When I first became interested in Paganism, one of the things that drew me in was the idea of women's spirituality and bringing the unique experiences of being a woman (often left out of Christianity and Judaism) into my path. As I further explored though, many of the concepts mainstream feminism focused on, like how to juggle career and motherhood, didn't seem to resonate with me. The way I think, and how I communicate is shaped through my perspective as an autistic woman. Along with the growing, mostly online neurodiversity community, I came to see autism not as a set of deficits, but as a different way of thinking and being. I found further inspiration in the GLBT community, as I saw folks like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus honor queer ancestors, heroes and deities. As a bisexual, I drew on that heritage, while also looking to eccentric inventors, artists and mystics throughout history and disabled gods like Hephaestus. I felt a calling to share this understanding of disability as a part of human experience, rather than something to only be pitied, "fixed" or medicalized.
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.
It's just after noon. The weather is warm. There's a slight breeze that causes the leaves high in the canopy to rustle. The redwoods are creaking as they rub against each other. Loud raven clicks and caws punctuate the quiet forest. I'm one of only a few people standing in the camp grounds and we are all silent, breathing deeply, settling our rushed minds and sinking in, just sinking in.
In two hours witches from all of over the world will arrive. Some journeying to these woods for the first time, others coming home as they do each year. There will be hugs and kisses and hearty shouts of "oh! There you are. I'm so glad you came back." After the hub-bub of getting here subsides and the first night's dinner dishes have been put away, it's time for ritual....
A lot of people have been asking me how I got into pop culture magick of late. It’s a difficult question to answer because it’s always been a part of my magickal practice. When I was a little girl I remember imagining Rainbow Brite protecting me from thunderstorms and nightmares. When I was a teenager I would “talk” to Hamlet and Horatio when I felt misunderstood and needed guidance. So even before I knew what real magick was, I was doing bits and pieces of pop culture magick. I suppose the first time I intentionally did pop culture magick, though I didn’t call it that at the time, was when I first started working with the elements.
For my use of pop culture magick to really make sense you’ll need a little context. I grew up in a household where hiking and enjoying nature were valued side by side with science and engineering. I remember meandering through woodland trails in the North Cascades while talking to my Dad about NASA, Star Trek, and fairy tales interchangeably. My love of mountains and general geekery were born and nurtured at the same time and in largely the same way, so they’ve always been intertwined in my mind. For me, there’s never really been a separation between the magicks of nature and the realities of the mundane world.
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....
My apologies to Anne and the crew at Witches and Pagans for being absent for awhile. I started several pieces--one of which is polished and ready to publish, but it still sits in my draft-box. Every time I would start to write something seemingly poignant and important, the world would change with either horror or triumph and would render the piece no longer relevant--at least for now.
Several years ago.......
Spirituality 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.
Not 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.
Around 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.
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....