Pagan Voices: Morpheus Ravenna, Damh the Bard, Ivo Dominguez Jr, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 12, 2014 — 19 Comments

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Graham Harvey

Graham Harvey

“As I mentioned before my research among Pagans began serendipitously because I half-jokingly offered a session about Druids to a course on “contemporary religions” that was being developed. I think its true to say that my interest in Paganism began then. While I’d been at Stonehenge Free Festival from 1976 onwards, and while I joined in many efforts (by many means) to regain open access to Stonehenge in the 1980s, I didn’t have much to do with its religious or ritual activities. Even my first close encounters with Druids took place in their efforts to help people (like myself) being threatened by police hostility rather than in actual celebrations of midsummer sunrise, for instance. However, like many people, when I did become involved with Pagans (initially purely for research purposes) I found that much of what was going on had parallels with my previous interests. Perhaps this is obvious from the fact that I’d been hanging out as a young hippy (albeit one who thought he was a Christian) at Stonehenge Festival. To be clear, the festival was attractive as a place where all sorts of ideas and obsessions were shared, debated, experimented with. I found this to be part of what the first Pagans I spent significant time with were committed to. In addition to interests in more communal andanarchist ways of life than Thatcherism encouraged, I had also developed commitments to environmentalist and feminist perspectives and practices. So, again, finding that these themes played vital roles in the evolution of Paganism increased my interest both as a researcher and then as a newly self-identified Pagan.” – Graham Harvey, on how he started researching Pagans.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“For Pagans, talk of the Summerlands or Tir n’an Og or the Cauldron of Rebirth may be no comfort for someone who only knows their loved one is no longer with them. Instead, focus on what we know.  Someone was born, they lived, they loved, and they have died.  Death is not the opposite of life, death is part of life.  Birth is the transition from where ever we were before to this life; death is the transition from this life to whatever comes next.  We don’t have to debate what that before and nextare to recognize death as a natural transition. Death tells us to remember.  The mainstream culture is constantly telling us to forget, to move on to whatever is new and bright and shiny.  But when we remember the deceased, when we tell their stories and revisit the past, we honor them and we realize there are things worth preserving. That which is remembered lives.” – John Beckett, sharing some thoughts on death.

Sarah Veale

Sarah Veale

“The nature of magic in antiquity is a much varied thing. Not only do different practices get called magic, but the varying terminology for these activities makes it even harder to put such practices in a box. Furthermore, many practices get labelled such, not by those who practice them, but by other—often more powerful—observers who use such terms pejoratively. This is a point elaborated by Kimberly B. Stratton in an essay titled Magic Discourse in the Ancient World, which is included in the book Defining Magic: A Reader. (You can read the paper here at Academia.edu). Stratton disagrees with the view that there is a single magic in antiquity, especially when one takes into consideration the power-structures that define what constitutes magic. By trying to pin magic down to a single phenomenon, she argues, we ignore the social landscape that produced the so-called magical act in the first place.” – Sarah Veale, on the arbitrary appellation of magic in antiquity.

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard

“There was a time in my life when I drew a card every single day. I drew the card to help me understand the flow of my day ahead – what was pulling in one direction, and maybe what was pushing toward another. At the time I was going through complete emotional turmoil, and this daily routine helped for quite a while. But then I found I was becoming more reliant on the reading, and also, maybe due to my psychological and emotional state at the time, I put too much onto the result each day. If my card was negative it would place me in an even worse mental state. I began to wonder if the mere act of drawing a card each day had such an effect on my own mood that it began to influence how I responded and acted during the day. So I stopped. I decided to take the power back and be in complete control of my day. If there were rocky waters ahead I would deal with them when my ship inadvertently sailed into them. It worked for me. By accepting, and by not knowing, I found my life actually became easier. I lived in the moment.” – Damh the Bard, sharing some thoughts on divination.

Deidre Hebert

Deidre Hebert

“So what sort of action is necessary for recovery? I think the first place we need to look at is what it is that we were using our substances and behaviors for. Almost all of us have some sort of reasons that kept us drinking or eating, or not eating, or using drugs or sex or whatever other behavior we may have used. We used these things to avoid feeling, to cover up those things that trouble us deeply. And in covering up our feelings, in continuously relying on something external, either chemical or behavioral, we give up something even more important – our wills. When we are controlled by our addictions, we don’t have the ability to choose not to use. Some of us give up the basic choices of whether or not to eat, or sleep or work. Some of us engage in things that most people in the world cannot understand – we become self-destructive; some of us engage in self-injury, some of us become suicidal. All of this is a loss of our own wills.” – Deidre Hebert, on addiction recovery as an active endeavor. 

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Whether knowingly or not, the Olympic Games were re-founded in a legacy that not only honored the gods and heroes of the ancient world, but also one of the mythological first homoerotic relationships, and one of the most tragically conflicted heroic families of classical myth as well. Perhaps we should not be surprised that such controversies occur under the name of an event so tied to these figures that were heavy with bloodguilt. Of course, the Greeks never would have imagined any of the “Winter Olympics” events as even being possible or desirable, for gymnastics—the name itself indicating nudity—were done nude, whereas that would be impossible (or at least quite uncomfortable) for most of the events that will be showcased over the next few weeks. Athleticism and competition are certainly laudable in a variety of ways, and for all sorts of reasons that should appeal to many Pagans and polytheists. But, I’m sure Pelops and Poseidon are both equally amused and annoyed at the legacy of their actions as they play out on the international stage in Putin’s Russia in 2014. If it isn’t queer and polytheistic, it hardly deserves the name of ‘Olympic Games.'” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on the queer and polytheist legacies of the Olympic games. 

Beth Lynch spinning.

Beth Lynch spinning.

“All day yesterday, we heard the sound of freezing rain striking the already-extant coating of ice, alternating with the steady drip drip drip of the ice melting.  I heard and saw a tree shift under the weight of the melting ice its needles were sloughing off. Today, there is the constant drip, drip, drip of ice melting—a good thing!  Our street is closed to traffic due to downed power lines, and our own power line still hangs suspended, halfway down; the electrician never came.  But we still have power—knock on wood.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but at least we have bread and cheese, popcorn and toilet paper—and a pan of brownies.  Not to mention a dye pot filled with goodies—1k yards of yarn!–that I hand painted last night. If I try to visualize the season as a person, I see the Snow Queen, all jagged edges and robed in ice: Dame Holda in the Northern traditions, shaking her quilt to make the snow fall. And yet, with the latent scent of spring in the air She is more like Gerda, the frost giantess who melts in the embrace of Freyr, god of fertility and the harvest. There is the quiet, but also an undercurrent of anticipation, of waiting. One word for the strange season we’re experiencing right now? I pick cocoon: we are swathed in snow like white silk; yet, hidden beneath the surface, things are happening, developing, incubating.  And before long, the season will shift, and we will burst free.” – Beth Lynch, on Spring, interrupted.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

“Aside from the technical difficulty related to the mechanics of the subtle bodies, there are many other reasons why important initiations and rituals work better with people gathered together. Our emotions and our physical senses have an important role to play in the effectiveness and integration of initiations and rituals. The impact of being supported and challenged by people who have taken the time to be present for a ritual is enormous. There is also a great deal of community building and weaving of connections that can only come when we can hear the intake of each other’s breaths and feel each other’s touch. I don’t think that I need to elaborate on why a few downloaded PDFs are no substitute for real training to prepare for an initiation. There are a multitude of spiritual and magickal workings that can be done from a distance that include but are not limited to: healings, spell work, cooperative efforts of separate individuals or groups, rituals held on the astral, etc. In fact, most of the covens in my Tradition have astral temples that among other things are used to do rituals when the members can’t physically gather together. Every full moon, I have at least two physical rituals that I take part in, as well as an ongoing working with teachers from other Traditions the takes place at a specified time in an astral temple. By the way, the ongoing working takes place in an astral temple that was first constructed when all of us could gather together physically.  Clearly I’m not opposed to astral ritual or workings at a distance, but I think it is important to consider the limitations before proceeding.” – Ivo Dominguez Jr., on doing rituals and initiations from a distance.

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

“I think Macha’s mythology can serve to remind us that all mythologies are collected images and stories, from traditions that necessarily contain huge amounts of variation, diversity, and that evolved over time. This is especially true of tribal-oriented societies like the ancient Celts, for whom national identity as ‘Irish’ or even ‘Celtic’ was probably far secondary to tribal identity, and we have to imagine that the attributes and stories of the Gods varied from tuath to tuath. We should never expect to be able to fit tribal Gods into consistent pantheons, with rational and consistent attributes, without overlap and blurring of functions and domains, or without theological paradox. Her story also forces us to contemplate the sources of our theological lore, and to explore all those questions about how we evaluate those sources: If we have lore purporting to describe mid-Iron age heroic sagas, written down by 8th-10th century Christians, how do we measure that against apparently conflicting lore about early Iron Age mythological literature, written down by 12th-13th century Christians? Against data from folk-stories about the history of the land? From early medieval annals of kings?” – Morpheus Ravenna, on mythology, lore, and how to encompass conflicting accounts.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“Looking at our relationship to place is a great way to see how the Progress Narrative affect our worldings.  I’ve mentioned this before, and I will say it again (and again)—those of us who live in the United States, if we are not of First Nation’s blood, are living on stolen land. This statement, when taken from a “modern,” disenchanted viewpoint, means only that the land we were living on was once stolen from others.  If we lean left in our political views, we might be inclined to attempt to mitigate that earlier crime or maybe experience a twinge of guilt about it all. But consider: just because the land was once stolen doesn’t mean it isn’t still stolen.  That theft is still with us, and not merely in a psychological or moral sense.  In the same way we wouldn’t expect a thief to claim that stolen property now belongs to her merely because she stole it last year, America’s founding crime continues without end.  The theft hasn’t ended–it’s continuous as long as the land hasn’t been returned, nor the victims given up their claim. Believing that the present isn’t continuous with the past, asserting that the present ismore advanced, more evolved and less primitive – that is, “exceptional” — functions as a way of disowning the acts we continuously participate in.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on the past being a place we still inhabit. 

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

    It is often hard to know how to comfort someone who has lost a loved one. It is better to listen to the bereaved than to tell them what to believe or what to thinking about. If the bereaved person finds hope in an afterlife or the Summerland, I would not discourage them. Remembering has its place, too, and can be expressed in the stories we tell about the person we have lost when we are grieving.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      What happens in interfaith relationships? Say that a Heathen is married to a Catholic… They will not be reunited in the afterlife.

      • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

        Never say never. Gods have been known to make special arrangements with humans :)

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          It would be against what the two would likely believe. Besides, one of the gods involved is renowned for not playing well with others.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I hereby demand that Oberon Zell’s “The Other People” be enshrined as one of the holy texts of modern Paganism. :D

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Can’t say I’m familiar with that book.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Full text of the essay: http://caw.org/content/?q=node/65

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            Originally, when I first saw “The Other People” it was in a comic strip form that spoofed Jack Chick’s Christian Fundamentalist tracts.

      • Alyxander M Folmer

        As a Heathen who’s married to a Jew, I’ve never encountered this problem. I figure it can go one of several ways.
        1- We die, there’s nothing, and it doesn’t matter if we end up together.
        2- We die, we end up in her version of the afterlife and I deal with it.
        3- We die, we end up in Helheim or (if we’re lucky) Valhall/Folkvangr, and we party it up.
        4- We die, we end up somewhere completely unexpected, and start exploring.
        5- We die, end up different places, I kick somebodies ass and go searching.

        No matter how it goes, there’s nothing to be done about it now. So why worry? I’ll sort it out when/if I get there.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          It’s mostly an intellectual exercise.

          It does, however, bring to mind the phrase in the wedding ceremony “until death do us part”.

    • Franklin_Evans

      A comment from my personal experience, offered as information and not argument. It is, of course, purely anecdotal…

      My mother’s side of the family is Jewish, as is my wife’s entire extended family. I’ve attended the ritual of shiva many times, and the most important thing I found was the practice itself and how these families used it to promote healing for the grieving.

      Quite simply, it was the basic human contact it provided. It reminded the grievers that life continues.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    Rhyd’s words bring to mind my own Landisc beliefs.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    Whilst not exactly a “Pagan Voice”, I thought this recent discussion by Hindus on the state of Hindu-Pagan relations quite interesting:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCof_65KD9U

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      That’s really fascinating! Thank you for sharing this!

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Thanks for posting this! Here is a link to a closely related article by contemporary Hindu scholar, David Frawley, on “The Civilizing Mind of the Pagans”: http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/the-civilizing-mind-of-the-pagans/

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        There is an underlying affinity, if not unity between European pagan, dharmic, and native traditions.

        I like how that is put. We are not the same, but we can respect that.

        It uses lower case p “pagan” as a term throughout the piece, and I think that is important. The lower case p “pagan” is an academic description that really translates as “not Christian”, whereas the upper case P “Pagan” is the more specific (yet still undefined) term that people self identify as.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Actually, it’s much more accurate to think of “christian” as meaning, essentially, “not Pagan”.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            That isn’t how it is used, though. Either way is pointlessly reductionist that places way too much importance on Abrahamic religions.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    What modern Pagans mean when we use the word “magic” is actually not that hard to trace very reliably (and “continuously”) back to the ancient Pagan world. The missing link in the chain (and, really, it’s not missing at all once one knows where to look) is the concept of “sympathetic magic”.

    Although the specific terminology of “sympatheia” did not come until a little later, the basic idea is spelled out in some detail by Socrates in his famous speech in Plato’s Symposium. And Socrates, in turn, attributes his understanding of magic to his teacher, the mysterious priestess Diotima. Essentially, at least according to Socrates, your basic Hogwarts curriculum (potions, charms, divination, and so forth) are all phenomena that are controlled by (or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, due to) the activities of the daemons, who inhabit the intermediate “spiritual” realm between Gods and humans. This same daemonic realm is also responsible for priestcraft, religious rituals in general, and sacrifice in particular — and even more broadly for “all converse and society of humans with Gods and Gods with humans.”

    In other words, and this should seem quite natural and obvious to modern Pagans once we start looking in the right direction, what we should be focused on is not “magic” all by it’s lonesome, but, much more specifically magical religion. Far from being something that distances us from our ancient spiritual ancestors (as some have very wrong-headedly asserted), the seamless combining of magic and religion is actually something that shows just how strong and continuous the connection between modern and ancient Paganism is.

    Probably the single best modern scholarly source for sorting through some of the historical and terminological (and philosophical) issues in the long and winding history of sympathetic magic/magical religion is Ioan Couliano’s Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.