A Word or 1,742 About Honor…

Let me first begin this missive by telling you what this post is not about.  It is not about honor in the sense of violent reprisal or warrior spirit.  It is not about the honor of taking offense the way a Klingon might if you insulted their spouse.  I’m not interested in dueling pistols or swords at dawn and I certainly don’t intend to have a discussion of pride.  The honor I wish to speak of may have its roots in the same mud but grows along a different path towards the sun.

To quote George R.R. Martin, “Words are wind.”  There is so much that is lost in spoken language that I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn’t have skipped right over language and gone straight to some kind of telepathic thought exchange made of pictures and impressions.  No doubt it would be far more honest than even my own humble and heartfelt words might express.  As nice as that fantasy is, I find it unlikely that our species would find the sudden onset of telepathic abilities any less distressing than a full out zombie apocalypse with a lack of defensive armament.  So probably best to put that aside for now.

When I began setting down my ideas for this post, I wanted to talk about the words that contribute to my own definition of the term “Honor” and why they feel so important.  I thought of words like “Respect,” “Truth,” “Justice,” “Honesty,” and “Sincerity.”  As I drove home with that handwritten draft folded neatly in my bag and awaiting redrafting to the digital medium, I realized that all of these words, while powerful, have a commonality I had overlooked.  They are all bridges to relationship.

At Druid College, we talk about “edge work.”  Edge work is the practice of blending our own edges with the edges of another being.  It might be our spouse or partner, a family pet, a squirrel, a tree, a bush or any number of other beings that we might come into contact – or even a semblance of contact – with.  The idea here is always to craft a gift exchange relationship with other beings.

The gift exchange relationship is an honoring of the sharing between beings.  It is ensuring that both receive a benefit from the transaction between edges.  It is a manner of understanding our own edges and how they interact with other edges.  So to me, Honor is about the gift exchange relationship.  When we interact with another being, there is always a transaction that occurs on some level.  Perhaps you notice an attractive stranger and hope to catch a glance and a smile from them.  This is edge work, this is a transaction between beings.

Edge work though can (and probably should) go much deeper than this.  It is a blending of edges with nearly any being one might come into contact with.  The trees, the hills, the Earth, the land.  Even our feet as we walk across the bosom of the Earth is a transaction that we often take for granted.

If we pare it down though, most beings who interact with one another want something from that interaction.  When we look outside to the untamed wild, our cousins there interact frequently and the biological organization of nature insists that a level of gift exchange occur.  Wolves on the hunt cull the deer herd of the sick and elderly allowing the strong and young to prosper.  In essence, both predator and prey benefit from this transaction, it is only our human propensity for emotion that places a human face on the “suffering” of nature.  So here we have an excellent example of how even (by human standards at least) what seems like a terrible, horrible thing, has a great value to the untamed wild that our ancestors lived and died in.  More than that though, their myths and stories tried to understand the wild, untamed earth upon which they walked and the sometimes senseless manner in which it chose life or reclaimed it.  Nonetheless, this is a gift exchange, a clear and honest relationship.

What I have discovered from my journeying and meditation is that Honor comes from honest relationship.  One cannot be honorable if they are not honest with themselves.  The bear or the fox have no self image problems, they never doubt what they are.  One cannot project their own honor if they are not honest with the beings they seek to craft relationship with.  So the deer never wonder whether the wolves are wolves.  In both cases though, we are talking about relationship, first with oneself and then with others.  I often find that the word “Honor” and the word “Ego” are used in place of one another which leads to the type of mentality mentioned earlier in this post with two people meeting at dawn with pistols or blades (or any of the other forms of mutually assured destruction that are out there to be utilized for the same purposes).

Often, when I find myself angry or frustrated, I find that it is my ego that talks me into it and my honor that talks me out of it.  Who hasn’t been angry with a spouse, partner or friend?  I have been angry with all three, sometimes at the same time!  An exploration of that anger, though, often leads me to the truth of it.  My ego has somehow been bruised, my cultural or community standing questioned.  When this happens, it is not always easy to see past the red.  I have certainly gotten better, I am by no means perfect.  Then again, I forgive myself for that because I am human and my emotions keep me human.  In those times though, engaging in relationship with the people that make me angry often removes the cloud of that emotion from my thoughts and gives me greater insight into my own misgivings.

To me, the path to Honor is a path of honesty with oneself which then becomes a path of honesty with others in the delicate intricacies of edge work.  So Honor is also patient relationship.

I thought, at one point, to use the term “respectful relationship” rather than honest relationship but there is a truth that underlies those words and essentially unhinges them.  I can respect someone without having a relationship with them (I never knew Martin Luther King Jr.).  Likewise, I can have a relationship with someone and not respect them (my old boss).  In both cases, I can form a relationship that is honest.  I can respect someone I have never met when I understand that my honest relationship is limited to what I know about them, remembering that I don’t know everything about them.  Likewise, I can have an honest relationship with someone I don’t like by accepting that I cannot change them to suit my needs, no matter how much I feel trying to do so might benefit them.

This comes from understanding that they do not wish to blend their edges with my own in a way that suits me.  If I let go of that expectation, though, I can have honest relationship with them that benefits both of us and that is honorable.  Even with our enemies we can share honor.  So there too, Honor is sharing.

I would be lying if I expected that everyone who reads these words who didn’t feel this way about honor prior to reading them will suddenly jump up and yell “Dad GUM!  I think he’s done it!”  Honor, like so many other words in the English language, is highly subjective and I am certain that there are at least a few who will scoff at the idea that Honor needn’t be linked to violent reprisal for its offense.

I hope merely to offer another perspective, one in which the way of peace supersedes the desire for hostility.  It is my belief that honest relationship is the key to the term “Honor” and even though there are times that I struggle with my own ego over its assertion that my honor has been affronted, remaining true and honest to myself and to others that I form those relationships with is what leads me back to the central path from the divergences of modern day life.

In summation and to reiterate my point perhaps more clearly than the above missive; I believe that Honor is patient, honest relationship with oneself that is shared with those one interacts with.  It is just exactly this kind of honor that, in my opinion, we need to maintain in the course of our interactions if our community is to continue thriving.  I honor you, I hope only that you honor me as well.

So, I will leave you with some impressions, some images that come to mind, of honest, patient, shared relationship that perhaps you may ruminate upon in times when it bears reminding that the honor we seek can be found all around us in our wild hearts and the wild hearts of everything around us.

The sun climbs into the eastern sky at daybreak.

A bear forages in the stream for leaping salmon, snapping one out of thin air as another bounces off of the bear’s nose and he drops both.

Beneath the ground, bacteria blossom in the decaying form of a deer that failed to navigate a log and broke its leg.

A woman looks at her partner and realizes how much she loves them.

A wind blows the trees around in a sudden gust and they wave at the sky as though saying hello to a long lost friend.

There is a picket fence that has fallen over in a field and flowers grow through gaps that used to keep the sheep from wandering too far from the safety of the farm.

A rock, worn by millions of years of wind and water, tumbles into an icy brook.

An Oak tree deep in the forest produces oxygen as it has done in increasing amounts for 50 cycles of the sun.  At its base, a lone person sits and listens to the creaking of its body, the sway of its leaves in the summer air.  The tree speaks in a language slower than the glaciers, older than the stones and deeper than the hidden waters its roots strain to reach.  The squirrels trace scuttling tracks across its branches, birds nest in its spread twigs.  All of them listen for the wisdom it speaks out of the Land where its roots are buried deep in the Earth.

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

Adaptive Mythology

It is pointed out frequently and with a great deal of enthusiasm on social media just how many “Pagan Holidays” have been absorbed and re-purposed by what now passes for mainstream religion.  Christmas, Yule, Easter, Ostara, the list can be populated at least eight times.  What seems rarely pointed out is that even our ancestors never practiced all eight stations on the wheel of the year.  Customs and holidays were different from locality to locality and region to region.  As tribes and clans blended, broke off, re-blended, broke off and re-blended again, different practices were absorbed by different people and only the myths and stories of why those days were important survived to connect one to the other.  In essence, there are no “Pagan Holidays,” there are simply “Holidays that Pagans Celebrate.”  The only things we can truly claim ownership of are our own stories and the myths we connect them to.  In essence, all of our holidays are stolen holidays no matter what our path.  What we have done is recognized something in the mythology and wisdom of such days and adapted them to our own life in a meaningful way.

Myths and people travel together, crossing and recrossing all the time.  When we hear a story that demonstrates wisdom, we adopt it and make it part of our own story.  That is, after all, what myth was always intended to be.  Myth is supposed to remind us of both the glory and the failings of our ancestors that we might learn from their hard won experience.  The myths we connect to in our own lives are those that we aspire to in some way, that speak of something within us we wish to become or describe our experience.  The greatest strength of mythology though, can also be its greatest weakness.  Knowledge and wisdom, when transferred via a colorful story, can often be manipulated into implying that if one part of the story is “true” then the entire story must also be true and that is when myth becomes dogma.

I have heard it said many times that “people are sheep” and there is some logic to that.  Human beings are social primates and as social animals we tend to look for and respond to strong leadership.  It is also why we are so critical of our leaders (and we should be) because we want to know that the people we are following are not leading us off of a cliff (which they are).   How many times in the history of our species has one group of people waged war upon another simply by convincing their own people that “those other people hate our god?”  The “Red Scare” of the 1950’s and the subsequent “Cold War” are examples of where our leadership has created a mythology around the perception of an enemy (in this case Communism, and I have little doubt that the Communists did the same thing in their neck of the woods) that could potentially “destroy our way of life.”  In this case, it was the “religion of progress” that the Communists so badly wanted to destroy and that was our “God-given American right” to pursue.

What such a mythology really does is act as a catalyst for fear.  Stop and think of the hypocrisy inherent in the context that in America we are “free” and yet 60 years ago people were socially crippled if someone so much as thought that they might be a Socialist or a Communist, while others were little more than freed slaves 90 years after the Civil War or were left on poorly funded reservations without even the simplest amenities.  This is often the dogmatic approach that is taken with Paganism by more vocal mainstream spiritual practitioners.  To people who practice their path in that manner, not believing what they believe means that we worship evil.  No amount of  “we don’t believe in your [entity representing evil] so how can we [suffer in a place of punishment] for [length of time not to exceed infinity]?” is going to convince others of the truth that our paths have to us.

Even though many of us are sore from the yoke that such people have placed upon us, it is inherent and important that we focus our efforts away from actively intending to offend others or defend ourselves and more towards building a place where we can be ourselves without fear.  This will take several generations.  Our hopes for simply buying up land and building communes are far fetched at best.  On the other hand, beginning to build networks of people, something that organizations like EarthTides Pagan Network, the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association, the Northern Maine Pagan Pride Association and Southern Maine Pagan Pride Association are doing, is an important step in the process of building community.  These organizations hold space so that we can come together as a community, as a tribe and build relationship and connection.  Our next step of course is to begin the process of writing our stories so that generations from now, our descendants may learn the meaning behind them and learn how to avoid some of our mistakes or at least recognize the cost of their own mistakes in our stories.

It is not unreasonable to for us to set aside how “real” or “unreal” our mythologies are, especially with one another.  It seems to me that the better question to ask is “What do our mythologies mean to ourselves?” because that is really where mythology begins.  Some of the finest spiritualists I know are not those that demand the world conform to their deeply-held beliefs, but rather those who quest for the truth of  inspiration, wisdom and knowledge inherent in the stories they see and take part in.  In circles of Druidry we call this “Awen”, the three rays of light that bring with them these three gifts.  It seems to me that this is a good place to start looking at the myths we believe and why we believe them, whether we practice Druidry or not.  What parts of these mythologies can we communicate through story and song to our own descendants and what will that teach them about the world we inhabit now?

There is much about the adaptive nature of myth that is a reflection of our own adaptive nature and our nature is reflective of the greater system of nature we are a part of.  Simply put, when seen in the context of Location, Being and Becoming, we can see mythology as being a bridge between “Becoming” and “Location.”  Myth is based upon location but also the result of observable movement and growth so it transcends location as well.  The land does not stay as it was, it changes, and myth is the human observation of change and how we understand the manner in which that change affects us.  So in essence, the effects of change are inherent to what we are becoming and “being” provides the action that  observes this motion and enters it into the tribal lore.  This is an active seeking and presentation of Awen.  It means being awake, present and mindful of the land where our feet touch the Earth (location), learning those songs and stories (being), and then bringing them to the tribe (becoming).  In this way, time itself more accurately reflects the nature of our existence as a constantly evolving cycle rather than a linear time frame in which events are linked but static conditions.

Myth, much like the successive life cycles that act as the catalyst for evolution itself, are derived organically.  In order for any evolutionary system to be effective, it must be adaptive to changing conditions.  The idea that the holidays of our ancestors have been stolen is, in my opinion, beside the point.  Instead, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we are rediscovering the cycles of the living Earth and trying to achieve better consistency in our own relationship with Nature.  By observing the cycles of the Earth, we are better able to adapt both our lifestyle and our spirit to seeking equilibrium.  Adaptive mythology and the wisdom that it can pass down to subsequent generations is a place where Nature and its human element reach greater parity.

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

To Summer

To Summer

 

So fresh and green, the rolling hills,

Exulting ‘neath the daystar’s heat;

Growing wild as Nature wills

The peas and apples, the golden wheat.

All the creatures born in Spring

Explore the reaches of their domain

On hoof and paw, with scale and wing

In rich warm sun and flowing rain.

And now we humans rest at last

By pool and stream and sandy beach –

And babies, senses growing fast,

Explore the world within their reach.

We leave, as though by starter’s gun,

Our homes, with windows opened wide

To bask beneath the lovely sun

And invite the Summer winds inside.

On this longest day of light

We celebrate the Sun’s ascent –

The shine of strength, the glow of might –

Before be starts his Fall descent.

And with the dying of the sun

The fields begin to ripen full;

The harvest will have well begun

As Sol shall feel the Winter’s pull.

But Summer has a lot of time

Before the wings of Autumn blow,

And we will revel ‘neath the shine

Of our beloved Sun’s warm glow.

Away have gone the days of cold,

The frosty chill of Winter’s breath.

We celebrate, as plants unfold,

New life once more defeating death.

 

© Lorelei Greenwood-Jones, 2009

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About The Author
Lorelei Greenwood

A writer since her early teen years, Lorelei enjoys sharing her works with her Pagan sisters and brothers. She has three books in varying stages of completion, one of which will be published in 2013 (From Hallow to Harvest: Celebrations for the Wheel of the Year). Lorelei is also a self-proclaimed Muppet, a breather of fire, and a baker of seriously yummy bread.

History Written by High Schoolers

In an age of standardized testing and centralization of education it is not hard to imagine why Americans are falling behind the rest of the world’s students.  Teachers are more often pressured to produce tangible results than real ones at a time when our children are supposed to be testing their limits and coming in contact with the world around them in ways that they cannot learn in a classroom environment.  Teachers, especially middle and high school teachers, are consistently to adhere to protocol rather than work with students where they are.  The result is often an adolescent experience that ill prepares our children for the non-standardized world we occupy.  That world is not simply what we find in the history books that gloss over the brutality of slavery and genocide, it is the touch of our feet upon the land and our relationship to it that cannot be centralized or tested except within ourselves.

I sometimes wonder what my son and his generation will make of their ancestors, myself included.  When I think upon my own father’s generation, of how disconnected they seem to be at times about things like resource scarcity, the answer to that question begins to swim into focus.  My parents grew up in an era of what seemed like inexhaustible natural resources and cheap energy.  It is almost as if a child wandered into a fully stocked candy store and after a few nibbles of sugary treats, began to gorge themselves and invited others to help.  The problem becomes when you get to that last corner.  All the really good stuff is gone unless there is some hidden in that corner, but it will not be the unopened crates of confections you once found, it will be a few unopened packages or trial-sized versions.  Meanwhile, we’re sending out people to frack the remaining chocolate from discarded wrappers in the vain hope that all of the time spent doing so will somehow be worth it.  We’ve blown through our energy and my Father’s generation led the way in the name of Progress.

My own generation is a generation of general apathy.  We have grown up in an era of nearly unprecedented privilege and it shows in how we live our lives.  What we expect from our existence and how we live is often proclaimed as “better” than any group of people in existence have lived .  I consider this a fallacy in many ways, something I may get into in another post but suffice to say that my negative qualification of that idea is grounded in the Earth and the gift exchange relationship.

It is important to remember also that we are not unlike any other organism on the planet that locates a wellspring of energy in the ecosystem.  The fact that we have more or less staved off the natural filters of environmental resistance for so long is not a testament to our will to live, it is simply a stretching of the rubber band that will no doubt cut off our nose and spite our face whether we intend for it to happen or not.

Our parents grew up in an era in which anything seemed possible from traveling around the world to putting a man on the moon.  Perhaps our descendants will look back upon this as the age of marvels, when we carried complex machines in our pockets and could talk over long distances with magical technology.  The problem with this level of rapid technological advancement is that it is often done so at the expense of our peripheral vision.  The effects of our speeding down the road are often missed as we are going too fast to see them and this is the issue with my parents’ generation that has inevitably affected my own.  The conflicts fought and the ground won by such rapid technological expansion secured a future for our species that requires more and more resources and less interaction with the Earth in the manner of a gift exchange relationship.

Blaming my parents’ generation for the pickle we find ourselves in would be a wasted effort.  As I have already mentioned, they grew up in an era in which growth, both economic and technological, seemed like a sort of manifest destiny that guided the expansion of their cultural identity.  Like the kid in the candy store, the opportunities seemed limitless and much of the science fiction that my parents’ generation read envisioned a world where we had flying cars and interstellar travel by now.  Even my own generation watched films like “Back to the Future II” with the expectation that our hover boards were soon to be gliding out of the factories.  It is just that expectation and the slowing of “Progress” that is becoming the wake up call for our culture of easy fixes and high technology.  In a hundred years, the smart phone will either be something that is reserved for the incredibly wealthy or non-existent and there is likely to be no middle ground between the extremes.

So what will the historians of the future say about our generation?  If I were to guess, they would say that by and large we were the apathetic generation, if the centralized institutions that exist today manage to hold on long enough to ensure that the high school kids remain in their future cubicles.  The future I tend to see though, is one where there is a necessary return to regional and local communities that have little or no central government.  If this happens the way I envision it, we need do nothing more than sit back and watch as the government slowly and surely loses the scope and process of its authority while simultaneously learning to become self sufficient without centralized authority.  If anything, this is why we will be called the “Apathetic Generation.”  We will have stood by and watched while the Age of Wonders declined and disappeared and the disaffected high schoolers exit the classrooms into a world they cannot possibly recognize from the pictures on their laptops and smart phones.

It is in this context that we should be actively engaged in our children’s future and more to the point, I believe that Pagans, already people who feel closer to the Earth than many, are poised to craft a lasting example that may ease the slow decline into a post-industrial future.  The years of our adolescence are critical to who we turn into and the experiences we have during that time become our history.  I have often remarked that I have been out of high school more than 4 times longer than I actually attended it and yet there are few days that go by in which some memory of that time does not affect my thinking or decision making today.  History is written by high schoolers and remains with us, as we approach becoming the elders of our own generation.  To aid our next generations in crossing the bridge between what centralized authorities demand that they see and what they will actually see, it is inherent upon us to lead by example.  Their stories and experiences will become their history and unfortunately, their history in large part will include parents, teachers and communities that rely more on the policies of an impersonal central authority than upon the sacred transaction of the gift exchange relationship between one another and the Earth.

A post-industrial future will certainly not be easy by the standards of the present.  Paganism though, with little respect to one path over another, seems poised to craft a framework for knowledge to be passed to future generations through myth that will help our species maintain a gift exchange transaction with the land where our feet touch the Earth.  History will be written by high schoolers.  What that history looks like is entirely up to us.

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

Visiting With the Gods

I know many Pagans for whom a relationship with the gods is an intimate connection full of wisdom and guidance. In my own life, I have never felt the pull of a particular god or goddess, I am merely interested in their mythologies.  In the practice of my Druidry, my gods are the forces of nature. The Wind, the Sea, the Earth and the Fire. Most Pagan traditions tend to see them as the primal forces of nature, divine in their existence.  I see them as the forces that designed the lines of my own body as much as they designed the lines of the Earth itself. This is not to say that it was an act of will that caused creation; I believe that creation itself was as natural and fundamentally primal as any of these forces. I recognize creation as the final element, that of Spirit and Awen.

For many, the existence of the gods and the worship of them is part and parcel of establishing relationship to the divine essence of nature. Most of our deities are derived from elemental forces – Thor, the god of Thunder, for example. Poseidon or Manannan Mac Lir, the gods of Sea and storm are other examples. In Pagan antiquity, our ancestors put faces to the gods and gave them names, yet at the core of that practice lay the primal forces of nature and later gods were the combination of those forces as they appeared to us in the context of seeking relationship with nature. This of course, is my own personal assessment and not to be confused with an overall truth.

One of my favorite stories is that of Brennius, a Brittanic King who managed to invade and subjugate mainland Gaul. He then led his army to the Temple at Delphi in Greece where he commenced to sack it. When he observed the exquisitely carved stone busts and statues of the Greek gods, Brennius laughed at the Greeks for thinking that the gods looked like men and women. What I like about this story is that this is a person for whom the gods have no faces because to him they remained the abstract forces of the natural world. While I am not accustomed to laughing at Greeks (or anyone else who puts a face to the gods) I do feel as Brennius did. My gods don’t have faces.

I have heard people talk of visitations by their gods and I do not doubt them. I tend to think of the gods of our ancestors as beings to whom they attributed certain things, perhaps beings that interacted with us through nature, sentient, aware and powerful, yet not perhaps as powerful as the term “god” might imply. Quite frankly, I don’t honestly know and won’t try to pretend. Visitations by the gods for me are simple and always have been. It is the churning of digestive fluids in my stomach that break down food, it is the rain and the thunder, the lightning and the wind. It is every time I have to use the restroom and every time I feel the heat of a midday sun. I do not need to name these things as gods to know the divine power of nature itself; the wilderness lives in me and is brought to me every day with the recognition of aging lines on my face, the grey shock of hair in my beard and the feel of the grass under my feet.

It makes me wonder though – what, exactly is the role of the gods in our lives?

I recently saw and read a blog post about the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that suggested, both before and after listing off the many attributes of the goddess Hecate, that people should call upon her to right the injustice of our culture. I have to admit that this seems a bit odd to me. I understand that people find solace and comfort in the worship of their gods and goddesses but considering our track record and supplication attempts, I doubt that the gods will be swooping to aid us in reversing the Supreme Court’s decision. We are, after all, talking about humanity, which all too often rejects our own connection to nature and especially in our treatment of our mothers, daughters and sisters.

It makes me wonder though – why should the gods help us?

When I talk about entitlement culture, I am not speaking of those who are in need of assistance like EBT and housing. What I am talking about is the cultural expectation that we deserve something. This paradigm can be most easily expressed in the American cultural standard of living which exceeds most everywhere else in the world. I have heard many times from foreign nationals that Americans are among the worst tourists in the world, shouting loudly and often that they are American as though that trumps the local custom, language and law.

I know musicians and writers who are incredibly talented and I would happily buy every album or book they wished to provide, twice. As talented as these people are, they are not entitled to anything simply because they developed talent. It is, in essence, the forces outside of their control that will choose whether or not their writing or music will take off. Disregarding that a lot of that piece has to do with marketing and whatnot, most artists of one kind or another are discovered only after they work hard to bring their talent to people who will get them noticed and they take off in the popular imagination. Even these talented people are not entitled to something and most of them have more aptitude for music in their big toe than the the majority of what passes for music and literature these days. The point is, the idea that we are entitled to anything, even life, troubles me greatly as a human being. None of us are guaranteed anything but the moment we are in. As I write this, a meteorite could be careening towards my seat in front of the computer as I blithely type on. Who has a right to exist when we could die at any moment? The right to exist is entitlement culture at its finest. There are many mainstream religions that will tell you that their god’s divine law demands that every fertilized egg in a uterus is a living being and yet these same people will cheer when we wage war in the Middle East, killing innocents in greater numbers than our abortion clinics ever could. Children die all over the world from starvation and malnutrition, women and children in our own country die from being beaten and abused to death and yet let’s make certain that Hobby Lobby can challenge the Affordable Care Act, because you know, the zygotes are being purged.

I am not one of those people that concludes the gods exist because we believe in them. I cannot explain where the deities of ancient cultures came from any more than I can explain how the Inca had such a complex understanding of the movement of celestial bodies they could not observe with the naked eye. These things are mysteries and while I have lots of theories, I certainly have nothing I would call an answer. However, answering as though the gods are everything our ancestors believed them to be, not the poetic creatures that we have made of them, why should they help us?  Have we been good little beings that have consistently worshiped and offered to them throughout the centuries and immediately deserve the intervention of a divine hand? Is that truly what they expect of us?  Or have we, with our focus on the present and immediate dangers that our selfish entitlement to the resources that the Earth herself has on offer, gotten ourselves into this mess in the first place?

It’s hard for me to imagine that these beings, whatever they may be, would bother to lift a finger to help reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. First off, the “supremes” (as my law professor used to refer to them in class) would need to believe in Hecate to understand what she was saying. Considering that their decision was clearly limited to 4 forms of female contraception, I doubt that they pay any goddess heed, including Hecate. I mean no offense to the gods, again, whatever they may be, but I don’t see them as being instrumental to our desire to affect drastic change in our human culture. That is totally and completely on us.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are people who think that invoking the name of a god or goddess may hold some power over the SCOTUS but let me be the first to try and gently explain to you that deities most certainly do not. If any supposed supreme being won the day, it is the god of cognitive dissonance that Christians like David Green (CEO/Founder of Hobby Lobby) claim looks and talks just like Jesus but bears little resemblance to his mythology. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I sincerely doubt that Jesus would have looked upon many of the things so-called Christians have done in his name by extrapolating their own fine print from what seem to be pretty straight forward instructions:  Love one another without judgement. As a basic tenet of any faith, that seems like a good place to begin. I tend to wonder if so many people would use birth control in the first place if we lived in a culture that was this wealthy and made it a  priority to protect and care for everyone. This of course is the very foundation of Christian charity and as far as I can tell, it holds no caveat as to whether they are Christian themselves or abiding by what amounts to the presently evolving “Christian” version of Sharia Law.

Certainly the hypocrisy inherent in misconceptions about modern Pagans sacrificing children is lost on those who routinely insist that a woman carry a child to term no matter her circumstances, only to call that same mother and child a vacuum for social services and demand that they must fend for themselves. This seems to be the push from many who consider themselves “Righteous.” Is that not a greater level of human sacrifice than even our ancestors (every one of whom practiced it, including many stories in the bible) were capable of? What would you call protecting people until they are born and then letting them starve to death because you don’t want an extra few pennies in taxes to feed them? Human beings are opportunistic and always have been and this decision, this very court case, seems clearly opportunistic in its scope. This is a chance to bring the war on women and the war on the poor into the same target zone. “Damn those welfare recipients!” They say, “They’d better think twice about having sex now!  I have a company to run!”

Please understand that this post is not intended to simply beat up upon Christians. I know more than a few people on that spiritual path that are fine, decent people. What makes them kind and decent is the fact that while they may disagree with me on many points, they know that they cannot force people to believe as they believe, and choose to Love them instead. I’ve read the bible and though I cannot quote it chapter and verse, I notice that Jesus never said anything about the Supreme Court or America.

Where was the call to Hecate for justice before SCOTUS rendered their opinion? Where are our prayers and supplications and public outcry when women are raped and burned and slaughtered at the expense of their bodies every single day? Yet, because women are now unable to get 4 different kinds of birth control we should call the gods to rain thunder on Justice Scalia’s head? In my opinion we need to begin owning up to the fact that we crashed the family car into the neighbors tree and stop asking our mom and dad to pay for the repairs. I in no way endorse the SCOTUS decision – I find it disgusting – but I also take responsibility for the fact that I sat around for years and did nothing of value while my country has been slowly stolen out from beneath my feet, and I am certainly not alone. Let’s leave the gods out of this unless we are asking them to stand with us, not interfere on our behalf. That way lies folly and ultimately disappointment. The problems of humanity that affect humanity should be left for humanity to fix. If we are going to call to the gods for anything, we should call to them for insight and wisdom as to how we can affect real and lasting change in our world that honors the Earth. If we want to face the truth, should the gods choose to do anything, it should be to purge the world of human beings so that the millions of other species that exist here can live a bit more peacefully.

We have no right to exist and it’s time we accept that fact. Put more specifically, we have no greater right to exist than any other organism that resides on this planet and I can damn sure testify to the fact that we have done a lot more to damage it than any other species to ever exist. If I am wrong about that, I would posit that since the species that bested us in the trash department can no longer possibly exist, you can bet that they long ago disappeared down the garbage disposal of evolution, only further proving my point. Were the gods to come to the aid and defense of anyone, I would hope it might be the millions of species that we have forced into extinction in the name of “progress.”

Let us call to our gods for guidance, vision, connection and inspiration. Let us call to them because their presence is a healing and positive force in our lives and in the lives of others who believe as we do. Let us call to our gods in our hour of need because we seek their wisdom and we are entering into relationship with them, not because we expect them to kiss it and make it better. We are not powerless and ineffective in our own culture and when someone lays it upon the gods to seek justice for our own depravity it concerns me that we are losing touch with what it means to be Pagan.

To me, this is the most dangerous kind of hubris, the idea that the gods dote upon us. The myths and tales of Pagan antiquity clearly indicate that the gods do so only when it suits them and never simply because we ask and pray. When we have done so, should they grant us a boon, it always comes at great price. Yet, when we have entered into relationship with them, the odds are more in our favor. Not every time, but still, a substantially larger portion of the time. Let’s dispense with the theatrics and clean up our own mess here.

The gods are visitors to us in a constant stream of nature and wildness. Beseeching them to smite our enemies makes them less than the forces of nature which have no moral obligation to us and is not endemic of sacred relationship or justice. I listen to the wind that it might open my ears to the rush of nature, I listen to the fire that it might ignite the burning spark of action in my muscles, I listen to the Sea that it might wash from me my reluctance, and I listen to the Earth beneath my feet as I march forward.

That is my opinion and thank you for reading.

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

Poetry and Musings

The following is a collection of poems and musings that landed on me beginning in May and up through the present.  I want to spend more of my time crafting poetry, even really bad poetry, because it allows me the opportunity to approach my relationship to the land from a different perspective.  When I have to change the rules of language to support a thought it allows me creativity and Awen comes to wash me clean again.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

 

Becoming the Pine

There is a Blue Spruce

in the yard

and it filters light

through the kitchen window

on grey days it catches the rain

while I watch out the window with my son

the water tumbles over 

the green needles

to the eager mound of Earth

stepping out the front door

a toddler hugging my knees

the rain washes over

my twisted limbs

upon my growing son

I am a graying elder

I am a growing child

 

Musing:

There are times when I want the roof of my home to crack open like an eggshell over my head and let the rain pour in and soak everything.  There are times when I want a dying pine tree to topple over and make his final resting place in my bedroom.  Invite the Wild into my living room, let the black bears hibernate in my couch, the raccoon can eat canned ravioli in the kitchen sink, the seagulls can nest in the bathtub.  My son will play with coyote pups and my wife will teach knitting to the groundhogs.  I will listen to the sound of chickadees nesting in the open microwave and the mice will use the oven racks for a jungle gym.  Ivy will grow up the wall and over the television, moss will cover the electrical outlets.  Beavers will dam up the washing machine and flood the basement.  There is a moose sifting garbage in the garage and a family of deer are playfully jumping up and down on the hood of the car.  In the bedroom, the mirror fell off the wall and stares at the sky in surrender.

 

Blood Rite

Stepping out into the wild next door

I walk with ungraceful strides over the ferns and through the witch hazel,

in the place of four bears,

sometimes my footsteps cross their tracks

and nothing is familiar

except maybe the mosquitoes

my bare arms are not bear arms

and the sentinel pines offer no protection

and while I wander over mossy rocks in large dumb circles

the wild watches me in spreading awareness

like a fly caught in a gossamer thread

and the twisted trunks smile at me in amusement

the mosquitoes draw her price from me a thousand times

and my arms are itchy scars

Nature is a blood rite.

 

Black Fly Tidings of May

Black beads buzzing around my head in silly circles

Lightly touching, itching,

scratching

Shooing away from ears and eyes.

I’m not sure why it makes me sigh.

Wondering,

Dreaming,

Leaning,

Leaning on a White Pine,

There is Honey in my beard and a buzzing in my ears,

with my back touching the tree I’ve known for years.

 

Skiing into the Summerland

Blessed is the smell of earth in the springtime up one’s nose,

And blessed is the grass one feels in between their naked toes,

And blessed is the sun we feel, upon our naked brow,

And blessed is the carefree feel, as before the spring we bow.

Before the gnats and mosquitoes perch, to taste our red liquor,

Below the skin their proboscis search, and drive us back indoors,

We have but a week, or perhaps 10 days, before the armies fly,

To lay upon the greening Earth and bask beneath the sky.

To whit young man upon the ground, his lady love in reach,

And naked laying arms outstretched, might be a summers ripened peach

If the armies of the black fly king, were to search and seek him out,

And chase that screaming ninny fool, that whining silly lout.

Yet bask he does beneath the sun of summer’s prognostication,

Upon the grass, beneath a tree in the land of eternal vacation.

Without a mosquito or black fly found, to land upon his skin,

And seek the beating blood and veins that he has so rich within.

The sun declines on western lines, the coolness never felt,

As his naked form has lost for norm, a overcoat or pelt.

And as the twilight settles in, his lady gone to home,

The night begins just warm enough, to simply cool his bones.

As the mistress moon glides overhead, the Earth sheds off her heat,

And the coolness of the sod below, sucks fire from his seat.

He shivers lightly in the night, frost forming on his lips

And in the dawning of the light, has crowned his fingertips.

His feet won’t thrum, his heart won’t beat, his hands will ne’er grasp,

The feeling of the summer grass, the shuddering cold and final gasp,

The songs of summer soft and sweet, of grilled and charred and perfect meat,

The Spring in Maine is often cruel, by daytime Litha by nighttime Yule.

 

Another Musing

 Last night, I saw some clouds absolutely illuminated in silver moonlight though the moon remained obscured.  It drew my attention and I began thinking about this object in the night sky. Our ancestors identified the passage of time by all these easily observable celestial bodies.  This is of course, the basis for many of our Pagan festivals and holidays.

It fills me with a sense of awe(n) when I look at things online like computer models of the galaxy and galaxy clusters.  The distance between things in space is far more vast than what I can comprehend without relative terms.  I’ve heard people try to point out that this makes us insignificant and yet, I don’t feel insignificant.  I feel important and legitimate no matter how many stars and galaxies there may be.  I also feel that the way I see things is a unique perspective on how the Universe interprets itself and that my experiences are valid and real.

So I think about how Organic ritual must have been for our ancestors as they stared at stars and wondered about what they were and what it meant that they were there in the first place.  I imagine that sense of bewilderment and the meaning that came out of it.  It makes sense to start with celestial events.  I wonder if the celestial holidays, the observation of the changing Earth and the Seasons, isn’t our most observed holidays because it was the first and most recognizable.  I also love the idea of smaller rituals in which we honor more individual concepts to the gods of place.

In a very real sense, it seems to me that our ancestors probably did the exact same thing.  There were these large, observable correspondences upon which the basic structure hung and then they filled it in with other immediately observable events.  If you think about it, isn’t that exactly how life developed here in the first place?  A large blank canvas upon which life began and filled in organically?

 

~Alban Artur

 

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

A Druid Order for Maine

I’ve been wondering lately, what exactly is Maine?  In the strictest sense, Maine is lines on a map that define its political boundaries, to the West with New Hampshire and to the North and Northeast with Canada.  However, within the arbitrary lines that define our political existence lie innumerable regions, micro-climates, geographical features and geological history.  The spirits of place are innumerable here and their stories are even more so.  The land we call Maine is many lands, many places and many are the stories that describe both.

Having been raised with the context that Maine is defined by the political processes of boundary creation, it is not hard for me to see that familiar shape when I think of this State and all that it means to me and many more people who live, work and play here.  Maine is a place that seems so spiritually fertile that it nearly begs for more people to root into the land and make connection.  No matter where I go I tend to feel the pull of something that desires my attention: a stone, a tree, a bird, a bush, a stream, a mountain.  When these things fall under my gaze I no longer see them as geographical features or flora and fauna, I see them as godlike, divine, inspiring.

When I speak of Maine, the rocks sing to me.  Katahdin springs up from the land, Mt. Desert island forms from lava spewed before the last ice age.  I think of visiting Cadillac Mountain, how the sides are just steep enough that every step seems like you are going to encounter a cliff and yet it just keeps going.

I pick up rocks at the beach, geological history in my hand.  Here are my ancestors, the trilobite, the ancient fern.  I feel the grit of the sand and imagine the stories it tells, perhaps lovers under moonlight, the bodies of billions or even trillions of beings washed up upon it, most microscopic, some as large as whales.

I go deeper inland to the forests and there the conifers and deciduous trees watch me pass as though I am burning a path as I go, the essence of my existence like a quick burning fire, a counterpoint to their own more deliberate existence.  Their language is slow, deep, sometimes sorrowful.  The trees hum in bass tones that vibrate up through the land into my feet and the stones absorb these vibrations like sinks and hold them.  I go further into the mountains and high hills where millions of years ago the Earth moved and creased new structures.  Above the tree line it is as though the wind has swept away everything yet here and there a plant pokes out from the rocks in stolid defiance…it reminds me of a balding man’s scalp but with more character and ancient stories written into it.

I dive back down into the River valleys, run the course of spring waters through the torrent of the rapids.  I see the great boulders as the rivers rage around them and think of the smooth and weathered beach stones I held in my hand and know that their stories are ancient and different.  I find a stream feeding fresh water into the torrent of the river and I follow it up to a pond where the loons make their mournful sounds and the trout and white perch feed mercilessly from the swarms of mosquitoes and black flies at dusk.  Surrounded by the pine, the water is still at sunrise, reflective and beautiful where songbirds call from the cattails across the marshy boundaries of a lake.

When I see the land of Maine, this is how she speaks to me.  In Mountains and Rivers, lakes and seashores, stones and trees.  I wander off the path of the forest into the wild and I see stories, so very many stories.  The dance of mating dragonflies, the chattered recriminations of the squirrels, the diving swoop of the Hawk.

I want to tell these stories, I want to climb into them, live them and then sing the songs of Nature, the songs of the wild, so that others may hear them and perhaps seek to find the music themselves and I am not alone in that desire.  There are others who wish to do so as well, other practitioners of Druidry for whom this land, this region, is home.  It is a place of Land and Sea and Sky in such natural beauty that one can barely help but Love it and feel Loved in return.  This is the place where our feet touch the land and through it, the Earth.

To that end, several of us are in the early stages of forming a Druid Order for the State of Maine.   Maine is a land that is vibrant and alive in its natural beauty and yet still in need of relationship to the people who inhabit her.  Druidry is a living tradition, one that seeks to craft sacred relationship with the land and the spirits that inhabit it.  We hope to be the keepers of tradition and a relevant addition to the foundation of the Pagan community here.  The Order will serve several purposes.  It will allow those who practice Druidry to belong to a central hub by which we can share information, knowledge and inspiration that is relevant to our individual communities.

The Order itself is founded on three basic principles, each of which have three contexts:
Location:  The Place, the Land and the Earth
Being:  Our Ancestors, Ourselves and our Community
Becoming:  Knowledge, Learning and Teaching (1)

[Another concept here is that] this Order can support Druidry, which has a unique hum to it. We don’t all have to have the same definition or the same practices or the same core of learning. Druidry is bigger than that. It is about questing Awen. And we do that through our relationships. The most prevalent relationships are self, family, community and the spirits of place. Always it is about wakeful honorable relationships, for those bring inspiration. That from my studies is unique to this tradition. Others may talk about ecstatic practices, but Druidry is very clear, holding seeking Awen at its center. (2)

We presently have no “name” for this Order and that will likely be forthcoming soon.  Ultimately though, this is a Maine Order of Druidry and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we look forward to presenting ourselves in this capacity to the community.

If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me an email:  lightofthebear@gmail.com

(1) Quote Courtesy of Aracos
(2) Quote Courtesy of Snowhawke

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

A Pagan EDC: Everyday Elemental Tools

I have written before that for me, paganism is a way of living rather than a theology or a specific belief system. At the core of my practice is an awareness of being in relationship with Nature. Despite the many infrastructures of 21st century civilization that we live in, we are fundamentally organisms existing on a particular planet, in a particular ecosystem. We are beings being, in Nature. One way I like to think about being in Nature is to be ready to work with all the elements no matter where we may find ourselves.

Ironically, I have found that I have a lot to learn about being outdoors in Nature, from people who usually do not identify as pagans, but who live in ways that seem much more pagan to me. For the past few years I have tried to learn how to be outside more easily, without feeling like an interloper when I am in Nature. In return, I have tried to bring my spiritual awareness to my time in Nature. One example of this is in my EDC strategy.

EDC, or Every-Day Carry, is simply a specific strategy one uses to have a particular set of tools or supplies always ready-to-hand, usually carried in a bag or a pouch of some sort. Whether one thinks in terms of a strategy like this or not, most of us employ it. How many of us leave the house without our keys, our cellphone, and our wallet? These simple items are part of our every-day carry.

I am convinced our ancestors viewed the elemental hallows, or tools, as useful items to have with you when you are in Nature; they were more than mere symbols. As such, I try  to represent all the Elements in my own EDC strategy. This is a picture of a small pouch that I carry with me every time I leave the house:

My EDC (everyday carry) pouch, containing tools from all the elements.

My EDC (everyday carry) pouch, containing useful tools representing all the elements.

From right to left I have a knife (Air), an eating tool (Earth), a stack of 3×5 index cards and a small pen for recording my thoughts (Ether), a ferro rod for firestarting and a small flashlight (Fire), and finally a corkscrew (Water) — I go to a lot of gatherings with mead and need a convenient way to open the bottles! When I leave the house I nearly always carry a glass water bottle filled with spring water to complete my EDC for Water. The remainder of this article will take a closer look at these items and the elements they represent.

Air

The relationship between a knife and the element of Air might be the most abstract of all these tools, so a bit of analysis is in order. This traditional Air Hallow is often called an athame, particularly in Wiccan traditions. I remember early on in my pagan path reading that the athame

“isn’t used for cutting purposes in Wicca, but to direct the energy raised during rites and spells…. The knife is often dull, usually double-edged with a black or dark handle. Black absorbs power. When the knife is used in ritual to direct energy, some of this power is absorbed into the handle — only a tiny amount — which can be called upon later.” (Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, p. 30).

These days, Cunningham’s approach seems a bit abstract to me. Though I have great respect for Cunningham’s legacy in the pagan community, thinking of a knife in this way, with the dulled edge, used only as a sort of “energy” conduit misses the point for a regular practice of a person being in Nature. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors certainly carried the best edges they could — whether forged metal or flintknapped stone — but the edges carried by our ancestors were meant to be used, very practically, with an immediacy far beyond the abstraction of an energy conduit. For our ancestors, their knives were tools that allowed them to survive, to exist in a deeper, more effective relationship with their ecosystems.

In my view, the defining characteristic of a knife is the intelligence and knowledge required to create, use, and maintain it. A knife — at least not a modern metal knife — does not spontaneously appear. It requires wit and insight, specific construction techniques that were discovered over eons of time. Furthermore, a knife is the fundamental tool of bushcrafters: it is the tool that allows one to create other tools. In this sense, I think of a knife as a meta-tool. In this way it represents the “airiness” of intellect, of imagination, and the skill that accompanies both of those. We can imagine a tool that we need, and with the technique we know with a good blade at our service, it allows us to create these tools. Tools made with knives can be anything from a bow-drill set to start a fire, to a spoon to eat with, to lashed-together saplings for a shelter, to batoning through wood to make it more suitable for burning, to a weapon, snare, or trap for hunting. This tool is in service to our imagination, to our intellect, and to our skill.

My EDC blade is a folding knife that is big enough to fit in my hand, yet small enough to fit into my EDC pouch that I use. This goes with me everywhere. In my bag I keep any one of several larger knives that I think will best serve me in the circumstances I expect to encounter.

Fire

To me, humanity’s relationship with Fire in the 21st century may be the most out-of-balance of all the elements. Very few of us can start a fire without the aid of convenient fossil fuels, yet nearly all of us stare into glowing screens for a good chunk of each day. Apart from this, fossil fuels burn in nearly every home and vehicle.

Learning to start a fire without fossil fuels has been a very rewarding exercise for me. I can sometimes succeed with primitive technologies such as a bow drill or a hand drill (which I can make in the woods with my knife and access to the proper materials and conditions), but to save time I carry the ferro rod with me. This ferrocerium rod, when scraped against steel, produces small sparks that are thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, and can easily start a fire when one has an adequate tinder bundle (ie, a small grouping of dry, flammable materials, such as birch bark, small wood shavings, fatwood, etc).

In my bag (which often comes with me when I leave the house), I also carry a very small portable stove and tinder that will allow me to create a small fire for any reason, including warmth and cooking.

In addition to the ferro rod, I carry a small flashlight that is an astonishing piece of technology. It is a small LED flashlight, powered by a single AAA battery, that produces enough light to illuminate an entire yard. If I need photons, I can easily generate plenty of them using this tool. When I use it with a rechargeable AAA battery, it is also an extremely efficient use of electricity.

Water

I’m a bit of a fanatic about water. Most of the water I drink is water I have gathered myself from a spring a short drive from my house. Going to the spring is like going to church for me, and keeps me in tune with this most important element. It is a peaceful place in the western mountains of Maine, where the best water I’ve ever tasted comes naturally up from the aquifer deep inside the Earth to the top of the mountain, where I collect it 20 gallons at a time in glass containers.

When I leave the house, I always have a water bottle with me. Usually it is a recycled, 1.5 liter glass wine jug, but sometimes it is a smaller 24oz bottle. The corkscrew in my EDC pouch is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact that I often bring my homebrewed mead to various gatherings I attend, and a way to open the corked bottles is quite useful. Between these two, the element of Water is quite well represented.

Apart from having a way to boil (ie, purify) wild water, I am considering getting a water filter, something like the Lifestraw personal water filter, to keep in my larger bag. But because water is is so essential to our survival — it is said we can survive for 3 minutes without Air, 3 hours without shelter (ie, Earth, at least in adverse conditions), 3 days without Water, and 3 weeks without food — I usually carry my own water with me everywhere I go. Staying hydrated is very important to me; I typically drink about a gallon and a half of water per day.

Earth

Earth symbols are perhaps the least abstract of all the elements. Shelter. Food. Shoes. Eating utensils. We are, after all, earthly creatures, existing on this specific planet, and we are inseparable from it. In some ways it is difficult to think about the element of Earth in terms of surviving in Nature, because these are the most common concepts in survivalism. Everything we put into our body is of the Earth.

For my pocket EDC kit, the Earth tool is a small eating tool/spork that sometimes comes in handy. In my bag I also carry a small pot that I can use to cook in, quite compatible with my portable stove. Other symbols that go in my larger bag are two stones: first is a small sharpening stone to maintain an edge on my knives in the field. Second is a stone that I use as a bearing block when attempting primitive fire with a bow drill.

Lastly, there is cordage to consider. I keep cordage in my larger back, a small roll of jute twine which I use whenever I can because it is a natural material. Additionally, I also keep a few hundred feet of “paracord,” also called 550 cord. This artificial material is small, light, and thin, and is rated to support weights of up to 550 pounds. Very useful stuff for many tasks, including shelter building (ie, lashing two supports together to build a primitive shelter).

Ether/Quintessence

In some ways, Ether is the most difficult to implement because it doesn’t really have a common, traditional tool. By definition, it is somewhat vaporous and abstract, and it both underlies and flows through the other four elements. One of the strategies I employ as a guideline is to maximize the flow of quintessence, as it manifests in the other elements. For instance, in Earth I will try to eat the best quality, most vibrant, locally grown or harvested food. For Water I try to drink the cleanest, most vibrant water I can. I feel that Fire started with primitive tools have more quintessence — a different vibe — than fires started with fossil fuel or electricity. And air that I breathe in outside — preferably on a beach, on a mountaintop, or in the woods — has a higher vibe (and at least 90% less pollution) than indoor air.

So my tool for Ether might be the most abstract, and kind of a “reach” in a sense, which in a way is fitting for this element. It is simply a pen and something to write on. For my EDC kit, I use a Fisher Space Pen which is very durable and can write even in adverse conditions. My “paper” is a stack of 3×5 index cards held together with a small binder clip, which is also more durable than regular paper. With these simple tools, if I manage to pull a thought from the ether, I can at least record it while out and about.

 

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About The Author
JWL

James Lindenschmidt has been a pagan for more than 2 decades, having explored many neopagan traditions including Wicca, Grail Spirituality, and more recently, Druidry and Heathenry. These days he identifies more with paganism as an ethos rather than a theology. A large part of his spiritual practice is spending as much time in Nature as possible. He enjoys exploring the intersection between fermentation and herbalism at BardicBrews.net. His degree is in philosophy.

Maine Pagan Traditions

As I look up at the crescent of the Moon slowly climbing over the sentinel pines in the Eastern sky I am reminded of what a magical place we live.  Maine is not without its eyesores, something that can be observed in rapidly-deteriorating roads and suburban sprawl, yet most of what makes Maine a destination spot for vacationers is the rugged wilderness that seems almost untouched by the hand of human beings.  Wide valleys give way to ranges of hills and small mountains that seem to come alive each fall with the waning fire of warmer months as the leaves change.  Leaf peepers come from all over to view them, never knowing that beneath the canopy of orange, red and gold, Maine Pagans dance and sing our place on the Earth.

I have spoken to many people both from here in Maine and as far away as Australia, who admire the relative ease and comfort the Pagan community enjoys here.  Maine is a place of rugged natural beauty and generally friendly people.  It makes sense to me that a population of people who wish to walk gently upon the Earth and live spread out enough to have space for our own spirit to soar unhindered, would for the most part choose to get along and celebrate.

It seems long past due I believe, that we come together to create a strong tradition of Maine Pagans.  A mutual framework of  recognizing core values that does not impede our personal spiritual beliefs but rather celebrates the things we share in common.  Such traditions clearly already exist.  The Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor offers public ritual for each station on the Wheel of the Year.  Beltane on the Beach just celebrated its 34th year and the recent establishment of The Druid College in Hollis, Maine, as well as the yearly Weaving ritual in Casco, further exemplify a desire to impart the importance of a core tradition which can celebrate the eclectic nature of our community.

I am hardly the progenitor of this thought.  Being a “student” at the Druid College myself, this idea has been bandied about and it was more or less formally announced during the Gorsedd at Beltane on the Beach by Michael B. who immediately launched into a song he wrote called “I’m a Maine Pagan (and this is my place).”

For most of us it is an important aspect of our spiritual values to honor our ancestors and this is an important aspect of my Druidry as well.  I can often feel the multitudes of my ancestors traveling at my shoulder, peering around over my shoulder and looking forward to see what I am observing and why.  These are men and women who existed (for the most part) in a time where things were simultaneously more simple and more brutal.  The stories they tell are the stories of the three invasions of Ireland, the heroes, the meddlesome gods and the feats of strength and courage that have inspired generations.  When viewed in context of the stories of their homeland, they are powerful and impressive.  When viewed in terms of our connection to the Earth where our feet touch the land here in Maine though, they lose the critical element of authenticity they enjoy in the place where our ancestors walked in Pagan antiquity.  Certainly the lessons taught by these stories are critical to the method of our connections, however, they lose relevance if we are not actively participating in relationship with this land and instead focusing upon those stories as a way of identifying with our ancestors.

It is inherent to us that we make sacred connection to this land by forming a relationship to the land we find ourselves in now, based on the connections our ancestors formed to the lands of Europe.  Also inherent is that we recognize our status as invaders, a people who have come as conquerors to the Aboriginal, First Nation peoples of this land.  If we are to build a sacred relationship with this place, we must certainly consider that this land should reject us if we are unable to make relationship with the people our recent ancestors savaged in their conquest of this continent.

I am aware that the Wabanaki Confederacy has extended an invitation to all people, especially environmental activists, to join with them in an effort to preserve and protect the land.  If this invitation is still open, I suggest that we organize ourselves enough to lend a hand and learn from the people of this land how best to weave our connection as people to the Earth here and live in harmony so that we may someday be able to earn forgiveness for the actions of our ancestors and together live in peace with the land.

As a Pagan, as  Druid and as a human being, I firmly believe that we are in crisis mode on the long slope of decline.  A future of limited resources awaits us but it is also important to remember that human beings lived without many of the resources we enjoy now for many, many more generations than our species have exploited them.  Creating traditions that honor the Earth and demonstrate community through our tribe will be vital to us in the future and there is no better place I can think of to begin than right here at home.

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About The Author
Alban Artur (Bruin Silverbear)

Alban Artur is a 39 year old resident of Maine. He is currently enrolled at the Druid College in Hollis, ME where he is training to be a Priest of Nature with Snowhawke and also acts as an officer for the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association.

Faerie Tidings: The Great Ostara Egg-Hunt

Photo by EraPhernalia Vintage. Shared under the CC by-sa license.

Photo by EraPhernalia Vintage. Shared under the CC by-sa 2.0 license.

Faerie Tidings: The Great Ostara Egg-Hunt
by Starcat and BlackLion

We scooch down, level with the table top, squinting our eyes and tilting our heads to note any changes in the eggs resting in the glass bowl. The Spring Equinox is upon us and our experiment with coloring eggs for the Great Ostara Egg-Hunt is proceeding quite well. The table holds bowls of various concoctions of beet juice, onion skins, blueberries, red cabbage, carrots, and kale leaves, with eggs resting or floating in them. To some of them we’ve added progressively more water to create a gradient of festive colors. Local farmers’ chickens provided us with flats of eggs to use for the community celebration. We’re excited to be this year’s hosts.

The three cats, two black and an orange tiger, crouch nearby, awaiting further tidbits of the hard-boiled eggs whose shells didn’t survive the vigorous boiling process. Lunch will, of course, be egg-salad sandwiches. Outside the windows, some patches of snow still linger in the field. They are getting smaller each day, thanks to the strong yellow rays of the sun and the warming breezes.

As we craft, we daydream of all the squeals of discovery we’ll hear from the wee ones tomorrow, once the hunt has begun. Along with these colorful eggs, we also have treasures such as our homemade chocolates, small jars of preserves from our stash, and little braided sticky buns. In the morning, we’ll traipse about the cottage and yard, hiding the treats in unexpected niches.

After we finish our lunch, which we share with our three hungry cat friends, we decide to venture out for a walk in the sunshine. Surveying our many trays of eggs, we concoct a plan to remind our friends in the valley of tomorrow’s festivities. Scrambling about in the big wooden trunk, we unearth our bunny ears and cotton tails, and soon we are rabbits ready to hop down the lane towards the village. We giggle in merry delight of the reactions we’ll receive. Soon, we pile our baskets with tulip bulbs, ready to hand them out as a promise of the flowers to come.

By the time we reach the village, we lead a parade of wee fae to and fro. They aren’t entirely sure what to do with the bulbs, but their excited chatter about tomorrow’s delights lights up their faces and causes smiles to spread throughout the valley. A sweet-faced crone distributes cookies and milk to the whole entourage when the Fae Rabbit Parade stops for a rest near her front porch. This brings further laughter and shouts of joy. She is thanked with many sticky kisses and a pile of bulbs for her garden.

As suppertime approaches, we return all the wee ones to their various homes, with instruction on bulb-planting and an air of excited anticipation for tomorrow. Back at the cottage, we collapse in happy weariness, nibbling on a salad of early greens and the leftover cookies the kind widow tucked into our baskets.

We are up at dawn, as excited as the youngsters about the Great Ostara Egg-Hunt. The fresh spring air fills our lungs as we venture out, the cats following us, sleepily blinking and wondering what we’re up to. The orange stripey cat sniffs at the treasures we place in their hiding spots, puzzled over what they might contain. Maude greets us happily and we turn her out into the field to crop some fresh grass, taking the opportunity to hide eggs in her stall at child-eye-level.

In the hollows of fruit trees, tucked behind small rock cairns, on the corners of the porch rails, our treasures are secured. One egg perches on the sundial, another several in the garden, and of course many rest among the rocks of the unlit fire pit. We lose track of several of them, trusting that our young sleuths will determine their location. Finishing our task, we contemplate a light breakfast and put the finishing touches on our contribution to the feast: braided bread and scalloped potatoes.

When the families arrive with their empty, colorful baskets and bright smiles, we feel a rush of spring energy fill us with anticipation of discovery and joy of our community celebration. Soon everyone has arrived and the tension of eagerness is at its peak. Let the egg-hunt begin!

We let them loose in the yard, savoring the squeals of discovery. Before long, laden baskets return in the arms of chocolate-smeared children, and the compost bin is littered with brightly-colored eggshells. The benches and tables from the barn are hauled out, and we all pitch in to set out the feast. Our musician friends, plied with eggs and chocolate, strike up a merry tune as the festivities continue throughout the day.

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About The Author
BlackLion