Archive for July 8, 2015

Pushing Round Tables together

The Heathen Round Table topic for July has been posted: What are your beliefs about deities from other religions/pantheons, both polytheistic and not? Do you honour any, and how do you balance that with heathenry?   

Well, that one’s certainly a relevant one for me! Be sure to link to the wordpress blog above, or tag your tumblr posts with #heathen round table.

I notice the Celtic Round Table on tumblr hasn’t been updated since April. Summer happens, people get busy! It’s also on wordpress here. A lot of the participants are part of the Polytheist Community Forum that I belong to, so I will poke them.

So I’m starting it up again with- for folks in the Northern Hemisphere: Do you celebrate Lunasa or other harvest festivals?  Do you integrate any local practices, such as county/state fairs, corn feeds, barbecues, etc? How and why?

For Southern Hemisphere peeps: Do you celebrate Imbolc or other late winter/early spring festivals?   Do you integrate any local practices or holidays? How and why?

The Kemetic Round Table is also on hiatus- I’m not a part of that community, but just thought I’d bring it to folks’ attention in case anyone’s interested in re-starting or re-visiting old topics- you can still submit posts for the old ones.

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July 8, 2015 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

Untangling Heathen Holidays: July/August, Northern Hemisphere

As I commented before, when looking up information about Heathen holidays, especially with American-based books and websites, it tends to be a big Pan-Germanic mix- some Icelandic, some Anglo-Saxon and some modern American inventions like Einherjar and Vali’s Day. Then there are holidays based on Christian-era folk traditions, which may or may not have pre-Christian roots, but as my readers know, I’m more of a fan of continuing comparatively recent folk traditions that we can share with non-Pagan/Heathen members of various cultures. In the end, I’ll likely end up blending things together from more than one tradition, but I want to know where things come from to begin with! My suggestion is celebrate whatever is being harvested- in my area, it tends to be cucumbers and tomatoes and in July the blackberries in my front yard ripen.

Observance- Cultural Origin- Customs

Lokabrenna- July as month to honor Loki- American Heathen + Global Online Lokean community, with inspiration from later Scandinavian folk beliefs If you are into astronomy (or astrology for that matter) the folk beliefs connect Loki to the rising of Sirius and the hot “dog days” of summer, check when Sirius is actually rising- this could fall in July or August.

1st or 2nd of August- Lammas, Loafmass, Hlaefmaesse– English, Anglo-Saxon revivalist

Based on English Christian customs of baking loaves of bread made from the first wheat harvested and offering them to the Church- a festival of first fruits. More info- Wyrt Wizard, Lammas Eve.  The English folk song “John Barleycorn” is a popular one to sing, and may be associated with Frey himself or his servant, Byggvir (meaning barley). Some Heathens, particular Vanatru see Lammas as the time when Frey sacrifices himself for the land and people, probably a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan influence.

“Come Hláftíd (Loaf-Tide) Béowa, the god of barley, and his bride, Béole “the little bee”, are given worship.  The “first fruits of the harvest”, bread and beer, brewed of barley and honey, are offered to them, that they might beward the speedsome harvest.”- Ealdrice Haedengyld 

1st or 2nd of August Freyfaxi– Icelandic name- American Heathen usage

It’s unclear to me whether this festival was celebrated in pre-Christian Scandinavia or Iceland. The name for this holiday seems to come from the Icelandic Hrafnknel’s saga and Vatnesdaela saga, both feature a man who was a Freysgodhi (priest of Frey) who named his horse Freyfaxi. There are also horse associations (horse racing in particular) with Lunasa, the Gaelic festival around the same time. So to me this one “clicks” with the intermixing of the Norse with the Scots and Irish.

Chapter on Loaf-fest/Freyfaxi in Our Troth

Many connect the harvest with the story of Loki cutting off Sif’s hair. A ritual drama can be acted out, or the story can be told, sung or recited in poetic form. Making corn dollies as part of a “first sheaf” rite is also an option- the Last sheaf tends to be observed in October/November.

Hoietfescht– Urglaawe- Festival of the Hay-time, Hoiet is the Deitsch name for July, and this festival falls either the last week of July or the first week of August. Other names include Sommermit or Corn Boils. At this time, the Wanes (Vanir) are honored for the gifts of the harvest- Frey, Freyja and Njord

General References:

The Holy Tides- Hlaefmaesse- Freyfaxi

Hoietfeshct by Rob Lusch  p. 10, Hollerbier Haven: A Journal of Traditional Deitsch Wisdom Vol. 3, Issue 2

July 8, 2015 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Spiritual Specialists vs. General Practitioners

Next in Approaching Paganism, let’s talk about spiritual specialists. Not clergy, not priests, though those are overlapping categories, but every tradition has a different concept of what that means, and every person who becomes Pagan brings their own baggage and assumptions about what they mean. As a result, conversations about the roles and duties of “Pagan clergy” in a broad community context are generally a mess. But priests, witches, shamans, seers, magicians- these are all various types of spiritual specialists. The concept of layperson, or a laity necessitates a clergy class, so instead, I’ll contrast the specialist with the general practitioner- yep like a doctor. A better analogy would be a homeowner who knows enough about plumbing, carpentry and electrics to fix most things him/her/theirself. But every once in a while, a major problem occurs and the homeowner has to call in a plumber/electrician/contractor to fix it. Also, sometimes the homeowner knows how to fix a problem, but doesn’t have the time to do it, having a day job and all.

So, here’s a layout of common “ingredients” to being a spiritual specialist- some combinations work better than others…

Training

*Self-study & practice

*Informal study & practice with peers

*Taught by family members/elders of oral tradition (folk customs, healing techniques etc.)

*Has taken various one-shot workshops & classes at festivals & conferences

*Formal training by a group (coven, lodge etc.)

*Training in an Eastern martial art, spiritual discipline like yoga, Zen meditation, etc.

*Academic training at a seminary

*Academic study of religion, history, cultural studies, language in graduate school

Service to Community

*Celebrant or Officiant (weddings, funerals, other rites of passage)

*Pastoral care work- as a volunteer or paid chaplain (visiting & counseling people in hospitals, hospice care, assisted living, prisons, jails, the military, praying, studying or leading ceremonies in those settings)

*Liturgical leader/performer

*Teacher of adults and/or children

Service to a Deity/Spirit/Group of Spirits

*Shrine or temple keeper (set-aside purified space, not just a table in your bedroom)

*Prophet/mystic with an intense connection to the spirit/deity

*Shares information with public about deity/spirit/tradition to encourage worship, maybe leads rituals specific to their cultus but not general community festivals

*May involve monastic lifestyle with possible rejection of mundane/broader community work, rejection of regular human romantic/sexual relationships & having children

Magician/Seer/Spiritual Healer

*Advanced practitioner of magic, divination or healing

*May do these types of work for others for pay, favors, other services etc.

*May train/teach others in this type of work

General Practitioner

*Researches and designs own rituals

*Teaches own children, peers, members of their group

*May teach occasional workshops, write articles or keep a blog but does not lead a group or do this as a living

*May practice magic, healing, divination for self, close friends and family

*May do peer ministry- visiting other Pagans in hospitals, mentoring and sharing information

Super-Volunteer/Queen of the Church-Ladies/The Committee Meeting Ain’t Over til She Leaves

(Not to be sexist- I do know some menfolk that play this role as well! Every volunteer org has one or more…)

*Chief event organizer, except on the day of the event, in which she is busy vending Pagan bling, doing Tarot readings, leading workshops and/or speaking on panels

*Career is designed strategically so she can get weekends & evenings off. Hopefully a gig that will also allow her to get free food/paper copies/other relevant discounts. Always asks for the week of Pagan Spirit Gathering off about 2 years in advance.

*Things don’t get done because everyone else on the committee/coven members etc. assume she already did them.

*When she has a major family/health/career change, Pagan Pride, Samhain or the local festival Just Doesn’t Happen.

*A minimum of 3 cats or other animals is require for this position, as is an entire spare bedroom or basement for storing of annual event or coven supplies. Said supplies must not be put in waterproof containers..

In Sum

I typically reserve the word “clergy” for people who have more formal training, serve a community, and in a American context usually have legal status so they can marry people. I know in other countries, you can’t just pay X amount to the Universal Life Church and suddenly you get to marry people- they are more picky about what counts as a religion. Across the board, it means “person who is recognized as clergy by the community they serve”. Just paying the fee, and buying a stole does not clergy make.

A priest/ess on the other hand, may primarily serve a deity or group of spirits/deities, rather than a community as such. The training and experience required will depend on the tradition they follow. And while I don’t have a problem with people creating their own personal religion, declaring yourself a priest of your own religion that consists of no one else seems very silly at best, and disrespectful to priests of other traditions at worst.

The Super-volunteer example is what happens when general practitioners don’t step up/wheel up to the plate and pitch in. Everyone has different talents, skills, levels of experience and personal/familial needs that have to be balanced out. I’ll give some suggestions on how this can work in my next post.

My Related Posts:

Functions of Pagan Clergy & Leaders

What is a Pagan Elder?

Food for Thought:

Ordination? But….We Don’t Need Clergy by Byron Ballard (some Pagans need clergy, some don’t)

In Support of Our Own: Understanding Unitarian Universalist Idealization by David Oliver Kling, discusses the pros and cons of Pagans becoming U.U. ministers and chaplains.

Why My Aunt Judy Isn’t a Pagan (Or, How Far We Still Have to Go) by Raven Kaldera

July 8, 2015 at 12:44 am 5 comments


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