Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ego: Shall We, Again, Rehash this Topic?

Ego has been on my mind as of late.  Not just presented as arrogance or aloofness, but what happens when the ego presents itself in the form of a title?  What happens when the ego presents itself in the form of laziness?  What happens when it presents itself in a form other than what many of us have been trained to pinpoint?  What happens when it is pointed out in that alternate form?  Do you really think declaring shenanigans is going to change things?  Of course not!  The ego is a wily being, just waiting to jump in and 'save the day'.

I often look at myself and how I handle situations.  I often wonder if I allow my own ego to get in the way.  I look at people I know, people I used to know, and sometimes, people I don't know and I recognize certain things.  I recognize those who may need help in one way or another.  I recognize that some of those people don't know they need help.  I recognize that some of those people don't want help.  This is a frustrating thing.  How can I help those who don't want it or think they don't need it?  The short answer is, I can't.  At this point, my own ego gets in the way.  

Instead of doing the sensible thing and simply being, gathering information for when that person does want help, I get impatient.  This is a function of ego and I know it.  I know better and yet I do it anyway.  I feel quite fortunate that I have surrounded myself with those more experienced than I am, so that they can point this out to me.  I don't necessarily like it, but once it is pointed out, my own feelings are then narrowed to a specific source and they tend to make more sense to me.  The light bulb comes on and, suddenly, I can navigate these feelings from a different place. 

What happens when we are presented with someone who believes him- or herself to be 'greater' because of a title that has been bestowed upon him or her?  What if this title only means something in ones group or local community?  A good example of this would be the title of Elder within a regional community.  Elder status is not something that is given by the other Elders within the community (though in certain places, the Elders would have people believe this).  It is a status bestowed by the people in the community, whether a person wants the status or not.  Yes, it helps when the Elders accept the will of the community in regards to said person, but they can not foist Elder status of a person upon the members of the community if said members do not want it.  This is as much a function of the ego as is holding Elder status back from a deserving individual (and ignoring the will of the community).

What about the public shunning of individuals, or leaving them out of group activities, or making a commitment to a person and then reneging on that commitment without so much as a word to the individual?  All of these things have the potential to cause grievous harm, if the individual allows it.  These are all functions of the ego.  Of course, on occasion, the person shunned moves past his or her own ego and sees the shunning for what it is: The will of the gods for them to move on to greater things. Then, *poof* the actions of those who are doing the shunning seem silly and childish and another illusion has been dispelled. 

Another thing the ego does, especially while in a position of leadership, is strokes the ego of those it sees as 'beneath' it, so they do not see themselves as being used.  Have you, dearest reader, ever watched someone turn into a slave?  I have, many times, unfortunately.  People want to be seen as important, worthy, more than they are and they allow themselves to be manipulated right into slavery.  They allow those whom they perceive to be wiser or more than they are to stroke their egos with feelings of importance, saying things like, "You are special." or "The gods have great plans for you." (And many other manipulative placation's.)  

I have always felt myself quite fortunate that I have never had delusions of grandeur.  I do not want to lead vast hordes of people.  I do not want people hanging on my every word because I am 'somebody.'  Yes, I still have issues with wanting to prove myself to others, but not to the point of changing my own will to match that of another person's or allowing them to plant certain suggestions.  I have long figured that if I make a difference in the life of one individual who goes out and does the same, then I have accomplished a great purpose in this life.  If, by writing these simple thoughts down and leaving them on the internet for anyone to read, one person is moved, changed, or even questions anything they have been told, I have accomplished something greater than myself and doing the work is what is most important, not who delivers it or how it is delivered. (And, it is certainly not important for me to jump up and down or do the "Look at me" dance...)

This world has enough 'somebodies' in it.  There are more than enough important people out there who want to stroke each others egos and tell each other they are doing the good work.  They want to tell each other how important they are to the masses and how the masses need them to keep doing the work.  There are more than enough people out there with title and status.  Jesus wanted neither title nor status.  While he is not my god, I do believe he is a good example.  Buddha did not want title or status.  While he is also not my god, he is also a good example.  Both did the work they believed they were sent here to do.  They did what they did and many lives were changed for it.

I walk a path of service: Service to my gods and service to my community.  Let no man's words or deeds hinder that service.  Let no man's will or desire transcend the will of the gods.  So mote it be.

Brightest blessings, friends!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Making a Shadow Mask, Accepting your Shadow

This is part 3 in working with the Shadow Self.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here. Once again, this is not work for those new to the Craft.  This is more for intermediate to advanced practitioners and if you would like to discuss with me what or how you are doing in this process, feel free to email me via the contact form to the right.  I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

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At this point, dear reader, you have been working with your shadow for a few weeks.  You have met and, hopefully, come to an agreement you can both live with.  Your shadow self is enjoying no longer being chained and no long having to live in a dark, empty space.  So, now what?  Now is the time to make your Shadow Mask.  It is time to own this piece of your Self, accept it for what it is.

When I came to this point in my own Shadow work, I was struggling mightily with myself.  My Shadow and I were having lots of fun, most of the time.  She, then, would throw fear, unattached to any trigger, at me.  That wasn't such a difficult thing to deal with, however, when she presented to me the feeling of superiority over others, I struggled.  The notion of being 'better' than anyone (not in a prideful way as if I won a game or competition, necessarily, but feeling superior) caused me never ending repulsion at myself.  Those who know me in real life can see that I am confident and that I know a fair amount of things, but if I come upon something that I don't know, like astrology, I freely admit that I am quite dumb to the subject.  I know what I know and I seek to learn more.

When I found myself looking at the muggles around me and feeling superior because I had experienced some of the mysteries of the world around me that they did not even know existed, I was appalled at myself!  However, that is Shadow Work.  Thankfully, I was learned enough at that point to recognize it for what it was (after the first time it happened, at least).  One day, the feeling persisted.  My Shadow was really putting it to me, and I asked her, "Why?  Why are you doing this to me?  This is not me and we both know it!"

Her response gave me pause.  "You have spent your life ignoring this feeling.  If you do not feel it and recognize it for what it is, then how can you ever keep yourself in check?  How can you keep yourself humble if you don't know what it feels like to think yourself superior?"

Of course!  It made complete sense when put in that way.  It was a horrible lesson.  I was uncomfortable and near tears.  I spent days afterward wondering if that was how the horrible people in my life always felt. (You know the type, those who think everyone is 'below' them and seek to punish those who might overstep their bounds.)  I gained a new perspective on myself and those around me.

This lesson came around the time it was to make my Shadow Mask.  The Shadow Mask is the physical manifestation of the Shadow.  We all wear various masks in life, but this mask is representative of the particular lessons your Shadow is teaching you right now.

Making the Shadow Mask

Making the Shadow Mask can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.  The most important thing here is to carve out enough time to sit and do it.  This can be done within a ritual circle, if you would like, or you can sit at your crafting or dining room table.  Be sure that there are no distractions!  This is a time for you to go inward.  As you craft, bring your Shadow to the fore and ask him or her how they want to be perceived. 

Large craft stores have the plaster crafting strips that you cut, wet, and apply to your face to create a mask that will fit to your facial structure or, as I did, you can use a cheap paper plate (not the styrofoam kind).  From here, use paint, markers, glitter, feathers, beads, jewels, ribbon, or any other crafting supply you have on hand.  

This is your time to be creative and loving toward your Shadow.  In this process, remind your Shadow that you will never chain him or her again.  Remind your Shadow that you seek to come into balance and that he or she has a voice that will not be silenced again.  Build up your Shadow.  I told my own Shadow something like, "Today, we begin to work together in earnest.  Where we were getting to know one another before, building trust, today I manifest you into the physical via this mask.  I do this in acceptance of you and in acceptance of my whole self.  I will wear this mask to honor you.  I will acknowledge this mask in honor of you.  We are one.  We work together.  How would you like to be perceived?"

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Often, this acceptance of our own shortcomings is the most difficult part of the work.  Listening to our own darkness and the wisdom it holds is frightening.  However, if we do not hold counsel with the darkness, we become stagnant.  Only ever standing within the light can cause blindness.  This is why balance is so important.  This is why learning to work with our own negative qualities is needed.  We can not turn 'greed' into 'ambition' if we refuse to believe we are greedy.

Take this time to listen to your own darkness, but remember that you must not become your darkness.  Take your completed mask and put it some place where you will see it every day.  Acknowledge it and reaffirm to it that this is only the beginning.  Ask it how to get around, through, or over certain blocks you have on your path.  Sometimes, we find that it is the Shadow who put those blocks there and it is the Shadow who can move them.

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Shadow Self: Meeting Your Shadow

Apologies, dear readers, for not posting lately, especially after such a wonderful response to my last blog post.  Real life, as it often does, gets in the way, but I should be back, at least for a couple of weeks.

On the topic of shadow work, let me give those of you who may try this a caveat: Shadow work is often intense.  It requires a great amount of self-care (and I don't mean doing this work and then sinking into ones addictions, such as drinking, and going on a 3 day bender).  To face your shadow is to face the ugliest part of yourself.  It is to face those parts of yourself, which you have deemed unsavory.  It is to gaze upon the piece of yourself that you have abused, neglected, or otherwise subjected to horrible things within your life.  This is not easy.  This is not comfortable.  This can be a touch dangerous (as with any magical practice.)  So, tread carefully, my friends, if you choose to embark upon this path.  And, as always, if you would like to discuss your findings once you have begun, then please, feel free to email me using the contact form on the right of this page.

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Since we have discussed, in general, what the Shadow is, I will not rehash that.  Today, I will discuss ways to work with the Shadow, some negatives that can be turned into positives via the shadow, and post a meditation on how to meet him or her.

The inherently negative nature of the Shadow Self and our repression of it reveals many things about the society we live in.  As a culture, we are encouraged to ignore the more unsavory aspects of our personalities and, indeed, look down upon those who might engage in their own negative needs.  The absolute need for everything to be 'of the light' is silliness.  Even the darkness has its place and its usefulness.

We look upon thieves and murderers with disdain.  We look upon those selfish people we know much the same way.  However, those are aspects of the Shadow Self running amok.  If the Shadow wants to kill someone, we have to ask it why?  The reasoning is going to be varied, but it boils down to some reason dealing with the Self.  "This person took my -fill in the blank-."  "This person is a bad apple."  "This person is so horrible they don't deserve to live."

The Shadow can be quite violent if that violence is not released in an appropriate manner.  I knew someone working with the Shadow one time who would engage in violent video games to allow that Shadow Self to be as violent as it needed to be.  This is a good example of allowing the Shadow what it needs, instead of containing it until it reaches critical mass and there is a fist fight over something stupid.  My own Shadow was once quite violent out of frustration from inaction.  I refuse to engage in physical violence.  For me, I allowed her frustration to come out by writing violent and gory short stories.  Once those stories were written, we burned them.  Just because I know that I can be cruel, doesn't mean that I have to act upon that cruelness.

So, if the Shadow can be engaged positively, what are a few symptoms that our Shadows need to be worked with and how do we work these things out without our Shadow taking over?  First, we have to really examine our own behaviors.  (This is the difficult part.)  We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "What are my own issues?"  Do you have a problem with anger, greed, fear, addiction, lack of self-worth?  Are you self destructive or do you simply let others around you run you over?  Obviously, these aren't the only questions to ask, but I find them to be some of the most common.  You have to look within to the things you know about yourself, the things you repress or don't want to admit, to find what you need to work on.  Once this is done, you can go to your Shadow and he or she will give you more things, from my own experience, the things you didn't even know you needed to work on.  Now, let's discuss fear and greed as positives before we get to the meditation to the Shadow.

Most people look at the words "fear" and "greed" and wonder just how those can be positive things.  Fear is an emotion of warning.  "Don't get too close to the edge of that cliff or you might fall!" "Don't go into the deep end of the swimming pool if you can't swim!"  "Don't touch that wild animal, it might bite you!"  Those are relatively healthy warnings of fear.  Being wary of strange dogs and other potentially dangerous situations is what fear can do in a positive manner.

Fear in a negative manner would be things like, "Meeting new people is bad and they will hurt you." "Don't do this new thing because it might not turn out like you want it to." "You know people are horrible, so don't bother with them."  "Don't trust anyone but yourself or you will be let down."  This is the Shadow running amok and putting irrational thoughts and emotions in ones head.

If fear can be good, then how can greed be good?  Greed is an excessive need for possessions or, even an unnecessary need for the best possessions.  It can be 'keeping up with the Jones'.  Greed can lead to the hoarding of stuff or money.  It leads to the irrational need of possessions over people.  Does this mean those who are well off are greedy?  Not necessarily.  Maybe they are ambitious.  I know many people who have what they have and they are satisfied with it, but they work toward the future.  They understand that there may not always be a steady paycheck.  They understand that there may not always be time to prepare for those things, so they work now to make sure that when times are lean they have what they may need. The ambitious strive to keep what they have in lean times while the greedy strive to have everything they want right now.

Having read this far, I hope you are a little more prepared to meet your Shadow Self.  I hope you have taken a good look in the mirror and acknowledged the things about yourself that you don't necessarily like.  Now, it is time to meditate.  Do not be shocked at the actions or state of your Shadow when you come upon him or her.  Assuming you are relatively adept at meditation, I will cut out the relaxation/beginning of the meditation because if you don't know how to begin a meditation, then you shouldn't be trying to meet your Shadow.

Shadow Meditation


1. Find a place you will be comfortable and uninterrupted for at least a half hour and begin your meditation process.

2. When you have reached a place of complete relaxation, visualize a door.  Open it.

3. The door opens to a landing with a corridor stairs spiraling downward.  You count the steps 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

4.  This leads to a second landing.  This landing opens up to a cavernous space beyond the dim lighting, even as the stairs spiral downward more. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

5.  You come to a second door.  It is closed and locked.  There are signs that this door has not been opened in many years.

6.  You know you are in the right place as you open the lock and the door.  You step through to the other side.

7. The room is dimly lit and as your eyes adjust, you take in the features of the room.  You pick up a movement and you walk cautiously toward it.

8.  As you get closer, torches spring to life, illuminating what moved.  It is your Shadow Self.  Look at it.  What have you done to it?  It reacts to your presence.

9. Stand there and watch it, out of reach.  When it stops reacting speak to it.  Begin building its trust in you again.  Ask it questions.  What does it need from you?  Tell it what you need from it. If your Shadow is bound in some way, make a bargain with it and release it.  (If it refuses to bargain, it is up to you if you want to leave it bound until you have created some bond of trust with it.)

10.  You have done all you can for now, so you thank your Shadow for giving you the wisdom you need at this time and you promise to visit often.  You turn around and leave through the same heavy door you came in through.

11.  Closing the door behind you, to ascend the first flight of stairs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and come to the landing.

12.  Once again, the corridor narrows and you spiral up the next flight of stairs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and you have reached the first door.  You walk through it.

13.  Once through the door, you come back to your body, relaxed and refreshed and fully remembering this experience.

14. Write down everything you experienced with your Shadow.  Write down what it told you, how you felt when you saw it, what state it was in, everything.  Write down your bargain with it so you will remember and keep that bargain.

Once you have met your Shadow, it is paramount that you go back to that place and visit.  This is an exercise in trusting yourself and keeping your word.  Please, if you can not do this after care, then do not do this meditation.  DO NOT piss your Shadow off because you won't keep your word to take care of it.  This WILL do more harm than good.  Also, please, use common sense and don't simply do whatever your Shadow tells you or let your Shadow take over.  This is also very bad.

As always, dearest readers, if you are doing this and need to speak to someone who has been through it, you can email me via the contact page (at lightgoddess(at)gmail(dot)com) or you can contact me here.

Brightest blessings, friends!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Shadow Self

Occasionally, one hears whispers of a practitioner doing shadow work.  What is the Shadow?  What, exactly, is Shadow work?  The Shadow is that part of ourselves that we have hidden away in the darkness.  It is that part of ourselves that we do not like or understand.  It is the personification of all that is negative about our personality.  The Shadow is nearly equivalent to the Ego.  Shadow work is working with the Ego and finding that place where we have locked away the things we don't like about our selves.  It's facing our own demons.  When we personify that part of us which we hate, and look at it, really examine it, we sometimes find out that it isn't the monster, but we are.

My own shadow was chained and stripped of her dignity when I discovered her.  She was living like an animal, half-starved, within the darkest recesses of my own soul.  When I approached, of course, she attacked.  She didn't retreat, so I hadn't broken her.  Thank the gods!  I watched her come at me over and over.  She wasn't interested in listening to me for sure.  She eventually tired and I sat down just out of her reach (because I know me and I know how clever I can be).  "Are you ready to listen?" I asked.

She looked at me and growled.  "You know who I am," I said.  "I have come here to let you go, not chain you farther."

Her expression changed from anger to curiosity.

I looked hard at what I'd done to myself.  I was ashamed.  This piece of me was something I had spent many years trying to force to 'be good.'  This piece of me was untamed.  She sat back as I released her, not saying a word, but not really trusting me, either.  My Shadow contained all of my fears, some healthy, some unhealthy, some outright ridiculous.

For the next several weeks, I had many conversations with her.  In reality, she drove me a bit crazy.  I would spend quiet moments at my job trying to concentrate and she would throw alien emotions at me, images of horrific things, or worse, images of distasteful words and deeds that made her feel powerful and needed, but left me bewildered.  She was challenging me to keep my word that I would not lock her up again.  I spent that time feeling very uncomfortable within my own skin.  Yet, I kept my word.

I became very conscious of my words and, usually, let her have her say (in my mind) before I would respond in earnest to whomever I was talking to.  Occasionally, I would let her scathing wit bubble up and, because it was so out of character for me to say such things, those around me would laugh heartily in surprise.

This, however, is just my experience in working with the Shadow.  I have come to love her very much.  I have been reading things lately that say the Shadow should be destroyed and I completely disagree with that sentiment.  I would never vanquish a part of myself because I find it to be unpalatable.  I would rather discover why I find those things undesirable.  Wicca is a journey of self-discovery, isn't it?  How can I discover anything about myself if I am just destroying the things I don't like?

I see the 'destruction' of the Shadow as the ultimate Ego bait-and-switch.  "I am so learned, wise, etc. that I have destroyed the darkest part of myself, vanquished it forever."  Really?!?  That statement doesn't sound very altruistic to me.  It doesn't sound very learned or wise, either.  The mere suggestion that the Shadow can be destroyed sounds too good to be true.  (Guess what they say about things like that!)

From where I sit, if one believes that the Shadow can be destroyed, then the Shadow has already taken over.  The practitioner has become complacent in his or her learning and believes that no one 'below' them can teach them anything new.  Just the act of seeing people as 'below' or 'less than' is also an act of the Shadow.  (I believe that we all have things to learn from each other, no matter where we are on our paths.)

I have learned a great many things from my Shadow self.  She says, "You have been learning Craft for nearly 15 years! Own that!"  I reply, "You are right, but it has only been nearly 15 years.  That is a mere blip in time for so many more people than me!"  She then replies, "Yes, it is more than some and less than most, but you should still own it.  That is nearly the sum of your adult life!"  So, I own it (mostly, I have just begun to own it and verbalizing it still makes me uncomfortable because I feel like I know so little).

Because I work with my Shadow on a regular basis, I have chosen to recognize that I may have had some experiences others have not.  I choose to recognize that I can bring something to the table in discussions.  In that recognition, I also see that I have to watch my words and deeds.  She is still here and, sometimes, my Shadow doesn't like how things are playing out, so she throws a fit.  She is, after all, still my Shadow.

In the future, I plan on doing a 'Practicals' blog on working with the Shadow, if there is any interest.  It may even become a sub-set in the 'Practicals' series if my beloved readers wish it so.  If you would like to know more about the Shadow or privately discuss some of your own experiences with it, you can always email me using the contact form, or you can message me on Facebook here.

Until then, brightest blessings, Friends!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Practicals: Grounding and Shielding

I have a poll here, and have gotten 2 votes (YAY!!), both requesting to see more practical workings, so I am going to start a series called "The Practicals".  It will be geared more toward the novice to intermediate practitioner as opposed to the newest practitioners of Wicca and the Craft (meaning you should already have some working knowledge of the subject).  The Practicals will discuss briefly what the subject is, why I believe it is important for those who are relatively new (or a good refresher for us all) and then move into ways to work with it in your daily life.
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I am going to preface this with a caveat: Try these suggestions as your own risk!  They are suggestions of things that work for me as well as some that haven't!  If you find yourself trying any suggestion and it failing, remove it by doing the opposite of what you did to add it.  Please, please, use common sense! 

Grounding and shielding were two of the very first things I learned as a wee baby pagan.  I was interacting with people on the internet, one after another, chat room and message board, what I heard from Wiccans, Witches, and pagans across the spectrum, "If you can already meditate, then you must learn to ground and shield."  Since that time and coming to work with the wider community, I now understand the need for such basic practices as grounding and shielding.  Not only that, but I understand the need to teach these things.

More than once I have been to a festival or an open circle where people participating in the main ritual didn't know how to ground after the cone of power was raised and released and, for whatever reason, the HPS didn't do a few grounding chants during or after cakes and ale.  The ritual fell into total chaos, of course, because everyone was high on energy and couldn't or didn't want to let it go.  Even worse, I think, is going to a festival where there is trouble in the host group (or groups) and those emotions aren't shielded from the festival goers.  No one wants to go to a festival and feel the tension, pain, or outright hate between two people or groups of people.  Lastly, is the person or group of people at a festival or open gathering who can't or don't want to control their own energy.  (I prefer to believe that it is option one.)  These people end up being a black hole for energy and then whatever may come back out (sometimes it's no energy, other times it's all of it, just distorted) flies about in a chaotic vortex, much like blending a smoothie without the blender lid.  So, what are some options for dealing with these kinds of people or situations?

First, know your own best practices for grounding and shielding.  If you don't know what works best for you, then you can't help anyone else.  So, we will begin here with the definition of grounding and shielding.  Grounding is "releasing excess energy that has built up from ritual or other vigorous activities."  The best example of this was given to me a several years ago.  One is perfectly grounded in those first few moments after orgasm, when you don't want (or can't) to do anything but lie there and breathe.  I have had those moments after a particularly good ritual, but how do we carry those moments with us in every day life?

There are many meditations for grounding.  The most popular being the Tree Meditation.  Visualizing roots into the ground and limbs into the sky and draining away excess energy and replacing it with earth and sky energies.  Not many of us have time in the middle of our day, though, to sit for a few minutes in quiet contemplation.  So, what then?  I have found many more practical (and inconspicuous) methods through the years.  Some work better for me than others.  The first is carrying a worry stone.  It can be anything from a flat river rock to a specific type of tumbled stone (i.e hematite, for many).

Being a stone keeper, I have always been one to have a collection of rocks and stones.  The Stone People have always spoken to me (even before I was pagan and knew about these things).  Stones are, literally, bits of the earth we can carry around in our pockets or on a piece of jewelry. Those bits of earth carry the same grounding properties as the land they were born from.  When one can't 'be a tree', one can always carry a stone in his or her pocket and touch it when needed.

Another practical way to ground, is to touch a tree.  The Tree People are often happy to take excess energy from us if we offer it.  It should be noted here that if it is autumn or winter, the trees are slumbering or approaching it, so offering them an excess of energy during that time could disturb their rest.  Another option is walking barefoot on the grass, or in the winter, having an indoor plant or two that one can take care of.

Some people also benefit from the use of water as a grounding conduit.  What is better than a nice hot bath or shower after a tough day out in the world?  Water works in a couple of different ways to ground.  If you are one to take magical baths or showers, it washes away the ick of the day both literally and energetically.  Being the element of emotions, it can help to bring troubles into balance thus aiding in grounding.

Once your individual best grounding practice has been found, it will be a case of repeating it until it becomes second nature.  I have come to a point in my own practice that I can ground myself by simply pushing the energy through my own feet or crown chakras, but this has taken me a good, long time to get proficient.

Shielding, I have found, is a bit trickier.  Shielding is "energetically blocking unwanted energy or emotions which may effect us."  I find shielding to be trickier because, so often, some part of us wants to be part of the drama we find ourselves surrounded with.  It can't be blocked if we want this drama.  I also find it to be trickier because the setting of intent must be a very specific thing that must also be well thought out (i.e "What could be the consequence of this particular shield?").  With all of that said, everyone does have natural shields that they have developed just by living life and, for some, these suffice for a long time, sometimes for their whole lifetime.

Probably the most well known shielding technique is the drawing down of the white light of the universe.  In essence, one creates a 'bubble' of white light around them charged with a specific intent.  This technique doesn't work so well for me personally.  I find it to be too generic for my particular needs, but it is definitely a good place to start.

I learned shielding in a very different way from most people.  Where most people learn to shield with the white light, I learned to make specific shields with intentions and layer them on top of one another.  This is both good and bad.  It means that my own shields are very specific and may let things through that I may not want because I have not come across that particular energy or emotion yet.  It is also trying on occasion because my intent may be too broad and it blocks out otherwise good energies.  Also, these layers can be difficult to deconstruct if I need to because they have been in place for so long.

An example of a layered shield would be:

Layer one (right against the skin) is the white universal light.  It allows everything in except for the lowest of energetic vibrations.
Layer two (just on top of that) is a finely woven net of a specific color.  This shield allows the finest bits of energy to seep through so that I can feel what is going on around me and choose to let it in or not.
Layer three is a looser woven net of a specific color.  This shield allows more energy to filter through.
Layer four (the outer layer) is a bubble of some specific material (glass, a mirror, a soap bubble with a sheen, etc.).  This shield can be the most or least protective, based upon intent, but also the most tricky.

Imagine, if you will, this particular shield configuration with the outer layer being a mirror.  Mirrors reflect.  If one walks into a hostile environment (like someone at work having it out for you) with a mirror as the outer layer of a shield, things could get sticky very quickly.  If one works with someone who is inherently negative, that mirror shield is going to reflect that negativity back at that person.  What happens when our worst qualities are manifest back at us?  If we are unwilling to acknowledge those qualities, then our own negativity intensifies.  So, imagine what it must be like to be a muggle who doesn't understand energy, how it works, or what is happening when one gets back what they put out.  This kind of shield can be quite shocking and agitating.

Let's, for the sake of argument, say one did not make a mirror for an outer shield, but just a bubble of some fine material, transparent both ways.  The negativity projected could get through to the second shield, the first 'net'.  It was then filtered through to the second 'net' and then on to the white light.  What one might feel is a slight discomfort, that intuitive feeling that something is wrong.

This is, from where I sit, what shielding is supposed to do.  It allows us to set intent for the kind of energies we will and will not allow in our lives.  These shields also will protect us from surrounding ourselves with the wrong kinds of people, in general, depending upon intent.  However, shields can also draw to us those who are psychic vampires (usually these are the types who do not consciously feed on people).  They feel that energy, especially good energy, and they want to get through it, to the energy of the practitioner.

Other ways of shielding that I have found work (sometimes with a little trial and error), are charging a body wash, lotion, or oil with a specific intent and then putting it on or charging a piece of jewelry or clothing.

Some of these things work for some people and some of these things don't. When it comes to grounding and shielding, I have very specific things that I do which work for me.  Sometimes they work for others, sometimes not.  What techniques have you found to shield and ground yourself that might not be found in books or online?  What have you found that simply didn't work?  What worked best for you?

Until next time, Brightest blessings, friends!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Never Again, the Burning Times!

When I started my search into all things Craft nearly a decade and a half ago, the phrase 'Never again the burning times' was shouted so often and by so many, I though it was a big deal.  I thought that, maybe, there was proof that millions of witches were burned by the Christians or some such tragedy against our kind.  I found out that there was no proof, but anecdotes of the numbers of witches burned.  More importantly, as it was pointed out by a beautiful and wizened friend of mine, the burning times is about blind obedience.  I say 'is' because, what if we (as a people) never actually left?

Through my years working with the community, first online and now face-to-face, I have seen many instances of title chasing and ego fluffing, which lead to blind obedience.  I have seen and experienced these things.  My Gods remind me that titles are bestowed by men.  Titles can also be taken away by those same men.  Titles lead to chains.  Chains lead to bindings.  Those bindings lead to doing what you are told to do because it's 'right'.   Titles can be sloughed off when they become too restrictive so there is no need for the trappings of doing what you are told because you are X Title.  Titles don't free us from thinking for ourselves.
They are supposed to, if we earn them properly, give us the knowledge and wisdom to make better choices when we think for ourselves.

So, if titles aren't necessary, why do we chase them?  Because, in a group structure, titles imply rank, status, and maybe, just maybe, honor, trustworthiness, and intelligence, among other things.  They have come to mean something more than what they are, a way to classify who has learned what.  I bring this up because I look at many around me who have achieved one rank or another within their particular brand of Craft and I can, sometimes, look directly through the illusions they cast and see the person behind the title.  Sometimes, it takes me a little bit longer to see, but in nearly every instance of parting those illusions, the person I have seen has been someone I didn't want to become.  Sometimes I see past those illusions and I see a person who is very much someone I would like to emulate, though.

I have seen leaders, very knowledgeable people, very dynamic people, inherently good people, with their deeds, if not their words, advocate to their students that it is okay to quit jobs for their Craft, and live on government assistance of one kind or another because it gives the student all the time in the world, then, to learn (or maybe 'fast track' their learning).  I have been the one having my ego fluffed just as long as I was doing what I was told, then, as soon as I stopped doing what I was told (or questioned it, or followed the path my own Gods set out) I was forgotten, cast aside, and no longer seemed to matter.

So, if we, as students of the Craft, are being told that we are taught how to think, not what to think, then why do we get caught up in the illusions of others?  Why do we get wrapped up in the egos of those who 'know more' or who have 'been around longer'?  Why do we, as students, allow them to tell us what our Gods have set out for us, instead of searching for ourselves?  The Burning Times has always been about blind obedience, ego, greed.  Aren't those the exact things that we, as pagans, are trying to transcend?

Now is the time for us, as individuals and as groups, to do a bit of soul searching.  As practitioners are we serving ourselves or are we serving our Gods?  Are we trying to make money?  Do we want minions or followers?  Do we, genuinely, want to see our students be the best people they can be or do we just want someone there to carry on our work?  Do we want our students to challenge us and our vision or do we want them to simply do what they are told?  When do we step out of our, predominantly, Christian way of thinking and wanting to be told what to do, and begin thinking for ourselves, doing for ourselves?

I, for one, remember The Burning Times.  I honor those who burned, Witches and Christians alike.  I refuse to obey blindly, as a cattle to slaughter, those who may or may not have my own best interests at heart.  I look to my Gods for signs.  I listen to the spirit of the trees, the rocks, my animal brethren.  Mostly, I listen to my intuition.  Once I shove my emotions to the side and quiet my own ego, it whispers with conviction the road I must take.  Do you do the same?

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Familiars, Totems, and Guides: What's the Difference? Does it Matter?

There are vastly different schools of thought within the pagan community about animal familiars, totem animals, animal guides, or power animals and what they are, what they aren't, how many you can have, and how you get one.  Obviously, with animal guides, totems, and power animals (and yes, I use those words non-interchangeably for a reason) it will depend upon the path you or your teacher walk as to which words are used and if they are used in an interchangeable manner, among other things.  With the witch's familiar things get even more ambiguous, so we will start there.

In Medieval European folk-belief, the familiar was a spirit who would help the cunning-folk (which they tended to categorize differently from Witches) with his or her practice of magic.  Sometimes this entity would take the form of an animal while other times it might be incorporeal, according to various accounts.  However, for the sake of argument, we are going to focus on animal familiars, the most recognizable concept in most modern Wiccan traditions.

In most modern practices, the animal familiar is a helper with magic.  Traditionally, the familiar is a cat, specifically a black cat, but this is not always the case.  I have known witches and Wiccans with dogs, snakes, mice, cats, and a menagerie of other animal familiars.  In today's world, the animal familiar tends to be an animal that the practitioner has a special connection to.

In the early days of my own practice, I never put much stock into the notion of a familiar.  I had a dog, a very large, caring, and mundane canine, and I didn't see the need to have another animal.  Then, I met a stray Lab.  It was December and she was cold, hungry, and obviously in need of medical care.  (Someone had thought it would be fun to take this gentle soul and carve her up with a knife of some kind.)  So it was, I had two, rather large, blonde dogs.  Belle was a large Labrador Retriever, and I'm almost certain, not 'just' dog.

About a year after bringing her into my life, I was chosen (literally) by a tiny tabby kitten whose litter mates all had names of Greek deities.  He didn't, though.  At about six weeks old, when all of his siblings were climbing on everything and falling and being super adorable, he sat patiently at my feet, watching me, until my sister noticed him and told me to pick him up.  He perched on my shoulder and snuggled into my hair.  I was chosen and had to figure out how to introduce this little guy to my two giant dogs without them eating him.  They didn't eat him and, as a matter of fact, Belle took to him like he was her tiny little brother.  Her tiny little brother, then grew up and became her small-ish brother.  At adulthood, he was as large as a Boston Terrier, weighing in at somewhere around 25 pounds.  (That's a LOT of cat!)

 As time went on, I noticed that the two of them would come into my crafting room whenever I was working energy.  I wouldn't call them, they would just come.  Mr. Mao would sit at the edge of my circle and watch as Belle would dance and wiggle and help me raise energy.  To this day, I believe that I had a familiar and a guardian.  The latter, something that I didn't know could happen (at the time).  Even my very conservative, Christian mother commented on the strangeness of my animals, often telling me that there was 'something not right' about my cat.  He loved her, but his stares unnerved her, I think.

As for animal guides, totems, and power animals, this concept is a whole different beast (pardon the pun).  As a general rule, these labels come from shamanic backgrounds all over the world.  These creatures are purely etheric, generally, and guide us in the astral plane or Otherworlds.  Depending on your flavor of shamanic practice, the 'rules' change in regards to animal guides.

Many moons ago, when I was learning a particular brand of indigenous shamanism, I was taught that the words 'totem' and 'power animal' were synonymous, but 'animal guide' meant something different. In reality, my teacher used the word 'totem' in lieu of 'power animal', but now I don't remember why she had such an aversion (it was around 10 years ago).  So, that being the case (in my own teachings), why was there this clear delineation?

That particular line was drawn because totems had a couple of different categories and you didn't just have one.  There were familial totems and your own personal totem, which meant you could have up to 5 different animals that were with you from birth.  The familial totems were from each of the 4 branches of your family and, to my understanding, were more like guardian spirits.  They were there and, once you began your walk, they guided and protected you.  Your personal totem could be one of these animals, too, or it could be something completely different, and it works in the same way power animals do.

On top of these particular animals, you have 'animal guides'.  These are the animals you meet in the Otherworlds who are there to help you on your journey.  They may or may not manifest in the physical (as an upsurge of seeing them at odd times or experiencing odd behavior from them), but they are there to give you messages and impart omens.  These animals also only stay until it is clear whether or not you learned their particular lesson or received their message.  There is, very much, a transience to their presence.

Since that time, I have learned that there are diverse ideas of totems/power animals and how we get and keep them, but the most prolific is that we all have one and we have had it since birth, no matter how long it takes us to actually discover it.  I find this teaching just as comfortable as the many totems/guides teaching.  It's less complicated.  It's more concrete.  Everyone can identify with it, no matter how much or little they have been exposed to a shamanic path.

If you walk a shamanic path, what are your experiences?  Were you taught something completely different from what I have talked about?  Were you taught something similar?  Do you have any specific thought about familiars and how they come to us?  Did your Wiccan or Craft Tradition teach something all together different in terms of familiars?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this, dear readers.  I am always looking to have my horizons expanded based upon the experiences of others.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!