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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Virtues: Faith, Hope, Love

From Here
Like our friends the Catholics, the traits of faith, hope, and love are holy virtues that are well enshrined within the Filianist's heart. Similar to their perspective, we also believe that these three traits are special Graces bestowed by the Divine.

Faith in Dea (in all manifestations), Her actions (as described in the Scriptures), and in Her ability to hear our cries and respond to them forms the core of a Filianist's understanding of their relationship to Dea. Faith is a virtue that is bestowed upon us by the Divine and also a choice that we make regularly.

It is an especially challenging virtue to maintain during times of difficulty. The person who keeps the light of faith burning within their breast moves through life with the sister virtues easily within reach. Equally challenging to to maintain in times of travail is the virtue of hope. Hope shares many traits with faith and could be described as faith's twin sister.

Hope in Dea's love, mercy, and regard helps a Filianic believer to persevere despite the challenges that beset them. Hope in the Daughter's redemption of the Universe helps a Filianist endure the metaphysical horror of Hiatus. Hope in reunion with the Mother in the end of all things helps a Filianist to endure the perceived distance that comes during what St. John of the Cross described as the Dark Night of the Soul. Where the Christian version of the 'dark night' speaks of the struggles of renouncing the world and the times of spiritual crisis, a Filianist has a similar challenge, wherein they renounce the illusory aspect of reality.

Love is, as the Christian Apostle Paul is attributed with writing, the greatest of virtues. Much has been written about this most holy virtue. Indeed, if one takes a moment to review what this Christian man had written, one finds a very deep and accurate picture of love. Love that abides in the heart of a Filianist is a reflection of the love that abides in the heart of Dea. It is a grace that is given to all, regardless of their station or background. It can be found in all places, for the Daughter has brought this 'light' of the Mother into all things. It is also the very fabric of reality that is sustained by the Mother's hand, breath, and nature.

Much of the mysticism of the Filianic faith is rooted in an understanding and direct experience of these three virtues. They are the warp upon which the systems of belief and practice are woven. They are our direct 'line' to Dea that serves to both tether us to Her and sustain us regardless of the difficulties that we weather in life. There are times, however, where we falter in our practice of these virtues.

The faithful may suffer a lapse in their faith. The hopeful may despair. The lovers may turn indifferent. In these times where we struggle to maintain these virtues, it is good to continue to perform the exercises wherein we express them, as hollow as it may feel. The exercises of prayers of gratitude and acts of charity serves to act as a guide for the soul to find her1 way back to security in the virtues. In the next post, I will describe prayerful acts that serve to support and nourish the soul during times of difficulty. It is good to remember that even when we falter in our expression of these virtues, they do not completely vanish when we do not express them.

The seed of these traits lay within all. It is by way of the Divine's blessing (also known as Grace) that this potential can be found in all that is. The temple of the heart, spoken of in the Filianic sutra of the same name, is the residing place of these 'seeds'. They blossom forth by way of Divine will and our effort to nurture them with prayer, contemplation, and action. All who believe in the Divine in it's multifaceted, independently experienced splendor are the fruit of these 'seeds' regardless of the religion or spiritual practice they adhere to. Indeed, one could argue that all who believe are kin because of the fact that they believe.

1. The gendered term of 'her' is used for the sake of convention, not out of an argument that the soul is of a specific gender. It is the author's understanding that the soul is something that is independent of gender or gender-fluid.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Modes of Prayer

From here
Prayer is both a startlingly complex and terribly simple thing. At its simplest, prayer is an act or  invocation of a deity, spiritual being, or object of worship with the intent communicating with that which is invoked. Prayer can be silent or verbal. It can be done in stillness or with vigorous activity.

The mode of prayer that is most common in the region of the USA that I am from is patterned after Protestant Christian acts of worship. This mode combines a ritual gesture of supplication and a verbal invocation. Generally, the body language is submissive, indicating that the petitioner is of a lower station then that which is invoked. The only variant that can be found in this mode is the degree of submissive body language.  Some kneel and bow their heads in an ancient gesture that is universally recognized as one of deference, regardless of culture. The hands are usually raised in a supplicating gesture, generally clasped together before the petitioner at approximately chest height. Others stand but retain the bowed head.

Bodily position indicates how one perceives their relationship with that which they invoke. This denotes the degree of respect accorded to what one is invoking and the way that one anticipates the deity or spiritual being addressing them. Some choose not to adopt submissive bodily postures when they pray, assuming a stance that is receptive, however, is still quite common. One may choose to stand upright and face the icon of their faith, for example, with their stance one of relaxed attentiveness. In either case, the petitioner assumes a bodily position that they associate with receptive attention.

Prayer can also be an act that is performed. Dedicating one's activities to a deity is a form of prayer. Engaging in challenging work in the honor of the object of worship is as valid of a form of prayer as engaging in tasks that others would consider trivial. The key to prayerful action is intent and maintaining mental focus upon that intention while doing said activity. Generally, persons who have experience in active meditation will find that prayerful activity is easier to do. This is also true for persons who wish to transition from prayerful activity into active meditation.

Verbal prayer is most often performed via spoken word or mentally 'talking' to the object of worship. It is equally useful to engage in keeping a prayer journal wherein one might record written prayers. Prayer journals are useful tools for a person in building up a deeper sense of familiarity with their interior landscape and how they approach prayer. Over time, a person who keeps a prayer journal will discover themes in their prayers as to their wants, needs, and offerings given via this medium.

Some who pray verbally will use music to communicate their petition. This is a combining of verbal prayer with active prayer. Others who pray verbally will repeat a formula of prayers (ie the Rosary). The use of unique and spontaneous prayers does have a respected place in a spiritual life. These prayers are argued by some to be more valuable then formulaic prayers. It is the author's opinion that the use of formulaic prayers is equally of merit to spontaneous prayers, as the objective of these prayers are different.

Formulaic prayers are designed to achieve a specific goal. In instances where one is reciting a prayer that has a long history of use, a person may tap into the reservoir of spiritual energy behind that prayer and draw some of that power to them. It is the authors opinion, as well, that the farther one removes a formulaic prayer from its cultural and ideological source, the less effective it becomes. For a Filianist, the prayers of the Catholic church are going to be more effective then those of a Presbyterian church. This is because the Catholic iconography has greater resonance with the Filianic faith's iconography. This makes the concepts of the Catholic prayer easier for a Filianist to apply.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Preparation for the Solstice & Rosa Mundi

Bring to Our Lady, O ye sons of God: bring to Our Lady praise and reverence.
Give strength to thy saints, O holy Mother: and thy blessing to those who praise and glorify thee.
Hear the groans of those who sigh to thee: and despise not the prayers of those who invoke thy name.
Let thy hand be ready to help me: and thy ear inclined to my prayer.
Let the heavens and the earth bless thee: the sea and the world.
~ St. Bonaventure, Psalter of the Blessed Virgin

The words of the Catholic St. Bonaventure may seem unexpected to you, gentle Reader. The eclectic nature of this blog and the inquiry that I have made into how to approach Our Lady and the gods has me drawing wisdom from a wide range of sources. In the studies of Catholic saints, we might find wisdom that is well inclined to any who would heed it. I picked out a random text from the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin to open this entry, for like the Kyrian order, I find there is much to be said for the devotions to the Lady Mary.

As I make my preparations for the Solstice and the high feast of Rosa Mundi, I find myself drawn to lifting my voice up in praise of the gods. If I had my way, I would have the house spotless and the garden filled with flowers on the eve of Solstice. I would have home made bread and cakes as offerings, as well as a picnic for my family to celebrate the holy day together. This year, however, the celebration will fall on a day that I have more terrestrial concerns drawing me about the countryside. I am inclined to draw from that drop or two of Celtic blood in my lineage and start the observance of the holy day the evening before.

Within Wicca, the Summer Solstice is a notable day of celebration. We recognize the fecundity of the Earth and the vigor of life all about us. It is at this time that the wheat that was sown in autumn, known as winter wheat, has reached maturity and some is even ready to harvest. Strawberries and roses are prolific. Blackberries, raspberries, and many other fruit that are harvested in late spring and early summer are either at or near the point they are to be picked. The Summer Solstice could be looked at as the first of the harvest festivals or a celebration of the largess of nature that is seen in all that is about us.

Rosa Mundi is the first of the Mother focused festivals of the sacred year of the Filianic faith. With Exaultation, we concluded the narrative arc of the Daughter with her reunion with the Mother. Rosa Mundi is a two fold celebration. It is a celebration of the union of the whole of existence and reality with the Mother, for she is present in all things even when we do not recognize this. It is also a celebration of the quest of the soul to that place of holy union that is the Mother's arms. If we must focus upon a particular aspect of Dea as Mother for this celebration, it would be the sustaining Mother who nourishes us with her love and overflowing gifts.

Rosa Mundi is the first of the fire festivals of Filianism. In some Filianic communities, this fire festival is celebrated with bonfires. The bonfire of Rosa Mundi is not like the need based fires of the late autumn and early winter fire festivals of antiquity. It is, instead, a celebratory fire that is kindled to encourage the faithful to look to the fiery rose of their heart wherein they might commune with Dea. It is a boisterous and joyful time where the gifts of Dea are savored and delighted in. In this respect, there can be several strong parallels drawn between Rosa Mundi and the Wiccan holy day of Litha (another name for the Summer Solstice).

Both celebrations encourage the faithful to live fully in the moment. They embrace the delights of the senses (and in some cases the sensual, for some Wiccan's consider this when the Lady and Lord consummate the marriage made at Beltaine). We are exhorted in both cases to drink deeply from the cup of life even as we lift it up in toast and praise of the Divine.

My modified celebration of these two holy times that overlap, will be such that I shall focus upon the joy of the life I lead. I will meditate upon these things and offer them up to the Divine with a thankful and happy heart. I will acquire a bough of roses from the wild briar growing in the backyard and place some blossoms on the altar and at my outdoors shrine. If the weather permits it, I'll try to get a little baking done the day or so before, this way I can give my family something homemade and wonderful for the day. I will be surrounded much of the day by good friends and engaged in things that give me deep happiness. This, however minimal, will be the heart of my observance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Khear & Fear

From Here
The Gospel of Our Mother God has a passage that I find apt to meditate upon this evening. It speaks of how all of existence is shot through with khear and that is what separates us from Dea. The passage that I quote below is what caught my eye this evening when I performed a touch of Bibliomancy to help me find a focus for my writing.

The cosmos is a perfect sphere, more lovely than the sun, and yet it is all riven through with khear. All that is was fashioned by My Mother out of the laughter of Her heart and the cunning of Her hands, and all that is very good, more than any soul can know. But khear is not. Khear is naught. Khear is the black abyss that has turned its face from My Mother and has frowned upon the laughter of Her heart.
Secret of the World, vs. 4 - 6

One may wonder how khear and fear are related. I think it is a very natural relationship that came about because of the nature of khear. Khear is the furthest distance we might be from the grace of Dea and all that is holy. It is described as an abyss that keeps the incarnated being from Dea's presence. Some elements of khear can be understood in the terms of sin. For it is the error of turning away from the Divine and breaking the connection that is forged in that limitless loves which Dea gives to all that is. To be fully disengaged from that which sustains all of reality is to go mad, for you have replaced the comprehension that all reality stems from some source to embracing the fleeting shadows of existence.

I am not saying that atheists and agnostics are mad. For they have different paths to the home of all spirits. Even an atheist thinks that all of reality had some sort of beginning and that there are some manner of laws that govern its function. They do not view that which sustains reality and that which was present at the beginning as a sentient being. When you define sentience in the narrow terms of human understanding, you turn Dea (and all of the Divine) into puppets and render them less then what they are. In many respects, the atheist has perhaps one of the clearer perspectives upon that which we know as gods.

I, however, am moving away from the heart of what I wished to address in my post tonight. Khear is described as a vast chasm that is bridged only by way of Dea's will and action. Among the signs of khear's distance is that which hinders us from progressing forward towards the best which we can attain and be. Fear is a very powerful goad. It can propel us forward or it can paralyze us in our tracks. That fear which hinders us and keeps us from moving in the direction of that which is good and healthy for us is the fear that we could call a daughter of khear.

It is something that all of humanity must struggle with. We might manage to best this type of fear for a moment but it will assail us again from another angle. When we are trapped within this type of fear, it is frequently the case that we fell alone and utterly cut off from the Divine. Thus it could be said that when trapped in this fear, we are trapped within the abyss of khear. How does one rise up from this abyss?

One method is prayer and acts of devotion to the Divine. Another is in taking deliberate acts of hope. It is important to note, hope and acts of hope are indeed forms of prayer or faith. The success of these comes by way of grace. It is not purely ourselves pulling us up by our bootstraps. For the Divine has provided those bootstraps that we use to pull ourselves up. And at times, the Divine will reach out a hand to lift us up.

The action of the Divine, be it by way of Dea or other gods, is not always easy to discern. It does, however, provide support for us when we act with courage in the face of such an unmanning fear. It is a flame that burns bright against the darkness of the chasm and illuminates where the rope that we might take hold of to climb towards the light is. Fear is the force that drags us down into the chasm, at times. Dea's grace comes in our capacity to resist that dragging force.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rituals for the Gods & Offerings

My spiritual education is eclectic Wiccan. I draw from the rites of the Asatru community, the Wiccan community, and generic Christian forms of worship in my own practices. Many of the rites of the Filianic community resemble the Christian worship methods because the ritual structure is what is most familiar for many of the worshipers, as they come predominantly from a Judeo-Christian background (here in the USA). My rituals of worship are generally fairly simple affairs that are woven into my daily tasks.

Most days, I say a prayer of greeting to the Sun at sunrise or when I first see the Sun. When I do so, I address my prayer to Sunna, the Norse goddess of the Sun, and give thanks for her bringing the new day to us. My prayer is very simple and often consists of:

Hail Sunna! Thank you for bringing light and warmth to us after the long night. May you be blessed.

I try to remember to say a prayer of gratitude for that which I have in my life when I sit down to my meals. It is not one I remember to do every meal or every day. I haven't settled into a comfortable prayer routine for this. As I do so, I will note what prayer coalesces for this purpose. My goal with this prayer is two fold. First it is to recognize and be thankful for the food and good things I have in my life. Secondly, it is to hallow the simple act of eating so that I remember that it is necessary and valuable. Some people, like myself, struggle with eating and we need reminders to stay healthy in doing so. Prayer is the vehicle that I have chosen for this.

After I have had my breakfast, I go to my altar. I light three candles. One is a scented candle for Loki. (He really seems to enjoy the food scented ones, especially if they're scented like baked goods.) One is a novena candle for Dea. I like using novena candles for my offering to Dea because I hallow one candle and it lasts me approximately a week. In the end, I then recycle the glass container. My third candle is one that is dedicated to all the gods and goddesses who love me. Because I have limited altar space and the potential for a fire hazard with many candles is very real, I use one candle for this purpose, unless directed otherwise by the deities. When I light each candle, I state whom the candle is for.

Lighting these candles in the morning and having them burn while I am home and awake does two different things. First, they are a reminder of the presence of the Divine in my life. The scent of Loki's candle is a subtle reminder through out the whole apartment that he is with me or but a prayer away. The light of the other candles help me to focus upon the gods rather then my anxiety or more mundane troubles. It is something that soothes me and helps my life to go more smoothly. The second thing that these candles do is they silently carry my prayers to the gods, even when I haven't the words to express them. Looking at them (or in the case of Loki's candle, smelling it) turns my mind to the Divine and helps to open up a dialogue between us. It assists me in turning every act that I do into a prayerful one.

There are times where I am pulled to do something more formal. I have a special bowl that I pour offerings out into. It is in someways like the Hlautbowl of an Asatru blot. My offering bowl is a footed silver bowl that I found at a thrift store many years ago. Interestingly, the inside of the bowl never tarnishes. I think this is a sign of the approval of the gods upon this choice of vessel for offerings. When I make an offering, I place it within the bowl and hold it up. As I do so, I call upon the gods to be aware of my offering. After this, I place it upon my altar.

Sometimes, the offerings that I am encouraged to give come from a different direction. Loki likes to share coffee with me. He has his own glass demitasse where I put a small portion of my morning coffee in before I have any. Freyr likes it when I share tea with him. There is a small pottery demitasse that I was gifted by my sister-in-law that I use for this. As with the coffee, I give the offering before I drink any. The one offering that does not go into a special container or have any sort of special statement made before I give it is flowers.

I try to have a bouquet of flowers on my altar at most times. In the winter, my bouquet is fashioned from artificial flowers. During the spring, summer, and fall, I have fresh flowers in the vase. I try to use wild flowers when I can but when I am moved to do so, I will purchase a bouquet from the store for this purpose. The offering of flowers is something of a hold over from my Wiccan practices. While the Wiccan Lady does not ask for blood sacrifice, an offering of flowers is something that I found She approved of, when given freely.

Interestingly, handmade artificial flowers from recycled materials have been met with greater approval then fresh flowers. I think this is because nothing living is harmed in the process of making the offering and the offering is a dual sort. It is not only the sacrifice of an object but also of time and effort. Giving these things to the gods will always be appreciated. Indeed, it seems that the giving of time and effort is valued more highly then that of material goods.

If I am not called to make an offering, I spend my day doing my usual tasks about the home. I try to dedicate my efforts to the gods. It does not equate to making things like washing a pile of dishes more fun, but it is my feeling that it gives it deeper meaning. Indeed the things that you do which require greater effort, when they are done in honor of someone (Divine or not), has greater value then it does alone. Why? Because you are giving the action additional layers of meaning and yourself additional motivations to do so. If we undertook an action for our own sake, we have only ourselves to win approval from. If we do so for another's, we have their scrutiny to uphold.

Now, it is my observation that the gods are generally looking for us to give our best efforts, irregardless of how difficult the task is. They tend to frown, however, upon people who say they will do something and then fail to do so. The failure to act, even if it is an action that results in unsuccessful or unsatisfactory completion of a task (including the inability to complete it), seems to be the thing that counts as an affront to the gods. It is a failure to keep your word and honor the promise that you have made in making the offering.

At the end of my day, I extinguish my candles. As I do so, I quietly thank the gods for their presence in my life. Where some people would say a prayer before they go to sleep at night, I don't because I have done my nightly ritual of gratitude when I extinguished my candles. There are, however, some things that remain lit through the night and during the day.

I love electric tea lights. They are safe and effective ways to give a 'fire' offering even during the night when you are sleeping. I am in the midst of looking up ways to dispose of the batteries that are ecologically friendly. I have one that I keep lit upon my ancestor's shrine at all times. This is because it is my offering to them and my sign that they are welcome in my life.

I also have one that I keep lit upon my altar as an offering to Dea. During the day, the light of the tea light candle is replaced with my novena candle. The candle for Dea is much like the one in a Catholic church that signifies the presence of the Eucharist (and by this the presence of Christ). The candle for Dea signifies not only my prayers and my spiritual reaching towards her. It also signifies her presence and her reaching towards me. The only time that light is extinguished is when it is Hiatus. This is because during Hiatus, the Daughter is not with the world.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Rose in the Cave.

From Here
This week, there will be two posts today. I originally planned to publish this on Sunday but it required more research then I had anticipated. The philosophical underpinnings of Filianism has been an object of interest and study of mine for a little while now. The more I learn, the more I see strong elements of Platonic thought at play.

The one thing that stands out most potently for me is Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Plato describes a scene where a group of people are imprisoned in a cave from childhood on. These people are restrained in such a fashion where they can only look forward at the wall before them. Cast upon that wall are shadows illuminated by a fire. These shadows are like puppets, for the prisoners can not see those who carry the objects casting the shadows. To the prisoners, these shadows are the whole of reality and the sounds that they hear seem to be associated with the shadows.

One prisoner is freed and escapes the cave. They go to the surface, blinded by the light first of the fire as they pass it by and then by the sun. After their eyes adjust, they discover that there is more to the world then mere shadows and that the shadows are cast by objects, insubstantial compared to said objects. The prisoner then returns and attempts to tell their fellows about this only to be declared mad and punished for such statements.

Plato argued that the world we see about us is illusion, it is the shadows of more perfect forms of reality cast in the light of that which he called the Good. Plato argued that moving from viewing only shadows to looking upon that which is illuminated by the light of reason, which is argued to be a 'shadow' of the light of the Good, one separates themselves from the rest of humanity. Their increased understanding comes painfully and with greater comprehension, the more difficult it becomes for them to translate that which they are aware of into the language of those who reside in the dark. Plato also argued the dangers of carrying such knowledge are unavoidable, at the same time suggesting that the enlightened person has a moral obligation to do so.

Filianism does not have a cave allegory, but a similar idea applies. Time and again, in The Gospel of Our Mother God, we are informed that the world we interact with is illusory and that our thoughts are more 'real' then we comprehend. We are furthermore exhorted to consider that the whole of reality is dependent upon the 'light of the Good' which can be considered to be Dea's will. The mythos of the Daughter could be argued to be a story of one who leaves the cave, returns to bring knowledge, and then leaves the cave again to return to the Good, with the adaptation that the one who escaped the cave entered it of their free will and resided there for a time by choice rather then force.

It is argued and implied that the whole of reality is dependent upon a subtle web of more perfect forms that are illuminated by way of Dea's will as a stained glass window would be by the sun. It is possible to argue that Plato's allegory has its roots in deeper, older knowledge then one would perhaps realize. The distance between reality and Dea is illusory but it is also painful. As we move from darkness and ignorance towards light and knowledge, we find that the process is an ordeal of sorts. It is from here that the tears that are spoken of in The Temple of the Heart arrive.

For some, they are tears of repentance for they have come to understand how their own actions contributed to the distance between themselves and Dea. For others, they are tears of grief for that distance, which some would argue is a form of repentance. It is a long process to move from shadows to light. Unlike the Daughter, we do not know the way. We must depend upon her guidance and take hope in her encouragement. For the process is enough to move one to despair from time to time, where we would turn from that light back to shadow because we fear the brilliance or the pain that comes from initial contact with it.

It is, however, a process that ultimately is liberating and reunites us with the Good, which is Dea herself.