no longer bearing children
I am pregnant with myself
ripe with potential,
I incubate my dreams
and give birth to my vision...
As 2013 was winding down, I put out a call for indebted Pagans who would be willing to be interviewed as I began exploring our relationship with debt. One brave Heathen, Melanie Swaim, was willing to do so, and the post I wrote after we talked blew the doors off the Witches and Pagans Facebook page, garnering (at last count) 1,137 likes and 162 comments. I'm told it was, to date, the most liked post on the page for this site. That deserves some serious unpacking.
First things first: I took one idea from the many which came out of my conversation with Ms Swaim, and ran with it: that she had to seek out guidance and support for her financial challenges in a religious community other than her own, because hers does not have that type of infrastructure. To be clear, I interpreted this is simply an observable fact, not an incrimination of Heathens in any way. Most, if not all, Pagan religions have a fierce independent streak running through them. Anecdotally, it seems that individual responsibility is a more important value across Paganism than even community.
Developing institutions in Paganism, financial or otherwise, is going to run into conflict with these dearly-held values. Add to that the very small number of people in Paganism as a whole (and the smaller numbers practicing any particular faith in the community), and it's not surprising that the organizational maturity isn't quite there to develop safety nets for each other yet....
Some days you just can’t see the light even if it was shining right in your eyes. I try to remind myself on those days to think positive, to find the positive in everything I see, hear and feel. It doesn’t always work. Some days I can feel myself sinking, deeper and deeper into a black hole.
During those times, I try to remind myself to stand back and look logically at why I’m sinking. Is it so horrible if I just accept the blackness and let it envelop me? Sometimes it’s not as long as my thoughts contain no harm or maliciousness....
AP: Geneva, Switzerland
In a surprise ruling Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave its unanimous approval to Paganistan’s petition that its athletes be permitted to participate naked. “This ruling will no doubt be highly unpopular in some circles,” said Bruner Soderberg, IOC chair pro tem. “But the IOC charter is quite clear on the matter. If some countries can require their athletes to compete with limbs fully covered—not to mention with headscarves—then the athletes of Paganistan have an equivalent right to their own national traditions.”
Paganistani sprinter and 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Aspen Moore said: “It’s something to celebrate, a return to the original Olympic ideal. Any runner can tell you that clothing constricts your movement and slows you down.” As expected, the ruling has created a stir among certain socially conservative countries. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have lodged protests with the IOC, but have yet to threaten withdrawal from the 2020 Games.
In the Pythagorean system of numerology, each letter of the alphabet is assigned a number 1 through 9. The numerology grid of the Pythagorean system is pictured above.
This winter has been a harsh one thus far, to say the least. Rather than resist it, the best tactic for coping might in fact be facing it head on. Provided that February 2 does not fall into dangerous windchill temps in your neck of the woods, I recommend a meditation by skiing. Cross-country, that is. I will never forget the Saturday afternoon back in high school that I cross-country skied to my best friend's house across a barren cornfield. The weather conditions were ideal. The sun was out and making the snow on the ground glisten. It was warm enough that I could eventually unbutton my long overcoat. I was listening to Pink Floyd's, "Dark Side of the Moon," on my walkman. If that dates me, I don't care. The experience was paradisiacal.
Even if you don't own a pair of skis, there are usually inexpensive options for a daily rent at a supply shop. Or if you are a member of a nature center, such as the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, you may check out a pair for free with your membership. Find your ideal deserted woodsy setting– preferably something straight out of a Robert Frost poem, and get skiing. If you opt for music, your really can't go wrong with the afore-mentioned Pink Floyd. Otherwise, choose something instrumental and soothing that you can clear your mind to. Karen Drucker also has some lovely selections off of her "Songs of the Spirit" CD that could help focus your meditation to the Goddess. Besides clearing your mind and enlivening your soul, your body will get a great workout. If opting for no music, tune into the sounds of wildlife creatures, the swish swish of your skis gliding along at a steady pace, and the occasional soft plump of falling or melting snow. Breathe in deep and let the fresh, clean air open up your lungs. Let the gratitude of being healthy, outside, and able to still enjoy these things fill your heart....
"Only the gods are without flaw. All one can ask of a man
is that he do more good than ill, and no ill willingly."
Deep Winter here, and as one does, I dream of Spring.
According to Classicist M. L. West, “Swinging is a recurrent feature of Indo-European springtime and midsummer festivities.”
Sure enough: in Hindu India, in ancient (and modern) Greece and Rome, in Russia, in the Balkans, in the Baltics: springtime (often Easter) is when you hang a swing from the leafing-out branch of a tree and jump on for a ride (and better it be if it's with a buddy). Half the Latvian Easter dainas that I've seen focus on swinging. There's said to be a sympathetic correlation between how high one swings and how high the crops will stand in the coming growing season.
For all that we're no People of the Book, M. L. West's magisterial Indo-European Poetry and Myth comes as close to a one-stop-shop for pagan Received Tradition as I can think of.
I first discovered the Wonderful World of West while tracking down a purported taboo in Indo-European cultures against pissing toward the Sun.
Sure enough, in culture after culture, there it is, written not on paper but in the hearts and minds of the people: you don't piss toward the Sun.
I have been guilty of this, myself. In a social situation you are introduced to someone who spies the mystical pendant you wear on a neck chain. Without stopping to think, she exclaims, "Oh! What a beautiful piece!" and she reaches out and grabs it, to see it more closely.
Ouch! That hurts! It's a sudden feeling of shock and discomfort. And it's real. You just had your aura violated, directly over your heart chakra.
This is more than invading your psychological "comfort zone." It is an actual penetration of the bio-electrical energy field surrounding your body. And it feels even worse if that jewelry item has a personal spiritual significance for you - a private meaning that you will share if asked by somebody with the right vibes, but which you were not ready for any Tom, Dick or Harry to roughly grab!...
Mandala is a Sanskrit word for "circle" and is a sacred, symbolic diagram used for contemplation. In Buddhism and Hinduism, mandalas usually include images of Buddhas or deities. Yantra is a Sanksrit word for "instrument", and is meant to inspire inner visualizations, meditations, and spiritual experiences. However, since the two terms are often used interchangeably, the word mandala usually refers to any circular image or diagram.
You can create your own mandala for meditation, as well as for a specific intent. For example, perhaps you'd like to allow prosperity and abundance in your life. Or, maybe you'd like to be more courageous and learn how to speak up for yourself.
*To surrender worrisome circumstances
*To allow love into your life
*For world peace
*To allow abundance
*To release anger and bitterness
*For working through grief
*To welcome the job of your dreams
*To connect with the Divine
*To learn to say NO
*To culivate a compassionate attitude
In my Reclaiming Witch tradition, before we do any type of magical work (environmental or social justice activism, personal or community healing, solitary or public ritual), we ground. It's the act of drawing on the connection between The Earth and The Stars. It can be done through a long and elaborate liturgy, or with these four simple words.
Roots down, branches up*....
While ethics is one of my favorite subjects, Pagans don’t have a set that we all agree upon. (duh) Some follow the Charge of the Star Goddess, or the Three-fold Law, and some work to cultivate virtues as opposed to following laws. But if we’re all working to be good people, why can’t we mange to get along a little better? In his TED talk, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, says that if you’ve ever been confused about why people just can’t get along, he might have an answer for you.
Haidt researches human morals and started by asking the question of why do human morals around the world have more to do with just how people treat each other? The norm in all cultures but Western, is that morals have to do with all sort of things that we often mock. For example, what you can and cannot do during menstruation, what you eat and with whom, and what you wear. For most Americans – let alone the small subset that is our religion – such questions are weird and alien. That’s because we live in a WEIRD culture. The term WEIRD stands for Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic, and was created by psychology researchers Joe Henrich, Steve Heine, and Ara Norenzayan. As Pagans in an industrialized culture, we cannot escape this.
The reason I am excited about Haidt’s work is because he is interested in the biological basis for our moral behavior. And it seems there are evolutionary arguments to be made that much of our moral preference is, in Haidt’s words, "organized in advance of experience." Haidt postulates six moral foundations:...
Sorry I've been MIA for awhile. My uncle died in his home right before Christmas of a sudden heart attack. And then I came down with the same plague that has been effecting everyone I know. Here in Missouri we've had the oddest weather. yesterday it was 60 degrees and people were out in their shirt sleeves. Last night yet another round of the polar cold came through and today I'm sitting here typing with finger-less gloves on, and extra long sleeved sweater and a portable heater near my feet as we awoke to 11 degrees. Around Christmas and New Year's we were locked in with heavy snowfalls as well and this offered a time to reflect and make plans for the upcoming year.
One of my newest projects is writing my first horror novel called The Haunting of Booger County. My paranormal team ParaNatural Research Association plan to make an indie horror movie out of this project. The story is loosely based on an on-going investigation we have at a private location where a suspected serial killer lived a few years back. The woman thought to be his last victim was never found.
Interestingly enough as I began to plot the story it revolved more around a man seeking to find answers to the haunting on the property. The tale was to center around this man and what happened to him, it still does. However the female characters I have in the novel have become larger, and figure more predominantly in the story. In fact the story couldn't happen without them. The females originally had been secondary characters and now have taken front row. This is a good thing. Most of them display very strong characteristics and some who are the intended victims for the killer show quick wit and a great resolve and actually escape. Yes there are some who don't, not all can be so fortunate and fiction, as in real life, has its victims....
YAY! OK, so I had a question from my friend, Karen (the Feng Shui Lady) Adams. She writes:
"Tell me about crystals with "Keys" such as squares and triangles. I have heard about gazing at them in meditation? Anything else you can share would be exciting!"
Oh! this is a great question.
After I wrote about liminality recently, I have been thinking about change and how we create it in our lives. Affirmations are a magical tool that can be very powerful, but only when constructed well. Using the present progressive tense to craft affirmations puts them in a form that draws on the Element of Fire and makes them much more effective tools for transformation.
(Introductory Disclaimer: As usual, please remember that this blog is an expression of my own personal opinions, based on observations gleaned from my own peculiar experience. At no point do I claim to speak for all Neopagans, nor do I insist that any reader must agree with me.)
It hardly seems fair, does it? Why should the road to hell be paved with our very best motivations and aspirations for this life?
Who it was that first presented this proposition has been lost in the shadows of history. But his message rings true: whether or not you believe in hell as an actual place, unjust actions are an offense to dharma - Divine law. Such decisions never work out well, even if they are executed with the intent to do good. Therefore, we need to be incredibly careful as to how we make our choices.
The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism is a wonderful teaching tool for understanding this dilemma. Its philosophical precepts are worth attending to, no matter what religion you follow.
As a Hearth Witch, there’s more to your life than just, well, magic. Besides dealing with the daily grind with aplomb, it’s also your job to assist with loved ones’ milestones, both happy and difficult. As most of this aspect is non-magical, this is where we all tend to falter a little (or a lot).
When someone very close to you dies, it's relatively easy to know what to do - be a hot mess and go through the motions of putting together whatever kind of funeral rite the deceased/survivors would like to have. But what about when it's not your sister but your sister's father-in-law's brother?
I think a big part of this problem is that the first world is very shielded from death. I know people in my age group (thirty something) who still haven't lost someone close to them and . . .I can't relate to that at all, honestly. One of my first memories is at age six losing my grandma and seeing my dad cry for the first time. I lost my dad at 18 through a very long, painful battle with cancer and the hit parade sort of goes on from there. I've been to significantly more funerals than weddings, the piece de la resistance being my engagement year of my first marriage where I put seven people in the ground, the last being my cousin Anthony a week before the wedding. He was only five years older than me; his widow was my age.
So, having a vast array of funeral rites in every stripe and color that I've attended, I've had plenty of time to be appalled. With a less clear sense of acceptable etiquette in first world societies, some think it's okay to do anything from read, text, have a toothpick in their mouths, pants that reveal one's boxers, etc during death rites. Sadly, I’ve seen that all happen and it’s not a comfort to the grieving to say the least.
If you've had the fortune to not have to go to many wakes, funerals, memorial services, etc., that's a blessing. But it may make you unsure what to do in that setting when you do need to go. Perhaps you’ve only been to one or two death rites and it hasn’t been for anyone you knew and/or you weren’t close to the grieving. In that case, you likely know to slap on a suit, shut off your cell, briefly pay your respects and then go about your business. But it can get stickier if you’re close to the grieving but not to the deceased.
Tips on How to be a Standup Person During the Grieving Process:
It is always the right thing to do to send a sympathy card. It doesn't matter if you were fighting with the person who passed or their loved ones or if you're not sure how close you are to the deceased or the grieving. It's very hard to offend someone by sending a sympathy card.
Pick a card with an appropriate sentiment. This might sound confusing, but if you aren't close to the bereaved or the deceased, a more generic card is appropriate. If you were close to the deceased or the bereaved, you may want to pick a card with a more personal sympathy sentiment. If you're not sure what to say, it is always appropriate to say, "I'm so sorry for your loss. I am thinking about you and your family in this difficult time." Grieving people are preoccupied with their grief; they're not grading you on your creativity. Don't over think it; just send the card. They probably won't remember what was said, just that you were kind enough to think of them in their difficult time.
Inquire with the family about the arrangements. If they say it is a very small service for close family and friends, don't be offended. Everyone grieves differently. Inquire if the family is receiving donations to the deceased's favorite charity, mass cards (if Catholic) , or flowers. If yes, then find out the funeral home's information so that you may get the proper information to do so. If no, simply send a card to the family, as outlined previously.
Generally, there is some sort of wake, shiva, or calling hours for people who want to pay their respects to the family or the deceased. If you do not consider yourself very close to the family or the deceased, but still would like to pay your respects (and your respects are welcomed by the bereaved) , you would attend the most public part of the death rites. For example, the wake, the shiva and the memorial service are the most public events. Often, the funeral is the most private part of the rites and it's typically by invitation only.
It is very important that you are dressed properly for this. Many times, the death of someone comes as a surprise which is why it may be helpful to have an outfit for death rites that is always ready to go. Dress in a dark color and make sure all of the lines of your outfit are conservative. Women, no cleavage, knee length if wearing a skirt. Men, no white socks, no "fun" ties. Suits for both genders are always appropriate. I personally always have a long black skirt, an appropriate neckline black short-sleeved top, and a black wool cardigan with pearl buttons. I always wear this for death rites only (I find that it helps me to not have the death energy on my other clothes, but that's a personal choice. I also don't like having psychological associations with death on my other clothes) . I dry clean it/hang it up immediately after and don't touch it unless I need it. It's always appropriate year round and it's one less thing for me to stress about.
Special note: Sometimes, the deceased has special preferences such as she hated black and preferred bright colors, he was a teenager who always wore ripped jeans and his friends wore ripped jeans at the wake to show support, she had a beautiful gothic wardrobe and would have liked to see everyone in their gothic finery, etc. Tread carefully with this! If you are close to the grieving and know for a fact that they want you to wear something out of the ordinary to show love for the deceased, do so if you would like to. If you are not close to the grieving (and note, I said the grieving, not the deceased in this case) and don’t know what they would like you to do, error on the side of caution and wear something conservative. If you see a lot of people wearing something out of the ordinary at a death rite, chances are there’s a reason, so don’t get judgey about it.
Keep yourself grounded. It may be helpful for you to have a hematite stone or a small pouch of salt on your person. A family piece of jewelry can also do the same thing for you. It's okay for you to be sad and feel grief too! The tricky part is managing your own grief while still assisting the bereaved. Processing your grief with someone else prior or after the death rite may help you. Doing something you find comforting after the death rite may help too. Personally, what keeps me somewhat sane is going out the night before, drinking two or three martinis, having a big piece of red meat, and smoking a few cigarettes. All the things that could kill me bring me a strange sort of peace in dealing with death.
If it is a religious rite, do a quick Google search on what is typical for that religion so you know how to act appropriately. Following the lead of the bereaved at the rite is the best course of action. Some families prefer quiet and some prefer to be more boisterous to remember the deceased. Again, everyone grieves differently. Obviously, this is not the place to try to impose your personal religious views on others. If you don't feel comfortable participating in any of the religious rites going on, just sit quietly. If you want to say a little prayer in your head in your home religion, feel free.
If you are close to the bereaved family or to the deceased and invited to attend the burial, follow the instructions of the funeral director for the procession. Find out beforehand if the cemetery is far from where the death rite was held. Program your GPS ahead of time. Make sure you have enough gas beforehand and that you've used the restroom so that you can follow the procession without needing to stop elsewhere.
Help the living. This is probably the hardest step. Often, if we ourselves are somewhat removed from the grieving process such as if it was an acquaintance, or a loved one's deceased we didn't know very well, once we work through our own process (which will be faster than the bereaved's) , many of us want to go on with the business of living. For the bereaved, just because it's been a month or two doesn't mean that their worlds still aren't shattered. This is where being helpful is critical. The transition back to daily life after the acute grieving stage is very difficult. The modern world expects people to go back to "normal" after a few weeks - working, taking care of the house, paying bills, taking care of themselves and their children, etc. Despite these expectations, it is very difficult to manage this after the first few weeks.