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‘Gaia’s Lovers” by Meg Pauken

April 2, 2014

Today we continue our early spring theme, Inspiration, where we showcase examples of the poetic imagination flowing from the depths of the universe through the minds and hands of Naturalistic Pagans and friends.

Author’s note: One of the things that has drawn me to Paganism is that it embraces both the divine feminine and the divine masculine. I tend to see this duality playing itself out nearly everywhere in nature. This poem was inspired by an early morning drive through the countryside in late October, just as the sun was coming up.

photo by Meg Pauken

“Gaia’s Lovers”

Gaia’s breath lingers, misty, in her hollows
On a chilly October morning;
Sighs as geese rise from her pond,
Honking and flapping.
Stirring slowly as her lover arrives over the horizon:
Sun, casting a golden flush on her curves,
Russet blush on her tree-covered peaks.
Warming, she arches to the sky
Urging her mate to kiss her, to lie with her, to love her.
His heat and light caress her,
Settling, at last, into her valleys.
They spend this cloudless day entwined
Until, at dusk, he begins his leave-taking
Lingering as long as he can until
Luna takes his place.
Gaia’s night-time lover
Brings a shiver with her silvery touch;
Erotic and intense,
Their love is as mysterious as night
And as shy as the creatures that live in it.
Sun comes and goes each day,
Strong and true.
Luna waxes and wanes,
Lingers late and reappears in mid-afternoon.
And Gaia loves them both.

The Author

Meg Pauken is a writer, former lawyer and mother of two living in rural northeastern Ohio, USA. Raised as a Roman Catholic, she is a Unitarian Universalist and has felt the call of paganism since her childhood. She blogs about family and spirituality at Tales from the Sandwich Chronicles.

See Meg Pauken’s other posts.

What to look forward to in April at HP

April 1, 2014

This month we continue our early spring theme, “Inspiration”. We Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagans know how to reason critically. But what role do intuition, inspiration, poetry, and art play in our Naturalistic Paganism?  This month we will continue to showcase examples of the poetic imagination flowing from the depths of the universe through the minds and hands of Naturalistic Pagans and friends.

This Month at HP

Apr 2  “Gaia’s Lovers” by Meg Pauken

Apr 6  Full moon poem by AtheistWitch

Apr 9  Two paintings by Annika Garratt

Apr 11  DE NATURA DEORUM: “The Mystic Demystified: Making theistic language serve the religious naturalist” by John Halstead

Apr 13  Poetry by D’Agio

Apr 16  Mid-Month Meditation: “Veiled Woman” by B.T. Newberg

Apr 20  Postpagan Ceremony & Ecology by Glen Gordon

Apr 23  Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host

Apr 27  Musings of a Pagan Mythicist by Maggie Jay Lee: “Myth and Mnemosyne”

Apr 30  A Pedagogy of Gaia by Bart Everson: “May Day x 2″

Humanistic Paganism Calendar for April

Apr 7 World Health Day

Apr 12 International Day of Human Space Flight

Apr 20 Marcus Aurelius’ birthday

Apr 21 John Muir’s birthday

Apr 22 Earth Day / International Mother Earth Day

Apr 25 Arbor Day

Call for submissions: Practice

March 31, 2014

(Photo from the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens)

If today, like every other day you wake up empty and frightened
You don’t have to open the door to the study and begin reading
You can take down a musical instrument
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth

– Rumi

Our semi-seasonal theme for late spring will be “Practice”.  We Naturalistic Pagans talk a lot.  Some Naturalistic Pagans have no spiritual practice, per se.  For some, living an ethical lifestyle is a spiritual practice.  Others practice meditation.  Other Naturalistic Pagans perform rituals, either solitary or in groups.  Naturalistic Pagan rituals may be similar or dissimilar to other Pagan rituals.  Beginning May 1, we will be talking about how we practice our Naturalistic Paganism — or how we don’t.  How do you experience your religion in your flesh?  Send your submissions to humanisticpaganism [at] gmail [dot] com.

“The Ordeal” by Wayne Martin Mellinger, Ph.D.

March 30, 2014

Today we continue our early spring theme, Inspiration, where we showcase examples of the poetic imagination flowing from the depths of the universe through the minds and hands of Naturalistic Pagans and friends.

“The Ordeal” by Wayne Martin Mellinger, Ph.D.

None of us wants to descend into the devil’s den,
to experience absolute terror and unbearable misery,
to sail across the River Styx and suffer horrible bodily pains,
nights of endless tears and days of lost wandering.
But this is an essential part of the sacred journey.
This is “the Ordeal”–and there is no way
to know the deepest spiritual truths if you have not come here.
There is no way to prepare for this.
There is no way to anticipate these hardships,
for the horrors that shall befall you, and the sacrifices
you shall have to make are unfathomable.
Can you imagine running all night screaming like a banshee
having some ghoulish demon chasing you into the dark forest
until you cower under some log shivering like a scared chiwawa?
At dawn you wonder what was real and quickly return to morning routines
lest some goblin not allow you to come back.
And then comes reflection, begs of forgiveness and promises to never do it again.
If only we would pray like this every morning!
But no, it takes being frightened to death to hold the holy chalice
and recite these magical incantations.

The Author

My name is Wayne Martin Mellinger, Ph.D. I am a Santa Barbara-based social justice educator, activist and writer. I teach in the BA Program in Liberal Studies at Antioch University Santa Barbara, a program which promotes “praxis for social justice” in every class. I am also a social worker with a passion for helping our neighbors on the streets transition into permanent housing and self-sufficiency, especially those beset by mental health challenges and addictions. I see this work as a ministry and I enjoy joining with others from diverse faiths and secular backgrounds in these efforts to build community locally and sustainability globally.

“One Cell” by Catherine Podd

March 26, 2014

Today we continue our early spring theme, Inspiration, where we showcase examples of the artistic imagination flowing from the depths of the universe through the minds and hands of Naturalistic Pagans and friends.

For discussion: What feelings does this image evoke? What memories does it cause you to recall? What thoughts do you have about the picture?

The Artist

Catherine Podd: I am a 30 something over-thinker who contemplates our amazing planet and universe every moment possible. Massage Therapist and Reiki Teacher by day, loving mom to a son on the AWEtism spectrum the rest of the time.

“Song of the Self” by Jennifer Adele

March 23, 2014

Today we begin our early spring theme, Inspiration.  We Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagans know how to reason critically.  But what role do intuition, inspiration, poetry, and art play in our Naturalistic Paganism?  Over the next six weeks, we will showcase examples of the poetic imagination flowing from the depths of the universe through the minds and hands of Naturalistic Pagans and friends.

“Song of the Self” by Jennifer Adele (c) 2009

I am deliriously happy
in my truest form.
I am reliable
when I give myself direction.
I care deeply
about all others.

I am the wounded healer.
I am phoenician.
I am spiritual.
I am beautiful.

I have driving ambitions
to improve life.
I am constantly in a state
of limitless creativity.
I am spontaneous
and authentic.

I am the wounded healer.
I am phoenician.
I am spiritual.
I am beautiful.

I am stronger than even
I could ever imagine.
I am intelligent
and charming and witty.
I am eclectic and ever changing
yet very decisive.

I am the wounded healer.
I am phoenician.
I am spiritual.
I am beautiful.

I am the Self.

The Author

Jennifer Adele is an independent author and nature gal, whose sense of adventure is only matched by her predilection for the magical and macabre. Her love of the written word in its various forms and her fascination with the symbolism inherent in all languages provides an ancient, deep, and eclectic background to her works. She is also an active lecturer and educator for many local groups and public education venues. Her written works on broad-based educational topics, plants, animals, symbolism, and a wide range of nature-based subjects, as well as her creative writings and fiction, have been frequently featured in national and international publications. On a more personal note, Jennifer is mom to three dogs and three cats and greatly enjoys nature hikes, organic art, photography, cooking, painting, wild crafting, and travel.

Jennifer is the author of The Haunting of Willow Tree Court and Spellbound … novels of magic and mystery!

DE NATURA DEORUM: “The Revelation of an Uncaring God” by Scott Oden

March 21, 2014

Today, we transition from talking about the beliefs that bring Structure and Order to our lives to the early spring theme of Inspiration.  We are fortunate to hear from fantasy author, Scott Oden, as he talks about what is in his “god box”.  This is the second article in our new column, De Natura Deorum, where we explore the beliefs of Naturalistic Pagans about the nature of deity.

What’s in your “god box”? (art by Alexander Folmer)

I have never had a supernatural experience.
I have never seen a ghost, a spirit, a wraith, or a shade.
I have never witnessed an inexplicable omen.
I have never heard the voice of a god.

When I look at the list above and compare it to the experiences of other Pagans, it makes me wonder what’s wrong with me.  Am I not doing it right, this faith thing?  Do the Gods have no use for me whatsoever, and thus have cut themselves off from me?  Did the faith centers in my brain never fully develop?  Am I blind to the Gods?  Can I not perceive them because my own prejudices get in the way?  Do I expect too much from the Divine?  The search for answers, to these questions and myriad more like them, are what brought me into the sphere of Humanistic Paganism and introduced me to the writings of Humanistic Pagans like John Halstead.

On John’s blog over at Patheos, The Allergic Pagan, I first encountered a wonderful phrase: “the god box”.  Far from a negative connotation, I translated this as the space inside a person’s head where they perceive the Divine, where they hear and understand the unique voices of the Gods, where they see them in their mind’s eye, and where their faith is first given expression.  Exploring this notion led me to make a rather predictable discovery: my own god box is empty.

This came as no shock to me.  I’ve always wanted to live under the aegis of a divine pantheon rich with antiquity, to lead a life brimming with mystery and myth drawn from the great spiritual literature of the ancients, from writers like Homer and Hesiod and Sallustius.  I’ve always wanted a cacophony of Divine voices that drove me to the heights of ecstatic madness and filled me with that unbreakable, resolute belief that only the truly faithful can possess.  But that’s not what I have.  No, that space inside my head where some sense of the Divine resides is empty, nothing but errant cobwebs and dust.  I could blame time and location – I am a 21st century American living in a fully Christianized country – or perhaps I could blame my mindset, which is not agrarian, tribal, or yoked to the unknown whims of Nature, but rather is mechanized, urban, and electronic.  I think, though, that blame for the emptiness I feel must surely fall squarely on my own perception of reality.

Reality, by which I mean the physical world that exists outside my own head, is where my faith stumbles.  I am not bereft of imagination.  I write historical fiction and fantasy for a living, and writing is a field that places a high premium on imagination.  And while I can imagine all manner of strange and supernatural happenings, there is a great gulf between imagining something and believing that it truly exists in the physical realm.  I can imagine thunder as the wrath of Zeus given voice and offer a sacrifice to propitiate Him, but outside of my imagination I know thunder is nothing more than a sound caused by lightning – itself a complex series of naturally-occurring factors that meld to create an electrostatic discharge.  I can fill the divine spaces inside my consciousness with poetic imagery of Zeus in all His multi-faceted glory, drawn from the myths of the ancient Greeks and the writings of the Romantic authors; I can pour libations and ask for divine favor as thunder roars and crashes overhead, but if thunder is merely Nature being Nature and Zeus exists only in my head, am I not, then, simply worshiping a voice in my own subconscious?

It is because I am a writer by trade that I don’t credit the voices in my head with divinity, even if there is a great deal of mystery as to how some of those voices got there and from whence they originate.  The same goes with some of the imagery I get.  One of my strong points, if you believe reviews, is the ability to conjure a place or a time. I could say it’s a mystery, that the hand of some God moves me to write of these things I’ve never seen, of times I’ve never lived.  But that would be disingenuous.  I can conjure place and time because I read voraciously about those places and times, and have the good fortune of being capable of relating an image formed of research in a concise and engaging manner.  And if I really examine them, most of the voices have their genesis in real-world connections, such as something I see on the street or read in a book.  Some, especially the voices of protagonists, are subtle (and not-so-subtle) forms of wish fulfillment: I am not a man of action, so I tend to gravitate toward characters that are exactly that.

What am I, then?  An atheist?  No, I think not.  I have faith that there is something god-like and divine in the cosmos, something greater than me.  I used to self-identify as an agnostic, but agnosticism is an unfulfilling stance for someone who desperately wants to experience the Divine.  I was a Hellenic Reconstructionist, for a time, but I could never get over the idea that the gods of Hellas behaved in exactly the same manner as the Christian god: because they move in mysterious ways they can only contact mere mortals via wholly unverifiable moments of personal gnosis or through the most subtle of clues and omens.  Was that voice Hermes?  Was that swirling zephyr a sign from Apollo?  As you might imagine, my tenure as a Hellene ended with me standing in a violent, lightning-laced thunderstorm, daring Zeus to strike me down.  He didn’t, and that only added more questions to my already burgeoning list.  No, I am a Pagan, and my brand of Paganism is a very simplified form of pantheism.

I arrived at this after searching for gods in the physical world, for sources of the Divine that existed as more than subconscious voices and subtle omens.  I came up with three: the Sun, the Earth itself, and Inspiration.  Sol Invictus, Gaia, and the Muses, if you will.  Sol Invictus gives life; he creates a synergy with Gaia to create food, water, and shelter; and the Muses give us a needed push in the right direction to populate the world with science, art, drama, and discourse.  Representations of each of these three are as old as Humanity itself.  We’ve filled our god boxes with elaborate personalities and stories; we’ve crafted rituals and sacraments and offer sacrifices in hopes of gaining favor, but even if we do nothing, the sun will rise, the earth will turn, and ideas will pop unbidden into our heads.  If humanity failed to sacrifice or to propitiate the mighty Sun, Sol Invictus would not withhold the bounty of his energy.  He doesn’t care.

This revelation brought with a weird dichotomy of feeling.  On the one hand, there was a sense of absolute freedom from the rigors of attempting to please a divine force whose wishes and desires were forever hidden from mortal understanding; on the other, a profound sense of sadness – sadness in that I could go outside, tilt my face to heaven, and behold the theophany of a God who ultimately did not care if I worshiped Him or not.

John Halstead asked me once if I had a practice.  I do not, not in the strictest sense, for in my belief there is no point to it.  Instead, I offer thanks: to the Muses for their continued gifts, which makes my day job all the more easier; to Gaia, for Her gift of shelter and sustenance; and to Sol Invictus, for keeping the cold dark of oblivion at bay.

For conversation …

In the comments below, share what’s in your “god box”, that “space inside a person’s head where they perceive the Divine, where they hear and understand the unique voices of the Gods, where they see them in their mind’s eye, and where their faith is first given expression”?  Is your “god box” empty?  What effect does that have on the practice of your spirituality/religion?

The Author

Hailing from the hills of rural North Alabama, Scott Oden‘s fascination with far-off places and times began in grade school, when he stumbled across the staggering and savage vistas of Robert E. Howard and Harold Lamb.  Though Oden started writing his own tales at the age of fourteen, it would be many years before anything would come of it.  In the meantime, he had a brief and tempestuous fling with academia before retiring to the private sector, where he worked the usual roster of odd jobs-from delivering pizza to stacking paper in the bindery of a printing company to clerking at a video store.  Nowadays, Oden writes full-time from his family home near Huntsville.

Oden is the author of the critically-acclaimed historical novels MEN OF BRONZE (2005), MEMNON (2006), THE LION OF CAIRO (2010), and the forthcoming A GATHERING OF RAVENS.

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