Posts Tagged With: Pagan

In Praise of Pagan Men

In Praise of Pagan Men

Author: Sia@FullCircle

Speaking as a feminist and as a Pagan woman, I would like to say this: I like men. I like to flirt with them, I like to be around them, I like to knowing them as friends, I like working with them, and I like hearing their take on things. So it seems to me that Beltane — a holiday that celebrates the Green Man – is a perfect time to celebrate the many great men in the Earthwise community.

It’s been said that “Nine tenths of the Laws of Chivalry is the desire on the part of men to keep all the fun to themselves”. While that may have been true in the past, our Pagan men have found a way to merge old world courtesy with modern equality. Anyone who’s been to a Pagan event will know whereof I speak, and will appreciate these men for their gallantry and their sense of style.

Goddess knows, I like their sense of style. These guys are as comfortable wearing leather, silk or velvet as they are wearing blue jeans or a suit. I’m not taking just about the young, hunky guys, either; I happen to think that all men are handsome and that all women are beautiful. In fact, it’s been said that I organize Pagan events just so I can see lots of men in costume. To that I answer, “Yea, verily.” (Hey, I may be married, folks, but I’m not dead.)

I like these men because they’re proud of who they are. They view themselves as people, and not just as wage earners or studs. I also love their honesty, their humor, and their hard won maturity. They treat both women and men with respect and they expect the same in return.

When these men choose to parent, I see them doing their very best to be nurturing, involved fathers. They are comfortable caring for children and they do a great job. Many of these men did not have wise or loving fathers themselves but they are determined to be the right kind of parent for their own kids, and to this I say, “Praise Be.”

These men have no wish to live in some patriarchal past. They know that good men don’t “help” with the housework; they simply do what’s needed. In other words, they see themselves as equal partners. As a result, their lovers don’t have to work the dreaded “Second Shift” (1) It’s amazing what a great relationship people can have when they’re not exhausted, angry, and bitter. The sex is better, too.

All women know that a man who does the laundry, actually sees the dirt and deals with it, and who knows how to cook is much sexier than the guy who brings flowers and jewels when he’s courting, but who expects us to become his serving wench after the honeymoon is over. The first kind of man is cherished and his partner is the envy of all. The second kind is disrespected, nagged, and very often divorced. Pagan men know this. Many of them witnessed a dysfunctional relationship between their own parents and they want something healthier for themselves. And to this I say, “Praise Be.” (2)

All of my men friends, whether they are heterosexual, gay, or bisexual, like and honor women. In turn, we Pagan women honor them. What matters to us is not how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. No, we want to be around men who are strong minded and kind. We want them to be happy, and we’ll do what it takes to help them realize their dreams. It’s amazing what kind of a relationship people can have when one of them isn’t caught in a life littered with missed opportunities or locked into a job they hate because their partner expects a certain kind of lifestyle. If being Pagan means anything, it means we accept the responsibily for our own lives and have the courage to make our own choices. Even so, it’s nice to have someone who believes in you, standing on the sidelines, cheering you on. These men do that for us, and we are happy to do the same for them.

Knowing men of such high quality can be a challenge, but I guarantee you this: you’ll never be bored. If you know a man who loves life, who does his best at work (and who has interests outside of work) and if he is funny, smart and capable and honors your strength as well as his own, then you are blessed.

Such magikal beings may seem to exist only in myth but they are real enough in our community. I tend to think of these wonderful guys as “Green Men” because The Green Man (3) is such a positive male archetype.

William Anderson notes in his book Green Man that this image has existed in our culture for many thousands of years. The Green Man is most often portrayed as a human head in a leaf mask and as such it is often found carved on hunting weapons, pendants, horns and drinking vessels. We moderns know him mostly because the Gothic stone carvers (4) placed the Green Man on so many medieval places of worship. These heads were placed in thousands of churches and cathedrals throughout Europe in an area ranging all the way from Ireland to Russia. Most of these carvings can still be seen today.

Writers like Anderson and John Matthews (the author of Green Man: Spirit of Nature) have traced this archetype and they note that it appears many times in human history. We see him as Robin of the Wood, the Green Knight of Arthurian Legend, as the May King and the Summer Lord and as Cernunnos, the Celtic God of the Forest. The myth extends beyond Europe into Mesopotamia and Greece for he is related to Silbanus, the Roman God of the wood, Adonis, the beloved of Aphrodite and Dionysus the God of wine and wildness. He appears yet again as The Fool in the first Arcanum of the Tarot. Those of you who loved The Lord of the Rings will recognize the Green Man in the figure an Ent named Tree Beard. Ents are a race of beings (Tree Herders) who protect the forests they inhabit.

At its deepest level, the Green Man figure represents our kinship with trees and wood. He is both in the wood and of the wood. Herein he acts as hunter, provider, guardian, progenitor, and friend.

The Green Man is complex; he’s gentle and strong, wise and foolish, divine and human. He stands for the power of the life force and he brings with him abundance and great joy. He is also a God of death and rebirth. Like Kali, he controls the powers of creation and destruction. He can teach us to understand the difficult paradox of a “good death” and warns against the curse of a wasted life. He understands pain, loss, letting go, sadness, change, and renewal; things we all experience at some point in our lives. Whether we mourn or whether we dance, we can call upon the Green Man.

This powerful image has recently become popular with the members of the modern ecology movement. Anderson notes:

Our remote ancestors said to their mother Earth, “We are yours.”
Modern humanity has said to Nature, “You are mine.”
The Green Man has returned as the living face of the whole earth
so that through his mouth we may say to the universe, “We are one.”

Today I see many Pagan men (and women) wearing this symbol to events. Some wear it to honor the God and some to show that they are Green Witches, healers, or herbalists. It is also popular among those who are part of a Shamanistic tradition. The Green Man is a symbol honored by all who seek mystery and transformation in their lives. He can be found by anyone brave enough to venture into those dark woods and wild places inside our selves. To find the Green Man is to find a deeper meaning to our own life’s story. To quote Oscar Wilde, “The final mystery is oneself”. The Green Man knows this and is willing to point the way.

To be in touch with the Green Man is also to revel in the bacchanalian side of our nature. The ancient Greek’s taught that we should all cut loose and go a little “mad” from time to time. They believed that this was essential for spiritual balance. But to view the Green Man only in that context is turn the Wild Wood into a Frat House. Let us not mistake the great God for a Lost Boy; he’s the Green Man, not Peter Pan (and by the way, guys, none of us wants to be your “Wendy”. She’s right up there with Becky Thatcher in the Codependant Pantheon and, frankly, the role is no damn fun… .but I digress). Yes, the Green Man knows how to party, but he is also a wise leader, teacher, and guide.

True leadership is not as our culture would have it “power over” but rather “power with” and “power for”. In T.H. White’s book “The Once and Future King”, King Arthur realizes early in his reign that many of Merlin’s lessons have been about the use of power. The problem in Arthur’s world is that “Might is right” and once he realizes that he designs his Round Table around the concept of “Might for right”, and so changes history.

When I look at my male friends I see that they, too, are changing history. These men are harkening back to a much older and more profound male model, and in doing so they are changing what it means to be a man in this society. The personal (as we feminists have so often pointed out) is political. Change one aspect, and you can’t help but change the other.

Women have worked for many years to make our own way back to strength, honor and balance so we know how hard this process can be. These days both men and women are traveling without a map and with no clear directions on how to proceed. But I firmly believe that if we support one another we can all get there, or rather, we can all get back there. As Gloria Steinem once said:

“The first problem, for all of us, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

So, if you know man within your Circle or circle of friends who you think is special, please take a moment and let him know that you appreciate him. Green Men are hard to find these days; let’s honor the ones we know. (5)

Blessed Be to all our men,

Sia

Biography: Sia is the Council Leader for Full Circle Events, a non-profit Neo-Pagan group which hosts events like the annual Beltane Ball. She can reached for comment at info@fullcircleevents.org.

End Notes:

(1) In her book titled “The Second Shift“, sociologist Arlie Hochschild takes us into the homes of two-career parents to observe what really goes on at the end of the “work day.” Overwhelmingly, she discovers, it’s the working mother who takes on the second shift.

Hochschild finds that men share housework equally with their wives in only twenty percent of dual-career families. While many women accept this inequity in order to keep peace, they tend to suffer from chronic exhaustion, low sex drive, and more frequent illness as a result. The ultimate cost is the forfeited health and happiness of both partners, and often the survival of the marriage itself.

(2) I’m not suggesting that partners have to do exactly the same tasks or that everyone has to work outside the home for their love to be a union of equals. What I am saying is that each relationship (whether it be lover, roommate or friend, poly, hetero, lesbian or gay) has to have a deep-seated feeling of equity between partners. If the burdens of daily life are seen by those in the relationship to be fairly shared amongst all parties, then it doesn’t matter who cuts the grass. (It does matter if you don’t know how to do laundry or if you “would just die” if they ever left you to fend for yourself. In such cases it’s time to add some new skills to your toolbox).

(3) The first use of the term “Green Man” was by the distinguished anthropologist, Lady Raglan. Her article on the Green Man appeared in the magazine “Folk Lore” (vol. 50) in 1939. It is she who makes the connection among the various myths, the carvings, and Pagan ritual. Lady Raglan writes “(there is) a figure variously known as the Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood, the King of May, and the Garland, who is the central figure in the May-Day celebrations throughout Northern and Central Europe.”

(4) Gothic Art is the style of art produced in Europe from the Middle

Ages up to the beginning of the Renaissance. Typically religious in nature, it is especially known for the distinctive arched design of its churches, its stained glass, and its illuminated manuscripts. The Gothic Period in art history dates roughly from the 5th to the 16th century, C.E.

(5) According to Anderson, Terri Windling and other writers there are also “Green Women”. The goddesses Asherah and Flora are good examples, as are the nymph Chloris and Dakshi, the tree-goddess of India. The Green Woman can also be found in the legend of the Lady Greensleeves and in the stories of the gallant lass known as Maid Marian.

 

Here are some other books of interest:

 

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculineby Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette

Lord of Light and Shadow: The Many Faces of the God by D.J. Conway

Wiccan Warrior: Walking A Spiritual Path In A Sometimes Hostile Worldby Kerr Cuhulain

Triumph Of The Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton

Here are some websites you might enjoy:The Green Man and The Green Woman: Tales of the Mythic Forest – This part of Teri Windling’s website features her splendid essay titled “Tales of the Mythic Forest” which is about the Green Man and Green Woman archetype as it appears in ancient and modern literature. It also has some beautiful images by artists such as Brian Froud, Robert Gould, Wendy Froud and Alan Lee, among others.

The Green Man: Variations on a Theme: – This essay by Ruth Wylie for Edge Magazine discusses the Green Man image as it appears on churches throughout Europe.

The Mystery of the Green Man — A site with great images, including pictures of the Green Man in India and Nepal.

The Lodge of Herne: A Place for Pagan Men

Gay Paganism – The index at The Witches Voice

The Green Man: Common Themes: East & West

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This is Wicca

This is Wicca

Author: Pulchra Lupus 

Before you begin, I would like to make my intended audience clear. This essay, while perhaps appreciated by my fellow believers, is more directed toward doubters, or new practitioners of the craft. This is meant to educate those ill informed or else those who are curious.

Wicca. What is your first impression, when you hear this word? Tainted witchcraft? Satanism? Evil? If these are among your thoughts, then you have been sadly misinformed.

Wicca is Pagan. This is very true. But Pagan no more means evil than being a bird means you can fly. Pagan came from the Latin word Paganus, literally meaning country-dweller or rustic. It is a religion predating Christianity by roughly twenty-eight thousand years, making it ancient and different. It is not Satanic Worship; the Devil had not yet even come into the picture. It is simply different, and the Old Church set out to destroy or convert that which scared it, that which it could not understand.

Pagans deal with more attacks, verbal and violent, for being what they are than nearly any other religion. But, the uneducated and the crude initiate those attacks. For, if you truly knew what Wicca was, you would know that we are no threat to you.

Those who practice this religion are benign, peaceful. They are comfortable with who they are, knowing that they have nothing to prove to anybody but themselves. They do not try to recruit others to their belief system; they do not try to convert others away from their religion. If a person comes to Wicca, they do it of their own free will. They do not attempt to harm others in any way, and they do not try to right any wrong done to them, especially with use of magick. This, in part, is due to their belief in the three-fold law, known by most simply as Karma.

We celebrate two deities, the God and the Goddess. These deities are known by many names. The Goddess is commonly associated with all maiden goddesses such as Artemis, Greek goddess of the moon and the Hunt, and Diana, Artemis’ Roman aspect, but she has three aspects, not just the Maiden. She is the Crone, the wise old woman stirring the cauldron, the Mother, who calls us all her children, and the Maiden, who is young and pure and kind. The God is depicted often with the antlers of a stag, and so many assume that he represents the Devil. This is not so. He is closely associated with the Greco-Roman gods of Pan, god of nature, and Apollo, got of the sun, of music and archery, of healing. Kernunos, Cernunnos, his names are also many. They both rule over nature, but they also have specific spheres of power. The Goddess rules the night sky and is the Mother of the Earth. The God is represented as the midday sun and is in charge of the hunt.

Wiccans do not worship trees, or rocks, or rivers. These are symbols that they attune themselves with in order to link with nature and, through it, to their deities. The elder tree is the Lady’s sacred tree, and oak is linked with the Horned God. The Wiccans believe that they are born of nature and that, when they die, their bodies return to the earth, and their souls travel to the afterlife. The afterlife itself is unique for each person. By definition, most do not believe in Hell, or Heaven, in the strictest sense. We believe that, when you die, whatever you imagined your death to be is what it will be. If you pictured yourself in Avalon, walking beside the Goddess among the apple trees, this is where you would go. We also believe in reincarnation; the God and Goddess give us the option of being reborn, with the knowledge that we will not remember our past lives and only the very bare essence of the soul will remain, bearing unconsciously the lessons learned in previous lives.

Wiccans do practice magick, but never should it be used in a way intended to harm or negatively affect our selves or another. They have two classifications of magick: white magick, and black magick. Black magick is practiced solely by those who divert from the true Wiccan path in a foolish quest for power, but all religions have their fools. The entire Wiccan existence is based on the belief that all life is sacred, and to intentionally take one’s life, as suicide or homicide, is gravely looked upon, but they try to see it as just another mistake.

Wiccans have the Wiccan Rede, which speaks of the Sabbats, the guidelines of the use of magick, and the respect of the higher powers. The final eight words are not negotiable, and are the firmest, set-in-stone rule of all Wicca, no matter the specific tradition. These words are: An ye harm none, do as ye will. Harm none. This is the one and only hard rule of Wicca. Hurt nobody. So why are our kind constantly attacked? Verbally abused with cruel insults, physically assaulted by those who know nothing of the true religion?

Why? Because everyone is afraid of what they cannot understand, and so they lash out in order to rid themselves of the fear by ridding themselves of the cause. But this is cruelty and an abuse of their rights as human beings, and we should not have to tolerate this as we do. We are not the neighborhood pot-smokers, nor are we the tattoo-riddled, pierced from head to toe hippies. Some fall into these categories, but so do some Christians, and Catholics, and Muslims. We are all human beings, regardless of our beliefs, and we should be treated as such. And yet, wars are started over things simple as this. This mass prejudice on not just Wiccans but all different religions is making us forget that we are all part of the same race. This is wrong, alienating our own kind over something as trivial as what god someone prays to. It isn’t our business what others believe in, and we should learn to leave well enough alone.

I hope this really made you think about your actions and others. I hope you can find it in yourself to rise above the most primal part of human nature and learn to love everybody, regardless of religion, or skin color, or language.

This is Wicca.

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Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

By , About.com

 

After you’ve been Pagan or Wiccan for a while, you will eventually find yourself facing the question of whether or not to come out of the broom closet. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this essentially means coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan — making it known to family, friends, neighbors, etc. It’s a highly personal issue, and people have a number of reasons for choosing to stay closeted. Just as many people have reasons for making their beliefs known.

Coming out may not be for everyone, or it may be something you choose to do in degrees. When you decide to make your faith known, you are opening yourself up to all the problems that may accompany being recognized as part of a non-mainstream faith. However — and this is a mighty big however — you do have certain rights, particularly in the United States. Arming yourself with knowledge will help you tremendously in protecting those rights.

How Out Do You Want to Be?

There are different levels of being out. For many Pagans and Wiccans, simply letting their families or spouses know about their spirituality is enough. Many people consider religion to be a private thing anyway — no matter what religion they may be — and are perfectly content to limit the number of people in their lives who actually know the details. Plenty more people are of the opinion that if you are asked, tell the truth, but otherwise don’t be in-your-face about Paganism or Wicca.

Other folks are more vocal — feeling that if you really believe in something, you need to tell everyone, and do so with pride. These are the folks you usually see on television discussing Pagan and Wiccan rights, they’re the ones who openly teach classes, and often are leaders of your local Pagan community. Some probably own shops, perform ceremonies as Pagan clergy, or work as liaisons between the Pagan community and the non-Pagan world.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to get an accurate count of the current Pagan and Wiccan population is because there are so many people who are simply private about their beliefs. Estimates in the United States alone suggest that there are anywhere from 200,000 to two million Pagans and Wiccans in the country.

As Paganism and Wicca move more towards the mainstream, more and more people are coming out of the broom closet. Some are flamboyant and vocal, others are more discreet and quiet. Most of us, honestly, are somewhere in the middle. Others don’t come out at all, because they’re concerned about the reactions they’ll receive.

Bear in mind also that there’s a huge difference between being private and being deceptive.

Moving Towards the Mainstream

Thirty years ago, coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan was virtually unheard of. The only people who were actually out were Pagan authors — people like Sybil Leek, Ray Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Isaac Bonewits, Starhawk. These were the people who became leaders of the modern Pagan movement, simply because they were the most visible.

During the 1980s, more books became available on Paganism and Wicca, and one of the topics covered nearly universally was the decision to come out or not. In subsequent decades, as the Internet became a resource found in every household and coffee shop, Pagan and Wiccan networking sites became readily available. Earth-based spirituality became open to the masses, and more and more people realized it was okay to come out.

Advantages of Being Out

There are several positive aspects to being out as a Pagan or Wiccan. For starters, it allows you the freedom of not hiding your true self. When you’ve shared who you are with others, it makes it that much easier to be honest and open about other things.

When it comes to controversial issues, Wiccans and Pagans are often at the forefront of writing letters to congress people, marching in parades, and organizing protests. By making your presence as a Pagan known, it allows like-minded people to find you when they need your assistance. Likewise, if you need them, you’ll be able to find them if they’re out.

Finally, there is a sense of liberation that comes with being out. Even if you’re not one of those in-your-face Pagans, and are simply out to friends and family, there’s a freedom born of openness. Once you’re out, you don’t have to worry that other people are going to find out — because you’ve already made it known, on your own terms.

The Downside of Stepping Out
For some people, the idea of coming out as Pagan or Wiccan is terrifying. They may feel that they’ll be persecuted by local fundamentalist groups, or that they will be in danger of losing jobs, children, etc. If this is of concern to you, be sure to read the section on Your Rights as a Pagan.

Some Pagans choose not to come out because of fears related to past history. There is sometimes a concern that outing oneself as Pagan or Wiccan could lead to a repeat of the Burning Times that existed during the Middle Ages.

Another thing to bear in mind is that once you’re out, it’s a one-way street. You can’t suddenly take back that you’re Wiccan or Pagan, because people won’t forget. This is why it’s not a bad idea to come out gradually — rather than waking up one morning and wearing your brand new I’m a Witch, Deal With It! shirt, it may be better to first let family know, then friends, and finally become open with others. Regardless, it’s something you can do at the pace that feels best to you.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the decision to come out is one that takes some thought and possibly some clever planning as well, depending on how you believe you will be received. You may be pleasantly surprised to find support and friendship in places that you didn’t expect it — it’s possible that dear old mom and dad will embrace your newfound spirituality rather than chastising you for it. Talk to people who are out of the broom closet and ask them for advice on how to talk to their families and friends about who they are.

Finally, be sure to never, EVER, out someone else without their permission. It’s a personal choice, and while you’re more than welcome to tell people what you believe — without proselytizing, of course — you’re not welcome to announce that other people are Pagan or Wiccan, unless they are already out.

Religion and spirituality is a private and personal thing, no matter who you are. Coming out of the broom closet is a choice that only you can make for yourself. It’s something that you can choose to do when the time is right for you — or not.

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Not All Pagans are Wiccans

Not All Pagans Are Wiccans

By , About.com

 

Wicca is a tradition of Witchcraft that was brought to the public by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. There is a great deal of debate among the Pagan community about whether or not Wicca is truly the same form of Witchcraft that the ancients practiced. Regardless, many people use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Paganism is an umbrella term used to apply to a number of different earth-based faiths. Wicca falls under that heading, although not all Pagans are Wiccan.

So, in a nutshell, here’s what’s going on. All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Finally, some witches are Pagans, but some are not – and some Pagans practice witchcraft, while others choose not to.

If you’re reading this page, chances are you’re either a Wiccan or Pagan, or you’re someone who’s interested in learning more about the modern Pagan movement. You may be a parent who’s curious about what your child is reading, or you might be someone who is unsatisfied with the spiritual path you’re on right now. Perhaps you’re seeking something more than what you’ve had in the past. You might be someone who’s practiced Wicca or Paganism for years, and who just wants to learn more.

For many people, the embracing of an earth-based spirituality is a feeling of “coming home”. Often, people say that when they first discovered Wicca, they felt like they finally fit in. For others, it’s a journey TO something new, rather than running away from something else.

Paganism is an Umbrella Term

Please bear in mind that there are dozens of different traditions that fall under the umbrella title of “Paganism”. While one group may have a certain practice, not everyone will follow the same criteria. Statements made on this site referring to Wiccans and Pagans generally refer to MOST Wiccans and Pagans, with the acknowledgement that not all practices are identical.

Not All Pagans are Wiccans

There are many Witches who are not Wiccans. Some are Pagans, but some consider themselves something else entirely.

Just to make sure everyone’s on the same page, let’s clear up one thing right off the bat: not all Pagans are Wiccans. The term “Pagan” (derived from the Latin paganus, which translates roughly to “hick from the sticks”) was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas. As time progressed and Christianity spread, those same country folk were often the last holdouts clinging to their old religions. Thus, “Pagan” came to mean people who didn’t worship the god of Abraham.

In the 1950s, Gerald Gardner brought Wicca to the public, and many contemporary Pagans embraced the practice. Although Wicca itself was founded by Gardner, he based it upon old traditions. However, a lot of Witches and Pagans were perfectly happy to continue practicing their own spiritual path without converting to Wicca.

Therefore, “Pagan” is an umbrella term that includes many different spiritual belief systems – Wicca is just one of many.

Think of it this way:

Christian > Lutheran or Methodist or Jehovah’s Witness

Pagan > Wiccan or Asatru or Dianic or Eclectic Witchcraft

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, not all people who practice witchcraft are Wiccans, or even Pagans. There are a few witches who embrace the Christian god as well as a Wiccan goddess – the Christian Witch movement is alive and well! There are also people out there who practice Jewish mysticism, or “Jewitchery”, and atheist witches who practice magic but do not follow a deity.

What About Magic?

There are a number of people who consider themselves Witches, but who are not necessarily Wiccan or even Pagan. Typically, these are people who use the term “eclectic Witch” or to apply to themselves. In many cases, Witchcraft is seen as a skill set in addition to or instead of a religious system. A Witch may practice magic in a manner completely separate from their spirituality; in other words, one does not have to interact with the Divine to be a Witch.

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Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility

Author: Crick 

As more and more folks rediscover their Pagan roots, they run into an emotional, spiritual and mental paradox called individuality. This concept for so many, lends itself to a heretofore unrealized sense of intellectual, spiritual and personal responsibility. No longer is there the option of blaming ones actions on an ethereal entity such as the Devil or Satan or what have you.

While one was a member of one of the organized religions, this was an accepted and in many instances an encouraged cop out. However this self-abasement and pleading for mercy from a distant God is not a tenet of Paganism.

This is in fact one of the tenets that tends to separate a spiritual path from a formal religion.

As a Pagan, one is expected, and indeed should seek, to become involved in a deeper sense of personal responsibility. Seeking out the mysteries, and thus the spiritual lessons of life, become our primary goal within this realm. And this goal is not something that can be handed off to someone else. For each of us is indeed, responsible for our own growth. As Pagans we are each expected to strive for the highest spiritual level that we can attain.

This is not to say that such a sense of responsibility is to be taken for granted. Saying that “I am a Pagan therefore I am a responsible person” just does not fly. Sincere and devoted Pagans do not hang pentacles around their necks and simply pay lip service.

One has to actually work at and continue to adjust one’s thoughts and actions in order to achieve this personal goal.

This is in part what the lessons of life are all about: the ability to face the obstacles that are placed before us — and to act or react accordingly in a way that is spiritually acceptable — is our ultimate challenge as Pagans.

As Neo-Pagans, we have entered into a special world that is very exciting and full of rewarding experiences. We are availed the opportunity to rediscover and explore the world of our ancestors.

Prior to the onset of organized religion, such acts as working with energy, healing with herbs, walking amongst spirits to name a few, were common place events. And the mindset that goes with such responsibility was inherent in such nature-connected folks.

But alas, over the ages we have become somewhat disconnected with our world and all that She offers. We have to make a concerted and conscious effort to regain the values and respect for such gifts that we once took for granted.

If we are to walk the path of Paganism, then we have to make a honest decision to clear off the layers of dust and apathy that have settled upon our souls and seek out the truths that will lead us to spiritual growth.

In general, becoming one with our chosen Deity is a goal that many Pagans choose as their personal goal.

Fortunately Deity has allotted us many tools in order to achieve this level of spiritual responsibility and fulfillment.

We are blessed with an inner voice, which opens up many options when faced with a challenge. Some folks call this their conscious; others may call it Shaitan or even Coyote (the Trickster). There are of course many other names for this particular phenomenon.

But the point being made here is that this is not something that is intended to lead us down a negative or evil path. Rather it is a way of testing our choices in life. As every Pagan should realize, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to personal spiritual responsibility. We are unique individuals with many different beliefs and/or approaches to the great mysteries of life.

How we respond to challenges is dependent on our personal experiences and the lessons encountered up to any given point in time. There are no masters in this journey of the soul; rather we are all students of life. And continue to be so until it is our turn to pass through the veil. Once we do pass through the silvery veil and the book of Akashic records is opened, there is no one to answer for the pages of your life but yourself.

It is a wise person that keeps in mind that as we walk the path of Paganism.

Mistakes will be made. It is what we learn from our mistakes and how we proceed from that lesson to the next that will be the mark of our personal growth. These are the defining moments of our personal spiritual responsibility.

There are, of course, many, many other tools available to those who engage the path of Paganism. For instance, when we embark on an astral journey there are many teachers waiting and willing in the cosmic realm. We need but to reach out and make our desires known to them.

We even have the ability to visit the Akashic records in order to review lessons, both past and present. In addition, there are many spiritual entities here on Mother Earth who are patiently waiting for us to find the inner strength to once again be able to see and acknowledge them and who are more then willing to assist us in our journey towards such a personal goal.

Deity has not left us to our own devises but rather has provided us with many opportunities for attaining a sense of personal responsibility for ourselves.

Deity awaits us with open hearts and arms. But it is up to each of us as to how quickly we arrive home to them. And thus become one with them.

So whether you are one who has walked this path for a number of years or are just starting out on the path of Paganism, in whatever form, do so with a deep sense of awareness. And fully embrace the concept of personal responsibility that is a mainstay of this particular and fascinating belief system.

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Ode to Ostara

Ode to Ostara

Author:   Morgan Ravenwood 

I really feel sorry for those who complain that their lives seem to pass in a blur. One minute it’s winter, the next it’s summer, and so many people never seem to mark the changing of the seasons until the day they look in the mirror, see the lines on their own faces and the gray hair on their heads, and wonder when they acquired them. I feel fortunate that because I am a Pagan I’m not only observing the seasonal changes but am also actually participating in them (or, as I like to put it, “living a conscious life”) , unlike those who simply view them as a spectator or, worse yet, fail to notice them at all. For surely, if life is but a classroom and we are here to learn certain lessons, we can hardly do otherwise and expect to achieve spiritual growth.

While we Pagans are most famous for our celebration of Samhain, which symbolizes the death of the old year and the beginning of the new one, I believe that it is the Spring Equinox that carries a much more important connotation: that of birth and renewal. There is no better place to watch this cycle play itself out than in a garden.

I live in the southwestern desert where we don’t usually get much of a winter, albeit the nighttime temperatures do dip below freezing at times. Despite the mild weather, my small but productive garden knows what the seasons are, and shows its pleasure in the warmer weather with a riotous green display.

I’m like an excited little kid after I first plant the seeds I’ve chosen to grow; every day I anxiously peer into the various pots, barrels and seedbeds, beside myself with curiosity to see if the first seedling has made its appearance yet. Of all the stress-relieving exercises known to man, this has got to be one of the easiest and best. It’s also highly effective for a Pagan in that it offers an opportunity to temporarily abandon the cares of the world and perform a life-affirming activity, which is also one in which they can actually commune with the divine if they will but listen as well as speak. That this can be achieved by performing such a simple activity as tending a garden is part of the deep appeal of Paganism. This is why I feel that every Pagan should attempt to grow something, even if it’s just a houseplant or a few herb seeds in a small pot on a windowsill. It’s also a particularly great way to introduce children to one of the fundamental beliefs of Paganism: that divinity is inherent in all of nature.

In a garden we not only can see the metaphorical drama of the Goddess and God, but of our own lives as well: the seed is planted, it grows to adulthood, produces seed of its own, dies, and is resurrected through its seed, which has been planted in its place. The message is, of course, that nothing is ever truly wasted or dies. Anybody who would argue with that has surely never been a gardener!

This birth-death-resurrection cycle plays in all aspects of organic and biological life. I had an opportunity to meditate on this when my pregnant daughter showed me an ultrasound picture of her baby girl, who was my first grandchild. A myriad of images and emotions swept through me as I gazed upon the image of this tiny little creature lying curled up like a new rosebud. It seemed that I could hear my mother’s voice and see my father’s face and feel their love and pride, and yet above that I also heard and felt the presence of something even greater and more awesome.

Other images flashed before my eyes and mind; I saw myself as a baby and my husband as a child. I thought of the day I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter and saw my husband’s joyful countenance when he held her for the first time. And then I thought how appropriate the term “family tree” is. Whoever coined it must have had some Pagan leanings, to be sure! But most of all, as I looked at that picture, I felt like I’d actually made a difference in this world. And I think that anyone who takes the opportunity-and responsibility–in nurturing a life, whether it’s planting a garden, raising a kitten or having a child, has been given the wonderful opportunity to share a little bit of the divinity—and immortality—that is unique to the gods. For sure, allowing us to share this with them is their greatest gift to us.

The idea of new life springing forward after a long period of silence and stillness is a concept that is shared in most religions today, and it is no secret that all of them have incorporated many elements of the earlier Pagan faiths into their own doctrines. I am betting that many people in these religions today are unaware of the extent of their syncretism. All that most Christians know about Neo-Paganism is that its one and only holiday appears to be “Halloween” (which is known to us as Samhain) . They do not realize that while they are celebrating Easter as a strictly Christian holiday, its roots, as well as its name, originated completely in Pagan faiths.

Ostara, of course, is the holiday that is celebrated at the Vernal Equinox to herald the return of life and light to the world, and its rituals and events largely mirror those of the Christians sans the religious observances in a church, of course. Pagan children need not miss out on the usual springtime celebrations; when my children were still living at home, we always colored and hid eggs for them. We would always plant some seeds or young plants and try to balance eggs on one end at the minute of the Equinox, with which we had a fair amount of luck. The kids loved Ostara because it came earlier than Easter.

However, no children are required for Pagan adults to join in the fun. I still color eggs even when the grandkids can’t visit, and will always continue my seed-planting ritual. The weather around Ostara is usually pretty nice where I live, so I try to get outdoors to spend some time with Nature and observe its rapid changes. After so many years of celebrating our sabbats, it would feel strange NOT to do these things.

I hope I have given some helpful tips on how to celebrate Ostara. May all your celebrations be blessed ones!

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The Matter Of Faith

The Matter Of Faith

Author:   RuneWolf   

Faith, simply put, is trust.

Some Pagans have a negative reaction to the entire concept of faith, because it has become synonymous in our culture with one particular brand of faith: Christian. But I submit that, whether one is Christian or Pagan or whatever, faith is the root and foundation of any serious spiritual life. Christian faith and Pagan faith may differ radically, but I believe that faith itself, that is to say trust, is indispensable in any genuine relationship with the Divine, however we may understand It. If I have no trust in my Goddess and my God, then I am simply going through the motions of being a Witch, and I might as well just declare myself an atheist and get it over with.

From my experience as a nominal Christian in my youth, and from my observations since then, it seems that Christian faith is an almost fanatical trust that God or Jesus will deliver the faithful from the tribulations of this life, and secure that person a place in Paradise in the afterlife. Pagan faith, on the other hand – at least as I practice it – is an implicit trust that my Goddess and my God will always help me to find within myself the resources to deal with the trials of life. A large part of my spiritual life as a Witch is spent opening myself to the various ways in which the Divine communicates with me in the course of my daily life, so that when a crisis does occur, the lines of communication are already open.

These two types of faith may be labeled “passive” and “active, ” and objectively neither is really superior to the other. I do, however, have my personal opinions and preferences.

Faced with a crisis, a Christian will tend to pray and “put things in God’s hand, ” trusting that their Lord will set things right. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most negative situations are beyond our human control anyway, and the more we meddle, trying to “fix” things, the worse the situation gets, and the more stressful it becomes. “Getting out of our own way” by turning the matter over to a spiritual power, and trusting that the situation will work out, may indeed be the best course of action, and in this situation, faith becomes the psychic buffer that allows someone to let circumstances run their course without living in constant anxiety. Using their version of prayer and having deep faith in their Lord and Savior, the Christian is effectively working magic, if one defines magic as “changing consciousness at will.”

Speaking solely for myself, I believe that this type of faith ultimately disempowers the individual. Like a child who never escapes the apron strings, the practitioner of passive faith learns nothing from the challenges of life, and can only meet each new challenge as the last was met, with passivity and an abdication of responsibility.

Active faith, on the other hand, encourages – even demands – that the individual take responsibility and take action, even if that action is taking no action at all. This last may seem a bit paradoxical, but it is really an important and subtle point. A practitioner of passive faith may take no action by default – the matter has been turned over to God, and there is no further need for personal action. Indeed, continuing to struggle after invoking Divine intercession could be seen as a denial of faith. The practitioner of active faith, on the other hand, may elect to take no action, but only after appropriate contemplation of the situation, and due consultation with the Gods. In this context, taking no action becomes a choice, perhaps just one among many.

There is a Jewish proverb that says: “Pray as if everything depends on God, act as if everything depends on you.” I think this is a beautiful and concise definition of active faith, one that is both eminently mystical and logically practical, and it is the manner in which I strive to live my life as a Witch.

One important function of faith, in the spiritual or religious sense, is indeed to satisfy deep psychological needs. My faith, my trust, that my Goddess and God are always with me helps me to feel secure, appreciated and loved unconditionally, often in the face of insecurity, rejection and hatred. My Deities do not eliminate the negative circumstances willy-nilly. Rather, They provide the guidance whereby I find within myself the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources to deal with those negative circumstances. I do not hide behind Them, but I know They are “watching my back.”

For many people, Pagan and non-Pagan, this sense of “Divine parenting” is all that is required of faith. Many people can accept it and practice it simply because it is a tenet of their chosen religion, and it is so effective in their lives that they never find the need to go deeper.

For some of us, however, the matter of faith runs much deeper, into realms that are difficult to address via the cumbersome medium of the spoken or written word, and the linchpin of this difference is often the “spiritual experience.”

I have heard it said that there is a difference between “faith” and “belief.” One is said to have faith when one trusts in something that cannot be or has not been proven. One believes in something that one has directly experienced. Today, the words are synonymous to me, largely because I have been fortunate enough to have had two powerful “spiritual experiences” in my Pagan life. Members of 12 Step fellowships often refer to these as “burning bushes;” the immediate and undeniable manifestation of Divine presence in our ordinary reality. Before the first such event, I had “faith” in the Gods because that was what a good Pagan was “supposed” to do. Actually, it was simply a matter of fitting the spiritual beliefs that I had developed on my own into the Pagan context. But still, I took it “on faith” that the Gods were real, as I had not yet had direct experience of Them. After my first spiritual experience, I believed in the Gods the same way I believed in my ’92 Taurus, for They were suddenly just as “real” and just as “present” in my life.

Faith and belief have their own logic, if one can call it that, and it is certainly fractal in nature. I think, at times, we grasp that logic in a brief and tentative manner. Ultimately, however, it eludes examination and defeats definition. Nor is it necessary, for me at least, to know “how” or “why” it works. It is enough that I have faith, belief and trust in my Deities. These, along with willingness, are the doors through which They enter my life, that we may dance together.

In Their Service…

RuneWolf

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A Little Secret That Only Witches Can Know About. Can I Trust You?

Every secret organization or religion has a secret or two. Of course, you won’t never hear about them because they are secrets. Makes senses. Most of these organizations and religions have secrets to keep the public out and in the dark, to exclude them. On the other hand, our religion is not like that we have had to keep it secret just to keep it alive. If it was for our ancestors keeping our entire religion secret, we wouldn’t have a religion.

The secret I am getting ready to share with you is not that big of deal. It was used in the Burning Times to determine if the person you were meeting was a witch. You can see during this period of time why it was very important to know who you were meeting.

Here is the ritual. Enjoy!

This is a magic witches hand shake spell. This spell is cast to find out if someone you know may or may not be a witch. After casting this magic spell, you will then shake the hand of the person you are inquiring about, and your answer will be revealed in the handshake. It can also be used to slightly put a thought or idea inside the mind of a person without coming right out and suggesting it. We offer many more free magic spells here for you to use and to try.

Extend your right index finger and lightly touch the wrist of the person exactly where the pulse is felt. By touching the pulse it throws the acquaintance completely off his balance for just an instant , but in that instant plant an initial
thought, ( example : I am the one you want for the job) this
really works and is cool, try it.

*You can also determine if the other person is a witch by the way they grasp your hand. If their right index finger is extended and touching your pulse area, more than likely they are a with.*

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