Well…. It’s been a minute since I’ve updated here. It was never my intent to leave this blog dormant for so long. A lot has happened in my life since my last update (which was August 14, 2017; but even that one had a long gap between it and the previous post, which was in May 2017).
Shortly after the Rune Chain post, I went out of town for a week for work, and we drove back into Hurricane Harvey. The first few days were pretty mild – lots of rain, but nothing unexpected during a hurricane. That all changed a few days later when we woke up to water in our house. We ended up being evacuated by boat, and spent more than 2 months displaced before finally having just enough of the repairs done to the point where we could move back into our house. We’ve made it past the one year anniversary of the hurricane; now we’re almost at the one year ‘back in our house’ mark. We’re still not finished with repairs, but we’re getting close(ish). In any case, my plan is to get back to writing somewhat regularly again.
One good thing about having to re-do absolutely every part of the interior of our house is that I’ve been able to do protection wards in each room. Doorways and windows and walls – everything has been painted and spelled and sealed – it’s a good feeling to have spent energy and directed will into each building block as things get rebuilt. Little things, like using Moon-Blessed water to mix texture medium for the walls, inscribing doorways and windows with sigils and spellwork, putting spell jars into the walls and using salt and herbal mixtures to cleanse the space from the sub-floors to the studs. Even with the half-finished construction that’s on-going, it still feels nice to be in our home.
Despite the chaos, I have managed to keep my practice moving forward. A lot of the time, when faced with adversity, the tendency is to let spirituality slide. It’s often the first thing to go on the back burner and is often seen as dispensable, or the most ‘frivolous’ when it comes to priorities. I admit that it crossed my mind to just shelve it for now, but there was something inside that said, ‘no; now’s the time to make this a focus’. So I did. I came across a month-themed challenge for tarot on Instagram, and started that in October of 2017. I spend the next few months doing most of the prompts, but not fully committing to it as a daily practice until May, when I really started journaling and making it a priority. I have to say that it’s always been a goal of mine to learn tarot better, and committing to a daily practice has helped my intuitive reading tremendously. I am much more comfortable and confident in my assessments, and applications, and I just truly enjoy reading them because I am not constantly referring to the books!
This past spring, a couple of friends and I went to New Orleans. I hadn’t been since I was a child, and going as an adult was SO much different! We did a ghost tour, and walked Bourbon Street, and spent time hitting up all the little witchy/voodoo shops. I was a little disappointed; it was all very commercial and touristy. I was expecting something more, but I don’t know if I could define what it was I wanted. I wasn’t looking for any supplies in particular, so it doesn’t matter that much, I guess. I did pick up some herbs and a spell candle from Hex, which I am saving for when our house is finally done.
I also managed (finally) to attend Celebration of Womanhood, which is a Pagan women’s retreat in North East Texas. There was a cold snap that same weekend and it was so great! I got to see some friends I hadn’t been able to connect with in a while, and met several new friends as well. The fall retreat, Women of Magic and Nature, is planned for this November, so I’m looking forward to that as well.
Shortly after CoW, I decided that I was ready to start meeting with a group again. Since Circle of the Black Moon has been on hiatus, I really was missing being part of a regularly-practicing Pagan local community. But, I wanted to change the focus of my practice in a group setting; less ‘Pagan 101/Family-focused’ and more ‘advanced personal practice/woman-centric/esbat focused’. So I started a new, very small Circle group, called Luna Dea Covina. We’ve been meeting since April and I am really proud of what we’ve created together. There are several women who are fairly new, so there’s still plenty of opportunity for teaching, but mostly it’s just a group for encouraging self-discovery and exploring what our own, individual spirituality means to us, and how we can express that. It’s got a totally different vibe from previous groups I’ve been in. One aspect I loved about Circle of the Black Moon is that most of the members were eclectic practitioners. I kept that model for the LDC; each of us has our own path and philosophy, but the discussions we have encourage so much self-study and exploration that it’s been really inspiring.
There’s also another local group that is an open Circle group with a book-club style format that I’ve been meeting with for a couple of months. It’s interesting, but not always my cup of tea. I have enjoyed making further connections with the local Pagan Community though. I wasn’t able to attend Houston’s Pagan Pride Day this year, unfortunately… hopefully things will settle towards the end of this year.
The hardest part of having our house in such disarray, though I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned as well, is that I don’t have any ‘space’. My altar and all of my ‘things’ are in storage (what was salvageable). I have replaced a few things that I lost, but it’s been a lesson in creativity, and a heavy reminder that ‘the power is in the witch, not the stuff‘ as I’ve tried to figure out how to set up spaces that are conducive to nurturing my spirituality and practice.
In any case, I will hopefully be updating again soon(er than last time).
Most of us are familiar with the various names for the Full Moon, but when I went looking for the names of the New Moon, I was a little surprised to find that there weren’t any. It seems odd that such a notable recurring event wouldn’t also have names to mark the passage of time, especially pre-calendar. I’ve talked before about non-traditional elemental associations and since this is one that I am making up, I thought I’d share my thought/creative process. For each month, I looked up several things, ranging from the history/origin of the month’s name and the deity(ies) they were associated with, as well as properties and other associations that go along with them. I also considered my own personal feelings and insights. Since this is a slice of my personal practice, how I interpret the months and times of year as the cycle turns plays a role in how I chose their names.
Because it’s the first of the year, let’s start with January. Even though, for many Pagans (myself included), January isn’t the beginning of the magickal year, it’s still ‘a’ beginning. I orient myself in the years’ planning starting in January, so for me, it is a beginning. Because I typically print of create my Moon Calendar by calendar year, and because my almanac runs from January through December, this is a logical starting point to me.
The Latin word for January is ianua, or door, since January is the door to the year. January’s deity is the Roman Goddess Juno. There’s some contention with that; apparently Janus was the original deity associated thought to be associated with January as He is the God of Beginnings and Transitions, but more recent research suggests it was, in fact, Juno. Because I am a woman, happily married and mother, the association with Juno speaks to me more. She is generally thought to be linked with protection of the state and of women, love, youth, fertility and vital force, marriage, and other complex roles. In particular, Juno’s name is associated with the Latin words iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, which could potentially connect her to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, which suggests that she may have been revered as a moon goddess. I like that idea. The word for January, or door, fits because in a way, Juno – and thus, January – can be seen as the guardian of the new year. She holds the doors to the year ahead, and as a gatekeeper, creates the way for the new path. For me, January is a time of beginnings – it’s when I reset my calendar, I’ve filed away things from the previous calendar year and get ready for the new year ahead. It’s a time of starting fresh, of making plans and setting goals and intentions – it’s sloughing off the previous year and starting anew. Because of those ideas and concepts, I’ve decided to call January’s New Moon the Renewal Moon.
Because of the potential length of this post, I am breaking it up into several parts. I will come back and edit the list below with the links to the other posts as I make them. For now, subscribe and you’ll get future posts in your inbox!
- January – Renewal Moon
- February –
- March –
- April –
- May –
- June –
- July –
- August –
- September –
- October –
- November –
- December –
- Black Moon (2nd New Moon in a month, also called the Secret Moon or the Finding Moon)
Do you have names for the New Moons? I’d love to read about it!
I can’t reblog this, but please do go and read it. PaganCentric wrote a fantastic piece about the history of St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of passages that author Claire Mulkieran wrote that are both informative and heartbreaking.
If most people know anything about Saint Patrick, it’s that his one claim to fame is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. What most people don’t realize is that the snake is a Pagan symbol, and that the snakes referred to in the Saint Patrick mythos are not meant in the literal sense, but refer to Pagans; i.e., Saint Patrick drove the Pagans (specifically, the Celts) out of Ireland (although it could be said, and has been argued, that much has been done in Saint Patrick’s name, but that the man himself was relatively unimportant). So what is celebrated on Saint Patrick’s Day with drinking and much cavorting is, ironically, the spread of Christianity throughout Ireland and the subjugation and conversion of the Celts.
This, in particular, spoke to me. The rise of Christianity is a long and bloody one; with most indigenous religions and practitioners paying the price. My ancestors are (among others) Irish, but I have no way of knowing if they were affected by the Christianization of Ireland.
By way of remembrance, she shares a bit of her personal family lore and tradition; that of wearing a oak leaf pin passed down to her:
The significance of the oak leaf should be obvious to most Pagans. Greeks worshipped [sic] the oak as it was sacred to Zeus. It was a crime to fell an oak tree in Pagan Ireland. The ancient Celts wouldn’t meet unless an oak tree was present. The old expression “knock on wood” comes from the Celts, who believed in tree spirits. Both the Greeks and the Celts believed touching sacred trees would bring good fortune. They would knock on the oak tree to say hello to the tree spirit. And my family tradition holds that an oak leaf worn at the breast, touching the heart, will protect the wearer from all deception and the world’s false glamour. Oaks are protectors, and to me they represent strength and renewal; that spark of the old ways that can never be fully stamped out by Christianity, and which keep popping up in the least expected places.
Why not wear a shamrock? Simple. Legend credits Saint Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Christian Trinity by showing people the shamrock, using it to highlight the Christian belief of “three divine persons in the one God”. Wearing a shamrock to me is tantamount to wearing a Christian cross. I don’t begrudge those who do, but I know the meaning behind it, and I can’t follow you there. You might as well ask a Jew to wear a swastika.
is another perspective I hadn’t considered before, and it’s quite jarring to think about such a ‘fun’ holiday in this context. I do particularly appreciate the importance of family lore, and recognize the importance it has in shaping our identities.
But… is this a factual representation of the ‘truth’ of St. Patrick’s Day?
Maybe. But maybe not. Patheos also has a great article about the myths that surround St. Patrick’s Day, worth reading, especially if you’re swayed by the impassioned assertions of those who would ‘reclaim’ St. Patrick’s Day. Particularly this:
It seems the “snakes = Druids” metaphor is a relatively recent invention, as was the idea that Patrick “drove them out.” … P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan (and scholar) who has extensively studied Irish myth and folklore, had this to say on the subject.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.”
The simple fact is that paganism thrived in Ireland for generations after Patrick lived and died, and, as Lupus puts it, ” the ‘final’ Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE.” There was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland, it simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography.
I’m not a historian, by any means, so I defer to those who make such matters their life’s work. With credible historians backing this point of view, and a decided lack of factual evidence for the former claim, I tend to lean in this direction – that St. Patrick’s mark was negligible; though he may have played a prominent role in proselytizing and has been canonized for those efforts, he wasn’t the hammer that drove the first, or final, nail in the coffin of Paganism in Ireland.
So what’s a modern Pagan to do? Which point of view is correct? What should we believe?
Ultimately, that’s up to the individual Pagan. There is no right answer for ‘all’ Pagans. With most things, how you choose to celebrate (or not) is entirely up to what you feel is right for your path. Obviously, the Christian movement has a long and bloody history to atone for, and it is an undeniable fact that most indigenous Pagan religions were stamped out by aggressive Christian proselytizing and all-out war. The mindset is so pervasive that even today, to be an out-of-the-broom-closet Pagan can be dangerous in many areas of the world, including the United States, my own included. Considering that, on some levels, it seems ‘right’ to rally behind the idea that celebrating the rise of Christianity in a Pagan country is wrong, and that re-framing it in the context of ‘cultural genocide’ instead of ‘fun secular holiday’ is a more respectful way to approach it. On the other hand, for those of us with Irish roots (however deep they may be), without a concrete connection to our cultural identity as Irish descendants, St. Patrick’s Day in modern context (that is, more or less devoid of the religious context that it may have once held) is an important touchstone.
Like most holidays, irrespective of their origin or modern connotations, I approach it from several angles with my kids. From a ‘world religions history’ perspective, we take the factual (as much as possible) account of St. Patrick and his deeds, and the context (from world history) of the region of the time. From a spiritual perspective, which is admittedly biased by my personal beliefs, we discuss the possible effects that the Christianization of Ireland had on both the people, and religion of the country. And finally, from a secular perspective, we take what’s fun about it, and what might be connected to our family history, and celebrate where we feel moved to do so.
Sláinte, and Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!
Last year, Bridey and I went to a retreat for Pagan Women, and our hostess had this amazing bowl of stones on the counter. Literally every time I passed by it, the urge to bury my hands in the stones was too overwhelming to resist, and so I indulged. After the retreat was over and participants started posting pictures from the weekend, I saw that I wasn’t the only one – virtually all of us, at one time or another, were caught with our hands in them.
It was there that I decided that I had to have a bowl of grounding stones in my house. Last week, I ordered several sets from Fire Mountain Gems*, and they arrived today! I bought several packets of mini – large nugget and small to medium chips, plus several bags of individual stones that I wanted for my bowl. You can use whatever you like, but those are perfect or my purposes.
You may have some questions, like:
- what are grounding stones?
- why do you need them?
- how do they work?
- how do you use them?
Basically, grounding stones are just a big bowl (of whatever material you want; I like wooden bowls – they’re charming), filled with semi-precious stone chips. The stones can be whatever size you want, and you can use whatever kinds of stones you want, from commercial pea-gravel to semi-precious stones. I like semi-precious stones and crystals because of the correspondences and variety of energies and attributes that stones and crystals have within themselves; your preference may vary. Size-wise, they need to be small enough to flow freely; you want to be able to dig your hands in without the stone clinging to your skin (so not too small or fragile) or getting under your fingernails, and not so large that you bruise yourself while handling them. Mine average about the size of my pinkie fingernail, with some chips larger and some smaller. I had one stone that was about an inch long and half an inch wide that was ‘too big’ for the rest of the stones, so I took it out – but the rest seem to flow well.
Grounding stones have different meanings and uses for different people. First of all, they’re incredibly fun to play with. If you’ve ever been to a playground with gravel to cushion the play surface, then you know how appealing it can be to feel the stones flow over your hands. Aside from the sensory delight that small stones offer, the rhythmic feel of pushing your hands through the stones keeps them busy and gives your mind the opportunity to wander. It’s a great thing to do while you’re reading, or meditating, or even watching TV.
I find that anything dealing with the Earth is a great way to ground – either after Ritual or spell work, or just as a way to de-stress from the day’s activities. Lying prone on the ground, letting the Earth support your whole weight and absorb your cares and worries is awesome, but so many factors can interfere with that, from inclement weather to pests (fire ants!) to just not having the time to go lay in the grass. Having a little bit of Earth easily accessible – even if it’s just for a minute or two, can really help you let go of whatever’s on your mind and re-center.
If stones aren’t your thing, or you have an affinity for water, water marbles (polymer beads) might offer an alternative that works in a similar way. We found several containers of them at the $1 store, and they always have them at craft stores and online.
Do you use grounding stones?
*Just for the sake of disclosure, I am not affiliated with FMG or Amazon, nor do I receive any sort of payment or product for recommending them; I just buy my things from them.
I really miss the alphabetical challenge that the Pagan Blog Project was doing – though I understand why they stopped, it was a fun challenge, and even though I don’t think I completed one of them ‘on time’, it did keep me writing. So I thought I’d do a modified version of it just for myself, with a more-or-less weekly alphabetical update.
I also found another site with monthly blog prompts, at Mom’s a Witch. I’ll probably work some of those in over the course of this coming year as well.
Starting with ‘A’, this week’s post is on Air in the North, Part II. A while back, for one of the other PBP posts, I did the original Air in the North post, but I’ve learned more since then and thought it was worth another post. I also met another few people who put Air in the North, which was really cool, since most of the people I practice with on a regular basis keep to traditional elemental directions.
At Pagan by Design, the article starts off with acknowledging the discrepancy and sometimes conflict among different Pagan paths regarding elemental and directional correspondences. There are a lovely few paragraphs that indicate other Pagan cultures and paths that use additional directional and elemental correspondences (of note, Chinese, with fire, wood, metal, earth and water). I particularly like the Celtic and Gaelic preference of North, East, South, West, Above, Below, Within; and the concept of the Spirit being divided into 3 – Light, Dark, and Soul. I’ve written Druidic-inspired Rituals, using only three correspondences: Land Sea & Sky; and have participated in Native American-inspired Rituals where we did a Medicine Wheel rather than a traditional Quarter Call.
Part of my preference for Air in the North comes from thinking along these lines:
The North improves mental wisdom, discovery, and logic in an illuminating fashion. Knowledge accumulated through our lives is purified, as if a swift breeze blew away all dust and confusion. We prepare for intellectual illumination as these winds sweep into our awareness. It seems that gusts of enlightened, intellectual processes of “knowing” blows into our lives.
I was also particularly intrigued to find that the Lakota People also associate North and Air. I am not Lakota, but I’ve learned a bit about them over the past few years as one of my good friends is of Lakota heritage, and identifies with some of the spiritual paths and practices of the People. That makes total sense to me, as the Dakotas would be among the first territories to feel the chill of the Northern Winter storms – Air would absolutely make sense coming from the North for them, which is a big part of my feeling that Air belongs in the North for me as well.
After a lengthy explanation of why traditional correspondences exists and speculation as to how they came about, Pagan’s Path ends with this:
For you, the wind might be warm instead of cold. The waters might be cool instead of warm. What do you “feel” when you think of each element? Does the fire rise or flicker? Does the Earth rise or spread out upon a vast land? Make your own saying and then think about where these elements fit within the cardinal directions of your location. Is it cold in the North or the South? Does the warm water flow to the South or East? Does the sun represent your fire? If so, when it rises in the East or sets in the West? Does the Earth rise up to greet you in the mountains of the East, West, or maybe some other direction? These are the things that make you connected to the elements, the directions and the Divine Energy around you. It’s not how your friend feels, or your partner thinks, or what your Teacher says is right or wrong. None of those outside forces are going to be there when YOU sit down to do a working or to commune with the Divine world around you. So this is your time to think about where you are, and what you believe. You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.
That, I think, is one of the key elements as to how ‘being Pagan’ works. “You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.” This, exactly.
Though I am pretty vocal about my preferences, I don’t have to have Air in the North to be part of a Ritual Circle. I have, and do, function just fine when someone whose correspondences differ from mine leads Ritual. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that my practice is enriched by being part of Circles where things are vastly different form how I normally do them. Being exposed to new things always adds an element of wonder to my experience within that Circle, and I have always come away from that experience with something to take back to my practice (or know with certainty that something is ‘not for me’).
If you keep non-traditional correspondences, I’d love to hear form you – what they are and why you have them!
Probably every person who admits to being Pagan gets this question at least once. I’ve never addressed it here, so I thought it might be a fun way to kick off the new year. The question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is a hard one to answer, in my opinion. Not because what I do or don’t do in my practice is questionable, but because of the very nature of black and white thinking. Categorizing something as either/or leaves out a vast canvas of grey, which I think most things could be said to be. There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether something is good or bad, not the least of which are intention and perspective.
Morticia Addams said it best, ‘What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.’
Take healing spells, for example. Most people would say that the intent of a healing spell is to help someone who is ill or feeling poorly. Few would argue that the intent of a healing spell would be classed as ‘good’. But if the person you worked a spell for feels that anything to do with Pagan practices is ‘evil’, and you knowingly violated that person’s belief/preference, would that still be classed as ‘good’?
There are those would would argue that all witches are evil. Quoting the bible, Exodus 22:18 says, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ That’s pretty damning, most would say. But surely all witches aren’t evil? I don’t consider myself to be evil, or even mostly bad. Short of swearing and a little social drinking and smoking every now and then, that’s about the worst of my vile habits. Even in my spiritual practice, I am cautious when it comes to affecting change in a way that might be destructive.
Many people who have an inkling of familiarity with Pagans may think that all Pagans are Wiccan, and as such, follow the Wiccan Rede, which states, ‘An it harm none, do as ye will.’ That’s not so; while Wiccans are Pagan, not all Pagans are Wiccan. Wicca is a specific style/belief/practice set within Paganism, and even though it has different ‘flavors’, that’s only a small part of the larger Pagan community. I’m not actually Wiccan, so I wouldn’t follow Wiccan dictates any more than I would follow Catholic ones (though those two particular religions have practices and ‘rules’ that are remarkably similar to one another, but I digress). That doesn’t mean that I take the idea behind the Rede, or even the Christian sentiment of the Golden Rule, any less seriously. Most cultures and religious or philosophical maxims have some version of it; I think it’s because at their core, most people strive to be good – to do good and be well thought of by others in their community. Even the concept of karma, and ‘the rule of three’ emphasis that what you put out there is what comes back to you.
For myself, I choose to strive to be good. My version of ‘good’ may vary slightly from yours; for example, I enjoy firearms as a sport, and other weaponry. While my interest in them does fall towards ‘sport’ and less towards ‘protection’, if pressed, I wouldn’t have an issue protecting myself or my children with force. I believe that doing so, even should it result in injury or death, would still be ‘good’. That’s more pragmatic than many ‘fluffy goodness and light’ Pagans might like, but I believe that there is more than just black and white; good and bad.
In light of recent world goings-on, I have had many discussions with my children about how ‘good’ and ‘evil’ develop, particularly within the political realm. While current politics don’t hold my interest the way that history does, I can see alarming correlations between some of the American Presidential candidates’ positions and policies that historical figures that we almost universally categorize as ‘evil’ once held. But to truly avoid repeating those same mistakes, we can’t dehumanize the villains in those accounts. They were men; not monsters from a fictional story. They were men who, through charismatic, enigmatic and persuasive arguments and speech, appealed to fear, a need for safety and an idealized (but unattainable) ‘better’. And people flocked to them. They came running, willing to set aside their personal values and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in order to work towards a goal that someone else imposed upon them. And there are those who would unequivocally say that those leaders were ‘good’ men. Chaos for the fly, indeed.
On the flip side, we have examples of non-violent lifestyles taken to extremes. Some might say that inaction in the fact of injustice is ‘bad’, but who could argue that refusing to harm or kill another living being is anything but ‘good’. But if my child were harmed or killed through someone else’s deliberate inaction on their behalf, I’d probably fail to see how they rationalize being a ‘good’ person after that.
My point is that black and white thinking is a form of cognitive distortion (another subject that interests me greatly). When you categorize something, and more importantly, someone as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you box them, and yourself, into a corner. You tend to put ‘good’ people up on a pedestal, unable or unwilling to see their faults, and have the potential to grossly wrong someone by judging them as ‘bad’ simply because their perspective or worldview is different from yours. We all do it to some degree; it’s natural. But being aware of it is the first step towards questioning our snap judgement and perceptions and getting to the grey.
Then again, according to the quiz, maybe I am just here to tempt you to the Dark Side of the Force.
So, are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
This was an interesting question to me: Is reviving the religion of the ancients compatible with modern life?
At one point, I was very interested in Kemetic Reconstruction. It clearly wasn’t my path, because I could never quite get past the ‘research’ phase and into the ‘practice’ phase. Though the practice wasn’t for me, I found the reading and research fascinating and spent quite a bit of time amassing information on it.
The entire idea that people actually went to some length and great effort to bring that religion and practice – not an imitation or re-imagining of it, but the actual religion and practice (as much as possible), back to life is nothing less than phenomenal. I am sure others have done similar feats with other ancient religions, and their efforts are probably likewise striking – even though I don’t subscribe to those particular beliefs, it’s still pretty amazing.
However, the question remains – are those practices compatible with modern life?
In their ancient form, and for their ancient reasons, I would say no; they’re not – and here’s why.
In part, I think that religion was used as a way to explain the unexplainable. Things that you and I have adequate explanations for were incomprehensible to the ancient practitioner. Gods and Goddesses were called upon for everything, from illness to rain for crops, to staving off illness or plague. Whereas you and I both know that falling stars and eclipses happen on a regular basis, and we understand the ‘why’ of it from a scientific viewpoint (regardless of whatever spiritual significance we may individually attach to such happenings), they didn’t, and so appeals to the gods for protection from, or blessings in the wake of such incomprehensible events were commonplace. While many Pagans are moved to worship, or Observe in Ritual, on these occasions, we’re not plagued by ignorance or worried that their appearance signifies the wrath of deity and their impending doom.
Another aspect of religion was (and remains) control. Often, leaders of the day were viewed as ‘gods’; their word was Law and the people were bound to obey. We still see this in some religious and political contexts, but many people (especially in the US and other democratic nations) are no longer familiar with the concepts of fealty and duty to the ruler. Americans openly mock the President and those in power, without fear of repercussion. Jokes are even made at the expense of various reigning monarchs, also without serious repercussion. Ancient people weren’t granted that same freedom, and ‘religious’ rituals as a matter of state kept them in line.
Granted, there is no ‘ruling class’ of Pagans; we’re a rather motley crew, content to do our own thing as we are motivated. Even in a reconstructionist Pagan path, I wonder how long people stay in it if the ‘rules’ for practice are strict and binding. Most Pagans I know find that restrictions and rules chafe after a bit, and break off to go their own way. Many Pagans I know come from religious backgrounds (usually Christianity), and are just tired of being told what to do; they prefer to feel it out for themselves and move where they are called.
It makes me wonder, too, why anyone would go to the lengths that would be necessary to become a leader in a reconstructionist path – and how they’d even get there. Without a practitioner to guide them, even reconstructionist religions are likely a ‘best guess’ rather than a true revival of ancient ways. Religion was often limited to inner circles – priests and priestesses and whatnot, and as the new religious/political faction took over, previous religions were banned, with all materials destroyed. Few ancient religions have text books or ‘So you wanna be a Priest of Anubis’ handbooks lying around. Even among more ‘mainstream’ Pagan paths, they’re ‘best-guess’ or purely made up as the individual practitioner follows his or her path. I am not deity-centered, so it doesn’t make sense to me why following my path and doing what I am inspired to do is any less valid than what someone else may feel inspired to do (not that I feel inferior or have even been made to feel so; just speculation).
On the other hand, religion and spirituality are an internal things for many; it is for me. Though I blog, and have outward evidence of my practice, it’s not something I flaunt or that you’d necessarily even know if you came into my house. My practice and spiritual path are for me; not the public. I do choose to practice with a group when that’s available to me, but even that has more to do with what I choose than what I’m told I ‘should’ do. I feel like reconstructionist paths are extremely interesting, and if they’re your cup of tea, then they’re absolutely valid as a spiritual path. I do think that much of the ‘why’ would be altered for a modern audience, but the ‘how’ may very well be adapted for modern life.
What are your thoughts?