Friday, November 20, 2015

The Falling Of Sacred Leaves

It is no secret that Autumn is my favorite season. Here in Appalachia the Autumn is short, but fierce: the mountainsides turning red and gold practically overnight as soon as the temperature dips.

Brilliant colored leaves seem to give themselves away as they momentarily show, then wither, and finally fall gently to the ground. That is most days; on other days the wind shakes the few who stubbornly remain firmly attached to the branches. By late November the ground is covered with a crunchy carpet of twisted, dry leaves. The days are noticeably shorter and colder. The last of the harvest is in and stored. I see fewer animals grazing in the pastures, and hear the ducks and geese on their way to warmer climates.

To me this has always been one of those times outside of time. It has an odd, slightly disorganized feel to it, and an urgency that bubbles up through time from ages past.

"For friends, family, food and fellowship, we are thankful."
We are thankful for what is still here, and fondly remember what and who is not. We are thankful for what has come from the land to sustain our health and what is beneficial to our continued survival. In the cold nights heralding the long Winter, we gather ourselves, our memories, and what is precious to us closer and  spread our mantle over to keep warm. The candles burn brightly in the increasingly long and dark nights, and our thoughts turn inward. Life feels more sacred somehow, just as the falling of the leaves seem almost sacrificial.

But magick is still afoot. We bring evergreen branches inside to remind us that there is still life in these dark, grey days. Our homes are decorated with wreathes and garlands, berries, pods and bright babbles that reflect the twinkle of starlight. We surround ourselves with the aroma of pine, cinnamon and other warming spices. We make music to bring joy uplift our moods and spirits. ( Did you know that  Over the River and Through the Woods was actually written for Thanksgiving and not Christmas? Here's a recipe for making the house smell inviting and to banish the stale indoor smell caused by having to keep the windows closed:

A saucepan half filled with water
A handful of pine needles. Toss in small pines cones, too.
A spoon of each: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves
A sprig or two of eucalyptus
A small citrus fruit, sliced ( I like orange )
A small apple, sliced

If you have the oils and would rather, substitute pine oil, orange oil,lemon oil,cinnamon oil and eucalyptus oil, about 3-5 drops of each.

Blend all of the above in the saucepan of water and place on a back burner of the stove on very low heat. Keep a watch on the level of the water and occasionally top it up. Even though this concoction smells wonderful, it is not edible-do not take it internally. When finished, take out the fruit and strain out the solids. The liquid may be poured in a jar and kept to be reused. Because it has no preservatives, occasionally check stored liquid for mold.

The preparation of this mixture may be used as part of a conjuration to not only warm and freshen your home with it's aroma, but with the energies of the ingredients. Most of the ingredients have Sun/fire energies, used for protection, prosperity and opening consciousness- perfect for The Thanksgiving holiday, or thanks-giving at other times during the colder seasons.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Paganism: We Are Poisoning Ourselves

Chards/Explosion/Energy image via
Sunweaver posted a blog to Pathoes Pagan/The Agora that pretty much reflects where I am now personally and how I feel about continuing this blog.

The NeoPagan community has always been passionate about emotional expression. The discussions are lively, spirited and often controversial. I like a good conversation, even when opinions conflict as long as it is civil and done respectfully. I try to operate from a place of compassion when the conversation turns serious and I will confess now that I don't always achieve that standard because, yes, I am just that much of a sassy smartass at times. There is a time and place for snark, and most of us have not yet mastered it to the level of brilliance of the late George Carlin (Look him up on YouTube if the name doesn't ring a bell; just so you know, he's not PC. I make no apologies for him). Our attempts at coolness, or whatever we're calling it this week, often come off flat... or worse, make us look like obnoxious middle school twits. Which is why I am a big fan of writing in a pragmatic tone. There are less misunderstandings that way.

Social media and blogging has been a two-edged sword since their inception. More that ever, it is possible to simply type a few sentences and hit 'post' or 'publish'. What you thought was a deeply thought provoking or a witty come back has not only gone out to the audience you intended,but seen by everyone else. It often takes on a life of its own as it ripples out into cyberspace much like the proverbial pebble tossed into a pond. And more often than not you end up making yourself look like a jackass. Not only does what you send out keep going and going, it be there forever. So think,Gentle People, just think before you hit that button. Anytime you post a comment to the Internet, you are unwittingly creating your verbal legacy. The old saying that "words have power" and the accompanying admonishment to choose them wisely has never been more true than when applied to expressing your opinion online. And no matter how proficient you are at linguistic expression, no matter how well you color your words, they still have the potential to be misunderstood because all of us process information differently. Our points of reference are unique to ourselves; no one thinks just like you although we may agree on many of those points.

To quote Sunweaver, the Pagan blogsphere has become toxic. Especially, I believe, as of late. Too many of the conversations are disrespectful, negative and intolerant. There are entirely too many personal attacks. The conversation has turned into a contest to see who can scream their pet agenda the loudest.  (It reminds me of  a bunch of teenage thugs standing on the street corner, hurling insults  to out-rank the other;" I'm a devotee of the Great God Horshack. Up your nose with a rubber hose!") When did we become so  threatened and fearful that we needed to turn on each another? The arguments aren't even about occult, magickal or spiritual practice - they are about things like gender, which to me is beyond preposterous. Why are we so damn concerned with the sexual identification of someone we aren't likely to ever be having sex with anyway? As a biological woman I have never felt threatened in any way by another woman, trans or otherwise. Women's Mysteries are no different than other Mysteries: they are there to be discovered and experienced. Who the hell am I to refuse anyone a place at the table of  the Goddess anyway? Being a priestess doesn't give me that prerogative. None of us are that special. Surely the Goddess is  inside that other person as much as She is in me, because we are all seekers. The genetics of a particular individual will not dilute Women's Mysteries, and if you think it will, then I humbly suggest you stop polluting the Divine with pithy human projections. We all stand at the gateway of Wonder, and we all are clad in the same robes. Entering the sixth decade of my life I'm pretty sure I know who I am by now. I've put a lot of work into becoming the person I am today. I am comfortable and confident in the woman I am. And then... there are the individuals who have announced they are no longer Pagan, which is usually said in a tone of voice that indicates that somehow they are taking a turn to a higher road the rest of us have missed. To be quite blunt...who cares anyway?  I do agree that there are days when the voices blend into so much babbling that the noise becomes too loud; I too, just want to turn off the noise.  It gets to me. I want to unplug because my ears are ringing. I empathize with those who want to disconnect out of weariness and frustration. Today I am right there with them, because  I, too, am tired of the Pagan Snark Fest. Elvis is not the only one who wants to leave the building. Sigh.

Sometimes I need to step back, sit down and make some popcorn. Other times I want to walk away mumbling a plaintive,"Fuck this" to myself. But...I can't. I simply can't because for me being Pagan isn't about other people. It's about who I am at the intersection of all the parts of my existence. It's about how things have come together and the synergy of my life.  It's about  how I express my spirituality. It is about what I hold sacred. It's about how I understand my relationship to the Divine in its many forms. It's about how I view the world through the lens of The Craft. I am not going to engage in pretentious posturing about who and what is  Pagan, because deep down, I can only define that for me. As disappointed and outright disgusted as I occasionally get about the behavior of others in our community, I have to continually remind myself that I can't change them. I can change only me. Eventually I'll get over it.  I am so deeply vested in this form of religious expression and spirituality that I cannot leave now and remain true to who I have become. I don't want to leave; I want to expand, to take all the beauty and sorrow, the good and the not so good within me and return whatever I can that might be beneficial to the Universe. I want to keep learning and perfecting my Craft. Over time and self-examination my definition of who I am is more realistically like the Egyptian Negative Confession formed by who I am not. I have run the list of checks and balances, and the balances are still more plentiful. Don't like to call yourself Pagan or NeoPagan? Fine. Find something that suits you or invent another word; but be aware that the world will still call you the standard umbrella definition of Pagan, because the world doesn't cater to individual preferences. That's YOUR world, where you can be whomever you want to be. Personally, I don't like or dislike the words Pagan or NeoPagan. While I don't think either are perfect fit, it's what we have to work with for now and who we will be continue to be identified as by the mainstream.

Let's move beyond the negativity, folks. We have become sick from it. Let's have discussions instead of flame fests. Put something beneficial or at least positive out there. It may sound corny, but let's speak love, compassion and tolerance and mean it. We can agree to disagree and still allow everyone to retain their dignity. If we continue the current trend, we will destroy our own culture. And there will be no one else to blame but ourselves.

The link to Sunweaver's insightful post is found here:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jack's Eyes: A Story of Samhain

"Old" Samhain, or the time when the Sun enters 15 degrees of Scorpio - the true cross quarter - is November 7th. It's an opportunity to celebrate the lives of those who have crossed the veil on a quieter day.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have a favorite terra cotta Jack-O-Lantern that sits on my desk throughout the dark nights of the year.[]
I light the candle in Jack at night when I do my devotions ( usually from Caitlin Matthew's wonderful book Celtic Devotional) Since I have a rather curious feline sharing my living space now, Jack's candle is one of those battery operated types, which I personally find less satisfactory aesthetically, but I don't want a singed furbaby, either. It's a compromise I'm willing to make for the safety of us both.

During the late hours of Hallowe'en night I 'lit' Jack's candle and decided to leave it on to 'burn' as long as the battery lasted. Then I made my ritual of memory to my ancestors and beloved dead. The candle shining through Jack's serene face continues now for seven nights, when it should have quit a few days ago. I'm not claiming any sort of miracle. No Pagan gods or Jack Skellington have appeared on my toast. But I do believe that someone is  reaching through the Veil, someone is still about, watching over us, or being present, because that light is still shining.

The light is growing dimmer, but it is still definitely flickering. It has been doing so from those late hours of All Hallows, through All Saints' and All Souls' Days, through the designated period of Dia de Muertos and the rest of the week right up to today, which is astrological Samhain. Life is full of things we don't understand and aren't meant to. Mystery simply is.

Today's energy is that of the day which exactly stands between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice-a time outside of time. For me, it is the beginning of the Deep Indwelling, when the world begins to slow and rest, vegetation dies back, animals lay their store for the cold months. Early Autumn has been warmed by the Nature's bursting forth with the colors of fire; late Autumn mutes to soothing earthiness and quiet. Soon the ground will harden beneath frost and the air will be tinged with a crisp chill. Nature-on the surface- will lie fallow and dormant. Deep down the process of renewal and regeneration will begin, hidden from our eyes until the first spark of Brigit's flame.

Jack's eyes are growing dim, and the Veil is closing for another year. Our Beloved Dead, who are always available when we need them, are slowly returning to the Sacred Isle of Avalon.