Monday, June 29, 2015

TOMORROW NIGHT: Juniper-Venus Conjunction Show!

This month, Jupiter and Venus are in conjunction. That means that they appear to be one giant super-star! Tomorrow night is predicted to be the biggest show. You don't need any special equipment, though using binoculars will add an interesting dimension.

For more details, click here and here.

Enjoy, stargazers!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Path

Wk 5- June 29 – Tell us a little bit about how you came to your current spiritual path and what has held your intention to remain on it.  

My father used to tell me to open my eyes and look around. I have so many memories of driving around with him; I remember the trips more clearly than the destinations. He would tell me to look and then to tell him what I saw. Animals, plants, spirit lights, it was all valid.

From my earliest memories, I saw. I noticed. I felt connected to everything, part of nature. My family was outdoorsy. We camped, went on nature hikes, collected wild foods and lived on a self-sustaining homestead. Outside, I encountered awe and wonder.

Now, my family was also Catholic, so I do have memories of church. I remember scratchy clothes and discomfort. Boredom. Droning voices that went on and on. Sitting, standing, kneeling in some incomprehensible rhythm.

But then my family split up. My mother gained primary custody. After that, I remember her telling me that if God was everywhere, then she didn't have to talk to Him in a building created by humanity. Translation: no more church.

It wasn't long before I started to learn about alternative views. Books were my first entry point. I remember having a book about fortune telling. If memory serves, it was an overview of different methods like palmistry, tea leaves, and Tarot. And surely, I began to practice.

Meanwhile, other early memories were of building fairy houses in the woods, creating potions from berries, leaves, roots and other such witchy activities. So far as I know, no one taught me to do this. Though thinking back, I suppose I did like 'I Dream of Jeannie' and 'Bewitched' on TV. I don't remember ever thinking that was how magic actually worked, or wanting to be like them.

I also remember when my mother decided I should enter some type of scouting organization. I took one look at the Indian Princesses and grew angry, though I didn't know why at the time. The Girl Scouts won out. This was ultimately unsatisfying for me - I hated selling cookies and my troop never did anything as cool as my parents.

We continued on, camping, hiking, sailing, and paddling. We joined the Raleigh Ski & Outing Club, which at the time was a pre-Meetup meetup group that went on fun adventures together. I was one of those kids that hung with adults as much as people my own age. I met a lot of interesting people in this club, and learned about yet more alternative ways of thinking, living and being. Always, experiences in nature are what brought me close to the Divine.

By age 8 or 9, I began to study religion. I wanted to understand the history I was being taught in school, and why so many of these religious wars had been fought. I didn't like what I found. There are good messages in the major world religions, it's true. Truth is present in all paths. But nothing felt like home to me. Nothing fit.

Somewhere in there, I found the catalogue of the Pyramid Collection. I don't remember how I found it, but back in those days it was much more Pagan. I ordered some books from their small selection, and suddenly I had found my path. Things started to happen quickly after that. I went off to middle school, met more of my kind of people, traded books with people, and then self-initiated.

From there, my path truly has been winding and crooked. I have explored in all sorts of directions. Nature, divination, crystals, healing, animal guides, and living in harmony with the Earth…these things are deeply woven into my path. I've learned from many a spiritual tradition, and I've been blessed to meet teachers from all over the world.

My adventures in Nature have always fed and furthered my spiritual path. Mountains, rivers and forests are sources of power to me. Backpacking allowed me to reach unspoiled places, places that feed my spirit, test my limits and put me face to face with the Divine.

What keeps me on my path at this point in my life is functionality. As I've discussed in some other blog posts, I've overcome some huge obstacles and tragedies. My spiritual path is why I'm alive and functional. My path keeps me happy, challenged and growing. 

Just like a trail through the mountains, my spiritual path is full of surprises, ordeals, blessings and beautiful views. I must admit that part of the reason why I keep going is to see what is around the next bend. I'm an inveterate explorer. Realizing now that it is 25 years since my first initiation. Here's to the next 25 years of awesome shamanic witchcraft yogini-ness!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Good News, Americans!

The United States Supreme Court has made two rulings that will hugely impact the life and well-being of millions of citizens. Subsidies for the Affordable Care Act have been upheld, which will allow millions of Americans, including yours truly, continued access to healthcare. Marriage equality is now mandatory in all 50 states, providing dignity for LGBTQ couples.

We still have work to do in this country. Some days I am ashamed to be an American. Today is not one of those days. Today I am proud of the highest court in the land. Today, I can hold my head up high and say that we got on the right side of history. I have been writing about activism a lot this year, and in those writings, I have alleged that the cultural war is over. The forces of progression, social justice and equality have won.

Today, we won.

All Americans will benefit from these laws. We need to realize that when ALL of our citizens are healthy, our collective health care costs go down. When ALL of our citizens are able to marry the person they love, we are stronger as a nation. Families become more stable and secure. Children grow up feeling loved, with a deep sense of belonging.

When we are ALL healthy and happy, we can accomplish even greater things - together.

Today, WE WON!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Light for All

Last Litha, I watched Twelve Years A Slave and got fired up about slavery. Then as now, with the light at its peak, I look into the darkness. The darkness that the human soul is capable of is staggering, just as our acts of compassion and love are sublime.

This year, yet another white man opened fire on a group of innocent people. In this case, a black church in SC. Mark Morford, a writer who I greatly admire, wrote about this tragedy. His premise was basically that guns are evil and we shouldn’t have so many of them. But I don’t think it’s so simple as that.

First of all, restricting gun ownership is not a guarantee of less violence. Look at England and seriously tell me that this premise is true. The facts do not support it. Guns are not the problem; our culture is the problem.

Our culture is sick, and I have to wonder – what archetype are we playing out here? Is America The Doomed Paradise? Or is it simply the symptoms of a cultural paradigm shift? Since its inception, the United States has been a patriarchal system dominated by white men. It took us almost a full two hundred years to give legal equality to our citizens in terms of basics like voting and fair treatment.

Let that settle in for a moment. It’s 2015, the country is 239 years old, and we are still working for full equality of all citizens in the Land of the Free. A country whose founding document states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Popular opinion is changing quickly. As the older generations fade away, the younger generations are stepping to the fore. More and more, we see Americans becoming more accepting of minorities of all kinds – women, minority races, different sexual and gender orientations and religious minorities.

In short, we are beginning to fulfill the vision of this country’s potential. The culture war has been won by fair and progressive ideas and attitudes. I believe that what we are seeing now is the desperate, frenzied efforts of the vocal minority of the old guard to stem the tide of change. These regressive, bigoted voices are intensifying their efforts to retain control over the hearts and minds of US citizens.

We have a choice – what do we want to be? As a nation, is this only a safe place for white Christians that believe in “traditional values” that aren't loving or traditional at all? Or is this actually a place for everyone, where all citizens have equality and freedom?

I think that what we need to understand is that freedom is the ability to do what YOU want to do. Unfortunately, many of the cultural battles in the news today are espousing an incorrect premise – “freedom means telling OTHERS how to live”. This is patently untrue.

Time for a history lesson! Ever heard of John Locke? He was a political philosopher whose ideas were extremely influential in the creation of this country. He was a radical for his day, and in light of our current conflicts, I say that he’s still relevant and radical today:

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions...”

Locke, John. The Second Treatise of Civil Government. 1690.

To paraphrase his view on the role of government:

“The function of government is to remove the use of force between citizens.”

What’s it going to be, America? Is our country free for some, or is it free for all?

As for me, I will live as I always have done. I will harm none, unless it is in self-defense. I will continue to speak up for equality and freedom for all. I will vote. I will treat others as I wish to be treated – with courtesy and respect. Even the people that don’t believe that I have the right to exist or to be who I am - even they will be treated justly by me. Especially them, to be honest.

Today, on this hot, bright day of Summer Solstice, I strive to remember the lessons of my God: the Sun shines equally on all. The urgent life force of animals and plants continues to strive and struggle for existence in all conditions, no matter how challenging. We must shine. We must go on. There is beauty yet in this world. We can help it to grow, every day, with every choice we make.

A blessed Solstice to you all. Blessed be! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sort of Solar Deity

 I spent yesterday evening on the water, with the animals. I spotted a muskrat licking itself under the roots of a holly tree at the water's edge. It swam off and we trailed behind in the boat, following it all the way to its den under the roots of yet another holly tree.

An eagle flew past and disappeared into a cove. Later, we drifted down to that cove. By and by, I saw movement, but couldn't identify it. A few minutes later, I was blessed to see the eagle take off and fly past us, so close that I could see its individual feathers. I watched it fly all the way across the lake and land in a tree.

Later, we followed an osprey as it flew along the bank. It circled its mate, who took off and followed us as we continued on. All along the lake's edge, we saw Great Blue Herons stalking their prey.

This is my life. Everywhere I go, the animals say hello and I silently return the greeting. Sometimes we meet eyes. Sometimes they get right in my face; at other times they move away, slowly or quickly. Occasionally I surprise them, and often they surprise me.

I have always had an affinity for animals. When small, I was that child rescuing the baby birds and endlessly playing with the kittens. Nearly always, pets love me, even when they are normally shy or distrustful.

Before I knew what sort of pagan I was, I knew that animals were on my side. I don't know when I figured out that crows were my main totem. It was early on, perhaps even before I knew that I was a pagan at all. Without any particular spiritual tutoring, I listened for their messages. Much later, I learned from Native Americans, but truly, what they said echoed what I already knew in my heart. Perhaps it was my dad's influence - he was a consummate hunter, and taught me to see everything. He too had a way with creatures.

Cernunnos, then, is a natural fit for me. Lord of Beasts, God of the Wood, ruler of nature, protector of wild things. He is not, perhaps, a deity one would think of first when discussing solar deities. He is more associated with the moon, with the dark of night, with the dark of the deep woods. But then, I'm not primarily a solar person.

There are times when I love to soak up the sun. After a cold winter. Lying on the deck of a sailboat. Meditating on river rocks. I love the feeling of melting warmth at those times, but I can only tolerate it in small doses. To do that, I have had to learn to surrender to it. Surrender is not my natural inclination; I value my ability to create change in the world. Passivity is difficult for me. But when the sun is near its zenith, I am not capable of much more than soaking it up passively. Friends have described me like a lily - over about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I tend to wilt.

So then, Cernunnos. Like many contemporary pagans, I associate the male aspect of deity with the sun. It seems to me that I have read at least one source that associates the horned lord with the sun. I faintly recall some reference to Cernunnos specifically, but most do not. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the traditional solar deities.

One might think I would follow Apollo, given my devotion to Artemis. One would be wrong. Apollo strikes me as a douchebag (sorry, dude). If Apollo was a human, he'd be that blonde captain of the football team full of himself and his beauty, and I'd snub him at a party to go hang out with Pan, who'd be a scruffy alternative kid. Helios? I don't know him well, and I feel no affinity. I do like Lugh, but we are still getting to know each other.

I suppose the most I can do at this point is to say that I value balance. I honor the Moon and the Sun, the Goddess and the God. I am looking forward to Litha, at which ritual I will honor the Sun without choosing a specific deity to focus upon.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

One Will

The Pagan Experience - Wk 2- June 8 – will/WILL –  What is your definition of will? What is your definition of WILL? How do you choose to express your will? What is your motivation in claiming your Will to action? How do you integrate the two for your magickal/spiritual work?

Mirriam-Webster defines will as - "desire, wish; used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal".

For me, this dictionary definition covers "will", what I would term personal will. This is at the heart of our identity as human beings - we are mammals with individual agency. We have the ability to form individual desires and to carry them out through action, whether it be pre-meditated or spontaneous.

WILL I interpret as Divine Will, the will of the universal sea of consciousness, of the Gods. This is a difficult thing to understand, in my opinion. There are times when I get flashes of what the Divine might want or plan, but as a Pagan, there is no human manifestation of Divine Will or book for me to read. 

This topic is emotionally fraught for me, to be honest. I was born into a Catholic family. In that faith, there is the Pope, God's representative/avatar on Earth. He rules over a whole class of male priests who interpret and communicate God's will to the rest of humanity. They refer to the Bible as their guiding document. Our goal as humans is to live by God's rules as written down in the Bible, and to surrender our personal will to God. 

This has never set well with me. Certainly, it works well for many people. Hurray for them! Your life is simple under such a system - just follow the rules, listen to the priests and voila! A good life and eternal reward in Heaven after death.

After many years of study and seeking, my understanding of Divine Will and personal will is quite different and far more complex. First off, we are all divine, so our individual wills are fragments of the Divine Will. 

I do have relationships with several deities and I don't believe that they spend their time planning out every detail of my life. I do believe that they live through me, experience through me and enjoy embodiment through me, as they do through all material beings. But I don't know what they want; I don't think that our conception of desire or will fits them. In fact, what deities (or the Universe) will is the essence of mystery and the reason that mysticism and spirituality exist.

What then, is Divine Will? In my opinion, Divine Will is the Great Mystery. It is the great flow of the river of life. It is the voice within. That quiet, intermittent, persistent and loving voice that tells us to shine. It tells us to express our beautiful individuality. It tells us to create, to love, to heal, to grow, to explore. Divine Will is the energy of creation and attraction. It is love.

As for me, I express my will in living my life consciously. I strive to act in accordance with my beliefs. I aim to grow and develop myself as a human being to my fullest potential. My motivation in claiming my will to action is my belief that this is my job as a human being. To exist. To experience. To grow, learn, transform, and heal. To be a good citizen of my community, of the Earth, of the Universe.

Magically speaking, I use my will to make changes in my reality. My conscious mind has many desires. When I have one that merits magical and/or mundane action, I take time to think it over. Sometimes I consult the Tarot or the pendulum. In this way, I make sure that this fleeting desire is in accordance with my Higher Self and with Divine Will. I listen to my intuition. When the time feels right, I act.

Meanwhile, I have felt called to serve the Great Mystery through leadership. I've created an interfaith meetup group and a coven. I surely hope that these things are what the Divine wants. Honestly, I have no idea. I'm going on faith that helping others find their way is a good plan.

The clearer my vision becomes, the more that I come to understand myself and my place in the Universe, the more that I am able to contact that inner voice. The more that my personal will merges with Divine Will. 

But I'm not rushing to ultimate union. I believe that we each must play out the number of our days, enjoying them and learning from them to the fullest, without hurrying to our next destination. Full union with the Divine will come in its own time, when it is my time to leave this body behind. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Universal Law of Attraction

The Pagan Experience - WK 1- June 1 -Magnetism and the Law of Attraction –  What do you strive to attract to yourself? What actions have you taken to bring this into manifest form? How does this quality of magnetism inform your spiritual and mundane life?

"At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it," 

- Associate Professor Andrew Truscott from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering FULL ARTICLE
What the above quote illustrates is that science has yet again uncovered a truth that supports the wisdom of the ancients: we create our own reality. I have been saying this since I was a schoolchild.

I can clearly remember telling anyone who would listen to wake up. Generally, I did this in Italian. Svegliare! Wake up, I would say. You create your own reality. Understand that your will and your observation literally change reality, every moment of every day. Create something awesome, do whatever you like, but do it consciously.

Creating your reality, making magic, using your will…this is really about attracting what you want to you. We don't create something out of nothing, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy. No, we induce it to change form. Yet another idea in which metaphysics agrees with science! 

Imagine any TV or movie portrayal of magic. They will wave a wand, wiggle their nose or what have you and poof, a full dinner appears out of thin air. This isn't how the Law of Attraction [sic: magic] works. No, instead, we get what we give. So perhaps we offer what small snack we have to someone, and they share their feast with us. That actually happened to me this weekend. I didn't have much food to bring on a river trip, but I offered what I had to my companions and they generously shared their snacks with me. Everybody wins!

The Universal Law of Attraction says that like attracts like. I don't see how magnetism is related to this concept. Magnetism is about opposing forces that attract. This runs counter to the Law of Attraction. If we commit hateful acts, magnetism would dictate receiving positive acts, while the Law of Attraction would dictate receiving hateful acts. But truly, it's not so simple.

Just like the concept of karma, I have found that the Law of Attraction is not a one to one, immediate thing. What I have found instead is that I am confronted with people or situations who mirror my behavior when I'm least expecting it. 

I strive to attract compassion, acceptance and new discoveries. I accomplish my goals via a number of methods, including visualization, right action, spell work and meditation. Like most people, I have more mundane goals too, like greater financial independence and security. In that area, I take concrete actions like continuing education, networking and applying for jobs along with the energetic actions. 

This idea of attraction permeates my whole life. It is central to my concept of spirituality, this idea that we can all create change in our lives and in the world. It is how I live my life, because to me, it's all the same. Whether I'm in front of an altar or driving down the road, the choices I make change my life. Every day, all the time. I try to make choices in keeping with my goals. Like everyone else, this is challenging at times. But it's also better than the alternative!