We know that the ancient Romans and Greeks played and sang lots of music and performed lots of dances and dramas and SACRIFICES!!!! MWA HA HA HA! AND THEN THEY SANG ABOUT THE SACRIFICES! (I like to say sacrifices).
Friends, Romans, heathens, pagans, countrymen and women, lend me your ears. From time to time, many of us bemoan bad behavior in our communities, but today I would like to put forth a serious question: what would you like to do about it?
I know that we are scattered and often many of us are isolated or solitary in our practices. But faith should bring us solace in our grief and a network of support when we are in need. What can or should we do to facilitate this?
We do have charity, and there are people doing admirable things on the local level, like Alley Valkyrie in Eugene, Be the Light Chapel, or Kyrja Withers’ organization, Hands of the Goddess here in Central Florida. And yes, Kyrja still does open and active community work as a Pagan, despite hate crimes perpetuated against her and her family. Hands of the Goddess also has a South Georgia chapter. The Maetreum of Cybele provides shelter for abused women, despite harassment from local authorities....
Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the time someone criticized my student and I nearly lost my friggin’ mind.
I see my Coven the way most people see swans. Graceful and lovely on the surface; pedaling like mad beneath the surface to keep all things going well. Guests may see them as the calm and friendly people who call the Quarters, take the suggested $10 donations, raise the energy, and don’t let anyone open the wine until Fellowship. What they don’t see are the hours driving to NYC (for those who live in CT or Westchester), or the local members shuffling their shoulder bags full of ritual gear onto the subway, setting the space, performing the rite, cleaning up, and then shuffling everything back onto the subway, but usually with additional baggage in tow: canned food, toys, or clothing for various drives. The life of the Urban Witch often demands long journeys on foot, up and down long flights of stairs while jostling staffs, swords, candles, and goods among drunken strangers on and off of subways. It’s work. It’s a task of the Spirit and one I believe we are all glad to give. But what guests also don’t see is how many hours are spent in Circle outside of Sabbat, working on strengthening their Magickal and Energetic prowess as well as working through and with their Personal Shadows as part of becoming better Practitioners.
About six months ago, I wrote about hearing a guest pick apart the ritual we’d just performed like it was an indi-flick they had to dissect for a film class they only took because they wanted to sleep with the instructor.
Part of my irritation came from this guest so carelessly picking apart what my Coven had selflessly given. But I put me in check reminding myself that a.) my Coveners are all adults and can handle themselves and b.) I am not actually a female bear and I do not need to rip into the guts of every perceived threat against my “cubs,” especially one that is not actually a threat, but more of a rude misstep of the mouth. I let it go that time and blogged. It was all in divine order as many people said they identified with it. Yay! Thank you, Criticism Fairy! You taught us all a lesson.
Riding the tides of perimenopause, I find that my sense of self, ideas and concepts that I held about myself are shifting like pebbles on a shingle beach, never in the same place twice, forming new solid banks and spits jutting out into the vastness of the ocean. I live right on the coast of the North Sea, and am finding inspiration and a sense of kinship with the ocean that I have never felt before....
When I taught Yoga and Meditation at Glendale Community College, I was friendly with the Chair of the Religions Department. We often discussed how the purpose of the Comparative World Religions class was not to convert students who already had a faith (as some paranoid individuals feared), but to facilitate tolerance between the citizens of a shrinking world through a better understanding of each others' beliefs. In that same spirit of education, I propose an open exchange of views - not to argue among ourselves as to who is right, but to share our mutual human inspirations and yearnings.
It has been many years since I felt compelled to convince others of my position; I simply put it out there, now, as a point of information. In my view of the universe, each mind has its own little piece of the Truth. For reasons we can only guess at, some of us were destined to appreciate Creation in terms of many Gods, while others were meant to see it in terms of only One - yet other brothers and sisters of ours were meant to believe in no God at all! Yet we are all children of a common Source, seeing reality as best we can from different points of view. If we combine all of our perceptions, this vast multi-dimensional hologram may begin to come into focus.
I have gone through many stages in my life. I've had my mind opened to possibilities that I was afraid to acknowledge as a child, and which are still denied by many in my culture. Such people hope that refusing to think about something can make it go away, or that demonizing it may relieve them of the responsibility of having to understand it. But I'm pretty sure that we can only evade responsibility for a short time, and that ever-more challenging initiations lie before us....
Now, I know a lot of people like to tout Samhain as the pagan new year, but for me, my year always sort of starts on Imbolc. I think of it as "time to make the doughnuts," in a way. It marks the end of my hibernation.
This year in particular is going to be a very big one for me- it marks the biggest Witchcraft 101 class I've taught in ten years, and it also marks the last of that series I'll be teaching for a while. For the last decade, I've dedicated myself to the education of witches in the basics, teaching everything from healing and conjuration to ritual practice and different models of deity work.
I've had a huge love for this work. It has been the single most rewarding thing about my career- the ability to watch people come to know the wonder inside of them, to help them grow into gifts and strengths they didn't know they had. It's been a blessing....
I'm a bit of a currency naturalist: I round bills up, mark them, and release them back into the wild. That even goes for two dollar bills, which many Americans believe are no longer made (they are; in fact, series 2013 is in print now). Because the two is in such low circulation, if you ask for them at the bank like I do, you will see some very old, very well-preserved currency.
Only on a two did I have much of a chance of finding this story. Everything I know for a fact comes from that very bill, which I have pictured here. A two from series 1976, in fairly crisp condition, with a note scrawled across it in black ink. The handwriting crosses over dark portions of the bill's design, there's at least one word crossed out, and it's not very legible in the first place, but this is what I think it reads:
"To the [Checkers or Cheeses or Russo or something] Deli
Congrats on Year #1
Best of Luck For the Future"
[squiggle or signature]
I’m going to take a short break from my series of posts on Odin’s heiti to ramble on about a few topics that are a little more personal, both because I haven’t done so for a while and because I haven’t been able to find any heiti for Him that begin with C. (Chieftain and Creator, maybe, but the actual names that incorporate those concepts don’t begin with C in Old Norse, because Old Norse does not contain the letter C. Maybe that post will come to me next week.)
As regular readers may have noticed, I haven’t been doing as much posting as usual, and that’s been for a few reasons. One is that this is turning out to be a year heavy on study, training and contemplation for me, and a lot of the latter is difficult to get into words at times. January was not a good month for me, energy-wise, and I haven’t posted a new oracular seidhr schedule yet because I spent much of the first month of the year recovering from Yule. (Schedule is coming soon, I promise!) The month began well enough, with the usual hopes and plans for the new year, and ended with the revelation that our dog, Corbie J., is indeed in the beginning stages of congestive heart failure. So. He is on maintenance meds for that, and it looks like we may have caught it early enough to be able to extend his life, hopefully for a few years.
But still, there is a weight there before that had not been there previously, a shadow on my heart. The promise of future loss. We have to pretend that shadow isn’t there to avoid upsetting the dog, since that would obviously not be good under the circumstances, but you have probably noticed—and will continue to—me scrambling to get yarn spun and ritual cords made, and to work on other long-delayed projects for my store such as art batts for spinning, bags of loose hand dyed locks and add-ins for carding, cords for knot spells, witches’ ladders, jarred beeswax candles, oils and incenses, prayer beads, perhaps video tutorials, anything and everything I can do towards continuing my process of pursuing disability and leaving my office job while at the same time being able to help pay for our household needs and afford the dog’s expensive medicines and my own. (Not to mention our one cat, Berzerker, who is on expensive meds of his own, for severe allergies that cause him to break out with pustules if his steroids are stopped.) My first thought, when new unavoidable expenses such as this come up (besides the meds, Corbie will need more frequent doctor visits, and the one from last week was over $300 with all the tests) is always “I’ll go back to working full time.” But Jo actually gets angry when I propose this, because we both know I can’t; I am on 25 hours per week now, and sometimes too sick to get to work even with those reduced hours, so we both know that it’s only with extreme effort and will that I keep on working the hours I’ve got now....
(This one is a week late; I posted it on time over at my own blog, but forgot to share it here!)
Since I’ve already written at length about Odin in His guise of Bolverk (the face He wears in the Mead of Poetry myth cycle), and have at least touched on Bruni and Bjorn (both referring to His bear persona), for this post I decided to focus on a different B name: Blindi. This name quite obviously means “blind,” and in fact there are several of His names which have to do with His eyesight, such as Tviblindi (“twice blind”), Bileygr (“feeble-eyed.” or possibly “one-eyed”), and Baleygr (“blazing eye”)–although the latter may have more to do with His gimlet gaze than with the loss of eyesight.
Odin’s sacrifice of an eye to Mimir’s Well is one of His most famous myths, second in familiarity only to His ordeal on the Tree. In Snorri’s version of the tale, as well as in the Havamal section of the Poetic Edda, the transaction is a literal one: Odin wanted to drink from the Well guarded by Mimir in Jotunheim (twin to the Well of Wyrd in Asgard, and according to some views, the very same Well, which is so real and so fundamental to reality that a version of it appears in all worlds, just as with the World Tree itself) and the price named by the Well’s guardian was one of His eyes. Not to be deterred, Odin obligingly, and without flinching, ripped an eye from His own head (no one can say which one, and last time I checked He wasn’t telling) and handed it over. In return, He received His prize: a deep draught from the Well of Memory (Mimir)–basically, the accumulated consciousness and wisdom of all People, from all races—divine and mortal—throughout all time. What is more, Mimir then cast the severed eye into the Well, where it—according to some—continues to see, and somehow continues to transmit information back to the One who once wore it.
“Women go there to dance. They get all ready in the mirror with their friends. They’re like, ‘I just need to go. I just need to dance. I’m serious, tonight — no guys. Screw guys. I just need to — I’ve had a rough week, and I just need to dance it out. I just want to stand in a circle around our pocketbooks and shoes and just — I just want to dance. Dance!’” – Dane Cook
“Girls love 80s parties. I could tell them that Osama bin Laden was holding a party, and they’d refuse to attend. But if I told them Osama bin Laden was holding an 80s party, they’d be like, ‘. . .well, what time?’” – Nick Swardson...
I met a Notable American Druid (NAD) in Ireland while I was on scholarship as a Celtic Studies student, and we traveled together from time to time while we were there. One evening, after touring County Donegal, we stopped at a pub in Carrick on the way back to Glencolumbkille. I don't remember what NAD drank that night, but the publican taught me to make what he called 'Hot Bush'. Here's the recipe:
Boil the kettle.
Pour hot water into a mug.
Boil the kettle again.
Pour the water out of the mug.
Put 3 cloves, a teaspoon of sugar and a shot of Bushmills into the mug.
Pour boiling water into the mug and stir.
It was good insurance against the temperamental June weather on the island, and I drank a lot of it during my stay. Anyway, so there we were, listening to a session, me drinking Hot Bush and NAD making conversation with the locals. One of them, a portly, middle-aged woman told me her son had done bass work for the Pogues and invited me to contact him about the undergraduate project I was working on (I never did). She also told me that her family had been involved with the IRA and specifically that her mother had moved weapons for the organization. She was a great conversationalist, and she seemed to like me too, so we were getting on well together.
Then NAD interrupted (during the whole running guns for the IRA bit) to tell the woman that he was a Notable American Druid, that he believed Ireland had been better off without Saint Patrick and that he thought the Irish should turn the island back over to the Druids altogether. Mind you, I didn't entirely disagree with the man, but I didn't think a pub in Catholic Carrick was the place to share that sentiment, and I didn't think the daughter of a militant family was the person to share it with. She seemed to agree, and over the next hour, I helped her edge him out of the conversation while we continued to chat about music, politics and life.
I’ve spent this winter living in an unheated, uninsulated, unfinished house. Most years this would not be a big deal — Central Texas sees snow once a decade, rarely more than an inch, with average low temperatures in the upper 30s — but the Polar Vortex has changed the game. It’s a new and different cold, fierce and unfamiliar. The wind, such a gift in the hot months, whips through our clothes and bites at our skin. We can’t escape it: no insulation means that my construction zone of a house gets only a few degrees warmer than the outside air. We’re essentially winter camping all of the time, and I feel more aware of Nature’s intensity than ever before.
I hadn’t realized I’d grown so disconnected from my environment. I grew up in a house without air-conditioning or central heat; I took frequent camping trips; I lived in a tent for many summers as a camp counselor; I drove a motorcycle in all weather. And yet, during adulthood I managed to get just as climate-controlled as everyone else, spending my days indoors losing my ability to tolerate heat and cold. I might not have gotten my acclimatization back had it not been forced upon me.
Writing and marketing my new book, Teen Spirit Wicca, has been a very interesting process. Most people know that my prime work in the community is based on advocacy and youth outreach/support. Advocating for young Witches and Pagans means constantly engaging with this demographic and being open to their interests, likes, and dislikes. I learned so much while interviewing teens during the initial writing of TSW, but I continue to learn as I pose new questions to the community that has built up around it. So for the next few months I'm asking the young Pagan community about their thoughts on a number of topics that I'll report on here. Some of them will be deeper and more intellectual, and some will be based on simple feelings. I ask these questions through a number of outlets including Facebook pages, groups, and via email to the youth I know.
Last week I started with a simple question: What in your opinion is the best part of being a young Wiccan, Witch, or Pagan? How is it helpful for you? What are you most proud of?
Here's a recap of a small number of the many responses I received along with some observations on what I noticed about them. I've only shared initials to protect privacy, although I also share age when it was given....
Perhaps central to Neo Pagan practices is the petition of Deity. The crudest of formulas for Neo Pagan ritual would be: create a sacred space, invoke deity, pay homage and/or petition, and dismiss. Though some petitions might be spontaneous and overlook some elements of space or decorum ( i.e. Penczack’s “instant magic”), the desires and force of will are almost always necessarily in conjunction with some form of request to a higher power. Linguistically, one could simply put it as; “to petition”, a subject must have an object to call upon. Even in the instance of petitioning the self, drawing forth some sort of believed, hidden energy from the depths of the practitioners psyche, the petitioner is calling upon an “other” to change or work with the “self”.
What must be maintained through all of this is the concept of petitioning an “outside” identity, but just who do we call upon when we admit there is something beyond our scope of capability? The primary idea of this outside force is that of Deity or God. Familiar attributes we assign Deity are the three “omni” qualities: Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. Abrahamic overtones aside, when one sets out to define Deity, the curious habit of assigning human characteristics also follows suit after our triformula of Deity. However, in our attempt to humanize Deity, what is often overlooked in favor of a more favorable god, is that to include human characteristics to an inherently transcendent idea is anathema to a logical definition of Deity. Put colloquially, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This problem arises due to the limitations of human qualities; If we maintain Deity is all knowing, why do certain pagan deities have areas of expertise or realms of import? If the God in question is truly a God, would not specific realms of importance be superfluous?...
Jung's Collected Works are being made available for instant download as of March 1, 2014! Below are some convenient links for purchase/download of either the entire collection or individual volumes.
For Pagans interested reading just one volume of Jung's writings, I would recommend Volumes 9(i) (The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious) and 11 (Psychology and Religion) which explain the gods in terms of archetypes. If you're really into mythology, then I would also recommend Vol. 5 (Symbols of Transformation). If you are an esotericist, then I would recommend Vols. 13 & 14, which are about spiritual alchemy. And if you are more into the visionary, then definitely check out the Red Book (not part of the Collected Works), Jung's account of his visions and imaginings during his period of psychological breakdown following his split from Freud....
This week I received an unpleasant surprise in the mail: a parking ticket. Apparently I had failed to hit the meter quickly enough one time while waiting for the Maetreum of Cybele's day in court, but the ticket itself didn't manifest until four months later. What would have been a $65.00 fine (outrageous in its own right) has now been hiked to $115.00, plus the usual warnings about me never being able to park in this town again.
Honestly, the things we go through for our work . . .
Approaching this in the context of the Pagan savings challenge, the money that the city of Albany is demanding is more than eight times what I have tucked away during this project. However, in just ten weeks (that's less than a season), I'll have that socked away, and five dollars to spare....
Some of my latest magical work has taken an interesting turn, where I'm exploring my connection to the microbial life in my body. This work is not entirely new, as I've done similar such work with connecting with the neurotransmitters in my body, but how it is different from my earlier work as that I've decided to, as best as possible, approach working with the bacteria from a non-anthropocentric approach. What this means is that instead of trying to apply my human perceptions and the perspectives to the experience, I'm trying to be consciously aware of such perspectives as well as open to engaging the bacteria on their own level of consciousness. Part of my inspiration for this work can be found at this post and the links included in it. But part of my inspiration is simply my desire to experiment with magic, to see what I can do and how I can explore the universe around me.
In choosing to work with the bacteria in my body, I did some research. Usually when you see the word bacteria its associated with disease, but humans actually have bacteria in our intestines (among other places), which exist in symbiosis with us and help us to process the food we eat. Bacteria also exist on the skin, mouth, and other parts of the body, and play some role in protecting us from harmful bacteria. This symbiosis is one of mutual support, where both the human host and the bacteria benefit. What strikes me the most is how even though human beings consider themselves to just be one identity, one life, in reality we are a universe all our own, full of life that we support, often without recognizing we support it. I suspect most people would be uncomfortable recognizing that they support a wide variety of microbial life. Instead we find it more comforting to just see the body as part of a singular identity we construct in relationship to the world around us.
In my approach to connecting with the bacteria in my body, I have initially focused on connecting with the bacteria in my stomach. There are actually a variety of different types of bacteria, but I haven't focused so much on the types as just connecting with the bacteria in the gut. I could just as easily focus elsewhere, say in the mouth or on the skin (and actually I have just started doing some connection work with the bacteria on my skin), but for this article I'm just going to describe my work with the bacteria in my gut. I want to note that in doing this work, something I've consciously recognized is that to effectively engage bacteria its important that I don't categorize them with human emotions or attributes, or assume that they'll appear in a human shaped form, or even assume they'll communicate with me using language, or visuals. I figure if I make that assumption what I'm really doing is applying an anthropocentric perspective to the magical work and consequently not effectively engaging the bacteria. At the same time I also realize that at a certain point I may need to interpret what I'm experiencing in terms that are more human oriented. The key is to recognize that and be aware of it as I continue to connect with the bacteria....
Our Sabbats provide a framework of meditation and insight that can deepen and transform our lives if we pay them any serious mind. Wiccan Sabbats have three dimensions, one links us to the universal cycles of the sun, another to our being people of the earth, and both take us to the experience of our own lives. Yule, Ostara, Midsummer (or Litha), and Mabon are our solar Sabbats. Brigid or Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain are our Sabbats rooted in the earth. They reflect the agricultural cycles of Celtic lands and so immerse us in the experience and blessings of living in this world.
As light and darkness and the changing of the seasons form parts of an eternal cycle within which life takes place, so life itself repeats this cycle with birth followed by childhood, the vigor of adulthood, the slow decline of old age, and finally death, to be repeated again. In the process beauty, love, and delight are brought into being and repeat themselves in endless variety.
I have always been most partial to the earthly Sabbats, rooted as they are in how we humans live in this earth I love. As Yule ended the time of death honored by Samhain, soonfollowed by the end of the calendar year, now the first of our earthly Sabbats, Brigid, recognizes and honors the stirrings and possibilities of life inherent in the new year....
Today is Imbolc, a day devoted to Brigid, keeper of the creative flame of Kildare. It’s also the launch of my first nonfiction book, Goddess Spells for Busy Girls. I am over the moon about this book, and I can’t wait to celebrate both the title and the holiday this evening with a small circle. The process of birthing a book is intense and long, and I thank Brigid and all my muses for the ability to weave words....