24 December 2010

An argument about a naturalistic god

Setting aside debates of supernatural entities, world mythologies and religions, hidden meaning and every other assumption that god created the universe and all that is... what if we go purely naturalistic?

What if we look at ourselves from a naturalist point of view? For the sake of argument assume there is no god and there is no soul, our minds are nothing but bio-chemical reactions reacting within our bodies based on what building blocks we feed it and what input comes in through the senses...

now look at we know of the universe... we are finding life is more varied (finding microbes with arsenic in their DNA, even if its only being used selectively by the organism as some have suggested, this is still a major find for the diversity of POSSIBLE life), the building blocks of life as we know it are being found in

look at things on both the quantum and interstellar levels...

Could there not be a naturalistic version of something similar to our own mind being created through the complex interaction of gravity, magnetism, quantum states, throughout the universe? We do not yet understand how our own consciousness actually works or even how to fully define it. We can not decide how much intelligence and consciousness animals and even plants have. Could there also be a form of mineral intelligence? What about other energetic states? After all physics tells us that the building blocks of everything is merely wave forms of energy that create the form of matter and interact with each other...

So what if there is a purely naturalistic super consciousness? Not a creator perhaps, not perfect perhaps, it may not even be aware of use on a conscious level any more then we are to the microbes in our own bodies that sometimes help use and other times harm us.

Now assuming that this naturally existing cosmic being existed... if it was self aware, at least as much as we ourselves are self aware, then would it not stand to reason that it would do basic things... say the equivalent of raising its arm... this would create changes within the structure of reality from our perspective. So what would these look like? What effect would they have on our lives? Would we ourselves perhaps be as nerve endings on this being, perhaps sending and receiving commands?

Anyone care to add their thoughts and we can try to expand on this idea together? I have more thoughts on this, but I'm already starting to ramble in circles.

25 October 2010

Pumpkin soup

This is one of my favorite fall foods. I make it often for guests and at events. It is always a hit and I even get requests for it.

Pumpkin Soup

1 large onion, chopped
one pound of bacon, chopped
two 29-ounce can of pumpkin
2 cup water
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 cubes chicken bouillon
2 apple, chopped and unpeeled

crystallized ginger chopped, to taste

Sauté onion and bacon lightly in large pot. Add pumpkin, water, apple cider, brown sugar, chicken bouillon, apple, and crystallized ginger to the pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir frequently.

14 October 2010

Cats... mysterious creatures

History has been full of stories linking cats to the bizarre and unusual. People love them, hate them, worship them, call them tools of the devil, keep them as familiars, and generally don't know what to really think of them. They are loving companions, yet proud individualists. Even as I type this, a cat has come and sit on my lap and is watching me type, purring away.

Here are a couple of personal stories involving cats...

One of the cats tripped me out the other day. I was sitting on the porch when Sheba walked up and under my chair. I reached down to pet her, there was a loud thump, I looked down, looked at the railing, looked all over the porch and yard... no kitty anywhere, after hunting for about 5 minutes I sat back down, 10 minutes later... thump and Sheba launches from under my chair onto the railing. Blink what the heck?

When I was about 12 years old I came home from school and plopped down on the couch. My cat was sitting near by and I swung my arm toward the TV and told the cat to turn it on... well it walked up to the TV, bit the nob and pulled. Sadly I freaked out a little. I loved that cat, but it never again showed quite so much understanding of what I was saying.

I had one cat that always joined me when I did religious rites. I would not bring him or do anything to call him. Sometimes I wouldn't even see him that day and then he would show up for ritual.

So are they smarter then we often give them credit? Do they know secret things about the working of the universe that we have yet to discover? I have had friends tell me about their cat that would pick catnip and plant the sprigs so more would grow... Cats that herd other cats to go on hikes with their human family... cats who mysteriously escape being locked in a room... a cat that somehow threw a machete across the room and nearly hit someone...

There are thousands of books on the cats in art, history, magic and culture. What is this fascination. All I know for certain is that even though I have a few scars from playful kitties, I love them.

04 October 2010

Looking at the local to worship the whole

Some have argued that Pagans worship the creation and not the creator. While that may be true in a sense, I think it is more akin to looking someone in the eye when you talk to them. You may only be looking at the face, but in the back of your mind you know there is a whole person beyond just that face. There is more to the body and a mind hidden behind that which is obviously present.

So yes we may gather in a forest glade and honor the spirit of the woods, the stream, the air and that which is within ourselves. However that local focus is also honoring distant lands, distant stars, an entire universe beyond that seen by the eye and the very spirit of the entire universe.

03 October 2010

Books, TV, Movies and remakes

I want to rant a little about people complaints about books being messed up when made into movies and tv shows or when a movie is remade. I think people need to let go of their obsession with things remaining the same and look at it all as what it is... storytelling. Part of the fun of both storytelling and listening to stories is that there is always little differences in when the same story is told. Maybe its only a slight difference in the emphasis of words, the changing of an adjective or even just the sound of a different persons voice saying the same things. Think about sitting around a campfire listening to a master storyteller tell your favorite story. It so easy to hear that same story told a hundred times around the campfire, but record that story and you may only listen to it a dozen times for the rest of your life.

Books, TV and movies are different media and have different rules of timing, setting and just generally how they come together. No matter how true you want to be to one source, translating it into another changes it a little. Ever actually read a book from movie without pictures or seeing the movie? You will find that the images you create in your mind still won't quite match the movie and you can find that you're disappointed with what they did with the movie. lol Its simply the nature of the mediums.

My opinion is that if they do a good job on the storytelling, then its good. When I read a book I let it define the nature of its world and as long as it doesn't break the rules it sets up, it has succeeded in doing one of its fundamental jobs. So to do I believe that when a story is retold, I should let each new retelling have some flexibility in its story. Some core part should be kept in each retelling of course. For instance keep the characters natures intact and put them in slightly different situations and see what they would do. That's just good storytelling. Now there may be things I don't like about remakes, maybe they chose to keep the parts I wasn't into and got rid of the ones I like. Well the storyteller gets to pick and choose how to tell the story. We may not like every telling, but its the mystery of the telling that makes it fun.

19 September 2010

Describing Paganism

I was asked today to describe Paganism. So I gave them a short description. What I said was "Take a large canvas of philosophy, paint on the myths look at it with the outer eyes of anthropology and psychology and the inner eye of mysticism, frame it all with basic rituals and a reverence for nature."

I had wanted something simple and yet spoke to the different traditions without getting bogged down in those differences. That can all come out in future conversation. So I am wondering what people think of that description. Is it fair and effective for the most basic intro? I would hope that it would be sufficient for those who aren't really interested, yet also inspire questions in those who really want to know more.

19 August 2010

Some of my old writing that I wanted to add here

Meditation of Marc Roney (Fiction)

I was standing on one leg in a meditative posture with an orange in my hand, when a police officer asked me what I was doing. I told him "I was discussing the effects of moral epistemology upon the social structure with a gentleman the other day when he told me I would be better off contemplating my navel. I pondered this for awhile" The officer interrupted me and asked "You were pondering contemplating your navel?" I responded "Yes. But since I didn't have a navel, I decided to try contemplating this darling clementine." For some reason the officer was displeased & told me I had to get moving. I tried to explain the beauty of the orange & how its shape was a metaphor for reality, but he would have none of it.


A gift from the Gods (this happened just before 2000)

The universe gave me a wonderful gift a few years back. Way back while I was on my four month camping trip. I was sleeping on morning in my tent, which was WAY down the bottom of this valley, not far from the nearest road. I dreamed that the gods had stopped by to give me a gift, when suddenly there was a blast of thunder & I awoke. But there was no thunder, nor lighting, nor a cloud in the sky. Perplexed, I sat & though for a minute. Deciding that surely this strange noise must have come from the road above, though what it could have been I did not know. I hiked back up the hillside & a few minutes later I stood beside the road. I looked around, but saw nothing that could have made the noise. Curious I decided to look around, thinking perhaps someone had pulled off & hit something. I checked the near by areas where cars sometimes pull over. But saw nothing of interest. No banged trees, no sign that there had been an accident. Then I noticed that across the road there was a little place going into the woods where a car could pull into, though why one would I did not know. I went over. It became obvious that some people had over time stopped there many times. There were little piles of garbage. It made me sad. But still nothing that would have made any noise, especially one like had awoken me. I notice there is a low branch in the back. Hmm, perhaps that had scraped the car, but wait... What is that lying on a low ridge in the back. I approach. It's a small box, but wait. behind the ridge there are MORE small boxes. What are they. Oh my goodness. A Farberware pot, not one... not two... not even five

No there are FOURTEEN!!!!! All brand new, all in the box. Some marked at over a hundred dollars EACH!!!! I blinked. I looked around. How? Where?

Best I could figure is someone backed their truck in slightly past the branch & right up to the ridge & spent the night. Then when they pulled out in the morning the branch pushed them off. This was the summer of 1999, so I figure it was someone paranoid about the millenium. But hey, if the racket woke me up & I hiked all the way up the hill & spent awhile trying to figure out what had happend & nobody had noticed when they drove off. Their loss & my gain. I had after all lusted after just this quality of cookware for years. I had mainly used cheap dollar store cookware for most of my life. Had used some good stuff at work, bt could not have bought it for myself. Would not even have it now but for this twist of fate that brought them to me.

Some ask if I believe the Gods are real? Do I believe that God or Goddess or great spirit takes action in our lives. For me it is not even a question. It is a certainty. I have no doubt. I may not always understand, may question Why this? Why now? To what purpose? But doubt in the reality or that there IS a purpose? Never.


A Pagan Perspective of Medieval British Literature

By Rev Marc Roney

For WVU English 21, British Literature 1

Time and place forever blur meaning of ancient writings and lost in the mists are the perspectives of authors. Many people write about their interpretations of what was long ago written, yet are not their writings based on their own biased opinions? This is such a work. I, a modern pagan, shall show my own perspectives on medieval British literature. As a focal point, I have chosen Sir Gawain & the Green Knight. I shall expand on this with reference to the Irish Tain and the Scottish Mobigonon. My intent is to show that medieval British literature exhibits many strong influences of ideology.
Let's first examine the Green Knight, Bercilak. He is described as being larger than any man alive, both man and mount are specimens perfect in their form. He arrives wearing no armor. This is the green man of old. Though some have argued that the green man as found in church engravings is a wild and horrible creature, it should be noted that this was the image of the christianized view. The green man is the embodiment of nature. Anyone who has gone for a trip into the deep forest and spent several weeks or months there, will tell you of the beauty and nobility of nature at it's most pure. It can be harsh & cruel , but it is also fair and will provide everything you need.
Secondly let us briefly examine Gawain. Gawain is Arthur's nephew and tanaiste or heir and as was the prevalent Celtic custom, it is his duty to look out for treachery against his inheritance. He is sometimes linked with Lady Loathely, a thinly decided moon goddess. He also discovers the Castle of Wonders were the Grail is hidden. Gawain begins as an Irish hero. Brian Stone in his Penguin Classic edition says of Gawain 'His father, King Lot of Orkney, has been traced through Welsh Lloch to the Irish god Lug, Cuchulain's father'
In lines 378-380 and again in lines 405-408 we see hints of the power of ones name, as the Bercilak insists on having Gawains name to seal the contract, yet refuses to give his own until after the contest is over. This is common in many folk tales, as the power of knowing ones true name is supposed to allow one the ability to harm to or prevent harm from that individual. Hence, by gaining Gawains name, the Bercilak can prevent harm from him and by not telling Gawain his name, keeps the power from him. The terms of the contest require Gawain to seek out the Bercilak and meet him in a year & a day, which is the traditional period of initiation.
Gawain leaves the court on All-Hollows Day, November first. I find this interesting as this is one of the Catholic holidays that were intentionally placed to cover a pagan one. October 31st is Samhain, the end of the Celtic year. Our textbook suggests that line 501 draws on the Germanic tradition of the battle between summer and winter. Also Gawain has as his symbol the pentacle, a symbol from pagan traditions the world around. It is used to represent the spirit ruling the four classical elements of air, fire, water and earth. Once he has set out on his quest to find the Green Chapel, he journeys through ungodly lands. Perhaps, this refers to a journey lands that still hold to the pagan traditions? It is also interesting to note that Gawain prays, lines 740-765, in a grove of trees and that those trees specifically named, are the ones held most sacred by the druids. He prays in this sacred grove and magically a castle appears. The lines 941-949 where at the castle, the lady comes forth 'with her comely maids' and an 'ancient' lady, could quite easily be presented as the triple goddess. The maiden, mother and crone being a common goddess form of Celtic tradition, whose consort just happens to be the Lord of the Hunt.
This section at the castle consists of three hunts, three temptations, and three different animals. It is not by accident that the first day's hunt is for deer. The deer represents the innocence and purity of Gawain as a knight. The lengthy and detailed description of the hunt and the capture of the deer serve to emphasize the symbolism of the deer. The even more detailed description of the slaughter and butchering of the meat further emphasizes the symbolism. It can be inferred that the butchering of the deer is similar to the fate that awaits Gawain when he meets with the Green Knight. The next day's hunt is for a wild boar. The fierce animal is symbolic of Gawain's reactions to the increasing advances from Bercilak's wife. The boar is fierce and much more difficult to catch and kill, just as Gawain is steady in his resistance to temptation. Bercilak is aware that Gawain is resistant to all temptation at this point. Gawain is true to his reputation of a chivalrous, worthy knight. The third day's hunt is for the wily and cunning fox. This is symbolic of the clever way that Gawain resists temptation. However, Gawain is tricked by Bercilak's wife into taking the Green girdle. The acceptance of this gift represents Gawain's fall from perfect chivalry and knighthood, since he lies about it to Bercilak.
When at last Gawain does arrive at the Green Chapel, he finds that it as wild as any place of nature. Here also we find that the Bercilak was the lord of the castle, which would make our green man the lord of the hunt. Both of which are titles used to refer to the Celtic Herne, known also as Cernunnos. In the 12th century Giraldus Cambrensis, a Welsh writer, linked Morgan le Fey with the Irish goddess Morrigu, while others have linked her to Celtic Motrona.
A further point of interest regarding Sir Gawain & the Green Knight comes from Ormerod Greenwood's verse translation published in 1956 by Lion & Unicorn Press. He puts forth the idea that through examining numerology & various puns within the works of the Gawain poet, we can come up with the name Hugo de Masci or Hugh Mascy. The Masseys being a family old to Cheshire, being associated with the manuscript St Erkenwald, a fifth poem later ascribed to the Gawain poet. The geography of Sir Gawain links it to the Massey district. The name Margery, which means pearl, aboung in the family during the fourteenth century. The numerological evidence comes mainly from the poem Pearl. The numerological value of Hugo de Masci and both Gawain & Pearl has 101 stanzas. Also, the Masci seal inscription end CI, which would be 101 in roman numerals. Pearl is arranged into 12 groups of 5 stanzas each of 12 lines, with a total number of lines being 1212. Which takes on greater meaning when we consider that Margery Masci has 12 letters. But as Ormerod Greenwood writes, these will remain short of proof 'until a Hugh can be found with a daughter Margery who died in infancy.'
The Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory provides a treasure trove of potential pagan discussion. As does the fact that the church was against Grail stories so much that in some Italian literature, Arthur is seen to be linked with the devil. But I choose to continue with older texts, so on to the Mabinogion.
There is some dispute over when the tales of the Mabinogion were collected, but The Timetables of History places it at 1050. To lead this into context of the times, 844 Kenneth King of the Scots Defeats the Picts, 965 the English invade the Celtic kingdom of Gwynnedd, 988 the Irish Danes raid Wales, 991 Essex defeated by the Danes, 993 Olaf Tryggresson becomes the first Christian king of Norway, 1000 Christianity reaches Iceland and Greenland, 1013 Danes masters of England, 1014 end of Norse rule of Ireland, 1039 Prince Gruffydd of Gwennydd & Powys defeats the English, 1050 the harp arrives in Europe & English monks are excelling at embroidery, while 1096 will be the start of the first crusade.
The Mabinogion is basically a collection of short stories from the oral tradition, which interweave in a rather forced manner. Many of the characters are closely associated with the Celtic deities. For instance Rhiannon is an Irish horse goddess, who may be synonymous with the Romano-Celtic Rigantona, which means great queen, & who has been identified with both Modron & Epona. Through out the stories are journeys to the otherworld, the fairy land. The stories in the second half of the collection bring in King Arthur to the scene. In the story of Peredur Son of Evrawg, Peredur is commanded by his lady not to speak to Christians, yet he also spends time with Arthur's court, though of course he does not speak to many people there. But the fact that he speaks at all would mean that there were pagans even in the court of Arthur. Many tales involve mystic visions & mighty magic's.
The main problem with trying to find the pagan philosophy in any of the ancient texts is three fold. First, there is no central organization as is found in many religions. Secondly, all pagans tend to be a bit eclectic, taking a little from the others they come in contact with. Much like the Chinese story of a man looking at a great sage & seeing his toast hat & asking if he is a Taoist. The sage points at his shoes which mark him as a Confucian, to which the man asks if he is then a Confucian, to which he points at his robe which marks him as a Buddhist. So the man asks are you then a Buddhist & the sage points at his hat. This tendency to add traditions without insisting on a conflict means that end up with tales that mix Irish, Welsh, Roman & Christian without so much as a second thought. The third problem we have to deal with trying to divine what is actually pagan philosophy & what is mere fiction.


Baugh, Albert & McClelland, George English Literature:A Period Anthology, Appleton-Century-Croft, Inc 1954

Daiches, David A Critical History of English Literature in two Volumes, Ronald Press Company 1960

Elsbeth, Marguerite & Johnson, Kenneth The Grail Castle: Male Myths & Mysteries in the Celtic Tradition, Llewellyn Publications 1995

Ferguson, Anna-Marie A Keeper of Words- Legend the Arthurian Tarot, Llewellyn Publications 1998

Gantz, Jeffrey The Mabinogion, Penguin Classics 1976

Graves, Robert The White Goddess, (16th Edition) Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1983

McCoy, Edain Celtic Myth & Magick, Llewellyn Publications 1995

Schmitt, Jean-Claude Ghosts in the Middle Ages, University of Chicago 1998

Stone, Brian Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Penguin Classics 1974

Wendell, Barrett The Traditions of European Literature Vol 1, Frederick Ungar Publishing 1964

06 August 2010

Apocalypse Averted

Apocalypse Averted

We watched The Road and were discussing survival in a world where everything had gone wrong. The youngster in the group was saying how that could never happen and what happens but a storm knocks out the power. There is nothing like watching someone raised with tv, internet and a million other conveniences suddenly realizing that resources are neither unlimited or always reliable.

We got through the first night with candles, ate ice cream sandwiches because they would not last. Fortunately there is a water pump here that doesn’t need power, however we were having trouble finding enough water to prime the pump. Although phone lines run on their own power system, cordless phones have to be plugged in or they don’t have power. The importance of having even a single phone with cord can not be underestimated. Fortunately one of those was found as well.

On the second day, we got out the generator, but it wouldn’t work. Fortunately we could borrow one from someone down the road. With that we were able to power the fridge and freezer, but the air-conditioning was too much for the power strip. We also managed to hook up the computer so we could communicate.

So in order of priority
1) protect food and a supply of water
2) communication systems, so that you can get and share information
3) simple comforts such as lighting, air-conditioning, entertainment

If it becomes obvious that things will be going on for more then a few day, you will need to plan for supplying more food. Knowing what sort of edible wild foods are in your area could make all the difference. Knowing someone in your area that you can work with to organize relief and sharing of resources is also important. Shared work means not only less hardship for everyone, but also increased security.

I am not really big on the apocalypse ideas, but nature does not always work to the benefit of humans. For that matter humans cause enough problems for themselves and the world around them. Those who are at least basically prepared for emergencies will always do the best when such things happen.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning storms, solar flares, sink holes, cave ins, war, crime, and a million other problems are all part of our reality. However, so are edible wild plants, human kindness, friendship, books, story telling, song, and millions of other little blessings that make life worth living.

We took time to discuss what if scenarios and learn what we could from our time without power. It was both educational and a way to pass the time.

29 July 2010

Things I believe about God

Things I believe about God
by Rev. Marc Roney

1) The full nature of God is beyond the comprehension of the limited human mind. Whatever God is then that is what God is and no preference of humans can change that nature, no matter how good our arguments or desires or faith.

2) God has loved and cherished all life that ever was and ever will be.

3) God wants us to learn, grow and become the best individuals we can.

4) God is more loving and understanding then any human can be, therefore God will not condemn us for mistakes made of honest ignorance of things we do not or can not know.

5) Mankind’s perception of reality does not define the true nature of reality. Humans must continually redefine their perceptions as new information of reality come to be known.

6) God speaks to different people in different way, just as we speak differently to our parents, children, lovers, coworkers and customers.

7) No single path to God is suited to all people, the same as no single job is suited for all people.

8) In the eye of God all people are equal regardless of heritage, race, sex, sexual orientation, even religion.

9) The spirit needs different things to nurture it and different people have slightly different nutritional needs for the spirit, just like the body.

10) just as there are many cycles in physical reality; from the cycles of the sun, moon and stars to cycles of plant and animal life to the cycles that change minerals and rock into other forms... so does the inner life of mind and spirit go through cycles. These cycles interact on personal, group and cultural levels.

11) Different people having different visions of the divine and their sacred quests is no different then an architect giving a metal worker, a carpenter,  an electrician, a plumber, etc different jobs and sets of instructions toward the goal of creating an amazing building. Their jobs are very different because each is directed according to their skills and gifts.

12) The nature of God and ultimate reality can be discussed through symbols and metaphor, but this should not get confused as the nature of reality since two people using the same language of symbols and metaphor can actually mean very different thing and two people arguing over different symbols and metaphors may ultimately find they are both intending to say the same thing.

13) All other specifics are open to healthy debate and investigation. I'm sure God is amused by our human rumors of the ultimate reality. God may be male, female, neither or both; singular, dualist, polyistic or animistic; or any of the other possible ways humans try to define God.