Category Archives: spirituality

moving house

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My little family has started out the new year with a big change. We’ve bought a house! It’s not a new house, it’s over fifty years old, has had a bit of updates done already, and will need more over time. We are excited about the change, for we’ve been living in apartments for far too long.

I got all the items on my house wish list: wood floors, fireplace, and a porch. However, I also got a lot of fix-up projects, but I’m excited about those as well. We were a bit disorganized with the move; we started moving stuff before completely packed, and not having gone through and organized/ thrown stuff out enough ahead of time. However, before moving anything, I did make a trip out to the house to clear and claim the space. This is what I did:

Before even going in, I stood at the front of the yard and lit a candle in a glass holder. I announced to the spirits of the land that this property is under new ownership, that I am the matron of the family, and that we seek to live in harmony with the landvettir of this place. I also announced that all baneful spirits must go in peace for we are under the protection of the gods. Then I walked sun-wise around the property with the candle singing the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.

At last it came time to go inside. I made sure that bread and salt were the first items to be carried across the threshold. I then repeated a similar announcement to the one I did outside, this time for the house spirits. I did the Hallowing Charm again, walking from room to room all around the house, this time with the candle and a bell. I went another round, censing with juniper and sage. At last I did a third round asperging with water. Thus completed the ritual cleansing and claiming. Further blessing is yet to come, and I hope to do it with friends.

Though our move was chaotic, we are all unpacked now and settling in rather quickly. It already feels like home, which tells me we’ve chosen well.

moving house - Ozark Pagan Mamma

The 8th Night of Yule

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The eighth night of Yule is sacred to Skaði and Ullr. Skaði is a jötunn goddess associated with winter, skiing, bow hunting, and mountains. Likewise, Ullr is a god of archery, hunting, and winter.

8th Night of Yule

Now, if you’ve ever been to the Ozarks, you will have noticed that we don’t have much of a winter most years, so you may wonder why someone in this part of the world would want to honor these particular gods. Well, we do live in the mountains, which would put us under Skaði’s domain, and in recent years we have had a few fierce ice storms sneak up on us.

And let us not forget the hunting aspect of their powers; if you have any hunters or archers in the family, this may be a good time for them to do a blessing for their hunting equipment and/or archery gear. If you live on of near a mountain, that would be an ideal place to leave offerings and libations.

Quite a number of poems and invocations for Skaði and Ullr on the Odin’s Gift website. Choose your favorites to use in a simple blót or ritual dinner. For the kids, the night can take on a snow theme; have them make paper snowflakes to decorate the home and altar. If you do have enough snow outside, consider making some snow ice-cream. Our meal for the night is Hunter’s Stew, Pan Rolls, Snow Ice-Cream or Snowball Cookies.

8th night of Yule

The 7th Night of Yule

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The seventh night of Yule is sacred to Thor. We have a simple ritual feast in his honor and thank him for protecting us all year long. Prayers, readings or toasts my be spoken in his honor and libations made. I find my inspiration for this from the Odin’s Gift website, which has many songs about him as well.

Thor's Night

Later, we may read stories about Thor from The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God by Lise Lunge-Larsen, and perhaps make a craft stick Mjölnir or try making a straw Yule goat, symbolic of the goats that pull Thor’s chariot.

This is the ideal time to bless a ceremonial hammer, if you have one, or bless family members’ Mjölnir pendants. Acorns are given to each family member to carry in their pockets for luck, for the mighty oak is Thor’s sacred tree. An acorn necklace makes an inconspicuous and inexpensive devotional pendant for a child to wear any time.

7th night of Yule

The 6th Night of Yule

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The sixth night of Yule is sacred to Eir and Healing. For those of us who start our 12 night celebration on the 20th, this night falls on the 25th. In an alternative 12 Days of Yule I have come across, this day was called “Children’s Day”– I suspect to allow for the gift-giving customs and other merriment associated with Christmas. While we do observe these customs, they are mainly on the morning of the 25th. By the time evening arrives, the calming energy if Eir is a welcome respite.

The Pagan Book of Hours website has a beautiful Eir blót to use at this time. We place herbs and medicines on the altar for blessing, and our feast in Eir’s honor is Baked Chicken with Apricot Wild Rice. The leftover bones are saved for making healing chicken broth base for soups.

6th night of Yule

The 5th Night of Yule

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The fifth night of Yule is sacred to community. If you have a Pagan group you gather with, you may want to organize a potluck, wassail, or other such get together and (even better) make it open to the public. (Community is not just your Pagan group.)

Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?
Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth
would seek for warmth and weal.
-Hávamál

If, however, you start your 12 Yule nights on the twentieth every year (like we do), the fifth night of Yule always falls on the 24th of December. Most Pagans I know still observe the customs of Christmas Eve with their extended families and may not be available for such a get-together.

However, depending on where you live, you may find some kind of liberal/interdenominational community celebration going on, similar to those ideas mentioned above… it doesn’t matter that you’re not celebrating the same thing. The point is reconnecting with community, whoever/wherever your larger community is.

Where we live, the town square is lit up and filled with people all December long, so this is a great night to go out in the center of the community and see the lights, listen to the live music, and get a hot chocolate and some kettle corn from the street vendors. It’s our go-to option for getting out into the community if we have no other plans.

5th Night

Back home, we make gingerbread people and/or gingerbread houses. Our story for the kids is Some Friends to Feed: The Story of Stone Soup by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs.(A song is part of the story, and a CD is included in the back of the book.)

Our simple blessing:
May the Æsir and Vanir watch over this community.
May peace come to all who live here.

Our playlist:
Turn the World Around by Belafonte
I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing by The New Seekers
Everyday People by Sly & The Family Stone
Joy To The World by Three Dog Night
All Together Now by The Farm

5th night of Yule

The 4th Night of Yule

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The fourth night of Yule is sacred to Ægir, Njörð & Freya. It would logically follow that this holiday would have an ocean theme, since both Ægir and Njörð are ocean gods. However, since we don’t live near the ocean, we’ve chosen this night to honor the Vanir race of gods in general, with an emphasis on those ones better known to us. A lovely Vanir blót found on Jordsvin’s Norse Heathen Pages that was written for the Equinox, can be adapted to the season of Yule.

Beautiful songs for Frey and Freya can be found on the Heathen Songbook Online. Also, an album that seems to capture the spirit of the Vanir for me, is Songs for the Strengthening Sun by Sharon Knight and T Thorn Coyle. Although it was clearly not made with this season in mind, I play selections from it anyway.

Vanir Night

Wagons and wheels are closely associated with the Vanir gods and goddesses, as their images were carted around in wagons in special ceremonies and to bless the land. One way to celebrate them this night may be to decorate a straw wheel, tie in ribbons and prayer slips, and then burn it as an offering (or just light candles on it).

After a blót or simple hails and libations, our feast for this night is Barley Soup with Bacon  and sourdough bread.

We read about the Vanir gods in D’aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths and in How to Be a Viking by Ari Berk by the glow of our Frey and Freya nightlight.

4th night of Yule

The 2nd Night of Yule

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The second night of Yule is the Night of the Wild Hunt. It is best to stay indoors on this night to avoid the Wild Host, lest one be swept up by it! It is a good time to re-affirm protective wards made on one’s home and do an Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.

Night of the Wild Hunt

We pour libations for Odin as we ask for his continued protection, and read Wild Hunt poetry. Then, as Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album plays in the background, we have a hearty feast of blood red borscht.

We read “Odin’s Eight-legged Steed” from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths to the kiddos, then settle in for a night of dark and spooky Yule movies like Hogfather, or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

2nd night of Yule

early group struggles and finding self confidence

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A few years ago I started an ADF study and discussion group. We were just three ADF members getting together in a coffee shop. Membership and attendance remained small, but we kept on meeting, taking a small break in the winter for bad weather. After a while we became a Protogrove, and I volunteered to be the Grove Organizer because no one else was volunteering for the position. There was one other member farther along in the study programs than me, and who took a leadership role in meetings, but due to a chronic illness, he would not take the position. So I became the organizer, but all of us really looked to him as our leader. We carried on as we were for a while, having coffee shop meetings, and a few others joining us as time went by. Sometimes we’d talk about having a ritual for this or that High Day, but it would always get canceled a few days before the date due to fore mentioned person’s illness. We were essentially a discussion group, and I was fine with that.

Then suddenly, this person I mentioned stopped showing up. I was a nervous wreck. I am a lifelong shy introvert and suddenly it was all on me. Attendance dropped down to just three; myself and a married couple I’ll call Sue and Sam. Sue and Sam were not ADF members and seemed not too interested in ADF. I believe they attended because they couldn’t find an open Wiccan group. Sue was a real talker. So there were no awkward silences. There was also no structure to the conversations. Sometimes I would try to interject something Druid-y into the random conversation, but most of the time I would get interrupted so many times that I would forget what I was going to say. Since there was consistently only three of us at these meetings for months, and I was the only ADF member there, I became very discouraged. Sometimes a new person would come to a meeting, not say much, and then not come back. At the time I wished that I had that option, but I knew that my role was all too official for me to give up, and I couldn’t think of a way out of it.

Then a new person came to a meeting. I’ll call him Andy. Andy was already a member, and committed to ADF. He told us all about himself, was witty and interesting, and became a regular attendee and member of the Protogrove. I tell you, he was the Protogrove’s saving grace. So then it was four of us; me, Andy, and Sue & Sam. For some reason, Sue didn’t seem to like Andy all that much, and when we started talking about having one of our twice monthly meetings in a neighboring town, Sue and Sam left the group. That’s when more members gradually started trickling in. Before I knew it, we had seven active members, and several non-member attendees. We outgrew our location and starting meeting at a park and having rituals there too. Conversations at meetings were not difficult anymore. I didn’t need to steer the conversation toward Druidism because, with that many ADF members, it naturally went in that direction.

As for rituals, I was really nervous at first. Historically, when I have to speak in front of a group, I would get a feeling of dread for days, then when it came time to speak, my voice would shake. That’s how it was leading these rituals at first. Then people started volunteering to take on talking parts or even lead a ritual themselves. I grew really at ease with the group. We had great conversations. I stopped being nervous about meetings. Then, one day, I stopped being nervous about rituals as well. My voice evened out. The dread and worry disappeared. I started enjoying speaking in ritual, and if you know me in person, you know that’s really saying something.

So how did this change in confidence happen? I think a lot of it had to do with my getting to know the group through our discussion meetings. I gradually became at ease with talking to them. I also changed the conversation with myself in my head. The last time I got nervous before a ritual, I was able to stop feelings of nervousness and dread by reminding myself that they’re all my friends. I told myself “This is just like when we have discussion meetings. I’m talking with my friends in the park. Its going to be fun, as usual.” Those words were like magic, and have lasting power! (Also, it didn’t hurt that I asked Odin for good speech, and Thor for strength.)

So if you’re wanting to start an ADF or other Pagan group, and think you are too shy and/or introverted, think again. Finding self confidence is more about practicing social skills and getting comfortable with other people than about trying to impress. If you are struggling with a small group with poor dynamics, hang in there! Sometimes you have to face what you dread, and wait out the bad times, to get the community you want.

If you are thinking about attending a local Pagan group, but are having second thoughts or thinking that it wouldn’t matter if you show up or not– just show up! You might be some group’s saving grace, or at least play a very important part of the dynamic. Do not under-estimate the value of belonging to a spiritual community.

explaining polytheism to kids

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In this world dominated by monotheism, it can be difficult raising children in a polytheistic faith. Although you don’t want to dictate what your kids believe, it is reasonable to give polytheism a fair and equal representation so that your children can make a informed decision on what to believe.

When kids are young, they are more likely to believe what we believe, but soon mainstream school mates and playmates challenge those beliefs. So it becomes necessary to provide some logic and reasons for our ways. Here are some basic ideas that can uphold polytheistic belief:

nature is complex and diverse
Nature, life, the universe… is so amazing, intricate, and complex, it makes more sense that its creation was a team effort, rather than the masterpiece of one divine being. Metaphors and examples of the many creating something big and complex can be found in nature, as well as in humankind’s advances.

absolute power doesn’t exist
Monotheists commonly claim that their deity is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and all-good (omnibenevolent). However, if this were true, there would be no evil in the world, because such a god would not have allowed it. It wakes more sense that there is a group of deities that share power, and are not omni- anything, but are helpers to nature and humankind. Such deities may have different strengths, interests, and areas of influence.

many spirits, many gods
If one believes that the soul (and personality) survives the death of the body, then logic dictates the existence of spirits in some sort of spirit world (or transition state before reincarnating). If a multitude of spirits exists, why shouldn’t a multitude of deities exist as well? Perhaps some of the gods are old and wise ancestral spirits who have evolved over time.

Some of these ideas are simplistic, I admit, and not without fault. But they are compelling on certain levels, and meaningful to contemplate. Older children and teens may want more thorough arguments and would benefit from reading “A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism” by John Michael Greer.

One great tool from Greer’s book mentioned above is the “cat analogy”. From age four, most children can understand the use of metaphor in a story, so the cat analogy can be very useful in explaining the logic of polytheism compared to other types of belief. To summarize the story, there was once a village with five houses. A researcher decided to go door to door and ask the villagers about their beliefs…

At the first house, the villager believed in one great Cat (which he had seen once), and left kibble out for him. He believed that other households left out kibble for a “false cat” that didn’t exist and that hobos probably ate that kibble. (This villager was a “mono-felist”.)

At the second house, the villager believed in one Cat (which he had also seen once, but looked different from what the other villager described), and believed that other people were not only worshiping false cats that didn’t exist, but inadvertently worshiping lesser evil creatures… and that evil sewer rats probably ate that kibble. (This villager was a “mono-felist” as well, but with a more sinister view of other beliefs.)

At the third house, the villager believed in one great Cat as well, but believed that Cat may look different to different people (mainly because they didn’t get a good look at Cat). This villager also claimed to know how Cat really looks, and what kind of kibble he prefers. (This villager was an inclusive “mono-felist”.)

At the fourth house, the villager believed that all the other villagers were delusional, that there were no cats, but only figments of their imagination. (This villager was an “a-felist”.)

At the fifth house, out on the edge of the village, this villager acknowledged that there are many cats. She had seen them and fed them on many occasions. (This villager was a “poly-felist”.)

village

There is much more detail of the story in Greer’s book, plus much discussion of it. Some points you might like to discuss after telling the story: On what do the villagers base their beliefs? Which one is based most on observation and experience? Do any of the villagers’ views involve special pleading?

Some other ways to reinforce a Pagan mindset (if not the logic) in young children are:
~to read mythology (see my recommendations for Norse and Celtic mythology for children),
~to talk about your own relationship with the gods and spirits,
~point out the gods’ influence in nature and in our lives and give thanks,
~teach prayers, blessings, and devotionals, and
~sing songs about the deities. One helpful resource for this is The Heathen Songbook Online. I especially like “My Gods, Your Love” and “All the Gods Are Here With Us”.

explaining polytheism to kids

Pagan Medallions

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Most of the time, I don’t wear jewelry unless it is meaningful to me in some way; my wedding band, a gift from one of my children, or something that reminds me of my spirituality. Pagan jewelry and pendants are not something you can get at any corner jewelry or department store. You usually have to seek out a new age or occult shop to find them. Whereas, other religions can find their symbolic jewelry, pendants and medallions anywhere. It’s not fair, I know. But think of it this way; it just gives us more opportunities for craft projects! You can make your own Pagan medallions depicting any deity. It takes surprisingly few materials and is relatively inexpensive.

Materials:
a bezel
deity image
small scissors
mod podge
small paintbrush
(pourable) liquid glaze

Use an internet image search to look up a deity image for your medallion. I especially like the classic look of Johannes Gehrts’ Norse deities. Save the image you want and use a photo editing website like pixlr-o-matic or befunky to change the tint of your image to your liking. Shrink it to the size you need and print it out. Using small scissors, carefully cut out your image to fit the inside of the bezel. Brush a thin layer of mod podge on the inside of your bezel. Press the image into the bezel. Use the blunt end of your paintbrush to make sure its pressed down on the edges and all over. Brush a thin layer of mod podge over the image. Now this is very important: let it dry thoroughly and completely. When image is dry, carefully pour the liquid glaze into the bezel to cover the image evenly, turning the bezel back and forth to make the glaze go where you want it. Do not try to use a paintbrush or other tool to move the glaze around. Lay your medallion somewhere that it won’t be disturbed for at least 24 hours. Don’t be tempted to touch the surface too soon, or it will leave a fingerprint. When medallion is completely dry, attach to a necklace or bracelet.

 Pagan Medallions