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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This weekend my coven will be celebrating our first "outdoor" sabbat.  I know that a lot of groups exclusively meet outside but that's never really been an option for us.  While my wife and I are lucky enough to live in a house, there's another person living in our backyard.  He's not a living in a tent or anything like that, but he does occupy a studio-like living space attached to the garage.  I doubt he wants to listen to us chant in the backyard while he's trying to sleep.  

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While I do share a backyard the garden spots are all mine and with the corn already over six feet it feels pretty magical. It may not be with the coven, but every time I water my garden (with grey water from the shower) I feel like I'm at least performing a private ritual. I talk to my sunflowers, implore my pumpkins to grow, and stop to bow at Aphrodite-Chicago of the Lemon Tree.  My garden is ia magical place, but it's a magical place for mostly "just me" (and sometimes my wife when she checks on things). 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Solitary Path

Some people find comfort and deep learning in solitude. Others find inspiration and wisdom in the interaction with others, where the edges of our souls meet. I find a good balance between the two in my life, needing solitary reflective contemplation and the shared words, laughter and brilliance of my friends to encourage and nourish creativity. I have a strong circle of female friends with whom I share ritual practice, dance, creative crafts and good food, alongside weekends away, sometimes as "girly" weekends, sometimes as spiritual pilgrimages.

I have found ritual with these ladies deeply inspiring, and the bond that it creates reminds me of the sanctity within all our relationships.  However, I mostly practice my Druidry on a solitary level, literally walking the wild paths of the heath or deep into the heart of the forest alone.  In those moments I feel a deep connection to the world around me, whereas in ritual with others I feel a deep connection to them.

I think a balance is definitely required, in working both alone and with others. But here I shall speak of working alone, and the benefits that can be obtained from following a spiritual path with your own wits, instinct and inspiration to guide you.

I think that more of us need to spend quality time alone. I realise that in our society many people already feel alienated and isolated, but I wonder how much of that stems from not really being able to properly be with your self. I worry about the next generation, who have phones and tablets and a constant barrage of virtual communication that they can resort to anytime they are left alone. I remember a time when my husband was away for a work conference, and feeling the need for human company I went down to the local pub to chat with others from the village at the bar. There was conversation between the customers and the publican, but as soon as she left to go to the kitchen conversation died, and people went straight to their phones rather than talk to each other. I sat there, wondering what on earth has gone wrong with our society in that we cannot talk to each other anymore, but I digress.

The need for other human companionship can be strong, and it's not a need that we should ignore, being a social species. However, what I would posit is that we certainly do need to learn how to be alone, to listen to ourselves, to become attuned to our thoughts and behaviour in order to better understand ourselves. I strongly feel that when we understand ourselves, we understand others and can be in the world with more empathy and compassion. Often I have taken time out away from the world in order to better understand it - in this I feel a very strong connection with monastic traditions. By removal from the world and the thoughts of others I can better hear the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place all around me. By spending time alone with my thoughts I learn the cycles that they go through, paying attention to them and really noting them.  With a little Zen, when we actually pay attention to our thoughts they don't control us as much as they might otherwise, offering us an opportunity to live with real intention instead of leading reactive lives.  

Spending time in meditation alone, learning how the mind works we can then begin to hear the songs of others as naturally our thoughts quiet down.  We have paid them attention, and now that our thoughts have received the attention they desired, they no longer crave more.  We hear the birdsong, we feel the sunlight on our skin, the wind in our hair where otherwise we might have been distracted by thoughts, feelings, emotions and situations.  The world opens up, and we are once again reminded that the world is more than just us - that we are a part of a beautiful living, breathing system where everything is inter-related. It is an exquisite gift.

Spend more time with yourself. If you can, spend half an hour, an hour or a couple of hours each day alone, perhaps going for a walk or meditating. If at all possible, go on a weekend solo retreat, or a week-long solo retreat in a place that inspires you, where you can really connect with what is important and with your own beautiful self. Learn to love that self for what she is, for who she is and connect with her, giving her as much time as you would your dearest friends.

When we learn to love our own self, that love will then spill out into the wider world, nourishing and sustaining others. 

For more on the solitary path, see my latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, available now through Moon Books.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Preconceived ideas, we all have them and rely on them.  Certain words or names evoke a response in everyone.  Generally these are negative emotions. 

Witch is a word that does this for Pagans.  Since I consider myself an eclectic witch who is seeking, it was a title I hesitated taking on as I traveled my path through paganism. 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
b2ap3_thumbnail_image_20141209-185713_1.jpgGluten and sugar free.
 
Pagans do not have to worry about lumps of coal in our Yule stockings. But you can have chocolate lumps instead, yum!
 
My approach to the ecstatic path is down to earth and often quite simple. For example, last year I made a list of things to 1) keep my spirits up during the Yule season and 2) help create a happy season for other people.
 
Inventing a new chocolate recipe was on the list. … Well, the list didn’t just include inventing new chocolate yumminess. The real point was I would consume said yumminess. :-)
 
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will use the recipe again this year. Here it is:
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Winter's Beauty - in the cold and wet...

Winter in Britain – it’s dark and it’s wet.  Not very cold, compared to what I grew up with in Canada, but the damp just seaps into your bones.  It’s a different kind of winter, one that I still sometimes have trouble getting to grips with.

The darkness is the first thing that my body has difficulty coping with.  If it’s dark outside, my body wants to sleep. I’m very much a daytime person.  Here in the UK, at a latitude of  52.0594° N (where I grew up it was 45.9500° N) it gets dark a lot earlier than what I’m used to, and it’s not light outside much before 8.30 or 9am in the darkest part of the year.  Hibernation mode kicks in.  I struggle to get out of bed even though I’ve had a great sleep if it’s still dim out. Come summer, and it’s light at 3.30am, I can get out and greet the sunrise no problem.

The darkness has a real thick, heavy quality to it sometimes, with overcast skies and damp air all around you, sounds hushed in the shadows.  Like a blanket, it can completely cover you and, if you like your head above the covers, can seem stifling.  I’ve had to learn to work with the darkness, to enjoy it, to see its beauty.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is so evocative, Joanna. I lived in Stratford, Ontario for 3 years - which is in THE SNOW BELT. We dearly want to go to Glast
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Hi Ted! It's a different kind of cold, for sure - very different from growing up in Canada, with -20 to -30 C. Visit Glastonbury
Video shared by on in Culture Blogs

Wishing you all a Happy Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere; and Happy Beltane in the Southern Hemisphere!

Samhain article at my new blog, which I would post here except that it isn't Canadian per se: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/betweentheshadows/2014/10/samhain-song-for-the-dead/.

Blessed be!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Title: I Am a Witch’s Cat
Publisher: HarperCollins
Author/Artist: Harriet Muncaster
Pages: 32 pp
Price: $15.99 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062229144

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