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“Hieroglyphic Stairway” by Drew Dellinger

November 5, 2014

Editor’s note: Pagans just finished celebrating Samhain, during which many of us honored our ancestors.  Earlier this week, Catholics around the world celebrated the Day of All Souls, during which they too honored their ancestors.  As we move into our late autumn theme of Responsibility, we at HP are shifting our attention from our ancestors to our descendants.  And thus, we open this theme with a poem by Drew Dellinger.

Hieroglyphic Stairway, Copan, Honduras

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?

what did you do

I’m riding home on the Colma train
I’ve got the voice of the milky way in my dreams

I have teams of scientists
feeding me data daily
and pleading I immediately
turn it into poetry

I want just this consciousness reached
by people in range of secret frequencies
contained in my speech

I am the desirous earth
equidistant to the underworld
and the flesh of the stars

I am everything already lost

the moment the universe turns transparent
and all the light shoots through the cosmos

I use words to instigate silence

I’m a hieroglyphic stairway
in a buried Mayan city
suddenly exposed by a hurricane

a satellite circling earth
finding dinosaur bones
in the Gobi desert
I am telescopes that see back in time

I am the precession of the equinoxes,
the magnetism of the spiraling sea

I’m riding home on the Colma train
with the voice of the milky way in my dreams

I am myths where violets blossom from blood
like dying and rising gods

I’m the boundary of time
soul encountering soul
and tongues of fire

it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I can’t sleep
because my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the earth was unraveling?

I want just this consciousness reached
by people in range of secret frequencies
contained in my speech

You can see Drew recite this poem here.

About the Author

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is a speaker, poet, and writer about issues of  ecology, justice, cosmology, and connectedness.  He is the founder of Planetize the Movement.  Drew has presented at TEDWomen, Bioneers, the Green Festival, the Dream Reborn, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. and shared stages with Thomas Berry, Julia Butterfly Hill, Brian Swimme, and Joanna Macy.  He is the author of a book of poems, Love Letter to the Milky Way.  He also created and taught the course, “New Cosmology: The Universe Story” on ecology, worldviews, and the work of Thomas Berry. His multimedia presentation, “The Cosmic Narrative”, was made into a film, The Awakening Universe. languages.  Drew holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion from CIIS, and was an Associate Professor and Director of the Program in Social Ecology.


Late Fall Theme: What ethical obligations do our beliefs impose on us as Naturalistic Pagans?

November 3, 2014

This year, we divided the year at HP into 8 semi-seasonal themes, following the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.  The themes for 2014 were inspired in part by the Earth Story Calendar created by Peter Adair.

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in 1914 — 100 years ago.

In early winter, we celebrated the birth of the universe asking questions about how we began on this path and how our religious (or non-religious) pasts continue to influence our future as Naturalistic Pagans.  In late winter we celebrated the emergence of galaxies with the theme of “Structure” and discussed how we make a cosmos out of chaos with our beliefs and the stories we tell.  In early spring, starting with the equinox, we celebrated supernovas and the seeding of space with the theme of “Fire/Inspiration” and discussed what role inspiration plays in our Naturalistic Paganism.  In late spring, we celebrated the formation of the earth by discussing how we practice with our Naturalistic Paganism with our senses and our bodies.  In early summer we celebrated the formation of the atmosphere of the earth with the them of “Air/Intellect” and discussed what role intellectual inquiry plays in our Naturalistic Paganism.  In late summer we celebrated the formation of oceans on the earth with the theme of “Water/Emotion” and discussed what role the emotions play in our religious lives.  In early autumn, we celebrated the emergence of life — and hence death — and discussed the role an awareness of death plays in our spirituality.

Now we come to our eighth and final theme of the year, Responsibility.  For late autumn we will be recognizing the place we have come to now, the Sixth Great Extinction.  The World Wildlife Federation recently reported that the earth has lost 50% of its wildlife in the last 40 years due to human activity — primarily due to exploitation and degradation/loss of habitat.  (You can see a species/rainforest loss clock here.)  According to the Living Planet Report, today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it, but four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, and 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.  For this November and December, we will be asking what ethical obligations our beliefs impose on us as Naturalistic Pagans.  Send your submissions to humanisticpaganism [at] gmail [dot] com.

“Spell, spell, what the hell?” by Telmaris Green

November 1, 2014

This essay was originally published at Skeptical Witch.

What is a spell?

If you would be kind enough to indulge my inner word-geek for a moment, I promise to get on to the enchanted frog part soon.  The following etymologies for the word “spell” come from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

spell (n.1)
Old English spell “story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command,” from Proto-Germanic *spellam (see spell (v.1)). Compare Old Saxon spel, Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill “report, discourse, tale, fable, myth;” German Beispiel “example.” From c.1200 as “an utterance, something said, a statement, remark;” meaning “set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm” first recorded 1570s; hence any means or cause of enchantment.

The term ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will — unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. [“Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore”]

spell (v.1)
early 14c., “read letter by letter, write or say the letters of;” c.1400, “form words by means of letters,” apparently a French word that merged with or displaced a native Old English one; both are from the same Germanic root, but the French word had evolved a different sense. The native word is Old English spellian “to tell, speak, discourse, talk,” from Proto-Germanic *spellam (cognates: Old High German spellon “to tell,” Old Norse spjalla, Gothic spillon “to talk, tell”), from PIE *spel- (2) “to say aloud, recite.”

The first thing to notice is that the taproot of the word, the meaning from which later meanings grow, is “speech.”  We go from there to telling, written language, reading, reading with difficulty, story, and finally, speech as magical power. Read more…

DE NATURAL DEORUM: “On The Road With The Wild Hunstman” by paganaidd

October 31, 2014

De Natura Deorum is a monthly column where we explore the beliefs of Naturalistic Pagans about the nature of deity. This essay was originally published on Paganaidd’s Blog.

Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. — JRR Tolkien

The Wild Huntsman that I know doesn’t ride a horse or wield a sword.  Of course, my teenage imagination wanted him to.  I wanted to believe that somewhere there were druids and standing stones and everything as perfect once upon a time and we lived in a fallen world and we merely needed to be led back to the garden…

Wait…I’ve heard that story, somewhere.  But I digress…

The Wild Huntsman that I know drives a fine piece of Detroit steel, probably a Mustang or a Thunderbird, model circa 1969.  An unlawfully loud, gas-guzzling, fume-spouting, dragon of a car.

When I first started driving, I started to feel Him on the roads.  On image came into my mind, fueled half by stories I read, half by my own experiences and visions.  I could imagine him clearly, on the streets that I knew.  His steed either red or black, depending on the night.  When it rained or snowed, it was black.  The paint gleamed with lambent unnatural silver under the streetlights.  Cruising down Woodward, or Jefferson, you swore the damned thing glowed…but no, it was a trick of the fog.  If you were on the freeway, all you saw were its red tail lights and you were just thankful He wasn’t interested in taking you with Him.

On clear nights it was red, and even the cops let Him slide, “Didja see that guy?” the younger cop would ask, as it flew by, clocking 98.

“Didn’t see nothin’” said the older guy, “Drink yer coffee.”

I always knew the nights He was on the road.  I’d make it from Southfield to Ann Arbor in half the time it should have taken.   On I-75 between Downtown Detroit and the Ohio border a pack of cars might find themselves caught up in the Hunstman’s chase.  In the morning they’d wonder how the hell they made Toledo in forty minutes and Dayton in two hours, but at least tonight, the Hunter wasn’t up for a wreck

Maybe the Wild Huntsman as phantom automobile is just a figment of my mad imagination, but what else would the Huntsman ride, now?.

The automobile is the teenage spirit of sex and death in modern America.  The names themselves are totems: Mustang, Lynx, Thunderbird, Impala.  The list is endless.

An automobile moves with the power of fire.  We invest it with a bit of our own spirit.  When we drive, we refer to the car as “Me” and “I”.  One might say, “I wish that guy would get off my butt.” meaning the vehicle behind is being driven too closely.  Is it any wonder we anthropomorphise them?  Give them their own houses? Take care of them as if they were our children?  It would be a little mad not to.  We lose our virginity in them. We construct our identity around them.  We die in them.  Stealing a car is treated much more seriously than rape or perhaps even murder.  The Archetypical American story is the Road Story; whether it’s some dirt track somewhere, Route 66 or any part of Eisenhower Interstate System.

Every road has a spirit.  That’s why crossroads are so powerful.  It’s where the ley lines meet, if you will.  But we’ve made a huge system of roads that have no crossroads.  They are merely lines of force and power.   They join as rivers join and branch off, nothing to stop it.

We’re enticed with the idea of “the Freedom of the Road”, even if we never take the road farther than our job.  It’s just knowing that we could.

Sometimes we do make those road trips.  When I was a child, I made many with my parents, and then as a teenager and young adult.  The only way to properly see parts of this country is from the road. Specifically following those paths that are limited to vehicles with combustion engines.

Buried in the Interstate system is the knowledge that, like Roman roads, like Gothic castles, they were built for warfare; to move troops and weaponry.  More, they carry our food, our goods, the stuff of our lives.  Everything in the room with you, right now, has a 99.9% chance of having had to be shipped in a container truck across some interstate.  More than anything, the Interstate is what binds our Early 21st Century lives together.

They are very serious about their mission, but like soldiers off duty, they want to play.  With the sun shining, on a clear day, when traffic is light, you can feel the Hunter in his guise as Young Lover.  Think James Dean, think Easy Rider, think a thousand other road movies.  If you want to see the God as Lover, you have only to look beside you, at the red light.  He’s there, in that boy’s eyes as he drops his foot on the accelerator and disappears in a cloud of testosterone

Where’s the Goddess in all this?  These roads are not exclusively male, by any means.  Perhaps they were built so, in the early days, but no longer.  Look at that road again.  There she is…Venus turns to give a you a slow wink before she floors her sweet pink roadster, making you feel young again.   Look to the medians.  A hundred wildflowers and grasses spring up, where by rights, nothing should be able to survive the constant car exhausts, but the land struggles on.  The Goddess laughing at our foolishness, because one day we will be gone and the roads will be all that is left of us.  She knows.  She’s seen it.  The old Roman roads still endure here and there, after all.  In the mean time, Hera’s driving a peacock green mini-van with a few kids in back, watching out for all the soccer moms.  Persephone’s sitting beside Demeter, tooling around in a yellow Viper with the top down.
I have felt the Goddess ride beside me when the music was just perfect and I was on I-94, headed to Chicago, just for a pizza.  I have felt Her, watching from the woods, on a bitter cold January night when I pulled off to the side of the road, fifty miles from any light pollution and saw the Milky Way the way the ancients saw it.  I have heard her voice when she’s said “Slow down hard.  NOW.” just before someone pulls an asshole move and cuts me off.

These roads have powerful magic.  They were built by people, to serve people.  But every creation has a dark side.

If the Wild Huntsman calls you, He calls you to get lost on these roads.  He may call you to die on these roads.  Drive in the middle of the night and you can feel Him.  Look at the thousands of roadside shrines for your proof of the human sacrifices He demands.

Six million accidents every year.

Not all of them fatal.  Most of them just fender benders, not even worth mentioning.  But more die in wrecks than are killed by drugs or disease or any other single cause.

Remember how young you were the first time you knew someone who died in a car wreck?  For me it was fifteen, maybe.

I’m an EMT, so I go to these wrecks, and help who I can.  When it’s bad, its very, very bad.  And it’s human error or hubris that cause most wrecks.  The Spirits of the Road are unforgiving and The Huntsman is not known for mercy.

As you drive by those roadside shrines, spare a thought to the power of that gesture.  A cross, a marker.  Many cultures believed that if one died on the road, one had to be guided home.  Great power is evoked at places of death.  Our roads are haunted places.

When someone dies on scene, at a wreck, there is a protocol.  Next time you’re stopped on a freeway for hours, consider that an accident might have been a death and they’re waiting for someone with the proper authority to come to move the body.

The gods and goddesses of death are there too.  If they’re lucky, an accident victim dies instantly, their shade standing, staring at the wreck.  “What happened?” they always ask.

If they’re not lucky, a broken body is pulled from twisted metal, lasting just long enough to die on the way.

When you pass one of those shrines, spare a prayer that that shade has been guided safely home.

We do not honor the Spirits of the Roads at our peril.

Thank you! We did it!

October 30, 2014

Thank you to everyone who helped HP meet our fundraising goal!  And a special thank you to the following individuals:

Angela Tousey

Jon Cleland Host

B. T. Newberg

William Blumberg

Eric Steinhart

Bart Everson

Melissa Hope

Steven Laudano

David Dashifen Kees

Maggie Jay Lee

John Halstead

If you would like you name displayed differently above, please let me know.  If you contributed $25 or more and have not already let me know what site or blog you would like HP to link to, please email me at humanisticpaganism [at] gmail [dot] com.  Those of you who have should find the link in the menu bar to the right.

Thank you all again for your support.  The funds have been transferred to The Wild Hunt blog to secure our graphical underwriting ad on the main page of the site.

John Halstead
Managing Editor, Humanistic Paganism

Video: “Why I Care About DNA & Ancestors” by Jon Cleland Host

October 30, 2014

While the thoughts about my Ancestors are always present to some degree in my life, the Ancestors are increasingly present for me now as we near Samhain night.  There are so many reminders – so many things that are connected in one way or many to our Ancestors!   One of the most potent reminders for me is our DNA — crafted over billions of years by the struggles of literally trillions of Ancestors.

For Samhain, my son and I just finished this video, in which I explain a few of the many ways in which DNA reminds me of this connection to our Ancestors, and thus touches me deeply.  I hope you enjoy it.

Blessed be – Jon Cleland Host

The Wheel of Evolution, by Eric Steinhart: Samhain

October 29, 2014

Dr. Eric Steinhart draws on his philosophical background to create a naturalistic foundation for the Pagan Wheel of the Year.  To better understand axiarchism, the philosophy on which Dr. Steinhart draws to create a Naturalistic Pagan theology, see Part 1 and Part 2 of his essay “Axiarchism and Paganism”.

Death of the Universe by Moonrunner Design

Samhain marks the final harvest, the cosmic harvest, when all the complexity of our universe has been reduced to noise.  All structures have been consumed by the axiarchic* fire which brought them into being.  The stars have burned out; the protons have fallen apart into their quarks; the quarks have dissolved back into their quantum fields; and the fields themselves have evaporated.  At Samhain, our universe lies in ashes.

At Samhain all the things in our universe have finished their prayers.  All these prayers are answered by other possible universes, so that our universe surrounds itself with cosmic utopias, like a conflagration surrounds itself with sparks.  These utopias represent all the remedies for the axiological failures of our universe.  They depict all the ways that the defects in our universe can be repaired.  For any way that any thing in our universe has ever suffered, there exists some cosmic utopia in which it has some improved counterpart which does not suffer in that way.  These cosmic utopias are divine seeds, which contain the genotypes for new universes, universes in which previously unmet axiological demands are satisfied.  But these seeds are sparks thrown off by the combustion of our universe.  At Samhain, these hot utopian sparks glow without burning, the incendiary feathers of an old phoenix, lifted by the winds, waiting to burst into flame.

At Samhain, the veil between worlds is indeed thinnest; however, for Pagan naturalists, this is not the veil between our universe and some ghostly realm populated by immaterial spirits.  Pagan naturalists reject mind-body dualism.  The veil between worlds is the division between our universe and its utopias.  The axiarchic principle* asserts that all axiological demands will be satisfied; all prayers of all things will be answered; every prophecy will be fulfilled; everything that ought to be will be.  But it will not be in our universe, which has failed in all these ways, and which at Samhain is dead.  For every way our universe ought to have been, there will be some universe which will be that way.  But this requires the existence of some deeper wheel whose rotations bring universes into being.

If the axiarchic principle* is true, then the Wheel of the Year, thought of cosmologically, is cyclical algorithm which progressively generates universes.  The Wheel of the Year is also an axiarchic wheel.  For any universe, for every one of the utopian shadows generated by that universe, the axiarchic wheel brings that shadow into light.  It actualizes that cosmic potentiality.  For every way our universe can be improved, the turning of the axiarchic wheel ensures that there will be some universe which is improved in that way.  Our universe will be followed by every better version of itself.  Samhain, which is death, is also the promise of rebirth.  As the wheel turns toward Yule, the utopian shadows surrounding our universe gather heat; they become cosmic embryos, gestating in the axiarchic womb.  Every spark thrown off by the suffering in our universe lands on flammable soil; the fire-seed takes root on the heights of the sacred mountain; the new phoenix gathers strength.

By the end of Samhain, on the eve of Yule, every better offspring of our universe waits to be born; our universe itself waits to be reborn in every one of these superior versions of itself. The form of every past thing, once incarnated, is ready to be reincarnated in every one of its superior counterparts.  For every way your life can be improved, there is some utopian offspring of our universe in which your life is improved in that way, by one of your future better counterparts.  By the end of Samhain, each utopian version of our universe is a seed at the end of some topmost branch on the World Tree.  But each seed, as the wheel turns back around, is merely the ground for the emergence of a new sprout. Each seed carries within itself the essential soil, in which the Source lies dormant as the root of all things.  And as the sun rises at dawn after the longest night, the Source, which is just the axiarchic principle*, quickens with these forms as an immanent power.  The meaning of the Source manifests itself more explicitly; draws its further conclusions; causes these forms to become concretely instantiated.  By the eruption of this first light, this gift of actuality, they burst into flame, they become physical, so the Wheel turns round once more.

*Axiarchism is a philosophical theory which states that reality is ultimately defined by some kind of value. The demands made by value are axiological demands. An axiological demand is a proposition whose truth follows from the nature of the thing which makes it.

The Author

Eric Steinhart is a professor of philosophy at William Paterson University. He is the author of four books, including Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death. He is currently working on naturalistic foundations for Paganism, linking Paganism to traditional Western philosophy. He grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. He loves New England and the American West, and enjoys all types of hiking and biking, chess, microscopy, and photography.

More of The Wheel of Evolution.

See more of Dr. Steinhart’s posts.


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