14 December, 2015

Oh My Gods

Hey, Readers,

There are a lot of videos and blogs I need to do, but as usual when multiple topics pile up that I want to get to in some semblance of order, something else crops up that feels more immediate and wants to be discussed right now. This is one of those things.

I want to talk about Deity, God, gods, the Universe, theism, and what have you. And what have you?

Lately I've been seeing a few articles from Patheos about polytheism, theism, atheism, people who believe in the gods as literal versus those who view Deity more as archetypal energies, and so on. I also had an opportunity to get together with a friend of mine yesterday, who asked me a bit about the gods and the many viewpoints about them that exist within Paganism. There is also someone I chat with online who is beginning to discover how they personally relate to Deity, if at all. I know I've kind of talked about this before, so forgive me if it sounds repetitive, but I wanted to put down some of my thoughts at this time.

Without putting labels on it, I want to just talk about my ideas of Deity and how they (They) appear in my life.

It's honestly somewhat hard to describe how I view the gods, sometimes. I usually say that I view them mainly as archetypal energies, expressions of real energies present in the Universe that we, as humans, perhaps cannot fully understand, and thus characterize and give form to. In a sense I believe that all separate Deities come from the same general energy source--the "Highest Power" I recognize being the Energy of the Universe, Universal Energy, or just The Universe (I've referred to it in all those ways). But at the same time, I do not think those different archetypes are the same. Athena is not Artemis is not Isis is not the Morrigan is not Hecate. Or, to put it on an even more even footing, Zeus is not Odin is not Osiris is not the Horned God. I wouldn't ask Athena for help with something in Aphrodite's realm, nor would I call Thor when Cernunnos wants the job. They are different "people" to me, different gods... But I don't view them as literally existing in a physical or ethereal plane somewhere on another level of existence and able to visit us if they will. And I do think even in their difference, they all come out of the same Universe.

There are some labels you may know which you are now trying to fit into this, but I ask you, please attempt to refrain from labeling for the moment. Often, the labels are too restrictive and no definition fits exactly right, so we end up chopping something off in order to make the belief fit the box.

So let me talk about how the gods show themselves to me.

I have never seen a Deity manifest itself in front of me in physical reality, not even as a spectral sort of form or energy signature, like one may think of a ghost, or a mist, or anything like that. I have only seen "physical" forms of Deity--that is, they looked person-like, as they are depicted in 2D art and statuary, and interacted with me as another being would--in dreams and meditations and so on. Those connections are very important to me and are often the way I receive messages. It is this way that I have met Hecate at the Crossroads, sung with Taliesin, created art with Brigid, and learned responsibility from Athena, among several others. And yes, because I work with and worship no specific pantheon, and view all the gods as teachers, mentors, and those with whom one can build relationship, I do hear from and forge connections with those from different pantheons at different times of my life, when only they personally would be able to deliver the message I need to hear, not a similar deity from another culture. As I said, even though many share traits and characteristics across cultures, they are distinct from each other.

In my waking, non-tranced life, however, the messages I receive from the gods are through Nature. If a tree calls to me, I know it is the Spirit of that Tree--either that individual tree, the physical thing in front of me, or the Tree as an archetype and representative of all trees of its type--speaking with me. But each tree, or Tree, is also representative of Deity, to me. I associate Oak with God energy, and Willow with Goddess energy. Others may not feel gendered to me, and simply represent Deity or the Universe. I have often received answers, support, or guidance from the Winds, and feel that it is God and Goddess sending me a message through them. The Sun and Moon, as well, are representatives of God and Goddess, and while I do associate certain gods and goddesses with the Sun and Moon (Apollo and Artemis, to name a common pair), it is also just general God and Goddess energy, or the Sun and Moon themselves.

Nature spirits are their own beings with their own lessons. When I leave an offering for my friend Willow, a willow tree near the lake where I used to live and who I go to visit still, I am leaving a gift for her personally. I am continuing my personal relationship with her, with that willow tree, lower-case letters. And through that connection, I know that I also honor the spirit of Willow, of all willow trees, and that if I am far away from my old house and my specific willow tree friend, I can connect with her and the spirit of all Willows through any willow tree I happen to meet on my travels. And since Willow is a messenger or representative of the Goddess for me, it is a form of Goddess worship and connection to the Sacred Feminine. But I do not make an offering to Athena by giving offerings to my friend Willow. (Obviously, I would use an Olive tree for that purpose. =P ) It is Willow, and Goddess, not a specific goddess, that I reach through connections with nature spirits.

Sound a bit convoluted and multi-faceted? Good, I hope it does, because it feels that way to me, too. So I read these things about polytheists and theists and atheists and I know what the definitions mean, but that doesn't help me know for sure how I should feel about the way people talk about them and delineate them. I know there are people who are solidly in one camp or another in terms of how they view Deity. I just don't feel like I am, all the time. I definitely feel like there's a general "zone" I fit into, if you will... If the belief in Deity were a scatter-plot with a few different spectra to base our views on. There's an area I lean toward, but again, people don't usually talk about all these multiple different ways of relating to Deity, and the layers it may entail. Or maybe I'm just not seeing those blogs. So I wrote one. Because I'm sure if I have these views, no one else has the exact same ones, but probably a lot of people share similar views. So this is for us. And for you. And for them, or Them, whether you use big or small letters at different times.

Don't Forget To Be Awesome,
and Blessed Be.

-C-


P.S. I wasn't sure where in the above this would fit in, so I'm adding it here. I wanted to acknowledge that the tendency to view Deity as literal or symbolic may, or may not, make a little more sense when we know someone's previous views of Deity if they were ever a member of another faith. My family attempted to raise me as a Catholic, but I never did believe in a literal Christian God who lived somewhere on another plane of existence, whereas some of my family members did, and do. So it's not a surprise to me that I would still not believe in that when it comes to other gods in another religion. Some people who do strongly believe in the Christian God as literal would probably also view Pagan gods as literal, because that's just their concept of the Divine as a whole.

If you'd like to see other places I've talked about Deity in the past (over the course of several years, mind you, so my views may have changed or I might have articulated them better in this post), you might like some videos I did for the PaganPerspective channel: The God Concept, and Definitions and Multiple "Theisms". You can also search this, my blog, for posts mentioning Deity/gods, and search the PaganPerspective channel uploads or blog (HERE) for keywords such as "God, gods, Deity" and so on. We recently did a whole month answering questions about Deity. Thanks for reading! Blessings~

05 October, 2015

Warriors, Life, and Being

*deep breath*

Whoa. Hey, Readers! Been a while, yeah?

So sorry about the delay. I've been busy, and also recently without internet at home. Long story, but I'm leaving it that way at least temporarily, because while having internet at home could make certain things a LOT easier (uploading videos, responding to emails, emailing card readings, etc.), it's also been encouraging me to do other things around the house, and also make time to see some friends who I don't hang out with as often as I should. =)

Anyway. Do you have ANY idea what a year it's been?
If you're tuned into your own spiritual wavelengths and Universal Radio Stations, if you will, then I believe you do. You have a pretty epic idea of what a year it's been. Holy crap, right?

This year, I've been doing a lot more work with listening to my messages from the Universe and actually trying to answer them, accept the Challenges given to me, and so on. It's not been easy. I've talked a bit about it on my YouTube channel: in March when I talked about my first feelings of going through a certain shift, several times when I alluded to the messages I'd been receiving, at the end of April when I finally talked about what my first message of the year was, the "Universal Shift" video I posted when my first message began to change into yet another message, and most recently, a vague update about how much my life has been changing as a result of listening to and acting upon these messages and Challenges.

Phew! It's been a year.

And in the true spirit of synchronicity (with which I have a love/hate relationship, as most of us likely do), I've had some repetitive symbols or signs throughout the year which, in my most unsure moments, continually reassured me that I was... that I am... on the right track.

Warriors.

Have you seen that coming up a lot? Heard it? Felt it?

I started listening to a Ginger Doss album that someone gave me, and it includes a song with lyrics about being a warrior. The theme of Cleveland Pagan Pride this year was "Warriors at the Crossroads." The workshop before mine was about gods of war and us as warriors. In one of my tough moments in coming to terms with decisions being made in my life, someone referred to me as a warrior.

Crossroads.

Again, the theme of Pride. Hecate. The general feeling of being at a place in life where you could literally go any direction. And MORE THAN ONCE when listening to my lamentations about how difficult this shift has been for me and how hard the changes are to deal with, multiple people used the word "crossroads" when describing my situation.

I was driving along the interstate, going to an event, asking for yet another message, just one more thing to let me know, is this REALLY what I should be doing? Is this REALLY where I need to be going? Am I doing the right thing?

A semi-truck pulled into my lane in front of me. Inscribed with a thick finger into the dirt and grime and dust on the back door of the truck was a haphazard Christian cross figure, accompanied by the words,

"this is ur sign"

Okay, but like, is that a sign to MAKE the change, or to stay put?

Cara, Cara, Cara... the Universe has been more than patient. And it knows I'm never quick to convince.

But then I knew. The signs are never about staying put. The signs are ALWAYS a push to change.

And the Universe knows me well enough to know that I will accept a message from ANY religion. I had to laugh. Of course I cried. And I accepted a change.

It hasn't been easy. It's gotten easier, certainly. And there has been so much good already! There are good days and bad days, just as usual in life. There are days where I wonder what on Earth it is we're being prepared for, and why did I have to make this change now, and how long before I'm totally okay with it, if I ever will be? Then there are days when I trust in the Universe completely, and live one day at a time, living and loving and relishing the sweet, ecstatic moments, knowing that they couldn't have happened without this change. Knowing that I will have bad days again. Not letting that ruin the good ones.

No guilt. No fear. No regrets.
Just love. All Love.

Blessings~
-C-

09 August, 2015

Fundraising for Witchcamp!

Dear Readers,

The time has come again to offer readings for fundraising purposes! Last time, I was helping raise funds for Pentacles of Pride, International. This time, I'm helping out one of my own projects--My first trip to a Reclaiming Witchcamp! Donations, Etsy purchases, and Readings will go toward registration and travel fees, as well as hopefully making up for some of the money I'll not be making while not working for the week I'm away at camp--because when you return from walking between the worlds, there are still bills to pay. ;)

And this time, I'm joined by two special guest readers who are offering their talents to help pay my way, as well: Sheldon, Executive Director of Pentacles of Pride; and my mother, the Rev. Rose. =)

Here is the link to the Readings page!
http://thewitchystuff.blogspot.com/p/readings.html

Thank you for reading!
Blessings~
-C-

04 June, 2015

Yoga Review

Hey, Readers,

It's been a while since I posted anything here, and to be honest, it was almost longer! Then I realized that instead of posting this on Facebook, I could make it a blog and simply link to it there. So here we are. =) I've blogged about my Yoga practice in the past, but life got busy and I stopped attending classes (after only going to my first two ever!) and then, eventually, stopped making time to do it at home regularly. This year, I got my butt (and the rest of me) in gear and went to another class, at a different studio. I've now gone to three within a two week span, and plan to possibly attend TWO more tomorrow.

How did I suddenly find the time and money for this? It just so happened that the Yoga studio I've started attending was having a 50% off sale on their One Month Unlimited Yoga pass, so I took them up on the offer knowing that if I attend even five classes within that 30-day span of time, it'd be well worth it. Well, here we are, three classes down, maybe soon to be five, and still three weeks left on my pass. I feel great, and I'm progressing pretty well within my own practice! Tonight I learned a few adjustments that I'm trying to incorporate into my muscle memory, so when I got home, I decided to record a few poses in order to see what they look like and where I am with them now. These poses are by no means "exact," but they are different for everyone and different variations and modifications are available depending on what your body needs, so here is just a look at where I am right now with the poses I chose to look at tonight. I don't know all of their Sanskrit names, so I'll call them by their English monikers here.

Rabbit pose - cutewitch772
I started with a pose called Rabbit, which I wasn't extremely familiar with before the first class I took the Saturday before last. I had never really seen it before, so I didn't know what it looked like, and the instructor of that class wasn't demonstrating every movement. Instead, she explained in detail what we should be doing. So this is where my Rabbit was/is, and looking at it now, my hips could be higher, and after looking up pictures online, I see that my head should actually be even closer to my knees--touching, if possible! This pose flows from Child's Pose, one of my favorites, and Rabbit has become a comfortable resting place, as well. Now that I see how it looks, I can work on going deeper.

High Plank pose
Today I got an adjustment on my High Plank. None of my other teachers had adjusted this for me before, so I had no idea if there was anything to adjust, not practicing in front of a mirror to see the shape. Today my instructor had me focus on rounding my back to bring my shoulders up, NOT bringing my hips up. The goal is for a straight line running head to toe. Well, this isn't quite where I think I COULD have it, and seeing this helps.


See my silly kitty watching in my High Plank picture? Well, I have one just for her!

Cat Appreciation Pose =^.^=
I then turned the camera on its side to get some standing poses in the frame. The first one I wanted to see was my Forward Fold/Halfway Fold. Here's a composite of checking out that one:

Flat Back, Halfway Fold, Forward Fold (Palms Flat)
In the leftmost image, my head is turned to the camera because I'm looking at the screen to see if my back is flat before I move on. In the middle is my Halfway Fold--palms pressed into hip crease, knees slightly bent, elbows pressing in, shoulders back, neck elongated/pressing forward from the Crown. This is a pose I learned in this manner as of about last week. I'd done it before, but not with so many little adjustments that really helped remember to go for length and lines. Finally, in the rightmost image, my Forward Fold with palms flat. As anyone can see, it's not like the pictures of Yoga teachers all over the world demonstrating this amazing fold-in-half capability--I have further to go! This is where I am now. I have to keep my knees significantly bent in order to press my palms flat to the floor. I could use blocks to press my palms flat and be a little higher, but I don't currently own my own blocks or other props. I only get to use them in class. You can also do a Forward Fold (not sure if that's its proper name, but that's what I'm calling it!) by wrapping your arms around your legs and gently holding behind your ankles. That's how you'll see it in a lot of photos online. I don't think I've ever really tried those variations! (Also, most notably, my head should be hanging down in my Forward Fold. I always get to thinking about too much else and forget to LET IT GO!)

"Triple Tree Goddess" - cutewitch772
When I took these photos of my Tree Pose, on both legs, I realized when editing that they could be put side-by-side to obtain a sort of "Triple Moon Goddess" vibe. Only this is my "Triple Tree Goddess"! I actually did the pose on the far right first: Tree Pose with hands to Heart center. I have had a good resting Tree for many years--people who see me casually standing with my legs in Tree Pose have called me a flamingo!--but I had never tried many different arm position variations. Hands to Heart is my usual, because it seems pretty straight-forward and is the one I knew. In the center, we have the second variation I did (you can see I'm still standing on my right foot). These are "Cactus arms". It opens the shoulders/chest more, and I had told the instructor today that I'd be open to working on shoulder openers, so she suggested this variation for me. Finally, on the left, I had switched to my left leg and took the arm position of hands to Ajna, Third Eye center (that one I do know; we had a cat named Ajna).

A couple of notes about Tree Pose: Firstly, yes, I use my hands to position my foot against my thigh. I cannot simply lift it into place on its own (after doing it for so many years, I can get it close, but not all the way up where I need it). Moving it with your hands is perfectly fine. =) Second, when doing this pose, always be sure to place your foot either BELOW or ABOVE your knee, NEVER directly on your knee. You could dislocate a knee that way, and no one wants that. If you can't balance with one foot actually pressed against your standing leg, the instructor today showed us a variation where you use a block. Place a yoga block (or any similar item you have--this one isn't bearing much weight) under the foot you're lifting. Put your toes up on the block, tip-toe, and let your heel rest against your standing leg. I had never seen that variation before, either, so I thought I'd share for you!

Eagle Pose
Then I did Eagle pose, just for fun! This is the thing we all did as kids on the playground, not knowing it was a Yoga pose at all! Put your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing each other. Cross your right arm over your left. Now, bending at the elbows, touch the backs of your palms together. If you can, go a little further and wrap your fingers all the way around so the fingers of one hand meet the palm of the other. Try it again with the other arm crossing on top first. One way might be easier than the other right now. To complete the full Eagle, do essentially the same thing with your legs! Stand flat on one foot. Bend the other knee, wrapping your other foot around your standing leg, ending with it behind the calf of your standing leg. You can squat down a little more than what I was doing here to really get into it.


Warrior I, top row (Left/Right)
Warrior II, bottom row (Right/Left)
Warriors! This is my Warrior I and Warrior II, facing each direction. Yikes--these are NOT my best Warriors! In the top row, Warrior I, my stance isn't as wide as it could be. Today's class was the first in which the instructor had us take Warrior I with our back foot at a forward forty-five degree angle. I'm used to letting it angle backwards, and getting a much deeper lunge. With something as simple as my back foot being turned the other way, I'm stretching all new muscles and my stance entirely changes. I need to work on this one some more! Also, in the right-facing Warrior I (top right), my hips could have been more square. I squared them off in the left-facing Warrior (top left) but didn't make that extra point to do so when I switched sides. I can see the difference. Can you?

In the bottom row, my Warrior II, I think I was limiting myself to the space of the frame because I wanted to see my feet, because these lunges could be significantly deeper for me. You can see that in the left-facing pose (bottom right), my stance wasn't wide enough, because my knee is ahead of my ankle. In the right-facing pose (bottom left) I kept my knee in line over my ankle as I should, but didn't lunge very far anyway. There are so many little things to think about and get into your muscle memory!

Mountain Pose, Hands to Heart
Ending my standing practice poses in Mountain Pose, but with Hands to Heart center as I usually end my practice. And while checking in with my meditation app (which I'll talk about in the future), I was sure to include as my final emotion that which we had used as this evening's class intention:

Intention: "Non-Judgement"
(SB&T app)

Thank you so much for reading! I'll very likely share some more progress in the future as I continue to attend classes and improve. I can already feel that my Downward Dog is much improved, but I didn't record it to review today, so we'll see!

Namaste,

Blessings~
-C-

26 March, 2015

Prayer & Blessings: A True Story

Hey, Readers,

I have a little story to tell you! Today I was on the phone with my mother, Rev. Rose, and she told me about her trip to the doctor's office. My mother is the kind of person who likes to strike up conversations with strangers at public places like the grocery store, the post office, and yes, even the doctor's office waiting room. I admit that I made fun of her a bit for this when I was younger, but now I do it, too, and I find that it more often than not brightens the day! This time however, my mother struck up a conversation with someone who was not so day-brightening. Allow me to dramatize, a bit, the story my mother conveyed. The conversation happened as presented here, as told to me by my mother, and I will attempt to convey by narration the speaking tones which my mother mimicked to me on the phone. But I admit the theatrical details are fleshed out by yours truly. Enjoy!


~

Rev. Rose was waiting in the lobby to be called back to see the doctor when she turned and said hello to a woman seated nearby. The woman, incredulous, eyed her with some disbelief.

"Are you talking to me?" croaked the woman, the strain in her throat audible even from so few words.

"Yes," Rose replied, "I said hello."

The woman shook her head, as if to begin again and clarify her meaning. "Are YOU actually TALKING, to ME?" she emphasized, as best she could between wheezes, the absurdity she found in this situation.

Rev. Rose blinked, confused. "Yes, I am." Then, unable to ignore the woman's discomfort, she asked, "Are you okay?"

CAGH. The woman made a sound that probably was meant to be a short, derisive laugh, but with the constricted feeling in her throat, came out more as a cough. "Do I SOUND, O-KAY?! I have ASTHMA."

"Oh, I'm sorry." Rev. Rose felt she could relate a bit, here, so she went on, "I have emphysema. It used to be really awful. It's gotten a lot better since I quit smoking three years ago."

Unimpressed by this, the woman countered, "I quit smoking FIVE years ago. But no one gives a shit about ME, though, do they?!" The snap in her voice made this general statement sound almost personal, as though everyone in the waiting room were individually responsible for the state of her health.

Seeing that her attempt at polite conversation had not been as welcome as usual, Rev. Rose sought to end the conversation, though she did genuinely feel for the woman and hoped her lot would improve. "Well, I'll pray for you," she offered.

"Don't BOTHER!" The sound scratched its way through the woman's vocal chords like so many small, taloned beasts. And then, by way of explanation, added, "I'm PAGAN!"

"Well, my daughter is Pagan," said the Rev., missing not a beat. "I pray for her and she doesn't mind. She thinks of it as any other kind of positive energy or blessing and finds it welcome so long as it is positive. Just because you're Pagan doesn't mean I can't pray for you."

"Why would you WANT to?" inquired the woman, not so much speaking from the doubt that perhaps she could be worth a prayer, but with the dismissal she had for any talk of prayer at any time.

To this, the Rev. Rose merely responded, "Because I'm Christian."

A beat.

With a softer voice, perhaps, than before... The woman lost a bit of her hostility, just for the moment, as her curiosity got the better of her. "You're Christian, and your daughter's Pagan?" She paused. "Really?"

It was not a challenge. It was an inquiry.

"Yeah," said Rev. Rose. "There's nothing wrong with that."

"Rose?" called the nurse.

Great timing, thought Rose, as she arose and gathered her things. She looked back toward the sore-throated woman, who seemed just a little less sore than before. "Have a blessed day."

And with that, she walked away.

~

"You should have said 'Blessed Be'!"

"I SHOULD have! Oh well, I still said 'have a blessed day'."

"Wow, Mom, that lady must have been in a bad mood!" mused Cara after all was told.

"I don't know," said her mother. "I got the feeling that was just how this lady lives her life, always kind of down on her own luck, thinking no one cares, and why should anyone?"

"Well, I'm sorry she felt the need to bring in her being Pagan as a reason not to pray for her. That's not a very positive way to introduce the concept to someone. I'm glad it was you and not someone else!"

"Yeah, she probably never expected me to really know what it was, let alone have a Pagan daughter! I could see why some people wouldn't like Pagans, though, if that's how they all acted all the time."

"Right!" said Cara, hitching her purse further over her shoulder to reach for the door handle, shifting the phone by her ear. She was arriving home from her workday, and this was just another mother-daughter conversation. "At least you know about Paganism. If it had been someone else who didn't, it may not have gone well! I wonder if she was just saying that in order to be antagonistic, because I know a lot of people don't like the stereotypical 'I'll pray for you' line."

"She probably should have said she was an Atheist. Pagans pray. They believe in positive energy and blessings."

"Well, I don't know. Most do, anyway, if not all," said Cara. "If Sheldon had been there instead of you, he would have talked about prayer. That would have been funny! He'd say 'I'll pray for you'--he does say that, because he does pray and that's important to his path--and she'd say 'Don't bother, I'm Pagan' and he'd say 'SO AM I! I didn't say I was going to pray to the Christian God for you!'"

"That would be funny," Rose agreed. "I would pray to the Christian God, though."

"Yeah, I know, but he wouldn't," Cara said, "And you never said you were Christian at first, she just assumed it because you said 'pray,' but lots of religions pray."

"That's true," said Rev. Rose.

Cara went on, as she is wont to do, "And it's good that you also know that not all Pagans are alike, because then you know that not all Pagans are nasty or evil like some people think, and not all Pagans are happy-go-lucky tree-huggers, either. We all have bad days, and there are good and bad in every group."

The conversation went on for a few more minutes, with Cara giving examples of differences within the Pagan community, and certainly her mother started to drift in and out of full attention to the subject. But then, after the more mundane details of their days were covered, they said their goodbyes.

"Have a blessed day!" The smirk in her mother's voice was audible.

"Blessed Be!" came the sugary-sweet reply.

Laughter, sent over wires and waves, swept along and away like the convergence of so many small, bubbling streams.

~


(The second story, above, is admittedly even more theatrical than the initial story as far as my embellishment is concerned. I cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of the dialogue in that second conversation between my mother and myself, because there was so much said, and we speak in so many circles, that I must have rewritten it three times as I kept remembering things that we said! I hit the main points in the order they occurred and just filled in a few things in order for it to make sense as a linear story.)

I must also say that this reminded me of something the Deacon said when I took my grandmother to Christmas Mass at her church this past winter. He was telling news, current events at the time concerning Muslims in Australia, and commenting on the way that some people didn't think Christians should be helping the Muslims who were fearing for their lives. In contest to this, he said some words that I greatly appreciated, even (or especially) as a non-Christian, non-Catholic: "We care, not because they are Christian, but because we are Christian."

The religion of the asthmatic woman mattered not one bit to my mother in her decision to wish her well. Why would she want to? Because she wants to. She prays, not because everyone else is Christian (because they are not), but because she is Christian.

May we all have as clear a picture of what our religion means to us, and live it positively.

And may that woman learn that she is, in fact, worth a number of prayers.


Blessed Be!

Blessings~
-C-

18 March, 2015

Strengthening Spirituality - Blog Prompt

Hey, Readers!

There are, as always, a cluster of related and unrelated things that I want to blog/vlog about at any given time, and that often results in my not knowing WHAT to post, so I end up not posting. It's a bad habit many of us get into. Today, however, while researching for my Tuesday PaganPerspective video on Pagan views of marriage/gender roles, I found the "Mom's a Witch" blog, and the Pagan Blog Prompts. So today I'd like to write using one of the blog prompts from February. Enjoy!

What is something you can do this month to bring you closer to the Goddess? 
How can you strengthen your spirituality?

I know for a fact that when I make the time and put forth more effort towards my spiritual practice, the rewards are great, but for some reason, with my life being as busy as it sometimes is these days, that doesn't make it any easier to actually do it! However, there are a few things that I can do periodically that help, and with spring fast approaching here in the northern hemisphere, some of my favorite things will be timely and simple ways to be closer to the Goddess:

  • Gardening! I love caring for my potted plants, and it's about time to start some new ones from seeds.
  • Similarly, this is a great time to start walking outside again. With good weather comes good nature walks.
  • Many forms of reverence. There is always the option to pray more, sing more, dance more. Do Yoga more. Paint more. Whatever works.
  • Celebrate with others when possible. It always feels better to me to share with others, even though I have a solitary practice most of the time. It also helps keep me accountable to observations. =)
  • Treat everyday chores as a gift to the Goddess, or at least an opportunity to connect with the elements. I do this often, anyway, but it's always a big help.

Here's looking forward to spring!

Blessings~
-C-

14 January, 2015

Reading in 2014, Part Two (July-Dec.)

Hey, Readers!

If you missed the post about what I read in the first half of the year, check it out here. Otherwise, I'll get straight into it! These are the books I read in 2014 after July 10th, where the previous post left off. Enjoy!

Sweep (series) by Cate Tiernan | Books 1-7
I read Books 1-7 of this series in July. (No, I really hadn't read them before, Erriender! =P) I checked out a few at a time from the library and was surprised to find that they were very quick reads--that is, if you have several hours to spare in a row--and I read each one within an evening/night after work. Sweep is about a girl who, after meeting a dazzling handsome new-in-town boy who happens to be a witch, begins to explore her own curiosity about magick and learns some secrets about herself that she never even dreamed could be true. It's a bit typical in that way, and yet the series has much more than that. In the early books, I found myself incredibly jealous of the characters, thinking "Where was that person when I was in school, who would come in and say proudly that they were a witch and offer to teach me? And why didn't all my friends want to form a coven with me and learn about magick?!" Cate definitely has something going there that we can relate to! The series is fifteen books, but I'll get back to the rest in a moment.

Sweep #1-3 and Dance of the
Dissident Daughter
Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
I had finished Part One of this book by the time I read the first three books of Sweep, so I thought I'd include it in order here. Sue Monk Kidd is perhaps best known for her novel The Secret Life of Bees, but had been a successful Christian memoirist/author for some years prior. DDD, as I came to abbreviate it, is the story of how, about the time she was in her 30s, Kidd experienced a "feminist spiritual awakening," moving from her previously held beliefs to those that were more personal to her and her experience as a female. This book is, to put it simply, beautiful. I was inspired a great deal by this book. Not only does it include many experiences she had which are very ritualistic, Pagan, natural, and archetypal, but it also includes stories of her struggle with her Christian identity melding with her feminist identity, such as her trips to monasteries--which she would make fairly regularly for a get-away--and how she began to feel about her relationship with the church. She also tells of the troubles this new awakening caused within her marriage and how it affected her family. The opening tale, about the day in the grocery store when it all sort of clicked into place for her, is haunting and empowering. I was hooked from that moment, though I didn't finish reading the book until the beginning of September, having read it steadily all through August as I finished Sweep and another book:

The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers by Frank MacEowen
Leant to me by a friend who knew I would enjoy it, The Mist-Filled Path also took me a while to complete. I would read a chapter or so at a time, beginning at the end of May (I did not mention it in the previous post because I knew it would be a while until I finished it!) and completing it mid-August. So much of this book was great, and I loved reading through it. However, there were several parts that seemed to drag for me, and at those times, I read only a bit at a time and set it aside for later. There are many great anecdotes and personal stories from the author. There are also sometimes too many, at which times I found myself not really caring about that particular experience, nor did I know what it all had to do with the subject all the time. Still, beyond those sections, there was a lot of wonderful content. Connecting the worlds of Celtic Paganism and the new religion of Christianity, uncovering the bridge that is Celtic Christianity, MacEowen provides a link that, while we all knew was there, perhaps we hadn't seen or thought about very much. His discussions of this overlap had me daydreaming a story about how my own lineage was somewhat similar--my mother's family coming from Italy and thereby Roman Catholicism, and my father's heritage stemming from the greener isles of Europe--from the bright sunshine on the Mediterranean to the mist-filled hills that overlook the Irish Sea. But here I go with personal anecdotes. =) In addition to having knowledge of historical Celtic practices, and having some experience with them, as well, the author also includes exercises for the reader to do at different times throughout the reading. Some of them are simple, meditations or activities you could complete on any given day, and others are a little more involved, requiring a bit of time or preparation. I finished the book on the plane on my way back home from Los Angeles, stopping a few times to draw something that the book made me think of. In this way, I've also taken more away from this book than just what I actually remember from the text, and I hope you will, too.

Sweep (series) by Cate Tiernan | Books 8-15
I read #8-14 in August and #15, the final book which is twice as long (finales often are!), in September. I've already talked a bit about Books 1-7, but in this latter portion, there were more than a few surprises. I'm not sure if this would normally constitute spoilers in itself--I know some parts would, so I will leave those out for you--but this surprised me, so I'll mention it but leave out specifics. The series starts in the point of view of Morgan, the girl alluded to earlier. However, after nine books of her as narrator, Book 10 switches to another character's point of view! All the books have an element of other character's perspectives in them in the form of journal entries that begin each chapter, but the entire tenth book is from someone else's perspective. After that, the rest of the series either pops around to other perspectives, or switches back and forth between Morgan and another character. Every time, I was so surprised by what was going on with the perspectives that I texted my friend/co-worker who I had been telling about the series. "Guess what? The next book is someone ELSE'S point of view! What is happening?!" It's not a convention in most books I read. I enjoyed it, after getting used to the fact that it was going to happen at various times. Don't get used to Morgan just because you shared nine books with her, alright? (Oh, and as a representation of witchcraft, sure, this series does have some pretty fantastical elements to it, and it discusses the very popular view of "light vs. dark" in a way that many practitioners don't agree with personally, but it's a fun read and overall, it probably wouldn't be awful if people had this series as their jumping-off point for what witches are like. The characters are real in ways that show their flawed humanity as well as their good nature--for those to whom that applies--and while there are some moments that would call for special effects if it were a movie, the majority of the coven meetings and rituals and spells are very true-to-life at their core.)

The Cassie Rivers Adventures (series) by Christin Keck
I met the lovely witch in charge of the Cassie Rivers novels at Cleveland Area Pagan Pride in August. I purchased the four books currently finished in this series then and there, and she signed the first one for me.

The Cassie Rivers Adventures
by Christin Keck, Books 1-4
  1. The Goddess Loves Your Shoes | As an introduction to Keck's work, I'm happy to say the feeling of this book holds up throughout. Obviously, I found this the most enjoyable because it was the first one I'd read, so I already knew what to expect with the rest and wasn't as pleasantly surprised when I read them all. But this book set the stage for Christin's amazing sense of humor (she likes the occasional pun), dirty jokes and all. It also has some great characters that had me wondering whether Christin knows the same people I know, or whether there are really so many people like this in the community that they've become a kind of archetype! Oh, man, it's a good read.
  2. Altared States | So many new elements in this book, and I don't just mean cross-cultural representations of the spiritual elements. This book has more fun with the same characters, as well as some new friends, and new troubles. How does she come up with this stuff?!
  3. Infantasia | You know when your mundane life gets in the way of your magickal life? Well, sometimes it happens the other way around, too! Cassie is seriously in over her head... I think.
  4. Mini-Apple-Loss | A wild ride through archetypal reality for Cassie and the gang! Still hilarious, possibly even more magickal, and way more "wtf" moments. Well, I guess that depends on the reader, doesn't it?
  5. Wrestling with Evil | Check out Christin Keck's webpage for more info on this book, which she's working on now! http://christinkeck.webs.com

THANKS!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Dr. Robert Emmons
I got this book from a friend who was getting rid of some books. I chose it because I wanted to give it to Sheldon Slinkard, because he had done a "thanks-giving" project with Pentacles of Pride, so I thought he might appreciate it. I wanted to read it before I gave it to him, of course, so I started it in September and aimed to finish it by the time I got to Arkansas in October. I ended up finishing it on my last night in Arkansas while staying with Sheldon, so I could give it to him before I left. This book is reminiscent of the work I did in my Stereotyping & Prejudice course, as much of it is discussion of various gratitude and thankfulness studies and their perceived effects on people. But rather than being exactly like reading the empirical research report, Dr. Emmons lays it out in a conversational tone, translating what the studies show into what it actually means for us, and how we can use the things they learned in the studies to our advantage. There are so many benefits to living a consciously grateful life and taking time for gratitude, in multiple areas of life. When I started reading this, I had just done (or was in the middle of) a gratitude challenge on Facebook, where you post three things you're grateful for or that bring positivity into your life every day for five days. That, coupled with this book, helped to put it all into a practical perspective. After Sheldon read the book, he posted a video review of it, which you can watch here.

Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley
Written in the form of a diary, this historical novel tells the story of an Irish nun named Gwynneve, who is living at the cloister of St. Brigid. Chapters alternate between Gwynneve's experiences and tribulations in the present, and stories of her childhood and upbringing as a Pagan. The novel is written as though it were translated directly from Gwynneve's journals, giving it an even more deep feeling of authenticity than the research and background itself. There is also a beautiful cyclical nature to the book, should you be the type to remember certain details all the way through. If not, it's worth a re-read. 

Confessions of a Pagan Nun and
The Lythia Tradition of Paganism
and Witchcraft
The Lythia Tradition of Paganism and Witchcraft (First Edition) by Sheldon Slinkard
This is Sheldon Slinkard's first book, introducing the wider world to the unique tradition of Paganism in which he was raised, and which he still follows. Having read this book and also spoken in depth with Sheldon about it and his faith, I can tell you that this particular book, in its first edition, was never meant to be anything more than the most basic introduction to Lythia. That is, this book is essentially an acknowledgement that Lythia exists, and has for centuries. Upon finishing this book, the reader should not consider themselves versed in the beliefs and practices of Lythia Paganism. If it intrigues you, however, and you want to learn more, then be sure to look out for the new revised edition of this book which will be published down the line. I happen to be one of the editors. The new edition will be slightly expanded from this edition, going a bit more in depth, but will still not be a guidebook to following the faith for yourself. Believe me, as an eclectic practitioner, when I say to you that the amount of information given thus far about this beautiful faith which has not been shared with the general public before now, is simply not enough to consider oneself Lythia. There is much more to it--I picked Sheldon's brain for hours while I stayed with him for a week last year and still barely scratched the surface! This book does, however, share various prayers and similar "snippets" of practice that are suitable for adaptation and use in your own path. Look out for the new one in the future!

The Dangerous Old Woman (audiobook) by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
There is a subtitle to this, as well: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype. I'm currently reading--slowly, a section at a time, and not even every day--another of Estés' books, and I loved listening to this audiobook in order to hear her voice with the words. The audiobook is in six sessions, and each one focuses on different aspects of myths and fairytales related to the Wise Woman. Each session also ends with a blessing, whether it be a simple prayer, a poem, or a meditation of sorts. Some beautiful and powerful quotes come from this narration, also. One of my favorite parts is when Dr. Estés asks, if you were accused of being a Wise Woman, what evidence would they find, in your heart, in your mind, to prove it? She tells stories of her wise and wonderful Aunt Edna, examines tales such as Snow White, the Weavers, and the Ruby Red Fox. You know it's going to be good when it's session one, she's barely said hello, and your body responds to her voice with tears. You know it's going to speak to your soul, about your soul.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder
by Eli Brown
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
This book was leant to me by my boyfriend right around Thanksgiving. He had wanted his mother to read it, but she hadn't had time yet and left it at home. I had time, so I started it. It's a novel set in the 1800s, written from the perspective of a chef who's been kidnapped by an infamous pirate captain. In addition to being held hostage on an insufficiently provisioned pirate ship, the chef is required to cook a new meal for the captain once a week, and meals may not be repeated. Without so much as a proper stove, this task seems daunting, but the chef deals with many more challenges while in residence on the ship, and not all of them culinary. It's a gripping read, and one that really doesn't take very long if you have a few hours a day to devote to it--and you'll want to keep reading. Whether your thing is pirates (I could imagine the professor who taught the History of Pirates colloquium/seminar that I TA'ed for, or the students in the class, really enjoying it), clever culinary techniques, or period action/adventure/romace stories, you'll get fired up over Cinnamon and Gunpowder. (Hey, do I sound like a reviewer now, or what?)

-----

That's forty-four new books read this year, not counting the audiobook. I also re-read two books in 2014, which I talked about in the Jan.-July post. I finished two books this year that had been previously started and left undone: The Goddess (Living Wisdom series) by Shahrukh Husain, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I also read eight plays this year, four of which were mentioned in the earlier post, and the latter four which I will discuss briefly here:

The Velveteen Rabbit, a play adaptation by Elise Kauzlaric,
based on the story by Margery Williams
This is the classic story of a boy and his toy bunny, discussing the nature of love and reality. Many stories incorporate the theme of toys becoming "real" when their human owners leave the room, but this story takes it a step further and asks, "What is real?" The play adaptation calls for the velveteen rabbit to be played by an actor dressed in a rabbit costume, which changes along with the state of the toy rabbit's fur in the story. Their legs would also be restricted in the costume, since the toy cannot move like living rabbits can. I'd like to see a production of it sometime, but reading it is enjoyable, as well.

The Beauty Pageant by Joh Mann
This is a short murder mystery play written for dinner theatre. I was involved in a production of this in November, playing the role of Ima Y. Nebrat. Yes, it's that kind of show! It has a few alternate endings, so that it can be different each night if there are multiple performances, but ours was a one-time performance for a fundraiser for the theatre. The actors are also supposed to choose their own talents for the talent portion of the pageant, based on whatever the actor is actually good at. My character was from Brooklyn, and the director asked me to sing, so I sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, in a Brooklyn accent, while wearing a DIY t-shirt recon hipster Ariel costume. You're welcome.

The collage of Beauty Pageant photos that I made for my
Facebook banner the week of the show.
Things My Mother Taught Me by Katherine DiSavino
I auditioned for this play along with my friend, but we didn't get cast, unfortunately. It would have been so fun! This play is about two young people, male and female, a couple, who are moving in together for the first time when their parents unexpectedly show up to "help." Well, it's unexpected to one of them, and so are a lot of things, really. This play is funny, heartfelt, and pretty close to home for anyone whose parents have ever really, really tried to help. And in some ways that we don't expect, they do help, and we remember the lessons we taught us that we don't remember learning.

The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard
Many people know Tom Stoppard for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the retelling of Hamlet through R & G's point of view. But he has done oh, so many things, from playwriting to screenplays to radio plays and translations of plays... Earlier in 2014 I read his play Arcadia (see the first part, linked at the beginning of this post). The Real Inspector Hound is a sort of parody, poking fun at other murder mystery plays, specifically Agatha Christie's. The title is a reference to one of her stories. I'm currently (in Jan. 2015) in a production of this show--sorry, no photos yet as we're just in rehearsal!--playing the part of Felicity Cunningham, the young actor who may or may not have slept with a critic in hopes of getting a good review. But this play is also a play-within-a-play (Stoppard does seem to like the meta-forms of things, plays within plays and blurred lines where you're not sure what's what and who's who and what's real), so I'm an actor playing an actor playing Felicity Cunningham, but at times, the real world converges upon the inner play. Read the play; you'll see!

~

And there you have it! The things I read (and an audiobook I listened to) in 2014. I witnessed (that is, I was in, involved with, or went to see) nine plays in 2014. I also kept track of the new movies I watched in 2014--not every movie I watched, only those that I had never seen before--as well as the new TV shows I watched. If anyone's interested in hearing about those, or probably just seeing a list, I will put that in a separate post. And as always, I got several new books in 2014 which I have not yet had the chance to read!

Thank you for reading! Reading about reading. Very meta.

Blessings~
-C-

11 January, 2015

"What's Pagan?": Explaining the Bracelets

Hey, Readers,

This is copied from a Facebook post of mine, which I just posted, and which you can find here. I just thought I should share it here, too, for maximum documentation. Read on!
My bracelets are clearly visible in many of my
self-portraits, since I'm right-handed and wear
them on my left! This one clearly shows all three.

~

A Pagan viewer sent me a message with a story of someone giving them literature about Christianity. Asking my thoughts about it, they of course received a long reply with a few personal stories of my own. While writing, it occurred to me that I haven't yet shared this very recent story with you all! So here it is, copied from the message I just sent them in reply (with added paragraph break). Enjoy!

---

I'm a server for my day job, and I wear a Pagan Pride wristband to work every day, along with one from the LGBTQ group at my significant other's grad school, and one from the This Star Won't Go Out foundation. Usually people don't comment, but every once in a while, someone will ask me to tell them about my bracelets. I always start with "This is from the LGBT group at my significant other's grad school, and it says 'NO COLOR LEFT BEHIND.'" Then I quickly mention, "This one is from Pagan Pride," and move on to the heart-wrenching story of Esther Earl and the This Star Won't Go Out Foundation. I open with something I think most people are becoming aware of if not accepting, and close with a distracting tear-jerker, attempting to completely bypass any possible conversation that could come from the middle bracelet. And usually this works! Only ONE time, just before or after Christmas this year [2014], did I have a woman stick on the Pagan Pride topic.

It was a table of six middle-aged to older ladies, mostly dressed in festive Christmas attire. I did my usual run-through, and when I said "This one is from Pagan Pride, and this one--" a lady cut me off. "What was that one?" she asked. "Pagan Pride," I repeated, before moving on to TSWGO. At the end of my heart-warming story about Esther's activism, the woman again said, "WHAT Pride?" "Pagan," I responded, matter-of-factly. "What's Pagan?" she asked. Oh, boy. Here we go, and I don't have time for this, LITERALLY, I've got three other tables to get to... As quickly as possible, I said "Paganism is a term for a large group of religious beliefs. It's a long story, I don't really have much time to tell you all about it! Could I warm up your tea while I'm here?" and I got out of there quick! I told my bosses, who know I'm Pagan, about how I wasn't sure how to react since that's the first time anyone ever went back to the subject. I told them how crazy I thought it was that I was comfortable with talking about the LGBT group, but still so wary of revealing that I'm Pagan in my workplace. However, it all played out fine, because apparently those ladies told my bosses that they thought I was the most adorable thing, and that they enjoyed my service. I made it out of that one alright and had no trouble serving them the rest of the day!


Blessings~
-C-

Even in this slightly more artistic mirror photo,
you can see the tiny bursts of color that are my
rainbow, purple, and electric green wristbands.

I was surprised at how many pictures show my bracelets, once I started focusing on looking for them! How many videos do you regularly spot them in? Now that you're looking, you'll notice more!

07 January, 2015

Claiming Untruths

Hey, Readers,

Last night I read a post by my friend on Facebook. She had shared a link to an article about a metaphysical topic of an advanced nature. The comment thread was interesting, but I didn't want to respond because an old friend of mine had commented some ridiculous stuff that I would have a hard time not pointing out. Instead, I private messaged my friend in order to talk about it, but also let her know what I know to be true about what our friend was saying. I did send the message, even knowing that sometimes when I do that, I can come off as a know-it-all, or at least come off negatively in some way. I'm not sure why I do it, other than that for me it's a matter of pride, both in my path, and in being honest. In any case, I'm happy to say that what started as a way of letting my friend know something wasn't exactly right, became a much bigger question when I revealed it more obscurely in my own Facebook post on my public page:

Okay, this is a silly thing, but as someone who's been practicing and studying my path of Paganism/Wicca seriously for over a decade now, and put a lot of my life and energy and heart into it... I have to admit that I get miffed or just straight up have to laugh when I hear people make outrageous claims about their powers/abilities that I know not to be true. I'm not saying people can't develop abilities, or change their ways over time. This isn't about that. But you know how sometimes someone will claim something crazy about their family, and you know their family, and you KNOW it's not true? ("I love New York. I grew up in the city." "You grew up on a farm in Ohio...") Or they'll say they've always done something, but you know they haven't? ("I've always been a great bicyclist. I was practically born on a bike." "Really? Because I'm pretty sure you were 14 that summer you got the nerve up to try, and you fell into a fence. But after that, you were a natural!") 
(Okay, I don't know how old I was, but I definitely learned to ride a bike WAY LATER than most people do. It was my brother that fell into the fence. Yay, fictional examples based on real events!) 
Those are meant to be humorous examples, but you get my drift. I mean, what's so wrong with saying "I learned this later in life" or "I didn't believe this then, but I do now"? Are we ashamed of growth and change so much that we have to pretend we've always been this way? Or is it just some aura of mysticism surrounding Paganism and other Occult topics that makes people want to say "It's been in my family for generations," "I found out my great-great-great-great-grandmother on my married-in uncle's side was Wiccan, so I have great power" (Though not verbatim, I've had someone claim something like that to me before), or "I never even had to try, I've just always been able to do that advanced technique you can't figure out how to do"? 
I mean, maybe they can do it. Maybe their family members all became Wiccan/Pagan at some point. All that aside, why claim things that are untrue? Especially on something like Facebook... Where your friends and family are... Who knew you back then... And kind of know you're padding the truth. Silly. 
(For what it's worth, I would LOVE to learn more about my ancestry and trace back to those who would have practiced a form of Paganism. That would be so cool to know! But it wouldn't change the truth. 
My grandmother is Roman Catholic, born in Italy. My mother is a Universal Life Church minister and Spiritualist Christian. And I'm a Witch [Check all other labels that apply].)

See, it's really not just about what I told my friend. It's not just about one person claiming something that isn't true, but more about why we, as people, do this over and over, in many different areas of our lives. I didn't express that very well in my message to my friend, because that was specific to the truths I knew about the specific situation. I missed the forest for the trees, as it were. In any case, it's sparked a few great comments so far on the Facebook thread, and those have, in turn, made me think of a few more things. If you'd like to check it out, you may do so here: https://www.facebook.com/cutewitch772/posts/775060265900623

Blessings~
-C-