A few notes…on what Paganism is NOT…

Dear friends,

A few useful notes, based on some rampant misconceptions I have seen carried abroad in my local Pagan community.  Please take the following to heart.

Paganism is NOT a substitute for the psycho-therapeutic process.

Paganism is NOT a fandom.

Paganism is NOT an excuse for religious or racial bigotry, not even when it involves Christianity or a black actor portraying a comic-book interdimensional being named Heimdal.

Given that Religion and Spirituality are synonyms, Paganism is NOT an excuse for long angry diatribes against “Religion” and in favor of “Spirituality”; especially when your anger and fear of “Religion” is rooted in anger at and fear related to your religion of origin.

Paganism is NOT a justification of your own personal lack or responsibility or maturity; NOR is Paganism or “tolerance” to be used as an excuse for others irresponsibility or maturity.

Paganism is NOT an excuse to engage in addictive or self-destructive behavior.

Paganism is NOT a synonym for Wiccan or Neo-Wiccan.

Paganism is NOT a synonym for practicing Magick, nor does a Pagan rite require an act of spell-casting.

Thank you,

Pax

PS – you may be wondering what Paganism IS, well I am struggling towards my own definition over here….

PPS- feel free to riff off any of the above points into a posting of your own, I will probably be expanding several of the above into paragraphs at some point in the future myself….

Imbolc

Imbolc 2011: Rekindling
(C) Geoffrey Stewart / Pax

“Good Evening,

We are gathered here tonight to celebrate Imbolc, one of the Four High Holy Days of Ancient Celts according to history and folklore, and the especial Holy Day of the Goddess Brighid.

This is a Neo-Pagan ritual inspired in part by the Druidic Revival and Celtic Reconstructionist forms of Paganism.; as well as our beliefs as members and friends of this Unitarian Universalist congregation. In crafting this rite I have tried to balance the influences of historical and magical scholarship, folklore, polytheology, and theurgy.

Our rite this evening focuses on honoring- and engaging in active relationships with- the Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits…whatever we may conceive Their true natures to be. We will be honoring and invoking the 3 elements of the natural world as viewed through the worldview of Celtic spirituality, we will be honoring the Spirits of the World Around us, The Ancestors, and The Gods, and we will be coming to peaceful terms with some potentially hostile Spirits. Then we will be calling upon and honoring the local Earth Mother of Florida and making offering of gratitude and of our hopes for Her health and well being. Then we will be invoking and honoring Brighid. Then we will celebrate our feast.

Before we share breath and come together in community, there are some pieces of paper that have been handed around with parts of the invocation to our local Earth Mother where the portion in regular print is to be enthusiastically read by whoever has it, and the portion in BOLD print is to be spoken by everyone… lets try it once…

“We _____________________________ invite you,
Hear us, and be here with us.”

“We who live on and within your sacred land and love you, invite you,
Hear us, and be here with us.”

“Now, if any of you can think of a way of referencing your personal relationship to our regional Earth Mother with a short and more personal reference, modeled on the examples that have been handed out you are welcome to take a few moments to write it down… a short sentence or two, would be ideal to the flow of invocation…”

(insert flexibility time here)

It is also important to note, that we will be doing a similar call and response in the invocation of Brighid. I will read a portion of the invocation, and then all of us will join together in calling upon Her to…

“Hear us, and be here with us.”

(At the end of each of the invocations, we will chant this phrase for a time, and upon the signal of the opening of the arms in welcome the final phrase will be…

“Hear us, and be here with us, and be welcome here amongst us.”

~~

Flowers are being handed around, take one as you will be carrying it with you and making an offering of it to Brighid later today.

Imbolc and Brighid a basic overview

For us here in Florida as 21st Century Pagans Imbolc is many things. Imbolc is one of the four ancient Celtic Holy Days, one of the Sabbats or Holy Days of Religious Withchraft, and one of the 8 Holy Days of Neo-Paganism. It is a celebration of the returning light of the Sun, and of the stirrings and movement of life as we shift from the time of the Citrus Harvest to the Strawberry Festival. In the Neo-Pagan Wheel of The Year, celebrated my many contemporary Pagans, we turn from Celebrating and Honoring the Honored and Beloved Dead at Samhain, to the Honored and Beloved Living at Yule, and between Yule and Imbolc we turn inward. We take some time to rest and renew after the mad rush of days of the many spiritual and Calendrical new years that start at Samhain and leaves us rushing busilly through our many cultural and religious Autumn and Winter Holidays. Imbolc is a time for rest and renewal, for rekindling ourselves spiritually and for new beginings.

Imbolc is also the especial Feast Day and Celebration or the Goddess Brighid.

Brighid is either One the Goddesses of Ancient Ireland, or three Sister Goddesses, depending on which of the schollarly sources you are reading. Brighid is a patroness of Poetry, Healing, and Smithcraft, who over time has also come to be seen as the Masterstroke of all Women and also as a Goddess of the Hearth and Home. Ideas of Brighid flowed into Saint Bridget at the dawning of the Christian Era, and back into Brighid as Goddess at the dawning of the Pagan Revival in the early to middle part of the 20th Century.

Affirming Community & Entrainment

“Now since Brighid is, among other things, a Goddess of Inspiration, and since Inspire means both to breathe in and to fill with Spirit, and since we are seeking as Pagans and as members and friends of the Congregation here at 1st Unitarian, to come together in beloved community; I would like us to take a few moments to breath together.in meditation, really becoming aware of your breathing, please, close your eyes and to consider the following”

“Take these deep breaths and feel your muscles relax, let yourself relax and turn your attention simply on your breaths for a few moments. Air and Inspiration and Life Energy flowing into you, and as you breath our you are touching your connection to all life around you.”…

“Breathing in, taking in oxygen and life energy, air fuels our fire.”

“Air connects us with one another and with all of life around us, it fuels our bodies and enlivens our minds and stirs our souls; awareness and control of breath can work wonders in ourselves and through us in the world around us.”

“With breath we can raise power, call Spirit, connect with The Gods, and embrace the Numinous All That Is.”

“Our lives, our actions, all of our works of Spirit, all of our acts of Will, and all Magick begins with a breath.”

“When you feel deeply centered and full of vitality and life energy open your eyes and we will begin…”

The Rite

In ancient times nearly every major rite or festival began with a procession.  Perhaps you were starting out from your farmstead and traveling down the road, meeting up with others along the way.  Perhaps in the cities like Rome or Athens you would start from your home and meat at an appointed spot in the city.  They might be dancers and musicians, there might be stops along the way to gather items or individuals key to the rite, there might have been stops to bath in a river or the ocean… don’t worry we won’t be going to that extreme, but we will be walking from the feast-hall to our altar.  As we do so, remember we are journeying from the every day to the sacred and we are on our way to encounter the Gods and Spirits and to take part in the holy tides of the world.

(Procession makes its way from feast hall to altar circling clockwise around it, and once the procession come to a circle around the altar…)

“We find ourselves, despite the lengthening days, in darkness,
And So…

“Three Candles we kindle,
For the Three Rays of Light that shone forth at the dawning of all days,
Bringing with them Spirit and Inspiration and Illumination,
Bringing forth All Knowledge that ever was, is, or ever will be,
Bringing and shining with that which the Druids call Awen.

Gwron (“goo-RON”): The Knowledge of Awen
Plennydd (“PLEN-nyth”): The Power of Awen
Alawn (“AH-lon”): The Peace of Awen”

~~

We find ourselves,
Gathered together on a Holy Day
Wishing to Honor and Celebrate
The Holy Powers and our Highest Ideals,

And so…

“We cast forth three handfuls of grain,
To the Spirits of the Wide World Around Us,
To Guiding and Guardian Spirits of this Holy Place,
To the Earth, and to all that Supports and Nourishes us.”

‘We pour three offerings of water,
To the Honored and Beloved Dead, without whom we and this congregation could not be,
To the Guiding and Guardian Spirits of This Holy Place,
To the Waters, and to All that Surrounds and Sustains us.”

“We light three offerings of incense,
To The Holy Gods and Goddesses of All of Creation,
To the Guiding and Guardian Spirits of this Holy Place,
To The Air, and to All that Embraces and Inspires us.”

~~

“We find ourselves,
Within the Witness of the Earth, the Sky, and the Sea,
Within the Presence of the Spirits, The Gods, and our Ancestors,
Within the Knowledge and Power and Peace of Awen,

And thus we rekindle our sacred flame
In the light of truth,
And in the warmth of love,
We gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.”

~~
“We are now gathered in beloved community, in sacred community, but there is one more host of Spirits we must acknowledge and attend to before the Rites may move forward. The assembled members of our community are asked to hold hands around the altar while I attend to the Spirits of the Others, The Outsiders, Those who would bring us harm”

“Hear me, oh Outsiders!

You of The Fomorians and Fir Bolg,
You of The Angry and Unquiet Dead,
You of The Spirits bearing Malice and Mischief for the Sons and Daughters of Humankind

So Long as you come bearing
Malice and Mischief and Anger and Hateful ways,

We ask you to keep away from our Friends and Members,
We ask you to keep away from our Sacred Rites,
We ask you to keep away from our Holy Grounds,

In service of our asking,
We make an offering of our Respects and Watchfulness,
We make an offering of Bread and Cream,
We make an offering of Peace between us.

Before departing, please know,
Should you ever be able to set aside,
Malice and Mischief and Anger and Hateful ways,
IF you can set such things aside,
Then we would also make you an offering of Welcome.

Hail and Farewell!”

~~

Now Imbolc is the Feast and Celebration of Brighid, and we will honor Her in due time; however there is a Goddess already amongst us… or rather below and all around us, Whom we will honor first, for without Her and Her blessings, we could not be here to celebrate this Holy Day and the Holy Tides of All Creation without our own beloved local Earth Mother, The Goddes we know as Florida….

“We Call to You oh, Holy Florida.
We Call to a Granddaughter of Gaia, Goddess of the Earth,
We Call to a Daughter of Columbia, Goddess of the Americas
We Call to You oh, Holy Florida, Our Lady of the Feast of Flowers

We Call to You, oh Holy Florida,
Who was born amidst the fertile plains of Pangaea, many millions of years ago,
Who has swum through the oceans, and seen them ebb and flow over ages,
Who is the Earth Mother of this land we live in, and on, and love, in the present day.

We Call to You, oh Holy Florida
Glorious and Enduring, Rain-bathed and Windswept Lady
Green-clad and Flower bejeweled Goddess,
Whose cornucopia, over-flows with food and flowers
Hear us, and Be Here With Us.”

(personal invocation call and responses)

Oh, Holy Florida,
By All Your Names, Known and Unknown, oh Feast of Flowers
By All the Ways in which we have come to know You, oh our own beloved Earth Mother
Hear Us, and Be Here With us, and Be Welcome Here Amongst Us!

We Welcome you with Water,
That your thirst may be abated, your aquifers replenished, and
Your bountiful and flowering mantle be renewed!

We Welcome you with Rum,
That you may be warmed, that the killing frosts may flee from You, and,
Your great cornucopia may be ever full!

We Welcome you with open arms and grateful hearts,
¡Hola! , Hail and Well Met, and Blessed Be!

And Now we come to the Guest of Honor, Brighid, whose Holy Tide of Imbolc we are gathered here to celebrate. We have rekindled our beloved communities sacred flame, let us now call out together to She Who Is the Sacred Fires…

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh, Beloved Brilliant Brighid,
Holy High Flying Arrow,
You who was Born at Daylights Dawning

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh, Delightful Daughter of the Daghda,
Mother of Midwifery
You who Welcomes every child into the World

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh, Beautiful Bountiful Brighid,
Green Mantled, Spear Wielding,
You who is the Sacred Flame

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh Exalted Fire of Inspiration,
Who kindles eloquence and understanding,
Within the hearts and minds of humankind

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh Transformative Fire of the Forge
Who kindles Craft and Creativity
Within the clever hands of humankind

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Oh Invigorating Fire of the Spark of Life,
Who kindles Health and Vitality
Within every indrawn breath of humankind

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Mighty Masterstroke of Women!

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Best Beloved of All The Immortal Host!

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!

Sweet Sacred Flame of Ireland!

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us!
(repeated, and after a time, at the sign of the open arms)

Hear Us, and Be Here With Us, and Be Welcome Here Amongst Us!

Exalted One, We Welcome You!

We Welcome You with Flowers
We Welcome You with Milk,
We Welcome You with Blackberry Wine,

We Welcome You With Open Arms and Gratitude,
We Welcome Your Blessings,
The Ever-flowing Tides of Life,
The Happiness of Hearth and Home,
The Gifts of New Beginnings,
The Transformative Fires of Change and Creativity and Renewal

Thank You, Thank You, Ten Thousand Thank Yous!

“We find ourselves, and our Beloved Community, Blessed
Within the Witness of the Earth, the Sky, and the Sea,
Within the Presence of the Spirits, The Gods, and our Ancestors,
Within the Knowledge and Power and Peace of Awen,
Blessed by our own Earth Mother Sweet Sacred Florida,
Blessed and Inpired by Brighid.

Let us always carry with us Their Power and Presence and Blessings,
Wherever we may go within the wider world may we carry them in our hearts.
May They be welcome in our Feasting this night,
As They are always welcome in our hearts and hearths,

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,
The warmth of community, or the fires of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

And now let us feast!

Rekindling the Sacred Fires

“In the light of truth,

and in the warmth of love,

We gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.”

~ Chalice Lighting from1st Unitarian Church Orlando

Dear Friends,

I ~may~ be a bit of an absentee blogger for the next few weeks as I look and write and practice and work and Work towards Imbolc.

I am working on an Imbolc ritual for a group of Pagans.  I am doing it, primarilly, out of obligation.  I said I would do it and so I will.  We should keep our word, both when it is convenient and when it is not; that is the path of integrity, and why we should be damn careful about promising or volunteering for things!

It’s not that they are bad people, its just that the group itself has become incredibly hidebound and cliqueish and self-satisfied and convinced of their own glorious golden energy-ness.  New people with new ideas, experiences, and education, could not possibly have anything to offer this group they are just perfect… at least as they seem to see it.  So I have pulled back from my involvement with them, and Imbolc will be my last entangelment with the group.

It is ironic that this Feast of Rekindling and celebration of New Beginnings will also be, at its heart for me, a blessed release… but I suppose it is appropriate that for me the time between Samhain and Imbolc is sort of The Cross-Roads of the Year…

We celebrate the Honored and Beloved Dead at Samhain when according to the lore the walls between the worlds are at their thinnest, then we turn to celebrating the Honored and Beloved Living at Solstice…

… Of course some Traditions, including Heathenry Celebrate the Honored and Beloved Living AND Dead at the Solstice, or near it…

Samhain is, for many, a spiritual/religious New Years based on the old (and increasingly suspect historically) idea that the Celts celebrated the New Year on Samhain.  (Whilst suspect historically, this is nonetheless valid, but lets cop to our innovations and inspirations shall we?)  For me the New Years will always be the Winter Solstice, hard NOT to think of it as a Major Sabbat and as the Turning of the Year when you spent most of you life to date someplace where you see 4 hours daylight on that day and know undeniably that the days will get longer…  one kind of thirsts for sunlight and Spring in that sort of situation…

Now we are moving towards Imbolc and I am trying to write a Rite that will express my Witchcraft and Honor the Gods and especially Honor the Holy Tides of this Sabbat and celebrate and Honor Brighid.  This is a challenge as, due to an early experience with The Morrigan, left young Witchlet Pax more than a little wary of the Celtic Gods… so I have been doing a lot of research and am STILL debating with myself after 3 months as to whether I want to do a Witches Circle or a more generally Celtic/Druidic inspired Ritual am trying to write an invocation to Brighid…

I had asked a number of trusted folks if they would help, only the Fabulous Jonathan got back to me… but I am doing the right on my own, for a group of people with whom (with only very few exceptions) I will not likely be willing to Circle with again, nor break bread…

And yet even with the mixed feelings I have about this coming Imbolc, I am working on it as best I can.  I am thinking and writing and meditating on it and going to to the best I can for this Holy Day… not only out of obligation, but if this is the ONLY real chance I am to be allowed to give my best for this community, that once meant so much to me to be involved, then I will give them my BEST…for both myself and for The Gods.

Then too as painful as my association with this group was, and as near as it came to causing me to give up on a lot of things, it not only taught me some valuable lessons, but led me to involvement and friendships and much healthier associations that I would not have found without them; so I will celebrate the Sabbat and ballance my accounts with them… paying the coin as the Traditional Witchcraft folks say…

Peace,

Pax

PS- New links have been added to the Online Resources and New Books to the Suggested Reading…

Solsticetide Eclipse and learning to respect the moments momentous and mundane…

Dear Friends,

Tonight I have had the privilege of seeing the Waning and Waxing Crescent within hours of each other.  The chill night air and the Moon in the sky dancing with the shadow of the Earth.  Strange to watch this celestial dance and think of how they and we are all, somehow, the stuff of stars.

Thou art God, Thou art Goddess, we and They are all one and many and interconnected and miraculous.

There is wonder in this old Universe yet!  Once more the Child of Promise is stirring, as the Crone and Maiden and Mother dance in the jewel bedecked halls of Night.  The Miracles of the Solstice are nigh, my friends, and we will welcome Him back into life and light soon.  Solstice Eve tonight (21st) and Solstice Day in the morning (22nd), and we shall welcome a New Year round soon.

I have always related to the Solstices and Equinoxes as major occasions, a natural result of an Alaskan upbringing when the Winter Solstice shall see 4 hours of daylight if the sky is not blanketed with thick gray clouds.  The Winter Solstice is the turning of my spiritual New Year, followed shortly by the Calendarical…

Drink deeply of mystery and wonder and poetry and promise my friends, drink deeply of mulled wine or sweet Sangria and Breathe deep the Breath of Life and sing and hope and dream and smile and laugh and feast with friends.  Whether you huddle round a bonfire in a chill night or spend the night bbq-ing with friends, or savoring stew cooked on the stove of by the fireside.  Light Candles and kindle fires and stare deep into flames listening to the wisdom from the flickering tongues that whispered to our ancestors oh so ever so long ago.

There is wonder and power in any Winter Solstice, and this one is more precious still for the overlapping of the Eclipse…  and yet one of the lessons of my own journey that I am filled to overflowing with this year as I feel the strange alchemy of the Solstice tide turn what had been a sense of stillness turned to stagnation and a spiritual bleakness cracking open to the wonder and possibilities and hope of this time of year; one of the lessons I have learned and should like to share is this, there is wonder and magick and Mysteries and power and possibility in our simplest acts if we open to it.

I am reminded of this, especially this time of year as I watch so many people get caught up in the mad rush of days, indeed a dear friend, who lives in the North East U.S., expressed exhaustion at everything that needed doing this Holiday Season… and some part of me began to flow with the first stirrings of the Solstice miracles…. I wrote to her…

Breathe the breath of life, Inspire, draw in life giving air, life force, and Spirit, take a step and feel air and blood and magick flow. 

Know the simple blessing of breath and movement and magick. Feel the blessed benediction of the bloo…d in your veins. Where there is soreness then stop for a moment, stand and breathe into the pain… sending air and energy to whatever needs strengthening and balancing loosening the pain and repositioning your body until it moves from “ow” to “ah, that’s alright”, then stride forward once more with grace and ease.

Movement is more purposeful now, more the prowl of a panther than the leap of a gazelle, but every movement and every breath and every conscious action is a blessing and benediction unto ourselves and the world.

If we remember the powers of Air and the benediction of breath.

~~~

Light a candle, or pour a hot toddy, take a moment to warm yourself by the wood-stove or the fire or simply with hands clasped around a cup of strong black tea with cinnamon and citrus rind…. take a moment to breath in the fragrant steam, take a moment to lose yourself in the candles flame.

Look inside yourself and seek your spiritual fire and inner light. Take a breath and send air and energy to your personal fires, take a breath and open yourself to the Light of Lady and Lord, to His Light, to The Light of which we and They are a part.

Remember the blessings and benedictions of Fire.

~~~

Bundle up and take your freshly poured tea outside a moment. Look at the snow and ice around you and realize that one of Mysteries of Water is that it can be so many things…. It can be hard enough to scour the mountains to fine fertile dust, in can fall and fly crystalline and wind borne, it can flow along the earth, it can fall warm or cold from the sky… We are also capable of many things and forms in our emotions and our ways of acting and reacting…

Make a snowball and throw it at a wall, how does it react on impact? How are you reacting to the impacts from the mad rush of days?

Take a likely icicle and stir your tea with it, cooling the overheated liquid until it is drinkable, turning a burning liquid into nourishment, Transformation…

Go inside and mix salt and water and draw stars and snowflakes on your window panes… leave them a while and then when the patterns shine through later remember to yourself that you can transform you can choose how to react and what form your spirit and emotions shall take..

Take time for a hot hot bath, or a shower and a lustral bath, with soothing herbs…

Luxuriate in the Mysteries of the Waters…

~~~

Breathe in the fragrant scent of the pines, stir up a pot of stew on the stove, light a few scented candles in the rooms of the house and just take some time reveling in your home. It is a place of wonder and blessings and nourishment and nurturance. Determine to take 10 minutes to do nothing but sit in Your Spot and sip something and eat something and silently enjoy Your home and hearth and what health you have.

Bake something for your beloveds, go through the pantry and see what supplies you need to stock up on so that on the next expedition you can fill the pantry and plan something special for those you love and for yourself…

Savor the mysteries of Earth….
~~~

We are all magickal, we are all miraculous, there is wonder and power aplenty if we open ourselves to them.  Whatever your climate, wherever you are dear friends, you too can take time, MUST make and take the time to savor the moments and the Mysteries.
Bright Blessings and Much Love to you all,
Pax

Rekindling my Sacred Fires

As the annual Brighid Poetry Slam messages out there have probably already high-lighted for us, Imbolc-tide is upon us once more.  Depending on your individual faith or path as a Pagan, Imbolc or Oimelc can mean many different things.  Those meanings also change depending on matters of where you live and whether you celebrate as a Solitary Pagan or in a Group, and whether your Faith or Path even observes Imbolc or if it’s one of those Holidays that you sometimes go out to a community event for, simply for the Pagan fellowship, or to humor a friend; but for me it has come to be The Festival of Rekindling…

Growing up, and becoming a Witch, in Anchorage,Alaska early February was that time of year where you really started to see and appreciate the returning of the daylight.  In late February/Early March you also had the excitement of the approaching Fur Rendezvous, an annual Winter Carnival held in Anchorage.   So for the longest time Imbolc was a celebration of the returning light and of the first stirrings of the return of light and life and activity after the mad rush of celebrating the Beloved Living at Yule.

The last few years, though, I have had trouble figuring out what Imboc means to me.

Living in Florida the returning of the light is much less a dramatic or sought after turning of the Wheel, and it’s kind of difficult to get into its associations as celebrating the first signs/stirrings of spring when the citrus harvest is finishing up and the Strawberry harvest is on its way… part of my ongoing journey as I seek to truly understand this strange new sub-tropical world of mine.

Imbolc meaning “In the Belly”; Oimelc meaning “ewe’s milk.  Birth, beginnings, creativity, and renewal… those begin to feel closer to the truth of this Sabbat for me.   Though I don’t have much,  except that of a 1/4 Irish lineage, of a relationship with Brigid whose festival Imbolc is widely honored as, She is the Goddess of Sacred Fires and Sacred Springs.  Smithcraft, Arts and Crafts, Poetry, Spirituality, and Healing, Nurturing, Hearthcraft.

These feel, in that deep part of my soul that is touched by the sacred, like the right track…

So before I went to bed this morning (one of the many hazards of an overnight job…) I turned off the computer and the phone, I lit a stick of incense and before I blew out the flame used that stick to light a candle.  I sat holding the candle-glass cupped gently in my hands and meditated a bit.  I sought, not silence really, but clarity.  I let my mind wander over the last few days…

I thought about the New member’s potluck at First Unitarian, how enjoyable it was even though I am clumsy at best at social mixers with large groups of people.  I thought about meeting my sponsor/mentor Mary and talking with here about things around church.  My mind turned to the words of the Chalice lighting  we use at our U.U. Church

“In the Light of Truth,

In the Warmth of Love,

We gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.”

(and for those of you who are thinking “isn’t the Chalice a tool of water?!” Yes, it is, but there’s more than one way to wield a symbol and a tool!   Here is a link about the Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist flaming Chalice)

My mind also thought about how very, very much I enjoyed cooking my variation of Mom’s Classic Greenbeans (a Stewart family Holiday classic!)  for the Potluck; and how eager I was to volunteer to help my mentor Mary by volunteering to put together a Jambalaya for the New Orleans themed coffee hour…

I really do love to cook and it feels good to be able to use the skills and knowledge of years of work and study, and my recent schooling, in a productive way.  I actually see a lot of my future work in Community Building in the Pagan Community as a way to take those experiences and skills and offer them in Service to others… fundraisers and social events of all sorts!

I am really a hearth-Witch at heart I think, not necessarily limited to my own home; more that I am deeply drawn to and my gifts seem to lay in matters of Hearth and Community building.

Thoughts of the Hearth transition my thoughts from my Witchcraft to my Hellenic Polytheism and naturyally bring to mind Hestia.  She who IS the Hearth, and the Hearth Fire, the Sacred light giving, nurturuing, nourishing fire in our homes and lives.  Given this long present, but not entirely acknowledged or understood grounding I have in matters of the Hearth,  I need to find a way to honor Her especially as I seek to Honor the Theoi Ktesioi, the Gods of the Home,  in the coming year on the Noumenia and in my life.

THE THEOI KTESIOI were the gods of house and home. They were led by Zeus protector of the home (Ctesius) and of the family courtyard (Hicesius) along with Hestia, the goddess of the hearth. Hecate and Hermes were also important household gods who protected the gates and entranceways. -from an entry at Theoi.com

Chronologically, my thoughts carried me to the next day and back to thoughts of Witchcraft.   Waking up early at 3pm and performing my first, full and formal Witches Circle in…. well, in ages.  I remember how wonderful it felt to finally and formally welcome them into my live and works and to share with the Guardians of the Watchtowers in the Blessings of the Lady and Lord.  I had not realized how much I missed the immediacy and intimacy of my connection and communion with Them in a full Circle.

Then after Circle there was the mad rush of shopping for and prepping the ingredients for the Jambalaya, then work from 11pm-7am, then rushing home to actually cook the blessed dish, then off to Church to help with the coffee hour and to act as a Greeter.

My thoughts ranged over how much I am enjoying being involved in a community once more, and how eager I am to use my talents, experience, and education in service to that community.  Not only First Unitarian, but also the Mystic Grove, which is the Pagan/Heathen Affinity Group at the Church.  I am in that tricky stage of getting involved, but trying to not over commit myself or over extend myself… very tough to do for me, and from some of the conversations I’ve had with others at the Church I would guess U.U.’s in general.  This congregation, at least, seems to have a lot of that ‘somebody should do something about this’ energy that is so familiar to me…

I had to laugh to myself when someone described a Unitarian Universalist congregation like “herding cats”, how many times had I heard that phrase used to describe Pagan community… many!

I also, oddly enough, thought of the new involvement I have with a table-top role-playing group, getting my geek on and making new friends and reveling in the creativity and imagination of this cherished and long neglected hobby….

So for me the Festival of Rekindling is a time renew and recommit to those things that nurture the self and nurture and reconnect us to the wider world.  To take pleasure in our creativity, to explore and contemplate our new beginnings or what we might begin as the Wheel turns.  To celebrate the return to life and activity after the period of rest after the Winter Holidays.

As I breathed in my meditations by the light of that candle’s flame, focusing ever so slightly on the out-breath, I imagined breathing onto a charcoal or onto kindling, nurturing the fire with my breath to bring it to fullness and life…

Then after some Still and Sillent meditation, I blew out the candle, and welcomed the light of dawn.

“we extinguish the flame,

But not the light of truth,

The warmth of community,

Or the fire of commitment,

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.”

May your Hearth and Home be blessed,

May you have food and clothing to warm your body,

May you have good friends to share your blessings with to warm your heart and soul,

May you find beauty and inspiration and creativity in your journey,

Blessed be!

And, as always,

Peace,

Pax

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 Subtropical Ostara

Hello my dear Pagans!

So once again the Wheel of the year has turned and Spring, officially, has Sprung.  The major sign of this turning here in Central Florida has been the Citrus Pollen, which has inundated us for days, is soon to be joined with the Live Oak Pollen.

(Can Live oaks get Mistltoe?!  I’ll post a picture of it soon but we have some species of Bromelliad growing in the branches of one of our Liveoaks… lightish green rounded tipped leaves, whitish berry?!)

Anyway I am once more trying to unscrew the inscrutableness of what the Wheel of the Year means to me in an environment where Citrus Harvest is in December and a nearby down’s Strawberry Festival has come and gone in February and early March.!

Personally, and for no particularly well documented reason, I tend to think of Ostara as the Children’s Festival.  Fertility and Birth seem wrapped up in the colored Eggs and Hares and Chicks (baby birds, not Hippie Girls ~ although Hippie Girls are cool too… Fundamentalist comic book publishers are, however a little lower on my list!)

Just as Imbolc celebrates new things and beginings and creativity, So too does Ostara continue those themes and interweave them with the exuberance of Childhood.  (And for most of my lifetime, back in Alaska, the first real signs of Spring… as opposed to the return of the light)

It suddenly occurrs to me that one of the things I have always seen within the Wheel is a symbolic progression through various stages and points of our lives… perhaps that shall prove a usefull hook in writing about the Sabbats and the Seasons… hrmm…

Anyway my dear ones… I am off to surf the Pagan Internet for a bit looking for crafty, culinary, and creative ways of honoring this holiday.

Peace,

Pax

Imbolctide!!!

So there is this idea in a lot of sources is of Imbolc as somehow being the first stirring of Spring.  Coming from Anchorage, Ak. and now living in Orlando, Fl. ~ I am really not all that into Imbolc as a stirring of Spring…

Although January and February do mark the Strawberry harvest, among others, in my locale!

For me, and this lack of Springy spirit may in part be due to the annual influence on my childhood of the Fur Rendezvous festival in the Anchorage, area.  Fur Rondy, is an annual Winter carnival that includes the World Championchip Sled Dog Races, carnival rides and games set up in downtown Anchorage, arts and crafts fairs and competitions, and social events of all sorts.  In part this is a celebration of the lengthening days as we move from Winter to Spring.

For me this returning of light and sense of renewal and creativity is the big part of what Imbolc is all about.  It’s why, despite my mixed past with the Celtic Gods, I really really dig Bride and the Poetry and Hearth and Crafts related aspects of Imbolc.

Imbolc is about  new beginings, creativity and invention are the themes for this season as we reach outward into the light half of the year.  This is a time of continued and growing engagement with the world around us, beyond our home and hearth, after the deep focus on our friends and families of Yule.  We start to look forward to the activities of Spring and Summer, we start looking towards the new secular year and the things we want to do…

I am realizing, that for me at least, on a very deep level the Wheel of the Year is overlaid with Spirals that wind in and out and intertwine with one another.  For half the year we are Spiraling outward from Samhain to Beltaine, from Death (and the mysteries of what lies beyond) to Birth and Beginigns and Growth and learning and LIFE…

Then, for half of the year we spiral inward from Beltaine to Samhain…

Death and Growth and Life and Learning and Death and Life again…

Time to pour a few libations in the chilly Florida air…

Peace foks,

Pax

Happy Winter Solstice and a Blessed New Year!

Cookie decorating a Tradition in our home...

Cookie decorating a Tradition in our home...

Yule is…

For me at least the turning of the year is one of the facets at the heart of Yule.  I’ve been trying to identify these core facets of the Sabbats ever since my life’s journey took me from Alaska to Florida, from the Sub-Arctic to the Sub-Tropical.  So setting aside some of the climactic and seasonal associations of the Sabbats and trying to find the core concepts has been concerning me of late.

“New Year”, not just cause Yule is followed closely by the secular/calender New Year, but for me Winter Solstice has always felt more like the turning point of the years from one to the next.  Naturally enough I suppose for someone who spent 33 years of his life living in a land where Winter Solstice sees around 4 hours of daylight, and you know that from that point on the days get 5 minutes longer each day…

This is when we turn our focus and attention from the Beloved and Honored

Not a bad substitute for a hearth, sometimes...

Not a bad substitute for a hearth, sometimes...

Dead of Samhain, to the Honored and Beloved Living.  We turn from the introspection of inner mysteries to the mysteries of the hearth and heart and home.  We make cookies and prepare feasts and call up friends and family far and near.  We come back out of the shells of our introspection, that so many of us turn to at Samhaintide, and start to connect and reconnect with our families of biology and choice, with our dear friends, and to the earthly world around us.

It is a time to reconnect to that most essential of questions,

‘What can I give, what can I do to bring joy and peace into the world?’

It is easy to lose site of this aspect of the Yuletide with the crass commercialism of the modern day, but isn’t sharing our love and spreading joy to those we love and hold dear what this time of year is all about?

Yule is a grounding into our earthly lives as we prepare to honor the cycles of the world once more starting with Imbolc.

I spent this Yule at work at the park for a part of the day.  That evening I spend some quite time at home, took a few minutes to enjoy the night and the quite and thank the Divine for this Yule and the last year and the one ahead, and then snuggled up next to The Big Guy for a good nights sleep.

Not the flashiest Yule observance, but a nice and quiet one.

Happy Yule to all!

~~~~~~~~~~~

A few delightful links that speak to me about Yuletide…

Why Santa Claus is a Kachina

Bringing Light Where You Can

It’s a Narnia Christmas

Pagan Yuletide Media (mostly from Youtube)

A Pagan Yule

Solstice Bells (this I discovered thanks to Evn)

My Florida Sabbats : Mabon

(Part of a regular series on Pax’s interaction with the Wheel of the Year and the changes wrought upon it by being in a subtropical landscape…)

The Autumnal Equinox has come and gone, and with it we in Florida have the return of Open Window weather.  We can shut off the air-conditioners and throw open our windows and the doors to our screened in porches and patios and revel in errant breezes and evening temperatures in the 60’s and the healing coolness of Autumn and Winter!

I have been caught up this Summer in a rat race of work and fiddling around on the Internet and otherwise not going beyond the surface of things.  Part of this has been what was once my usual pattern of Winter Hibernation… only instead of buckling down to get through the cold dark Winter, I now find myself buckling down and narrowing my focus to get through the Heat and Humidity of an oppressive new Summer.

I’ve said it before but its true, it is SO strange to find myself looking forward to the Cooling breath of Winter!

~~~

So Mabon… I didn’t Circle.  I aknowledged the Holy Day in my heart and in the last few days have taken some ritual baths… and renewed my meditations and energetic practices.  Tonight I shall be offering some incense and libations to the Lord and Lady and unto Hecate and Dionysus as well.

For me, at least,  Mabon is about renewal.

~~~~