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
Midsummer: Watch Out for Fairies!

The longest day in the Northern Hemisphere is upon us: Midsummer has reached even up here in Scotland where the long days go on and on even when we don't have sun. We've had more than our share lately, which is a bit disconcerting.

I have been deep in Scottish fairy lore for a project I'm working on. It's not my usual bailiwick but I am enjoying the tour immensely. One of the unexpected delights (thanks to a recommendation of the Folk Horror Revival group) is A. D. Hope's A Midsummer Eve's Dream: Variations on a Theme by William Dunbar. I have mentioned the late medieval Scots poet in previous columns like A Headache in Medieval Scotland and A Meditation on Winter.

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The Dragon of the Home

It flies above rooftops, snaking down chimneys to steal wealth or sustenance. Sometimes it appears as a bolt of fire. Other times, it takes the form of a small, red-coated man. Still other times, it appears as an animal -- a lizard, serpent, black cat, rooster or chicken. In Occitan and Catalan cultures, it's called drac, a term related to the more familiar dragons ("Drac"). Like dragons, dracs are connected with wealth and fortune, although unlike "wild" dragons, domestic dracs bring these things to the masters and mistresses of their dwelling (albeit, at the expense of their neighbors) (Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic). It makes its home in chimneys or behind the stove -- hot places, where fire naturally dwells, the center of the home. It is a shape-changing spirit, a trickster, but it is happy to serve its chosen family as long as it is well cared-for.

Wild Spirits

So how do dracs come to be? One tradition states that they are born from a yolkless egg; another claims that they are established in a household through a contract with a devil (The Tradition of Household Spirits 154). In Demons and Spirits of the Land, medievalist scholar of folklore Claude Lecouteux argues that the term "devil" is used in these instances to represent a land spirit:

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    I love this, thank you!!!!!!! —a dragon's granmother and a daughter of dragons.
Can you work with the Internet as a spirit?

Recently, one of my readers asked me an intriguing question. She wanted to know if the internet could be a spirit in its own right, a deity that could be worked with. She had done some work on her own and that work seemed to say yes, but she was curious about my perspective on it, so I figured i'd share it through an article.

The first time I got on the internet, it was 1995. I was in my last year of high school and I got to use a computer for the first time and access the world wide web (as it was known back then). Why do I share that with you? Because I didn't grow up with the internet. I had to adapt to it. I fortunately did so, while I was still a teenager, and to be honest I took to the internet like a fish takes to water.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I tend to think of cyberspace as a biome like grasslands, deserts, and temperate forests are biomes.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    That's anther good way to describe it.

Two of our students from the current Per Ankh II course share rituals they created as classwork.

Gratitude Ritual by Selina White

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hathor.jpgThis aim of this ritual is to offer up and give thanks to Hathor for five things you are grateful for on foot of a success/triumph. The number five is used to reflect the myth of the five gifts of Hathor, where a person initiated in the cult of Hathor would be asked to name give things that they were grateful for while looking at the five fingers of their left hand, the left hand being the hand that typically grasped the plentiful crop while the right hand cut and harvested it.

The altar is dressed with lighted candles and any number of items which represent Hathor to the participant, including:
Fresh flowers;
A necklace or piece of turquoise;
Sweet cake;
A horn;
Sycamore leaves;
A mirror;
etc.

Opening invocation:
“Hrt-Hrw, of the domain of Horus, Heset, wet-nurse to the gods
Nurturing mother, mistress of song and dance, of celebration and gratitude, bringer of life and comforter in death, I offer to you in gratitude all that you have lovingly bestowed unto me”

Raise the item of gratitude above your head, imagining your arms to be the horns of plenty of Hathor, the item being embraced within them.

For non-physical items you are grateful for, use a symbolic object or visualise the item over your head being embraced by the your arms, being the horns of Hathor.

With the item raised above your head, say:
I offer to you, Hrt-Hrw, Goddess of Love and Abundance, [name the item], may it serve and benefit me in accordance with your will and in ultimate service to humanity.

Place the item on or near the altar and place your left hand over it for a few moments, while ringing the sistrum.

Repeat this for the remaining four items.

Closing invocation:
May these offerings of gratitude please you, Hrt-Hrw, Lady of the Stars and Lady of the West. I ask you to bestow upon me abundant life, happiness and prosperity. May each day find me grateful to you for your five gifts and help me realise that if I should lose one, that there will always come another in time, flowing from your infinite divine nourishment.

Ring sistrum a number of times. End the ritual with a celebratory meal of bread/milk/wine/honey with song and dance.

Morning Devotion to Ra - by John Scruggs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tutankhamun_Falcon1_retouched.jpgOn the altar is a scarab, a votive candle, a stand to hold the clothing made for Ra.
The ritual takes place just before sunrise - or upon rising.
The ritual begins with making an origami kimono which will be used as a dressing for the altar.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, mighty one who on his barque sails with the sun across they sky, we welcome you home from your night’s journey. We beseech thee to rise so that light may shine on the land and bless crops and villagers alike. That all may grow and prosper in the light of your day.

Water is sprinked on the altar and on ourselves. Embodying Ra speak:
We bath thee Ra in the water of life as the Nile that by thy grace floods and creates ground for food.

The kimono is placed on the stand.  Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, we dress the for day’s journey ahead to sit upon thy thrown on the barque of life. We adorn thee in regal vestments befitting the one who brings light and life to the land.

An offering of food is placed in front of the “dressed” Ra.  Embodying Ra speak:
We offer thee food, oh most blessed Ra, to nourish thee on thy journey across the sky even as you nourish the land with thy light.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, arise and shine, carry our hearts with you even as your carry our lives with you into the day.

The votive candle is lit as the sun rises.  Embodying Ra speak:
Mighty Ra, even as you rise the scarab curls up before you. We welcome you and travel with you on your journey across the sky and partake of the life it brings to our land. Let the light be nourishing, but not burning. Illuminating but not blinding. Gui ding but not forcing. With you, we recreate. So be it. It is done.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Elf Shot in Scotland

In the collection Scottish Charms and Amulets George Black recounts a variety of folk practices, many of which linger on not only in word but in material form. Amulets always draw interested audiences in museums where they are on display and bring together the traditions captured in words as charms with a tangible force. Arrowheads are one popular example.

As in many places, Black notes that 'the prehistoric flint arrowheads so numerous in Scotland were long considered by the peasantry to have fallen from the clouds, and to have been used as weapons by the fairies to shoot at human beings' and also especially cattle. Like the well-known Anglo-Saxon charm Wið færstice for elf-shot cattle, there were a variety of ways to battle the illnesses presumed to be caused by the folk too small to be seen. 

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Rock on! (Pun, oh, I just noticed, cool.) Thanks!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Whispering Hearth

The hearth has long been a place of power. We have already explored its position as a place of healing and protection. In many European cultures, it is also traditionally a place for communion with spirits, where offerings are left and knowledge from them can be gained. In Germany, the space between the back of the stove and the wall was called Hölle, “hell” (Lecouteux 70). It’s important to note that the words Hölle and hell originate not in Christianity but from a Proto-Germanic word meaning “a hidden place,” i.e. the underworld (Online Etymology Dictionary). People have long sought out the insight of the dead and other spirits regarding the future, and the hearth or stove was one common site for divination.

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Beyer-MLK_jail.jpgProfessor Ali Beyer has been featured in two recent exhibitions in Madison, Wisconsin. The Social Justice Center-Jackie Macaulay Gallery presented "America: Who Are We?" in January-February 2017. The show included Beyer's aquatint etching entitled,"Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Birmingham Jail (1963)."

A second show, "The First 100 Days," opened April 29th at Gallery 1308 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beyer's 2017 mixed media collage is entitled, "The Bird's the Word."

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