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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Folk Religion

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  • Necole Witcher
    Necole Witcher says #
    Thank you for this. For someone that spends profuse time in graveyards this provides a lot of information. Consider doing anothe

Traditional wisdom ranging from a bevy of global cultures—including Native American, Taoist, and West African groups—calls for honoring one’s ancestors to a specific generational threshold. I’ve most frequently heard talk of remembering to ‘seven generations,’ and trying to learn the names of one’s family up to that level. Doing the math, if you start with yourself as the first generation (1) and go back seven steps, at level seven there are 64 individuals, for a total of 127 names, lives, and personalities to remember. If you start at your parents (2), the top level has 128 people, and the total runs up to 254 persons of note. That’s only counting direct ancestors, one mother and one father for each person, with no account for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, stepparents, adoptive family, etc. While it is certainly not impossible to remember a roster of names to that length—recitations of lineage are common in a number of cultures which rely on oral transmission of lore—it can be difficult for people in a literate society to manage. Moreover, for those of us who like to maintain ancestral altars,  keeping physical representations of between 128 and 254 people on our altar spaces can be unwieldy.

So what are our options, if we recognize the importance of maintaining an ancestral presence in our lives? Today I want to look at some of the ways we can encompass our forebears without crowding out an entire room of the house with representative knick-knacks (if you do maintain such a room, kudos to  you and I would love to visit, as that would be an intensely powerful space, I think!).

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Or, Material Culture without Materialism.

“’[W]hen a bear has been killed the Ainu sit down and admire it, make their salaams to it, worship it, and offer presents of inao ; when a bear is trapped or wounded by an arrow, the hunters go through an apologetic or propitiatory ceremony.’ The skulls of slain bears receive a place of honour in their huts, or are set up on sacred posts outside the huts, and are treated with much respect: libations of millet beer, and of sake, an intoxicating liquor, are offered to them; and they are addressed as ‘divine preservers’ or ‘precious divinities.’ The skulls of foxes are also fastened to the sacred posts outside the huts; they are regarded as charms against evil spirits, and are consulted as oracles.” (James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough).

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I recently read an online post about Japanese food in which the author’s grandmother advised her to chew her first bite of rice eighty-eight times. The process of taking rice from seed to tongue apparently takes eight-eight steps, including the agricultural growing process, harvesting, processing, cooking, and so forth. Chewing eighty-eight times is a way, then, of showing respect to the rice, the farmers, the cooks, and so forth.

I have long been interested in what author Margaret Visser calls “the rituals of dinner” in the book of the same title. Visser has penned several tomes on the anthropological construction of mealtimes, including the aforementioned Rituals of Dinner and Much Depends on Dinner, and she dives into everything from good table manners (children pack their mouths with food because as infants they had taste sensors in their cheeks, for example) to utensil choice to throwing dinner parties  to deciding to prepare food oneself or to have it prepared (and take the chance that someone might intentionally poison it). Perhaps my favorite chapter in Rituals, however, is “Dinner is Served,” in which she looks at hand-washing, dinner bells, the role of “tasters” (to avoid those pesky poisons), and most importantly, noticing the food, the host or hostess, the other diners, and other atmospheric elements. Such notice, and the natural expressions of appreciation which accompany it, have become the traditions of saying “grace” or “thanks” for the meal before eating.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Hoofbeats of the Hunt

The weather is turning crisp here and the falling leaves are brilliant shades of orange, red and gold. The afternoons are still warm but evening is coming earlier.   The rains have not started yet, but winter's shadow is on the land.  We are finally in October, which for me means the onset of the busiest season in my spiritual year: the season of the Wild Hunt, which begins now and reaches its height at Yule.  Samhain forms a major milestone along the way, but for me (and among Heathens in general) the time when the veil is at its thinnest, and the Hunt at its most active, falls during the twelve nights of Yule.  After January 1st, things calm down somewhat, although there are still occasionally forays during the springtime, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where our springs are often stormier than our winters.

As some of you may be aware, the story of how Odin claimed me is all bound up with the Hunt.  Although I am not a hunter myself in an in-this-world way, the Furious Host seems to have lodged itself in my blood somehow, and two years ago around this time of year I formally agreed to ally myself with them and act as a doorway for them into this world.  

Some of you are likely sputtering by now, reading this; I hope you haven't spilled your drinks on the keyboard!  For those whose keyboards are safe (and are thus, I assume, unfamiliar with the Wild Hunt), the core of the legend is that a spectral band of creatures in hunting garb (be they dead, undead, never human, or all of the above) rampages through the night sky at a certain time of year (see above).    This story seems to be deeply rooted in Indo-European culture, and most European countries have their own version of it; it is unaccountably ancient, and just as with the roots of Yggdrasil itself it's impossible to say exactly where or how it began.  What this band is hunting is never completely clear in the folk tales, and can range from a woman, to a troll, to a kind of half-woman, half-forest creature known as a moss maiden.  The leader ascribed to this band of ghostly riders varies with the country, but in Scandinavia, England and Germany the leader is traditionally Odin, and the Hunt includes, in this particular incarnation, the spirits of long-dead heroes and Odin's dead in general.   The Hunt is accompanied by black dogs with red eyes, undead noblemen, and Odin's gigantic eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.  Jagermeister, Wilde Jaeger (Wild Hunter), Draugrdrottin (Lord of Ghosts), Valfather (Lord of the Slain)--these are all among Odin's many names that have to do with His function as Leader of the Furious Host.  Most of the stories agree that it is dangerous for humans to see the Hunt or be seen by it.   Some of the tales advise throwing oneself face down onto the path when the sound of the hunting horns is heard, others suggest various offerings--a piece of steel, a sprig of parsley--that might be useful in deterring the Hunt, or at least distracting it while you get to safety.  At first glance and at last, this is a story to frighten not only small children but sensible adults too.  The Hunt (along with the frigid Scandinavian winter) is the reason why Yule is traditionally a time for family to gather together behind closed doors by the fire, and to not go out after dark, and to allow the hospitality of one's home to visitors without question, especially during the twelve nights of Yule, when madness reigns in the skies.

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  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    I'm so glad some people could relate to this post! It's honestly such a personal topic for me that I hesitated to post it here rat
  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    Interesting post - I am familar with the tales of Gwynn ap Nudd and King Arthur with regard to the Hunt - nice to hear the Heathen
  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills says #
    Hurrah! I love this post. I've been thinking about the Hunt for a week now and have been drafting a post about it for my blog. Spe
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    That could be a very interesting study. I sense that there are many different cultural incarnations of the Hunt active here, incl

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