Monday, December 29, 2008

potholes in my spiritual path

I have previously and at great length related how I went from Catholic schoolgirl to tree hugging daughter of the Goddess so I won't go into all that again, but each of us come to this path in our own unique way and my path, I am discovering, has some large holes in it.

I have cruised along mostly on auto pilot since opening myself up to the Goddess and I have been most happy doing this, no regrets. I have just been happy to be released from the feeling of judgement and doom hanging over my head. I have done some magick on a semi regular basis and once I learned to just let go in my rituals I found that simple and from the heart gave me great satisfaction and peace. I have not really pushed myself to go farther, rather I have just let my curiousity drag me along in a scattered fashion.

I started the blog A Pagan Tapestry primarily as a learning experience for myself and it certainly has been that, and hopefully will continue to be. So as I am doing more and more studying and more and more research for the blog I am discovering some things lacking in my education.

On the plus side, I understand from many sources that I do some fairly advanced work in the Craft.
For example, I am heavily involve in working with the Elements, not just invoking and calling and asking them to guard but really working with them, often just with one of them, no other entities involved. Now supposedly (or so I read) this takes much study and dedication to the Craft, but I cheated. I have been talking to the Elements since I was a small child and have been guided by them often.

Another example, I have begun some formal study of Shamanism and find it fascinating, but again, I jumped ahead of where I should be. I have had a relationship with The Trickster of the southwest since I was in high school. I lived in New Mexico, spent quite a lot of time on the reservations and met some Healers and met The Trickster, so I did not come to know him through years of study and trial and error. He is another familiar entity that I made excuses for in my Catholic days.

On the minus side...I call myself Celtic. I am actually half Irish and my grandfather was an immigrant and full of stories about banshees and stuff. I do know most of the major Celtic gods and goddesses. I dedicated a (horse related) business to Epona, I give cursory salutes to the appropriate Goddesses at certain times of the year. I have even studied some of the nearly incomprehensible Celtic mythology. But I have never bothered to really study the myths for information about how better to relate to the deities. I have never really delved at any depth into the pantheon that I claim.
My relationship with them has been superficial.

The primary focus of my path to divinity has been The Goddess, the Mother Goddess, Mother Earth, Gaia, The Creator, whatever you want to call her/him. That won't change, but I do believe in a multitude of deities, not just multiple faces of one, and yet I have been neglecting all the rest.

So in this upcoming year I am planning to start filling in all those potholes in my path. I want to learn how people have related to the Elements over time, especially if they did not consider them childhood playmates, and how this relationship has evolved.

I want to start at the beginning of Shamanism and begin to learn the mysteries. Even The Trickster says this is a good idea, there is more to it than an overly familiar relationship with him.

And most important, I want to explore the history of the Celtic gods and goddesses and learn more about this history with a goal to develop a better understanding of them and a better relationship with them. A more personal relationship.

I plan to work on some of that here on this blog and it will spill over onto A Pagan Tapestry which will begin to reflect more "who" instead of the "what" that I have limited myself to.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It was a magickal morning

I devoted quite a lot of time this morning to my cleansing plan.
I had my usual coffee, surf the net and try to wake up morning, until the sun started peeking over the horizon.

I took a shower, washed my hair, scrubbed with a wonderful sea salt and citrus scrub.
Then I set out an orange candle for my prosperity spell, my tiny plate with the candles for the god and goddess, a new large candle that I planned to dedicate to the Goddess, a row of tea lights for my four companion spirits (formerly known as saints) and my sage and citrus candle. I crumbled some dried white sage and some incense (lavender and sweetgrass) into a small cauldron.

I did my favorite morning ritual to greet the Elements and ask the blessings of the Goddess and God.

From there it got somewhat free flowing. I started lighting candles, invoking whomever the candles represented, dedicated the new candle to the Goddess and lit the sage. When the sage was burning well I put out the flames and allowed it to smoke. My banishing technique is not exactly by anyone's book. I just wandered through the house with the smoking sage, chatting with the Elementals and telling the negative energies to leave. Then I opened a few windows and let all the smoke out.

I did a candle spell for prosperity and business success with the orange candle, set it aside and did a dedication of the coming year to the Goddess.

Then I thanked everyone for coming, put out the candles and buried the sage ash in the flower garden. The house smelled clean, felt clean and I felt about 50 lbs lighter.
I have felt wonderful all day, even when I was freezing my poor feet off giving a riding lesson later in the day. I need to take the time and do this sort of thing more often, the payoff is wonderful

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Beginnings

Isn't it amazing how often we say that? We get to do that, it's one of the few breaks that we (as a society) seem to be able to give ourselves.

I have been struggling with having to work part time in order to take care of my mother's medical and driving needs. I should be enjoying not working full time, but I am stressing over it instead. I have animal dependents and have never before worried about the financial end of taking care of them.

I am going to give myself a new beginning.

Tomorrow at dawn I will smudge the house and perform a ritual that will be a combination prosperity spell and an offering of the coming year to the Goddess.

I am going to jump whole heartedly into the freelance writing I have been doing in a somewhat haphazard way and I am going to give myself more time to be creative and enjoy painting and my new hobby of making earrings (a witch can't have too many earrings).

I am going to call on Peter's servitor (see previous post) and offer my energy and requests to him and see what happens. I am also going to take the plunge and create the entity that I have been thinking of creating to help me with my focus and ability to complete projects.

I avoid thinking of these as resolutions, they are already ongoing activities, I am going to renew my focus and strive to enjoy the process more.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Magickal Entities

This was copied intact from Angels in the Whirlwind blog. The link is on my blog/podcast list at A Pagan Tapestry and also included at the end of this post. Or just click on the links here.

I haven't decided whether to make use of this servitor or not, I have been doing some studying on creating my own, which I still plan to do, but I am tempted to take part in Peter's experiment and see how many people send energy to this servitor and how many get assistance back from it.

Feel free to take part yourself. If you are not familiar with magickal entities you may want to do a little research first.

Public Servitor is Here

As promised, the servitor I created is ready for action. He’s been active for a short time, but I’m feeling pretty good about him. I would hope that you use him and thus, feed him energy. He grows in power and ability the more often he is fed.

Trocowlme (Tro-cowlh-me, with accent on middle syllable, COWL, H is silent) was initially created to attract wealth. In fact, his name came from this statement of intent, “Attract wealth to me.” After deleting vowels, and repeated letters, I got TRCWLHM. Then adding a vowel or two for pronunciation, he was named.

Rather than use the Rose Cross for his sigil, I used a more free form approach, yet the main letters are all in there. Really, there are lots of ways to create a sigil, and I’m not one to believe that there is only one right way.

Creating and using a new copy of Trocowlme:

  1. Draw his sigil using any physical medium. If you prefer creating sacred space, feel free. Burning incense helps, such as patchouli. Then trace his sigil in the air, imagining you’re tracing in a blue-purple colour. You may use your forefinger of your strong hand, or your wand.
  2. It’s best to create a hard copy of his sigil, and maybe give him a place of honour in your home. His sigil is below.
  3. You may then send Trocowlme the energy he needs. Remember, the more energy you invest, the better the results will be. Imagine what you would like him to accomplish.
  4. Instruct Trocowlme as to what you would require. Remember, also, that true wealth is more than money. This was actually my intention.
  5. After instruction him, send him on his way, simply by telling him he may leave. Then FORGET what you just did. Dismiss it from your mind. Go distract yourself. Whatever it takes. Have fun with this. And please let me know what you’ve accomplished. Add this post to your blog if you wish. No need to ask. He’s public domain. Just please credit me - what the hell! The more people who use him, the better.

You can also scroll down to my other posts on servitors and servitor creation. Happy creating!


Copyright © 2008. Feel free to copy & distribute freely. Please include this notice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Christmas Eve

I have always enjoyed Christmas Eve. When I was a child we would go to midnight Mass which was a ritual to put all rituals to shame. The full blown Latin High Mass took a couple of hours and the music for Christmas would knock your socks off. Add candles and incense and a pipe organ and it was like being transported in time. It was disorienting to go back outside.

I grew up with a love of ritual, that was probably the easiest part of the leap from Catholicism to Paganism, both consider the gods worthy of a good ritual in their name.

Christmas Eve has always seemed quiet and peaceful to me. I gave up hysterical shopping, wrapping and stressing years ago, actually about the time it started being stressful instead of fun.

This year we have Solstice, Christmas and the New Moon all within a week. That's a lot of energy no matter how you label it and I have a feeling that this is an important time to work some magick.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Solstice

I love the winter solstice, I always have. I can remember as a small child telling my mother that solstice came first and Christmas was picked as Jesus' birthday because it was already such an important day. I have no idea where I got that at that age.

I have always lived where there are seasons, I do not ever want to live where there are no seasons, the constant change and rebirth fuels my own life. But I also suffer from the lack of daylight as solstice approaches. Right now this region is at approximately 8 hours of daylight and 16 hours of dark, I am reaching my limit. I spend time outside no matter what the weather, but at this point I am becoming sluggish and irritable. Winter in this area is really January, February and March, but this dark time of the year is the only time I find depressing.

As solstice approaches, my body, my spirit and my very soul are crying 'enough is enough.' So I take the modern approach, print out the NOAA chart of sunrise and sunset times for my location, hang it on the refrigerator and check it everyday until spring is well under way.

I know that thousands of years ago the elders of the clans marked the travels of the sun in some way and the practice has continued today. We even still think of it as the sun returning although we know better.

Celebrating the solstice is one of the rituals that we perform each year that we can be certain that we share with pagans of long ago.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

meditation addiction?

I was reading Gypsy's blog, Barefoot in the Sand and found myself nodding along as I read. She was talking about making a renewed effort to take time for her spiritual practice on a daily basis.

I have similar problems, most of us do. Rush rush rush, we don't seem to find a few minutes for ourselves on a regular, daily basis. I have mentioned this before and the response that I nearly always get is along the lines of; don't feel obligated, fit the time in here and there, you don't have to do ritual when you don't have time.

The problem for me is not that I feel obligated....what I feel is a craving.

I came to Paganism and associated practices such as meditation in middle age. I lived my whole life with a wrathful god looking over my shoulder and a negative voice in my mind chiding me all day, every day in an eternal chant of blame, guilt and worry.

When I embraced Wicca, I gave Abraham's god the boot without a qualm. I leaped into rituals to the Goddess and magick with great enthusiasm and little effect for a long while. When I first practiced meditation I experienced the usual frustration and disbelief that this could actually accomplish anything.

When I finally started to learn how to draw energy and release it and then gradually began to experience the energy and the effects of ritual and magick, when I finally experienced the profound sense of awe in performing a full moon ritual to honor the Goddess, when I finally started to learn to meditate....I did not want to go without the benefits of practicing the Craft.

So it is not a matter of feeling obligated to spend time this is a positive addiction and craving.

When I take the time and do a ritual for the Goddess I feel at once connected to this planet and at the same time aware of how a mere scattering of dust we are in the universe. When I take time to do meditation, my entire day is different. I am grounded. I am less likely to experience road rage on my commute, to be frustrated with a co worker, to join in the daily complaining. I feel connected to the energy of the planet and it grounds and calms me.
Before any of these experiences came into my life, I certainly didn't miss them, I thought I was just fine

Now, like any addict, I crave my fix. I crave being grounded, feeling at peace, letting the noise in my mind fade into the background. I do need this time for myself and I need, like Gypsy, to make the time happen, no matter what.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

limited success

I have continued to do the meditation that I described in my last post, hoping to contact my spirit guide again. I have had some mixed success. The central room that my meditation takes me to has many hallways leading off of it. I have met my spirit guide again and we have walked down one of the hallways together. He does not speak and all the doors are closed. I feel only curious, but we don't open any of the doors.

My spirit guide now appears to me either as the Native American man as he did originally or alternately as a movie version of Merlin.

After puzzling over this, I decided that the reason this meditation is not progressing is that my analytical mind is still interfering with my intuitive mind and perhaps scoffing at the whole thing. "If you want to talk to a wizard, HERE'S a wizard." And so I get the Merlin version.

I have spent my whole life being analytical and skeptical, I suppose that I should not hope to just tell that part of me to shut up and let my intuition speak and expect to have it work like a light switch.

I am finding this all fascinating, but I hope that I am not stuck in a loop.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I want to record this because I hope to have something to compare it to soon.

I was doing a guided meditation, one of the meditations on Ariel's site at the DCW.
It involves getting to know your spirit guide by getting in touch with your intuitive mind. The guided part of the meditation takes you through some relaxation exercises. It then walks you down a stairway and into an area where you see a light. At that point in the meditation you are on your own.
I had done this exercise several times and found no insights from my intuition but I did find that it was a good relaxation meditation because the guided part did a good job of quieting my mind. I found it relaxing and energizing at the same time.

One evening I was doing this meditation and when I went down the stairs, for the first time I found myself in a room that I could describe. It was a wide hallway. The walls and floor were large stone blocks. The doorways and the ceiling were arched. It was dimly lit, but it felt warm and comfortable and familiar. The light described in the guided part of the meditation came down a long hallway and gradually lit the whole area. There were other hallways, unlit and lots of closed doors. To my left was a well lit room, also made of stone. In it was a long trestle table and sitting at the table facing me was an elderly Native American man. He was wearing a Navajo blanket over his shoulders and over his head like a hood. When I approached he pushed the hood off his head. He appeared quite old, with grey white long hair. He motioned for me to sit down opposite him, which I did. He told me that he was my spirit guide. I told him that was impossible because even though I had not yet found my spirit guide, I was quite sure that it would be an animal guide. He told me that I was being foolish and not paying attention or I would know that he was a shapeshifter and could become any animal.
He then changed into a raven and flew up and perched on a high shelf. I approached him and he started to say something to me...

At this point my cat jumped into my lap and broke the trance.

I have done this meditation several times since and have not had any luck in continuing the conversation or even finding my guide again. One time I did explore another room, but no one was there. Most of the time I am finding it hard to relax and let the meditation take me where it wants to. I know I am trying too hard.
I hope to find that state again and see what happens.

now to the good stuff

So far this has been a chronological account of a long boring trek from Catholic school girl to a tree hugging, dirt loving daughter of the Goddess.
Now the fun part begins.

Having (finally!) accepted the spiritual path that I was supposed to be on....many, many doors had opened for me. I am going to discuss some explorations here. No more order to the rest of this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a blog is born

And that brings us nearly up to date. After listening to the pagan podcasts for a while and hearing new ones come on the air I wanted to be involved somehow, reach out and contact other pagans. About 6 months ago I started a blog, didn't like it, deleted it, pondered over it and then started A Pagan Tapestry. I have greatly enjoyed it. Researching information for the blog and some really great comments from readers has led me to think about and question and re affirm my feelings and beliefs.

It took well over 20 years from my first inkling of a Goddess religion to get to where I am today. I am comfortable with my beliefs and with who I am. I am not a public Wiccan, but neither am I in the broom closet. If someone asks I will tell them that I am Wiccan. I find that the subject doesn't come up any more frequently than it did when I was Catholic, which is to say, rarely. Most of the people I know can have discussions and spend time with each other without accosting someone about their politics or religion. (Something politicians don't seem to get.)

But while I am finally comfortable with being honest about what I really believe about the universe, I have discovered another great thing about being pagan.
There is so much to learn and discuss and no one wants to restrict or interpret or explain away whatever you learn. I am just beginning to realize all the things that I want to know more about.

The remainder of this blog will be a more current exploration of my journey into the many facets of paganism and metaphysics that this path has opened up to me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

enter, stage left, the Podkin

Long after everyone else was bored with the concept...I discovered podcasting.
Mostly I was fascinated at the prospect of saving up all those NPR shows and listening to them whenever I wished.

Then I discovered Pagan Podcasters. I had to pinch myself, I was dreaming.
Real life people, talking about a spiritual path and how it impacted their everyday lives.
No costume parties, no snarling teenage Goths, no super intense self proclaimed High Priestess invading my personal space to tell me about her intense relationship with the dark goddess.
Real people, normal people, with interesting topics to talk about.
Dubbed 'The Podkin' by Mojo at The Wigglian Way, many pagan podcasters have cheerfully acknowledged the title and give enthusiastic reviews of each others shows, ensuring that any listener has multiple shows to listen to.

I began to see that there really were many many people just like me, normal working folks who were just following a different spiritual path from the 'norm.' A path that involved learning and practicing and mostly importantly, a sense of joy.

I downloaded and listened to every pagan podcast I could find. I still do. I check out each new addition to the podkin world as quickly as word spreads. With only a few exceptions, I continue to listen to nearly all of them on a regular basis. Different points of view on a much agreed upon topic are enlightening and entertaining.

For the first time I felt part of the Neo-Pagan movement in this country, in the world.
Part of the 21st century rejection of the fear and grovelling of so many religions and part of the path of knowledge and learning.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

status quo

So this became normal. I knew what I believed, I prayed to the Goddess, my rituals were primarily just appreciating the beauty of an outdoor walk. I made it a point to go outside where there were few or no people to just appreciate the moment. Spellwork was sporadic, I was still unsure of it.

Then I started finding sites on the internet that became the next step in my education.
Joelle's Sacred Grove is a lovely site with a lot of Celtic information and some good Wicca 101 info. As an aside I was pleased to visit it recently and find that it had been updated. It sat untouched for several years and I was afraid it had been abandoned.

That led to Magicka School. Magicka School is a (mostly) free school of magick that is well organized and well run. There are lots of beginner level classes to chose from that are all free including all the study material. There is a smaller set of advanced classes that require a small fee.
I signed up with Magicka and read everything that my level allowed. I really liked the HUGE chat rooms that included private chats for students with their mentor/instructor.
Unfortunately, life intervened to stop me from completing any classes. A family member diagnosed with cancer meant that I had to quit my full time job, find a part time job and sandwich all the appointments, schedules etc into the remaining time.
I just did not have the focus or time to study the material or take the tests.
I feel badly about that, my instructor was very helpful and patient but I just could not come up with the energy.
So everything except an occasional ritual and prayer went on hold for almost two years.
That may not have been a bad thing. It gave me a lot of time to sort out my feelings about this path, resolve old conflicts with my Catholic upbringing and decide on a course of action for the future.
I knew at this point that being a passive follower of the Goddess, as many people are passive in their religion, was not what I wanted. I wanted to study, to practice magick, to learn more about all the little bits of information that kept floating past me without meaning as I read articles and books.
I was growing a list of subjects to look into;
  • divination, especially the Tarot
  • differences in magickal practices, i.e., earth magick, green magick, wiccan magick, kitchen magick, high magick, magick with and without a spiritual aspect
  • The Golden Dawn, the Kabbalah and High Magic
  • symbols in magickal writings
  • history of the Old Religions with an eye to making connections to neoPagan beliefs

I was beginning to study more and practice less....a conundrum that has plagued me since the start of this journey and continues to.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

reaching out for the first time

So I had become a student extraordinaire, reading everything I could find. Of course, I wasn't actually doing any rituals, casting spells or even meditating. I was just reading.
I was fascinated but still a little put off by this stuff, that good Catholic upbringing still peering over my shoulder.

I was living near Boulder, Colorado, a city that is an odd collection of non-conformists hogging the roads on their bicycles and dedicated yuppies in BMWs. But they are all quite proud of their diametrically opposed neighbors and nearly anything goes.

I found some notices in bookstores of pagan social gatherings, usually at someone's house. This was before and before Homeland Security told us that all strangers are terrorists and back when people actually invited groups into their homes.

Unfortunately, these groups were not going to do me any good. They were big into costumes and parroting lines from movies, but little else. I supposed I should have expected nothing less from a notice in a bookstore, but I was a seeker at a crossroads, trying to determine which way to go.

For the next year or so I alternated finding groups like this and burying my books under piles of other books. It finally occurred to me that no one was going to take my hand, set me down in a pew and tell me how all this works. Looking back, if I had somehow found a coven that was willing to take me on, it probably would have been the worst thing that could have happened.

So I dragged those semi-discarded books out again, starting with Cunningham and re read them. This time instead of reading like a student, I started looking for what seemed right to me, what I questioned and why and how to start thinking for myself about this new path.

I also started doing rituals, which at that time closely resembled Christian prayer, and even casting a few tentative spells. There was immediate feedback for my fumbling, bumbling but earnestly performed spells, but the rituals left a bad taste in my mouth.
Still, I was encouraged enough to continue.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the spiral dance

Now I was haunting the bookstores.
The Barnes & Noble in one part of town has a half dozen books on magick that don't have titles that sounds like witchcraft and they are scattered through the New Age section. Another Barnes & Noble about 15 miles away has an entire section on Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism. Borders carries almost nothing about witchcraft in the books area, but they carry the Llewellyn Witches Datebook and Witches Almanac in the stationary/junk section. Very strange. The only thing I ever bought at a chain bookstore was a delightful little book on Fairies titled "Fairies 101."

I did find two bookstores that call themselves metaphysical stores, one is just a few block from me, the other is across town but worth the drive.

I bought and read "The Spiral Dance" remembering that Starhawk was featured in those Canadian films that fascinated me. Then I bought Cunningham's "Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic" and then I found "Cottage Witchery." I did a review on Cottage Witchery on A Pagan Tapestry, you can see that here if you like.

I was enjoying this quite a lot, but also beginning to want a little more depth to the information that I was getting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

surfing around the web....

Surfing around the web yielded what looked like a lot of information, but shortly turned into the same information repeated over and over. I didn't really know what I was looking for and the google results for Wicca or witchcraft gives limited returns as far as original material.

I put together a list of metaphysical bookstores in the area and set out to find one. Most, I am sorry to say, had closed. I had no idea how old my list was, but there were buildings on the (former) sites of some stores that had been there for years.

I thought I had found one, it turned out the old bookstore sign was still up.
I went inside and found a magician's paradise....if you were a 10 year old boy adept at sleight of hand.
But I asked the owner about the bookstore sign and he said that they had moved and gave me the new address.
The owner there was very helpful and gave me a copy of....ta da! Cunningham's Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner.

Looking back I feel very fortunate. Cunningham is just the right blend of spirituality, magick and 'there is more to learn' for many novices such as myself, unsure of exactly what we are looking for.

If I had picked up some of the whack-job books out there....or even one of the more advanced books on magick, I probably would have run for the hills.

Instead, like so many others in my shoes, I read with fascination that the things that I felt and believed and was afraid to say to anyone else for fear of being ridiculed, was a real religion. And further more, it was based on the idea that people have always worshipped the Goddess, the God, the Divine, the Source, whatever you want to call it, from a basic belief in the value of nature and its natural cycles.

A whole new world had opened up for me.
At the time I was working in a job with a high level security clearance and most of my friends leaned more toward the atheist and agnostic variety than the church variety, so I did not run out and buy a big gaudy pentacle to wear, stick a "Goddess Bless" bumper sticker on my car or leave books on witchcraft laying around on my desk at work.

But what is more important is that I felt pure, unrelenting joy in the idea of what was to come.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

subtle wasn't working so...

The Goddess eventually must have decided that I must not be very bright and certainly in need of help. She had send subtle and not so subtle messages through a variety of people and circumstances, all of which I had single mindedly ignored.

So one day I logged onto the old EZ Board to my favorite chat group, a very small group who had been chatting together on various forums for almost 10 years. I logged on regularly, had it bookmarked, in my favorites and in my menu. I did not type anything in myself, my computer had faithfully found the right page for many years.

This time I found myself on a witch forum. Very low key, fun and friendly. They were not into any heavy discussions, but the admin was a green witch, so were others and the discussions were fun. What on earth was I doing there and why didn't I just try for the right page again? I don't know, but I read the posts over and over, eventually I logged in and asked for help. I was directed to a long list of websites, fortunately one about Celtic traditions caught my eye. It was a good choice and for the first time I found myself reading about Witchcraft with an open mind.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

a system of personal beliefs

Over the years I slowly put into words and context the things that I believed, that I felt to be true, that I had really never questioned my whole life. These were the things that just were. With or without my belief.

I sorted them out, expressed them out loud and acknowledged them. By doing so I built a 'belief system' for lack of a better description that stopped being random thoughts and became a foundation.

Some of these were/are:

Mother Earth is not a cute expression, Mother Earth (now I call her Goddess) is as real as the earth, older than the earth and would like to communicate with us.

There is something that binds all of the universe together, something sentient. Energy, an energy source, the source, the force, now I call it Akasha.

There is a spirit of life in all things, living or not, that is part of that network of energy.

Magick is real. Black, white or grey, mystical or practical, I have always felt that it was as real as the earth itself. There are also lots of tricks and cons and crap floating around labeled magic so it is hard to know when you stumble across the real thing if you are not aware.

There are spirits, entities, ghosts, wraiths, life forces....whatever the label...all around us. Some are aware of us, some interact with us and some are oblivious, possibly even malevolent (the jury is still out on that one), ie, the four 'saints' that I used to appeal to a lot as a child, still do on occasion, who always answered me.

If you can conceive of it, it can be. Telepathy, telekinesis, psychic abilities, shape name it, someone has done it, others have tried, some will succeed in the future. Again, like magic....lots of stories, myths, cons, tricks and games appear to be the same thing. But this doesn't mean that the phenomenon are not real, just rare.

I also totally believe in science, in the scientific method, in research and questioning and proving and disproving and that a huge dose of skepticism is a good thing.

I do not believe in creationism, in most miracles, in taking any 'sacred text' literally. I recognize a good myth when I read one. Storytelling has always been a much prized art form for our species and continues to be so. The kernels of truths hidden in the myths, the directions pointed to by the myths, those are the real truths hidden for only those who truly want to find them.

All of these things tied together in a way that made sense to me. My firm belief is that most if not all of what I believe will someday move from the realm of faith and myth into the realm of proven science. The recent discovery of what physicists call dark matter and I call Akasha is reassuring to me along that line of thought.

So I came up with my own set of beliefs, my private dogma. I assumed that others who had grown up in a similar fashion had probably also found their own foundations, individually, privately, like myself.

Friday, November 7, 2008

the beginning of a search

So I had rejected the Church, and along with it all organized, dogma driven Christian religions. I had rejected neo-paganism because the Church was still looking over my shoulder. But now I was becoming aware that I wanted a name for the spiritual path that I was on.

I had never rejected the idea of the Divine, only the dogma of controlling humans. So now I began to explore non traditional spiritual paths (non traditional from my perspective, of course). Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, North American spiritualism, others I can't remember. Shinto struck a cord with me on an intellectual level but, even though I tried, I could not make an emotional connection. North American spiritualism was the same, with the exception of the shamanic shape shifters, which struck a cord with me.

My interest waxed and waned but now it was always lurking in the back of my mind.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The White Goddess

A friend of mine gave me a copy of The White Goddess by Robert Graves.
Graves gives us his version of the goddess mythology based on a romantic view of matriarchal societies and agrarian goddess worshiping societies of the pre-Christian era. He openly admits that he is a poet and not a historian, but nonetheless, spins a compelling story.

Wouldn't you think that this would start to click for me, at least a little?

Looking back on this time I have to view my travels sort of like this:
My agnostic life was traveling down a broad, well paved path. I keep coming across these paths of bread crumbs that cross my path. Mostly I step over them, sometimes I peer along them and see that they curve out of sight in both directions, but I continue on. Without warning, the path I am on begins to narrow, become rutted and even disappear in spots, while the breadcrumb path has grown into a well defined footpath crossing mine. But I persevere. I am a model of tunnel vision.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Goddess Remembered

In 1990 Canadian Public Broadcasting aired a trilogy of films. Goddess Remembered, The Burning Times and Full Circle.

These films traced the birth of the neo-pagan movement, which at the time was very closely tied to both the environmental movement and the women's movement.
I know now that it was historically inaccurate, but it opened my eyes to the idea that the old religions were not buried in the past, they are alive today.

Starhawk gives several interviews in these films and while I know that she has been criticized for her strongly stated ties between neo-paganism and environmental activism, she is a passionate voice for the women's movement as well as environmental concerns, which echoed with me.

I recorded the videos and watched the films over and over again. I did not know or care about whether the history was accurate, I wanted every detail of the neo-pagan movement and how much of old agricultural beliefs and rituals had come forward into this time.

I felt an overpowering emotional tug to explore this further, but in the end my Catholic upbringing won out.

Even though I had roundly rejected the Church and had no second thoughts about that I could not make the leap. Goddess worship, rituals, magick, secrecy, satanism, dark rites, manipulation....the Church had bound them all together for me into one neat package.

While I recognized this on an intellectual level and I felt a strong pull on a deeper level toward Paganism....I found myself watching the tapes one more time, making the judgement that those people were well intentioned kooks messing around with stuff better left alone...and I turned my back.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

the Goddess is calling, pick up the phone

In my thirties the Goddess and a good friend of mine tried desperately to get my attention and show me what I really wanted, but I was deaf and blind.

This was in the 80s and most people living any sort of alternative lifestyle did not go around waving a flag about it. I had a friend who was in her fifties and got divorced. She told me that now she was free to be a pagan. A few months later I asked her about a group that she met with every few weeks (or was it once a month!?!!). I was a little hurt that I was never invited. She told me it was a pagan group.

Here is how dense I was. I thought she was just saying that she liked to party (pagan=party), and she liked to party with women her own age. I was really shut down to hearing anything that might open up a need to explore a spiritual life.

She never mentioned it again and it never occurred to me to question it.

A few years later I was visiting the town where she lived and my most beloved dog got out of my car and got lost. I was distraught. Many, many people tried to help me find the dog, including my friend. After a few days of hysteria on my part she told me to come to her house. She did what she called a ritual and had me just visualize the dog while she played with some candles and the dog's leash. I was very upset and I think that because I thought she was praying, I just played along trying to humor her and waiting for her to get done so we could go back out and keep looking for the dog.

I was oblivious, but I know now that she was casting a spell. The next day someone called and said he had found the dog. In fact he had her all along and had been planning to keep her because he thought it was a shame that she was running loose, but changed his mind.

It was a really really good spell.

How many ways are there to say "duh"

Monday, November 3, 2008

beginning life as an agnostic

In my 20s the realities of being Catholic set it. The Church forbade divorce, birth control, abortion, stated that sex was solely for the purpose of procreation, denied women equal rights within the Church and implied that for a woman to do anything other than stay at home and raise kids, lots of kids, was contrary to the spirit, if not the laws, of the Church.

One thing that I did agree with was that you can't pick and choose. You are either Catholic, do what you are told to do, believe what you are told to believe, or you are not. It is not a menu from your favorite Chinese restaurant and it isn't Burger King.

I chose not.

I began to call myself agnostic and steered away from anything to do with religion, any religion. I was totally and completely uninterested, uncurious and less than friendly to the assorted missionaries that came to my door.

Although, in direct contradiction to this, I did continue to have conversations with and sometimes ask for help from 4 saints. They had helped me since early childhood, always responded to my prayers and did not seem to care that I had rejected the religion that they had died for. They were Anthony, Jude, Christopher and Francis.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Malleus Maleficarum

Malleus Maleficarum. The Latin title translates as 'Hammer of Witches' and it is known somewhat sarcastically as 'How to Burn a Witch.'
It is also known as the Inquisitor's Handbook. Written by two influential Dominican monks taking part in the Inquisition, it is a detailed instruction guide for locating, identifying and executing witches. The above link will take you to an online translation.

The fear, paranoia and single minded zeal of the authors is a study in psychosis and mob psychology. Right from the start the Church alternated endorsing it and turning a blind eye. While the lunatics involved hands-on in the torture and death of an unknown number* of people were no doubt passionate believers in their just cause, the higher ups in the Church were taking a larger world view and attempting to bring a wandering population to heel.

By the 20th century the Church had long ago swept this unsavory history under the rug and Malleus Maleficarum was banned reading for all good Catholics with the exception of religious scholars. When two of my high school Franciscan priest teachers brought this book into the curriculum, there was quite a stir over it. Enough to appeal to the bishop to tell them to stop. The bishop, being unfrightened of discussing the Church's past, declined.

I was truly horrified at this new look at the Inquisition, which I had previously been taught was a war waged by the heroic religious leaders against the 'Evil Empire' du jour.

Even with a decidedly Catholic slant and justification of these times, there is no denying the fact that it was mass murder for political maneuvering and that it went on and on and on. What better way to whip any dissenting voices into compliance than the very real threat of a grisly death? What better way to distract and control the masses than by whipping up hysteria and fear and then pointing them at a victim offered up to appease the mob?

Mob psychology has been used by the strong to control the weak (minded) since before recorded history and continues today.
The degree of control and the extended period of time that the Inquisition went on is testimony to the abilities and tenacity of the controllers.

I found that this information was something that I just couldn't get past. While I had been willing to believe that the victims of this time were indeed in league with the devil and so deserved their fate; a more realistic portrayal of human fear and guilt and greed and manipulation painted a picture of a Dark Ages indeed and one of a system of combined religion/government run amok.

I might have been more able to reconcile this history with what I believed the Church to be had I been aware of a more realistic portrayal of the past right from the start. But I had learned and believed what I had been taught. Devoutly believed it.
The betrayal of my own loyalty, faith and trust was as shattering as learning a bit of history.

My god had feet of clay.
* Estimates of the number of people killed in the combined Inquisitions, which lasted over 500 years, vary wildly from tens of thousands to millions. Scholars generally agree that millions would have decimated the population, which obviously did not happen. The numbers I see most often are between 30,000 and 300,000. Part of the difficulty is in the record keeping. Relatively small numbers (thousands to approx 30,000) were executed by Church officials. While vast numbers may have been executed by civil courts. Turning victims over to the local authorities was a common way of distancing the Church officials from the murders when they really wanted people removed but needed the complicity of the locals to avoid recrimination.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

history lessons from the Franciscans

In high school, it was back to parochial school. This time to a very small school of a few hundred students taught by Franciscan nuns and priests. The Franciscans have traditionally been an order that lived in the communities where they worked and did not sequester themselves behind walls.

There was an interesting dichotomy among the staff. The nuns were all of an age to be past retirement and except for classes rarely left the cloister. The priests were mostly young, several had played football at Notre Dame. They were active, athletic, academic.
They attended the sports events and dances and loved teaching. After two years at this school I was way ahead of the state requirements to graduate from high school.

I also, for the first time, started learning some things about the Church that were directly opposed to what I had previously been taught. I learned for the first time that the Church, historically, had not been a single minded, dedicated force for good marching the high road through the barbaric times. I learned about the politics and intrigue and feuds that carried on sometimes for centuries and shaped modern Europe. I heard a more balanced view about the Crusades and the fallout that followed.

I was fascinated by this history. These priests were dedicated, passionate and intellectual in their approach to their faith and wanted their students to recognize the human frailties in the Church and still love it, as they did.

I began to separate my faith from a pursuit for historical accuracy and reconcile the two. Until we got to the Inquisition and a little book called Malleus Maleficarum.

Friday, October 31, 2008

more lessons from grade school

While I was in grade school I learned that differences between boys and girls were important. Boys got the big part of the playground and were allowed to play ball. Girls were not supposed to run and if you wanted to play jump rope you had to wear shorts under your skirt.

Girls sang in the choir and had to have permission to go into the church and were forbidden to go past the altar rail. Boys were altar boys and had the run of the church and even the sacristy. Choir practice for the girls was taught by a nun with nothing but music on her mind. The boys hung out and even played ball with the priests.

When I went to junior high I transferred to a public school. The difference was incredible. My education was way ahead of the kids I now went to school with, but my attitudes and social skills were right out of the Middle Ages.

In junior high I discovered cheerleaders. No, I wasn't one, I was one of the multitude of kids who watched their every movement, toss of the hair, laugh and clothes.
So I discovered that girls could have power too, even more than boys, but there was a cost.

And being outside of my parochial world for the first time, it occurred to me that if anyone not baptized Catholic was destined for was going to be one crowded place.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

storing tidbits away

At the same time that I was being indoctrinated into Catholicism, tiny tidbits of knowledge were being stored away. These would turn into the seeds of a full scale rebellion later in my life.

As a child in parochial school, I was devout. I am not sure exactly what I was devout about, but I was nearly fanatical. Looking back I realize that I felt no attachment whatsoever to the Catholic God, the Holy Trinity. As far as I was concerned he was just another adult who seemed to be mad at something all the time. There were lots of adults around just like him. Keep on his good side, stay out of sight. I wondered how Jesus managed to not piss him off.

I did feel great attachment to the rituals of religion. The Latin Mass was still said everyday and on special days the Latin High Mass was sung. I think if I walked into a Church today and heard a Latin High Mass being sung I would weep with joy.

Believer or not, those are rituals suitable for a God. Latin, candles, incense, incredible music....remind you of any good rituals lately?

hmmm, ANYWAY, I was most certainly taken with the rituals....all of them. Rosaries following the Stations of The Cross, morning Mass before school, learning the hymns by heart. Everyone knew the responses for a Low Mass, but at age 8 I could wend my way through a High Mass unassisted.
I collected Holy Cards. Those were playing card size depictions of Saints, generally full of arrows or swords, sometimes just standing around with a halo. On the back of the card would be interesting information about the Saint and the bloody end that earned them their official Sainthood. Modern child psychologists would have a field day with these.

I fantasized about becoming a nun. Not the kind that taught English and Geography. No, a Carmelite nun. Vows of silence, penance weeding the garden. That stuff. I liked the outfit.

But at age 7 the first crack appeared in the perfection of the Church. I learned that my very best friend, who lived next door, who seemed like a nice person, was going straight to hell. No way around it, no arguing would help. She was not a baptized Catholic and therefore she was going to hell.

I explained this to her and asked her to at least get baptized, we could fake the rest.
She laughed. Laughed! Obviously she did not understand. I appealed to the nuns. I begged my friend. No help from either side.

This was the first tidbit that I stored away.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

starting at the beginning....

I was raised Catholic in a fairly typical post WWII Catholic family. More than two kids, Catholic schools, Mass on Sunday and Holydays. I don't remember my parents as being especially religious, but the Church was definitely part of our lives. We didn't do any of the social stuff, but we never missed Sunday Mass and the Bible and rosaries were present in the house.
I don't recall an especially close relationship with my maternal grandparents, my grandfather died when I was 6 and shortly after we moved far away from where my grandmother lived, but they must have had an influence. They were Irish, first generation American, and I picked up from them a little Celtic lore, mostly banshees and little people. I took this sort of thing to heart, to the dismay of the nuns during my early days in parochial schools, before I learned to shut up.