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The following are just a few of the interesting things currently being discussed on our message board. Please join in any discussion that interests you.

Reflecting on recreating Pagan religion from Ronald Hutton’s book Pagan Britain

Imaginative illustration of 'An Arch Druid in ...

Imaginative illustration of ‘An Arch Druid in His Judicial Habit’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just had the pleasure of reading “Pagan Britain” by Ronald Hutton and was particularly interested in his comments about how one can recreate a religion, in particular from northwestern Europe which was no longer practiced certainly by 1000 AD and realistically not practiced prior to this time. Thus with no surviving tradition and no untainted sources how can we create a believable religion we can believe in. Here is some of his presentation and I would like to know how others feel about this position.

Hutton states that “it is impossible to determine with any precision the nature of the religious beliefs and rites of prehistoric British. It may fairly be argued therefore that present-day groups have a perfect right to recreate their own representation of those and enact them as a personal religious practice providing that they remain within the rather broad limits of material evidence”. So what is this broad evidence he refers to?

1. We can be certain that the pre-Roman British believed in and honoured a large number of goddesses and gods, with powers and functions related to the natural world or to human concerns and activities, and often particular to specific localities and peoples

2. they practiced animal sacrifice, in at least its minimal form: that the beasts consumed at festivities were consecrated to deities before being slaughtered and eaten; this is, again, because it was a universal custom across pagan Europe.

3. It is also possible to reconstruct the festive calendar of the ancient British, in outline, from historic records and comparative data.

4. The emphasis on the right side in burial customs and (perhaps) domestic layout is almost certainly related to a belief that it is lucky to turn to the right when moving, in the direction in which the sun moves in this hemisphere and which the modern age calls clockwise. This remained widespread in northern Europe until recent times

5. We can also be certain that the pre-Roman British possessed some sort or sorts of belief in the survival of the soul after death, not only because this is also general among traditional peoples but because Greek and Roman authors noted that such a belief was held with unusual fervor among the natives of north-western Europe.

6. The continued deposition of objects in natural places and at prehistoric monuments went on until the very end of Roman rule

7. Commentary by Christian monks about the residual and inappropriate behaviors of the newly converted Christians such as Gildas from 450 to 550. More specifically 540 – 547 where he recalled that his compatriots had once worshipped the divine powers inherent in the natural world and needed to change this view to that God created the natural world for the use of humans. (from another source here is Gildas quote “Nor will I call out upon the mountains, fountains, or hills, or upon the rivers, which are now subservient to the use of man, but once were an abomination and destruction to them, and to which the blind people paid divine honours,”)

I think this is an interesting start and am wondering what other people feel about his in the forum.

Difficulties with Eclecticism

English: Religious symbols from the top nine o...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had some difficulties with eclecticism over the years but I’m starting to think that’s the only way for me to go and really be true to my calling.

When I first had a yearning for it I really had no context to fall back on and could never even really get started, but after I was immersed in liturgical Christianity it became much easier to create ceremonies that were of substance and had a coherent theology.

But for a year or so there it kind of went bad. I burned out because I created a new system in a short amount of time based on ideas that were intellectually appealing but probably not from a place of spirit, that part of me that can simply say, “Yes, this is truth as I am able to apprehend it.” (In other words, something I truly had faith in.)

So over time I continued with organized Christianity but some rites developed that I still do and that have worked and have a lot of depth and beauty. But I feel more connected to that personal side of my spirituality than institutional religion and don’t feel right about converting to any other religions no matter how much I admire about them.

So…I’m taking a break from all of that to explore this because I feel a lot of things coming up and am about to create more and might simply cut ties with formal religion/church except for maybe a visit here and there. A lot of this has grown out of a spiritual encounter I had that is not easily classifiable. But I’m hoping I’m not going to burn out again or get frustrated. These are some guidelines I’ve developed for myself in the development of an eclectic practice. Some elements wouldn’t apply to all eclectics but this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Keep your ceremonies, theologies, and other practices related to the core tenets and goals of your path.

2. If a practice seems appealing from my own religious background or one I thought of in passing do NOT adopt it unless there is a clear reason to do so. The practice must be compatible with the core ceremonies I have developed or grow organically from them. (I have a method for how new practices emerge or revisions are made.)

3. Do not adopt deities or very specific religious practices from other religions you have no connection to or were never a member of. Instead use something from your own religious background or eclectic practice and adapt it with new associations to fill a similar need. (This one in particular is how I’ve discerned over the years that I should do it — it’s a disaster every time I do it differently.)

4. Do not assume that because a theology you have created is coherent that it is actually your belief.

5. If you are going to adopt a belief or new practice that will influence your ceremonies, do the intellectual homework, but do not burn out on this. Pray about it and discern. Then put it out of mind — if it re-emerges and I can truly give assent to it from a prayerful place then adopt it.

6. Do NOT rush!

7. Let some beliefs be held in tension, even contradictory beliefs if need be — something useful will come of it. Do NOT over-think it!

8. Let the path develop slowly on an as-needed basis: do not try to fill in gaps until you need to, especially if a practice from your religious background still fills that need and there is no need to re-invent the whole wheel.

As I said, some of these apply to me very specifically. (I could explain but it wasn’t really necessary right now.) What do you think? Do you have any similar guidelines or advice? Thanks.

Offerings and Issues of Waste

Bhoga (Prasad), Offerings for Puja (Prayer)

Offerings for Puja (Prayer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People make offerings to Deities and Spirits all the time. Yet there is one aspect that has always bothered me where this is concerned. People make offerings of food, drink, and many other things, but with this comes a concern for waste. The Divine does not necessarily physically consume the offerings. Whenever I hear about people making offerings of food, I think about the people who could be eating it. Offerings of ones own blood are risky and not simply because it involves cutting ones own flesh. I know the intent, but I object to the sacrifice of a living being. It’s soul is not mine to give away in my mind.

Instead, I often burn incense. Not just because my practice and philosophy has been influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, and other similar traditions, but because nothing is left to waste. Offerings of burning candles are also common in my practice for the same reason. Yet, some times these offerings feel inadequate. I want to give something more, but I fear merely leaving the offerings out to waste. Even in the case of objects I worry about the people who could be using them. So how does one deal with the issue of waste?

New to Hellenism

I have just recently felt really called toward a hellenistic practice (and Hermes in particular) but as I’ve been researching, I can’t seem to find any bare bones, simple crash course for beginners.

I wondered if such a thing existed…?

Pocket Book of Shadows

I don’t know about anyone else but keep a second book of shadows. I keep a second pocket sized version, one that has spells and rituals i can use on the spur of the moment, or in an emergency.

Does anyone else do this?

Mixed Pantheon Patrons?

A depiction of Norse gods assembled as in the ...

A depiction of Norse gods assembled as in the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna (1895) by Lorenz Frølich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you mixed patrons from different pantheons do you only believe in said god(ess) or do you believe in the whole of each pantheon but only worship the selected. For example, if you worship Loki do you also believe in Odin, Thor, etc.

Also does mixing different paths bog some of you down. I noticed right off from searching a lot of people seem to be following their own marching orders cause it’s what resonates with them. Perhaps that’s the allure I see with paganism (esp. polytheistic ones) that there is no one way. That two people can believe in a the same thing yet hold different ideals of it.

A Woo-y Question

AE logo.JPG

AE logo.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve kind of been all over the place the last little while and haven’t given any offerings/deeds in forever. It’s been at least a year since I’ve reached out and done anything meaningfully “heathen”, at best guess.

A few weeks ago I planted a yellow rose bush by my front door with the intention of dedicating it to Frigga/Freyja (Frigja?). I’ve had intentions to paint (barely visible) miniature houses at some baseboards for the wights. I’ve been priming myself, I guess, but not really following through for awhile.

Yesterday however, I finally just went ahead and took a cup of coffee and tobacco out back and gave it in offering along with some silent prayer. It was for Frigja, because I’ve started to pull away from the intense masculine powers and drift towards the calmer female powers.

Today I took a break from cleaning (it bears mentioning that worth in homemaking is something I’ve been trying to focus on again and my prayer to Frigja involved this to some extent ), grabbed my phone and saw Google voice had randomly completed a search: æ.

So obviously I’m going to follow that rabbit hole and I click on the first result which is Wikipedia:

Æ (minuscule: æ) is a grapheme named aesc or ash, formed from the letters a and e. Originally a ligature representing a Latin diphthong, it has been promoted to the full status of a letter in the alphabets of some languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese. As a letter of the Old English Latin alphabet, it was called æsc (“ash tree”) after the Anglo-Saxon futhorc rune ᚫ (Runic letter ansuz.svg), which it transliterated; its traditional name in English is still ash /æʃ/. It was also used in Old Swedish before being changed to ä.
That’s…a bit of a coincidence right?

In my smoking cessation group we talked about the high rates of instances where people quit smoking and then later wind up getting cancer, and how that weird irony is often used to justifing continuing to smoke. The consensus though is that people generally intuit that their health is in the danger zone and this motivates them to quit, but that its often too late. Like that, I definitely think that “signs” are often confirmation of something we already sense deep down. And I know that Google voice gets turned on accidentally and picks up sounds all the time.

But seriously. The day after I give my first offering in a long time and my phone takes me to that?

I have a couple of questions. First, what do reconstructionists think of this type of woo? Would you accept it as something meaningful or as simply coincidence? What do others think of this as a “sign”? Finally, if it is potentially meaningful, what sort of symbolism can be derived from the ash?

Keeping Your Word with the Gods

The short background:

I had a god (it feels odd to type that) reach out to me three times. Once as a child, once about seven years back and once last year. As a child I didn’t get it, seven years ago I tried recon and I couldn’t make it work for me. Last year I sort of said, “Okay, but give me some time to sort out my issues, first?” And that was what I’ve been doing for the past year: really hard scholarly and spiritual work on several levels.

Close to now:

A set of very odd events happened at the beginning of this year. I went through seven weeks of daily torment. (This is going to sound so trivial) Ever had one of THOSE days? I had seven weeks of them and by the time they (miraculously) ended I was nearly suicidal and just wrecked, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Then I woke up one day and Everything Was Different. I changed, transformed really, everything, in a way that I never thought possible. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it until it had been going on for a while. It wasn’t even intentional, it was almost as if I was acting by instinct. Or accident.

Now:

As this transformation was going on I stopped one day and said, “Okay. I’m ready. I can do this now,” to the god that had called me so many times. And I felt it was the right thing. I was finally in the right place to move forward. I had done my prerequisite work and now I could start the real work and study. So I started to move towards that. Then, surprisingly, I got the weirdest sensation/contact. He said said, “Good. You want this. Now prove it. We come together. Work with him first.” But this new god is one I am frightened of. Which says a bit, since I’m also pretty terrified of the original one. I feel like he’s sort of thrown a curve ball so to speak. I was expecting one thing and got another and I really don’t know what to do. I gave my word. I might have dismissed the whole thing had I known about both gods to begin with. They’re too dangerous, too frightening for me. I need stability, not upheaval, which is what I went through at the beginning of the year. Thing is, I think that torment was this second god’s way of contacting me. And that is really frightening.

So, I’ll keep my word, by I don’t know how to proceed. Has anyone gone through something like this where a god changes the terms of the arrangement? I’m very confused. I don’t know how to move forward. I could really use some advice.

The Avengers vs. the Christian Gospel

Avengers (comics)

Avengers (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stumbled across this today, from a Catholic website:

‘The Avengers’ and Friedrich Nietzsche

Joss Whedon’s “Avenger” films, the second of which has just appeared, work as a sort of antidote to Tolkien and Lewis, shaping the imaginations of young people so as to receive a distinctly different message than the Christian Gospel.

Read the entire article

One immediate problem I see with this contention is that the author pins it on writer-director Whedon and his atheism, when in fact Whedon didn’t just make this stuff up, but rather draws from well-established Marvel lore that predates him.

Anyway, discuss.

Deck Recommendations?

Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, al...

Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like there was a different section for this or something (other than the book suggestions; maybe a mega thread), but I’m not seeing it so hopefully I’m not looking in the wrong place. I know I enjoyed the bad decks thread.

I’m looking for a tarot deck. I’ve got no money, so I’ve got plenty of time to pick it.

What I’m looking for
– Preferably tarot (vs oracle or other)
– Assuming tarot, preferably the symbolism similar to Rider-Waite (I’m pretty sure they’re not the only one who uses it)- eg the moon with dog/wolf/crayfish/moon, three of cups with clinking, stength with a lion, etc. I just really like this set up and I’m fairly familiar with it. (really, I greatly greatly prefer it, but I will take other examples especially if justified in not using this)
– Decent art (see below)
– On card stock (see below)

Particular benefits
– Non-mass produced (I see a lot of nice decks on kickstarter, actually- the ones that go into production must have websites or be available through someone’s), if only because I like the extra options and I think there are more with art that speaks to me (vs the wood-block-ish traditional or weird computer generated) (on the other hand, mass produced=easy to get, so I mean, go for it if you know good ones)
– As such, if they’re on etsy or whatever, not printed on printer paper and not download and print yourself (because the first one isn’t handleable and the second I’ll screw up)
– Smallish in size (like playing cards, not like mini tarot), because I have small hands and struggle with larger cards (I’ve had two sets that were like, 4″x6″; eek), but like indie decks, not super important as long as they’re not unusable

Don’t want
– Bad art (subjective, I know. I mean bad photoshopping, that sort of thing)
– Boring art (eg, non-face cards are like playing cards)
– Not available in/doesn’t ship to Canada