The Red Pill or the Blue Pill? Paganism in the here & now. Present looking backwards, how have we done over time in the paths blazed then & now? How being objective about the difference between myths Neo-Pagans have created about Paganism and historical practices help us choose what’s best for the future.
Panelists: Deb Jarvis, Thor Halvorsen, Kathryn Smith
Modern (Wiccan-based) pagans have settled into celebrating 8 major holidays spaced evenly around the year, and based, for the most part on ancient celebrations. There were traditions of having fire festivals (partying around a big bonfire) at Mayday and Samhain, and at the solstice. There were, of course, harvest celebrations, and when the local technology supported it, the summer and winter solstices were noted as special occasions. It is far more likely that seasons were celebrated- harvest, yule, mid-summer, at what ever time was convenient. One doesn’t stop during the harvest to have a party, but is natural to have a blow-out when you have successfully insured that you will have grain (apples, meat, or whatever) for the next year.
After harvesting the grain and beans and fruits and storing those as carefully as one could, there was the animal harvest. Any surplus livestock would be slaughtered to reduce the amount of feed required to get the living ones through the winter, but this wasn’t done until it was cold enough that the meat wouldn’t go bad during the processing. The Saxons called November Blotmonath, the month of meat feasting. (Some meat was salted, some dried, some smoked, some preserved for a while by the cold. In the far north it would freeze. So this time of year was the time for feasts- blots, where you thanked the gods for the meat you were eating. Neighbors could stagger their slaughtering, enabling them to share the labor and the meat while it was still fresh. One didn’t slaughter an animal without thanking the gods, and maybe the animal, for the meat they were providing. Sites like Yeavering have signs if great halls, and collections of skulls, that probably indicate sacrifices and religious feasting. Modern Asatru celebrate Winterfinding as the start of winter- usually at a full moon in October or November (or a weekend near then convenient for the kindred members to get together). We must not imagine that our ancestors did differently- people will always have to negotiate to figure out whose house and what day they are going to get together for the holidays- no matter how they are worked out.
As modern people we have easy access to knowing when the solstices and equinoxes occur. It’s not too hard to watch to find when the sun has set at the lowest spot on the horizon and starts moving back northerly again. People also can set up markers to help them know when these celestial occasions occur- like the sun shining down the passageway at New Grange on the Solstice. Our house has something like that- the rising sun on the equinoxes comes through one bedroom window, through two doorways, and down the hall to hit the far wall of the house only on those days. It’s very cool, and probably totally accidental. But other than something like that, our ancestors probably didn’t have the same precise awareness of the astronomical dates as we have these days. They noticed the various harvests, the first fruits, and other seasons that dictated what they’d be doing for the next weeks- hence Mayday and Samhain (signalling the time of year when spirits would likely be active) as major celebrations. Since we can determine the Solstices and Equinoxes, we have plugged four more holidays between the celestial ones, and there are old celebrations like Candlemas and Walpergis night that fit in those general time frames.
It’s convenient to space the holidays evenly around the year, and many people have worked hard to find out how our ancestors celebrated, but even when we try to reconstruct, the holidays are placed for our convenience. This has been so as long as we have recorded history. The Romans, for example, moved the celebration of the New Year from the logical start of spring, at the equinox, to the Kalends (or first) of January, specifically because their laws settled that elections should take place at New Years. But after they had conquered all the nearby tribes, it took too long for a newly elected consul to get out to wherever the armies were going to attack the next “barbarian” tribe if he couldn’t start until after the Equinox, so they shifted New Year to mid winter. (Who knows why they didn’t change the law about when elections were held instead!) It’s fairly common knowledge that Christmas was switched from the spring (when shepherds are in the fields) to the same day as the Mithraic celebration of the Sol Invictus, so that changing holidays would be easier. There is plenty of precedent for making holidays convenient for the worshipers.
I am thrilled that there is breathing room between most of the major holidays. It’s pretty clear that most cultures think that the beginning of winter is a good time to get together with your friends and celebrate. Since we are still looking around for the site, settling on the date, and looking for speakers, readers and vendors, we don’t have that stuff to announce in December, so I will be posting about holidays this month. I hope you enjoy it, while getting together with your friends (at whatever level is comfortable for you!).
I read a post on facebook recently where someone described Hanukkah to someone who was dissing them. “That’s when someone tried to make us worship their way, so we killed them.”
That may be a bit extreme, but I can understand telling people where they can get off if they think there’s only one “right” way to worship. The holiday is being thankful for the miracle of the oil lasting a clearly impossible amount of time. The rebellion wasn’t miraculous, it was just a natural reaction. While holidays can commemorate both spiritual and political events, I think it’s good to remember the human agency as well.
In 168 BCE the Syrian-Greeks captured the Jewish temple and rededicated it to Zeus (much as the Pantheon in Rome was turned into a Christian church, or Hagia Sophia into a Mosque). The next year the Emperor outlawed the practices of Judaism, and ordered the Jews to worship the Greek gods. The Jews, led by Mattathias, a High Priest, refused and created a rebel army known as the Maccabees, or Hasmoneans. Shortening the story, they won, and took the temple back. They had to purify it, as it had been seriously desecrated, before they could worship in the proscribed way there. Apparently it takes 8 days to make properly consecrated oil, (I don’t know the process) and they only had one days worth. But they started making the oil and lit the candelabra- and the oil miraculously burned for the full eight days.
Pretty cool, although Hanukkah is a minor holiday, celebrated by eating oily/ fried foods. It has become better known than other more important Jewish holidays because of the proximity to Christmas. Some parents hope that by making it a bigger deal, and giving their children presents at Hanukkah, they won’t feel left out of the Christmas merriment.
Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. This year Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 2nd (the New Moon is December 7th- I’m not sure how they work it out).
Angels are present throughout history throughout the beliefs of many cultures. Most of all, angels are present in the lives of each of us today, watching over us, guarding and guiding us, helping us to live our best lives possible. They can help us with health, prosperity, living our callings and many other important facets of our lives. In Meet Your Angels , you will not only learn about the history and beliefs about angels, but also practical skills to help you contact your angel, develop an angel team and work in concert with your angels to have a better life. This class designed for seekers of all skill levels.
If you missed the live show, the archive is here
Please join Tchipakkan and her guests on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 8-9 p.m. edt.
I recently read an ebook, Talking About the Elephant, a collection of essays about different aspects of cultural appropriation and how it occurs in Neo-pagan culture. Ii can highly recommend the book, and it’s a discussion that really should not be avoided, especially as so may of our traditions do draw inspiration from the spiritual practices of other cultures.
None of us wants to be guilty of “plastic shamanism” or to participate in cultural appropriation- disrespecting the spiritual and intellectual rights of other cultures, yet when all humans are psychic and working with the same basic spiritual abilities, can we be told that we are not allowed to do what others do when working with spirits? Anyone (with training) can visit the Akashic Records, but should only those with a background in Sanscrit call them that? Anthopologists have popularized the term Shaman (used by Tungusic Spirit Workers); since most cultures have someone who does this work, so should we reserve the term for only the handful of those in that culture? Let’s face it, as extensive as English is, it has very few terms for spiritual concepts, so, as usual, it borrows terms from other cultures- and we often go to other cultures for a deeper understanding of how anything from chakras to other levels of consciousness work.
Magickal practitioners, (like Samuel MacGregor Mathers & Moina Mathers illustrated in Golden Dawn robes) also have a tradition of borrowing concepts and props from other cultures, as did early 19th c. Druids, and many others. At what point does imitation stop being flattery and become appropriation? Any of us who truly respect our teachers and models need to look at these issues and try to find the lines we don’t want to cross before we find ourselves defending actions about which we aren’t really comfortable. We cannot keep “ignoring the elephant in the room”.
I’d really love to have people call in and share their perspectives on this important subject. The New Normal is live, on LiveParanormal Wednesdays at 8, and the call in number is 619-639-4606
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You can get the kindle book on Amazon, and the paperback book is still available from Lupa at: