Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Berkanan Rune

Berkanan is the name of the b rune , meaning birch, growth and renewal. 

Your green leaves bloom early
giving us knowledge
that Spring has come again.

               Berkana is the rune of the Birch tree and like the young Birch tree, Berkana has the power to be flexible without breaking. In ancient traditions, Birch twigs were used to bring prosperity and to encourage conception. The branches represent fertility. In European folklore and tradition, Birch twigs were fixed above a sweetheart’s door on May Day, and were placed in stables and houses to promote fertility. Young men, women and cattle were struck with Birch twigs for this same purpose, and young boys would be sent out into the fields and around the town, to ‘beat the bounds of the parish’ with branches of Birch to ensure prosperity in the coming year.

               Birca is the patron of mothers, children and women’s mysteries.  It is a soft and maternal rune.  Use it for problems involving children and women, illness and where things need to grow. 

               In Norse mythology, the Berkana rune represents various Goddesses simultaneously, including Freya, Frigg, Hela, Nerthus, Holda and Berchta. This Rune is one of femininity and represents the ability to give birth, to be motherly and nurturing as well as the sexuality of the breasts. Berkana is the rune in which we find the embodiment of feminine energy which resides in both males and females, although the qualities are generally looked for in women. It is the rune of ‘Mother Earth,’ the ‘Great Mother,’ or the ‘Earth Goddess.’

Air (Rune)

Air (wind, future, change, ideas).  Not a true Ancient Norse Rune but one I use for practice from other runic alphabets.
Air we cannot see,
Swirls of laughter and music. 
Air is the element that we breathe into our busy lungs.
               Air is the element of the East, connected to the soul and the breath of life. If you’re doing a working related to communication, wisdom or the powers of the mind, Air is the element to focus on. Air carries away your troubles, blows away strife, and carries positive thoughts to those who are far away. Air is associated with the colors yellow and white.
               Breath is a divine gift, returned to the giver at death.  We take Air into us which contains vital energy.  When we breathe in deeply we inhale this life force and rhythmic breathing exercises helps to attune you to the powers of Air.
               The voice of the Air spirits is heard in the wind. There were many scared groves where the voices of spirits were heard in the wind whispering in the trees.  The powers of Air are also concerned with the intellect, the powers of the mind, knowledge, logic, inspiration, information, teaching, memory, thought and communication. Like the other elements, the powers of Air can be constructive or destructive. The gentle breeze cools and brings the life giving rain, but it can become the destructive hurricane.
               The movement of Air can tell us many things. It can bring the scent of spring, letting you know if the warming season will be early or late.  Or in some folk legends in various cultures supported the belief that the dead could ride on the winds.  It is for this reason that the symbol of Air is like a two-edged sword.


Ansuz Rune

Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune . The name is based on Common Germanic ansuz, a God, one of the main deities in Germanic Paganism, knowledge and Odin.

Vallaha is exceedingly high and precious to men.
With its sturdy ash trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,
though attacked by many a man.

               In Norse mythology, Odin brought down the wisdom of the runes and conveyed their information for the rest of humanity to learn from. Therefore, the Ansuz rune is often regarded as a rune of communication.

               Ansuz is the rune of inspired speech and incantation as a creative expression. Ansuz shows us the power of speech, which passes along knowledge with the breath of life from generation to generation. It is the passing on of knowledge through the spoken word, rather than the written.

               The Ansuz rune tells of increased awareness of what the future holds. Linked to Odin, it is a rune of inspiration, wisdom, aspirations and communication. Promises spiritual renewal and progress, clear vision and good health.


Runic Alphabet

               Runic alphabets were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet.  The earliest runic inscriptions date from around AD 150. The characters were generally replaced by the Latin alphabet as the cultures that had used runes underwent Christianization, by approximately AD 700 in central Europe and AD 1100 in Northern Europe. However, the use of runes persisted for specialized purposes in Northern Europe. Until the early 20th century runes were used in rural Sweden for decorative purposes in Dalarna and on Runic calendars.  The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark (around AD 150–800), the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (AD 400–1100), and the Younger Futhark (AD 800–1100). 

               In runic writing, a space, a single dot (.) or two dots (:) may break the symbols or words. Sometimes no break was used and the rune symbols all run together. Runic writing can run from left to right, or from right to left; sometimes even from top to bottom or the opposite.  In the Vikings' runic inscriptions, we do find numbers written down, but it's very rare.  Usually numbers are spelled out as whole words.  They can also be bind.  Bind runes consist of two or more runes superimposed on each other, sharing a common stem.

               Since ancient times, runes have been used for divination and magic, in addition to writing. The word "rune" actually means mystery, secret or whisper. Each rune has esoteric meanings and properties associated with it, beyond its mundane meaning and phonetic value. Each translates into a word or a phrase signifying concepts important to the early peoples who used them, representing the forces of nature and mind. Each rune has a story attached to it, a relationship to a Norse God.

               Odin, the Norse High God of the Aesir, hung from the world tree, Yggdrasil, impaled on his own spear, for nine days and nights in order to gain the knowledge of runes. When the runes appeared below him, he reached down and took them up, and the runic knowledge gave him power . He later passed on this knowledge to the Vanir Goddess Freya. She, in turn, taught him the magic of seidr. Heimdall, the God who guarded the Rainbow Bridge, taught the runes to mankind.

               Runic alphabets first appeared among German tribes in Central and Eastern Europe. Some runes symbols are likely to have been acquired from other alphabets, such as the Greek, Etruscan, and the Early Roman. The runes were made of straight lines to make the characters suitable for cutting into wood or stone. The earliest runic inscriptions on stone are dated to the late 3rd century AD, although it is probable that runic alphabets had been in use for some centuries before.
               Runic Yoga is a more recent addition to the runic practice.  It is gestures and postures forming some part of almost every metaphysical or magical form. The can be seen from the simple folding of hands in prayer to the extremely complex system of asanas in the Indian hatha yoga school.  Stadhagaldr is used as a mode of psychological integration and personal transmutation, and it is also employed in all other types of magical operations.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pagan Clothing

Clothing is fiber and textile material worn on the body.  The wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a feature of nearly all human societies.  The amount and type of clothing worn is dependent on physical stature, gender, as well as social and geographic considerations.

Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection from the elements, and can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking.  It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, insect bites and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment.  Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions.  Further, they can provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials away from the body.
Humans began wearing clothes roughly 83,00 to 170,000 years ago.  There is no easy way to determine when clothing was first developed, but some information has been inferred by studying lice.  The body louse specifically lives in clothing and diverged from head lice about 170,000 years ago, suggesting that clothing existed at that time.

In most cultures, gender differentiation of clothing is considered appropriate for men and women.  Some sumptuary laws regulate what men and women are required to wear.  Islam requires women to wear more modest forms of attire, usually hijab.  In Western societies, skirts, dresses and high-heeled shoes are usually seen as women's clothing, while neckties are usually seen as men's clothing.  Although a growing trend does include men wearing the high heels and women wearing the bowties. 
Religious clothing is sometimes worn during the performance of religious ceremonies.  It may also be worn everyday as a marker for special religious status.  For example, Muslim men wear unstitched cloth pieces when performing religious ceremonies.  The unstitched cloth signifies unified and complete devotion to the task at hand, with no digression.  Islam, Judaism and Christianity all have something in their Holy Books and belief structures about covering the head, especially females.  Sikhs men wear a turban as part of their religion.

The US Pentagon has approved a new policy that will allow troops to seek waivers to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time or engage in religious practices.  Jewish troops can seek a waiver to wear a yarmulke or Sikhs can seek waivers to wear a turban and grow a beard.  Defense officials say the waivers will be decided on a case-by-case basis and will depend on where the service member is stationed.
For Pagans, there is no set clothing code.  Some may use their culture as a guide or their path and ancestors.  Others may just mix it up.  It’s entirely up to you what you wear.  The important thing to remember is that your spirituality is not defined by what you look like on the outside.  Coloring your hair black and wearing fairy wings doesn't make you Pagan, any more than wearing sensible shoes would make one a Christian.
Your belief system and practice is something that comes from the inside.  But there are many ways to express your path on the outside.  For many people jewelry, such as wearing a pentacle, is not only a method of personal expression, it's also a way of signaling to other people in the community that you have something in common. 
Jewelry is the most common but there are also special robes some people may wear.  Many wear a robe or some other clothing made of natural materials while participating in group activities and go skyclad (nude) when observing rites alone or with their mate.  Some covens walk a skyclad path so check the group out first to see the options.  Donning the ritual robe is a way of stepping into the ritual, leaving the everyday for the magical world.  Some people wear nothing under their ritual robe.  Most groups and circles allow blue jeans, robes, ribbons in the hair, jewelry, t-shirts or any other mixed options the person sees fit to wear.
Lately, Pagan woman have been covering their head for religious reasons.  Most women who veil also dress modestly.  It is a way to show devotion to your deity and it is symbolic for only allowing your spouse to see your body. 

Like Goddess Hestia, only family and a chosen few, those whom respect and love, shall be permitted to see the tresses.  In keeping the hair hidden, they protect their energy and ward off the envious eye of others, along with their potential ill wishes.  When in the ritual circle, they will wear their hair free and unbound as a sign of will.  
Many religious groups have developed cultural norms with regard to dress. Dress codes, both formal and informal, exist as a means of showing group identity.  Members of religious groups actively construct their own lives and use dress symbolically to express religious beliefs, adaptation to social change, and the conformity to social norms and religious authority.
Be, and dress, who you are and be happy about it!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brigid's Cross

Brigid's cross, Brighid's cross or Brigit's cross is an Irish symbol.  St Brigid's feast day was the feast of Imbolc.  Though a Christian symbol, it possibly derives from the Pagan Sun wheel. It is usually made from rushes or, less often, straw.  It comprises a woven square in the centre and four radials tied at the ends.

It was traditionally believed that a Brigid's Cross protects the house from fire and evil.  It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American kitchens for this purpose.

To make your Brighid's Cross, you'll need straw, reeds, pipe cleaners or construction paper -- if you're using plant material like straw or reeds, you'll want to soak it overnight so it's pliable when you go to make your Cross. Your end result will be about the length of one piece of your material -- in other words, a bundle of 12" reeds will yield a Brighid's Cross just slightly longer than 12".

To begin, you'll form a base for your Cross by bending two pieces of straw in their middles to create a pair of loops -- in fact, you'll do this with each piece as you make your Cross. Link the two pieces together at their centers.

Next, turn these two pieces so they lie flat, and at a right angle to one another. This basic two-piece unit is the base for the rest of the Cross, and it's the only time you'll have two pieces hooked together in the middles like this.

Next, bend a third piece of straw in half, and loop it over one of your two base pieces. Both legs of the loop in the new piece will pass over both legs of the base piece. Pull this third piece tight to hold it in place.

Take a fourth piece, and bend it in half as you've done with the others. Loop this one over the legs of the piece you added. You should now have four pieces, each pointing in a different direction.

Finally, you'll continue looping pieces over one another as you did in the last step, until your cross reaches the size you want. Each piece loops over the previous one. When you're all done, use a piece of string, ribbon, or even another bit of straw to secure the four ends. Trim off excess pieces.

Blessed Be!