mountain

She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

December, 2018

AGISCHANAK

 

As I sit here looking out at the world outside my window, covered with the first snowfall of the season, wrapped in a shawl due to the cold. My thoughts turn to Alaska and what Goddess I may find there.

 

(Image Credit: hubpages.com)

 

My search brings me to Agischanak.

Goddess of the

Mountains.

Goddess of the

Earth.

Protector of Her

people.

Agischanak is a Goddess in Southeastern Alaska. She lives on top of Mt. Edgecumbe, near Sitka.

 

(Image Credit: listverse.com)

 

She is kindly and protects Her people and all of the peoples of the Earth. However, She is also forceful and powerful, as She must be as it is She

who supports the pillar on which the Earth rests.

For visitors, She has her brother, who comes but once a year to bring her the news of the world. The trickster, Raven, also comes to visit, always attempting to woo Her away, thereby abandoning Her post. Of course, it is a post She does not abandon. Raven provokes and annoys her at his own peril, as she responds with earthquakes.

It is cold where Agischanak is holding up the Earth, and Her people come to Her and light roaring fires, as an offering, to keep Her warm.

Remember, were it not for Agischanak, the Earth would sink into the powerful depths of the ocean.

 

(Image Credit: liminallandscapes.com)

 

***

About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, “Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and “Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess”, as well as Mago Publications “She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

My Name is Isis (Volume 4) on Amazon

Pagan Theology

June, 2011

Pagan Theology:  The Mountain

While I think both of us would really like to avoid any reference to Miley Cyrus in this column,  I am going to talk about the mountain, and the climb [1].   We all have our own mountain, and our own path.  For some its steeper, for some, higher.  Sometimes its wooded and we, like Dante, can’t quite see where we are headed.  For others it is so rocky and barren they can barely stand it.   Many people decide on the Christian path, even if they don’t stick to it and their mountain looks really different from the one Christ actually climbed.  Others, the secularists, turn away from the mountain and go have a beer in town.  Pagans take a different path, one that is both tough and magical.

Thinking about paths and climbing, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk a little about the idea of journey in the context of a Pagan theology.    I know I risk getting my wheels stuck in the mud of advice columns [2], but I’ll try to avoid the usual prescriptions.

In his book “Four Spiritualties” Peter Richardson [3] discusses four different types of spiritual paths.  His paths correspond to different Meyer’s-Briggs personality Indicators [4].  These personality types go back to Jung’s psychological types, which in turn work into the idea of the magical.  But that’s another story.

In his book Richardson describes the journey’s that appeal to each grouping of personality type:  the path of unity, the journey of devotion, the journey of works, and the journey of harmony.  While you might want to read his book to see which type of journey you fit into, and what each one entails, I was inspired by his idea of journey to think about what constitutes a Pagan journey.  What propels us along the path?  What actions lead us to fulfillment, and how do we get there through the Gods and Goddesses?  These are big questions, ones I’ll only begin to talk about here, but I think they are extremely interesting questions.

Unlike Richardson who sees each journey as an integrated set of actions that encompass all the different aspects of spiritual questing, I want to examine the individual components that make up a journey.  In other words I’m using Richardson’s idea of the four paths as a way to organize my thinking about the tasks that lead us along the Pagan path.   These are:  take others with you, find love, find peace, and practice.  Each loosely corresponds to Richardson’s paths:  unity: others; devotion: love; harmony: peace; works: practice.

The first task is to take others with you on the journey.  Without others, the journey will not only be lonely, but you will miss the key lessons that compassion and humanity can teach you.  If you look at many Pagan books, they focus a lot on the inner and out works, but not on works that engage us with other people and the world.  The book religions are all about engaging with the world, in particular Christianity focuses a lot on not only how you treat others, but in how you treat the least fortunate, the outcasts, and the marginalized.

Taking others with you on the journey means travelling together, and picking up those who are laying beside the road.  In travelling together we are asked to test our faith against the beliefs and actions of other Pagans.  While it is totally possible to be a solitary practitioner, and to be spiritual alone, it is not possible to be religious alone [5].  Beliefs, practices, magic, spirit, faith, and other beliefs are private, but religion is both private and public.  It is an organized faith, whether it is organized around a circle, a Pagan festival, or a meetup.  It asks that you not only believe, but that you take the risk of speaking and affirming your belief amongst others.  Faith that is witnessed, that is tested, grows stronger and propels you along the path.

Teachers also give us the experience of the other in our journey.  Learning by reading or having a spiritual experience often requires considerable work and in many cases you still get it wrong.  A teacher, at least a good one, can explain in few words many things that you have overlooked or misread.  And only a teacher can teach you how to be in a faith.  Attitude, confidence, the idea of a magical will, are all things that are shown and taught between people.

Travelling together and with our teachers we often encounter the less fortunate.  There are those who are down on their luck.  In fact today there are many more down on their luck than in the past.  There are also those who are down on their spiritual luck, those whose attitudes, personalities, and abilities have left the alone on the journey.  Many of those people show up at our circles and meetups.  We need to show compassion, in order to learn how to be compassionate.  But at the same time we are on a climb.  The Pagan path is both demanding and weird.  Those who drop behind on the path, those who are not disposed to its hardships and requirements, we must let them know we will be waiting, but they need to know that we will not stop.  There is a balance between helping, and stopping.

The second task is to find love.  Love is another spiritual goal that is not readily discussed in the Pagan literature.  Perhaps that’s because of all the “god is love” Christian nonsense.  God is not just love, the Lord and Lady come in many forms, love, cruelty, vengeance, satisfaction, plenty, warmth, amongst only a few.  But we also need to remember that we do have Goddesses of love:  Aphrodite, Aine, Ishtar, Inanna, and others.   Love is as much a part of Paganism as anything else, honor, sex, nature, or magic.

Finding love requires more of us than simply falling in love with one of our fellow travellers.  It means seeking and finding the love of the Lord and Lady.  Their love is within us, all around us, it is in everything that we see, touch, walk on, and breathe.  It comes from the breath of the world, from our experience in nature and in ritual.  Love is that which propels us up the path with out fellow travellers.  In it we find that which is more than ourselves.  From love of the Goddess comes peace.

Which brings us to our third task:  find peace.  Peace here refers to inner peace.  It is the balance that comes from a loving community.  It is the calm that comes from knowing yourself and having your beliefs, values, and worth firmly grounded.  Peace lets us navigate the tricky, technical, parts of our climb.  When things become dangerous, peace is the solid bedrock beneath our feet that keeps us from falling.

Without peace there are many challenges that we will not overcome when we face them.  The first test that the mountain usually gives us on the Pagan path is one of ego.  For some reason Paganism, and magic, can easily lead to a narcissistic pursuit of personal power and egotism.  You know everything, you are always right about the Gods and Goddesses, you must be the first, the boss, the most magical.  Perhaps it is the association of magic with power that is so tempting, or the fact that Pagan beliefs are so malleable that we each are essentially charting our own without any higher authority.  Personally I believe that Paganism encourages self-centeredness because it is different, it is not mainstream.  By just starting down a Pagan path you become different, special, unique.  If you long to be special, Paganism can provide that specialness.  We attract those who want to be unique, different.

Unfortunately that way does not lead to peace, to grounding.  It’s too easy to fall from the path, to lose others, to lose love, if it is all about you.  While the rede and the threefold law are seen as the most important expressions of Pagan ethics, I see the magical law:  magic spoken is magic spoiled, as the most important law.  The discipline of not talking about your craft, of your religion, of your beliefs, robs Paganism of that ego feeding uniqueness.  If you do not tell unless you need to no one will know that you are different.  I know how tempting it is to let your Christian friends know about your beliefs.  And I’m not saying you shouldn’t.  But you should also know that there is a power in holding back, and that power is the peace of seeking the Gods and Goddesses for what they are, not what you are.

Another challenge that we face as Pagans, particularly Pagan leaders, is burnout.  Without peace I have seen too many leaders eventually fall off the path, or at least retreat into solitary practice.  If ego claims half of those who fall away, burnout claims the other.   Peace gives you the grounding to know what is important to do right now.  Attend to your Gods and Goddesses first, for they are the mountain and the path.  Everything else, your reward, fellowship, and practice, are second to that focus.

Which brings us to the fourth task:  practice.   Now practice can mean a lot of things.  It can mean a regular devotional practice such as ritual or prayer, it can mean the practice of magic or other practical spiritual arts, or it can mean “doing something in the world.”  I’d contend all of these are a component of a religious practice.  They both ground you in the world, and they require a certain regulated discipline out of you.  In each of them you are giving something, usually time and attention, to the world of the spirit.

Pagan devotional practices are not as regulated as those of other religions with their rosaries and regularly scheduled prayers.  However, just because we don’t have those rules, doesn’t mean that there are not useful, or that we can’t implement them ourselves.  Pagan devotions can range from daily prayer or communion with the Gods and Goddesses to a simple walk through the woods.  With the Gods and the Goddesses all around us, and within us, many daily actions or rituals can become devotional.  Gardening, making a meal, or playing with your dog can all be ways of connecting with the Goddess [6].

But practice is a serious occupation as well.  It is focused attention on the work of the Gods and the Goddess.  Prayer, meditation, and magic represent related but different ways that attention can be focused.   Prayer is a conversation, mediation or shamanic journey is a seeking of union, and magic is bringing the spirit into manifestation in the world.  None of these practices is done well the first time you do it.  It takes practice to do practice right.  That’s why it’s typically called a spiritual discipline.  Because the discipline you accept in focusing your mind gives you the mental and psychic strength you need to accomplish the task.

Practice can also mean acting in the world.  After all you “practice” a faith or a spiritual discipline.  The practical aspect of faith is perhaps not as glamorous as the spiritual, but its something that we all benefit from.  Leading ritual, helping to prepare meals for the homeless, or working for progress in our religion are all examples of practice.

Think about the time and effort that many of our leaders put into our groups every day.  Scheduling Pagan Pride day, doing rituals, leading classes, and simply organizing covens and groups takes a lot of effort.  These are all spiritual practices that build character and faith through service.    These practices do not make the leaders greater, they make them more humble, more thoughtful, and more prone to realize the ways in which they fall short.  To practice leadership within a Pagan group is to work long hours for only the reward of better self awareness.  In thinking about practice it is important to realize that the practice is not itself what propels you along the path, but the changes it makes in how you see the world.

So what constitutes a Pagan journey?  I’d contend these four tasks:  be with others, find love, find peace, and practice, are great starting points for developing an answer to that question.

The book religions have lots of theological and liturgical answers to the questions of fellowship, love, peace, and works.  But we have little to guide us, as many of the teachings of the old religions have been lost.  Given the proliferation of love Goddesses, for example, it is almost certain that ancient Celtic and Mediterranean religions had deep and thoughtful things to say about the role of love in our relationships.  And some of those relationships are between us and the Gods and Goddesses.

So what path do we take?  What do our ancestors tell us about the climb?  It sure would be great to follow the path that has been trod for millennia.

That is not possible today.   As Pagans we are pretty much on our own.  To climb as high as we can on the mountain we need to understand the path using our own experiences and reasoning.  We need to know how to climb, and where our footing is sure and where it is weak.  This is an enormous challenge, one I do not think we realize the depth and complexity of.  Defining a new way, a way that incorporates reified deity into the quest for transcendent love, inner peace, and selfless practice is very hard work.

Because we do not have the path, we must cut one for ourselves.  That is pretty scary, because the mountain is tall and rugged.  But at the same time it is exhilarating.  As we cut our way up the mountain we are finding remnants of those who have come before us.  As we work, lead, and practice the Pagan path will become clear, maybe not easier, but clear.

[1] Instead of anything by Cyrus (either one), I’d recommend Mother, I Climbed written by the great Dave Carter and performed by Tracy Grammer.  It challenges the whole idea of this column, saying that at the top of the mountain he found nothing, and it was only returning to the earth, the womb of the Goddess (Marianna, who can be taken as an obscure love Goddess or the symbol reason (and France)), that he found peace.  It is a very interesting song, like all of Carter’s songs.  And Tracy Grammer is one of the best folk vocalists recording today.  http://www.tracygrammer.com/php/lyrics.php?uid=506

[2] Another Dave Carter reference.  http://www.tracygrammer.com/php/lyrics.php?uid=98http://www.tracygrammer.com/php/lyrics.php?uid=98

[3]  Peter Tufts Richardson.  Four Spiritualties:  Expressions of Self, Expressions of Spirit:  A Psychology of Contemporary Spiritual Choice, Davies-Black Publishing, 1996.

[4]  Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators and MBTI are registered trademarks of Consulting Psychologists Press Inc.

[5]  I get a lot of grief when I say this, but I am talking in a very technical sense about the term “religion.”  It is not the same as “mystic,” “shaman,” “magician,” or even “witch.”  Religion implies a set of agreed on beliefs, and organization, and a public witness.  Paganism in all its forms totally qualifies on all these (well, except we are not terribly well organized at the strategic level).  However solitary spirituality is not a “religion.” It is a practice, a faith, or a spirituality, but not a religion.  Its not bad, its just we need a term to indicate an organized group who believes the same thing about deity.

[6]  Remember there are Gods and Goddesses for everything, Epona, while typically associated with horses, is also seen in her statuary accompanied by dogs.