Holy Libertas, Holy Justitia, and All You Holy Powers of Healing…

Dear Friends,

In the face of recent events Pagan community journalists are looking at the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic member of the U.S. Congress who was shot at in an apparent assassination attempt, and adding their prayers.  Pagan Elders and Teachers are encouraging us to pray and send energy, and to not only not despair but too find ways to Bend that oh-so -famous Moral Arc of the Universe more towards justice from the strange and tangled place our Nation finds itself in these day.  Pagan Authors and Elders are writing essays inquiring into the moral responsibility for the vitriolic climate that pollutes our fair Nations politics.

I am neither an Elder nor an Author, and only a sometimes hap-hazard Journalist.  I will find ways to act and work and do whatever it is I can do to bring positive change into the world and into my Nation, but for now, I also pray….

Holy Libertas, Holy Justitia, and All You Holy Powers of Healing

Hear Me, oh, Holy Powers.

Lady Liberty,

Goddess of Democracy, You who raises your Torch to light the way to Freedom and holds close to your heart the Laws and History and Ideas and Ideals that should be guiding us.  Inspire your children and friends and praise-singers and drum-beaters to action, let us stand in numbers too great to ignore and say

“No.  Not here, and not ever here!”

To the rule of violence and to the fear-mongering and rabble-rousing that has helped lead to this.

Swift Winged Justice,

Lady of the Scales and the Sword, who although blindfolded sees all.  I know that You cannot be everywhere at once, but please be in Arizona now.  Cleave through the lies and accusations and counter accusations and help the forces of Law to work Your wonders and to find the truths at the  heart of this matter.

All You Holy Powers of Healing,

Be with, sustain, and nurture those injured on that tragic day.  Be with, sustain, and nurture the families of the fallen, and the wounded, as they go forward from this terrible cross-roads.  Be with, sustain, and nurture all those touched personally by this horrible event and help them to to heal, to grieve, to find the comfort they need, and to continue.

Honored and Beloved and Mighty Dead,

Welcome the Fallen from this tragic day amongst your numbers, may they find peace amongst your numbers and reunion with their beloved families.  May your presences and inspiration be there for your families and for your spiritual descendants who have need of you in this trying time.

Blessed Be and So Mote It Be.

So Mote It Be,
Pax / Geoffrey

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Reflections on Coming Out, Building Community, and Pagan Pride

Dear Friends,

So it’s National Coming Out Day today (or tomorrow depending on your specific Nation….) this international holiday celebrating GLBTA pride and identity is going strong after 23 years.

Now perhaps you expect me to wax philosophic about LGBT Pride and such… and admittedly I could… but in addition to being the beginnings of Samhaintide, we are in the midst of Pagan Pride season, and I’d like to talk a bit about that today…

Now while it’s focused on the Equinox, there are numerous celebrations across the U.S. and around the world that celebrate their Pagan Pride events in either October or as late as November for various local and logistical reasons; which is rather appropriate as many of the ancient Paganisms had much more localized holy days and festivals in tune with the local seasons and the rhythms of their particular cities and towns.  As I reflect upon my Pagan Pride this year I find my mind turning not only to the many Proud and Out Pagans serving their cities and towns as Public Servants, I am also reminded of those non-Pagans who are now desperately trying to back pedal from confused and ill-informed claims of having been involved in Witchcraft at some vague and undefined date.

I am happy to see Witches taking up the challenge and opportunity presented by this last story to Come Out with Pride.  I believe that by coming out when and where you can do so safely you can advance the cause of Religious Freedom for Pagans and Heathens in our nation and around the world.

I also find myself thinking about the many Pagan Pride events that will have vendors selling books and incense and various sacred supplies and statuary, and bling, and tchotchke’s of all sorts.   We are very good at trying to support some of our Pagan business-folk, as long as they are blatantly “Pagany”… but what about our Doctor’s, our Plumber’s, or Gardener’s and Grocer’s and the many many other areas or our lives where we could be supporting our fellow Pagans economically and demonstrating our Pride with our Pocketbook?

I have written and thought about this a few times before, and expect more of it in the coming year!  When I can go into any Gay bar or LGBT Community Center and pick up a LGBT (local) community publication or community directory listing not only GLBT owned and themed businesses and professionals… everything from bars and beauticians to real-estate agents, doctors, plumbers and electicians and bankers and lawyers…. as well as private listings in some LGBT communities; why is it that you have trouble finding ANY of the same sort of information in Pagan community venues?

I can only hope that some of those Pagan Pride event tables are being held by local Pagan bankers and Pagan real-estate agents and other Pagan business-folk working to network within and support their local Pagan communities in the same way that I see in similar events within the Queer community.  Remember that this is only going to be more important as we weather the current economic woes!

Then my mind turns towards the causes and charities that I can support and work for as a conscious invocation of my Pagan Pride.  Causes like the Officers of Avalon‘s non-profit charity Avalon Cares, and the Military Pagan Network and the Heathen community Open Halls project, and the organizations like Cherry Hill Seminary and The National Pagan Leadership Skills conference.  I am also reminded of those Pagans who are standing up for Religious Freedom and Fairness and Justice, speaking Truth to Power in the Halls of Justice; as well as those who are gaining the full legal recognition and equal access for their faiths.

This year of 2010 began with contemporary Paganism taking it’s place upon the World stage as a World Faith at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Australia, and I am damn proud of that!

I think of my friends and co-conspirators at the Pagan Newswire Collective and our diverse efforts to help connect our local and national communities and to provide news and information of interest to and reflecting the Pagan and Heathen world-views; while at the same time being a resource for our larger communities to get factual and accurate information on the many paths of contemporary Paganism.

Now I do not deny that there is a LOT of work left to do in order to secure true legal Equality and Religious Freedom for the Pagan paths, and I will probably always hold the opinion that we could do more to build connections and relationships that build and strengthen a beloved Pagan community; but I also cannot deny that there is a heck of a lot to be Proud about Pagans!

Peace, and Pride,

Pax

Memorial Day and the Mystery of Sacrifice

Wherein our hero, Pax, muses about the Mysteries of Sacrifice and the Memorial Day Holiday….

Hello Friends,

So my mind is turning towards the Religious Mystery of Sacrifice this year and it being Memorial Day here in the United States it seems like an apt time to write upon it.

Now I have been contemplating various aspects of this particular Mystery for a few months now, since our Church ran it’s annual Stewardship campaign.  That’s where the members of the congregation decide upon their monthly membership pledges to the Church.  I have also been slowly reading through Walter Burkert’s Greek Religion as I explore Hellenic Polytheism and my own increasingly Polytheistic self.

Now when you start talking of sacrifice in a religious sense, a lot of sensationalistic and bloody imagery may come to mind as the influence of both sensationalist (and often wildly inaccurate) portrayals from Hollywood and the (also wildly inaccurate and often venomous) propaganda of some of the more extreme ends of the dominant Monotheistic faiths.  So let me issue this disclaimer… I have never participated in an animal Sacrifice, but not for the reasons you might think.  (more on that last part in a bit…)

Let’s start with the Religious Mystery part of the equation.  A Religious  Mystery is something you must experience, or undergo, in order to truly understand.  Mysteries are, or should be, informative and transformative.  That’s the modern sense of it anyway and why in Contemporary Paganism (and elsewhere) one can hear reference to Women’s Mysteries and Men’s Mysteries, the Mysteries of Childbirth, The Mysteries of Sex, and the Mysteries of Death and the like.  This use of Mystery comes to us from the Mystery religions of the Ancient Mediterranean where initiates to the sacred and secret rites would undergo rituals and swear, upon pain of death, not to reveal the content of the Mysteries.

Now we get into Sacrifice.  A term and act which can be a source of some controversy in Contemporary Pagan society when discussions of Religious Freedom and its  interplay with those modern world regions such as Santeria and Voudoun (among others) who both practice animal sacrifice and share some similarities with Contemporary Paganism come up.  The word sacrifice comes to us, or so my research says, from the Old French and means “to make sacred”.   It is related to, at least thematically, an ancient Greek word that translates as “the working of sacred things.”   The ancient Greek word was used to denote the sacrifice of animals in ancient Greek religion, an examination of which topic can be enlightening and provocative.

I mentioned earlier that I have not participated in an animal sacrifice, although I have made offerings of food and money and poured libations of water and wine ~ which follow some of the same dynamics and rules as a Sacrifice and are a part of why I am writing about and exploring this topic.

I have not participated in animal sacrifice.

First and foremost this is because, like the vast majority of Contemporary Pagans (at least here in the U.S.) I am a child of the cities and suburbs and lack the requisite skills and knowledge to mercifully, quickly, cleanly, and as painlessly as possible slaughter an animal and butcher it into it’s component parts for cooking and sharing with whatever Gods one worships and ones religious community.   Which was the general model in the Ancient world and is also the general model for those religions that still practice animal sacrifice.

Then too there is the fact that having grown up in a world where I get my meat in a nice neat Styrofoam and plastic wrapped package from the market, I don’t know if I would have the stomach to partake of meat I’ve watched slaughtered; despite having eaten fish I have caught and killed and clean in the past.

Setting aside my squeamishness, or potential squeamishness, lets go back to sacrifice.  I have just mentioned the idea of a general model for animal sacrifice in the Ancient and Contemporary world.   The animal is quickly, cleanly, and as mercifully as possible, slaughtered and butchered and cooked and served to the participants and the Gods.  The keys to this Mystery are not about Death, although admittedly in an animal sacrifice observing and honoring the Mystery of Death is a part of the equation, the Mystery of Sacrifice is about Life and about Community.

The core of any true Sacrifice is a Willing giving up of something of Value to be Shared with ones community and with the Holy Powers.

It is worth noting that the same sort of ground rules apply to a votive offering of a piece of poetry shared with others at a festival and burned in the festival fire, or to a Statue created or commissioned and left in sacred precincts, or to money tithed to ones congregation or religious community, as apply to an animal sacrifice.  Lets examine my theoretical core or ground rules…

Willing

The sacrifice, or votive offering, must be given willingly.  Not coerced or forced.  In Ancient Greece, at least, this was taken to the rather amusing extreme of the animal in question (often a Sheep or a Bull) being asked some variation of the phrase “Do You Consent?”  The animal, in part because of training, and in part because an attendant would place a dish of water in front of it, would nod it’s head and the rite would proceed.

Value

In the case of animal sacrifice, the animals in question were in the Ancient World, and often in the Contemporary world, quite valuable as livestock in a society where meat did not/does not make up a regular part of the every day diet.  Thus offering up a Sheep or a Goat or an Ox was a financial big deal.  The same idea holds true with votive offerings where one might put a great deal of effort, thought, care, and sometimes expense in creating something precious to the owner/creator to be given to the Gods or left for the temple.

Sharing

In the case of an animal sacrifice this sharing was a meal where in the participants ate of the meat, sometimes the only meat they might see in their diet, and offering (depending on the times and specific tradition) either the finest cuts or the bones and offal to the Gods.  In a votive offering this sharing also holds true as humble necklaces and inscriptions would lay side by side in the ancient temples with glorious works of art and jewelry and the arms and armor of defeated enemies from war.  The humbler gifts were periodically taken away and buried in the sacred precincts (to the delight of modern archaeologists) and the arms and armor and more precious works were kept and displayed within the temple… or occasionally melted down by subsequent governments to finance various projects.

Thus it is not just the giving up, in the case of a votive offering, that makes an offering an offering; or a food offering a sacrifice.  It is the conscious knowledge of the offerings value, it’s meaning and preciousness to the giver that is a part of the Mystery.  It is the true willingness to not only give, but to share with the Holy Powers or that which is greater than yourself AND with your community that opens the doors onto this Mystery.

So by now you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Memorial Day?

Well, this civic holiday is one where we in the U.S. honor our fallen soldiers, the Honored Dead, who have given their lives in service to the protection and defense of our Constitution.  The word sacrifice is often bandied about in discussing this.  I would put forth that theirs is a true Sacrifice in the religious/magical sense.

They willingly give the most precious thing they possess, their lives, in service to their nation in defense and protection of it’s highest ideals.  They willingly offer up their Lives to their community & country in service to something greater than themselves.  They sacrifice themselves that others may live and enjoy Freedom. In serving those ideals, as embodied in the U.S. Constitution, and in offering the greatest of sacrifices it is my contention that they thereby sanctify those ideals.  The Constitution thus becomes a sacred text and a set of sacred ideals.

Now, I recognize the complexities of politics and wars past and present, and of military service and government agendas.  I also choose to recognize those who have given their lives that I might live mine.

That which is remembered, lives.

Peace,

Pax

Samhaintide, Veterans Day, and Religio Americana

Dear Friends and Pagani,

At Samahin many of us Pagans honor the Beloved and Honored Dead, and then (in the U.S.) there’s Thanksgiving and then Yule/Winter Solstice; a smooth and orderly progression within the dark half of the Wheel of the Year, from honoring the beloved and Honored Dead to celebrating and remembering the Beloved and Honored Living.

And then, things like the Fort Hood shootings happen.  That this should happen so close to the upcoming  U.S. Veterans Day observance (info here and here,) adds another level to the tragedy.

In the face of such terrible acts we can must choose how to respond.  We can breathe deeply and consciously, partaking of both the life and energy around us and the interconnectedness of all things, all beings.  We can meditate.  We can pray.   We can strive to move forward within our lives as best we can.  We can learn.  Prehaps most importantly we can remember.

Veterans Day gives any Pagan, but especially those of us who are seeking after the Religio Americana,  an opportunity to remember and honor those who have lain down their life for our Nation, and equally important, to remember and thank those who are currently living their lives for this Nation or who have served in the past but are still amongst the honored living.  Some Pagans, amongst those that observe Samhain, might say that such Veterans Day observances seem superfluous or excessive coming on the heels of The Feast of The Dead.

I would say that given that the Religious Freedom I enjoy to celebrate Samhain is bought and paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of U.S. Servicemen and women, that honoring them in this way is the very least we can do!

So light your incense, pour your libations, and create your rites of thanksgiving.  Make offerings of incense, and pour libations, and speak poems of praise to the dead.  Remember their sacrifices and actions.  Take a moment to shake the hands of the living, and say “thank you”.  Heck, lets aside our differences and come together across the lines of Traditions and organizations to sponsor feasts and special rituals and observances for Veterans Day and for our own Pagan Veterans.

Who, and what,  is remembered lives.

Peace, Pax

Celebrating the Spell of Democracy

Happy U.S. Independence Day everybody!!!!

The 4th of July, as we in the States also know this beloved National Day, commemorates the adoption and publication of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  (Fun History Fact: Historically and Legally speaking the U.S. separated from Britain on July 2nd 1776, when the Continental Congress agreed to adopt the resolution for seeking independence!)

ReligioAmericana

I will be pouring libations and making offerings of incense unto the Gods and Heroe’s on my nation as will many of my fellow Pagan practitioner’s of the Religio Americana.  I have written of the Religio Americana previously, so I won’t bore you with the background ~ suffice to say it’s a natural outgrowth of my idealism and patriotism!

I will be pouring libations of water, and wine, and good New World rum, to the Founding Father’s (and Mothers like  Betsy Ross the semi-legendary seamstress of the first U.S. Flag) and the Gods of my Nation.  Perhaps you are wondering at my phrase ‘the Gods of my Nation…’?

Well, how about Truth, Justice, Lady Liberty (in her ancient and modern forms), and of course Uncle Sam and Columbia?

Today I will be honoring all of Them as I celebrate the founding of my Nation.

~~~

Oh, and if you are wondering about the title… well, when you look at the circumstances and procedure of the Declaration of Independence (and in some of the same ways  the Constitution), you have a pretty darn effective spell working now don’t you?  Now I’m not saying that it was done AS such, but it certainly follows the same basic rules… framing and forming ones intentions (the decision to split from Britain), symbolic acts (writing the Declaration), empowering it (signing it ~ effectively their death warrants had the Revolution failed!) and acting in accord… (the Revolutionary War)

Funny how magic works, huh?

Peace,

Pax

~~~~

Others posting on Religio Americana, or in it’s spirit, on The 4th of July, or during the month of July 2009…

Executive Pagan ~ The Feast of Libertas

Owls’s Wings ~ Let Freedom Ring

Full Circle ~ Lady Liberty Goddess of DemocracyThomas Paine 3.0

Politics and Polytheism ~ Independence from Politics

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

Remembering the Honored Dead

Dear Pagani,

Today is, in the United States, Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 25 in 2009). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.” ~from the Wikipedia article, accessed 5/25/2009

I also look upon this day and find it somehow strangely fitting that it is near Walpurgisnacht, and its traditions of lighting bonfires to ward of wandering ghosts, that we in the U.S. remember and honor our Fallen Soldiers.

I have many thoughts ranging through my mind about this holiday, this Holy Day.

Today I remember my nations fallen soldiers, and more.  I remember the fallen soldiers of the Revolutionary War, who fought to make our Nation.

I remember the Confederate War Dead; I may disagree with much of what they fought for ( see some of histories complexities here, and here), I cannot deny that their sacrifice helped to create the United States I know today.

While I do not agree with how my Nation has treated the Native American Peoples, I choose to honor all of the fallen dead of the Little Big Horn, and all of our other “Indian” wars; their sacrifices too, have shaped my Nation.

Perhaps I shall observe a moment of silence at 3pm my local time, a custom I had not known about until reading the Wikipedia entry!  Tonight I shall pour libations and make offerings of incense unto Hecate, and the Honored Dead.

The customs I hadn’t known about, perhaps because none of my relatives has died in a war in living memory, these are bothering me… shouldn’t the meaning of this day be a part of the fabric of my culture?  It is strange to see how far from honoring the U.S. War dead we’ve come, sometimes, in regards to memorial day.  Businesses are closed but it seems so much more an occasion for a three-day party week-end and lots of crass sales.  On the other hand, is this better than simply being lost to the flow of history, as Pearl Harbor Day has largely been?  My father tells me that there were observations on December 7th for years afterward… now though I sometimes think I would be hard pressed to find folks who knew its significance, it seems to barely get a mention.

Let us remember!     Let us come together as Kindreds and Covens and Groves, let us come together across religions as Pagans honoring the spirits and memories of those who have given their lives for our nations continuing struggle towards that more perfect union!

Peace,

Pax