The Breath Before the Last Push

image
The current path I walk.  The shadows are getting longer, but the trees are still green.

2016 is a year of movement and action, but mostly it’s been a year of work.  I cannot count how many pagans have told me that they have had significant amounts of work come up that they were forced to do.  But the work hasn’t been all that bad.  Most of the work that I have heard about has resulted in significant growth that pays big dividends.  It’s been a pretty good year overall, but everyone I talk to is pretty tired!

Today as I did my daily walk, I noticed that the leaves in the trees haven’t started to change yet.  This was really odd to me, as last year I was commenting that the leaves were mostly changed by mid-August.  Now here it is, mid-September, and there is barely any color.

There are those who probably dismiss this, but I see something a little more spiritual going on.  I think the ‘holding pattern’ has a bit of a spiritual connection to it.   I think it might be a message saying, “Hey, take a breather from your work for a bit.”

Summer is officially over up here.  Today we got our first colder morning.  I wore a jacket into work today for the first time, and my husbands last open water swimming race was this past weekend.  Yet most fall projects aren’t quite starting up yet.

It’s a perfect time to take a little bit of time to rest.

Now I’m not certain how long this rest period will last.  Perhaps tomorrow the trees of the nature path I walk will be awash with colors, and possibly signify that the break is over.  But if you are like me, you are going to take what you can get to be able to go into the last months of this year of action with as much energy as possible.

Winds of Change (Again)

The only thing that is constant in this life is change.

11 years ago, I attended my first Pennsic as a member of an armored combat unit.  Pennsic is an event of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group.  This particular event has been running for 45 years now.

The difference between this event and others is that Pennsic runs for a full two weeks, and is a war between two kingdoms.  So for one of these weeks, roughly 2,000 fighters go out in full armor almost every day and ‘fight’ this war –  by beating the hell out of each other with rattan sticks.

pw42field2
The Kingdom of the East moving in for the Field Battle – Photo from the East Kingdom Gazette

Oh there are rules to this form of combat – specific armor requirements, specific places on the body you can and cannot hit, specific rules on how large the rattan weapons can be, and plenty of marshals out on the field watching to ensure that no one gets hurt.  But it is combat nonetheless.  And there is a lot of energy being expended in combat, especially when it is on the same field 45 years in a row with 2,000 or more people fighting almost every year.

So being in that first fight was a HUGE catalyst of change for me.

First, there was physical change.  I faced my fear by being out there.  I recognized I had more control over my body than I ever realized.  I didn’t throw up, even though I wanted to.  I didn’t allow my fear to show on my face, and I actually was able to function in the battle, even though I was scared as hell.  There too were also physical changes.  I met my husband on that battlefield, and fought alongside him in that first battle.  Once we started dating, I moved to another state, took another job and ended up purchasing a home in order to be close to him.

Mentally, I found that I had wells of strength within me that I never knew I had.  And those wells of strength have never gone dry, even in the years since that first battle.  I’ve relied on that strength to push me through lots of life changes as well as to learn to heal from issues in my past.  And what surprised me even more was after I got off that battlefield, I recognized that doors opened in my mind that allowed me to recognize what it was I needed to heal from.

Finally, there was a spiritual aspect to those battles.  By claiming my strength and pushing myself I found I had learned new skills I to protect and take care of myself.  Those skills have also served me well.  They have given me confidence that I can handle things that have been thrown at me.  I think the Gods saw this that day.  And their response was basically, “So, you have faced your fears, good for you.  Here are some gifts and more work for you to do.”

Pennsic will be starting again this weekend, and again, I will be attending along with over 10,000 people.  I won’t be on the armored combat unit this year; I had to give that up due to the fibromyalgia.  This year however, I’m trying my hand at fencing.  The battles will not be as rigorous, but they will still be just as intense.

LaRochelle
Defending the Castle is very difficult when you are outnumbered – Rapier battle photo from the Pennsic Independent

And as I make my final preparations to go out there, I’m recognizing that I’m having the same feelings as I did 11 years ago, when the winds of change first started to push me into a new direction for my life.  The feeling of being unsettled started this morning, along with my thoughts moving towards reflection of my life and how it could change.  I decided to set up a meeting with a friend to do some divination on the subject, and by doing so all of the feelings that I had started to intensify.  Change is again on the wind.

Perhaps the changes will be battlefield related, like they were 11 years ago.  Perhaps they will be more related to the classes that I intend to take, as Pennsic is a place to explore many interests – not just those related to combat.

It sounds weird that something that started as a game could have such power to be a significant catalyst for change, but I say from experience is absolutely does.  You just have to do your best to be ready.

God Save Me From Your Followers…Sometimes

 

 

I listen to a hard rock/metal station that plays lots of new artists as I come into work each day.  Heavy metal and hard rock are both types of music that I can pull energy from when I am having a hard time with my fibro, and I’m always on the lookout for new bands to add to my playlists.

This morning a band came on however that gives me significant pause.  Don’t get me wrong, I like their music, and even occasionally sing along when they are played on the radio.  But this band prominently puts it out there that they are a Christian band.  And because they are so open about it, whether it’s real or imagined for me, I can hear Christian themes throughout their music.  And for that reason, I can’t bring myself to patronize them.

This isn’t because I don’t believe the Christian religion is a decent path.  And this isn’t because I don’t see the fact that many other people feel comfort and solace from it.  This is because of the significant number of people that are on the Christian path that try to tell me what I do and believe in is wrong, and that I need to be ‘saved’ or recruited somehow to become Christian again.

Like I have said before in my posts, I was raised Roman Catholic.  And for many years I struggled with trying to find my place in that religion.  I also gave many other denominations of Christianity a try, and still struggled.  None of these denominations were a fit with me; and many of them looked at the metaphysical gifts that I possessed as things that the “devil” was tempting me with.  Yet those gifts never went away, no matter how much I wanted them to when I was a child.

I don’t think a Christian can imagine that – I, a small child back then, able to see other’s pain, spirits and energy, and being told that those things were evil.  And no matter how I tried, I could not stop seeing things.  How much do you think that hurt?  Here I was, a child who desperately wanted to fit with the religion of my parents, but never truly did because I had these ‘evil’ gifts?  And even worse, because I was so ‘evil’ I was going to go to a place that would cause me great pain for eternity for things that I had no control over.  That was damaging to me.  VERY Damaging.  It’s something I hurt from for many, many years.

And even now, I still have people ask me to turn back to Christianity because I must not have found the ‘right’ niche for me back then.  I’ve dealt with the pain and hurt that I experienced as a child, and I’ve found a religious and spiritual path that makes me feel more connected to the world around me than I ever have, yet I’m still being asked to go to a totally different religion that has more people in it who think what gifts I have are evil, and will cause me strife for using them.

No.  Just.  No.

I know also that the inclusion of Christian rock in my playlists will just be an opening to be confronted about converting.  Someone may think I’m going overboard, but if comments on my Facebook wall become openings for Facebook friends to pop in and tell me I’m on the ‘wrong’ religious path (which I still get!), what would admitting and patronizing a Christian rock band do?

The thing that gets me the most about this whole situation is that I understand.  I understand how someone could feel so passionate about a Christian God.  I understand how someone can feel so happy being connected to a church, and how they feel so content in their soul by speaking with others about their religion.  I understand, because I feel it too about my Gods.  And I wish Christians well with the path that makes them so happy.  But until they understand that MY path makes me JUST AS happy, and that I don’t need to be ‘saved’, I cannot have any relationships with them.  And that is very disappointing, because there are beautiful things in that religion.  But just because I find something from another religion beautiful doesn’t mean that I am destined to become a member of that religion.  Until those Christians who are out to save souls realize that, they are going to continue to be shut out of conversations that would be inspiring, powerful and beneficial for everyone involved.

Photo from Deviant Art

What I Want To Say to My Christian Family

Last week I helped to bury the patriarch of my extended family.  My Grandfather was a strong, noble, wonderful man who held together all of the extended families with his presence.  If he said ‘be here on this date’, all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would assemble, ready to do whatever it was he wanted.

His burial was a Catholic one, and I once again found myself in the Catholic church of my upbringing.  The funeral home’s services also were Christian in nature as my Grandfather’s faith in the church was just as strong as he was.  Even the Knights of Columbus came to give their respects and held their own special service to commemorate his 50 years of service with them.

The tone of the funeral and it being populated with so many strong christian and Catholic overtones reminded me of one many years earlier, the funeral of my great-grandmother.   Weeks before my great-grandmother’s funeral, I had come out to my parents as being pagan.  At that time they didn’t say much about it, but instead chose to unleash their anger at me on the drive home from my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I remember that drive vividly, as it was filled with my mother’s tears and ranting.  Specifically aimed at me, my mother ranted about how my great-grandmother, also a devout Catholic, had shown such unwavering faith in her religion, and how dare I belittle her by not following suit with my own faith.

This recent funeral didn’t come with the same yelling, but it did come with a deep silence that felt like an uncrossable chasm between my family and I.  In the end, no one took notice of my half-hearted attempt at mumbling through the remembered prayers of my childhood. And the not going up to communion was still easily explained at the fact that I cannot eat wheat without getting violently sick.  That isn’t what I wanted though.  I would have much rather had a long conversation with them about what I believe and why, and how the values and morals that I carry in my heart are so much like their own, even though we do pray to different Gods.

I wanted so badly to explain to them that my desire to better myself and help others around me steers my life and is based in my beliefs, even though there is no bible that dictates it.  I wanted to tell them that they would be proud of me, because I don’t just speak of my beliefs on Sundays and on events like this, but instead I speak of my Gods on a daily basis, and am constantly in a state of communication with them, allowing them to guide my actions as they see fit.  I wanted very much for them to see that the faith that they yelled at me years ago for not having is there and is so much stronger than I ever thought it would be.

I wanted to say how much I pray; how often I give offerings, not only things like what is dictated by the Christian church, but yet I give so much more than that and included volunteering, prayers for the dead, prayers and blessings for those around me and actions to help this earth that we all live on.  How I wanted to explain that each of my offerings came directly from my heart and was because I felt it was needed, not dictated by Christian doctrine.

I wanted to say I didn’t need the bible to give me comfort in the loss of my Grandfather. I wanted to explain to them that I knew he was home, and that no bible was needed to explain that to me.  And most importantly, I wanted to say I knew that someday we would all see him again, regardless of what we believed, how ‘good’ we were at ‘repenting’, or what religion we claimed to be.

In the end, I didn’t say those things.  I’ve given up on the idea that my parents or my sisters would understand me.  Instead, my family is more comforted in their beliefs that  I am an atheist, because this ‘pagan’ ideal is much to hard for them to understand.

So the silence still remains.  And I grieve the loss of my Grandfather alone.  I have learned to leave the silence in place, as every time I have tried to cross that uncomfortable quiet I am struck down.  I am silenced by them again and again because my beliefs do not come from a book, nor do my beliefs need someone else to validate them for me.

In the end, I am stronger for what I believe, and I know this.  But it doesn’t stop me from wishing for that one day to come when I can talk to them and help them understand.  But I guess that will just have to wait for the time when we are all on the other side of the veil.

Being on the Hot Seat

A good friend came over yesterday.  He’s a Neolithic Shaman that has significant dealings with Odin, whom I also have sworn oaths to.  What is very interesting about this is that I knew of his dealings with Odin, but I wasn’t planning on getting his input about the workings I’m doing on my own; I wanted my workings with Odin to not be influenced by what others think.  I’ve had enough about that in the Native American work I do (if you don’t have the papers you are not Native, etc.) and I wanted the work with Odin to be my own.

Odin didn’t see it that way.  So before I realized what I was doing, I invited him over.  Yesterday he came for the visit, a bottle of home made mead was opened, and before I knew it, I’m sitting in the hot seat answering Odin’s questions through his ‘horsed’ servant.  (I think the husband enjoyed the encounter, because he ensured my friend’s glass continually stayed full of mead, which kept Odin around for quite awhile.)

The questions were uncomfortable.  The entire situation was uncomfortable.  I felt like a little kid answering questions for a test that I didn’t study for.  But I recognize that it was something I had to do.  And even after my friend left, the work was still not done for me, having promised to send prayers of smoke for another friend, and then journeying to finish the conversation with Odin.

I’m still not sure what or why the Gods are so focused on us humans, and I’ll probably never know the true reason why.  Perhaps here is something there that it seems to me we can express for them.  Perhaps it is just their infatuation with us because we are such volatile and inexplicable creatures whose moods and actions cannot be predicted.   But if we choose to become tools of the Gods, we have to be ready to go through and deal with our own shortcomings.  And that is painful.

I recognize this morning that my being on the ‘hot seat’ yesterday was such a trial.  For another blogger, going to see a doctor about her mental health and the repercussions of that for her life is a trial.  My husband found himself dealing with his own shadows that popped out of nowhere this morning.  Those almost derailed him from his mundane tasks, but he pushed through and is still moving forward.  But here again is another example of a trial.

Being on the ‘hot seat’ may not mean talking to a God for a couple hours on a Sunday.  When we choose to be active participants in our religion, everything we do and everything we go through is connected to our work with the Gods.   The type of religion or belief doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that we do our best to move forward in whatever situation we find ourselves in.  By doing so we prove to ourselves we are stronger than we think, and the Gods smile on us.  Even if we do not get the outcome that we expect, we are still moving forward in our evolution and doing what they wish of us.

Today, may everyone that needs strength receive it, and may we all recognize we are worthy and capable enough to go through the trials that have been set before us.

 

Finding Pagan Music

One of the things that I have noticed over the years is that Pagan music seems to be hard to find.  However, there are many artists out there whose music has pagan overtones, and with ITunes, Amazon’s music service and many other music services out there, new and old music is finding its way back into rituals, prayer work, and just to listen to when you need some extra energy.

Here is a list of artists you might not have heard of, or perhaps had never thought about  in a pagan light before.

 

Serpentine (Serpentine Arborvitae) – Rock the Goddess

I found this album in the late 90’s.  The song “Rock the Goddess” was I think her best work.  I have also found many of the other songs on the album to be compelling, although they have a significantly different feel to them.  Her music is what I put on when I want to feel inspired and powerful.  .

I was happy to find out that this was only one of the many albums produced by Serpentine.  Many more songs are available on ITunes.  I’m still finding new gems for my collection as I go through them.

 

Gypsy – Enchantress

This album is much older.  I remember listening to it in 1992-3.  I had it on cassette back then, but in 2001 it was put onto ITunes.  I think this album has a solid place in pagan music, just for the fact that it was groundbreaking – no one had published anything like it before.  Gypsy’s music is soothing, but I find I can only listen to it so long.  Then it goes away in my collection to be pulled out another time.

 

Emerald Rose

This is a traditional Celtic group that has written a lot of pagan themed music.  One of my favorites is ‘Never Underestimate (A woman with the Goddess in her Eyes)’.  I love their music around this time of the year – it feels like their music just screams springtime and growth.

 

Inkubus Sukkubus

While I love Emerald Rose in the spring, I ADORE listening to Inkubus Sukkubus in the fall.  Their songs scream Pagan, Magick, Power and all things Gothic.  This is the type of music that I use when I’m having just too much mundanity in a day.  There have been many times that I would get in my Jeep and just blast this music for a bit of a ‘change in the scenery’ so to speak.  They have many albums with many different and hauntingly beautiful songs on them, and I think there is something for everyone here.

 

Todd Alan

This is another singer that I think has a significant place in Pagan music.  I still on occasion listen to some of his music, and every time I do, I feel the power in his words.  That is one thing that Todd is very good at doing – his songs engage you in a way that fills your spirit with song.

 

Type O Negative – October Rust

This was my favorite album from this band, and the one that started getting them some big attention in the rock music scene.  It’s actually a lot softer than their other albums, and contains two songs with significant pagan influence – ‘Be my Druidess’, which is about the Great Rite in Wiccan Tradition, and ‘Green Man’.  Unfortunately this is a band that burned out pretty quickly for many reasons, the biggest of which being Peter Steele, the Band’s lead singer and bass player, died of a heart attack six years ago.

 

Halestorm – Into the Wild Life

I just started getting into this group.  The first song I heard of theirs was ‘I am the Fire’ off their new album ‘Into the Wild Life’.  As I was already working with Loki significantly when I heard it, it’s no wonder this song grabbed me.  Since then I’ve explored more of their new album and found songs full of empowerment.  These are what I listen to when I’m on a run and don’t think I can give anymore – I let the energy of the music just flow into me and it always helps to carry me over the finish line.  I also find that one of Halestorm’s songs pop up when I’m just feeling down, depressed about something, or are just getting too fixated on a mundane issue in my life.  It’s sorta like Loki is poking at me saying ‘hey, there is more to life than this’, and I sincerely appreciate the poke.

 

Disturbed – Immortalized

This is another recent album.  And while the band doesn’t have directly pagan undertones in their music (well, they might on older albums, I just became aware of this band recently), I have found Songs like ‘The Light’ and ‘The Vengeful One’ and ‘The Brave and the Bold’ off of their album Immortalized fit a pagan tone quite nicely.  Again, these are songs I listen to for empowerment, something I don’t think we get enough of in this day and age.

Another note about this album, the song ‘Who Taught You How to Hate’ seems to fit in with the current US Presidential race very well.

 

For Ritual music, I am a fan of R. Carlos Nakai’s gorgeous flute music.  I also have songs by artists Gandalf, Deuter, George Winston and David Lanz in my ritual playlist.  These I find work well for meditation too.

Finally, I highly recommend an album called “The Prayer Cycle” by Jonathan Elias.  This is a nine part choral symphony in 12 languages.  Each movement in itself is a prayer that is powerful, strong and yet beautifully delicate in its composition.  There have been many times the album has moved me to tears with its beauty and intricacy.  If ever you feel you have lost hope, this gorgeous symphony might help to bring that back to you.

So that’s what I’m listening to right now.  I’m certain there is much more out there.  I’d love to hear what other music people are listening to as well.

Following the Ripples of Magic

a_phone____by_gazo

John Beckett recently put up a quick Facebook post that sparked some fun conversation.  He said simply:

“Just had a scam call that left a voicemail, ‘this is the IRS.  We have filed a lawsuit against you.’
Delete.  Block number.”

The first comment was from someone who said to, “Delete.  Block number.  Hex the caller.”

I replied with concerns about that.  The number belongs to the corporation, but where does the hex go?  To the person that was just trying to do their job who put the robo-call together?  To the manager who also was just trying to do their job by telling the person to put the call together?  Or does it go to the CEO of the corporation?

The person who suggested the hex in the first place seemed to dismiss my concern, while another suggested it would just hex the machine.  That made the conversation degrade into a bunch of silliness regarding demons in computers and banishing emails and talk of hacking the entire conversation thread.

The hex comment however is an excellent point to bring up something I have been trying to figure out my stance on for quite some time. When you cast a spell for, or even against someone or some thing, how do you know you aren’t causing ripples that will have unintended consequences?

My personal belief on this for the longest time was that Divinity had a way of making things work through you.  So whatever you did was actually the will of fate, or divinity.  But that didn’t account for free will, something that most magic users believe exists, and something that I was forced to concede when I finally started doing energy work again.

So if we do have free will, we have to take responsibility for our actions.  But that means every bit of our actions, from what you wear to what makeup you buy to what you eat?

I realized that some do feel it goes that far when I was discussing doing a binding spell.  I wanted to do one on a certain coworker who had been known for significant bullying tactics and had me in his sights.  I was discussing the issue with a friend, a lineaged Peruvian Shaman.  He was surprised that I was concerned at all, because in his mind I was changing the fates of thousands of people each day by working for a medical device manufacturer that makes equipment for life saving surgeries.

How can my little technical configuration position affect the lives of thousands of other people?  I can see it, but I’m not directly working on the devices, nor am I in a position of making decisions as to what devices are made, how many, and how they are used by doctors.

So how far does the rabbit hole go on this?  Should you consider all of the implications of the work you are about to do?  What about at your job?  Eating (or not eating) specific things?  Or at that point do you just rest on your morals and do what you have to in order to make ends meet?

A final example to ponder – recently I was part of a discussion with a group of readers and clients at the local pagan store where I give readings.  Two of the readers talked about a gentleman that came in for a reading from both of them at two different times, always wanting to know about how an ex was doing.  Both readers got the feeling that the guy wanted to do harm to his ex.  So one of the readers, a British Traditional Witch (BTW), decided to cast a spell while doing the reading to force the man to forget about the ex.

I personally was appalled.  First, because I wouldn’t have handled it that way at all as a reader, but secondly I was appalled that he would force his will onto someone else, even if it meant to stop violence that may or may not happen.  The witch did say that he knew it was a risk, and accepted the consequences of his actions, but at the time he felt that it was the best course of action for this particular individual.  However, the entire issue was quite unsettling for me.  I think because it continues to bring up the same questions I have over and over.

I realize now that there are times when you can plan your actions, use divination, and carefully word your spells so that they do what they were intended to do.  However, intentions can backfire very quickly, even with the best divinatory tools.  So in those cases, do you just accept your losses, or is the magic let loose on the land, free to spread from person to person through the results of situations started by the initial intent of the spell?  Is it like money, which changes hands from one person to another for one intent, but the receiver then sends on, either through good or bad deeds, because he now had the money to spend?

If anything, the conversation on Mr. Beckett’s Facebook timeline just tells me that I am on to something.  Personally, I know I haven’t figured out my ‘black and white’ truth to this issue.  But I do think there is something else to this now.  Perhaps this needs to be brought up again for discussion as an issue in the pagan community today.  Perhaps in our day and age of throwing insults, watching our presidential candidates making derogatory comments about each other, and seeing how much people in the pagan community classify and judge others, perhaps we have forgotten that our actions and words carry just as much energy as a spell.  And that energy and can heal, or it can hurt.  And that perhaps that word that you say could be just as damaging to the world as a misplaced hex.

Photo by deviant art.