As a child in Ripon, California, I lived surrounded by almond orchards. The trees grew in neat, straight rows, in accordance with human desires rather than their own. The only time the trees were able to have a little freedom was during the annual Almond Blossom Festival, when they dropped pinkish-white petals all over the ground. Almond trees lined the main street of town, and the petals collected in drifts on the street, and blew through the air during the parade. I could sense the trees' exuberant happiness at that time of year.
The orchards were not just full of trees, though. They were also full of angry honeybees who lived to sting humans. I understood why. They were being kept as slaves, and forced to live a migrant lifestyle that did not suit them. Commercial beehives were moved around from one orchard to another, disorienting the bees. Although I could sense why they hated human beings, understanding them did not make me any less afraid of them. I was allergic and would pass out if I was stung, and they would chase humans, and they terrified me. 40 years later, I'm free of that fear, though the cost was too high-- I'll write about that when I catch up to the present day.
The Tradition of Hospitality
My mom's parents, who immigrated from Austria and were native speakers of Plattdeutsch, were nominally Christian but observed a number of traditional Germanic customs that no doubt originated in heathen times. Some of these customs had a coat of Christian paint on old heathen wood. There is an old tradition known among heathens today as Guestright. That is taking in transients, and goes back to the days when there was no such thing as a hotel, and back to a place where sleeping outdoors would surely mean freezing to death, so the custom had a practical function in society. It also had heathen religious overtones, because there were many stories of Odin wandering in disguise, and the traveler who came to the door might be Odin, and one had best not turn him away and anger him. My grandfather observed a custom of inviting a "bum" home for Christmas Eve every year. Although it was tied to a Christian holiday, that very holiday is also an old pagan and heathen holiday, Yule. The family claimed this tradition was about charity, but it was transparently really about honoring the wanderer. If it had been about charity, they could have invited a poor person from the local area, or made a donation. The custom was very clear that the person invited to the feast had to be an anonymous vagrant whose real name no one knew. Looking back, knowing what I know now about heathen stories and customs, it is quite obvious to me that was a survival of a folk custom meant to honor Odin. And it was still being practiced in the 1970s.
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Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.
“Peace and Blessings!”
If you’ve had a phone consultation with the Queen Mother Imakhu, you’re sure to recognize the trademark greeting, along with the joyful cackle. This time, I wasn't following my usual "Call The Queen Mother!" routine which usually involves bringing her a dream for interpretation or seeking guidance in untangling a leadership knot. This time, I was seeking to make her the subject of a blog post, hoping to speak about the nuts and bolts of Priestesshood....
The man who taught me yoga was lean and stringy—the very image of a traditional yogi, except for his greying mullet and tendency to sound like a Baptist preacher. But today his voice was soft as he led 70 would-be yoga teachers in one of our last exercises: getting over ourselves.
An Open Letter from a Mixed Ugric and Black Heathen:
by Lanaya Winterly...
And, not Or
I sit here in my Hudson Valley home’s very overgrown-and-green back yard, on a redbrick courtyard cobbled in the last decades of the 19th century, replying to emails and catching up on correspondence following this last week’s (very successful) Polytheist Leadership Conference, held in nearby Fishkill, New York. I open one email, praising such-and-such presenter’s discussion on this-and-that, and another which asks important moving-forward questions about community building, bilocation, interfaith dialog, and engagement strategies for further social outreach, education and communication. I eat pizza, and I ruminate, over all of the Guinness remaining from the various inter-community after-parties (during which theologies were addressed, gods discussed, and religious and social identities hashed out in hypothetical language around a fire lit with prayer and reverence), and I ponder....
I decided I wanted to begin a series of posts about the gods and goddesses of ancient Crete, and I figured I’d start with Ariadne, since she is the deity most strongly associated with the Minoans in popular culture. But I just couldn’t manage to get going with the writing; then Rhea asserted herself, popping up online and in conversations, and I realized she should be first. She was the Great Mother Goddess who presided over the Minoan pantheon in much the same way that my maternal grandmother was the matriarch of my extended family. So it’s appropriate to begin with Rhea. We’ll be starting at the top, so to speak.
Please bear in mind that our knowledge of the Minoan deities comes down to us from the later Greeks, and is filtered through their religious and cultural perceptions, which were different from the Minoan worldview. In order to understand any Minoan god or goddess, we have to dig underneath the writings of Greeks such as Homer and Diodorus Siculus to find our way back to the earlier levels....
On an otherwise entirely normal Saturday in July 2014, a group of several dozen Pagans travelled from across the UK to join together in creating something which had never been attempted before.
The Pagan Symposium was a meeting in London of representatives from Pagan groups, organised from an idea by Mike Stygal, President of the UK Pagan Federation. The goals were kept deliberately vague, but at heart, the hope was that each group would be able to come together to share their experiences, skills and wishes to assist the wider Pagan community across the country.
The challenge of such ventures, of course, is that no single group can ever accurately represent all Pagans; also, the natural reluctance of many Pagans to affiliate with any group, when our paths contain such a strong core of individuality. In the past, strong egos have been an issue, or vastly differing ideologies. The analogy of 'herding cats' was mentioned, but with the happy conclusion that this had somehow now been achieved!