Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Days Outside Of Time

Christmastide-or whatever you'd rather call it- traditionally lasts 12 days and are considered by many to be days outside of time, reclaimed from the change of one calendar to another. The period encompassing Yule (Winter Solstice) to 6 January( Epiphany) has a particular vibe that has always felt other worldly to me in the same fashion as Halloween (Samhain). They are a part of the phenomena of  'thin places'-sacred space which transcends reality and time.

In the British Isles, the period from 26 December to 6 January are known as the Omen Days. There is a type of divination involved where each day is assigned to a month in calendar order, and so omens that are observed on a specific day are traditionally assigned to the corresponding month,e.g.,Day One is January, etc. The only difficulty with this is discerning the omens themselves. A disciplined and trained eye is required in the identification, but building the skill is easily achieved by a few minutes of daily practice.

Some occult practitioners use this time to make predictions for the New Year using Tarot or other oracles. Others use deep meditation to make a psychic connection. Still others- and I count myself among the latter-use intuition or a 'gut feeling' to guide them into reflections. I do most of my psychic work intuitively ( and most of which I keep to myself, because I also realize that those feelings will be colored by my own projections). Even though I have posted some predictions of my own in the past in this blog, I haven't made a habit of it because my background in psychology tells me that what is coming through is just as likely to be due to environmental influence rather than occult knowledge of the future. The eminent psychologist Carl Jung posited that the symbolism of the Tarot  “are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature.” I believe this to be so, as with all intuitive tools.

These last few days of the dying calendar year and first few days of the New Year have always felt anchor-less to me : giddy and fuzzy and a bit like walking through fog. The feeling is not as disagreeable as it sounds, but all the while still disconcerting. Perhaps it is due in part the myth and illusion attributable to Carnival, or simply the resistance to ending what is known and the uncertainty of what is new. Whatever the cause, this is not ordinary time.

Truth be known, I find most 'world predictions' to be more entertaining than anything else. Some are so obviously inevitable that they cannot miss coming true, others so vague to be applicable to a variety of situations. The ones that come out of left field are what I find so stunning and give credence to the prognosticator. Okay, so I'm a little jaded on the subject. There are a lot of fake psychics out there, and they irk me because 1.) the public tends to lump those with the genuine gift of second sight  in with them,  and 2.) they take advantage of the gullible.

It's been said that what you do at the beginning of a New Year sets the pattern for what will happen during that year. I believe this is where our urge to make New Year Resolutions originate. Sounds beneficial and positive, right? The problem is that as humans, we tend to to be more enthusiastic than realistic in our goals. We are good intentioned but miscalculate our ability and shun putting forth the effort to achieve measurable results. We are impatient and want instant satisfaction. These are somewhat immature but thoroughly human characteristics. And we all do it to a degree. At least I know I have. I am as slothful as the next person. So to combat the feeling of failure, I don't make sweeping resolutions. Instead, I start out slowly making changes and don't beat myself up if I discard something after awhile because it isn't working or doesn't feel right. I have to keep reminding myself that it's okay to do that and not feel guilty about it. Time will eventually give me something else to fill that space.

That is the beauty of having days outside of time: they turn what you believe upside down by being open to an alternate possibility. They are liminal and suspend expectation.

However you spend these days, stay mindful of their magic.

When All Is Not Merry And Bright

There are moments when all is not calm and bright at Christmas with me. There is no Silent Night. No heavenly peace. While angels may  hover about, they are invisible and soundless. " Glory to God in the Highest" are words that are foreign to my tongue. So is the "comfort and joy" of the season.

These are the occasions when the ghosts of Christmases past haunt my consciousness. Thankfully-due to the settling in of age or effective therapy ( maybe both)-they occupy less space in my head now than they have in years past...but they are still there, ready to jump out at opportune moments of idleness or weakness. Most of them are 50 years or so old but they still sadden and wound. Angry words and derogatory phrases still echo briefly from the past like random puffs of air. They pick at old scabs and bring blood to the surface. I doubt they will ever fully go away, and so I take them as a synergistic contribution to who I am as a whole. To forget and deny their existence is to dishonor the integration and growth of who I have become so many years later. It has taken literally years of discernment and examination to arrive at a place where I am comfortable with myself. And still, there are those brief flashes that disturb and rupture my contentment.

I am constantly recovering from the old wounds and perceived slights of the past. It's not that I wallow in self pity; I have chosen instead to recognize their damage and move it into a healthier perspective. Personal growth is hard work. Much of it is far from pleasurable. But I am just stubborn enough to look the bad stuff in the eye and tell it that it holds considerably less currency with me than it used to. Nowadays I defiantly reject what it whispers in my ear in the wee hours of the long night.

The best thing I can say about my past is that I survived it.

I have reclaimed the Christmas holiday for me. I have combined the myths and beloved stories into something that speaks to my spirituality and growth. Things are no longer writ in stone: they morph and change to fit my expanding understanding of what it is to be human. The Nativity stories of the many gods born at this time of year have been transcended year by year into the story of my own nativity- not as being reborn so much as honoring the place where I originate.

Scrolling through Facebook, I came upon these lovely thoughts by Mary Ann Perrone. Reading it was a 'yes' moment for me because it confirms how I feel about things at this point in my life.

Christmas at Midlife
I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Heard Only In Silence

"I live in the woods out of necessity. I get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is imperative that I hear the silence of the night, aloud, and with my face on the floor, say psalms, alone, in the silence of the night... The silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in the silence..."
~ Thomas Merton

I have written in this blog previously about being more sensitive and psychically aware in the middle of the night and wee hours of morning. Many of us on this path are. The Divine speaks to me more clearly in these hours, when most of the work-a-day world is sleeping. In the relative silence of that time, I am better able to observe the world around me. The other evening there were seven deer just outside my window,driven by hunger to feast on the acorns fallen from the oak not more than 10 feet from the building. In the silence I watched six of them walking about on long, graceful legs before being joined by a magnificent buck. His antler rack was so large that it cast a shadow across the ground from the street lights. We sat together in the darkness and  silence for at least a quarter hour,  connected by simply being. I consider it my Yule present from Nature.

The old saying is that "silence is golden". I say silence is a gift. It is Peace and Tranquility and the place we go inward to dream and renew our soul. While it is the place I believe we are closest to the Immanent Divine, it also the place where we meet our demons. One always seems to be in proximity
of the other, and without silence and discernment, it is difficult to know which we are dealing with, which is why examination of the self was a part of these long, dark nights for our ancestors.

The late mystic Thomas Merton speaks of the secret that is heard only in silence; to him silence was the voice of God. And despite changing definitions, I believe it still is exactly that. Silence holds space and fills it with possibilities. Silence fills that space with love and even more of what bonds us as human beings to one another and all other creatures. It is in this silence that we hear the murmurings of Earth and the crack of the spark of Life.

We no longer fear the darkness of this time of year as our ancestral tribe once did ( speaking from the First World, because this is still a very real threat in the Third World.) I believe we should listen within the silence, embrace it, and celebrate what it teaches.

And with that I wish you a Blessed Solstice wherever you are, a Joyous Yule, and a Merry Christmas- whatever speaks to your heart.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Few Words On Thanksgiving

I always say that after Halloween, it's a slippery slide into Christmas. Thanksgiving  as an individual holiday with its own characteristics, is pushed aside, or has been relegated to being the opening salvo of the Christmas season.

As a society, we've allowed the merchandisers of the big big stores to determine when and how we celebrate our holidays. We have given the power of those days set aside to celebrate our lives and the seasons over to them. ( Note to the Religious Right: If you still think there is a 'War on Christmas', this is the one to fight.Have the courage to fight this battle and leave the rest of us in peace.)

Sadly, it's become rather fashionable to disparage the Thanksgiving holiday. The exploitation of Native Americans by European settlers was and forever will remain a heinous act and a crime against humanity. But that is not the whole Thanksgiving story; it's also a day set aside in this nation for recognition of those who have tended the harvest, and the prosperity each of us have enjoyed during the year. Personally, I believe it's time to take back Thanksgiving and restore it as a day for giving thanks together, as a nation. It's a time to look back at the year and count all the little things we've survived as a society together, and to look beyond to the blessings we've received.

For me, this is a time of the year when the mind quiets. I pray more simply because taking stock of the blessings I've received during the year allows me to focus on what has mattered more sharply. It is a time of reflection as we leave the days of bounty and face the cold winter.

My best prayers are always the ones where words are not spoken and I observe the stillness. It is then when my own mind entwines with the gods and goddesses of the Divine and I simply am.

With our modern hectic lifestyle, it is difficult to set aside time to pray or meditate. May I make a suggestion? Do your prayer. Allow your intentions come out in your actions. It is an ancient concept we need to revive. If you are praying for goodness in your life, then do good. Pick up a piece of  litter or give a few coins to someone homeless ( better still, buy them coffee). If you are seeking peace in the world, then work for peace and justice. There are many things that can be done to put prayer into action.

Be grateful, and give thanks.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Safety First

Earlier this month, a man walked into a church in Sutherland, Texas with a semi-automatic rifle and killed nearly half the congregation-including children. We all saw what happened being played out over and over on TV and social media.

As Pagans, the majority of us are peace-loving and mindful. Something like that could never happen in one of our covensteads or circles, right? We ward our places of worship against evil and for the most part, we keep our whereabouts from prying public eyes. But not always. With public ritual becoming more frequent as we seek to have our traditions accepted in the religious mainstream we have become vulnerable.

But if you think something could never happen to us, you are very wrong. It can, and at some point in the future, the gods forbid, it eventually will. I say that with trepidation. I'm not trying to trying to frighten anyone or being paranoid...but I am cautious. Because during our rituals we share many of the same areas of vulnerability as any mainstream church service. Even if we keep our location a secret, if a gunman really wanted to bring havoc upon us, we would be found. Shields, wards, white light and thoughts and prayers will not keep us safe from a madman with a weapon.

So what are we to do? We begin by being alert to what is going on in our surrounding environment.
If you are setting up for a circle in a new venue, explore the area and know where all roads surrounding it lead. If ritual is to take place in a public area or park, let those in charge of  overseeing the area know when you will be there and for approximately how long ( be sure you have all the necessary permits and bring them with you). Notify park rangers or security and remind them you are there. Yes, it's a drag and I understand that it somewhat dampens spontaneity...but better to be safe.

When planning for ritual, appoint one or more persons to be an observer outside the circle so participants are not distracted. ( In some traditions, these persons are  known as a challenger and may symbolically carry a sword. The sword isn't for physical protection, because our ritual blades are not intended to taste blood. You may have to explain this to an unknowing park ranger or police officer who would (rightfully so) be freaked out by the sight of what they perceive to be a weapon.) There should also be worship assistants inside the circle who are monitoring what is taking place in regard to participants, not only to help those who may be emotionally overcome and need assistance , but to be observant of any unusual or threatening  behavior and be ready to intercede along with those watching from outside. If indoors, lock any doors not actively being used, or post greeters by them. Also, if feasible, plan an escape route ( a good point for fire safety as well). It's not just invasion to be precautionary of- there are also bomb threats and just plain harassment. The  cult of Dominionism, radical Evangelicals, and unfortunately, those in some Pagan traditions who have ties to the ideology of neo-natizism are a very real threat to 'outsider' spiritual groups. Much of their worldview supports unbridled violence against others. Keep an eye on those espousing these beliefs in your area.

Part of the responsibility of your council is for the health and safety of individual members and planning for emergencies.  As much as we don't want to think about an attack on our sacred space, we live in troubling times and should take pains to be informed and cautious. It is to our benefit to at least touch on the subject and perhaps make a plan. There are links below which are informative and adaptable to any religious tradition.

Be Well and Be Blessed.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Once More...With Feeling

This country has an undeniable infatuation with guns, powerful assault weapons in particular. As much as we'd like to buy into the romantic notion of the Old West being as American as apple pie, a reality check is seriously needed. Not everyone needs to own a gun, and there are more than a handful among us who should never, under any circumstance, have access to a weapon.

The NRA pours millions of dollars into the pockets of Congress to influence laws concerning gun control, and this needs to stop- but it won't- because money talks louder than common sense and reason most of the time. That's a sad reflection of who we are in America today.There are too many individuals with reckless bravado hiding behind the 2nd Amendment to define their personal power. Firepower doesn't make you a man, however, in certain circumstances lack of reason and control does make a killer.

'Thoughts and prayers' are what we send when we are at a loss for what to do; as a minister I am a big supporter of holding space with those who grieve, but in cases such as this horrific event, something in addition to thoughts and prayers is required...We need to pressure our elected officials into taking a legal and moral stance legislating gun control: increased vetting for permits and properly regulated training for ownership and use. In my opinion, our elected officials taking funds from the NRA and similarly related lobbyists while doing nothing to protect the public are literally taking blood money.

And while we're at it, folks, lets throw a little more funding toward mental health care, since our POTUS has now admittedly confirmed what those in the field already know: help is woefully inadequate and inaccessible. A good way to begin would be for our elected officials to stop sabotaging the ACA and extend Medicaid, because the first contact point for treatment and recovery is a primary health care provider. Mental illness is a disease and should be treated as seriously as all other diseases. Thoughts and prayers may help, but realistically they are not a cure. In fact, as I see it, if anyone needs the grace and mercy of a Higher Power, it's our elected officials and the people who elected them.

But the gods will not save us, no matter how much we plead. Humans have free will, according to the religious beliefs of some. The gods will not do the work we have to do- that is squarely on us. We can ask for discernment, for ours eyes to be opened to reality and truth, but it is up to the individual to act and put change into action. It is up to us to seriously get down to the matter and not just send, "thoughts and prayer" every time a crisis arises. Thoughts and prayers are a temporary warm fuzzy, fleeting in their comfort. Condolences  are a panacea which is only short term.

I believe in the power of magick; yet without action in the physical world, magick is reduced to 'thoughts and prayers'.

We need a long term solution to stopping the violence that has permeated our society and seeped into our culture; that is where citizen advocacy comes in. The gods do not allow violence to flourish in our country, we do. We allow it by doing nothing, by allowing apathy to over take us and take away our power. Engaging with elected officials as constituents is making a conscious choice to act. Elected officials -who represent 'we the people'-are put in place to do the will of the people, not the will of Washington lobbyists who represent special interests. They occasionally need forceful reminding of why they hold office. Doing so is the right of every registered constituent. Do it, as often as necessary. The gods support action, not reaction. Remember that the next time you are tempted to send thoughts and prayers.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mists of Memories

We leave the light of Summer months to enter the long,dark days of Winter. It is the time to gather what we cherish close, casting away what we no longer need and what no longer serves.

The Veil is now at it's thinnest, and we stand at the end of the bridge. We reach out to greet and touch our Beloved Dead. Those who have already made the journey to the great Unknown return in vast numbers , seeking out the warmth and love of their friends and families this night. If you are so inclined, put out a bit of food for them, so they may feast on the the things they enjoyed in this life. No, they will not be able to physically eat it, but they will absorb the essence of it and be satisfied all the same.

Welcoming the Dead into our homes this night, we  remember and honor them. Their memory remains strong in us this way. Ancestors will only linger with us for awhile, and then depart across the bridge and through the Veil the way they came. Pray for their safe return and comfort through the next year, for surely they will be joined by others known to them. The clock winds down through the years until we, too, are dust and memories.

The coming months will be cold and dark as the days have lost their light. The last harvest is in, and the season of plenty wanes.We will draw ourselves up close to that we care about most against the lengthening darkness and cold as Winter approaches. We go to that place of Deep In-dwelling. Some things and people will surely fall away during this time, but we ourselves will survive until the first green bud of Spring returns. The holy spark of life will burn within to keep our spirits warm.

Let us keep the sacredness of Samhain, and raise the song of Harvest Home!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Goodbye, Uncle Ray

Much has been written on the recent passing of Raymond Buckland. Love him or hate him, he did introduce an organized tradition of Witchcraft in the United States at a time when things like that just simply wasn't done. He never tried to hide the Craft by dressing it up like something else, and he was the closest thing to Gerald Gardner we had in this country.

To say he was a prolific writer is, well...an understatement. He held a vast knowledge of varying subjects, from the Craft to Spiritualism, divination,liturgy and ritual...and magick. He wrote a wide array of fiction novels, and played jazz music professionally.

I chuckled along with everyone else at his ritual micro-management, " Stand here...Do this....Say these words...". Give him props for being so serious about is spiritual path that he wanted to get it right- his way, of course- just like the rest of us. While others found his continual reference to another of his books in the middle of a passage annoying, I would dutifully jot down the title of that book and look it up after finishing the one I was currently reading.

It's not that I was 100% sold on doing things his way, because I'm not...but I have the utmost respect for his place in the history of the Craft.  I found him most approachable; over the years I would shoot him a personal message on Facebook about something, and within a day I'd have an answer. His tone was always that of the gentle teacher. He was most gracious with his answers, and always humble.

Yes, in the early days after the Craft went public, he did come off a tad bit homophobic sounding about male/ female polarity in magickal work, but I think this was because he was so adamant about keeping things balanced. His opinion softened and changed, as he admitted,when he realized it had less to do with actual gender than sacred sexuality.

He was vibrant and active until the end, and I like to think that a gentle breeze stirred the Veil and he simply stepped through to the other side when it was his time. Just a little diversion from his routine, and he went off to explore the Great Unknown, with the full knowledge that he'd be back someday.
I believe he will- not that he ever really left. I think he's going to live on for decades to come. In fact we'll hardly realize he's gone unless we stop to remember his quiet crossing.

Goodbye for now, Uncle Ray. See you around.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Was That A Banshee I Saw You With Last Night ?

One of the things I love most about Celtic/Irish mythology is its deliciously endless array of maleficent creatures. Culturally, the traditional Celtic lands are the main contributor to our Halloween lore and traditions.

Many of our iconic monsters sprung from the mind of Irish authors such as Bram Stoker (Dracula) and Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (Mr.Hyde).
Others came directly out of the stories of the common people, such as the wailing Banshee,  the Kelpie , Balor the Demon God of Death, and varieties of Sidhe (fairy folk).

Some legendary creatures specific to Celtic lore have their American counterparts, such as the Dullahan (dark man), the Irish headless horseman whose equivalent in the US is the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. While the motif of headless horsemen is pretty universal, owing to the numbers of stories world wide, it is the character created by Washington Irving that stands out.

The most readily recognizable creature owing to Celtic lore is the Banshee. Always a female spirit, hearing her wail turns the blood cold because it forewarns of a death. Sometimes she arrives in a ghostly death coach ( or the coach rides by alone without her-another legend). Her appearance varies from beautiful and youthful to being a terrifying old hag depending on the source. She is sometimes accompanied by a black dog. Her screams are particularly piercing in the lonesome countryside.

Equally famous as the Banshee is the Kelpie, a shapshifting monster most often seen as a horse. The Kelpie inhabits the area around bodies of water and the sea, where it entices unsuspecting victims to hop on it's back for an innocent ride that always ends with the creature running into the water, where they are drowned. Kelpie have also been seen to shapeshift into the form of a handsome man, identified as the monster in disguise because of the wet seaweed in his hair.

Descriptions of Balor, King of Demons, also vary by source. His most infamous personification  is that of a giant with one leg and one eye. Balor is able to kill by fixing his victims with his 'evil eye'. By legend, Balor is King of the Formorians, a race of supernaturals. Balor is eventually killed by Lugh of the Long Spear after Lugh becomes King of the Tuatha de Danann. It is thought that Balor is the inspiration of Lord Samhain, a fictitious character in Ray Bradberry's classic children's book The Halloween Tree.Not all faries are friendly toward humans. There are a multitude in Celtic mythology that are not, too many for discussion here other than in general terms. Scottish folklore divides them into The Seelie Court (good) and Unseelie Court (maleficent). A well known method of honoring faries or quelling their wrath is to leave them a bit of milk and honey. In his widely known classic Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, W.B. Yeats further divides them into Trooping Fairies, groups which travel in elaborate processions, and Solitary Faries, which appear spontaneously alone with mischievous intentions. The latter are the creatures which often lure unsuspecting humans to the Underworld through invitations to dance and share a meal. Those who partake of fairy food , it is said, never leave. A third type, familiar to anyone who has been a member of the Girl Scout movement in the United States, are Brownies-household spirits who favor children and perform domestic duties.

If you have seen the outstanding 1990 movie Ghost (starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopie Goldberg) then you are familiar with the Sluagh-the malicious spirits that  about like flocks of birds, seeking out the dying and dead. In the scene where Demi Moore's character is attacked, her ghost lover causes a window to shatter and kill the attacker with shards of glass. As he is seen dying, an eager group of screeching shadowy figures suddenly swoop down and carry him screaming away with them to Hell. These figures, which many who have seen the movie  believe are demons, are more accurately a group of  Sluagh, who are the spirits of unrepentant sinners. Folklore belief is they come from the West ( the traditional place of the Dead), and in many Irish households, the western facing windows of a house were kept closed at all times to keep the Sluagh from carrying away the dead.

If you enjoyed reading about these mythical Celtic creatures, you may want to explore more on your own. There are many books on the subject, but I suggest you start with A Treasury of Irish Fairies and Folk Tales (an anthology by various authors) and W.B Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Still Standing

cartoon by Alex Gregory
Well, hello... I see we're still here, seeing how the latest Big Rapture was-as predicted by nearly everyone with a brain- a big, fat, nothing burger.

But wait! The statement that the world would end on September 23,2017 was a...misunderstanding. According to David Meade, the self proclaimed Doomsday prophet," Saturday will only mark the beginning of a series of catastrophic events to occur over several weeks." Which sounds suspiciously like so much 80s New Age psychobabble. “The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending. A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”


This sort of sounds like the vague prediction that next week at this very moment, there is a likelihood that the weekend will occur and that Sunday will follow Saturday in 24 hours. Only that prediction will come to fruition in our lifetime, barring an accident or other fatal event in the meantime. The actual end of the world may or may not. If Mr. Meade wants to use Biblical platitudes to prove is theory, he should specifically check out the one found in the book of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 36,"However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows."

Notice that according to the spiritual text of Mr. Meade's faith tradition, the time when the world ends is even hidden from Jesus himself. This should be enough to not only humble folks like David Meade, but silence them....yet it doesn't. It doesn't shut them up because these people- most of them hailing from the evangelical Christian Dominionist cult-are so incredibly self- important  they even eclipse the importance of the very god they claim to serve. Let that sink in a minute, and you'll come to the realization, as I have, that these types are insufferably, narcissistic. The God of the priests of Yahweh, the god of the ancient favored Jews, the father of  the Christian Savior Jesus is not their god. Despite their loud bellowing to the contrary, the god they worship is the one created in their own grandiose image.

In this way they join with the inflated, egotistical Big Name New Age Teachers; there is little difference between them. Want examples? Go watch The Secret .

The world as we know it is constantly changing. I suspect every sentient being on the planet knows this to some degree. It doesn't take a Christian numerologist/talking head to give us the message. Any creature with even a thin shred of self awareness intrinsically knows the world-their world-changes second by second in an assortment of diverse ways. In my opinion, this is the greatest lesson of Nature. I don't need some annoying 
folie de grandeur to tell me what Nature whispered in my ear decades ago.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Beware The Doom (Again!)

photo via Google
If you are as entertained by the tabloids as I am, you have no doubt come across the sensational claim by a"Christian numerologist"
(more about him later) and a legitimate sounding source that the world is about to yet end-again. Sigh. This time the date is September 23,2017. Mark your calendars!

According to News4 KTLA, in an article published in March of this year, NASA issued a doomsday advisory that the Earth would be struck and obliterated by Planet X, or Nibriu because the orbits of both planets cross.

They cited Caltech researchers, who described "Planet X" as being 10 times the mass of Earth, supposedly speeding unabated toward our Blue Boat Home. The article states, " NASA continues to tiptoe around the subject" and dramatically concludes, " We all deserve to know our days are numbered".

Huh. Well, I would certainly want to know if that were possible, wouldn't you? Or not.

There are several problems with this declaration of apocalyptic devastation:

News4KTLA is a fake news site. Appropriating and inserting the call letters of the legitimate television station KTLA (Los Angles) and its local channel designation 4 and adding the word 'news' makes this designed as click-bait atrocity look impressive. The first report posted on the web by this fake news site about the "rogue planet" was dated March 10, 2016. The current articles are just re-hashes.

In keeping with previous doomsday missives, the report is a total fabrication. NASA has repeatedly stated that planet Nibriu does not exist. There has never been any warning issued by the agency. They stand firm on their research that no such even planet exists. Scientists at Caltech did find evidence of a hypothetical planet situated deep in space that could possibly fit the bill for Planet X, but according to Jim Green,director of NASA's Planetary Science Division "This is not... the detection or discovery of a new planet. It's too early to say with certainty there's a so-called Planet X. What we're seeing is an early prediction based on modeling from limited observations. It's the start of a process that could lead to an exciting result."

In layman's terms, 'a definite maybe'.

( If the name 'Nibriu' is at all familiar and you have read any of Zecharia Sitchin's works on the Anunnaki creation of the Sumarian culture, you will recall that this is the planet that hosted that particular race of extraterrestrials. Interesting reading even though Sitchin's theories are dismissed as pseudoscience and pseudo history in academic circles.)

In keeping with their love of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, Fox News (aka Faux News) put forth a statement from 'Christian numerologist' David Meade who cited verses from the Bible as 'proof' that Nibriu was tied in with the solar eclipse in August, and the newest spate of hurricanes (see Luke 21:25-26). Like most Biblical apocalyptic prophesy, Meade's  'dire warnings' are vague, misleading, and applicable  to whatever situation you care to tweak them to fit. He even threw in mysterious codes from scripture and a "date marker" from the Egyptian pyramids of Giza. This set Christian  Dominionist's zealotry aflame, with hopes of the Rapture eminently emerging from forthcoming tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters; if you haven't already figured this out, the Dominionist cult keeps moving the date of the Apocalypse around to suit their agenda ( e.g. so they can gloat about being right later, since only they will be 'Left Behind'). In fact, members of the Dominionist cult ( including the American 'Christian Right') want these world wide afflictions to be see as harbingers of the the End Times so desperately that they will go to any length to shamelessly make their case. Excuse me...I just rolled my eyes so far back in my head that I nearly hurt myself.

Enter the Rev.Ed Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, who not only took umbrage to this nonsense, he courageously tore the Dominionist fruit loops "a new one" in Christianity Today magazine,"First, there is no such thing as a legitimate ‘Christian numerologist.’
Sure, the writers of Scripture do, indeed, use numbers to point to a few things—that’s first-year seminary. But, it stops at first-year seminary because there are not secret numerical codes that require a profession called “Christian numerology.” Seminaries don’t offer this as a formal degree nor do any professional, accredited institutions." ( May I also add the observation that many, if not most conservative mainstream Christians would  turn several lovely shades of purple at the suggestion of a 'Christian' numerologist, as numerology in its common form is considered a part of the occult and lumped in with divination and witchcraft in the Old Testament. Their heads would explode.)

Oh, and by the way, David Meade, the Fox News expert, doesn't have any formal training in numerology or academic credentialing to back up his theory. In other words, it's simply his opinion, which, like all opinions,and  combined with a dime, will fail to buy you a cup of coffee. If this so-called 'Christian numerologist' has actually ever read the Bible, he would have come across the proclamation found in Matthew 24:36"  "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."( New International Version)
 As if this weren't enough, as Rev. Stetzer points out ,Meade doesn't seem to exhibit any real evidence of training in Christian scripture for him to speak empirically to these matters with any legitimate authority. Plainly put, he is talking out of his ass.

Please do read Rev. Stetzer's article found at the following link. It puts everything into perspective concerning false End Time claims and false prophets. And it takes a hearty jab at religious news outlets and Christian news 'sharing', for good measure.http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/september/end-times-fake-news.html
And so, despite all the boo hoo and hoo hoo of the latest Dominionist cult heralds, I'll be back AFTER September 23...presumably unscathed. In the meantime, may you reap the blessings of Mabon, and the comfort of Harvest Home.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Never Ending Witch Wars

I am going to begin this post with a big old Charlie Brown sigh...
Are you as tired of the so-called witch wars on social media as I am? You know what I mean so-and-so perceives a slight or insult and posts their outrage on FB or elsewhere, and 50 people immediately jump in to comment. In other instances, it's someone boasting about their witchy abilities, or throwing shade at someone else because of something they said about them...again for an audience.

Occasionally, this type of scorched earth sniping is warranted, but by and far it's simply a battle of egos or a juvenile popularity contest that has gotten out of control.

More often than not, they begin as a disagreement between two BNP (Big Name Pagan, in case you don't know. The term has evolved to mean anyone with any kind of following, which degrades it. Just my thoughts on the subject.) Other times the kerfuffle starts as an argument between shop owners or two people of diverse paths who will give no currency to the other and galvanize  other members of the community into factions for support by openly challenging," If you like A or B, or attend their event, or belong to their FB page, you can't be my friend!" Therein loyalties must be formed for the sake of  ego stroking and numbers. author Patti Wiggington has a well written and thought out article on Witch Wars here:https://www.thoughtco.com/witch-wars-within-pagan-communities-2561820.
I have been around long enough to know these altercations are a natural part of any community because it is human nature. Sabers often rattle in groups where people are passionate about a subject. We all have an intrinsic need to feel valued and important and there is nothing wrong with that. There is certainly nothing wrong with giving someone credit which is due for notable warranted actions. The problem is when overly inflated  high self-opinions enter the picture.

Really, folks, there is plenty of room for everyone. Everyone can carve out their own little niche and rule their domain without kicking sand in anyone elses face. So as long as no one actually gets hurt and there is no genuine damage done, let's play nice.  If it simply a matter of not doing things they way you do them, suck it up, grit your teeth and love on. After all, we all draw our power from the same source, no matter what we call it. As a community, because we are still technically a minority entity and we need to be as cohesive as possible in order to be taken seriously and to survive.

On the other hand, there are very real instances where someone needs to stand their ground, or call out a verified  charlatan, or someone causing emotional or physical damage to someone or something ( such as children or animals) making claims to belong to our community. We should and must be bold and vocal in these instances, because many of our vows ( even for solitaries) cite trust or truthfulness as a tie that binds. Hunting out a pedophile and justly casting them from the fold is something that must be done. An individual who flagrantly uses the Craft  for unmistakable ill-gotten gain or wrong doing should be shunned after serious discernment. Obvious fakes should be called out before they do any irreparable harm to the image and character of the community.

This can be done in many creative ways other than insufferable ranting and scorched earth. It can be done without the histrionics of junior high school in a calm and deliberate manner. It can be done with calm and the deliberate focusing of energies of the group dynamic. It can be done with limited drama, if we will it.

September Siren Calling...

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh
September is a rather seductive month, at first warm and sunny; at night the windows can still be thrown wide open in most parts of the US, and the sounds of the night creatures-crickets, katydids, owls, an occasional barking coyote or bob cat are soothing to  us Nightkind ( meaning those who function better at night, no woo woo stuff implied). As the month progresses, the evenings lengthen and cool, and leaves turn and begin to fall, the flannel PJs come out, and the windows are closed down a bit ( I am hard core about this, because I love open windows and have been known to crack them a bit even in January!)

Around here, we have both a Pumpkin Festival and an Autumn Jamboree. As you can guess, I'm all about Fall Festivals, and I spend a lot of time going to them to get in the mood for the season. Fortunately, most of Appalachia still celebrate its agrarian roots, so we are awash in apple cider, apple and pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie and cake, apple pies and other seasonal treats. The scarecrows and chrysanthemums begin to appear, sunflowers not given up to seed are tucked here and there, and even an occasional early pumpkin makes its appearance.

Ah, Autumn!

And then...There is the sound of the Veil opening. If you are attuned to it, it's a unique sound that begins as a nearly undecipherable thrum increasing in intensity and pitch and is lost in the late October/early November winds. The signs of it are subtle: unexplained gusts of frosty air which clatter the bare bones of tree branches, whirling dervishes of dried leaves around your feet. The is the 
cognizant feeling of not only the end of Summer, but The End, the Great Step we will all face one day...welcome Death. The eternal circle of Life that is the seed coming into fruition, blossoming, and dying. Autumn is the time of gradual winding down to the Great Sleep of Earth and Men. Even animals know this a prepare for the change in seasons with increased eating and thickening coats of fur. Boo the Cat, a ragdoll variety who is already fat and fluffy, becomes gloriously lush this time of year; she grooms for hours, stopping to fix me with wise eyes that seem to say, " We need to cuddle more, the nights are growing long and  cold."

With the windows open less, my space needs refreshing more often, and the way I do this is to make a heavenly potpourri of apple peels, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves boiled in water. I leave a pot on the back of the stove, and find that adding a bit of rum or vodka to the mix preserves it well enough to be saved in a glass jar and stored in the back of the refrigerator for multiple uses. Keep adding water and refreshing the peel, which may mold ( you don't want those spores in the air!), and it will keep throughout the season.

Another thing I do is gather fallen acorns for spell crafts and decorating. I have also made acorn flour from them, but it is very time consuming, and if not done exactly right, is a waste of effort. If you really want acorn flour for yourself, purchase it online from a reliable source such as Amazon-it is very expensive, but the unique nutty flavor should be experienced at least once.Use it in Native American and Korean recipes. My adventures with acorns is limited to using them in magical preparations where the protective properties of oak are needed, and for decorating. Acorns painted with metallic paints are especially attractive ( gently pry the caps off, pain the nut, then glue the natural colored cap back in  place). Or, spraying them with sealer such as Krylon brings out their natural color and gives them shine. Use these nuggets scattered on your altar during the Autumn months, but especially during Mabon and Samhain, to take advantage of the divine energies of Cernunnos and Diana. Acorns are considered a a sacred food in the Otherworld, so leave them in a bowl as an offering.

The unique colors or this time of year can be had by preserving fallen leaves by dipping them in hot liquid wax ( be very careful as burns are common and wax is flammable at high temperatures!) or in a glycerine mixture which can be found here:https://www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-preserve-fall-leaves-and-branches-with-glycerin/.
The preserved leaves/branches can be used to decorate through the Autumn season up to Thanksgiving in November; some work them together with evergreens during the Yule season, too. Leaves can be strung as garlands to hang around your altar, or placed on the altar itself  to represent the dying God and Summer.

I love the scent of burning leaves, but more and more there are burning bans against this practice, so I have found several varieties and brands of candles that make a satisfying substitute, such as Autumn Leaves or Fireside by Yankee Candle, and  Feu du bois  by Diptyque (which smells like burning wood); Goose Creek Candles also has one called Under the Oaks that is slightly sweet. I've found that sandalwood and pine candles burned together give a wonderful vibe.

This is also a great time of the year to start collecting those elusive black candles: Walmart carries them in votive size and eight packs of tea lights for Halloween. Since I use black candles throughout the year, I start buying them as soon as they hit the shelves in September ( don't wait for them to go on sale after Halloween, they're usually gone!) The same goes for any really nice black fabric you may want for decorating or clothing. I actually found a rather nice small, black table runner last year at Dollar Tree, and with the addition of black and dark rainbow beads, it made an outstanding altar cloth for Samhain and my Ancestor Altar.

And so now I will leave you, with September's siren voice calling, to back to my workroom and get on those things to make the season beautiful...remember to listen to the wind. The Veil, too, calls...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Quiet and Comfort

This week has been emotionally exhausting, and I an all but out of energy. Times like these, I fall back to music.

This music. Of the many songs I find healing, this is one I'd forgotten. I've  always loved it. Still do.

I need this now, to rest and restore my being.

Take a moment to sit and let it wash over you.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Something Old and Familiar

Lughnasadh begins my favorite time of the year. There is something that resonates deep within me about the harvest season, something old and familiar that is comforting. I have never been able to put my finger on it. Maybe it's the feeling of completion at the end of the growing season? Or the comfort of prosperity and bounty?

The harvest season has a particular energy that comes from gathering, a building to a crescendo. There is a feeling of the unknown, an impending reward that titillates the senses. There is a satisfaction that is reassuring. I'm certain this is all encoded in the universal DNA of those of us whose ancestors were hunter/gatherers and farmers, that it still exists within us no matter how we make our living and spend our lives. There is a memory of that time and place in each when harvest was the result and reward of hard work and being close to the Earth. We all feel it, but it's difficult to place because we've been distanced from those ancestral roots.

I also think it has to do with the anticipation of the annual opening of the Veil, which begins as a vague, far-off  hum and steadily builds until the winds of the Otherside blows upon us.( I've mentioned it before in this blog :http://amethjera.blogspot.com/2015/09/do-you-hear-what-i-hear.html ). For some reason, the realization that the Veil is opening feels like it's earlier every year; perhaps it's because I'm getting older, or become more sensitive and conscious to it...or both. Maybe it's the Shift the lightworkers have been talking about. Whatever it is, I don't have any negative feelings about it, just the observation that it's become more noticeable.

These past few months I've been happily immersed in reading and studying, revisiting many books previously read, to come out of it with a new level of understanding- some where the understanding is deeper or more profound, and some where my understanding and viewpoint has totally change. My Spring and Summer have been spent working and investing in Me, something I have haven't had the resources or energy to do in a long time. While it feels indulgent, it's also been necessary. My usual set time of the year to go to the place of Deep In-dwelling is during the Winter months where I curl up and keep warm with candles and tea, accompanied by my cat companion. Doing this work in the Springtime and Mid-Summer parts of the year, reading by early morning dawn and the extended afternoon light of day changes my perspective of this work. One thing of interest is that it allows me to put down the books and go out into the world to experience something  immediately; another is that I connect with a different source of energy  and of spirit of place. Because of this change of my daily schedule, I am currently meditating at night. Right now, as I write this, I am listening to white noise of the tree frogs, crickets and katydids. The sounds of these night creatures lulls my brain into alpha rhythm quicker and easier than when I am fighting the distractions of the day. (Yes, I know I should just let go, but that's easier said than done. My monkey mind doesn't just chatter,the monkeys
scream and swing from trees.)  The harvest of this time will continue to feed my soul throughout the Autumn  when I am engaged in celebrating the holidays in the next few months; I will be able to throw myself more fully into the spirit of those festivities beyond the activity they require.

For now I continue to read, editing material, and making new pages for my BOS (which I hope to have updated by Samhain!) Further editing of those pages is needed before I copy materials for the Book of  Rituals I'm making for a friend who's an interfaith minister. It's time consuming, but I love the creative process. And I love Lois, so the time is an investment in our friendship and shared ministry. And, it keeps my mind off all the vitriolic ranting about the current political shits how that has contaminated our consciousness, and although I have an opinion about that, and occasionally weigh in, I don't want to be consumed by it like so many. Likewise the perpetual and nasty bitch fest in our NeoPagan community- I have little that I want to contribute because it's become so negative and self-serving that it's an embarrassment. I like to choose my battles rather than be sucked into something that soul-sucking.  For now I will turn my attention to this turning of the wheel, this season that is old and familiar, and wait.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Books, Books... And More Books

I have an inclusive yet concise library. Most of us do. Whether or not we like to admit it, the majority of us are not students of some mysterious individual with arcane knowledge that stretches back millions of years to the dawn of time. We are a people of the written word ( books, social media,blogs). Many of us are voracious readers, hungrily devouring as much of anything occult-related as we can possibly hold. This is both a good idea and a bad one.

The Good: We are open to new ideas and methods, which in turn fuel our creative spark.

The Bad: There are a lot of just plain awful books out there, badly written, containing questionable content from unreliable or historically inaccurate sources.

Our magickal education then becomes a matter of discernment: balancing reliable sources, and actual practice. Any serious student of the occult would benefit from exploring not only astrology,but also astronomy ( and mathematics!); alchemy and quantum physics; ancient history and ancient cultures. Have a basic understanding of how politics and religion meshed with the culture of those ancient  societies to be better able to understand their relationship to the Divine.(Check out fine art through the ages,to  help you frame your thoughts!)  The field of comparative religion is endless, so don't be afraid to sample outside the box- a lot can be gained by reading psychology (especially Carl Jung's archetypes). Geometry and geology; study herbs, but gain a basic knowledge of botany.  Invest in a c good encyclopedia of world mythology, like Bullfinch's.

But most of all...read, read, read. Distinguishing the good from the bad will become second nature.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Magick And Public Policy

Last week, there was a (kinda) world-wide call for witches to bind US President Donald Trump and his gang of Deplorables. It sounded good on the surface because so many of us in the US are feeling helpless and afraid. There was even a Facebook page. I looked things over, as I often do, with passing notice and a lot of discernment.

Many well known Big Name Pagans (BPN) disagreed with the mass ritual for some very good reasons. A vlog from Rev. Don Lewis, Chancellor of Witch School and  Paramount High Priest of the Correllian Nativist Tradition of Wicca. Made some striking remarks as to why he would not be participating. https://youtu.be/0r9YYSYxZco

I happen to agree also. To begin with, no one individual or group claimed ownership of the event's organization. While I can appreciate anonymity, if you are going to going to call for a working of this breath and scale, then own it. I also had a concern about the organizers-who were anonymous, remember- asking participants to post photos of themselves in the act of ritual. Organizers calling for participants to in effect 'out' themselves to the public, while not willingly identifying themselves is highly suspicious to me. Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, if I recall how things are supposed to be. I don't think I'm being a bit paranoid, but among other things, it makes me wonder if someone other than a group of witches were behind the event. After reading the ritual onlinehttps://extranewsfeed.com/a-spell-to-bind-donald-trump-and-all-those-who-abet-him-february-24th-mass-ritual-51f3d94f62f4#.6y401v18e ( which, frankly seemed to be rather basic 101 stuff), I found some flaws.

The first problem I have is with the text, which sounds rather like what Hollywood thinks a binding should sound like. when you read through it, it's a pretty bland general wording. There is no justification for the action mentioned in the spell itself; specifics are not present. I found nothing disagreeable with the sentiment, but it, too, seemed a bit...vague. There were Judeo-Christian overtones that I suppose someone thought that made it sound somewhat like ceremonial magic (another Hollywood moment;all incantations sound like ceremonial magick, right?) with a little hoodoo thrown in for good measure.Just my opinion, but came off sounding a little chaotic to me. I admit that I got a giggle out of the suggestion of using a carrot in lieu of an orange candle. ( Not saying it wouldn't work, but it just struck me as amusing.) I was taught that a binding was serious business, and that it was done with specific goals in mind; the intention behind it was targeted and personal. I just don't this to be the case it this social media ritual.

And now-surprise!-a bunch of Dominionists are countering with a prayer event
...because...well...witchcraft. The whole thing has made me wonder if it wasn't a singularly big mock PR event carefully designed to give credence to Dominionist hysterics. Witches are cursing the President! It's up to US to stop them! It kind of harkens back to the days when Sarah Palin stood in the middle of a prayer circle receiving the warding and protection of a notorious modern day witchfinder https://youtu.be/iwkb9_zB2Pg  .

My personal belief is that you don't hex someone for their actions without careful examination of personal motive- and without the intention of an outcome that benefits the common good.If you're doing it because you simply despise Trump and his politics,that's the wrong reason. That sort of thing is better solved at the polling place by exercising your right to vote. However, if you're doing it in good faith as a pre-emptive measure, then accept any consequences and do what you will. Earlier this year, I published a spell written by a well-respected Witch Elder (who I did not name at the request of family members who feared reprisal.)It was not a binding, but a work with the intention of pre-emptively neutralizing a force gaining strength, intended not to bind, but to alter the course of events. I'm not saying what I personally chose was better, but I do believe that the intention was more focused and less maleficent. Was it intended to affect free-will? Absolutely. But the intention was not for personal gain, but rather to alter the course of events for the common good.

I am always open for new ideas, and I am always searching. Ashleen O'Gaea, from the Adventure Wicca Tradition, has this idea.The text is taken directly from her FB page, and she explains the intention much more clearly than I could. I believe that these points are focused, even if the method is open to personal preference.

From the Adventure Wicca Tradition: Any time on Wednesday, March 15th, the Ides of March, we're going to do whatever magic we can to protect the planet from any danger that threatens it. Focusing on protection, we will not be looking to do any harm, not even to those whom we believe might be doing harm to Mother Earth. Pagans and Heathens of all denominations are invited to use their magic, wherever they are, on their own or in groups, to raise protection from our planet. May our Gods help us!
People who don't identify as Pagan/Heathen are more than welcome to join this effort. Prayers, dancing, drumming - raising energy for the protection of the Earth from any/all threats is what we're doing, each in our own way.

Just a suggestion. If you find this speaks to your feelings, then I encourage you to do what you can, in whatever way you feel is proper and beneficial. If you decide to not participate, then I respect your choice. My personal belief is that magick without practical action to back it up is ineffective. Do what you will, but I urge you to get involved with the issues (Pick one! You cannot do everything) at the local level, write and call your elected officials regularly. Work for justice, peace and mercy; I think it's a part of the calling of the Craft. And not because I believe, but because YOU do.

May you Blessed Be!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Full Circle: Death Practices And Comtemporary Burial Alternatives

"Bite the dust",  "Buy the farm" and the ever popular "passed away". We will say almost anything other than to name the actual event when someone dies. In the modern lexicon we don't die, we "expire" or enter into "eternal rest". If the person speaking is of a religious bent, then we are "called Home" or "Go to be with the Lord". Not all euphemisms are evasive; as "Going the way of all flesh"is a rather accurate description, as is "Breathed his/her last". Those of us practicing Pagan or other Occult traditions are rather fond of saying someone has "crossed the Veil" or something else that denotes reincarnation, regeneration, rebirth, because many of us believe in some form of continual existence on another plane of reality that transcends the physical universe.

Because our Pagan faith traditions view death as a part of the cycle of life, it is less taboo to speak of death and the dead. We welcome death as merely the end of our earthly existence because that fits our belief in a general esoteric cosmology. We believe there is more. Individual traditions have specific versions of what takes place after death. The most popular idea is the Summerland, a concept shared by Spiritualists,Theosophists, Pagans and New Age spiritual practices. Each individual has his/her own idea of exactly what the Summerland is like, but most agree that it's a beautiful place of peace and serenity where the soul is at peace. Those who believe in reincarnation believe it's the place where the deceased dwell until the soul is ready to incarnate again. Some believe it is a permanent place, a next level of existence that is a part of an ongoing enlightenment. Yet others believe we simply become a part of the Cosmic Cake Mix when we die, the elements of the body and mind melding with the Universe, providing elemental and spiritual material used by the Great Source to renew the species.

I believe that dying, death, tending to the body afterward and ultimate disposal of the remains are all sacred acts. When we lived in a predominantly agrarian and tribal societies, death was an intimate occurrence that eventually affected everyone. Those in our social group died from injuries or disease or simply grew old. The community came together and everyone pitched in to help get things back to normal function. That included preparing the body for burial, usually in a local church yard on one's own property in a family grave plot. The community's actions were instinctive because they were a cohesive group and death was a natural occurrence.

Death became a business and funerals a commodity during the Civil War, mostly out of necessity. The number of lives lost was phenomenally unlike anything the United States had experienced previously in its history. Disposal of the corpses became a public health issue that far surpassed one of aesthetics. Unsanitary conditions, lack of hygiene, tainted water, poor diet and lack of shelter. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, smallpox, typhoid fever and pneumonia swept through camps belonging to both the Union and the Confederacy and contributed to as many deaths as injuries incurred in battle. This led to war dead being quickly buried near the site of battle, which outraged the sensibilities of many surviving families, particularly in the North. Union families wanted their dead returned for what they considered a "proper" burial, that is, on Northern soil accompanied by Christian rites- which entailed shipping bodies long distances out of the war zone, notably by train, in oppressively hot weather. Army and civilian surgeons contracted by the Union performed embalming services on the battlefield, in field hospitals or another suitable place using a cocktail of formaldehyde, arsenic and alcohol to prevent corpses from putrefying in order to return them to their loved ones. Some civilian "undertakers" were also trained in this procedure. Embalming had monetary advantages for all of these individuals as they were commissioned by the Army Medical Corps, somewhat lessening the nobility factor of preparing bodies out of emotional concern for the survivors.

Embalming, as a temporary method of preservation, worked well and served the need for which it was designed-but when the body began to ultimately break down, the chemicals inside it seeped out into the soil and eventually into the water table, poisoning both. Cemeteries began using grave liners made of wood or brick, and eventually cement to control sinking of the grave and erosion, and to contain leakage. Public cemeteries expanded beyond the humble churchyard to 'memorial parks' designed to express eternal rest and peacefulness. In the late 19the and early 20th centuries these memorial parks became gathering places for family, friends and the public, weekly destinations in which to walk and ruminate, and even share a picnic meal.

Today the funeral industry is a big business. Secular/corporation run cemeteries are too, because after all, what else are you going to do with a body (short of cremation)? On average it costs thousands of dollars for a modern funeral, a financial burden that as a minister I believe borders on taking obscene advantage of those grieving the loss of a loved one. Add that to the environmental impact of cremation (carbon emissions) and burial (including that some areas are running out of space for traditional graves). The projection of needed burial space for urban areas in the future is staggering.

Which is why I have become interested in alternatives. If you are a minister,HP/s, elder or have another type of leadership roll in a spiritual tradition, you will eventually be faced with the mortality of one of the members of your group and family, friends and colleagues will seek your counsel. We owe it to those we serve to have at least a basic knowledge of the funeral industry and viable alternatives. Most of the alternatives are still on the drawing board or in the test stage and not yet available to the public, with the exception of two- Resomation and Green Burial.

Resomation (or Biocremation as it is sometimes called) is the process of alkaline hydrolysis where the body tissue is dissolved using a mixture of hot water and potassium hydroxide (lye) in a special chamber. What is left is a liquid containing amino acids, sugars, salts, peptides and calcium phosphate.The resulting liquid is sterile and can be released to the common sewer (embalming does the same with cadaver blood and body liquids), while the bones have become fragile, chalky fragments which are processed (reduced to ash) and returned to the next of kin. Resomation uses less fuel than  contemporary cremation and releases no mercury into the atmosphere. Resomation is available in limited areas through specific funeral providers, but is gaining in popularity.

Green Burial is being touted by some as a return to more natural way of disposal. The body is buried in a designated 'green cemetery' sans embalming, in a biodegradable container or simply placed in the ground in a shroud. Family and friends are given the option of preparing the body of their loved one themselves, mostly under the guidance of a specially trained undertaker (which is not necessary but may be desirable).
More information in the link; be sure to read the entire website, especially the 'education' section. Also for reference, Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin has maintained a green burial ground for years especially for Pagans and others who's practice is earth and nature oriented.

Educational/Resource information:






[Undertaking LA is a progressive funeral home/service owned and operated by Amber Carvaly and Caitlin Doughty, founding member of The Order of the Good Death, whose videos "Ask A Mortician" has broken ground in informing the public about often taboo subjects relating to death,postmortem history and the funeral industry. Available on YouTube and Facebook]


More Resources:

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
Starhawk, M.Macha Nightmare and the Reclaiming Collective

Death and the Pagan: Modern Pagan Funerary Practices
Carrie West and Philip Wright
(Kindle edition)

The Journey Into Spirit: A Pagan's Perspective on Death, Dying and Bereavement
Kristoffer Hughes

Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation
Douglas Davies and Hannah Rumble

A Humanist Funeral Service and Celebration
Corliss Lamont

Funeral Celebrant's Diary: Interfaith Funeral Service Details
John Merrill

Weddings, Funerals and Rites of Passage

More Weddings, Funerals and Rites of PassageRev.Amy E. Long, Universal Life Church Seminary,
with contributors from other interfaith sources

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saint Michael

First things first: he isn't actually a saint by canonical proclamation, even though Christians, Jews and Muslims refer to him as such. Michael is actually an archangel, one of four (or seven,depending on the source you're using). He is the defender and protector of the Roman Catholic Church. Depictions of Michael usually show him engaged in battle with his foot upon the neck of a serpent, dragon or Satan. In the Biblical Book of Revelations he leads God's armies where he defeats the forces of Evil. He is also mentioned in the Book of Daniel as "the prince of the first rank". His attributes also include healing the sick and guiding the dead to heaven; he is often cited in Roman Catholic prayers in his role as Angel of Death. The myth of Archangel Michael varies among traditions,but his favor as Protector is sought by all.

St. Michael is also revered in esoteric/occult traditions such as ceremonial magic and Haitian Vodou (where he has developed into a popular loa). Famed HooDoo practitioner and author Ray.T Malbrough credits St. Michael with intercession relating to peace, harmony,finances and success.Some magickal practitioners assign the Archangels Gabriel, Raphael,Uriel and Michael to the four quarters, and when this variation is used, Michael represents the South due to his fiery nature.

A couple of years ago when I was newly moved into my present apartment, I experienced a series of incidents of being touched by unseen hands (usually on the foot if it were sticking out from beneath the bed covers). None of these encounters seemed to malevolent in nature, and I believe the individuals or spirits involved were merely curious or were perhaps testing me to see how I would react. Not wishing to be bothered by them, I began to ask St. Michael to surround me with protective light. I have not been touched since. Invoking St. Michael results in peaceful sleep and restful conditions for me.

St. Michael Protection Oil, from my personal BOS:

In a small bottle of olive oil (about 6 ozs.), add two pinches of frankincense, 2 pinches of myrrh,  one pinch of dragon's blood, a pinch of cinnamon, a few slivers of ginger and a few grains of sea salt.

Oil may be used to anoint candles, altars and tools.It is very potent and will go a long way.

>>Keep this oil away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and do not inhale the contents during mixing and use. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling!Do not take this concoction internally or rub it on your body. The ingredients of this oil are irritating and poisonous.<<


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Slowly Gathering Power

There is a figurative saying that the New Year is a blank slate; Tabula Rosa-an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals. The first few days of the New Year always feel a bit luminous to me-reflecting light but of no real substance. They sort of just sit there and glow until they settle into a normal routine. This year has felt anything like routine, owing in large part, to our new unpredictable Presidential Administration. I think we're all feeling more than a little off balance. At least I do. Try as I might, meditation and mindfulness keep being interrupted by an insidious anxiety that seeps into my consciousness whenever I seek calm.

This is not who I am, and to be rather truthful, I resent this outside influence intruding upon my peace of mind. Days like this I double down on my esoteric and spiritual pursuits to remind me of my power. According to Native American wisdom keepers,we all have this power as a birthright. But there are times-like these- when we forget who we are.

And sometimes, that calls for a little (or a lot) of magick.

Many years ago I dedicated myself to this spiritual path at Imbolc; Brid is my patron. Brid the Poet, Brid the Smith, Brid the Healer: writer,creative force, seeker of mending that which needs repair and renewal-  I am all of these and more. I have to remind myself of this as I fight to steer my spiritual boat away from the rocks we seem to be heading for in the last few weeks. To do this, I have had to return to the Place of Deep Indwelling. Digging deep into the Earth to be planted and gathering the energy to push back up to the goal of rebirth takes time and patience and energy. Spring is coming!
I am just blooming a little late this year-but I know the result will be worth the delay.

Here the Mountain Ash (Rowan) have begun to set bud; the greening of all things a sure sign of what is to be pushing back against the cold and hibernation of Winter. There is a season to lie quiet and regenerate, and a season to put forth and blossom, and that season is coming, both in Nature and in our current political situation. If we are minding our own garden,tending our seeds of change, then we are gathering energy day by day. This energy is quietly building until it is needed, but until then...
sometimes patience is its own reward.

Meanwhile, self-shielding and warding are a good place to start. Rosemary makes a potent protector either burned as an incense or used to smudge. Focus on inner peace and mindfulness for the days to come. Pay attention to what is taking place in the World and the impact of decisions our politicians are making. Listen beyond the words being said for the Truth of what is coming. And remember-our personal power, our magick, our Craft- will sustain us through this time.