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





Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Capital Offense?

On Wikipedia you'll find my commentary on the "Discussion" pages of articles like "Solstice" and "Equinox", "Coligny Calendar", "Welsh Mythology" and a number of others others. On the Solstice discussion page recently, I found the following comment by another contributor: 

"I don't believe solstice (or summer solstice or winter solstice) should be capitalized—it's not capitalized in Britannica or Merriam-Webster)—and so I am lowercasing it in this article."

In response, I wrote:
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I believe that they would be lower case when used as scientific terms but if they were being used as the direct titles for religious holy-days they should be capitalized. Such editors' conventions have not yet caught up with the times: "Then there is the solstice in June when I join the other Druids at Stonehenge for our Summer Solstice observance."

Rejecting that as "wrong" simply perpetuates the prevailing religious chauvinism that leaves us with sentences like the following:

"Jesus turned His face to the setting sun while behind Him the moon was already above the earth's eastern horizon."

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Yes, in their infinite wisdom, contemporary editors don't even allow the earth, the sun and the moon their capital letters... Jumping jehova, the nerve of them !

And you just -know- that Britannica and Merriam-Webster would render my Jesus-sentence exactly as I typed it above (they wouldn't dare to offend the christians... oops, "Christians") - Silly druid (Hey! Wait a minute...).

Sigh.    - E.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

OMG.

You must (must) see this film...


is one of those movies that remind you of the power of... Art.

Monday, June 28, 2010

WHY GENEALOGY IS STUPID

-(c) 2008 earrach
The above shows the pathway of your father’s family name (in bold), making its way down to you over just the last several generations. Every single one of the other individuals in the diagram had an equal stake in your existence as well. 

Remove any single dot in the entire pattern and 
" poof ! "...  you never existed !  
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Now I'm by no means disparaging all of the good folks who feel compelled to explore their "ancestry". I too have a deep reverence for my own Honorable Ancestors and all the Honored Dead. I'm just raising the point here that genealogy, as we've always encountered it, is often an illogical and deeply sexist discipline.

AND, while I'm being ornery about "ancestors", why do I always find myself needing to defend the simple logic of who's an ancestor and who's not? The old adage "you can chose your friends but you can't choose your relatives" brings us directly to the core of the matter. The word ancestor should be treated here as a descriptive term of the first order, it is not a euphemism. In our religious dealings we often run into folks who want to claim Mark Twain or Susan B. Anthony as "Spiritual Ancestors" and include them in what I'd call capital-"A" Ancestor work. I'm sorry guys, such characters from among the Honored Dead are certainly worthy of veneration, but unless you can trace your bloodline directly-to Mark Twain or Susan B. Anthony, you are seriously running the risk of offending your true ancestors (-a very serious matter,) by including members of the Dead not from your lines of familial descent. 

IMHO, when the perennial dispute arises, 
it can't get any simpler than to consult the following venn-diagram:

- E.


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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Earth Mother and ADF Tradition

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The following is from a post I recently made to an ADF Forum that was discussing the fact that an initial dedication to the Earth Mother is among the "required" steps in an official, public, ADF High Day rite. The list of steps, setting out the official minima for what makes a public ADF High Day rite"ADF", is referred to as the Core Order of Ritual (COoR). Some folks object to this being a required step rather than optional since their research leaves them feeling that nothing close enough to the Neopagan notion of an Earth Mother exists in the cultural traditions they personally follow.
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RE: EARTH MOTHER
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I still stand by the assertions that:
1.) virtually all of us in ADF are Neopagans.
2.) ADF is by defintion a Neopagan Religious organization.
3.) ADF tradition infers at least one deity is to be equally revered, publicly, by all its subtraditions and that deity is the one deemed "Earth Mother" by our founder.
4.) In our usage, this Earth Mother is, at the very least, a substantive Neopagan Deity. The ancients did not know the Earth as a planet, yet we do, and we are all the more worshipfully obliged by the extent of Her splendors evident to us through that knowledge.
5.) The "Earth Mother", in the classical sense, shares at -least- as much historical verity as many of the deities honored in a number of major ADF sub-traditions, the documentary evidence for which are actually significantly slimmer and often -younger- than said "Earth Mother" (see the example below).

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"EARTH,  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..." 

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- 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 12th 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.
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NOTE:  In another work ("Anglo Saxon Magic and Medicine", Oxford 1952, pp 45), Singer states that this particular "Hymn to the Earth Mother" is found in several other documents from the Continent, dating from the 6th Century onward. I have seen several translations of this hymn myself and the one above is by far the most lyrical. Some are only very roughly translated yet it is clearly recognizable that they represent the same (now lost) source-piece. 

This hymn was one of my first points of entry into my own Druidism and I well remember standing in a small circle of stones deep in the woods on a late summer day in 1973, unsure yet brimming over with inspiration and reading those words aloud in my first self-styled "Druid" ritual...


- EARRACH of Pittsburgh
http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/
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Friday, June 11, 2010

The View From the Center of the Universe

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This is the book I’ve been raving about.


It’s all about our innate need for a cosmology and that having a functional picture of ourselves and the Earth in relation to the Great Order of Things of which it is a part is not something solely limited to the customs of prescientific cultures.  Nor is it strictly within the domain of religion.  Ever since Isaac Newton showed us how most of the physical world and the operations of the heavens can be explained by mathematical logic, Western Culture has been set adrift without a sense of importance and centrality in a huge and impersonal  Universe. Surely, how often have we all mused at our species' insignificance while gazing up at a star-strewn sky?


The need for a functional, structured and sharable model of our world and universe has been a characteristic of human societies as far back in recorded history as we can reach. The authors stress that learning to see ourselves as a significant and central part of such a model is still a deeply relevant (and arguably correct) pursuit despite the fact we so easily view ourselves as ‘orphaned' and bereft of true importance amid the staggering scales of time, size, and distances discovered by modern science.

The big surprise here (and the authors repeatedly remind us of it) is the fact that Science actually has discovered and proven far more things about our world than polite society allows us to acknowledge. In our postmodern society we have been thoroughly cultured to always second-guess the scientific establishment with a series of cynical reflexes borne of the unholy wedding of the assumption that they're a bunch of deluded Dr. Frankensteins (blundering monomaniacs meddling with the Divine Order) and that anything the scientists dare to offer as "proven-fact" is to be rejected as just one of an endless parade of temporary models waiting to be collapsed by the next set of "discoveries"… (so, I assume no one can ever be right about anything?). And yes, the authors do take on the too-long revered "scientific revolutions" described by Kuhn. As a result these days, there ends up being as much anti-scientific prejudice on the left end of the political spectrum as there is on the right. I don’t hear the authors saying so but it becomes apparent that scientists just don’t get as much respect as they deserve and, worse yet, their hard-won discoveries are continually held in contempt and suspicion by the larger, unqualified, population.


Primack and Abrams take us through a series of easily managed metaphorical  tools and diagrams for understanding the scale and history of the Universe and one by one show us how the latest discoveries in astronomy and theoretical physics fit into and validate this set of symbols. For comparison, along the way they take us through a history of ancient cosmological models and how they both were reflections of the thinking of their people and also responsible for the modes of thought representative of those cultures. What they are suggesting is that there a numerous reasons that we still have a need for a personal and cultural cosmology, and, for it to be an effective fit it hopefully would be one by necessity heavily couched in metaphor, it accurately would reflect our current knowledge of the universe, from its smallest to its largest systems.


* Here is the authors' website...
* Here's some impressive testimonials about the book...


* Here is my take on the importance of an accurate functional cosmogonic myth in NeoDruidic liturgy.


- E.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Memory, Magic, and the effect of Having-Done.


"We are the authors of Memory... 

We are the 
ENGINEERS 
of TRADITION"

- EoP 

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Some memories cause us to grieve and suffer.

Some memories bring us comfort and healing.

Memories and their effects upon our personalities cause us to become the persons we are. Memories continually “add-to" us, they rarely find a way subtract. In a manner of speaking, memories are all we have. And, as I've said elsewhere, as liturgists,

we are in the business of making memories.

The mechanisms of magical/religious ritual and in particular, Neopagan public seasonal celebratory ritual, have much to do with the intentional effects of memory. Much of my writing has been concerned with the mechanisms of these works and at length I have come to feel that the role of the memory principle is greatly underrated, or even going unnoticed altogether.  I feel that when we are honest* with ourselves we may find that it comprises one of the largest factors in our attraction to these areas of religious activity. It is my deeply held conviction that taking part in the planning and execution of, and even simply attendance-at, well planned and meaningful rituals can have a powerful effect on the consciousness and life-streams of the persons involved and that this is one of the main reasons humans have been doing such things for the last several thousand years.

The carrying out of an intentional ritual-act (a.k.a "magic") is not about "gonna' do"... it's all about "having-done". This is one of the first and most fundamental principles of magic. If you are going to change the course of events, even in the smallest way, externalization is the key for moving from good intentions to a truly magical act. The commitment involved in rising up out of our easy-chair dreamworld of rumination carries us into the world of ritualized action: that vocalization, gesticulation and symbolic activity sets up a cascading series of changes "in the world" having engaged a set of factors we could never elicit without breaking through the monumental divide from "thought-about" to actually "having done". Thereby, yet in no way "unimportantly", the seeds of memory have been sown and irrevocably begin to do their work.

- (c) 2010 Earrach of Pittsburgh
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* see my standing challenges to 
what we say -vs.- what we do in  "WHY DO WE DRUID?"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The "Great Druid Secrets"

I. THE SYMBOL: 
The Key to the Mysteries...


The Solstice / Equinox Square...

Yes, it's because the Earth's tilt does NOT CHANGE throughout
the year that we have our changing seasons... 

Can you see why we have our longest daylight hours in June (bottom) 
and our longest nights in December (top)?

I personally developed this diagram back in the 1980's when I was working at the planetarium giving classes and science demonstrations. Although there are various "reasons for the seasons" diagrams in science books showing the Earth's seasonal orientation as it orbits around the Sun, none of the books I have seen ever show the Earth/Sun/Earth's-orbit relationship from this particular perspective.


Below is one of my versions with more explanation. In either diagram the cycle runs counter-clockwise. This is because the Earth actually orbits the Sun going around it in a counter-clockwise path while it spins on its axis counter-clockwise as well.



A primary thing to notice is the relationship of the Arctic Circle, the inner circle with a dot (North Pole) scribed in each Earth-disk, and its position relative to the Earth's "terminator" (the day/night line marked by the dotted lines). This view becomes the very "key" to the Great Druid Mystery. Only from this special perspective ("looking-down" on it all, from "above") can we see, simply and simultaneously, the reason for the Summer Solstice and Yule Solstice but also the reason for the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox, as well.


- E.

SOLSTICE (SOLC): Either of the two extremes of the Earth’s constant 23.4° axial-tilt, relative to the sunlight falling on its surface. Only at the June Solstice is the Earth’s north pole tilted the full 23.4° towards the Sun... and only at the December Solstice is it tilted the full 23.4° away from the Sun.
EQUINOX (EQX): The Spring or Autumn quarter begins as the Earth’s terminator, the boundary-line between night and day, momentarily crosses the North and South Poles. Therefore, with the Earth’s day/night boundary line briefly poised simultaneously over both poles, only on dates near these times of year are the number of hours of night and day equal all over the globe.

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II.  THE SEASONAL "QUARTERS"

I've always considered this also to be a Great Druidic Secret: The "quarters" of the natural year, the sections of the Earth's orbit between adjacent equinoxes and solstices, are not of equal length... they actually differ by several days!

Quartering the year is not a matter of simply dividing the length of the year into four equal parts (365.242d/4). Nope; prepare yourself for a surprise... The current values for the lengths of the seasons are:


• Winter = 88 .99 days
• Spring = 92 .76 days
• Summer = 93. 65 days
• Autumn = 89. 84 days
Did you know any of those values?

So, spring and summer run nearly three days longer each than the autumn and winter quarters! It may seem mysterious but it all makes sense when you recall that the Earth is about one million miles closer to the Sun in the first week of January than it is in the first week of July. The Earth's orbit is not perfectly circular; it's out of round by one part in 93. Actually the definition of an orbit requires that is that it be an ellipse, that's what keeps an orbiting body "going". The last time there was any parity among the seasonal quarters was the year 1246 CE when Spring and Summer were the same length as well as Autumn and Winter having a different but equal length.

...Is it really unreasonable to expect a "Druid" to know
how many days there are in each season? 

 
Well...?

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III.  The SEASONS of LIFE
This chart shows the similarities and correlations between 
     the cycle of a day
     the seasons of a year,
     and the stages of a lifetime... 

(c)1994, 2005 Earrach of Pittsburgh
On understanding and using this chart...
Not only does it suggest the stations quartering these cycles but also those subdividing the quarters into intervals divided by cross-quarters. Using a chart like this we can build a rational system of interlocking and sequential “layers” of meaning, each suggesting comparative meanings across these domains in a fashion known in ancient times as a “table of correspondences”. (memetic resonance / nested metaphors, etc.)
One way of understanding the pattern being presented here is to recognize the chart’s “spine” or central column which marks-out the stations along the cycle of one day. From there we see the page’s left half lists the calendar of a year, while the right side lists the set of four stations of a human life and their intervals.
The DAY 
Marked down the chart’s center we see that the day is quartered by four solar stations: Midnight, Sunrise, Noon, and Sunset. Between each of those run the “seasons of the day”: the Predawn or “Wee Hours”, Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. A critically important thing to notice is that the four solar “stations” themselves marking the lowest, rising, highest, and setting times of the Sun do –not- mark the equivalent extremes and means of temperature over the cycle of the day. In otherwords, although the Sun is at its lowest at midnight, the coldest time actually occurs near the middle of the pre-dawn or “wee hours”. Likewise, although the Sun is at its highest at noon, the hottest time of day occurs later, in the mid-afternoon. Now, hold that thought and proceed...

     (c)2012 Earrach
The YEAR 
The four astronomical "quarter-days" make up the framework of the year... and, please note, the popular assertion that the Celts "began" their year at Samhain (Nov.1st) has NO historical basis and is probably worth ignoring, especially in this context.)

     December Solstice,

     March Equinox,

     June Solstice,

     September Equinox.



Midway between each of these quarterdays fall what are known as the “crossquarters”, ("XQ") dates traditionally celebrated as being roughly mid-way between each of the four solar stations:


     February XQ: (trad Feb. 2; "Imbolc") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Wee Hours")

     May XQ:  (trad May 1st; "Beltaine") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Mid-Morning")

     August XQ:  ( trad. Aug 1st; "Lughnassadh") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Mid Afternoon")

     November XQ:  (trad. Nov. 1st; "Samhain") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Twilight's End")

Now, recalling the temperature lag seen above in the process of a day, notice the four “stations” of the solar year here similarly marking the lowest, halfway-up, highest, and halfway-down days on the Sun’s yearly cycle overhead. As seen in the cycle of the Sun through the year, these ALSO do –not- mark the equivalent extremes and means of temperature over this cycle. So, here we see, in other words... although the Sun is at its lowest at Yule Solstice, the coldest time of year actually occurs near the middle of the winter quarter in January or February. Likewise, although the Sun is at its highest at Summer Solstice in late June, the hottest time of year occurs later, in July or August.
A LIFETIME 

The right side of the chart lists a human life, sectored-off by four developmental milestones or thresholds:

     Nativity, 


     Coming of Age,

     Adulthood,

     Dotage.


In each of the intervals between these thresholds we find a dynamic triad of factors following the three nornic (temporal) modalities of



“From” -"Through” - "To"



With each set summing to a “to”, the sum of each “from” and “through” lead to a concept which helps both justify and open-onto the life-threshold which immediately follows...

Example: Lying between the life-stage milestones NATIVITY and COMING of AGE, we see the crossquarter between them revealing  its "seasonal-mystery" in the transitional factors manifesting there deemed  "from Infancy through Weaning to Fosterage"..

(And you wondered if there could be any other justifications for the milk-themes in the lore of Imbolc... !)


- (c)2006 Earrach of Pittsburgh
IV.  The Wheel of the Year:  

one example...

" A DAY is to a YEAR,  
as a YEAR 
is to a LIFETIME "



- (c) 1994, 2011 Earrach of Pittsburgh
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ALL PHOTOS, IMAGES, CHARTS and TEXT ON THIS PAGE are original works of "Earrach of Pittsburgh",  the sole author of this website, (c) 2011, 2013. Use in a for-profit context is prohibited without permission and use in a non-profit context should be at least credited to the author via link to this blog.
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