a chance to win a mini-set to see how this particular tool can work for you.

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It's so hard to do the work, Charmers. I really feel you on that.  It's hard to constantly grind, do magic and not live likeGloria-Steinem filthy hamster.  Also likely on deck for you: the natural disasters you call your children, trying to lose weight, trying to get ahead in your career, trying not to eat like you are actively trying to slowly kill yourself, exercise so your heart keeps ticking and you calm the hell down, creative endeavors and, oh yeah, you're supposed to have some kind of magical/spiritual practice so you don't bang your own head against a wall until you stop moving/can get ahead on all of the above/ have some vague semblance of internal peace that does not look like a shipwreck/insert your own completely unique manic pixie dream girl reasons here.  I don't care.

So, since Momma has been super stressed as usual because I need to craft All the Things for my show on Sunday so I can pay for medication that enables me to continue yelling at you, we just upgraded our ancient system at work which required me to do so much freaking reconciliation that if it was a marriage, I would have long since left for a pack of cigarettes as well as: the usual f*ckery I call my social life, writing, signing contracts, trying not to eat like a savage and do yoga twice a week so I don't snap and start killing,  (Namaste.) I'm going to go out on a dangerous limb here.  I'm going to assume that if you've been reading me for any length of time, you also are either a type A psycho like me or you are trying to pick up the useful aspects of it without sending yourself into hyperspace a la Mona from Pretty Little Liars.

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Yellow Brick Road to Awakening Spread - Symbols from the Wizard of Oz

As I mentioned in my post A Halloween Divination Spread:

When it comes to spreads--positions for Tarot/Oracle cards, Runes, charms or other divinatory objects--it's easier than you may think to create custom layouts based on holidays, stories, songs, sacred texts, deities or themes using symbols for positions. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've read that L. Frank Baum was a theosophist so it's not too surprising that there should be a lot of layered meaning in "The Wi
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    Interesting! I didn't know that, Anthony.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn

A Victorian nationalist wrote the lyrics. The king of British folksingers wrote the tune. The father of modern witchcraft made it part of the Book of Shadows. And across the English-speaking world, pagans sing and dance to it every Midsummer's Day.

How good is that?

Poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) first published the poem A Tree Song in his childrens' novel Puck of Pook's Hill in 1906. Folk-singer Peter Bellamy (1944-1991) wrote a musical setting for the poem (you can hear it here), retitled Oak and Ash and Thorn; it was released on the album of the same name in 1970.

Meanwhile, some time in the 1950s, Gerald Gardner (1886-1964) had written the last verse of the song into the liturgy for Beltane. How did a Midsummer's song (“Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, me love/all of a Midsummer's morn”) end up at Beltane? Well, the cross-quarters were the original sabbats of Gardner's revived “witch-cult,” as in Murray, and the quarter-days (solstices and equinoxes) didn't come in until later. That explains the truncation of the lyrics in the BoS version as well.

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