“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.

 

 

 

Orbs

Orb reflected in TV screen

Orb reflected in TV screen

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

There are few things that inspire more argument and eye-rolling in the paranormal community than Orbs. I remember the first time I heard the word “orb”. I was a naive twenty-something, heavily involved in my religion which taught there was no afterlife. I  was perusing the internet when I came across someone who claimed to have photographic proof of a spirit. I thought, “I have got to see this!” She was on a nighttime ghost tour (here in Gettysburg, believe it or not) and she had captured an orb sitting on a bench next to another person. I remember thinking it was some kind of a joke. I dismissed the photo and its author as evidence that insanity was still very much alive in the world, and stored the word “Orb” away for later use.

After the death of my ancestral faith, I started exploring alternative beliefs. I had always been taught to fear the spirit world as demonic interaction. Now I wanted my own answers. I began my obsession with the paranormal world by watching the Ghost Adventures episode on the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. I had just finished reading The Shining and was dying to visit the Stanley. I was so thrilled to realize it was actually haunted! I loved the way Zak and his crew did the investigation! They were very efficient and business-like in their approach. (I guess I expected to see the cast of Finding Bigfoot, or South Park’s representation of them.) At any rate, some of the earlier episodes of Ghost Adventures pointed out interesting orbs as evidence. I reached into my memory banks and pulled out my first skeptical exposure to orbs. I started to wonder if they knew something I didn’t.

Most paranormal groups start out by cutting their investigative teeth on cemeteries, and we weren’t any different. We weren’t stupid enough to think a picture full of orbs was anything other than dust or moisture, but when we would take a picture of a lone orb that was either very bright, large, or moving we would take notice and think we had gotten some evidence. In fact, when investigating my brother’s house I took a picture of an orb that can be seen reflected in the TV. I thought that was clear evidence that orbs have substance and are real.

I would become angry when people would mock me, or others like me, for thinking orbs were signs of spirit activity. We tried to find books on orbs and only found more inconclusive evidence. Until we picked up a book by Jeff Belanger called Communicating with the Dead. In the chapter on Spirit Photography, author and photographer Ken Milburn called the orbs “Lens Flare. “The lenses in most digital cameras have four to nine elements. That’s four to nine separate lenses that are glued together to correct for various types of aberrations. So each one of those surfaces is capable of taking up a reflection and recording it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be some bright light that you can see inside the frame, either. It could be something that is off to the side that just happens to hit the front of the lens and then reflects on the elements of the lens. Lens flare can even look like a ball in motion because of the multiple lenses.” (71)

Jeff goes on to relate his experiences with orbs and his new digital camera from Olympus. When he questioned Olympus on the cause of the orbs, they said that the flash was picking up the dust particles and moisture droplets found in the air. There is also the possibility that smaller cameras place the flash closer to the lens, which results in more lens flare. Flash travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second)–the average point-and-shoot camera has a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second. Imagine the light from the flash bouncing all over the place in the split second the shutter is open. In fact, the light will travel 1488 miles during that time. (Belanger, 71)

I felt that handily explained the reflection of the orb I saw in the TV during the investigation at my brother’s house. I was catching an orb of light expelled by the flash and bouncing around the room. (By the way, I strongly recommend Jeff’s book. It is very pragmatic and logical in its approach to the paranormal.)

We decided to run our own experiment. We went out just as it was getting dark and took multiple photos with and without flash. If orbs only showed up in the pictures using flash, we would know that the orbs are, in fact, related to the flash.

The experiment was not as conclusive as I expected, but we got enough orbs to demonstrate part of my point.

With Flash Without Flash

 

 

There are no orbs in either of the above photos. In such a wide open space as this I don’t think there would be the possibility of light bouncing around, but lens flare would still be possible off the interior lenses…but it didn’t happen here. There also does not appear to be as much dust and moisture during the winter as there is in summer. So these pictures are inconclusive. No doubt partially due to the fact that it is still not full dark out.

 

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a rumored haunted bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

Here's a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil's Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

Here’s a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil’s Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

 

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn't get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, a couple Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn’t get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

Craft Room

The only thing I believe I have proved with this short experiment is that dust and moisture cause orbs. I’m not so sure about lens flare, however. It seems if the flash alone could cause orbs I would have gotten at least one. We have taken more than 200 photos in the last few days and orbs have been almost nonexistent, except in the presence of dust and moisture.

Jeff Belanger concludes his chapter on Spirit Photography without a dogmatic stance against orbs. In fact, the picture on the cover of his book includes a couple of bright orbs found in a darkened cemetery. I think it would be silly of us to claim no orb is ever a sign of spirit presence. I have seen and captured orbs with faces in them. But now that we know dust and moisture cause orbs, and flash flare could cause orbs, we must cave to reasonable doubt and dismiss the vast majority of the orbs we see.

If anyone in the paranormal community would like to present evidence supporting or negating my experiment, please do

The Paranormal: Techno Geek Style

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Let’s face it, the paranormal is a great field to get your geek on. If you love gadgets, electronic wibbles and  flashy thingamajigs then being a paranormal investigator will thrill you to death…no pun intended. A couple of weeks ago I finished a book about all those wonderful things we like to take out into the dark of night in our never-ending endeavor to capture the crucial pieces of evidence that bring us closer to answering  all those perplexing questions about the other side.

The book is called “Strange Frequencies: A Practical Guide to Paranormal Technology” by Craig Telesha. First let me say: this is not a how-to book on ghost hunting. It is about all the equipment we use to ghost hunt and the history behind it. This is an excellent guide for the non-techie. It is chock full of information about photography, video, audio recording, EMF detectors, and the use of radios such as spirit boxes. The author compares the old and the new and talks in-depth about the advantages and disadvantages of each. There is even a chapter on how to build your own gadgets, including schematics, for use in the field.

He talks about photo and audio contamination from a technical viewpoint. Telesha discusses some of the other pieces of equipment we know and love such as EMF meters, thermometers, ion counters, Geiger counters, motion detectors, radar detectors, compasses, as well as giving you a basic understanding of how they all work.

The theme of this book isn’t paranormal investigating but the science behind it. Page after page is turned without one mention of ghosts. This is a great book to reference when researching new equipment or when looking to go old school. The book was published in 2008 and in technological years that’s eons ago. But the history and principles of the technology that we use in our investigations is as relevant today as it was when the book hit the press.

Knowledge is power. Knowing how the gadgets in our hands work will go a long way in helping us identify and debunk any “evidence” we get during our investigations. Telesha does a good job in demystifying the tech side of what we do. It’s well written and really caters to those whose knowledge of ghost tech is minimal.

I’ve read a lot of books on the paranormal and ghost hunting. Many touch on the equipment you need but few tell you why you need it or how it works. This book fills that gap. I have no doubt that this volume should be on every investigators reference shelf. Dive in! It’s a quick and easy read and will pay off in your investigations for years to come. ~Guest post by Roy Branson