Tuesday, May 29, 2012

J is also for ... Journey

I was having some challenges with the letter J.  There really seems to be alot of topics, however none really resonated with me.

So that leaves me with reflecting on my journey.  I've touched on it before, so this will be brief.  Everything I've done, everywhere I've been, every choice I've made has brought me to this point in my life.  I am not on a spiritual journey.  More like, a journey of life.  I cannot separate my spiritual self from my mundane self.  I am not two (or more) parts - I am just me, as a whole.

Sometimes, I am really connected to my spirituality.  I keep up with the moon phases, rituals, teaching my children, my personal studying and spellwork.  Sometimes, though, my mundane life takes over, and I disconnect a bit.  Between the kids, the husband, household chores, doctor appointments... Life just gets busy.  That's the way it is.  There are times I think the mundane take precedence, such as when my kids are sick or I need to take care of me.  Somehow, I think the Goddess understands.  While I may not always observe the Esbats or Sabbats on time or fully, I never forget.

Friday, May 25, 2012

K is for ... Karma

My thoughts on Karma and the Threefold Law.

Throughout all of my years of studying, Karma and the Threefold Law (or Law of Three, whichever) are always mentioned separately, yet I haven't been able to actually figure out what the distinction is supposed to be.  It seems in many cases, the terms are used interchangeably, and in others, the dividing lines are blurry at best.

So, here's my take on it.

I don't usually refer to the Threefold Law at all, and simply use the term Karma.  It may not be technical, but it works for me.

So what is Karma?  To me it's the idea of "what goes around comes around", or, what you dish out will come back to haunt you. 

If you're basically a good person, you don't really have much to worry about.  If you're not, well, maybe you should think about changing your ways.

If you are consistently polite and considerate, you will find that others return that to you.  But, if you are consistently selfish and mean, you'll notice that others around you are that way too.  Maybe it's coincidence, and you just notice others who are like yourself; maybe not.  Either way, there's something to be said about polite, pleasant people being nicer to be around.

I think that while the little things matter, it's more of a "big picture" thing.  Just because you yell at your kid, doesn't mean someone is going to yell at you (unless your kid is yelling back, of course).  In other words, the little things add up, and that's what you'll see when it comes back to you.

I also feel there are different levels to how Karma comes back to us.  There is the physical level, which means in happens in this world, in this life, and is usually easily recognizable.  Then, it can also be reflected in the astral level, which is not so easily recognizable.  And last, there is the possibility that certain actions may follow us into future existences, or that our actions in a past life are affecting us in this life.  This may be the form of lessons we are meant to learn, that will follow us until we master them.

The word "Karma" often has a negative connotation when used in conversation. While it's true Karma often seems to kick us in the butt, it's usually something we deserved, and should have seen coming if we had been paying attention.  But, it is also important to note that many of the good things we experience may also be a result of Karma.  They simply are not recognized as such, because Karma tends to be seen as a cosmic punishment.  However, it should more accurately been viewed as justice, as Karma is a reward as often as a punishment.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

H is also for ... Hell

It might seem to be an odd topic for the PBP, since most Pagans I know state they do not believe in any place called hell & that it is a construction of the Christians.

While it is true that Hell is most often seen/heard in a Christian context, it is not wholly a Christian notion.  Most ancient cultures, whether Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse or Celtic, have a "hell".  It simply is not synonomous with the Christian "hell".  In many other cultures, the Afterlife, Underworld, Hades or Summerland was the place the soul went to rest after death, in preparation for being reborn.  There are few instances of a "heaven v. hell" scenario that I am aware of.  Most of these cultures believed in reincarnation, which today's Christians do not. 

So, here are some of my beliefs as they relate to the existence of hell. 

I do not believe in a devil that tempts us to do evil.  I believe we each have that capacity within ourselves, and it is up to us what choices we make in our daily lives and how we choose to live.

I do not believe that if we royally screw up in this life, we are destined to eternal damnation in some fiery pit of despair.  Nor do I believe that if we are perfect, will pass through some shiny pearly gates guarded by angels.  I do not think we only get one chance to "get it right".  There is too much to learn, too much to experience for that to be a fair expectation of us.  No god I believe in would be so harsh.

I do believe that when we die, our souls or spirits or what-have-you will travel to a resting place of some sort, whether it is the Greek Hades, Egyptian Afterlife, Celtic Summerland or somewhere else entirely.  This is where we will wait and prepare for our next incarnation.

I do believe in reincarnation.  I think that each soul has and will experience many, many lifetimes in order to learn all the lessons required to transcend to a higher plane of existance.  I believe there are a few individuals in our history who many have achieved this already; Jesus is one, and Mother Teresa is another.  They way they lived their lives indicates that they had perfected all the lessons required to release selfishness, and to truly love their fellow people and be able to truly serve the world.

I have seen this in my own children.  The first time I looked into my son's eyes, I had the overwhelming sense that he is an "old soul".  This was verified by things he said or expressed later as a toddler.  He would suffer night terrors, and I would get strong images that seemed to be of the 2nd World War concentration camps.  He also would frequently say to me "Remember when you were my age and I was your age..." and proceed to describe something that sounded straight out of the 1700's.  He also went through a phase of being terrified of water, and I got the distinct impression that he was tried and convicted of witchcraft during the burning times, and was executed by drowning in a river.  His most recent life, he lived until he was a very old man, and he brought vestiges of that antiquity into his new life.  I often thought he looked like an old man in the first few weeks before the veil was fully drawn.

My daughter, on the other hand, has a younger soul.  I do not know how old their souls are compared to mine, but I get the sense that my daughter has not had the same tramatic experiences in her past lives as my son was subjected to.

I do not believe that everyone gets to be Cleopatra or Elvis.  :)

I do not believe in the brimstone and fire of the Christian hell.  However, I do believe that if we are awful people in this life, we will not just get away with it.  There will be some form of punishment in the afterlife as we are preparing for our next life.  This may be described as a personal hell of our own making; though I really have nothing to back up this theory.  Punishment may also come in the form of Karma, "what goes around comes around", or the Threefold Law (however you interpret that; I'm leaving that for a later post).

I do not believe that anyone else can tell me where I'm going to end up when I die.  It is not their place to judge me, my action, or my life.  I do not believe I can determine where anyone else is going, either.

I do believe that we have alot of say in howwe experience the afterlife, simply by making conscious choices during this incarnation.

If you stuck with me this long, thank you for reading.  I hope something of what I said here makes sense to someone other than just me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

H is for ... To Harm None, or is it?

We've all heard it.  The famous words of the Wiccan Rede: "An' it harm none, do what ye will" - or some variation thereof.  Whether you adhere to this tenent or not, no doubt someone has, at one point or another, expounded on the importance of following this rule.


I admit I follow it to an extent.  I certainly believe the idea has value.  For example, I use it on my kids (ages 7 and almost 4).  Frequently.  But exactly how far should one take it?  How far is too far?

Do you let a madman attack you for fear of causing him harm by defending yourself?  Would you allow an individual who threatens your child to just walk away because you don't want to hurt that person?  Or, not quite so drastic, do you refrain from punishing your child for a transgression to avoid harming him or her?

This is why I much prefer this version I came across several years ago: "And it harm none, do as ye will; And it cause harm, do as ye must."

To me, this means that if an action I am considering doesn't cause harm to anyone in any foreseeable manner, I am free to proceed.  If an action results in more good than harm, I may proceed cautiously.  However, if an action would result in more harm than good, it's a bit trickier.  How much is it worth it to me to pursue this course? 

Let's return to the above scenarios.

#1) A madman is trying to attack you.  Let's say you firmly believe in the rule of "harm none".  So, do you let him attack without trying to defend yourself so that you don't cause harm?  I guess you could.  But look at it this way:  If you don't defend yourself, thereby causing harm to the madman, you are still, in fact, causing harm - to yourself.  In which case, following the tenent of "and it cause harm, do as ye must", you would defend yourself using only the force necessary, and no more, thereby preventing greater harm to yourself, and mitigating the harm to the madman.

#2) If you're a parent, I am positive your response to a threat to your child is the same as mine.  There's no way someone threatening my kids is going to just "walk away".  I will do whatever is necessary to protect my children, because, again, it would be causing a greater harm not to.  Now, whether that means beating someone over the head with a bat, or simply reporting suspicious activity to the police will be determined by the exact situation.  And I am not above using every bit of magic at my disposal to ensure their safety.  I would not only focus on work to keep them safe, but I would actively use spellwork to discourage harm from coming to them; such as binding and reversing negativity.

#3) Do I discipline my kids?  You bet I do.  Do I punish them for things they do that are mean, against the rules or just plain dangerous?  Yeppers.  How do I justify this harming of my own children?  By the simple fact that if they learn now to avoid dangerous, harmful behavior, I am in fact preventing greater harm in the future.  Just today, my daughter (the almost 4yr old) insisted on hanging over the arm of the couch.  While I'm sure I did it as a kid, as a mom this does not strike me as "safe behavior".  So I told her, multiple times, to stop.  She got hurt, more than once, by continuing to do so and either falling, or getting caught in the recliner that sits next to the couch.  The final straw was when she fell over head-first, straight into the lamp, knocking it against the wall and busting the lightbulb.  So she got in trouble for that.  Now, she'll probably do it again a few more times, but eventually, hopefully, she will learn to avoid that, and similar behavior in the future, saving herself pain and other consequences.  Sometimes just the pain of getting hurt when doing something they shouldn't is enough to teach the lesson; sometimes the lessons must be reinforced with discipline, punishment and appropriate consequences.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, just use a little common sense when applying this most commonly known Wiccan Rule.

Friday, May 18, 2012

G is also for ... Ritual to Gaia

This ritual was written for the September Esbat last year.  I have also felt a strong connection to Gaia as the Mother Goddess, (not necessarily through her aspect as the mother of the Titans in Greek mythology) for many years.  Feel free to modify this ritual for your own use.  For example, you may choose to light a red candle for the elemental direction of South/Fire; I chose brown at the time this ritual was to be performed because I live in Texas, which was experiencing somewhat severe drought and fighting wildfires - I didn't want to accidentally add fuel to those fires!  Being that this is southern TX, and when it is dry the landscape is dusty and brown, it worked.

Ritual to Honor Gaia as Earth Mother / Mother Goddess

Items needed:
1 Green candle - North; All Life
1 White candle - East; the Air we breathe
1 Brown candle - South; Fire, which brings renewal
1 Blue candle - West; for the Water which sustains us
Mother Candle (white) - Center
Tealight oil warmer (t.o.w.)
Tealight candle
Rose essential oil
Incense (optional)
Flowers - as an offering to Gaia
*Materials for activity
**Cakes and Ale

Altar Set-up:
                   Green Candle
          t.o.w (lit)
Blue Candle   Mother Candle                  White Candle
          *flowers scattered around*
                   Brown Candle
To begin the ritual, light the candles starting in the North.  As each candle is lit, say the

North: "We light this green candle to represent the direction of North, Element of Earth, and all life in and on the Earth."

East:   "We light this white candle to represent the direction of East, Element of Air, for the wind and the Air which we breathe."

South: "We light this brown candle to represent the direction of South, Element of Fire, and the warmth of Fire's gift of Renewal."

West:  "We light this blue candle to represent the direction of West, Element of Water, Water which sustains all life."

Center:  "As we light our Mother Candle, we dedicate our ritual to Gaia, the Great Earth Mother Goddess.  Gaia, please accept these flowers we have placed on our altar as our offering to you.  Be with us as we learn your story, so that we will better understand you.  Bless our ritual, and receive our thanks."

Our ritual tonight honors Gaia, as the Great Earth Mother.  As the Great Goddess, Gaia is the Earth, Mother to all life.  Though she also brings destruction, with death comes rebirth; new life.

While the name Gaia is derived from Ancient Greek myths, in which Gaia played an active role, today the name more often refers to Her as the Great Earth Mother Goddess.

In the Greek myths, Gaia was born of Chaos.  She proceeded to give birth to various children, some of whom she later mated with.  From the Greek Goddess Gaia, came the Titans, followed by the Olympian gods.

However, the concept of a Great Mother dates back to prehistoric times.  This is evidenced by drawings on cave walls that tell of what is believed to be spiritual rites and ceremonies.  Additional proof of an Ancient Mother Goddess is found in the many female statuettes, the most famous may be the Venus of Willendorf.  These figures depict motherly women, though the limbs are only suggested, and none have defined facial features.  The fact that these figures are found spread across multiple continents indicates that most, if not all, prehistoric peoples shared the same basic tenets of a belief system.

The Great Goddess has experienced several incarnations through the ages.  We can trace the roots of many goddesses back to the Earth Mother. Gaia, of course, but also the Greek goddesses Artemis and Demeter; the Sumerian Mother Goddess, Ninhursag; Maimata, from the Hindu Rigveda; and Hathor was the Supreme Egyptian Goddess.

The modern "Gaia Hypothesis", as presented by scientist James Lovelock, brings forth his opinion that Gaia is the Earth, literally.  He theorized that the Earth is, in fact, a kind of self-regulating, super-organism, in which all the life-forms, plants, animals, humans, etc., all the waters, everything, function in a way similar to the way any life-form's systems and organs function.

Today, Gaia is simply the name that resonates with many, and conveys the feeling of the Great Goddess.  She is the Earth, She is our Mother.  All goddesses may be an aspect of Her; some goddesses are an incarnation of Her.  All women may count themselves as Daughters of Gaia; all men are Her sons.

Because all life and everything of the Earth is sacred to Her, She has very few specific associations.  All plants, insects and animals are Her creatures.  Stones and rocks are Her bones.  The Earth is Her body; the Wind is Her breath.  Fire is Her creative, and destructive, force.  The Seas are Her birth waters.

She is worshipped in open places, and deep in caves.  She is all around us, and within us.

She is our Great Mother, in whichever incarnation we are called to serve her.

Activity:  Offering Cups to the Goddess
Ceramic pots
Paint brushes
Plastic cups (for water)
Newspaper or paper towels to line under project
Each participant can paint her/his cup in any way that represents the Goddess to her.

Activity to be followed by a brief meditation; quietly watching the flames of the Mother Candle, listening for any personal messages from the Goddess.

Final words:
          "We have been blessed in our ritual.  We have learned about a Goddess who is as complex as she is simple.  Tonight, we have taken a first step toward developing a deeper connection with Gaia. From here, we will each choose whether to pursue this relationship at this time.

Put out the candles in reverse order, beginning with West, and leaving the Mother Candle for last.  As each candle's flame is extinguished say the following:

West:  "We offer thanks for life sustaining water."

South: "We offer thanks for the renewal of the land and spirit that comes after the fire has raged."

East:   "We offer thanks for the Air that fills our lungs, and the wind that carries us."

North: "We offer thanks for the Earth that provides nourishment and is our home."

Center: "The Great Mother Goddess has been with us.  May she remain always."

Cakes and Ale

I didn't keep track of all the references, but the primary ones are as follows (though not necessarily in this order):
http://www.paleothea.com/SortaSingles/Gaia.html (don't ask- I don't know what the SortaSingles part is all about)http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/gaia.html

J is for ... Justification

Justification is when we feel the need to validate our actions, thoughts or beliefs, either to ourselves or to others around us.  How many of us are guilty of this?  I know I am at times.  I have many things going on in my life that I feel the need to validate, or justify, or have in the past.  Being Pagan is one of those things.  Being a single mom for several years was another.  Choosing to work full-time, then choosing to stay home; homeschooling and the possibility of sending my son to a public school.

First, I have to apologize for being so absent for the last month and a half.  We closed on our house at the very end of March and spent the first week of April moving everything into our new home.  I have spent the last several weeks unpacking, trying to keep up with my son's lessons, and my own, keep the kids from killing each other, and trying to take care of myself, since this pregnancy has been more difficult and drained me quite a bit.  Plus, we only just connected the internet this week and I have been too worn out to try to go other places to use it.  I have to admit, I also got behind in the posts because, even though I planned to keep up on paper and post them as soon as we got the internet, I let that slide because I was so busy with so many things.  Now I intend to play catch up as time permits, and post when I'm able.  (See justification at work: I am rationalizing why I fell behind.  Despite how valid all of my excuses sound, they are still just that.  Excuses.)

When I first became aware that what I believed and practiced had a name, I eagerly embraced the label of "being Pagan".  However, my family and many of my friends were not so easily accepting, and I found myself justifying my decision.  I would give reasons, such as "reincarnation only makes sense; after all, if "God" was so merciful, why would he only give you one chance to get it right?" and other similar arguments.  I no longer feel that need to explain myself or my reasons.  Part of that is due to family and friends getting used to the idea, and part of it is my own confidence and security in my choice.  If someone doesn't like it, fine - that's their problem, not mine.  And I've found that with this current attitude of "this is who I am and if you don't like it, oh well", I haven't met the same resistance as when I was just starting out along my path, and was still a bit unsure.

As for being a single mom, there were many who tried to talk me out of it.  I often heard that children need a father, or that single parent homes are unstable, and that I should "try to work it out for the child's sake".  While I'm sure that in other cases these arguments have value, I couldn't see that they applied to my situation (and still believe that).  For one thing, I was going through a divorce when I found out I was pregnant with my first.  Now, since I was already getting divorced, why on earth should I try to work it out for the kid?  I felt then, as I do now, that parents that stay together and are miserable do not make a good, stable home for children.  Children would benefit much more from parents who are not together, yet are happy.  And while I agree that children need a father, they do not always need their biological father.  I am happy to say that looking back, I don't regret that decision and am now engaged to a wonderful man who is a better dad to my children than either of their biological fathers are capable of being.

I also have to continuously justify homeschooling my son.  He is a special needs student, and we have tried the public school route during his kindergarten year.  It didn't go so well.  I believe he needs the flexibility that homeschooling allows, while others (who shall remain nameless for now) argue that he would benefit from the structure and stricter requirements of the public classroom.  I believe he is learning, as he has kept pace with his schoolbooks for the grade his age-mates in most subjects, is ahead in a few, and admittedly, is behind in one subject.  Though Reading is not his strong point, he is beginning to catch on, due largely to the generous assistance of one of my coven sisters in tutoring him, and I have no doubt he won't stay behind for long.  The only argument I can't counter is that sending him to school would expose him to other students, and offer a good opportunity for him to make friends in our new neighborhood.  With this schoolyear almost over, I refuse to enroll him at this point, but I am considering it for next year, at least for a portion of the year so that he can meet kids his age and be able to get that social interaction on a regular basis.  However, I would much prefer to enroll him in some local organized sport to encourage positive interaction with his peers.  Another argument I hear frequently, is that homeschooling doesn't prepare kids for "the real world".  Again, I disagree, because I don't think school prepares kids for the real world either.  Aside from the education itself, the routine of school didn't mimic the real world I found myself in when I started working during high school, or when I graduated.  Public school, in my opinion -feel free to disagree with me, I won't be offended!- attempts to create mindless robots who are programmed to do as they're told, when they're told and how.  It does not encourage creativity or independent thinking.  And while some employers look for the drones who will follow orders and not question them, increasingly it is shown that many employers value independent workers, who can think on their own and do not require constant supervision and guidance.

Enough about homeschooling, but do you see what I mean about justifications?

It's something we all do, whether consciously or not.  But I do think it is something we have to be aware of, so we can determine if the justifications are necessary, and who are we are trying to justify ourselves to.  Are we rationalizing our decisions so we feel better about it or so that others will be swayed to see our point of view?  It's important to understand our own reasons when it comes to making justifications so we can at least see the situation clearly.