News of the Past

September 2014
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Building A New Geomantic Elemental Oracle

By Frater Barrabbas Tiresius

Over the next several months I will be slowly and incrementally writing up the 256 octagrams that make up the Geomantic Oracle that I have invented. As I have previously stated, it is based rather loosely on the classical system of Geomancy. The Geomantic Elemental Oracle is a complete and comprehensive system of divination and magic that incorporates the ideas and structure of the I-Ching while maintaining a more western and elemental approach to this type of divination system. You can read my previous article here, and this should give you a pretty good background to what I am proposing to do with the Oracle.

I have to admit that it’s quite exciting to give birth to a new Oracle. I am not just following what has been established by tradition, even though there is a precedence for me to create such a divination system. Certainly, there is a need for it, and I feel a special calling to build it, even though it will take months or maybe even a year or more to complete. I believe that this massive project will be well worth the effort since the result is already turning out to be quite compelling. What I have decided to do is to share a completed octagram Oracle chapter here and in future articles so that you can see the results of my work. I think that you will be as excited about these fascinating octagrams as I have been in deriving and writing about them. Each chapter contains the Octagram, its attributions, keyword, and then a description, judgement and finally, an image. When completed, there will be 256 of them, and I suspect that they will run the complete spectrum of all possible human experience.

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Pagan Service

By Nimue Brown

Service, that fine Druid (and others) practice of turning up and giving your best because it’s needed. Service to Gods, land and tribe, not for any personal gain, but because it is the right thing to do. It has to be open hearted and unconditional, or it isn’t service. I’ve been lying awake this morning poking this as an issue, because it so often goes badly for me. I’ll willingly show up to whatever needs doing, pour heart and soul, everything I have into doing the best job I can, and at the end am left bruised, exhausted, and quite often feeling that it wasn’t enough, or that it was somehow an imposition. People who will ask for everything I’m capable of and more, and then belittle, shame and/or push me away for having given that. Doing it freely is one thing, doing it and then being wounded for doing it, is another.

Service needs a context to exist, and that context is all about honourable relationship. It’s all too easy, when someone gives freely, to take that for granted. Much of mainstream culture encourages aggressive, acquisitive, competitive thinking. When that is the norm, the person who gives freely is easily branded as weak, foolish, and fair game for exploitation. If you can get something for nothing out of a person, that makes you clever, by regular standards and it will make you more successful while the person who gives won’t get ahead.

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Complications and Confusions in Discussions of the Goddess

By Carol P. Christ

Although writing in patriarchal Greece from a patriarchal perspective, Hesiod said in his Theogony or Birth of the Gods that Gaia or Earth alone was the mother of the Mountains, Sky, and Sea. With the male Sky she gave birth to the next generation of deities known as the “Titans,” who were overthrown by Zeus. Hesiod’s was a “tale with a point of view” in which “it was necessary” for the “forces of civilization”–for him represented by warrior God and rapist Zeus–to violently overthrow and replace earlier conceptions of the origin life on earth and presumably also to overthrow and replace the people and societies that created them.

With the triumph of Christianity in the age of Constantine in the 4th century AD, Christus Victor replaced Zeus in the cities, while the religion of Mother Earth continued to be practiced in the countryside. Over time, many of the attributes of Mother Earth were assimilated into the image of Mary, and priests began to perform rituals earlier dedicated to Mother Earth, such as blessing the fields and the seeds before planting. In the Middle Ages “the Goddess” re-emerged within Western Christianity in devotion to the Virgin Mary, the female saints, and figures such as Lady Wisdom, at the same time that the history of the Goddess was being erased.

In the middle of the 19th century, in Das Mutterrecht (The Mother Right), J. J. Bachofen stunned the scholarly world with his theory that matrilineal kinship, matrilineal inheritance, and reverence for the Great Mother were to be found at the origins of civilization. Bachofen challenged the view that patriarchy and the worship of male Gods had existed “from the beginning .”

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Be Your Own Herbal Expert - Part 5

By Susun S Weed

Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used — and our neighbors around the world still use — plant medicines for healing and health maintenance. It’s easy. You can do it too, and you don’t need a degree or any special training. Ancient memories arise in you when you begin to use herbal medicine — memories which keep you safe and fill you with delight. These lessons are designed to nourish and activate your inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.

[Snip] Why Use Herbal Vinegars?

Herbal vinegars are an unstoppable combination: they marry the healing and nutritional properties of apple cider vinegar with the mineral – and antioxidant- richness of health-protective green herbs and wild roots. Herbal vinegars are tasty medicine, enriching and enlivening our food, while building health from the inside out.

Herbal vinegars are far better for the bones and the heart than soy beverages. They have a reputation for banishing grey hair and wrinkles. Sprayed in the armpits, herbal vinegars are highly effective deodorants. As a hair rinse (try rosemary or lavender vinegar) they add luster and eliminate split ends.

Anything vinegar can do, including clean the kitchen, herbal vinegars can do better.

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A (Pagan) Wind in the Willows

By Jason Mankey

In many ways there are two different versions of the Greek God Pan. There’s the classic understanding of Pan: Arcadian, son of Hermes, and god of shepherds, panic, lust, and masturbation. I’ve never been a shepherd but I understand those three other impulses reasonably well. This is also the “darker” Pan, the one who rapes nymphs and causes armies to fall on their own swords just for entering his domain. Pan is often portrayed as sweetness and light today, but that’s not how he was understood in Ancient Greece.

The kinder, gentler version of Pan many of us know today comes courtesy of early Nineteenth Century England and can be directly traced to the Romantic Poetry of the period. In the writings of Keats, Shelley, Hunt, and Wordsworth Pan was transformed from a more minor untamed god into the protector of the eternal English Countryside. Certainly the Ancient Greeks liked Pan, but they never quite saw him as the embodiment of all nature. In the Nineteenth Century Pan went from god of the shepherds (the Indo-European root word “pa” means shepherd) to god of all (which is how the word pan translates in Modern Greek). The change in Pan’s disposition can be looked at in a number of ways. The easiest one might be that of “artistic license,” with Pan becoming the English god of nature through a misunderstanding of his name. That’s certainly possibly, but I’ve always believed that it most likely came about due to a change in the god himself.

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Using the Power: Using Your Mind

By Uncle Thor

The prime mover of all magickal work is your mind. Almost all of the words and charms and items only serve to engage that faculty of mind that sets the power in motion. While some objects may have properties which can affect the Astral, the greatest input comes from Mind.

The Power is always there. Getting it to do what you desire requires effort yon your part. The most common means of doing this is a prayer, charm, spell, treatment, etc. Each of these is a deliberate act intended to evoke the power for your benefit. Despite the claims of some religions that their method is “holy” and others are not, they are all similar in their intent. The technology may differ, but the difference is not really that much.

A working has three phases: to contact the power, control it and direct it to its intended goal. Three words are all you need: Contact, Control, Direct. For instance, if you wanted to work for Healing, you would first address the power according to your beliefs. A Christian might invoke Jesus or one of the saints. A Hermeticist would look to the Element related to the cure he seeks. A Heathen might invoke the Goddess Eir or use the Runic forces of the Bjork and Lagu Runes. Metaphysicians would seek the aspect of Mind that related to the cure, such has Life and Strength. As you see, all are different symbols of the power, yet all work along the same lines.

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Pagans and Print

Problems arising from learning Pagan religion by monotheistic means

By Gus diZerega

It used to be simple. Wiccans and NeoPagans in general were polytheists in contrast to Christians and other mostly monotheistic religions. NeoPagan polytheists usually spent little time on theology and considerably more creating and practicing rituals. Most of us became Pagans by virtue of personal attraction enriched by our involvement with a teacher or a coven or similar group.

Today many NeoPagans first learn about our traditions from books or the internet. The net in particular has expanded easily available information about our religion but at a cost. That cost is to be severed from NeoPagan history and practice except as available through pixels or the printed word. Instead of starting with learning and practice with others and then studying written sources, many NeoPagans now go from the study of texts to practice. They hope to interpret experiences they anticipate having through the texts they have read rather than judging whether the text illuminates or contradicts the experiences they have had.

Monotheistic biases

This modern text oriented approach is comfortable for most of us, and its dangers are hidden by this very comfort. It is a monotheistic way of seeking to learn a polytheistic religion. I think emphasizing the written word as a reliable guide to our practice is at odds with the logic of Pagan religion and carries a very real cost if we are not aware of the problem.

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The Scandinavian Cailleach

By Kirsten Brunsgaard Clausen

November. A new year has just begun. The harvest is happily stored. Mother Earth will give no more. The dancing colours of summer are gone. Frost has nipped off the head of all living things. Finally winter! Everything sleeps – from the tiny insect to the big bear. Skeletons of trees stretch out their branches, black and bare. Gray are the heavy clouds, white the frozen ground. Silence. Death … then suddenly – a blood-curdling shriek cuts through the air. Immediately the wind throws back an howling answer. A moment later earth and sky raise a roar together. A tumult of dry leaves and frozen plastic bags whirl round in the storm. People who lose their footing are swept aside. Snowflakes whip in the faces like nails of glass. Now She rules: “the Kælling”! Now is Her time – Her playtime. On the backs of foaming wolves and ragged boars She rides forward . She is the Bone-Mother, the age-old Wise One. Wild and playful. Who would she need to make up to? Was She not the first on Earth, dancing here long before any living creature took its first steps? She is surely older than time. Oh, doesn’t She remember the day She wrestled down this conceited warrior god, the high Thor himself, god of the newcomers, the Aesir! Isn’t She Herself the very Grandmother Hel? Elle they call Her. For sure She is the great-great-grandmother of everything. She need not bow to anybody. Ha-haaaa! Her mouth full of yellow teeth laughs. Ugly as sin She is, if you see only her outside. Tough, wrinkled skin covers Her old bones. No rosy cheeks. That was long ago! Her gnarled fingers crook into the fur of the beast. You will see Her flying, yelling, through the air – in stories from Germany – with a deafening noise and fury, with shrieking instruments and howling beasts.

The air, the air! The storm is Her true element. One of them.

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Druid or Pagan?

By Nimue Brown

Which descriptive title I use for myself depends a lot on who I’m talking to. In conversations with people who are neither Pagan nor part of the non-Pagan strands of Druidry, I try to stay away from religious identity. There are odd exceptions – people interested in sharing ideas and trading experiences with no judgement or desire to convert… but mostly it’s not a topic I bring up, and if it comes up, I tend to skim over it because trying to explain what I think takes a lot of effort, and in those contexts, it is often pointless anyway.

When I’m talking to other Druids, I tend not only to say ’Druid’, but to qualify that a bit. There are many different kinds of Druidry: it means very different things to different practitioners whilst having a heartwood of commonality that isn’t easily expressed. I’m OBOD-trained, but I look nothing like a stereotypical OBOD Druid – I don’t do robes, much less white ones. I don’t do organised ritual much, and when I do, I prefer to be free form, so ‘feral’ and ‘improvised’ are also frequently words on my list.

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The Linguistic Origins of Sacred Space

By Sarah Veale

In the Roman Empire, sacred space was not limited to physical structures—the gods were everywhere, and nearly all facets of life were imbued with the sacred.

There were however, some spaces which were more sacred than others. These spaces were known as templum, a word that looks an awful lot like our modern “temple” but actually refers to a segment of space deemed sacred, rather than a building or something like that (to which the term aedes would apply).

In On the Latin Language, Varro attempts to explain where this term came from. He says the following:

The word templum is derived from the word ‘to gaze’ [tueri], and so likewise is the word ‘to contemplate’ [contemplare]…the notion that a temple [templum] is a consecrated building [aedes sacra] seems to have stemmed from the fact that in the city of Rome most consecrated buildings are temples… (Varro, On the Latin Language, VII.8-10)

Varro’s explanation connects the word “templum” to the actions of augurs, who ultimately determine the boundaries of sacred space. They can do this in many ways, but here Varro details the establishing of sacred boundaries by trees, and how one sees the physical space between them. Basically, the auger eyeballs a specific space, chooses a few boundary points (in this case, trees), and designates that area as holy. Easy peasy.

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