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So...I've been thinking.

Yeah, I know. Don't do that, it always leads to trouble. Oh well, too late, what's done is done.

Religion. Yeah, I know I haven't written much about that in several months. Not that it hasn't been on my mind...it has, constantly. It never leaves. (Well, maybe it does for a few minutes when...oh nevermind, y'all don't want to hear me bitch about how frustrated I get when something gets stuck in my teeth and I can't get it out and don't have a toothbrush handy or a toothpick or dental floss and OMG I really hate raspberry seeds sometimes...uh, yeah :-P)

Anyways. So it's recently occurred to me that the grove's Lughnassagh ritual is this weekend. No, I lie, I knew that for a while now, but what's just occurred to me is that the next ritual after that is the fall equinox.

I've had myself in a kind of limbo with grove involvement for quite a while now. Cut because reading this will take almost as long )
Ye, gads it's been crazy. I still don't have it all figured out, but I'm a lot more okay with things than I have been in a while.

And if I can manage to get it in before I leave the office, there might be another post on the woo filter to save those who don't care to read such things from rolling their eyes right out of their heads.
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Ritual yesaterday? Check

Dedicant's Oath? Check.

Writeup soon to be in progress. After I make coffee.

Then I just need to print it all out, get hard copy to Caryn and a blank CD to burn it on and my DP will be off to Raven.

OMG. I'm almost done.

So this was my dedicant's oath:

I'd like to make one last offering here tonight, with everyone gathered as witnesses. This is an offering a long time in the making. I've been attending Cedarlight Grove since November of 2004. I've been a member since October of 2005- it took me nearly a year and some rather difficult prodding to make up my mind and make that commitment. Once I did, I gave myself a year and through no fault but my own procrastication- and sometimes uncertainty- well over a year has passed. But here I am in front of my grove and friends that I have chosen as family, some good aqcuaintences and what are probably a few decent strangers, and with the offering of this promise, I will finally complete my dedicant's program.

I make this promise to all present. And to the nature spirits with whom we share the earth. And to the ancestors, who I've only recently realized may not be so distant as I would believe. And to all of the gods, but especially to the Lady of the Hearth, who is the fire itself, and to the Mother Quail, dark-veiled Queen, long-journeying mother of the divine twins of Olympus, And foremost to the Divine Healer, Far-Shooter, God of truth and light:

On my word, I'll not forsake my gods, nor seek to depart from the road down which they lead me, and neither will I forget that unfamiliar territory does not necessarily mean that I have strayed. As I am called, I will serve. I will trust the gods and cast aside trepidation. At times I may rush in headfirst, but I will not to go in blind. I will remember that askng for help is not a sign of weakness, and that I am but human. To speak the words that need be spoken, and keep the confidences which require silence. To pursue always truth, knowledge, wisdom, understanding. This, on my honor I will try as best as I am able and as far as I can push myself, should I start to falter.


I also think I did a pretty damned good job of reciting "You Create the Reason" by Carl Stephenson... I managed not to totally stumble over any words.

Which reminds me, at least three people asked me for an audio file...[livejournal.com profile] jackgreen60, I know you did...who else? I know Deirdre wanted me to explain it to her...lol...I never got a chance to do that.

Okay, off to make coffee and then write up the last little bit of my DP *dances*
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This weekend was long, but went by very quickly.

On Friday night I stopped by Borders and picked up a new dayplanner. It's a small one, with a green, gold and bronze mosaic pattern and magnetic closure. After that, wet home and packed clothes and stuff for the weekend, ad when Jesse came home we went to Caryn and Will's (With a stop on the way at Barnes & Noble, since my Callimachus book came in.) Friday night we watched a videotaped interview of Isaac Bonewits from the mid-90's, and had some assorted dinnerthings and wine (Finally opened the bottle of Jazz that's been sitting around since I got back from Christmas...it was just as good as last year. AND there's still just a bit less than half the bottle left!)

Saturday morning we made it to VA just in time, though it didn't matter much because Isaac apparently decided that he needed to stop and make photocopies at the last minute, and we were well over an hour late in starting. There was plenty of time for socializing with folks in the meantime. Once Isaac go there and started talking, I tried to take notes, but I just can't transcribe that fast- thankfully, Jack took copious notes, as did Caryn.

The first day ended up being amost entirely about magic- and more specifically, spellcasting, which is't realy something I do. Some of his theories and thoughts were interesting, especially his little forrays into the realm of quantum physics (and by little, I do mean little, but quantum physics fascinate me, so any mention of the subject is going to get my attention.)

My only problem on Saturday was that I attempted to ask a question at one point, and before I could even get to the question, he interrupted me and started answering to what I can only guess he thought I was asking/saying/criticizing, which was a bit frustrating because I tried to explain that what I was leading in with wasn't what I was actually trying to ask, and I finally blurted out "Are you trying to make me forget my question, because if you are, it worked." I still haven't remembered the question.

Sunday was more interesting to me, in that it was mostly talking about religion, though a lot of it seemed to be devoted to jabbing at monotheistic religions and the dangers of dualism. Granted, I can see a lot of problems with dualism, because the world exists in shades of grey, not in absolute black and white. But oddly enough, his entire discussion seemed to be a dualism of dualism vs. pluralism. First of all, I don't feel the need to be constantly jabbing at other religions just because I don't agree with them, don't like them and wish certain segments of them would just go away. Second of all...the entire argument was modeled on the very thing that he was arguing against. Dualism vs. Pluralism. One or the other. It's like using a word to define itself. And when I asked about the segments of monotheists that don't believe that they are the only way, and don't try to throw everyone into the Us. vs Them laundry piles, his answer was that those folks are with "Us", the pluralists (Though he didn't actually say "us"). None of this really made sense to me because all day, he was saying either "the monotheists...." or "the neopagans..." which is a fairly clearly specified division. But, he did admit to being very biased- I appreciate when people acknowledge these thigns in themselves.

Overall, it was very interesting to attend this workshop, and meeting Isaac was fun. (As I've commented before, how many people actually get the opportunity to meet the founder of their religion? lol...) There was a little Cedarlight-style heckling. Much to our confusion, Nicole and I were both invited to join Mannaheim's listserv. (Mannaheim is a primarily Heathen/Asatru group with a fairly tribal mentality) But the people that we met were all really cool, and meeting new and interesting people is always a good thing.

Instead of driving from Baltimore both days, we stayed at Caryn and Will's for the weekend. Yesterday it started snowig in the afternoon, and by the time we were leaving, roads were kinda slippery, so we drove back to Glen Burnie from Springfield VA doing mostly no more than 25-30 MPH. This took us about 2 hours but we kept ourselves amused.

Today after work, I'm going to that bellydance class, I need to calland find out if its ok if I do the first class in street clothes- I forgot to bring stuff with me. I could do it in what I'm wearing, my clothng is very comfortable and easy to move in. If not, I'll have to run home and grab some stuff. Thankfully the studio is just over on Howard street. After that, I'm going to go home and watch Heroes and 24 with the roommates. And then sleep.

For now, I'm approaching lunch.
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Okay, dammit. My DP is finished before this month is out, that's all there is to it.
badstar: (iapollo)
My altar now has a cloth. It's red/prange/purple tie-dyeish with a gold p[attern on it that looks like lightning. I've also now planted two seeds in hopes that one will become my bonsai tree. I've found out that Grandma's Candles sells the statue of Apollo that I wanted...and is even a bit cheaper than Spark Of Spirit- also, Grandma's is a place that I can walk to, as opposed to Spark Of Spirit which is in College Park so I wouldn't have to go there to retrieve it once ordered, or pay to have it shipped here. (They also have some other statues that I'd love to have including an amazing one titled the Lament of Icarus, and a really beautiful one of Eros and Psyche. Though those wouldn't be altar fodder.)
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Moderation

"Zaphod grinned two manic grins, sauntered over to the bar and bought most of it."

Moderation is a difficult virtue for many people to practice, so it should come as no surprise that it's also difficult for many to write about. The Delphic maxim “nothing in excess is an excellent example of a concise definition of this concept.

The virtue of moderation is what allows one to go shopping in the most tempting store and purchase a small treat instead of spending all that’s in your wallet. It allows you to take a bowl of ice cream from the carton, not the entire carton itself, or have a glass of wine without downing the entire bottle. This is not to say that indulgence is always a bad thing- who hasn’t heard the saying “everything in moderation- including moderation”? However, a lack of control over one’s impulses and desires can be troublesome- or far more dangerous. It’s nearly impossible to turn to the media anymore without seeing news of some celebrity going into drug rehab, or advertisements for various means of help for those with any number of addictions. For those with addictions, moderation is extremely difficult or downright impossible.

In our contemporary culture in the US, advertisers and the media frequently seem to scream “More! Bigger! Faster! Extreme!” and we push ourselves to the limit in many ways- credit card debt and bankruptcy filings are out of control. Workaholics barely know their families. Cars and trucks are bigger, faster, louder. Many celebrities lead very public lives of hedonism and indulgence.

We may consider a classic tale of indulgence- the tale of King Midas and his golden touch. When King Midas was granted his wish that everything he touched turned to gold, he got it…and everything he touched did turn to solid gold- including his own daughter.



Vision

Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable, let's prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency


Vision is literally the ability to perceive the world around you through sight. But more than that, vision is also the ability to look beyond mere physical sight and see something more, bigger, better. It is a virtue and a gift without which the world would be a dull, drab place.

It is through vision that an abandoned, overgrown and littered lot becomes a community park. And through vision, great works are created- art, literature, building, education, science, medicine…vision gives us commerce and technology. Once upon a time, a computer took up an entire building and performed little more than today’s four-function calculators. As a result of many people’s visions, there are calculators small enough to be incorporated into pens and wristwatches; computers are small enough to fit in the palm of our hands and powerful enough to create a full-length movie or replicate a symphony orchestra. Without vision none of this would be.

Vision allows someone to identify a need or a want and find a way to fulfill it. Vision has given us everything we have- from the Declaration of Independence and the US constitution to portable music players that sit on a fingertip to cures for diseases that only a few years ago spelled certain death for sufferers. Vision is what gives us new products and improves old ones.

Perseverance

The word "impossible" is not in my dictionary. In fact, everything between "herring" and "marmalade" appears to be missing.

-Dirk Gently, Dirk Gently's Hollistic Detective Agency


Perseverance is the virtue of not giving up. In the words of Tennyson, “To strive, to seek to find and not to yield.” Or as others may say in slightly less eloquent language, “keep on keepin’ on.”

The pagan community in the United States is currently living in the middle of a painful, very emotional lesson in perseverance- that of Roberta Stewart and her fight to have a pentacle placed on her husband’s memorial plaque in Arlington National Cemetery. Vowing to see its approval in her lifetime, she took up the mission- now in its ninth year-when Rosemary Kooiman passed away, unsuccessful in her attempts to have the symbol approved by the United States Veteran’s Administration. This has resulted in letters, phone calls, faxes, emails, meetings and rallies in support of the issue- even statements of support from such unlikely allies as the Rutherford Institute, one of the largest right-wing conservative Christian think tanks and lobbying organizations in the country.

Perseverance, a virtue that is also admired in our ancestors, is exemplified in such stories as the labors of Herakles.

Simply stated, perseverance is what pushes us to keep going when we’re past the point of giving up
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I have an altar set up in my room now. It's on the lower of the shelves built into my wall, low enough to sit in front of. It has a well, a fire and a tree. I'll take a picture tomorrow.

The well is represented by a large abalone shell, which is deep enough to hold water.

The fire is represented by a single candle sitting on a candle plate.

The tree is represented by a piece of driftwood that I found on the shore of a lake in Texas in 1998 and have had since then. It looks vaguely like a tree with no branches.

Also currently residing on the altar:

-The sphere of ocean jasper pictured below, which kinda looks like a planet, to represent the earth.


-The notebook into which I've been writing invocations that I've written for rituals

-my runes

-my Haindl Tarot

-glass incense burner

Future plans for my altar:

One idea that I had for this altar in the near future was to try to grow a bonsai tree for it- I've seen a tiny bonsai tree "gift kit" in bookstores, and while it's not an Indo-European element, I would like to include a small Zen sand garden. It seems to me that it would be good for meditation and contemplation while sitting at my altar. I may sit a small table next to it for holding things that aren't specifically for on the altar, like a glass of water, books or a journal.

Midsummer

Jun. 26th, 2006 05:18 pm
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Midsummer, as all other rituals, has its claims to uniqueness. It started out just after Beltane with Deirdre and a few others gathering to write a Fool’s Rite. Last year, we performed the Chocolate Ritual. This year they were going to write the Cheese Ritual, honoring Roman deities. (Somehow it was concluded that pagans have a particular fondness for cheese.) This plan went on for a few weeks until one lore meeting where Will questioned the arrangement, citing sources that indicate that cheese was considered to be a welfare food during Roman times, and was that really an appropriate way to honor their deities? Alternatives were suggested- for instance changing the pantheon to Greek. After two lore meetings of discussing this, everything was up in the air, and the Cheese Ritual was abandoned. Abandoned in favor of what? )
badstar: (various gods)
For my IE Studies book, I chose The Myth Of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller. As a pagan, I find myself frequently bombarded withthe idea that once upon a time, life was peaceful, women were considered to be equal or superior to men, everyone coexisted happily and there was enough food, enough shelter for everyone. Until the evil patriarchy took over that is- at least that is what Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone and a host of others would have us believe.

Eller wrote The Myth Of Matriarchal Prehistory not to show that women really always have been second-class or worse (And illustrates clearly in chapter six, it can be extremely difficult to determine the status of women in a particular society when examining the evidence from different directions, and that may be further colored by the observer's bias) but because "...it's my feminist movement too, and when I see it going down a road which, however inviting, looks the wrong way to me, I have an obligation to speak up." (pg. 7)

I personally do not identify as a feminist, which Webster's Dictionary defines as "of or relating to or advocating equal rights for women". I am much more apt to refer to myself as egalitarian, and there are those who would say that I am nitpicking over semantics, but I do not believe that the word "feminism" can be used to describe equality of the sexes any more than "masculism" could be. I would so much love to believe that there waws a time, even in the distant past that women and men were truly equal and if we could just get it together we could return to that way...but as Eller points out, when properly considered, all evidence underlines the fact that this simply never was, however she goes on to conclude that even if it never was, and even if it were never fully possible, equality is still a most worthy and necessary goal to work for.

Reading this book was interesting, if not necessarily pleasant at some points. I had to stop to consider my chosen Hearth Culture and their gods. As Eller points out, the Ancient Greeks were hardly friendly to women, quoting Aristotle's position that men are far superior to women, and that even a good wife will bring her husband trouble. I questioned that I should be honoring the deities of these people, it was not an easy question. But it was not the gods that brought such treatment of women to this world, it was happening well before the worship of these gods was in place.

I found this book to be worth reading because it does address the very common myth which is presented far too often as historical fact. Eller writes of the risk of breaking up the ranks of the feminist cause, but felt that it was far more important to write about how all evidence in truth points to the contrary. She concludes though, by saying that the idea of matriarchal prehistory is still valuable- as a myth that we can learn from for building a future where women do have equal status in society.
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(yah, it's stil pretty long. maybe cut some more out tomorrow)

cour·age ( Pronunciation Key (kûrj, kr-) n.
The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.



There was, a few years ago, an urban legend circulating amongst college students of a philosophy class at an unnamed college, with a articularly eccentric professor. For the final exam if this class, he handed to each student a single sheet upon which was printed a single question: What is courage?

Legend has it that one student answered this question with an equally brief answer, two words simply stating: "This is." Legend so says that this student recieved the only A.

Such a stunt would certainly require a good deal of courage, however this student did not define courage, he acted as an example. Courage is taking action despite one's fears, anxieties or inhibitions. Greek mythology is littered with heros who performed great tasks...there is the story of Bellerophon, a young Corinthian prince who goes off in search of adventure. Proteus, a jealous companion wishes for the death of Bellerophon so he sends him to Iobates, the king of Lycia with a sealed letter that requests Bellerophon be killed. Lycia was plagued by the Chimera, a monster which woud attack the land, and retreat, taking with it women, children and livestock. As Bellerophon was a Corinthian prince, Iobates did not want to risk war by killing him outright. Instead he charged him with the task of killing the Chimera, thinking that Bellerophon could not possibly survive. But Belerophon did the unthinkable, slayed the Chimera and won the favor of the king, wedding his daughter and inheriting his throne when he died.

The ancients lauded acts of bravery and courage, and it is an admiration that is no less present in contemporary society. One of the most popular fictional characters today, Harry Potter, faces all manner of challenges, from dealing with a nasty, ill-tempered Uncle Vernon to a war with Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard that ever lived. On a more serious note, our country, referred in song to the "land of the free and the home of the brave", is dotted with monuments to soldiers who have served and died in wars and battles. In many towns and cities, parades and other festivities are held on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other occasions to recognize the service of those in the armed forces, an occupation which, by its very natures requires courage of its people. In 2001, after the tragedy of September 11th, memorials and tributes were offered around the country- and around the world- to the victimms and survivors. Special attention was also paid to law enforcement officials, fire fighters, millitary personnel and to those who died while trying to stop the hijackers.

On a smaller scale, courage is shown by people every day- elementary school children standing up to playground bullies, office workers risking their jobs to face a tyrannical boss, homosexual men and women coming out to their family and friends, a small child sleeping without a night light for the first time...these are all events which require one to move through and beyond their fears and anxieties, despite the risks getting laughed at or beat up, losing a job, being shunned by one's family, being eaten by the closet monster.

During my senior year of high school, within the span of less than a week in late January or early February, I had to deal with my best friend dying of cancer, and the students in my school revolting over the resignation of a very popular principal in the midst of a scandal. I cannot have made a judgement on the character of the appointed principal pro tempore, however as the replacement for one who was one of the most well-liked and respected school administrators in anyone's memory, parents, students and teachers alike were all set against him. About a week after all this happened, during the school board's meeting to officially accept the resignation- which I attended- in the middle of students, parents, administrators and teachers coming to speak on his behalf, the mother of one of my classmates stood up and berated the new principal. She was angry with the fact that a school-wide announcement had not been made to alert students to the fact that my friend, Alex had passed away. Instead, three students had been dispatched to circulate among the classrooms of seniors and deliver the news. This angered her and she brought it to the greatest audience that she could, and this caught the emotion of many of those who were present.

As it happened, I was in line to speak just after this lady. What I had planned to say had nothing to do with the incident, we were only given a minute or two to speak, and each person was only allowed to speak once. I was still fresh in my grief, I was not prepared to even think about this incident, but it was forced upon me. I could have left wel enough alone, and allowed the crowd to be angry at this man, a complete stranger whom at that point, I had never even met but...it just wasn't true. I gave up my turn to speak for the man who had won the schools respect and liking, and my hopes that what I had to say, a speck in the masses of defense, would make a difference in the situation and on a second's notice, the only thing I could do was to defend a stranger whose only crime was that of being asked to take this place. It would have been easy to let this stack as further fuel for the prejudice. All I had to do was say what I planned to say in the first place. I had no idea how eople would react...but I was the one who would not allow an announcement to be made. Alex was my best friend, and she had said that she wouldn't want such a thing to happen. On the day that she died, I was in school. When the fact that school administrators wanted to make the annoucement by public address, I stopped it, and said that instead I and two others would go to classes and spread the appropriate information. The next week, when the excitement of scandal had died down somewhat, it was only after my agreement that a brief, quiet announcement was made to the school, and if people had a problem with it, they could take it up with me. I am still not sure why people took this so harshly as they did. I supose the shock of a student dying in the middle of such an aready tense and emotional time made reactions worse than normal...It was obvious that many people were upset by how things were handled, I could see it in some people's faces, but who would openly criticize me so soon after the fact, and for somehting they might have done themselves?

Often we find that when faced with a tough situation, we are able to act in a manner much more courageous than we previously thought possible, as I and countless others have found in small everyday situations such as the schoolyard bully, as well as under much more dire circumstances. It's just one more way that we are able to grow and learn.
badstar: (various gods)
was an exerience different form any other Grove High Day ritual I've attended. Despite their unique differences, each ritual so far has had two important things in common: first, an outdor setting in the Grove sanctuary and second, calling on a completely different and separate deity for each part in the ritual.

Imbolc was held inside the Grove- it was not by choice, but by extreme necessity given the weather that day...that is to say, we were in a state of torrential downpour. It started in the morning and just kept going. The Sanctuary was under at least an inch, probably more of water. We were forced inside. I wasn't sure how this would happen, but I was not surprised to walk into the Grove and find most of the chairs arranged in rowsin the front section of the room with the sofa under the front window and the central area cleared except for a few chairs around the perimeter wall. People arrived, chairs were shifted, cushions thrown down. More ame and we packed them in. To say it was cozy would be putting it lightly.

When we were all setted in and seated, we began. The second major difference for this High Day was that we were calling soley on aspects of Brigid, instead of different deities for the god and goddess, Earth Mother, Gatekeeper etc. The triple aspects of Brigid of the Cauldron, Forge and of Inspiration were our primary deities, the Gaulish-Celtic Brigantia was our Earth Mother, Brigid the Bard our Gatekeeper. We were praying for growth through Brigid's Fire and Water. Water was truly present in abundance, and someone remakred that it was like a birth and the water had broken, No one argued that.

The ritual proceeded and I was a bit distracted- I had planned to spin fire during the offering time. I hadn't spun for ritual since Midsummer, and I hadnt spun at all since New Year's Eve. Not the proper mental focus during ritual, but there I was, at least to begin with. But during the gate opening, I was t make offerings to the fire, the well and the tree as Caryn, Crystal and Stephanie sang the Portal Song.

Since I couldn't spin, during offerings, I lit a candle and put it on the altar to the Shining Ones, and the mood was lightned a bit by someone suggesting that I twirl around with it..this would have put out the flame, and the room was in no state to have someone spinning around with a candle, but I did wave my hand holding the candle around a bit- slowly so it would stay lit.

Later, Caryn, Jackie and I would read the oracle...again, this was different from other rituals. Usually one person reads from one oracle..a tarot deck, runes, whatever they prefer. Caryn, Jackie and I each chose a different oracle...Jackie the Rider-Waite tarot, Caryn the Celtic Animal Oracle and I...well, I had intended to use my Haindl tarot which is the deck that I know best, I have been using it for several years. It was a fortunate thing that I had recently turned more attention to my runes because I discovered too late that I had left the deck at home. There is a copy of the Haindl deck at the Grove, but my runes were in my backpack, so I elected to use them instead. I don't remmber what Caryn and Jackie pulled, but I do remember puling the rune Mannaz, a rune signifying himankind, community, support...all of the things that we would hope for in a period of great change which our Grove has been experiencing...two members expexting babies, three of us (including me) working for the same company and losing our jobs, teenagers moving out of a house, an engagement, at least seven of us working on the Dedicant's program...

Before the ritual ended, a Bannock bread was passed around. Instead of throwing the last bite over our shoulders as is traditional, a bowl was passed around and everyone put the last bite into that bowl to scatter outside in offering later.

During the ritual, the air warmed and the rain became a thunderstorm. I spent some time out on the front porch talking to another Grove member, Matt about the idea of absolute truth..how that came about, I couldn't say.
badstar: (various gods)
How does one relate to the ancestors when one barely speaks- if at all to most of the currently-living members of one's family?

It's not easy- as I've also explained in my Samhain essay, I am not close to my family, except for my mother. My immediate family was tr aart when I was young due to my parents' divorce, which would likely not have been nearly as devastating as it was were it not for my grandparents' maicious intervention in effort to hurt my mother. In my fathers family, no one is especially close to anyone else that I can see- it seems that someone is always fighting with someone else, disowning them, changing their minds and then fighting again. My mother's family lives in another city- I grew up in Lancaster, Pennslvania and they live in Philadelphia- and while they seem to be close amongst themselves, many of them stopped speaking to my mother even before she divorced my father for having left the Catholic Church. Several of those who still speak to us have in the past berated me on my choice to have attended a Methodist university (religion was not a factor in the descision). Most of the time, all of this does not bother me, or perhaps it's easy to pretend it doesnt, it's what I know, it's how it's always been. But once in a while, it can tear me up.

So what am I to do? Well, I do know the origin of my ancestry, at least the immediate past few generations. English on my father's side, Sicilian, Lithuanian and Polish on my mother's. None came to the US until the very late 1800's or early 1900's. I have made casual attempts at trying to trace back further in their countries of origin, but so far have been unable to find anything that the family does not already know. The Sicilians are especially difficult- it is known that they did everythgin that they could to break ties with the wman who came to the US and her child- she was a peasant woman sent here after having a baby to a high-ranking nobleman who would not marry her. Another wrench in the cogs is that the family name- Caracapa- is very uncommon- no one in the known family even carries it anymore. I have met two others by that name- at completely different times and circumstances, and given the rarity of the name should not have been surrised to find that they were brother and sister. They knew a bit more about their ancestrs coming to this country, and they were not the same as the woman that I am related to, however they also were able to tell me that the name was local to the town of Palermo, and as far as they could tell, there was only one family with the name. So if I ever chose to make a serious pursuit of this, it may lead to my visiting Palermo...I would like to go to Italy some day.

Perhaps it is the intrigue of unravelling a mystery that compels me, but my Sicillian ancestors- la mia famiglia Caracapa- are the ones I am the most interested in learning about. It led me to study the Italian language in college, though my knowledge of it is extremely rudimentary, perhaps someday I will have the opportunity to become more fluent.

My spiritual ancestry, however feels as though it lies elsewhere. When I first began learning about different pagan religions, I felt that I should be interested in Stregheria- La Vecchia Religione- Italian witchcraft, and worship of pre-Roman deities. Perhaps it is because the only sources of information that I could find were one or two Raven Grimassi books, or perhaps for other reasons, I rejected what I had learned of Stregheria and moved on. I have had the opportunity to study an Eastern European tradition of witchcraft- the name escapes me, but I turned down that opportunity. I cannot muster any interest in the Celts that is not purely academic, and I have simply never been interested in the Anglo-Saxns or other cultures of ancient Britain.

No, it would seem that my spiritual connection lies somewhere in the Hellenic culture. I do believe in reincarnation, so perhaps I was first born there, or led a life of great significance to me there. The Greek deities have caled to me in some way ever since first learning about Greek and Roman mythology in junior high school. Even while being told erroneously that the Greeks and Romans were identical in their mythology excet for the names, I knew that wasn't true and today, the Hellenic pantheon and mythology is my main source of spiritual and religious inspiration.

The last connection I have found is not to my own, or to my spiritual ancestors. It is not what I would chose as an ideal, but when I am feeling alone and without a past, for one with so little connection to my own, sometimes it's most appropriate to remember those who have no one to remember them, who have been forgotten or lost through time. When I am feeling sorry for myself for not cnnecting to my own, it helps to feel a little closeness to those who have none to connect to them.
badstar: (various gods)
It seems that for every High Day accounted for so far I have reason to say that it's been different from each previous one, and legitemately so each time. It is no different for this Beltane, for a couple of reasons.

To begin with, it started out differently. For prior high Day rituals, the Grove has begun planning often three to four weeks in advance, sometimes less. In a way, it began even before Ostara. A few weeks after Imbolc, one of our members came in on a Sunday and said that Epona had "kicked him in the head", and made clear to him that after all the focus that we'd placed on Brigid for Imbolc, She wanted some of our time. He suggested that we consider honoring Her for Ostara, however we were already well into planning our teling of the Descent Of Inanna, so that was out.

Ostara came and went, and the day after during Rites Of Caffeina, we were sitting out in the Sanctuary when another member of the Grove announced that he thought that we should start planning for Beltane immediately because it was almost the end of March, and Beltane is the first of May...and April was going to be a busy and Chaotic month for many Grove members. So it ended up that a small group of us stayed there for three hours batting ideas around...who to honor, what our purpose would be. As we did this, I recalled Rorik's suggestion of Epona. None of us had any idea why she had shown up (Further speaking to Rorik only revealed that he felt that she had indicated that she wanted some of our time and had not given any particular purpose or desire). Wel, we decided to honor Epona...but was that going to be Epona the Gaulish-Celtic horse goddess? Or Epona Regina the goddess revered by Roman military and cavalrymen? (It is interesting to note that of the Celtic deities that the Romans assimilated, only the name of Epona remained unchanged saved for appending of the title Regina- "Queen"
After another Sunday or two of discussing and hammering it out, we settled on the Gaulish Epona and along with Her, we would honor Belenus- also known as Bel, for whom the day Beltane is named, when cattle was driven between two balefires for purification and fertility. We could not find a Gaulish gatekeeper or crossroads deity, so Elyn of the Ways, a Welsh goddess was added. Our next objective was to find a connection between Epona and Belenus..a myth, a legend, a fragment of something but after several weeks, none who tried were successful.

A few weeks before the High Day, the ritual team was set. One of our members, who is rarely able to come to the Grove, was asked to was asked to make the trip down from Pennsylvania to call in Epona- Devon and her husband Drey have a small horse farm and Epona is naturaly a patron of theirs. Caryn would call for Elyn and for my affinity to fire, I was asked to invite Belenus. It's not the first- and won't be the last time I've said it..I am not a Celtic pagan. Feet planeted firmly in the Helenic camp, I am not the ideal choice to invoke an Irish-Celtic god...and I knew even less about the Gaulish deities. However, I had read in a few places that Belenus was likened to the Roman Apollo (even called Belenus Apollo sometimes), and the Hellenic Apollo is a patron of mine...and Belenus is a fire god so I could work something out. As this was a decided, someone asked if I would spin my firestaff in praise offering? Of course I would. Then someone else...either Caryn or Will I think asked if I could do the invocation while spinning...I can spin and talk at the same time, I would just need to make sure that I spoke loud enough. And could I do it *inside the circle*? That I couldn't say for sure...I had only spun in the empty area outside the circe in the past. I thought I could but would not say for sure without trying in an empty sanctuary.

In the weeks before Beltane, I was very close to losing my job- the contract for the company I was doing tech support had been cancelled and business was dwindling to nothing as the last days were coming. I had the internet at my disposal and plenty of time to do research, learn about Belenus and try to find a common thread to Epona. One day abut a week and a half before, Beltane, I had taken my copy of the Encyclopedia of Gods to wrk with me and was lounging my my desk, reading its (very short) articles on Epona and Belenus. I noticed that both articles mentioned worship as healing deities at a sanctuary of Saint Sabine in what is now the Cote d'Or...so I started googling. Several search strings later, I had found a few websites with citations of small horse statues being consecrated and buried in honor of both Epona and Belenus Apollo. I had found the elusive connection that we were looking for! After that, writing my invocation was a breeze- the words seemed to fall from my pen to the paper.

The Saturday before Beltane, Jack Will and I ventured up to Devon and Drey's farm to meet their horses and learn more about Epona from their experience. We helped to feed the horses and groom them a bit, and Devon told us about her working with Epona, some of her experiences and what she'd learned. She suggested that we think of Epona as the Lead Mare for our herd. She also taught us a bit about horses in general- breeds, care, riding. We left armed with more infomation and a bit more ready to honor Epona in our ritual.

The next day, I took my firestaff and some lamp oil to the Grove for a test run in the sanctuary. The space was more than enough, even so I erred on the side of caution and asked that during my invocation, everyone present stand just outside the outer circe of stones until my wicks were out. (The sanctuary has two concentric circles of flagstones to mark it.) Given the situation and purpose, I felt that it would be extremely inappropriate to extinguish them and would continue until they went out on their own. Once I finished speaking, because my wicks would burn longer than my invocation would last, Stephanie would then lead the Grove in a chant.

The next Saturday rolled around, Stephanie and Jesse picked me up on their way to the Grove to get ready. We got there before anyone else, and none of us had eaten, so we went out for lunch. When we got back, more people had arrived and we all worked on preparing the space. A fire was built- we had been afraid that a burn ban might keep us from having the fire, but it rained a lot the week or so before, so the ban was lifted.

People gathered and we processed into the circle, called on the Earth Mother and Kindreds, and sang the Portal Song as a small group of us circled the Well. the Fire and the Tree during its respective verse. Caryn caled Elyn to open the Gates, Devon delivered a beautiful invocation to Epona, inviting her into our Grove sanctuary, which for the occasion had been decorated with dozens of horse statues in every crevice and corner we could get them. I was wrapped in a fire-rinted skirt, bedecked with bells around my ankles, got up and called on Belenus Apollo- I chose that incarnation of the god because He was most familiar to me, and because He was most connected to Epona. I actually forgot the last two lines of the invocation that I had written, but I think the only one who realized this was Stephanie because I had read it to her beforehand so she would know when I was finished speaking to start the chant. When she realized, after nly a short moment that I was not going to continue, she picked up and the Grove chanted to the god while I continued to spin- the wicks burned for about twice as long as they should have lasted and the second wick just would not burn out, so when it was down to a barely visible flame, I took staff in both hands, held the flame outwards and turned it in a circle around me, projecting the fire outwards to all present. Instead of a beverage as a welcoming offering, I poured what remaind of the oil in the cup that I had used for soaking my wicks. Up til now, we had kept the fire smaller than normal due to my spinning and the group circling the gates. The entire ritual went smoothly, perhaps a bit quicker than most. I spun once again during the praise offering segment- as I said at the time, I could not entice a fire god into our celebration and not offer Him a bit of performance for his pains, now could I?

After the ritua closed, and the last guest went home from revels, a few of us stayed for the night to keep the fire going- we would let it burn out in the morning, We sat up talking about the evening and various non-related things and somewhere in the middle of all that, it occurred to me that I had gained a good bit in the past few weeks- of more knowledge and understanding of the feast of Beltane, a new interest in the Gaulish-Celtic mythology, and a more thorough understanding of the virtue of fertility- an idea which I had previously mostly tried to avoid (but I've covered that in my virute essay, so I'll avoid redundancy here), and as some other things came up which I have not discussed and are not related to the topic of Beltane, a much clearer idea of where I am going spiritually.

As I said at the beginning, I've said that every ritual has been different from the others. I have put more time and effort into Beltane than previous High Days, but with the possible exception of Mabon, I have gotten more in return than any of the others.
badstar: (Default)
hos·pi·tal·i·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (hsp-tl-t)
n. pl. hos·pi·tal·i·ties
1. Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.
2. An instance of cordial and generous treatment of guests.



"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Hebrews 13:2


In considering the virtue of "hospitality", I've thought about what it means to me, and what the dictionary gives as its meaning....cordial and generous treatment of guests. It comes from the same root as hospital and hospice.

Different cultures have different rules regarding aspects of hospitality. One example which I was reading recently came from the inside of a box of Celestial Seasonings tea, which spoke of Vietnamese Culture, and how very often, tea would be offered to visitors- even before strangers are introduced, and that it is not possible to politely refuse the offer. The mythologies of the world are full of strories of gods or royalty, disguised as beggars or travellers who come to a village seeking aid, shelter or a hot meal...those who offer their hospitality..even if it means emptying their paltry stores of food are rewarded, those who turn the stranger away are punished. One such story from Greek mythology is that of Baucis and Philemon:

Zeus and Hermes decided to test the hospitality of the citizens of Phrygia, disguised as poor travellers, they went about the area, knocking on doors of homes both wealthy and poor, begging a meal. At every house they were turned away unceremoniousy, until the last house they came to, the poorest, they were given a warm welcome and while the couple who resided there, Baucis and Philemon, had very little, they immediately set to preparing a modest meal with the last of the food that they had, and offering a weak wine that they had been savig for a special occasion. The couple so regretted that they could not offer more to their guests, that they then decided that they would cook the goose that they kept in the house. The goose was not so amenable to this idea and ran off, flapping about the hut...Baucis and Philemon were unabe to catch the goose, who had come to rest between their guests...who decided that this was the time to reveal themselves as the gods that they were. Zeus explained to his hosts that everywhere they went in the and, He and Hermes had been turned away- the people of Phrygia had been most unkind and for that they would perish- myth has it that he flooded the region. But for their kindness and generousity, Baucis and Philemon were spared. Not only that, but Zeus turned their rickety hut into a temple with grand columns and a roof of gold..and more, He told the couple that he would grant thecouple anything they wished. What they wished for was to live out their days as priests in his temple, and when their lives were over, to die at the same time, so that one would never have to be without the other. Their wish was granted and many years later, when it was that time, the couple found themelves simultaneously being covered in bark and sprouting leaves...they grew into oak and linden trees, which even now grow from the same trunk. This husband and wife, together eternally as rewards for their generousity, the others from their town killed as punishment for their callous rudeness.

This is just one of innumerable stories. The Ancient Greeks placed high value on hospitaity and xenia, the concept of guest-friendship especially between a guest and host who are native to different regions. Many of the people believed that if a stranger turned up at your door begging hospitality, you were obliged to offer it or face the wrath of the gods, as illustrated in the story above. An excellent host may have gained fame and prestige in the land, and this was certainly a way to display ones wealth. Conversely, a guest might be obligated to present his host with a gift, tell the story of his travels or offer news and knowledge of the world

One other important point to note is that the Ancient Greeks may have considered hospitatlity as a means for honoring the gods, as suggested here:

"Alkinos, this is not the better way, nor is it fitting
that the stranger should sit on the ground beside the hearth, in the ashes.
These others are holding back because they await your order.
But come, raise the stranger up and seat him on a silver-studded chair,
and tell your heralds to mix in more wine for us,
so we can pour a libation to Zeus who delights in the thunder.
(Odyssey, p.115, ll. 159-164)


This is quite possibly a reference to the fact that they saw hospitality as a way to honor the gods; giving hospitality to a stranger was the same as offering it to a god. Zeus being the god of hospitality, one of the primary ways to worship this aspect of Zeus' godliness was to be hospitable to strangers and travelers." (1)

My own greatest experience with hospitality has come from belonging to Alpha Phi Omega, which is a collegiate service organization. After I left school, I did a good bit of traveling. One of the things that most brothers (the organization is co-ed, but all members are brothers regardless of sex) learn is that we are very quick to offer our hospitality to others who may be travelling through our area- most often in the form of "crash space". There was one occasion when I was traveling to Pennsylvania from upstate New York, and due to a delayed train, I was stuck in New York City overnight. Not wanting to sit in a train station all night- not really sure that that was a good idea, I made a few phone calls and with the help of the brother whom I had just been visiting, I was able to contact alumni on Staten Island and explain the situation. Without hesitation they said "You're staying with us tonight." It was only after I got directions, left the station and took the subway and ferry all the way to Staten Island and was met by my hosts that we realized that we had met before, albeit briefly, several months earlier during a conference in Minneapolis. I can't speak for others, but when I'm shown such kindness, I hope to be able to reciprocate, however in situations like this, sometimes all I can do is pay it forward- I have had the opportnity to allow other brothers who were travelling to stay at my place, including two instances while I was living with my parents. My stepfather was not at all happy about this, but understanding that they would do the same for me (and that on many occasions, others have done the same for me), could not find enough reason to justify denying the guests.

These examples speak of hospitality. While certainly a noble virtue, I would argue that in our list of, we should consider the wider idea of generousity. To be sure, hospitality does require generousity- to those who would come into your home or other area of your own control as well as from the guest. If I am a dinner guest in someone's home, they are going to act in a hospitable fashion towards me, and with the ancient custom of the guest gifting the host, I might bring for my hosts a bottle of wine, flowers, candy or somehting else as apropriate to the occasion, or I may entertain by telling stories or with song, sharing conversation and news of mutual interest. Nowadays it is also very common for a guest to clean up, or at least to offer to help clean up after a meal. But generousity is a variable in any equation that involves giving....money to charity, food and clothing to the needy, giving time to help someone out, and yes, hospitality- giving to your guests, sharing your home, your food and drink, your comforts. Hospitality is generousity within a specific context.




(1)Taylor, Kelly. "Hospitality In The ancient Greek World". December 13, 1996 www.crowdog.net/hospitality.html .
badstar: (Default)
cour·age ( Pronunciation Key (kûrj, kr-) n.
The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.


What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?
-The Cowardly Lion


There was, a few years ago, an urban legend circulating amongst college students of a philosophy class at an unnamed college, with a articularly eccentric professor. For the final exam if this class, he handed to each student a single sheet upon which was printed a single question: What is courage?

Legend has it that one student answered this question with an equally brief answer, two words simply stating: "This is." Legend so says that this student recieved the only A.

Such a stunt would certainly require a good deal of courage, however this student did not define courage, he acted as an example. Courage is taking action despite one's fears, anxieties or inhibitions. Greek mythology is littered with heros who performed great tasks...there is the story of Bellerophon, a young Corinthian prince who goes off in search of adventure. Proteus, a jealous companion wishes for the death of Bellerophon so he sends him to Iobates, the king of Lycia with a sealed letter that requests Bellerophon be killed. Lycia was plagued by the Chimera, a monster which woud attack the land, and retreat, taking with it women, children and livestock. As Bellerophon was a Corinthian prince, Iobates did not want to risk war by killing him outright. Instead he charged him with the task of killing the Chimera, thinking that Bellerophon could not possibly survive. Accepting the task, Bellerophon first sought the advice of a wise man who suggested spending the night in a temple of Athena, making lavish offerings to Her that she may give him the means to slay the Chimera. He did, and that night dreamed of the goddess giving him a golden bridle with which to tame the wild, winged horse Pegasus and showing him where to find him. Bellerophon woke the next monrning to find the golden bridle by his side, set out to find Pegasus, and then to the Chimera. Riding on the back of Pegasus, he was able to slay the monster, and returned to Iobates with the Chimera's head. The kingdom rejoiced, and as reward, Bellerophon was wed to the daughter of Iobates, later taking his place when the king died.

The ancients lauded acts of bravery and courage, and it is an admiration that is no less admired in contemporary society. One of the most popular fictional characters today, Harry Potter, faces all manner of challenges, from dealing with a nasty, ill-tempered Uncle Vernon to a war with Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard that ever lived. On a more serious note, our country, referred in song to the "land of the free and the home of the brave", is full of monuments to soldiers who have served and died in wars and battes. In many towns and cities, parades and other festivities are held on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other occasions to recognize the service of those in the armed forces, an occupation which, by its very natures, requires courage of its people.In 2001, after the tragedy of September 11th, memorials and tributes were offered around the country- and around the world- to the victimms and survivors. Special attention was also paid to law enforcement officials, fire fighters, millitary personnel and to those who died while trying to stop the hijackers. One plane was stopped, crashed into a field in rural western Pennsylvania.

On a smaller scale, courage is shown by people every day- elementary school children standing up to playground bullies, office workers risking their jobs to face a tyrannical boss, homosexual men and women coming out to their family and friends, a small child sleeping without a night light for the first time...these are al events which require one to move through and beyond their fears and anxieties, despite the risks getting laughed at or beat up, losing a job, being shunned by one's family, being eaten by the closet monster.

During my senior year of high school, within the span of less than a week in late January or early February, I had to deal with my best friend dying of cancer, and the students in my school revolting over the resignation of a very popular principal in the midst of a scandal. I cannot have made a judgement on the character of the appointed principal pro tempore, however as the replacement for one who was one of the most well-liked and respected school administrators in anyone's memory, parents, students and teachers alike were all set against him. About a week after all this happened, during the school board's meeting to officially accept the resignation- which I attended- in the middle of students, parents, administrators and teachers coming to speak on his behalf, the mother of one of my classmates stood up and berated the new principal. She was angry with the fact that a school-wide announcement had not been made to alert students to the fact that my friend, Alex had passed away. Instead, three students had been dispatched to circulate among the classrooms of seniors and deliver the news. This angered her and she brought it to the greatest audience that she could, and this caught the emotion of many of those who were present.

As it happened, I was in line to speak just after this lady. What I had planned to say had nothing to do with the incident, we were only given a minute or two to speak, and each person was only allowed to speak once. I was still fresh in my grief, I was not prepared to even think about this incident, but it was forced upon me. I could have left wel enough alone, and allowed the crowd to be angry at this man, a complete stranger whom at that point, I had never even met but...it just wasn't true. I gave up my turn to speak for the man who had won the schools respect and liking, and my hopes that what I had to say, a speck in the masses of defense, would make a difference in the situation and on a second's notice, the only thing I could do was to defend a stranger whose only crime was that of being asked to take this place. It would have been easy to let this stack as further fuel for the prejudice. All I had to do was say what I planned to say in the first place. I had no idea how eople would react...but I was the one who would not allow an announcement to be made. Alex was my best friend, and she had said that she wouldn't want such a thing to happen. On the day that she died, I was in school. When the fact that school administrators wanted to make the annoucement by public address, I stopped it, and said that instead I and two others would go to classes and spread the appropriate information. The next week, when the excitement of scandal had died down somewhat, it was only after my agreement that a brief, quiet announcement was made to the school, and if people had a problem with it, they could take it up with me. I am still not sure why people took this so harshly as they did. I supose the shock of a student dying in the middle of such an aready tense and emotional time made reactions worse than normal...It was obvious that many people were upset by how things were handled, I could see it in some people's faces, but who would openly criticize me so soon after the fact, and for somehting they might have done themselves?

Often we find that when faced with a tough situation, we are able to act in a manner much more courageous than we previously thought possible, In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion is scared of everythign, including his own shadow. He can't sleep at night because he's afraid of nightmares. He wants to see the wizard in hopes that he will give him courage, so he sets out with Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Tin Man to see thie wizard. Upon their audience, the wizard says that he will grant their requests...if they go to the Wicked Witch Of The West and bring back her broomstick. During this mission, the witch captures Dorothy and the other three must rescue her. In the process the witch is liquefied and they return with the broomstick. Once they return, and the true identity of the wizard is revealed, he pulls a small token out of a bag for each of the travellers, and explains to them how each already had within him what he sought, and gave a comparison, in the case of the Lion, to valiant soldiers. Courage, what allows us to act through our fears, comes from within and its depths within us are often not known until it is time to find it. Such was the case of the Cowardly Lion.
badstar: (iapollo/iartemis)
fer·til·i·ty ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fr-tl-t) n.

1. The condition, quality, or degree of being fertile.
2. The birthrate of a population.


fer·tile ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fûrtl) adj.

1. Biology:
a. Capable of initiating, sustaining, or supporting reproduction.
b. Capable of growing and developing; able to mature: a fertile egg.
2. Botany: Bearing functional reproductive structures such as seeds or fruit or material such as spores or pollen.
3. Bearing or producing crops or vegetation abundantly; fruitful.
4. Rich in material needed to sustain plant growth: fertile soil.
5. Highly or continuously productive; prolific: a fertile imagination; a fertile source of new ideas.
6. Physics Capable of producing fissionable material: fertile thorium 232.



At my first glance of the list of virtues, I was certain that I would have the most problems with fertiity. Everyone knows that fertility is about having lots of kids, right? And I'm not particularly interested in having kids at this point in my life...even if I were, I am not in a position where it would be a realistic goal. However, this aspect of fertility is a vital one for humans, or any species to continue to exist. There is a stigma, even to an extent in the most advanced countries, on people who are unable or chose not to have children. In less advanced areas, or among the more superstitious, a woman who is unable to have children may be thought to have a curse. In some places, the very idea that one would grow up and actually make the choice to not have children is inconceivable. (No pun intended)

One other commonly-considered aspect of fertility is that of the land. farms, fields, fruit-bearing trees....our lives depend on the fertiity of vegetation and animals, it is how we obtain our food. We would die without it.

Even today, two of the very common things that people pray for are for fertility of the body- to have children, and (depending on the area and religion)- fertility of the land. Most if not all pre-abrahamic reigions are said to have been, or at least to have started out as- cults of fertility. All cultures that I have come across in research have at least one, and usualy several if not many deities relating to grain, vegetation, animals, sexuality, birth, reproduction....al of which are connected to fertiity.

But these are not the only aspects of fertility. Intellectually, I know this but I was still having some probems getting past the "fertility means making babies" aspect. If I had any mental hangups before, this Beltane has presented the opportunity for me to better understand and embrace fertility in another form.

After doing research on Belenus and Epona, and in the week leading up to Beltane, I suddenly had Ideas popping out of nowhere. I was waking up in the middle of the night, writing a poem and fallling back to sleep. My invocation to Belenus practicaly fell out of the pen and onto the paper. By the time Friday rolled around, from out of nowhere I had a grand plan to start a local group for studying Hellenic tradition, and for things that could be done within ADF to facillitate other people's study. I have a list of things that I want to accomplish, books to read and interests to pursue. How I will work this all into my life in a realistic way, I'm not sure...but that, I have no doubt will be at least a part of my lesson in moderation.

Creativity and ideas are often not thought of immediately when one hears the word, however they are vital aspects of fertility as well, without which we would not have any of the things which we do- no one would design and build our houses, offices, schools, modes of transportation. We would not have conversation or telephones or computers- communication, We would be without music, art, books, movies, television, plays, dancing- no entertainment or ways for learning...we simply would not be.

I believe that it may be concluded that of the nine Pagan virtues, fertility in its many forms is the one that without, the human race simply would not exist. Without any of the others, we would live greatly diminished lives, but we could still survive and continue. Without fertility...we would have nothing.
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The faith which moves mountains, or at least believes them against all the available evidence to be pink, was a solid and abiding faith, a great rock against which the world could hurl whatever it would, yet it would not be shaken.
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency


Piety seems to be an idea that a lot of individuals in the Pagan world struggle with. It is difficult for many to reconcile with a pagan belief system this idea that is more often than not pinned solely to Christians, and brings to mind the image of celibacy and self-deprivation, monks or nuns kneeling and praying.

When I think of "piety" or "the pious", being originally from Central Pennsylvania, I initially think of a house church full of Amish people praying quietly. My mother's family is Catholic, and the other image that comes to mind is of course, monks chanting and nuns in adoration in some remote monastary. Or of martyrs- those who have died for their religious causes. Which is all well and good, but those are not the only images of piety.

For a while, I wasn't really sure myself how to see piety in a non-Christian context, and then one day I was flipping through my Dedicant's Program book and found a statement that made sense to me : "The virtue of Piety is about keeping faith, about keeping commitment to specific practices and works over a long period of time." (pg. 90) Stated this way, piety can be applied to any religion.

Today, I was talking via LiveJournal with another dedicant who had issues with the idea of piety, because she saw it as adhering to duty out of obligation.

My answer to this objection is simply this:

Personally, I don't believe that adhering to duty solely out of obligation is true piety. When one keeps obligations for no other reason than obligation itself, it opens the door for a lot of resentment- the pious are not resentful of what duties they keep. In my eyes, piety is NOT about obligation, but about keeping a commitment because it's in your heart to do so, because you want to, because you need to, because that is what is within you.

Piety

From Merriam-Webster:

piety
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural pi·e·ties
Etymology: French pieté piety, pity, from Latin pietat-, pietas, from pius dutiful, pious
1 : the quality or state of being pious: as a : fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents) b : dutifulness in religion : DEVOUTNESS
2 : an act inspired by piety
3 : a conventional belief or standard : ORTHODOXY
synonym see FIDELITY
badstar: (Default)
Yule


Yule...the celebration of the Winter Solstice..I have mixed feelings about this day.

On one hand, it is the shortest day of the year. I cannot say that I am affected enough by lack of daylight to claim seasonal depression, but I do feel a marked difference in myself in the shorter days. On the other hand...once the solstice is past, the days become longer. At the same time, I am a night person...and the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year.

Events such as a joyous Grove ritual do much to take my mind off of the dichotmy.

Our Grove Yule ritual was a first for me in that it is the first ritual that I have attended with Norse deities. I am by now familiar with ritual involving Irish-Celtic, and Greek deities, but Norse was a new one to me thought I didn't think it would be much different. i was mostly curious to see what would happen since two of the deities in question- Freya and Heimdall had recently begun to make minor appearances on my radar.

Ritual took place in two parts, with Revels in between. We incorporated a somewhat improvised symbul into the ADF structure which involved passing a drinking horn around the circle three times. On the first pass, we made toasts to the Gods. I toasted to those called for the ritual, as well as my patrons. The second toast was to the ancestors. As I mentioned in my Samhain essay, I feel a strong sense of disconnect to my own ancestors. At Samhain, I tried to connect to my ancestors with no result. Still feeling somewhat rejected I found myself feeling that it was more apropriate for me to speak in acknowledgement of those who have been forgotten, whose names have been erased from history, and who have no one left to remember them. This I feel was much better recieved. The third round was oaths and boasts. Oaths that we are to keep for the upcoming year, boasts of accomplishments for the past year. My great boast was that I had passed the two-year mark at my job, longer than I had ever worked at a single job. I also made here what I consider to be my Dedicant's Oath. My statement of "Hey, I'm here and I dedicate myself to this path." a member of our Grove had made a Ring Of Troth for the evening which was passed around to further solemnify oaths as the speaker felt appropriate. It was emphasized that an oath on the Ring Of Troth was held to a much higher degree of gravity, and to choose one's words and promised actions carefuly. Understanding this, and understanding also that I will not know fully what I am getting into until I actually begin it, I felt compelled to take hold of the ring and make an oath to cntinue my work on the Dedicant's Program and afterwards to proceed to the clergy study program (though, I was mindfull to not specify a period of time or a deadline for myself and simply promised that I would do my best to work towards this ends)

After this third round, we adjourned to Revels, returning later to read the oracle, partake of the Waters Of Life and thank the deities for their blessings. Most people left after this, but some stayed the night, sitting outside around the fire, or staying inside the house, talking watching movies and generally spending time together as community. With the celebration of Yule, I felt like I had regained something I was missing at Samhain. Though I stil didn't feel an ancestral connection, I was no longer feeling cut off.
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Samhain

Its been more difficult writing about smahain than it has been about other High Days. How do you write about a fest to honor the ancestors when you feel no connection to the ancestors, and are not even close to your existing family?

Samhain has been a bit difficult for me. I am not very close to my family, and I know very little abut my ancestry other than names and where they came from. My family preserves no tradiations and little information about the past...in fact, there is a part of my mothers family where all information was cut off prior to one great-great-great grandmother due to a family scandal.

This particular Samhain was an especially difficult letdown, having followed such a powerful Mabon. I spent a great deal of the ritual feeling very empty and disconnected, and while I desperately wanted nothing more than to leave, I would not allow myself to do so.

Part of the ritual included a guided journey to the underworld to meet the ancestors and before we went, we were to call out the names of those we wished to meet on the other side. Since i have an interest in attempting to break the mystery of the family scandal and learn about those that came before this person, it seemed appropriate to call her name...Maria Caracappa. I did so, we began our descent...and I felt nothing. There was no leaving this place for me. Many others spoke so certainly of feeling the presence of their ancestors...i felt alone and abandoned.

For me, the strongest part of the evening...what stood out clearer than anyhitng was the part where Will read the omen. One of the runes puled was the blank rune. Will's interpretation of this was simply "The ancestors were never here." He did not mean this literally of course, but that's how it felt to me. Our purpose for the ritual was to seek guidance in whether we should be looking to old traditions for our learnings, creating our own traditions, or finding some blend of the two. Further interpreation of this rune was that it was not for the ancestors to say, but for us to discover.

Feeling cut off from the past presents a challenge when taking part in a religion that places such importance on ancestors. Even in knowing that we are talking about more than our literal direct ancestors, it is difficult t listen to people who can tell stories of great grandparents and generations-old family tradiations. On one hand I am not bound to any such obligation..on the other, I have no connection. How this will continue to color my work within ADF remains to be seen.
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Mabon/ Fall Equinox

Like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, the Autumn Equinox is a myth. That is...as people often think of the Autumn Equinox- a 24 hour time period where the time of daylight and time of dark are exactly equal.

Thus started the Cedarlight Mabon rite with these words spoke by Will Pearson, one of our Grove's founders. perhaps not the exact words, as I am writing this looking back 5 months, but very close. And definitely the exact idea.

It may have been 5 months ago that this ritual took place, but I remember it well. Perhaps better than others. it was the first to take place after I joined the Grove, and joined ADF. I signed the Book Of CedarLight. It was the first ritual to take place after I had come forth with my descision to complete the Dedicant's Program and then move onto the Clergy Study Program. It was also hot on the heels of a very upsetting instance where someone tried to tell me that I was working on a completely incorrect path and that I should not be part of ADF, suggesting that I look at two paths that I had already examined and rejected.

I also remember it well because this was a rather unusual ritual. It was completely unplanned. Up until the last minute, various people were talking about going to an Indian puja instead of holding a ritua at the Grove. A few days before, Will suggested on the forum in a most roundabout way that we not pre-write the ritual, we knew the structure well enough. We would be focusing on balance, change and how we reacted and moved with it.

So it was unscripted. It was unplanned. 20 minutes before we started, we had no idea who we were calling to. A small group of us huddled together and hashed it out in less than 5 minutes. We were praying for balance in our lives, our Lord and Lady would be Apollo and Artemis; Hecate would be our gatekeeper. Artemis and Apollo are my patrons, I would call them in.

We gathered the natives and assembled in our sanctuary...Will started out with his speech of myth...the myth of Santa Claus was then refuted by a guest in attendance: she had with her a business card from Santa Claus. It was passed around the circle and decided that if Santa Claus had a business card, he must be real. We left the silliness and continued with a comfortable conversation about seeking balance in our lives, many of us agreeing that balance is not a static thing to attain and hold onto, but a continous act or a target to pursue. A few members started drumming softy and we slipped into the rite, a blend of ritual and spontenaity, a sort of balance in and of itself. The Lord and Lady graced us with their presence, the Gatekeeper smoothed the ways. Darkness fell and we continued on in candle and fire light. It was unplanned and unrehearsed...it was honest and heartfelt.

From gathering in the circle to dismissal to Revels, we ran two hours, almost to the minute. Some argue that we took too long, there was too much speech or inappropriate offerings. Everyone has their own thoughts. Myself, I would not have changed a moment of the evening. Since finding the Grove, I have been sure that I've been moving in the right direction, and I have had some profound experiences. I have been certain from within- though not without my sources of contention to overcome- but it is a completely different thing to have that inner certainty affirmed from without.

Mabon is commonly thought of as a festival of harvest....for this year, we cast aside the tradition of harvest celebration for a meditation on the concept and seeking of balance in our lives. I found myself right where I needed to be at the time, in a safe place between worlds where I could see the long road that stretched out ahead of me, mental compass pointing straight ahead, the winds blowing lightly with me..

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