Paving your own path

So, I stumbled across this new bloggy series recently, and thought I’d share…

We get many (oh, so many!!) posts over at Pagan Forum (plus I see them elsewhere on the net, and sometimes in person at the local shop I frequent) on “I believe X, what does that make me?” or “I don’t know what tradition I should look into” or “Tradition X is really interesting…but its not the perfect fit” or “I’m new to Paganism and don’t know where to go from here” or…well, you get the idea… Lots of people out there, looking for the name of what they believe in, or a structure to follow that fits what they believe in, or just a place to call their spiritual home where they can meet like minded individuals.

Sometimes people find that. Sometimes they don’t. And sometimes, even when they do, they grow out of it and into something else. I started my path some 22 years ago as a solitary eclectic pre-teen Wiccan armed with Buckland’s Big Blue, Margot Adler’s excellent Drawing Down the Moon, Starhawk, and a battered copy of Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess that I found in a used book store (also a battered tarot card set and some other repurposed-for-witchery accoutrements I found in the local church thrift store). Today, I’m something entirely different. And along the way, I’ve wandered down a number of paths and learned something from each of them.

But the most important thing I’ve learned is that (whether you are in an established tradition or not) is that we are always paving our own path (now, I probably would have said blazing our own trail…but since the bloggy post series I’m getting ready to link is called Paving Your Own Path, I thought I’d stick with the theme).
Go forth and read!!!


Who is your God/dess

Choosing religious symbolism

(and I’m guessing she will have more to come!)

11 Things to Answer (about your religion)

As some of you may know (my regular readers and my PF buddies!!), I’m one of the administrators/moderators/co-owners/long time members of Pagan Forum, which is a multi-faith religious forum with a mostly Pagan perspective and I’ve been Pagan of one flavor or another for 22 years now, in a variety of settings (speaking in terms of practice, belief, and just plain geography), so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see people new to Paganism wonder wherem in a plethora of traditions and world views, that they might fit.  When most of us discover Paganism (or any religion, really) it seems that we generally pick the one that resonates with the beliefs we already *grok* as true and sort of evolve from there, rather than the other way around.

Over the years I’ve had some time to take stock of my own journey and the journey of those around me and I’ve found it helpful (and fun) to think about the ideas that are the backbone of my own world view and the practices that I have based them upon.  With the help from the folks at PF, I’ve compiled (what I think is) a useful list of questions…sort of a belief self-inventory.  Whether you are new or old to Paganism (and even if you aren’t Pagan), its good to check in and touch base with those things that we *grok*–IMO, its particularly interesting to see how they change as our experiences shape our views!


…and feel free to add your own questions!

(I might just start blogging my own answers to these questions)


Self-Inventory of Beliefs

1. Where do my religious beliefs arise from (in my life)? Were they taught to me as achild? Did I discover them as an adult? Have I developed them on the basis of personal experiences–are they a positive or negative reaction to events in my life? Have they been developed from books or other people’s experiences?
2. What is the purpose of my personal religion/spirituality (its beliefs and practices)? How do they add or detract to my inherent qualities—in my relationships with my family, with my community, with the world at large? Do the actions of my religious practices respect the individuality and autonomy of others?  How do I measure the worth of my beliefs and practices?  How do I decide to accept/reject and/or adopt/discard a particular religious or spiritual idea or practice?
3. What is the basic nature of divinity? Is it one(monotheistic), many separate and distinctly unique literal entities (hard polytheism), the universe in its entirety (pantheism), male and female divine forces (duotheism), as multiple figurative personalities that originate from one, or two, or several entities (soft polytheism)? As the very fabric from which the cosmos is formed?  As a wishful or even deluded thinking? As none of these…or several of them…or something that is impossible to say?
4. How is divinity expressed in the universe? (do the gods act directly? is there no action by gods? is there a “force”of some sort? etc…) What is the underlying nature of existence? (is everything alive? does everything have a spirit? a soul? why or why not? which things? ) Does our existence serve a greater purpose? How so? What is sacred? What is not sacred?
5. What are my religious practices? Do they work?  How do my actions, prayers, rituals, etc effect change (and where do they do so–within, without, etc)? What mechanism do I have to explain this? What is the purpose of these practices–celebration, thanksgiving, blessing, etc? Are there particular days or times where these practices take place?  Do they need to be performend in a certain manner or at a certain location?   Is there particular clothing or equiptment that is needed?
6. What is forbidden and/or encouaged in your faith? Do you feel that there are actions, events, or items that are forbidden because they are considered to be an affront or transgression against divinity? If so, why? What are they? Is there a method to achieve forgiveness, make restitution, or otherwise be absolved from one’s actions?  What about actions, events, or items that are proscribed because they cause harm?  What is the role of “harm” in choosing right or wrong action?  Is there are punishment for these actions?  Are there actions, events, or items that are prefered or required by divinity?
7. What is the role of science and nature in your spiritual and religious beliefs? What is our relationship with other animals?  What is is our relationship with the planet or planetary systems?  What is our relationship with the rest of the Cosmos?  If there is life on other planets (statistically is seems likely), how does that impact your religious and spiritual beliefs?  Is the material sacred?  How does our physical place in the material world relate to our relationship with the divine?   What should our actions be towards the natural world if they are to reflect our religious beliefs?
8. What is the role of culture and history in your spiritual and religious beliefs? Do you need your beliefs validated textually or to share a lineage with pre-existing beliefs?  Are you seeking to reconstruct (as historically accurate as possible) a religion from an ancient culture in a modern world (a reconstructionist)? Or are you seeking to revive the religions of ancient cultures in a modern context (a revivalist)? Or, are you simply inspired by a pantheon or mythology of an ancient cultures, from a modern interpretation without much concern for the historical context (I call this one an “inspirationalist”)?  Do you believe that a culture’s mythos, symbology, beliefs, and practices should be approached singularly and on their own terms?  Do you seek to seemlessly blend two systems into single system that works harmoniously together or to do you find the different bits and pieces of a myriad of peoples to fit together in your own life like pieces of  a puzzle??
9. What is the role of mythos in our lives?  Is myth meant to be literal? Figurative? Inspirational?  Do you feel the Eddas? The Vedas? Odysseus? Myths from Olympus? Or tales from Eire? Perhaps its the story of humanity, or a specific culture, or something a bit more Big History–Book of Nature/the Universe, or  the Story of Mankind?   Are you attracted to/inspired by a particular set of spiritual myths or a particular culture’s beliefs and practices?  Which myths speak to you the loudest, and why?  What lessons do you think you can learn from them? What do they tell you, or how do they inspire you?
10. Is there such a thing as fate?  Is there such a thing as free will?  What is the balance of fate vs free will in predetermination of our destinies (singularly and/or collectively)? How is fate and/or free will governed? Is there a way to change the balance of fate or free will at play in our lives?  How are we judged in our action or inaction?  What is the repercussion for a “wrong” actions or inaction?  What is the reward for “right” action or inaction?  How does fate and free will balance with ideas of “karma” (in whatever manner one chooses to interpret that word)?
11. What happens when we die? What is the religious/spiritual importance of death or after-death? How does one ensure a good death? A good afterlife (or after-death)?  Do the dead play in a role your religious beliefs and practices? How does one “pick” the departed that they include? Is ancestry important in your beliefs and practices (who “counts” as an ancestor, how do you venerate ancestrors, why)? What is the role of those that have come before us in our lives, spiritually or otherwise?  Do you “owe” the departed (ancestors or not) anything as part of your practice?

Yay for Recess: Pediatricians Say It’s as Important as Math or Reading

Originally posted on Health & Family:

Playtime can be as important as class time for helping students perform their best.

Recess is most children’s favorite period, and parents and teachers should encourage that trend, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Recess can be a critical time for development and social interaction, and in a new policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics, pediatricians from the AAP support the importance of having a scheduled break in the school day. “Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” says Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at the Ohio State University who is a co-author of the statement. “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”

The AAP committee that developed the statement began its…

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A New Pomonalia

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal …
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance …
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I don’t like Mabon.

Don’t get me wrong–I love this time of year.  I love the autumnal equinox.  I love the cool crispness that starts to seep into the air in the very early morning (even when you know that summer might rally a time or two or three before Samhain, and maybe even once or twice afterwards).  I love the promise of the land’s slumber, fruits still ripening, acorns ready to drop, the first hints of migration for a multitude of bird species.  I love celebrating the feast of apples just waiting to be plucked from the trees, and gathering the last summer herbs of the season.  I love the last weekends at the beach as the warm water currents receed a bit southward and the dolphins make way for their solitary porpise cousins and the crabs retreat upstream, ready to settle into the mud once it get cold enough.

But I don’t particularly like Mabon.

I’m not alone in questioning its use (or the day itself):

The Triumph of Mabon
Mabon, Mabon Not
Mabon–The Myth of Progress

The problem, for me, comes down to the fact that Mabon (the name, and the mythology of it) doesn’t really mean anything to me.  I don’t live in a part of America with a Northern Europe climate.  We are what is called “humid subtropical” here (according to the the Köppen Climate Classification System, the southeastern US climate is what is classified as Cfa–a trait shared with northern Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, southern Japan, and southern China.  We just aren’t at fall yet.  Its not the year’s bed time yet…more that pre-bedtime, when you think about getting your jammies on and have one last snack before brushing your teeth, and rush around trying to get all the stuff done for the next day.

We have celebrated Mabon as the Apple Harvest–sort of mini-Pomonalia in the past (never mind that Pomona’s feast day is November 1, not being a Mediterranean climate, that (also the Descent of Persephone) doesn’t quite work here either).  I like Pomona.  She probably fits here, though its not as obvious in a costal urban environment as it was when we lived in the midwest, on the edge of a cornfield and down the road from an orchard.  But Mabon still, to me, feels like a manufactured holiday.  If I weren’t Pagan, I doubt I’d even realize that today was the Autumnal Equinox amidst the many things I should be doing right now.

Today is the autumnal equinox, when the hours of sunlight balance the hours of night. For most of human history the equinox — connected as it was to the harvest — was celebrated with elaborate festivals, rites and rituals. The equinox was a compass point. It was a mile marker for the lived year. Life was experienced through sky and season rather than through the construct of the clock. The equinox bound human communities together in a shared time that was both personal and cosmic.

Today hardly anyone notices the equinox. Today we rarely give the sky more than a passing glance. We live by precisely metered clocks and appointment blocks on our electronic calendars, feeling little personal or communal connection to the kind of time the equinox once offered us. Within that simple fact lays a tectonic shift in human life and culture.

Your time — almost entirely divorced from natural cycles — is a new time. Your time, delivered through digital devices that move to nanosecond cadences, has never existed before in human history. As we rush through our overheated days we can barely recognize this new time for what it really is: an invention.

Adam Frank, NPR Blogs (source) 

I think its time to for my celebration of the equinoxes to be a signifier of equal time, balanced time.  A time to think about time.  To think about balance and moderation.  To think about one’s place in cosmic time, and to measure it against the reality of the modern time that we live in.  To celebrate a modern cosmology of the unfolding of the universe.

Yes, we will still eat apples.  Yes, we will still celebrate the harvest that hasn’t come home yet.  Yes, we even will still probably call it Mabon.

But maybe we can do something deeper.

I’m not sure yet what that might look like.

But I’ve got some time to figure it out.

(also, please forgive typos, etc…this post was written from my phone)

On Spiritual Emergency, Shamanism, Mental Illness, Therapy, and Anti-Psychiatry Sentiment in the General Pagan/Polytheist Community


this…1000 times over.
Gods, I don’t know how many times I hear/read complete and utter BS about the fact that my child has ADHD (because, you know, its apparently some made up disease…that’s only been described in medical literature for about a century) and worse, that we are The Evil parents that use medication as one of the tools to help him learn to live more effectively with it (because, you know, medicine is some Big Pharma conspiracy). Or that maybe if we were better parents (because its obviously a problem with our dicipline philosophy and methodology (never mind that we have one, to borrow a term usually used in conjunction with autism, neurotypical child, without the same challenges)…and hey, why don’t you just change their diet (like we didn’t try that first) or focus on herbal remedies (nevermind that herbs are drugs too with their own contraindications and side-effects and are often not quality controlled or standardized) or do __________ therapy-of-the-week with him (totally ignoring that study after study after study shows the best results with a combination of behavioral therapy *and* medication.
The problem is that too many people don’t know what they are talking about, but feel free to pass uninformed and uneducated judgement on situations they aren’t living in.

Originally posted on Foxglove & Firmitas:

Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…

It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.

However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.

Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty…

View original 2,710 more words


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