Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Resting in Holy Arms.

I started this post recounting how I have been struggling. I started talking about how the depressive elements of my present mixed episode was making me view myself. Then the post randomly deleted itself and I had to start over again. While this may be my pointing at synchronicity and saying that the even is driven by the gods when it is not, I'm fairly sure it was.

Earlier today, I was somewhere between a panic attack and just melting down into an utter sobbing mess. After taking some much needed medication, I laid down and attempted to nap. I haven't been sleeping well. Thus, taking the opportunity to sleep a little bit when I have it was only practical and I honestly was exhausted from it all.

As I laid there on the bed, I felt a bitter chill wash over me. Then I felt warmth, like someone wrapped a furred blanket around me with the fuzzy side against my skin. Though I was laying on the bed with a flannel sheet over me and I was clearly alone, I felt someone lift me up and then position me so that my head rested in their lap. A hand settled on my head and smoothed down my hair. It was immensely soothing and I felt viscerally painful guilt for it.

That was when World-Breaker spoke to me. "Do not fight it. You are sick. You need aid. Who am I to deny you what you need when you had lived so long with out it? Freyr would not forgive me if I did," he said with a bit of wry humor at the end. As he held me, he said, "Let yourself rest. Let yourself be comforted. No one will punish you for this."

I almost started crying. I was so afraid that I was going to be hurt for being sick. I was so afraid that I was going to lose everything good in my life because I was sick enough that I couldn't do everything I felt I had to. His arms tightened around me and he said, "I will protect you. We will protect you. You are safe here." That was when the wash of calm hit me. I was able to rest a bit then.

Superstition and Religion (Part 1)

Superstition and religion have a symbiotic and complementary relationship within the context of modern American Witchcraft. There are many practices that can be upheld as similar between religion and superstition. The act of lighting a candle which one has dedicated for a specific intent is a fine example. How this act is viewed within the social setting determines if it is stated to be a superstitious or a religious one. Prior to the rise of modern American Witchcraft, the only setting where it would be viewed as a religious action is within a Christian church (and this would vary according to the denomination of Christianity espoused). The lighting and blowing out of the birthday cake candle(s) would be categorically a superstitious act, perhaps some vestige of an ancient rite within the cultural memory of the people.

The birthday cake’s wishing candle, and other superstitions within the United States (primarily) were frequently decried as things that the irrational mani would believe in. Following the rise of the Industrial Revolution and the development of a more urban cultural identity within the United States, many of the folk practices and beliefs began to be held in contempt. As such, they were referred to as superstitions for the sake of denigrating their prominence in the culture and to make room for a new set of beliefs. As such, things such as the belief in ghosts and the minor vulgar rituals, such as turning the statue of St. Anthony to face the wall until a lost item is found, went underground and disappeared from the surface of the cultural identity of the United States. The main reason for this happening was that people did not want to appear out dated or foolish in the eyes of their peers.

Even now, one will find that an openly professed belief in ghosts (for example) is generally scorned and mocked by the majority. Rephrase this belief into the context of the colloquialii version of Christianity that’s ubiquitous and you find it is a belief in angels rather then ghosts, which is now more of a religious then superstitious belief. In the early 1960s, modern Witchcraft was introduced to the United States by Raymond Buckland. Initially, he disseminated information via word of mouth. At roughly the same time, Zusanna Budapest (more commonly known as Z. Budapest) began to disseminate information via word of mouth.

In roughly ten years, both of these individuals burst onto the cultural scene. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft quickly became the cornerstone of the voluminous body of work surrounding modern American Witchcraft. Z. Budapest and her coven rocketed to something akin to stardom with their involvement in the Feminism movement. It was within the context of Witchcraft that the folk practices that had been decried as superstition began to take on a more legitimate appearance. (Russell, p.172) As the glamour and celebrity status of these and other Witch authors grew, the concept of Witchcraft as a religion grew.

Witchcraft as a religion, rather then a set of superstitions, provided a place where one could openly express the suppressed elements of the cultural identity of the United States. For this reason, it flourished and multiple elements from various sub-cultures began to become present as well. As a result, many different Traditionsiii were established and other occult practices and belief systems began to become apparent. Public works discussing practices such as Louisiana Voodoo and folk practices began to be produced targeted for the common man rather then academia. This broad spectrum of information quickly set the stage for Witchcraft to receive a minor degree of approval in the United States as a religion. Aside from the readily available information, individuals who had been engaged in covert practice of these marginalized belief systems and practices found it a safer environment to publicly express themselves on these topics.

If one looks at the seminal works of the entire modern Witchcraft movement, one finds that these early texts were of an academic tone. Many of the early modern Witchcraft authors worked to retain the apparent authenticity that came with academia. Using Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft as a representative of these early texts, one finds the book is organized much like a work book. The chapters are organized into a combination of lessons and exercises. In Buckland’s work, it is apparent that he drew a great deal of material from folk practices that he found about him, just as Gerald Gardner and others before him in England had.

These folk practices, such as not walking under a ladder, were part of the common knowledge of earlier generations and the efforts of authors such as Buckland to place them into a religious context served to legitimize the remaining inclinations towards ‘superstition’ present for many people. Within academia, much of this work was met with great excitement. These modern Witchcraft authors were drawing from anthropological studies and similar academic endeavors to recreate ancient beliefs upon the basis of vestigial elements of practices that linger in the superstitions and folk lore of the region. When these authors presented apparent evidence supporting the theories they referenced in their works, this strengthened the legitimacy of their claims in the eye of the common man.

As legitimacy was acquired from the academic connection, the number of adherents to the modern Witchcraft movement began to rise significantly. From this rise came a development of communication between many of the different groups. As a result, the community of modern Witchcraft began to diversify. With a boost in the number of people looking at the issues and bringing their unique perspectives to the discussion, the distinguishing line between superstition and religion within modern Witchcraft began to blur to some extent.

Given the highly individualistic nature and cellular organization of modern Witchcraft, as well as the lack of any formal hierarchy structure, a great deal of the question determining the difference between superstition and religion became quite difficult to ascertain. It quickly became apparent in the period of time between the 1970s and the 1980s that the practices of a single Witch were of equal validity as those of an entire Tradition. From this point, there was found not only a great deal of diversification but also the resurgence of superstition within the context of modern Witchcraft in the United States.

Among the ways that superstition and religion can be distinguished is the way the rituals and associated behaviors are explained. Superstition often gives little, if any, explanation for why the action is carried out. Generally, a superstitious action is reactionary to a situation and has little connection to the event it is used as a reaction to or the intended result. With a religious act, the explanation may seem insubstantial but there is an explanation which can be placed into the context of the cosmology and theology of the given religion. Sometimes a superstitious act can be confused with a religious one due to ritualism. Ritualism is an over emphasis upon a series of actions and the elements that form a ritual rather then the objective of the ritual. Ritualism can be described as a subset of superstition or an intermediate point between these two concepts which are often upheld as opposites.

Ritualism and superstition within modern Witchcraft became increasingly prevalent due to a sudden influx of Seekers and Neophytes into the subculture. These individuals, eager to discuss and explore their newfound belief system reached out to each other thru the different means of communication available to them. Volumes of information were made available during the publishing boom that occurred at the same time the Internet started to become a cultural force. The sudden proliferation of information about Witchcraft resulted in an increased awareness of this movement by the culture at large, as seen by the rise of more mainstream references to Witchcraft, generally in a negative sense as proscribed by the old cultural stereotypes which continued to echo in the more urbane modern society that Witchcraft was reemerging into.

This created a degree of tension between the established practitioners and individuals who were seeking to learn about modern Witchcraft. As a result, many of the Witches who had sufficient information to adequately teach others in the more ‘traditional’ method of taking a Seeker into the coven and educating them personally refused to do so. Fears of legal reprisal and persecution forced these Witches to become extremely selective of whom they taught. Unfortunately, the volume of people seeking information greatly outstripped the number of teachers who were made available.

As a direct result of this, the Seekers were looking at the various published and publicly shared information available and attempting to educate themselves. At this point in time, ritualism became increasingly apparent. Ritualism was an influence upon the introductory phase of the development of modern Witchcraft in America but it was largely confined to the Neophyte Witches of the covens. With the population boom of Seekers and Neophytes, many failed to understand the language of modern Witchcraft and how elements of Witchcraft such as magic worked in the worldview of the belief system.

With the increased ability for Witches to network and communicate with each other, there came a rapid dissemination of poorly understood ideas and poorly communicated concepts. This ushered in a new development within the relationship between the religion of modern Witchcraft and the superstitions surrounding it. Superstition had additionally come to incorporate the flawed understandings of the basic concepts of modern Witchcraft. A fine example of this is the supposed animated aspects of a Tarot deck. A Tarot deck is a pack of 72 illustrated cards used for the card game Triumphs and also as a divination tool. Within the community of modern Witches and occultists, Tarot decks are primarily used as divination tools. Many of the second generation Witches explain the Tarot deck’s effectiveness as a divination tool in terms of the deck’s personality and moods, ascribing to the cards a semi-sentient quality. In concurrence with this have arisen many minor rituals to appease the semi-sentient pack of cards and assure a favorable result in working with them. Unfavorable or confusing readings are ascribed to a displeased Tarot deck rather then potential difficulties upon the part of the diviner.

The idea that inanimate objects can have human personality qualities is one that perpetuates fairly widely across the pagan community online. It is the conflating of animism with superstition that results in the premise that a pack of cards is angry with a person for not using them more frequently and this is why they are giving an unfavorable result. Animism, the premise that all things that exist are endowed with a spirit of some sort, is an ancient belief system that has seen some resurgence in the West. It is confused with superstition that says that the Tarot deck that is stored on a low shelf is acquiring unfavorable aspects versus the one stored on a higher shelf. As a result, the person with the Tarot deck will say that the deck's spirit is angered with them for its placement on the shelf when in actuality the reader is coming to the session with their internal compass for reading set to anticipate unfavorable results due to where it is sitting when they come to collect it for use.

Disentangling superstition and animism is part of the process of freeing modern pagan practitioners from the paradigm of fear that tends to plague them. While many religions are build upon a basis of fear, which feeds into superstition, growth within faith comes from resolving the fears and acquiring knowledge of the deeper truths of the religion in question. An enormous mystic tradition can be found in faiths  all around the world that seeks to divorce superstition from belief. When superstition is carefully excised from faith practices and the associated thought forms of a given religion, the practitioner moves into a deeper, more intimate and more deliberate relationship with their faith.

In part two, I will cover additional material regarding the interplay between superstition and modern pagan belief systems.


i I am using the term ‘man’ in the sense of referring to all of humanity in this sentence. I will be using this convention for the sake of clarity and convenience.

ii‘Colloquial Christianity’ is the vulgar form of Christianity as found in the mainstream culture of the United States. This secular form of Christianity is divorced of any theological teachings and holds only a few rudimentary vestiges of the religion it has bastardized. Among them being the celebration of the nativity of Jesus, the inclination against working on Sunday, and the pink and plastic amalgamation of the solemnity and celebratory aspects of Easter. Colloquial Christianity lacks any but the barest remote resemblance to the faith system it has grievously abused and repackaged into a commercial product. In light of this, however, one must recognize that colloquial Christianity is pervasive and often argued by many to be the state religion of the United States. It does have a dramatic impact upon the culture and deserves to be recognized as the culture shaping force it is.

iii The term ‘Tradition’ is used within the Witchcraft community and the Neo-pagan community as an alternative for the word ‘sect.’

Originally Published 2012 on Helium under the pen name Deb M.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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Sometimes I struggle with proper self-discipline. This makes it hard for me to do things like write and keep up with my daily devotional activities. Then I become despondent and sad because I feel like I am failing at said things. At which point my self-discipline becomes hindered by an enormous sense of 'I'm doing it all wrong anyways. Why should I bother, I'll just screw it up.' It makes pretty much everything hard.

As we are moving into the colder, darker time of year, I find that my brain chemistry becomes one of my principle sources of frustration in making changes I need to do. I am working on adjusting the various things in my life that feel like they're out of control. My dear Beloved husband is helping me. This reassures me enormously. At the same time, the gods have started to step up and provide guidance as well. As a result, it is no longer just me pitting my will against my illness and the challenges of my disability.

I am deeply thankful for this. Things that most people would shrug off as odd coincidence, I recognize as the hands of the gods who love me at play in the situation. I don't know how things are going to go proceeding forward. I am somewhat nervous. Still, I will do my best to walk forward with my head held high and in confidence. I know that if I falter, I will have someone urging me forward and someone else taking hold of my trembling hand to pull me through the threshold.

I know that most of the stories about mystics point to them having this incredible sense of self discipline. They are painted as superhuman in these qualities. I am not. So, when someone else imposes some much needed structure, I do better in all places. It makes things bewildering, because I was taught as a child that I needed to discipline and master myself in all things. Still, my confusion is incidental and has little effect on my movement forward. It may slow me a pace, but I will still proceed.

And this is what is needed. To say I am grateful is an inaccurate way to phrase it but I simply can not think of the correct words for it. Please bear with me. There may be some changes coming over the next little while.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Witchcraft Basics - Wiccan history.

Ancient Myths & Modern Man
Unlike other religions around the world, Wicca* has a very 'open source' relationship with mythology and ancient wisdom. As a result, different Traditions** have developed relying upon various aspects of our collective cultural heritage. While the various Traditions based in familial practices do exist, it is the ones that draw upon ancient cultures that we are addressing today. Among the most common Traditions available for one to follow, Celtic Wicca is among the most popular.

We are going to examine the process of interpreting and applying ancient mythology to modern life within the context of this Tradition. The process that we use will be applicable for other Traditions based in different mythologies. It is vital to remember that the differences between modern and ancient man are quite large. Illness, for example, was often interpreted as the anger of the Gods or a supernatural attack of some sort. This does not indicate that ancient man's wisdom is no longer useful for modern man, only that it must first be considered in context. It is contextual analysis that takes a myth from a place of mere curiosity to its true role as an educational tool.

The value of myth to ancient man is equivalent to the value of education to modern man because myth was part of the method by which ancient man passed down knowledge. Carefully couched within language specific to the society that birthed the mythology that is to be examined, one can find deep theological wisdom and valuable insight into the human condition regardless of time or socio-economic status. It is unfortunate that the word myth has become synonymous with falsehood. Wicca, in many ways, seeks to rectify this within its various Traditions by attempting to decode the wisdom hidden within the myths referenced.

To understand Celtic mythology, one must first have a working understanding of ancient Celtic society. The ancient Celts were initially a nomadic people that came across the Russian Steppes prior to the advancement of the Huns. Some archaeologists and anthropologists theorize that the pressure of the Huns was what spurred the migration of the Celts into Europe. Given what can be determined of the economic pressures and the challenges of scarce resources within that region, it is a logical theory. When the Celts entered into the fertile regions of Europe, they intermarried with the native peoples and the previous wave of invaders, the Aryans.

The society of the ancient Celts was very different from the more familiar ancient Greeks or Romans. Women had greater freedoms compared to their contemporaries, frequently being found to hold their own property and voice in affairs of state. While their apparent equality was greater then that of the Greek or Roman women, they still were found to have curtailed freedoms compared to men. Ancient Celtic women, like the ancient Germanic women, did upon occasion ride into battle or on the hunt. It is believed that these women were the origins of the Greek myth of the Amazons.

Like their contemporaries, the ancient Celts did practice slavery. It is inconclusive if this was strictly upon the basis of spoils of war or if there was an active slave trade element to their society. It is presumed that then ancient Celts, like the ancient Germanic tribes, had four social classes, not including slaves. These social classes were priestly, royal, warrior, and serf. The Druids of the ancient Celts are something a mystery. Much of the knowledge we have of them comes from the biased perspectives of the Romans and the later Christian clergy. The little that we do know is that they had a special status that in many ways put them apart from society much like the priestly caste of early Hinduism. It is unclear if the division between the four classes were as 'hard' as the divisions of early Hinduism or not.

Among the ancient Celts, it is difficult to determine what were the chief deities followed. It is apparent, however, that the God of the Animals (known variously as Herne, Cerrunnos, or Kernunno) was a figure of prominent worship. Also, the Goddess of the Horse (most famously known as Epona) was a popular figure of worship. It stands to reason that these two gods are among the oldest of the Celtic pantheon. They are found in various guises among the ancient regions inhabited by the Celts and mentioned by several of their contemporaries (the Greeks and Romans). Various local deities, which are most likely remnants of earlier faith practices of the conquered peoples, pepper the Celtic pantheon, making it difficult to assemble a definitive picture of what the whole of ancient Celtic worship was like.

Equally challenging is the recreation of the various ritual practices of the ancient Celts. It is with some difficulty that the written language of Ogham is translated from the various stelae and other carved objects found within Celtic archaeological sites. The lack of something akin to the Rosetta Stone serves to hinder much of the efforts to translate this ancient language. What can be established is that the Celts, like their Germanic contemporaries, buried their dead with grave goods. Individuals who were of the higher social strata were often buried with cherished possessions, slain horses, and, at times, slain slaves. It is purpose, presumably, for these grave goods to serve the dead in some afterlife. There also appears to have been some evidence of ancestor/hero worship, much like the ancient Greeks and Etruscians.

A practice that has echoes in today's folk practices in places like Ireland is the veneration of holy wells and similar sites. The survival of practices like the veneration of holy wells suggests that these rituals were deeply entrenched in the cultural consciousness prior to the arrival of Christianity. It is unclear if these are practices that the Celts acquired when they intermarried with the native people of the regions or if they are practices that they brought with them. In equal obscurity is the origins of the now famous fire festivals of Imboleg, Beltaine, Lughnassad, and Samhain. There are practices, however, that are described by the contemporaries of the ancient Celts that serve to illuminate at least a portion of their practices. The practice of divination, ritual taboos, and the importance of oaths are described in some detail by both Roman and ancient Greek sources.

In the light of all these things, it becomes difficult to see how the myths of this mysterious people can be applied to the life of a person living over two thousand years later. This is where we look at the major details that we do know about ancient Celtic society.
  • Oaths are taken seriously and were upheld as a matter of honor.
  • Nature is venerated and rituals to invoke the blessing of natural spirits/local Gods were common.
  • Equality between the genders.
  • Courage in the face of battle or conflict is praised.
  • Ritual taboos were observed.
  • Curses and 'black' magic were potent weapons within a magically skilled Celt's hands (most frequently women or Druids).
It is this information that provides the basis from which we examine the mythology of the ancient Celts. If we were to be examining the ancient Greeks, we would need to establish the same essential facts to sketch a rough image of their cultural values. It is from these cultural values that the values reflected in the myths are established.
* Wicca is being used as a general term and is being considered interchangeable with witchcraft.

** Tradition is used to describe a sect of Wicca.

Originally Published via Helium in 2010 (approx.) This is part one of a small series of posts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Prayer in Words and Deed.

Prayer is generally understood to be of a single form. A verbal appeal to the Divine for aid or some sort of favor. It can move to also include other spiritual beings (I class saints among spiritual beings though they were at one time human.) and imploring these being to act as intermediaries on your behalf with the Divine. It is, in modern time, almost always a petitioner asking something from the Divine and they who represent the Divine. It is a curious thing that did not always be the case.

Many people object to the phrase that a person is 'working with the gods' because they see this as hubris on the part of the individual who is declaring they are in that type of relationship. The only form of relationship between humans and the Divine that is considered acceptable in Western society is that of the abasement of the petitioner and begging the Divine for favor. Much of this is couched in terms of how we must remember how little we are compared to the gods, how the gods exist beyond our capacity to understand, and that our very existence is an indulgence of some sort by the gods. It is something that does not promote the often claimed experience that the Divine loves us. Indeed, the very dynamic that this sets up is one of emotional and psychological abuse when we see it arise within human relationships.

It may seem that I am delving into this material when the title of this post is "prayer in words and deeds" and it is presumably the focus of my post this evening. Please humor me for just a moment longer and I will show you how all of this relates together. In antiquity, if we look at what record we have of the practices of prayer, we find that there are far more modes of prayer than verbal appeal. It ranges from the sacrifice of wealth to the dedication of buildings to the establishment of rites of celebration to the naming of children to the presentation of commissioned works in the Divine's honor. Could we possibly say that these practices are present in today's modern life of worship for the average person?

I don't think we can. These are not deeds that were done in secret. They were done in public view and the practices were accepted as part of how you were to engage in worship. You did not cry to the Divine with a list of demands. You approached them and engaged in a transaction of sorts, giving them something in order to receive something. Some people were clever and made their request, stating that the offering to be given was on contingent of the Divine answering their need. You approached the Divine with a sense of awe for the tremendous windfall of good fortune that came to you, offering some of that largess back to them as an expression of gratitude. You approached the Divine to demand that they cease harrying the ones you have an interest in, lest you refuse to give them something of substantial wealth. Or you approached them to ask it to cease and give that offering of substance as a bribe.

So many people look at the worship practices of our ancestors and they're regularly scandalized by it. Offering a live animal to a deity? What about what that animal means to the economy and the people? Human sacrifice? It must have been done out of pure savagery! I could go on, but these are two of the examples upheld the most with great horror and pearl clutching. If we take a moment to step back and view these thing in context, offering that live animal is no different than putting a good sized donation into the church's fund and offering something that your livelihood is tangled up in, if not dependent on. That can be money. It can be time. It can be your skills or services.

The bull that was sacrificed to the gods was not an exercise to inflict agony upon the creature to please the deity. (If you look into the history of animal sacrifice, this is actually the case on a really small subset of the incidents it has happened and even in those cases an effort is made to kill the animal in a humane fashion, or at least as humane as conditions will allow.) It is giving up something of substantial worth to the Divine, and for the support of their liasons upon this world. The bull that is sacrificed is not simply thrown on the midden heap. It is roasted and the meat served, in many cases, to the priesthood and the people present. All parts of it that are ritually permitted to be used are. Thus, the bull's hide may be tanned and fashioned into drums for rituals. The horns are turned into cups, bracelets, carved into items, or even musical horns. That which is ritually not to be handled by human hands is cast into the fire and turned wholly over to the gods.

Is there a cognate to this in our modern lives? Perhaps. I don't know enough about what people who have a lot in resources could do for this sort of thing. What I do know, however, that abasing yourself before Deity was not the only way to pray. Verbal prayer was not the only mode exercised by our ancestors. Why must we limit ourselves to formulaic prayers?Dedicating deeds to the Divine is a mode of prayer that has been done since antiquity. Composing new prayers in word and music (lest we forget the greatness of composers such as Hildegarde Von Bingen and others) is a valid mode of prayer with ancient roots as well.

Communicate with the Divine and the spiritual beings in your life. Do so by what ever means is most effective for you. In the end, that is what prayer is about. It is communication and companionship. The Divine's hand is always opened towards us. We need only reach out and grasp it.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Role of Myth and What It Does for Us.

Myth is a commonly misunderstood term. Just like the term 'fable,' the term myth has become associated with the concept of untruth and lies. This colloquial understanding fails to consider the role that myths serve in the continuation of cultural context elements, the instruction in social roles, and developing the personal concept of how one's life is supposed to unfurl. Just as culture is fluid and will change as time progresses, so too have myths. Their method of transmission has altered considerably. Also, the context where these stories are drawn from have shifted with the way the culture of the United States has developed over time.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines myth as a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. Renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, explained that myths served to help people in the past to understand the major questions about life and existence. Many people who study myths consider them to serve, in some part, as a route by which the recipient can build their comprehension of how the fundamentals of life unfolds. Campbell referred to this as the Hero's Journey.

This journey has many different manifestations depending upon the cultural context the myth is from. Within the American context, the hero's journey consists of a disturbance of the known and familiar environs, movement into unknown territory, confrontation with oppositional forces, triumph over the opposition, return to the place of origin and celebration of victory. This mythic architecture is difficult to identify in things such as the folktales that are found in the different regions of the United States due to the very diverse subcultures within the country. However, when you consider the larger, national scope body of myths, we find this pattern emerges.

Consider for a moment the mythos surrounding World War II. The commonly assumed mythic elements about this most egregious period of world history is that the United States was most undoubtedly all 'good' in their conduct. The movies and propaganda from the era perpetuate the image that the hero of this period was a white male between the ages of 20 and 25 in excellent physical health of a heterosexual orientation. Additionally, the hero is understood to have come from a close knit community, where he is of a protestant Christian background and possessed of a middle class upbringing.

The initiation of the war serves as the event that disturbs the hero and prompts him to action. The hero then moves into the theater of war. There he engages in dramatic combat with the enemy. The hero then defeats the enemy and both enacts vengeance for the event that sparked the war (the Pearl Harbor bombing) and rescues the oppressed. The hero then returns home to life a life of domestic bliss as defined as the American dream. Part of the success of this myth is that a significant amount of the myth's materials are drawn from actual events. Another part of the success of this myth is the way that it encourages the American listener to think positively about themselves, easily envisioning themselves as the hero of the myth.

When compared to the grisly and complicated facts of the war and life after World War II, the myth is clearly found to be overly simplistic. This myth, however, serves several very important functions. The myth arose during a time of crisis and there was a necessity for unity within the culture. Myths act to transmit important information about cultural identity and taboos through a society. The myth in this example, tells the listener that Americans are 'good' people who take up arms in defense of themselves and to right the wrongs of the world. It also tells them that people who engage in such action will be rewarded for it. Thirdly, the myth reinforces that the cultural norms of the era are upheld, including the biases against people of non-Caucasian descent.

Historical myths served a similar function. When considering the myth of Odysseus, we find that similar information can be conveyed with respect to what ancient Grecian heros (and thereby men) were expected to be like. The first thing apparent is that the hero of this myth is of an upper class background. This tells the listener that Greek men of importance must be born into the high social strata. It leads one to think that the higher their social standing, the greater their importance.  Odysseus is clever and clearly educated, which transmits that high status is placed on intelligence. His continual effort to return to his wife and son tells the listener that a Greek man is expected to honor their familial and social obligations. Many other messages, some far more subtle like the abuse of Odysseus when he is disguised as a beggar, come together to present a complex picture of what the social landscape of ancient Greece was at the time that this myth was produced.

With the advent of more complex communication methods, the adaptation of myths is much faster. Traditionally, a myth would develop different nuances over the course of generations as it was passed down orally. With the development of writing, myth became less fluid and themes persisted longer. It is from this that many elements such as religious dogma developed. At the beginning of the 21st century, we see a return of the more fluid mythic structures. Memes are transmitted faster and myth cycles move through more rapid fluctuations because of this.

Unique to modern mythology is the 'urban legend.' Urban legends are the immediate forerunner of internet memes. With the rise of the internet, urban legends propagate faster then ever. They serve both the role of a fable and a myth. Like fables, most urban legends serve as cautionary tales. Some of the most virulent urban legends and the most persistent urban legends share a common theme with the larger body of mythos that they exist in.  The popular anti-vaccination urban legend takes the cautionary warning that one should not vaccinate their children because it is comprised of dangerous components.

When we consider this 'mini-myth', we find that several things are being transmitted to the recipient. First, the listener is told that vaccination is dangerous. This is then followed by the message that past knowledge is insufficient. Additionally, the subtle message is given that the government, in most manifestations of this urban legend, is seeking to harm the populace. This urban legend fits into a larger mythic scheme that exists within the United States at the moment. The larger mythic scheme tells the audience that the government exists to oppress the citizenry. It exhorts the listeners to rely on smaller social entities and take a more isolationist, independent world view.

Urban legends, when considered within the mythic structure they contribute to, suddenly become parts of a more complex picture. They are no longer laughable random nonsense that are to be mocked as the words of the ignorant (which is another mythic structure that subtly influences social interactions). Instead, urban legends are revealed to be the working components of the linguistic machinery that shapes how culture develops. Through careful study of the prevalent urban legends and mythic structures in play, one can build an accurate anthropological portrait of the era that is being examined and project how the next era will unfold.

This is where the real value of myth shines through. Myth is more then the lens by which one might examine a culture. Studying myth and the ways that it unfolds allows for one to develop a predictive model for future social developments. Myth tells the people of a given culture what social norms they are expected to conform to. It also reinforces existing cultural structures by providing an ideological basis that is connected to past events.  

This was originally published 2007 on Helium, under the pen name Deb M.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Matters of Conscience.

While my notes regarding the schedule of what to post for each day says that today is the day for recommendations, I felt the need to address something a bit different. As of the present moment, the USA is in the middle of a particularly ugly presidential election season. There are things happening in my country that evoke a deep sense of shame, anger, and horror. Police violence, insitutionalized abuse of the population, the ravaging of the natural resources for the sake of a quick buck, and the endless litany of small horrible deeds that people commit upon their neighbors is inescapeable in the media. Some people have taken it upon themselves to rail about how this is a sign of the end times and encourage divisiveness with an almost cultish glee.

In times like this, it is easy to get caught up in the tide of fear. It seems like no matter where you turn, something awful is happening and each time it strikes it is closer to your home. In just the last week, in my region, someone was murdered sitting out on their back deck in a sleepy small town. It is not a place where we are somewhat programmed (sadly) to expect violence, like in the inner city ghettos. If I sat down and made a casual effort to sift out all the bad news that is getting spread around, my time would be wholly consumed and I would be especially depressed and anxious by the end of it all. In the media, there is an axiom 'if it bleeds, it leads' that managed to rule how our news is presented to us. The bloodshed need not be literal, as the salacious and offensive remarks made by the Republican candidate in the past have cast a good deal of lurid offensiveness upon the news today. You could say that such things are like spiritual bloodshed or perhaps the injury to a sense of common decency. (It's a whole kettle of fish that I simply can not begin to unpackage right now and really isn't part of my main point here.)

We are faced with a question when horrible things make themselves apparent before us. That question is do we express approval or disapproval. This then leads into the question of how to do it. Many gentle souls within the Filianic/Déanic community express their disapproval of the horrid things that lurch into view by turning away from them. They quietly shun that which does not promote their beliefs and make a concerted effort to not participate in such things. This is a valid option and, for many people, it is the best option for them. It helps them avoid contentious situations and accidentally incurring some measure of the spiritual miasma that comes with such things. For these people, and many others, such as the Amish and the Mennonites, the quiet act of not participating and refraining from being immersed in the horror is what is best for their conscience.

For some people, they are moved to action. The water protectors at Standing Rock is perhaps the most ready example I can give you. They gather at their site. They peaceably protest with songs, prayers, and nonviolence. It is an act of engaging those who would continue the horrors of what the media keeps showing us and resisting them, pushing back against the concerted forces that care nothing for the welfare of the world The Black Lives Matter movement is another example of this. These people engage their opposition with their voices, deeds, and any other means they have accessible to them to fight against the harm that these others are causing. The water protectors at Standing Rock are perhaps the most peaceable end of the spectrum of response. At the other end, you have the people in Syria who are fighting to keep their families and neighbors safe from harm by way of active violence against those who are actively seeking to kill them.

Deciding to withdraw from the unacceptable things happening or to actively resist them, you are still taking a stand against them. It is important, however, to remember that choosing to ignore the unacceptable horrors in the world is not really a good option. Yes, there are a vast many things that we can not process and we can not actively do anything concrete about. I implore you, however, whatever choice you make, be deliberate. And when they who promote the horrible things try to say that they have your support, make your rejection of their ideology clear. Because choosing to ignore the problem and act like 'everything is fine' is giving silent assent to these awful things happening.

Act in accord with your conscience and what you know to be just, ethical, and most conducive to a world where there are less horrors happening. It is difficult. It may lead to some hard conversations, possible loss of associates, or some discomfort, if not worse. Do not bend in the face of this. The world needs you to act to help heal the great gaping injuries within it. Even working to maintain your own clear conscience and knowing that you have done your best helps. Because, at the very least, we should do no harm.

May Dea bless you. May the gods you follow and those of your ancestors bless you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Godphone: Lesson Three - Filtering & Isolating Thoughts.

After too long of a wait, I am returning to the Godphone lessons. Way back in January of this year, I posted lesson one. It discussed the necessity for inner silence and gave some suggestions for how to cultivate that type of state. Lesson two was posted in July and discussed how to determine the authenticity of what you impressions are showing you. I realized as I reviewed my notes for this series of divination posts, I skipped over something important. That was how to filter out distractions and unrelated thoughts, as well as how to isolate the thoughts that focus upon what your divination session is attempting to accomplish.

Most any exercises you encounter regarding meditation encourage the practitioner to be mindful of their thoughts but not consumed by them. This is fairly close to what the ideal divination session that is based in mental discipline strives to achieve. As I mentioned back in lesson one, the 'catch and release' practice of thought tracking is a helpful way to monitor what passes through your mind during a divination session. The first step in any of the exercises is to become aware of your internal monologue. This internal monologue is not necessarily you speaking to yourself. It can range from thoughts framed as sentences to images to emotional impressions or physical sensation. The itch on the nose that distracts me from my meditating is as much a part of my internal monologue as the question if I fed my fish this morning.

When you become aware of the thoughts that run through your mind as you attempt to become quiet and listen closely, it can be overwhelming and difficult to pick out what is part of your internal communication with yourself and what is not. This is where filtering your thoughts becomes crucial. Over the course of multiple meditation sessions, learn to identify what types of thoughts pass through your mind. As they arise, identify them and assign them to their correct category. The itchy nose becomes a passing body awareness and is filed in the same mental box as your awareness of your clothes. The worries about if the bills got paid or the pets have been fed go into the anxiety box, for myself that is it may be different for you. Over time, you will find that as a thought presents itself, you can identify and mentally set it aside for later faster. This frees up our mental focus so that you can sift through these thoughts until you find the one that fits what you need.

Isolating a thought is not complicated. It is actually the next logical step after filtering your thoughts. once some skill has been acquired at filtering your thoughts, you can move from examining each thought alone to looking at the larger category they fit into. When you seek to isolate a category, your focus moves to disregarding the thoughts that are not part of what you are contemplating. If you are engaged in simple meditation with a focus, your isolating the thoughts pertaining to the focus and setting aside the others. In the case of divination via mental exercise, your focus is on communication with deities, the dead, or other spiritual entities. Godphone is focusing exclusively upon deities.

The thoughts that are attached to deities will be intrinsically different from your running inner monologue. It may be as though it is a voice is quietly speaking to you or that you have sensations that are unusual compared to the base line of your inner monologue. For some people, they will have impressions of a figure doing things. Others will be shown something like events happening. And yet other people will simply have strong emotional pulls towards something. In the case of someone having impressions that are of someone speaking to them or otherwise engaging their five senses, it is something happening within the mind's eye. There is, generally, no instances of a person appearing to the psychic as though they were physically present and visible to the eye.

The instances where deities, the dead, and other spiritual beings appear to the eye like any other person physically present are rare. There are more frequently signs given in the physical sense that only make sense in the context of the conversation being had with the spiritual being in question. Thus, a devotee of Freyja may be seeking reassurance that they are engaged in something that she approves of. While they may have the impression of Freyja smiling with approval, they're not likely to see a physical manifestation of her standing before them. Instead, it may be finding a falcon's feather laying on the sidewalk when the step out their front door in the morning.

With all divination, seeking out confirmation of what is learned is appropriate. Even as your discernment improves with experience, it is still good to regularly make sure that what you are perceiving is accurate.

Prayer Beads: Chaplet of the Janyati (Part 2)

In my last post, I talked a bit about the origins of this chaplet. I also pointed out the similarities between the chaplet and the rosary. The structure of the chaplet is smaller than that of a rosary. Where the five decade rosary most frequently used has sixty beads, the chaplet has thirty three. They are used in a similar fashion. Many of the prayers used for the rosary can be used for the chaplet.

The most basic prayers are:
  • Statement of faith (some call this the creed)
  • Glory to Dea
  • The Daughter Prayer
  • Our Mother
  • Hail Marya
  • Hail Holy Queen
The orthodox Filianic prayers can be found at A Chapel of Our Mother God.

My rendition of these prayers can be found starting on page 127 of my book Rose Petals: A Filianic Psalter. I will also present them below if you don't have a copy on hand or easily accessible to you. They are recited in a specific order that leads the person who is praying into a mild state of entrancement which facilitates a sense of connection with Dea and aids in our efforts to communicate with her. Words flow less from the head and more from the heart at this point.

When one is in the midst of learning to pray the rosary, it is good not to place expectations for high and mighty things to happen. In the beginnings of engaging in this form of discipline, it is good to allow yourself to make mistakes and focus upon learning the simple ritual of this style of prayer. As you move from being able to recite the prayers by rote and then find yourself able to engage in contemplation, then you may be able to start the practice of meditating upon various sacred mysteries. Until you have met these two milestones, it is sufficient that you put in an honest effort to learn the prayers and spend time mindfully in Dea's presence.

The first step in saying the rosary prayers or the chaplet using these basic prayers is to take the medallion in hand and declare your statement of faith. After this, you move to the next bead and recite the Glory to Dea and the Our Mother. If you are using a standard five decade rosary, there are three beads next. Upon these beads, recite the Hail Marya. After these three beads, there is the first Our Mother bead for the first decade. Here, you recite the Our Mother and declare the holy mystery you are meditating upon. With the chaplet, after the medallion (also known as the terminal) there is the single inviatory bead. Upon this bead, you would recite the Glory to Dea, the Our Mother, and Hail Marya.

The first Our Mother bead of the first group encountered, we then proceed to the Hail Marya beads. (On a Catholic Christian rosary, the Our Mother beads are known as the Paternoster beads and the Hail Marya beads as the Ave beads. Because the Paternoster beads derive their name from the Our Father prayer that is said upon them and the Ave beads derive their name from the Hail Mary prayers said upon them, which in Latin is Ave Maria.) For each of the ten beads in the decade, a Hail Marya is recited. On the chaplet, it would be upon each of the seven beads in the 'week.' When reaching the conclusion of the first grouping of beads, it is time to recite the Glory to Dea and the Daughter prayer. In many cases, these prayers are said holding the thread in the space between the Hail Marya beads and the Our Mother beads.

The next Mother bead starts the process of stating the Our Mother and then declare what mystery you are meditating on, if any. Proceed through the Hail beads in the same fashion as done for the first group. When you reach the end of the final group, you will recite the Glory to Dea and the Daughter prayer before moving to the medallion. On the medallion, you would pray the closing prayer. In most cases, if you are simply praying the basic rosary (be it upon the five decade rosary or the four week chaplet), that prayer would be Hail Holy Queen.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*    The Prayers *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  1. Statement of Faith
    I believe in Dea; the Mother Marya, the Daughter Anna, and Deam Mysterium, three who are One and have no equal. I believe that my soul was create in the beginning and that I turned from grace[1]. I believe that the virgin Daughter, born of the virgin Mother, lived, suffered unto death, and rose again by virtue of Her Mother's love. I believe that the Daughter shall save all souls and lead them into Heaven. I believe in Dea.

  2. Glory to Dea
    Glory to the Mother, the Daughter, and Deam Mysterium, three who are one. Glory be upon You, as it was in the beginning and shall be at the end of all worlds.

  3. Daughter Prayer
    Oh My Lady, forgive us our errors, rescue us from the harsh winds of werde. Lead all souls into Heaven, especially those in most need of Your mercy.

  4. Our Mother
    Our Mother, who is in Heaven, holy is Your name. Your realm come. Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our errors as we forgive those who err against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

  5. Hail Marya
    Hail Marya, full of grace, blessed are You and blessed is your holy Daughter Anna. Holy Marya, Mother-God, stay with us now and at the hour of our death.

  6. Hail Holy Queen
    Hail Holy Queen, Lady of Mercy. We call to You, poor lost children of Earth. To You we send our weeping, sighs, and laments in this world. Turn, most gracious Lady, Your eyes of mercy towards us and after our exile, show us into the garden of Your Mother's love. Most sweet, clement, and loving Anna, pray for us and make us worth of Your redemption.

  7. Closing Prayer
    Oh Marya, whose virgin Daughter has by her life, death, and resurrection delivered us from eternal death, grant us, we beg, that by meditating upon the mysteries of the most holy rosary that we may imitate what they contain nad obtain that which they promise through Anna, our Lady.
1. The turning from grace is a complex thing. In some Filianic/Déanic communities, it is something akin to the Christian doctrine of original sin. In others, it is an act in search of wisdom and greater knowledge. I ascribe to the second position. It is not a shameful thing as much as an act undertaken to learn more that had unforseen consequences. Errors made in ignorance and upon mistaken information are not shameful, which the turning from grace could be considered to be one. The exile that is referenced in many prayers to the Daughter is not one imposed by Dea but self-imposed by the soul that turned from grace.