When the founding members of Hands of Change gathered in the basement apartment of two of the founders to pore over The Book of the Law, Council of American Witches’ Wiccan Principles of Belief and the Wiccan Rede, the HoC Principles & Practices were born. Come to Class 7 on Saturday Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. to learn more about our particular flavor of Wicca.
The class also covers Coven Dynamics, the inner workings of our 20-year-old group. Something we’re doing seems to be working; come find out what it is. Tradition and history round out this class, which is one of the mandatory classes if you are considering coven membership.
To register, contact Chiron@HandsofChange.org.
What makes Hands of Change different from a lot of other covens is our structure and the way we make decisions. Unlike the traditional high priest/ess run coven, Hands of Change operates as a permeable hierarchy. Business meetings are held approximately every other month, and decisions are made as a group using a consensus-based process called Agreement Seeking. Our Kore body of elders acts as a steering committee.
If you’d like to find out more about the inner workings of Hands of Change and how the Agreement Seeking process works, please join us on Thursday, September 29 at 7 p.m. in Old Bridge. To register and for location information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is one of our required classes for coven membership, so if you think that might be your route down the road, come check it out!
“CANNONBALL, N.D. — In a remote, northern part of the country, a battle over water and indigenous rights is brewing. Earlier this year, a pipeline was set to be put in place just north of the city of Bismarck, North Dakota. Residents of the city had legitimate fears of what that could mean for their water supply and protested the pipeline, after which it was relocated south of the city, and just north of the water intake of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s land.
That move has many questioning why this move was seen as an acceptable alternative and what the environmental impact will be.
“I feel that my Paganism is directly linked to a call to activism, eco-activism and anti-racism specifically. I think both of those are really tied up into this protest,” said Colleen Cook, a witch in the Reclaiming tradition, after returning from a five day stay at a protest camp set up near Standing Rock Sioux land.”
**This is an excerpt from The Wild Hunt daily blog, which you can find Here.
(Recently) I had read what turned out to be a “fake” announcement on PaganSquare.com that mentioned the (supposed) good news of new pagan holiday stamps to my wife. My original intention was to suggest that we repost that “announcement” from the Postmaster General, but before pushing Send, I said to myself, “Let me see if I can verify this in case it isn’t true.” I had noticed the 22p marking in the UL (upper left) corner, but had set aside my concern with the thought that this was just a mockup and that the artist intentionally included something to nullify the possibility of misuse.
After I couldn’t find verification on the USPS website, I did a Google search and found several posts such as This One.
Love, light, and all that follows,
Merry Meet Everyone!
As of today, IshtarFest is a week and a half away! This will be the last of the blog posts that have been featuring IshtarFest and Mesopotamian mythology! I sincerely hope you enjoyed learning with me through this series and we hope to see you there. This week we’re going to introduce to you Uruk, the city in which the entire ritual drama takes place and where we will transport our guests back with us through time. Continue reading on for all the fun:
Uruk was one of the most important cities (at one time, the most important) in ancient Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE. Located in the southern region of Sumer (modern day Warka, Iraq), Uruk was known in the Aramaic language as Erechwhich, it is believed, gave rise to the modern name for the country of Iraq (though another likely derivation is Al-Iraq, the Arabic name for the region of Babylonia). The city of Uruk is most famous for its great king Gilgamesh and the epic tale of his quest for immortality but also for a number of `firsts’ in the development of civilization which occurred there. It is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community. The city was continuously inhabited from its founding until c. 300 CE when, owing to both natural and man-made influences, people began to desert the area. It lay abandoned and buried until excavated in 1853 CE by William Loftus for the British Museum.
The city was divided into two sections, the Eanna District and the older Anu District, named for, and dedicated to, the goddess Inanna and her grand-father-god Anu, respectively. The famous Mask of Warka (also known as `The Lady of Uruk’) a sculpted marble female face found at Uruk, is considered a likeness of Inanna and was most likely part of a larger work from one of the temples in her district. The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city but it is unclear if this was for ceremonial purposes or if, in building the newer Eanna District, the builders required a wall for some reason. The historian Samuel Noah Kramer suggests that Anu, the male god, presided over the early city until the rise in popularity of his daughter Inanna and, at this time, she was given a private dwelling, complete with a wall, in the Eanna District. Since temples were considered the literal dwelling place of deities on earth, and since Inanna is regularly depicted as a goddess who very much preferred things her own way, perhaps the walled district was simply to provide her with some privacy. Kramer also notes that, even though Inanna continued to be a popular deity throughout Mesopotamia (eventually merging into Ishtar) goddesses declined in power and prestige at the same time, and at the same rate, as women’s rights deteriorated. This being the case, perhaps the Eanna district was walled off to restrict access to a male priestly class. As with much concerning Uruk’s history, however, this theory remains largely speculation.
Inanna played a pivotal role in the mythological history of Uruk as it was she who stole the sacred meh from her father-god Enki at the sacred city of Eridu and brought them to Uruk. The meh were, in the words of Kramer (who first translated the cuneiform) “divine decrees which are the basis of the culture pattern of Sumerian civilization.” As Eridu was considered, by the Sumerians, the first city created by the gods and a place holy to them, the removal of the meh to Uruk signified a transference of power and prestige from one city to the other. In the tale ofInanna and The God of Wisdom, Enki god goes to great lengths, once he finds the meh are stolen, to have them brought back to Eridu – but in vain. Inanna has tricked her father and now Uruk, not Eridu, would be the seat of power. Eridu was associated with rural life and the primordial sea from which life sprang; Uruk was the embodiment of the new way of life – the city. The story would have provided an ancient Mesopotamian with the reason why Eridu declined in importance and Uruk rose to the heights it did: it was the work of the gods.
To experience the city of Uruk with all of us, join us on Friday, June 17th, 2016 – Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for the IshtarFest in Central NJ. This information is brought to you by the Hands of Change coven, a non-profit organization for Earth based spirituality. Interested attendees and venders must email Ganshmi in order to attend due to the time proximity of this post.
Source: Mark, Joshua. “Uruk.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ancient.eu/uruk/>.
Merry Meet Everyone!
As of today, IshtarFest is two and a half weeks away! We’re coming up on the last blog posts that have been featuring IshtarFest and Mesopotamian mythology! Tickets are still available so if you haven’t already done so, register now. This week we’re going to introduce to you the Anunna, the gods who act as judges during the entire ritual drama. Continue reading on for all the fun:
The Annunna consists of Ningal, Nisaba, Shammash, Ninshuber, Marduk, Nintura and Gula. We’ve already talked about Shammash and Ninshuber in previous blog posts, so if you haven’t already read them yet go and get to it! Otherwise, we have the rest here for you to learn about:
Ningal: Moon Goddess, Mother to Ishtar
Ningal is the beloved daughter of Ningikuga, the Goddess of Reeds, and Enki, the God of Magic, Crafts and Wisdom. To fully understand Ningikuga as a Great Goddess, it is necessary to go back in time to the Southernmost part of Mesopotamia, where people started first gathering in settlements and to build the first huts for housing and temples for the gods also made of reeds. It was in a place called Eridu, the first identified settlement in South Mesopotamia and city dedicated to Enki, where “kingship descended from the heavens to the land”. Ningal, is said to be young and pretty, as well as to possess the gift to unveil the language of the Unknown revealed in images, age-old legends, poetry and most of all, in dreams. Thus, in her we have another timeless archetype of wholeness: She is the goddess of Dream Interpretation, of insight and divination, therefore somewhat reserved, living with her mother in the fertile marshlands of South Mesopotamia.
Nisaba is the Sumerian Goddess of writing, accounting, and grain. She is the daughter of An and Urash, and sister of Ninsun. With her husband Haya, God of storehouses, she is the mother of the Goddess Sud, whose name was changed to Ninlil when she married Enlil, God of the air. Nisaba keeps the records of the Gods, and as the divine scribe she was especially worshipped by Sumerian scribes. She is depicted with long flowing hair, and her tiara features a crescent moon and ears of corn, since she was also associated with the harvest. Nisaba’s name means “lady of the grain rations,” which explains her combined roles as Goddess of grain and of accounting, and is also seen as Nissaba, Nidaba, Nanibgal, and Nunbarshegunu (lady whose body is dappled barley).
Marduk’s origins and original functions are obscure. He is associated with incantations already in the Old Babylonian period. At the same time Marduk is mainly known as the patron god of the city of Babylon, and it has often been suggested that Marduk’s religious importance increased with the city’s growing political influence. In the first millennium, Marduk is identified with Jupiter.
One of the best-known literary texts from ancient Mesopotamia describes Marduk’s dramatic rise to power: In this narrative, the god Marduk battles the goddess Tiamat, the deified ocean, often seen to represent a female principle, whereas Marduk stands for the male principle. Marduk is victorious, kills Tiamat, and creates the world from her body. In gratitude the other gods then bestow 50 names upon Marduk and select him to be their head. The number 50 is significant, because it was previously associated with the god Enlil, the former head of the pantheon, who was now replaced by Marduk. This replacement of Enlil is already foreshadowed in the prologue to the famous Code of Hammurabi, a collection of “laws,” issued by Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE), the most famous king of the first dynasty of Babylon. In the prologue, Hammurabi mentions that the gods Anu and Enlil determined for Marduk to receive the “Enlil-ship” (stewardship) of all the people, and with this elevated him into the highest echelons of the Mesopotamian pantheon.
Another important literary text offers a different perspective on Marduk. The composition, one of the most intricate literary texts from ancient Mesopotamia, is often classified as “wisdom literature,” and ill-defined and problematic category of Akkadian literature. Assyriologists refer to this poem as Ludlul bēl nēmeqi “Let me praise the Lord of Wisdom,” after its first line, or alternatively as “The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer”. The literary composition, which consists of four tablets of 120 lines each, begins with a 40-line hymnic praise of Marduk, in which his dual nature is described in complex poetic wording: Marduk is powerful, both good and evil, just as he can help humanity, he can also destroy people. The story then launches into a first-person narrative, in which the hero tells us of his continued misfortunes. It is this element that has often been compared to the Biblical story of Job. In the end the sufferer is saved by Marduk and ends the poem by praising the god once more.
Nintura: Saturn, Goddess of War, Rain and Wells
The Sumerian god of war and the south wind, raucous son of Enlil and Ninhursag, best known for retrieving The Tablets of Destiny for Enki after they had been stolen by Abzu. Nintura was depicted as a fierce god who more often used his brawn instead of his brains. In an early myth, his mother tries to kill him by hurling rocks at him. When the rocks fail to harm Nintura in the least, Ninhursag takes the life force from them and they become dead stones. Those rocks who refused Ninursag’s task to be thrown as weapons, Nintura rewarded by transforming them into precious gems. The Babylonian god of the same name is derived from this Sumerian deity. He is usually depicted as an archer either standing or running on the back of a monster with the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion.
Gula: Goddess of Healing
Typically encountered in medical incantations as bēlet balāti, “Lady of Health”, Gula/Ninkarrak was also known as the azugallatu the “great healer”, an epithet she shared with her son Damu. Other epithets, such as the “great healer of the land” and “great healer of the black-headed ones”, point to her wide-reaching ‘national’ significance. Gula/Ninkarrak was also credited as an “herb grower”, “the lady who makes the broken up whole again”, and “creates life in the land”, indicative of an aspect as a vegetation/fertility goddess with regenerative powers. At least in the Neo-Babylonian period, she also seems to have had an oneiric quality, being sought in incubation dreams and appearing in nocturnal visions. Gula/Ninkarrak also had a violent side as the “queen whose ‘tempest’, like a raging storm, makes heaven, makes earth quake”. The goddess and her dogs were frequently mentioned in curse formulae.
To find out how the Annuna are a key to the Shapatu of Ishtar, join us Friday, June 17th, 2016 – Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for the IshtarFest in Central NJ. This information is brought to you by the Hands of Change coven, a non-profit organization for Earth based spirituality. To register for this event, please click here. If you’d be interested in vending for this event, please click here. Vendor application deadline is coming up soon!
Merry Meet Everyone!
Don’t forget, we are still offering Saturday Only Passes at a discounted rate of $35! You will be able to experience the entirety of the event with this ticket price but the $50 weekend pass will include some extra camping fun. In order to get everyone excited for IshtarFest, each week we’re going to give you bits and pieces of information about the production in hopes that each of you will have a better understanding before attending the festival! We still have several spaces available, so if you’ve not already done so, registration links will be below this post. This week we’re going to introduce to you to Goddess Ishtar, the Morning and Evening star, goddess of fertility, love, war and sex. Continue reading on for all the fun:
Ishtar, also know as Innana (Sumerian)/Ištar (Akkadian), is among the most important deities and the most important goddess in the Mesopotamian pantheon. She is primarily known as the goddess of sexual love but is equally prominent as the goddess of warfare. In her astral aspect, Inana/Ištar is the planet Venus, the morning and the evening star.
Inana/Ištar is by far the most complex of all Mesopotamian deities, displaying contradictory, even paradoxical traits. In Sumerian poetry, she is sometimes portrayed as a coy young girl under patriarchal authority (though at other times as an ambitious goddess seeking to expand her influence, e.g., in the partly fragmentary myth Inana and Enki, and in the myth Inana’s Descent to the Netherworld). Her marriage to Dumuzi (Tammuz) is arranged without her knowledge, either by her parents or by her brother Shammash. Even when given independent agency, she is mindful of boundaries: rather than lying to her mother and sleeping with Dumuzi, she convinces him to propose to her in the proper fashion.
There is, arguably, a persistent commonality between these two natures of Inana/Ištar: her sexuality. The young Inana of Sumerian poetry, who says “Plough my vulva, man of my heart” is no less desirous than the Inana/Ištar portrayed in Gilgameš: “Let us enjoy your strength, so put your hand and touch our vulva!” Accordingly, Inana/Ištar was the recipient of prayers regarding (im)potency or unrequited love. Inana/Ištar was also the patron goddess of prostitutes.
Inana/Ištar is equally fond of making war as she is of making love: “Battle is a feast to her”. The warlike aspect of the goddess tends to be expressed in politically charged contexts in which the goddess is praised in connection with royal power and military might. This is already visible in the Old Akkadian period, when Naram-Sin frequently invokes the “warlike Ištar” (aštar annunītum) in his inscriptions and becomes more prominent in the Neo-Assyrian veneration of Inana/Ištar, whose two most important aspects in this period, namely, Ištar of Nineveh and Ištar of Arbela, were intimately linked to the person of the king.
The role of the goddess in legitimizing political power was not, however, restricted to her masculine aspect as the warlike Ištar but is attested also for the sexual Inana in her female aspect. Attributed to early Sumerian history, the so-called “sacred marriage” ceremony celebrated the marriage of Inana (represented by her high priestess) and Dumuzi (represented by the ruler) during the New Year’s festival to ensure prosperity and abundance. Practiced in the late third and early second millennium BCE, the sacred marriage rite, which may have “have been only an intellectual construct, rather than an event in real life”, nevertheless served to express the relationship between the king and the divine world Accordingly, that many third-millennium rulers described themselves as her spouse, points to Inana’s significant agency in wielding political power.
A liminal, that is, in-between, role may also be ascribed to Inana/Ištar by virtue of having travelled to and back from the underworld. In her mythological descent to the netherworld, she sits on her sister Ereškigal’s throne, rouses the anger of the Anunnaki and is turned to a corpse….
To find out how Ishtar is a key to the Shapatu of Ishtar, join us on Friday, June 17th, 2016 – Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for the IshtarFest in Central NJ. This information is brought to you by the Hands of Change coven, a non-profit organization for Earth based spirituality. To register for this event, please click here. Last day for online registration to attend this event is Sunday, June 12th! If you’d be interested in vending for this event, please click here. Vendor application deadline is coming up soon!
Source: “Inana/Ištar (goddess).” Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses -. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/inanaitar/index.html>.