Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pagan Blog Project Week 4: B is for Body

With the resurgence of the women's movement and feminism in this 21st century we live in, I think there needs to be a frank discussion about our bodies and why we should love them.  As pagan women we are the physical manifestation of the Goddess, so how can that ever be something less that satisfactory?  How can we, as the manifestation of the Goddess in this reality, allow the overbearing patriarchal society we live in decide for us the definition of beauty?

Through the sands of time, women have been the fabric which has held society together.  We take care of the living space.  We bear and care for the children.  Until the last few thousand years, the men in our tribes deferred to us.  So, what has happened?  What has happened even in the past 30 years to make the resurgence of feminism so important?  What has happened here in the west that has angered us so?

From where I stand, the media is the biggest culprit.  Young women look to the media for role models and, for the last several decades, they have gotten smaller and smaller in weight and stature.  In the late 80's Cindy Crawford was at the height of her super model career.  She was almost six feet tall and a size ten.  Ten! Yes, a size ten on a woman that height with an average build is tiny.  That said, she wouldn't be able to model today because she couldn't dream of slimming down to a size zero.

Today's runway models tend toward tiny waif-like things with more hip bone than hip.  Now, am I skinny bashing?  Absolutely not!  I tend toward having more hip bone than hip myself.  The point I'm heading toward is that somewhere between then and now, we women (as a societal whole) have forgotten that Goddesses come in different shapes and sizes.

We forget that the Maiden is depicted as having a more boyish figure because she isn't quite physically mature yet.  We forget that the Mother is round by breasts and belly because of her fruitful and generous nature, just as the Crone is depicted as weathered and bent because of a life of living and having both joys and triumphs.  Most importantly, I think, we forget that it is okay to look like a classic Goddess in whichever stage of life we are in.

As I had my own Saturn's return and came fully into my Mother aspect, I was not thin, but round by the belly, soft and curvy, as some women are.  I loved that body and all of the 30 extra pounds that it had on it.  As I have become settled into my Mother aspect, I have acquired a thinner body and I have come to love it almost as much.  (I don't like being cold all winter, though, and that is probably about the most horrible thing about it.)  Also, as I have settled into this aspect of myself, I have noticed gray hair.  Many of them popping up.  I notice the fine lines on my face, around my eyes, my mouth.  While no one else may notice them, I do, and I'm okay with it.

Our patriarchal society tells us that women can't grow old and still be beautiful.  We can't be beautiful crones?!?  We can't love our gray hair?  We can't rock those laugh lines?  Really?  That's not beautiful?  Filler, implants, hair color, botox.  Those things are beautiful?  Those things fit for everyone?  Should we apply those things to Ceridwen? Hekate? Kali or maybe, Lilith?

Being bombarded on a daily basis with images of young, beautiful, far-from-average-sized women takes a toll on the psyche.  Fat does not automatically equal unhealthy just like skinny does not automatically equal bulimic.  Goddess, however, does always equal Goddess.  It equals Goddess if you are curvy.  It equals Goddess if you aren't.  Goddesses should always love themselves.  If one desires to improve upon her looks because she wants to, then she should.  It shouldn't be done because a friend or partner says it should be.  It shouldn't be done because someone, anyone else says it should be.  If it makes you happy, then do it.  Be kind to yourself, love yourself, Goddess.

Brightest blessings my friends!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pagan Blog Project Week 3: B is for Beltane

(I am two weeks behind on this.  How did I not know about the Pagan Blog Project?!?!  So, I start right now! PBP is found here.)

Beltane is a long way off right now.  There's still snow on the ground, freezing temperatures and bare trees.  However, Beltane is easily one of my favorite of the holidays.  It is also, from my not-so-distant travels, seemingly one of the most misunderstood.  It is the big fertility holiday and there are so many misconceptions that surround many of our Beltane practices.

I have heard initiates of non-hedonistic traditions say, "Beltane is all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll."  What?!?  Beltane is about getting shitfaced and being promiscuous?  Really?!?  (I've actually asked that question and taken some with that stance off guard.)  I've heard other, non-initiates, say things like, "I hope I'm single during Beltane."  When I asked them why they hoped to be single, their response was, "Well... because... You know, it's a fertility holiday."

Beltane is not about getting smashed on mead and having sex with whomever you please in the name of fertility.  It is not our hedonist holiday.  So many people want to point out that in antiquity people danced around Bale fires naked and paired up to go and do their thing in the woods, and that is why Beltane is about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

They don't think about the fact that those people didn't have modern conveniences like central heat in their homes.  For nearly half of the year, these people hunkered down in their huts around the hearth to keep warm.  They bundled up in furs to keep warm.  They hoped like hell there was enough food to get through to spring and they didn't starve to death.

Come Beltane these people had just really begun to get out of their homes to plant the crops and let the livestock out to graze.  It had only been a couple of months since the worst was passed and the light was back.  The days got longer and warmer.  Beltane is the first Sabbat where you can even think about running around half clothed, much less naked.  It is the first Sabbat where the threat of frost is past and the warmth of summer is evident.

Our ancestors celebrated this fact because Beltane meant that they had survived the winter, the darkness, the unknown.  They thanked their gods for giving them another growing season, another year.  In their thanks for making it through the darkness, they drove their livestock between Bale fires to have them blessed in the hopes that they mated and had lots of babies for slaughter come the fall so, once again, they wouldn't starve.  They jumped the bale fires themselves for luck and prosperity and fertility of the fields and animals.  Even more importantly than that, people used this holiday to handfast for a year and a day or to confirm their handfasting from the year before (or alternately, dissolve it).  That's also a forgotten bit of lore in our let's-get-drunk-and-screw society.

So, if there is a difference between fertility rites and promiscuity and there is a way to celebrate this holiday with reverence, what is it?  Well, that depends upon your tradition.  In my eclectic tradition (because I really can't speak for other traditions), we spent Yule hailing the birth of the young Sun God, Imbolg celebrating his childhood and waxing strength and the young, Maiden Goddess.  At Ostara, we wake the earth from Her deep slumber and at Beltane, we celebrate the union of the Mother and Father.

Everything is in bloom.  There are young birds and baby animals everywhere.  We work magic toward fertility in our lives, sometimes a continuation of the magic done at Ostara.  Fertility isn't about just sexual union.  Fertility is about putting energy toward the things in our life that will make us better people, things that will help us to grow.  It is a celebration of the Sun God's rise to power and coming into his strength.  He who warms our skin after a long, dark winter.  He who makes the crops grow and fruit so that we may live through yet another dark half of the year.  For it is He who is born, lives, and sacrifices himself year after year to ensure that we can keep living.  We celebrate his life and strength at this time of the year because of his selfless nature.

From this stance, is there a place for the Great Rite at Beltane?  There is, in my tradition, always a place for the Great Rite in ritual, though it is performed symbolically.  There is no need for the literal performance of the Great Rite, unless it is specified within your own tradition or unless it is done specifically for the health and growth of the community.  It is a sacred thing to be done with reverence, not something to be done willy-nilly with anyone and everyone just because it's Beltane.

Beltane is such a misunderstood holiday.  In today's society, people assume that Beltane should be celebrated in a hedonistic way suited for adults only.  That is simply not the case.  When the reverence of our Gods is removed from our high holy days and replaced with lustful, physical satisfaction, we are forgetting the reason for celebrating.  When our intent is focused on partaking of mind altering substances and promiscuity, we leave the Gods out of our celebration.  Our Sabbats are a celebration and remembrance of Them, not for the satisfaction of our own physical nature.  So, next Beltane when you are celebrating naked, or mostly naked, remember to be thankful to the Sun God for warming your skin.  Thank the Goddess for the fruits grown to produce whatever cold drink may wet your lips.  Remember that we are here because they allow us to be here.

Brightest blessings my friends!

**A caveat should be noted here that these opinions expressed do not come from a tradition that is hedonistic.  Every tradition is different and every tradition expresses itself differently.  No matter how you may celebrate Beltane, the thing to remember is to do it with reverence.  We can not celebrate our high holy days without including our Gods and I have, unfortunately, seen this particular holiday celebrated in a very irreverent way.**

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Life of Service

When one walks the path of clergy, one walks the path of service.  Accepting that path can often be a very difficult thing.  Surrendering to it, even harder.  I have spent the past year with the knowledge that, regardless of what I want, my Gods want me to walk the path of clergy.  When I think about that life, I think of Papa Terry's famous words, "I did not sign up for this shit!"

I still fight with this knowledge.  I know that I could stop and turn around and go the other way.  I know that I could stop and throw my hands up in the air.  I also know that if I did that, my Gods would gleefully drag me by my hair over the rocks and through the brambles of life.  Why?  Firstly, because they are like that when I don't listen.  Secondly, because I'd deserve it for not listening.  So, while I didn't ask for a life of service, I do my best to live the one I have.

The thing is, a life of service is different than a life of servitude.  That is where I was wrong about this path.  That is what I was resisting.  This realization hit me today.  I surrendered a long, long time ago to a life of service.  This life of service spills into my mundane life regularly and I didn't understand why until today.  All of my life, people have come to me to 'fix' things.  People looked to me to lead them in whatever we happened to be doing.  They looked to me for reasons still unknown to me (but I suspect it has something to do with my personality type).

I work with some highly educated people.  I mean RN, BSN's and MD's.  Not only are these people highly educated, but they are extremely intelligent.  Here I am, just a lowly float rooming patients, cleaning instruments, and other menial tasks that need to be done, and I do this job with joy in my heart.

This afternoon one of the nurses called me to the front from cleaning instruments to help out.  They were swamped, snowed under, and it was urgent that I come up front to help.  They, honestly, had a cluster fuck. When we have lots of doctors on the floor seeing the patients, we usually do.  It's not unusual.  So, I looked at what we had.  Then, I looked at what was needed.  After that, I took off doing what it is that I do, 'fixing' things.  In about a quarter of an hour, I had all of the rooms filled with patients and as a nurse finished one task, I directed her on to another.

At one point, one of the doctors came out of the room needing a tray and the paperwork for a biopsy.  I started on that because there wasn't a nurse available.  I started on the paperwork just about the time one of the nurses finished what she was doing and I asked her if she would get me a biopsy tray ready for the paperwork I was doing.

It was, pretty much, non-stop busy for an hour.  Thing is, I had my own tasks to take care of in the back.  So, when things slowed down, I went back to my little utility room and finished cleaning instruments.  It's in the quiet moments in my back rooms that I think.  I ponder why things happen in the manner that they do and why I am usually the 'go to' person when things get clogged, bogged down, or out and out weird.  I've been doing this pretty much every day for a week, now.  You see, last Tuesday was much the same story as above.  The nurses were struggling and they called upon me to help.  It was the same thing, clearing out the bottleneck and getting the flow going again.  I didn't slow down, so they couldn't, either.

I don't know what it is that I do differently than most people.  I don't question it, either.  When my help is requested, whether I want to do it or not, I do my best to help.  This, it seems to me, is living a life of service.  I put aside my wants and try my best to make it better for whoever needs my help.

I live a life of service: service to my Gods and service to my community.

Brightest blessings my friends!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Manifestation of Gifts

Many people are drawn to the Craft because of the manifestation of certain gifts.  Maybe she is sensitive to spirits or can hear them.  Maybe she can leave her body and travel in the astral realms.  Regardless of the gift, walking the path of the witch is one way we can learn to manifest them at will.  As with any new 'thing', learning to use ones gift is a process, especially if this gift is not something one has had all of her life.

One gift I grew up with is sensing the spirit world and another, which manifested during my teen years, is walking between the worlds and being both here and there at the same time, literally treading with one foot on either side of that boundary.  I rarely speak of the latter of my gifts and, ironically, it is the one which I accepted most easily. Acceptance of a gift is the very first step in learning to manifest them at will.

From a personal standpoint, the appearance of my gifts is often a difficult thing to talk about.  When something new happens to me, I accept it for what it is, even if I do not necessarily have a label for it.  However, speaking or asking about it takes courage beyond measure.  I have this strange internal dialogue as to whether or not this gift is supposed to manifest at this particular time.  I argue with myself that I am not a weirdo among the strange.  I have to remind myself that the time the gift manifested is the exact right time and that there is no set time frame to which these things happen.  I have to remind myself that no student on this path is a 'typical' student.  The biggest irony of them all, in my reluctance to speak of these gifts, is that I wonder just how much more responsibility will be handed to me if I do speak of them.  (Because I haven't already accepted responsibilities that may or may not be beyond my skill level and, you know, thoughts are not things. . .)

I write these things because of certain manifestations in my life recently and the struggles I have with appearing 'normal' among the muggles while these gifts randomly turn themselves on and off throughout my day.  For the most part, I can hit the 'off' switch to my gifts because I have worked with them long enough to be able to do that.  However, when new ones manifest, sometimes it takes more work and focus.  A good example, from just last week, is that I was talking to my supervisor and two other people when a blast of energy hit my crown chakra.  It hit so hard my head and face began to tingle, physically.  My third eye opened completely and my physical vision dimmed to nothing.  All of this happened while I was in the middle of a sentence.  For about two seconds (the longest two of my life!) my body was on autopilot, trying to form coherent thought while 'I' was pure spirit.

In that brief time, I had to push that energy back out from my third eye and crown and close those chakras as I came back to myself, and I had to do this while I was still talking.  The experience was kind of scary, but I knew that I couldn't panic. Had I been alone, I would have let the energy pass through and do what it was going to do.  I have come to terms with my gifts and the strange manifestations which surround them.

As I said, acceptance is the first step to learning our gifts.  The second is not being afraid of them, allowing them to happen as they will.  The third step is paying attention.  We have to pay attention to the things that trigger our gifts, how they feel physically, and how it feels once the experience is over, as well as our reactions to these stimuli.  As this 'opening up' was occurring, my head felt tingly, like I'd just received a big electric shock.  My vision dimmed to nothing, and my train of thought derailed (thankfully, there were survivors).  Afterward, I felt dizzy and overloaded mentally, but I think part of that overload is because I was not in an appropriate place to allow this. . . whatever it was, to fully manifest.  I don't have a label for it as of yet, but I also haven't asked others if they have had similar experiences.

So after paying attention to the event and after effects, I usually find myself in the element of air trying to intellectualize what happened.  (Because we all know that ripping apart the unexplainable spiritual happenings in our lives is the best way to understand them. . . not.)  I do not necessarily look for a rhyme or reason to the event, but I do examine the physical and finite effects of the actual event.  I've given up asking why.  I've given up pondering what it is exactly.  I just accept that weird things happen to me and that someone I know, a teacher or elder, will be able to point me in a direction to discovery or give me a label to the strange event, so I can go on to discover more about it from other people's perspectives.

Be aware of your gifts as they begin to manifest.  Do not fear them, no matter how disorienting the manifestation may be.  Allow them to happen, if and when you can and pay attention.  These gifts are given to us for a reason.  We should not run away from or hide them.  It is an imperative thing for us to learn to use them for the greater good.  After all, why are we on this magical path if not to create change for the better?

I share this journey of gift manifestation with the hope that someone, somewhere will benefit from my own struggle.  If you are that person, you aren't alone.  You aren't as weird as you think.  We all struggle with something spiritually.  We all fight with ourselves.  We all ponder just why we have to be the one to be 'different.'

Until next time, brightest of blessings on your journey, friends.  May the return of the light illuminate your life and bless you in the coming year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Do YOU Plan for 2013?

It is the beginning of the second week of the new year.  We all have resolutions, plans, and things we would like to accomplish in the next 51 weeks.  How, though, do we plan these things out and then stick to them?

For me it's really a case of taking everything one day at a time.  Sure, I plan ahead, but I also do my best to stay fluid with these plans and allow them to evolve into what they are supposed to be, as opposed to what I want them to be.  I want my new seeker class to have a dozen or more students in it.  I want them to be as excited about the craft as I am.  I want them to be open to learning a new way of being.  Those things said, I have two committed students and a third that might join.  The commitments I have are excited, but only going through the classes will we know if they are open to a new way.

Not only do I want those things for my students, but I want to be able to learn from them and be able to evolve the lessons in a way that we all learn something.  I view teaching as a way to learn from my students. I want them to express their own views and perceptions of the world and the lessons so that I can see things differently, too.

Another plan I have for myself in 2013 is to be able to finish my second degree classes and initiate.  This is another thing that I am simply going to allow to happen in its own time.  These things can not be forced.  They always happen precisely when they should and I keep reminding myself of that.  I plan to put together a couple of sabbat celebrations (maybe more) and host them because I am being called to do this and because I can.  Does it mean that it will happen?  I hope it does.  I hope I can manifest these things.  If I don't, well, I just don't this go around.

So, are you planning any major changes this year?  Have you thought about how you are going to make them happen?  Have you thought about how rigid you are going to be with them?  Have you pondered if that rigidity is necessary?  This year is still new.  We can make of it what we wish.

Blessings for a fruitful year ahead, my friends!