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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Shrine Keeping

I have a cow shrine in honor of my mom in her room-- her former room. The suite. It's full of cow things she owned, but not all of them because they don't all fit.

About a month after her death, while I was falling asleep, I suddenly envisioned her in my mind's eye, smiling and shining. Her hair was its natural red color as it had been years ago, not the solid white I had gotten used to seeing before she died. It felt like more than my usual vivid imagination. She did not try to communicate anything, and it only lasted a few seconds, but I felt like I was seeing her, really her, in death. And that upset me, because I had been sure I had set everything up right for her to have a quick and easy passage to her next life (because she had often said religion was stupid, and she didn't believe in an afterlife or any gods, so I figured she'd be upset if she had to hang around in an afterlife being wrong for very long.) So of course I reached inside for Sigyn and Hel, and they reassured me: yes, that was really her, and yes, she has already passed on. She was not at that time still hanging on waiting for her desired oblivion. The dead experience time like the gods do, not like living people do. Even though it only took her a few days after her death to pass completely through Hel and on to what was next, she could still look in on me a month later, to make sure I was going to be OK. And what she saw was me curled up with my sweet kitty Happy. So, that was the most OK I could possibly be. Now I was glad I saw her, and that she saw me. It didn't mean she was stuck trying to pass over, it was just a brief visit out of time.

Later that month, I received her ashes. I placed them on the cow altar, along with pictures of her, one of the silver candles from the Death and Butterfly ritual, and the bottle of Patron with which to toast Hel and Hidden Goddess perfume to bless with in Hel's name. The photo above depicts that ritual. I told each of the three items where they belonged: the ashes in the butterfly urn were in their permanent home and would stay with me, the ashes in the rose urn were in their permanent home and would go to my brother, and the ashes in the box would be scattered. I made sure there were neither any lingering soul pieces in what I'd received, nor any bad energy. I had to mentally take the lavender broom to the pain and sweep it into the black hole in space. I double checked the energy in the ashes and their containers later and they seemed to have a normal amount of presence, that is, mom wasn't in there-- she had gone on already-- but it wasn't the kind of empty that would drawn things to a vacuum. During the ritual, I toasted to Hel, and to Audhumla and the cow spirit, and to my mom, and I said that I knew that mom had already gone to where she was going next but I already knew that time did not work the same way for gods and the dead as it did for me, so if mom wanted to tell  me anything this was the time to do that. She spoke. She told me she had seen her next life before she went to it and she was happy. That reassurance was a relief. It was not only a relief knowing that she already knew she was going to be happy in her next life because while she was in Hel's realm she could see ahead in time, it was also a relief to know she didn't have any other messages for me.

I left her Shrine of the Great Cow Mother up and made occasional toasts. I knew that eventually I would take it down so someone else could move into the suite, so it was not made to be permanent, but it was operating longer than any other altar I had put up in the house before. Usually when I did holiday rituals I took the altar down the same day, or perhaps the next day. I kept the portable working altar that was just big enough for ritual tools and a bottle in my room, but I kept it covered. This one was still powered, and one morning I went in to open the blinds and curtains for the house plants and felt dark energy in that room. I flicked it away at once, and felt carefully to be sure there was no bad energy on any of the ashes or anything else on the altar. There was not. It didn't come from the ashes or the altar, it was attracted to it from outside. I then performed another ritual, this time focused on the gnome (the land wight of my land) and on Audhumla. I asked the gnome to reinforce his protections against vampiric entities looking for power to eat, and I asked Audhumla to bless her altar and keep bad influences away from it. After that, the power of the shrine didn't draw anything in that wanted it as a snack.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mother Cairn

Hey, let's build a cairn.

It will be a shrine, a place for the Mother. Everybody honors her. Well, they do if they have any sense.

To seed it, we'll bury her little image beneath where the cairn will rise. It will have to be a beautiful image, precious, enough to hurt. That's what makes it a worthy offering, a foundation.

Then we'll heap on the stones: small stones, each the size of a fist. We'll start with a small cairn, maybe a couple of feet high, but big enough to seed what comes after. And through the years it will grow.

A cairn is the ultimate in democratic architecture. Anyone can bring a stone and leave it. You'll place yours—every stone a prayer—and then there will be something of you there forever, part of this thing that we're doing together down the years.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Heinlein once wrote that the secret to creating a proper English lawn is, "roll it and seed it for 600 years." Reading this stor

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Every Shrine Needs a Keeper

Every shrine needs a keeper.

Shrines are busy places. Someone needs to sweep away the ash, compost the wilted flowers, remove the food offerings before they go bad.

In a timely manner, mind you, but not too soon. Part of the joy of shrines—part of the encounter that takes place there—is the evidence of the worship of others.

Another part of the keeper's job is to decide. Not all offerings are, shall we say, worthy.

The plastic, the cutesy, the distracting: they've served their purpose. (The worth of the offering is in the making.) Off with them to the favissa. (The Romans had a name for everything.)

After all, they've been given: they belong to a god now. Worthy or not, they still need to be treated with respect.

That's why there's a special pit for sacred garbage.

You can be a shrine-keeper, too.

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Faking History: Minoan Spirituality on the Line

Figuring out ancient people's spiritual practices is hard. Even if we have written records that they've left us, they're not around any more to tell us how to interpret them. And in the case of the ancient Minoans, we can't read what they wrote, so all we have to go on is archaeological finds. And if those archaeological finds aren't genuine, then what we figure out about their spirituality may be wrong as well.

That beautiful ivory-and-gold snake goddess at the top of this post is probably a forgery. A century ago, when Sir Arthur Evans excavated the temple complex at Knossos, the world went "Minoan crazy." Museums clamored for items to display to bring in bigger and bigger crowds, and many unscrupulous folks were more than happy to oblige. This one's probably a forgery, too, based on carbon-14 dating:

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
How do you know that's a ritual object?

Most of what we know about the ancient Minoans was literally dug up out of the dirt. We've uncovered temple complexes, villages, towns, and all the furniture, dishes, and other items you'd expect to find in people's homes, workshops, and places of worship. But there aren't any Minoans around any more who can tell us what all those things were used for, so the archaeologists have to make educated guesses based on where each particular object was found.

Over in Ariadne's Tribe (the official public forum for Modern Minoan Paganism) we frequently post images of lovely Minoan pottery that appears to have been randomly described by archaeologists as a 'ritual object.' Then we consider the possibility that the item isn't really a ritual object, but the archaeologists didn't know what else to call it and 'ritual object' sounds impressive when you're writing an academic paper.

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A Shrine of One's Own . . .If You Have the Space

When I first started studying in the ADF Druidry Dedicants' Program over a decade ago (. . . sigh), 3469097890_12749a5e87the wording of the program was a little different at the time because it was the second draft.  I was studying with my grove, Grove of the Other Gods and our senior druid was authorized to proctor the class with my cycle and she was able to bestow certification of class completion.  I need to caveat here as I need to caveat everything when I talk about ADF: My grove was and is a chartered grove, we follow the few rules that we are required to follow.  We use the liturgical ADF ritual outline.  But I can just about guarantee that our take on 80% of ADF and how we do our rituals besides following the outline is going to be radically different from the rest of ADF.  That said, we're also one of the largest groves in the US so it resonates with a lot of people from our tristate area at least.  My grove is not very "high Episcopagan", there's not a lot of ritual robes, swords or thee'ing and thou'ing. If that's your bag, rock out!  There's room for everyone at the Occultists, Witches and Pagans table in my opinion.  Despite being raised Catholic, it's not something that really stuck for me personally but a lot of people find that level of ceremony very moving.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Witchiest Little Shrine at PSG

Midsummer's 2009, Pagan Spirit Gathering: Camp Zoe, Missouri. A bunch of us Old Style folks are camped at a fork in the road down by Rock Creek. Between our camp and the road are a couple of tall old lodge-pole cedars.

My friend Sirius sets up his stang between the two cedars. In Old Craft lore, the stang is Old Hornie's preeminent symbol. It can take a number of forms, but the simplest is an old-style two-tined wooden hay fork.

Story goes that back in the day when it wasn't safe to keep Things around, when time for Doing came and the Old Buck not to be there in His Own Self (so to say), He'd be stood-for by a hayfork or pitchfork set upright in the ground: the Upright Man, as they called him. Light a candle between those horns, and here's a stand-in for the Old Un Himself, and next morning you hang him back up on wall of barn and none to be any the wiser.

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