The Awe of God

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my growing up lately.  I think it’s necessary to do at times; you need to re-remember the good, and deal with the bad so that it doesn’t affect your life moving forward.

And as I remember my life as a child, one of the things that pops out to me the most is how awed I was of the concept of God.  Even at a young age I could feel divine energy all around me, and it was fascinating.  I remember being in church at a young age, wanting to do so much more than just sit in a pew and sing to honor the God that I felt so strongly.

Now that I am in my fourties, I am thankful that I feel this spirit of awe even deeper.  I am free to understand and worship on my own, and because of that I have done a significant amount of research into what type of devotion to God is right for me.  And I’m very glad I have done so.  I remember my father being upset with me asking questions so long ago.  It was almost as if he felt that if I learned too much, if I studied religions too deeply that I would lose the faith I had in God.  

But what really happened was quite contrary to that.  I’ll give an example to explain.  

As I sit here, typing this out, I’m watching my cat walk back and forth across the floor, picking up the bits of bacon my husband put down for him from our breakfast.  I understand how he walks, the connection of the muscles connected by tendons to bone, the nerves firing, making the muscles contract and relax.  I know how he exists, and I’m awed at the marvel that is the life going through his body.  That life, in my belief, is there by divinity. And even if I no longer believed in a divine force, my cat is still a marvel of ingenuity that is worthy of awe.

I think those of us who forge our own religious path sometimes lose the spirit of awe, and that is sad.  We are more apt to focus on specifics about pantheons, ancient writings, specific practices and disciplines to grow our own awareness and energy that sometimes we done stop to think about the fact that all of this creation just…exists, and it does so without us.   And that is worthy of looking at things with awe.  

Awe to me makes things holy.  It gives me a reason to continue to learn, and strive to be the best person I can be.  If I am worthy to live in a world that was built with wonders and energies and life, then I must learn to be the best person I can be in this world in order to give back – to say thank you for the awe that I feel.  

Issues with A Broken Religion

Pandora really pisses me off sometimes.

I started building a new radio station to listen to at work based on one of my favorite bands, Breaking Benjamin.  I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy mood for a while now so it fit to create a station around them.  (For those that don’t know, the lead singer of Breaking Benjamin has been pretty public about his personal issues with anxiety and phobias, and to me you can feel that in his music.  You can also feel the strength he uses to fight those illnesses, and that is what appeals right now.  Times are tough, and we can be upset, but we also have strength in spades to get through).

So everything is going pretty well, and of course, as Pandora is designed to do, new music pops up.  And it’s from the band Skillet.  This is a band I wrote about awhile back.  They are Christian, and don’t shy away from speaking about that.  In fact, the reason they are still together is because one of their pastors counseled them to keep pushing forward and continue to speak about the “Glory of God”.   In other words, keep that recruiting up!  We need the revenue! (Yes, I’m aware my bias is showing here).

So that song got the Pandora thumbs down.

Then Ashes Remain came on.  Again, another Christian Rock band.  I looked them up, and they are too much like Skillet for my tastes.  So another thumbs down logged.  After the third Christian band popped up, I just decided to start looking up a list of “Christian” rock bands.  I found out there are quite a few.  The Color Morale, Red, Beartooth, Thousand Foot Krutch and many others I listen to identify as Christian.  And that really bothers me.

So my choices now were that I’m going to have to either keep logging thumbs down on songs a lot more than I thought, or I’m just going to have to accept that there are a lot of Christian bands out there and pick and choose what I like.  And if I just listen to them anyway, I get to do this despite the fact that I feel like most of these bands are out there specifically to recruit people to a religion broken by the people who identify with it.

Believe it or not, this is a pretty hard decision for me.  I’ve done my best to steer clear of Christianity for many years.  Christians can go live over there, and I’m here in my own belief system that suits me just fine.  And occasionally, on my own terms, I’ll seek out those that I know don’t ‘recruit’ and see what they have to say.  Speak to me about learning to become a better person, helping the planet or helping others gain their basic human rights and we will have things in common.  Talk to me about how my religion is somehow wrong or beneath yours, and the conversation will very quickly be over.

However, times are changing, and perhaps the mix that Pandora chose for me is just a catalyst for the realization that I have more lessons to learn.  Sooner or later, I’m going to have to accept that those of the Christian faith who look at me differently are integrated around me more than I feel comfortable about.  Right now I just keep that out of my mind.  However, perhaps that habit is a negative response, especially because of the amount of anger that comes up when I think about it.  And sooner or later, I’m going to have to deal with that anger; the real reason my bias exists.

So here is the crux of the matter: I have more issues with the Christian religion than I thought.  And now, I’m going to have to get off my gluteus maximus and figure out what those issues are and deal with them.

I talked about the fear of God syndrome once before.  And I thought that once I wrote that post, that I had dealt with my issues regarding Christianity, and that was that.  I thought I was doing a good job separating the religion from the people.  Because honestly, the religion itself isn’t THAT bad.  Love one another.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Be still and know that I am God.  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  All of these things have profound meanings.  And they are meanings that transcend the Christian religion.  To me, it’s the PEOPLE who claim to be Christian that cause 90% of the problems with that religion, maybe even more.

I don’t need to go far to come up with excellent examples.  Look at those who are against abortion.  Sure, they are pro-life while the child is in the womb, but the minute the child is born there will be very little support it if the child was born outside of a strong family unit.  Look at the prosperity gospel and how many people who have given up their entire life savings hoping for a miracle.  Finally, and what angers me the most, is the issues in the current situation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘Christians’, in the current political climate argue against verses from the book that they claim to follow.  “Oh, that verse is just hyperbole.  Verses like that are throughout the entire bible.”  Or, “Sure, it says turn the other cheek, but at the same time, Jesus wouldn’t want me to stand by and watch as my family gets robbed and killed.”  Plainly put, these people will twist things to match what they want to believe, and they don’t give a shit about the true meaning of that religious text.

Perhaps I’m tired of seeing how people twist religion to make it fit what it is they want to do.  It’s the same with the racism in Heathenism.  There are interpretations of many religions that inflict more harm than they do good, and when that happens, there is something seriously wrong with the people that profess to be following that religion.  Perhaps it wasn’t the case in older times, but in the current age I firmly believe that religion is meant to help us understand the world around us and how we fit in with that world.  I firmly believe that the times where religion divided us should be over.  We have evolved further than that.

But unfortunately, power over people is still something that is strived for by many.  And religion is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to do just that; get power over people.  And for the most part, people are programmed to accept that when it comes to religion, you are expected to relinquish your power to get anywhere.  And thus you have the strife and conflict that we see today.  And that leads me back to my current dilemma.

But at least now I can speak to the issue more clearly.

I am pretty damn angry at people within the Christian churches.  I’m angry at how they failed me in my upbringing, how they didn’t answer my questions and how they forced me to follow along in a religion even though I felt so very different in my soul.  I’m angry at the strife they caused me and so many other people like me that felt different.  I’m angry that they made us feel like outsiders unless we conformed.  I’m very angry they caused us to be afraid of the very Gods that were there to help us the entire time.  And I am mad as hell that I have to deal with all of the leftovers of this upbringing.  I get to deal with all of the confusion and pain as to why I can’t understand or fit with the people who call themselves Christian.  I get to deal with them time and time again telling me that I still am wrong and that I need to ‘get with the program’ in order to save my soul.   I get to deal with the embedded ‘fear of God’s wrath’ if I dare try to be myself.  I get to deal with how I felt back then because I dared ask questions that people couldn’t answer.  And last but not least, I get to learn over and over again how to be a survivor in a country that claims to be Christian, yet refuses to treat people the way their own Jesus said to.

And I’m allowed to be mad.  I’m allowed to be mad as hell.  I’m allowed to be so mad that I can spit nails anytime anyone asks me if “I’ve found Jesus” yet.  Yeah, I found him, and he’s over in the Middle East doing what he can for the refugees that are dying.  And now that you mention it, I saw him the other day in your church, bent over the altar weeping at those using his house for their own personal gain.

Obviously I’m showing my anger.  I’m trying to get it out; to get a name to it.  I need to identify and deal with it.  I need to deal with it because of people like John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Michael Beckwith, Revered Ed Bacon and many others.  Although these people are only a few of the vast number of Christians out there, they believe differently.  They believe like me; that God is large enough to be involved in many different religions.  They believe we are stronger if we support and take care of each other, no matter what religion you profess.  And their beliefs contain the possibilities of what Christianity could become.  So there is hope.  Further, and thanks to the current political climate,  I’m reminded that I, someone who is in a religion in the minority, needs to learn to work with others who are in the minority.  Get enough of us together and we will become the majority, forcing change throughout the country.

Even if it is for that last reason alone, I need to deal with this anger.

I’m not sure where this thinking is going to lead me.  I hope it’s someplace positive.  I don’t want to dismiss good people trying to do what is right.  And I know the people I mentioned above are trying to do just that.  But the tenant of my faith says that I must work on myself; that I must overcome my own shortcomings and strive to be a better person.  This is what it means to me when I say I stand with my Gods.

So I guess because of my faith, my religion, I need to figure out a way to be more accepting to those that truly profess theirs.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to feel bad for not listening to Skillet and bands like them that profess the current status quo of this currently broken religion.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Roles and Titles

Roles are a hard thing for me.  Even with my comments in earlier posts about titles being something that can cause significant hardship, I still have a hard time trying not to assume a role of some sort.  Let’s face it; no matter how much we want to identify ourselves without some sort of title or role attached, we live in a world full of roles.  We have to therefore agree to have SOME sort of title occasionally.

The role that fell to me a lot during my early years in the pagan community was that of a facilitator in some form or fashion.  I led groups, answered questions, put together rituals and overall was heavily involved in my pagan community, not just in the state that I lived in, but also in the state I was born in and had family in.  After getting tired and frustrated with a great many things, and having lots of many other personal issues that I needed to work on (including getting back to college, finding work, getting married and divorced, you know, all of that stuff of life), I stepped out of the limelight, so to speak, of my local pagan communities.  I went ‘incognito’, for many years.  I didn’t fully leave my practice; my gifts were always there, but I didn’t rely on them as much anymore.

Fast forward to several years ago, and I found myself getting back involved.  And while many things never changed, quite a bit did.  And with that change, my original role of ‘facilitator’ went away.  Sure, I can give you all of the detailed information you want about how things were done and why back then, but with the invention of the internet (yes, I’m THAT old), changes started coming fast and furious, and there was no way anyone could really keep up with those changes in practice, in worship, heck, even the terms themselves changed.  This left me struggling for a long time.  The same position that I was in so many years ago was now something that I didn’t feel comfortable enough taking anymore, yet I was absolutely not a newbie to any of these forms of worship, ritual or magic.  I found myself stuck; feeling like I didn’t belong, was constantly ‘sized up’ or was pushed away from those of higher lineage in Wicca.

Trying to find my own role within this new pagan community also was made even harder by status.  Many times I also felt looked down upon by others of the same belief structure that I followed, whether it was my Native practice, the Wicca, or even by some Heathen Shamans.  I realize now that I was not the only one feeling these times of rejections; or sizing ups.  Many people in face to face pagan communities feel this way.  And perhaps the people who are doing it don’t even realize they do.  Perhaps they are looking for a ‘peer’, but are unsure of how to do it without belittling.  Or perhaps they are so tied up with defending what their beliefs are that they decide that is more important than making feel welcome.

Another concern of mine are the ones with good intentions, but expect that they are going to now make a living off of taking a title of “shaman” or “Witch” and use it to sell their goods and services.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic people out there who make fantastic products, but there are also those who don’t have the greatest of intentions, are interested in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or don’t expect to put the long hours into building a clientele or making a product.  Unfortunately, those who bring negativity to those roles only belittle the ones whose intent is true, making it much harder for the legitimate businesses to actually get anywhere.

However, the more that I blog and the more that I pray, the more I realize I still have to figure out where I fit.  “So, what’s it going to be?” my Gods ask; “Are you going to be what is that we we know you are, or are you going to keep trying to find a human term for all of this?”  That question basically was the entire dilemma summed up in a nutshell.  And perhaps it tells more truth about the entire pagan community than they wanted to let on.

Using a Role or title like “Shaman”, “Witch”, “Priest” or the myriad of other titles out there brings up certain assumptions within the pagan community.  When looked at as an aggregate, the community is not nearly as structured as many other religious communities either; we are lucky if we fit in a structure of a scatter diagram much less any hierarchical organizational chart.  This means that many who take on a role might end up also having to take on countless other roles, such as ‘counselor’, ‘advocate’, ‘role model’ and many others that they may or may not have the training to do.

Maybe some might think it a rite of passage in the pagan community nowadays to not fit into one specific spot.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to.  Perhaps instead we are meant to create our own place; a place where we can help others in need when we have strengths that can provide service, and refer them to others when we cannot help.  And perhaps that referral could be somewhere else, thanks to the internet we could refer someone to an author in another state, or even another country to get the information that they need or desire.

So what have I learned about my role from all of this?  I am all of these things, and yet none without the other.  I am a shaman or spirit woman, a witch, a healer and a heathen.   Perhaps that was what I needed to know all along.  Perhaps it wasn’t the role that I needed to find, but instead I needed to find (even more) courage to just accept what it is I am.

I am of the firm belief that this community and the world today are both on unprecedented ground.  The only things that we have of precedence is that things will change, our spirits will leave for other places while some may return here, and that if we don’t treat her well, this beautiful Mother Earth that we live on will begin to shake us off like a bad cold.  And perhaps figuring out new ways together, including figuring out new roles that may not have a simple word to describe them, may be all part of building that new community, and perhaps that new world.

Tarot Reading for 2017…here we go…

It is with trepidation that I start this post and reading.  Ever since my last post, I’ve started doing some contemplation on what my expectations for 2017 will be, and to me, the response I get from my Guides and Gods is that the whole year will be summed up in one sentence, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

Whereas 2016 was a year of work and action, this year feels to me like it will be one of having to now stand up for what it is you believe in; it is a time to reach out of the comfort zones that we have created and make the change that is so necessary to start putting into action that which we think and dream about.

But I get ahead of myself.  I haven’t even pulled the cards yet.  This is only what I THINK will happen.

img_3782The deck that I am using this year will be the Steampunk Tarot.  It is from Llewellyn and is a more recent offering from that company.  I purchased it when another reader I was working with at an event told me about it and showed me her own.  The deck and I have had a bit of a rough start; it doesn’t act like my other decks, and isn’t as easygoing.  I find that to be refreshing, actually.  This deck wants to be handled a specific way, and I am more than willing to do so.

Instead of trying to get information for each month, I’m going to go by quarter (three month periods).  Trying to go into any more detail to me right now seems pointless; there are still many things that need to be sorted out, and many things could change by the second month of the year.  Therefore a general ‘feel’ of the year is what I am after, and doing quarterly snapshots in the spread seems the best way to do that.

One note about reversals – This particular deck was not created with reversals in mind.  In the “Steampunk Tarot Manual,” the author, Barbara Moore speaks to this.  She says that in her mind, the Tarot is a “complete and logical system….that lets my left brain relax so my right brain can connect with the images more easily.” She further explains that in her mind, the reversals were a ‘system’ that makes no rational sense and detracted from her ability to read the cards. (Steampunk Tarot Manual, page 30, Llewellyn Publications.) Going with that belief, I have read the cards upright.  However, before writing about the interpretation, I did check intuitively to see if I could feel any reverse meaning or issues.

The spread is 8 cards:  The top four ‘prime’ cards represent each quarter (Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec) while the cards underneath represent something that which must be dealt with before moving to the next quarter.  Alternatively, each card underneath could bring a blessing from that time period, I’m not certain.  We will see as we move along.

 

First Quarter – Queen of Pentacles prime card, The Wheel of Fortune, secondary card

img_3789The Queen of Pentacles came up reversed, and my intuitive sense says to read it that way (I put it upright in the picture so that those interested in the deck could see it more clearly).  This card speaks to more learning and work to be done on the gifts that we have worked on in 2016.  Yes, we have achieved learning new skills, bettering our situations (or found ourselves in new ones) and overcome a lot in 2016.  But we aren’t done with that work yet.   Things need to be honed in for the first quarter of 2017.

For those considering new year resolutions, you can’t just go out and start something and expect it to thrive. Sometimes planning is in order, and careful planning to boot.  Here the cards are saying that for those who wish to start a new study or better themselves, it’s time to figure out the specifics and stick to what it is you want to do.

The Wheel of Fortune card speaks very much to the prime card.  If you buckle down and do what it is you are yearning to do, you will be able to get through the quarter much easier. However, no matter what you do or do not do, we all need to expect the unexpected.  We may not have to plan for it (or some of us already have), nor may it really affect us unless we allow it to.  But I’m not ready to tell people to ‘hang on to the roller coaster’ yet.

When looking at the state of the world, especially in the United States, these two cards speak of doing that which we pledged to do.  Are the young that were enticed into the political process continuing their vow of working toward political change?  Are the people who pledged to write their representatives doing so?  Are people doing the volunteering they vowed?  Are they making choices to learn the new skill or reach out to others? There is a big difference from joining a Facebook group or talking about changing and actually taking time to do the things that may bring change.

 

Second Quarter – Knight of Swords prime card, The World, secondary cardimg_3790

As we head into the second quarter, the energy is all going to depend on what has or has not been accomplished in the first quarter.  Have we been the person who has been able to complete that which we set out to bring into our lives, or have the intentions of the new year fell aside by the beginning of February?  If we haven’t completed the endeavors that we wished, all is not lost.  The Knight brings the opportunity to strategize once more.  For those that have been able to bring the change they want in their lives, this card represents the ripples in the pond that are starting to form based on the changes that have become habits.  The pebble in the pond causes ripples that touch almost everything in the pond. Therefore an individual who changes will alter their community.  Get enough people to change and you can change a state, a country or even the world, which leads me to the next card.

The world tells me that we will see an end of a cycle in May or June.  Everything comes in its time; and it will be an ending of things, and beginnings of new ones.  The spiritual symbols in the cards tell me that this will be focused on spirituality.  It could mean a spiritual growth cycle is ending, and a new one begins.  But unfortunately I don’t get many more specifics than that.


Third Quarter – Nine of Pentacles prime card, Three of Swords, secondary card

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I find these two cards very refreshing when comparing the same time period from 2016.  July through September brought quite a bit of political craziness in 2016, and here we see two cards that are lower energy than the energy experienced in the same time frame the previous year.  However, I fear there is some caution that is needed still.

The Nine of Pentacles feels to me that it could be something we could celebrate, but not too much.  Yes, a new cycle has been completed, but there will always be another following quickly after.  We must continue to move forward; to stop would mean to go stagnant and allow muscles to atrophy and minds to become dull.  Enjoy the work that has been done, but there is still plenty of work to be done as the year is not yet over.

The three of swords is a warning to me of too much celebration.  Cogs in wheels could easily be broken, and something that simple can start everything that has been worked for to come crashing down.  Now seeing the previous cards speak to a new cycle, that may not be much at this point, but it is still a breakdown.  And if you are like me, you want to avoid those at all costs.

 

Fourth Quarter – Knight of Wands prime card, Temperance, secondary cardimg_3792

The Knight of Wands speaks to a lit passion.  Perhaps the Three of Swords warning is one that is taken too carefully and starts a hunt to root out that which could be our undoing in the third quarter.  Passion is a wonderful thing, but only when it is put to good use.  The previous presidential election results are a clear example of that; many people’s passions were aflame after the results, and while some of that was put to good use, much of it spilled over into countless situations of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ with violent consequences. Passion spurs many to root out those which do not look like ‘us’, for they may be against ‘us’.  Therefore we need to look to finding constructive things to channel those passions into.

Temperance is a very strong reminder to channel that passion, as it speaks to what will happen if we are able to do so.  At this point we have gone through a new year and have hopefully seen new spiritual and physical practices put into play.  We have grown wiser and stronger.  It’s time to put that knowledge to use here during the passionate last quarter of 2017.  Let the last quarter of 2016 be a warning on what passion can do.  Should passion ignite firestorms, let Temperance be the guide to the water hoses.  Let the strength and wisdom we have gained from the year give us the sight to know what the true action needs to be.

 

So looking at the spread, I think my first thought about 2017 is correct in some ways, but not in others.  Perhaps we aren’t going to see the horrible things that we expect after some of the things that have happen in 2016.  They will be a factor, but perhaps it is our own decisions and actions that will determine how much of a factor.  Have we learned our lessons, and have we grown, or have we not?

The biggest takeaway of this reading for me is that we cannot lose our heads over issues that we see happening in the world in 2017.  Instead we need to seek to learn about how we can fix those things.  According to this reading, we may not be done with the ‘big news’ that the last two quarters of 2016 brought us.  The first quarter may have it’s own problems.  But if we stick to logic and common sense as best we can, and continue to do things to strengthen our own lives, I believe that we will be able to grow in 2017 despite the issues in the world.

I’d love thoughts about this deck, the spread or the interpretation.  Thanks for reading.

 

Darkness

darkness_by_4nki.jpg

Today driving into work I could really tell that we are creeping toward the darkest part of the year.  There was no sign of the sun the entire way in, and even now as I sit at my desk I still don’t see any signs of the sun peeping out yet.

I used to think of the dark as a scary place.  Often during this time of the year I suffered with seasonal depression, and struggled to just get simple tasks done.  In those days I would much rather crawl into bed and hide under the covers until yule was over.  Then at least I could recognize the fact that the days would start to get longer, and allow that fact to get me through my daily tasks.  I recognized back then that for me the sun was a guiding force, maybe not metaphysically, but its presence was calming, reassuring and gave me a time frame to go by in order to get tasks done.  But when the days were so short that I ended up waking to darkness, working, and going home in darkness, it was a significant struggle because I didn’t see that guide in my life.

Now however, things have changed.  I recognize that darkness is not something to be feared.  But it is something that is different and must be explored.

We cannot have light without the darkness.  And while darkness brings a time to rest, it also brings a time where we must change our patterns.  The sun serves as a guide to the day, so since we don’t have the sun, we must strive to look within ourselves to find the guidance to carry us through.  Since the darkness also brings cold, we must seek warmth, whether it be the warmth within ourselves, the warmth that comes from being kind or just the warmth of extra blankets on the bed.  Darkness is meant to be a struggle.  It’s meant to be a time where you have to reach deep within your resolve to get through the daily duties of the day.

Darkness is also an excellent time to look within ourselves and let go of the things that no longer serve us.  To continue to carry those things around simply means that you exert more energy.  Why not cast out that which you no longer need?  The thought of changing patterns and recognizing unhealthy truths is scary in itself.  Yet holding onto those things may be stopping you from figuring out what it is you really want, or it may be dragging you down so that you cannot reach the goal that you have for yourself.  At the very least, accepting those pieces of you that you aren’t as comfortable with will go a long way in allowing you to move forward.

For me, this year I am learning to embrace the darkness itself.  I want to learn to live within the darkness just as comfortably as I live within the daylight.  To me, that means I need to recognize I am more human than I allow myself to think I am.  I am not the perfect shape, by any means.  I have what society classifies as ‘negative’ feelings, and I’m allowed to have them.  And I recognize that I need to accept what society may classify as my shortcomings as they are.  And although some of those things may need to change in the future, for now just accepting them as a piece of me is enough.

Photo from Deviant Art