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Hail Great Washington  
11:15am 22/02/2012
Diana L. Paxson
So this morning, in honor of Washington's actual birth date, I put on my playlist of Revolutionary War period music, starting with the "President's March", which celebrates Washington and the heroes of the Revolution. It is hard to realize how revered Washington was in this country's early days. And the amazing thing is, he seems to have deserved it. He may not have been the greatest general, but he was a superb commander in chief during the war, and it was clear he was the only man who could hold the country together during its first fragile years.

The other thing that amazes me is the fact that almost as soon as the Constitution was approved, factions sprang up, and that they are in essence the same factions we are dealing with today-- states versus federal government, liberal versus conservative, city versus country, labor versus capital. However on the whole, the divisions don't seem to have had religious grounds. I suspect the English-speaking peoples still remembered the horrors of the English Civil War too vividly to want to risk religious war again. The Founding Fathers were absolutely determined to keep the United States from becoming a theocracy dominated by /any/ of the denominations present.

Considering some of the bizarre statements the current crop of candidates have been coming out with, I think it's time to reactivate the Freedom-fathers' project and invoke the help of our founding fathers and mothers to keep us true to their ideals.
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: "The President's March"
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The Annual Pagan Family Reunion  
04:57pm 21/02/2012
Diana L. Paxson
I'm home from Pantheacon, one of the more remarkable phenomena of the Pagan Revival--2300 people from every possible pagan or alternative religious tradition in a hotel. Kabbalism, Strega, Heathenry, Umbanda, Wicca, even the occasional mystical Christian. Pantheacon started as a local (Northern California) celebration, but these days people come from all over the country, and I get to see folks I've met at other festivals. This year they included Margot Adler and Ivo Dominguez, among many others. It's worthwhile for the people-watching alone. Masks and wings, hats, jewelry, tattoos, robes--you name it, somebody is wearing it. It's a great opportunity to explore spiritual options, and what you don't get from the workshops you can find out at the hospitality rooms sponsored by various groups. This year I actually was able to spend some time in the Heathen Hospitality Hof and the room sponsored by the Fellowship of the Spiral Path.

One of the differences between this and other events I attend is that at Pantheacon so many from my home community come too. This means I can do things that need a full team. This year it was a ritual play on the death of Baldr, with 7 speaking parts and a chorus. Herding all those cats was exciting, but the result was worth it. Ritual theater is a way to convey information and insights in a way that reaches people's souls. And there's nothing like the high when it's successfully done! I'm very grateful to the wonderful people in Hrafnar kindred for working with me on this.

This year was especially fun because Weiser books brought a box of advance copies of /The Way of the Oracle/. People snapped them up and I got a lot of positive feedback. After 20 years of doing the work, it is good to be able to share this harvest at last.
mood: accomplishedaccomplished
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[From Lorrie] Brace Yourselves... the Oracle Book Is Coming!  
11:33am 05/02/2012
Diana L. Paxson
Hi, folks, Lorrie here (as Diana's webmaster) with some important news:

Cover of the Oracle Book!Title:The Way of the Oracle: Recovering the Practices of the Past to Find Answers for Today
Author:Diana L. Paxson
Publisher:Red Wheel/Weiser

Come the first of March, you'll be able to buy it directly from the publisher, and of course your local friendly neighborhood occult bookstore should carry it--and if they don't, the above information is everything they'll need to get it in for you. The publisher is also the one to speak to regarding versions for Kindle, iPad, and other devices--they've had these made for the rune book and the trance book, so I'm sure they will for the oracle book as well. I'll list those in another post.


Wanna get it early? Like, a week and a half before everyone else? Click here!Collapse )

The astute reader of the publisher's page, or gleaner of other publicity about this long-awaited tome, may notice a certain new website as being the author's official one. If they were astute a couple weeks ago, why, they might have found a simple page in a typewritten font that was extraordinarily unaesthetic. We're not quite ready to announce it ourselves--there's brass to polish and glass to fit--but the clever and determined may search themselves for a bit of a sneak peek.
mood: geekygeeky
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Beauty, Evolution, and Joy  
09:26pm 23/09/2011
Diana L. Paxson
This past month, one of the runes we've been studying in the Rune Class is Wunjo--Joy. In one sense, it’s pretty simple. In another it’s an abstraction that’s almost impossible to define. The best image I could come up with to represent it on the altar was Snoopy doing the happy dance. In the class discussion, I tried to analyze my own feelings on the subject. Today I find myself still chewing on the question. When do I feel Joy? Why? What is the function of Joy in the scheme of things?

One of the things that stimulates the sensation I define as Joy most often and most easily is Beauty. The poet Keats says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” (“Ode on a Grecian Urn” 49-50) He takes fifty lines to make his point, but the final two say it all. But what is that Truth that Beauty defines? Why does looking at something beautiful make us feel joy?

When I try to analyze why I find something beautiful, I seek beyond conventional definitions to come up with terms like pattern, balance, harmony, symmetry, order. I believe that we have been programmed by evolution to recognize and appreciate them. We find these elements in everything that exists—the dance of electrons, the spirals of our DNA, the petals of a rose or the folds of a mountain range. In these things we see an essential order that is profoundly reassuring. Even things that at first glance appear to be asymmetrical or disorderly can elicit that response. Artistic movements alternate between a controlled, formal esthetic and a celebration of the unpredictable and “natural”. In Europe, the Classical formalism of the 18th century was followed by the wild enthusiasm of the Romantic movement. We find both mathematically perfect patterned brocade and the apparent freedom of a brush-painting in Japanese art. We are hardwired to see beauty, though, as with many other things, we may need practice to exercise that skill. We are surrounded by beauty. The artist with a brush or camera learns to “frame” a picture to capture that beauty by including a balance of color, shape and movement, fix the moment of beauty for those who look but do not /see/.

I propose that the reason that we respond to something in which we find is because we all—redwoods, the chambered nautilus, the lark ascending, have evolved together. Our response to Beauty is an instinctive recognition that we are part of a unity. Whether or not there is an Intelligent Designer, the structures of Nature are an intelligent design. When we connect to the harmony around us we feel Joy.

The awe and delight with which I view an especially esthetic sunset are not a proof the existence of Truth, Beauty, or God, but they certainly make it easier for me to live without certainty. From our instinctive response to Beauty we derive an ideal of order, balance and harmony on which to model our lives.

Is Beauty real? In my mind, that is not a particularly useful question. But it is certainly a useful concept. Awareness of Beauty enables me to believe that the world can function in a positive, productive way. No matter what goes wrong, focusing on one thing that is working beautifully gives me hope. To align myself with order, balance, harmony, to move more gracefully, clear and clean a kitchen counter, contemplate the exquisite architecture of a flower, to be mindful in small things, is to strike a blow against entropy (although I have to recognize the possibility that entropy itself may be an apparent disorder in a pattern too large for us to see).

I also choose to believe that our response to this unity with Beauty includes something beyond the evidence of the physical senses, that a part of this order is Spirit, and that the capacity to respond to religious practice with joy is evidence that the Beauty with which we have evolved includes the Divine.
mood: contemplativecontemplative
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World Fantasy Con?  
10:19am 22/09/2011
Diana L. Paxson
The equinox is past, the fog has come back in, it must really be fall, and time to make plans.

Like where I'm going to stay for World Fantasy Con in San Diego. I just recently decided that I really need to be there this year and check out the latest info on what people are doing with e-books, etc.

So if any of you know of someone who needs a room mate at the hotel, do let me know...
mood: artisticartistic
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Turn out the lights night  
04:03pm 28/03/2011
Diana L. Paxson
So on a rare evening last week when I didn't have a meeting, I was sitting at the computer trying to get some work done when my grandson Michael asked if I wanted to participate in a one-hour lights out event. He's in an environmental emphasis program at Berkeley High, and apparently this had something to do with energy dependence. Well, I could certainly get behind that, and I wasn't getting anywhere with the work anyway.

By the time I got downstairs, all the lights had been turned off, and the family was busily lighting candles. Greyhaven by candle light is really beautiful. I went back to my room and got my harp, and as everyone gathered in the living room, talking and doing craftwork that didn't require too much light, I played.

It was a beautiful hour, no computer, no TV, just being together. Our family does celebrations, but they are always loud and busy. I can't recall the last time we just quietly enjoyed each other's company, though I admit to a few pangs of gratitude that we were doing this voluntarily and had not fallen into an S.M.Stirling novel.

And this was the kids' idea, not something imposed on them, and they'd like to do it again....
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: The Wandersong
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New Rune Class  
01:05pm 12/02/2011
Diana L. Paxson
Just wanted to let any of my LJ friends who are in my area that we're starting another round of the Rune Class this Wednesday at Greyhaven at 7:30 p.m.

I'm also doing the introductory class as a presentation at PantheaCon at 9 a.m. on Monday. We'll continue on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. We'll draw two runes to decide which ones we are studying in March.

If you're interested and have questions, let me know. Also, feel free to pass the information on to anyone in the Bay Area that might be interested.
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Harry Potter and the empty landscape  
11:20pm 23/01/2011
Diana L. Paxson
Finally got to see /Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I/ last Friday. I've read the book, and I was interested to see that the more relaxed pacing resulting from splitting the novel allowed more time for the actors to show their response to events. But I noticed something else as well.

This is the first of the stories to spend much time outdoors. The first six books take place mostly at Hogwarts, with some scenes in London, magical or muggle, and suburbia. The thing that struck me is that although there are magical creatures outdoors at Hogwarts, and references to magical beings elsewhere, except at Hogwarts, we never see them.

Specifically, in the seventh book, while Harry et al. are doing their "See Beautiful Britain" tour, bouncing from one campsite to another, not only do they not encounter other humans, they don't see any animals, nor do they encounter any magical beings-- there's not a nymph or dryad, dwarf or fairy, to be seen. Rowling's universe, however engaging, is essentially sterile. The magic is no more than an unusually colorful technology. The books are about virtue, not spirituality.

This observation is not exactly news-- I think that most pagans like the books for almost every reason /except/ the magic. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the lonely, lovely settings where a magically sensitive soul should have found spirits galore that brought it home. Having recently re-read Diane Duane's "Young Wizard" series, in which studying wizardry teaches one to perceive the magic in all Life, I couldn't help regretting thinking that Rowling's universe suffers by comparison. Harry and his friends are muggles in the natural world.
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Yule tide meditations 6 - Boxing Day  
01:38am 27/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson
…does not actually mean the day on which we box up all the Christmas left-overs and try to put them away, or spend the day lying about recovering from the excesses of the Jul feast.. Nor is it a day for the sport of boxing, although in some places boxing matches, among other competitions, are held. Nor, although in the British Commonwealth it is a time, like the day after Thanksgiving, for sales of things which are carried away in boxes, is it actually concerned with sales.
It is, however, an official holiday in the rest of the English speaking world, secularized from the feast of St. Stephen, which itself was adopted by the Church to replace the visitations of mummers, guisers, straw-boys, and hooligans who invaded houses as hunters of the wren. The custom, and the meaning, is very close to trick-or-treating at Hallowe’en. Although these processions of “Wild Men” may have lost some of the potential for violence we hear of in earlier traditions, they represent the incursion of the wild, untamed power of the Otherworld that balances the peace and order of Jul—the earthly representatives of the same power that manifests in the Wild Hunt, as the intercalary days between Jul and New Year’s open the door between the worlds.
When the mummers arrive, what is old and decrepit is swept away. Offer a drink of wassail and a penny to the wild powers as they pass, and receive their blessing.
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Yule tide meditations 5 - the Yule Boar  
01:59am 26/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson
“The Boar’s Head in hand bear I—“

No longer is the Yuletide boar paraded through the feasting hall so that men can lay a hand on his back and swear their oaths for the new year, but the Christmas ham still is the center of the feast, basted with brown sugar, or studded with pineapple rounds and cloves. Family and friends affirm their bonds by exchanging gifts, and feast together to affirm abundance. Instead of the Greek “Chi”, let us read the X in X-mas as the Runic “Gebo”, “the Gift”, whose crossed arms signify exchange. We exchange gifts, love, energy, and in so doing, balance each other and the world.

We raise the drinking horn to hail Freyr and ask for peace and good seasons in the coming year.
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Yule tide meditations 4 - Yule eve & the Tomte  
01:20am 25/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson
Tomte, tomte, household wight
Ward us well throughout the night.
Porridge hot we offer you,
And milk that’s laced with tasty brew.
As by the holy hearth you dwell,
In peace and safety keep us well.
Yuletide blessings grant to all
Both clan and kin within this hall.
mood: cheerfulcheerful
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Yule tide meditations 3 - Tunderman's night  
11:24pm 23/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson

Hail Thor, Midgard’s Defender,
Son of Jordh and Odin the old.
You are the strength of the oak, linking earth and heaven,
Strong oak, Law oak, Mightiest of trees,
Limbs thrashing in the wind, roots gripping fast.
You hold out one hand to your people and one to the gods.
Sheltering, protecting, Your deep laughter puts trolls to flight.
I gaze upward, seeking your presence,
And find you, Strong Defender, striding at my side,
Walk with me, Thor,let me lean upon you,
secure in your might against all ills.
Strong and steadfast, trusted and trusty,
To you this brew I offer.
Bless your people, both children and grown.

And a bottle of beer was duly offered at one of the oak trees at the corner park, and when I headed home again, I was not alone....
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Yule tide meditations 2 - the Season  
10:18am 23/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson
In Northern lore, Yuletide is not a holiday, but a season. In northern Europe, it begins with the feast of the dead at Winterfinding or Samhain, and the ancestors remain a part of the process, remembered as we repeat traditions from our childhood or open up the family collection of ornaments for the tree. In the Shetland Islands, they believe that at the beginning of the “merry month” the “trows” are released from underground to run riot through the season. This is a liminal time when the barriers thin between the worlds. Are they trolls, or “drows”—“draugs”, the walking dead, riding with the Wild Hunt or returning like the ghosts of Christmas past to haunt their descendants? In Victorian England, Christmas was a time for ghost stories.

When winter storms howl through the forests, slain warriors follow Herne or Woden through the skies. In Holle’s wagon, unbaptized children ride. At any time during the season, but especially in the liminal time between Jul and New Year’s, hail Odin, and put out a mug of ale for the riders and an apple for the horses when the wild winds blow.

But theirs is not the only magic. We can identify a succession of festivals whose actual dates migrate depending on the calendar and the century. St. Nicholas is celebrated now on Dec. 6th. Officially a 4th century Christian bishop from Myra in what is now Turkey, he became a giver of gifts who rewards the good, accompanied, as Thor travels with Loki, by a demonic associate, Rupert or the Krampus.

On December 13th, another “Christian” saint, Lucia, takes an older form as Scandinavian daughters, crowned with candles, bring coffee and cakes to the family at dawn. Changes in the calendar have transferred customs that originally belonged to the solstice, when it was Sunna or Saule who appeared after the longest night to promise that the sun will strengthen once more.

When she is not wandering the night with dead children, Frau Holda drives wives to uphold the standards of Germanic housekeeping, finishing the spinning and putting the tools away, no doubt to clear the decks for the orgy of cleaning and cooking needed for the holiday. Female ancestors bless their descendants on Mother Night, a time for family stories and recipes.

On the Thursday before Yule we may follow the Shetlanders who celebrate Tunderman’s Night with an offering of beer to Thor. On the Eve of Jul itself, we put out porridge (don’t forget the pat of butter on top), or milk and cookies, for the tomte or housewight who lives by the hearth.

The day of Jul itself is a time for feasting, for asking Freyr for peace and good seasons, and swearing oaths on the back of the the Jul-boar who will provide the feast. With fire and food and gifts we affirm abundance for the coming year

Today, some of these customs have transferred to New Year’s, especially when we use the energy to make resolutions for the coming year. At any time during this period the Wild Hunt may whirl through, spreading terror and blessings, until the season ends in mid-January when we put away the decorations and banish the trows/trolls back underground for another year.
mood: busybusy
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Yule tide meditations 1 - Solstice  
10:16am 23/12/2010
Diana L. Paxson

Light… and darkness. Dark and Light. From space, a blaze of lights, extending in networks of sparkling lights, like spiderwebs jeweled with dewdrops caught by the rising sun. Networks of light, brighter still at this season when every house is lit. Lights everywhere, a festival of lights, defying the cold and the darkness. In the world’s darkness we kindle our lights, build up our fires, proclaim hope and dedication, endurance and perseverance. We are here, we live, we celebrate the light.

Was the world born of ice and fire or from dark and light? Without light, the darkness of space is absolute, the cold, the lack of movement, the inability to change. Darkness is the endless frozen stasis of interstellar space. The stars are suns, brave fires that melt ice, awaken the potential for life. Combustion, energy, destruction and creation, change…

Heat and cold, dark and light, meet and part in an endless dance. From their interactions comes all movement, all potential. The moments when dark or light reach their apogee are times of danger. What if the process does not stop? What if this time, cold and darkness increase until earth is a lifeless ball of ice rolling through space? Or what if light and heat intensify until earth becomes a dessicated husk that finally bursts into flame?

The moment of the turning, when the planet tilts back and light or dark begin to grow or diminish once more, is the promise that change is possible. The stability of perfect balance may be fleeting as well, but the moment when everything shifts is a promise that “nothing too much” is a law of nature as well as a dictum of humankind. The earth tilts, the pendulum begins its long slow swing back until the other point is reached, and turned, and it all begins again.

Rejoice in the light, but do not curse the darkness. Rest in the darkness, but do not flee the light. Move back and forth, in dynamic equilibrium, appreciating each day for the challenges it brings. Blessed be rest and motion, ice and fire, darkness and light.
mood: cheerfulcheerful
music: Lucia Sangen
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Book Signing in Seattle This Saturday  
12:52pm 12/10/2010
Diana L. Paxson
lwood and I will be at Edge of the Circle Books in Seattle THIS SATURDAY, October 16th, from 4-6 PM for a book signing.

Whoever's with us at the end of the affair will help us decide where we're going for dinner--even if you don't necessarily have anything to sign, it's always nice to see local heathens and pagans when we travel, so come down and support your local independent occult shop.

Our apologies for the short notice! I hope you'll be able to join us.
mood: calmcalm
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interview to be aired on 2/22  
01:09pm 19/02/2010
Diana L. Paxson
Hope everyone has recovered from PantheaCon. I had a good time, hope you all did too!

Last summer I did an interview about Trance-Portation with an online station called "Planetary Spirit." It will be broadcast this coming Monday evening on www.cyberstationusa.com
from 9-10 PM ESTZ. The following week, if you go to the website and in the top right, click on "The Shows" then scroll down to Monday 9-10 PM "Planetary Spirit" it will be under "This Week's Show" and the next week move to "Last Week's Show".

Since I've forgotten what I said, I'm looking forward to hearing it too...
mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
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Negative Numbers and Positive Children  
01:10pm 28/01/2010
Diana L. Paxson
My father had a PhD in Math from CalTech. He must have been confused when I grew up unable to deal with numbers. He had to tutor me through High School Algebra, which I barely passed. In my twenties, I decided it was unbefitting an educated person to go glassy-eyed whenever I saw an equation in Scientific American, and started an Algebra class via UC Extension. This lasted until we got to the multiplication of negative numbers. Now I always understood that multiplication was a short cut for addition. 3 + 3 + 3 = 9, or 3 x 3 = 9. And minus 3 is like spending $3, right? But when I add 3 $3 purchases in my checkbook, what I end up with is minus $9.00. So I decided that they had been lying to me all these years about Math (as opposed to English) being Reality and algebra was really magical thinking, and I dropped the course.

So now, all my grandchildren are doing variations of homeschooling. This means that I have much more opportunity to talk to them about what they are learning than families usually get. They are taking algebra, so I asked Evan and Mike to explain to me about negative numbers. My grandchildren are all bright, interesting people, and a lot of fun to talk to, and I was delighted to have a topic of mutual interest.

Various well-meaning people have explained the mystery of negative numbers to me over the years, and I have temporarily understood it. Temporarily. But after a lot of discussion with the kids, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe what we are talking about here is not subtraction, but negation. Negating 3 three dollar checks could leave me with a positive $9. This may be/probably is Really Bad Mathematics, but for the moment, it allows me to get my head around the problem.

On the principle that the best teacher is someone who just learned something, and explaining something is a good way to learn it, I think that maybe it's time to let the kids teach me. But I'm going to have to have to go back to pre-Algebra to even get up to the point where they are.

Anybody got an old book or know any good on-line courses I could try?
mood: excitedexcited
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02:17am 02/01/2010
Diana L. Paxson

Focus…relax…listen to the silence of the house, the party done, the guests all gone, only the family, and the rhythms of the house sighing and beginning to ease. It is the 12th day of Yule, time to bring the celebrations to an end, and I seek the world within for the last time this season.

The mountain is damp and rainy, cold when the wind is off the sea, but I wrap up warmly, and with compass and lantern, seek the world within. And once more I find Raven waiting. Together we pass over Bifrost and seek the gate.

Tonight a white ram watches the gate, but it is Himinbjorg that is lit up. Heimdall himself hosts the final feast of Yule. The ram nods his head, and we turn that way. ”Heimdall’sCollapse )
mood: cheerfulcheerful
music: Strauss, Alpine Symphony
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