Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Drawing Down the Moon"

Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers and other Pagans in America Today”, (Arkan Publisher, Revised and Expanded Editions 1986, 1998, USA, ISBN 01401.9536)

For someone, who is new to Paganism, “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler can be daunting. Although the author leads the reader through the confusing maze of Pagan groups, she does it in too much detail. The curious reader becomes overwhelmed by the encyclopedic nature of this book. Because Ms. Adler spent too much time encompassing everything Pagan, this reader became lost in all the minutiae.

One of the main points of this book is how chaotic Paganism is. Creativity for many Pagans flourishes in chaos. Few want to be pinned down to a set structure, while others make it up as they go along. Furthermore, many groups borrow from other religious traditions.

For example, I was told that the Church of All Worlds was ‘weird’. After reading “Drawing Down the Moon”, I learned that the inspiration for this group was Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”. That became for me, the central point of Ms. Adler’s thesis. In Paganism, you borrow or change whatever you find to create your own religion.

In contrast, ADF was formed to give order and structure to Paganism. The emphasis on the proper order of rituals helps the worshippers understand the sacredness of their religion. Creativity in ADF is tempered with discipline and scholarship. This gives the ordinary Pagan, a foundation on which to further their spiritual practices.

To this reader, “Drawing Down the Moon” is two books. One book is how and why people become Pagans. And then once they do, what their lives are like. The religious impulse to experience ancient mysteries is the main focus of this book.

The second book is an encyclopedia of Pagan groups and trends. It is an historical document on the beginnings of modern Paganism. The references, books to read, and organizations give a starting point on learning about all things Pagan. However this part goes quickly out of date, since Paganism is always mutating. For an historical document, this book is superb. To make it current, I suggest using the Internet to research the various groups listed in the book.

“Drawing Down the Moon” can be taxing for the general reader. Reading over 400 pages is daunting, since so much detail is thrown at the reader. Anyone serious about knowing everything about Paganism would benefit from this book. What I is gleamed from reading this book that not only does Paganism mutates, but it is also in constant flux. Chaos is the watchword. Unfortunately, for people seeking a fundamental grasp of Paganism, the book loses them in the details.
(Picture: Maryann Sterling)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Samhain or Winter Nights

During the months of October and November, European peoples perceived that the veil between the living and the dead was the thinnest. The Norse of Northern Europe honored their Ancestors. The Celts held their New Year’s rituals at this time. Meanwhile in Rome, the Mundus (the Gate to the Roman Underworld) was opened once in October and in November.

At this time, the Celts had their New Year, called Samhain. They regarded this High Day to be the beginning of the Dark Half of the Year. It was the time that cattle were brought in from the fields for the winter. During Samhain, the Celts connected with their ancestors.

Meanwhile, the Norse held their Winter Nights. Through stories and rites, they honored the Ancestors. At night, Woden (Odin, the All-Father) or Frau Holda rode with their hounds. Searching for souls, these Gods pounded through towns and farmsteads. During the Wild Hunt, everyone stayed inside.

In October and November, the Romans opened the Mundus. During this time, people were told not to conduct major religious rites. The Dii Infiri (Underworld Gods) and the dead were about, and could do serious harm.

For me, Samhaim is the last leaf of October. In New England, the brilliant colors of the mountains become dark green and grey. For a brief moment, time and space ceased to be. I could step outside and feel the Spirits.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Pagans defines vision as “The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have greater understanding of our place and role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present, and future.“

“What is past is prologue.” The present is the nexus of the past and future. To know the future means understanding the past. Our present flows from our past. Our future arrives out of our lives today.

The virtue of vision is demonstrated by how the United States sets monetary policy. The economists at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (The Fed, i.e. the Central Bank) divine the future economy of the U.S. with mathematical models based on past events. The economists collect data on many economic indicators. These time series often contain information from the present to about one hundred years in the past. From the study of this data, the economists devise forecasting (divining) models to predict economic trends of the future.

When The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meets, the economists run their models with the latest data. They present their findings to the FOMC, much like the Roman Diviners who presented their findings to the Roman Senate and People.

Then, the FOMC discusses the present economic situation of the country. They argue over the economists’ conclusions. After a discussion of their own ideas of the future, the FOMC sets U.S. monetary policy for the next two months. The sitting FOMC has become the nexus of the past FOMC’s decisions and the future FOMC’s policies. What the FOMC decides will affect all of us since the world economy is based, in part, on the soundness of the U.S. dollar.

The Norse concept of orlog and weaving your wyrd is demonstrated in the FOMC’s work. What affects our present are our choices in the past. What determines our future is our understanding of our past, and the choices we make now.

Members of the FOMC: The Chairman, Vice-Chair, and 7 Monetary Governors of the Fed, and 12 Federal Reserve Bank Presidents.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seasons: Midsummer - Autumn Harvest


Midsummer is when the sun stands the highest in the sky. Daylight dominates, and the night is short. Then, the night reclaims its due.

In the past, on Midsummer Eve, people gathered herbs for healing. (Plants of the wort family were especially prized.) For more healing and cleansing, people then bathed in various springs. After the Midsummer bonfires burn out, people gathered the ashes to mix with water. Then, they sprinkled this ‘glop’ around their houses for protection in the coming year.

To the Norse, Midsummer was as important as Yule. At this time, the Norse gave thanks for the prosperity and fertility of their lands. Also, they prayed for continued prosperity and good health. Sunna (the sun) was honored at Midsummer, as well as Balder (the God of Light) and Nanna (His Wife).

For me, Midsummer is a bittersweet High Day. Because of my on-going depression, I crave the sunlight. At Midsummer, the sun is at its peak, and then daylight lessens gradually. Midsummer is time of joy tempered with the shadow to come.

Lammas / Lughnasadh

Several Indo-European cultures celebrated their first harvests of grains and fruits in August. For example, the Anglo-Saxons of England had Lammas (“Loaf-Fest”), to offer their grain to their Gods. At Lammas, the Anglo-Saxon tribes met in their assembly (the Thing). At the Thing, they held discussions, swore oaths, and enacted laws. Afterwards, everyone celebrated the sacred marriage of Thunor (Thor, God of Farmers and Thunder) and his wife Sif (Goddess of Grain). After offering breads to the Gods, the Anglo-Saxons competed in warrior games in Their Honor.

Meanwhile, the Celts held Lughnasadh festivities to celebrate the marriage of Lugh (Master of All Skills) and the Lady of Sovereignty. This High Day was also the staging of funeral games for His Foster Mother Taithe, (the Goddess of Agriculture). (She had dropped dead from plowing a field in Ireland.) After offering the first fruits of the harvest to Her, the Celts held their games.

For me, the county fair is a faint remnant of First Harvest Holidays. My family often attended the Skowhegan Fair in Maine, where livestock, breads, and other agricultural items were featured. One of my favorite activities was watching the horse pulling contests.

Fall Equinox (Second Harvest)

Around the Fall Equinox, farmers began the second harvest of their crops. After they harvested their grains, farmers left one sheaf of grain. Afterwards, they ceremoniously cut it, and made dollies from the sheaf.

Among various Northern I-E Cultures, the Spirit of the Corn (wheat) resided in the last stalk. As containers of the Harvest Spirit, the dollies were given a place of honor in their homes. People kept these fertility symbols through the winter.
For the Norse, the Fall Equinox was called “Winter Finding”, when people gave thanks to the Vanir (the Gods of Fertility and the Land). The Anglo-Saxons called this High Day “Harvest Home.” For them, it was a time of thanksgiving, and for asking for plenty in the future.

For me, it is the start of fall hunting season. The deer are fat and rutting. Other animals are eating to put on winter fat. Plump squirrels are seen everywhere gathering nuts for the winter. This is the time for gathering meat for the lean times. As part of the second harvest, I also gathered vegetables from the family garden, before the first frost.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Piety, in the Pagan sense, is described as the “defining quality of a human being who acted deliberately in accordance with both the divine will and the civil law.”

Piety encompasses fidelity, honor, discipline, as well as reverence. For example, the Romans were scrupulous in guarding the right relationship between themselves and the Gods. Their religious ceremonies involved preparation and a strict adherence to the order of each rite. Honor for the Romans came in listening to the Gods through the taking of the omen. Discipline was in the careful preparation before each rite.

Although the Germanic peoples did not have “piety” as virtue, they stressed that no one should compromise their relations to the Gods. For example, the Saxons regarded their kings to be mediators between the Gods and the tribe. If the King brought bad luck, they disposed him.

For me, piety means taking the Gods seriously. They are neither cosmic bellhops always getting things for us, nor our personal buddies always ready to hang out with us. Piety does not mean making things up as you go long. It does not mean worshiping at your convenience. To be pious is to be mindful of the right relationship between humans and the Gods.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Pagans define wisdom as “Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.”

For me, wisdom is discernment -- knowing when to speak the truth, when to remain silent, and understanding the consequences of your actions. In the Norse lore, Frigga, (the All-Mother), knew how Her Son Balder would die. Since it was his life to live, She remained silent. But, when Balder came to Her with his dream of death, Frigga panicked. She had all the beings of Midgard promise not to harm her son. Unfortunately, Loki (the Trickster) found a plant that Frigga forgot to ask – the mistletoe.

After learning about His Mother’s efforts, Balder thought that He was invulnerable. So He started a game, challenging everyone to try to kill Him. That is when Loki managed to get Balder killed with a mistletoe dart.

This tragedy arose from unwise actions of both Frigga and Balder. Frigga wanted to save Her Son’s life, but instead hastened his death. In addition, Balder acted foolishly for playing the “Try and Kill Me” game.
The gaining of wisdom is an ongoing process. If you do decide nothing, then you lack courage to be wise. First you must be foolish, learn from being foolish, and then you can be wise.

New Directions and Animals

Hello all,

I have decided to add essays on Seasonal Celebrations and Pagan Virtues. Fear not, there will still be write ups on animals. In the winter, it is a bit more difficult.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bumble Bees Still Bumbling Along

Eventhough it is fall, bumble bees are still gathering honey from flowers. They are slower but they are still doing their bumble bee thing.

Here is more on bumble bees from my site:

Bumble Bees are large robust Bees with the color patterns of yellow and black. You can usually find Bumble Bees flying low to the ground or on flowers collecting food. They nest almost anywhere but only remain in one particular nest for a year.

Besides size, another way that you can tell how Bumble Bee is different from Honey Bee is that Bumble Bee's nest is a mess. Bumble Bees have fewer members in their colonies than Honey Bee. Also, They do not store large amounts of honey. Unlike Honey Bees, Bumble Bees rarely sting unless their nest is threatened.

Enjoy watching these fairly placid Bees as They go about their business of pollinating the flowers. Learn from Them to mind your own business. Just do not be messy in your affairs.

Animal Teachers: Bumble Bee

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"An Interesting Day at Rainbow Bridge"

"Steve Irwin Holding A Croc"
(Copyright: Australia Zoo)

This is written by Epona-Bri of the Animal Spirits Yahoo list.

Copyright Epona-Bri, 2006

Rainbow Bridge is a place of both peace and anticipation as departed pets await their beloved owners.

There are plenty of things to keep them contented while they wait: trees you can't get stuck in, endless meadows, splashing streams, thickets perfect to hide in for pounce-attack games.

But one day the residents noticed some rather...unusual newcomers arrive.

The koalas and the kangaroos slipped in rather quietly, but then came the bearded dragons, the skinks and the goannas. The influx of snakes startled an entire family of cats up a tree. Pythons, cobras, tiger snakes, brown snakes and even fierce snakes. There were so many at one point, it seemed the ground itself was alive with
writhing. A burly wombat shouldered his way through the crowd and plopped down in a shady spot, barely missing a Jack Russell terrier who yapped indignantly as he abandoned his position.

And then the crocodiles showed up.

Finally, a Great Dane managed to get up enough nerve to approach one of the reptillian giants.

"Um....excuse me," he said hesitantly. "But why are you all here?"

The croc dropped her jaw and laughed. "Same as you, mate," she said. "Waitin' for someone who loved us."

The dogs, cats, gerbils and other "typical pets" looked at each other in confusion, then at the plethora of weird, ugly and downright deadly creatures assembled. Who on Earth could possibly love some of those faces?

"I see him!" shouted a green mamba from his vantage point in one of the trees. A cacophony of squeeks, hisses, bellows and roars erupted as the mob surged forward toward a lone human walking across the field toward the bridge. The other animals managed to catch a glimpse of him before he was overwhelmed by the crowd.

"CRIKEY!" he shouted joyously right before he was bowled over by the wombat.

"Well I'll be," said a Persian as she tidied up her fur. "It's that Aussie my human liked to watch on TV. Had to be the craziest human on the whole planet."

"Oh, please," remarked an echidna as he hurried by. "Is it really that that crazy to passionately love something Goddess made?"


Visit the Australia Zoo webite: http://www.crocodilehunter.com.au/

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It's Spring!

It's Spring, and I am back. The cardinals have set up a nest behind my building. We are watching ladderback woodpeckers decide where to put their nests. The starlings are fighting over nesting places.

Bumble bees have made it up to my balcony. It is so strange to see these insects so high up. Big and round. Lazy flyers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

More Buzzards in Northern Virginia

Buzzards have taken over several suburban towns. They roost in trees and on house tops. The buzzards have spooked everyone around. However, the Commonwealth has told everyone that buzzards do not eat dogs or cats. Their poop is clean, too. However, people are still afraid. It has to do with how the birds look. Bald heads, beady eyes, wide wings. Then there is the hissing.

I think that buzzards have had a bad rap. People should appreciate buzzards for what they do. These birds are nature's clean up crew.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Year and the Same Woodpeckers

I have been absent for a month for very good reasons - I have been very ill. Now that I am better, I am back blogging. Now if there are anyone out there still reading, I will be in business.

I have put out fruit and corn chips for the birds. The same woodpecker keeps coming and pecking at the fruit. I never knew woodpeckers ate apples and pears. They also eat the corn chips. How they do that with their long bills is beyond me. I see them peck the fruit and spear it but eating? More watching of woodpeckers is needed to solve this mystery.