Sunday, October 1, 2017

Soul Contracts: Evolution Through Experience

I have been thinking about the concept of soul contracts lately. I can not say that I know the origin of the theory, and I know that some people believe the idea to be new age hooey. I'm somewhere in between.While we pagans like to attribute everything to karma, I am of the belief that some of our life circumstances and events our soul agrees to pre-incarnation. I am of the belief that our soul makes pacts with other souls in our group pre-incarnation so that we may evolve. How the situations and life circumstances are handled by the two egos determine the amount of karmic debt that is repaid. This repayment determines how far the scales come back into balance.

For instance, a moderately prominent adult in my own community was recently accused of, what amounted to, molestation by a child. Having known this adult and the child for the better part of a decade now, I would have a difficult time believing the accusations. My own thoughts were that the kid misspoke. Period. However, the person who was given the information, initially, is a mandated reporter. So, of course, once word got out this person had been reported, it was a huge kerfuffle.

The reported adult, let's call her Beatrice, believes that she was reported out of spite. Her friends also believe this. The mandated reporter, let's call him Aaron, has repeatedly espoused that he heard about abuse and reported it as he is required to do, no judgment. The parents involved could not or did not communicate to each other about their children, which is what led to this situation. No judgment. It is precisely what life is made of.

If indeed, a soul contract was made within this soul group of people, this means that seven souls came together and agreed on the general semantics of the situation: one would be the reporter to the authorities, one would be the reported to the authorities, one would be the "victim", one would be the "victim's" friend and secret holder, and the final three would have communication issues that may or may not have prevented the whole situation. Soul contracts sound as complicated as mundane contracts!

Despite that complication, we still aren't even to the heart of the possibilities of the implications of a soul contract. So, to cut down on complications, we will focus on Beatrice and Aaron, since it is their lives that will probably be the most impacted in the long term. (We all know how long adult's memories can be.)

We will talk about Aaron, first. Aaron heard about abuse and, as a teacher/mentor/clergy, is required by law to report it. This is difficult if you don't know all of the people involved, so knowing those involved, I can imagine made it even more difficult.

The one thing I noticed people telling him was that he shouldn't have reported a rumor. Another thing I noticed was that he was told that he should have used 'common sense and good judgment' and gone to the other adults in the situation, including the accused. While that is good, sound advice in most situations, that is not how mandated reporting actually works. Many people, including other mandated reporters, think that just asking an accused abuser if they are abusing is enough to get them to stop (if the abuse is actually happening and not just a wild rumor).

For a mandated reporter, reporting abuse is just that, mandatory. If one does not report suspected abuse, it can be punishable by a fine. That's right. A person can be charged with a misdemeanor.

So, despite the judgment of not using 'common sense', Aaron did just that. He knew, as a mandated reporter, that his job was to not judge a situation. He knew that he should only report it to the proper authorities and make sure that the child was safe. In doing this, he created ripples throughout the community.

Sometimes, we do the right thing and, despite that, we are roasted alive because, let's face it, people have no ethics these days. Aaron was lambasted by our local community. His name was dragged through the dirt, repeatedly, by people calling him various names and accusing him of predating on women. Oh, the libel flew! People kept asking him why he would do such a thing but no one wanted to hear that it wasn't personal. People wanted to believe that Beatrice was just being victimized by another man.

Aaron has stood firm, despite the attacks on his person, his values, and his ethics. He knows that he did the right thing and he knows that no matter how many people tell him he was wrong, he wasn't.

Now, we come to Beatrice. She was accused of molesting a child. She is an inherently good person who, for whatever reason, got caught up in this terrible situation. She, too, is a mandated reporter and should know how that works. This terrible accusation has put her career on hold, among other things.
She now has to battle the stigma of having been accused of something so terrible.

She also has to deal with knowing that her friends, in coming to her 'aid', chose to name call, harass, and accuse the other person. While she may not have actively encouraged this behavior, it was done on her behalf, so those effects are something that she will have to deal with, even if it is to say, "Not my words, not my actions."

So, what can they each learn from this so that they, as universal souls, can evolve? Well, first, these situations create thick skins for those involved. Those who do the right thing will always be accused of doing the right thing due to selfish reasoning. Those who are falsely accused need that thick skin to raise their heads above the mess and move forward.

Another thing to learn from this situation is compassion. What if the involved child was being molested but not by the accused? What if the child was being abused and didn't know how to bring it to the attention of the adults in his/her life because they are so busy being grown-ups that they did not have the time or energy or whatever to listen to the child?

Why didn't the accused 'step out' of her own inadequacies and victimhood for a moment to put herself in the shoes of the one who reported her? Remember, the accused is also a mandated reporter and may, one day, end up doing the reporting. Wouldn't that compassion for the other person also translate to compassion for one's self? I would hope so.

Probably the biggest lesson to learn from this is that knee-jerk reactions to situations show us where we are lacking in our evolution. If our first reaction is indignation or anger, we should ask ourselves why. Yes, false accusations are horrible. They are beyond horrible, however, if one is innocent, there's nothing to worry about. If there's nothing to worry about one can focus on things like compassion and understanding. (And, understand, I'm not suggesting that anger or indignation signals one is guilty. I only suggest that maybe one has something to hide if they are doing whatever they can to get the negative spotlight off of themselves.)

We all experience horrible situations in life. Whether we are accused falsely (or rightly) of some crime or we contribute to or witness death or we just encourage something we should not. Our own actions and reactions suggest what and where we need to learn the lessons we were put here to learn. We have soul contracts in place with people whom we reincarnate with throughout various lifetimes. These people, whether or not our ego knows it, are people whom our soul trusts and whose soul trusts us, to be the best vessel for learning the very tough lessons we must learn and endure.

These souls agree with our own about the varied and potential outcomes within that lifetime. On a soul level, we agree to hurt each other in order to find healing. We agree that our ego may get in the way and that it will add another level of hurt/healing to our soul's journey. These contracts are, sometimes, difficult to digest. Just remember, the next time someone seems to go out of their way to hurt you, maybe you agreed to it before you were born and there is a lesson to be learned from it.

Blessed Be, Friends,
River

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Of Gods and Internet Service

We live in a world where technology is everything and electronics are everywhere. We craft new names and personas for ourselves in cyberspace. We decorate it with art and photography. We forge bonds with people, real people, half a world away and angrily bludgeon our neighbor with our words on social media. We can influence the life of someone we will never get to meet face-to-face. We can live a second, completely different life, in cyberspace than what we live in spacetime. What if the gods reside in cyberspace with us? What if Brigid actively influences a young woman's interest in smithing through ads on Facebook? What if Loki plants the seeds of chaos by kicking out certain letters in emails and thereby changing the words and the meaning of the whole sentence? What if Bast preens in adoration of the billions upon billions of websites dedicated to cat-kind? What if Gwyn ap Nudd is mortified at the seeming ability of humankind of suddenly be immortal? What if our gods are alive and, very much, well because of the internet?

Some months ago, a friend suggested this very notion to me. The gods rest beyond the physical realm. They always have. They rest within a realm of pure energy. Is the cyberspace not that very thing? Is it not a space of pure energy apart from, but not outside of, our own physical realm? Why wouldn't the gods reside there and, importantly, why couldn't they mete out justice in within cyberspace for infractions committed within cyberspace?

Let's just go with the gods influencing cyberspace. Let's say that they have taken residence up there. What could that look like?

Well, what if you spent months or years being a jerk to people who really didn't deserve it? Maybe you spent some time abusing people who didn't deserve it, using them for their money or sex. Or, maybe you lied to someone, broke their heart. The scenarios are endless. You know, Zeus is a big fucking jerk and a god of justice (among other things). How dare you out-jerk him!! SMITE! Maybe your email is hacked or your Instagram. Maybe people get to see that you aren't really a jerk, just scared or hurt or insecure. There's your karma.

Are you a control freak? (I know that I am!!) Maybe the gods remind you that nothing is within your control when your computer gets held hostage by a virus that was embedded in a link you didn't mean to click.  Dammit! Loki, stop touching things!

Don't like someone you see on social media frequently? Does their face make you want to vomit? Why not just block them? No, no, don't be salty. Don't report them to Facebook! Damn. Now, Hera, stop being petty. You don't have to like everybody. What about when one of those stupid 'copy and paste' this posts comes across your newsfeed on Facebook, except it's not one of the stupid ones, but the number to the suicide hotline and you were just about ready to give up. Osirus is reminding you that it isn't quite time.

Is it too far-fetched to believe that Thoth and Minerva and sitting at a table at the local library, laptop screen to laptop screen, staring at each other in awe of our hubris and stupidity? "Do they even know that we have, literally, given them all of human knowledge?" Thoth asks, aghast.

"The greater question is 'do they know they carry it in their hands and pockets' and why won't they use it?" Minerva responds, exasperated.

"Have we failed?" Thoth questions. "Have we failed them so utterly?"

"No," Minerva responds, "some of them are listening."

The world we know is changing and we, as a people, are changing with it. Why wouldn't our gods adapt, too? Why wouldn't they use very real and concrete ways, such as the internet, to influence our thinking? Why wouldn't they use something that this, literally, their realm within our own to their advantage to guide those who are actively seeking?

Brightest blessings, Friends. Thank you got coming along with me on this journey. We are, officially, 100 posts in as of today!
River














Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Cult of Self-Importance and Delusions of Grandeur

This writing may strike a cord with a great many of you, dear readers. If it does, you should take note because I'm probably talking about you. This writing is not meant as a judgment. It is not meant as a verbal takedown of any kind. It is not meant to be any more than a reminder. It is a reminder of who you actually are and where you actually come from. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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Since coming to the pagan community nearly a decade ago, I have noticed a huge culture change. Those who were once our teachers, people who put decades of work into their craft, are being ostracised or pushed into the background for younger, more beautiful, versions of themselves who promise enlightenment in 6 easy steps! These same people are charging their students through the nose for these 6 easy steps and in just a few months time, BAM!! You've bought enlightenment and can go on to be a guru yourself.

The problem is that enlightenment is not easy. What we, as pagans, are doing is very similar to when the Catholic Church sold Indulgences. You can't buy enlightenment, much in the same way that you can't buy forgiveness. We are creating this culture of self-important idiots with delusions of grandeur who believe that they can do as they please without regard to people or consequences. Yes, I used the word 'idiot'. I used the word idiot because it is the idiot or fool who blindly sets out toward a goal. It is the idiot who, in their own blind confidence, plows over anything and everything in their path, leaving a trail of destruction and debris, or as the tarot car suggests, walks straight off a cliff into the unknown that just might be one's own destruction.

We are, literally, seeing that in our communities today. Our teachers and Elders, the keepers of knowledge, are backing into the shadows. Many of them are shrugging their shoulders and letting people be who they are, where they are. Many are pointing out the snake oil salesmen and paying the price. Aside from human nature, why is that?

I suspect it is a combination of several things. First, we think that we can buy experiences. If someone is promising you something that will change your life, it is one of two things, either it's an exaggeration or you are going to have to work at it to change your life. I know more people than I care to count who demand these life-changing experiences. They jump from teacher to teacher, path to path, looking for that next spiritual high. The thing I have noticed is that these people always jump ship or get mad or don't have the time as soon as the studies get hard or time-consuming or super in depth.

In keeping with the 'this is not a judgment' statement, there's nothing really 'wrong' with moving from teacher to teacher. We are free to do these things as we please, however, there is a lesson to learn both the jumping around and from staying. I think they both boil down to 'what are you running from'? Facing the lesson is where the life-changing experience comes from or running to the point the lesson can no longer be ignored, that can also be life-changing.

Second, if you have to insist that you are qualified and repeatedly say fantastical things to 'prove' you are qualified to discuss a topic, then you are not qualified. Period. If you are 20 and claim to be some 10,000 year old Atlantean Fae, I'm sorry, you have just lost me. If you look me in the eye and, at 20, tell me you have the craft experience of someone twice your age, you can damn sure bet that I'm going to start asking you questions. Basic. Questions. And, you damn sure better know the answers.

Now, don't get me wrong, Therianthropy and Otherkinness are absolutely actual things. People absolutely are fae, elves, dragons, spiders, and other beings or creatures. I'd never debate that, having experienced what I have, personally. (See what I did there?? *winks*) However, if you have to announce your race to me as some kind of magical street cred, that lets me know that you pretty much don't have a clue, especially if I am a relative stranger and I haven't revealed who or what I am. If you, in any way, have to 'prove' to me that you're qualified (aside from an offer of credentials or a request for credentials) then, I know that you probably aren't. I also know that you need to feel important or needed or relevant or any number of other insecurities you might be feeling.

As a group, we also have this need to make sure that no one is left out. People like to beat their chests about how inclusive their group is. People like to brag about how the members of their group don't have to 'prove' anything or how they are so compassionate and give others second chances that they might not get otherwise. In a perfect world, this would be how things should be. This is a dangerous mindset, though.

Yes, most everyone deserves a second chance. I wholly agree with that. However, do you allow someone on the sex offenders list in your group because of the story they give you? Do you allow drug dealers, arsonists, and frauds in your group because no one else will give them a chance? If not someone who is a convicted felon, what about someone who likes to steal or lies? I certainly don't want someone who lies to me in my home!

The fact is, we all have some place where we belong. Sometimes that place is on the fringe. There is a lesson in standing on the outside and looking in. There is a lesson in standing at the edge of the group, yet not being included for whatever reason. It is not the end of the world. Sometimes, that lack of inclusion is the biggest blessing in the world! Sometimes, that lack of inclusion means that we do not have to pretend to be someone we are not. It means that we do not have to choose a mask to wear or a dance to perform to placate the people who included us.

Lastly, we live in a world where we are told that we have to be somebody. Extroverts are the best. Overachievers are the best. Leaders are the best. Excel at everything. No! This is out of balance!

Sometimes, it's the introvert who draws up the plans and then stands in the shadows watching the extrovert carrying them out who is the hero of the day. If everyone is a leader, who is there to follow? If everyone is in charge, who is there to do the work? So often in life, the work that needs to be done is the scut work. It's mucking out the hog pen. It's crawling on hands and knees to weed. It's sitting in front of Photoshop for hours on end hoping for inspiration and ending up with a blank screen. It is seventy-two interruptions as you are trying to write a blog and you really, really don't care about your sister's ratchet ass friends, but you listen anyway because that's what is needed from you at the time. That is the important work. Putting yourself and your own wants aside and giving to someone in need.

No, you don't have to be someone. You only have to be someone to the person who needs you the most.  You have to be the best you.

This cult of self-importance leads most people to delusions of grandeur. Once we die and return to the elements, no one is going to remember most of us. No one is going to wax poetic about all of the work most of us did. Once the shock or trauma in the psyche of most people we know passes and we are returned to the earth, our beingness is going to begin to fade. Our realness is going to begin to fade. They won't remember what a great leader we were. They won't remember how hard we worked. They won't remember how many blogs we wrote or spells we cast or tarot readings we got right.

If we are to be remembered, we will be remembered by how much and how often we gave of ourselves. We will be remembered for the kind words to those who were in pain. We will be remembered by the compassion we gave the dying and those whom they left behind. We will be remembered by how much we lied. We will be remembered by how we disdained people and how we went out of our way to hurt them. We will be remembered, not by how relevant we wanted to be, but how relevant we actually were and how we fed and nourished the people around us.

Don't fall into the cult of self-importance. Don't convince yourself that if you just... Then you'll be loved/liked/wanted/happy/whatever. Do the right thing. Do the thing that benefits others above yourself. If you have extra, give, be, do and do it because you can. Being a selfish twat never benefitted anybody.

Brightest blessings, Friends!
River

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Internet Trolls: A Lesson in Relevance

Recently, my local pagan community has been experiencing some drama, as happens when you put large groups of people together. The drama surrounds a teacher, who is a mandatory reporter, reporting some alleged abuse that was (thankfully for all involved!!) proven to be false. As happens when humans are involved there has been this huge, public, backlash because some people are less than honest and have admitted they would have looked away from the allegations using 'common sense' to determine they were false, while others of us would have just reported it as we are required by law to do and let the proper authorities investigate it and determine if anything illegal had been done.  To be fair, I do not believe that some of the people who admitted that they would have looked in the other direction have any idea what it means to be a court mandated reporter. I do not believe that they understand as a CMR one does not have a choice in the matter.  I do not believe that they understand as a CMR reporting abuse is not an option. All that said, as a mandatory reporter myself (due to my job) I publically agreed that what the teacher did was the right thing to do.

This firmly held belief in the law opened me up to an interesting internet troll. I get few of them these days. I suppose it's because I don't engage stupid or emotional well anymore. Without publically humiliating her and just posting screenshots of the attempted bullying, she dropped a lot of f-bombs (my favorite!!), told me I was irrelevant, and then told me to fuck off. I'm not sure where I was supposed to fuck off to since she was the one who messaged me, so I decided to fuck off to right here. 

What sparked my inspiration, though, was her need to invalidate my existence. She told me, a complete stranger, several times that I was irrelevant and my opinion was irrelevant. I'm not sure if that was supposed to make me feel less than or what, but the joke is on her. We are all irrelevant. We are all nothing in this grand work of the universe. All. Of. Us.

Of course, due to my training as a priestess and my inherent nature as a healer, after laughing at her statement of obviousness, I wondered why she would project something like that onto another person. I wondered just how many people had told her that in her life. I wondered just how miserable and emotional and powerless she must feel to think that it is okay to tell a literal stranger something like that.

There are people in this world who are inherently good people. They are good people who are a little too self-absorbed and emotional. They, obviously, haven't read The Four Agreements. I believe this stranger is probably one of those people. Life has wounded her to the point that to feel any kind of power or satisfaction, she thinks that she has to be a complete twat to someone she disagrees with.

Yes, I understand that her friend was hurt by the abuse accusation. I know the accused, too, but I refuse to tell the reporter that he did a bad thing. Because. He. Didn't. I hate that the accused is having to deal with this situation, but honestly, that's a whole other blog (which will happen!!)

Even as pagans, we often forget just how small we are in the grand scheme. In universal time, our three-quarters of a century lifespan isn't even a full blink of the eye. In our very human need to find significance, we will often try to extinguish the light of another if they question our status. We have come to the point of dehumanizing people and it is simply not necessary.

Aren't we supposed to be above such petty and, quite honestly, Christian things? Is it not the church who calls out anyone who questions its authority as a blasphemer? As pagans we really don't have a central authority, so we have all of these people who have read all of the 101 Craft books who think they know something. They forgot to read How to Win Friends and The Four Agreements. They forgot to read and meditate upon The Tao. They forgot to read Hawking and Kaku and they forgot to watch What The Bleep. In their hubris, they focused outward, on being 'somebody', and forgot to focus inward. They forgot about the wounded child or teen or young adult inside who screams and lashes out when something doesn't feel good. They forgot that our outward life is a direct reflection of our inward life. They forgot that because the macrocosm reflects the microcosm, anyone with eyes can see within. If your outward life is one giant pile of shit and struggle, what does that say about your inward life and why would I want to bring that energy into my life?

So, yeah, I'm totally irrelevant, but so are you and you are too blind to see it. In this great, wide multi-verse our existence is the very essence of fleeting. What legacy will you leave? Are you a brave internet troll who loves to cuss out total strangers and hope you somehow make them hurt like you are hurting? Good luck. Are you willing to say and do the hard thing because no one else will? Are you selfish and self-serving? Good luck. Do you give so much of yourself that there is nothing left for you? Do you simply do as you will regardless of the rules and when you get caught blame everyone else? Do you do nothing for fear of retaliation? Good luck with that, as well.

Relevance is a subjective thing in this world. If it gives you a sense of power to treat people the way you feel inside, then great. Do it. You can absolutely treat people the way that gives you the most power. However, when your ego puts you in a place where your belief is absolute and you think you are an authority on the relevance of another sentient being, you are simply being abusive and spreading your own, internal hurts. If you believe that it is your job to tear down another on behalf of yours or your friend's pain, then you are as much a part of the problem as the accused. Why are you not focusing your energy on helping your friend through this tough situation? Wouldn't that energy be better spent building up your friend instead of tearing someone else down?

Yes, let's talk about relevance. Let's discuss the microcosm and the macrocosm. Let's discuss how everything only exists by comparison.

Blessings, dear Friends, and next time you become so emotional that you want to lash out at a stranger, remember that that stranger may be a writer who has readers from all over the world. That writer just might use you and your words of pain as a lesson for others to learn from. Thank you random internet troll for telling me to fuck off after attacking me. As it turns out, I have a lovely place to fuck off to. And, no matter what the people in your life have told you, you matter. You matter inasmuch as any of us carbon meatbags matter on this plane of existence.









Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Fool-hearted Notion of Radical Inclusion

In modern paganism, there are so many wonderful things. We have the ability to pick and choose our deities, our practices, and whether or not we are involved with the community. For all of the good things, however, we are human and our humanity often sees us accepting concepts that, in theory, are great, but in reality are dangerous or naive. Radical inclusion is one of those dangerous notions.

I have seen this scenario too many times: A person comes into the community, makes a few, well-placed friends among the elders, and within a few months the rumors start. The rumors come from various places. They come from someone who has done a background check on this person. They come from someone who has taken a story this person has told and it has been researched to be found false. The list of rumors goes on. Those around the person push the rumors away. They hush the people talking. They assure the people that this person is okay. They diminish the concerns of others by saying things like, "Don't be so judgmental," or "Everyone deserves another chance."

When I hear those phrases and others like them, what I hear is, "This person is furthering my own agenda. I know they are not good, but at this point, I don't care. They are disposable... eventually." What I also hear is, "I don't like it when I'm told I'm wrong before I want to acknowledge it." These things are a function of the ego. When one flatly refuses to look at the evidence in front of them and chooses to elevate a person who is dangerous to those around them to a place of power for fear of being 'judgy', is a, flat out, dumb decision. Radical inclusion is the concept where these poor choices come from.

No one in the pagan community would knowingly let a child molester come to their rituals with children present. (And if they do, well, they don't deserve those precious babies.) Just as no one in the pagan community would allow a known rapist into their circle. I have known, at least, one child molester who was utterly appalled to find out that his community wanted nothing to do with him after he betrayed them so. His clergy did an awesome job. They offered him various other opportunities to have a community (such as it was) and ritual without the children around and without those of us who would actively and openly not stand in circle with him. He, of course, refused, because 'how dare they judge me' and 'who are they to judge?'

No one in the pagan community would knowingly allow a rapist in their midst because s/he 'deserves' a second chance. They would not allow a rapist to stand in circle with them in 'perfect love and trust'.  Why? Because, like child molesters, rapists are considered monsters. Interestingly enough, though, if one hasn't actually been caught raping or molesting, the community will, literally, always take the side of the person the rumors are about. Without question and without fail, the community will turn on people who stand up and say, 'this rumor is true because I am one of the victims'. How do I know this? I have seen it on, at least, 3 separate occasions. That's right, victim blaming. But whatever happened to including everyone right where they are? Don't those victims count? So, does that mean this radical inclusion only counts if we can use the people who are included? Or, does it mean we don't include liars and those who would stir the pot? But what about those who lie with every breath and word that comes out of their mouth?

The notion of radical inclusion really isn't that radical and it really isn't that inclusive. Radical inclusion is just another justification for our own ego. Radical inclusion openly allows us to include those into our circle whom we can use to further our own agendas. That same theory of radical inclusion gives us a false sense of superiority over those who would openly and honestly look at the people around them and refuse to participate with those who are not honest or good people. That same theory of radical inclusion gives us a sense of false equivalency when we say things like, "Oh, I don't want to judge Spiritual Practice A because I do this particular Non-Spiritual Thing that is kind of similar in looks but not the same thing at all."

Radical inclusion is fool-hearted, at best. It openly ignores the predators in our midst and gives them the forum and the power they need to predate upon those who are weaker than they are.  It then gives those same predators a platform to ostracize their victims in the name of radical inclusivity. The pendulum only swings the other way when the predator is caught red-handed or enough trustworthy victims come to the fore and share their stories. Until that point, most folks are too willing to believe that the person in question couldn't possibly do that. Then they are shocked to find out the person did the thing. Then they are angry at the betrayal. Then, they go through the cycle again with another person.

This notion we should see the good in all people and each other is a wonderful one. I can always find the good, even in a bad person, but the notion that a tiger will change its stripes or a leopard its spots is foolish. If a community has a man or woman (because it happens and we all know it) making unwanted sexual advances toward people and they don't stop when asked, that person is looking for their next victim. Period. Radical inclusion says, 'maybe they are just overtly sexual and that makes insecure people uncomfortable.' Common sense says, 'maybe this person needs to hear a harsh truth that nobody wants them and to cut it out.'

People often call me a good judge of character, not because I like everyone or even see the best in everyone, but because when I see  (or, feel intuitively, actually) something that set off alarm bells within me, I don't ignore that. I don't ignore it and I don't hesitate to ask others if they feel the same. My intuition has never been wrong. Not once. Sometimes it has taken a while for me to be proven right, but I always have been. Being a good judge of character means looking past other people's glamours. It means looking past your own desire to be included or feel important. It means looking past our own comfort zone. Once that happens, we find that being 'judgmental' is just another way that we protect ourselves from getting hurt.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!
River

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Hermit's Walk

Recently, I moved again. It was probably one of the most grueling and agonizing things that I have done in my life. This is not because physical labor is hard, but because I was physically incapacitated at the beginning of the move and only had a little help. Literally, I was in a cast and not supposed to be putting weight on it, so I was completely dependent on others for almost everything... In theory. Well, I'm too much of a control freak for that. At the end of the first day, we and our two friends (who are amazing!!) got about half of what we needed to do done and in the moment, it was frustrating, but looking back, it's okay. I learned who my friends are and some other very valuable lessons. The biggest lesson is that of the Hermit.

According to Biddy Tarot (my personal favorite tarot website for years now), the Hermit represents soul-searching, introspection, being alone, and inner guidance. Reversed it represents isolation, loneliness, and withdrawal. As an introvert, I need a larger amount of alone time than your average person. I am prone to 'hermiting' from time to time. I rarely feel isolated or lonely anymore because of things like what happened with my move. I know that I do not 'get out' much and thereby people see me through whatever filter it is they need to see me through. As a general rule, this world does not like an introvert. I'm okay with that.

Being the Hermit is so much more than just hanging out alone and learning cool stuff so that you can pass that wisdom along when others are ready.  Often, people get caught up in the alone-ness or the loneliness, but honestly, if you embody the Hermit, you'll end up feeling alone in a group of people, too. For me, the worst part of being the Hermit is being 'up the mountain'.  In many decks, the Hermit is depicted traversing rocky, mountainous areas. This is part of the mystery of the Hermit.

The Hermit stands upon his path, high in the mountains and as such, can see a larger perspective. For instance, if I am standing at sea level I am not going to see as much as the person standing at five hundred feet above sea level, just as they are not going to see as much as someone standing a thousand feet above sea level. I say this not because it is 'better'. It simply means that those who embody the Hermit have traversed further upon their own spiritual wanderings and because they are 'higher up' are further sighted than those who walk the mountains below. When one is farsighted, one often gets ignored. It is easy to miss the impending avalanche until it is too late when the snow is beginning to slide underneath your feet.

The Hermit is also aloof. That detachment is another one of the Hermit's mysteries. When embodying the Hermit, one can see the good or bad up the road and in seeing it for what it is, can remain detached. When warning others of trials up the road, this detachment helps everyone to move forward. The Hermit tends to be ignored while the trials are traversed, and when completed (or not) the Hermit either gives praise or advice, when asked.

Which brings me to another of the mysteries of the Hermit, being the person who works because the work needs to be done without thought of praise. As a culture, we are conditioned to be praise/admonishment motivated. When one feels appreciated, one always works harder. However, the Hermit does not need the praises of others to keep moving forward. The Hermit does not need others to acknowledge him or his work to feel accomplished. The Hermit sets goals and works steadily toward them to achieve them without thought of others. The Hermit does not need to hear how awesome he is. He does not need to hear how much his work means to others. He does not expect others to even notice what he is doing.

Some time ago I was told that my path would lead me to be the Hermit, as though it were a bad or scary thing. Unknown to the person telling me this, I already was. What they didn't realize they were seeing was me coming back to being comfortable in that role. I am and have always been, most comfortable with people coming to me for the lessons they need and then moving on. I have always recognized that I am different. I have always known that I am not everyone's cup of tea. I have also always recognized that I need to be around people like myself and we are so, very few and far between.

The Hermit's Walk can be a scary one. It is a lonely walk, sometimes. It is, occasionally, dark and foreboding. It can lead to a great many conversations with one's self that wouldn't be had if one were with others. The Hermit carries the lantern of wisdom and shines that light for those who need it without thought of praise or, even, community. That is simply what the Hermit does.

Brightest blessings, Friends!
River

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Conscious Destruction: Waltzing with Death

**Please disregard my excessive use of the word Fuck in this blog. I have been using it a lot lately more as a descriptive and less as an emotive.**

As of late, I have been blogging for the intermediate and more advanced practitioners of Craft. This blog is no exception and, as such, is probably dangerous due to the very nature of what it is. Meaning, don't try this shit at home and if you do and you blow yourself up, well, I fucking told you not to do it. (There's your fucking disclaimer, by the way.)

In recent weeks, there has been this huge fucking discussion regarding ritual animal sacrifice and the validity of the practice within my home community. Legalities aside, if done properly, it is no different than Kosher or Halal practices and the animal is given a quick death and its body feeds the family or community. I don't see any wrong doing with this. That is my view. However, I also do not believe that this practice is something that should be readily available to just anyone to witness, either. This practice is one of those mysteries that we don't think about as being a mystery. Why? Well, because in this way we are an active participant in something becoming dead, taking a life.

In today's society, unless you have grown up on a farm that slaughters its livestock or you hunt and fish, you are most likely not going to come across the opportunity to kill something larger than a spider or a snake and who cares about spiders and snakes, right? Well, maybe some of us do, but the point is, in general, we don't value those particular lives like we do, say, a horse or a dog or even a chicken. (And, honestly, that is a mistake we all too often make.)

Looking into the eyes of an animal as it is about to cross over, watching the realization of immanent death in its eyes and watching the trust it had in you shatter, or in the case of a wild animal, watching the fear in its eyes if you don't make a clean kill shot and you have to slit its throat in mercy, changes you on a fundamental level. Yes, I have assisted in livestock slaughter and I have gone hunting a time or two. The very primal, base energy of death changes you.

Magically speaking, this type of death energy is different than what we normally think of in our cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The normal, everyday energy of the cycles is cyclical death energy. It ebbs and flows much like the cycles of the seasons. The conscious destruction of a life is Death Energy (note the capital letters there). As the practitioner, you are taking an active part in choosing when that creature realizes its fate. In that moment, you become death.

Now, imagine, if you will, a sacrifice ritual with a dozen active participants and another hundred onlookers. How much energy is going to be raised in a rite that large? A metric fuck tonne. What happens when that energy is released? If you have a good facilitator, it is going toward whatever magic has been spun, whatever offering has been given to the gods, but we all know that no matter how good the facilitator is, some of that energy isn't released.

Everything that was touched by that energy absorbs it, at least some of it. Ritual jewelry, wedding bands, watches, clothing, earrings, body jewelry. All of it will absorb that energy. This doesn't include the energy that is absorbed into the walls of buildings or the ground, trees, grass, chairs, tents, picnic tables, and any other physical thing you might have with or on you. All of those large festival-type rituals have a burst bubble type of action when the energy is released. If it is directed upward (as it should be), little droplets of the energy are going to fall down to the earth like rain because it didn't exactly adhere to the big swell or ball of energy thrown upward. The number of people not letting go of the energy can and does contribute to this.

I'm sure at this point, you're thinking, "Well, ok. So, let's just throw some salt at it or smudge it and make it wonderful, happy energy." Except that doesn't work with Death Energy. That energy is a base energy. It is not changed or transmuted because that's what it is at its very core, much like pure elements in chemistry. One atom of Death Energy is Death Energy just as one atom of gold is gold. It is not the type of energy that you smudge away with sage. There is no 'raising its vibration' to change it from what it is. Conscious Destruction will never be anything other than that.

Okay, well, since Death Energy doesn't change, what does it do? Glad you asked. Death Energy kills things. Plain and simple. Death Energy looks like a blessing in disguise or a curse. This kind of energy often strips away titles. It strips away labels. It strips away all of the outside 'stuff' that we think gives life meaning. We find ourselves looking around us and wondering where all of the people went who make us feel important. We look in the mirror and wonder why people no longer tell us we are beautiful. We wonder why, suddenly, no one wants to hear our words or why, suddenly, we stumble over the strings of our guitar or keys of our piano. Death Energy forces us to look at ourselves, naked and vulnerable with no filters and to find worth in that.

Not only does this energy kill things, but it calls to those who need it. It calls to those who are weak, sick, or desperate. It sings gloriously to the lonely and the scared. This energy embodies the essence of Shadow Work. One must know where one is weak to shed that weakness. One must know why one is lonely to make peace with it. In discovering our weaknesses, we can turn them into strengths if we but work with them.

What about those who aren't ready to deal with Death Energy? What about those who think this is all a load a hooey and salt and sage and sandalwood, et cetera. Well, those are the people I worry about blowing up themselves or others. Those are the people who rail against the world when something doesn't go their way. Those are the people who like to blame everyone and everything around them for their own life going to pot. Those are the people who run up against the wall every time they get just a molecule of Death Energy and stagnate for months or even years. Those are the people constantly looking backward at what was because 'things were better'. Those people don't see the blessings death brings. Those people are not mature enough to recognize the energy for what it is, either. Thankfully, because of the basic and primal nature of that energy, it recognizes the difference between the novice and the master. It gives the novice no more than he can handle while meting out a harsher lesson for the master who should have known better.

As pagans, our lives are always more than simply observing the seasons, the sky, the creatures. There are times when we are allowed to play an active part in the creation or destruction within those cycles. When we choose to consciously destroy life, we take a waltz with death. While on that waltz, we look into the hooded face of the grim reaper. Sometimes we see the gaping maw of the abyss as that death consumes us. Sometimes we see the gaping maw of the abyss as that death consumes us and then explodes into a big bang of the creation of a new cosmos.

Death is not a mystery that most are ready to explore. They are not ready to know what it is like to become death. This is a mystery that many stumble upon without realizing just how much change happens because of it. This is a mystery that, if begged for, the gods don't often deny. It then becomes a case of : Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.


Regards,
River

(Oh, and if you have managed to read this far, I honestly don't care what your opinions on animal sacrifice are, so please don't bother commenting on the morality of it. I believe that is a choice that we make as we walk our individual paths and nothing you can say will change my mind on that. Also, no, I do not practice it in my path. However, if you have commentary on your experience with this type of energy, please, feel free to expand all of our knowledge with your wisdom, as it is always welcome.)

**Also, I'd like to add that I know of only one person besides myself who works so closely with this kind of energy. In fact, she is the one whom I go to when I have lessons that I need to work on with this energy or when I know that I am missing something. If, like me, you are that kind of weirdo, rest assured that you are not alone and there are those of us who quite enjoy raucous conversations about these things.**