Monday, February 28, 2011

Pagan Traditions as Monoliths

As a follower of multiple paths, this is an issue I tend to deal with a lot. For me, different traditions don't contradict each other, as pagan traditions are not monolithic in the Judeo-Christian sense as mutually exclusive entities. Ancient, pre-Christian peoples defined themselves by their culture rather than "religion" (which, as an entity distinct from the rest of the culture, was a non-existent concept). Like early Buddhism was not considered mutually exclusive to "Hinduism" (a term that didn't exist to describe indigenous Indian traditions until the arrival of British imperalists), there is a great deal of fluidity in terms of non-Abrahamic traditions. Of course, there was also a great deal of syncretism in the ancient world, as well, as the gods of the Olympian pantheon, for example, originated in various places like Egypt and the Near East. Isis had a wildly popular cult in the Greco-Roman world, and Rome especially was known for its tolerance of foreign cults.

However, I am not necessarily talking about mixing different traditions into one new, personal, eclectic path. I'm talking more about practicing different traditions without contradiction. To use myself as an example, I follow a system of pagan Witchcraft, as well as Hellenic and Kemetic polytheisms. I relate to ancient Greek (Hellenic) and Kemetic (Egyptian) cultures and enjoy honouring the gods in a traditional and culturally specific way, yet I also like that contemporary Witchcraft is a modern recreation of indigenous, "primitive" religion that is based in nature rather than on society and its constructions. Witchcraft is rather inclusive of other traditions and gods, so incorporating them is not hard. There is historical syncretism between Greek and Egyptian cultures, so following traditions is not hard, especially since I am not a part of either culture (and the cultures are dead). I mainly follow a Hellenic system that incorporates a few Egyptian gods, though I mainly worship Isis and Osiris these days. They easily fit into Witchcraft as forms of the universal Goddess and God, as well. I guess I don't really separate the different traditions too much, but I think there is a lot of overlap and they fit into each other well. I also try to follow Hellenic conceptions of arete ("excellence" or virtue) and the Egyptian concept of Ma'at, which also co-exist for me without contradiction.

As pagan traditions are not "religions" separate from culture in the Christian sense, they do not necessarily contradict each other and can be practiced side by side by an individual. Especially since the cultures these traditions come from are dead, and I have no interest in pretending to be an ancient Greek and adhering to political attitudes from 2000 years ago. I think it's perfectly acceptable to practice in different paradigms for different purposes, as adhering rigidly to a single one is Abrahamic in origin, not pagan. Does anyone agree, disagree, or also follow multiple traditions and have something to add, or an experiences to share?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Touched by many, kept by few?

Do you think it's possible/does it happen often/do you have experience with being touched/contacted/noticed by multiple deities, but most of them only in passing? What I am trying to say is... Say you have your core god(s)/goddess(es) that you work with. They're the ones you belong to, have contact with on a regular basis, etc. I am sure it's possible that other deities can notice you/say hi/momentarily help you in your life... but do you think it happens often? Or do you think that perhaps the person who encounters this might be a victim of their own hubris?

I, for example, work with three main deities. However, I feel like at some points Athene has come in to referee some parts of my life in passing, and the other day, while meditating, I am pretty danged sure I had a 'vision' of Cernunnos. The latter was just standing there, looking down at me, but I was sure it was him. I am well aware that my mind could have just latched onto something in passing and threw that out at me, and to think that multiple gods float in and out of my life could be my own wish-fulfillment or arrogance...

So I'd like to know what your experiences with this kind of thing are. Has it happened to you? Have multiple deities actually brushed you in passing? Or did you find that you were just happily daydreaming away and it was your own need to be brushed that sent out false messages?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How Many Deities?

I've noticed that a lot of people here work with several deities. I'm interested in how this works for people. How many deities do you worship/ follow? How many do you work with on a more casual basis? Have there been times of conflict between your deities?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Worshipping Just the Bits Uou Like?

One thing I have found very confusing in my sailing through pagan fora are the 1) changes that seem to have been rung on original myths 2) The very different way people tell one to approach, supplicate or thank a deity and 3) a question (in my mind) of whether or how respect comes into the way different people deal differently with a deity of the same name but which seem very different for all kinds of people.

Does it matter? I was watching a ceremony by a someone who was a priestess of a certain goddess (I am assuming there is some study and also having been chosen? by the deity being worshiped - I could be wrong about that I just don't know). I became very uncomfortable watching this ceremony as it didn't seem to acknowledge the various facets attributed to that deity in any source material I have read. I realize that the myths and beliefs about this deity changed over the course of hundreds of years and also, was thought of in different ways in different places. But. All the places in the ancient world did give a nod to the darker aspects and powers that could be wielded by this deity . It seemed to me that for all the deep and serious intoning going on and the various waving of arms and touching of objects ( some which didn't even exist when this deity was part of some of the 'mysteries') it could go very wrong - a bit like having a tiger by the tail.

But again, maybe it doesn't matter? Is it like saying " yes I know this person and I appreciate this and that quality and just try not to notice the characteristics of them I don't care for"?

One doesn't want to get things wrong and perhaps all that matters is saying the name but it makes me apprehensive.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to whether it is important to understand and at least give a nod to most of what is thought to be known about a deity and their powers? I guess I must sound like a softy Walter and perhaps I am but the ceremony didn't seem respectful and it would certainly make me think twice before I tried to approach the characteristics of a deity that I thought were important or that might serve *my* needs only.

I am sure this has been done to death and I have been looking at past posts but can't seem to get a definitive answer to this. Or maybe there isn't one?

Herbs and Their Remedies

So, I really like gardening, and I love herbs and their qualities. I was wondering, not only if there are any particular herbal books I should get, but also if there are any particular herbs I should have? I really like herbs to use in tea and also for remedies like for cramps, aches, depression, things like that. I don't really want to use them in oils, not now at least. It just does not interest me. But I was wondering if someone had some herbs to suggest for the garden that I will be starting up(again...) in just a month or so.

If anyone has some good remedy suggestions as well...that would be greatly appreciated! I am just starting out on this route, and I don't know all too much about what each plant has to offer. Which is another reason I want to pick up a good book on herbs.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Taking gods with you?

I'm getting ready to head off to a university in a few months. This is surprisingly freeing for me spiritually in most aspects; I'm rooming with my best friend, who is an agnostic Stoic with a fondness for Hermes, which leads to many entertaining discussions to say the least. My problem, actually, is one of my deities. I currently worship/work with three deities. One is Hermes, who is just REALLY EXCITED to be traveling to a huge (party) school. Another is a sky goddess, who...doesn't really care that I'm moving because she is, well, in the sky and thus pretty universal.

The third one is the problem. This boy is a harvest god, probably specifically a wheat god. I only know him because I have a mini wheat field in my backyard that he has decided to live in. We have a very strange relationship; I do not know his name or origin, as it has never been important before, but I make offerings to him and watch over his wheat, and he in turns guides me on some very important things. He is extremely land-based and chthonic; he likes food offerings, and he likes them buried in his soil. However, now that I'm moving, I feel that it will be difficult to keep worshiping him. I have no resources whatsoever except UPG, and my university is in a big city with no wheat fields. He has made it clear that he isn't a land spirit tied to my backyard, so he is willing to come with me.

Do you all have any ideas on how to continue worshiping an obscure harvest god who is very much obsessed with his own cycles of death and rebirth? How exactly do you take a land god with you to a new area? I'm going to try and squeeze some information out of him over the next few months, but he is very much the i'd-rather-watch-you-struggle-for-my-own-amusement kind of guy. So far, my only ideas have been to put a bunch of wheat in a box and take it with me, or to keep a pot of soil in my room and...yeah. I don't even know what I'd do with that. He is very patient and can tolerate me simply saying thanks and whatnot, but it is hard to not do physical things for such a physical god. Any thoughts?

What do you mean by 'pray'?

I know we've had a thread about the word 'worship' before, and the thread about how to pray got me thinking about how we use the word 'pray'.

I'm a lot less strict about using the word 'pray' than 'worship'. I wouldn't mind saying I pray to spirits, stars, the wind, Sylvia Plath, heck the Borg. When I pray to something, I suppose I mean something like 'aligning myself respectfully with X', 'opening myself respectfully to X'. My feelings lean more towards respect and openness rather than obeisance.

So what do you mean by pray?

Internal Deity Conflicts

People talk a lot about mismatching deities from different pantheons in the same ritual or path. But they don't talk so much about deity conflicts from within the same pantheon - enmities, rivalries, or personalities that just don't get along. There are some obvious ones, like Apollo and Dionysus, Thor and Loki, Oshun and...I forget the name of the goddess she hates. But you know what I mean. Have you ever discovered that two of your deities didn't like each other? Any humorous bad-mouthing by one deity of another? Any unintended blunders?

It's not a very entertaining story, but around the beginning of my relationship with Angus Mac Og, I asked him if he thought it was a good idea for me to do some work with Fionn MacCumhaill. He seemed to go stiff for a moment and responded with, "I'd rather you didn't." Much later I discovered a legend, The Pigs of Angus (haha, sounds romantic, doesn't it?), in which Angus and Fionn developed a long-lasting animosity towards each other, and I understood his reaction. It was a pretty neat moment of UPG verification.

So how about you guys?

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