less than

Because I am an ordained clergy member who ADVOCATES for the right of marriage to be extended to those of ANY gender combination I am reposting my dear friend’s blog post here. Her blog, The Trans Preacher’s Wife, is an amazing first person view of the struggles of an LGBT partnership and sooooo worth following! Thx, RavenHarte

The Trans Preacher's Wife

Magazine-illustration-1950s-colour-lithoYesterday Liam and I participated in our third We Do Campaign action for the Campaign for Southern Equality. You can read about our participation in two earlier stages here and here. Recently, clerks in such places as New Mexico and Pennsylvania have been issuing marriage licenses despite the fact that their individual states do not sanction same-gender marriages (New Mexico neither approves nor prohibits them and Pennsylvania is not legally recognizing the marriage licenses issued in spite of state laws). Here in North Carolina, we have added Amendment One to the books, in spite of the tireless lobbying against it. Amendment One makes any kind of same-gender union illegal in this state. The Campaign for Southern Equality seeks, in this stage, to engage a clerk of court, bring them into our experience, and encourage them to stand with us in an act of conscience and…

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Darkness There? Then SOMETHING More!

generosity

For the topic for Dec 2008 we were asked to explore generosity – what it is; what it isn’t, how it blossoms and how its many petals are displayed. I could save this one for this Dec, but the whole point to my article is we need to be generous ALL the time, not just during the “season of giving”. So Im putting this one out now, especially since in Sept the Compassionate Games begin for Compassionate cities like Winston-Salem. http://compassiongames.org/

PanGaea Revisted – Generosity on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

‘Tis the season of generosity and altruism. The one time of year we as a collective human spirit consciously shift focus on the giving to others. Why do we do it? Because giving makes us feel good. Whether we are giving a present to someone, or food to the hungry, helping a friend move or just offering a tired cashier a warm hello and a smile, by our sharing of something we have, we feel better. We feel connected. We feel hopeful. Not hope that something will come in return usually, but rather a hope that the feeling will spread.

Human nature drives us to want to make connections to other people. We want to be close, we want to form bonds, and we want to be of help. The problem is the more a society’s technology increases, the less emphasis that society places on its upclose and IRL (in real life) social connections. So as an advanced technological society, for most of the year we Americans forget how much connection and contact make us happy. We forget how much other people matter to us. We forget how much we need others, and therefore forget how much others might need US too. Then the holiday season falls upon us, a time to reconnect, take stock in our lives, and be thankful for what we have, which I think is the key to generosity.

Generosity by definition is the ability and readiness to be giving in abundance. Well the only way people are open to giving, is if they already have a sense of fulfillment. You give time, if you have time; you give money if you have money; you give love if you have love. If you have any sense of lack, you will hoard, and our society constantly points out to us how much we lack. We aren’t thin enough, don’t wear the right clothes, eat the right food, drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, blah, blah, blah. The marketing media is constantly teaching us to want, want, want and so we consistently feel a lack, are never happy just right where we are. However during the holidays the gears are shifted and we are reminded how much OTHERS lack, how much we actually have, or how far we’ve actually come, so suddenly during the “season of giving” its easier to think of, say, running a canned food drive for the homeless or giving toiletries to a nursing home.

So how do we maintain a generous spirit throughout the year? How do we generate an altruistic nature? I think we grab every opportunity we can to share of ourselves. We purposely look at the areas in our lives where we feel fulfilled, and parlay that into an act of giving. If you wake up happy, smile and greet people, share your joy. If you are feeling particularly pretty/handsome, compliment how others look, share your confidence. If you saved $5.00 on groceries, buy that $5 bag pre-packed for the food bank, share your good fortune. It’s easy and it only takes one act, because the sense of interconnected happiness that comes when you have shared of yourself WILL snowball; and right now, during the holiday season people are more receptive to spontaneous giving and random acts of kindness and more willing to pass along the sentiment.

Now note I did use the words generous and altruistic and not charitable. Its not that being charitable isn’t a good thing too, sometimes being generous does mean being charitable, but charity, generosity, and altruism are different things. The word charity implies that the giving is directly due to a need the recipient has, its conditional. Being generous and/or altruistic is more an internal drive to care for, be connected and of benefit to others. Its something a person just is, regardless of the conditions. Its a larger quality to strive for, but one with much greater reward. So this holiday season, find the area of your life, the part of you, that you feel is rich, and share it. It’s the best gift you can give.

The Balm in Gilead – Refuge

Safe space

The question posed to us for this article was regarding the concept of shelter. What did we see as a place of refuge, of safety, of security – a constant in a sea of change.

Pangaea Revisited – Refuge on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

This is an amazing time to live, a tumultuous time, a scary time even, but an amazing one. As a female in our society, if I weren’t living in THIS country, during THESE times, I couldn’t be who I am right now. I couldn’t be an “out of the broom closet” Pagan female, let alone a Priestess and leader in my spiritual community. In fact, even in this same country at this same time, I couldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for constant and scary change – change both in our country and populace, AND change in myself.

I freely admit, I have not suffered the hardships many in our country have had. I have always had a home to live in, clothes, food. I have always been relatively physically healthy, and have always had a job good enough to help support my family and sometimes even my friends. I have been lucky. Some might even say I’ve had it easy, but NO ONE makes it through this life unscathed. I have suffered bodily harm at the hands of others, more than once. I have suffered bodily harm by my own hand. I have been betrayed. I have been heartbroken. I have had property loss, financial loss. I have lost people I loved dearly and would have given my own life to save, if I could have. But there is no unit of measure for pain. It’s completely subjective. What one person might brush aside as minor breaks another’s spirit. It is the same with stress and change.

So if we all process pain differently, experience stress differently, it follows that there can’t really be one place of refuge either, no one shelter that will work for us all. In fact, I don’t even have one shelter for myself. What I find comfort in for one issue may do absolutely nothing for me in a different situation.  For example: when I recently realized that many of my bodily ailments had to do with developed food intolerances to VERY common foods, my shelter became my love of research, knowledge and experimentation. I am coping with the stress of having to restrict my diet (which turned shopping & cooking for a family of 4 into a nightmare) by reading everything I can find on the issue, testing theories, researching new foods, logging, charting, you name it.

However what research and reading would have given me refuge when my father died? There is no such animal. For that I relied on friends who had also lost a beloved parent, people who knew the pain personally, didn’t just sympathize. I found shelter in shared pain, in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone, and by seeing that these people were where I was, I found balance as I waded through it.

When I was betrayed by the people closest to me, my shelter was a group of friends out of state who were not only separate from the situation, they weren’t affected by it, and thus only cared about ME, and what I needed. They were literally my refuge, the place I ran to to get away, to give me time to breath and think. They were the people who didn’t look at me with pity, or rage with anger, or judge me on my actions and reactions at all. They were just there, just for ME.

So as I’ve shown, different stressors have always required me to find different forms of solace. However that said, I do think that there are some constants in how I find my own peace. I found mantras to remind myself of them when I need something quick to “grasp onto” and so I present them here as places of refuge that might help you too:

#1. “This too shall pass.”  My spirituality is one that wholly embraces change. Pagans revere the cycles of nature and you cannot have the reaping without the fallowtide. The Wheel of Life ever turns.  So even when times are low, I know they will rise again eventually, but only if I embrace what I’m given and not fight against it.

#2. “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are, for what we could become.” By my very “Aries” nature I prefer abrupt and explosive change. Give me The Tower in Tarot, Hagalaz in Runes, Gevurah in Kabbalah. My patroness is a battle goddess whose totems are ravens & crows. These are carrion birds, those who rid the world of that which is no longer needed.  I truly know that sometimes radical change, complete destruction, the sacrifice of what is outworn or outmoded is necessary to accomplish the greater good. We humans rarely grow through positivity and happiness.

#3. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I am the sum of all that has ever happened to and around me. I can look back at even the most horrible things that have happened and see what roads were formed from them. I can see where it all has led to the now, even if I wished some had never been. By the changes I have had to endure, I have been more effective at helping others cope, which in turn continues to allow me to cope.

And besides, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

Dogmas, Catmas, ummm RavenCaws?

Elements

Pangaea Revisited – The Tenets of The Pagan Path through the eyes of RavenHarte

How does one learn the teachings of your tradition?
In general, most modern Pagans (sometimes called neo-Pagans) can be “self-taught” through the myriad books now available on Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and the like; or may learn through public workshops and classes if they cannot find personal groups or teachers.

For my specific Tradition, a Western Mystery branch of Paganism, and for many degreed Wiccan Traditions, one must be an initiate of a coven and learn the Tradition as is taught by that coven’s individual priesthood. This is accomplished through written lessons, papers, books, rituals, and practical hands-on training in my own coven, much of which comes from my Tradition’s shared Book of Shadows (book of rituals, poetry, prayers, meditations and stories).

Does your tradition accept an authoritative body or council? If so, how active are they in the every day life of the practitioner?
There is no ultimate authority or governing body over all modern Pagan spiritualties, no. However each individual Tradition (which is similar in concept to a Christian denomination) of modern Paganism or Wicca usually does have its own Priesthood or council who has direct and constant contact with their participants.

In my own personal Tradition, each coven within our clan does have its own priesthood who are the authoritative body for that coven. They are extremely active in the everyday lives of the individual practitioners because they are not only the leaders and mentors of the group, but friends & family to the practitioners, a CHOSEN spiritual family. Priesthood spend much of their time, social and spiritual, with their students, as most families do. The clan itself has an Elder body comprised of all the 4th degree High Priesthood, to whom we council with when matters cannot be handled at an individual coven level. This body has little to no interaction with ALL the individual practitioners, but does have routine contact with those in their own covens.

Does your spiritual tradition acknowledge a higher power? If so, what is the nature of this higher power? Is it a personal divine being or a non-personal energy or state. How do you refer to this higher power?
Most Pagans believe in a Divine higher power, though there are as many different ideas of how this Divine energy manifests Itself as there are Pagan spiritualties to believe in them. Most Pagans are pantheistic, believing the Divine is immanent (existing within the living world, including ourselves). Many are panentheistic, believing the Divine is both immanent and transcendent (existing outside of the mundane world and beyond). Many are also polytheistic, believing that the Divine energy manifests in a multitude of different forms, gods and goddesses, each embodying specific energies and attributes of the whole, IE a god of war, or goddess of love. It is through the polytheistic view that one will often find those who have personal patrons or patronesses – manifestations of the Divine as a god or goddess personal to the practitioner.

In my specific coven, I teach my students to view the Divine as one ultimate energy infinitely too complex for us, as humans, to understand in its entirety. So I suggest they see the human brain as a prism, like a diamond, and the Divine as one white light entering this prism at its crown, then fracturing into its myriad different colors, which we understand as the individual gods & goddesses. Each color is then a specific aspect/energy of the Divine as can be seen by a particular angle – but which is no less then the one white Divine energy itself.  We then learn more about the Divine whole by understanding all the different “parts” as told through the different mythologies of the world – most specifically through the Celtic deities and Arthurian archetypes.

Our coven does have a specific patron and patroness, a god and goddess whose mythologies and attributes signify the traits we wish to learn from and strive for. Also practitioners might also have their own patron deities, ones whose mythologies “speak to them” on a personal level, or with whose energy they might be working on to understand a particular aspect of themselves. All are encouraged to find ways to relate to the Divine in whatever way is comfortable and natural for them.

In fact, in general no Pagan is limited to a specific understanding of the Divine, not even within a particular coven or tradition. We are each meant to view the Divine as is personally significant to us, and as such we each refer to this Divine in many different ways: sometimes generally such as “the Divine” or “the Gods”; sometimes gender specifically such as “the God”, “the Goddess”, “Lord & Lady”; sometimes by title or aspect such as “The Great Mother”, “Blessed Mother”, “The Horned Lord”, or “The Sun God”; but more often by the individual god/goddess name appropriate for the situation, prayer, ritual etc.

What is the relationship between Divinity and humanity?
Many Pagans believe we are in a working partnership with the Divine and most believe that we have no need of intermediaries, people who must speak to the Gods for us, or “lesser divinity” who we must pray to to intercede for us. My own Tradition teaches that the Divine is a part of us, working within us and through us to allow us to better ourselves, and life around us. When we speak to the Divine, we are calling to that which is greater than us, a part of everything, AND that which is within us, so that we can do what we need to do to shape our own Paths.

What is the relationship between humans, animals, plants and elements?
Most Pagans believe that all life is comprised of the four elements (air, fire, water and earth) and imbued with Spirit or a “soul”, the sentient energy within that is eternally a part of the Divine. Stemming from this belief, many Pagans, also believe all life forms are interconnected, and not just through the “food chain” ☺, though that is important as well. As such most revere and respect the cycles of nature and life, and as the more “evolved” of the species of the earth, feel a responsibility for the stewardship of it.

In your tradition, is there a conception of matter and of spirit, and if so, what is the relationship between the two?
There is definitely a concept of matter, or the mundane, as being separate from spirit within Pagan spiritualties, but at the same time, there is also a belief in spirit dwelling within living matter as well, as I have already described above. The relationship between the two is very much the “as above so below” concept. That the microcosm that is our own bodies, or our own earth, even our own universe reflects that which is the macrocosm or our concept of the Divine and visa versa. Spirit affects matter and matter affects spirit.

In my specific Tradition we believe in the idea of matter as it relates to the creation myth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, that EVERYTHING is created from sparks of the Divine energy, and has the Divine within, not just the “matter” which we as humans believe is “alive”. Therefore every part of life is Divine and sacred, even those things we see as matter or mundane. All aspects of life have the capacity to help us evolve our own souls, and have a constant relationship with the Divine.

Is there something that stands out to you that people “outside” of your tradition misunderstand about your tradition. If so, please set us straight.
Where do I even begin? There are MANY misconceptions regarding the Pagan spiritualties. Here are the ones that come to mind right away.

A. As the above already illustrates, Paganism is not a GODLESS spirituality. We do believe in a force greater than ourselves, have many varied ideas of what that Divinity is, and respect and revere that Divine energy.

B. Most Pagans do not revere or worship any personification of “ultimate evil” such as Satan, or Lucifer. We believe that ALL sides of life, good and evil, happy and sad are necessary to allow us the lessons we need to learn in order to grow and evolve our own souls. For crops to grow healthy and strong there must always be a fallow-tide. Therefore all aspects of life are “of God”. Evil is a perspective of man, and to be honest many Pagans feel that personifications of Evil such as Satan are convenient entities other religions blame for the failings of man. Most Pagans who are consciously evolving soul strive to take responsibility for their own actions, and hold other humans directly accountable for theirs, so we have no need for scapegoat entities like Satan.

C. Most spiritual traditions of Paganism do not engage in animal sacrifice. As stated above we revere all life as part of the Divine and therefore do not believe in giving another’s life to obtain something for ourselves. Sacrifices are usually made figuratively; as in the giving of time or money, work on charitable efforts, etc. Sometimes an individual will make a personal “blood sacrifice” by donating blood/plasma/platelets to a blood bank, or sometimes by finger stick – but even these are not common Pagan “ritual” practices (though many Pagans are blood donors altruistically). I cannot however say that NO Pagan spirituality makes the literal form of sacrifice because most of the religions of Ifa, such as Santeria, do make ritual offerings of live animals as part of their practices, where it is legally allowed.

D. Most Pagans do not practice ritual naked. First of all, we tend to use a lot of candles in our rites, would you want to be naked in a room full of fire and hot wax? 🙂 Seriously though, while certain ceremonies in SOME Traditions might call for a level of brief nudity, in general Pagans dress in robes because the robes help with the psychological shift from “mundane” time to “sacred” time.

E. Most Pagans do not perform “sex magic” or use sex as part of their ritual practice. Though some of the originating Traditions of modern Wicca, and more indigenous or Reconstructionist Pagan spiritualties have in the past used a transfer of energy during sex as part of initiatory practices, during the past 20 years, especially since the rise of AIDS and other STIs, most modern groups have completely eliminated any “actual” sexual practices from ritual work. Symbolic forms of the sexual union, such as the blade to chalice, are now more the norm to be found within a rite for fertility, or for transfer of power.

F. Pagans do not proselytize. We are not trying to convert anyone to our way of thinking. Most of us have come from backgrounds in more conventional religions. We have done the research and work needed to find the spiritualties which speak to our own souls. We intrinsically know that spirituality is a personal experience, and there is no one spirituality that will suit all people. If left to our own devices, we generally will not talk about religion/spirituality at all because we are so often harassed ourselves.

Night’s Plutonian Shore – My Pagan Path

asabove

About 5 years ago I was asked to be the Pagan perspective on an interfaith “ezine” called Pangaea Revisited. The ezine series has since ended, but I loved the format that each edition’s questions came in, so to put that info back out to a new audience, I’ll be reposting my articles here over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy.

Pangaea Revisited – RavenHarte’s View of the Pagan Path

Terminology we should know?
I actually have a page on my website that has all the terminology I use which might be “foreign” to others. I’ll try to be sure to think of that in my answers, but in case I use a word that you would want to have my own description for, and I don’t clarify it, here’s the website page http://www.clanncaladvwlch.com/ListOfTerms.html

What most attracts you to your chosen path?
I was attracted to the Pagan path during my original search for spiritually by the feminine aspect of Divinity. However I have continued walking this path for the past 20 yrs because of the freedom it affords me to examine my own ideas of the Divine and spirituality, without the dogmas and doctrines of others limiting my view.

What is the goal of your spiritual practice? Do you consider this the goal of life?
The goal of my spiritual practice is to continually find new ways of consciously evolving my own soul, while staying connected with the Divine within and without. I consider this goal to be the purpose of my soul’s journey, but I believe my goal in this life is to “Know Thyself”, by experiencing my humanity as fully as possible by living life authentically, learning from every part of it, and then passing on what I have learned to facilitate the process for others.

What is the predominant spiritual practice you use right now in your life and how do you see it benefiting yourself and your interactions with others?
The predominant spiritual practice I use is ritual. Unlike mantras, meditation, or prayers, ritual is a spiritual practice which is most often shared with others; and by that Sharing it inevitably becomes something more than it would be performed by me alone.  Even when I have written the ritual myself, so have visualized it in my own mind, it becomes more rich and alive when it is enacted with others. The emotions, expressions and Experiences of each person within the rite change it, and give it body, which benefits us all By our shared experience of the Mystery we are personifying. It also benefits us by providing us with a common ground for the exploration of our experiences of the Divine, which vary not only from person to person, but ritual to ritual.

What is the teaching or story from your tradition that has had the greatest impact on how you live your life?
The Pagan path I walk is the Western Mystery tradition, specifically Celtic Arthurian, so the stories that have had the greatest impact on the way I live my life have come from the many variations of the Arthurian legend now available. Specifically, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s book “The Mists of Avalon” was the most influential in my seeking the spiritual path of the Priestess, though I have always had a warrior’s spirit. It showed me that one can be, and often has to be, both Priest and Warrior.

In general, the Arthurian stories that have impacted the way I live my life all have to do with the codes of chivalry and honor. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” in particular stands out for me because it is in this story that you finally get the sense that Camelot, and the way the court at Camelot functions, is an ideal and not a reality, even in their own world. It is something separate and apart.  The Green Knight and Bertilak’s castle both represent a more earth-based idea of what chivalry and honor entail. They show the reader, through Gawain’s realizations, responses and actions, that yes it is important to have ideals and to strive for them, but that the mortal world has challenges and perils which we can only face with honor when we are fully cognizant of our own faults and weaknesses, and thereby achieve humility.

What is the ultimate expression of the highest teaching of your tradition?
Paganism encompasses many different spiritualties, from many different cultures, so there is no one “highest teaching” which can be said to stand for all, therefore no one ultimate expression. As a practitioner of a Western Mystery tradition however, I think one of the highest teachings I constantly remind myself of comes from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which is  “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” Most people would know this statement better as “As Above So Below”. For me this statement means many things, however in the context of an ultimate expression I would have to say it reminds me of my belief that the Divine is within me as well as outside of me, part of my microcosm and the macrocosm as a whole.

So the ultimate expressions for me would be the creation of a ritual circle and Drawing Down the Moon. The ritual circle expresses the Hermetic axiom because it is a Divine space created from our mundane space, which was ultimately a Divine space anyway. Drawing Down the Moon is a ritual magic practice by which a Priestess connects her conscious mind with the energy within herself and all around her that is the Divine Feminine, then aligns that energy and alters her consciousness until she IS that ultimate expression of Divine Feminine in that moment. She is then both human female, and Divine feminine. Drawing In the Sun is the practice a Priest would use to achieve the same goal.

As Robert Heinlein says in “Stranger in a Strange Land”: “Thou art God, and I am God, and all that groks is God.

“Lets Go Crazy”

ImageSooo normally I do not share the private workings of my coven or its members, however I think this story is a bit of a testament to the spirit of my sister Susan, so Im breaking my norm and posting here.

First, the backstory. Susan and I met  the summer of 1998 when Fox News invited me, Susan and another local Priestess to be interviewed for a piece on Wicca & Witchcraft. It was instant kinship and they invited me to join them in a Harvest Home ritual they were performing at the W/S UU that fall. That ritual planted the seed, and by Jan 1999, I had become one of the original Org Team members of Path of the Moon Collective, Susan’s brain child for an open safe space for Pagans in the Triad. After Susan’s personal coven closed, Susan began studying Kabbalah with my group’s class, and later became an initiate of Clann C, which was her spiritual home until she felt her childhood Episcopal church calling her back. In the years I knew her, she helped mentor my public Pagan path, kept me strong when issues there inevitably arose, had my back when I shifted Clann C’s focus off the local Pagan community to Triad wide charity & service projects, repeatedly encouraging that not only I, but Clann C itself continue to work only where our hearts were passionate, and where our efforts would be needed and therefore appreciated. We have continued to follow this advice since.

So, on Friday evening, I was obsessing over what we could do during Clann C’s Beltane sabbat that could honor Susan’s transition, yet not bring down the energy of Beltane, which would have pissed her off, since it was one of our sassy “sister witch’s” favorite sexy Pagan festival days. Mind, I was obsessing over this while I was looking for costume pieces for my upcoming burlesque performance (which would have tickled Susan to death by itself) when suddenly I heard over the vintage clothing store’s speakers…..

“Dearly beloved.. we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word life, it means forever, and that’s a mighty long time, but Im here to tell you…. there’s something else… the Afterworld. A world of never ending happiness, where you can always see the sun, day or night….”

I literally stopped breathing and then said under my breath OH SUSAN! shaking my head with a smile. If you listen to this song from Prince & The Revolution, basically what’s its saying is, life is short, so grab it NOW while you can. So I knew this was how we could honor Susan, by dancing our Maypole to this song and weaving the energy of Carpe Diem into our lives. But I had forgotten about that by the time I got home that night.

So yesterday morning six of the members of Clann C attended Susan’s Life celebration in Greensboro. Many of the original POTMC org team and Pagan community of that time were there. It was a grand meeting of the Clans that she would have been happy for. Stories were shared about her life, and as people were telling them, I had the distinct impression of Susan sitting in this floral chair that was sitting on the dais behind the people who were speaking. Im pretty sure it was right about when her husband was telling the “squirrel initiation” story that I suddenly got the image of Susan clapping her hands with glee kicking her feet back and forth as if she was a little girl, too small for that chair, when “Lets Go Crazy” popped back into my head. This time I quickly wrote it down on the back of my Service card.

As we were leaving the service, I turned to my crew, who were in tears and sniffling, and told our Hagma that they needed to “cry that out before Circle”. It sounds harsh I know, but Susan would have rathered any day of the week that we be “happy nekkid Pagan dancing” (we don’t actually practice naked BTW) than keening any day, so they knew what I meant. Later last night we held our Circle, a Circle in which Susan’s presence kept “making itself known” in fairly distinct ways. I hadn’t told my brethren about my change of song choice, so they had no idea what was about to happen as we chose our color ribbons and our Maiden crowned the pole. All I said before I pressed play was “This one is for Susan” and then my group proceeded to have the most gloriously fun, exuberant, laugh filled, crazy dance energy 7+ minute maypole wind up I have EVER had the pleasure to be a part of. Think 80s video rocker chicks & guitarists, how they performed and danced, but in ceremonial white robes and cords, and you’d maybe get a picture of what that looked like. LOLOL

Ironically, even though she was in better health back when she was a member of Clann C, she wouldn’t have been able to sustain that crazy dance, so we all decided afterwards that she specifically chose to ping me with THAT song, so that she could kick up her own heels and “Go Crazy” last night, joining us as the Sidhe ride back into our world bringing magic and mayhem with them. I cannot WAIT to see what’s in store for us these next months, with her impish spirit among that lot! So watch out for her my friends, because I have no doubt she will be there pinging you all too!

Thank you Susan, from death comes life… the Circle turns.

You say Easter, I say Eostre

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Easter as a Christian celebration goes something like this. After being crucified upon a cross amongst thieves, Christ died on Good Friday (which would have begun around sundown on Thursday according to Jewish tradition) and “descended into Hell.” On the third day, Sunday April 23, 33 AD they say, he “rose again and ascended into heaven.” Sound familiar mythology buffs? It should.

A similar circumstance is presented upon Sumerian tablets from approximately 1750 BC. A story in which the Goddess Inanna sacrifices herself to travel into the Nether World, passes through seven gates suffering humiliation at each, presents before the judges of this world, is flagellated, looks upon death and is hung from a stake dead. Three days and nights pass before she returns again to redeem the world and renew life. This cycle continues to be represented for Pagans at the end of each waning cycle of the moon when for three days no moon can be seen in the sky. The energy of the Divine Feminine returns again at new moon, reminding us of the gift of Rebirth.

According to “The Venerable Bede”, a Christian scholar from 672-735 CE, the word “Easter” was derived from the name of the Teutonic (Germanic Saxon) Mother Goddess Eostre, a name synonymous with the Greek Astarte, which is thought to come from the Syrian Asherah of the 15 century BC, which has possible origins from or links to Ashtoreth, a Phoenician goddess. All three of whom are considered to be synonymous with the Goddess Inanna. Eostre’s symbols were the hare (because of their prolific fertility, and because her people thought they could see a hare in her face, the full moon) and the egg (for Teutonic Cosmic Egg of creation, where all life came from). However it’s likely that even this myth has older origins. In Babylonia the story told is that an egg of wondrous size fell from heaven into the Euphrates River. From this marvelous egg – according to the ancient story – the Goddess Asherah was “hatched”.

Because Eostre is a full moon goddess, her festival was always held on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox, which modern Pagans celebrate as the Sabbat Ostara. In 155 AD Catholicism adopted the practices of Asherah worship renaming them Easter, and placing the feast day on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox/ Ostara.

How did this mythology of feminine divinity become associated with a male son/sun god? Easily… Ba’al. Ba’al was a Phoenician sun god, consort of Ashtoreth/Astarte/Inanna. The cult of Ba’al celebrated annually his death and resurrection as a part of the Canaanite fertility rituals. On the first Sunday of the equinox, the families would face east to await the rising of the sun, which was the chief symbol of the sun god, Ba’al, to greet the sun. Later on during the day, the children of the Canaanite parents would often go and hunt for eggs, which were symbolic of sex, fertility and new life. It was believed that these eggs came from rabbits, which in the Pagan world were symbolic of lust, sexual prowess and reproduction. That rabbits laid the eggs comes from the Egyptian belief that rabbits first came from the divine Phoenix, who once ruled the ancient skies until they were attacked by other gods in a power struggle. When they were struck down, they reincarnated into rabbits, but kept the ability to produce eggs, like the ancient birds, to show their origins.

The Easter Bunny came to America in the 1700s by immigrants from Germany where it had been called “Osterhase” – Oster or Oschter being German for Easter, and hase being the German word for hare. As the story goes, to please her children the Goddess Eostre changed her pet bird into a hare that laid brightly colored eggs which she then gave to them. Another story says that a rabbit once wanted so much to make Eostre happy that he laid the eggs himself. He then decorated them prettily and gave them to her as a gift. She was so pleased with this gift that she wanted all the people of the world to share in the joy too. Either way, from then on, little German children left nests out for the bunny to continue to bring them the brightly colored eggs. The tradition of hiding those eggs stems from European sympathetic magic, like attracting like, so burying the eggs into the ground is to ensure the ground is fertile and will yield bountiful harvests.

How did the eggs become chocolate? This dates back to 19th century Europe, where rabbits were first shaped into breads and cake, then later into chocolate. In the United States, the originator of chocolate rabbits is Robert L. Strohecker. He put a five-foot tall chocolate rabbit in his Pennsylvania drugstore as part of the Easter display in 1890 and within 10 years they became a staple in Easter baskets across the country. Then in 1948, when World War II ended, Richard Palmer, returning from his tour overseas, started R.M. Palmer Co., and began mass producing chocolate rabbits that were modeled after his dog’s toy! The tinier egg shaped jelly beans weren’t introduced until the 1930s and those marshmallow Peeps, they didn’t hit until the 1950s.

So the next time you bite into a Cadbury egg, or M&M rabbit, take a moment to reflect on the rich history contained in that little sweet little face, and give a thought to Inanna / Astarte / Asherah / Astoreth and their consort Ba’al, without whom there would be no delicious confections to celebrate the holiday with. 🙂

For my follow up to this post see  “You say Easter, I say Eostre … additional thoughts in the age of the meme”

©RavenHarte 2009-2015