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June 1st, 2018

Meet the Gods: Bes

 

 

Merry meet.

Bes was an Egyptian god who brought comfort and protection to mothers and children. The somewhat comical, somewhat sinister-looking bearded dwarf looks human but is often also portrayed as part animal – generally a lion with a mane and tail, or with wings. He has a plump body, bow legs, prominent genitals and is sticking out his tongue. He is always shown facing forwards, unlike most Egyptian Gods who are shown in profile. On occasion, Bes is wearing a plumed headdress or a crown, and carrying a rattle, drum, tambourine or knife.

 

 

Also known as Bisu and Aha, he was a deity and a demonic fighter. A god of war, “he was also a patron of childbirth and the home, and was associated with sexuality, humour, music and dancing,” according to ancientegyptonline.co.uk. “Although he began as a protector of the pharaoh, he became very popular with every day Egyptian people because he protected women and children above all others. He had no temples and there were no priests ordained in his name. However, he was one of the most popular gods of ancient Egypt and was often depicted on household items such as furniture, mirrors and cosmetics containers and applicators as well as magical wands and knives.”

Apparently, he got the name Aha, meaning fighter, because he could kill lions, bears and snakes with his hands. Although labeled a demon, there he was not considered evil, but rather, drove evil spirits away.

Laboring mothers would call on Bes for help. It is said he would stay on after birth to protect and entertain the child, and that when a baby smiled for no apparent reason, it was because Bes was making funny faces for them.

 

 

Using dance and music, he would also chase away bad spirits during sex and sleep. That’s why he could be found carved into the legs of beds – to protect people during the night when they were most vulnerable.

Egyptians would put a statue of him near the door to protect their home from evil spirits wanting to cause harm. He appeared on the walls of temples and homes, and was on thousands of amulets and charms, protecting people from the dangers of everyday life such as menacing animals and food going bad.

 

 

Bes is the first subject to be identified in early Egyptian tattoos, according to “Tattoo: Symbol and Meanings,” by Jack Watkins.

Performers often had tattoos of Bes because of his association with dancing and music. It is also thought that sacred prostitutes may have had a tattoo of Bes placed near their pubic area in order to prevent venereal diseases, but it is also possible that the tattoos related to fertility,” Watkins wrote.

Bes’ wife, Beset, was the female version of himself. Images of them naked were painted on walls.

Merry part. And merry meet again

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

I have called this ‘friendship’ with the gods rather than ‘devotion,’ because pagan religion does not require us to fake emotions the way the biblical religions do. As many of us know, Jews and Christians are commanded “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength.” Was a more impossible commandment ever given? The pagan gods of nature, unlike Yahweh, “in whom we live, move and have our being,” do not compass us round about. They arise from chaos at the beginning of a world cycle and build a new world out of matter in the chaotic state. “Chaos,” which later biblical theologians have mistranslated as a void, meant in Hebrew (and other ancient languages) a devastation, the world left over from its destruction at the end of the previous cosmic cycle.

So the gods build a new world around themselves and live in it as their cosmic house. They create animals, plants, men, and other beings, of gross and of subtle matter (spirit), to share their habitation with them. This is not creation out of nothing; indeed, the idea of something coming from nothing was at first absent from, and later repugnant to, the ancient mind. In the still largely pagan Genesis, Yahweh creates Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathes into him his breath-soul, in Hebrew his nephesh, made out of subtle or elemental air. Odin, Vili, and Ve create the first man and woman out of an ash and elm tree, respectively, found along the shore of the primeval sea.

Thus the gods are our neighbors, as well as, in a sense, our parents and elder brothers and sisters. They inhabit the cosmic world of time and space with us. They live a very long time, but not forever. They perhaps inhabit a higher dimension as well as ours (there is no reason why our cosmic home should not have more dimensions), but they do not inhabit eternity. They are not transcendent in any absolute sense. They are wise, powerful, and generally benevolent; but they are not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. They are persons like us, if incomparably older and more sublime and powerful.

This means that if I want to become acquainted with some of the gods, I must put myself forward and greet them respectfully, as if for the first time, for it will be the first time, at least for this incarnation. And the same rules of social intercourse that hold between humans hold between humans and gods. To take an 18th century parallel, it is like a country farmer calling on the local squire for the first time. This gives us a clue to how best to approach the gods.

If you were a country squire and a local farmer approached you for the first time, fell on his face and begged for mercy, how would you feel about it? Chances are you would not like it, and neither do the gods. Though, as we know, a few gods here and there do like it, for they are after slaves rather than friends and neighbors. But let us leave them to their slaves and focus on the pleasant gods of paganism.

The story of the Pharisee’s prayer in the New Testament, contrasting the praying of a Hellenized Jew with the groveling of a more orthodox Jewish publican (tax farmer), is informative for neo-pagans inquiring into the right way to approach the gods. The Pharisee, though a monotheist, has learned the temple etiquette of the Greeks. He stands before the altar in an attitude of self-respect and thanks his god for having made him the way he is. He mentions his alms-giving, his fasting, and his other accomplishments. The gospel account presents him as self-satisfied and vain, but notice that he takes no credit for his virtues but instead thanks his god for having granted them to him. Nearby, the wretched publican (who oppresses the poor as a tax farmer) is groveling in the dirt and imploring mercy from his god. The Pharisee notices him and adds thanks to his god that he did not make him like that; in so doing, he is not blaming the publican but assuming he cannot help himself: Yahweh has made him as he is, and the Pharisee thanks Yahweh for making him a different sort of person.

The European pagans, except when in dire extremity from plague or famine, approached their gods in this manner, for they wished to be friends with their gods above all. They also generally prayed when in a light-hearted mood, and this was no doubt very important the first time they made contact with a deity. You would not wish to be friends with someone who pulled a long face the first time he met you. The idea is not to fake cheerfulness, but to wait until you are light-hearted and cheerful before making first contact with a god; and most of your interactions with a deity should be conducted in the same way. After all, the most common reason for prayer is to thank the gods, and in order to do this sincerely we must feel thankful. They are sensitive to our feelings as well as our words, and if we thank them while feeling depressed or deprived they will know it.

Pick two or three deities to start, not all of them great gods, but on different levels. It is good to start with household deities like the threshold and hearth guardians. Then add in the sun and moon, and possibly the night. Night is a great goddess, akin to chaos and fate, and we should salute her when darkness falls. She is the origin and final destiny of men and gods, and it is good to connect with her. We cannot ask her for favors (she is implacable), but a positive relation to her helps us to accept those things in our lives which are fated.

Make a little altar or two to your new friends, and include incense, a candle, a bowl of water, and possibly a dish of salt and/or grain (afterwards distribute these to plants and animals). Light the candle and then address the deity. The usual tradition is that the deity is not present until the candle is lit; it is like putting through a call on the phone. This is convenient, for you would not like the deity to watch you twenty-four hours a day, and the deity wouldn’t like it, either. They have other things to do. This is a big difference with the biblical god, who watches us like a hawk day and night and never sleeps. The gods sleep, and wake, eat and drink and laugh and make love, just as we do.

If you spend time occasionally with your gods you will get a sense of an ongoing friendship with them. They will become part of your personal history, and you will have a small share in theirs, which is their myth. Please don’t think you have to visit with them every day. Give them a break!

They do not seek to become your all-in-all; they are content to check in with you occasionally. But if you ask them for a favor, you must thank them after it is granted. And here you will receive a pleasant surprise. If you do not lame your prayer by adding the words ‘if it is your will,’ you will often find your request granted, though not always in the way you anticipate. Do not ever say ‘thy will be done’! This is one more example of a back-handed compliment paid by biblical worshippers. Of course the god or goddess will do as he or she wishes; you don’t have to remind them that they have free will! Nor need you reassure them of your friendship and continued loyalty if for some reason they cannot, or will not, grant you your request. These practices contain veiled insults to them.

As you continue in your friendships with gods and demigods (daimones, the local deities of house and field), you may find your friendly feelings blossoming into something like love and devotion. That is all right, but it is best to keep it light in your prayers to them. Don’t embarrass them by professing love, for they know how you feel anyhow (when the candle is lit and you are praying to them) and the gap between god and human cannot be bridged in any case; and to put yourself forward in this way would be presumptuous, to say the least. Be content to be good friends.

If you are a good neighbor to your gods, they will reciprocate.

Meet the Gods: Pan

(art by Samantha Sullivan)

 

Merry meet.

A man with the legs and horns of a goat, Pan was the Greek god of the wild and of hunting. He looks after shepherds, their flocks and the woods. He stirs up panic – a word derived from his name –because, one story goes, if his secluded afternoon naps were disturbed, his angry shout inspired panic.

Pan is also associated with sexuality. He chases nymphs, dancing with them in an effort to seduce them, but is always turned down.

One legend tells that he tried to seduce a beautiful wood nymph named Syrinx, daughter of the river god. To avoid him, she ran away, seeking refuge among her sisters. Pan followed, so her sisters turned her into a reed. When the wind blew, there was an enchanting melody. Not knowing which reed was Syrinx, he took seven (or nine) and placed them side by side in decreasing length to make the instrument named Syrinx for his beloved. Pan is typically seen playing them. The flute-like instrument is also known as panpipes.

Stories were told about other nymphs he pursued: Pitys, who was turned into a pine tree to escape him, and Echo who scorned the love of any man. There are different stories about her, one being that Pan had his followers kill her and scatter pieces of her on the earth. Gaia, the goddess of the earth, is said to have absorbed those pieces and now, Echo’s voice remains, repeating the last words of others. In another versions, Echo and Pan had two children.

Pan’s father is thought to be Zeus, Dionysus, Hermes, or Apollo while his mother may have been Aphrodite, Dryope, Hybris or a nymph named Dryope. Whomever his parents were, there is agreement that he was born in Arcadia, a rustic mountain district that was culturally different from the rest of Greece. It was because he was from that area that he became recognized as the god of fields, pastures, groves and wooded glens, and it is because of this that Pan is associated with spring and fertility.

He is notorious for his sexual powers and is often depicted with a phallus.

The Greeks also considered him to be the god of theatrical criticism and impromptus. His greatest conquest was Selene, the goddess of the moon. He hid his goat features by wrapping himself in a sheepskin so he was able to lure her down from the sky and into the forest where he seduced her.

Pan was worshiped in the woods, caves, grottoes and the wild. With two exceptions, no temples were built to honor him.

Pan could be a god you call for help with matters of fertility or to connect to the wild. It would be best to call him from a wooded area, or somewhere outdoors. Call to him with a wind instrument – be it a flute or a whistle – or by singing a series of notes known as the Lydian mode. Offer him milk and honey.

I would advise you only summon him for a genuine need and never for the fun of it.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

Not all women are mothers; but, all mothers are women.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting of children, by a young man who, for all intents and purposes, was also a child, what do we do?

As women, as mothers, who carried these children within us, and birthed them into life, each death is a pang in our hearts. They are not our children, and yet, they are our children, each and every one of them – the children who were and are murdered. The child who is the murderer, is also our child as he, too, has suffered. This includes the adults who have been killed, as they, too, are someone’s child.

Help for those who are mentally and emotionally ill is almost non-existent in this country. Ask any parent who has tried to get help for their child. They know, they can tell you. Mental health care is a joke, and help is hard to come by and they wash their hands of your problem as quickly as they can. If you do, by some chance, find someone to help, your insurance may or may not cover it, and then where do you turn?

Yet, are these all cases of mental or emotional illness? Each time this happens, that is what we are told and the government speaks about making it harder for those who are mentally ill to get guns (never happens). While some of them may actually be mentally ill, as I don’t believe someone without issues of some sort would deliberately go out and murder; yet, this is still not a full answer. Most of these shooters are young, white and male, again something the government downplays. Imagine the outcry if one of these senseless acts was perpetrated by a young man of color. We would never hear the end of it. So, we have young, white males committing these murders and it always is “he’s mentally ill”. Yet, there are women out there who have mental illness, white women and women of color and yet, they do not commit these violent murders of innocent people. So, blaming it completely on mental illness is missing a large part of this picture. We may never really know the missing piece, as they so often take their own lives.

Past tragedies such as this have taught us that the Republicans will do nothing to control the sale of weapons in this country. Too much money flows into their greedy, little pockets; money that they are loath to give up. The Republican base sees “liberals” and “progressives” and worst yet, “democratic socialists” coming to take their guns. They don’t listen to what is said. No on wants to take your damn guns, just tighten the controls on them so it is harder to purchase them and eliminate the purchase of assault weapons. Why does anyone *need* an assault weapon? I admit that I am anti-gun, but I still would not be in favor of taking guns away from those who have them. I am very anti-hunting for the killing of animals – vegetarian-vegan here – but I know those who do and enjoy it. That is their choice to make. I also know those who own guns but are in favor of stricter gun controls; one immediately comes to mind. Why does he understand and others do not?

A couple of years ago, as things began to go downhill in this country with the campaign of the current person in the White House, I wondered, where were the young people? I remember the 1960’s well. Teenagers, and young adults were out there in the forefront of the protests against the war, the marches for women’s equality, civil rights marches where human beings were beaten and hit with water from forceful hoses, just because they were people of color. If I close my eyes, I can still see the clip that was on the news. They were beaten and brutalized by the police and the National Guard, who were there for their “protection”. They were arrested. But they persisted.

Children died then, too, at Ohio State and during lynchings in the South.

Now, finally, out of this tragedy in FL, come the children, these teenagers who lived through and survived a shooting at their school, a place where they should feel safe, a place where their friends were brutally murdered.

These kids are fighting the good fight, and I hope they do not get discouraged because they have a hard journey ahead. But journey on they must, and in the process, encourage and support other kids all over the country, and the world to stand up for their principles, for what they think is right. If they get suspended for walking out of school during a protest day, as Texas has said they would do, don’t let that deter you. Continue your fight.

Those politicians who have accused these children of being actors, or shills for the Democrats, or doing it for attention are digging their own political graves. These children, these teenagers, these American citizens, will one day, in the very near future, be voting, and guess who will be voted out. We won’t say good bye, but good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

So, as women, as mothers, we must support these children in what they are doing, march and protest along side of them, encourage them to stand up for their beliefs, what they know in their hears to be the right thing. What they are doing may deter future tragedies, future cold-blooded murders and even more parents having to bury their child.

*(ADDENDUM: The opinions and feelings in this article are those of the author only and do not in any way represent the opinion of PaganPagesOrg.)

***

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 Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, 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 [email protected]

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(Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash)

 

Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body.  When you dance, the spiritual world and the [physical] world manage to coexist quite happily.”

-From “The Witch of Portabello” by Paulo Coelho

 

I was fortunate to grow up in a culture that valued dance. Every weekend, the whole extended family would get together at a relative’s house, eat together, socialize, and dance. After everyone had had time to chat and digest their food, we’d all pitch in to help move the furniture to the outskirts of the room, thereby creating a dance floor. The record player belted out Top 40 hits, world music, dance music, and all sorts of other eclectic beats and sounds; we’d easily go from Michael Jackson to Julio Iglesias in an evening! Although I confess, I was never much of a Julio fan, the adults in the group certainly loved him. And that leads me to the other brilliant thing about these evenings: they were multi-generational. The kids danced with the adults, teens, and elders. Everyone was included.

This went on until I was about twelve years old. I knew that something was wrong in my extended family when people stopped gathering as often. But I knew that something deep was at work when my family stopped dancing altogether. Internal family conflicts divided people and they simply did not know how to utilize the dance for anything other than celebration and personal expression. They didn’t know that dance was therapy and that they could dance through anything and come out the other side of it more balanced than before. I often wonder what might have been different and if communication would have improved if they had had this knowledge at the time.

It took me about sixteen years to recover my love of dance after that. I found myself attracted to non-choreographed dance modalities such as belly dance, rave, and trance dance. I’ve been dancing 5Rhythms (www.5rhythms.com) for almost two decades now and it is a practice that has supported and moved me through some serious transitions in my life. I’ve danced through tremendous grief, exhaustion, fear, sadness, joy, rocky love relationships, moving away from my family, and healing an addiction. I dance because my body doesn’t lie to me like my mind does. It is utterly honest. When I come to dance an issue in my life, my body tells me exactly what is going on as I move the way it wants me to. My body tells the story of what is out of balance and gives me clues for what I need to do to regain my centre. It does not use words so I’ve learned to uncover the messages of the somatic language of feeling throughout years of practice.

Going to class isn’t a “So You Think You Can Dance” sort of atmosphere. It is the polar opposite of competition, showing off my steps, or learning rigid dance moves. It is a spiritual experience where my body literally moves and heals me. All I have to do is follow my feet and my instincts. Often, I can feel burdens lifting off my shoulders and emotions leaving the hidden caves they’ve been trapped in- sometimes for years. I never know what is going to happen and that unpredictability is a part of the attraction for me. The unknown is where we heal, learn, and grow. They body knows how to move us in that direction if we surrender to its non-linear intelligence.

Dance, rhythm, and music have been used since the beginning of time by shamanic cultures throughout the world for healing and celebratory purposes.  These elements were and are often entwined in ceremony and guided by the culture’s medicine person.  Shamanic cultures the world over weave these three practices into their daily lives because they know of the increased health and well-being they bring into the lives of the people.  These creative modalities give the body and the psyche expression without words. In short, they take the ego mind out of the equation so we have a chance to experience our true selves.

It is fair to say that most people in the Western world are disconnected from these readily available healing tools.  One need not have extensive formal training in any of these modalities to receive healing benefit from practice.  This is intended as an invitation into a spiritual experience that has no dogma and is not affiliated with any religion.  Everyone can practice it.  It is through the experience of it that healing naturally occurs and since no two people are exactly alike, each person will have a different experience.

When in the midst of dance, we can heal without words by learning to tap into the body and spirit wisdom that is lying dormant inside of us.  Along with patterns that don’t serve us any longer, we have a chance to witness those that do.  The beauty is that it is never too late to heal pain or celebrate victories from the past.  Indeed, engaging in this ceremony takes courage and willingness to show your true self; that is a huge victory in and of itself! Dancing within a ceremonial context is very different than a class; however, practicing in dancing meditation classes is a good way to connect with our bodies if this is a foreign concept!

These days, I lead Soul Vine Dancing Ceremonies, which are done in a spiritual container of safety with a very specific alchemy. Folks come and dance at their own pace in a way that works for them, their bodies, their hearts, and their psyches.  Most of all, I encourage folks to be gentle and to forgive themselves through the practice.  They can allow what’s there to be there: joy, grief, sorrow, anger, boredom, exhaustion, resistance, or sadness.  This includes negative inner dialogue.  We can keep moving through all these; they are indicators that something is shifting!  We can talk to our High Selves while we dance for guidance.  It’s safe to let go of the past and move that healing right through our beings.  We dance for and with ourselves because we are all worth it.

*Part of this article originally appeared on the author’s blog in August 2014 (https://jenniferengracio.wordpress.com/). The author has added content to the original for PaganPagesOrg Magazine.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

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For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

 

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