Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Dionysos, Bulls and Funerals

Over at Ariadne’s Tribe we’ve been developing a liturgy for modern Minoan Paganism – a yearly calendar of sacred events and their meanings, along with tidbits about the deities who are involved with each one. Throughout the year, Dionysos plays a big part in Minoan spirituality. In fact, he’s the most prominent god, to the point that the Greeks compared him to their Zeus. In addition to his well-known associations with wine, Dionysos also figures as the dying-and-reborn god of the solar year, an aspect that adds quite a few layers to his presence. Lately I’ve been thinking about how his different festivals and annual milestones dovetail together, and what that might mean in terms of some of the well-known bits of life in ancient Crete, bull-leaping in particular.

Before we dive into this subject, it’s important to realize that Minoan civilization, in the form we’re accustomed to think of it, lasted for a solid 15 centuries, from roughly 3000 to 1500 BCE. During that time, the religious practices of the island shifted and changed, from fairly simple ancestor-based activities all the way to an official state religion run by the big temples. Alongside the official religion, the people always had their own home-based practices, which echoed the state religion in some ways and diverged from it in others. But throughout this time, Dionysos played a prominent role.

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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Very nice!

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b2ap3_thumbnail_abu-simbel-Ptah-Amun-Ramesses-and-Re-Horakhty-Osiris-Egyptian-Gods.jpgSpirituality does not have to involve the beings that we call gods, but Egypt left the world a rich legacy of as many as two thousands netjeru to contemplate and with whom we might enjoy relationships.  So the gods are a good next step to take when building an Egyptian spiritual practice.

Because there are roughly four thousand years of time and people and history and local deities mushed together under the label “Egyptian,” you can take years and years yourself to study the netjeru, their various manifestations, stories and names.  Most of what we know today is about the gods who were once venerated by the ruling dynasties. But with the exception of Akhenaten, the Egyptians never felt the need to eliminate or even denigrate a netjer that they did not follow.  In fact, they often, over time, brought together two or more deities in a new combined form which acknowledged the commonalities of the individual gods while recognizing and preserving their distinct identities.  Hence emerged Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra, Ptah-Sokar, Sekhmet-Bast, etc.

At the risk of vastly oversimplifying, here is a run-down of the primary divine groups.  Each has a claim to its antiquity, so I will make no claims about who came first.

Sailing up the Nile, just past the Delta, one first encounters Heliopolis, center of the powerful cult of the sun-god Ra.  No one knows when humans began to venerate Ra, but he is vital to and interwoven with the mythology of most other well-known netjeru.

b2ap3_thumbnail_goldskmt.gifNot far from Heliopolis is Memphis, the cult center of Ptah, creator god associated with the arts, craftsmanship, mining, his consort Sekhmet, and their son Nefertem.  Ptah creates with “the heart and the tongue,” rather than with the phallus.  We find him mentioned during the 1st Dynasty in the Pyramid Texts. Ptah is much later aligned with the gods Ra and Amun by the 25th Dynasty Nubian ruler Shabaka, who codified what is called the Memphite Theology.  At Osireion we connect Ptah with the earth, and with patiently creating the world we wish to live in. Sekhmet is a fiery goddess whose very name means power.

Moving further south along the Nile we pass by the site that would for only a few years be the center of a short-lived cult called Atenism.  While Akhenaten tried his best to wipe out the old gods during his reign over Egypt, he became much-hated for it.  Ironically, his efforts to establish a cult to an abstract disc which only the pharaoh could touch were replaced after his death by a period of increased personal devotion and piety by rulers. The Egyptians tried to forget Akhenaten and his sterile god; when they did remember, they called him the “Great Heretic.”

Continuing south we reach the ancient city of Abydos, center of the cult of Osiris.  Archaeologists continue to find important graves of unknown rulers at this traditional royal necropolis. The temple building called the Osireion is attached to the Temple of Sety at Abydos. Osiris is part of a group of nine netjeru: the primordial Atum who masturbated to produce creation; Shu, god of air, and Tefnut, goddess of moisture; their children, the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut; and their children, Isis, Osiris, Set and Nephthys. We know Osiris as the god of birth, death and rebirth, of fertility and transformation.  His sister-wife Isis is one of the world’s great beloved mother goddesses, a skilled magician and consummate mother and wife.

b2ap3_thumbnail_www-St-Takla-org--Osiris-Isis-and-Nephthys.jpgAround the bend in the river still further to the south is Thebes, another ancient capital and the cult home of Amun, the hidden one, and basis for the word “Amen.”  Amun created a set of four gods in the form of frogs and snakes (potent symbols of birth and regeneration), plus four more deities, including Djehuti (Thoth) and the all-important Maat.  Amun’s consort is the lion-headed Mut, a goddess of death whose name is the word for “mother.”  Their son is Khonsu, a lunar god.

Scholars have argued for centuries about whether the Egyptians were monotheistic, seeing one god as many, or polytheistic, seeing the many gods as essentially one, or simply pantheistic (everything is a god).  We do know that they were henotheistic, meaning that their worship of Osiris was not threatened by knowing the next village over venerated Khenty-imentiu.

Early European Egyptologists also held a superior attitude to the civilization which, after all, worshiped gods with animal heads!  But the visible form of the gods was merely a reflection of their personality and role in the cosmos, not a literal form. 

Once you open your life to the possibility of a relationship with the netjeru, they will most likely show themselves to you.  More on that in the next Ankh Life post.

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Sweet Calendula

Two years ago, I bought a couple of calendula plants and tried to grow them in my container garden. They fared all right--I was still learning what conditions calendula likes--and I managed to make a batch of moisturizing balm out of their oil. When they died, though, I figured I wouldn't repeat the experiment. They hadn't seemed to like the hot, dry weather on my roof. I decided that next time I made oil, I would buy calendula blossoms in bulk.

Imagine my surprise when, last winter, a couple of interlopers sprouted in my garden: two new calendula plants, born from the seeds of the first two. In completely different pots, no less! Well, obviously one doesn't reject a healing plant, so I started to tend them. To my delight, they thrived.

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Fire the World!

Okay, not literally ;)

It seems a long time since I've written, but it's taking a long time to fill the kiln! I'm making smallish pieces, and it's a pretty large orifice! However, I started working on some larger pieces today... watch this space. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Drumming

A drum appeared in front of me out of the darkness. Someone stood behind me as I sat singing along with the jamming fiddlers, guitarists, and autoharpist by the snapping campfire. I took the drum. Someone's hands showed me how to hold the drum, and how to play the three notes of the dumbek: dum, tek, ee. I put my hands on the hairy hide. I started to play, and magic welled up inside me. When I drum, I feel the vibration of the universe, I hear the music of the spheres, and my hands thump out the rhythm of the heartbeat of mother earth.

That was how I acquired Mr. Hairy Goat, the gourd drum. That was how a long-dormant connection to the Native spirituality I had grown up with. Although the drum was a Middle Eastern style, and I had been an Asatruar for decades, and the festival I was attending was not even a pagan festival but a folk dance and folk music festival I went to because my mom wanted to go, somehow drumming connected me to a note of Native American spirituality; the rhythms that came to me naturally sounded Native. I had largely stopped trying to pursue Native spirituality (except for relating to the land spirits as my father had taught me) after events of the year after I left college. Now it came to me. Mom and I were camping in my truck at a folk music, dance, and storytelling festival in California. Mom was doing the dance program. I sometimes dance with her and her folk dance group, but at this event I had signed up for the singing program. It turned out, the someone in the dark was a drum vendor at the festival.

As a child, I had tried to learn the violin, even though the teacher said I was too old to start (I was about 10 I think.) Maybe she was right, because I never got very good at it. I had played my grandfather's violin, and had given it up when braces gave me jaw pain so bad i just couldn't hold it properly. I had hung onto the violin itself for years. I had planned to pass it on to my future child, and had even pre-planned an entire ceremony for calling my grandfather's musical talent into my future progeny, which I intended to do as part of the naming ceremony. I gave up the dream of ever having children in order to receive medical treatment that solved a decades-long on-again-off-again disability. One of the things I did to let go of that dream was to sell grandpa's violin. Shortly after that, the drum came into my life. I think that by letting go of the violin, I then had my interior music-place open and ready to connect with a new instrument, and that is why the drum came to me.

I got so into drumming that I was asked to become the conductor of a drum circle I participated in, SageWomen. I felt the need to have a Native American style drum as well as Mr. Hairy Goat, and I made my own frame drum from white oak and elk rawhide, and named her Grandmother Elk. I sang and played the drum in a short-lived Celtic folk-rock band named North Wind, which once played at Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day. I led the drum circle at Unity Center, a local interfaith-friendly church.

I drummed for a Native American flute maker who was performing in a Las Vegas art gallery to promote his double flutes, which they carried. The next time I went to a powwow, he was there, and from then on I felt welcomed and connected with the Native community in the local and greater Southwest area. I dug out my old powwow regalia, which was now too small, untied the seams and put in extra panels to expand it to my new size, and wore it to powwows to dance the intertribal dances. I danced at the Las Vegas Honoring Veterans' powwow. I danced at Snow Mountain.

One day at a drum circle, some of the other women were doing reiki healings on each other. I was apparently the only person there who was not a reiki healer. They asked me to try doing a blessing with my drum, so I did. Magic flowed. I had never had any powers or talents for healing before, though I had attempted various systems. This was utterly natural. I just directed the open end of Mr. Hairy Goat at my target person and drummed. They all said they could feel their own energy lifted up into the drum, changed, healed, and then put back inside them at a higher level of energy. The next time the drum circle met, some of them said I had improved their conditions. People started asking me to perform drum healings every time. I learned that I couldn't do it too often, and I also eventually learned that I had to turn the drum on myself when I was done performing healings for the day or I would have a low-energy hangover with achy sleepiness the next few days. I learned through trial and error that to do a healing with the greatest chance of success and least personal energy expended, I had to wait until the drum circle had already done a few drum songs and raised energy and entrained with each other and then have them do a simple rhythm that I could follow along with doing a simple one-beat heartbeat rhythm, just a plain dum dum dum dum dum, and that while I was doing the healing it would work best if I did a slow beat regardless of how fast the rest of the circle was going. I learned to pull energy from the rest of the circle and direct it. All this, I learned entirely by doing it, sometimes doing it wrong, and doing better next time. I also learned that although he didn't mind if someone else played him, I couldn't have someone else drum for me with Mr. Hairy Goat and try to get any of the healing effects for myself; it just didn't work right, even though I felt like I wasn't really the one doing the healings, I was just the legs that carried the drum around, I was apparently necessary in some way to make the energy flow right.

Mr. Hairy Goat is a sacred healing drum, but Grandmother Elk is a sacred drum, too. She is a drum for leading a drum circle and getting everyone to entrain on each other and find a common rhythm, and to do conductor things like making everyone louder or softer and getting everyone to stop at the same time. She has a loud voice. Last year, I led the drum circle at my local Pagan Pride Day. I invited attendees to drum, provided instruments, collected their energy, and channeled it to the healers performing the ceremony. The leader of the healers said she could feel me throwing major energy. All this, because I went alone for the ride when I had the opportunity, and took what was literally put right in front of me.

Photo caption: me with my drum Grandmother Elk, at the labyrinth at St. Rose. The activities organizer of the local Catholic hospital asked me to drum for their Labyrinth Walk.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you! That's really cool.
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Loved this! It was giant powwow drum at the Gaea Goddess Gathering in KS that called my heart several years ago. I want to work mo

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Why kemeticism?

My personal spiritual journey started, when I was 12 years old.

There are people who were raised in religion, and the idea that God exists is therefore very natural for them.

But I was raised in soviet-style secular atheism. I had read a lot of things about religions, but the default mindset ingrained from childhood, was that “religion is a human invention, and an instrument of oppression and control. Gods are just mythology.”

When I was 15, I joined Russian Orthodox Church (mostly because I was baptized there when I was a kid and it seemed like a natural decision), but left it in 2005 to become Roman Catholic. However, the existence of the Gods of Egypt (Netjeru) was shown to me in obvious experience - and now I’m trying to live with it.

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