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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ANCESTORS: Best Song, Best Image

First, the image...
The Best Ancestor Image, Ever:
Ford Maddox Brown 1855, The Last of England

Note the Cliffs of Dover receding in the distance...
Also note the the joined hands including the hand of the unseen infant.

Consider first just clicking on the image itself to have a
good look, free of the visual clutter of my blog page....

AND  ( get out yer hankies,)  NOW... 
The Best Ancestor Song, Ever: 

by  Peter Jones / popularized by Mick Maloney 
lyrics here )  
based on an actual series of letters from the period: 
(If as I do, you find the images distracting, just scroll it off the screen., or better yet, buy a copy at iTunes)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Neopagan DAY OF THE DEAD ?

We almost universally identify Samhain as a time of year for Pagans to be honoring the dead. Certainly we can establish an option for the members of our community to come together in a meaningful and time-honored method to celebrate the memory of their departed loved ones. Borrowing some basic principles from the Mexican Day of the Dead, Chinese folkways and Japan’s Shinto, without appropriating their motifs, we can move from the realm of good intentions to that of establishing legitimate, albeit new, religious traditions.


In my estimation, current trends in the popular expressions of Hallowtide range from embarrassing to deeply disturbing, and as a result serve our souls less and less with each passing generation. The Mexican Day of the Dead though stands as one of the few exceptions, with its rich imagery, actual devotional content, and perhaps most important of all, its remarkably healthy underlying approach to human mortality (a quantity sorely lacking in the broader WASP-based American culture). Yet virtually everywhere else, we find Western Culture exhibiting a profoundly mal-adapted relationship with the basic facts of its own mortality, forever caught in a cycle made of one part dread and two parts denial. This very conundrum may lie at the foundation of our country’s unrealistic and dangerously casual attitude toward death which manifests itself in everything from the perversity of our video games and horror movies to the cavalier handling of our international policy leading to “Peace-Making” efforts which achieve their goals with carnage on a genocidal scale.
Although the Mexican expression is a rich and instructive model for us to follow, for non-Latin Pittsburgh Neopagans to co-opt their ostensibly Catholic traditions into a region of the US with such a peculiarly thin Latin population would be inappropriate and disrespectful at the least. Yet, as thoughtful creators of a new world religion, based on the best aspects of many faiths both ancient and modern, we deserve something in our sacred year as wonderful as having our own “Day of the Dead”. 

NO. Let's not co-opt their unique style and folkways...  
That would be wrong in so many ways...   Let's come up with our own.

HOW?   Objective/Methodology:

ONE MODEL would be to first create a networking effort to map the cemetaries in the greater Pittsburgh area which hold the remains of relatives of the members of our Pagan community. Then, for them to be able to fix a date and time close to November 1st for the members of the community to meet-up on site with others from the community who have relatives in the same cemetaries. As is common in the established non-pagan cultures, these folk can arrange a collective gravesite visitation with groups travelling from site to site within the graveyard until all the persons with relatives buried there have briefly placed flowers or offerings, led a prayer or given a thumbnail bio of the deceased to the group at the grave site.

It might take several years to even see if we could get a community-wide Samhain event like this rolling. If we could get two or three small cemetary visitations started we might just have planted a seed which could become a sustainable local tradition. Unfortunately many of the folks who might otherwise like to participate just don’t have any relatives in -local- cemetaries so we’ll have to do a pretty good sales job within the local Pagan community to find out who our workable candidates are.

ANOTHER MODEL, one more immediately realizable, would be starting here and now, to begin heavily promoting the custom of personal Samhaintide cemetary visitations as the good, solid pagan custom it is (or could be). 

SO, for a start, please,


...As part of your own sacred Pagan year-cycle, make it a personal or family custom to visit the family gravesites at least once a year and make Samhaintide (perhaps the Sunday closest to Hallowe'en?) your target on the calendar for the doing so.

We don’t have to do it just as a “crowd” – why the Mexicans don’t have to organize group excursions, certainly not outside of their immediate families, no, their cemetaries are teeming with hundreds of people at this time of year, happily picnicing and decorating the graves and eagerly sharing their family lore with all of the other families they encounter.

Someday we too could share a similar blessing to theirs.

This is not morbidity, it is a celebration of Life!

Whenever I get started talking about this stuff I get overcome with a sense of the awesome potential it has for doing our part in healing the seriously damaged relationship our society has to death. We just need to start – and once it starts happening a little here and a little there I’m sure the process will carry us along under its own natural set of motivators.

- Earrach, 2005, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012



Keywords: Vision, Heart, Dedication, Service, Surrender

e do not set out to take upon ourselves the “responsibility” to worship. 
The eye of reverence, the authentic impulse to worship, is simply that: an irresistible impulse; a compulsion coming from within, not from without.

From this perspective the responsibility to worship in each of us is not really a responsibility to the objects of that worship, i.e. to the Great Mother, the Glorious Sun or the Gods, Ancestors and Spirits... no, not to them but rather, the responsibility is to ourselves. It is not that we “should” worship, it is that we feel the call from-within as a reflex, we must worship. At least it is such in my own experience.

Piety can be seen as a “state” more than as an objective or virtue. If we culture and begin to manifest that state, the outward, virtuous expressions of piety cannot help but follow on their own. Piety then is the state of fullness of heart, clarity of vision and love for the world that renders us unable to resist the impulse to break with the ordinary and externalize our spiritual upwelling through exploration, ritual, creative expression and sharing with others.

Afraid of our own capacity for bliss
We all experience the state that prepares us to apprehend the world in a religious fashion. For many of us it is difficult to respond because our natural capacity for loving the world and all the beings and influences in it is confounded by fear. This fear is often a fear of being (or being seen as being) foolish or weak, as if the religious, aesthetic and emphatic impulses within us are somehow illogical, trivial or impractical. In fact, true piety can be experienced through a process of actively de-valuing this system of false security, seeing it for what it really is, as being itself as foolish and weak as we are afraid of appearing in the first place. This inappropriate fear calls for bravery and the faith which bravery demands. Once employed, like summoning the courage to jump into the water all at once, we find there really was no reason to be afraid in the first place. With practice we unlearn our fears and open the way to the natural motivations initially precluded by our fears. 

Finding our place in the Great Way of Things
Priests in other traditions speak of “hearing the call” and this is simply the sense of urgency of that compulsion to piety we began describing earlier breaking through into one’s mundane life. They also speak of being bound to this calling, much in the same way that a lover binds themselves to a mate. This spiritual “work” once recognized and encouraged in one’s life can easily rise to this proportion. The outward expressions become a way of managing and “living up to” the blessings pouring into us. They become a testimony, an external reference system through which we reconcile and thereby sanctify our relationship with the world.

Wed to the Work:  
NeoDruidic forms of expression of the call to Piety... a personal list.
- Regular & seasonal return to the woods (religious / spiritual / aesthetic)
- Observance of the Cycles:  Ritualization / sacralization of the cycles of the Sun, Moon and Seasons
- Geosophical Devotions: Land Shrine / Henge Building; Well Dressing; Genius Locii / Deva-working
- Shrine Maintenance
- Keeping the Rites of the Wheel: Public liturgies for the 8 High Days; keeping monthly Druid Moons
- Finding of and Devotion to a Patron (God/Goddess/Spirit)
- Vision Questing