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.