Friday, May 29, 2009

Magic Beasts of China and Magic beasts of the West

The Chinese have 5 sacred beasts. Each of these beasts represent a different element and a different direction. These animals have a god level status and are the kings of their kinds. They represent power and luck. They are used for magic and blessings. They are found in temples, with the gods, in homes, paintings, everywhere.

They are the Lung (dragon), Xuanwu(black tortoise), Feng-Huang(phoenix), Ki-Lin(unicorn), and Baihu(white tiger). In the west, they loosly correspond to the dragon, phoenix, unicorn, lion and sacred bull. There are numerous other sacred beasts, but these are the most primal to use.

The Lung. He is a symbol of rain, weather, water, spring and the east. It is the guardian of the emperor and the city of Kyoto. It is a part of the Chinese zodiac and is a constellation in the sky. It is a symbol of yang, the positive and masculine energies of the universe. They are generally benevolent. The Lung are full of power, and the only animal that is their equal would be the white tiger. Some well known dragons are the four dragon kings, worshipped as the gods of weather, the yellow dragon that is the symbol of the Emperor of China and the Azure dragon, a great warrior of the heavens.

The western dragon is seen more as a symbol of fire and power. They are usually malevolent and slaying them represents the climax of a heroes quest. They are greedy and love gold and beautiful virginal girls. Their blood gifts heroes with power or knowledge. They usually lair in large caves, symbolizing their connection with the Earth. They are variously described as children of the gods or of the prime creator/creatrix(like Tiamat) or as cursed individuals (like Fafnir.) Their ferocious temperment and power got them identified with Satan in the Christian mythos and because of that they were demonized even more as the symbols of sin. But, they can be used for good as well. The Welsh turned the red dragon into their symbol. In the pagan community dragons are regarded now as guardians of knowledge and so must be contended with to learn more advanced techniques. They are seen as forces of nature and the epitome of natural power

The Fenghuang is actually 2 immortal birds. The male is the Feng, and the female is the huang. Together they represent harmony and marriage. Over time, the fenghuang came to symbolize the Yin, the female energies of the universe, and so became a symbol of the empress to balance out the Yang of the Lung(dragon.) The 2 birds are now usually depicted as single female entity. They came to be identified with fire and the south direction and is called the King of birds. It is a symbol of grace and virtue, justice, the sun and the power of heavens sent to man.

The phoenix has become very well known in the west. It is a symbol of rebirth, rising from the ashes of it's own destruction. It used to be a symbol of the sun, but has also become a symbol of fire. It is the king of birds and can live for a thousand years before it needs to immolate itself. It is a much loved and well remembered symbol. The church took this beast as a symbol of Christs resurrection and so it was saved from demonification (poor dragon.) The phoenix was given a power boost by the comic book characte Jean Grey, when it became a creature made of all the psychic energy in creation and a cosmic entity, giving it a cult status among fans.

The kilin is the symbol of grace, speed, wisdom and the wind, for it is able to walk across grass without bending a blade and can walk swifter than any animal and can even walk across water. After the Lung and the Fenghuang, it is the third ranked beast. It is the herald of sages and benevolent rulers. One came to Confucius' mother, and told her she would have a son that would be "a king without a crown." It also used to be sighted during the reign of great emperors and kings. The Kilin looks like a mix of dragon and deer covered with flames and bearing a single horn, but is not feirce at all. While is usually a pacifist, and a vegetarian, it will spout flames from its mouth to punish those whom sin.

The unicorn is a symbol of raw nature, purity, healing and virginity. The unicorn can heal poisons and will protect innocense. It is not a horse with a horn! It has a head like a horse, with a goats beard, a deers body, a lions tail, cloven hooves(like a goat) and a single horn upon its head. In classical times, the Unicorn was simply thought of as a fierce exotic animal, it wasn't until the medieval times that it got it's power and beauty. The unicorn has both pagan and christian associations. The Catholics saw it as a symbol of Christ and gave the name of a herd of unicorns a "Blessing" of Unicorns (like a murder or crows.) The pagans saw it as raw, pure nature. The unicorn hunt is a symbol of taming that power, but also of destroying purity. The unicorn was kind to those who were pure, virginal and peaceful, but was a fierce warrior to those whom would harm it or those it regarded as pure. The enemy of the unicorn is the lion, both of whom are symbols of England.

Baihu, the white tiger. The king of beasts and the strongest of all, able to equal the power of the dragon. He represents the dark, negative yin, to the dragons postive, good yang. He was not evil though and would appear to a ruler when he ruled with absolute virtue. He is the lord of the west and is connected to the element of metal. He represents the fall, when the world is dying, but I have also seen him represent winter and the cold.

In the west we do have a creature similar to the White Tiger, it is the Lion(also called Lyon in Medieval times.) He is the king of all beasts. He is a great leader and warrior, symbol of kings, strength and the sun. But he can also be cruel, as when he attacks the unicorn.

The Xuanwu, black tortoise, is the symbol of the north. He represents the earth in some cosmologies, in others he is the water. He is actually two entities, the tortoise and the snake. At times he is pictured as chimeara like beast, with a turtles body and head, but a long snake tail (with its own head.) Other times it is depicted as a tortoise with a dragons head, with or without the snake tail. It is the symbol of guardians and warriors, and also of longevity and good fortune.

The only other animal that is widly known and worshipped in the west that could roughly correspond to the Xuanwu would be the sacred bull. The sacred bull is a symbol of the earth, of fertility and of life. It is also a symbol of the maculine forces of creation and of virility. They have had cults all over the West and some parts of the East, with Hindus being the only people in the world that still openly worship and/or adore it. It has been thought of as a blessed beast by most pagans, but at times also demonized. The Greeks demonized the sacred bulls of the Minoans into the Minotaur, while the Jews demonized the sacred bull into form of the golden calf. Most pagans in modern times think of the bull as a symbol of the horned lord or nature.

With these beasts being sacred in the East and adorning their temples and altars, I feel that they should regain so much more importance in the west. I know many pagans adorn their altars with dragons, but they should also think of the other beasts here. I have had the phoenix be part of my spiritual life for a while now. I know many people love the unicorn, but many think of it as a girlish symbol or as childish. Break out of the box and think of them as beasts of power to be honored and respected.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Runes or Hanji

In western paganism we use magical writing. Magical writing serves as a focus for our will. Words have power and when we focus on that word, we hope to will a change. We usually use other languages to help us, as everyday English is too common and cannot help us focus our thoughts. When we use the other language, in our head we see that that is only the word and nothing else.

When most people think of magical writings, the first system that pops into their heads would be the runic system. Runes are the letters of the old nordic alphabet, each letter can also have a specific meaning. The vikings and other related peoples would use them not just for writing, but also for magic and divination, a practice carried on today in modern paganism and wicca.

But the Chinese characters, called Hanji (or Hanzi) are very old. They are a kind of pictoglyph, pictures that mean words, similar to the ancient Egyptian heiroglyphs, but more advanced and stylized. Hanji has been used for thousands of years and so with being very old, should carry a bit more power than the "newer" rune system. Hanji has found it's way into the New Age group, thanks to Feng Shui, Taichi and Kung Fu. Now it needs to establish itself more into the pagan groups. Paganism is a bit Eurocentric (I know we also use a few ideas from India and the Americas, too) and needs to embrace more of a world culture. I like the idea of using Hanji as part of my magic system.

In Asia, it is already part of their magic system. They use it to write spells and blessings. Here is a picture of a talisman I got from a local temple. They write a protective plea to the gods and then fold it up into a hexagonal ba-gua(lucky mirror) shape. Then they put it into the sheath and wear it for the blessing.

But I know that if you are part of cultural tradition, then you should use the cultures language. So if you are a Hellenist, then use Greek, if you are an Odinist, then use runes. But I do not belong to any one tratition, along with many others. You could incorporate Hanji into your system with relative ease. There are different kinds of Chinese spoken, but the Hanji tends to be mostly the same.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Has anyone else noticed that fantasy elves seem to be very Asian. Their body shape is identical, being very thin and having almost no body hair. They have similar faces. And fantasy elves have Asian hairstyles. When was it decided that elves would be Asian? I would like to know that. My son is playing the free online MMORPG game "Fiesta" and the elves there are very Asian. Though, the game was probably made in Korea, so of course with Koreans high level of Xenophobia, they would have made the characters look just like them, though with the gigantic eyes copied from Japanese anime (Koreans copy a lot of things from other cultures. They do have some things that are distinctly theirs, but I found that the majority of things were copied or borrowed from other cultures, with Japan, China and America being the strongest influences. Which is so odd that they copy so much from the other cultures they with them being Xenophobic and so passive aggressive with other cultures. Sorry, I rant about Korea at times still, it happens when you live there for any period of time.)

It is also that the style of their clothes and armor tend to mimic or be influenced by historical asian fashions.

I have also noticed that Asians have become very fond of Elves in anime and comics. My son reads Koren comics still and the elf characters are very popular. Maybe they have picked up that the elves look a lot like them, either consciously or subconsciously.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lunar New Year

I have got to ask, why is Lunar New Year not an important holiday for western Pagans?

For Eastern pagans, it is a huge event, lasting from a few days, up to a month. They have the festival of lights, they were new clothes for the new year, they visit temples and clean up and give money to their children and grandchildren in lucky red envelopes.

An important symbol of paganism is the moon and it's 13 Lunar months. The lunar calendar was the calendar used widely by our ancestors, before the Roman occupation and Christian invasion, and is still used widely in the Asian world (in conjuction with the "western" calendar.) So, why isn't the conclusion of the 13th month a time of festivity?

Imbolc/Candlemas/Brigid's Day/Feast of Torches, is the holiday that is around the same time as the Lunar New Year. Did this holiday, centered around fire and ewe's milking, displace the Lunar New Year? Why was it deemed so unimportant? I know that some people think of Samhain/Holloween/Hollomas as the new year for pagans, but it was only for the celts(and other closely related tribes), not for the other pagans. Wicca sprang from the old Celtic pagan religion, along with some other pagan ideas. Wicca is the most recognized pagan religion in the west and as such, their Celtic ideas have become the most widespread and accepted pagan practices (you would think it would be the Hellenists, but sadly people seem to dismiss them as followers of a myth (which should be a blasphemy, as I worship some of the Greek gods and find it offensive when people talk about them as if they are nothing but dusty old myths and are not still "living" and being worshipped today.))

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Angels and Demons" strife

Even over hear you can't escape Christianity. Today I have a gripe. First I will say that I have nothing against the Christian religion in general, nor against Jesus and their Idea of God.

The new movie "Angels and Demons" is coming out. I thought the first movie, "The Da Vinci Code" was pretty good. There was way too much hype to it, but that is normal. But to hear that the Vatican and other Christians were activly opposing this films creation was rediculous. They complained that the movie (and book) did not show their religion in a good light and made it all look like joke. So let's get this straight, they seem to be complaining that someone did what they constantly do to everyone else, ever since they decided that if you were not a Christian and you did not have the same Idea of God as them, then you just have to be worshipping the devil.

Some of the things in the movie are not new ideas. People have thought of them before and will again. Like Jesus and Mary Magdelin being married. He may or may not have. Was Jesus the son of God? Well I think he was, in the same way that I am a son of God. We are all the children of God. To me he was a teacher and like any teacher, you should learn from him, but he is not the law.

Now they are going after the second movie and complaining again. An Italian Bishop said that the movie was "highly denigrating, defamitory and offensive."

This makes me want to explode with rage sometimes. Christians attack and belittle every other religion (well Jews are tolerated nowadays and Muslims are sometimes tolerated,) especially the pagan ones, but the moment anyone says anything about their religion they jump up and try to bite you on the rump. I am surprised that they didn't try to sue, like the Scientologists did. All I have to say is GROW UP. Stop acting like babies and just grow up.

So I urge people to go and watch these movies. See something that The Church does not want you to see and make up your own mind. I know Christians like to think of themselves as flocks, but don't be a sheep. Think for yourself!

I must also complain about a book I just saw while looking for good Wiccan and Pagan parenting books. This book is called :Wicca: Satan's little white lie" by William Schnoebelen. This book says that Wiccans actively recruit members and that it looks nice at first but then you find out it is really Satan worship!!!! Can you say attack on another religion? First, why was it on a recomended booklist from Amazon when I am a Wiccan? First off, there is no devil in Wicca. There is a God and a Goddess, whom together comprise all of creation. Any God or Goddess in history are masks of these two. Second, when have we ever actively recruited anyone. No one recruted me. I made the choice of my own free will without actually even talking to anyone. Also, while I am teaching my son my religion, I have already told him it is up to him to choose waht he wans in the future, so I also teach him about other religions so he can make up his mind (but I told him no Mormonism, to Islam and no Evangelist as these are all intolerant.) That is how our religion is different, we give the choice. You should write the author of this book and complain about his spreading of wrong information and for spreading hatemongering. We have had enough Torquemadas to last us for all eternity.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pagans and toys

Living in Asia you get to see what the west may have been like if it was not forcefully converted to Chritianity. In Taiwan and Japan there are temples around every corner. They still do their traditional festivals, and those festivals were not covered up Christian names and ideas to appease the church. It is a great feeling of release to not have to worry about Christians constantly trying to convert you (like they used to do to us in Korea,) or harassing you just for being non-Christian.

I like to see and experience the panganism here. My son and I visit many temples. We like to collect the charms they offer and make prayers to the gods and buddhas for their blessings. My son collects toys here (I will admit that I do as well.) The toys are of the gods, lucky animals and mythic creatures. It is easy to find them and a great way to teach your children about the gods and mythic creatures. It reminds me of how the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and other Pueblo indians used to give their daughters Kachina dolls as a way to help teach them about the spirits and gods.

Kachina dolls

Here you see a set of my sons toys from Taiwan. In the front are the mythic beasts of the Lung: the dragon, Ki-lin: the dragon unicorn, and Xuanwu: the dragon Turtle. In the middle are lucky animals, the leopard, a 3 legged toad, a mouse from the year of the mouse and a golden cow from the year of the cow. In the back are Buddha and the god of fortune.

This is a group of god toys. They were give to me by one of my students parents. They are part of a collection offered from a minimart here last summer. I recognize 4 of them, but I don't know who the other 2 are.

Here is the add for the toys
This is a wrathful buddha statue made for a child to use for devotion.
When I return to America and get my own place again, I want to help my son set up and altar and he can use some of these toys for it. It is a kids altar and shouldn't be so serious, so having toys of the gods is a great way for him to learn about altars and devotion. That is what they do here and it is a good lesson learned. I haven't seen any pagan parents mention this, though it doesn't mean they don't do this. Most set up nature altars and let the kids put whatever they want on it, and this is a great way too, but I want my son to grow up with the gods and know them as he would any member of the family, as kids did in the ancient days. Also, as toys, the kids can play with them and carry them around and the gods will be with them always.

I wish there were more toys like this in America, but all I have seen were some Greek and Egyptian ones, and only of the well known gods and goddesses. I actually got some Egyptian ones before I moved overseas, when being a father was just in the back of my mind, and am happy that they will be used as my son likes the Egyptian god Horus. There is also the comic book version of gods, like Thor. Though he doesn't "look like" the original god, it could still be used for and altar and devotion. (a god can look like whatever it wants and are often pictured with a variety of appearences, while most people imagine the god Thor being a burly redhead with a beard, there is nothing wrong with him looking like a handsome, blond, cleanshaven Nordic man. Think of it as his modern updated appearance.) I can't find a whole lot of others though. It may be hard to find what you are looking for. If all else fails, you can make your own (just remodel an action figure.) Final Fantasy has some gods and mythic creatures to use. Also there other games, like Warcraft, where some of the figures can be used. The Night Elf druid could be used as an image of the horned god, as an example. Japan makes many god toys, you have to hunt for them though. Good job Japan, stepping up to supply other pagan peoples with toys and minitures of their gods and mythic creatures. I was lucky enough to go to Japan several times, and I always checked out the toy stores, whether new or used, looking for things like this, and luckily found several.
Horus, from a group of educational toys, which is what I bought(see above)
Ares, from DC comics
Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor, as a toy or model
Odin and Sleipnir, from Final Fantasy
Cthulhu, which I would use as an image of the undefinable elder gods, rather than the horror story cult figure.
If you have a baby or young child, then maybe you could get a plushy, so that they can truly grow up with the gods and if you can't find the god(s) that you are looking for, then learn how to sew and make your own.

Anubis plushy
Marvel Comics Thor plushy
Ganesh plushy
Cthulhu plushy, for all the cultists out there