Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just Tell the Gods Your Plans...

So many times in this life we set out toward a goal unaware of the implications it can have on our journey, unaware that it is our gods guiding us directly into our life's purpose.  Not quite two years ago now, I did this.  I had been practicing Eclectic Wicca as a solitary for about 8 years when I moved from Mississippi to Northeast Arkansas, and while I'd known there was a Wiccan church in the Jonesboro area for a while, I'd simply lived too far away to be able to join in any of its activities.

When I got to Jonesboro, I contacted the High Priest of the church.  He gave me the dates and times of their public meetings so that I could attend and meet some of the members and the clergy in a public setting.  It took me almost two months and a giant spider in my lap (one of my spirit guides is Spider) to gather up the courage to go to a meeting.  The rest, as it is often said, is history.

While still quite shy, I participated in these meetings and was drawn to their classes.  It wasn't long until the High Priestess handed me a test and told me to take it.  I did and found myself in an unlikely position, new to this church and stepping into First Degree classes.  When I began with them, I'd reconciled the fact that (as I think it should be with any new tradition) I would likely begin at the beginning and work my way through the degrees.  Finding myself in First Degree class was an honest shock, however, I was glad for the challenge.

Through the fifteen months of lessons, I heard Papa Terry say countless times, "Just tell the Gods your plans and watch them laugh!"  No truer words have ever been spoken, I do believe.

At the beginning of my classes, all I wanted was a better connection with my Gods and a better understanding of myself.  I didn't want to be "special".  I didn't want to be noticed.  I didn't want anything more than to live the magical axiom, "Know Thyself."  I told the Gods my plans and they laughed.  Not only did they laugh, but throughout my resistance, I'd get a tap on the shoulder and a "So, how's that working out for you?" from them, usually followed by some kind of hysterical laughter on their part.  Yes, the Gods have a sense of humor and it's usually at our expense.

So, I sloged along through my classes.  It was a long, hard-fought and won fifteen months full of trials for me.  In the beginning, I lamented my bad luck.  I cried out and shook my fist at the sky, angry at my Gods for putting me through these things.  At some point, though, the lessons began to take hold.  The seeming tragedies in my life transformed from, "It's not my fault." to "What is the lesson in this?"  I began to take responsibility for my part and change my perceptions.  My ego began to relinquish its hold on my thoughts and I began to feel my Gods walking with me every day.  I began to hear their words and listen to their wisdom.  I began to change from within, and these changes were difficult!  I lost a long-term relationship, a really good friend, and moved four times in as many months, but all of these life altering experiences opened my eyes (at least partially) to a bigger picture.  As with any amount of change, the tragedies seem larger than the triumphs.  In that same time, I discovered just who my friends were.  I was given a sister-hood that can not be torn apart.  I was given a life-partner complete with Hekate's sandalwood scent of approval.  I found myself surrounded by teachers, both Elders and my own contemporaries, who were always willing to give me a shoulder to cry on and then lift me up and set me back on my feet.  They never gave me the answers to my questions, but always asked the right questions to get me thinking.

These experiences didn't test my faith or my connection with my Gods, but made it stronger.  These experiences allowed me to better know myself and opened many doors which I'd believe were impossible to open.  I understand now just what Papa Terry means when he says, "Just tell the Gods your plans..."

My Gods have plans for me.  They have plans that I don't like, however, I have come to understand that acting like a petulant child and resisting those plans is tantamount to being dragged through life kicking and screaming.  Yes, I still kick and scream from time to time, and I still don't like it (and shout it from the rooftops), but I also know that in surrendering to my higher purpose and accepting it, I really don't have to like it.  I just have to do it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's With All of This Ritual?

The following blog is, just that, a blog.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.  If you like them, wonderful.  If you don't, I can't say that I care. (Opinions are like a-holes, ya know...)  Commenting is always welcome and I hope that you enjoy your read!!


Recently, I was with a friend and the subject of ritual came up.  This friend, who is relatively new to the Craft, sometimes doesn’t understand why things are done as they are done.  Said friend also possesses the logic of a Vulcan.  He and I were talking about casting a sacred circle and what it takes to do such things.  He’d only ever seen this done ritually, so I sat down and closed my eyes.  Drawing the energy upward and outward (as I do), I cast a circle.  When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me strangely.  He felt the energy move, a bubble surrounding us.  I smiled and announced that the circle was cast.  He then asked, “If it’s that easy to cast a circle, what’s with all of the pomp and circumstance of ritual?”

This simple question really got me thinking.  If the moving of energy and the manufacturing of coincidence is magic and we really don’t need anything other than our own will, why do ritual of any kind?  Why do we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on tools, or spend days and weeks of our time searching for and decorating the perfect tool if these things aren’t really needed?  What’s with all of this ritual stuff?

I have a theory on this.  Some may say this theory is truth, while others say that it’s bullshit.  I say it’s theory because both truth and bullshit are absolute, and we all know that in the Craft, what works for one may not work for another.  I also say it’s theory because theories are ever evolving and changing as more knowledge is gained.  So, a theory it is.

We pagans do ritual to create a certain mindset.  Our robes, cords, candles and incense all turn our minds away from our mundane lives and set our minds in a spiritual mode.  This is done much in the same way by our Christian counterparts who dress in suits and ties and dresses and fancy hats on Sunday.  For that allotted amount of time, we are neither here nor are we there, but in some in-between place where the energy flows easily and as a solitary or group, we can direct it in the direction we want it to go.  We open up and can feel and hear and see the intent we project.  Our will becomes a tangible thing, drifting and swirling under the gentle rays of the full moon as we chant and dance and beseech our gods to make it so.

So, when does that ritual mindset move from just sabats and esbats and into daily life?  When does the practitioner find themselves living their ritual daily?  When does it happen that you walk into a group circle (or even cast your own) without all of the chanting and ritual garb and the incense smoke hanging in the air?  When does the altered state of consciousness become something we slip in and out of without all of the pomp and circumstance?  Does it take years of intense study?  Is it something preached about by a teacher?  Or, is it something we do unconsciously when we drift off into daydream?

This altered state of consciousness, opening up if you will, is done by us all in those still, quiet moments.  For some, those moments last longer, but for others, it’s only that flash of silence which is needed to get an answer.  When we recognize those moments and begin to listen, we suddenly realize that none of this stuff is needed, not truly needed.  No ritual, no robes, cords, chants, none of it is a necessity.  These are all things we hold on to and when we find ourselves letting them go, we find ourselves in a simple state of being.  In that state of being, we are open.  We catch the wisdom of the aether. We take it in and make it a part of us, but then we release it.  We find the spiritual in taking a walk and picking wildflowers.  Before we know what has happened, life has become our ritual and all of the pomp and circumstance becomes added fun.