Discussion of my recent Beltane post…

So the ever fabulous Tracy the Red posted a reply to my recent Beltaine related post.   I should like to share it and my reply, with you my dear readers and encourage more discussion on this, here, and on the Pagan Community Builders list, and elsewhere in the community.

Anyway Tracie posted this to my comments section…

“Be careful there, darlin’ because Beltane is a festival that is directed at the Celtic fire God Bel and Aphrodite is Greek. She has Her own holy tides and we all know how stroppy She can get if She doesn’t receive Her proper worship. Beltane also doesn’t involve Maypoles either; that’s May Day. Maypoles are something Germanic peoples are into, even to this day. May Day itself is a day sacred to Freyja and is a lot more “Samhain-esque” than most would realize.

Wouldn’t mixing and matching deities and festivals fall under “cultural misappropriation?””

Well, I’ve written a small bit about cultural misappropriation recently, and also had a bit of a chat on the topic with Tracie the other day (pray for her air-conditioning unit folks!), so the topic is hovering about and well worth bringing up.  It is also an issue I have started to seriously wrestle with as both a Neo-Pagan Witch and a budding Hellenic Polytheist.

I have re-read the article, and I can see where, as a result of some inspecifics in my writing of it, I did commit some cultural misappropriation… or an least provide opportunity for it to flourish.

I would say there are two areas where I could have written things out better.

1. I did not write clearly enough about which Beltaine I was writing about.

Beltaine/May Day/Walpurgisnacht are three inter-related festivals that have some very different meanings for different branches of our Pagan movement.  I tried to speak to this within the post

“Especially this time of year.  Beltane, or May Day, is the time of year when many of us modern Pagans celebrate fertility and passion and joy and love and lust.”

Note the use of the word “many”… not “all”; but I should have been more detailed.

To a Celtic Reconstructionist, it is the fire festival celebrating the beginning of Summer and a festival for Bel.

To Heathens it may be a festival of Spring, and a time to honor Nerthus and Njord.  (for some Kindreds anyways….)

(And in both of the above examples different groups and individuals will have different observances, and ways of relating to and honoring the holiday.)

For the Hellenic Recons and well Beltaine really has little to do with the directly reconstructionist path.  Some have already celebrated Anthestreria.  (more on this Dionysian festival later)

Then of course for the Neo-Pagan and Witch and Wiccan communities the Beltaine Sabbat takes elements of  all of the above with a heavier focus on the light-hearted fertility and spring and a little less on the Samhaineque elements.

(by the by Tracie I am officially filing the serial numbers off of ‘Samhainesque” and going to be slipping it into as much everyday conversation as is possible)

It was this last iteration of Beltaine, one of the more widely celebrated ones (currently) in the Pagan movement, that I was speaking to in my recent article.

2. I did not explain a few things about my Hellenic Polytheism

See even though I am a self-described Hellenic Polytheist, and I am currently researching and involving myself in some Hellenic and Greco-Egyptian Recon subjects/groups… I am not a hard core recon… at least not yet, I am more than willing to concede that my thoughts and feelings on this issue may change and evolve, but here is where I am at the moment.

~I am drawn to the worship of the Immortal Gods, the Olympians, the Cthonic Dieties and a number of others from the Hellenic Pantheon, most especially Dionysus and Hecate with some burgeoning relationships with Antinous, Aprhodite, and Pan.  I make offerings of incense and pour libations of water and, as I am able, wine to Them whilst reciting from the homeric and orphic hymns and sometimes my own poetry striving to do Them justice and honor.

~ It is my heartfelt belief that the Gods are real are many and have always been with us, to paraphrase Plethon.  They didn’t go up onto some shelf at some point in History.  Thus they are as much a part of the modern world as say cell phones or Valentines Day.

~ At the moment I am welcoming the Gods into my life in the Modern world… Honoring Aphrodite at Valentines for example… and Dionysus during the two Florida Wine Harvests  (June and August).  I am looking at some of the Recon calendars… but my thing is I am not living in Ancient Alexandria or Athens… I am living in Davenport, Florida USA.   The agricultural and spiritual rythms, the rhythms of the natural world around me, are very different than those in the lands where the Theoi were first honored.

~This also relates to a similar difficulty I have had with the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the year since moving to Florida.  What does Beltane really mean in a land where fertility is never in question and Winter Solstice and Imbolc are the Citrus and Strawberry Harvests respectively?

So those are some of the issues I am trying to sort out for myself right now, and part of why I wrote of Aphrodite in association with Beltane.  I was not trying to claim that Beltaine is a festival of Aphrodite, more that Beltaine celebrates things that are a part of Aphrodite’s concerns…

I send my apologies to Aphrodite, Bel, any hardcore Recons reading the blog for any offense the piece may have caused.

Though, in the end, I must also stand by the posts core message of honoring fertility and sex and sensuality, honoring the Goddesses and Gods related to those things, and honoring ourselves through responsible behavior.

Peace,

Pax

_PS_ this may seem like a silly post to some, but if I am going to speak about how words and language has power I need to be very conscious of how I use them.  Also, if I am going to kvetch to people about a local Pagan groups “Native American” Pipe Cermony (which doesn’t actually involve ANY native americans nor any sort of sanction approval from the Lakota people whose ceremony they are stealing)…. well, if I am going to complain about such things I need to keep my own spiritual house clean!!

A bit of news and then off to Honor Hecate.

So I am a newly welcomed citizen of the virtual community of Neos Alexandria and exploring the Greek end of Greco-Egyptian Syncreticism.  Tonight being the New Moon I must away to Honor Hecate with poetry and Libations and Incense.

A Call to Hecate

by Pax / Geoffrey Stewart (c) 2009

Thrice Great Hecate, I call unto you,

Most honored amongst the gods,

Lady of the Earth and Sky and Sea,

Under brightest Moon I call across the nights to you,

In the midst of darkest Night I call out unto you,

Underneath the Sunlit skies I call out to you,

The New Moon’s Mistress,

Torch bearing, Lady of the Hounds, hear me.

You who is the Queen of Phantoms,

The place where three roads meet,

Keeper of the Keys of Creation,

Crossroads Golden clad Guide,

Guardian of the Gates,

Gorgo, Mormo, Thousand faced Night,

Come unto us oh Savior,

Come unto us oh eldest of the Gods,

Who is also the Night Wandering Maiden,

Come unto us,

Attendant of Persephone and Demeter,

Come unto us,

Bless the incense,

Come unto us,

Bless us with your presence.

Honoring Aphrodite, and Beltane, and Ourselves

Beltane-tide Prayer 2009

I dedicate this prayer and post

To You oh Illustrious Lady,

Golden, Sea-Born, Cyprian,

Night and Laughter Loving Queen,

As we wind our way towards Beltane,

Open the peoples eyes and inform their minds,

To dangers both known and unseen

~Pax

I have yet to make it to a festival myself, I don’t have anyone I know real well to share camp with and now that issues of time and money are waning  I am hesitant to throw myself into this aspect of the Pagan community without finding a festival buddy first.  Silly, I know, but its how I feel.

As we wind our way towards Beltane I am reminded, by stories from one of my dearest Pagan friends of just how festive some of the festivals out there can be!

Especially this time of year.  Beltane, or May Day, is the time of year when many of us modern Pagans celebrate fertility and passion and joy and love and lust.  In theory it’s all about the fertility of the land and a time when many Witches and Pagans celebrate the sexual union of their Goddess and God  bringing life back into the world.  In practice there are event’s and festivals that feature that symbolism and often a dancing of the May Pole, and a lot of flirting games and sometimes a lot more than just flirting as folks very actively celebrate fertility.

For me, as a Witch who is also a budding Hellenic Polytheist, Beltane seems like the natural time to honor Aphrodite.

Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love and Beauty, of Procreation and Fornication, of Desire and Flirtation: She is Fairest of the Gods of Marriage, She whose wrath can strike men impotent, She who bestows Beauty and Grace, Lady of Pleasure and Merriment; She Who with Erato and Apollon presides over Love Poetry and Song, Lady of the Morning Star, Protectoress of the Homeland, and Goddess of Peace.

I’ve written a few things about Her before,  prayers of my own, and the Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite, and a little post wherein I suggested we modern Pagans should celebrate and honor Her in our Circles and at Beltane.

Now I could wait and hold a solitary ritual with an altar of images of Aphrodite, and with flowers and sweet candies for Her.  I could, and possibly shall, read the Orphic Hymn to Her and some more prayers of my own to Her, and pour  libations of wine and water and honey.

In the last day or so, however, I feel compelled to say some things about sex and sexuality how we Pagans honor Beltane.

Now, sex is wonderful and beautiful and sacred, as is wine, and music.  So too is Love, in all it’s forms from friendship to blazing passion to deathless romance, so too is Trust; and so too are every atom and cell of our bodies.  At least that last part is a part of the party line for a lot of Pagans out there; some of the stories I hear from friends about the festival circuit are beginign to make me wonder though.

If every atom and cell of our bodies partake of the Divines, then don’t we owe it to Them and to ourselves to be a little careful with our cells and atoms?  If our community is so fabulously free of psychological hang ups, so open, so sex-positive; if sex is sacred how come you never see an HIV testing tent at a community Beltaine event?

Since personal responsibility is such an integral part of being Pagan, why don’t we talk more at this time of year about reproductive health and about birth control and about family planning?  Why don’t we see Beltane (or even Imbolc) health fares in our Pagan communities?

I find myself wondering how many people in our community realize that one of the big reasons that a lot of open rituals will pass out dixie cups for sharing or wine or mead at the appropriate time in the ritual is because sharing a drinking vessel can spread oral herpes?

How many of you knew that oral herpes is present in 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population?

When I read that roughly 1 million people in the U.S. have HIV; and 1 out of every 5 of them has no idea that they are infected!  When I hear that someone in the United States is infected with HIV every 9 minutes and 30 seconds…

I cannot help but wonder what Aphrodite, what any of the Goddesses of Love and Beauty, must think of these sad simple facts?  Are we truly celebrating fertility and honoring the full spirit of the season if we don’t think about our actions?

Nor is HIV the only potentially lethal STD that you need to worry about.  To paraphrase Henny Youngman

Take my Hepatitis B.  Please!

I have no idea where or when I got Hepatitis B, I learned about it long after that fact when I was taking a routine HIV test.

Luckily enough (if you can say that about a life-changing illness) my body fought off the infection.  This means that while Hep-B is present in my blood, I am not actively contagious and cannot transmit it to my Partner through casual contact or even sexual activity.  It is still in my blood though, and I am at risk for liver problems later in life.

I find myself wondering how many in the Pagan community may face a medical time bomb and not even know it?

We are responsible for our actions and choices. The gods have granted us this gift of intellect and will, and Will, so use it wisely!  Honor the Goddesses and Gods of your path, especially those of Love and Beauty and even Lust; but seek to do so in wisdom and honor.  Inform and educate yourself and make choices grounded in your head and heart, not your hormones, this Beltane season!


~~~A Few (unconventional) Beltane Resources~~~

CDC information on STD’s

CDC general STD information and curriculum tools

An STD information page from the University of Maryland

Coalition for Positive Sexuality ~ A free-online Sex education resource, including information on STD’s and Birth Control.

A Safer Sex information website from William’s College

National HIV and STD Testing Resources (US)

Labyrinths and Synchronicty…

Dear Pagans,

So my experience of walking the labyrinth is staying with me.  The sensation of timelessness and isolation, the sense slow deliberateness as I twisted and turned round the circle to the center, and then the sense of building speed as I traveled outward once more.  The sound of the water burbling in the fountain, the heat of the day, and the light of the sun.

The memories of it speak to me of the experience of turning inward and doing the inner work one must do to heal and grow, the winding path one takes when one starts to build ones relationships with the Divines and the All That Is and the Spirits of the World Around Us, the twists and turns that we encounter as Pagans as we try to live our virtues and values in our own lives and in a world where honor and integrity and compassion and hospitality are so often looked upon so cheaply, and the strange way in which our journey inward and our inner work must, inevitably lead us back to an outward journey and re-engagement with the world.

My journey through that labyrinth is staying with me, and the experience of it and the memory and the symbolism and metaphor of it are weaving their ways through my heart and mind and soul and writings and thoughts.  It’s as if that moment and that experience is another surprise gift from the Divines, like my recently emerged sense of the Numinous presence of the Gods

I remember when I wrote of that, I said…

I don’t know if this awareness will continue or if it will waver in or out, or if I will wake up tomorrow and have no more sense of the celestial than before.”

And Terri said,

It should last. Sure, there will be times when it fades into the background a little, but then it will surprise you by descending like a cloud from seemingly nowhere, when you’re in the middle of doing something else – take an instant out to savour it when it washes over you in your everyday life, and you’ll be building up a new habitual set of patterns-of-mind.

… So now I am savoring the labyrinth and its sensations and lessons.

Looking back upon it, I was aware of the numinous presences in that moment.  But since that awareness is now always upon me, only a thought or a breath away, in some ways I am less aware of it.  Irony that what seems an especial gift may serve to devalue itself … I must work on some mindfulness meditation for my experience of the presence of the Divines.

I am also trying to be more mindful of these moments and mysteries and synchronous seeming coincidences around me…

For example…

I wrote earlier this week about Cultural Misappropriation, and then about the Labyrinth as journey and the importance of our choices in our journey, and then I go to WitchesVoice and find this excellent article by Nasionnaich!

So I now fully expect to publish this post and find at least a couple of posts in the Pagan Blogoshpere about unexpected initiations into mysteries or labyrinths…

Keep grounded, Keep centered, and Remain mindful of the Universe as it speaks with you!

Peace,
Pax

Labyrinths and regular practice…

Dear Pagani,

I walked a hedgerow labyrinth today, an unexpected exercise in Spirit in an otherwise mundane day trip to visit with a room-mates cousin.labyrinth

I walked into and out of this labyrinth, letting the everyday world slip away for a time and focusing on the thoughts and inspirations and messages I might find in the journey.

The journey as many a good mystic will tell you, is at least as important as the destination.  The thing is though that it isn’t just about experiencing the journey, or being open to inspiration or guidance; in life and in labyrinths it is what you choose to do with your time on your journey that is often the key component in the spell…

While I hardly ever watch television, and then usually crime shows or history documentaries, I am into the internet… although I do think The Big Guy’s accusations of “Internet Junkie” are a bit uncalled for…

Anyway I am inspired in this essay today by the lessons of singing and internet sensation and Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle (here, here, and here for more info…) and  first series underdog BGT winner Paul Potts (here, here, and here for more info…).

Both of these folks had dreams of singing.  Both of them practiced and studied as they were able and both of them at some point decided to take their courage up and try for this televised tallent show…

“Both of them practiced and studied as they were able…”

This is key to my point…

Over the years I have had a lot of conversations about creativity and pursuing artistic and creative endeavors and the spiritual component of such things with my friend Ravenmoon.  She’s this cool and fabulously talented artist lady I know; and one of our continuing conversations is about how when one engages in a creative or artistic act, one in some way engages or touches the Creatrix/Creator.

Another of our long running themes is how sad it is that more folks don’t engage in creative or artistic endeavors.  It often seems like folks will give up on a creative or artistic endeavor… say drawing.. because the faces they draw don’t look “right”… never mind that “right” in art is rather subjective and that it takes a lot of practice for even talented artists to get faces “right” if getting faces “right” is what speaks to them.

And that’s the key thing… if something touches your soul and speaks to you, if in nourishes some part of your soul, if it brings you somehow closer to your center or to Spirit, then pursue it, practice it!

“…let nothing stop you or turn you aside.”

Keep working at it and trying and engaging in that process until you reach whatever goal you may set for yourself!

This holds true in Singing, and Printmaking, and Writing.  It especially holds true in Magick and Witchcraft and all sorts of Paganism and in life.  There are precious few people in this world who are so talented that they can pick something up instantly… practice, study, persevere!

“Never, never, never, give up!”

Fabulous talent, preciously and rarely, just IS…. most fabulous talent is the result of a lot of practice and work along the way!

Whatever you goal or destination, take the time on your journey to do the hard and often repetitive work needed to get you to your goal!!

Peace,

Pax

Rambles about Cultural Misappropriation and Community Involvement

(stream of consciousness post, with ~~~ separators for the different shiny thoughts running through my mind at the moment…)

~~~

So I have run hot and cold over my involvement with a local Pagan community group… partly timing and partly some miscommunications and confusion.  Recently however, I have decided I don’t want to be involved with them.

This group is hosting a “Native American Ceremony”, led by a gentlemen who has been involved in the local community, and presented Sweat Lodges at a local Pagan gathering, for years. No problem with the guy personally, it’s just that he’s not  Native…

(Lakota in this case as it is a “Lakota Pipe Ceremony”) nor is he a member of the Lakota Nation….his profile lists a long list of tribes whose elder’s he’s studied with and Native Peoples with whom he’s studied… I am rather certain were he a member of one of the Nations he’d broadcast that fact far and wide in his sincere and probably heartfelt spiritual practice service information)

The problem I have with this is that Native Americans do not like it.  Many of them feel that it is akin to stealing from them, and insulting to them and their spirituality and culture, and you can read more eloquent and more first-hand explanations here…

~~~ from the Native American Spirituality section of the Online Resources!!~~~

Personal Views about the Exploitation of Native Cultural Traditions

This is a first hand essay on the issue found on the Internet…

Seeking Native American Spirituality and Traditional Religion: Read This First!

This article is from Native Languages (dot) Org, a linguistics and cultural website.

Help Stop American Indian Exploitation

This article is from the Canku Luta, a grassroots non-profit committed to the preservation of American Indian customs and culture.

New Age Frauds & Plastic Shamans

This excellent Native American run website strives to sort out reality from trickery, and sincere confusion, as it relates to Native American religion and Shamanism

~~~

When I tried to bring up my concerns about the issue of cultural mis-appropriation and ritual theft my concerns were pretty much swept aside by the President of the Board of this local organization and I was informed that

As far as any religion or ceremony belonging to one person or persons as a birthright, (LOCAL PAGAN ORGANIZATION NAME HERE) believes that we each have the right to follow the path that calls us.”

Which sounds all well and good except that part of what makes a Lakota ceremony a ceremony is it’s interconnectedness with and meanings within the Lakota culture.  Those threads of emotion and feeling and tradition and power are connected to being Lakota.

The same is true of a Gardnerian ceremony… even if a copy of the Gardnerian BoS were to drop into your lap tomorrow; you might be able to make yourself a Witch with it… and perhaps even reach some sort of connection (not necessarily a positive one) with the Gardnerian Lord and Lady… but you would never be a Gardnerian!  Part of being a Gardnerian is being initiated (or adopted) as a member of that particular group…

I feel like I am failing to communicate why this issue is important, not just because it is disrespectful (at best) towards Lakota and other native peoples, but in it’s own right….

~~~

Of course, being against Cultural Appropriation presented me with some problems… one of which was easy enough to fix…

I had at one time downloaded a copy of an alleged “Traditional BoS” from an online source, I have since deleted that file and information.  Not being an initiate to the Trad in question, I have no business mucking about with their stuff.

The deeper problem, for me, is that where does Reconstruction and Modern Paganism end and Cultural Misappropriation begin?

For me, for now, I think that one of the biggest differences is that in seeking a relationship with and stiving to honor through ritual the Hellenic Gods (Ancient Greece) I am not reaching out to a spirituality of a still living culture… to be sure Greek Culture is alive and well, but the Polytheistic and Pagan culture of Ancient Greece is only now begining to be reborn and rediscovered by modern peoples, even within Greece itself.

Of all places the Celtic Recon FAQ actually has some great things to say to the difficulties and nuances of Reconstructionist paths…

~~~

I have this nagging fear that this local groups desire to dress up and play Indian is not only going continue a cycle of theft and racism that Native Americans have been dealing with since “Native American” spirituality became so cool and shiny in the 1980’s and 90’s, but will also negatively impact the local Pagan community.

~~~

Then, on a more personal level,  I am now looking for a different avenue in which to participate in my local Pagan community… as I am working two part time jobs it is very easy to let myself hold back from involvement in things.. especially from starting things…

… but if I am to follow my gut instincts, including the one that says Community is worth working for, then i am going to have to get involved and perhaps start a group… or join another local one…

~~~

Peace,

Pax

A brief bit of activism, and then back to your regularly scheduled blog…

Hey all,

Not a ton of time at the moment.  I posted this to my other blog, and thought I’d share here too.
A group cleverly mis-named the National Organization for Marriage, had spent $1.5 million dollars on an ad campaign spreading a lot of lies and misinformation about the issue of Gay marriage hiring actors to portray concerned citizens…

Information available from the HRC and from CBS news…

If you would like to support the cause of Gay Marriage, and of GLBT Civil rights in general, please feel free to check out these sites…

Freedom to Marry

Marriage Equality USA

Yes On Gay Marriage

Peace, and thank you for your time,

Pax