3/25/12

Pagan Blog Project: F - Focus

It may seem a little odd that I am writing about focus or the ability to concentrate intently but it is a really important aspect of my practices. And I believe wholeheartedly that it should be part of the discussion of rituals and all spell craft. It is, as I understand it, part of the fundamental skill set for successful religious practice, regardless of any religion practiced.

I have encountered a lot of neophyte witches and seekers who are very unfocused. They want to learn but are overwhelmed by what is available to them. I have a good friend who is in many ways struggling with this. (Yes, I'm talking about you Teal. :D) It is very important to be able to sit down and concentrate on something that you are working on.

This is seen in education, professional sports, and everything inbetween. In the sphere of the matter of religion, our ability to focus helps us considerably when we go to pray. Prayer has become something of an object of study for me recently. I have been undergoing some learning experiences and finding that my own ability to focus my mind leaves room for improvement. This, however, does not disqualify me from exhorting others to engage in the same work.

Indeed, I suspect it makes me especially well qualified for this discussion. Academics have their own set of exercises to help us learn to control our minds. Different spiritual practices have different techniques for focusing one's thoughts upon points of contemplation. We, as witches and pagans, should devise our own. While there is no harm in using the techniques that have been successful for others, establishing our own set of practices helps to tailor them to our unique needs.

In a perfect world, I think that all religions would have someone available to teach its members how to pray, how to meditate, how to contemplate, and how to step aside and leave matters in the care of the Divine. Sadly, most of us are stumbling around and groping in the proverbial dark to find our way to wisdom. Experience has shown me time and again, that one of the light switches that helps us illuminate our ignorance and reveal the truths buried beneath it is our ability to focus our minds.

That, however, is my opinion.

3/20/12

Blogs of interest

Waning Sap Moon (Age: 27 days)
Sign: Pisces
Weather: Fair skies & unseasonably warm
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I'm starting a list of blogs that I follow in case anyone who reads this wants to know who's work I am reading currently. If your blog is on the list and you want it taken off, let me know. This post will be getting updated as I add other blogs to the list.

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Witchin' in the Kitchen
(who has a pashmina give away going on, so go check it out!)

The Fruit of Pain

Looking Up at the Clouds

Tealights in the Dark
(who I really hope will be updating soon, I really enjoy their writing style)

The Iconoclastic Domina

Loki's Bruid

Gangleri's Grove
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I'll be adding more as I encounter them upon the interwebz.

3/18/12

Pagan Blog Project: F - Flamehair

Hail Flamehair!

Some people don't give you enough credit. You are the embodiment of entropy. People like to say that you're 'just chaos' and fail to consider the fact that with out chaos the universe would not exist.

There's a lot more to you then that, but this is all I can think of right now. My children have rather sapped my brain.

3/10/12

Pagan Blog Project: E - Elves

Waning Gibbous Sap Moon (Age: 17 days)
Sign: Libra
Weather: Clear, seasonable & light breeze from the west
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Ah, elves. Also known as fairies, the good folk, the fair ones, and pixies (to name a few). These nature spirits are known throughout the world by different names and are of as wide of a range of personalities as people. Most of the people that I know who are not pagan tend to view elves as the quaint diminutive servants of Santa Claus. Others who are a bit more bookish will think of Tolkien's elves. If I'm lucky, I run into some folks who are mythology geeks and are familiar with some of the old stories about these interesting spirits. (Alas, I am not as lucky as I wish to be on that front.)

My approach to elves is colored by my spiritual education. I was weaned on the myths of the Nordic people, predominantly those surrounding the Aseir and Jotuns. Usually, the Aseir were presented as the good guys and the Jotuns as the bad guys. Aside from this, we had the stories of the brownies and similar spirits from the British Isles thrown in for good measure. It made for an interesting hodge podge, especially when a dollop of Iriquoi mythology got thrown in.

I approach the elves with caution. The spirits of the land and that which lives upon it can be fickle. They are reluctant to deal with humanity because we have moved our awareness away from being in tune with nature. When you happen to begin interacting with them, strange things start to become common place. Things randomly going missing and then reappearing in odd places becomes normal. Gifts appearing on your doorstep or somewhere else that you regularly frequent, such as the perfect crow's feather or a stone that sits just right in your hand, starts to happen as you pay more attention to the care of the flora and fauna about your home.

As I said at the beginning of that last statement, I approach them with caution. I have no doubt in my mind that these spirits are powerful and have the ability to bless us or curse. I have seen what has come from being on the good side of these ancient beings and what has come from being on the receiving end of their ire. People who are loved by the fair ones seem to have a magic touch with plants and good luck. Those who are scorned watch as their very efforts to coax anything to grow wither on the vine, as though the plant itself has refused that incarnation. Bad luck plagues them and, for the truly despised, it can even manifest as a measure of illness.

The old stories speak of one being 'elf shot' when they are ill for no apparent reason and fail to recover until they have appeased the angry fae. I do not think these are just stories of illnesses that are poorly understood. I believe that buried among those stories of illnesses that were misunderstood there are accurate accounts of people who have been some how cursed by the fair ones. Given that there seem to be more accounts of people who have some how angered the fair folk then of people who have been some how blessed by them, I suspect that the fair ones are not as prone to tolerating human nonsense as certain Victorian authors would have us believe.

Do I have a relationship with the fae? Yes and I work very hard to make sure it is a good one. In part because I value their friendship and have found their company pleasant. The fae are very wise and can teach us a great deal if we are truly willing to learn from them. And, I admit, a fair dose of superstition has me cautious in my dealings with them. That, however, is part of how I was raised to approach them.

Our cultural background colors a great deal of how we interact with the local nature spirits. Some people talk of how hobgoblins and nixies seemed to have emigrated with the Scots, or other spirits with different nationalities. I'm not sure if it is because some truly did emigrate with families or if that was how those people understood the spirits they encountered.

3/6/12

Hail Flame Hair! Hail Scar Lip! Hail Loki!

Waxing (almost full :D ) Sap Moon (Age: 12 days)
Sign: Leo (soon to be void of course)
Weather: fair skies, mild
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I am positively giddy right now. After several days of spinning my wheels on what to do in contacting Loki, some excellent advice/instruction from ArtCat, and my picking up the pen again in His honor, Loki gave me a distinct message today.

He told me he wanted some cheap whiskey and onion rings. I don't claim to understand that but I am thrilled. I had missed his snarky comments and droll observations about things in my life. It was a palpable ache and rather distressing. It was, in short, excruciating.

Throw on top of that I had been having a bad couple of days in the more mundane sense, I was rather miserable. So, upon ArtCat's advice, I had taken up the pen and started writing in the devotional journal that I started a few months ago at Lopt's urging. I let my ego get in the way of that work. As ArtCat so excellently pointed out, I fell into the trap of treating Loki like Odin. As a result, I got the silent treatment.

As I was writing in the journal, I suddenly found Loki at my side. He was looking at me with a mildly exasperated look when I paused and muttered that I didn't like what I was writing. I then sighed and reminded myself that criticism such as that is more like Odin then Loki and I need to be more tolerant of myself. I actually said out loud "Stop thinking like Odin."

Loki laughed at that. All out belly laugh. I didn't think I was being hilarious but everyone tells me that when I'm exasperated, especially with myself, I am drop dead funny. Scar Lip seemed to think so. He then told me to write what he said. It was an odd experience to write out both sides of a conversation with him. I'm so used to just talking to him.

Flame Hair (who just giggled at my typo of 'Flamer,' I think he may not be sober right now, I honestly don't know) said that I needed to have reminders of our conversations. I guess that's what I'll be writing down in the journal for now. I've decided to stop trying to fight it. I'll just write what ever he puts in my head.

I still feel really self conscious that he wants me to write about the ugly things in my past. That, of course, is why he wants me to write it. He still wants me to get to know Sygyn. He insists it is good for me to know her. Loki really wants me to get past my fear and I think it's really great that I've got his support. (Who can't argue that you've got a really awesome supporter when a deity is in your cheering section? Certainly not I.)

It's funny in that unfunny way that he's being so patient with me as I try to sort out the psychological baggage and trauma. I get the distinct impression that he is, to some extent, handling me with kid gloves. I feel a bit embarrassed by it. He, however, doesn't care if I'm embarrassed or not. Loki does what Loki does, damn who ever the hell gets in his way. So, when I go 'but I feel stupid' he gives me a pat on the head and a look like what you give a child who so totally doesn't have a clue and are really struggling in their efforts to understand.

Did I mention this is a hit to the ego? Yeah, he kinda laughs at that too. Tells me that I'm not some scary monster and to stop feeling like I am. It gets awkward at times. When the Father of Monsters tells you that you're not a monster... you wonder is it a compliment, rebuke, or statement of fact. Given that I'm getting an annoyed look right now, I'm guessing it's a statement of fact.

Ah well, somedays I guess I'm more dense then I am on others. Still, Loki is talking to me again!

3/3/12

Psychology vs faith (aka i hate c-PTSD)

Waxing Sap Moon (Age: 9 days)
Sign: Cancer
Weather: Clear, cold & windy
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I sit here at the keyboard chilled in body and mind. The shawl I am wearing may warm me up physically but this psychological chill is harder to shake. I live with a myriad of psychological disorders. Until recently, it seems like they didn't have much of an impact on my faith and how I expressed it. Now that I sit and look at it, however, I must admit that they have run roughshod over an enormous part of my expression and put limitations on how I experience my faith.

For the longest time, the experience of a maternal Goddess was infrequent for me. Not because the Goddess wasn't maternal. It was because I tended to shut down when it happened. I dissociated, at best, or I panicked. Now this has spread to my relationship with Loki. This is very upsetting for me.

Loki is a father figure for me. He's a friend and close companion. To have it happen where I can't cut through the panic to hear his reply when I pray, it scares me. My spirit guides tell me that this is normal for someone who has borne as much trauma as I have. They tell me that this is temporary and it will be relieved soon.

One of the last messages that came clearly from Loki was that I should find someone to act as his mouthpiece. A person to facilitate a conversation between him and I. At the time, I said 'ok.' and then put it on the mental back burner because I was eyeball deep in nonsense with other matters. Now, I sit here and I realize that directive was in preparation for this time.

I don't know how long this is going to be. I hope it'll be only a few days. I didn't realize how much I bantered with him and I had come to depend upon his input until just now. He said it was to be for a conversation. I feel a significant amount of dread right now. I'm fearful that I am going to discover that the Loki I speak to in that conversation is going to be very different from the sarcastic, smartass and sincere Loki that I've come to know. That what I have experienced is not Loki but rather what I wished for Loki to be.

I hate this.

Pagan Blog Project: E - Epiphany

Waxing Sap Moon (Age: 9 days)
Sign: Cancer
Weather: Clear, cold & windy
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Epiphany is such a delicious word. It is not only the name of a high feast day in the Christian religion, but also the word we use for sudden intuitive understanding. It also is used to denote a manifestation of some sort, most frequently with respect to deity. When I think of this word, I smile. It just rolls off the tongue like a song, in my opinion.

It was an epiphany that lead me to where I am today. Sudden intuitive understanding that I could be far healthier and happier then I ever had been in the past set me on the course of healing the psychological traumas in my past. Visionary trances and similar experiences have happened to me and directed me in my expressions of faith. It is something that I think of and smile.

It is a beautiful experience that I sincerely hope that others may have as well. I can not think of anything more wonderful then a direct experience of the love of one's deity of choice. Every single vision that I have had relating to the gods has been an expression of that love. It is incredibly humbling. It is also so wonderfully beautiful that it literally moves me to tears.

After having the challenges of life leave me jaded, this infusion of wonder is like watching the first buds of green springing up from the earth. It is like the sweet smell of the sap running in the maple tree out in my front yard. It gives me a fresh breath of life and reminds me of all the wonder that is awaiting me.

3/2/12

Domestic Goddess & I

Waxing Sap Moon (Age: 8 days)
Sign: Cancer
Weather: Overcast, warm, high winds expected
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Over the last several days, I have been contemplating the idea of the Goddess as a domestic figure. Images throughout history have shown goddess figures engaged in domestic tasks. Indeed it was part of the mythology of the world's cultures to have goddesses who specialized in such things.

With the advent of Christianity, the Blessed Virgin Mary took up the cause of domestic cares in her iconography. Various saints have been ascribed to watch over everything ranging from weaving to house cleaning. Domesticity is nothing new in faith of any sort.

Indeed many images modern such as the one above from Eric Gill and in antiquity have shown this. It is a curious thing, then, that I haven't taken such an idea as a 'domestic Goddess' and incorporated it into the worldview that I work with. As I have made progress in my efforts to recover from psychological trauma, I am discovering aspects of the Goddess that I have neglected to consider in my efforts to flee from those aspects in myself.

It was a rather upsetting realization. I am learning, however, that the Goddess is not troubled by such things. As I learn to connect with her again on an intimate level, I am finding that I feel a strong pull to embrace images such as those of the knitting Madonna and such. It has been a learning experience.

I am finding that such images are becoming foci for meditation. And with meditation upon them, I am discovering aspects of myself that are intimately twined with them. It is as though I have opened Pandora's box to discover that instead of the fabled plagues and evils of the world, it contains treasures and great blessings. So, I am striving to keep the domestic aspect of the Goddess at the forefront of my mind.

It is for this reason why I keep my little wrist distaff and a spindle on my altar. It reminds me of her. It is also part of the reason why I am looking to incorporate a Goddess image into the decor of my kitchen. This way I can look and be reminded of her presence everywhere, including in myself.