Thursday, August 23, 2012

Q is also for ... The Quarters

Calling the Quarters.  It's a staple in many rituals.  But, what exactly is it?  What does it mean?  And, why do we do it?  There are no "one-size-fits-all" answers, but I can tell you briefly how it works for me.

I view the Quarters as "guardians", but not necessarily as physical guardians of the directions; more as the "gatekeepers" to the qualities or characteristic represented by each element.  Some Traditions call them Watchtowers, but that has never really resonated with me.  When I call the Quarters, I am invoking the qualities associated with each element, in an effort to make myself more aware of, and better able to focus on those characteristics to aid me in my work.

The East is associated with intellectual persuits, clear thinking and communication.  By recognizing the Guardians of the East, I am focusing my attention on these qualities and opening myself to receiving inspiration and guidance along those lines throughout my ritual working.  The same holds true for South (passion, determination), West (emotions, love, memories, mental health) and North (stability, grounding, physical health).  Which element you associate with the directions may vary by Tradition, and therefore the qualities associated with the directions may change.  This is fine.  Really, it is all symbolic and merely acts as a reference for us, rather than representing any actual, physical relationship.

There is contention on how best to release the Guardians when a ritual is completed and the Circle is being opened.  It is popular to end with a line similar to "stay if you will, go if you must".  Some sources contend that you should send the Quarters on their way with no invitation to stay, stating that it is just asking for trouble.  While it is true that the Guardians are not human, and cannot be expected to act/react the same as we do, it does not necessarily follow that they will wreak havoc by being allowed to stick around.  Personally, I have found that rather than banishing them (which seems a bit rude), if I give them the freedom to choose whether to remain present or not they do not cause any problems.  They are not infantile, as has been suggested; rather they are a different sort of being that recognizes friendship and respect and responds in kind.

And on that note, here are sample Quarter Calls for casting and opening the Circle:

"Spirits of _________, Guardians of the _________, I(We) invite you here to this Circle to witness what I(We) do and lend what aid you may.  Hail and Welcome."

"Spirits of _________, Guardians of the _________, I(We) thank you for your presence and assistance in my(our) work this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Q is for ... Q and A

Q is one of those letters that is really difficult to write for. So, as I was asking the question what starts with "Q"?, I realized "question" was the perfect word.

There are so many questions asked, by those who are new to the Craft and even some who have been doing this for awhile. I'm going to just focus on some of the most commonly asked questions that I see, and my own personal take on them. 

This list is not exhaustive; nor are my answers definitive.  :)

Q:  What is Paganism/Witchcraft/Wicca and how are they different? 

A:        Paganism is an umbrella term encompassing the earth-based religions. 

            Witchcraft is the practice of magic either in a religious sense or not. 

            Wicca is a modern religion, based on ancient pagan beliefs that incorporates the Goddess             and God, practice of magic and reverence for nature.             

Q:  What is a witch/warlock/wizard?

A:  A witch is a magic practitioner.  While I am sure some traditions/people use the term wizard, I personally do not.  Warlock is not often used, being considered an insult as in some cultures it means "oath-breaker".   

Q:  Are all Pagans witches/are all witches Wiccan/are all witches Pagan...? 

A:  No.  Not all Pagans would appreciate being call a witch, and not all those who consider themselves a witch are Wiccan.  There are also Christian witches, who blend the paths of mainstream Christian faiths with earth-based observances. 

Q:  Do Pagans worship Satan?   

A:  No.  Satan is a construct of the Christian myths; therefore most Pagans not only do not worship any deity by that name, they do not even believe he exists. 

Q:  Is Witchcraft evil? 

A:  Again, no.  Witchcraft itself is the practice of magic, or manipulation of energy, to achieve some goal.  It is the intent of the practitioner that can be good or evil. 

Q:  Do you believe in God? 

A:  Yes, I believe in many.  Goddesses, too.  I believe there is a unifying Oneness with multiple facets that no-one can possibly fully comprehend; thus resulting in the myriad deities and pantheons we are familiar with. 

Q:  What is a coven? 

A:  A coven is a group of witches, as close as or closer than, family, who meet regularly to recognize, celebrate and worship nature and deity. 

Q:  How do I find pagans/witches/covens/teachers, etc in my area? 

A:  There are various websites, such as The Witch's Voice, where groups and individuals can post information about meetings, classes, etc. is another place where groups will advertise, and checking the bulletin board at your local metaphysical shop can be an invaluable resource.  Just be smart and exercise caution when meeting new people for the first time, and keep it in a public venue. 

Q:  How do I become a Pagan/Witch? 

A:  Study, read, learn and ask questions.  If it is right for you, you will know. 

Q:  What book should I read? 

A:  There are so many good books, by many different authors.  My best suggestion would be to go to your local library first and read any books they have on Paganism, Wicca or Witchcraft (usually found in the area devoted to books on religion).  Then, head to your bookstore.  There is also quite a bit of information available on the internet.  Take everything you read with a grain of salt.  It is not all correct information, and you want to be sure you don't get taken advantage of.   Also, keep in mind, there is no "one true" anything when it comes to Paganism, and so you will sometimes find conflicting points of view.   

Q:  Is Witchcraft/Wicca/Paganism a real religion and is it legal? 

A:  Yes, and yes.  Whichever variety of Paganism a person chooses to follow, as long as they are not breaking any existing laws, is legal.  It is as real and legitimate as any other religion, mainstream or not. 

Q:  Do you have to be part of a coven to be a witch? 

A:  No, being in a coven is not a requirement of being a witch, or pagan.  There are many solitary practitioners, either by choice or because there are no compatible groups in their area. 

Q:  What does it Solitary mean? 

A:  A Solitary is a person, who for one reason or another, practices their Craft on their own.  There are several reason one might choose to be Solitary, including personal preference of working alone, there are no other Pagans in the area, there are no groups whose tenets and ideals reflect the beliefs of a practitioner, or they simply haven't found a group with the right fit yet.

Q:  Do Pagans go to church? 

A:  Yes, and at the same time, no.  Some groups do have brick and mortar buildings (temples) in which they hold services.  Others meet at coven members' homes or a pagan-friendly establishment.  However, most, if not all, Pagans are more comfortable outside, and prefer to hold circles and rituals outdoors when the weather permits and if they have a safe location to do so. 

Q:  What is a spell/do you cast spells/can I cast a spell/will you cast a spell for me? 

A:  A spell can be described as a petition to the gods or other higher power to effect a specific change.  In working a spell, a witch is adding their own energy and exerting their will to create this change.

            Yes, I do cast spells, when the needs arises.  It is not done frivolously, though, and I make an effort to either exhaust mundane solutions or to have the spell work in tandem with more mundane efforts.

            Anyone can attempt to cast a spell, however, usually only one who has a proper understanding of how to construct and carry out a spell may do so successfully.

            No, I probably will not cast a spell for you.  In some instances I may help someone (a friend or family member) write a spell or ritual, and give  information and resources that may be beneficial, so that person can cast the spell themselves.  Or, I may do a healing spell on behalf of a sick family member at their request, but that is definitely a case-by-case type of situation.  I certainly am not going to advertise to cast spells for people- with guaranteed results, no less- and expect payment, as is frequently seen around the internet.  If the person wanting the spell done does not invest some part of themselves into it, it cannot be successful. 

Q:  What is a Tradition and how many are there? 

A:  A Tradition is a specific sect, usually of Wicca, with a particular set of rules and dogma.  Some examples are Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic and Faery, to name a few.  It is impossible to know exactly how many there are, especially as there are many groups that begin as Eclectic and evolve into something more lasting.

Q:  What is magic?  What is white/black magic? 

A:  Magic is the process by which a person exerts his or her energy and will to manifest a change.  There is, in my opinion, no such thing as "white" or "black" magic; this goes back to the intent of the practitioner. 

Q:  Are Pagans anti-Christian? 

A:  Not really.  There are some extremists in every religion, though, so I'm sure there are some Pagans who truly are anti-Christian.  In general, though, Pagans promote tolerance of all religions. 

Q:  Do you follow the Wiccan Rede?  What does it mean? 

A:  This usually means "An' it harm none, do what ye will".  Essentially, this is a rule that says your actions should not cause harm.  It is a reminder to be mindful of what you do and the consequences thereof.   And, yes, I do try to follow this in principle; meaning that I do not (usually) intend harm to come from my actions.  There is somewhat of a fine line, here, though.  At what point does it become more harmful to try to avoid causing harm?  Sometimes, inaction may be worse than intending harm, as in the case of a violent crime, to use an extreme example, when may be required to defend oneself.  Not causing harm applies not only to your actions concerning others, but yourself, as well. 

We have to also beware of taking this too literally; after all, even the smallest of actions or inaction may cause unintended harm.  For example, when we eat, we, in effect, cause harm to the plant or animal that is providing our meal - on the flip side, if we refuse to eat to avoid harming plants & animals, we would cause harm to our own bodies. 

I prefer "and it harm none, do what ye will. And it cause harm, do as ye must." 

Plus, keep in mind that not all witches follow the Wiccan Rede. 

Q:  Is Witchcraft/Wicca a cult? 

A:  No.  A cult is when there is one supreme leader, in whom the followers blindly believe. There is no room for free-thinkers and non-conformists.  Paganism, on the other hand, is almost entirely made up of non-conformists; those who have been drawn to this path are the ones who never accepted that there is one, and only one, right or true way to believe. 

Q:  Why are rituals held at night/in secret?

A:  There are many reasons this might be true.  Historically, witches were hunted and burned or drowned for their beliefs, and that is the reason the Craft was kept secret and rituals were done away from prying eyes.  Nowadays, busy work schedules often mean evenings are the only free time many practitioners. Also, many Pagans feel closer to the Goddess at night when the moon is out.  Not to mention, there is still widespread fear and ridicule of Paganism, leading some practitioners to practice in secret as a means of self-preservation.

Q:  What is a Book of Shadows?

A:  It is a book, or books, containing a witch's rituals, spells, correspondences and other information important to his or her path.

Q:  Can only women be witches?

A:  No, the term "witch" applies equally to women and to men who follow a Pagan path and practice magic.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

P is for ... Paganing Ceremony

This is the ritual I wrote for my children, which we performed at our Lughnassa celebration on August 4, 2012.  It didn't play out exactly as written below, but with kids, it never does :)  One difference I did make here is for the elemental blessings where it says "HPS", in actuality, each of my coven sisters and I volunteered for one, spoke for and presented the gifts of that element.  Each sister chose their own gift to represent their element, which to me made it more personal.  One of my sisters also gave each of the kids something extra-special after the ritual was complete to keep in their altar boxes.

Feel free to adapt this for your own use, keeping in mind that the children it was written for are 7, 4 and 2 months, which is why the older two had participatory parts.

Paganing Dedication Ritual
High Priestess Dydan Presiding

Materials needed
Dish of salt
Incense (Artemis blend)
Red candle
Bowl of water
Silver and gold candles
Goddess image
Cakes and Ale - don't laugh, we're having grape juice and Nilla wafers
Offering dish
candle holders
Rose oil (for kids' ritual baths)
Altar boxes and contents

Bathe kids with rose oil before everyone arrives.  Set up altar before hand, too. 

When everyone is ready, begin ritual.  Briefly explain to kids what is expected.  (i.e. We're going to cast the circle, say our parts, then have a little bit to eat/drink before ending the ritual.  We can eat more after.)
Cast the Circle

East:  Light the incense and say, "Spirits of Air, Guardians of the East, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

South:  Light the candle and say, "Spirits of Fire, Guardians of the South, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

West: Scatter drops of water about the Circle and say, "Spirits of Water, Guardians of the West, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

North: Sprinkle salt around the Circle and say, "Spirits of Earth, Guardians of the North, we invite you to this Circle to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

Center:  Lighting each candle in turn say, "Goddess, please hear us and attend our Circle, with your Consort, to witness the introduction and Dedication of these children.  Hail and welcome."

"The Circle is cast in this sacred space between the worlds."

HPS: We have come together for a very special ritual, a Paganing for (children's names).  While this ceremony will dedicate the Children to the path of the Mother, Goddess of All, and Her Consort, the Father God, it is not binding, and the children remain free to choose their own path when they are of age to do so; knowing that all paths lead to the same destination.

HPS:  (mom), as the mother of these children, is it your desire to have them Dedicated to the Goddess and Her Consort?

Mom:  Yes, it is.

HPS:  And do you promise to teach then and guide them on this Path your have chosen?

Mom:  I do.

HPS:  Will you love your children unconditionally, support them throughout their lives, and be the disciplinarian, friend and confidante they need?

Mom:  Always.

HPS:  (dad), (mom) has expressed and affirmed her desire to raise the children on a Pagan path.  Do you accept and support her in this?

Dad:  Yes, I do.

HPS:  You have chosen (child's name) to be your son and (child's name) to be your daughter, along with your son (child's name).  Do you promise to protect your children from what threatens them to the best of your ability, and to teach them to protect themselves?

Dad:  Yes.

HPS:  And will you love your children unconditionally, support them throughout their lives, and be the disciplinarian, friend and confidante they need?

Dad:  Always.

HPS:  (children's names), you have heard your parents' promises.  They want only the best for each of you.  Now, (children's names), it is time for you to make promises of your own.  Are you ready?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  (children's names), do you promise to love and respect your parents, to listen when they teach and do your best to obey?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Do you accept the presence of the Goddess and God in your lives?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Do you promise to learn what you can about religions that interest you as you grow, so that when you are old enough you can choose the best path for you?

kids:  Yes.

HPS:  Who stands as witness to the Dedication of these children?

Coven:  We do.

HPS:  It is now time to greet and receive the blessings of the Elements.

face the children to the East

HPS:  In the name of Air, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Air.

HPS:  From Air come the gifts of intellect and communication.  May you always have clear thought, wise judgment and eloquent expression.  I bestow upon you the gift of raven feathers so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children South

HPS:  In the name of Fire, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Fire.
HPS:  From Fire come the gifts of passion and strength.  May you be blessed with strong bodies and strength of character, and experience life fully.  I bestow upon you the gift of candles so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children West

HPS:  In the name of Water, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Water.

HPS:  From Water come the gifts of emotion and health.  May you find happiness, love and be loved always, and enjoy good health.  I bestow upon you the gift of abalone shells so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children North

HPS:  In the name of Earth, I greet you, (children's names).

kids:  We greet you, Earth.

HPS:  From Earth come the gifts of stability and balance.  May you always feel secure in your environment, satisfied with your routines and centered within yourselves.  I bestow upon you the gift of pentacles so that you might always remember.

kids:  Thank you.

face the children Center

HPS:  The final element is Spirit, that which is found within.  As you learn and grow you will come to understand that the answers to all we seek may be found within ourselves.  The Goddess and God reside inside each and every one of us  We are the containers for all we will ever need.  In recognition of this, we now present you each with an altar box, in which you may keep the elemental gifts you have just received, as well as any other altar items you make or acquire.  Like you, the box is only the container, and you will find what you need inside.

kids:  Thank you.

HPS:  (children's names), you have now been recognized by the elemental spirits.  When you have need, you may call upon them and you will be heard.  You have been presented to the Goddess and God, and they will be with you always.

HPS:  The children have been Dedicated to this path their mother walks.  As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure they are given the proper guidance to learn and develop as they grow.  Who will pledge their support to the parents in their endeavor to raise their children with respect to their  chosen path?

Individual Coven members:  I will.

HPS:  So it is witnessed and so it is done.  So mote it be.

Coven:   So mote it be.

Cakes and Ale, with offering.  (Brief explanation for kids.)

Open Circle.

North:  "Spirits of Earth, Guardians of the North, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

West:  "Spirits of Water, Guardians of the West, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

South:  "Spirits of Fire, Guardians of the South, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

East:  "Spirits of Air, Guardians of the East, we thank you for your presence and witnessing the Dedication of these children.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell."

"The Circle is open, but never broken."

Monday, August 6, 2012

L is for ... Life

The last two months have been super busy.  My last post was done two days before my son decided to be born 2 1/2 weeks early :)  Since then, everything has been go-go-go seemingly without a minute to rest.  Needless to say, I have seriously fallen behind on the PBP, and haven't quite gotten around to catching up.  I hope to begin rectifying that.  I have recently found myself with 6 hours a week in which I do next to nothing, and I am planning to put this time to good use.

So what have I been doing?  Besides trying to keep up with the house chores, as I mentioned my baby was born.  The week we went home we ended up back at the hospital lab the day after, and the pediatrician's office the next two days for his bili tests.  His levels continued to rise, and we ended up in the hospital when he was 5 days old for phototherapy.  Luckily, it was just one night and his levels dropped and became manageably safe so we could go home again.  Oh, and I should mention my a/c quit the day after we went home the first time.  About a week later, the a/c completely died, and we had to install a brand-new system, indoors and out.  Yikes.

Of course, I kept my commitments to my Coven, and hosted the last several Esbats/Sabbats due to my pregnancy and then the birth.

July was spent attending family events, including planning and carrying out my daughter's birthday party.  As far as she's concerned, it was a success, which is good.  I was a little bummed because two of my closest friends in San Antonio weren't able to make it, and they are the only friends I have with kids around my own kids' ages.  However, some of my fiance's cousin's kids came, so it's all good.

On top of that, my fiance and I made the decision (a very hard decision for me to accept) to send our (well, my) older son to public school at the end of the month.  He'll be going into second grade and I am positively terrified that we're going to run into all the same problems we had the first time he went to school.  Crossing my fingers that this school is better equipped to handle him.  My daughter also wanted to go to school, so I signed her up for the pre-k program, which is a half-day class.  I have no worries about how she'll do.

Throughout July, we continued having multiple appointments, both for the kids and myself.  My son (7) has been in speech, occupational and physical therapy for awhile now, and for some reason the insurance decided to nix his approval.  We had to get a new referral, go to a new agency, and redo all the evals to qualify him for the services he needs.  They're still arguing the PT, but did give approval for about 6wks of sessions.  They approved the ST and OT with no problems.  This is where I found my 6 hours of "down-time".  We go 2 days a week, for about 3 hours each for his therapy sessions which are currently back-to-back-to-back, at least until school starts.  Then, I imagine we will be going 4 days a week to get the sessions in after school, or we will be missing some (or alot of) school.  We're still waiting for the official Autism screening, with a different facility.

Now we're into August, and I'm wondering where on earth the summer went!  I was just thinking that I haven't really done anything "witchy" for so long... Then I realized that I have celebrated each Esbat and Sabbat, I wrote several rituals for a friend of mine (healing, travel, new home), as well as writing and planning a Paganing ceremony for my children, which we did at our Lughnassah celebration this past Saturday.

I anticipate the rest of the month being just as busy, what with our almost daily appointments, and plans for every weekend, I don't foresee life settling down anytime soon.

So when I think I'm not "doing enough", I just have to remember I'm doing all I can and then some.  I'm sure the Goddess understands.  After all, she wouldn't have given me more than I could handle, right?

Friday, June 8, 2012

L is for ... Lavender Lemonade & Litha

The L's have conveniently coincided with Litha, which makes this letter a little bit easier, at least in my opinion :)

Litha is one of my favorite Sabbats.  The Earth has fully woken, with green-leafed trees and flowers everywhere; home gardens are beginning to produce fruits and vegetables for the kitchen table; school's (mostly) out and there are children playing outdoors at this time of year.  Luckily, it's not too terribly hot yet here in TX.

With Litha, aka Midsummer, falling in the middle of the week this year, my Coven sisters and I plan to gather a week from tomorrow to celebrate.  It will be a family event, and finally my munchkins won't be the only kids running around, though they'll still be the youngest.  Our newest sister has children of her own, the youngest I think is 9, if I remember correctly.  We'll be having a potluck, since those seem to work well for us, probably some activities, and once the families are settled, we'll have our own ritual time set aside to honor and worship the Lady and Lord, as well as recognizing the Fae, whose magic is strong just now.

There are countless locations on the internet to find out the lore and history, associations and crafts for Litha, so I won't go into that now, though I may revisit it for next week.  This week I really just wanted to share a favorite Litha recipe: Lavender Lemondade.

My concoction was cobbled together using elements from several different recipes I've found.  This is what works for me, but feel free to modify to suit your own taste.  Enjoy!

Lavender Lemonade
makes approximately 1.5-2 gallons

12 cups water
4 cups cold water
3 cups of sugar
approx 12 sprigs lavender, buds/flowers optional
juice of 6-8 large lemons
ice cubes

Mix 12 cups water and sugar in a pan and bring to boil.  Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, add lavender and let steep for at least 15 minutes.  The longer it steeps, the stronger the lavender flavor.

Pour cold water and lemon juice into a large jug or pitcher.  Strain lavender syrup and add to water and lemon juice.  Mix well.  Taste and add additional water/sugar/lemon juice as needed.  Add ice to fill pitcher.

Garnish with lemon slices and additional lavender sprigs/buds/flowers

Sunday, June 3, 2012

K is for ... Knowing What You Know

K left me struggling a bit, and I started thinking about what I "know".  I have alot of knowledge.  I've read thousands of books, on many topics; I've gone to college; I try to keep up with the important current events.  Even though I consider myself fairly intelligent, sometimes I feel like I just "don't know".

Whether it's a particular political issue I'm not familiar with, a question my son asks me that I can't answer (such as how many types of fish are there?) or when someone asks me a question about being Pagan.

In the first, if it is a matter that is important to me, I do my research so I can form an opinion, and I talk with other people who may have more information that I do.  In the second, it is usually fairly easy to flip on the computer, open up the internet and google an answer to whatever bizarre question my kid wants to know.

Then we come to the last one: when someone asks me about my religion.  I know what I believe, I know why and how I came to those beliefs.  I am still learning, still questioning, and still growing in those beliefs, and, at times, my specific beliefs may change regarding a specific area.  But, here we come to a challenge that's a little trickier than just knowing.  It is important to know how to answer questions from others.  Giving an answer that boils down to "just because" doesn't benefit anyone.  It doesn't help the asker, because they are usually genuinely interested or concerned about your spirituality (or lack thereof, as they may see it).  It doesn't help you, because your answer is not backed up with any substance, and therefore lacks credence.

Generally, I try to explain the what, why and how of any given topic.  More than simply stating "this is what I think", I try to explain how I came to that conclusion, and what historical or archeological research there has been to support the theory.  Sometimes, it is just a feeling, and I admit to that.  Perhaps there was a particular book or author or incident that influenced me, and I'll share that.

A couple years ago, I sat down and came up with a list of common questions I heard over and over again, whether from my kids, friends or other people who happened to hear I am Pagan, and wrote out extensive, detailed answers.  I think that notebook is actually still in a box since the move, but I am thinking I need to revisit it and see what may have changed, or need to be added to.

So, I guess what I'm getting at is just having a solid understanding of what you believe, and knowing why you believe it, so you have a ready answer whenever someone questions you. 

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): (don't ask- I don't know what the SortaSingles part is all about)

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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

G is for... Ground, Center and Shield

My method to ground, center and shield is very simple. I can't pinpoint exactly where I got it from, I believe I took various ideas and instructions, and created my own version that works for me.

So, here goes:

Ground and Center

Choose a quiet, undisturbed location. Outside is best, but this will work indoors, as well.

Sit in a comfortable position on the floor (though a chair may be used if you cannot get down/up). Place hands flat down on either side; if using a chair, place hands flat on thighs, and feet planted on the floor. Close your eyes.

Focus on feeling a connection to Mother Earth. Visualize the flow of energy up from the Earth, through our body and down through your arms, hands and fingers abck to the Earth, in a continuous cycle.

Continue the exercise until you are feeling calm and focused, and refreshed; all excess energy safely grounded and returned to the Earth.

Slowly break connection. Stop the flow of energy. Lift hands, take a deep breath in, open your eyes, breathe out. Stand up.


Visualize a wall, made of any impenetrable material (plastic, glass, brick, energy, light, etc.) that negativity, or any other harmful thing cannot pass. Feel that this wall is surrounding you. Check it regularly to detect any weak spots that may need reinforcement. The more you use your shield, the less energy and attention it will require to maintain itself. Over time, you may find that the "appearance" of your shield changes. For example, if you started with bricks, you may see that it is now pure energy, or a web of energy. It may have been clear, but now has blue tones to it. This is fine, as long as it works for you. If it stops working, tear it down, and build a new shield.

Well, these are taken from my own BOSN (Book of Shadows Notes), and have worked for me for many years.

Of course, once you're comfortable with these, or any methods, you should be able to do it "on-the-spot" as needed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

F is also for ... Fertility

Spring is in full force here in sunny Southern Texas, and with Spring comes thoughts of fertility in all it's forms.  This is the time of new life; many animals are birthing their young about now, plants are sprouting, and the energy of the Earth is revitalized.

The year is young, and this is the time of the Maiden and her counter-part, the youthful Sun God.  There are many, many deities associated with Springtime and fertility; fertility of animals, plants and people.

There is evidence to suggest that historically our Pagan ancestors performed fertility rituals in order to ensure the continuation of the herds and flocks, abundance of agricultural crops, and, of course, their own reproduction.  Such rituals would have included blessing the fields and animals, and perhaps a reenactment of the mythos in which the Goddess and God consummate their relationship.

From these ancient rituals, we now have many symbols of fertility, such as grain, corn, rabbits and eggs.  There are myths and stories, particularly relating to Ostara and the Spring Equinox to help us to understand the vital role of fertility in our lives and the continuance of the Earth and life here.

Fertility Deities

There are many, many gods and goddesses of fertility.  There are god/desses concerned with people, women's fertility, pregnancy and child birth, men's virility, animals and crops.

Solar deities are often considered to have fertility aspects because of the sun and it's regenerative properties and that it provides sustenance for plants.

Lunar deities are connected with women's menstrual cycles, and therefore have a prominent role in fertility matters.

And, of course, deities associated with water are commonly believed to be concerned with fertility due to the connection with birth waters.

Following is a chart listing many deities from many cultures, who are considered to be fertility gods and goddesses.  The list is by no means complete, but should give a good general idea of whom to call on for a particular purpose relating to fertility, reproduction, pregnancy, childbirth, prolification of herd/flock animals or health and abundance in agricultural farming or even gardening.

(*Properties below are as related to fertility and are not comprehensive of all aspects of a deity's domain)

Deity:  Artemis
Properties: health and disease in girls and women, virginity, fertility, childbirth

Deity:  Gaia
Properties:  Earth Mother

Deity: Demeter
Properties:  agriculture and fertility of the earth

Deity:  Hera
Properties:  women, marriage, childbirth, heirs

Deity:  Ilithyia
Properties: childbirth, midwifery

Deity:  Hekate
Properties:  midwife

Deity:  Hepate
Properties:  goddess of midwives

Deity:  Heket
Properties:  lunar goddess concerned with the birthing of all animals

Deity:  Adonis
Properties:  rebirth

Deity:  Pan
Properties:  god of sheperds, herds and flocks

Deity:  Priapus
Properties:  god of fertility & male genitalia, protects livestock, fruit plants & gardens

Deity:  Hathor
Properties:  motherhood

Deity:  Mesenet
Properties:  childbirth

Deity:  Sopdet
Properties:  fertility of the soil

Deity:  Tefnut
Properties:  water and fertility

Deity:  Osiris
Properties:  afterlife and the underworld agency which grants all life

Deity:  Sobek
Properties:  fertility, the river

Deity:  Amun
Properties:  god of creation

Deity:  Min
Properties:  god of fertility and reproduction

Deity:  Brigid
Properties: fertility

Deity:  Damara/Damona
Properties:  goddess of fertility

Deity:  Nantosuelta
Properties:  goddess of Nature, the Earth, Fire and fertility

Deity:  Cernunnos
Properties:  horned god of fertility

Deity:  Macha
Properties:  male virility

Deity:  Parvati
Properties:  marital felicity and devotion, fertility

Deity:  Bhumi
Properties:  goddess of the Earth and the aspect of Lakshmi concerned with fertility

Deity:  Lajja Gauri
Properties: abundance and fertility

Deity:  Manasa
Properties:  snake goddess of fertility

Deity:  Chandra
Properties:  lunar god of fertility

Deity:  Kokopelli
Properties:  fertility god and childbirth

Deity:  Partula
Properties:  pregnancy and childbirth

Deity:  Terra
Properties:  Earth goddess, motherhood, pregnant women and animals, marriage

Deity:  Liber
Properties:  male fertility

Deity:  Mars
Properties:  fertility and associated with vegetation

Deity:  Fascinus
Properties:  embodies the divine phallus

Deity:  Picumnus
Properties:  marriage, infants and children

Deity:  Robigus
Properties:  crops