Tag Archives: pagan

Crowning the Queen of May

Bring flowers of the fairest,
Bring flowers of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;

Every mid-to-late May at my Catholic school we would host a mass run by the students called the May Crowning, where Mary, Queen of Heaven was crowned with flowers donated by parishioners and carried up to the altar by us. Given that my birthday was also in May (my favorite month) and Mary was already an important figure in my life it was one of the only masses that I actually cared about and paid attention to (the other was Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve). I was eager to be one of the students specially selected to carry the flower offerings to her statue and hold the candles to her honor. Some years I was lucky enough to do just that, other years I would look on in mild envy as I tried to praise her in song instead. Normally, due to my hearing impairment affecting my speech, I was discouraged from speaking at mass or singing, but during that mass I didn’t care if anyone heard me. I worked hard to memorize the songs for the mass and damn it I’m was gonna sing. I can still recite “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” by heart.

The Marian cult remains a constant, albeit a background, holdover from my Catholic childhood, a reminder of the few good things from the Church that I experienced. God was this abstract, formless being that was referred to, and used, as a hyper-masculine entity, but Mary was real. She had a form, she was once human like us, had to be strong in the face of her son’s torture and death, and then she became the eternal Queen of all of freaking HEAVEN. You don’t hear about Jesus being the King of Heaven nearly as much; King of Jews maybe, but not King of Heaven. In addition, she’s been named in various incarnations as the Queen of several countries, the supreme spiritual being of the entire nation for all its inhabitants, with no Kingly counterpart. Yet, for all her power she was still accessible and could relate to humans, constantly appearing to us and giving us tools to connect to her. She was real, God wasn’t.

Our full hearts are swelling,
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

At least, that’s how it felt for me. Many people use her as an example of being a meek, quietly devoted mother and wife, something all women should aspire to be, and I don’t blame people for being uncomfortable with Mary as a result. The Church is inherently anti-feminist, so naturally their depiction of Mary follows suit. But for all the attempts by the Church to keep her in a generic box and control her image she just couldn’t be contained. Her cult developed in hundreds of different manifestations, absorbing remnants of pagan cults and deities, and she become the most popular saint in the world. The Church tries to regulate them all but like anything else they’re never fully successful. The May Crowning event is one such manifestation, born out of (presumably) Italian folk customs some 2-3 centuries ago that had since been recognized and spread to some Catholic regions, including some parishes in North America. It used to refer to the Crowning of Mary feast day, which occurred on May 31, but in 1954 that was changed to August 22 and the May Crowning tradition became a separate semi-official event. Nowadays the May Crowning can occur anytime during May, and the entire month is dedicated to her as well.

Queen Mary, in her incarnation as Nagy Boldogasszony-Queen of Hungary, retains a place in my ancestor shrine. She is a homage to my immediate ancestors, who have been Austrian and Hungarian Catholics for at least 6 generations (most likely much longer than that), as well as my distant ones with her possible pagan origins as a “birth and fertility goddess“. In that same pagan context she’s also the one I honor during planting, harvests, and family-specific events. Since old Magyar traditions beyond 1000 years ago are scanty and speculative at best, and Christianity already existed as one of many regional influences on Magyar culture(s), it is difficult to tell where the Catholic beliefs begin and the pagan ones end. Recorded folk traditions are likely a combination of both and that’s the assumption I rest most of my customs on. My worldview is pagan, but my traditions are a syncretic blend of the folk Catholicism I was raised in (which is inherently syncretic already) and the pagan customs of my heritage. Keeping Queen Mary as a presence in my life just seems to fit.

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Art by RĂ©ka Somogyi

~~~~~~~

Sources

Coronation of the Virgin: Wikipedia

Coronation of Mary: Jean Frisk

May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Wikipedia

The goddess of birth and fertility: Fred Hamori

“Flowers of the Rarest”: Wikipedia

 

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Headcovering

This is an entirely personal post that pretty much has nothing to do with the focus of this blog because it’s neither a religious act or a cultural one, the way I’m doing things. And by things I mean wrapping my head with a scarf.

Yours truly with a simple wrap on.

So as you can see I have basically joined the ranks as a “veiled pagan” though honestly I’m neither veiled or pagan in the subculture sense. I bring this up because when searching for headcovering styles and stories its predominantly women who either do it for their gods or do it for ritual/psychic purposes. I share none of that, and do not see another like myself who does this. So here’s my perspective:

I’m not a woman. I am female bodied, but as I’ve mentioned before in other posts I’m non-binary and my gender status is agender. Therefore the headscarf is not a symbol of being an adult woman for me (though I do recognize it as meaning such for most other headscarf wearers since that is a common attribute). The aesthetic appeal of a well done wrap or scarf is something I like on all genders, just like how I love long hair on all genders. But external stereotypes do influence me a bit and I find that I like the more decorative wraps on days I feel more womanly, whereas on more manly days I just want to keep things plain or not have a scarf on at all. The wrap you see in the picture above was one of those womanly days. The days where I’m neither are anything goes days pretty much. 

I do not wear the scarf for ritual or spiritual purposes. My current restrictive living situation and the fact that I’m just now getting started in exploring aspects of myself and who I want to be in the future means my wrap-wearing hours are limited and irregular. The wrap doesn’t go on or off for any particular holiday or moon phase or anything like that. It doesn’t have an association with rituals like divination or spirit work (mainly because I don’t do those things). I am not devoted to any gods who would want me to do this nor do I believe that such a direct, personal request would even happen in the first place.

As far as I currently know headwrapping is not a universal practice in pre-Christian Central Europe, though various things were worn on people’s heads in a variety of cultures (hats, jewelry, helmets) and neighboring empires like Rome did have women covering their heads. But comparing modern cultures to ancient ones we see more examples of headcovers in recent times than the bronze and iron ages, possibly the result of Christianity. Obviously I’m not wrapping for Christian reasons and there’s no solid historical precedent to make wrapping a recon move either. 

So why do I wrap? I wrap because of power. I can choose who can and can’t see a part of me that is normally taken for granted as being visible in my society. No matter how much I scream from the rooftops that I’m nonbinary people will still look at me and see “woman”, with all the entitlement to my body that goes with that assumption. So fine, here’s a “fuck you” by creating a barrier between my body and the eyes of others. I am not approachable, I approach people instead. I am not here for you to look at, I’ll decide when you can see me and how much you can see. My body is for me alone. It’s a political statement essentially (and I do also use the headwrap’s association of being an older woman or old fashioned/conservative woman for that distancing purpose as well). 

On the flip side, I also like how it makes me feel, both for the protective aspect and for the aesthetic appeal. Headscarves are beautiful and the methods of wrapping them even more so. I feel beautiful wearing one, which is a difficult feeling for me to obtain. It protects me on an emotional level, but also in a practical way because it covers my hearing aids/cochlear implant, which protects them from inclement weather like rain. Scarves aren’t itchy or uncomfortable like hats are and hats tend to be outdoors only while scarves are also appropriate indoors. Hats also tend to hurt due to the bulky nature of my implant around my ears, while scarves go around that and aren’t restricted to just one head size or shape. 

In essence, I wrap because of personal secular reasons. I don’t cover because I’m a pagan, I’m a pagan who happens to cover. Well, technically a heathen who happens to cover but Google search of “heathen headcovering” just brings up bible studies, so this is pretty much restricted to the pagan/neopagan community. There may come a time in the future, once I can more freely and regularly do this, that the wrapping takes on more religious meanings for me or develops into a meaningful system, but for now it’s pretty simple. 

NOTE: the style I use is not tichel or hijab or anything like that. Those are specific words for religious headcovering customs and I do not lay claim to any of them.

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