3 Events, 2 Books, and a Crow in a Live Oak Tree

3 Events, 2 Books, and a Crow in a Live Oak Tree December 21, 2017

Happy Solstice! The astronomical Winter Solstice is this morning at 10:28 AM Central Time. The worst of Winter is yet to come, but from this point forward the days will be getting longer. The light is returning.

We Pagans may have celebrated last night, or as Denton CUUPS did, last Saturday. But we are a tiny minority – the bulk of the Western world is getting ready to celebrate Christmas on Monday. That means we’re going to be tied up with family and friends, and the Pagan internet is about to become as dead as Marley’s ghost.

But before you go, I have some announcements and two mini book reviews. Oh… and a crow in a live oak tree.

ADF Texas Imbolc: February 9 – 11

This will be my 5th year speaking at the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat at the U Bar U retreat center in Mountain Home, Texas. Here are my thoughts on last year’s retreat – you can search for the previous years if you like.

I’ll be presenting “Building Alliances Across Our Many Communities.”

Our need for strong tribes is great, but so is our need for alliances with other tribes who share our concerns even if they do not share our beliefs and practices. This presentation will explore how we can form and maintain intrafaith alliances with other Pagan groups, interfaith alliances with other religions, and secular alliances with non-religious groups. It will also look at our relationships with our spiritual allies in this world and beyond. And it will look at how we can work with others for the common good even when we have disagreements with them.

This is my Pantheacon presentation. I get to do my first public presentation in front of a small friendly audience, and those who are there get to hear it a week before everyone else.

This gathering is suitable for Pagans and polytheists of all varieties and you don’t have to be a member of ADF to attend. And it’s drivable from almost any place in Texas. The cost is reasonable, the accommodations are nice, and the conversation is excellent. If you can make it I highly recommend it.

the main ritual at the 2017 ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat
the main ritual at the 2017 ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat

Pantheacon: February 16 – 19

The next week I’ll be at Pantheacon in San Jose, California. Pantheacon is the largest indoor Pagan gathering in the world. I’ll be speaking on “Building Alliances Across Our Many Communities” on Saturday at 11:00 AM in the Carmel/ Monterey Room.

On Sunday at 1:30 PM I’ll be speaking on “The Shredded Veil” in the OBOD hospitality suite. The first part of this presentation will be my observations and thoughts around what many of us have been experiencing over the past few years, as I described in The Veil Is Shredded. The second part will be an open discussion where we can share our recent Otherworldly experiences and compare notes, so we can refine our thinking about what’s going on.

I’ll also be doing at least one and possibly two presentations in the ADF hospitality suite – more details on those once they’re finalized.

CUUPS Convocation: April 20 – 22

There were 12 years between the CUUPS Convocation in 2004 and the last one in 2016. We’re doing better: the next one will be April 20 – 22 in Fort Myers, Florida. I’ll be one of the featured guests, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet. Possibly the Building Alliances presentation, but possibly something new – it depends on what comes up between now and then.

If you’re going, I encourage you to register early. Local CUUPS members had to deal with Hurricane Irma and its aftermath instead of planning and promoting Convo – they’re getting a late start. But all is well and back on schedule and they could use the early commitments.

If you’re a UU Pagan and you have the ability to travel, I strongly encourage you to support the only national gathering for CUUPS.

Brigid

Brigid by Courtney WeberBrigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess
by Courtney Weber
published by Weiser Books: May 2015
256 pages
Paperback: $18.95

I picked this book up from the author at the Beyond the Gates retreat last August. After I heard Courtney Weber talk about her experiences of Brigid and her relationship with Her, I knew I wanted to read the book.

This is neither a devotional book (though it is certainly a work of devotion) nor an academic book. Rather, it’s a collection of stories and legends about Brigid from Ireland and other places where the Goddess and the saint have been known. And it’s the experiences the author has had with Her. She mixes in meditations, rituals, and spells.

I’m not sure who the intended audience was, but it strikes me as perfect for beginning witches and Pagans who are starting out on a Celtic-inspired path. Weber’s cautionary tales against making casual promises to Goddesses make it clear that Brigid is an individual with Her own agency – and one who expects promises to be kept. But the book doesn’t get into the details of polytheist theology and practice.

It’s an easy read, and while it’s not a work of academic history, the history in it is good. If you’re looking for an introduction to Brigid, or to Celtic-inspired Paganism, give it a try.

The Darkening Age

the darkening age_12_jpg_260_400The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World
by Catherine Nixey
published by Macmillan: September 2017
352 pages
Hardback: $23.64

“That all superstition of pagans and heathens should be annihilated is what God wants, God commands, God proclaims!” – St. Augustine

The particular form of Christianity I grew up in didn’t pay much attention to church history. They jumped from Revelation to D.L. Moody (1837-1899) with barely a stop for Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. I was left with the idea that the early Christians were persecuted, then Constantine made Christianity legal, then missionaries gradually converted all of Europe and some of the Near East.

That certainly happened, but it’s far from the whole story. In many places, when Christianity became the official state religion other religions became illegal. While many people saw their conversion as something personal, and some (in good polytheist fashion) simply added Jesus to the list of Gods they worshipped, zealous Christians tried to wipe the old Gods and their followers from the face of the Earth.

They were largely successful. Only 1% of all Latin literature remains to this day. Much was willfully destroyed and some was simply left to decay. Temples were torn down or seized to become churches. The Parthenon – a temple to Athena – was used as a church for over 800 years. The Greek academies were closed and the teaching of philosophy was banned. Hypatia’s violent murder by a crowd in 405 CE is far from the only pagan martyrdom.

The author says:

This is not to say that the Church didn’t also preserve things: it did. But the story of Christianity’s good works in this period has been told again and again … the history and the sufferings of those whom Christianity defeated have not. This book concentrates on them.

The violence of these early zealous Christians is not very different from what Daesh is doing today in the name of Islam. And make no mistake – there are zealots in every religion who are more than willing to destroy and kill for the purity of their faith. Only by defending the religious freedom of all can we insure their evil is turned back.

Nixey is a journalist, not a historian. The book is heavily footnoted, but she is telling a story, not compiling a list of facts. The Darkening Age is an easy read, but it is not a pleasant read.

It is also a necessary read.

And a crow in a live oak tree

I’m not quite done for the year. I’ll have the usual Under the Ancient Oaks year-end features next week. “The 4 Best Posts of 2017 You Didn’t Read” will be up on Sunday, and “The Top 10 Posts of 2017” will be up on Wednesday.

I’ll return to my regular blogging schedule on January 2.

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