News of the Past

April 2014
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Types of Divine Being

By P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

[Snip] The following is by no means comprehensive, but I think it’s a start in terms of trying to understand some of the distinctions between different types of divine being, or as some folks might prefer, holy powers, which we in modern polytheism might engage with in different fashions.

Deities: Possibly the most commonly understood, and yet least specific. What actually makes a deity/god/goddess? Some recent definitions I’ve heard from people that might be more useful to consider are that gods have job descriptions and titles associated with them, whereas many of the other varieties of divine being don’t. There may be something to that…

Ancestors: Humans who are no longer living pretty much sums this one up. Some ancestors can become deity-like in themselves (as some people say about Antinous–but, since he was called hero, god, and daimon in the ancient world, I think one can’t quite say that’s true), or can become elevated in various ways…and some of the distinctions that I give further in this list might pertain to these sorts of ancestors. But, anyway…

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Is Choosing Religion a Modern Phenomenon?

By Sarah Veale

[Snip] Ask anybody involved with the study of religion, and they will probably tell you this: Choosing religion is a modern phenomenon which is dependent on there being multiple religions to choose from in the first place. The United States seems like a good place for this to happen. So does Canada. However, the chances that someone chooses a religion outside the one they were born with are very low. In America, it is something like 10% of the population. The conclusion is that it is very rare for an individual to question one’s faith or have different spiritual inclinations even when the option presents itself.

Option, however, plays a big part, and social reinforcement can inhibit individual choice. In the past, there were strong incentives for staying in your religion, namely, staying alive. In medieval Europe, if you happened to be on the wrong side of church dispute, you could be accused of—and put to death for—witchcraft. According to H.C. Erik Midelfort, this was the case in Germany where “witch hunting was part of a program of vigorous centralizing state building and of antiaristocratic politics.” More recently, there remain places in society where religion is used as a tool of politics (ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the conflict between Sunni and Shite Muslims in Iraq).

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Polytheism Is Not Relativism

By P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

[Snip] I should note here that my own notions about and understandings of polytheism have not been static, and are not currently what they have been at various points in the past. I think my evolving understanding of it — in the context of both my own deepening experiences with deities and other varieties of divine being, and my increased knowledge of the long legacy of polytheism in human history through many different cultures — is better now than it was when I first started out as a modern Pagan more than twenty years ago, and when I first started out as an Antinoan more than eleven years ago. I’ve gone through periods of softer polytheism, and even monism at certain points, usually under the influence of people that I considered to be my spiritual superiors in whom I placed a great deal of trust and questioned very little (which is what they wanted, despite arguing to the contrary!). I wish that my current refined and nuanced understanding had been with me at a much earlier date, as it would have saved me a great deal of difficulty.

The fundamental difference between monotheism and polytheism — perhaps it need not be said — is that there are many deities rather than only one. The natural inferences that follow are manifold, but one of them is that if there are deities in more than one number, then the ultimate explanations and divine motivations that can inform human life are multiple rather than singular. Even with the diversity of deities that polytheism admits, there is a further corollary acknowledgement of a great variety of ways to approach each deity, to interact with them, to perceive them, and to worship or be devoted to them. They appear in a diversity of forms, often with a multitude of epithets and by-names to accompany this cavalcade of appearances and functions.

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The Pregnant Male as Myth and Metaphor in Classical Greek Literature

Reviewed by Yurie Hong

This important and thought-provoking book provides a meticulously documented history of the metaphor of male pregnancy in Athens during the classical period. Leitao begins by noting that, despite the amount of attention drawn by Plato’s characterization of intellectual activity as the “birthing of beautiful ideas” by philosophically engaged men, there is a surprising absence of scholarship on images of male pregnancy as a rhetorical tool prior to the Symposium. Leitao successfully demonstrates that the conception of intellectual production as a male reproductive act did not spring from Plato’s head fully formed. Rather, it is the culmination of a long history of Greek thinkers’ use of male pregnancy to think through intellectual problems. With its detailed account of the genealogy and evolution of the pregnant male metaphor, this book fills an important gap in the study of intellectual history. Like a good detective story, the book tracks the metaphor’s development in well-known authors, such as Aristophanes, Herodotus, Plato, and the tragedians, but also in less frequently discussed works, such as the Derveni Papyrus, the Orphic hymns, and presocratic and sophistic texts. As such, it makes a valuable contribution to scholarly discussions of gender and reproduction by introducing less frequently discussed texts into the conversation and carefully situating various appearances of this metaphor in their appropriate intellectual and rhetorical contexts.

To date, scholarship on the notion of birthing as a male, rather than female, activity has tended to focus on how such concepts participate in broader cultural discourses about gender and authority in ancient society. As Leitao articulates in a brief introductory chapter, this book addresses a slightly different set of questions. It asks how the metaphor came about and what literary or intellectual purposes it serves in any given work (p. 4). The overall thesis is that the image of male pregnancy originates in the mid-5th century as an intellectual tool to solve embryological, cosmological, and theological conundra. The metaphor is then deployed in comedy and tragedy to think through concerns regarding paternity, authorship, and the transmission of knowledge. Only later, in the 4thtcentury, is the metaphor used to engage in political debates about gender roles.

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How to Make a Spell Box

By Patti Wigington

A spell box is an item used in some magical traditions to hold and encapsulate the contents of a spell — from herbs to stones to the magic itself. The theory behind the use of a spell box is that all the magic is contained in one place, and thus will never diminish. The box, once filled and enchanted, can then be used in a number of ways – it can be buried, hidden in a home, or given as a gift. The construction method for a spell box will vary based upon what sort of container you have available, and the contents will change depending upon the purpose of the spell itself. This is a very simple method of creating a magical working.

Use the following examples as a template, and change the individual items as needed, based upon the intent of your working.

Things you will need:

– A small box or container (jars work beautifully as well)
– Spell components based upon your need – herbs, stones, a magical link to another person

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Reclaiming the Indo-European Sky Father

By Raven and Carrion Mann

Most modern Neopagans are familiar and comfortable with the concept of an Earth Mother, whether she is viewed as the Earth itself, or as a more localized goddess of sovereignty. We strive to connect with the powers of the Earth to ground ourselves and draw upon its life-giving magic, but what about the powers of the Sky and the ability to balance and center ourselves within our cosmos?

As ADF Druids, we are not unfamiliar with the illuminating magic and creative spark of Sky power for we attune to it frequently, but pay little attention to the source of this power. As modern polytheists, we worship deities of the Sky, those of the storms, of the sun and of the moon, yet we make no mention of a Sky Father.

Why has this being, which held such prominence among our Indo-European ancestors (Winn 20-21), been so intentionally overshadowed within modern Indo-European derived spiritual paths, such as ADF and how is it that we reclaim this being of such importance?

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Intent, Consequences and Virtue

By Julian Vayne

The use of the Statement of Intent is a common feature of most rituals. This can be couched in Pagan terms ‘We meet here today to celebrate the festival of Samhain…’, in NLP savvy results magick style, ‘We rejoice as the project of fracking is abandoned in the British Isles’ or Buddhist friendly lingo, ‘We dedicate the merit of this practice to the liberation of all beings’. And though it’s undoubtedly important to spend time divining and formulating what it is we want our magick to accomplish, it’s also important to appreciate the rule of Unintended Consequences. There are lots of examples of this principle; the inadvertent increase in bio-diversity in some war ravaged parts of the world, or the increased use of fossil fuels as smoke free pubs put heaters outside to warm their patrons now banished into the chilly night.

Living as we do, in a complex world of every shifting inter-connected events, the idea of saying ‘I want X’, can never be the whole story by any measure. In fact I’d suggest that most of our magick operates as much through us, as something that apparently emerges from us. In those ritual moments, where we become conscious of the process we’re engaged in (celebrating Halloween, doing results magick or a spot of Tonglen), we’re actually pointing back towards the on-going process of our lives, reminding ourselves of what we’re doing just as much as casting our desires into the future.

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Developing Your Psychic Abilities

By Patti Wigington

Spend any time at all in the Pagan or Wiccan communities, and you’re bound to meet individuals who have some fairly pronounced psychic abilities. However, many people believe that everyone has some degree of latent psychic abilities. In some people, these abilities tend to manifest in a more obvious manner — and in others, it just sits under the surface, waiting to be tapped into.

Types of Psychic Abilities

There are different kinds of psychic abilities. Some people are able to divine the future. Others get messages from the spirit world. A few may be able to read the thoughts of others, or see “auras” that tell them how the person is feeling.

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Talking to the Spirits, by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera

Reviewed by Brian Walsh

This book is an excellent exploration of communication with the spirit world with material of interest to the curious, the absolute beginner, and the experience spirit- worker. While it is primarily informed by Northern Tradition Paganism, it draws first hand examples from a wide array of spirit-workers from a variety of paganisms, including Asatru, Heathens, Druids, Celtic Reconstructionists, Hellenics, Kemetics, modern Shamans, and more. It also does an excellent job reminding us that these communications take place in cultural contexts and in the broader context of the natural world itself.

The book begins with an exploration of what personal gnosis is and what it feels like; and since much of the information we receive from the spirits can not be verified and may not be for everyone, how we can respond to what the gods, ancestors, and spirits are telling us. It explores why we want to cultivate more direct communication, what that communication might look like, and some of the risks and dangers along the way.

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Beltane Crafts–Weaving and Braiding

By Patti Wigington

In many traditions of Paganism, handcrafts are used as a magical process. Weaving and braiding in particular are meditative exercises, and so magical workings can be incorporated into the creative technique. If you think about it, fibers in one form or another have been around for thousands of years, so it makes sense that our ancestors could have utilized them in spell work and ritual as well. By focusing on the process of braiding or weaving, you can let your mind wander off as your hands do the work. Some people report even being able to astral travel while doing such craftwork.

When spring rolls around, you can incorporate some of the earth’s goodies into your braiding and weaving. Use willow wands, long grasses, or vines twined together to create new projects, like a Grapevine Pentacle. If you have fresh flowers, you can braid a chain of them into a floral crown. If onions are in season, you can create a protective charm with an Onion Braid.

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