The following article on fear was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on June 27th, 2014.
I was visiting my friend Camie at Texas Snow Store in Watauga as I sometimes do on my way home from work and a couple of guys walk up carrying a big box of banana nut bread for sale. She says, “Oh, you have to try this banana bread! It’s the best ever!” So, she goes running up to meet them and buys a few loaves for herself and one for us to share. She offers them a snow cone each to cool them off from walking in the afternoon heat and humidity and they come over and join us in the shade of Dave’s gazebo close to his Philly Shack restaurant.
These two guys are from a Christian based rehabilitation house nearby which helps drug addicts turn their lives around and change their habits. The banana nut bread they sell helps fund the program and helps the people going through the program get accustomed to the trials of everyday productive work and interacting with people. They tell us about how some of the people who are doing what they are doing don’t want to change their ways and instead steal the money made from selling the bread to go buy drugs.
But if the program can help 1 in 10 people pull themselves out of the gutter of addiction then it’s worth it right? I am happy to see people improving their lives through whatever means work for them. Now cynical me has thought on occasion about how these programs latch on to people when they are at the lowest points in their lives and most vulnerable and susceptible to persuasion in order to brainwash them into a manner of thinking which benefits the people running the program. Like, I said, that’s cynical me talking and indeed such programs do usually come with a stipulation that one needs to submit to and turn over their faculties to the particular organizations interpretation of what their “one true god” wishes. Essentially using it as an avenue to recruit more members. The very thing those of us from minority religions like Wicca and Druidry are often accused of.
But still, if this organization helps those people to make a better life for themselves then some loyalty in return is probably not too much to ask is it? Perhaps some of the Pagan organizations should take note if they ever become large enough and organized enough to fund such programs. 😉
But anyway, at one point one of the guys pipes up and asks us if we are “God fearing people.” I answered as I often do such queries. “I have no need to fear my god because I know my god loves me.” He wasn’t quite sure what to do with that answer based on the look on his face but it was no matter because Camie piped in with “Well, he’s spiritual but not religious.” So the guy says, well, the important thing is that we believe there is something bigger than just us out there. Which I agree with regardless of what form that something bigger might take on from one individual or another.
That phrase and others like it have always bothered me though. It’s a popular one in Bible Belt Christianity. “God fearing.” It smacks of being in an abusive relationship to me. Why should I have to fear my god(dess) if (s)he loves me? Perhaps fear letting my god(dess) down if my actions are not worthy of his or her approval or that I am not living my life up to the fullest potential the gods have laid before me. But to fear my gods themselves? That concept just seems odd to me. What do you think?
The following article on ugliness and nastiness was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on May 28th, 2014.
As I have mentioned in past blog posts, in my 15 plus years hanging around in the Paganesque community I haven’t received nearly as much negativity from the people you might expect. No, not the hardcore fundamentalist Christians who dominate the region I grew up and live in. The truth be told, the most hateful, negative, ugly words I have ever heard directed towards my beliefs or those of other minority religion faiths have come from right within the Pagan, Heathen or Earth Based Spiritual communities.
It’s a bizarre phenomenon to me. Here we are surrounded, literally out numbered 1000 to 1 or more by people who wholeheartedly believe we are bound for a lake of fire and eternal damnation for daring to believe differently than they do, but some of us would rather cut one another’s throats, figuratively (hopefully), than understand one another and embrace our differences in the midst of mainstream dogma.
I remember a time, back in 2002, I was a freshly minted 1st degree Alexandrian Wiccan priest. I was proud of what I had learned in my past year and a day of study. I was proud of my new pentacle and robe. I was delighted to be a part of a Pagan community which I naively believed at that time to be all open minded, friendly, earth loving, ancestor honoring people supporting one another in their paths. I heard about this Druid gathering going on near Austin called Modron’s Gate. To this day I do not know who the organizers were or which Druid order was represented but I think it was ADF (the one I eventually joined many years later) and I think I remember Skip Ellison (former Archdruid of ADF although he was not yet Archdruid at that time I don’t think) speaking there.
I had really enjoyed myself there that first day and that night went to sit down by the fire with the others and listen to the drumming and story telling.
At one point the drumming stopped for awhile as people were resting their hands and refreshing themselves and someone, I don’t remember who, began to speak. He went on for quite some time about why he believed Druidry was superior to Wicca which isn’t bad in and of itself. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all. But as he continued the stereotypical cliches about Wiccans came out. The stuff about how all Wiccans believe magick is powered by fairy farts and unicorns who shit rainbows. All Wiccans believe everything in the world is love and light and there is never any darkness. All Wiccans believe in a bunch of New Age (which rhymes with sewage) mumbo jumbo and don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. You know, the kinds of things people say when they are stroking their own ego at the expense of others in an attempt to make themselves look superior.
Well, needless to say, I left that place thinking, if this is what Druids are about I don’t want anything to do with them. It was many years later that I bothered to look into it and find out there was much more to it than that person’s impression left me with. The founder of ADF was, himself married to a Wiccan and didn’t feel at all that way about Wiccans. But, how much more might I have been willing to learn about Druidry in 2002 had I not been driven away by that ugliness?
Also, back in the day I used to frequently make trips down to a popular Pagan festival ground to volunteer my time at work weekends. The land crew as it was called had their own camp ground and because I had helped out with the clearing of the land for camping places, I was invited to camp with them at the first festival held on the newly acquired land. My friends and I had a great time that night at land crew camp. There was drumming, dancing, story telling and camaraderie. No one was negative and I don’t recall a cross word being cast toward anyone. Then, the next evening, my wife at the time (ex now) went down to the medical tent area because she was experiencing some pain as she often did and needed some attention. While there another individual was in the area commenting about how there had been some “strange energy” coming from the land crew camp the night before and it just wasn’t good. I’ve come to learn that sometimes “strange energy” is used by some people as code for “I don’t like those people.” But I had no idea what the guy was talking about. I had been there the whole time and they all seemed like a wonderful group of people to me. Still, it stayed with me and showed me that this was not the cohesive, spiritually focused community I naively led myself to believe at first. But why can’t people talk to one another instead of about one another? It’s much as Tommy Elf said in his article, You Never Know Who Is Watching. You really never do and while most community leaders and organizers want to see their community grow, such negativity and divisiveness has the opposite effect on new comers. They see it and it usually makes them want to run the other way.
I, only recently started exploring the Reddit online community or the Front Page Of The Internet as they like to call themselves and I found out they have subreddits for groups like pagan, druidism, wicca, heathen, etc. I’ve known about Reddit for a long time and have been on the site a time or two but never really took the time to fully explore it and get involved. I used to spend a great deal of time on Digg reading news articles back when I was kind of a news junkie and the people on the Digg boards would frequently mention what was going on over on the Reddit boards because, at the time, I think the sites were very similar in style as far as what niche markets they were catering to. Apparently on Reddit, anonymity is a big thing. They don’t even let you put much personal info on your profile over there which has it’s good points and bad points. On the plus side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever they want. On the negative side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever ugliness they want. What I mean by that is, some people hide behind anonymity to say some of the most negative and ugly things they can think of which they probably would never say in a face to face conversation. Sometimes it’s just out of pure meanness, ugliness and spitefulness. Other times it’s just general trolling. I come from a long history of not feeding trolls that stretches back to the days before DejaNews got bought out by a search engine newcomer called Google. So, I don’t give the trolls the satisfaction of a response most of the time. But, if these people are not trolls but instead regular participants in their tradition’s particular subreddit board, I wonder if they realize their antics do their groups more harm than good or if they even care. Look at all the good Westboro Baptist Church’s ugliness has done for views on Christianity after all. (/sarcasm)
The following article regarding invitation to Pagan groups was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on April 3rd, 2014.
And the hills they are hollow and home to the Fey,
Who dance on Midsummer’s Eve,
Some people don’t understand when I say,
These are the things I believe.
These are the things I believe. – Damh The Bard
I once had someone say to me,
“I would really like to go to a Pagan ritual or gathering but no one has invited me.”
Please understand this. We are not an evangelical lot and most of us adhere to a code that says it is for the seeker to seek. In other words, a student of esoteric knowledge, occult, ancient wisdom, the arts, or whatever you want to call it, should always seek out a teacher but not the other way around. A teacher seeking students is often frowned upon in many Pagan traditions. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, we are not in the soul saving business. We do not believe that your immortal soul is in danger of eternal torment or any such things if you don’t follow the path we are on. Most of us believe that our lives here on earth are like a school of sorts and we are all learning lessons of one kind or another in this incarnation which may carry over into the next life.
Just because someone doesn’t happen to be on the same path that you are on doesn’t necessarily mean they are on the wrong path. So we have no driving reason to go after people and try to convince them to come join us on our path. But if a seeker shows up and asks to walk with us on our path they are more than welcome.
That being said, if you see a posting up somewhere for a public circle or gathering of a Pagan nature and you are curious or interested, then by all means go. Don’t be afraid that you will be unwelcome because if the event was posted as open to the public then it’s understood that seekers or the curious might show up. The only thing we generally find unwelcome would be people who show up with the intent to be rude and disruptive. If you are there with an open heart and open mind your kindness will be returned.
Many of our traditions include teachings regarding hospitality to strangers and being a good host or guest. So by all means, seek out a public event near you if you are curious. If you have trouble finding one, let me know and I will see if I can help you find one. Check Our Calendar! Need an invitation? Get in touch and let us know.
Valentines just ain’t what it used to be. Those crazy Romans and the Lupercalia…
It’s not all about just hearts and flowers and chocolate, this Valentine’s Day thing. Kinda, sorta, truth be told the upcoming holiday has a history risque enough to set any respectable saint spinning in his grave.
In days of old when men were men and goats were nervous the ‘any reason to throw a party’ Romans celebrated Lupercalia. For about 800 hundred years it was one of those mysterious ‘guy things’. Those of you who didn’t sleep through your Ancient History studies might remember the story of the founding of Rome by the twins, Romulus and Remus. Abandoned as infants, the boys were raised and suckled in a cave by a kindly she-wolf. I mean, hey! she had to be pretty kindly since she didn’t have them for lunch right? To celebrate Romulus and Remus not being eaten by the she-wolf, every year on February 15th, young men and boys would gather at the same cave and perform the rite of passage.
The festival would begin with a sacrifice by the Luperci of two male goats and a dog. Afterwards two young patrician men would be led to the altar and anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk. Afterwards they were to smile and laugh. Hey! What else are you going to do when you find yourself in such a ridiculous situation right?! That guy is still holding the knife and you see what he did to the goats and dog! Anyway, the men and boys would gorge themselves on a big feast followed by a tradition many guys still adhere to to this day. They got good and drunk! The hide from the dog or goat sacrifice was cut into loincloths and leather strips. But that’s not all! The lovely ladies of the town would wait in the streets below for the guys to show up, stumbling down the hillside, smelling of alcohol and burnt goat and dog ready to do what exactly?! Well, give the women a good flailing with the leather strips of course! Ah the good old days right?! And you thought the modern day Americans invented kinky foreplay!
Actually, the flailing would supposedly bestow good fortune and fertility upon the whippee. The whipping was intended as a form of purification. As a matter of fact the name of this whip was februa which is where the name of the second month of our year came from. I don’t remember learning about that in school, do you? Go look it up! It’s true, I’ll wait here if you don’t believe me. Another thing practiced by the Romans about this time was a lottery. Young ladies names were placed in a jar or box and the unwed men of the town would draw out a name and they were paired with the named woman for a few months. What this actual pairing entailed is a source of debate among scholars but of course Hollywood typically goes for the most lurid possible scenario when depicting this event because, after all, sex sells!
But now, back to the flailing thing. Here’s an interesting side note. Ever since I was a kid I always wondered at the shape of the “hearts” we would give to one another on Valentines Day in various shades of pink and red. It really doesn’t look like the shape of an actual heart at all right? But if you turn it upside down it does bear a striking resemblance to a well spanked woman’s bum does it not? Hmmmmmm, there might be something there!
Some of this lore of the Lupes was still practiced right up in to modern times. Divination was a very popular pastime in the 1800’s and girls would put the names of their preferable suitors in a bowl. The name drawn was supposed to foretell the perfect match sure to come. In other places, the first eligible man or woman seen on Valentines Day was deemed to be ‘it’. Tag, you’re it! If you were in pursuit you were supposed to give this person a gift. Much like modern times, if it was a really good gift like say a piece of fine art (Well, I had to put that in there right?!) , you could suppose that one would increase the odds of this person liking you.
Around about the 1860’s Valentines Day went commercial, shortly followed by just about every other holiday. Giving printed greeting cards on all of the holidays became all the rage as printing costs went down due to better printing machinery and techniques. From this grew the modern day cacophony of buying all manner of chocolates, flowers, jewelry and lawn equipment to woo your sweety. What?! Doesn’t everybody give lawn equipment on VD?!
In writing this article I borrowed heavily from the wit and research of Wren Walker from Witchvox. See her original article here for more details. I also grabbed a few tidbits from Wikipedia in case you want to find out more about this stuff. Yeah, yeah, I know Wikipedia this and accuracy that and throw the baby out with the bath water. Blah, blah, blah. Go look it up in your 1975 Encyclopedia Brittanica collection if you prefer! 😉
So, I happened upon a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook and while the man certainly made some good points regarding the issue he was intending to shed light on, my mind wandered off into other things as it is often inclined to do. In it, he keeps referring to these people the World Bank calls “desperately poor” because they earn less than $2 per day on average in income. But, this assumes those people even live within the system the rest of us do and how relative things can be in terms of living and survival.
The dominant culture within our society of the industrialized world has no use for people who are not in the system of exchanging labor for money (which is in fact a certificate of debt) for goods and services (many of which were previously freely available to our ancestors for the taking from the abundance of the land or through their own efforts.) Have you ever seen the 1980 movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’? It’s a humorous, campy, obviously eighties flick but with an excellent message, I think, about the differences in cultures.
So, how many among these billions of people Mr. Beck refers to in his gumball analogy come from cultures for whom that $2 per day is neither here nor there because they live a life very much like their own ancestors in which money isn’t necessary? One simply lives off the land, shares with his family and neighbors and thanks the gods for the abundance offered? Not a taker culture but a leaver culture as Daniel Quinn referred to in his novels. The takers take it upon themselves to define how things should be and the leavers leave it up to the gods. Also, even among those who live in the world of money, what $2 may purchase in one part of the world can differ greatly from what it might purchase in another part so as a measure of “wealth” it is rather iffy in its own right. When Europeans first came to the Americas the natives who were living here made less than $2 per day too but did they consider themselves to be “desperately poor”? Probably not. Because theirs was a culture which lived in balance and harmony with the land. Oh, I don’t mean to imply that they did not know struggle and strife. Certainly there was disease and war among them. All human cultures are faced with these maladies. All I am saying is, whether or not $2 per day in income is a sign of “desperate poverty” is relative depending on the way the people live and what is considered valuable.
Just a few thoughts that wandered into my mind and now out through my keyboard. My two cents as it were.
Today’s post is just a couple of offerings from my photo collection and some stories about them. I’m happy to share this glimpse of my life with you. 🙂
As part of our ritual in honor of the goddess Brighid last weekend we asked the attendees to make offerings of silver, coins, crystals and other items to the well which will be sacrificed to the gods. To complete this journey they will be taken to a nearby body of water and ceremonially offered to the kindred.
On the top it reads “Conradh na Gaeilge” which is Gaelic League of course and below is “Craobh Chairdeas Texas” or Friendship Branch Texas. I’ve known about our local DFW Gaelic League for some time and have even been a member of their Facebook group for awhile. But due to the class schedules and places not meshing with my work (for a living) schedule and my temple work schedule I have never been able to attend any of their classes. They do have some excellent online resources available though which I very much appreciate and I wanted to do something to support them and their efforts. So, I did some poking around on their site and found that they have a Cafe Press store in which they sell some products to raise funds. I thought, “Go hiontach!” and ordered this shirt as well as a sticker which I hope to receive soon. They usually set up an information table at North Texas Irish Festival which my family, friends and I typically go out to every year. Unfortunately though, this year my vacation plans fall on the very same weekend so I will only be able to attend the opening festivities on Friday night this year. But, we will get to see Williamsburg, Virginia at least and there’s always next year for N.T.I.F.!
Side note: There are similar organizations throughout the world. See if there is one near you at: Conradh Na Gaeilge.
It takes all kinds of nuts to make up this crazy world and not all of the nuts are in candy bars either.
True story. Some of them climbed back up in there though so if you hear a rustling above your head….duck!
This looks like it might be much more effective than the old fashioned Beware Of Dog sign.
Well, this explains a lot.
Cad é an chraic?
Very true. People are going to talk about you know matter what you do so you might as well enjoy your life and be yourself. Because at the end of the day, it’s your life, not theirs.
Two Irish nuns have just arrived in USA by boat,
and one says to the other, “I hear that the people
in this country actually eat dogs.”
“Odd,” her companion replies, “but if we shall live
in America , we might as well do as the Americans do.”
As they sit, they hear a push cart vendor yelling,
“Hot Dogs, get your dogs here,” and they both walk
towards the hot dog cart.
“Two dogs, please!,” says one. The vendor is very pleased to oblige,
wraps both hot dogs in foil and hands them over. Excited, the nuns hurry
to a bench and begin to unwrap their ‘dogs.’
The mother superior is first to open hers.
She begins to blush, and then staring at it for a moment, leans to the other Nun and in a soft brogue whispers……
I played this game with my son this past weekend and it’s a great way to teach kids (and adults) about useful herbs that might be growing nearby. I also like the fact that it encourages cooperation rather than cut throat competition to win the game. The setting is that you’re at grandma’s house and she wants you to hike up the mountain to fetch her a couple of pails of huckleberries. Each player starts with four herbs in their backpack in case they need them for troubles along the way. The troubles might be a headache, cuts, a sprained ankle or maybe a bee sting. You’ll have opportunities to gather more herbs, take shortcuts or deal with set backs. You also get to help your friends catch up or deal with the troubles which come their way. By the time everyone makes it back to grandma’s house before nightfall everyone will have learned a thing or two and had some fun. Last Yule we bought extras of this game and gave them as gifts. Find out more at Learning Herbs.
Every time we get together, the food my friends and I come up with is always amazing. Maybe that’s why I’m always struggling with my weight? Oh well, first world problems I guess.
We had some truly magical vibes that night playing a mix of styles from all over the world on the fly.
The following article on forgiveness was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on Father’s Day, June 16th, 2013.
Happy Father’s Day to all my fellow Dads out there as well as moms who are having to be both mom and dad to someone. Expect today’s blog post to be somewhat convoluted as I have several things that have been bouncing around in my head that I wanted to write about today but no clear plan going forth as to how to go about writing on them. So bear with me as I juggle the duties of writing this along with my dadly (yes, I created a new word) duties of helping a young child who fell asleep on the living room couch last night and had an accident. Oh! and get him breakfast too! 🙂 So anyway, yes, as the title suggests I would like to talk a little bit about how Pagans in general (based solely on my own experiences) treat the concepts of integrity and forgiveness. A lot of Pagans seem to feel that forgiveness is a predominantly Christian concept and that people should be held accountable for their actions to the bitter end. Now, I am no expert by any means on the teachings of all the traditions out there and I write just as much so that perhaps some of you who are more knowledgeable can have an opportunity to enlighten me as I do to express my viewpoints. Anyway, whether forgiveness is a concept that comes from our own lineage or not my question is shouldn’t it be? One of the graphics I see come across on the book of face quite a bit that I usually share when I see it says that we forgive someone not always because they deserve it but because we deserve peace. Another says that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It just doesn’t work that way. Believe me, I am very much human and very much struggle with these ideas myself but ultimately I do see the wisdom in them.
Moving on to integrity. I also see a lot of posts, and have probably shared some myself, along the lines of “I do whatever I want and screw what you think about it.” Certainly our individuality and rebellious nature is a thing to be celebrated I think but there comes a point sometimes when the actions we decide to take might become harmful to others or show a lack of ethics or integrity. If we make an oath, take a vow or otherwise give our word on something then later take an action that shows we have not followed through on what we’ve said, whether we like it or not, others judge us on those actions. Whether they say it out loud or not the thought is still in their mind and they will deal with us accordingly. Sometimes our actions come with a price. They might cost us a great deal of trust and respect. So, certainly do what you want but understand that what you want and what is right may or may not be the same thing and consider what the consequences of your actions might be. But, since we are all human, we’re all going to slip up once in awhile. Let’s try to work on that forgiveness thing. Agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts. I have to go do more dadly stuff.
Imbolc is mentioned in some of the most early Irish writings and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and it is still observed today as such by Wiccans and Celtic based Pagans throughout the world today in various forms. For those following the Celtic method of time keeping in which nightfall marks the beginning of the next day, this holiday is usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1 and continuing through the day of February 2.
Brighid’s crosses are made in honor of her and dolls, called Brídeógs, are sometimes paraded from house-to-house. Brigid is believed to visit the homes of those who worship her at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people might make a bed for her and leave something to eat and drink. Also, some folks leave items of clothing or household items outside for her to bless. Brigid may also be invoked to protect homes, pets and, for those living in the country, livestock. In Ireland and other places, special feasts are held, sacred wells are visited and it is also a good time for divination.
If you would like to make your own Brigid’s Cross they are fairly simple and easy to make with the right materials. If you have access to gather fresh green reeds or straw these work best. We’ve even made them with the kids out of multi-colored pipe cleaners as craft projects. The more flexible the material you’re using the better because you have to bend each piece in half so dry reeds will break on you. There are several good tutorials online you may use to learn how, including this one: