Be Careful What You Wish For…

IMG_4383Heads up, this post is a bit of a vent.  And also  a warning.

Many of my past posts have been about the deep shadow work that I have done over the winter months.  Much of it has gone very well in that it has opened me up to many of my own deep seeded issues.  And since I finally could name and understand them, I was able to deal with those issues.  The entire endeavor has helped me to move forward in my spirituality and relationships better than I ever could have on my own.  I know I’m not finished, but I’m quite pleased with the results so far.

I’m at a spot now where I could pause that deep work, so I decided to take a break and pick up another endeavor to fill my time.  This task, I had hoped, would be a bit lighter than the places that I have been going to so often.  And, I thought it would help me heal from some of that intense work.  It would also give me time to replenish my emotional stamina for the next round.

So I picked up my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course to help you become comfortable as an artist.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting, writing, composing music or other endeavor, this book helps you clear blockages in order to do your best work.   It’s a powerful course; I had tried it several years ago, and realized that I was not ready for it.  Feeling like I could handle it now after my deep dive into the Shadow, I thought I would pick it up again and see what treasures of knowledge I could mine out of the work.   I was especially hoping it would help me get into writing stories again.

As a child I used to write a lot.  I wrote the occasional poem, but my favorite thing was to write fictional stories.  I would sit for hours after school was over, with the permission of my computer room teacher, writing out the stories that I had in my head. Of course these stories never made it in front of anyone else’s eyes; they were for me alone.  But the comfort and escape that they gave me was extremely powerful and very necessary in the troubled world that I lived in back then.

But suddenly, without warning, I stopped writing.  I’m still not very sure why I stopped. All I remember is that I was ridiculed for it.  It could have been me that ridiculed myself even.  I just stopped doing it, and that stop lasted until recently, when a story popped out of my head unexpectedly.

Pleased with my recent short story and remembering how much comfort writing was, I tried to get back into it.  From a non-fictional standpoint, I think it’s going pretty well, as the results are for all to see here at my current blog.  But the fiction I loved to write before eluded me.  So it was I decided to pick up The Artist’s Way again.

The exercises in the book are wonderful.  Ms. Cameron does an excellent job of setting up your practice with what she calls ‘morning pages’, and then eases you back into creative activity by first finding your safe place to create from.  Once you have established these practices, she takes you into others that are specifically meant to guide your creativity and allow you to be creative in whatever endeavor you choose.  The exercises seemed much lighter than the past three months, so it just felt right to pick up the book and allow myself time to stretch myself from a creative perspective, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to go very deep into the Shadow.

Boy, was I wrong.

I read once somewhere that the spiritual and creative centers in your brain are essentially the same areas, and that the blocks for these can sometimes be one in the same.  I’m not sure if that is true, but now I realize they are at least relevant to each other if they are not connected outright.  You see, the exercises not only started to uncover creative blocks that I had with writing; they uncovered new facets of the spiritual blocks I thought I had dealt with.  Yet again, issues came back like unwanted house guests, planning to stay with me as long as they could to mooch a place to sleep and eat my food.

At first, I didn’t mind.  This was simply just going to be one topic that I write about.  I needed topics, after all.  So when I completed the first few exercises I started to write poems again.  And the poems I was writing were dealing with those spiritual issues.  They were about the relationships I had to the Gods, or about the Fibromyalgia I deal with on a day to day basis.  They were constructive, and I am very proud of these first few endeavors.  I was so proud of the first poem I wrote I posted it here, and soon five more were written, every one of them just as dear to me.  I found my poems were expressing things I didn’t think I could ever get out.  And even though I was proud of it, it was still just poetry.  It wasn’t the fictional writing that I desired to do.  And it was still eluding me.

Then, something came up this weekend.  Something from the Shadow that I had not yet dealt with.  I was actually planning on holding off this particular work until I had rested more.  But this issue would not stay silent any longer, and made it known to me that I have to deal with it NOW.

‘OK,’ I thought, ‘I can do this.  I’ll just pull out my journal and my cards and…’
‘NO!’ I felt and heard within my head.  ‘Write a story about it’.
‘Wait…what?”
‘You wanted to write a story, so write a story about this issue and deal with it through the story.’

In defiance, I did try to work through some of the issues the way I had been doing during the winter, with no such luck.  I guess the only way I’m going to get through this now is to write a fictional story about it.

I won’t share the expletives that went through my head once I realized this was my only choice.

I’m still a bit flabbergasted.  Sure, there was a bit of inspiration in my fictional writing oh so long ago from my mundane life, but to work through an entire aspect of an issue with a written story?  This one is new to me.  And I’m going to have to make it work somehow.

I DID say I wanted to start writing again.  The Gods simply gave me the topic.

It’s alright.  You can laugh.

 

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A Longing

Happy Autumnal Equinox everyone!

As the leaves start to finally turn color around my Midwest stomping grounds, I realize that the brief time for rest is up for me.  It’s time for me to jump into a new project.  Specifically, it’s time for me to build a framework around my beliefs.  this framework is going to include prayers, spells, holiday celebrations – the whole ball of wax so to speak.  The energy for this endeavor is already around and within me.  I feel an ache like I have never before in my heart and gut.  Finally, the culmination of all the work on myself is coming together.  I recognize now that I’m creating things for myself, blending my own beliefs, my ancestral bloodlines and traditions that I feel are right for me into a repeatable, workable methodology.

It will be fantastic to finally feel at home in a tradition I make of my own; a tradition I can share with others if they want to know what it is I do, but mostly one for me, where I know I’m going to make a difference by doing the practices I create for myself.

So with all of the energy spinning around me right now, where the heck is this creative block coming from?

I know that I’m not going to be able to pull everything together in a matter of months.  Heck, it might take me a full year just to figure out what works for what holiday.  And that is fine.  But the surprise is that I’m having a heck of a time writing a prayer right now, much less any ceremonies or spell work.

Writing down this type of thing isn’t new to me.  I’ve been in many covens and written a significant number of rituals for full moons, training rituals, rituals for high holidays, spells, you name it.  And I am longing to do this work.  I ache to do it.  The joy that I have felt over the past year finally figuring out how I ‘fit’ has been fantastic.  I am eager to play my part and move forward.

Yet, as much as I want to, I cannot put into words what it is I am feeling right now; I cannot figure out how to truly convey the simple prayers of adoration that I wanted to start with.  I am literally aching to put pen to paper, yet it feels like the language is totally foreign to me.

Perhaps I stay with this feeling for awhile and just wait for the words to come.  Perhaps I have to start with another prayer, or give up on the thought of using eloquent and descriptive wording for not.  I’m not certain what direction this is going to go.  So right now I’m just going to express my longing for this next project (and a bit of my frustration), and see what the coming days bring to me.

 

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.

A Story About A Choice

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I want to tell a story about something that happened to me today.  this event was very profound, as nothing like this had ever happened, especially when I was at work.

I am lucky to work for a company that has a mile nature trail on its campus.  Many associates take advantage of this trail.  Some do it for the exercise, or just to take a break from the daily grind.  I do it for that, but I also realize that there are a significant number of spirits in the woods and in the stream near the trails.  So i frequently also send a mental ‘shout out’ to them as I walk by.  There have also been many times that I have had conversations with the ones that choose to speak to me, and from those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the path that I am currently on.

Today however, things were very different.  I took the path at a fast clip, as there was another associate who was also walking, and my introverted self didn’t really want to walk near the associate and try to facilitate small talk.  He, recognizing that I had much longer legs than he did and was walking much faster, allowed me to pass, and off I went into the first leg of the wooded part of the trail.

And I immediately spotted a large brown and white feather right in the middle of the trail.

Without thinking, I scooped the feather up mid-stride, and never broke my pace.  The feather reminded me of one of a red tailed hawk, a predatory bird that is frequently seen where I live.  However I knew that it was not.  It also seemed beaten up, much like if the bird had lost it in a fight.  I knew that my seeing the feather was a sign of something, as there is very rarely any feathers on this trail that I walk on a frequent basis.

That’s why the second feather was so surprising when I saw it.

This one was all black, like it had come from a blackbird, raven or crow.  Again, all three have been seen around the area, so I really had no way of knowing.  However, this one, unlike the brown and white one, was perfectly formed and surprisingly longer than most.

When I first saw the feather, I walked by it.  After the third step I felt like I had to turn around and get it, to which I did.  The associate I passed was still in range, and watched me walk back to get the second feather.  I quickly took up my fast pace in order to not have any questions asked of me, and overtook a second group of associates walking the trail to get some distance.

As I was carrying the feathers, I took a trail not rarely used (it was full of mud – I didn’t care) in order to double back and make sure a proper ‘thank you’ was said for the feathers.  As I said, they are very rare on these trails, so I had thought that I was very fortunate to find two on the same day, not 20 feet from each other.

When I doubled back, I found that I was the last associate to utilize the trails for that lunch hour.  So I had it all to myself.  And after a proper ‘thank you’, I was off.

As I continued to the farthest part of the trail, I realized that these feathers were more significant than I had originally thought.  While I wasn’t told specifically what each feather meant, I was told that one of the feathers would have to go back to the trail, and with it, a choice was to be made in my spiritual practices.

The beat up one seemed to symbolize my past.  It symbolized the abuse, it symbolized how hard I had pushed through to heal from everything, but it also symbolized all of the strength that I had gained and the spiritual allies that came to my aid.  At least that is what I sort of ‘assumed’.  I was never able to get a straight answer.

The black feather I think symbolized the unknown.  And from it I could sense that there was a hint of a gateway to transform into something that I was not yet able to become.  In the metaphysical sense, I could tell this feather contained no darkness, but yet it contained no light.  The only thing that I could truly comprehend from the energy was that it contained the beginnings of something new.

At this point I was coming to the second trail, which has a bridge over a fast flowing stream.  I was told that I could not keep both feathers; that one had to be dropped into that stream.  And if I chose not to drop one of the feathers, there would be some sort of consequence that I would be choosing to face.

Now I was still at work, and even though I am allowed to take a longer lunch hour, I knew I had to get back to my desk as I was expected for meetings.  It was only within a matter of moments that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it.  And even though it was a short distance, I was surprised at how much dread, pain and longing I felt.  Even though the meanings of the feathers were never truly clear, I knew they had some significant importance, and I didn’t have any time to study or understand that importance.

So onto the bridge I went, and as requested, one of the feathers went into the water.  I watched as it spiraled down and the current carried it under the bridge and down the stream.  For a moment, I thought about going down and trying to grab it as I saw it head toward the bank, but thought better of it.  Instead, I quickly walked away before I could see if it would get stuck.

The second feather now sits on my desk, next to a feather I had found on another walk, and three stones I used for focus and meditation during the day.  the feather sits in the middle of the three stones, much like a small altar in between my two monitors.

I am unsure of all of the intricacies of what it is I have chosen.  All I know and believe is that I have chosen to step away from that which I know and into the unknowns of a new path, one that will hopefully lead me to becoming someone who knows myself well, and can utilize what I know I am for the good of myself and those around me.

 

 

 

Religious Practice Struggles

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Imbolc is about light coming into the world.  This holiday is what has started a new spiritual struggle for me – Photo from Deviant Art

My task this year is to learn, relearn and polish up all of my knowledge and put together a religious and spiritual practice based on my experience and my ancestry.

As I put together something (ANYTHING at this point!) to celebrate the Imbolc holiday, I have realized that this task is much easier said than done.

The first thing that I have done is to start going through my older holiday ceremony, go through historical information and taken a look at what some other bloggers have said about the holiday.  But after I gathered all of that information, I realized, that is all great for these other people, but it’s not ME; it’s not MINE.

I am quickly realizing that in order to be true to my ancestry, I’m going to have to start putting together things on my own.  I am not a re-constructionist, even though that would seem to me to be the easier path.  I am not fully Celtic nor am I fully Pagan, as my German ancestry still screams to be heard.  I am also not fully of the Norse, as the Native blood in my veins quickly reminds me that Turtle Island is my home. But yet I am not fully Native, as the Anglo Saxon/Irish heritage stirs my soul.

It’s made things pretty difficult, to say the least.

But as I said when I built this blog in the first place, this is for me to vet and work through my own beliefs and practices.  With that in mind, I plan to ask my pipe if it wishes to be smoked during Imbolc to honor my Native heritage.  I will bless my gardens in honoring Beyla, the landwrights and vaettir and my German heritage.  Finally, I will do a small fire ritual to honor my Celtic heritage.

Perhaps in time I will be able to blend all of these into one full ceremony, but until I can wrap my brain around the mingling of traditions I guess it’s going to have to be separate.

 

Giving Offerings to Deity

 In one of the rune readings that I received, I was told that I needed to start giving offerings.  I normally think of offerings as what I do in service to my Gods, but he suggested offerings of food specifically on my altar at least once a week.

Giving regular offerings is something that I have never gotten into a good practice with before.  I would start doing it, and then I would forget and the whole practice would be forgotten.

Now the runecaster suggested offerings for both my ancestors and for my Gods.  He suggested I start with the ancestors by giving a piece of raw meat once a week on an ancestral altar.  But to me that never felt right.  My ancestors are not animals, they are human beings.

This morning during meditation however, it was suggested to me that I start doing some sort of offering practice, but it seems that the deity I am currently working with wants it, and not my ancestors.

The problem is, what to give?

My husband and I are home brewers.  We have made mead, wine, ciders and lots of different types of ales over the years.  I think my first offering to Loki is going to be the red wine that my husband and I made and has been bottle aging.  It’s about 2 years old, so I think that would be fitting for him.

If anyone is willing to share what they offer their gods and ancestors, I would love to hear it as it may help me learn more about this practice.