Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Four, Six, or Seven Directions?

When we were young and innocent (in the days when Jesus walked the streets of Chicago), we used four directions in our circles: east/air, south/fire, west/water, north/earth. Pretty soon, after some gentle guidance from Native Americans, we added above/Grandfather Sky, and down/Mother Earth.
Now we had a problem. To wit: If earth is down, what to put in the north? We decided that Time was appropriate. Chronos is the elder god of the Greek pantheon, and Father Time with his snowy-white hair seemed fine. After all, if there is no time, nothing exists.
That's how things went for years and years. In the center of our circles was a seventh position: the fire in the stone fireplace (the pentanfaen) representing the Spirit in the stone (that is, the mineral) of our bodies. We thought of the smoke as Self or soul in the act of ascending.
Then we traveled to Korea. We learned that at the center of the Korean circle too there was a position--it was You, the center of your universe. Here You is actually composed of a triplet, as depicted on the Korean spirit fan painted in the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. The colors are said to represent body, spirit, and Deity; or earth, sky, and human.
We always questioned what element is appropriate for which direction. Obviously in Australia, for example, fire is better in the north. If you are working on the east coast of the United States, surely water should be in the east. Remember that east is the direction of new beginnings; and we all began and begin in a fluid environment. Since for most of North America the winds blow from the west, well, now we can put air in the west and everything seems to balance.
But, but---TRADITION! Well, where did the traditional directions come from? The more we study the roots of most old religions, the more we become convinved that the Indus Valley and their adaptation of the Vedic religions is the root. Basically we are considering the Punjab or five- rivers area.
Now we know that several of the characters who put together Witchcraft and other occult traditions were retired British administrators of the Raj.
In the Punjab, the prevailing wind is from the east; that the Himalayan massif is to the north. Hence the reasoning of those administrators, natural enough, in assigning traditional directions. But we are not Hindus and we're not working in the Punjab; therefore we think it rational to honor air in the west and the earth in the below.
Because we believe a Wiccan should always maintain awareness of where he or she is, and because it's only rational to work in terms of the real-world environment, we are attaching a new circle calling: for your amusement, your education, and perhaps your use.
    As usual, we invite your comments. We are not trying to offend anyone; we do not scorn any tradition. Please be constructive. Our hope is that we all may arrive at a shared understanding of what we are doing. If you know a better way and can suggest the reasoning behind it, please share that better way with the community.
Here is a specific example of a circle and its dimensions, designed and adapted for group work. We owe this to a friend whom we meet at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beckley WV, Al Youmans. Thank you, Al, for creating something we all can share.


Below Below our Mother Earth sustains us and gives us life. May we honor the Earth. May we be ever vigilant to protect her from pollution and from rape of the land.
All:- Hail to our Mother Earth. May we always remember who gave us birth. May we always protect Her from harm wrought by humankind. Let there be peace on earth.
East In the east we see the sun rise and we know a new day is beginning. Each day is indeed a new day and a new beginning for the rest of our lives. May we all give thanks for the blessings of the east, and may we forgive the mistakes of the past as we begin this new day.
All:- Hail East, and hail this new day. Let there be peace in the east.
South Here in the northern hemisphere the sun is southward. From the south come warmth and heat and fire. May we all honor the blessings of the south. Let us rekindle and strengthen the fire of passion and the commitment of our spirits for the just work of this fellowship.
All:- Hail South. May we strengthen our commitment to what is just. Let there be peace in the south.
West Here where we are, the prevailing weather arrives from the west. From the west come the air and the healing waters that fill our wells and rivers, waters that enable our crops and forests to thrive. May we give thanks to the west. May we share new air with them, with all those here today, and with our neighbors, that we may all have good health.
All:- Hail West. We give thanks for healing powers. Let there be peace in the west.
North To our north the jet stream moves with the seasons and brings us cold and sometimes snow. Here in the Appalachians we live in four-seasons country. Beauty is all around us. As the seasons circle round, so do our lives. We are reminded of time and of our mortality. We are reminded that we must use this time to live our lives to the fullest.
All:- Hail North. We recall the passage of time and we express our gratitude to the north. Let there be peace in the north.
Above To the great Above we have the sky and the heavens. Traditionally the sky represents our Father. From the sky we seek knowledge. May we honor the great Above and our fathers, and may our knowledge grow and serve us well.
All:- Hail to the great Above. May we be ever mindful of knowledge given from above. Let knowledge bring peace.
Center In our center resides Spirit. Spirit dwells within each of us and in all things. Thus are we connected to all things. May we always remember how we are interconnected and that we thus must not do harm to others but must promote peace.
All:- (Here do not speak in unison. Instead turn to someone near you. Give them a hug or a warm handshake. Say to them, "Peace be with you." Or, if it is your tradition, use another phrase that has a similar sentiment.)

Blessed be all. Gavin and Yvonne.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The True History of Wicca

      December 26 1968 - The newly formed Coven of Boskednan in St. Louis, MO, decided that the course Gavin and Yvonne were then teaching should be called Wicca and that the letterhead of that course should be the Church and School of Wicca. The course was based on what Gavin had been taught in England and on his initiation by the Coven of Boskednan in Cornwall in 1950.
     The original roots of Wicca thus come from a single source: that Coven of Boskednan. Apocryphally the coven was founded by one Henry Wilcox. In 1925 he retired, either as a civil servant in India or from the British Army. (Or of course it may never have happened.)
     Another retired British civil servant, one Gerald Gardner, had talked about Witchcraft (note: not about Wicca) and had used the word wicca once in a book of his; however, no one had theretofore written a description of the new religion and spiritual path.
Wicca had absolutely no direct connection to Gardnerian Witchcraft or to any of the multifarious Gardnerian roots: Kellner, Reuss, Masonry, the Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Folk Life Society, Leyland, and (last but not least) Doreen Valiente.
Despite rumor and innuendo, and despite what Wikipedia thinks or claims, the above is a true statement of what occurred. All else is history-as-wished-for or simple creative fiction.
The course was advertised. Thousands of neophytes amost immediately signed up for it.
In December 1971 the Church and School of Wicca applied to the Internal Revenue Service for exempt status as a religious association. By December 13 of that year By-Laws and Articles of Association were written and approved. It earned its status as a religious association in 1972, in the form of a Letter of Determination dated August 31.

    In 1976 and 1977 the IRS carried out an extensive investigation of the Church and School of Wicca. The IRS found the Church blameless of any wrongdoing. It reported that fact in the Senate, giving the Church of Wicca the imprimatur of federal approval.
    In 1985 inmates in the Virginia penal system petitioned the state system to acknowledge their right to have Wiccan robes and books, and to have Wiccan holidays recognized. That request was rejected; it went into Federal Appeals Court in 1986: Dettmer vs Langdon 799 F.2D 929. The appeal finally led to the landmark decision in the Federal Appeals Court of the Fifth District, confirming Wicca as a religion. In the judge's words,
"The Church of Wicca is clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes. Members of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspects of their lives, and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns' in much the same way as followers of accepted religions."

    Both in Lecture XII of the School's original course and in the last chapter of "The Witch's Bible", the Frosts explicitly opened Wicca to all people who were on a positive path. That openness and the conscious sustained avoidance of centralized power have since enabled the wonderful, enriching diversity within the Craft that we all enjoy today. Diversity allows anyone to follow any spiritual path that they see fit to follow, so long as it is a positive path and so long as they do not seek to inflict their path on anyone else.

    What more is there to say? The rest is merely froth and insubstantial gossip and someone's Disneyland-type creative fiction.

                 Thou shalt not denigrate another religion -- yea, verily, thus saith the IRS.

We are delighted beyond words to have met a whole group of new friends and fellow pilgrims during Yule in Louisville. Traveling toward the meet, we said to a waitress during a pit stop, "We're celebrating solstice tomorrow on the full moon."

"What's solstice? I've never heard of it."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who among You Is Moral?

The title of this blog may sound downright biblical; in fact many definitions of morality include obedience to custom and acting in accordance with "sacred" texts, especially in matters of sexuality. For many years the Church of Wicca has had its sacred writings; thus we can claim that when we act exactly in accordance with our own sacred writings, we are by definition moral.

We Frosts do not believe that many "sacred" writings are actually moral. The Koran requires that a person convicted of theft has at least one hand cut off. The Bible requires that if a child tells a lie, (s)he shall be taken to the city gate and be stoned to death. The Old Testament is full of mayhem; indeed, Richard Dawkins writes of Jehovah's policy of scorched-earth ethnic cleansing.* Nor was Jesus above blasting a poor fig tree that didn't fruit when he ordered it to.
One of the freedoms of the Church of Wicca is in matters sexual. (Remember "If it harm none"?) For years we have been using the acronym DUPED to define what we mean. Sorry the internet doesn't faithfully follow our idiosyncratic spacing of this business, but just line up the capital letters to get to DUPED, and things will assume the place we intend. So anyhow, what do we mean when we talk of getting DUPED? We mean

no D isease

not U nder contract (as in a marriage, for example)

no unwanted P regnancy

no E xpectations

no implication of D ebt

So from the sexual point of view, if you act in accordance with our acronym, in our opinion you're sexually moral.
Yet that leaves 90 percent or so of our readers' actions still questionable by conventional standards. The Hindu word dharma may be defined as taking the right actions in your life--right actions consistent with your position in society. What this has to do with abusing children or beating your spouse is a mystery to us. Here abuse and beating are not necessarily the physical act of applying a rod it where it hurts the most. They can also mean mental cruelty.
How then do we define a moral person? Is (s)he simply a decent person, honest and fair in their actions? We believe that it is rational to evaluate people by their life style and their actions: When they commit an act, the act has consequences. When you yourself act decently and honorably, you will eventually gather around you people who are motivated in the same way--as explicitly articulated in the Wiccan tenet concerning the Law of Attraction. Thus the morality of a person can easily be estimated according to the morality of their friends.

What say you? Is decent or honorable or something else a better term than moral?

* Richard Dawkins The God Delusion

Monday, December 13, 2010

Musings on the Axial Age (how women lost their groove)

     The Axial Age is defined as occurring around 800 BCE to 200 BCE. This is the period when women's position in society--worldwide--was degraded and (male) gods were assigned a new dimension of morality and "goodness", of power and control.
      It doesn't matter where you look: ancient Greece or China or even India. All the thinkers of the time handed down the same edict: the (male) gods demanded that everyone be "good" and "moral"--good and moral as defined by mouthpieces of the newly supreme male juju. We look at the laws of Hammurabi from a somewhat earlier age, and find that 75 percent of them deal with controlling women. We look at classical Greece, and find that the only women allowed to own property after 400 BCE were the hetaerae or courtesans. Further east, geisha were typical of the women who retained a place in society. The story of Tiamat being overcome by her son, the "good" god, is yet another example of the effects of the Axial Age.
      Here is the question: Why did this happen? One theory suggests that old men with ED* wanted the young men to quit having fun. Another says that centralizing authority in the various priestly classes demanded some way to control the people. You couldn't starve them of food or deprive them of sleep, because you wanted them to work--but you could deny them the pleasure of sex. You could make it a moral issue and control people with the eternal trinity: guilt, shame, and fear.

Ayn Rand got it right in Atlas Shrugged; here's a paraphrase of her thought.
     If you tell a man that smelling spring flowers is wrong, and he smells spring flowers,
he's guilty. You've got him.
     This business of the hetaerae and the geisha and their position in society is interesting. As we Frosts drive southward in our frequent travels, as we get into the "red" or "Bible-belt" states we see a higher density of euphemistic "gentlemen's relaxation clubs" and sex shops offering porn films. Apparently the men of the region assume that they "need" these services and are entitled to them; but in using such services they degrade the position of women, tending to treat them as non-persons, merely conveniences for sexual relief. One such term for the setup is sexual toilet. Still, here's something--at last--that even they can dominate.
        We can only hope, and work, for things to revert to a culture with parity between the genders, but it's almost 3,000 years since the beginning of the Axial Age; in other words, this dominant-male mindset has had a long time to dig in. The culture needs a complete purge. Perhaps we can dream of a Free Age in which people are moral--make that ethical--because the nation's leaders are moral; when we behave decently and ethically because we want to be decent, not from fear of the law.
- - - - - - - - -

* ED = erectile dysfunction

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Religious Freedom

You know, it seems to us that people--especially those in the Wiccan/pagan community--don't understand the term that serves as the title of these thoughts. Religious freedom means that you have the one and only right and true path ... for you. And it means that you are allowed to pursue the path of your choice without let or hindrance--so long as you obey the secular laws of the land.

It means as well (here's the corollary) that you do not have the right to criticize anyone else's path or to try to amend it. You've got freedom? They've got freedom. Yet we witness such leaning-on behavior ad nauseam; it seems to be a pervasive culturally-inflicted trait in luckless individuals whose minds have been twisted into knots. Leaning on other people is not a duty and it is not a right. Such a mindset is an intrinsic part of the duality attitude of ethnic monotheism. Black and white, good and evil, either/or, no gray scales, and (god forbid) no color. Yvonne sometimes wishes (vainly, of course) that freedom of religion could also mean freedom from religion.

In India there are literally thousands, if not millions, of gods and goddesses. A famous sage once said there are 330 million gods and goddesses in India because, given 1 billion Hindus, you can imagine that a few of them have overlapping ideas of "god". In other words, throughout the length, width, breadth, height of India there may be three people who share the same or a similar idea of what a god or a goddess is.

You can contrast this with Pakistan, where a Christian woman is due to be hanged next week for "insulting" the memory of Mohammed. She stepped out of bounds by criticizing someone else's high mucky-muck. Granted, hanging is a little severe; such an offense normally earns only a public whipping. In a state where true religious freedom reigns, she would not criticize somebody else's sacred icon but instead just follow her own path in perfect freedom. Of course her sentence of hanging offends our American standards and we decry such severity. By the way, in Pakistan there are almost ten percent Hindus and two percent Christians.

These thoughts apply to Wiccan/pagans because every day we hear of some new attack by one group on another group. God(ess) damn it, good people! Follow your own path. Take pleasure in it. Know it and know its natural follow-ons well enough to know why you follow it. Look at other paths and see whether there is anything you like--even if they do it differently. Whatever you do, don't criticize them. After all, they may be right ... Another famous Hindu belief teaches, Everyone is right.

Regrettably India itself has been polluted by the disease of monotheism, so now you can find Shivites who criticize followers of Vishnu. In classical times this would never have happened because Shivites are polytheists. (Shiva has many varied aspects.) So if I say "Shiva is not the dancing god of creation and destruction ..." in a presentation, and someone in the audience says, "Oh, no! He is." My response should be "That's right." Then there can be no argument.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

birthday greetings and travel plans

Just a quick blog to say "Thank you!" to all those hundreds of people who wished Gavin a happy 80th birthday and inquired after his health. Yes, he still has all his bits and pieces and it all seems to be in reasonable working order. Nothing has actually fallen off yet.

On another subject: We're visiting the Mystic Life Sanctuary in Louisville to celebrate winter solstice with them on December 21. Come one, come all (as the saying goes). It's your opportunity not to drive so far to meet us; and of course we greatly enjoy meeting you.

We want to thank Mystic Life for sponsoring this trip and paying our travel expenses.

Have a wonderful thanksgiving--br grateful

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en?

Yvonne muses:

In a popular presentation that we do, "Ninety-Nine Ways Good Witches Go Bad", we make a point of how dedicated (or not) the fictitious group are. Example: we find more and more that self-styled pagans don't bother with the real dates for celebrations of the Craft's sabbats and esbats.

What did our spiritual forebears fight and die for? Don't we care? Can't we be bothered?

Everything on this planet--its earth, its waters, its living creatures including humans--everything is influenced by the pull of the moon. We all know (at least I hope we do) not to go out partying on full-moon night; rather, that's the night to stay home and do our own house or coven rituals, our own form of observance.

The Hindus say that we in the west have it wrong: that we ought properly to be observing our holy days three days after the appropriate phase of the moon.Why? Because thousands of years ago they observed that the tides of the oceans demonstrate what is called a hysteresis; that is, the tides lag the moon's actual position. Hindus compare the concept to sitting in a bathtub and sliding your bottom several times, toward the back end of the tub, then toward the front end, then toward the back end again. A watch with a second-hand will prove that there is a perceptible lag between (a) your bottom's reaching its most forward point and (b) the bathwater reaching its highest point on the front wall of the tub. The hysteresis between the moon's position and the ocean tides, then, takes three days. Currently, then, we are saying, "Any day between the full (or new) moon and three days after is okay for a ritual." Of course the ritual should be done as the moon is crossing the zenith at your location; that is, about midnight for full moon and about noon (standard time) for new.

As a double Aries, I get really upset when people fail to understand the importance of doing rituals on or near the best day. It curdles my insides. Why else would anyone keep an Old Farmer's Almanac in their bathroom?

So, pagans, Wiccans, and anyone else who cares, you don't want to do that to me, do you? If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Think back to our early spiritual ancestors, who watched the heavens as a matter of survival. When they honored Nature's gifts, they didn't time the occasions by a calendar devised by some pope in Rome. They scheduled their reverent observances by the real--the visible--positions of the heavenly bodies. It makes my insides churn when someone says to me, "Happy Hallowe'en!" I'm not yet to the point where I can just scrape it off my shoe and get on with life. What are our traditions worth, anyhow?

Blessed be those who think. Yvonne

Friday, November 12, 2010

Idols and Avatars - Rita and Triloka

    With the growing interest in India and Hinduism, it behooves us all to try to understand a little more about the Hindu religion, which by sheer number of temple adherents* is probably the largest religion in the world.
    From the Vedic religion(s) Hinduism took two basic principles:
1. Rita: Everything must be ordered; everything and everyone, including the immortal gods, must       obey the rules of order. Related words: rite, ritual, right (as in the right and proper way of       behaving, and in human rights).
2. Triloka (literally three places): Here we learn that the earth/cosmos is divided into three planes:
    a) the earth itself and the sea;
    b) the air and sky;
    c) the heavens, where the immortal gods and goddesses exist.
    The only immortal god who moves among all planes is Agni, the god of fire and lightning. The other immortal gods cannot function in planes other than their own. This means that they cannot be interventionist gods on the earth plane, and they cannot be human. Thus images of them make them clearly non-human by (for instance) giving them lots of extra limbs and sometimes multiple heads or faces.
    When you go to a Hindu temple and see images of Shiva and his goddess-partner Shakti, you do not pray to them. You meditate on their meaning and on how you can gain enlightenment to get off the wheel of samsara (reincarnation) and moksha (escaping the wheel).
   We all occasionally need a little help in our lives; to get that help Hinduism uses idols and avatars, accessible on the earth plane. Since they are on the earth plane, they can act in the earth plane. Such an idol is what we Wiccans call a stone god or a container of energy. You put your energy into it by "worshiping" it, and you can get the energy back out when you need it.
    An avatar, in contrast, is the earth plane counterpart of an immortal god. Probably the best-known avatar is Krishna. He is connected to Vishnu: he is an earth-plane avatar of Vishnu. Another avatar, one popular in the pagan movement, is the monkey-god Hanuman.
    When the Christian asks his bishop, "Why does ‘God' allow evil on earth?" the bishop often has no real answer. The Hindu, on the other hand, has a very simple answer. Idols and avatars on the earth plane are human constructs; they have all the positive and negative attributes of humankind. It is not the immortal gods in their heaven that cause evil on the earth; it is the people.
Blessed Be    G&Y

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* Adherents: people who attend temple or church services on a regular basis

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Electric Car

To Gavin the physicist, the electric car is just plain stupid. The new Nissan Leaf has a battery that costs Nissan, the car manufacturer itself, $15,600. The car has a range of 100 miles, costs $33,000, and requires the owner to install a $2,000 charging station in his home garage, where the car will be plugged in for 8 hours after going its 100 miles. Contracts have been let for the installation of thousands of these charging stations in the United States.
The equivalent-sized car would be the Nissan Versa, which costs less than half the Leaf. Not only that, but the carbon footprint of the Versa is smaller than that of the Leaf by a factor of 2.
Rare earths, today's hottest topic, figure in as well. The rare earths that go into the Leaf's battery are in short supply. China, the main producer, is threatening a set of severe export restrictions. Surprise. ("What a golden opportunity! We'll hold the world ransom while we can.") No recycler in the United States is yet handling such batteries, so they will end up in the landfill; and the rare earths in them will be wasted.
The much-ballyhooed Chevrolet Volt, at $41,000, has given up being an electric car and has put in a gas engine--to make it just another hybrid. Why "just another"? Because it goes only 50 miles on battery power. Gavin's favorite program, Top Gear, tested a Nissan Prius against an 8-cylinder BMW 5 Series at highway speeds. The Prius got 17.6 miles to the imperial gallon; the BMW got 22.

If all this sounds rational to you, raise your hand.

Meantime throughout Europe and in California there are hydrogen cars. The hydrogen itself is made at the gas station, so it does not have to be transported in tanker trucks along crowded highways. The Honda Clarity has been available since 2008, going over 300 miles on a fill. Its price tag is higher than the standard Honda, but it is available in this nation on lease for $600 a month. 2010 marked the tenth consecutive year the Clarity was the pace car for the Los Angeles Marathon. The effluent from hydrogen-fueled cars is water.

Iceland has decided that in the near future all its vehicles shall run on hydrogen. Its fleet of public-transport buses are already converted.

The key to the hydrogen car is the fuel cell and the availability of hydrogen. If the United States spent as much money on fuel-cell research as it is spending on battery research--$15 billion--we could all be driving hydrogen cars. How long will it be before a smart inventor makes hydrogen car rechargers for home use? It ain't rocket science!
Bash head here,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trends that Make Us Crazy, or When Technology Sucks

Yvonne writes : Malaria

Sometimes we are so frustrated with today's life that we could climb the walls, so you troops are gonna get the brunt of our thinking.

There's yet another annual malaria-spasm going on in the World Health Organization and all the other hand-wringing letterheads. Recent reports worldwide show that there may be a half-million malaria deaths per year in India and Africa. For a time the use of bed nets had a dramatic impact on lowering the malaria rate--however, the mosquitoes have learned; now they're waking up to bite earlier in the evenings and even later in the mornings. Hence the advantage of the bed net technology, simple though it was, is fading fast.

The other main technology against malaria is the spraying of powerful insecticides--toxins--that kill all insects, good, bad, and indifferent. "Malaria is a bad thing," the hand-wringers all lament, "so let's throw poisons everywhere to kill the naughty mosquitoes that carry it from one person to another. What the heck? If the poisons kill all the good insects: the pollinators, the butterflies, the bees, everything within reach, so what? We can do big drama, spend big bucks, grandstand and strike attitudes full time, all to show what virtuous, important, essential, crusading heroes we are. First things first."

And yet.

Here's today's reality smack: That same heroic spraying reduces the population of bats and birds that rely for their very survival on the vast variety of insects.

Have you heard of bats? Of hummingbirds? Of purple martins? Of swallows? Of frogs and toads? Of dragonflies? Of gambusia minnows--surface feeders that think larvae are nummy?

All these creatures and many more are eager--eager--to find mosquitoes and eat them. Such creatures do not need annual renewal. They do not spread toxins. They do not demand benefits. They do not march for early retirement. They simply want (and deserve) to live as part of the Mother's natural cycle.

The suits, on the other hand, under whatever letterhead, seek to justify their bloated paychecks by trumpeting their strenuous activities in the anti-malaria effort. How stupid can you get? Instead of killing off the bats and birds and other creatures with toxins, how about having massive breeding programs for them and constructing inexpensive bat- and bird-houses?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Update Witch's Ball

After the disappointing cancellation of the ball in Radford, we are now able to confirm that we will be attending a Witches' Ball at the UU in Charleston WV on the 30th of October.
There we will be teaching Argentine Tango and giving a short workshop.
 It's a dress-up affair with prizes for costumes.
Gavin and Yvonne


Hi, guys and girls.

We will get back to work on blog-think eventually. This is just to tell you that the Witches' Ball in Radford VA, set for October 30, has been canceled. You'll just have to do what we do : dress up like Christians and go trick-or-treating. Have fun. Don't do anything we wouldn't do. BB GY

Yvonne's PS If you have scheduled on October 31 a spiritual-type event in observance for Samhain, don't come within range of my sticklerism and codger-hood or I'll give you a real reality-smack. You're scheduling your observance by some pope's calendar??! Do what I do. Consult the Old Farmer's Almanac in your bathroom and observe that this year's full moon nearest October 31 occurs on October 22. THAT's when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. That's when I hope you will open your spirit to whatever the Guides and Elder Ones choose to let you have.

Do have pleasure in the spiritual experience that may come. BB

Saturday, October 2, 2010

When is enough enough?

It seems to us that American culture reached its optimum point in about 1960. There was no need for any household to have two jobs: a small house with 2.2 children and one car seemed adequate. Since that time the god Mammon has gradually eroded our lifestyle and the American dream has become ever more swollen. Now we feel denied, underprivileged, if we don’t have

* two cars, one of them a monster battlefield weapon,

* a pantry jammed full of synthetic obese-making “foods”,

* at least two computers per family member ((not to mention all those little personal devices including death-dealing thumb games, obsolete or replaced in a week, flogged by the electronics empires, and

* a wall-filling TV 8 feet by 10 feet and ½ inch thick--whose offerings consist largely of mind- numbing drivel.

All this together with a multi-bedroomed house on a green quarter-acre of perfectly groomed lawn.

Paying for such a lifestyle requires at least two working adults per family, though with each passing year those two adults are earning less and less in real terms. The separation between incomes of the middle class and of the rich has widened to such an extent that (in our opinion) the United States has passed what is called the tipping point.

It looks as if it will continue to get worse with more people demanding more and more, though less able to afford it; paying for it all over a lifetime with the “aid” of broken financial institutions that will charge higher and higher percentages if you are to support your self-indulgent, over-consuming life style.

It may be difficult for you troops to believe this, but we Frosts live on Social Security, on less than $1,300 a month. We occupy a pleasant little house 100 years old and drive a reasonable car that’s only four years old. Our estate, “Gingerbread House”, is a city lot measuring 44 feet by 150 feet. At least one third of it is given over to a vegetable garden. Yes, it has trees--fruit trees. Yes, it has some grass, but not much; and we’re replacing more and more of the “lawn” with purslane for salads.

So look around you. Look at your life style and decide for yourself: When is enough enough?

Blessed be Y'all  (we just got back from the ozarks)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out of the Woodwork - a Frost Rant

As we Frosts travel around the country, we meet many small groups and a few large ones. Even when the small groups have connections with other groups, they tend to look inward, concentrating on their own ritual practices and on studying such things as history, herbal practice, astrology ... you name it.
Some questions come to mind then:
1. Why do groups break up?
2. Why are there still Witch wars?
3. Why are we not expanding into the general community, even though we know that more people than ever are in favor of our Craft way(s)--especially when the green movement and spirituality are of growing interest to the slightly better educated populace?
And it occurs to us to ask a further question:
What advantage is there for someone to join a pagan/Wiccan group? Meeting friends of like mind? Being able to discuss ideas with them without much fear of being put down? And... ?
The downside of this is: Joining such a group may even now cause problems with relatives and with the general populace.
We can learn from other groups such as naturists and the gay community that we need to offer more in the way of support for each other.
** If we think about a Christian church, we find its members naturally working with each other in the temporal world, using their peer group as resources. We in the alternative mindset tend not to do that. How many pagan/Wiccan groups have a list of their members' qualifications, their occupations, their abilities, their skills? If you want to get your car repaired, whom do you go to? If you need a lawyer, whom do you go to? If you want your kids sat for an evening or your house painted, whom do you go to? So we urge you to compile a business directory and encourage your members to support each other in the temporal world. The gay community calls this idea the gay Mafia list.
** The second whole area that we think is being sadly underserved is helping local police and sheriff's departments. We two have both been members of the North Carolina state chaplain's board serving inmates; and we served as a resource for the state juvenile officers' group.
When we address groups we often ask, "Do you know the name of your sheriff? of your police chief?" Too often the response is a totally blank stare. Yet law-enforcement people run into occasions when (especially young) people have wanted to do something bad. ("Woo hoo. See me being naughty!") Law enforcement may simply not know where to turn, how to find someone to serve as an information booth. That could be you. In local elections the sheriff often wins by just a handful of votes. A little political activism on behalf of the candidate you like can pay infinite rewards. Even if he loses the election, the other side will have learned that there is a power bloc they need to address.
** A third task that you can do for your group is to write grant applications. Your local college may offer a course on this skill. We have been involved in such things as writing an application for our local hospital, seeking a grant for an electrically operated sliding door.
** Or how many of you are into prison ministry? We don't mean just visiting the occasional inmate. We mean getting involved in such things as taking in a Thanksgiving meal to one of the low-security prisons with the aid of local restaurateurs.
** How about solstice packages? Many chain stores will donate to you the canned and dry goods necessary to package small donations at solstice time.
** What about an exchange of children's outgrown winter clothing? A lot of children are coming to families of the community, and coats and things grow more expensive every season.
** What about starting a pagan library or book swap? The School of Wicca runs its own library, lending the books suggested for our courses, because many of those titles are a challenge to find.
** And finally, how about a half-hour TV program every week on your public-access channel? It doesn't have to be a glossy sexed-up production; just standard digital camera work on local events, speakers, herbal hints, interviews, mention of solstices and equinoxes and full moons ... You can do it. Yes, it's a commitment; but it gets the group together in a worthwhile project. If any church gets access to your public-access channel, then you too qualify and cannot be denied-- that is, if you have done the paperwork with the IRS. And when you do it, you will find that inward-looking, tightly contained frustration and anger with one another will go away. Many pagan/Wiccans are highly qualified. The FBI finds that pagan/ Wiccans are the most highly educated group in the nation.
When we two present at a college, we think nothing of pulling in 300 or 400 attendees. The history department, the religious studies department, in fact all the humanities departments are prime targets for you to address. At residential colleges, the resident advisors like evening programs. (Make very clear to liaison people that you are not there to urge, but simply to reveal. They can make what they will of the facts.)
Pagans and Wiccans have a lot to offer. We can change hundreds of lives, just by being visible. We can answer lots of questions; and at the same time we can help ourselves. Because the one thing teaching does is crystallize and clarify your own belief system.
** These things are being done by Greenleaf in Springfield MO. We thank them both for their work and for the ideas.
Okay; we've beaten on you enough. See you. Blessed be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Precinct Heard From

Our continuing wish is to make Wicca a true and valid representation of ancient wisdom restored to modern life. To that end, we are encouraged by reports that people who enjoy a good sex life are less prone to debilitating diseases. The science behind such reports flows directly from Professor Candace Pert's work on cellular receptors and endorphines, published as "Molecules of Emotion". When receptors of cells in the human body are occupied by ligands, as happens through pleasant sexual activity, disease pathogens can not enter those receptors: The receptors are already full.
In Marie Jakober's wonderful book "The Black Chalice" we found the passage below, and thought we'd like to share it with you. Jakober masterfully contrasts claims and truth. As well as this thought, the book offers many others as well on the dominator-religion paradigm, and is well worth finding.

The Christians were quite right about it, and so were those pitilessly reasonable Greeks: the body was dangerous. The body interfered with the orderly obsessions of philosophers; it broke the icy mind-nets of priests; it rebelled against the endless war-mongering of kings. It reminded people that the world was here, and life was now, and if they had no rights over their own flesh, then they had no rights at all.
Worst of all, perhaps, the body remembered that once, not very long ago, sex had been a holy and magical thing. It was not sinful but sacred; it was the power of the gods in the world. Its fire was their hunger to connect and to create; its lawlessness their endless trying out and making new. And its wild and driven ecstasies were the measure of its sacredness; something so exquisite and so forceful could come only from the gods.
That was why the Christians hated it so much. How could lust be the work of their own Lord--their Lord who was not of this world? It was of the old gods, just like the people believed; and it was demonic, just like the gods were.
So it was forbidden, in every way it could be, and what the churchmen could not forbid they wrapped in shame. They said it was the most dangerous of sins, more to be feared than cruelty or violence or war. They said in Eden it never existed. They said God intended men to breed as they laced up their tunics, matter-of-factly, without a throb of passion or a thought of carnal lust. Only a fallen human being, rotten with sin, could possibly desire that.
They were terrified of sex, and they had reason to be--they knew its power.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

we are all fortunate

Within a short driving distance we are fortunate to have the crown jewel of the West Virginia state park system, Pipestem State Park.* It's where we do our self-directed aquarobics twice a week and where we occasionally enjoy a program of music or something at the open-air amphitheater. There too we have become acquainted with a man whom we have come to admire, the Park's naturalist, who does bird walks, hikes to lookout points, and similar programs. A recent "chance" encounter with him led to this information.
On a bird walk, Jim told us, he updated a hiker who gasped at the "joyous" birdsong. No, the birds don't always sing because their little birdbrains are happy or because the sun is shining; they sing to establish territory. "This branch is mine. You make your nest somewhere else. We can stay out of each other's faces."
A very young boy remarked, "Why can't countries do that? Instead of killing each other when they meet at their boundaries, they could sing at each other."
Need I say more? What a sorry travesty, when a four-year-old has keener insight into this tortured world than the "educated" "statesmen".
- - - - - - - - -
* So named because pre-Christian Native Americans valued the Thunbergia shrubs that grew locally. The shrub's stems were hollow, and thus served ideally with clay pipes when Natives wished to smoke tobacco.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We're back

Okay, troops. We're back home, just returning from three (3) wonderful festivals.
1. Sirius Rising
2. SummerFest
3. Kaleidoscope Gathering
Sirius and SummerFest occur at the back end of New York State at the site called Brushwood, between the towns of Sherman and Clymer. Kaleidoscope Gathering happens west of Ottawa, Ontario. If you live anywhere in the northeastern quadrant of the US, any one of the three can be a life-changing experience for you. Take off those whalebone stays or that celluloid collar, and dive in. You'll never look back.
To us it seemed that this year they all three exceeded themselves in being more loving and with far less friction than we have known in earlier seasons.
In some respects Kaleidoscope, at its new site of Raven's Knoll, is more of a family affair than the others. It's 60 miles west of Ottawa, Ontario; and of course being in Canada they don't have the problems we face in the States with raucous fundamentalist thinkers from an assortment of franchises, Baptist and other. Because Raven's Knoll is in a piney forest (with a river running past it), and because the summer has been very dry, we could have only one small fire. But everyone gathered around and had a good time anyway. Yes, Virginia, such an event is possible.
The fires at Brushwood more than lived up to expectations; and the very sight of 500 to 600 pagans dancing around while the Dragon burned was awe-inspiring. They broke another world record for the Guinness people, by the way: the most couples hugging for a full measured 60 seconds. This follows on with their earlier world record-breaking event of the most body-painted people on a single site in a 24-hour period.
This year everyone enjoyed the labyrinth, and the weather was good to us, in that the candles of the labyrinth did not get doused.
So what do we recommend to our readers? Wherever you live in the USA, make it your business to go on a pilgrimage and visit all three festivals. They follow week by week after one another. If you can visit only one in the US, go to Sirius itself. If you can visit only one in Canada, Kaleidoscope is a must. Each event has its own character; each is worth a visit ... or many visits as summers come and go.
Their respective contact sites:
Kaleidoscope Gathering
We'll look forward to seeing you there.
Blessed be all. GY

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paths to awarness - The mysteries

This is the final installment of our series on Road Maps to Awareness.
As a part of Gavin's initiation in England many years ago, the Coven of Boskednad assigned him to walk around the coast of the Duchy of Cornwall. He is not a conspicuously athletic person. All this occurred before the days of cellphones and other electronic gizmos. At that time the track was far less polished and civilized than it is today, and was essentially free of direction signs. He was forbidden to read newspapers, nor was he supposed to go to any restaurant or café along the way; instead for provisions he was supposed to go only to grocery stores. He had to camp out--using only such equipment as he could pack with him. In other words, he was expected to undergo the absolute minimum of exposure to any distracting contact with the temporal world.
The walk took him a little over a week. On each day he met different people who asked him a variety of questions and then left him. It was a typical journey of a mythical hero, designed to allow solitary contemplation of the questions that he was asked, in most cases to contemplate each question for 24 hours as he labored along the rough track following the cliffs.
Various groups call such an experience by various names. We like the name that FireHeart uses for spiritual journeys of this type: The Mysteries. Among paths to Enlightment, it is one of only a few that takes a group to set up and run so that you can travel it. You travel it as an individual, as you traveled the other paths; though this one is not entirely free-form but a preset path, usually through a wood or another mysterious landscape. Along the way you will meet various archetypal guides at what are called Stations. Stations can be compared to the Lights of the Sephiroth, or to the gods and goddesses in Tantra, or to the tarot cards. You can think of them as milestones that prompt epiphanies along your path to awareness. Each Station houses an Archetypal guide. In The Mysteries, as in Gavin's initiation, a path is set for the candidate with a specific end point. However, it is the individual interactions with their guides and archtypes which determines what they receive from the quest.
The group sponsoring and organizing the candidate's journey assigns members to serve as archetypes. In this context archetypes are comparable to stereotypes or the essence of a concept. They appear everywhere, particularly in such diverse places as folklore and literature, and in prehistoric cave artwork. The Native American Vision Quest is another such initiation utilizing fasting and solitude come into contact with spiritual guides.
In our opinion, the longer such an assignment is stretched out, the better. There needs to be plenty of time between encountering one Station and the next; and the more complex the route, the better. In case there are more than one candidate, participants must be forbidden to talk to each other along the way. They must talk only to the various archetypes that inhabit the Stations.
Carl Jung suggested the essence of universal forms that could be used to channel emotions which would result in stereotypical patterns of behavior. One modern example of the use of archetypes is in the original Star Wars series--a typical hero's journey. Representations of archetypes are limitless. Familiar to almost everyone are the Goddess, the Mother, the God, the Ruler, the Lover, the Hero, the Sage, the Sibyl, the Trickster, the Mentor, the Innocent.
Let us look for a moment at some guidelines concerning archetypes.
1. If you like, you can turn to the tarot or to various pantheons to find your archetypes; or you can simply invent them out of the whole cloth, from your memory, from imagination, or from personal experience.
2. The archetypes for any initiatory walk should have a continuity. In other words, if you are thinking of a Celtic path, each archetype should fit somehow into a Celtic theme. Base them on a Celtic pantheon, and be careful that the questions asked by each one are framed in Celtic terminology.
3. There should be quite startling differences among the archetypes, and it is quite permissible to have gates so that there can be parallel archetypes for different genders. As an example of Stations, somewhere along the way the Mirror comes into play. One very powerful greeting archetype we have seen was the Sibyl seated behind an imperfectly silvered mirror. You could vaguely see her but could also see yourself.
4. In some pathways, it is important for anyone who shows up well dressed and made up to surrender their jewelry, particularly any closed rings; that they lay aside their fancy clothes, and thoroughly wash off any cosmetics as a preliminary to following the Path. All binding garments, all fragile garments, and all clothes constructed from parts of dead animals should also be left behind, before or at the first Gate. Yes, candidates can wear simple robes; but they must be stripped of all status symbols and all masking disguising cosmetics. You may recall how Inanna was stripped of all her symbols and clothing as she descended into the Underworld to visit her sister Erishkegal. It is critical that one is first removed from mundane space with its requirements, distractions and energy drain and is kept apart from it for the duration of the initiation.
Labyrinths and Mazes
Two very ancient methods of arranging a pathway through various epiphanies to Awareness are the Labyrinth and its sister the Maze. Depictions of the Cretan Labyrinth occur throughout the ancient world; it is permanently set in stone in the floor of Chartres Cathedral. A most interesting vertical labyrinth is carved into a pathway ascending Glastonbury Tor.
As you go through any Labyrinth, at each turn you pause for a moment and contemplate a different level of awareness and reorient yourself. Eventually (in most case after seven layers) you arrive at the center.
It is noticeable that the original shepherd's crook design represents the center of the Labyrinth, with an opening so that you can attain the center. The Christian church, though, made the open center into the chi rho with its closed center. In their new theology the only way to gain awareness is to accept their Jesus paradigm.
The Maze with its many dead ends is another way of thinking about awareness. Many of your life's paths end up in dead ends. Accept them as an opportunity for more exploration, and realize that no knowledge is wasted. Even Death itself, which some people think of as the ultimate dead end, is only a stop on the way to the Center. Yvonne has come to regard the milestone we call "death" as a graduation.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Whatever you do, realize that some people will be dramatically affected by such a journey as this. Compressing the journey from a week down to a few hours emphatically raises the stress that some people go through. You need to have someone accessible who is educated in formal psychological counseling. If the counselors haven't undergone Initiation of this type themselves, at least they must be sympathetic and well briefed beforehand. It is also advisable to have an exit strategy for those who are unable to complete the initiation. This is especially important in the case of multiple initiates, otherwise the failure of one could result in the remainder being unable to complete their personal journey.

Here endeth the journey toward Epiphany, with our gratitude for comments and additions from FireHeart.
We are always interested in any personal experiences that you are willing to share with us. Give us feedback on these ideas.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tarot path to Awareness

This is the third blog on paths to awarness.
Thousands of assorted tarot decks are available, ranging from the James Bond deck to the Mickey Mouse. By now there is probably a Barbie Doll deck as well. Some are extravagantly illustrated and others austere. You need to pick a deck that speaks to you. Once you have chosen your deck, throw away the guide tht comes with it. All tarot guides attempt to put into words thoughts that are beyond words.
Our own favorite deck, the one Gavin grew up on, is the classic Rider Waite deck, one of the oldest. That one was illustrated in 1920 by Pamela Colman-Smith. She was a well-traveled American living in England; and both she and Arthur Waite were long-time members of the Order of the Golden Dawn. In predictive work he often uses the Grand Etteilla Gypsies deck as it has a different take on the major arcana.
The cards have some Egyptian overtones because at that time Egyptian magic was all the rage. Echoes of Napoleon's conquest of Egypt still lingered after crossing the Channel from occult circles in fin-de-siecle Paris. Howard Carter and King Tut's newly discovered tomb were headline news as well. The symbology is elemental and simple. It depicts things you already know which should hold no fear in your mind.
In using the cards to explore spiritual enlightenment, only the 22 cards of the major arcana are used. Two layouts are popular. The one we will use follows the Sephiroth. More on this in a moment, but for now we will look at the simplest layout of all.
A. The simplest layout
In this method, The Fool ( 0 ) is placed at the "bottom". On your right side a column of cards is placed starting with The Fool nearest you, going directly away from you, through ( 9 ) to form a column one card in width.
The Wheel of Fortune ( 10 ), considered to be a crossover card, is placed in the center position between that column and the one consisting of cards ( 11 ) through ( 21 ). The remaining cards progress upward from ( 11 ) to ( 21 ) in a stack or column on your left, parallel to the stack formed by ( 0 ) through ( 9 ). The final card at the top of the left-hand column is The World
( 21 ), where everything is known, including the four fates. In this layout, then, you start with the Fool who knows nothing and is stepping off a cliff into the unknown.
B. Now to turn to the simplified Sephirothic layout. For this you need a diagram of the Tree of Lights, the Sephiroth. Several Trees have been developed, ranging from the traditional to the modern. We like the simplified rectified diagram we show on Page 70 of our book "The Solitary Wiccan's Bible". Remember: you need a diagram in which the paths are numbered from 0 to 22. The major differences between the various Trees is in the number of paths and lights, and the depiction of the female on the right or the left. We will use the version that has five paths leading from the lowest light upward. Each path is represented by its own card. We will spend a few minutes considering the five cards representing those paths.
You can either ascend the Tree or descend it. Most pagan/Wiccans will ascend because they believe that everything we are starts at Mother Earth and our incarnation allows us to ascend. Abrahamic religions tend to start from the top, leaving everything behind, and ending up as earth.
Remember that the following words are only illustrative. What carries the most weight is your own understanding of the meaning of the cards.
1. The World ( 21 ) - Here you think of it as leaving the world behind. The egg shape of the central pattern is taken to mean rebirth. The elemental essences will support you in your quest.
2. The second path open to you, very close to the World, is Judgment ( 20 ). This is a judgment on your own life. You must recognize when it is time to make changes in your life style, though change can be frightening. The blast of the trumpet awakens you from your present situation of non-growth. It awakens you from the box you are trapped in.
3. The central path of the five, represented by the Devil ( 15 ), is gender-neutral. Here you must give yourself over to a higher power, even if at first that power appears negative. You must cast off restrictions, misguidance, and the package of guilt / shame / fear of the abrahamic religions.
4. The fourth path shown to you is Temperance ( 14 ). It is one of controlled and temperate progression. You stand in water, and water is being passed from cup to cup; in other words you still need to be connected with the earth as you ascend through the paths to Enlightenment. This path calls for steady, careful, self-controlled progression, and for the reconciliation of the apparent opposites in your life.
5. The fifth path is represented by the Moon ( 18 ). Occultists often interpret this as representing the most dangerous of the paths. The card shows the pathway leading away between towers and
over a distant mountain. You do not know where it leads; you know only that you cannot come back, that there is no return, because the scorpion will sting you.
Here you have to decide whether the energies pulling you onward can overcome your primitive left-brain activities. To choose, spend two days meditating on each card in turn, 15 minutes a day. In meditation keep the card before you. When the mind wanders, pull it back to the card.
It is best to start at new moon. On day 12 through day 14, try to meditate on all five cards at once as they lie before you in a fan pattern. On day 15, under the full moon, make your first decision.
Then you will proceed, meditating to the next Light on the Tree and its onward paths. Usually there will be many new paths opening to you. One of them will take you across the whole Tree. There will be many opportunities to change direction. Each time such a change occurs, lay out the cards showing possible directions and meditate on them. Finally after perhaps three months of continual card meditation you will be ready to try understanding the Fool ( 0 ). You will attempt to get completely out of your body, and the Fool will be your guide. He is stepping off a cliff in full knowledge of his danger. The little dog warns him, yet he is sure. New life springs from his left hand; and though he still carries some baggage, he is leaving this world to experience the Ultimate and to gain the knowlege that we all seek: the reason for our being.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

revised Frost schedule

Hi again, troops.
Many of you have asked about where we will be when, so we are revising this blog to update earlier information. Here's what we know today. It's still prudent to see individual sites for full information.

07 12 - 07 18 Sirius Rising Sherman, NY

07 19 - 07 25 SummerFest Sherman, NY

07 28 Kaleidoscope Gathering north of Ottawa
09 11 Pagan Pride Day Russellville, AR

09 18 Pagan Pride Day Little Rock AR

10 09 Nature Spirit Alliance Day Princeton WV

10 31 Witches' Ball Radford VA

Again: Watch carefully for updates; some of this stuff is still coalescing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sephirothic Path

This is the second in a series of four blogs discussing roadmaps that will help you gain awareness through a series of enlightenments.
In many ways the Sephiroth is the most complex path among the roadmaps we are considering; thus an illustration will be helpful in finding your way. There is one such simplified illustration in "Good Witch's Bible", Frost and Frost, page 229. (At the time we published that work, we were a little negative about the Kabala; given today's greater understanding, for that attitude of some 35 years ago we apologize.)
Looking at the illustration, you see nine circles containing words in either Hebrew or English. The circles are called Lights because each represents an area that will illuminate your understanding.
Be warned that the Hebrew words are not easily translatable directly into English. It's not a matter of simple one-on-one, straight-across translation. For instance, the Light at the bottom in Hebrew is Malkuth, often translated as The World but sometimes as Wholly Remembering. The one just below En Soph is often called Kether or The Crown or God-ess, and is said to mean "I am that I am".
As you meditate on each Light in turn, a clearer understanding of each one and its relation to the others should come to you.
The central Pillar of Lights leading from The World all the way up to En Soph is considered to be gender-neutral. It represents Balance. Some Sephiroths have a Light between Beauty and Goddess; its label in Hebrew is Da'at; that is thought of as Knowledgable Balance.
One side of the Sephiroth's vertically arranged Lights is female. It stands for Severity, Water, and Blood. Sometimes it is placed on the right, but it lies on the left in traditional depictions. The male side stands for Mercy, Fire, and Milk (or seminal fluid).
It is interesting to note that these three male Lights have Endurance at the bottom, Love in the center, and Wisdom at the top. The center one, Love, is actually called Chesed, translated alternatively as Kindness. Here in this very old pathway you can see that the female side has more power than the male side, just as we found in Tantra that the goddesses were active whereas the gods were contemplative. It is interesting to see this attribution of lesser power to the male in a society that produced the most dominant male god ever known to the western world.
If you use the traditional Sephiroth omitting Da'at, you have nine Lights in the lower section. Wiccan tradition customarily starts at the bottom with Malkuth and moves upward meditating on each Light and on how you get from one Light to another. Everything comes from the Earth or the Great Mother. As you move upward the blank slate of your understanding comprehends the various attributes of the Lights.
In Judaic tradition you move from En-Soph the Ultimate Deity downward, releasing various emotions and human attributes as you go, so that you are pure and unsullied when you arrive at the base. Everything here comes from the Deity.
In each case you now go through the cycle again, in one case descending and giving up what you have gained, and in the other regaining in a purer form that which you had released.
Many workers regard the numbers on the paths as comparable to the archetypical images of the tarot's major arcana. We will address the tarot in the next blog.
Meditating on the Lights requires a commitment of a half-hour daily. The time may be divided into 15 minutes before breakfast and 15 minutes after supper; or it can be done as a half-hour after supper (provided you are not too sleepy). Some say that you must spend a whole week's worth of meditation on each Light. We have found that you can shorten this time if you develop mind keys or aides-memoirs in your mode of understanding for each Light. We get in touch with our subconsious in accordance with which sense is predominant. If you are clairvoyant (that is, if you psychically "see" your impressions), you will make up pretty brightly colored patterns; if clairaudient a piece of music or a particular sound, and so on for each sense.
There are nine Lights in the lower section. If you spend seven days in each of them, that comes to a total of 63 days. In Wicca we prefer to work in a moon cycle similar to the one in Tantra, spending a total of 27 days on a cycle (3 days per Light and two days of assimilation).
After completing your meditations, you are ready to move out of the lower area and try to get an understanding of En Soph by moving your meditation upward.
The first line of the Torah in Kabalistic tradition reads:
With a beginning It created Elohim. They created the World.
Interpretations of the Sephiroth and methods of using it are as numerous as grains of sand on a beach. You need to develop your own techniques, and to approach it with an open mind unburdened by the finite nature of most of modern thought regarding it. This is not a one-plus-one-equals-two task.
The Sephiroth cannot be comprehended solely through the intellect. Instead the mind must be free and must move into realms where everything is fluid and everything is possible. The work is about as far from a literal so-called left-brain approach as any psychic effort can be.
Once you get into the rhythm of meditations, your life will change and you will begin to interpret experiences differently. You will bring a new level of awareness to every act. You will think before you speak, and will contemplate the words that you say and every thought that arises in your mind. The Sephiroth will change the way you live your life. It will encourage you to integrate mystical study into your daily meditative contemplative exercise(s). This leads you to a stronger connection between yourself and the Great Unconscious, and will give you more understanding of the meaning of Life.

A caution: "Upward" is just a convention. Clearly, En Soph is not necessaraily upward in a literal sense; it is everywhere.

For those who would go further, we recommend David A. Cooper's "God Is a Verb". The copy on our personal shelf is from the Riverhead division of Penguin.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Road maps to Epiphany

We want to share some thoughts, probably in four blogs, on "Paths to Epiphany" or "Spiritual Development".
On any journey, whether temporal or spiritual, you need a road map. There are many road maps to help you with your spiritual development. Most spiritual journeys require an ability to go into deep meditation. Several of our books give detailed step-by-step instructions. All of our guidance calls for only a comfortable chair, a safe place, and fifteen minutes a day of uninterrupted personal time. It is not sitting on a mountaintop and learning to disregard the cold, or sitting cross-legged on a bed of nails. It is inner meditation, not outward meditation looking for guidance, not outward meditation leading to astral travel. If you drift into either of those other modes, you need to constantly come back into yourself
The oldest road map to spiritual epiphany, then, is probably ancient Tantra; that is, Tantra before the Axial Age, that 500-year spasm when male gods supplanted the earlier goddesses. After the Axial Age, Tantra became chauvinistic, as can easily be seen by anyone reading the Kama Sutra.
Gavin was privileged to live in a Tantric house that was trying to recover the old pre-Axial ways. This was in India, under the auspices of Indira Gandhi. The procedure they used would have been easily understood by anyone who comprehends the ideas of the chakras (psychic centers).
In order to meditate on the classic concept on each successive day of the cycle, one's endorphine level is adjusted with orgasm.
You start at new moon in the base chakra. You spend two days understanding and comprehending everything about the base, your shadow-self, and the negativity involved, as well as the fact that the most beautiful lotus grows in the most malodorous muck.
Pictorial representation of the base is the goddess Dakini, a violent, primitive woman born out of the swamp. She is a typical multi-armed Hindu goddess who holds in her respective hands a skull, a bloody knife, a whip, and a fractured cube representing the World. Her animal is the berserk elephant, the most feared and dangerous creature in India. A pictorial representation of Dakini is shown on page 156 of our own "Tantric Yoga". The same book offers illustrations of all the goddesses and gods in the Tantric system. Page 250 illustrates the progression through the goddesses toward Nirvana and back through the gods toward the new moon. The book contains detailed mind keys for each goddess and each god, as well as dietary practices and the progression of sound mantras (page 256) and symbols (page 257).
As you progress upward with the waxing moon, spending two days in each successive chakra, you begin to understand yourself in more and more detail. Only when you pass the heart chakra with the goddess Kakini or Kali do you begin to move into more spiritual and intellectual levels.
Eventually you go through the final non-physical chakra at the top of the head (represented by the thousand-petaled lotus) and move out, trying to imagine what it is that you wish to become. Reaching this point requires the entire cycle between new moon and full moon.
Notice that all the ascending chakras are active and represented by goddesses. After the full moon, you descend the chakras; in this stage of the Journey they are represented by gods who are all contemplative. You contemplate what you learned as you ascended the chakras, again spending two days in each area, until in the base chakra you finally arrive at the most contemplative god of all, Brahma.
Then after the new moon has passed, you go through the cycle again. Each successive month for at least six months you continue the process. When you imagine an overview of it all, you realize that it is not a repeating loop but an upward Spiral.
The task is quite an onerous one, requiring a deep commitment; but even in the first cycle it is very rewarding. You learn things about yourself and about your place in the world, about your desires and needs, that sometimes cause a complete revision of your lifestyle and your attitudes.
We encourage you to try it, even if you can make it through only the first month.

Next time we will examine the Sephirothic Tree as another road map.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pride and Self Esteem

Two years ago we Frosts attended the Festival Interceltique* in l'Orient, Bretagne, France. Among the marchers in the traditional parade of Sunday morning, a woman who was clearly the village Witch and Wise Woman walked tall and proud between the Avocat (the lawyer) and Monsieur le Maire. She was a handsome young woman clad in the traditional hooded cloak.
One thing that we have always noticed at the several annual Festivals we have attended in Brittany is the pride of the people, whether marchers, dancers, pipers and drummers--or the cheering attendees who line the sidewalks eight and ten deep and hang from every window. Everyone has an important role to play in the honoring of their Breton/Celtic heritage. The elders checking on the costumes distinctive to their village and on the produce or artifact that is their signature product; the participating marchers; others helping tune the pipes (bagadou); and in the parade itself the gentlemen heads of households in their black waistcoats, on their arm their ladies in their long skirts of heavy black wool with gold embroideries. Again, each village has distinctive coifs (a white cap or bonnet, starched into something that could serve as a weapon). Many of the woman marching in such family clusters bear small children in their arms; others carry the wicker basket in which prudent homemakers bear homeward the items they buy on market day. Whatever their age, the women wear gloves or mitts of ecru lace that they have themselves knitted or tatted.
It doesn't matter whether the group is from an upscale city or from the smallest farm village; all have that same pride and knowledge of their place in the scheme of things. In other words, no matter what their job or status, they all have tremendous self-esteem.
Recently we watched as our daughter offered a presentation on self-esteem and faith. As a math teacher, she talked about the self-esteem the kids required if they were ever to become able to complete the math problems successfully. She felt that one of her primary jobs as a teacher was building self-esteem : a genuine sense of self, not something candy-coated and spread all around whether earned or not. She was asking the questions : Does faith--any faith--increase self-esteem? How much do certain faiths tear down the self-esteem of their adherents?
When we attend pagan/Wiccan festivals in the States, we don't find that pride and self-esteem that we saw in Brittany. It seems to us that the community had it in the past; but today it seems to have gotten lost.
How can we get it back? We think it is time for more serious competitions, perhaps for costumes, perhaps for dance, perhaps for drumming or story-telling ... you name it. It's all very well to enjoy party time; but surely we might as individuals or small groups invest some effort and set new--higher--standards.
During one Festival Interceltique we watched the dance-off. Michael Flatley's Irish Riverdance didn't place! The group that won had documented their dance back to 1270 CE. They grew the flax and wove the linen for their costumes. They made their own musical instruments and their sabots (the wooden shoes traditionally worn by workers in fields).
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* Now nearing its 30th anniversary, the Festival is held during the first two full weeks of each August in l'Orient on the Gulf of Morbihan and (we can vouch) is a life-changing experience. See If the site comes up in French, look across the top of the screen and click on the tiny Union Jack. That will put you into the English-language pages.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Travel Plans 2010

Hi, troops.
Many of you have asked about where we will be during this summer season and when. We post this blog to answer those questions. Here's what we know today. See individual sites for really firm dates of beginning and end of each event. ... and life being what it is, we reserve the right to add and to amend. Heck. If it were all predictable, wouldn't life be dull?

07 12 - 07 18 Sirius Rising Sherman NY
07 19 - 07 25 SummerFest Sherman NY
07 28 Kaleidoscope Gathering north of Ottawa
09 11 Pagan Pride Day Little Rock AR
09 18 Pagan Pride Day Conway AR
10 09 Nature Spiritual Princeton WV
Alliance Day
10 31 Witches' Ball Radford VA

Watch carefully for updates; some of this stuff is still in the process of coalescing.
Blessed be those who live an examined life. Gavin and Yvonne

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pagan/Wiccan Fundamentalism

Okay, we're back. We had a wonderful trip to Florida, speaking to several groups around Tampa, including the very active Tampa U-U with its CUUPS group. Then we went on to the Florida Pagan Gathering, which lived up to its reputation as being the highlight of our Spring travels. There we enjoyed sharing time with Judy Harrow and with the Grimassis.
We formed the impression that people are finally getting past our own fangs and our hairy palms and are even listening to some of our ideas. Of course teaching dance in 94-degree weather and high humidity was not a lot of fun, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Further, we were delighted to sense a lot less inter-group friction this year. Maybe--we hope--the fundamentalist pagan movement is losing momentum.
We've had a huge response to our earlier blog on that subject. Everyone agrees, there's got to be some way to get back to freedom and to honest debate and discussion without the ad hominem attacks. We who think "alternative" thoughts are beginning efforts to stop the witch wars, efforts to get people to do more than fight each other. Why? Because we can envision those fundamentalist Christians laughing and doing high-fives when we get into that sort of family bickering.
Years ago some self-appointed inquisitors put us Frosts "on trial' in Minneapolis (here Yvonne is chortling while she dances on graves). As that caper wrapped up, everyone ostensibly agreed to subscribe to the precept, "I have the one and only right and true path ... for me." Would we could get back to that, because there are lot of people out there whom we would enjoy counting as friends but apparently have lost the idea that spiritual development requires freedom. "You run your path and I'll run mine" belongs on the wall of every pagan living room in cross-stitch. To become more spiritual, then, you must be free, not subject to a dominator paradigm.
The idea is not a new one. The 18th century philosopher Hegel wrote,
The nature of Spirit may be understood by a glance at its direct opposite--Matter. As the essence of Matter is gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence, of Spirit is freedom.
Decades ago the Guides gave to Yvonne three verses of a song. Here is a clip from that.
" ... Gather we friends together and dance all in a ring.
Glad Witches, come gather, to the old true ways returning :
To freedom and to truth and light, and ne'er again the burning."
Call us biased, but it looks to us as if every time some new writer wants to sell a book, they can find no better way to get onto some Top Ten list than to attack us Frosts or other prominent people in the community. These are just shabby cheap shots, of course; but they sell books. All we can do is refuse to buy the (frequently crap) stuff they put out. It's a sad thing when trees die for such purposes.

That's all for now. We're trying to catch up on hundreds of e-mails and even find time to cut the lawn. A la prochaine, blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A View of the "First Cause"

The "First Cause"--the question of who or what made our present universe--is cherished by religionists as the ultimate putdown argument against those whose paradigm does not include an all-knowing, all-powerful Deity. Here we offer an alternate way of thinking about that alleged First Cause. To some people it may sound as if we are only examining an age-old fallacy and criticizing fundamentalist religionists who take their paradigm as "gospel" fact; but clearly it's time for an objective look at a cultural assumption.
We are not fundamentalists, not even Wiccan fundamentalists.*1 We believe in letting the inquiring mind fly free, and we look for explanations that satisfy a rational paradigm without insulting human intelligence.
Several years ago we came across a felicitous construct in Free Inquiry magazine. For our present purpose we have expanded it :
Let's think about the rail line that runs across Australia's Nullarbor Plain, perfectly flat and perfectly straight from Watson to Coonana for over 500 miles. Let's imagine that at the western end there stands a very large domino, beautifully and intricately carved and painted. Let's imagine that this exquisite domino represents the universe*2 in all its complexity as we know it today. As we move eastward the dominos standing on the line get gradually smaller and less complex until, millions of dominos later, we arrive at the eastern end of the line with the tiniest domino imaginable. The progression from the eastern start point to the big western domino represents the passage of time and the evolution of everything from time before the questionable Big Bang to the present.
The infinitely tiny first domino, perhaps a sub-sub-atomic particle or waveform, is such a weightless speck that the merest presence of a thought will knock it down. It is so small that even if it had tried to interfere with the later dominos, it would have had no discernible or perceptible effect. It could therefore not intervene to make positive or negative changes in the later larger dominos. Yet it causes a domino cascade. Thus the First Cause may have been something so amazingly insignificant as to be immaterial to our present thoughts and life. Many may say that this is just another manifestation of the Infinite Mind that created that universe. Alternatively mathematical philosophers, noting the vagaries of time, are wondering about its cyclical nature and proposing a never-ending cycle of existence. Regrettably, that only puts the First Cause back in time.
We can see that as everything evolves, so the dominos get larger. Each domino gets more complex moving westward toward today, which is an almost infinite time after the beginning.
There are many side branches along the rail line. Some have other dominos coming in to augment the evolution of the main line; at others, dominos have branched off to go their own way. Those moved into the adjacent-possible solutions and petered out. At still others, dominos lived on and devolved back into forms less advanced. Still others went around a loop, developed, and rejoined the main line. The possibilities are endless.
What if the junctions also allowed other lines of dominos from different start points and with slightly different characteristics to join the main line? Many possible--nay, probable--solutions could have been tried until the right combination occurred.
"Aha!" the fundamentalist pounces in that triumphhant "gotcha" tone. "But you forget : the First Cause was not all that long ago! And besides that, a train coming along the line could smash all your dominos down!"
Indeed, we have seen times when many of the dominos were smashed. Haiti is just a recent small-scale example. This might explain how our particular universe--the one some call a Goldilocks universe--to come to its present fruition. We live on a Goldilocks planet, they say : not too hot, not too cold, so far just right.
Scientists tell us that six critical numbers define our whole of the universe;*3 that if any one of those numbers were different, the Universe as we know it could not exist. Of course that is not to claim that other universes do not exist where the numbers are slightly different.
Thus, although we may need a First Cause, it has certain (possibly overlooked) characteristics:
1. It could be infinitely tiny, a slight discontinuity in the void.
2. There could be several first causes.
3. There could have been many attempts that failed.
4. It has no power to change the present universe in any way. Indeed, it must surely be indifferent if it is anything.
In her girlish way Yvonne tells the story of Mother Jehovah doing the supper dishes in her kitchen while loud banging and an occasional small explosion are audible through the open basement door, along with the customary noises and smells that accompany woodwork, metalwork, and chemistry. She sniffs the air, dries her hands, and advances to the basement door to call, "Will you stop already with all your precious trial universes, for pity's sake?! You're smoking up my clean curtains! And the cat's spooked! hiding under the bed again!"
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*1. Fundamentalism is synonymous with the dominator mind-set : "Believe this or else!"
*2. We should more correctly say multiverse, for we know there are many universes. But today we'll stick with the conventional jargon.
*3. Rees, Martin, "Six Sacred Numbers"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Devolution of Spirituality

We can imagine that when our remote ancestors explored their universe in the distant past, they recognized the beauty and (if you like) the spirituality of certain places. Other places grew to be perceived as dangerous. They learned that edible plants grew better in certain areas than in other areas. They learned that water from a specific spring was better for their health than any other water. Thus both positive ("sacred") and negative ("tabu") places developed in the clan's shared heritage. It was but a short step, then, to the appointment of someone to tend such areas. Whatever the criteria for selection, gradually that person(s) became the shamans of the site and of the tribe. *1
Many abrahamic religionists deride the ancient ways and the spirituality of the older cultures. Fashionable moderns tend to think of the older cultures as deprived; indeed, early folk lived without many of the attributes (both positive and negative) of a modern technology-driven society that has lost most of its humanistic sensibilities. We often refer people to Sir Arthur Evans and his description of the Mycenaean civilization he found in the eastern Mediterranean:
"It represents a civilized refinement that has not been equaled since : which I would like to fix firmly in place, by way of a challenge to the high claims of those proudly phallic moral orders, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, that were to follow ... There were no walled cities in Crete before the coming of the Greeks. There is little evidence of weapons. Battle scenes of kingly conquest play no role in the setting of the style. The tone is of general luxury and delight, a broad participation by all classes in a genial atmosphere of well-being, and the vast development of a profitable commerce by sea, to every port of the archaic world and even--boldly--to regions far beyond."
Personally we think that the world he uncovered sounds a lot better than our present world.
From various studies of early cultures such as that at Catal Huyuk (in present-day Turkey) and the Vinca culture in what Gimbutas calls Old Europe*2 and even the later Cretan studies, it is clear that many of the shamans were women. Then came the axial age, when the nomadic horse herders of the steppes, with their male-dominance paradigm and their sky gods, overran those benign cultures. Shamanic power became vested solely in the male; male deities forcibly replaced the earlier female forms. The power of the shaman was dramatically increased, and the old spiritual site became the center for the new religion. The very word religion comes from binding, and we see how people were bound into obedience.
Those male gods seem to have been associated mainly with negative sites where the local god had to be appeased with various kinds of sacrifices or offerings. We see this most clearly in the continuity of the volcano god Jehovah. Unfortunately he retained aspects of his origin, becoming the master negative juju of the gods. Jehovah is well summarized by Richard Dawkins, Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University :
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction : jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."*3
It is an interesting mind-exercise to speculate why the ladies gave up their power. The transition didn't happen easily. But when agriculture and settled farms became the norm, the stronger males controlled the distribution of food; to protect their children and to gain access to that food, the women became subservient. The loudest and meanest (males) overran everything peacable that had gone before. Even today that status quo exists--although there are encouraging signs that in countries with a high standard of living and, would you believe, state-run health care, the women are beginning to look to the more gentle males for a mate.*4

This very brief story of how we got to where we are shows how spirituality devolves into religion, which then devolves into a controlling threat system. In Wicca we reject that devolution. We prefer to go looking for the spiritual and for the sites where we feel at one with the universe. We recognize that named gods and goddesses are generally either the names of tribal leaders or of ancient tenders of shrines, human beings who have posthumously grown legends and through campfire retellings have become heroes and then gods.
These are all constructs of the human mind and have only human types of energy. Divine they ain't.
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*1 It is unfortunate that the earlier word shama has become shaman. The -man ending is not masculine; it's just, shall we say, a dialect form of the earlier word. Nonetheless English-speakers may have a natural tendency to think of a shaman as a male and of the plural form as shamen. Wrong. Shaman is not gender-specific, and the plural form is shamans. Take it from Yvonne, the obsessive word-freak.
*2 Gimbutas, Marija "Language of the Goddess", Thames and Hudson, New York 1989
*3 Dawkins, Richard "The God Delusion", Bantam, New York 2006
*4 Wall Street Journal March 27, 2010 "The Masculine Mystique"

Friday, April 9, 2010

Our Job Here Is Not Done

Yvonne and I come from two entirely different family backgrounds : she from a fundamentalist Baptist family, and I from what might best be called a default agnostic family. Our childhoods were very different : her family was poor, whereas Gavin's was what might be described as upper middle-class--certainly what the French call confortable or aisi. She was expected to go to the Baptist church regularly for her dose of piety and guilt; he went, though rarely, to the handiest Anglican franchise for marryin's, buryin's, and harvest festivals. In fact Gavin's Welsh grandfather was so anti-Christian that he didn't want his descendants walking down a street with a church of any denomination in it.
When we two came together in the 1960s, we found a common ground of understanding : the civilization we lived in was broken and was getting worse. Yes, we are of an older generation than many of you; and many of you seem to think that we don't understand that good Christian homes can be friendly and nurturing. We deny that we are carrying scars that Christianity inflicted on us in childhood. In fact, a child of today gets more scars than we were ever likely to experience. We decided that a new religion--a new spiritual path--was sorely needed--a path of freedom and of spirituality but one that recognized the possibilities inherent in belief structures encompassing both (a) an unknowable Ultimate Deity and (b) what the Welsh called hearth gods and goddesses (Latin lares and penates). The key was freedom from rigid fundamentalism of any stripe. In our minds, fundamentalism means a group (affiliated with one of a variety of conventional religions) with a set of rigid dominator rules that are enforced through peer pressure or through actual physical punishment and through guilt, shame, and fear.
We know many of you were raised in happy, supportive homes--but many others were not. For those scarred souls who are still in pain and don't know why they hurt, we articulate these thoughts.
To paraphrase Richard Dawkins, we two sought Evidence for spiritual belief, declining to base our ideas on Authority, Revelation, or Tradition. (Thank you, St. Richard!)
Unfortunately, some people assumed that Wicca and Witchcraft traditions were inherently fundamentalist. Thus in Wicca today we have a giant split. When people think they have left conventional paths behind--but carry over the dominator mindset into their "new" beliefs without examining their assumptions, they make Witchcraft into just one more package of rigidity. A big thumbs-down to that!
The only way this split can be healed is through honest debate, through honest, objective examination of "tenets" and "principles". The way to heal that split is to join forces with other like-minded people to battle the fundamentalist rape of the world and soon of the universe. And healing is what we need, if the Craft and the Community are to survive the relentless, pervasive, well-funded, creative 24/7 water torture of conventional fundamentalists.
Let us quote from Thomas Flynn, editor of the magazine Free Inquiry (800) 458-1366) :
"You and I are currently under an attempted psychological siege by fundamentalist religious control fanatics. The world is under assault today--more than at any time in the last 70 years--by religious extremists who invoke their particular notion of God to try controlling how we think, what we read, what our kids are taught in every class from civics to science, how we vote, and even when and with whom our nation goes to war.
"The rise of hatred-encouraging, fear-inducing propaganda in best-selling 'Christian literature.' Fundamentalist leaders like preacher/novelist Tim LaHaye are preparing readers for the emergence of 'the Anti-Christ,' preparatory to the eventual destruction of the world. Nor is fundamentalist-encouraged hatred limited to Christian fundamentalists. Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa against one of our contributing editors, a genuinely ominous event in southern Asia, where this editor then lived."
We are going to risk Bertrand Russell one more time with his immortal words :
"Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific cooperation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion."
Please, please, Gentle Readers, wake up and smell the outhouse! We are in the hands of, and at the mercy of, fundamentalists who care little for human pain and suffering, and apparently could not care less for the fate of this planet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Salvation ?

This recent Easter, we have been inundated by presentations on something that people call salvation. In Europe such topics are called the "lollipop" gift. The lollipop in question is the sweetie given to children who behave in a tidy manner. Early on, "Church" rulers must have realized that continuous threat systems didn't work, so they needed some sucker--some lollipop--as a reward for "good" behavior; that is, for marching in lock step. Good behavior here means acceptance of the paradigm decreed from On High to keep everybody accountable for every gesture, every thought, and every moment of their time--no unauthorized thoughts, no unauthorized deeds.
Then they came up with a brilliant scheme : "We'll sell you indulgences that give you automatic salvation." Boy! Any snake-oil salesman would have loved it. Hold the huge threat of hell over the masses, then tell them, "For a few dollars you can get this patent medicine that will get you out of it." Of course those untidy ones among us who don't believe in a place called hell naturally don't need indulgences--and of course that meant less income to the Church. Such skeptical thoughts had to be stamped or burned out.
Eastern religions didn't sell indulgences as such, but they had an equivalent threat system. In that version, you would come back as a loathly beast if you didn't toe the mark. By the way, you could buy candles, give food, or even buy little birds that would be set free ; you could go on pilgrimages, and do a thousand and one other things that would let you step outside the boundaries at will and still be reincarnated at a respectable level, maybe even as a prince or a shah.
It is interesting to look up the original derivation of hell . It comes from "to hide or cover up". Maybe the grave was intended here--but the grave is no inferno ; so the grave on its own would not do as a threat system. It had to be ratcheted up with fires and tortures.
Another threat in some of today's thinking on reincarnation is that hell is actually living on the earthplane in the totally screwed up culture with which we are all so familiar. So if you don't complete your assignments in this incarnation, you will have to come back and live here--in hell--again.

By the way, one and all, we are going to Tampa on April 24 and will be at the Tampa Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship to attend Sunday service on April 25. Too, we will address the CUUPS* group through that same fellowship on Monday April 26. From there we go on to FPG (Florida Pagan Gathering).
See and
Blessed be those who investigate options. Gavin and Yvonne
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*Covenant of Unitarian-Universalist Pagan ... somethings (Services?)