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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prayer Beads - Catholic and Anglican Style + Filianism.

When someone mentions the Rosary, the first thought most people have is of the Catholic five decade rosaries. While this is an extremely common style of prayer beads, there is alternate sets that are used by people of Christian denominations and people who are influenced by their prayer practices.[1] A comparatively late addition to the body of work that is prayer tools, the Anglican style Rosary is built upon two prior practices. The use of the Pater Noster beads (a set of thirty three or fifty beads used to recite the Our Father prayer) goes back into antiquity. Indeed, the term for prayers at one point was 'bide your beads' and there is one influential Christian of English origin whose name is known for his prayers (the venerable Bede). The Pater Noster beads were used for the lay people to imitate and integrate the practices of religious orders in their lives.

Largely illiterate, most of the laity of these early eras did not have the ability to recite all one hundred and fifty Psalms (which was the practice of monks and nuns in this time period) on a daily basis. The majority of the laity did not know the Psalms or have time to recite them if they did. Thus, the Pater Noster beads were developed to allow these people to recite the Our Father prayer fifty times and incorporate a similar devotional practice to what the clergy and religious orders did. The Pater Noster beads were also used to recite the Jesus Prayer. (This was a recitation of the invocation of Jesus's mercy upon they who were praying thirty three times - this being the number of years that Christian lore says Jesus lived.)

The Catholic Rosary was developed for similar reasons. This was structured for there to be five to fifteen sets of ten beads divided by spacer beads between each set, with a medallion where the first and last decades meet and a terminal set of beads (usually three) that ends with a cross or crucifix that hang from the medallion. The five decade set of beads is used to pray one of the three sets of five holy mysteries of the Catholic faith at a single session. It can also be used in three repetitions to pray all three sets, which the fifteen decade is designed to cover in a single session. The fifteen decade Catholic Rosary is also recite all one hundred and fifty of the Psalms of the Christian bible.

The Anglican Rosary combines elements of the Pater Noster beads and the Catholic Rosary. The Anglican Rosary has thirty three beads divided up into four groups of seven with four cruciform beads, an introductory prayer bead, and a cross for the terminal charm. The physical structure of the Anglican Rosary is obviously influenced by the Catholic Rosary. The litany of prayers used for the Anglican Rosary is varied. The Anglican Rosary can be used as the Pater Noster beads have in the past or one can devise their own prayers for meditation with them. The prayer tradition for the Anglican Rosary is clearly a modern one that is evolving as time passes, whilst rooted in the practices of antiquity.

For a Filianist, the prayer practices of the Catholic and the Anglican believers are quite similar in structure. This is because as the prayer practices of the Filianic community were becoming established, they were heavily influenced by the Christian environment they were steeped in. In many cases the Filianic rosary is identical to a Catholic Christian one because it is a Catholic rosary that has a Filianic oriented terminal (such as a star or a rose). Adapting the prayers of the Christian prayers is something that is underway in several Filianic groups. Others are at work on developing prayers unique for the Filianic worshiper. Regardless of the set of beads used, the structure of the prayers are all focused towards bringing the worshiper into a contemplative state that encourages meditation and connection with the Divine.

I, personally, have used the Filianic equivalents to the Catholic rosary prayers in my use of the Rosary beads I have. I mainly use them with my five decade set of beads. I have also used them with my fifteen decade set of beads. Praying the fifteen decade rosary is a commitment of time, however, for it takes me about forty five minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time. With small children in my house, I generally don't have that kind of time free most of the time, thus I reserve this devotion for when it is a special occasion or significant need. Since receiving a set of beads that are patterned after the Anglican style Rosary, I have found that my time for prayer is more streamlined by virtue of the fact that I am completing the circuit of the beads with less volume of prayers recited.

When I am praying with these beads, I have used the combination of the Our Mother prayer, the Daughter prayer, and the Gloria. On the invitatiory bead, I recite my statement of faith. This is usually the Filianic creed or an abridged version of this. I also recite the Gloria and the Our Mother prayer at this time. As I progress through the week beads, I recite the Daughter prayer. When I reach the first cruciform bead, I recite the Gloria and the Our Mother. I progress through the set in this fashion where I alternate between the week beads and the cruciform bead prayers. When I reach the fourth cruciform bead, I recite the Gloria, the Our Mother, and the Hail Holy Queen prayer.

I am presently at work on developing a set of prayers for the Anglican inspired prayer bead set. One of these sets of prayers is focused upon the Janyati/Angels. While some would object to making this a focus, it really is only a logical extension. A prayer for each of the Janyati said for each of the week beads is perhaps something that requires a bit more attention than reciting the same prayer for each bead. This, however, is not a bad thing. For the Scriptures teach that the Janyati are also faces of Dea in their own special fashion. It is my belief that they are then also worthy of devotion as well.

1. I am writing from a predominantly Western perspective. I recognize that there are prayer beads from around the world. I've written a little bit about them, even. Still, I am coming at this from the angle of someone who is within an over-culture that is primarily nominally Christian and has a broad history that is heavily influenced by Christianity.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Remember the Dead

Today is Memorial day here in the US of A. There was a parade down the main street here in town. The kids were thrilled to see the fire trucks and the marching band. They were befuddled by the ceremony held at the memorial plaque out in front of the fires station. I did my best to convey to them that it was important to remember the dead. They understood, to some extent, that the wreaths placed there were gifts to the dead to honor them. They're familiar with the concept of giving offerings to the gods, so an offering to the dead was a logical extension that was easy for them to grasp.

At one point, my youngest looked up at me and asked why it was important to remember the dead. My answer was that they gave a lot to provide for the living and remembering them is a way to honor them and thank them. I looked around at the people in my community and I found myself feeling mixed emotions. On one hand, they were all quite happy to watch the parade and fell respectfully silent when the ritual obligations of speaking solemn words and laying wreaths were performed. At the same time, there was a prevailing opinion that today's observances were about venerating the people who died for our 'freedom' and a great deal of political quarterbacking was going on.

I may offend some folks with this, but not everyone who died in the military died for our freedom. It has been a very long time since that happened. Their deaths served diverse things, often political games of the day. The nationalist blabber that I heard to either side of me as I stood on the side of the parade route made me feel a heavy sense of sorrow. The song being sold by the politicians right now is not the truth and it sullies the sacrifices made by these people. Each member of the military died for reasons given by the government, yes, and much of that is propaganda. But more of them died for the sake of brotherhood.

Talk with any person who served in combat and they'll tell you more about death for the sake of keeping your team mates alive than they'll tell you about death for the sake of some lofty ideal. Oh yes, there is this ideal that moves men to march to war and press through the grist mill of combat. The ideal changes of each war but the rank and file are not concerned about the ideal that brought about the conflict once they are in the heat of battle. No, they are on the killing fields doing their best to complete the task given to them and keep themselves alive as they do so.

Remember the dead. The military dead were sent into war for reasons that even today may be questioned. This does not diminish their sacrifice. The dead of the Union and Confederate armies lie with equal honor in the Earth. They died, as all who go into battle have, doing their best to keep their honor and their company hale. They are not unique. All of the military deaths have provided the rivers of blood that tempered the mettle of the nation into what it is today. Let us remember them and honor their sacrifice. We, their descendants, would be wise to do so.

Let us remember the sacrifices that were made to forge the world we live in today. And let us remember them as we make our own sacrifices to shape the future and learn from the wisdom of the past.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Outrage and Uproar. (A little politics.)

There has been a recent uptick in the number of voices who are aghast that others practice different religions. Predominantly, these voices have been those of the conservative, evangelical Christian community. Among the leaders of this howling horde is the typical suspects of Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, and Billy Graham. There are others who are not quite a recognizable by name but their modus operendi are easy to spot.

There are the ones who will shout down their opponents and throw a lot of effort in to character assassination of the people they feel are wrong. You can spot this variety in action on most any social media platform. They are quick to turn any disagreement into a 'moral' one where in they are always correct and their opposition is always wrong. Their arguments are primarily emotional ones with a long list of attacks on the opponent phrased in such a way that the outside observer is encouraged to view the opponent as inferior through the use of charged language and out right falsehoods, in some cases.

There are the ones who will try to bury their opposition in all the 'horror' of their ways. The best example of this group are the anti-abortion protesters who parade an endless stream of graphic (and not necessarily legitimate) images of fetuses that have been aborted. (And if what I recall is correct, many of those images that are legitimate are not obtained with the consent of the person who had the abortion.) This is the group that went out and created false stories about how Planned Parenthood was reportedly selling 'baby parts,' complete with a set of images to flesh it out. They operate on the basis of offending their viewers and appealing to their outrage at what they had thrust into their face.

There are the ones who use the argument that their opposition are going against 'tradition.' These folks are particularly pernicious, in my opinion. They argue that society is in decline and that people who are different are responsible for that decline. Often, they uphold a romanticized vision of the past and talk about how they need to return to that time of 'good, wholesome values and propriety.' You find a lot of this folk running around in politics, with a convenient ability to downplay the actual ugliness of past history as present revisionist interpretation. (The shades of irony on that particular argument are blindingly bright. You may need a welder's mask to begin to get a look at things past that brilliance. I personally prefer to take all the precautions used for solar observation via a telescope.)

You also find the population of people who are so 'concerned' about their opposition. You can find them in every possible stripe of outrage, honestly. It ranges from people who are concerned about their opposition's 'immortal soul' to people who are concerned about the safety and welfare of their opponent. (That last bit of concern is of the same level as blinding irony as what I mentioned earlier. Regard it with care. Ocular hazards can level permanent effects.) These 'concerned' people have the erroneous idea that their methodology is correct and flawless. They also assume that they are 'good' because of the supposed 'benign' aspect of their arguments. They're almost as insidious as those I just mentioned.

If you are quiet for a moment, proverbially speaking, you can hear the echos of their screaming everywhere. It is particularly potent right now because it is an election year. Some would say that the best course of action is to ignore these people. At one point, I had thought this was a valid method of dealing with these attitudes. Then I realized that it really is not. My silence when my right to practice my faith is challenged does not help me or my children. It does not help anyone who is a member of a faith that is scorned.

Now, I have family that are evangelical Christians and they don't behave in this fashion. They are part of the body of Christians that actually take the teachings of Jesus to heart. They don't go out and attack someone because they don't believe the same things they do. Is there an effort to convert others that goes on? In some cases, it is an active effort but it is done with an approach of 'let me persuade you' rather than 'you must do this.' And when the prospective convert declines, they let the matter be. There are those who attempt a passive effort at conversion, by which they attempt to use their life as an example of the benefits of being of their faith. This, in my opinion, is an example of the way Christians should be approaching such things. Be respectful of others and when your offer is declined, let it go. If you want to convince me that your way of life is better, demonstrate how your faith/philosophy has worked for the betterment of your life and that of the world. (By the way, anyone who wants to have a discussion of this sort, publicly, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to host it here on the blog.)

This population of respectful and considerate believers are frequently shouted over by the others. It is a tragic thing. I feel badly for them. Considering that there is a population of people within the faith systems that I identify with who are equally reprehensible, I understand the embarrassment and frustration that comes with having those voices clamoring so loudly. We can not ignore the people who are attempting to curtail the practice of plural religions within this world, where ever they might be found. Just as people within the faiths that have these bigots actively working to quash other faiths need to stand up and oppose them, so too should we who are maligned and scorned.

There is a movement to erase the plurality of the United States's culture. They seek to create a homogenized culture where everyone fits a specific mold. This homogenized vision weakens the USA and harms countless people. Religion is but one area where this effort is made. There are people who seek to create a system where people are stratified by ethnicity, genetic traits (including skin color, physical characteristics like gender presentation, and if one is disabled), and socio-economic status. They seek to create something of a caste system, though they would not call it that because it tips their hand and shows their motives all too clearly. The people who are actively working to present the USA as a place that is of a single faith, ethnicity, and related concepts are attempting to move the nation away from what it was founded as.

They are more than enemies of people who practice minority faiths. They are enemies of the republic. I don't talk about this much, but seeing this uptick of  virulent and violent pedagogy disturbs me on a fundamental level. Don't let the people who say that all pagans are 'dangerous devil worshipers' control the discussion. Don't let the people who say that women's rights should be rolled back to what they were in the 1950s, if not earlier, be the ones who dictate the terms of the fight.

At one point recently, I saw someone say that 'fighting fair' was part of being honorable. That is a mistaken concept. I am honorable. But I don't fight 'fair,' I fight to win. Our opposition doesn't care about what is 'fair' here. If they did, they wouldn't do things like threaten the lives of our families, firebomb places of medical care, or encourage violence against the defenseless. They wouldn't work so damn hard to systematically make all forms of religious expression that fall outside of their chosen mode illegal. They wouldn't be doing this. They wouldn't be defaming us or our beliefs.

Oppose them. By what ever means you may, because a lot more is riding on resistance than your comfort and expression. The future of a free republic is in the balance here. Turn their methods on them and, if we are constant and true to our cause, we will win free of their tyranny and terror tactics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Herbalism: Tools of the Trade - The Sickle

I am renewing my series of posts regarding herbalism. While I am tempted to jump into discussing plants and their properties, I really wanted to take a more complete approach this time. I am starting with the most basic elements here, which could be viewed as magic or science. (I am a bit biased, however, and I will contend that science is also a form of magic.) The very first thing we are going to look at here are the tools that you would be using in your herbalism efforts.

We're all pretty familiar with the rake, shovel, and spade. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with gardening will recognize these tools on sight and intuit their use shortly there after. So, I am going to skip ahead to looking at one of my tools for harvesting herbs (and flowers, leaves, etc.). In this post, we are going to look at how to use and maintain a sickle. After I get past the practical matters, I will give you a little bit of the magical associations of this tool and some folklore.

This little beauty that I'm holding is my sickle. This particular sickle is designed for cutting herbs. There are larger versions that can be purchased at gardening stores that are for cutting grass. In both cases, the methods of keeping a sickle sharp and well cared for are essentially the same. There is some similarity between how to maintain your sickle and how to maintain a scythe. Scythes fall outside of the scope of these posts, but you can find lots of good information through the gardening sites that I've seen posted from people in Britain. (I don't know why, but most of my searches kept turning up pages and forums from people located there. It leads me to suspect that there is a larger population of people who use these tools in that region than here in the USA. I may be wrong, though. Idle speculation and such.)

The use of a sickle is very different from how to use a scythe. Scythes are fixed to long poles and are used with a sweeping motion. This video that I have linked to here gives a demonstration on how to use a scythe. As you can tell from the video, scythes are something that you need to use with great care as to not harming people around you. A sickle, on the other hand, is a tool that doesn't require as much physical space to use. The likelihood of cutting another person is dramatically lower with a sickle.

A sickle is one of the easiest tools to use in the garden, in my opinion. This video that I link to here demonstrates proper use of a sickle. As the gentleman in the video shows, the trick to proper application of this tool lies in using the correct cutting motion. Many people first approach using a sickle as a tool that is used for sawing the plant matter. I made this mistake when I first began using mine. The proper technique is to take hold of your plant that you are going to cut and pull it taught. Make sure that you leave enough space between where you will be cutting and your hand to prevent injury. Then, slice the plant matter with a single sweeping motion. As with all bladed tools, make sure that you cut away from your body to prevent accidental injury.

Ideally, you will be cutting your plant near the base of the stalk. In plants that you are collecting material from that have branches, you will be cutting close to the main stem. A sickle is best for stalks of a narrow diameter. It is also most effective on stems that are not woody. If you are collecting herbs from a plant that has a woody stem, the youngest and most tender stems are the ones that you should be cutting with your sickle. Harder stems will increase the need for greater force in cutting them, which will increase the risk of your sickle swinging wide after you've successfully made the cut. Greater force on a blow means greater risk of losing control over the motion of the tool after the cut is made.

In the video above, the gentleman speaks of peening a sickle bade. While this is ideal, if you are like me, you don't have access to the tools proper for doing so. Thus, the use of a whetstone is necessary. In my video below, I show you how to use the whetstone to sharpen your herb cutting sickle. This is similar to how the gentleman in the first video I linked sharpens his scythe. If you look carefully, you will not that he and I, both, sharpen with the blade facing away from our body and move the whetstone so that it moves away from our body, this lessens the risk of cutting ourselves if we make a mistake.

Sickles are ancient tools. They have been used since antiquity for the purpose of gardening, harvesting grain, and related purposes. Sickles have been mentioned as noteworthy elements of ancient cultures. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder recorded an account of ancient Druids harvesting mistletoe with a golden ritual sickle. The sickle is part of the iconography of fertility deities on the European continent. It is also the basis of ancient weaponry of similar design. (Interestingly, the ancient Egyptian sickle-sword, the khopesh evolved from battle axes rather than the sickle.)

The sickle is associated in modern Western iconography with the mythic figure of Death. It is also considered to be a standard in the depictions of Demeter/Ceres. Within the Filianic community, the sickle is associated with Sai Rahvë (the Janya of severity, death, and restriction). It is also associated with the Dark Mother, Deam Mysterium, by several believers. The sickle is an icon on its own that is attuned with the completion of cycles, the mysteries of death, and the clthonic aspects of the Divine for many different belief systems. It also has the potential to be upheld as a lesser version of the Moon Blade carried by the Daughter (and other lunar associated deities).

Sickles also are tools associated with political things as well. Perhaps the most famous association is that of the hammer and sickle of Russian Communism. The sickle is long associated with agrarian work. It is an implement that was among the tools carried by the lower classes when they engaged in uprising as makeshift weapons. (As a weapon, the sickle is a truly effective and frighteningly gruesome.) The sickle has a very wide range of associations and a history that is rich, complex, and ancient. It has the capacity to be used as a humble gardening tool, a powerful ritual focus, or a fearsome (albeit unconventional in the modern era) weapon. With proper care and maintenance, a sickle can be a tool that is handed down through generations with out losing its usefulness.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Divination: When Not to Do It.

If you are in the habit of doing divination, you will find that there are times where reading is difficult at best. You will also find that there are times where you really are not in the proper headspace for divination. Being in the wrong mental state for a divination session can, at times, lead to results that are heavily skewed in one direction or the other. It can also lead to results that are essentially pure gibberish. A quick glance through the different pages on the internet discussing divination of pretty much any form will show that many who provide information on techniques and tools strongly encourage the people following their methods to avoid readings at 'bad' times. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what exactly a 'bad' time to do readings would be.

Thus, I wish to present a partial list that is both the fruit of experience and what I was taught when I was just beginning to dip a toe into divination. Before I go much farther, I wish to make a note that everyone's tolerances for stressors and distractions are different. Things that would put me into a place where I simply don't have the focus necessary for a divination session to be productive may be a non-issue for someone else. Alternatively, there will be scenarios that I can perform a divination session with very few problems but will render another reader too distressed to proceed.

1. Do not read while upset or in an agitated mindset.

This may sound like a no brainer. Performing a divination session when you are in a mental state where there is a great deal of anxiety, sorrow, and overwhelmed distress front loads your mind to seek out the results that would confirm these impressions. In a state of high anger, you will find that results that confirm and encourage your anger are easier to pick up on than those that would deny that powerful emotion. This is not because these results are more potent as much as you are so focused on that pattern in your experience, you will spot similar patterns in your environment. Much like happening to see more blue cars because you are focusing on blue vehicles, though the actually percentage of blue cars on the road has not changed.

2. Do not read while incapacitated due to intoxication.

I don't have any problems with someone enjoying their entheogen of choice. When used properly, they can actually contribute to the accuracy and depth of a reading. This said, discretion is necessary when performing a reading under the influence. When the entheogen saturation is such that one has difficulties with distinguishing between fantasy and reality, this is a poor time to do a reading because it will be difficult to winnow out the accurate results from the false. If the reader's mental state is such that they can not clearly discern between the results of the reading, the results that their personal bias promote (which usually do not align completely with the genuine results of the reading), and the random side-effects of the entheogen that they have consumed, they would be best off setting aside the divination session until they are more clear headed.

3. Do not read while incapacitated due to illness.

Now this bullet point has a few provisos to consider. If the reader is regularly in a state that most would consider incapacitated due to illness and is intimately familiar with what the body of information their senses give them during this state, this should only be applicable when the reader is literally not well enough to perform divination or dealing with symptomology that falls outside of their usual operating norms. Secondly, what can lay one person low and render them too ill to perform divination will be different from another person. The one who should be making the judgment call as to if the divination session should be happening is the person who is performing the divination. They know their own limitations best. The only time that this should be challenged is if the literal act of divination puts them into a position where their health and welfare is compromised.

Performing divination while sick can be done. It is, however, more difficult because the information that the body gives us while we are unwell is going to be a distraction from the information we are seeking in our divination session. The effects of our illness may mimic those of intoxication, or the effects of our medications will do the same. In some cases, illness will encourage the person's entrance into a receptive mental state for psychic experiences. This, however, is not the usual course of affairs with illness. If one suspects this is the case, a vigorous test of the psychic experiences as they unfurl to ascertain the legitimacy of the results is highly advisable.

4. Do not read while heavily invested in a specific outcome.

This is, in many ways, much the same as what I mentioned in point one. Approaching a divination session and seeking out a specific result makes the chances of having a false positive indicating the desired result much higher. In cases where the practitioner can not read with out a strong position on what outcome should be presented, the divination session should be postponed until the reader has a greater sense of detachment from the query. Failing this, a confirmation divination session with a different practitioner is highly advisable. This second session will serve to help detach the outcome bias of the initial reader from the results of that first session. I personally will seek out a third divination session with another individual that has no interest in the result of the session as a surety against the results being swayed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


So, there is this big pronouncement flying around the blogosphere. In case you haven't seen it before now, I will post it below for reference.
Now that I've passed on this seemingly vital bit of 'wisdom' that is flying through all of the major outlets on all 9,647 topics you can think of and the ∞+1 others that you haven't considered, let's take a minute to look at something more important. So very many people are clubbing others over the head with this  'wisdom' and trying to force them to accept the One True Way©. This is resulting in a great deal of pain and anger. This perpetuates the cycle of outrage and discourse devolves into a school yard shouting match, at best.

There is something to keep in mind here, that 'wisdom' of the internet is based predominantly in opinion. Opinions are only worth as much as the speaker is valued by the listener(s). Additionally, if the echo chambers of the internet amplify the volume of the speaker, there is the erroneous assumption that this means the speaker must be correct. Once, someone said that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. That, however, can not be. There are things that are going to be true regardless of the opinions of the people viewing them.

A fine example of this is the rate of gravity here on Earth. Objects will fall at a rate of 32 feet per second, per second. Wind resistance will present the illusion that they are falling at different rates, but it is nothing more than an illusion. We can have a stadium full of people screaming that the rate that objects fall is different but it will not change a single thing about how gravitational pull influences objects in their descent to the surface here on Earth. Now, someone is going to ask what about things that can not be proven so conclusively?

My answer to this is quite simple. Is the other person's perspective doing you or your own any harm? Are they creating problems for you that go beyond the fact that their perspective repulses you or strikes you as patently false? If the answer is no, then stop worrying about it. It doesn't matter if the person next to you on the bus is truly having a vision of the elemental spirit that is tied to the bus or if they're having a very elaborate hallucination if they are not doing anyone any harm. Let the matter go. Agree to disagree or discontinue the discussion. Don't attack someone because you don't like their views.

Now, am I saying we should not challenge other people when their perspectives differ from our own? No, I am not. If you wish to have a lively discussion about the differences between your belief system and the belief system of someone else, please have that discussion. Conduct it respectfully and try to keep your mind open to the possibility, however remote it might be, that they could be correct. If your body of evidence is sufficient that you can disregard that possibility, that's fine as well. Don't assume that you are obligated by said body of evidence to be an autocrat of what this other person's beliefs should be.

The only times where you should be anything resembling an autocrat of belief is when you are in a situation where you have been approved to do so by all parties in the discussion. Anything else is asking for someone to knock you on the nose and put you back in your seat. We do not have the right to dictate what happens within another person's mind. We do not live in their heads. We do not have access to their experiences and reasoning. All of the things that we look at and see as logical may be completely alien to the other party in the discussion because their frame of reference is so vastly different.

Accept that there is always going to be a quotient that will be unknown in your discussions. Strive to be understanding of the differences between yourself and others, to encourage such respect towards yourself through the execution of it towards others.

Our senses will fail us at some point. Our powers of observation will fail us at some point. There will come a time where we will be force to ask what is real and what is manufactured by our brains. In that hour, our habits that we have built up in how we challenge other people's world views will turn upon ourselves. All the cruelty that you subject someone who disagrees with you over the name of the Moon will come back on you when you question your recollection of the name.

Save the anger for when it is necessary. Not for when you are merely uncomfortable, but when there is a problem and a danger that must be addressed. There are far more things to be troubled over in this world than the opinions of humans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chaos is Productive!

I don't have anything witty or profound to post right now. I've been so busy with all the details of being Mom that I have had a hard time doing much of anything else. When I'm not juggling what feels like 5671 things, I've been exhausted and anxious. As I look around at the apparent chaos around me, I realized that much of the forward motion happening in my life is happening due to this chaos. Which reminded me that entropy is what is responsible for the expansion of the universe and powers an amazing amount of the magic in the world.

There is no small coincidence that Loki has been rather talkative of late. Our conversations have pretty much all revolved around my mental health issues. (He has some very strong opinions about my treatment and about how I am approaching the situation. Some of the opinions are good, several of them are ... unapologetically harsh. And I know that this isn't Loki being offensive for the sake of being offensive. He's understandably angry about a few things. We're working on resolving those problems.) Somewhere in the midst of everything going on in the last three days, Loki bluntly told me that I needed to stop competing and just start working on my own thing.

I initially was going to argue that I wasn't competing with anyone, but he pointedly reminded me that you can't bullshit a bullshitter. (He gave me an earful on that matter. He was actually offended that my attempt to lie to myself and him was so badly done. I've been advised to just stop trying to lie ever because I'm too honest by nature to ever do it well. Even if I am lying to myself, apparently. Thus, the Lie-Smith hath spoken, I suppose.) When Loki broke down the argument that I was attempting to make, he illuminated all the ways that I kept comparing my writing to other peoples and my relationships with him (and the other gods) to those of others as well. Unhappy is an understatement of a galactic quality to describe how he feels about this.

So, I spent some quality time with Freyr and mulled over how to approach this. Loki is still waiting for me to detail out the beginnings of a plan for how to change my erroneous ways. Freyr has advised me to consider things from an organic perspective, but not over think things. I honestly don't quite know how to apply that advice. Still, as I look around me, I see that things are at a better place than they were a month ago. The tumult in my life is exhausting but I see new flowers budding out, seedlings bursting up from the ground, and a jaw dropping display of life in its multiple facets occurring around me. I think the lessons are right in front of me if I stop analyzing everything long enough to actually look at it all.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Greening of Things.

We're a bit past Beltaine and Exaultation. We have reached the point in the season where the trees are getting leaves and flowers are budding out in greater number. My front yard looks to be green with yellow polkadots with all of the dandelions popping up. This year, we have far more songbirds flitting about (we now have 3 bird feeders up which results in somewhere between 10-15 birds at the feeders at a given time). They are quite busy making their nests and courting. The squirrels are just as much of a bother as they were last year, so I think their population is doing just fine right now too.

As I see the world take on greater shades of green, my heart is lifted. We are not yet ready to plant the lovely offerings from the local greenhouses (though my children truly and deeply wish to have an enormous tomato plant right now). Still, I have sown some seeds. I have taken cuttings from houseplants and begun the process of rooting them so that I might have more. I have begun the process of clearing weeds out of my little flowerbed on the right side of the front steps and trying to decide what I will be putting in the big pot on the left side.

I putter about plants when I feel up to it. As I do so, I feel Freyr with me. I feel his love and his guidance. When I engage the natural world, especially the vegetal aspects of it, I feel so close to him. I make a point of expressing my affection for him and my appreciation for the wights about me in those moments. While Freyr is present very often and we share much over a given day, I just feel it is an even more potent moment when I am engaging him in his element.

In Wiccan theology (which for many people in the pagan community, it is the template for much of their worship practices) Beltaine is when the Oak King weds the Earth Mother. It is a celebration of fertility and life. It is my personal feeling that this is when Freyr celebrates his marriage to Gerda. I usually make a point at this time of year to give an offering to both of them as a divine couple as well as one for them individually. Because of my Wiccan training, my offering is usually wine and some type of bread.

I do my best to express my joy in the fecundity of the Earth that comes with their union. I also do my best to express my gratitude for the blessings of prosperity that comes as well. Sometimes, the words will fail me. Sometimes, my feelings of joy are fleeting in the face of the suffering of my illness. Still, I strive to express my adoration for them that give to all the world the blessings that unfurl with the young leaves of the trees and blossoming flowers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pop Culture Paganism?

If you have been keeping abreast of the turbulence in the pagan blogosphere, you may have seen some turmoil over something called pop culture paganism. A fairly popular figure in the Lokean community is presently in the middle of a good deal of chaos over her involvement in pop culture paganism, actually. (It is a dramatic mess and it rather gives me a headache to watch the contortions people are putting themselves into over this matter. That is all I have to say on this specific case.) There is a significantly loud portion of the pagan community that is insisting that pop culture paganism is not a legitimate thing. It really is rather maddening to have that going on when the rest of us are trying to figure out what it exactly is.

Pop Culture paganism is, in a nutshell, belief systems that operate involving figures from pop culture. As such, one could argue that the church of the Jedi is technically a pop culture pagan church. (Some people, however, would contend that it is a philosophical movement and has more in common with belief systems like Buddhism. I leave that fight to the Jedi community to hash out.) There has been a slow rise over the last two years of people having publicly declared spiritual relationships with figures that are from different media franchises. It ranges from the Marvel version of Loki to the Joker from DC Comics and the Valar from the Middle Earth world of Tolkien or the deity figures of popular games such as Skyrim. Many people are quick to insist that these people are simply engaged in flights of fantasy and are possessed of exceptionally over active imaginations.

There is one problem with this assumption, the people in the pop culture paganism group are clearly interacting with something. Their relationships have a great deal in common with those of the mainstream pagan community. There is some sort of spiritual exchange between the practitioners and the ones they revere. And the ones they revere appear to have some type of effect upon the world that is similar to that which would be seen by 'true' spiritual beings. Something is clearly going on here.

Some people declare that the pop culture pagans are going to make the rest of us pagans look crazy. Honestly, I can appreciate that concern. No one is exactly comfortable with the idea of having the world at large looking at you and telling you that you are insane. There's just way too much negative garbage attached to that judgment. At the same time, we can not push this aside. We can choose to ignore it, but it isn't going to go away. At one point, the general overculture that we are in tried to ignore paganism into non-existence. You can see how successful they were with that.

Yes, pop culture paganism looks strange to the folks who do not practice it. Honestly, all forms of religious belief are going to look strange to the people who don't practice said belief system. It doesn't mean that the system doesn't work. It may not work for you but it is serving a real set of needs and helping the practitioners accomplish their goals in a fashion that holds true to their spiritual understanding of the world. We should not be worrying about respectability politics. All of this talk about how pop culture paganism makes the rest of us look is respectability politics.

It may be trite, but there is a maxim that I have seen thrown around that I think would be really useful here.
The lion does not concern himself over the opinions of sheep.
There have been so many variations on this expression, I'm not sure if I am using the iteration that G.R.R. Martin used in his books or not. (It would be poetically ironic if it was, though.) Worry about how other people would look at us is only going to hinder us in our efforts to build our own spiritual lives and the cultus of worship of the deities (and beings) we follow. The experiences of the people who practice pop culture paganism has very little real effect on our own worship. Let us focus on what we are doing and leave them in peace to do what they are doing.

Only worry about the matter when there is actual conflict. I suspect, however, the incidents of conflict between the pop culture pagans and everyone else in the community are not going to come from differing views on the meanings of the beings they are involved with. I suspect that the conflicts will arise as they have been thus far, with people attempting to dictate another person's spiritual path. If you want to point at things as problems, I humbly suggest that this issue should be the one upheld, not if some one is worshiping a god from a novel.

Now, several people have been asking how pop culture paganism works. There are several different theories out there on what is going on. My best guess is that the concept of the character became 'animated' after a significant amount of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy was fed into it. Some would say that means the character becomes an egregore. Other people may say it is something different. I don't know what the correct term would be. I don't know if this mental and emotional energy is something that must come from the practitioner themselves or is something that can arise after a collection of people have built up that thought form.

It is also possible that there is something entirely different going on. It may be they are in communication with a deep part of their spirit and this is all a case of the anima and the animus of a given person interacting. It may be a case of a spiritual entity wearing the pop culture figure as a mask of sorts to communicate with the practitioner. It is also possible that the figure existed before they were written down and 'created'. There are so many possible explanations for what is happening it is nigh on infinite.

And, to be honest, it really is not of our concern as long as no one is getting harmed or harming anyone else. The Nine Worlds are too large, too strange, and too inexplicably complex for us to sit down and say we know all of the facts about something. So, yes, pop culture paganism is a thing. And I think it is going to stick around. I'm of the opinion it is an ideological child of mainstream paganism. I don't think this is a bad thing. Diversity gives us strength and adaptability.