Magick Is What You Make Of It

It is common wisdom in the pagan community that “The best Magick is that which you make yourself.” For those of you who are new to the path or have simply never heard that phrase before, I will explain:

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The phrase has at least two distinct meanings. The first is simple and follows the same premise as another famous saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” (For those of you playing along at home, this is a mistranslation, the original phrase was penned by Charles-Guillaume Étienne in 1807 and the proper translation is “One is never served so well as by oneself.” Which, honestly, matches our phrase better.)

The second is, unfortunately, a tad more difficult to explain on an existential level in our modern world, due to the prevailing influence of materialism and the pomp and circumstance of the centralized mainstream religions. This isn’t to say that the message is hard to understand but, instead, that it is hard to force yourself to physically comprehend it. The second meaning lies in the relationship between yourself and your possessions, especially those you use for ritualistic purposes. This second meaning is the subject of this post.

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Alright, alright, sheesh.

The easiest way to explain this concept is with a visual. Let us say you are standing in a Metaphysical shop. Everywhere you turn there are ritual objects that you’ve craved for months, even years. In the display case are pendants, stones, rings, and all other sorts of items that you could want. On the walls, shelves upon shelves of relevant metaphysical books for any occasion, along with hand-bound notebooks and ornate altar cloths on display. In the back there is a huge selection of oils and incense for various purposes. Then you begin looking at price tags. Nothing is within your price range. None of it. However, this is perfectly fine, because the best magick is that which you make yourself.

Do you see now? It is not unlike when a child makes a present for their parent. It’s not the price tag that counts, it’s the thought and, more importantly, the intent. Such is and should be our relationship with the Gods/Spirits/Elements/etc. Sure, something store-bought will work and will look nice, but if you can make it yourself, it will work even better regardless of how it looks.

For example, my fiancée and I recently were in a metaphysical shop, I won’t see which one or where. She was seeking an oil-based incense to offer to The Morrigan on our altar, but the one the store had for that exact purpose was too expensive for us. So, instead, she mixed a variety of cheaper oils together until she created a scent that she thought would work. Not only did it work, it smelled much better to all parties concerned than the original scent from the shop. For around half the price. And, when it came time to use it, it worked wonders.

This does, however, bring up a secondary question.

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How much of Magick is which ingredients you use, and how much is your intent in their use? Can a stone that is typically used for healing be used for other purposes? An herb? A scent? A color? Even a symbol?

The answer to this is, of course it can! These usages were, for the most part, arrived at via experimentation. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t experiment with different uses for established items. Most will work, just to a lesser extent than what a “proper” ingredient would. The worst that can happen is nothing. With three notable exceptions:

The first is anything involving volatile ingredients that react a certain way as a part of your ritual. You go changing anything in that and you’re not dealing with the realm of the metaphysical anymore, you’re playing with chemistry. Than can end badly.

The second is any symbol with a widely known meaning which contradicts your intent. That’s just rude.

The third is the way certain symbols are drawn. The best example of this is the pentacle. Drawn one way and it attracts energy, drawn another and it repels. This one is the least common problem as most symbols don’t require a certain method of drawing.

The moral of this post simple. Do what feels right, but do your research and do it cautiously.

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Mister Crowley

In the past I have been asked my opinion on people who are prominent names in Pagan society. Not too long ago, I got a request I knew would come eventually and always feared that I wouldn’t be prepared for, so I decided to answer it with a blog post. That being said, let us discuss the “father ceremonial magick”, self-proclaimed antichrist and keeper of the loch ness monster as a pet himself, Aleister Crowley.

Even if you aren’t pagan and know nothing or next to nothing of the occult, you’ve probably heard of Aleister Crowley. You just might not know it. The Ozzy Osbourne song “Mister Crowley” that this the title of this post references is about him. V for Vendetta (the comic, not the movie) makes references to Crowley’s law, “Do what thou wilt.” He was featured on the cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” He is the reason that many people, myself included, spell magick with a k. Suffice it to say that he has has a major impact on today’s world as a whole, despite having lived over a hundred years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, Crowley’s contributions to the pagan community were many and they were great (we’ll get to that in a second), but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t bat-shit insane. We are talking about a man who, from a very young age, believed himself to be “The Great Beast 666”.

Yep, looks absolutely trustworthy. Sure does. Mmmmmhm.

Yep, looks absolutely trustworthy. Sure does. Mmmmmhm.

But, perhaps a little background information is in order. Mr. Crowley was born into a wealthy upper-class family in 1875 (To put this in perspective, this is a mere ten years after the end of the American Civil War). He attended several christian boarding schools in his childhood until his father’s death from Tongue Cancer in 1887, at which time he inherited his father’s money. Not long after he was expelled from the boarding school he attended at the time. He eventually attended two separate colleges, which he despised, and then left after only a couple terms. It was about this time that he turned away from Christianity. He began speaking openly about sex with the opposite gender and visiting prostitutes. He subsequently contracted Gonorrhea.

He claimed to have his first mystical experience on a winter holiday in Sweden, which some historians believe to be the result of his first homosexual experience.

Oh, did I forget to mention that? Aleister Crowley was openly bisexual. In the late 1800s and early 1900s. In England. Where homosexuality was illegal.

Honestly, how many other people who dress like this can say that? "Mister Charming" indeed!

Honestly, how many other people who dress like this can say that? “Mister Charming” indeed!

In 1898 Crowley was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Here he took a second name, “Frater Perdurabo” which is Latin for “Brother I shall endure to the end.” In 1899 he moved to a house on the shores of Loch Ness, becoming more and more obsessed with Scottish culture. Even to the point of wearing traditional highland dress on visits back to London. During this time he also reportedly claimed that the Loch Ness Monster was his pet. Over time he developed grudges against others within the Golden Dawn, including W.B. Yeats and Arthur Waite. Yes, that Waite. The group as a whole eventually split in 1901 and 1903, but managed to cling to life until 1978.

Between 1900 and 1904 he traveled widely. He and his wife eventually wound up in Egypt. This is where things start to get rather…guano-ey. He claims that his wife began to have visions and repeatedly inform him that “They are waiting for you.” She supposedly gave no more information as to whom was waiting for him. Crowley then performed a ritual invoking Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, after which his wife informed him who “they” were. The god Horus and one of his messengers. She then lead him to a local museum and the Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu. Crowley was astonished. The number of the exhibit was 666. He began referring to his wife as “Ouarda the Seeress” and performing ritual invocations to Horus. “Ouarda” informed him that “The Equinox of the Gods has come.” He began visiting the Stele frequently and, over a three day period (April 8-11 1904) wrote The Book of Law. He claimed that a disembodied voice dictated it to him each day.

And this is where I shall stop our rather lengthy background information. As I said earlier, I have great respect for Mister Crowley for his contributions to Pagan society. However, a lot of his story reads like an entitled brat looking for attention. This is apparent in everything from his claim of being “The Great Beast 666”, to the claim of having the Loch Ness Monster as a pet, to his interactions with The Golden Dawn, all the way down to his name change. Aleister was born Edward Alexander Crowley. He changed his name in 1895 to “Aleister” because:

“For many years I had loathed being called Alick, partly because of the unpleasant sound and sight of the word, partly because it was the name by which my mother called me. Edward did not seem to suit me and the diminutives Ted or Ned were even less appropriate. Alexander was too long and Sandy suggested tow hair and freckles. I had read in some book or other that the most favourable name for becoming famous was one consisting of a dactyl followed by a spondee, as at the end of a hexameter: like Jeremy Taylor. Aleister Crowley fulfilled these conditions and Aleister is the Gaelic form of Alexander. To adopt it would satisfy my romantic ideals.”

As for the rest of his story, the visions, the “prophecies”, the entire thing reads like something I’d expect out of a newly initiated Wiccan that joined a coven just so she could say “I’m a witch!” And threaten to put spells and curses on people she doesn’t like. He may have made many contributions to Pagan society but, with the way he carried on, he could have very easily destroyed us before we had gotten fully back on our feet.

In conclusion, Aleister, I love your ideals, The Book of Law was possibly the single largest contribution to Paganism since the Eddas were committed to paper in the 13th century, but you were Bat-shit crazy.

The Most Dangerous Thing in Magick

What is the most dangerous thing in magick? Some of the ritual components? Some of the gods you may work with? Some of the PEOPLE you may work with? Maybe the knives etc involved?

It’s simple, really. None of the above. The most dangerous thing in Magick is bad information. Bad information can lead you to use the wrong ritual component, use a ritual component the wrong way, or gods forbid use the wrong ritual component the wrong way (swallowing hemlock anyone?). Bad information can also make you call upon the wrong deity/force for the wrong task, to which they can respond…shall we say negatively. And of course, bad information can make you work with people you wouldn’t have normally trusted, perhaps in ways you wouldn’t have normally worked with them.

I bring this up not, as some might think, because of my dislike of King Kevin Carlyon. No, he actually has little to nothing to do with this subject (despite being the biggest face of bad information in the entire magickal world). I bring this up because of a book which came into my possession about five years ago. This book is the single greatest source of bad information I have ever come across. I dare not get rid of it, lest it fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t recognize it as such, and I have a personal objection to burning books (I once told my fiancée when she jokingly said she’d burn a book of mine that I didn’t much care for that I would leave her if she did.). So there this book sits, in the back of my closet in an unassuming box which I open rarely if ever. Collecting dust, hopefully to befall some happy accident in the future. This book reads like a cult leader’s doctrine and details curses which, if they work, would create quite the karmic backlash on the caster (To force a man to love you without feeling guilty about it for example). As if that weren’t bad enough, it gives recipes for certain ritual components (that it claims have been in use for hundreds of years) which include narcotics or hallucinogens. The author claims members of her coven are King Arthur reincarnate and Jesus Christ reincarnate, that her coven has existed since Arthurian times (in service to Arthur no less), and that her mantle of office (a strange necklace looking object) will strangle anyone not meant to wear it. What book could I possibly be speaking of? It’s title is The Grimoire of Lady Sheba.

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What else can I say about this horrendous book that I haven’t already discussed? I don’t normally speak ill of the dead (Jessica Wicker “Lady Sheba” Bell died March 20th 2002) but in her case I think I’ll make an exception. Let me perhaps put it this way. We have established that King Kevin is awful. After a few chapters of this book I think he must have learned some of his tricks from this vile woman.

In the first couple chapters she claims that “power shared is power lost.” Which, if that were true, would render anyone who ever taught anyone Magick absolutely useless in ritual. Not to mention that this sets up for a systematic forgetting of the ancient arts (to jealously guard “power”). I wonder if anyone pointed out to her that, by publishing her book of shadows, she lost all that “power” by her own teachings? Moving on to the section where she details a “lost witch’s alphabet” and the Norse Runes. Because of these two pages (they’re listed as an alphabet with the English letter below it) I spent almost a month using letters that didn’t exist (this was remedied when I bought a book about the runes and an actual rune set). I can’t attest to the accuracy of the “lost witch’s alphabet” but I imagine it’s just as inaccurate.

I think I’m going to stop here, lest I be tempted to pull the book off of its secluded shelf and out of its box to debunk everything it teaches. I will conclude with some advice.

When buying metaphysical books, and I know this will be old news to some of you, use your instincts. If the book seems like it might be a little hokey, wrong, full of crap for teenage girls, etc. It probably is. My friends and I talk about something we all a “ping”. Others will refer to it as “calling to you” or similar terminology. The best way to describe this feeling is that when you see it on a shelf or in your hand (or, in the case of components and equipment, in the shop) and you feel like you absolutely HAVE to have it. But it goes deeper than a simple want. You feel that particular book or item was created specifically for you or will work perfectly for what you need or…well I hope by now you get the picture. A “ping” or “call” is a lot like love. It can’t be adequately described but you’ll know it when you see it.

If all else fails, bring along a friend who is also Pagan when shopping for metaphysical items. Two minds and two senses are better than one. Especially when it’s your first time buying. The more knowledgeable the friend the more likely they’ll be able to point out bad information.

EDIT: After thinking about it for a while I took the book down and looked through it again. The “Witch’s Alphabet” she shows is the Theban Script. I verified that she transcribed that, at least, correctly except for the addition of the three “confusion” letters. The runes were as bad as I remembered and it took me a good half hour to restore the proper order, shape, and meaning in my head. Also, the “magic strangling necklace ™” is not only a symbol of her office as head of her coven (only able to be worn by her daughters) but supposedly means she’s supposed to be queen of camelot too. She also includes pictures of herself in various “magickal poses”, for what reason I have no idea. So I reiterate, AVOID THIS BOOK AT ALL COSTS! If your curiosity demands you know more, there is a good in-depth review of the book (with pictures of and from it) here.

Lighting The Shadows I: Color Magick

Today I begin something I’ve been considering for a long time. I’m going to take pages from my own personal Book of Shadows (which I define differently than most people do) and turn it into the blog version of a lecture. Because I’m slightly…let’s say nervous…I’ll start out modestly with the kind of thing that you can find on almost any Magick related website. Uses of colors in Magick.

I’ll start out with the colors of the rainbow, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple (or Violet if you’re scientifically or artistically inclined…to the rest of us it’s purple). Then we’ll move on to the non-colors, black and white.

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Red: Sexual Love, Protection, Courage, Vital Health

Magickally speaking, red symbolizes Protection, Courage, Vital Health, and Sexual Love. That’s right, I said Sexual Love. That isn’t to say that by burning a red candle and saying a few “magic words” that you’ll suddenly be healthy, courageous, protected, and have lots of sex (with no worry of babies or STDs because, you’re protected, right?). No. However, what this DOES mean is that you can use red objects (such as candles) to assist in rituals (read: spell, I don’t like the term spell and prefer the term ritual as it is technically more accurate) dealing with these subjects. For example, a ritual to protect your house (not cleansing, that’s something entirely different and should be done first) could use a red altar cloth or candle. A ritual to increase the…passion…in your relationship (with your partner’s permission, of course) could use Dragons Blood incense seeing as it tends to be red (if it’s not…good luck).

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Orange: Attraction, Luck

Orange is…shall we say a tricky color. Generally speaking, you want to avoid rituals which involve personal gain, especially at the loss of another. Karma really is a bitch. However, if Attraction and Luck were something that were ONLY personal gain, I would have left Orange off of this list. HOWEVER, you can also use Orange for less…messy things. For example, using it to draw in (read: attract) weather spirits to ease a drought (note: sometimes the Spirits have other plans). Or, say you need a little extra boost of luck to get yourself or a friend through a job interview (technically this falls under personal gain but…in this economy I’ll let it slide).

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Yellow: Communications, Legalities, Attraction

Yellow is, unfortunately, another complicated one. You have to, once again watch out for that personal gain. The Attraction property works exactly the same as it does with Orange so I won’t go back into that. On the other hand, its other two properties can be a bit confusing for those unwilling (or unable) to think outside the box. Communications doesn’t necessarily mean “make that boy/girl I like call me” so much as it means “help me be able to communicate my thoughts clearly.” Legalities doesn’t mean “make me win that court case” so much as it means “help justice be done.” Try to use these ones for personal gain and Karma will put her ass-biting teeth in.

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Green: Healing, Prosperity, Luck, Fertility

Ah Green. Green is nice and simple, just so long as you avoid that annoying little prosperity aspect. Green is practically the only color that has little to no repercussions for what could be considered personal gain usage, once again excepting that “Prosperity” thing and “Luck” as was mentioned in Orange. You can use Green to ask the powers that be (whatever you believe that may be) to help you finally have that baby, or to help you get over that headcold you’ve had for a week. Now, about that Prosperity factor. If you haven’t figured out by now that using a ritual to make you rich and famous is a bad idea, you’re an idiot. However, asking for help getting over a financial crisis or preventing one is perfectly alright. It’s all about baby-steps.

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Blue: Healing, Peace

Ah Blue, I love you Blue. I don’t need a nasty warning about personal gain here. Blue is the hippie of  the magickal colors. There’s really no way you could possibly interpret it negatively. Use it to help any sort of healing ritual you may be casting, or burn a blue candle while you’re mediating for some Inner Peace. You can’t go wrong with Healing and Peace. You just can’t.

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Purple: Power, Prosperity, Healing, Magickal Energy

Purple. Remember how I said I LOVE Blue? I HATE Purple. This one needs all sorts of “USE CAREFULLY” and “WARNING, DON’T BE A F*CKIG MORON” labels on it. I’m sure you can see why. The same warning applies to Prosperity here as it did to green, and Healing is the same as it’s been on the several colors before it. The issue here comes from Power and Magickal Energy. It does NOT mean that it will make you the ruler of the world or give you visible tangible “magic powers.” What it means is that it helps you remain strong through tough times, possibly advancing a LITTLE socially and/or will help your energy keep flowing through a long drawn out ritual.

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Black: Focus, Absorption and Destruction of Negativity

This is admittedly one you probably won’t find anywhere else. I discovered these properties myself after discovering that I work best with Black, in general. The fun thing about black is that it’s a combination of all the other colors, so in addition to these uses you can theoretically use it for any purpose listed for the colors above. Black is also useful if you, like me, have problems focusing yourself. It can also be useful in a cleansing ritual, but only if used properly. Unfortunately, black has a stigma due to the assumption that it’s associated with “Black Magic” which, frankly, it isn’t. Also, I will go in detail into how “Black Magic” as a whole makes no sense as a concept in a later post.

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It’s white, on a white background, ok? Not like I could change my page layout for this one item.

White: Protection, Purity, Truth

White is, as you probably expected, the purest of all “colors.” It is the absence of all color and thus the easiest to use in purification rituals. It is also simple to use in Protection rituals similar to Red. The “Truth” aspect is where it gets wonky. Once again it’s meant to HELP the truth come out, not force it. However it tends to be very zealous in its…helping…if requests aren’t worded properly so use that aspect carefully. (It should be noted, however, that oaths made over a white candle are rather useful due to this property.

In a later post I will go in detail into Karma and the like, but for now I will clarify, when I say above that you “can’t” use it for something I mean that you “shouldn’t”. That is to say, for example, you can use purple in a ritual to bring yourself physical power, but it may not turn out the way you intended. Even if it does, Karma will probably come bite you in the ass for it later. Food for thought.

P.S. I understand that there are many other uses one can find for the colors I listed. These are just the ones I have written down and have personally verified. They are also only the uses, not the elemental alignments etc. I may do another post on elemental affinity later.

In Memory: Yana

This is absolutely disgusting. The fact that things like this continue to this day is inexcusable for ANY culture.

Pagan Newswire Collective - Minnesota Bureau

I’m at a loss for how to write this obituary, this tribute to a life lost so horribly.  The usual forms a reporter uses won’t work in this situation.  I don’t know her birth date  or the exact day she died, and because I don’t want to put others in harm’s way in Syria, I can’t even use her real name.

What I do know is that this is the last email I received from Yana in June of 2012.

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I know she lived in an area of Syria where the fighting was intense and foreign fighters, allied with local Sunni fundamentalists, had taken over the adjoining area.   When she, like other Pagans in the area,  no longer responded to attempts at communication, I hoped she had fled with her family or was staying quiet to avoid detection.  She told me the rebels were targeting women and she was especially afraid they would find…

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A Musing on Accents

This isn’t political or religious, just something I’ve thought about today. So once again I’m going to put on my “it’s my blog I do what I want” hat and talk about something completely off topic.

Accents are quite an interesting concept to think about. I grew up in South Dakota, West River (we pronounce it westriver, south dako-ta) to be exact. A couple of years ago, I moved to Nebraska. It’s still the western side of the state, and I live so close to the South Dakota border that the ISP town detectors claim I live in “Chadron, South Dakota.” The strange thing is the massive difference in dialect and accent between the two.

Before I moved, no one ever said I had an accent of any kind. I refused to refer to carbonated beverages as “soda” instead of “pop.” And I talked at a speed which my family could understand. Then, I moved to Nebraska, land of…well…wind, cows, and corn. Immediately people started telling me I had a slight southern accent (still do when I’m not paying attention or am excited so…a lot). I’ve been here three years and now “pop” is “soda” and I can’t even seem to force myself to say “pop” anymore (believe me, I’ve tried). When I call my parents (because I am a good only child like that) or go home to visit, I keep having to be told to slow down so they can understand me. My fiancé says that when I come back from a trip to my folks I sound like a Texan (I don’t hear it). Hell, it wasn’t until I moved here that I noticed that I pronounce my name as “Mahcole” (though admittedly not that extreme) instead of Michael. I hear less “warsh”es here than I did in SD, and am told that “roof” is not “ruf” nor is “root” “rut.” Oddly enough I even manage to mess up “boot” though, fortunately it becomes “bewt” instead of “but.” People originally from here say it the way I’m (again) told is General American so… accent-less by technicality.

I guess, the point I’m trying to make amidst my incoherent rambling today is that such a short distance (in this case I live approx 60 miles from where I grew up) can make a HUGE dialogue/accent difference. And it’s rather strange.

P.S. Don’t ask me to differentiate between Supper and Dinner. I have no freaking clue which is which.

The Order of the Ordained

As some of you may know, I’m an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church. If I wanted to I could set up a ministry and begin preaching whatever good word I see fit 100% legally. Oh and there’s something in there about marriages and funerals too.

Thing is, not only am I ordained twice (I’ll get to that later, don’t forget), I have the option (for only $30 a year, oh joy) to join The Troth and begin training as a proper Heathen priest. I figured, under the circumstances, and since this is my blog, I might as well tell my story.

First thing’s first. I’d like you to understand that I had studied for eight years, give or take, before I decided to get ordained. However, this isn’t necessary with the ULC (universal life church, in case you forgot), which primarily exists to ordain “ministers” to perform wedding ceremonies in states that require such things for marriages to be legal. However, you can’t just stamp a “weddings only” sticker on an ordination and call it good, so the ULC provides for their ministers to start their own churches (and preach their own gospel) so long as they follow the church’s tenet, “Do only that which is right.” That is to say, if you want to preach the glory of the “One God” that’s fine, just so long as you do only that which is right. If you want to preach the ways of the “Old Gods” that’s fine too, just so long as you do only that which is right. Got your own new, made up religion? That’s fine too! Just, you guessed it, only do that which is right!

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There is, however, a problem with the ULC. Remember how I mentioned that I am ordained TWICE? (told you I’d be getting back to that) Well, you see when the ULC was created, the founder believed so much in the good in Man that he didn’t bother to trademark Universal Life Church. So, as word caught on of this church who was ordaining people for free, pretenders cropped up looking to make a quick buck off of the hopeful. As a result, there is some confusion online as to which is the “real” ULC.

So, when I first came across the ULC it was in the form of The Monastery. This is where I was first ordained. However I grew…curious about the quickness of my ordination. I received a confirmation email almost immediately when the site claimed it would take up to one business day. I applied on a saturday. So I did some research. In my research, I stumbled across The Seminary. Here I learned that The Monastery was an offshoot of the main ULC. I also discovered that there was doubt as to whether they were sending their ordination records to the mother church. Of course, I wanted to be sure, so I looked up the Official Home Page and applied for ordination there as well. This time it actually took the advertised (for lack of a better term) business day. I received my confirmation and was assured that I was now a Minister of the Universal Life Church in Modesto, California. If I need to verify my record (which I haven’t yet) I just have to call the office and they’ll look it up. Easy as that.

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I still felt…uneasy, however. Sure, I was officially a clergyman, but it didn’t quite have the feeling I expected it to. Looking back, I don’t even know quite how I expected it to feel. But, it was fine for the time. I was an Eclectic Pagan, so there was no clergy that could teach me my path better than I could teach it myself.

Then, to put it in semi-christian terms, I found Odin. Suddenly I knew there were others out there that believed as I do. Not only that, but a full religious organization to which I could belong and be trained in. I read and studied more, (over two years more in fact) thinking to maybe someday go and find these others who believed as I do and ask them to teach me. In the book that I use as my main reference outside of meditation I found a passing reference to The Troth, but thought nothing of it.

That is, until last week. On a whim, I visited their website and found that, not only could I join it (for the aforementioned $30 a year), I could enroll in their clergy program. I admit, I was excited. And then, as I read their description there was the dreaded word, Ásatrú. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t identify with Ásatrú and probably never will. There are just too many differences between my beliefs and theirs. But still I felt this…itch. I wanted to belong to something.

I debated it internally for what seemed like hours before finally consulting a friend. After discussing it, at length, with her, I decided that The Troth wasn’t for me. I’d stick with my non-dues charging Universal Life Church and maybe someday find a group that believes as I do, or even found a church or tradition of my own.

I suppose, truth be told, this long drawn out story can be summed up rather simply. In fact, it was summed up before my little dilemma ever began. On July 5, 2012 on a webcomic I frequent, in fact. Maybe I should take advice from webcomics more often!

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Hmmm…on second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

NOTE: If you find a site claiming to be the ULC that I haven’t listed here that; claims to be a “christians only” branch, charges for ordinations, or pushes you to purchase “ordination credentials” (by pushes I mean urges and/or claims they’re required in every state) STAY AWAY. They are very likely to be fakes. When in doubt, use ulc.net or the HQ at ulchq.com. I will change this post if those websites change.

A Little Sanity, If You Please.

Since I seem to be the only pagan in the world who hasn’t said SOMETHING about this, I figured I’d talk about the “Fox and Friends” situation.

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For those of you that don’t know, a few days ago Tucker Carlson and the other two talking bobbleheads that host the Fox News Channel show “Fox & Friends” were discussing College calendars. Well, ok they were discussing one particular school’s calendar which decided to list the eight Wiccan holy days for professors to be aware of. This was presumably so that teachers wouldn’t be caught completely off guard when John or Jane Doe suddenly came up to them and asked for exam or homework rescheduling because it happened to fall on a holy day which they wished to observe.

Of course, being the talking bobbleheads that they are, the Fox & Friends crew went on a little tangent about how they “Don’t know any wiccans,” how the main thing wrong with “wiccanism” (a term they used several times and I wanted to throw something at my computer monitor for) was that it’s a form of witchcraft, ranting about them having “20 holidays” and how they “can’t take any religion who’s most important holiday is Halloween seriously.” Tucker Carlson himself went on to say that all Wiccans that HE knew of were either avid Dungeons and Dragons players or “twice divorced middle-aged women living in the mid-west working as a midwife.”

Now, because not everyone has learned to take everything from Fox news with a grain of salt yet, the Wiccan community and a large portion of the Pagan community collectively shat themselves with indignation and DEMANDED that Fox News apologize.

On a later show. Tucker Carlson did apologize.

Just look how sorry I am

Just look how sorry I am

The apology took about fifteen seconds and amounted to essentially, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, I’m not that kind of person, honest.”

As you might imagine, a lot of people weren’t happy about this. They thought that their hurt feelings deserved more than a fifteen second apology. They thought he should have redacted and/or corrected everything that he said which was wrong. They thought that his own mother should have been on air holding him by the ear and screaming “Say it like you mean it!” (Ok I might be exaggerating a BIT on that last one)

I, for one, am perfectly happy with the apology we received. Here is why:

First of all, congratulations you got an official apology out of FOX NEWS. This is the network which practically claims to be infallible, and you got them to say “Sorry” to a demographic that ISN’T their base!

Second, you have to realize that the apology you received was on a talk show with a set time schedule. They have so many things that they need to discuss in that period of time that a lengthy redaction would have not only cut into their talking point time, but would have also caused their viewership to decline (see my earlier point about how we are not their base). Yes, it was about 15 seconds long and sounded like it was probably forced under threat of his job, but Fox and Friends is not a newspaper. A newspaper can simply add another page if they run out of room because they ran a redaction/correction. A talk show can not tack on another half hour because they had to correct an earlier show.

So, in conclusion, I repeat as I seem to need to constantly; (ad nauseum) everyone, please calm the hell down. Also, a little sanity if you please.

Why I Choose to be Heathen

There are two things that this title refers to. First is the obvious, a question I get asked a LOT, “Why do you believe as you do?” The second is mostly semantic, referring to the reason that I chose the term Heathen over Pagan, Ásatrú, or any of the other various terms used by followers of Norse Paganism.

MJOLNIR3

 

***THIS SECTION HAS BEEN EDITED SINCE INITIAL POST DUE TO POSTER’S REMORSE***

Long story short, I chose Norse Paganism because after my encounter with Odin, I did some research and found that it fit me much better than Wicca ever did. I’ve never looked back.

Valknut-Symbol-triquetra.svg

You may have noticed the image, similar to this one, at the top of the page. It is known as a Valknut, and is not only a symbol of Odin, but of those who die in battle. I thought it as good a preface as any to explain why I identify as Heathen, not Pagan and not Ásatrú.

It is, truthfully a matter of semantics. Identifying as Pagan means that, every time I say “I’m Pagan” and someone questions me on “What does that mean?” I have to explain how “If you ask 4 pagans what it means you’ll get 5 answers” and then explain what that means, followed by explaining my own personal beliefs. (not to mention dealing with Wiccans who insist that, because I’m Pagan and Wiccans are Pagan, I have to follow Wiccan rules. Which I don’t and I won’t.)

The other alternative is, of course, identifying as Ásatrú. The problem I have with that is simply complicated. While Ásatrú and my beliefs share many similarities, the differences between the two and the stigma that Ásatrú has earned itself (which I am not going into) makes the two incompatible. (side note: the reason I don’t identify as an Odinist is similar to the reason I don’t identify as Ásatrú. Differing beliefs that make the term and I incompatible)

Therefore I identify as Heathen, that is, one who follows the ancient Norse Gods and Their teachings. It is simple and to the point to explain, and nearly impossible to get confused with someone else’s beliefs. Of course, I still have to explain how every Heathen is entitled to their own interpretation, but that is child’s play compared to the difficulties with the other terms.

I hope that I have cleared up any possible questions, but as always I will gladly respond to any questions you may have in the comments.

Origins of Halloween

I didn’t feel I had the brainpower to write a new post, so I’m copying the guest post I wrote for SME at Swallowing the Camel.

It would seem that some “former Satanists” and “former Pagans” who “found Jesus” (he was behind the couch the whole time! Who would’a thunk it?) have said some…interesting things to say about the origin Halloween.

Satan

This guy had nothing to do with it.

That’s right, if your preconception of the origin of Halloween involves “Satan” or “The Devil” you can throw it out the window right now. If you don’t think you can do that, then I won’t be able to teach you anything and you might as well stop reading now. I’ll wait for those of you who are closed-minded to leave.

They gone? Good.

Now, Halloween is special (and, in this case, by special I mean not special at all) among religious holidays in that it has multiple origins. First I’ll discuss the one that many people are apparently unaware of: Samhain (don’t try to pronounce it, you’ll only embarrass yourself).

Celtic Knot

Samhain is a Gaelic/Celtic festival that marks the beginning of winter, and thus the end of the harvest season. As such, it is also a Day of the Dead. Traditionally it is held at the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. This can be…tricky to calculate from year to year, so in more modern times it is simply rounded to October 31 or November 1. In many traditions, including Wiccan and Celtic traditions, it is believed that the veil between our world and the “otherworld” is thinned on this day. This allows spirits of the deceased, among other entities, to cross over and interact with our world. One of the more common traditions in the Pagan community is to set an extra place at the table on Samhain for the spirits of the dearly departed to attend and spend time with their loved ones once more. In ancient times all kinds of sacrifices were made. However, as Samhain is at its core a harvest festival, humans were rarely sacrificed. Most sacrifices were, in fact, livestock and other items that were truly “harvested.” Living sacrifices have fallen out of favor with the modern Pagan community as the times have changed. Today any sacrifices made tend to be things like bread crumbs and grape juice/wine and, of course, human sacrifices are completely forbidden. Quite the contrast to the tales of “door-to-door sacrifice collectors” and the like, is it not? Other practices included carving of harvested materials into faces to ward off evil spirits, bonfires, and general revelry.

Cross

The other origin of Halloween lies within Christianity itself. All Hallows Eve is the first day of the Hallowmas, a holiday commemorating all of those who have been beatified. It starts on October 31 and finishes on November 1 with All Saints Day. November 2 is All Souls Day, and commemorates the souls of those who have yet to be purified and reach Heaven. Personally, I was raised Lutheran and converted to Paganism when I was 13, so I admittedly don’t know much about Hallowmas. I’m also not going to trust Wikipedia 100% on something like this. If you’d like more information on it I would suggest a trip to your local library or bookstore (just…stay away from the conspiracy junk, ok?).

Glen Beck "Arguing With Idiots" book cover

Stay AWAY from stuff like this.

As for the other rumors that have been spread around by these phonies, it almost makes me feel dirty just responding to them, but here goes.

Druids burned candles made of human fat: Unfortunately, due to the persecution of Pagans in the last several hundred years we may never know the truth of this. However, as the Samhain sacrifices were done via fire this seems unlikely in the extreme. Also, because human sacrifice does not occur in modern-day Paganism, any rumor of this occurring in the modern era has to be ruled as completely false or done by those only claiming to be pagan.

Sacrifice of Virgins and Door-To-Door Sacrifice Collectors: To my knowledge, no deity demands a virgin sacrifice. Also, as stated previously, sacrifices of humans was rare in the Druidic community. Usually those sacrificed would be a criminal of some sort. Think of it as an ancient form of the death penalty, as it were. Occasionally there would be willing sacrifices, but those were volunteers, not “door-to-door” by any means. Door-to-door sacrifice collectors just would NOT have happened. Population growth was too important to the ancients.

Coexist

All-in-all, you have to realize, what these “former pagans” and “former satanists” want is attention. Maybe they truthfully grew up in an abusive or neglected home. Perhaps they grew up showered in attention and then emerged into the real world; upon which they discovered that not everyone was willing to give them their undivided attention. Or maybe, just maybe, they truthfully believe that paganism and Satanism are the same thing, and that both deal with the Christian devil (neither do) and, since they couldn’t find anyone who had converted, they invented one. Themselves. Whatever their backgrounds or motives, their intentions are the same. Attention. Whether for themselves or for their churches. They become the grown-up (or in some cases elderly) versions of the little kid that everyone wants to backhand in the grocery store because their parent won’t discipline them. The difference here is that YOU can discipline them. How? Call them out on their lies (they will get very angry and accuse you of being “them” but ignore it), politely tell them to “keep their opinion to themselves” or, best yet, completely ignore them. Let them disappear into obscurity.

The truth always wins out in the end.

semperveritas

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