Working Through Ordeals (Confession Time)

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is one of those posts that I don’t want to write, but I need to write (and have been asked to write). And so, I’m going to write it.  But note that this is under duress.

You see, I am going through an ordeal right now.  I have been for months.  And the fact of the matter is, it’s of my own choosing.

Well, kind of.

I am choosing to write this for a couple of reasons.   I think the biggest reason is that I need to finally come out and say what the heck is going on in my life, and why I haven’t blogged in two months.  But it’s also because I don’t know if many understand what a spiritual ordeal actually is, and what it means to go through one.  I’ve seen many people focus on the spiritual aspects of a goal and not recognize the ordeal that needs to be gone through in order to achieve that goal.  Or, people only focus on the spiritual aspects of the ordeal only to deny the practical disciplines that need to go along to achieve the spiritual goal.  That is one of the reasons why I’m being asked to share this right now.  To use the well-worn phrase, be careful what you wish for people.

Let’s get some clarifications out of the way before I go further.

 

The Background of an Ordeal
First, what exactly is an ordeal?  The definition of an ordeal, through a very quick Google search, is, “a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.”  Now, with that definition, why the hell would anyone want to go through one?

The quickest answer I can come up with is to become stronger.  Or, to become wiser.  And, well, to live.  We actually are going through ordeals almost daily in this world.  Sickness, trauma, arguments with others and many other things can be considered ordeals.   For a while, there was a meme going around that said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Those battles spoken about in that meme are other people’s ordeals.

So my belief about these ordeals is that since we have to go through them anyway, why not learn from them?  Why not try to approach the ordeal in a manner that will help you further your understanding about a specific topic or issue? Or even better, how can the ordeal help you work on uncovering and dealing with issues that you carry?  For me, that is a very specific point of my spirituality; to use ordeals to better understand the world around me and for my own self-improvement.

So as someone who gravitates toward a self-centered concept of paganism, who only 6ish years ago found deities that she agreed to work with directly after a multi-year hiatus, and is starting to find her voice again in the community, it makes perfect sense that my mundane ordeals would have a spiritual aspect to them.  It also makes sense because I am doing intimate work with specific Gods.  And those specific Gods expect that you clean up after yourself and work towards a common goal.

These ordeals are a blessing in that when you are done you will be absolutely shocked at the mountains you have climbed, the struggles you have gotten through, and that you did all of the things that you thought you couldn’t do.

Ordeals are also a curse because you are about to go climb those mountains, work through multiple struggles, and do all of the things you think you can’t do right now.

It seems like many pagans today seem to equate ordeals with spirituality only; as in, they only focus on spiritual struggles (initiations, rites, and other journeys)  and assume they are the only path for spiritual growth.  Some even focus so hard on the spiritual aspects that they literally are hiding from the physical issues of their life (which in fact, are their actual ordeals).  Still, others may focus on the physical as not an ordeal, but something else.  They may, in fact, give the physical issue a spiritual cause (e.g., someone is out to get me).  That is where discernment is absolutely necessary to understand what is really going on.  In my case, yes, there are other reasons why things are happening in my life right now, and I recognize the cause and effect of those reasons. But at the same time, I know my issues are part of an ordeal and that this ordeal is physical and spiritual in nature.  I say that because I see the results of the struggle that I am in. There are both physical and spiritual benefits to this to this struggle.  That in my mind classifies this as an ordeal.

 

The Path to My Own Ordeal
Looking at things as ordeals comes naturally to me.  Long story short, I’ve set myself on a path of reinventing myself once before, and although it took some time, I’ve come through those struggles beautifully.  I’m proud of what I have accomplished, and because of those accomplishments, I’ve caught the eye of a certain one-eyed deity.

Odin is very much a deity that appreciates people dealing with their own crap.  And I’ve done several cycles of dealing with my own crap already – once doing a full reinvention of myself, and multiple times in overcoming significant obstacles and fears.  Looking at that resume that I am so proud of, it makes sense that he’d want me to be working for him (to put it bluntly).

Other than following through with the self-improvement, I wonder if Odin also works with me because I have developed skills to handle new ordeals.  I’m disciplined (for the most part), and I have the drive to push myself forward, even sometimes at the expense of overdoing it and hurting myself.  I’m also stubborn as all hell and if it meant proving a point, I will take on detrimental actions that in the end will cause more trauma than it will likely be worth (but I proved my point, dammit).  So there are lots of pluses and minuses here.

Anyway, Odin comes along, and I agree to work with him.  And in the span of a year and a half, I start a new spiritual training program, decide to go to graduate school, find a degree program that matches my interests, start it, take on a larger role in my work life, and find my intuitive readings becoming more and more accurate and specific as well as going into deeper spiritual issues.  And I often find myself being drawn to do specific readings at specific times, giving the client “exactly what they needed to hear” (their words, not mine).

And if that wasn’t enough, the energy of my household raised to the point where my husband started feeling it and started his own road of improvement.  And just as he started his own training, he was laid off of his work (which I think was all part of his spiritual development as well).  Overall, being laid off will be a good thing – he was being underutilized and there was no room for growth at his former employer – but the finding of a job has added a level of deep stress for him and I to both be dealing with.

Again, you can see spiritual ordeals are not just spiritual tasks.  You face things that you are holding onto that are detrimental to your growth.  You go out of your comfort zone, taking risks you wouldn’t normally take, and most importantly, changing your habits and mindset to allow for more understanding and compassion for yourself and others.  After all, ordeals are meant to open yourself up for a clearer link to the spirits and to the Gods, and sometimes it’s shadow work that is keeping you from them.  Shadow work cannot be cleared up by spirituality alone.

 

Now Onto My Confession
To put it bluntly, this ordeal is kicking my ass.

It’s taking me places in my psyche that I haven’t talked about, haven’t dealt with before, and couldn’t even define with words until a month or so ago.

I now realize that I have a very, very deep animosity for myself, my intelligence, my skills, and my abilities.  I believe this animosity to be a learned behavior, but also a congenital one.  And that animosity has influenced my life in ways I’m still realizing.  It’s one of the reasons why I (still) cope with overeating.  It’s the reason why I haven’t followed through in some of my past self-improvement endeavors, and it’s the reason why I sometimes push myself so hard I break my own body.  There are other things I’ve realized too; other things that I haven’t really articulated before (and if I tried to explain, I’d take up two or three more blog posts just to describe), but the animosity is the one I’ll confess now as it is front and center in my head.

But now that I know it is there, the ‘mental tape’ that was buried for so long just reinforcing self-defeating behavior is now something I hear loudly being played over and over again as I continue to step out of my comfort zone.   While I’m doing homework in my class (that I have to pass with a B or better just to stay in the program – no pressure) I am constantly fighting it beat me up and telling me I will fail.  I get tapes at work telling me I’m not good at my job and will be laid off soon, making me lose my house and my security because we have no other cash flow.  At home, I’m not doing enough, I’m ugly, I’m fat, and I’ll never be any healthier.

Why are there multiple tapes going on?  Because this animosity was buried so deep it has become a habit, so just acknowledging that it is there isn’t going to stop it.  I need to figure out and establish new tapes to replace the ones that keep flooding my brain, and ultimately, create new habits that will replace the bad ones.

So while I’m dealing with all of the uncomfortable feelings of this animosity, and with the insecurity of my current financial status, I have other questions about the success of this endeavor in my head.  What if I do succeed in getting rid of this animosity?  What then?  Who will I be?  What will replace it?  What will my comfort zone look like?  Will it be a place I want to be, or am I asking for something I really don’t want and don’t know it?

And from a spiritual perspective, the question about why Odin is pushing me to do this is also at the forefront of my mind.  Don’t forget, Odin is a God of manipulation as well.  He does things for reasons we won’t always understand.  And that manipulation may not have any right or wrong to it; in his mind, it is all for the greater goal.

To say all of this has brought up insecurities, anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings is an understatement.   I’ve had panic attacks, bouts of anger, bouts of depression, frustration, tears, and so many other emotions I’ve lost track.  But while all of these emotions are being sorted out, I’m still working 45ish hours a week (in a job I like, so that is good), putting in about 35 hours a week on my graduate studies, trying to get in some sort of healthy exercise, keeping up spiritual disciplines and trying to be support to my job seeking husband as well as helping to keep up the house and try not to let my emotions get the best of me so that a fibromyalgia pain flare-up doesn’t sideline me.

This shit is hard.  But it’s meant to be.  And I keep getting reassured that each and every piece of this ordeal has meaning.  Every struggle day in and day out is part of the ordeal.  And I do know this won’t last.  My husband has had 11 interviews in two months.  The only reason he isn’t working is that the firms he’s interviewed with are taking their time due to the holiday working schedules (it happens at this time of year).  He’s putting in the time so the financial security will come…sooner or later.  I’ll be finished with my class in mid-December (after I finish a final examination, which has its own negative mental tapes playing in the background).

I keep reassuring myself (and getting reassured) that I’m doing everything I can, and I’m doing it all right.  I’m making the mindful choices, I’m sticking with things and putting in the time I’m supposed to be doing.  I just need to keep moving on.

 

Final Thoughts
I’ve been focused on self-improvement work for the past 16 years.  I’ve done a lot, and I’m still always surprised at the requirements that are laid out before me to achieve another personal goal.  I know I do more than many others do when it comes to spiritual discipline, but I also recognize that there is give and take here.  If I want to do more, or am asked to do more, I have to be ready to accept the burden of the ordeal to prepare me for that endeavor.  I also have to accept the responsibility that comes along with the tasks I’m asking to take on.

Not everyone is fit to be a teacher, a mentor or a spiritual leader.  Not everyone is meant to be a Priest or Priestess.  But yet we all have something to contribute to the pagan community as a whole.  Our task, if we want to be a part of a pagan community,  is to find that thing we are meant to do and serve our community as we can.  This means that we will have to go through at least one spiritual ordeal in our lifetimes.   And while my personal ordeal is tough, I am recognizing that it is also very much about finding that place in the pagan community as a whole.  So I will continue with it to the best of my ability.  There is still a chance I may fail, and I accept that.  Either way, I will be continuing to learn, and that is the most valuable thing I can do.

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Prayers for Odin and Loki…..a.k.a. Time For What’s Personal to Become More Public

Yesterday I presented a circle casting for a ritual I’m planning next week.  I very much wanted the rite to be somewhat general in its layout so that the participants could take away things from it that they needed, but not feel like they were pushed into something that felt like a specific rite from a specific spectrum of paganism (e.g., a ‘Heathen’ or ‘Wiccan’ rite).  I also didn’t want it to feel like things were simply ‘pulled’ from those specific spectrums.

So a lot of the rite are things that I have written specifically for this ceremony.  But when it came time to write an invocation to divinity, I found I was blocked from writing anything down, but couldn’t figure out why.  So after some prayers and mental soul-searching, the prayers below came out.  After that, I was able to write the rest of my ceremony.

I’m still not sure if what I’ve written are more invocations or dictations of what these two Gods mean to me, but they both had to come out before I could write anything to any other deity.  I’m ecstatic at how they turned out.  I truly do enjoy both and their personal feel to me.  They feel very powerful and profound.  But after looking them over and preparing to transfer them from the scrap paper to my poem collection, I realized that my requirements to these Gods was not yet finished.

I needed to share both of these prayers here, on this blog.

Even as I type this post, I am still fighting doing this.  And the excuses are continuing to flying around in my head for why I shouldn’t do it.  Today is the autumnal equinox.  I should be posting about that instead of doing this.  I just posted yesterday, I should wait and post this next week or later because I don’t like doing a lot of posts and then nothing at all for weeks on end.  And the one that is really stopping me; these prayers are too personal to publish.

But I’m not getting out of this, and I already know that.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that perhaps I’ve not been ‘putting myself out there’ as much as I should be, or how they want me to.  I’ve talked months before on this blog about building a religious path for myself; one that has specific prayers, specific traditions and offerings that speak to who I am, what I believe and whom I serve.  I’ve also put myself out there as serving the pagan community as a whole.  But I’ve stayed away from labeling myself as anything other than a pagan. These prayers, with their kennings and truths very much do that.  They are an open book to how I view myself and my relationship with these Gods.

So without further excuses, I offer the prayers here.  Feel free to comment and discuss.  I know I’ll be thinking about this exercise for some time as I figure out my adversity to doing it.

Invocation to Loki
Hail to Thee!
Laugaz, my light
Lover, my longing
Fire Jotun, my power
Mind tester, my teacher
Sight minder, my vision
Bound God, my burden
Flame hair, my delight
Cinder maker, my wrath
Hail to you, my Loki

 

Invocation to Odin
Hail, All Father
Song singer, my voice for you
Wisdom seeker, may I learn your cunning
Teacher, may I learn your teachings
Warrior, may I grow in prowess
One Eyed, may I seek to know and understand
Yule Figure, may I learn joy and unknowing
Rune God, may I learn the Runes
Shapeshifter, may I learn the Seidh
Slain God – may I learn to give of myself
May I ever be your daughter

 

To My Christian Friends

Perhaps this yet another post that was a ‘long time coming’ (That seems to be the start of a theme of posts for me.)

Things I yet again thought I had dealt with are still coming up and bugging me to the point where I finally have to start writing…AGAIN.  And while with this particular subject I would normally just start writing in my personal journal and not post publicly, I’m starting to believe the subject matter needs to be discussed more openly, and thus, has become another blog post.

The subject is Christianity.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christianity lately.  I’ve frequently shared articles on my Facebook page regarding the work of Pastor John Pavlovitz, more specifically, about some of the shared truths that he and other Christian pastors write about.  I’ve also gotten angry and written posts about how broken Christianity feels like to me (a post that upon retrospection, feels more like a rant than anything, but it still needed to come out at the time).

I was happy when one of my posts sparked discussion, and something from that discussion stuck with me.  It was a Facebook post where one of my other friends, a Christian gentleman, started to speak about how frustrated he was that he couldn’t speak about his religion and the comfort it gave him without being bashed about the ears by people who were expecting the next words out of his mouth to be ‘come to my church and see..’

So I guess I’m not the only one who feels oppressed.

I think the deep introspection of the past several months has caused me to realize that I need to speak my mind, but not just throw words at the topic to vent, like I did in the broken religion post.  I need to talk about how I still hurt, how I have issues thanks to someone’s interpretation of Christianity, but how I still recognize that Christianity as a whole isn’t that bad.  And maybe my being public about things might allow someone else who has some of the same issues to at least think about it.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m a non-Christian that doesn’t think Christianity is that bad.  Seriously.  The concepts of loving another as yourself, not judging another, taking care of the poor, even the discipline of going to a church and prayer are all good things.  In fact, the concept of faith is something I learned in Christianity that I keep with me even now.

But just because I don’t think Christianity is bad doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a lot of anger to deal with because of my upbringing in the church.  The fact of the matter is a great majority of people today were born into some semblance of Christianity.  Many of these people have issues because of that upbringing, and they still carry a lot of anger and resentment toward the entire religion because of said issues.  And I’m still one of them.

But – confession time – I don’t WANT to be someone who has issues with Christianity.  I want to be able to say that I can dismiss the stupidity of certain Christian followers and accept that which is good.  I want to be able to sit down with the gentleman I spoke about above, have a pint and enjoy a good conversation about how our lives are so much more enriched because we BOTH have faith in something more powerful than we are.  There is common ground here that I think is rich with opportunities for bridge building, and I’d love to have those conversations to see what specifics we do have in common.

Although I long for conversations like these, I wonder frequently if I will ever be able to have them.  A good conversation means egos, anger and any suggestions of ‘conversion’ need to be in check.  But still, many Christians I speak with find it their duty to convert heathens like me to the ‘one true’ way.

Come to think of it, now that I am someone who just opened myself to the possibility of sitting down with a Christian to talk about religious practice, or how I read the blogs of Christian leaders, did I just open myself up to people who think I am ready for conversion?  Possibly.  (And if so, I’ll give you the same response I’ve given throughout my life; No.)

Now I can’t do anything about people who feel like it is their duty to convert, but I do know that if someone whose underlying belief is to convert people because their religion is the ‘one, true way’, then you will never be able to have an open heart discussion with them.  The fact is that if someone believes truly in conversion, you will never know if what they say is from their heart, or if it is in the attempt to make you a convert.  And it makes everyone who opens their mouth to say the “C” word in any form or fashion suspect.

And the main sticking point of my anger is right around that ideal of conversion.  I call the root cause of that conversion issue the ‘fear of God’ syndrome.  People feel like they need to convert because the fear of God is something that is instilled in every young Christian in school.  You get raised with this idea that God is so nice, supportive and gentle until you do something wrong and don’t apologize.  Then this God becomes a vengeful being that shames you to eternal pain for the rest of the existence of the world because you dared to do something he didn’t like.  And when the young Christians get to the ripe age where they start to think for yourself – everyone goes through this crisis of faith and either learns to conform, or become like me and recognize things can be different. And if we truly believe in our heart that things can be different, we now get to deal with this fear of angering this vengeful God.  And that was the thing that screwed me up the most; This fact you could be doing the exact same things that the Christian God teaches AND STILL go to this eternal frying pan because you don’t do it in his name.

kenny-yolo_o_514748(Images flash in my mind of the South Park episode where the kids freaked out every time they did something they thought was a sin and had to run to church to confess it. Poor Kenny!)

Perhaps some Christians are aware of how conceited it sounds that some put the Christian faith above others.  But many don’t.  Instead, they relish in it.  It’s a perfect place for their egos to thrive and grow; as NOW they have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to put everyone underneath them because only THEY and THEIR friends and family are CHOSEN ones.  And it’s those people that have poisoned it for everyone.  For me, who wants to reach out, and for others, like my friend who is tired of being punished for crimes he didn’t commit.

And people wonder why some of us go out of their way to avoid anything that has any Christian leanings.  It’s because the true reason for the speech or action regarding Christianity will never be known.  Are you one of the idiots trying to gain power?  Are you someone who’s trying to ‘hook’ more souls for your Christian God?  Or are you someone who is just sick and tired of the whole mess some people have made of the Christian glenda.jpgreligion and want to just have a good conversation about faith and how it can truly move mountains no matter what you believe in?

In short, “Are you a Good Christian, or a Bad Christian?” I ask, as I hold my ceremonial drinking horn. (I gave up the wand – and the athame might scare people.)

I jest.  But if I don’t jest I might get mad again.  And I don’t want to be mad.  Sure, I’ll have to talk about my hurt for a while longer.  And perhaps I’ll have that pint and hear about another’s hurt and how they feel just as oppressed.  But what is more important is that I want those good Christians to know that my anger isn’t directed at them.  There will be things I post – Stuff that needs to be said, to use the title of Pastor Pavlovitz’s blog – but I don’t do it to directly make someone else feel uncomfortable.  I do it to heal.  I do it to express how much anger I still have left within me.  I do it because someday, I don’t want to have that anger.  I want to shed that anger and pick up that pint and talk about how excited I am to share my practices with another person.  I want to share about how my faith in my Gods makes me feel connected to everyone around the world, how we all need to respect each other.  I want to talk about how when I make a mistake I have to do more than just confess it.  I want to talk about how I don’t bow to my Gods, just as I don’t bow to my boss, my mentors, my teachers or my husband, but instead I show respect in other ways.  I want to share how my vows to be a better person mean I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to do more to raise my energy and understand my fellow human being better.

Now, more than ever, I truly believe we need these bridges built between communities.  Bridges are the only way we are going to understand each other, and once the understanding is there, compromise is possible.  We see every day how non-compromise is causing trauma and pain and fear.  And if it means having more semi-open conversations before we can get down to business, then I am all for it.

Hope for Standing Rock

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Last night I found out that the white men who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were found not guilty.

Then I found out about all of the horrible atrocities the peaceful protesters of Standing Rock were receiving about the same time.  Horses being shot, protesters being pepper sprayed and given broken bones from the militarized clearing of the 1851 camp made me feel like there was no hope left.

Pipe ceremonies have been done, prayers have been said over and over again.  Support has been given, and the stakes for this standoff are so high they are going to affect the world.  And the past several days events have just been so horrible, I didn’t see a way they could win.

Feeling so much despair, I reached out to the spirit in the pipe that I hold.  I asked the spirit, “How could things keep getting so bad?  Was the standoff always expected to go the way of the big oil companies because of some big grand scheme that we were all a part of, yet could not know all of the details?”

And then I see this on my Facebook feed:

Thousands of Wild Buffalo Appear Out of Nowhere At Standing Rock

I damn near cried at my desk at work.

Grandfather might not want to immediately intercede, but he’s letting us know his presence is there through the spirit of the bison.

As long as the bison run free, there will always be hope.

A video is at the link above, and I found another link on You Tube:

 

To help or for more information, see the links below:

Sacred Stone Camp -site with news and information

Red Warrior Camp – Go Fund Me page

 

 

Feeling Connections

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Howard Thurman

 

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Over the year that I have been working with Loki, Sigyn and Odin, I have found a happiness that I never thought was possible within religion.  In all of my years as a practicing Christian, I never felt the Christian God the way I feel the ones that I am working with now.  Yes, the Christian God felt alive to me, but I didn’t “feel” like one of “his” children.  Even when I was doing other pagan and Wiccan practices, I never felt so close to the Gods as I do now.  The more devotional things I do for Odin, Sigyn and Loki, the more I feel and hear them.

I wonder if in today’s constant strife regarding the role of religion if this is something that we are lacking.  We see a lot of posts about how and what people think about their Gods, their practice and what other people should or shouldn’t do, but we aren’t seeing many posts about how we FEEL about our Gods.  Perhaps if we looked at how we feel about our Gods, and in turn how they feel about us, we wouldn’t have as much argument.  It doesn’t matter how we find our own ways to get there, but in the end, if you are content with your practice and feel the connections to the Gods, then that connection can be a starting point to reach out to other religions.

My connections to my Gods make me feel alive.  They soothe my soul and make me feel whole.  Odin helps me to understand that I do not know everything, and that I have a long road to get to the level of understanding that I want to be at.  He recognizes that I have value in who I am and in what I do, and that I’m not afraid of going outside that which I know in order to get something done, especially in his honor.

My connection to Loki is one that is very hard to describe.  I feel his passion and fire within me, and that has gotten me through rough times, especially when I am having a hard time with my chronic pain.  Loki also helps me learn to accept all of myself.  This includes those pieces of me that I feel are less than desirable.  I’m allowed to be angry, I’m allowed to dislike things.  But I am also allowed to recognize those feelings but that I don’t have to DO anything about them.  I can let things go as they may; I don’t have to make everything right for everyone, or even for myself.  And while I am not constantly on the lookout for the rug to be pulled out from under me in some aspect of my life, I recognize that it may happen.  And when it does, I am enough to do whatever it is that is needed to make the best out of the situation.

Sigyn is a much deeper lady than anyone gives her credit for.  To know her is to know that there are other aspects of her that she does not show to many.  She is the consoler, but she also does not let people shirk their duties because of their pain.  She asks of you to do what it is you can, to find the limit and work to it, then to recognize that that is enough.  Some days those limits are higher than others.  Sometimes they are much lower.  Either way, that is OK.  She also teaches that once you have met the limit, Rest for your body and for your soul is always necessary.   She is the champion of us who have chronic illness, a lady of quiet wisdom and strength, and a child of wonder and awe.  She is someone you must sit with for a time as she must know you before she opens herself to you.

Some readers may also remember that I am the holder of a medicine pipe of Native American traditions.  This relationship too has been solidified over the year.  I am not as afraid as I once was of the power that likes within the sumac and pipestone.  Instead, I recognize that its purpose is to help heal and teach those who are within its influence.  Ceremonies with the pipe are not things that happen often, but when they do, they will need to be done very carefully and purposefully.  And even when the pipe is in its bags, proper respect is still expected.  I find myself still giving offerings to it whenever I feel it is necessary.  Finally, the pipe doesn’t have to be out to speak.  It will speak to whomever it needs to, whenever the time is right.

A year ago I made pacts with these Gods that I would renew within a year and a day so long as they still wanted me, and I still felt comfortable with them.  Now I recognize that the connections that I have made with them will last much, much longer.  And I am absolutely OK with this.  It feels so nice to finally find a home.  It just took me throwing out some of the things that others taught and feeling my way through my own truth.

Perhaps speaking about these connections will help others speak about their own feelings regarding their relationships with the Gods.  Perhaps they will think on how they feel, and recognize that we all have a common starting point; the joy and comfort the Gods bring as well as the continuous lessons that we receive on a day to day basis.  I don’t expect this post to change all that.  But it might get some people thinking at least about expressing their own connections to divinity.  And even if it doesn’t, I’m still happy at the fact that I can express the relationships that I have had a hand in making for myself.

Photo from Deviant Art.

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.

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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.

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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.

Roles within Activism

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This is a post I knew I needed to write, but yet it has taken me quite a long time to figure out what I wanted to say.

You see, I’ve had a very hard time with this subject.  As the media spews more hatred and death and people become more polarized, I’ve known that I need to start figuring out an action plan for me to help heal the world around me sooner rather than later.  I’ve realized that as human beings we can no longer be idle about who we are, what we believe and what we choose to do day in and day out.  We need to stop listening to others and act on what it is we believe deep down in our soul.

I’ve done the work of figuring out what I believe and what I will stand for. And while that work will never be fully done, I feel l can comfortably say what I am and what I am not.   Since I have come to that conclusion, I’ve had this deep nagging in my gut that tells me I need to figure out what to do with this knowledge.

I hear the frequent calls that other pagan blogs and by other people in the pagan community, “Become an activist!”  “Join a Protest!”  “Make your beliefs known to all and that you won’t stand for anything less anymore!” And those are good ideas, for some people.  There are people that can do that day in and day out, and I applaud them for that.  I know it is hard to be out there for your beliefs 100% of the time.  It’s even harder to keep that up and still do the things you need to in order to live.  But I already know I can’t do that.  It isn’t because I want to hide from what is going on around me.  It isn’t because I don’t want to fight for what it is I believe in.  It is because I recognize I am a highly sensitive individual, an empath and sufferer of fibromyalgia.  And I simply can’t do those same things.

I know there are a lot of people out there like me.  We recognize that when we are in a situation that is saturated in anger and hate – no matter where it is at or who it is directed to – we physically hurt from what we feel.  When we become passionate enough to speak up or defend something we see wrong, the raw emotion and power that we hold in our bodies and minds also threatens overwhelm us for hours or even days.  We feel anxiety over having to talk about our beliefs with someone that disagrees – not because we are afraid of speaking out, but because we know that the negative emotion that might leak from those we are talking to will hit our shields and stick like a nasty, dark film that is ever so hard to clean off.  And if we aren’t vigilant about keeping our energy clean, physical sickness is going to come very quickly.

People like me have to know their limits very well; We need to know when we are well enough to push through something, and when we have to immediately stop what we are doing because we are going to hit a mental and physical wall.  And if we try to decide to push against that wall, we know the consequences of that action will be felt for a significantly long time as our bodies, minds and spirits heal.

Now that would happen if someone like me was in the middle of a protest when they have reached their limit or are forced into feeling every emotion because what emotional shields they had are blown away?  What about someone like me who has limited energy and a fogged mind thanks to fibromyalgia being in a heated debate?  Or what about someone like me who is so overwhelmed with anger because they believe they are right that they start to lose their sense of logic? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But I know any one of these scenarios could happen to me.  And if I put myself out there like I see other activists do, I would be the one getting the brunt of it and not be able to recover.

Don’t get me wrong – I still do what is needed.  I’ve done it in the past, and I can do it again.  I’ve pushed through that wall by gathering every bit of strength I can and used force of will make it through whatever situation needs to be taken care of.  And I have also paid the price for doing it.  The last time it happened I was down for a full month.  And another two months passed before I was back to the same strength and energy levels that I was before the situation occurred.  So I know I cannot properly take care of myself and still be an asset while I am on the ‘front line’ on a regular basis.

So that pretty much cancels any thought of keeping up in any activist group.  So what is it I can do?

I think I’m halfway to being where I want to be.  I know what it is I believe, and I don’t let anyone else tell me differently.  And I think the fact that I push to understand myself and listen is more rare than it seems.

I recently watched a TV Show called “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”.  In it, there was a clip of a young man, sitting next to his mother, who wanted to start a “Children for Trump” Group.  The video featured this kid going on and on about the virtues of Trump, how President Obama is Muslim, and lots of other statements that came directly out of sound bites from media reports and other politicians.  I’m not going to get into those beliefs, but I do want to point out something else that I think is even more concerning:

This kid was a clone of everything his mother wanted him to be.

He said the right things in her eyes, did the right things in her eyes, and was never taught to think for himself.  I bet you he lives in a comfort zone completed for him by his mother, and is most likely kept from anything that could sway his thinking to something that is outside what his mother wants him to believe or see.   He probably has never asked “why” he believes what he does, he just believes what he spoon is fed to him about what is going on in the world.

That is a big problem.

We need to understand why we have the beliefs we do and not just allow them to be spoon fed into our minds like this poor kid.  We need to question things, and obtain our own sources of information that we feel are right for us.  We also need to expect to be challenged in those beliefs and sources, but not in a negative way.  We need to have open conversations about things, and have the courage to change the belief patterns.

So basically, in order to help heal the divisions, we need to do some of what I talked about in my last post.  I firmly believe in what Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  If I want the world to be more understanding, I have to be more understanding.  If I want to understand why other people believe what they do, then I need to learn why they believe it.  We can’t be spoon-fed beliefs anymore.  We need to find what works for ourselves, and be ever willing to learn something new, even if it challenges the current belief system we have.

A couple months ago I would have thought that what it is I am doing – challenging my own belief systems to really dig deep into my own morals and beliefs – would be enough to be considered an activist in today’s world.

But I don’t think it is anymore.

I think it is a huge first step, and it would go a long way to healing many of the issues we see today, but it’s no longer enough.

So the question now becomes, what else can I do?  Give money?  Volunteer?  Or is it that if I am not on the ‘front line’ that I am not doing anything of value to the cause of stopping this polarization that we find ourselves in?  It’s a very tough question, and at this time I still don’t know how to answer it fully.  But perhaps the answer is different for each one of us.  Perhaps what I am doing is enough for me, and what someone who attends the protests is doing enough for them.  Perhaps those who cast spells or actively pray to make the world a better place is doing the best they can as well.

I know that if I see an issue, if I see someone who is bullying someone of a different religion or race I’m going to say something about it, and try to deescalate the situation if I can.  I know that if I hear something that is derogatory, I’m also going to speak up (and already have done that in my workplace more than once).  But perhaps that is all I am meant to do – to find the beliefs that settle my soul the best and to live by them.

It’s at least a good start.

I know that I still have to do some thinking on this topic.  The thought of being more active still stirs my soul for some reason.  Perhaps it is enough to have conversation about it, perhaps not.  but if I come up with any other ideas, I’ll write about them here.  And as always, thoughts are welcome.

Photo from Deviant Art