Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism- in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out- doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Yule Advent Calendar- Ideas

In trying to put together a Yule Advent Calendar (and mentally block out all the commercial BS!) , I’m looking around at other folks’ practices. Beth like me, enjoys adapting medieval holidays to her own purposes.

Being a god-wife of Odin, she has strong opinions about how Yule should be celebrated!

Beth’s Yule Advent Calendar Part 1, Valfather’s Day & the Hunt

Beth starts her Yule season with Michaelmas (Sept 29) which she re-names Valfather’s Day, as St. Michael is identified with Woden. Michael is identified with Lugh in Gaelic tradition, and there are some Scottish traditions associated with it, so I will keep it as a Gaelic holiday. I also wouldn’t *think* of starting the Yule season til after Thanksgiving- heck, I insist on waiting til December. American capitalism would have the Christmas season start right after Labor Day!

Then of course there’s Winternights/Samhain,

then Martinmas & Einherjar (Veteran’s Day) on November 11th- Dver has a nice post about her celebration of Martinmas as well. Mariah the semi-pacifist who feels awkward on Vet’s Day likes this idea!

Part 4: December Madness- way more holidays! I’ve always wanted to do St. Lucia’s Day! Who cares if I’m not Swedish!

Old Norse Yule Celebration- Myth & Ritual- very interesting website was recommended by my rune teacher, Kari Tauring. Whoa! Lotta info there!  Yule was actually the name of the time between the Winter Solstice and the Jolablot- Winter Sacrifice on Jan. 12th.

Yule Series- Medieval traditions from Dec. 26-Jan 6th (1st 4 days).

Orkneyjar- Yule traditions from the Orkney Isles (Scottish-Norse blend) If I remember correctly, my friend Robert said he was interested in Orkney traditions.

Next I will paste these dates together and we all get to decide which ones we want to celebrate!

November 21, 2014 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

Tutelary Goddesses

Earlier in my post on different categories of ancestors, I mentioned the idea of honoring tutelary spirits and gods of the countries, cities or tribes that one’s ancestors are from, especially if you don’t know much about them or don’t otherwise feel that connected to their culture. Tutelary means guardian- and national personifications in particular tend to be feminine, hence the title of the post.

Ruadhan, a Hellenic Polytheist of British & Irish descent, does this by honoring Britannia & Hibernia, the Roman national personifications of Britain and Ireland. Though they have been adopted by the natives and Hibernia is also various called Eriu, Kathleen ni Houlihan etc. He even wrote a myth explaining their origins.

In another post he notes: “One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia.” I’m always interested in seeing creative polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day- or for that matter interesting spiritual takes on any secular holiday.

Here’s a list of national personifications from Wikipedia. Oftentimes in Europe, or European colonies they have a name of a Roman province (as above) and are inspired by Athena/Minerva. Some of them are more suitable for honoring than others- especially if they have more character and mythos surrounding them, and are not just symbols. Some of them are more identified with war, nationalism and imperialism. I pretty much just see Uncle Sam as a rather sinister symbol of the U.S. government. Lady Liberty, or Libertas to use her Roman name is honored by American Pagans of many traditions. Columbia, an older national personification has also seen a revival, but there is more controversy surrounding her due to her name and associations with Manifest Destiny. I shall write more of her another time.

There is also often a representation of the ordinary citizen, and one could choose to honor them symbolically for one’s unknown peasant ancestors. I think an even better option is to honor a prominent labor organizer, or other national hero. Cities often have statues of founders or more symbolic characters. I live not far from the Minnesota State Capitol, which is like many capitols adorned with various Greco-Roman style statues. Natural features, such as rivers and mountains have their own spirits. For my own ancestors, as I already mentioned there’s Hibernia & Britannia- there are some who claim that the goddess Brigantia is an earlier antecedent.

For Scotland, there’s Caledonia, Scotia (originally applied to Ireland!) and Jock Tamson (their equivalent of John Bull) I am part German, though I have not been able to trace that part of my ancestry. Germania is the national personification, she doesn’t seem to have much mythos surrounding her. There’s also Berolina (Berlin), Hammonia (Hamburg) and Bavaria (once a country, now a region)

Frau Holle is said to be the mother of the Deitsch people and that is who I’d be most inclined to honor for the Germans- though my ancestors were not Deitsch, they immigrated later on I believe, but I like the Deitsch-American folk traditions.

Cute pic of various national personifications (tried to post here but it was too wide!)

Slate article “Do other countries have their own Uncle Sams?”

November 21, 2014 at 4:06 am Leave a comment

In Memory of Leslie Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg, transgender/butch lesbian, multi-issue activist, died a few days ago in Syracuse, NY with hir partner/spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt beside hir. (Leslie identified as non-binary and preferred the pronouns hir and ze) Ze was very much a pioneer, writing the novel Stone Butch Blues in 1993 about hir journey of gender identity exploration. This was back when gay and lesbian issues were barely on the map, politically, let alone trans/genderqueer/non-binary identities!

Leslie saw all oppressions as interconnected, and sincerely fought on many different fronts- a member of the Worker’s World Party- “remember me as a revolutionary communist” were hir last words. Disability rights, the peace movement, anti-racist action along with trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. The gay and lesbian movement all too often has forgotten its radical roots and clung to a white middle-class capitalist agenda, while neglecting to include transgender and bisexual issues. Leslie always knew that the world was far more complex than that- let’s celebrate her legacy and as Mother Jones once said “Mourn the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living!”

Transgender Warrior- Leslie’s personal website

Articles-

Atlantic- Why We Still Need Leslie Feinberg

Worker’s World- Leslie Feinberg- a communist who revolutionized transgender rights by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Autostraddle

CNN

November 20, 2014 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

What’s a Protestant Worldview?

I read Galina Krasskova’s latest post on Polytheist.com about Resacralizing Our World. As with anything she writes, there’s a lot to take in and think about. I don’t always agree with her, but she does challenge us to think critically about our beliefs and practices. This is probably one of the reasons people have such a strong reaction to her views! Danger! Heathen woman with opinions! Anyhow- this was not really the main topic of her post, but it came up, and I’ve seen her and others discuss it before, the idea than American culture has a dominant Protestant worldview, which frequently gets in the way of spiritual development for polytheists. So I asked her- how does this different from a Catholic worldview?

Do Pagans from Catholic backgrounds have different spiritual approaches than those from Protestant, Jewish or secular backgrounds? I’ve known Pagans who came from the same religious upbringing to develop very different paths, in terms of cultural focus, theology, type of practice etc.

I guess growing up, I just saw Catholicism as being another type of Christianity (which I guess is very Protestant of me- it was “a church” not “The Church”) I grew up in a time when the idea of a Catholic President was once controversial was rather inconceivable, and Jewish people, while not always truly understood, were definitely white*.  I was baffled by Catholic feminists and pro-GLBT activist that dutifully kept going to mass. They couldn’t do anything to reform it after all- they could keep writing letters to bishops, patiently waiting and praying for their minds to change, but unlike the Methodist church, they couldn’t vote to send delegates to national conference to make decisions about stuff. Why didn’t they just join the Episcopalians? Indeed some of them do. But it wouldn’t be “The Church”, now would it?

Protestantism also includes a hugely diverse range of sects and denominations. I believe the Protestant worldview she is discussing is a more hard-nosed Biblical sort. The theology of continuous revelation that we find in Unitarian Universalism, our congregationalist cousins, the United Church of Christ (God is Still Speaking) and the Society of Friends is very different. To have a meaningful discussion, we really need to specify *which* Protestant worldview. I plugged it into Google, and mostly have found discussion of “sola scriptura” a la Martin Luther.

Perhaps the best person to ask would be a Catholic, or a former Catholic?

Here’s an Orthodox Christian view contrasted with Protestantism (now Orthodox, that’s even more unfamilar!)

*though Jewish people can be of any ethnic background, I’m referring to pale-skinned Jews who *weren’t* considered “white” in earlier generations.

November 20, 2014 at 5:13 am 2 comments

X-rated Religion: Sexual Ecstasy, Mystery & Social Boundaries

Replying to yet another great article by Shauna Aura Knight about sexual ethics in Pagan communities: Sexual Initiation, Consent & Rape

Speaking as an ex-cult member myself- I am going to say that I am against sexual initiations (or sex between teachers/clergy and students/laity) period. There was enough authoritarian manipulation from the leader of my group without sex being involved- I shudder to think about what would have happened if it did. Sometimes attraction does happen between students & teachers/clergy (of similar/appropriate ages!) but they need to be responsible adults and hold off on pursuing sex or romance until they are no longer in that power structure. In Minnesota (my state) law therapists and former clients are allowed to date/have sex after a few years of ending their professional relationship, if I am not mistaken. I think we should have a similar ethical standard among our communities, even if we probably couldn’t make it a law. I’m not sure about sex in ritual in general- it should be approached carefully, done for specific reasons (not “just because”) I really think we have swung too far to the anything goes hippie moral relativism and there’s huge range between that and insisting everyone is either strictly monogamously partnered or a Vestal virgin. It’s due to that mentality that we convince ourselves we need to be “tolerant” of people like the Frosts.

I am both a Druid & a Heathen, and while both are fairly broad umbrellas that include many viewpoints, neither cluster of traditions really has much of an emphasis on sex in ritual or magic. Some Heathens & Druids may choose to practice sex magic, especially in relation to ecstatic trance or spirit-work, but on the whole both Druids & Heathens are not really focused on heterosexual polarity or the “God & Goddess as a cosmic battery” in the way Wicca sometimes is. I’d also like to add, that on the whole polytheistic cultures of the past tended to be more sexually conservative than we are now, simply due to lack of reliable contraception, and the high risks of childbirth and infant mortality. Likewise, situational male homosexual behavior often occurred especially among young unmarried men because of the tight control over young women and separation of the sexes*. Mystery cults that focused on ecstasy- whether sexual, drug-induced etc. were sometimes repressed by the dominant social hierarchy for being disruptive to the social order. Witchcraft & Wicca are modern forms of mystery cults/religions, and likewise there are mystery cults and liminal or social/spiritual outsider associated practices within modern polytheistic religions or exist as traditions/religions unto themselves. But on the whole, both Druidry and Heathenry tend to focus more on the practices of the “ordinary” layperson.

(*Note: I am especially thinking about Greek, Roman and Near Eastern cultures here)

November 19, 2014 at 12:28 am 1 comment

Pagan Blog Project Prompts for the Letter X

So I’ve caught up with letters U, V and W on the Pagan Blog Project. I went over there to add the link for Wandervogels post and saw that they didn’t have any prompts for the letter X. There is also an error that says it’s the second week working with it (Nov. 21st) when it’s the first week. I’m mining the archives for ideas with links to posts. So here are some ideas- if you have any more, add in the comments. To make it easier, I will included words that start with “ex”. And of course if you’re writing in another language, words started with X will turn into other letters. Still counts, in my opinion.

Xenia- hospitality in Greek

Xenophobia/xenophilia- fear of the foreign/love of the foreign- how do these themes pop up in your spiritual path, your community, and how does it relate to your values?

Xena (& Hercules) Inspiring or mostly just annoying?

X-rated as in censorship- of religious or sexual content

X- Chi, the Greek letter

X- the Roman numeral for 10, write about the significance of the number, or a group of 10

X- Gebo, the rune (that’s the shape of the letter, but obviously a different sound!)

X chromosomes

X-ing something out, negation, negativity, lack of something

Xeriscaping- landscaping & gardening in a way that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation to conserve water

Xartus- Proto-Indo-European word roughly meaning “cosmic order” more or less equivalent to the Hindu rta, Norse wyrd (Leithin Cluan/Naomi had a great post on it last year)

Xochiquetzal- Aztec goddess

Xoana- Hellenic wooden statues

Excellence- the ADF motto is “Why not excellence?” for a pop culture spin, you could talk about  Bill & Ted’s “Be Excellent to One Another”

Exes Write about your ex-partner, friend, spiritual teacher/clergyperson, religion in a spiritual context.

Extraordinary, Extreme, Exploring/exploration, Existentialism

November 18, 2014 at 12:21 am 1 comment

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