Thursday, February 25, 2010

What does "Religious Ritual" mean to you?

I've been thinking on the meaning of ritual in a pagan context, and wondering if I've been approaching the idea too narrowly, so I'm here to pick you brains and see what you all think.

What does "religious ritual" mean to you? Are there certain things it should encompass, no matter the religion? (And by this I mean not only the various pagan religions, but also JCI and others.) What makes a religious act a religious ritual? What kinds of religious rituals do you engage in?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Advice Wanted on Getting Through a Spiritual Dry Spell

Well I know you guys haven't seen me in awhile and for that I apologize Cheesy I need some advice though. Lately I feel as if I have been going through a "dry" spot and I can't decide what to do. I haven't been as intense and into my studies as I have been lately. Urgh I can't decide how to say this.

Basically I haven't been praying as much as I should and I haven't been studying my religion as much as I should. I have been not taking time to spend with the Goddess. Whenever I feel like I have a bit of time available something always comes up. I don't know what to do. I am afraid that the Goddess will now longer consider me one of Her own anymore. Most people reading this will probably think that this religion is just a phase for me but I really do the love the Goddess. I just cant seem to make any time for her. and when I do I can't concentrate long enough to retain anything. Please advise me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What are the Outer Limits of Paganism and Magic?

The "big two" monotheistic religions have clear and competing visions of the end of the world: Islam envisions the entire world conquered and ruled by a Caliphate and Sharia law (over my dead body, and I mean that literally); Christianity leaves room for the various nations to maintain their identity but asserts that Christ will rule them all from the throne of David at Jerusalem (which may not be any more palatable for the majority of members here, I realize). Secularism has its visionaries as well; the Star Trek universe comes to mind. What do you believe is the corresponding potential for magic and/or paganism in general?

The typical peasant of 2000 B.C. would have adjusted to the world of Caesar's era (or even Charlemagne's) with scarcely a burble. I venture to say, though, that he would not have adjusted to the 21st century (in the West, at least) without a lot of hard work and re-education. There has been real and substantial change since Gutenberg invented movable type, and especially since James Watt invented his improved steam engine. I'm not looking to hash out how much of that change is due to Christian beliefs and influence, but I will note that the Chinese had a form of printing (lithography) and that the ancient Greeks invented a (very) rudimentary steam engine. Would movable type have made the impact we know without Gutenberg's missionary zeal to publish Scripture and make it accessible to the common man? Was scientific inquiry and investigation jump-started by the religious worldview of early scientists and natural philosophers which held that the natural world was a creation of God, and therefore logical and knowable?

Be all that as it may. What do you think could (or should) have happened if Jesus Christ (and Muhammad) had never walked this earth and pagan/magical thought (of any particular pantheon) had been given the chance to progress unhindered? While I can't presume to read anyone's mind, I get the impression from the discussions I've followed here that most pagan thought is tied to the status quo and that (virtually) no one envisions great and radical changes from the world as it now exists. Would that have been true in any given place and time (Caesar's era, North America pre-1492, ancient Egypt, etc.)? Or am I mistaken in my impressions? While I don't expect anyone to respond that scientific and technological progress is an unmixed curse or blessing either way, if you could push a button and reset the world to the material, technological, and legal/political state of four hundred, five hundred, a thousand, two thousand years ago...would you push it?

For one specific example, I've seen discussions here on the astral. This is an area I have no personal knowledge of, nor am I trying to gain any; I feel my God telling me distinctly that he wants to work with me in this world (the occasional dream excepted). Can you envision any set of circumstances under which we (or you, meaning those who are interested) would be able to know, and map, and navigate the astral as certainly and repeatedly as we navigate the oceans? I sailed into Sydney Harbour twice while in the Navy, the last time over twenty years ago. Yet I have utter and absolute faith that with a suitably equipped and provisioned seagoing vessel and the proper charts and navigational equipment I could return to those exact same coordinates and find the Harbour, the Opera House and that big arched bridge in pretty much the same condition as I remember them. Is such a feat even possible for the astral, or is it fundamentally unplottable (at least in that sense)? If I gave you a suitable description, with nautical coordinates, of my trip around the world I believe that each and every one of you could successfully replicate it. Is the same feat in reverse even possible for the astral, or is it different for each individual?

I suppose what I'm getting at is, do you believe that there is some kind—any kind—of fundamental underlying absolute Truth to paganism and magic in general? I believe, on a fundamental philosophical level, that truth MUST be absolute, else it be not Truth...from which springs the missionary imperative of my own faith specifically and, IMO, of Christianity in general. I can accept that the majority of others here feel differently, but...if you had things your way, where would you take them? Are you happy with the status quo, the world pretty much the way it is...and, if so, would you be equally at home in the world of the 13th century or the 23rd century? If you are satisfied with things the way they are, does that include being satisfied with the fact that there is no (observable) justice for those who are caught up in the middle of famine, genocide and other horrors, such as those in Sudan? Or, if you would change things, what kind of change would you propose and what things would need to happen to (at least in your plan) make it work?

I know that this is kind of a rambling OP, so feel free to focus on any one area or to start a spinoff thread. But if your religion and your deities had their way...what would happen?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sacred Geometry

Does anyone here used sacred geometry principles or symbols? How do you use it? What kinds of results have you experienced?

Can you recommend any reliable sources of info?

Just started Chakra meditation practice - some questions

So I've tried out some guided meditations and musical stuff from several CDs. I feel very well with two different CDs, although I can't follow all things said, but I can also just listen to the music. It's also good for calming down when I can't sleep.

However I feel a bit uncomfy about the solar plexus chakra and that's the same regardless which CD I use. I kind of just don't like it activated too much. Don't know why, but I wonder if it would be good to just skip it and go from sacral chakra directly to heart chakra.

Other, but just slightly uncomfy spots are the throat and crown chakra. The one I feel best with meditating on is the sacral chakra, but root and heart chakra feel also very healing for me when I meditate on them.

I like going through them bottom-top, that seems to be easier for me than just concentrating on only one chakra, but it's also kinda senseless when a few out of the 7 feel uncomfy in the meditation…and I don't know if it's a sign for 'keep going' or 'wait with that one'.

I wonder if my uncomfy feeling might be there because some chakras repress others and in order to restore harmony I need to concentrate on the weak ones. Or maybe some blockages can't be solved directly and I need to start somewhere else first.

Any experience with something like this? Any suggestions from people with experiences in chakra work?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spirit vs. Soul?

What are your definitions of the terms spirit and soul? Are they different from each other, or just synonyms? Do you prefer to use one instead of the other?

In your opinion, is it disrespectful to the element of fire to blow out candles?

In your opinion, is it disrespectful to the element of fire to blow out candles?

Personally, I do blow out my candles, though I have read many sources which say this is disrespectful. Do you know why this is?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Worship, honor, respect...

What wording do you use in your relationship with deities, ancestors, etc? Some may say "worship", others "honor", "pay respect to", "pay homage to", etc. -- which word or phrase do you use for what you do? Are there words for this type of religious practice that I haven't touched on - and if so, why do you choose to use those words?

Does your phrasing change depending on the circumstance? What do the words honor, worship, etc mean to you?

Worshipping Non-Gods as Gods?

If you honor as a deity a being/person who in the recorded mythology was not a deity, why do you feel that they are a god/dess? Is this because of UPG, or another interpretation of the tales that we have? Is it because conventional understanding is now that that being was in fact a deity, or became one at some point? (For instance, the Tuatha de Danaan aren't technically called gods in the mythology, but as far as I can tell it's pretty widely accepted that they were in fact, gods, and that those doing the recording of the stories were inaccurate.)

As an example of what I'm talking about, Morgan Le Fay springs to mind, but there are others. You may include demi-gods in this question, if you wish, and venerated ancestors if it can shed some light -- but in general, when people speak of that they are clear that they're honoring ancestors, where some seem to believe that Morgan Le Fay was a goddess. I was just curious about this!


What does your religion teach - or what are your personal beliefs/ethics - regarding violence in action, words, or thoughts? Does it involve a form of pacifism or nonviolence? Or is it on the other end of the spectrum, where physical violence may be necessary or required at times to be in full service to your ideals/religion? Something "other" that neither of those touches on?

Regardless of which belief you hold about whether violence is immoral, or whether sometimes it is the only moral choice* do you believe that you are held spiritually accountable in some way for unnecessary violence? What does your religion teach about violence that is unnecessary or excessive?

* I'm going on an assumption that there are very, very few in the world who believe that physical violence is always the just choice, no matter what, as I've never heard of any religion teaching that, and honestly can't imagine anyone holding that ideal. If you or someone you know is of completely sound mind and is able to function in our modern society and you believe this, please share, because I can't imagine it. Or if there is a historical precedent of some kind.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Your Definition of Clergy

A few questions for you all,

What is your definition of Priest/Priestess?

What functions do they serve?

What are the expectations or criteria for a Priest/Priestess according to your faith or beliefs?

If a Priest or Priestess is dedicated to a certain God or Goddess, how would their function/expectations differ?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Ok, so this isn't necessarily religious per se, but I was wondering if anyone has ever had an experience where they've seen a ghost (or something you thought might be a ghost) or a spirit. What was it like?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Fairies (by any spelling)

Going on the assumption that most here very rapidly rejected the concept of "twee Victorian fairies" that wear petal skirts and have butterfly wings... what *is* your concept of fairies? Some versions that I've encountered are:

* "The Good Folk" - best avoided if at all possible, and definitely not to be irked.
* Some kind of being from the Underworld, to be respected but also possibly a source of illuminating wisdom for those who seek
* Local nature spirits that can/should be connected with, honored, and even overtly welcomed.
* An anthropomorphic idea of natural energies or the spirits of nature/Earth.
* Demigods of some kind, to be approached with the same deference and respect as you would any other deity.
* Imaginary friends that can be anything you want to pretend they are. Wink (Threw that in for those who don't hold any belief in fairies of any kind.)

And several other versions... including the possibility that we use the term "fairies" as a blanket term to refer to several disparate types of being, which is quite likely.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Personal Ethics

By and large, Pagan paths leave a lot of room for a personal ethical standard. We're given guidelines on valuable ideas, but not necessarily told how to behave.

What are your personal ethics?
What values do you hold dear?
How closely do these values align with your religious path?

And most importantly, how comfortable are you with defining your own ethics? Do you prefer to be told what to do/how to behave/etc? Does sorting out your own beliefs make you anxious? Or is the whole process of self-discovery exhilarating and freeing?

Human uniqueness?

A book I'm reading - actually for light reading, it wasn't meant to supplement my spiritual/religious research at all - brings up an interesting point and I'm curious where others stand on it. It discusses Yogis and how "true Yogis" view the world, all of it, as a manifestation of "God." (term used loosely here) Everything is divine, but humans are unique, "special," because only as a human can "God-realization" occur. Other forms of life do not have this opportunity.

This is something with which I fundamentally disagree. Personally I find nothing "special" about humans and I do not hold a view in which humans are above other forms of life. In an article somewhere (about dolphin communication), a researcher said, "It's only due to our lack of knowledge that humans remain this exclusive species." I can't for the life of me remember her name, but that resonates very deeply within me.


Myths as part of worship and ritual

I know that myths are often used as sources of info on the nature of the gods and interacting with them. But does anyone here incorporate the stories themselves into ritual? How do you decide which of a god's many myths you'll focus on? Or, in everyday life, do you find yourself returning to some myths as touchstones of faith?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Your Ritual Tools

I've been thinking on the subject of the use of tools in ritual and I thought I'd pick your brains for a bit. Smiley Some questions:

What tools do you use doing ritual or other religious work?

How do you use them?

What do they represent?

How did you decide on them? (IE, are they tradition specific, historically informed, UPG, something else?)

Are there any special rules involved with them? (IE, no one else can touch them, you have to make them yourself, etc?)

How necessary are they? If you couldn't use your tool, are can you substitute/adapt, or do you just go without?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Solstices and Equinoxes

The solstices and equinoxes and I have always been on shaky ground. I remember trying to incorporate them as seasonal holidays in my calendar during my strictly Celtic period, but between the fact that I had no historical foundation to build from, and that I didn't see these days as marking the seasons (they're pretty arbitrary when it comes to New England weather) I didn't really have any use for them. I felt a draw, but I couldn't shape that attachment into anything useful.

Fast forward to about ten minutes ago. How I got started on the subject, I do not recall (which is pretty sad, given that it was about fifteen minutes ago) but I thought to myself, what if these days aren't about the earth, but about the sun? Or, I continued, not exactly about the sun, but about light and dark, night and day, and the balance? To a certain degree, they've always been about those things, but I was never able to extricate them from the seasonal association that didn't work for me.

So I was wondering: how do you feel about the equinoxes and solstices? Do they have a role in your practice, your calendar? Do you see them about light/dark, or seasonal, or both, or something else? How do you celebrate them?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Solitary in Asatru

Community is a generally considered a huge part of Asatru and related faiths. What about those people who worship without a religious community?

- Are you solitary? If so, is that by choice or necessity?
- How necessary is a religious community or not? Why?
- How important is a mundane community or not? Why?
- If someone is solitary, how do they practice Asatru or other Heathen religion? Particularly, I'm interested in what people's more formal, solitary blots might look like.
- What do you do to cultivate or support your community, religious or secular?

What books SHOULDN'T you read?

In another discussion group I'm in, I asked a similar question, but it was very subject oriented. Here it's more general.

What book you would not recommend reading, and why so? Be it contents, or just a waste of time and money, or are there better books on the subject?

I can also ask it in a different way - What book wouldn't you recommend for a beginner in this or another path? (material to advanced, need for solid basics before, etc...). That's a different question actually, but never the less also important.

Also, if you think that the book isn't bad, but not suitable for a specific crowd, mention it (i.e. "Wicca" by S. Cunningham, which I think is good for a general interest in Neo-Wicca, but not as good for someone interested in Traditional Wicca).

Why these question(s)? There are many lists of "What to read", but there aren't many of "What to avoid". Many of the books which I think should be avoided, are those who are actually more "easy selling" - tempting covers, tempting titles, etc., which beginners (and non beginners) may buy, and just waste some good time and money, better spent elsewhere. Though IMO, there is no such thing as a "bad" book, because from every book you can learn something (such as - "what is a bad example for a book").

Speaking to the Gods Informally?

Can you speak to the gods/goddesses informally, such as the Christians do in their religion? Or must it only be in formal ritual and worship?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Expectation of a Deep, Personal Relationship with Deity/ies?

I was reading in another thread - and my apologies, but I can't seem to locate it again! - and something in it stuck with me today. The idea brought up was that for most Celts, a relationship with the gods wasn't necessarily about having a deep, personal, intimate communion with them, that it was a different way of looking at the gods' interaction with men. In other threads, primarily from those of Celtic or Heathen beliefs, the relationship with local land and house spirits seems to have more emphasis as a more important part of the day to day life.

I know that there are those who do have an intimate, personal relationship with one or more deities... but perhaps my expectation of this as an inherent and fundamental part of religion is a Christian hangover, rather than fully embracing a totally new approach to things? And I sense that it could be a barrier to developing a deep and intimate experience in a totally different way, especially since in the last month or so, forming a better understanding of and connection with the more immediate, local spirits has become more and more something on my mind.

I would love some more discussion of this idea, and about making this paradigm shift.

Communing with Nature?

I'd like to hear from those who are practicing a religion that reveres nature (or places a great importance on nature or nature spirits) who live in suburban or urban areas. Particularly from people who are transplants there, who have had to adjust to it.

I lived in a rural area my whole life - acres and acres of wooded hills around a family farm - and a few years ago we moved to the outskirts of a honest-to-goodness town. I like it here for a lot of reasons, but the difference is huge in terms of the connection that I feel to nature. It's like trying to have a relationship through glass. Yes, I love the trees around here, and I find meaning in dandelions pushing through cracks in the sidewalk, etc, but it doesn't have the wildness that really resonates with me, and I'm feeling the lack of that strongly.

Also I feel a lack of privacy, due to the proximity of other homes, which affects me. Sure, there's nature everywhere (or I would go mad) but there's no privacy.

What are some ways that other people (who aren't conveniently living in the middle of the woods Smiley ) find to deeply and meaningfully connect with nature? I'm finding that kind of communion to be elusive, and I miss it.

Becoming a witch or Being a witch?

I often read on some websites that you can't become a witch. You are a witch or you aren't. What do they mean by that? Do you have to have witches as ancesters or something?
Or do they mean you have to be a witch in an active way, like in every action you perform you must act like one without to much effort?

But you can't be a witch without learning and knowing about it, isn't it? Or am I wrong? Doesn't a witch have a spiritual way of growing?

I all confuses me sometimes...

Traditions for birth or babyhood?

Many faiths have beliefs, rituals, and traditions around "baby-having" - both celebrations, and taboos. I always find these beliefs so interesting.

Does your path have any traditions or rituals for during pregnancy, during or after birth, or the postpartum time? If these kinds of details aren't known about your path, what do you imagine they might have been? If your path simply doesn't address these, then what do you think would be meaningful for you within your faith and practices?

If you've done some sort of religious/spiritual ceremony or before or after the birth, I'd love to hear about it! (Whether it was part of your official religious path or not.)

Simple Ways of Celebrating the Wiccan Sabbats?

What are some simple ways of celebrating the Sabbats without too much complex ritual and pomp?

Lay Pagans vs. Clergy 2 (the other way round)

The Lay pagans vs. clergy thread was a brief-but-interesting discussion that focused on what separates the clergy from the laity (to the extent that either word applies) within different pagan contexts.

This thread is aimed at running at the same sort of issue from the other side; what is the role of the laity? What differentiates them from clergy? Which pagan ways have a formal or informal role for a laity? How much latitude should lay pagans be allowed in different areas? For example, does it matter if an eclectic neo-wiccan, who is happy to identify as 'lay' believes some of the anthropological and historic inaccuracies that are well known at TC, or is it ok for lay people to believe the 'myths' of their tradition?

I understand that most participants at TC are more likely to fall into the clergy, or the non-hierarchic parts of paganism, but I'm interested in people's perspectives and thoughts on those who are not so inclined/called.

Monday, February 01, 2010

New Asatru Web/Podcast

Myself and two others are starting a new heathen/Asatru webcast beginning Sunday Feb. 7 at 1pm EDT. We will have book reviews, interviews with authors and other personages of note, band interviews/reviews, and whatever else we can think of to squeeze into an hour block of airtime.

Come check us out!

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