Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Using Animal Parts In Ritual

Using Animal Parts In Ritual Cover Some Pagans use animal parts in ritual. While this may seem a bit unsavory to some folks, it's really not that uncommon. A good guideline to follow is as follows:

* if your tradition doesn't forbid the use of animal parts, AND
* the parts are gathered humanely and ethically

then there's no reason you can't use them. Let's look at some of the different parts you might want to use.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors performed rituals and ceremonies. They didn’t have tools ordered from an online catalog or purchased at the Local Wytchy Shoppe. They made do with what they had. For the ancients, many of their tools -- both magical and mundane -- came from the animal kingdom. Few things went to waste. Bones could be turned into anything from a knife to a sewing needle. An antler could be used as a weapon or a farming tool. A horse's bladder might become a pouch to carry herbs. Anything was usable.

In some shamanic traditions, animal parts can be used to connect the practitioner to the animal. One might wear a necklace made of bear claws, a headdress of antlers, or use a fetish of bone and feathers. Some traditions still use these today. Someone wishing to celebrate fertility might use the antlers of a stag, for example. An individual hoping for transformation could perhaps powder a bit of snakeskin for use in a spell. A person who wants to develop their inspiration and creativity might use feathers in a working, and so forth.
Naturally Dropped Items

These are the items that animals discard on their own as part of the natural cycle. Snakes shed their skin regularly. Deer shed antlers after the fall mating season has ended, typically around January through April. A bird may lose feathers as it flies overhead. These are all items that drop on their own naturally, and there is nothing wrong with picking them up and using them.
Items from a Dead Animal

Animals die. It's part of the natural cycle of things. After they've died, sometimes you may find pieces of carcasses lying around. Bones, fur and other parts can be gathered from animal that has died on its own. If you happen to be a Pagan who hunts for food, you may wish to use some of the parts of the animal you've killed. This prevents waste, and allows you to maintain some connection with the animal after death. If you are the one who has made the kill, be sure you have done so in a humane and ethical manner. It's never okay to kill an animal just to use its parts in ritual.
Purifying Animal Parts

It's generally a good idea to offer some sort of thanks to the animal before using the item in ritual. As part of this process, you might want to cleanse or purify the object -- you can use smudging, asperging, or any other method of ritually purifying the item. You can also consecrate it as you would any other magical tool.

Suggested free e-books to read:

Benjamin Rowe - Comselha An Enochian Macrocosmic Ritual

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shamanistic Glossary

Shamanistic Glossary Cover DEITY: A common concept is that of a dual divinity.

A creator who is responsible for the creation of the world and is recognized in religious ritual and prayers. A mythical individual, a hero or trickster who teaches culture, proper behavior and provides sustenance to the tribe. There are also spirits which control the weather, spirits which interact with humans, and others who inhabit the underworld. Simultaneously, the Creator and the spirits may be perceived as a single spiritual force, as in the unity called Wakan Tanks by the Lakuta and Dakota.

CREATION: In the beginning, the world was populated by many people. Most were subsequently transformed into animals, thus feeling a close bond with animals. Natives, because of their shared human ancestry. Dogs are excluded from this relationship. This bond is shown in the frequent rituals in which animal behavior is simulated. Each species has its deer who is larger than all the others. Master, for example. The deer have a master. The master of humans is the Creator.

EMERGENCE OF THE TRIBE: This is a concept found extensively in the Southwest. The universe is believed to consist of many dark, underground layers through which the humans had to climb. They emerged into the present world through a small hole in the ground - the world's navel.

SACRED TEXTS: Native traditions have been preserved as an oral tradition, not in written form. As a result, traditions are often updated and changed as a result of dreams and visions.

AFTERLIFE: In general, native religions have no precise belief about life after death. Some believe in reincarnation, with a person being reborn either as a human or animal after death. Others believe that humans return as ghosts, or that people go to another would. Others believe that nothing definitely can be known about one's fate after this life. Combinations of belief are common.

COSMOLOGY: The universe is understood as being composed of multiple layers, with the natural world as a middle segment. These layers are thought to be linked by the World Tree, which has it's roots in the undergrounds, has a trunk passing through the natural world, and has it's top in the sky world.

SHAMANS: Spirits may be encouraged to occupy the Shaman's body during public lodge ceremonies. Drum beating and chanting aid this process. The spirits are then asked to depart and perform the needed acts. Other times, Shamans enter into a trance and traverse the underworld or go great distances in this world to seek lost possessions or healing.

VISION QUEST: Young boys before or at puberty, are encouraged to enter into a period of fasting, meditation and physical challenge. Girls are not usually eligible for a quest. The boy separates himself from the tribe and goes to a wilderness area. The goal is to receive a vision that will guide his development for the rest of his life. They also seek to acquire a guardian spirit who will be close and supportive for their lifetime.

RENEWAL CELEBRATIONS: The Sun Dance amongst the Plains Natives is perceived as a replay of the original creation. Its name is a mistranslation of the Lakota sun gazing dance. Other tribes use different names. It fulfilled many religious purposes to give thanks to the creator, to pray for the renewal of the people and earth, to promote health, etc. It also gave an opportunity for people to socialize and renew friendships with other groups. A sweat lodge purifies the participants and readies them for lengthy fasting and dancing. It was successfully suppressed in most tribes by the Governments of the US and Canada. However, it survived elsewhere and is now being increasingly celebrated.

SWEAT LODGE: This is a ritual of purification, of spiritual renewal and of healing. It is sometimes used to educate the youth in Native traditions. A sweat lodge is typically a small structure made of a frame of saplings, covered with skins, canvas or blankets. A depression is dug in the center into which hot rocks are positioned. Water is thrown on the rocks to create steam. A small flap opening is used to regulate the temperature. As many as a dozen people can be accommodated in some lodges.

HUNTING CEREMONIES: These involve the ritual treatment of a bear or other animal after its killing during a successful hunt. The goal is to appease its spirit and convince other animals to be willing to be killed in the future.

PROPHETS: The Abramic Religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) trace their development through a series of patriarchs and prophets. Native religions do not have corresponding ancient revered persons in their background. There have been a few prophets among the Natives, the most famous being Handsome Lade in the Iroquois confederacy. However, they appeared after the European invasion.

TRADITIONAL HOUSING: There were many variations across North America conical wigwams or tipis, long houses, and cliff dwellings. The shape of the structure often represents a model of the cosmos.

Suggested free e-books to read:

Anonymous - The Mysticism Of Masonry
Tuesday Lobsang Rampa - The Rampa Story
Robert Wang - The Qabalistic Tarot