Staring into my Shadows

 Dear Pagani, Friends, and Self,

I was tempted to make this into another Pagan Values posting… I feel like I was slacking in not writing more posts; but inspiration and my everyday life had some things for me other than writing on Pagan Values like trying to live some of them.  Besides there are so many excellent posts that it will take me a  good long while to do up the Pagan Values Blogging page….

I’m stalling, let’s start over…

I was tempted to write this as a Pagan Values post, you know how in the many forms of Paganism our Values eventually force us to take a look at ourselves… whether its the Virtues of Witchcraft, or the Nine Noble Virtues, or the Mos Maiorum, or the Delphic Maxims, or however your particular Pagan path or predecessors codified their Virtues and Values and Ideals; at some point you need to stop looking at the list and start looking at yourself, and how Pagan practices encourage this?  I do believe this, but I also think that writing this out of my head and heart and onto the screen will help me to deal with some of the Shadows of the title!  This is in part as a result of the many Pagan Values essays I’ve read this month and in part due to some situations in my personal life.  I have been trying to take a good long look at myself, my practice, and how I interact with and relate to the world around me.

I have been, and to some extent still am, a deeply fearful and insecure person.  I have, and sometimes still do, hesitate(d) to act rather than failing at soemthing ~ even when doing ANYTHING was better than doing nothing.  I have often allowed my own internal sense of a lack of worth guide me or influence me in my decisions and reactions.

I am responsible for those actions and decisions, I cannot undo them.  I can cut the emotional ties of fear and self-doubt and self-loathing that tether my current self to those memories.  I can do the difficult work of looking at myself and questioning why I am so driven to try and do for others and yet so often hesitant, or even unwilling, to do things for myself.

A friend recently asked me if I could honestly say that I loved myelf… and I couldn’t.  I Do really-really like myself… but for whatever reason I hesitate to open my heart in Love to myself…

I can scry into my past in the mirror of my contemplation and see some of the roots and origins of these behaviors… Mom’s problems with alchoholism and depression, the disfunctional family dynamic growing up, Dad’s constant needlig, and my own reactions and bad choices related to all of the above.  This view in the mirror of my contemplation isn’t all bleak or shadowy however!

I can look at my life and see so many times where I was capable seeing the saner better path, even when I was afraid to take it.  I can see so many times in my journey where I stumbled and shuffled towards the path of sanity and strength and confidence and self-acceptance and self-love.  I can see that I am at a point where I genuinely feel like I am ready to walk, rather than stumble, on the road of this journey.

For a lot of years there was this internal hesitation, this “someday later” when I would begin to live my life and deepen my practice and chase my dreams.  Well, I believe, I feel, I think the time is now.

I have set aside a book for a dream journal.  I am swimming daily.  I am working on remembering to breathe correctly, I am excercising (swimming) each day, and I am praying.

I am beginning.

Peace,

Pax

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Solstice Musings June 21&22 2009

Dear Pagans,

So on the day of the Solstice itself the Big Guy had roped me into helping our friends Jolly and Canita (Note: Names changed to protect me from Canita!) move into their new house.

In some ways it was not at all unusual to be working hard in record setting heat, sweating underneath the Solstice Sun. There was then a bit of an impromptu Pool Party at their new house to thank all of us for the moving help.

Monday I was able to take a bottle of wine into the back yard and stand beneath the Summer Sun… breathing in the warm and heavy air I focused my mind and spirit on the Seasons of Solstice and Gay Pride, and upon the Spirits of Summer and Life, and of the ‘ancestral’ Spirits of my Queer Predecessors, and Dionysus and Antinous. I took a few moments to breath into my connections to these many Spirits of the Season; then I poured my libation of wine unto Them and poured myself a glass to also toast Them and I was able to light a single stick of incense before my lighter ran out of fuel…

Then, later that night, it was off to dinner with the same group of friends who had helped to move J & C…

Not a bad way to spend the Sabbat!

Peace and a Happy Solstice to you all!
Pax

Notes upon the Journey: June 19th, 2009 10:29 am

Hey folks,

I am still working at the Theme Park, currently as a Production Line Cook in a Quick Service (fast food) burger joint type place.  Sadly, to get this part-time job I had to have open availability so I had to turn in my notice at the Retail part-time job. 

 This has ended up a mixed blessing though. 

The Park is STILL scheduling me only 1 or 2 days a week on average… so I am ramping up the job hunt; the blessing of this though is that what I am doing in the kitchen currently is so simple compared to some of what I did in school that it has reminded, and reinforced for, me that I am capable of a heck of a lot more than I have been doing at Universal…  and, for that matter, in life in general.
 
Things are actually looking up though because my family has decided to help me financially since I am in such a tight spot financially/employment wise, I will be getting an allowance month to help me pay off my remaining Student Loans and also to take care of my share of expenses (taking some of the burden off of The Big Guy) and to use towards improving my situation. 

Now this isn’t a free ride as it comes out of my future inheritance… but for the moment it is a welcome blessing.  I wish I didn’t need it, but since I do, I will be thankful and do my best.

Actually I also did some prosperity magic recently, in the midst of looking for work and talking to my family about my dire financial situation.  I hesitated to do it for a long time…  I don’t really know why

…some of it may be related to the prattle that one encounters early on in the study of Witchcraft where people get all Tales From The Dark Side about magical workings? 

Wannabe Witch and her Bridge&Tunnel Trad BFF’s:

“OMFG!!!  You should be SO super-duper careful about doing a prosperity working!  There’s SUCH a chance that it may backfire and kill someone you love and you end up inheriting money!”

Me back-in-the-day:

“Isn’t that just a LITTLE too M. Night Whats-his-name/Rod Serling for words with the twist ending and all?  I mean really grow up!  If you frame your intention and focus your will on bringing to you what you want/need without harming others you should be FINE!”

… and yet still some of that early angst hides in the back of our subconscious sometimes… it did in mine.

Then too, there is the longstanding and insidious assumption that poverty somehow equals spiritual purity.  It’s been a meme in popular entertainments for centuries but I think the strongest cultural stream bringing this into contemporary Paganism is from the counter-culture of the 1960’s…  back to the land and damn the man!

So anyways, I did some prosperity work and near the same time encountered enough prosperity to take care of some basics as I build on things.  Either I have moderate occult power or fabulous timing! 

I will take what I can get right now… so whichever it is I will welcome it as a blessing!

It is a particularly well timed blessing as my computer has decided to shuffle off this mortal coil; it’s Mother Board has decided to go all Casey Anthony on me with “distended coils” or some such… So I am using The Big Guy’s computer for the time being, and researching my next machine…

In other news, the magazine article (an interview on online-Pagan Networking with Fey of the Dark Side of Fey podcast) was sent to the printers by my editor recently.  SO go to the Thorn website and order your subscription today!!

Peace,

Pax

Pagan Values: Xenia, Xenos, and The Theoxenia

Hospitality, Friendly-Strangers, and Honoring the Divine

So having made a place in my life and heart for Dionysus, and having recently graduated with an A.S. degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Management, one of the things that has caught my eye about The Bull Roarer is his place as one of the Theoi Daitioi, or the Gods of Feasting.  Out of this fact, I have as a part of my budding Hellenic Polytheistic studies, and as a personal way of honoring Him, been learning about foods and feasting in a cultural and social and religious context in ancient and modern Greece.  This has also led me into research for a long term project for a written piece about food and wine and their use in Pagan events and rituals in feasting and offerings.  Which is how I learned of Theoxenia.

Theoxenia is a ritual feast honoring a God, or Gods, in Hellenic Polytheism.  The basic outline of this ritual ~ which differed from the feasting related to the more usual  sacrificial rights (Note: for most contemporary Hellenic Polytheists, being raised as city or suburban kids, modern sacrifices are in the nature of prepared food being burnt and offered.) ~ of having a feast with a place at the table (or in the Hellenic mode a dining couch reserved for) a God or perhaps several God; this has been adopted and adapted by contemporary Pagans in a number of ways, both for honoring the Gods and for Honoring the Beloved Dead for those that observe Samhain.

Theoxenia is the act of hosting or showing a God or the Gods hospitality or Xenia, which is the Greek concept of hospitality.  This attitude of treating the Gods like honored guests, is actually one that I first saw fully articulated in Deborah Lipp’s The Elements of Ritual…, where she makes extensive (and fabulous) use of the Honored Guests Metaphor.  That in a Wiccan Circle Witches should treat the Gods, and Spirits, called upon like honored guests… seems rather simple doesn’t it? 

I think that the same holds true for other forms of Paganism, and that this developing of a relationship with the Gods, however we concieve of Them, is a practice common to many forms of Paganism.  It certainly seems to be so in my experiences with Gods, and in what I have read of others expereinces of the Divinities.

Earlier I said that Theoxenia is showing the gods hospitality or xenia, Xenia is the greek word/concept for hospitality.

“Xenia consists of three basic rules: The respect from host to guest, the respect from guest to host, and the parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον) from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated their needs. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden. The parting gift is to show the host’s honor at receiving the guest. This was especially important in the ancient times when people thought gods mingled amongst them. If you had played host to a deity (a concept known as theoxenia) and performed poorly, you would incur the wrath of a god.”

Now, I don’t think we need to be too formal, or bound by the forms, that Xenia took in ancient times.  I do think that remembering that Hospitality is a 2-way street an ongoing relationship between Host and Guest, and not merely an obligation on the part of the Host, is key and would help sort out a LOT of drama in the Pagan movement!  Not only face-to-face at events and rituals, but online as well!

Gastblogschaft

Main Entry: gast·blog·schaft
Pronunciation: ‘gäst-blog-shäft Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): pluralen
1 a :
responsibility for hospitable treatment, or response, exhibited by a blogger to readers’ comments 1 b : a blogger’s respect for readers that includes a commitment to accuracy; a tendency to respond to readers’ comments with consideration and a level of respect commensurate with that expressed by readers
2 : a blog commentor’s reciprocal responsibility to comment with the courtesy and respect shown by the blogger
3 : the aura or atmosphere of fun, engaging interaction created by such commitments to respect by bloggers and readers

~ Bernulf from A Heathen Blog: Expanding Inward

Now just as I think we could keep certain things in mind in our relationships with the Gods, and our relationships within the bounds of Hospitality, I think we could examine how we view/interact with one another.  I think too often we in the Pagan community have had pendulum swings of how we view others in the movement ~either they agree with us in every particular or they are teh fluff-bunny or the enemy~ which is where we come to Xenos, which is a complicated Greek word that can range in meaning from “foreigner” to “Stranger with/to whom I have a ritual/social obligation”…

“Xenos can be translated to both foreigner (in the sense of a person from another Greek state) as well as a foreigner or traveler brought into a relationship of long distance friendship. Xenos can also be used simply to assert that someone is not a member of your community, that is simply foreigner and with no implication of reciprocity or relationship. Xenos generally refers to the variety of what a particular individual can be, specifically guest, host, stranger, friend, and, as previously mentioned, foreigner.

The ambiguity of the meaning of xenos is not a modern misunderstanding, but was in fact present in ancient Greece.”

A lot of us are still getting to know one another, and despite the “comming home” feeling so often cited in discussions about how and why one came to Paganism, and depite the goal in some Traditions of Paganism of finding a Family, instant family doesn’t happen… even in a family of choice…

So lets take a few moments to examin how we are relating to our Gods and to one another…

Musings on Flag Day, Religio Americana, and the Power of Words

(or) Patriotism as a Pagan Value

Friends, Pagani, Citizens,

Today is the U.S. Flag Day holiday.  It is a  holiday/observance held on the 14th of June each year, when we in the United States commemorate the adoption of the Flag of the United States.

I will be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance,

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As is recited at the beginning of each school day by school children.  (of course I will be modifying the “under God” to “under the Gods”…)

Actually though I am a little dis-satisfied with the Pledge, and not for it’s outright monotheism, although that does rankle a bit!

It seems to me that as an oath or statement it binds me to the Flag and the Republic, but not to my nations core values.  Now the Pledge does discuss the ideas of Liberty and Justice, but only as presumed and inherent qualities of the nation, not as the ideals or goals of the nation.  The Pledge assumes that the Republic is always enacting Liberty and Justice for all, which while it is our goal, well, we have not always succeeded.  We can look at the history of the United States and through lenses like the Civil War, and the Trail of Tears, and even the Iron Jawed Angels, we can see that our Nation continues to struggle towards perfecting the union. The pledge seems to ignore our continuing stuggle  in favor of a jingoistic “My Nation Right or Wrong” attitude that to me seems at its heart terribly un-American.

(to delve into the patriotic post-Bicentennial patios of my youth…)

Which is why I will also honor Flag Day by reciting the American’s Creed,

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

Which I discovered in my continuing studies and exploration in the Religio Americana.  What I like about the Creed, as opposed to the Pledge,  is that it is much more grounded in the ideals and intended workings of the U.S., and our Constitution and other founding documents.

Now you may be wondering about my turn of phrase Religio Americana…  The Religio Americana both as a U.S. Pagan approach to Patriotism, and the discussion group, evolved out of a couple of discussions in the old Beliefnet forums.  (here and here)

Basically, what started as a discussion of whether recon Pagans of the Greek and Roman stripe should make some sort of token observances of Christianity in those places where Christianity is the State religion, evolved into discussions of how the Romans and other ancient Pagans honored their Nation States (those that had them), and the question of to what degree should/could/might/do we contemporary Pagans do so?

Religio Americana, and other forms of Pagan Patriotism, are grounded ~like so much of the Pagan paths~ in practice.  I pour libations and light incense on Memorial Day and U.S. Independence Day, I will make offerings to the guiding and guardian Spirits of the current President and various Senators, Congressmen, and other Civil Servants, I will pour libations to the Heroes and Founders of my Nation; and I will raise my glass in toast (at the very blessed least) on Veteran’s Day!

All of these are practices with a long and ancient Pagan lineage.

I’ve ranted along this general line before, but you needn’t take only my word for it!  You can see the Pagan (and Heathen!) value of Patriotism exemplified in so many ways in words and actions by many of our fellow Pagans across a number of paths!

So Peace, and a Happy U.S. Flag Day!

Pax

Taking a few days to catch up…

Hello dear Friends and Pagans,

I am taking a few days off of posting.  I have a few irons in the fire that need tending too.

I need to do some reading and thinking about the Pagan Values Blogging Month, for one thing.  There are a lot of articles being written and posted and I have been doing my best to keep up with all of them, and you.  But lately I have been doing more posting to MetaPagan and less reading and thinking about what the posts are saying.

While I will admit to having my ego very tickled by the success and popularity of this little blog carnival, I am also feeling deeply sustained and nourished by the many wonderful posts and thoughts and ideas that I am finding posted for this event!  I am finding a lot of much needed Wisdom and Inspiration, thank you all!

I also recently got my hands on Brendan Cathbad Myers excellent The Other Side of Virtue, (fabulous review of this wonderful book here) and am loving what I’ve gotten through so far!  I am alternating this with some of the Improving Works of Mr. P. G. Wodehouse… humor and delightful language are a balm in these very tough economic times!

I am also balancing the search for more full-time employment with a few upcoming shifts at the part-time job.

Peace,

Pax

Putting the “Pagan” in Pagan Values

Pagan, NeoPagan, Them…Us…

There is apparently some confusion as to what the Pagan in International Pagan Values Blogging month means.  I think that that both of the Wikipedia definitions above are a good start.  Although I tend to agree with those who dislike the word Neopagan, as I too have heard it used one too may times in a sarcastic us-vs.-them/our-form-of-Paganism-is-more-inherently-special-than-yours-nyah-nyah childishness inside the Pagan movement.

But what about “Pagan”?  As I said both of the above linked definitions, they are a piece of the puzzle.   I also am recently enamored of the beginning definition found at the Pagan Pride Project website…

“A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:

  • Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
  • Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
  • Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
  • Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
  • Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.”

I think this is a good beginning,   I’ve already posted about the Values and Virtues and Ethics I have found in Witchcraft; and I’m still studying and exploring the Ethics of the Ancients as I explore Greco-Egyptian Polytheism as I balance these practices within my life and spirituality.    All of these are also a part of the puzzle of what Pagan means, at least to me.

I called Paganism a movement earlier…

I see Paganism as a religious, spiritual, and social movement made up of several overlapping and intertwined religious and regional communities.  These smaller communities are beginning to coalesce into larger national and international communities and networks of communities.

I believe our movement is growing in the direction of an over arching arcing network of regional and religious communities brought together by the fundamental similarities in the basic journey that the many forms of Paganism take us on.

It seems to me that for the many different Pagan faiths and paths there is a shared overall theme of individual and group development into being a better person(s), through personal growth, and perhaps enlightenment although it is not necessarily phrased as such.  This growth is gained by practicing various rites, and developing our relationships with the Divinities (or the essence of All That Is) and with the Spirits of the World Around Us (Elements and/or Land Spirits and/or Ancestors), and by living numerous intertwining and overlapping virtues and values.

Eventually, personal growth and development, both within ourselves and in our relationship to our Deities, leads us quite naturally into engagement with other branches of Paganism.  Not only do we end up building our relationships with others in our own faith, and regional Pagan, communities as we live those virtues and values and practice our rites and ways; we meet others who share our beliefs or who share some form of Paganism and live in our area.

Then, from there, as we seek to live our paths and our values in our everyday lives we are led as Pagans into engagement with the rest of Society.  Whether or not you participate in the Pagan movement or in our larger societies as a Pagan, you still have to decide how you as a Pagan are going to relate to them both.

… I guess I would rather focus on the important things about Paganism the virtues and values and ideals that we are trying to live and carry forward into the world, than on how one form or branch or faith or path is “Paganer-than-thou” fundamentalist stuff garbage.