May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside, every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks it’s portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
Many of us modern folk may think of the Spring Equinox on March 21st as the first day of Spring. But back in ancient Ireland, it was actually around January 31st. It was the day that marked the waning of winter and the coming of longer days. A time when the snow started melting, the animals began coming out of hibernation and birds started singing. A day in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
The term ‘Imbolc’ derives from Old Irish and means “in the belly,” or alternately “ewe’s milk,” pointing to the the time when the first lambs were born, associated with a celebration of fertility, reproduction and the young.
This is a day connected with the Celtic goddess Brigid, and Imbolc is one of the few contemporary Pagan holidays that is connected completely and solely to a Goddess. Brigid is the goddess of creativity, warfare, healing, fertility and the hearth.
In Christian times, the goddess Brigid was transformed to a Saint. Saint Brigid is still a pretty big deal in Ireland today. The second most popular saint after Saint Patrick. It is believed that Saint Brigid could perform miracles, such as healing the sick. She also acted a bridge between Christianity and Paganism. Even Brigid’s cross is both a reference to both Jesus and the Celtic sun wheel. So as a bridge between two religions, she is a fitting symbol of the threshold between winter and spring.
A good way to celebrate this holiday is by doing some spring cleaning. Getting rid of the old and preparing your home for the new season to come.
Since Brigid is a goddess of creativity, another good way to celebrate is by trying your hand at writing a poem, maybe even writing a song or doing some other creative project.
Most importantly, this is a time of renewal. Do you have any new projects you’d like to start? Or old ones that you need to finish? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Or any old habits that need to thaw out and melt away like the winter snow? This may be the time, and the strength of Brigid will help guide you through.
THEY AWOKE TO THE SCENT OF SPRING
(I know I shared this song before, but it’s a good one for the occasion)
Lady of The Flame (Metal-Gaia)
How to celebrate Imbolc (Pagan Wiccan)
The Right and Wrong of Imbolc (Patheos)
Imbolc 2016: Facts, Dates, Traditions And Rituals To Know (Huffington Post)
Pagans Celebrate Coming of Spring with Imbolc Festival (World Religion News)
Imbolc Poem (The Fellowship of The King)
Hrmm…doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to me.
As we wrap up 2015, it’s important to think of what has been accomplished and what more needs to be done. While pagans are still a pretty small, religious minority, it is indisputable that our numbers are growing along with our influence in public life.
Since the beginning of the Neopagan movement in the 1950’s (along with more ancient traditions dating back to Medieval Times), pagan and occult practices have been limited to small (and mostly secretive) gatherings.
But now as public religious acceptance grows, these gatherings are becoming less secretive and more public. In fact, we have seen things happen in 2015, that have not occurred in hundreds – and perhaps even a thousand years.
In the beginning of this year, Scotland saw its first gay, Pagan wedding.
Then plans were announced in Iceland to build the first temple to the Norse Gods since the Viking Ages.
Meanwhile, the U.K. announced the creation of a druid college.
In April, Northern Ireland certified its first pagan priest since the time of St. Patrick. Ironically, the name of the pagan man himself is Patrick. Who says the Gods don’t have a sense of humor?
Another big story in April was when a Wiccan Priestess was invited to give the opening invocation before the Iowa State Legislature.
In terms of other big news, the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nation wide this June.
And of course, last but not least, the metal heads of this blog will be mourning the loss of the metal god and legend Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who recently passed. I realized since I wrote my last article, that I shouldn’t say RIP, because I can’t really see Lemmy sitting around quietly for too long. It’s more likely that he’ll be rocking out with the gods in Valhalla and writing some of the best damned metal anyone ever heard with Dio.
So this new years raise a glass in toast for all the good, bad, and ugly that happened this year. And let’s hope to make 2016 even more exciting and eventful than 2015.
Autumn is a magical time of year. Not because of Pumpkin Spice lattes and the eagerly awaited release of the last Hunger Games movie…but that’s exciting too. Fall is a time when the natural world begins to transition towards death. The leaves are falling from the trees, a chill grips the air, animals begin collecting food for the winter, and the harvest is winding down (not that many of us are farmers anymore, but I guess this could be a metaphorical point as well). Most of all though, it’s a time for gratitude, a time to appreciate the fruits of your labor. (See that…I made the metaphor work, ;-D)
Gratitude is perhaps one of the most important parts of any spiritual practice. A lot of people like to think religion is about getting God/The Gods to give them stuff. But this is not so. Gratitude for what you already have results in much more happiness than focusing on your wants. And more often than not, when we take the time to appreciate what we have, we realize that we are pretty lucky. So if there is one thing you can do to celebrate the coming fall, it’s to think of all the things/people in your life that you are grateful for.
Ten Ways to Celebrate Mabon (Pagan-Wiccan)
CLICK PICTURE TO EXPAND
MAPPING OUT WORLD RELIGIONS
DISCLAIMER: The map makes a lot of assumptions (given that we can’t really know what people believed before written, recorded history. The dates are also not to be taken as fact, but are a broad estimate).
Above is a map of the evolution of the world’s religions and belief systems. This map was put together thanks to Simon E. Davies at the Human Odyssey Facebook group. The map itself covers most of the world’s geographic regions and cultures: European, African, Semitic, Iranian, Indian, East Asian, Arctic, North American, South American, New Guinean/Australian and Oceanic.
Religion, spirituality and myth is the narrative through which human beings understand the world, themselves and their place in the universe. This narrative can be very unifying or divisive depending upon the circumstances involved.
Below I will make some brief points about the evolution of spiritual systems into the world we live in today.
DISCLAIMER: My posts below focus more on religious developments in the Near East and the Western World. there is much more that could be said about Asian religions as well as those of the Americas. Unfortunately this article is not broad enough to address all these things, but hopefully I can address them in a future article.
For about 95%-90% of human history we human beings were nomadic hunters and gatherers who lived in tribes of around 100 or so people.
Anthropologists have made the assumption that most nomadic folk were animists. Do we know if that’s true? We weren’t around back then, so we can’t be entirely sure.
The word “animism” is latin for “soul, life.” It is a belief that all things have a soul: plants, animals and even inanimate objects. Many tribal people prayed to animal spirits and incorporated spirit animals into shamanistic rituals.
Many animists see humans, plants and animals on an equal footing. Hunters and gatherers living in a tribe may have seen themselves as equals to the animals they were trying to either hunt or make peace with in the natural environment.
There is the Cherokee Legend “The Little Deer, Awi Usdi.” (If you want to read the whole story, you should click on the link.) A little deer tells all the hunters that they must only hunt when necessary, that they must pray for permission before they kill, and that they must ask pardon after they have killed. This story is an example of the attitude that many tribal people had in regards to their environment: take only what you need and be grateful to the animal and plant spirits for what you get.
Trees were considered sacred by many ancient people and believed to host holy spirits of life, spirits that provided human beings with fruit and shelter. The belief in the sacredness of trees existed in Druidic rites in sacred groves as well as with the Greek belief in Dryads (female tree spirits). Sacred trees and sacred oaks were widely venerated by the Germanic peoples before Christian times. In an attempt to completely extinguish pagan practices in the region, Christian missionaries cut down the sacred tree “Donar’s Oak” and used the wood to build a church. However, some of the Germanic tree traditions still exist in popular culture today – for example the Christmas Tree.
Water also contained powerful spirits. Hindus today still bathe themselves in the Ganges because they believe it is a sacred river (which is unfortunately very polluted). The Celts in Ireland also had a strong belief in sacred wells. This belief was so strong that many Irish Wells today are still considered sacred, but now they are associated with saints. This tradition has also lived on in the belief in “wishing wells.”
Polytheism is broadly defined as a belief system with multiple Gods, and a majority of the polytheistic systems around the world focus on a central pantheon of Gods.
As civilizations emerged, spiritual paths began to become more “humancentric.” This can’t be assumed for all civilizations. Some civilizations had a mix of animal and human worship, the Egyptian Gods represented the powerful traits of both animals and men. Other civilizations like Greece and Rome focused more on human deities.
Perhaps as humans began to cultivate the land and domesticate animals, they began to see themselves as superior to nature, and thus elevated the status of human beings in their own spirituality. (But this is just my guess, not to be taken as some kind of historical fact)..
Most Polytheistic pantheons have a mixture of both Gods and Goddesses. Polytheistic people see elements of the divine in both the masculine and feminine gender (just as many animists do). The existence of powerful Goddesses among ancient polytheistic cultures is perhaps evidence that women held more power in the beginning of civilization than they did later on (my guess). In fact, in the first written law code, The Code of Hammurabi, women actually had a great deal of rights compared to later civilizations. They had the right to own property, run a business and get a divorce.
Even in patriarchal Rome the chief deity of wisdom and strategic warfare was a woman, and women could hold roles of religious power: being a priestess or a prophet. There were also some rituals that only women were allowed to attend. So we see that even in patriarchal polytheistic societies, the existence of the female divine was still undeniable. This began to change in Rome with the conversion to Christianity.
Monotheism is the belief in one God.
Some of the first major monotheistic religions were Judaism and Atenism. Atenism did not last very long and Judaism was a religion of the Hebrew tribe (not anything mainstream). Christianity was the first monotheistic religion to be followed on a massive scale. I’m not going to cover the entire early history of Christianity in this text because that would be a lot to go over. However, I will mention a few brief points.
There is much debate over how Christianity started and if Jesus even actually existed. The first century CE was a very well documented time period in history – yet there is no mention of Jesus in Roman historical texts in the time. The first written accounts about the life of Jesus weren’t made until several decades after his purported death.
During this time there were a large number of cults that believed in similar ideas: Gods of light, a duality god of Good and Evil, gods of redemption and deliverance. Some say that Christianity was a cult cooked up in Alexandria. Christianity’s status as a “monotheistic” religion is also debatable since God exists as a trinity and that many pagan Gods were converted into saints.
Whatever the history of Christianity really is, the religion did become important when Rome converted in the 4th century CE. However, Christianity came into Rome as an alien influence and the empire collapsed only 80 years after its conversion.
In my opinion (not a historical fact) Christianity at its core was not meant to be an empire building religion. I believe that the original practice was supposed to be monastic. Jesus says the following in the New Testament: “For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…” Much of the language in the New Testament suggests turning away from the desires of the material world, turning away from family, and devoting oneself to the Kingdom of God.
Yet the monotheistic religion of Islam that evolved out of Christianity was much more successful in its attempt to unify diverse peoples. Before the establishment of the Islamic religion, the Arabian Peninsula was a place of warring tribes. But once these tribes embraced the religion by the 6th century CE, they stopped fighting each other and decided to fight other people instead.
The religion of Islam took over a large amount of territory in a short time. I’m not going to say Islam is the most tolerant religion, but there was never a big inquisition like there was in the Christian world. There was a degree of tolerance allowed for religious minorities (Jews, Christians, Sabians and Zoroastrianists) as long as these people paid a tax. It wasn’t ideal, and many of the people lived as second class citizens. But there was enough tolerance for diverse people to live together in relative sanity. (I’m not saying the Muslims never committed any wartime atrocities against religious minorities, but I’m saying that there were Islamic empires where religious minorities were treated with a degree of tolerance that was progressive for the time).
There were also some pretty progressive reforms passed for women (for the time). Women were given the right to divorce, inherit property (a fraction of what men could inherit), testify on a jury (although their voice was worth less than a man’s in certain situations), have her own money that her husband wasn’t allowed to touch and negotiate peace treaties in wartime. Islamic reforms also made some vulgar pre-islamic traditions illegal: female genital mutilation and the common practice of killing baby girls at birth. So, by today’s standards these laws aren’t very progressive, but the Muslim woman in the 7th century CE did have far more rights than the average Christian or East Asian woman.
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND RATIONAL MATERIALISM (1650-Present)
Up until the 17th century, religion was the primary vehicle through which people understood the world and most scientific knowledge was intertwined with religion. For example, many people believed that the Earth was the center of the solar system due to biblical scripture. Psalm 104:5 says, “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.”So Galileo got into major trouble with the church for promoting a heliocentric view of the solar system, even though the scientific evidence supported this model. Galileo was found guilty as a heretic under the Roman Inquisition and remained under house arrest for the rest of his life.
People in Europe became sick of religious fundamentalism after the Thirty Years War, which occurred just before the Enlightenment began. It was a bloody conflict between Protestants and Catholics, and it is said to be one of the longest and most violent wars in European history.
So after this period, many people in Europe were having a religious hang over. The Enlightenment Era emerged in the 1750’s as an era that emphasized intellect, reason and science over traditional forms of authority, such as the church. In rebellion against the traditional authority of kings, democracies and nation states were established. A new merchant class emerged after revolutions that trimmed down the authority of kings and priests, and thus Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution got started. There was a hope that the human condition would be elevated and improved through the vehicle of science and rational thought.
A new world of science, medicine and technology caused the human population to experience exponential growth and explode beyond anything ever seen in history.
So is this good? Is this bad? Such things are debatable. It could be argued that humans today are living in the best of times (those of us who live in developed countries anyways). But due to the unsustainable nature of today’s material consumption, such comforts are not sustainable for a long term future.
It was ultimately a good thing that people began to question the church and look to other points of view. However, in developing a material view of our world have we lost something? Today’s leaders are presiding over a criminal destruction of nature. In 40 short years half of the wildlife on the planet has been destroyed.
We created the machinery of material production yet we did not give this machinery a soul. We didn’t just stop at using machines to power our societies, but our very society itself became a machine and we the people the spokes and wheels of the production line. Schools took on a factory environment to mass produce “educated” citizens who know just enough to do what the are told, but not enough to question these instructions. Ours is now a world of tedious conformity, a suburban hell in which all the houses look the same and all the people think alike.
Yet the machine of “progress” is not doing so well and people around the world are beginning to wake up to the reality that this system isn’t sustainable.
To change the system we must change the way we view ourselves and the purpose of our existence on this planet. The most profound change occurs with a widespread spiritual shift in consciousness. We cannot approach the problems of today’s world at a merely individual level. Buying an energy efficient light bulb will not save the world. Even ending the conflict in Syria will not save the world (although that would be a positive change in global affairs).
The root of today’s problems is a profound spiritual sickness that permeates the souls of our leaders and the minds of the day to day human being. I’m not talking about perversion in the way that the Catholic Church would (considering sexuality a perversion). I’m talking about real perversion, a distorted and polluted view on what is true and what life is supposed to be about.
Is life simply about making and spending money? Is life all about trying to score with one of the sexy models you see on a billboard? We live in the theocracy of the capitalist religion, and we as human beings have sold our souls and our planet for the indulgence of temporary pleasures.
It is time to center our lives around something more permanent. Call it God, Fate, Nature or whatever you will. Nature is a system that has existed for 5 billion years. It has stood the test of time. It is truth itself.
If human beings cannot find a sane way to live on this planet, we will be eliminated like a bad case of fleas.
In many ways, our animistic ancestors were much wiser than we are. Tribal life wasn’t ideal. It was brutal and violent. Some people even practiced cannibalism, human sacrifice and ritualistic torture. Yet humans survived through almost 100,000 years of tribal animism without destroying the resources necessary for life or nearly wiping out the human species. What’s the track record of today’s so called “advanced people”? Not so good.
Am I saying that we should abandon everything and go off and live in tribes. Not necessarily. But I’m saying we need to change the atmosphere, the current spiritual sickness that infests the soul of the modern man.
It is time for a baptism of the sick.
Let your soul burn anew in the passion of powerful art and music.
Let your heart be washed pure by the waters of an ancient spiritual wisdom
Find time to be alone and purify your mind from the madness of today’s world.
And disappear into the depth of the forest, to become one with nature’s purpose
St.Patrick’s Day has become one of those holidays that no one understands, but everyone likes to celebrate (just like Cinco De Mayo and Mardi Gras). After all, it’s a great excuse to get wasted, kiss Irish people, wear your best green shirt and pinch people. However, for those in the Pagan community – especially for those who are Celtic Pagans – the holiday has less lighthearted undertones.
St. Patrick’s claim to fame is that he “drove the snakes from Ireland.” Now of course, there were no snakes in Ireland. So this phrase is a euphemism. What it really means is that he is the person who drove the druids from Ireland, since snakes were a sacred symbol that many druids had tattooed to their arms.
Ironically, this patron saint of Ireland isn’t even Irish. Patrick was a 5th century Romano-British missionary and bishop who came to Ireland to preach Christianity. According to the Confessio of Patrick, he was captured from his homeland in Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. Later, when he became a cleric, he returned to the land of his capture to spread the Christian religion.
However, it has been argued that Patrick’s conversion of Ireland is a highly exaggerated affair. There were Christian missionaries in Ireland long before Patrick arrived, and the druid culture existed in Ireland centuries after Patrick died (on March 17th). Many aspects of the pagan culture in Ireland even blended into Christianity over time: holidays, holy wells, and even Gods were absorbed into the Christian tradition and called saints.
Whether Patrick’s conversion of Ireland is exaggerated or not, I still have a problem with dedicating a holiday to this man. I have a problem with celebrating a figure who is famed for driving the druids out of Ireland, so I will not celebrate his name.
Some also suggest that the institution of “St Patrick’s Day” was an attempt by Christians to replace the Pagan celebration of the Spring Equinox.
So I agree with many others when they say that we should instead call this day “All Snakes Day.” Hail the Irish Druids! Hail the holy symbol of the snake, a creature of healing and power! I will take today to celebrate my own Irish heritage and welcome the coming spring with open arms. I will take today to cherish the connection of my ancestors with Ireland’s ancient druidic culture.
Saint Patrick and the Druids (Sacred Texts)
Snakes and Bladders: Celebrating All Snakes Day (The Pagan Pope)
2015 has been an exciting year for Pagans so far, and we’re only in February! First it gets announced that Iceland is buildings its first temple to the Norse God to be erected in 1,000 years. Now a U.K. branch of the Druid College has been born. The other sister college is in the U.S. in Maine. (I personally would love to see one in every state).
The Druid College’s goal is to cultivate priests of Nature. They are dedicated to
- to Earth-centered spirituality
- to the integrity of our natural home
- to the crafting of sacred relationship
The foundations for this life long journey are established by three years of study. Unlike contemporary universities, Druid studies are furthered not only by personal reflection but primarily by ongoing personal connection and spiritual guidance of (i.e., apprenticeship to) a Druid Priest.
What does being a priest mean to the Druid College? Here is what the website says: “Being a priest of nature does not mean being an intermediary, but instead living a life in service, crafting a sacred relationship with the land, the ancestors and the gods. It requires service to the community as well as the land, wherein the priest acts as guide, witness or celebrant to a journey or journeys of crafting sacred relationship.”
While one can learn about druidry anywhere, the college itself has a specific focus on cultivating people who can perform service to the land and community. Given that human beings currently have a very dysfunctional relationship with their environment, the college stresses that priests of nature are needed more now than ever.
NOTE: The Druid College is not an accredited college. It’s not a place where you would go to get a degree. They use the word “college” in an earlier sense to describe the place as a center of learning.
Big News – Druid College UK is born! (Witches and Pagans, 2-6-15)
The above interview takes place between Professor Valle of the Mythology Corner and Vincent Enlund, the tribal leader of The Wanderer Kindred. First off, I will say that Endlund’s beliefs do not encompass all Asatru beliefs – he says as much himself in the video. I will also say that he appears to be either Folkish or Tribalist in his belief set, in that he believes that Asatru is a religion specifically for people of European heritage, and that people of different ancestries have different Gods (such as Shinto for the Japanese, Hinduism for Indians, Yoruba for Africans etc.). There are many reasons why I disagree with this outlook, but that is something I have already discussed at length in previous posts. If you wish to know more on my opinion about this, I can elaborate in the comments section if you are curious.
Anyways, I do think Vincent Enlund seems very educated and well spoken about the subject matter at hand. If you have an hour and a half to kill (maybe need something to listen to as you are cleaning or organizing a room) this is a mentally stimulating way to occupy your time. Enlund and the professor have a pretty extensive conversation about how Asatru got started, what it means for people in the modern world, Asatru services for the community (such as prison and military religious services), the interaction that Asatru has with other religious, beliefs about the afterlife, honorable behavior, community, etc. There are also some pretty deep conversations about what Yggdrasil means on a metaphysical level. There are also some controversial questions there too. For example, if all the Gods are real – then are the Monotheistic Gods real too?
In general, most of Enlund’s statements match general Asatru opinions I’ve heard from other sources: it is disrespectful to lump different Gods together and treat them as the same God (i.e. Isis is not Frigg), most people actually won’t go to Valhalla since Valhalla is for the 1% of the 1% of most excellent people (and most normal people would probably be exhausted by Valhalla anyways), and for most people new to the Asatru community, the best thing to do is a lot of studying and listening.
So while the video above isn’t the “authoritative source” on all things Asatru (especially if you consider yourself a Universalist), it is an interesting and deep discussion on the subject matter.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (More Information Here)
Ásatrúarfélagið website (The group for which the temple is being built)
For the first time in 1,000 years, a temple to the Norse Gods will be built in Iceland. Most pagans these days tend to worship in each other’s houses or outside somewhere, since our numbers are pretty low. So this will definitely be a historic landmark for Iceland – if not for the whole Pagan community in general.
Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
While the number of Norse Pagans is small in Iceland, the rate of growth itself is pretty large. The number has tripled in the last decade. So it makes sense that a temple will be built to accommodate this growing community.
This temple will be a place where weddings, funerals and initiation rites will take place.
After 1,000 years of oppression the old ways will re-emerge once again.
Amon Amarth – Thousand Years of Oppression
Happy Imbolc all! Of the eight festivals on the Pagan wheel of the year, Imbolc is by far my favorite. It may not offer the best weather, but the meaning to me is the most important. While it is a liminal time between winter and spring, as a Gaelic festival it is considered the first day of Spring. It is the time when the snow begins to melt, the animals begin to come out of hiding, and the very first signs of Spring begin to manifest. Traditionally it was a time to visit wells and to light a candle to represent the returning warmth of the sun.
Imbolc is strongly represented by the Gaelic Goddess Brighid (along with St. Brigid). Brighid is a Goddess of healing, inspiration and warfare. She is a Goddess of in-betweens. St. Brigid the person also played a transitory role. She represents a bridge between the Gaelic polytheist traditions and Catholicism. She was canonized and holds a special position in the fabric of Irish Catholicism. Perhaps the Goddess Brigid was so powerful among the Irish – even the Christian Irish – that they decided to make her into a saint and weave many of their ancient Imbolc traditions within the fold of Christianity. In this post I will include an Imbolc Prayer written by Gangleri’s Grove along with some helpful resources about the day.
Imbolc Prayer to Brighid
Exalted One, Fiery Arrow,
Who teases beauty
from the burning flame,
Hear our prayers.
Giver of sacred waters,
We praise You.
We exalt Your name
with our creative endeavors.
Friend of women,
Who blesses birthing
and comforts the dying,
We offer adorations unto You.
Goddess of inspired speech,
Bard of Bards,
Poet of Poets,
We celebrate You in our rites.
of the Greenest of lands,
Who protects Your people,
We hail You.
How to celebrate Imbolc (Pagan Wiccan)
For those interested in both topics, I made a facebook. I’m not going to say these two paths are the same, but they share similar ideas. If you are interested in seeing how these ideologies intersect, definitely join this page.
“You may think this is partiality, but I have no favorites. Whatever path a person travels to Me is My path. In wahtever way a person approaches Me, I return like for like. If they treat Me as a father or mother, I treat them as My children. If they serve Me as master, I accept their services as their Lord. If they worship Me as a child, I approach them as a child. Those who pine for Me, I pine for. To those who see Me as friend I am friend. Even for those who perceive Me as enemy I approach as an enemy. All paths lead to Me, Divinity.”
All paths lead to the divine.
~ Krishna’s Declaration, Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad-gita.
“I am Pure Consciousness, the underlying essence of all elements and beings.
I am the innate nature of everything.
I am pure water I am sweet to the taste.
In the sun and the moon I am the radiance.
In the very center of human beings I live as virility and courage.
I am the slight, delicate scent, the sweet fragrance of the earth.
I am the brilliance in both fire and sun, and I am the light of Divinity in all beings.
I am the subtle spirit in spiritual practices that gives them their existence – the love of the devotee, the simple austerity in the ascetic, the sweet sense of charity in the giver.”
~ Chapter 7, Bhagavad-gita
We are currently in the middle of winter (those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) and we are just days away from Imbolc, the time when the first signs of spring begin to appear in nature.
A big part of being Pagan (and Druid) is connecting to Nature. Therefore, the winter time can be problematic for those who have a nature based faith. (Of course for those of you living in a tropical climate, you can ignore this post and come back if I ever decide to talk about hurricane/monsoon season).
Yes there are the winter festivals, such as Yule and Imbolc, but you must admit that it’s hard communing with the spirits of the Earth when you have ice falling on your head, slush in your boots, your toes losing feeling, and a scarf wrapped tightly around your face in an effort to keep out the elements. Now nature can definitely be very beautiful in the winter. The phrase “winter wonderland” doesn’t exist by accident. Sure, the landscape looks like it has been blanketed with a bed of white velvet and the naked trees appear to be glistening with fairy dust. Yet the moment you step outside to appreciate this beauty, you might have second thoughts upon feeling the minus zero gusts of wind burning in your face. You may decide that such beauty is better appreciated inside, from behind a window, where you can wear your your pajamas, drink hot chocolate and crank up the heat.
The other problem with the winter is that the days are short, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately named SAD) is rife.
So what to do? Here are some thoughts:
- Focus on your human relationships: Have you noticed how some of the best holidays take place near the winter time? Whether you celebrate Yule, Christmas, or Alban Arthan, much of these holidays have a focus on connecting with family and friends. In the ancient times, when it was important to huddle together near the fire for warmth, winter was the ideal time to literally get closer to those you care about, enjoy good mead, and try to generate as much inner warmth as possible in order to negate the outer cold surrounding you.
- Bring some Hygge into your life: Who knows how to deal with the winter cold and darkness better than our Scandinavian buddies up north? They’ve invented a cultural concept called “Hygge.” While we don’t have a direct translation of the word in English, it is a general concept that connotes “coziness,” particularly when relaxing with good friends or loved ones and while enjoying good food. When loved ones sit close together on a cold rainy night, that is a true moment of hygge.
- Reach out to the needy: Not everyone gets to have food, shelter and warmth in the cold winter months. This is a good time to donate jackets, gloves and scarves to the needy, or volunteer to feed the homeless at a hypothermia shelter. Winter is a good time to show your love for your fellow man.
- Grow indoor plants: Need some suggestions? Click here. If you can’t go outdoors and enjoy nature, than perhaps it is time to bring nature to you.
- Build upon your altar: Many pagans and those of other Earth based spiritualities have an altar, or some kind of totem that reminds them of their connection to the Divine. When you feel like this connection is fracturing because of time trapped indoors, then maybe it’s time to add onto your altar. You don’t have to spend a million dollars or break the bank. You can put some plants around it, maybe draw some pictures, get some candles at the dollar store, bust out the arts and crafts, or even some place some fake flowers around if you don’t want to deal with dead plants. (I’ll admit that I’ve done this)
- Reflect upon death: Okay, this sounds morbid. You don’t need to hang a bunch of goat skulls around your living room and drink blood out of a goblet (although that would make for a cool Watain video). What I’m saying is that the Pagan faith is one that is inclusive of all cycles in life – including death. If the seasons represent the cycle of life, they represent the following: spring (birth and newness), summer (marriage, lust, the peak of health), autumn (old age, harvest, bringing something to completion) and winter (death). Therefore, this may be a good time to reflect upon your ancestors, those who have died, what they brought to your life when they were alive, and what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind to your kin when you die.
- Finally, enjoy hibernation: Hibernating is natural. Other animals do it. So if you are really concerned about living a natural life, perhaps you should take a cue from our distant cousins in the animal kingdom. Staying indoors, keeping cozy, and fattening up a little (don’t over do it) might not be such a bad thing. Drink some warm mead (or hot chocolate for the sober), enjoy good company, and most important, stay warm!
Cue the soundtrack of Billy Idol’s “It’s a nice day for a white wedding,” and replace that with, “It’s a nice day for a Gaaay Wedding!”
I would like to send forth a major congratulations to Tom Lanting, 34, and Iain Robertson, 39, who were the first two to have both a gay and pagan wedding in Scotland. The couple has been together for 12 years, but has just recently tied the knot. Since they both describe themselves as hedge witches, they had a ceremony where they casted a circle, invoked the elements, handfasted (which involves tying the hands together), shared mead and jumped the broom.
After Sunday’s wedding, the couple said: “As hedge witches we always wanted to have a pagan marriage ceremony in line with our beliefs and it was really important to us to be able to share this ceremony with our friends and family.”
Scotland is the only part of the U.K. to allow pagans and other religious minorities to solemnise legal weddings.
Louise Park, the presiding officer for the Pagan Federation (Scotland), conducted the ceremony. She said: “Equality for people of all faiths is something that is very dear to the vast majority of pagans.”
Hopefully we see more of this kind of thing in the future to come for Scotland.
BILLY IDOL – “WHITE WEDDING”
Since I mentioned it I might as well post it. Not metal, but a bit of cheesy 80’s magic.
Many people discuss the rapid growth of religions like Evangelical Christianity or Islam. Yet this is compared to other mainstream religions, so of course these things would appear to be growing quickly. However, if you do a comparison of all belief systems, you will find that the “religious nones” are actually the fastest growing belief system in the world. In fact, I wrote an article about this recently if you want to learn more about this.
However, being a “religious none” doesn’t mean that the person is automatically godless, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the person isn’t spiritual. It simply just means that the person doesn’t have a religious label. In fact, it has been shown that more than two-thirds of the unaffiliated believe in God; nearly four in ten say they are “spiritual” but not “religious”, and more than one-fifth say they pray every day. So I don’t think it’s necessary a lack of belief, but more like a departure from organized religion in search for a more natural, organic truth.
Data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that while only 7% of Americans were raised outside of a religious tradition, nearly 19 percent are religiously unaffiliated today. A large chunk of this number comes from people under 30. As the title of this article states, one-third of Americans under 30 are reported to have no religion.
Why are so many of these religious none’s young people? While there is no definite reason, there are a number of theories. Young people in America have grown up with a greater exposure to diverse cultural values, and a more open environment about sexuality. Many young people are getting pushed away from the church by rhetoric they see as shallow: statements against gay marriage, women’s equality and basic science.
According to a recent study done at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California-Santa Barbara, a majority of young people (men and women between 18-32) prefer egalitarian relationships where economic and domestic responsibilities are shared between both genders. Therefore, much of the statements from mainstream religions about “traditional gender roles” are a big fat turn off to our younger folk.
While some people may say that this makes millennials a generation “without values,” I think it means that we are the generation that is actually questioning what makes something “a value” to begin with.
Language doesn’t exist yet to classify what exactly today’s young people believe. But perhaps the language isn’t important. Perhaps what is important is that today’s millennials are discovering what is right by thinking for themselves and finding more organic ways to connect with the divine.
Attention Heathens, Asatru and Vikings of the internet. You will no longer have to raid the nearest settlement to find an adequate wench or knave to warm your bed this winter. There is a new dating site that has started up to help members of the Asatru community connect with one another and hopefully find romance – or lust – or a good time – or at least some pictures of guys with cool beards to look at.
The site is very new indeed. When I did a search for all the women in the world between 18-90, I only came up with 33 lasses total. (Apparently 90 is the age limit for this site, I guess after 90 you were supposed to die valiantly in battle instead of languishing around, getting older and eating up social security checks). If you are looking for a man, prospects are somewhat better. There are about 100 men on the site so far – another reminder that the world of Asatru can sometimes be a sausage fest. But that’s okay, if everyone on the site is okay with each woman having 3 men to herself, I’m sure everything will be just fine!
(Okay…this date actually looks a little awkward…)
Those in the United States will get the best odds, as most of the people I found were U.S. locals. For the rest, you could always try your luck putting together a ship, a crew, and making your way across the ocean as Leif Ericson did long ago (or do something far less epic, like just buying a plane ticket or sit around waiting for the invention of teleportation devices).
When you build your profile, you are given the typical dating site options: are you seeking male or female, are you divorced, single in an open relationship, etc. You are also required to answer questions such as your sense of humor, your interest in shows, whether you smoke, drink and all that other good stuff.
(“What do you mean you don’t like Cannibal Corpse? Sorry. We’re gonna have to see other people.”)
My main criticism is that the profile options need to give you a blank field where you can write in your own response if the preexisting responses don’t apply. For example, you can only be interested in males or females. But what about someone on the site who is bisexual? I actually do have a few bisexual heathen friends, so they would be a bit put off by this restriction. You can also only list a male or female gender, but what if someone identifies as a different gender orientation than either of those options? Also, the site requires you to list your exact location, down to the city you live in. I feel that some people would want to retain more privacy than that. Therefore, they should have an option that allows you to leave the option blank.
Yet with criticisms aside, I know that the site is very new, so they probably have quite a few quirks and kinks to work out. But I think it is a good idea that this site is attempting to do such a thing. It shows that the Asatru community is indeed growing and becoming more recognized. There is also an option to add blogs, classifieds and events, even though this hasn’t been utilized very much yet. It will be interesting to see where this site goes.
(“You mean you also enjoy crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of their women? You’re a keeper!”)
The Yazidi religion is believed to be around 6,000 years old in fact. Yet throughout their long history they have faced 72 genocides and soon they may unfortunately be facing genocide number 73 at the hands of the group formerly known as ISIS (Which now calls itself “The Islamic State”). Why all the hate towards this small, but ancient group of people? This is due to one major misconception about their religion – the idea that they worship Satan. Not only do the Yazidis not believe in a devil, but they don’t believe in hell either. In fact, the evil Satan is more of a reality in the Judeo-Christian religions than for the Yazidis.
GOD’S HIGHEST ANGEL IS A SAVIOR RATHER THAN A DEVIL
The reason for this misconception is because they believe that God created the Earth and designated seven angels to preside over his creation. The highest of these angels is Tawsi Melek, who is also known as the “Peacock Angel.” He is the primary figure in the Yazidi religion and is the one who filled the Earth with colorful things, such as flora and fauna. Yet this mighty Melek is similar in some aspects to Christianity’s Lucifer and Islam’s Shaitan. When God created Adam, he asked his angels to bow down to the humans. All angels obeyed except for Tawsi Melek, who replied, “How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust.”
The key difference however, in the Yazidi religion, is that Tawsi Melek was right not to bow down to the humans, and he was right to stand up to God. He was not thrown into hell. Instead he descended to Earth and wept for all the pain in the world. His tears ended up extinguishing the fires of hell. Thus, the Yazidis do not believe in a hell with a devil, but rather they believe that evil is man-made. They hold that the source of evil is in the heart and spirit of humans themselves, not in God’s highest angel. In the Yazidi religion, Tawsi Melek is a bringer of knowledge and life. It is interesting that Lucifer is also a bringer of knowledge in the Christian religion – yet this aspect of Lucifer is seen in a negative light by the Christians, while Tawsi Melek’s knowledge is mainly a positive force in the world of the Yazidis.
THE YAZIDI HOLY SITE – LALISH
When Tawsi Melek descended to the Earth to make our world more colorful, it is believed that he descended to a site known as “Lalish,” which is situated in Northern Iraq. After Melek descended to Lalish he met with Adam and turned him towards the sun, telling him that it was a symbol of the creator. He then added that Adam should pray towards the sun daily and taught him a prayer that all humanity should chant for the creator. Most Yazidis pray 3 times a day and most Yazidis also make it a goal to go on a pilgrimage to their holy site at least once a lifetime.
(The Yazidi Holy Site “Lalish” on New Years)
The Yazidi religious year includes four holy festivals:
- The New Year (The first Wednesday of April)
- Apparently the Yazidis also like coloring eggs in April. They do this to celebrate the colors that Tawsi Melek brought to the world.
- The Feast of Sacrifice
- The Feast of Seven Days, Sept 23-30
- The first Friday of December feast following three days of fasting.
Wednesday is also a holy day of the week for the Yazidis and Saturday is a day of rest.
A BELIEF IN REINCARNATION
So if evil people don’t go to hell, where do they go? Much like in Hinduism, Yazidis believe in the purification of the soul through a series of lifetimes. If a soul is pure, it will ascend into heaven. However, if someone lived a truly evil life, they will be reincarnated as a member of a different religion. The Yazidis are very proud of their own traditions and ethic group, which means that being cast out of the Yazidi ethnic and spiritual lineage is one of the harshest punishments imaginable for their people. In fact, Yazidis believe in only marrying within their ethnic pool, and narrow that requirement down even further to only marrying within their caste.
THE YAZIDI CASTE SYSTEM
(A Yazidi man healing a woman)
- THE SHEIKH CASTE
- The Sheikh caste is the highest of the three mentioned castes here. Sheikh is an Arabic word which denotes a ruler or an elder of a tribe. It is believed that the members of this caste descended from 6 of the 7 great angels (excluding Tawsi Melek). Members of the Sheikh caste are believed to have special healing powers.
- THE PIR CASTE
- The Pir Caste is also a significant spiritual caste, and much like the Shiekh, they are required to be at major life events such as marriages, circumcisions and funerals.
- THE MURID CASTE
- The Murids are a majority of the Yazidi people, who are basically “commoners” and do not function as priests.
THE YAZIDI’S SYNCRETIC ORIGINS
Having a caste system and believing in reincarnation sounds very Hindu inspired. This is no accident. It is believed that the Yazidis migrated to India after a major flood that happened 6,000 years ago. Then about 4,000 years ago they migrated back to their homeland in Northern Iraq. In fact, the Yazidi religion has similarities to Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Mithraism. It is probably because the Yazidis have encountered and lived among these people over the last 6,000 years of their existence, but due to their tight ethnic bonds – formed a unique religion to fit their people.
WHEN WAS THE YAZIDI RELIGION TECHNICALLY FOUNDED?
This is an update I decided to add after publishing the article. It’s a bit confusing because I state that the Yazidi religion is 6,000 years old. Some have argued with me that the Yazidi religion can’t be that old, considering that it has Islamic customs. However, one must realize that the practice of praying 5 times a day was not unique to Muslims. In pre-islamic times, it was a normal practice for many Middle Eastern cultures who bowed and prayed to the various phases of the sun throughout the day – including the ancient Egyptians and Zoroastrians.
Also, one must understand that the Yazidi religion is a fluid religion that has evolved and grown over time as a result of their contacts with other people. Much of what they believe today was codified in its current form in the 12th century A.D. by the reformer known as Sheikh Adi. Many Yazidis consider him to be an Avatar of the angel Tawsi Melek and his tomb is at the holy site of Lalish. However, even though its most recent reforms were established in the 12th century, many of the basic ideas are thousands of years old.
THE YAZIDIS TODAY
As mentioned in the introduction, Yazdis are a very small ethnic and religious minority. There are only 700,000 Yazidis in the world, and 600,000 of these Yazidis live in Iraq. Today the terrorist group that calls itself “The Islamic State” is terrorizing and killing these ancient people, along with driving them off of lands they have occupied for thousands of years. The “Islamic State” has only two options for the Yazidis, “convert or die.” They have also taken to selling Yazidi girls into sexual slavery.
It is very important for the world to know about the Yazidi people, what they are going through, and the beauty that their religion truly represents. The fact that they celebrate a colorful, peacock of an angel as a bringer of knowledge and life speaks volumes about their core beliefs – even if most of their religion is transmitted by word of mouth, rather than the written word. These are a people who have a rich and colorful tradition that masked men in black are attempting to destroy. Let us do well to understand, support and pray for these people in their hour of need.
Egyptian Handbook of Spells Deciphered (Live Science)
How did the Egyptians in the 8th century A.D. cast a love spell, exorcise a demon or subjugate their enemies? A recently translated codex reveals 27 different spells that were combined for form a “single instrument of religious power.” The book was written in the Coptic language, an adaptation of Greek script, at a time when many Egyptians were Christians. In fact, the book contains many invocations that refer to Jesus Christ.
What is interesting is that several of the invocations seem to originate from a group who called themselves “Sethians.” This was a group that flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity. They held Seth, who they believed to be the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. One invocation refers to Seth as the living Christ.
What is interesting is that before Christianity came to Egypt, Seth was one of the chief Gods of Upper Egypt. He was a desert God of war and strength. (He was also demonized in other parts of Egypt).
This Sethian Cult eventually died out, but it is interesting to see how Pagan ideas and Christianity were blended together in the early days of Christianity.
I think some of the articles about this topic are misleading however, because they call the book an “Ancient Egyptian” book of spells. Since this codex was written in the Christian and Islamic Era, I would hardly say that it was “Ancient History.” I’d be more likely to call it Medieval History.
Oh no! According to this video, the fastest growing religion in the world is “no religion.” 1 in 5 American adults have no religion and this trend is growing quickly among internet savvy Millennials. This surely means that everyone is now going to throw morality out the window, and much like the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, we’re gonna start having sex with rocks, raping angels and having gay orgies with the Anti-Christ! The horror the horror!
I mean, isn’t that what life was like before Judeo-Christian religion ever existed, didn’t people just rape babies and cannibalize each other left and right? I mean, there certainly weren’t tolerant, sophisticated pre-christian civilizations in the world like Egypt, Rome, or China – am I right?
Hopefully you understand that so far, this post has been very sarcastic, although much of what I mentioned above about Sodom would make cool content for a metal video.
EDUCATED PEOPLE ARE BECOMING LESS RELIGIOUS
But yes, it appears that all around the world, in the areas where people have more access to the internet and education, they are becoming less religious. Yet the lack of “religion” doesn’t mean that people aren’t spiritual. Even several of the atheists I know take solace in practices like meditation and yoga.
Yes, I did make a post a while ago about how Paganism had one of the fastest rates of growth out of all the religions in America. Yet Paganism is still a very small minority, 0.3% of the population. In terms of rapidly growing religions with a large following, the religious “nones” are quickly booming.
So as I mentioned above, much of this development is because of education. Now that we live in a world where information about a plethora of religions and philosophies are available at the click of a button, people have a greater ability to think for themselves about what they think the truth is. The internet is also helping to bring people together at an ideological level. Before the internet, people were limited to their geography if they wanted to become part of a community, and of course, the central social network in most communities is the church. Many atheists felt isolated from a religious point of view. Yet now many of these atheists have found a sense of community among like minded non-believers on the internet.
THE WORLD THAT EXISTED BEFORE THERE WAS “ONE CORRECT RELIGION”
Is the decrease of religion a bad thing? Does this spell out the moral decline of civilization as we know it? As I sarcastically mentioned earlier, many of the world’s most advanced civilizations existed before the spread of Christianity and did quite well for themselves. If anything, the growth of non-religion will simply take us back to the natural order of things. Monotheistic religion was splinter, a minor aberration in the scheme of time. Why do you think that Pagan holidays such as Easter and Christmas persisted, even as Christianity was shoved down people’s throats at the edge of a sword? Why do you think ideas like hell had to be invented to keep people religious? If religion is so appealing, why do people have to be scared into it? It’s because it is an unnatural system with laws that are not consistent with the laws of nature.
Pagan ideologies were diverse, and they certainly weren’t perfect. But they were the natural outgrowth of a people’s spiritual connection to their surroundings and culture. Paganism represented man’s attempt to live alongside the laws of nature. People revered Gods who were strong, and represented ideals of survival and health. Today’s “religious nones” are not pagan, but as they learn more about science and the natural world, they will hopefully use rational thought and debate to come up with a moral system that exists closer to Natural Law, and represent more realistic ideas about the environment and human sexuality. Nature is the weed and religion is a manicured garden. You can use all the pesticide you want, but at the end of the day Nature and her followers will always win out.
The ancient world was a much more spiritually diverse and tolerant place than the world we live in today. I’m not saying that the ancient world was a nice place. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very brutal place in a lot of ways. The Romans killed a large number of Druids to subdue the Celtic resistance. Leaders like Augustus and Tiberius Caesar were also weary about the cultural influence of Eastern Religions – such as the Cult of Isis in Rome. Yet despite the fact that some ideas were preferred over others, people had the freedom to worship their own Gods as long as they followed the law and paid homage to the emperor.
In a debate about the morality of religion, it has also been brought up that people can develop a framework of values without having a religion that carves such values into stone. For example, the Chinese have followed Confucianism as a key moral ideology of their society for 2,000 years, and while Confucianism promotes good character and social order, it is not a religion.
NOT ONLY CAN YOU BE MORAL WITHOUT RELIGION
BUT RELIGION ITSELF MAY ACTUALLY BE VERY IMMORAL
Is religion dangerous? I think so. Is religion immoral? I think so. If you watched the video above, one person states that the number one book that convinces people to become atheists (even more so than any work by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens) is the bible. It’s a book replete with genocide, rape, sexism, racism, homophobia, incest, pedophilia, and the celebration of slavery. Here are some wholesome verses for the whole family:
COMMIT A GENOCIDE OF THOSE WHO DON’T SHARE YOUR RELIGION:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says… ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)
…but what about “thou shalt not kill? ” Now I’m confused.
GO MURDER A BABY:
“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9)
…yes, because a merciful and just God glorifies the death of babies.
TIME TO GANG RAPE A HOE:
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” (Judges 19:25-28)
…ah yes, good old gang rape, that’s some quality family values right there.
GOD SPARED ABRAHAM’S SON BECAUSE HE IS MERCIFUL, BUT FUCK JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHTER:
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.’ Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
…So God was nice enough to prevent Abraham from killing his son, but I guess the life of a man’s daughter is less important. I mean, women aren’t people – at least not in the bible.
SLAVES, SUBIMIT TO YOUR MASTERS!:
“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18)
…Good old fashioned slavery.
ONE PROPHET, TWO BEARS AND 42 DEAD BOYS:
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. (2 Kings 2:23-25)
…My personal favorite, this must be the original Goldilocks story.
You see, I’m one of those people who read the bible cover to cover. In fact, I didn’t do so as some atheist looking for a good source of snark. I actually did this back when I was still a Catholic. I was looking for answers and hoping to improve my faith. Instead, reading the bible and going to church are probably two of the greatest catalysts for my loss of faith. I ended up finding much more solace in Edith Hamilton’s mythology.
Thus, my read through of the bible made me realize that most Christians must not read the entire bible. Because surely this book of peace, love and wisdom that they discussed was not the same book that I was reading. And if they did read the whole bible, cover to cover, they must have done a triple back flip in mental gymnastics to assure themselves that the parts about not touching pig skin (a foot ball), or eating seafood, or marrying your rapist were simply metaphor, but the parts about gay sex were literal law.
Therefore, after reading the bible, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not only a silly book, but that anyone who truly follows its commands – down to the last letter – must not be a good person. A man named A.J. Jacobs tried one year of living biblically and even wrote about it. Yet the truth is that it was impossible for him to truly do everything the bible commanded. There is even one humorous part where he tries throwing rocks at people he sees as being guilty for sin.
Honestly, most people I know who follow a religion, even the very conservative ones, are ultimately picking and choosing which verses they are going to follow. What makes them pick what is a good verse and what is a bad one? They are ultimately using their own logic, rather than doing everything the bible says. Therefore, if they are going to use their own logic anyways, they might as well just create their own spirituality at the end of the day, instead of half heartedly following one they don’t entirely agree with.
You see, Religion is just an ideology like any other. Yet here is the difference. Most ideologies open themselves up to room for debate. Ideologies like politics, education, and philosophy can be subjected to the scrutiny of reason, so that they can be improved or altered to produce the best possible results. Even in China, a place where Confucianism was a key framework of morality, there was always the dialectic between Legalism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Yet Religion is different because it is an ideology backed up by a powerful Sky Daddy. It is not allowed to be debated, scrutinized or changed because it is a set of laws written in stone. Such an ideology can support the most murderous of intentions, and no one is allowed to disagree or else they are branded a “heretic.” It is no small wonder that the Roman Empire fell apart after its conversion to Christianity. Without the freedom to question who was in charge, and why things were being done in a certain way, the empire fell into a state of ignorance and decay.
As Christopher Hitchens once stated in a debate, it wasn’t the crusades that halted the power of Christianity, it wasn’t the bloody Reformation that brought about the deaths of millions, and it wasn’t the slaughter of indigenous people in the new world. What halted the power of Christianity was when the Christian nations finally controlled a majority of the planet in 1914. What was the result? Two world wars and a total destruction of the environment. Suffice it to say, people are not impressed, and now the influence of Christianity at a world stage is beginning to fade.
So am I scared of a world that is becoming less religious? No. I am hopeful. I am hopeful that there will be more chance for people to discover their own spiritualities, and find the best way of living through rational debate, rather than superstition and fear.
THE SONG FROM THE VIDEO ABOVE:
SCORPION FROG – BY INFECTED MUSHROOM
I don’t usually post techno/dubstep, but this song was catchy.
Former Christian Minister Leaves Christianity and Starts Atheist Church (Alternet, 11-6-14)
Enter that doorway to the nether-realm, my face with a mask concealed
The crisp leaves crunch churning under my steps upon a path not yet revealed
The air hangs heavy with looming spirits, roaming gusts of electric static
The dead and gone are not forever forlorn on this night of fear and magic
The fabric to that other world becomes a silken shimmer
Velvet walls in Death’s dark hall are far more than tale and glimmer.
By dawning this mask I may seem to hide my Earthly mortal vissage
Yet my inner beast now shines more true, my primeval power manifested
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.