The universal power of dominant feminine energy that our Stone Age ancestors revered as the Great Mother became split in two with the arrival of the patriarchal Bronze Age that followed. Mother Goddess nurtured and protected humanity who saw themselves as part of the fertile nature they existed in and not apart from it as we are today. When the goddess was cut in two, change and progress was born for humanity to deal with setting us on a path towards long-term settlement giving rise to farming and industry, city-states and nations. The primordial feminine force of the original goddess became the opposing forces of life and death, spring and autumn and above and below that the first city dwellers of Mesopotamia knew as Ishtar and Ereshkigal. The sisters dance to the rhythm of the heavens and the heartbeat of the Earth creating transformation in space through time giving reason to consciousness and the rebirth of the soul. Their constant movement affects our reality today as much as it did six thousand years ago when hunting and gathering gave way to a new world order of God’s, Kings, Priest. Merchants, artisans and warriors. To prop up the lifestyles of the most powerful families, a huge work force was necessary to farm, build and quarry made up of family units that were headed and controlled by husbands.
The goddess of love was a complicated energy, loving and kind one moment, hostile and vengeful the next. Treat her with reverence and she will look after you, upset her and she will destroy you. Her temper matched that of her brother in law, the Babylonian war god Nergal. Once, despite her many powers Ishtar could not remove an eagle and a serpent from nesting in a tree she wished to cut down to make a bed and a throne from its wood. King Gilgamesh came to her rescue and removed them for her. For refusing her advances Ishtar sent the rampaging ‘Bull of Heaven’ to wreak havoc in the desert kingdom of Gilgamesh. Catastrophe was averted by the bravery of the king’s ‘heaven sent’ friend Enkidu. Ishtar is best known for her role as a love goddess. She dared to face up to her sister Ereshkigal to secure the release of her greatest love, her husband Tammuz with whom she ensured the fruits of nature would continue to be fertile and abundant.
With the rise of the Greek empire after more than two thousand years of Babylonian domination over the civilised world began to wane, Ishtar took on the role of Aphrodite, a fresher, sweeter and less angry goddess of love. Ishtar/Aphrodite was known as Venus by the Romans after the planet that maps out the pentagram in the night sky every forty years. Venus was the ‘Morning Star’, revealing herself at dawn before the sunrise. She heralded in the morning sun and was known as the ‘Light Bringer’ or Lucifer.
While Ishtar looked after the living, Ereshkigal ruled over the dead souls that arrived into her subterranean realm after the death of the physical body, the ‘suit’ that the ‘spark’ of the universe has to wear to be able to exist in the physical world. With her husband Nergal, the goddess of death ruled the ‘Netherworld’ with no regard for her inhabitants according to clay cuneiform tablets discovered across Mesopotamia in the mid nineteenth Century. Seven great walls separated the world of the living and the realm of the dead. Guarded gates at each wall allowed visitors to descend to the underworld, a one-way journey for most that wished to visit their ancestors.
With the rise of the Greek empire, the rule of the underworld was given to Hades, the elder brother of Zeus. Hades kidnapped the beautiful young Persephone and made her his queen. Where Ishtar was seen as the ‘Morning Star’, Ereshkigal was recognised as the ‘Evening Star’ when Venus was seen in the heavens at dusk to herald in the darkness of night. She was the ‘Dark Bringer’ or ‘Light Banisher’.
The Collins English Dictionary describes ‘Sin’ as (a) a transgression of God’s will, (b) any serious offence against a religious or moral principle, (c) any offence against a principle or standard. The Sin in question here is none of the above but the Babylonian Moon God and father of Ishtar and Ereshkigal and their brother the Sun God Shamash. Sin’s father was the Sky God Enlil who was the eldest son of Anu, the God of Heaven who was the king of all the gods and goddesses that the Babylonians called ‘Anunnaki’, which means ‘those from heaven that came to Earth’.
After Enki, the Lord of the Earth and his brother Enlil, the Lord of the Air, the Sun God Shamash reigned supreme over the Anunnaki. He ensured the continued fertility of humanity and nature with his sisters Ishtar and Ereshkigal. Shamash was the light in the darkness and the warmth in the cold. Shamash was the god that kings and their subjects prayed to for guidance and help in their daily lives. When Enkidu, the supernatural friend of Gilgamesh was caught snooping around in Ereshkigal’s dark domain he was held captive until Shamash created a crack in the ground so that the spirit of Enkidu could escape back to the land of the living.
Over the last couple of years I have much enjoyed the Pagan Portals series from Moon Books. They are very brief introductions to a wide range of topics. Usually around eighty pages, they can theoretically be read in one sitting. I would not recommend that though. The books I have read in the series have been thought-provoking and profound. I have had to take time to savour it in order to engage with the material. Such was also the case with the recent title, The Urban Ovate, by Brendan Howlin.
Howlin is a Senior International Tutor for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and the volume is written from an OBOD perspective. The title refers to the Ovate grade, which is the second level of training in the order. I should emphasise that this book is valuable in itself, regardless of one’s spiritual path.
As Howlin states, the Ovate grade “is basically finding out what makes you do the things you do”. He then moves to focus on several domains to examine: culture, genetic inheritance, local environment, the pressures of expectations, and where you are in history. Each section ends with helpful reflection questions. I appreciated the highly personal nature of his writing, and that it is laced throughout with the author’s sense of humour. I found his cheerfulness infectious, at times laughing out loud.
As Moon Books publicist Nimue Brown has mentioned to me, the greatest strength of the books in this series is also their greatest weakness. Thus, secondary to their brevity, difficult decisions have to be made concerning what to leave out. As a psychoanalyst, I would liked to have seen temperament, personality style and psychological history included on the list of areas for self-reflection. Nonetheless, this is a mirthful read that can help anyone gain insights into their emotional, cognition and behaviour patterns. If it has not already, I wish Howlin all the awen needed for a book on the OBOD Druid grade, which I would look forward to reading.
It has been a season since I last had time to write a blog, between Samhain and Imbolc, or three complete moon cycles. It is a time of death and rebirth, when an idea or thought is transformed into existence into the physical realm, a world of constant change, of emotions and feelings that reflect the interaction of the opposing forces that guide us towards our earthly fate. During that time I have been writing a book for the Pagan Portal series of Moon Books about the early Babylonian sister goddesses Ishtar and Ereshkigal. I took three months off work living off my savings to immerse myself into the realms of the daughters of Sin, the Moon God that ruled the Anunnaki pantheon of gods and goddesses who walked on the Earth six thousand years ago. The early Asian deities oversaw the humanising of the Stone Age people and taught them to live in a civilized manner within a society with godly knowledge and laws.
At the same time, the planet was releasing hold of its latest ice age, warming the northern and southern hemispheres enough to allow Stone Age tribes to migrate across the new fertile land. They erected great temples and monuments to honour the celestial bodies they saw floating across the sky, each with its own regular journey in heaven, which gave a sense of a past and future that allowed the recording of time creating a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and longer calendar. It gave them a sense of a moment in time in an ever-changing space. It also gave our early ancestors a moment of space in an ever-changing moment in time.
The planets, which included the sun and moon became important influences to the early astrologers who turned them into gods and goddesses who mankind would serve to build cities with palaces for royalty and temples for the priests and monuments for the gods.
Venus, our nearest neighbour, not counting the moon was seen as the Goddess of Love the Babylonians called Ishtar who after a fifty-day absence behind the sun would return to the heavens coinciding with the flooding of the River Euphrates, fertilising the low lying desert each spring. Ishtar was the Morning Star who appears in the night sky just before the rise of the sun, her twin brother Shamash, the God of Wisdom before being hidden in the light of the day allowing her to roam in the heavens unseen. Ishtar heralded in her brother and was seen as the Light-bringer, or Lucifer, the first Queen of Heaven and goddess of love and light.
Ishtar’s sister, or hidden dark side Ereshkigal, was the evening star who arrives in the sky just before the sun sets, protecting those ladies that worked at night. Ereshkigal was the dark bringer, a time of fear and uncertainty for the early city dwellers who prayed to the gods each night for protection from the demons that roamed in the night; Ereshkigal’s demons.
Ishtar and Ereshkigal leads a wild spiritual dance that manifests as change in the physical world. Between the two forces, birth, growth, reproduction, maturity and death occurs allowing the continuation of life on an otherwise sterile planet. They are nature and exist so that our soul can exist in a realm of matter and change within space and time, fuelled by gravity and made complicated by human failings like emotions and feelings, desires, our dealings with love and our fear of death. Ereshkigal is the Queen of the Underworld, the realm of ghosts and demons, a bleak and dismal realm, unless the corpse was sent on its journey with proper funerary rituals by the priests when the spirit could look forward to an existence of paradise with their ancestors and loved ones.
Venus was the only woman in the solar system of brothers. Her father was Sin, the moon god who was conceived when his father, the God of Air, Enlil forced himself on the grain goddess Ninlil. Refusing to be parted from Enlil during his punishment, Ninlil would have given birth to the moon in the dark confines of the underworld if it was not for the intervention of the God of Water Enki, the Lord of the Earth. Ninlil was allowed to return to the surface to give birth to Sin in the open space of the sky.
Shamash, the sun god and brother of Ishtar and Ereshkigal was fair and wise and consulted by the other gods. He was the son/sun of the moon, or Solomon.
Our close neighbour Mars was called Nergal, the king of death and husband of Ereshkigal. Nergal was the God of War and when not on home leave with Ereshkigal guarded the gates to the heavenly realm of Anu, the father of Enki and Enlil.
Nergal’s brother was Ninurta, the Lord of Saturn who held the ‘Tablets of Law’. The guardian god of limits and boundaries oversaw the fate and destiny of humanity.
The king of the solar system Jupiter was the God of Justice, Marduk who rose to become the Lord of the Universe by conquering the ancient Mother Goddess Tiamat and taking her ‘Tablet of Destiny for himself.
Finally little Mercury, or Nabu, the son of Marduk and priestly scribe of the gods. Nabu was the messenger between the will of heaven and the people of the earth.
Ever since we have been observing the heavens, watching the planets and stars migrate across the night sky, we have wondered and imagined what the universe is and what our purpose is in the grand scheme of things.
Who are we, where do we come from and where are we going?
It is remarkable what Evelyn C. Rysdyk has accomplished in her new book, The Norse Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Practices of the Northern Tradition. The rise of the shamanic renaissance is such that I stumbled across this volume at a Barnes & Noble (a Borders-like bookshop in the States). An immediate delight in reading Rysdyk’s treatise on seidr (Norse shamanic journeying) is that it is unusually scholarly for the “spirituality/shamanism” genre. It integrates shamanism, archaeology, and anthropology with a feminist and ecopsychological lens.
Rysdyk herself is an American professional illustrator whose maternal grandparents immigrated from Norway. She originally trained with Dr Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman in the core shamanism model. Subsequently, she trained with indigenous shamanic teachers from the Siberian, Himalayan, and South American regions. A founding member of the Society for Shamanic Practice, Rysdyk maintains a practice in shamanism in Maine.
It must be noted that this book assumes the reader has been formally trained in shamanic journeying. That said, chapter 1, “Visionaries in Our Family Tree” contains (before the concluding exercise section) the finest introduction to shamanic spirituality I have ever read. It is a masterpiece of clarity and concision.
My gateway into Norse mythology was through my appreciation of Richard Wagner’s cycle of operas, Der Ring des Niebelungen. This led me to the original Nordic and Germanic sources to determine how Wagner had modified them to achieve his unified vision. Rysdyk gives an excellent overview of how the Norse and shamanic worldviews meshed, and summarizes what you need to know about Norse mythology. My subsequent entry into shamanism was through working and training with core shamanic practitioners. Part of my interest in this book stemmed from learning (to my surprise) from a shamanic practitioner that I have Scandinavian ancestry, later confirmed by DNA testing.
Further, as a psychoanalyst who is also trained in ecotherapy, I also appreciated the addition of ecopsychology to her discourse. Originating in the 1990’s, it is the latest paradigm shift in psychology. My clinical profession has evolved over the decades from focusing on only the individual. It then moved to considering interaction with the family system, then with the culture, and now with the ecosystem. By introducing current ecological crises into her discussion, she gives contemporary and global relevance of these northern shamanic traditions, beyond personal spirituality work.
I especially enjoyed that the book is written from a feminist perspective. This framework allows Rysdyk to bring in anthropology to bear on issues that confound literary scholars concerning the Eddas. As an example, Rysdyk is able to bring understanding to the differential between the gods of Vanaheim (Old Europe matriarchal traditions) and Aesgard (Asian patriarchal traditions). One would never get this from purely literary treatments of this mythological material. Certainly in the recent English translation notes of the Eddas there is no comparable depth of insight.
Rysdyk masterfully displays for us what is known about Scandinavian shamanic practice, and how it can be used today. Chapters conclude with step-by-step exercises to help the reader experientially apprehend the discussions. Also helpful are pronunciation charts for the Old Norse letters and words. There is even an appendix on how to make your own seidr hood to wear when journeying. In short, this book is a satisfying smorgasbord of delights.
Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute is showing an exhibit until 3 March 2019 called, Vikings: Beyond the Legend. Included is over 600 objects from the National Nationalmuseet/Denmark.
It is a generally well-designed exhibition on Nordic daily life during the Vik ing Age. I recommend it for anyone with an interest who has not had exposure to such physical remains.
What disappointed me was the section on that of which I was most anticipating – mythology and lived daily religion. The collection in this area was meager. Furthermore, about half of the room was on Christianity. Thus, the pre-Christian material was sparse indeed. The highlight for me was the seiđstafr (pictured), which was similar to one I have seen in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.
Unfortunately, I was not surprised that the singular mention of Freyja was as “a goddess of sexual lust and war.” This does not capture the complexity as presented in the Eddas and Sagas of the Lady (as her name means). Importantly, for the context of a religion room, Freyja practiced the shamanic art of seiđr, and taught this to the Æsir. I look forward to the time when patriarchy is so diminished that goddesses are no longer characterized by their sexual aspect. (E.g., Odin was promiscuous, but he is never described as “a god of sexual lust.”)
Most dismaying of all was the misleading informational plaque titled, The End of Everything. It read, “Vikings seemed to have been one of the few world cultures with no extended afterlife for anyone at all. When Ragnarök occurs, gods, humans, the living, the dead, and every kind of animal and supernatural creature will perish in fire and ice, returning the universe to the vacuum from which it began.” This goes beyond a simplistic description of deity. This is incorrect – and poor scholarship. Here I will simply quote from the Gylfaginning in Snorri’s Prose Edda concerning The Rebirth of the World (53): “Vidar and Vali survive… and they will inhabit Idavoll, the place where Asgaard was earlier. To there will come Thor’s sons Modi and Magni… Next Baldr and Hod will arrive from Hel… In the place called Hoddmimir’s Wood, two people will have hidden themselves from Surt’s fire. Called Lif and Leifthrasir… From these will come so many descendants that the whole world will be inhabited.” (Jesse Byock’s translation). Thus Ragnarök is actually a story that involves a rebirth, and hope.
Happy Winter Solstice! In honor of this beautiful day, I offer you a short reverie on the beauty and power of the shortest day of the year:
It is the darkness that brings light. Even on the darkest night of the year, the longest, we have the stars to cast their brightness on this earth, reminding us that we cannot fully understand the light without shadows.
And these shadows, on this day, are not harbingers of gloom but messengers of the underworld, that deep cave where rest and contemplation and dreams call to us. As we reach into those depths, we cast off the debris of the year and recharge our souls in the spring of imagination and intuition, that private place unique to each individual, forever found among the stars and in the shadows.
And when the dawn breaks the day after solstice, we find ourselves once again turning towards the sun, each day progressively longer, each strand of light reaching us all the way down in the underworld, where we rest and recharge and dream.
This post originally appeared on Enchantment Learning & Living, the blogging home of writer and kitchen witch Maria DeBlassie, where true magic is in the everyday.
Psychologist and magician Philip Carr-Gomm has created a fabulous online course called Lessons in Magic. It is based on his 2017 book, Lessons in Magic: A guide to making your dream come true. (See my review of the book in the blog entry for 31st October 2018.) This course is a natural extension of the book, expanding and elaborating the topics.
The course consists of seven lessons. After the first two orientation lessons, it follows the chapter structure of the book. The lessons are released once per week, but one can take as long as desired to complete each lesson.
While text, audios, and videos are integrated throughout, each lesson begins with a video talk by Philip. For me, this is my favorite part of the course. They are recorded in the library of his house, so it feels like a visit. Key points are emphasized here. These talks are unscripted, lending to the feeling of studying with a master magician in his home.
Learners and graduates of the course also have access to a private Facebook group called The Private Magicians’ Club. This proved to be an unexpected highlight for me. Included here are videos where Philip further augments and (delightfully) free associates to the course material. As of this writing, Philip is planning to lead a Private Magicians’ Club retreat sometime next year in 2019.
The first lesson includes a survey of all the different categories of magic, and it orients the course to a type of practical magic called the Magic of Making. Specifically, the focus is upon realising your dreams. This course was a dream come true for Philip and is, infectiously, a project of love. I recommend this course for anyone wishing to live a more magic-filled life.
Today is anniversary of the publication of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck.
It is the most influential tarot deck design and the talented artist who drew the images, occultist Pamela Colman Smith, was a woman of colour.
Geraldine Beskin of The Atlantis Bookshop in London wrote this entry in the Moon Books community book Every Day Magic about Pamela and the Rider-Waite-Smith deck:
Pamela Colman Smith was a freelance artist who was commissioned to paint a tarot deck. Nowadays it happens all the time, then it was risky and radical. When she did it, the stars aligned as the mystical magician Arthur Waite gave her the job and directed her as she worked. Their genius was to make each card show the inner and outer meaning for the first time and so the world’s best-selling tarot was born. The subconscious cannot deal with words, only symbols, and that is where the enduring power and delight in using the deck comes from.
Every Day Magic – A Pagan Book of Days has contributions from about 50 Moon Books’ writers and offers something to do every day of the year, including spells, rituals, meditations, Pagan prayers, divinations, poems to read, recipes and craft projects. You can order copies via the Moon Books website www.moon-books.net or buy the paperback at The Atlantis Bookshop, 49A Museum St, London WC1A 1LY.
A blog with a difference for you this month. Is it a work of fiction with elements of fact, or a work of fact with elements of fiction? You decide.
Hundreds of thousand years ago Earth was a paradise planet teeming with life, a sacred temple of the solar system. It was a petri dish of vegetation and animals feeding off the spirit of Mother Nature who makes existence possible. Everything functioned to a natural cause and effect nature of the universe and was a physical heaven on earth. At the heart of Earth’s existence was the symbiotic relationship between the animal world and the vegetable kingdom balanced by seasons and climate change. Each living thing was interconnected through the spirit and the five senses in the mind, or consciousness.
The king of beasts at the top of the food chain were the large cats, sabre toothed tigers, lions and panthers who led the hunting pack that included hyenas and Homo erectus scavenging in their wake. That is until upright running Homo erectus learnt to make stone tools to cut, scrape, stab, dig and hammer into shape the world around them. They were guided by the earth spirits surrounding them. Nature provided a rich supply of food, water, shelter and clothing material for our ancestors. The skeleton of Homo erectus in shape and size is almost identical to ours except for a smaller skull and brain that had little or no sense of self but had a great sense of family and an assured awareness of their position within nature. For them the world was there for them to experience. The rich fragrances of the plant kingdom, the rumbling of the sky, the howling of the wind and the roar of the river, feeling the warmth of the sun and the cold of night and the tasting of the many different fruits and berries and small wildlife Earth offered. Homo erectus would have witnessed the most magnificent sun rises and settings of each new day. They understood their relationship with Mother Nature and treated her with due reverence. They probably danced in the rain and sang around the fire; possibly meditated to the songs of the birds but would have always, like their fellow creatures, lived to the rhythm of the planet.
Visitors from across the galaxy came to marvel at the splendour of Earth to witness nature evolving following the demise of the large reptiles and the rise of mammals much as we would today visit a zoo or safari park. Galactic laws prohibited alien interference in the natural evolution of the Garden of Delights.
The Akkadians tell how a race of aliens whom the Bible call the ‘Watchers’ maintained the balance between nature and creatures ensuring one would not overpower the other. They were the gardeners of Eden. During their watch they discovered gold and other precious metals and stones in abundance on the sacred planet and soon a mining corporation from the distant planet Nibiru, began to illegally extract the minerals from the heart of mother earth for their own gain. The Akkadian texts call these beings the Anunnaki, ‘those from heaven to earth came’ bringing with them a labour force to clear the land, work the mines and make flint tools as metal was not freely available at the time. We know these workers as the Neanderthal and in Earth’s agreeable climate bred like bunnies began to populate areas away from the alien colonies and migrate northwards into the wilderness we call Europe. The Neanderthal mated with Homo erectus giving rise to a tall human with a large skull and brain and an improved voice box capable of language and reason. Homo sapien was born and to the Anunnaki masters these new were irresistibly beautiful and they fell in love with them producing an offspring of giants, the demi gods and heroes of our ancient past. Homo sapiens were moulded to revere and worship the alien race whose royal offspring were considered gods and goddesses and creators of the universe.
The Anunnaki were the messengers or angels of the celestial gods and goddesses and could travel to and fro from the heavens with wings or on fiery chariots and giant birds. In time they became the gods and goddesses themselves of the Mesopotamian world and soon the Indian and Egyptian cultures as well. They were real physical gods on earth, feasting, drinking and making love while humanity worked for a living offering goods and sacrifices to the earthly deities. They introduced the concept of otherworlds, a duality of existence above and below our world, the Upperworld of heaven where the gods and goddesses dwelt and the lower world, or Underworld for the dead. The Underworld became a prison for the disembodied souls of Homo Sapien ruled by the Queen of Darkness Ereshkigal and the seven Anunnaki judges. The souls are judged, debriefed, new contracts drawn up before being returned to the realm of space and time in a fresh body to do god’s will on earth; that of serving their alien masters.
Being an illegal mining operation on the sacred planet the Anunnaki were instructed to leave, which many did, by the Galactic Ordinance Department (GOD) and ordered the destruction of the human race by raising temperatures and creating earthquakes and floods around the globe. All traces of the unlawful activities had to be wiped out. Fortunately for the human race the Lady of the Earth, Ninti, the Queen of Lord Enki, ruler of the planet felt a conscience of responsibility towards mankind and convinced her husband to help them by warning a loyal king to build an ark that would withstand the catastrophe to come thus saving the human race to become the advanced civilisation we are today.
My parents began taking me to church as soon as I was old enough to go, which is to say, from the time of my christening onward. I grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which was somewhat more relaxed toward Communion than the Catholics but still had a lot of rules to follow. From a young age, I tossed these rules out the stained glass window. At two years old, when the bread and wine were being passed around the congregation, I simply reached over and helped myself to a serving of both. This apparently shocked most of the congregation except for the pastor, who responded, “She’s clearly ready to partake, so let her!” Eventually, parents began to complain, and so at five years old, I attended a Communion class.
Our pastor’s name was Bowser, which I found hilarious due to the Legend of Zelda villain of the same name. I remember him as a comforting and sane presence in my otherwise chaotic life. Our church had an altar and lectern that were raised above the people by several steps, but I remember that the pastor had a habit of coming down from the lectern and walking through the congregation while he talked. He loved my passion for hymn-singing and my childishly literal pronunciations of difficult words such as “righteousness”.
The church was historic, built in 1752, and it was a small, rectangular building with an old-fashioned belltower. On sunny days, the interior was mottled with multicolored light from the stained-glass windows. I wonder if it contributed to my announcement in elementary school that my favorite color was “rainbow”.
As a child, I was never particularly worried about Lutheran sacraments or theology. I preferred to focus on the stories I saw in the stained glass windows and the experience of the sacred I felt every Sunday when the people sang together. The sacred was also present outside, when I climbed the juniper on the hill and smelled its sharp tang, or when a blizzard closed the roads and piled snow higher than our doors. I knew that nature held immense power.
When I was older, we moved across the country and switched denominations several times, finally landing on Presbyterian. I remember being angry that the Presbyterians had dropped the number of sacraments from seven to two. I thought that we should head in the direction of things being more sacred rather than less. Now that I look it up, it seems that the Lutherans only had two or three sacraments, and I had mixed up non-sacramental rites. I can be forgiven my confusion, especially since one Lutheran church I attended used to visit the nearby Catholic church (which did have seven sacraments) for services and vice versa, separating again when it was time for Communion. This grassroots effort to focus on our shared experiences of the sacred has always stayed with me, and it led me to (somewhat shockingly) declare in my Confirmation statement that I believed God loved all people of all religions.
Unfortunately, in my teenage years, I began to see huge disparities between the sacred I knew in music and nature and the dogma of the church. I had a passion for Biblical analysis and history, but I eventually reached a point in Sunday school where no one knew the answers to my questions. I began to see troubling disparities in the Bible’s treatment of women and out-groups, and it reached a point where I could no longer reconcile the text and the actions of Christians with my experience with the sacred.
My transition to paganism happened slowly, if it ever happened at all. Sometimes, I think that I’ve always been pagan in my relationship with the world and was simply trying to clothe my experiences in the religion I was born into. Music played a large role here. My mother was an opera singer, so I grew up surrounded by music. I especially remember loving the medieval and Renaissance carols she played every December. It was the only time of year that I remember religion placing a woman at the center of the religious drama for a positive reason. However, later church teachings reduced Mary’s role to that of a servile woman who obeys the commands of a male god delivered through a male messenger. To that end, I have come to believe that anthropomorphic deities are simply humans putting a familiar face on those experiences which are both immanent and transcendent at the same time. Those faces can serve to reinforce a power structure, but they can also tell stories about the ability of a human being to be more than they currently are.
One of the most important pagan concepts I have encountered is the Celtic notion that the land is a sovereign goddess, often portrayed as a mother or a lover. I did not have a good relationship with my mother, and I never received much in the way of nurturing or feeling that home was a safe place. As an adult, I have unconsciously looked for this relationship in other human beings, which has led to a string of somewhat destructive friendships and love interests. I think that a much more responsible way to go about healing myself is to develop a better relationship with the land. I can pour all my needs into the Earth without overwhelming it, and there is no danger of the Earth possessing an ulterior motive in its relationship to me.
There was a time, earlier in my twenties, when I wanted to discover or pull together a comprehensive cosmology that would explain my place in the universe as well as humanity’s relationship to the sacred. As I approach thirty, I am no longer quite as concerned with precise, dogmatic definitions. I like the idea that we are all shapers who are shaped by our own creative process, for it seems to imply that every shaper is held accountable for their actions by the same process which gave rise to those actions. It echoes the sentiment that Qui-Gon Jinn expresses to Anakin Skywalker in “The Phantom Menace”: “Your focus determines your reality.” I like to paraphrase this as, “What you feed, you become.” If I focus my creative energy on destructive actions, I am likely to become more destructive, but if I focus on transformational actions, I am likely to become transformed myself. This idea also encourages human community because, according to this philosophy, helping others also helps yourself.
People tell me that I’m still young and just at the beginning of my journey. That being the case, I look forward to continuing to learn from those who have come before and adding my experiences to the well from which our mythologies arise.