Pagan Every Day
When my phone rang one day early in 2004, it was an acquisitions editor
at RedWheel/Weiser. "We like the way you write," she said to me. "Would
you write a book for us?" "Sure thing," I replied. "What would you like
me to write?" "We want a daily calendar book," she said. "Call it
365 Pagan. And put lots of goddesses in it."
So I signed the contract and wrote the book. To meet their deadline, for
six months I wrote every morning (which means I wrote thirty or thirty-one
daily pages every two weeks), edited (so I could still pay the rent) every
afternoon, and did research every evening.
What I found out when I sent them the completed manuscript, however, was
that they'd wanted a frothy little gift book. What I'd sent them was a
real book, with real scholarship, real history, real writing. It was too
long. But when you're writing a calendar book, you can't just lop sixty
pages off the end; you have to trim every single day. They wanted 300 words
per page, max. I edited each page down to 301 words.
Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives
Here's part of the review from
Publishers Weekly. I'm pleased by it and hope you'll be intrigued
enough to buy the book.
Ardinger's latest contribution to pagan literature is a short-essay book
of days jammed with facts about goddesses and saints, alongside an assortment
of random pop culture references and personal musings. The author of several
Finding New Goddesses, Ardinger is a regular encyclopedia of knowledge
not only about paganism but more broadly about significant women figures
and goddesses in history (think Julian of Norwich, Mother Teresa, and Isis,
all of whom make appearances among the 365 days). … Chocolate lovers will
surely delight to learn the story behind Lady Godiva (July 10) and those
uninitiated into the history of Sophia (December 16) will be happy to learn
of her illustrious past.
One thing I discovered in writing
Pagan Every Day was that if you've studied enough metaphysics, then
you can find a nice metaphysical meaning in nearly anything. As I did for
Barbie, Miss Piggy (the Goddess of Everything), and
Dirty Dancing. Following are four days from May in the book
May 22: Sun in Gemini
Gemini, my friend Lilith the astrologer says, will talk about anything
under the sun. I have a friend with a late May birthday who calls himself
an air-head. We have interesting conversations on multitudes of topics.
Gemini, ruled by Mercury, is a mutable (fluid and changeable) sign. That
means Gemini people are intellectual and quick-witted. They become bored
if the conversation isn’t interesting enough.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a pagan who wasn’t at least an honorary Gemini.
We come together in covens and circles, in public rituals, in gatherings.
And we talk. We talk about gods and goddesses and what kinds of rituals
we prefer. We gossip about famous pagans. We’ll talk about anything under
the sun or the moon, and when we’re not face to face, we continue our conversations
via e-mail, lists, and chat rooms. We are forever communicating.
Reader, you talk to your coven or circle mates at least once a month,
but how well do you really know each other? We don’t always know each others’
personal stories. Some people think we can do effective magical work without
knowing each other on a personal level, whereas others believe the personal
connection is vital to a successful working.
Gemini is a good month for story-telling. Depending on the size of your
group and how long you want to spend together, tell stories about yourself.
Tell a story of your childhood. Maybe, like me, you had an invisible twin
when you were two years old. Tell the story of how you came to paganism.
Did you read mythology? Tell the story of how you found your first teacher
or first coven and what wise and foolish things you learned. Finally, tell
a fantasy story of how your life would be if the standard-brand religions
did not rule the world.
May 2: Guinevere
Idylls of the King
, King Arthur’s court is faux-medieval and high
Victorian at the same time. Any work of Victoria’s poet laureate couldn’t
be anything else, but what do we know about a historical King Arthur? Was
there a real Guinevere? It is possible that she is a Welsh triple goddess,
for variants on the Arthurian legend say he married three women, all named
Guinevere. The ancient tradition says that the king must “marry” the land.
If he is happy and well, so are the land and the people; if he is wounded,
so are they. This is vividly shown in John Boorman’s cheesy but fascinating
Early in Lerner and Lowe’s
, Guinevere sings “The Merry Month of May” and invites several
knights to ride with her. Then she meets Lancelot. What do people always
remember about Guinevere? She betrays Arthur, whom she loves, by sleeping
with Lancelot. This is a common element of ancient lore. Like other Celtic
goddesses (Maeve and Blodewedd), Guinevere can make a king through sacred
marriage and unmake him by choosing a new hero. In May, betrayal lies in
the future. Guinevere is the May Queen. We can’t help but fall in love
with her. We witness her life and all of her moods—occasionally divine,
altogether human, sometimes regal, sometimes prissily religious—when we
read the Arthurian novels of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, T.H.
White, and others.
Reader, we’ve read dozens of books about Arthur and his court. Was he
a sixth-century Romano-Celtic chieftain? In 1191, monks discovered the
bones of Arthur and Guinevere in a ruined abbey on Glastonbury Tor. They
took them to King Henry II, but they have long since disappeared. Were
the bones genuine? Was the Arthurian court pagan or Christian or both?
Does it matter?
May 15: Mercurialis
Mercury, who was identified with the Greek Hermes, is the Roman god of
intellect, communication, and travel. He is the messenger of the gods and
the patron of merchants and thieves. The Mercuriales, Men of Mercury, was
probably the largest Roman corporation. May 15 was their corporate holiday
when they paid homage to Mercury to assure their continued success.
As the planets journey around the sun, occasionally they seem to be moving
backwards. Astrologers call this apparent reversal “retrograde motion.”
When a planet is retrograde, things generally go wrong with what is ruled
by the god the planet represents. When Venus is retrograde, for example,
affairs of the heart can break apart.
Because Mercury is the innermost planet and moves fastest, it goes retrograde
most often, though its retrograde periods seldom last longer than a month.
This is fortunate because when Mercury goes retrograde, his name seems
to change to Murphy and his Law takes over our lives. Our cars break down.
Our computers do stranger things than usual. Contracts and agreements get
lost in translation. People miss telephone calls, faxes, e-mails, and meetings.
I used to know a printer whose presses broke down during Mercury retrogrades.
A friend who was watching a video of a Fleetwood Mac concert told me The
Andy Griffith Show suddenly appeared in the middle of it. During a recent
Mercury retrograde, my car key broke off in the ignition, the temporary
mail carrier busted my mailbox, and I got a hospital bill for $5,860 for
a procedure I didn’t have. Perhaps Mercury retrograde is our opportunity
to practice nonresistance. What we fight hardest is what usually comes
to us. Maybe we should just go with Mercury’s flow, do no serious work
and try to relax. When Mercury goes direct again, fix what got broken.
May 31: Saecular Games, Dis and Proserpine
The Saecular Games were instituted in 17 C.E. by Augustus, the first Roman
Emperor, to mark the end of one saeculum, or longest span of a human life—100
or 110 years—and opening of a new one. During the Games, offerings were
made to the cthonic deities, Dis and Proserpine (better known as Pluto
and Persephone). Dis is the Italian god who carries souls to the underworld,
where great treasure lies hidden, and Proserpine nurses the tender first
shoots of spring, which grow into the vast harvests upon which Rome’s fortunes
depended. Five hundred years later, the historian Zosimus blamed the neglect
of the Saecular offerings for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
Knowledge of classical civilization and mythology disappeared with the
fall of Rome, for the early Fathers of the Church had already declared
that no learning but Christian learning was permitted. This led to the
illiteracy and ignorance of the Dark Ages, which lasted until the tenth
or twelfth century. It was the Arab and Byzantine civilizations that preserved
pagan literature. The classical gods and goddesses didn’t return to the
world until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when pagan works
were smuggled into Renaissance Italy by agents of the Medicis.
With the rise of Italian Humanism, the pagan gods and goddesses began
to reappear in art and literature, but because Europe was still ferociously
Christian, they were demonized, as in Milton’s
. They were also turned into allegories and given new,
moral meanings. Ceres looking for her daughter was seen as the Church looking
for the souls of the faithful who had strayed from the fold. Her two torches
were the Old and New Testaments. Mars and Neptune represented earthly tyrants,
Pluto symbolized evil prelates, and Saturn, Jupiter, and Apollo represented