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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Temporary break in posting.

Hello Kind Souls,

Due to circumstances outside of my control, I will be taking a break from posting this week and next. I apologize for the inconvenience. As always, I deeply appreciate your readership and I thank you all for it.

May the Gods you believe in and who love you keep you close to their hearts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spiritual Kinship.

From Here
I have been re-reading St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church. The Sybil of the Rhine is one of several figures in history that I feel a sense of spiritual kinship with. In reading her works, especially Scivias, I find myself struck by the similarity between her experiences and mine. Her luminous vision of Deity and her firm faith in the goodness of Deity and the love that Deity has for all of existence resonates powerfully with what I have experienced in my own visions.

The work of the Beguines, especially the poetry of Hadewijch and the writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, also feel quite familiar to me. As I have explored their work, I continually find aspects that ring true to what I have experienced. Like Hildegard's work, their writings convey a presence that is benevolent and loving towards all that is. Even when these women spoke of the qualities of sin and divine retribution for all who engaged in this vice, the sense of goodness continued to resonate through out much of their work.

I find myself additionally drawn to St. John of the Cross and his contemporary, St. Teresa of Avila. It may seem odd that I find such comfort and a sense of familiarity in the works of people who, if I had lived during their time, would have been horrified by my ways and declared me to be an enemy of the Church. It sometimes leaves me a touch agog at the concept, myself.

One thing that these enlightened minds of the Catholic Church of old and I agree on is that the Divine is immanent in all of existence. The experiential knowledge that all that is proclaims the Divine is ground shaking. To find it reflected in the writings of others in history is breath taking. As I read the words of these Catholic saints for the first time in a religion class at college, I was rendered speechless because it was as though someone had taken the words that I would have used to describe my experience of Dea's presence and put them to paper.

Indeed, the panentheism of their writings may be a case of a modern mind applying modern sensibilities to medieval thought, but I find myself inclined to argue that there was a version of this applied in this era. That, however, is a debate for another time. When faced with persons with whom I feel a sense of kinship, despite the differences between themselves and I, I do not blithely ignore the details about them that do not fit into my happy mold of existence. Instead, I treat them as I would a living kinsman who holds views and positions that I do not agree with. I acknowledge the differences and then respectfully disagree with them.

Just because I am a polytheist and many of my spiritual kinfolk are monotheists, it does not change that their experience of the Divine and mine resonate. Where others find themselves drawn to Buddhist or Hindu thought, I am drawn to medieval Christian thought, amongst others. I have contemplated making a little space on my ancestor shrine for these folk who I find so much comfort and guidance. The only reason why I have not done it is because I suspect that they would be displeased to have someone whom they would regard as heathen (in the pejorative sense of the term) offering prayers to them.

I will, however, acquire their works and include them in my spiritual library. Because as someone from our contemporary era said in her book:  All knowledge is worth having.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prayer in Adversity

From Here
Prayer during times of stress and difficulty is very challenging. It is as if we have encountered a mountain along our path and must climb it's craggy face to get to where we want to be. Like mountain climbing, it is a lot easier when you have the proper tools for the job. Five things that are helpful to any person struggling to pray and feel spiritual connection during a stressful time are listed below. They can be used by persons of any faith.

1. Persistence

Persistence and determination helps authors chew through writer's block, runners complete marathons, and engineers find creative solutions to design problems. When faced with a task that seems insurmountable, it is tempting to give in to despair. There may be times where feelings of despair are unavoidable. Feelings of despair, however, are different from an attitude of despair. Recognize, honor, and then set aside the feelings of despair. Continually apply yourself to the challenge of prayer, especially when you feel it most difficult.

2. Creativity

Creativity may sound like an unusual tool for the prayerful person's problems when times of trouble come along. The ability to be flexible and think of new methods to approach the problem, however, can serve to 'jumpstart' the blocked mind. It is like looking at a puzzle. Sometimes the solution is not going to be found by looking at it the same way as you look at everything else. Creative thinking allows us to change our perspective and approach the problem from a new direction. When coupled with persistence, creativity can literally move mountains. Just consider the engineering feats and creativity that had to go into the construction of major roads and railway lines through the mountain ranges of the United States.

3. Flexibility

The ability to be flexible in how much time, effort, and energy you put into your prayer life is a crucial tool. While rigid schedules are helpful for some people, there are times where attempting to force yourself to engage in prayer according to that schedule is counter productive. Also, forcing yourself to use a specific technique for prayer limits your available forms of expression. Keeping an open mind about how, when, and why you pray makes it easier to incorporate prayer into your life and keep it relevant to what is happening to you.

4. Honesty

Honesty in prayer is a tough thing to do when times are hard. Humanity tends to try to hide the struggles we have and when we are wounded. This is an evolutionary adaptation that serves us well to keep us safe, but sometimes is not helpful to the situation. Stating that your needs are what they are, rather then downplaying them, is more then just cathartic. It also tells the Divine exactly what you need, what you are struggling with, and where you are hurting. This makes it easier for us to be receptive to the assistance of the Divine in these areas. It allows us to give ourselves permission to access these uncomfortable feelings and cope with them. It also allows us to look at the challenges we are facing with a more balanced perspective.

5. Compassion

Compassion may sound like a strange requirement for prayer during a time of difficulty. Compassion is more often something that we extend to other people. Along with honesty to ourselves, compassion to ourselves   helps to heal the internal trauma that comes with times of struggle. It is in some respects, ourselves imitating what we seek from the Divine. Treating ourselves with compassion when we are in the midst of adversity sometimes seems counter-intuitive, especially with how our society here in the West tends to blame the victim for the results of the problem.

By remaining compassionate in our prayers, we use more neutral language and tend to be less critical of ourselves. It is easier to help someone who is willing to accept said assistance then one who would argue against the assistance on the basis that they are some how not worthy of it. When we fail to be compassionate towards ourselves in our prayers, we are arguing against the Divine's assistance even as we are seeking it. This conflict of interests makes it harder for anyone to maintain a clear focus on what they are seeking.

Prayer, like many other things, is a form of magic. A correctly aligned will and psychic effort is required for successful magical endeavors. When we are praying for help and seeing ourselves as unworthy of said help, it makes it more difficult for the Divine to extend that aid to us. It is not more difficult because the Divine has difficulty offering it but rather it is more difficult for us to recognize when that aid is presented.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An admission.

Gentle Reader,

I try to keep my posts here informative, uplifting, and focused on sharing with you the goodness of a spiritual life. It is, however, not all sunshine and roses. As a person with a disability, it is sometimes very difficult for me to find something positive about my situation. I have times where I find it very easy to write happy, hopeful things. More often, however, I am wrestling with depression severely distorting my perspective on the world.

I am not going to tell you that prayer and spirituality is going to cure you of your ills. They have not cured mine. The instances of people being cured by way of prayer and miracles like what is written in the Christian Bible are relatively rare. Prayer and spirituality, however, can help you to endure the struggles and hardships that you face in life.

On my darkest days, when I am so depressed that I can't stop thinking about ending my existence, I pray. It is not the loquacious elegant prayers of adoration and delight. It is not the prayers of gratitude. No, my prayer is simply for the strength to resist the temptations that my illness place before me. My prayers are for the pain and other symptoms to stop.

While much has been written about the power of keeping a grateful heart, it is not necessary to pray. When you are as low as you can possibly go, it is all but impossible to be grateful. Your view of life is heavily obscured by the waves of despair and apathy that assail you. You may have physical difficulties adding to the mental difficulties that you face in that place of darkness. Those make it even harder to be grateful and optimistic.

It does not matter what words you use, if any. Reaching out to the Divine is a powerful act of hope. Even when you feel that the Divine does not regard your cries, persist in your prayer. Your prayer may be asking the Divine to lift you out of your troubles. Your prayer might be weeping to the Divine about what you are suffering. These are perfectly valid prayers to make.

The Divine does not want us only on our good days. The Divine does not want us too turn to it/them when we want things alone. The Divine wants to be a part of our lives. This means opening our hearts to allow the Divine to perceive us in all our wounded, dirty, broken state. Today, I pray from a place somewhere between normal and depressed. I would call it an average day for me.

I spend more time depressed then much else. It hinders many, many things in my life. I do not allow it to stop me from reaching out to the Divine. It is my sincere belief that people who have some faith in the Divine have need that is the greatest during times of struggle. That connection between one who prays and one who hears those prayers is sometimes the only one that we feel safe enough to truly express what is in our hearts.

If I have learned anything over the last several years since I had become disabled, it is that it is only by expressing the fullness of what we feel and what we are thinking that we can begin the process of healing. Some say that confession is good for the soul. I would agree if one takes a more liberal view of confession. Make it more then an admission of errors. Make your confession a full accounting of where you stand at this moment.

Then start again with a clean slate. You do not need a ritual of absolution. Such things are for humanity's good but they are not vital. It is, however, positively vital that you make an honest attempt to be compassionate towards yourself and others after you give your accounting. Because compassion is a balm that heals many wounds of the spirit. It is vital that you do your best to embody what the Divine is to you, because this will also help lift you out of the depths of despair. It is a situation that you are 'faking it until you make it'.

Because at some point, you will transition from acting as though you are a confident and healthy person to being that confident and healthy person. Prayer is one way to walk through that process.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lokibrenna Post # 1 of ?

From Here
Amongst the Loki's folk I know, July is one of a few months that are celebrated for Loki. The star Sirius is believed to be the same star that was called Lokibrenna by the Nordic peoples, Loki's torch. I've posted a picture of this star to the right.

Sirius is known in various mythologies as the 'scorching' or 'burning' star. It is one of the brighter stars of the Northern Hemisphere's night sky. Interestingly, Sirius is actually a binary star system. The larger star is known as Sirius A and the smaller, cooler star is known as Sirius B.  The ancient Egyptians based their calendar upon the rising of this star during dawn. The ancient Greeks considered this time to be the beginning of the hottest part of Summer. The ancient Polynesians considered this star to be extremely important for navigation, some arguing that perhaps it was as important to them as the North Star was to sailors of the Northern Hemisphere.

Loki's torch is not as important for navigation today as it was in antiquity. In many respects, this star has become a footnote in the mythology surrounding Loki. It has been overshadowed by the Lokasenna in a major way. Loki's torch, however, is still important. The history of how this star served as a guide and an important marker of seasons should not be forgotten. Like Loki himself, the good of this star is not known by the populace.

And Loki, like the star, is a source of great inspiration. He is known as the Sly One for a reason. It is not merely his capacity for mischief that he is call this. No, Loki's cunning is said to be the reason why fishermen have nets, why Thor got his hammer back when it was stolen, and how Odin got Sleipnir. I suspect there are other stories of how Loki's cunning resulted in good things that have been lost to history. It doesn't mean that his cunning has come to an end with the modern era.

If you were to take a casual survey of Loki's worshipers, you would find yourself hearing many, many modern stories of how the Sly One helped them out-think, out-wit, and out-maneuver problems they have encountered. It is my humble suggestion that perhaps Loki's torch should be honored as a flame of inspiration and creativity burning through eternity set high in the sky for all to see. If you happen to spy Sirius one evening, consider the possibility that Loki put that spark up there to remind us to keep our wits about us when life turns challenging. That, however, is my humble take on things.