Friday, January 31, 2014

Cleaning: Secret Spiritual Weapon

I’ve always had resistance to cleaning, for a variety of reasons. Traditional gender roles irk me, for one. Personal stuff, for another. Also, I like to begin projects, not clean up after them. I’m a creator, not a maintainer!

But lately, I have realized something. The Universe has been sending me messages in a variety of ways. A myriad of different contexts and situations have been presented to me, and with a tiny, unheard CLICK, it finally came into focus for me.

Cleaning is how you finish things, physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s the last step in the processing of an experience.

A clean and organized life sets the stage for happiness and peace.

From a warrior’s perspective, having your life in order means that you’re ready to die at any time.

Being ready to die doesn’t mean that you’re fatalistic. It means that you’re at peace with your past.  It means that you’re living in the present. It means that you’re fulfilling obligations and living your dreams. It means that you’ve lived every day to the best of your ability. Whether or not you are a physical warrior or a spiritual one, the same principles hold true.

And doesn’t that sound a lot like the goals of the Yogic path, or the Buddhist path, or any number of spiritual traditions?

But back to cleaning. I’m using the term ‘cleaning’ broadly: it’s not just sweeping, dusting and vacuuming your home. But also organizing. Decluttering. Dealing with emotional issues. Doing file maintenance on your computer. Getting tax or business records in order. Paring down your email inbox. Cleaning out voicemails. Doing estate planning. Spiffing up your vehicle. And once you’ve got it clean, why not make it beautiful?

All the extra energy that we expend when we can’t find something, don’t have the needed supplies or have to work around piles of junk…we now have available to me to move FORWARD. To meditate, to create, to dance, to worship, to explore, to…do everything you have been putting off because the miasma of things undone and things festering and things procrastinated about were keeping you paralyzed!

Perhaps even more important than that, getting your affairs in order is a profound act of self-love. Every time you file a record, fill a vase with flowers, or bring out the good tablecloth just because it makes you smile…you are showing yourself and the world that you are worthy. You deserve to be happy, peaceful and prosperous.

How did it take me so long to see this? Now I understand why my sensei was so meticulous. Why there were always a few extra touches at the dojang.

It could be that my sensei’s inner world was orderly, so his outer world reflected that. It could be that he knew that by keeping the outer world orderly, it gave him the space and support to deal with his inner world. Or maybe he knew that the seemingly prosaic act of cleaning is a highly spiritual one. Scratch that. Probably all of the above, knowing my sensei.

I have been cleaning, decluttering and organizing like mad for the last few weeks. Getting the energy flowing again. Throwing off the funk of winter. You know what? It feels AMAZING!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brigid, My Accidental Patroness

Recently, pagans all around the world celebrated Imbolc, also known as Candlemas, or Brigid’s Day. I won’t go into great detail here about the holiday, as tons of information is available around the interwebs. Suffice it to say that Imbolc marks the middle of winter and that the day is dedicated to the goddess Brigid.

So here’s an interesting thing about Brigid: she’s a badass.

I didn’t know! While I celebrate the Celtic-origined Wheel of the Year in my spiritual path (8 solar festivals), I’ve never been a huge scholar of Celtic paganism. Living in North America at this time, a lot of Celtic concepts and traditions infuse Neo-Paganism. But you know, I’m not really a Celt. I’m 2nd generation Italian and 3rd generation German. So I don’t speak Gaelic, or have a special celebration on St. Patrick’s Day. I never gave most of the Celtic pantheon any thought. Well, except for Cernunnos. He’s my homie. Master of Beasts, lives in the deep woods, the hunter and hunted? Hello!

At my coven's Imbolc celebration, we made 7 day spell candles infused with our intentions for this new year. It was a lot of fun. Imagine a large group of witches all happily painting, glueing, glittering, decoupaging and stickering their candles. I went heavy on the stickers and filled in all the empty space with glitter. Of course!

Next morning was the time to light the candle and begin the 7 day burn. I tiptoed into my workroom, lit the altar candles and incense and said my morning devotional. Then I settled in for some meditation about the spell candle. I thought of and visualized all the intentions I built into the spell. All of the beautiful dreams that I hold for 2014 (it’s going to be a great year!). Opening my eyes, I said a few words aloud, and without any sort of plan…yeah. I dedicated myself to Brigid this year.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years of spiritual practice, it is that these unbidden impulses must be honored.

So all week, I burned my candle as much as I could every day. I studied Brigid, looking at artistic representations, history, lore and story. I couldn’t have accidentally asked for a better patroness. I’m a healer, a warrior, a poet and an artisan…and guess who’s in charge of all of those things? Brigid.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Archery and Artemis

Archery is in my blood. My parents were both archers. Dad was the Deerslayer, a traditional hunter of great sensitivity, and Mom was an Olympic archer and instructor. I learned to shoot a bow almost as early as I learned to walk. We were also an outdoorsy family. Along with archery, we camped, hiked and foraged for wild foods.

From an early age, I wandered the woods. I wasn’t the sort of little girl who played with doll houses. Instead, I built houses for the fairies. I didn’t have an Easy Bake oven. No, you were more likely to find me in the woods, mixing up “potions”, riding my Huffy or reading a book. So it’s no surprise that as an adult, my greatest love is to wander the wilds, climbing mountains and fording streams…just to see what is around the next bend. Simply to breathe the pure air, be with the trees and allow the peace of nature to seep into my soul. More than that, wilderness represents freedom. Out there, I am myself. Pure, inviolate. Untrammelled by societal pressures and roles. No cellphones, no watches, no to do list beyond the daily necessities of shelter, food and fire when appropriate.

In recent years, I have rebooted my family tradition of bowhunting. What a joy – my love of the wilderness combined with my love of archery! My hunting style is very traditional and ethical. I hunt using only traditional equipment – longbow, recurve or horsebow. No compound bows. Wood arrows that I make myself. No artificial scents or other technological aids. Just me, the woods, a stick and a string. I hunt mostly whitetailed deer now that I am living in North Carolina. Even so, I go for does. They far outnumber the bucks, and there are plenty of trophy hunters here. I’m not interested in bragging rights; instead, I hunt to feed myself and my family. No more ethical animal protein exists than that one has hunted, butchered and cooked oneself.

Each summer, I begin to prepare for the fall. I check my gear, making repairs or additions as necessary. I step up my archery practice, being sure that I can hit exactly where I aim for a quick and humane kill. With each breath, each preparatory task, I am performing an act of devotion. When fall finally arrives, I hunt with a deep reverence for my prey and I express profound gratitude for their sacrifice. I am deeply connected to my food. I am enmeshed in the cycles of life.

And so I begin the Pagan Blog Project with Artemis, Lady of Wild Beasts, Lady of the Wilderness, Deer Shooter. When I learned who She was many moons ago, I realized why I never feel alone in the woods or on a lonely mountaintop. She's been with me all along.

Io Artemis Koryphaia!