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In my early days of Pagan study and worship, it was easiest for me to connect with and understand the Nature Spirits.  I was raised to respect them and even taught by my mother to believe in fairies and unicorns, even if they were part of a different reality than our own.  As time went by, I forged some bonds with deities, but it wasn’t until taking up the Dedicant Program that I was truly able to feel connected to and understand the Three Kindreds of Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods.

While I very much believed in the unseen Nature Spirits as a child, I was more aware and interested in the visible and tangible.  I have always cared deeply for plants and animals and have been an environmentalist from an early age.  As I grew, my animism developed and I came to the realization that there really was more to the natural world than met the eye.  As a child, I was bombarded with the modern myth of fairies – little, beautiful creatures with wings and fairy dust.  I am still very much attracted to this image and often incorporate such creatures into my artwork, but I’ve come to realize that the Spirits of Nature are as varied as people and that they can be perceived by humans as beautiful, silent, loud, mischievous, disgusting, and, perhaps, aggressive. While some are weaker than humans, others are much, much stronger. Studying Irish folklore and mythology has given me a more mature frame of perception in regards to the Nature Spirits.   They are, indeed, the unseen forces of nature that can be creative, like a spirit attached to a garden, or destructive, like the Pooka of Irish lore, and they can come in any guise.  In my own spiritual work, I’ve found that I believe that all beings, even the rocks and trees, have souls, and so I feel that they are also Nature Spirits worthy of respect and, in some cases, veneration.

So how do I perceive the Nature Spirits?  They are the birds and the song that they sing.  They are the rocks in the earth.  They are the drops of rain.  They are the wind rustling the trees.  They are the sequins of sunlight that splash through the forest canopy.  They are the trees, alive and decaying.  They are the dandelions poking up through cement sidewalks.  They are the ferrets cohabiting with me in my bedroom.  They are the unseen creatures that move my things without any explanation. They are the rotting corpses of animals on the streets.  They are the diseases that we get.  They are the unseen forces in the dark.  They are at work outside making the flowers and vegetables grow. They are present within the upper, middle, and lower worlds and represent all the elements.  I believe that my existence is inextricably linked to theirs and so they deserve to be honored and treated with respect, like brothers and sisters who have their own wants, needs, and motivations.  I may not always like what the Nature Spirits have in store, but I’m sure they don’t always agree with me either!  As with human siblings, we have to give and take equally and learn to live in harmony with each other.

I am always trying to stay connected with my brothers and sisters or nature, as well as the Earth Mother, whom I see as a Goddess and mother of all life.  I try to learn about the seen and unseen Nature Spirits, and I try to live in harmony with them through environmentalism and vegetarianism.  I thank them before eating.  I remember them in my rituals and make offerings to them.  I’ve kept in mind that some offerings may be harmful to nature spirits, and so I avoid chocolate and sharp objects left out in the open.  My favorite offerings to give are flowers and birdseed.

I will speak of the Gods next, not because they are less important than the Ancestors, but because my relationship and familiarity with them was the easiest for me to experience next.  Despite my Roman Catholic upbringing, I always had a fascination with mythology from a very early age.  One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was a series of animated Greek and Roman myths.  The exploits of Herakles, Castor, Pollox, and Jason mesmerized me and the Gods captivated my imagination.  Visiting museums and seeing statues from Egypt amazed me.  Who were these mysterious beings?  The statues exuded a power.  For me, this power was a calling and made me want to dance. I continually felt the pull of the Old Gods.  The more I read about them and devoted time to them, the more they seemed to “talk” to me. At first, it was difficult to go from monotheism to the duotheism of Wicca.  There was a certain taboo about it and, with it, a certain fear of the unknown.  Gradually, I started to form a relationship with Gods and Goddesses.  First it was the Greek and Egyptian Gods, probably because I was most familiar with them.  I had dreams of Dionysus and Bast.  It was easy as an eclectic Wiccan to worship both at the same time, but it wouldn’t satisfy me for long.

Here I am, a few years later, worshiping the Tuatha de Danann of the Irish.  I don’t know how it happened, and it was probably through my love of Irish music and Arthurian myth, but I was called by the Old Gods of the Green Isle, the home of my ancestors.  As with the Nature Spirits, studying Irish myth and legend has helped me to understand the Tuatha de Danann immensely.  Studying the myths and legends of other cultures has deepened my awareness of many other deities.  My Roman Catholicism and its veneration of various saints helped ease me into polytheism, and I now consider myself a hard polytheist.  I believe that, for the most part, the Gods can reside in any of the three realms and often interact with and interbreed with the Nature Spirits.  Because the Gods are so tied to the land and various natural phenomena, they further sanctify the environment.  Some of the Gods, like the Tuatha de Danann, are local deities and so I’ve come to believe that they mostly live in Ireland.  The same is probably true for other deities as well, such as Aphrodite dwelling primarily on the island of Cyprus.  However, as the Gods are more powerful than humans, I believe that they can interact with humans who are far from their sanctuaries.  While I don’t believe that you have to be Irish to love and worship the Tuatha de Danann, I can’t help but feel that my connection to them is partially due to my blood ties to Ireland.  I feel that it enables an easier connection. I also feel that repeated ritual and interaction with certain deities at an altar or through a talisman can, in some way, create a home away from home for them and that their energy becomes imbibed in foreign places where they are frequently made welcome (such as the powerful seeming statues in museums).  I also think that Gods associated with certain energies, such as arts, can manifest while a person is tapping into those energies.  I believe that the Gods are the most powerful and wise of the Three Kindreds and that they know how to use magic in ways that humans can only dream of.  Like the Nature Spirits, and like human beings, I believe that the Gods are all individual and have their own personalities, faults, and motivations.  Many, like Brighid, Odin, Thor, or Prometheus, have given us different arts and protect humanity.  Others, like the Morrigan or Loki, are a bit harder for me to understand and seem more interested in protecting the land or chaos rather than the tribe.  I don’t consider them evil – they have their place, but they can be hard for humans to relate to. As a former Catholic, it is hard for me not to subjugate myself to the Gods.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to do, but I think the Tuatha de Danann, or the Gods of any other Pagan culture, prefer that their followers view them more as kin – incredibly powerful and wise kin – but kin all the same.  I envision them to be a bit like parents, teachers, or tribal leaders.

I try to connect to the Gods in many ways.  The first is through study.  My fascination with mythology and ancient history has eclipsed all other academic interests.  Not only am I learning about other cultures and world history, but I am having fun as it is intrinsically satisfying.  Perhaps it is because through study that I am able to get to know the Gods and the other Kindreds and so my soul becomes happy.  I also connect to the Gods through ritual, meditation, prayer, art, and dance.  In ritual, I am able to express my love for the Gods and honor them for their many blessings.  In meditation, I am able to contemplate and maybe even receive a message from them.  In prayer, I talk to them.  I mostly thank them for any number of things, but there are times when I ask for help as well.  I always ask that Lugh, protector of travelers, and Cernunos, the Gaulish God of animals, protect me or those I love while on the road.  I also pray in thanks before each meal.  I feel that I’m able to connect to the Gods through art and dance because those activities connect me to a very spiritual part of my brain and soul and allow me to open up to the inspiration of the Gods, especially to Brighid.  Dance is especially helpful because it can put me into a trance and open me up in ways similar to meditation.  Another way I show the Gods I care is through service to them and the other Kindreds.  By leading rituals and keeping to my oaths, I am building lifelong relationships with allies who deserve to be honored due to their many positive influences in my life.  I no longer consider myself an eclectic Wiccan duotheist but a hard polytheist, a priestess to the Tuatha de Danann, and a Druid in training with Celtic Reconstructionist tendencies.  I feel that the Tuatha de Danann called me to this.

Finally, ADF has helped me form a closer bond with my ancestors.  When I began to study and practice Paganism, I didn’t consider my ancestors as part of my belief system.  I knew that Native Americans and Shintos highly honored their dead and, in some instances, created altars for them.  The only real emphasis on the ancestors in Wicca was to remember them on Samhain.  There were a few Samhains where, indeed, I felt their presence strongly. Some books recommended that special altars be made, or that places be set aside for the ancestors at a Samhain meal.  I never really did that – at most I threw some bread out for the souls of the dead as an afterthought.  As a whole, it felt that Wicca only honored the ancestors on a certain holiday and forgot about them for the rest of the year.  Because of this, my connection with the ancestors was not considered and not developed until I began my Druidic studies.

A year or so before my calling to Druidry, my Aunt Debbie died of cancer and I felt that I should do something special for her on Samhain.  I made her a bouquet of evergreens as I felt they symbolized never ending life.  I wasn’t sure where her grave stone was (indeed, she had yet to have a stone installed), so I tossed the bouquet into the air and did not look back at where it landed, content to believe she caught it.  I did not even think that throwing it meant the bouquet was trash rather than a gift.  To me, it was the easiest way to make an offering to her.

As I’ve progressed through ADF, I’ve felt a stronger pull to my ancestors.  It feels as if they are happy to be part of my daily practice.  I light a candle for my ancestors as part of my daily ritual.  At larger holidays, more is offered.  I feel like the ancestors really do watch over us.  Whether they are right with us or watching from a distance when they feel it necessary, I do not know.   Celtic lore says that the dead go to the Otherworld, and I do believe in such a place, but I can’t help but feel that they are able to communicate with us in some way, especially around Samhain and Beltaine.   I believe that care and concern do not end at death.  I also believe that some of the dead can get trapped in the world of the living as ghosts.

I would like to honor more of my ancestors on Samhain such as my Grandmother and Grandfather.  Truly, I think of my ancestors every day now, but I feel that the entire day of Samhain should be planned around visiting the graves of relatives.  Honoring ancestors needn’t only be about immediate relatives or even recent friends and relations.  When I visited England a few years ago, I felt very connected to the land.  I was very much aware of a presence linked to my own blood.  As I toured historical landmarks like White Tower, Westminster Abbey, or even Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, I felt as if I was connecting with people from long ago.  I was so aware of the feet that had walked where I was walking, wearing down the stone steps until they were smooth with time.

Today I do my best to honor and remember my ancestors.  I make offerings, verbally thank the ancestors, read their stories, research their land, and anticipate visiting my ancestral homelands.  We are here because of our ancestors and we should not limit our celebration of them to one day in the year.

Because the ancestors are human, it seems that they would have been the easiest for me to connect to.  It may have something to do with my grandfather’s obsessive interest in genealogy.  I’ve had my ancestors pounded into my head since a very young age, so I may have been resistant to thinking any more about them.  I’ve also considered their humanity to be a deterrent, possibly because I’ve viewed them as just mundane humans who died a long time ago. To a younger me, otherworldly beings were infinitely more fascinating.  Having matured, I’ve realized the importance of family and heritage.  I am proud of where I come from.  I often ponder my Irish and Germanic background.  I worship the Tuatha de Danann, but I sometimes feel the pull of my Germanic ancestors.  I sometimes wonder if there is an easy way to integrate the two hearth cultures together to satisfy my gene pool.

The Three Kindreds have many differences, and yet they have many similarities too.  This essay could extend for pages as I contemplate the many ways that they overlap.  Their main similarity, as far as I’m concerned, is that they have made my spiritual path seem whole and balanced.  Honoring the Three Kindreds not only helps me to form bonds with the Gods, but it keeps me connected to the Nature Spirits with whom I cohabit, and helps me to remember my very large, very extended family.  I am grateful to have grown closer to the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods and hope that my ability to honor, love, and worship them deepens and matures with the years.

 

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Creating a shrine was not a difficult requirement for me as I’ve been making altars for a few years.  The challenge, however, was making an altar in accordance with a hearth culture and within a Druidic framework.  Having started on a Pagan path through Wicca, I was used to having certain articles on my altar.  When I realized that Wicca was not the path for me, I abandoned some of the traditional tools, such as the athame, and turned my altar into a mishmash of significance.  It was only through the deep introspection and study of mythology encouraged by ADF that I was able to build a shrine that was truly important to me and symbolic of my faith.

When I first started to think about putting together an altar for ADF, I knew it would have to be different from my past altars.  It would require space for offering bowls, something I’d never dealt with before.  My altars used to be built on top of slender bookshelves.  After moving into a new apartment, I decided to use an old vanity that I was not using.

My altar is in the kitchen, the hearth of my home, near the stove.  In the very center of my altar is a representation of the Bile, the world tree.  It is a wand I made from an apple branch, wire, and silver bells, similar to the wand given to Cormac in Irish mythology.  To the right of the tree is a doll/statue I made to represent Brighid.  Below her is a dish with a candle so that I can keep her flame once every month. To the Bile’s left is a large stone representing An Dagda.  I found the stone during a hike I dedicated to him.  Atop the stone is a ring of black twine that is also significant from that hike.  Behind the stone is a lap harp I bought at an Irish Festival.  It always reminds me of An Dagda and his harp of seasons.  Perhaps I will learn to play it one day and I will be able to incorporate it into my rituals!

There is also a representation of the fire and the well on my altar in the form of a candle and a cauldron.  Towards the front of the altar are three small bowls containing tea lights that represent the three Kindreds.  The center candle represents the Gods while the right candle represents the ancestors and the left represents the nature spirits.  In addition to these there is a fourth bowl on the altar into which offerings are given.  There are also a few small incense holders. Everything sits atop a beautiful green altar cloth with black Celtic knots swirling over its surface.  On the wall above my altar are photos of some of my ancestors and a candle that I can light when I want to specifically pay homage to them.  I think the photos serve as poignant reminders of my ancestors and enable me to really connect with them spiritually and emotionally.

All of the items on my altar are significant because they represent something spiritually important whether it’s symbolic of a deity, spirit, or simply the connection I have to the other world or my hearth culture. Seeing these symbols reconnects me and mentally prepares me for the rituals and mediations held before the altar.

I don’t feel that my altar is complete.  There are many improvements that I would like to make to it.  To begin with, I would like to locate more photos of ancestors to put on my wall.  I would also like to find better storage compartments for underneath the altar.  Currently all of my candles are in a cardboard box and everything else is in baskets just sitting there, vulnerable to my two curious cats and all of the fur they shed.  I also look forward to the day when I have a larger home and will have room to expand my altar.  Perhaps I will move it from the kitchen area to the living room to make it more central and accessible to larger worship.  Ideally, it would have its own room one day, complete with prayer mats, a library of Pagan-related books, and soundproof walls for meditation.  One can dream, right?

I have enjoyed creating my Druidic altar.  It has become such a significant focal point in my spiritual life.  Never before did I interact with an altar on a daily basis.  Never before was an altar so important to me.  The altar is not only a shrine to the Kindreds, but a peaceful sanctuary for me.

 

 

My altar as of March 2010.

I moved my altar in the autumn of 2010. Here it is incomplete.

 

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Clifton, Chas S.  Her Hidden Children The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America.  Lanham:

AltaMira Press, 2006.

Many of us come to Paganism with an interest in ancient history.  We wonder who and how our ancestors worshiped and we attempt to follow in their footsteps.  I can speak for myself when I say that when I began studying Wicca in high school I was not interested in Paganism’s modern history until I reached a point in my spiritual journey where I started to wonder why certain things were done.  Her Hidden Children the Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America by Chas S. Clifton attempts to explain the evolution of modern Paganism in ways that are both respectful and honest.

The important thing to remember when studying Paganism is that it is a spiritual path made up of many different religious outlooks.  Not everyone can agree on what Paganism is as a whole and so the movement must be looked at as an organism made up of many smaller cells.  Clifton successfully compares modern Paganism to an island teeming with diversity.  Just as everything is connected and dependent on one another in an ecological biosphere, so too are the modern Pagan movements connected.  Each Pagan path shares certain commonalities, whether it is a group of founders, cultural inspiration, similar ritual patterns, or the similarity of existing outside of the major five world religions.  Clifton’s goal is to examine Pagan literature as he believes that a study of the writing is the only way we have to map the evolution and growth of the movement. It is in this way that he is able to piece together the history of modern American Paganism.

Clifton’s main focus is Wicca.  It cannot be denied that Wicca has played a significant role in popularizing Paganism in general.  Like many forms of Paganism, its history starts outside of America – in Europe – with a man named Gerald Gardner who, by publishing Witchcraft Today, allowed for society to start thinking about Paganism (14).  Since then, numerous authors have written on “the craft” including Raymond Buckland, Doreen Valiente, and Cunningham.  Clifton argues that literature has been paramount to the spread of Wiccan thought and practice (13).  Since so many Wiccans are solitary practitioners, they rely on the written word to teach and learn more often than not. Clifton’s discussion on Wicca’s history is worth reading due to Wicca’s influence on Paganism as a whole.  The elders of the movement, dead and living, possess such interesting characters that one cannot help but admire them for their eccentricity.  Just as interesting is the transformation that Wicca has undertaken from a coven-centered religion to a diverse buffet of traditions with many eclectic solitaries.  The availability of literature has played a significant role in this growth and change, but the increasingly sexy portrayal of witches in the media, as discussed in the chapter “The Playboy and the Witch: Wicca and Popular Culture”, has helped as well.

One of the most interesting chapters in the book takes an in-depth look at Paganism’s relationship with nature.  I read this chapter shortly after taking part in a heated forum discussion on just that topic.  My experience on the Pagan forum was a revelation – not all Pagans identify with the title “nature religion.”  Many felt that their religion did not focus on nature but rather on magic or cultural heritage.  Others, like myself, argued that all of those things were part of nature.  Clifton explores this situation and suggests that there are three categories of “nature religion.”  He calls these “Cosmic Nature,” “Gaian Nature,” and “Erotic” or “Embodied Nature.”  Simply put, Cosmic Nature is concerned with magic and energy, Gaian Nature explores the philosophy of the Earth as a deity, and Erotic Nature involves sexual pleasure.  It is interesting to explore the different approaches to nature taken by other spiritual paths within Paganism, but the inherent message from Clifton is that concept of Paganism being a Nature Religion is  largely an American phenomenon with connections to the growing environmentalist movement (41).  However it must be understood that not all Pagan faiths are concerned with nature in the same way that some Wiccans and Druids are.

The book includes a chapter dedicated to other modern Pagan movements, but the discussion is very limited.  Clifton summarizes such movements as The Church of Aphrodite, Feraferia, The Church of All Worlds, The Council of Themis, and, finally, modern Druidism.  I was surprised that there was not a larger discussion on Reconstructionists (although they received brief mentions scattered throughout the book), Asatru, Modern Shamanism, or Chaos Magic.  Some of these movements, especially Asatru, have become incredibly influential in the Neo-Pagan world.  Clifton’s discussion on Druidism, while very interesting and helpful in understanding the development and inspiration for Ár nDraíocht Féin, seemed to fall short of other Druidic traditions.  The Henge of Keltria is only mentioned, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids seems nowhere to be found despite its having American members and an obvious influence on the modern Druidic movement.  If Clifton were to release a later edition, my suggestion to him would be to include a chapter on Druidism as well as a chapter on Astaru and Heathenism.  His chapter on other Pagan paths should be dedicated to the less understood, less discussed paths such as chaos magic and Christian Witches.

Despite the minor quips I’ve expressed, Her Hidden Children was an immensely enjoyable book with a lot of important information.  The writing style was very straightforward and easy to understand.  At times, the book was a page turner simply because of Clifton’s narrative style and the interesting facts he presented.

Her Hidden Children has been helpful in understanding the development of Wicca, Druidism, and Paganism as a whole within the United States.  It does not change my spirituality in any way, but it does make me a wiser, more informed, more tolerant person.  I think that, if Paganism is to remain a strong, growing religion, the diverse paths will have to celebrate their differences while embracing their similarities in order to unite for the common good.  This book serves as an excellent starting point for just that.

 

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Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick.  A History of Pagan Europe.  New York: Barnes & Noble,

1995.

 

A side of history that has remained silent for many years is finally revealed in Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick’s work A History of Pagan Europe.  Through exploring the tomes of history, lore, and archaeology, the authors have put together an impeccable overview of the various ancient people of Europe.  In doing so, they exhibit not only how Europe became Europe, but how modern Paganism came to be.  A History of Pagan Europe is an excellent source for Pagan students.  What I found most fascinating were the similarities shared by the various cultures discussed.

Many people of European descent know very little about their ancestors.  The authors begin their work by stating that most people “are more familiar with native traditions from outside Europe than with their own spiritual heritage” (1).  This is sad, particularly so because many European descendants vehemently distance themselves from Paganism even though it has always been there and continues to exist, as Jones and Pennick argue, within our modern society, intertwined in some of our most seemingly secular institutions (1) such as democracy the celebration of Christmas.  The authors set out to debunk the misconceptions about Paganism held by society and show that we really aren’t so different from our ancestors.

The authors attempt to define what Paganism actually is.  I’ve found that it’s difficult to do so in this modern age because so many people, in particular Pagans themselves, refuse to be defined.  I feel that Jones and Pennick come to a satisfying conclusion.  If Paganism is ever to become unified (even though, again, some modern Pagans would argue against this notion), we have to unite under a name and group definition.  The authors first describe how people have defined Pagans in the past.  From country bumpkins to “non-combatants” (as opposed to the “soldiers of Christ”), the word “Pagan” has had a more or less pejorative meaning for the past few hundred years (1).  Jones and Pennick then look at the modern, spiritual definition and conclude that Pagan religions, past and present, share some common traits: polytheism (or some form of worshiping more than one deity), the view of nature as a theophany, and the recognition of Goddesses as well as Gods.  While some Pagans will argue with this, I feel that it covers many of our past and present traditions.  In my opinion, the authors do Paganism at large a service by providing a positive and academic definition.

We then delve into the history of the Greeks and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Romans and the Western Mediterranean, the Celts, the Germanic people, the Baltic people, and the Slavic people.  I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between these different cultures.  For instance, sacred trees kept revealing themselves in each culture.  The authors explain that in Greece “[m]any sanctuaries in later Greek culture centered on a sacred tree…”(6).  Later they explain that “[n]o temple was dedicated unless there was a holy tree associated with it” (20).  The Celts were said to worship in groves of trees (81) and some Germanic tribes also met in such places (116).  The Baltic people had celebrations revolving around ritualized trees that Pennick and Jones argue represented the “axis of the Earth’s rotation” (174).  In Lithuania, there were also sacred groves that were not to be cut  (176).  Everyone seems to have had a sense of the importance of the forest.  I was surprised, however, that the authors did not discuss the world tree of Norse tradition.

Nature was repeatedly venerated in some way from culture to culture. Sacred springs or wells played central roles to many of the old religions.  Slavic Pagans had rituals in which ceremonial dancers “undertook a nine-day ceremony [in which they] visited nine boundary-points, filled a ceremonial vessel with water from nine springs, and prayed to their patron goddess Irondeasa” (190).  The Celtic tribes felt that springs were sacred places as well.  There were springs at Bath associated with the Goddess Sul and “[s]sometimes these springs were thought to cure eye diseases, bringing the light of the Sun to the eye of the sufferer” (88).  In Ireland, “well-worship continues in a modern form, sometimes as a local folk-observance but more often by adoption into Christianity in the form of ‘well-dressing’” in which the well is decorated by the community and then blessed by a local priest (83-84).  The Greeks also recognized sacred springs (10).  The various cultures covered also had strong beliefs associated with fire and/or solar powers, nature spirits, agricultural festivals, and honoring the Earth.  It was interesting to see that, although the cultures venerated nature, they also exploited it. Unlike our modern world, however, our ancestors were very aware of the balance and the need to give back to nature and the Gods.

The dead and the Otherworld were also a common theme.  In Rome, “the remains of the dead were elaborately honored and they were housed in elaborate necropolises…” (26).  Obviously, there existed a concern with the afterlife. We know from Celtic lore that there were times of the year when the dead and other beings of the Otherworld could commune with the world of the living (90).  We know of some Germanic funeral traditions, some from direct observation.  While we may not know the meaning behind the traditions, it is, again, obvious that the dead were being taken care of and that they seem to have been sent into the Otherworld fully prepared for renewed life (138).  In addition, Pennick and Jones point out that the Germans were a bit different from other European Pagans in that they actually felt that their tribal ancestors were Gods (116).  In my opinion, this adds a whole new layer of sacredness to ancestor worship.

There were so many common themes that it would take pages and pages to discuss them all.  Reading about the various similarities helped to reinforce the customs of Ár nDraíocht Féin.   The creation of our altars and what goes on them makes more sense when viewed as a continuation of our ancestral religious traditions.  The tree represents the sacred tree that reveals itself again and again throughout the pages of the book.  The well represents the many sacred springs.  The cauldron represents the sacred fire.  We give offerings to the nature spirits because, like our ancestors, we believe that we need to give back to nature in thanks for what it gives us.  We honor our ancestors like our forefathers and mothers did.  We set up temples and worship in or around sacred trees.  Having read A History of Pagan Europe, I’m filled with a more academic understanding for all that we do in our tradition and it fills me with pride. It almost seems that through practicing as my ancestors did I am honoring them.

Reading the book hasn’t really changed how I practice my religion.  I’ve been recognizing the importance of the sacred tree, well, and fire for awhile now, and have been observing the other customs of ADF because they felt right. Reading about the historical background of everything only reinforces my spiritual practices and gives me a better understanding for other cultures that I may otherwise have never read about.  As someone who has clergy aspirations, it is useful to know that many of our practices are universal throughout Europe.  If I was required to do a Norse ritual, for instance, I wouldn’t feel too out of place after doing the appropriate amount of research on the pantheon.

The book ends by discussing how Paganism has been reestablishing itself, first through the Renaissance, and finally through the various modern movements.  The authors briefly touch on Druidry and Ásatrú, however I felt that they were more favorable of Wicca.  While Ásatrú has more of an honorable mention, Druidry is made to look like a fantasy-based fraternity (211).  Some of the first modern Druids do have Masonic roots, but the authors have failed to take note of other viable Celtic-inspired traditions that do more research and rely less on romantic fancy.  Perhaps it’s because the book was written before Ár nDraíocht Féin and Celtic Reconstructionism were as known as they are now. Meanwhile, Wicca is praised as the “kind of Paganism [that] looks ahead, offering a new philosophy, more strongly than it looks to its roots in the past” (220).  While I’ll never condemn Wicca, I do think that the authors have ignored the fact that many groups, including Ásatrú groups, take on the Reconstructionist principal that religions should be updated for our modern world while holding onto those traditions that are still applicable.  Meanwhile, many branches of Wicca have become just as fantasy-driven as the old Druidic orders.  I believe that having an understanding of history is very important, especially where religion is concerned.

A History of Pagan Europe should be read by every Pagan and history student alike.  Modern Pagans should have a firm understanding of where their traditions have evolved from.  Even Pagans who do not have European ancestry should give the book a try, especially if they live in a Euro-centric country like America or Canada. It can give a lot of perspective on our culture, especially where holidays and our calendar are concerned. Meanwhile, history students should appreciate the other side of the story and see the many examples of how Paganism was not necessarily stamped out, but rather absorbed into our modern world.

 

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I just sent my Art Muse essay in.  I’m hopeful that it’s okay but I’m always prepared to make revisions.  I know a lot of people in ADF get uptight about that, but I guess I got so used to having to do it in college (I was an English major) that I know it’s just part of the writing process.  Nobody is perfect and it often takes another set of eyes to help us find the areas that need tweaking.  Sometimes it’s grammatical and sometimes it’s content-related.

“Why not excellence?” is a wonderful motto, but I think sometimes people lose sight of the necessary journey to get there.  Rarely is someone or something “excellent” in one go.  I can understand the feelings of frustration and despair when something you’ve worked hard on is ripped apart and you thought you had it all right to begin with.  I’ve been there.  I’ve also survived it and am better of for it.  I don’t condone professors/tutors/reviewers/editors who belittle a writer – but I also think that people need to realize that writing essays is a process.  Having to revise is not equal to failure – it’s just a necessary detour to your growth.

Whenever my essay is officially accepted, I’ll be sure to add it to my website and post a link to it here.  🙂

Now…  Off to continue working on Magic 1!

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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1) Carrionmann got back to me about being a mentor for people working on their Dedicant Programs. I was informed that my DP was excellent and that I definitely qualify! Huzzah! I’m really excited about helping people and giving back to the religious community I love so dearly. I just need to complete the questionnaire.

2) Oak Leaves and Tribeways work – I have an article to edit for someone else and an article that I am writing to contribute. I was thrilled to contribute to the Solstice Tribeways podcast and I definitely want to think of something to contribute for that. Again – I am so excited to get more involved.

3) The artisan guild is working on making a gallery of member work. I need to get some photos of things in! On a related note, I want to start planning an entry for the guild competition at Wellspring!

4) I want to do another trance soon, if not tonight. I feel better and am ready to meet my teacher once more.

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