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Pagan Blog Project: Justice

If I were the type of person to apologize for not posting I’d tell you why; I help run a successful Belegarth event, danced to live music, work finally is picking up, and I signed a new lease. But since I’m not that’s sort of person…

And? Stonehouse was saved for another year. And I got so much dirt on what’s going on from my brother-in-law, as well as a peek into the improvements they are already doing to the site. I personally really like the stages.

So onwards:

Justice

Dike is the anthropomorphized spirit/goddess of Justice in Hellenic Mythology. In Hesiod’s Works and Days, she’s discussed sitting next to Zeus and speaking to him of what we have done wrong:

“There is Virgin Dike (Justice), the daughter of Zeus, who is honoured and reverenced among the gods who dwell on Olympos, and whenever anyone hurts her with lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Kronos (Cronus), and tells him of men’s wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence crookedly.”

But when we live a life worth living, one of righteousness and justice, and one we are willing to live out loud, we having nothing to fear:

“For whoever knows the right and is ready to speak it, far-seeing Zeus gives him prosperity; but whoever deliberately lies in his witness and forswears himself, and so hurts Dike (Justice) and sins beyond repair, that man’s generation is left obscure thereafter. But the generation of the man who swears truly is better thenceforward.”

Sometimes when pagans talk about divine justice, it’s either on an incredibly personal and inane level (no shit, one I came across was “I broke up with my boyfriend, is (goddess dealing with love) angry at me and punishing me?”) or it’s very impersonal. But Dike is a spirit, and one that outside of mythology, works more as a cause and effect — she is sister to Order and to Peace, a member of the Horae, who exist for the benefit of humankind, a true gift.

So here’s to Justice, and an Orphic Hymn to her:

“To Dike (Justice), Fumigation from Frankincense. The piercing eye of Dike (Justice) bright I sing, placed by the sacred throne of Zeus the king, perceiving thence, with vision unconfined, the life and conduct of the human kind. To thee revenge the punishment belong, chastising every deed unjust and wrong. Whose power alone dissimilars can join, and from the equality of truth combine: for all the ill persuasion can inspire, when urging bad designs with counsel dire, ’tis thine alone to punish; with the race of lawless passions, and incentives base; for thou art ever to the good inclined, and hostile to the men of evil mind. Come, all-propitious, and thy suppliant hear, till fates’ predestined fatal hour draws near.”

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: An Indulgence

As was reported at  The Wild Hunt, Pagan Spirit Gathering’s new site, Stonehouse Park, is having a bit of zoning trouble. Now, this trouble isn’t in anyway the fault of PSG. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t been to PSG — June is an expensive month for me, and I am already going to Tribal Revolution.

However, Stonehouse Park is very important to me because I am a member of Belegarth Medieval Combat Society. I run events there yearly, in fact, my next one is this weekend. Because of the zoning and permit problems, our ability to utilize the site has been restrained, and it seems every day I get a new message telling me something else I can’t use.

PSG is not in any danger of not running this year — the owner makes it very clear that if the permit is revoked, he has the ability to run two events a year on the property. One is another Belegarth event and Pagan Spirit Gathering is the other. But future and continued use is very much in the air at this point.

Help us with some internet activism:
This is the facebook event supporting Stonehouse Park. On it, we’ve been coordinating our response, including a letter writing campaign.

This is the petition that we’ve been circulating for non-county residents.

Please consider working with us to save this site. It’s beautiful, and a great site for festivals, re-enactments, and private events. My brother in law also works there, and I’d rather not have him bum off his parents again in this economy, ya know?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Post: Learning from Ignatian Spirituality

I’m pretty comfortable with my Catholic roots and the reality that it’s not all that removed from my life. After all, there is still good in it, despite all the scandals, rampant misogyny (Nuns are awesome), and the theology that I rejected.

When my brother was doing his pre-seminary work at Conception Abbey, it renewed a love that I had as a child for monks. Nuns seemed boring, although now I know better. I’m currently reading The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything and I wanted to share some of the portions that I think can benefit most people, even outside Christianity.

Ignatian Spirituality is concerned with the now, and where God is now, and the call and response of life. When God(s) call how do we respond? Ignatian spirituality is contemplation in action — it’s grounded in the practical world. You have your reflective life that is evident in your community, that is active in all that you do. They are the order that finds God in All Things, and work for the Glory of God.

Ignatius set up the Daily Examen, which to me seems like a prayer journal. Each day, you do this:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

A simple, and powerful exercise designed to really work on reflecting your inner life and bringing it outwards. As pagans, this is something that we are used to. If you work will, this is one way of working it without it being a type of witchcraft (something that is of importance to me, as witchcraft sometimes makes me uncomfortable. Magic isn’t always the same way for me, and I fully admit that this is probably a personal issue.)

If you are interested in learning more about the Jesuits/Ignatian Spirituality, to pick up the book I mentioned (it’s very accessible, without being condescending) or read through Ignatian Spirituality.  Of course, the Jesuits aren’t without their own scandals as well and while I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water it is always important to read about them as well

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Hellenic Polytheism: Part One

Hellenic Polytheism, Part One

So, some god has thwacked you and you’ve come to the realization that you just didn’t have enough to do if your life. I’m so sorry. Welcome to the world of Hellenic Polytheism.

I’m going to do something a little groundbreaking for me: I’m not going to talk about gods in the introduction. Obviously, they are important, but an introduction format, to me, is too shallow to really start to understand.

Part of what I’m posting is from a workshop I was supposed to lead, but the group disbanded before the workshop happened. I’m using portions of my unfinished outline to flesh this out. In this installment, I want to address  concepts of methodology and a common ritual format.

Basically, Hellenic Paganism/Polytheism is yet another umbrella within paganism. In this case, it’s paganism that work with/worship/whatever word fits with the Greek Gods, and within a Hellenic worldview. This second part is important — there are many people out there who will call upon a Hellenic god from time to time, or even a majority of a time, but that don’t consider themselves Hellenic, or that the community might look a little odd at if they did.

This isn’t to say that everyone limits themselves to a Hellenic worldview all the time, but that their practice is grounded in it.

That being said people bring all sorts of methodologies to explore that worldview to the yard. Methodology is the how and occasionally the why of a religion — it focuses more on what you do, rather than what you believe, for the most part. Some methodology contains both.

Reconstruction generally works how it sounds: It re-constructs the religion and practices of an ancient culture for the current times. This is one that is often on a spectrum, with some people picking and choosing what they bring in all the way to people who rarely do anything that the Ancient Greeks wouldn’t recognize.

However, this doesn’t mean that Reconstructionists are living in the past. While Reconstruction requires a great bit of homework, its primary focus is on reviving practices that had previously died out, and not the cultural specifics. I consider myself to be somewhat of a Reconstructionist in methodology, my first source is primary texts, and my ritual structure is primarily ancient and I try to keep much of my view of the Gods rooted in that. But I have no desire to keep slaves or live in a separate part of the house away from my husband!

But all this still ends up as an evolving, living religion. Recons are looking into the past to help us now, because much still works with a bit of adaptation. For instance, many individual Recons have created their own festivals suited for where they live.

Reconstruction as a methodology tends to focus on verifiable history and primary sources. For Hellenics, this means going to the sources for looking at mythology, for instance, Hesiod and Homer give much of what we know. Secondary sources and the works of Classicists, Archeologists, Anthropologists and so on inform the rest.

Of course, there always has to be wriggle room — interpretations can vary greatly and there is always UPG or unverified personal gnosis. UPG is a term that I believe Asatru seems to have coined to bridge that gap as well. People will always bring their modern perspectives and their own personal beliefs, and in religious practice we find that people get new insights. UPG means that something you believe and have found works may not be transferable to the rest of the community.

One of my own is the association of peacock feathers with Dionysos. There is nothing in ancient lore that would bring the two together; in fact, peacocks are far more sacred to Hera. My association comes from first a gut reaction, then from my readings from Thorn Coyle.

When there is confirmation from others that they are getting the same response/reaction, it’s called shared gnosis, when you can find confirmation in history, it’s confirmed gnosis.

Reconstruction can be a very research intensive path, and a different type of research than other types of pagan methods might utilize.

Neo-paganism is what most people in the pagan community practice and there isn’t a good definition of it, because the beliefs vary so often. Some of the general ideas that seem to come through is a semi-soft-polythiesm, focused around a God and Goddess, following the Wheel of the Year, with a dying and rising god, and a goddess who goes through life stages as an expression of how nature works.

The beliefs of general neo-paganism don’t make it into Hellenic Polytheism very much, however the what you do, sometimes does. Things like modern approaches to the gods, based off of the poetic works of Robert Graves or other Victorian, Romantic and Enlightenment era poets, are fairly common, to various degrees of usefulness.

Rituals are what are often adapted to worship of Hellenic deities as many people will work with, call upon or offer to Hellenic Gods within different traditions contexts. Things like casting circles, more modern divination techniques, different ritual structures do abound.

There are groups within the Hellenic context who would decry the mixing of Hellenic and neopaganism. I’m not one of them — the Greeks were syncretics and would combine into the fold.

Archetypal Psychology stems from Jung, but the thread in Hellenic Paganism is generally through James Hillman. If Archetypes are an ideal form, the perfect model of traits, then  a Hellenic Archetypal Psychology takes these perfect forms  coming from Greek and Roman mythology. It’s here that we find concepts of “Mother Goddess” and “Trickster God”, who are generally not specific gods, but mythic patterns.

Since HP is predominately  hard polytheistic, archetypal psychology isn’t used to worship or honor the archetype but to use it to try to understand the gods and how we relate to them. One of the main authors that Hellenic Polytheists study here is Ginette Paris, with her works Pagan Grace and Pagan Meditations.

Personally, I’ve been known to mix all three general approaches, which is why I embrace Hellenic Polytheism as a label. I love reconstruction for its honesty, a neo-pagan approach for its inventiveness and a smattering archetypal psychology for how to relate and look sideways at what I’m doing, and at the gods.

Rituals and Ritual format:
One of the interesting things to look at when we talk about ritual format is what it is already similar to. If you have been to a Catholic Mass, the following is going to seem a little similar.

The first step is preparation. You gather everything you’d need for the ritual, washing hands , taking showers and so on, and likely lighting a fire or candle.

The next step is the processional, this can be as simple as a few steps up to the altar, or as elaborate as you can imagine.

You would next purify, declaring that the space is free of miasma and suitable for the gods, then make a small offering, traditionally of barley, but other things work as well. I often start incense at this point.

The meat of the ritual comes next: Invocation of the god or gods. You state your intentions, thank them, do whatever work here you wish, offering prayers, etc. From here is more offerings, whatever you have decided to do as the main offering.

Then libations, another form of sacrifice and concluding with the gods, thanking them again.

Now, this is similar to a Catholic Mass, because the Mass was more or less codified in Greek areas. They used what they were familiar with, after all.

As for prayer, that had a general format to (From Kyrene)

A basic outline of a prayer, taken from Walter Burkert’s Greek Religion on pages 74-75 is the following:
1.    Greet the god
2.    Address the god by his many names. The safest way to handle this is often to add “By whatever name or names you wish to be known by” in case you’ve forgotten something, don’t know one, or they have a preference that you can’t possibly know because you’re human (or haven’t read through Walter Burkert). The reference to this custom is on page 74.
3.    Make a reference to the times you’ve honored the god in the past (“If I ever threw pennies on the ground, gave you dice for your altar, or burnt incense in your name…” for the Hermes example above)
4.    Make the request
5.    Thank the god in advance. It’s only polite!

Now prayer isn’t always done in this format, but it is a pretty traditional way, borne through the various ancient sources that we have and a good place to start or to return.

Hellenic Rituals in general are sacrificial or votive in nature. Giving sacrifice (which these days, is usually not animal, though some larger groups will do it in the very traditional way — as in, you get fed afterwards!) and offering gifts of many sorts forms the backbone of Hellenic practice.

Part two of this series will deal with some common concepts in Hellenic Polytheism, and will be the second in the H’s for the Pagan Blog Project, but also part of a short series. Please suggest topics you’d like for me to address and I will do my best to do so.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Guidance

I haven’t had too many formal mentors in paganism. I’ve attended a workshop here and there, I’ve been involved with more structured classes with a few members of the community, but I’m one of those people that’s more comfortable with books and friends,  informal questioning, and lots and lots of applying my education.

So in combination with the gratitude from last week, and my theme of guidance this week, I want to list and thank those who have given me the guidance I’ve needed as a growing pagan.

  • My Parents: They may or may not be aware of my personal religion, but their strong faith and willingness to live it is an inspiration and building block for my own. They are my foundation for my ethical framework, my love of book learning, and my practicality.
  • The Catholic Church: Taught me the beauty in music, the joy in service, and a sense of sacred time and place. Mine is a complicated relationship with the Church, but I can’t deny that growing up Catholic did do me some good.
  • The Internet: I ❤ you internet. You brought me to my initial introduction to paganism, some of the people who have most challenged me, the best and worst information. I honestly wouldn’t be who I am today without you. I’m better for you.
  • My internet cabal from GaiaOnline. I hate and love you so much. If you want to know where I really grew into my learning loving self? It was during college and the Morality and Religion forums. Nowdays, I run with a newer Cabal, where I’m the nice one and it is still fun.
  • Various Hellenic peoples whom I inadvertently stalk: I’m sorry, I don’t mean too, we just seem to gravitate to the same places.

 

Books that have made a difference to me:

 

And these are only a smattering, and doesn’t even begin to include divine guidance, which is probably a topic for another day. Take a moment and look for the guiding influences, divine or not, in your practice. And thank and honor them.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Emergence and Fornication

 

So, if you didn’t notice I posted this week, it’s because I didn’t. It’s not that I forgot about my blog, its more that I am really good at procrastination. It’s my top skill, in fact, I’ve been procrastinating on buying a new pair of shoes for coming close to a year now. This tells you 1) just how hard it is for me to decide on a pair of plain black flats and 2)I’m really not a shoe person.

Anyways, this week for the Pagan Blog Project, I’ll be dividing it up again and covering two subjects. The first is emergence.

Since Anthesteria is behind us now, I figure it’s a good time to talk about this quality in Hellenic paganisms.

For me, the real reason behind Anthesteria is to celebrate emergence. You open the new wine, you celebrate new flowers, and it’s all for the God Who Comes….and even the dead emerge and walk around. The world is cracked open just a little bit and all the goodies come rushing out.

It’s from this sense of emergence that we place ourselves. We aren’t looking back upon the sacrifices we have made, but in the continual act. We drink of the recent vintage — it is this wine that we offer, it is these flowers, so recently come up that we look for and desire. It is this God who we seek. It’s not that Dionysos doesn’t inspire introspection, I mean really, just look at some of the other Dionysians, we can be a wordy bunch. but we can’t get too caught up with what has come before, because Dionysos is here to be with us again.

And really, if emergence is complexity rising out of simplicity, then that’s paganism in a nutshell. Paganism is really very simple, definition wise (applying that definition, is something entirely different) but look at our amazing complexity: Recons, Eclectics, Traditionalists, magic and non-magic practitioners. And so on. It’s thrilling what we can come up with when we let the soup sit and mix for a while. Not all good and not all bad, and some shouldn’t be mixed in the first place.

It’s not just the novelty of these actions that I find joy, but rather in the experience of that moment. Paganism as a whole tends to reward experience and self-discovery over other types of knowledge, to various degrees of success. When we look towards the moment of opening, we can discover in ourselves this quality.

And speaking of the God Who Comes, there’s my next topic.

It’s also a warning that Sanna and Morgandria and I really should not be allowed to encourage each other so much. 

Me: Since I’ve done cock, maybe I should do fucking.
Morg: Fornication! It has extra syllables.
Me: Oh good point. I should try to feel intellectual about all this.

There’s a lot of ways that sex comes up in paganism. There is of course the boring answer of fertility.  You guys understand that fertility is a common theme throughout paganism, right? Right, moving on. I really don’t have a whole lot to add on the subject that hasn’t been written to death.

But using various forms of fornication is a more common than you’d think form of raising energy or even as an act of worship than you’d think. It’s fairly common within my own private practice. This is generally why I’m fairly hush-hush about my own rituals, because while I like sex and sexual activity, and comfortable talking about it, not so much to the indiscriminate web. But I don’t think we should hide that it is part of paganism, there’s no shame, it’s not inherently dirty or gross, and it’s part of life in general. Celebrate it.

So you know, get out there and screw someone or just yourself.  For the gods!

 

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Ephemeral

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I spent the time since last Friday helping my husband through the death of his grandmother. The funeral was Thursday, and very Catholic. It was actually my first Catholic Mass since they changed up the liturgy, and it was a little disorientation. Things I have known by heart since childhood have changed and while some weren’t hard (Nicene Creed was interesting to read) others would have tripped my tongue, if I had been responding (And with your spirit? I love the change, but boy, that would be hard!)

Already, what’s with all the Catholicism here, this is a pagan blog prompt. A few things, since I’ve gained a few new readers since I started the Blog Project; 1; I not only grew up Catholic, my oldest brother is a Catholic Priest, and I married into another family that is heavily Catholic and 2; growing up that way has impressed itself on my idea of ritual. I like smells, bells, and a little formality. I’m comfortable with Mystery and eating gods.

But it really impressed upon me just how ephemeral ritual, language, personhood and humanity is. One of my favorite bits of literature is from Ptolemy, “I know that I am mortal and the creature of a day; but when I search out the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.”

One of the great aims of Mysticism is to give an idea of immortality to we mere mortals, and eat with (or you know, of…) the gods, and to give a little substance to our ephemeral natures.

When my mental Mass tripped over Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, and realizing just how old and young the phrasing is at once, I was struck again by just how wondrous it is that we keep reaching towards our gods, keep wanting both embrace and transcend our mortality.

Tomorrow begins Anthesteria, which is quite possibly the very best of Hellenic festivals: opening wine, the joy of life,  the worst pains of life, and when the spirits of the dead walk. In Anthesteria’s three days, we experience Dionysos in his complexity.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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