Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Why is the great rite, I asked myself, the chalice and the blade and not the cauldron and the wand? For truly the ecstasy of sex is alike to the fervent stirring of a wand in a cauldron and not at all like the stabbing of a knife into a cup. And now, years later, I collect an answer.

For like the maiden bleeds afore she can create life, so must ritual sacrifice let blood to make its will manifest.

The menstrual current underlies magic and this is why the price is blood. Because the woman must bleed before she can conceive.

For Eve the cost was blood.
For Cain the cost was blood.
Sarah gave her pagan idols blood.
Delilah gave Dagon blood.

And to this day, the witch knows the prices is blood. The original meaning of sacrifice is blood intrinsic to the menstrual current.

By Sara Star


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salem witch trial

Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853.

Sometimes European witches get defensive of their traditional craft. While there are always welcoming people, there are also those that are more closeted and want to keep their culture to themselves. Some still comment that we left their country and created a new one and we don’t need to keep coming back and taking all that is good culturally from them and mutating it. Some don’t understand why many American append a hereditary country to our self identification: Irish American, African American, etc. In most cases our mothers and grandmothers were born in America and so why the obsession with the old country? I can express for myself that Ireland is a mystical homeland in addition to being a land of my ancestors. In the melting pot that is America, most people like to hold onto their original roots and preserve cultural traditions of their immigrant or native ancestors. It is part of the American culture to treasure the old country culture whilst still assimilating the language and culture of the states.

However, when seeking traditional witchcraft, Americans do not have to go back to an old country or bastardize Native American practices either. There are American forms of traditional witchcraft that are every bit as rich as the European ones. In addition, the American traditions have a more homey and American feel. They are built around the land, the dominant religions and the feeder old county cultures of the families who have dwelt in this country so long that no one in their family speaks the old language of their “home” country.

I have been enjoying an excellent book The Silver Bullet and other American Witch Stories that imparts the lore of the Appalachian witch tradition. The stories come complete with rituals to become a witch, to create a witch ball, and to attain a familiar. Long before Gardner came out and charged Buckland with spreading the word when he was sent to America, there were witchcraft traditions already. I learned a lot about these various traditions by reading Her Hidden Children by Chas Clifton. Chas writes about both Wiccan, neo-pagan, and traditional witchcraft and pagan practices in America before and after Gardner/Buckland. Clifton makes the case that much of contemporary popular witchcraft and neo-paganism has been influenced heavily by a rather particularly american activist spirit.

Her Hidden Children had a strong affect on my path, and since reading it I have sought out sources on American traditional witchcraft–especially those tied to the American West since that is where I am from. Hopefully I will get time to share my findings as I get a more solid idea of them here.

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The new pagan movement has been going long enough now that it began needing its own line of theology. The discipline of theology is part of the credibility of a religion and something to bring to the table at interfaith gatherings and discussions. Recently pagans have been taking a greater part in the ecumenical scene as well as the political scene to powerful effect. There are two elected pagan officials in the United States (both ran publicly as pagans in their respective races and each is from a different political party).  And I think we all remember the role Selena Fox and Circle Sanctuary Coven played in helping Wiccan veterans gain the right to pentacles on their graves. Over the last few years there was seemingly a vacant spot for much pagan theology, but pagans have stepped up to the plate and their are a lot of great books out there.

Frankly, theology is heavy stuff, and I can’t say I have read everything out there. But, I have read four very good books on specialized topics in the pagan sphere: polytheism, henotheism, pagan ethics, and magic over psychology.

A World Full of Gods by Michael Greer

This is pure theology on the subject of polytheism. This is an unapologetic appraisal of the philosophical arguments for athiesm and monotheism and the way in which polytheism trumps the issues between each an arises a viable option. Much of this book is focused on atheism and classical monotheism and so sometimes can feel a little off topic for a polytheist, but a survey of those theologies is necessary to create the space for a new polytheology. Greer is a druid, but little of his discussion focuses on anything celtic. More often than not, Hinduism as the large scale polytheist body holds the most powerful examples and has a greater history of theology for him to draw on. Believe me, it works and aids in crediting the pagan movement as what we who practice it to know it to be: a better option for living today and on this planet.

Four out of Five stars!

Devoted to You Edited by Judy Harrow

One of the ways of being polytheist, is henotheism. Henotheism is worshipping specifically one god among many. All the pagan’s focus is on that one god or goddess. This book, although it is subtitled as a Wiccan publication, actually has essays relevant to Egyptian, Celtic, Reclaiming and Greek pagan practices. While all four essays are excellent, for myself, the Essay by Alexei Kondretiv on Brigit was most excellent and relevant to my life. I am not a henotheist, I, like most pagans today, worship different gods and goddesses at different times based on the season, need, or holiday. However, henotheism is a valid and fascinating path, and understanding more about it, will help pagans understand each other.

Five stars, something for everyone!

The Other Side of Virtue Brenden Myers

There are several ethics books out there today for pagans. Myers breaks from the standard harm none rhetoric and examines an Aristotelian virtue based ethical system. Couched in classical polytheist history, virtue ethics is a great lens to focus on what the myths and legends can guide us through life choices and a code of honor. The strange part of the virtue ethics is they seem to be gendered and Myers does not spend very much time examining the female aspect or reconciling the dichotimy of a gendered virtues system. Don’t get me wrong he does address it, but I felt like I needed more, being a female reader.

Four out of Five Stars

UnderWorld Initiation by RJ Stewart

This classic out of print book is needed more today than ever. RJ Stewart takes on the emasculation of magic from psychology head on. He explains why magic falls beyond the reach of psychology and urges magicians to look deeper than the popular discipline to find enlightenment. Stewart examines the symbols in English folk songs to fish out an authentic magical tradition. He merges the trees of initiation together with the Qubala Tree of Life and makes his own corrections to the system to lead the magician on a shamanic path to underworld initiation. This book is very heavy. Often the words although plainer language than some ceremonial jargon were still over my head. I needed a dictionary on hand to expand my vocabulary. Don’t read this book while you are distracted, the meaty stuff takes quiet and concentration to absorb. I suspect I will need multiple readings of this book. However, I think that the struggle is worth it. This book delivers.

Four out of Five stars.

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Pagan values

Pagan Values June '09

Pagan Values June '09

Many of my friends in the blogosphere are taking this blog prompt to describe the general or lack of general unity in pagan values.

However, I want to take this opportunity to describe my pagan values.

As a pagan, I value diversity. I respect gods that are of different races, cultures, genders and in turn I value people and animals and plants of the world.

I value creation, that includes the earth, the universe, art, music, dance, crafts and cooking. I value the female and male principles of creation. And in that I value the right to choose when and whether one will create.

A major pagan value of mine, is freedom of the practice of religion and the freedom of criticism of religion. I am completely free to criticize other religions as well as my own. I believe we should be free to practice our religions, but that perhaps some need internal reform. Which leads into another pagan value I hold dear: freedom of speech.

The most important value I have as a pagan is to take responsibility for my own actions, but not for everything that ever happens to me. Some things are tragedy, they come from chaos, from the gods, from nature. It is not punishment for my personal deeds if a tragedy befalls me, unless I can point directly back to a specific action I took to cause this.

Many pagans believe in the threefold return or karma, I don’t. I believe that nature is chaotic and has a sort of order, I believe that we are all a part of nature and that we can each individually create a small amount of order with our free will, but that ultimately over it all is a chaos. A chaos of thousands of gods, millions of spirits, billions of people, hundreds and thousands of billions of animals and plants, billions of billions of stars and heavenly bodies.

On of my pagan values that I hold dear is practice. I believe that as a pagan I should practice my religion/spirituality. I shouldn’t let it fall wayside for “more important things”, but that it should be one of my first priorities.

What are your personal pagan values? I assume naturally, that they are different than mine 🙂

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