The Busy Witch: The Magic of Giving

I’ve been on an abundance kick lately, and this post is a direct follow-up to my posts on the magic of asking and receiving. Since I’m a fan of threes (and it’s a pretty powerful number in myth, folklore, and magic), it seemed appropriate to wrap up this series as a trilogy.

Goddess Spells for Busy Girls, by Jenn McConnell
Goddess Spells for Busy Girls, by Jen McConnel

I’m a firm believer in the power of gratitude, and it seems to me that abundance is a cycle: the more we ask, the more we open ourselves up to receive, and the more we receive, the more we (hopefully) pass it on in some fashion or another. Giving your talents, your time, your money, whatever it is that you value and want to share, is a great way to express gratitude to the universe and to keep the cycle of abundance flowing, rather than allowing it to stagnate. I discuss the magic inherent in gratitude at length in my book, Goddess Spells for Busy Girls, but I wanted to share with you this week my favorite thing that I like to do when I feel like my cup is overflowing.

One of my favorite ways to cultivate this type of abundance magic is by paying for the person behind me in the drive through. I’m not a fast food person, so this usually means that on the rare occasions when I treat myself to a cup of fancy coffee and a pastry, I pay for the stranger behind me in line. Whenever I do this, I make a point to get out of the parking lot and back on the road quickly; I don’t linger to see the reaction, and I don’t wait for thanks. I feel like part of the magic of this gesture comes from the randomness of it, and I first started this practice after I was on the receiving end of the same gesture before my husband and I began a holiday road trip a few years ago. The feeling of gratitude and joy that hit when we pulled up to the window to be informed that our order had already been paid for was bright and vast, and since we didn’t know who to thank, that gratitude tumbled over to the universe at large. Small acts leave a big mark, and this is my favorite small way to (hopefully) make a stranger smile.

When we offer ourselves to the universe, whether through donation, charitable acts, volunteer work, or simply smiling at a stranger on the street, we help cultivate the flow of abundance and bright blessings around us. I’m a firm believer that when we give more, we get more, and often times, the currency that we’re exchanging isn’t tangible. However you define abundance, consider passing some of yours along in whatever way feels most genuine to you, and keep your eyes open to see the ways in which that abundance will cycle back to you, magnified.

How do you express gratitude to the universe?


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

The Busy Witch is published on alternate Tuesdays. Follow it via RSS or e-mail! Or, check out Jen’s her Facebook Page for writings, ramblings, and more magic! Drop by and say hi!

And, please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Born Again Witch: Witches at a Pentecostal Church – Sensing the Energy

This is the second part of a three part series on what happened when my coven visited a “spirit-filled” Christian church. In the first part I wrote about what prompted us to visit the church and together with Autumn, who has no background in Christianity, we shared our initial reactions. In this second part Autumn and I compare notes on our experience, how we sensed and saw the flow of energy. We also look at how we both understood the sermon, and how together we were able to make sense of our experiences.

Bethel Church / Annika Mongan
Bethel Church / Annika Mongan

Autumn:  One of the big questions I had for how Christians do magic is, how can they possibly balance the energy of large groups like the one in Bethel?  If you’re going to move energy for healing or for whatever purpose, it’s my understanding that the energy has to be contained, focused, and directed, requiring large-scale coordination.  You have a large number of people who haven’t really studied any of the prerequisites I have found necessary to create a solid container.   There are no anchors, there is no circle cast.    With essentially random people coming in without even a basic briefing on what to do at the beginning, how could they achieve the various forms of divination and healing work that Annika described to me?  I think Christians would say that Jesus does it, but my experience suggests that divine influence on these things is only one part of the equation.  How does what they are doing create the space for that?

Annika: When Autumn asked me about how charismatic Christians create a container, her question didn’t really make sense to me. In the past I had always perceived the energy during worship as ecstatic, beautiful, and completely safe. It was such a comfortable experience to just lose myself in worship, so this whole idea of containment, which I came to appreciate in Pagan rituals, seemed irrelevant with respect to Christian worship.

The worship team getting ready to play  / Annika Mongan
The worship team getting ready to play / Annika Mongan

Autumn: This roughly 45 minute worship/music bit at the beginning was my first opportunity to see how it worked.  At first, my shields were up, and while I could see the mechanics as I mentioned in part 1, other than a vague sense of energy moving somewhere, I wasn’t really perceiving the energy.  But this is what I was here to learn about, and so despite my fear, I started to open up a bit to sense what was going on.  Frankly, the power of what was happening was astonishing.  In my own personal perception of magic, this was orange energy — the sense of the color orange coming from the entire crowd — directed upwards toward the stage and … well, probably to Jesus, was exceptionally powerful.  Ordinarily I only sense energy that strongly at the peak of workings involving 30-50 people such as at a public Pagan gathering, so to see this much energy flowing continuously was pretty surprising.  The color was also unusual; my perception of Pagan rituals is that orange is rare; more frequently I perceive purple, blue, green, and sometimes red or yellow.

Annika: Praise and worship always felt like such an orange experience to me. Even when I was a child I felt like the room filled with an orange light whenever we worshipped, and I loved it. As I got older, I longed for more diversity in color, specifically purple, blue, and green. I remember saying to my husband at the time “I wish there was more purple, blue, and green in our worship. If I ever figure out a way to make this happen, I will write a book called ‘God is Purple, Blue, and Green.’” He thought I was crazy.

This time I was ready to reunite with some orange energy again. I get plenty of purple, blue, and green in Pagan rituals, and was excited for the warmness and “floatiness” of orange. I wanted to be open to the experience just as if I was still a Christian, so I didn’t put up any shields. I opened and felt into the orange energy, wondering if I could fully enter it even though the  message of the songs was so alienating. But something was wrong.

Autumn: As I opened to sensing the energy, I suddenly felt it tugging on the edges of my energy field, threatening to rip it off and carry it away.  The sensation was pretty strong, and a few tears welled up in my eyes as that orange color washed over me like the rapids of a river.  Whoa there!  A little too open, maybe.  I re-grounded myself, pushing my roots down deep so I could stand in that torrent, still able to perceive it but no longer in danger of being swept away by the current.  Now, fully grounded, I could safely see where the energy was going and what was happening without having to be afraid of it.

Annika: As much as I wanted to dive into the flow, the energy felt aggressive to me, like it was going to tear down my own energy body before I could experience it. It seemed like the energy would reverse the triple soul alignment I practice as a part of my spiritual path. I wasn’t going to experience this energy with my own energy body intact and if I allowed it in, it would take me away from myself. I became angry. This was invasive, like tentacles reaching for me, trying to take over. I still didn’t shield, I just held on to my own energy.

Autumn:  As I stood in that torrent, I gained some clarity on the purpose of all this.   The underlying subtext of what they were chanting was “I am nothing, Jesus is everything”.  Their own personal power to make things work in the world needed to be given up to Jesus.  And so the power they were channeling into the prayer service was not as I had been taught, drawn from the Earth and Sky, but intentionally depleting their personal power and energy.  That was the work they were doing, attempting to essentially divorce themselves of their own power, hand it to Jesus, and be completely open and empty as an end to itself.  I wondered, is that the state they consider to be pure and divinely inspired?  Is their human ability to love other people, to care about things besides Jesus and their worship, to even have a body and enjoy moving around in it, just in the way?   Magically, it began to make sense how this worked — you don’t need to balance everyone’s energy if the first thing you do is exhort everyone to give it all up and shoot it off into space.

A painting in the hallway at Bethel church / Painting by D. Jensen / Photograph by Annika Mongan
A painting in the hallway at Bethel church / Painting by D. Jensen / Photograph by Annika Mongan

Annika:I had been so excited to come here and lose myself in that orange energy again, but now it didn’t feel appealing anymore. I felt the disappointment wash over me. There was such lightness and bliss in losing oneself in that orange torrent, but I had never realized the cost. I didn’t know who I was back then, in fact, I wasn’t supposed to know, my identity was supposed to be in Jesus alone. Nowadays I know who I am, and I worked hard to come to a place where I like myself. I wasn’t going to give that up in order to join in worship.

Autumn: Toward the end of the musical part, there were a few folks dancing and moving around.  My sense of what was going on though was… well.  It’s really hard to say this because it feels as though I’m judging.  But it did not feel authentically from them — it felt like maybe random muscle twitching or some sort of forced “random looking” movements.  In a witch’s circle, where everyone is trying to express themselves authentically, no matter how someone moves, I don’t tend to get that sense.  (Even people who are ‘trying too hard’, clearly show that and that is authentic in its own way.)  People in that gymnasium seemed so empty of anything that was theirs — whether intellect, emotion, or spirit.   Yet it didn’t look like people were aspecting Jesus or even in their Fetch — there was just emptiness.   The sense was of a hall of mirrors where everyone was trying to reflect everyone else but there was very little there to actually reflect.  And again, while I feel like this is judging, it actually seemed intentional.

Annika: As I watched people dance, tears came into my eyes. So many memories. The lightness, the carefreeness, that sense of floating outside of myself, blissful disassociation. And now the sweetness and purity of those experiences were being re-written. It was painful to endure. Grief at the loss, anger at the deception, and gratitude for my new life, all tied in a bundle of emotions that threatened to overwhelm me.

I thought about the time I played music at a conference with Tony Campolo as the main speaker. After I left the stage, he started his sermon by asking if anyone ever goes out to find themselves and comes back claiming that they did. He meant it as a rhetorical question deriding the whole concept, and the conference attendees laughed. I didn’t. I was so upset by the question that I went outside and agonized over it. That day I decided that I would prove him wrong, and I did. I found myself. And just as a person who finds the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45), I knew I would give up everything for it, including the purity of my memories, and these experiences of worship.

Autumn: Immediately after the music bit, out came the offering bowls.  This was the first part of what was going on that I felt was unambiguously a bad idea.  In the Reclaiming tradition, we would consider it unethical to have a ritual dedicated for almost an hour to shedding our personal power followed by taking people’s money.  It would be like having the last gate at a Descent of Inanna ritual being “And now, it is time to hand over your wallet.  The ways of the underworld are perfect, and must not be questioned, don’tchaknow?”  Well, worse than that actually:  in the story of Inanna, she returns to power.  Whereas this Christian service seemed to be a one-way trip to dis-empowerment.

Annika: When they brought out the offering bowls, I was angry at how manipulative that was. I would have resented that even back when I was a Christian. Whether it is an honoring of Jesus, as I used to see it, or a giving up of personal power, as I think of it now, worship is never meant to be a setup for eliciting money from people. Taking financial advantage of people when their energy is altered through praise and worship is anathema.

Autumn:  As the flow of energy subsided, the offering bowls were withdrawn and the sermon began. I was again reminded of an Apple keynote speech as the preacher walked onto the stage, surrounded by darkness and flanked by huge glowing screens, to a simple, glass podium with a disposable bottle of water sitting close at hand.  And so the crowd settled in.  The topic of the sermon was how to be in the world despite the fear of how others thought of you, and how to deal with that fear.  Of course like many of us, I’ve experienced it, too:  how can I be myself in the world that doesn’t always accept and appreciate me?  Especially when I have felt extremely dis-empowered, the idea of being out in the world and speaking my truth was terrifying.  So I found it really fascinating that after everyone’s personal power had been blasted off into space that he clearly was going to speak of how to be confident in the world.

Annika: The sermon started out really good and I was surprised. After the offering fiasco, I was expecting a disaster of a give-us-money pep talk, but instead the preacher spoke of what we call “rightsizedness” in Reclaiming. “We either hide or we perform”, he said. We either make ourselves too small, or we blow ourselves up too big, but either way, we are not at our right size. This sounded like a sermon on empowerment, which was surprising and ironic given the worship-time-turned-money-drive. I started scribbling notes, confused, wondering if I had been too harsh in my judgment.

Autumn:  I can recall during that early part of the sermon exchanging approving glances with Annika.  The preacher’s approach to this challenge of being authentic started out in a way I could take in.  And, I can agree that focusing too much on the fear of being misunderstood or misrepresented can lead to the silencing of one’s voice, which segued into how he felt people should deal with that fear.  But things went pear-shaped for me shortly after that.  The preacher emphasized overpowering rejection through a personal relationship with God.  In particular, he exhorted us to “be an object of His love.  How can you love an object, I wondered?  Love is not a projection, it is a relationship.  I can be in loving relationship with trees, plants, even my beat-up old Mac laptop, but only if I don’t treat them as lifeless objects.  But I suppose it makes sense in the context of the magic they are doing:  by stripping oneself of all personal agency and power, they are becoming “objects”.  Of course, the reality is that these people are not objects, so to maintain this illusion such services have to be repeated at regular intervals.

Annika: “The only way I would care about what people think of me is because I doubt what God thinks of me. I make that choice!” – Wait, what? The preacher just said that?

What started out like a speech on empowerment turned into a sermon on willpower, without ever identifying it as such. If you don’t feel empowered, it’s because you don’t trust Jesus enough. You need to stop doubting. Only Jesus can empower you. Stop trying. You have to trust more. Stop trying so hard. Just trust. Why aren’t you trusting more? It’s no wonder you feel miserable, you’re trying too hard, so stop already and let Jesus do the work. Try harder to not try. You’re still trying too hard, try harder to stop trying, or else Jesus can’t fulfill and empower you! This theme was repeated for 45 minutes.

This was something I was familiar with. The power of will, so prominent in Evangelicalism. It’s the crazy-making cognitive dissonance between being told that you are simultaneously trying too hard (it’s all by grace alone), and not trying hard enough (if it’s not working, well, it’s not God’s fault, is it?).

Autumn:  During the remainder of the sermon, I know I went through a number of camera-worthy expressions of confusion, horror, and outright incredulousness at how someone could simultaneously tell people to let things happen, but if they didn’t happen a certain way, that it was their own fault.  The preacher gave a few examples of how this technique had worked with people he taught or preached to in the past, but by this time, I was getting pretty bored at the hammering of this theme.  I instead checked out the giant countdown clock over the control booth (they have a control booth?!) and waited for it to approach zero.

Sermon countdown clock / Annika Mongan
Sermon countdown clock / Annika Mongan

Annika: I kept glancing at the countdown clock, bursting with questions for Autumn, impatient to know what she thought of all this. When the timer finally approached zero, the sermon ended, and the preacher prayed a closing prayer, and I heaved a sigh of relief. But the service wasn’t over yet, now was the time for people to respond. The preacher reiterated some of his themes, asking people to come forward to become an object of His love, to open up to God’s blessings. He issued an invitation to submit to God, and to let one’s worth by defined by Jesus alone. People flocked forward, some of them crying, some on their knees, many with their arms raised to heaven. The worship team started playing again and people on stage stretched out hands toward the crowd, gesturing God’s blessings raining down on them. A few years ago I would have been among those rushing forward to receive, but not today.

Autumn:  Gathered around the preacher and the ‘worship team’, the congregation experienced the last bit of energy movement for the night.  I perceived little sprinkles of greenish energy sprinkling down from the preachers and worship team (not, I might add, from any divine source).  It seemed so tiny compared what had been given up.  I wondered how anyone could feel as though this was a beneficial exchange.   When I mentioned this observation to Annika, she said that when one is that empty, even a tiny bit of energy coming in can feel huge.  I suppose that makes sense.  If the value of a stock goes down 99% on one day, and then goes up 300% the next day, it seems like that second day was a huge gain.  But you’ve still lost 96% of the original value.  Maybe people in the congregation didn’t remember what they lost earlier, I thought.  But now I’m starting to realize that it isn’t that they didn’t remember it — they didn’t value it.  They didn’t value their personal power at all as something for themselves.  In this belief structure, the only thing that personal power is good for is praising Jesus.

Annika: Even now, several months later, I am not sure what to make of Autumn’s observation of the energy that happened after the sermon. I never perceived anything green, and didn’t notice any sprinkles. The fact that it looked like a tiny amount to Autumn surprised me as well. I remember those times, what we called “ministry time” or “soaking in the Spirit”, as an amazingly powerful and energy filled experience. Maybe there was a different quality to the energy? Maybe what Autumn perceived as green was so foreign to our orange giving of energy that it had a tremendous impact? I still have no idea.

Her interpretations make sense to me, but at times they are painful to take in. We’re talking about something I used to love so dearly that I dedicated my whole life to it. As I read through our reflections, they sound so negative, and it breaks my heart. I didn’t go to Bethel to further distance myself from Christianity, I went for the opposite reason. I wanted to reclaim some of the beauty, and instead I found myself focusing on how what I once loved now feels so wrong.

"Sacred Starbucks" / Annika Mongan
“Sacred Starbucks” / Annika Mongan

I hardly slept that night, mulling over conversations and experiences in my lucid dreams. The next morning we went back to Bethel and signed up for the healing rooms, famous the world over for miracles occurring as prayer ministers prophesy over people and lay on hands for healing. We will write about the prophesies we received and the healing ministry in part 3.


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

Born-Again Witch is published on alternate Mondays on the Agora. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

The Path of She: Wake to Goodness, Wake to Goddess

The Goddess, in simple terms, is the feminine face of Divinity, the sacred feminine.  Hers are the natural cycles that govern the Earth and our human lives, from birth, to life, to death, to rebirth.  Her deepest presence is a golden love that is the wellspring from which life emerges, is nurtured, and returns to at the end of its days. Our creative and life-nurturing impulses arise from Her being, as does our capacity to embrace and accept the inevitability of decline and death.

Image Courtesy of SheBard Media Inc.
Image Courtesy of SheBard Media Inc.

This concept of the Goddess and sacred feminine is foreign to our modern sensibilities. She has been relegated to the fringe of our collective psyche, repressed, belittled and denigrated. Yet She exists, regardless of our cultural disregard for Her presence and powers, ever available for our discovery and knowing.

Pagans understand the Goddess as immanence; She is everywhere and in all things. On a personal level, this means that you need not look any further than your own life-centered and love-based instincts, your innate goodness, to come to know Her.

I invite you to open up your heart to the Goddess, and to let Her reveal Herself in your life. For this week, pay close attention to occurrences in your everyday life that speak to you of the goodness of our human nature. These can be your inner impulses, outer actions or things you witness in others where kindness, compassion, love, generosity, acceptance or any other life-enhancing response is present. Remember to look for this goodness in happy and sad moments, and in those that speak of joy and of pain. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, our best life- and love-based instincts are often most clearly visible in our suffering.

Carry a journal book with you and record: the details of these experiences, your emotional, physical and energetic response, your perceptions of the responses of others, and any spontaneous insights that pop into your head. Do not analyze or try to reconcile these occurrences with your spiritual conceptions, Goddess or otherwise. For this week and this exercise, keep to experiences that are direct and visceral, unedited and raw, with the intention of coming into direct communion with the Goddess/sacred feminine inside of you and in your human kin.

This exercise may feel foreign to you, or you may already have a direct, profound relationship with the Goddess. Regardless, to spend a week with the intention of opening your heart and consciously witnessing/engaging the sacred feminine in your everyday life can change you.

I have come to fervently believe that our love and innate goodness are potent elixirs that can mend our hearts and heal our collective humanity. By opening to our unique dance with these essential, life-centered qualities, we can begin to return their healing, sacred feminine powers to the center of our personal lives and human society. When we wake to goodness, we wake to Goddess.


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

The Path of She is published on alternate Saturdays; follow it via RSS or e-mail!  If you like Karen’s work, like her page on Facebook or maybe buy her book, Tale of the Lost Daughter, a fictional spiritual adventure into the life-changing world of magic and the sacred feminine.

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Personal Gnosis: A Conversation

On Wednesday June 17 various writers from Patheos Pagan got together to discuss the roles deities play (or don’t play) in our lives. In the course of that conversation we touched on multiple topics. One of my favorite snippets of our chat was a discussion about personal gnosis.

“Unverifiable personal gnosis (UPG) is a neopagan concept. The general idea of UPG is that some insights into divinity and the universe come unbidden to a particular individual, and cannot be tested or verified by anyone else. This is most often the case with neopagans who feel “called” to a particular god or pantheon.-RationalWiki

For the record, parts of our initial conversation have been edited and rearranged for clarity. Our discussion was not argumentative, if it comes across that way it’s because I’ve failed as an editor. It’s not necessary to read part one of our chat, Atheism, Polytheism, and Pagans: A Discussion, but it does provide some context and a bit of intro to some of the persons involved.

Heimdallr brings forth the gift of the gods to mankind by Nils Asplund.  From WikiMedia.
Heimdallr brings forth the gift of the gods to mankind by Nils Asplund. From WikiMedia.

Jason Mankey (Raise the Horns): Why do our differences always feel so much greater online? When I go to a festival I always feel like it’s easy to find consensus around the campfire.

Ian Corrigan (Into the Mound): The people who don’t dig the fire-circle consensus stay at camp.

Rua Lupa (Paths Through the Forest): I agree with Ian, the same happens for Court at SCA events, and the bardic circles too.

Dana Corby (The Rantin Raven): Because everything is harder to communicate in writing. All the nuances are gone, not to mention the energy flow from person to person that actually carries nearly half our meaning.

Jason Mankey: How do you see the gods Ian? All separate? All inter-related some how?

Still can't believe Ian blogs here.
Still can’t believe Ian blogs here.
Ian Corrigan: I am a practical polytheist, with an unfixed opinion on just how many persons may actually be involved. I assume that similar gods from neighboring cultures are probably the same person.

Molly Khan (Heathen at Heart): I think there’s something to the online/offline dichotomy. In person I am cool enough with less scholarly or rigorous theology to hang out with, and honestly learn from, all sorts of Pagans. Online not so much.

Ian Corrigan: I don’t think that adherence to a formal theology has much value in a Pagan spirituality.

Shauna Aura Knight (Seeking the Grail): I think the Yoga reference is actually pretty useful here, because it’s a great example of a spiritual practice/ philosophy as well as a physical practice. Most people think of Yoga as just a physical practice. I see a lot of physical things being incredibly effective for ritual work, and for me, the physical practice/logistics, and the theology, don’t need to be in alignment.

The ritual work I do is about getting people into trance. I don’t care what their theology is. I’m there to use breathwork, movement, chanting, drumming, dancing, fire, decorations…I’m there to get their brains into an altered state. It’s just science.

Whatever people do with that altered state, whether it’s connecting to the Pantheistic All or their pantheon or a specific deity, or to their holy guardian angel or just their deepest self…that’s irrelevant. The practice, the physicality, the breath and the song, the altered state–it works.

Ian Corrigan: Yes, the practical value of religious activity is the generation of personal spiritual experience. Everything else is side-effect.

Molly Khan: More than meaning, I think relationship has a lot to do with it as well. When a particularly badly researched statement is made about a deity I honor in person, the respect and relationship I have with that person mitigates my reaction, both in my mind and out loud. Online that doesn’t happen nearly as often.

Ian Corrigan: I will always advocate for basing spiritual symbols on verifiable tradition. If one is simply in error about the flavor of a deity, it is as if one makes pie with cherries and calls it apple pie.

John Halstead (The Allergic Pagan): Molly, maybe it’s like two people that both know someone named Steve, but there’s more than one Steve out there. Ian, I put sour cream in my apple pie, and my wife doesn’t recognize it as apple pie-Who is the final authority on apple pies?

Ian Corrigan: Cultural consensus John.

John Halstead: Who speaks for the culture?

Ian: It speaks through local mouths . . . kinda like gods.

John: If that’s the case then, Freya may be a moon goddess, because probably most people are not scholars.

The Mighty Molly Khan
The Mighty Molly Khan
Molly: You both make great points! What I’m saying is,in person I’m happy to hang out and discuss these ideas without correction, but sometimes clarification of my point of view, because I generally like the people I’m taking time to spend time with. Online, it’s a lot easier to sigh and say “you’re wrong.”

Ian: John – I see us in a transitional phase in our revival. There is merit, still, in calling for a rigorous learning about what ancient Paganism was like. In time we’ll end up, I think, with new expressions of the gods shaped by our own culture, in the meantime I prefer a conservative ethos in the matter.

John: Ian, no superhero worship then?

Ian: Nor Tolkienian, nor Lovecraftian gods.

Molly: Ah, but was Tolkien picking up on Anglo-Saxon ideas of deities? I have some thoughts on him and ancient Paganism.

Ian: A fiction with resonance to the ancestors is at least better than one with none, perhaps. But fiction isn’t myth, nor vice-versa.

Jason: I know a lot of people have trouble with “personal gnosis” and especially online it usually comes with a hearty “that’s not in the myth” but for me that’s an important part of the experience. We know very little about Cernunnos but when John Beckett and I seem to describe the same god (through personal gnosis) that has to count for something right? Shouldn’t we be building a new understanding of the gods, using both the new and the old?

John: But Jason, you and John are part of the same subculture.

Ian: Jason – we *are* building it, I think – but the method is still lifting rocks from old buildings.

Jason: I think John and I come from very different worlds . . . Druid and Witch.

Shauna: I look at personal gnosis as this–back in the day, someone had personal gnosis about Isis, or Aphrodite, or Inanna, or Freya. How is our modern personal gnosis any less valid than that?

John Halstead aka Johnny Humanist
John Halstead aka Johnny Humanist
John: And I’ve heard people have the exact opposite experience — Star did a post about it years ago about Hephaestus. Jason, you’re both polytheists who are part of the .25%.

Jason: John and I have both gone to PantheaCon, but other than that . . . . . the way we ritualize is very different, the experiences of a BTW Witch are going to be very different from an OBOD Druid. But I love most Druids, they are definitely a part of my more extended tribe. I probably spend more time in the ADF Suites at festivals than the general Pagan or Witchy ones.

Ian: Personal gnosis is as valuable as its cultural cachet. One modern guy like to say he wants his innovations to ‘rhyme with’ tradition. I like that.

Molly: I agree, I think UPG is valid and incredibly important to each individual. These ideas can come together as cultural consensus, and I think in a lot of cases- Loki is a big one in heathenry – this has happened.

John: Someone else’s experience of Hephaestus didn’t resonate at all with hers — it seems like a case of confirmation bias.

Ian: UPG shapes one’s personal cult, but often ought to be set aside to attend village rites.

John: To me, we ignore the outliers.

Ian: Outliers with good ideas can get heard.

Molly: I think even outliers can be useful as Ian says, in that person’s personal rites. Like knowing someone in a very different way than the general public does.

John: I’m not trying to invalidate your experience, I just think this consensus thing is suspect.

Niki Whiting (A Witch’s Ashram): What we need is dinner, in person, with lots of mead and wine.

Spear of Athena: Books for the Curious and New

A new face shows up in the message boards, “where should I begin?” they inquire. It is rather painfully true that Hellenism has a dearth of “starter” material available, and what is available is often written by people who think they have the one “true” iteration of Hellenism. So most people just list primary and secondary resources with a sentence or two about them, which is good but perhaps not sufficient. Shifting to a polytheistic theology takes more than just reading a couple of books; it helps to learn about models which have persisted into the modern world too. So here is my slightly different “starter” books, two for historical background and two for just starting to foment a new perspective.

Images courtesy of (left to right) Harvard University Press / Harvard University Press / The University of North Carolina Press / Simon and Schuster
Images courtesy of (left to right)
Harvard University Press / Harvard University Press
The University of North Carolina Press / Simon and Schuster

Walter Burket, Greek Religion

Greek Religion is considered by many to be Burkert’s magnum opus, providing a detailed interpretation of the available archaeological data at the time. Greek Religion is an ambitious work. Beginning with the roots of the cultic practices as they emerged during the Mycenaean period and going to the end of the Classical age, Burkert provides a holistic look at the religious practices of the ancient Greeks. He examines major festivals, types of offerings, deities and how perceptions changed over time (as well as a cautious etymology for some names), and even a view of how philosophical schools interacted with and changed public perceptions of the gods and what we would call “religion.”

Burkert’s work is by no means perfect. He was not a polytheist himself. He was an academic and his interpretations of data are done to support the theories of ritual sacrifice that he put forward (as discussed and outlined in his work Homo Necans). So one must keep in mind these facts when reading his interpretations and explanations of data. His work, of course, tends to also be quite dry. Bearing these in mind will allow one to read one of the most important works available to modern day Hellenists and develop a broad historical background.

Paige duBois, A Million and One Gods: The Persistence of Polytheism

A Million and One Gods provides a brilliant examination of both how polytheism and polytheistic ideas have survived in the West and how they persist in even the Abrahamic faiths as well as a reasonable defense for polytheism. Part of her argument is based upon the tolerance that polytheistic faiths typically allow for and how this may be better suited for today’s pluralistic and multicultural societies. Her argument is sound, well-formed, and interesting and I recommend this book to everybody–polytheist and monotheist alike–it can provide a great foundation for getting rid of some monotheistic baggage.

Most importantly, the book makes a great case for the importance of polytheism and can give one hope for the long term viability of polytheism in today’s society. While it likely won’t directly inform any sort of practice, it will definitely expand your intellectual horizons regardless of theological position.

Jon D. Mikalson, Athenian Popular Religion

It is unfortunately true that much of what we know about ancient Greek theological concepts are those presented to us in the works of various philosophers, especially Plato. Thus the average citizen is viewed by some as a theological non-entity, an individual who offers to the gods but gives little thought to the machinations or nature of the deities. Unfortunately due to this dearth many folks have insisted that developing Western polytheistic schools of theology is completely unimportant due to the unimportance in ancient days. Mikalson’s work shows us just the contrary. While the average person was by no means a theologian, his work Athenian Popular Religion deftly demonstrates that ideas the average citizen had about the gods, the afterlife, and the ancestors had a profound effect upon their lives. At times these ideas would soothe their anxieties, at times they would heighten them especially in regards to what lies beyond the veil of this life.

The modern practitioner will be able to discern some important cultic concepts, this is true, but most importantly they will be able to determine for themselves how important developing these concepts and what makes the most sense to believe and practice in a modern setting as informed by the historical setting.

Sokyo Ono, Shinto: The Kami Way

Many Western polytheists carry around a lot of strange, dangerous, or contradictory concepts about how they should engage in their tradition and carry on with being a polytheist because of the lack of role models in our Protestant Christian society. While I am hesitant to refer to Shinto as polytheistic (kami, from what I have read and studied, are divine beings of degrees of power; calling them gods isn’t exactly a great translation). Many of the practices in the ethnoreligious tradition will be extremely familiar to most Western polytheists. For those of us engaging in reconstructionist efforts this short examination can be vitally useful in helping us determine what is worth reconstructing and what may be better left in the museums.

Sokyo Ono explains basic concepts in Shinto: the Kami Way such as shrines, worship styles, festivals theological concepts, and even how Shinto has interacted with Japan’s political and social climate over the years. This work is a true treasure for the Western polytheist and can really help us identify areas that may be problematic for us and ways in which we can remedy them.  More importantly you get to learn about a really cool, ancient, and continuous tradition that has survived interactions with both Buddhist and Christian missionaries.

Things to Remember

  1. It is helpful to remember, as Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan put it “the past has a vote, not a veto.” Just because something was or was not done in a particular way in ancient times doesn’t mean that you must do or not do it that way. Think about things critically and make your decisions carefully.
  2. Be patient. A lot of this material can be difficult for some individuals to process and even exceptionally intelligent people have to chew on this information to properly apply it. You may wind up reading a book two or three times. Personally, I make an effort to read the books I listed once a year. Rereading, while it can be tedious, can be immensely helpful and yield new insights.
  3. Synthesize information. Don’t simply say to yourself “well Burkert said …” read as many books as you can get your hands on and synthesize the information for your conclusions. It’ll help you and those you discuss praxis and theology with get an even better handle on concepts.
  4. Amidst your reading don’t forget to practice. Reading and getting a grasp on how all of this stuff works is pretty important but you cannot replace doing with studying. Part of being in a living tradition is well … living! Experience the gods and spirits and use that knowledge in conjunction with what you’ve been studying and you will do well.

Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

Spear of Athena is posted on alternate Thursdays here at the Agora.  Subscribe by RSS or e-mail!

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Socially Responsible Magic: Values, Assumptions, and Internal Work

[Author’s Note: This is my final post for Patheos. I’ve enjoyed writing for the Agora channel, especially on the subjects I’ve written about, but I’ve decided to put more time into some of my other writing projects. Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting.]

I’m reading Exorcising the Tree of Evil by William G. Gray. The title alone is interesting, with several possible ways it can be interpreted. What I find really interesting though is Gray’s perspective on the terms positive and negative. He points out that people have tendency to equate positive with good and negative with evil, and as a result miss something fundamental.

ScandinavianStock / shutterstock.com
ScandinavianStock / shutterstock.com

He explains in the following quote:

An absolute phobia has arisen concerning what is presumed to be ‘negative thought’. People have been pre-conditioned to the presumption that if they want to ‘think successful’ they will automatically attract to themselves whatever they think about. If they want to be rich they must ‘think riches’. If they want to be popular they must think everybody loves them and so on. Under no circumstances must they ever imagine anything evil or adverse ever happening to them. All they have to do is keep visualizing ‘positive prosperity’ – and it will be theirs. Somehow they identify the term ‘negative’ with all that is bad and undesirable, while the word ‘positive’ means what-ever may be good and pleasant. This completely erroneous association of words with values has probably caused more confusion than many other man-made mistakes.

There’s a lot there to ponder, but what I take away from it is how important it is to recognize that assigning absolute values to the concepts of positive and negative can cause you to miss out on actually understanding positive and negative as they show up in your life. As a writer and a magician, I find that its very important to examine the values we associate with words, because those values can lead us to making assumptions that actually keep us from effectively bringing change into our lives.

For example, if you associate the value of evil with adversity, then every time you experience adversity, you’ll think that you’re experiencing evil. However adversity isn’t inherently evil and can actually be positive because of how it teaches you to adapt to situations that come up in your life. Indeed, if you never encounter adversity it can be hard to develop a sense of connection and empathy with other people and their experiences.  This can, consequently, lead to treating those people poorly because of your lack of empathy. There is a role for adversity, and it isn’t inherently evil or good. We polarize the experiences we have, but the danger of doing that is that we may create a tunnel vision that stops us from really being present with the experience and learning from it.

A significant part of my own magical work involves internal work, meditation, and other techniques that are used to unpack the various assumptions, beliefs, etc.. Doing this work has taught me that you can learn from any type of experience, but what you learn is shaped by your outlook. Unless you are willing to unpack and explore what you bring to those experiences, you may find yourself limited in ways that aren’t serving you.

What are the values you bring to your life, magical work, etc., and how are you exploring those values to determine if they are serving you or holding you back (or both)?

Irish-American Witchcraft: Being an Irish Pagan in America

I seem to have started off with a bit of a theological theme, so continuing in that vein I thought I’d tackle a topic that comes up regularly for those of us who are not living in Ireland but who choose to honor Irish Gods. Because so much of the mythology of the Tuatha Dé Danann relates to specific places in Ireland, there can be a natural assumption that the Gods are somehow tied to these places or in some way contained there — or at least I have heard as much said by people arguing that only in Ireland can the Irish Gods be honored. Obviously, as a member of the Irish diaspora and as a polytheist who honors those Gods on American soil, I disagree.

Firstly, I’d like to point out that historically migrant populations have always carried their beliefs with them, rather than seeing their beliefs as fixed to specific places. We can see this if we look back at the original movement of the Celtic culture which brought certain Gods to the new lands; these deities are often called “pan-Celtic” because they can be found in some form in most or all Celtic cultures. We can also see this, for example, in the way the Dál Riada Irish brought some of the Tuatha Dé Danann to Scotland where the beliefs took root and blossomed into a different form.* Another non-Celtic example is the way that the Norse brought their Gods and understanding of spirits with them to Iceland.

So, there’s certainly historical precedent for the idea of Gods and spirits going with a population as it moves, or at least of the people retaining their beliefs which are then usually melded or slowly integrated into existing local beliefs. I have never felt that my connection to the Gods I honored was weakened by my distance from the place where their myths speak of them walking. Although I do believe that it is important to journey to those places and experience the land of those stories, I have absolutely no doubt that the Gods are present anywhere they choose to be and can create connections to any place where they are honored.

I live near the Atlantic ocean, albeit a different side of it than normally associated with the Irish Gods, but when I go to the ocean, no matter who I might try to connect to there, only Manannán mac Lír comes to me. Even after decades of trying to feel some sort of Goddess in the waves the only presence I find is his. It is his horses I see in the waves and his voice I hear in the surf. I do not know why this is, only that it is so for me, and that the shoreline here has become a sacred place for me to commune with the Irish God of the waves. I have also come to associate several local places with some of the Gods I honor.

Finding Manannán mac Lír on a different side of the Atlantic / EpicStockMedia / shutterstock.com
Finding Manannán mac Lír on a different side of the Atlantic / EpicStockMedia / shutterstock.com

Very close to my home is a river, named as so many things are in New England, after a well-known river in England. Years ago as I began to nurture a stronger connection to the Irish God Nuada I began to experience many things near the river that seemed to relate to him, including one of the most intense omens of my life. After asking for a sign from Nuada about whether or not I should honor him, as I drove on a road parallel to the river, an eagle with a fish in its talons flew a dozen feet above me for over a hundred feet, dripping blood and water onto the hood of my car the entire way.

As time went on I slowly came to associate this river with Nuada, something that felt appropriate even though I had no solid explanation for it. Later in conversation a friend mentioned that she also associated a river local to her with Nuada and  we came to realize that although we live in very different places both rivers host naval bases, which is certainly an interesting coincidence at least. As I studied Nuada further I found that he is sometimes believed by scholars to be cognate to the Celtic God Nodens who had a shrine near the river Severn in England; Nuada may also be the same as the Irish God Nechtan** who is associated with the Well of Segais which became the source of the river Boyne. I like to go to my local river to make offerings to him and pray, and these have been well received so far.

A Revolutionary War era fort I associate with the Morrignae / Morgan Daimler
A Revolutionary War era fort I associate with the Morrigna / Morgan Daimler

In the neighboring town there is an old revolutionary war military fort, now little more than an angular mound of grass-covered earth ringing a hollow.  The site of a massacre in 1781 and in use as a tactical military fort for more than a hundred years after that locals say it is haunted and that spirits of soldiers hundreds of years dead can be seen still walking the walls. I find it to be a deeply sacred place, existing as it does on a height above a river, and so strongly reminiscent of the old raths. I see the Morrigna there, all three of them, especially at twilight. I feel their presence there and a connection to them that is more intense than elsewhere. It is a good place for me to go to feel more connected to them or to pray when I need insight.

I have experienced numinous moments here in America when the presence of the Irish Gods was strong and clear. In a group ritual to Brighid there was a candle for her on the main altar which burned out; later in the ritual as we all sang an invocation song to her the candle spontaneously re-lit and continued to burn until the song ended. In my work at the Morrigan’s Call Retreat over the last two years I have felt the presence of Badb, Macha, and the Morrigan fill and bless places new to them as their devotees call them, chanting, singing, crying out, over and over until the very air vibrates. At Wellspring, an annual gathering of ADF Druids, when the Morrigan was invoked the temperature dropped so sharply that people’s breathe could suddenly be seen misting in the air, an effect that was noticeable for the duration of the ritual, then when it was over the temperature returned to normal. After my son was born, when I was critically ill with a post-partum complication, I called out and was answered by Flidais, whose steady presence helped me put aside my own panic; later in the hospital I prayed and made an offering to her and experienced a miracle, one of the only ones I’ve ever had happen.

Invoking the Irish Gods into new lands, the Morrigan's Call Retreat 2014 / Morgan Daimler
Invoking the Irish Gods into new lands, the Morrigan’s Call Retreat 2014 / Morgan Daimler

Pagan Gods are not easily limited or contained. They are vast and mighty, and there is something in them that resonates strongly with those of us who honor them. The Tuatha Dé Danann are firmly rooted in Ireland, in the landscape and in the old myths – but they are also present elsewhere, carried across oceans by those who believe, anchored in new places by the lips that call out their names and the hands that pour out offerings to them. The Gods go where their worshipers go, and as Epona’s worship was carried all the way to Rome, so the Irish Gods are thriving on foreign soil.

* There are some key differences that have developed in the Scottish mythology of deities like Angus mac Og and Brighid, for example, so that we find stories of these Gods in Scotland which do not exist in Ireland.

** In the Silva Gadelica, Nuada is called Nuada Necht and scholars, including Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, suggest both Nechtan and Elcmar may be other names of Nuada.


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

Irish-American Witchcraft is published on the first and third Tuesday of a month.  Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Seeking the Grail: Filling My Cup – A Creativity Exercise

You may not consider yourself a poet–and I’m certainly not a genius at it–but here’s a simple poetry exercise that you can use as a form of personal work, brainstorming, or just to get your creative engine going. In this case, I crafted this poem during a workshop focusing (as probably won’t surprise you) on the myth of the Grail Quest. We were exploring specifically what inspired us, what “filled our cup,” and we were encouraged to craft a poem in the shape of a cup to work with that.

facebookbloggraphic_grailpoem

 

You can pick any shape for your poem. An apple, a mirror, a tree. The Grail-shaped cup  is also an easy shape to work with for a poem. What I find works well for a poem like this is to just not worry about how “good” of a poem it is. Write down a few words or phrases that connect to the concept for you, and then work them into the shape.

What about you? What fills your cup? What inspires you? What connects you to the divine?

Filling My Cup

I am filled with deep bright passion
Wishing reaching seeking creating, I blaze
I believe in the impossible
I stand in Sunlight and Moonlight
Filled by the waters below
I shine in a blaze of fire and sun
Reaching for my dreams
Reaching for a vision
I have wings
Lit by the big idea
That pours the water
Out of me
Held
By a
Center
Of
Paradox
Filled
By the
Waters of
Inspiration
Imagination, illumination
The well of creativity
Rises up through the roots that
Reach deep into the well-waters of my soul

Painting, designing, writing, solving problems
Haul rocks, building  temples, planning events, feeling love

Poem First published in CIRCLE Magazine, issue 104, Fall 2009


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

Seeking the Grail is published on monthly on the third Monday. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

Image above courtesy of the author.

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

The Rantin’ Raven: The Perfect Couple – Ideal or Illusion?

The Goddess, alone in the universe She had created, felt a need to be companion-ed, mirrored, partnered. So She divided Herself to create that partner, and the God was born. To see Him was to desire Him, and the Goddess felt desire. Dancing, swaying, singing the first spell ever known, She seduced Him. They loved and were One again; and out of Their love the world of matter was born.
In one form or another, this is the central myth of Traditional Wicca. The Goddess and God, the Perfect Couple, completing each other on all levels and in that completion creating the Universe. It is a beautiful myth, one of enormous power both magically and psychologically.

Kaveryn Kiryl / shutterstock.com
Kaveryn Kiryl / shutterstock.com

In our rituals the theme is repeated, as the Priest and Priestess take on the mantle of Deity to enact the myth, embrace in the kiss of consecration, and symbolically or directly to perform the Great Rite, the heiros gamos. To the participant in such a ritual, even just as an observer, the experience is profoundly moving, sometimes even disturbing.

Nothing in modern society prepares us for this open, unabashed celebration of the sexual urge as something holy. Yet to the inherently mystical personality, that fact has always been self-evident. If life is good — and it is — then that which gives life and joy and a sense of completion is more than good. It is divine.

The Jungian theory of the anima and animus, each man’s inner feminine, each woman’s inner masculine component, restates the myth in psychological rather than religious terms and reiterates the theme of the reunification of sundered halves to make a whole that is all the more complete for having known separateness. This seeking for a lost “other half” is why we are attracted to the people we are: they remind us of our own animus or anima. Jung would say that we “project” it onto potential mates.

When the process takes place entirely in the unconscious, behind the scenes as it were, it can lead to disaster. We marry a harridan just like Mom, a wife-beater just like Dad. Or we waste our life in increasingly frantic bed-hopping, hoping that this will finally be “the one”. Or we quit hoping at all, and settle for meaninglessness.

With Wiccans, the process is deliberate, and therefore (theoretically) under some control. We see someone as anima or animus, as Goddess or God, because we choose to. We invoke divinity into a particular person, and like the attendees at a 19th-century séance, relate to the Personage through the medium of the person. There is a strong resemblance, here, to some of the practices of Tantra.
Abraham Maslow, in his “Religions, Values and Peak Experience”, argues persuasively that a man who cannot sometimes see his wife as a goddess, a woman who never sees her husband as a god, does not really love. Granting Maslow’s 30-years-out-of-date conventionality in specifying “wife” and “husband” rather than “woman” and “man”, every Wiccan would agree. In Circle and out of it, we have the uniquely Wiccan delight of embracing a God, a Goddess, and knowing it.

But …

In Irish mythology, it was said that on the night before a battle the Morrigan, Goddess of battle and lust, used her foreknowledge to choose a lover from among those champions destined to be slain. All night long She loved him as deeply, as fiercely, and as perfectly as only a Goddess can. And when his death was upon him he died gladly, knowing that he had indeed been loved by a Goddess, and that the love of mortal women, even life itself, would be but ashes thereafter.

Something rather like that seems to happen to some Wiccans. Having once experienced the sexual epiphany of a powerful Great Rite, some of us thereafter need all our sexual encounters to be that earth-shaking. Like the love of the Morrigan, our Divine encounters seem to leave us unfit for the joys of ordinary mortals, unable to enjoy the kind of tired-but-horny bedtime lovemaking that is the pleasant staple of most couples’ sexual diet.

In a disturbing mirror-image of Maslow’s observation, we can not only sometimes see the God or Goddess in our beloved, we require it of them.

We become unable or unwilling to continue loving once it dawns on us that most of the time this being we have hooked up with is an ordinary mortal who gains weight, disagrees with us, and farts in bed. We feel cheated and betrayed, and go looking for another Perfect Lover to carry us with little effort on our part into realms of ecstasy.

Instead of enriching and ennobling our relationships, as our unique perspective ought to, more often than not it merely destabilizes them. The ideal of the Perfect Couple becomes a phantasm, a sad, dysfunctional fantasy need.

Part of the priest-craft of the Craft is learning to assume the mantle of the Goddess or God at will; a part of it also is — or should be — turning it off again at the Circle’s edge. Except for those moments in ritual, magical partners, even when they are also lovers, are not the Perfect Couple.

Perfect union, perfect love, cannot exist in this plane. Not for long. It is possible only to partake of that perfection once in a while, when we’re lucky or the Gods are with us. Recognize it for the miracle it is, revel in it, rut in it, but don’t count on it.
And the next time your lover farts in bed, snuggle close and whisper, “Thou art God.”


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

The Rantin’ Raven is published on alternate Saturdays here on the Agora. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Adventures in Wortcunning: The Myrtle of Venus & Bacchus’ Vine

Today, we call it the “Star Spangled Banner”. The lyrics we most often sing (read as: mumble) at the start of a ball game were written in 1812 by Francis Scott Key to accompany a popular melody of the time. It has only been the US National anthem since 1931.

Painting (by LTJG James Murray) of Francis Scott Key penning the Star Spangled Banner, NHHC Photo NH 86765-KN
Painting (by LTJG James Murray) of Francis Scott Key penning the Star Spangled Banner, NHHC Photo NH 86765-KN

Below are the original lyrics to that drinking song as first published in 1778 with a added few notes:

  • The song was composed to be the anthem of a gentleman’s drinking club, devoted to wine, women and song – perhaps in that order.
  • Anacreon is the name of a famous Greek poet with similar tastes who lived some 2500 years ago, long before we ‘found’ the North American continent and called it ‘the New World’.  Momus is the god of mockery and satire.
  • The song tells of men who ask Anacreon, the poet to sponsor their club. He says yes, and “I will also…” All the trouble ensues from there. I won’t ruin the ending for you.
  • One of the herbs appearing in the song is Myrtle (myrtus communis) sacred to Venus/Astarte. It is infused in water and used for youth,  love, fertility and prosperity workings. Bacchusvine was of course the grape, which has long associations with fertility, lineage and abundance as well as over-indulgence and drunkenness. Bay Laurel is used to impart protection, healing, psychic powers, strength and purification.
  • This poetry was written as solo performance art, meant to be spoken or sung by one person with musical accompaniment. This means the melody is as much a part of the song as the words. Think of “Stairway to Heaven” or “Amazing Grace” – it would be difficult to separate the words from the music in your mind. The same was true for people of the time. Hearing the tune naturally would bring to mind it’s original words.

These are those words:

To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition
That he their Inspirer and Patron would be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian:
“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, no longer be mute,
I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,

And besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

The news through Olympus immediately flew;
When Old Thunder pretended to give himself airs.
“If these Mortals are suffered their scheme to pursue,
The devil a Goddess will stay above stairs.
Hark, already they cry, in transports of joy,
Away to the Sons of Anacreon we’ll fly,

And there with good fellows, we’ll learn to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’ Vine.”

“The Yellow-Haired God and his nine lusty Maids
From Helicon’s banks will incontinent flee,
Idalia will boast but of tenantless shades,
And the bi-forked hill a mere desert will be.
My Thunder no fear on’t, shall soon do its errand,
And dam’me I’ll swing the Ringleaders I warrant.

I’ll trim the young dogs, for thus daring to twine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

Apollo rose up, and said, “Pry’thee ne’er quarrel,
Good King of the Gods, with My Vot’ries below:
Your Thunder is useless” — then showing his laurel,
Cry’d “Sic evitabile fulmen” you know!
Then over each head, my laurels I’ll spread,
So my sons from your Crackers no mischief shall dread,

Whilst, snug in their clubroom, they jovially twine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

Next Momus got up with his risible Phiz
And swore with Apollo he’d cheerfully join —
“The full tide of Harmony still shall be his,
But the Song, and the Catch, and the Laugh shall be mine.
Then, Jove, be not jealous of these honest fellows.”
Cry’d Jove, “We relent, since the truth you now tell us;

And swear by Old Styx, that they long shall intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”

Ye Sons of Anacreon, then join hand in hand;
Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love!
‘Tis yours to support what’s so happily plann’d;
You’ve the sanction of Gods, and the Fiat of Jove.
While thus we agree, our toast let it be:
“May our Club flourish happy, united, and free!

And long may the Sons of Anacreon intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”  

Thank you to herb lore master S. Cunningham and Wikipedia for making this research so much easier. And much gratitude to Ralph Tomlinson  & John Smith for composing the original lyric and tune.

And Happy Birthday to that merry club! Long may we flourish as we “intwine” the Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’ Vine.

Who says we aren’t a Pagan nation!?


Patheos Pagan
Click here to like
Patheos Pagan on Facebook.
The Agora
Click here to like
the Agora on Facebook

Adventures in Wortcunning is published on alternate Fridays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail.

Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.

Follow Us!



Browse Our Archives