"You know when wolves run free and alone? when they're mentally or physically diseased."
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
I opened up my Facebook account today and was greeted by a long discussion focusing on cultural appropriation, vis-a-vis belly dancing. It appeared to be based on a Salon article titled "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."
The first thing that struck me was the confrontational nature of the headline: It wasn't belly dancing performed by white people that the author couldn't stand, it was the belly dancers themselves. If this doesn't put people on the defensive, I don't know what will. Then again, it's part of the inflammatory nature of online "journalism" these days, which uses hot-button language to increase the number of hits. (Full disclosure: I'm white, but I'm no belly dancer, and belly dancing isn't something I go out of my way to watch.)...
My familiar died last year.
But this article is not about him: the death of pets, even the best-loved, is in my opinion a matter for private, not public, mourning.
But the death of a household member occasioned some serious thought on the matter of the rituals with which we meet such an event in the home. As a community, we've been strong on public ritual and weak on household observance, and in this we differ greatly from the ancestors, who held both to be of equal necessity. The last death in my household had occurred almost 10 years previously, and at the time I pretty much winged it. But since then my thinking has matured (or so I like to tell myself), and so when Gremlin died I followed Ceisiwr Serith's advice: when confronted with a new situation, consult ancestral precedent.
I love this time of year...though I could do without the single to negative digit temperatures. A lot of my traditions haven't changed from what I did as a child in a Roman Catholic household but I do have some additions. Below, in random order, I list some of my holiday traditions.
When we lived in Seattle, we hosted a Halloween/Samhain party each year for both pagans and non-pagans. We invited friends of all ages to join us for pumpkin soup, roasted turnips, hot cider, apple bobbing, and seed bread. The children were gathered for trick-or-treating (real food before the candy), and after we returned and the kids compared (and sometimes traded) loot, we'd begin the real party, starting with the sliced apple to reveal the star, and tales about the history of Samhain. At this point, non-pagan families who choose not to share in the divination, speaking with the dead, or honoring them, left. The rest of us joined in quieter work.
Now that we live in a rural town, people are less inclined to make the long drive for a celebration, but there are some traditions we continue. The kids still trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, and we still come home to do our good work for the holiday.
In recent months, I've been lucky enough to witness some fairly ancient traditions replayed by modern folk in my local community. Rather than taking the cynical, culturally-superior, post-modern 21st-century approach, villagers across Derbyshire have delighted in the creation of Well Dressing ceremonies and presentations.
Well Dressing is thought to be pagan in origin, but now crosses social and faith boundaries in the simple act of creation. An offering is made from natural materials - such as petals, seeds and leaves - ostensibly to celebrate the local community and the various groups within it. But it is known that Well Dressing was also an act of thanks and celebration, to honour the spirit of the Well for providing clean water to that community, allowing it to nourish and thrive.