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Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Casting the Circle - Holding the Magic

Several years ago my daughter and I attended an interfaith event at a Christian church. As we sat down in the pews, my daughter leaned over to me and said "How come we aren't sitting in a circle? How will everyone see each other if some people are behind other people?"

I can't think of a better way to highlight the differences between most* Pagan rituals and those of other, more mainstream faiths. For the most part, we do gather in circles. No one person is in front of another person and, in theory, a newcomer to the circle wouldn't be able to tell who was in charge just by the position that a particular person or persons occupied. There's something crucial and fundamentally different in that small action that separates Pagan gatherings from other religious or magical rites.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Thank you Lizann. You can take the witch out of the kitchen but you can't take the kitchen out of the witch!
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Love this!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Lollus, Löhl, and Ursul din Lăloaia

Genealogical research led me to a god of which I'd never heard. My family name, Lale, was originally spelled Löhl. Lale is a phonetic spelling in English of the way Löhl would have been pronounced.

Back in the 90s when I became an initiate of the modern version of the Bersarkrgangr tradition (see my paper Bersarkrgangr: The Viking Martial Art) they told me my name was a Chatti name, and that the Chatti tribe were cat-type bersarkrs who followed Freya, just like me. The Chatti came from the area in Europe that was briefly Alsace-Lorraine, an area of mixed French and German influence. That meant I was from one of the right families, which was one of the two prerequisites to be eligible to join their group.

The internet era has enabled genealogical research with records from all over the world that have been scanned and are now available through this marvelous device right from home, without having to travel to every town and country and examine the records in person or pay someone else to do so. Family legend said the original Lale ancestor in America was kicked out of France for lycanthropy. That would have been in the 1700s, before the American Revolution. Recent genealogical research my brother did on the net turned up a kernel of truth. We did have an ancestor who was banished from a country, but it was Bavaria, not France, it was the late 1500s, and the charge was not being a werewolf but being a Protestant. That's a sobering example of how much oral transmission of information can change the story over time.

That's as far back as an unbroken line of records go, so with anything earlier than that, I'm just speculating about whether it has any connection to my family, but what I found is interesting nonetheless.

There is a river Löhle in today's Germany, near the town of Böblingen in the region of Württemberg. Württemberg is where the Lale ancestor who came to America was actually from (not France as the family legend said.) The river may have been named for Lollus, or the other way around.

Lollus was known as a god of the Franks, a Germanic tribe. There was a Saint Lollus in the 700s. Offerings of grapes and grain were given to Lullus or Lollus at the place called Löhle or Lölle. Whether these gifts were to the god Lollus or to Saint Lollus, or whether the people making the offerings drew any distinction between the two, is unclear. Did the god Lollus walk among the people in the 700s in the form of a human, Christian Saint?

Not much is written about Lollus in English. The book Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan, says Lollus was depicted as a naked young man holding his tongue. It suggests he may have been paired with Frija, a combined form of Frigga and Freya.

A name dictionary I consulted as a teenager told me the name Lale meant nothing in French, but meant "one who speaks" in German. This article on connects Lollus to speaking in tongues, and states that the opium poppy was sacred to him:

So, are people with the name Lale or Löhl descended from the people who worshipped Lollus, the people from the area bearing his name? I don't know, but I wonder.

The earliest reference my brother uncovered to a name that could be a Lale variant is a Roman soldier named Laleianus. The name is on Trajan's Column in Rome. Supposedly Laleianus helped conquer the Pannonians, a people that lived in what is today Romania and the Danube region. This did not seem to connect with Lollus the 8th century god or saint. There was however another Roman, named Marcus Lollius, a prominent political figure who was the patron of the city of Sagalassos in Turkey.

The story of Laleianus and the Romanians did not seem to connect with bersarkrs, either, until I ran across this video of a Romanian folk dance labeled Urs Laloaia:

Romanian Bear Dance Urs Laloaia:

With thanks to translator James Hoscyns: ursul din
Lăloaia means the bear from Lăloaia. Lăloaia is the name of a mountain and a village at its base in Bacău in Romania.

The music has this drum song:

Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
(pause then repeat)

The dancers step on the dums. 

This dance has been preserved as a festival dance in parts of Romania and Moldova. Here are a couple of videos where the camera was closer to the dancers:

Parade through town:

March through a snowy street and then dancing at a house:

More videos of this dance are found by searching the keywords Tot Ursi or Ursul de la Dărmăneşti.

The bear dancers in each of these videos make a strange trilling sound. It is not really a bear-like sound. It is unlikely to be a direct imitation of the sounds that bears make. This trill has some other origin. Could it be connected to the lalling of Lollus?

So far there does not appear to be any evidence beyond similarity of names and the strange trilling sound of the dancers connecting Lollus with bears, or with the bear dance, or bersarkrs, but this is an interesting avenue for further research. Eventually I hope to turn this quest for knowledge about my ancestors into a formal paper on Lollus. I would very much appreciate being directed to more information on Lollus, or the Lale name in any of its variations, or the bear dance.

Image caption:
Ursul de la Dărmăneşti dancer, photo credit Dan Duta via Mediafax Foto.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Vestals, Feminism & the "Evil Field"

Despite the resurgence and richness of the Vesta tradition, many people who think “Vestal Virgin” still think of one thing: the fact that Vestals who broke their vow of chaste service to the goddess were buried alive.  Let’s be honest.   Who can blame people for going there?  It’s a pretty dramatic image: a young woman being thrown into a shallow grave and trying to claw her way out while dirt is being piled on top of her.

Of course, that isn’t how it happened.   It was considered a sacrilege to kill a Vestal, so those who were found guilty of incestum (breaking their vow of chastity) were taken to the Campus Sceleratus or “evil field” just inside the city walls of Rome where they descended a ladder into a subterranean pit.   They were given enough food, water and light to last a few days.   This absolved the Roman people of guilt for their death.  Talk about a technicality.

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  • Arwen Lynch
    Arwen Lynch says #
    A very interesting post. For me, my answer to your question would be that one of my goddesses is much maligned as an evil witch. B
  • Debra May Macleod
    Debra May Macleod says #
    Hi Arwen, Thank you for commenting! I love it - "I brought you in. I can take you out." Fantastic. But how upsetting that the

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Unpacking Piety

Do ut des means “I give so that you may give.” It is one of the defining points of Roman polytheism, and it is the most important. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out how the Romans viewed their Gods. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out a different approach than what we likely grew up with in regard to relationships with the Gods and society as a whole.

Ask someone in the Pagan community about Roman polytheism and you will regularly hear that it was contractual to the point of lifelessness. Actually, ask a lot of Roman polytheists the same, and they will repeat that statement as well, preferring to take the outdated tone of early scholars of the Roman religion, who regularly were Christian and carrying on a long tradition of upholding their perceived superiority through biased writing and opinion.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

And in my heart the daemons and the god
Wage an eternal battle ...

-- W.B. Yeats

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
New Faces for Old Gods


What does it mean for old gods and their worshippers when the old gods are given new faces and personas in pop culture media?  The recent upswing in portrayals of old mythic figures in pop culture (think of the Marvel movies, comic books like The Wicked and the Divine, TV shows like Supernatual, books like The Gospel of Loki, etc.) has put modern practitioners, especially polytheistic pop culture practitioners like me, in a bit of a quandary.  What do you do when you’ve been working with a deity for years and suddenly a character with their name, but a whole new mythology and personality, becomes a pop culture sensation?  If you’re introduced to a mythic figure via a bit of pop culture can you work with the old god with the same name?  It can be more than a little confusing.  In this article I’ll try and clarify a few points and, hopefully, soothe a few ruffled feathers.  

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_osiris.jpgWe traveled up the Nile to visit some of ancient Egypt’s primary cult centers in the last post.  Since that time, the star Sopdet (Sirius) has begun to show herself at the horizon just before dawn.  This tells us that Isis has been weeping for her murdered husband Osiris, and soon her tears will cause the annual Nile flood.

With the inundation comes the end of Shemu, the dry season.  As the flood waters recede we find ourselves in the season of Akhet.  We can see the fields full of rich black silt left behind by the flooding river; the farmers sow seed now, knowing crops will flourish as they grow in the fertile black ground.

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