Lectures

Please note: These lectures DO NOT include a ritual component. Please see the Stand Alone Workshops page for lectures with a possible ritual component.

Ancient Greek Racism, Homophobia and Misogyny?

Hellenic Reconstructionist communities attempt to recreate the religious practices of the ancient Greeks. These communities enable members to meaningfully interact with Hellenic deities through an approximation of ancient rituals. However, some members engage in exclusionary practices and discriminate against others on the basis of creed, religion, sexual orientation, race and gender. From the standpoint of the broader Pagan community, any sort of intolerance is, or at least should be, unacceptable and steps should be taken to ensure inclusivity. It is pertinent to consider whether exclusionary practices had a precedent amongst the ancient Greeks, and if so, whether this precedent has any place in modern society.

Apocalypse Nowish – The End is Nigh?

December 21, 2012 in the Maya’s Long Count calendar, signifies the end of a 5,126-year era and the beginning of a new one. Belief in just what this means ranges from doomsday to profound spiritual transformation. Given that extinction-level catastrophes have periodically occurred in the past and that a number of religions as well as prophets of doom predict the apocalypse, how likely is it that the end times are almost upon us? As always, rational analysis and learning lessons from the past are the keys to making sense of it all.

Ascension

In Ascension, the soul returns to its heavenly home where it can acquire wisdom and immortality. The process involves ascending past the planetary spheres and various forces by using hymns, names of power, breathing techniques and making various sounds. While Ascension is an important practice within Theurgy, only fragments remain of how it was actually practiced. Much can be learned, however, from studying similar techniques in Gnostic, Hermetic and Jewish writings.

Curses and Hauntings in Pop Culture

What are curses? Can curses affect families and places? What are hauntings? What circumstances lead to a place being haunted? Sometimes the best way to understand the bizarre aspects of pop culture is through ancient wisdom, as belief in curses and hauntings is as old as time itself. In the ancient world, magicians could curse and bind when required, and were also skilled in laying restless ghosts as well as enlisting their aid in spell craft. This is an interactive discussion-based workshop separating myth from reality.

Cyberpaganism

For many in the mainstream community, cyberspace is an extension of existing social structures. However, given the diversity of groups under the pagan umbrella and the frequent geographical isolation of their members, for many, their only available interaction is as part of a virtual community.

Such a community is very real, typically having begun with casual meetings over long periods, resulting in personal relationships in cyberspace. Members engage in exchanges, discussions confrontations and direct influence on each other. Viewpoints can be modified as a result of such exchanges in cyberspace, which in turn can lead to modifying attitudes in society beyond cyberspace.

Cyberpaganism has contributed to the globalization of information that provides the community with its cohesiveness but has simultaneously led to association between pagans becoming increasingly abstract.

Divination in the Ancient World

Throughout history, humanity has sought to gain insights from the realm of the divine by reading signs using some sort of standardized process. While there were numerous techniques employed, this workshop will focus on divinations used in Egypt from late antiquity, including vessel divinations (where a bowl of water is contemplated), flame divinations, the use of dice in combination with Homeric verses, and dream oracles. While the interpretations which have come down to us are sometimes culture specific, the techniques work just as well now as they did two millennia ago.

Empowerment: Ideas from the Ancient Egyptians

So you’ve been studying magick or witchcraft and want to improve your skills? Sometimes it helps to think outside the box. The ancient Egyptians were renowned at being powerful magickians, so why not apply their paradigm? The ancient Egyptians followed a code of behavior to assure themselves of a successful afterlife. This code involved aspiring to a state of balance through having a proper relationship with the divine and with humanity, as well as an awareness of their rights and responsibilities towards animals and the environment.

Exorcism in the Ancient World

It is probably true to say that the existence of spirits was universally accepted throughout the ancient world. These spirits populated the heavens, the underworld, as well as the earth. Some were believed to be good and others, evil. As a consequence, religious and spiritual techniques were developed to protect against the influence of evil spirits. Egyptian and Babylonian writings indicate a belief that various diseases and misfortunes were ascribed to evil spirits necessitating their banishing through the use of magickal amulets and incantations.

Spirits were also believed to be able to enter into a person, a phenomenon referred to as “possession.” Possession by good spirits was sometimes sought by magickians, usually in their quest for knowledge. Possession by evil spirits, on the other hand, would often require an exorcism. An exorcism is a ceremony for driving out evil spirits by appealing to a higher power.

This workshop will give an overview of the practice of exorcism in the ancient world.

Familiar Spirits used by Witches and Cunning Folk

Hundreds of trials for witchcraft took place across Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A significant number of these trials produced confessions detailing descriptions of encounters between witches or cunning folk and familiar spirits, which were claimed to be the source of all their wisdom and power. The same basic format occurred in these encounters. So what were these familiar spirits? How were they perceived in ancient times? Do they still have a place in contemporary magical practice? What can contemporary practitioners expect from an encounter with a familiar spirit?

Greek Nature Deities and Gaia Consciousness

While the primary deities of the ancient Greeks were the twelve Olympians, there were numerous lesser deities, daimons and heroes also enjoying patronage. The polytheistic and animistic world of the ancient Greeks pulsed with life. The world ocean was Okeanos, the earth was the goddess Gaia, the four winds were gods, as were the rivers, and springs were divine nymphs.

The contemporary paradigm of a creator god far removed from the world makes it easy to exploit the environment. A return to a sense of being connected with nature inherent within ancient Greek religion could be the first step in repairing the damage caused by myopic greed.

Today, Gaia Consciousness is manifesting as the environmental movement, earth-based spirituality, and a trend towards seeking unity within diversity. The Gaia hypothesis proposes that all living and nonliving parts of the earth are a complex interacting system constituting a single organism. While many spiritual folk seek to transcend the earthly plane, the reality is that the Earth is humanity’s only home and it has never been more important to address the sustainability issue on both a microcosmic (personal) and macrocosmic (global) level.

Hermeticism

Hermeticism originates from a body of philosophical and religious writings popularly attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (or Thrice Great Hermes), a deity resulting from the fusion of the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth. Hermeticism, which emerged at the same time as early Christianity, profoundly influenced Greek thought. When it was rediscovered in fifteenth century, it was a driving force behind the Renaissance, inspiring many of the greatest minds in the West. Hermeticism is the basis of medieval European magick and alchemy, and much modern ceremonial magick. This workshop will overview Hermeticism, including the deities upon which it focuses.

Holistic Health and Gaia Consciousness

Holistic Health is based on ancient wisdom which considers the whole person as an optimized combination of physical, mental, emotional, nutritional, environmental, social and spiritual values. The Gaia hypothesis proposes that all living and nonliving parts of the earth are a complex interacting system constituting a single organism. Gaia consciousness is manifesting as the environmental movement, earth-based spirituality, and a trend towards seeking unity within diversity. Many spiritual and religious folk seek to transcend the earthly plane. The reality however, is that the Earth is humanity’s only home and it has never been more important to address the issues of deterioration on both a microcosmic (personal) and macrocosmic (global) level.

This workshop will focus on practical tips for attaining optimal health while harmonizing with the environment.

Magickal Fragrances

In ancient times, fragrances were consecrated to the gods. Perfumes, oils, incenses, amulets, potpourris and baths, have a long history of being applied in magick and healing. Priests and priestesses were anointed, devotional atmospheres were created in sanctuaries, good influences were attracted, evil influences were banished. Oracles and seers who provided spiritual guidance would use fragrances to uplift their minds to clear receptive consciousness. In Egypt, the preparation of incense was a sacred task and the chosen priests lived lives of austerity and purity. Fragrances continue to be used today, subtly shifting consciousness from the mundane to the spiritual.

Mithraism and the Mithras Liturgy

Mithraism was an almost universal religion throughout the entire Roman Empire. It was the leading rival of Christianity in Rome, and was more successful in the first four centuries CE. Mithraism was a solider religion, offering salvation not just based on faith and compassion, but high moral standards. The initiations in Mithraism involved ascending through seven grades of initiation, each aligned with a symbol, and a planet. The Mithras Liturgy enables the soul to return to its heavenly home by ascending past the planetary spheres and various forces using hymns, names of power, etc.

Pagan Community: Learning From The Ancient Greeks

There is little consensus amongst sociologists as to exactly how a “community” should be defined. Before the modern age, a reasonable proposition would have been an interacting group of individuals linked by one or more common characteristics including location, social, economic, political, religious and historic factors. In the modern age, however, cheap long distance travel and the internet have minimized geographic limitations. The strength of a community comes from cohesion between the individuals.

Pagans are a diverse group encompassing the (primarily) polytheistic faiths laying outside the mainstream religions. The diversity of pagans effectively makes them a microcosm of society, which is becoming increasingly multicultural. The “unity through diversity” catchcry is appropriate. Rather than homogenizing, which would discriminate against the less popular faiths, paganism’s diversity is a developmental factor affording individuals learning opportunities. It is obviously important to ensure that such opportunities should be undertaken in a spirit of mutual respect.

As a starting point, much can be learned from the ancient Greeks, who had no primary text outlining religious practices or centrally organized church or priesthood. There were regional differences in practices and foreign gods were admitted. Regardless, religion was the glue which held the fabric of their society together.

Pagan Warriors Past and Present

Warfare was an ever present fact of life for our Pagan ancestors. When seeking divine assistance, rather than having one deity for war, cultures typically had a range of deities for aspects of war, such as battle rage, victory and strategy.

Pagans in the modern military have struggled for acceptance on two fronts.

Firstly, they have waged an uphill battle to secure the same rights enjoyed by soldiers of the mainstream faiths. The Department of Veterans Affairs only allowed the pentacle to be used on headstones in military cemeteries in 2007, after a ten-year effort. Having the US military induct a Pagan chaplain is still an on-going battle.

Secondly, Pagans in the military have trouble being understood and accepted by non-Military Pagans who tend to be pacifists, choosing peaceful political activism to achieve their goals.

Thus, in many cases, Pagans in the military only have each other for support.

The challenges faced by Pagans in the military have been documented in a few articles. I will review a selection of these articles.

Planetary Interconnectedness and Holistic Health

Holistic health is a form of alternative medicine where rather than focusing on the malady, so that scrutinizing is broadened to the whole person including their psychological, physical and social needs.

But what if the concept of holistic health is taken to its ultimate conclusion? What if the idea of interconnectedness is factored in? Interconnectedness refers to a oneness in all things, meaning that all things are of a single underlying substance and reality, and only their appearance varies. This would compel us to recognize the sacredness of our planet, our interconnectedness with all sentient and non-sentient beings, the need to respect the diversity of humanity, and to bring to an end the destruction of the environment and the earth’s resources. In short, our health as individuals is inexorably tied to the health of everyone and everything on our planet.

Set: Evil or Misunderstood?

Set was the supreme deity of neolithic tribesmen in predynastic Egypt. In the Pyramid texts, Set was a helper of the dead. In the Book of Coming Forth by Day, Set defended the Solar Barque on its journey through the underworld. Eventually, Set became the personification of evil, as clearly seen in the Osiris myths. When the Greeks invaded Egypt in Classical times, Set became identified with Typhon, a monster with a hundred dragons’ heads. In later times, Set became one of the prototypes for the Christian Satan. This lecture will give an insight into the real nature of Set.

The Greek Vowels in Hellenistic Magic

Hellenistic Magic is characterized by the extensive use of voces mysticae – mystical/magical names and the seven Greek vowels which often occur in long strings of various combinations. The vowels were sometimes sung and had numerous associations, including the seven Chaldean planets and musical tones. The voces mysticae were used by some theurgists to achieve Sustasis (contact) with a deity or daimon – a necessary preliminary step in the liberation of the soul from the bonds of fate.

Witches and Black Cats

Contemporary representations of witches often feature them with black cats. In medieval times, other animals were pictured with witches, including toads, owls, ravens, mice, snakes, dogs as well as cats.

These animals, known as familiars, at the time were thought of as being of a spiritual nature, and were claimed to be the source of all the wisdom and power possessed by their owners. While their representations have changed over time, familiars still have relevance in contemporary practice.