Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lughnasadh, Lammas, August Eve — 2010

Lughnasadh (Celebrated on August 1), also known as Lammas, August Eve, The Festival of Bread, Elembiuos, Lunasa, Cornucopia (Strega), Thingtide (Teutonic), is the first of the Pagan harvest rituals.

Lughnasadh, a Sabbat on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, is primarily a grain harvest, one in which corn, wheat, barley and grain products such as bread are prominently featured. Fruits and vegetables which ripen in late summer are also a part of the traditional feast.

For Wiccans, as autumn begins to assert itself and the summer to wane, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. The God symbolically loses some of his strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day and the nights grow longer.

During Lughnasadh the Goddess is honored as the Queen of Abundance, and the God, the Father of Prosperity, or God of the Corn. It is a time when the Goddess is a new Mother. A feast of grains, breads, and early summer fruits and vegetables is held in the Deity's honor.

The threshing of precious grain was once seen as a sacred act, and threshing houses had small wooden panels under the door so that no loose grain could escape. This is the original meaning of our modern word "threshold."

This festival has two aspects. First, it is one of the Celtic fire festivals, honoring the Celtic culture-bringer and Solar God Lugh (Lleu to the Welsh, Lugus to the Gauls). In Ireland, races and games were held in his name and that of his mother, Tailtiu (these may have been funeral games).

The Celtic harvest festival takes its name from the Irish god Lugh, one of the chief gods of the Tuatha De Danann, giving us Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nus-uh), in Ireland, Lunasdál in Scotland, and Laa Luanys in the Isle of Man. (In Wales, this time is known simply as Gwl Awst, the August Feast.)

Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg, who died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated. When the men of Ireland gathered at her death-bed, she told them to hold funeral games in her honor. As long as they were held, she prophesied Ireland would not be without song. Tailtiu’s name is from Old Celtic Talantiu, "The Great One of the Earth," suggesting she may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish goddesses. In fact, Lughnasadh has an older name, Brón Trogain, which refers to the painful labor of childbirth. For at this time of year, the earth gives birth to her first fruits so that her children might live.

Tailtiu gives her name to Teltown in County Meath, where the festival was traditionally held in early Ireland. It evolved into a great tribal assembly, attended by the High King, where legal agreements were made, political problems discussed, and huge sporting contests were held on the scale of an early Olympic Games. Artists and entertainers displayed their talents, traders came from far and wide to sell food, farm animals, fine crafts and clothing, and there was much storytelling, music, and high-spirited revelry, according to a medieval eye-witness account:

"Trumpets, harps, hollow-throated horns, pipers, timpanists, unwearied...fiddlers, gleemen, bone-players and bag-pipers, a rude crowd, noisy, profane, roaring and shouting."

This was also an occasion for handfasting, or trial marriages. Young men and women lined up on either side of a wooden gate in a high wall, in which a hole was carved, large enough for a hand. One by one, girl and boy would grasp a hand in the hole, without being able to see who was on the other side. They were now married, and could live together for year and day to see if it worked out. If not, the couple returned to next year’s gathering and officially separated by standing back to back and walking away from each other.

Throughout the centuries, the grandeur of Teltown dwindled away, but all over Ireland, right up to the middle of this century, country-people have celebrated the harvest at revels, wakes, and fairs – and some still continue today in the liveliest manner. It was usually celebrated on the nearest Sunday to August 1, so that a whole day could be set aside from work. In later times, the festival of Lughnasadh was Christianized as Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon, hlaf-mas, "Loaf-Mass," but in rural areas, it was often remembered as "Bilberry Sunday," for this was the day to climb the nearest "Lughnasadh Hill" and gather the earth’s freely-given gifts of the little black berries, which they might wear as special garlands or gather in baskets to take home for jam.

As of old, people sang and danced jigs and reels to the music of melodeons, fiddles and flutes, and held uproarious sporting contests and races. In some places, a woman — or an effigy of one — was crowned with summer flowers and seated on a throne, with garlands strewn at her feet. Dancers whirled around her, touching her garlands or pulling off a ribbon for good luck. In this way, perhaps, the ancient goddess of the harvest was still remembered with honor.

Because Lughnasadh is a celebration of the new harvest, people cooked special ritual and festive meals.

In some parts of Ireland, the Feast of Lughnasadh came to be called Colcannon Sunday, after a dish made from the first digging of potatoes. The cook put on a special white apron kept for the occasion, boiled a huge pot of potatoes over the fire, and mashed them with a wooden mallet. Often, they were seasoned with onions, garlic or cabbage. The cooked vegetables were then turned out onto a platter, and a well hollowed out in the middle for plenty of butter and hot milk. The family sat round and ate, while the cook ate hers from the pot itself — a special privilege. In more well-to-do households, the meal would be accompanied by meat: a flitch of bacon, newly-slaughtered sheep or roast chicken, and followed by seasonal fruits such as gooseberries and blackcurrants.

It was thought to be unlucky not to eat Colcannon on this day, so people often made sure to share theirs with less fortunate neighbors.

The Christian religion adopted this theme and called it 'Lammas, ' meaning 'loaf-mass ', a time when newly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. An alternative date around August 5 (Old Lammas), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Leo, is sometimes employed by Covens to take the festival back.

This is the second aspect of the Sabbat, Lammas, is the Saxon Feast of Bread, at which the first of the grain harvest is consumed in ritual loaves.

These aspects are not too dissimilar to the pagan celebrations, as the shamanic death and transformation of Lleu can be compared to that of the Barley God, known from the folksong "John Barleycorn," whom is cut down to feed his people.

As a result, this festival was often associated with symbolic forms of harvest-related sacrifice. Druids and other early Pagans were known to build a large effigy of a man from wicker then burn it in a bonfire. Townspeople added the last grain sheaf of their harvests to the fire as an offering of thanks.

This time is also sacred to the Greek Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, Artemis.

~ May the blessings of Lughnasadh touch you all ~

— Danu’s Daughter

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finding the Goddess – No Matter What

I became a Wiccan when the Goddess suddenly came alive in my heart through the magick of nature’s bounty, from her brilliant foliage to all wild creatures – the Sacred Circle of vibrant creation.

She is so real, so close, that I can honestly feel the actual touch of Her gentle hand guiding me, and can almost – almost – see the details of Her sweet, ever-changing face.

So, what happens when you’re a Wiccan who connects to the Goddess and God through nature and ritual but can no longer explore Their glorious world through either of these? What happens when you are unable to stroll on the beach, explore the wilderness, walk through a meadow, or skim the perfect stone (flat, of course, with just the right round, smoothness to perfectly fit the gentle curve of your forefinger) across a lake for a minimum of five long-arcing skips?

I face those questions every day because I have been losing my ability to walk; to stand for very long; and to move my shoulder, arms and fingers in one arm for anything that requires the barest amount of control.

As a result, I can no longer attend the occasional Coven meeting (I am a Solitary Practitioner, Eclectic Wiccan, so I have no Coven membership); dance with joy under a Full Moon; celebrate the festivals; cast a Sacred Circle; manipulate my Altar tools; prepare the seasonal (Sabbats and Esbats) gifts successfully; make Wiccan jewelry; carve or inscribe candles for spells; or even bundle herbs and make infused oils.

Nor can I chase little children through sprinklers on long, hot summer days amidst their squeals of delight – ending the evening by landing fireflies on my hand for just a magical moment.

I have Lupus, a progressive disease. Now, I can only view the Lady’s and Lord’s astounding glories – like the changing of the seasons, stunning sunsets, or the wondrous activities of the birds, squirrels, deer, even skunks – from the patio of my small backyard; or worse yet, from the window of a moving car.

As I write this, the reality of my “life” causes my stomach to clinch with a fear so palpable that it threatens to overwhelm my reason. But then, faith is not based on reality, or reason, is it? It exists on a completely different plane, it frankly speaks to a part of ourselves that is the antithesis of logic.

Just what is the meaning of my life – any life for that matter?

That age-old, rather trite question is one that each of us has asked in one way or another at one time or another. I was batting this question around with a dear friend, SurviveSurvival who just happens to be a scientist and an artist – pretty cool combo, right? He also knows all about my condition, and is continuing to survive his own health issues.

As it happened, I had just watched a rare TV interview of famed, off-the-chart-brilliant, theoretical-physicist, British Professor Stephen W. Hawking.

Hawking, 68, suffers from ALS, a fatal condition commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was diagnosed while at Oxford at age 22.

At the time, his professors and educators were beginning to appreciate just how special he is. “It was only necessary for him to know that something could be done, and he could do it without looking to see how other people did it. [...] He didn't have very many books, and he didn't take notes. Of course, his mind was completely different from all of his contemporaries,” said Robert Berman, his physics tutor.

Doctors told him he wouldn’t live another two years – and he’s still here. Up to 1974, he was able to feed himself, and get in and out of bed without assistance. In 1985, he caught pneumonia, had to have a tracheotomy operation that removed his ability to speak altogether. Despite that, using a special computer, he has written numerous books, including the award-winning A Brief History of Time, articles and so much more.

His physical condition has also deteriorated progressively. Now, he can only communicate by moving a single muscle in his cheek that stimulates a signal on a special computer. It is the only muscle that he can still consistently control.

“I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many,” he says on his website.

“I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from Jane, my children, and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope,” he said.

The last question he was asked in the TV interview was: If he could receive the answer to any of the questions he's sought for so long as a scientist, what would it be? His response: Why we are here; why there is even existence at all.

That is the very question that scientists and all religious seekers (including me) have pursued and will continue to pursue until entropy overtakes everything, and nothingness again rules the cosmos. At that moment, I was reminded that it is not the question or even the answer that defines us but its pursuit, and it does so through the glass darkly or lightly, depending on the person that each of are continuing to become.

I believe that mythology, all religions, and even science strives to provide the answer to that precise question. But those answers are embraced, absorbed, related to or rejected – via various degrees in specific and even unique ways that are based solely on our own personal world views, experience, education, and cultures. What makes sense to me in terms of the ultimate Cosmic question as a middle-aged white woman, may not make any sense to someone of a different age, who lives in a different culture, ethnicity, etc.

I had an unconventional upbringing, which I believe made it much easier for me to be flexible and question every single major religion and philosophy. When I found Wicca, I suddenly released a breath I hadn’t know that I’d been holding for so long that my face had become a permanent blue. It was like searching endlessly for a single missing part of a jigsaw puzzle, then simply tripping over it.

All of those answers from all ancient sources have evolved over millennia, but that core question remains, doesn’t it? Professor Hawking said that scientists use observation and reason to find the answer, while metaphysical/religious seekers use more subjective measures. A trace of a smile touched his face as he asserted that because of their methods, scientists will always be right!

While I disagree with his conclusion, his message resonants to me on so many levels partly because he still cares about the answer – passionately! Despite his broken body, his mind and spirit remain utterly unbowed, his life as precious to him as the day he was born.

The beauty of Wicca for me is that it underscores that no one person or path, religious or scientific, is right or wrong. It doesn’t seek to convert or condemn, but simply to provide a means to live each moment, to feel the pulse of the planet in our very cells.

Another famous scientist from a much earlier era, Paracelsus, summed it up, “Magic has the power to experience and fathom this which are inaccessible to human reason. For magic is a great secret wisdom; and reasoning against it is nothing else but extreme folly.”

For those unfamiliar with Paracelsus, he was an enigmatic sixteenth-century Swiss physician and natural philosopher Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. Called Paracelsus, he is known for the almost superhuman energy with which he produced his innumerable writings, for his remarkable achievements in the development of science, and for his reputation as a visionary (not to mention sorcerer) and alchemist.

The importance of Paracelsus, who lived from 1493 to 1541, lies in the link that he provided between medieval and scientific thought. Believing in and practicing alchemy, magic, astrology and various divinatory techniques, he was also “the first modern scientist,” and the “precursor of microchemistry, antisepsis, modern wound surgery, homeopathy and a number of ultra-modern achievements.”

And, what of Professor Hawking? He is almost certain that alien life exists in other parts of the universe and uses a mathematical basis for his assumptions. "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

My, wouldn’t those two men have had the most incredible discussions?

Me? Ironically, it is thanks to these two scientists that I have been reminded of the most important lesson of all: It isn’t the religious trappings, physical abilities, or even a specific God, non-God or science to follow, or even to rail against, it is what is what each of us holds in our hearts that matter.

[Above: Professor Stephen W. Hawking experiences zero-gravity in April 2007 while in a modified Boeing 727 jet that simulated the experience of weightlessness as it took a series of eight plunges. He was able to float free for about four minutes, unrestricted by his paralyzed muscles and his wheelchair.]

Here are a just a few of Professor Hawking’s awards and honors:

1975 Eddington Medal
1976 Hughes Medal of the Royal Society
1979 Albert Einstein Medal
1981 Franklin Medal
1982 Order of the British Empire (Commander)
1985 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
1986 Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
1988 Wolf Prize in Physics
1989 Prince of Asturias Awards in Concord
1989 Companion of Honour
1999 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society
2003 Michelson Morley Award of Case Western Reserve University
2006 Copley Medal of the Royal Society
2008 Fonseca Price of the University of Santiago de Compostela
2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States

He and his wife, Jane, have three adult children.

[Above: Portrait of Paracelsus by renowned artist Quentin Massys (Metsys), who lived 1466–1530.]

Here is a bit more about Paracelsus:

He believed that it was far more important to contemplate nature and the majesty of God's handiworks than to spend all one's time studying the knowledge that could be found in books.

Medicine during the Middle Ages was greatly influenced by Galen who sought to study anatomy and physiology by using an animal as a cadaver; however this proved to be an insufficient model of the true anatomy of the human body. Furthermore, Galen’s hypothesis that the body had two blood systems and diseases could be cured by looking deeper into the four humors in the body proved to be grossly erroneous. When Paracelsus, Vesalius, and Harvey came onto the medical scene during the 16th and 17th century, medicine started to evolve into a more precise and exact science.

Paracelsus’ methods were based on a new chemical philosophy, in contrast, the universities were still using traditional Galen’s principles and Paracelsus did not agree with this method of teaching.

His methods were based on experimentation and a chemical philosophy based on the harmony of man (the microcosm) and Nature (macrocosm). Paracelsus believed that actions that occurred within the body were the result of the universe, on a smaller scale of course.

This notion, although it deterred from Galen’s previous findings, was that chemical imbalances in the body were found in certain organs and could be treated with specific remedies. These, of course, proved that imbalances of the four humors were not the underlying factors in diagnosing certain illnesses.

This prompted Paracelsus to start dedicating his time to producing chemicals and minerals that could be used in certain doses for specific ailments. He did meet opposition, as many believed he was infecting patients with the same disease they had in order to cure it, and this may in fact have been right. In all actuality, his findings have made him the father of modern medicine, and to some of the Scientific Revolution, the first person to study in depth homeopathic and holistic medicine.

He was also a prolific writing, publishing more than 200 volumes of material, including De Occulta Philosophia. The most well known in the U.S. is a two-volume collection of his most famous material, The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings Of Paracelsus.

— Danu’s Daughter

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Her Crime: Adultery; Her Punishment: DEATH

They will wrap the bulk of her body in a white shroud; bind her arms and legs; bury her upright to her waist; then STONE her until she DIES as slowly and painfully as possible – after telling the swelling, eager crowd to select the rocks they will hurl with the utmost care, so that they will not kill her immediately.

Just where and in what barbaric era would this have happened? July 2010, Iran.

When I began this blog, I created my alter ego, “Danu's Daughter,” who would lead readers through the amazing and varied world of religious behavior and beliefs without judgment, with as much neutrality as possible.

Not this time.

I had done this because I felt there were too many loud opinions about anything and everything and not enough information conveyed in markedly egocentric blogs. I wanted readers to decide how they felt, working hard to make Danu's Daughter as unobtrusive as possible, even invisible rather than a part of the process.

Not this time.

Here are the facts:

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was convicted on May 15, 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men, according to Amnesty International and her lawyer.

She has now been sentenced to death by stoning.

Her lawyer, Mohommad Mostafaei, said Mohammadi-Ashtiani confessed to the crime after being subjected to 99 lashes. She later recanted that confession and has denied wrongdoing, he said.

Her conviction was based not on evidence but on the determination of three out of five judges, he added. She has asked forgiveness from the court but the judges refused to grant clemency. Iran's supreme court upheld the death conviction in 2007.

Apparently, Iran was reviewing that sentence of stoning, a rights official said, but her lawyer warned today that there was no guarantee the execution would be halted.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran's top human rights official, said late Friday that the verdict of death by stoning against Mohammadi-Ashtiani is being reviewed by the judiciary.

"She was sentenced to 90 lashes by one court and stoning by another. The verdict is under revision," Larijani was quoted as saying by state news agency Islamic Republic News Agency.

He said the chief of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, was of the opinion that it was preferable to use another penalty instead of stoning, "and that is true for Ms. Mohammadi-Ashtiani."

Larijani did not say what penalty she could face instead, but added: "The penalty of stoning exists under the law but the judges rarely use it."

Mostafai told news agencies today that he had yet to receive any official confirmation that the stoning sentence had been revised.

"There is no guarantee that it will be halted," he said.

"Sentences such as stoning will be closely reviewed and probably changed," Larijani told Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.

[Above: Protesters in London demonstrate against the planned stoning, and to mark the 11th Anniversary of the July 9th Iranian student uprising.]

In London today protesters waved flags and chanted anti-government slogans to the beat of a drum in front of the Iranian Embassy. They condemned executions in Iran – by stoning and hanging.

But Larijani said protests from outside Iran will not affect Mohammadi-Ashtiani's case.

"The Western attacks have no effect on the opinion of our judges," he told the news agency.

Larijani's comments seemed to contradict Iran's public statements made Thursday from its embassy in London that strongly suggested Mohammadi-Ashtiani would not be stoned.

The public statement said, "this mission denies the false news aired in this respect and...according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment.

"It is notable that this kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran and various means and remedies must be probed and exhausted to finally come up with such a punishment," the embassy statement concluded.

Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Mohammedie Ashtiani, who appealed Wednesday to Iran's courts to spare his mother's life and also appealed to the world for help via Twitter, said he won't accept any decision short of his mother's freedom.

Through human rights activist Mina Ahadi, the son said he would be satisfied only when Iran's judiciary officially drops the charges against her.

Ahadi has said that only an international campaign designed to pressure the Islamic regime in Tehran could save Mohammadi-Ashtiani's life.

"Legally, it's all over," said Ahadi, who heads the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, earlier this week.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son wrote in an open letter to government officials that there was neither evidence nor legal grounds for his mother's conviction and sentence. He said the family has traveled six times from their home in Tabriz to Tehran to speak with Iranian officials, but in vain.

Amnesty said she received flogging of 99 lashes as per her sentence but was subsequently accused of "adultery while being married" in September 2006 during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband.

Mostafai said his client knew the man who, "killed her husband and because she was at home when the murder took place, she was accused as accomplice."

She was pardoned on the murder charges, but then accused of adultery with that man, Mostafai said.

Mostafai added that such cases involving women in Iran arise due to difficulties in getting divorces with husbands despite, "having troubled marriages."

Enough! Enough fear. Enough pain. Enough agony. Enough torture. Enough death. E-NOUGH misery imposed by cowardly dictators hiding behind the safety net of blind religious tradition and the faithful.

I am a tolerant person. I believe that all countries have the right of autonomy, that religion is personal and should be left to believers to choose or reject, and that WEST does not always equal BEST.

I am not a Christian; I am not a Jew; I am not a Muslim. I do not follow any of the Abrahamic faith paths. I am not speaking out as an American, or a proponent of any political ideology. I am speaking simply as a human being, reaching out to other human beings. I am literally on my knees. I beg Iran and all Iranians to spare this woman, and to abolish this horrific practice. Please. Please.

— Danu's Daughter

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Odin Brotherhood: An Overview

There are many secret or quasi-secret societies that practice various forms of ritual magick and may, or may not, follow a Neo-Pagan religion.

One very interesting group is the Odin Brotherhood, which does follows a Neo-Pagan faith path, but also incorporates secretive practices/rites that are alleged to be the “old” magick.

The Odin Brotherhood has for many centuries been a secret society for “warriors” and pagans. From the beginning, the movement – in spite of its name – has included women.

Interestingly, while its membership and most of its specific practices are shrouded in secrecy, its goals and beliefs are not. This “ancient” society now uses modern technology to express its goals via its own website.

A tradition for warriors, the Odin Brotherhood teaches that "when the gods made man, they made a weapon." The Brotherhood has no laws, but instead promotes “virtues,” and members prefer heroes, and warriors to “saints.”

As such, the Brotherhood practices “the old warrior religion” that is today called Odinism or Asatru. Consecrated to the pagan gods and goddesses of the Norse Pantheon, these deities are viewed as "older, better, and truer,” by its members. Some members of the Brotherhood use the Eddaic Verses – also called the Poetic Edda – as a kind of scripture.

[Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva or seeress addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.

The prophecy commences with an address to Odin. The seeress then begins relating the story of the creation of the world in an abridged form. She explains how she came by her knowledge and that she understands the source of Odin's omniscience, and other secrets of the gods of Asgard. She deals with present and future happenings, touching on many of the Norse myths, including as the death of Baldr and the binding of Loki. Ultimately the seeress tells of the end of the world, Ragnarök, and its second coming.]

Members of the Odin Brotherhood maintain that their order was established in 1421 to protect the Ancient Religion during the Burning Times, and has existed in unbroken lineage to the present.

Although Odinism never became extinct – hundreds of millions of people have honored the Eddaic pantheon (in its Vedic form) in the Indian subcontinent since Neolithic times – many scholars classify the movement as a Neo-Pagan revival.

In its current form, membership and meetings of the Odin Brotherhood is clandestine, but its objectives are stated publically, while many secret societies do not do this. In fact, secret faith societies remain illegal in some countries, and are in fact forbidden by the Constitution of Poland.

The Brotherhood say that it was founded shortly after the time when a young pagan widow was caught honoring the ancient gods and goddesses in a remote grotto. For her actions, an angry mob burned her on a pyre composed of green wood. After the murder, the woman's three children used an ancient and forbidden rite from paganism (Called necromancy, which is the dark art or dark practice of conjuring the dead, especially in order to obtain knowledge from them, generally of the future) and summoned her from beyond the grave.

Answering the summons, the slain woman is said to have instructed her children to save the ancient religion by taking the movement underground. They were instructed to form a secret society, a "conspiracy of equals," to be dedicated to the old gods. They pledged to "honor the gods with clandestine rites in deserted places," and they promised to "share their knowledge" with "the few" they trusted before they died.

According to the Odin Brotherhood, all of these events occurred somewhere in Eurasia – somewhere north of the Black Sea – in the 15th Century of the current era. They also insist that buried artifacts exist that will one day confirm their account.

The teachings of the "old way" were once only spread by word of mouth, from person to person. Today, however, with more written information appearing in manuscript and in published form, solitary practitioners (Referred to by the Brotherhood as ‘lone wolves,’ who initiate themselves) are becoming more common.

Initiation into the Odin Brotherhood only occurs at the solstices – it involves a vision quest cemented by a "ceremony of blood." As with almost all ancient religions and beliefs, without blood there is no power. That's the reason that animals were cut in half when the biblical Jehovah made his covenant with Abraham. The initiation rite of the Odin Brotherhood involves solitude, a diet of bread and ice (yes, ice), wearing a white shroud, the use of a dagger, and a ritual fire.

The male initiate – after proper ritual purification (bath) – makes three incisions on his body using his dagger. Done in the name of "holy violence, necessary violence," the male neophyte makes these incisions on his chest.

He then "devotes, hallows, and sanctifies" his soul to the “gods who live.” He does this by putting the tip of the dagger, stained with his own blood, into a fire three times.

The scars that are left from this ritual are called "The-Marks-of-Joy." They are based on the "marking with the spear,” a ceremony described in the Ynglinga Saga, by Snorri Sturluson, another example of an Eddaic.

The female neophyte, however, makes three small incisions on the tip of her right index finger. The Odin Brotherhood believes that women’s breasts are: "The last and most beautiful embellishment she receives in life," thus must not be disfigured.

Mercia Eliade, in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, notes that many secret society initiations resemble shamanic initiations, including seclusion (symbolizing the "beyond), some sort of prohibition (as in a diet), covering the face and body, usually with something that is white, and a difficult ordeal, involving the infliction of "cruelties."

The Odin Brotherhood embraces polytheism, stating that monotheism, "the belief in one totalitarian god, is preposterous and absurd." They insist that "no single, superordinary, ineffable entity controls all realities. A universe governed by one supreme deity would possess the maddening simplicity that characterizes any dictatorship, but our cosmos clearly shows no evidence of one will at work. Our universe is characterized by diversity and disorder, and that indicates the universe is molded by many wills and innumerable forces."

The Gods and Goddesses of the Odin Brotherhood, which include Odin, Thor, Frigg, Heimdall, Balder, Bragi, Vidar, Tyr, Frigg, Freyja, and others in the Norse Pantheon, are viewed as powerful entities that are finite in nature. Humanoid in shape – neither omnipotent nor omniscient – the gods are physical beings that inhabit hidden corridors in the universe. Often appearing on earth in disguise, they are known by many names in many languages. Odin, for example, appears also as Hermes and Rudra.

Believing in direct contact with the gods and goddesses, the Odin Brotherhood teaches that the deities typically communicate with humanity through a system of "messengers and spies."

The Odin Brotherhood declares itself the enemy of all forms of slavery, and members admire the gods but do not prostrate themselves before them. They observe three seasonal rites that are conducted without priests, for each member of the Brotherhood considers himself/herself a priest/priestess.

The first is called “The-Night-of-Joy.” Held in honor of the goddesses, the The-Night-of-Joy is celebrated on the eve of the Summer Solstice. This festival includes "feasting, jocularity, and frivolity."

The second is called “The-Night-of-Courage.” Held in honor of all the Odinists who have died, The-Night-of-Courage occurs on October 31. In the old calendar, October 31 marks the beginning of winter "the time when death is strong in nature."

The third festival is called “The-Night-of-Generosity.” Conducted on the eve of the Winter Solstice, this festival includes the bestowal of gifts. At this festival "every Odinist gives the world something great and something beautiful."

As has been said, the Odin Brotherhood’s ethical standards are based on the development of virtues. They represent "strength over weakness, pride over humility, and knowledge over faith." Members honor the gods by fostering "thought, courage, honor, light, and beauty." They are instructed to be "brave and generous," and "direct, uncomplicated and strong," and must "live well and die bravely."

Viewing themselves as members of a secret or an "invisible army of the gods," members see the Brotherhood as a "Creed of Iron."

The Odin Brotherhood teaches that all beings ultimately experience death. In poetic terms, death is personified as beautiful females – called the valkyries – who exist "in an endless variety of exquisite forms." Since death is not annihilation, the "transfigured life form" will go to one of three Other-Worlds. The most famous of these "Other-Worlds" is Valhalla.

Odinists believe in a form of reincarnation. In cosmic terms, death is described as Ragnarok, the final battle which destroys every universe. According to the Odin Brotherhood, Ragnarok is an "orgy of purification" from which a new cosmos is born. The cycle of destruction and rebirth – which will go on forever – is called the "Law-of-the-Endless-Circle." Also called the eternal return or eternal recurrence, the "Law-of-the-Endless-Circle" teaches that existence never ends with destruction. “Nothing dies forever,” and all beings – and all things – will return.

The Odin Brotherhood was first described publicly in 1992 with the publication of the The Odin Brotherhood, by Dr. Mark L. Mirabello, who is a professor of European history at Shawnee State University.

Leading to its publication, Mirabello had encountered a silver-haired man in a bookshop in Leith, in the United Kingdom. At the time, Mirabello was conducting historical research as a doctoral student in Scotland's University of Glasgow.

The gentleman, who called himself only Lodur's Friend (Lodur is one of the mysterious Gods in the Eddaic Verses), was holding a peculiar cane adorned with the images of a serpent and an ass, the ONLY two animals that speak in the bible. Both men were examining occult books. The gentleman noticed that Mirabello was studying a book called The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, by Arthur Edward Waite. During this encounter the gentleman pointed out that, "The rose symbolizes secrecy," while pointing to an engraving in Mirabello's book on the Rosy Cross. The gentleman went on to say that, "Since we speak sub rosa or 'under the rose', our discussion must remain forever secret."

Several months passed then Mirabello saw the old man again, this time at the Atlantis Bookshop, an occult emporium near the British Museum in London.

"Blind loyalty is a virtue in a dog, but it is an offense in a human being," declared the stranger, when he noticed Mirabello studying an obscure essay on faith.

Mirabello has said that since he was interested in the stranger's knowledge they became friends and that they began to meet for dinner, usually in Edinburgh or London, at which time the stranger introduced him, “to a circle of fascinating individuals." This gathering of friends for a meal (they only dined at night, during the time of the new moon), referred to itself as a conventicle, and was by invitation only. They maintained that those who “feared” or “hated” authority were excluded. Mirabello has said that those who “laughed at” authority were welcome. The gatherings always adjourned before dawn.

Some years after the publication of Mirabello's book, the anonymous and privately printed Teachings of the Odin Brotherhood began to circulate. Copies of the latter were rare, but are now widely available.

In addition, the The Odin Brotherhood website has provided a fabulous webpage that provides free .pdf versions of Mirabello’s book, in multiple languages, along with other esoteric books that describe the beliefs of its members.

The following material was taken directly from the official The Odin Brotherhood website:


The Odin Brotherhood is a secret society for men and women who value “knowledge, freedom, and power.”

The Odin Brotherhood adheres to and practices the ancient warrior religion that is today called Odinism or Asatru. Consecrated to the pagan gods of Asgard – gods that are older, better, and truer – members of the Brotherhood use the Eddaic Verses – also called the Poetic Edda –as sacred texts.

As a warrior religion – a creed that glorifies the hero over the saint – the "mailed fist" over the "nailed hands" – the Odin Brotherhood represents strength over weakness, pride over humility, and knowledge over faith.

In an era of ugliness, impotence, and death, we glorify beauty, power, and life. Ours is a religion that creates no laws, only virtues. A revolt against the modern world – with its laws and moral codes – its hangmen and its priests – Odinism teaches men and women how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate.

Members of the Odin Brotherhood are a hidden elite – a luminous beacon in a corrupt and squalid world. As proud friends of the gods and goddesses, we distinguish themselves from ordinary men and women.

Our religion – the proud tradition of Odin, Thor, Sif, Heimdall, and the other deities described in the Eddaic Verses – equips us to face the tyranny of fate – and the mystery of death.

Ordinary humans – dedicated to what Nietzsche called the slave religions – spend their lives toiling and obeying. Members of the Brotherhood – in contrast – are extraordinary mortals who know how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate.


Regarding the place of Odinism or Asatru in history, members of the Brotherhood assert that the religion of Odinism dates back to the dawn of humanity.

Man has been a hunter for several hundred thousand years – a farmer for ten thousand years – and a factory worker for two hundred years. Odinism is the religion of man the hunter.

This religion – almost exterminated in the fifteenth century of the current era – was kept alive by the Odin Brotherhood.

The great monotheistic religions – in contrast – the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – represent man the worker – man the toiler. As slave religions, they teach men and women to kneel, believe, and obey.

Historically, the Odin Brotherhood views Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as three manifestations of the same faith. These religions, which call upon the same god, essentially have the same five laws. Believers are taught to placate, propitiate, supplicate, honor, and obey.


In the legend of the Brotherhood, the story begins when a young pagan widow – the beautiful mother of three – was caught honoring her ancient gods and goddesses in a remote grotto.

A mob of nominal Christians – bigots who were black with hate – burned her alive on a pyre composed of green wood.

After the murder, the woman’s three children – using an ancient and forbidden rite from paganism – a rite called necromancy – summoned her from beyond the outer darkness – from beyond the grave.

Answering the summons, the slain woman instructed her children to save the ancient religion of Odinism by taking the movement underground.

They were instructed to form a secret society – a conspiracy of equals. Dedicated to the old gods, it was called the Odin Brotherhood.

According to the Brotherhood, all of these events occurred somewhere in Eurasia – somewhere north of the Black Sea – in the fifteenth century of the current era.

We know that buried artifacts exist which will some day confirm our tale.


Traditionally, the teachings spread from person to person. Only by word of mouth, from mind to mind, could the secrets pass.

Today, however, with more written information appearing in manuscript and in published form, solitary practitioners – lone wolves who initiate themselves – are becoming more common.

In its current form, membership in the Odin Brotherhood is secret – as in the so-called Illuminati conspiracy. The objectives of the Odin Brotherhood are stated publicly, as in the legendary Rosicrucians.

Unlike the freemasons, members of the Odin Brotherhood do not need secret words or grips or gestures to recognize one another. We know one another by a way of speaking, a dignity and reserve of manner, and an intensity in the eyes.


1. The Odin Brotherhood is a polytheistic religion devoted to Odin, Thor, Sif, and the other deities of the Norse tradition. Monotheism, described as "the belief in one totalitarian god," is "preposterous and absurd."
2. The Odin Brotherhood claims an unbroken historical lineage from 1421. Although the movement "bears the teeth marks of Christianity," we have survived persecution.
3. To be initiated into the Brotherhood (we are a "secret society"), individuals must "devote, hallow, and sanctify" their blood to "the gods who live."
4. The Brotherhood denounces "faith" as "a poison that paralyzes the mind." Members are taught to "seek knowledge."
5. The Brotherhood glorifies strength. We assert that it is “only by becoming stronger that a man can realize his divinity."
6. The Brotherhood teaches absolute self-reliance. Members would "rather steal than accept charity."
7. Sin is denied and "contrition" is denounced as a "totem of decadence." Odinists see repentance as a mark of weakness because "only the terrorized repent."
8. The Odin Brotherhood has no temples or churches. The gods, we believe, can be honored anywhere as long as all "strangers" are excluded, all words are "whispered," and "all abominations are avoided." (By abominations, we mean "promiscuity and assassination.")
9. The central rite of the Brotherhood is called the "Glimpse-Of-Extraordinary-Beauty." The celebrants conducting this rite are "enveloped and penetrated by the thoughts of a god."
10. The Brotherhood believes in life after death ("nothing dies forever"). We believe there are three "Other-Worlds," including the fabled "Valhalla" or "White-Kingdom." The Odin Brotherhood believes that the Christian hell does not exist. Hell is one of the "spurious horrors" contrived by extinct theologians."


Q. Has the Odin Brotherhood literally existed since 1421? According to historians, Lithuania was the last pagan stronghold in Europe. Officially converted in 1386, pagan elements supposedly did not survive past the 15th century.

A. The claim is impossible to prove, but is not extraordinary. The oldest industrial firm in the world – The Fabbrica (sic) d'Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. in Italy – has existed since 1526 and is now run by an eleventh generation Beretta. If a family business could show great longevity, why not a secret society/religion?

Gnosticism – a quasi-Christian movement going back to the time of Christ – was once considered extinct by scholars. Of course, that was until the Mandaeans were "rediscovered" in southern Iraq.

The Parsees – followers of Zarathustra who fled to India in the medieval period – once thought their religion had perished in the Iranian homeland. Several centuries after their flight, they discovered that their belief was false.

In history, centuries are nothing. Ma Yu Ching's, a restaurant which opened in China in AD 1153, is still functioning today.

Q. Why do you not provide specific details – names and places – when you describe the Odin Brotherhood? Even Gerald B. Gardner, who started the Witchcraft revival with Witchcraft Today, named his source.

A. Traditional Odin Brotherhood devotees are serious about their anonymity. If asked about the Brotherhood, they will deny they belong. Indeed, until you have earned their trust, some deny the Brotherhood's existence. They call this "the ruse of the warrior."

On the subject of Gardner, it interesting that his alleged source was named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Although her existence has long been denied by academic historians, Doreen Valiente proved through birth and death records that Gardner's source was indeed a real person.

Q. Why is secrecy still necessary today?

A. Odinism thinks strategically rather than tactically. Although ridicule has replaced the stake as the preferred method of persecution, the violence may some day return. Remember, the future may not be a continuation of the present.

Besides, real heroes are not honored in our decadent time. Our society puts the hero in a prison or a circus.

Q. Some individuals search for the Brotherhood and never find it. Why is that?

A. To see something, you must know how to look.

Did ancient Sparta have walls? The barbarians could not see them, but every Greek knew the truth.

The warriors of Sparta were its walls.

People who look for a formal structure – a temple or a post office box – will never find the Brotherhood.

Q. Some witches are solitary practitioners. That is to say, they learn the lore, initiate themselves, and never have contact with a larger group. Are some members of the Brotherhood solitary practitioners?

A. In centuries past, all members of the Brotherhood learned the secrets from older and wiser warriors. Heroes, who knew how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate!

Today, however, solitaries seem to be growing in numbers.

Q. Are the gods are real beings who often visit earth. Have the gods made contact with the Brotherhood?

A. That is the belief. Although it sounds implausible, I have a letter sent from Hamburg, Germany supposedly from Odin himself. A letter sounds odd – Judaic/Christian culture has conditioned us to think in terms of burning bushes and pillars of fire – but anything is possible.

Ezra Pound, in Canto 113, wrote:

The Gods have not returned. They never left us.They have not returned.


For a slightly different explanation, this has been taken directly from the Odin Brotherhood Forum:

THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD is a secret society for warriors and pagans who practice the religion now called Odinism or Asatru.

From the beginning, the movement – in spite of its name – has included women.


The Blood-Soaked Cross conquered Western Civilization. Gods were dethroned, images were smashed, history was changed.

A wasteland where camels grazed became a holy land. Crude writings written in barbarous dialects became sacred scriptures. An ill-tempered desert deity became a universal god.

Even more! A failed rebel prophet, who died a demeaning death on a tree, became a holy savior for millions. A simple peasant girl, impregnated under suspicious circumstances, became a holy mother--a blessed virgin. An ignorant fisherman, too cowardly to support his master in a crisis, became an infallible saint who guards the gates of heaven.

The Galilean conquered. BUT THE LIBERATION HAS BEGUN....


I am a Solitary Practitioner of Eclectic Wicca, devoted to the Goddess and God through nature and the Divine that lives within each of us. I am not a true warrior, and I adhere to the basic tenants of Wicca. Here is a combination of Wicca’s moral codes: "Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."

My life has not been easy, a statement I’m sure that can be echoed by everyone reading this. I have struggled, and the Goddess sometimes teases by calling me, “Her Little Warrior,” because I tend never to give up when faced with those challenges. But, I am a gentle soul; I can defend myself and my loved ones when required, but I strive to blend my energies with those found in nature. I want to feel the presence of the Goddess in every breath that I take into my body.

However, as a Wiccan I accept the beliefs and practices of others. So, while the precepts of the Odin Brotherhood do not call to my soul, I honor those for whom it does. There are as many different ways and faith paths to find Deity as there are those who seek the Divine, Wicca is simply the one that has claimed me.

I believe strongly that it is my duty in this blog to present as many different Neo-Pagan faiths as possible.

For anyone interested in reading about the Brotherhood in depth, I want to repeat my strongest recommendation for that fabulous webpage by the The Odin Brotherhood website that provides free .pdf versions of Mirabello’s book in multiple languages, along with other esoteric books that describe in detail the beliefs of the Brotherhood.

— Danu’s Daughter

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Beautiful People ONLY Need Apply

Few news accounts have equal parts disgusted and fascinated me as much as the following: the controversial dating service has just launched a new fertility forum intended to give its beautiful members and non-members (or "ugly people") better odds of having good-looking children, according to the company.’s, a dating site exclusively for attractive people (no uglies need or even may apply), most recent venture, is a "virtual sperm and egg bank for people who want to have beautiful babies." Or, "the Beautiful Baby Bank.")

The forum was launched last week and has already created a lot of interest – pro and con.

"Right or wrong, infertile couples highly value attractiveness in their donors," said Greg Hodge, the site's managing director. "It may not give us all a warm, fuzzy feeling inside but you can't argue the fact that parents want to secure every advantage for their child."

Though the dating site is only open to men and women who are voted attractive enough by other members of the site, he said the fertility forum will be available to anyone.

"Initially, we hesitated to widen the offering to non-beautiful people. But everyone – including ugly people – would like to bring good looking children in to the world, and we can't be selfish with our attractive gene pool," company founder Robert Hintze said in a statement.

Hodge said that over the years,, which has more than 600,000 members from 190 countries, has received repeated requests from fertility clinics to advertise on the site. He said they launched the fertility forum to help address the shortage of sperm and egg donors in the United Kingdom and help potential parents more easily find good-looking donors.

But he emphasized that the company has no financial interest in the new site. It's meant to be a forum for discussion and a way to match beautiful people with those who want their genes, he said. The site directs members to information about fertility clinics and the appropriate protocol to follow.

"It's political, it's contentious, it's polarizing. We certainly don't want to be profiting from it," he said.

But profit or not, critics say the site isn't just ethically questionable, it's an affront to other human beings.

"It's just terribly insulting. It trivializes our values. It trivializes human sexuality. It's just another example of the superficiality and consumerism that I think is running rampant in our society," said Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago.

He said that while attraction has played a role in human mating for thousands of years, sites like this make it falsely seem as though the only attribute that matters is a person's looks. He also said that it approaches Aldous Huxley's scenario in "Brave New World," in which people are engineered for certain characteristics.

"It's another step in turning children into products rather than persons," he said.

And Sulmasy asked about what happens when things go wrong.

"This is genetics. It's still a lottery when you're picking somebody's sperm," he said. "The beauty may not come through in the genetics...What are the parents supposed to do then? Turn it in?"

Other detractors worried that BeautifulPeople's new forum would give people a way to circumvent safeguards intended to protect the adults and the child.

"If they are going to be a matchmaker between people who need donations and people who want to be donors, I'm concerned that the medical and psychological protections will not be in place for either party," said Corey Whelan, program director for the American Fertility Association.

Though the site said it would direct would-be donors and recipients to clinics and the proper protocol, she said the forum still "opens up a can of worms" as people could potentially bypass medical tests, psychological screenings and other legal requirements.

She also said that while people do consider attractiveness when choosing a sperm or egg donor, she emphasized that many other factors also come into play.

"[Fertility] centers are really trying to give a broad-based profile of what this person is and certainly looks are part of that, but so is health, so is family, so are interests," she said. "When people are looking at the profiles of potential donors, they are looking for someone with qualities that resonate with them."

There will always be people who weigh attractiveness over other attributes, she said, but that's not the vast majority of people.

"We don't create our families that way," Whelan said. "When people are looking to create their family they [consider] much, much more than looks."

Soooooooooo, had enough reality, hmmn? May I suggest...a side little trip...into the Twilight Zone! In particular, an episode from 1964 entitled, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

Creator Rod Serling introduces the episode: “Given the chance, what young girl wouldn't happily exchange a plain face for a lovely one? What girl could refuse the opportunity to be beautiful? For want of a better estimate, let’s call this the year 2000. At any rate, imagine a time in the future when science has developed a means to give everyone the face and body he dreams of. It may not happen tomorrow, but it happens now in the Twilight Zone.”

In this instance, the young girl is Marilyn Cuberle who must decide whether to undergo "The Transformation," which happens to everyone at the age of 19 (either by convention or by law; it isn't made clear). Their bodies are reshaped, making them beautiful, and immune to any kind of disease or unhappiness.

She has been looking through a catalog of sorts of bodies to select, torn between Number 12 (her mother’s model) or Number 8, that of a friend.

“Am I homely?” she asks her mother, Lana.

“Not to me, you aren’t,” her mother replies.
(FYI: Everyone must wear name tags, since there are so many identical faces running around, otherwise you couldn’t tell them apart.)
Marilyn is still troubled, so she talks to her Uncle Rick, whose body form is Number 17 – the same model that her late father had selected.

“But, is that good being like everybody – isn’t that the same as being nobody?” she asks.

“Where are you getting these radical ideas?” asks Uncle Rick.

From her late father. “We talked about ‘real things,’ not just about sports or buying new clothes.”

“Is there anything wrong with talking about sports or buying new clothes?” Rick asked.

“Of course not, but Uncle Rick, there’s got to be more to life than just that.” she said.

Naturally, Marilyn is taken to the hospital for the operation, regardless of her misgivings. Her mother visits to ask which “model” woman she has selected. Marilyn doesn’t answer, but says she just remembered what her dad had said once: “When everyone is beautiful no one will be, because without ugliness there can be no beauty...Mother, don’t you understand, they don’t care whether you’re beautiful or not, they just want everyone to be the same,” she cries, as the doctor moves in.

Marilyn bolts, but ends up trying to hide – in the operating room. After the procedure, she’s thrilled with her new body, she’s chose model Number 8, just like her friend Valerie. The episodes ends as she’s admiring herself and the others in a mirror.

Rod Serling recites the epilog: “Portrait of a young lady in love – with herself. Improbable? Perhaps. But in an age of plastic surgery, body building and an infinity of cosmetics, let us hesitate to say impossible. These and other strange blessings may be waiting in the future which are after all is the Twilight Zone.”
And the very best part of this episode? The screenplay was written by John Tomerlin, adapted from the Charles Beaumont's story "The Beautiful People," which was first published in the September 1952 If maganzine!

This episode of the Twilight Zone’s original airdate was Jan. 24, 1964, The Twilight Zone - Season 5 (The Definitive Edition), Episode 17.

The great cast includes:
Collin Wilcox as Marilyn Cuberle
Suzy Parker as Lana Cuberle, Eva, Doe, Grace, Jane, and Patient Number 12
Richard Long as Uncle Rick (Number 17), Dr. Rex, Sigmund Friend, Dr. Tom, Tad, and Jack
Pam Austin as Valerie, and Marilyn (after transformation) Number 8

— Danu's Daughter