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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Florimaia: Feast of the Flowers

Today is the holy day of Florimaia. Flowers are especially important within the Filianic belief systems because they are viewed as signs of Dea's grace. They are also part of Mysteries of Eastre, where they were strewn before the Daughter upon her return from the Netherworld and when the Daughter treads upon them the flowers are unbruised and whole after her passing.

Florimaia is a celebration that is, in many respects, wholly of this world. This does not make it any less important of a celebration, but it is very firmly rooted (if you'll for give the pun) in the manifest world. Flowers are given as gifts between Dea and the world. They demonstrate her loving regard for us. They show us that beauty exists in even the most impoverished soil (be it spiritual or physically). They are a distinct sign of her grace and blessing.

At the same time, we offer flowers to Dea as signs of our high regard for her and in a gesture of appreciation for the blessings she has given us. We offer them in bloodless sacrifice to honor her. And, flowers are offered up to Dea as a gesture of childlike adoration for our Bright Mother.

This year, Florimaia falls on the date of the secular holiday Memorial Day. (I am based out of the USA, this is a reflection of this.) My flowers have not yet budded out. I honestly don't know if they have survived this crazy weather we have been having. I did, however, place one of the paper poppies that I got from the VFW on my shrine in offering. In giving this offering, I not only am honoring Dea but asking that she extends her blessing and protection over all branches of the military and grant the Mighty Dead blessed repose and rest in their afterlife.

It is a very small gesture. In terms of purchasing flowers, it is a pauper's purchase. At the same time, however, it is what I have to give and I believe it will be well received because of that. Because a mother cherishes every gift given from her child, even if it is the least pebble found upon the ground.

May the flowers of Dea's blessing and grace surround you and fill your life with divine light.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Veiling during ritual? (Part II)

In the last post discussing veiling during rituals, I focused upon why one would or would not veil during religious rituals. There are many different forms of rituals that one would engage in aside from formal worship. Small devotional activities at shrines or as part of one's daily habits can fall under many of the same conditions as formal worship, provided that the mode of prayer remains relatively the same and the same expectations are made upon the practitioner by their faith's precepts, the cultural expectations attached to their worship, and the established expectations between the Divine and the worshiper. Other rituals that are not explicitly connected with one's faith hold different expectations.

One could discuss the conditions where veiling would be considered acceptable in rituals created by the society one lives within. This, however, poses some problems because the conditions where veiling is accepted (if not demanded) vary between cultures and subcultures. I leave the consideration of those rituals to the anthropologists, whom I know have spent an admirable quantity of time upon studying things such as this. I will focus my second article discussing veiling during ritual upon the situations where veiling might be appropriate for magical work, including but not limited to spell craft, divination, and energetic manipulation[1].

The first thing to note is that magical work happens within the context of one's religious/spiritual background and their cultural setting. This influences what expectations are present for the practitioner and the mental architecture that the magical work is constructed within. A person who comes from a setting where magical work is an explicit extension of prayer (the Judeo-Christian practices of praying for events to happen are an excellent example of this type of situation) will find that their demands from religious worship will carry over into their magical practice. As such, one who veils for worship would continue to veil whilst conducting their magical efforts via prayer.

There are those who have a measure of division between their religious/spiritual situation and their magical efforts. (A good number of Chaos mages I know seem to fall upon this category.) In a situation where magical efforts are somewhat independent of religious activity, one finds a fairly broad array of positions upon the matter of veiling. In modern paganism, the bias leans towards the practitioner being unveiled because of the belief that being bareheaded facilitates access to ones spiritual environment and their magical gifts. There are those within the various pagan faith systems that take the position that conducting magic whilst having one's crown chakra (the energy center associated with the crown of one's head) covered will be less effective then magical undertakings done bareheaded.

The veil's capacity to serve as a barrier to magical energy is used as a tool to filter out a significant amount of input along one's psychic senses for many people who are especially sensitive. It is also used at times to carry energy, wherein the veil is charged magically to hold or otherwise contain energy. These veils could be described as talismans, though they are not immediately recognizable as such. Sometimes, veils are used to direct energy away from the wearer. These veils could be described as acting as psychic shields or mirrors. Other times, veils are used to redirect the wearer's energy back to themselves.

The latter is used in cases where a person finds themselves suffering from low magical energy. In these instances, the veil acts to not only shield the wearer from the psychic actions of others but to boost their own magical potency by retaining energy that would otherwise be lost through daily activities. The veil could also be used to draw energy. This is an uncommon magical practice, however.

The Western occult practitioner community (which includes many pagans) tends to frown upon persons who engage in drawing energy to themselves from others. These people are known as psychic vampires and the community at large tends to view these people poorly. It is, however, possible to draw energy to oneself with out drawing from other people about you. Indeed, with some careful and intentional efforts, it is possible to fashion a talisman that draws magical energy from a specific source and that source alone.

If the veil is used to block, reflect, or draw energy, it is still functioning as what could formally be called a talisman. While the practitioner using the talisman could engage in what the talisman is doing for them, the talisman serves as a tool to allow the user to focus their efforts upon other activities. It is akin to a person using a recording to provide music for something instead of singing themselves. The talismanic qualities of the veil will have subtle variations that are informed and influenced by the cultural background of the practitioner fashioning the talisman and that of the wearer.

In general use, a talisman is most effective when used within the cultural setting it was created in. While it is possible to use talismans across different cultural settings, they become less effective because the connection to the original thought-forms that power the talisman are diminished. In these instances, the wearer's focused mental and magical effort to maintain the talisman's attributes will act to fill in the energetic gaps left by the cultural distance between use and origin.

Veils have a rich history of functioning as protective talismans and magical shields. They have been used not only for personal protection but for that of other items. They serve the dual function of protecting the item wrapped or covered by them from physical contamination and from spiritual contamination. The veil has been used in this function in Western society since antiquity in a relatively unbroken lineage. This, perhaps, adds to the effectiveness of the veil as a protective barrier.

Veils can also be used to obscure. The division between the living and the Otherworld is colloquially known as The Veil. This is another example of veiling serving to obscure, even if it is within concept only. The veil as disguise or something to obfuscate is not as recognizable as the use of a cloak for that function. This, however, is an occurrence within relatively modern thought. Traditionally, the veil has functioned as a disguise for the female identity, again, since antiquity. This can be something that is useful to one who is engaged in magical practice and attempting to hide themselves or something/someone else.

1. Energetic manipulation is a broad term that encompasses things such as Reiki, chakra alignment, and any form of psychic activity that utilizes the body's energetic biofield that is commonly referred to as the aura.

Monday, May 18, 2015

An interview and resources.

Last night, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by RevKess and Kalisara of Pagan Musings Podcast. It was a truly delightful experience. They're wonderful personable and very professional. I highly recommend their program. There is quite a bit of variety in what they produce and they include tastefully relevant music selections as well.

In the course of our discussion, I mentioned that there are on-line resources for one to educate themselves about Filianism. The links I will provide here focus upon orthodox Filianism. I practice heterodox Filianism.

The Gospel of Our Mother God is available via Amazon. This is the scriptures of the faith. There is a digital variation of the Gospel that includes apocryphal texts, such as The Crystal Tablet. You can locate it here. This site was assembled by Reverend Sara Morrigan.

A Chapel of Our Mother God is the web presence of orthodox Filianism. In addition to A Chapel of Our Mother God, there is the writings of the Aristasian community, much of which links back to A Chapel of Our Mother God. The Daughters of Shining Harmony is related to the Aristasian community. Their writings are here and contain links back to A Chapel of Our Mother God.

Moving in to what I suppose one could declare 'reformed' Filianism, you have bloggers such as Rose Mayflower who discuss Filianism that is inclusive of persons of all genders. Orthodox Filianism focuses strictly upon women and all language is based on a feminine perspective. Reformed Filianism opens the body of worship up to include men. The Chapel of Our Mother God is a very well written resource that notes they offer support and information for all Filianists (alternately termed Filyani in the plura, Filyana in the singular). Still, they hold a more orthodox position then others in their writing.

Then there is myself, a heterodox Filianist who practices what could be described as 'blended' Filianism where I revere other gods alongside Dea. The wonderful thing about Filianism, as I mentioned last night, is that Dea reveals herself to the world as we may understand her. For an orthodox Filianist, the plurality of gods in this world are different ways that Dea is perceived. Some perceptions are closer to their truth then others. Hence the syncretism that happens in the iconography of Filianism in orthodox, reformed, and heterodox Filianism.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Veiling during ritual? (Part I)

There's been some buzz in the pagan veiling community (I just have to pause to note how awesome that statement is. Pagan veiling community!) as to if one should cover their head during ritual or not. The consensus seems to be: yes, except for when you don't. Like veiling at other times, there is a whole spectrum of responses to this question. I can not speak for others here, nor would I attempt to. I do, however, wish to share some of what I have observed from the sidelines of this discussion and give my angle on the matter.

There seems to be a higher percentage of people who veil for religious observances (ie. whilst praying, giving offerings, etc.) than those who veil for magical working. The general arguments in favor of covering one's head for religious observances seem to fall along three lines. The first is that it is something that has historical precedent for one's practices. (Religio Romana seems to be the best documented case of this from what I can tell.) As there are many who are either influenced by reconstrutionist positions or active in reconstructionist pursuit of their faith, this argument really makes a lot of logical sense. Being a person who has a very eclectic background, I can find some examples (like in some branches of Filianism) where there is an established practice of doing this in my own roots.

The second general argument in favor of covering one's head for religious observances is to distinguish it from 'normal' time. It is, for some, the equivalent of putting on their Sunday best before going to pray. It is both a gesture of respect and a gesture that denotes the sacred as different from the 'mundane.' There really is a lot to be said for this position. It is one that is actually pretty common across religious lines (if you include all forms of special dress for worship) and veiling just seems to be another manifestation of this. I don't know if it makes prayer more effective beyond the fact that it helps the practitioner focus more intently on it. As I don't really engage in this practice, I can't say much about it beyond the fact that it happens, like the former argument.

The third general argument for veiling during religious observances is because it is observing a taboo. I set this apart from following established precedent because not all taboos have such origins. There are some who are called to cover when they engage in prayer and that calling comes from no higher then that of their deity of belief. This argument could, I suppose, supersede the others but I think that is just playing with semantics. (For the record, when I engage in formal worship activities for Dea, she has instructed me to have my head covered for some forms of worship and bared for others. As of right now, I am not able to speak much about this set of taboos beyond noting that they are present.)

The arguments against veiling during religious observances are myriad as well. Just as there is historical precedent for having one's head covered during worship, there is precedent for having one's head bared. There are those who are instructed to adhere to a taboo that requires them to be bareheaded at worship and others who do so for the sake of comfort and to distinguish from their daily practice of covering. In looking at both sides of this, I can only say that they all are legitimate positions and they should all be respected. Everyone's individual circumstances are going to be different and have different requirements and needs.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tarot: Use for Magical Work

Using tarot cards as a focus for magical efforts is not much different then using any other visual focus. There are a few details that must be considered when using tarot cards that would similarly be a matter of some care when using different divination tools for magical foci. (Runes will be getting their own set of notes and such.) Firstly, the question of how the cards are handled must be dealt with. (Yes, I know, it was a pun and no, I am not repentant.)

If one wishes to keep the cards in usable condition, this limits how the cards can be manipulated. They must be carefully kept clean, dry, and unbent. Obviously, they must remain whole. Depending on how one is performing their ritual, the cards may be put into a protective enclosure (ie. Plastic sandwich bag, small laminated pouch, etc.) so that they might be exposed to spell components. It may also be an option to place the card where they stand/lie in a central location of the ritual space where the energy of the spell work is focused and the ritual gestures and actions are performed about the card. In either case, the cards must be physically unchanged from the beginning to the end of the ritual. Once the ritual ends, the cards must then be 'grounded' (cleansed of the residual energy of the ritual and restored to a magically neutral state).

In rituals where the destruction of the card is part of the process, the limitations on how the cards are manipulated are only imposed by that of the spell work itself. Sometimes, however, one may wish to do a ritual that would require the destruction of the card but they do not have cards to destroy. In these cases, it is good to use a bit of tracing paper and copy the key visual elements of the card and what ever notation is necessary (ie. Justice's scales and sword and the word justice along with it's numeral). This copy can be as detailed as is necessary. Once it is made to a satisfactory degree, it can be used exactly as the original card would have been.

Because the cards themselves are loaded with meanings and the associated spiritual energy that comes from these thought-forms, it is easiest to use the card that best matches the desired outcome of the spell or the specific target of it. In these instances, the court cards of the Minor Arcana are used as representatives of people more frequently then as representatives of concepts. While it is possible to use the court cards to represent concepts, it will require a bit more focus because the thought-forms build up around them are swayed more strongly towards people. Sometimes, the thought-forms are easily disregarded, such as in the case of the pip cards.

In either case, approaching the use of a tarot card (or multiple cards) as a magical focus can work as a type of 'shorthand' for the goal of the spell work. There are several different spells available on the internet that incorporate tarot cards and at least one of this variety in the writings of Raymond Buckland (I think it is in his Complete Book of Witchcraft). The use of tarot cards as a tool in spell work is not as extensive as something such as candles, but it is a practice that seems to have been on the rise since the 1980s. I think this is due to a combination of factors.

The rise of accepted witchcraft media and the boom of practitioners mixed with the cost of tarot decks dropping as the number of varieties increased is easily the largest reason this has come into play. I would also argue that this has grown to a more common form of spell casting is because the thought-forms used are in many respects 'pre-programmed' and easier to attach to one's spell work rather then the effort of creating one from scratch. I personally don't use tarot cards for magical focuses but I have known people who have done so with great success. Thus, I believe it is a legitimate practice that can prove highly effective when done properly.

Tarot: Use for Spiritual Growth

Tarot is commonly used for reading upon matters of romance, interpersonal matters, and discerning the outcome of a given situation. It is my experience, as one who has done tarot readings for many people, that the tarot deck is a highly versatile tool that can give the reader and their client a great deal of information once the reader allows intuition to have a role in how they interpret the cards. It is our intuition that has a direct line to our spirituality and our subconscious mind.

When we draw from these two sources of information, we find ourselves better equipped to address matters of how our spiritual development is progressing. Reading for oneself is at times challenging because of the risk of the information being colored by personal bias. At the same time, however, the benefits of doing so, especially upon spiritual matters, are significant and I recommend anyone who has use of a tarot deck and a bit of experience to try this.

Drawing out the meanings that speak to us upon a gut level sometimes draws out themes that one must consider upon a larger scale. A good practice in tarot reading for oneself is to keep a journal or some other record of the readings and the interpretations of the cards. I personally keep one. My format is to first list the cards and their positions in the spread. (I also note which deck I am using, but I have 11 tarot decks to consult at my leisure. Keeping that organized helps a good deal, trust me.) After noting the card and its position, I write down the 'standard' definition. I then record what my intuition tells me about the card.

After recording the 'standard' meanings and my initial intuitive impressions, I consider the card in relation to where it is placed. Different card positions carry different meanings. The Queen of Swords, for example, when placed in the querant position is informing the reader as to aspects of the querent that are described by this card. In another position, the Queen is likely to be describing someone involved in the situation. This can also be influenced by the intuitive impressions that come to me as I consider the cards. Once I have recorded what I can tell from the position of the card, I review all the cards and look for common themes and if there is something in addition to what the spread itself is designed to convey.

Then, I take the time to put all the components of my reading together for a final synthesized reading of the spread. When people purchase tarot readings from me, they get the meaning of the card with respect to its position in the spread and the synthesized meaning of the spread at large. Most of the other details are such that they would find extraneous and possibly overwhelming. When reading on spiritual matters, however, the focused and highly detailed effort that I put into my tarot readings for myself is helpful because it clarifies the messages that the cards are conveying to me.

The spread that I use most often for spiritual matters is what is called the 'Elemental' spread. I learned it from Ann Moura's Green Witchcraft III. This is the name she gave for it. The Elemental spread is a good one because it reveals information in four major aspects of life as well as the direct answer to your query and the hidden aspects behind it. Also, it has the benefit of being a very simple spread. The trick is to pick the spread that is easiest and most comfortable for you. When you are working with tools you are intimately familiar with and in a format that you can practically do in your sleep, it becomes easier to draw out information from them by virtue of the familiarity.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Beltane, Exaltation, and Exhaustion.

I am a few days late posting for the holy day that passed recently. I am a bit late for my regular posting. (Well, perhaps a bit is a touch of an understatement.) I wish I could report that the time since my last post has been filled with merriment and activity. It has, regrettably, been a time of much weariness and frustration.

In the days of fine weather that we had prior to Beltane/Exaltation of Our Lady (May 1st), I planted my miniature rose bushes with the hopes they would survive the experience and did some work cleaning up my outdoor shrine. Aside from that, I have been busy with the daily tasks of running my household and attempting to keep myself from getting too caught up in my depression. It has been difficult but I have been making a point of finding at least one thing to be thankful for each day. Recalling that at this time last year, I was in the hospital made me all the more thankful for the fact that I had the capacity to take the children out for ice cream and visit friends today.

It may not sound like much to do in honor of the gods. It was something very small in the grand scheme of things, I will admit, but given what I have been able to do over the last few weeks it was a measurable increase. The evening before Beltane, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't do anything with the children special for the day. That night, I had a dream where I was walking in a field of flowers that were opening as I passed. Each step was tiring but the sight of the unfurling beauty around me filled my heart with joy. Standing at the other side of the field, I saw Freyr waiting with a warm smile.

Some how, I knew that I didn't need to observe things precisely on the date of the calendar. It helped lift some of the anxiety and guilt that I felt over how much difficulty I had been having in keeping my devotional activities up and my lack of a plan for the holidays. I woke and forgot about that dream until this evening. I think that the gods are patient with us when we are unwell, more so than what we are with ourselves, and even the smallest things done in their honor matter greatly.

I would post more but the words run away from me before I can get them to the page. It is my sincerest hope that all is well with you and that love is close.