Teaching of the Day

 No matter what spiritual path you’ve walked

or what teachings you’ve followed,

they must lead you back to no path and no teaching. 

A true teaching is like a blazing fire that consumes itself. 

The teaching must not only consume you,

but consume itself as well. 

All must be burned to ash, and then the ash must be burned. 

Then, and only then, is the Ultimate realized. 

—  Adyashanti

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D is for Diet

So, going backwards, this is the D post that was supposed to happen last Friday…

Diet.

I wish to make a confession. I’ve somehow become a food fundamentalist. It goes beyond enthusiasm, to borderline fascism. I am working to step back from the edge of extremism, taking a more moderate Buddhist approach to hospitality, practicing a radical acceptance of what is offered to me, in order to preserve my relationships and my sanity. A fundamental part of my pagan path is the endeavor to live in right relationship with the Earth. My own practice of this belief has led me to obsessive label-reading when it comes to purchasing a new product. I pursue research on to what degree corporations consider environmental effects of what they produce. I avoid high fructose corn syrup and fast food like the plague (and all other fake food, for that matter). It started with being pescetarian through college, moving toward being an omnivore but eating only grass fed, free range meat, to phasing out as much canned food as reasonable and buying as much dried food in bulk as possible, eliminating the white foods (white flour, refined sugar, white rice). Still, I want to do more. I want to someday eliminate plastics from my diet, transition to getting most of my food from the land I live on, and teach other people how to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle, for themselves. To reach others, I have to keep working on being approachable, and avoid conveying to others that what they’re doing isn’t working – it all works, to some extent, but I feel beholden to the law, ‘Do No Harm’ when it comes to my choices of food. Some harm is inevitable, of course: life feeds on life, as the great philosopher M.J. Keenan once growled (see “Cry of the Carrots”). For me, a lot of doing no harm is avoiding unnecessary suffering in the process of going about life.

This ongoing transition is huge for me, considering the place from whence I started. In high school I guzzled Dr. Pepper and inhaled Doritos (mmm, MSG) with all the other teens (wondering why I had such low energy levels and couldn’t think straight in chemistry class). Over the course of the dozen years that I have claimed the Pagan Path, I’ve undergone a transformation in consciousness that has also worked to shift my habits, step by step.

I am a cradle environmentalist, not because my parents were hippies, but because as a child, I witnessed oil spills, toxic dumping, and deforestation (and maybe watched too many episodes of Captain Planet); these events horrified me. I knew even at that early age, that the things we did to the planet, we did to ourselves. These global events, plus my exposure early on to the Cherokee world view, shaped the rest of my life path. My biological family (with a few exceptions) generally practice habits that are not in alignment with my present values. Growing up, we ate a lot of canned food (my parents have shifted to eating mostly frozen food that’s still pre-cooked and possibly worse in terms of health consequences). My grandmother baked exclusively with white flour and white sugar (I didn’t learn the difference between refined grains and whole grains until a middle school science class). I remember eating a whole Big Mac to myself at age 5. I would avoid eating vegetables, opting instead for fortified cereal (except on the rare occasion I could eat out of our neighbor’s vegetable garden). When I embarked on the pagan path, I asked the Goddess to open me up to awareness of my relationship with the Earth; as a consequence, I began to see where the waste was going and where it ended up, and all the waste that went into creating the food I eat, instead of just what was there.

To me, it seems clear that the American/ Western way of life is diametrically opposed to honoring the Earth. As of the year 2000, the average American was eating almost 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s over 50 pounds more than what we ate in 1950, the steak and potatoes era!). Also in 2000, we ate almost 30 statistical pounds of cheese per man, woman, and child, and just over 85 pounds of corn-based sweeteners. Needless to say, these dietary habits are unprecedented by the rest of the world. In 2010, we consumed 31 million tons of plastic waste (12% of overall Municipal Solid Waste). To add insult to injury, we toss out 1/3 of the food that we have available to us.  There is an island of trash forming in the North Pacific because we cannot seem to comprehend the effects of our own waste. I recycle what I can, but feel thwarted when I’m given a gift wrapped in non-recyclable packaging, or buy something only to realize later it contains poison in the form of artificial coloring.

When I first started out a dozen years ago as a baby pagan, I assumed that every pagan was committed to honoring the Earth, and I had strong notions of what that meant. After all, we all ascribe to an Earth-based spiritual path, right? Needless to say, I became jaded with organized paganism in any form for many years, after encountering a group who consumed enough paper and plastic goods to keep up with the rest of our disposable culture, with no talk of change. This happened right out of high school; I became solitary for the next seven years, in part because of not having an example of pagan activism to inspire me to start my own group when I moved to a place with no significant organized pagan presence. I became cynical, thinking that all publically open pagans in my generation were just like the Sunday-Christians of my upbringing (Pagan at the sabbats, could-give-a-crap any other day). It was only when I moved to the San Francisco Bay area and discovered a coven that is openly engaged in activism and community service that I felt able to participate in group ritual again. Over time, I have begun to process a lesson I have known intellectually for a very long time: everyone is on their own healing and growing path. We all have to start somewhere, and just because a person seems lackadaisical about something on the surface, doesn’t mean they are guilt-free about their lifestyle choices underneath.

It’s emotionally difficult for me to hear people give credence to Earth-based spirituality, only to find out they make little or no conscious effort to eliminate fake foods and unnecessary waste from their diet, choosing to eat fast food because it’s convenient and guzzle soda because they ‘need the caffeine,’ with no regard to the harm they are doing to their bodies or the planet. I’ve had to work a lot on my tendencies to be sanctimonious or zealous, and I still have a lot of work to do in that department. It’s not very endearing of me to people if I give them harsh criticism, or if I cause them to feel like what they are doing ‘isn’t good enough.’ I am striving for what E.O. Wilson calls ‘dynamic disequilibrium’ (which sounds a lot like the D/Lakota concept of the Red Road – allowing good and bad to exist as they appear in your world, and not trying to veer too far in one direction or another, thus maintaining travel upon the Red Road). At the end of the day, my methods of self expression are my own, so I can’t own other people’s opinions of me, either. I can only work on walking the Red Road.

Over time, I have become rather strict with myself about what enters the Temple of My Body. I’ve encountered a need to cultivate ease and relaxation around people who are uninformed about their unhealthy diets (you would be surprised at how many of you who try to make healthy choices are really eating fake foods, or the widespread unawareness of how plastic leeches into food), rather than being judgmental of others’ choices. That said, I feel like this blog is an appropriate space to encourage people to engage in some self examination. Take a minute to calculate your carbon footprint. How could it be smaller? How much plastic do you consume? Break it down into small steps. Make more things yourself. Slow down in life. Consider your purchases – do you really need it, or just want it? Is it the most sustainable option available to you? Can you make it yourself? What do you feel you can’t live without? Are those things necessary, or are you just addicted? Be honest. Make your own private list. No one else is looking. Give yourself love and forgiveness for your transgressions against Mother Earth. Remember that just because you have everlasting love from Her, is no excuse to continue in complacency on your path of self indulgence and wastefulness.

Remember also that corporations have no other motive than to make money, and you cannot trust what they say at face value. Ask the Goddess to reveal Her Truth to you, and do your own research. 

Sources:

http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

http://www.rosenlake.net/er/Lugenbehl.html

http://www.realfooduniversity.com/paleoprimal-lifestyle-sustainable-meat-production/

http://blog.friendseat.com/food-waste-study-worldwide

D is for Deity/Divinity/Diversity

Yes, I’m still participating in the Pagan Blog Project; I have some catching up to do on my second “C” and first “D” posts, but I decided to post the current week and catch up later.

Deity, Divinity.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

­-Lao Tzu

All gods are one god, and all goddesses are one goddess, and there is one initiator.

-Dion Fortune

I thought at first this would be an easy article to write: after all, I have a direct, personal relationship with many Deities, as well as the Universal Divine Principle (well, as personal a relationship as can be had, I guess). I believe that we all carry our own inherent, non-negotiable Divinity, through which we can perform magickal miracles, healing, divination, and other divine acts of compassion. I seek to celebrate all the diverse practices that honor the Divine/s. There are so many diverse views on the Gods and Goddesses, that it’s hard not to draw comparisons between different beliefs and point out ways in which I agree or disagree with those perspectives. I’ll try to stick with explaining my own beliefs and practices rather than making comparisons that risk sounding like I think others’ beliefs are wrong (’cause that’s just not true; I simply don’t share everyone else’s beliefs. That’s the point of diversity in paganism, after all, right?). I believe in the concept of Maya (reality as illusion). At the end of the day, I feel that everything we think we know is merely belief, and that we can truly know nothing for certain except what our own experiences tell us. You know?

The two quotes that open this article pretty much summarize my feelings of Deity; but as the Divine Principle is one, so is all of existence. We are all each other, on some level. We all break down to the same parts. To me, this idea does not negate the reality of each individual found within the community of Divine Beings. We are still unique, diverse, our own beings. To me, it is simply a reminder. We are all one. Everything that exists outside us, in the universe, exists within Us. There is no “them.” There is no external threat. We have no enemies. We are all together in this grand Spiral Dance of life, death, and rebirth.

I was raised in a rather evangelical Christian church that asserted that God was singular in His divinity, that we were wholly separate beings, as His creations, even though His Spirit (which, since it was a Trinitarian church, the Spirit was the same as God) resided within us (but that didn’t make us God). One Sunday when I was about ten, after an evening service where we had heard a sermon about how God is in everything, I turned to my mother and said, “So, we’re all God’s children, right? Every person who has ever lived?” My mother affirmed that statement, so I continued with, “Since we’re all made by God and God reaches out to us all, every god and goddess that has ever been worshipped, couldn’t they just all be expressions of God, and those people just didn’t know it?”

My mother laid a hand on my shoulder, and gave me a cold look. “No, Faye, that’s impossible, and you shouldn’t say things like that in church.” I feel blessed to have preserved this memory throughout all my other trials as a Child of Earth born into patriarchy.

Her statement left me feeling confused, wounding me and leaving a scab that I would keep picking at for seven years until I discovered the idea of Pantheism, that everything is divine, and Animism, that asserts that everything has its own spirit. I identified with those concepts as soon as I read about them.

Over the years, I have identified my ultimate spiritual goal. As believed by many Eastern Mystic and indigenous peoples traditions, I desire ultimately to reunite with the Universal Divine Principle that originates all life. To unify with that principle I must reach some kind of understanding of it, peace with it: I guess you could call it a personal Samadhi.

I work with deities for the same reason that I keep friendships. I can’t know the whole of the Universe without knowing and relating to its many facets. It occurred to me through a helpful friend that Deities are on their own learning and growing path; they are not infallible, they have not reached the ‘end of the road’ so to speak. They are also seeking Unification with the Divine Principle. My experiences have informed me that the deities of Compassion have reached Unification and have stayed behind to help others do the same.

Deities need us, just as we need them. Yes, they are the forces behind Nature, but they also need us to be their hands in the world, to be their voice, to enact their Love to others in the World. I have come across obscure deities over time, and they seem to have lost their strength of identity over the aeons, fading into oneness with the raw forces of nature they represent. Some cling to their identity with anger at being ignored for too long, craving the power of worship to restore their strength. I do not feel that the Deities made us in Their image to worship them, but that they sprang forth from the Divine Principle, and we sprang forth from them, and as we took on our human form, so they formed with us, and became the Named Beings we knew then, and know today. Kind of how, when we have children, they are in our image, but not because we willed that into being. There is always an element of chance that mixes up the DNA. As our children grow, we in turn are shaped by our interactions with them. This is how I have seen it happen with Deities. They are our Divine Parents in the sense that they ushered us forth into being, but they are not the grand orchestrators of the minutiae of our existence.

If you strongly disagree with this idea, that Deities need us as we need them, try asking your primary Goddess or God what their ultimate goal is, and with an open heart and open mind, try to really dig with them to get to the roots of their Desire. They just might surprise you.

You are Goddess.

You are God.

I am Goddess.

I am God.

We are Goddess.

We are God.

Blessed be.

I’ve Been Tagged!

The Domestic Pagan tagged me what feels like aeons ago, but I finally answered the questions and created my own!

The rules are:

1. Post the rules.

2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.

3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post.

4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.

5. Go to their blog and tell them that you tagged them.

6. No stuff in the tagging section about “you are tagged if you are reading this. You have to legitimately have to tag 11 people.

(Rules 7-11 didn’t previously exist, but I thought that since everything is based on 11’s, that should be the number of rules, too!~FMC)

7. Take at least one deep breath every day.

8. Remember that nothing is really solid because space exists between atoms and sub-atomic particles.

9. Remember you are Divine.

10. Drink plenty of water, every day.

11. Nourish your body, to the best of your ability.

11 Random Things About Me

1. I practice yoga and meditation (passive and active); I am always seeking more knowledge of traditional chants and mantras from around the world.

2. I resonate most with the elements air and water (go figure: my sun’s in Libra, moon’s in Aquarius, and my ascendant is Cancer-so go figure).

3. I have passed two kidney stones, an experience which had long term effects on how I see my body, for the better. Now I follow Susun S. Weed’s Seven Rivers of Healing as a guide for healing myself. It’s opened my health up to miraculous healing.

4. I work with deities (including Jesus), nature spirits, fey folk, angelic forces, and whoever else is helpful and constructive and willing to work with me, including the occasional demon (yep, Jesus knows about that, too).

5. I am discerning whether or not it is on my path to become a certified root worker through Cat Yronwode’s correspondence class. It seems intense, but definitely worth it. The big question is whether this course is the right thing for me, in the near future.  I’m lucky to have a personal account of how the work progressed, written by Doc Greywolf, that outlines many challenges and points of preparedness on his path (the curriculum is NOT reproduced here; if you’re interested in more info about the course, go to Cat Yronwode’s site).

6. I run my own business as a Tarot reader: Real Life Intuition. I have worked for a Psychic hotline (it was okay, but I would be hesitant to call one, knowing that the requirements stress quota over skill).

7. I am interested in living from the land and being in a community as self-sustaining as possible (in terms of being able to meet its own needs through cooperation with others as opposed to participating in the naturally exploitive system of capitalism/corporatism), in alignment with my goal to live in right relationship with the Earth.

8. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Not some “Divine Plan,” or anything, just that – we seem to have the experiences that we need for us at the time. The more we consciously acknowledge and ask for the things we need, the more likely it will be for us to draw it to ourselves.

9. I first became interested in Tarot as a means by which to contact spirits (of all kinds). I don’t speak of that side of my work very much because people tend to think I’m crazy.

10. People say they love me for my authenticity. People say they dislike me because of the manner in which I express my opinions.

11. I am consistently working to expand my own world view. Because of this, I tend to judge how well I like other people based on how flexible their world view is. Sometimes, I don’t check my tongue and come across as judgmental (my Sun in Libra is conjunct Mercury: I’m a bit too eager to loudly declare what I do and do not think is fair).

11 Questions Asked by Domestic Pagan

1. What is the defining moment of your life? Camping outside with friends and family, howling at the moon.

2. What song could you listen to over and over? Hyperballad, by Bjork.

3. What was the first music album that you ever owned? I don’t remember my first tape, but the first albums I purchased for myself were No Need to Argue by the Cranberries, and Smashing Pumpkins’ single, Perfect (bought at the same time). The first two vinyl record albums I ever bought were Days of Future Past (Moody Blues) and Let it Be (The Beatles) (I also bought them together).

4. Where is your favorite place in the world? Out in the wilderness. Preferably somewhere around here:

5. What is your dream car? An invisible hover craft that is powered by unicorn-poop (since we’re speaking of dreams).

6. Do you have any unusual talents or skills? I can astral project, or enter trance visualization, almost at will. This has the disadvantage of causing me to be a little disconnected from the mundane world at times. I’m working on that with lots of grounding.

7. What is your earliest memory? Sitting in my baby carrier underneath a Christmas tree (my first Christmas), feeling frustrated that I couldn’t reach the ornament closest to me.

8. If you were the opposite sex for a day, what would you do? The three really obvious things: masturbate, pee standing up, and… you can guess where this is going. Plus, I would dress up in my best David Bowie garb. 😉

9. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why? Shape shifting, so I could disguise myself as world leaders and power brokers to instigate world peace.

10. Why do you blog? I really just have to get it out of my system, sometimes. I wish to document my life, and blogging is easy to share.

11. Sum up your life using only 6 words: Mystifying creative musical walker between worlds.

My Eleven Questions for You:

1. What gem/semi-precious stone/crystal would you be, and why (if you’re stumped, try talking about what crystal/semi-precious stone/gem you most resonate with)?

2. If you could be a god/dess from any pantheon for a day, who would you choose to be?

3. Which of the four elements do you have the strongest affinity with, and why?

4. What deity are you working with this year that you haven’t before?

5. If you could rewind ten years and tell your Younger Self any one thing, what would it be?

6. As the deity you mentioned in your answer to question #2, what would you do with all your power for that day?

7. Which subject would you teach if you were an instructor at Hogwarts (if you’re unfamiliar, you can create your own subject to teach at a school of witchcraft and wizardry)?

8. What is your favorite book about paganism, magick, and/or witchcraft?

9. Do you work with divination? If so, how did you first discover it?

10. What is your favorite affirmation?

11. If you could go back and have a debate with any historical person, who would you choose and what would you debate with them about?

My 11 Tagged Bloggers (I’m borrowing Domestic Pagan’s technique of listing everyone, here)- if you wish not to have been tagged, message me and I can remove you. There’s no repercussion for turning this down. There’s no deadline on this, by the way, either. Please tag me in a comment when you complete this, so I can look at your 11 random things and your questions (please, no tags back!).

1. Because It’s Kismet

2. Way of the Rabbit

3. The Wilde Garden

4. Ladybug’s Adventures

5. Lorelei Moon Willow

6. Confessions of a Kitchen Witch

7. Witch Blog

8. The WishBringer

9. Quirky Knit Girl

10. Dreams From the West Wind

11. The Chaos Witch

C is for Creation Stories

Something I love about paganism: it is ancient and new all at once. We reconnect with our ancestors in very meaningful ways. For the people who wish to recreate the Ancient Ways down to the last detail, rituals can become bound by the limited knowledge available. My favorite reconstructionists embrace imagination, using ancient folk songs and circle dances, alongside spontaneously created acts of reverence, to make magick and loosen the bonds of limited information.

It is said by the masters, that Magick is simply powerfully focused imagination. Magick is a personal encounter with the power of our Selves to create something out of nothing. Artists of all sorts tend to be more intuitive than average because they engage in magical exercises without calling them such. Over time, we have created and collected stories, in the veins of culture, passed down from mouth-to-mind over countless generations. We told stories about everything: why the seasons change; why the rains fall; why animals have certain relationships with each other; why creatures have different attributes (ex., “How the Monkey Got His Tail”). Our imaginings paved the way for deeper understanding. We would not have complex scientific systems of theory without having sung the first ballad, created and recited the first Edda, or told the first fable. Throughout time, these stories wove a web of connections to the center of being. At the heart of this web grew the Creation Story.

The archetypal Creation Story is now a patchwork of countless cultures and tribes, some long forgotten, others more prominently known. The interwoven vines of our great ancestral Tree of Lore traces the lineage of our observational relationship with the world around us. My favorite stories are modern retellings of ancient stories that feature egalitarian relationships between God and Goddess. In my personal research, I have encountered many myths that seem to have been retold at one point by a male conqueror. I find that these stories hinder my relationship with the Deities I am trying to contact. (I would be curious to know how other people feel about those stories, whether anyone else wants to re-interpret classical Greek myth so that Zeus and Hera no longer hate each other, and so on…).

In January, I gave a talk at Skyview High school on Witchcraft, Wicca, and Paganism, and read a creation story called “The Goddess Dances the World Awake” as told by Starhawk in Circle Round. I think I can post it here, since I’m giving her the credit – you can find more from all three of the authors of Circle Round at (http://www.starhawk.org/writings/circleexcerpt.html)

The Goddess Dances the World Awake: A Creation Story
retold by Starhawk

Long ago, before anything was, the Goddess awoke alone in the vast dark and emptiness. She had as yet no name and no form, but she felt an urge to move. She stretched, she rocked, she began to dance. Whirling and twirling, she wheeled and spiraled through space.

Her dance set in motion a great wind that followed her, playing catch, trying to caress her. The Goddess danced with the wind, and the wind took form, becoming the God in the shape of a great serpent, Ophion. Ophion wrapped his coils around the Goddess, trying to become one with her, loving her with all his being.

Suddenly the Goddess felt something stirring inside her, as if her dance had come alive. Something wanted to be born. She reached out, and her arms became wings. As a giant dove, she flew aloft while Ophion coiled himself into a nest for her. She settled onto his back and laid a huge, huge egg.

Ophion guarded the egg, sheltering it from below as the Goddess brooded it from above. At last the egg cracked open and the whole universe fell out–suns and stars and galaxies, planets and moons and the green living earth, all spiraling and spinning, whirling and twirling through space in the Goddess’s dance.

So that’s how the world came to be. And the whole universe is still spiraling and spinning, whirling and twirling to this very day, in the dance of life!

Links to Creation Stories from Around the World

The University of Georgia, Department of Geology has this helpful index of creation myths from a slew of worldwide traditions: http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSIndex.html

Hopi Creation Story: http://www.bigorrin.org/archive97.htm

I just found this site, but I like what I have read, so far: http://www.mother-god.com/matriarchal-history.html

What is your favorite Creation Story? 

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.