Finding Gods of Compassion

Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them.  And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise.  They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity.  Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I fully agree, to an extent.  As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’.  They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.

But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods.  Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. 

Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.

We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot.  We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed.  Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture.  And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest.  I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see.  And this happened in many different civilizations.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to.  And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that.  In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs.  And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.

For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world.  This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species.  We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago.  We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species.  In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.

So what do we do with this fertility rite?  Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today?  What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it.  We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence.  And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.

I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time.  Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?

One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion.  Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative.  You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry.  It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis.  Want another?  Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact.  We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.

All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today.  For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people.  Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us.  We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.

It didn’t happen overnight.  And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem.  We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us.  The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree.  And to battle we go.

For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options.  We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.

Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage.  And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.

Our upbringings aren’t always rosy.  Our relationships with others can become abusive.  Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation.  Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was.  Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us.  But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well.  Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality.  Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances.  Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.

The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize.  I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate.  And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.

Yes, there are times when we must be hard.  Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will.  That is important too.

But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?

Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?

Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?

Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?

This is different than just ‘getting on with it’.  There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage.  That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.

But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives?  What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time?  What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core?  I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’.  Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe.  We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves.  This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.

Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking.  Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better.  Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic.  But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?

At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together.  That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.

And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize.  Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.

In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest.  Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that.  In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength.  Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves.  Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal.  And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.

If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well?  Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo.  In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?

And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds?  And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself?  So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you?  Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?

Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking.  Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty.  Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other.  And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.

 

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.

 

Poem:  I Am

I finished writing this poem today and present it here for thoughts.  I am quite fond of it, although some people have read it and been uncomfortable with its expressions.

The poem speaks to my life.  I am coming to the end of a significant amount of Shadow work, and this is a celebration of that.  I have reclaimed and am healing shards of my soul, embraced many of my issues and wrestled with personal demons.  I feel like now I come from a place of power that was meant for me, if only I dared to come this far.

Perhaps that is why this poem makes people so uncomfortable.

 

 

I Am

I am the uncomfortable silence,
I am the calm before the storm.
A friend may partake in my peace
While the foe shall hear no alarm.

I am sister-wife of The Mad,
I am the daughter of Gangleri.
A friend shall enjoy my aid,
While the foe fearful of my company.

I am she who rests in nightmares,
I dance where others dare creep.
Do not think that I am defenseless
Attack me, and pain you shall reap

Is there still a question of my loyalty?
Do I still belong in the house I dwell?
Oh I assure you, the wolf within is quite content,
Yet ever willing to come out of my shell

Shifting and Shedding Skin

I lost my title of “Documentation Subject Matter Expert” at my place of employment a couple of weeks ago.  The title and duties were a holdover from the previous position that I held in the company, but I still did them.  But because I have been at my current position outside that department for several years now, it was time to let those duties go.  However, when I did, I was surprised to find a sense of loss.

It was cool to be a Subject Matter Expert, but there was a lot that went with the job.  On a monthly basis I had to teach classes on documentation.  I also was ‘on call’ when I was ever at work to deal with questions and issues.  This meant that the role regularly bit into my time to do my current job duties.  And unfortunately, it just got to be too much.

The whole thing reminded me of a hard lesson that I feel like I’m still learning.  This particular lesson started for me once I got back into the pagan community on a more active basis.  I have a lot I can offer people, so I wanted to jump right back into a role of teacher or priestess pretty quickly. But it never really developed for me to do so, and I found that very frustrating.

I came to realize that while I had a lot of experience, knew how to steer and work with a group (and had done so many years previously), doing those things weren’t a good ‘fit’ for me anymore.  I had committed to too many things that I needed to take on for myself.  So adding teaching a study group or even having an individual student was something that I just didn’t have time for anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I still feel I am an elder, and I absolutely help people on their paths by my intuitive readings, but I’m not the one who leads the entire group.  At least not right now.

The realization of this is something that was akin to my losing my work title, but it hurt a lot more.  I am very proud that my previous forays into pagan communities had consisted of my being the one writing the rituals and the lessons for the coven to follow.  I led the cones of power, the chanting and spell casting.  But those things weren’t my calling anymore.

Looking back, so many of my previous posts on this blog have dealt with roles and titles, how they fit and don’t fit, what they actually represent, and the work that you take on should you accept one.  Perhaps were so many posts on this because  I was still trying to find where I fit in.  But in order to figure out where I fit in, I needed to understand what those roles and titles meant as well as let go of my assumption of jumping right back into a place where I was previously.

In other words, it was finally time to shed my old titles and roles so that I could grow into new ones.  Just like the Pagan community as a whole has evolved and become so much bigger than what it was.

I don’t think I’m alone in assumptions about roles and titles. I think that there are frequent assumptions made by newer pagans as well as us ‘old-timers’ at roles that we think or expect we need to be in that actually aren’t true.  I’ve met many people who automatically assume that they are meant for a specific role in the pagan community only to find that they were mistaken. And now, years later, they have found something that better suits who they are as a person.  I guess it was time for me to do the same.

I am not really sure if there is a name or label for what it is I do; there are so many facets to it now that I think only the label “elder” would encompass them, but that title in itself is very generic.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  And perhaps I need to consider not even looking for a specific role or title anymore.  Maybe I just need to be me, focus on that which I need to focus on for myself, and let things move forward as they may.

And speaking of shedding, I have updated my ‘about me’ page to better reflect who I am and what I feel I do.  I think it fits very nicely now.

 

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.

The Work of Introspection

The past week or so has been rough for me again.  But part of it is at my own choosing.

A couple months ago I realized that there were some behaviors and beliefs I had that were bothering me, so I set out on some psychological and introspective work to figure out why I had them and how I could change them.   Now I feel like I’m a little over half way through that process for these specific behaviors, and it’s getting to the part where it becomes tedious as the process has me focus on deeper and deeper issues.  On most days when I do the work, I get very tired.  At worst, on those days I feel like I’ve been run over by a big, emotional truck.  Do this on top of a normal work day and you can see how many people would consider stopping because of the complexity.

But I still continue.  Because I know I will be a much better person on the other side of this process, not just for me, but for my spiritual community.

I have been told by several people that I do more work on myself from a spiritual and mental level than the average person.  In many ways I feel like I’ve had to; I had a lot to recover from over the years and doing this work was the only real way to allow me to become authentic to my true self.  But because I held true to the belief that I could do this work, and pushed myself through it over the years, not only have I become more true to myself, I have also raised my energy levels to the point where I can now be of more service to others.

Introspective psychological work is very important and it is a key part of spiritual work.  However, especially because of the significant conflict I see in the pagan community, I wonder if there is a lack of this introspective work being done today.  My belief of this stems from the myriad of posts from people willing to tell others how their thoughts are wrong; or how we are moving in a wrong direction, very rare are the posts that discuss any compromise or any discussion or offer understanding as to why there is such polarization.  We are too quick to sprout facts for or against issues, but never take the time to understand why someone else believes differently.  So instead of building bridges by reaching understanding, we become even more polarized; much like how politics has become.

Perhaps this lack of introspective work in the Pagan community isn’t on purpose.  Many people in today’s pagan communities find the internet or a book as their first teacher.  That isn’t a bad thing – the very nature of paganism offers significantly different beliefs and systems, and I believe everyone has a place under this umbrella of belief.  But how many ‘how to’ books speak about how shortcomings and outdated beliefs could affect your magical work?  Sure, many speak about discipline of the body through proper diet and exercise as well as discipline of the mind through meditation; those are very important things to know when following a spiritual path.  But knowing why we have those shortcomings, those bad habits and why we carry the issues we do are just as important.

Many spiritual teachers that I’ve discussed this subject with over the years have told me how they do incorporate some sort of psychological work into their student’s magical studies.  It only makes sense to do so.  We need to know ourselves before we can take possession of the energies of the world and wield it to that which we desire.  And by not doing that work to truly know yourself and yet progressing with more advanced studies and spell work, you leave yourself open to unintended consequences.  And those consequences won’t be just for you, but for those around you and the community as well.

Although psychological work is a huge benefit from a metaphysical perspective, it is also beneficial in other ways.  The understanding you receive about yourself from introspective work moves throughout every aspect of your life.  You become a more solid person, not only in magical understanding, but in your career, in your relationships, in your family and in the community.

At the very least, doing psychological work will allow you to better tolerate those that intentionally try to carve up the pagan community , as that type of work provides tools for yourself when dealing with those that intentionally divide.  But depending on how deep you decide to go with this work you might find the other, deeper benefits that come from it.  For example, thanks to the significant amount of work I have done over the years, I can now understand better where some of the negative beliefs that people have come from.  This allows me to respond with empathy and put up firm boundaries with those that wish to bring the challenge to a more of a personal attack.  At the very worst, I am protected, but what may also happen is that my empathic response could deescalate the situation.

An even bigger benefit that I feel I have achieved through my own psychological work is being able to see what specific energies are at play in different conversations and situations.  Perhaps it is simply the Lokian perspective to which I subscribe, but I feel like because I was willing to look into those things that were destructive in me and learn to work with and through them, I can now see that energy better in the world around me.  I have a deeper understanding of the creative and destructive energies around me; how they move, how they react to stimuli and how they balance themselves out.  This understanding has given me a bit of comfort in this polarized world, and I am very grateful for it.

So back to the grindstone of the introspective work I go.  And I don’t plan on stopping this particular work until I am at my goal of at least understanding where these particular issues came from and why I still carry them.  Yes, it’s hard.  But good things never come easy.  And there are too many benefits to me, the energies around me and for my community to even consider stopping.

 

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