Expanding Circles

expanding circles

Pagan groups are notoriously volatile, in the chemical sense of the word:  they evaporate quickly.  Sometimes they’re volatile in the commonly used sense of the word:  they change rapidly, unpredictably, and for the worse.  Much of this volatility comes from a lack of understanding of what is required to form and maintain a functional and healthy religious group.Good religious groups may evolve organically without any structural planning (or even structural awareness) but like biological evol … [Read more...]

Planning Special Rituals

02 20 Roman Forum

I’ve always loved ritual.  The opportunity to compose, lead, and participate in ritual is one of my favorite things about being Pagan.  So it’s no surprise I write about ritual a lot – here are some of my favorite pieces:A Pagan Ritual OutlineCommon Ritual Errors and How to Avoid ThemThe Challenges of Large Public RitualsLast week I saw a request for help on a child naming ceremony.  Then earlier this week I responded to a Facebook request for suggestions on composing a ritual for … [Read more...]

Cernunnos

Cernunnos square

I was a devotee and a priest of Cernunnos long before I started this blog.  Over the years I’ve told parts of my story with Him (here, here, and here, for a good start), probably enough for a diligent reader to piece the whole thing together, if one was so inclined.  I’ve reviewed a very good book of devotions to Him written by others.  What I haven’t done is talk about who and what He is, as He’s presented himself to me.Let’s start with what we know about the history of Cernunnos, which can … [Read more...]

The Four Centers of Paganism

Centers of Paganism

Welcome to Under the Ancient Oaks, a thoughtful little blog on the Patheos Pagan Channel.  I’m John Beckett, and as the header says, I’m a Pagan, a Druid, and a Unitarian Universalist.  Earlier this week I felt called to respond to the misogyny in our society after the killings in Isla Vista, California.  Apparently what I had to say resonated with a lot of people, because traffic on this blog is up.  A lot.  More people read Dude, It’s You in its first 24 hours than visit in a typical month. … [Read more...]

Dude, It’s You

Choose

I don’t write much about gender relations.  Actually, I don’t write about them at all.  I have generally progressive views, but as a straight man who’s been in a monogamous relationship for 27 years, I figure that whatever I have to say, someone who’s closer to the situation can say it better and with more authority.But sometimes I just have to say something and this is one of those times.By now you’ve surely heard the story of Elliot Rodger, who murdered 6 people and injured 13 others.   … [Read more...]

Memorial Day Reflection

02 09 Boston Common

The beginning of Summer in the United States is neither Beltane nor Summer Solstice but today, the start of the Memorial Day weekend.  All across the country, swimming pools will open, there will be cookouts and parades, and Hollywood moves firmly into popcorn movie season.  The Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, as is NASCAR’s longest race.  If your school isn’t out already it will be shortly.  Summer is at hand. As much as the Nature-centered Pagan in me likes the idea of the whole country celebra … [Read more...]

Meaning and Proof

08 19 Newgrange 4x3

Thorn Coyle posted a quote on her Facebook page on Sunday and asked for responses: Truth to drum into the next generation:  trusting your religious experiences have meaning is stupid. You have to *prove* they have meaning. – Vinay Gupta My first response was to wonder about the context of the quote.  I did a bit of googling on Vinay Gupta and didn’t turn up anything specifically related to this quote.  He appears to be a futurist along the lines of John Michael Greer, only from a tech perspe … [Read more...]

Nine Things I Think

07 07 Faerie Fort

Nine Things I Think is an irregular feature whenever I have a list of things I want to talk about that aren’t long enough for their own individual posts.  There’s no theme, just nine things I want to bring to your attention.  Feel free to expand on any of these topics in the comments section.1) I’ve lived in Texas for twelve years and as I wrote last month, it’s time to stop thinking of Texas as “where I live” and start thinking of Texas as home.  So I borrowed one of Cathy’s history books:  … [Read more...]


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