This time of year is always a bit mad for me. My sleep patterns are light-affected, so as we race towards midsummer, I stay awake later into the evening, and surface earlier. That might not sound too insane, but I have the kind of mind that hallucinates once it gets sufficiently sleep deprived, so if around midsummer I’m exceedingly wakeful for a few days – as if often the case – my whole experience of reality gets rather interesting.
Knowing that I tend to do this, I approach the lightest days of the year with a degree of caution. Madness is really a measure of dysfunction. If you can take what you’ve got and turn it into something productive, you aren’t deranged. You’re probably an artist, an author or the like. Going out to the edges of human experience and bringing back useful and beautiful things is part of what many creative folk do.
Many of us have the opportunity to honor lost loved ones on this holiday. I myself lost my beloved grandmother on Memorial Day weekend in 2010. It was always striking to me that she chose then to go, considering that she was a proud DAR sister who would always enjoy the parade. One year she helped scatter flowers from the bridge to float down the Fox River, in remembrance of veterans lost. I recall attending some of the parades when I was very small and we would go to visit. We would line up in folding lawn chairs along the sidewalk in from of her house, as that was where the parade would march past. I remember getting very riled up when I would hear the first booming of the bass drums and the rat-a-tat-tat of the crisp snares as they approached. I would be hopping from foot to anxious foot, waiting for them to get right up in front of us so that I could be enveloped in the wall of sound and lost in the rhythm of percussive thunder.
If you are one of the fortunate ones who do not have to work on this particular weekend and can get away with friends or family, a tribal drum circle can be a fun and empowering way to bond and raise some major energy. I have employed this at some Memorial Day family gatherings in the past and it proved quite effective. First, make sure that you let everyone attending know in advance to bring noisemakers, hand drums, shakers, maracas, what have you. Bring extras of your own if you sense that guests are in short supply. You can fashion a homemade shaker out of an empty plastic bottle filled with popcorn seeds in a pinch. Ideally, this is an activity best performed after a good feast and everyone's tummies are well-sated. Make sure that everyone has beverages to stay hydrated. Sometimes drum circles can take awhile before they are ready to settle down! If you are able to drum near a lake or other body of water, it can prove very inspiring. My favorite time to start is right at dusk, when the sun is turning the sky to magic time and the moon is on her rise. One year because of various planetary phenomena, the moon was a brilliant shade of pink that I don't believe that I have seen since.
I'm taking a break from my Jungian Pagan practice series to talk a little about Jungian terminology. Jung is one of the most used andabused thinkers in Pagan discourse. His concepts are frequently misunderstood, both by those who love him and those who hate him. Part of the confusion surrounding Jung is due to his choice of terminology. At times Jung could be very specific about what certain terms did and did not mean, and at other times he seemed to use terms in precisely the way that he said they should not be used. To make matters worse, Jung chose terms that -- at least when translated into English -- are commonly used to mean something very different than what he intended. I want to discuss five Jungian terms which are easily and commonly misunderstood: psychic, energy, self, individuation, symbol, and archetype. In this post, I will address the first two terms: "psychic" and "energy".
I must begin this article with a disclaimer. There have been entire books written on each of these ancient symbols, and I cannot presume to include all of the information, or all of the esoteric theories, in these few paragraphs. I propose here to discuss the one theme which they all share in common: each of these figures is a three-tiered representation of the levels of Creation.
1) The first figure is sometimes called the Star of David, but it is not exclusively Jewish; you will see it carved in Hindu temples and used by Rosicrucian alchemists. In actual fact it is not a "star" at all, but two interlacing triangles, one pointing up (symbolizing human aspirations toward the Divine) and the other pointing down (symbolizing the Divine's willingness to meet humankind half way). The space where they intersect indicates the creation of a third state: the moment when Divine Consciousness manifests in human flesh. This is the state of Grace. It is Enlightenment. It is Samadhi.
I am learning about using energy in ritual and magic. What is energy supposed to feel like? How do I know I’m doing it right?
Wiccans and Pagans often use the word “energy” to mean the power that emanates from living things, deity, the earth, or all three. Geek that I am, I have likened it more than once to the Force from Star Wars, “It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” I have also likened it to the “qi” or “chi,” the core principle of tai chi and Chinese medicine.
My previous post on connecting with Pagan Gods and Goddesses involved seeking to establish relationships with them by becoming involved in ritual Pagan practices where such events happen, and sometimes are even expected to happen. Having such experiences means our spiritual reality roots are directly into our own experience of the more-than-human as not only sacred but also willing to enter into explicit relationship with us. Such encounters are both wonderful and deeply transformative. They also upset our life plans in many cases, although in my experience leaving us ultimately better off than had such things not happened.