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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Many Faces of Minoan Dionysos

Most people are familiar with Dionysos as a vegetation god. In fact, that’s how he started life (so to speak) among humans, dying each year at the time of the grape harvest. In the Mediterranean, where Crete is located, that happens most years in late August or early September. So in many ways Dionysos is similar to the other dying-and-reborn vegetation gods we’re familiar with from the Near East, Europe and other regions. But as so often happens, cultures change over time, inventing or importing new ideas and layering them onto what’s already there. Something like that happened with Dionysos in ancient Crete.

Before we get to his details, though, let me explain a bit about how the Minoan pantheon works. Rather than having a particular slot in a human-style family tree, the Minoan gods and goddesses unfold out of each other in a multi-faceted fashion. In a way, all the deities within the Minoan pantheon can be considered reflections or facets of the Great Mother Goddess Rhea. But for practical purposes, they behave as individual deities with their own personalities and qualities. This henotheistic setup can make it difficult to tease out exactly which aspects go with which deity name, and to sort out whether two different names belong to two different gods or a single one. In addition, as Minoan society changed over time, more layers were added onto those already-complicated facets, and some of the deity names only come down to us in later forms, from languages and cultures foreign to the Minoans. I’ll do my best to untangle some of the bits about Dionysos today. I’ve worked with him for a long time and as far as I can tell, these aspects of him manage to work well together in spite of their apparent differences.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pocket Gods

I've never much been one for religious jewelry, but that doesn't mean I haven't generally got a god or two tucked somewhere or other about my person. You could call them “pocket gods.”

The Norse called them hlutir and carried them in pouches. (Hlutr is the same as English lot, as in “drawing lots,” which gives one something of an idea of their cultural importance.) The witch-wife Heiðr once told Ingimund the Old, while he still lived in Norway, that he would settle in an undiscovered land west over sea, and that the sign of the truth of her seeing would be this: that the little silver hlutr of Frey that he always carried in his pouch would be lost, but that he would find it again buried in the ground when he dug to raise the pillars of his house in the new land. And so indeed it came to be when, years later, he settled in Iceland.

Which pocket-gods I carry depends on the season and the vagaries of my own thought and mood. Shown above are two that are frequently with me, both worked in Baltic amber: a Sun-disc and a Thunder-ax. Sun and Thunder are two of my best-loved gods, and I like to bear their main (power) with me as I go through my day.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Visible Gods

So I'm standing there naked in the kitchen.

Mind you, this isn't something I make a point of doing. It's the end of January, and this is Minnesota. Early in the morning, the kitchen is just as cold as the rest of the house, no place to stand around naked.

You have to understand that at this time of year, the North becomes a desert. Our intense cold wrings every trace of moisture from the air. If you don't slather on moisturizer, you turn into an ice-mummy. Fortunately, there's no need to resort to bear-grease, like in the old days.

So, I'd just toweled off from the shower and rubbed down with body-lotion. Waiting for my skin to absorb it, I ran downstairs to plug in the waffle iron.

That's when it happened.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Winter

(Art by Barbara Bargiggia)

Ah, January. In like a lion roaring exciting resolutions and plans, out like a tired bear hibernating in a Winter cave. New or continued schedules after the holiday break quickly become rote trudging performed in the icy cold of the bleakest part of Winter. Short days don’t seem to hold enough of the activities we wanted, and we find ourselves playing catch-up with little energy input from Sun or Earth’s abundance. Plans for early bed and early rising fall to the freeze-out of not being able to stop finishing tasks until after bedtime. Or to a seized-up will. Emotions expand and freeze, slicing with icy edges the hearts of these organic creatures trudging through the dark, cold, short days. It’s enough to make you want to hole up and wait it out. Let Spring bring the fuel and the will to rise again.

Until the crocuses or groundhogs peek out and whisper of Spring’s coming, it seems a natural time to pause and rest, perhaps do inner-work in the quiet space of our own heads and hearts. Light a fire in the hearth and stir pots, stare into the fire, find underworld songs rolling around your tongue, and find tangles in your forgotten hair.

But the time does come to fetch more firewood, or you’ll freeze. The stirred pots eventually give forth sustenance and medicine and more will need to be added or you won’t eat tomorrow. There’s life in there, and it demands to live. It has slowed, but it will move… even in the cold, even in the dark, even before any message from Green Spring arrives to promise quickening. This isn’t death, it’s just a pale rehearsal. With a glowing ember inside.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Last Sun Walking

 

He leads us up to the foot of the hill, 

but there we stop: not yet for us

to take those final steps.

 

Where the sun stands still

on earth’s high curve, a woman rises:

bright black splayed on red.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Summer Solstice Record Spin

Quick– how many 45s can you rattle off that contain references to the sun? If you are a music lover, chances are good that you are hopping on the vinyl train and building up your collection. If not, get in touch with your best record geek pal who also owns a player. The plan: a Super Summer Solstice Backyard Record Spin. You will need a functional player (it is always good to have an additional one back-up) and some vintage discs. Invite your guests to tote their 45s and 33s, even 78s if they have them hiding in a closet. 33s especially come in handy so that you don't have to keep hopping up to flip the record. Also, don't just have one designated DJ. Encourage everyone to get in the mix and take turns spinning the tunes. That way, a natural flow will emerge and you will enjoy an eclectic variety of music. If one person is being a little piggy though, be sure to gently nudge them off the turntable so that everyone does in fact have a chance to play.

Break out the folding chairs and a long table for snacks and beverages, buffet-style. The signature cocktail should of course be a "Sunny Sangria:"

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I don't think I've ever been so happy to welcome the Spring as I was this year. This Winter was so cold, so long that Spring really was a dim memory. Even warm-ish days didn't get my trust. I have only recently packed up my winter clothes, and despite a lot of mowing and weed whacking, I haven't started putting in my garden quite yet. Because the Winter was inside me by the time the snow and ice and freezing weather finally retreated. A hard Winter, like the one we just had, will wear on you, make you feel tired all over, a deep tired that will take more than just a few warm afternoons to shift. This is perfect for introspection and meditation, but beyond the usual quiet of the Descent, I realized that Winter had settled into me, settled into my bones and muscles the way it had frozen the lake and bound the land under snow. Even when the snow started to melt, the chill didn't leave me. It was hard to remember what sweet breezes had felt like, with icy blasts blowing in my face.

This Winter brought lots of worry and sorrow to my door. The stress became part of the the work of Winter: the slogging through the cold, the shoveling of snow, the march through short days of low, subdued energy. Even as the first gentle days showed up, when the world seemed to be a closed fist slowly opening, it was hard to trust it, hard to sink into the promise of warm days to come. It was hard to feel the Spring, or I should say, it was hard to allow myself to feel Spring's optimism and new beginnings. The Winter had settled into my mood, and it was hard to generate much “fire” for anything beyond getting through the day. I wasn't depressed, exactly, but a certain limitation had settled down on my thinking, like a visor. I stopped thinking about a time when I might have more energy, more enthusiasm, when I felt passion and excitement for any of my fallow projects. The world outside was monochrome, all pewter and taupe, and even as the light came back, and the land opened up, my thoughts remained dull like that as well. When the sky got even darker with the brooding rain clouds of early Spring, my thoughts did not leap ahead to the sweet green season yet to come. They remained in the inky black nimbus clouds that poured sleet and hail down, that made tame creeks open up into roiling muddy rapids, and turned the stone cold ground into brown mud. Dark weather for dark moods.

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