As an integral part of many people's lives across the world, religion naturally intersects with just about every other aspect of society: politics, entertainment, morality, law, etc. This week, for Faithful Friday, we take a look at some of the ways religion impacts our lives outside of purely denominational settings. Join us as we look at the politics of religion in the United States, the way in which religion (and other strong ideologies) affect scientific progress, and even how the popular sci-fi franchise Star Wars is impacted by religious values.
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
"A goddess!" I exclaimed, as I approached a large rounded feminine figure in the National Museum of Ethiopia.
"No!" A man's voice echoed throughout the room.
When he noticed people's glances upon him, the museum guide lowered his voice: "That piece is a very, very old", he said hesitantly. "It is pagan. She comes from the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group here in Ethiopia."
I could not peel my eyes off the figure. The unexpected discovery piqued my interest.
"Does she have a name?" I asked hopefully.
Instead of answering my question, the guide told me about Ethiopia's most famous woman:
Over the past few weeks I've been examining my practice with the Elements. It is one of the core pieces of magic I teach in the Reclaiming Tradition.I revisit this work every so often as a teacher and as a student. In my last two post I talked about my explorations with Air and my connections with Fire. Now it's time to dive into some deep Water.
Immersing myself in Water -...
Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltain, Litha, Lammas, Mabon--the eight points in the year that we stop and celebrate the seasons. In the six to eight weeks between each Sabbat, changes have been taking place--some so subtle that you might not be aware of them. The nights get longer--or shorter--by only a minute each day. The weather warms up, or cools down. One of the things that the Sabbats call us to do is to stop and look at the changes that have taken place. It's a time to regroup, reflect, and plan ahead. So in addition to the celebrations, family traditions and seasonal crafts, it's a good idea to spend some time grounding or balancing yourself to deal with the season that's coming up. It's not hard to do. It just takes a little time, a little quiet, and some concentration.
In about two and a half weeks we'll arrive at the Spring Equinox. It's time for those things that were stirring to life at Imbolc to "spring" up--thanks to a warmer environment and nurturing Spring rain. The element of water is considered by many people to be the mother of us all. Think about it. Life started in the sea. And what about you? You floated around in your mom's tum for months, breathing, eating, and growing in water. About 80% of the human body is made of water! People really feel it when water is missing in their lives. Periods without rain--droughts--can cause failed crops and wildfires (we've seen that in the past year in Australia, and over here in the state of California). But just like everything else, balance is essential. Too much water kills plants, animals and people. Flooded areas can breed danger and disease. Remember Hurricane Katrina? That happened several years ago, but the people of New Orleans are still recovering from an overdose of water....
What do they do in winter, the women of the waters? In our Land of Ten Thousand Iced-In Lakes, do they sleep burrowed deep like turtles or frogs? Do they dream in suspended animation, frozen in ice, like fish? Or do they slowly swim beneath the ice, haunting with their singing the fisherman in his lonely ice-house?
It seems as if everyone knows them: mermaids, nixies, necks, nereids, víly, rusalki, we call them. Every spring, every pond, every lake, has its own, they say, and some lakes many. Old in the land, the Anishinabe—known to the Cree, who spoke a related but unintelligible language, as Chippewa, “mutterers”—call them nebaunaubaequaewuk. Everyone agrees that their beauty is a dangerous beauty.
They take people, and children in particular; in our own day, people are taken. In summer they sing and dance, especially on nights when the full moon floats like a shining lily on every lake. Our attraction is a mutual attraction, and many stories tell of the handsome youth or maid who goes to live with them and is never seen again. Sometimes they marry humans, but such matings rarely end well. Although we reflect one another, in the end, the People of the Land and the People of the Waters are different peoples, other.
In today's Watery Wednesday we are concentrating on the Element of Water -- literally! A Viking-style burial at sea; bottled water and the California drought; coastal cities under threat due to sea-level rise; thirstiest plants; California water witches; and swimming the wild waters of New York City.
A recent Viking-style burial drew attention from Heathens and Pagans who'd like to do likewise. The Wild Hunt's Cara Schultz has the story.
Uh-oh. Many of the major bottle water companies are based in drought stricken parts of the country -- primarily in California. Check out the map (and the story) here....
We've all heard the advice about how to conserve water, especially during the summer months when drought and brush fires hit even the Pacific Northwest. Water conservation is incredibly important and intrinsic to all of life on this planet. For those of us who work with Water as a spiritual aspect of our paths, practicing water worship can sometimes leave one feeling guilty.
So, how do we honor Water without wasting it?
We start by honoring methods of conservation to preserve what is sacred. We also must be mindful as we perform rituals to use only as much as we need, and show our gratitude at every step.
These are a mix of familiar, practical ways of working with water, as well as spiritual ones.
1. Showering. If you're like me, stepping into a shower is invigorating, and if I'm not paying attention to my actions, or I'm not in a rush, I feel a strong urge to stay in the water and be embraced by its fluid arms. Thankfully, I spent a few of my formative years in California, where water conservation is drilled into the heads of middle schoolers several times a year. Unless you're especially dirty or have an illness that demands staying in the water longer, showers can be kept three minutes (my daily target) or up to five minutes in length.
When starting up the shower, it's recommended you collect the cool water in a bucket or bin while waiting for the water to get hot, and while it's great on a garden or to water your plants, it's also excellent for any divination work, blessings, or other water work you're planning on doing that day.
2. Baths. Whether you clean or just soak in a bath, make it count. Plug up the drain as soon as you start, turning on the hot water only until it gets hot, then begin to adjust the cold water. If it's too hot, turn down the hot water rather than turn up the cold. Fill the tub only to the amount you need. Use this time in a tub to meditate, cast spells based on water, or give thanks to the water beings, gods, or goddesses with whom you manifest intention. A bath oil at the end of the bath will help seal in the water you've enjoyed, and continue its blessings.
I use my bath soaks primarily for self-healing work. I add epsom salts, herbs, or oils depending on what I need. Mugwort, steeped as a tea for two hours ahead of time, is an excellent addition for women needing to balance their hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. It's very cleansing, and if you have tea left over, it's good for a once-a-month lucid dreaming session when drunk at night. For women needing an after birth soak, or if you're a person who suffers from cysts or tears in your pelvic floor, a postpartum sitz herbal bath* is incredibly beneficial. When healing in the tub, I ground, open chakras, and then perform Reiki on the affected areas that need the most healing.
3. Kitchen Rituals. The water you drink each day is a blessing in itself. Before taking the first sip of each glass, take a moment to thank the water and to put into it the intentions for healing, continued health, or ritual. I recommend avoiding bottled water, as its production and consumption wastes water, harms global and local ecologies, and often harms the people living near bottled water plants by destroying local aquifers. If you find your tap water unpalatable, add a filter to your faucet, keep a water filtration pitcher (add mineral rocks for an extra boost), or add fresh fruit and herbs** to your water pitcher for a hint of flavor.
Any kitchen witchery that uses water from boiling to washing should employ basic conservation methods: save water after straining, left over teas, etc. for watering plants. If your ritual or meal left a bath of broth, freeze it for soup or reduce into a magical sauce. (Don't forget to sing while you cook!) The glass of water in the image was used to water my indoor plants after its intended use; remember to give back to the earth or a nearby stream as often as you're able.
When cleaning your ritual tools, set aside a bin or half sink for soaking, to minimize water waste.
4. Gardening. From shower and kitchen come rich water that can be used to tend your garden. Pay attention to what might have mixed into the water in question and use where most beneficial: you don't want to use a broth that came from peppers in the same soil where you're growing them! Also, save your cooking water for outdoors, or you might have odors you didn't expect. Your shower water is better for indoor plants.
If you have an outdoor garden and can afford either the cost or the energy to install a gray water system, such as a reed pond, you can create a luscious place for meditation and ritual while making the most of your water and attracting beneficial wildlife (here, froggy, froggy!).
Another wonderful feature to include in any witch's garden is a rain barrel both for irrigating medicinal herbs and casting late night spells. A splash of captured rain water on your feet as blessing or into the soil where you've planted a fertility talisman is perfectly safe. Just be certain you use potable water for any portions of your ritual that require drinking.
5. Community Involvement. Whether you're a solo practitioner or part of a group or coven, show Water you're dedicated by taking part in community conservation efforts. Reach out to stewardship groups, societies for the conservation of a given body of water, or watershed protection groups.^ Many of these groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to help clean or maintain local bodies of water. If your local watershed is being threatened by a company, talk to your representative about stopping or constraining harmful practices.
Take time to both offer prayers and blessings to your favorite ocean, pond, lake, or river, while also picking up garbage along the water's edge. Get others involved in your efforts, and you can begin and end each volunteer session with a call to Spirit, a prayer, or a sung blessing (you might even dive right in, if the day's warm enough).
Water provides us with life, take care of it, bless it, and it will bless you right back. Don't forget to go for a swim!
*Use a premixed blend of sitz bath herbs, or make your own using 1/4 cup each of comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, red raspberry leaf, yarrow flower, calendula flower, sheperd's purse, uva ursi (a.k.a. bearberry) leaf, and epsom salts. Steep for thirty minutes in boiled water, and add to a shallow bath.
**Making my own fruit waters has made summer more enjoyable. Some of my family's favorite blends are: blackberry with sage, raspberry with mint, blueberry with peach, cucumber with lemon slices, strawberry with nasturtiums, and orange with lime slices.
^There are a host of non-profits working both on local and national levels to conserve waterways. Those I love most in Washington include Stewardship Partners, People of Puget Sound, and Water Tenders.