Wednesday, December 30, 2009

hat Religious Projects Are You Working On?

It seems like it's been awhile since this was asked: what are you working on, religiously? What things are you struggling with, what issues are you facing? What's going really well for you?

Myself, I have a bit of a laundry list of things I'm working on. I'm working out ritual structure for some weekly, some monthly, and some yearly rituals; I'm writing hymns for said rituals (for lack of a better word for "stuff I say during ritual"); I'm preparing for a major altar move and redesign; I've got a book reading project going on my religious blog; and I'm researching for a hands-on religious symbolism project. It seems like a lot, but it's coming together pretty well, especially since my social and working lives are in a state of limbo, and school hasn't restarted yet.

So what's going on for you?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Life After Death?

Merged photos depicting a copy of the Ancient ...Image via Wikipedia

So, we come inevitably to the question of life after death. Is there something else out there waiting for us? Is it heaven? Hell? Reincarnation? An alternate universe? Or do we simply cease to exist? This is a question worthy of several weeks worth of discussion. Even then one would probably come to no solid compromise or agreement with others.

This has probably come up before, but I have a few questions that may or may not have been addressed.

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

And: What is the point of religion?

Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?

Vodou (Voodoo) and Lwa

New Orleans - French Quarter: New Orleans Hist...Image by wallyg via Flickr

Does anyone here, specifically those who do NOT consider themselves members of a vodou tradition, have personal experience with the lwa? I am not a vodouisant, and I don't intend to become one. Nevertheless, I have recently experienced some things that (to me) strongly suggest one of the lwa is actively and inexplicably interested in me, a possibility that makes me a tad bit uncomfortable. Anyway, I was wondering if there were any non-vodouisants here who have worked with lwa and how their presence has affected your religious practices.

Dance in Pagan rituals?

Not too long ago, I was involved in my first pagan/Wiccan ritual ever (it was part of an educational program for another, non-religious, subcultural group). The woman who had been one of the main mentors of the program was a Dianic/Am Trad High Priestess, so she incorporated some of her experiences into a not-really religious ritual tailored to our program. This was very special to me as around the same time I began to explore paganism in earnest and that experience helped me keep momentum in my exploration. Anyway, the end of the ritual involved dancing, to get in touch with our bodies and dissipate the energy raised. This was very hard for me to do. I don't feel I am a good dancer and therefore feel very self conscious dancing. However, the experience left me curious about the use of dance in ritual. So, my question to the board is: do you use dance in ritual? How do you use it? Is it comfortable for you to do so? Any tips about dance in this context for a newcomer? Books/DVDs? Thanks!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dedications, Professions, Oaths, Oh My!

This was inspired in part by the Jump Starting Your Faith? thread, but thought it worthy of a new discussion. There is also a similar, excellent thread here from a few years ago. I don't claim to have read it all yet, but it seems a bit different than what I'm thinking here...

* If you have dedicated yourself (professed, sworn an oath, et. al.), how did you know you were ready?

* More specifically, I'm somewhat interested in if anyone has dedicated to a specific path or religion, rather than a specific god/dess as appears more common on TC. (I'm thinking more like an Asatru profession or Christian confirmation.) How did you come to that decision? If you like, feel free to share what you did or what that entailed.

* Alternately, if you have NOT professed or dedicated yourself, why not? Do you think you would in the future, why or why not?

I'm curious because I don't think I am, and haven't really ever thought I was, currently in a state to dedicate myself to a patron deity. I just have a hunch like that's not something I would do. And there is lots of other discussion around here about doing that. On the other hand, I could see myself professing or making an oath with Asatru or the Aesir and Vanir more generally. I'm also interested in how people make such a decision, how you knew it was time.

Don't hesitate to add anything else, of course. Thanks in advance!

Seeking Advice on Finding Gods and Paths

I'm not going to ask "What path should I choose?" because no one can answer that for me, but I am asking for some advice on how to choose, and how to get started.

I first started thinking about paganism back in high school, but it was a very general kind of thinking. It was the realization that the traditional Christian worldview and structures weren't fitting me and trying to fit them was making me miserable. The issue went dormant for a while, but it's stormed back a good deal stronger and a little more focused. I've seen people here refer to being thwapped by a deity, but I'm not so much being thwapped as I am incessantly tugged at, and I don't know who's doing the tugging. I'm pretty sure it's from the Norse or Celtic areas, and I'm also pretty sure it's not just one, either, since there's a definite male and female kind of feel. Ancestrally speaking, I have both of these cultures in my background, though the Germanic is a bit more prevalent. I think a lot of the smoke will clear if I can figure out who's bugging me.

Has anyone else had this kind of experience? Being nagged at by gods who feel like playing hide and seek instead of being thwapped by them? Are there any ways for finding out who they are? Any tips on meditation would be nice, too, since I'm not very good at it.

New Book: Brigid - Goddess, Druidess and Saint

As has been mentioned in a couple other threads, there's a new book out, Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint, by Brian Wright.

I'm wondering if anyone else is reading it -- or plans to -- and whether anyone would be interested in a book discussion thread.

So far, I've only just started chapter 2 (I read very slowly now and don't retain well, thanks to a brain injury), but I have some issues with what I've read so far.

F'ex, the author seems to be a proponent of the Great Universal Mother theory, although I could be drawing incorrect inferences on that. He also posits that the Irish goddess Brighid was a deliberate, first-century AD creation specifically designed by Brigantian druids who fled to Ireland when Britain was romanized. His theory is that they made Brighid up -- as the daughter of two pre-existing Irish deities, the Daghda and the Morrigan -- as a way of uniting the Celtic tribes in the hope of resisting the Romans.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Was Your 101 Book?

So, if you started out on your path by reading a book, what was your '101' book, so to speak?

Looking back on it, was it a good beginner book for your path? Would you, or do you, recommend it to people who are just starting out? Why or why not?

Conversely, looking back, are you embarrassed about it, and do you try to avoid mentioning it, or do you warn people away from it? And once again, why or why not?

(I know it sounds awkward - I was tempted to ask, "What was your first book on Paganism, Wicca, or the occult?", but not everyone here is on a Pagan path, and I didn't want to exclude anyone, lol).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Avatar Design Challenge: Jan/Feb '10

Welcome to the new Avatar Design Challenge! I'm very excited to get this all going again. Smiley Here's how it works:

* Entries will be accepted from January 1 through February 28, 2010. Our theme is Wildlife. Multiple entries are allowed!

* You don't have to register to participate, but letting us know if you're planning on giving it a go is always appreciated so we know what the response looks like.

* When submitting, please upload them to an image hosting service like Photobucket, and then inline them into a reply to this thread (using the [*img][*/img] tags without the *).

* Posting a theme suggestion with your entry isn't required, but is definitely appreciated! Suggested themes will be used for upcoming challenges.

* Voting will take place between March 1st and 15th in a new thread. The winner will be announced on March 16th in the active challenge thread. All members are encouraged to vote.

* Please review the Avatar Guidelines and be sure your entry abides them. Also, please do not use copyrighted images in your entry unless you have permission from the copyright holder.

* By participating in the challenge, you are giving other members of The Cauldron permission to use your entry as their avatar; all entries will be added to TC's onsite avatar selection. If you do not want your entry to be added, you must specify this in your submission post!

Upcoming Themes:
* March/April - Architecture
* May/June - Sanctuary

I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice 2009

SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21:  Solstice...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Hey, what is this thread? Tonight—beginning at sunset on Monday, December 21, 2009—is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. To celebrate the winter solstice (a.k.a. Yule, Midwinter, and probably other things, depending on your tradition), a bunch of us plan to stay up all night and post here in this thread off and on throughout, sharing our experiences or random thoughts...sharing recipes for our conceptual meal around our cyber-campfire...or just encouraging each other to stay awake!

So if you’re trying to stay up till dawn, or just want to pop in to converse with those of us who are, this is the place! (Or if you're lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoying the warmth and sun of summer solstice, tell us what we're missing!)

In that spirit, I'm resurrecting a modest rhyme I composed specifically for our winter solstice efforts. I've recycled it here as a sort of dedication to kick things off:


by Altair

Light dwindles, life despairs
A bitter chill is in the air
The sun departs, and with it goes
A fruitful season free of woes
As winter’s icy grip takes hold
The sleeping landscape to enfold
Many hours of dark must pass
Before the sun returns at last
To make its long-awaited climb
With promise of a flowering time

Until that hour, let dark prevail
Greet longest night with strong wassail
Sing and dance, feast and drink
Or solemnly reflect and think
From strange and hidden wells partake
With one rule only: Stay awake!
From dusk till dawn, hear our refrain:
Let the solstice revels reign

[In the last line, swap in the word “vigil” for “revels” if the feeling is more contemplative than festive]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What to do for the Winter Solstice?

Hey, I'm going to celebrate the winter solstice for the first time tomorrow, and I was wondering if anyone had any good ideas!

We're planning to watch the sun rise, to "unplug" (no tv, computer, etc), donate to charity, go for a hike, and do something good for the environment. The theme of the solstice to me is hope, so we're trying to do something good for human kind, nature, and ourselves, to create hope... Maybe that sounds cheesy, I don't know.

I was hoping that maybe people with more experience would be able to give me some ideas, or educate me more on solstice, especially all the beliefs behind yule! Especially what I could do for the environment, because I've had trouble coming up with a really good idea. (Oh, and I'm currently unemployed sooooo... anything inexpensive would be good.)

Preventing Psychic Services Fraud: A Consumer's Guide

Most people today know and understand how to avoid becoming victims of fraud when it comes to obtaining goods or services. For example, if a plumbing problem occurs in a home, and it is above and beyond the skills or know-how of the homeowner, they begin to shop for a plumber. They may contact friends and or family who live in the area. Maybe a friend or family-member might even know how to repair the problem. If friends and family do not know of a good plumber, the homeowner may then turn to the internet. There are numerous websites that offer reviews and ratings for service people and businesses. The homeowner jots down a few phone numbers, gets a few quotes, compares rates and things like hours of operation, free consultations and the cost of parts. In the end, they have a plumber who can fix the problem during hours that are convenient to the homeowner and at a reasonable price. Not too many people would pick up their local phone book, flip through the pages, pick the first plumber they see and hire him or her. However, when it comes to obtaining more intangible services, this is exactly what people seem to do.

Deities labeled as Romano-Celtic

statue of a Celtic goddess, probably Brigid (B...Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of deities labeled as Romano-Celtic. The questions that come to my mind when I hear this are: If it has Roman influence then would this still be considered CR? Would this be more of a Roman belief system? If I am concentrating on Irish, Scottish, Welsh, British, and Gallic pantheons should I pay attention to anything Romano-Celtic?

"Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is a polytheistic, animistic, religious and cultural movement. It is an effort to reconstruct, within a modern Celtic Cultural context, the aspects, of ancient Celtic religions that were lost or subsumed by Christianity." - The CR FAQ: An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, "So What is Celtic Reconstructionism (CR)?" pg.17 first paragraph (book version)

According to the FAQ it is the pre-Christian Celts to pay attention to. Can anyone give me some more information so we can clear this up?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Being different from other religions

Science, and particularly geometry and astrono...Image via Wikipedia

I find that in building my own path, there are some things I consciously avoid. Not because I think they're bad as such, but because they remind me too much of other paths. So, for example, I try to avoid saying 'So mote it be.' I'm especially cautious about using terms from my birth religion, e.g. the epithets 'Merciful' and 'Compassionate' together.

So, are there any practices or paths in general that you consciously try to avoid? Do you ever have to specifically steer yourself away from bits of your birth religion (if it's not your current religion)?

How does this affect your path? And especially for eclectics, do you think deliberately trying to go a different way from another path somehow compromises your own?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Few Newbie Questions on Essential and Carrier Oils

Glass vial containing Eucalyptus Globulus Esse...Image via Wikipedia

I'm trying out an idea I had for purification purposes, and I find that I could use some help. The plan was to make natron, and use that in combination with juniper oil in the shower. In my Google wanderings, though, I've found both juniper berry oil and extract, and while I grasp the difference between the two I have no idea which would be better suited to my purposes. I've also come across the tidbit that essential oils shouldn't be used directly on the skin, as it can cause blistering and irritation, and to dilute it with a carrier oil instead. I can't for the life of me find any decent instructions, though.

So, does anyone know if extracts or essential oils would be better? If I go with extracts, do I need to dilute it like I would with essential oils? If I go with essential oils, does anyone have any tips on picking a carrier oil, or what ratio of essential:carrier is good? Do I store it already mixed, or separately?

Thanks for your help! I really have no idea what I'm doing.

Considering Loki

A friend thinks she's been contacted by Loki, and she's heard some discouraging personal experiences about following Loki, so she's looking for opinions.

What do the Cauldronites think of Loki?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Your Gods and Their Ethics

Prometheus, by Gustave MoreauImage via Wikipedia

Have any of you ever had the experience that a deity was telling you to do something that went against your ethical principles? Or, have you ever gotten the sense that a God did something wrong, or made a mistake?

How would that "mistake" affect your relationship with that God? Would you still choose to honor Them, assuming this kind of unethical action didn't take place all the freakin' time?

Personally, I have not had the experience that the Gods have told me to do anything blatantly unethical. I have, at one point, gotten the sense of one of them admitting to doing something that may not have been the wisest course of action. I am not certain if that's what was actually said. The message might have not been "I wish I'd done this differently", so much as "I wish I could have done this differently. but given the circumstances, I had no choice" ( The context of this is very personal and I won't go into details. )

I definitely get the sense that Gods are highly evolved beings who have a wider view of reality than we are, and a deeper knowledge of the consequences of their actions. So, I do not believe they would make mistakes very often given that knowledge. At the same time, if the Gods do make mistakes, those mistakes can happen on a cosmic scale (myth of Sekhmet, anyone?). Mythology is full of stories of Gods making mistakes. Perhaps this was part of the process of how the universe formed. Perhaps even the Gods had to learn their lessons before creation could progress forward. I don't know. I'm pulling theories out of my bum, here, but what does everyone think?

If the Gods see things on a grand cosmic scale and do have a greater understanding of cause and effect...does that excuse behavior that hurts beings on a smaller scale? Do you attribute what seems to be "unethical" behavior to a process of them breaking eggs to make a omelet, or is it just plain wrong?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Magic of Words

As an actor and a writer, this concept of the magic of words is very alluring.

I don't just mean magic involving words, but the possibility of magic through words alone. What do people think about the potential for magically charging words? Can words have any power of their own? Do we need to share in them for them to work? Can speech itself be a form of magic, or is it inherently just a component?

Prep for Staying Up All Night for Winter Solstice: What Are Your Techniques?

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  People gath...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As hopefully everybody knows, in just under 2 weeks we'll have what's becoming an annual tradition here at the Cauldron--our "Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice" online celebration!

My question here, as the date (Mon. night, Dec. 21) approaches, is: How do you do it? When you need to stay up all night, what strategies help you to do it?

Here are some of mine:

1. TAKE A NAP. A quick snooze the day before helps you go into the evening well rested.

2. DON'T LET THE ROOM GET TOO WARM. A warm room is a big sleep-inducer for me.

3. TURN OFF THE TV! If you get drowsy, sitting in front of the tube is like taking a sleeping pill.

4. LIMIT ALCOHOL. If I'm tired, it knocks me out.

5. HAVE A PROJECT. Something specific to accomplish helps focus the mind; I usually pick something pesky that I've been putting off, like wrapping gifts or cleaning out a file cabinet or somesuch.

6. DO SOMETHING ACTIVE. Dance, go to a 24-hour gym...whatever gets the blood pumping. But don't go for broke exercising, or the exhaustion will do you in afterwards. Also, doing something like taking a walk gets me outdoors in the cold air, which helps wake me up.

7. CALL A FRIEND. I use the solstice up-all-night celebration as my excuse to call friends in distant time zones. Good conversation keeps me alert.

What are your ideas?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Setting Up A Shrine

My Household ShrineImage by timtak via Flickr

Well, it took me long enough to find a place for the darned thing.

So now I need to find out what to put on it. I've got a few basic ideas - candles, offering dishes, images of the God/desses I am particularly attracted to, but there's a couple of things I need to ask.

One is: where do I get images or statues of the gods? I'm looking at adding things for Manannan, Aonghus and the Morrigan, but I don't know where to get statues. Ordering online is not preferable, given they will turn up in the mail and that could potentially create embarrassing situations, not to mention I have no way of paying for them without alerting parents. For specific shops, I live in Melbourne, Australia, and for DIY, I have very little craft ability in the areas of drawing or textiles (sticking things together and a bit of woodwork shouldn't be a huge issue), and anything I make myself will probably be an abomination, or at least an embarrassment. I could probably print off images and mount them on something, but if there's any clever suggestions, I need some.

Second is: Are there any decorations, scents, etc. specific to those deities that people recommend I incorporate? I have a fairly small space, so I won't be able to put in a large amount of foliage or anything, but small stones or colour schemes should be about right.

Thanks in advance for the help!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Divide Among Hellenic Pagans

Does anyone else get the impression that there is a lot of in-fighting when it comes to Hellenic polytheism? There always seems to be a huge divide between opinions, interpretations and practices, and certain groups of people who don't get along. It's very frustrating for there to be such a divide in such a young religious movement. It's not very encouraging.

Spiritual books about trees

I'd like to look at the spiritual meaning of trees and working with them from different angles. So if you know a good book trees play an important part in I'd love to hear your recommendation regardless from which path it is coming, but there should at least be some European trees in it.

Maybe someone can give me a suggestion which meaning trees have in different paths? I know there's the world tree in Nordic traditions and there's a tree alphabet in Celtic paths, but that's it. (I consider looking into books about those things, too.)

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