Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

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

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Holiday Rhythms

I awoke this morning to the smell of crisp fall air coming in my window.  It rained a little last night and I can smell that, too.  Today we gather for the first of several Samhain rituals this year as my circle is spending this season visiting other communities to learn more about how others experience the holidays.  It feels a little early for Samhain, but honestly, this holiday always comes rushing forth.  I never feel quite prepared.  This is my favorite time of year and there are always more fun things I'd like to do before the year ends.

One of my favorite parts of being a pagan is the way our holidays provide rhythm and movement to my life.  No matter what I'm doing with my work or my relationships, those six weeks always pass by the same and suddenly, another holiday is upon us.  Despite more than two decades living like this, I have to admit that they sneak up on me more often than I'd like.  Even as I build my livelihood out of my spiritual life, it is still so easy to get caught up in the mundane things going on that I don't notice the signs of season's change all around me. 

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Hmmm...For more than a decade I've lived my life around a different calendar. for me it's Samhain-tide or soon to be Lammas and I
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Yes indeed, it is such a lovely rhythm! So good to have you at our Samhain last night up in the North Bay!
Hit Piece in Sheep’s Clothing

One Saturday when I was chatting with the Native American chaplain who sponsors our Wiccan circle at San Quentin, he handed me a book.  He’d received it from the Jewish chaplain who’d been our previous sponsor.  Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by Catherine Edwards Sanders.  I said I was unfamiliar with the author and had not heard anything about it, although I generally keep half an eye open for newer Pagan publications.

He casually mentioned that according to this book, and according to the chaplain who gave it to him, ostensibly for the small library we keep in the Wiccan storage locker along with our ritual supplies, Wicca was for women and had little relevance here in an all-male prison.  Not that he thought that, but that the book made that case.  He gave it to me to take home.  Book sl-t that I am, I took it, thinking that with all the reading material stacked around my house awaiting my attention, it would be very low priority.

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  • Brenda Caudill
    Brenda Caudill says #
    That book is so wrong that I felt sorry for the author.
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Thanks for the warning. We used to say that the difference between Wicca and New Age was about one decimal place (in the price of

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Soulburn

 

Almost everyone I know has at some time had a sunburn. Nowadays I am ridiculously careful with sunscreen every day having had a skin cancer scare a number of years ago. Before then, I often didn't realize that I had had too much Sun until a day later when my skin was inflamed and sensitive. I can recall times when just a fingertip running across my arm felt like someone dragging a rusty nail across my skin. There have been times when the sunburn was bad enough that even a cool soothing balm felt like an assault upon my skin. There was also, in those extreme cases, a sense of malaise as well. Nature often repeats certain patterns, and human nature perhaps even more often. I have often observed that what we experience in our physical bodies is also similar to what we experience in our souls, our psyches, and our spirits. I think that we can get a soulburn, and it is very much like a sunburn. By the way, a soulburn is not the same thing as burnout which is what happens when we do too much and burn the candle and both ends and the middle.  

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    PS: 1) so many good insights in your post! 2) the dark in which we sleep is blessed.
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Ivo, this is so wise. I often talk to my students about not frying their circuits as magical practioners. If I understand you co
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Thanks Francesca, I would agree that fried circuits and soulburn are not the same but they do overlap. I also am a believer in th
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks for this, Ivo. I can really, really, really relate. Of course, the other side is when one isn't often invited anywhere, o
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Good luck on your foray into uncertain territory. Let me know when and I'll light a candle for you.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Why I write about my mistakes

I've noticed that the majority of books on magic and indeed even the online writing I come across is mysteriously devoid of the mistakes practitioners make when practicing magic. I'll admit I find this to be puzzling and less than useful for purposes of magical work, because in only presenting the successes a person has had with magic, what is missed out on is the process of trial and error, the refinement of technique and the recognition of the opportunity to learn. In both my books and blog articles, I share my mistakes in magical work because I find it useful to keep a record of what hasn't worked, as much for myself, as for the reader. A record of my mistakes helps me keep track of what hasn't worked, so that I can work on such processes further. It helps the reader see the process of evolution that a given technique undergoes as well see where mistakes were made. It also teaches the reader that mistakes are a natural part of the magical process and should be embraced as opportunities for learning.

No matter how skilled you are, inevitably you'll make a mistake. It's important to recognize the mistake and acknowledge it. This may be hard to do, especially if it brings up hard questions for you such as wondering if magic really works, but asking those questions are important and when you hit that moment of doubt, it actually is an indicator that your approach to magic is starting to deepen. A mistake challenges us to be honest with ourselves about our magical work and its relative meanings in our lives. If we only ever have success we don't really know what we can be capable of, because that success limits us from discovering what we really need to improve on.

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  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I agree. I think its very important to share these stories and help people learn frm them as a result.
  • Felix Warren
    Felix Warren says #
    This is really important. One of the number one things beginners tell me is that they feel like they're failures when things don't

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

When I was eleven years old, I became deeply engrossed in magic tricks and ventriloquism. Both of those studies quickly became compulsions for me, to the extent that I would practice them in the privacy of my room while my parents confidently trusted me to do my homework. Paul Winchell was a popular ventriloquist on TV at that time, and I had a Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy. I read books and learned the tongue-techniques of forming words without moving my lips. At the same time I devoured books on stage magic, discovering how to grab the spotlight by fooling an audience with digital manipulation, misdirection and mechanical illusions. 

At that point I could very well have been on track to become a colleague of Penn and Teller or Terry Fator—but such was not my destiny, for by the age of sixteen I had lost my enthusiasm for both of those trades just as abruptly as I had embraced them. The surprising reason was a sudden deep disappointment with their artificiality; I found that I no longer wanted to pretend to be the voices of animals and other non-human beings, I wanted to have real conversations with animals and sprites, in which somebody else would talk back to me! Neither was I satisfied to deceive people with illusions of magic tricks, I wanted to access the real magical powers of Moses, Solomon, Merlin and Jesus! 

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Beautiful! I think many of the people who contribute most to bettering society feel like failures to some degree, at least sometim
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thanks and smiles.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Viking Grief

One of the most moving poems by the Viking poet/magician/farmer Egil Skallagrimsson was one he wrote lamenting the death of his favourite son Böðvarr who drowned at sea, and his son Gunnar who died of fever. In skaldic form the twenty-five verses give voice to his sorrow with passion and beauty. Normally Vikings assuaged loss with revenge but there is no one to attack for these deaths.

Egil composes the poem after vowing to kill himself by starvation, unwilling to live in a world without his son. His daughter Þorgerður tells him she will die with him, but tricks him into drinking some milk and spoiling his hunger strike. She then suggests that the best way to memorialise her brother is to compose a suitable poem in his honour so that he will live forever.

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