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

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.