Tag Archives: hellenism

Pagan and Spiritual Book Round-Up November 2015

 

greenmantle Greenmantle, Charles De Lint

I have to admit – the main reason I bought this book was because someone posted the cover art on a Pagan-related Facebook group, and I loved it. There’s something almost Miyazaki-esque about the colour, lighting and subject matter. That’s what prompted me to track down this fantasy novel. But you know what they say…never judge a book by its cover, and sadly, this book was a good example of this rule for the most part. Although the blurb describes it as a fantasy novel about magical forests and ancient gods, there’s rather little of this in the book. Most of it is focussed on a rather dull story of Mafia warfare and an equally dull family caught up in it all. The more fantastical parts of the novel are quite interesting, taking direct inspiration from Pagan ritual, worship of the Horned God and the concept of the resurrected Green Man but they are completely overshadowed by the aforementioned main plot. Disappointing, I’m afraid to say. Still, that cover though!

ExperiencingtheGreenManExperiencing the Green Man, Rob Hardy & Teresa Moorey

I bought this while getting Christmas presents at the fantastic Hedingham Fair online shop; I have a particular fondness for the Green Man but haven’t read books specific to him (apart from Greenmantle above). This is one of these books made by a small publishing house, and it feels it – it’s cheaply printed and bound and the text inside is amateurishly written, poorly edited and riddled with typos. Thankfully, there’s also something charming and nice about it – with its friendly tone and focus on local traditions, it feels very British. For such a little book, it’s also got a surprising amount of varied content on the subject of the Green Man, including legends, guides on local churches and landmarks where Green Men can be found, rituals for honouring the Green Man, craft ideas, and even the full script for a short Mummer’s play featuring the Green Man. I additionally liked the attention paid to the Green Man within Christianity – I much prefer it when Pagan texts emphasise the links between Paganism and Christianity rather than focussing solely on the differences. It may not be a slick product, but for lovers of the Green Man, this book would probably make a welcome addition to a collection of literature about this mysterious figure.

 

LookingForLostGods Looking for the Lost Gods of England, Kathleen Herbert 

This really more of a bound essay than a book – you can read it very easily in one sitting. Herbert investigates the beliefs of the Anglo-Saxons, drawing from the writings of Roman settlers, the Venerable Bede, and texts of the Anglo-Saxons themselves (runes and Old English a-plenty). It’s a very detailed, interesting and academic piece, but due its length I can’t help but think the general reader would find this more appealing as part of a larger collection of essays on Heathenry, rather than as a stand-alone essay.

DictionaryShinto A Popular Dictionary of Shinto, Brian Bocking

Exactly what it says in the title – an A-Z of Shinto-related, Japanese terminology. I flicked through the whole book, which was very interesting and meant I discovered a lot of new aspects of Shinto, such as obscure kami and practises. Generally, I thought the explanations were pretty good – clear and easy to understand. But there were two things I thought could have been added to improve it. Firstly, it could perhaps do with a few simple illustrations to help those unfamiliar with Shinto tools and architecture; this is pretty common in Japanese dictionaries. Secondly, there isn’t a single Japanese character in the whole book. I thought this was a considerable oversight – the kanji used to write Japanese words is very important, especially in matters pertaining to religion. Including kanji for each entry should have been an obvious thing to do, and would have greatly aided understanding for those who can read Japanese (and there’s a lot of non-Japanese people interested in Shinto who can).

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Quick visit to the British Museum

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Egyptian king flanked by deities imbuing him with powers.

Yesterday my husband and I were in London, showing around a couple of my husband’s friends from Australia. As part of the day we dropped into the British Museum for about an hour, most of which is free to attend. I’ve been to the British Museum a couple of times ago, but I thought this time I’d share a few pictures of the Classical section, which is where we spent most of the time.

I love dolphins, so I was delighted to spot this little dolphin featured on an Assyrian relief!

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Venus. I love her pose here.

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Dionysus, looking particularly feminine (aside from his naughty bits!)

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A procession of Dionysus’ followers, the Maenads.

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These Eros statuettes look like they’d be right at home on a modern Christmas tree!

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Eros riding a dolphin.

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A really interesting relief of Athena blessing her followers. Look how tall she is compared to the men!

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Pan.

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Bronze mirror depicting Nike. You can easily see how images of Nike later inspired images of Judeo-Christian angels.

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A depiction of two of my favourite Greco-Roman deities, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Gentle Death).

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I really liked this tiny little figure of dancers – I’ve seen so many modern New Age candle holders and sculptures that look similar!

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I really want to go to the Celtic exhibition that the British Museum are holding at the moment (we didn’t go this time because it’s quite expensive, and for first-timers to the BM it’s best to stick to the free exhibits). It would be something of a pilgrimage for me to see the Gundestrup Cauldron currently on display there, which depicts a horned figure now identified with Pagans as one of our most beloved deities – Cernnunos. Next time!

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The deities have something to teach us about diversity (plus a quiz!)

KemeticGods

There’s very often an assumption that diversity causes discord. The view that the more beliefs, cultures, opinions and ways of life exist in a society, the more likely it is that conflict and crime will arise. Several influential individuals and groups in the UK have come out saying that “multiculturalism has failed,” and have called for immigration to be drastically cut in order to retain the so-called “native” British culture. The UK’s certainly not the only country to have such views expressed; the situation is arguable worse in Japan, where the supposed homogeneity of society is very much celebrated and praised, and those of different ethnic backgrounds face daily discrimination for not being a part of this idealised homogeneity.

Naturally, I have a problem with this. [Read more]

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Venus-Jupiter Convergence, June 30th 2015

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Jupiter and Venus depicted on a 330BC Greek vessel. By Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup from Centennial, CO, USA (Getty Villa – Collection Uploaded by Marcus Cyron) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last night I went out to see the convergence of the planets Venus and Jupiter. It’s a shame I couldn’t get any pictures – it was really beautiful. We couldn’t see the whole spectacle as there were some dodgy people up on the hill where we were which made us nervous, but I’m so glad I managed to see it.

The convergence of Venus and Jupiter is quite significant. It’s a union between the Masculine and Feminine. I’ve seen several articles in the press mention that the biblical Star of Bethlehem may have resulted from Venus and Jupiter converging, which I find interesting – not so much because it might be true, but again because of the symbolism. The Star of Bethlehem is sometimes conflated with the Star of David or Hexagram, ✡ ,which also represents a union between Masculine and Feminine – it is a combination of an upward-pointing triangle (male) with a downward-pointing triangle (female).

The date of this event is also highly significant. It’s on the same week as Tanabata, the Japanese festival which, coincidentally, celebrates the union of two stars, Altair (personified as Hikoboshi the Cowherd Prince) and Vega (Orihime the Weaver Princess). Although the stars are not Venus and Jupiter, it is very interesting that Altair and Vega too are seen as Masculine and Feminine.

I will be commemorating Tanabata at my Full Moon Esbat tonight. I will also be taking the opportunity to commemorate our upcoming anniversary of our wedding and handfasting – another union of Masculine and Feminine!

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June Full Moon Esbat 2015

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Last night I performed what’s likely to be the last Esbat ritual at my current home, as very soon my husband and I will be moving to our first own property. It seemed very appropriate to dedicate this Esbat to Juno – not only because June is her month, but also because she is associated with the home, and with marriage (it’s our 1st year anniversary next month).

I began the ritual with my usual prayers and offerings to Inari Okami. Because I will soon be packing away my Inari altar for the move, I took the opportunity to say an extra norito, and offer some matcha green tea, to say an extra special thank you for keeping my husband and I safe and happy in our current home, and to pray for good fortune during our move.

I then made offerings to Juno – pomegranate, poppy seed bread and wine – and gave her thanks for our successful marriage and happy home, and to help heal some of my relatives who are currently unwell. It was quite a short and simple ritual.

During the ritual, I was momentarily interrupted by some guests of the neighbours visiting next door (the yard in front of our flat is fairly secluded, but not entirely hidden from next door). But this didn’t really faze me – I remembered that in some traditions, one should always treat outsiders who come upon your ritual as incarnations of the deities, as who knows, they may just be the deities themselves! (We all know stories about gods taking human form in order to test the kindness and respect of mortal men). So I politely said hello, and that was that. I think that taking this view of accepting and welcoming outsiders who accidentally stumble upon you at ritual work is a really nice ethos to take. And of course, animals should be included in this too (I’ve certainly had cats appear during ritual work).

Although it’s not much to look out, I’ve grown quite fond of my secluded ritual area outside my flat and I’ll miss it when we leave. But our next house does have a proper back garden, so I’m looking forward to that!

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Hypnos’ Revenge?!

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For a long time now, I’ve slept with a little statue of Hypnos (which I painted myself) beside my bed. As Hypnos is the God of sleep, I thought this might bless me with peaceful nights, and indeed, I haven’t really had any issues at all sleeping.

But yesterday, I started packing up certain items in my bedroom as my husband and I are due to move house quite soon, and my Hypnos statue was one such item.

And guess what? Last night I woke up at 3am and could not get back to sleep!

I don’t think Hypnos is too happy about me packing away his statue. I only hope he doesn’t bear a grudge and lets me sleep better from now on. I can guarantee him a place in the bedroom in our new house, so I hope he understands that!

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Ostara Moot 2015 with Medway Pagans

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Last night was Medway Pagans’ Ostara moot. It was quite a special one for me, as it signified one year of being a Medway Pagans member!

This month, we had two altars – one central altar decorated with rabbits and other Ostara symbols (as you can see), and one covered with greenery. Forming a circle around the central altar, we began with some Ostara blessings, and then followed this with something a little different. We all performed a recital of the story of Persephone and her capture by Hades and the pact she makes to spend six months in the underworld, and six months on the surface; the story of the changing seasons. I was delighted to be Persephone! Although I was a little nervous having a reading to perform in the circle for the first time. The lines were written in beautiful verse, and I noticed that in performing the play and acting out the parts of the gods and goddesses, the atmosphere of the circle changed slightly. There’s often moments of quiet comments or little jokes in the circle, but this time everyone was strangely quiet, as if under the spell of the little play we were performing. I think that acting out the Greek myth transported us all to another place and time, helping us to connect more strongly with the deities. At the end of the recital, we all ate a pomegranate seed, just as Persephone had done.

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The chick and egg gifts and pomegranate seeds

This was followed by a grounding caked and ale (really welcome after the nervous excitement of reading out loud), and then another surprise; the leader of the ritual had made us all little gifts of eggs with a chick, chocolate mini eggs and seeds inside! I was really happy to receive this as I don’t have any chicks on my Ostara altar, so my gift went straight up there as soon as I got home!

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Naples Trip Part 2: Antiquities Galore

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The highlight of our second day in Naples was probably the Museo Archeologico Nazionale – the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which has enough classical mosaics, frescoes and statues to make a Hellenic or Roman Pagan swoon. Here’s some of my favourite pieces…

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Paganism and Motherhood

Isis and the infant Horus. Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Isis and the infant Horus. Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re a woman of a certain age, you suddenly find all your friends are having children and you can no longer put off thinking about that old biological clock ticking. Even in modern society, I think there is still a great social pressure (even if it’s simply a form of passive peer pressure) to have children if you are a married woman. So what does Paganism have to say about becoming a mother? Read more at Patheos here!

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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

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