“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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Pagan Land Blessing

As some of you may know, I am a new pagan–just a few months old. I am also an avid reader and have been absorbing as many books on the subject as my slow reading ability allows. Recently, I was reading my second book by Silver Ravenwolf, “To Stir a Magick Cauldron.” In chapter 2 on conjuring sacred space, she talks about the spirits of the land. I realized that land can affect the people who live upon it. She told of a monk back east who told a family if they moved onto a piece of land that had a western flow they would lose all their assets. They didn’t believe him, but a year after moving there they went bankrupt. My land has a northwestern flow, but since we have moved here we have lost everything financially–of course so has everyone else since we moved here at the beginning of the recession.

She also related how she would go to people’s properties and speak to the land spirits and erect outdoor shrines to appease them. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized the trauma my land had endured over the last five years. The previous house had been burned down intentionally by a drug addict. That same person refused to haul away his garbage so he would bury it on the land or just pile it behind wire fencing he erected between trees. The contractor my dad hired to clean up the property had a nervous breakdown when his baby died and he tried to steal the property from my dad. While the land and framed-in house sat abandoned for a year, people dumped their garbage on the property and meth heads stole all the copper wiring from the electrical. Some drughead friends of the contractor dumped their holding tank out on the ground when the county asked them to stop camping on the property, and once we took over the house and used an attorney to sever the contractor’s hold on it he stole all the building supplies my dad had given him as well as the money. We have cleaned it up and finished the house and now live there. My father died here in 2010.

These were the many thoughts that went through my head causing me to think the land might need some attention and love and apology. Silver Ravenwolf says the place for an outdoor shrine will reveal itself. It didn’t take me long to look. We live in the high desert and are surrounded by scrub junipers and sagebrush. But right next to our house is the biggest juniper I have ever seen. It is full and tall and doesn’t resemble a juniper at all. Its branches have created an oasis underneath where someone can stand up. It seemed the ideal location for a shrine to the land, since, to me, that tree was the centerpiece. I started looking at the tree and realized that the idiot who lived there prior to us had wrapped wire fencing around the tree so long ago it had actually grown into the tree and cut off circulation. The lower part of the tree was smaller because of the wire and it actually looked swollen above the wire. It even looked like it was bleeding sap. I felt so bad. I went to the shop and grabbed up as many tools as I could to cut the wire and try to free the tree. A couple of the nails had embedded so deeply in the tree I couldn’t get them free, but I did manage to get the fencing off then knelt by the tree and placing my hand upon it, said a brief prayer to Gaia asking her to heal it.

I knew I wasn’t done, though. Silver Ravenwolf had mentioned blessing the four corners of the land and planting a stang for the shrine. I had no idea what a stang was nor what to do about the four corners. The only thing I could be thankful for was the fact that we had the property surveyed so I knew exactly the four corners of my five acres. I tried to do some research and found precious little about how to bless land. Then I joined a pagan group on Facebook who are all ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses like me. One of them is very experienced with the occult since she had been part of the occult aspect of Jehovah’s Witnesses since she was a child. She gave me some ideas, so I went about choreographing my blessing ritual.

First of all I got four small mason jars for burying. On my next menstruation I put menstrual blood in all four of them since I was the owner of the land and had inherited it. Then I did some research on herbs and oils and their meanings. Based upon what I had in my house, I settled upon:

  • Parsley to stop misfortune
  • Garlic to guard against evil
  • Mint for prosperity
  • Lavender for healing
  • Ginger to assure success
  • Myrrh to emphasize healing
On the next full moon I had a ritual where I cast a circle and, placing the ingredients in the jars, I blessed and consecrated them to my use.
Silver Ravenwolf had mentioned the importance of  doing the ritual on Saturn day so I awaited the next Saturday. The day dawned clear and warm. I spent the morning burning the symbols I wanted into my stang. Let me define stang first, it is
a ritual tool which usually represents a phallic symbol to the god. Some people attach antlers to the top to symbolize the horned god. It can also be used as a vertical altar. I had found a stick about a month ago that I really liked. It was long with two forked branches on one end. I thought it would be perfect. I drilled a hole between the forked branches and glued a quartz crystal point (to amplify healing) at the juncture. I had done some research on runes and symbols so I knew what I wanted on it. I used the Othel rune since it signifies physical property and inheritance. I also burned in an Ankh for protection; an eye of Horus to ward off evil; the upside-down triangle signifying the element earth; a pentacle for protection; and the symbols for the horned god and triple goddess. That pretty much took me all morning.
 
In the afternoon, I took my stang down to my chosen location and buried it firmly in the ground. I then hung upon it a pentacle I had made from evergreen. I placed some flat stones at its base to serve as an altar and began the consecration ritual to cleanse the space. I used the four elements to cleanse the space then mixed the candle wax (of a black candle), the salt, water, and incense ash into a paste. I had previously buried the four jars with the magickal ingredients at the four corners, placing flat stones over them. Starting in the northwest corner, I used some of the paste to draw a banishing pentagram upon the flat stones while saying:
“With this sign I banish ye, foul shades of the earth! Let this land be freed of your baneful influences!”
I walked the entire perimeter deosil (clockwise), doing this at every corner.  I then put down the paste and picked up the salt and scattered it around the perimeter.  The final trip, I sprayed holy water ( which I had made during the full moon two months earlier) while reciting a healing chant I had written:
“Deep in the earth
the Goddess is alive.
Deep in the ground and trees
Her life force is strong.
Deep in the stones and waters
I believe she will heal.
I feel the Goddess at this hour
Filling this land with health and peace.
Abundant life forces of the Universe
Flow through this land
and banish all negativity.
The earth, the trees, the dirt,
and the vegetation, are healing now.
The Goddess force is in this space, this land
and it is healed.”
I kept repeating this as I sprayed the holy water around the perimeter. After four trips around my 5 acres I was pretty tired, but I had an interesting experience. On my first trip around with the paste, I found a beautiful bird feather with black and orange colors. On my second trip, with the salt, I found another beautiful feather with the same coloring only more perfect than the first. I remember thinking these would be perfect gifts for my new stang and outdoor altar. I hoped I would find something on my last trip around because I felt that would prove the Goddess recognized my efforts and would bless them. Only I wanted a different feather all-together. I wanted a black feather to signify the banishing of negativity from my land.
I made it all the way around with the holy water and chant without finding anything. I was fairly disappointed but then I hadn’t been able to look because I was busy reading my chant while I walked (I only take the time to memorize things I will use more than once). I gathered all my supplies from the Northwest corner and cut across the field toward my outdoor shrine. That’s when I found it–the black feather. I was so excited. I attached it to my stang along with the white feather I had found when I initially chose the space. I had also found a rock that didn’t look like any rock I had ever seen near the black feather so I placed that as an offering upon the altar.
So there you have it. It took a long time but I think it was worth it and I enjoyed doing it. I find when I take a proactive approach to problems and emotions with ritual I always end up feeling better. So far I am loving every aspect of paganism. That must be why Christianity tries to scare people away from it–otherwise, everyone would be pagan!