In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty and sexual
rapture. According to Hesiod, she was born when Uranus (the father of the gods)
was castrated by his son Cronus . Cronus threw the severed genitals into the
ocean which began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros ("sea foam")
arose Aphrodite, and the sea carried her to either Cyprus or Cythera. Hence she
is often referred to as Kypris and Cytherea. Homer calls her a daughter of Zeus
and Dione. After her birth, Zeus was afraid that the gods would fight over
Aphrodite's hand in marriage so he married her off to the smith god Hephaestus
the steadiest of the gods. He could hardly believe his good luck and used all
his skills to make the most lavish jewels for her. He made her a girdle of
finely wrought gold and wove magic into the filigree work. That was not very
wise of him, for when she wore her magic girdle no one could resist her, and she
was all too irresistible already.
She loved gaiety and glamour and was not at
all pleased at being the wife of sooty, hard-working Hephaestus. Aphrodite loved
and was loved by many gods and mortals. Among her mortal lovers, the most famous
was perhaps Adonis . Some of her sons are Eros, Anteros, Hymenaios and Aeneas
(with her Trojan lover Anchises. She is accompanied by the Graces. Her festival
is the Aphrodisiac which was celebrated in various centers of Greece and
especially in Athens and Corinth. Her priestesses were not prostitutes but women
who represented the goddess and sexual intercourse with them was considered just
one of the methods of worship. Aphrodite was originally an old-Asian goddess,
similar to the Mesopotamian Ishtar and the Syro-Palestinian goddess Ashtart. Her
attributes are a.o. the dolphin, the dove, the swan, the pomegranate and the
lime tree. In Roman mythology Venus is the goddess of love and beauty and Cupid
is love's messenger...
In the original edition (1979) of her standard book on contemporary Paganism in the United States, "Drawing Down the Moon", Margot Adler wrote:“In the last ten years, alongside the often noted resurgence of 'occult' and 'magical' groups, a diverse and decentralized religious movement has sprung up that remains comparatively unnoticed, and when recognized, is generally misunderstood.”Those were people describing themselves as Pagans or Neo-Pagans. “The modern Pagan resurgence includes the new feminist goddess-worshipping groups, certain newreligions based on the visions of science-fiction writers, attempts to revive ancient European religions - Norse, Greek, Roman - and the surviving tribal religions”, wrote Adler.
In the meantime, Paganism has certainly not decreased and its expressions have become still much more varied than they used to be.
There are now many academic books and articles on contemporary Paganism, especially in North America. Moreover, Paganism has grown into a more international phenomenon. But people active in Pagan ways still feel they are misunderstood in many places. However, at least in the United States, Paganism has now its place among other religious paths in a number of local, regional, and national interreligious initiatives, for instance.In order to learn more about Paganism today, Religioscope has met with Selena Fox, who has been active for many years inthis field as the leader of Circle. Born in 1949 in Arlington, Virginia, Rev. Selena Fox is senior minister and high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, a Shamanic Wiccan church, Pagan resource center, and Nature preserve with a worldwide Ecospirituality ministry that includes networking, publishing, education, environmental preservation, counseling, events sponsoring, and other work. For more than thirty years, Rev. Fox has served as one of the elders, religious freedom activists, and public media spokespersons for the Wiccan religion and related forms of contemporary Paganism and Ecospirituality, nationwide and internationally.Being involved in networks across Pagan traditions, Selena Fox is certainly one of the most qualified Pagan leaders for helping us to gain a better understanding of this religious phenomenon. In this interview, she also tells us how she came herself to followth......
This season belongs to Brigid, the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring.Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.In most parts of the British Isles, February is a harsh and bitter month. In old Scotland, the month fell in the middle of the period knownas Faoilleach, the Wolf-month; it was also known as a’ marbh mhiòs, the Dead-month.
although this season was so cold and drear, small but sturdy signs of
new life began to appear: Lambs were born and soft rain brought new
Ravens begin to build their nests and larks were said to sing
with a clearer voice.
In Ireland, the land was
prepared to receive the new seed with spade and plough; calves were
born, and fishermen looked eagerly for the end of winter storms and
rough seas to launch their boats again. In Scotland, the Old Woman of
winter, the Cailleach, is reborn as Bride, Young Maiden of Spring,
fragile yet growing stronger each day as the sun rekindles its fire,
turning scarcity into abundance. Of her, Alexander Carmichael wrote:
Bride with her white wand
is said to breathe life into themouth of the dead Winter and to bring
him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the
laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its
safety on Bride’s Day, and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day.
The Exalted One
It is tempting to view this
tender goddess of the early Spring only as she is pictured in Scottish
artist John Duncan’s famous picture, The Coming of Bride: a wide-eyed,
golden-haired girl, encircled by children. But behind her girlish
innocence is the power of a once-great ancestral deity, Brigid, whose
name means “The Exalted One,” queen and mother goddess of many European
tribes. She is also known as Brigid, Bridget, Brighid, Brighde, Brig or
Bride and some scholars consider her name originated with theVedi......
The Pagan seasonal cycle is often called the Wheel of the Year. Almost all
Pagans celebrate a cycle of eight festivals, which are spaced every six or seven
weeks through the year and divide the wheel into eight segments.
Four of the festivals have Celtic origins and are known by their Celtic
names, Imbloc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain.
The other four are points in the solar calendar. These are, Spring Equinox,
Autumn Equinox, Summer and Winter Solstice. Neolithic sites such as Stonehenge
act as gigantic solar calendars which marked the solstices and equinoxes and
show that solar festivals have been significant dates for hundreds of thousands
(The seasonal differences between the hemispheres mean solar festivals are
celebrated opposite different dates in the southern hemisphere)
The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also
known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
Ancient people were hunters and spent most of
their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in
their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and
even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel
that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl,
that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit
bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.
The ancient Romans also held a festival to
celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th
of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men
dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved
decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and
giving presents. Before Christianity came to the British Isles
the Winter Solstice was held on the shortest day of the year (21st December).
The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree
and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the
mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
It was also the Druids who began the tradition
of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in
the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness,
banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. Many of these customs are still followed today.
They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of