Monday, October 31, 2005

Holiday Fun

Rather than bore you with yet another history of Samhain, or the various traditions associated with it, let me tell you what we did do for the holiday. It's been a three-day extravaganza for us.

The festivities started with Scary Story Night. This is an annual event, hosted during October, and is a purely social event at which the guests share scary stories (go figure). The little guy above was a gift I received from one of my friends that evening. My wife and I started SSN some years back because it is an ultimately cool thing to do during the Halloween season.

The next day, we arose to breakfast to Beatles music and a philosophical discussion of religious paths. Afterwards, my wife and I dropped by Argosy-Indiana on the way home from Ohio. That's a casino boat, for any unenlightened readers out there. The gods were smiling on us, since we actually came out $1.40 richer than we were going in. Anyone who has seen me play slots know that's good.

Monday, I took my little squidling around the office, to the amusement of my coworkers. He stayed behind when I left, perched on my hanging files in hopes of scaring the cleaning crew. Halloween night was spent at home. One of our friends dropped by, and was kind enough to dole out the candy while my wife and I ate dinner. Afterwards, we watched the Medium marathon on NBC.

I'm sure people out there have decided that I have absolutely no couth by this point, enjoying network programming instead of participating in some sort of moonlight ritual. Well, a) I wasn't specifically asked to attend someone's circle, and b) I don't follow a Celtic or Druidic path, so it's not actually 'required' of me to observe this holiday at all. I honor it because I love it. Other people sing "It's the most wonderful time of the year" in December. I sing it when the falling leaves begin to blow around my feet in October. It's just a marvelous time, and has little to do with the sugar buzz.

Besides, we found the weekend spiritually uplifting. Isn't that what truly matters, once the holiday is over?

Sarah G

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Source Material for Hellenic Pagans

I recently let people know I was selling some of our library's overflow at We are planning our relocation, and nine bookshelves is a lot to move. Most of these books are fiction or were purchased for college classes, but there are some occult/Pagan books there as well. These cover topics I researched at different points in my path, but set aside with time.

So, which books am I keeping as important sources to my tradition? This might be the better question.

I follow a Hellenic path. I pursue this path seriously, even serving time for a while as a grad student in classical languages and literature. I also spent a lot of time reading Greek history, and many of the 'facts' invoked in popular neo-Pagan materials about the ancient Greek gods are wrong. If a book fulfills one of your spiritual purposes, by all means use it to better your life, but don't swallow all claims as factual. Many footnotes in these books cite other neo-Pagan sources instead of scholarly works, assuming that other Pagan authors have done the research for them.

Accuracy is especially important if you explain your religion to Xian fundamentalists. Many of the heavy-duty debaters have studied history, or will at least crack a book to prove you wrong. You will come off looking like an idiot, and will reinforce the image of Pagans as either liars or misled lambs. Know your stuff.

Primary Sources

Many of these authors can be found in your public library, or online at Perseus.

The Homeric Hymns (These are written in the Homeric style, but may not be by 'Homer', if such a poet existed. I like the Boer and Lattimore translations)

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey

Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days

Important authors: Euripedes, Aeschulyus, Aristophanes, and Sophocles. Poets like Sappho are also useful for gleaning invocational lines. The philosophers make useful reading, but remember that their works introduce new ideas rather than explain old traditions. Two dialogues by Plato, Timaeus and Critias, mention the story of Atlantis, if you are including this in your tradition. Plato also has several other dialogues that explore the nature of the gods in some way or another. Metaphysics, by Aristotle, is a little hairy for beginners but is thought-provoking.

Historical and Cultural

The ancient Greek and Roman religions are among the best documented of the ancient religions. The majority of the sources below cover when, where, and how the ancient Greeks performed their rites. I'm not suggesting you should adopt all the practices you read about (animal sacrifice gets a bit messy), but these books may spark new ideas or explain aspects of the Greek gods that have puzzled you in the past.

Walter Burkert: Greek Religion, Ancient Mystery Cults, and Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual, Homo Necans

H.W. Parke: Festivals of the Athenians

Martin P. Nilsson: The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology

W.K.C. Guthrie: The Greeks and Their Gods, Orpheus and Greek Religion

Carl Kerenyi: Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter, The Gods of the Greeks, Goddesses of Sun and Moon

Pagan-Oriented Writings

Drew Campbell: Old Stones, New Temples (Modern reconstructions of ancient Greek rites. I bought this book off XLibris, but you may have better luck finding a copy through Hellenion.)

David Godwin: Light In Extension (An excellent rundown of Greek magical practices through time.)

Murry Hope: Practical Greek Magic, The Elements of the Greek Tradition (I had to write England to find out how to get a copy of the latter; I hope it is back in print if you're interested in it. Ignore the sections on Atlantis and Sirius, unless that's included in your tradition. A little woo-woo for me. PGM focuses on personal/magical applications of Greek imagery, and describes the Heroic Path. Hope is the first to say these aren't historical, but that doesn't mean they're not useful or rewarding.)

Jean Houston: The Hero and the Goddess Believe it or not, this is a set of psychological exercises that take you through the Odyssey.

I hope this list of materials is helpful for people hoping to broaden their library or expand their spiritual practices. I would suggest that you start by reading the Homeric Hymns and then branch outwards. Introduce the scholarly materials slowly, preferably one at a time, or you'll be risking brain bogglage. Over time, you will begin to feel more firmly rooted in your tradition, and more competent to share with others.

Thank you for your time, and Blessed Be,

Sarah G

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Pagan Carnival

Shortly after discovering the Wildhunt.Org Blog, I discovered that the author also has a roundup of Pagan blogs at The Pagan Carnival.

The roundup is biweekly, and gives a good snapshot of what's on Pagan minds.

Sarah G

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

NCOD: Double the Fun

Today is National Coming Out Day, the day on which we gay folks are supposed to let the people around us know who we really are. If you're Pagan, though, there's often another closet you need to come out of - the "Broom Closet", as it's known.

I came out as a Pagan to my parents quite unwittingly. When I became the editor for my first Pagan publication (printed at the local Kinko’s), I was very proud of myself. So proud, in fact, that I sent a copy of each new issue to my parents (living in Virginia at that time) for their edification. After about the second or third issue, they took notice of my accomplishment.

Mother: “So... this means you must be one of these Pagans."

Me: “Well, yes.”

Mother: “Why didn’t you mention this to us before?”

Me: “Mention it? Didn’t you notice all the books with pentagrams I left lying around the house?

Mother: “No.”

To be fair, I’d left books lying around the house the entire time I was growing up. I can see why she would have stopped taking notice of their content.

The fun part of my timing: my mother was a social worker, and had just finished a course on Satanic cults. She was very concerned for my welfare.

Mother: “I’m wondering how well you know the people in charge of this group. They could be leading you on, or deceiving you.”

Me: “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m in charge of our magazine, our main source of propaganda. So if anyone’s leading anyone on, it’s me!”

I don’t think that made her feel better. My father said that he knew I would never do anything wrong and left it at that. If only other people felt that way...

Flash forward to about seven years later. By this time, I was living with my wife and editing Rainbow Wind Magazine (now sadly defunct). My parents had become missionaries and were stationed in the Philippines. Given their reaction the last time I had sent them unsolicited literature, I decided I probably didn’t need to send the mag overseas. I did mention, however, that Gwen and I were running a Pagan group in my emails. Pride reared its crested head once more.

During one of their visits in the States, they asked if the group had a publication. I said ‘yes’, of course, and confirmed that I was the editor. Naturally, they asked if they could see some of the issues.

So, I let them read it. What else could I have said? I guess coming out in print is just something that comes natively to me.