Posts tagged ‘heroes’

Thomas Morton Day

So here’s my proposed Pagan “spin” on Thanksgiving- honor Thomas Morton, the renegade Puritan got fed up with all the rules of Plymouth colony and started his own- Merrymount, who made buddies with the Indians and erected a Maypole, and recited poetry about (or to!) Roman and Greek gods. I’m sure none of ya learned about him in grade school! Now in high school you may have read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story about these events. Somehow I got thru high school without reading much in the way of “The Canon” be it American or European. Obviously May Day is an even better time!

As with the Romantic Pan-worshippers, it’s a little hard to tell if Thomas was truly a pagan revivalist, or simply engaging in pagan cultural references for shock value. He was a liberal Christian, though heretical by Puritan standards (not that took much!) Still I think he is a worthy spiritual ancestor for American Pagans, and perhaps English ones as well. He was an advocate for indentured servants’ rights (or rather their freedom!) and argued that the Indians were indeed human beings, not savages as the Puritans viewed them. Morton was sent back to London for his heresies. He wrote New English Canaan, a book about his experiences in the colonies. The name “Canaan” makes me wonder if he also saw America as a “promised land” like the Puritans, or perhaps was he identifying with the polytheistic people of Canaan who were conquered by the Hebrews?

Ways to Celebrate-

*Raise a toast to Thomas Morton, his followers and Indian friends (he mentions enjoying Irish whiskey & scotch!)

*Read the poem and song (just wish we had the tune)

*Honor Gods/Spirits mentioned in the poem- Amphitrite, Neptune/Poseidon,  Triton, Cupid/Eros, Asclepius, Proteus (Dionysus- not directly mentioned, but these folks loved to drink!)

“A happy footnote to the history of Merry Mount/Merrymount (Morton spelled it both ways) is that the community at Mt. Wollaston (later renamed Braintree, then Quincy) continued to be associated with rebels and freethinkers for many years after Morton was forced out. In 1636, Anne Hutchinson and her husband William settled there upon arriving from England. (Anne was an “Antinomian” who asserted that God could speak directly to the individual through inspiration, and not through the Bible alone as the Puritans insisted.) Goody Cole, the Witch of Hampton, first settled there at the same time as the Hutchinsons. Later, John Hancock was born there, and the great-grandfather of John Quincy Adams owned the Mt. Wollaston farm in the early 1700s.”- from the Pagan Pilgrim article, below.

The Pagan Pilgrim: Thomas Morton of Merrymount

Making Sense of the Merrymount Debacle

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November 26, 2014 at 11:56 pm 1 comment

No, Thanks: Gods/Heroes I Avoid

One important thing to realize about polytheism is- you don’t have to worship all the Gods of a particular pantheon- or Heroes or Ancestors. Or even certain Nature Spirits- certainly I’ve already given the mosquito enough blood sacrifices! This has been hard for me, because there certain deities that are regarded as So Important and popular that I felt there must be something wrong with me and my attitude. I think we are all drawn to different gods for different reasons, and we need to respect that, and its also important to revisit those reasons now and again, our relationships with gods as with humans change, begin and end and wax and wane.

The Morrigan– the Irish goddess or complex of goddesses of battle and sovereignty. She’s super-popular, I am always seeing people discussing their powerful relationship with Her, the strength she inspires in them. I’m not surprised that she’s popular- people are looking for a strong female role model and woman warrior, and they find it in her, from mere artistic inspiration, psychological archetype, to intense devotion as a priest/ess. She is also one of the most well-attested goddesses in Irish literature who plays a major role in the myths. But reading myths about the Morrigan does not inspire worship or devotion in me. This is a powerful being who revels in the death & destruction of war. Why on Earth would I want to worship that?  I finally felt better about this after reading John Machate’s post about why he does not worship Her. John in a long-time Celtic Recon, and follows a warrior/Fenian path, and a U.S. Air Force veteran.  He’s no fluff bunny, and he has actually experienced war- which is exactly he’s not among Her worshipers.

Zeus– I’ve long had an interest in Greek mythology and religion (since I was a child- guess how I started down this path!)  But Mr. Must Fertilize All Beautiful Women (with or without consent) has been an impediment to exploring that interest further. I decided to anyway, figuring maybe I was too stuck on modern biases but I think it’s understandable for feminists or gender egalitarians (whatever) to have a hang-up on Zeus, and a lot of other Greek gods. I feel like Hellenic polytheists tend to be way to dismissive of these concerns, and assume that anyone who has them is just Z Budapest with their head filled with Edith Hamilton. I’ve been realizing however that I am really a Northern European creature, not a Mediterranean one- and by that I don’t necessarily mean ancestry- that’s part of it, but it’s mostly I get this Not My Tribe feeling from Greek and Italian culture- whether ancient or modern. It’s interesting, and I enjoy learning about it, and maybe participating in a ritual when I have the opportunity, and it’s possible the Theoi still do have a place in my life, but it will be in a different cultural context. Perhaps kind of the reverse of what the blogger at Golden Trail (name of human?) is doing with his Romanized cult of Ingvi-Freyr.

I like Sunweaver’s take on Zeus here.

Founding Fathers/Presidents who were Slave-Owners/Indian massacre-ists etc. 

I’ve talked in the past about honoring Founding Fathers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson et al.) as Ancestors of Place, as part of an American Hero/Ancestor cultus. I think we need to acknowledge and be honest about our history, however painful and uncomfortable that maybe.  Honoring historical people does mean realizing that they were people and so were imperfect, a product of their time and sometimes made bad decisions. This is the usual justification for why will still honor leaders who were slave-owners, who ordered the murder and conquest of Indians, and various other Definitely Not OK things. I think we can do better. We can acknowledge that yes, this people Did Important Stuff, but there are other people that led better moral examples that Did Important Stuff too. People we often forget about, who don’t have buildings and holidays named after them or their faces on dollar bills. The Ekklesia Antinou- a community devoted to Antinous, the deified lover of Emperor Hadrian- has a good model of honoring Sancti- which is too complex for me to re-explain- so go read what the good Doctor has to say about it!  Galina Krasskova also has a great list of Pagan & Heathen Heroes & Martyrs– both ancient and contemporary.

Who are your heroes and ancestors? (by blood or spirit)

July 12, 2014 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Blog Project Updates

Ivy Vine at Polytheism Without Borders has graciously agreed to re-post some of my writing on their blog, starting with ‘Nuff Polytheist Street Cred. Check out their site for other interesting essays on polytheism, and their forum– which could use some more action!

I’m impressed with myself that I’ve managed stay on top of the Pagan Blog Project (it helps that my work schedule gives me a lot of free time!) I feel I’m not really connecting with the Cauldron Blog Project, but I’d like to try the 30 Days of Deity Devotion meme (original link here) for Fionn Mac Cumhaill- technically a hero, but hero-cults are a rather neglected aspect of modern paganism. I am typing up notes from a book about him I read back in college called “Wisdom of the Outlaw” and will be using that material a lot. This will not be a continuous 30 days, but as with PBP I’ll try to write at least once a week. I’m interested to see what others are writing for this project, so I have made a list here of participants. Please comment if you would like to be added, and I will add you after you actually post a couple times. You can also come back and write about another deity if you like.

I have also added links on the Blog Challenge page to a couple others, 30 Days of Druidry and a devotional polytheist meme that is for  spiritual practitioners more advanced than myself.

February 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm 2 comments

Jack, the English Trickster/Fool

As I’ve explored various European traditions over the years- Irish, Scottish, Greek, Norse/Germanic- I’ve found aspects of each that are familiar to my cultural world-view, background and upbringing, as well as aspects that I struggle with as they feel too foreign & alien. But I can’t deny who I am- and while I was raised to think of myself as proudly Irish/Scottish, my culture is mostly English and German in origin.

I’m starting to experiment with the idea looking at possible pagan roots behind English folk culture- fairy tales, ballads and legends. One that comes to mind is there are seemingly countless stories, songs and nursery rhymes with characters named Jack in them. They are not necessarily the same figure- Jack being a nickname for John is a kind of “everyman” archetypal young Englishman- even their flag is called the Union Jack. But what they generally have in common is that Jack is a trickster, a thief, and a fool. The series of graphic novels- Fables features various characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, including Jack, who is a composite of many of these tricksters.

Jack & the Beanstalk, Giant-Killer are the most well-known fairy tales. There are many that are traditionally told in the Appalachian Mountain region of the U.S. and some of these likely have roots in England and Scotland.  Here is a web page of Jack Tales, and another specifically for the Appalachian stories.

Jack of all trades, but master of none- a saying, once again referring to Jack’s foolishness.

In cards the Joker is sometimes called Jack, corresponding to the Fool in a Tarot deck.

Jack-in-the-box- a wind-up toy, when Jack pops out, he usually depicted as a jester.

Jack in the Green- figure in May Day parades & pageants- a person (or effigy) covered in garlands & greenery, and pulls pranks. He is sometimes identified with the Green Man, Puck/Robin Goodfellow, and the Green Knight in Arthurian legend. He also appeared in other spring celebrations: Easter Monday, St. George’s Day (April 23) and Whitsuntide (Pentecost)

Jack Frost- a spirit of winter, who paints the leaves red, orange and yellow in the fall, and patterns of frost on windows.

 Jack o’ Kent– wizard/magician who often beats the Devil in bets & games. (this is another common folk theme)  Stingy Jack also fools the Devil- this is an Irish legend said to be the origin of the Jack o’ Lantern

I’m not sure where this is going, but like Jack I’ll have fun wandering off exploring it.  I’m curious what other people have done,  spiritually and/or magically with English folklore.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project

May 11, 2013 at 8:12 am 6 comments


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