Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Random Blogger Thought that has been Pulling on Me for a While

I miss Star Foster. I know she's controversial and that a lot of people found her mean spirited, attention seeking, and so on—I still miss her over at patheos.

I used to follow patheos regularly—probably too often. I'd check in two three times a day. I'd look up old posts and new posts and compare. I'd look to see what was trending, and I'd poke my head into other faith areas. What as neat about that time in Patheos wasn't just Star Foster, there was Theo Bishop with his very calm even kilter quiet presence, then suddenly there was the Wild Hunt, my favorite everything, and then the Pagan Soccer Mom joined the blog roll and it was like all my favorite authors had got together in one big tea party session. The site could only have been improved of Carol Schulz had a regular column.

There are better deeper bloggers and plenty of people I prefer to read now. I don't lack for quality in depth pagan or polytheist reading. But something about the way Star would dive in with this passion and red aggressive energy always kept me coming back to read or respond to. She took everything so personally and almost all of the time it was never about her or her religion—a pro and con because it certainly created drama but I always saw it as symbolic of her passion and her creative spark. She could take things so far removed from her and make them personal and pertinent. She had a way of writing that even when I didn't care, she would have my full attention and thought for at least a few minutes. It's an intensity that in person I think would be too much but written, where I could control the time and amount it could be inspiring. I loved how passions would just take her and spread across blogs. I loved how much of others work she read, and wished I could find the time to read as regularly as she does/did.

I used to think there would be nothing worse than silence from her. I wanted to hear about her life, and know she was doing well. I'd gotten so invested in the Star Foster life and brand that when she left patheos it was a bit like losing a friend. Granted, she doesn't know me. We've never met or even written back and forth. I'm a lurker in real life and on the internet, I rarely ask questions or want to discuss so much as hope that people will bring the info to me in time or I'll work out the problem on my own in my head.

There is something worse than the silence though. Ms. Foster returned to the blog world a converted Christian. And I want to say first and foremost that I wish her well in her new religious journey. I totally understand religion isn't a neat tidy thing. She isn't the first to return or go to Christianity and she won't be the last. But for someone who fought so hard again Jesus and God, she wrote an article entitled I Reject Jesus Christ hard for me. I found her relationship to Christianity and Jesus cathartic for me at the time. Her writing and the writing she inspired about both paganism as a whole and individual blogger's and people's interaction and experience with Christianity, Christians, and Christ helped me work through a lot of lingering hurt I had from my own conversion and daily Jesus-y interactions. I know it's her path and her choice and I want to respect that. Still I look at her writing now and her writing then and I can't reconcile the two. Two years later, I still miss Star Foster as I knew her.

It's fall and the time for honoring the death and granting ourselves release. I hoped that my need for some of the combative fire, which is so double edged and perhaps Star's ultimate undoing slowly abates. I hope there is a time where I can look at In the Garden and just care about Star as a person and not read what she wrote there and compare it to writings in patheos and wonder what happened and how. Until then, I guess let me just say that I miss Star Foster but wish her well on her spiritual journey.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pagan Coffee Update

I find pagan coffee to be a very conflicting situation for me. I love the idea of a bunch of pagans showing up for coffee on Sunday and shooting the shit. I like to hear about how the others are doing, even though we almost never talk about our religions. The occasional reference is often enough.  That we enjoy the same activities, have sympathy for similar causes, and can mutually (mostly anyhow there's always go to be a few bad folks) respect where each  of us comes from job and resource wise is most of what I need in a community.

In truth, I find if someone starts talking about their religious experience in any depth during coffee meetup, I get uncomfortable. Part of me is always watching our venue, and while it's no secret we're a pagan meetup and where we meet is very relaxed, I worry about how public a space it is to talk faith. I don't know what makes me worried. Am I worried that someone else will be offended? Am I worried that we'll be judged? Am I worried we'll look dumb to strangers? Why do I have this need for privacy and a deep feeling of protectiveness over my faith? I know I don't want to share what I think or experienced in a coffee shop but I don't know why I feel that way.

When I share my faith in person, it's always in the privacy of a home or living area and it's often intimate between two or three people not a group of thirteen-ish people. There is a background of my experience already understood as I understand those three of so people's experiences. So when they talk about seeing fairies, or about their preference for natural remedies or their meditation I don't have a ton of follow up questions or corrections.

In pagan coffee meet up, I don't have the luxury of all this complete understanding and when people speak often times I feel the urge to correct or seek to clarify but I bite down on it. I don't want to offend them or invalidate their experience no matter how bonkers is sounded.  Seriously, last week this guy went on a long rant about how depression can be cured with diet and exercise and how his medication made him into and I quote an "emotional zombie" and that it was just the stuff he would ask to take if "he ever wanted to go on a killing spree".  And I'm sorry he had a bad experiences with medication and perhaps in his case they doctors were too quick to write a prescription, but what he just said about how depression is pretty much all in your head and lifestyle shows that he KNOWS NOTHING about depression.  People sometimes feel down for no reason and yeah you can change that with vitamins and exercise or better yet a diet change.  Doing this can benefit a depressed person too, but if you're in the throws of actual clinical depression, you need minimally counseling and you may need medication at least to help jump start you.  As a person who has depression, social anxiety and a few other nervous disorders I can tell you it's not rational and it's not something more iron and b12 and some st john's wart will fix.  Yes I am currently medication free and I struggle at least two or three times a week to keep balance and I have an amazing social support system between my family and my mate who work with me to keep my above water.  I know the balance is very precarious.  Of course this same guy took one b12 pill once ever and immediately felt very sleepy which he believes is because the b12 produced so much energy regeneration for him that he had to take a healing nap to aid the cell regeneration going on in his body.  Perhaps I shouldn't let him rile me so with how he intersperses jung-ish gods, meditation, and holistic diet.

I figure the people there all feel I'm a pagan newb because when asked about my faith I brush it off as an eclectic pagan with ties to local gods and generally refuse to elaborate. It's so odd to me that I can write down and post about my experiences with my gods but if you want me to speak the words in front of an actual group of real people watching me my throat closes in anxiety. My face gets red and sweaty, I stammer and I can't hold eye contact with anyone. I mean it can't be that I'm afraid to share, because I do in perfect detail online, perhaps it's not being able to control exactly every aspect of what I say, or maybe it's just my social anxiety? I'm not verbose in the friendly large crowd about begin things let alone religion.

Of course, in some ways I find pagan group even more isolating because I don't see common ground in my practice and their's---and of course my own silence makes it hard for me to go out finding common ground.

A few weeks ago we had a new comer in our group. She's moved back to Alabama from Alaska, where she was part of a very active pagan community. She wanted to hear everyone's variety of paganism and she wanted to really talk about magic and faith. The group as a whole was not largely responsive to her entreaties. I could see her deflate a little and head back into herself some. She told us in the beginning that she wasn't sure how often she'd be able to come down because of how far she had to travel, but I feel like she probably won't come back based off of her experience with us vs what she's seeking.

I felt bad for her and was annoyed with her at the same time. We share the desire for a book group or a specific course of say divination or aligning with nature or perhaps different styles of spell crafting—though I think our styles are too different to share a group of that kind. And I was annoyed because she has that outgoing demanding personality that made me feel certain that while she wouldn't be able to get that with us she would seek until she had what she wanted. I'd still be sitting here with pagan coffee group more or less never speaking, hoping that I'd get comfortable and some magic force of will would make it so I was able to connect with these people. It's true that as I get to know them I feel like I could connect with some of them in meaningful friendship levels—which is new in my adult life too-- but I don't think we have enough in common for there ever to be a group ritual or for there to be a study group reading the same book and I'm sorry about that.

I've identified a new-ish woman in the group who may practice with me, but I think we'd have to take turns creating rituals in our respective paths style—which I'm good with as a start, but I'd love to actually have community where we could all be on the same page about what we are practicing and why we are practicing instead of just bringing respectful presence to ritual.

I guess I should count myself lucky that I have a pagan community and that they welcome me and that we could even have the potential for respectful shared ritual space. It all comes in time right? That of course doesn't make the wait any less frustrating.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

List of Religious and Creative Projects I'm Currently Working on with Status Updates:

  1. House Spirit Series: This is a series meant ideally for children ages 5-9yrs of age. They are picture books about hospitality and gracious behavior.
      1. The scripts for being a good host and being a good guest are complete and I had composed two picture books using common licensed material. Since then I've reviewed the two “complete” works and decided that the pages are too wordy and the graphics too busy.
          1. I'm in the process of making the two books longer with cleaner pages. To do this with my current creation software, I will be upgrading the works from their smaller half page format to a large full page format, as then I can create infinite connected pages. This should also give me opportunity to make larger fun text fonts and colors.
          2. I think I'm going to include my house spirit on each page so it's like he's talking to the reader on each page. This means that I'm going to print my graphic off and try to draw zim in different talking poses for scanning. Hopefully that goes well. The little rabbit sprite is very simple and cartoon-ish so I think he'll be easy enough to adjust.
          3. I'm also going to make the books more interactive for parents and co-parents by creating suggested areas with prompts where parents could break down house rules or expected behavior.
          4. Also, I've been reading through, and I'm considering keeping or including vocabulary stretch words with a glossary in the back because I think kids should learn about compassion and empathy both what they are and what the right words are.
        1. As far as furthering the series goes I would like to also cover how to handle different faiths and traditions. Right now I think it will be 4 separate books
          1. religion inside a multi-faith family: this one will cover the idea that parents may have converted from another faith that some or all of the rest of the family follows. It will talk about how everyone has their own right to follow a faith that makes sense to him or her but no one should have the right to tell others what to believe or how to believe. Challenges come over how to cover faiths that believe they have the one true path, possible adult bitterness/ attempts to convert, being respectful of beliefs that may not make sense to a child and balancing openness/respect /embracing a their family culture and keeping appropriate boundaries as needed
          2. religion among friends: this one tackles the idea that a child and his or her friends probably have different faiths. It will address how the pagan child is probably a minority faith and how his or her friends may look to them to be the pagan ambassador, which while not meant cruelly usually can still be a burden. It will go over tools the child may need and how to try to work past that person into being just one pagan as his or her friends are one Christian or whatever and not a representative of all of their faith. It will also talk about what is or isn't an attempt to convert, what is participation and a friendly invitation and what might not be meant so kindly.
          3. religion in society (like Christmas and Easter). It's impossible to miss Christian influence in our culture so explaining it some and what the family does instead or in addition is really the best way to go here. I'll probably write this one last because of all the pagan-ish kids books I'm writing, this one is the one that will probably be the most specific and therefor be of the least use to other people.
          4. ,religion in schools and when speaking with adults who are non-family members. This one is important because if a student and family decides to be “out” about his or her faith, there are things a student need to look out for and know how to handle. We always hope that it won't come up, but forewarned is forearmed.
        2. I have an idea to tackle starting school, deciding whether or not to be an “out” pagan, handling bullying both religious and other varieties and what to do when others are bullied and when you may accidentally be the bully. I want to work on it after I'm done with the other six books, and I think it will be it's own series that I'm going to call the Little Witching series. I want mirror books one with a male lead and the other with a female lead. Tentatively I think there will be 5 or 6 stories and if I make a male lead and female lead mirror it will be elven or twelve books.
        3. I'd like to work more with fantasy and myths for kids where the morals are less spelled out in step by step directions or advice, but I don't have any ideas brewing except that I'd love to have follow up questions and considerations.
  2. Portraits of Roxi Starr: I love Roxi Starr and her story. I'm very pleased with how the characters are developing and painting a very real very flawed world. I am right at the point where Roxi will enter fairy world and I know how I'm going to work that part, but I Have about 8 more scenes I need to write first that are fighting me. Also to be honest, while I love my adult venue, the House Spirit Series and a few of my multi media projects have taken up most of my time because of the challenge involved in pulling so many different bits together. Fairy land is going to be rough on me, and I'd love any references people have to myth or lore that happens on or near fairy land to help inspire me.
  3. Creating a Family friendly series of Spring Advent Activities: Reading all the family blogs creating winter advents to counter act Christmas culturally for their kids was really interesting reading, if somewhat perplexing to me. I understand historically why winter was a good time for huge holiday celebrations, but energetically, I don't in my own practice feel it's an appropriate time for a bunch of celebration and much anticipated count down the advent implies. To me, pagans, heck the world, should be breathlessly anticipating the coming of spring. So I've been putting together a collections of thoughtful child and adult friendly Spring count down activities. I would want to start Feb 2nd on Imbolic and continue until the first of Spring in March. This is 50-52days so it's a lot of daily activities to come up with. Right now I have a list of 22 activities so I'm about 40% done with the list. Then I need to write an introduction explaining that the order I put these activities in makes sense for the Southern USA states but may need tweaking based off of the area you live, and I need to write out exactly what kind of meanings and follow up meditations, questions, and what not can be done with these activities to help create a thoughtful religious experience. The advent book perhaps full activity kit will be geared toward nature and self centered varieties of paganism but there is ample places to insert god and goddess myths of different faiths, which I'll try to make obvious and add suggests to as well.
  4. Pagan Calendar Project: So I've made a lot of head way on my own personal calendar including major holidays for different branches of paganism and for other religions. Working on it has really opened my eyes to what I am culturally and faith wise yearning for. I'm definitely searching for a more family/community centered aspect in my practice. It's also opened my eyes to how unfulfilling the wheel of the year has been in my life. I've been very loosely following it and really twisting the meanings and purposes of major dates to suit how I see the seasons (which is different here than how I saw them up north). So I'm in the process of reading and reviewing different cultural material to see how different seasons were traditionally viewed and celebrated and to gain ideas about what would be meaningful in a modern practice. I'm focused in on Etruscan, Greek and Roman practices because coming from a traditional Italian household, there are familiar and known ties so I'm not re-learning all this symbolism, plant meaning, design work, food preferences and what not. I've been reviewing the holidays to see what would be meaningful to celebrate yearly and what would be good to know about for specific life events or situations. I'm also looking into the dynamics in the Greek calendar and melding it so the current Alabama seasons matched weather wise as much as possible with the Greek calendar. From what I've been reading regarding calendar creation in ancient peoples more than the dates, what was important in marking time was when growing seasons and specific weather happened, rather than exactly following their calendar time, it makes more sense (to me) to frame days based off of when similar weather happens here. There is a big push to do this now in my life because I have a friend who would like to practice with me and she has a newborn, who when he's older may look for the structure in faith and religion that both my friend and I had in our own lives. Religion strongly affected us as kids and while we agree our birth religions are overall negative experiences, the ability to have holidays, structure, a way to act out express and show a divine narrative and know about the other world feeling is something I think kids yearn for. I hope to have studied enough to be able to fully update and start following my yearly calendar next year. Currently I'm looking to hold on to Imbolic, amd Halloween week (which I celebrate all funky which is why I don't even tend to bother with Samhain as a title), but otherwise I'm looking either making my own holidays for following Italy/Mediterranean inspiration.
  5. My Wedding: Yeah, that's happening fall 2016 and I am currently planing to make it a blend of pagan and more traditional Christian themes. I do have interviews with a few pagan ministers, but the ceremony itself is mostly up to me to create along with whatever pre ceremony explanations I want to give out to my decidedly non-pagan guests. My friend is helping me with this. It's barely begun and I feel (hope) a lot of it will shape as I work my way through my wheel of the year because I'm having trouble find sources that are of any help in the creation process. I've never given my wedding a lot of thought, because as a kid I always thought it would be most romantic and preferable to elope. It's been a long road of reflection and pondering for me to understand that weddings aren't really about the two joining but about the families. It's hopefully an outlet for families to express joy regarding their family member's joy, to welcome a new extended family, and to feel still relevant and close to the newly married couple. That said, the actual marriage has meaning meant only for the couple and perhaps the divine which needs to be expressed during a wedding too. Or why I feel like the place the ceremony is at, what is said, who is invoked and so on is deeply important to me on a personal level and while I see the need to compromise that with family expectations and desires, they can only hold so much sway. The balance is very hard for me.
  6. Photography Stuff: I find I do best on the photography and editing when I take the pictures in season and look at them critically after the season has passed. So I just completed looking through and editing my fall cemetery photographs. There's some really neat surreal creepy and sad looks that I'm thinking of working up into postcards and prayer cards. I have a good 100 or so spring pictures, but I'm not feeling inspired to work my way through them just now.
  7. The Blog: I actually have another blog post about my family and my wedding plans written which I haven't posted because honestly it's kind of bitchy and emo and I'm not sure what kind of community value it has except to express clearly that the struggle to be pagan in modern society is an on going battle for everyone and often one that we have to fight even within the family unit. Whether it will make it on to the internet I don't know.
    1. I'd like to write about my experiences with the weekly pagan meet up group but that post is fighting me in creation. Right now it's a concept about my struggles to find satisfactory meaning within the group and why that does or does not sometimes work. I'm thinking about using the entrance of a new comer and how she made me feel as a vehicle to explore this aspect of in person pagan community.
    2. I'd like to write about animals and spirituality. What it means to see or used different animals in design or to feel drawn to different animal images/concepts.
    3. I'd like to write about my intentions to get married and my love life and how it's changed and what that means to me and in a broader context of the world.

And that's it, what I'm working on right now creatively. Is anyone else working on a million projects? Does anyone have any interest in on of these project over others? Give me a shout out and let me know what's going on in your own creative or religious life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sacred Moving?

Not counting moving in and out of college dorms in the last decade I have moved six times. The first four weren't easy per say, but I could feel the Divine calling me and encouraging me. My whole drive across the country, even on my own, filled with everyone else's fears about a woman alone on the road, I felt looked after. The three day drive felt like a meditative trance. I had completely surrendered to the rightness of this move and that there was nothing beyond this drive in this moment that I was meant to do. It was like coming into my birth right with all the pomp and privilege that the term implies.

I was in awe with the country's different landscape. It was late August and hauling through the Midwest was a sight for my suburban eyes.

I felt like I was chasing the sun and with each time zone I crossed, I gained on him. I was coming more to center. Now being in Wyoming was a totally different story. The land and elements spoke to me, but the people there often made me feel in danger for being who I was. Paganism aside, I am progressive, poetic, and just a bit odd in that harmless sometimes endearing but more eye rolling kind of way. Folks there were seriously threatened by different and that's something I had in spades before we ever mentions Gods.

Moving out of Wyoming was a sad farewell, but necessary. If going was a meditation, leaving was a dark dream, the kind that you wish you'd wake up, but know there's no way out but to play through the surreal landscape your mind has you roving. I packed in less than 24hrs, hit the road in literal darkness and never looked back after crossing the first state line. If the Sun had taken me in for the first move, the stars were guiding me back and keeping silent vigil over my tears. My heart was broken, and my aura colors were permanently changed.

Alabama was a family affair. I fought it as long as could, chased all the options there were to stay in Massachusetts, fretted over my Wyoming experience, and prayed. If the other two journeys had been self journeys, this was one of family and hearth. I'd never so fully surrendered myself to the needs of the family and the strong ties of hearth and home. Moving it all and cleaning it was beautiful and painful. There was meditation and there was sorrow. It was too blended a sensation to be reminiscent of either of my other moves. Traffic and construction played a serious role in our travel this time. There was a forest fire that stopped all travel on the highway for hours and eventually forced us to turn around and go a long backwards way.

Being in a family unit there was a lot of consideration for other people's feelings. Who was the worst off, what we could do to help, whether what you needed vs what the whole needed was more important. Gone were my 12hrs of driving straight.

Getting here, there's very little question that I had an experience with a local God welcoming me, guiding me in how to decorate, what to unpack, where to look for work. That feeling that I knew what I was doing and where I was going and someone else was traveling with me was back.

My other three moves have been nothing like these first three religious experiences. The first on was easy because I had so little stuff. But there's no sense of plan or guidance. There's no sense of this was meant to be or this is a building block in my life path. I was just flying blind.

Sure I tried to make it religiously meaningful. I cleansed and blessed my new dwellings. I set up shrines and said prayers and devotions. I worked tarot and tried to pick good days to move. The thing is, you can't (or at least I can't) force paganism. Divine in some form either comes and interacts with you, or it doesn't.

In the absence of the divine interacting with me in the move, I've come to realize that I don't like moving. It's stressful, physically demanding, and scattered work. I've been way less involved than the mate, and still, it's disrupted every aspect of my life. When I get home, I don't want to write or draw or story board, I just want to plop and zone out. It's been so hard to whittle the boxes down and carve living spaces out. It's still not done, and honestly, it won't be done anytime soon. I need to buy book cases and shelves, which just isn't happening on our current budget.

All of which is to say that my own personal internal stand alone strength has been on trial, and I haven't enjoyed it in the least. I have been surprised some. Turns out that quite a bit of my funky design idea and bright color coordination are my own. Even without the divine holding my hand, I have a recognizable distinctive style that gives me personal satisfaction. It's been so long since I've cut the personal me from the religious me that before this experience I couldn't tell you what is me and what is the divine that chooses to present through me. There's a different state of wonder to seeing one's personal depths, granted it doesn't tingle, hum, and resonate the way the divine does. It doesn't both sharpen and blur the world around me, but there is pride to knowing I have subtly, depth and insight that is entirely my own. I don't know, it's one thing to know the forces you work with chose you for your insight, and another to be left alone to see it in action. How much have I attributed to the presence of the divine because the resonate feeling was there, but was actually more my own contribution that I knew?

Perhaps this silence is a gift of it's own kind. I love my gods and my religion. I want and in someways need that otherworldly feeling. But when we work there is no ME just WE. I like to be the second in command, securely backing up a good general. To have that kind of mentality means that you're not just willing but find it comforting to share the credit. No one bit is yours but rather the sum total that is awesome and amazing was created together and so well fused that there's no telling what bit was yours personally, and as you are not the leader, it all falls to his or her capable crafting skills to move each player (of which you were the best one) in place to make it happen. It would be pure hubris to claim credit or any one park or skill. Yes you might have helped but the sum could never have been created on your own.

Yet I'm finding that I can a least decide what rooms will have what in it, where I will do what activities, and what directions I want to go in on my own. Part of me wants to pull a tarot spread right now just to see what will happen. But I think I'll leave divination as a collaborative work.

Anyhow, I'm about 75% moved and soon I'll be in a place to welcome the gods back to begin our work again, but as conflicted as the silence as been for me, I think it was as needed as any divine intervention.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Been Quiet for Quite A Bit

It's spring time and like every spring I've been particularly busy.  It's not an excuse, but I've been caught up with my friend's pregnancy (she's a month away from her due date), I've got engaged, and I've bought a house....which I'm still trying to move into some way, some how. 

I'm sooooo busy.  I say this every spring, and each year before hand I commit to being more religious and this crazy influx of physical change.  So my practice right now and my religious thoughts are very minimal, and will be until I move and reset my home base.  I guess it's appropriate,  if I were gardening this year, this is the time I'd start looking at transplanting my seedlings from my home to my garden.  It's ironic how closely my life seems to follow natural cycles.  I wonder how much of this is a subconscious doing and how much is energy relationship.  Not that it truly matters, I feel the power of the change and rightness of it regardless.

I'm nervous.  The dog did not take to our last move and I don't know how she'll do this round. 

I'm also excited.  I'll have my own studio area and the mate will have his own office.  We'll have an outside yard all to our own.

This post is really basic, I just want to let people know I'm alive, I intend to keep writing, but I am currently in the middle of a couple of large transitions that will keep me very busy for the moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Forgiveness and Guilt from One Faith to Another

For me spring is about freedom and life.  It's about energy and love.  My honoring the season change involves exercises like fairy joy bubbles, taking lots of photos of seasons' change, watching the progression of flowers' growth and learning something new about local flora and growing, if I wasn't moving yet again shortly I would be halfway through growing some flowers herbs and veges.  I go outside for walks and being grateful and I will be coloring eggs.  These are all my expressions of love and joy and being absolutely thrilled for the spring.  I don't think I can begin to put into words how sacred and joyful spring is. 

Now for Catholics, spring/Easter season (because nothing is supposed to be related to weather) is far more complex.  In my mother's case spring brings up a lot of concerns regarding guilt, forgiveness, and sin.  I suppose it's only natural, she's fasting right now in the lenten season.   She's meant to consider Jesus' sacrafice, and I know that Good Friday, the day Jesus was on the cross, has always been particularly hard for her.

As a child, I can remember being very confused over Good Friday.  My mother always took us out of school, whether we had the day off or not, which fluctuated.  We always colored eggs and baked sweet bread we would wrap around the eggs.  We would always refrain from using technology from the hours of 2-4 because apparently that's when Jesus was on the cross and you should spend time in quiet reflection. 

Everything about the time seemed so muddled to me.  Because this horrible violence is happening to the savior at our hands for our sins, but there's this deep excitement because on Sunday Easter is happening soon.  Without this horrible violence and betrayal there would be no miracle.  It's still very confusing to me, though thankfully no longer as painful.  Wouldn't the deeper miracle have been for the people to recognize Jesus and to save and protect him?  What could he have done with all that power if he didn't have to rise from the dead?  If he came for peace and a better world then how does this violence do anything but perpetuate what is wrong in our world?

It is a pleasure to me to not have to ask those kind of questions or have this worry that there is something deeply wrong with me.  I was horrified by so many aspects of Catholicism and not able to work through it the way other followers seemed.  I felt like I was bad and wrong twice, once for what happened and again for not being on the same page as other Catholics. 

My mom is still Catholic, we inevitably end up discussing guilt and forgiveness.  One thing she said to me that really struck me to core to our discussion was: "To be really and truly sorry and able to repent means that you won't do those actions and more.  So if you repeat the same actions again, it means you weren't really sorry and couldn't really be forgiven in confession."

To me, and I have no doctrine to back it up, we are most sorry for things we can not help.  I feel guilty and sorry that I have so much while others have nothing.  But what's the real solution to that, how do I "not do that again" or make that right?  Do I give up my position of privilege and join other people who are homeless?  How does that help?

I feel awful that two things I value most, my creative ambitions and my relationships with my family clash.  Each suffers from my experience with the other.  When I'm with my family, I think of the writing or the book assembly I could be doing.  When I'm working on my projects, I think about how long it's been since I've spoken to my family, but if I stop and have a word with them, how they will draw me away from the work I'm doing.  I feel torn between the two, and as if I must sacrifice or compromise one for the other.

I often feel morally compromised at my job, unable to give the best advice because it may look like the boss trying to dictate an employees affairs when really all I want to do is give the best advice in the most straight forward way.  To protect my own interests I stay silent, but it's not genuine to who I am or the most I'd like to give people.

I need/want/hope for compassion and understanding regarding these struggles and others like these the most.  Am I going to keep having these struggles?  Of course, the only way I know how to stop these struggles is to stop living.  That doesn't make me feel less sorry about them, or less like there is a sense of wrongness in our society that these are some of the choices and compromises we make. 

I might wish that if I were sorry for it, I'd be able to fix it or stop it, but that's not always my experience.  I think part of why my mother struggles so much is even though that's her doctrine, it's not her experience?  I think that's why each year we have the same hurt sad conversation.

 Beyond that, to me, forgiveness/compassion is a choice that we have to make to ease others and ourselves despite the fact that there may be nothing they can do to ameliorate of make the situation right.   We are all only human individuals, and singularly we can only do so much.  I think meeting people with both compassion and realism is needed to make the world a better place.  We don't have to allow wrong actions or be silent in wrong actions, but we need to see a whole picture of a person along with realistically what we can expect or do.  

 This idea that we can change everything that's wrong in our lives or ourselves is a great tool to critically look at every option we have and all possible solutions and I do think we need to be thorough in our search for self improvement.  On the other side we need to respect where each person may be and that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world.  We would like not to repeat the same wrongs but sometimes, even when it's avoidable we're going to make the same mistakes.  It's more about what you as a person do next, than the kind of mistake you made to start.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Babies, Families, and Art Creation

My best friend in the entire universe is having a baby in a month.  I am over the moon for her.  My only regret is that we live so far away and I won't be able to see him until the summer.  I love him so much and have so many ideas for what we can do and experience together and he's not even here.Plus we'll be lucky if we see each other twice a year in person. 

My friend isn't pagan but she is feminist, counter culture, highly spiritual, and desperately missing the rituals of her Catholic faith in not the doctrine that goes with it.  I wish I could be there to hug her and throw rituals along side the celebrations for her.  In that stead, I've been consuming with a voracious hunger any information regarding raising children pagan.  Family trads have always been of interest to me, though often on the outer zone because while I love kids, I am not ready to have one and may never be.

I never realized how much we as a group had idea wise for children.  I think there is more diversity of information on how to healthily introduce kids to religion than there is diversity of rituals offered for adults.  Plus the kids rituals have less tools and are more intuitive. Not everything is a gem--I've read through a lot of kids myths and stories that are not my taste (though by no means bad).  Also I've noticed that all main characters in original works seem to be female, which actually is making is hard for me to present the little man to be with an equal gender assortment of books.  Yes I know the world at large is male dominated, but I want the male lead to be as progressive and multidimensional as my female lead.  I have time though, the little baby isn't born yet.  

While I hunt, I've also been piggybacking.  I took two of about.com kids' bedtime prayers and made the into kids picture books using public domain material.  It's got me appreciating the format artist in a way I never knew I should.  I didn't write these works, I didn't break the work up in any fancy way, just pretty much one line of the poem gets it's own page, and I had a software that makes creative layout ridiculously easy.  Still it probably took me about seven hours a book to put these two together (and these are short books only 12 pages including title page, name plate, and ending page). That time doesn't count the hours hunting for the right public domain material to accent the writing. 

It's helped me understand why there aren't more pagan kids books (or adult picture books for that matter) and why we need to support people who are doing this work. 

I'm really proud of the end results though, even the mate, who is not of the artistic bend or pagan or into kids things thinks the first one I did is amazing and the second one is solid.  He quipped that I should have presented them in reverse because then he would have found both books amazing, but I led with the stronger work, so he found the other one much less than it really is.  

It also made me hungry to create more of these little picture books. I'm thinking of creating a house spirit series where a local house spirit helps to explain some concepts that fall under Hir domain.  I've got being a good host, being a good guest, and maybe creating your own house spirit shrine.  I wrote out Being a Good Host, it's going to be 20pages long including title, cover, name plate, end plate and back page.  I've spent days looking through public domain art and I think I finally have enough to really work with creating the book.  I worry that the writing is kind of dry but I guess a lot of those manner-ish books are dependent on good presentation with interesting pictures to help with the potentially less amazing subject matter.  It took me a lot of thesaurus use to find smaller more reasonable words.

So Questions:  Is anyone interested potentially in a copy of these original kids books I'm working on (I can send the writing to you and I can alter some of it so it fits your family and faith better)?  Does anyone have a work they'd like me to adapt to a kids book for them or any ideas on what they'd like to see as a kids read?  Are there any readings or writings already in print of one form or another that you would recommend? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Pagan Vibe Opting In

I'm going to pagan meetup this morning.  I go every other week when I don't work because part of me really  really needs more community here in the south.  I'm a reflective, nature loving, sensitive, socially liberal woman in an area where as a whole I've noticed the people are kinder but usually less reflective and often wrongly categorized as less smart (even by me when I'm being lazy or when I'm in a fit of temper).  Long story short people here are even less like me than they were up north.  They are kind, they allow me to exist but often just as I'm getting comfortable with a person they start railing against abortion, talking earnestly about creationism, or the new hot button topic to hate Obamacare.  There are conversations I don't want to have, especially not in a "casual" setting where there is literally no way for me to shut these folks when they don't accept "I don't want to talk about that" or "we have to agree to disagree".

So I go to pagan coffee and we sit down and talk about nothing and everything.  Several people their open carry to coffee, they still rail against Obamacare, and their traditions are nothing like mine (last time I went someone even mistakenly said I was an eclectic without any practice--eclectic yes but I practice and experience the divine just fine).  You know what though, in the midst of this online battle of pagans not treating each other like we are all on the same side, these people do teat me well--like I am a welcomed guest.  We don't practice the same, but we already know that and we make space to listen to each other.  We don't have the same values, but we come to the table to express ideas earnestly, and we listen to out opposition as if the other person had a rational thinking mind and was able to come to their own equally responsible decision on a topic, even if we have to agree to disagree. 

That's my version of a pagan unifying theme.  We're a whole bunch of people who you know what honestly don't fit together most of the time.  We may look a like to an outsider (and my group doesn't even do that) but we have depths that divide us as deeply.  It's like ocean, sure we categorize it  all the same but what it's like at the surface vs the bottom is not the same--the sea floor is like it's own world really.

What unifies us is that we decided we wanted community.  We decided we were going to come together and do all the things you have to do to develop community like listen to each other and have genuinely open conversation.  We've decided to build on what we have in common, a love of the outdoors, in our case a sense of environmental responsibility (though I will say it is NOT religious for everyone), and an enjoyment of crafting/art creation. 

If opting in and being a good host is what makes us a pagan community, I can live with that.  It's more than some people have.  But it means that we as a whole do need to listen better to each other and think more before writing in our online community.  There are a million blogs I enjoy reading, but I realized that I don't consider a lot of them contributions to the pagan community and I've seen others that are contributions, even needed criticism that are treated as attacks. We don't have to agree and that's awesome because we aren't going to agree.  We don't have to choose kindness every time, but I would love to see more people stop to think.  As pagans we are only have community if we opt in.  What does opting in mean to you?  And how do you choose to approach someone forging as you are, to create common group and an open welcoming community?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fairy Joy Bubbles: An Energy Technique with Suggested Uses

It's full on spring time here in the south. The weather is what I know as mild (though many truth southerns tell me its cold and unpredictable ^_^), the sun is out often and the light is returning to the days. Wild flowers are beginning to bloom and our tamed ones are beginning to sprout out. Bird song is waking me early in the morning again. It's lovely, I just hope that if I keep taking my local honey, the allergies won't also be in full force.

I love the spring with such fierce intensity. I love that it's always completely new. I love that spring is about life, light and energy. I love all aspects deeply, it's a season that knows my soul best.

With Spring I thought it was time to re-share an energy raising technique revealed to me called Fairy Joy Bubbles. I've written about this before on an older blog, but never in it's own post.  Further, I feel my writing style and ability to communicate has significantly improved since this older post.  In honor of the Spring I thought it was an appropriate technique to re-share.

I have always been a sensitive person when it comes to feeling and seeing energy. In particular as a child, I was more open to the experience than I am now. I used to often see these glittering circular balls of either pink, lavender, silver, or gold energy around flowers, trees, animals, certain natural places, and happy people. I loved these energy bubbles. They were beautiful to look at and they felt refreshing, energizing, and most importantly ecstatically joyful to be around and to see “pop” and release their energy.

One of my guides of the time took the form of a childerns' book good fairy with butterfly wings and long flowing hair. I don't see her any longer which makes me suspect she was meant only to watch over a certain period of my growth, but at the time we were very close. I called her Areiona.

Areiona explained to me these energies I saw were called fairy joy bubbles. She offered to teach me how to make these joy bubbles. They are still how my energy and expression of this feeling manifests, particularly in the spring.

Areiona's instructions for Fairy Joy Bubbles in regular font with my added thoughts in italic:

  1. For your first tries: sit, stand, or lay in a peaceful area where you will be comfortable and undisturbed. You may need to set the mood first with music or candles or you just may need to sit yourself outside someplace quiet in the sun/shade as is your preference. The important part is that this place and position feel relaxed, peaceful, and safe.

    I am at a point now where I can skip this step. Most places and positions are ones where I can perform this exercise, but each person has his or her own level of challenge and is in different places in his or her own spiritual journey. Please use your own discretion.

  2. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Take some moments to first listen to your own body and how you feel today. Take all the time you need to notice your feelings and aches and release those that are negative as best as you can. Some people do this through contemplation, others through meditation, and others through releasing or offering these aspects to their guides or their interpretation of the divine. Please use the technique here that fits your tradition.

    Personally, I take a body/emotion inventory in the morning when I wake up and I try to update it as the day goes on. There's an impersonal tally running in the back of my mind where it's more quiet that I go to through short meditation. I find it's easy to slip into this quiet place because I know it's always there in me, but that took years of creation and daily maintenance for me to achieve. If I am in no duress I can often reach where I need to be through saying a few gratitudes or focusing on one part of my life that makes me feel deeply fulfilled. I can reach where I need to be by placing my hands over my heart and/or power chakra and breathing deeply a few moments as well. If I am in pain or struggling with deep emotions often I need to sit and do a long through meditative process. This can take a good forty minutes or more. 
  3. Pull out a memory of pure joy. This can be a true moment such as a happy memory, or a relationship that lights you up. This can be a moment from a book or imagination that left you with a depth of joy, excitement, or inspiration. This can even be as simple as a reflection on a sunset you enjoyed, a flower, or some other quick flash. Focus on the feeling these thoughts evoke intensely. Notice how your energetic field feels and shifts with these thoughts. Let this feeling fill you up to the point where you are brimming and overflowing with this energy and feeling. Some people may choose to actually overflow with this energy and create a large pool or other shape surrounding them with this energy that immerses the person. This energy surrounding you can be used as a barrier to keep out unwanted energy or it can be viewed as a more powerful energy that reaches out and transforms other natural forces around you or it could be an energy that hums and matches the natural charge of the place yo are in. The experience is going to be different because people and places are different. You are now generating the energy you should to create your own joy bubbles. 

  4. Allow this energy and feeling that is flooding your body to pour out of you so it may have it's own separate life. Some people may need physical gestures for this, which I recommend visualizing this energy you're humming with to slowing collect at your shoulder area, from there all the energy to flow down your arms and through you hands. Use your hands to shape the energy into a sphere or any other creation you may be inspired to make. Size of the shape and density will vary, please use your own intuition on this creation.

    Other people will be able to imaging their spheres or shapes manifesting outside of his or her body without going through the physical motions. He or she may make as many bubbles as they want at at time in as many sizes, shapes, and density as desired. He or she may wish for his or her bubbles to begin existence somewhere farther from his or her own being. It's a more complex mediation to do this but possible (it is also possible to send more tactile made bubble to others, which we will walk through).

  5. When you are done shaping your bubble release it. I like to hold my hands up to my face and blow the bubble out of my hands or toss the bubble up into the air and allow it to float by me. I also wipe my hands one over the other to cut connection with energy and to let any residual energy on my palms flow back into me and the earth through my connected state. If you want more than one bubble, keep repeating this process until you have enough. If you want to send this energy to someone else, now is the time to imagine it floating out to them. Otherwise sit back to observe your bubble. 

  6. Watch the glitter and sparkle as it hangs in the air. Look into the pure sense of joy, creation, and peace you've made in the world. Given time the bubble will hang in the air and eventually pop, as all bubbles must. It will release a cascade of that lovely blissful energy down on whatever it is around. This can be very healing for people and it's also a great way to reclaim spaces that may have negative emotional connections This is a good simple way to introduce children and loved ones to energy work, that leaves everyone feeling happy and energized. Or this can be an exercise meant to hone your ability to focus and prolong your meditative state.

Some Suggestions I have in How to Use this Technique:

-Of course how I experienced and got this style of energy work makes me think of spring and summer celebrations as the perfect place to use this energy. I like to pair these energy bubbles with real soap bubbles to create a joyful, youthful experience of celebration and happiness in these seasons. I also like to release them when I'm in parks or at outdoor picnics, and other areas this time of year based off of how I feel called.

-I offer these bubble up to my house spirits and protectors when I am cleaning the home or thanking them with offerings. In this case I like to make hundreds of little bubbles that shoot from me like a bubble machine, cascade around and pop as they will. I feel like I'm making an indoor fire work display for them.

-I am occasionally moved to send these bubbles out distances to help heal or uplift other people. If I think all they need is a jump start of a little positive nudge, these bubbles are the right tool. They are almost always present in deeper healings along with other energy flows and techniques because underneath all the other work, we are looking for that moment in joy. Having a bunch of little moments of joy while healing helps motivate us to keep moving forward.

-I also use this bubble to help transform unreasonable fears and anxiety. This level of work though is very delicate and emotional. It's important you feel up to it, and have several techniques ready based off of how an individual responds to your energetic technique. Using the joy bubbles as self healing is also possible, though it took me a long time to hold energy to create the bubbles in the same space I found something upsetting. I think being able to balance the two like that helped provide as much healing as the bubbles themselves did.

-I think these joy bubbles are great for children. They naturally have that bubbly happiness and wonder. It's a great outdoor activity to put the meditation into kid speak and use the props of actual bubble wands, soap bubbles and maybe an appropriately themed bubble machine to create a little magic and a memorable happy afternoon. They really get in to the whole concept. Especially if you add flower garlands, wands and fairy wings!

I hope this techinque may be useful to some and I hope everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is welcoming and loving the Spring in his or her own way!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gratitude: A Spiritual and Mental Health Practice

Something I would uniformly recommend to anyone whose looking for positive transformation in their life is to practice gratitude more frequently.  It's a bold, probably over reaching statement but I'm going to break down how I use gratitude and how others could use it as a helpful tool, whether or not they incorporated it  as part of a spiritual practice. 

For me gratitude is in part a spiritual practice.  Beyond identifying things that are going well in my life that I'm pleased about, it's about thanking a higher power for those moments and acknowledging their presence in my life.   Not all of my gratitude work involves the divine, but I do tie a lot of my work back into my faith. 

For those of us who spiritually practice gratitude as part of our conversation with our Gods(esses) and Guides, we usually have a daily practice that includes giving thanks.  My personally gratitude practice happens twice daily.  I start in the morning as I prepare for work and settle my dog.  It's part of how I start my morning dialogue with the divine.  I don't always have time to light candles, make offerings, say long prayers, or even do a simple tarot reading--though I often tell myself I should get up earlier to make myself available to do these things.  I always have time for a quiet good morning, I feel healthy, the dog seems well, it's beautiful outside (maybe), I'm running on time to work, thank you.  Exactly what I say varies based on what's true, but that's fairly standard format.  

The end of the day has more ceremony.  I can make offerings and light candles.  I can speak directly to individuals.  I'm trying to get back into tarot and meditation, though that is hit and miss depending on my mental level, the dog's needs and the mate's needs of me that day.  I often have more concrete things that happened to me during the day to talk about either in joy that they happened or as an opportunity for me to continue my work.  

I don't think there is a god or human being who wouldn't benefit or appreciate five minutes in the morning and five in the evening talking about what was a win for them (even if it's just enjoying the weather or a silly text).  

That's a huge aspect of practice for me.  Working gratitude doesn't have to be something big.  It doesn't have to be something I've earned.  It doesn't have to be something meant just for me.  It doesn't even have to be a change from one day to another.  I have been grateful for and mentioned in some way my dog, my family, and my mate pretty much every single day, usually more than once a day and I'm never less grateful or sincere in my utter joy to have them as part of my life.

The practice of gratitude is very informal, which makes it accessible to all people at all times.  You don't have to write it down or even speak it out loud.  There is no wrong time to start working gratitude.  There is literally no religious practice I know of that frowns on acknowledging things that helped make today special.

Beyond my spiritual practice, I use the formal written version of gratitude as an excellent  "interupter".  Am I hyper focusing on a bad moment and fixating on one wrong thing?  Time to sit down pull out my small portable notebook with colorful pen and write down at least three things I'm glad for today.

Did someone's offhand comment or text start spiraling me into a land of upset and hurt?  Again time to re-direct my emotions from that one element into something going well. This isn't me trying to run from every confrontation, but instead it's me trying to get myself in a mental space where I can describe without hurt of offense what upset me to others. It's been a very useful tool for me, and I think it could do the same for others.

Have I caught myself eating a bunch of terrible junk food or craving that extra coffee, then its time to stop and write three things I'm happy about.  One of those three things is always that no matter when in process I caught myself, even if it's right after I indulged and there's nothing I can do to take back those empty calories, I'm grateful I noticed because I can't correct a problem I don't notice. 

My practice with gratitude has further opened my natural empathy.  Instead of leaving me hurt and drained through understanding where another is coming from, as it once did, the experiences energize me and help me to see dispassionately what I can do to help or when there is nothing I can do but listen.  I feel less powerless in these encounters and I feel less guilty about any potential privilege I have that has allowed me to escape or navigate around the situations these people are in.

More than any mediation to create a barrier for a sensitive person, or any "I am" affirmation.  Just taking a moment to acknowledge good things has helped stabilize me and make me more able to constructively work with others.  I think part of it was me coming from a place of mental strength, but part of it is seeing how others are not always coming from an authentic natural center for themselves.  When people are in pain or under pressure, they do not always make healthy choices for themselves or those around them.  We do have some control on how they impact us in part by controling how we respond.  I think my gratitude has helped me know better how to respond to others in crisis. 

My gratitude has helped solidify what I value in my own mind.  I was surprised by some of what I found, and joyful at the gradual organic process which led me here.  Things that have hurt me a lot in life include relationships with my family, and it was a huge surprise to me to realize that part of why they hurt me so deeply was because these relationships are something I am deeply grateful for, but also something I am not truly authentic within.  The dissonance between my value and my ability to present 100% of who I am within the relationship is the source of strife.  This is why I have shown preference to chosen relationships with people I carefully vetted before accepting and showing all of myself before vs family relationships that I value as greatly but am less able to predict.

I was surprised to learn how linked my guilt and gratitude are.  The same things that make me feel good about myself and comfortable in the way I live also make me feel guilty that others don't have something they would value this way.  I do live with a certain level of privilege in my life.  Most people do, as this worlds isn't about what we earned or deserved but about a lot of fickle circumstances beyond any individual's control. I hadn't been aware of how bad I felt to have good things, which is something I'm working through still.

 I think within the capitalist system and  in the US in particular guilt and want is a tool used to manipulate people.  There is always something more you need to be complete.  You could always be doing better and if you don't want more or better you should feel bad.  See if you have enough, you need to feel bad because others don't have enough, which forces us into a mentality of needing more just so we don't have to feel bad about feeling satisfied.

  This culture is toxic.  To combat it, we need (or at least I need) to start sending our own messages of joy, completeness, and the idea that what we have has worth beyond being a stepping stone to something more. Ideally I think gratitude could be best when we come together as a group to be thankful for aspects of our life and to support others gratitude for what they have.  This next step though is something I lack community for at the moment, but think there would be power to be leveraged in such a gathering.

This doesn't mean that we need to stop working for better in our lives and the lives around us. It just means we don't have to be mindlessly chased from one project to another.  We should be glad for at least some part of where we are and we should do our best to rejoice in the journey.  After all we are alive and we are in a position to grow and seek more that makes us happy, what a wonderful place to start a journey in gratitude.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pagans Coming Out and the Ripple Effect of Being the 1st or Only Representive

It was December and the middle of the Christmas rush. We were doing a daily huddle to keep the team leads informed and in good spirits during this crazy time for the store. We'd just finished recognizing those who'd done an “amazing” job and we were moving on to “vibe” (this is where we make personal connections with guests that makes them more satisfied with their service and hopefully creates a loyalty to our brand) moments with the guest.

Everything was completely normal. I was happy to be in the huddle and I felt part of something larger, not the way we do in religion, but the way we do when we're a huge team sharing an ordeal together. No matter where you stand on Christmas, there is only one retail worker experience and it's agony. We need eachother's support to make it. We hadn't gotten to the sales goals or stats and already I was ready to dive in to do my part.

Our “vibing” moments was going along normally, and one woman shared her ability to sell a store credit card, which pleased her guest because it will save her 5% on all purchases in the store every time she uses it. We were about to move on to the next person's “vibe” moment when one of our bosses said to her:

“No not that story, you have to tell the one about the witch!”

The woman whose addressed looks. At first I think they are using witch to mean unreasonable demanding and mean guest. It fits with our vibing agenda to turn around potentially bad reviews into positive ones by dealing well with hostile people. I was surprised though that our boss would ever refer to a guest as a 'witch'.

Then the woman addressed shoots me a nervous glance and my stomach drops. See this woman works in HR usually so she knows the story she is being prompted to tell may be touchy. She also knows via our facebook friend relation that I am pagan. It's an open secret in store, as I think she pointed it out quietly to our other HR representative and to our owner so they could all be pc. But I've never actually shared in person with anyone at the store that I'm pagan, I don't see how it's appropriate really.

So she begins hesitantly never looking at me after the first guilty glance, “I was working in grocery when a woman approached me and asked for me to help her find spicy peppers. We're looking for these peppers and I'm trying to gather more information asking, how spicy and if there's a certain type of pepper she's looking for?”

“The woman just says, 'No it doesn't matter, the spicier the better. They just have to be really hot.'”

“So I respond, 'Wow you must be making so crazy chili or do you just like really hot foods?'”

“And the woman says, 'No I'm a witch and I need the peppers for a spell. Doesn't matter what kind just that they are as hot as possible'”

Noise immediately breaks out in the huddle and our Hr lady must stop telling her story to wait for the ruckus to die down. She's a little flushed. Half embarrassed I think and half enjoying everyone's reaction. If anyone had been paying attention to me they may have noticed I am the only one in the group not to react at all, because I am frozen now. I want to leave huddle as quickly as possible, because in this instant it becomes clear again that we are not really a unified team, not in the way I was feeling before anyhow. How could I possibly fit into a group that reacts like a bunch of classroom bullies the second witchcraft is brought up?

Our boss is nodding to the huddle, and making a joke about how we better hope we get service right for this woman or she might put a spell on us too! She makes it clear that our HR is a true professional for dealing with this woman. Even though she's just a normal lady and the fact that our HR lady basically badgered what she wanted the peppers for out of her doesn't seem to count. Our desire as a corporate to “make connections” with the guest in this case results in learning something that is apparently hilarious and/or outrageous about our 'guest'.

I've been sitting on this experience for almost two months now because it was too emotional to tackle. I think I've come to some conclusions.

The Good Stuff:
-My HR lady was embarrassed to tell the story. It has to count for something that at least human resources knows it might not be a great idea
-My HR lady did not immediately think of this moment to share as her “vibing” with a guest, which means, that no matter how unusual the instant may have been, it's not something that she's been mulling on or disturbed enough by to stand out in her mind.
-Even the bigots where were making fun of this woman felt comfortable talking about witchcraft, no one found the subject taboo or potentially dangerous like invoking the devil or inherently evil. The PR campaign to normalize the modern witch has done that much.
-The team's reaction could have been worse. People were generally surprised or amused no one seemed angry or upset.

The Bad Stuff:
-That anyone thought this was an example to tell in huddle is of course bad. If someone hunting for beads for a rosary had come in would anyone have found that worth telling?
-That one of our bosses feels comfortable to joke like that in a large mixed work group on the clock is kind of terrible. She's making fun of a guest and a religious practice in one fell swoop. I don't make fun of people who ask for a latte without espresso after all and that's far more ridiculous than wanting spicy peppers.

A personal reaction I had that shocked me at the time, but I've been able to reflect on now, is that I was furious with the woman in the story for telling anyone she was a witch and that the peppers were a spell. I was horrified with how angry I was at her. I mean it's her right to say what she wants about her faith or in this case practice to anyone at any time. I'm for National Pagan Coming Out Day. If you can safely come out do it loud and do it proud! Let them see the whole person the mother, worker, friend, volunteer, work out friend, who also is pagan.

And here this woman is 'coming out' as it were or 'being out' (what they don't tell you about coming out is that you have to do it over and over and that it's never easier or safer or more ideal) in the store and I'm angry about it. I have no right to feel that way period, but it's particularly hypocritical because of how much I advocate pagans to come out if they can.

I was dissecting her practice and finding it wanting based off of a three minute conversation I hadn't had with the woman! And I knew I was being a terrible person and doing everything I say I won't but I couldn't seem to stop this spiral in my mind. Below all this vitriol was the simple 'why do I feel this way?', 'what set this off?', and 'can this woman really be the core of so much anger?'

It took me days to realize that I wasn't mad at the woman, not really. And I don't really think any of those terrible things about her practice or what she did. Taking the time to breathe and mediate allowed me to open up my empathic center and to see literally hundreds of different perfectly reasonable scenarios for her actions. Because her actions were 100% reasonable. How many blog posts do we see all the time where we hear this story from the woman looking for peppers' perspective? The hypothetical person often considers the consequences of their actions. They have to because our number one question has to be: will talking about this put me or those I love in danger?

One thing I haven't seen in these blogs is “what happens when there is a fellow pagan in the audience when a group of non-pagans tries to talk out their experience”. For the record I was angry, upset, and helpless in that situation to address the hurt because my boss was condoning/encouraging negative reactions to this outing. In a lot of ways I'm glad she did choose to 'be out' because it told me something about these people I might not have found out until after we were friends.

I'm mad for her and I'm mad for myself. That a conversation which took maybe minutes is all the representation we as pagans have. It's a huge responsibility she took on to be that pagan face and now her words have to stand up to people who’ve made up their minds already, in an out of context situation, basically rigged so she can lose. She's been strawmanned and she'll probably never know it. How brave of her to reach out given that these are the very least negative consequences that could have happened.

Beyond learning something ugly about my boss and some of my co-workers, this has further solidified my extreme distaste with the hospitality/retail capitalist system in the US (and probably other countries). But that's a mammoth, I'm going to have to tackle in a separate post.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Creative and Spiritual Road Blocks

I think I'm coming to understand why I was so bad at school. I spend two weeks intensely reading blogs and information. Each day I woke with a new revelation and prayerful thought. Every passage was an inspiration and each day I'd move forward with a new aspiration to do this, or do that or incorporate something else.

My time off of work is spent with me tooling around or with the mate and I going to the art museum and walking Big Spring and going to pagan coffee. I feel focused and energized. My prayers, meditation, and energy work has never felt so synced. I'm so connected right now, it feels like a new level to my practice.

And then yesterday, I go to sit down to continue studying and I realize I can't read anymore information. I settled down and I looked at it all but the words are just words now, not vehicles of comprehension or meaning anymore. I don't even know what I'm reading anymore let alone being illuminated by the words. This is exactly the same way I would dive into college classes. I would live in my room and breeze through the huge thick book. I'd feel so intensely alive, and as suddenly as that unquenchable thirst had surfaced in me creating reams of papers, productive reading, and artistic interpretation, it would leave me. And I'd be exhausted, worn thin and vulnerable feeling. All that progress forward felt so good, but the feeling afterward made me feel woozy for days. All washed out and hollow. I'd have to pull back from my studies and from my life to recover that me from somewhere.

My creative mind has been hibernating. Deep slumber perhaps in part so I can built a life slowly and painfully. I know these sudden obsessive bursts with leaping bounding strides forward are not how most people function.

I thought it was gone, and while part of me was sad, another part was relieved that I would be so deeply engrossed in my own world with my own meanderings either following a path no one else seems to see or recovering from weeks down that particular rabbit hole.

But of course part of me was sad. Because there's nothing quite as exquisite as when I'm working.

Now that passion is back. It's been amazing. But as I'm at the cool down phase again: it occurs to me this time around, probably because I am mid way through my work and I still want to progress with it, but that weak wrung out is strangling me, that these bursts I get are probably why I never did very well in school. We don't live in a world where someone can work as I work successfully. Often I've mourned that we can't work three weeks continuously and have five days off, but this time around, I begin to understand why we don't work that way. I feel a little bit like those pacing zoo predators right now. Every time I move towards my book or my studying, there's an ache that pushes me back, but I want to fight through this so badly. I'm my own worst enemy these past two days and I'm hoping that I'll be able to shake it off soon so I can get back to work.

So today, I'm lighting a few candles and setting prayers up to the Divine. My Gods, the ones I'm familiar with, aren't rulers of the creative realm or of productivity. I don't think we start praying to Gods to get things, so I'm not about to offer to Athena or Demeter now, but still maybe my guides or my Gods will do something. I don't know how to ride my creative winds, so I'm going to release it to my Gods and my Guides and hope I see my sails flaring soon. 

There are somethings in life we can do on our own.  As pagans, we spend a lot of time taking the reins of our own lives.  Often we follow the natural cycles creating the right time, right place ,right ritual, right relationship with our Gods and hopefully this will all build to manifest the right life for us. 

 I'm a strong believer in finding the right rythm for each person and how this will open our lives up.  Sometimes though, the right thing is to give it up to our Gods and our Guides and how to see something, even if it isn't the results we want.  Release, its something I'd like to claim that I do often, but it's not really true.  I only usually "release" because there are no other options.  I hold and I chase and when I'm fox holed like now I release.  It feels so good right now to let go, like I've done all there is to do and now I'm being welcomed back home.  I wonder why had to be pushed so hard to do it.  

Do you release your life to the Gods or to a Higher Power?  What does it take for you to do this?  And what does release mean for you?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Imbolic: Begining with a Trial by Fire and Being Burned

I'm always trying to expand my practice. I feel very strongly that my religion is a creation mid progress. I have beliefs. I have ritual foundation work, and I have my experience with the divine. Still, I feel the always present need for more. To re-tool how I practice and to add on.

One aspect I was considering adding was a fast the week of Imbolic. I'm anemic, so it would never have been 100% traditional because I need solid food and I need to make sure my iron is right, but I was considering a juicing raw food fast for seven days.

I had great justifications for this fast. It would make me more aware of the earth's local fertility, which doesn't truly bloom here until March, but we're only six hours from Florida and we enjoy quite a bit of their early season produces. I keep talking about sustainable food and being in touch with the earth's cycles. I'll talk about small seasonal observations. But food is something we all need. It's a real and tangible piece of the human puzzle that could help make more meaning in the year. After all ancient cultures followed the seasons because of agriculture, not because it was something transcendent and holy. Following the seasons and choosing nature now a days is just that:a choice. It's as much a social, political, and economic choice as it is religious. I know I'm someone with the privilege to ignore a lot of nature if I wanted to.

Juicing, while controversial, couldn't hurt for seven days, especially considering I would still choose to each whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts during this time. It would be a financial sacrifice and one I'm lucky enough to consider, but it wouldn't hurt my health. It may even help it.

It would make me aware of what I eat and how it makes me feel. I could put real effort into considering my meal choices and what I would do with this information and my diet after 7 days.

Guess how far I got into this plan? One day and I was out. I learned I'm very attached to my coffee, too much so if the killer headache I had that made me dizzy meant anything. I learned that while I like juice, fruits, vegetables, and seeds, I'm not up for creating such an exclusion in my diet. Not being able to each chocolate or fried food made me crave it in a way I haven't for months, and as soon as I decided to stop the fast and eat like more normally, those cravings left me.

I now know I'm not drinking anywhere near enough water if how quickly the water and juice passed through me is any indication and I'm still committed to drinking at least 72oz of water a day to improve that aspect of my health.

I learned that while maybe I like the idea of fasting, my body is still in the same place I was in college when I decided fasting was dumb. I have a more nuanced idea of fasting, but it's still not for me.

Some things I got from the experience is that I need to limit my coffee to one cup a day and then try again to stop drinking it in a month. I've let my caffeine intake get way out of control with the new job at Starbucks. Truthfully, at home I drink my coffee with coconut sugar and unsweetened almond milk so it's not as bad as it could be, the problem is at work where I drink too much coffee with all those syrup sweeteners. I'm sure I'm holding on to a lot of bad addictive things my mind and body need to release.

I do need to cut my oils, butters, and sugars. Planning for this fast helped show me how far I've strayed from healthier food choices I used to make in the past. I need leaner meat and will stick to chicken, turkey, and some fish. I really like eating more fruits and vegetables, they can replace some of my current leanings and I need to stop eyeballing my oils and butters and measure them out so I'm sure. I also realized that I eat way too much. The juice and raw foods wasn't enough but what I was eating was way too much. I might need to stop cooking for the mate because catering to his taste is part of how I fell into these messy habits.

Part of me is really discouraged that I couldn't do this fast. I knew that working as I do with food everyday on my feet would make it very hard. I knew that I would have some unpleasant after effects and that I might seriously have to dis-continue the fast so that I could do the right kind of job at work. I never thought that at the end of a day I would so thoroughly and completely reject the whole concept. It's hard to decide if this is a sign that I'm weak or strong or something else entirely. Then the whole concept of weak and strong makes me wonder why I care. My Gods don't compel this. Self denial has never been a value I've treasured just for the sake of denial.

I think it goes back to this idea of being a super dedicated committed pagan. Which, honestly, I've lapses some from practice and am getting back into. Imbolic was supposed to be a big jump start. I've done some of the background work, praying, reading, re-connecting to local pagans, tentatively planning a holiday schedule and set of goals, but I was going to plunge in with this fast and yoga and mediation and writing my daily gratitude down instead of just thinking them. I'm seeing that I can't just dive into a massive series of life restructures. I hate admitting both that I'm not super pagan and that I was trying so hard to be super pagan. My practice is a building project and not an instant of divine spontaneous creation. I am not perfection, which for some reason is where I want to be, even though I follow imperfect Gods, love imperfect people, and revere a nature that is as brutal as it is beautiful. There's not even anyone to impress or let down and I'm still trying to put on a show.

Beyond the fast that is not happening, I'm waiting to do my full Imbolic ritual on Wed, my day off. It involves a lot of cleaning in part because I'm a mess and in part because for me starting something new means we have to clear away the old. Anyhow I thought I'd at least try to start my year off with honesty and real talk. My first religious rite was a lemon. And that's the short version.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Short Note On Rituals, Calendars, Technology and Whatnot

Good Day to all.  I've been off the grid for a long time, but I had a quick set of thoughts that I wanted to share. 

This past month, I've been trying to pull together a pagan calendar for my personal reference and use.  Since I'm trying to record lunar phases, Neo-pagan holiday, and the traditional holidays in the Roman, Greek, Norse and Celtic calendar, I'm having a crazy time of it.  Every second I get a bit of air I feel like suddenly a new holiday or bit of information I should consider pops up and I'm further down the rabbit hole than when I started.  My ipad calendar app enjoys at least one note on it every day of the year, whether it's just marking different faiths methods to tell time like the 1st Nation's set of months or the Celtic tree months, or it has festival days on it. 

I haven't even gotten to when Mercury goes retrograde.  I haven't decided if I want to track any other planetary motions. 

And I haven't gotten to adding the other holidays outside my pagan bubble!  Why add these holidays you ask, because I want to be that person who knows when Diwali and wish my friends a Happy Festival of Light and I want to acknowledge when Hannukkah and Passover start for my Jewish peeps.  Part of making he world less Christian and more multi-faith, is about more than showing solidarity with other pagans.  It's also about the simple courtesy of knowing when other groups holy days are and knowing just a little information so I can show appropriate support/acknowledgement.

This brings me to a major calendar application's failing.  I would love a master calendar that already marked the phases of the moon.  Short if that, I'd like a calendar that would let me repeat an event every x amount of days instead of limiting my repetition options to weekly, monthly, and yearly.  The timing means that each month I have to hand write in lunar notations.  Each year I'll have to write in the closes approximation to the Greek reference calendar I can find with each holiday.

Going farther than that,  I would love for that calendar to have an option where it would joint mark the Gregorian calendar with the Jewish, Hindu, First Nations, Celtic, Chinese, Lunar, Greek, and other calendars I don't know of.  Heck I'd love to be able to swap from one dominate form to another but have all my appointments be understood no matter which format I swapped to.  And I'd love a calendar that gave me an option to create my own wheel of the year and over lay it with the Gregorian Calendar.  I do follow my own completely unique schedule tailored both to my belief and to the weather here in the Alabama, as opposed to a calendar I used to follow in MA. 

The mate told me if I was willing to pay money for such an app (which I am, for one with the right layout and sophistication, I'd drop big dollars like as much as $30 cause it is something I can and do use every year) I should learn to make it.  Part of the problem here it that it would take me literally years to part time gather all the information with good sourcing which I would need to create calendar dates and do a quick explanation write up of the holiday/different calendar cycles.  Forget how long it would take me to learn the coding and build an attractive friendly layout.  Plus I'm torn about whether this whole need to schedule, mark time, and be aware of how others are marking time is something that a lot of people feel as a gaping hole in their lives, or if it's just me.  I'm kind of an A type personality when it comes to scheduling and considering other's schedules.

Of course beyond researching holidays dates and meanings, that has me diving into other general research information of what is on the world wide web that may be of interest to me.  I always start out so curious and glowing with hope and thirst for more.  I keep thinking there is real collective power and deep innovative new thought I'll stumble across.  And some of the information I'm reading is certainly valid.  Some of the crafts and recipes offered are fantastic. 

Something I wish I wasn't seeing so much of is all these seasonal rituals which are riddled with assumptions about the practitioner.  My seasons do not run correctly for me to use these rituals on a lot of major Sabbat days. 

And I wish the rituals didn't make so many presumptions about what kind of tools I use and so on.  I don't have an altar.  By this I mean both that I don't have a singular place of worship as these suggested practices imply but also that I have no altar in my practice.  I have shrines.  Plural here is very important because I focus my energies on multiple things and in multiple places in ritual.  Occasionally, I will focus on just one shrine and one aspect in ritual, it's something I'm trying to write in more time to do in my practice, but my faith, as a whole is really more about opening myself up to differences than drawing things together in the singular.

I wish there was more explanation regarding the selected details too.  Out of all the themes one can choose in any Sabbat, why does this ritual celebrate this one in specific?  Why certain numbers of candles and why those colors?  Why this food and drink?  Why these scents or oils? 

This is not to say that I can't guess why. Heck, this isn't even to tell others that every detail needs to be written into a posted ritual, though a link to the information that our using would be nice.  It's not about critiquing another's practice or offering (you'll notice I haven't posted any links or made this post about specific information), it's just about helping a person to see specifically where your ritual and your practice are coming from so he or she can best judge if this information will be helpful to him or her.  I mean if the the information were very helpful and I wanted to learn more about the tradition from which the knowledge comes from, how would I do that? 

I know this is a lot of questions and a lot of complaining I'm doing about people who have for free offered their time and insights to our community.  I do want to acknowledge that anything they chose to share online is a gift of sorts to those seeking.  I also want to acknowledge that quite a bit of the information was rich and meaningful to me, despite this little nit picks I have.  So let me close with a than you to those who share their thoughts and content online and simply add that this post is asking for more not trying to silence anyone into giving less.