Saturday, January 24, 2015

Astronomy Goals

Why yes, it IS a temple of Isis as well as a Pagan shop.
Wk 4- Jan. 26 –  Any writing for the letters A or I am keeping this familiar format on week 4 for those who have joined me from the Pagan Blog Project.

To write about the stars, I have to tell you another story, which is no surprise to anyone who knows me in the physical world. One day many moons ago, I was wandering around at Isis Books & Gifts in Denver, which is a must-see if you're ever out there. I had no goal in mind as I browsed the bookshelves.

Suddenly, Italian Witchcraft caught my eye. At the time, I didn't know anything about the pre-Christian folkways of my ancestors. Though my ancestresses did some witchy things, we were a Catholic family. This was something I had to see. I picked it up and practiced a bit of bibliomancy.

Opening the book, my eye fell upon a passage describing the ancient sects of the Strega. These were groups in charge of different mysteries. The first thing I saw was that they worshipped the Goddess as Tana. [cue eyebrow raise] Then I notice that the sect in charge of star mysteries was called the Tanarra.  [eyes widen] Last, I see that devotees in these sects often took names that were derivatives of the name of the Goddess.
Cimaruta charm in pentacle form. 


Like Tanaria.

A ball of insight hit me and suddenly, my craft name made sense. It came to me in a vision, you see. I'd never heard a name like Tanaria before the vision, so when it came to me, I had no idea what it meant, or what it signified.

I've always felt the pull of the stars. I'm not really into astrology, though I have studied it. But when I choose symbolism, it often includes celestial images. One of my first business cards had a north star logo, for example. When I sign my name, I tend to underline it and end that line with a star. I am fascinated with watching the heavens at night, preferably on mountain tops or out in deep wilderness.

There's something out there for me in the stars, though until recently, I had no idea what it was. Finding the significance of my name all those years ago was the beginning. Now I see the way forward.  I'm an explorer, and long have I dreamed of using ancient navigational tools like a sextant and astrolabe. Last year I constructed an astrolabe. This year, I'm going to construct a nocturlabe, which is an ancient device that tells time using the stars. This would fulfill yet another long-held dream. 

This year, I'm going to revive my astronomical knowledge. I learned constellations when I was little, but I'm sorry to say that I haven't kept in good practice. I have learned some awesome stories about the myths of the stars and I want to learn more.

This year, more night hikes. More stargazing. More awesome. Blessed be!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Rocky Road to Illumination

Wk 3- Jan. 19- Deity and the DivineThis will be the third week’s topic every month and an opportunity for you to share with everyone those who guide, inspire and inform you.

My relationship with the Divine has been rocky. When I was young, I remember feeling so painfully alone that I was sure there was nothing out there. The concept of God taught to me as a child in a Catholic family made absolutely no sense to me. It made me angry, to be blunt. The whole "you're a sinner from birth" thing - not a hit with me. Nor was the whole "you're less than a man because you're a woman" thing. And He's watching me from the sky, judging and directing my every move? No thanks. Plus, the history of the church disturbed me - conversion by the sword, corruption, torture, burning witches, hoarding wealth, controlling people with fear…not for me, on so many levels.

I began to search for a different way, for different gods. The Greek pantheon was first, by way of grade school mythology. They were, at once, deeply familiar to me. I didn't like all of them, and at the time, I certainly had no conscious thought of a relationship with any of them. 

Soon after, I learned about Buddha. Here was someone I could relate to and respect. Here was a yogi - a meditation teacher! He wasn't really a god, according to him. But he knew a lot, wasn't into judging, and wanted to reduce suffering in the world. The philosophy of Buddhism did much to shape my thinking, but the religion and dogma of it left me cold, once again. 

Yoga has been a recurring theme and practice in my life. Now, most Yoga classes here in the US do not mention religion at all. Most yoga teachers are afraid to discuss the spiritual aspects of Yoga, especially in my region of the country. Occasionally, you will find a chant mentioning a god's name, like Ganesh or Brahma. This is generally not explained in detail. On my own, I learned about some of the many deities from Hinduism. I rather like Ganesh. He's a jolly sort! I'm also fond of Saraswati, Krishna (a flute player, go figure) and Kali. They aren't my peeps, nor is Hinduism for me. But I like it. Their ceremonies are lavish, beautiful, chaotic and peaceful - like life.

Eventually I found my way to Paganism. Reading about the Goddess as earth mother…it finally made sense. A deity OF this earth, who encourages stewardship of the Earth, who truly loves and provides for all…this I could deal with. And her consort, the Horned Lord…now I knew what face I sometimes saw in the woods. I recognized that primal urge to create and to live. The balance between Goddess and God felt right to me. I felt at home, and gained insight into many experiences of my life.

But still, I wasn't set afire by the Divine. I still felt alone. I still felt rebellious. No force on this Earth, no person, no god, no one, gets to tell me who to be or what to do! Authoritarian structures, no matter what flavor, just don't work for me. Lucky thing that as a pagan, I don't have to do anything. 

These days, I have a healthy relationship with the Divine as the universal force of attraction and creation, which manifests in the archetypal forms of gods and goddesses for us human beings to relate to, yet which is not confined by those forms. The Divine is mysterious and unknowable, and is also us. It is the life force and energy that constitutes all particles of matter in our Universe. The very Earth we walk upon is not just sacred because it is our home, but because it is alive with divine energy. 

Each step I take is a prayer. I relate to the gods of my personal pantheon with respect, but not a mindless obeisance. They have won me over at last with love, an easy affection, help and support. They inspire me and guide me without smothering me. They accept me with all of my contradictions. They are allies more than they are authorities.

A keystone of my mindset and outlook, though, is science. I don't believe anything 110%, nor do I follow anything or anyone with blind fervor. I am always open to learning, growing and evolving myself and my beliefs in the face of new evidence, new experiences and new insights. I like the archetypes and faith that I've chosen. It works for me, and makes me feel happy and fulfilled. But is it the absolute truth of reality? Yes and no. Is it the only truth in the world? No. Am I right and others are wrong? Absolutely not. 

Instead, I see the universe more like quantum physics is discovering it to be, which many ancient cultures knew long ago. This universe is a hologram. Physical, consensual reality is real, but it's also a show of smoke and mirrors. It is Maya, the world of illusion, as they say in India. I don't, however, see this as something to be looked down upon or transcended. We are put here to have experiences and to learn. To use the power of our will to co-create reality. Each one of us has immense power. Each one of us is divine. Each one of us is a unique and individual being, but also a drop in the ocean of universal energy. We are one!

Namaste - the divine light within me recognizes and honors the divine light within you. Blessed be!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recharging in the Woods

Wk 2- Jan. 12- Personal Practice- Share your favorite spiritual/magickal practices. What tools are incorporated into your daily practice? What feeds you and replenishes you?

To answer that, let me tell you a story:

Friday when I got home from work I was feeling a bit off. Nothing in particular was wrong. I didn't feel overly tired, didn't work that hard that day…but there was something. Enter one of my favorite spiritual practices…time in the woods. I didn't take any tools, wear anything special, or make any preparations. I just put my gloves on and set off.

That day, I was lucky. I was spending time with a friend who has land out in the country and a delightful tribe of kitties. One of my favorites is a young male with gorgeous orange swirled markings. The internet tells me this is called "classic tabby" - who knew?! He trotted along with me through the yard, and to my surprise, he stayed with me.

I wasn't feeling quiet enough in my soul to make my steps silent, nor did I have the patience to go slowly. My steps were loud in the pine needle carpeted woods. When I reached the fallow field, deer startled from the tall grass, the waving of their tails white flags in the golden afternoon light. My feline companion went alert, trotting a short distance in their direction.

The pond was perfectly still, its surface mirroring the clear sky. Trees fringed its periphery, restricting the light to a slanting golden glow that picked out details with aching beauty. The reeds standing up in the water. Lacy broom fronds waving at the water's edge. A flock of wood ducks exploded into flight, their wings throwing up sparkling droplets.

I walked through deer-nibbled briers to the small brook flowing from the pond. Its burbling song soothed me and rooted me to the spot. At length, I settled to the ground. Meanwhile, the little orange cat investigated our surroundings.

A wax myrtle framed the mouth of the stream and on it, a chickadee hopped about. The cat grew interested in this, but his prize lay across the stream. He watched intently, nose twitching, and I could see the wheels turning in his mind. Was this prize worth risking the waters? Was it close enough for a pounce?

He decided against it and attempted to suavely pretend as if he was only interested in a drink from the stream. The chickadee continued about its avian business, seemingly unalarmed by its brush with death. I sat and watched the goings-on, allowing the peace of the scene to steal into my soul. My consciousness faded into the surroundings and my sense of self blissfully dissolved.

Something about that golden light seemed to suspend time. It seemed to me that the afternoon would never end, that I could sit there forever. The stream would burble endlessly, the birds would chirp and flit about and the cat would alternately beg for attention and wander about. The sheer perfection of it all was nearly too much to bear. So beautiful…it's impossible to put into words. There is a rightness that can only be sensed by the heart, by the spirit. That rightness was present, and I was grateful. I could feel my strength and equilibrium returning.

At length, a silent internal signal told me it was time to leave. I felt ready to face the world once again, though with some reluctance. I gave my thanks to the Goddess and to the spirits of that place, rose and slowly made my way home.

This is my favorite spiritual practice. This is my magic. I commune with our sacred Earth, with her forests, meadows, streams and lakes. Wherever I find myself, I am at home. Whenever my spirits are low, or when I have a problem to think through…I go outside and walk. Sometimes I sit. Sometimes I play music or sing. That's all. No tools, no ceremony, no special time or day aligned with a table of correspondences. There is a time and a place for formalized practices, and I do use them. But my true power lies in the silence of nature. If I had no other practice, this would be enough.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Spiritual Strategy

The Pagan Experience 2015: Week 1 - Jan. 5- Resolutions- What are your intentions for this new year? How will you find the resolve to bring them into your manifest life?

I'm not one to make resolutions, truth be told. For me, that word has been colored by pop culture's practice of making somewhat unrealistic promises that are broken within a month or two. From my perspective, this sets up an atmosphere of self-judgment and absolutist thinking (black and white, succeed or fail). Not a very loving way to treat oneself, in my view!

Having said that, I do set goals for myself throughout the year. I'm always working on goals for my career, my personal development and my personal healing. Sometimes those goals morph, evolve or get discarded. I strive to accept this with grace and a minimum of attachment.

At the beginning of the year, what I like to do is envision the new year. Think of this as the difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy is top level - the big picture. Tactics are specific actions taken to achieve a goal. New Year's visions are strategy. New Year's resolutions are tactics.

Here is my vision for 2014:
  • Maintain self-care routine - care for my body and spirit temple!
  • Speak my truth and lovingly enforce boundaries.
  • Release, release, release - the past, old hurts, all that no longer serves.
  • Give to and serve others in full trust that my needs and desires will also be met.
  • Grow my art - make music, write poetry and prose, make stuff.
  • Continue to grow my priestessry, in all its forms.
  • Keep growing my career.
  • Spend more time outdoors.
  • Continue to shape everything in my life to reflect the joy in my heart. (possessions, clothing, ways of doing things; walk in beauty!)
So basically? My list boils down to this: keep being awesome. Keep being me. Be even more me than ever. Be good to myself, to others and to the world. I honestly don't need any special resolve to accomplish my vision. I'm already doing this stuff - all I have to do is keep walking. Keep reminding myself that I deserve good things, that I'm worthy of success and happiness.

2014 was a big year. I got a lot of personal business taken care of. It was pretty rocky in patches. I defined my brand, and laid the foundations for what I truly want to do in life, both in my professional and clerical career.  I feel that 2015 is the year that I break out. Things are happening faster now, and 2015 is the snowball effect.

2015 is going to be the best year yet, and I'm ready. IT. IS. ON!!!

So mote it be.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

That's a Wrap

With eight unwritten weekly posts and the calendar well into 2015, I have to admit that the Pagan Blog Project for 2014 is over. I'm not going to catch up, and today I have to admit it. I hate to leave things undone! Still, I enjoyed it immensely. Through this project, I encountered many interesting Pagans. I learned about all sorts of paths. I made a friend or two. I learned a lot.

It's been a wild year. I started this blog, left my old coven, got ordained, had a great Pagan Pride Day, founded my coven and much more. It's hard to believe how much happened in 2014, and I'm still standing! In fact, I feel more optimistic than ever. 2015 is going to be my best year yet.

Thank you to Jess Carlson for the Pagan Blog Project. Thank you to the PBP community. Thank you to my friends who encouraged me to write publicly. Thank you, people of the internets, for reading! Drop me a line, say hello. 2015 is about to get live!!!

Next Year's Yule Celebration

My sun wheel for 2014
This year, my Yule celebrations began with the Sun Wheel Ceremony. Along with many people across the globe, I created a yule wreath and placed candles in it. Each Sun-day from Thanksgiving week to Solstice, I lit the candles and meditated on the season. It was a beautiful, simple ritual and I enjoyed it.

But what's this good Pagan to do during the season of Yuletide itself? I have struggled over the years with reclaiming holiday traditions. My biological family loves Christmas and has a host of traditions around it. Unfortunately, my family also created a lot of stress and unhappiness for me, which further complicates this time of year.

This year, I went on a long trip. It was great. I didn't have to participate in any Judeo-Christian traditions! For the first time in many years, I was free from sensory bombardment with messages from a faith not my own. It was bliss, in that regard. There was just a little bit of Christmas on the ship, but it was easy to avoid.

Next year, I'd like to celebrate Yule as a 13 day, 12 night extravaganza, drawing from the Germanic, Italian and Norse traditions of my ancestry. For my purposes, this period will begin the eve of winter solstice (~Dec. 20) and end January 1. The concept behind this tradition is to rest and celebrate during the gap between the lunar year and the solar year. The idea of reflecting on the past year and envisioning the new year to come resonates deeply with me.

One source I found suggests performing divination each night corresponding to the coming 12 months. So on Mother's Night (solstice eve; Christmas eve makes no sense to me as a Pagan), I would divine for January. Solstice night, divine for February…and so on. I love this idea not only because of the practical benefits it provides, but also because this is an easy, portable tradition.

Another tradition I found is that of wassailing or blessing the trees. The way that I'll practice this is to go into the forest with animal-appropriate offerings like seeds and nuts, plus spiritual offerings like tobacco and cornmeal. I'll knock on the trees and give them the good news about the return of the light, then leave offerings for the dryads and other forest dwellers. An excuse for a spiritual hike? Yes, please!

This year was a sort of holiday detox. I had an extremely minimal holiday celebration. Mostly, I lounged about in the Caribbean. Next year, I'll get back to work on reclaiming the holidays. I pledge to stay in town for Solstice itself - after all, I have a coven to lead now. But this liminal period between the years…may find me wandering again. Either way, it will be a time of celebration, rest, reflection and dreaming up adventures for the following year. I'll spend time with those I love and those who support my journey. I also plan to do some service work, including a free yoga class as a gift to my students.

Here's to hoping your holidays were bright and joyous, and that you have a blessed New Year full of prosperity and new experiences!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Yule on the Ocean

Ocean Sunrise by Bluefinger
I emerged on to the deck when it was still dark. Walking around to the stern of the ship, the darkness faded into the gray of pre-dawn. Chaco sandals and my water bottle kept my yoga mat grounded in the gusty breeze. The sound of the ship's engine drowned out my voice as I began to chant:

"Long night, dark of the sun
cold wind, the year is done
long night, we face the dark
cold wind, you fan the spark
sun light, the rising sun
dark wind, your work is done
Oh sun return, turning wheel
hope reborn"*

A folded beach towel became my meditation cushion as I pondered all the dark places in my soul that need light and guidance from the Gods. A short, urgent list of things to release spilled from my throat. I no longer need them. They do not serve my journey.

The wind continued as I began to move my body. I'd intended to perform twelve sun salutations, but I lost count. Numbers seem irrelevant this morning as time seems to be passing at some unknown tempo. I salute the sun in all his varied guises…Surya, Helios, Apollo, Lugh, Cernunnos, Pan. Runners circle around me on the track, indifferent to my spiritual bliss.

It seemed that the sun ought to be up by now. Will I see it from here? I've never witnessed dawn on the deep ocean before. I lie back for some savasana. Then some silent, inner impulse tells me to rise. Ah, the sun begins to break over the horizon. I am filled with joy and hope, knowing that from here on out, the light will return. Each day will be longer, my journey a little easier.

In thanksgiving, I chant again:

"Apollo, Cernunnos, Ganesha, Pan
Lugh, Horned One, Odin, Green Man"**

The cruise ship was a microcosm of America's consumerist, overstimulated culture. But for this moment, along with most dawns…I found peace. I connected with my spiritual practice, and with the Gods. I watched the rays of the sun flood the sea.

Namaste to all - the divine light within me honors the light within you.

**My own version of the nine gods chant, based on the nine goddess chant recorded by various artists