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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Apathy, depression, and faith.

These last few weeks have been very difficult for me. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, I have bipolar disorder. When depressive episodes hit, I have a very hard time writing and doing much else. Honestly, I find myself wanting to sleep all the time and half on the verge of crying at random moments. In that state, I have a very difficult time to keep faith.

It is not that I lose faith in the gods. It is in myself that the faith falls away. It is in the validity of my experiences and the merit of my efforts. When I'm not finding myself savagely questioning if all of this is just in my head and that I am certifiably insane, I am wrapped in this queer sense of apathy where I just don't have the energy  to care about much of anything. What moves me forward on those days is my sense of duty, though some days it is even a struggle to push forward with that momentum as well.

I have been having trouble sleeping. This is not good for my mental health (problems sleeping are not good for ANYONE'S mental health, honestly). As I have been laying awake and trying to quiet my worrying over the last few weeks as I tried to sleep, Freyr has sat with me. He has consoled me in my grief over what troubles have come as a result of my disability. He has comforted me in my anxiety for the future. And he simply lets me just be in his company and holds me, giving me a safe place where I can just let all my fears and troubles lie at the side. It is like when Beloved holds me and has the same conversations with me, except it lasts into the beginnings of sleep where I would otherwise lose awareness of Beloved's presence.

Freyr and Beloved both tell me that I am too hard on myself. I confess, they are right. When I find my confidence and mood dipping, I feel this insane urge to push myself as hard as I can to prove that I can do things just as well as I do when I am not depressed or anxious. I would have been forcing myself to post more over the last few weeks except for the fact that I have been terrified that my work is not good enough to be legitimately worthy of writing. When I am unwell, I have a very hard time seeing past those kinds of fears.

Freyr has been quietly at my side, helping me too my feet when Beloved wasn't here to do it. When I get angry with myself, he calmly and firmly guides me back to a more neutral position. He sternly jerks my proverbial chain when I start getting into bad territory with my various illnesses and has had no qualms about calling me on my attempts to avoid what is good for me on the basis of it being inconvenient. (As he has said recently, "Temporary inconvenience is better then temporary confinement." Having been in a psych ward due to my bipolar several times, I took the hint and adjusted myself accordingly. Freyr does not pull his punches.)

I've been afraid to write about my involvement with Freyr. I got too caught up in the worries that people would assume that I was trying to do the 'invisible boyfriend' thing. I got caught up in the fear that I would be pronounced mad as a hatter and suffer horrible psychological torment for it. (Bullying is a mild way to describe what I experienced growing up. There is a reason why I have social phobia.) As I sat here this evening, flailing over what to write, Freyr and Loki both told me to break my silence on this.

Freyr asked me if I was embarrassed by his affections and was that the source of my discomfort and why I didn't mention him but a few times in passing. Loki just bluntly said that my keeping silence about this was disingenuous of me and really not my style. Of the two comments, Freyr's was the one that hurt. I am afraid that I am doing this romantic relationship with a deity all wrong. I am afraid that I am going to have a howling horde descend upon me for this declaring that I am a bored housewife looking for an invisible boyfriend to spice up my life. Letting these fears stop me, however, has lead to my hurting someone who loves me deeply.

While I haven't much faith in myself right now, I have full faith in Freyr and what he feels for me. I am confused on my end of things, but I am not thinking clearly right now either. All of the anxieties that have come up with respect to Beloved have come on the scene with respect to Freyr with a list of new ones. It makes me sad that my mental illnesses are such an ever present part of the picture. I look at how other people who are romantically involved with the gods and, honestly, I have times where I envy their confidence. Loki, however, pointedly reminds me that I shouldn't be comparing myself to someone else who has an entirely different relationship and entirely different life experiences.

Freyr assures me that when this depressive episode lifts, things will look better and I will feel better about everything. It's hard to see that right now. But, I trust him and I have faith in him. I may not have much faith in myself but if Freyr says everything will be alright, then it is going to be. And, as Loki has said to me, it may be weird between here and alright but that is ok too.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crossing Lines: The Fundamentals of Trance work

Boundaries are in place for reasons that range from organization to protection. Generally, we live within them and find they make our lives comfortable and safe. Boundaries are frequently a good thing. Any psychotherapist worth their salt will tell you that emotional boundaries are necessary. Any landscaper will tell you that physical boundaries are aesthetically vital.

There are times, however, where boundaries must be crossed. Growth frequently comes from pushing ourselves past self-imposed limitations of outmoded images of ourselves. The boundaries of the spiritual world must be crossed in some sense to accomplish any sort of magical work. Shamanistic efforts regularly consist of crossing boundaries in the spiritual aspects of world. Laurie Cabot, a prominent Wiccan author, at one point described a witch as someone who regularly moves between the mundane and the spiritual world1.

The boundary between the physical aspect of the world and the numinous spiritual one that is peopled by wights, the dead, and everything in between  is described by some as The Veil. In the spiritual landscape of the Norse mythos and the Celtic mythos, it is something that is overlaid upon the mundane world and the barrier between is one of perception. Accessing that spiritual landscape that exists alongside and within the physical world we move within on a daily basis comes from an altered state of consciousness wherein we cross boundaries within our mental states and our abilities of perception.

It can be accomplished through many means. Intoxication is one that has been used since antiquity via various substances. Ritual trance immersion is another that has been applied for a very, very long time. The use of divination tools to achieve a limited 'view' of this element of reality is another method that has been in use since antiquity. What, one may ask, is the objective of using these techniques and what are the hallmarks of having accomplished them?

The goal of these different methods is to alter our ability to be aware of the world so that we become more attuned with the subtler information available to us. When one is in a state of mindful trance, they find themselves more aware of what their inner eye can perceive. They find themselves able to access details about the world that their regular consciousness filters out in its daily efforts to assess the vital information in the world about them. From this awareness comes the ability to perceive the spiritual elements of the world.

A state of ecstatic awareness is often part of the desired mental state. Mental clarity and increased sensitivity to physical stimuli are frequently reported in this state as well. Most of all, there comes a deep, intuitive sense that one has entered into territory that is separate from their own mental projections. The ability to achieve this state is not one that is commonly found amongst the majority of the population. The ability to enter into this state with out the assistance of an induction process (be it chemical, mental, or physical) is even more rare.

In the modern world, ritual trance induction and divination tools are the most common techniques used. Intoxication is generally out of favor because the technical skill required to safely enter into that mental state is not known to the vast majority of the people who engage in this practice and there are legal restrictions on what kind of substances can be used. The different processes of ritual trance induction fall in two major divisions. One is trance induction via physical stimulus. This can range from ordeal workings to repetitive motions. Physical stimulus works to overwhelm the conscious mind with sensation thereby freeing one to experience the spiritual aspects with out the distraction of the mundane.

The other process of trance induction is mental focus. This is combined with physical stimulus to a limited extent with things such as guided meditations because of the auditory component. Mental focus disregards the mundane aspects of ones situation until a desired state of trance is reached. Of the two practices, trance induction via mental focus is the more challenging. In either case, the goal is to change one's main focus of perception from the external stimulus to the more internal ones of the psychic senses.

The reasons for engaging in trance work can be virtually limitless. Communication with spiritual beings, the dead, or deities is a common reason for this practice. The application of spiritual healing for psychic wounds and sickness is also another common reason. Some enter into this practice for the sake of the sensations and to explore this aspect of reality. Whatever reason one may choose to engage in trance work, safety precautions must be taken on both the physical and spiritual levels.

Deep trance work requires one to be in a location where they are physically safe. It is often done with an assistant who keeps an eye upon the person who is entranced and maintains a conducive environment for the working. Spiritual safety includes things such as having a clear focus on 'where' one wishes to go in the spiritual realms, invoking of one's deities and spiritual allies to keep them safe from harm, and the establishment of a safe 'base of operations' where one journeys out from and returns to. Usually, that safe space is the spiritual version of where one is physically located but it can also be a place within one's own being.

Successful trance work is not something that comes overnight. It takes a great deal of study and discipline for one to reach the state of trance required to journey out of themselves and go to different locations in the spirit world with out a guide. It also requires one to be intimately familiar with their personal spiritual and mental landscape. The ability to filter out that which is true spiritual input from what we create within our minds and what arises from external stimuli is quite challenging. Someone who wishes to learn to do trance work is well advised to start with building their knowledge of what the nature of their own spirit is like and recognizing their internal voice.

1. The description is provided in greater detail in her book The Power of the Witch. Sadly, my copy has gone missing so I can not provide the exact quote and what page it is located on.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Polytheist following a Monotheistic deity? Wut?

Filianism/Déanism is a monotheistic faith. The Nordic faiths (Ásatrú, Vanatru, and Rökkatru) are polytheistic. I have been a polytheist from the beginning, even way back when I was a practicing Wiccan in the early-mid 90s. Some would think that the crossing of polytheistic thought with monotheist belief systems would be some kind of massive 405 Method Not Allowed error. (Yes, I am married to a programmer and I've absorbed some of his arcane language through osmosis. It was not pleasant. I suspect this is what initiates into the Borg collective experience.)

I am clearly an outlier within the Filianic/Déanic community. I don't pretend to be the voice of orthodox Filianism. If I have given anyone this impression, I would like to apologize and encourage you to refer to sites such as A Chapel of Our Mother God and the Daughters of Shining Harmony. I also am something of an outlier within the Nordic faith community. It is something that may cause some upset by others but it is just who and what I am.

I believe that all gods are distinct entities. I believe that there is overlap on what the gods can do because the universe is so vast and complex that the overlap is going to happen to the benefit of the universe. Many hands make light work, as my late grandfather would say. I also believe that every religion on the face of Earth is valid. I do not believe, however, that anyone has the right to foist their faith on to some one else. It is my understanding that faiths that encourage spreading the word of their beliefs are supposed to do so by example and demonstrating their values through action rather then coercive force. Furthermore, it is my belief that all these different religions can coexist peaceably because sectarian warfare is something that humans do.

Do the gods have their wars? Perhaps. The Aesir-Vanir war is mentioned and figures strongly within the mythos of Ásatrú and Vanatru. Thor's battles with Jotuns are well known as well. I am sure in other faith systems there are stories of wars between the gods.  I am sure that those wars will happen even in modern times. It does not mean that we humans should wage war on each other just because someone doesn't believe the same thing we do. I digress, let me return to my original point.

At one point, I was something of a soft polytheist. I thought that all gods were different facets of a single entity. I came to the conclusion over the years that this is not correct. At least, not in my experience. I believe it is possible to worship gods from different pantheons. I believe it is possible to have relationships with gods of different pantheons. It is like having dealings with people of different families. They are different from each other but have common traits, in this case of being deities. Some deities do not get along well with others. I wouldn't hail Thor and an ice Jotun at the same time because there is going to be friction between them. (Gods, is that a huge understatement or what?)

It is my experience that Dea is willing and happy to be hailed and honored alongside other deities. It is my experience that she prefers peace and harmony over the struggle to be first in line to be hailed or the only one to be hailed. As she is not a threat to the Nordic deities, they have peaceable dealings with her. I think it is human insecurity projected on to deities when we say that they must declare other religions to be false. From my experience, as long as their people and the pantheon are relatively safe and not restricted in their doings, most gods don't care about other pantheons. Indeed, some will develop friendships and alliances across pantheon lines.

I think this is reflected in the different gods being viewed as the 'same' across different regions. A fine example is Herne and Freyr. I don't know if their friendly relationship was present in the past. I suspect things were more rocky between them when the cultures of their peoples were in regular warfare with each other. Now, however, they work together to the benefit of their followers when invoked together. It is my experience that these two deities regard each other as equals and respect each other highly. And I think this is reflected in how the Celtic oriented modern pagans generally get on well with the Nordic faith oriented modern pagans.

All of this is my personal gnosis but it seems to be  paralleled by the experiences of others. It may seem contradictory to worship a goddess of a monotheistic faith and be a polytheist but it is a conflict that arises when one decides that there is only one true faith, only one deity. I know with all the surety of the bones within my body that there are more gods then we can count. They reveal themselves to us in a manner that we might best understand them. All religions are built of a consensus of personal gnosis along different themes. At one point, there was a bunch of individual believers stumbling around in the proverbial dark. Then they discovered that others had the same experiences as them. Thus the accepted beliefs began to arise and what we recognize as religion appeared on the scene.

Religion is something from humanity. The gods give us information and direction. It is we who implement it and act on it with our best judgment.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Exciting News!

The book of meditations that I was working on this winter is finally available for purchase. It is a Filianic/Déanic book of meditations that takes the reader through the liturgical year. The dates on the pages give both the date in the Filianic calendar and the corresponding Julian calendar date. Included are meditations for the 'time outside of time' that is Hiatus.

I have written about the Mysteries of Divine Life, the Angels (Janyati), and the mystic paths to Dea. I tried to keep the text as user friendly as possible. There are quotes from scriptural passages, apocryphal texts, and a forth coming book on my mystic experiences of Dea. This book is intended to be used in conjunction with Rose Petals but it is just as useful as a stand alone text.

If you purchase A Year with Dea through, you will get a discount off of the cover price. An e-book of this text and of Rose Petals is slated to be available early next week.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Heart-wise and Head-strong.

In the Filianic and Déanic community, Sai Sucri1 is the Angel2 associated with love. She is often represented with images like those of Venus or Aphrodite, as these are considered to be manifestations of her presence within our world in antiquity. Sai Sucri presided over the last liturgical year. (This year is under the auspices of Sai Rhavë, the Angel of discipline and austerity.) Sai Sucri is the guardian of the Path of Love, a mystical road that the soul might travel to the presence of Dea.

A person who lives under the auspices of Sai Sucri is driven by their heart in many ways. They are given to feel things deeply and have a mystic sense of emotional connection with others. They are empathic in their primary psychic gifts. Those who are under the care of Sai Sucri may find their challenges in life revolve around cultivating a greater sense of love and compassion for the world at large in imitation of this Angel.

Deep emotional qualities do not render the person who is guided by Sai Sucri incapable of rational thought. Their rational thought is not divorced from their emotions but rather informed by them. The heart-wise is someone who can navigate their emotional storms without being consumed by them. They may find themselves cast upon the shoals of indifference but they will always return to the depths of love when given the opportunity.

They are like the mermaids of myth and legend. Beings who can exist with in the depths of emotion and on the surface of 'normalcy' with equal ease. They are, however, at their strongest and greatest ease within emotional thinking. They have an intuitive understanding of how the emotions of people interact and combine to create the emotions of the group at large. These people also have a gift for influencing the hearts of others and their passion for life (and their chosen causes) is infectious.

Now, the question arises, what of people who don't fall under the direct auspices of Sai Sucri? How do we cultivate these strengths within ourselves. The first thing we can do is ask Sai Sucri to take a hand in our lives and to soften our hearts so that we might be more receptive to the emotional tides in our lives, more aware of our feelings. In paying attention to our emotional response to the world and what we encounter and taking the time to honor that response, we become heart-wise. We learn what provokes our emotions. We learn what evokes positive, warm, and loving feelings. And we become aware of what gives rise to negative, cold, and caustic feelings. Also, we learn to recognize the things that lead us to feeling vulnerable, hurt, and afraid.

As we become aware of what inspires these feelings and the feelings themselves, we can also become aware of how our thinking is influenced by these emotions. We can disentangle our response to the emotional stimuli to give one that is in greater accord with our values rather then what ever kneejerk response comes with the emotion. This is especially valuable when dealing with unpleasant or painful emotions. It takes a special measure of mental fortitude to pause after an emotional button has been pushed and consider one's response to a situation. This is a crucial skill to acquire as one walks the Path of Love because it allows them to remain loving in their responses despite what ever anger or pain they might be feeling at the time.

Our goal in striving to act in accordance with what Sai Sucri teaches is to become wise in the ways of our hearts and strong enough in our minds to think before we respond in a situation. Thus, heart-wise and head-strong.

May Dea bless you and keep you in the palm of her hand.

1. Another variant of her name is Sai Sushuri.

2. I use the term Angel in place of Janyati because it is more familiar to most of my readers. Please refer to this excellent article by Miss De Rosa for additional details.

Note: Sai Sucri shares many characteristics with Freyja. I'll try to talk a bit more about that next Sunday.