Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Different Drummer

Hello! My name is Jean Pagano and I am a Druid. I also go by the name “Drum”, so you may see me called by either one. I am a neo-pagan. I am honoured to have been asked to blog for this fine collection of writings.

I am a very long-time member of ADF and RDNA. RDNA is the oldest Druidic organisation born in America (circa 1963) and it has two tenets: a) Nature is Good; and b) Nature is very Good. As a neo-pagan, I think that everyone can agree on these two important and fundamental notions. In RDNA, we venerate the Earth Mother, Be’al, and a number of other deities. I am a Druid of the Third Order in RDNA and a priest.

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  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    Welcome! I look forward to reading your stuff!
Syrian Women, 1993, Palmyra, Temple of Ba'al and Fertility Goddesses

Sabeen and Miriam's Damascus, Syria home was a tiny minuscule brick block affair. Apple trees surrounded the perimeter and were covered in pink blossoms this March day. The aged neighbor had a few ancient olive trees in his front yard. They had a postage stamp size garden with plantings of peppermint, parsley, chicory, and sage. Peppermint tea was being brewed when I arrived, and delicious smells of stuffed green peppers wafted out of the minuscule kitchen. Deeply embraced, Alternate Agnes felt immediately at home.

The peppers were served with couscous made with parsley fresh from the garden. First, we ate and then we talked. I wanted to know about women’s rights in Syria and was told that Syria was under emergency law and that most constitutional laws had been suspended for women and all citizens. The system of government was non-democracy and women’s rights were meager, I deduced. Sabeen, beautiful in western dress of slacks and white shirt, told me they were Christian Arabs, and she had a university degree and was an elementary school teacher. She had attended Damascus University, and I learned that all universities and colleges were government-operated, but that other Arab nations had been applying to open private universities. I asked Sabeen if she had to pay for her education. She replied, “I paid only a very small portion as my marks were above average and I was a good student.” Mama Miriam, a large masculine looking woman, with a Roman nose nodded her head in affirmation. She spoke very little English, but was fluent in French, this country having been occupied by the French from the First World War until 1943.

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Surviving the Holidays...with Deadpool?

Ah, the holiday season: time of joyous family togetherness, or, if you’re like me, a time for anxiety and generally trying to hide and become one with the wallpaper.  I love my family but they make my brain revert into a horribly awkward teenager for some reason.  Consequently, I feel the need to gird myself a bit in order to face them and being the nerd I am I often turn to pop culture magick for a boost.  A few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a Deadpool ugly xmas sweatshirt and joked over on facebook that I’d use it in a spell to help me make it through the holidays.  Of course that got me thinking about how I might do just that.b2ap3_thumbnail_Deadpool.JPG

In previous writings I’ve advised people not to try and work with characters like Deadpool due to their incredibly unpredictable nature.  For most pop culture workings it is easiest to work with characters that are relatively straightforward and predictable.  You can pretty much always rely on a character like Spock to help you find a logical solution to a problem or for a character like Steve Rogers help you stand up to bullies.  No brainers, really.  It’s far more challenging to work with a character whose actions are difficult to predict.  You never really know what chaotic characters like the Joker, Delirium, or Deadpool are going to do.  Sometimes they’re pretty decent people, other times they kill or maim everyone in the room - you just never know. While it’s difficult to work with unpredictable, chaotic characters, it is possible.  There are two keys to working with unpredictable characters: version control and guidelines they will actually follow.

Regular readers of mine will recognize that version control is something I talk about a lot in regards to pop culture magick.  In this context, version control is simply figuring out which of the many existing iterations of a character you want to work with in this instance.  There are a lot of different versions of Deadpool out there in the world and their behavior can be radically different.  For example, the Deadpool you get in the Posehn/Duggan era comics is rather different than the one in the Ultimate Spiderman cartoon series (much less murder in the latter than the former).  For a straightforward character I recommend finding whatever version of that character’s personality best suits the working you’re trying to do and using it.  For a less predictable character I have to amend that to: find the version of the character that you know best and that you think might actually listen to you.  In order to work with an unpredictable character sanely you have to know it very well; well enough to understand their motivations and use those motivations in order to get it to do what you want and nothing you don’t want.  That is easier said than done.  For all that I know the Deadpool of saturday morning cartoons is likely to be easier to work with than the comic Deadpool, I don’t watch those cartoons and thus don’t know that Deadpool well enough to hope to predict his actions.  Thus, even though he’s a lot more dangerous, I could only ever work with the comic Deadpool because he’s the one I know best (though I’ve got several years worth of comic Deadpools to choose from, oy vey).

The second key to working with unpredictable characters is by far the most difficult to figure out: guidelines they will actually follow.  By their very nature, chaotic characters don’t like rules.  This is where really understanding the version of the character you’re working with is invaluable.  The only way to figure out how to phrase your working guidelines in a way the character will actually follow is to know that character inside and out.  I can’t see successfully working with this type of character if you’ve only got a casual connection with them.  To get a chaotic character to walk the path you want them to you need to phrase your goals in a way that will make them the character’s goals as well.  Use the thoughts and motivations you know the character already has in order to make them want your goals to happen in the way you want them to happen.  In my “Holidays with Deadpool” thought experiment my guidelines would have to include things like no harming anyone and keeping all snark non-verbal and confined astrally to not spill over onto my hapless relatives.  In order to get his compliance I need to figure out why Deadpool would ever want to be confined to those rules?  I know from the comics that Deadpool has a fairly well developed sense of morality and is pretty big on protecting the innocent, particularly children; he may be insane but Deadpool is a good guy at heart.  He is also incredibly playful, so I know that if I can make fulfilling my goals a game that he can win, Deadpool will toe the line.  Therefore, in order to get Deadpool to help me navigate the holidays while keeping to my rules I have to explain my goal is to maintain the happiness of my family and to make sure that strife doesn’t make my adorable little nieces cry.  As a bonus, he would get points for each time he prevents me from feeling bad without alerting my relatives to his presence or making them think I’m nuts.  If he gets enough points by the end of the night he’ll get an extra offering.  Use your knowledge of unpredictable characters’ thoughts, motives, and backstory in order to get them to want what you want and you should be ok.

Working with unpredictable characters is a calculated risk because you cannot guarantee they’ll behave themselves.  I would only recommend doing so if you really, really know the character well and have a deep enough connection with them that you feel comfortable with what you know they might do in a given situation.  With a firm grasp of the version of the character you want to work with and confidence in guidelines you believe the character will actually follow even someone like Deadpool can help make your holidays a bit brighter.  Do your spellwork safely. Happy Holidays!

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Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Utopias

The world is a complicated place, and it’s tempting to divide it up into good guys and bad guys to simplify things, make life a little easier to digest. A good example of this kind of simplification is the Minoans of ancient Crete.

I’ll admit, when I first discovered this fascinating Bronze Age civilization, I felt like they were practically a utopia: equality for women, no military, a beautiful religion based around nature. Heck, they even had paved streets and flush toilets.

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2015 Pagan Best of the Best

It's that time of year again folks, when the media starts releasing lists. The "Most Memorable Moments of 2015" or the "Top Ten Really Important Things That You've Already Forgotten About". I'm not a fan of lists. I find that lists make me grumpy. Why should I only remember these ten things? I frequently find that I didn't see any of those Top Ten must see movies and I'm pretty sure that those Top Ten Celebrities That Changed America, didn't actually change much at all.

So this is not a "list" blog. Think of it, perhaps, as a collection of my favourite seven (I like seven, it's sort of witchy and isn't Ten) Pagan writings that you might like to read at some point, and in no particular order (except number one on the list. You do have to read that one first). Imagine that the author (that's me) just sort of bumped into you at your favorite eating spot and said "Oh! Look what I think is interesting and compelling. Read these."

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Intuition and Inspiration

My spiritual journey, as a South African born Pagan, began at the age of six. Both my parents worked full time and I was raised by a Zulu nanny in their absence. Virginia would walk me home from school in the afternoons. One afternoon as I was about to walk into the kitchen, Virginia shouted to me to stand still. She had never before raised her voice at anyone. I froze. Seconds later a lightning bolt struck the top of the metal door frame, slid down and up the doorway, and disappeared. I remember the smell of pure electricity. She took me by the hand and sat me down at the kitchen table. While she poured a cup of tea and placed the sugar bowl in front of me, I wondered how she had known about the lightning strike before it happened.

This memory has remained vivid for me to this day. It served as the first small awakening for what has become a life-long quest to know more about and understand the occult - the hidden. Over the last 40 or more years I have explored and studied Shamanism, Traditional African religions, Druidry, western and eastern magical traditions, occultism, divinations, medicinal and magical herbalism, folk-lore, mythology, European 'pagan' religions and Witchcraft. I consciously identified as a Witch by the age of 20. As I near my fiftieth birthday, it's become easier to quantify my personal belief system as a combination of animism and pantheism.

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There's a cycle in the Pagan blogosphere that needs to be interrupted. This or that public figure of Paganism stumbles, mildly or majorly, anything from making an offensive statement to doing something seriously unethical and even illegal. More than half the time, I think to myself "Who is this person, and why should I care?" But one by one, many take it upon themselves to step up and denounce or defend to demonstrate their upholding of ethics, Real Paganism(tm) or Loyalty and Respect for Our Elders (tm) Then we get upset about which "sides" our favorite bloggers, authors, festival presenters have taken, or not taken and there's another wave of backlash. I admit to taking part in this, but this last couple times I hesitated. What impact does my speaking or writing on this have? Is this person accountable to me? Do they follow the same value system as me? Do they represent my tradition or organization? Can I have a face to face conversation with them? 

I often put more thought into my writing than my speech. I try to talk quickly to get in all the words I want to and end up sounder more foolish as a result. The Druidic virtue of eloquence is certainly one I need to work on! I know my Wiccan compatriots have a saying about "Speak ye little, listen much" and the title of this blog post refers to the Witches' Pyramid, To Know, To Will, and To Keep Silent. I guess To Speak falls under To Will- it's not my pyramid, so y'all might have to explain it to me.

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  • John Reder
    John Reder says #
    Maybe "cliquishness" is a word that is grossly underused as though seemingly an undramatic little word it does cut to the heart of
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    I agree we need to call people out for bigoted comments and behavior. Since I don't know any of the people involved in this partic
  • Lizzy Hood
    Lizzy Hood says #
    I agree with your approach, especially the "I statements" method. That said, I would like to see more voices raise up, not in judg
  • John Reder
    John Reder says #
    The main problem Lizzy is the matter of "elders" in the Pagan communities. In almost every community (or coven) one is subservien
  • John Reder
    John Reder says #
    Mariah is addressing confrontations that are directly hostile, such as most of the political discourse that appears on the interne

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