Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pagan Blog Project: Boundaries

 "And this is one of the major questions of our lives: how we keep boundaries, what permission we have to cross boundaries, and how we do so."

Boundaries are the demarcation line of where you as an individual end and the next person begins. It's the limitation  you set in regard to your own personal tolerance, comfort and safety. Boundaries are dividing lines, borders and  length you find the behavior of others acceptable.

A very important hallmark of being Pagan is personal freedom, one which I thoroughly support- especially if you are coming from a faith tradition where everything has been limited by religious dogma. However, I also advocate exploring your new found freedom with the same caveat found at the Temple of Delphi : All things in moderation. Just because you have slipped the figurative chains of religious oppression, don't go running off to your new-found happy place without a few well thought out safeguards in place. Everyone needs to set  boundaries for themselves.

"Stand for something or you will fall for anything" is a tired old saying that still has relevant meaning. I will unconditionally respect you even if I fundamentally disagree with you.Everyone deserves to have their dignity. But I expect-and demand- the same from others, because I didn't leave my right to respect with my shoes at the door to Paganism. (See, I just drew a line and set a boundary. It didn't take a lot of effort to set the tone, and I am  clear about my expectations.)

While I am not trying to force others into my concept of what is right, at the same time, I don't wish to be forced into someone else's idea of what is right, either. I believe that's where we have a tendency to  fall down in our thinking when it comes to discussing our Paths with one another. We all want to believe we're on the truest course. And we are-but only for ourselves. My definition of  a Spiritual Path is "A personal journey of devotion and exploration which is developed through the experience of what works and what doesn't rather than what is 'right' or 'wrong'." I cling tenaciously to this definition not only for my self, but for how I perceive it  for others. You may wish to expand on that definition, or rephrase it. Your input is certainly welcome, You don't have to agree with me, because I'm basing my opinion on my own personal experience. In this way, personal experience is yet another boundary for each of us.

I began my spiritual journey when I was a teenager, totally unaware that what I was doing was a form of folk magick. All I knew then was that my little forays into the woods and the things I did there linking me to the natural and spirit world felt more  right and correct than anything I did within the confines of the Roman Catholic Church. I didn't think the Church was bad or wrong because it did seem to work for a lot of other people: It just didn't work for me. God was with me in those places I went to be alone, and more to the point, it was a form of the Divine which I could understand. The supreme being I encountered there had a more comforting and motherly feeling than the fatherly one I feared in the pew. I had no concept of the Goddess at that time because I had never known any form of Deity other than the God I had been raised with within the confines of Christianity. I was totally benign religiously at that point, because I felt that the Divine came from wherever you could get it. God was God was God, and I had no other feeling because I was still pretty much a child and had not yet formed a mature sense of discernment. It was wonderful for the time and the place of spiritual formation I was living, and there were no boundaries, no rules for me.

Except that my newly discovered relationship with spirituality felt a bit...naughty. I had a gnawing feeling that I was doing was taboo, but I also had a sense that the priests and the Church were keeping a huge secret from me...and I was determined to find out what that was. Rebellion was in my blood: I fancied myself a type Joan of Arc sans the voices in my head. Looking back at that time in my life, and I can credit some of that feeling to the normal synergy of becoming an adult. At the tender age of seventeen, I bought a copy of Scott Cunningham's Earth Power, and it was life changing if only because it gave me encouragement that at least one other person understood what I was feeling and doing...and he'd written a book about it. I was about to cross a spiritual boundary into uncharted spiritual territory.

College opened up my world. Not only was I away from home, I was in Manhattan! There were a million trillion billion exciting things to do besides going to school. I was overwhelmed by it all. People were doing things I'd never though occurred in the real world...magickal things! There was an underground occult community- some good and some not so good. I shied away at first, but finally I connected with a group that practiced British Traditional Witchcraft through a friend and was accepted as a novice. I was as diligent in my  Gardnerian studies as those for my Bachelor's degree and by the time I graduated from college I had been elevated to Third Degree in a very strict form of the Craft.

Gardnerian Tradition. There were too many rules for me: stand here, say this exactly this way every felt like Roman Catholic dogma in a way...and although I had lost the feeling of taboo connected to the Craft and had the utmost respect for my teachers, being within the confines of that structure didn't feel quite right to me. Here was another boundary to cross.

One of the things that bothered me the most was that my concept of spirituality didn't strictly jibe with BTW: I wanted to study and learn from other religions and not be limited by the belief that you had to  definitively wear the label of a particular tradition.Besides, I had still not broken off from Christianity totally, because I was  emotionally and financially dependent on my family, which meant I could not be out of the broom closet. It was bad enough that I had become an Episcopalian; imagine if they had known that I was a practicing witch. My very Catholic family was devastated when I was presented with the opportunity to further my religious education in seminary- and accepted-because there was a catch. I had to seek ordination, which I did in 1985. For over fifteen years I worked for a diocese under three bishops as a chaplain, while I quietly practiced my version of the Craft in private. Yes, there was a great deal of conflict, but it was more a more ethical dilemma than a spiritual one for  me. Spiritually everything aligned in my mind because by then I had evolved into what is now recognized as being an eclectic hedge witch. It was then that I unequivocally made the decision not to limit myself to the 'should' of either faith tradition. Not only did I cross the boundaries, I tore them down.

As a solitary, I use the knowledge I'd learned while in the coven, but I blend  practices from other faith traditions because, frankly, it's what works for me.  I follow my conscience and personal moral compass. I find I can be respectful of the rites of other religions and learn from them. It challenges and fires my imagination when developing rituals and the bonus is that it has given me a well rounded understanding of the belief systems of others. While that in itself has given me more understanding, it has also  made me less tolerant, particular of the bigotry of some groups of individuals. Through this I have keenly honed my ability to discern my own beliefs and stand up for  myself in the arena of religion...particularly with other Pagans. I have a new appreciation for setting boundaries.

For a community that professes a 'live and let live' mentality, we certainly do rag on one another about everything. We don't simply engage one another in polite debate- we flat out attack one another. For all the battle cry of "harm none!", there are more than just a few who are all but too happy to call someone else " Fluffy Bunny" ( the Neo-pagan version of the popular Christian insult "Nominal Christian") point out the flaws in their theology, then proceed to pontificate all the perceived points of why you and I are doing it all wrong and they are righteous and correct. (From the Goddesses' mouth to your ear, you say.) Usually this is by someone who goes by a pretentious title and wields a hair-trigger curriculum vitae. More to the point, it is not even about how wrong they think you are, but how justified they are in pointing out your lack of obvious knowledge. Well, after all, someone has to do it, and it might as well be someone as qualified as they, since the ceiling to their library is propped up with volumes of arcane minutia.

I recall reading an essay by Pagan author and psychologist Anodea Judith, who made the  point  that many Pagans come from dysfunctional families and that those with unhealthy social standards tend to use Paganism as a way to rebel, seek attention and feel powerful. ( . Others may sincerely believe they are 'defending the faith' 

( A common misconception of  those new to Paganism, and to Wicca in particular, who have not yet come to the realization in all their bright-eyed enthusiasm and desire to fit in that we all don't fit into a neat little category). While I recognize this behavior for what it is and can empathize with them on some level, I refuse to allow the self-appointed Potentates of the Elect  to run rough-shod over my carefully developed spiritual peace of mind...This is number one on my list of personal boundaries with other Pagans. It is non-negotiable. My Path, my way, because it's right for me. What is right for me may not be right for you, it may, in fact, make absolutely no sense what so ever to you. But it is right and correct for me, and I am not obligated to please anyone else other than myself and the gods I worship. 

I believe boundaries are necessarily healthy. If you are uncomfortable with public nudity, then acknowledge that and don't join the group that worships skyclad. Do you have issues with authority? Perhaps you would be better off in a group with flexible organization or as a solitary. Knowing and recognizing our limitations and setting boundaries is not a negative thing. Boundaries are not necessarily inflexible- but some should be- like how you allow yourself to be treated by others. In the application of common sense, no one will find this being judgmental. If someone treats you in a way that feels demeaning or you believe diminishes your self esteem, then you most certainly have the right of not allowing yourself to be treated that way.

I maintain that carefully applied boundaries do more to bring us together than to drive us apart. Being  tolerant and understanding of someone else's belief system  does not mean that you have to put up with things like unwanted sexual attention or contact, temper tantrums,threats, mental or physical abuse, prejudice, selfishness, rudeness,  self righteousness, addictive and/or destructive or otherwise bad behavior. There is a limit to what is socially and personally unacceptable, and the first step to asserting your conscience is setting a boundary, then sticking with it. As Pagans we know that to change our world outside, we must first start  within.

(Another excellent resource can be found at:


    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Pagan Blog Project: An Aging Community

    Here's something you probably don't want to hear: our Pagan community is aging. While it is certainly true that Paganism has been expanding at a rapid pace over the last ten years and is particularly appealing to young persons, there is a core segment of the community who came into the picture with the advent of Gardner's public reconstruction around and prior to 1951. What that essentially means is that those who were standing on the threshold of the first generation of modern Wicca,witchcraft and Paganism did so 60 plus years ago. Many of those we view as founders and elders of the Craft are now truly elderly. It doesn't mean that those folks are going to wither into wizened old coots, but let's face it-everyone is not as spry and sprightly as Raymond Buckland in their elderhood. (

    I came into the Craft during the 1970's at the tender age of 17...thirty-nine years ago. Another mid-50ish woman and I are presently planning our Croning Ceremony, which will take place in a couple of months. Being in the Craft 39 years doesn't make me more important or better than anyone else; I'm not an adept at anything as far as I can tell.( And yes, it did freak me out just a little when I did the math that so many years have passed.) What it does mean is that I am a potentially valuable resource in my home group, and perhaps the the community beyond. It means I have more experience simply because of tenure ( not superior to anyone elses, mind you).  It also means that  one day in the not so distant future, I may not be able to fully participate in the activities of my community unless there is careful planning by those mindful of the limitations we all develop as we age. There are things I cannot do even now as well as I used to, but on the other hand, that is off-set by the knowledge and ability I have developed in other areas.

    The  aging of our community will require how we look at things when we plan gatherings and events. (Frankly, we should already be doing this with regard to those members who have physical disabilities.) Accessibility may not be an issue where you hold rituals now, but there is a genuine likelihood it can be in the future. No member of the community should be turned away or  left out of an activity because there are barriers to their participation due to age and/ or infirmity. There are certainly many ways to make adaptations during the planning phase of events to be sure the chosen area does not bar anyone from participating. And yes, that may mean at some point that you need to change the meeting place to reasonably accommodate everyone. I assure you that the Divine will appear wherever you hold your event with the proper invitation.

    Architectural and physical barriers are not the biggest obstacle. The biggest obstacle is attitude. Policies and practices of the group may inadvertently lead to unintentional discrimination. Discussing the needs of our aging community now will largely by pass any misunderstanding or hurt feelings later. Nobody wants to feel like they no longer have a part because they are 'too old', or that certain activities are only for the younger members of the group...and no one should be allowed to feel that way. Leadership should make clear that every member of the group has their own uniqueness, and what makes the individual valued does not diminish with age.

    Make no assumptions about the ability of others. Don't assume that the coven mate with failing vision also has a problem hearing, or Lady Lighthawk will be unable to walk up the hill to where the circle is being held because she does, after all, have a cane. In this instance your adjustment in planning might simply be  using a larger font when printing written parts of the ritual, or working with the individual in question to have the printed part translated to braille ( many individuals with low vision or who are blind have access to a facility which will do this). It doesn't hurt to ask-in fact, it makes the individual feel valued because you are willing to help remove the barrier to their participation. That participant who uses the cane may just have to be given a little more time to make the trek, or have a 'buddy' to help with the rough spots. The same goes for those using wheelchairs and scooters; many of these devices are capable of being used in moderate rough terrain with the assistance of others. Others may have respiratory or cardiac illness; would it be possible to give them a ride to the ritual spot? Again, maybe all they would need to do is to pace themselves and be given additional time to reach the area under the watchful eyes of others making the trip on foot. Designate a member of the group to be the official communicator with a deaf coven mate who uses TTA( phone service for the deaf using telecommunications). Work with the individual toward a solution! They deal with the physical challenge all the time and may have developed some innovative solutions on their own. I cannot stress the value of open communication enough.

    I have a personal example of this: just at the time I was about to undergo  my Ordeal Ceremony in the Order of the Arrow (Boy Scouts), my MS kicked in full force. While I could walk and carry a light backpack unassisted, I could not use a sleeping bag on the ground. The leadership wanted to put me in an indoor lodge for the night, to which I objected, because the purpose of the evening was to be in the out of  doors for the evening. The solution we came up with was this: I still went out on the mountain with my group, but my sleeping bag was put on a cot for the night,giving me the proper height from the ground where I had leverage to be independent. It was a simple, dignified solution. The ultimate benefit from this experience was that it became an opportunity for discussion and education for the OA chapter leadership, which resulted in adapting their routine so that other Scouts who were physically and mentally challenged were inducted in our OA Lodge. Now the participation of these individuals is not considered a 'problem' by the more able bodied, and other participants are not only delighted to pitch in where they are needed, but knowing they helped make the experience a reality for another fellow gives them the satisfaction of being truly useful. Perhaps the most important lesson is that they now view ability verses inability through new eyes.

    Most of all, allow those who are differently- abled their dignity, particularly those who are experiencing problems connected with the natural aging all of us will experience. None of us would intentionally be mean-spirited...but you would be surprised by your own reactions...I was, and I am a trained paramedic. Curb your impatience if it's taking a little bit longer for that older member to "get it". On the other hand, don't treat the elderly as you would a child. Take into consideration that "things don't work like they used to". Speak a little more clearly, adjust your tone of voice if you realize the other person isn't quite comprehending what you're saying. Offer to enlarge printed materials, or to read to them if the person seems to be having a problem. There is no harm in gently saying," Can I help you with that?" The offer is more often than not appreciated because the individual doesn't want to appear useless or a burden. We all have our pride....and occasionally we all need the help of another.

    I feel that within our community there is a vague sense of  disconnect in genuinely equating our aging membership with the worship of the  Maiden, Mother and Crone ( and their male counterparts). This is curious to me and  I cannot put my finger on it other than to say it is a normal development phase of the young. It is a boon and not a burden to have older members among us. Not everyone will be the endearing image of the coven grandma or grandfather, but even those who are disagreeable and set in their ways have something to teach us. The experience of long life only comes from those who have lived it. Please remember that those aged members of our community will all too soon become the ancestors from whom we seek help from across the Veil.

    (The CDC has an excellent informational source on aging on their website, including a course which offers CEUs for some individuals:

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Baubles,Beads and Buddha

    Created by Amber Paschal of Morning Rain Designs
    Pagans love jewelry! And why not? It's fun, and a visually stimulating form of temporary body modification. For some Pagans, jewelry is that "Outward and spiritual sign of an inward and spiritual grace" we keep hearing about.(My wonderful friend Amber is of Native American descent and  the beauty of her heritage is reflected in all of her creations. Visit her at Morning Rain Design's Facebook page for more information.)

    I will admit that I love all kinds of  jewelry, but especially earrings because they don't get in my way (although I do take them off before bed). Most of my religiously inspired pieces are made of sterling silver alone or combined with semi-precious stones and beads.

    Beads have been known to humans for at least 40,000 years and are  made from fired clay, stones, teeth, wood, shells, glass and organic materials ( think amber which is a resin and jet which is carbonated petrified wood.)They come in all shapes and sizes: round, oblong, conical, flat and asymmetric. Beads are usually created by drilling a hole through them or wrapping them with soft wire to provide a means for attachment. Although the usual application for beads is in jewelry making, they have also been used as monetary currency in some cultures. The legendary Native American Ghost Beads are made from dried juniper berries interspersed with colored glass seed beads. Likewise, the most simple Tibetan  Mala consists of bodhi or lotus seeds. The Rosary originated from the formation of beads made from rose petals heated in water over several days, compressed to remove the liquid and then rolled between the fingers into small balls which were pierced and strung to dry ( sometimes with the addition of a preservative and attar of rose for fragrance). There is a rich religious symbolism in this process: Mary, the mother of Jesus, named the Queen of Heaven, was represented by the rose. Red, and it's derivative color purple, are the colors denoting royalty.The red rose is also symbolic of  blood- the blood of  the mother in childbirth and that spilt as Jesus' ultimate sacrifice. In a much older version of a similar story, Mari is the Mother Goddess of Creation who gives birth to the Divine Child who then sacrifices himself  by spilling his blood onto the Earth which is nourished so that the crops will grown abundantly in order for Life to continue.

    Beads are a spiritual tool and a form of adornment when incorporated into necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets  and belts or sashes.Tribal people ritualistically pierce their ears ( and other places) for the induction of beads and metal accoutrements  in celebration of the attainment of puberty or other milestone. Following this, I have done the same: my original ear lobe piercings took place at the age of 15, then I added a third hole in thanksgiving for the recovery from illness of a dear friend; the fourth (at the age of 40) upon the death of one of my spiritual teachers and mentors; and the fifth when I ceased my moon blood. Beads have been used to create fanciful and fabulous patterns and representations of spirits and animals when worked into tapestry ( think Native American and African bead work).

    My own favorite 'power' bracelets are made from chips of semi-precious stones, beads and metal and include a simple one of clear quartz, another of square sterling and round hematite beads, and a Tibetan Mala made of moonstone. Included in my eclectic assort of beaded jewelry are earrings with carved abalone beads, jade, malachite, turquoise, wood and composition materials. Each piece has a particular natural energy vibration due to the materials it's made from, and I switch out pieces depending on my mood or the energy I want to acquire and./ or amplify in myself. Beads made of semi-precious stones are excellent for this, e.g., a necklace made of aquamarine -my Pisces birthstone- is particularly good at raising creative vibrations or when I want to think outside the box.

    Courtesy Morning Rain Designs
    Beads come in all shapes and sizes, and are easy to use to create your own magickal tools beyond just jewelry. Beaded hand grips for ritual knives and staffs, or sewing beads on clothing is not only beautiful, but a useful way to add a bit of energy to the piece. Beads can also be used on altar cloths and wall hangings. One of the most effective ways to utilize beads are by creating strings of prayer beads.

    Donald L. Engstrom-Reese's chapter in The Pagan Book of Living and Dying inspired me to create my first set of Pagan prayer beads from common seed beads and those made of Connemara marble that came from a broken Rosary. His description of making a devotional tool to aid in focusing on the various kingdoms of Nature is simple and haunting. That particular set of prayer beads got me through a very difficult period of my life, for which I was grateful to have the routine comfort of a tactile way to connect with the Divine.( Another story with instructions from him appears here: Since then I have been gifted with a beautiful Pagan Rosary and several necklace Malas, all of which have taken on a golden patina from use, both endearing and spiritually strengthening.

    Courtesy of
    I particularly like using Tibetan-style Malas in my devotional  practice. Besides knowing that I have supported  an artisan from a country with incredible religious, political and economic oppression, I enjoy the historical aspect of the piece and beauty of the  materials. My skull Mala is very similar to the one pictured below, which is made from water buffalo  bone. It may seem macabre to some , but the symbolism of the skull in Tibetan art holds nothing sinister. Rather, the skull it represents the impermanence of  this mortal life and is an assistance in dispelling fear. I find the exposure to this particular symbol very therapeutic, because it reminds me that death is not only enviable, but a part of the cycle of creation. We usually do not fear what is a normal part of our everyday, and so incorporating this powerful image into my life allows me to keep this in perspective. Psychically, it also keeps me connected to the influence of my   ancestors. Anyone who has ever used a Rosary or set of prayer beads intrinsically knows the comfort of repetitive prayer.The familiar feel and click of the beads passing through your fingers lull the user into a state where the brainwaves actually change ( this has been scientifically proven, most notably by a study done using members of  Christian religious orders and Buddhist monks). For those of us who were raised in a faith tradition where public recitation of prayer using  beads to focus know this is an excellent practice to open the mind through the Third Eye.
    There  is a psychological draw to our Inner Child through artistic expression.I find the  hands-on approach to using beads deeply satisfying.  More so if I actually make the beads myself from raw bisque (requires kiln firing) or polymer clay ( can easily be cured in a home oven). The beads can be made into any shape desired, then glazed or painted and sealed. It is gratifying to use these particular tools in magickal work for me: they have been created by the release of a creative process, and often made in a near trance state. When I sculpt or engage in other artistic projects, I find that I enter a wonderful state of blissful, somewhat like the fabled 'runner's high' which is due to the release of endorphins. My rational mind tells me this is a biological action, but what is Divine in me tells me differently. Working with the clay mimics the creative process of Goddess.

    Several good books on Pagan Prayer Beads have been released in recent years; articles on the internet are also numerous. I personally recommend the excellent Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries by John  Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn, which is relatively inexpensive.( , and Donald L. Engstrom-Reese's descriptive contribution to the Pagan Book of Living and Dying (the text of the accompanying prayer can be found here as a webpage you might like to print as a resource:

     As a rule I use any beads that catch my eye, but my favorites are made from natural materials or the ones I made. Most craft stores have a good selection, and I have found some beautiful antique beads by purchasing old or broken necklaces at yard sales and flea markets.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    All Throughout The Year: The Pagan Blog Project

    Broom With A View is participating in the Pagan Blog Project during 2012. I like blogging projects; they're fun for me and I get to visit blogs I might not otherwise read. I've come across the work of some great writers that way.

    Each of us participating in this particular project is supposed to pick a subject that corresponds with a letter of the alphabet and match a subject which begins with that letter to write about each Friday during 2012. No doubt I will screw this up at some point because I am notoriously bad with deadlines, but I'm still up for the challenge.

    Since this is the second Friday of the new year, and we're still working on the letter A, I'm going to write about my first athame.

    Unless you are new to Paganism, or in case you have quite possibly been living under a rock, you know that a athame is a ritual blade used during ceremonial circles. ( In case you don't, here is an excellent article: The only point made in the article that I anywhere nearly violently disagree with is that the handle of the athame is required to be black if you are practicing Wicca or a form of British Traditional Witchcraft. I was elevated to the third degree in a Gardnerian coven during the 1980's, and although we used black-handled ritual blades because it was traditional, our training elders never mentioned that the handle absolutely had to be black. I understand and appreciate the color correspondence of black and the magickal theory that it absorbs energy more readily than other colors and I don't dispute that here. The companion ritual blade, the boline, has a curved blade and a traditionally white handle to distinguish it from the athame. It is essentially a short- handled scythe which-unlike the athame- is used as a utility knife for cutting things. Recently, I have seen some gorgeous ritual knives with painted, carved or inlaid handles of various colors and woods. My own personal athame, the one I currently use the most, has a composition handle which looks like white pearl and  a pair of thin triple jet bands set near the yellow brass hilt and pommel respectively.  The blade is double-edged stainless steel, polished to a mirror finish...and it is razor sharp. I have never used this knife for anything other than ceremonial purposes. Nothing has ever been cut with it's blade, other than to etch a rune on a wax candle. Comfortable in the hand and perfectly balanced, it is a potentially dangerous weapon which is kept peace-bound in its leather sheath when not inside the circle. I dropped it once during a rite and nearly lopped off a toe, so I have a healthy respect for it's ability to harm if used for purposes other than intended by this witch.

    My first athame was different. It was an old single edged paring knife my grandmother used during my childhood. When I was discovering Paganism there weren't many places to purchase tools. The Craft was still essentially closed to anyone other than an initiate being formally trained in a specific tradition, and few stores carried occult supplies. There were a couple of  places that  fronted as bookstores where you could buy arcane volumes, incense and candles. That was it. Otherwise, something such as a ritual blade had to be acquired through the 'right' connections.

    The old paring knife had been retired to my grandfather's workbench in the basement. It's steel wasn't the wonderfully tempered variety found in modern day kitchen tools that seemingly never needed sharpening. When 'the knife' needed sharpening, Pop would disappear to the basement with it, hone the edge back, and return it to the drawer that held the wooden spoons and spatula. It was the only knife I remember being in our kitchen other than a meat cleaver when I was a kid. The day came when Mom was given a set of carving knives with keenly thin blades for Christmas, and the humble little paring knife of my childhood became a prying tool in Pop's vast array of makeshift tools.

    While poking around the workbench one day in search of some nails, I came across the old paring knife. It was coated with grease and grime, the blade was a dull gray and had rust spots on it-but it called to me. Literally. I found myself riveted to it. Plucking it from the pile of cat food cans filled with screws, tacks, nails and assorted what-not, it felt familiar and warm in my hand. I saw Mom slicing meat, dicing herbs, and chopping onions and tomatoes for spaghetti sauce. In my mind's eye, the blade drew a perfect circle of crust around a pie plate, it sliced savory chicken breast for Sunday dinner. The memories of what this knife had done were overwhelming. It was imbued with my grandmother's energy, with the Divine energy of the Crone.

    It took me several days to painstakingly clean the knife so it was presentable. I carefully honed it on Pop's stone with oil, but it quickly became apparent that it would never be seeing it's days of glory again. The blade simply wouldn't hold an edge because the steel was spent: I took it to the hand grinder and permanently dulled the blade so it would never be used to cut anything again, then smoothed the harsh grit marks with sandpaper until the surface was uniform. This would be my first ritual blade, and in restoring it, I was charging it with my own personal energy.

    When I returned to college that week, I was eager to show the elder mentoring me my 'new' ritual blade. I'd made a soft leather bag for it, and pulled it out to be viewed with a flourish. In my hand was an old, dull paring knife. I recall feeling slightly embarrassed as we both stood there staring at it. I don't know what I was expecting from that moment, but things were a lot more anti-climatic than I had imagined. My mentor smiled," It will serve you well. The first witch's knife came from the kitchen when our tools had to be hidden and required to do double duty." She took the knife in her hand and raised it a few inches, so it was level with her gaze," There's a lot of power in this." My knife was ritually cleansed and dedicated that evening in a formal circle, along with the tools of my coven mates.

    And yes, it does have a lot of power in it, because it holds the energy and essence of both of my grandparents and me. It has been used to prepare meals from vegetables grown in the backyard of the home I grew up in, and to cast magickal circles wherever I have traveled- on a mountaintop in Colorado, by the beach of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in the outback of Australia in the shadow of Uluru, and in an Inuit village in Alaska on a salmon fishing expedition. This knife has helped to feed me both physically and spiritually most of my life. Every time I hold it in circle as a conduit, it releases the Feminine Divine. Specifically, Crone-energy manifests through it, and I am filled with a feeling of agelessness that has not been reproduced with any other magickal tool.

    It is said that our magickal tools find and acquire us, and not the other way around. I believe this to be true- how else can I explain how a humble paring knife, long discarded and no longer usable in the kitchen has re-purposed its self as a ritual blade in service to the Goddess?

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    The New Year's First Dilemma

    A dilemma is a problem with two sides of a possibility, neither of which is acceptable. This is the time of year when I look back at who I am and my current situation so I can make improvements where ever needed. It's getting harder and harder each year. I want to live my life in service to others, and it is my nature to give freely. The decision is if I can continue to do so.

    On the second day of the New Year, I've still made no resolutions.This way I will have no guilt later when resolutions are broken. The promises I make these days are only to myself because life is so uncertain. It's the road less taken and easier if things don't work out. There is less energy spent fighting for things-and no remorse. In this past year I have learned to streamline my life: I do without a lot of things I'd like to have and take a hard look at what I buy.What I own are the essentials. I am beginning to understand my grandparents life-long mindset of being frugal developed during the War Years, but I hope I never develop their anxiety and paranoia about life when things get little shaky. Living on the brink of disaster( imagined or not) is not how I want to live my life. There is too much joy to be found in unexpected places, and I'd like to allow myself the flexibility to take that chance in order to find it.

    I am a lot better about not beating myself up these days. I haven't lowered my standards or given up, but I have shifted my perspective, and I am kinder and gentler to myself on the days when I have mobility problems, when things slip out of my hands and hit the floor, when something I value-some precious babble that commemorates a special moment in my life- ends up shattered into a million pieces because it has slipped from my grasp. I am not as hard on myself. Life ever flows on,  even on the bad days.

    This attitude is slowly seeping into other areas of my life, like relationships and work. I'm a bit less eager to criticize  myself  for things not going the way they were planned. I bite my tongue a lot more and let things slide that aren't my direct responsibility. I have developed the habit of leaving the room because I'd rather not bloody my head from banging it against the wall over things I cannot change.

    A very wise man once said, " Would you rather be right or rather be happy?" I'd like to both, but since that isn't the way life works out most if the time, being happy is more important to me.  Selfish? Perhaps...but I think it's time. In theory (and reality) no one cares more about your well being  than you because you know your needs better than anyone. There are days when I am not feeling my personal best, or when I am feeling dark and depressed. There are days that I just don't care.

    We've all been there because it's a universal state of mind.  It's just that if I don't kick my darkness in the ass and send it packing it has a tendency to stick around and feed. It's had a lot to feed on in the past several years, but I am determined to keep it on a strict starvation diet in the coming year- I have to if the plans I've made are going to work out. It is really not all about me, but I need a few moments for myself or I will not be able to give any part of me to others.

    Perhaps it's the state of the economy or the  world in general, but I'm seeing a lot of this attitude on social media sites. People are just woeful and pitiful. I'd like to chalk it up to post-holiday blues, but I suspect the reality of it is that our world is so out of control right now that many of us feel helpless.

    I find myself in that place of helplessness momentarily also, but I have learned to step back and take stock. This is not the life I want; it is the life I am living now. It has been and could be a lot worse. Presently, I have  a roof over my head, food on the table and a relative amount of freedom, for which I am ever grateful. There are friends who are on the brink of loosing their homes.Some have had to move back in with their parents. Others have no place to go.  I have a wonderful new faith community where I can immerse myself, and I count myself very fortunate because others have been set afloat on the sea of spiritual uncertainty. Some have stopped believing in a Higher Power while others are so angry with God that the resentment is eating them alive. Whenever I feel creative, I pull out my craft supplies and make something to satisfy my creative side. The people down the street were trying to figure out what to make for dinner with the odd cans of vegetables they received in a bag from the food closet: another type of creativity. While I can wrap myself in a blanket and hunker down with a good book and a fabulous cup of coffee and loose myself for a few hours, there are those I know who are hunkering down under bushes wrapped in a few precious blankets because the shelters are all full and they can't get inside out of the cold.

    I want to help them, all of them...but a single individual can only do so much. We each only have a certain amount of energy in reserve, and at times the reserve is mighty low. There is only enough for ourselves. My heart says to give a little of that energy away, there is enough for all of us. My head says no, because I am running on empty now-what will happen if I give it away and it turns out that I need that energy to care fore myself later?

    Faith is what happens. I close my eyes and trust. Because it's all I can do for now.