Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wheel of the Year: Neopagan invention or basic observation?


Wheel of the Year: Neopagan invention or basic observation?

The Wheel of the Year is a well known neopagan concept that spans several types of modern pagan traditions (Wicca, branches of Druidry, Atheopaganism, Sacred Feminine, etc.). Beginning on "the Witches New Year", Halloween, the Wheel of the Year goes like this:
Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon... or something like that. That is how I recall them. You could also call them Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, May Day, Fourth of July, Last Days of Summer, and Back to School if you instead follow the Walmart of the Year. And you can find plenty of online or book resources for this concept. I'm leaving it loose, because the point of this post is to span beyond this "Wheel of the Year" as eight specific celebration Sabbaths to be celebrated at all costs by all pagans. The Wheel of the Year was invented in fairly recent times during the pagan-religious revival times of the mid-1900s. Though the names were taken from several traditions and slapped together, it is undeniable that these eight specific times coincide with correlations between the three important and obvious celestial cycles.
  • 1. The Sun and Constellations on the Ecliptic (Year)
  • 2. The Growing Cycle (Season)
  • 3. The Lunar Cycle (Month)
Any child can identify these unique cycles. We learn very quickly, by living with them, how the environmental conditions of each impact us. For instance, when I say "Yule" or "Christmas" or "Winter Solstice" or "Hanukkah" you know I am referring to that specific set of holidays that take place in the winter, when the days are darker and colder. If I say "Easter" or "Ostara", any child in the culture will identify this with church or a bunny, but any child in the northern hemisphere will associate this celebration with "spring time".

The Wheel of the Year was not invented, it is plainly visible for all to recognize as it is written in the patterns of nature!* I think there is no reason to believe people have freely observed these cycles, throughout all cultures and geographies throughout time.

*I write from a northern hemisphere perspective and at a latitude that does not get complete darkness during winter. A fairly wide band. 
**The degree is 23.5 now, but the degree slightly varies every 24,000 years from 24.5 to 22 degrees. This is one of the Milankovitch Cycles, I could write about this another time but has plenty of reference out there, or see my Violent Earth Lecture 4 on the subject. 

The Year
The Sun and Constellations on the Ecliptic

Ill start with this one, because it is both the most well known (sun) and poorly known (stars) and happens to be my favorite! 

So, you will recall from your Geography 101 that the earth is tilted on her axis (23.5 degrees)**. As she revolves around the sun but the angle stays the same, this naturally sets up a variation in the amount of solar radiation each part of the globe receives: a minimum, a maximum, and a point between each. The Winter Solstice is defined by the suns lowest point in the sky or the furthest south it rises or sets, so coincides with the shortest day of the year (or most darkness). The Summer Solstice the sun is very high in the sky, but easier to measure by looking at the furthest north sunrise. 
Image result for tilt of the earth diagramThe Equinox days are pretty simple, as the sun rises directly on east on both days.This is pretty easy to measure if you have access to a high point to clearly see the western, southern, and eastern horizons that you can return to weekly in the morning, noon, and night. I say its easy, but time consuming! I did this from my east facing window for sunrise for a year. Anyway, they patter of the moving sun is pretty clear. 

Okay, not the poorly known part: the Stars! The thirteen constellations on the ecliptic (suns path through the sky if plotted during the year) are known as the Zodiac. Zo- for animals, dia- for days. The annual path of the sun is divided into the animal shapes the stars are in. Doesn't matter what they are, you can make up your own shapes and animals if you like. Or just take the star names. Anyway, there are certain stars and constellations that also mark these. Not quite as precise, but mark the time. I will use the astronomical constellations, since they are the most well known (and only ones I know, hehe). These can also be easily observed if you stand on that same hill requested above. Though, some of these alignments along the horizons and at sunrise/sunset will not be accurate for higher or lower attitudes. 
1. Samhain - 

2. Winter Solstice - Virgo constellation is rising before the sun. If you wake up while it is still dark, which is common for most of us at that time in the winter, and you look to the south eastern sky, the brightest star is Spica of Virgo (note the moos is also full in my stellarium picture). As a side note, isnt it interesting that the Sun (son) rises (births) under the Virgo (virgin) on the Solstice (Christmas)? Literally written in the stars.

3. Imbolc - Sirius is visible on the eastern horizon right at sunset.
Few days earlier, sun rise is too early and Sirius is too low. Few days later, and Sirius is high in the sky by the time the sun goes down. This is approximate. Not precise, but more a 'season' feeling.

4. Spring Equinox - The position of Sirius, once again, helps to determine the days around the Equinox (aside from the Sun rising/setting E/W and the length of day/nigh the same...). Sirius, the brightest star besides the sun, crosses directly south at sunset on the days surrounding the Equinox. Couple days before, it is far to the east at sunset. And a few days after, it is in the west of south during sunset. 

5. Beltane - Just as Imbolc marked the rise of Sirius and Orion, Beltane is marked as the last days of those stars. The last days of April, Sirius can be seem skimming the horizon. Then all of the sudden, the belt and Sirius not out after sunset. Gone. Beltane. 







6. Litha - During sunset of midsummer, if you look near the spot where the sun had stood at
solar noon, you will see the Virgin. Almost right on south. Actually, where the sun was is between her legs now.

7. Lammas - At this special time, when the days are still warm and long and you can get plenty of stargazing while camping, there a couple of cool ways you can tell August is coming: The obscure way is to use the north star (Polaris). If you already know how to find Polaris, you are familiar with the pointer stars of the Big Dipper. At the onset of August, peculiarly the pointer stars and Polaris line up with the western azimuth (intersect the horizon right at west). 
On the eastern horizon, our good friend Orion begins to be visible in the morning just before sun rise. 

8. Mabon/Autumnal Equinox - one of my personal favorites, can be detected as the last days of the constellation Scorpius. All summer, the Scorpius and its heart star Antares provides a great summer spectacle. But at the same time the nights are becoming cool, crisp, and dew in the morning the Scorpius constellation is lower and lower on the southwestern horizon until, on the days surrounding the Equinox, the Scorpius cannot be seen on the horizon after sunset.


The Seasons
The Growing Cycle
Many pagans are gardeners, but far from all. The cycle of agriculture is a popular cycle in all of the mythology of ancient polytheistic religions and modern neopagan ones, so it is surprising to me that not all pagans make a point to be involved in agriculture (or at permaculture) in some way. 

The traditional Wheel of the Year is heavily influenced by Celtic reconstruction of the 1970s, which was from most of what we can tell was heavily agriculture based. Even if you are not a gardener, there are signs all around in northern hemisphere culture that these celestial dates are upon us. 


The Months
The Lunar Cycle
Most pagan folk are familiar with Lunar Cycles as well, so not much I need to say here. The dates of several of the full-moons fall really, really closely to the days of the Wheel of the Year. 




Pretty Close to Feb. 1st (Imbolc), could just celebrate on the "second full moon" after the Winter Solstice".


Similarly, pretty close to May 1st. Call is the "5th full moon after Winter Solstice".


"8th full moon" equivalent to Lammas.


"11th full moon" During Samhain





Though the Wheel of the Year is a modern construct as we know it, I think there is much reason to believe that people just observing their natural surroundings, the rhythms of the natural cycles, would be capable of celebrating such markings. I'm not saying anybody was, as there is not historical evidence.

I am saying these cycles are obvious. Any animal institutionally has them encoded in their action of life. For how long have humans gone a step further to use these celestial cycles as markers. Markers for celebration, essential agricultural duties, a celestial lesson written by the intelligence of the cosmos, or just signs of hope.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Owyhee Canyon Dragon: myth, history, or stalker?



Owyhee Canyon Dragon:
A myth, just history, or out there stalking?

by Sammy Castonguay, Friend of the Owyhee (Canyon Dragon)
Acknowledging Tim Davis, Friends of the Owyhee Director

Smaug | Dragons | FANDOM powered by WikiaTattoo | Tattoos | Pinterest | Tattoos, Tattoo designs and ...4ft Long Falcor Replica Selling On Etsy

Mythical Creatures pervade human oral tradition from legend and folklore to fantasy and religion. Often times the tales of these mythical beasts derive from the mystery of the land, sea, or sky. Sometimes they are mischievous, sometimes jolly, but all-the-time leery of the human race. 

Think Bigfoot. The Minotaur. Mermaids. The Jack-a-lope. Lockness Monster. The Thunderbird. Chupacabre. The Lorax. Leprechauns. Etcetera. Mythical creatures, on one hand, seem like a relic of the past (like from Greek Mythology, or old Grimes Tales) but several of the above mentioned are a purely modern phenomenon. Be they a joke, long oral traditions, supernatural beings, or a modern naturalists-animists anthropomorphic connection to the land, they are among us. 

Ill give my report of the Owyhee Canyon Dragon. 

Its big, real big, most of the time. Its magick allows it to shrink to the size of a house-fly, but rarely will. Why would it? It is open out there, with few humans. Plenty of rocky overhangs and steep, impassable cliffs. Perfect for this stealth, flying feline-like apex predator. 

It is a dragon; make not mistake. Some reports just call it a cat (cougar), others a deformed sheep, and others even an unusual sized bird. But undeniably it is a dragon by any classic measure of the word: it is long, slender, sleek, kind of slinky. Like the canyons, it can be winding and sinuous. Certainly reptilian with scales under thin fur. More dragon than the living lizard, the Komodo. 

Stueby's Outdoor Journal: Try Succor Creek State Park for ...Its back is ridged. Probably its best adaptive camouflage. Nearly ever canyon of rock outcrops has a 'ridge' of jagged peaks and needles or dark reddish rhyolite or tuff, making shadowy ledges. Like the emerging dorsal fins of a school of sailfish. Perfect territory to hide, remaining stealth.

I'm probably one of the few of have observed one (one? are there many? just one? unknown.) closely; close enough to clearly see the face and far too close for comfort. Well, I am one of the few willing to speak of it. Either folks laugh it off, or folks give me an all-too-knowing shirking side-glance as if to say "we do not speak of it". Like its Voldemort of something. As if talking about it, which is admitting existence, simultaneously confirms a persons nuttiness and beckons it out of hiding. 

Read It Then See It: The Lorax | Stop Hitting Your BrotherWhy are people afraid of it? Well, for duh it is a terrifying, fierce creature (uh, dragon!?!). But deeper, there is a historical land war here, as there is in all places where the wild and the domestic entangle. The Canyon Dragon has a rage for the miner, the cowboy, the sheepherder, the farmer... the human. Or at least what it has known of the human. As with all mythical creatures, when the mystery of the land is turned to known commodity, the myth of the land dies. A dying myth isnt quite, or still. For the better part of two centuries, the dragon has consumed pioneers, or at least their stock. This is a hell of a place for a cow; big, dumb slow pray, if it cared for the taste of gluttony at all. Herds of sheep missing. Dogs harassed. Equipment mangled. Desert disillusions. Monkey wrenching. Rumor has it, though I have not confirmed, it breaths fire and is so probably responsible for considerable range fires. Another reason to fear. Because of its threatened existence, it is feared and hated but probably recapitulates the feeling ten-fold. The Desert is a harsh place, and should never be underestimated. 

Scary it may be, but as magnificent as you can imagine a mythical beast would be. It is a unicorn, in its own way. Quite a bit dirtier, less arrogant, and with less manners. This is no forest. Not time for manners, everyone makes mistakes, and it is impossible to keep the film of dust from depositing after emerging from any [rare] bathing hole. Like other mythical beasts, it makes not sound; at least not one widely reported or that I have heard. No call, no screech, no bellow. Though maybe, I have long thought, the sound of reverberating thunder in the canyons is echoed by the beast. 

Its head, which is massive, is almost identical to a Cougar (Puma concolor) except for the huge rack of Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) curls. Its age shows in the ripples muzzle skin, tattered long shiskers, and bashed up horns. Around the neck it has a feathered color, like that of a Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), almost like a mane. Peculiarly intentionally apply colored muds to its scaly face, in lines, dots, and geometric patters. 
New Mexico Bighorn Sheep.JPG
By Jwanamaker - commons.wikimedia.org
By Saguaro National Park - Flickr
Large black bird with featherless head and hooked bill
California Condor - commons.wikimedia.org
Crotalus oreganus.jpg
Western Rattlesnake
By Connor Long - commons.wikimedia.org
Perhaps one of the most commonly observed parts of the dragon is the tail. Well, not visually observed but audibly. Its rattle. Similar to the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), the Dragons tail is adorned with small rattles, which it shakes violently to warn others are "now in range". This familiar western sound blends in with the landscape and is an additional camouflage against accidental discovery.




As a match to its mis-matched head, its front paws are distinctly those of a puma, though seemingly a bit more functional as arms with some dexterity of paw. But it also has legs of a bighorn, its walking legs. Bighorns legs are agile on steep cliffs and the Canhon Dragon has four hooved legs that are as nimble as a sheep but stout as a horse.

Oh, had I not mentioned the animal is polymelia (many limbs)?

Yeah... a real beast this thing. Like a centaur, instead of horse and human: bighorn and cougar.

Im positive your questions regarding local fear of the animal are waning with every word.

As if not enough, it has a fourth pair of legs... and wings. :)

Golden Eagle
kimballstock.com
The massive Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is a very large raptor and can be seen from time to time around the Owyhee riparian areas (rare). Identical talons and wingspan equip the Canyon Dragon. While grounded, the back talons are nicely folded agains the tail, but during a raptor-like dive bomb the talons are lowered for a deadly nabbing. 

A perfectly designed beast to grab herds of domesticated sheep from the early Basque, or even a full grown cow from the flat-brimmed buckaroo cowboy. 

If you ever do encounter one, its rocky ridge back and snack rattle not sneaky enough to either evade you or warn you, it will immediately begin to intimidate you. Like a peacock or Dilophosaurus, its frill of plummage will fan out; the bustle of a fancy dancer. The Owyhee Canyon Dragon has back plumage like that of the Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus): little more yellow at the base with long, slender blade-like black feathers emanating a meter from its body. The framing plumage is an additional intimidating feature, as it rears up on its sheep legs and outstretches its cougar arms. There, on its chest, a dazzling display of two gigantic skin sacks slowly filling with air. The sacks jiggle flat while the Dragon shakes at you, with the unmistakable sound of a male grouse strut during lek. ---boowee, yeeoo uwp, bwee yoop--
The Dilophosaurus Returns in New Jurassic World 2 Set ...
Intimidating Dilophosaurus scene from Jurassic Park film -
movieweb.com

Federal Decision Not to List Greater Sage-Grouse Shows ...
Greater sage-grouse male in strut -
allaboutbirds.com










As the apex predator stares you down with fierce, narrow cat eyes, a trembling body, rattling tail and swishing whiskers it is abundantly clear that this Dragon, like any other, can make a very swift corpse of you.
There is an intelligence in its eyes, you can see it is not animal instinct that fuels its disturbance. No. It is pissed. Its eyes hiss with disguist for you, human. 'An ape that has fouled the land'. Not a murderers eyes, but sick and tired of defending. Violence and intimidation are last resorts, but it never wanted any of this.

The quivering, deadly body raises up, taller, bushier, broader. Narrow eyes locked onto yours while honing on your jugular. The hind quarters begin to tighten and coil into a striking gesture for its fatal lunge.

Then speaks with an omnipresent sound from everywhere:

Protect the Owyhee. 
You are a Friend. 

I am a myth, but my disappearance it not.  

Luck Dragons | MacKENZIE's Dragon's Nest
Haku in dragon form, Spirited Away film -
McKenzies Dragon Nest Blog

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Iberian Paganism, Megaliths of Portugal, and Unique Geology


Iberian Paganism, Portuguese Megaliths, and Unique Geology

Blueschist (not from Portugal, but California)
Twin Stone Circle (Cromeleque Dos Almendres) and Menhir
complex near near Evora, Portugal
                                                                                                                       


Fountain of the Idol in Braga, Portugal

My mom and sisters visited Portugal this month, from which "my mother's people left the Azores in the late 1800s" (from my sisters IG). In this post, I hash over some stuff that has been on my mind during their visit, while living vicariously.

Though the title begins with paganism, Im going to work backwards and start with geologic history (the rocks), then discuss the anthropomorphic use of those rocks for megalithic, and then get to the paganism connection.

My personal heritage may or may not connect to any of this, we dont know as the furthest my mother has been able to trace ancestry is to the Sao Miguel islands of the Azores. For now. I should point out that though bloodline and ancestry is part of us, it is not necessarily something to base our spirituality from, i.e. because possibly my ancestors practiced some sort of Iberian Paganism I am not required or obligated to adopt this path. It is the life of my ancestors that enabled mine, and I thank them for this. Research into our ancestry can help us to think of what our ancestors may have been like. Whether my grandfathers days in Hawaii, my mothers great grandmother on Sao Miguel, my possible great10 farming pagan family village, or my possible great50 animist family clan.

Unique Geologic Features of Portugal


While I could go on and on about the geologic history, I want to stick to a couple of really unique geologic features and lithologies that I am drawn to: The Messejana-Placensia Dike, the Ossa Morena-South Portugal Zone provinces, grantoid intrusions, and the volcanic Azores. The wiki was my starting point and led to me a half dozen academic papers I focused on and a lot of review of the Portuguese State department website on geology.

My favorite rocks are blueschist and serpentinite, metamorphic rocks that represent interesting tectonic environments and to me have an aesthetic and nostalgic significance. Similar to the tectonic environments of the Mesozoic of the Cascadia (accretionary tectonics), the Southern Portugal Zone is a complex of exotic terranes accreted to the Ossa Morena Zone to the north. Between them, the suture zone, is an ophiolite (oceanic lithosphere) and includes ecologites and blueshist! I suspect, because it is an ophiolite, it also contains serpentenized peridotite. Favorite rocks: check.

Some of my favorite landscapes to walk in are granitic, or even rhyolitic, bounder terrain, such as the Sierra Nevada of Calfornia, Sawtooths and Silver City (Owyhee) of Idaho, Wallowa of Oregon, etc. etc. for US examples. There are several batholiths and/or plutons of granatoids that dot the landscape of Portugal, but one that quickly drew my attention while researching the megalithic structures is the village of Monsanto. Built into and around the boulder field of a spheroidally weathered Paleozoic age granite pluton. The landscape looks breathtaking, mounded and grusey with lichen encrusted precariously balanced giant boulders. I had a sharp breath, tight throat, and eye flush when I saw it in video. Favorite [fantasy] landscape: check.

Intrusive dikes of all shapes and sizes are incredible features to behold. To see the frozen remains of an injected magma at outcrop scale is still, to me, one of the most impressive demonstrations of a first-principle in geology: cross-cutting relationships. The Messejana-Placensia Dike is a huge feature that cuts across the entire country into Spain, slicing from the far south coast of Portugal (through the city of Odemira) nearly all the way to Madrid--530 kilometers. It varies in width from as little as five meters to as wide as 200 meters and can be seen in satellite (with a careful eye) on Google Earth. Incredible! Even more incredible is the geochemical and textural consistency of the rock. The dike is tectonically related to the Central Atlantic Plume that left radiating tholeiitic dikes like this one outward from its initiation point of the tip of Florida. Favorite field feature: check.

All of those great geologic features are found on the European mainland Iberian Peninsula part of Portugal. But for a much longer time, I have been interested in the volcanic islands of the Azores far to the west nearer the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is considered of hot-spot origin, not necessarily a deeper mantle plume like Iceland but some anomalous volcanism, since about 7 million years ago, along the axis of the ridge. But my draw here is not because it is some sort of favorite geologic feature for me, it is personal.

Claimed by Portuguese and certainly known by the fourteenth century (Catalan Atlas), there is some faulty evidence the islands were inhabited prehistorically. Regardless, the islands are fairly young and of volcanic origin, mostly mafic rocks with a warm climate and so has deeply developed oxisol soils good for farming. That is how my ancestors ended up there, I imagine. Somehow fleeing the mainland to find a new opportunity on the islands. Mostly people from the Algarve and Alentejo regions of the mainland during the turmoil over the throne in the 1400s.

Maybe my ancestors immigrated to the islands early on, maybe they fled after the devestating terremoto de Lisboa in 1755 or another time before the mid-1800s, but probably some mix of both. Maybe they came from some of the provinces that interest me from above, maybe not.

I may never know what my ancestors were up to before that, but we have great record of what happened after. Those rich, volcanic soils that attracted agricultural opportunity of the Azores once again attracted my ancestors: the newly taken-over Hawaiian Islands of the United States. More on that another time.

The land is a sacred source of mana, to me. As an animist, geocentric pagan dirt-witch I am pretty annealed to rock holding significance for me. Somewhat romantically, I do love looking at and reading about paleolithic and neolithic societies, structures, and other archaeological investigation. I realize, because we have so little evidence to say anything for sure, this field is often full of speculation and many non-scientists lean toward conspiracy-style theories regarding ancient technological civilizations and/or aliens. I'm not going there, but chose to stay on the reserved side thinking our paleolithic-neolithic ancestor were very intelligent to build such things.

Megalithic Structures of Portugal

During my mother and sisters grand tour, they also made a point to visit the Evora Complex. This Megalithic mecca has been deemed "Iberian Mesopotamia" and the site is the oldest and larges of Europe. You can read a bit more about the details here, but one of the most striking details to me is this fact:

In the case of Evora, it can be seen that it is located on one of only two latitudes in the world at which, in some nights of the year, you get the full moon on the zenith. The other latitude is 51° 10' N, the same as Stonehenge. --from ancient-wisdom.com

Cool. Very cool. Archaeology is cool, as in trying to use the physical evidence at the site to discover details of the lifestyle of the people that erected, used, or reoccupied the site. Where any of them my ancestors? I dont know, but of course I would like to think so. Even if not, the culture of the region was undoubdely influenced by whatever was going on here. Even if none of my ancestors had ever visited the site, it is still very likely they were effected by it. Maybe hear stories. Maybe planned a pilgrimage. Maybe a traveler once described it. I will likely never know, but it is fantastical to think about it.

So what is know about this? This video contains an up-close and personal look at many sites across Portugal, but the videographer continues to undermine archaeology and spout opinion about each sites significance to Ley Lines. At one point, while standing under a 5.6 meter phallic rock, he caries on about how unlikely he thinks it is that this rock represents a penis and is related to pagan fertility-worship but is rather a connecting point in a global system of metaphysical energies and this was a kind of receiver and or transmitter for global civilizations to communicate. Ugh.

Archaeological interpretations are the best we have. We can interpret whatever we want, but it is the evidence that supports and interpretation that allows us to be more confident.Word from my mother and sister this morning confirms that there is much more literature available at the site. It is apparently a conservation area and there are plans to expand the visitor education aspects to contain reenactments or village life dioramas. When they return, I hope to hear more about this site from the mouth of my family. To hear the stories of the magnificent place, as maybe one of my ancestor may have. Will I plan a pilgrimage?

For now, I will keep this pilgrimage and this sacred sites in my dreams.


Maps showing the phases of completion of the site from the
early Neolithic to today.

Iberian Paganism

Whatever was going on here, it was big. Some people cared a whole lot about something to go through all this trouble. The most common, and obvious, interpretation is a religious practiced intertwined with lifestyle. These people were agriculturalists, farmers. They not only 'lived off the land' but they manipulated the land to increase their chances of survival. They were not hunter-gatherer types, well maybe there was some vestige of that lifestyle that remained, but this level of civilization, population, regional connectivity, and technology requires food abundance and access to abundant energy. As with most agrarian cultures, spirituality and religion become intertwined with the seasonal influences. In modern day Wicca, this has culminated in the blanket called the Wheel of the Year, which is kind of a mish-mash of bi-quarterly dates that correlate with both meteorologic change causing important food-growing change. Such as the onset of spring on the equinox, when the land becomes fertile to seed, the birds flutter and nest, and there balance of the day-night lengths. Human religion celebrated it, and other annual astrologic-meterologic-biologic changes observable in the natural system because they knew their lives depended on it. A precarious life, that of the farm villager peasant. Feast or famine. Food under lock and key, by the governing leader(s) and religious leader(s). These structures probably serve a technological function for the people that erected it and subsequently used it to tie them, the spirit world, goddesses and gods, and the agricultural wheel of the year together. Maybe it was measuring the day length to get an accurate expectation for food supplies. Maybe it was an elaborate offering system to specific deities for each day or season. Maybe it was an ancestral honoring structure, where stones were erected to honor the passing of that years dead. Maybe... this, maybe that. Maybe is mostly what we have.

So what else remains of that time? If there are claims, or maybes, what evidence is there to support? We see the structures, but where is the culture? Anywhere you go, where is the culture? People are wearing it, eating it, and speaking it. Culture is the peoples reflection of their landscape. So where are these people? Well, one of their potential ancestors is behind these words but I have been removed for so long there is no reasonable survival of culture. But local to Evora, there are families that have been there continuously. Is there reasonable survival of culture with them? Maybe. Kind of. Even if the direct descendant of the person responsible for physically erecting one of these stones was present, most of their lifestyle culture is influenced by the intervening thousands of years. So what of the stone-erectors survives?

Oral tradition and other record in stone.

"Fountain of the Idol" of Braga, northern Portugal. Interpreted as depicting the Goddess Nabia and God Tongoenabiagus.  

David A. Wacks of my alma matter, University of Oregon, has this blog post regarding the surviving oral traditions in today's Iberian culture: Lusitanian Mythology (what survives of the cultures Polytheist Paganism practice) in Spanish Ballads. This is part of his archives as "Pagan Iberia" and it seems there exists rich literature on the subject. Here is a wiki.

This old reddit thread led me to this blogger, Golden Trail: A wayfarer's path, is self reportedly Polytheist and Portuguese and has here collected some of the surviving mythology. The original thread was asking about 'CeltIberian Paganism', because largely the pagan peoples the Romans encountered they called Celts. Often the 'Celt' terminology is applied to language groups, cultural similarities, or again the Romans enemies on the periphery. So, though the far west Iberian Peninsula has some similarities to other Celt culture, there are abundant differences and it seems this cultural center had its own regional significance but was not recorded by the Romans. What remains, then, in the oral traditions and other stone carvings is just the mist of the mythology and the Iberian Pantheon. The above cited blogger, as a worshiper, does a great job to acknowledge that modern identities of these deities are not past ones. Again, it is only a mist that survives.

From wiki, via David Wacks blog. Map showing celtic migration
Also from wiki, showing Lusitanian area.
Back to me ;). If I am of Portuguese, loosely Iberian, descent then it is entirely possible and likely that some of my ancestors were involved in worship of one or more of the deities described there. Again, it doesn't compel or obligate me to adopt this pantheon simple because my ancestors once had, but to me it strengthens my dedication to a pagan identity. Not necessarily polytheist, but certainly spiritual roots that acknowledge and worships environmental changes.

My ancestors migrated and it is why I am not residing in the place they were. These ancestors of this time discussed above (which is many thousands of years) must have also migrated to reside there. These people, call the Portuguese, Lusitanian, Iberian, Celt, or other must have come from somewhere else, as Homo sapiens is know to have evolved in Africa and only left the Mother Continent some 60,000 years ago and reaching the tip of Iberian Peninsula only 25,000 years ago (source: map cited in Vox). Remember, mitochondrial eve: the mother of all humanity.

Statuette of Mitochondrial Eve
As long ago as 30,000 years ago, my ancestors may have arrived in the Iberian region. There is cave art in the Escoural Cave not far from the Evora stone-circles. The cave has sign of occupation as long ago as 50,000 years ago by Neanderthals and then a second occupation during the Upper Paleolithic (35,000 - 8,000 years ago) by anatomically modern humans. And of course the beautiful Chauvet Cave in southern France, a mere 1,300 kilometers, has the most spectacular cave art of the time. Overwhelmingly, academics agree that these folks were not agriculturalists (farmers) but were on the spectrum of hunter-gatherer types. Population was sparse, there was at least on other human in the same geographic region (Neanderthals), and this was the 'new frontier' of tribal expanse at some point. We may not know many specifics about the lifestyle and cultural customs of these people (there is literature on this, but too detailed for me to expand on here) but one thing is very clear: animals were very, very important--even sacred--to these people. Out of all this things that could have been so intricately drawn on these cave walls, it is the great Pleistocene beasts they chose to honor. Important, for food, clothing and tools. Plants are important, but they stay still and are not quite as evasive. Animals, however, are very evasive and every modern day hunter knows you much learn a bit about the lifestyle of the animal to be an efficient hunter (though not required today when you can drive up and blast it with a center-fire riffle). The 'religion' of these people is broadly categorized as animism: the belief that all things are animated with a spiritual essence.

Stunning cave art of the Chavet Cave, France
The people that I descend from, which at this point is becoming mythical, were once animist. Let me recapitulate: My mothers grandfather was born in Hawaii but his grandparents immigrated from the Azores Islands (Portugal). Sometime preceding the 1860s (one of the oldest records we have of our Azores ancestors), those greats likely came from mainland Portugal, which has a Christian history after the Celt-Iberian roots (which probably also had its fair share of inter-regional conflict). Those agricultural-astrological pagans were the descendant results of agriculture spreading into the area after there were already paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies (animists).

This is validating for me: significant rocks, megalithic structures, pagan religions and mythology, and animist cave art in Portugal. But why? Again, it is not like I not feel compelled or obligated to follow a specific spiritual lineage because my ancestors did. But, it is incredibly validating to arrive at my own religio-spiritual conclusions that my ancestors once had and practiced, as different as it looked.

I am Pagan.

A animist, geocentric pagan dirt-witch to be a bit more precise.

So where my ancestors, so were ALL of our ancestors. Everyone has a similar circuitous ancestral path back to a hunter-gatherer based lifestyle, which were/are usually animist.

When someone says "I prescribe to _____ religion because that is the religion of my ancestors", I wonder at what ancestors they are speaking of? Their parents? Their African ancestors of 65,000 years ago? Likely some arbitrary point in-between that they happen to have good information on.

My own ancestral history navigates from animism to paganism and polytheism to monotheism (much of my extended family is Christian of various denominations, and I once was as well) and I have reversed that trend. At any point during this reversal, I could say "Oh! Now I have arrived at the religion of my ancestors, and should follow that!". But in my own spiritual path, the religion of my ancestors has never been an interest; it is not why I've explore any path or information, except for this record here. Instead, I have followed a path that is intuitive for me... a druid path, a solitary witch path, and an eclectic pagan path. I've taken a lot of data points, constantly analyze those data and the current experience, and have arrived at my own, unique conclusions.

I feel like I honor so many of my ancestors by arriving at conclusions that navigate through their own conclusions of their respective age.

Full Circle.



Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Tribute to Block Mountain

A Tribute to Block Mountain


~In memory of Don Stirewalt (Ragnarr), field camper 2009. Passed in 2014~
Photo by Sammy
Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature
Rattlesnake poised
Photo by Marli Miller

The rattlesnakes, bull snakes, and fake-snakes,
the rabbits, deer, and bighorn.
The fossils of gastropods, lingula, and fish scales,
and the animated nighthawks, strikes, and Coopers hawks.
The spiny cactus, scratchy shrubs, and pokey grass.
Lichen through a hand lens
Sunburns, rainstorms, and wind gusts. Hail and lightning.

Follow the yellow-brick road.

The Basal Conglomerate, Kootenai
The Astragalus, Artemisia, and  Castilleja, 
the cicadas, crickets, and grasshoppers.
The spiders, flies, and wasps,
the lichen of orange, green, and gray.
Butterflies of yellow, white, and orange,
moths of black, blue, and yellow.

Meet you at the peanut for lunch.

Sand Hill Cranes

The musical Phosphoria, the incompetent Dinwoody, and amazing cobbles of Kootenai.
Large folds, medium folds, and small folds.
Deformed ooids, deformed cherts... deformed everything.
The parasitic, esss and zeee folds,
the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

Marie Antoinette in the field
Get high, stay high.

The mahogony, juniper, and willow,
the dinosaur bits and gastroliths.
There is a Rats nest, a ridge known as double din, and a sculpture of (headless) Marie Antoinette.
Hanging in Zieglar Gulch, Sandy Hallow, or Coal Draw.
Sky-mapping from 5645, Dr. Browns lounge chair, or the Tg hill.

I like the way it dips right thr.
Matthew, student-teacher, explains. 

White university vans, Tahoes, and Suburbans,
there are student, and teachers, and student-teachers.
There are student-animal trails, outcrops nearly polished from years of measure, and lost gear.
A time to learn from the rocks, apply your knowledge, and get to know yourself.

Leg day everyday.

Rachel Stands Stoically: Field Geologist
We have map boards, rock hammers, and Brunton compasses.
We wear boots, backpacks, and carry plenty of water.
We are don't follow trails, but go in search of data off the beaten path.
We accurately measure, map, and note.

Think. Map. Hike.
All. Day. Long.
Repeat.

Who else has walked here?
Many.

There is much to see, but much is still mystery.
Our planet is dynamic, though these rocks are static.
You must see with you mind (imagination) to hear the stories of the past etched in crystal.

Block Mountain, I honor you. I thank you. I love you.
Honoring Block Mountain

_________________________________________________________________________________



Ragnarr in geologic mapping mode.
Photo by Marli Miller.
No photo description available.
Ragnarr (Don) in armor for his last battle (Society for Creative Anachronism) in his last months of battling cancer. 
_________________________________________________________________________________

Back in 2009, I visited Block Mountain as a University of Oregon Geology Field Camp student. As I discussed in this recent post, I have been coming back to work with Field Campers ever since (pretty close...). At the time of that post, I didnt think I would be coming back. But as fate would have it, my colleague Marli Miller injured her leg and asked for assistance with the students in the field. So I got to come back for year 10!! 
Ten years, my gosh. Both neat and sad. 
Makes me think about what I have been doing for 10 years... 

Anyway, it was that somewhat depressing thought that inspired me to just look around and appreciate this amazing place and opportunity. After crying for a bit, I began to just listen to the birds and buzz of insects. Looking at all my plant friends, and rock friends... and this tribute spilled out into my notebook. 

There is nothing else like this. Hiking around, looking at rocks all day, while mapping the geospatial relations. A dream. It is meditative. 

"Thinkin' about rocks
Thinkin' about rocks, 

Thinkin' about rocks, 
pretty much all day"

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Earth Magick: for Health and Harmony

Earth Magick: for Health and Harmony  
by Sammy Castonguay, M.Sc. Geological Science

Block Mountain Field Area near Dillon, MT. A spectacular area to observe the record of ThisMagickalEarths extreme forces. Take a hike to a high ridge, and see beautiful rock types, large- and small-scale folding of the rock units, and distant snowy mountains. 


Independence! Joyous late summer nights, swimming holes, and full moons!  
           Earth Magick? In this article, we are simply promoting Earth-based practices to promote personal health; we refer to our practice as Earth Magick. Readers may find it helpful to review recent articles on sediments and specifically “Earth is the Alchemist…”[1].  
           Magick is a loaded term, but we promote a particular aspect. While we do not discount whimsical magic, such as wizard magic from the J.K. Rowling books, or forms of practical/ritual magick, like spell craft, divination, or sigil-charging, we focus on the measurable forms of Real Magic. In his book by that title[2], Dr. Dean Radin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences reveals detailed results in parapsychology. It turns out, our mind is the most powerful key to experiencing the magickal reality. Similarly, Biologist Richard Dawkins, in his 2011 book "The Magic of Reality", the scientist encourages the reader to look at the processes of nature as the real magic.  
           We specialize in providing special sediments with exotic geologic origins for this purpose: experiencing your Personal Magick. First and foremost, we supply information to engage the mind in the real, geological crystal world. Though we provide sediments, we encourage adventure. With maps we provide, hiking to sacred locations also improves our bodily health. Earthing, forest bathing and nature meditation are considered spiritual practices that have measurable effects on our well-being. This trifecta, engaging our mind, body, and spirit with the crystal world, is the magick. No matter your personal gnosis, whether a shaman, follower of one god or a pagan, there is little doubt among spiritual traditions that experiencing the grandeur of the natural world has a spiritual benefit.
           The adventure of respectful collection is center to what we provide, but the promotion of harmony between the elements is the whole picture. We promote sacred site visits[3], but it is with the underlying purpose that the experiences promote harmony within us, so we may reflect that harmony to our family, community, nation, and world. As a magickal placebo to put your mind to the work of harmony, we suggest this simple mixture:
1 part -TuffLeslie                     1/2 part - Serpent Passion
1/4 part - Mazama AirFall          1/8 part - Gaia’s Glitter
       
    Each rich in geologic history of Earth, each with a particular crystalline lattice, with an elemental connection to the other classical elements and respectfully collected[4]. Use this sediment as a base for burning cone incense (we recommend the local MoonShadow Apothecary), a top dressing to a potted plant, a Sunday offering, or casting a ritual circle.

ThisMagickalEarth.com
Science. Spirit. Practice.   

1 October 18 - June 2019 archived at ThisMagickalEarth.com/writing
2 Real Magick: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe, by Dr. Dean Radin
3 sacred sites: these are self-identified, not sensitive indigenous sites

4 see Notes on Sediment Collection at ThisMagickalEarth.com/silts-sands-and-gravels 



Friend of the Owyhee, Becky R., lost in the moment as she treks alongside Batch Lake over the basaltic lava flows of the Jordan Craters. The snow-capped High Owyhee in the background. 

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Reproduced from HedraNews July 2019, with permission.

Other articles archived at thismagickalearth.com/writing