Thoughts, lessons, and theology from an eclectic witch from a varied background.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Godphone: Lesson Five - When you're not well.

In the series of lessons on 'godphone', I made a point of saving the most important one for last. There are many in the pagan and related spiritual practices who say that if you start hearing things, you're going through a spiritual awakening or crisis. There is a trend to sweep mental illness under the rug, because mental illness is scary and deemed, somehow, as a way to discredit spiritual experiences. This is a trend that is reckless and irresponsible. It endangers vulnerable people and denies them assistance they need because they are frequently shamed for their experiences.

Some are going to despise me for this, but there is a written record of mystics who have gone through serious mental illness. You can find this extensive record in the writings of various Christian mystics. St. John of the Cross, for example, suffered debilitating depression (and I suspect post-traumatic stress disorder) after being imprisoned upon questionable pretenses due to friction within the Carmelite order during this period. Out of this experience came the luminous poem The Dark Night of the Soul. It was but one of many spiritual and theological writings that he had completed, perhaps the most famous of them. St. Teresa of Avila regularly endured illness and in the midst of these periods of illness had ecstatic spiritual experiences. There is also the books written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Dame Julian of Norwich which speak of their spiritual experiences by way of illness. (I recommend the long form of Dame Julian of Norwich's work.)

In the cases of St. Teresa and St. Thérèse, deep anxiety was held over the concept that their spiritual experiences were delusion/temptation from the devil. It was only after a great deal of discussion with their spiritual advisers and the persons who were helping them with their illnesses that it was established that these were not false experiences or fever dreams. The external reality check provided by these third parties were vital to authenticating the experiences of these women, especially in a period of history when the Inquisition was quite busy looking for more victims. (St. Teresa had to seek protection from the Inquisition. The punishment of St. John came out of a conservative sect of the Carmelite order and the Inquisition's activity.)

Hearing voices out of the blue is alarming, if not terrifying. The first thing to do is test the veracity of your experience. While many would claim this is show you lack faith, it is vital to your sanity to confirm or deny the reality of what you are experiencing. It could be as simple as looking away and then back at the vision before you. It could be as simple as holding up a mirror or looking for a reflection on a reflective surface near you. More complex reality testing can be anything from trying to drown out the sound you are hearing with your own thoughts to asking another person if they heard something. You don't have to specify what, it could be as simple as asking if they heard someone call your name.

When it is difficult to distinguish between reality and what is not real, this is when you should consult with a medical professional and a spiritual counselor. The medical professional can assist you in handling what physical illness may be causing these experiences. At times, audio distortion of ambient noise can come off as sounding like a garbled version of someone trying to talk to you all because of an earwax build up, for example. In the event that you are suffering from some form of mental illness, such as hearing people in the room when there are no signs of it and your spiritual counselor is noting signs of mental illness when you are meeting with them, medical assistance can actually make it easier for you to access your spiritual resources. With the right medication, mental clarity can be achieved and genuine mystical experiences will persist and possibly become more profound.
Being unwell can be disorienting and distressing. It can lead to a spiritual crisis or a spiritual awakening. It is, however, separate from spiritual awakening or crisis because it involves the strictly biological processes of your body. Spiritual awakening can be prompted as a coping mechanism, as per St. Thérèse following the death of her mother delving deeply into her devotional relationship with Mary. It can also be a part of how you are processing the experience of being unwell, as in the case of St. Teresa. In either case, follow three steps: observe the experience, reality test the experience, and get a third party opinion. If any manner of spiritual experience causes distress, or occurs in concert with distress, seek out assistance in handling said distress.


I personally have experienced hallucinations and mystic visions. From my experience, they are two different things and involve two different thought processes. Also, the gods find more ways to talk to you than just literally talking to you. Sometimes it is a person turning to you and answering a question you were just thinking about before resuming a conversation with someone else about an entirely different topic. Sometimes it is things mysteriously appearing when you need them or vanishing to a completely different place in your home when it was literally right in front of you before your turned your back. When I am ill and experiencing hallucinations, it gets confusing at times. Thus, I find the deities using other methods to talk to me. (Yes, that has included avatars. And yes, it was creepy and amazing and awe inspiring when it happened. Awe in ALL sense of the word.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eve of Kala Thoughts.

Tomorrow is the last day of the month (and season) of Moura. It is the day where the Daughter is slain and hung upon the pillar, the axis of reality, by the Dark Queen. Tomorrow is also Monday and my son has a dentist appointment, as well as laundry day. There is a list of everyday tasks that need to be handled and not much I can do in the way of holy meditation or something else of the sort.

It is, however, been the theme of Moura this year. As much as I wanted to do scripture reading and meditation, there were interruptions. As much as I wanted to do devotional writing and set aside an allotment of time for prayer, I simply didn't have the energy. Most of the focus over Moura was devotion through acts of self care. Healing from a fractured rib limited much of my activity. Adjusting to medication changes exhausted me. Thus, I spent my time in rest and recovery mode.

It is rather fitting that I reached the point of recovered from my fall back in January this weekend. I'm somewhat sore from lifting bags of groceries and tired from all the housework, but I am coming to a new beginning. And I can't really dive into things until after Hiatus. I suspect this is a sign of Dea's hand in things here.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Scripture reading and a problem.

I have a side project that I've been working on for a few months now as I have the energy for it. I've been copying over the sacred scriptures of Filianism/Déanism into a hardbound notebook as a devotional practice and meditation. I am only partly through the Gospel of Our Mother God and one thing keeps standing out to me as I consider it all very carefully. That it does not address whom has any mantle of authority upon them by way of Dea's grace.

There are some who follow that if their ordination comes by way of an unbroken faith tradition (i.e. Christian, Buddhist, or Hindi) that it had the authority that would come from Dea as in antiquity (so claimed by scholars who have since been shown to be questionable sources). There are some who argue that their authority is given to them by way of divine grace and should be accepted upon the basis of their word. And then there are the more mercenary of those who would be clergy that argue that priesthood is recognized by humanity through pieces of paper and acquire ordination from unconventional but publicly recognized sources to support the ordination given by way of divine grace at an earlier time.

It is a question that I sit and try to make sense of on a regular basis. I look at myself in the mirror and ask how I can expect anyone to think I have the authority to speak on any of this? At the same time, I can not help but ask questions. Questions of myself and my own work as clergy, questions of the role of any clergy in society, and what exactly that relationship is. This has lead me to reading philosophical texts, instructional books, and the writings of many different faith systems (holy texts and those written by lay people of deep insight). In all of my reading, I have a general idea of how the concept of clergy is supposed to work for the Christian faith, for example, and the social contract that goes along with it. I struggle to suss out what that social contract is for clergy of other faiths, simply because they are not the dominant faith practiced in my region so it is harder to get information.

Three questions keep coming back. The first I just mentioned: how can we tell whom is clergy and has the mantle of authority upon the by way of Dea's grace? The second question is what are the responsibilities and duties of said clergy? And the third question is what is the scope of their authority? Are all clergy equal or is their a hierarchy we are not aware of? In many ways, the answers to the second question are parallel to those for when this question is applied to Christianity. But the first and third questions are far more fuzzy. It frustrates me because if one is clergy or somehow a vowed person (monk, nun, godspouse, spirit-spouse, child, etc.), the questions about how we relate to the rest of humanity is just as important as those about how we relate to deity.

Is there an abbey structure in place, for example, for nuns of Loki? Do they have a rule to follow and a Mother Superior to answer to? (From the pagan nuns I have been in contact with, there is not a Mother Superior and they instead have a council of sorts where decisions are made upon debate, discussion, and collective discernment of the will of deity. And these nuns are godspouses as well. Because I don't wish to have their arrangement be the model of what I am proposing, I will not elaborate on it.) And there are the people who would be like pagan anchorites in the world, living a life of solitude and meditation and communion with their gods. Who helps them? Because the Christian anchorites were supported by the faith community and under the direction of spiritual advisers who were trained in their faith's precepts to high degree (theoretically) and the needs they could not meet on their own were provided for them. (In antiquity, there were anchorites who lived in a walled chamber of a monastery with a small window whereby they could communicate with others and receive the necessities for life (such as food and drink) but otherwise were completely isolated from the world.)

These are important questions to find answers to. If we can not find answers, we must make them or happenstance and folly will make them for us. As a student of history, happenstance and folly are not the gentlest of teachers and can lead to utter ruin, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. So, I ask my friends who are clergy within the Filianic/Déanic community specifically, what are the answers to:

  • What is the signs of spiritual authority? How do we recognize them?
  • What are the responsibilities that come with spiritual authority? What are the duties required of clergy and they who are avowed to a devotional relationship with Dea?
  • What are the things that are in this world they have authority over? What in the realm of spirit do they have authority over? Where are the limits of this authority?
  • Are all clergy equal despite differing traditions/sects of worship? 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Godspousery Notes: Physician, Heal thy self.

Spirit work is work. It is hard at times. It is grueling and awful at others. Sometimes, spirit work intersects with other forms of work. For me, there are three major points of intersect on my spirit work and 'mundane' work that I am doing. Presently, the biggest point of intersect has been my work on improving my mental health. Namely managing my three psychological disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder). I find myself at times in a position where I am struggling mightily and Freyr and Loki are bearing witness to my efforts. Sometimes they give encouragement. Sometimes they give suggestions. Most of the time, they are just present and affirming I am valid and important by simply existing.

After this comes the point of intersect between spirit work and managing my physical health. Falling down the front steps and fracturing a rib when my shovel kindly caught me has forced me to slow down and be more aware of my body. The PTSD tends to have me less aware of my body. But, the combination of being more aware of my body and the concerted effort to make myself healthier are both strongly encouraged by Freyr and Loki. Having decided this was the year I was going to get things done, I started my list with getting healthier. And I set a list of markers by which I could tell I was doing so. Freyr and Loki have been helping me set realistic and healthy goals for myself, as well as sticking to those goals. Some of them have been harder to do than others with this rib business. (I saw the doctor yesterday and he said I'm almost fully healed. Another week or two and I should be right as rain.)

The third point of intersect is between spirit work and my writing. I'm being called to write about things like my spiritual life vs. my mental health conditions. I'm being encouraged to finish manuscripts I started years ago about things like dream interpretation and being psychic. Interestingly enough, there's a lot of cross-platform spiritual work going on between the three modes of spirit work. The most active one right now is between managing my mental health and my writing and my spiritual work. Last summer it was physical health, mental health, and spiritual work.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pagan Parenting: Passing down Lore.

Me with my eldest as an infant.
Family stories are important. You find quite a few people happily sharing stories of their childhoods with their children as they grow. In some cases, stories going back three generations are getting told. In the really lucky cases, stories go back farther. The family stories help children understand the culture of the family and their place in it.

Equally important is the stories that go with the family's religious inclinations. They help foster a sense of ethics in children and give them tools to better understand how the world works. In some families, this comes from the family bible and the church they are a part of. In other families, this comes from the tales of the gods and the temple they attend. All of this is informed by the faith community they are a part of. This can be a profoundly educational and enlightening experience.

It gets harder when you move into smaller religious practices. Suddenly, the population of people who are going to help you explain how the world works gets markedly smaller. What is a pagan parent to do when their six year old is asking them "Who takes care of the Sun at night?" as you are putting them to bed? You have a few different options. One is to fob the conversation off to another time (which is usually the best option when it is time for the wee one to be going to bed). A second is to give a "You don't worry about that, the Sun is just fine on the other side of the Earth." or something similar. An answer that is a non-answer. A third answer is to introduce them to the old tales of the gods or modern ones that speak of how they attend to the world.

[As an aside, when my boys became afraid of the solar eclipse, I told them that Sunna was letting Mani visit her. Something a lot more reassuring than the Sun being eaten by a wolf or a dragon. Also much closer to what their science teachers are going to be telling them. Makes for less arguments about what is true, because my eldest has hit that age of questioning.]

The biggest thing in answering such questions and sharing the wisdom of our ancestors with the younger generations is to remain consistent and clear. Equally important is to keep in mind what your children can understand. A six year old will have an easier time handling the idea that Sunna minds the Sun than the complicated matter of astrophysics and stellar dynamics. As children get older, the questions get more complicated. Somewhere, you're going to hit a wall. You're going to reach the question that you can't answer.

That's ok. This is where you encourage them to think about and explore the world. If they are asking questions about morality and you're not sure how to explain something, explore the topic together and work together to find the answers you need. The internet is a glorious tool for research and education. It is just as helpful and educational to go to the local library and seek out the aid of a librarian to find books on the topic in question. There are many holes in the knowledge we inherited. It is our job to fill them as best we can. In some cases, this may mean building new stories (Mani visiting Sunna for the eclipse) and in some cases, it may mean learning about difficult topics and working to find your own conclusions. And that's just fine because it is a living faith tradition that adapts and changes to the needs of the practitioners.

The Season of Moura

Right now, this is the beginning of the second week of the Filianic fifth season in the calendar and thirteenth month of the same name, Moura. It's a lot like Lent. With less mortification of the flesh and more focus upon spiritual alignment and cleansing.  This is the time for spring cleaning and getting your home ready for the celebration of Eastre.

It is also the time for establishing new habits. Moura is strongly associated with the janya Sai Rhavë. This is the janya that is associated with discipline, restriction, and limitation. The rune most closely associated with her is Nyd/Nauthiz (need). In a contradictory way, the rune of Isa (ice) is associated as is Thorn in their aspects of limitation and restriction. The tarot cards that could be associated with her is the eight of Swords, which depicts a bound person; the five of Coins, which depicts a pair of people in desperate poverty; or the nine of Rods, which depicts a person whose movement is limited by a wall of staves (in the case of the Barbara Walker Tarot, this wall of staves blocks the entrance of a cave wherein a figure sits).

This year, during Moura, I'm working on healing up from a fractured rib and my cleaning has been limited by this. It is, however, forcing me to rest and reengage in my spiritual practices, thereby building my personal discipline. I am also using the time to foster healthier eating habits and build a better way to manage my time in the light of my disability regularly making it hard for me to do so with out some form of a tool. My day planner had been working somewhat well but it is not quite right. So, I am trying to fix that.

The gods have made clear there is a reason why I fell and injured myself. And why I keep catching the same cold or have some other minor ailment that is just enough to force me to slow down and take care of myself. And what is that reason you ask, dear Reader. Well, to make me take better care of myself. Learning from experience seems to be part of the theme here as well as if I continue to be stubborn and insist I can force my way forward by pure will power, there will be consequences.

Déa is not subtle. Nor is Loki or Freyr. I've been having learning experiences and times of forced rest. It has been quite frustrating. I work on what I can as I can. Hence my post this evening. I am attempting to be as good of a student in this lesson as I can be. It is a hard lesson for me to learn, to be honest. This, however, is also part of Moura.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Random life update.

Gentle Reader,

Thank you for your patience with me. I'm adjusting to a medication change and it is making writing very hard. I get about two paragraphs, maybe a little more, and then I find myself on the verge of sobbing. I am still trying to figure out what is going on with that. I think this is a combination of my disability being in 'active' mode and medication side effects, but I'm not sure. It's been very hard to do much of anything, to be honest. My devotions are bare bones offerings and mumbled prayers as I struggle with feeling like everything I do is never going to be good enough. The beast of depression is riding me pretty hard right now. Hopefully, as I adjust to the medication change, things will stabilize soon and my mood will start to improve.

Until then, I will do my best to post when I have the energy for it. Thank you for your patience with me and for reading. (Oh, by the way, I misread the pattern for that fascinator and I'm remaking it correctly. I'll be posting some pictures and notes on the pattern when I get it done.)

Thank you.