B is for Birthing

When I was 18, a button came into my possession that said, “Born Again Pagan.” I wore it less to subvert my previous tradition, and more to reclaim the phrase in the pagan sense, as many traditions believe in some form of reincarnation, even if that amounts to crossing a threshold as a new person. I had been studying the works of Scott Cunningham, and the Sacred Circle Deck by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason introduced me to much Brittonic lore. In that deck (my first tarot deck ever) the traditional Judgment Card is substituted for “Rebirth.”

I would like to focus on birthing as a pagan woman committed to reclaiming her power as a Woman. I last trained in a tradition that taught me, I am Goddess. My Body is a Living Temple of Love. If my body is a temple, everything that enters it should be worthy of a temple offering. I started becoming more strict in what sorts of food I would eat, and am still taking steps toward eating closer to the land, because it’s both better for my body, and better for the body of the Mother.

Many women are fearful of childbirth. Men also tend to be terrified of it (the doctor who oversaw my birth immediately wanted to use intervention because Hazel’s heart rate had fallen – imagine that, I wasn’t pushing during the trip to the hospital, and she was in my birth canal, so she had slowed down her breathing and therefore her heart beat!). On my quest to know my body so that I could care for it properly and enjoy good health through all my years, when I became pregnant, I sought even deeper understanding of myself.

I found that loving myself meant listening to what my body wanted, and learning how to honor my body needed, and working toward healthier dietary choices for myself. I started paying attention to what made me feel bad after eating it, and what made me feel good. When I became pregnant, that became a lot easier because my sense of taste rearranged itself – I couldn’t even stand to eat leftovers because the smell was just a little off! I began learning more about toxins in food (I had already begun to learn about toxins in the home and had begun phasing out things like chlorine bleach and sanitizing cleaning chemicals) and began buying organically grown produce whenever we could afford it (also making other sacrifices to continue purchasing such). I looked for remedies to keep me from getting depressed by the fact that I don’t have complete access to locally grown food all year (we would need way more food storage room than what is accessible to us) and that organic food is considered by society at large to be a “luxury” (while a car remains a necessity, by nature of our transportation system), and that my little Strawberry already was developing with plastic in her bloodstream (that’s right, we’re all contaminated with plastic by-product pollution). I craved all kinds of vegetables, breaded and fried in olive oil. I indulged every little craving until by my ninth month I was waddling around with 180 pounds on my frame.

As I prepared for birth, I gathered as much knowledge as I could. I learned much about other people, at least, the type to call in to 800 lines, because I worked for one. The experience was a great in-taking of information. Some of my choices, people found it hard to abide. I cut back on tobacco (again, organic) rather than quit because of information from an ob/gyn in Oregon who admitted that quitting cold turkey can be worse for a fetus than smoking less than 5 cigarettes a day. I smoked one to three times a day, during my pregnancy, and could only handle the tobacco down to the tip of the eagle’s wing, which was little over half the cigarette. The brand I smoked is free of the additives that are typical of cigarettes, which include many preservatives. Smoking while pregnant is such a taboo that at least one person I know stopped talking to me altogether, beyond saying “hi” even though I don’t smoke any more (I lost the cravings once my daughter was born). I feel strongly that the fact that I cut back rather than quit altogether, was a contributing factor in not picking it back up, even nearly two years later.

Meanwhile, back on the original thread, I took as much yoga as I could stand and stayed in fairly good shape, up until the point that I had a pinched nerve in my hip and my ankles became too swollen to wear shoes. My midwife gave me a poke root tincture to take twice daily, and a mixture of other herbs to smooth the transition. I studied hypno-birthing techniques and worked in meditative space. I worked with Lakshmi, Fortune-bringer, and Artemis, Her own midwife, and my most familiar animal totem: Crow, as well as two deities especially associated with ravens, the Morrigu and Odin. I had a dream that our little black and orange kitty, Nuht, changed into a brown panther to fight something off that was threatening our home.

As my labor progressed, I had more difficulty moving Strawberry through my birth canal than I expected. My mother was in town for a visit (she said, in hopes that her granddaughter would have already been born, but also kind of knowing she would be here for it), and camped out in the living room of our apartment for most of the duration of my attempts to have a home birth (when she wasn’t making a run to the liquor store or getting more coffee). She was convinced that if I had my baby at home, that I was going to die (at least, she was acting that way, even though when I’ve talked to her since then she says otherwise). By 6:30 in the evening, I was getting tired. At a bit after 7 p.m., I asked my midwife how much more time she would give me before taking me to the hospital. She said about a half an hour. I decided to go ahead and go in that moment, to be safe. My little Strawberry was born at 7:32, at the hospital.

The hospital visit left a mark on my body and my psyche: I suffered a perineal tear (still, less painful than healing from a cut), which my midwife informed me later of how it could have been prevented (by simply lowering my feet out of the stirrups to relax the tissue). Additionally, since I had not signed a waver before arriving at the hospital in labor (because being in labor makes a woman apparently unable to make medical decisions), the hospital staff administered pitocin to “help my uterus close up.” I was so out of it, I didn’t really process that something was wrong with me. After 15 minutes or so of the i.v. bag of pitocin, I couldn’t stop shaking, so badly that for a while I couldn’t even hold Strawberry because she would start crying from my jitters. When I finally fell asleep, I experienced horrible nightmares of a bloodied battlefield, corpses being picked over by the crows. The crows drew me out of the nightmare, as they circled overhead, and I felt grateful to my guardians for drawing me back to the light, and to consciousness. When I fell back asleep, I found myself in the same battlefield, but kept waking up, drawn up on the crows’ wings. I have long been a dream traveler, and never before have I returned to a dream that horrified me so. Every time I woke up, I held my daughter close to me and blessed the night with gratitude that she was still breathing, sleeping… and breathing, and nursing!

I was not opposed to a hospital visit if necessary, and I try to trust the process, but sometimes I still wish I had trusted my midwife and rode it out (would she have been born at that time, anyway, had I stayed at home? Without the help of the vacuum that my husband still gets chills thinking about?). Everything happens for a reason. In a moment, I decided to sacrifice my own choice for my mother’s peace of mind, but it would be the last time I would let her conquer me in such a way as to thwart my goals. In the aftermath of emotional distress, and guilt issues over giving in, I decided that I must have been too attached to the outcome of a home birth, and too attached to appeasing my mother to create my home-birth dream. I still felt disrespected by my mother, who seemed to not be pleased by anything until I went to the hospital, but have learned to forgive her. My daughter was baptized by my blood as she passed through my yoni into the world, under bright lights, in a cold, sterile room; as I had been baptized in my mother’s blood. Patrick stood by her as she was weighed and measured on a nearby table. I held her close, to let her know, for now, with me, she was home.

Now she is a toddler. She cries and sometimes screams when she doesn’t get her way. We let her build up her disappointment muscles, knowing that as she grows more grounded in expressing her feelings, the more she will learn about compromise, and know what she truly needs, the things too dear to be compromised. When she needs me I do my best to be present for her, which means knowing my limits with other things so that I have enough energy. I made a commitment never to consciously override her desires for the sake of my ‘peace of mind.’ I began to honor the holiness in all the little rituals in our life; the holiest ritual being her taking nourishment from my breast.

Not all women get this type of birthing experience in their life. The ones who don’t, I would encourage to become more familiar with the process to their abilities, and to work with the energy of shifting focus to a creative endeavor (not necessarily a child!) in prosperity work.

I may write again midweek, a visualization to use if you are interested in recreating your own birth in trance. If not this week, then later, and I will link this post to it. Blessed be.

Follow My Blog Friday #4

FF#4 Question: Have you ever used a fictional character as a archetype or patron goddess?

When I started writing this, I thought my answer would be “no” but as it turns out… I gave it some thought and realized I have consistently been doing this for years. I have adapted fictionalized versions of historical/mythical women as archetypes and ancestresses.

The first female figure that came to mind is Morgaine from The Mists of Avalon series (Marion Zimmer Bradley) was the first of these to come to mind. I picked up this book when I was pregnant with my first child, and the magick that she performs both in the act of conception, and during her pregnancy, has inspired some of my own ritual workings in very real ways. I never shared her despair in pregnancy to the extent that she does, but her interaction with the realm of the Fay reminded me of otherworldly encounters when I was enduring the darkest hour of my life. Mordred and Morgaine have been cast as such pure villains in other versions of this story, I really enjoyed seeing them depicted as magical humans. Mists of Avalon doesn’t exactly turn them into figures of sweetness and light, mind you. Mordred gets almost universally cast as evil in the Camelot cycle, his character twisted somehow by his parentage and their “unholy” union.  I still get a haunted feeling when I look at images of Morgaine from the film or in fan art, especially with Mordred as a boy.

Then I remembered Dinah from The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I read this book when I was in college, years before Mists of Avalon, in a time when I was sort of lost when it came to my pagan practices (I had reverted to being in the closet because there were no active groups in my area, and out of respect for the wishes of my best friend at the time, who was concerned that people in the community would judge her if I was out of the broom closet. I now have my own independent existence and decided people can either take it or leave it). Dinah is the only female sibling mentioned in the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) and his brothers who later became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Juday; she is only mentioned in the Old Testament briefly, as being abducted and raped. In the fictionalized version by Anita Diamant, Dinah absconds with a Gentile prince, and is actually kidnapped by her brothers and returned home against her will (and possibly starting a war in the process, though it’s been some years since I read it). I started working with Dinah as an archetype for empowerment in espousing broader world views than my patriarchal tradition had handed down, and for working with ideas of inter-cultural marriage. It took some years, but I feel that her character is very real in figuring into breaking down the unnecessary structures left by that world view in my life.

Another work of fiction that I read in college that changed my life was The Wolf and the Raven, by Diana Paxson. When I made her acquaintance in 2008 at a Goddess Spirituality retreat, I had to gush to her just a little about how her storytelling really brought the figures of Brunahild and Sigfrid to life for me (she expressed surprise that I hadn’t yet picked up a copy of Mists of Avalon, which she has been working on sequels to, and I felt a little embarrassed having not read that – but, as I mentioned above, I have since read the whole trilogy and loved it). Diana’s portrayals of the Valkerie and the AllFather, especially, were formative for me in future work with them. Her book was also the first piece of fiction  I had found that really opened up the meanings of the runes to me. I felt more connected to my Germanic heritage through reading that novel, to boot. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the rich lore behind Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung cycle, or who is studying the Teutonic/Norse pantheon, or whoever simply likes a well-told story.

Death and Delerium from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series are also female figures I have worked with.

All of these relationships have been very informal (except in the case of the characters from The Wolf and the Raven, as a result of which I was spiritually initiated as a Daughter of Odin), but I think I will begin revisiting these fictional heroines in a more serious light. It can be invaluable to have “real life” examples of real women facing and dealing with hardships, and working with their figures in ritual potentially yield interesting, empowering, and very effective results.

As I’ve been proofreading this article, I had another memory. The book Wait Till Helen Comes, as dark as it was, featured a ghost named Helen who actually helped me, as an eleven-year-old girl, in embarking on relationships with the dead. I would have to reread that book to recover many more of the memories I have of that work, but there is the shadow of remembrance, that she came alive for me, so to speak. Perhaps it wasn’t her character at all, but a local spirit that I invited to be a guide for me at that time. It was kind of a scary experience for me, since the character of Helen isn’t exactly someone you would call a higher being.

I welcome any and all constructive comments. Thank you for reading!

B is for Believing

Magick can do amazing things. We as humans have an innate ability to focus our will and affect changes in the world around us, from creating a nourishing meal, to manifesting our ideal relationship, work, or home. Magick is simple, but nonetheless powerful.

Magickal works, however, are merely empty rituals without the act of believing in the results.

Believing in an outside source (as in, a deity/deities) that can help you to create magick is secondary even to believing that a connection to the Source of All Magick lies within you.

I use the word “Believing,” as opposed to “Belief,” because I wish to make the distinction that my post is not about what beliefs I or others hold, but how important I feel it is for us Witches (or any Magickal practitioners, no matter what we call ourselves) to actively practice Believing. I consider believing to be what happens when we don’t have enough proof to know something, but we act on that knowledge as though we did (clarification inspired by Dreams From the West Wind‘s post on Belief:) what happens when there might not be intellectual proof of something, but that we know in our core because of personal observations/encounters that are sometimes indescribable. Like any tool, believing is a powerful act that can be wielded for good or evil. We must be careful not to let what we believe in confuse our sense of who we are. We must remember that we ultimately control our beliefs, and what we pour our believing into; not the other way around.

The darkest hour of my life came when I stopped believing. Not when I stopped believing in the church of my childhood, though it happened in the wake of that sudden death; the darkest hour occurred in the transition after leaving my  former dogma behind, but before I had really strengthened my own personal core beliefs through much meditation and discernment. My darkest hour came when I ceased believing in myself, when I stopped believing that I am a Divine Being in possession of imminent power. The light dawned only as I began to nurture my acts of Believing, guided lovingly by the Divine in its many personae, acting even through people around me.

I was raised in a Christian tradition that taught a strong belief in the powers of Satan. In that church, people’s belief in Satan rivals their belief in Christ and God. As good and loving as Christ is, Satan is always lurking in the shadows, working his hardest to tempt the unsuspecting pilgrim off the path of Truth. According to this dogma, Satan can wear a cloak of light and masquerade as an Angel. He can cast powerful illusions to trick people into thinking they are still on the path of Christ, in order to steal their soul for Hell and eternal damnation. In a sense, I still find echoes of this in life, as I have known many people who believe they are righteous, but who are merely self-righteous and judgmental of themselves and others to the extent that they live in their own personal hell; so in that way, they give an evil force power over their lives in ways to which they remain totally blind. I would like to point out that not all Christians believe in Satan as a literal being, but I grew up in a church that tends to promote this world view. So the Divine Trickster, our wise and ancient teacher, has been thwarted and corrupted into this purely evil force by that particular doctrine.

When my eyes were opened to Neopaganism as a way to honor the Earth and all living things as part of a greater divinity, I was on the threshold of turning eighteen. I was amazed to find that earth-centered traditions were not eradicated in the Burning Times, or with the cultural genocide of our First Nations, or owned solely by the few existing tribes left in the world, but could be claimed by all the Earth’s children. I became overwhelmed with joy. As a child, I had fallen in love with the movie Lion King because of the song, “The Circle of Life” – and here it was all around me. I couldn’t wait to tell my mother the Good News of empowerment in determining our outcomes (in case you can’t guess the conservative Christian viewpoint I was raised with, there wasn’t a lot of hope for married women or youths, when it came to influencing our environment to obtain our desires –“Desire” was always something of a dirty word; we were really all supposed to submit to God’s desires for us, which usually involved submitting to the doctrine of the church leaders, no matter what came from our own hearts, or risk being ostracized). I had been given a new gospel to share: we have the power to co-create our reality with the Universe.

Instead of receptivity to these new ideas, I was greeted with rejection for my views, by my family and many people in my home church. Oh, the irony, to be cast out of a Christian group for having a revolutionary world view! In a lot of ways, this drew me to feeling closer to Christ, who in my mind is still the ultimate outcast, consistently co-opted by people who misinterpret His message, His image distorted and abused for the sake of perpetuating intolerance. In that moment, I also felt free to include other deities in my Divine Family: the Green Man, Herne, and Gwyn ap Nydd; Nantosuelta (thought I did not know her name at the time), Gaia, and Epona. My mother would ask me questions like, “So what is this witchcraft stuff?” only to goad me into saying something directly in contradiction to the Bible, so she could remind me what the scriptures said. I would point out that the Bible contradicts itself in plenty of instances (imagine a 19 year old me, here, saying, “Helllloooo, Mom, look at the creation stories in Genesis…”). It did not matter to her, neither did my attempts to point out that Witch and Wicca simply mean “seekers of wisdom.” She was convinced that if I claimed the word, Witchcraft, that I was really practicing Devil Worship, and I was going to hell.

After more power struggles between my parents and I than I would care to describe in detail, I lost my belief in myself. My emotional need to be accepted interrupted my budding relationships with the Goddess and the new dimensions unfolding in my relationship with the God. This was my crisis of faith: if I could be so convinced of something that was basically a scheme of the Devil to trick me into going to a place of eternal suffering and damnation, then I decided I must lack a basic ability to know right from wrong. So, if my spiritual beliefs were wrong, then my whole life was wrong, and it didn’t matter what else I did to myself or others. I forgot who had stepped forward to work with me, and felt animosity towards the Christ and Archangel Michael for letting my community forsake me.

I am not proud of many things I did to myself or other people at this time, but at this point in life I can look back and honor it as a necessary process in my development – a process that I probably could have made easier by trusting myself and Deity, but I had to build that trust back up from a new foundation. I turned to Ariadne to learn more about the Web of Life, connections between everything, and gradual repaired my relationships with the gods and goddesses who had emerged in my first days as a pagan. Over time, I redeemed my mistakes for hard-won lessons.

I began testing my own abilities by performing spells. I started small, doing spells for a bit of money, using visualization and meditation techniques to see myself happier, healthier, and whole. I have drawn to me things that I have needed, and as my power of believing strengthened, I branched out to attracting things that I desire (the biggest material thing so far being our car, which I did a spell for, and which appeared with every little detail that I requested, down to the color and type of transmission).

Believing is always something I keep up practice with, to build my power-from-within. It is challenging for me to perform a spell and release it to the deities I have asked to help me. Believing is a gift I can give to the Goddess and the God, because I have worked to cultivate it in myself. Believing is a gift that I can give my family, and those I cherish, because I have enough to share. It has taken many years to reach this point, and in many ways I have room to grow, but I can look back at my life, and forward in my years ahead, and celebrate the movement and growth that believing has prompted.

Blessed be.

Follow My Blog Friday Question #3

This is my first entry for the Follow My Blog Friday hosted by The Domestic Pagan. I am already staying up too late, so my answer is going to be brief.

FF#3 Question: How did you first get interested in Wicca, witchcraft, or paganism?

I never thought of my abilities as anything supernatural – I just saw people who I knew weren’t really there. I could also pick up energy around things and people, although this freaked me out more than seeing ‘ghosts’ or spirits (not sure why – will have to explore that in journalling. I suspect it has something to do with my encounters with beings having been more controlled, whereas picking up energy could feel invasive, since it would take over my emotions).  Over time, I began to dismiss my powers as stemming from my imagination. When I was seventeen, I met my very-first-ever self-proclaimed pagan – well, the first one who would really talk to me anyway (I’m fairly sure I met a Wiccan in high school who would have nothing to do with me because I tried to convert her, but I don’t remember for certain). I fell in love with this certain pagan, and he fell in love with me, and together we had an amazing time making magick and love. Up to that point, I was a staunch Christian, but by the time I met Michael my religious identity was sustained more by fear of being ostracized by my community. By then, I was away from home, training for the Army National Guard, and had more freedom in my choices than I did in living with my parents.

What really hooked my interest in exploring this path was when he told me that there were modern people who honor the Earth as alive, as sacred, just like Native Americans do, and furthermore, these people could harness raw power to perform Magick. In a sense, this idea opened a door to me, one that I felt had been previously closed in terms of my heritage being predominantly Anglo-Saxon, and my own customs and family traditions being wholly European-American.

So began my journey… and what a long, strange trip it’s been!

2.0 – A is for Automatic Writing

I have had vivid contact with Deity as long as I can remember. I didn’t have many playmates as a child, and so I quickly adopted an invisible friend and did things like host communion for Jesus and the apostles with white bread and red kool-aid.

I have had the ability to slip into an altered state of consciousness for long enough that I don’t exactly remember the first time that it happened. Growing up, I would often hear something like, “Oh, Faye’s just off in her own little world, again.” I would become so immersed in whatever book I was reading that background conversation would fade and I would enter the world of the book. As a child, angels and faeries were as real to me as flesh-and-blood people. When I grew up and started looking at it for what it was, I realized I had been walking in between worlds for years, and felt very blessed to be so closely protected and guarded by Spirit Guides and Animal totems through the times that I had been in danger of losing touch with myself.

As a result of being able to access Other Realms so easily, I’m afraid I don’t have much practical advice for beginners who are totally new to this. My guess is, though, that more people do this than who realize they can. When I want to contact Deity, the easiest way for me to do it is by sitting and meditating: I close my eyes and visualize being in the realm of whatever Deity I am contacting. I do my best to imagine tastes, smells, and textures as well as sights and sounds. It is important for me to tie in all my senses to the experience, to feel materially connected to that place. Ambience plays an important part in my ability to “depart” from this realm into another. I don’t really leave my body, in the sense of astral projection – what I do is closer to creating a ‘tesseract’ as it’s called in Wrinkle in Time (one of my favorite books as a child), where I draw the alternate dimension where the Deity dwells to me.

In the case of automatic writing, I have attempted long hand exercises with no success. I either begin to think, or receive thoughts, and those make their way to the page through me knowing exactly what I am writing, or my mind stays blank and my pen strokes remain indiscernible loops and scribbles for pages and pages. I work around this state of being by entering into a meditative state and contacting the Deity directly, so I receive my information in a way that is closer to Aspecting, which I covered in my first PBP article. Even when I am transcribing my experience with Deity, it is almost reflexive for me to go back and correct any little typos I make. It can be maddening at times, and hard not to let it pull my entire consciousness back into my body. Slowly I have learned to let my fingers and eyes do what they do to get the words on the screen, and let my soul remained engaged in contact with Deity. If I feel pulled back to my physical body, I don’t fight it (fighting with Self is something I recommend avoiding altogether) – instead, I listen to whatever needs my body or personality has in the moment, and then either address them or release them depending on their urgency. To get back into the contact with Deity, I open myself to be completely receptive to their presence. In the case of Bel, I was bathed in warm, golden sunlight. With Brighid,  I was drawn to listening to birdsong in the distance, and to the song of the wind as it played over the gentle slope where I stood on with her. With Sekhmet, it took me longer to establish contact, but once I was there, the experience happened so fast that I was never really drawn out of it. I suspect that contacting different Deities would yield different results for anyone, depending on the depth and length of their relationship with that Being.

Can the process I just described count as automatic writing? Or is a part of the inherent definition involve the writer being unaware of what they are writing at the time? I would appreciate feedback, here.

I have learned from personal accounts, myths, and my own experiences (luckily more from the former two than latter one – the Gods and Goddesses have been kind to me in my lessons, maybe because I’m willing to listen to others’ cautionary tales?) that it is a dire mistake to assume that a deity does not have their own personal agenda in working with you. For a good (if exaggerated) example, read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and see for yourself. Deities have their own free will that cannot be dictated by human consciousness (at least, not without serious ramifications, just as with controlling another human/animal consciousness against their will).

Always ask your Innermost Self (through a divination tool, if need be) whether you really want to work with the deity you have in mind. Then ask yourself whether it is for your mutual highest and best to work with the deity you have in mind at that time. You could have an affinity for a deity but not be compatible with them at the moment that you would like to work with them. Spend time in a sensory experience with the deity’s energy, either by looking up images of that deity, reading their stories, or working with the elemental energy they are connected to, along with the sound of their name.

I hope this information helps in your experiences, no matter what those may be. Blessed be.

Automatic Writing as Aspecting 1.3 – Sekhmet

I noticed an immediate difference in contacting Sekhmet, from contacting Bel or Brighid. Bel was by far the easiest to tune in to, since I have the longest standing relationship with Him (I worked with Artemis more as a child than Brighid, especially since as a staunch Methodist, my mom went out of her way to discourage me from learning anything about the saints, but somehow was okay with me being exposed to Greek mythology at a young age. I worked with Bel, thinking He was Blonde Jesus – I only know that from the work I did with him last Tuesday; He did not tell me this right out, the knowing just slid into place).

I haven’t done any work with Sekhmet before now – I have known I am supposed to work with Her this year, for a couple of weeks, but the relationship is still in its formative stages. I know that her tests will be to my willpower, and I have seen visions of coming into greater self confidence and empowerment in my work with Her, so long as I direct my focus and keep my appetites in check. I have no solid plans for an altar, but will be setting some time aside this week to construct one, though I am not getting a strong drive to.

My meeting with her ended up being much lass of an aspecting thing and much more of an astral projection where I found myself deep inside her temple. in an unlit chamber. I could hear the purring of a very large cat, and felt its whiskers brushing against my legs. Finally, there was an accepting nudge and a nose-to-shoulder kitty rub up against my legs that almost pushed me over. At this moment, a torch lit in the corner of the room, and a woman with a lioness-head mask on stood before me, chest bare, but bedecked in a gold necklace and a red skirt.

What She guided me in doing, is a fast, for three days – I can eat beans, rice, and raw fruit in small amounts, but nothing else, and I can only drink water with lemon and raw milk. I am starting tomorrow.

On the third day, I am to feast with those dearest to my heart. She simply said “You will,” so I’m not clear whether this would be something She arranged, or whether I am supposed to make this happen. I think a part of it shall be to bless whatever food I eat to break the fast with a specific remembrance of all those dear to me who are not present for the meal.

After that three-day fast, I will be worthy to make the offering I wish to make: to offer Her my Blood that I have collected from this month’s cycle. I am making this sacrifice in hopes that She will grant me the Strength to achieve some specific goals for myself in my Search for Power-From-Within. She will accept it if I am true to my fast – Her first test of my willpower. So far, She is being kind in considering my low blood sugar imbalance problems  (something close to hypoglycemia) and my needs in nourishing myself to keep up my milk supply – or maybe it’s coming through this way because I am directing focus towards being kind to myself.

Note: when working on this kind of connection to Deity, be prepared to enter into a contract as part of establishing your Trust relationship.

All Hail, Sekhmet! Thank you, Sekhmet. I dedicate My Acts of Self Love and Strength to You for this coming Year and a Day, beginning at Imbolc.

Next comes – my approach to this work, and how I feel about my experiences overall.

Thank you for reading.

Here is a beautiful painting of Sekhmet by Tara Cochrane of deviantart. Blessed be.

Automatic Writing As Aspecting: 1.2 – A Session with Brighid

Tonight, I set the intention to work with Brighid in a sacred space of ten minutes. I light a blue 7-day candle in offering as I sit to write this, to thank Brighid for this vision and to ask for continued Guidance in walking my Path.

Instead of sharing the conversation itself, as I did with Bel, Brighid has lead me to share with you what I saw, felt, and tasted in my all-too-brief visit to Her Well.

I wait at Her well. I stand, fully connected to the ground, at the side of a bent and crooked sacred tree bedecked with ribbons and baubles and various offerings to the Goddess. Nearby sits the well, a source of healing for all who seek health.

Brighid appears in blue and green robes, walking from a nearby building that is low and round and looks half covered with earth. Her red hair has a tint of something nameless that dulls its sheen, maybe it’s just the light from the clouded sky, which is heavy with rain, but she also wears something like mica flakes, the kind of rock that reflects at the bottom of a river… She reminds me that the Well water is all water, and any water is all water: it is all connected. In the moment, this fills me with peace, because She is directing the Healing of the Waters. I feel at peace (in my waking life I am usually filled with horror and dread when I think about the awful things with which people poison the waters- and how stupid we are with its use), in this moment, at her Well, I can surrender my sadness for the condition of the waters – the frogs, the fish in the stream, the dragonflies, are all in Her care.

That does not mean I don’t have a part to play in the Healing work. It is my part to grow in mindfulness of the water that I personally use, and to be thankful for the clean water that my community has. I ask her what a suitable offering is to Her Presence: she says, “Treat yourself well, nourish your body, dedicate your acts of healing your own body to me.” She anoints me with oil, and the only other words she says to me are a personal message meant for me alone (though I feel prompted to remind you that if you feel so led to work with Brighid, or any other Deity, you, too can receive your own personal message! It just takes finding your method, trusting yourself, and setting boundaries as in my first Aspecting article. Boundaries are still important even when  you feel really “at home” with a Deity. Always be careful what you offer to them, because most of Them will call any bluff).

I look at her face. She is ruddy from the wind, youthful and wise at once. Grey begins to appear in her hair and then fades again, as she cycles continuously through aging and ageless in Being. I sit back in my body and allow Her presence to wash over me. I feel compassion in this moment, the echo of pain that comes from releasing something that has hurt you for a long time.  My heart chakra opens up as I am drawn back by my friend who is acting as keeper.

Thank you, Mother Brighid, for Watching over the Well, for Guarding Healing Wisdom, for Sharing Compassion with Us, your Children. Blessed be.

)O(

Next, tomorrow, I will work with Sekhmet. I am excited to see what this new voyage brings about…

Meanwhile, this image invokes Brighid’s fiery energy as opposed to the watery aspects I called forth, but I wanted to share possibly my favorite icon ever: St. Brigid, with her purported lover, Darlughdach.

Automatic Writing as Aspecting: 1.1 – a session with Bel

Tonight, I set sacred space with clear intent. I lit a yellow 7-day candle that has been charging on an altar since last spring, for just this purpose, on an altar dedicated to youthfulness and the Sun. It was time to contact Bel.

From time to time, I find it helpful to contact Deity through the medium of type. The electronic age allows me to use the current in the device as a receiver of the message. The last time I contacted Bel was to paint His portrait in the summer/autumn of 2009. Moving back to Utah from Berkeley, California unleashed a series of paintings of portraits from my psyche that I had begun to paint in the Bay, but had been unable to finish. Looking back, I think I had reasons in relocating that had as much to do with finishing that series, as they did getting out of a bad neighborhood situation. (There’s a tragedy behind that: it turns out that the importance of my work as an artist supersedes enjoying geographical closeness to many of my friends who just happen to live in the Bay area. But I digress.) Bel helped me to shine a light on the pain of sacrifice, and his portrait became a beautiful gift to some dear friends of mine.

So, in any case, with the moon in Leo, the sign of the Sun, I called to Bel, and He answered.

What follows is a raw transcript, edited only for punctuation and legibility.

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I would like this time to speak with Bel –

God of Warmth, the Sun, Summer, Growth, and Ultimately Sacrifice:

You who give yourself every year as grain for our bodies and bellies, as seed to sprout in our soils…

By giving of yourself you show us how to give, and how to accept your gifts.

I invite you, now, into my hands, into my fingers, to put down your message here.

Welcome. Do you have questions for me?


Thank you for your presence, Bel. What message do you carry for growth, in 2012?

Never underestimate the power of consistency. In doing what you wish to accomplish, and in facing stubborn adversity. Your efforts much work with the cycles of nature, and like me, listen to when the wind blows in a certain direction, and move with it when it is time. I give you grace to forgive yourself for bein gout of syn, I can teach you anwyyway, no matter where you are in your ability. Work with me for understanding and heeding time, when to stay and grow, and when to scatter your seed across the winds. The wind is my mother, and the earth is my lover. I listen to my mother but always return to my lover. So you must heed the wind, but when it is time to be planted, put down your roots, understasnding that you are exactly where you need to be at this time. Here. Now. Love. Growth. Giving. Remember anything you sacrifice, you give to yourself.

Thank you, Bel, for this wisdom. I bow in gratitude. You honor me by being here.

Of course I am here, I am with the light of the Sun, and in the Sun, and of the Sun. Honor me by planting seeds, and making love on the sunwarmed earth. Honor me by sharing your food with others, any time you can. These are my rites.

Why do I feel impatience from you, sometimes, when the year is waxing toward the Solstice?

It is my natural way to push outward, onward, through, underneath, thrusting toward the next thing. All the energies of growth accelerate during that time, and sometimes my anger manifests in reflection of the mourning the People have for losing the Old Ways. Racism, bigotry, hatred, anger me, but they are the sad products of people who were mistreated as children themselves, by their parents, by other people, by society. To honor the One we must honor the All. I am part of the One, I am Sunlight, Growth, Fission, Fire, Sex. Reproduction. Generation. Regeneration. I can mend the broken bones, I am the Tree of Life in Full Bloom. I am the fire that dwells in your blood, makes your blood boil.

At the end, I am consumed in fire, because ultimately it is by burning that the world is nourished again. I give of my body in the sacrifice of annihilation so that I may feed the Earth. When My Lover Devrous me, I enter her to again be reborn. I Continue on even through Death.

Do you have any advice?

If you wish your Death to honor ME, be burned after your own death. Feed the Earth. Continue on through Death.

Thank you, Bel, Hail Bel, Farewell, Bel. XOXOX

original artwork, detail

“A” is for Aspecting: Pagan Blog Project

Aspecting deity is similar to possession, but holds a different process: the person aspecting steps back in their being and allows Deity to speak/act through them directly. This is different from full possession in that the person maintains awareness of what the deity is saying and doing through them. In aspecting, it is crucial to outline clear boundaries in what that deity gets to do. Aspecting is most safely done with a trusted partner, and then after some practice with a group. If no partner is available, some limited aspecting can be done in the form of automatic writing.
An issue of Reclaiming Quarterly featured a few articles on the subject of Aspecting and Anchoring, which are all linked from the page below (all of which I recommend for reading):
The first time I consciously aspected deity was at a public Samhain ritual, as part of my training with a coven. I was selected to aspect one of the Graeae, and after meditating on the three, identified myself as having the most affinity with Enyo. I find it interesting that of the three, Enyo has her own separate identity as a goddess of war. That Samhain was the last ritual I attended in that coven before embarking on my own separate journey, which sadly did not include ordination with that tradition. I was compelled to return with my husband to Utah, our decision spurred on by a real sense of danger in our living situation (i.e., living in an apartment directly under a crack dealer).
In the ritual, I stood in a circle facing outward with my two sisters, wearing blindfolds to symbolize our blindness. I heard their voices change as they spoke as Deino and Pamphredo. When Enyo came forward within me, I could hear my voice change, become raspy. It was not of my own will, but I allowed it. Through me, Enyo told those present that Horror is a tool to purify your soul. If you face your horrors, your nightmares, they have something to teach you. That they might even want to play with you.
Our horrors are parts of our own consciousness, necessary to give a contrast. They are distorted joys, calling for our attention.

Another aspect experience had by a friend of mine did not go so well. Ironically, in aspecting a goddess of love and pleasure, she gave that deity too much leeway and the goddess took all of it. My friend recalled doing things she would not normally do, dancing in ways she would not normally dance, and drinking too much. I was able to learn from her account before I aspected Enyo that it was important to draw clear boundaries around what I was giving. So I gave my voice, but not my body or my thoughts.

Next Friday, for Part II of this post, I will post some aspected automatic writing that I will do in the coming week. I am not sure who I will be working with, but I am going to attempt contact with Sekhmet, a warrior goddess who I am working with this year; Brighid, a goddess of healing and compassion, who I have come to consider as the patroness of my marriage; and Bel, a Celtic god of light and warmth who I have worked with before but feel I have been neglecting lately.

Do you have experiences with aspecting you would like to share, or questions you would like to put to me or the broader pagan community? I welcome any positive feedback/questions here. Blessed be!