Spirituality

Opiate of the masses.

Lughnasadh: The feast of grain and berries

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Godel loaf, photo by Victoria ChanLughnasadh, also known as Lammas, is all about giving thanks for and eating the delicious bounty of the first harvest, especially the abundant wheat, corn and berries growing at this time. It’s celebrated around August 1, the first of three fall harvest festivals (the next two are Mabon and Samhain).The Pagan festival is named for the Sun god Lugh, the god of craftsmanship and skill, who is thanked for the harvest and offered prayers for the still-ripening crops. The Bread Man symbolizes Lugh and can be used as the centrepiece of your ritual. Sometimes ritual bread loaves are topped with bits of dough shaped into corn, barley or wheat stalks. Read More

Initiation and Islamic gnosis

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Dusk at the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei on the eve of Ramadan, photo by tylerdurden1“We must not consider gnosis as a religion among others, but as the heart of all religions,” said Allamah Tabataba’i, one of leading Shi’ite Muslim thinkers and clerics of the 20th century. “Gnosis is one of the paths of worship, a path based on knowledge combined with love, rather than fear. It is the path for realizing the inner truth of religion rather than remaining satisfied only with its external form and rational thought.”The sentiment was echoed not long ago, at the end of December 2014, by Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Alavi-Gorgani. “We should not think that unity is only for Muslims,” the he proclaimed, “God wants us to have unity with other religions as well.” What made Grand Ayatollah Alavi-Gorgani’s statement even more remarkable is that it was made in response to -- and as a criticism of -- atrocities carried out in Iraq against Yazidis and Christians by the terrorist militia calling itself ISIS. Read More

Did Freemasonry invent modern Paganism?

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Masonic temple, photo by Andy Chase“The Yggdrasil-Tree is a beautiful symbolical representation of Freemasonry,” says Daniel Sickels in his General Ahiman Rezon. The book, which was intended to be read by Freemasons who wanted insight into their fraternity and its rituals, was published in 1868. Yggdrasil, says Sickels, “illustrates the character of Masonic secrecy.” Yet this was, of course, the world tree of pre-Christian, Norse mythology, and Sickels, who also speaks of the norns (the female figures who predetermine the fates of men), is certainly well aware of its character.Sickels’ work appeared more than 85 years prior to the publication of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today -- which initiated the birth (or, as some would maintain, revival) of the Pagan religion of Wicca -- and just over a century prior to the “revival” of Asatru, the Germanic-inspired, and rune-based Pagan religion which emerged during the 1970s. Yet, some other Freemasons of the 19th century were inspired by northern European, pre-Christian mythology, and absorbed some elements into Masonic, or “fringe Masonic,” ritualism. Read More

Ostara traditions: Eggs, rabbits, and rituals

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Pisanki, photo by Praktyczny PrzewodnikThe Wheel of the Year has turned again and now Ostara, known secularly as the vernal equinox, is on the horizon. This is a time of celebration for many, because it marks the date when the day starts to become longer than the night.Ostara, named after the Germanic fertility goddess, has been celebrated in many forms for hundreds of years. Spring is seen as the time of rebirth and fertility; it is a time of great celebration as the warmth returns to the Earth and the plants and animals flourish. Read More

Pomegranates and trauma: Delving into the Underworld

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Pomegranate, photo by jacquelineDuring my thesis year of college, I was completely and utterly stuck. After three years in art school, working within the bounds of assignments, all I wanted was to let loose and create what I wanted. But I had no idea what that was; I kept reaching into my idea-place and pulling out nothing. This thesis needed to be perfect, a representation of myself as a person and an artist, so I had to figure out what made me tick, and fast. The thing is, I had some repressed, unresolved trauma. And when you put someone like that in a room by themselves for a month and tell them to think about themselves, interesting things happen.Little flashes came to me -- thoughts, memories, emotions -- but nothing I could use, because I couldn’t explain what I was thinking or why I felt the way I did. At that point I just needed a thesis topic, and during a desperate search for ideas I suddenly felt a presence near me, followed by the sensation of hands resting gently on my shoulders. I felt a message then, in the back of my mind. “Spring is here. It’s time to leave.” Over the next few days, I was bombarded with pomegranate imagery. I took it as a sign. Read More

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