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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Blessed Nativity!

I wish you all a blessed Nativity. While your day may be filled with joyful chaos or it may be a more solemn observance, I sincerely hope that Nativity brings to you much healing, joy, and peace as is needed in our increasingly troubled world.

Just as the wee angel to the right comes bearing light, so too are we called to bear light into the darkness of the world. This light is the light of love. Love that is pure and unconditional is the first step to healing the wounds of this world. Just as the Daughter is born to heal the rift of khear that separates all that is from the Mother, love that is boundless must be born in our hearts to heal the rifts that separate us from the world

From Here
We must take hope in the birth of the Daughter. She comes to us as living light to cast out the darkness within all things. The Daughter is perhaps the greatest miracle and greatest gift that our Mother has given us after our own entrance into existence.

While the world would have us focus on spending and giving expensive baubles, we should take time to focus upon the truly valuable things we have in our lives. Love, compassion, and fellowship with others are a bountiful blessing that many in this world do not have access to. Faith in ourselves and that which is greater then ourselves are a blessing that sustain us in ways we may have a hard time describing. This faith is hard won and should be held close to the breast as a precious jewel.

May the Mother and her Daughter bless you abundantly this season.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 18

What does fertility mean to you?

 The term fertility is defined as:
1.the state or quality of being fertile.
2.Biology. the ability to produce offspring; power of reproduction:
the amazing fertility of rabbits.
3.the birthrate of a population.
4.(of soil) the capacity to supply nutrients in proper amounts for plant growth when other factors are favorable.  (From
It colloquially has come to be associated with a state of increase or the ability to produce something (fertile imagination is the first example that comes to mind). Fertility has a lot of emotions tied to it and a lot of spiritual energy attached to it. Deities that are involved with fertility are commonly considered to be benevolent towards man, but I find that to be a case of observer bias. Fertility, as I understand it, extends from the traditional dictates of the definition to the creation of wealth and beyond. Fertility is, in my understanding, creation.

People frequently think of fertility as a positive thing and something that is desirable in their lives. People who are seeking to have children are usually the first ones that we think of when we touch upon the idea of fertility. But this potent spiritual force of generation is equally important to farmers who provide us with food, to anyone who produces goods, and bankers who keep our economic systems functional. When you seek to create something, fertility is what you are attempting to invoke.

Fertility, however, is not strictly a good thing. It can lead to overproduction. Situations where there is an overpopulation of deer, for example, lead to devastating ecological effects on a region and eventually starvation in the deer population. All of this came about because, among other factors, fertility. It is the same force that leads to the proliferation of dangerous technologies by way of fertile minds, fertile hands, and fertile economic conditions. Sometimes, it is better to seek to limit fertility or to seek to render something infertile.

It is my opinion that infertility falls under the same purview as fertility. While modern pagans romanticize fertility and view infertility as a tragedy to be remedied, I think that our ancestors understood the necessity for it. I'm somewhat new to being an active follower of a fertility deity (and I'm not entirely sure that follower is the best term but it's what I can come up with right now) but I don't think that my intuition is wrong on this front. I've seen the effects of excessive fertility in one area are on an ecosystem. And those effects are not pretty, they're actually fairly horrific to be honest.

I've felt the pain of struggling with fertility. As someone who had difficulty conceiving and carrying children, I have known the anguish of the prospect that I could not bear my own child. (And the agony of losing children due to miscarriage.) I try to take a pragmatic approach to fertility, which doesn't always work well with emotions. The qualities of generation that are embodied in fertility must be balanced by the rest of the system or it results in the destruction of the system as a whole. Somewhere, that balance comes from the inability to produce. While I understand the necessity of this, it doesn't make it easier.

Fertility, however, is not a 'feel good' thing. A lot of people want to paint it as such and that is really doing a disservice to this force of nature. People don't generally say that a stone being hard is good or bad with out context, but you find many who do that with fertility. So, I guess my position on fertility is that it is a double edged sword. It is something that one should invoke with caution and care because it is a force that has a mind of its own. Once you set something in motion, it will keep moving in what ever direction it is naturally inclined to move.

Fertility is like pushing a boulder. It may move in the direction you want it to, but it is going to have an impact on the entire area. If you're lucky, your impact is relatively controlled and localized, so that you don't disrupt the entire system. If you're really lucky, then your push of that proverbial boulder is something that encourages the welfare of the entire system. But, if you're not lucky, then you're going to create a problem somewhere down the line with your action, quite likely one you never would have anticipated.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

An untitled poem.

Glory of Heaven shine above
Reflections of the face of the Mother
Illuminate the world
Reveal to us the blessings
Found in the cold night.

I apologize that this is posting so late. I have been ill and this has made timely updates difficult. I apologize for this. I ask for your patience as I muddle through the holiday season. As always, thank you for reading and may the gods bless you all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 17

What qualities should a leader in your tradition possess?

1. Honor & Integrity

A leader in my faith tradition should be a person who holds to a high standard of behavior. They should be a person who is honorable in their actions. As an honorable person, they should respect and uphold the freedoms and rights of all life. They should keep their word when it is given and strive to do their best in all dealings.

2. Discernment

The ability to tell the difference between what is from the gods and what is created within the hearts and minds of humanity is very important. The ability to determine what is just versus what is considered to be proper by the prevailing social mores of where they are located is equally vital.

3. Wisdom

With discernment, deep intelligence and comprehension is necessary. This may manifest as a great deal of scholarly knowledge or it may manifest as a keen understanding of how things work on a more practical level. In either case, the wisdom to know when to act and when not to act is very important. There are times where one must keep their own counsel and others when they should reach out to the community around them.

4. Willingness to Learn

Along with wisdom, a leader in my faith tradition should have a willingness to learn. It is my firm belief that a living faith adapts and grows with its adherents. This requires the leaders of that faith to learn, grow, and change so that they may continue to lead adequately. Failure to do so serves only to limit the faith to a specific set of circumstances of a given time. As life progresses away from those circumstances and that point in time, the faith that does not grow and change becomes irrelevant.

5. Compassion & Mercy

Compassion and mercy are two things that we are called to by Dea. I think it something that is also encouraged by the other gods that I follow. Building relationships with the rest of the world, we find that compassion brings us to greater understanding. This is something that creates a harmonious world and one that is beneficial to people who practice the same faith that I do. In Filianism or Déanism, this state of harmony is called thamë. It is my understanding that thamë is the same as building frith between people and the world. Frith is preferable to conflict and unwholesome strife. (There is strife that is healthful and encourages us to grow.)

Mercy is the extension of compassion to those who are in need. It is something that should be given with out strings or conditions. It is a gift and a blessing. I think that the extension of mercy to those who are in need is perhaps one of the higher callings of humanity. That is, however, my personal opinion.

6. Clear sense of justice

Justice is that which brings the world back into a thamelic state. It is my understanding that we are called to address the evils of the world that humanity continues to perpetrate by all gods. While the path to justice is different for each case, I think that the gods want to see it done. A leader in my faith tradition should have a clear understanding of what is just so that they might guide others in their actions. This may include some form of social activism. It may be ancestor work and spiritual efforts to correct the harm that has been done by our predecessors. In either case, justice must be kept at the forefront of practice because it is a major part of being compassionate towards the world.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Feast of Conception.

Today is the feast of Conception. I have been busy preparing my house for putting up Yule decorations. I looked at where we usually have a tree and felt a bit of sorrow that we couldn't afford to purchase a tree for this year. I knew that we had a small artificial tree with an assortment of ornaments on it. I was not happy with it but I acknowledged that this was what we had.

Then, my sister-in-law came over with a tree for us. It was an unexpected delight that made me feel a bit cheered for the season. While others may declare that this is purely an instance of human action, I take it as a sign of Dea's generosity. She heard my wish for an actual tree and sent it to me by way of my sister-in-law. It is a small miracle, but in the world of men, small miracles are just as wonderful as major ones.

It is Dea's abundance of love and her desire to see to it that we are well taken care of that she births her daughter. It is Dea's love that gives us the holy Child and our guide back to her arms. So, it is with joy that I await the holy Child and celebrate this season.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Memoriam

It has taken me a little while to process something that happened. I'm still trying to make my peace with it, though I know it was the necessary and merciful thing to do. About two weeks ago, I had to euthanize my ailing betta fish named Swimmers. The kids had an easier time adjusting to this then I have. This seems a little perverse, to be honest.

Swimmers was the third betta we owned (the second to be named so). The first two succumbed fairly quickly to their respective ailments. Swimmers 1.0 was fine one day and then the next he was lifeless at the bottom of the bowl. Stu, our second betta, seemed healthy when we got him from the store but a few weeks later stopped eating and then died a few days later. Swimmers 2.0 developed constipation and he suffered for weeks.

I made the decision to euthanize him after agonizing over it for about two weeks. During that time, Swimmers just got worse and worse. Having made the painful decision to do it, I took a few days to research the most humane method to end his little life. I found myself on the verge of tears several times in the course of this research. When the time came, Swimmers resisted death with a last burst of strength that made me feel horrible about putting him down.

This is not the first time I have had to mercy kill an animal. Like the first time (almost two years ago a baby bird fell out of a nest and broke its wing), I did my best to make sure that the creature suffered as little as possible. In Swimmer's case, it was a fatal dose of a fishy anesthetic (clove oil, if you ever need to use it). In the birds, it was breaking its little neck. In both cases, I felt horrible about doing it.

I passionately love life. Even when I am suicidally depressed, I still have a deep love of life. The act of ending another life grieves me. I have had times where I seriously considered going vegan because of how much it bothers me that other lives must end so that I may live. But, unlike the case of life feeding on life to survive, the act of extinguishing the life of another creature with no benefit to myself feels dirty.

Galina Krasskrova spoke of miasma a little while back. She mentioned something about how dead bodies are sources of that contagion. I can whole heartedly agree with this proposition and I can state, first hand, that the instant life leaves the body miasma is present. Lingering illness has its own miasmic qualities. In the case of Swimmers 2.0, the miasma of his illness and death had me feeling deeply disturbed and filthy.

Spiritually cleansing helped some with that, as did utterly scouring and cleansing the tank. Still, it took me a little over a week to right myself after that. Swimmers was a typical betta fish. Some people would say that I'm too soft hearted for being as disturbed by the fact that I had to kill him as I was. I am fairly certain that feisty little fish has progressed onto another life. If the way he met his death is any indication of how his next life is going to be, Swimmers in his next incarnation will be a force to be reckoned with.

For my part, I'm going to do my best to honor his memory by making sure that his replacement (a white betta named Ghost) lives a long life. Aside from that, I think it is going to take a while for me to again have warm fuzzy feelings towards the scent of cloves.

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 16

What devotional goals have you set for yourself?

My devotional goals intersect heavily with my life goals, to be honest. First among them is to obtain a greater degree of health in body and mind. This may seem like an odd devotional goal but among the things that Freyr and Loki agree on is that I need to take charge of my health and well being. As such, I am working hard to manage my disability and my general health more effectively. It has its ups and downs, but for the most part I think I can say that it is probably the hardest of all my devotional goals.

Secondly, I aim to make daily prayer and devotional activities a priority. This can get a bit tricky between the challenges of being a stay at home mom and my efforts to start a career in writing. Fortunately, the gods are willing to let me develop this at my own pace. The challenge of balancing daily devotional acts (burning candles and incense, for example) with household maintenance when I am struggling due to my disability is rather difficult. Some days, I can hit all the targets on my list and do a little bit more. Most days, something falls by the wayside. The trick is prioritizing what I do and getting it done in that order. Because if I don't do that, important things (like paying the power bill) get forgotten.

The holidays make this extra difficult because I have the additional stress of managing out family social calendar, the acquisition and distribution of gifts, and compensating for the effects of the holiday excitement on my children's behavior. Again, prioritizing is a hugely important thing. Loki keeps poking me with proverbial sticks to remember to utilize the FLYLady techniques of household management. Sometimes, I have a period of time where I can manage things fairly well with out additional assistance. Then I become unwell or I get overburdened by what is going on and I find myself scrambling to keep my head above proverbial water. I found FLYLady to be a huge help, as long as I remember to keep it up.

My third devotional goal is to get back into the habit of making things for the gods. Last year, I made several shawls for the gods. I want to do this again and make a few more things. I have no idea what I am going to do with these things. I was going to sell them on Etsy but nothing took root there. I realized that Etsy wasn't going to be a viable option for me so I've got a small pile of shawls that are sitting in my project room waiting for homes.

My fourth devotional goal is to engage in more domestic arts that tie me to my foremothers. If I can manage it next year, I am going to learn how to do some canning. My Mother-in-law is talking about setting up a small garden for our household. While some flowers are definitely going to be planted, I am hoping to possibly grow some tomatoes and a few other vegetables. In doing the gardening (which I'm also going to attempt with some containers at home too), I will be connecting with my forefathers as well. (I come from a long line of farmers one the paternal side of the line.)

My fifth and final devotional goal is to continue my devotional writing. There are two books that I'm slowly accumulating material for and hopefully will get at least one of them done by next spring. There is this blog, which I hope to be making a bit more lively after the holidays have passed. It seems like much of my planning for this blog keeps getting eaten by off-line activities. This frustrates me mightily.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 15

What methods does your tradition employ for protection and warding off malign influences?

My big occult subjects of study are divination, necromancy, and protection magic. Honestly, I have no idea where to begin my answer to this question. There are so many different ways to approach this question. I suppose I should start with the simplest of the methods. That is prayer to the gods and angels for protection. (The angel/janya Vikhë is the one to whom I would pray if I were addressing angels.) In addition to praying to the gods and angelic beings for protection, I call upon my spiritual companions for their aid.

I suppose if you were being technical, you could say that when I call to my spiritual companions for aid, it is prayer. It feels different for me from addressing deities or angels. The best way to describe it is the spiritual companions are closer to me then most of the deities or the angels. Generally, I tend to save prayer as a final resort. That, however, is because I tend to be somewhat... thick headed and contrary when I encounter difficulties and try to bulldoze my way through it. I've been told it is one of my more endearing qualities, though I'm pretty sure that the gods have regularly facepalmed over it.

If I have reason to believe that someone or something has cast some sort of malign spell towards myself or my family, my first solution is to perform what I call a hex breaking. This is where I take three dried thorns and burn them. Sometimes I grind them into a powder so that they burn more rapidly. The choice as to if I will grind them into powder or not depends on how quickly I want my counterspell to manifest. Usually, I find that my existing defensive measures are enough of a buffer between myself and the malevolent spell that I don't need to go with a fast response. If I didn't have access to dried thorns, I would use three sharp slivers of wood. I'll talk in more detail about the hex breaking spell at another time.

I also would use a spell that reflects the malevolent spell back to the sender. I like mirror spells but sometimes they are difficult to do with small children around. I can't exactly have small glass baubles laying about where my kids can pick them up and run around the house with them. The mirror spell that I use most of the time requires one mirror and I can use it for a brief time before putting it away (obviously after cleansing and grounding the mirror). I do have one that I use which involves multiple mirrors. This one serves not only to redirect the spell but confuse the initial target of the spell, thus making the counter spell work to direct the main thrust of the harmful spell aside from me and then back to the sender. It packs a bit less 'punch' then the other mirror spell I use. It is, however, a very effective spell and works to make the chances of a second sending of a curse less likely.

I have a lot of other counter spells that I use but those two are the ones that I apply most of the time.That, however is not where the basis of my protection from malevolent spells and influences lie. The best defense is preparation for a possible harmful or malevolent incident. About my home, I have several protection spells that I refer to as 'wards' that take the spiritual energy that is cast at them and sinks it into the earth, dissipates it into the sky, reflects it back to the caster, or absorbs it and becomes stronger. In addition to the wards, I have magical energy sinks located at various points around my home that will ground any energy that is directed at them. Those energy sinks lie along the path of entrances into my home. I also have barriers placed across the entrances. Some are physical (like the row of cacti and houseplants on my window sills) and others are spiritual (iron across the threshold).

I have spiritual protection spells woven about my person and amulets that I wear that are enchanted for the purposes of protection (and preventing anxiety attacks). Obviously, wearing a holy symbol of one's faith can be a protective amulet if one's faith is sufficiently strong. It is one's faith that makes amulets and spells most effective. If you believe that the spell will work, then it will work better then if you don't believe it will. My protection spells, which I refer to as 'shields' are much like my wards. They have more layers to them then my wards and between them is something that I call the 'minefield'. Just as one can receive psychic input, one can transmit it.

My 'minefield' is woven with spiritual ties to my traumatic memories. When my spiritual attacker trips one of my 'mines' the traumatic memory is projected at them. I feel the sensation like a bit of energy leaving me in the direction of my spiritual attacker. I have yet to have someone progress past the first layer of my shields and minefield combination. This leads me to believe that it is an effective use of some very bad experiences in my life. Someone who has different experiences can lay different 'mines' about themselves. It could be crippling sensations of fear or a vivid experience of pain. Some negative emotion or experience can be used to dissuade someone from pushing further against your shields.

Now, obviously, there are elements to my spiritual defenses that I am not sharing for the reason that I do not want some wit to decide to test them. When sharing things like magical defenses with others, it is wise to keep some element up your sleeve with all but those whom you trust the most. Don't bandy about that you have built something like the spectral version of Fort Knox around yourself. Don't go looking for a 'witch war' to prove yourself in. It's like knowing a martial art. You don't advertise that you know it to prevent people from attacking you because they can or out of curiosity.

Also, like knowing a martial art, it is good to practice and regularly hone your skills. It means doing regular spiritual maintenance on your wards and shields. It means renewing the spells you cast to deflect malevolence and keeping in regular contact with your spiritual allies. Aside from keeping a healthy relationship with them, it makes it easier for you to call upon them in a crisis.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Questions No. 13 & 14

Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the gods?

Yes, I have and on a fairly regular basis. My disabilities get in the way of my devotional activities so much that I have times where I am tempted to just give up. I am thankful that the gods are patient with me. I have learned to negotiate time frames that are more friendly to what I am able to do. Sometimes, however, I find that I just can't do what I've agreed to.

It is a horrible, sickening feeling to fail. It has, on occasion, spawned a depressive episode or deepened on that I was in. I am careful not to promise more then what I can accomplish, but sometimes I over estimate what I can do. So far, the number of incidents where I have done that have been few and the one who has been hardest on me for the screw up has been myself. (It is a very odd experience to have a deity that you've just let down telling you to stop being so hard on yourself.)

What role does mystery play in your tradition?

There are so many things that can fall under the descriptor of 'mystery' that I've sort of lost count. The dichotomy of having a semi-monotheistic deity and a (seemingly) laundry list of deities from another pantheon in my life is one huge mystery right there. I can't say that the monotheists who follow my Lady are wrong but I can not say that the polytheists are wrong. One of the central tenants of my personal experience is that all gods are valid. How does that work? I have no flipping idea. But, everything I've experienced and seen points to that.

Within that context, I have the mysteries of Filianism to consider. Dea is three persons and one god. It is much like the trinitarian beliefs of Christianity. (With some obvious differences, like the deity in question is female, and some less obvious ones.) The angelic beings (also known as janyati) are not only eminations of Dea's presence but masks that she might wear to communicate with us. For this reason, she is described by some as having seven aspects that correspond with the seven archangels.

Another mystery of Filianism that is in my life is that of the sacred mythos of the Daughter. Because of the distance between all of existence and the Mother, the Daughter is born to bridge that gap and she does so through her life, death, and resurrection. There's a bit more to the story then that, but that is the core of it. There is no 'original sin' within this faith system, but rather a spiraling path that moves outward from the Dea and then back towards her, by way of the Daughter.

Outside of the mysteries of Filianism and the seemingly paradoxical faith in both a monotheistic faith system and a polytheistic one, there is Schrodinger's Loki (and Baldur, Hod, and various others). Loki is both bound and free. Baldur is both alive and in Hela's hall. The list goes on. Now, some may ask, what of Ragnarok? Well, it is yet to come, happening, and already happened all at the same time. It's part of that whole 'everything is true' with respect to religion thing.

I don't know how it works. So far, the gods have given me no indication that I am incorrect in this understanding. I'm pretty sure that they'll reveal to me what I need to know as time progresses. Gods are within and outside of time. That is a mystery. As a being that is bound by time, I have no possible way of comprehending things like what a god's perspective on the world is. It's like trying to see in three dimensions when we only have the capacity to see in two.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Necromancy Ritual

This is a ritual that I have used in the past when I felt the need to contact a departed soul. It is quite a bit like most invocations. It is important to maintain a 'containment' space for what you summon. This is because things masquerading as the person whose spirit you are attempting to contact will arrive sometimes. Not all of these false spirits are benevolent towards those who performed the invocation. In fact, there's a good likelihood that the spirit is not kindly towards people who perform summonings. This is where the stories of haunted Ouija boards start.

As much as I abhor the concept of 'cook book witchcraft' I find that laying out the steps and process of doing a spell like a recipe works out really well. I ask that you forgive my brief foray into the Martha Stewart of occult world for the sake of easier to read format.

Items Needed:
1 candle
Item with strong association with the soul you wish to contact
Method to light candle
Divination tool of choice (I like tarot cards for this purpose.)

1. Make a circle with your salt. As you do so, envision a sphere of power being built with the level you are on being the center. You may wish to invoke guardian spirits to make the circle of power such that anything summoned can not exit it with out your command.

2. Rub the candle with the item you associate with the soul you wish to contact. As you do so, envision some of that person's essence being imparted into the candle.

3. Place the candle in the center of the circle.

4. Intone the following: [person's name] I summon you from eternal repose. Come forth, come forth, come forth.

5. While chanting the above, light the candle.

6. Inform the soul you summoned that you wish to speak with them. Hold up your divination tool. Inform them that this is the method they can use to reply to you.

7. Ask 3 simple yes/no questions that has a decided answer which you know. Check your divination tool to establish what is a positive and a negative response.

8. Method of communication established and clarified, proceed to your questions, comments, or concerns that you wish to discuss.

9. When finished with your discussion, intone the following: [person's name] I return you to eternal repose. Go back, go back, go back.

10. Extinguish the candle. Sweep up your salt and throw it away. Return your divination tool to a 'neutral' state and ground yourself.

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 12

What sort of festivals, memorials, or seasonable observances do you keep through out the year?

I honor early spring, when crocuses and other early spring plants come up. This is around the time of Imboleg/Luciad. I honor the goddess Brigid, whom I have had a long standing relationship with. For this celebration of light, I will bless the candles I have (including the electric ones). I am planning on introducing my children to the idea of Bride's Bed and making something sweet of the day as well.

On the 19th of February, I observe Moura Eve. I try to finish up whatever devotional tasks I have left to do for the spiritual year. If I am preparing a special project to do during the 'season' of Moura, I spend some time Moura Eve to get it ready. On the first day of Moura, I do a modified fast. While my taboo and my health concerns do not permit a full fast, I abstain from intoxicants and sweets this day. Generally, I keep the abstinence from sweets until the equinox.

The day that I get a reprieve is mid-Moura (March 5/4). This is a day where the restrictions of Moura are lifted to give believers a much needed rest from the austerity. Moura is a time of discipline, sacrifice, and purification. Mid-Moura is, in my mind, a quick breather so that we have the focus to continue on towards the end of this period that is often equated to the Christian Lent.

The last day of the spiritual year is Kala (March 19/19). Kala is a day of mourning for the Daughter. For in the mythos, Kala is the day that the Daughter dies. I cover my icons of the Daughter. It is my plan that for Kala and Hiatus, I will have a special headcovering that I wear only for that time (and times of mourning). It is still in the planning stages, but it is a goal that I'm working towards. I am also seriously considering fashioning a piece of mourning jewelery that I can wear during this period. Oh, I forgot to mention, but I also extinguish the candle that I have lit for Dea at this time.

Hiatus is the time between Kala and the vernal equinox (Eastre). Within the filianic faith, this is a time outside of time. Thus, I am under a taboo not to consider future events. It is considered a time when all worlds have ended. One of the things I meditate on during this period is Ragnarok. I abstain from doing divination during this period because I don't want to accidentally reach forward in time. It is a bit harder then it seems to think only of the present. I also try to spend Hiatus doing no unnecessary work. This means, I make my meal plans before Kala and put by what I need so that I can focus on each day in turn.

In late March, I observe the beginning of the agricultural year. While I haven't a plough to charm, I invoke Freyr's blessing over my meager garden and my gardening tools. I also ask him to bless my household with prosperity and health through the growing season. This is also Eastre, the day of the resurrection of the Daughter. I uncover my icons of the Daughter and put the cloths away into storage for next year. I will also ritually relight Dea's candle. I give my children sweets and do what I can to make the day pleasant.

On the first of May, I observe the exaltation of the Daughter. I also make something of a nod towards Beltaine. Having spent most of my spiritual life observing that holy day, I still feel a pull towards it. It is a day of fertility and great blessings. The summer solstice, I observe the feast of Rosa Mundi and Litha. I fall more heavily upon Rosa Mundi's side of the ledger. In either case, I focus upon celebrating the very essence of being alive. Following this, comes the first of the harvests.

When the first crops are harvested around here, I observe and give thanks for it. It usually happens around the time of Chelanya/Lughnassadh. I celebrate and give thanks as the harvest season progresses. When the autumnal equinox comes, I observe Cuivanya/Mabon. This is another, fuller harvest festival. For me, Chelanya is a celebration of the labor of taking in the harvest. Cuivanya is the celebration of the fruits of the harvest.

Tamala/Samhain comes next. It is a time where I focus upon my ancestors and those who have come before me. I also meditate upon Deam Mysterium. She who is the prime source and the destroyer of all existence is sometimes difficult for me to contemplate. But I strive to do so anyways because I feel it is important that all three aspects of Dea be honored. I also consider this to be the final of the harvest festivals (as this is when, in ancient times, the herds were culled). Through out all the harvest festivals, I meditate upon Freyr's sacrifice. It is particularly hard at Tamala because there is so many reminders of death around me.

I have begun to celebrate Advent (11/28-12/25) because I am finding it something that buoys my spirits during the darkness of winter. I also celebrate the winter solstice as Mother's Night/Yule. On the 25th of December is Nativity. My celebration of Nativity and Yule are much like most people's celebrations of Christmas. Except, I keep the celebration going between Yule and Nativity. This is the only time of year that I will play 'holiday' music. At the beginning of Advent, I start to put my decorations for the season. I have them all up around the time of the feast of Conception.

After Nativity, comes Sai Herthe's day. Sai Herthe is the angel of the home. I spend a bit of extra effort on cleaning up the house for this day and generally do my best to focus on the domestic aspects of my life. This sort of extends itself to Epiphany (which is also Distaff Day). On Eipiphany, I have a day of rest and celebration. This means my crock pot gets used and I avoid housework (which is hopefully completed from the previous few days of work).

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 11

What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?

This is a painful subject for me. The biggest stumbling block for me is my disability. I have depressive episodes with crippling self-doubt and delusions of worthlessness. The utter despair that I feel when I am in that state keeps me from doing any of my devotional activities. Some days, it is a struggle to even get enough energy to be up, dressed, and putting the kids on the bus to school. Sadly, those days happen on a regular basis.

As you may have witnessed in my posting habits, there are weeks where I am unable to post. My writing in this blog is a devotional activity but sometimes life circumstances get in the way of it. Other times, I desire to write but I simply can not find the words. Of the two, I think the latter is the most miserable of experiences. It has on occasion moved me to tears.

I am exhorted by Freyr to maintain my physical health. This is perhaps just as hard, if not harder, then being active in my devotions when I am laboring under delusions of worthlessness. My social phobia has me just this side of housebound. It turns going out to go walking into a torturous experience because I am constantly struggling with the fear that someone is going to assault me. Exercising indoors is somewhat problematic because of the state of the apartment most of the time or small children deciding that is when they want to climb on me or demand my attention.

And then there is the element that is a crossroads between mental and physical health that is a particularly agonizing struggle for me when depressed. In my youth, I was borderline anorexic. I have struggled with this since elementary school. Making sure that I eat on a regular basis and that what I eat is healthy for me is very difficult. I think it is part of the reason why I am under the taboo to eat pork when it is offered, whereas many other people are under taboo to abstain from certain foods.

The other block I have to my devotional life is my responsibilities as a wife and mother. In a perfect world, I would be able to attend to all three seamlessly and with equal fervor. Unfortunately, it is too exhausting to even begin to attempt that. Having to juggle parenthood and my marriage with my spiritual life, I sometimes drop a ball. More often then not, it is the spiritual one. It is part of the reason why I haven't participated in formal worship in over a year.

I'd like to involve my children in my spiritual life but it is a tricky thing. Where I live, I don't have the luxury of a collection of like minded neighbors who would help me with their spiritual education. Sadly, there's a fair amount of hostility in my neighborhood towards people who are not Christian. This makes me fearful and pushes me to do my best to keep my beliefs as quiet as possible offline. Being the only pagan in the neighborhood is kinda scary. Add little people who are dependent on you for their welfare, and it becomes down right terrifying.

There are things I feel called to do that I don't dare attempt outside of my home because of the confluence of my illness born paranoia and social pressure. I feel called to veil in a style reminiscent to how Catholic nuns do. It is, however, something that I can't do with out getting suspicious looks if not harassment. People have a hard enough time with my wearing scarves in a tichel format. On the rare time I dare to wear one in the style most frequently known as hijab, I have encountered prejudice. I fear that such prejudice could lead to a physical altercation, thus I don't do it.

I wish that the blocks to devotion were things I could easily resolve. Sadly, they're a combination of neurochemical problems and social pressures that I can't change. Or the infamous lack of time in the course of the day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 10

Have you encountered any obstacles as a result of your tradition?

 Oh boy, where do I start with this one? I have been a practicing witch since I was in junior high (now known as middle school, I suppose I'm getting old now). When I was younger, I was harassed. I was physically assaulted by my peers for it. I was verbally harassed to the point where I feared for my well being. At one point, a rumor became so vicious that I had students at the local college asking me (when I was 16) if I performed sexual acts for money.

When I was at college (an all women's Catholic university), I found a degree of acceptance that boggled my mind. While there was some nastiness that I encountered as one of the two openly pagan people on campus, it all came from students. The staff and instructors at the university were all exceptionally professional and even helped me in my efforts to deepen my understanding of my own faith. I owe a great deal to the School Sisters of Notre Dame and I believe I will always hold them in high regard. While there was the risk that I could have been deemed as behaving in a manner unbecoming of a student and been invited to leave, this never arose in any situations I was in. Campus ministry actually encouraged myself and the other pagan (who happened to be my best friend shortly after we met) to publicly practice our faiths and educate others about our beliefs.

I have had some members of my extended family take hostile positions with respect to my differences in matters of faith. At one point, I was told that my beliefs made me morally as suspect as abusive parents. Fortunately, this happened before I had children and there was no nonsense like a phone call to the department of social services over it. I don't talk to that relative except on the rare occasion we happen to be in the same area. Even then, I keep the topics on things like the weather. This attitude, however, was the reason why my Beloved and I had a civil ceremony when we got married rather then a handfasting. (And that was an adventure and a half of nonsense that I still wince when I think about it.)

Since I have been covering my head for religious reasons, I have encountered some friction from my neighbors. The ones who are immediately about me are tolerant but the ones in the larger community have had some unpleasant things to say. I confess with some disappointment, that I have refrained from wearing my scarves in certain styles because of the Islamophobic comments that have been made. While no one has physically threatened myself or my family, the memories of what I endured when I was younger makes me shy away from dealing people of that variety.

I have had people in local businesses become quite cold towards me when they see my pentacle. I don't wear it as much as I did in the past because I am concerned about people causing problems for my children over it. It has lead me to very carefully consider the question of religious jewelry for my sons. While I hope that their peers are more interested in if they are going to play with them rather then what religion they practice, I can not say the same for the adults around us.

Because we live in a relatively 'conservative' neighborhood in the hinterlands of Western New York, I take a cautious approach to who and how I discuss matters of faith off-line. It is not unknown for people who do not fit the white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant mold to be subject to considerable social pressure. The folks who are Catholic seem to get less pressure then non-Christians because they are Christian. (Though some of my neighbors take the attitude that they are sub-par Christians because they're not of a given protestant sect.) I suspect that it would be easier to be openly pagan in the city because of the element of anonymity that comes with such a large press of people.

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 9

How does your tradition handle wrathful, savage, or destructive deities?

This is a question that I come at from two different approaches because of the fact that I practice a blended faith. Generally, I give the more savage and destructive deities fairly wide berth in my practices. It is a case of if I don't attract their attention, I find my life tends to go more smoothly. There are times, however, that the deities that I do work with will fall on the destructive, wrathful, or savage side of the ledger. (One of my patron deities is Loki, the Norse god of Chaos. He has his destructive times, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they are, they're trying to sell you something.)

When I encounter wrathful deities, my first approach is to question if anything I have done has caused their anger. I strive to clarify the reason for their wrath and do my best to learn what I might be able to do to rectify the problem. Deities don't walk around pissed off for no reason. Some of them may be more cranky then others but genuine anger/wrath usually happens for a reason. I work to learn what that reason is and then attempt to find a solution. I basically approach it the same way as I would if I encountered a person who was angry.

Savage deities are a particularly thorny challenge. (Yes, I just made a rune pun right there. I'll wait while you throw produce in various stages of decay.) I work to stay on their 'good' side. I'll give them offerings when it is asked for/demanded, if it is in my capacity to do so. When I am unable to give them offerings, I strive to negotiate some alternative that is fitting. It is however a hard thing to negotiate with a deity that may view you like a hungry person views a juicy steak. I find it is best to approach the situation as you would in handling a wild animal that has taken an interest in you.

Don't make any sudden movements, because they might pounce. Don't show fear, because they might pounce. And for the love of everything holy, make a point of doing what you can to be as inoffensive as possible. In some cases, that may mean running up the proverbial white flag and taking a submissive stance. In others, it may mean being prepared to do what you can to defend yourself. Mind you defending yourself from a deity is hard as fuck and you won't be successful 95% of the time. However, if they see that you are willing to take on that challenge, they might back off and give you enough room to maneuver yourself into a more favorable position. Because you have turned into the mouse that roared, which makes you briefly become something other then prey.

Destructive deities, I find, are different from wrathful and savage ones. Well, they might have more in common with the savages ones then the wrathful ones. I treat it like I would in dealing with a natural disaster. I have a proverbial bug out plan in place to ride out the worst of what I can imagine being thrown at me. I make preparations for the possibility that said deity might turn wrathful and I may need to make reparations. I do what I can to prepare for the potential that said deity will take an interest in me and be around for an extended period of time. Most of all, I do my best not to take the destructive business personally. Because, like a forest fire, the destructive deities don't generally care if I'm in their path when they're going somewhere. So, I do what I can to stay out of their way.

When they do take an interest in me, I attempt to divine why that is and what they're trying to teach me. Sometimes it is a case of remembering to stay down after getting my butt kicked. In other cases, there is something that needs removed out of my life/sphere of influence and no matter how much I may kick and scream, I can't prevent it. I try to accept that destruction is the flip side of creation. Some days it is easier to keep that in mind then others.

There are times where I will give offerings in the hopes that the destructive, savage, or wrathful deities will leave me and mine alone. It's been a hit or miss situation on that one. Sometimes they'll take the offering as intended and let us be. Others, they completely ignore it and do whatever they had planned to begin with. And then there are the times where it has the unintended consequence of attracting their attention. When I manage that last one, I basically apologize for wasting their time and hunker down to bear what ever they're going to do. Fortunately, the apology for wasting their time has gone over fairly smoothly thus far. Of course, my mentioning it now might have just jinxed that lucky streak.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Elementary Necromancy (Or how to talk to the dead)

Say the word necromancy and the Hollywood stereotypes pop up. Visions of hooded robes, blood sacrifice, and grave robbing will undoubtedly come up at some point early in the discussion. Necromancy, however, is something different from what the entertainment industry portrays it as. The term necromancy is defined by the Mirram-Webster dictionary as: 
1.) conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events 
2.) magic, sorcery

Necromancy is often considered to be an 'evil' art. Lurid tales of necromancers engaged in nefarious activities have abounded since the rise of Christendom during the late Roman Empire and the ban upon magical studies that was imposed during this period. Necromancy, however, has been practiced for as long as humanity has existed and is even still present in modern society. Many people seek the services of a necromancer with out realizing it, and in many cases the necromancer in question not realizing said term applies to them.

Many of the psychics who speak with the spirits of the dead are, by definition, necromancers. Because the term is loaded with many negative connotations, these psychics shy away from it and use the more neutral term 'medium' in its place. If you use the term necromancer or medium, the basic elements of the practices are virtually unchanged from antiquity. There are two different general categories of necromancy. One is organic and the other is ritual.

Organic necromancy comes as a result of the necromancer having an innate talent for sensing and communicating with the deceased. The person who receives psychic visions of the dead or may hear them with out any ritual to assist them is an organic necromancer. While modern psychics make organic necromancy seem to be common place, it is a less common psychic skill then what the media portrays it. Incidents of empathy (in the psychic sense) and precognition are far more common, though less discussed in the general public because they are not as popular in the media.

Ritual necromancy requires the necromancer in question to use a ritual to establish connection and communication with the dead. Ritual necromancy is by far the version that is portrayed most often in the media. Rituals vary from the extremely simple to the elaborately complex. All rituals can be examined from the most basic and common components.
  1.  Statement of intent & establishment of working space. While this step is not practiced in all cases of ritual necromancy, it is among one of the oldest used. The use of a ritual space to 'contain' the spirits summoned is frequently said to be a holdover from ceremonial magicians of the Enlightenment era and late medieval period, but there are signs that this practice is rooted in antiquity. From what I have been able to establish in my research on ancient necromancy rituals, there is a distinct practice of establishing a space where the spirits of the dead are housed. This comes out of the acknowledgement that not all spirits of the dead are kindly inclined towards humanity and can potentially prove dangerous to the summoner.
  2. Entering into a receptive trance state. This can be accomplished by any number of means. Modern necromancers in the U.S.A. tend to rely heavily upon self-hypnosis. There is, however, an established tradition of using consciousness altering substances. Several of the herbs traditionally associated with European witchcraft, such as mugwort, have mild to significant psychoactive properties that will alter the user's perception of the world upon ingestion or other methods of consumption.
  3. Establishing contact with the dead. The establishment of contact in ritual necromancy is often a summoning of the deceased's spirit. Some rituals use something that has an energetic tie to the dead. This can range from an item that the dead carried on their person on a regular basis to fingernail clippings to soil from their grave site. The use of the item with the energetic tie is to strengthen the focus of the summoning and give the ritual greater 'pull' in drawing the spirit to the practitioner. Other rituals the summoning does not use anything that has had physical contact with the deceased. 
  4. Communication. This is, quite simply, your conversation with the dead. This can happen via many different mediums. A popular one used since the early 19th century is the famous Ouija board (known then as the talking board or the spirit board). Pendulums can be used for simple yes/no questions. Tarot decks and other divination tools can also be used for more complex questions.
  5. Dismissal of the dead. This is the point where the persons enacting the ritual have completed their business with the spirit of the dead and dismisses them. It is important to use this step because hauntings have resulted from persons not properly breaking contact with the spirits they have summoned.
  6. Reestablishment of 'normal' consciousness. Equally important is the return to 'normal' consciousness after any sort of magical endeavor. It is not only good practice but it makes it easier for the necromancer to not be bothered by other spirits as they go about their day. Sometimes, the dead can be quite chatty and they'll make a point of trying to get the attention of someone they can tell has any sort of ability to perceive them.
If one wishes to undertake a simple foray into necromancy, it is better to seek out the assistance of someone who has skill in this area. When done improperly, necromancy can become problematic. The dead are not always kindly towards the living. Sometimes, they will cause problems for them for reasons that we can not fathom. These problems might manifest as small items going missing (such as your keys disappearing from where you put them EVERY day) to technology going haywire or items being manipulated (your radio keeps turning itself on but it's mechanically sound, for example). In the event of such a situation, one should seek the assistance of a person who can perform an exorcism or otherwise lay said spirit to rest. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 8

What methods of altering consciousness does your tradition have?

The most commonly used method is that of hypnotic trance induction. Along with the fairly basic hypnotic trance induction, I have used chanting, rocking back and forth, and rhythmic movement (such as passing a set of prayer beads through my fingers). Most commonly, I use a few different techniques at the same time. Generally, my altered consciousness states are used in meditation.

I don't do as much spellcraft as I did before. I have found that my uses for spellcraft have become more specialized then what they were in the past. I do, however, spend time in an altered state of consciousness listening for the gods and what they might have to impart to me on a given day. The habitual entrance of a trance state has made it easier for me to achieve it. I have developed a set of visual and tactile cues that 'drop' me into a trance state.

Certain scents do this to me as well. These are listed below. There seems to be some sort of established history of these scents inducing trance state. I don't know if this is due to the scent itself or if it is due to the very strong correlation between the scent and trance priming the mind for the state. While I'd like to try using some herbal methods of trance induction, concerns about how they would react with my medications has stopped me. (And that herb that people like to talk about inducing trance, I start wheezing when I get around the stuff so even if it were legal I wouldn't have that option.)

Scents that induce trance for me:
  • Sandalwood
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Dragon's blood
  • Pine 
  • Cedar

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 7

What offerings do you make in your tradition and why?

The offerings that I make fall just about everywhere on the spectrum. The ones I give to Dea are those of works, flowers, and devotional writing. (This blog is amongst my devotional writings for Dea's sake.) Those I give to the Norse deities range much wider. For Freyr, I give my writing and personal energy. The writing is something he has requested of me and the personal energy is something that has felt correct to give intuitively. Loki asks for random things and when they are within my capacity to give them to him, I do. I give Odin regular offerings of hard liquor, which he seems to approve of and enjoy.

I am still building my relationships with the other Æsir, Vanir, and Jotnar. As these deities (and yes, I am one of those scandalous people who consider the Jotnar deities in their own right) make requests of offerings, I will do my best to provide them. Some of my offerings that I give fall in line with some traditional ones, like Odin's hard liquor or Dea's flowers. These are my recognition of traditional practices that have come before me.

Others are my filling the requests of the gods (such as Loki's regular morning cup of coffee, recently it has been a demitasse of espresso). I have found that several of my offerings resonate with those of other modern followers of these gods. (The shared PG1 of many of Loki's followers is that he enjoys coffee, to continue my earlier example.) It leads me to believe that these offerings are something that are not only requested of myself but perhaps many, many other followers and will eventually become accepted as a modern standard offering.

The third reason for giving offerings is because I have a desire to give the gods gifts to express my esteem and devotion. The things that currently fall under this heading is the semi-regular offering of incense for Odin, random crocheted prayer items for various gods, and devotional writing for Dea. The way I see it, the gods have given me so much good in my life, I am obligated to some extent to give gifts back to them. I am also someone who firmly believes in giving gifts to those people in my life who I care for. This also extends to the gods.

On occasion, I do give votive offerings. They are generally given at the time of the request. The offering is presented with a written request of the gods which I also say aloud. Ideally, I would burn the slips of paper that the requests are written on after they have been filled. My living situation doesn't allow for me to do so, thus I destroy them by hand and put them into my recycling.

And there are the offerings that I give as a continuation of how I was 'raised' within the pagan world. At harvest time, I give a portion of the first fruits of my harvest to the gods. I regularly burn candles for the gods as well. When I have it, I will give offerings of bread and wine to them also. All of this reflects the Wiccan tradition that I was trained in. The gods seem to approve of these offerings, thus I continue to give them on a regular basis.

1. PG stands for personal gnosis.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Shrine for the Beloved Dead.

There are many reasons a person would set up a shrine for their beloved dead. One common reason is to honor the deceased and the relationship that you had with them in this life. Many people believe that the dead have the capacity to influence the world and to petition on the behalf of the living with the deities. Some shrines are elaborate affairs and maintained by the community. This would include things such as memorial garden established in the community, a memorial monument, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or a graveyard. Other shrines are very private and simple. This could be a collection of photos of the dead, the regular placement of flowers, and the burning of incense or candles.

Most commonly, people will honor their ancestors and departed friends. There is, however, an established habit of roadside shrines being hastily constructed by the community for persons who died of violence or from a particularly egregious car accident. One does not need to only focus on the dead whom they are related to or have had some sort of personal connection to during their lifetime. It is also possible to honor deceased persons who have been highly influential in one's life by way of their works or otherwise have made an impressionable impact on their life. There is also a sub-practice of establishing a memorial shrine that includes deceased pets.

The simplest ancestor shrine is the placement of a memento or an item that symbolizes the dead. More complex shrines can be made into free standing structures or special cases that hold mementos of the dead and offerings to the dead. My personal ancestors shrine consists of a shelf. On that shelf is an assortment of items that I associate with my familial dead and deceased friends. There is a small vase which I will put an offering of flowers in on a regular basis. I also have an electric candle that I keep lit all the time for them as well. (The lit candle, in my usage, is a beacon that helps the bring the kindly dead to me and show my beloved dead that they are welcome in my home.) I also have a little box that I will put physical offerings in.

As you may have intuited, one may leave offerings for the dead. There are a variety of ways to do this. One can lay flowers at the deceased's grave site. This is a very common offering for the dead. Another thing that can be done is to light candles or burn incense for the dead. The candles are found quite frequently in Christian Catholic influenced settings and faith systems (such as Santeria or Voudon). The practice of burning incense for the dead has been done as long as there has been recording of people burning incense. There are some people who will give food offerings to the dead. (In urban America, there is a semi-regular practice of pouring out a bottle of alcohol in memory of the dead.)

In addition to leaving offerings for the dead, a person can pray to and commune with the dead. This is actually a very common practice. Within Christian belief systems, one will find frequent reference to praying to persons who have deceased and believed to have joined the company of their deity in the paradise referred to as Heaven. The Catholic community refers to these deceased persons as saints. (Saint is a generic term for the deceased who are in good standing within the faith. Saint as a title refers to deceased persons who are especially blessed and believed to have considerable intercessory powers and capable of performing miracles for those who petition them.) Praying to the dead and giving them offerings is a practice that helps strengthen familial ties and bolster one's sense of filial duty, when the veneration focuses specifically upon family.

Maintaining a shrine for the dead can be quite complicated. At it's core, maintaining a shrine requires the regular cleansing of the shrine and ensuring it is in good condition. It also includes the disposal of the remains of offerings in a fashion that is in proper accordance with the beliefs of the persons who are maintaining the shrine. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 6

What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the gods?

 Ecstasy just is not a strong enough word for it. It feels as though I am drowning in light. It feels as though I am caught in a roaring river and getting carried away by the irresistible force. It is like listening to the most perfect strain of music ever fashioned played flawlessly by the greatest of performers to have ever lived.

I am failing to express this sensation. It is like looking into the Sun, though curiously painless and you do not come away injured. When moved to speak, I feel it heavy on my tongue like honey and it pours out my mouth like water. It is like when you encounter something so beautiful and awe-full that you are moved to weep before it.

The description of the 'touch' of the gods as being like fire is also adequate. It burns away everything else from your senses leaving only that sensation there for you to focus on. And you can not help but focus on it because it is utterly entrancing. Paradoxical descriptions and heavy poetry are all weak ways to describe it. Unfortunately, feeble words are all we have for this because nothing in this world is like it. There are moments that begin to echo something of the qualities it has but they're nothing more then an echo of it.

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 5

If you could travel anywhere on pilgrimage, where would it be and why?

This is a question that I honestly have no idea how to answer. A part of me says I would be delighted to go to Uppsala and to walk that sacred ground. Another part of me says I should visit the modern shrine to Freyr that I read about a few years ago where they keep horses in his honor. (It is odd that I clearly recall reading about this place and now I can not find their webpage. I hope that they are still about that business as the world needs more holy places recognized for the various religions in it.)

And then there are the countless holy sites associated with the various manifestations of Dea. The idea of visiting places like Lourdes where the Blessed Mother has been seen sounds very tempting to me as well. A part of me fancies that it would be a lovely thing to catch even an echo of that glorious moment. The idea of going to these places and walking the ground, getting some kind of attachment to the place sounds quite pleasing to me.

More likely, however, I would go visit the places where my family came from. I feel a deep sense of importance to knowing where I come from. Part of this comes out of the fact that I was raised with a good deal of pride in my heritage. Part of this also comes from the fact that I walk with one foot in this world and one foot in the other. Going to places that allow me to learn more of those who came before me makes it easier for me to work with the dead.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 4

What are some ways you communicate with the gods?

This is an interesting question. As Rumi wrote, There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again. The essence of this quote is that there are many, many ways to pray and establish your relationship with the Divine. As an amateur artist, I use my artwork as a vehicle to communicate with the gods. More often, I pray while I am doing crochet, but I have made devotional paintings as well. As I am working on a piece, I meditate upon what I wish to communicate to the gods and work to incorporate the essence of the prayer into what I am crafting.

I will speak or write down my prayers as well. Some of this comes out in prose, like what I pen in my prayer journals. (I keep three. One for Freyr, one for Loki, and one for Dea. Loki is the one who got me started writing in the journals on a daily basis.) The tone of my prose prayers come out more like letters to the gods. Usually, they are expressions of gratitude and what things are presently on my mind. Frequently, my prayer journals read like letters to dear friends where I share things that I feel are important and of strong emotional influence on my life.

There are times, however, where my prayers come out in more poetic language. The prayers to Dea are most frequently in blank verse poetry. It was from these prayers that I assembled my little book. My spontaneous spoken prayers tend to be blank verse couplets, though there have been times where I accidentally used some complicated rhyming schemes. (It's made things a wee bit frustrating to later record when I can't recall exactly what I said at the time.)

I also do my best to make my daily activities prayerful ones. I was inspired to do this upon reading the autobiographical writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux where she spoke of her Little Way. I strive to take even the least of my actions and dedicate them to the gods. Some days, this is very difficult to do. Distractions and emotional tumult that comes with bipolar disorder makes it very hard to remain so focused on the Divine. The hardest of all the tasks that I attempt in honor of the gods is forgiving myself of my all to human flaws and resisting the effects of my illnesses.

When I am not actively engaged in prayer, I find a measure of comfort and communion with the gods by way of reading and listening to the works of others. I am especially moved by those of the Beguines and St. Hildegarde of Bingen. It seems odd that the works of medieval Christian women are what speak strongest to me, but their comprehension of divine love rings so very true for me. It becomes a passive means by which I might open myself to the gods and align myself with their will.

In many ways, that is the goal of my prayer life. While I do not seek to renounce the world, for it is filled with wonders and I firmly believe that only a small population of the world is called to renounce it for purely spiritual pursuits. I seek, however, to bring myself into greater alignment with the gods because in every instance I have attempted to do so, good things have come into my life. In my effort to clarify my place with the gods and my role in the world, I depend heavily upon prayer and meditation. I suppose one could say that this is the fruit of my fascination with medieval European culture. What ever the cause of it, these things form the core of my spiritual life and are the means by which I express myself to the gods.

Friday, September 26, 2014

New revision published.

The newest revision of Rose Petals has gone to press. This version has more prayers for the janyati (angelic beings) and the three faces of Dea. It also has instruction on how to set up your shrine and maintain it. There is also now a forward that introduces the reader to Dea and the janyati.

For the print edition, follow this link. For the electronic version, follow this link.

It is my hope to continue to refine my little book and make it useful to my readers. Please, share any comments or concerns that you have with me at my e-mail address.

Currently, I am working on a companion book. It is going to be a day-book of meditations and prayers to take one through the sacred calendar of the Filianic/Déanic faith. The tentative release date for this is the Spring Equinox of 2015. I will be posting more details as it gets closer to the release date.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spiritual Cleansing: Places

From Here
In previous posts, I discussed how to spiritually cleanse oneself and items. The same principles applied for these purposes are used in how to spiritually cleanse a place. There are, however, some differences in the techniques used.

Different spiritual traditions have different methods for how to cleanse a location. The examples that I will give in this article come from my own background. They are easily adaptable to other spiritual traditions. The basic format of these rituals have much in common with the rituals of other faiths. One element that these rituals have in common is the use of blessed elements (holy water, incense, and candles). They also incorporate basic spell craft (prayers being considered a form of spell craft) whereby the ritual participants impose their will upon the situation or invoke a spiritual being to take action on their behalf.

The most basic form of spiritual cleansing is to focus your will upon cleansing a location of unwanted influences as you physically clean there. In Wicca, there is a tradition of using a besom (ritual broom) to sweep the circle area before establishing sacred space. The circle area is swept in a counter clockwise spiral that starts in the center and moves outward. This is because the counter clockwise direction (known as widdershins by many pagans) is considered to be a direction of banishment. Some incorporate a chant that they use to the rhythm of their sweeping gestures. A quick google search find many chants that you could incorporate into your cleaning.

You can incorporate other elements into your cleansing to make it easier to align your will to the task. Prayers and visualization are helpful for this task. Calling upon one's preferred deity to bless and sanctify a location works to cleanse the location upon a spiritual level. This, however, must be maintained with some effort by the person calling upon the deity. Failure to do so runs the risk of irritating the deity. It would be like you calling upon a friend to clean up a messy room. If you do not put any effort into keeping the room clean afterwards and continually call on them to do it, they will become upset with you for not doing your part.

Walking the boundary of the location to be spiritually cleansed with incense and waft it into the location while envisioning the incense chasing away undesired entities and spiritual energies is a common technique used in the pagan community. It is also done with holy water. The Catholic Christian belief system has several beautiful rituals to consecrate and cleanse locations. These rituals combine the elements of prayer, incense, and holy water. If I recall correctly, there is one that incorporates candles as well.

Which ever method of spiritual cleansing you choose, it is always useful to revisit them on a regular basis when maintaining a location as a permanent sacred space. The act of spiritual maintenance of permanent sacred space helps make ritual work that happens there more effective because the location is prepared for it already. It is also a gesture honoring the spirits of the location and the spiritual beings that were involved in the establishment of sacred space.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question # 3

How have the gods helped you in times of violent upheaval and adversity?

In many ways, this question is an expansion upon what I have previously written. I wish I could say that the adversity that I describe in that post was the extent of what I could relate as to how the gods have helped me but my life is not blessed in that fashion. As I look back over the years, I find myself at something of a loss for where to start the list of incidents that the gods have helped me. I think it is better to give the common themes of how their help has manifested in my life.

During times of psychological illness, the gods have been the constant source of hope and encouragement. Loki has been especially helpful to me over the last five years. He arranges happy accidents where I have just the right thing land in my lap, even in the darkest of times. Flamehair has also been very active in my dreams and via psychic activity, giving me advice and encouragement when I am at my best or worst. When things are especially bad, he has gone so far as to giving me direct messages by way of chance encounters, which looking back I realize they weren't as 'chance' as I thought they were.

A good example of this was during one of my recent depressive episodes. In the grips of powerful despair, I found myself seriously considering giving up my dream of making a living as an author. I even found myself considering giving up on my blogs and journal writing. Not three days after I was considering this, I was out washing laundry. I stopped in the store next door to purchase a beverage when I very nearly ran into a man wearing a shirt that struck me like a blow to the gut. The text on his black shirt was in white and a very large font, something that I could not possibly miss. It read "Are you really thinking about giving up on your dreams?" It was a powerful reminder that the depressive episode was temporary and that letting it drive me away from my life long dreams and passion for writing was a terrible decision to make.

During times of physical illness, the gods have mitigated the extent of my illness and in one instance, I honestly believe prevented me from dying. I was pregnant with my eldest son and I had been having what I thought was problems with bad gas pains from shortly before the pregnancy test came back positive. Assuming that these 'gas pains' were just a symptom of pregnancy like the nausea of morning sickness, I didn't pay it any mind. Then, one day before I went into work I was in terrible pain to the point where I couldn't stand upright. We rushed to the doctor who then sent me on to the hospital. It was determined that I had appendicitis. Things happened in such a fashion that I had surgery to take my appendix out. It was highly inflamed and signs indicated that I had been dealing with appendicitis for months before it reached a crisis point.

When my husband and I faced difficulties that threatened the integrity of our family, the gods helped to mitigate the impact of the events. I also firmly believe that it was by way of the gods that the positive things that came out of that period of time came in to our lives. While much can be said for the support systems we had in place from our extended family, a good deal of the situation was in the hands of others who could have just as easily made decisions that would have devastated my household. It is my belief that the gods swayed those people to make decisions in our favor.

In all three varieties of adversity, the gods have provided us with opportunities to make good of the situation, endure the difficulties, and aid to lessen the severity of the troubles we face. I think that they prevent a good deal of trouble from coming to our doorstep as well. From narrowly escaping disastrous car accidents to having just the emergency funds arrive when we need them, I believe that the gods take an active part in helping us avoid just as much trouble as they help us endure it. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Frosts, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Accounting.

I have held my piece with regards to the issues surrounding Marion Zimmer Bradley because I felt that others who were far more knowledgeable and eloquent had addressed them better then I could have. Then, just today, I learned something about the Frosts that made me feel chagrined to have considered their work useful and daring to recommend it to students I had in the past.

It has come to my attention that the Frosts had written an initiation ritual intended for family covens that involved sexual activity for pubescent children in their highly influential work The Witch's Bible. Their supporters insist that the ritual is misprinted and that the Frosts did not intend for the ritual to include children. In all kindess, I cry bullshit on that argument. This is a book that has been reprinted many, many times. Not once of those reprints had been amended to correct the supposed mistake. The Frosts have had ample time to see and correct this 'error' and have not done so.

Indeed, their failure to correct the 'error' and their arguments that said work should be allowed to persist in its original form and be considered within the merits of 'tradition' lends one to believe that ritualized sexual abuse is condoned by the Frosts and that they believe such should be perpetuated within the Wiccan community.

This is absolutely not ok. Sexual abuse is one of the most heinous and insidious of crimes perpetrated against children. Abusers force children to participate in sex acts by ways of creating situations where the child sees no other choice. The children are not free agents in this activity but doing so under duress. Additionally, abusers who choose sex crimes as their method of abuse have the great impetuous of the social stigma that is attached to sexual abuse to force their victims to be quiet. This is in addition to what ever threats might be made or what mind games are played to coerce the victim to keep silent.

The use of initiatory rituals to force sexual activity of any sort upon another person is a direct violation of one of the most central tenants of Wicca, perfect love and perfect trust. The initiate trusts the initiator with their welfare as they prepare to undergo the rite. They trust the coven they are joining with their safety as well. Forcing them into sexual activity is repulsive and a violation of that trust. It also makes a mockery of that claimed 'perfect love' that the coven would say they extend towards the initiate.

Some people will claim that I am a 'lapsed' witch and that my positions on this 'traditional' initiation are a reflection of how far I have 'fallen' from the craft. I name those people fools and supporters of this kind of abusive behavior. It is possible to initiate someone into the craft with out forcing any form of sexual behavior upon them. If we look into the history of modern Wicca, we find that old Gerald Gardner was initiated by having a basin of water poured over him.

We have a responsibility to the younger generations of witches who are being raised within the Wiccan tradition (and all other pagan faiths) to secure their safety and create an environment that promotes their well being. The intersection of that which is holy, magical, and mundane should be a place of safety from the beginning. Only when the initiate has reached the age of consent and agreed to it, should sexual activity become part of magical or religious ritual.

If this position makes people declare me some sort of apostate or otherwise have forgotten my faith, then I wish them the luck of it. I will continue to maintain a position that the safety of children is more important then the pretty rituals you would devise. I don't care what your arguments are in favor of this. I reject them all and declare them to be anathema.

Originally Published on One Witch's Theological Musings

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question: 2

How does your tradition increase the power and flow of blessings?

Prayers and petitions to the Divine for the increase of blessings is a frequent part of practices in my faith. Votive offerings are made to the gods with the request of their aid in matters. Prayers and offerings, however, should not be given only in times of need. This would be like calling on someone who you are associated with only when you wanted something from them. Eventually, the person will get sick of this treatment and stop responding to you. The same holds true with the gods, in my experience.

As such, I make prayer and devotional activities a daily thing. With two small children, I can not do anything too lavish most of the time. I keep a prayer journal wherein I talk with the gods about the things going on in my life and that which I appreciate. Gratitude and a conscious expression of it is a big way to increase the blessings one has in their life. I try to make sure that every note in my prayer journal is including at least one thing that I am thankful for.

I also work to appreciate the 'mundane' blessings that I have in my life. The ability to see the good in what we have around us right now makes it easier to see the good that comes to us unexpectedly. I work to maintain an optimistic and hopeful approach to life, which is very difficult to do when in the grips of depressive episodes or highly stressful life events. This optimism and hopefulness is a powerful way to draw positive things to you. By reorienting your mental state to one that is focused on the blessings you have, you draw greater blessings to you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spiritual Cleansing: Items

From Here
In my previous post, I discussed how to spiritually cleanse oneself. Many of the techniques that I discussed in that post can be applied to the spiritual cleansing of items. There are minor differences in how one engages in spiritual cleansing of items on the basis of size. A small ring will require different methods of cleansing compared to a moderately large book or a small car. The basic elements of spiritual cleansing are much the same regardless of the item that is to be cleansed.

Small items can be cleaned by immersing them into water that has been dedicated and blessed for this purpose. (Provided they can go into water.) They can also be wiped down with appropriately blessed water. When I am wiping an item down with blessed water, I like to keep a small container of plain water. My method is to dip my clean cloth into the blessed water and then wipe a section of the item. Then, I rinse the cloth in the plain water before dipping it into the blessed water. Much like cleaning with old fashioned soapy water, the plain water holds the spiritual 'dirt' and dramatically cuts down on how much of it muddies the blessed water.

When the item can not go into water or have water applied to it, it is possible to place it within a container of salt for a period of time. The salt will draw out the spiritual pollution. When I can, I place the item upon a bed of salt and then cover it with another layer of salt, thereby allowing the spiritual pollution to be removed from all surfaces of the item at the same time. From what I have been able to tell, this works faster then just having the item partially covered in salt.

I also have buried items in the ground for a period of time to 'earth' the spiritual energies associated with the item. This serves to 'reset' the item to a spiritually neutral state, provided that the miasmic build up is not to a very severe extent. In the event of an item having a high concentration of miasma, I use this as my final step in cleansing the item, when it is appropriate. The time to bury an item in the earth or in salt is one that is subject to some debate.

Some practitioners of magic have found that the length of time should be one lunar cycle. Others have found success in three days. It is good for the person who is doing the cleansing to pick a time frame that is meaningful to them. The cleansing action is partly done by the materials used and partly done by the practitioner's intention.

Moving the item to be cleansed through it or wafting the smoke towards the item can be used to 'smudge' said object. I have found that smudging is a helpful practice when used in conjunction with other spiritual cleansing practices. Others have found that smudging is effective on its own. In this, like determining the time frame that the object must be buried, one must listen to their inner senses and monitor the progression of the object's cleansing.

For larger items, it is impractical to bury them in salt or soil. It is often the case that one has a larger item, such as an heirloom dresser, that has spiritual grime attached to it. This item can be cleansed by asperging it with blessed water and driving out the spiritual essences of the 'grime' with prayers. It is also possible to use incense in the smudging fashion with prayers. The prayers (or incantations, if you wish to call them that, either is accurate in my opinion) are a projection of the practitioner's intent to remove the miasma. With sufficient focus and strong enough intent, it is possible to remove a significant amount of spiritual pollution by way of just prayer alone.

Many magic practitioners like to cleanse their ritual tools prior to first use. This is a helpful thing that allows one to set their ritual tool to a 'default' neutral magical state. As one uses their ritual tools, they acquire residual spiritual energy. Regular cleansing of ritual tools helps to make them more effective. Initial and maintenance cleansing have subtle differences. Initial cleansing, the practitioner focuses upon removing all acquired spiritual resonance signatures. It is a very through cleansing. Maintenance cleansing removes the spiritual resonances that are not desired. This allows one to tailor the spiritual energy signature of an item to the purposes they desire to use the item for.

Incidents of mild to moderate spiritual pollution upon one's ritual tools generally merits a maintenance cleansing. One method used is frequently sufficient to cleanse the item of undesired spiritual energy. In cases of severe to extreme spiritual pollution, multiple methods of cleansing bring about greater success. For an item that is heavily tainted with miasma, it may be necessary to spiritually cleanse it multiple times before it is restored to that 'neutral' state.

It may also happen that an item is so heavily tainted with spiritual pollution that one person's efforts simply are not enough to resolve the problem. This is where one invokes the assistance of deities and their spiritual community. Prayer, when married to practical action, can be powerful enough to lift or at least ameliorate severe spiritual pollution. One must recognize, however, that there may be cases where the spiritual pollution is simply so severe that it will linger for an extended period of time, despite one's best efforts.

If one must handle or work with an object that is so spiritually tainted that cleansing efforts only has a minimal effect, it must be treated with care. Personal cleansing after handling or interacting with said item is a must. Cleansing items that come into contact with the tainted item is also very important. This helps to control how much the spiritual pollution will spread.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Devotional Polytheist Meme Question No. 1

A while back, Galina Krasskrova started a meme. I think I might have taken a shot at answering the questions before I got side tracked by life. Because I feel that these are good solid questions to be asked by anyone who is upon a religious or spiritual path, I am going to devote the next several Sunday posts (when I remember to make them) to considering these questions. I invite my readers to do the same on whatever blogs they might have as well. Please, link back to Ms. Krasskrova's blog when you post what question you are considering and, if you're so inclined, slap a link to your post up in the comments on any of my posts along this topic.

Preamble finished, let's get right to the first question of the meme:

What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

This is a difficult question to answer for me because I am simply at a loss for where to begin. The gods, in their many guises, have been with me virtually all my life. They have given me the very breath that keeps me alive. When I have endured great struggles, they have been at my side keeping the light of hope (however grim that hope was at times) lit in my eyes and a constant source of strength. These answers, however, feel too vague to be satisfactory. If I were pressed to select three incidents that stand out as signs of the benevolence of the gods, I would choose my liberty from an abusive relationship, my completion of college, and my children.

It was a literal act of god (at the time I thought it was the Horned God of Wicca. Now, I am fairly certain it was Freyr himself.) that gave me the impetus to leave an abusive boyfriend that I was with in high school. Prior to the incident, I had been raped by said boyfriend. I had missed my menses for two months. I felt ill and honestly suspected that I was pregnant, though I didn't dare tell my parents this. To this day, my parents do not know of this. I suspect that if they chose to look through this blog, they might be horrified to find this mentioned. It was late February, I was fourteen and scared. I had a vision of a golden haired god wearing a crown that looked like deer antlers (no, not like GoT's crown of Baratheon's line, someday I may sketch it and share). This god sat beside me and told me I was safe and that I was blameless. He then took me into his arms and my sleep deepened.

When I awoke, there was a depression in the mattress beside me, as though someone had lain at my side all night. That day, I bled. To my dying day, I am certain that I had an early term miscarriage. In amongst the material that passed from me was a tiny bright pink thing approximately the size of a pencil eraser. I am dead convinced it was a fetus. With the relief of this event, and some sorrow for I never wanted to miscarry in my life, I broke the relationship off with my boyfriend. Now, not only do I believe that this saved me from all the negative effects that a pregnancy at that age would have been, I am convinced that this also saved my life. For I am sure that if I had stayed with that boyfriend, I would not be alive today. The ability to draw breath and live secure in the welfare of myself and my family is a treasure that all the world can not compare to.

My collegiate career was on the lower side of average. I had reached a point in my senior year where I desperately needed to pass a class I was failing to be able to graduate. My one and only chance to do so was to score a perfect mark on the final exam. I walked into the exam terrified and half convinced that I was going to fail. I sat down to work after saying a small prayer to Dea for help. Half way through the exam, a remarkable hail storm sprung up out of nowhere. I clearly remember the majority of my peers getting up out of their seats to watch the ice falling out of the sky as I desperately tried to remember how to answer a question on differential equations. The storm ended as I finished my final question. The next day, my instructor approached me in complete amazement. I, the student who she had advised to audit the class or drop it because of how poorly they were doing, accomplished the impossible. To this day, I still don't know how I managed to put down the correct answers. The only logical explanation is that Dea guided my hand.

My children were difficult to conceive. I have polycystic ovary syndrome. As a result of this, I had seven miscarriages (including the one that happened when I was fourteen). We had called upon the assistance of modern medicine but there was still difficulty. After three years of trying and a great deal of anxiety, I became pregnant with my eldest son. A year and a half later, I became pregnant with my second son. Both pregnancies were difficult. During the first, I had appendicitis and the second met me with gall bladder problems and severe depression (including psychotic features). Despite these difficulties, I bore two healthy little boys who are now school age and driving me batty. I do not believe that it was by way of medical intervention alone that I was able to conceive my sons. I believe that it was a confluence of medical intervention, magic, and answered prayers.