Not everyone is happy of course. The Churches are looking all confused – on the one hand preaching that “God is love” while on the other hand saying, “wee-eeeell, maybe God is love – but not quite for all people. Not for you gay people over in the corner, anyway.”
And the politicians who, in not too distant memory were all iffy and uffy about same sex marriage, now rush in their full acceptance of the cause, saying, “We were on your side all along! Yes, really!”
Then there are groups who claim that same-sex marriage will persecute traditional marriage types. I’m not sure how – and neither are they, as they don’t quite specify the details – but they’re vehement on the matter.
The thing is, all this denying and delaying and complaing and whinging about being persecuted sounds eerily familiar. The same complaints were heard, and the same arguments, every time a persecuted minority (or majority) has gained rights.
The same arguments were used against the civil rights movement in the US (didn’t you know whites are discriminated against?), and the same against women rights (men are being persecuted now – didn’t you know?). It’s the same old line, used over and over.
It never held water then, and it doesn’t now.
Australia is a backwater
My home country of Australia is starting to look more and more like a backwater of human rights. I’m embarrassed. I’m living in New Zealand now, but I follow the Aussie news, and I feel ashamed that Australia hasn’t led the way on this issue. Especially when so much of the population is clearly in favour. It seems like the politicians have stopped listening to the people. Or maybe that happened a while back…
But you can’t stop change. The Churches in the UK are against this, but popular opinion is changing so swiftly in favour of this issue that they’ll soon be left behind, if they aren’t already. Just one more way in which mainstream religions are losing touch with popular culture.
These are interesting times we live in. I think there are some issues that are changing a little too fast for my liking, such as the amount of violence on TV and film. But other issues, such as rights for minorities, can’t change fast enough.
From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.
Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.
My potted history in Paganism
You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.
We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.
We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.
Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.
I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.
Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.
But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.
I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.
Time is, change is…
That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.
Does lineage matter?
The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.
No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.
I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.
What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.
I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.
Skills for becoming a better practitioner
I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.
What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.
Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.
Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!
Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.
My path continues…
Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.
I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.
I’ve talked a fair bit about Aphrodite and embracing our sexuality and sensuality as women. But what about men?
How Aphrodite is relevant to men
Aphrodite teaches us that our sexual, sensual nature is a part of us, not separate and closeted away. That it’s okay – more than okay – to be sexual, physical beings.
It’s okay to feel, to experience, to love, to enjoy our bodies, to lust, and to experience pleasure and revel in it. It’s okay to enjoy beauty and enjoy being beautiful.
Being sterile, celibate, unfeeling, uncaring – none of these is a natural state of being for humans. Sex is something we all do. It’s part of who we are. It’s fun, it’s positive, and it’s something to enjoy and explore without shame or fear.
These lessons are just as relevant to men as they are to women. Yet they are not where we are beginning from.
Although it’s rapidly breaking down, we still live in a largely puritanical society that tells us to fear sex, be ashamed of our bodies, hate our physical selves and the selves of other that do not conform to some mythical standard of perfection (whatever THAT is supposed to be) and, in the case of men, hide away our emotional and sensual selves and pretend they don’t exist.
That’s a whole lot of negatives.
The Man Box
Start with The Man Box – everything that Society tells men they should be in order to be a Real Man:
According to the Man Box, and the dysfunctional patriarchy that created it, men are not supposed to express or feel emotion. They’re not supposed to receive pleasure – only to give, in a very assertive, Dominant, forceful, controlling kind of way.
They’re not supposed to see women as equals, but as chattel, objects, items to be used and bought and sold. This is why “purity” and the concept of virginity in women is so highly prized in patriarchy – because women are objects to be valued and owned, rather than individuals with their own agency.
Men are not supposed to feel, or to cry, or to express weakness, or humility, or need. Yet all of these emotions are part of what it means to be human: they’re all part of the complete human experience.
The Man Box is strong, its mythos still alive and kicking. Our world is full of men who have been sold the Man Box, sold the patriarchal model of behaviour, and been screwed up mightily by it.
Men who have bought into the Man Box model often can no longer connect fully with their emotions, are unable to have fulfilling, satisfying relationships with women or other men. They feel a huge amount of anger and resentment at the world, yet are not quite sure why. They’re also often quite homophobic – because being gay is the antithesis of what a “real man” should be.
They’ve been damaged by a model of being that doesn’t fit with what real, whole, healthy humans are, and need to be.
The healing powers of Aphrodite
The power of Aphrodite – embracing our sexuality and sensuality, reconnecting with our emotional selves, accepting all mutually consenting acts of love and pleasure – is incredibly healing.
The puritanical society we live in, where sex has been hidden away and seen as something dirty and shameful, and where women have been scapegoated for millenia for society’s ills (remember Eve and the snake? Yeah, it goes back to that old yarn and possibly well before it), has been in need of healing and resolution for a long time.
Society needs Aphrodite. We need Aphrodite. And men need Aphrodite too, just as much as women.
Just as women have been disconnected from our sexuality, so too have men.
Sex has been hidden away for men too. There has been an insane amount of pressure on them to perform, to achieve in sex – and you see this in men continually wondering and worrying about the size of their penises, where the truth is, most women couldn’t really care less.
Aphrodite teaches us to become whole. Stop comparing ourselves with others. Opt out of patriarchy. Choose not to see sex as something dirty but instead as something precious, sacred, joyful. Our sexuality is the gift of Aphrodite: it is given to us for pleasure and enjoyment, not for shame or ridicule or insecurity.
Once men start understanding that they can be whole, sensual humans – not mechanical, unfeeling robots that must exert power over others in order to have value – that’s when the healing begins. Men can receive as well as give, be beneath as well as on top, penetrate as well as be penetrated, and enjoy their bodies instead of feeling shame or insecurity, creating a healthier, happier dynamic between the genders.
For a long time the whole Madonna-Whore Complex gave women two roles – we could be “pure” as wives, mothers and virgins. Or we were “dirty” as whores – women who enjoyed and appreciated sexual fulfilment.
Madonnas and whores – the two categories for women.
Nothing in between. The thought that sex could be a normal healthy part of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) life was, and is still, problematic for people who see women as either madonnas or whores, as pure or impure.
Because sex is such a massive stepping stone in the madonna-whore world, such a huge item of goods to be traded and sold by a woman’s father on her wedding day to the prospective husband, it can never be seen as a normal healthy thing that humans simply do because its enjoyable and natural.
In the Madonna-Whore world, virginity is of incredible importance. Without her virginity, a woman is worthless. Soiled. Trash.
And a man who has had sex with many women? Well…
Have you ever noticed how there are so many words for a woman who has had sex (or a woman who people think has had sex) but there are very few for men?
The outcome of “sluts versus studs”
So we get the politicalisation of contraception – because only a whore would need it. Once a woman is married, her role becomes simply that of “Mother” or “Prospective Mother” and contraception is an unmentionable. Although almost all couples use contraception in modern society, it’s an unmentionable topic. People pretend it doesn’t happen.
And we get the politicalisation of abortion. Only a whore would abort. A “nice” pure girl doesn’t get pregnant in the first place (because she’s “abstinant”). And if she does (whoops!), she’ll marry the father and have her Happily Ever After.
This very narrow view of women – as pure or impure, madonna or whore – stems from patriarchal religions, is tied up with the old worldview of women as chattel and property, and is directly at odds with the direction society is headed in. Hence the clash between the patriarchal churches and society at large.
And the churches are losing. You can see this very clearly in the political landscape in the United States at the moment, the likely collapse and fragmentation of the Republican party – it has aligned itself with the old, white, extreme right religious sects of society, and is finding it simply doesn’t have the numbers. Those numbers are reducing at a very rapid rate, reflecting the way society is changing.
So what’s happening?
Sex is coming out of the closet. That’s what’s happening.
Women are starting to talk about sex, we’re starting to proclaim loudly that it is natural to enjoy sex – with however many partners of whatever gender we wish – and that whatever sex we happen to enjoy does not value or devalue us as individuals. It is simply something we, as human beings, do.
The changes we’re seeing in society, and the death of the madonna-whore complex, are part of women’s movement towards full equality as human beings. That’s all it is.
A group of people cannot be equal as long as they continue to be put into boxes for their behaviour and stereotyped. The “purity” concept needs to die – and the sooner the better. Purity is a concept that should be attached to clean water, or safe food. Not to women and girls. Not to people. We’re not a commodity. We’re human beings.
Aphrodite is a Goddess who represents the sexuality and power of women. She is strong, and fearless – and yes, she is sexual, and sensual, and beautiful. That is why she is intensely uncomfortable for people who have traces of the Madonna-Whore complex instilled in them. Because we’ve been taught that sexuality should be secretive, that is doesn’t give us strength and power. Yet it does.
This is why I think women need to embrace Aphrodite and what she represents. Make peace with our beauty, our sexuality, our sensuality. Be proud to say we enjoy sex. With whomever we choose. In whatever way we wish. Our bodies are our own to use as we desire.
That is why we do the Slut Walks, and why we support the womens shelters. That is why we do NOT bitch against other women, or criticise them for their sexual choices. That is why we support the right to choose, and the right to have safe, freely accessible contraception. Because all of these things are about the right to control our own bodies.
I’m no Madonna. I’m no whore. I’m a human being. And so is every other woman on this planet. It’s time to throw the boxes out the window. None of us is pure, or impure. There is no such thing as virginity – I’m tossing that out too.
Here’s the definition of “religion”, straight from the dictionary:
The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.
Details of belief as taught or discussed.
faith – belief – creed – denomination
And the definition of “craft”:
An activity involving skill in making things by hand.
Use skill in making (something): “he crafted the chair”; “a beautifully crafted object”.
An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry.
The membership of such an occupation or trade; guild.
art – skill – trade – artifice – handicraft – vessel
Pretty obvious to me that as Akasha is a craft.
It’s a big difference. Akasha is a path that doesn’t teach you what to think, or what to believe. We don’t ever claim that there are Gods up there in the sky that will wreak vengeance on you if you don’t kowtow to them. And we won’t ever ask you to give us all your money – although that would be nice LOL!
Yep. It’s a craft. If you’re looking for a path that will teach you what to believe, you’ll need to look someplace else. BUT if you’re looking for training that will teach you how to use your mind and body, how to understand the archetypes that religions and cultures have provided for us across the ages, and how to see the patterns that are visible again and again, over and over, in the Universe, then you may have come to the right place.
Spring Equinox is a time when day and night is of equal length. Traditionally, this is the time of the year when the Crone departs, and we welcome the prospect of new life and new beginnings.
This ritual focuses on the transformation of the Maiden into the Mother, and welcomes in the new phase of a woman’s life when she prepares for motherhood. The ritual also honours the time of Maidenhood – in particular, the Maiden in her role as Warrior (Athene) and the Maiden in her role as Huntress (Diana).
For this ritual you will need:
A handful of white flowers or rose petals
A handful of withered leaves
Four white quarter candles
A lighter (or matches)
The Sword of the Maiden Warrior (sword)
The Knife of the Maiden Huntress (blade)
Small pieces of red paper, on which the Maidens have written their wishes for the Mother in childbirth.
Cauldron, methylated spirits, epsoms salts
Cakes and Ale.
Prior to the ritual:
The cauldron should be set in the middle of the Circle in front of the altar, with epsom salts and methylated spirits within, ready to burn.
At each quarter a white candle should be set ready to light, honouring the time of Imbolc which is passing, and the Maidens who preside over this time.
Two bowls – one containing white flowers or rose petals, the other containing withered leaves – should be ready on the altar.
Small pieces of red paper, with the wishes of the Maidens for the Mother, should be ready on the altar.
The Sword of the Maiden Warrior, and the Knife of the Maiden Huntress should reside on the Eastern side of the altar.
Cakes and ale should be ready on the altar for Feasting.
The Maiden Warrior takes up the lighter/matches from the altar, and lights the Eastern candle.
I light the candle of the East The Dawn, new beginnings, new life… (The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Air)
I light the candle of the North The Midday sun, passions, sexuality, lust… (The Maiden Huntress free-forms on the Element of Fire)
I light the candle of the West The Dusk, emotion, the family… (The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Water)
I light the candle of the South The Midnight Hour, the silence, the strength… (The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Earth)
Imbolc is ending The time of the Maiden is passing The darkness is over And hope is reborn in the Mother…
Winter has ended The Crone departs, her cold touch leaves us I honour her in her strength and wisdom Watch over our sister in the trials of birth that await her!
Maiden Warrior: (takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother)
I salute and honour the Mother Our sister, our friend… (The Maiden Warrior free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)
Maiden Huntress: (takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother)
I salute and honour the Mother Our sister, our friend… (The Maiden Huntress free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)
Mother: (moving into the centre of the Circle, and lighting the Cauldron)
I light the Cauldron of Akasha The Spirit, the Soul, the web Maiden, Mother, Crone.
The Maiden Warrior takes up the white flowers / rose petals from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the transformation from Maiden to Mother. She then takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).
The Maiden Huntress takes up the withered leaves from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the passing of the Crone as winter ends. She then takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).
The Maidens now take up from the altar their pieces of red paper upon which their wishes are written, and cast them into the Cauldron, with any appropriate words they might like to say.
The Mother kneels in front of the Cauldron, and expresses her thanks, and asks for a safe and joyous birth, and for a healthy and happy child.
Time is change, change is time, Change is the way of the Goddess…
The Maidens now close the Circle, blow out the white quarter candles, and the Coven move inside for Cakes and Ale.