“Naming The Goddess”

Naming the Goddess

I recently read a book entitled, “Naming the Goddess” by Trevor Greenfield of Moon Books. It is a collection of essays written by various worshipers of the Goddess, followed by a description of more than 70 Goddesses from around the world.

Part 1 contains 13 essays by people who openly discuss their own personal experiences working with the Goddess.  Readers learn a great deal about how the Goddess culture defines much of society today. For instance, did you know the Statue of Liberty was fashioned after the Roman deity to freedom?

Other subjects include:

  • Ancient Goddesses in a Modern World
  • Goddess Culture and the Empowerment of Gay Women and Men
  • The Role of Goddess in Accepting our Self and our Life-Stage
  • The Goddess as a Role Model for Women in Politics
  • Reclaiming Sophia and the Saints from the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Part 2 contains the description of 72 Goddess listed in alphabetical order. Numerous contributors share the history and energy of their chosen Goddess, from a variety of pantheons.

I found the personal accounts of these people very interesting. Many had personal experiences with the energy of their patron deity. Some felt called by a long extinct and antiquated divine presence. Many felt it their mission to raise awareness of a regional Goddess who had been nearly forgotten.

I think this book would do well in anyone’s collection as a reference manual for Goddesses and their places in our lives. It is not a complete reference manual, however. For instance, the African pantheon did not seem addressed (outside of Egypt), and I was personally disappointed to find Lilith lacking in the list (my own Goddess of choice).

I enjoyed the book, nonetheless, and would recommend it as a good primer to Goddess worship in general.

 

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Review: “When A Pagan Prays” by Nimue Brown

 

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I never really liked prayer when I was a Christian. The act of bowing my head in church and listening to somebody else represent my needs to the Divine Father never made me feel connected or represented. I could never close my eyes while standing because vertigo would take over and I would feel myself weaving. My eyes would snap open with visions of me lying sprawled in the aisle. I would stare at my feet, at the backside of the people in front of me, or I would take surreptitious glances around the room to see who else had their eyes open.

My own personal prayers weren’t much better. They always seemed too formal and scripted. “My loving heavenly father…..in Jesus name, Amen.” Sometimes I didn’t want to say those words. I wanted to feel the presence of the divine and telepathically send out my feelings of awe, gratitude, and love.

When I step out into nature and stand before a breathtaking sunset or revel in the power of the ocean, I want to open my arms wide and stare up into the sky with eyes and heart open and receptive. I don’t feel inclined to drop to my knees, bow my head, cross my arms over my chest, and act penitent. Such a position implies humiliation before a disciplining tyrant. Like a dog that’s been whipped too many times and has only learned to cower.

Prayer should be a spiritual experience, not a religious experience. Prayer is the ache which comes from the heart moved beyond words.

As a recovering Christian, I still felt the urge to pray but didn’t know how to go about it without engaging my mind to the exclusion of my heart. For this reason, I decided to read “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond” by Nimue Brown.

I’ve read a lot of pagan literature and was anticipating a light-read with this book. I was wrong. Ms. Brown’s approach to prayer was intelligent and scientific. She made many of the same observations I have always felt regarding formalized prayer. She even gives a recipe for successful prayers versus empty prayers. The book is honest and the author reveals her humanity throughout.

I am not a Druid, but I did not feel the information was limited to Druids alone. The information is valuable for anyone who has experienced a spiritual crisis and is finding prayer either a major turn-off or a challenge. In the last pages of the book, the author reveals the changes she has noticed in her life thanks to a regular practice of prayer.

Who does a recovering Christian pray to? This is a question I have asked myself numerous times. I find any word associated with my life as a Christian very off-putting. This includes: God, Jesus, Jehovah, Lord, Heavenly Father, Almighty, etc. When I do attempt prayer I address: Ancestors, Ascended Masters, Spirit Guides, possibly even Archangels since they were not  a prominent part of my Christian instruction. (When I first got started as a Pagan I addressed Goddess, but always felt rather silly so I stopped).

Ms. Brown addresses:

  • Who should we pray to?
  • Does prayer really works or is it just a placebo?
  • The social ethics to praying.
  • Different kinds of prayer and different ways of praying.
  • Can we live a prayer-filled life? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • How do we know if our prayers are answered?
  • Why isn’t deity more forthcoming with his/her responses?

I found the book very interesting and informative. Ms. Brown admits to being a bit of a wordsmith, so the text sometimes bogs down and turning the pages becomes difficult. It took me all month to read the book, and some of it I scanned through because the information didn’t seem wholly necessary to the overall theme. But I am very glad I finished “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond,”  because I found a greater appreciation for the author as a wordsmith, a Pagan, and a woman with struggles and flaws. I recommend it to anyone looking to explore an aspect of humanity that is often taken for granted.

 

 

 

Thursday’s News & Reviews: Armageddon Preppers

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From infancy I was taught faithfulness above all else. As a dedicated member of the Watchtower Society, I was trained to accept counsel and direction without question. To question implied a weak faith and vulnerability to the Satanic trait of rebellion.

I remember the first time I chose to disagree with something published by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s). It was 1999. A was laying in bed in a cute little house I rented on the west end of Bend, Oregon. The spring breezes were wafting in the window and stirring the drapes around me. I was reading an article in the latest Watchtower magazine, which discouraged permanent forms of birth control (i.e. vasectomies, tubal ligation, etc.). As a person who never wanted children I found this a veritable death sentence. I didn’t just not want kids. I hated the little buggers! To feel like I was being forced into motherhood was more than I could swallow. The foundation of my faith cracked that day–a profound, irrevocable fissure that would lead to more and more weakening of my faith until the structure finally crumbled.

Fast forward 10 years to 2009. I was attending a meeting at my local Kingdom Hall when I heard a talk on “Go-Bags.” These were handy little receptacles a “faithful” JW would keep packed with essentials in the likelihood of “natural disaster.” They should be kept handy in the trunk of the car in case of instant and life-threatening need. Water, flashlights, batteries, change of clothes, food, compass–whatever one might need in a natural disaster. This talk fell right on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, so it may sound logical to some. It wasn’t logical in Central Oregon. The only natural disaster that threatened that part of the country was volcanic, and it’s not like the Cascade mountains are known for blowing up without warning. (This article in no way discourages disaster preparedness. If you live in an area known for natural disasters, power outages, or extreme weather please make the necessary preparations to protect yourself and your family.)

My bullshit detector went off. I knew the JW “brothers” were intentionally avoiding the mention of Armageddon or the Great Tribulation by couching their warnings in terms like “natural disaster.” For the first time in history, JW’s were being encouraged to prepare for “the end of this system of things” by putting bottles of water and granola bars in backpacks. The brother on the stage even insinuated this was a matter of faith, and the faithful would obey without question.

My bullshit detector was screaming. I’m surprised no one else heard it. One brother did hear about it after the meeting.  I approached him and asked him why he thought we were in danger of hurricane in landlocked central Oregon. He told me any number of other disasters could happen: earthquake, flooding (in the desert?!), spontaneous volcanic explosion, etc.

Up until this point, we had always been trained to believe that Jehovah would protect his followers when Armageddon struck. I told this “brother” that I thought go-bags were showing a lack of faith in God and his ability to take care of his people. I was given a patronizing look that indicated I was a sister and needed to stop asking questions.

So I did the next logical thing: I went to my dad. He had always been my rock. He knew the bible backwards and forwards and had read every piece of literature published by the Watchtower society since the 1940s.

He agreed with me. It was a lack of faith and he felt it was a localized attempt on the part of some area brothers to force others to succumb to doomsday prepping ideals. The fact that dad was an ex-Mormon might have also contributed to his aversion to such an approach.

Dad died a year later, but I wonder if his faith would have survived the latest attempt by the JW’s to force people into fearful scenarios.

Recently, I saw a picture that was posted in the latest copy of the Watchtower. It can be seen above. It shows people hiding in a basement, and an unmistakable look of fear on a child’s face to indicate the gravity of the situation. Undoubtedly, they are hiding from the rampant anarchy taking place over their heads. I imagine sounds of helicopters, bombing air raids, the shrieks of the dying, and the pop of gunfire. I can imagine those sounds because they haunted my dreams as a child raised with images of Armageddon and torture.

I have recently been informed that JW’s are now required to select a safe place to flee to in time of “Natural disaster.” Once a family, or group, have selected their “place of refuge,” they are to report this to the local elders who make a written record and share it with the Circuit Overseer, who then passes it on to the headquarters. This isn’t just a whimsical fantasy to make easily impressionable people excited over the prospects of global annihilation. All JW’s are required to submit a written document of their chosen place of hiding. (Is anybody else seeing images of Jonestown right about now?)

I spent 38 years deeply entrenched in that religion. They’re not about to drink any Kool-Aid, in spite of what their actions may sometimes indicate. I see this as nothing more than another ploy to keep people unstable and afraid. A lot has happened in the last 100 years of that organization, except for the one thing millions of people have lived, and died, for: Armageddon. After more than 10 decades of promising that “Armageddon is just around the corner,” if the JW leaders didn’t find a new tactic for threat and rescue they would start losing credibility.

I have to say, it’s a pretty good scheme. Twenty years ago, I would have been eating this stuff up. It would be so exciting to imagine my flight to some wilderness as the world fell apart and billions died at the hand of God. But I know that religion, and I know those people. I would be willing to bet you money that many of them have already initiated their flight. Just as in 1975 when many of them quit school and sold their assets in hopes of the imminent arrival of Armageddon, I am sure many are repeating those same horrible mistakes. The Ebola outbreak; the riots; the extreme weather–some serious bridges are being burned right about now, all in the name of faith.

Keep your eyes open. You might see some houses go on the market in hopes of a quick sale. If you are in the janitorial field, you might be able to pick up some new accounts as JW’s flee the western world to live in caves and bomb shelters. The most positive aspect of all this? If they are in hiding, at least they’re not knocking on our doors.

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Thursday’s News & Reviews: Suicide In All Its Forms

Topmost in people’s minds this week has been the news of actor/comedian Robin William’s suicide. The outpouring of sadness and compassion from the huge array of his fans has made us all wonder a bit about the painful depths hidden beneath his kind, and comical, grin. My first exposure to Robin was Mork & Mindy (1978-82), a show I adored as a child. His comedic genius was unmatched and the world has lost a light bearer who taught us empathy in the face of tragedy and gave us laughter as a healing salve. The greatest tragedy, perhaps, was his inability to find that healing when he most needed it. I wonder at the high price of comedy when I consider the greats that have been taken from us prematurely: Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Pinette, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Andy Kaufman, etc. etc. etc. Do successful comedians give so much they haven’t anything left for themselves?

On a related note, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of people’s cruelty when someone dies. I have experienced it, witnessed it, and am now stunned to find such vehement disregard for the feelings of friends and family who are suffering a terrible loss. Has our society become so devoid of human compassion that they take a man’s suffering and use it to beat his mourning family? Artists and actors commit suicide all the time with drugs and alcohol. What is it about this kind-hearted and selfless man that brings out the viciousness in people? Rampant jealousy?  Be warned, if I meet someone who says these things and doesn’t hide behind the safety of a computer screen like a fucking coward, I will kick you in the balls.

 

The recent, and still unchecked, outbreak of Ebola in Africa has westerners fearing contamination as doctors and travelers return home from infected countries. Ignorance and superstition are fueling its spread in Africa, but the centers for disease control within western lands seem to have the issue well in hand. This doesn’t prevent doomsdayers from proclaiming this pestilence another sign of the inevitability of Armageddon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly are likely hoping 2014 will not pass without definite signs of The Great Tribulation, if not Armageddon itself. The ones that aren’t praying it will occur, are terrified it won’t occur and yet another year will pass with no sign of the prophesied “end of this system of things.”

 

In the last few weeks, the paranormal community has been following the latest kerfuffle involving Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society (PRS). For those of you who don’t know, or don’t care, Ryan Buell has finally burned his last bridge and alienated many of his fans. I will say, however, that PRS fans are amongst the most loyal human beings on earth, as many of them continue to sing Ryan’s praises despite continued disappointments and thousands of dollars unaccounted for.

My first exposure to Ryan was with Paranormal State, a 30 minute A&E program, which portrayed Buell and his fellow Penn State students ridding homes of demons and bringing in priests for weekly exorcisms. I found the show entertaining in that it was saturated with Catholic dogma and demonology. The worst cases of demon possession always seemed to occur in trailer parks with hugely obese people who never left the house.

Ryan had apparently experienced difficulty with dark spirits since childhood. Which may, or may not, explain his constant issues with health. I attempted to take a class offered through PRS a couple of years ago. Elfie Music was the instructor. She always amused me when I watched Paranormal State. I got the impression that the producers of the show had given up trying to get her to look, or act,  presentable. She wore some of the worst ensembles I had ever seen, and I never knew what horrible thing she would do to her hair from one episode to the next. She was supposed to be the occult specialist of the group, but she always seemed a little lost.

I’m not sure why I took her class on the history of spiritualism, but I did. And, together with the book, it cost me $85. The book was mind-numbingly boring and the class was, basically, a waste of money. Elfie spent most of the time commenting on inane chatter in the chat box. She’d giggle, drink something, respond to some question by an empty-headed uber-fan, spend a few minutes discussing some slide in her Powerpoint, then go back to the chat box. The class had endless technical difficulties, and some of the participants had already been disappointed by other classes they had paid for that never transpired. I abandoned the class after the second attempt and wrote the whole PRS community off as badly run.

Sure I lost $85, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars some fans invested in a tour Ryan announced for this summer that never transpired. Fans all over Canada and the U.S. bought plane tickets, event tickets, and made hotel reservations for a tour that never even got off the ground. Ryan claims, not for the first time, that it is due to ill-health and bad management on the part of others. But like the boy who called wolf, many of his fans are shouting fraud and an investigation is underway. If the money isn’t repaid, a lawsuit will be the natural result.

I find this whole situation extremely short-sighted. This young man already had a career and a bevy of devoted fans. All he needed to do was travel around and spend time with people who thought he walked on water. Yeah, they may not be the most intelligent group of people, but who cares right? They’re willing to travel any distance to worship at the feet of their modern-day saint. Ryan has managed to commit professional suicide and will likely never regain the notoriety he enjoyed before he started screwing people over. I don’t get it. I would live that life in a heartbeat, and be way more deserving of the loyalty of my minions. As it is, I have no minions. Even my cats barely tolerate me.

Thursday’s News & Reviews: Who’s A Psychic

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I remember the first time I ever heard the term, “Old Soul.” I was in my mid-20’s and fully entrenched as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I didn’t even believe souls existed. I was taught that we were souls, we didn’t have souls, and those souls died with our physical bodies. There was no after-life. No immortal soul. Death was simply the opposite of life–nothing.

I can’t remember where I was–a coffee shop, a book store, a park–but I overheard two women talking. They were watching their children play, and I heard one say to another, “He’s an old soul.” I didn’t stop to look. My steps hardly faltered, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. I knew she spoke of a child that was more serious than the other children. A child who may prefer looking at the pictures in a book than playing interactive games with the others. I knew, because I had been that child. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was an old soul.

How could I be an old soul when I didn’t even believe they existed? Some people would call that cognitive dissonance. I spent my life giving mocking lip-service to the idea of reincarnation. I used to make my fellow JW’s laugh in the car groups, by telling them I was a dandelion on a golf course in a previous life–but my life was cut short, tragically.

For someone who didn’t believe in reincarnation I gave it a lot of thought. I remember vivid dreams when I was under the age of 5, in which I would dream about people and places  I didn’t recognize but would miss with a melancholy fervor upon waking. Or the dream I had in Junior High of dying in a Nazi Concentration Camp.

I have spoken to a few psychics in the years since I left the JW’s. All of them confirmed what I had already figured out–I was indeed an old soul.

Until I spoke to Joe Who, celebrity psychic and frequent visitor to the paranormal radio show Darkness Radio.  He is a voice recognition psychic. I had listened to a few programs where he told different ones that old souls were night-owls and young souls were morning people. I have always been a night-owl. I have way more energy and ambition after 7 pm than I do before 1 pm. I can count on one hand how many years I’ve spent at jobs which required an alarm clock. I become so miserable after a few weeks that I quit for mental health reasons.

Mr. Who told me I was a young soul. He also said my night-owl tendencies were a learned behavior. I don’t think so. I remember hating the sound of my dad’s chipper voice in the morning. He used to ask me, “Cheri, why are you such a bear in the morning?” “I don’t know dad,” I would say sarcastically, “Maybe you should lower the volume of your voice and try not to sing sunshine songs!” I started drinking coffee at 12, which was unheard of in 1984.

Then Joe Who went on to tell me that my mother’s energy was nowhere near me, whereas my father was always around. Again, this runs counter to what I feel intuitively. Am I a medium? No. Am I psychic? No. I only have my gut instinct, and everything he said conflicted with it. He also told me that my mother and I didn’t get along very well. I adored my mother until the day she died when I was 19.

In the days following the reading, I tried to force myself to succumb to his version of my life. Even now, about 6 weeks later, I am still torn  as to whether or not I am an old or young soul. I believe I am slowly starting to realize that I may not be as old as I thought, or maybe our interpretation of what constitutes an old/young soul is not quite accurate.

I always enjoyed listening to him do readings on Darkness Radio because he does teach a lot about soul age, but I am less impressed with him as a psychic. I believe everyone has a bad day. I could give an awesome massage on some days, and then fall flat on others. A few days after that Malaysian airplane disappeared some months ago, Dave of Darkness Radio asked Joe if the passengers were still alive. He said they were, whereas another woman who was channeling that day said they were all dead. Again, I think he got it wrong.

I have read a lot about psychics and how they channel their messages. Most, if not all, get images they have to try to interpret based upon their own experiences. Sometimes, they might misinterpret  a message. Does that mean Joe Who is not a good psychic? No. I have heard him read many people on the radio and most are impressed at his abilities. The reason I sought him out was because I liked his tendency to tell people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear. He’s not very tactful about it either, which is kind of fun–when it’s happening to someone else, that is.

Give him a try and judge for yourself. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with him.

 

 

Thursday’s News & Reviews: The Dead Files

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I love to watch anything on the paranormal. There have been quite a few shows I have started to watch only to realize they were too sensational and fake–or I felt like the producers were actually trying to insult my intelligence (i.e. My Ghost Story Caught on Camera).

The first time I watched The Dead Files I wasn’t a fan. I thought Amy acted a little too weird, like she was putting on a show for the camera. I gave it another try on the second season. By this time, I had read a few books by psychics and knew a lot of Amy’s behavior may have been her authentic reactions to what she was seeing. I became a fan and haven’t missed an episode since.

Amy Allan and her partner Steve DiSchiavi investigate haunted locations from two different perspectives: Amy communicates with the dead and gets impressions of the site by walking around and interacting with the spirits; Steve is a retired New York Homicide Detective and he investigates the claims of the living and explores the history of the location to corroborate or deny Amy’s findings. Usually, their evidence fits together perfectly, as is presented in the final moments of the show. One of the show’s highlights is when Amy gets an area sketch artist to draw who, or what, she sees and reveals these sketches, with shocking results, to the home-owners.

I was excited to realize that last week’s episode was filmed less than 30 miles from my home. In the episode entitled Assaulted she and Steve visit Hanover, PA. Many of the overhead pictures of Steve driving to and from his destinations are filmed right here in Gettysburg.

My initial impression of the episode was that the female householder wasn’t a very good actor. I really got the feeling she was grandstanding for the sake of the cameras. I’ve watched enough of these shows to realize that there are some people who use Amy and Steve as free advertising (like Villisca Ax Murder House, and the Lizzie Borden B&B). I’m not sure if this woman is hoping to turn her house into a paranormal tourist spot, but I did get the impression she was enjoying her 15 minutes of fame.

At the end of the episode, Amy does her usual prescription for ridding the home of the nasty haunting. This week it was a male witch. Apparently, Tom and DeAnna Simpson called in the male witch and reported that activity had subsided, but the news reports tell a different story. Hanover’s local newspaper, The Evening Sun, reports the male witch left after only six hours and refused to return. Since then, activity has actually increased and the Simpsons have had to close up parts of the house because of it. A local FOX news crew’s reaction to attacks they experienced while filming the home also prove to be very interesting with captured scratches, orbs, and a shadow hand.

I found the newscast very interesting as spirits rarely perform for cameras. Especially since these cameras were likely only there for a few minutes. To have that much happen in a short amount of time, during the day, makes me think this place may be very haunted. The Evening Sun reports a lot of looky-loos passing the house, and with the huge number of paranormal groups in and around Gettysburg, I’m sure DeAnna’s getting many phone calls offering investigations and cleansings–which have so far only managed to aggravate the situation.

One observation I would like to make about The Dead Files, in general, is their total lack of physical evidence in all the places they visit. Amy reports some pretty horrific encounters, and she always wanders the place at night with everyone gone. You would think her interaction with the spirits would bring them out and there would be captured orbs, shadows, or even poltergeist activity,but I have never seen anything like that captured on camera. Not even footsteps, which seems to be Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters bread and butter. Is it possible The Dead Files have never captured any visual evidence on their cameras? Or are they under some sort of contract that inhibits them from showing it? As a paranormal enthusiast, I would love for them to share some of that to corroborate what Amy is feeling!

I also find some of Amy’s prescriptions for house cleansers a bit random. Shaman, witches, Latin witches, Voodoo practitioners, Native American Witch Doctors. Many of Amy’s suggestions can’t be followed by the people because they can’t find the person Amy describes. Even in the age of the internet, apparently these people don’t advertise a lot. It seems Amy should provide more of a full service and provide contact information for some of these people. They seem to be able to dig up area sketch artists, so the producers of the show should set up some sort of network directory for skilled cleansers to join. I seem to remember earlier episodes where she would tell people how to cleanse their own houses. I found that extremely informative and thought it was a good idea to return the homeowner to a position of power. I think it’s important for people to realize they can be powerful in the face of supernatural encounters. Perhaps the producers get better ratings with fear tactics, however.

Also, I find Amy’s strong reaction against anyone else who does paranormal stuff, or dabbles in the occult, a bit off-putting. She gets angry if people have a Ouija board around or attempt séances. She turns up her nose to paranormal groups who only manage to stir things up. I know she is a pro, but she must understand that her gifts are rare. Many of us have a lot of unanswered questions regarding death and the afterlife and we search for answers in the only way we know how. I wonder how she can criticize witches who dabble with the occult in one breath, then prescribe their services in the next.

Overall, I’d say the show is extremely formulaic but it works. I enjoy it. I am entertained by Amy’s terrifying descriptions of strange entities that always want to harm the householder.  My favorite person in the show is Steve. He seems like he would be cool to hang out with. I’m sure he has some interesting stories. I hope someday to attend a paranormal event where they are sitting on a panel, then I can ask some of the questions above.

If you are a paranormal enthusiast, what do you think of this show?