12/30/07

Secular New Year vs. Samhain, Witch's New Year

Oak Moon
Waning (age: 20 days), in Virgo
Weather: mild, low clouds, expecting some rain or snow

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For many witches, Samhain (Oct. 31, also known as Holloween here in the US) is the beginning of the new sacred year. Much like the Jewish Rosh Hashanah, Samhain is a time for one to focus upon the past year and introspection, as well as making plans for the new year. While in the Jewish tradition, work is prohibited and attendance at temple, with contemplation of the liturgical texts appropriate to the holy day is required, it is a bit different in witchcraft.

Yes, many witches hold circles and will engage in boisterous celebrations. Some will hold somber rememberances for the dead and others will engage in the merriment that overtakes the rest of the community in a glut of candy, chocolate, and hijinks, Samhain can have many different ways it is celebrated. Within my tradition, Samhain is both a time for merriment and a time for preparation.

A long, long time ago, Samhain was approximately during the time of the last major harvest of the year and the culling of the herds. This time was a time of mixed emotions because the approaching winter brought great apprehension even as there was joy that the labors of the year were nearly over. This time of mixed emotions does persist into the modern era, though it doesn't fall on Samhain as frequently now.

Now, the date of Dec. 31st is the one where we culturally have our time of merriment and apprehension. We bid the old year good bye, celebrate the coming year, and find ourselves plagued by the uncertianty of the coming year, in addition to being troubled by lingering fears of the past year.

Here, on the verge of the secular New Year, I realize that Samhain has come to me late this year. It fell on the secular New Year, rather then the Witch's New Year. I find myself relieved that the burdens of the past 12 months are finally passing, but I am also concerned for the burdens that will persist as well. I am filled with deep and speechless joy, gratitude, and wonder for all of the special and truly amazing things that has happened this year, such as the birth of my son. I feel hope for the coming year and also anxiety.

In this, I realize that I must bid the year good bye in a way that banishes the past fears and plans for the coming year. At Samhain and at the secular New Year, many people light bonfires. These fires are lit generally for the pure pyromaniac joy of watching something burn. Oh sure, many people talk about how these fires are symbolically bringing in the warmth of the summer or some such rot like that. But let's be honest, 99% of the people who light fires on New Years and Samhain are doing so because the fire looks cool. Not saying that symbolisim is bad, but there is such a thing as reading far too much into something.

That rant aside, I believe that I'm going to do some variation (obviously much smaller) of a bonfire. It may only be a candle, but this flame will be used to symbolically consume the old year's dross. I think I may also do a little ritual to reinforce my goals of the next year in addition to this, I haven't decided yet. But I recognize that I need to do this, which brings me back to what I wanted to say earlier but I think I did a terrible job of doing.

It is important to take at least one day out of the year for us to recognize where we have been and where we'd like to go. This is what the holy day of Samhain is for in my tradition and the way that I try to view the secular New Year as well.

12/20/07

Crisis of Faith Redux

Oak Moon
Phase: First Quarter (Waxing Gibbious, age:10 days)
Position: Taurus
Weather: Seasonably cool, mild warming trend bringing temps to slightly above freezing, high thin clouds, light precipitation, minimal wind

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I've been having an old dream again. It's not exactly a nightmare, though it does have many of the elements of my nightmares in it. Usually, I do fairly well interpreting my own dreams. This one, however, has had me stumped for quite some time. I asked a friend of mine to take a shot at interpreting it and he suggested that it was indicating that I was experiencing some type of a crisis of faith.

That discussion happened a few days ago. As I have been trying to puzzle it out, because it does make sense for some reason that I wasn't able to define, I've been struggling with the pulls between the demands of being a new mother, a housewife, and a businesswoman. In all of this, I've been failing to place sufficient emphasis on my spirituality. Indeed, I've been stretched out too thin and spending more time spinning my wheels rather then doing all of them with the measure of success I could be doing.

I've been treated for postpartum depression. They were talking about having me on anti-depressants for at least a year. I recall how anti-depressants play with me after a while and the risks of dependence upon those things is high enough to make me uneasy. I've weaned myself off of them and am doing alot better then I was when I was diagnosed with the postpartum depression. Now, it's just feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I can't use postpartum depression as an excuse for my shortcomings. That problem has been resolved, even if the others around me choose to disagree with me on it.

No, I think I have figured out where that crisis of faith is. It's not in the sense of what religion I practice. It's not exactly that kind of crisis of faith, so much as it is a crisis of faith in my self. It's a realization that has me looking at everything that's been overwhelming me with a new perspective. It has forced me to admit that I've been afraid that I can't do all this at once. Looking back over the last several months, however, that is what I have been doing. I may not have been doing it well, but I have been managing a juggling act of a fairly large proportion well enough that my home is not a pigsty, dinner is usually on the table at a reasonable hour, my family is generally happy and healthy.

And this has been in the face of my problems with postpartum depression and feelings of inadequacy. The postpartum depression didn't cause those feelings, though I'm sure some one reading this may decide to suggest that. No, it served to make me aware of it. Much like the difficulties I had in my pregnancy served to make me aware that I need to be more compassionate towards myself and take better care of my health. These things are fairly gentle wake-up calls from the Universe.

I know what practical things I need to do to get all of this anxiety under control. I also know what I need to do to find the root of the problem and resolve it. I may not like doing these things, but they are part of the reason why I began practicing witchcraft and the reason why I returned to it. As such, I suppose Samhain came late for me this year, falling closer to the secular new year then the witch's new year. Such is life, though.

12/18/07

A Yule Meditation

Oak Moon
Phase: Waxing Crescent (in the sign Pisces, 8 days old)
Weather: Seasonably cold, high thin clouds and occasional lake effect flurries
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This is reposted from another blog of mine, it was originally posted yesterday, hence the above notation reflects this.
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Soon, it will be Yule. Some people think of this season as a depressing time of year and others think of it as a joyous one because of all the boisterous holiday celebrations that surround us. Having been raised on a farm, I found that the winter was a time of rest and preparation. We took time to make plans for the spring planting and to relax with family.

The rush and effort of the harvest behind us, we had some time to enjoy the fruits of our labors and to engage in more indoor persuits. My father spent a good amount of the time, when I was a girl, doing things like making models with my brothers and I. He worked at the food processing factory across the county, but when he was needed on the farm his work day didn't end until late at night. In the winter, however, he didn't need to trouble himself with worry if a tractor needed some repairs or if the hay baler needed more wire.

Then, we spent time doing things like stargazing in the icy cold nights and having snowball fights on saturday afternoons. Intermixed with the happy memories of my early childhood, I have more sorrowful ones. Such as the last christmas with my great-grandmother Hazel, whom I adored, and how she didn't recognize me. Or the winter that I was repeatedly abused by a boyfriend I had in highschool, to the extent where I found myself in fear for my life on a semi-regular basis.

Here, as I find myself on the threshold of midwinter, I can not help but feel thankful for all of those experiences that have lead up to where I am today. Some will burn in my memory as bright flames of joy, like the rush of excitement I felt when I saw Halley's Comet thru my grandfather's old telescope one December night many years ago, and others will be pangs of sorrow, like the memory of that batch of butterscotch great-grandma Hazel and I shared after my 3rd grade christmas concert.

Winter is a time for us to slow down, to turn inward and take stock of where we are and where we'd like to be. Just as we may plan out the flowerbeds or the vegetable patch for next spring's planting, we can plan out where we want to be come next winter. And in all of it, remember, it is good. We've all worked hard to be where we are, even if it didn't feel like it. And we are all wonderful people, so that work has borne good fruit.

12/15/07

Dreams

Oak Moon
Phase: Waxing crescent (age - 5 days)
Sign: Pisces

Weather: seasonably cold, high cirrus clouds, no precipitation and little wind.

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At one point, I had taught a dream interpretation class. This was a few years ago and many people felt that it was quite helpful to them. It is ironic, then, that I have a difficult time interpreting my own dreams. I generally don't worry too much about that minor glitch, I figure if I'm one of the lucky few who can actually read their tarot cards for themselves, then I shouldn't feel too badly about difficulty interpreting my own dreams. Even so, I admit I feel a great deal of fustration.

Recently, I have been having an old dream reoccur on a somewhat regular basis. A few weeks of insomnia concluded with this dream returning to me. Now, it's been a few nights of my having this dream and it's beginning to bug me. I know there is a message buried in it, and I suspect that my friend who helped me out some with interpreting it is right.

Perhaps this dream is indicating that I have some form of a spiritual conflict that I'm struggling with. It relates, I think, back to a few other conflicts that I've been struggling with that, ironically, deal with some dreams of mine.

With the birth of my son, one of my greatest dreams has been fulfilled. I am a mother. It is a blessing that I had yearned to have for a long time. With my marriage to my husband, another one of my dreams for my life has been fulfilled. The same is true with the completion of college a few years ago. Now, I find myself in a very uncomfortable position.

There are elements of past dreams that I have abandoned all around me. My dream of being a novelist rests on a small pile of floppy disks, a file folder of research, and three different versions of a manuscript. My dream of being a teacher is bound up neatly into a portfolio collecting dust on a shelf next to one of the versions of my novel manuscript. My dream of being a spiritual leader and teacher is scattered about with my different divination tools, books, and related items thru out my home. And there is some other thing that ties these different threads together that I feel present but I am afraid of.

My spirituality has been a very important part of my life. It is what has guided me and prompted me to take stock of the importance of my nightly dreams. They are messages to me from my soul's deepest recesses. Now, I find that I am struggling with a deep fear of a dream that I never felt worthy of. Even as I struggle with it, there is something pulling me forward. I can fight it, or I can swallow my fear and move forward on my own.

Either way, I believe the answer lies in my dreams.

12/2/07

Preparation for Yule

Snow Moon
- Phase: Waning
- Position: Virgo

Weather: cold, cloudy, freezing rain immanent;
currently winter-storm warnings in effect

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Today is the first day of the Christian season of Advent. They prepare themselves for the Second Coming of Christ and the celebration of His Nativity, Christmas.

Today is also a part of the wildly insane holiday shopping season. A gross orgy of consumerism and surfeit that makes the sweet tooth of the secular celebration of Holloween look ascetic. To say that I am repulsed by the secular celebrations of the season is to be committing a great understatement. I loathe and abhor the vast majority of the secular celebrations of this time of year and of several other holidays. It is not because it is a subtle programme of state sponsored conversion taictics (as some of the neophytes around would have you think) or because it is some deeply buried secret wish that people would celebrate the birth of Jesus (as some of my detractors may try to convince you).

No, my repulsion of the holiday season (because let's be honest, they don't call it the holiday shopping season, do they?), is because it encourages people to denegrate others for the sake of their immediate gain. Objectification is the problem, to be precise. I have an infant son whom I do not want to believe that there is any time of year that it is permissible to reduce other people to mere objects, playthings that should accord themselves to his whims. The message of this season, unfortunately, is just that.

"Oh, you're being a Scrooge!" some may cry, but I ask if I truly am? Let's take a step back and look at what we are inundated with starting as early as midsummer. (Yes, you did read that right, Midsummer! Some of the stores in my area were in the process of setting up their Christmas displays in July.) Many, many messages are imparted that if we are to show our affection it must be done with things. Our degree of affection shown is gaged by the expense, trendiness, and generally approved societal value of the object.

Men are exhorted to give their wives and female signifigant others exorbitantly expensive jewelry from the "right" stores. Women are chided to give the men in their lives insanely expensive televisions, new tools, and similar gender "appropriate" gifts. Parents and all adults are functionally ordered to purchase for their children every and any toy on the market for their age group and the latest cell phone/gadget produced this month. People are told to remodel their homes, refurnish the living room in the latest styles, and generally remake themselves into the season's latest image. All for the sake of showing affection in the correct way and to present the correct face to society for the holiday season.

Now, some may ask where the problem lies in all of this. We can all refuse to engage in these ludicrous acts of wanton financial suicide. We, however, are told subtly that we're not good enough if we don't enter into these foolish acts. We are told that we are not valued if the people around us don't engage in this ritualized stupidity. And children are repeatedly told that they are of lower status and value if they are not catered to and given all they desire. Why are we told these things, because of the subtle whisper of what is not said, but implied in all of these ads.

This is what repulses me of this time of year.

So, as I prepare for Yule, I intend to steel my heart against this onslaught. And in such, be annealed and strengthened against future efforts to strip my value by the words of others.

Housekeeping and such.

Well, for those of you who may be looking for my other blogs relating to the Sapience Ring, they are no longer available.

As the Sapience Ring group is now inactive, these blogs are no longer required. The materials taht were published on them are available via email at request. I will be updating the forpat of this blog and posting some new information.

Past entries will remain as they currently are, but future posts will resemble the format that I use for entries in my own journals. If this format is difficult to follow, please let me know. I'm trying to make this as easy to read and update as possible.

Sorry if I have caused any inconvenience and thank you for reading!