Pagan Paths

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Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Art is Temporary, As Are We

"And they painted on cardboard, because it was new, cheap, and affordable. But they didn't know it wasn't archival, so very little of that work remains intact."  -The words of one of my art history professors, talking about a group of abstract expressionists or similar genre of artists from the 40's-50's. 

It sounded like some sort of moral failing - that these artists had abandoned expensive, time-tested techniques of canvas or wood panels to try something they could afford and was plentiful.  

Having been in art school for a good chunk of my life, as well as a professional high-end picture framer, I have come to see how much museum-culture of the last 300 hundred years has had an effect on the modern art-making process.  That we must work with archival materials, watch out for UV light and dampness, preserve, preserve, preserve.  Think about the future of your work.

The other week while finishing up my book tour, we stopped at Mt. Rushmore, as well as watched the 15-minute film about the making of it. I believe it was in part of a speech from FDR where he talked about the world 10,000 years from now, and what future generations of Americans may think when they see the monument, worn by the weather and time.  In that moment I was thinking two things: if there are even human beings on this planet then - and the condition of the giant sphinx in Egypt.

Just outside of the Mt. Rushmore theater is a display showing how they are trying to preserve the monument with bolts and silicon filler as cracks appear and threaten to fall out whole sections.  Trying to defy weather and time.

The nature of being human is know that we're physically mortal.  That our time on this planet happens in but a blink (or many blinks if you believe in reincarnation.)  The nature of art is to express what we're feeling in that time and moment.  To share our experiences, to put into visual format something that may not be able to be expressed in any other sort of way. Yet, probably because we recognize we are just a blip in the timeline, we can be obsessed with leaving our mark on the world somehow.  To show we existed, we lived and did.  

The reality of being an artist is, that just like life, art is temporary.  Maybe early man didn't just paint in caves, but over everything?  And the caves were protected from the elements, so that's what survived.  Much surviving marble statuary from Greece, Rome, and Egypt were colorfully painted, but only the stone remains. The portfolios of art I made in grammar school? Got soaked in a roof leak and molded. Trashed. The murals I painted at the RISD store and in the student center? Painted over when they remodeled. Canvases destroyed in moving, whole boxes of art "lost" by UPS. Art lost in divorces, destroyed by fire and hurricanes, art stolen. Then there's the art I paint over because I'm no longer happy with it/need the panel for something else. It sucks to lose art, but the great thing is: as long as I'm still alive and able, I can make more. And it will continue to grow and change, because it reflects my own experiences. 

I've been ruminating about art and leaving a mark in the background since the stop in South Dakota. However, yesterday I saw someone post a graphic comparing the tearing down of Confederate statues to ISIL destroying ancient artifacts - and other people bemoaning the loss of "art" and "culture."

That really broke my brain, and I could probably write a few chapters on just that, but I'll try and keep it short. I'm going to start with art: there's art for art's sake, and there's art with an agenda (advertising and propaganda).  Like while I'm sure there were artists during the Renaissance who were devoted Christians, reveling in exploring the realm of God and Jesus (in the same reverence that I explore Pagan deities) - but the bottom line is that the Church was a well-paying patron.  (And churches generally get to be well-preserved, so that artwork lasts - but we also know quite a few of those artists love painting Greek and Roman myths in their off time). Nearly every government uses the arts as a means to expand on a platform. Sometimes there are sincerely good, educational for-all intentions behind it. In Seattle, corporations and builders must spend a certain amount on public art.  That doesn't mean it's great art or that the artist was fully invested in the idea - but wanting paying the bills is something most artists like to do. 

Confederate statues - particularly ones that celebrate the tenants of the Confederacy-  were put up not to commemorate the loss of life decades after it happened, but to use art as a means of social propaganda. The culture they were made to celebrate is not one of heritage, but of slavery and the mindset that accompanied it. They were made not to inspire the future to better ideals, but to evoke past ideas. The call to remove them is not about erasing history (because removing a statue does not remove knowledge of history) but to remove art that was designed to intimidate and threaten, to call upon less than humane ideals and racist beliefs.

ISIL, on the other hand, is destroying monuments and historic sites to erase ALL OTHER CULTURES AND BELIEFS that differ from their own.  It's not enough that constant war has destroyed many beautiful things people have made over the centuries, in addition to the bruising from the sands of time.  It's taking those remnants and pulverizing them to erase them. 

So let's think about those two: A request to treat human beings equally - to remember our history, but also learn from it, without celebrating the terrible mistakes and ideas.  To continue to work towards building a more equal society where everyone is welcomed. Or the belief that one way is the only way, and that all others must be completely destroyed. 

You can't even put these two things in the same basket. The only things here that go in the same basket is ISIL and Nazis. 

As an artist I'm saying: art is not permanent, for better and for worse. However, there is always an opportunity to make more, to reflect the best parts of humanity versus preserving the worst. To use art to inspire our current generations, and maybe - just maybe future ones. But there's no guarantee.  

As a Witch, I'm saying: what you put belief and energy into, manifests. That we are capable of great change and power.  Sometimes things must be destroyed in order to make room to create it anew.  But we must follow our conscience to understand the difference, and use wisdom to act accordingly. 

In the end, the thing we should ask ourselves: if the art we make outlives us, what do we want to be remembered for? What message to we wish to pass down? That we staunchly held on to bigoted ideas, or that we aspired to be something more powerful?

We have just a brief time on this planet: make it beautiful. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Don't forget the sun...


I think sometimes as a witch the moon tends to get pride of place and the sun perhaps takes a back seat?  But it is an incredibly powerful source of natural energy and magic.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

My youngest son Robin (age 8) was recently accepted to be part of a kid's advisory group for a well-known national youth magazine.  Lots of fun!  One of Robin's first tasks was to send in some possible questions for a “you asked” column.  Some of his questions were pretty normal: how does a chameleon change colours? how many bricks would it take to build a life-sized Lego person?  Solid questions!  He also generated this question: what proof do we have that any gods exist?


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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Editorial note: Credit for the art added.
  • Shawn Sanford Beck
    Shawn Sanford Beck says #
    Thanks for all the friendly comments ... I really enjoy the community here at Pagansquare, and I'm thankful to be part of it!
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    Oh! You're the EcoSophia guy! Your blog is very interesting, kinda thought you'd disappeared from the Internet, but we all have ou
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    "Biblical theologian Walter Wink has done a wonderful job of unpacking the language of “powers and principalities” which we find i
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Rev. Beck, Thank you for sharing the underlying theology of your ChristoPagan beliefs. I'll pass along that bit from Tolkien to a

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Vesta as a Symbol of the Soul

Fire has long been a holy symbol, a representation of the spirit and even the divine.  Fire worship is one of the earliest forms of religion known to humankind – one can almost imagine our ancient ancestors marveling at the sight of a red ember crackling out of a fire and flying up and away into the black night sky.  It just sparks a sense of reverence, doesn’t it?

The ancient Romans sure thought so.  Building on Etruscan spirituality and borrowing at times from the Greeks, they built an empire – literally and metaphorically – around the sacred fire of the goddess Vesta. Rome's founding people lit Vesta's flame in the space that would become the Roman Forum and soon built a temple around it. 

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The Struggle of Sacred, Sensual, Sexual

In 5th grade, we had an assignment to make art depicting "innocence and the light and grace of God" (or something similar). I chose to draw a young boy and girl standing bathed in the light of the Holy Spirit (in dove form), their backs to the viewer, their bodies lightly covered in transparent shifts.  To me that showed the purity of creation, a clear symbol of innocence. I thought it was a beautiful drawing. 

My classmates called me a pervert and were horrified. My teacher told me they needed more clothes.  I didn't see anything wrong or shameful in what I had drawn.  

I grew up with big books of museum art full of nudes, wallpaper with naked women bathing in my parents' bathroom - which was no different than the metallic lions and tigers in the jungle on the walls of the bathroom my brothers and I shared. Bodies are used in art because they are amazing things.  I inherently understood that being naked didn't automatically mean being sexual. 

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Very interesting and well put. I too grew up with an artist mother and parents who didn't hide their bodies. My mom used to invite
Adventures in Sort-of-Reconstruction: Modern Minoan Paganism

Modern Minoan Paganism is something of a hybrid, combining reconstructionism (to the extent that we can) with a lot of do-it-yourself methods: shared personal gnosis, shamanic journeying, psychic archaeology. We're not trying to revive the exact religious practices of the ancient Minoans because, to be honest, we really can't. And there are all sorts of obstacles in our way, even if we did want to revive "the real thing."

We can't read the Linear A script that the Minoans used to write their own language. Yes, someone or other comes out with a supposed "translation" every few years but they're always wrong, but any well-trained linguist will tell you that we simply don't have enough text to do a proper decipherment. There are a few things we can tell about the script, but we honestly can't read it so we don't Minoan texts to go by (yes, I'm positively envious of the Norse and Irish reconstructionists and all their historic texts).

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Lokabrenna Day

Lokabrenna Day is on the heliacal rising of Sirius. This year, that will be August 8th through most of the USA. Lokabrenna means Loki’s Torch, and is the Icelandic name for Sirius. Some heathens and other pagans celebrate this day as sacred to Loki.

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