Paganism

Paganism and heathenry galore.

Eris and the Apple of Discord

By Psyche | July 27, 2007 | 2 comments

The first of a two part series on Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos and discord, in which we explore Her origins and most famous myth.

Eris is a Greek goddess, the Latin form of her name being Discordia. She is best known as a goddess of chaos; She is mischievous and something of a trickster. She is sometimes described as the twin of Ares, daughter of Zeus and Hera, or, alternately, as the daughter of Nyx.

The most well known story of Eris recounts how She instigated the Trojan War. Due to Her reputation of spreading discord, She was not invited to the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis, the king of Aegina and a sea-nymph, respectively. Bitter as a result of the snub, She tossed into the party a golden apple inscribed with the word Kallisti, which translates ‘To the Prettiest One’, also known as the Apple of Discord.

Naturally, all the goddesses fought for it, but in the end it came down to three, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. They petitioned Zeus to make the final decision on who it was intended for, but He wisely declined, and instead pointed to young Paris, son of Priam, the king of Troy’s estranged son. Due to an unfortunate prophesy, Paris had been banished to Mount Ida and raised as a shepherd.

The three goddesses appeared before Paris with the golden apple, and demanded he make his choice. In secret, each of the goddesses attempted to sway his opinion in their favour; Hera promised Paris political power, Athena offered war victories, but clever Aphrodite pledged him the most beautiful woman on Earth. Being the lusty young fellow that he was, Paris gave Aphrodite the golden apple and expected to receive Aphrodite, Herself.

Aphrodite, surely amused, explained that She offered him the most beautiful woman on Earth, and clearly, She was a goddess. But true to her word, she manoeuvred circumstances so Paris could claim his prize, the beautiful Helen of Sparta, wed to Menelaus. Paris woos Helen, with the aid of Aphrodite, and they leave for Troy.

Of course, upon discovering the disappearance of Helen and her new whereabouts, Menelaus demanded of Troy the return of his queen, and everyone knows what happened after that.

First published on Suite101.com on 23 May 2006.


Southern Hemisphere Paganism: How Differing Seasonal Cycles Affect Sabbat Dates

By Psyche | July 7, 2007 | Leave a comment

How do Pagans in the southern hemisphere accommodate the differences in their seasons when most of the Pagan literature is focused on more northern climates?

As Wicca’s spiritual roots are found in pre-Christian European mythology and culture, consequently its festival dates tend to follow the seasonal cycles of the northern climate.

In fact, previously, most books on Paganism and Wiccan focused almost exclusively on the northern hemisphere, but more and more Pagan writers are getting the idea that this there are Pagans practicing in other parts of the world, with entirely different seasonal cycles.

We’ll explore more on this in future articles with book reviews and interviews featuring Pagans from varying traditions from all over the globe.

As a nature-based religion, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be celebrating the slumber of the Earth and the Sun-God’s rebirth in December, where in Australia, for instance, they’re throwing shrimp on the barbie and the sun’s in the full blast of summer.

Typically southern hemisphere Pagans shift the traditional designated dates on the Wheel of the Year by 180 degrees, so you have the following designations:

Samhain – 30 April
Yule – 21 June
Imbolg – 31 July
Ostara – 23 September
Beltane – 31 October
Midsummer – 22 December
Lughnassadh – 2 February
Mabon – 21 March

In each of the Sabbat articles I’ve written thusfar, I’ve included both the northern and southern dates for the festivals, and I will continue to do so.

If you’re a Pagan down under, let us know how you celebrate. What you do differently, what you do that’s similar. You can begin or contribute to discussions by clicking on the link at the bottom of this article.


First published on Suite101.com on 25 June 2006. (Unfortunately.)


The Pagan Diet: A Few Thoughts

By Psyche | April 10, 2007 | Leave a comment

Paganism, in general, has no prescribed dietary restrictions, though it has developed a few ‘customary’ dishes for feast days over the past fifty years. There are some noticeable tendencies in our dietary habits, while by no means universal or necessarily defining, there are a few notable commonalities.

For example, you may find a higher number of Pagans who prefer to buy natural and organic meat and produce; as reverence for nature is one of our defining doctrines, Pagans tend to be especially environmentally and morally conscious in this regard.

Nor is vegetarianism mandatory, though you may find a higher number of vegetarians among Pagans than some other religious groups. Some Pagans adopt vegetarian or vegan diets at certain feast days, or before certain rituals as an observance, and to cleanse the system, and yet others believe that humankind, having evolved to be able to eat animals, ought to continue doing so. The argument goes that it’s just as natural; in reality it’s as much a matter of comfort and individual choice.

As you can see, conscious eating can play a significant role in choosing one’s diet. Respect for the Earth and sustenance gained from Her plays an active part in deciding what one consumes. Cliché or not, it’s a fact that we are what we eat, physically and psychically.

At any Pagan festival or event you’re like to see an assortment of dishes, though there are a few foods and beverages that are more likely to be present than others. Mead, for example, has become standard Pagan fair, and ale, but more in name than anything else, as beer is more often drunk in its place.

At each festival seasonal fruits and vegetables will be found on the altar and table as physical representations of the bounty of the season, or certain flowers or boughs in the colder months. These can vary depending on one’s local produce.

Several Pagan cookbooks have entered the market in the past decade or so, both for local fundraisers and the commercial market providing recipes which have become reoccurring staples in my house.


First published on Suite101.com on 10 April 2006. (Unfortunately.)


Pagan Community

By Psyche | April 6, 2007 | Leave a comment

I first began meeting other Pagans and magickally-minded folk online ten years ago through various Usenet groups, e-lists, message boards, IRC, websites, e-mail and other electronic correspondence. While there were quite a few then, over time I’ve watched it expand and grow significantly. Today there are literally hundreds of e-lists and online communities virtually dedicated to each and every facet of Paganism, and every tradition of Wicca imaginable (and some I would never have imagined!)

I was excited to find others who were interested in the same things I was, and I learned a lot. I even briefly had a go with an online coven, but that didn’t work out for me, though there are several that are active and successful today.

There is a certain amount of interconnectedness online, especially within specific communities, but what about offline, meeting people in the flesh? Attending public rituals with other Pagans, or even just meeting up for coffee or a pint, can seem difficult or scary for someone newly discovering their path.

Check out your local occult shop for postings, or Pagan magazines, and websites. For example, the Witches’ Voice is great resource that lists many, many local covens, shops, and other places for networking.

You may not find a community that fits your particular interests or needs in your city, may need to decide how far you’re willing to travel, and what sort of relationships you’d like to make. Are you hoping just to meet casually, or would you like to be a regular member of a coven, circle or grove? What tradition would you most like to connect with?

When meeting anyone new for the first time, it’s always best to meet in a public place. Many moots are held in pubs or coffee shops with non-Pagan attendees present as well. Festivals and conferences are great ways to meet a number of people in a public setting.

People in the Pagan community come from a variety of age groups, traditions, coven or solitary backgrounds, and while generally a friendly lot, if you do come across a group that seems hostile, or demands certain things of you that you feel uncomfortable with, remember that you are free to disagree or leave at any time.

Just be honest and open; make an effort, but allow connections to form naturally, and don’t try to jump into anything too serious too soon. At any large gathering you’re likely to find others who are new to the scene or to Paganism in general.

It’s fairly recently that I’ve branched out into meeting other Pagans offline, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I hope your experience is as rewarding.

First published on Suite101.com on 27 March 2006. (Unfortunately.)


Definition of Paganism

By Psyche | April 6, 2007 | Leave a comment

Depending on your background, the word ‘pagan’ can mean a variety of things. It may mean one who is not Christian, Muslim or Jewish, or one who has o religion. It could simply mean one who isn’t Christian, or conjure fantastic hedonistic images of orgiastic rites. These definitions have had their place n the past, but definitions have a way of changing with time depending on usage and culture.

Our modern word ‘pagan’ comes from the Latin paganus, meaning ‘country-dweller’. Similarly, the word ‘heathen’, which has come to mean one who does not acknowledge the Christian, Muslim, or Jewish god, literally means ‘heath-dweller’. Both these words refer to someone from the country or rural district, as opposed to more urban folk.

The initial spread of Christianity took place in major urban areas, leaving the countryside continuing to practice folk magick and adhere to the local customs. It wasn’t long before the word became synonymous with the idea of rustic folk tradition and those who were not followers of the Christian god, thus giving rise to many of the more modern meanings we understand today.

More recently, however, the definition of Paganism has evolved yet again to become a general term for the followers of magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic religions which hold a reverence for nature as a central characteristic of their belief system. It’s also given rise to the term neo-pagan (literally ‘new pagan’), which refers to a follower or sympathizer of one of the newly formed pagan religions now spreading throughout the world. It is with this latter modern definition that this section will be predominantly concerned.


First published on Suite101.com on 11 March 2006. (Unfortunately.)


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