Saturday, January 25, 2014

Paganism 101: A Review

This week's blog is a wee bit different than my normal weekly writing.  This week, it is a book review for my friends at Moon Books.  Moon Books is a company we should all watch.  I have a couple of their books and they are jewels in a world of re-hashed Wicca 101 literature.

The newest publication is Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans.  Part One, Who We Are, explores Druidry, Wicca, Shamanism, Heathen, Goddess Worshiper, Christo-Pagan, Witch, and Eclectic Pagan with five essays on each topic.  Each of these essays gives a different perspective on how the author identifies his or her practice using the preferred label.  Graeme K. Talboys sums it up perfectly in his Druid essay, saying, "Ask ten Druids what it means to be Druid and you will get eleven answers. This is because it is personal." (p. 4 Paganism 101)  Each of the eight topics in part one work well to give a newcomer to paganism a well rounded perspective on some of the most common paths found in today's world.

Part Two, What We Believe, explores Deities, Nature, Ethics, the Afterlife, Ancestors, and the Past and Present of pagansim, with five essays on each by another round of authors.  The section on ethics runs the gamut in terms of how pagans may deem their actions right or wrong, mentioning various things like relativism, the Wiccan Rede and Law of Returns.  The essays on pagan afterlife are just as intriguing and thought provoking.

Part Three, What We Do, speaks on Ritual, Magic, Prayer and Meditation, Healing, Herbalism, and Celebrant Work within the broader pagan community.  The essays on ritual hit home with me.  As one who has come to a point where ritual is, mostly, unnecessary to achieve a spiritual mind-set, the advantages and disadvantages were discussed.  Not only that, it was also mentioned, in one essay, how sometimes certain elaborate rituals become 'sterile' energetically.  While I have experienced that personally with more elaborate rituals, it should be remembered that smaller group rituals can also be susceptible to the same thing for various reasons.

Having hit (some of) the high notes in this review (as I don't want to completely spoil it for those who are seeking), I believe this compilation of essays has something to offer everyone who is seeking a pagan path, even if one doesn't know exactly what it is just yet.  It explores the most popular paths within the pagan construct, how we see Deity, the afterlife, ritual and magic, among other topics.  All of the essays are well thought-out, beautifully written in their varying styles, and a pretty easy read for one who may not know much about these topics.  This book was a joy to read (even for this more experienced witch) and I do believe that Moon Books hit it out of the park with this one!!

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Anger and the Pain it Causes

In its various guises, Anger has been on my mind a lot lately.  When I use the word 'anger', I should probably be more specific and say misdirected anger.  As with any word or action, anger can be a good thing and used to a good purpose, when directed appropriately.  That said, I haven't been angry but I have watched those around me succumb to their own anger.  Watching this process made me think.  It made me reflect upon my own anger, but more importantly, I began to reflect upon the anger projected on me by others, their reactions, and the lengths they would go to, to see me hurt in some physical or emotional way.  Even now, I search my memory for actions on my part that would have precipitated such an angry outburst from these people.

In late 2010 my life imploded slightly.  I found myself without a job and living with a friend.  I was completely freaked out by this.  My life had, mostly, been orderly with some sense of direction and I found myself with none.  My friend and I managed as best as we could to make this arrangement work.  We did well for about 3 months and then one Sunday, I found myself backed into a corner with her screaming at me about some strange overreaction she was having.  Honestly, I was kind of clueless about the accusations being thrown at me.  I was confused, to say the least.  When I told my friend she'd lost her mind (not in so many words, mind you), she and another friend of hers attacked me physically.  Now, I must add here, I don't like physical violence of any kind, but I had no choice other than defend myself.  When the fight was over, the three of us were in a pile on the floor.  I thought it was over.  It wasn't.  Once we untangled ourselves and I was told to leave (because I totally would have stayed with someone who liked to attack people physically), I tried to start packing my stuff.  My friend decided that it would be fun to tell her daughter that I 'beat her up,' so her daughter would come after me.  Thankfully, I talked the daughter out of a fight, called some friends for help, and left, leaving many things behind.

Over the next month, I lived with some more friends, doing my best to stay out of the way.  This time it was a friend and her husband.  When I moved in, my friend told me not to plan on staying very long because she was leaving her husband after the holidays (it was early December).  The holidays passed and my friend announced that she was moving out.  Her husband blamed me.  He tried to get physically violent with me and she and I left, seeing refuge with yet other friends who so graciously opened their home to us both.  Long story short, this time, he did not want to let me get all of my things.  He stole from me, pawned some expensive electronics of mine, and was a general pain in the ass.  When I was finally able to get my stuff (his landlord forced the issue, I believe), I had lost more stuff.

I can't say that I was ever angry at either of them for what they did to me.  I can't say that I am angry now, not even over the loss of most of my stuff.  In the months after these incidents, I watched these two people wallow in their anger.  They lost or gave up many of the things that they loved while living in that anger.  It was heart-breaking for me to see and hear what was happening in their lives (because some people found it necessary to tell me).  

I didn't understand what I did so wrong.  I didn't understand why I was driving the people around me crazy.  I didn't understand why they were projecting their own concepts and anger over them onto me.  I was worried that I was going to do the same thing to one of my current roommates and still not understand what was going on around me.  I consulted with my high priest about why these things happened and why their anger was so disproportionate to what I perceived actually happened. What he said to me baffled me and gave me hope that I could prevent this from happening in the future (if I could figure out what it meant and how to do it, of course).

He said that, sometimes, people's energy changes so much that, without their understanding (or consent!), their energy affects people and when that happens, those whose energy vibrates at a lower level become agitated just being in the presence of that particular person.  He told me that I must learn to mask my energy to keep this from happening over and over again.  He didn't tell me how to do this, but that is his way, to let me figure it out on my own.  

Even more importantly than learning to mask my own energy, I observed what kind of damage anger does.  I watched both of these people, neither of whom I have any ill will toward, fight with themselves on a roller coaster of emotion.  I could see which decisions appeared to be made in anger and which ones weren't.  I learned to be compassionate toward them.  I learned to love them instead of pity them.  I learned that, ultimately, we punish ourselves with our anger, not anyone else.

Now, more than ever, when someone gets angry at me, I do my best to step back and be an observer.  Did I do anything wrong?  Did I say something wrong?  Is it just my mere presence?  I do my best to not succumb to my own anger.  Sometimes I succeed, other times, not so much.  I suppose that one must ride his or her own roller coaster of emotion to the end when it comes to anger and how it affects us individually.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pagan Blog Prompts: Matrons and Patrons

I love Pagan Blog Prompts!  If you can't think of something to write about, then you can always go there and they have some really good suggestions.  So, this week's topic is Matron and Patron deities and I figured that it was a good topic to discuss my often strange relationship with my own main deities.


For a long time now, I have been a worshiper of Hekate and Ares.  They are my main deities on this pagan path I walk.  I have written about how they came to be in my life, so I don't think that it is important to re-hash those stories, but I do believe that it is important for me to discuss my relationship with them in the broader sense of my own practice.

There are those who believe that to have a Matron and Patron deity means one must worship them exclusively.  While I am sure that there are deities out there who refuse to let their adherents worship 'interloper' deities, mine have granted me a measure of latitude with this.  We have an understanding, of sorts, that I may work with deities who approach me, but if I am to approach another deity, then I must ask permission of Hekate and Ares first.

The first deity to take a shining to me was Artemis.  She comes to me as a young warrior maiden, 16-18 years old.  While she is quite serious and ready for battle, there is also a playful air about her.  She is quick to laugh and make a bit of silliness, but always on guard.  She often likes to hum or sing when she is experiencing joy, but that melodic voice turns to a growl when it is time for battle.

When the young maiden goddess approached me for the first time, it was with Hekate.  My Lady gave us both a warning, "You may cavort and even make war, but remember who you, dear Daughter, belong to."

Artemis laughed and bowed deeply to Hekate.  "She is yours, Lady, until such a time that you say she is no longer yours."  I, too, bowed and thanked Hekate for allowing me this particular experience.  It wasn't long after, that Athena began hanging around, too.

Since then, she has come into and out of my life.  The sacred weaver was not brought to me by Hekate, but came alone and with her blessing.  The goddess Brid also hangs around in her Maiden form.  She approached me a couple of years ago during a Moon Lodge, where I was gifted Her flame and some water from Her well.

Brid often reminds me of my roots.  She reminds me that no matter how many generations removed I am from the Isles, there is a part of me that always has a home there.

After Brid, comes the Dark Goddesses, the Morrigan, Kali, and Hel.  I 'rode the road to Hel' and back when I was but a wee, baby pagan via a journey I took.  She was the first of the Dark Goddesses I worked with, and she has stuck around all of these years, in the background of my worship, not really asking anything of me, but not giving me anything either.  I believe that I may be a curiosity to Her, one worth watching.  Either that, or I am like a train wreck and she simply can not look away.

Kali is in my life much in the same way Hel is.  She stands in the background, watching.  I am quite sure that if she were to be unleashed in my life, it would be traumatic, yet the best for me.

The Morrigan, however, has an interesting tale in my goddess journey.  As Dark Goddesses go, she has taken a liking to me.  Hekate gave me the same warning with the Morrigan as she did with Artemis and I have always respected that boundary.  However, I think, sometimes, the Morrigan pushes it.  She comes through to me as strongly as Hekate some days, poking me with her staff, giving me messages, and giving me warnings.  Hekate is there, usually silent, waiting in the background.  She gives me a nod and a wicked smile, as though the two are working together.

The Gods in my life have been less transient and strong.  Cernunnos appears at certain times and, often bids me to find wild spaces.  Ares smiles and gets a particular light in his eyes.  The two of them seem to push me to recharge when I simply forget to do so.

I feel fortunate that my spiritual life is so rich with the wisdom of the Otherworlds.  The gods often remind me that I am not super-human and that my trials and triumphs are what make this life and they are integral to my growth.

Brightest blessings, Friends!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Therianthropy and Otherkin-ness

It seems that the cultural new year is going to have me blogging about some deeply personal topics, potentially.  Dearest readers, if you do not want to hear about these things, please feel free to email me and say so.  If you want to read more of these kinds of things, also, let me know. :)  As always, I do enjoy hearing from my readers.  Now, on to our story!!


When I was but a wee, baby pagan many moons ago, I was introduced to the terms 'therianthrope' and 'therianthropy' through a group of people on a message board.  Most of these people were shamanists of one ilk or another.  One of these ladies was a dear, dear friend of mine, and though we do not talk much any more, is someone whom I still hold in very high regard.  For those who have not ever heard these terms, therianthropy is the recognition that ones soul is bestial or non-human, and is also known as Otherkin.  I have known those who identified as snow leopard, honey badger, dragon, angel, and elf, among many others.  At the time, my consciousness had not expanded enough to fully grasp what this meant to the individual, despite the fact that I simply accepted it as another part of who these people were.

As I have grown into my teen years as a pagan, I have come across those (more sparingly now, though) who own the label of Otherkin.  They freely speak of their clans, tribes, or packs, their history and, even, their species as though it is the most normal and rational of things. (Because we all know that 'normal' and 'rational' are words that totally describe the pagan experience of the world!) I discuss these things with these people secretly jealous that they simply accept these parts of themselves.  I am also surprised and secretly jealous that these people know so much of their own past life or multi-universal history.

For the past year or so, I have been struggling to accept my own Otherkin-ness.  It makes perfect sense to me that ones eternal essence would identify with some past life or some other life within the multiverse, human or not.  Unfortunately for me, that rational part of my brain (there's that damn word again) laughs hysterically and breaks when I am faced with what I know.  Not once, through the years have I looked at my Otherkin friends and deemed them crazy.  Not once!  Yet, I look at myself and wonder just, exactly, how I'm not crazy for thinking the same way.  (There's not a bit of hypocrisy in that statement...)

Then, begins my internal dialogue. (Because talking to yourself isn't crazy either...)  I remind myself that the Oracle at Delphi says, "Know Thyself" and to do that, I must explore all of myself, past, present, and future.  Then I whine about wanting to be 'normal' and that is followed by chastising myself that I don't want to be like my family.  It's this cycle of excuses and hacking through those excuses and it has been for some time now, but ultimately, I come back to center.  I come back to this place where I am at a stalemate with myself and I let the topic sit for a while.

So, how does one, like myself, who blends in and does the 'normal' thing so well, come to terms with the realization that she is Other?  Well, I'm not sure, but I do know this: Having come to walk a more shamanic path is going to put me nose-to-nose with this particular reality.  It already has in very subtle ways.

A week ago, I journeyed to the Glastig.  She reminded me of my Otherkin-ness and she reminded me of some things, acknowledged that I am now a creature of fire.  So, now, it is time for me to move into the element of Dark Water and begin accepting these things about myself.  I'm still not sure how it is going to play out for me and I am still not sure how I'm going to reconcile it in my mind, but I do know that I will manage.

So, if you are one of an unfortunate few out there who, like me, struggle with spiritual aspects of yourself, remember that you aren't the only one.  If you have been presented with 'crazy' or outlandish images of yourself that simply can't be 'true', remember: Our True Self is much different than the masks we wear.  It is much more than these mortal bones.  The True Self is eternal and sees what our mortal brains refuse to acknowledge.  You aren't crazy.  Your consciousness is expanding and with that expansion, the Ego becomes diminished.  It's the Ego, in a panic, that whispers those doubtful thoughts.  It is the Ego, not wanting to let go that cries out about rationality.

With this new year, I am going to strive to accept these things about myself.  Why can't I simply be?  Why, Ego, do you blaspheme me and try to convince me that I am smaller than I truly am?

Brightest blessings, Friends, and Happy New Year!