Sacred Moments #9


Many Neo-Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere may be celebrating Lughnasadh around this time. While most are likely to celebrate closer to the beginning of the month, I tend to wait for the cross-quarter day, which this year falls on the 6th for those in the US. For the last decade or so, this particular Sabbat has always had deep meaning for me, so when I came across the following not to long ago, felt it was definitely worth sharing.

To Tailtiu

Great-hearted Tailtiu, daughter of distant kings,
beloved bride of Eochaid, enduring one
who lived through loss, who weathered the storm of war
and stood strong in spite of sorrow and suffering.
Tailtiu, foster-mother of clever, crafty Lugh,
kind one who cared well for the long-handed one,
as if he were her own dear child; in gratitude
for your love and keeping, in honor of your goodness
and your mettle, did he decree that games be held,
that all should feast and frolic in your name,
recalling your virtue and your worth. O goddess,
Tailtiu of field and farm, I praise and honor you.

source

 

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TIP – Wiccan Rede


When it comes to Wicca, there are many aspects that are often misunderstood, and the the “Wiccan Rede” is a big one. Considering that it often incorporated into Neo-Pagan practices (without being properly understood), it’s sometimes a bit scary to contemplate the ways in which people attempt to apply it, not only to themselves, but to those around them. What many people don’t seem to realize is that the term “rede” simply means advice, which means that the “Wiccan Rede” is not an unbreakable law, or even a strict requirement – it is just exactly what it states it is… a bit of guidance along the path.

As to the “Rede” itself – “an ye harm none, do as ye will” (and yes it is just those 8 words, not the longer poem that many quote) it doesn’t actually tell us that we can’t cause harm, it just says – “if you harm none, do what you want”. So clearly not causing harm is acceptable, however if we look closely at that statement, at no point does it say “if it causes harm, don’t do it”. The truth is, that as long as one has carefully considered one’s actions and is willing to accept the consequences of taking those actions, then one can do whatever one feels is necessary. In the end, it’s all about taking responsibility for one’s actions, not about prohibiting a particular action when it is needed.

It is always acceptable to defend oneself from harm, and to protect one’s family and loved ones, and the Rede was definitely not meant to imply that one cannot do that. Too many people take it as some sort of blanket prohibition, which it really isn’t, and in truth it is impossible to go through life without causing harm to someone or something.

For more information on the origins of the Rede, and the meaning behind it, you can check out the following… The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey

Call for Submissions


Just wanted to take this opportunity to let you all know that we are always looking for new devotionals, prayers, chants, etc… for our Sacred Moments posts. This can also include images of your altar or shrine, as it’s decorated for a particular ritual or celebration, or art work as well. If you have something that you’d like to share with us, please feel free to email it to submissions@theinformedpagan.org

If it’s something that you personally wrote, please be sure to include your name, so that we can give credit to you. If you are not the original author, please give the original source, if known – or if you don’t know, mention that you don’t know, but give as much information about it as you can. That way we can try to look it up before posting. For all artwork, or altar/shrine images please only submit items that are your original works (again along with your name so that we can give proper credit).

Also a quick reminder, if you have any questions please feel free to use the Ask A Pagan page. We sort of rely on user input and questions, and when no one is asking – it’s up to us to come up with what we think you might want to know. However we’d much rather write about what sort of things you are actually interested in knowing more about, so please don’t hesitate to ask, comment or email us. Suggestions are always welcome!

🙂

Pagan Insights Project


The Informed Pagan is excited to announce the “Pagan Insights Project“!!!

Don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes we have the absolute worst time trying to come up with interesting things to write about. So after pondering the issue for a bit, we came up with a few prompts that we thought would make excellent starting points. Then, after mulling it over a bit longer, we thought it would be a great idea to share them with everyone, in an effort to inspire others who may also be struggling for a topic to write about, or just like the idea of adding a bit of structure to their blogs.

It’s a mixed media project – one that is designed to give a bit of insight into one’s own path, as well as general information on Paganism, and the Pagan “lifestyle” (whatever that means XD). There are 5 different prompts to work through, which include writing, images, music and more, and the really great thing about this project, is that you can work at your own pace.  You can do all 5 every week, every other week, once a month, or you can work at a more leisurely rate and simply choose one prompt each week so that you have always have something to post. Or you can really go all out, and post them all in one blog post, as often as you like.  For some it can be a daily or weekly journal for keeping track of progress on one’s path, and for others it might simply be a touchstone to return to once every holiday, or every full moon to see where you are in that moment. Which ever you choose, how you use the Pagan Insights project is entirely up to you!

For more information, and to join in the fun, check out the Pagan Insights Project page. If you’d like to participate, be sure to add your blog to the list, and grab a badge if you’d like. We are looking forward to seeing how this project grows, and really do hope you will share your insights with us along the way!

Pagan Coming Out Day… Things To Think About


May 2nd is International Pagan Coming Out Day, a day when all Pagans should band together and joyously shout to the world… “I’m Pagan and Proud!!!” and dare anyone to take issue with it. Ok, not really, however it is an annual “event” that strives to “achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.

As mentioned directly on their website, “coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so“, and there is an absolute truth to that. While it would be very nice if we could all be open about our religious/spiritual choices or practices, in actuality it’s something that we need to think long and hard about. On the one hand we shouldn’t have to hide who we are, on the other, it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of countries that will kill Witches almost on sight, and even in countries where there are laws against that sort of thing, many have very poor opinions of Pagans, or really anyone who has a different religion than what is considered mainstream.

So when considering “coming out of the broom closet” we need to first decide if the benefits of doing so, outweigh any potential negative consequences. Then given that there will likely be at least a few negative consequences – are they manageable, or will having to put up with them make life miserable enough, that staying silent is the wiser course. Some things to think about…

  • First and foremost how will your friends and family react? If you are still living at home, or having to depend on your family for support, this can be a major factor in keeping one’s path to oneself, especially if you think they won’t take it well, and might kick you out. Are you willing to put up with potentially losing friends and/or alienating your family if they don’t understand where you are coming from? Are you willing to gather up relevant information on your path, and have calm, rational (can’t stress those two words enough) discussions, in an attempts to inform others on what your path is about?
  •  How will your employer react? Unless you plan on wearing overt symbols of your faith/practices to work everyday, this may not be a huge issue, but it’s still something to consider. Job security isn’t the best these days, so if there is any possibility that being out will cause you trouble at work, it might be better not to say anything at all. This would still apply if you are in school as well – though they can’t fire you, teachers (and fellow students) can make things difficult for you if they so choose. So it’s something to keep in mind.
  • How will your local neighborhood/community react? If you live in a large city, again this might not be a big deal, but if you are in a smaller town, or a close-knit neighborhood, then outing yourself as a Pagan, could have an impact.
  • For those who are married or in a committed relationship – how will your significant other react? I have this separately, even though it’s technically lumped into friends/family, but it’s a really big one, so it deserves it’s own consideration. If you are in a relationship with someone (or married to them), and they don’t know that you are Pagan, be absolutely sure that they will be ok with it, before saying anything to them. Keep in mind that telling them, can literally be the end-game to your relationship. Things may eventually work out, but you need to be willing to weather the bumpy ride, to get through it, if they are not overly thrilled about your choices.

I know at this point it may seem like I’m against Pagans coming out, and in reality that isn’t true, as I dream of the day that we can all live – if not harmoniously, then at least in perfect apathy to each other’s religious/spiritual choices.  However as we are not yet at that point, “coming out” can be a monumental, life changing event, and I don’t think that mere words can adequately convey the seriousness of the situation. I’d like to think that in this day and age, most people are cool with it, but if I’ve learned anything out of recent “current events” in the US, it’s that we really aren’t as “cool” as we’d like to think we are, if anything we’ve started to backslide quite a bit.

So while I encourage those Pagans who can, to “come out” on May 2nd, I definitely urge everyone to think carefully before jumping right out. Not that we shouldn’t all be proud to be Pagan, but ultimately it’s a question of… is this the right decision for me at this time? If it is… go for it!! If it isn’t, then there is nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself. You’ll know when the timing is right!!

If you are out, or are planning to come out, on the 2nd… feel free to comment and share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you!!

For more information on IPCOD, you can also check out their FB page.

The Origins of Easter


Something that I’ve noticed at certain times of the year, is the tendency for some Pagans to claim that the Christians stole our holidays. This primarily happens around the Christmas season, but it hops out around Easter as well, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to put a little effort into clearing up some misconceptions that might be floating around.

One thing that I like to point out, is that many of the “Pagan” traditions that have eventually become associated with a particular holiday, are generally due to those Pagans who were converted finding ways to keep some of the comforts of their old practices, while still conforming to their new ones as well.

As to the origins of Easter, the approximate dates for it are actually pretty clearly outlined in the Bible, and it was originally celebrated around the same time as the Jewish passover, as that is when the Crucifixion is said to have taken place. In 325 the Council of Nicea decided on a more precise method of calculation, which in essence combined the two primary methods that were currently in practice at that time – calculating it based on moon phases and having a specific set date. From that point forward, the date of Easter would be on a day following the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox, though it took quite a bit longer for the particular day (Sunday) to be solidified across all communities.

What is important to note, is that although there have been references made to Easter being associated with the Goddess Eostre (primarily due to Bede’s work), it is likely that this may have been an error on his part, or at least not something that had any basis in provable fact. While details are rather sketchy on her existence, it is entirely possible that she was simply associated with the dawn, and new beginnings, rather than Spring itself. Also, historically “Eostre-month” was a month long celebration, rather than any one particular day.

I also find it interesting that in almost all other languages, the term for this particular holiday is Pasha/Paschal (in reference to the Jewish Passover) – even the full moon after the equinox is called the Paschal Moon. So it is only in the English language that there is even any association made to the term Eostre.  All of which makes the argument that Easter is an ancient “spring festival” that has been stolen by “teh ebil Xtians”, a less likely version of what really happened.

additional resource – The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton

TIP: Discussing Religion


In terms of everyday conversations, the topic of religion really shouldn’t come up all too often. There are exceptions of course – the occasional nosy family member, friend or co-worker, or that random stranger you just met, that wants your whole life story in 10 seconds or less. However when it does, there really is not any need for anyone to know all the juicy details of your practices, especially if you feel that the person you are talking to will be less than welcoming about your choices.

While we can understand completely not wanting to stay in the “broom closet”, it is best to come up with a short, concise description of what you do, and leave it at that. Truthfully among those who are intolerant (or even apathetic at best) – it might be better to dodge the question if you can (it’s none of their business anyways), however if you feel that you must answer, then just sticking with the generic “pagan” answer is really your best bet. This wouldn’t normally be something that we’d advocate (since it doesn’t mean anything really), however in this case they likely won’t know the difference, nor are they likely to care, if they are not actually open to learning more about other faiths/practices.

Among those who are like-minded, or those who are truly interested in learning more, you can expand your description a bit, and go into as much detail as you are comfortable with. However you will still likely find those who will question you about your beliefs and practices, but this isn’t always a bad thing, as that is usually how we learn and grow in our practices.

In either case, try not to be defensive if someone asks you something. If you are going to be open about your religious/spiritual practices, especially if they are something other than what most people consider “normal”, then you have to be willing to deal with the consequences of that – both positive and negative. If you can’t discuss your practices calmly, and with confidence, others who are less tolerant of such paths are more likely to seize on that, and work extra hard at their attempts to steer you back on to (what they see as) the “right” path.

Religious and spiritual practices are very personal, and can be difficult to explain to others who have not been through the same experiences. Too often we diminish the sacredness, and ineffable qualities that are so much a part of many paths, when we try to explain too much. So sticking to the basics, rather than extensive details, is usually the best course of action, when the topic comes up.

Norse Paganism


Anonymous asked: I’ve been interested in Norse mythology for a long time, and feel that Norse paganism may be the path for me, but I have no clue where to start. Is it anything like Wicca, or is it completely different and if so where do I find more information on it?

Completely different! It’s polytheistic rather than ditheistic, its rituals are much more simple and centre around the sharing of offerings (often in the form of alcohol such as mead), and there’s a much greater cultural depth to it* because it is a religion with a historical basis – although even the most hard reconstructionist forms of it will necessarily be different from the palaeo-Paganisms.

We recommend the books “Essential Asatru” by Diana S Paxson and “True Hearth” by James Allen Chisholm to start with, and “Our Troth” I and II if Heathenry looks like the thing for you. Also the books of Hilda Ellis Davidson, particularly “Gods and Myths of Northern Europe”.

Most of all there are the Eddas and Sagas, many of which you can read in older translations online. The ethical system is mostly related to what one might consider the honourable action to take, and based on the advice of the Havamal. (Some Heathens shorten it down to “the Nine Noble Virtues” – but not all of this list of virtues are particularly stressed in the Havamal, and some particularly important ones are left out… not to mention such a list is not particularly “reconstructionist” so many Heathens don’t have much time for it and just use the Havamal and so forth as their guide when they need it.)

Here are some more links for you:

Viking Answer Lady

Ravenbok

DIY Ritual Kit

That’s all for now, but this may be edited later to add a little more. Good luck!

*Not to say Wicca doesn’t have depth – it does, but it’s less cultural and more related to its ritual and Mysteries.

TIP: Expanding Our Horizons


This week’s TIP comes via a recent rant. It is a perfectly legitimate rant, because it‘s something that happens all the time, it’s frustrating to see when it does, and really, it lessens all of us when it occurs. Especially, when you consider the wealth of knowledge on different cultures and practices that we are missing out on because of it. I think (except for those that it affects directly), we’ve probably all done it at one time or another, but this doesn’t make it right. It just means that we all need to be more careful and actively make the effort to try to change the way we think when it comes to those we are interacting with.

This doesn’t apply to everyone (to be sure), however there seems to be a tendency within the Pagan community to assume that everyone is Wiccan, or on a Wicca-based path, and that we all celebrate the same Sabbats around the same time, and in generally the same way. There is a bit of “tunnel vision”, often forgetting that there are many different paths, all who have their own various holidays and celebrations. Not all of them are Sabbat related (or called Sabbats) – even if some of them are celebrated on, or around the same dates.

It’s also very frustrating to see how many people forget entirely that the Northern Hemisphere is NOT the only Hemisphere that exists. Many tend to ignore completely those Pagans who live on the “flip-side” as it were. Which means that even if they do happen to celebrate the Sabbats (which again, not all do) they will be doing so on a schedule that is completely opposite to what would be done in the Northern Hemisphere. It wouldn’t make any sense to celebrate seasonal holidays, outside of the season that they occur in, but for some reason, we often assume that those in the Southern Hemisphere do, if we even consider them at all.

So this week’s TIP is a reminder to expand our horizons just a bit. While clearly if you are discussing something with your local coven or group, it might not be such an issue, but in larger gatherings, and especially if you are participating in an online Pagan community or discussion, it’s worth the extra effort to remember that not everyone does things exactly in the same way. Nor would we want them too… imagine how boring it would be if we did.

Choosing A Path


This is a question we received a while ago on Tumblr, intended to repost here and then forgot about. Whoops.

hey i really interested in paganism, but i dont know what path to choose, i may be an eclectic pagan, what are some different beliefs/simple spells/rituals from different pagan religions to get me started?xxxxxxxxx

 

Ooo, big question. The term Paganism at its very widest refers to any religion that is not Abrahamic. Even the much more narrow “Neo-Pagan” is so broad an umbrella it’s difficult to know where to start. People want to leap into rituals right away, and rituals can be fulfilling, but if you don’t know what you believe or what direction you want to go in, you may end up leaping in with both feet to something that isn’t really for you.

So to start with, write out somewhere what you believe at the moment. I find writing or typing gets my mind working, but it may not be the same way for you; you may do your best thinking while jogging or whatever, but once you have it worked out write it down as well, because it’s an interesting thing to refer back to in years to come.

As far as beliefs go, Pagan religions span the range of theistic interpretations (though pantheism and hard and soft polytheism may be the most popular). Not all Pagans believe in gods, and some that believe in them do not worship them. Many Pagans recognise spirits of the natural world to some degree, and some honour or worship these spirits. Beliefs regarding the afterlife (or lack thereof) vary; some believe in reincarnation, some in an Underworld, some that your spirit is absorbed back into the universe, some that there is no afterlife.

Many rituals held to honour gods tend to involve an offering of some kind, such as food or drink. Rituals can be elaborate and involve a lot of tools, lines to learn and preparation, or they can be as simple as lighting a candle. If you’re wanting to get in touch with your spiritual side and the world around you, I’d recommend something quite simple, like going out into the garden or a park and sitting somewhere that appeals to you. Take some deep breaths, listen, observe, enjoy.

Things to consider when choosing a religion to look into might be the gods or culture you feel drawn towards, your theistic beliefs, your beliefs in the afterlife, and the morals you personally consider important. These things may well change and evolve as you learn and research – I know mine certainly did – but at least they’ll give you some clue on where to start.

You might also find the following article of some use.

I hope that was of some help!