Grab Bag for the Holiday Season Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

Grab Bag for the Holiday Season

Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

by Erika Ginnis

 

I thought that for this article I would  touch on a couple of ideas and techniques that I have found useful during  the holiday season. This is the time of  year when the light seems like a  memory (even as it begins to change  and return), and the dark is ever around  us. It is a powerful time for inner  searching and deep magick. It is a time  of cycles both within us and outside  of us. In some ways, this is the time of  year when it seems like everyone, pagan or not, is bound up in the cyclic  sweep of the turning of the year and  the seasons.

Whatever your own personal opinions about the many traditions that  are celebrated during this time of year  (I personally love the holidays regardless of the name they go by — but  then again I have also been told I am  rather strange!) it is hard to dismiss  all that it brings up in us. All our childhood experiences good or bad are  there with us. All the hopes and  dreams, realized or not, come crowding back on us at this time of year. We  get together with family members  (many of which have little understanding of our particular spirituality), and  sometimes it seems like we become  someone we once were, or never were  but thought we were supposed to be.  It can also be that we love the festivities at this time of year, but those  around us are glum and depressed.  Perhaps we ourselves like this dark  time of inner reflection and long for  its quiet wisdom, but are annoyed by  all the revelers around us and feel the  need to go hibernate under a rock till  spring.

Anything sound familiar yet? Well,  you are not alone. I have personally  found that this period of time right  around Yule to be a great opportunity  for growth and change. The way I look  at it, “If my stuff is going to be up and  strewn all around me anyway, I might  as well take this opportunity to work  on some of it!”

One of the things that I become  increasingly aware of in relation to all  of this, is something that I call a “growth  period.” To define this very simply: “A  growth period is the time it takes the  body to adjust and process the  changes that we make as spirit.” The  holiday season is a time ripe for periods of accelerated growth. We are  confronted with our pasts, with family  issues, with the cyclic and therefore  mortal aspects of ourselves. Adding  this to the fact that it is already a time  of darkness and cold (at least in this  part of the world) can inspire some  pretty intense stuff.

Have you ever taken a class in  some kind of personal development  or spiritual work, and felt like you were  riding an amazing high, only to find  yourself a week or two later getting  sick, or wanting to hide from the world?  This is an example of a growth period. First of all, you make some kind  of change or work on something as  spirit. This happens very quickly, since  spirit isn’t bound by time and space.  Great, no problem, you can make all  these changes and wheeeee! Right?  Well, only partially; you are spirit, you  can change in an instant; however, you  have a body, and that body has to  operate in time and space. So what  happens is that your body needs to  integrate what you have changed. It  needs time to process the new energy.

While you are in this process, it  can feel a little odd. I think of it sometimes like a plant getting a new leaf.  When the leaf is just beginning to unfold, it is a lighter green and is a lot  more tender, more easily bruised. It  hasn’t developed the more waxy finish that the other leaves have.

This is analogous to how we can  feel when we are in a state of flux.  Over time, the leaf grows out and unfolds and becomes just like the others, and the plant is that much larger.  It is the process by which growth occurs. We are not so very different from  the plants. We don’t normally sprout  leaves, but our changes are just as  real and every bit as observable if you  know how to look.

Growth periods can be experienced in a number of ways. You may  want to sleep much more than usual  or not need as much sleep as you are  used to. You may want to have a lot  of sex or want to go out dancing a lot,  or maybe want to hibernate at home  all of a sudden. Maybe you want to  eat a lot of chocolate, or you may  catch a cold, or just feel generally unsettled. It may also be that you feel  better than you ever have and you feel  like the whole world is opening up to  you. These are all growth periods. A  growth period does not have to be  uncomfortable! It is simply the time it  takes the body to process the  changes that you make as spirit.

What is important, especially when  it feels more challenging, is to remember “This is a normal, natural and necessary part of learning and growing.”  Many of us like to try and skip this  part, or try and ignore it. We may feel  more fragile at this time and want to  protect ourselves by denying our  changes. Unfortunately, one of the  things that denial can do is to prolong  the process. If you acknowledge your  growth period, you can then begin to  communicate with your body about  what’s happening and what your body  needs. This will make it all go more  smoothly.

Sometimes all it takes is that conscious recognition that you are indeed  in a growth period. It can make it all  make more sense. Another thing to  remember is that  growth periods are  cyclic…. they have a  beginning, a middle  and an end! They  don’t go on forever; you  will adjust to the changes,  and you will have grown. A  former teacher of mine  used to use the adage: “When  you are up to your ass in alligators,  it’s hard to remember that you set out  to drain the swamp!”

As long as you are in a body, you  will have growth periods; it’s part of  the package. If you are into growing  spiritually, well, guess what, you will go  out of your way to have growth periods! I find that meditation really helps  to keep everything flowing. It may be  that the time that you want to meditate the least is when you need it the  most.

So this brings me back to this particular season. This would be a fabulous time to commit to meditating  daily. This is one of the times of the  year when we all are aware of the cyclic nature of our lives. It is coming up  on the New Year, we are running headlong into our childhood memories, we  are seeing people we might not have  seen since last year. We become very  aware of our own changes or lack  thereof, and it can be pretty intense.  It will very likely put us into a growth  period.

One of the techniques that I suggest people use for getting a handle  on where they are, in their growth, is  as follows: Find a quiet place where  you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. (Sure, you say, with all my relatives in my house, how will this happen? If all else fails, go into the bathroom, lock the door and say you’re  taking a bath.) Take a few minutes to  ground and center.

Let yourself become aware of what  your current growth period is; let the  information flow to you from your stillness. Ask yourself the question: “What  are the spiritual changes I have recently made, and how am I responding to them?” Let the answers flow.  Maybe you have been feeling odd and  unsettled and not wanted to look at  it, so have been on the run as much  as possible to avoid it all. Take this  opportunity to stop running and simply look at what’s happening and why,  and give yourself permission to not  take it all so seriously. Laugh a little at  the huge growth period you are in (if  this is the case) and realize that it will  pass and you will have grown. Even if  the issue that you are working on is  serious, treating it with just a little  amusement can help the energy move  and change more easily.

The next exercise can give you  more insight into what you are working on and can also be a wonderful  way to get in touch with your own  changes.

Take two sheets of paper and a  pen. On the first sheet, start the heading of a letter that  says “Dear  Spirit…”  and at the  end of the  sheet of  paper write  “… love, Body.”  Next, take  the other  sheet of  paper and at the top write “Dear  Body….” and at the end of the paper  write “…love, Spirit.”

If you haven’t already guessed,  you are going to write two letters. Let  your mind relax and let your body have  a voice; let it talk to you and let you  know what’s up, what it feels, what it  needs. Write it down in the first letter.  This is your body communicating to  you, the spiritual being. Don’t judge  what you write, just write. It may say  things like, “Dear Spirit, you haven’t  been paying any attention to me, I need  more exercise, I need more sleep,  please buy me some flowers.” Or perhaps, “I am trying as best as I can, but  I don’t know what we are doing or  where we are going, so I am afraid;  please let me know what’s going on.”  Or even, “I am starting to get a cold,  please  drink a lot  of water so  I won’t be  sick for the  holidays.”

Whatever the  communication, it is  a valuable  tool for staying in touch with the wisdom of the body and for knowing how  your body actually feels in this sometimes hectic season. Now realize you  don’t have to do everything the body  asks for. It may say, “I want to go escape to Hawaii until February,” but  what you as Spirit may decide to do is  go spend 10 minutes tanning and take  a walk in a conservatory of tropical  plants. What you may find is that the  very act of being listened to is enough  to totally change how your body feels.

Next up is the second letter. This  is a letter from you as Spirit to your  body. Take a minute and breathe and  relax. Get in touch with yourself and  you own inner voice. I highly recommend meditating as part of writing  both these letters if it is at all possible. This is the letter that begins  “Dear Body….” You may be surprised  at what you write. Let go of your expectations as you write and let it flow.  It may sound like, “Dear Body, I love  you, but I am not always good at communicating, but I am working on changing that. I want to work on prosperity  for the holidays, and so I have stimulated all the memories from our childhood so I can put them to rest. Sorry  I didn’t mention this to you before I  started….” Or, “I am really proud of  the way you didn’t get enough sleep  for a few days so that I could create  that wonderful holiday dinner. I am  going to make sure there is time now  to relax and enjoy the next week.”

It may also sound totally different than these examples, which is the  point. It is your own voice as spirit  communicating into this physical reality to your body so that you can begin  to work in harmony with each other. It  is all part of the same thing, but it has  different aspects and different voices,  which are each valid and valuable. I  often say that one of our most important relationships, one that colors all  our others, is the one we have as spirit  with our body. If we can begin to harmonize that one, the others are much  more likely to be successful.

Hopefully now that you have some  tools to use during this time of change  and renewal, you can let yourself enjoy what comes to you and be able to  learn from it. If nothing else, you can  know  what  is going on  when  you want nothing  better than  to  stay in  bed and eat chocolate until Spring  Equinox. It is just a growth period! Next  week, most likely, you’ll be planning  what new plants you want to add to  your garden when it thaws out, or beginning that new class you wanted to  take.

I will end with another saying I  heard a lot when I was a student. “Running your energy will get you into a  growth period, and running your energy will get you out!” Meditate, meditate, meditate, and I’ll see you next  year.

Blessed be.

Review of Grounding and Centering

Close your eyes, and turn within.

Take three nice, deep breaths,  breathe down into your belly and  soften it  as you  breathe.  Notice  how you  feel, how  your body  feels.

Be  aware of  your first  chakra. This is simply an energy center (vortex) that is located in the general area near the base of the spine.  For women, the center (vortex) that is  located in the general area near the  base of the spine. For women the center is usually near the area between  the ovaries (note: the chakra positioning doesn’t change if you have had to  have your ovaries removed for any reason). For men the location is slightly  lower in the body because the chakra  placement is associated with the testicles.

Be aware of this area, and allow a  cord of energy to flow downward  from your body…

through the chair you are sitting  in…

through the floor and  down through  the building you  are in…

through the  foundation and  into the deep  earth beneath.

Allow your grounding to flow down  into the earth past all the rocks and  layers of the planet, past the water,  deep into the earth into the heart of  the Mother. Until it reaches the center  of the earth.

Allow your grounding cord to connect securely into the center of  the planet.

Be aware of your grounding  cord being securely connected  also to your first chakra. Allow this  connection, breathe and release energy and tension down your grounding.

Now that you are grounded you  can take the next step and center yourself. Take a nice deep breath and bring  your awareness into the center of your  head. That safe neutral place behind  your eyes and back a bit.

Notice how you body responds. It  might have a reaction to you being centered. Let that reaction simply be, notice it. If you experience any discomfort, release it down your grounding.

Be aware of what the center of  your head is like right now. Is it light?  Is it dark? Is it crowded, or empty?  Cold or warm, big or small? Are you  aware of sensations, sounds, images,  scents? Relax and breathe yourself  into the center of your head. Get comfortable and begin to own this safe  neutral place.

Continue to use your grounding to  release energy from this space so that  you can make more room for you to  focus there in the present moment.

The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

Early Solstice Celebration

The original reason for the season is the Winter Solstice. Solstice is a word from the Latin that meaning “stands still”. For six days at this time, the sun appears to stand still on the horizon. This was a time of uncertainty and mystery as people wondered if indeed the sun would return. When it did year and year again, festivals grew up in just about every place and culture. Even today in our modern indoor society the Solstice continues to be a time of celebration across the world. The theme of light emerging from darkness is universal at this time of year.

In primitive societies the priests and shamans were most certainly the astronomers. Knowledge of the mathematical calculations needed to calculate the time of the Solstices would be seen as high magic in these cultures. From New Grange in Ireland to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, to the great solar temples of Egypt, peoples developed elaborate sacred sites to track the movement of the Sun across the sky and to note the times of the Solstices. Stonehenge is the most famous of the solar calculators and its construction is one of the great unsolved mysteries.

The celebration of Horus or Ra the Sun in ancient Egypt involved decorating with greenery especially palm branches with twelve fronds and directly linked the Sun God to the natural rhythms of the Sun in the sky.

The Solstice time in Babylon was Zagmuk. The Babylonians incorporated their Sun god Marduk who defeated the Monsters of Chaos during this dark and shadowy time. This holiday introduced the idea of the struggle between good and bad; continued today in the magical persona of a Santa Claus who uses the granting of presents or coal and switches to judge children.

The festival of Sacaea continued this theme. The Persians and later the Greeks celebrated the reversal of order that was stirred up by Kallikantzaroi, mischievous imps who roamed about during the twelve days of Sacaea. These imps had a darker side than the elves Santa associates with today.

In Rome the major festival for this time of year was Saturnalia, the birthday of the Roman God Saturn. This festival was celebrated from December 17-24. This holiday included pig sacrifice and gift exchange and was followed by the Kalends an early January celebration of the New Year where houses were decorated with greenery and lights. Both of which are usually still up on New Year’s Day in modern America.

The Norse, largely independently arrived at a similar holiday that bears the closest resemblance to the modern celebrations and unlike the Celts and many others, made this a major holiday. We can thank them for the word Yule that still is used interchangeably with Christmas by many contemporary persons. We can also thank them for the traditions of caroling, the Yule log and the first custom of bringing an entire evergreen into the house. It is fitting that this would be a major holiday for those who lived so far north that the winter nights literally swallowed the days in the time directly before Solstice.

Modern Solstice Celebrations

Christmas: The earliest record of a Christmas celebration was in Rome in 336 CE. Pope Liberus in 354 CE placed the holiday on December 25. The Armenian Church still celebrates on Jan 6. The holiday remains an almost universal celebration around the World. Many people participant in the cultural elements of Christmas to a much greater extent than the religious. Unfortunately Christmas has come to represent consumerism in our society with many stores and businesses dependent on large sales this time of year. Many Christians are trying to reestablish the religious aspects of the season by moving away from large scale elaborate gifting and returning to homemade and personal services gifting. Many see this as an environmental imperative as well as a religious one. There is also a movement towards joint celebrations with many other spiritual seasonal celebrations to allow us all to experience the diversity of spiritual experience as well as the Christian teachings of peace and good will towards all.

But even as Christmas seems to be everywhere it is important to remember that other solar festivals remain and new ones have been established.

Pagan Yule: The word Yule is from the Scandinavian word Jul meaning ‘wheel’. Many pagans honor the turning wheel at this time. Many Wiccans honor the theme from the Celts: they see Yule as the time of battle between the aging Holly King and the young Oak King. Others may use the Greek myth of Persephone and the Underworld to enact the theme of dark giving way to light. Still others see the waning God passing to the waxing Goddess.

For many Wiccans Yule is a lesser Sabot: with Beltane and Samhain being more significant. Common celebrations involve all night bon fires, Yule log rituals, and rituals celebrating the return of the light with large numbers of candles. Drumming, chanting and ecstatic dancing are often a part of these rituals as they tend to be in all Wiccan and Neo-Pagan rituals. Many Norse Pagans or the other hand see Yule as the major festival, a time for swearing oaths, toasting and boasting.

Solstice/ Midwinter Night: Celebrated by many neo-Pagans, New Agers, and even by some atheists we see new traditions are arising out of the old. They may borrow liberally from many older traditions and add to them with new traditions. It may be elaborate ritual or a simple bonfire to celebrate the returning sun. It may have religious or spiritual connotations or it may just be a cultural celebration. People are finding old and new ways to celebrate with friends and family.

Hanukkah (Chanukah) : This eight day festival of lights celebrates a victory by a small Jewish army, led by Judah Maccabee over the Assyrian Greeks in the second century BC. After regaining their right to worship in the temple they had only enough sacred oil to last a short time. Myth has it that the oil miraculously burned for eight days straight. The festival is celebrated by lighting the menorah candles each night until all are lit. Gifts are exchanged and seasonal food shared. Gelt, which is chocolate or real money, is often given. A dreidel or four-sided top is also a popular gift and game to be played. Latkes or potato pancakes are often served.

Kwanzaa. This modern holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an American academic to celebrate the African roots of Afro-Americans. The word is from Swahili and translated to ‘first fruits’. Seven candles, one black and three each of red and green are lit each night for the seven principles of Kwanzaa. These principles are Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Other symbols are the colors of red (struggle) black (unity) and green (future) from flag created by Marcus Garvey at the beginning of the century, the unity cup, the candleholder for the candles, which is called the Kinara

Common Elements of Solstice Celebrations

Child of Wonder, Child of Light

A great many of the winter solstice festivals celebrate the birth of a wonder child. The child, especially a magical child represents hope and rebirth embodied.

The child is almost always a male and is often the result of a non-ordinary birth. The divine feminine is usually embodied in the birth and the Madonna/goddess image of fertility is often a part of the symbology.

Osiris, the Egyptian Sun god underwent death, dismemberment and resurrection yearly with the travels of the Sun and the rise and fall of the Nile River and thus the fertility of the area. In his guise as Horus he was the sun as well as the son. Pictured sitting on the lap of his mother Isis, his portrait is very reminiscent of the Christian Madonna with child images and is one of the earliest children of promise.

In ancient Greek myth the son god Attis was born in a cave around the time of Solstice and was the son of the Goddess Cybel or Isis. Attis grew to full strength with the sun and was yearly cut down to be reborn.

While Saturn was the sun god for whom Saturnalia, the great Roman solar festival was celebrated for, another god Mithras who was worshiped well (6th Century BC) before but then contemporarily (second century BC to fifth century CE) with Jesus. Mithras was also born in a cave of a virgin and later went through death and resurrection. Because Mithras was worshiped by Emperor Constantine before his conversation to Christianity he may be a more direct influence on the Christian story as well as the date since Mithras’ birthday was celebrated on December 25.

Even in North American among the Huron along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, a child of wonder named Deganawidah was born of a virgin. This child was sent by the Great Spirit as a messenger to bring peace to humankind. He traveled among the tribes and is credited with founding the Iroquois Confederacy. It is believed that he too will return to Earth at the time of greatest need. This is a clear parallel to the return of King Arthur and the Second Coming of Chris and would indicate that the story is an archetypal myth shared by humans all around the world.

Santa and other Father Winters

Is Santa a Shamanic concept? Many pictures of northern Shaman are very similar to woodland Santas — both ancient and modern. He appears in long fur robes, often with Bells and is often an older man. The Shaman works both in the spiritual realm and in the material sphere. The Shaman climbed the world tree to bring back gifts of spiritual knowledge as well as calling the herds to supply food and materials for the material lives of his people. Often he went up the smoke hole, the early chimney at night probably in trance, possibly with the herd of reindeer that supported his clan.

Like the Shaman, Santa embodies magic and mystery, the spirit of nature as well as universal human values of caring and generosity. The word Shaman is a Siberian word and this is the land of the reindeer. In his Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell describes a legendary Shaman who received his enlightenment in the nest of a winged reindeer in a tree, which was thought to reach the heavens.

There were also Goddesses who rode sleighs and delivered gifts. The Norse goddess Freya rode a chariot pulled by stags.

The life and legends of the Christian St. Nickolas continues the magic of the Shaman. As a young man St. Nickolas traveled to the holy land and on his way back was blown around in a storm and ended upon the coast of Lyca near Myra. He went to pray at the nearest church where the bishop was retiring. One member of the convocation (committee) to choose a new Bishop had had a vision that the new Bishop would be coming to the church and his name would be Nickolas. Arriving as he did the boy was made Bishop of Myra. After serving a prison term under the Romans, young St. Nickolas participated in the decision of Pope Liberus to make Dec 25 the official date of the birth of Christ and the celebration of Christmas. He was a generous man who gave much to the poor of Myca through out the year but especially around Christmas. He was also a Christian Shaman whose miracles that lead to his sainthood was bring back to life and form three boys who had been chopped up and boiled in a pot for stealing.

Modern Santas: Our modern image of Santa in a red suit can be traced to Thomas Nast, an amazing commercial artist of the 19th century. He developed Santa for President Lincoln as well as the Donkey and Elephant of the Democrats and Republicans. His illustration was used in New Yorker publication of Clement Moore’s famous poem, T’was the Night Before Christmas.

Coca Cola: Haddon Sunblom popularized most common image of the modern global culture in 1931.

Contemporary Santas: Even today the image of Santa grows and expands to fill hopes and dreams of all children. Modern Santas of all races and nationalities join woodland and other artist Santas to adorn homes and businesses. Woodland Santas stand on store shelves beside Santas who play golf, surf, and just about any activity you can imagine. Some even have electronic movement and sound.

Evergreens: The obvious symbol of eternal life, green when all else is barren and brown. Evergreens were probably held sacred very early in human prehistory. Again the palm fronds in Egypt and the greening during the Kalends are recorded examples.

The Christmas tree: In the sixth century it is said that the Christian St. Boniface cut down a sacred oak to spite local druids. As the tree fell, it crushed everything in its path except one cedar. He declared it a miracle and that the tree belonged to the Christ child. This is often cited as an example of cultural assimilation of Pagan religious symbology for political purposes.

Hanging of the greens: Decorating with evergreens was first noted in Egypt. It was also popular during the roman Saturnalia and Kalends. The Norse also brought in evergreens for decoration during the long snowy winters. Where Christmas is celebrated, the evergreens are often used to mark the start of the season, which is longer than any of the preceding cultures, now beginning shortly after Halloween and withering out sometime in middle January, marked mainly by clearance sales.

Holly: A symbol from the Celts, the male symbol of rebirth is again an evergreen, this time with red berries. A plant of protection, holly is the symbol of the god of the dark year.

Mistletoe: Mistletoe may have first been used in the Greek winter ceremonies. The Norse legend said it was blessed with luck and fertility by the goddess Frigga after Balder, her son, was shot by Loki, the dark and mischievous imp god, with an arrow of mistletoe. Her tears restored him to life and fell also on the mistletoe giving it magical properties. Mistletoe was also sacred to the Druids. As it dried, it became the golden bough, symbolic of both sun and moon, of the male and female mysteries.

Winged Goddesses, Angels and Elves: These range from representations of the Goddess Iris to the Catholic Holy Spirits. From the many spirits of the holy host to Santa’s magical elves these winged fairies bring another element of the mischievous imps to our Solstice season.

Madonna: The female remains firmly in the season, firmly eternal throughout the turning of the wheel, the force of nature herself. Her consort, son, partner going through continual birth and rebirth is the wonder child.

Yule log: This harks back to the importance of fire during the darkness of winter. A whole tree was burned during the Greek festival of Sacaea to scar away the Kallikantzuroi (mischievous imps) . The familiar Yule log was a Norse tradition adopted by the Christians. In early America there was a custom “freedom of the Yule, ” a week off for slaves and savants while the Yule log burned. “Firewood as wet as a Yule log” was a saying that this custom generated.

These are many of the ancient legends of the Solstice, which have been important in the development of our modern holiday celebration. As modern spiritual seekers we are borrowing from and saving the old ways while we create new ways. We take what is significant to us and add to it, creating personal, family and community traditions. There are kids, stories, and magick as the Sun and Son once again returns!

Meeting Dionysus

Meeting Dionysus

by NightOwl

 

“Take a deep, slow breath, and as you exhale, allow yourself to begin to relax.” Sitting on the floor, I began the meditation hoping to meet Dionysus, the god I am dedicated to.

I was leading the meditation that night, for the rest of my circle. I believed I would not go as deeply into trance as I would if someone else were speaking, so I did not really expect to be very successful in meeting my god.

Still, as I began to speak, I found myself drifting deeper and deeper into an altered state of consciousness. Even if I did not meet Dionysus, I felt certain that some teacher or guide would appear for me and reveal something of importance for my life.

The goddess in all her many forms has always been present for me in every aspect of life. A few times a teacher who appeared male has manifested in meditations, but I had not really thought very much about the gods, or about following a god, until I was dedicated to a coven and had to choose one.

My High Priestess suggested Dionysus when I asked for her advice, because of who she knows me to be, and I agreed, but continued to be much more focused on the goddesses and what they were teaching me.

When I am responsible for leading a pathworking (meditation ritual), I seldom expect to fully participate, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself walking upon a path winding through a beautiful meadow. Birds were singing, insects made small buzzes and chirps. The mingled scents of wildflowers in bloom and other plants flooded my senses. The peace and beauty of the natural world filled me with joy as I walked toward the hill ahead.

Occasionally opening my eyes a tiny slit to check on those following my voice, I was pleased that everyone else appeared relaxed and deep in trance.

The path became steeper as I climbed and I instructed everyone to open their hearts to the one waiting ahead, focusing intention on asking him to appear and advise. A twinge of anxiety made me shiver. The thought intruded that I was being foolish, I was making this all up, that even if everyone else in the group met their god, I would not be worthy to do so.

With the next breath I let go of the tension and fear from those thoughts, remembering that what I do not know is much greater than what I do know, so I was opening my heart in trust and love toward the god awaiting me. Creating a state of pleasant anticipation for whatever lay ahead, I continued to climb the path and mentally call for Dionysus to appear and instruct me.

Finally the path became level. A giant boulder rested directly ahead, and the path circled to the right around it. Seeing it, I described it out loud and said, “When you walk around this huge rock, you will meet your god. Allow yourself to feel happy that you are going to meet him and have this opportunity to learn something important.”

Again fear and doubt vibrated through me, again I began breathing deeply, relaxing my body, and affirming my willingness to be present to whomever or whatever appeared. Much to my surprise, when I walked around the rock, Dionysus stood there smiling at me.

Gasping with shock and joy, I paused for a moment and then slowly moved nearer. I always slow way down when approaching a sacred one, as I am not really sure just how to behave. I definitely try to avoid doing anything that might be annoying to a god. Many years ago when I rushed up to a group of them, demanding answers to questions which were driving me crazy at the time, I was swatted really hard energetically. I hope never to annoy a god again.

Dionysus is so beautiful! He appeared as a young man about 25-30, dressed in a loose fitting toga-like white robe. When he looked into my eyes and smiled, it took my breath away and I staggered from the impact of his energy.

“Thank you for coming here and allowing me to see you,” was all I could manage to think of to say. I somehow remembered to speak out loud to remind everyone to ask their god if he had a gift or advice for them, and mentally asked the same of Dionysus. He smiled more, and as I approached closer, held out a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread, inviting me to eat and drink with him. I accepted the bread but, with much fear said, “I no longer drink alcohol, will you still accept me?”

He laughed and changed the wine to fruit juice, took a drink and offered it to me. I drank some, and ate some bread, while never taking my eyes away from his. He reached out and began caressing my face, my breasts, and then rubbing and stroking my whole body. Again I was finding it difficult to breath.

I reached out to caress him in return as he began changing from a young, slim muscular man to one who was older, fatter, and whose smile became a friendly leer as he rubbed his aroused body against mine. In the next moment, he transformed to another male, and then another, continuing to fondle me and bathe me in his extraordinary energy and passion.

By this time I was almost panting with arousal myself, while observing his changing form with amazement. My own arousal gave me the courage to talk, and I said, “I really like this, and I am honored by your attention, but I wonder if I am not just making this all up to justify my behavior in life. You know, it’s not that I’m a slut, I’m a follower of Dionysus?”

At this he laughed out loud, gently hugged me, and stared so deeply into my eyes that I almost fainted, saying, “You are acting exactly how I wish my priestesses to behave, don’t be afraid,” and laughed again.

Stepping back away from me, he smiled again and held out a pinkish heart-shaped stone, saying, “Here, take this and always remember that sexual ecstasy helps people open their hearts to each other and to the deeper mysteries of life. Sex is one of the greatest creations. It enables two to join and create a third which carries their energy into the future. Ecstasy and celebration make life worth living because they open humans up to the joyous energy of the universe, of creation. Never be afraid to love, or to express that love with another.” Then his form began to slowly fade and disappear.

I turned and walked back around the rock, down the path I had earlier climbed, my mind trying to contain and sort the vastness of what he had shown me. My body was almost in a state of shock from the intensity of his energy. Fortunately I was only walking in my altered state and my body was physically sitting on the floor. I doubt I would have been able to have had this experience standing without falling down. It took a few minutes to return to a more ordinary state of consciousness, but I was able to remember to instruct the others to do so too.

Each of us in the group took a turn in describing what had happened to them, and everyone else had also had an equally powerful experience.

This encounter with the god made me want to know more about him and, I learned that he was Bacchus to the Romans, Lusios the Releaser, and Zagreus – son of Zeus and Persephone who was killed by the Titans and eaten. Athene saved his heart, which was swallowed by Semele, another lover of Zeus, and conceived anew. Hera convinced Semele to trick Zeus into revealing himself in his full glory, which burned Semele to ashes. Zeus rescued Dionysus from her ashes, stitched the unborn babe into his thigh until he was able to be born again, so he is sometimes called twice-born, and Zeus then gave him to the nymphs to raise.

When grown he became the god of all altered states, including drunkenness, religious ecstasy, and celebrations of music, dancing, theater and lustful excess. His male followers were the satyrs, half man and half goat with a horse’s tail, and his female followers were the maenads (mad women). His followers often carry a staff with a pine cone on the end, called a thyrsus, sometimes twined with grape or ivy vines.

The experience I had in this ritual meditation has continued to reverberate through my life and I am deeply honored to express the energy of Dionysus into the world.

Hunting the Hunter

Hunting the Hunter

by Melanie Fire Salamander

When I first started work in the Craft, as a solitary, I hadn’t much use for the God. The deity Who attracted me was the Goddess. I remember communing with Her in candlelight, before an altar of old telephone books covered with blue-figured silk. I felt incorporated by Her, supported.

My concept then of the God was the God of the Christians. From my ninth year to my thirteenth, I attended an Episcopalian church, where everyone was too polite to save me, though I did enjoy singing in the Youth Choir. I found the Episcopalian services pretty on the outside, but within they seemed dry as dust. I tried to be moved, but I ended up yawning, more taken by my walks to church through the quiet, sun-splotched Sunday mornings than by the ritual. The most of God I sensed among the Episcopalians was the echo of a long-ago voice.

When I did feel a presence from the God, that presence was of God the Father. Jesus I always saw as a person, a visionary you had to respect; I never got in touch with the loving Christ. We see our gods through the archetypes we’ve found in life, I think, and I was reared in a patriarchal household, from which I wrenched fight by fight over a period of years. In that household, the looming male figure was my father, grey-haired before my birth, the raging patriarch. Though my father and I patched up our relationship as I started serious work as a witch, my wounds were still raw enough I wanted nothing to do with fathers.

One of the first books I read that spoke of witchcraft as a spiritual path was The Spiral Dance. I remember Starhawk’s descriptions of different versions of the God: the gentle, loving Blue God, the viny Green One, and the Horned God, the Hunter. But for me none of Starhawk’s gods rang true. They seemed merely constructs. The Blue God appeared too girlish, and for me green was female. I felt the Horned God as the most real, but frightening and lumpen, as if one would want to mate with a bull. I shrugged, paid lip-service to the God in the group rituals I attended, and on my own worshipped the Goddess.

Meanwhile, life went on. Though I had no vision of the God, I managed to enjoy His sex. In Ireland I had a fling with a 21-year-old boy with dyed black hair, who wore a black shirt his friend’s sister made; we drank too much ale and richocheted against the painted stone walls of his village at 2 a.m.. Back in Seattle, I dated a photographer, also younger than me, slender as a brown sapling, sarcastic; I eroticized the smell of developer. I dated men my own age, too, but I kept reverting. Take my intersection with the surly boy, a singer in a band: I fell in love with his pumped chest and pierced nipple, though we never once held a conversation without arguing. Or take my e-mail flirtation, which went on too long and was never consummated: spiky, poison-sweet, dysfunctional as a car crash.

That one finally brought me to full stop. Some of the others had been obsessions, too, but this one patently made no sense. He had a girlfriend; we’d seen each other in the flesh perhaps five times; we’d never touched. What was it about him that sent my head spinning?

Those attachments you get, which are too strong, in the end seem to have little to do with the persons who inspire them. We tend to worship the gods we see in our lives, and the corollary is that if we don’t see the gods, they try harder and harder to reveal themselves.

I came to the God slowly, through His fauns.

Luckily the gods will teach you lessons many times over. But even when you’ve learned a few things, nothing is for sure. This story I’m telling you now, none of it is “true”; it’s just the explanation I’m giving myself.

Right now for me, the God is a muse. He comes on as a lover, but he is not a husband, nor even exactly a friend, more a capricious mentor. Our relationship is only sometimes about satisfaction; mainly the point is longing.

The God inspires my fiction; the characters I find most fun to write are usually fauns. They’re not portraits of boys I’ve known, though on occasion they’ve started out to be. Often they begin as minor players, who then take on a life of their own. The God inspires them: fills them with His breath and sets them moving. As they move, they draw me into the work, and their touch inspires the other characters.

This particular God-energy seems to work better for me driving fiction than real-life relationships. My fauns were never good boyfriends; I don’t think the Muse makes a good partner. His and my relationship is about tension, a pleasurable discomfort that makes me itch. I wouldn’t want that tantalizing, unfulfilling energy in an ongoing human relationship, but it feels right in relating to a god. It keeps me writing.

But the God will not be bound only into fiction.

At a festival, I saw a boy all in leather, crouched among greenery, looking up at me: black eyes, black hair, trembling lips with a fringe of mustache. I knew for certain I wanted him when I saw him take off his shirt. At the firepit, I maneuvered to sit next to him, warmed my cold hands on his thighs.

The Aphrodite shrine was full, locked, so we found the Pan shrine. Under a fake-fur pelt, we made love by candlelight. Something there was intoxicating as whiskey, something glancing, a bit heart-rending. I remembered him a long time, and I wrote him letters, though no permanent connection came.

It was only later I saw the God was laughing at me.

In the Pan shrine? Melanie, don’t you get it?

So it is often, I think. The gods don’t just come when you call. They make cameo appearances, and later you wonder why you remember that scene.

To see Him in your life, use your peripheral vision. Some people He comforts, some He teases; it depends on what He thinks you need from Him. But never doubt the God is there.

Images of the Divine Masculine

Images of the Divine Masculine

by K. C. Holt

In these times, the masculine seems in danger of being devalued. Examples of the masculine demonized as the patriarchal oppressor and destroyer of the environment and all that is good in society are all too easy to find. However, the feminist movement that gained momentum in the ’60s held out much hope not only to women, but to a great many men – men who not only agreed with what women were saying but realized that their own liberation from unrealistic and emotionally crippling stereotypes hung in the balance. In the following paragraphs, we will explore views of the masculine that are not new but have been lost to many in the mainstream of society and religious orthodoxy.

Looking at today’s spiritual landscape, it appears the image of the “Divine Masculine” is in a state of flux. The men’s movement has been late to start, galvanized into existence by some very patriarchal behavior within the women’s movement as well as by the need to reclaim what orthodox patriarchal religion has suppressed and persecuted. Patriarchal society has a numbing effect on the souls of men. Men now seek the door to their feeling, spiritual side with a renewed vigor unfettered by past convention, allowing them to love and work in ways that heal their lives.

Rites of passage for men have become little more than preparation for surrender to the hero image. Men find themselves sent forth to compete, to accumulate wealth, power and dominion over their environment. Dominion separates men from nature; they lack the immediate connection to the earth women gain through the cycles of menstruation and birth.

Men, instead, are linked to nature’s cycles through the activities of hunting and gathering or farming and agriculture. But these activities have largely been removed or distorted through the industrialization of society. Industrialization has helped lead to the incorrect and damaging association of nurture with the feminine and domination with the masculine. This pigeonholing of the male psyche by society and modern psychology has produced a shallow conception of the nature of masculinity. Furthermore, such an association ignores aspects of feminine psychology that do not necessarily fit the image of nurturer.

Aaron R. Kipnis, in his provocative book Knights Without Armor: A Practical Guide for Men in Quest of Masculine Soul, aptly states the problem: “Men in our culture today are undergoing a major restructuring of the basic paradigms governing masculine consciousness and behavior. It’s important to understand and uncover those aspects of the inner psychic life of persons that are essentially masculine in nature. We need to develop a working model that meets the needs of modern men on the basis of their own individual, personal experience. In many cases, this is very different from the constructs that have come out of heroic, monotheistic, patriarchal thinking or the revisions of feminist theory…. We need a more expansive psychology, which embraces the possibility of a moist, soulful, dark, authentic, mysterious, lunar, deep and earthy masculinity.”

Where might we look to find this concept of a mysterious, lunar, deep and earthy masculinity? Does it indeed exist, or does it need to be created? The answer is that it has existed for millennia. The evidence of its existence is carefully concealed by the orthodox monotheistic religions and the admittedly unbalanced patriarchal society we find ourselves in.

Wicca emphasizes polarity, worships the Earth God and has kept His memory alive. Most Wiccans see men and women as equal in spirit and intelligence but opposite in physical and emotional orientation. The practice and philosophy of Wicca is built around this polarity. I claim no authority to speak for any one tradition; Wiccans are as diverse as any religious group, ranging from what I like to affectionately call Fundamentalist Wiccans to Eclectic Wiccans. Some might prefer or better fit the title pagan or shaman. The point is that the gods associated with the deep and lunar side of masculinity are the gods of the earth and the sea.

Within the pagan and Wiccan philosophies, these gods find their emphasis, and as to their personal value to men, I speak from my experience as a son, father, grandfather and pagan. Men navigate their worlds through the powers of air (intellect) and fire (action). When they look to the depths of their souls, however, they find the earth and sea powers of love, attraction, affection, beauty, harmony, artistry and peace.

To turn inward to the subconscious, the feminine, in order to transform yourself does not mean to become feminine! The mistaken concept that one must become feminine has led many men astray from the God. A “real” man is one who lets the gods of the Earth teach him to understand his physical potential and limitations. He follows his heart with the warrior spirit to the depths of the sea, where he finds wisdom, sanctuary and the secrets of his strengths and weaknesses. The world problems we can attribute to the negative aspects of a male-dominated society cannot be solved by immersion only in the female aspects of divinity. They must include recovery of the forgotten and positive aspects of the God. The Great and Horned One, oldest of all the gods, sees women as equals and is a just and strong god rather than judgmental and vengeful.

The Horned God predates civilization. His image first appears in a Paleolithic cave in France, the meager beginnings of what we know as recorded history. He is the Wild Man, the Green Man, God of the Forest and Animals and Consort of Nature, the Goddess. The Horned God of Wicca, Cernunnos, is pictured holding a ram-headed serpent in his hands. He wears an open neck-ring or torque, in which we can see the symbol of the moon. He is the guardian of the cauldron, the lover and son of the Goddess who is Her partner in the sacred dance of creation.

With the shift in consciousness that led to patriarchal monotheistic thought, something was lost. The polytheistic pagan and matriarchal society’s concept of the one universal consciousness or deity that is expressed through a multiplicity of forms, both male and female, was forgotten or more likely totally ignored by the patriarchs. Cernunnos was devoted to Nature and the Goddess. He taught his sons to hunt, protect, nourish and cherish His mother, sisters, daughters and mate. The monotheistic patriarchy now vilified him as a devil.

The concept that sexuality leads men to confuse mystical ecstasy with eroticism led to the lie that the Goddess would seduce men to their folly. With the Horned One demonized and the Goddess expelled from the heaven of the patriarchs, Nature was open to plunder and rape. Is it any wonder that we see the anger of the Mother in the eyes of her female worshipers?

While Wicca has kept the memory of the Earth God alive, there are other places we may look to reclaim positive images of the Divine Masculine. In the pantheon of ancient Egypt, we find Nu, goddess of the night sky and stars, arching her naked body over Geb, god of the earth. He is depicted hard with desire, reaching upward for union with the stars. He strives towards Her, knowing that She will come to Him at Her need: a knowledge all men hold in their hearts.

Osiris was Geb’s heir. Sometimes he is depicted colored red for the earth, and more often green for vegetation. The Atef crown he wears sometimes is shown with a pair of horns sprouting from its solar disk.

Pan of the Greeks was linked to Aker of the Egyptians. A horned god who guarded the entrance to the Underworld, Assur was an Assyrian supreme god, who while associated with war was a fertility and moon god also. The moon has not always been the sole domain of feminine deities, nor the sun of male deities, for that matter. Osiris was referred to as Lord of the Moon in numerous instances. In Sumer, in the city of Ur, Nanna was worshipped as the Moon Father. In India, the Moon Father is referred to as Soma. The Babylonians knew him as Sinn.

Celtic mythology is also full of gods associated with the earth and the sea. Dagda brought back the cauldron of abundance and led the Tuatha De Danan underground to the faery mounds. He is associated with sexuality and fertility. Cromm Cruaich is known as the Lord of the Mound and associated with the harvest. Manannan Mac Lir was the Irish god of the sea, who separated the world of the faeries and humans.

The image of solar gods is lofty, dry and remote. The other side of masculinity, which is moist and deep with feeling, is to be found in the gods of the sea. Poseidon or Neptune was god of the sea. Poseidon conspired with Hera and Athena to overthrow the sky god Zeus. Most have seen Neptune as a patriarchal god, but this story shows us how the watery, earthy depths of our masculine feeling side can work to overthrow the Sky Father, high above the earth.

Whereas the sky gods often have hidden if not absent sexuality, the earth and sea gods are sexually well-endowed. Poseidon’s trident symbolizes his phallic nature. The trident is also associated with the wild dancing god Shiva of the Hindus. These are just some of the examples of where one may look to find a soulful, dark, lunar and earthy masculinity.

We are the sum total of all that has come before us: the Mesolithic hunters, gatherers and Neolithic farmers of matrilineal culture (7000-2000 B.C.); the Indo-European warriors emphasizing the male sky gods in the centuries of the Bronze and Iron Age (2000-800 B.C.); the turn of the millennium with the advent of Christian mythology and its concepts of dualistic division between body and soul, world and spirit and Original Sin; and finally the age of scientific rationalism. Rationalism allows for nothing supernatural and reduces the universe to a language of numerical abstraction – mathematics.

No one of these periods surpasses the other. They all possess a unique imprint on the human experience. Any one of them taken alone represents but a fraction of the evolutionary progress of the human soul. The earth gods, born in the distant past, still prove necessary to us; they are the force whereby the land springs forth in an ever-changing cycle. We must identify and nurture the positive aspects of maleness embodied in our God or gods and unite the God to the Goddess.

In a time when the orthodox concept of God has become sterile and sexless, the deities of the earth and sea await all men. They possess the ability to guide men to a fuller meaning of what it is to be sons, fathers and grandfathers. They offer a positive alternative of what it means to be male in a world that has lost sight of the good nature of Man. As men, we have the task to reclaim the divine masculine and unite with our sisters in perfect trust and perfect love.

Daily Feng Shui Tip for Dec. 18th – ‘National Roast Suckling Pig Day’

On ‘National Roast Suckling Pig Day’ let’s look at how Feng Shui says that a pig can bring fabulous fortunes and lots of luck to our own lives. Ironically, according to this philosophy, the pig symbolizes sufficient food, prosperity, safety and fertility. Therefore it is also believed that if you display a small statue or an image of a pig (the fatter the better!) in the ‘Wealth’ area of your main floor, you’ll soon enough activate and magnetize fat stacks, too.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com