Pagan culture never died. It changed, was hidden, became hushed — but never died. We can look around and see that many of the Old ways are still part of everyday life. Here’s a few examples. What others can you see in your own surroundings?
A personal favorite is the candle-magic ritual we do once a year, celebrating one’s incarnation with the chant "Happy Birthday to you." A wish is made, the candles blown out and gifts given. This custom dates back to worship of Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Moon. On Her day, cakes were baked in the shape of a crescent moon and decorated with candles. If worshippers could blow out the candles in a single breath, the Goddess would look upon them with favor. Whether ancient Greek myth, or a modern-day spell, the way we celebrate our birthday is truly magic!
"AH-CHOO!!!" Bless you. (If you lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar, you may need it.) Ancient Rome circa 150 a.d. was stricken with a deadly disease, which the first symptom was sneezing. People, including Caesar, believed that the more blessing you received from others, the more likely you would be to survive.
Perhaps today’s common courtesy was yesterday’s healing spell? The myth of Prometheus includes him sneezing, having caught cold from stealing the fire of the Gods. (And we know what happened to him.) Perhaps the richest remnant of Pagan culture still survives in the wedding ceremony! Terms like "giving your hand in marriage" and "tying the knot" certainly refer to handfasting. It doesn’t take a Celtic scholar to recognize the word "Bride" as an Old name for the Goddess. And Groom? In matriarchal life, the man came to work in the wife’s family’s home. A groom is a term used to describe a laborer who cares for the horses. The term husband, meaning "bound to the house" or house-bound, also dates back to such customs. The word matrimony refers to the custom of inheritances being passed down through maternal blood lines. "Matri" means mother; "mony" or monium, means money. But, in ancient Germany, carrying the bride over the threshold welcomes her into the groom’s family, since his ancestors were once buried below the home!
The wedding cake was baked by the couple, as a symbol of the ingredients of their lives coming together as one. A form of sympathetic magic? And the kiss at the altar? In times of Old, the union was consummated right there in front of witnesses. Even today, a marriage can often be considered legally void if never consummated. The term honeymoon refers to the lunar cycle immediately following the wedding. For the full lunar cycle, the couple ate honey each day, believing it to be a sweet aphrodisiac! (Some couples still use honey in their bedroom revelry, but in a different way…) June weddings are still a fashion, perhaps dating back to the days where a festive Beltane celebration (late April/early May) resulted in conception! (June weddings are rooted in Spring fever.) Brides, not grooms, were also showered with wheat, so that they could bear children like wheat brings bread.
The wedding ring placed on the third finger was believed to be a direct connection to the heart. This was even called the Medical Finger, which doctors used to stir medicines. If poison were present, the doctor’s heart would skip a beat! But of all places to wear wedding jewelry, the ring is likely related to handfasting. Why not a wedding necklace, brooch or tiara? Also, the action of the finger penetrating the circular ring is not all that different from other Pagan symbols of union. Likewise, wearing and throwing the "garter" seems not so distant.
Giving flowers to a loved one? Flowers are brightly colored, heavily scented reproductive organs! An agricultural society might see this. So might our deeply rooted animal instincts which relate color and scent to the courting rituals of nearly every species, including homosapien!
Knock on wood? This probably dates back to the Druids. Opening an umbrella indoors? Umbrella comes from the Latin word for shade. The device was used as a parasol ("stop the sun") before it was used as protection from rain. Not opening it indoors showed respect for the realm of the solar deities. Tie a string on your finger to remember something? (Sounds like cord magic to me.) I wonder why sailors put so much skill into the knots they tied over the centuries? Fishermen and fisherwomen, even today, have special words they say when throwing their lines into the water.
Naming things seems rich in magic. Look at the names of farms, race horses, and even pets. Notice that boats are referred to as She, probably linked back to She of the Sea. (Probably no accident when they named the greatest ship "The Queen Mary.") Even the Greek and Latin languages that descended from Pagan Europe assign gender to every person, place, or thing. Perhaps all things were linked to a God or a Goddess. Days of the week, months of the year — some are still named after the Old Ones. Friday the 13th? (Can you get more linked to Goddess worship than that?) Perhaps it was fairly new beliefs, from cultures who did not worship the Goddess or note her lunar cycles, which gave Friday the 13th an unlucky connotation.
We can go over hundreds of holiday customs which date back to Pagan roots. We can find Pagan traces in many practices of the newer religions. But more importantly, we can make our own new traditions every day. We are catalysts of the future, not mere conduits to the past! We are the Ancestors of tomorrow. See the magic in everyday events, like knotting your neck tie, leashing your pet, or even fastening your seat belt. Feel the sacred union when you share any event with a loved one, whether sharing a hamper or sharing a bath. Feel the sudden release of stored up energy as you uncork that special old bottle of wine, or open that priceless photo album. See all cycles as magic; use the monthly rent payment as a blessing for the home.
Doing so is the difference between a culture which has never died — and a culture which is truly brought to life!
For further reading: "Superstitions" by Peter Lorie. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1992.
6538 Collins Avenue,
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People often ask me why I chose the name Link. One important lesson for me this time around is to understand how all things "interconnect" — like noodles in the same cosmic broth. (Okay, I also wanted a really simple name that would not raise eye-brows in a mundane setting. Something like RunningBuffaloMoonFeather just doesn’t fit me…)
Most of my writing focuses on how ordinary parts of everyday life can be sacred and magical. Being ordinary makes them no less special! I try to erase the lines that separate spirituality from the rest of life. I don’t spend too much time in elaborate ritual, but rather see nearly every action as a magical event, from slicing an apple to licking an envelope. I often encourage readers to not blindly follow traditional spoon-fed teachings, but to discover what feels right for themselves, and for the moment. The most important Book we could ever find is written deep within ourselves, and within nature — and every day we turn a new page!
I grew up in a small suburban NJ town, the youngest child of two hard-working parents. I survived 12 years of Catholic school, which helped shape my "everyday" spiritual views (With the nuns of Saint Mary’s School, everything was a religious experience – from lunch to recess to taking tests and doing homework.) While I shed much of what I learned there, I think a few things stuck.
I began learning about alternative religion, divination and magic in the mid-1970’s, but did not really become active in the Craft until 1993 (what I call reaching "Spiritual Puberty"). My first teacher was a dear friend and neighbor, a Gardnerian 3rd Degree, who was killed in a car accident in 1984. (Great guy, lousy driver…) In 1993 I became a member of a small Tradition with only a few members spread out around the US. This gave me the opportunity to spend time with/learn from elders well-recognized in the Community. I have also been a member of Covenant of the Goddess, Pagan Federation International, Earth Spirit, Circle Network, Free Spirit Alliance, Pagan Federation International and ADF. I am legally certified as clergy with both Covenant of the Goddess and ULC (for whatever that means). My work has been published in many places throughout the US, plus Canada, England, Ireland, Holland and Australia.
Jobwise, I have worked for/with large international telecommunications companies since 1984. (Again, a lesson in how things connect…) I hold a bachelors degree in Communications/Journalism, and a masters degree in business and government policy. I moved from New Jersey to Miami Beach, Florida on August 1, 2001 and enjoy Miami’s internationally diverse culture, with a Latin spice!
Fun? I enjoy good food and good wine, bad humor, camping, gardening, traveling, almost anything Brazilian, the Ocean, SciFi, and sleeping late at least once a week.