As people think about different ways of living on – or with this planet – some people decide to go off and live in their own self sustaining communities (as a traffic hating resident of the fast paced U.S. East Coast, I’ve thought about it multiple times). I was on a Pagan Facebook group the other day when I bumped into one of the founders of Desert Moon Spiritual Center, which is a self sustaining community for Pagans in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that is currently looking for more residents. So I decided to chat with her about what life is like in this community, and she was kind enough to allow me to put this information on Metal-Gaia for anyone else who may be interested.
DISCLAIMER: I have not been to this community or met anyone there in person. If you decide to apply to this place, get references, visit first with a friend, be safe, don’t be dumb. Metal-Gaia is not responsible for your decisions. Just supplying information here.
Okay. Now that my legal butt is covered, allow me to provide the interview.
What is Desert Moon Spiritual Center?
Our motto is Live…. Play….. Follow your path…… Live here by becoming a colonist. Play here by camping or using a retreat cabin. Follow your path by using the metaphysical canter and 3 ritual areas. We are a Pagan based living colony, metaphysical and spiritual center. We also run a full animal rescue and sanctuary. We are NOT a commune, think more gated community. Located in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley near El Paso Texas. Offering gorgeous mountain views and wonderful weather. Peaceful and tranquil environment not far off the interstate. Paved roads and easy access to the property. We are limited to only 15 cabins for residency. We are a newly developed community and still growing. We will be adding meditation gardens, workshops, animal corrals, food gardens, community use kitchen and smoke house. Plus shower and laundry house with full showers and baths with flushing toilets.
What are the Spiritual Areas like?
There is a Ritual and meeting area being constructed upon a foothill overlooking the valley. Private and discreet. Can practice as you want with no fear of judgments.
Tell me about the landscape:
The land is FULL of vegetation and life. Mesquite trees take up most of the landscape. We also have desert sage and salt brush. Right after a rain the wild flowers bloom and the landscape is transformed with blotches of color. Bright yellow flowers on the mesquite trees attract countless hummingbirds. Doves and quail pass through daily. We have Javalinas on the property as well. These are small wild pigs about the size of a medium dog. Falcons buzz threw the air just over head. While turkey vultures circle way up in the sky. We have people that come from all over the world to bird watch in the area. Countless fence lizards and horny toads are everywhere. Yes we have snakes too. The majority of the snakes we have here are harmless. Bull snakes and King snakes help keep the area clear of mice, kangaroo mice and other small critters. At night you can hear the coyotes howling in the distance. The weather is beautiful. Summers are hot but no humidity. So you don’t have the health related issues from heat. Even days when it is hot around 95 degrees as long as there is a wind we could actually have a wind chill factor. Winters are mild and easy, very little snow. But when we do get it, it is gone shortly after.
What are the cabins like? How much do they cost?
We are leasing cabins for residency. All cabins will have to be outfitted with solar/wind power and composting toilets. Running water will be available for each cabin. Cabins can be customized to suit your needs. As we grow we will also be offering retreat cabins for weekend or weekly rental. Primitive camping is also available for a single night to 30 days.
Standard cabin is 12’x32’ Double lofted with a front porch for $400 a month. We have bigger and smaller cabins to suit your needs. The cabins are refabricated cabins that meet all US building and hurricane codes. The cabins come empty. This allows you to design the cabin to suit your needs and what you want your home to be. So if the tile or carpet or wood flooring is what you want. The paneling or drywall and colors are up to you., the layout can suit your specific needs. So no two cabins will be the same. There is A LOT of room in cabin this size. If you look up tiny house living you can see just how great these small houses can be! But you’re not just leasing the cabin. You will get the entire ranch and all the facilities once they are up and running.
How did Desert Moon Spiritual Center get started? What was the inspiration?
We bought our first 45 acres to accommodate the animal rescue and sanctuary we have on the property. We are a state licensed no kill nonprofit rescue. We wanted to rent out 2 cabins to homesteaders that would be willing to take care of the animals so we could after 10 years go up and visit family back north. But the only people we could find in the homesteading circles were right wing Christian nut jobs that wanted to put in a watch tower bunker and stock pile ammo to start a revolution against the government. Or people that wanted to start a missionary training camp, that is NOT the type of people we wanted here. [Side note from Metal Gaia: The fact that these kinds of people are so readily available is a little scary]
Our daughter had had suggested renting only to pagans. Since we wanted like minded people. So I posted a inquiry in a pagan Facebook group and in 24 hours I got 85 responses for information. So we were overwhelmed and not sure what to do. So I went for a walk to find the back property marker. It took me over 2 hours to find the markers over a mile back. As I climbed up the mountain foot hill in the back section of the property. I got to the top and thought, “wow this would be great for a ritual area.” It looks over the entire valley. As I turned and looked over the valley at our property the entire colony showed its self to me. I could see the cabins and gardens. The community center and workshops just appeared.
I came down and went to Marcia and talked to her about what I saw. I said the only problem was the majority of the community was not on our land. It was sprawled between three plots. But those other plots had been sold. We thought well maybe we need to find another piece of land. So we called the land developer the next day and they told us the two plots next to us where repossessed the day before. So we were the first people to know they were for sale again. So we pounced. Now we have a total of 135 acres. We were victims of gay hate crime in Iowa. So we had talked about it and wrote down our ideal place to live. Some parts we kept, others we threw out. The main goal is to create a pagan only community where pagans of different paths can come live a simpler honest life. Raise animals for food fiber and grow good. Live life and raise their families their way. To live without fear of judgment and discrimination. We are only 3 months from concept to now. So we are new and still growing. But Simpler doesn’t mean going without. We are not asking people to live like pioneers in the 1700s. We have almost all the modern day amenities just a nice country setting
Do you know if there are any other communities doing something similar?
There are other communities out there. But NONE operate the way we do. We are NOT a commune. We are NOT an “eco-village” that trains you how to be more ecofriendly. We operate off a lease. Each resident has to have an approved application (light back ground check and sex offenders’ check. But not a credit checks. We believe your more than a number) and a signed lease. So you have rights as well as we do. There are a list of Bylaws that the entire colony must follow, including ourselves. There is a system in place for what happens when a Bylaw is broken. So you cannot be kicked out just because you disagree with someone or someone doesn’t like something about you, like in any commune situation. We have full time residency cabins. We are here to help you transition to your new lifestyle. We are not here for you to take a workshop or class to go and use those skills elsewhere.
Do many of the people in the community still have jobs, or is it possible to live there without needing to work?
It depends on your situation. We people that are on disability/retired and that can make their lease payments. But for others they may need to work to ensure they can make their lease payments. The nearest city for work is El Paso Texas. Its about a 45 min drive straight down the interstate. It’s where my wife goes for work every day. So there is the option of carpooling as well.
We have arts and craft items that we make to support the colony and make improvements to the property. We currently offer bracelets with charms, key chains, prayer beads, kitchen witch items, stone necklaces and something called Desert Moonite Rock Guardians. The stone necklaces are made from stones found at the ranch and wire wrapped by hand and blessed under the full moon. The Moonites are rocks that I ask to come to me to be guardians. Think of a spiritual pet rock if you will. I look at the rocks bring out their personalities and come in various sizes. Can be put in Gardens, kitchens, desks or pockets. But as far as doing crafts and items to barter or trade for the lease no.
Does anyone cultivate food for a living?
We have just started and I am hoping next year that we can sell eggs and vegetables at the local farmers market. But by raising your own meat and growing your own food and canning your food you reduces your cost of living and expenses. Not to mention its healthier.
What is the Pagan Community like there? Is it mostly one group, or do you have more eclectic groups of Pagans such as Heathens, Wiccans, Druids, etc.
Most paths are welcome. All earth based paths are welcomed. We have Druids, Wiccans, Heathens and others that have approved applications. The only thing we have decided as a Board is we do not want any dark arts. And we believe that Satanist are a subset of Christianity so they do not qualify. I know a lot of people do not agree with this philosophy and that’s fine everyone is entitled to their opinions. I am not going to argue the decision the board has made.
Do you guys get together on the key Sabbaths and have a big celebration, or does everyone mainly do their own thing?
Even though I am ordained it is not about following my path. It’s about helping you follow yours. So those that want to gather together can and those who want to go solo can. So we are putting in 3 different ritual areas so there would be options for different paths to celebrate on the same days and times. We are however only putting in one community center. So that will be rotated threw the different paths and who needs the space. We also will be allowing Sky Clad events as long as they are scheduled and approved ahead of time. This way these events can be posted and those with children can be aware. Its all about respect.
What are some of the advantages to living in an all Pagan community?
One of the biggest things we hear is that “I can’t be myself.” “I can’t tell people I am pagan a witch or a druid. I can’t wear my pentacle and robes. No one understands me.” Well here you can wear what you want and know its okay. You’re not going to get bullied or put down because of it. There is positive reinforcement here. We will not tolerate any hate speech, writing or any kind of discrimination will be cause for removal from the colony. No not everyone is going to get along all time. But at the same time we all must learn to tolerate each other’s differences.
Would you accept an applicant who isn’t pagan, but is moving there with their pagan spouse?
At least one adult person has to be pagan. If there is a spouse or significant other who is not pagan that is fine as long as they are pagan friendly. Our biggest issue we will have is if we have a pagan and a Christian/Jew/Muslim/whatever where the other person is not supportive or is constantly trying to shove their religion in other people’s faces. That is a violation of the Bylaws and cause for removal. Trust and tolerance and safety above all.
I see that people living in this community have the freedom to grow different kinds of vegetables and raise various domestic animals. What are common vegetables people like to grow there? What are some of the domestic animals that people like to raise?
We are putting in animal corals and the colonists have the right to raise animals for food or fiber or fun. Pets are always welcome without any type of pet deposits. Livestock is encouraged. They can raise chickens and poultry for meat and eggs. Cows, goats for meat, milk and fiber and pigs are welcomed as well. They can either have animals of their own or coop animals as a group. We thought when we started this that everyone would want to raise their own animals and do their own thing. We are learning that is not the case. Many people want help with animals cooped by the colony and shared. So even if you don’t know anything about raising animals or how to harvest meat or eggs we are all here to help each other. My wife and I have over 15 yrs experience with farm animals. So we are here to help.
As far as veggies. We are putting in what’s called solar pits. It’s like a half buried green house. You take a hole in the ground and put your green house in it so only the roof is exposed. It makes the green house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter giving us a year round growning season. You can grow anything here (as long as its legal).
I see on your application that you are asking about people’s skills. If someone doesn’t have many skills, but is willing to learn and work hard, would you accept them?
Of course. We all have different skill sets and abilities. If you’re willing to learn that’s even better. One of the biggest things that people tell me is I can do anything but my spouse is disabled and not able to do construction. But that is not a problem. There are MANY ways to help,. It’s just finding a way that you can help within your abilities. We will make every accommodation to make you useful. But there are those that just do not want to find a place to help. For example I was on a phone call with a 50yr old woman on disability who wanted to move to the ranch. She told me she was not able to do construction. I was like that’s fine. Can you make sandwiches and lemonade for people that are working? OMG I don’t like to cook for myself let alone others so no. Ok…. What about watching kids? Would you be willing to babysit for people? I don’t like other peoples kids I raised my own and I don’t want to do that. Ok…. What about feeding and watering animals? I HATE animals and don’t want to be near them. Hmmmmm ook. What about gardening can you water plants and weed? I have allergies and don’t like being outside. I said well I know how badly you want to be here. What can you do to help out? Why can’t I just lease my cabin and stay to myself? Mmmmm well honestly I don’t think you will be happy here and this is not going to be a good fit. Her response was but why not? Because I believe with all my heart that everyone has something to contribute and you just don’t want to do anything to help others and that is not within our goals and what we want for our community. Everyone has something that they can do we just need to find it.
What is the camping experience like for people who just want to visit?
Camping is a primitive walk in tent camping. You come to the property and ask for a camping spot. If we have a spot available I will give you a copy of the rules and regulations for camping. You sign a camping agreement stating you know the rules and agree to pay the fee before you set up. You park your car and gather your stuff and walk in to your campsite. Fires are allowed in campfire rings only. Pets are welcome on a lease. Until we get the water lines installed and the shower house up and running. So until those are in you will need to bring a camping toilet and all the water you will need. It is true primitive camping. But in exchange for the short hike in you will get a complete starry sky. Horizon to horizon. No lights from the city to block any views. Mountains’ on 3 sides. Hawks flying over head. Humming birds darting in and out of the Mesquite trees. The sound of owls and coyotes at night. You can hike the entire 135 acres and see quail, javalinas (a type of small wild hog), bobcats and more.
If you want to come out for the day and not camp you’re welcome to do that as well. Come picnic and hike.
What is internet connectivity like there? (I would die without my internets!)
We have been in contact with a satellite internet company that offers truly unlimited sat internet. Most like wild blue or Hughes net offer internet but you cannot stream anything because you will run into overage fees. The company we are dealing with does NOT charge overage fees. They also are allowing us to connect several computers under one account. So we can network the computers and the cost will go down according to how many people are using the internet.
What is your vision for this community 5 years down the road?
Our end goal is to have 15 cabins for lease for residency. 10 cabins for retreats or vacations. 5 stall RV campgrounds and 10 primitive campsites. We want to have 5 solar pits, a community rec room and kitchen with outdoor kitchen, workshops for crafts, woodworking and library. A complete metaphysical center and 3 ritual areas.
What can outsiders do (like myself) to help the community flourish and grow?
You can support DMSC by either buying one of the various items that we make to support the colony and make improvements. We have bracelets, key chains, necklaces, kitchen witch items, T-shirts and more. Or you can make donations to the colony through PayPal or by sending Wal-Mart or Lowes gift cards or just a donation to our mail box. You can donate to pay for a bill like our radio advertising for money. We have several projects we need supplies for so can donate for those particular items we need. Just contact me directly and I can tell you what we need.
What is the biggest challenge this community currently faces?
The biggest challenge we face right now sense we are just starting out is paying our bills. We have a $900 a month land mortgage. We need to raise $1500 to get the water lines laid and installed. We have several thousand dollars in land clearing that has to be done still. We have to get the animal rescue facilities in as well. That’s about $3000 for the kennels and shelters for the dogs in rescue right now. The rescue animals alone cost over $300 a month just in food. All the money for this colony comes from my wife and I. I am on disability and my wife works. But like everyone else we struggle. But this is our mission in life and feel we are drawn to this purpose. We need people to help support this cause.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about living in this community?
The sense of extended family and approval. If I need something there is someone there I know I can call and count on. If I want or need to go somewhere I know someone is there to take care the animals and the house and I know everything is safe. You are not just leasing a cabin. This is a lifestyle. It’s a support network and a way to know you are never alone and the support is always there.
Thanks for your time and well thought out answers! I hope everything goes well in your community. In this world where people live such isolated lives (away from both the Earth and each other) it’s heartening to see people banding together to live closer with the land, and helping each other out. So for those of you who are interested in learning more, check out their website.
STANZA 39 of HAMAVAL:
No man is so generous he will jib at accepting
A gift in return for a gift,
No man so rich that it really gives him
Pain to be repaid.
Gifts were a big deal in Ancient Norse culture. They weren’t just a way to celebrate a holiday. The act of giving a gift is something that bound you to a person. This stanza is a rational explanation of gift giving and human nature. Nobody gives a gift without expecting something in return. We’re taught that that is what we’re supposed to do, but realistically few people are this altruistic. This is why many women are hesitant to accept a drink or a gift from a male stranger, because there is the underlying thought of (if I accept this gift, he thinks he deserves a sexual favor in return). This line of thought extends to political realities. If a donor (like Monsanto or the Christian Right) gives a politician a large sum of money, they are going to expect some political favors in return. So this basic line of thought can be summarized with, “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.”
A further analysis of the stanza is at the following link.
GEBO: THE RUNE OF GIFT GIVING
The Rune Gebo represents gifts, both in the sense of sacrifice and of generosity. This is an indication of balance. This rune represents all matters in relation to exchanges, including contracts, personal relationships and partnerships. The opposite of Gebo is greed, loneliness, dependence, over-sacrifice, obligation, toll, privation and bribery (Click here to learn more about the runes).
If the Rune of gift giving represents balance itself, this is an indication that gift giving wasn’t a one way street in Norse culture. It was a way to create balance in a relationship as well as to establish a bond between two parties.
I enjoyed this argument for the author’s deep scholarship of the issue, as well as the time they put into their argument.
One key point in their argument is that a clarification of terms is necessary.
Universalist can mean a lot of things. The key understanding that most people have, is that Universalist opens Heathenry to all people, regardless of their ancestral background, while Folkish Heathenry believes that only people with European or Northern European ancestry should follow the Norse Gods.
Many people assume that Universalist Heathenry has more syncretism or less reconstructionism than other forms of Heathenry, when that is not necessarily the case.
So read this argument and enjoy.
Trying to understand the layout of the world tree is something that always confused me, so this simplified picture is pretty helpful.
An intriguing look into an ancient culture that is still around today. The Mari El people have protected their Pagan religion against both Christians and Soviets, and still carry out rituals today in sacred groves that are tied to the land.
DISCLAIMER: METAL-GAIA DOES NOT SUPPORT RACIST IDEAS, SUCH AS WHAT WAS FOUND IN NAZI GERMANY. THIS IS A DISCUSSION OF INDIA, EUROPE AND WEST ASIA’S SPIRITUAL PAST. FOR METAL-GAIA’S THOUGHTS ON RACISM, REFER TO PAGANISM AND RACISM.
The word Aryan immediately has many controversial connotations. Merely speaking the word “Aryan” in most Western countries will conjure the image of Nazis and a flaxen haired, blue eyed people from the north. Yet the reality is that the Aryans (if they did exist as a singular people) were most likely from West Asia, not Northern Europe, and that Aryans were a Hindu topic for thousands of years before the Nazis came along.
The reason why people associate Hindu spiritual concepts like the Swastika and Aryans with the Nazis is because the Nazis appropriated many historical Hindu concepts. Even the swastika that is now famous as a Nazi symbol, was historically a Hindu symbol of well being. The root of the word itself “su” (good) and asti (to be) is a phrase describing well being. In Northern India, the Swastika can still be seen as a prominent symbol today.
So who were the Aryans really? In a historical sense, the word refers to a wave of Indo-European people who immigrated to the Indian subcontinent during the Iron Ages. In Sanskrit the word itself means “noble.”
While the Indo-Aryans mentioned in the Hindu Rig Veda are a very controversial topic, there are a few reasons why I would like to talk about them today. In the study of Pre-Christian Spirituality, there are many uncanny similarities between Hindu and European Pre-Christian mythos and culture – particularly among the Celtic people. Why is this? One answer is that the people in the Ancient World were communicating with one another more than modern folks give them credit. Cleopatra wore Chinese silks and Buddhist statues have been found in Norse homes. Believe it or not, each culture did not live in its own bubble.
Yet the other answer is that there could be a more direct link between the Pre-Christian European spirituality and that of India. This is the theory that during the Iron Ages, the nomadic Indo-Aryan people dispersed in two different directions – west to Europe and south east to India. The Celts themselves are said to have descended upon Europe from Central Europe or West Asia during the Iron Ages.
While this is still just a historical theory, I do think it is at least worth an in depth discussion.
SIMILARITIES IN SOCIAL STRUCTURE
First, there are the similarities between the spiritual structure of Hindu and Celtic society. Both were highly hierarchical societies with a “priest, peasant, warrior” type caste system, where the spiritual authorities were on the top of the social ladder.
Among the Celts, the Druids were the social elite and among the Hindus were the Brahmins. The very name “Druid” is composed of two Celtic word roots which have parallels in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, the root for knowledge “vid” appears in the word “veda.” The Celtic root “dru” which means “immersion” also appears in Sanskrit. So a Druid theoretically is one who is “immersed in knowledge” (Druidism and the Ancient Religions of India).
In both societies, Brahmins and Druids weren’t just mere priests, they were a social caste. Among the Celts, the Druids were a complete intellectual caste comprising of judges, lawyers, medical doctors, ambassadors, historians, etc. The Brahmin caste more or less was the same in this respect.
SIMILARITIES IN SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE:
Peter Beresford-Ellis in his essay ‘Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument’ also highlights another fascinating parallel:
‘Boudi and the stem budh appear in all the Celtic languages. It means – all victorious, gift of teaching, accomplished, exulted, virtue and so forth. In Breton today, for example, boud means ‘to be’. You will see the stem in the name Bouddica, more commonly referred to in English as Boadicea, the Celtic warrior queen of the Iceni who led an uprising against Roman rule in 60 AD The important thing is that the word occurs in Sanskrit and Buddha is the past participle of the stem budh, to know or enlightened. This is the title given to Sakyamuni Gautama – the Enlightened One. What is important is that in the Vedas the planet Mercury is also known as budh.’ [Beresford-Ellis in the same article notes: The idea that these ‘signposts’ might lead to the fact that ancient Celtic astrology and Vedic astrology also had a common link, another surviving parallel, was thrown into sharp relief by a small gloss on a 9th Century Irish manuscript at Wurzburg. The word budh was glossed by ‘point of fire’ and ‘planet Mercury’.]
Here are other examples of a similar vocabulary:
Old Irish – arya (freeman),Sanskrit – aire (noble)
Old Irish – naib (good), Sanskrit – noeib (holy)
Old Irish – badhira (deaf), Sanskrit – bodhar (deaf)
Old Irish – names (respect), Sanskrit – nemed (respect)
Old Irish – righ (king), Sanskrit – raja (king)
(Source: Hindu Wisdom)
SIMILARITIES IN MYTHOLOGY:
Some of the examples listed in this section are from the Bards, Ovates and Druids website.
In terms of mythological similarities, there is a striking similarity between the Norse and Hindu concept of world creation. The Purusha Sukta, a hymn in the Rig Veda, states that all things were created from the mangled limbs of the titan Purusha. In Norse Mythology, the belief is that the world was made from the body parts of the titan Ymir.
The Twenty-Seven Star-Wives of King Aillil:
‘Celtic cosmology is a parallel to Vedic cosmology. Ancient Celtic astrologers used a similar system based on twenty-seven lunar mansions, called nakshatras in Vedic Sanskrit. Like the Hindu Soma, King Ailill of Connacht, Ireland, had a circular palace constructed with twenty-seven windows through which he could gaze on his twenty-seven “star wives.”
There survives the famous first century bce Celtic calendar (the Coligny Calendar) which, as soon as it was first discovered in 1897, was seen to have parallels to Vedic calendrical computations.’ Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument by Peter Berresford Ellis. (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids)
The Horned God – Cernunnos, Shiva or Pashupati?
“For a long time the Gundestrop Cauldron has been hailed as one of the most beautiful examples of Celtic art, made in Thrace but found in Denmark. It is now considered possible that the image of the horned god is that of Pasupati, a Shiva prototype, found in the early Indus Valley civilization. Certainly a seal from the ancient city of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley looks remarkably like the scene depicted on the cauldron. Compare the cauldron image below with that of the Pasupati figure from Mohenjodaro, 2300-1750 BC.” (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids)
Shiva Pashupati (seal discovered during excavation of the Mohenjodaro archaeological site). Pashupati means “Lord of Animals” in the Sanskrit language.
This is an image of the Gaulish/Celtic God horned God Cernunnos. Cernunnos is also a God of the hunt and animals.
This image itself was found in Denmark on the Gundestrup Cauldron which dates around 200 BC to 300 AD. What is interesting is the yogic posture that this God is sitting in. Or this could merely be a representation of the Celtic culture, since Classical writers report that the ancient Gaulic Celts did not sit on chairs, but were usually found sitting on the ground, either in a crouching position or cross legged.
Danu and River Deities
Among the ancient Celts, Danu was regarded as the “Mother Goddess.” The Irish Gods and Goddesses were the Tuatha De Danaan (“Children of Danu”). Danu was the “divine waters,” which fell from heaven and nurtured Bíle, the sacred oak from whose acorns their children sprang.
Moreover, the waters of Danu went on to create the great Celtic sacred river–“Danuvius”, which today is called the Danube. Many European rivers bear the name of Danu–the Rhône (ro- Dhanu, “Great Danu”) and several rivers are called Don.
Rivers were sacred in the Celtic world, and places where votive offerings were deposited and burials often conducted. The Thames, which flows through London, still bears its Celtic name, from Tamesis, the “dark river”, which is the same name as Tamesa, a tributary of the Ganges.
Not only is the story of Danu and the Danube a parallel to that of Ganga and the Ganges, but a Hindu “Danu” appears in the Vedic story “The Churning of the Oceans,” a story with parallels in Irish and Welsh mytholgy. Danu in Sanskrit also means “divine waters” and “moisture.” (SOURCE: Hindu Wisdom).
Celtic Trinity God Lugus
Gods with three aspects are popular among both the Celtic and Puranic Hindu spiritual traditions. In Hinduism, there is the obvious trinity of Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver) and Shiva (The Destroyer). Among the Gaulish Celts there is the triune God Lugus. There is a theory that his three aspects are Esus (The Respected one), Toutatis (Protector) and Taranis (God of Thunder). I’m not saying there is a direct parallel between these two trinities, I’m just saying that the similarities are interesting to observe. The Celtic Goddess Brigid is also a triune deity of warfare, healing and smithing.
BELIEF IN REBIRTH AND TRANSMIGRATION OF THE SOUL
It is well known that Hindus believe in Reincarnation as well as the idea of karma. While our understandings of the Celtic afterlife are less well known, there is evidence that the Celts believed in reincarnation for their heroes. There is also a great deal of shape shifting in Celtic myth in which people go through various animal forms.
WEREN’T THE IRISH CELTIC CULTURES TOO FAR AWAY FROM INDIA TO BE RELATED?
One interesting thing to consider is that the Druidic Irish spirituality has more similarities with the Vedic religion than other Europeans – even though they are the Europeans most far away from India. Why is this?
It is believed that the ancestors of the Celts spread all the way from West Asia to Ireland during the Iron Ages. However, when the Romans started taking over large chunks of territory in the Middle East and Europe, much of the culture from the Indo-European invaders was lost to the Classical Greco Roman culture that replaced it.
However, there was no Roman take-over in Ireland. This is why much of the Celtic Druid spirituality lasted the longest in Ireland and permeated many aspects of Irish culture. The druid spirituality lasted in Ireland until the land converted to Christianity.
SO IS THE CELTIC/VEDIC CONNECTION REAL?
At this point historically, we cannot be sure. There is no absolute proof as of now to support this theory, even if there are many uncanny connections.
What we know is that the Vedas describe the Aryans as a nomadic, spiritual, hierarchical and warlike people. Racially or culturally these people may have spread their spirituality beyond India in ways that we currently don’t historically understand.
While I can’t deliver some kind of ultimate sweeping conclusion on the matter (few people can with matters of ancient history), I hope this article was interesting food for thought and will stimulate further debate on the topic. Sometimes we can learn more from questions than from answers.
If you are interested in the Vedas, here is a famous and beautiful mantra called the Gayatri mantra:
“I invoke the Earth Plane, The Astral Plane, The Celestial Plane, The Plane of Spiritual Balance, The Plane of Human Spiritual Knowledge, The Plane of Spiritual Austerites, and The Plane of Ultimate Truth. Oh, great Spiritual Light which is the brilliance of all Divinity, we meditate upon You. Please illumine our minds.”
Druidism and the Ancient Religions of India (The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids)
“Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom you shine!
For ten years hast thou climbed hither to my cave: you would your light and of the journey have become sick without me, mine eagle and my serpent.
But we awaited thee every morning, took from you your overflow and blessed thee for it.
See! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee, the honey has collected too much, I need hands outstretched to take it.
I want to give away and austheilen, until the wise among the people of their folly, and the poor of their wealth are once again become happy.
For this I must get into the deep: as thou doest in the evening, when you go behind the sea and even the underworld bring light, you over-rich star!
(Quote Source: Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
Between the peaks of the sun’s golden height
To the browning leaves and fading light
Lies the thresh hold between the summer and autumn
A day to harvest the fruits from Nature’s bosom
A day to reap what you’ve sewn
A day to eat what you’ve grown
The taste of our labors sweet on our lips
And heavy baskets on our hips
Lugh the shining one stands bright and tall
His long arm extended, his hand grasps all
But now he sits in the shade of his mother
Ending one season, bringing in another
I give thanks for the fruits of light and reason
And hope for yet another successful season
Burying my dreams within the fertile earth
And awaiting our mother’s next healthy birth
Happy Lammas, Lughnasadh, Frefaxi all!
Anilah sounds to me like a mix of Wardruna, Dead Can Dance, Progressive Rock and Shamanic chanting.
Anilah is the musical project of vocalist and composer Dréa Drury, a musician who hails from the Selkirk Mountains of Western Canada. Her music is influenced by traditional shamanic sound practices, sacred chant, dark tribal and Indian Classical. She has studied the art of using the voice as a healing modality with sound healers and shamans from across North America. Even listening to her music on YouTube makes me feel more relaxed, so it must be working. Her unique sound includes elements of progressive rock and dark ambient chanting.
On the Solpurpose review of her album “Warriro”, Dréa states the following:
“The reason I use ritual and ceremony in a creative context is to help dissolve perceptual boundaries, and to enhance my ability to hear in a different way. Usually this involves actively creating a trance state through pranayama, kriyas, or mantra.”
She also says the following about nature:
“When I am walking through the forest and allow myself to open to the larger conversation that is happening, I feel myself filling up with the sheer grace of being, and literally have no other option but to express my gratitude – and this happens in the form of a song or melody. So to rephrase: I breathe nature in, I breathe melody out. My creativity takes this form.”
Recently I had a chance to talk with this medicine woman of sound on Facebook. Here are her responses to my following questions:
MG: How long have you been playing music, when and how did you pick it up?
DD: I’ve been playing music ever since I could sit at a piano – started studying with my grandmother at 5, then moved on to classical training at 13, did my degree in music at college and then did private apprenticeships with my vocal teachers Ali Akbar Khan and Silvia Nakkach afterward. So yea…have been at it for a long time Always was a musical creature, couldn’t help it..
MG: I’m curious, who are your musical influences?
DD: I have many, but notable ones are: Wardruna, Tool (all of Maynard James Keenan projects), Dead Can Dance – Lisa Gerrard, Bjork, NIN, Chelsea Wolfe. Also listen to tons of avant guard choral/classical music, from composers like Hildegard Von Bingen, Bulgarian Women’s Choir, and countless artists in the Indian Classcial Genre like Raga.
If you would love to hear more Anilah, check out the videos and links below:
CALLING THE OTHERS
ROLLING THUNDER [WARRIOR]
One interesting thing to consider, as the number of religious minorities grow, is the political reality.
According to The Wild Hunt, the number of “religiously unaffiliated” people is just as large as Evangelicals now.
For a long time the more conservative elements of politics have appealed to a Christian base.
Indeed, America is still a majority Christian country, so this seems like an effective strategy.
Yet from what I see, the number of Christians is decreasing, which drives the more conservative elements of the faith to become more fundamentalist. Therefore, conservative politicians can rely on a base of conservative Christians to vote for their policies. However, as the number of religious minorities grow, it will be interesting to see if this strategy shifts in the future.
Also, this post is not to say that all Pagans are liberal. There are some very, very right wing pagan beliefs out there. There are generally Pagans on both sides of the political spectrum. My purpose in linking to this article is to stimulate thought on how religious affiliation effects politics, and how a changing religious dynamic may effect politics in the future.
(Inmates performing a Druid Ritual: Source)
The number of Prisoners who identify as Pagans is growing, and many of these prisoners need adequate spiritual services that fit their path.
According to The Wild Hunt, around 2% of all prisoners are adherents to a Pagan or Earth based Nature Religion.
It is interesting that many prisoners have found their Pagan faith while in prison.
Also, according to OldenWilde.org, prisoners who convert to Wicca have a very low re-incarceration rate.
Now, many reading this might think, who cares abut services for prisoners, they broke the law – they should be punished!
However, we must keep in mind that the U.S. has a vast and growing prison complex. There are many people who are arrested for non-violent crimes such as prostitution or drug use. Drug use is a disease that should be treated with therapy, not jail. It has also been shown that therapy is more effective for treating people who abuse drugs, rather than jail time.
Attending to the spiritual needs of Pagan prisoners is important for giving them a Spiritual Path that can help prevent future crimes, and give them a sense of hope to better their lives. So check out the resources for Pagan Prisoners on this page:
(Source: Artwork From a Prisoner)
Culture and Community: The Complexity of Pagans in Prison (The Wild Hunt)
Wiccans in Prison (OldenWilde)
Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide (Download)
When many of us think about witchcraft trials today, we think of witch burnings in old Europe, or the Salem Witch trials.
Basically, we think such things are history.
Yet all over the world today, many women and children are still tortured and even killed over such accusations.
Accusations of witchcraft become a way in which people can take the land of a dead widow, or rid themselves of an extra mouth to feed.
Reasons aside, it’s a pretty barbaric and horrible practice. Glad Nepal is taking the steps to put an end to this.
Russia hasn’t been big in the news for tolerance lately. However, NeoPagans did receive a big victory in Russia recently with the legal recognition of “Aar Aiyy,” a NeoPagan revival of the Siberian shamanistic religion of Tengrism. Tengrism is the ancient religion of the Turkic-speaking population of Siberia – this includes the Turks, the Huns, Mongolians and Hungarians. “Aar Aiyy” means a “belief in a higher deity.” This belief holds that there is one supreme deity, but many spirit helpers and other divine beings.
The beliefs of Tengrism were suppressed when Russian Orthodox Christians came into the region in the 1600’s. When Siberia was under Soviet control, all religions were suppressed. Yet many of the folk traditions have survived and now the religion is beginning to develop in the open.
Adherents of Aar Aiyy had been working for 18 years to gain recognition, and have just won it this year. So, many congratulations for the practitioners of Aar Aiyy in Siberia!
Looking for a way to educate your children about the Norse Gods?
Or do you just want simple reading material?
Who doesn’t like books with pictures?
THE BLENDING OF RELIGIOUS PRACTICES IN AMERICA
Is America a predominantly Christian country? According to the Gallup Poll, 77% of Americans identify as Christian. Yet the reality is much more nuanced than that. According to Pewforum, a large number of Americans mix multiple faiths together. There was once a time in America where the boundaries between religious denominations such as Catholic and Protestant divided entire communities. The KKK attacked Catholics and Jews in addition to African Americans. There were even massive fears that tides of Irish and Italian immigrants would lead to Catholicism taking over the United States. Yet these days the boundaries that divide various faiths is beginning to become much more relaxed.
According to the Pewforum, multiple Americans are practicing multiple religions at the same time – even when they are not traveling or participating in a special event such as a wedding or a funeral. Many are even blending traditions like Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the idea that spiritual energy is present in the natural world. One third of Americans (35%) say that they attend religious services at more than once place, and most of this group indicated that these different places serviced a faith different from their own.
There are several reasons for this growing plurality of faith. America is becoming more diverse, people are increasingly marrying a person with a different religion than their own and religion in general is becoming more of a spiritual relationship with the world, rather than an institution.
GROWING NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS ADOPTING NEW AGE IDEAS:
SUCH AS REINCARNATION, YOGA AND SPIRITUAL ENERGY
What was interesting to me, in reading these results, was the high percent of Christians who believed in reincarnation (apparently 22% of Christians)! I have to wonder to myself how these particular Christians reconcile their belief in reincarnation with the Christian idea of heaven?
21% of Christians also follow Yoga as a spiritual practice. The National Cathedral has even begun to offer free Tai Chi and Yoga classes (Washington Post)!
GROWING NUMBER OF MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
Another interesting thing about the Pew Forum survey on mixed religion in America is that it indicated more Americans are beginning to have spiritual experiences than previous generations. As you can see from the chart above, by 2009, nearly half of Americans claimed to have had some kind of spiritual or mystical experience. Spiritual experiences have literally doubled since the previous generation.
THE RISE OF “UNAFFILIATED” AMERICANS:
SPIRITUAL, BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
One growing trend in America has been the rise of our religious “nones.” Less people are going to church and less people are giving themselves a religious label. Yet this doesn’t mean that people are less spiritual. Two thirds of these “nones” say that they believe in God. More than half even say that they feel a deep spiritual connection with the Earth. A third have also stated that they are “spiritual, but not religious.” Most of these unaffiliated Americans say that religions are too obsessed with money and power. A large number of young Americans are also leaving the church over issues regarding Gay Rights (Alternet).
And perhaps, there are many Americans who believe in a blend of ideas, but have no religious label for this blend.
Rather than asking Americans to check a label in a box, future surveys should ask people to fill out a questionnaire on one’s outlook of the spiritual world. This may produce more complex and curious results than the simple “Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Other” blend.
One word that I’ve recently seen pop up in the Pagan Blogosphere is “God Spouse.” It means exactly what it sounds like: a person who marries a God. Is it possible to marry a God? Does the Honeymoon take place on Mount Olympus? And can you imagine an episode of “Trading Spouses” with this theme? But anyways, I digress. My quest to find more information on this phenomenon was limited, but I’ll try to cover the basics. I’m guessing that the amount of information on “God Spouses” is sparse because of how new the term is.
Yet while the term is new, the concept is as old as ancient history. In ancient primeval rites, there was the idea of enacting a sex act with a God or Goddess. There were also priests who stayed celibate and devoted their lives instead to the worship of a particular deity. This practice has continued today with the practice of Catholic priests, monks and nuns staying celibate as a devotion to God. (Does this mean that God is bi-sexual?) Well, that’s a whole other can of worms that this blog doesn’t have time to get into, but the internet is a big place – go look up that question for yourself.
ANCIENT SEX RITES: HIERO GAMOS
A sex rite between a mortal and a God is known as “Hieros Gamos,” or Hierogamy. This ritual took place in societies in every quarter of the globe: India, the Middle East, in Greece, among Tantric Buddhists and has some metaphorical relevance in The Great Rite practiced in Wicca today. One of the earliest recorded sex rites takes place in early Sumeria about 5,500 years ago. In this ritual, a high priestess acting as an avatar of a Goddess would have sex with the ruler of the society to show the Goddess’s acceptance of this man as the ruler and caretaker of his people. If the ruler was not capable of pleasing a Goddess, than he certainly was not fit to take care of a nation of thousands. (Can you imagine if the modern president was sworn into office with this technique? I bet most our current politicians wouldn’t be able to find the clitoris with a GPS.)
Here is part of the ceremony as translated from an ancient Sumerian poem. The High Priestess, acting for Inanna, is speaking to Dumuzi the new king. Text Source Here.
My vulva, the horn,
The boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fallow.
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?
A further description of the ritual is at Goddess.org
One of the earliest concepts of religious marriage is that of temple prostitution: another practice that took place in several corners of the globe. Around the 5th century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about how this custom worked in the Near East:
The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfil the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.
This act is even carried out in some parts of the world today. In India, for example, “Devadasi” is a form of temple prostitution in which young girls from villages are married to a deity of a temple, and then function as spiritual guides, dancers and sex workers. Human Rights Watch also reports that young girls are sometimes forced into this practice to have sex with members of the upper caste.
HIJRAS (TRANSGENDERED FOLK) IN INDIA MARRY THE GOD ARAVAN
One particularly fascinating form of God Marriage that occurs today in India is the marriage of “Hijras” to their God Aravan. This is a festival that occurs every year. Men put on makeup, jewelry and a garland of flowers in preparation for their marriage to Aravan. See pictures of this festival here. Aravan is a brave hero who requests one night of marriage before his death. Since no other Gods were willing to marry Aravan for just one night, Krishna turned into a woman and marries the hero.
In the festival of Aravan, hundreds of Hijras gather to act out the role of Krishna, as they symbolically marry their God Aravan for one night. Sometimes even heterosexual men dress up like women and marry Aravan in order to gain his blessing, such as getting children in a sterile marriage.
THE GREAT RITE
As I mentioned above, there is an element of metaphorical Heiro Gamos in “The Great Rite,” which is a Wiccan ritual. For those who don’t know much about Wicca, the primary deities in this practice are The God and Goddess. Wiccans believe in a female and male duality that represents the whole of creation. Not all Pagans are Wiccans. Wiccans are different from other Pagans in that they believe in a primary God and Goddess, and that all other Gods are aspects of this male and female divine.
The Great Rite is a metaphorical representation of the union between the male and female divine. In this ritual, the high priest plunges the athame (a ritual knife and male symbol) into a cup or chalice (female symbol) which is filled with wine and held by the high priestess. This ritual is a fertility rite that is celebrated around Beltane. While the ritual is mostly metaphorical, there are a few situations where it is actually acted out sexually.
The history of Hiero Gamos and ritualistic sex with the divine brings me to the modern day phenomenon of God Spouses. It is a situation in which a person becomes so close to a particular God or Goddess that they actually want to have a marriage with this Deity – that they want to interact with this Deity as a spouse in their day to day life.
The most recent tale I read was a post on Witches and Pagans about a woman who felt called to marry Odin. At 35 she felt called through dreams and omens to marry Odin. In her own words, she states “This was the primary crossroads of my life: giving myself utterly to a god, and a god whose path is characterized by sudden, sweeping change, paradoxes, and the continual stalking of oneself in search of power and knowledge.”
Do I believe this union is legitimate? It is not for me to judge or decide. The skeptic inside me naturally raises an eyebrow after reading such a story. Is this a true union with the divine or simply the desire for greater intimacy with someone powerful and wise? I’ll never know the truth. Yet I do know that sexual unions with the divine have been occurring for millenia and that men in India still marry Aravan to this day.
Some see the Gods as a divine masters, others see the Gods as guides and friends and there are a few who see them as spouses. It will be interesting to see how relationships to the Gods develop throughout the years as ideas about spirituality evolve and grow.
In a previous article I asked if Paganism was the fastest growing religion in the United States. While it is a very quickly growing spirituality – one of the quickest world-wide – our numbers are very small. About 0.3% of the American population considers themselves Pagan. This number also remains small in various other countries around the world (except if you want to include Hindu India and other Ethnic Traditions)
So the first question to ask is this:
Would it be good for Pagans if the Pagan Community was bigger?
My personal answer to this is YES.
More Religious Tolerance for our Community
Imagine a world where a church would be on one corner and a temple to Artemis on the other. Imagine trading Yule and Saturnalia cards at work along with Christmas cards as if it were no big deal. Imagine the idea that you could tell your friends, family and co-workers that you are teaching your child the Runes and the wisdom of your ancestors without anyone bating an eyelash.
Why is Hinduism an accepted religion while in many ways, a tradition like Asatru is not? Because Hinduism has millions of followers world-wide. Yet both traditions have multiple Gods.
If a community is small and elite, few people will know about it. There are still many people out there today who believe that Paganism is associated with Satanism as well as a whole host of other myths. There are also people out there who don’t believe we should ask for rights or recognition – or even have the right to exist for that matter. A wave of anger and annoyance rippled across the Pagan Community earlier this year when the Fox News “report” on Paganism ended up being a barf salad of stereotypes. Did they do their research on Yahoo answers?
I’m not saying I wish EVERYONE was Pagan. I just wish we lived in a world where more people knew what our community represented so that the people who do want to be Pagans can practice their religion openly and freely.
What Would Public Acceptance Look Like?
FOR ONE IT WOULD LOOK LIKE LESS OF THIS CRAP! Also…
The ability to take our holy days off from work.
The ability to wear our religious insignia without retaliation.
The ability of Pagans to follow their beliefs in the work, military, school or yes – even prison – environment without retaliation. (I mention prison because there is a large amount of pressure on prisoners to attend Christian themed recovery/rehabilitation programs.)
The ability for parents to pass their beliefs onto their children without fear of someone calling CPS. (Rare but sometimes happens).
Some Ideas For Growing the Community
Have more public awareness events! Check Meetup.com for Pagan Pride Days in your area.
Start a club at your university/college (if you are going to one).
Have an open booth/event where you discuss paganism at your university/college.
Start a blog!
Express your spirituality in art and music.
Get out of the broom closet! (Unless this action might put you in physical danger or get your kids taken away…then find a comfy broom to sit on).
Be more open about your beliefs with your friends and family. (I’m working on this.)
Don’t be afraid to teach your children about Paganism. Not saying you should “brainwash” them, just saying that it doesn’t hurt to explain your beliefs while giving them the freedom to explore other faiths as well. Patheos has a good article on this.
You don’t have to be a missionary or a Jupiter’s Witness throwing lightning bolts at non-believers…as cool as that sounds. But I think if we are more willing to share our beliefs with our local communities, we’ll help to spread tolerance for Paganism in a natural and organic way.
To live fully in the present;
to honor tradition and the ancestors;
to hear the voice of tomorrow;
From the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids
Was the Ancient World all flower power?
Maybe the sacrificial victims were crowned with flower garlands before they met a bloody end.
People assume that Matriarchal authority is a peaceful affair.
Yet the Ancient Queens of Peru beg to differ.
A Divine Journey to the Inner Self and God Consciousness.
Yoruba is a West African spirituality that some Anthropologists estimate is 10,000 years old! It comprises the beliefs of the Yoruba people, whose homeland is in the South Western part of Nigeria and adjoining parts of Benin and Togo. Yet the beliefs of Yoruba are also incredibly widespread around the world. Some of this was due to migration that occurred before the Egyptian dynasties. Yet the most recent migration is because of the Atlantic Slave Trade that brought the peoples of Yoruba to Trinidad, Tobago, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, North America and elsewhere.
Today, many people of African descent are returning to their roots via exploration with the Yoruba spirituality. There is a great article on this very phenomenon on NPR.
The spirituality of Yoruba focuses deeply on self exploration, learning one’s destiny (or fate), interacting with the spirits of nature as well as one’s ancestors, and getting yourself right with the almighty creator Oludumare.
Oludumare is not a “he” or a “she.” The only appropriate pronoun here is “it” because Oludumare is a genderless being who is responsible for all creation. It lives in a heavenly realm, far from its creation. Yet it has holy messengers who help to intercede between the Almighty and Mankind itself. These messengers are spirits called “Orishas.” In Yoruba you must believe and interact with the Orishas to reach God Consciousness.
There are many types of Orishas. Some who have always been present and others are humans who made the leap to divinity. And then there are spirits who take the form of natural resources such as rivers and trees. While some are similar to the Western concept of an Angel, there are also some key differences. Orisha’s are not perfect beings. They actually have very human characteristics, a variety of quirks and different attitudes. They marry, divorce and even have their own favorite beers and foods. Orishas also live on the Earth, rather than the sky. Some say that there are 400 and others say that there are more than 3,000. Of the real number no one can be certain. Each Orisha has their own color, drum beat and even an article of clothing that is associated with them.
Orishas are also capable of possessing the bodies of their followers or priests. This is done through an elaborate dance ritual where certain orishas are evoked through a particular dance and drum beat. The Orishas rise up from the Earth and mount the bodies and souls of those involved in the ritual. Men and women can both take place in these rituals. Some humans involved in the ritual even gender bend in terms of their clothing, if they want to summon an Orisha of the opposite gender.
However, not all spirits are good. There are some negative spirits called “Ajogun.” These spirits are typically responsible for the bad things that might happen in someone’s life: accidents, depression or an illness. People trying to get rid of an Ajogun will consult a priest, who performs a divination ritual to learn the spirit’s motives and the best way to banish them.
Ashe is a life force similar to Chi in Chinese traditions or the energy that flows through the chakras in Indian belief. Ashe is a force that has the power to bring about change – whether good or bad – and is contained in everything from lightning and hurricanes to blood and sacred names (Source: God Paths).
Rather than focusing on salvation, much of the focus has been on living a good life in the here and now. While there is some mention of a “good and bad heaven” most followers hope for reincarnation, which is actually a good thing in this religion, while it is something to be escaped in Buddhism. People who are bad or who commit suicide do not get to be reborn. There is also a belief that reincarnation matches family lines. Therefore, that a grandmother or grandfather will reincarnated back into his or her family tree. It’s not uncommon for a boy to be called names like Babatunde which means “Father Returns” or Yetunde which means “the mother comes back again”. Gender is hardly ever taken into account because its believed that it often changes with reincarnation.
In Yoruba, we get to choose our own destinies before we are born. This can be to the very exact details of where we live, who we love and our life purpose. Yet once we are born, we forget these destinies and must struggle to remember them again. Consulting the spirits is a good way to learn one’s life destiny and purpose.
In the Yoruba tradition, there are men and women who are specially trained to communicate with the heavenly realm. You see the Yoruba have specially trained intercessors called either Babalawo if men (which means Father of secrets) or Iyalawo if women (Mother of Secrets) who through an intense period of training are taught divination techniques that allow clients to seek help or advice from the Heavenly realm on anything from relationship problems to job issues. Babalawo are different from your typical psychic though.
They don’t claim to have any special power in and of themselves. They are merely people who are masters of the art of divination which involves knowing how to cast divinations with palm nuts, recording the results, and reciting the poem connected with each result. This however is not very easy since the chances of any one result coming up are 1 in 256 and four poems must be memorized for each one. Therefore, it takes a lot of work, memorization and dedication to be a Babalawo or Iyalawo
YORUBA MEETS CHRISTIANITY
When Europeans came to Africa, or traded Africans abroad, the Africans were forced to embrace many of the European ways – including their religion. The Yoruba spirituality survived better under Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism than the English Evangelical Christianity.
Catholicism had parallels similar to the Yoruba Faith. A belief in an almighty God who had many helpers (saints and angels). When the Yoruba converted to Catholicism, they made their Orisha’s into saints. However, the conversion wasn’t such a simple affair – since the Yoruba had less of a belief in black and white “good and evil.” Yet at least their Orishas were able to maintain some worship in Catholicism.
In the Christian Evangelical system, many of the Orisha’s were simply abolished.
Yet the Catholic Yoruba synthesis is alive and well in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Trinidad, Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans.
Because of Yoruba’s elasticity, it can adopt other religions quite easily. This may be part of the religion’s popularity. Some say that Yoruba – with its many different versions included – is the world’s top 6 most practiced religion.
Some have chosen to practice both Catholicism and Yoruba simultaneously. Yet others are leaving their Christian Faith behind altogether. They are enticed by a faith with African Roots, a personal connection to the spirits of the divine, and a deep connection with the spirits of nature. If you are still curious for deeper knowledge about this ancient faith, check out my resources below.
NOW ENJOY SOME SMOOTH RHYTHMS – DUB MUSIC BEFORE DUB STEP WAS A THING…
Jah Shaka & Mad Professor – People of Yoruba
The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts (Book on Amazon)
A Kemetic Practitioner, Sharon, explains views on Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt.
She uses the book “Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt” by Lynn Meskell as her reference.
Modern Day Notions About Homosexuality Contrast With Ancient Thought
She makes a great point that much of our concepts about homosexuals being a different kind of person are only 100 years old. What she didn’t say, is that this identity was constructed by many new ideas in the emerging field of Freudian thought and psychology.
Before this development in the world of psychology, “gay” wasn’t an identity. Homosexuality was defined more as an action rather than an identity.
How did people feel about Homosexuality in Ancient Egypt?
Much of the connotations we have in the modern day and age about “gay” behavior wasn’t “gay” back in Ancient Egypt.
For example, Sharon makes the point that in this day an age, we make stereotypes about a man being gay if he cares too much about his appearance – or at least joke that he is “Metrosexual.”Yet in Ancient Egypt, it was perfectly normal for both men and women among the elite to wear makeup, shave their body hair, wear wigs and doll themselves up in fashionable clothing. (Sometimes the men could be prissier than the women in this respect). Dressing in fancy clothing, historically, wasn’t really a taboo for men until the modern era. In fact, dressing in expensive silks and resplendent colors was a way for most men to show their status and masculinity throughout history. The days of black suits and ties for all dudes are pretty recent.
Also, engaging in “gender swapping” behavior did not necessarily make one gay. There were some Goddesses that were depicted in male clothing, but they still engaged in sex with male Gods.
Was there any type of homosexual behavior that was frowned upon?
Rather than homosexuality itself, Sharon explains that being the “receiver” in a male homosexual act was looked down upon while being the “giver” wasn’t a problem. This is similar to norms in other Ancient cultures.
Nek: is the Ancient Egyptian word for sexual penetration.
Neku: Was a derogatory term – “to penetrate somebody”
Nekek: This was the person who had the thing “done to them.”
Sharon also says that there may have been a third gender in Ancient Egyptian Society, a sort of trans-gendered person. There is something similar to this in Hindu society today called a “Hijra.” They are people with male biological bodies who dress and act like women (The Third Gender).
There is some ambiguity since it was frowned upon to sleep with a young, effeminate male. Yet it is uncertain whether the taboo came from the fact that both participants in the act were male, or if it was because one of the participants was too young to give consent.
Homosexuality Wasn’t Really That Big of A Deal
While it may have been socially looked down upon to be someone’s “Nekek”, it didn’t receive the same vehement hatred that you see in today’s world. A Heterosexual marriage that resulted in children was seen as an ideal, since children would take care of you and perform your burial rites after death. Also, the homosexual relationships between men in Egypt were not celebrated as they were in Rome and Greece, given that fertility was a big part of Egyptian magic and life. Yet homosexual acts themselves weren’t a moral outrage like they are in parts of today’s world.
The best word to describe Ancient Egyptian feelings towards homosexuality was probably “ambivalence.” What people did behind closed doors was their own business – as it should be.
(Image Taken From Maat Shrine)
Ma’at is the Ancient Egyptian Goddess of truth, balance and order. She is most often depicted as a woman with wings or a single white ostrich feather. When the deceased go to the afterlife, the Egyptians believed that their hearts would be weighed against this feather.
If the individual lived a good life, following the rules of ma’at, their heart would be lighter than a feather and they would get to go to the afterlife. However, if that individual did not follow the rules of ma’at, they would have a heavy heart – weighed down by the guilt of their transgressions. As a result, their heart would be devoured by Ammut and the soul would be destroyed.
The laws of Ma’at are called the 42 Negative confessions and they were revealed in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the Papyrus of Ani – a book that was written more than 3,000 years ago.
THE 42 NEGATIVE CONFESSIONS
- I have not committed sin
- I have not committed robbery with violence
- I have not stolen
- I have not slain men and women
- I have not stolen food
- I have not swindled offerings
- I have not stolen from God
- I have not told lies
- I have not carried away food
- I have not cursed
- I have not closed my ears to truth
- I have not committed adultery
- I have not made anyone cry
- I have not felt sorrow without reason
- I have not assaulted anyone
- I am not deceitful
- I have not stolen anyone’s land
- I have not been an eavesdropper
- I have not falsely accused anyone
- I have not been angry without reason
- I have not seduced anyone’s wife
- I have not polluted myself
- I have not terrorized anyone
- I have not disobeyed the law
- I have not been excessively angry
- I have not cursed God
- I have not behaved with violence
- I have not caused disruption of peace
- I have not acted hastily or without thought
- I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern
- I have not exaggerated my words when speaking
- I have not worked evil
- I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds
- I have not polluted the water
- I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly
- I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deed
- I have not placed myself on a pedestal
- I have not stolen that which belongs to God
- I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased
- I have not taken food from a child
- I have not acted with insolence
- I have not destroyed property belonging to God
In recent years, a list of 42 ideals was written as a parallel to the Negative Confessions. Some modern practitioners of the Ancient Egyptian Ways like to repeat these 42 ideals in the morning and evening, as way to encourage these ideals in themselves. Chanting was an important part of spirituality in ancient Egypt. It was believed that if you chanted something often enough, that the words would become a part of your being. I guess there really is something to encouraging positive thinking!
THE 42 IDEALS
1. I honor virtue
2. I benefit with gratitude
3. I am peaceful
4. I respect the property of others
5. I affirm that all life is sacred
6. I give offerings that are genuine
7. I live in truth
8. I regard all altars with respect
9. I speak with sincerity
10. I consume only my fair share
11. I offer words of good intent
12. I relate in peace
13. I honor animals with reverence
14. I can be trusted
15. I care for the earth
16. I keep my own council
17. I speak positively of others
18. I remain in balance with my emotions
19. I am trustful in my relationships
20. I hold purity in high esteem
21. I spread joy
22. I do the best I can
23. I communicate with compassion
24. I listen to opposing opinions
25. I create harmony
26. I invoke laughter
27. I am open to love in various forms
28. I am forgiving
29. I am kind
30. I act respectfully of others
31. I am accepting
32. I follow my inner guidance
33. I converse with awareness
34. I do good
35. I give blessings
36. I keep the waters pure
37. I speak with good intent
38. I praise the Goddess and the God
39. I am humble
40. I achieve with integrity
41. I advance through my own abilities
42. I embrace the All