Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Air

I’d been home alone for several days when one of the guys from the cave expedition called.  “Hey, we are heading out tomorrow to find the next elemental.  You in?”

“Of course,” I reply, not sure if I wanted to be in our not, but I was not going to miss a weird thing happening.

We started out before daylight and we drove.  We drove east and hurried the sun’s daily birth along at 70 miles per hour.  Then, the clouds came.  They were black and ominous, completely blacking out the horizon and the morning sun.

We turned down a dirt road and got out of the vehicle.  The clouds were thick and rolling, but didn’t seem to hold any water.  There was only wind.  Dust kicked up from the road.  Debris was dancing across the ground.  Our vehicle rocked gently.

Then, a funnel dipped toward us.

Before we could react, we were pulled off of our feet and into the air.  The being that met us looked so alien.  Its head and tail (it had no legs) swirled like the funnel and its arms, with its exaggerated hands and fingers, looked like lengths of twisted rope.

We all hung in mid-air, not really still, but not being violently thrown around, either.  “You have no fear.  Why?” It asked.

Its voice was like the whisper of butterfly wings.  It was there, but gentle.  We all looked at each other, confounded, until I spoke.  “We seek to know your mysteries.”

The being’s laugh was that gentle breeze that catches your hair and makes it tickle your face. “You can not hope to know all of my mysteries,” it replied, “however, since I have already introduced you to flight, I will also introduce you to whimsy.”

With that, we began tumbling within the whirlwind.  We went up.  We went down. We circled each other in an ecstatic dance none of us were in control of.  Only when we were all laughing hysterically with joy did the being put us down.

We landed on the grass of the ditch bank on our rumps.  Our sides hurt.  Our cheeks hurt.  We were all out of breath.  I was the first to look up.  The sky was no longer black.  There were no clouds.  That show, I think, was just for us.

Then, a brightly colored butterfly fluttered toward me and landed on my forehead. 

The Air element is, like the others, a mystery to know.  Air is something we know quite intimately, having to breathe it and all, but it is also something we can not see.  Air can skew our perception.  It can clear our vision.  It can build walls between us.  In much the same way the other elements have their constructive and destructive attributes, Air can help create or destroy.

Air represents thought and intellect, mirroring beautifully the physicality of thought as something real but intangible.  It coincides quite gracefully with that which is logical, intellectual, and devoid of emotion.  Yet, if we did not have the Air element, there would be no laughter, no breath, indeed, no life at all (as we know it!) 

When working with the element of Air, it is so important to remember that Air is not all work and no play.  The eastern element is a place of beginnings, so it also corresponds with childhood. 

Have you ever watched children play?  They play with abandon.  They don’t need a reason to laugh.  They don’t need a reason to love or to include anyone in their play time.  Children embody much of the good of the air element.  They think, but they don’t over think.

Over thinking is one of the destructive forces of the Air element.  It’s how we talk ourselves out of things.  It’s how we become convinced that a good idea really isn’t a good idea at all.  Over thinking anything is a sign of too much air.

If the Earth element represents the winter time, then the Air element represents spring.  Much like physical air, springtime is full of potential energy.  Not every bud on a tree becomes a leaf.  Not every bud on a tulip becomes a flower however these things do have that potential.  In much the same way, the sweet, warm breeze can become a tornado.

Have you ever spoken to the Tulip People?  What about any of the other spring flowers?  Have you spoken to the Robin?  Maybe the Earthworm?  All of these spirits can give you exceptional insight into spring as a beginning.  Remember, though, etiquette is different for them than it is with humans.

So, then, what happens when the Air element gets out of balance?  Well, too much air can lead to a lack of emotions.  We all know that one person who is like a Vulcan.  That’s a good example of too much air.  Something we don’t think about, though, is that too much air can also lead to not being too fun to be around.  Whimsy, like the flight of a hummingbird, is also governed by the air element.

What would a lack of air look like, then?  Maybe too much emotion?  Melodrama?  Excitement or depression?  Maybe a lack of air would look like one is being illogical and unreasonable.  We all know that person, too, that free spirit who simply floats along following the whims of the universe.

To balance Air, one must decide if there is an abundance or a lack of.  Some activities I like to do to balance out my own Air are coloring, drawing, playing games, walking, reading something light-hearted, and even being around children, such as at a park.  I also like to swing on a swing set or porch swing.  For me, activities that get me out of my own head are perfect.

Of course, if one doesn’t have enough Air, then activities like putting together a puzzle, reading something ‘heavy’ but interesting, like an instruction or reference booklet on a topic of interest are both good ways to step back into ones head or get ‘out of the clouds’.

With Imbolc coming soon and spring following soon thereafter, the perfect time to explore the air element is upon us!  If you have suggestions for Air activities, please, feel free to comment.  There can never be too many different ways to commune with the Elementals.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Earth

Since there are plenty of books out there with correspondences for each element, and other such ways to work with it, so I won't be doing any lists, but I will be talking about methods I use to work with the Elements, what I have found works and what I have found doesn't work.  This will be a place of discussion about these ideas and, even, why they do or do not work.

Once we get through the elements, if there are other aspects of the Craft that you want or need working information on, don't hesitate to ask.  If I don't know, I can find someone who does.

And we walked for hours, finally arriving at the mouth of a cave.  Rivulets of sweat race down my brow from both exertion and fear.  The darkened maw beckons us into the unknown.  We arrive.  There is an electricity in the air, something prodding us all forward.  With a collective breath fortifying us, we face our fears of darkness and closed spaces; crossing the threshold. Into the womb of the Mother.  Into the place of our ancestors.  Someone flicks on their flashlight.  The cave gobbles up both the click of the on-switch and the feeble beam of light.  For a moment we stop, gazing at this cavern, its dimensions so massive our LED 's look like penlights in a closet.  Then, I notice the cold.  It seeping in nearly unnoticed, wrapping its heavy tendrils around my legs, waist, arms.  Its caress like a familiar lover, whispering in my ear, lulling me.  That is when we hear the voice beckoning us into the darkness.

Our lights drift toward the sound and we walk, as a group, closer.  It is like hearing the trees speak or the robin's song, the promise of spring.  We don't understand the words, but some part of us knows them.  After several steps, she appears at the edge of our light beams.  She is round and soft-looking, like the Willendorf statue and sits upon a throne of worn stalagmites.  We stand in shock, disbelieving what we are seeing.  "You come to this place seeking me and you are surprised to find me?"  Her eyes glitter with mirth.  "Come.  Sit.  Be.  I shall tell you a story."

The Earth element is a place of both beginnings and endings.  I decided to begin here for several reasons, but mostly because it is where we begin casting the circle within my tradition.  The Earth element is heavy, like the soil, the rocks, the trees.  It grounds us.  It takes from us that energy which we have too much of.  Have you ever been upset, angry, or exceptionally excited and felt the unexplainable need to work in the garden or walk among the trees?  That is the Earth element calling and offering comfort.

Earth is stable and rigid.  Unlike the, often, whimsical nature of air or the fluid nature of water, earth stands, much like the guardian, never choosing to move on its own.  What can earth teach us, if it is rigid and stable?  Earth teaches us about foundations, to begin with.  It teaches us that rigidity is needed in some instances.  It teaches us that, like the mountains, sometimes we simply need to be.  Have you ever spoken to the Stone People or the Tree People?  If you haven't, this would be a good place to begin.  I warn you, it is a very foreign encounter.  Their etiquette is different and their views are different, so be kind and humble and do not rush.

Being a dark place, settled in the North within the circle, Earth also teaches us that sometimes things must lay fallow and in the darkness for them to grow.  It reminds us that birth begins in the dark and death ends there.  Earth reminds us that as we go through the cycle of birth, life, and death within our lives, we must always come back to that place of rest.

Each turn of the Wheel of the Year brings us back to Samhain, translating to "summer's end."  Samhain marks the time when all crops should be out of the fields and in the store houses for winter.  Samhain is, elementally speaking, when the Wheel turns back to North and we stay there for a quarter of the year, until Imbolc, which turns us toward the Air element.

Despite all of the good the Earth Element does when it is in balance, we must also talk about the Earth Element becoming out of balance, because it can and does happen.  When we think of "bad" things with the literal Earth, our planet, what comes to mind?  Earthquakes?  Quicksand? Liquefaction?  Mudslides?  Erosion?

What would be the spiritual equivalent?  Maybe inflexibility or procrastination?  What about retreating or hibernating?  What about simply not thinking about how your actions will effect others? Could that be the spiritual equivalent of an earthquake or quicksand?

If those traits are too much Earth, what constitutes a lack of it?  Well, having too much of any of the other three elements.  Maybe a person is flighty and unreliable?  What if they are a control freak?  What about impracticality? Being emotional? Judgmental?  Quick to act?  What Earth qualities can balance those things?  Slowing down? Taking a moment to just be?  Putting ones self into another's shoes?

We all get too much of an element from time to time, so what can we do to balance that out?  Well, some things we can do to get us less grounded, especially if we feel as though we are sinking into the darkness are: go for a walk, draw, write, build something, or simply get moving!  These particular activities call upon the elements of Fire and Water to balance the heaviness of Earth.  Talking to a friend on the phone or having someone come over are other ways to correct an immediate Earth imbalance.  Find something whimsical to do, like draw on the sidewalk with chalk or find a reason to use glitter (there's ALWAYS something that can be glittered!!)  Even something as simple as redecorating your altar can become an exercise in balancing your elements.

If the problem is needing to be more grounded, then garden, walk barefoot on the grass, hug a tree, go to a park and take a blanket and just lay on it and read.  Just stepping outside and taking a few minutes to listen and watch the world around you can bring you back down and ground you.  Cooking is also a grounding activity for me.  Something else that I find relaxing and fun is to pretend to be a cat.  Have a nibble to eat (maybe treat yourself!) a sip of water, and find a soft, warm place to rest, preferably in a shaft of sunlight.  Then, just do that for 15 minutes without worrying about anything else.  Know that all is right with the world for that moment.

Finding ways to identify the Elements and identify with the Elements can be a fun activity.  Self examination through the Quarters is also a very good way to begin to Know Thyself.  What do you do to ground yourself?  How do you identify with the Earth Element?  How do you keep yourself in balance?  As always, I would love to hear your experience!

Brightest blessings, Friends!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The What's, When's, and Why's of Letting Go

This week I was a little stumped as to what to write about.  For me, one of the things I am focusing on this year is sitting down to write, at least once a week.  Sometimes the words flow easily and I sit for an hour or two.  Other times, the words don't come, but I persevere and struggle with my Muse for two hours or more.  I have decided that, when I get stumped, I'm going to ask for help, which is how we got here.  (I also got a request for writing about some astrological stuff going on and I'm going to write about that, too, after a little research!)

We have all heard the Christian saying, "Let go and let God," but what does that really mean and is it relevant to pagans?  I believe it is.  First, what is letting go?  Is it giving up?  Is it moving past? Is it no longer trying to control something or a situation?  Is it acceptance?  Is it a state of mind or is there a physical sensation that goes along with it?

Pick up the nearest object to you and hold it in your hand, be it a writing utensil, a stick of incense, a piece of change.  Feel that thing in your hand.  Note its weight, texture, temperature, and any other physical attributes that it may have.  Now, turn your palm sideways and let it go.  Let it drop to the ground.  Did you feel that?  If not, pick the object up and do it again, let it go.  Notice the sensation in your hand as you open it.  There is a physical sensation that goes with letting go.

I was privileged enough to watch a very wise man talk about letting go once.  Gary did that exact exercise and dropped a quarter on the table.  It took me dropping many quarters to understand that physical sensation, but it is there.  As I have matured, I have come to know letting go as a form of acceptance.

I don't see letting go as giving up or moving past.  I understand letting go as seeing through illusions that are cast and seeing the outcome for what it is and being okay with it, whether or not my Ego likes it.  A good example is looking at a friend who consistently makes the wrong decision, despite counsel to make the right one.  At what point do I, as their friend, put my hands in the air and let them go?  Because we are friends, is it fair to me to get sucked into their crazy?  Because we are friends, am I obligated to harass them into being sensible?  Because we are friends, I don't like their decision, but they are an adult and they do have free will, so I let them go.  I accept that they need (for whatever reason) these lessons.  I accept that some part of them wants this insanity, so I stop wasting energy on them.

Maybe that's really what letting go is, the conscious decision to stop wasting energy on a person or a situation and doing so without judgment.

So, when is a good time to let go?  Obviously, that depends upon the person.  We all have different thresholds and levels for what we will put up with.  We all react differently to different situations.  The biggest difference between letting go and other forms of severing ties is the peace that surrounds letting go (at least for me it is!!)  When I let someone or thing go, it is when I have made peace with it.  That's when I know it is time.  I look at that person or thing, at their actions and reactions, and I can look at the pattern and see what lies ahead for that person, good or bad.  When I see someone hanging on to the bad, being petty and childish, going out of their way to provoke, then I know without a doubt, it's time to part ways.  When I see a person ignoring the advice they asked for (or doing the opposite), then I know it's time to let go.

Timing is always the most difficult, however, I judge it by whether or not I can say to that person, "Go in peace and love and may you reap whatever it is that you sew."  If I can say that sincerely and with love in my heart, then I have let them go.  If I say it with any negativity attached, I still have issues with it that I need to work on.

Why do we let people go?  Why do we let situations and circumstances go?  Why am I advocating letting shit go?  The short answer is: We move past that which no longer serves us.

What happens if we hang on to things?  We all know what happens.  It consumes us, much in the same way the spark from a camp fire can consume an entire forest.  "Proving" we are right, more, better, etc. is exhausting.  It lowers our vibration and we become skewed.  Our purpose on this earth becomes twisted.  Witch wars happen.  Witch wars can only happen when two people or groups of people are being petty assholes.  When one person our group bows out and decides to take the high road and not acknowledge the pettiness of the other (or alternately, laughs at the negativity thrown at them) and doesn't let it effect them, then that is letting go.  Why wouldn't we, as magical practitioners, want to let go of the negative in our lives?

So, is letting go difficult?  You're damn straight it is!  Are we, as people and groups, better for it when we do let go?  Absolutely!  So, if we are such highly spiritual beings, why is it so hard to let go?  Why is it so difficult to open that hand and leave whatever it is to the Gods?  Who wants to try that with me this year?  Just.... Let it go.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Dangers of Sitting in Judgment (or Have a (Blind)Side of Karma Courtesy of the Gods)

Here's a scenario we can all identify with:  A person does or says something you don't like.  (Maybe they said your idea was stupid or that your outfit was dated or too tight.)  That person then goes on as though he or she did nothing wrong.  You, not liking what was said or done, think about that 'slight' every time you see that person.  Then, you nitpick his or her every move for months.  You stop talking to them.  You go out of your way to make him or her feel uncomfortable or stumble.  You intentionally stir up trouble for that person weeks or months after the initial 'slight'.  You hold on to your anger and righteous indignation declaring it to any who would listen because that person is a 'bad' person.  Half a year later, you still sit upon your Throne of Judgment because you didn't get what you want.  Eighteen months later, you still look for ways to dig at that person.  In five years, you can't even remember why you don't like that person, but you are certain that he or she is evil and everyone should avoid them at all costs.

We have all been there.  None of us sit in a place of pure love all of the time (and if you say that you do, then you are also a liar).  We all sit in judgment of another, whether or not it is the right thing to do (and the Ego always says it is right and justified).  When we do that and, especially, when we allow revenge, pain, or stirring trouble against that person to consume us, we have climbed upon our Throne of Judgment.  What our Ego doesn't tell us is that Throne of Judgment is flimsy.  It isn't sturdy.  It falls apart easily.  It is constructed full of holes and rotting wood.  Maybe a leg is missing.  We look at this Throne through the eyes of the Ego and this wobbly, rotting, bit of wood and glue becomes this glorious oaken seat with velvet cushions, gold-capped nail-heads, a fur wrap for those drafty days, and a matching velvet-topped ottoman to rest your righteous feet.

The problem with sitting in judgment (and the danger of it) is that the other person may not even realize you are still angry at them.  If that person has moved on then your anger is wasted emotion.  If that person has walked on up the path they walk, then the boulders you call yourself throwing may only be pebbles to them.  If that person has no feelings of ill toward you, then what you see as stumbling blocks, they crawl on top of to get a better view of what lies ahead.  Your judgment isn't causing that person any pain, resentment, or other negative emotion because they are beyond your realm of influence.  You are only fighting with yourself when you hang on to the 'slight'.

Another problem with sitting in judgment is that, ultimately, the self righteous hanging on and self-justification of all of those negative emotions creates an imbalance within the spiritual self.  If the Ego is in the driver's seat, then the Higher Self can not be accessed as readily.  Well, what does the Universe do when there is an imbalance?  Yep! It seeks to create balance.  If there is a huge amount of Ego, then the cure is humility. So smash, bang, crack, pow! Some part of your life gets banged up a bit.  Maybe that part is your job or your finances or maybe that part is the disintegration of another friendship or maybe your spouse cheats on you.  The karmic repercussions don't necessarily happen in the same area of your life.  Balance is balance.

So, if 'bad things' are happening in one area of you life as you sit upon your Throne of Judgment, it isn't the other person throwing bad juju at you, it's your own accumulation of bad juju as you sit upon your Throne.  Having constant headaches?  Your third eye or crown chakras are likely clogged or closed shutting off the flow of energy and severing your connection to your Higher Self.  Feeling tired all of the time and having low energy?  That's from constantly searching energetically for the 'bad things' that other person is 'focusing' upon you.  Another word for that is paranoia.  Want to go crazy quickly as a magical person?  It is very, very easy to do that when one walks between the worlds and is in constant contact with the energies around us.  The Ego can filter anything in a way to make you think someone is out to get you.

Unfortunately, the Universe does not revolve around any of us as single entities.  So, your judgment of another is your own.  The price you are willing to pay for 'being right' is your own.  However, as you sit upon your Throne, do not blame others for the karmic debt you incur.  When that Throne finally collapses into a heap, do not point fingers.  When the illusions are finally disbursed and you can see clearly the unfiltered situation, remember that cause always leads to effect and that what we put out always comes back to us.  Magical people tend to quote that, but then forget it when they want revenge.  They tend to forget it when they get butthurt and want to hurt another back.  For Wiccans, the last few lines of the Rede is good to remember:

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow. 
Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you. 
These Eight words the Rede fulfill: 
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"

For those not Wiccan, the Universal Law of Cause and Effect will do:

"Every Cause has its Effect; every Effect has its Cause; everything happens according to Law; Chance is but a name for Law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law." — The Kybalion.

Or maybe the Law of Polarities:

"Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled." — The Kybalion.

No matter what, there are certain universal truths out there, laws that must be followed.  When we sit in judgment, others judge us and that is not something we want.  We yell 'live and let live' but then do not.  When does it end, the cycle of judging?  When is it okay simply to let it go?  When is it okay just just let someone else be right, even when they are wrong?  That's my personal choice.  Hell, their being 'right' doesn't hurt me in any way and they will be the ones to have to deal with the karma of it.  I do not have to love or hate them for their blindness.  I just have to keep walking my own path.  Their being 'right' has no bearing on my purpose in life, even if they are sitting in direct judgment of me.

Brightest of blessings, friends!!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Karma: What We Aren't Getting (or are Forgetting) About It. (And I'm just talking about this lifetime.)

Today, I'm setting the intent for this calendar year.  I'm am going to live today in the same manner I intend 2015 to go.  Hence, a mid-week blog.  This topic is something that I think is very, very important to remember for us pagans and, honestly, I don't see many pagans who actually understand how karma and the Three-Fold Law, the Law of Returns, or the Law of Polarity work.  Any of these particular words or phrases will work in the sense that I am using.  They are not all simply Wiccan in nature and are, in some form or fashion, laws of the universe, so we can't get around them no matter our belief.  For the sake of simplicity, I will use the word Karma for this writing.

I have, through the years, watched those around me revel joyfully when "good" comes into their life.  They reap the bounty of the "good" with the fervor of a child.  However, when "bad" things happen, these same people bemoan their fate and proverbially shake their fists at the sky.  They cry victimization.  They blame the gods or someone else in their lives.  I have watched those I love struggle in their day-to-day.  They struggle to pay bills.  They struggle to put food on the table.  Every day is like an uphill battle.  Why is this?

Obviously, these situations are not totally karmically connected, however, every day, in our words and in our deeds, we do build karmic debt.  Every word and every action creates a ripple in the pond of the Universe.  What happens when we drop a stone in a pond?  Ripples form.  They bounce along the water (not just the surface) to the edge and then they bounce back to center.  In a pond, the surface eventually becomes still again,but in the Universe, those ripples keep going in and out through this life and the next, becoming weaker but never going away.

So, when I hear people (especially pagans) getting upset because some unpaid bill from six years ago has come up and they can't get financing for a house, I have to wonder if they understand karma at all.  Just because you didn't pay that bill doesn't mean that it just *poof* into the aether and it disappeared.  This example is a great example of karmic debt.  Karmic debt works in much the same way that our banking system does.  

When someone lives in a small town and cheats on his or her spouse (or is the interloper), it does not matter if the extra marital relationship put both people where they needed to be on their life path.  Because of the pain caused, there is a karmic debt to be paid (regardless of how the spurned spouse reacted, as that is part of his/her karmic debt).  Living in a small town means that the cheater and the interloper are both going to have people and places they can not go.  Living in a small town means both people will lose friends.  It means both people in the new relationship will have a reputation to contend with.  If both people are not willing to contend with the consequences of their actions, then why are they acting as such?

As pagans, we are taught that it is okay to do things that 'feel good', but we should be honest about them.  You know, it feels really good to me to buy books with the money I work so hard for, but if I don't pay my electric bill, I have no lights.  I can't be mad at the electric company for shutting me off, can I?  Is there a difference between that and speaking ill of someone?  Energetically?  I don't think so.  Is there a difference between defaulting on a loan with the bank and purposefully pursuing your own happiness without regard to those around you?  Energetically?  No.

We all encounter stumbling blocks in this life.  Sometimes, they are there by design (i.e our soul puts them there before we reincarnate).  Sometimes, those stumbling blocks are a direct result of karmic debt from this lifetime.  In being honest with ourselves, as magical people, can we really complain about a stumbling block that we tossed into our own path because of past, careless actions?  What complaint do we really have, even when that same block keeps tripping us up 5 years or 10 down the road?  We can not whine that it isn't fair.  We put that energy out there.  While we are free to act as we so choose (being adults over 21 and living in a free country), we are not free from the consequences of those actions.  Every thought, every word, every action counts.  Are you digging a karmic hole to fall into later or are you building stepping stones to the future?  It's just something to think about as we begin this new calendar year.

May 2015 bring you the brightest blessings, Friends.