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1. What do you do?
The Order of the Horae is a mixed-gender contemplative monastic order, building and exploring monasticism within an eclectic Neo-Pagan framework. The focus of the Order of the Horae is on living together in spiritual community and observing an immersive routine of meditative work, ritual and prayer.
Currently, the Order of the Horae is in its infancy. We have a handful of folks in Central Massachusetts who are working towards the goal of creating a self-supporting House, but we are more focused on doing this right than doing this right now. We're getting interested people together and discussing practical details such as location and money, but more importantly, we're laying the groundwork within ourselves so that we can take on the burden of holding this spiritual discipline together. Our core group recognizes that they need to come further along on their own spiritual path before they can effectively lead others.
We are organizing occasional meetings where we observe a portion of the hours together, work together on various projects, and discuss our practices. We are planning a series of three to five day retreats, where a group could be entirely immersed in the routine of this monastic system. We are spreading the word and contacting other monastically inclined pagan organizations, so that those who want to be here can find us.
2. What do you believe?
We are an eclectic organization, and our members each follow a path unique to them. As part of the Asphodel tradition, we hold to the Asphodel Charter of Faith. Stated briefly, we believe that the gods and goddesses of our faith and the faiths of others are real, not merely archetypes or psychological constructs, and that they are independent of our existence. We believe that knowledge of deity comes in many forms, including diverse traditions and sources of lore, as well as personal gnosis through visions, conversations or intuition. We believe that there are many different deities, each specific unto themselves, yet each part of the same divine energy, in the same way that human beings are all part of a great swarm of human energy. We believe there are many paths of Truth, and we recognize the value of all ways of connecting with spirit.
The Asphodel tradition is non-exclusive, that is, one can follow the Asphodel tradition while still being a Wiccan, or Heathen, or Hellenic Reconstructionist, or a Buddhist, or even a rather unusual Christian, provided one's personal beliefs and practices are not in direct conflict with those of the Asphodel tradition, and one is willing to wholeheartedly honor deities outside of one's personal pantheon.
3. What's up with this monasticism thing anyway? Paganism is a hedonistic, non-rule-bound religion, isn't it?
Modern neo-paganism, based loosely as it is on ancient traditions, has many different sects and forms....just like the religions of our ancestors. Some sects, like Gardnerianism, are more formal and structured; others are looser and more hedonistic. There's no one structure that works for all pagan sects, just as there is no one structure that works for all people.
Similarly, ancient traditions varied widely in their level of structure and formality. The experience of a Bacchic Maenad and a Vestal Virgin are radically different, even though they theoretically believed in and honored the same set of gods, and came from similar cultural worldviews. There's room for all sorts of orders, sects, and structures in modern neo-paganism as well. Because it draws from so many traditions, neo-paganism can fit just about any structure. There are a few things that we believe are inherent to neo-pagan belief; one of those is polytheism and/or pantheism, and another is reverence for the Earth and Nature as sacred. With those as givens, there are a wide variety of possible group structures - and that's a good thing. If there's one thing that Nature has to teach us, it's that Variety Is Good.
The reason why most modern neo-pagan groups are so unstructured, nonhierarchical, and hedonistic is that statistically, most pagans today were not born and raised pagans. The majority of them came to paganism out of another faith, and many left that faith out of distaste for its outdated and unquestioned rules. Many pagans carry unhealed religious wounds from their early life that make them shun any structure that even vaguely resembles what they grew up with, even if the underlying assumptions are radically different. We tend to think that this is throwing out the baby with the bath water. That's why Asphodel is about reclaiming.....taking the useful parts and clearing out what's not useful to us.
Almost every world religion has some sort of monastic tradition - Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, etc. - and some have several. In each of these religions, monasticism is seen as a special calling for a very few people. These individuals are drawn to a life of structure, discipline, contemplation, service to others, immersion in spirituality, and the oneness of religious community. It's not for everyone, or even for every monastic's whole life - for example, in Buddhist countries, young people are often encouraged to spend a month or a year as a monk or nun, then go back to the outside world. A few stay; most leave. Monasteries and abbeys are places of sanctuary, retreats where one can go for the religious equivalent of a full-body immersion in the waters of the spirit. They are often a source of inspiration and service to the larger community.
The definition of Paganism is not "whatever is the polar opposite of the faith of my childhood", or "whatever is in opposition to the dominant cultural model" or "whatever best supports my radical politics". We believe that neo-paganism needs to grow beyond its youthful rebellion and embrace real diversity, including the more "conservative" or structured elements.
4. What sort of structure and hierarchy is there among your members?
There are three kinds of members in the Order of the Horae. First, there are lay members, who do not live full-time in the House, but work toward keeping as many of the principles as they can reasonably fulfill in their ordinary lives. This level of commitment could be considered to correspond roughly to the "oblate" in the Catholic structure. Full-time members all start as what we've decided to call "Branch" members, as they alight for a period of time on the tree of a House, some to leave eventually, and some to stay. While in the House, they take vows to uphold the Twelve Principles of Clarity, but their vows are not permanent. After a minimum of one year as a Branch member, if they choose they can take permanent vows as a Root member, sunk deep into the Order's soil. A Root member has a voice in the organization and structure of the House. One can remain a Branch member indefinitely, however, with no penalization.
A House is run by its founding member(s) and most decisions are made in the manner they designate. Each member answers to their teacher, and each teacher is accountable for their students. Houses are not segregated by gender, and no office, privilege or responsibility is reserved for members of one gender.
5. What are the Rules for your monastic tradition?
They are the Twelve Principles of Clarity, and are explained in brief at that link.
They are, as follows:
1. I will maintain purity of body. (Iduna's Rule)
2. I will maintain simplicity in my possessions. (Hestia's Rule)
3. I will strive for clarity of words. (Agni's Rule)
4. I will strive to live sustainably on the Earth. (Gaea's Rule)
5. I will place no commitment of the heart above my commitment to this path. (Artemis's Rule)
6. I will commit only to honorable work. (Ogoun's Rule)
7. I will maintain clarity in all relationships. (Athena's Rule)
8. I will strive for purity in my sexuality. (Parvati's Rule)
9. I will sustain clarity of faith. (Odhinn's Rule)
10. I will submit humbly to honorable authority. (Prometheus's Rule)
11. I will maintain loyalty to the endurance of my Order. (Brigid's Rule)
12. I will strive always for mindfulness and clarity of soul. (Shiva's Rule)
For further understanding of each principle, and how it applies to monastic life within our Order, click and read the explanation for each rule.
6. Is this the only way to do things?
Not at all! This is just one way to structure a pagan monastic order. If our structure does not work for you, for whatever reason, we will offer you what support we can in finding a path that is right for you. We welcome the opportunity to work with and correspond with other contemplative, monastic and faith-based organizations who share common goals, despite differences in our paths or structures.
7. I want to join a pagan monastery. How would I go about it?
If you are interested in living a monastic lifestyle, there are many things you can do to start out. Take a serious look at your life, and think about how that would be changed. Work on your internal spiritual discipline, living rightly by your moral code. Look at the Twelve Principles of Clarity to get an idea of the internal discipline that would be expected of an Order of the Horae member. Whatever rule you profess to live by, take it as a binding oath, not merely a good idea. How does one act if they truly believe as you believe? Be mindful of what you eat and wear, what you own, how you work, how you treat others and how you treat yourself. Strengthen your connection to the Powers That Be. Work on external discipline too; monastic life is very structured. Work on mindfully incorporating more structure into your life. Pray daily. Rise to meet the dawn, or spend a few days following the basic structure of our Hours, with daily ritual, exercise, song and work. Whatever it is that you do to connect with the Divine, do it daily, not just when you feel moved to do it. Live simply, plainly and mindfully. And remember always: progress, not perfection.
If you are in or near Central Massachusetts and would like to meet with us to talk about pagan monasticism, we'd love to see you. Contact Joshua at firstname.lastname@example.org, call at 978-928-4198, or mail Cauldron Farm, 12 Simond Hill Road, Hubbardston MA, 01452.
Also, we've just put together an email group on Yahoo, for folks interested in discussing pagan monasticism. You can sign up at the Order of the Horae Email List Page, or send a blank email to email@example.com.
8. I want to start a pagan monastery. How would I go about it?
First, a monastery is by definition a group of people living together
in religious community. Like the act of forming any intentional community,
it will take several years of active searching to find a core group that
shares the mission and goal and ideal of your proposed community. Start looking
A) other members,
B) land with a large house (or on which a large house can be built),
C) advice on intentional community of any sort from other ICs
D) advice on the day-to-day running of any monastery or disciplined religious community, regardless of the religion of said community
E) ideas on how you can support yourselves and provide for your physical needs.
If you wish to form a monastery in our order, please contact us! You might start by doing the daily Horai as a group, or at least part of it. Start small and scale up rather than starting too ambitiously and having to scale back. If circumstances prevent you from coming together, you can do ritual on your own at the same time. Try to do one thing every day, even if it is only a meditation on the daily invocation or a short period of prayer. Start integrating the Rules into your life, little by little. Meet regularly to discuss the Rules, and the way in which you live them. You might schedule weekend or holiday spiritual retreats where you all come together and live the Hours and Rules for a few days.
Find ways to make this a part of your life now, rather than a fantasy of escaping from your "normal" life.
9. What supplies can you offer us to help us get started?
You may purchase printed copies of the breviary from Asphodel Press. At some point, we will be publishing a book, "Barefoot on the Mother" about Pagan Monasticism. We can't supply you with information on how to find land or a house or members. We can only give you the framework to start the devotions with one or more people. The prayers, rituals, information - use them as you will. This is our most valuable offering to you. However, it has been suggested that we eventually offer a "Pagan Monastery Kit" for sale, containing something like this: 1. A parchment-paper leather-bound copy of the Breviary, with two attached solar and lunar bookmarks to mark the dates. 2. A copy of our (eventual) book on Pagan monasticism, "Barefoot On The Mother". 3. A CD of the songs and chants in the Breviary, sung by the Asphodel Choir. 4. A sheet-music hymnal of the songs and chants in the Breviary. 5. One set of wooden Order of the Horae prayer beads. 6. A candle, lit in our rituals and charged, then pinched out. Use it to light your first candle with, to pass on the energy of our sacred space. 7. A scoop of earth from our ritual field, to eventually mix into the land and/or garden of wherever you create your Horae house, to pass on the earth energy. 8. A bottle of water from our stream, blessed by all of us, to be kept for your rituals. 9. Specially mixed incense for the first purification of your space. 10. Four elemental flags, to be changed for the element of the day.
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