There are many ways to approach magic—when I look with my Faerie sight, I see that the very fiber of our universe is possibilities and power.
As the Pagan savings challenge progresses, I'm aware that there are Pagans who are not participating because my weekly (and impersonal) posts aren't motivation enough to keep it up. The pressures are many, and my voice is small. But my belief in the power of savings is strong.
- Savings is a discipline, as surely as devotion and magic are, and discipline is its own reward.
- Savings transforms one's relationship with money, changing it from one of reaction to one of intention.
- Savings results in a pile of money that literally wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been saved, which is the sort of reward that even the most right-brained among us should appreciate.
- Savings requires the right mix of patience and attention, which in proper measure can nurture virtually anything.
So in keeping with my sincere belief that each and every Pagan should have a savings plan as part of their spiritual practice, I present an alternative for working groups: the sou-sou. It is one of the simplest savings programs to understand, but challenging for the typical American to participate. It came to the United States from West Africa, and is most commonly used in this country by populations who are on the edges -- or outside -- of the traditional money system.
You know, kind of like some Pagans....
When February has been Harsh
It's just one foot in front of the other.
It's just one moment,
then another, then another-
Till the footfalls mark a footpath
and the breathing is a testament.
It's funny how time flies and yet remains standing still. I blink, and we are in the middle of February. I blink again, and the world outside is still covered in ice and deep, deep snow.
The winter, thus far, has been educational.
Whatever happened to the Thunderer?
The ancestors knew him well: Thor, Perkunas, Perun, Jupiter, Zeus, Ba'al, Enlil, Indra, they called him. The heathens in their wisdom honor him to this day. His name lives on the tongue of every English-speaker: Thunder. And in the many-colored world itself, of course, he's never gone away: his rains still fall, if not quite as they always have.
But in pagandom at large, where is he?...
Since moving here to the depths of rural Ireland I've found that the seasonal and circadian rhythms rule me very intimately. This winter I have been truly initiated by the Cailleach. It's not that we have been snowed in. We are having the first flurries as I tap this blog. No, it's that when the dark descended, the cloud cover rolled in, the skies lowered, I settled into a long womb time.
I came to a full stop. I needed to just sit. Yes, there was activity happening but I felt at a bit of a remove. The real happening was the silence that descended inside me. The words wouldn't come. If I tried to force them they were clumsy. It felt as if even Spirit was incommunicado. Feeling directionless, without a sense of 'true north' I hunkered down into my still centre. In this space I sank into a powerful place of deep trust where I allowed myself to let go of some attachments.
Danu has always felt like an ancient Grandmother to me. Some people say she is Brigit's mother, but my personal encounters tell me she goes back further generations. For me She is one manifestation of the Hag Goddess, or Cailleach (say that Cal-yuck). I have an affinity to stone and there are many glacial erratics mimicking chairs that are known as The Hag's Chair. In a field about twenty yards from my home we have the Cailleach's Chaise Longue....
Last time we talked about Keys and Imprints. There are other ways that triangles and squares may present on crystals. We'll discuss those here, namely Growth Interference and Record Keepers.
Indentations and markings similar to Imprints and Keys also occur but they fall into a different category. Some of these triangular and square-shaped impressions are caused by what is called Growth Interference. Growth Interference happens when another mineral grows during the development of the crystal and then subsequently disappears.
As well as the square and triangle, more often than not, it looks like a buzz saw was taken to the crystal. Sometimes there is a little bit of mineral left in part of the crevasses....
I don't know how many of you have been in this scenario. After dinner and drinks with friends, the topic of discussion veers away from deep occult mysteries to all the things that you could do if you didn't have ethics. This is not a blog post about ethics and morals, though I may cover that topic in the near future. So during one of these less serious discussions, a friend pulled up a website on their laptop for distance Reiki attunements. One merely had to download a few PDFs and study them, schedule a Reiki attunement/initiation, and pay your money via PayPal. By the way the site in question offered these services up to the level of Reiki master. I have no way of knowing if the person who was offering these services was sincere or a charlatan, but for the purposes of this post it does not matter. After much fun was had with some of the cheesier elements of the website, it was solemnly declared that it seemed legit, and then we all cracked up. After the laughter, we proceeded with a real conversation about why this particular sort of long distance initiation doesn't work.
There's a fairly standard model in many esoteric systems that describes the human energy field as consisting of layers that go from the densest being the physical body up to some varying number of layers that end at the boundary between the individual's energy and that of the universe. Without giving away anything that is supposed to be kept secret or private, in a true Reiki attunement there are specific symbols that are implanted into the practitioner's energy field. It is also part of the standard model of ethereal anatomy that the lower, denser layers, are the ones that do the heavy lifting in magickal and energetic work. In order for the symbols to be implanted, the lower subtle bodies of the initiator have to be in close physical proximity to the person being initiated. Here's the catch, the denser the subtle body is, the more it resembles the physical form, and the less flexible it is. Therefore, the denser subtle bodies cannot stretch very far away from the physical body. So for an attunement/initiation that requires alterations to the lower subtle bodies, the initiator must be physically present....
I read a blog called "The Honest Courtesan" written by a retired call girl named Maggie McNeil, that discusses sex, sex workers and our attitudes about it. I don't always agree with everything she says, but she wrote an article recently that I've been ruminating on. The long and the short of it is this:
For many years, prostitution has been decriminalized in Canada; but everything around it has been illegal, from the keeping of a place of business to "living off the avails" of prostitution (so if, for example, a hooker hired a driver/bodyguard to protect her, he could go to jail.) On September 28, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, at least in the province of Ontario, these laws were against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (our equivalent of the Constitution) and the government was given a few months in which to try to appeal or to draft a new law.
Sounds like a positive choice, right? But Maggie predicted, accurately, that this would be used as an opportunity for anti-prostitution lobbyists to suggest another option, which was to adopt a policy that is becoming known as the "Swedish model." That is to say, prostitution itself isn't illegal - buying sex is. So the criminals become the clients, not the prostitutes....
If there had indeed been pagans of our kind in Europe during the Hidden Years, and
if those old paganisms had managed to survive in backwaters here and there, and
if they had undergone the usual kinds of culture loss and internal innovation, and
Photo Credit: Dennis Holzberg
Gathas are short verses for the practice of mindfulness in our daily activities. In a previous post, I described ways to use gathas to connect us with the elements - earth, air, fire, water, and sacred center - in and around our homes. This practice leads to many more stories and endless new gathas! For example, I’m thinking about the story of water as it flows through me and my home. This story is actually more of a mental ramble. It’s the journey my mind takes when I connect with everyday gratitude for being alive. At approximately 60% water, I estimate that I contain about 240 cups of water in my cells and tissues, and this equals about 2 x 1027 water molecules. Of course, it's not always the same molecules. I continuously ingest and excrete. However, the molecules that are present in this moment help keep me upright, seeing, hearing, moving, feeling, and thinking. Water flows through my emotions, the expressions of my personality, and the pathways to my creative expression.
So to continue my ramble.
I open the kitchen tap, I start the washer, I water my plants. In my home place, I draw from a vast underground fresh water sea, a gift of the last ice age, delivered through the pressure of my city's subterranean pipeline highways.
I flush the toilet, I pull the sink plug, I watch the shower drain. These mini vortexes enter a different underground pipeline system to a waste treatment plant that cleans it up (mostly) and sends it downstream along the above-ground pathways of a creek to the next stream to river upon river and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.
"I wash my hands in flowing water. May I use them skillfully to preserve our precious planet." This is the gatha, or short verse of attunement from the earlier post. I'm sensing that this is a good practice, and I'm sensing that it is not enough. Yes, I receive the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of water as it flows into my cupped hands and splashes my face. However, I want my gratitude to be bigger and based in a larger field of knowing and connecting.
I want to write place-specific gathas that express my amazement that my community sources fresh water from a vast underground sea and returns it after use along a vast network of streams and rivers flowing hundreds and hundreds of miles to the Gulf of Mexico. I want to write place-specific gathas that hold awareness of what's really happening. Is the underground sea that serves my community being used faster than it is replenished? Yes. Is the "used" water sent away from my community completely clear of substances that affect the health and wellbeing of living things? No.
I have come to realize that I need to write gathas that reflect how water really ''works" with me and to encourage you to write your own place-specific gathas that fit the geography of where you live. Here’s a new one for my home place:
"Breathing in, my cupped hands receive water flowing from the tap. I connect with the vast underground sea it comes from.
Breathing out, the water flows from my open fingers. I connect with the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.”
The results? I am aware and grateful. I am informed. I am active. Today I am taking leftover medicines to the MedDrop in my community rather than send them down the drain. I am reading about endocrine disrupting chemicals that endanger our water and wastewater systems and finding out what needs to happen to eliminate this danger to all life on Earth.
How does water flow through you and your community? You may need to do some research first. Then, please write your own gatha, specific to your home place, and share it with all of us in the comments.
A chemical spill in West Virginia contaminated the water source used by over 300,000 people. On February 8, 2014, a bunch of Witches gathered in Brooklyn at Catland Books to honor the Imbolc Sabbat. The NYC Witches had this message for West Virginia:
The "Who"s and "What"s and stuff.
The Sabbat was held by the NY/CT/NJ facet of Novices of the Old Ways, a national Progressive Pagan and Wiccan community. The ritual was led by Votary-Priestess Elizabeth LaBarca. The group raised $150 for Manna Meal, a non-denominational group in Charleston, WV that provides two hot meals a day to anyone in need. Donations to help the disaster relief can also be made via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: WV Disaster. Those donations will go to the local Unitarian Church, aiding in the efforts.
HOLY CRAP! WHAT'S GOING ON THERE????
Yes. Our Human-Kin (and animal kin!) in West Virginia are going through a very bad time right now. For information on the current disaster situation, please see Rachel Maddow Interview with Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette.
How is a video-message going to help?
One of the worst side-effects of a disaster situation is feeling alone or forgotten. As the media moves on, naturally so does attention to the region. Not so long ago, we in NY/NJ/CT were facing a disaster situation of our own. The national news moved on as the election started, but we were still going through The Sh*ts. It's rough on the psyche and soul. In many ways, the situation is WV is worse. So many people came to help the Sandy relief efforts. Unfortunately, we can't get in cars with garbage bags, sledge hammers, and shovels and clean up the mess done by the chemical leak. We, being remote civilians, are not able to clean the water of our WV Humankin, ourselves. But we can send a message that will hopefully lift some spirits.
We also could use the opportunity to let others know where to send money to help.
What do we do when bad things happen???
We have options! Crying helps, initially. It lets the pain and anger out so we can set it aside--or better yet, let it fuel us--to help. Raising and sending energy helps, too. But this is going to hurt to write/read: The raising and sending of energy to a large-scale, rambling problem does good, but very often, it's doing more good for those who cast it than those meant to receive it. We feel we've done something by remembering those suffering in our intentions. But a small group raising energy for a local problem has the effect of a watering can on a dry area of the backyard--directed and effective. That same group raising energy for a major problem is going to have the effect of that same watering can on a forest fire: Reading--not much. Now, get together with 10,000 other watering cans and you may indeed have something to aid the problem. But unless you're planning on coordinating or collaborating with 10,000 other groups, don't let your efforts stop at the Circle.
I want to help, but I don't want to send money.
Okay--please listen. SEND. MONEY. Don't send canned goods, used clothing, or even bottled water in this case. This brilliant article demonstrates the problems well-intentioned donations can cause in disaster areas. Needs change daily and often what is most in need cannot be supplied by a common consumer, such as antibiotics or water purification tablets. I can directly attest to changing needs. During Occupy Wall Street, bright-eyed and eager supporters would rush up to me with bags of rain-slickers, or peace-charms, or shoe-laces. And while I thanked them for their kindness, the weather that day might be cold and dry and the slickers were of no help. There would be nowhere to store the peace-charms or shoe-laces, as all the donation areas were clogged with other things given in love, but without much use. I was left with lots of well-intentioned goods and spent a lot of important time trying to find places to put them. Had these people handed me the cash they used to buy the supplies, I could have run out and gotten what we needed that night--sweatshirts, socks, sanitary napkins, gas for the generators. It was a similar situation a after Sandy, where the needs changed daily. One day, paper-towels were the valued commodity. The day after, face-masks. By the weekend, people would have sold souls for duct tape. By donating cash directly to a region, you are able to help the people aid their most dire needs, immediately. If you aren't sure where to donate your funds and aren't a fan of large organizations, look up Churches or food pantries local to the region. They will most certainly be busy. Also, regional chapters of the Red Cross or Red Crescent will be more directly involved with aid than national or international chapters. Your $5 will be a very valuable watering can, indeed.
West Virginia--you are not forgotten.
I want to bundle up the whole state and serve you all tea in my living room, where you can pet my cats. They're very healing. Unfortunately, that's rather impossible. So please accept my and my community's offering of love. We're not alone in the love we send, either.
I’ve been studying Wicca, and it really appeals to me. But I was raised Christian. Can I practice both at the same time?
First off, you should know that this is a very loaded question, and you might receive different answers from different Wiccans, Pagans, and Christians. This is my two cents, but I don’t pretend to speak for everyone in these communities.
Can It Be Done?
I think it’s not impossible to practice Wicca or Paganism and Christianity fully at the same time, but it’s difficult, because there's a fundamental conflict over deity. Christianity asks Christians to accept Jesus as their savior, and the Bible makes it pretty clear that the Christian god is the only god for Christians. Pagans, however, usually worship gods other than or in addition to the Christian god. So it’s challenging to be a fully practicing Christian and a fully practicing Pagan at the same time, while still being true to both traditions.
That said, I have seen people have success with choosing one of the paths as their main path, and integrating elements of the other path into their practice. For example, one of the most beautiful and powerful rituals I’ve ever been in was one done by indigenous Mexicans, who called their traditional gods together with the Virgin Mary. And I’ve known some practicing Christians who add some Pagan ritual elements, like working with the elements, into their private devotional practice. Some churches, such as the Unitarian Universalist Church, are reasonably accepting of Paganism. Making this work requires being flexible....
Here in Eugene, we are in a valley surrounded by the Cascade mountains, which means we ordinarily get milder weather than the rest of Oregon. By the first week of February, we have usually left winter behind us and are embarking on early springtime. The plants never completely die back during the winter (the summer is our dead season instead, when the bright west coast sun sears everything brown) and we get so much rain that not only the ground but also the tree branches are covered by a layer of bright emerald moss. (Hence Eugene’s moniker “the Emerald City”–a nickname that brings me no end of joy, considering my love for The Wizard of Oz.) The rains come daily, the sky is always overcast, and when it is not actually raining the air is filled with a gentle mist.
This year, however, the winter was a lot drier than usual, and the moss was a dull brownish green. We got hit with an uncharacteristic snowstorm in December (about ten inches!), and then in January sparse amounts of rain, punctuated by bright, cold days, the sun shining in a clear blue sky, interspersed with days captured in a grey, freezing fog that turned your lungs to ice. But at the beginning of February springtime seemed as sure as ever; the smell of the air itself had changed and there was now a green note, a whiff of damp earth and ozone. Last week, I found a patch of wild violets that I began harvesting—a handful at a time–to make a syrup.
And then came the snow.
I've noted before that I am devoting the money I save during the Pagan savings challenge to buying and installing a fireplace insert. This week, my family was reminded that this is a really good idea.
We've had all manner of severe winter weather throughout the United States this season, including a cold snap and foot or more of snow in my area. It was during the cold and dark of that heavy snowfall that my wife realized our heat was no longer on. We tried hitting the reset button, but no dice. We called our amazing heating guys, who talked me through several other troubleshooting steps, all which failed to solve or diagnose the problem. He agreed to come out as soon as he confirmed that the parking lot of his shop had been plowed so he could get the work truck.
It hadn't, and it wasn't until the following morning. Our fireplace, with some assistance from an electric mattress pad, was our only source of heat. It was bright, cheery, and reassuringly warm, but it takes a lot of effort for a central fireplace to warm even a modest home. The fire needed to be rekindled the following morning from cold ashes. Our house is nearly a hundred years old, but its original primary heat source was a coal furnace, not the fireplace....
The Name holds the story and mystery of who it represents. The Name is the energetic sigil that connects and refines all parts of that individual. The Name holds the power and promise of greatness as its sound moves through space and time affirming our manifest existence. Mundanely, we may be named for a favorite relative, as predictor of the qualities that are hoped we will possess or we may be given a name selected for the rhythm and resonance with other family member’s names. We may be named for a favorite character in a play or movie or to honor someone of achievement and greatness. Regardless of where that name originated, it is our symbol etched in the written word or the oral tome. We hear our name called by family and friends and as we grow and mature that name acts as identifier for all of our choices, interactions, achievements, failures and everything in between. Our signature of name opens doors, seals the deal and holds us accountable for how we move through life and our affairs. As we form lasting relationships we hold on dearly to our given names, take that of another or blend and weave the energies of our loved one’s name and our own in creation of a new energetic pattern.
Magickally, we select a name that will embody our perception of the intent we have for our spiritual work and the path we have chosen. Often names of Deity will be incorporated into or used as the magickal name. Names taken from the natural world, the celestial realms or goal of evolved attributes may be selected. This name becomes the magnetic attractor of what we wish to become and the working tool that declares who we are in sacred space; aligned and moving in accord with our Divine nature. We invoke our magickal name and in so doing declare and call our magickal/spiritual persona into action. This name is our signature on the astral and becomes the representation of the deeper level of our Being in communication with our guides, patrons and Deity. In Ancient Egyptian belief, the Ren (name) was considered one of the five parts of the Soul. The name given at birth was guarded and protected as having power over the individual to whom it was given. The name was only shared with those who meant no harm to the individual as great magick could be worked upon the individual through the knowing of his/her name. The calling of an individual’s name affirmed the life essence within that individual and if used often and well, ensured their survival long after death in the form of legacy left by that name and the way in which the individual lived their life within its power.
The names of Deity are used frequently in personal development; holding the power and pure essence of that Deity’s energy. The vibrations contained within that name can bring about healing, empowerment, strength, wisdom and more as we reach out and make connection through words of devotion and mantra. We are all familiar with the use of invocation in ritual and the calling forth of those Deity we wish to interact with. The power of speaking the sacred words and using the power of naming the Divine to be held in the energy of their presence is one of complete transformation. Adding the energy of tone and breath to that calling, in the form of a chant carries those words in specific form and rhythm, enhancing the effect and preparing us as resonating vessels reaching up towards the Divine. If skillfully crafted and filled with intention in its offering, the simplest of chants can have lasting effects that can be quite profound....
Kat and I are reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling right now. It's a classic Fantasy story, but what I find interesting is that in the first chapter, if you know what to look for, you discover a lot of esoteric and occult practices shared with the protagonists of the story, and this sharing continues throughout the rest of the book. It's a subtle way to teach magic to readers. Given when the book was written, the author needed to be subtle about it, but what fascinates me is that even to this day you can still find a number of fantasy writings where esoteric ideas and secrets are shared if you know what to look for. And if you don't know what to look for, well guess what? You're being given an education in magic and how it works so that if you get to that point where you actually start practicing you've already got some idea of how magic seems to work.
Kat and I like to discuss the books we are reading together, so we got into a long and fascinating conversation about not only Rudyard Kipling, but some of those writers who've written esoteric secrets into their fantasy. For example, if you've read any of Michael Moorcock's writings you'll find quite a lot of esoteric secrets shared. In Elric of Melnibone, he practically spells how to evoke an entity in several different instances where the character needs supernatural aide. In the Corum series, he focuses in on the magical aspects of gift giving and the connections gods have to people and vice versa. And there's a number of other series he writes in where he shares esoteric ideas and concepts, which I recognize many years later as playing a foundational role in my understanding of magic. As a young, impressionable reader the stories I read fascinated me because of the adventure, but as a magician I can see how my evocation practice has been shaped by what Moorcock wrote, as well as some of other esoteric beliefs and practices.
Raymond Feist is another author who mixes in esoteric ideas and practices in his books. For the most part his ideas are more metaphysically oriented, but there a few magical ideas I've gotten from reading his works, especially as it relates to energy work and the nature of reality and other planes of existence. Then there's the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, where they share some useful ideas about working with probabilities via sigils and sound magic. Admittedly those aren't standard esoteric secrets, but you can get a lot from the ideas and turn them into workable magical practices if you're willing to engage the material with an eye toward applying it to magical work. William S. Burroughs also integrates magical techniques into his writing. In fact, all of his writing is essentially a magical technique in and of itself....
EDIT - since this post was posted, I have received several messages asking about the items in the pictures, and about who made them - they are all from my own work and my husband's. In the bio at the end of the post, you can find a link to my website. Thanks!
Among the many types of Leaders that inspire and connect Spiritual Seekers with their Paths, Pagan Artisans are often overlooked in favour of writers, speakers and bloggers – not that any of us is upset about this; we prefer to stay away from the stage lights, completely absorbed by our work, while they get into the debating, and set the foundations for what Paganism will be in the next generations. And thank the Gods that the writers, speakers and bloggers are there! Many times, they are our voice and our patrons, purchasing, promoting and sharing our work on their sites and podcasts, and I couldn't be more grateful for their presence and support....
Places that are magical and also local to me have a special place in my heart. They become familiar, known not just as special events but in all their moods because I’m able to visit them easily and often, in a variety of conditions. I build up a deep, layered relationship with these places and I feel the magic or ritual I do there is held as part of that relationship. It’s as if these places talk with me, when I visit we pick up an ongoing conversation of the deepest possible kind; where I am a part of them and they are a part of me.
Last week I went swimming in Coogee Women’s Baths. This is one of my favorite places in Sydney and possibly in the world. It’s one of the sea baths Sydney has so many of, set in below the cliffs; oblong pieces of sea bordered by a rock wall on the seaward side but with waves splashing over and the tides washing in and out. The Women’s Baths is somewhere I’ve been coming for thirty-one years. When I first went there the entry price was 20c. Today, still, the entry price is 20c. It could be just a beautiful place, but to me it’s magical....
Earlier this week Bill Nye, the "Science Guy", debated Ken Ham, founder of the creationism museum in Kentucky, and it was billed as "Science vs the Bible", among other things. I watched it, and participated in a Twitter discussion for a short time during it, and then moved over to a Facebook discussion among a friend and others who are all Atheist, as far as I can tell. When the debate was over, I was left with a few thoughts.