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Every so often, I'll get asked about Gods and Goddesses. Who 'my' Goddess is, my patron, my chosen pantheon... you know the sort of thing.
I've pondered the deeper meanings of deity often, as I think you must if you are to travel a Pagan path at such a level. Does deity have existence outside of human belief? Are they just energy forms? Is it not presumptuous to just 'pick and choose'? (My answers, briefly, are 'Yes', 'Not exactly', and 'It depends who's doing the choosing'...)
But recently, the multifaceted nature of Goddess has been on my mind. From the sad passing of my oldest animal friend into the arms of Bast, to the focused dance of the Morrigan, via the peaceful mysteries of Kuan Yin, this week has seen many aspects of my Lady pass through my life.
Over the last few weeks, some of the bloggers at the Pagan Channel on Patheos have been posting short explanations as to how and why they became Pagan. I'll tackle that question, too, but in a manner more appropriate to this column: as a life-long bibliophile, books have had a huge influence on my spiritual development. The genres, target audience, and quality of those books have varied widely; the majority were not even aimed specifically at Pagans. Nonetheless, during my formative years (say, childhood through mid-adolesence), these books contributed to thoroughly corrupting me.
Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, for instance, which I first found at the public library as a child, lost track of, then rediscovered in the tiny children's section in my college library. I adore the artwork, and I love how Foster interweaves the personal histories of ordinary people with those of major personages and important events. It was this book which first made me a fan of Cleopatra, and led me to further explore women's history and the religions of the ancient world....
Like many people moving out of Christianity and into "alternative" spirituality, it was devotion to female Deities which first attracted me. As a child, I was drawn to Artemis and Athena (and Apollo). Through my teen years and into college, it was books about the Goddess and Goddesses which steadily filled my shelves, eventually overflowing. I was fascinated, enthralled by this idea of a female Deity, so different from the male Deity I had grown up honoring.
In graduate school, that overflowing pile turned into a landslide as Goddess Spirituality became the focus of my master's thesis. While I concentrated on the Fellowship of Isis (even making a pilgrimage to Clonegal Castle), I read broadly on the subject -- and it quickly became apparent that there is no one Goddess Spirituality. Goddess Spiritualities would be more accurate, as those who honor the Female Divine fall all along the spiritual spectrum, often touching different points simultaneously. Some devotees are monotheistic in their thealogy, believing in a single, all-encompassing female Deity. Others are more pantheistic or panentheistic, honoring nature and the female entity which created and manifests in it. Still others are henotheistic, acknowledging the existence of other Deities but choosing to honor only one (or a small handful). And there are devotees who identify as polytheistic, acknowledging and honoring multiple female Deities exclusively, or giving them priority over male Deities. Finally, there are strains of Goddess Spirituality running through progressive branches of Judaism and Christianity and (less visibly) Islam....
Publisher: Abrams/Stewart Tabori and Chang...
At dusk on January 8th, the Haloa (῾Αλῶα) festival starts. This ancient Hellenic festival was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysus and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it.
The Haloa is part of the Mysteries, and thus linked to the festivals of Proirosia (5 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), Thargelia (6-7 Thargelion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Skirophoria (12 Skirophorion) and the Eleusinian Mysteries themselves, which were held 15-17/19-21 Boedromion. It was a rural festival, meaning it wasn't state-organized and widely spread, so most details are incredibly fuzzy. He're what we do know about it:
The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the hálōs (ἅλως), which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, scholars--including Nilsson in his 'Greek Popular Religion'--insist it must have been a gardening festival--with lots of wine and adult content.