Firstly, I wish to say a HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of my American friends. I hope you are all having a wonderful celebration.
Winter is always a strange time for me. I hate the cold, with a passion. Neometheus says I must have been a lizard type creature in another life, because I ‘recharge’ with the sun! Winter makes me sad, tired, and I feel like I just want to hibernate – I really would given half a chance! Apart from the ‘S.A.D.’ diagnosis that many will attribute this to, there is actually a very good reason for the way I feel.
Let me explain something first: I am not Pagan because I chose that as my religion/faith/Spiritual Path/whatever you want to call it. I am Pagan because it is the way I FEEL, deep down inside. I was ‘Pagan’ before I knew that word, the term, the meaning. As a young teenager I always felt on the outside of things, different even from my friends, for a number of reasons. I remember on the walk to school ambling along the roads and looking at the leaves, the trees, the sky, the earth, and really appreciating them, feeling them. Then I came across the word ‘Pagan’ and its meaning, and I thought ‘So THIS is what I am!’ And thus my Path was determined. Paganism fits me like my skin, it is what I am INSIDE, heart and soul.
So – what does this have to do with Winter? Well I, and probably most pagans, are very in tune with the changes and shifts of the Seasons. The weather, celebrations, turning of the Seasons have an impact on me mentally and internally. Here is a simplified explanation:
SPRING – Start of growth, beginning to set up plans, gently awakening, welcoming the return of the Sun and natural life.
SUMMER – very active, plans into full swing, inspiration, ideas and doing, action, happiness, bouncing around, life blooming, sun at its peak giving maximum Vitamin D and thus energy to all life (including us).
AUTUMN – Experience from all the plans, reaping the harvest that has been sown, enjoying the fruits of the labour of Summer, beginning to gently slow down, thinking time, gratitude, satisfaction.
WINTER – Slow down, retraction, retreat as the Sun wanes and natural life withdraws/hibernates, plans stop, energy reserved, reflection, going inwards, contemplation.
This is the cycle of the Seasons – and of me. Obviously it comes and goes, I’m not ALWAYS ‘bouncy’ all of Summer and not ALWAYS bleak during Winter… but I have noticed a pattern over the years that runs parallel with that of the seasons. And I think many people also feel this, even if they are not consciously aware of it. The ‘S.A.D’ (Seasonal Affected Disorder) is not counter to this, but rather I think a scientific explanation of the same thing. We are all part of Nature, no matter how far removed we may think we are, and Nature naturally retreats in Winter, storing and reserving her energy until Spring begins to bring her bounty once again.
Internally, I feel I have already retreated this Winter: I am doing as much as I need/want to and no more. In a way I have been ‘Letting Go’, of that which is not needed – doing extra things for others, wasting energy worrying or stressing, attempting to please others. Now this may sound selfish, but actually it is not – we need to draw our own boundaries, learn when we need to say ‘no’ and when we need our energy for ourselves. And also in so doing, if we often do things for others, then sometimes letting go of this helps them – it helps them to learn to do their own thing without dependency, to draw THEIR own boundaries, and that you may not always be at the beck and call to help. This can be liberating. For me, it is necessary. My energy is currently very low and I need to preserve it for that which is important, needed, required.
Do not misunderstand me: I’m not NOT doing anything else for anyone, at all, all Winter – I am doing what I feel I can/should/want to do for others. But within limits: basically I ask myself the questions ‘Can I do this? Should I do this? Do I want to do this?’ If the internal answer is ‘Yes’, then I do it. But if I want to spend some time in the evening to please myself, then I will do that, rather than running around after others, or worrying about future tasks. I suppose from the outside view, it is a subtle change. From an internal view, it is a big change.
Plans and activities are still there though, my passion may be muted but it is still there – I am like the banked fire: my coals are still glowing, and will continue to, slow but ever-ready, instead of the Fire’s (Summer’s) high, wild hot leaping flames. Last weekend, I attended my first Mind Body Spirit Fair, offering Reiki. Neometheus accompanied me, for company and moral support, and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was not very busy unfortunately, but I see that as a lesson in ‘The Universe Never Gives You More Than You Can Handle’: Publicly I can be quite shy. One to one and small social groups I am fine, but public scenarios I still have to learn confidence, and ‘putting myself out there’ as a stall holder in an open event falls under that category for me. However, I enjoyed doing it, and I met some wonderful people, other stall holders, and seeing what everyone had to offer. I was very nearly tempted with a past life regression – but the cost of it just overcame my curiosity! However, I did buy some beautiful Selenite Pillars, which are now proudly sitting on my mantelpiece/altar.
One thing that was not at the fair was Rune Readings. I have a set of Runes and love them, I find their readings to be deep, many layered, sometimes – most times – profound, and sometimes quite blunt, and always extremely accurate. A lady at the fair who advertised herself as a ‘Seer’ obliquely mentioned me reading the tarot/cards. I didn’t have my tarot there, she picked this out of the ether. Now I have never charged for readings, I’ve never done it publicly – I have only read for friends and friends of friends, when asked. Never for a charge, because somehow, it has never seemed right to me. Neometheus mentioned the Runes in idle discussion, and it has sat with me – until I decided to offer this as a celebration giveaway on my Facebook page Reiki Rise & Shine. This has had a huge response, which was a pleasant surprise for me. So now I’m thinking, if things goes well, if the Readings work as well for others as they do for me, this can be another aspect I can bring to the next Fair that I attend.
Plans: I am planning already for next year – how to expand my business, attending as many Fairs/appropriate events as I can, offering the Rune Readings… and possibly more. Though I am quiet business wise at the moment – no surprise with Christmas around the corner – I have the whole of next year ahead of me, and now is the perfect time for planning, thinking, and learning. So I am quietly excited about having this time in which I can reflect, think, draft plans, and learn and explore the depths of myself, my abilities, and take time to develop and learn further – Spiritually, Shamanically, with the Runes, and so on and so forth.
So, although I hate cold, dark Winter, and would rather have the Sun and warmth and energy, Winter brings us much needed rest (if we heed Her wisdom!) and time for contemplation and reflection. I may be quiet and withdrawn, but I am also excited, and ready to develop and learn for next year.
A Blessed Winter to you – unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, I hope you enjoy your Summer!
Yesterday was is the Pagan festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-wain’) , this is one of the eight major Neopagan festivals and is considered to be New Years’ Eve by many Pagans. Due to the festivals’ significance to the pre-Christian peoples of north-western Europe it was Christianised as All Hallows Eve, later abbreviated to Hallow’een/Halloween. Many of the popular Halloween traditions observed today have their origins in ancient Pagan practices.
The significance of Samhain must be understood in terms of the Wheel of the Year. In the Neopagan cosmology the Horned God is a Solar deity who undergoes a birth-death-rebirth journey every year. The Triple Goddess represents Mother Earth (as well as the Moon), transforming through Her Maid, Mother and Crone aspects with the progress of the seasons . Together the Triple Goddess and the Horned God in their joint journey provide the mythological basis for the changing of the seasons. At Midwinter the Horned God is born, and the Goddess is renewed as the Maid, by the spring the Horned God has matured to be the Young Hunter pursuing the Maiden Goddess, at Midsummer the Goddess and God are lovers, the Goddess is pregnant with the bounty of summer and the God is in his prime. In the autumn the God transfers his strength and virility to the ripening harvests, whilst the Goddess transforms into Her Crone aspect. At Samhain the Horned God’s strength is spent and He dies, passing on to travel the underworld until He is reborn again at Yule.
As such Samhain represents the death of the Horned God, the end of the Year, the end of the Summer bounty and Harvest and ritual preparation for the descent into the cold dark of Winter. The death of the Horned God gives the day its association with the dead, it is the day at which the veil that divides this world from the other-worlds is at its thinnest. Traditionally it was believed that spirits of the dead and otherworldly entities would walk abroad. Many Halloween traditions were originally directed at tricking or appeasing these entities, wearing disguises and collecting communal offerings have gradually transformed into trick or treating. It is possible that these practices are part of the folk memory stemming from the distant past when Pagan priests and priestesses would have been dressed as deities and represented them on Earth, receiving offerings and sacrifices in thanks for the years’ bounty and in promise for the return of the Sun the following year. Since the veil between worlds is so frail this is the ideal time for practising divination, which was often done communally and evolved into practices like apple bobbing.
To me the significance of Samhain rests in its main spiritual aspect – the descent into the Underworld. The Horned God has a great many aspects, included in these is the Lord of the Underworld. The Pagan Underworld is not the same as Christian Hell, it is the abode of the Dead and the realm of the ancestors. However, it is neither limbo nor a realm of suffering, it is more a repository of spiritual history and wisdom, the place where deep and ancient knowledge can be obtained. In His role as the Lord of the Underworld the Horned God plays the role of psychopomp (guiding the spirits of the dead to their spiritual resting place), the master/teacher of arcane wisdom and the holder of knowledge that is by its nature a mystery to living. The Triple Goddess in Her aspect as the Crone represents much the same thing. Both deities can be appealed to for assistance and wisdom throughout the year however their winter aspects lend a harder edge to their personas. Winter and death represent literally and symbolically the subject of destruction and endings, this can be frightening and has ‘dark’ associations though there is no element of evil involved. I find myself drawn to the unknown and unknowable and have a love for autumn and Samhain in particular.
There are ritual formulas for observing Samhain, usually involving the lighting of a bonfire as at Beltane, communing with the ancestors and divining the coming year. This year we took a relaxed approach to our celebration, we carved a pumpkin and bought sweets for the local trick-or-treaters, when they had finished their rounds we set up our altar and circle with each of the four elements and representations of the Horned God and Goddess, sealed the room and cast our circle in the same manner we always do. We gave our thanks to our ancestors known and unknown for all that they have done and given and poured an offering of mead in their honour. With the formalities over we could have done a vision quest or journey, engaged in shamanic drumming or divination but instead we chose to start working our staffs. Reikiheidi had gathered a number of fallen branches over the past months with the intention of working them into ritual/magickal tools such as staffs and wands. We felt that Samhain would be a nice time to cut them to size, whittle away unwanted pieces and sand them down. This is the first time we had worked wood with ritual intention and we both found the exercise to be very calming and engaging, like any activity that requires full attention it has meditative qualities, and the satisfaction of seeing the item take form. I had not intended to do anything specific but whilst whittling away at my staff I found myself carving the top of my staff into the head of an eagle (one of my power animals). We ended the evening and the ritual with a meal.
It was a relaxed and understated evening, we both enjoyed ourselves and gave our thanks for an exciting and interesting past year which was full of change and growth and are looking forward to what the new year has to bring.
A dear blogger friend has asked us about the Horned God of Paganism – or rather, I should say, Neo-Paganism: the ‘new’ Paganism that survives today, formed from Ancient Celtic Paganism. We are not, here, talking about Norse, Greek, or Roman Paganism.
Of course, we thought, yes, He needs an explanation for those who are not familiar with Him! And Neometheus and I were more than happy to oblige.
This has become a more monumental task than we realised: we started discussing, thinking, explaining to each other just WHO the Horned God is: who and what he represents to us. And the more we talked and thought, the more we came up with. How do you ‘wrap up’ a living God? – for that is what He is (more on this later.) I had never really thought in depth before about analysing the Horned God: He simply is; I know what He represents to me. Yet this task of sharing Him, of describing Him, has made me think deeply about this subject, and we have decided that there is no way we can describe Him in full measure in just one post. There is too much to say – He encompasses so much, has so many aspects, that one post would end up being ridiculously long! In fact, I wrote down some bullet points – and those alone ended up being 2 pages!
So Neometheus and I have decided that the best way to approach this is by headings, and (trying) to deal with one aspect at a time. Amongst these headings, we will include a personal anecdote of a meeting with the Horned God, as well as a guided meditation/journey for yourselves to meet Him, if you are curious and so choose. There is so much I could say about this right now, but I shall (reluctantly!) leave that for the appropriate time.
I realise this introduction doesn’t really tell you much, but we felt it necessary to explain our approach to this task. It’s probably worth noting at this point that paganism is not a religion – it is a belief system, as Buddhism is, a way of life. Also, Paganism is open to interpretation to each individual – there is no set scripture. If you ask 50 pagans to describe Paganism, or the Horned God, you will probably get 50 different answers. There are of course underlying core values, an understanding of ‘the path’, yet it is a very personal way of living life and interacting with the deities.
I understand that for our American readers, this may be more revelatory, surprising, and eye-opening than for our British readers. (For other cultures, I don’t know how Paganism is thought of in your countries, so I’m not leaving you out, just pointing out the American/British difference – your thoughts and comments on Paganism in your country are more than welcome). Online and in various ways, I have come across American Pagans. To be Pagan in America seems to be a huge deal: I have heard of people ‘not coming out’ to their family and friends, for fear of being thought a Satanist, ostracised, or dragged to the church to be baptised! Paganism seems to be less accepted and less understood in America. In Britain, it is accepted – or at least, not cared about by those that don’t follow ‘the path’. To say you’re Pagan may result in a raised eyebrow, a few curious questions, and a shrug. Others may think it is ‘cool’. That’s it. I have never feared calling myself Pagan in public, or even thought of hiding it. I am proud to be a Pagan… and proud to honour – we do not worship – the Triple Goddess and the Horned God.
So, time for some FAQs, which I hope will give you a basic and succinct introduction to this beautiful, living natural deity.
So just who is this Horned God?
Let’s state this clearly now: he is NOT Satan. Neopagans do not believe in Satan. Satan is the opposite of the Christian God, and thus, he can only exist within the Christian faith – as we perceive it. The Horned God is not evil.
The Horned God is dynamic, a part of nature, and is often ‘seen’ as living in glades, woodlands, groves and forests – anywhere there is wild nature. He is a hunter, passionate, wild, driven, full of absolute joy – and he is a wise old man, brimming with knowledge. This is his dual aspect –something else we will cover in more detail later.
So why does He have horns and cloven feet?
The Horned God is a god, not human. His animal symbols, as described above, represent his Oneness with nature. They are there to remind us that he is more than human; he is all life. It is not the animalistic nature of Humanity he represents with his horns and hoof; it is his totality with all life. He is guardian of the animals, he is One with them, as well as with us.
What do you mean by the term, ‘a living God’?
The Horned God is in and around everything in nature. He is in the trees; the plants; the animals. He is the cycle of the sun and the seasons. We honour Him as a part of Nature, always around us.
Neo-Paganism has resurrected the Horned God: We don’t know for sure how he was honoured or thought of in ancient Celtic ways, but we know enough to honour Him in our own way, today. He is not who he was then – but he is, and always has been, entwined in every aspect of nature. Just as Nature, and Ages and Culture, cycles and moves on, so too does the Horned God – hence ‘a living God’.
So you worship a male deity then?
No. First off as I have said, the term ‘worship’ is really anathema to neo-pagans. Rather, we honour our deities. We enter into a respected relationship with them. It is a relationship that is alive; interactive; respectful. We feel them in everyday life, we talk to them, offer offerings (no, not living sacrifices!) ask for their ‘favour’ or wisdom, – as long as we give something back to them. In respect of them, we honour all nature, as this is their domain and a part/aspect of them.
What do I mean by ‘they’? The Horned God is consort to the Triple Goddess. Many pagans see Her as the primary deity; many others consider them wholly equal. Either way, even when the Goddess is seen as ‘primary’, they are still in every way equal. This is a difficult concept to explain if you are unfamiliar with it. They have their own energies; power, unique aspects and ways of helping and manifesting to us. The Horned God is the Goddess’ support, Her companion, Her lover. They are two energies helping us in different yet equally important ways. There is much to discuss on this topic, which we hope to cover later.
That’s it for now. We hope that this covers the basics, and gives you a further insight and clarity into the male deity that we neo-pagans honour. We will be happy to answer any further questions that you may have on this subject, and of course we will follow up this introductory post with further details about the Triple Goddess and Horned God.