Awakenings: The Day After

I’m currently in week three of the program called “The Artist’s Way”.  This is a very successful program that allows artists of any medium to remove the blocks stopping them from achieving their greatest potential.  The program has been around for over 20 years and is very effective.  There have been quite a few popular writers who credit the book with allowing them to write their first bestsellers.

The Artist’s Way is a book you must be ready for.  Several years ago when I first received the book as a gift, I quickly realized that going through the book was something that would take a lot of work.  I wasn’t ready to put in the time and energy to do so.  Therefore, the book went onto a shelf, forgotten, until I was reminded of it again by the person who gifted me the book in the first place.  She decided to go through the program again, and was excited at the results of the first several weeks.  Encouraged by her words, I decided to give it a try again.  And I’m glad I did, as the book has become the next logical step for me on my spiritual journey.

The first two weeks of the program deal with the baggage that we pick up and carry in our lives.  That baggage stops us from opening our creative and spiritual outlets.  This is Shadow Work at its deepest levels.  The book encourages you to go into those moments of baggage; the moments where you felt crushed, belittled and beaten down to the point where you decided that it wasn’t worth trying anymore.  Once there, you work through them by doing the exercises spelled out in the book to let them go.  The more you work with these moments, the more you open yourself up to the possibilities of reaching deeper creative potential.  (Or, in some circles, one would call it reaching the divine energy within each of us and allowing it to come to the surface in creative endeavors.)

Now that I’ve gotten through weeks one and two, I can see more opportunities for me to start writing, something I haven’t done since my childhood.  Poems have started to flow from my thoughts, and I’ve been inspired to start writing fictional work again.  I’m excited that I’ve reached this point.  It’s very much like the first initiation into a bigger world of opportunity and wonder.

Now, on week three, the author speaks to some of the synchronicity that can happen during this stage of the program.  If we truly have stuck with the exercises and gone deep, we have released some of the blocks to our creativity.  Now the path is clearing and we are open to new things to come into our lives and change us for the better.   The author speaks to possibilities of a class opening up, meeting the right person to mentor us, or any number of opportunities that can happen once we are opening ourselves back up.

I’ve been here before.  You and countless others have also been here before.  This is where the Gods/The Universe/whatever creative force you believe in starts paving the way for you to make permanent and lasting changes in your life.  You have been given the first bites of how a higher state of energy feels; an amuse-bouche of the clarity, wisdom and connection you will have.  Here is the opportunity to become more authentic to yourself and to grow in power and strength.  This is a beautiful and exciting place to be.  This is the flash of insight and surge of power we get after an initiation.  This is the “a-HA” moment of realization.  This is the decision that is finally made, the opportunity and resources that become available, or even the push of another door closing that forces you on the path you were meant to walk.

Everything is aligning the right way and it’s all there for the taking.  But are you ready?  Are you ready for the hard work that happens after the spiritual awakening or the initiation?  Sure, we have the moment of clarity, we feel altered, more in tune with the earth or with the Gods.  We feel the power within our hands, we see the path and opportunities open before us and we want to feel this way for the rest of our lives.  But these opportunities aren’t going to stay open without work.

Whenever we are trying to better ourselves in anything – school, career, personal life, physical changes to our bodies – everything we attempt to change pushes us to come to a point like this.  Any time we try to make ourselves better we first start to uncover the path, and now we need to change the daily habits to allow us to walk that path, one foot at a time.

So, how do you start to walk that path?  Perhaps we must radically change the way we eat, live, move or work to keep that moment of clarity in the forefront of our mind.  Perhaps we need to figure out the best way for us to get rid of habits, or take the time to meditate on why we have the habit in the first place.  Perhaps we need to learn to trust the new energy in our bodies more and not be as reactive to the negativity of others.

We can even have help to do these things.  Perhaps a new app, a new piece of jewelry or an affirmation posted to our bathroom mirror is enough to engage that spiritual energy within us, to remind us of the place we opened to and dared to go.  Maybe checking in with a mentor or teacher is a possibility.  If we feel like we need help on this journey, we will get what we need to stay on the path, as long as we choose to keep trying.

But keep trying we must.  Just because we ask for a crutch or additional aids doesn’t mean we are not relieved of our own work.  We can try getting up earlier all we want to do the meditations or prayers of gratitude.  But the alarm clock will only get us up if we stop hitting the snooze button.

And we must be vigilant with our changes.  Studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 21 days to get into a habit.  But drop that new habit, even for a day or two after those 21 days, and you may find yourself right back where you started.  No wonder most gyms in the United States get insanely busy in January, but die out in February.

The good news in this is that if we can’t make the change in habit or action, we will get another opportunity to do so.  Perhaps the class date will pass, perhaps the memory of the initiation falls away.  But another class will become available when you are ready.  The initiation energy and attunement is still there and still open, ready to be utilized.  If you have the will to keep trying, the opportunity will stay open.

Sometimes however the opportunity takes time to present itself again. I was reminded of “The Artists’ Way” about five years after I was first gifted the book.  I’m very glad I picked it up this time around.  And next time I hope I don’t have to wait another five years for the opportunity.

 

 

Photo from Deviant Art

To Carry a Pipe

It’s been about two years since I was gifted a personal prayer pipe.  And in all that time I’ve had a pretty healthy fear of it’s power.

Well, at least I thought it was a healthy fear.

As someone who can’t document my Native American ancestry, some may consider my want to carry a pipe as sacrilege.  And others may say that even though I’m native, because I didn’t grow up within the native culture that I am disrespecting the pipe by even owning it.

This is something that I have fought against for a great deal of my life, and I know I’ve spoken of it here many times before.  Growing up, when I would find new information on my spiritual heritage I became very excited.  A new book, contact through friends with tribal elders, a new nugget of wisdom to ponder and treasure was something that comforted me.  But continued searching would most inevitably lead me to others within the native community who would bash what I had found; claiming either that the teachings were watered down or not true teachings at all.  I went round and round like this, until early in the 1990s when I finally just gave up and tried another spiritual path. But the native ancestry always called me back, even though for many years I was afraid to answer the call.

Fast forward to several years ago when the pipe came into my life.  Here is where I thought I would finally get somewhere; that I would finally be able to fit the pieces of what I learned so long ago into my current practices.  Here, I thought, through working with the pipe I would find more about my ancestry and how I could become a part of it. The naysayers and limited information still remained, however, the root cause of that problem changed.  When I thought it was the naysayers that still held me back, it was something different.  It wasn’t because they judged me as unworthy.  I was judging me as unworthy.    I didn’t find myself native ‘enough,’ or worthy and strong enough to hold such a valued item.  All of the talk from those that I looked up to years and years ago stuck with me, and not in a positive way.

I didn’t realize this problem until this past evening, while on a phone call with a friend who is dealing with the same issues.  My friend is someone who I trusted, and who gave me advice about the pipe before.  So when I asked him more specifics about how he worked with his pipe, I think he realized what it was I was dealing with, and therefore he opened up to me more than he had in the past.  He told me about his own fears; that in the past he never felt like he was ‘enough’ of the blood for his pipe.  He spoke about his fears of being judged by peers in the community, or his fear of being called insensitive and unworthy outright.

When I heard about these fears, I was shocked.  This is a man who is respected in our local native community, someone whose mother is full blood, and here he is telling me he didn’t feel like HE was enough?  I have seen many things that this man has done for the native community.  I have seen this man rescue older pipes that have fallen into hands who did not know what they had.  I have seen him lead spirit fires.  Yet here he was, saying he felt like he wasn’t enough to hold a pipe.  How could this be?  Even now, after the conversation I’m still in a bit of shock.  But now I understand why he and I have felt this way for so long.

The whole issue that repeats itself for many people like me (and for him), who are called to do the work of a pipe or to walk the ‘red road’.  We become afraid of doing so because in some form or fashion we have been told that we do not carry the proper paperwork that we are told we need to allow us to walk within Native spirituality.  Or we are told that we can walk some of the road, but we will never be allowed behind the ‘buckskin curtain’ to know the true ways that we seek so desperately in our hearts.

I am not saying what full blooded Native Americans do is wrong.  What I am suggesting is that there is more malice towards some of us that are mixed than perhaps there should be. Those who love their traditions dearly and want to see them continue just as they are may not be looking at the full picture of the world becoming a global community.  Or perhaps instead of wanting to embrace that global community, they feel that they need to protect the purity of the teachings to ensure they are kept alive.   And while I fully understand some teachings are only meant for specific people, some teachings can be shared – NEED to be shared – for the good of the global community.  This means that those who have pressed for so long to keep these teachings under wraps and only available to a select few may need to reevaluate some of the things that they hold as secret.  And perhaps, in their zeal for keeping things secret, they may be doing more harm than good, as they have done in the past with me, and with my native friend.

I am going to say again, I don’t feel like going to the other end of the spectrum would be of any benefit.  Opening up ALL of the teachings is also not the solution here.  Already we have seen people use even small pieces of the teachings for personal gain, something that I doubt the elders and spirits ever wanted to happen.  And worse, others have used the teachings to invoke power over others.  The teachings must be protected from this just as much as other people must be protected from this abuse.

Another point to consider – the ceremonies of the pipe are very sacred.  The knowledge needs to be treated with the same respect that the pipe itself is treated with.  Flooding the world with this knowledge would not be respecting either one, and would only make the entire ceremony and pipe useless.   And with as dire need as the world has right now, by putting these things out there for everyone to see is to remove some of the sacred from this world.  We would also lose another very important tool of community, healing and strength. The pipe goes to they that treat it with respect, and those who are willing to stretch themselves to do good in the world.  This I understand now.

My native friend talked to me about his own fears for a long time.  Then he told me how he how there was a reason why I was called, just like there was a reason I was having the conversation with him.  There are reasons for why things are as they are.  It didn’t matter whether or not I was full blooded, or even if I didn’t have any native blood.  The reasons for the pipes coming out into the world can only really be guessed at.  But they ARE coming out. That is the truth of the matter.

And he went deeper with this truth:  The pipe came to ME.  The call was there, and I answered it.  And because the call was there, and this pipe came to me, I was meant to carry it. And as long as I give it the proper respect and do my best to continue the tasks I have been charged with, that is what truly matters.  And that was what I was not doing before we had the conversation.   I THOUGHT I was giving it proper respect, But further introspection made me realize that the ‘respect’ that I was giving was actually fear.  For too long I had confused ‘fear of’ with ‘respect for’ the pipe.  So instead of respect empowering me to utilize what I had been given, I was frozen in fear of the pipe and its powers.

Regarding the entire situation, with mixed Natives and full blood Natives, I don’t know the way forward.   I am not in any place to suggest any path for the tribes to follow.  But I do think that we have to learn to understand situations where Native teachings are being given on a case per case basis. We need to learn to stop condemning that which we come to learn about in a respectful manner.   But more importantly, and for me personally, we need to learn to look inside ourselves and undo the damage that was done.  It doesn’t matter if the damage was done 20-30 years ago or just yesterday.  If we feel called to learn to carry the pipe, we must consider that pull seriously, no matter what lineage we have in our DNA.  And we must not be deterred from that duty should we choose to follow our hearts.  To carry a pipe is to bring hope to people, to bring blessings and to bring a powerful vehicle of prayer and intersession.  We cannot turn away this call lightly.

After the phone call with my friend, I felt compelled to journey.  So after the appropriate measures were taken, I journeyed to meet my Gods and to discuss with them what it was that I had learned.  I discussed my fears, my hopes, and their expectations for me.  I was given cleansings and some appropriate trials.   Finally, I was allowed to be a part of a pipe ceremony where I was spiritually given the pipe whose physical form laid beside me as I was doing my journey.  I was also given more instruction on the pipe ceremony itself and how I was to utilize that ceremony.  Today, the fear has subsided some, but I know that I may still have work ahead in order to deal with it better.

Moving forward, I have been given plans on when I am to keep ceremony, and how to work with the pipe outside of ceremony.  And most importantly, I have accepted it much more deeply into my life than I had before.  Now my hope is that someone else may read my words and get some solace out of what it is that I have gone through.

Picture from Deviant Art

If You Want Change, you must Move

cocoon_by_vuzelMany times I see people in the Pagan community who get ‘stuck’.  Through no fault of their own, they get into a position that they don’t seem to get out of.  I myself has fallen into this predicament many times in my life.  It doesn’t matter if it is a physical, spiritual or mental issue.  You become unable to move.  And you may feel so lost that you aren’t sure what way is up.  The situation can feel hopeless.  Many times it may take someone else’s help to start you moving to get out of the situation.

Sometimes people who are stuck like this come to me for an intuitive reading.  I have been honored to be the catalyst for some of these people to realize that there are issues in their life that they need to tend to, and that is what is making them stuck.  And I have been excited to watch as they start to lift themselves out of this situation, strengthen their spirit and find new ways to live and grow.  To see this transformation is a blessing in itself.  Someone who is willing to transform their energy also helps to lift others around them.  I think on these clients that have taken my suggestions and transformed with happiness and joy.  I am amazed at how powerful and strong they become.

I also get clients who aren’t for some reason willing to listen to my suggestions.  One pops out in particular, and I will use them for an example.  The reading brought out that this person’s spouse was cheating on them with the client’s best friend.  In fact, the client confirmed this, and went further to say that the best friend suggested to the client that they stay with their spouse because the spouse loved them so much. But the guidance from the reading was very much in disagreement.  The message I got for the client was that they needed to get out of the situation; that it was toxic for the client’s growth as well as their self-esteem.  Yet later, I ran into the client again at a local pagan event, still very much connected to the cheating spouse and best friend, who were at the event with the client.

Change isn’t easy.  It sounds easy, but it’s not.  In order to change, even a little, we have to be willing to change our habits and thinking.  We have to be willing to try something new and stick with those modifications in order to make a change stick.  It doesn’t matter if this change is physical, mental or spiritual; you have to put in the work to get what it is what you want.

In other words, you have to move toward that change.

The people who cannot move toward the change they wish may not be doing it purposefully.  Counselors are taught that when someone is in a situation they refuse to move from, it is because they are still getting something of value out of that change.  It may be negative feedback they are receiving, but they are still receiving something.  In the case of my client, perhaps they feel that they have an identity as a pushover, or a victim.  The client is getting feedback from the spouse and the best friend to stay in the relationship; in other words stay in the victim and/or the pushover role.   And until the client no longer wants that role, they will not make a move to change.

I know the theory sounds simple, and to those from the outside looking at someone stuck in a situation that is harmful to them, we may be flabbergasted that the person cannot change.  But this is far from simple to the person who needs to do the change.  It takes a great deal of courage to step out of that which is comfortable and try something new.  That is where those of us watching someone who is trying to make a change in their life need to tread carefully.  To us, the change a person is trying to make looks easy; but the person making the change feels like every move toward that change is a significant struggle.

Overall, the entire situation is frustrating for both sides, especially when the person who tries to make a change backslides.  It gets even worse when the person is so tied into the negative situation that they recognize it’s bad and constantly talk about the change they want yet never makes a move toward making things better. This happens a lot.  In cases where the person refuses to change, perhaps they are getting something from the people suggesting the changes.  Perhaps they are getting attention because of the situation they are in, and that is their reward for being in the negative situation. Another possibility is that there could be a reason why the change cannot occur yet.  Perhaps they need to understand what it is that is going on around them before they change, so when they are in a similar situation later, they know what they need to do, or could be of service to someone else facing the same change.

So why am I posting about this now?  It’s because I have seen it yet again this past weekend.  It’s the same scenario – someone wanting change, they were invited to come to a ceremony that would be a catalyst for that change, but suddenly they were not able to attend, even though they expressed an interest in trying to better their situation.  And after the event, those same people again started to lament that forces beyond their control forced them to not make it (which wasn’t entirely the case), and lament their woes because they yet again are stuck in a situation they cannot get out of.

It also doesn’t hurt to enlist help when making changes in your life.  In the scenario I presented above, the client might do well with a certified counselor.  Others may do well by looking into speaking with a trusted friend, a spiritual advisor, finding a support group, getting a divinatory reading or looking for help in an area that they have not yet tried.

Perhaps discussing in this post is the very basic theory of why people do and don’t change will help someone understand why they are stuck.  Perhaps someone will look at this and see the theory that is discussed, and have the a-ha moment to get out of this situation. Maybe not.  But writing about it is something that at least helps me.  I was not the only one who recognized that people who needed and wanted to be there to help get them out of the situation were not present.  I was not the only one this past weekend who gets frustrated with people who frequently complain about their situation but never do anything about it.  And perhaps I needed to re-remember the fact that it is THEIR lives, and perhaps they are stuck, but it isn’t my place to help them get ‘unstuck’ without their being a part of it.  I can’t force them to go do something that would force a change in their life.   They have to do it for themselves.  The only thing I can do is to ensure that should they get to the point where they refuse to help themselves, that I am aware that they are at that point and take care not to get involved in a situation with the person where I get pulled into their drama.

If you are someone who wants to make a change, don’t give up.  Even incremental movement is something.   Just being open to moving out of your comfort zone puts you way ahead of the game.  And for me, if people ask me for help, I’ll be there to do what I can, but it will be up to the person who wants to change to move.

Photo from Deviant Art

Religion is not Black and White

the_holy_book_by_djvue

Last week I was lucky enough to be at Pennsic; an event for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  And while this event is very much a part of the SCA, there is a significant group of pagans that attend as well.  In fact, many of the classes had a religious twist to them, while others classes taught beginning forms of magic and prayers.

So you would think that with the amount of different belief systems that were represented in this 11,000 person gathering, a tolerance to other belief systems would be something that you would see a lot of.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  There were many times during the week I  saw instances of people using their religion to justify lack of respect for others during the week.  That really bothered me.

Of the things I saw, two things stood out the most.  The first happened around the campfire.  I was listening to gentleman in the group I am affiliated with speak about Muslims.  Unsolicited, this person started to explain that if you read the Koran you would find verses there that tell Muslims they must kill others who don’t believe the same as they do.  He then doubled down and said Muslims weren’t ‘true’ to their faith if they did not believe these verses.   Not wanting to get involved in a debate, I told him that I was going to agree to disagree with him, and that there were many different interpretations of the Koran.  This just pushed him into a frenzy to say whatever he could to get me to believe what he does.  After a few minutes, someone else changed the subject.  Unfortunately, this was a man who I really looked up to, and listened to.  I don’t know what he thinks of me now, but in my mind he no longer is held in the high esteem he once was.

The second issue came up during a discussion with the founder of the group.  I found out about it second-hand, or else I would have gone off on the younger member myself.  You see, the founder was told by this younger member  that because he was Heathen, his Gods told him he didn’t need to bow to them, and thus he will not bow to bow to any other person, including this gentleman.  He further said to the founder of the group that nothing the founder said or did on his behalf would be welcomed.  He went further in denouncing and belittling the founder, but I think you get the point.

This really bothered me.  Yes, I go by this belief as well, and yes, I don’t bow to my Gods. But I still  treat them with respect, much like I treat my elders with respect.  The founder of this group is very much an elder in the SCA, but also an elder that is looked up to for his teaching ability and his talents.  The younger member not only didn’t treat this person with respect, but he belittled and demeaned him.  And that was very hard to hear for me. And again, I lost a significant amount of respect for this young man.

In the altercation with the gentleman around the campfire, perhaps he was right on one point – perhaps the Koran does have verses in it regarding the killing of others.  I have honestly not read it, do I don’t know for absolute certain.  But I have read the book of Leviticus in the Christian Bible, and I know there are significant stanzas in that book that are not looked on as law today.  Those include having slaves, not touching the skin of a pig, and not wearing clothing made out of two different types of fabrics.  But yet, Christians pick and choose what they want to believe out of that book, so it is an easy assumption that a Muslim may consider doing the same thing, especially when they preach peace between religions (like many I know do).

The belief about Muslims being forced to kill others  is damning, especially in today’s world.  But I think there is a deeper, even worse problem here.  This person never thought about asking another Muslim what they believe.  He never asked another Muslim why they believe what they do.  Instead,  he felt reading their religious texts and making up his own mind without any outside influence was the best thing to do.  Therefore he believed his interpretation of that text is right.

The holy texts of many religions are hundreds and hundreds of years old.  They were written by man, who is not infallible, but they were inspired by God.  There are many things in those texts that just don’t fit today’s society.  Certainly there were reasons back then for those things, but in this day and age they just don’t make sense.  Therefore trying to understand a holy text on your own without some sort of help or without someone that can answer any questions you may have is going to skew the beliefs that come out of the text in the first place.

In the second scenario I heard about, the young member is a solitary heathen, who again has read the lore and has formed his own beliefs.  He does not practice with any other group, as he finds other groups ‘limiting’.  And here, I agree with him in the fact that our Gods do not want us to venerate them like those in other religions do.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t give them the respect they deserve.  That doesn’t mean you don’t give them offerings and thanks.  Perhaps if this young person would go to their local group or get online sometime he might recognize that.  But instead, this was again a case of someone learning about something on their own and not asking questions.    This one bothered me significantly, because this person is representing MY religion.  And after hearing this happen, I had to explain to the head of the house that unlike this young member, I will be treating him with the respect he is due because of his position, as well as treating him with honor and respect because he is a fellow human being and a good man worthy of that respect.

These situations made me realize how much we really don’t know about people’s religions.  We can take religious classes, we can read books on religious subjects or read the holy texts of the religions we wish to learn about all we want.  However, if we don’t go to those who practice the religion on a regular basis and get their input, we will never be close to understanding the true meaning and peace that a particular religion can hold for its followers.

When someone doesn’t seek out those who wish to share their beliefs openly, it is easy to fall into many of the  assumptions that are so common:

  • Christians hate anyone who is involved in the LGBTQ community
  • Muslims believe anyone who does not share their religion are infidels and must be put to death
  • Anyone who calls themselves a son or daughter of Odin is a racist
  • Witches are always Wiccan

And on and on the assumptions go.

I refuse to believe these assumptions.  Are there bad groups within each religion?  Of course there are.  And if I find out someone believes something that belittles or exposes their hate for another, I choose not to listen to that person speak about any religion anymore.  I can simply step away or shut down the conversation, and I have a right to (politely) do that.  I don’t need to get into a debate with that person because they have already made up their mind.  All a debate would do is to make everyone involved frustrated and angry.  Some people may say the debate would be a healthy thing because there is an opportunity to change someone’s mind.  But what is more likely to happen is more hate and anger being spewed regarding the opposite side.  I saw a lot of that going on last week on blogs, and I refuse to help spread it.

So instead of trying to debate or change someone’s assumption about a religion, I will choose to look for those who don’t assume.  I want to talk religion with those who are open to hear what others think, despite what some holy writ or text says.  This is my way of not continuing to spew assumptions and judgement on others, and I think we need more of this type of thinking in this world.

Photo from Deviant Art

Science doesn’t know it all. Neither does Religion.

This weekend I got into a very minor debate with my father that shook me big time.

I found out that my father has become a creationist.

As in dinosaurs and humans existed together.  As in Noah’s ark is real (they’ve done studies, don’t you know).  As in the earth is only 6,000 years old.  Yep.  He’s a big time creationist.

Holy Crap.

Part of me finds it slightly amusing.   I was sent to a Catholic school by my parents.  And in that Catholic school the history of the earth that I learned about didn’t have a drop of creationist belief in it. But yet, this past Sunday, for a few minutes (until I was able to change the subject at least), I ended up arguing with a man who was trying to debunk the very stuff that I had learned from that religious school he had sent me to.

The rest of me that isn’t amused is just in shock.  Growing up I looked to my father as being an intelligent person.  I thought that he shared the same beliefs as I did when it came to the origins of the universe and the creation of Earth.  I thought we at least had one thing in common.  I found out I was wrong.

I firmly believe that science and faith go hand in hand and enhance the other.  Sciences tells us the ‘how’ about the origins of the universe, and religion (or faith in a religion) tells us the ‘why’.  They were never supposed to be exact duplicates of each other.  This wonderful universe has been set before us to explore.  We are to continue to learn how it works and how it evolved from the very beginning of time.  But no matter what science puts together to say how it happened, it is only part of the picture of its evolution.  The other half is the faith that evolution was done by whatever God you believe in.  Or, from a humanist / atheist perspective, the other half is the faith that the universe evolved on its own without divine interference.  Either of these still completes the full picture.

Furthermore, you absolutely cannot try to utilize one side to explain the other.  Science will never fully explain why we are so enamored with religion or have faith in things that are scientifically unexplained.  Religion will never explain why we choose to pursue scientific concepts.  It will never explain those scientific concepts or how things were created.  And most importantly, religion will never quash the desire to understand how we ended up here in the first place or how the world works.

Of course, my father nor my mother wanted to hear my belief.  Instead my father ranted about how science cannot duplicate the human eyeball and that we have never found a half ape/half human.  My poor husband, dealing with a migraine from the on-and-off thunderstorms that had blown through the area that day just sat there listening to the rant while holding his head in his hands.  I could tell he was forcefully holding himself back from ripping holes in everything my father said for the sake of keeping the peace, and it wasn’t doing much to help his migraine.

I honestly don’t know what is going on with my parents.  I live in a different state from them, and am not in frequent touch because of things exactly like this.  This discussion just tells me that I may be forced to make visits even less frequent than I have been doing, as I suspect that their beliefs  are only going to become more strict and conservative as time goes on.  I hate to say it, but that scares me.   I don’t want to be fully cut off from them, but if it is going to come down to the only relationship that I have becoming a very unhealthy one, I’m going to have to do just that.

The fact that I believe that religion nor science has the whole story is also something that I’m not about to push on my parents, nor anyone else.  That is my belief.  It makes sense to me.  If it makes sense to someone else, they are more than welcome to use the information to expand their own knowledge and make it fit for themselves.  If someone wants to discuss something different and share their own belief with me, that is perfectly acceptable, but I have the right to say that I disagree, and I have a right to my opinion.  And that is the crux of the issue here.

And for the record, I don’t care if you build an Ark.  Just don’t use tax money to do it.  There is a reason separation of church and state exists.  And don’t expect building it will recruit people to your own religion either.  Everyone is allowed to make up their own mind about religion and science, just like I did.

So yes Dad, I will accept your beliefs. But even though I will respect your belief about religion, don’t think I’m going to allow you to rant and rave to try and ‘ force-recruit’ me to your way of thinking, even though you are my father.  And if you share your opinion, you better be ready to listen to mine and not just ignore it.

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.

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.