Spirituality: The Path I Walk

The second rambling concerning music for Handfastings…

Planning your handfasting is as complex an undertaking as planning any other event… music is vital to creating any ritual, and especially important for the handfasting couple to discuss and to choose the right pieces for you.

Earlier, I posted some links to music from the popular music cannon, today I will post some links to Pagan songs above and beyond the ever-popular “Isis-Astarte” and Z. Budapest’s “We All Come From The Goddess”.  Enjoy!

Lisa Theil is a singer/songwriter whose songs have entered the “Pagan cannon” over the last 2 decades almost without notice. You can order her CDs here: http://www.sacreddream.com/cds/

Sharon Knight and T. Thorn Coil, Songs for the Strengthening Sun 

These Bay area composers collaborated on a CD full of Pagan chants, “Dance In the Heat of Heart’s Desire” seems especially apropos: http://www.sharonknight.net/music-chants.html

SJ Tucker is a terrific singer/songwriter and member of Tricky Pixy. This is a terrific song to open any ritual with, and seem particularly good for a celebration of love:

For Love of All Who Gather from Blessings by SJ Tucker 

(http://music.sjtucker.com/track/for-love-of-all-who-gather)

SJ tucker has also penned a song particularly for Handfastings:

General Ramblings About Spirituality …

I have added this page to my blog in order to share some thoughts – now and then – about the spiritual path I walk. I am Wiccan, and have been since my early 20s when I discovered that there are other people who believe as I always have: that the changing Earth, the shining Moon, and the mysteries beyond in the vastness of space are the real magic. The place where the Divine, which I name Goddess, is manifest. The other Wiccans and Neopagans of this time and place. We are a diverse bunch, and you’ll find 20 different opinions on What Why and How for every 10 modern Pagans you speak to. None the less, we have a couple of things in common. Herein, I will ramble about my own ideas of What When How and even Where it means to embrace this path.

December 28, 2011… May you Never Hunger…

I’ve been reading a remarkable Blog by Star Foster, Managing Editor, Pagan Portal, Patheos.com, a recent post: A Brand-New Paganism Posted on December 26, 2011 caused some discussion concerning the notion of “community” and I felt moved to respond here:

Lezlie (responding to Star’s post):  Of course we are growing and there are (a lot) more people since the days when the first books were written. What we have to remember is that we are still a tiny minority and if – with that growth – we choose to splinter and focus on the differences, we will loose something really important and something that does set the overall Neo-Pagan movement apart from other spiritual traditions: we – collectively – have the ability to accept and celebrate our diversity, our individuality, and infinite creativity within the whole.  To set aside those differences and celebrate together.   Not just at the big festivals or when we do an ecumenical service, but all the time.  There will never (I sincerely hope) come a time when any of the traditions or paths become encampments glaring at one another over infinitesimal points of cosmology.  The vision I hope to engender with this posting is this: a dance of humans alternately disagreeing, agreeing, exploring, and celebrating one another.  We are stronger – and – a whole lot more interesting all together than we are as individual groups.  We need to keep singing together – all of our songs –

 Star Foster, Managing Editor, Pagan Portal, Patheos.com replies: Here’s the problem: “Setting aside differences” often means conforming to Wiccanate Paganism.   If we don’t recognize our differences, then we don’t see how it’s inappropriate to expect a Heathen to participate in a ritual that goes against their values and beliefs. In reacquainting myself with Hellenic worship I found there are things I take for granted as a Wiccan that go completely against the grain of Hellenic values and practice.

Too often, and I don’t mean to imply you are saying this, “setting aside differences and working together” can be taken as “shut up and conform.” There such a thing as tyranny of the masses, and eclectic inclusiveness can become a dogma of it’s own.

Lezlie responds herein on her own Blog:

May you Never Hunger…

Let me begin by saying that we don’t have a disagreement here.

The saying above now somewhat  ubiquitous while sharing food at the end of a ritual event, did not, as commonly believed, originate in a Wiccan circle, but in an early Church of All Worlds Nest.  It exemplifies the creative “cross-pollination” of what is collectively known as the Pagan Community.  This movement has expanded beyond anyone’s predictions (even in their wildest dreams) since the publication of  Gardener’s High Magic’s Aid in November of 1949 (which was well before my time, but we’ll leave that for another day).  As Diana Paxon is credited with quipping at an event, “Back when there were 30 Pagans in the world and the rest was done with mirrors”.  (Author and founder of Hrafnar, an Asatru garth of the Troth, and affiliated with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path.)

Actually, Z. Budapest (founder of Dianic Wicca and Priestess) is credited with saying it better than anyone to date when asked how the “Pagan Renaissance” of the SF Bay Area happened, ” We went to each others’ parties.”  Later in the same interview she added, “The Witches got the reputation for throwing the best parties.”  (She wasn’t just speaking of the Dianics at the time.)  (I have to add, Reclaiming’s Annual Spiral Dance is one great party!)   As time went forward, other groups started organizing festivals and Sabbats, from the Druids to the aforementioned Reclaiming Community &  So. Bay Circles and inviting everyone.  (No carding for affiliation at the door .)  The result some 35-40 years later?  OK – we argue in the “Pagan press”, and we do carry on, but, by and large, this is an open, welcoming community of people from Yoruba to New Age Shamanism to Wicca and we are having a walloping good time – together.   Although no one has taken a census recently, the Bay Area very possibly is home to one of the largest Pagan communities around.  While we don’t always agree – and, sometimes one or another person doesn’t understand or even approve of another’s practice and causes a kerfuffle, by and large, there is no discernible “Wiccan backlash” as described in one or two editorials in the “Pagan press’ of recent date.  No debates of any consequence concerning whose “Tradition is older, better, more interesting … etc. etc.” has emerged in recent memory.  When someone starts going on about some thing or another, we hassle it out and keep talking (as Rabbit, our graceful and gracious Keeper of the Flame at Berkeley’s Pagan Pride, has done this past year over an issue that came up at Pantheacon).   Sometimes, it must be said,  until everyone is so bored with the issue that it falls away like autumn leaves making way for new growth.   Maybe some of that is “left over hippie consciousness” (as a media personality recently described Pantheacon) but the greater part of it is just plain willingness to dig in, do the work, and make something happen.  To laugh and cry together, to make music together, to make magic together – and – to set aside that endless argument about which way to hold the chalice.

There are several umbrella groups that sponsor individual Circles that include Hellenes,  Ásatrú, and study groups involved in Kabbala and of course the very large gatherings of Pagan Pride, Pantheacon, and Elderflower festivals.  Beyond these are the individual artists, writers, scholars.  The music ensembles, ritual performance and theatre exploration groups that form and re-form like recombinant DNA.  Emerging are exciting groups exploring trance dance, the sacred cirkus, and fire dancing.   Yes, there are all kinds of Solitairies, small Covens, Groves, and Circles – but, altogether it is a community.   We know we have something special here and there are those of us who go out of our way to continue that spirit and keep it open in a variety of ways: from sponsoring discussion groups & music jams, holiday craft fairs,  public rituals, to large  annual events.  One must include here the important Interfaith work being done through the  Interfaith Center in San Francisco’s Presidio where scholar, Wiccan Elder and member of The New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn, Don Frew serves on the Board.

As I finish this posting, I will mention that this year’s theme at Pantheacon is “Unity in Diversity“, and apparently, a timely theme altogether.

It is Our Community, be it Wiccan or Yoruba or something new, the key word here being *ours*.   As Bay Area residents are, also, infamous for Pride of Place, it becomes bigger than merely “Pagan” but also a definition of community defined by geography as much as spirit as the Bay Area Pagans.  (Which tends to stretch some ways eastward & into the Northern Counties as people move for career and personal reasons and create new things.)

Building and maintaining a sense of community requires effort and work.  It requires that the Elders not retire on their laurels and “let the youngers take over” or that the new generation “do it as we did”.   That no one insist on being the wisest, or the one who needs the most support, and that no one person, group, or organizing body take “center stage” all the time.  (For one thing, that is far too much work!)  It also requires the younger leaders to listen, to learn, and to do some of it “as we did” and a lot of it as we did not.   It requires an openness to new ideas new forms and new plans.  It requires showing up.  Sometimes with a potluck dish and a couple of dollars to pay for the hall, at others, a pair of hands to help do the organizing and, always, with an open heart.  My own teacher said that “this is dynamic, living religion which changes and adapts with the people who are living it.”  She meant, not just Wicca, but what she called “Pagandom” as whole.

With effort, some luck, some songs, a few dances, a lot of laughter, we’ll continue to create this community by, as Z. put it, “going to each others’ parties.”

In that spirit, here is a video of Reclaiming’s Annual Spiral Dance, wherein people from all Traditions, and a few who aren’t Pagans at all, are having a walloping good time celebrating Samhain (I’m in there… somewhere…):

___________________________________________________

Welcome Yule!

An Important Pause in Time

Winter Solstice 2011 – 8:56 AM PST – Berkeley, California on a chill, clear morning.

The Harvest celebrations of Samhain and Winter Solstice are both especially sweet times to celebrate because we can celebrate something with all of our neighbors.   Be they our brother & sister Pagans on similar paths, or the Unitarians or the Buddhists or the atheists: for everyone on this Earth the sun crosses the equator at  5:30am Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011 and the Wheel Turns.  Spring will come and we are reminded that the beauty of the Earth and Sky are revealed all around us.  That we are exactly where we are supposed to be: between Earth & Sky, at the very  Heart of the Circle of the World.

There is an assumption that the Solstices & Equinoxes are “minor” holidays on the Wheel in all of  Wicca – it just ‘t’ain’t true.  As my teacher said (back in the palaeolithic before the Internet): “diversity ‘r’ us.”  Which is one of the problems in celebrating what is essentially a mystery religion:  it all depends upon the Tradition you are a member of.  Some emphasize one holiday while  for some the Cross-Quarter Days are the important ones, for others it’s just one out of the year:  Beltane or Midsummer when the weather is good & you can throw a festival.  For some small Circles, you do it that way twice, and it seems, it’s a tradition (small “t”).   Yule is also important for all of us on a Cultural level, quite separate from the important Spiritual one: for thousands of years, in a good part of the world where the sun grows weak and the snows blow (and, even in climes where there is little snow involved) we humans have drug greenery into the house, made a great feast, gathered together to sing, to dance, to keep the hearth fire burning, and to warm our hearts in “goode companie”:  telling ourselves and our children the stories about who we are.  During the longest night of the year we don’t really need to think in terms of  whose Tradition is dominant, but who we are sharing our hearth with.

A Party of Mummers

Alongside these stand the folk traditions of mid-winter: for thousands of years, we humans gathered at the darkest time of the year around a feast table and danced certain dances, sang special songs, feasted on carefully prepared food saved for just this night, and warmed each others hearts (and, hearths) with the stories of who we are as a people, as a family, as an individual.   We gazed into the dark winter sky, and if we lived far enough north, we gazed in awe at the dancing lights of the north and created a story about them passed on each year to ourselves and to our children.  If we live in the warmer climes of the world, we made other stories and told them to our children.  These are the stories that tell us who we are.  It often seems that we modern Americans have forgotten or misplaced so much in the head-long rush to create our Modern World.  Therefore, in 2012 and beyond Occupy the Holidays.  There is an ineffable quality of wonder and a sense of seeing into the vastness of time and culture in mindfully participating in the sacred and folk traditions of the seasons.  As many have discovered, there is also a real danger that these traditions are being forgotten except by a few odd antiquarians such as myself, replaced by the tinsel and consumerism of “mall culture”.  Whatever your tradition and heritage, I invite you to look to the meaning and the cultural wealth (literally) at our fingertips and discover, or re-discover, our holidays in a different light.

This is may be one reason why so many Pagans & Wiccans of the “3rd generation” who can of age in the ’70s joined folk dance troupes and historical re-enactment societies early on: we could hang the mistletoe, put up some pretty sparkly things to “encourage” the Sun, burn a Yule log, and learn the steps of the Abbott’s Bromely or go Mumming at Winter Solstice in context of the sense of wonder and mystery that is at the heart of Wicca.
The other reason is because caroling, dancing, singing, and Mumming is a lot of fun.

This is a site that I really like with all sorts of myth and lore about Yule: MythingLinks’ Yuletide Around the World: Lore & Traditions
http://www.mythinglinks.org/wintersolstice~YuleLinks.html

An essay about Christmas and the Christian tradition that I really liked:
So this is Christmas? Are you sure? by Steve Fehl http://www.newexistentialists.com/posts/12-15-11

And … four songs for Yule (Note: I was privileged to attend the Jon Anderson concert last December featured here. You may remember Jon as the front man for Yes.  I hold in my heart a sense of gratitude to the person who posted this footage on You Tube, as shaky and blurred as it is.):


Merry Yule!  May you always come safely home to the people you love and cherish you: be it the hearth of your own making or the hearth fire that burns so brightly in your heart.

Entry 1: Fantasy and Pagan Themes

This entry will be a little bit about books – I have planned to d a literature review (of sorts) for the much missed Internet Review of Science Fiction, where I have a couple of things archived, but never quite got it finished. Books, in specific, novels. There have been, over the past decade a number of books by fairly good writers that have brushed upon the topic of Wicca – even used the word Wicca.  Some are good, some are OK, and some are truly awful. And- some – like the author I will begin with, know better, but do it anyway. She says she’s “old enough to have earned the silver in her hair” (http://www.annebishop.com/faq.htm) so, one would think that she is also old enough to understand why the critique below is necessary. I’m not telling you not to read her, just don’t buy them: go to the library. And, please mention, once in a while why a Wiccan might find parts of them objectionable.

Anne Bishop is a good writer.  Strong, clean prose that is  lyrical, even poetic. The Shadow Queen was No. 20 on the NY Times bestsellers list in 2009.  Pretty good for a fantasy writer.  She plays in a world made of Fae, Harpies, myth, winged creatures, magic, erotic imagery, strong characterization even within genre, plot-driven novels.  Her books are not for the very young or the faint-hearted: always violent (although not gratuitously so) overt and sometimes savage in her presentation of sexuality.  She also names perversion and evil for what it is (ex. The Black Jewels trilogy).  Everything you’d want in a modern fantasy writer.  Unfortunately, she also plays  fast and loose with Pagan themes and uses the names of Pagan religious paths in Hell – naming her characters Lucivar, Daemon, Seatan – even an ancient goddess: Hekatah.  She equates, in a recent novel, The Pillars of the World “wiccafae” with “poison”.  Sure she doesn’t exactly say “wicca” –  with or without capitalization – but, she freely throws around “witch” “witches” and whatever else she feels like with regard for anything or anyone else –or– that the living, breathing people who are Wiccans would object.  Maybe she’s one of those LeVey era “satanists” (or a sympathizer) who endlessly prattled on about how modern Pagans & Wiccans have “so much in common” with their “path” – I honestly don’t know.  In my mind, this is not the actions of a mature, feeling, human being.

It is unfortunate, in this instance, that she is such a good writer because this is a review I would rather not be writing.

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One response to “Spirituality: The Path I Walk

  1. Pingback: Well… it’s that season again … | Lezlie1′s Blog

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