Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pre-human Gods?

A thought occurred to me when I was reading an article in a science magazine, which was detailing new findings in human evolution, and how Homo sapiens is a hybrid of at least two species.

My sudden thought was: what if the gods/sacred spirits of these species prior to/contemporary with H. sapiens still existed? Would they try to contact us because we're their descendants?

I'm referring to Homo neandertalensis and the Denisovans, for those who don't keep up with such things, and borrowing a being from Mrs. Auel's "Earth Children" series-the Cave Bear Spirit, to represent hypothetical pre-human gods, how would you react if such an ancient entity contacted you?

What do the gods get out of us?

Basically, I'm wondering what use we are to the gods. I don't think they hang around us just for companionship or the warm fuzzies, so what exactly do they derive from a mutual relationship with humans? A lot of people seem to be very focused on what gods can do for them, but don't consider that the gods aren't always completely altruistic. It's only natural that if we are getting something out of interacting with them, prayers, worship, etc, then they're getting something out of it too. But I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what that is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sharing for Recons: What and How?

Reading Kiya's thread The Reconstructionist Book Problem and Jenett's recent PBP post B is for Book I began to wonder: given the difficulties that the reconstructionist approach can have with regard to academic books and the perception of academic culture, how does the average recon, or otherwise historically-informed practitioner, best share the knowledge they have acquired? What kind of information is best shared, aside from a general reading list? What kind of information does not share well? What kind of information is not shared but really needs to be?

Obviously, the answers to these questions will vary between the cultures each religion is attempting to reconstruct, and I'm looking forward to culture-specific answers as well as more general answers that apply to the approach as a whole. What do you share? What don't you share? What ways do you disseminate information, and do you think these methods can or should be improved?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Reconstructionist Book Problem

Somewhere recently I saw a comment about how one has to, in order to be a good reconstructionist, read the academic books rather than the "popular" ones. Because only those will actually teach you how to do the religion.

I wonder sometimes if people who say this actually read academic books. Because they have jack shit about how to actually practice the religion they're studying in the here and now. I mean, I can read all about the procession of fifty priests with offerings for the Wagy, but not only am I not a priest, I am not fifty priests. I can read about theories of ritual structures built around standing stones, or their astronomical alignment properties, but I don't have a Stonehenge in my backyard and even if I did we have no actual knowledge of what was actually done there, rather than what might have been done there and some interesting facts about star alignments.

A lot of my personal work involves going through academic books to come up with information for how to celebrate various festivals, yes. But that work is primarily as an interpreter. I pick up pieces of knowledge out of academic tomes - the overwhelming majority of which is completely irrelevant to a modern day practitioner, since we lack large communities of co-religionists, civic support for religion, institutional temples or worship spaces, or other things that get studied academically - in the awareness that the knowledge I have is incomplete, does not encompass the majority of the population practicing that religion in ancient times, and so on.

And then I try to make something useful out of it. Something that we can do now. Something that connects to the world now. Which is a process of translation, interpretation, synthesis, interpolation, and making shit up to fill in the obvious holes. And that is not something that comes out of academic books - that's something that comes out of a process fed by academic books and a whole heap of other stuff. And it's a great heap of actual work, to boot.

And doing that work not only shouldn't be everyone's job, it can't be. (I personally know several people who - upon learning that they'd be expected to basically take an independent-study college class in order to be a part of their religious community - wound up leaving the relevant recon communities entirely. Not for lack of devotion; for lack of any community support at all, ever, in this regard.)

The thing about popular books - aside from the fact that many of them are cruddy, but that's a different problem - is that they're attempting to solve this actual problem: synthesising data into something that can actually be put into practice. Yeah, it's not gonna be as deep an understanding of ancient practice as reading everything in its bibliography and everything else besides, but it might have little things like:

* a functional festival calendar
* with ideas about how to celebrate each of the festivals
* structures of basic rituals
* context for devotionals
* and an outline of worldview/ethics/approach
* in terms that will be accessible to a broader community, enabling shared practice and celebration, which is after all a big part of the entire point.

A good and accessible library of such things will be, for purposes of actually conducting oneself in a religion superior to the academic books in their bibliographies, because they will have put the pieces together into something that can actually be done, rather than handing someone a crate containing disassembled car with half the parts missing and saying "Go for a drive!"

And even if they're not going to produce as well-informed a practitioner as someone who has read everything in their biographies ... well, reading them will take a lot less time, and be a lot more direct to the actual goal of having a religious practice and community.

Divine symbolism in everyday life

I've noticed that whenever I feel sad or lacking inner strength I seem to attract cats and birds. I have no doubt that it's a deity trying to speak to me.

But I'm curious, does anyone else find that they attract certain animals if they're going through a particular high or low point?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Prayer Bead Prayers?

I've always been very fond of the use of prayer beads as a meditative tool, (I find it hard to meditate due to fidgeting and having something to use my hands for is very helpful,) and was wondering if anyone had any short, easily-memorized prayers that could be repeated while counting along a string of beads. (I haven't decided what religion is right for me so I don't really care what path it's from. If anything, the more diverse my options the better.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Deities as a "function"?

There has recently been a very interesting thread on the Asatru Lore forum regarding the nature of deities.

what is a god -- a workable model

I thought it may be interesting to discuss this model in a more general “pagan” environment.

As far as I understand it, (and if I’m interpreting this incorrectly, please feel free to point out my errors) the main idea is that a deity is NOT a universal being. Instead, a deity is a local wight/spirit/kami with a particular “function”. Different deities in different locations may share certain characteristics, and it is possible for us to use the name of a deity to refer to a “type” of very powerful regional being.

To give an example, “Thor” would not be a singular being with influence throughout time and space. Instead “Thor” would be a title, a “job description”, if you will, that refers to local wights concerned, in “Thor’s” case, with storms, thunder, rain and fertility.

Therefore, there would be “Thors” all over the world, wherever there are powerful local wights concerned with the above mentioned phenomena. In that case, my “Thor” in Western Canada would be a different being than the Northern European “Thor”, but they would share certain characteristics.

I first encountered this idea in an Heathen context, but I wonder how it would be perceived by people who practice other “pagan” traditions.

Deities You Pray to and Patrons?

Is there a difference between a deity that you pray to and your patron deity? Are there different levels of relationships with deities? How do you know if the deity you pray to is your patron deity? (Asking?) Is it alright to not know? What does it mean to be god-bothered or thwapped?

Would the Gods exist if we didn't?

In a hypothetical scenario where there is an absence of human life on planet Earth, would the Gods still exist?

Why/why not?

Monday, January 07, 2013

"Popular" Celtic Books

What are your favorite "popular" celtic books? By "popular", I mean books that are not scholarly tomes. For instance, I kinda like what little of Frank MacEowen's stuff I've read. It's in no way historically accurate, but it's interesting.

And what are your least favorite? Besides that Witta book that everyone hates. I do own a copy, and am not about to burn it or recycle it (not that I necessarily recommend it to people), and I can at least credit it for starting my push to learn about more authentic forms of Celtic spirituality.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Compartmentalizing Your (Online) Life

I’m wondering how many Cauldronites keep their spiritual life separate from the rest of their life, especially when it comes to online communications.

Do you keep separate Facebooks, blog accounts, emails, and Twitter accounts, ect – one for your pagan self and one for your meatspace self?

What considerations prompted your decision in how to manage your online life? What factors should be taken into account?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Music and Religious/Magical Practice?

Do you use music when doing your spells or a ceremony (magical, religous, or inbetween)? If so, what types of music do you use and why do you use it? Does it change depending on what your doing or do you use the same music everytime to put you in the right state of mind?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Predictions, Hopes and Plans for 2013

Resolutions I tend to make at other times, so instead I thought it might be fun to ask people what they predict, hope and plan for the coming year.

I predict things will change. I'll give it more thought and possibly come back later with something more specific.

I hope to broaden my horizons and make more connections in the local and online pagan communities. Maybe find a mate or a fling or something else. I hope to learn new things.

So far, I've planned my PBP topics for the year and that involves visiting several shops and venues as well as participating in some activities. I am nervous about drum circle, but I will do it!

Anybody have anything they want to share?

What do you want done with your body after you die?

I think that the whole embalm, coffin, bury thing is rather wasteful, in money and space, so I'd like to be cremated and scattered across a beach or in a forest.

I don't know if any pagan paths say what should be done with a body after death. I'm just curious to everyone's responses. Does your faith influence what you want done?

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