faith

Allhallow’s Eve

So tomorrow is Hallowe’en. But since it’s on a school day again this year I’m not sure when the trick or treating will be. The ancient Celts would celebrate Samhain (see my post here), on the full moon nearest what we would call October 31st (in the times before the Gregorian calendar when it was a lunar based calendar). For us this year, that will be Saturday, November 4th at 1:23 AM. So that would make Saturday the day for trick or treating.

And of course, that would be one of the nights that the veil between the worlds would be thin, allowing all sorts of creatures, both good and bad, to visit our world from the “underworld”. Scholars point to this fact as the beginning of our Hallowe’en costumes.

“Trick-or-treating is a modern incarnation of old Irish, Manx, and Scottish practices that sometimes occurred over multiple nights leading to Samhain. In Ireland, the poor went door-to-door “mumming” or “souling.” They offered songs and prayers for the dead. As payment, the owners of the homes visited gave them soul cakes, cookies with a cross drawn on top, representing each soul detained in purgatory. Some saw the soulers, who often carried turnip lamps as they went about their rounds, as enacting the role of the dead souls seeking their food offerings. The regions that called this practice “mumming” were also referring to a type of folk theater called “Mummer’s Theater.” These often involved loose, strange plots involving stock characters. Saint George and the Doctor was a common play used at Samhain. In Somerset, children went door-to-door on October 30, called “Punkie Night.” The colloquial name “punkie” referred to their turnip (or beet) lanterns. On this holiday, children begged their neighbors for money to pay for fireworks used on the next night, called Mischief Night. The locals considered it unlucky to refuse— the children carrying the punkies represented the souls of dead children. Some regions came to call this door-to-door collections practice Halloween rhyming. Often children sang a song to the people who answered their doors and soul cakes or soul meat was part of an expected exchange. Mumming in Ireland gave way to going door-to-door, saying, “Help the Halloween party! Any apples or nuts?” In France, the tradition differed slightly. Rather than demanding food, children collected flowers from their neighbors, so that they might decorate graves of family members the following morning.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 296-309). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Observing Samhain, or Hallowe’en, on Saturday also makes sense this year as the following Sunday would be All Souls Day (All Saints Sunday in the Christian Churches). A time of remembrance of those that have passed on the year before.

“Eventually both All Saints’ and All Souls’ became distinct holidays unto themselves, with All Saints’ an observance for souls believed already ascended to heaven, and All Souls’ as a day to honor souls possibly still working out some issues in purgatory. In Ireland, these days marked a time for family reunions after cow-milking season finished.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 176-178). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

So what are you going to do for Hallowe’en, Allhallows Eve or Hallowmas, whichever name you wish to use? We don’t have many children in our neighborhood, so Wifey® and I usually leave the house and turn off all the lights. But this year may be different, our old dog (who was more than a bit aggressive) has passed on, so it’s safe to open the door to little children again. We’ll have to see.

Leave a comment on your plans!

Peace,
B

New Moon Rites

According to the Lunar Phase app on my Android phone, the new moon will October 19th at 0312 EDT. Since I hope to be in bed asleep at that time (but there is no guarantee of that) I will celebrate around sundown tonight on the 18th.

To interpret the flow of terrestrial magnetism— the dragon current, the serpent path— it is also necessary to watch the night sky. Night, to ancient people, was not an “absence of light” or a negative darkness, but a powerful source of energy and inspiration. At night cosmos reveals herself in her vastness, the earth opens to moisture and germination under moonlight, and the magnetic serpentine current stirs itself in the underground waters— just as the thick, snakey spray of stars, the Milky Way, winds across the night sky. Moon phases are a part of the great cosmic dance in which everything participates: the movement of the celestial bodies, the pulse of tides, the circulation of blood and sap in animals and plants. Observation of the night sky, of the stars, and especially of the moon, was the beginning of mathematics and science.

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 139). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The ancients viewed the time of the new moon as a time that the Goddess went to the underworld to be with her “other half”, usually depicted as a son and/or lover.  It was not a time to be feared, but a time of fasting and introspection to be ready for when the moon Goddess reappeared in the sky. Some saw the moon as a male entity.

The timing of the new moon, usually a two to three-day event, has been echoed in almost every major religion;

In later Neolithic times some cultures saw the moon as male, as the son/ lover of the Goddess. As the vegetation deity died once each year, to fertilize the crops with his blood, so the male Moon God died each month. He disappeared for three days, locked up in her underworld. This myth was continued in the ritual of Christ being closed up three days in the tomb. In Polynesian belief the dying moon journeyed to a faraway paradise where it bathed in waters of immortality, and restored to vigor, returned in three days.

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 177). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The next full moon will be November 4th, at 0123 EDT. Again I hope to be sleeping, but for me, that is when I will celebrate Samhain. The ancient Celts, like most of the ancient world, were a lunar based society.  The Celts were not afraid of lunar eclipses. We celebrated them. It wasn’t until about 5000 BCE and the coming of the Druidic age that they turned to a “sun god”.

Avebury, on the Wiltshire Downs in the south of England, was the sacred center of megalithic culture in Britain. Avebury’s stone circle is the largest yet found in England. It dwarfs Stonehenge. (There are seventy-seven other stone circles, or henges, dating from the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.) Avebury was built by pre-Celtic people, living in a farming community circa 2600 B.C. For thousands of years before its construction, the entire landscape of the surrounding area, stretching for about 37 miles, had been seen as the outline of the body of the Goddess. Every hill, mound, stone, and long barrow was believed to form part of her maternal body. The three stone circles at the “causewayed camp” at Windmill Hill nearby predated Avebury by more than six hundred years. The Avebury monuments, which include Silbury Hill and West Kennet long barrow, form a “condensed sequence of visual sculpted images within the center of the larger and more ancient presence. They express together journeys of cosmic range and the entire yearly agricultural cycle within the space of three fields.”

Sjoo, Monica; Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (p. 133). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Does anyone else have any moon rituals they celebrate? Leave a comment if you do!

Peace,
B

Random Thoughts….

When the wifey and I left the world of structured Christianity and started reading other sources, I dropped most the Christian authors and pastors from my Twitter (which by the way is @beachdaze if you want to connect with me).

I started reading books like;

  • “Did Jesus Exist?”, “Lost Christianities”, and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman
  • “The Future of God” by Deepak Chopra
  • “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Irish Paganism” by Morgan Daimler
  • “Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber
  • “The English Translation of the Qur’an” by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan

And many more mostly on ancient history. I seem to be drawn to stories and information of the first century CE.  Basically the beginnings of the Christian church. For too long I had been told that the bible was inerrant, so it contained no mistakes and no contradictions. Well that didn’t last long. Even as a child I had trouble believing in the flood story.  I knew that almost every race of people on the planet had some kind of flood story. Especially in the Mesopotamian area. And I won’t even get started on “Jonah and the whale”.

I have started again reading books from what would best be called “Christian authors”;

  • Rob Bell – “Velvet Elvis”, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” and my favorite of his “Love Wins”.
  • Pete Enns – “The Sin of Certainty”, “The Bible Tells Me So”, and “The Evolution of Adam”.
  • Sarah Bessey – “Jesus Feminist”.
  • Marcus Borg – “The God We Never Knew” and “Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time”.

Mixed in with all these are Hunter S. Thompson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Hiaasen to name but a few.  Many baseball books, some books on the ancient Picts (still looking for books on the Dal Riadia) and even “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” by Amy-Jill Levine, an atheistic Jew that attends a conservative synagogue.  If you want to learn about the anti-Semitic views in the New Testament, this is a good place to start.

Gone are the old school folks – Max Lucado, John Ortberg, Phillip Yancey and Beth Moore.  Oddly, I still rely on Bishop John Shelby Sprong and the late Phyllis Tickle. We meet Ms. Tickle at a UMC event some years ago. My favorite quote of that event was hers;

“The best thing about being Anglican is where ever there’s three or four of us, there’s bound to be a fifth!”

But to get back to the original idea of this post; Twitter followers.  Since the election I have found myself gravitating backs towards the “Christian” authors and pastors I dropped long ago. I find my social justice and political views aligning back to that compass point. My faith hasn’t changed, I’m still very agnostic and maybe even more so as I age. But it’s these faith leaders that I find on the front lines, at least electronically, that stir my heart and soul (if there is such a thing).

I won’t call these folks out by name. I know that don’t do these things for any kid of recognition, they do it because their faith calls them to do it. I admire that. I wish I had that kind of faith. Some are folks everyone has heard of, others are just friends and family that only know by a few. Some are near, others I’ve never met, but hope to some day (we’re going to make it to The Wild Goose festival one of these years).

So for all the unsung heroes who blog, tweet, facebook, snapchat or otherwise call out those that need calling out (and there’s lots of them there folks these days), thank you.

I got your back.

Peace,
B

Jesus and Me

(This is gonna be a long one.  Grab an adult beverage of your choice and maybe a snack… Also I am not a bible scholar, but I do read many books about the bible and ancient history. I will include some links at the end of the article.)

Before I start, I want you to know that I am an Agnostic.  By that I mean I do believe in a higher power, not necessarily a sentient being, but a creator of sorts.  It may be the Judaeo/Christian God (YHWH, Jehovah, Elohim or just God). It may be the Muslim Allah. It may have no name, gender or form. I really don’t know.  But I do believe that this universe didn’t happen by chance. That’s just too many coincidences for me.

When I was a little kid my parents (mom specifically) would drop me off at church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.  My older siblings, nor my parents had to go but I did.  I would attend Sunday School and then meet with my age appropriate group afterwards.  As I’ve said before, I’m rather introverted so this was very difficult for me, especially during those all important middle and high school years.

During these times, I had much trouble with the usual bible stories. A man swallowed by a fish and lives for three days? A “loving” god drowns the entire earth except for one family, that just happened to build a boat big enough to hold an enormous cargo of all types of animals? And why are there two different creation stories? If this bible is inerrant it doesn’t live up to its billing. And what’s up with heaven and hell?  Again, how could a loving god condemn the majority of planet earth to hell just because they didn’t believe or understand a message?  If god’s grace is unconditional, then it just doesn’t make sense to me.  And there are many more questions where that came from.

The little UMC church I was forced into, early on was more on the liberal side than most. The pastor was well-known in the community as an outspoken critic of Vietnam, and when his daughter came out as gay he immediately started marching for gay rights. (He also had a very pretty wife that I admit I had a school boy crush on). He welcomed my questions and doubts and answered them as best he could. But unfortunately, his activism cost him his position in our church and he was moved elsewhere as Methodists tend to do.

But I continued to ask my questions. And by the age of 17 I was basically told that I don’t belong here, please leave before you corrupt any of the other youth.  By then my parents didn’t seem to care if I went or not, so I stopped going.

Fast forward to 2001.  My wife was attending a CBF Baptist church (mostly to appease her parents) but I didn’t go (she was raised in a very fundamental SBC church). The music minister and I somehow became acquainted and knowing that had I been a former radio DJ, asked me if I could help run the sound board for worship services.  And for whatever reason I agreed.

Then we were asked to go on a retreat of sorts.  This particular one was “The Walk To Emmaus” (other denominations have the same basic retreat under different names such as Tres Dias and Cursillo). I found the walk interesting and more what I thought a church (the people not the building) were supposed to be like.  My wife and I got heavily involved in the local group.

Until (there’s always an “until” isn’t there?  My wife posted a poem on Facebook that was attributed to Brigid of Ireland (before the Catholics took her out of pagan lore and made her a saint).

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.
If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make men happy for their own sakes.
I should like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.

Next thing you know my wife is getting assailed from a member of the community (a pastor’s son no less) about “heathen” posts.  You know when a post starts out “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you’re going to take it the wrong way.  That started the decline. (Wifey wrote a very polite rebuttal that basically told him to mind his own business. My reply would have been much more crude.)

Right around this time I was laid off from my job.  At 50 years of age, with no real IT certifications (but 20+ years of experience) to my name it was very difficult to find a job.  In fact I was out of regular work for about three and half years.  During this time, no one in the community ever offered any kind of help for us.  Although they were planning all kinds of fund-raising activities for other folks (including the person that was against the Brigid post). But all we received were well wishes, good luck!

“If one of you says to them, “Go In peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? ~ James 2:16 NIV

By this time I was pretty much done with this organization.  I no longer attended the monthly gatherings, and politely turned down any requests to serve on the weekend teams.  My faith was quickly returning the 17-year-old me.

So now, the Jesus and Me part (sorry it took so long – but I did warn you).

There are enough extra-biblical sources to convince me that there was a historical man named Jesus that lived in first century Palestine and was crucified by the Romans under orders from Pontius Pilate. Was this man the “son of god”? I don’t think so.  I’ve read several books on the historical Jesus, authors such as Bart D. Ehrman, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  All have different views as to the divinity of Jesus (I tend to think Ehrman is closest to my beliefs).

I also don’t believe that the words attributed to Jesus can be considered actual “quotes”.  Scholars today agree that the first gospel written was “Mark” (the names on the gospels are not believed to be the actual authors of the writings. They were given these names centuries later). Mark’s gospel was written about 50 – 60 CE. Almost 25 – 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  I seriously doubt anyone could remember the exact words that were said that long ago.  Hell, I have trouble remembering what anyone told me yesterday!  Not to mention that the trial before Pilate, there was nobody else in the room!  So how did the dialog come about? If Jesus’ disciples (and probably himself) were from a backwater town like Nazareth it is highly doubtful they were literate.  Considering the gospels were written in Greek, and a very “formal” version of Greek, it’s a long shot that any of the gospels were actually written by a follower of Jesus.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think the bible is a falsehood.  As another of my favorite authors, Pete Enns says, you have to take the bible in context of a first century Jew. Remember who they were writing for and why.

To me the words of Jesus (the “red-letter” words) may not by historical, but they are important.  The gospel writers got the gist behind the stories and parables that Jesus may have said, that’s whats important. I think the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the bible are relevant for today as much as they were for when they were written.

A pastor once slammed his bible on a table, pointed at it and said:

“This can be summed up as such: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart.  And love your neighbor as yourself”. 

That still resonates with me, even as I struggle to define “God”.

So all this to say, I believe in a creator (close to a pagan/Native American belief), a “Mother Earth and Father Sky” if you will.  Jesus was historical, but not divine. But he was very in tune with this “creator” and was a very moral and wise teacher.  His teachings have impact on the world today as much as they did some 2,000 years ago.

Maybe it’s my Pict roots that are calling me back to nature god/goddess pattern, I don’t know.  But I will continue to search and learn.

Hope you will too.  And please leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts and if you agree or disagree with me.  I do believe we’re all in this together, and we need to be here for each other.

Peace,

B

Links (in no particular order) go to the authors page on Amazon.

Bart D. Ehrman   I especially liked his “Did Jesus Exist”, “Misquoting Jesus” and “Lost Christianities” but I have several others as well.

Rob Bell  His “Love Wins” is an exceptionable book on why there is no Hell. “Velvet Elvis” was the first of his books I read.

Pete Enns  “The Sin of Certanity” and “The Bible Tells Me So” really sparked my interest in going deeper into the history of the Bible.

John Shelby Sprong  “The Fourth Gospel: Tales Of A Jewish Mystic” and “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” are both excellent reads.

Brian D. McLaren  “A Generous Orthodoxy” – probably the book that started it all for me.

Books:

“Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber

“Our Great Big American God: A Short History Of Our Ever Growing Deity” by Matthew Paul Turner

GENERATIONAL GOD: a wild goose poem

Source: GENERATIONAL GOD: a wild goose poem

The beautiful poem comes from my Twitter friend Kaitlin Curtice.  This was written and read during this years Wild Goose Festival, an art, music and story-driven transformational experience.  We really wanted to go, but it just wasn’t in the budget.

You may also read Kaitlin’s blog here.  She also writes for the Patheos network under the Progressive Christian Channel.

This poem is posted with her permission.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Peace,
B