Archive for the Theory Category

Whitewashing our Deities

Posted in History, Theory, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by theredlass

Dear Wiccans/ Pagans (especially those on Deviant Art),

Why you no draw deities within their respective cultural and ethnic background?

I want to be clear. I’m not insulting the talents of artists WAY better at this than I will ever be. I know I am not alone in perusing DA’s lengthy archives with the name of a favored god or goddess typed into the search bar. I am constantly in awe of people who are able ti dedicate such time and effort into their pieces and I have a great deal of respect for their perspective and ability. I’m especially fond of it when they include symbolism and show a reflective process with regard to costume and scenery.

But still, when I search Hecate, why do I see a bunch of white girls? Shouldn’t she, at the very least, have a Mediterranean appearance? Why does Innana have red hair and pale skin (mind you I have a fetish for redheads)? Shouldn’t she be closer to Middle Eastern in appearance? Again, I’m not complaining of the quality, just of the perspective.

I believe that deities are a reflection of our own concepts. They are real, but we see them through a reflective surface that is colored by our own knowledge of our culture and ethnicity. That said, in this day and age we have a wider grasp of word knowledge than was had in ancient times. So do we simply receive these deities as a closer visual to what we are familiar with, or are we glossing over their origins in favor of making them more appealing?

For my own part, I think it’s a combination of the two. Artists like to create beautiful things and our concept of beauty is colored (no pun intended) by our surroundings. But at the same time, we are the ones now worshiping these deities, so do their appearances change because of who gives them recognition?

I have the same problem when Jesus is depicted as a tall, well built white guy with blue eyes and blondish/brown hair. He’s a Jewish dude from Bethlehem. He would looked NOTHING like that. And yet whenever we see the iconicized version of Jesus on say, a piece of toast, we believe it’s a miracle. (Because Jesus has nothing better to do with his day…not like there is starvation in Africa or anything.)

I would honestly love hearing some opinions on this. It’s irking me.

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Graduation

Posted in Experience, Life, Theory with tags , , on June 8, 2012 by theredlass

This Saturday, I will graduate from college with an Associates in Early Childcare.

Crossroads are funny things. As pagans we tend to think of them as great mystical portals and places of sacred power. But in day to day life we interact with crossroads all the time and give them barely a thought. We decide what to have for breakfast, we decide what route to take to work, we decide how to prioritize our workload. All of these decisions are small, but they can impact our entire day and on some occasions, our entire life.

I am the sort of person who believes that choices are, at best 50/50. You can use your best judgement, think carefully about the outcome, and consider all points of view, and still have everything turn to shit in your hands. I also believe that hindsight is perfect, and it doesn’t do to blame yourself overmuch for things that can not be changed. Nature does not move backwards, but is perpetual, and so much we be, moving forward through our life and accepting the cycles as they come.

Easier fucking said than done.

About a year ago I lost a well paying job. Since then I have been working hard at school and opening my business The Red Lass Emporium. I still want to get a full time job but they are few and far between for childcare. I would be happy enough for a decent part time teacher’s aid position, which would enable me to continue with my education both financially and experience wise. My long term goal is to be a high school English teacher. That will take a masters degree. Another 3-4 years of schooling. Not bad considering it took me 5 to complete my associates from community college.

There are other things developing as well. My wife of 9 years and I have been talking for a while now about having children. We have even spoken to a friend of ours about providing sperm. The process is a long and frightening one. The agreement has always been that we wouldn’t try for children until we both had graduated college and had a steady job. (See the pattern forming yet?) Not to mention that a child is a HUGE life changing step. it is something we both want in our lives but at the same time we enjoy our selfishness just a bit. We like sleeping in late. We like picking up and going where we want when we want. We like having a rum and coke or two after a hard day. We like having copious sex whenever we feel in the mood. All these things change when a child enters the picture. It may not change in the way you think or it might be just as bad or worse. I am without illusions about child rearing. It can be hard, thankless, selfless and absolutely consume your life. it can also be brilliant, life affirming, and the greatest confirmation of your ability as a life giver. (And plus there will never be such a thing as a clean house AGAIN, or at least till you can enact child labor.)

And lastly, we have started the conversation about the possibility of a house. Urrgh. When I think of a house all I am of two minds. One sees the labor, the bills, the responsibility, the credit, the money, the repairs, the permanence, the effort, the time. The other sees the sense of ownership, the making of something that belongs to us, the setting in of roots, the creative possibilities, a place that is OURS.

So there you have it. My three faces. Job, Home, Family. All of this looming on me as I try to think of the coming graduation, the party, and seeing my family again. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to this weekend and everything happening! I really am excited to see my mom and grandmom and have everyone get together for the BBQ and going out on the town! I’m so excited.

And at the same time I stay awake at night and think about how to ebb the flow of the river as the rains pour down on me and mine.

Someone remind me why I ever wanted adulthood.

Expanding Concepts-Honor

Posted in Books, Ritual, Theory with tags , , on May 15, 2012 by theredlass

A few months back when i first started this blog, I wrote a brief, generalized article on virtues which I think the pagan community and modern society in general need to pay more attention to. I have for some time now considered expanding each of the virtues to create a more in depth concept for both my own and others consideration. Obviously this will take a long time, a lot of research, and effort, all of which I am willing to put it. That being said, I don’t want this book to be based strictly on my own opinions. I want to hear what others, especially other pagans, wiccans, witches and druids, have to say on the subject. I want you to be detailed and really give me the in’s and out’s of why you feel the way you do on the virtue under discussion.You will of course be given credit for your input and, while I can not promise any monetary compensation, I am more than happy to include blogs and books by participants in my related reading section as long as they apply to the subject at hand.

To give a bit of context, a chapter outline would go as follows:
Definition-the literal definition as well as layman terms and concepts relating to the virtue.
Cultural Significance-how different cultures view the virtue and how it has been upheld or ensured.
Examples in Mythology-what myths, as well as mythological characters, exhibit this virtue and in what manner.
Examples in Modern Literaturewhat modern characters could be described as exhibiting this virtue and how.
Examples in Media-are there any characters in movies and tv that held define this virtue for a modern audience.
Symbolism-are there any signs, symbols or attributes which relate to this virtue.
Rituals-rituals of either ancient or modern invention which help a person become imbued with the virtue.

I am looking for any and all input as well as lengthy discussion to help flesh out ideas. Remember that this work is still in it’s infancy and because of time constraints it may take a while to finish. When the parts are completed I intend to offer them on my website. If you give input that I use either by quoting you or by which helped me develop my writing, you will get a free PDF copy.

The first virtue I would like to put up for discussion is one of the most important: Honor. What does honor mean to you? How does one define it? Is it different for a man than for a woman? How does one gain honor? How does one loose it? What examples can you think of? Feel free to include anything you can think of.

Do You Really Believe This Stuff?

Posted in Experience, Life, Theory with tags , , on December 12, 2011 by theredlass

Sometimes, when making new friends or going into a new job, you get asked questions. Most of them are simple enough to answer. How old are you? Where are you from? Do you like in town? All very mundane things that help people get to know you and help develop friendships and lines of communication between the people you will now be with on a frequent basis.

For pagans, witches and the like, this line up often includes some variation of the question: What is that star for? It can take many forms, my favorite is “Are you Jewish?” my least preferred is “Are you like, a devil worshipper?” I am thankful to say that this second one has only cropped up once or twice. I’ve found that for my little area of Ohio most people are fairly willing to, if not accept, at least listen and consider what I am saying when I tell them I am a witch. It’s kind of funny to see the surprised double take when a person hears that word used without irony r sarcasm. They often don’t know what to make of it and frankly, wonder if you are serious. Let’s be honest, can you blame them? But after a brief explanation I usually get asked the following;

Do you really believe this stuff?

For some of us the simplest answer is yes. After all what else can you say after proudly proclaiming partnership with the polytheistic peoples. But what I often end up saying is; “It’s a bit more complicated than that.” I don’t often have the time it takes to really get down to it and explain everything to someone, so I feel bad leaving them with possible misconceptions about what it means to be pagan /wiccan/heathen/etc.

The truth of the matter is, ask 5 pagans what it means to be pagan and you will get 20 answers at least. I’d assume it’s the same for most religions, but pagans in particular are quite proud of their eclectic and broad individualism. I explain that, while I can describe what I believe, they should by no means take this as a general statement as to what pagans believe as a whole. We have just as many if not more sects as Christianity so it all needs to be taken on a person by person basis. I try to narrow them down to the important questions, the ones I know they really want to ask but, (for risk of offending me) are hesitant to ask.

1)      Do you believe there is more than one god?

  1. Yes and no. I believe there is a conscious, contentious Source of all things that is translatable into any religious path. It is neither male nor female at its core, and yet can easily be seen either or none at all for their qualifications are within its prime make up. As humans, we are simply unable to understand the enormity of the Source and all its power, it is too far above us. It is however a part of us, as it is a part of all things, and we can connect with it because of this. Through socio-cultural conditioning, psychological and philosophical perceptions, we visualize the Source in images which are translatable to us, things which are familiar. Thus, all religions have some validation in that we create the Gods which we follow to meet our needs. To me, the name of the Gods are representative of aspects of the Source which reflect our needs, wants, desires and the world around us.

 

2)      Do you practice witchcraft? Like do you cast spells and everything?

  1. On occasion yes, I have been known to cast a spell or two. But I view spells the same way I view asking any god for a favor. The gods won’t do for you what you won’t do for yourself. I do rituals and make offerings to increase my connection with the Source, to recognize it better and to open myself up to its presence in all things. I don’t do love spells or money spells, both are the product of greed and desperation. I do practice witchcraft in that I endeavor to learn more about the gifts of the world around me, herbalism and healing arts, necromancy and meditation, that sort of thing. I will occasionally do magic for a friend, if I can, but more often than not I simply give them the tools and know how to do it for themselves. My request will never be as strong as their own.

 

3)      Offerings? Do you sacrifice cats and stuff?

  1. Some branches, like Santeria, Vodou and Hedgecraft do practice animal sacrifice, but cats are not recommended or ever used for this. Mostly it’s livestock animals like chickens or goats. I personally have never made an animal sacrifice either from live or already butchered meat, though I know some who have. With this it is more important to understand what the animal represents to the people who sacrifice it. I don’t raise chickens, so if I went a bought a live chicken and then killed it, it doesn’t mean as much as someone who got the chicken as a chick, fed it, raised it, took care of it, and kept it safe only to give it to the gods as an offering. I garden. My herbs take time, care and concentration to grow and be fertile. So a handful of fresh green onions, the fattest tomatoes and carrots mean more because I have worked to make them good. Offerings are not as simply as throwing something into a fire. You offer it because it is your best and the best goes to the gods. This shows both sincerity and a willingness to give up something in order to achieve something.

 

4)      Do you worship the devil?

  1. I do not give recognition to the Christian concept of the devil. Nor to any other god meant to represent ‘evil’. Obviously as there is light and dark in the world, there is also light and dark inherent in the Source. But the idea of ‘evil’ is more of a human invention to explain it or give someone blame when bad things happen. I believe we create most of the evil in our world both on a personal and large scale. If you take an objective look you will realize that we facilitate our own fates either be taking control or by allowing someone else control over us. By either taking good advice or by ignoring it out of pride or ignorance. I try to recognize the darkness in the world as simply part of the natural balance. Would the colors of a sunset be so brilliant if not for the contrasting shadows? Would the full moon shine as brightly in the daylight? Would the deep void of space not leave of us wonder of limitless possibility if we could knew just how far the blackness went? No, no the only evils that exist are of human invention, the Source is amoral, and acts out of nature and necessity for everything in the cosmos, not just for the outcome of one planet, much less one species.

 

5)      Do you worship nature?

  1. As much as I worship anything else. Much like Shinto beliefs, I think everything has a spirit, this includes the earth itself. Both as individuals, like trees, rocks, rivers and plants, and as a whole, the earth represents a microcosm example of the order of the universe. Everything is connected to the earth, much like everything is connected to the Source. Though I can’t claim to have seen these spirits, I think they exist and like to be appreciated for their efforts. Once again you are going back to the idea that the Source is inherent within all things, so whatever form you view it as is legitimate.

 

6)      So what does the star mean?

  1. I explain that most pagans give a great deal of significance to the five elements and their place in both ancient witchcraft and alchemy. The circle confining the star represents one’s desire to control these elements and find the harmony of using them in both their mundane and witchy workings. For my part, I personally prefer the aesthetic, introspective and historic nature of the triquetra. It is more simplistic and rooted in a practical mindset. 3 was considered a sacred number to the Celts and it could take on many interpretations both in ancient and modern thought. (Earth, Sky, Sea/ Mind, Body, Soul/Maiden, Mother, Crone/Youth, Father, Sage/Male, Female, Androgynous/ Gay, Straight, Bi/)

I am not saying that these are the ‘correct’ answers for anything. They aren’t. They are simply my thought process and often it goes a long way to easing people’s concerns when they first meet me. It is not, by any extent, the end of what I believe in, and I would greatly appreciate comments and conversation as to your own thoughts and beliefs! But hopefully this gives other people a chance to really gather their minds and give good answers when someone comes to you with legitimate curiosity.

The Nine Virtues

Posted in Experience, History, Life, Theory with tags , , on October 17, 2011 by theredlass

In some way or another throughout the ages, there have been sets of attributes which have been deemed by both society and individuals to define the quality of a person’s character. From the Ten Commandments to Sanatana Dharma, from the Noble Eightfold Path to the Wiccan Rede, each comprises cultural appreciation of upright action and thought. Many of these hold the same tenants as one another, with values such as honesty, kindness, generosity and honor at the top of the lists. It is in this line that I have comprised what I feel to be the Nine Virtues, a series of considerations to which I think one should aspire in their life time.

In no way do I mean to say that this is the definitive list of ethical behavior! Nor do I want anyone to believe that I have an infallible moral compass! Far from it in fact. These are simply the traits which I think are lacking in this era and should be given due consideration. While they include several from what is considered both warrior and maidenly virtues, I have done all I can to remove the gender considerations herein and I advise seeing them more as human virtues rather than belonging to one gender or the other.

The goal here is to strive towards these traits and to do your best to keep them in mind as you act throughout the day. I have listed them in order or personal importance (1 being the most significant to me) but these are not really qualifiable as more or less significant.Honor is among the most difficult to define of the virtues, and yet to me it is one of the most important. Many define this concept as a definition of a man’s duty or loyalty to one’s betters or higher ups within a military code of conduct. For women the term was historically used in reference to their virginity or the price a mle would have to pay in order to wed them. Honor can mean loyalty to duty, but it can also mean to act in a way which conveys dignity and rightness. Refusing to be goaded into a fight or not allowing your character to be falsified. Taking the protecting and care of your family upon yourself and working for their good at all times. Not allowing your friends to hurt when you have the means to prevent it. It comes down to looking at the situation and doing everything in your power to work through it with rightness of thought and deed. Honor also ties in strongly with other constructs such as: Integrity of the self, Accountability for your actions, and Respect for yourself and others

Courage is often misinterpreted as a lack of cowardice or fear. In reality, Courage is being afraid, terrified even, but pushing forward anyway. There are two types of courage: physical courage, which could be defending someone from attack or pushing yourself to the limit, and moral courage, which would be keeping to your moral or ethical code dispite potential ridicule and ostrisation. It can be difficult to remain courageous without becoming reckless or displaying an excess of bravado. In my experience the truly courageous are quiet, steadfast people who one would never suspect of being capable of such bravery. The one who rushes into a burning building to save a child and then dissapears before the news crew can get a shot of them. The truest form of courage is in those who’s names will never be known, but who take it upon themselves to act in defense of others.

Mercy is often portrayed as the powerful showing pity to the weak. This is often emphasied by the Christian concept of a merciful God, one who weilds incomparable power and yet exercises with caution or consideration for those under their influence. But to put this on a more relatable level, one could compare mercy with humanitarian efforts such as giving your time so that other’s might live life with greater ease, even if only for a moment. Through acts of kindness and charity, such as donating your clothing to homless shelters, voulenteering at a soup kitchen, or being a counselor for a youth group, one hopes to achieve a human connection as well as a greater understanding of compassion. To quote the Bard: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” Honesty is not always as simply as just telling the truth. In this case, the virtue has mor eto do with being of straightword character. It can be difficult to weight honesty with brutal, unfeeling truth, but it is important to remember that honesty does not give one the right to be callous. You should always consider how your answer will effect the other persons state of mind. At times a gentler hand may be called for, but sometimes we must be direct in our approach. A good thing to keep in mind is to never do anything you know you are going to have to lie about later. With this thought, Honesty is more about acting truthfully and without decit intended than it really is about telling your friend you like her dress when it looks awful. One could find it very ammusing that I chose to put the virtue of Cunning right after that of Honesty, seeing as how the two so often seem to be at odds. But in this case it is to establish a balance between the two that I incldue cunning among the virtues. Cunning is not about lieing, but about displaying keen insight or a knowledge of something which might baffle others. You could also term this as being clever or witty about a particular subject (such as witchcraft). It is, above all else, using your intillect to solve problems and find new solutions to old issues. Brehons might be the best example of such folk, as they had to navigate their way around the law without denying the rights of everyone involved. Endurance is the unique ability to keep going long after other’s have quit. There are two kinds of endurence: physical endurence, such as a woman in labor or a man running a triathalon, and mental endurance, such as that shown during studying final exam or sensory deprevation. One could also consider life to be an endurance trial, as we face hardships and difficulties one has to show the endurance and fortitude to overcome them. Life is hard, but not without it’s joy, and sometimes weathering the hard times creates more joy in the easy times. Being tenacious and sticking to your set goals without fail shows great endurance.Spirit is the belief and understanding of an innermost self, a soul or essence which comprises you as an incorporeal being. It is a connectedness to a larger self and an understanding that there is a pattern and weaving to existence which you are a part of. This could also be termed Piety, though I would not include religious devotion as the explanation. Rather you strive to see the big picture of life, not only in terms of you and yours but in terms of the universe as a whole. Someone who has the virtue of Spirit is confident, but without the danger of hubris and arrogance that so often comes with the idea of a higher spiritual understanding. As Albert Einstein said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

Introspection is being aware of your own needs, desires, flaws, virtues and state of mind. It is a concious effort on the part of a person to fully consider their actions and thoughts and to consider the ramifications both to themselves and to others. It is the consideration of one’s own mind, or metacognition (thinking about thinking). One could consider this like having a psychologist inside your own mind. You try to break down your own though process, questions yourself and answer honestly. It is not the same as doubting yourself or seeing your own advise as invalid, it is simply exploring your own motives and knowing where they come from.Tranquility ismaintaining a state of clamness and level headed thinking. It is in allowing yourself to move beyond the hectic frustrations and troubles of the moment and not letting them interfere with your thought process or course of action. One could also add into this the feeling of contentment with your life as it is right now, without giving thought to the future or past. You become at ease with the reality of the world and life in general and accept your current state of being. Inherant in this is the ability to move past what may be happening at the moment and focus on what must come next.

Impeccable Karma

Posted in Experience, Life, Theory with tags , , on August 18, 2011 by theredlass

If you know what karma means then you know the impossibility of this statement.

I don’t want this to turn into a slam down about others, that’s not what this blog is about, so let me try to do this in a way that doesn’t implicate anyone in particular.

Lets say you have a favorite brand of hot dog. It’s good, your prefer it over other brands. But does that make all other brands “bad”? Of course not! It simply makes them different. Maybe not your preference but you couldn’t label them all inferior to your brands. So if someone else served another brand of hot dog in their house, you wouldn’t be so rude as to refuse to eat it now would you?

People seem to get into this concept that one tradition of witchcraft must be better than the other. Well the truth of the matter is their all just different brands of hot dogs. Some people prefer Dianic, others Gardenarian. Some people are Druids and others lean towards Shamanism. These are all FINE! There is nothing wrong with any of these concepts or paths and arguing over correct terminology or spell-craft is futile. Most people I know are eclectic to some extent any how so why get your dander up over how something is accomplished in word, deed or spell?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t know your work, you should. If you specialize in a particular branch of witchcraft then you need to know what your doing (especially with herbs!). All I’m saying is that opinions differ, and you should neither belittle or indulge others opinions too far. Just be respectful when differences arise within the craft.

 

The Magic of Touch

Posted in Experience, Theory with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by theredlass

In our society, people as despondent. They remove themselves from the social significance of their fellow man and pull away from the intimate connection we share with one another. I believe this makes us disconnected from humanity, which in turn makes us more self absorbed and narcissistic, focused on our own well being over that of others.

Which is why I so thoroughly enjoy massage.

I like to touch people. I get a good sense of who people are by their physical responses to my touch. Most people aren’t used to skin to skin contact so they react a little stiffly and become quite shy. But none the less people respond well to massage. They seem to separate it from random touch. So when someone is stressed I offer a quick hand massage or shoulder rub to ease the tension and help them feel better. I think this works on a more than physical level, creating a sense of relatability and comfort that allows someone to feel a real, true human connection. This benefits their mental state of being and can help bring them back to normal.

One of my favorite things is to take a long hour and give my girlfriend a back massage. It helps her a lot physically because of her spinal trouble but at the same time I think it makes her feel appreciated, wanted and desired. And believe me not a bit of that is un-warrented 😀 But it also gives me a sense of how she is feeling. I touch her skin and I feel her emotions course through me, whats on her mind. Now mind you it’s not like I read minds or anything. I just have a few moments to really let the day sink in and think about things she had said earlier. I have a chance to see how the stress is effecting her and help her by either being there emotionally, physically or just by saying the right things.

It allows me insight. And sometimes that’s all we really need to know about one another. Just a little bit of insight that allows us to connect as human beings.