Read Along: To Walk a Pagan Path (Ch 1, part 1)

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One of my recent favorite books to recommend to new Pagans (or to Pagans that feel like they’ve strayed or stagnated from their path a bit) is To Walk a Pagan Path: Practical Spirituality for Every Day by Alaric Albertsson (Book stats:  275 pages (10 chapters), published by Llwellen in 2014).  Albertsson is an Anglo-Saxon Pagan and a member of ADF who has clearly and concisely created a book that meats his goal of being a “tool kit for building a Pagan life”p. 2.  This book really does create a framework (with plenty of IRL examples) for Pagan to live more fully their religious and spiritual beliefs with (as he puts it) “intentional effort, and usually a little planning”p. 2.   Throughout the book, Albertsson uses the example of his own path, which includes the “attempt to follow what the early Saxons might have called Hal Sidu, meaning healthy or holistic traditions”p. 7, as well as the incorporation of other traditions based in ancient pagansims by other practitioners* to really allow the reader to see ways in which they might integrate their own path into their daily lives.

The goal with this set of blog posts (maybe weekly?  we’ll have to see how life goes) is to go chapter-by-chapter through the book.  I’m not so much doing a book review as maybe a bit of a summary and  I’ll sort of relay my favorite bits, my impressions, and what I do with regard to each section.  Also (in the interest of my own sanity) I’m forgoing proper use of footnotes for a page reference superscript for any quotes I use (sorry, its just easier in an internet format).  If you have the book and haven’t read it yet, feel free to read it with me and offer your own comments and ideas.  If you don’t have the book, consider getting it and doing the same.  But even if you don’t have the book and may not have the resources to get it, hopefully I can do this in a way that is still a useful reading experience!

This week, I’m going to start with a discussion of the first chapter.  While fairly short at 30 pages (p 5-35), it covers quite a bit of ground, so I’m not sure that I can relay all of my impressions and own experiences and relate them to what he’s written in just one post (without writing my own book, lol).  The chapter is titled “Seven Steps to a New Way of Living”  and seeks to answer the question that is the first sentence to open the book–“How do you express your spirituality from day to day?”p. 5  If you’ve never read the book before, and maybe even if you have, I recommend stopping at that very first sentence and pulling out a pen and paper.  Take a moment to inventory what it is that you *do* on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis that inspired you to claim the label (whatever adjectives and caveats you might throw on it) Pagan.

Now think for a moment about what led you to Paganism.  Albertsson goes on to briefly discuss a number of different ancient paganisms and their role in the cultures from which they originate.  He compares it to contemporary Paganism, where many of us are first (or maybe second) generation Pagans (or maybe first generation Pagans raising second generation Pagans), and makes an obvious and simple statement that is none-the-less profound for its accuracy.  While there are many differences between ancient paganisms and contemporary Paganism’s many tradition (available technologies for understanding the physical, biological, and chemical realities of ourselves and the world around us is a biggie), there is something to be said for his idea that “intentional choice may be one of the most significant distinctions between contemporary Pagans and our Paleo-Pagan ancestors”p. 6.  Paganism today is a conscious and intentional action, rather than a byproduct of cultural norms and societal pressures–and it has been my experience and observation, Western cultural norms and societal pressures are frequently in conflict with the intentional actions of a Pagan life (and I’m not talking about religious bigotry here, though that doesn’t help either).

The chapter next covers another topic near and dear to my heart–praxis.  Albertsson says here “”belief” is relatively unimportant in polytheistic religions” because ancient pagans believed in their gods “in the way modern people believe in gravity or electricity, not in the way a child believes in the Tooth Fairy”.  He goes on to say that “it is patently obvious that the gods are real” because (using the example of Athena) “she has spoken to and interacted with thousands of people over thousands of years–and she is no “less real” just because Bob decides, for whatever reason, not to believe in her existence. Early Pagans knew the gods were real; for them it was not a matter of personal belief.”p. 7-8

I agree that it is accurate to say that praxis (practice) was more important than doxa (belief) among ancient Pagans, but I’m going to disagree a little bit in the idea that all ancient Pagans had the same sense that the gods were “real”.  First,  ancient Greece has a well documented tradition of the questioning belief and theorizing on the nature and existence of the gods, as did ancient Hinduism (and I’m fairly sure, even if it wasn’t documented that other cultures likely had folks that did the same, even if they did so only in their own heads). Secondly, I have issues with equating the reality of gods as analogous with the laws of physics in terms of being “real” as being overly simplistic–our understanding of the mechanics and nature of the world around us is very different now than it was in the ancient world, the idea that the contributions of our ancestors in expanding our knowledge so thoroughly in this regard wouldn’t change our understanding of the nature of what it is to be a god or to be divine seems to me to be its own sort of hubris that denies the very real struggle that our predecessors went through (Pagan or not) to gain that knowledge.

Either way though, I’m pretty sure the author’s point isn’t to spark a debate on the nature of what it means to be divine (that’s just my own brain thinking about things), but to point out the importance of praxis when it comes to being Pagan…which is something I am down with.  He and I can fully agree on the lack of such resources that “address this issue of how to live as a Pagan after closing the ritual and washing up the chalice or mead horn.” p. 8  Towards this goal, he very strongly suggests considering a dedication rite as a first action to take, signifying one’s intention to live a Pagan path. I recently posted my personal (and very adapted) dedication rite on Pagan Devotionals (knowing that I was going to be doing this series of posts and not wanting to take up the extra space here).  One of the things I noticed by the time I got to this point, when I first read this book, is that Albertsson’s ADF background certainly shines through!  If you are familiar with ADF’s Dedicant Path, you will notice the ADF influence (which I see as a positive, as I think the program is quite good**) in the example dedication rite that he offers.

And this is probably a good stopping point, in discussing the book’s text.  To really do as Albertsson suggests, to start to live as a Pagan every day, to dedicate yourself to this endeavor, requires some forethought and some reflection.  To, as he says, “do something, some little thing each day to connect with your gods and with the world around you.”

Next time, we’ll actually get to discuss the seven steps that the chapter is named after!

*A bit about my use of paganisms vs Paganism…perhaps it is idiosyncratic of me, but when I refer to historical/ancient paganisms, I don’t capitalize because IMO, “pagan” is a description of the type of religions practiced by these cultures (non-Abrahamic, with a pluralistic view of divinity, a sacralization of the material, and an emphasis of right practice over right belief). Contemporary Paganism on the other hand (IMO) is a modern set of recreated traditions in this ancient model (sometimes with very modern twists)—it is a religious movement, and as such, a proper noun. Additionally, I *always* pluralize paganisms when referring to ancient religious traditions as a group, though I may or may not depending on how I am refering to Contemporary Paganism (whether I’m talking about it as a distinct modern religious movement or a series of modern religious traditions). For more info on (the evolution of) my views here (whether you agree or not), I’ve written a bit on the topic here, here, here, and here.

**If one is planning a Druidic path whether they are going to join ADF or not (or complete the Dedicant Path, or not), I fully recommend working your way through The ADF Dedicant Path through the Wheel of the Year, which I think is free as a PDF if you are a member along with Our Own Druidry and some other books (which you need to do justice to the course), but you can also get them on Amazon if you aren’t going the ADF member route.

Maxim Monday: Have respect for suppliants (Ικετας αιδου)

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delphic maxim 42 respect for supplicants

Its been a while since I’ve done one of these (at least a year, I think), but I came a cross a spot-on blog post on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I thought it might be time to bring back Maxim Mondays (not every Monday to be sure, but more often than not at all!).

Originally, I had something of a slightly different tenor in mind.  Something lofty, something about being our best selves, something about respecting the individual and collective search for truth of all people, even those we disagree with. Because I think that having respect was something that should be self-evident among a majority of reasonable people. Because I think that religion has become the scapegoat for the behavior of people who are just assholes.

Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.
~Rumi

Because, when in the presence of the prayers of persons belonging to a religion that is not my own, I take a moment to bow my head, close my eyes, and think of bloody England out of good manners, and respect so that they may have their moment of reverence.   Because I was raised to think that a certain level of civility in public discourse is essential to a diverse society and that most people understand that it takes the cooperation of all peoples to maintain that civility.  Because I think that we should respect the person as a person, even if we disagree with their beliefs.

In fact, I even had it written and scheduled to post tomorrow morning.  And then I deleted it all.  Because I’m sick of some people use their religion as a shield for being an asshole. (really, you should go read this, because the entire post is going to be a rant about it)

Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.

~Teddy Roosevelt

Let me first say that this event comes as no surprise (particularly after a similar event a few weeks or so ago).  Let me secondly say that I strongly feel that religion has no part in governance, not even in invocatory prayers.  If you need to pray to do your job, do it on your own time like every other wage earning member of the public is forced to do.  But, with that being said, if we are to acknowledge and continue the tradition of invocations in the legislature, or any other place of civil governance or official state-sponsored event, then it must be open to everyone.

Sure, those who disagree with an invocation certainly have the right to walk out or turn their back or heck, to stand upside down and sing a song. Actually doing so makes them an asshole with no manners.  And, in this case, an asshole with no manners using their religion as the scapegoat for their bad behavior.  If you are a Christian that feels the need to turn your back in protest for an interfaith prayer, you are not “being like Jesus” or showing strength of conviction, you are only showing that you are so insecure in your beliefs that you can’t manage basic civility, and you look like an ignorant bigot.  You’d have been better not to show up at all (and hold your own prayers privately.

If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.

~Gene Roddenberry

Religion is a tool.  It can be both beneficial and benign, but it can also be destructive; it all depends on the heart of the person using it.  When one’s heart is bound with hate and darkened with ignorance and fear, religion becomes a tool that divides and destroys. Respecting someone’s expression of their religion does not mean allowing bad behavior to pass without comment.  Respecting religion does not mean tolerating incivility and intolerance.  Respecting religious freedom is not a free pass to allow ashattery to run unchecked.

If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

~John F. Kennedy

I don’t care what name (or names) are used to address what one believes to be divine in this universe, how our how often one prays, what books one reads, holidays one celebrates, or what dogma (or lack of it) they claim represents that power; I care that one treats others with the same compassion and respect that they would wish for themselves from someone whose beliefs are different from their own.

And if they can’t manage that, then they should at least learn to use some good manners.

From the Wee Grimoire: All Creatures Great and Small (Pagan style)

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The hubby and I have re-purposed a number of things from our Christian childhoods with our own kids…to toss out a few examples–Jesus Loves Me became The Goddess Loves Me*, Twas the Night Before Christmas became The Night Before Yule, and our family’s manger scene hosts a baby Sun King, Mother Nature, and a herald fairy. Another one that we have adapted was a favorite of mine as a child, I figured I’d share because apparently they are “getting too old for bedtime songs”.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
Nature made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
Selected for their glowing colors,
Evolution made their tiny wings.

All things bright and beautiful…

The purple headed mountain,
The stream running by;
The sunset and the moonrise,
That brightens up our sky.

All things bright and beautiful…

The cold wind of the Winter,
The zebras as they run;
The lizard in the desert
Warming ‘neath the noontime sun.

All things bright and beautiful…

The heron fishing in the river,
The bears emerging from their dens,
The hatching of an egg
in a nest full of baby wrens.

All things bright and beautiful…

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The redwoods in the forest,
The ocean where dolphins play,
The sunset across the prairie,
Bees gathering honey every day;

All things bright and beautiful…

Selection gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How wonderful is Evolution,
That has made things tolerably well.

All things bright and beautiful…

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*If you were wondering the words for The Goddess Loves Me (which could easily be adapted to any number of deities), they go something like this:

The Goddess loves me this I know, my heart and soul tell me so.  In her arms I’ll safely stay, as I walk the path we’ve laid.  Yes the Goddess loves me, yes the Goddess loves me.  Yes the Goddess loves me, the whole world tells me so.

From the Wee Grimoire: Avatar and the Elements

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In our family practice, we call the elements by “their S names”–Sea, Sky, Stone, and Spark.  Sea because of its role in the water cycle and because it is a a significant part of our bioregion. Stone because it is another name for “rock” (the rock cycle!) and because it is the origin of sand and soil.  Sky because its is mostly air, and the interaction between the different states of air here and there drive our weather and climate.  And Spark because, IMO what has traditionally been called “fire” is really energy (and by energy, I mean solar energy, heat energy, chemical reaction energy, gravitational energy, electrical energy, etc).  While Sea, Stone, and Sky can act and be acted upon, Spark is truly the only active element–Spark drives the waves and tides, the winds and currents, erosion and plate tectonics.

But, when we think about the qualities of the elements and how we can incorporate them into ourselves, many of the tradition (and not so traditional) associations and correspondences still hold true.  Many of the not-at-all-traditional sources of these associations and correspondences can be quite enjoyable and instructive as well…

…which is why Avatar: The Last Air Bender (the cartoon, not the movie) is part of our “video grimoire” as Chickadee calls it.

(because who wouldn’t want to be a bender?)

Uncle Iroh: Fire is the element of power the people of the fire nation have desire and will and the energy to achieve what they want.

Earth is the element of substance the people of the earth kingdom are diverse and strong, they are persistent and enduring.

Air is the element of freedom. The air nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor.

Water is the element of change. The people of the water tribe are capable of adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.

Prince Zucho: Why are you telling me these things?

Uncle Iroh: It is important to draw wisdom from many different places.  If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.  Understanding others, the other elements and the other nations will help you become whole.

from Avatar: The Last Airbender; Season 2, episode 9, around the 13 minute mark

VENTING ON VACCINES

thalassa:

When it comes to parenting, I’m very laissez faire about what other people do with their own children, with a few exceptions…and this is one of them. My mother has been a nurse for longer than I have been alive and I work in public health (and before that I as a hospital corpsman) with a degree in biology. I can think of no single more irresponsible act as a parent, when it comes the health and welfare of your own child and their peers, than to choose not to vaccinate.

While I’m pretty sure this will offend some, I feel so strongly about this that I not only think that children whose parents choose not to vaccinate (something different from being unable to vaccinate for medical reasons) should not be allowed in public schools. Additionally, I think that parents who choose to not vaccinate should be held civilly (financially) and criminally (when it results in death or disability) responsible for what is nothing short of child endangerment. In all honesty (though it may lose me a few readers), I find it difficult to think any differently of parents that choose not to vaccinate than I do of parents that pray their children to death from treatable diseases, rather than seeking medical treatment.

This is an excellently written post, that I emphatically approve of and agree with.

Originally posted on Bewitching Kitchen:

Disclaimer #1:  This is not a food-related post

Disclaimer #2: I am taking my gloves off

Few things upset me more than the disturbing movement to stop vaccinating babies and kids. For a while now I’ve been debating whether I should write about it. Having watched an episode of Frontline the other day that dealt with the subject, and almost succumbing to cardiac arrest while screaming at the screen, I decided I cannot stay silent any longer. First of all, let me get this straight out up front: I have a doctoral degree in Biochemistry, three years post-doctoral experience in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, and I taught Microbiology to Medical students in Brazil at Universidade de Sao Paulo. I also worked for about 10 years on basic research into the biotechnology of vaccines.   I’m not bragging, but I am stating my experience, that hopefully will convince…

View original 2,544 more words

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