Wednesday, December 10, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 12

Places associated with this deity and their worship.

In the trees, my body is free

In the forest, I know my power

Away from the walls of men, my heart is free

In the wild air, my mind grows sharp

In the tree tops, my spirit flies

On the mountain, She is with me

I can see the trail in front of me

I am wild, eternally.

-Tanaria, copyright 12/10/2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yoga Magic

When we work magic, there are basic elements present in most every working. First, there must be clear intent. Then, energy must be raised and applied to the working. Lastly, the working is released. This is, of course, a simplification and distillation of a very complex subject.

Today I want to talk about ways to raise energy for magical work using techniques from Yoga. Yoginis and witches should, in theory, have some overlap in their skill sets. Both traditions include breath control, chanting, meditation, mudras and visualization.

But to be honest, the most detailed and disciplined information I have about almost all of these things has come to me through my studies in Yoga. The current members of my coven also have more experience with Yoga than they do with magic as we Pagans know it, though they're really one and the same.

At our first ritual, we used pranayama to raise energy for our working. This was extremely effective. Click through the link to see details. I mention in that post that I doubt the yogis of old used the Breath of Fire in quite this way. But who knows? Magic is simply directing energy with will toward a desired end. The yogic texts are not clear on the goals of the practitioners beyond spiritual bliss. I'd love to know, truth be told. To what end all the meditation and energy raising? Is it simply to increase health and longevity? Or is there more to the story?

This weekend's full moon found us chanting to raise energy. Chanting is a great example of overlap between witchcraft and Yoga. I could easily have chosen a pagan chant, but…confession time. Many of them make me feel faintly ridiculous. Perhaps it's the fact that they're in English. Anyone else out there feel that English doesn't lend itself to spiritual topics well? In addition to the words, Yogic chants utilize sounds effectively - vowels are drawn out, for example. The technique of chanting in Yoga is, I feel, part of why it works. Whatever the reason, a mantra to Ganesh felt most appropriate that night - Aum Gan Ganapatye Namah. This mantra is great for new ventures as it calls upon Ganesha's obstacle removing powers. Surely one can apply these techniques to Pagan-themed words. Had I prepared in advance, I surely could have found an appropriate deity and come up with something. A project for later!

One area that I have had a lot of success in merging Yoga with Pagan belief is in asana (physical postures). I have written several themed Yoga classes using physical poses for devotion to Pagan deities. Artemis was first - this one was so easy. I used postures appropriate to Her, like Bow Pose. Whether or not the poses are specific to the deity or to the theme, one can dedicate any physical Yoga practice to Deity. Sun salutations were designed to salute the sun, who the Hindus greet as Surya. We might relate to the sun as Helios, Apollo, or Lugh. Insert appropriate Deity and go for it!

There is so much more to explore. I have been consciously creating a system of Pagan Yoga, but until recently, I hadn't thought of altering ritual work with Yoga techniques. That has happened organically and I find it fascinating. We aren't your typical coven, that's for sure. Be ready to move…and bring your Yoga pants.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rune Song

Working with the runes has been a part of my practice since the beginning. But in the last year, my study of them has grown far deeper and richer, thanks in part to my awesome study group (three years of awesomeness and going strong!). We just finished up about eight months of rune study focused on Freya Aswynn's book, Northern Mysteries and Magick: Runes & Feminine Powers. Next year, we will work through Diana Paxson's Taking Up the Runes.

Sidebar: working with a spiritual study group is a powerful practice and one that supports your own journey in beautiful and unexpected ways. If you get a chance, try it!

One thing I have not conquered so far is the ability to recite all the Elder Futhark at once in the traditional order. The ability to do so is important in magical workings. I'm excited to use it for creating sacred space, for example. I'd also like to use it in meditation and in my practice of Yoga.

Taking Up the Runes helpfully contains a song of the Futhark. An ABC song, if you will. As the resident musician in the study group, I was asked to learn it. This suits me as I'd planned to do so anyway. This led to a hilarious few days in which I learned the simple melody and then giggled endlessly about it. It's curiously mournful. In fact, it reminds me of black metal music.

To help others learn the song, I recorded it. Initially, I was just going to share it with my study group. But in one of those synchronicities that reveal our path to us…Facebook will not upload and share an mp3 file. So I had to convert it to video and post it on Youtube. Which made me realize I need to start my own channel. Hurray!

Anyhoo. Back to the rune song. It's firmly stuck in my head, and after just a few days…I can recite all the runes! The act of singing them with a melody was what I needed to get over the hump of memorization. Belatedly, I seem to recall that this is a technique people use. Spoiler alert: it works!

So take a listen and see what you think. Can you hear some power chords and spooky organ music with it? I can. Stay tuned…that might happen!

May this help you on your own rune journey. And please, like, share and subscribe as the Youtubers say!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Xignal Boost: Annual Sun Wheel Ceremony

Our local tarot expert, Beth Owls Daughter, has a beautiful idea. Each Sun-day between now and Solstice or Christmas, people all around the globe will light a candle and pray or meditate. This year's intention is "from within the sacred dark, we arise with the returning Light."

Regardless of faith or tradition, we can all join together in celebrating the season of the light's return at winter solstice, or the birth of Jesus, as you prefer. Taking this quiet time to join with others is a lovely way to go within and honor the introspective energy of this dark time of year.

I'm in. Are you?

The following is excerpted from Beth Owls Daughter's blog. View the original post here.

The Concept

It’s very simple. You only need a wreath and five candles. Starting with the first week, around dusk wherever you live, you’ll light one candle, meditate a bit, then extinguish the flame. The next week you light the first candle, and then a second one. And so on, until the final candle on Winter Solstice, Christmas, or both.
This ritual may remind you of the Christian tradition of lighting candles around an Advent wreath. That practice is descended from older Pagan observances that marked the advent of the Winter Solstice. (Advent simply means “the coming of”).
You can easily adapt this to be in harmony with your own dreams, desires, and beliefs. I encourage you to join the countless families and individuals throughout the world, Christians and non- , and to share it with your friends and beloveds.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 11

Festivals, Days and Times Sacred to this Deity

In keeping with my habit of not regurgitating information that is easily found elsewhere, I won't give an exhaustive list of festivals, days and times for Artemis in this post. Instead I'll highlight a few things that I use in my own practice and with my coven, Clan of the Wildlings.

Artemis is associated with the crescent moon, especially in her role as the Maiden aspect of the Goddess. She is also sometimes conflated with Selene, and full moon worship, but I relate to her as the crescent moon. The sixth day of each month is sacred to Artemis, so for me, the sixth day of a new moon is an all-purpose time to work with her. This is a time when I call upon her aid in spellwork or make offerings to her.

My clan honors each of our five patron deities with a festival day. As much as possible and feasible, I'm following traditional dates and celebrations. Luckily, some of our patrons have set dates and some do not. Some have more than one festival. This allows me some flexibility in spacing the festival more evenly throughout the year. An important thing in this busy day and age!

For Artemis, I've chosen Mounykhia, which is held on the full moon in April. The following is excerpted from Unbound: A Devotional Anthology for Artemis by Bibliotheca Alexandrina:

"The modern Mounukhia honors Artemis as Artemis Phosphoros, the Light Bringer, and Potnia Theron, Lady of the Beasts. If you wish to offer Artemis meat since goats were sacrificed in the ancient festival, please do it in an appropriate manner. Try to offer her organic or free-range meat if you do not hunt. The domestic animals at least are treated better than non-organic/free-range farms. The purpose of this festival is to celebrate our femininity and to know that Artemis will always hold a lit torch for us and guide us on our journeys."

This festival is especially appropriate for me as a priestess of Artemis. My purpose is to bring more light into the world, through using the gifts I was given to help others. Hence Tanaria Lightbearer, savvy? 

I'm also a traditional bowhunter, so the other time I feel especially close to Artemis is during deer hunting season. For my local area (central North Carolina, USA), that's mid-September through the end of December. I don't know if others formally celebrate or work with her during hunting season, but then…I've yet to find any other followers of Artemis who hunt at all. If you're out there, please comment on this post, I'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Geek - Coven Administration is fun!

Founding my coven, Clan of the Wildlings, has been an exciting and awesome experience on many levels. One of them warms the cockles of my geeky heart: administration. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. There is a High Priestess out there in the world who digs the organizational details.

And why not? Building a website, creating a Facebook page, designing business cards…these are just a different form of magic. With each keystroke, our clan gains more reality. With each moment of focus, the manifestation of my vision grows. Just that would be magical enough to be worthwhile.

But for my geeky heart, organization has another function: clarity. I like things to be clear, in all areas of my life. In matters of spirit, doubly so. All members of the clan need to know what they are getting into and what is happening - for the highest good of us all.

To that end, I created what I have called a foundational document. I got the idea from my time in the corporate world, plus some research here on the interwebs. This document contains the bare bones of the coven's structure, mission, holidays, etc.

Here are is a list of the headings, for your reference:

  • Leadership
  • Members
  • Officers
  • Covenstead
  • Sub-groups (similar to the different paths within Druidry, for example - arts, healing, war, clergy, etc)
  • Legal Status (are you a non-profit?)
  • Legal rituals (weddings)
  • Age Limit
  • Documents (list of core organizational docs)
  • Degrees
  • Dress Code
  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement
  • Membership Qualifications
  • Membership Process
  • Leaving the Group
  • Attendance Requirements
  • Holidays
  • Temple (I'd like to build one someday)
In addition to the foundational document, I made a few other documents to start the clan in an orderly fashion:
  • Seekers Questionnaire
  • Member's Oath
  • Code of Ethics
  • 13 Goals of a Witch
  • Ritual Etiquette
But the thing that may have the most geekily excited? The Clan Records document. It's in Excel format (look away, traditionalists!), one tab per topic:
  • Log - in which we record dates, ritual names, attendees, and notes about each event.
  • Expenses (receipts filed in our group BOS)
  • Income - donations, fundraising, etc (we do not have regular dues)
  • Roster - list of members, contact info, birthdays, allergies

All of these documents are available to all members at all times. Having worked as a project manager in another life, one thing I feel very strongly about is organizational transparency. While we as Pagans are part of a mystery tradition, which has secrets by its very nature…the way that the coven is run does not have to be one. In my opinion, groups are stronger when everyone knows what is going on and what is expected of each member. It builds a culture of trust and accountability. I strive to be the kind of leader that people follow not because I hold power over them, but because they trust and respect me.

If you're interested in this new paradigm of leadership and of organizational transparency, click on the links in the above paragraph. I love honoring ancient wisdom in my spirituality. I look often to ancestors, including those of blood, intellect and spirit. But I also use the modern knowledge that I have gained in my life. Organization, good administration, transparency, fair leadership…all of these things support a healthy coven. The mission of my group is to nurture a balance of body, mind and spirit. Using my geek skills is one way in which I do that - for the highest good of all, with harm to none.

Blessed be!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Traveling Spiritual Supplies

What spiritual tools do you carry with you when you travel? When I'm in town or near home, it tends to be a priestessing kit. I'll have the ingredients for home cleansing, simple ritual and divination. When I'm away from home, it's more of a spiritual practice kit. This of course changes depending on the type of trip, and may at some point expand to include both general spiritual practice and priestessing work. Right now I have to keep it pretty tight as the bag I have at the moment will only hold so much.

Perhaps at some point I'll get a slightly larger bag, or maybe a small hard sided suitcase type of thing. We shall see! It does amuse me how I just don't seem to be able to travel so light as I once did. This kit allows me to do personal divination, my daily gratitude practice, devotionals and meditation. Plus healing work, which is 24/7/365 for me.

So here we go! This is what I typically carry with me on trips:

(Left to right in the photo)

  • Tarot cards & book
  • Earphones for meditation in noisy places
  • Sandalwood mala
  • Wooden shaker
  • Medicine bag
  • Pagan prayer beads
  • Pendulum
  • Incense
  • Crystal attuned for healing work
  • Pashmina (instant altar cloth, ritual vestment, or for meditating in cool places)
  • Journal
  • Gratitude journal

Of course, if I'm really being complete, I would also mention the pile of Yoga gear which accompanies this kit. I haven't travelled without it in some time now. That adds on a Yoga mat, blanket, bolster and the sheepskin shown in the photo above. And my native flute, which is a daily practice as well.

Agh, so much stuff! But I tell you this: the continuity of being able to perform the same practices each day…it is delightful. I feel it has truly strengthened my overall spiritual practice in recent years. It doesn't matter where I go, I pray, meditate and practice Yoga every day. To me, this is witchcraft and this is shamanism. The heart of my practice is self-discovery, devotion and spiritual exploration. I have created the support I need to truly live my faith, not just on Sabbat or Esbat days, but every day. 

To me, this is right. Magic is here and now, all around us and within us, all the time. There really IS no mundanity. Everything and every moment is sacred.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Clan

This week my new coven, Clan of the Wildlings, gathered for the very first time. We celebrated the full Frost Moon on a beautiful evening around a roaring fire.

I'd written our ritual weeks in advance, and it was beautiful. I also did some final tweaks on it the afternoon of the ritual, forgetting that I didn't have access to a working printer. Traffic was awful, so there was no way I could stop at a copy center. Knowing that I at least had the Charge of the Goddess on my phone, I resolved to wing it.

In retrospect, this seems entirely apropos. I have been a witch for lo, this many years, and really could have led a group long ago. It took a long time for me to gain the confidence. So at this final moment of truth, it felt like the Gods were testing me:

"Here's your chance, kid. Get in there and do it from your heart."

The group got there right on time and we all pitched in to ready the space. The weather was gorgeous. We had a lovely space with a fire pit, big picnic table, camp chairs and a folding altar table. Just setting up the altar brought it home to me - this is real, this is happening RIGHT NOW. I put out the very first ritual tools I made for myself 20 years ago. The Goddess was represented by a conch shell horn, while the God was represented by a ceramic stag statue.

The night was cool, so I slipped on my fake fur ritual robe (aka the Snuggle Robe). With it, I wore a simple circlet of natural fiber cordage that I made with my summer camp kids, moccasins and my medicine pouch. A shamanistic witch indeed. I'd instructed the clan to wear things that made them feel comfortable and powerful. Each did that in their own way - a beautiful thing to my eye.

I'm of the opinion that one oughtn't talk too much about magical work, but I will share one thing. We raised energy for our working with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). What more appropriate way for a bunch of witches who love Yoga? It was a great suggestion from one of our members and I liked it so much that we're sure to do it again.

We began with some simple synchronized deep breaths. From there, we moved to a three part breath - breathing deeply into the belly, then the ribcage, then the upper chest. Next, we practiced a four part breath - inhale, pause, exhale, pause. We ended with the Breath of Fire, an invigorating breath. it's incredibly effective for raising energy, though I doubt that the yogis of old used it in quite this way.

By the time we completed our ritual, I was walking on air. We feasted and had a really great discussion about what led each of us to this night. Another great member suggestion! One thing I really love about working with a group is the diversity of stories and ideas. Our group is no exception. We are small right now, but mighty!

My heart is so full that it took me several days to process the experience enough to write about it. Many years of searching came to an end that night. I've found my clan, and we are off to a beautiful start. I can't wait to see where our path takes us!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the Gods, who pushed and prodded me into founding this group. To my study group of sister witches, who have supported me and listened to all my grandiose ideas. To my old coven, who welcomed me so warmly. To my High Priestess, who has given me so much. I am honored to be a part of our little informal tradition. I am also honored to be carrying on the torch of my ancestors, both of blood and spirit. Thank you. I will do my level best to make you all proud.

Blessed be!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Quietly Healing with Samhain

One of the things I love most about the traditions of our faith is their healing, therapeutic effect on the human psyche. During the years of my own spiritual seeking, I always asked myself two questions when evaluating a tradition or practice:

1. How does this make me feel? If I am inexplicably drawn to it, if it sounds my inner bell of "rightness", it's probably a good addition to my spiritual toolbox.

2. Does it work for me? If I feel the alleged benefits or other positive effect, it's probably a good addition to my spiritual toolbox.

Samhain is a time to honor and communicate with our beloved dead. It is the third harvest, the harvest of souls. In many cultures and time periods (including today, in some areas), it was the time of the animal harvest. Livestock were slaughtered to get us through the long, dark days of winter. This also provided enough resources for the rest of the animals to survive the winter as well.

The practice of actively engaging with our ancestors, allies and other dearly departed is a deeply therapeutic one. Culture in the US does not lean this way, overall. In general, death is something to be avoided, distanced from, sanitized and commercially packaged…like everything else. What this leads to is often less effective grieving and delayed healing for the survivors.

I would know. In my short life, I have lost an entire immediate family, plus a lover and many close friends. When my family passed, I inherited the family antiques. For a time, I set up my home with these items and with family portraits. It was too much. I felt I was living in a mausoleum. I sold most of the antiques and put the portraits away.

For years, years in which I did not always formally celebrate the Sabbats, I simply couldn't bear my losses. I unconsciously avoided the ancestral aspect of Samhain. I shut down my emotions on many levels. I didn't speak to my beloved dead or engage with them in any way. It was too painful. Holidays became excruciating. Movies and shows portraying happy families were brutal. It was all just too much.
I made a few attempts, here and there, but it just didn't take.

Fast forward to today. I have built a family of my own. I have been practicing with a coven for several years. I'm an active part of the local Pagan community. This year, I met a medicine woman who does ancestral work. I began to actively engage with my dead. I maintained a table of light. I set up an ancestor altar.

Last night I went and celebrated Samhain with the lovely folks of Church of the Earth. We did very little formal ritual and a whole lot of silent communion with our dead. We had a wonderful Dumb Supper out in a grove. Tables were widely scattered through the clearing, beautifully set with china and crystal for our ancestors. The sounds of classical cello drifted through the crisp night air. When not dining, we quietly sat around a crackling fire pit.

Afterwards, I noticed something big. I didn't cry. I felt emotional, but not dysfunctional. I slowly realized that I'm no longer crushed by grief. Sure, I will always miss these people who are so dear to me. There are times when it is poignant and intense. But last night, at the supper, I caught them up on my news. I told them about the joy and love that is now in my life. About the hard work of building my career and my coven.

This morning I woke up and felt calm. Through my morning Yoga practice, I began to realize that this is what healing feels like. My family and close friends will always be a part of me, and their loss has helped to define who I am as a person. But it's ok. It really is. I can now smile and tell their stories without dissolving into a weeping mass.

So for me, the tradition of Samhain passes the test. It makes me feel good, and it works.

A blessed Samhain to all. May you too be healed by its cleansing power.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Singing to the Sea

Rippling sands shine
Framing a network of pools
Stranded by the tide
-JAN 2014
This weekend I've been blessed to enjoy a mini-retreat at the beach. I had no agenda, no obligations, no plan. This has turned out to be a beautiful thing for me. The year has been long, and  large life changes and emotional upsets have accompanied the many blessings and joys.

I have offered my respect and prayers to Poseidon and Aphrodite. I thanked Them for hosting me at their shore and asked them to be kind. I have sung to the sea, meditated on the sand, practiced yoga and simply soaked in the healing power of the ocean.

It may be that I get to visit the sea more often next year. I pray that it is so. Right now my heart is full and my feet are sandy. I feel rested and renewed, with fresh inspiration to share with my students.

Blessed be!

Friday, October 17, 2014

So it Begins

In just a few weeks, my coven will celebrate its first official event, the November full moon.

After a long period of internet inquiries that did not progress past an initial introduction, we've got a couple of prospective members.

Ordinarily, I would think of waiting until they had done some study in the tradition, or until we were more sure that everyone is a good fit. But I've had enough of waiting.

One of my teachers once told me that the only way to get started is to begin.

So we're jumping in. Writing the ritual already and having such a blast. I am so excited!

So mote it be!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 10


Well, that was a rather long hiatus! Things have been busy. Which is no excuse, yet is the truth of it. Today I'm going to talk about offerings to Artemis that I am developing. As with the rest of the 30 Days of Deity Devotion prompts, I'm not interested in regurgitating information that is already easily available.

But first, let's get a handle on what we're talking about. What is the difference between a prayer, a devotional practice and an offering?

Prayer=Prayer covers all communication between the physical world and the spiritual realm.

Devotion=Devotion is a gift of oneself or one’s activities to the Divine, and one’s willingness to offer oneself to the Divine.

Offering=Similar to devotion in that you are offering a gift to the Deity in question, which could be yourself or an action you take, but what I have read indicates that this is specific to a temple setting. Most of us don't have a temple, so I would say we can expand the definition to include offerings made at an altar specific to the Deity or a ritual specific to the Deity. There is also a tie between offerings and sacrifices. Click through to the link to read more about contemporary sacrificial practices.

So then. We are talking about making an offering to a specific Deity, in my case, Artemis. I hope to one day build a temple to Artemis. Until that day, I'll be making offerings to Her during ritual, during hunts and at my personal altar.

Let's start with the fruits of the hunt. In ancient times, animal offerings were often the carcass. The clergy and worshippers would share the meat while the skin, blood, bones and such were left on the altar for the gods. Often the offering was burnt.

In general, what I have done so far is to dedicate the hunt to Artemis. I have not performed a formal ritual using any physical part of the animal for Her. Perhaps in the future I will do so, and it seems to me that the heart would be an appropriate offering. Practicality is a factor for me - I don't have a way to put a carcass on the altar without things getting messy.

I'm really interested in developing movement-based offerings to Artemis. I have already worked with a devotional Yoga practice for Her. That has been rich and rewarding, and I plan to continue and expand this practice.

For other offerings, what I have in mind is to use the lunisol pattern. For non-food offerings like flowers and incense, we'll wave the item in the lunisol pattern a set number of times before putting it on the altar. My other idea is to inscribe the lunisol shape on the floor or ground, then walk or dance in the pattern a set number of times.

I'm also looking into making two types of ancient cakes as offerings to Artemis. Elaphos were a stag-shaped honey and sesame cake offered at the festival of Elaphebolia. Honey and sesame? Sounds tasty to me! This seems to me to be a good all-purpose food item. The second is the amphiphon, about which I have read conflicting information. Some sources say it was a cheese cake, which I do like. Others talk of it being a cake decorated with torches on both sides. This was used at the full moon in the Greek month of Mounikos. I'm thinking of either making cupcakes with candles, or maybe individual portions of cheesecake. For special occasions, of course. I can't eat cheesecake very often!

Sidebar: it seems to be close to impossible to figure out how the Greek calendar translates to our modern calendar. Anyone who knows the secret, please comment on this post!

Aside from wild game, movement and cakes, we can also offer more general items. Every Deity seems to have a list of sacred plants and whatnot. I'll have to work on this. This is actually an aspect of worship with which I have not yet worked very much. I suppose I ought to ask Her what she wants.

Generally, I feel pushed to offer up my most excellent efforts to Artemis. Normally I feel like being the best person, priestess, hunter, explorer, archer and all-around badass is what she really wants. I've never yet gotten the impression that Artemis is interested in a bunch of frou-frou on an altar somewhere. But you never know, I suppose. I haven't asked!

What say you, internets? What do you offer to Artemis?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Introducing the NC Pagan Elders Council

At the recent Central North Carolina Pagan Pride Day, I hosted a roundtable discussion on Nourishing Healthy Elder Culture. See my previous post for details about the weekend. It was a delight! We had about a dozen attendees, a great turnout for a first time initiative. The biggest need expressed by the group was for connection. This resonated strongly with me, both on a personal level and on the level of my vision for the community.

Connection among the Pagan community at large is vital for our survival and well-being. We are an incredibly diverse group, and many of us are still in the shadows. We don't even know the extent of our faith in many areas. Most groups are small, with limited resources. It is my opinion that every chance we get, we need to participate in alliances and group events. In my local area, the Triangle Area Pagan Alliance is one such organization. Pagan Pride Day is another good example.

Connection between the generations is also an important thing for us to promote as the Pagan community matures. Contemporary Paganism started picking up steam in the mid-20th century, and many of the leaders are now Elders in fact as well as function. Many others are raising families and are moving toward Eldership as well. Meanwhile, young people continue to be drawn toward our path. All of the age groups have needs, and all can help each other. Connecting the generations is the way to coordinate that assistance, as well as support the growth and continuity of our traditions and wider community.

I am pleased to announce the formation of the North Carolina Pagan Elders Council. We will begin small and see where this initiative takes us. I created a secret Facebook group to use as a forum. Next week, I will be attending the Pagan Pride Day planning meeting for the 2015 event. At that meeting, I will be proposing an Elder-led ritual at next year's Pagan Pride Day festival and an official Elders Council.

The Elders Council will be a discussion circle for all the generations to come together and discuss how we can foster healthy multi-generational support in our communities. Everyone will have a chance to speak. We will learn from each other. We will make new connections.

Our roundtable attendees also expressed a desire for celebration, which led to the idea for the Elder-led ritual. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate and honor our Elders, as well as to give them visibility in our community. The details of the ritual will be determined by the participants as next year's Pagan Pride Day draws closer.

All are welcome, Elder, Younger and all those in between. If you would like to join us, email me to be added to the Facebook group. If you are outside North Carolina, consider forming your own Elders Council. I'd be happy to discuss and support your efforts. If you are doing this in your community already, please comment on this post or drop me a line. Let's work together to heal the generations and improve the health of our communities!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Unity at Pagan Pride

This weekend, central North Carolina celebrated Pagan Pride Day (PPD) with a weekend-long festival. We are blessed to have a lovely little corner of the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, with trees, a lake view and some privacy for those still in the broom closet. Being so close to Mabon was an extra magical blessing for the festival as well.

This year I was able to spend the entire weekend at the festival, and I'm so glad that I did. I've been in the Raleigh area for five years now, and I'm beginning to reap the harvest of community building for myself. It was hard to get anything done at the festival, because I constantly kept running into friends, colleagues and acquaintances. This is a joy and a blessing to me, and truly a new thing.

I won a gift bag from Tree of Life Designs!
Though I have been an actively practicing Pagan for over 20 years, I haven't always been this lucky. To me, it is still a beautiful and wondrous thing to know so many wonderful Pagans. I know a couple of vendors. I'm familiar with the local shops. I know drummers and dancers, hoopers and fire spinners. I know people from several of the local groups. I now run a local group myself. We're coming up on our one year anniversary, in fact - this December will mark a year of South Wake Spiritual Community!

All this only strengthens my passion for community building. I truly believe that we are stronger together, no matter what our individual path may be. Of course, as an interfaith priestess, I believe this about all people, but right at the moment I'm referring to the Pagan community. We have become so incredibly diverse, and this year's PPD showcased that fact as well. I had a lovely discussion with a gentleman at a local Heathen group's booth. I met a gentleman who is a veteran of years of Pagan community building in the northeast.

I was honored to assist the Triangle Area Pagan Alliance (TAPA) with the group ritual on Saturday. The ritual focused on the spirits of place and it was lovely. I acted as a den mother for the people in the southern quarter of the circle. We called out to the land spirits, to the nature spirits, to the bounty of the fruit harvest in this fertile area. TAPA, for those that don't know, is a group committed to bringing Pagans together in this area and to connecting people with local groups.

My roundtable discussion, Nourishing Healthy Elder Culture, was a success. My goal was twofold: I wanted to introduce the concept of elder culture into our local community and to gauge the needs of our local elders. It turns out that our elders need to connect with each other and to receive training in how to assume the role of eldership. These are some pretty achievable goals, and I will be happy to help. I plan to facilitate an Elder Council at next year’s PPD. I’d also like to organize an elder-led ritual at PPD. I’ll also create a forum, whether it be on Meetup, Yahoo Groups or Facebook, for elders to connect with each other.

Somewhere in all the chaos, I also got to attend a workshop on bellydance and one on the magical uses of seven day novena candles. Both were delightful and very useful to me personally. I did some shopping. I danced. I also chatted with a few people about the South Wake Spiritual Community.

But most importantly, I basked in the positive energy of our local Pagan community coming together in unity at PPD. It was a joy and delight just to be there, people watching and listening to music. So many kinds of people, all harmoniously co-existing. Each marching to the beat of their own drummer. All sparkling threads in the tapestry of our community. To me, this shows that peace is possible. It can be done and we're doing it!

Blessed be!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 9

Balance of Body, Mind and Spirit

As I mentioned back on Day 4 of 30 DODD, performing devotion to a goddess like Artemis requires embodied practices, in my humble opinion. She is into physical pursuits; though not competitive sports like many of the other Olympian deities. This is not the sort of Goddess who lounges around the house.

"Callimachus made frequent reference to Artemis' skill with the bow in his hymns to her: 'whose study is the bow and the shooting of hares and the spacious dance and sport upon the mountains'." *

How can one perform devotion to Artemis solely in one's living room? Surely, there are times when this is all that is possible. I doubt that Artemis, or any deity for that matter, would spurn any prayers in this overstimulated digital age. But this cannot be the sum of one's life, again, in my opinion.

This would be like worshipping Ares while holding the ideal of pacifism. Or perhaps an aquaphobic devotee of Poseidon. Does not compute! Artemis is all about the wilderness. Go outside and seek Her there. Feel Her with you when you draw your bow. Know She is watching when you hunt your prey. Follow Her footsteps as you climb the mountains. This is the way to know Artemis.

The ancient Greeks also believed in the balance of body, mind and spirit. So far as I know, they pioneered the concept of holism - treating the whole being. Early physician philosophers like Hippocrates and Galen** wrote extensively about this concept. They believed that preserving health was even more important than treating disease, but it went beyond that. To be a good and whole person, one must strengthen the body with exercise, exercise the mind with learning and enliven the spirit with music***.

This idea strikes a deep and powerful chord with me, especially in light of my martial path. Eastern martial arts philosophers have the same idea - that to be a warrior or complete martial artist, one must of course have a strong body. But more than that, one must learn about the world and the arts as well.

Looking back at my life so far, I'd have to say that this is what I've been up to the whole time. There's been a whole lot of studying history, philosophy and random topics. A whole lot of training my body. A whole lot of music. A whole lot of expanding my consciousness with spiritual practices.

Certainly this was my intention when I finally got to study martial arts. I got really into the philosophy, studying the Book of Five Rings, the Art of War and classics of that nature. My goal was to become a complete warrior, capable with a variety of techniques, weapons and strategy, but also skilled in intellectual and artistic pursuits.

But recently…I realized that life and relationships have gotten me off track at times. This cannot be. Especially in light of my recent ordination, I need to stay on top of this. I need to be in good shape. I need to make time to backpack and do some mountaineering. I need to not only practice self-care, I also need to set a good example for others.

Artemis deserves no less of her priestess.


*Artemis: Virgin Goddess of the Sun and Moon, Sorita D'Este; Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis

**Galen Class II - On the Preservation of Hygiene

***Plato's Republic makes many references to this, saying that one must study gymnastics (physical exercise), hunting, philosophy, music, general intellectual learning and the virtues of justice, wisdom, temperance and courage. Please note that Plato's Republic was written after the peak of Artemis worship, but his work was based on earlier philosophers and was not a new idea.

Monday, September 15, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 8

I'm working on a post for this series about the Greek ideal of balance of body, mind and psyche. That's what I really wanted to post today. But I feel like I ought to back this up with a bit more scholarship, rather than just giving my own opinion. So instead, I give you a song about Artemis by the very talented Kellianna. Go buy her CDs, they are awesome!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Putting my Money where my Mouth Is: Self-Care

The past few years, I have been putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, in the area of self-care. Historically, that has been a tricky and spotty thing for me. It's ironic considering my career in helping others improve their health. This year has been especially good and I'm proud of myself. One thing I have noticed is that I do best when I am able to carry out my dinacharya (daily routine) without rushing.

I get thrown off track when life gets too crazy with things like big emotional upsets, early morning work and moving. Surely this is the case for most people. Ironically, the practice of Yoga that is so dear to my heart is meant to support us through the vicissitudes of life. I can attest that it does work. The times that I'm truly out of sorts have gotten smaller each year. I do occasionally "fall off the wagon", but I get back on pretty quickly these days.

“As spiritual searchers we need to become freer and freer of the attachment to our own smallness in which we get occupied with me-me-me. Pondering on large ideas or standing in front of things which remind us of a vast scale can free us from acquisitiveness and competitiveness and from our likes and dislikes. If we sit with an increasing stillness of the body, and attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad stars at night, or any other indicators of vastness, the mind gradually stills and the heart is filled with quiet joy. Also recalling our own experiences in which we acted generously or with compassion for the simple delight of it without expectation of any gain can give us more confidence in the existence of a deeper goodness from which we may deviate. (39)” 

― Ravi RavindraThe Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra

As regular readers of this blog know, I experienced one of those life upsets almost two months ago now. Overall, I'd have to say that I've done fairly well during these two months of transition. There has been a good amount of Yoga, meditation, massage, time outdoors, time with friends and other supportive practices. There have been some dark days, but compared to how it could have been…say ten years ago, it's been a cakewalk.

Today I decided to take up the practice of abhyanga, or self-massage with oil. When I did my Ayurvedic self-experiment this spring, I wasn't too hot on the idea. Too messy and too time consuming, I thought. Why bother? It's humid in North Carolina! This isn't Colorado, where lip balm and skin lotion are two of the 10 Essentials of Survival.

But three things:

1. It feels really good.
2. I do want to incorporate anointing into my practice.
3. I do like to wear a scent, usually patchouli.

Abhyanga could combine all three into one step to save time AND give me some more health benefits. Behold, my plan:

I will make an aromatherapy blend with the base oil of coconut. In Ayurveda, the type of oil is matched to your constitution. I am a pitta-kapha constitution and it's still summertime, so coconut oil is good. In the cold months, I will likely change to almond oil. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

For the essential oils, I will use primarily patchouli for its mood balancing, cellulite/wrinkle reducing, and insect repelling properties. Alleged properties, anyhow. I like the scent and feel good when I wear it - that I know. As for the other oils, I have some cedar and sandalwood on hand, so I'll see how I like that blend. I may add lavender too, because lavender is love! It's been a while since I've practiced my aromatherapy, so this will be a good refresher.

Most likely, I will reduce the amount of oil used in the massage and will not shower afterwards. Coconut oil absorbs pretty well and when I did this today, I didn't need to shower. Also, I will not be applying this oil to my head and hair. I do plan to do oil head massage, but I will do that at night and have a different oil and herbal blend in mind. More to come on that later!

Today's abhyanga was a rushed affair. I got some plain coconut oil from Whole Foods and hurriedly rubbed it into every part of my body that I could reach. I was pressed for time, and didn't get to feel the meditative, super spiritual self love aspects of the practice. But my skin felt great the rest of the day!

Stay tuned for the results of this new experiment in self-care!

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 7

On Devotional Practices

I'm certain that Greek reconstructionist groups are doing something different than I am in the worship of Artemis. I don't know for certain what they are doing as I have experienced a strange diffidence toward learning about it. Someday I will, but I'm not interested in re-creating anything. I am interested in creating a new practice - something fitting to these times and to the place in which I live. Something that feels right to me.

Here are some of the devotional practices that I have created or that I use:

I have created a special Yoga class just for Artemis.

I dedicate my hike to Artemis whenever the moment feels right. I have also created a method of devotional hiking in which distance is tracked and prayers are offered at regular intervals.

I have a whole set of rituals that I follow when it's time to hunt. I like to prepare myself with meditation, a ritual bath and a light fast. I have found a quick dedication prayer to say and also a longer bowhunter's prayer. Of course my bow and arrows are also consecrated to Her service as well.

I pray to Artemis when I practice archery. Some days I dedicate the practice to her. I'm working on creating a formal devotional archery practice.

I find myself getting more and more devotional this year, when in the past that was not at all my focus. Interesting! I have lots more ideas, too.

What do you practice that is specific to Artemis?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

30 Days of Deity Devotion: Day 6

Day the Sixth: Other related deities and entities associated with this deity.

Today I'm going to focus on one deity that is associated with Artemis, because he is also important in my personal pantheon. Pan. Do you know him? Lusty god, always drinking and chasing nymphs? Yup, that's him. But he's also Lord of the Forest and God of the Hunt. He is the flute player, the patron of shepherds. He is the watcher at the border of the wilderness and cultivated lands, visiting both, but never fully belonging to either. 

He is a deeply soulful and poetic god. I think in our days of intensely controlled, urban lives…that he is quite lonely. Gone are the wild days when Pan was celebrated and loved. These days, people seem to think there is something coarse and base about Pan. But no. This is not truth. There is far more to Pan than the stink of goat and an erect phallus. At another time, I will give him his due - an entire 30DODD just for him.

The story goes that Artemis went to the forests of Arcadia and met Pan. Pan gave her thirteen hunting dogs - seven female and six male*. She was impatient to try them out and built a fire to light the woods. She captured six golden horned stags to pull her chariot**.

Pan also chased the handmaidens of Artemis. She generally was very protective of her nymphs, but in Pan's case…she seemed to let it slide. Perhaps she was grateful to him for her hunting hounds…or perhaps she had a soft spot for His Goatiness. They were friends, even though he was constantly trying to get in her toga. Hey, everybody was. Artemis is gorgeous, tall and has a banging figure. Euripides called her "fairest of all that are". Somewhat ironic for a "virgin" goddess who will never marry. Can you blame Pan for lusting after her? I say nay.

*Or some number, various sources cite different numbers of dogs.
**Callimachus, Hymn III to Artemis 46