Thursday, February 28, 2019

Earth is the Alchemist making the aether that is YOU!

Earth is the Alchemist making the aether that is YOU! 
by Sammy Castonguay, M.Sc. Geological Science


Equinox is upon us! Balance returns after the cold, long, dark winter. The Earth’s soil is fertile to seed and our soil-brains are fertile to idea-seeds. Spring is a great time of year to become attuned to the interaction of the classical elements of Earth Systems.          
Many ancient and modern cultures refer to the Four Classical Elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth, or some manifestation of these. Hinduism (tantra), Egyptian (Maat), Greek (roots), and today's Dagarain West Africa or Navaho Voices of North America (Medicine Wheel). Held sacred for all time, but undoubtedly modern neopaganism and New Age spirituality are doing a part to revive the presence. Even pop-cultural uses it as source material. One of my personal favorites is the kid-oriented cartoon Avatar: The LastAirbender series. It is surprisingly philosophical: focused on harmony between the elements, if one prevails then balance is lost. There are many references, ancient and modern, to the Fifth Element: in Alchemy it is known as quintessence, aether, or spirit; in the sci-fi film it is love; and in some neopagan traditions it is life.
In the Earth System Sciences, we think a lot about the integration between systems of Earth: Heliosphere, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Geosphere, and Biosphere.
·       Helio- The Solar System and central thermonuclear furnace
                      light, heat, and energy ----------------------------------------->      [Fire]
·       Atmo - gaseous phase of the Earth, the sky
                    Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, and Carbon Dioxide ------------>      [Air]
·       Hydro – all water of earth, the trinity of phases:
                      vapor gas, liquid, and solid ice ------------------------------->   [Water]
·       Geo - mineral earth*, this big gravitational mass.
                     silicate crust, ultramafic mantle, metal core ---------------->     [Earth]
The Fifth ‘sphere’ of Earth Systems Sciences is the Bio or Ecosphere. -------->     [LIFE] 
             The Living-Community system: growing, carbon-based Kingdom of Life that absorb fire, air, water, and earth. This sphere is only and essentially a combination of the above. We are a product of that system. This Equinox, find balance in mixing the systems of Earth inside of you, creating your life.
           In your next self-meditation session, for a simple two minutes:
            - Move wildly: thinking about the energy blasted here by the Sun                   Fire.
            - Breathe deeply: thinking of the gases that fill you                                           Air. 
            - Drink fully: thinking of the liquid-vapor-ice trinity molecule                      Water.
            - Lick a salt: thinking of the solid crystalline crust                                           Earth.
            - Eat a fruit: thinking of the nourishment in the combination                            Life.
This Magickal Earth is forging the classical element aether inside of you.
WE are a product of the systems of Earth… not the other way around. 
Science. Spirit. Practice.

Reproduced from HedraNews March 2019, with permission. Originally titled "Earth Systems and the Classical Elements". 
Other articles archived at 
More dialog on this subject (Classical Elements and Earth Systems) can be found on that website under Five Sacred Things. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Question Series - r/paganism

Question series - r/paganism

Greetings! Each week for 10 weeks posts a simple question to allow us the opportunity to share your interpretation of your pagan path. The idea is to organically explore the breadth of self-identified pagans. Clearly reddit is not the best cross-section of the entire pagan world, but I hope we will see enough diversity here to demonstrate our similarities and differences.

The intent is not to debate, to elevate your path above others, or to oppress paths. Stating your opinion, or the stance of your tradition or doctrine, is fair game but it should be understood as your own perspective. It is my personal belief that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ path, but some followers of a particular tradition may believe their tradition is the most complete answer. Avoid dissuading or convincing, but state your belief on the subject. I’ve been told enough times that my path “is not paganism” or is “garbage, hippy new-age bullshit”. My path is not validated by history and I invent it as I go using my intuition and connection to my interpretation of the divine. Truly, this can best be described as the path of the Druid, which falls under the ‘umbrella’ of paganism (as most interpret it).

Call me selfish, but I am continually motivated by the practices of others. I like to adopt new practices and discard that do not fulfill me. Some things that I am newly introduced to I will take to extremes and read everything I can on the subject, but admitting I might adopt others with little to no context from which that practice arose. I ALWAYS pay credence to the source of the knowledge, either from the individual or their source. In other words, I would like to learn of your practices or beliefs and have my own free-will to pursue to my own spiritual desire. To perform Tarot, must one know the entire history and origins of the method? To cultivate a relationship with Ninmah, must you read all of the accessible archaeological and historical records of her? To use your use your wand, walk that circle, or chant those words… rate the importance of knowing the history behind the act. (This is the primary question of Week 2 – “How important is knowledge of history and pre-history in your path?”). Please excuse me if this seems rude, pretentious, presumptive to you. I just have questions and interests and value input from many sources. I’m clearly not well versed any much of the large world of paganism, except for that which has entered the ebbs and flows of life in the last two-decades as an adult. You, a person wherever, seems important enough to me to solicit for an opinion.
Couple of definitions (these are, of course, debatable, but are defined here as they are intended in the questions):
  • Use of “path” a spiritual belief system or practice that lacks a specific tradition, or is not followed, or is eclectic.
  • Use of “tradition” to describe to a type of pagan path (religion) that is re-constructionist (Celtic Polytheism) in nature OR has a clear, published way of practicing (e.g. Wicca, Divine Feminism, Triple Deist, etc.).
  • Use of “pagan” to refer to a person that would be described by a monotheist third-party as such OR a person that self-identifies as such AND is not a pure monotheist. Drawing from broad sources like:  (1998, Bridger and Hergest), (2014, Beckett) and (2018, AHA).
  • Use of “paganism” in reference to the spiritual belief system or practice of an above described “pagan”
  • Use of “pure monotheist” as a person with the specific belief that one and only-one god exists and is to be worshipped, in reference to but not exclusively Islam, Christianity, Judaism.
  • Use of “divine” to refer to anything supernatural or natural that can be revered (by anyone)
  • Deities”, “Goddesses and Gods”, and “pantheon” are used somewhat interchangeably in reference to the readers “pagan” view of the “divine”.

For a look forward, the 10-week content is already up on my blog and website. I’ll also cross-post this to other subs and social media, but my suggestion is to funnel the discussion to r/paganism. Every time you feel like ‘upvoting’ someone’s comment, instead type few words.

1. What is your tradition or path?
a.       Give a short synopsis of the pagan path you follow:
                                                               i.      E.g. Does it have a name? How did you discover the path and what drew you? What is the most important aspect separating this path from others?
                                                             ii.      If you are a Babylonian Reconstructionist, can you give us a brief description of your pantheon (as you have researched)? If you are eclectic, which sources do you draw from and why?
b.       I know, there is flair to communicate this on the sub, but I’d like this to be an opportunity to share your interpretation of your path.

2.   How important is knowledge of history and pre-history in your path?
a.       Do you find it personally important to read the ancient texts of your path?
b.       Do you find it personally important to understand the cultural history of how the path/tradition was derived?

3.       Is your path nature-focused?
a.       A common misunderstanding is that all pagan paths are nature-focal.
b.       What are the goddesses and gods in your pantheon that are not “based in nature”?
c.       Personally, it is my reverence for natural phenomenon that forms the core of my pagan practice and beliefs.

4.       Are your Goddesses and Gods separate from nature?
a.       First of all, what is your interpretation of the word “nature”?
b.       Are the deities “of nature” or specifically different?
c.       Is any part of your pantheon specifically separated from said “nature”?

5.       Do you use any form of “magick” in your practice?
a.       First of all, what is your interpretation of the word magic, magik, magick, etc.?
b.       What type of magick do you use?
c.       Divination?

6.       Do the deities have morphology?
a.       Is there a ‘shape’ or ‘form’ to your deity? Material, nonmaterial? Does it change?
b.       Do you draw or imitate deities? Do you like thinking of the ‘shape’ or ‘form’ you described?
c.       Are they more abstract? Exist in a completely non-rational and non-material space?
d.       What is the power of your mind with your connection to deities? Is your imagination of said ‘form’ more important, their ‘light’, their guidance, your telepathic connection?

7.       What is the relationship between your path and the “modern scientific paradigm”?
a.       The cultural meme suggests Religion and Science are in a ‘battle’ of philosophy. Not only is this not true, it is only promoted by the arrogance on either side of the issue. I’m sure we have all been subject to “defending our beliefs against atheists”, “defend our beliefs to the monotheists”, and even occasionally have the need to defend yourself from pagan-gatekeepers that let you know your not doing it right “like my garbage, hippy dippy new-age shit” and their theirs is more 1) historically accurate, 2) culturally accurate, 3) scientifically accurate, and even 4) moral superiority.
b.       This is really touchy one that rings all kids of “atheism” bells for people, trying to apply material rationalism to the spiritual plane. There have been many ‘discussions’ on this at this sub, but the point here is to be proud of your own gradient and how you respond to external stimuli.

8.       Do your deities evolve?
a.       This question can be interpreted in several ways, but what I am interested in the cultural evolution of the Greek Pantheon into the Roman Pantheon.
b.       What is your interpretation of the relationship between these entities?
c.       For example, as Hermes culturally transitioned to Mercury, did the actual god change? Was there a new god born out of this (Mercury)? Or do Mercury and Hermes represent the same god (to you)?
d.       These are fuzzy personal relationships. E.g. Historically, the Roman pantheon was born out of the Greek. But some pagans specifically choose to stay exclusive to certain pantheons and not place importance on the evolution ‘to’ or ‘out-of’ that deification.
e.       The question can also be interpreted in a more biologic sense. Have the gods evolved as human though has evolved? Are some of todays American Gods (Neil Gaiman) the SAME as some of the past? Or are they completely different entities?

9.       What is the role of the ‘mystical experience’ in your path?
a.       A mystical experience can also be described as a ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ experience
b.       Do you or have you ever sought a ‘mystical experience’ state of consciousness to enhance your spirituality? How important is this (or not) to you?
c.       Ritual? Chanting? Dancing? Trans? TaiChi? Psilocybin? Fasting? Do you perform magick?

10.   How many deities do you recognize?
a.       Do you follow a very specific pantheon? Have you a classical set of deities you worship? Is there a finite number? Infinite? Cross-cultural?
b.       Have you ever ‘deified’ anything? As in, ‘created’ a goddess to worship? If not, how do you feel about this?
c.       In Week 8, evolution of the gods was on the discussion… if Gods do not evolve, to they appear when a new situation, emotion, object arises?

END   To what degree is your path related to others that have been discussed?
a.       Do you share similarities in belief with other paths and traditions presented in the last 10 weeks? Is this important to you?
b.       Do you identify with any connection to other religious paths, Buddhism, Christianity, Atheism?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Imbolc Season: Reawakening the Fire

Imbolc Season 
reawakening the fire

Image: unknown author, googleimages yields no concrete results. 

Merry Imbolc! WTF am I talking about? Good question!

Early February is a time of many celebrations, traditions and feasts that have a central theme of 'the reawakening of fire': from the Sun adding more fire to the Earth to the passionate affirmations of Lusty-Love.

A few specific celebrations:

  • Groundhog Day: traditionally celebrated February 2nd in the US and Canada. Brought to North America by German immigrants, where the badger is the forecasting animal, it is a superstition centered around the animal seeing its shadow and forecasting the length of winter [1]. 
  • Candlemas: Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus to the Temple "accordance with Leviticus 12: a woman was to be presented for purification by sacrifice 33 days after a boy's circumcision" [2] also know as 
    • The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus, recall Jesus referred to himself as "The Light of the World"[8] OR 
    • The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary 
  • Chinese New Year: traditionally celebrated "the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February"[3]. 
  • Valentines Day: a tad bit later in the month, traditionally celebrated on February 14th "Originating as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus" and to celebrate "romantic love in many regions around the world" [4]. As referenced by Chaucer, this holiday has roots in the Roman
  • Lupercalia: "observed in the city of Rome on February 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility" [5]. This Roman celebration in turn had roots in the earlier Greek celebration of 
  • Lykaia: a celebration of the forest dwelling, joyful and sexual Pan and was a "primitive rite of passage" of adolescent men to stave off becoming werewolves (cannibalism) [6], though probably celebrated in May.
  • Brigid's Day: or later known as Saint Brigid's Day, is a "Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It is held on 1 February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox"[7]. It is this traditional celebration that is the origin of the word Imbolc. Though the entymology of the word is unclear, "the most common explanation is that is comes from the Old Irish i mbolc (Modern Irish i mbolg), meaning "in the belly", and refers to the pregnancy of ewes"[7].
However,  Imbolc in our modern society is  reference to the cultural event revival by many Neopagan and/or Wiccan groups. Though the term and most direct origin is in the Celtic tradition of Brigid's Day, it is clear that this mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox is celebrated in some way in several modern and ancestral cultures. 

In the modern Gardnerian Wiccan tradition, for example, Imbolc is a celebration to acknowledge our confirmation in the Return of the Light [9]. The Wheel of the Year follows the cycle of the Sun's intensity and how the Earth's life responds to this. After the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Sun has been reborn metaphorically as the Sun is no longer lowering in the sky but instead rising. However, even the close observer can barely tell the lengthening of days or the height of the Sun until it is quite obvious... thus the time of Imbolc as a confirmation of the returned light! It is quite clear by the second new moon after the Winter Solstice that the light has returned. Though Earth remains locked in winter cold, it is now very clear there is a spring-time in the future. Time to celebrate a New Year! 
That is my interpretation, anyway. 

So why all the reference to romantic love? 
Well, what is better in winter than snuggling under the sheets with your lover and blowing off the outdoor responsibilities in favor of another love session?
Winter can be hard on relationships as we spend soooo much time in-doors and may suffer from cabin-fever or seasonal depression. Like the Yule or Christmas holiday, it is really nice to those around us to reaffirm our likeness for them by exchanging gifts and battle away those grinchy feelings. By this time in Winter, we also need a little celebratory boost in our relationships. 
Though Ostara is the traditional Wiccan celebration of fertility because by that time it is very apparent the Earth was re-awoken from Winter slumber, the seeds are germinating, the birds may already have nests with eggs, and other mammals may appear very full with pregnancy.
Well, by Ostara how did all these animals or the Earth become such a great visual representation of fertility with round bellies, eggs, and full udders or breasts??
Again, back to a great Winter activity SEX! 
While the rut for many ungulate mammals is in the fall, 1) humans are a much different animal and 2) sex isn't just about making babies and is often an affirmation of the continued love and attraction. Is'nt that what modern Valentine's Day seems to be about in our culture? In the Hollywood version, buy a dozen roses; plan a candle-lit sexy evening with foreplay of chocolate and whispering sweet-nothings to affirm your dedication, love, an importantly lust for your partner. This lust part is clear in the Greek origins of V-day (Imbolc Season) in relation to the faun-God Pan who is known in mythology to lure maidens to the forest with his gay-music, handsome appearance, and musky aroma. 

So, how one might celebrate Imbolc? There are several existing resources for rituals or celebration suggestions for the Wiccan or Celtic Neopagan oriented, but those on a more eclectic path might be interested in a variety of ways to celebrate. Luckily, many aspects of this holiday are already broken into seperate modern cultural holidays! 
  • To celebrate the coming or spring and the sun's new intensity, we have Groundhog Day and Candlemas (Candlemas when metaphorically the story of deity-Jesus is applied to the actual Sun instead of the Son): tune in to the clarity of the sky and the animals responses, tune in to Punxsutawney Phil the Pennsylvania semi-mythical groundhog, and take your candles to your church [10] to be blessed in ritual for the rest of the year. 
  • To celebrate the affirmation of a new solar year, we can celebrate a the Chinese New Year: clean your house "in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck" [3]
  • To celebrate the affirmation of love and passion, we can celebrate Valentine's day in all its commercial glory (or not): make that plan mentioned above with an emphasis on the verbal foreplay, spice up your interaction with your lover with a couple nice honey-dos, or bask in the glory that is yourself, your own awesomeness, the person you need to love the most and give yourself a pleasing masturbation session [11].   

How did we celebrate Imbolc this year? 

This 2019 Imbolc we did some of the seemingly traditional things we have done for years, but as the kids get older or situations change each Celebration comes with small bits of new. 
  • I made some new candles over the weekend: Serpent Passion, Imbolc edition. 
  • My loving lioness spouse worked Sunday (6am - 2pm) after a crappy night of sleep. I didn't plan some big and elaborate welcoming party, but this particular day I had a platter of snacks and an alcoholic beverage ready for her arrival. Also prepared to offer her a nap while I did some errands for something with the kids. Point it, I know what she needs to feel 'pampered' and provided it for her in a way according to her liking. 
  • A simple request was made for dinner "some carbs and cheese". Though curry was on the menu, I whipped up some scalloped potatoes to hit the spot. Instead of carrot curry, made some gajar halwa (spicy carrot pudding with pistachios). 
  • After dinner, we did out usual tradition of lighting several small candles and placing one in each room of the house. This year many of the candles were reject non-scented beeswax that I didn't want to put on the market. It was really nice for everyone to be so aware of what was going on. Our two oldest hve done this several times by now and so have memories, while the youngest (3) was actually able to participate more wholly this time. It is always a nice sensation to have the lights in the house down but to see the dancing shadows of candle light emanating from each room. While the candles burned...
  • We ate our almost Crescent Cakes. This is a recipe I picked up from Scott Cunningham's book [9] and was recommended for Imbolc. Ground almonds, some flour, almond extract, an egg and some honey... simple yet scrumptious. This is my favorite tradition because I served these at my very first Imbolc themed house part in Eugene, OR in 2007. For some reason at that time, I decided to incorporate something I read in my favorite Tom Robbins Novel...
  • The 'king of the bean'! Since that first party, each time I make these I stick a dried bean in one of the cakes. The one to score the cake with the bean is deemed 'Queen of King of the Bean' for the year! Usually this ends up as a fight between the kids and one of them seems to always pick up each cookie looking for the spot where I inserted the bean. None-the-less, I enjoy it. In the book 'Jitterbug Perfume', the main character Alobar is chosen in such a way (chomping into a dried bean in a cake) to be the 'King of the Bean' in a small Christianized-pagan town he lived in after running from his true fate as King of another land. He soon found out the Bean King was to be sacrificed at the end of the celebration... bummer. In our family tradition, no one is sacrificed (yet!) but we use the christening as a form of spiritual responsibility. The Queen of King of the Bean should be serious in their endeavor of spreading light to the rest of the family. 
  • After eating our cakes in candle-lite darkness, and a little fun with the whipped cream can, the candles were blown out (3 year old got most of 'em!). 
  • After bedtime, ... well, I will leave those details out! But intimacy with loving hands and the connection between lovers is a theme here... make up your own details. They pail in comparison to reality. 
At this point, I am positive I get way more spiritual pleasure out of this than anyone else (well, except the after bedtime part...) but the kids have grown up in a household with these stories, with this ritual-like ceremony, and seem to enjoy the act if not the reasons behind it. Still, the Imbolc season continues! Later this week we are joining a friend-family in their annual Chinese New Year celebration and Im sure we will cook up some spicy Valentine's Day plans. 

Merry Imbolc Season! Feel your fire, and light one for someone else... 

After worshiping the Naked-Lady-of-the-Bedroom patron goddess, I though I'd add this humble pop-culture reminder of the Goddess: 
God is a Woman

References and footnotes: 
[10]: your church is whatever you make of it. I typically refer to a Sunday hiking spot along the Owyhee River as my current 'church'. Maybe its a forest. Maybe its a building. 
[11]: masturbate in whatever fashion brings you the most joy and affirmation of your love for yourself, so that is not an exclusively erotic type of physical masturbation. Maybe its candlelit wine, some smooth jazz and a cry-session, maybe that is shopping or two-pints of Ben & Jerry (the only BJ you can give yourself), of naked in a cold snowbank while fervently pumping, yelling a magickal Sigil and staring at the star Sirius. Its your pleasure, affirm your love to yourself by showing yourself you know how to please it.