Clash of the Pantheons:

The description of my blog is “a blog dedicated to my adventures in studying Neo-Paganism in central Ohio.”, and I feel like I have not written a whole lot on that topic. So today I thought I would tackle a topic not often talked about. “Clash of the Pantheons”.

Back in the late 90s-early 2000s there was a strong trend in Wicca of “plug-and-play” deities. It was widely excepted that the gods were just archetypes and any deity of the desired archetype could be inserted ritual and spell work. As someone that was devoted to a specific Pantheon that rubbed me the wrong way. I felt to was kind of disrespectful to the deities. I also robbed the practitioner and the deity of the full richness of that deities cultural background. while I still feel that way I realize now that experimenting with different deities till you find the ones that resonate with you is not a bad thing for beginners.

Moving forward to the present. As I have mentioned before I have been attending ADF Druid rituals to celebrate the Wheel of the Year. I am running in to a road block as it were. They are Druids and as such a majority of their rituals are to Celtic deities. I only work with the Roman/Hellenistic pantheon. While at first it was neat learning more about Celtic deities I am beginning to feel uncomfortable attending the rituals. Giving lip service to a god I don’t honor just to socialize feels shallow. On top of this the increasing dissatisfaction with the politics of this grove is making socialization itself feel shallow. The simplest solution would be to stop attending but that is not the overall point of this post. The point is asking the question:

“How do you deal with being at a public ritual that honors a deity you don’t know or care about?”

I asked around on Facebook and got the following suggestions:

  • Enjoy the socialization and community of the other attendees.
  • Look at it as an opportunity to learn a new deity.
  • Identify and Appreciate the Archetype

Yeah Okay I’ve tried all that. Those may work for other people but it is not working for me. It is like going to the birthday party of someone you don’t know just because your friends are there. It is awkward and rude. It also feels like I am disrespecting my own pantheon when I work with other deities. Maybe I am just too set in my ways? Maybe I should take people’s advise and get over my feelings and go anyways? But why? If I am not getting anything out of attending what is the point of going? It would be no different than an Atheist going to Church just because the people he want to be friends with are? It is faking it in hopes things will get better. Dose that ever really work? No wonder so many people prefer to be solitary practitioners it is so much easier. No social drama and no dealing with a Clash of Pantheons.

I suppose from the outside looking in a clash of pantheons is a ridiculous situation. My imaginary friends and your imaginary friends don’t want to play together. Does this count as an adventure in paganism? Dealing with the pitfalls of group dynamics, emotional discomfort, and strange gods? Well it would if this was a game of Dungeons & Dragons it would so sure an adventure then.

How many other people out there have a similar problem? How do you deal with going to a public / group ritual where they are honoring deities foreign to you?

 

 

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Book Review: Herbal Tea for the Pagan Spirit.

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Herbal Tea for the Pagan Spirit; Inspirational Stories of the Pagan Path by Emerys Somerled.

A Short review for a short book, only 141 pages.  This is a collection of feel good stories about people practicing paganism, similar to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. It is the kind of book one can in squeeze in to short amounts of time like coffee breaks at work. It leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. This is a book I plan on loaning out to friends because it is a great pick me up for people that feel are feeling a disconnect from their chosen spiritual path. It is also a great read for solitary practitioners that are feeling a little too isolated and alone and want to feel some connection to the larger pagan community.

If you are are looking for more books that are full of pagans sharing their personal stories you might also want to check out . Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul, edited by Patricia Telesco

 

Book Review: Empedocles; Fragments and Commentary

Empedocles: Fragments and Commentary

Translated by Arthur Fairbanks 1864 -1944

I first came across the name Empedocles while reading The Praeger Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Civilization. Yes I am that level of history geek that I read an encyclopedia front to back A-Z. The entries were good short reads while I was on break at work. I always got a book in my locker. Anyways it is a good acquisition for any serious scholar, I got mine used for three bucks from the local pagan shop The Magical Druid a few years ago.

So back to the subject at hand Empedocles. He was a Greek Philosopher that lived 490 – 430 B.C.E. making him a contemporary of Zeno of Elea.  The thing that caught my attention about his entry was that he had written an alternative cosmic cycle myth. I was curious to see what other origin myths the Greeks had come up with apart from what Hesiod and Plato had wrote. Apparently this philosopher had written two works On Nature and Purifications. The surviving works are in fragments and partially preserved as quotes in other authors works which is the “Commentary” part of the book. Aristotle and Plato are the authors that are used specifically as the commentators in the back of this book. Which because of its age is available free on the internet here is Empedokles books if you want to read it for yourself.

My assessment on the works themselves; I think that this is a great original source read for modern pagans. It is one man struggling to explain his vision of the forces of nature and comes up with the idea that every thing comes from the polarity of Love and Strife. He describes what we now call Yin & Yang. He talks about after the influence of the polarity struggle every thing is made up from the four elements  Earth, Air, Fire Water. He teaches reincarnation and transmigration of the soul. Wiki says this is because he was influenced by the Pythagoreans.  Yin & Yang, the Four Elements and Reincarnation! Empedocles is teaching Wicca 101!

On a theological note the Deities that he references in his works are The Muses, Aphrodite, and Strife.

 

Book Review: The Triumph of The Sea Gods

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The Triumph of The Sea Gods; The War Against The Goddess Hidden in Homer’s Tales. By Steven Sora.

This book blew my mind when I read it. I have been obsessively reading about ancient cultures for years trying to understand the how all the oddities that just don’t add up. From sacred geometry, parallel myths, complex astronomy, megaliths, lost civilizations like Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu. This book suddenly made every thing I have been reading make sense.

It is hard to compress a all the information in to a few paragraphs but I will try and perhaps it will be enough to inspire you to read this book for yourselves. Steven Sora boldly makes several arguments in this book that is not only believable it also challenges common assumptions about the origins of western culture. One of the things that he writes about is that Plato’s Atlantis, and Homer’s Troy are two variations of the same story. He then presents compelling evidence that this Trojan civilization is not in modern day Turkey but on the coast of Portugal. Some of the evidence he uses is the descriptions of weather and geography in Homer’s tales fit the Atlantic Ocean not the Mediterranean sea. He also uses archaeological data, and linguistics studies to support his case.

As for the books sub title “The War Against The Goddess Hidden in Homer’s Tales” He claims that the combined disaster of war and natural disasters of earth quake and tsunamis had a profound and demoralizing influence on peoples’ faith in the goddess centered religion(s) making the it easier for the incoming patriarchal religions  from the Indo-European cultures to take over. I am just summarizing  but it is worth it to read his detailed analyzes.

The author also spends a few chapters taking the reader through Odysseus homeward journey describing the most likely locations for his various ports of call. I don’t want to spoil it for the reader so I will not say were he ends up but when you find out I think you will be surprised.

I can honestly say stumbling upon this book at Half Price Books was meant to be. It honestly feels like I have been looking in all the wrong places for the answers to the questions burning in my mind. For I truly believe that understanding mankind’s ancient past is the key to finding out what 42 really means, well at least to me.

Am I Trading in Druid Robes for a Witch’s Hat?

Once the shopping frenzy of December is over winter seems to drag on forever. The temperatures here in Ohio have been crazy swinging from 19 degrees to 50 and then back down to 30 degrees some times in the same day. The warmer days have me yearning for spring. I have already ordered all the seeds for my vegetable garden and am planing my flower bed too.

I missed doing out on attending a public Yule ritual due to illness, and ended up missing the Druid’s Imbolc because I was still recovering from the flu. But a few days later I was well enough to attend a Imbolc celebration held by the Wiccan shop “Blessed Be”. This was my first time experiencing a Wiccan ritual. I got luck because it was a two for one ritual. The first part was for Imbolc and the second part was a full moon ritual.

I can honestly say it was a fun and enlightening experience. There was about 27 participants.  We were outside in the cold, under the moon (hidden behind a cloud of coarse cause you know Ohio weather never does what you want it to) and it help me really appreciate the timeless tradition of humans huddling around a fire and encouraging each other to be strong, be creative and be nurturing and remember ‘Spring is coming’. Most importantly every social interaction felt natural. None of my normal feelings of social anxiety crept into my brain. There was no intimidating auras, no pecking order, or performers vs. audience vibe that I sometimes get at other pagan events.

It reminded me why I first fell in love with paganism in the first place, and it reminded me of my early days when I use to claimed Wiccan. A while back I had grown disenchanted with Wicca due to trends in literature and online content back in the early 2000’s. I have just claimed Greeco-Roman pagan for the longest time. I have been thinking of  joining the ADF  because I had not found any Hellenistic groups, but the past few months I have been reconsidering that. I am not sure if it is right for me. This feeling of reconnecting with Wicca the past few days has me thinking that maybe it is time for me to come full circle in my studies and revisit Wicca beyond one public ritual.

To my readers I ask, have any of you ever left Wicca for other pagan paths and then found yourself going back to it? If so I would love to hear your story.

 

Book Review: Arcana Mundi; Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds.

Arcana Mundi; Magic and the Occult in the Greeek and Roman Worlds – A Collection of Ancient Texts Translated, Annotated, and Introduced by Georg Luck.

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This book is contains pieces from 130 ancient text ranging from the eight century BCE to fourth century CE. Georg Luck has arranged these text in to six categories: Magic, Miracles, Daemonology, Divination, Astrology, and Alchemy. He gives introductions to each category and explaining its importance in the ancient world. The texts he uses illuminate the migration and acceptance of ideologies from outside cultures like the Egypt and Persia.  Most of these text give first or secondhand accounts of the various subjects and how the impacted everyday life in Ancient Greece and Rome.

In his selection and presentation of these text Georg Luck tries to show how peoples attitudes toward magic evolved. The epilogue takes the reader in to the lingering legacy of ancient magic in the middle ages, particularly in the church. If he had an agenda in this book it was to illustrate where these church practices originate. He does so in a rather scholarly way that I feel doesn’t  bash pagan or Christians. He includes a very interesting Appendix article titled Psychoactive Substances in Religion and Magic that hypothesis that both the Old Testament and the Early Church used incense with psychoactive substances to enhance their religious experience.  There is also a glossary of Greek and Latin words that are relevant to the subject of ancient magic.

I think this book is a great research tool for anyone wanting to delve deeper in to the subject of magic learning where traditions started and how they were practiced.  This book is also great for anyone studying early Christian history along with ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures. I enjoyed the read, personal I feel the older the source materials are the closer we are to understanding how our ancestors thought. Learning the evolution of  cultures helps us not only understand our past, it helps us see where humanity is possibly heading.

Book Review: ‘Hellenismos Today’, and ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos’

Hellenismos Today by Timothy Jay Alexander is a book about Hellenic Reconstructionism, or in other words a a modern pagan religion based off ancient Greek religion. It is a hard polytheist moment  based that to quote the author ” focuses primarily in the public or popular religion of ancient Greece.” I feel like the author spends a lot of the book trying explain how it is not like Wicca / neo-paganism and poring out watered down Greek history and philosophy.  While an it is an interesting way to consider worshiping the Greek Pantheon it is just one way at looking at Greek reconstructionism.

Chapters

  • Introduction
  • Polythestic Reconstructionism
  • Ancient Greek Religion
  • Gods and Goddess
  • Cosmology
  • Ethics -(these are based off the Maxims of Delphi)
  • Role of Clergy
  • Rituals & Rites of Passage
  • Holidays & Festivals
  • Divination
  • Magick & Mysticism
  • Appendix I: Works and Days of Hesiod
  • Appendeix II: The Theogony of  Hesiod (note: both copies of Hesiod’s work presented in this book were translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White 1914 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
  • Appendix III: The Emperor Julian’s Oration to the Sovereign Sun (translated by Taylor Thomas in 1793 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos  by Timothy Jay Alexander is the complementary book to the Hellenismos Today. As you can tell from the Chapter list below there is a lot of copy paste from the previous book, although the Appendix offer greater variety and complement the ones provides in Hellenismos Today. This book places an even bigger emphases on orthopraxy than the previous one did but offer little profound insights.

Chapters

  • Preface
  • Intro to Hellenismos
  • Theology
  • Three dimensions of Worship
  • Prayer & Hymns
  • Offerings
  • Rites and Ritual
  • Festival Calendar
  • Mysticism
  • Temples, Shrines, Statues & Images
  • Afterthoughts
  • Appendix I: Sallustius : On the Gods and the Cosmos (translated by Gilbert Murry 1925, edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
  • Appendix II: The Emperor Julian’s Oration to the Mother of the Gods (translated by Taylor Thomas in 1793 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
  • Appendix III: The Homeric Hymns (translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White 1914 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
  • Appendix IV: Epithets of the Gods
  • Appendix V: A Glossery of Greek Words

Overall I felt Booth books fell a little flat for my taste. If you don’t already have a decent grasp on neo-paganism ideas and language the average reader may get lost. and the historical reverences and examples could really use some more fleshing out. In general I would say if you want to read these books get a copy from the library cause it is not really worth the purchase.