Opiate of the masses.

The Broom Closet: In or Out?

By Psyche | July 27, 2007 | Leave a comment

Should you “stay in the broom closet”; or share your newfound spirituality of Wicca or Paganism with others?

Sometimes deciding what to tell others about one’s religion can be a difficult thing. Unfortunately not all societies are equally open minded regarding matters of faith.

To “come out of the closet” is to acknowledge one’s homosexuality openly, and similarly, the phrase “in the broom closet” refers to Pagans who not only keep their spirituality to themselves, but actively avoid mentioning it or acknowledging their spirituality publicly, often even one’s family and close friends are unaware.

Religious and spiritual belief is a very personal subject, it can be very private. Yet, at the same time, often our beliefs permeate the whole of who we are, how we express ourselves, from what foods we buy for our families to what we do on Saturdays to who we pray to on December 25th (Mithras? Jesus?). It can even dictate how we interact with others, whether we turn the other cheek, practice ahimsa, or harm none.

Unfortunately, religious persecution still exists, and it can be a difficult decision for some people to decide whether or not to tell their friends, or even their families about the path they have chosen.

I’m of the belief that it is always best to be honest and upfront with family and close friends, for those are the people are supposed to know you best, though not everyone may have the same relationships with their loved ones. However, not everyone may have the same support options available to them.

Religious discussion is rarely appropriate on the job, but if you have co-workers you are close to, and the subject arises, what you say and how you present it may affect work relations: not everyone may understand what it means to have a witch in the office. ‘Witch’ is still commonly used as a derogatory term, and even when it’s not, it’s often misunderstood in terms of storybook hags or Hollywood lightshows, and lengthy explanations of religious and spiritual beliefs are not often office cooler talk.

If you do decide to be open about your spirituality, you may want to consider who you want to “come out of the closet” to, and what their response may be. Some questions to mull over may include:

  • Who do I want to tell?
  • Why haven’t I told … previously?
  • What will …’s reaction be?
  • Am I prepared to accommodate possible changes in our relationship, at least at first?
  • Is it appropriate for … to understand my spirituality?

Next week we’ll explore methods of opening up to friends and family.

First published on Suite101.com on 03 July 2006. (Unfortunately.)

Eris and the Discordians

By Psyche | July 27, 2007 | 1 comment

The second of a two part series on Eris, Greek goddess of chaos and disorder. Here we explore Her divine nature as portrayed in Discordianism.

Discordianism is a rather new religion, begun in the late 1950s, which can best be described as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion disguised as a joke…ad nauseum. Its founding text is the Principia Discordia, a mad collection of both typed and handwritten text, cut and paste quotes, images, drawings, rubber stamps, and genuine insight, the authors of which are Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst. Omar Ravenhurst was an alias of Kerry Thornley, but while Malaclypse’s identity remains under speculation, he is widely believed to be Greg Hill.

Its matron goddess is Eris, goddess of chaos and disorder. She’s portrayed rather malevolently in some Greco-Roman myths, but Discordians see Her in a softer light, while still revelling in the mischief and disharmony She brings.

Discordianism’s underlying doctrines resemble Catholicism turned on its head, with a healthy dose of Paganism infused with an absurd amount of drugs. To quote Kerry Thornley in his introduction to the fifth edition: “If organized religion is the opium of the masses, then disorganized religion is the marijuana of the lunatic fringe.”

There are a few core concepts in Discordianism, such as the existence of Discordian Popes. The Principia gives a template for Pope Cards, which explain that “Every man, woman and child on this Earth is a genuine and authorized Pope”, and recommend the bearer be treated right.

POEE, the Paratheo-Anametamystikhood of Eris Esoteric, is a non-prophet irreligious disorganization described as “a tribe of philosophers, theologians, magicians, scientists, artists, clowns, and similar maniacs who are intrigued by Eris, goddess of confusion, and her doings”.

The Sacred Chao one of the more popular symbols of Discordianism resembling the yin and yang symbol of Taoism, but as the Principia explains, “The Sacred Chao is not the Yin-Yang of the Taoists. It is the HODGE-PODGE of the Erisians.” It further elucidates “…instead of a Podge spot on the Hodge side, it has a PENTAGON which symbolizes the ANERISTIC PRINCIPLE, and instead of a Hodge spot on the Podge side, it depicts the GOLDEN APPLE OF DISCORDIA to symbolize the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE. The Sacred Chao symbolizes absolutely everything anyone need ever know about absolutely anything, and more! It even symbolizes everything not worth knowing, depicted by the empty space surrounding the Hodge-Podge.”

The Law of Fives states that “ALL THINGS HAPPEN IN FIVES, OR ARE DIVISIBLE BY OR ARE MULTIPLES OF FIVE, OR ARE SOMEHOW DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY APPROPRIATE TO 5.” Five being a number of chaos, the disruption of four, traditionally seen as a stable number representing order. This, coupled with William Burroughs’ obsession with the number twenty-three, which many Discordians discover through the works of Robert Anton Wilson, a well known Discordian author, has given rise to Discordia Day, on the twenty-third of May, the fifth month. Discordia Day is recognized as a day to celebrate Eris and Discordianism, getting into mischief and having a laugh.

Eris is worked with in a lighthearted manner, Her penchant for disrupting the norm is celebrated with mischievous glee, and all works of chaos are Her works.

Rejoice in the sight of a messy room, laugh in a traffic jam, and celebrate divine disruption with joy. Hail Eris!

Works Cited:

  • Malaclypse the Younger and Ravenhurst, Omar Khayyam. Principia Discordia. IllumiNet Press: Lilburn, 1991.

For more, you can check out the entire Principia Discordia online at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tilt/principia/. Also recommended: The Illuminatus! Trilogy, a novel by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

First published on Suite101.com on 29 May 2006. (Unfortunately.)

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.)

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