Category Archives: Myth & Lore

Dying-and-reborn gods, or are they?

Iridescent Dionysus by Laura Perry
Iridescent Dionysus by Laura Perry

Dying-and-reborn gods are a fixture in modern Pagan practice, embodying the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. Right now it’s Lammastide and many of us who celebrate this First Harvest in the modern eight-fold wheel of the year are symbolically sacrificing a grain god in our rituals, fully expecting that he’ll rise again with the springtime sprouting of next year’s crop.

That’s Dionysus up top of this post, another so-called dying-and-reborn god (DRG for short). Among other things, he’s the embodiment of the vine and its fruit, so he “dies” at the grape harvest each year (the Feast of Grapes as celebrated in Modern Minoan Paganism) and is reborn… well, it’s complicated, since Minoan religion added layer upon layer for centuries, just like the ancient Egyptians did. In Modern Minoan Paganism we celebrate his birth at the Winter Solstice but we also recognize his renewal with the sprouting of the first leaves on the grapevines in the spring.

The thing is, Dionysus is a god. Gods aren’t mortal so they can’t actually die.

You may have heard the quote from Epimenides, the semi-mythical Cretan philosopher-poet who supposedly lived during the 6th or 7th century BCE: “All Cretans are liars.” It’s referenced in the Christian Bible as a paradox (Epimenides is a Cretan and he said all Cretans are liars, so how can what he said be either true or false?) and that’s where a lot of people have heard it from, though it’s apparent that the original statement wasn’t intended as a paradox but a simple statement.

But here’s the thing: Epimenides is intricately linked with “Cretan Zeus” (that would be the Minoan Dionysus, the way the Hellenic Greeks referenced him). He supposedly became a prophet/oracle after sleeping in Rhea’s cave on Mt. Ida, the cave where Dionysus is born every Midwinter (well, one of them anyway!). This is a tidbit of Good Stuff that managed to make it down through the centuries, possibly a shadow of the practices that people undertook during Minoan times at the cave shrines on the island.

So why did Epimenides say all Cretans are liars? Because by his time (almost a millennium after the fall of the Minoan cities) the myths and stories about Dionysus and the rest of the Minoan pantheon had degenerated to the point that people took it literally when the story said Dionysus died. They interpreted the remains of the cave shrine as his tomb.

But gods aren’t mortal. They can’t die.

In modern western society, we have an example of a DRG whose myth has been taken literally: Jesus Christ. But how is it that he can actually die? By becoming mortal. That’s a special consideration, one that’s been argued back and forth for centuries by all kinds of religious scholars, and one I don’t care to take on.

My point is this: Dionysus doesn’t become mortal. John Barleycorn doesn’t become mortal. They’re not human. They don’t actually die, though of course the crops that symbolize them do (and for that, I’m grateful).

The DRGs don’t die; they DESCEND. They go down to the Underworld, awaiting the right time to rise again and start the cycle anew.

We’re mortal. We actually die. Though some of us can travel to the Underworld via shamanic journeys without dying, we don’t take our bodies with us on that trip. So the closest we can come to understanding the divine cycle, the up-and-down, the growing-giving-releasing of the DRG is by equating it to what we ourselves undergo, what we understand: dying and being reincarnated.

So technically, the DRGs don’t die. They can’t, and they don’t need to. But to us, it looks very much like that’s exactly what they do. And that’s fine. We’re mortals, watching immortals do something that we can only understand in part; three-dimensional beings doing their best to interpret the actions of heaven-knows-how-many-dimensional beings.

But what we can see, the part we’re able to understand, has meaning for us. It’s a reminder that it’s not a straight line, but a circle, a spiral… and that’s a gift indeed.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: December 8: Last Greek Goddess Standing, Egypt’s One Born of Light, one born of Darkness.

In Greek mythos, Zeus had a daughter with the Goddess Themis. Her name was Astraea. In the world of men (our world), Astraea, was the last to leave taking her place in the Heavens where all those who were like her, went.

While this reminds me of the Elves from Lord of the Rings, when they made their exit from, what was it? Middle Earth? Astraea wasn’t a work of fiction according the the Greeks. She was very real to them, the Goddess of Justice.  That’s why December 8th is an observance dedicated to her.

In Ancient Egypt, a religion time has somewhat forgot and buried beneath her golden sands, a festival for Neith would have been held today. Neith was one of the original Gods and Goddesses of this culture. She was said to have been the mother of Ra. She also gave birth or made his arch nemesis, Apep.

August 1st Lammas, Lughnassadh Sabbath Info, Recipes & Ritual

Those of the Ancient World and Present Day Pagans share an event known as, Lammas, or, Lughnassadh. It is a Sabbath on August 1st, when God enters the Earth, sacrificing his body to become the Grain or Corn. Please note, while I may use “Grain” below, it may also be interpreted as “Corn” for both were very important – then and now.

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It is the first Harvest when the God of the Sun marries the Goddess of the Earth, relinquishing his former existence and essence so that he may rule the Underworld as Lord of Shadow.

Mabon, (Autumn Equinox) will be your second harvest and Samhain, the third. All good things come in threes.

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This belief has survived throughout the Ages from one Culture and Religion to the next. Some, who blend Christianity with Paganism or recognizes the link from one to the other, may think of Christ, when he died upon the cross, giving up his flesh to become something more spiritual, passing from one life to his next. Christ was said to give his blood to wash away sin while the Pagan God gave his to offer life after death and to the grain, blessing a life-giving Harvest.

The grain is represented by the God and vise versa.  It represents the cycle of life – a reflection of us all.

The season has begun it’s coming to an end, as life eventually comes to an end. But while the grain dies in the field, is it lost to us forever?

No. The grain relinquishes it’s seed and when joined with that of Earth, holds a promise of rebirth—renewed life.

As the God dies and joins with the earth, entering her for their sacred marriage, he will one day be reborn from Mother Earth, anew.

So is the same for us all.

Our Ancestors used bread to commemorate this holiday. Present day Pagans, whether they are Practitioners of Rituals or not, may also use bread.

If you are one to use Rituals, I have one listed below. If you are not one for Rituals but want to do something to mark the occasion, then my suggestions is to either make or buy a bread that is made up of grains, cracked wheat – the healthier stuff. You can also use corn, corn bread, etc.

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If white is all you have, I am sure your Deity will be forgiving, but if at all possible, a more natural food would be best.

Incorporate it in a family meal or a supper of one. Simply bow your head asking that the God, Goddess (insert your deity) bless the bread and grain.

This is a time to say thanks for all the blessings in your life and for all the blessings to come.

It is a time to enjoy the fruits of your labors or a time to see your efforts pay off and come to form.

Rituals & Recipes

Dancing is often seen and done in the old world and new. Twirling, spinning, dancing around a fire represents the sun (fire) and the constant orbit we make around it. The sun passing through seasons, moving and changing.

A song or chant to do, whether round a fire or candle flame can be found in a book called, Grimoire for the Green Witch, by Ann Moura. This is just a shortened version…

Clap or ring a bell three times:

I celebrate the Day of the First Harvest, the Festival of Bread and the Marriage of the Sun and the Earth.

Then Sing or Chant while dancing in circles:

Dance, dance, wherever you may be;

When you dance with the Lord, He will dance with thee.

Turn, turn, a Circle then you form;

And the Lord of the Dance is the Lord of the Corn!

Raise arms, sing and chant:

Down, down, into the Earth He’ll go;

Giving life to the grain that in Spring we sow.

He rules the Shadowland till Yule;

When His Sun is reborn and He joins us anew!

My Own Personal Molasses Bread Recipe

 

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Ingredients

1 & 1/2 cups of boiling water

1 cup of rolled oats (If you can’t find “rolled oats” go ahead and use steel cut or rough cut oats. I wouldn’t do instant, though. They won’t hold their texture. )

1/3 cup vegetable shortening (If you have lard that you made, go for it.)

2 packs of active dry yeast (I used a fast yeast and it worked great for me.)

1/2 cup of warm water

1/2 cup of Molasses (The first time I did this, I used homemade Molasses. Was great. Second time, I used store bought. I wasn’t wild about it. You can, however, replace this with Raw Honey if you want.)

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons of salt

Butter (Enough to brush the tops and the inside of your bread pans.)

6 & 1/2 cups of unbleached flour (I used 3 & 1/2 cups of whole wheat/ whole grain flour.)

Directions

+ Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8 & 1/2 inch loaf pans.

+ In a large bowl, mix the boiling water, oats and shortening. Set this to the side and allow the shortening to melt.

+ While that’s going on, in a small bowl, mix together your warn water and yeast.

+ Now, go back to the Shortening – Oats- Boiling Water mixture and add your Molasses or honey. Stir in the eggs and salt.

+ Add the yeast mixture and 3 cups of your flour. Beat the batter until its all well blended and smooth.

+ Start adding the rest of the flour, slowly. You may not need all of the left over flour.  So add it little by little. Once it pulls from the sides, throw it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and springs back when you poke it. Knead for about 8 or so minutes.

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+ Form it into a ball and put it in a greased bowl. Place plastic wrap and a towel on top and let the dough rise for an hour.

+Once it has risen twice it’s size, throw it back onto a floured surface and punch it down. Divide it into three pieces. Lightly knead and shape each one and place it into the bread pans. Put a towel over them and let them rise again for 45 minutes. When they have risen to the tops of the pans, bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown. Slide from the pans, brush the tops with butter and then let cool.

Tips:

For easy slicing, wrap the cooled bread loaves with plastic wrap and toss into the fridge. Once the bread is chilled, you can easily slice with a jagged edged knife without the bread bending or squishing.

Golden Sweet Cornbread

Recipe By: bluegirl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: July 15th: Norse Tree Goddess, Sowing Festival & Ides

Did you know the Norse had a Goddess of the trees named Rowana? Today is sacred to her or would have been in our Ancient Calendar. Rowana was also said to be the patron of the Runes and all their knowledge.

 


In Ancient Greece, today would have been called Scirophoria, which was a festival for the Goddess Athena. Known as a sowing festival, where the Priestesses of Athena would stroll along underneath a sciron—which was a large umbrella type parasol.

 


In Rome, they marked their calendars because today was the Ides of July.

 


 

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: July 11: A Vegetarian Goddess, Cronus Rises & Falls & a New Goddess Month Begins

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Here’s a bit of interesting history for everyone, that I, myself, had absolutely no clue about. Apparently, Vegetarianism is not a new deal and was alive and well in the Ancient World. In fact, Vegetarians had their own Goddess, or so saith the Greeks, who called her by the name of, Theano.

Theano was the wife of, Pythagoras. This Goddess added to the wonderful world of Mathematics. She is credited with having discovered the concepts of the Golden mean, ratio, and rectangle. And while the Greeks are honoring her on this day in Ancient History, they would have also had a festival for their God Cronus and the Goddess Rhea.


Cronus was a Titan. A Ruling Titan, that is, who took his throne by whacking off the unmentionable of his Father, Uranus. I’m sure castrating ones father had some sort of Greek symbolic meaning to it or perhaps the act alone was just blunt enough.

Rhea was the wife of Cronus and their children became the first Olympians. However, being a bit paranoid that his own flesh and blood may do unto him as he did unto his own father, Cronus began to devour each of his children the moment they were born. Having enough of that, Rhea acted like any Mother would and devised a plan to stop her husband’s cannibalism. The moment she gave birth to Zeus, she saved the child by tricking Cronus into eating a rock instead.

Thus comes the story of Zeus eventually defeating his Father Cronus and all of the other awful Titans. Showing Cronus a kinder fate than what he offered his offspring, Zeus banished them to the Underworld. That was not the end of Cronus, of course. No, like any great and powerful force, he learned how to skip town and change his name a few times….furthering his reign and legend.


AND THE GODDESS MONTH OF KEREA BEGINS.




 

Women, Healing & Lore: Holly

Holly

Since today’s Ancient Calendar marks the season of the Holly King, (Read Here), I thought, what could be a better opportunity than right here and now to delve deeper into the folk medicine and lore of something we are all somewhat familiar with.

Holly actually has quite a few nicknames. For the Celtic Tree Month, we know it by Tinne, but it is also called, Christ’s Thorn, Bat’s Wings, Holm Chaste, Hulver Bush, Aquifolius and Hulm. It’s proper name would be quite the tongue twister, Ilex aquifolium or I. Opaca.

Here in the mountains, we know it as Holly and it’s something that stretches as far as landscaping to the table and wreaths inside our homes. And while today, most of us are oblivious to it’s true history or purpose, not so long ago, those dead and gone from these mountains, knew it all quite well.

While present day Pagans might plant Holly by the front door for protection, it wasn’t much different in times of old. Not only did people believe that Holy warded off evil spirits but they also believed it kept them safe from lightning, dark sorcery and poison.

People used to make something called, Holly Water. Was this the origins of “Holy Water”? They would make Holly Water by infusing water with Holly. This was used to protect babies, especially when they were first born, by sprinkling a few drops of the water upon their heads, much like baptism.

Holly was deemed so powerful, when thrown at wild animals, people believed it made them lie down and grow silent.

It was carried by people for luck – especially by men– and hung around the home at Yule for an extra dose of something special.

According to, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, there was even a special ritual surrounding Holly. It had to be done on a Friday after Midnight, but if someone gathered nine Holly Leaves (from a smooth plant) and wrapped them in a white cloth created nine knots, then they could sleep with it under their pillow– making their dreams come true.

Medically, the leaves, berries and bark is used. The berries are actually harmful to people. Animals, however, love the Holly Bush. Deer eat them during winter. Birds feast on the berries and for those who keep rabbits, a stick placed in a rabbit hut, will give them something to gnaw in order to restore their appetites. A tonic, if you will.

In olden times, Holly was used to treat smallpox, pleurisy, fevers, rheumatism, and catarrh. It’s leaves were used in tea and because of it’s tannins, it is known as a good blood purifier, diuretic and was also, highly revered as a diaphoetic (which made it good for fevers and such).

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Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: July 7: A Slave Saves Rome & a Farewell to Duir

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Once Upon a Time, very, very long ago, Rome was defeated by Gauls. Just like all wars coming to an end, those who win have demands. Gaul demanded that all the women of Rome be given over to them. All Noble Women, that is. You can just imagine what Gaul would have done with them.

Having no other choice, Rome was about to hand their women over, until a Roman slave named, Tutula, also known as, Philotis, offered a better and most clever solution. Instead of sending the noble ladies of Rome off into the mercy of Rome’s enemies, why not send slave girls? Tutula, with all her wisdom, suggested that Rome dress up the slave girls to look like Noble women. This would give Rome time to forge further plots and plans against Gaul….

Once inside the camp of Rome’s enemy, the slave women worked their charms by making the soldiers very happy and very, very drunk. The Gaul men passed out and as they did, Tutula gave the signal to the Roman soldiers hiding ever-so-patiently within the surrounding darkness.

Because of the wisdom and skills of a slave named, Tutula, Rome was able to flip the tables on a war thought to have been lost.

Because of that night and what Tutula did, today would have been known as Nonæ Caprotinæ–the second of two festivals. While Rome would celebrate the very event Tutula helped shape, Noble Women and Slaves were free to eat, make merry and celebrate together.

Tonight’s festival would also honor the Goddess Juno. Romans would also have another festival on this day that was also important to the Harvests, called Consulia, honoring the god of the earth, Consus.

Interestingly enough, Consus’s alter, which stood at the, Circus Maximus, was kept covered with earth all year long except for three days. After uncovering it today, they would have had chariot races, a Roman festival of Handmaids, or otherwise known as, the maid’s day out, and many other celebrations to make the people of Rome very happy and to honor a God, which Rome depended on for food, etc.

Also in Roman calendar, today would have been the Nones of July.

On another Ancient note, the Celtic tree month of Duir ends today. To read more about this month, check out: Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: June 14th: Physical & Symbolic Doors to New Things and Other Dimensions, New Runic Half-Month, A Son of Odin and an Epic Song of Muses