Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Too many calendars.

On a side note to my last post, having been following the Greek festival calendar these last few months, which again, runs on lunar based months. So, while this current moon cycle is the blue moon (running with the seasonal method), the same cycle is also the month of Thargelion. This leaves me with some overlap, each 'month' essentially having two names, which leads me to several questions... 

Do I want to continue thinking of the moons in that way, is there a point to continuing to do so, especially when I find myself not really focusing rituals around them so much anymore? Is there a way to incorporate these cycles into the monthly Greek cycles of the new crescent moon's Noumenia, Artemis' sixth night, the rites I preform for Selene on the full moon, Hekate's supper at the end of the month? Could there be an overlap, or is it just taking on too much, and not letting something go just because it's what I've done in the past?

Truth is, I'm not really sure at all yet! I do think it's important to honor my local cultural cycles, which I'm not sure the Greek calendar really lines up with. I do plan on continuing to celebrate the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters. Perhaps those meshed with the Greek months would be the best? No idea yet. I'm excited to see how the next few years end up playing out, though.

Side note to my side note, I sort of love being on an evolving path. I know I've said that before, and I'm sure I'll say it again. Some things stay the same, some things change, and that works well for me. Even if it's not always easy to figure out how some things fit together, or when something is no longer working for me, in the end it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oh, the blue moon, and those crazy luni-solar calendars.

The blue moon is something I've written about before, way back in 2011, and again in 2012. But just to re-cap, there are two ways of marking a blue moon. Many are familiar with the second full moon in a calendar month as being a blue moon. However, the older definition of a blue moon was the third full moon in a season with four, where most seasons only have three.

The two in a month definition actually came from a mistake printed in Sky and Telescope magazine, and it's stuck ever since. This makes sense, as most people are probably much more familiar with the every-day calendar than they are with astronomical seasonal cycles. (Here's an article from 2006, which explains in depth about the history of both terms.)

Now, the recent full moon was actually a seasonal blue moon. This lead to some confusion because, again, most folks know and go by the twice in a month definition, and that's fine. But I did run into one very special lady who was very... well, pissed off about the whole thing. She kept saying that she was sticking to the "old way" and that this was new internet hype and nothing more!

So, again. No. The twice in a month method is less than a century old. The seasonal method dates back to at least 1819, and is likely older than that. This isn't internet hype by any means, and a lot of us have been using this method for quite a while.

Now she did ask an interesting question of why the third full moon is blue, and not the fourth. Unfortunately, she later said this was a totally rhetorical question to show how little sense this method made, and I really should stop imposing information on her! Yeah, really.

The thing is... it actually does make sense. The third moon is given the blue name to keep the other lunar names matching up with their seasonal events as best as possible. The third moon instead of the fourth keeps the whole season from being "moved up" too far. That's really all there is to it. It's often why old luni-solar calendars stuck their occasional "leap month" into the middle-ish of their year, and not just at the end, so that seasonal festivals would still be around the same time as they should be.

Speaking of luni-solar calendars, this same woman also insisted that lunar and solar calendars have always been separate and it's only recently that Christians and neo-pagans have tried to mash the two together to try to fit in with the Gregorian calendar! Which shows an amazing lack of understanding about history. Luni-solar calendars are pretty darn ancient. They predate Christianity by a long shot. This is a calendar that is based on lunar months, fixed around a solstice or equinox. For example, the ancient Greeks fixed their lunar months around the summer solstice. This lady kept going on about the Celtic calendar, too, which is funny because the oldest known Celtic calendar we can reliably assemble is, you guessed it, a luni-solar calendar. 

Really, let's be honest, the twice in a calendar month method only makes sense with the modern Gregorian calendar. If you go back to lunar based months, of course you couldn't have two full moons in a month, because one moon cycle is one month. Not that all these old calendars actually had something called a blue moon, or cared so much about the moons in their seasons, but again, it's not like this is some crazy new idea. Entwining lunar and solar calendars is really darn old school.

And I'm not trying to talk anyone out of using the twice a month method! It obviously makes sense to a lot of people, since again, the Gregorian calendar is one most of us use in our day to day lives! But it's always good to know the origins of what you're using in your personal practice. Especially if you're going to hang out in a public forum and try to call out people for being dumb internet-hype loving neo-pagans...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Last night I preformed the Rite of Her Sacred Fires, in honor of Hekate. It was very interesting to do a ritual exactly as many people all over the world were doing. I was surprised how many people, in how many places, actually participated in the ritual.

I used oil lamps for light during the ritual, but the actual 'sacred fire' used was fire I lit in a small cauldron. Part of the rite involves reciting the Ephesian letters, a sort of mantra for Hekate, so to speak. While reciting them, the fire went crazy! That's something I'll have to follow up on, for sure.

Another interesting thing was how alive the woods around me became. There was movement all around the clearing I was in, unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The night before I'd held a small ritual for Selene in the same spot, not much later in the evening, and the woods were quite still and tranquil.

I was also out there much longer than I realized. The whole rite only takes some five minutes to complete, without the meditation bit, and I stayed out there for almost an hour without really realizing it. It was a very nice night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The oldest religion?

Earlier today, a discussion was started about what the oldest religion is. Interestingly, a few people said Buddhism was the oldest, but Buddhism came out of Hinduism. Hinduism was also a common answer, one some folks were very sure of, but Hinduism is only truly the oldest if you stop counting religions that fell out of practice. For example, the Egyptian pyramid texts are said to be the oldest religious texts in the world, so older than the Vedas, and yet we know that there were more religions that predated the pyramid texts.

Unfortunately, we'll likely never know what the actual oldest religion humans practiced was. All we can really do is speculate about what our most distant ancestors got up to, how their spirituality might have looked, perhaps it was shamanistic, animistic, but the truth is that information has been lost to time.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Home Again

Well, things have settled down a bit, and I'm back in my apartment, for a few days at least. My grandfather is finally up and about after his knee replacement, doing very well.

While at my grandparents' I was not only helping out with the household needs, but I was also swamped in work, and I came down with a head cold, so not too much time for other activities. But, I did manage to get the altar built!

It's not quite what I had in mind, but I figure I can always add to it as needed. It was quite the undertaking to haul the larger stones out to this spot. (It perhaps looks a bit taller than it is? It's meant to be knelt at.) There was a lot of sweat, some blood, and... well not tears, but germs, from coughing all over them. So, that's great.

I only finished assembling it last night, despite the stones sitting around for what, a week? But with it being the sixth of the lunar month, Artemis' day, and the Thargelia festival, I figured I must get it done.

Thargelia is a festival dedicated to Artemis and Apollon. In antiquity is was a festival to celebrate the new shoots of the spouting harvest, and a time to drive away all bad things, purify, and welcome in good things. The agricultural aspect of the festival doesn't fit in very well with life in New Hampshire, as farming wise, there's not going to be any planting for another week or two. But foraging, there are thing starting to come up, like fiddle-heads.

The purification aspect worked well with finally getting the altar built. I went out a bit after sunset, with the moon already high in the sky, and washed the altar down with blessed water. Next I took barley, and sprinkled it on the altar and the space around it. Finally, I burned a mixture of patchouli, mugwort, and rosemary and carried it around the ritual space, and fanned the smoke to the altar.

I dedicated the spot generally to all the Gods who bring good things, and then more specifically to Artemis, Hekate, and Selene, who will be seeing the majority of worship here. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, I'm only in my apartment for a short while, as I plan to go back to my grandparents' next weekend for the full moon, which brings the Rite of Her Sacred Fires for Hekate. ( I am not a member of the covenant, and have not done this rite in years past, but this year it seemed appropriate. There's just something about many people, from many traditions, coming together at the same time, to do the same ritual in honor of a deity they all feel called to.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Outside of the Maiden-Mother-Crone Triad

I'm sure many pagans are familiar with the Maiden-Mother-Crone goddess often found within Wicca and other modern forms of paganism. There seems to be a misunderstanding, however, that this was a widespread ancient Goddess. I am only aware of one example of a goddess, Hera, being worshiped as girl, wife, and widow in one of her ancient shrines - and she was not a moon goddess. Additionally, some take this to mean that all ancient Goddesses can, or should, be put into one of the three even when they, historically, would not fit into one. Hekate comes to mind first, often called a crone goddess, and yet she was very much a virgin-maiden to most of the ancient Greek world. I have no doubt she appears as crone to some, yet the Greeks saw her this way for a reason, and to completely overlook it misses out on understanding a big part of her character. (Really, the whole Artemis-Selene-Hekate thing is bound to be it's own post, soon enough.)

But really, it's not just goddesses, but women who try to fit into one of these three groups. For some women these are powerful archetypes to connect with - but there are many of us who just do not fit in. Some try to work around it by saying, well, if you create, or nurture, then you are a mother! But... I create art. Why do we lump artist in with mother? Why can't artist be it's own stand-alone archetype. Well, I mean it is, there are so many more archetypes for a woman to explore if one wants to do so.

I'm not a mother. I do not fit with that group, and I do not want to take away from the mothers by insisting that I somehow fit there, for doing other things that don't really have to do with motherhood. So does it make me a maiden, or crone?

Well, no. I am thirty years old. There are some aspects of maidenhood still within in me, for sure, but there is a lot that is no longer there. I am not a mother, as was said, and in fact the medical issues I had last year? They resulted in a hysterectomy - at my own choice. I have never wanted biological children, and I do not want children at all. I love kids, I really do, but I don't want to be a mom. So having had the hysterectomy, did I jump right into being a crone? Well, no. Again, thirty years old, not quite what I'd call a crone - even if I do notice some traits associated with crones starting to emerge.

Honestly, this is something I have seen a lot of women struggling with, especially those of us who have had early hysterectomies - and especially those who did not want them, but had no choice. They end up feeling left out, when that's not necessary at all! Where is the warrior, the queen, the poet-scribe, the artist, the muse, the hunter, the healer, the priestess?

Humans are complex creatures. I do not think there are many of us who fit totally into one nice neat archetype. A mother can be an artist. A maiden can be a healer. A crone can be a warrior. A woman can reject maiden-mother-crone and still find herself priestess-queen, or anything else. So often pagans love to reject labels, want to be outside the box and all that, so why are we limiting ourselves to these three archetypes as if that's how it's always been, or all there is?