Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Virgin Scrying?

Did you know that it was once thought advantageous to use virgins for scrying? While crystal balls are probably the most common form of scrying known now, and maybe second to that mirrors (you probably know John Dee's famous mirror). But other reflective surfaces have been used, including onychomancy (divination by a polished fingernail).

Claire Fanger makes a good argument for the late medieval link between scrying and summoning spirits. While summoning angels and binding demons might appear on the surface to be completely different skill sets or activities, clearly the two are easily linked because of the cosmological outlook both share:

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Precious Nature

While I usually spend my time in more distant history, I have found myself lately digging into early twentieth century pagan writings like Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willows (which I wrote about here: Nettles & Mugwort) and just recently Mary Webb's classic Precious Bane. While often connected to Thomas Hardy due to both the time period and geography they share, Webb has a much more inspiring view of nature and a generous view toward her fellow humans.

Telling the story of Prue Sarn, Webb explores many of the traditions the writer knew well from her childhood, practices that included everything from sin eating to mummers at Christmas. And she offers one of the most beautiful pieces of transcendent writing about the power of nature in Prue's moment of enlightenment. She has hid herself in the attic of their old farm house, not long after the death of her father, because her brother made her realise that her 'bane' was a terrible thing. She was born with a cleft palate, known then as a 'harelip' because it was believed, a hare spooked by the devil had crossed her pregnant mother's path, cursing her.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The dark moon is coming up in a few days, and shortly after that we will see the first sliver of the new moon in the sky. I have for a long time made a practice of acknowledging the presence of the new moon in some way, as it marks the beginning of a new cycle of the moon. In folklore it has also long had great significance and I think its important to acknowledge that. 

There was a belief that you could tie your luck and wealth to the growing light of the moon by turning any money in your pocket or a ring on your finger when you first saw the new moon and reciting a small chant. This sort of sympathetic magic is simple and easy for anyone to do and represents a common form of folk magic. 

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Powerful Hues: Protective Colors in Household Lore

Color symbolism is a major and timeless element of magical practice. Colors have been used in spells and rituals, in the construction of talismans and spiritual art, and in the protection of the household for centuries. Humans are highly visual creatures; as animals, we rely primarily on our sight for nourishment and protection, and color perception has helped our species identify safe things from dangers. It's natural that colors would take on powers of their own over time.

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Psychologically, we are made of very tough stuff – the mental equivalent of Titanium! As a consequence, it is extremely difficult to knock off our rough edges. It takes a painfully long time, and many abrasive experiences.

However, when those rough edges finally have been smoothed off, we will find it easy to slip into the next life with no catching, complaint or resistance.  It will come as naturally as the progression from caterpillar to butterfly, as consciousness graduates from one level of experience into a higher one.  

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Chicken Magic in Folktales and Lore

Chickens are humble animals. They’re heavy, mostly earthbound birds, spending their days pecking at the ground, clucking or crowing, bobbing their heads as they strut around the farmyard. They don’t exactly radiate mysterious elegance in the way that cats and rabbits do. However, when we look closely at European folk tales and medieval lore, we see that chickens very much had a significant place in European folk magic, especially as creatures of protection and sacrifice.

In lore about the river-dwelling Nickelman, or Nixie, Benjamin Thorpe notes that “in Thale they were formerly obliged annually to throw a black cock into the Bode [River]; for if they omitted to do so, someone would certainly die within the year” (87). Claude Lecouteux makes note of this kind of sacrifice several times in The Tradition of Household Spirits, one example being:

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In my last blog here I talked about blending personal gnosis and folklore or other people's anecdotal accounts. Today I want to look at another important factor to consider as you set off on the Fairy Road - considering the perspective of the sources you are using. We live in a time when there are possibly more resources for studying fairies than ever before but the quality of these sources is, shall we say, exceedingly wide ranging. There are an abundance of good quality sources of course but people seem to take any and all such material equally rather than giving different weight to each based on its individual biases and viewpoint.

Considering a source's perspective is very important in deciding how to approach the material - to put a twist on an old saying 'not all sources are created equal'. And not all sources share a common view or understanding even of the same subject. The way that the educated English of the early modern period understood and approached fairies is very different from the way that the people in rural communities seemed to have done the same, and both are very different again from how people in Ireland in the same period understood the Daoine Sidhe. Lowland Scottish folklore about fairies found in the ballad material has its own perspective as well. And all of these differ from anecdotes we may find today in those same places. We also have to consider that people - myself included - who are outside the living cultures may have a different perspective as well.

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