PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.
One of the aspects of archaeology that continues to amaze me is our ability to scrape tiny bits of residue out of ancient containers and figure out exactly what those containers held thousands of years ago. With this technique, we’ve been able to determine what the ancient Minoans ate and drank and even what kinds of cosmetics they used. Most people picture the people of the ancient world drinking wine, and they certainly did that, but the Minoans also drank mead. You might tend to think of this alcoholic beverage, brewed from honey rather than grapes, in connection with the Norse and the fabulous feasts at Valhalla, but mead was actually a popular drink all over the ancient world. Just be aware that it’s actually a wine, not a beer (honey beer/ale is a different beverage) so, unless you’re a god, don’t go quaffing it by the tankard-full. Today I’m sharing my recipe for mead so, if you like, you can follow in the footsteps of the many people who have brewed and enjoyed this beverage for millennia.
My first foray into making mead – actually, brewing at all, since mead was the first brew I made – began in 1993. I was inspired by an article I read in the Lughnasadh issue of Keltria Journal. The author of the article, Steven of Prodea, outlined his method for brewing mead. Over the years I’ve refined my recipe but the process is really quite simple. You don’t need to go out and buy any kind of fancy equipment. I brewed my first batch using an empty gallon glass jug (from store-bought apple cider) and a balloon. The ingredients are simple, too: honey, water, and yeast. The only real requirement is that you make sure anything that touches the mead – your equipment, your hands – is scrupulously clean. You don’t want any unfriendly germs competing with the yeast in your brew. The results will likely be undrinkable. So wash everything with hot, soapy water or run it through the dishwasher before using. And wash your hands well, too....
“If anyone wishes to be sure
in the road they tread,
they must close their eyes
and walk in the Dark”
--- st. Juan de la Cruz
The old man, wearing a long gray galabiyah and white turban on his head, one with a skin color of a dark coffee, the man with incredibly kind eyes, bright and full of knowledge and wisdom, looked at me and touched my hand again. “My daughter,” – he repeated with kind, but quite demanding voice, “follow me, let me show you how to pray. Many people come here for prayer. I see that you came for prayer. Let me show you what they do.”
He was a guardian in the temple of Medinet-Habu, working there for more than 30 years, and probably living there under the hot skies of Egypt, day by day seeing tourist groups and individual visitors in the temple, he gained the wisdom to tell, who is coming “as a tourist” just to glare at the magnificent ruins and take pictures, and who is coming for prayer and devotion.
I wondered if the words “I came here for prayer” were written right on my forehead. But I had been wearing my ceremonial garment, long white ancient Egyptian style dress and wide necklace. And while other people in the temple did not really care, probably thinking that I was just cosplaying Nefertari or Cleopatra or another Egyptian Queen, it was not a cosplay.
This is a photo of my campsite at Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2010, the year it was in Missouri. Pictured: my solar clothes dryer, strung between a shady tree and my truck, and socks that I washed in ice chest melt-water. That year, my book Asatru For Beginners finally had a print edition, after 8 years as only an ebook, so I went on a book tour.
I met a lot of wonderful people along the way. I had some truly awesome spiritual experiences at the festival, and some weird unplanned experiences too (one was: my truck decided I needed to be off the road at a specific place and time and broke down; the next morning's local paper showed a highway accident with a pickup truck exactly where and when I would have been.)
I spent a lot of time in the river at Pagan Spirit Gathering. I knew before I left that it was going to be hot, and I thought I was used to heat because I live in the Las Vegas valley. Ha. It is not the same at all. I started spending my afternoons in the river because of the heat, but when I took up current riding, it became something more. Current riding is floating down the river with no flotation device but my body, my lungs filled like a fish's swim bladder, arms and legs positioned to maximize contact with the water surface, which supports weight through surface tension. I learned what "going with the flow" really meant, both literally and figuratively.
I boondocked as much as possible. Boondocking is camping in a vehicle in an undeveloped area. Some of the vast tracts of empty federal land in the American West are approved boondocking areas. These can be located on maps by looking up boondocking. One of my planned boondocking overnights was the US Army mountain infantry winter training camp in the Rockies, which is approved for boondocking in the summer, but I ended up staying in a hotel in Colorado because of needing to fix my truck, waiting over the weekend for a part to be sent up from Denver. That was after the last stop on my book tour, and by that time I had totally worn out a purse, 5 hair clips (well, 1 of them I lost), a straw hat, 3 bathing suits, a tire, a camper shell strut, the truck's AC, and then, that part, too, all of which had to be replaced along the way.
I was on the road long enough to need to dye my hair again; I waited for one of my splurges on a room with running water to do that. No matter how tired I was when I stopped driving for the day, I always checked the truck's oil (to be checked with the engine hot) and checked the coolant in the morning (to be checked with the engine cold.) I carried hoses and belts with me just in case. For driving directions, I was depending on printouts from Google Maps that I printed before I left. I stopped and hiked in several places to take a break from driving and to connect with the land I was traveling in, and also did a lot of swimming.
People ask me once in a while if I was afraid to travel by myself because I'm a woman. Whenever I camped in the back of my truck, I was sleeping with my hand on the hilt of my Viking longsword. On my book tour stops, I displayed it as a heathen related cultural item, but I was fully ready and willing to use it for self-defense, too.
When I arrived at PSG, I built a small stone land spirit altar in my campsite, and managed to get along well with the local wildlife. I was there when Mama Gina wrote the PSG song. Lots of people attended my Rune Seminar. There was a ritual in which people were invited to honor the sun in the manner of their tradition, and I raised a toast to Sunna. Hearing "Hail Sunna" echoed back by what had to be a thousand people was one of the peak experiences of my life. Although I made a bit of a joke with this post by titling it "glamorous" and then talking about covering my gray roots in a motel bathroom before one of my public appearances, the spiritual experiences I had and the wonderful people I met on my trip were worth every moment of the not so great times.
This year I'm going on a book tour again, although with only 2 scheduled booksigning appearances. Tom N. and I are traveling to the last Ravenwood, a Northern California heathen festival we used to go to. I haven't been back since I moved from Sonoma to Las Vegas in 1995, and I'm looking forward to seeing old friends. I'll be signing my latest nonfiction book, American Celebration, as well as the new fiction anthology I edited, No Horns On These Helmets. I'll have copies of Asatru For Beginners along to sign as well, and some back issues of Berserkrgangr Magazine.
I'll be signing No Horns On These Helmets at WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention, which is in Spokane, Washington this year, where I will also be visiting family. My brother says he's going to rent a fog machine to hide his raspberry bushes so I don't eat them all. I told him I'll bring along a fan.
Some days when I look out my window from the Appalachians, I magically see the landscape of home, Scotland. The great mountain of Ben Lomond drawing in clouds of rain off the Atlantic. I can even hear the call of seagulls. No matter where I am in the world, I always feel that deep connection of a place called home.
That land, of which I am an integral part, is still connected to me, and still feeds me stories even though we are an ocean apart. One familiar character is the Cailleach, so old that even she doesn’t realize her own age. If you were to ask her how old age she was, she would reply:
'When the ocean was a forest, I was just a young girl'
The rediscovery of ancient faiths like Vesta, as well as other pre-Christian polytheistic belief systems, has been skyrocketing for years now. And while both men and women are embracing these, I’d like to focus here on why women are doing so.
For starters, more and more women are re-thinking the religious whopper that being born with a uterus automatically makes us subordinate humans to those born with a penis. I mean, honestly – would any self-respecting omnipotent being make such important designations based on genitalia?...
When I was a kid, I loved picking up the bright red seeds that littered the ground each fall. I was used to seeds being various shades of brown or black, and the riot of color that marked each passage into winter was always thrilling. I never really knew what to do with them; I'd usually carry them around for a bit and then discard them. But they were fascinating.
When most people think of the Southern Magnolia, they think of its huge white blossoms, which are currently in bloom. They think of the South, not Los Angeles. But we have them everywhere here, and to me they feel just as integral to Southern California as palm trees or pines....