4/18/10

Stitches and witches, sew what?

Moon Phase: Waxing Blossom Moon (4 day old)
Moon Sign: Gemini
Weather: Seasonably mild, clear skies and light breezes from the west. Venus is quite brilliant.

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My silly attempts at punning aside, I have spent my time since my last post here engaged in a great deal of spinning, sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet. This is not idle behavior but rather closely tied to my efforts to regain my psychological and spiritual health. It may sound a little silly, but I am in effect adopting some of the idea of the Prayer Shawl Ministry into one of my projects.

J & J are two very dear friends of mine who have fallen onto hard times. The husband of this sweet couple (who are like family to my husband and I, the proverbial 'brother from another mother' kind of deal here) has had the misfortune to be in prison because of an unjust law and will remain there until 2013, unless the Gods are kind and some act has him released into his wife's loving arms and liberty before then, healthy and hale. As they struggle to achieve some level of normalcy in this situation and do their best to retain their dignity in what is a truly degrading and dehumanizing situation (an innocent man sent to prison is just terrible for all involved), I was at a loss for what to do to bring a measure of help and comfort to the wife of this couple. They had told us various things we could do, but it really felt paltry in the face of the enormity of this tragedy.

Then I remembered reading about the Prayer Shawl Ministry as I was looking up shawl patterns to make for myself. Instead of a shawl, however, I am making a blanket which they both can share. As I work on this blanket, it is not simply that the blanket itself is going to be stitched with love, compassion, and good wishes for them. For this blanket is being made from hand-spun yarn from myself and those who spin and are willing to donate. The yarn I have made, it is special because into the yarn itself is spun my intentions to express the love, support, and good wishes of my family for these two very dear people in our lives. It may be simplistic but sometimes, it is the simplest forms of magic that work the best.

My newest embroidery project is a sampler done in colors inspired by myself with stitches chosen as they occur to me. It is something of a self-portrait in fabric. It is not a very large sampler, but I am intending to do another and another as I progress forward in my counseling. While my painting has reflected the pain and sorrow of the past, my embroidery has shown the radiant core of joy, peace, and love that has always been within me, undaunted by the afflictions that I have experienced. I haven't yet decided on the motto I'm going to stitch on to this. I am debating between Love Conquers All (in Latin or English, I'm not fully committed yet) or All acts of Love and Pleasure. I am planning on making this little sampler into either a pillow or a rose scented sachet. Either way, it is going to be one of the first things I see in the morning and one of the last I see at night. A daily reminder of my strength and the various other wonderful qualities I have within me. My intent is for this to be a love-gift to myself, for Beloved has very wisely pointed out that I haven't done enough kind things like this for myself.

Similar to the crochet blanket I mentioned earlier, I am going to be piecing and sewing a pair of quilts. It was initially going to be three quilts, but the plans for that fizzled out fairly quickly. One quilt is going to be of a modest size and I plan for it to be finished by Yule, at the latest. It is for my brother's soon-to-be ex-wife. Just as the crochet blanket I am making for J & J is going to embody the love and care that I and my family hold for them, this will do so for a woman who has become my sister in name and deed. It may no longer be in name, but she will always be a sister to me and I shall always treasure her presence in my life. This will be a sampler quilt of a very traditional design, there by I hope to not only carry forward my own bit of skills but also the heritage of my family that my brother's disgraceful behavior failed to convey to his wife and children.

The second quilt is going to be large enough for a king-sized bed and it will be what is known by some as a 'double top' or a 'double patchwork' quilt. This is specifically for our dear friend who is in prison right now. One block is going to be made for each month of his sentence. The last six months of his term are going to be for piecing together the blocks, quilting, and finishing this. It will be made with my thoughts and prayers for him. Happy memories, hopes, and everything else that comes to mind as I meditate upon him while I sew is going to be part of this. If I can, I am going to try to get Beloved to do some stitches into this also.

This is what I am working on. By doing this, I not only have tangible evidence in my hands of how I can help others, my love for them, the relationships I am in, and of who I am, I also help to sow peace and love where there is fear and anxiety. Even only a small measure of that helps the world at large.

Spring is the season of growth, if the Gods smile on me, perhaps these seeds will grow and run rampant, crowding out the depression and other things that have served to oppress me and many others. For we are all most severely in need of it.

2/18/10

A season of preparation

There are several people I know who are not Catholic and they are practicing the annual observation of Lent with abstaining from something for the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. If you read some of the history surrounding Lent it becomes clear that the practice of fasting for 40 days is a point of much contention or if fasting was practiced at all by early Christians. With all of this historical uncertainty surrounding the practice, it leaves the question of why this season of fasting has persisted even into modern Catholicism.

Some of it could be light-heartedly ascribed to the same mentality that gives us the lightbulb joke that one of my Catholic friends told me:

Q: How many Catholics does it take to change a light-bulb?
A: Change! Catholics never change!

This, however, fails to recognize the value of this practice. Before I discuss this, however, I should point out two things about this practice. First, the word Lent comes from the Teutonic peoples who lived in central and eastern Europe. Originally, it simply meant early spring time. In early spring time, we find a practical reason for the fasting of Lent when we look back at the people it comes from. At this point, the weather is still cold and foreboding. The food stores gathered the year before are heavily depleted and the game which had been more plentiful earlier are now more scarce due to a combination of attrition related to the cold weather and relating to hunting. Here, fasting serves to conserve valuable food resources until the warmer weather of spring arrives to make food resources more plentiful.

Secondly, the role of fasting within any religion is fairly apparent. It serves a dual purpose. The first is to purify the body and the second is to induce a state of trance. It is a component in various religious rites all around the world from times in deep antiquity to today's melange of contemporary belief systems. In the structuralized setting of Lent, it serves not only to purify the body but also to guide the one engaged in the practice to a deeper understanding of their beliefs, often in a quasi-mystic sense. This, however, is frequently an unspoken thing in modern Catholicism due to various political factors that I am not going to discuss here.

Voluntarily surrendering something for the sake of focusing upon another is nothing new. In many ways, it can be a routine part of our day (like the diet to lose x number of pounds by summer). When a specific goal is held in mind, letting go of various things becomes easier. The practice of Lent serves to focus the Catholic upon their faith and what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. It is the same as the purpose of Ramadan in Islam, to help the practitioner of their faith to refocus upon their beliefs and what their role in the religion is.

Lent and Ramadan are both seasons of preparation. (Advent is supposed to be one as well but modern society has reduced it down to the annual shopping orgy that it's all but forgotten in a spiritual context.) Within the belief system of modern Witchcraft, there is no season of preparation. There is no season of preparation because we live suffused into the world with out a specific thing to prepare ourselves for, such as the return of a savior. This, however, does not mean that we should neglect our need to refocus ourselves and meditate upon our beliefs.

Farmers and gardeners use the early spring to prepare for planting. We witches would do well to follow that example. There are things that we all shall work towards over the coming seasons of growth. Let us take the time to plan for them and meditate upon how we wish to see ourselves spiritually develop and blossom over the coming year and what we wish to harvest as our accomplishments come Mabon. It will soon be time to begin planting, the Equinox always comes quickly.

1/24/10

Imboleg 2010: preparation

Moon: Waxing Ice Moon, sign of Taurus
Weather: Unseasonably warm, overcast, light rain and humid
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I think this year I am going to actually hold a small ritual for Imboleg and invite some folks from the coven that Rose was head of. I also think I am going to invite my sister-in-law and my aunt. I know it is this weekend, but I also know that the ritual does not need to be precisely on that day. I'm actually leaning towards the prospect of combining the ritual with a full moon observance. Saving the private observance of Imboleg for myself at home.

This year is going to be a year of changes. I can feel it coming. I think that we all need to get ready for the coming year and that the changes are going to be big enough that we need to sweep away the remnants of the past year. I am going to be a bit of a sassy thing and bring a little bit of the paganism with me to the game I'm attending this upcoming weekend. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think it really wouldn't be fair to everyone. So, I believe I'll just let it remain separate.

For the ritual, if I can manage it, I want to do a candle blessing and purification ritual. I don't know if this thaw is going to hold. If it does, however, I believe that I want to take the opportunity to burn slips of paper with the things we're purifying ourselves of. I also believe that I want to burn slips of paper with prayers for the new coming spring. I'm fairly sure that it will be a straight forward and simple thing. Some of the best magic, however, is the simplest.

Because Imboleg is deep winter's end, I want to reflect this. The last of my winter altar images are going to get put away. I believe that the altar 'furniture' is going to be rearranged somewhat as well, with a new altar cloth laid down. I think I'm going to replace the rose quartz sphere with the marble egg. I also believe that I'm going to replace the raw rose quartz piece sitting there with a clear quartz point. The stalks of wheat that are in the vase sitting on the altar in a position of honor are going to be replaced with a small pot of soil. I'm not fully decided on this. I may just let it stay until it...

Actually, I just figured out what I should do. I should take one of my small bowls that I use for offerings and put seeds in it. I'm going to need to think about what kind of seeds, but it'll make sense soon enough. The colors pink are frequently associated with this Sabbat because it's so close to Valentine's day. I don't know if I want to do that, though. I'm thinking something closer to a spring green. And I'm also thinking that it'd be more fitting to have a small pot of flowers rather then the seeds on the altar.

I don't know what'll be best. I suppose I am rambling, but I do know that enough time has passed that we really should do something. Rose would be heartbroken to see how the circle has fallen apart with out her.

Candle Magic for Healing

Moon: Waxing Ice Moon, sign of Taurus
Weather: Unseasonably warm, overcast, light rain and humid
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The link I have above is to a website that has done a fair amount of homework on this subject. They do a pretty good job of representing the 'standard' understanding of color associations for candle magic. I'm not going to write down the spell I used here because I have yet to write it into my Book of Shadows. Furthermore, it is more effective to make your own spell then to use one from someone else.

All of that said, I have a blue candle burning on my altar right now. It is infused with the oils of rose and chamomile. While the packaging for this candle says it is for positive energy, I'm not using it for that. The nice thing about candles in magic is that the people who sell them can suggest what you use them for but you ultimately decide how you use them. I could discuss that and ramble along on that topic for a while but that's not the objective with my post here.

I wanted to talk about healing magic and candle magic. Candle magic is something that works fairly quickly, in my opinion. If I wanted to do magic that manifest within a week or a few days, I get a candle that burns quickly and use it for this purpose. Candles that take longer to burn can equate to a longer time period until manifestation. That is, however, if you are keying your spell to the consumption of the candle. It is possible to focus the spell's manifestation on different elements of the use of the candle.

I have a big fat pillar candle on my altar. It is one that I burn when ever I am praying or meditating. It serves as a visual focus for me and as a representation of my offering to the Gods. Other candles have different purposes and my use of them reflects it. They all have the same basic function, which is to be a physical tie to what I am working to accomplish and a psychological key to help me enter the correct mindset to engage in the task I have. I like candle magic because even the act of lighting the candle helps to settle and focus me. It is a ritual all by itself.

Healing magic... Oh how much of a mixed blessing that is. On one hand, we like to think that healing magic makes us feel wonderful and somehow removes all ailments. It doesn't do that, however. Properly constructed healing magic works to help the subject reach the state that will be maximum health for them at that time. It doesn't specify that they are what is commonly understood as healthy. I've done healing magic that brought that result. I've also done healing magic that brought death. It was not my intent to bring death, but death was the healthiest state for the person to be in, for it released them from the great suffering that they were in.

Healing magic, like love magic, is a double edged sword. My blue candle is focused upon my psychological healing. Since I have put it on my altar and started burning it, it hasn't alleviated my flashbacks, night terrors, or the trembling fear that stalks my heart often these days. Instead, it has been forcing me to confront them by placing situations and events into play that serve either as a mirror or draws these buried things up into the light of my conscious mind. It is not comfortable, gentle, or anything even remotely resembling pleasant.

It is as difficult to heal as it is to be wounded. In many ways, I believe it is harder. I think this healing magic that I am working on is like calling in another pair of hands to assist me in forcing the infection out of a wound that had scabbed over. That other pair of hands won't shrink from something because it causes me discomfort. It is very, very hard to accept that magic works like this but when you do accept it, you become far more successful.

Right now, however, I look forward to when the pain eases back to more tolerable levels. I don't believe I'm going to cast anything to make this healing progress faster because these kinds of things, if they go quickly, seem to turn very, very ugly in the midst of moving rapidly before hitting that desired result.

1/11/10

St. Distaff Day?

Waning Snow Moon, Sagittarius
Cold but seasonal, light area wide snowfall, winds from the north-west
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In Medieval Europe, the day after the Feast of Epiphany was known as St. Distaff day. This was the day when women resumed household work and the holiday season ended. It was a day when pranks were played and men and women embraced the new year. I am not Christian by any stretch of the imagination but there's something to be noted about having a day where work of the home is celebrated.

On my little altar in the living room here, I have a little braided wrist distaff and my spinning materials are all about. I've been ill and much of the household orientation has been upended as a result. Instead of it being done by intention, it was by necessity that my husband took on the role of Mr. Mom for the last few weeks. To say the least, the children were a bit taken aback by the change in routine. In medieval households, such changes were light hearted and done with a sense of exuberance to brighten up the dull days of deep winter.

It was good to have the experience, I think both my husband and I learned a lot from it. I learned that I needed to step back and let him handle things when I can't do them. It's not easy to do that. He learned what I did everyday and the challenges and joys of it. I don't think he's laughed quite as much as he did last week at the antics of the boys in a long time at work. I may intentionally incorporate something like this into the observances of the year, this way we have reminders like this when we need them.

I'm also fairly certain that the little boys will make fine Lords of Misrule. They've got a good start on it as it is right now.