- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Old Man at the Years End

Could any night be New Year's Eve?

Well, come to think of it it, the year could be defined as coming to an end upon any of the 365 days in its duration, right? The citing of New Years Eve as December 31st is actually an arbitrary choice and has no technical connection to the natural structure of the year. 

The ancient Romans changed the end and the beginning of the year several times in their history. JANVS, the Roman lord of thresholds, is the "Janu" in January, proclaiming it as the threshold of the year. Yet, when we remember that the "sept" in September is "seven", and the "oct" in October is "eight" and count backward, we see at another time they had the year beginning in March, around the Vernal Equinox. This later system didn't simply disappear a thousand years ago. As recently as the 1700's the year was being marked as beginning on March 25th, even being observed as such in the calendar of Britain's early American colonies. 

Nonetheless, once it's become entrenched by decades of conditioning, the arbitrary nature of our conception of New Years' becomes totally irrelevant to each of us. It's no small matter freeing ourselves from it. We are deeply conditioned to see the Yule and the end of December as the year's end, yet dynamically speaking, the symbolism would be compelling even if we were not already conditioned to see it that way. Yuletide, with its Solstice waiting at the midnight-pit of the year and New Years' Eve nearly a dozen days still afterward always wins-out. Somehow it just "makes sense" (makes sense: causes sensation: engenders the feeling...).

For all of our good intentions as serious Celtophiles,

I still believe it's just too difficult for most of us to recalibrate our internal calendars to make the Samhain-as-Celtic-New-Years truism (1.) actually "work" emotionally. In seeking to reconcile the overwhelmingly "authentic" feel which Yule and New-Years creates at the year's end with the similarly familiar "fit" of Samhain as the feast of the death of the agrarian year, some time ago I began to articulate a pattern of myth and image I believe we don't need to 'enforce' upon ourselves artificially. Rather, we can easily begin to discover that its componentry is already built-into us and, as Westerners, we've actually been celebrating it all along. 

If you simply give up trying to make Samhain represent a "beginning" and let the agrarian year end there, the grey twilight of November stands before us as the desolate Wasteland, the Wandering Place located between the cycles of life where eventually we will find our way from the exit of one year to the entrance of the next. We journey from November's gray into the blackness of December and arrive at the year's underworld, the very pit of the year, eventually to emerge on it's far side, with the spark of hope for the Sun's triumphant return.

- 1-
As we approach that darkest pit, that Midnight of the Year, the archetypal content our culture has invested in the season becomes phenomenally dense and mythic themes seem to condense out of the air all around us. It seems we find, quite palpably, that someone has arrived to walk with us; to guide us, protect us and perhaps to instruct us…

Silently, He arrives, striding up to our side 
and leads us into that dark, twelvefold corridor... 

As is the case with subtle forms of perception,

As the time draws near, his shadowy form returns to us from untold Yuletides gone by. We find that his robes continually shift and flicker through several different styles and his face is like an ever changing mask that cycles through a series of transformations, some familiar, some less so.

He is at first dark and robust and perhaps even somewhat threatening. Ruddy, almost black of face and momentarily we even glimpse a set of black horns sprouting out of his wild mop of curly black hair, he seems like half man, half beast. It seems that he is returning to this time and place as a judge or a punisher,(2.) at least, in some way, there's a cosmic score to be settled here.
He stands before us as the Challenger at the Threshold of the Mysteries to come...

As we thread our way through the next series of midnights, we see him change further. The black horns spread out to become more like the rack of a stag; he becomes an expression of the images of the old European horned lord of the underworld (3.) and, like his classical counterparts, we see him couched in the splendid wealth of the World Below. Glittering golden torcs dangle from his antlers and, squatting with legs crossed, he pours out a great Sack of Plenty from which cascades a torrent of gold and treasure.
Surely this is the great benefactor,  
the Giver of Gifts at the midnight of the year... 
We remember then how, two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar spoke of the Druids' teachings that
the sacred cycles start in the dark because we are 
all descended from Him…  
the Underworld Father.


At length, we see him clearly again, one last time as he passes out through the Gates of Janvs. Perhaps most clearly of all we see him now, robed all in white, he is bent, aged and feeble and we catch the glint of the scythe slung wearily over his shoulder as he hobbles through. Watching him intently, we almost don't notice the golden Child of Promise passing in as our Old Man of the Year closes out the sacred cycle on the last of the magical twelve nights (4.) that began on Modranecht, the Mothers Night, the night before the Solstice of Yule.
©2001 / 2010 Earrach / Sassafras

O' - Father Yule returns with presents
as the moment nears,

The Golden Child of Promise
in the darkest hour appears,

The Old Man totters out the great
Threshold between the Years!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
- comfort and joy,

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!
©1996/2000 Earrach

Remember the  REAL 

"REASON for the SEASON"...

 (( 23.4 degrees !! ))

Keep the YULE in YULETIDE...

and the SOL in SOLSTICE !

(1.) “Celtic New Year The common assumption that Samhain (All Saints/All Souls) was the Celtic New Year is completely unsupported by historical research. Per the British historian Ronald Hutton in his
Stations of the Sun (Oxford, 1997), there are no citations to be found of anyone referring to Samhain as the start of the Celtic New Year any earlier than the 18th century of the Common Era.
(2.) The Black Devil/Yuletide Punisher: Known in Germany and Austria as Krampus or Svarte Pietr, in Switzerland as Schmutzli, this switch-brandishing companion or servant of Santa / Father Christmas is well attested in the lore of the last two centuries (at least) and is still very popular across the Continent to this day.
(3.) Cernunnos, the “Horned-One” Now being reappraised by modern scholars, this ancient Gaulish-Celtic god is not really thought to be the lord of nature / lord of the woods as he is being described on the Internet or popular media on the Celts. It is now thought that he was their lord of the underworld, or the gates thereto. A god of liminality or in-betweens, Cernunnos was depicted in his most famous Romano-Celtic portrayals as emptying-out a huge sack of plenty, his antlers hung with golden torcs, the Celtic hallmarks of value and worthiness. On the pediment above him we see a rat, standard Roman sign signifying his association wiht the underworld. Another Dis Pater link is the sack of plenty he empties out recall Hades/Pluto's epithet "The Wealthy One"...
(4.) Twelve Nights? - If we go with the Venerable Bede's assertion (de Temporum Ratione, 8th century) that the old Yuletide began on the night before the night of the Winter Solstice, on a great celebration called by the Anglo Saxons "the Mothers Night", we can count twelve nights, starting with that feast and ending on our own New Years Eve. Count them! Are these the true "Twelve Nights" later adapted and moved by the Christians? This pattern certainly fits and feels more appropriate to the Yule in relation to our modern calendar, with night number twelve falling at New Years, does it not? - E.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I Believe at Yuletide

"Bah, humbug?"   
  Why... no, not at all....

I refuse to become embittered and cynical about Christmas and the Yule. Too much real joy reaches out from the season, offering its blessings to anyone who will let it in. No single religion truly lays claim to the happiness and healing this annual celebration brings; the very acknowledgment made by Christians admonishing the culture at large to "Keep the Christ in Christmas," serves as a reminder that Yuletide was once full of love and joy without the help of Christianity, and would still be so in a moment, if Christianity somehow magically vanished. 

If Jehovah finally gave in to the prayers of his cruel Witnesses and suddenly revoked the license for celebrating the Nativity of his "son" in late December: "Poof!" - Little would be changed. We would still be crazed with love and anxiety, shopping for gifts to exchange with those dear to us. We'd still deck the halls with boughs and wreaths of evergreen and sprigs of mistletoe. We'd still lovingly erect and decorate our Yule trees with lights and tinsel. We'd still find carols and holiday music to sing, ancient and new. Stories would still be conjured for our children of the Old Man of the Yule who brings presents after midnight at this, the midnight of the year. 

I believe it tragic that millions in our culture grow up deeply conflicted by the presence of this grand celebration, feeling that they are somehow shut out and denied its blessings due to the faith of their fathers as non-Christians. Tragic yes, and even more so because of how unnecessary it is to see it that way. You see, Christians, whether they'd admit it or not, celebrate two great festivals concurrently: Christmas and the Yuletide. Yuletide is simply everything that is left once you lift the Bethlehem/Holy Family motif out of Christmas... and that which is left happens to be quite a large part of what gives the season its appeal. 

I believe that "Christmas" should belong to the Christians and I rejoice with them in their happiness, except where that happiness provides a surer foundation for self-righteousness and contempt for those who do not see the world as they do. Yuletide? 
Yuletide belongs to everyone, regardless of their religion,  
and it's up to each one of us to reconcile our personal beliefs with the great realm of Yuletide possibilities to make the season not just a happy one but a holy one too. 

I bid you all a joyous and blessed Yuletide, however you celebrate it. I write these words in love and in the hope that little offense be taken by them, but rather, that someone, somewhere may be inspired to act upon them, thereby passing on this small light in the Dark of the Year. Our dreams we take with us to the grave, it is our deeds which survive us.
- Earrach © 2000, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks to The Mother

photo (c)2008 Earrach
and by all the Blessed of those therein;
by the wisdom, love and example of our Honored Ancestors,
and by the exalted Gods, Guides and Heroes of the Eternal Realms,
let us now, with an ancient hymn,
likely a thousand years old, one thousand years ago*,
give thanks to our First and Greatest Mother…

" E  A  R  T  H ,    
Divine Goddess,  Mother Nature,
who generatest all things and bringest forth anew,
the Sun which thou hast given to the nations;
guardian of sky and sea and of all gods and powers;
through thy power all Nature falls silent and then sinks in sleep.

And again thou bringest back the light and chasest away night,
and thou coverest us yet most securely with thy shades.
Thou dost contain chaos infinite, yea and wind and showers and storms.
Thou sendest them out when thou wilt and causest the sea to roar;
thou chasest away the Sun and arousest the storm.
Again, when thou wilt, thou sendest forth the joyous day
and givest the nourishment of Life with thy eternal surety.

And when the soul departs, to thee we return.
Thou art duly called the Great Mother of the Gods;
thou conquerest by thy divine name.
Thou art the source of the strength of nations and of gods,
without thee nothing can be brought to perfection or be born;
thou art great, Queen of the Gods.

Goddess ! I adore thee as divine; I call upon thy name;
be pleased to grant that which I ask thee,
so shall I give thanks to thee, Goddess, with due Faith... "

- * An ancient hymn to the Earth Mother of uncertain date, but possibly Roman and likely a thousand years older than our oldest surviving source: an Anglo Saxon book of herbal charms and medicine from the 11th Century C.E.,  MS. Harley 1585, FF. 12 V.-13 R., Translation from "Early English Magic and Medicine" by Dr. Charles Singer, Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. IV.

For a printable PDF of the above CLICK HERE...

And now,

MARIGOLD  by  Maddy Prior  
and the hymn,
HARVEST HOME  traditional.

When the marigold no longer blooms
The summer Sun has turned to gloom
See the forecast winter snow
See the evergreen that lonely grows
Move closer to the fire place
Neglect the garden
See the ground harden
At a ghostly pace

The golden summer sun is silver now
The fruit has fallen from the bough
The season moves to chestnut time
Toffee apples, treacle and mulled wine
Quilts and furs and woolens gay
You wrap around you
But the cold confounds you
On an autumn day

Stout and strong the walls of home and hearth
Curtains drawn against the draft
The rake has reaped, the blade has mown
Nights draw in to call the harvest home
The quiet of a hearth at rest
In peace abounded
By love surrounded
Here the home is blessed...

Come, ye thankful people, come,        (trad.)
Raise the song of Harvest Home
All be safely gathered in
Let the winter storms begin
Earth, our Mother doth provide
That our wants should be supplied
Come, ye thankful people, come
Raise the song of harvest home
Raise the song of harvest home.

Listen to Maddy Prior's rendition HERE.
IMO, the recording on that YouTube page is not her best arrangement;
I greatly prefer her first version on the Steeleye Span album "Sails of Silver"
( "Earth our Mother" insertion mine. Original hymn has "God our maker" -e.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Welcome to the Wasteland...

I.   “Celtic New Year” ( not. )

Contrary to just about everything you’ve read just about everywhere, there actually is a significant dearth of evidence to support the notion that the Celtic feast of Samhain (traditionally Nov. 1,) is the “beginning of the Celtic year”.

Yes, it's long been the assertion of Celtic Studies publications both academic and popular, yet the actual antiquity of the concept cannot be adequately verified.

In 1992 I had written an article, Samhain - Beginning or the End? for the very first edition of our grove’s newsletter suggesting this idea. The article was later published in ADF’s journal The Druids Progress (vol.11, pp12). More recently the British historian Ronald Hutton examined this “factoid” in his exhaustive study of the ritual calendar of the British isles,

"Stations of the Sun" (Oxford, 1996).
Hutton uses both the folk record and extensive researches into calendar references in the medieval literature to show that there is really little evidence that Samhain was considered the Celtic New Year any earlier than the late 1800's.
(Hutton, 1996: pp. 363)

II.   The Sacred Gap: 
The Year as a TORC
For all of our good intentions as serious Celtophiles, I still believe it's just too difficult for most of us to recalibrate our internal calendars to make the Samhain-as-Celtic-New-Years truism actually "work" emotionally. In seeking to reconcile the overwhelmingly "authentic" feel which Yule and New-Years creates at the year's end with the similarly familiar "fit" of Samhain as the feast of the death of the agrarian year, some time ago I began to articulate a pattern of myth and image which I believe we don't need to 'enforce' upon ourselves artificially. Rather, we can easily begin to discover that its componentry is already built-into us: as Westerners, we've actually been celebrating it all along...
If you simply give up trying to make Samhain represent a "beginning" and let the agrarian year end there, the grey twilight of November stands before us as the desolate Wasteland, the Wandering Place located between the cycles of life where eventually we will find our way from the exit of one year to the entrance of the next. We journey from November's dimming grey into the blackness of December and eventually, at the very pit of the year, we arrive at Yuletide, the great feasting-hall of our year's underworld, eventually then to emerge on it's far side, blessed with the spark of hope for the Sun's triumphant return.

It is my contention that although the year ends at Samhain (often translated as “Summer’s-End”), it does not begin there at the end of the old year, but rather, afterward, deep in the darkness of the year’s underworld after a period of wandering and repose, bathed in the Great Cauldron of Rebirth as the golden ring of the Sun slips for but awhile out of sight below those silver waters. That C-ring torc-circle, that lunula (crescent,) holding its fourth and secret unseen phase, that womb-tomb passage door, that horse-shoe-cove of trilithons, that entrance to the Caerdroia labyrinth; the seemingly incomplete cycle leaves a sacred doorway, a gap, a threshold; out through which passes the Old and in through which passes the New…

More on this theme at the Book of Sassafras:

III.   The NORNS     
Three Sisters in the Wasteland...

Perhaps one of the most ancient and widely distributed traditions in the
western Indo-European lore is that of the Three Sisters of Destiny; 

known to the northern tribes as the Norns... 

Each of the sisters represent a different aspect of time:

• The first, an old hag,
peers off into the left or west...
  Urdr, the past. 
• The second, a woman of middle-years, 
stares straight ahead to the south...  Verdandi, the present.
• And the third, a youth, looks off to the right or east...  Skuld, the future.

The Greeks knew them as the Morari: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. To the Romans they were the Parcae: Nona, Decima, and Morda. The hag spools the thread from her spindle to the middle woman who measures it, passing it on to the youth who, faceless, cuts it with her shears.

Each sister sees and knows and to a large degree governs her own temporal realm of destiny. These ancient and powerful spirits are perhaps best approached after All Hallows, in the dead of the year; between the worlds, in the Wasteland: the desolate wandering place much like the blasted heath upon which Macbeth encountered the same three "Weird Sisters" later immortalized by Shakespeare.
The story of Macbeth and Banquo's encounter with three weird sisters who address Macbeth in terms of his past, present and future, had already long been a part of the folk record by the time Shakespeare incorporated it into his play. In the lore of the Northern Tradition preserved in the Icelandic Eddas, the Norns were to be found at the base of Ygddraisil, the World Ash-tree. In the shadowy realm between this world and the underworld, at the roots of the Tree, they dwell in a cave that embraces a pool fed by the twelve fountains (or nine rivers) which ever feed and replenish that representative of the Great Well or Cauldron of all origins. It is there they continually tend the roots with water and clay and there they spin and weave their Great Webs; the great fabric of existence.

To the Dark-Ages people of ancient Northern Europe (including most of the British Isles,) the Wyrd was a very familiar and important dimension of their view of the world; a philosophical device not unlike the Eastern traditions’ Tao. Whereas the Asian view has the world and our lives made up of the dynamic interplay of a set of opposites, Yin and Yang, in the west a similar dynamic was seen in the meshing of the Weavers' threads. 

Consider the powerful old European metaphor of the Wyrd:

The stuff of existence as being like a woven fabric...

an infinite number of fibers meshed at right angles to as

many more opposing fibers; each single thread at some point

touches and affects every single other opposing thread.... 
A truly profound image for our contemplation.

- Earrach of Pittsburgh

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hallowe'en, Yes; Blood n' Guts, No...

Image: earrach, 2003 

Most years, I had always suggested that my grove elect a theme other than those commonly associated with Hallowe’en and we'd usually hold our “Samhain”/Autumn-Crossquarter rites several days into November instead… WHY ?
Well, it’s like this…
  • We, as an old-style grove, used a “reformed” set of crossquarter-dates .                                                                                             
  • I (and you?) belong at home on Halloween night...
  • Our Wiccan and other Neopagan friends provide too much “competition” around Halloween... .
  • Halloween is becoming harder to make sacred all the time; maybe there’s an alternative .
  • Sassafras has discovered a powerful alternative theme that has rooted itself in our Work and community .

Yes, we do have reasons for fixing our event dates at other times, several good ones:
  • ADF Groves traditionally* tried to cite their events on a “reformed” calendar of Crossquarter dates based, in part, on a calculation of the crossquarters as either falling at or Astrologically close-to the moment in time halfway between adjacent equinoxes and solstices. This is usually about 4 or 5 days different from the “traditional” (familiar) dates. The ADF publications and website used to carry a list of these crossquarter date/times. Sassafras Grove publications provide crossquarter date/times calculated to be the exact moment in time halfway through each seasonal quarter. ( *in the 1990's; now much less common... )
  • It has long been my position that Halloween, in particular, is an important home/family/ neighborhood tradition for most of us and should not be interfered with by events which would require you to leave your home and neighborhood on a night when “you really belong there”.
  • The Wiccan and general Neopagan community usually provides an array of options in every region just before or on Halloween. We simply don’t want to make our friends have to “choose” between a Sassafras Druid rite and the many other events available: religious, semi religious, or social. With this in mind we can go out and share the holiday with the rest of our community at that time, without trying to inappropriately “stretch” the Halloween Spirit out five days beyond its peak for our rite due to our other reasons.
  • Contemporary Halloween traditions and imagery, “witchy” or not, are becoming less and less appropriate for our religious work all the time. Although its roots are in the Old World’s All Souls Day and the Celtic Samhain, Halloween as we know it is an almost exclusively American festival which sprang up and took hold early in the Twentieth Century. Having started as a cluster of innocent and charming childrens' customs, Halloween quickly gave way to a heavy intrusion by the adult social culture borrowing on its usefulness as an occasion for costume parties and fancy-dress events unhampered by the stuffy formalities of religious holidays. In short: it has become an opportunity for “fun” for children -and- adults. 
  • Through the self-referential dynamics of the media and marketing, our Halloween imagery is becoming severely culturally “inbred”. The result is frequently so brutal that it is virtually obscene in its violent, heartless and vulgar content. What began as a time for the honoring of the Spirits of the Departed and an opportunity for children to shuffle through the Autumn leaves in fantastic garb begging for treats at the doors of their neighbors, has become a theatre of blood, butchery and inhumanity. Halloween may once have been meant to be atmospheric and “spooky” but never was its true spirit upheld by the horrific and brutal.
  • Our annual theme of the Three Sisters in the Wasteland has been a surprisingly rich development, unique to our grove, and has become in its way a part of the living tradition of the grove and our community. It has become an example to other ADF groves of an unsuspected but remarkably appropriate “fit” for the season and our Work. Freed then from the hubbub of our beloved Halloween, this and other themes become available for us to discover and explore along the November shores of our Year’s long night.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Neopaganism and Belief

So, you or someone you know, is a "pagan"? 

Does it seem that other people who refer to themselves as Pagans share some of your beliefs but oddly, not all, maybe not even "most"? Perhaps you consider your "paganism" largely unique and unlike that of the others who use the term?

Outside of the sociological umbrella-term Neopaganism, the rest of the world seems to define religion using terms like "faith", "doctrine", and most fundamentally so, "belief".

Where exactly do your views fall in the spectrum of "belief"?
Why is it that Neopagans are so hard to pin-down on such issues?

About five years ago I started pulling together a series of articles and point-sheets I had published in my grove's newsletter exploring these questions. 

This grew eventually into a booklet...

The collection of essays is HERE.

- Happy October !     - E.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the "MAGICAL GARB" controversy...

A dialogue from those of us who at times wear “Ritual Garb” 
in private and public ceremonies.

Q:    " I don’t have to dress-up funny 
             to relate to my gods 
          and I think it’s,  well,  sort of dumb... 

"Seriously... I’ve always assumed it’s because most of the persons involved have grown up heavily influenced by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and/or fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. This is not supposed to be “role-playing”. What’s your justification for the costuming? "

A :     "Role Playing"?
 I agree with you that a significant proportion of the folks you see in “garb” at Neopagan events have been inspired by their exposure to D&D and the SCA and are just dying for any opportunity to assume a “persona”. To whatever extent that you and I are actually getting the same impression from the same folks, I honestly flinch and blush with embarrassment.  Yet, I do believe you are only partly correct...

Personal History and training? 
You see, for many of us, particularly the old-timers like me who started their personal magical practice in the 70’s , the motives for our preference for magical garb can have nothing at all to do with fantasy role-playing or the SCA/historical reenactment sub-culture.  Nothing at all. It is actually all about the books or teachers from which we received our initial magical training. It was something we were supposed to do to equip ourselves for doing magic, dealing with spiritual agencies, and, as a sign of our seriousness and piety to the gods we are approaching.

Q:   " So, I’m less magical or less religious 
          if I only wear street clothes in these contexts? "

A:     Priorities vs. Appearances... 
Well, yes and no. The garb is but one of an array of “tools” which the magician/priest uses to raise and sustain the states of consciousness necessary to carrying out a successful magical ritual. Yes, it is a form of stagecraft but it is more than that. On one hand the intention of context-specific garb is to increase our effectiveness by facilitating and sustaining magical states of consciousness when there is magical work to be done. On the other, the degree of one’s piety or reverence to the deities and other spirits does extend to the message sent by your appearance to any other practitioners present; if you give the impression to others, even unintentionally, that you don’t consider the deities or spirits as being “worth approaching in your Sunday-best”, the negative impression gets rendered anyway. This still happens every week at Christian churches when the occasional parishioner shows up in shorts and a T-shirt. It might be said that, like it or not, there is a gray zone to be considered here involving one’s priorities versus one's intentions versus the responsibilities generated by external appearances.

Strength or Weakness?
Nonetheless it is true that we should be aware that there can be a weakness in relying too heavily on external props. In our ADF groves we love finding and selecting just the right set of physical gear to compliment the various ritual actions and cultural motifs to be called upon in a rite. As a consequence sometimes we hear cautionary suggestions from our membership challenging us to, as an exercise, periodically do an entire ritual relying on no physical objects, props, garb or other external tools. We can learn much from this but still choose to use those props and tools as an adjunct, to increase our essential effectiveness.

- E.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sovereignty, the Goddess of the Landscape and the Rites of Lughnassadh

Like the golden down on the curve of Her hip,
the Lay of the Land now bristles densely and ripe with endless fields of grain.

We are deep in August.

The tide of summer has turned and the harvest is under way. By now, as in tens of thousands of summers past, the scythe is swung and the stem is severed; some to feed us, and some to put in store that the harvests will continue in fields yet unsown.

That work, our work, and your work is part of a continual ritual of the centuries from which we cannot escape, nor should we. Our partner in that process, the Land, has been recognized in many ways through the centuries and there are a number of great sacred symbols of that ancient but continuous relationship to be recognized and carried forward to future generations. That is where we come in, as stewards of that process, the sacred Chain of Tradition must be continued...

The actual article is HERE...


Monday, August 16, 2010

Farewell, Brother Isaac

The below is from the last direct communication that I had with Isaac. One year and five days later he passed from our company fully into the Great Realm of Memory.

In my life, and surely the lives of many others, 
another anchor, lost...
From: Isaac Bonewits
To: Earrach
Subject: Re: ADF: Neo, Recon, Eclectic, Orthodox?
Date: Aug 7, 2009 2:33 PM


This may or may not come as a shock, but I agree with your remarks below (both the quoted text and the cover email) 110% -- and you can quote me on that!

And I really love 
"I'm an Eclectic Reconstructionist Neopagan." :)

bright blessings,

*  Isaac Bonewits: writer, teacher,      *
*         songwriter, curmudgeon            *
*                                                                   *
*   "Snailmail" to: P.O. Box 1010,         *
*        Nyack, NY 10960-8010                *
* Please use BIG fonts in your email, *
*      my eyes are getting old!                *
The post to which he was referring was a bit too big to post here. 
The full text of it can be found on the sidebar of this blog under 
"PAGES / Earrach to ISAAC"

The ADF memorial page to Isaac is here and includes a link to a series of beautiful videos from ADF's first large scale memorial ritual done in his memory.
- E.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wading into the Fields of Harvest,

a little more alone...

Lughnassadh has come once more and this is the first year in eighteen or more that I have not been drawn deeply into the seasonal mystery of The Taking Up of the Scythe. This year I have been somewhat unsettled and rather distracted from my usual patterns. Yes, many significant changes have been passing through my life this year and it seems that there are more to come. This time last year my mother was alive and relatively healthy for her 91 years. She went into decline in late October and passed fully into the realm of memory in mid-January. My father had passed twenty years ago. Now, in their line, there remain only my brother and I, and his two daughters.

Honestly, up to this point, I have deferred much of my grieving and now, as we spend more time cleaning up and clearing out her house, I realize that I am not so utterly under my own control in such matters. Perhaps the scythe to hone and take up is really right before me, and now, as I reluctantly wade into the challenge ahead, things may become more clear.

One thing is already becoming very clear. So much of what I am is a direct artifact of my mother's personality; her flaws and shortcomings, and more importantly, her talents and various personal gifts. I might have guessed as much previous to her passing but in no way could it then come so dramatically and powerfully forward to me as it has now that she is "gone". It's an odd state of affairs when you unwittingly gain the capacity to vividly see yourself as an assemblage of reflexive impressions made in the soft "clay" of Self, shaped by a number of other people over the years. I am perceiving this now through the lens of my currently heightened sensitivity to the presence of her, within me, and I find myself struggling with constant, almost painful, upwellings of love and the deepest sense of gratitude to both of them.

Both my parents had relatively simple lives in spite of each having an astonishing set of personal gifts. As talented as they were, their talents had not made them rich or famous. Yet, from mine or any outsider's perspective there was one extraordinary thing which made up the primary harvest they reaped... it was that they were so incredibly loved and respected by everyone that knew them.

--------(( PS:    Diana (Veruca) sent this in response:
"Just as the influence your parents had on you; the evolution of your Self, so have YOU touched the lives of many others.  Despite the changes that have touched us in the past year, there are more ahead as we prepare to lose another great influence in the near future.  'Tis an interesting harvest indeed this year; may we continue to be blessed with the insights that come with change.

I am, of course, referring to Isaac - who is "close" now...
( As it was, Isaac had passed at 8AM EDT that very morning.   - E. )

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Outlook for Neopaganism?

A brief dialogue of my thoughts on where we're headed...

Q:  In your estimation, what are the richest fields for 
      exploration by modern Neopagan ritual-groups?
A:  A profoundly functional Wheel of the Year,
     unconstrained by a single "Hearth Culture"...
It’s long been my contention that, particularly for those of us living in a region with fairly well-defined set of four seasons, the Wheel of the Year should be refined and developed to function fully independent from any one specific hearth culture. Definitely we should incorporate various seasonally-appropriate folkways from various cultures but this is one clear case where ancient tradition should not be allowed to restrict a model based on a modern understanding of the “facts” of nature and their effect on our modern souls.
Of late in this respect, in ADF, the cart has been placed before the horse. As de facto providers of open group pagan-spiritual activity in our greater pagan communities we should, we must,  recognize that adopting the popular ADF “Hearth Culture” model (the settling on a single cultural motif for one's whole ADF Grove) for the work of your whole local organization automatically has you turning your back on three quarters of your local pagan community and their modes of practice.
It is primarily this reason which makes me want to insist that 
__________ one’s “hearth” is one’s home,  
__________ i.e. one’s PERSONAL practice... 
The forum for group-work and relating to your greater Neopagan community? - - That’s called a “grove”. There should be no need to compromise one’s personal “hearth”, when in its place. Hearth-work thereby is by definition not group work, unless it is sub-grove work (i.e. a hearth-based sub-group within your grove).
There’s a lot of room for new work there; groups like ours keep getting bogged down pounding square pegs into round holes trying to come up with authentically seasonal themes for hearth cultures which really don’t have obvious corollaries for certain feasts. Certainly having well-tooled cultural-motif modules available to plug-into the various high days is of order in our work since some of the cultural expressions for the seasonal feasts do fit very well and utilizing that “fit” helps individuals more easily reconcile their personal pagan aesthetic with the larger cultural context in which we live. Both of these approaches pose significant challenges and benefits.

Q: Ok, I can see this material is central to the work you've been doing, BUT, 
     other than that, where should Pagan folk be looking for inspiration these days?
A: Hmm. Here’s a “teaser” list of my favorites:

- The Wyrd:   The Weave, the Weavers and the Woven....
 A particularly English (Anglo-Saxon) take on a vast IE cosmological principle

- Idolatry... 
Really!   (Relax; it’s ok…).

- Post Kaballahlistic Paganism 
( PKP ) Let go of the Bible. Get Thee behind me Jehova ! - - I’m gonna wash “One-God” right out of my hair...

- De-Reconstructing “Celtic” paganism 
Yes, everything you’ve been told is (still) wrong.

- The Sacralization of the Sciences:  
The true future of Druidism; integrating an actively Religious Materialism into our spirituality.

- The Spectrum of Divinity:  
Dynamic anthropomorphism in action

- Magical influence and “Luck”:  
Amulets, Talismans and Hoodoo... and respect for the power of the unknown.
The arrival of active superstition in your practice is when your magic becomes "alive".

Q:  Do you feel there are areas in which Neopaganism still 
      needs to “clean up its act”?
A:   Oh, yeah, quite so...

Well, it might be said that we’ve been spending the last thirty years doing that (cleanup) and there many years of work ahead of us. We've barely scratched the surface. Somehow, Paganism needs to remain attractive and rewarding for future generations even once it has lost its “Bad Boy” reputation. Once a destination for many “goth” inspired youth, we’re just not as cool of a scene as we used to be. Some young people today already consider Wicca and Neopagan as “dorky”, associated with “hippies” and therefore painfully out of fashion… “Wicca? Eeeuuuww, that’s like SO nineties!” Do we forever have to be represented to the general culture as a shambling collection of flakes, sad aging geeks and "bad-as-I-wannabee" teenagers?

The harder and more seriously a group of people work on something collectively, the more likely they are to be found broadcasting an un-accepting or unfriendly “vibe” towards those whom they consider their competitors or inferiors. This is already evident in the often indelicate language regarding others used by those in the large more highly organized groups like ADF, Asatru, Celtic Reconstructionists, OTO,  etc. We need to remember that we are all, collectively ostracized by Western Society and need to work toward mutual respect and conversation, not fractiousness.

 - E.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Misuse of the term “Energy”

- from a workshop I'm working on called

"Adjusting our Imagery:
    Why persist in using factually incorrect 
     imagery in our spiritual work?"


Formally described, energy can be detected, measured and quantified physically by using appropriate instrumentation. Even Einstein’s E=mc2, the ultimate descriptor of the net sum of energy available from any quantity of mass meets this criteria. Yet “Love” cannot. Nor can any amount of "magical" influence, continually referred-to in our circles as “energy”, and therefore...

I contend that it is inappropriate, 
and in my opinion, actually 
injurious to our ends,
 to refer to magical influence
as "energy"...


1.) Usually the substitution of the term "influence", or magical influence", is vastly preferable and carries us much closer to the actual dynamic of the matter in our discussions.

2.) "Energy", by definition, “plays by the rules” and to describe or model magical influence upon the nature of energy significantly places implications of qualities upon magical influence which may not be appropriate, since “magical influence”, by definition, does not “play by the rules” !

Although it remains an important part of our world and one that many of us are striving to understand better,  Magic may not be anything like a "force" at all.

I really do feel that this is one more way we are "selling magic short" by treating it as if it was limited to the rules of ordinary reality. 

I don't mean to imply that magic is not part of our reality, our world, but it seems quite clear to me that we get less close to understanding its operations by using imagery which forces it into a box of the wrong shape, color and volume.

- E.