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.

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: 1.2 – 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!