Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Solitary Winternights

At right, you see my simple altar for observing Winternights this evening. Click the image to view a few more photos. I was unable to join my friends who were celebrating the holiday in East Stroudsburg, but I wanted to at least do something small on my own tonight. Particularly because this afternoon I received confirmation that I have been accepted into a national Heathen organization's Clergy Program. That is certainly worthy of a boast and a shout of gratitude to the Gods and Goddesses. Around 5pm, I started collecting the items I would need and I arranged them outside. On the altar, I set the following items: a plaque of Odin, a statue of Thor, a stick of sandlewood incense, a votive, a pitcher of organic cider, hammer, and the blessing bowl. This was the first ritual use for both the pitcher and the bowl which were separate purchases over the summer. I also lit a small fire in our metal chimnea. As dusk fell, I lit the candles (altar votive and a lantern) and some incense. Then I turned off the back porch light and prepared myself with a few cleansing breaths. There was a chill in the air. It felt right. Mrs. Brainwise joined me, but only to observe, not participate. She is still uncertain what to make of my faith. But I was glad for her company. It is good to have a woman present during a blot to the Disr. I hallowed the space with my take on the hammer rite:
Hammer Hallow this stead:
By Thor's might which upholds us,
By Baldur's light, which inspires us,
By Frigga's wisdom which guides us,
By Odin's hand which guards us,
By Heimdall's watch which shields us,
By Freyr's vitality, which sustains us,
And by Freya's love which blesses us,
Hammer hallow and hold this holy stead.
Then I poured cider into the horn, raised it, and blessed it, asking the Gods and Goddesses and the Disr to accept it. Likewise I raised the offerings up and blessed them. I then performed three draughts (I cannot really call them "rounds"), raising the horn first to the Aesir and the Vanir, second to collective Disr, and finally to my own paternal great grandmothers and Mrs. Brainwise's paternal grandmother. I left the plate of food offerings at the base of the tree and poured out some fresh cream. Then I took the blessing blowl and poured out its contents with my own twist on a familiar refrain:
From the Source to the Gods to the Earth to Us.
From Us to the Earth to the Gods the Source.
A Gift for a Gift.
With that, the ritual was complete. I answered a few brief questions for Mrs. Brainwise, after which she returned to watch college football. And I began the slow effort of dismantling the ritual space, taking care to ensure the fire would burn out safely. Welcome winter...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quotable | Gratitude?

open quoteI always tell people, Churchill saved the Western world from dictators, and when they kicked him out, he was asked about gratitude, and he said, ‘Gratitude doesn’t exist in politics, only in history.’ It’s the same way in football.” -- Joseph Vincent Paterno (JoePa), head coach of Pennsylvania State University's college football team (Penn State Nittany Lions).

Quote comes from this NY Times story.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Onion Store: Are Your Cats Old Enough To Learn About Jesus?

I want this shirt!
Are Your Cats Old Enough To Learn About Jesus? :: Onion Store
People often ask us when they should teach the Good News to their housecats. We have but one answer: "What are you waiting for?"
Think of the alternative: your cat mired in darkness for eternity because you put off a 10-minute conversation.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quotable | Self-Loathing

Newsweek: "You grew up in Oklahoma in a very religious environment."

Sarah Vowell: "Yeah, sometimes I feel like a translator to my snotty urban heathen friends. To me, Christianity was about self-loathing. It never would have occurred to me to hate anybody else; I was too busy hating myself."

From Newsweek interview with author Sarah Vowell: Fast Chat: Author and Historian Sarah Vowell | Newsweek Periscope

Ben's Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker

An associate of mine, Ben Dench, is working on what he calls A Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker. He is, in my estimation, a remarkable young man. And, by training/education, he is a philosopher. I think that much may be obvious in the methodology he espouses. Regarding his methodology, which is the point of this post, I feel he has made a good start of it, particularly because the process starts with experience. But it also seems to me that there is only one other experiential component of the methodology, and only partially at that. Since his original posting, I have seen no dialogue on the topic. Yet I think it is worthy of some discussion, so I have taken the liberty of posting the methodology here. I hope my few readers will take the time to look at this, and perhaps even post a note or two. I will post some further thoughts on Ben's methodology at a later time. For now I want to point out that this is important work. In an increasingly secular -- even post-Christian -- society, what is a spiritual seeker to do? Those of us in Pagan/Heathen traditions can look to the past for inspiration and guidance, but whatever is found there still has to be brought to the present and made relevant today. I know I do. But what do you say? And can this methodology be of any help? Without further ado, I give to you Ben Dench's six-step approach:
A Methodology for the Mature Spiritual Seeker 
1. Actively seek out and have your own direct spiritual experiences. Testimony is not sufficient for believing in paranormal phenomena. Direct experience is. 
2. Think critically about the experiences you have had. What can you legitimately conclude from experience X? To what extent might you be reading into your experience based on your own religious / cultural preconceptions? 
3. Form your own tentative conclusions. Don't get too attached to any one conception about the way things are. Remain open to revising your ideas about reality based on new information. 
4. Dialogue with others and rigorously test your hypotheses. If there are other interpretations of your experience, listen to them. See what experiments you could do and what background information you could find to determine which explanation best fits the reality of the situation. 
5. Seek to integrate all areas of objective knowledge into a coherent narrative. To what extent does our knowledge from other areas of study (anthropology, psychology, biology, history, literary criticism, etc.) support or oppose your interpretation of reality? 
6. Repeat. This is a continuing process. Always be open to new experiences and to revising your beliefs based on new information.

You can dialogue with Ben over at his own blog, The Philosophy of Ben Dench (

Monday, October 06, 2008

German-American Day!

[This is a mildly edited re-post of a previous blog entry]

Here in the USA, today, October 6, is ... German American Day! How wunderbar to start the week off this way! In 1987 Congress enacted Public Law 100-104 designating October 6 as German-American Day:
A proclamation was issued by President Reagan in a Rose Garden Ceremony calling on the American people to observe this day with appropriate celebrations and activities. The date was chosen because on October 6, 1683 the first group of Germans sailed into Philadelphia Harbor on the Concord. Individually Germans had arrived before that date. [German-American Day Teaching Unit]
Since that date, every U.S. president has made a proclamation that October 6 is German-American day, a day to honor and remember the outstanding, significant, and lasting contributions that German immigrants made to our country. For more information on German contributions to the United States, or for activities to celebrate German-American Day, I offer the following links: And, yes, I am of German descent and I am quite proud of my heritage. So, to all my family, kin, and friends -- and even to those of you who are not lucky enough to have even the smallest drop of German blood flowing in your veins -- I wish you a great day.
Haben Sie einen großen Tag!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ignoring the Seeress

Ancient Greek Play has Lessons for Peak Oil Discussion An Archdruid draws some interesting correlations between the doomed daughter of Priam (Cassandra from Aeschylus’ play Agamemnon) and a recent ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas) event. Sneak peak:

...In terms of the original tale, though, the whole cast of Cassandra’s story was present and accounted for at the ASPO conference last week. The event took place in an expensive hotel across the street from the California state capitol, with skyscrapers filling in for the fabled towers of Troy, and King Priam played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who did not attend the conference but prefers a penthouse suite in the same hotel to the less private comforts of the governor’s mansion up the street. Lunches, finger food for breaks, and hors d’oeuvres for the evening receptions all tended toward the overly precious, and the uniformed hotel staff bustled about like servants at a Bronze Age royal court.

In this setting, the presentations and talk at the conference took on a surreal quality, as though the global civilization we were discussing – the one running out of cheap and easily available fossil fuels – was on some other planet. I’m not at all sure how many of the attendees took the time to connect the energy that provided climate-controlled air, fluorescent lighting, PowerPoint slideshows and overabundant snacks for the conference with the sinking lines on graphs that tracked our world’s rapidly depleting oil, coal, and natural gas reserves. I’m even less sure how many of them traced out those graphs to their logical conclusions and thought through the likely impacts on their own lives; even in peak oil circles, this is surprisingly uncommon...

Read the whole thing: Energy Bulletin: Cassandra's View by John Michael Greer

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Not Exactly on MY Gift List

Really, if you happen to be looking for a gift for me -- for whatever reason -- please do not purchase this item. I have a window shade. But, more effective, I have two cats. Either one will eventually get me out of bed.
Truemors :: Alarm Clock Pillow a Truly Bright Idea Tired of waking up to whatever heart-attack-inducing alarm is working for you this month? A student design team from Dublin may have found a calmer, but more effective way to wrest you from the covers; their pillow alarm clock is rigged with LED lights that gradually brighten over a forty minute period, simulating a sunrise and letting your circadian rhythms adjust more naturally to a waking state. A layer of special material makes for a feeling indistinguishable from a normal pillow and even doubles as a reading light. Brits can look for it in stores by the end of the year, but no telling when it will hit North American shores."