Confronting the Black Hole (Pagan Blog Project Week 5)

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So, last week, I started mentioning the various drama going around the Pagan and/or Polytheist communities, and offered the advice that people ought to butt out of situations, conversations, and issues that just don’t concern them.

This week, I want to do something else. I want to confront an important thing that lies behind and perhaps even permeates the entire conversation and back-and-forth on these issues.

In astronomy, a black hole is defined as a hole in space that has such gravity, such vacuum power, that not even light can escape it. When trying to locate a black hole, scientists can’t actually point to a spot in space and say “oh look, there it is!” How do you find a vacuum inside a vacuum?

You find a black hole by looking at the things (in this case, the stars and planets and space) around it. Everything around a black hole is changed by the black hole’s proximity. The black hole affects its surroundings, even though it is not part of its surroundings, and thus it reveals its presence through the repercussions, or ripples, that its force is exerting on its environment.

It’s high time that we addressed the black hole at the center of all neo-Pagan (or contemporary Pagan, if you will) movements. This black hole also applies, to lesser or greater degree, to the reconstructionist, polytheist movement, though usually a lesser degree, depending on how well those people understand the culture/religion they are reconstructing, and how much of the ancient mindset they embrace.

This black hole is called monotheism. Even without being there – it’s still there.

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Butting Out (Pagan Blog Project, Week 4)

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First of all I am sorry not to be posting my Friday prompt for the Pagan Blog Project until Monday. My family needed me offline, and while I am enjoying my participation in this project, human beings > my weekly Egypto-Samothracian chat session with the computer.

It was also difficult to come up with something I wanted to talk about for the second in the “B” series. I was considering talking about Bithynia, or the various important women (and a town!) named Berenike, but then I got back to the computer after the family business and read a lot of posts from my colleagues and contemporaries about this blogger or that group or this religious leader saying this or that or the other about each other’s practices. It seems that a few bloggers feel the need to tell everybody else what they believe (or don’t), and naturally, this has raised some eyebrows for some, and some tempers for others.

Perhaps it’s ironic that my response to this blanket statement definition, this strange desire to go forth and tell everybody else what to do is to suggest something that is going to sound very much like I’m telling everyone what to do. Oh well. So be it.

My advice: butt out.

Unless your life (or someone else’s) is literally threatened, unless your deities demand that you intervene, and unless there is a clear and compelling reason that someone else’s personal religious experience or lack thereof is your personal business? Butt out. Nobody appointed anybody the pagan police. For people who wail so loudly about how terrible it is to have to submit to religious authority there sure is a lot of authority being thrown around.

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Bendis (Pagan Blog Project Week 3)

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The Thracian goddess Bendis may or may not be the same as the goddess Kotys or Cotyto, according to some sources. One would presume that the Lady is aware of whether or not She has more than one name or identity, but She keeps Her mysteries well. For the purposes of this entry, since we’re on the letter “B,” we’ll stick to Her Bendis persona, regardless of the answer to that mysterious question.

Bendis was also conflated with Artemis, as another fierce, singular female huntress and lunar/wild deity. She resembles Artemis a little, if you squint hard and forget that She’s using a spear or two instead of a bow, that She’s wearing a Phrygian cap and a distinct set of high-legged boots, or that She wears other different clothing, in everything from Thracian cloaks to a fox-skin hat. )

Other times, Bendis is conflated with Persephone or Selene. These associations also have their similiarities. Bendis’ ceremonies were indeed practiced at night, by Thracians and (after the Oracle of Dodona told them to) by Greeks as well. One such ceremony is mentioned as the setting for Plato’s Republic, and appears in other classical works. It is called the Bendidia.

Bendidia involved torchlight processions on horseback and revels under darkness, like those celebrated by other Thracian and Orphic deities like Sabazios and Dionysos. Bendis is sometimes accompanied, like Dionysos, by satyrs and maenads, or simply by athletes running toward Her temple.

I’d like to understand more about Bendis, but as yet, She has not granted that opportunity. Perhaps one day that will change and I will have more to say.

Apotropaic Magic

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This’ll be the second post in the Pagan Blog Project series I somehow convinced myself I wanted to take part in. Hopefully, it will be of some use.

Following the agreed-upon alphabetic format, this is my second post with a topic beginning with the letter A. [If you want to see the first A post, the one I wrote about ancestors, it’s right here.] For my second A post, I want to talk about apotropaic magic. What the Hades does that mean? And how do you even say that?

Apotropaic (ah-POE-troe-pay-ick) is the English rendering of the Greek word apotrepein. This translates “to turn away” or “to push away,” so apotropaic magic would be magic designed to turn away or push away something.

Traditionally, apotropaic magic is used to deflect other magic, or for protection against evil that is “sent” toward or against something or someone else. It’s a specific kind of defensive magic, one with a long history in our world.

Ancient Egyptians used apotropaic magic to protect against everything from evil spirits to a spouse’s wandering eye. Official state rituals turned any potential evil away from the kingdom as part of every new year’s celebration. Private rituals could invoke fierce gods like Bes and Taweret to protect children from danger; like Sekhmet to scare off plagues; or Neith to dissolve nightmares. Apotropaic heka (as ancient Egyptians called the entire magical corpus of tools, words, and rituals used for magic) included amulets; “magic wands” made of ivory; statues; images carved into household objects like beds, headrests, and chairsincantations; or curses spoken to ancestors or dangerous spirits.

Apotropaic magic wasn’t limited to Egypt, nor did it start there. We know of many apotropaic practices and rituals from the rest of the Ancient Near East, and also the rest of the world. Nor is it something that was only done in antiquity. Everything from throwing salt over your shoulder because your Irish grandmother told you to do so, to the blue glass eyes hanging in a Turkish coffee shop (or on your cell phone screen?), reminds us that apotropaic magic is alive, well, and functioning all over the world, right now.

Apotropaic magic: It’s what we use to kick ass, or warn someone or something that we’re all out of bubblegum, when necessary.

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There’s always evil to be smashed, so why not engage in some of your own apotropaea? What sorts of apotropaic magic do you practice?

Devo Magix: A Sa for Protection

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The Twisted Rope

The Sa was a commonly used amulet in the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt and literally represented “protection”. We’re not entirely sure what the Sa was exactly- some people think it was a life-preserver of sorts, others think that it was a rolled up herdsman’s shelter (Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art, 197). Regardless of what the Sa actually was, it became a symbol used largely for protective purposes- and that protection could range from childbirth to traveling and was often held by deities such as Tawaret and Bes.

For this project, we’re going to create a Sa out of fabric that you can use to protect yourself, your family, or whatever you want. The supplies you’ll need are:

  • Scissors
  • Fabric (I chose red)
  • Cordage or yarn in whatever color you’d like
  • Markers (I chose black)

Sa supplies

You will want to start by cutting your fabric into a rectangular shape. Make sure that…

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