Category Archives: Ancient Wisdom & Stories

The Wind and The Sun (By Isaac, age 4)

SunWind2

Myths, legends and folktales are shapeshifters. They are fluid, mutable; they change with every retelling. That’s the key to their continued existence: Adaptation according to the times and to the environment in which they are told – and the individual thoughts and feelings of the storyteller.

We tend to think of this process as a slow transition, but as my sister and I discovered recently, new meanings and new wisdom can be found in a single re-telling. To demonstrate this, I’d like to present this adaptation of the beloved Aesop’s fable, “The North Wind and The Sun,” by my four year old nephew Isaac…. [Read more]

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories

The significance of “Pagan Standard Time”

Saturn

Chronos, the God of Time.

It’s something of a joke within Paganism that Pagans run on “Pagan Standard Time.” In other words, if a ritual is scheduled to start at 7pm, you can almost guarantee it won’t start at 7pm. It’ll start at 7:30pm. Or 8:00pm. Or even later. The stereotype is that Pagans are such laid-back, dreamy types that they don’t like to be constricted by time, and so they’re always running late for things.

While Pagan Standard Time is mostly a joke, it does have some interesting implications. [Read more…]

3 Comments

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories, Musings & Miscellaneous, Nature & Environment

Ancient Wisdom: The Astronomer who Fell in the Well

astronomer

“Tenniel Astrologer” by John Tenniel(Life time: 1820-1914) – Original publication: Aesop’s FablesImmediate source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38299630@N05/4914473657/sizes/l/in/photostream. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tenniel_Astrologer.jpg#/media/File:Tenniel_Astrologer.jpg

When one is following a spiritual path, it can be easy to lose focus or our sense of perspective on worldly matters. This ancient tale, one which appears in Aesop’s Fables, warns us of the repercussions of getting our priorities wrong.

***

An Astronomer used to go out at night to observe the stars. One evening, as he wandered through the suburbs with his whole attention fixed on the sky, he fell accidentally into a deep well. While he lamented and bewailed his sores and bruises, and cried loudly for help, a neighbour ran to the well, and learning what had happened said: “Hark ye, old fellow, why, in striving to pry into what is in heaven, do you not manage to see what is on earth?’

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories

Ancient Wisdom: The Woodcutter and the Trees

Thomas_Corsan_Morton_-_The_Woodcutter_1887

By Thomas Corsan Morton (1859–1928) (oil on canvas) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how the poorest and most vulnerable people in society are being neglected – both on a national and international scale. In the UK, the disadvantaged are the ones suffering the most as a result of economic austerity (and not, sadly, the investment bankers who ruined our economy in the first place), while on the global scale, we are ignoring the suffering through disease and conflict of some of the poorest nations because we have no vested interest in them.

Some may argue that it is inevitable that the least influential should suffer the most in times of crisis, because resources are stretched so there is little to spare for those who are already in difficult situations. But if we look at the wisdom of past societies, we can find warnings as to what can happen when we neglect certain members of society because we do not value them. One of my favourite of Aesop’s Fables is “The Woodcutter and the Trees,” which illustrates this point very nicely.

***
A shabbily-dressed woodcutter with a battered old axe once entered an ancient woodland filled with mighty oaks. He found a grove of the largest and oldest oak in the forest, bowed before them, and said,

“Oh, mighty lords of the forest, I ask that you may grant this simple, humble woodcutter one small request. I wish to cut down just one tree from your forest – not one of you great oaks, of course, but perhaps a small tree of no importance. Would you permit me to cut down such a tree?”

The oaks were greatly flattered by the woodcutter’s words, and said, “Yes, woodcutter, we know of just the tree. There is a small, weak ash sapling nearby; it is of no significance to us ancient oaks. You may take the sapling for whatever purpose you may have.”

So the woodcutter cut down the sapling with his battered old axe.

The woodcutter took the ash wood home, and with it, he fashioned a new, stronger, bigger axe than ever before. And then he took the axe and returned to the ancient wood, and with this new axe, he started felling the mighty old oaks left and right.

As the oldest oak felt the axe chop into his bark and realised his doom was upon him, he cried out, “How foolish we have all been! If only we had protected the sapling from the start, we would all have been protecting ourselves.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories

Ancient Wisdom: The “Threefold Rule”

triskelbrooch

Silver triskelion (triple spiral) brooch, which you can buy from my Dad’s shop!

One thing I’ve really come to respect about Paganism, and particularly Wicca, is that rather than attempting to teach rules and ethics, it teaches wisdom. There’s really only one moral “rule” in Wicca, which is the Rede, “An it harm none do what ye will” – in other words, do what you like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything. Which is a fairly liberal code in itself, but even then, some Wiccans do not follow it; to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, they might see it as “more of a guideline than a code.”

But related to this is the “rule of three,” also known as the “threefold rule.” This is usually interpreted as, anything that one does to another person, they can expect it returned on them threefold. So if a Wiccan decides to curse a person, that curse will magically come back on them – but three times worse. [Read more]

 

3 Comments

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories

Ancient Wisdom: Selling One’s Soul to the Devil

faust

The story of an ambitious man selling his soul to the Devil to gain wealth and power in his mortal life is a popular one, which has captured our imagination throughout history. The most famous example of this story is the legend of Dr Faust, and I highly recommend to anyone to read Christopher Marlowe’s play Faustus because it is excellent and captures the legend really well.

Although the story is rooted in Christian ideals, it’s still very much on the folk spectrum of Christianity (selling one’s soul to the Devil isn’t an idea expressed in the Bible), that particular brand of Christianity that merges very much with Paganism. More to the point, I think it contains a message of exceptional importance to people of all cultures, even Pagans, as I think it can be interpreted as a message for “Green,” sustainable living.

The Devil in the Details (of modern society)

In many versions of this legend, a man learns forbidden and arcane arts to summon the Devil, to whom he then pledges his soul in the afterlife in exchange for material wealth and power now. He does this in full knowledge that the Devil will condemn him to eternal torment, yet he either falls into self-denial or thinks that he can use his ingenuity to trick the Devil somehow into releasing him. But the man is of course foolish, and right at the end, the Devil comes to claim him and there is nothing he can do.

Although the original message of the story was probably intended to be one about keeping Christian morals, I see some disturbing parallels between this story and how we live as a species today.

Take oil, for example. Without a doubt, civilisation would not be where it was today without it. It’s cheap, releases a huge amount of energy, and can also be used to produce really useful materials such as plastic. If we had stuck to using renewable energy, such as wood, we would never have been able to achieve some of the incredible things we have achieved in science, technology and social development in such a short space of time.

But ultimately, oil will be our downfall. One day, it will run out. It’s not a case of if, but when. And when it does, if we haven’t figured out a suitable alternative, it will leave chaos, war and starvation in its wake. What’s more, burning oil is devastating our environment, making it harder and harder for most species to survive in the changing conditions – the destruction caused by oil might wipe us out before it runs out!

In this way, oil is the Devil, and our future is damnation. We have sold ourselves to the cheap convenience of oil, in the full knowledge that our children’s children will be the ones to suffer. We may not have sold our souls literally, but we have sold our future.

Unfortunately, this metaphor doesn’t end with oil. It can also be applied to the economy.

Currency – the root of all evil?

Much of the public is unaware of this, but “money” as we know it hasn’t existed in a long time. In the past, bank notes represented actual gold reserves that the banks kept safe for you, and at any time you could exchange a note for the appropriate amount of gold. Gold, as we know, is always valuable, because only a certain amount (and a small amount at that) exists in the world which cannot increase or decrease.

But those days are a distant memory. There are no gold reserves behind our money now. Our “money” (or currency, as it should properly be called since there is no gold behind it) simply represents debt that’s exchanged from bank to bank  – a debt that grows and grows over time. This is unsustainable because it’s just creating a larger and larger debt in the future that our children will not be able to pay off, and it will probably result in world financial collapse. This video explains this in greater detail.

I think it is the case that like oil, without the system of fiat currency we probably wouldn’t have been able to develop our civilization as quickly as we have done, because the money to build expensive rockets and particle accelerators and medical treatment and so on simply wouldn’t exist. But once again, in using fiat currency, I believe we have sold our souls – or rather, our future – to the Devil. We have created, and keep on creating, a phenomenal debt that our children will not be able to pay, which could result in everyone losing everything.

How to get our soul back

It’s interesting that modern interpretations of the Devil, or Satan, often see him as representing knowledge and enlightenment in opposition to the suppressive dogma of state religion. Selling one’s soul to him can representing using our knowledge and technology to “cheat” – to submit to our greed and impatience by creating problems for the future so we can all have a more pleasant existence now – rather than to apply it wisely to create a better world for the future.

I think all Pagans believe in a “Green” lifestyle, and for me, a “Green” lifestyle is one that always considers our future in all decisions we make now. While I’m not saying that we should abandon progress entirely (I would never suggest such a thing because I love science too much!), I am saying that we should consider working within our means – which may mean slowing things down a little – perhaps going along the lines of the Slow Life movement. And of course, investing our money more wisely so it goes into developing renewable energy resources, for example, rather than warfare. If we really want our future generations to survive, we seriously need to think about changing how we live now. In most versions of the selling the soul legend, the man who sells his soul is often given multiple warnings and opportunities to repent. We too have been given warnings by scientific and economic experts, and we really need to start listening.

4 Comments

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories, Nature & Environment

Ancient Wisdom: The Stag at the Pool

Pewter Stag Brooch, which you can buy from my Dad's shop! http://www.spiral.org.uk/acatalog/Spiral_Virtual_Shop_The_Animal_Kingdom_9.html

Pewter Stag Brooch, which you can buy from my Dad’s shop! http://www.spiral.org.uk/acatalog/Spiral_Virtual_Shop_The_Animal_Kingdom_9.html

I mentioned previously that although many Pagan paths do not provide as clear moral guidelines as some other religions, many Pagans draw wisdom and moral teachings from myths, legends and folk tales of old. I’d now like to share one of my favourite Aesop’s Fables, which I think has a lot to teach us in the modern world; it’s “The Stag at the Pool.”  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories

Ancient Wisdom: Hans In Luck

TheFool

“The Fool,” a Tarot card that may ironically represent wisdom

Pagans may not have any text like the Bible from which to learn lessons about life, but many are drawn to myths, legends and folk tales, which often tend to contain a lot of wisdom and truth.

One of my favourite of Grimm’s Fairy Tales is “Hans In Luck.” Why? You can read more at Patheos here!

1 Comment

Filed under Ancient Wisdom & Stories