Seasons of the Witch! Ancient Holidays (and some not so ancient!)
Today Is: Freya’s Day
With ice and snow and freezing cold,
Februarys Sun shines bright and bold.
The Wheel turns as bright the fires burn,
Hearkening spring shall soon return.
Copyright © 02022011
Outreach to Christians: A Sensible Pagan Policy
Author: Priestess Jean
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey finds that 76 percent of the U.S. population currently consider themselves to be Christian. Although that’s down a full 10 percentage points from the previous survey, it seems clear that Christians will remain in the majority for some time to come. Consequently, our relationship with Christians will play a significant role in how our religion is perceived by the general spiritual community, as well as having a major impact on our ability to assist those people who are now leaving the Christian faith.
The ARIS can help us to visualize the changing demographics of religion. While the number of people who consider themselves to be Christians declined by 10 percent, an increase of 7 percent was reported in the group identifying as agnostic or atheist. In addition, various neo-pagan groups and other forms of nature-based spirituality all experienced significant increases, which clearly demonstrates that some very interesting changes in popular attitudes are now underway.
During this transitional period, I believe that it would be very wise to make a special effort to extend the hand of friendship to Christians, whenever we can. Not only will it facilitate our goals, but it is also the morally right thing to do, in keeping with the fundamental principals of our religion, which have always been firmly rooted in the path of peace and cooperation.
Of course, when we consider the historical interactions that our religion has had with Christianity, there can be no doubt that it’s been a terrible experience. Beginning in the fourth century, they burned our temples and systematically murdered our clergy. After that, they suppressed all public awareness of our beliefs and forced our followers to convert to their religion. Eventually they altered the historical record to conceal their crimes, as well as to slander and demonize us… and to some extent that slander is still causing misunderstandings and discrimination against us today.
These acts were not merely isolated instances that might be excused as not representative of genuine Christian doctrine. They were based on the clearly-stated policy of the church, and carried out by many members of the clergy, including high-ranking Bishops… as well as having been ordered or sanctioned directly by various Popes. To make matters worse, as far as I know, no Christian organization has ever publically repudiated these acts, nor issued any sort of apology for them.
When all this is considered, it would not be surprising for modern followers of the Goddess to be deeply angry, and resentful of the status that Christianity presently enjoys in our society today. Yet if we were to allow the tragic events of the past to dominate our thinking, we would be locked into a philosophy of conflict, animosity, and hatred, which is entirely unnecessary and unhealthy. Such a philosophy is very inappropriate, and can lead only to continued misunderstandings and injustice. Therefore, we must not allow ourselves to walk such a path.
Modern Christians cannot be held responsible for what happened in the past. Many of them are entirely unaware of the matter. They are for the most part good people… who embrace a spiritual dimension in their lives, and whose religion teaches many positive values and moral behaviors. We must perceive the reality of the situation, as it now exists, and not let preconceived ideas or negative stereotypes interfere with our ability to build bridges and establish constructive relationships.
In this, each of us has an opportunity to make a contribution. Outreach frequently begins on a personal, individual basis. We should attempt to establish friendship before anything else. Often we can find some common ground, in our concern for our families, the environment, animal rights, and other worthwhile causes. It is not at all difficult to do.
Eventually of course a discussion of theology is bound to occur… and when it does, I’ve found that it’s best to focus on our modern practice, and things like our metaphysical beliefs, rather than on trying to dispel historical misunderstandings. Christians will then be better able to form accurate opinions… and I’m sure they will quickly come to realize that we are good people, with a desire to help others, and to care for the Earth and all life which the Goddess has placed here.
Regarding the subject of history, Christians will usually tend to focus on the late Roman period. As we know, that can be problematic for several reasons… The Romans imported our religion from Pessinus, where it was not properly practiced. In addition, by the advent of the Common Era, Rome had become quite decadent, and our religion had lost much of its original character. Finally, Christian scholars often replaced accurate accounts about our religion with biased and offensive ones.
Proper understanding of our religion must include an awareness of the historical difficulties mentioned above, yet these sorts of issues are perhaps not the best place to begin. The deliberate destruction of many ancient records, and their replacement with disinformation and slanders (now well-attested in the academic community) is nonetheless potentially embarrassing or offensive to Christians. Pursuing that issue could result in a rather lengthy and unproductive debate, or even worse, create a confrontational situation.
One possible way to deal with that matter is to try to focus on an earlier time period. Certainly a story should begin at the beginning, and there is ample evidence which suggests that our religion may have originated during the Paleolithic era… or, at the very least, in late-Neolithic societies such as found at Catal Hoyuk. Since Christianity didn’t exist at that point in time, there is little potential to cause offense. In addition, such a discussion can also lead to an awareness of the Kurgan invasion, which provides a critical basis for many insights into the evolution of organized religion.
In general, our religion is not very well-known to the average Christian, and as a result you can expect them to ask some interesting questions. Do we think Mary is a goddess? If we don’t believe in heaven and hell, what makes us behave properly? What is our bible called? Do we sacrifice animals?
We must try to keep an open mind, respond to what is said, and avoid making any pompous speeches. When we speak, we should remember that demonstrating respect for others during a discussion is more important than any point of logic that we might hope to make. That is what the other person will most remember about the conversation, and will make our ideas much more likely to receive some genuine consideration.
There may be times when you encounter certain exclusionary attitudes… that is, assertions to the effect that no other religion besides Christianity can have any validity or merit, or that without Christ you will be condemned to hell. While it’s rather unlikely that you’ll have a productive conversation with anyone like that, you still might try to make a worthwhile point by asking “Doesn’t that sort of thinking rather limit your ability to relate to others?” or something to that effect.
Perhaps the most challenging type of attitude that you may encounter concerns the idea that a religious belief justifies taking various types of oppressive political actions, which can interfere with the rights of others. Some examples of this involve the passage of laws relating to abortion and same-sex marriage.
In a democracy, the majority gets their way… and when a religious group that happens to constitute a majority uses their influence to tell people how to vote, in elections and referendums, it is quite possible for them to impose their beliefs on others. Ultimately however, the courts must decide what is just and lawful under the constitution. The process is rather slow, but eventually a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy was established there, just as I’m certain that the right to marry, without discrimination based on gender, will also one day be established.
As these sorts of civil-law cases play out, it’s tempting to argue with those who advocate denying others their freedom, based on some fundamentalist clergyman’s interpretation of the doctrine of their religion. However, confronting such persons directly will only tend to alienate them, and become an obstacle to our overall goal of spiritual outreach. Therefore, we would be wise to bear our priorities in mind, avoid unnecessary confrontation, and simply wait for the courts to do their job.
For the most part, the trend that I see within the various denominations of Christianity is towards a more liberal outlook, rather than a strict conservatism. Many churches have a very sympathetic policy towards the GLBT community, have female clergy, and are even taking a more enlightened attitude towards the bible itself… no longer regarding it as the absolute word of God, but rather as a book written by human beings, and which does contain some problematic material.
Overall, the evolution, which is now occurring within various Christian denominations, is very encouraging. In many ways their definition of deity is approaching our own, as a loving and benevolent entity, rather than the violent and jealous war-god of the Old Testament. If Christianity is to endure, such progress is clearly essential… and will greatly enhance their ability to coexist with people of other religions as well.
Religious affiliations in our society are now undergoing some revolutionary changes. The membership in our own temple continues to increase at a more rapid pace each year. We are at the beginning of a new global renaissance, and if we recognize what is happening, and act wisely to facilitate it, then the golden age that we seek will arrive all that much sooner… and obviously, a well-defined and sensible policy of outreach to Christians can play an important role in that transition.
This is an opinion type of essay
Friday, February 4th, 2011
General Meaning: Be on guard for careless or rebellious attitudes characteristic of youthful inexperience. Just as a youth requires instruction, this is a good time to focus on learning your lessons from a patient teacher or life experience. Is there some circumstance in your life that you failed to comprehend, perhaps because you could not appreciate its inherent complexities? Be respectful of anything or anyone who has something to teach you right now.
In order to be prepared for challenges, let education be a part of your life. Continually develop the strong mind and will necessary to carry you through confusing times. The wise realize that experience is a powerful teacher, even though we cannot be forced to learn, even from experience. Be a good student, one who delights in learning, one who nourishes his or her expanding awareness, one who is paying attention!
Examine your attitude for factors that limit your openness. Observe how you deal with the mistakes of others. You must let people live their own lives and learn their own lessons. Offer others your wisdom or advice, but only if the other person is receptive (when in doubt, ask). Otherwise, give up trying to convince him or her that you are right, which is only exhausting and counter-productive. If people are not receptive, let them go their own way — even into difficulty or dangerous circumstances. It is the only way they can learn right now — and without learning, no one can achieve success. This does not mean that you should not care — just that taking care of someone too much can be harmful. Live and let learn.
Today’s Tarot Card for Everyone:
This Tarot Deck: Hanson Roberts
The image which emerged in the mid-1700’s gives us a more sophisticated rendition — that of the “scapegoated Goddess,” whose esoteric name is Baphomet. Volcanic reserves of passion and primal desire empower her efforts to overcome the pressure of stereotyped roles and experience true freedom of soul. Tavaglione’s highly evolved image (Stella deck) portrays the magical formula for harnessing and transmuting primal and obsessive emotions into transformative energies. As a part of the Gnostic message of Tarot, this fearsome passion and power must be reintegrated into the personality, to fuel the soul’s passage from mortal to immortal.
You may be boiling mad today as the warrior planet combines forces with the radiant Sun. Aggressive Mars is your ruling planet, tuning you in to trouble before it even happens. Thankfully, you can consciously choose to use this energy for a positive cause by standing up for someone’s freedom of expression or defending an idea that’s particularly important to you.
You aren’t usually eager to express your anger, but you can be a formidable opponent today if others push you too far. Although someone could be interfering with your work, you are able to exhibit a great deal of patience. Withholding your emotions may be your most effective strategy, but you’ll only be able to keep your annoyance to yourself for so long. Nevertheless, take the high road today; hopefully, the negativity will pass on its own.
You may be more argumentative than usual today, and you don’t seem to be able to use your clever wit to avoid conflict. Whatever you do now fans the flames of negativity as the friction grows. Still, the final outcome of the current situation is within your control. Summon up enough courage to walk away from an unpleasant scene. Otherwise, you’ll just waste your precious time and energy in a fight that won’t matter in the long run.
It may be easy for you to see what’s going on in your relationships, but sharing your feelings is much harder than just observing them. Your challenge now is to express the truth exactly as you see it while knowing that you’ll probably have to actively defend your beliefs. If you do decide to stand up for yourself, avoid getting stuck in the details. Concentrating on the big picture is your best strategy, but don’t let your philosophical approach tempt you to forget about the facts.
Making dramatic gestures may be your way of stirring up trouble today, because you aren’t interested in supporting a plan that goes against your point of view. If you don’t want to make a big deal of things, strenuous physical activity can help you blow off some steam. However, there’s a good chance that your plans will backfire if you don’t express yourself one way or another. Proceed with caution; losing your temper could alienate the very same people you want to have on your side.
You are motivated to get a lot done at work today with the Sun-Mars conjunction activating your 6th House of Employment. The cluster of planets in futuristic Aquarius encourages you to set pragmatism aside and take a risk for what you want. And although you might not be seeing everything clearly now, it’s smarter to trust your intuition and do what makes sense to you rather than wasting your energy trying to persuade others to share your point of view.
Although you usually excel at making everyone feel comfortable, this isn’t your primary motivating force now. You are not as sweet today as warrior Mars conjuncts the willful Sun in your 5th House of Spontaneity. Even if you mean well, your actions may be charged with a combative tone that provokes others to be defensive. If you unwittingly agitate someone’s ire, be smart — apologize and retreat before your day spins wildly out of control.
You can be quite forceful today as the Sun floods your key planet Mars with its bright light. It’s challenging to find a moderate path if you currently lack a healthy perspective. You might not even stop to think about what you want; you just push toward it and overcome anything that stands in your way. Act wisely when setting your goals now or you can waste a significant opportunity to get what you want.
Today’s gung-ho Sun-Mars conjunction falls in your 3rd House of Communications, flooding your system with so much data that you are challenged to manage it all. You could easily overwhelm everyone with your grandiose thinking, yet you might have a crisis of confidence if you haven’t developed a strong support system. If you’re uncertain about your goals, tone down your approach until others are on the same page.
You are usually quite proficient at managing Mars’ contentious energy, yet its forceful conjunction with the Sun is in your 2nd House of Money, tempting you to spend impulsively. Fortunately, value-conscious Venus enters your sign today, reminding you that fiscal conservatism may be less fun but will produce better results in the long-run. Ironically, you’ll reach satisfaction sooner if you slow down and invest your resources wisely.
Don’t worry about what others think of your actions now that the Sun-Mars conjunction is firing up your 1st House of Personality. But instead of ignoring your friends completely, explain your motives to them. Sharing your strategies for the big changes ahead — even if they aren’t as practical as others might like — will help you clarify what you must do. It’s not quite time to execute your plan; for now, just dream out loud with your friends to gain a fresh perspective.
The action-packed Sun-Mars conjunction falls in your 12th House of Imagination today, emphasizing your fantasies. But your well-intentioned dreams may be blocked by someone who doesn’t share your poetic vision. Attacking those in your way only increases their power and sets you back in your journey. Ignore the negativity and find a methodical pace that you can sustain all day.
by Jeff Jawer
Love Is Serious Business
February 4 – 6
The Moon’s entry into imaginative Pisces on Friday creates a dreamy environment that is conducive to romance. However, love becomes serious business this weekend when Venus moves into responsible Capricorn. Planning and patience are rewarded while impulsiveness and carelessness can undermine the respect that relationships require now.
Yet in spite of the formality of Capricorn, its earthiness arouses strong physical desires, which are reinforced by the Sun’s union with passionate Mars on Friday. Managing these powerful forces successfully by directing them with maturity and self-control enables you to show the compassion and tenderness exemplified by a supersensitive Pisces Moon. This looks to be a very dynamic period but there is some risk of imbalance caused by being too controlling in your behavior.
Competitive Capricorn sometimes sees relationships as dominance and submission arrangements where one person leads and the other follows. Be careful about trying to best the object of your affection who may not appreciate the dubious pleasure of being under anyone’s thumb. A healthier expression of this drive toward achievement is to collaborate on a project with a partner, especially one that fulfills Pisces’ penchant for imagination or service to others.
The satisfaction that comes from a job well done can help couples bounce from work to play with a heightened sense of excitement. Demonstrating competence while remaining humble in the process fires up your self-esteem, attracting others to you like a moth to a flame.
“People who know the state of emptiness will always be able to dissolve their problems with constancy.”
The message for us today is “Cultivate your own spirit.” It means not to go seeking for something outside yourself. This is a very important point, and it is the only way to practice Zen. Of course, studying scriptures or reciting the sutras or sitting is Zen; each of these activities should be Zen. But if your effort or practice does not have the right orientation, it will not work at all. Not only will it not work, but it may spoil your pure nature. Then the more you know about Zen, the more you will become spoiled. Your mind will be filled with rubbish; your mind will be stained.
It is quite usual for us to gather pieces of information form various sources, thinking in this way to increase our knowledge. Actually, following this way we wind up not knowing anything at all. Our understanding of Buddhism should not be just gathering many pieces of information, seeking to gain knowledge. Instead of gathering knowledge, you should clear your mind.
If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours. When you listen to the teaching with a pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something which you already knew. This is called emptiness, or omnipotent self, or knowing everything. When you know everything, you are like a dark sky. Sometimes a flashing will come through the dark sky. The sky is never surprised when all of a sudden a thunderbolt breaks through. And when the lightning does flash, a wonderful sight may be seen. When we have emptiness we are always prepared for watching the flashing.
In China, Rozan is famous for its misty scenery. I have not been to China yet, but there must be beautiful mountains there. And to see the white clouds or mist come and go through the mountains must be a very wonderful sight. Although it is wonderful, a Chinese poem says,
“Rozan is famous for its misty, rainy days,
And the great river Sekko for its tide,
Coming and going.
That is all.”
That is all, but it is splendid. This is how we appreciate things.
So you should accept knowledge as if you’re hearing something you already knew. But this does not mean to receive various pieces of information merely as an echo of your own opinions. It means that you should not be surprised at whatever you see or hear. If you receive things just as an echo of yourself, you do not really see them, you do not fully accept them as they are. So when we say, “Rozan is famous for its misty, rain days,” it doesn’t mean to appreciate this sight by recollecting some scenery we have seen before: “It is not so wonderful. I have seen that sight before.” Or “I have painted much more beautiful paintings! Rozan is nothing!” This is not our way. If you are ready to accept things as they are, you will receive them as old friends, even though you appreciate them with new feeling.
And we should not hoard knowledge; we should be free from our knowledge. If you collect various pieces of knowledge, as a collection it may be very good, but this is not our way. We should not try to surprise people by our wonderful treasures. We should not be interested in something special. If you want to appreciate something fully, you should forget yourself. You should accept it like lightning flashing in the utter darkness of the sky.
Sometimes we think it is impossible for us to understand something unfamiliar, but actually there is nothing that is unfamiliar to us. Some people say, “It is almost impossible to understand Buddhism because our cultural background is so different. How can we understand Oriental thought?” Of course Buddhism cannot be separated from its cultural background; this is true. But if a Japanese Buddhist comes to the United States, he is no longer a Japanese. I am living in your cultural background. I am eating nearly the same food as you eat, and I am communicating with you in your language. Even though you do not understand me completely, I want to understand you. There is always the possibility of understanding as long as we exist in the utter darkness of the sky, as long as we live in emptiness.
I have always said that you must be very patient if you want to understand Buddhism, but I have been seeking for a better word than patience. The usual translation of the Japanese word nin is “patience,” but perhaps “constancy” is a better word. You must force yourself to be patient, but in constancy there is no particular effort involved—there is only the unchanging ability to accept things as they are.
For people who have no idea of emptiness, this ability may appear to be patience, but patience can actually be non-acceptance. People who know, even if only intuitively, the state of emptiness always have open the possibility of accepting things as they are. They can appreciate everything. In everything they do, even though it may be very difficult, they will always be able to dissolve their problems by constancy.
Nin is the way we cultivate our own spirit. Nin is our way of continuous practice. We should always live in the dark empty sky. The sky is always the sky. Even though clouds and lightning come, the sky is not disturbed. Even if the flashing of enlightenment comes, our practice forgets all about it. Then it is ready for another enlightenment. It is necessary for us to have enlightenments one after another, if possible, moment after moment. This is what is called enlightenment before you attain it and after you attain it.
Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971)
Excerpted from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Informal Talks on Zen meditation and practice 1970
Constancy – has a lovely ring to it and actually is similar to one of the paramitas in Buddhism. Seeking the right phrase or word to express any spiritual concept can be challenging. We all have a sense of what constancy means. Perhaps for some of us it is constancy in returning to the mind that seeks the way. The daily rhythm of life provides constancy; our experience of practice represents a constant and stable place to return to. However, Suzuki Roshi is using this word to express a fresh sense, one perhaps we wouldn’t expect– “in constancy there is no particular effort involved—there is only the unchanging ability to accept things as they are.” A mind that rests in the lap of the universe….
As with other aspects of practice there are many approaches we can take. Some are incremental feeling like the way we watch plants and children grow, little by little, building on past experience and understanding. Another is more akin to swallowing the whole ocean in one gulp. This is more the approach alluded to above:
If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours. When you listen to the teaching with a pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something which you already knew. This is called emptiness, or omnipotent self, or knowing everything.
The key in hearing any new teaching or person is suspending the analytical and judgmental part of us, that very limited view we all have with ordinary mind. Hearing from that space between thoughts, the “no one home” sense of laughter, the “where am I?” sensation stepping off a curb we didn’t know was there. The empty place before our limited sense of self steps in and censors what we can see and feel and be in the moment.
In empty mind all possibilities exist, and true understanding is already present.
May our minds be clear,