My friend Jason Mankey turned over the reins of his "Raise the Horns" blog to a few guest contributors. Here's the mischief I got up to - Enjoy the read -
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.
Having an illness is not a weakness. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Seeking out help is a show of strength. And there’s a certain grace to the person who finds themselves having to do this over and over again in an attempt to find the key that will unlock relief for them.
Let’s stop romanticizing the dangers of things like shaman sickness sending a person out into the wild to freeze to death. Or, at the very least, if we’re going to pretend that we’d be better off in tribal society, let’s look at how our society, our little religious community, treats those who are sick… We still send them out into the cold to freeze to death. Only we do it with shame and perpetuating the myths that modern medicine is never the answer. We do it with turning our eyes away and not speaking up when we’re worried about a friend who seems to be having a particularly hard time…
On Spiritual Emergency, Shamanism, Mental Illness, Therapy, and Anti-Psychiatry Sentiment in the General Pagan/Polytheist Community | Foxglove and Firmitas
I wanted to share this quote (and the entire post) because it’s important for the pagan/polytheist community as a whole to read. But I’m coming at this from a somewhat different perspective, that of someone whose shaman sickness/spiritual emergency took the form of a chronic physical illness (fibromyalgia) instead of a mental one. Except, I don’t know if I can even properly make that distinction, since many doctors refuse to see fibro as a physical illness, even with its primarily physical symptoms; many of them see it as a mental illness, a case of wires being crossed in the brain so that a person experiences pain where there shouldn’t be any. I understand their reasoning for this: they don’t understand fibro because although there are parameters for identifying it, it doesn’t show up in blood tests or any other sot of laboratory-provable way. Therefore, they shove it into that great abyss wherein resides all other things that they do not understand: the brain. (This begs the question of whether or not it even matters if fibro actually resides in the brain or in the myofascial tissues, since both are still part of the body.)
I am pleased to announce that as a gift to my readers (and to Frey himself) for the equinox, I have re-released my Frey devotional Peace and Good Seasons (previously published in 2009 under the name Svartesol), a revised, expanded, and updated version....
In the summer of 1987, when I was 18, I studied at the University of Warwick, England. The quotes in this post are from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts. I visited the British Museum, cried when I saw the real original Beowulf, and encountered a real rune stone.
“It was taller than me and must have weighed more than a truck, and unlike the ancient tome I’d perused, it was not protected by a barrier. Cautiously, I touched its surface, traced the carved design, looking for traces of old paints.”
The only psychic impression I got off of it was great age. I did receive strong psychic impressions from places I visited in England, though. Object reading and place reading was not one of my natural powers, but I had developed it through reading the set of runes I had made.
The image that accompanies this post is of Avebury, a henge more primitive than Stonehenge. About 4,500 years old, it's the largest stone circle in Europe.
In the following quote from my memoir, mom and I had rented a car and were traveling around on the weekend when we did not have classes. Mom was taking a class at the University of Warwick, too, a graduate level course for professional development for her career as a public school teacher.
“Mom and I went to Stonehenge, but it was fenced off, and tourists were kept so far back it was like looking at a picture instead of being there. I stretched and stretched with my mind but I couldn’t get any impressions off it; it was out of my range.
Then we went to Avebury. Not just people but sheep as well were allowed to wander among its stones. There I felt power. Each stone was a spearpoint piercing the sky, a conduit by which earth and wind, rain and sun spoke to each other. The ditches and roads, the circles and lines, formed a web that radiated unto infinity. Life-force, numina, mystery, magic, god, these were the words invented for such a feeling. Solid stone, green grassy earth, the caesura in the movement that was an old green ditch, filled with emptiness, by these symbols the ancients did invoke the holy.
Then there was music. It flowed like fog across the greensward, ancient instruments, young women’s voices, words hovering on the edge of intelligibility, like a forgotten mothertongue. It fit so well with the mood of Avebury that for a moment I did not did realize it was real physical sound waves, and not something originating in my head. Then the words switched to English and I caught, “ancient ring, magical ring of stones.” Drawn as if by elvish minstrels, we followed the music to its source: a little shop at the edge of the fold, built of the ubiquitous golden brown stone. The tape playing was Clannad: Magical Ring.”
Somewhere in England, I had a profound spiritual experience in a Christian church.
“In some town or other, mom and I went into an old church, in the idle way tourists will enter any old building. I was not trying to sense anything, being uninterested in Christianity, but the power hit me as if walking in its threshold were like plugging into a socket, eight hundred years of history flash-downloading. My eyes noted high, arched windows, and wooden pews mostly empty, but my mind saw bare earth, a grove of trees, a holy place long before the Christians came. Then the foundations were dug, and it surprised me to feel no animosity between the pagan and the Christian ways of using this place, as if both were mere costume-changes in the same play. Stone by shaped, grey stone, bit by bit and pane by pane of colored glass, over generations, the loving hands of simple craftsmen and the gold and silver of merchants and lords built high toward heaven a defining structure. The brightly colored banners on the walls spoke of armies, soldiers and knights contesting outside these walls, but inside coming to beseech their god for victory, or afterward, for forgiveness. All the hopes, all the pain, all the fear and joy and guilt of every villager who passed within these walls welled up within me in an instant, discreet from each other yet massing like an army of the ancient days. Then times changed, the clothes on the villagers, the soldiers, and their betters changed, and there was more joy, more grief, weddings and funerals and births and confessions, and then times changed again. The lords and ladies, knights and wealthy merchants went away. The villagers became townsmen, sophisticated and agnostic. The ranks on the pews thinned. Then the tourists came. In the church bareheaded they came, with cameras and laughter, more interested in the building than in the purpose for which it was built. It was so sad, so sad, I couldn’t bear it. I swayed on my feet, and had to sit down, there on a wooden pew.”
(excerpted from my book, Visions of Vanaheim)
At the fall equinox in September is Selenestra Madonatal (seh-len-ES-trah mah-DOUGH-nah-tahl), which is Eshnesk (the language of the Eshnahai, the name the Vanir call themselves [via corroborated gnosis]) for the Festival of Gratitude. This is essentially the Vanic version of Thanksgiving, where people in Vanaheim feast with their families and count their blessings of the year. It is common for people to light lanterns or candles for each of their blessings and float lanterns down the rivers....
Last night an old friend came to me in a dream. He has been a genuine soul-mate, both before and after his earthly passing. Our affair of the heart was stormy, but in matters of spirit he always drew me to my best self. I blocked him out for many years, but for a while now have been aware of his benevolent and supportive presence. And he is not the only one. On the periphery of my awareness there is a veritable cloud of witnesses, as one sacred text refers to those who have crossed over. I don’t seek them out so often as I simply know them to be with me and part of me.
Not unlike contemporary Pagans, ancient Egyptians had a complex set of ideas about the afterlife which often look like contradictions without study and reflection. After the weighing of the heart in the Hall of Maat one might ascend to the sky as an “imperishable star” along with other ancestors. Or one might face defeat by the monster Ammit should the heart be out of balance. Most Egyptians simply hoped to live in comfort and happiness in a new world beyond. Those of a more religious ilk imagined detailed journeys through the Duat, including encounters with all manner of beings and neteru (gods). They understood this trip to be an alchemical sort of transformative process, describing the path of spiritual development....
Ask most folks how a pearl is formed and they'll tell you something like "A piece of sand or grit gets into the oyster's shell and then the oyster coats the grit and hey presto! We have a pearl"
It's a lovely story, but it isn't quite right. The coating part is accurate, but the "piece of sand or grit" isn't. Actually, the irritant is usually a parasite and it begins to eat at the lining of the oyster. The oysters immune system then begins to secrete two substances that form a nacre and then it basically entombs the parasite and its host, killing it and protecting itself. The byproduct of that self-preservation is a pearl. In cultured pearls, the oyster is actually wounded and it's that wounding that begins the healing process, eventually forming a pearl....