Listen! To everyone!

HawkWhen my Druid Grove prepared for the recent Beltane celebration, a discussion broke loose about the accessibility of sites where we typically hold or rituals.

We, the Mystic River Grove of the Most Ancient Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids as we call ourselves in high ritual, biting our tongues in our cheeks, have, even since before I joined, prided ourselves that we practically always have celebrated outdoors. There were, apparently, only less than a handful instances where it rained so hard that the celebration was moved indoors. Deep winter temperatures have not held us back from freezing through Alban Arthan and Imbolc celebrations.

With that outdoor focus comes, obviously — and for some regrettably —  a choice of sites that are not only a (short) walk away from the nearest parking lot, but sometimes over what’s considered harsh terrain. I grew up in the Alps, mind you, so I have a little bit of a different approach to what’s “harsh terrain” than the folks from the flat marshlands in Massachusetts where I live now, but we’re not talking about perfectly horizontal, paved paths either.

And that, the distance and the terrain, is an obstacle for some of our Grove members suffering from anything between aging knees and auto-immune diseases rendering legs powerless.

What to do about that, I don’t know. Yet. Suggestions were made, and opinions about the suggestions were expressed. The discussion has been absolutely civil, which somewhat restores my faith in humanity, considering the rhetoric we are seeing more an more in social media and at public appearances of political and spiritual “leaders” if we really can call them such in all earnest. “Closer to the parking lots” was thrown in, “carrying folks in stretchers” came up — and immediately struck down by those actually affected — and I am sure some had “why not function halls” in mind as well.

And while this discussion is going on, the only thing I can make sure of is that I listen very closely. And then wait. And then listen more. And only then offer my thoughts to what people were saying. Opposite to reacting immediately without reflecting on anything that was said.

Let me give you an example. When said celebration was posted, folks asked if there was barrier-free access to the site. As one of the organizers of this particular event, I responded that unfortunately not really. There was even an extended walk, a pilgrimage in a sense, involved. But obviously that we would be happy to help people, who are not willing to participate, to get directly to the ritual site (much shorter distance).

I said willing.

I chose to say not willing. I did sit in front of my computer and thought, ‘is it not willing or is it not able?’ Do I, if I chose not able, say — or even pass judgement — on what these Grove members can or cannot do? Do I disempower them when I say not able? I chose not willing. To me, it sounded more empowering.

There was a response, from an affected person, that not able would have been the better choice.

What do I know? No, really, what do I know about being disabled, differently abled? Ygritte, the Wildling, would say that I know as much as Jon Snow. Which is nothing. (Game of Thrones enthusiasts know what I mean). But I really don’t know anything about actually not being able to walk even a short distance. Or to not to be able to walk, period. I can imagine a tiny fraction of it, can be compassionate, but I do not know. Maybe I will some day. Who other than the Gods can say? But right now I can only do one thing.

Listen……..And then listen more. Compassionately, unbiased, without my own agenda.

And then, after all the listening, and talking, and understanding, I — we as a community — must act. Listening, finding explanations, is one thing. Only when that is followed by action, can it manifest in a better situation for all involved.

Mind you, this listening-thing is not restricted to reaching ritual sites for Druid ceremonies by foot. We have a lot more listening to do. There are women, who feel disempowered because the very people they have elected to manage the framework of their life and prosperity turned their back on them for their own political agenda. There are people all over the world who have, themselves and their kids, witnessed horrors in comparison to which Game of Thrones appears like Disney’s Snow White. And these people are standing on countries’ borders (and the US is not the only one facing refugee crises) hoping to survive with calling nothing but their clothes on their backs their own. We have to listen to the folks who’s biological configuration does not follow patterns some people 2,000 years or more ago thought to be the expectation of their deities, which their wrote into some books and scrolls. And we have to listen to the people whose dreams of a decent life were shattered by never fulfilled promises of something trickling down from somewhere, eventually.

A lot of listening needs to be happening.

Can you imagine how quiet the world would be for once?


Christian Brunner, the Appletree Druid, is also the author “Mountain Magic”, a stroll through lore, myths, and magical practice in the Alps. Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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The Most Pagan Thing I Do…

20170409_154012Defining paganism as a “thing” — I like the term “movement” — is quite difficult. You get easily caught in a vicious circle of needing a definition so you and other people know what you and they hold dear and have in common, and at the same time of shying away from any definition at all to keep paganism as inclusive as it understood these days. And with this vicious circle often enough come vicious arguments on social media.

One step towards a better understanding could be that we all stop using “paganism” interchangeably with all the paths this umbrella term encompasses. Druidry, Wicca, Asatru, Heathenry and so on and so forth are all paths. I typically capitalize them to emphasize that these are names for particular paths. As paganism is general and the path is specific, so is what one does as a pagan more generic while the activities as a follower of a particular path are much more narrowly defined.

One of the beauties of paganism is that there is no rule, within the umbrella, which of the paths one should walk, or that one can only walk one path. You are entirely free to choose. But this is also the end of the no-rule — uhm — rule. Unfortunately, a lot of fake-lore has crept up over time, blowing that no rule idea completely out of proportion. And so there are some today who think that they are not bound to any guidelines of decency, honor, morality, or even positive law (written down or precedence law). Ignoring these rules doesn’t make you pagan.

So what does?

I stumbled upon a blog post by a certain Anna Walker recently, that, in a very simple but insightful way hints at what it actually means to be pagan, completely independent from your path. She writes in her blog:

As an animistic pagan, my most sacred practice involves neither cauldron nor athame, although I own both. My most sacred practice is walking daily through my neighborhood with my dog, Poe. Because I walk with Poe, I know–from bodily experience, not from faith nor from reason–that the moon was full two nights ago and that Orion is still visible in the night sky. I know that the days are lengthening, and that the first of this season’s mountain laurel blooms opened early this year,

This resonated deeply with me. Not only because I did something similar when we still had our beautiful Golden Retriever, our most lovely Vienna: I would take her out for her last pottyround for the night, and scan the dark sky for the Moon and the planets, was thrilled when I saw the Pleiades, and spotted Sirius following Orion like my dog followed me. I looked out and listened to owls, and every now and we even heard coyotes yapping — in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, mind you.

I didn’t even notice how much this routine has become a part of my life until she suddenly died from a gruesome, aggressive cancer. First I didn’t notice, then I began missing it, and now I step outside before locking up the house. Winter, spring, summer, and fall.

This, and growing healing herbs in the yard, or having a deal with one of my neighbors, who only mows the lawn twice a year, that he would tell me before he starts cutting, so that I can harvest St. John’s Wort, Yarrow, and Plantain growing in abundance there, and making my own incense and tinctures, this is all embracing a pagan life. As much as I, a husband, father, director of program evaluation in a homeless service agency in an urban setting can do. Would love to do more, but there are people depending on me.

As Anna Walther says, I don’t need a cauldron or athame to pagan. I, too have that. And a Viking axe, a cloak, and a copper sickle. These are my Druidry things, though, (except the Viking axe, I just like it), the tools for my path.

Talking about which.

The path is where I worship a particular pantheon, tell specific lore to an audience, and devote time and energy to celebrate changes in the season and so on. I selected that path because, under the umbrella of paganism, I was free to do so. And I would be free to leave that path if I so decided. There is no rule telling me otherwise. There are rules within the path, though. Not many. But there always are.

The path is my specific spiritual expression within my pagan lifestyle. I some sense, they are two different things, but the are unbreakably interwoven with one another.

And it’s the latter why it is so difficult to find consensus within the pagan community. Because sometimes people say pagan but are talking about their path, and at other times people talk about paganism but use the perimeters of their path to describe it.

Being clear about the difference helps, though.


Traditions from pagan times can be found in my book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Happy Passov-east-ara!

EasterBunny

For years now social media debates (to put it nicely) have flared up around the northern hemisphere’s Spring Equinox: What is Easter, who “stole” it from whom, and why be there bunnies? I admit, it is one of the less straight forward festival to sort out, and my sense is that it is because there are so many details to consider: three faiths (and for simplicity I am calling all pre-Christian European spiritual paths a “faith”) and a number of languages. On top of this, quite some time has passed, and with that our common knowledge today is so different from what it was about 1,700 to 500 years ago.

To sort this thing out, we need to make sure we truly understand one fact: Jesus was a Jew, assuming there was actually one physical person of whom all these stories are about. Just let’s, for simpler writing. As a Jew, he would have celebrated Passover, with a meal where bread is broken and all that.

Let’s keep it at that for a moment, and talk about the next detail in this mystery, the calculation of this festival. Passover is entirely bound to the cycle of the Moon, and happens six and one half moon cycles after Rosh Hashana, which takes place on the New Moon during the previous September or October.

The Christian Easter is Sun and Moon bound — it happens on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the Spring Equinox. With the caveat that western Christianity bases that calculation on a fixed date of the Equinox on March 21st and the ecclesiastical Full Moon that appears on calculation tables the Catholic Church calculated out, while eastern (orthodox) Christians base it on the astronomical Full Moon and the Spring Equinox as observed in Jerusalem. There could be a month between the two Easters.

Wherever these three different calculations bring us, we can all agree that the celebration they determine, Passover or Easter, will happen on a different day each year. And why, a scientific mind might ask naively, could they possibly celebrate historical events such as the Exodus from Egypt (Passover) and Christ’s crucifixion, while the anniversaries of which should, for all intents and purposes of historical events, happen on the same day every year?
Well, because we are talking mythology here. These are stories containing kernels of truth, but the stories themselves are not entirely true. So they need not necessarily be celebrated on an actual anniversary.

Going back to the tale of Jesus, we have already established that he most certainly would have celebrated Passover, and there is (assuming a lot of unknowns here) a chance that one year, right after he celebrated Passover, the Romans crucified him.

This is where the Christian and the Jewish festivals veer apart in meaning. The latter is still about the Jewish Exodus, the former becomes the Last Supper. And with that comes the different way to calculate. Never mind that “the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the Spring Equinox” is not so far away from the “14th day of the seventh Moon after Rosh Hashana”, which is pretty close to the Autumn Equinox (surprise: roughly six moons ago). But still, even if Christians and Jews end up close enough with their Spring festivals, the calculation is distinct enough to be considered “their own”. Let’s not forget, they didn’t like each other that much back then, so the Christians couldn’t just adopt the Jewish calculation.

Was this already complicated enough, we now have to explore why we call it “Easter”.

Well, to begin with, “we” is a tall order here, really, because “Easter” is only used in the English speaking world. Add to this the German “Ostern” and you have quite a large language group referring to the celebration with a term other than Last Supper or Passover.

But: it’s Pâques in French. The accent on the “a” is important to understand here, because this particular accent on a vowel denotes that there once was an “s” after the vowel, which now no longer exists. So, it was Pasques in older French or the “s” was at last still present in the Latin root of the word. And obviously, the term has its roots in Pascha, the Jewish name for Passover.
In Spanish, the festival is called Pascua; it’s Páscoa in Portuguese and Pasqua in Italian. In other words, the whole segment of the Christian world speaking some form of a Roman language — and that’s quite a big part — does not even go down the road calling the festival something related to Easter. They stuck with the original Jewish word for it!

So, what happened?

To understand this better, we have to drop something that is quite similar to anthropomorphism (the very innate human behavior where we are so full of ourselves being human that we think that the rest of the world (animals, plants etc.) behave the same way). They don’t. But while it is good to drop anthropomorphism generally , what I am talking about here is that, similarly, we mustn’t think that certain knowledge and behavior we have today was common for people more than a millennium before us. It’s hard for my kids to understand how we functioned before cellphones, so it’s not a mystery that it is equally difficult to image a world without watches, calendars, functional maps etc.

In this particular case, to understand how life worked one and a half millennium and more ago, we must truly forget our knowledge of, or dependency on, the calendar. Or the ability to read it. That is: for the common folk that was not something they knew. People back then counted in days, fortnights, moons, and seasons. It was rather like “Let’s meet in three days” than “Let’s see each other on Tuesday”. The first church tower clocks didn’t even have a minute hand, and until the invention of pocket watches in the 16th and their actual coming into fashion in the 17th century, one would pick up the new coat from the tailor “in the morning” and not at 9:45 am.

In the Dark Ages, it was important for people to know the seasons, because they had to, for farming. But on which day the Spring Equinox occurred? That was told to them by the members of the learned class. In Celtic society, for example, that were the Druids.

So now, during the Dark Ages, the learned class of the people then classified as “pagan” was replaced by people of the frock, Church people. They, too, were learned, knew how to read and write, and interpret calendars. Or calculate out days. So, imagine yourself as an Saxon village person. You were always told by your learned person,

“Hey guys, in three days we will be gathering to celebrate the arrival of spring, and we will honor the Goddess Ostara.”

and now you are told by that new learned person,

“Hey guys, in three days we will be gathering to celebrate Passover, the Last Supper.”

And the village people were like,

“Huh?”

And the new learned person rolled his eyes, and goes,

“Like celebrating Ostara.”

And the village people were like,

“Ah, got ya.”
“Is that all? Gotta go milk them cows.”
“Should I slaughter a ram?”

“Beer!”

For the farmers and craftspeople, kind of pre-occupied with surviving, it made no difference. Some nerdy know-it-all told them when to celebrate. You throw on your best outfit, braid the girls’ hair, clean the boys’ noses and show up at the village common. Bring some for the potluck. That’s all.

So, yes, there is much intertwined into Easter, culturally and linguistically, that makes it somewhat confusing. But all we have to keep in mind are these few facts:

  • The Catholic Church doesn’t celebrate Passover, they just finagled the calculation of their Last Supper festival so that their resurrection celebration roughly happens at the same time their worshipped Jewish demi-god would have celebrated Passover.
  • They kept calling the festival — as evident from the whole Roman languages speaking world — Pascha (for Passover), probably for lack of a better word, and to draw some form of lineage to Jesus’ origin.
  • Only for some of the Germanic speaking people (not even all — Dutch: Pasen; Icelandic: Páska; Danish and Norwegian: Påske: Swedish: Påsk) — so let me rephrase that: for the (Anglo)Saxon speaking world, the festival was overlaid with a term the Saxons knew and could identify with, Ostara. Or, in modern English: Easter and modern Standard German: Ostern.

And what about the bunnies?

They are cute and, in Spring, do a lot of what bunnies do. And the hens increase their egg production that time of the year. And sacrificing a lamb for the divine or eating the last piece of cured leg of the pig (aka ham) slaughtered at Samhain (to not have to feed it through the harsh European winter) are all things that the pre-Christian Europeans of whatever “faith” have done for millennia. The Jewish people observed the same, by the way (wouldn’t eat ham, though).
And the “pagans” just kept doing the same old same old no matter what the Church called the festival of the season, or however that nerdy monk calculated the proper time to gather and celebrate. This is not “stealing”, it’s just people stubbornly continue doing what they’ve done for generations.


Other traditions people just kept doing despite the Church’s teachings can be found in my book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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The Magical Math of Balancing the Universe

Stonehenge Visit

Math at its best

In last week’s article of the Weekly Druid, I contemplated the importance of considering nuances when giving advice. I used the example of someone asking about the price of bad Magic and the response that it all depends on what one beliefs rather than knows. Or, I argued, the advisor should at least have the integrity to advise the querent to, if there is no possible way to know, what risks are involved.

While many readers agreed, there were some who brought up an eons old argument, that “bad” Magic — and for all intents and purposes the original querent was talking about dark Magic, the Lefthand Path — is agreeable because it balances out the Universe.

Well, I am a data analyst and program evaluator in my day job, and a suggestion like this one obviously tickles my interest (but not necessarily my fancy). In other words: is that a plausible argument?
One way to test something like that is by evaluating how easy it is to create a situation where such a hypothesis is no longer plausible, to take the argument ad absurdum. For example: if one was a witch walking by a playground filled with innocently happy children, doing their fun children stuff, would it be that witch’s charge to bring the universe, that is obviously unbalanced towards fun and happiness, into balance by casting a wicked spell that takes out all the good vibes of that situation?

Clearly, such an action is not only not necessary — the Universe is just fine when kids play and have fun — it would also be disturbingly perverted, and may required to have such a person sectioned to psychiatric care, for they are a danger to themselves and others.

The other way to approach this is simply by using math.

First order would be to define where the balance of the Universe is, and how could bad and good be represented mathematically. What offers itself to this problem is the very basic number line, with zero being the dead center balance, and the positive numbers going into one and the negative numbers going into the other direction. Let’s just, for argument sake, say that -1 (negative one) is bad, and +1 (positive one) is good. One might say that this is arbitrary (why not -1 being defined at good?), but let’s just stick with the more natural definition.

Let’s consider something bad, a negative one, has happend to someone. In an actual case, a witch found out that her partner of many years has left her for someone else, claiming that he never loved her really anyway. That badly treated and hurt witch was contemplating revenge.

So, the witch is in the negative one place, and, according to the “balancing the Universe” theory, she should do something to get back into balance, to zero.

Revenge would mean she does something bad, a negative one on top of the negative one that was done to her. But rather than achieving balance, we now are at negative two.

-1 – 1 = -2

Ha, says the smart mathematician, why should we choose addition rather than multiplication? Negative one times negative one equals positive one! All set.

Well, first of all we defined zero as the balance point, and multiplication just swings the pendulum to the other side, to a (maybe even manically) positive Universe. No balance to be reached here.

-1 x -1 = +1

But more importantly, math is also subject to plausibility, and it is very clear that one bad deed cannot be cancelled out by another bad deed. So we must stick with good old addition. And the only way to get from negative one to zero is to add a positive one to it.

-1 + 1 = 0

There is no other way around it, if your argument is that balancing the Universe is the ultimate goal. You would have to do some light Magic, causing something good to happen, in order to cancel out the bad.

If yo do not want to do that, you could actually claim multiplication as the method. Because there is a way to get from negative one to zero by ways of multiplication. One would have to do absolutely nothing, zero, about the bad that negative one they experienced.

-1 x 0 = 0

That is better than doing something bad, and at least gets one to the balance point.

While that may have been a fun exercise — at least for the geekier witches and Druids out there — the fact remains that revenge does not bring one farther, mathematically and otherwise.


The writer of this blog is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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The Price of Magic

CounsellingI wanted to write something about the beauty of spring this week, about the colors coming back to a gray world here on the northern hemisphere, and about the chirping birds and what I’ve seen the bunnies do. But alas, a social media conversation, “advice” if you will, caught my eye and I feel compelled to set the record straight. Here is what someone posted on a pagan social media group:

Q: What is the price for using bad magic?

A: It depends on your own personal believes.

Now, what I definitely do not want to do here is convince you to accept, or live by, the notion that magic has its price, that what you do will come back to you three or seven times, that you will harvest what you sowed, or that Karma will get back to you in this or another lifetime. That is up to you and your integrity.

What I do want to talk about is the type of advice given here, and how it is not helpful.

Fact is, we do not know if these laws of return exist. Personally I believe they do, mostly because lore since antiquity tells us of them, and I do not consider myself wiser and more knowledgeable then hundreds if not thousands of people before me who thought that this idea of magic having a price is a thing. But I am still the first one to admit that this is a belief of mine, not knowledge. And, more importantly, I also know that my belief in that respect has no influence whatsoever on the existence of such laws.

Why is that important?

Let’s evaluate the two possibilities. Number one: these laws don’t exist at all, they are just made up. Mine or anyone else’s belief do not bring them into existence. Yet I do not lose anything, or run a risk, if I falsely believe they are real, and align my Magic according to them.

However, possibility number two – the laws of x-fold return do in all actuality exist – is not that simple. Let’s for a moment consider them reality. Similar to what was said in the paragraph above, anyone’s personal belief that they don’t exist would not — and that’s the key point here — make them disappear. One cannot simply believe a law away. You wouldn’t get far telling a police officer that you don’t belief in stop signs either. If the laws of return do exist, they cannot be undone by not believing in them.

To advise a person — especially when they are new to Magic — otherwise, is not sincere.

The way to go is telling them that nobody knows whether or not these laws exist, and that everyone must make a couple of choices. One, if they should believe the laws are real (and best base their believe on something more profound than comments on social media), and two, if they want to adhere to them. Because, let’s face it, even if one believes in these laws, they still can act against them (like some people don’t really come to a halt at stop signs). Taking that risk knowingly is an entirely different approach than falsely thinking that just not believing in them makes them go away.

I know, that looks like a marginal nuance, but I think it makes actually quite a big difference.


The writer of this blog is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Do you believe in…?

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Who hasn’t heard that question “Do you believe in … ?” I certainly have. It could be that proverbial couple that knocks on my door and asks if I believe in some demi-god from the Middle East, or the scientist friend wondering if I believe in Astrology, and why on Earth I would. Or it could be that someone asks the mind hive of social media if it is possible to believe in a revealed religion and at the same time in a pagan God or Goddess.

I don’t mind being asked. It’s just that I feel that too many people stress out far too much over “Do I have to believe in something?” And there is no need to worry. At all.

What does that even mean — believing in?

The question “Do you believe in?” is simply not complete. It needs context. I could, for example, believe in my son having capacity to finish high school. Or in my daughter excelling in veterinarian school, some years ahead. But just believing in them? There needs to be something attached to the question that qualifies what you believe a person — or divination system such as astrology — can do.

Typically, you would base your believe on some information, some body of data, that allows you to take a decision whether or not what you believe has some probability of being, or at least becoming, true. But when I read someone’s boast on social media recently, that Lady Gaga told them in a L.A. bar that she, Gaga, “believed in them”, I do wonder how Ms. Gaga knows? By all means, savor the moment. But without knowing what it was that Lady Gaga believed that person can achieve, it still means litte to nothing.

So, in the case of my kids, data and experience show that they have done well so far, that they have the general or particular intellectual capacity and interest in the things I can believe they can achieve. I can only believe, not know, because we are talking about future scenarios, and fate can always throw a monkey wrench into these plans — accidents, change of interests, chemical imbalances in the brain — who knows? Nobody does. Hence the “believe”, not the “know”. But, given the circumstances, it’s not too much out of whack for me to believe these things.
There are some way out of whack things I would advise anyone not to believe in. But that might be for another blog, another time.

What about Jesus?

The difficulty I have with the question “Do you believe in Jesus?” by the almost proverbial couple knocking on the front door — or anyone who for whatever reason feels compelled to ask me that — is not that they are asking me about Jesus. Whatever he is, a God or a prophet, he is meaningful to people. I fully appreciate that. And while I do not follow the Christian path, I will always defend people’s right to do so. What I don’t like about the question is that it is so vague, and that I would have to give different answers once I know what it is actually people want to know that I believe.

That he existed? Well, I am straight at 50% here. Never would I rely on only one report, a compilation of scriptures from 1,900 to 1,700 years ago, when trying to assess the probability of something being actually true. Why in this case? Secular writers such as Sueton, Pliny the Younger, Philon and particularly Justus of Tiberias do not mention him in their historiae, and even Catholic theologists admit nowadays that the “Testimoniae” by Tacitus and Josephus Flavius are doubtful. But…could there have been a Jewish person who preached the coming of God, the end of the world, and got in trouble over that? Sure, why not. Since that was a widely popular profession back then, that is not a totally out of whack assumption. They called an end-time preacher like that “Messiah”.

 So…50:50 it is.

Do I believe in Jesus having the most followers, in numbers and relative to the world population? Yup. Facts!

Or that he did all the Magic we are told about? Well, I believe it as much as I believe in any mythology. On a certain level, as in the Otherworld experiences of the writers of scripture, yes. But in the instance of the reality most of us agree upon? That would be a hard nope.
So would be the question if I believed in his return, as a rather disturbed person was obviously convinced he would, judging from the sign they held up in a subway station where I waited for a train recently (most disturbing was the axe sticking out of their backpack, actually).

Sooo…different answers to the question, depending on what the person asking it could potentially want to know.

And what about Astrology?

Again, if the question is whether or not I believe it exists, that would be another “Facts!”. There is physical evidence of its existence, and historical one, as it was taught in European universities until the Renaissance.

Do I believe that it accurately predicts the future? Nope!

Or that it describes the quality of a particular point in time and space (on Earth) like a huge calendar, clock, and GPS all in one? Well, facts, that’s what astrology is. The debate is how accurate the conclusions are one draws from this information. Here we are talking about empirical data, and that can always be debated. Like pretty much any economical model, for example, which are also all based on empirical data. Only that people bet huge amounts of money that the data turns out to be true, and profitable. They call it investing, but it’s really betting.

Moving on.

Is it all about believing, though?

Does it really matter if we believe in deities, myths, and magical tools? Not in my book. Because for me, experiencing makes so much more sense. Experiencing the Otherworld, experiencing Gods and Goddesses old and new, experiencing how Tarot readings and astrological charts align with a person’s life. Experience is what life is really about!

And with experiencing I don’t mean walking through the forest in amazement, thinking that experiencing beauty is experiencing the divine. I mean the spine tingling, skin crawling, out of space and time encounter that unhinges you from ordinary reality for a moment or two.

So if you’re compelled to knock on my door, proverbial couple, ask me if I have experienced Jesus. And I will give you the straight forward answer that I have not. I have learned about him in school, heard about him in church (whereto my parents sent me), and read about him in more or less critical books. Never experienced him.

Thor I experience regularly. The loud, rough, but genuinely supportive and definitely humorous deity, who let’s me know what he thinks by yelling at me with his booming voice. I don’t know why him, because I am an Alpine Celtic guy. But I don’t think I have much say there.

I have experienced the essence, the animus, of our Mother Earth a few times. Mind boggling encounters. More often, it is the three Goddesses Wilbet, Ambet, and Borbet who I meet when I wander through the forlorn forest or the remote valley, also known as the Otherworld. I can feel their presence. They communicate with me in this “suddenly I know this” manner.

What I have experienced is what you want to ask me if you want to get to know me. Not what I believe in. And what you have experienced is what I might ask you when we meet over coffee, a pint of refreshing beer, or when we find ourselves resting on the same bench alongside a path through the mountains.


Find out what I believe in, much rather have experienced, in my book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

BuchVorderseite
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Celebrate anyway!

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“Old Lady”, a very old and wise White Oak       Photo (c) by Catriona McDonald

Last night, we, the Druids of the Mystic River Gove of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, celebrated yet another turn of the season. In our case, since we are a Grove in Massachusetts, USA, it was the Spring Equinox. From what I can tell on my social media feeds, many other fellow pagans celebrated that all over the world (albeit the Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere).

I do realize that the first sentences are loaded. We call ourselves Druids, even when not all in the Grove have actually reached that stage of learning. We call ourselves Druids. We are part of one specific Druid Order, one that isn’t a good fit for every single person out there on the Druid path. Some would even take issue with being part of an Order, any Order. We obviously celebrate the stations of the Wheel of the Year, which may or may not be what Druids, or pagans in general, in antiquity did. And when it comes to celebrating an Equinox, it’s even more unlikely Europeans in ancient times did that.

“So what?” I might cry out. Not in anger, but in (the remnants of the) ecstasy built up from walking through the forest at the liminal time of dusk, from gathering around a hundreds of years old oak, doing some ritual Magic there while the woods produced noises that make your neck hair stand up, from toasting the “Old Lady” — as we call that tree — with a mead-filled horn (four fillings, to be precise), and from sitting down together in a hall later on, feasting, boasting, and laughing. So what if the Druids of old didn’t celebrate the Equinox?

Druidry, paganism today needs to adapt to today. Our upbringing, the focus of our education, our jobs and responsibilities, even what food we are able to buy in chain stores nowadays, all this is very much unhinged from the progression of seasons on either hemisphere. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter have dwindled down to pretty backgrounds to our ever unchanging lives. They do no longer change what we do; and eat. Except what we wear, to a certain degree. But even that only as far as the outside is concerned. Where I live now, where air-conditioning forces me to wear sweaters inside in summer, and take off sweaters in winter, even the type clothes I choose is somewhat disconnected.

So, I totally get that pagans of old may not have needed to celebrate the Equinox (even though the symbolism around Ostara indicates some level of celebration). Their lives were, to a great extent, determined by the change of the seasons.

But by all the Gods old and new, do we need to connect with these stations of the Sun nowadays!


Read about celebrations in Alpine customs in my book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

BuchVorderseite
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