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

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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spiritual Cleansing: Personal Cleansing

From Here
The old maxim states: Cleanliness is next to godliness. While the expression comes from the Christian community, it is good to note that maintaining a state of spiritual cleanliness facilitates spiritual contact with the Divine, alleviates spiritual illness, and can help bring one a state of psychological peace as well. Personal rituals of spiritual cleansing are often viewed as something to be done on 'special' occasions, if done at all by the community at large. With a measure of focused intent, daily bathing habits can be transformed into spiritual cleansing habits as well, which can serve to help one maintain a healthy, harmonious, and happy spiritual life.

A common method of spiritual cleansing used is that of a ritual bath. The act of drawing the bath may be accompanied by the lighting of special candles or a ritual incantation. The thing that sets a ritual bath apart from an 'ordinary' one is the intent and mindset of the bather. The person who is taking a ritual bath will mindfully add items to their bathing routine that serve to nullify and remove spiritual impurity and miasma. They will also maintain a mental focus on washing away and removing said impurity and miasma as they bathe.

A simple ritual bath may consist of the bather adding a quantity of salt (preferably sea salt, but even Epsom salt can work in a pinch) to the water. Salt, as I mentioned in my previous article, is known to draw away and eliminate spiritual impurities. If it is possible to have the salt content of the bath approximately as strong as sea water, it is traditional to use this concentration. Thriftiness, however, may dictate that a smaller quantity of salt be used. If a mere teaspoon of salt is added to the water with focused intent, it is equally effective as a greater quantity. The higher salt concentration may, for some sensitive people, prove more intense of an experience then the lower concentration, but either amount will serve the same purpose.

Other additions to the bath may be herbs associated with purification. While it may be romantic to toss a handful of herbs into the bath, it is far more practical to tie them into a cheesecloth bag or bundle, which is then suspended beneath the tap as the water is added. Care must be taken to avoid herbs that are problematic for the skin and can have detrimental effects upon the body when they come into contact with mucosal membranes.

When one uses herbs in a ritual bath, they are drawing upon both the chemical properties of the herb and the spiritual ones. Of all the herbs one can potentially use in a spiritually cleansing bath, lavender is one of the best choices. Lavender is gentle upon the skin and is not problematic for the majority of the population. It's bracing scent engages one's sense of smell and can be used to help purify one from within via breathing. Lavender is also associated with healing and is useful for mending the minor spiritual bumps and bruises we encounter over the course of our day.As one bathes, it is helpful to maintain a mental focus upon removing miasma and spiritual impurities from their body. In maintaing this focus, one additionally removes them from their spiritual aspect as well.

One is not limited to using baths for spiritual cleansing. A shower done with the same mental focus is equally effective. The addition of salt or herbs to a bath is not a substitute for the deliberate act of washing the body and maintaining a mental and spiritual focus of removing miasma and spiritual impurities. The act of washing oneself can, in the event of limited time and resources, could be done even by way of washing one's hands. Greater concentration and focus is needed if one is using washing their hands to rid their spiritual 'body' of impurities because the corresponding physical action is so limited.

The use of applying blessed oils varies between faith practices. The general purpose is to promote one's spiritual well being and confer some of the blessings of the Divine upon the person anointed. This is frequently done in the Christian faith as part of their purification rite known as baptism. This is a rite that is done once in a Christian's life and serves to sever the newly baptized Christian spiritually from their previous life, cleanse them of spiritual impurities, and spiritually rebirth them into their new life. In a different context, anointing with blessed oils can be used on a regular basis to cleanse spiritual impurities and provide a barrier from the future acquisition of them. Like bathing, the application of oil should be done whilst focusing upon the objective of one's efforts - in this case, cleansing oneself of spiritual impurities.

The practice of smudging is an adaptation from Native American practices, as it is popularly done. Variants of this practice have been found elsewhere, though they go by different names. Incense or a strongly scented herb is burned. The smoke is then wafted at the person being cleansed or the person will pass through the smoke. This is understood to remove spiritual impurities from their person. In a magical sense, one is being purified by way of the classical elements of air and fire. (Bathing in salt water, one is purified by way of the classical elements of earth and water.) 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reflection in the face of Evil and Suffering

From Here
Last week saw several noteworthy events happen. Among them was the death of comedian Robin Williams and the violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Additionally, news reports of on going violence in the Middle East and the on going natural disasters of the wildfires in the western portion of the USA serves to show that great suffering can be found in many places around the world. Indeed, if one puts in a small amount of effort, it is sorrowfully all too easy to find evidence of evil and suffering even in their immediate environs.

The question arises, how is one to face these age old problems? While it is natural to desire to take actions to eliminate these problems, we must recognize that human efforts to eradicate these traits from the world will end in failure. Not because humanity is wretched, as some would teach, but rather because suffering is a natural part of existence in this world and that evil is a choice made to cause egregious, and generally needless, suffering.

The Buddha spoke of how suffering was part of existence and it was due to our attachment to things. Christians have, through the ages, declared that suffering was due punishment for rebellion against the Divine order and that evil was the fruit of the action of their anti-deity, Satan. If we look to different religions and philosophical paths around the world, we find different explanations given for why these things exist. The question as to why horrible things happen to innocent people will continue to vex us long after the Sun has burned out and humanity has left the cradle of Earth to fare to other worlds.

Suffering is a universal problem. All things that live will suffer at some point in time. It is reasonable to argue that suffering is a natural consequence of life. (It is equally reasonable to argue that pleasure is also a natural consequence of life.) Evil, however, is a problem that plagues humanity more, for we are the primary authors of its presence in the world. One might argue that the snake is amoral and lacks moral agency when it consumes a mouse. This incapacity to choose between right and wrong thus renders the snake's actions amoral because it lacks the basic functions of conscious decision making. It is acting on account of millions of years of evolutionary programming. The whole of nature operates in this fashion.

Humanity, however, has the capacity to override that evolutionary programming and make moral decisions about their actions and how they interpret the actions of others. Personal morality moves a person to make decisions as to if the items they purchase at the store are going to be fair trade and ethically produced or mass marketed, factory produced with unknown damaging consequences to the environment. This is a moral decision that an individual makes. It is when many individuals band together and start making moral judgments that we encounter collective morality. It is collective morality that tells us if engaging in acts of warfare are right or wrong.

Now, the question is, how do individuals fit into the collective moral picture? What does one do when their sense of moral justness is outraged by what the collective morality tolerates? The answer can be found in things like the Civil Rights movement and the anti-apartheid movements in history. When you oppose the actions of the collective majority, you have a moral responsibility to oppose it. Opposition can come with a steep price. People in the two movements I mentioned died for their cause. Sometimes we lack the capacity to pay the ultimate price for our convictions. This should not dissuade us from action, because even the most limited action that you can take against evil has a net effect for the positive.

Some, however, have a flight response in the face of such things rather then a fight response (I tend towards the fight response myself). This should not be shamed. If you can not take action against evil, at the very least do not entertain it within your home and in your own actions. Conscientious objectors are as important to stopping collective evil as those who actively work against it. Additionally, if you must fly from evil, attempt to bring those who are at risk of succumbing to evil's temptation with you.

Let me give you some concrete examples.

A man in Nazi Germany opposed the regime's policies and practices. He complied with the laws that he did not find to objectionable and then refused to engage in the others. This is a method of active resistance to evil by way of passive behavior.

Countless people fled Nazi Germany prior to the start of World War II. They found the laws and practices of this regime intolerable but were unable to resist actively. Thus, they showed their opposition by leaving. Many of these people that had the ability to do so, brought others with them or provided means for others to leave the country. Their efforts laid the groundwork of the work of so many others to smuggle innocent people out of the country.

One might ask, what of the people of Nazi Germany who sincerely thought they were doing the right thing? It is possible for a person to be persuaded to engage in acts of evil. Appeals can be built around constructs that are especially tempting. Humans are creatures that seek simplicity. If you reduce a situation to a difference between two factions and make the faction that appeals strongest to your audience seem to be the 'right' one, it is possible to use that urge for simplicity to cover any multitude of evil actions as distasteful necessities to support the chosen faction's actions against the other.

The common man is disinclined to engage in deep consideration of the ethical outcomes of their actions. The desire is to do the necessities of the day, avoid suffering, and achieve some form of pleasure. It is when it becomes apparent that the actions of others pose a threat to this peaceable existence that the common man's temper becomes aroused. There are times, however, that action must be taken to rectify institutionalized harm. For the institutionalized harm is detrimental to the well being of the whole populace, including that of the common citizen.

In my rambling (which has taken me three days to compose fully), I have tried not to point blame upon any party and reserve my opinion. It has become clear to me, as I have worked on this, that it would be intellectually dishonest of me to withhold my position upon these matters. My invocation of Godwin's Law only highlights the fact that I do have a position here.

Institutionalized racism (and other forms of discrimination) are abhorrent to me. It is my understanding that they run contrary to the spirit upon which the United States of America was founded. From what I have learned of the situation in Ferguson, this is a case of institutionalized racism meeting police militarization. The racism lays a foundation for violence against those who are deemed 'lesser' by accident of birth. It is my opinion that we, as civilized people, should be opposed to racism (and other forms of discrimination) and work to mitigate its influence over how society operates. I am firmly convinced that it should hold no sway over laws and their enforcement. To allow this is to undermine the rule of law.

With respect to acts of genocide, mass violence, and related evils perpetrated around the world, I sincerely believe that they should be opposed and justice be sought for the victims. Organizations like ISIS are in my understanding anathema* and persons who are able to take action against them to dismantle and render impotent these organizations should do so. These organizations exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating their will with out regard to the cost of life.

It is possible to effect change with out resorting to genocide and wide scale violence against the people living in a region. Any who would engage in such behavior should be reviled and none should take them into their company. I recognize that such behavior has happened in the past and is likely to happen in the future. It is, however, something that we have the capacity to surmount and put behind us as a species. Sadly, I do not see this happening within this millennium. Humanity, I fear, will only recognize the cost of such behaviors when it is all too late to repair the damage it has wrought.

* I use the term in the sense of that which is offensive to Deity and should be shunned and opposed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spiritual Cleansing: Tools

From Here
In my last post, I discussed miasma and spiritual pollution. Regular cleansing is an excellent way to both prevent spiritual pollution and to resolve problems from acquired spiritual pollution. There are many ways to cleanse a person, item, or location of spiritual pollution. They each require a different technique but many of the tools that can be used are the same.

Some spiritual cleansing tools that I will be mentioning have been used in some format since antiquity. Their effectiveness has long been highly regarded and are accessible across a wide variety of spiritual traditions. Others are rooted in the modern era.

Fresh, flowing water has long been known to be good for cleaning of all sorts. When the water is acquired from a source that is relatively free of human interference, it proves more effective for magical workings. Failing this, clean water is always preferable to muddied waters for obvious reasons. Flowing water is magically attuned to washing away things. Ocean water is good for spiritual cleansing as well. When one does not have access to ocean water, it is useful to replace it with clean water that has had salt added to it until it is approximately as salty as blood. Ocean water and salt water have similar properties. They retain the association with washing things away and also have mildly antiseptic properties due to the salt in them.

Salt has been honored for its magical and culinary properties since antiquity. In the European magical systems, salt is strongly associated with the Earth and physical forms. Salt is a desiccant, meaning it will draw water out of the environment to bond with it. This property is useful in the physical realm for preservation of food items and in the magical realm for drawing excess energy out of a system and returning it to the Earth. While other stones have this property as well, salt has it much more so. Soil that is free of pollutants can be useful for grounding and purifying spiritual pollution. It will, however, leave a 'stain' on the soil for a period of time. The greater the amount of spiritual pollution sunk into an area of soil, the longer it will remain.

Fire and smoke have been used as purification tools. Fire is known to consume that which is placed within it and transform it into something different. It is a magical catalyst for transformation as it is a physical example of transformation and operates on the basis of imitative magic [1]. Ancient societies, such as the Celts, would use the fumigation uses of smoke and the heat of the fire to drive away pests from their livestock by driving it between two large bonfires. The fumigation of that which is spiritually polluted with smoke is the concept behind practices akin to the Native American act of smudging.
From Here
Herbs, resins, and other combustibles used for this practice vary but as a general rule the scents are bracing and pungent. Sage is a highly popular herb within people who derive ritual elements from the Native American practices. Myrrh and Frankincense are classically used by the Catholic church. Cedar, Mugwort,  and Vervain are herbs that were used for purification in Europe during the Middle Ages. The herbs and incense that is burned for purification purposes are all strongly scented and impart their scent into the smoke from their burning.This scent is understood to convey an olfactory element of the blessing of purity that is invoked by way of their burning and fumigation of the person, location, or item in question.

Herbs, resins, and spices can also be used in other methods for purification purposes. They can be processed into tinctures or similar liquids that are used to asperge or wash that which is being cleansed. They can be added to a ritual bath or into soaps for personal spiritual cleansing. It is also possible to use herbs, resins, and spices in food stuffs or beverages that work to help enhance one's spiritual cleansing. Many of the herbs that are reputed to be effective in this method of preparation have effects on the body to increase one's urine output, sweating, or voiding of the bowels. These three things are methods by which the human body expels that which is unhealthful. Some herbs that are used in purification also induce emesis.

Great care should be taken in ingesting herbs, as many of the herbs traditionally associated with purification are not necessarily safe to consume, despite the notation from antiquity that suggests their consumption is helathful. Physical efforts of purification of the body may include the practice of fasting. Absolute fasting should not be undertaken by persons whose health is compromised, small children, or women who are pregnant, unless under a doctor's supervision. Limited fasting, however, can be useful for purification purposes, as long as it is observed in a healthful fashion. Fasting practices may include abstaining from activities, such as sexual intercourse, for the period of time that the fast is engaged in.

The object of fasting or consuming purifying food or beverages is to cleanse ones body and spirit from the inside out. More will be mentioned of this in the next posts. As suggested above, ritual actions can be used to purify oneself of spiritual pollution. The observance of taboos, carrying of charmed items, or repetition of an appropriate prayer are all actions that work to expel and prevent spiritual pollution for the persons engaged in said actions. Ritual actions can also be used to purify a place or an item. These ritual actions, while similar to those for purification of one's person, are tailored to the situational needs and the level of urgency with which the spiritual pollution requires addressing. These will also be discussed in the next articles.

Forthcoming will be a list of herbs useful for purification and methods for their application. This discussion will also include when the use of said herbs is most opportune.

1. J.G. Frazer's The Golden Bough, Ch.3, Section 2

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


It has been said in many circles that our thoughts have spiritual weight. As one who struggles with Bipolar II, I had some difficulty with this idea. I worried that perhaps the thoughts from when I was in a depressive phase of my illness equated to engaging in some sort of spiritual dirty deeds. It was after some consideration, however, I realized that they were no more harmful then physical illness.

As the wise Galina Krasskrova indicates in her article on the subject of miasma, our mental states can contribute to spiritual pollution. When we are in a state of psychological distress, spiritual signs of that illness will become apparent. Amongst the symptoms of this state is miasma. It could be described in this instance the spiritual equivalent of the virus that gives you pneumonia. Unlike a virus, however, it can be generated by the unhealthful thoughts of the individual in question and when left unattended to serve to exacerbate the unhealthy condition.

Spirit workers (for the lack of a better term that encompasses persons who engage the spirit realm on a regular basis) are regularly advised to maintain mental discipline. This is not only because it makes it easier to engage in the spiritual work they do. One can pick up miasma as they encounter and work with thought forms that are closely tied to it. Again, Ms. Krasskrova gives a very good description of the effects of miasma on a person who is afflicted by this contagion. While her personal experiences do not set down the standard of how an individual reacts to miasma, it gives one the beginnings of an idea of how to identify the pattern of responses miasma generates.

In some cases, miasma can be avoided. By refusing to entertain thoughts that would breed it, we can avoid it to a significant extent. Regular spiritual cleansing helps to repel miasma's influence much like regular hand washing and healthy habits helps keep a person healthy. As much as we can limit our exposure to miasma from others, it is something that one will encounter through out the course of time. Sometimes the miasma is self produced (ie a by product of illness, anxiety, or negative patterns of thought) and sometimes the miasma is environmentally based.

It is possible to limit how much miasma one produces by maintaining their healthy mental and spiritual state. When encountering environmentally based miasma, a somewhat different approach must be taken to manage it. Sometimes, it is possible to outright avoid it. If one knows, for example, that a given location is the site of a massacre, one can avoid that location and the spiritual pollution attached to it. At other times, one must go into a place that is miasmic out of necessity or encounter people who are strongly miasmic.

In these instances, it is good to maintain one's spiritual protections because it helps to rebuff a measure of the negative things that are drawn to miasma. It is also wise to make sure that one is spiritually 'clean' prior to entering said location or company, thereby preventing like from calling to like. If one is afflicted with miasma, it becomes easier to acquire yet more miasma. Envision it like a person with glue on their hands handling something with glue on it. Miasma will 'stick' to miasma and accumulate.

If it is possible, one should limit the time they spend around people, places, or things that are heavily miasmic. This lowers the opportunity for one to acquire yet more miasma. When it is not possible to limit exposure to miasma, regular spiritual cleansing will help to control the amount of miasma one has in their life. Even when a person is in a state where they are regularly producing miasma, spiritual cleansing is beneficial. It helps to control the amount of miasma one has on their person, thereby lowering the potential acquisition of additional miasma and the attendant problems that come with having a high concentration of miasma.

In some cases, a high concentration of miasma can bring physical symptoms (unexplainable fatigue, low appetite, and an increase in body aches is my personal symptoms of high miasma, yours may be different) and it can bring mental symptoms as well (irritability, difficulty concentrating, and apathy are my symptoms here). It can also bring difficulties with unwelcome spiritual beings that like to feed off of such states. These spiritual beings will frequently increase the amount of miasma one is suffering from, much like how anaerobic yeast create alcohol which makes the environment more hospitable to them.

In my next post, I'll talk about spiritual cleansing.