Pagan Conferences: Why Would Any Thinking Person Willingly Go?

Honestly, this sounds like great advice anyone going to these things!

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I’m heading out tomorrow for Sacred Space, and I thought that it might be worth discussing some common-sense techniques for getting through a Pagan conference.

I came to Paganism via books, back in the days before the internet, back when I lived in an isolated, rural area.  So I’d been reading ABOUT Witches and other Pagans for a number of years before I ever actually MET real Witches and other Pagans.  And, or course, the reality could never have met my fantasies.  Here, I’d been reading these descriptions of perfect love and perfect trust in Drawing Down the Moon and these lovely notions of religion in action in Spiral Dance and The Chalice and the Blade, and then, there they were, real people, with all their warts, not living up to my high, illusionary ideals.

I was not amused.  I spent a long time secured away with only a…

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Support Your Inner Peace in a World of Voices Arguing Over Deity

When I talk about how people see Deity with my children, I use the metaphor of a box. Some people have a single, gigantic box. Others have many boxes of a variety of sizes and colors and materials. Some have a single, very small box. Others have a box that is the size and shape of the Earth, or of the Universe, or of themselves. And some people don’t have any boxes at all. And many of all of these peoples think that their box is the only way that a box should be, that it is the best box and all other boxes are wrong. Some of them might even go so far as to say that other boxes are a sign that a person is stupid or dangerous or evil.

I’ve used this allegory over the years to explain to them everything from monotheism to polytheism to atheism, to why there are different religions, to why people of one religion can be mean to people of other religions. But I never really realized how much they really *got it* until the last time we had one of these conversations when my son (somewhat of a surprise to me, because while he’s quite smart, he’s not usually as introspective and metaphorically minded as his (older) sister), when he stopped me and said, “Mom, god isn’t the box. God is the idea that we put in the box so that we can hold on to it.”

…I think the allegory in this blog post alludes to that idea quite a bit better.

THE HIDDEN CHILDREN OF THE GODDESS : home of GoddessHasYourBack.com

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Have you caught a bit of broadcast news and heard about someone’s cruelty to another person—and it bothered you?

Or maybe you’ve wondered about how some extremists use religion as a justification for terrible acts.

Recently, just as I was drifting off to sleep, an idea blazed across the expanse of my mind.

Picture this. Deity is water. Each human being is a vessel.

Imagine that Deity’s essence as a large infinite ball of water.

Let’s say you’re a bowl and you grow up among bowls. All you know are bowls. In fact, you might say that bowl people have “bowl Gods” because they see themselves in what they picture to be Divine.

On the other side of the ocean are goblets. And they only know themselves as goblets. So they have “goblet Gods.”

But Deity fills ALL bowls and ALL goblets. Deity is ONE. Deity is in everyone.

Water…

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“I Don’t Believe in Purification” by Shauna Aura Knight

some great thoughts on *ritual as method*

Humanistic Paganism

I’m a Pantheist. I believe that the entirety of the world, of the universe, is divine. So the idea of “making sacred space” or “purifying” doesn’t really fit into my theology or cosmology. On the other hand, a lot of the ritual facilitation work that I do is about working with people and their processes. I tend to think of psychology as a kind of magic because it works to understand people and how they work, and for me, those patterns and processes are a part of our nature, and thus, part of the divine as well.

Heros-Journey-Circle Psychology, architecture, the process of pilgrimage, and the hero’s journey show us that we need steps in order to change our state of consciousness.

For me, the part of the ritual that is often referred to as “making sacred space” is more about getting everyone involved in the ritual into the right mindset…

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…brought to you by the letter E

Whatever name you may call it by–Imbolc, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, or just another Tuesday–in our family, today is a day for Elpis.

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There are several versions of her myth (I prefer the versions derived from Theognis over those of Hesiod), most of which are better known by the name of the human woman that she was given to.  But either way, if you really think about it, Pandora’s myth (or, the many myths of the story of Pandora, each of which was crafted to tell a slightly different story) is truly the story of Elpis.

Zeus gathered all the useful things together in a jar and put a lid on it.  He then left the jar in human hands (the hands of Pandora).  But man (her husband) had no self-control (having been tricked by the gods) and he wanted to know what was in that jar, so he pushed the lid aside, letting those things go back to the abode of the gods.  So all the good things flew away, soaring high above the earth, and Elpis* (Hope) was the only thing left. When the lid was put back on the jar, Elpis (Hope) was kept inside. That is why Elpis (Hope) alone is still found among the people, promising that she will bestow on each of us the good things that have gone away.  

(from Aesop)

Whether its as simple as the hope that Phil sees his shadow (the American version of the Cailleach taking a nap), or for something more serious going on in our lives, this is the day to celebrate hope.  To know that the promise of Yule has been fulfilled, that the darkness is passing, and the sun will shine again.

If there is anything that is truly universal among humankind, its is this:

Where there is life, there is hope.

Happy Imbolc from our home to yours!

Let Elpis shine.

thoughts for thursday–bioregionalism

Bioregionalism: the belief that human activity, including environmental and social policies, should be based on ecological or geographical boundaries rather than economic or political boundaries  (dictionary.com)

If you have been a follower of my blog, you are likely familiar with the idea of bioregionalism as applied to religion, so please forgive me for taking the time to define it once again.  If you are new to my blog, or just missed those posts, bioregionalism is one of the foundations of my personal beliefs and practices as a Pagan, a witch, a Unitarian Universalist, a mom, and a member of this species we call Homo sapiens.  It is something that I often talk about directly or allude to indirectly, but it has been a while since I’ve talked about it specifically…

In a bioregional spirituality, the bioregion*, and all of its inhabitants (including people, past and present) are an originatingor foundational inspiration for religious and spiritual beliefs and practices.  Practice is centered in the idea that the bioregion (or the bioregion as its various components, from the landscape to the flora and fauna) can take the place of a central deity or deities (or other entities), which are interacted with and celebrated via the spectrum of traditional (and nontraditional) human ideas of godhood . This interaction may be theistic (heno-, hard or soft poly-, or pan-, etc) or non-theistic (animism, pantheism, agnostic or atheist) in nature and may be based in the idea of gods as literal, symbolic, or something else.  The deities through which the bioregion is interacted with range from a created (modern) or a historical (even reconstructed) pantheon, or may literally be the natural features of the bioregion themselves.

Bioregionalism** when it is applied to spirituality calls upon us to worship (or not) in those ways that bring ecstasy and reverence for the very experience of living while honoring the cycles and stages of the bioregion and its inhabitants–this may include shamanistic practices, eclectic practices, or reconstructed practices that have been adapted to our personal bioregions.  Either way, the point of a bioregionally centered religion is to (literally, symbolically, and spiritually) touch the earth and to grok ourselves as part of it.  A spiritual bioregionalism calls on us to reclaim our wildness and reconcile it with our civilization through a reexamination of our relationships within the web of life.

We are children of Earth, children of Nature.  To borrow some words from Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”  Our species has been forged by life on the savannas of Africa and molded by steppes and jungles, mountains and deserts, forests and bogs, and the vast icy reaches of the north.  Our cultures have evolved just as our bodies have to meet the challenges of varying ecosystems.

Somehow though, we have forgotten that we are animals.  We have forgotten that we are are just two footed, upright walkers with opposable thumbs, big brains and a relatively long childhood.  As we have been shaped in our crucible of civilization, we have forgotten that our nearest evolutionary cousins still live in the trees.  And generally speaking, this is a good thing.  We humans have done amazing things.  We have explored the length and breadth of our planet (and a wee bit of its depths).  We have traveled into the vacuum of space, and stepped foot onto another piece of rock orbiting in space.  We have traveled into our own bodies, into our very cells, and decoded our DNA (though we still have work to do in making sense of it all).  We have made fire…and discovered the pieces that make up the fabric of the Universe.

But we have also broken our covenant with the land, our relationship with nature, and we have indulged too much in our distrust of one another.  The responsibilities of the guest in the Oikos of Earth have been abandoned.  We have been reckless, we have lost our compassion.  We (specifically those of us in Western nations) have mostly forgotten what it feels like live on the land, to be subjected to the whims of Nature–of weather, predators, famine, of darkness.  We no longer recognize pietas terra**–the piety, reverence, or service we owe to the immanence of Nature and to its representatives (if one believes in them literally) and its inhabitants–including ourselves.  This is not a reason to be misanthropic (if H. sapiens has its own version of kryptonite, its its guilt-ridden self-loathing) it is a reason to be hopeful, because we have never before had such a capacity to consciously understand and work with and work within nature, and such an incentive to do so.

Bioregionalism demands a recognition of our locus***, a reclamation of ourselves as part of our locus, and a reimagining of our relationships with the other inhabitants of our locus (as well as the with the inhabitants of other loci).  And since a spiritual or religious bioregionalism requires us to become rooted in our locus, we need to get to know our bioregion.  We have to–it is a physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual imperative…and a moral one as well.  We need to know its inhabitants (flora and fauna both) and understand its history–its geological history, its ecological history, and its human history.  We must find our place, a sustainable place as one among equals, in our ecosystems…or with time, we will perish as a species that failed to live up to its potential.  We can’t claim**** to be part of an interconnected web of all existence (to borrow a phrase from Unitarian Universalism) spiritually or magically if we don’t understand it physically or mundanely.

As my regular readers may know, we have just moved. And not just a little move, but a geographical shift of 3 states to the south (and over 6 degrees in latitude). Moving any distance, in all practicality, often means a new history of the land and peoples that have inhabited it, new flora and fauna, new ecosystem interactions, a new watershed and land and terrain types, new rock formations… The seasons change, the significance of the Longest Day (Midsummer) and Longest Night (Yule) changes, seasonal holidays (WotY or otherwise) shift in meaning or timing. Certainly there are similarities–many plant and animal species have large ranges, or have closely related species that inhabit similar habitats (or have adapted to quite different habitats); many traditional medicinal plants, magical plants, and foragables are naturalized or invasive species that are ubiquitous (sometimes globally so) in their range.  But the feel of the land is different, the voice of its spirit sings to the soul with a different flavor, a different texture…and it takes time to learn its rhythms, to grok its presence.  For us, this year will be a time of readjustment and change, of meeting new places and making friends with new plants…

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a new plant for us to seek out

I hope you will continue to experience it with us!

 

Notes:

*a bioregion is an area with similar natural characteristics, including plant and animal life, human culture, climate, and continuous geographic terrain

**pietas terra is my own term, not anything official or historical (nor maybe even gramatically correct Latin)

***locus is a term adopted by mathematics (meaning a point or points (plural, loci) whose coordinates fulfill a particular equation or set of conditions) from Latin, where it means a location, spot, place, or position, it can also refer to a center of activity or focus of attention.

****I get it, not everyone claims to be a nature-based Pagan. But ancient pagan religions are based in a human relationship with the land as much as with the gods. Religion was fully integrated into their cultures; ceremonies and rituals and traditions are not just for the gods. Sacrifices to the sea for a good haul while fishing, or to the field for a good harvest, or to the spirit of the spring for clean water or good fortune is as much a part of Paganism as sacrifices to whichever deity one fancies.

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