The Nerdy Pagan

Because A Ven Diagram for "Pagan" and "Nerd" would form an eclipse.

Posts tagged pagan

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Most people use religion as a tool to kick the habits that rule their life and drain their money.

What the hell do you do when religious scholarship is the habit that is draining all of your money?
 I am a weirdo. I gave up buying lunch, eating out, and buying coffee on the go so I can pay for a subscription to the Pomegranate journal. My biggest motivator for finding a new job is so I can afford classes at Cherry Hill Semenary and other forms of Pagan/Magical Studies/theology training. Also so I have space for my library. I have a religion problem.

Filed under pagan paganism wicca theology religionproblem

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Voices from the Past

Much has been made of the links between languages with Indo-Eropean roots and the use of these links to extrapolate information about ancient gods. This is something that comes up a lot in my study of Slavic and Baltic deities and at times I get the feeling that it has led to a lot of fuzzy pseudo-history. This gets even more frustrating when you realize that this kind of linguistic reconstruction makes up about 90% of the scholarly research that exists at least in English language publications.But in my search, I did manage to find something kind of cool and well…definitely nerdy.

By tracing the commonalities between the Indo-European languages, linguists believe that there was a Proto-Indo-European language that all of these languages came from. As humans spread across the globe, their languages branched off from this one point.

Linguists have been attempting to recreate this language by tracing the commonalities backwards to that original Proto-Indo-European ancestor language. And some of those linguists think they have a pretty good idea of what that language might sound like.

If you’re like me and the thought of hearing words that might be echoes of a dead language that hasn’t been heard for thousands of years sends shivers down your spine, you might want to check out these two recordings from Archeology magazine’s web site. They represent two hypotheses as to what this Proto-Indo-European mother tongue might have sounded like.

Unless a man driving a blue Police Call Box appears on their doorstep, linguists really have no way of knowing what this Proto-Indo-European mother tongue actually sounded like. But the spread of language can help us trace our path out of Africa, into Asia and out into the rest of the world. It’s one of the threads that connects us both to each other and to our ancestors.

That’s a nice notion, NerdyPagan, but really what does that have to do with Paganism? I’m so glad you asked.

The lingusitic connection between certain concepts and the names of the gods is one of the ideas behind the practice of syncretism, or the linking of one deity, idea or tradition to another. This can be found in both ancient Paganisms (Romans linking the myths of the Greeks to their own gods and the Greeks equating the Egyptian Gods with their own at various periods of history) and in modern ones (linking a god or goddess with a stone or planet or various lwa being linked with Catholic saints in Voodou.). P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has a really good article on syncretism if you want to read more.

I personally see syncretism as a spectrum and I’m not quite sure where I fall on it. I definitely believe that some gods can take on different guises in different cultures, but do I think that all love goddesses are Venus? No. Do I think that if I pray to Toth for wisdom and eloquence in this blog post I am getting the blessing of Hermes and Sarasvati since they are also deities of eloquence? No.

But as I trace the story and existence of the goddess I know as the Lauma— Godmother Death, protector of orphans, mothers and direct care workers, am I going to factor in the theories of Indo-European linguists and their ideas about Baltic and Slavic deities? Maybe. Many Slavic and Baltic reconstructionist religions such as Romuva identify as Indo European Religions. More eclectic organizations such as AFD also claims to base its beliefs on those of “ancient Indo-European Pagans— the Celts, Norse, Slavs, Balts, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Vedics and others.”

So linguistic studies do have a role in the way we perceive our gods and has shaped the scholarship of various Paganisms. It has also been the cause of a lot of Victorian quackery such as the idea of Russian Vedas proposed by W. R. S. Rawlston. Separating the good from the bad can seem as impossible as sorting poppy seeds from dirt. But when you are grasping at straws on the trail of a goddess unknown to the western world, you take what you can get and hope that your best judgment is enough.

Filed under Pagan paganism reconstructionist romuva slavic paganism wicca AFD Lauma linguistics

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still worship Zeus - Documentary on Modern Hellenic Polytheism

The stories of Hellenic Pagans in modern Greece, from archaeologists to clergy, families, native Greeks and ex patriots. They describe their their relationships with the Gods, and provide an inside look at modern temples and reconstructed rites. The film also discusses the discrimination and legal challenges they face from the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek government.

Filed under pagan paganism polytheism Hellanic Hellanismos Wicca

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Weekly Pagany Podcasts(y)

Each Week I’m going to try to round up some of the best podcasts on subjects of interest to Witches and Pagans. Some will be recent, others will dig back into the archives of older programs.

Main Street Universe: Andrieh Vitimus and Servitors- Hosts Daniel Michael and Genise White discuss servitors, egregores, and artificial thought-forms with Chaos Magicial Andrieh Vitimus. They discuss the process of their creation, use and the ethics one must consider when doing so,

Carlos Museum Podcast- A series of podcast in which museum curators, archeologists, and religious scholars discuss the religious and cultural significance of artifacts in the Carlos Museum. Artifacts come from ancient Greece, South and Central America, India, Egypt and other pre-Christian cultures. Also available on iTunesU.

Sounds True:Insights at the Edge “Plant Spirit Medicine”- Eliot Cowen believes that the way to tap into plants’ healing energies is to develop relationships with them. He discusses his new book and shares his experience as a plant spirit healer.

That’s all for now. Happy Listening!

Filed under pagan wicca witchcraft wiccan paganism

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The Hilarious History of a New Age Book and other “Magic Words”

Last Week’s episode of This American Life, “Magic Words” contains the fantastic history of an outrageous New Age self help book. The other stories in the radio show/podcast are less metaphysical in nature but include the magic words that can get you out of debtor’s court (“show me the paperwork”) and how play, pretend, and the magic of listening can help people with Alzheimer’s.

Official Summery:

When Jonathan Goldstein was a kid, his father gave him a book that promised to teach you how to shoot mental laser beams, win the lottery, move solid objects with your mind, make others obey your command – all through the use of mental power and magic words. This week, he revisits the book to try to unlock the secrets within. And we have other stories where people recite words that have the power to change their lives, with no magic or mumbo jumbo at all.

Filed under pagan wicca new age metaphysics self help Alzheimers this american life

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How To Train your Dragon & Gendered Pagan Theology

Just got back from seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which BTW, was AMAZING!!!) and the movie left me with some interesting thoughts.

Hiccup spends a lot of this movie trying to figure out who he is and how he relates to Viking society. He sees himself as peace maker and his approach to solving the impending invasion by an evil, self-proclaimed “Dragon Master” is to attempt negotiation. His father, Stoic, on the other hand wants to strengthen the defenses of their home village Burk. It’s a bit of a repeat of the same father/son conflict in the first movie when Hiccup wants to make peace with the dragons and his father wants to fight.

So what does this have to with the modern day gender role/gender transgression discussion in the larger Heathen and larger Pagan communities?

The role of peacemaker in Germanic and Scandinavian culture was often played by women. This is seen a lot in the epic Beowulf where Wealtheow is often described as peacemaker. In fact, the old English term freodu-webbe meant both woman and peacemaker. Hiccup’s mother, Velka (her being alive is only a spoiler if you missed every single trailer for this movie) also describes herself as a peacemaker.

Throughout the movie, Hiccup tends to identify more with his mother than his father. It’s often said that he takes after her. And he describes himself, at the end of the movie, as a peacemaker.

In the end, Hiccup solves the crisis like he always does—his own way. With a combination of compassion, brains, courage and his signature deadpan humor. He finds  a balance between the strength of his father, the compassion of his mother, and his own instincts.

Now I’m not one to stick strictly to the binary of “feminine principle” and “masculine principle.” However, I feel like this film plays out a part of the dialogue the Pagan community has been having on the subject of “male” and “female” virtues over the decades. On the one hand, the division of ideologies between Hiccup’s parents (Stoic’s warrior approach in the first film and Velka as peacemaker in the second) could seem to imply that there is a divide along gender lines. From the perspective of Feminist Theology one might say that this shows men are inherently war-like and women are inherently peaceable and compassionate. A conservative Heathen view might interpret this as males and females serving equally important but different roles in their tribe. The more mainstream view might argue that these principals and abilities can be found within each individual and like Hiccup we must heed the wisdom of both.

So lets stir up some discussion. If you’ve seen the movies, how do you feel like the traditionally gendered (or stereotyped) roles of warrior and peacemaker are shown or subverted. Obviously Dreamworks did not set out to make any sort of Lore-acurate movie, but how does it mesh with your view of the roles of men and women in Viking culture?

Does Hiccup subvert those roles?

What do the fruits of the “masculine” and “feminine” principals or gender identities mean to you?

If you are a Heathen, how do you interpret the idea of Sedir and gender transgression in Lore and practice? How do Hiccup’s reactions compare to your ideals of leadership and heroics?

If you want to read more about the role of women as peacemakers in Beowulf, check out this essay:

Filed under How To Train your Dragon Pagan Heathen feminist theology wicca

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One of the More Unexpected but Interesting Depictions of Voodoo in Pop Culture.

Lately I’ve been watching ther1980s series Beauty and the Beast staring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. The show is decidedly sappy, but it fills a void for Urban Fantasy in my life that will be there until Netflix gets season 3 of Lost Girl.  It’s best described as Law and Order meets Gargoyles and follows assistant DA Catherine Chandler and Vincent, a man with the features of a lion who lives in a colony of orphans and misfits beneath the Manhattan sewers.  Together, they solve crime, protect the innocent and save each others’ butts from kidnapping at least once per episode.  I’m about to start episode 9 and so far the show has gotten off to a slow start, but there have been some gems.

Episode 8 of Season 1 was one of those.  It focused on a murder committed by a man accused of being a Voodoo sorcerer.  Cathrine’s boss thinks that this is an open and closed case, until the accused man dies after spending days in a trance.  Police and news media in the real world could take a note from Catherine who keeps digging.  She goes to scholars of Voodoo and also people in the Haitian community who know the accused to get a better picture of the Voodoo religion and finds a lot to suggest that while he was a practitioner of the religion, his using it to murder another individual is unlikely.

Now the real kicker (spoiler alert) is when the perpetrators are revealed to be the white professor Catherine turned to for help and his also white assistant.  Suddenly, the villians are not superstitious forigners but white academics who have appropriated Voodoo for their own means and who have their own cult which summons Baka, a vengeful Lwa to take out those who threaten them.  Baka’s appearance (in the show) is half man/half lion and there is some obvious resemblance to Vincent.  The professor is content to frame other practitioners of Voodoo, all of whom are people of color, for his own actions.  He relies on the very stereotypes the media promotes for his own cover.

I wish i knew enough about Voodoo to comment on the accuracy of it’s portrayal of the episode. They talk about ritual possession by the Lwa, and the belief that the mind and psyche control the physical body. If someone more familiar with Voodoo practices wanted to write a followup post on that subject, I would read the heck out of that.  Beauty and the Beast is on Netflix.  The episode in question is episode 8 of Season 1: Dark Spirit.

Filed under voodoo pagan paganism beauty and the beast

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Untitled: Networking, Networking! A call to Pagans in Cape Cod, MA

Having realized that most of the networking sites for Pagans on the Cape are geocities sites that have not been updated since the late 90s, I’ve decided to put together my own.  If you’re on the Cape, know about local Witchy/Metaphisical bushiness, pagan workshops, events, covens, temples and groups, are planning on visiting the area, or are just curious about the goings on in that giant Hippie colony that is everything south of the Sagamore Bridge, feel free to check it out and contribute!

Eventually, I hope to organize a few meet ups, Sabbat and other holiday events and maybe even a pride event.

Filed under pagan wiccan massachusetts paganism wicca religion