Saturday, March 2, 2013

Celebrating Easter...And All The Rest

Easter is coming up in 4 weeks in case you have been oblivious to the Peeps in the stores (along with Cadbury eggs, pastel colors and plastic grass).  Along with it are some amazing pagan workshops and festivals, including one local workshop that I would love to take on the Iron Pentacle.  But I won't.  It's Easter weekend, and my place is at home with the rest of my non-pagan family.

Nor will I partake in any Imbolc celebration that takes place the first Sunday of February (unless it's a sunrise ritual...I have made that exception in the past).  It's Superbowl Sunday and I hate to break it to you, but there ARE Pagans that actually like football.

Got a St. Patrick's Day pagan book club/discussion group meeting?  Nope, I will be eating corned beef and cabbage...or at least drinking beer and "honoring" my Irish roots.  My soul tells me that St. Brighid and St. Patrick were best buds anyway, and I raise a glass in honor of Brighid being able to excel on both sides of the fence.  Why?  Because it's so gosh darn hard to do that, and the most flak comes from the Pagan community.  Don't even get me started on Christmas.

For a group that begs for acceptance, sometimes they are the least sensitive to those of us who live our lives in a non-pagan family.  Every month my family makes itself scarce so my coven can hold full moon ritual at my home.  My pagan study group meets here most of the time and Sabbats end up being held here too. Again, they not only stay out of my way, but clean the house beforehand.  I could say that being with them for Easter is the least I could do, but you know what?  I WANT to spend Easter with them.  I want to color Easter eggs with my granddaughter (on Holy Saturday as was traditional when I was growing up, and not for Ostara) and I'd love to cook a ham and have a wonderful family Easter dinner.  

I understand that sometimes these pagan events are specifically planned around these dates so that pagans have something to do - which is great.  But when I decline to attend, please don't give me a dirty look, or make some disparaging remark.  I can't wait for the day when a pagan simply says "We will miss you, but have a wonderful Easter with your family" and mean it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spiritual Doldrums
Remember when you first took those steps along the pagan path?  How new and fresh and exciting everything was.  The smell of the incense.  The burning of the flame.  The chants and the drumming.  You were passionate about putting words to paper for that special spell or ritual.  What a great time!

Now, maybe not so much.  Doldrums is a word that comes from an area of the ocean near the equator where the wind is so light that boats can be trapped for weeks waiting for the wind to return.  We usually use the word to refer to a mental slump, depression, inactivity, or state of restlessness or unhappiness.

The doldrums can apply to our spiritual practice as well.  We feel nothing inspiring about the ritual and find excuses to miss that full moon gathering.  The drum gathers dust in the corner.  We feel so caught up in the everyday tasks of our lives, that we feel we are better served during our time alone by playing solitaire on the computer instead of meditating or doing yoga. 

When we find our spiritual practice has become stagnant, we need to find ways to change it.  Here are some ideas:
1)   Find what interests you now.  You may be an expert on herbs – is there something else you would like to learn about?  Crystals?  Chakras?  Explore other topics.

2)  Practice your kitchen witchery.  Cook.  Make a dish that reflects the season or a special treat for the full moon.  There’s nothing like appreciative comments such as “This is so yummy!” to help raise one’s spirits.

3)  Talk to other pagans.  Especially important if you are a solitary practitioner.  Join a discussion group or book club.  Attend a public ritual or a pagan festival.  No pagan is an island.

4)  Get acquainted with another deity.  That doesn’t mean you have to dedicate yourself to another God or Goddess, but studying the mythology and holding ritual for another can be enlightening and open up some interesting possibilities. 

5)  Be creative.  Write a song, a poem, a chant.  If you write three pages in your journal every day, how about changing it up a bit and do some visual journaling instead?  Put together a spiritual scrapbook or photo album.

6)  Declutter.  Do a major cleaning of your home, organize and perhaps redecorate.  Get rid of the candle stubs and that box of incense that makes you sneeze.  As you clean your altar, change it. 

7)  Adopt a park, a highway, a stream.  Commit to doing something for the environment.

8)  Instead of holding a full moon ritual, celebrate the new moon, dark moon, first quarter, the sunrise…anything that will change it up.

9)  Create an outdoor shrine.  It can be as simple as a stone circle or more elaborate with wind chimes, shells, herbs, flowers, and statuary.  Just like your indoor altar, make sure you tend to it often. 

10) Play with the elements.  Fly a kite, make s’mores by the campfire, go water skiing or rock climbing.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sweet dreams are made of this, Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas, Everybody’s looking for something

Dreams are a great tool to use to connect with your subconscious, other realms and deity.  However, the messages are rarely clear cut, and it’s often difficult to discern if it’s truly a message or simply that over spiced taco you had for dinner.  Then there are those of us (me included) who rarely remember dreams at all.  It can be very disheartening to listen to tales from others who have dreams that occurred over several nights and are recalling them in detail.

Keep a dream journal anyway.  Even if upon wakening you can only recall a person, a color, a location, jot it down.  What you remember is usually the key…the one clue you need to decipher the message.  If ever you wake and find you clearly remember the dream, you will be so glad you have that paper and pen on your nightstand to scribble away.  I have found over the years that if I recall a dream, I better pay close attention.  For me, a remembered dream had better be remembered.

There are also hundreds of books that you can use for a reference as to what various objects mean.  Use these books lastly, if at all.  YOU are the key as to what the objects that appear in your dream mean.  Trust your instincts.  For example, often you will read that if you dream of flying in an airplane it signifies travel…either physically or you are reaching a higher level of knowledge or spirit.  If however you are scared to death of flying, or someone close died in an airplane crash, there is certainly something else going on.  What that object means to YOU should always be the first question.  If you are stumped, then check with other sources and see if it resonates.  Jot it down in your dream journal and see if a pattern develops.  Alone, that one symbol may not make any sense, but in a bigger context it just may.

Don’t ever think of yourself as a “lesser” witch if you simply don’t remember your dreams.  Everyone dreams, whether they can recall them upon wakening or not.  The messages are still getting through to your subconscious.  As I first said, dreams are a tool, but only one of many.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The circle is open but unbroken
May the love of the Goddess be ever in our hearts
Merry Meet, and Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again.

Almost every Pagan ritual ends with these works…either spoken or sung.  Most of it is pretty straight forward.  Who wouldn’t want the love of the Goddess…or peace, or joy depending on your own tradition…in one’s heart.  And yes, let’s wish each other well until we meet again.  It’s an endearing little chant but the meat of these words, the part that has the most meaning and shouldn’t be spoken so lightly is that very first line.

The circle is open but unbroken.

What does that mean to you?  For most it’s the fact that you can now move freely around the space but the bonds that have been formed are still intact.  I would add that what is spoken in sacred space is treated confidentially.  That your circle mates are treated with respect and compassion…no matter where you are.  Circle space is a magickal place  - keep that magick alive even after the release of Deity and the Elements.  
Most likely you entered the circle in perfect love and perfect trust.  In doing so, you have a created a safe environment within the circle.  You have shared with those also in attendance, a very special and hopefully meaningful ritual.  You may literally have bared your soul in sacred space.  When the ritual ends, that love and trust doesn’t dissolve.  You said it yourself…the circle is unbroken.  That connection is the very reason why some folks will not enter the circle with strangers.  Do not enter a circle lightly, and remember your commitment after the circle is open.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Candle Magick

“You didn't know that rock-n-roll burned
So you bought a candle and you lived and you learned….”
          Once Bitten Twice Shy – Great White

Substitute “rock-n-roll” with “witchcraft” and you have set the scene for my entry into spell crafting.  That’s how I started…with one simple candle (black or white depending on what I was doing) and an intention.  I quickly added incense – I found it helped.  But that was it.  For years.  One candle, a match, a cone of incense and an incense burner.  It would be nice to say that all my spells turned out exactly as I had planned, but everyone who practices would laugh hysterically, or give me that look and say “yeah, right.” 

I lived and I learned.

But candles are still my favorite tool.  As we celebrate Imbolc I figured I’d use this opportunity to go over the finer points of candle magick – everything you can do to improve the chances of the spell going exactly as planned helps.  There really is a bit more to it than just a candle, and a way to light it.  Consider -

Timing – the hour of the day, the day of the week, where we are in the lunar cycle and the season of the year are all important.  Some days are energetically better than others for specific goals, so consult sources and pick the proper time to cast the spell.

Prepare yourself – Ritual bath or shower, putting on your ritual clothing (or taking off everyday clothes) or jewelry gets you in the proper mindset.  And please be absolutely clear about what it is you are trying to accomplish.  Be as specific as possible so there can be no misunderstandings.  Write it down and read it several times.

The Candle – It is easy to buy a candle, but have you given thought to making your own?  It’s a great craft to do at Imbolc, and a handmade candle will be much more energetically charged.  Pressed for time?  You can always take a sheet of beeswax and roll it around a wick while thinking/speaking your intention as you roll.   Wax and the wicks can be purchased from local craft stores or on line.  Dipped…rolled…poured into a mold or jar…the choices are endless.

Color – Consider the color of the candle you will use.  I began by using just white or black, but there are other options.  You can easily find color associations in various sources and use that as a guide.  For example, green is often used to represent money/wealth, so if you are trying to acquire more money, green would be a good choice.  I always warn folks though to never use a color you dislike in a spell to gain something.  If you hate green, you might want to use a gold candle.  OR rework your spell that the main focus is to banish debt.   If you are making your own colored candles, use powered color or natural dyes. 

Prepare the Candle – Inscribe the candle with symbols that represent your intention…engraving from the wick end to the base so the candles burns in the correct direction.  Then anoint the candle with oil that also represents the candle’s purpose.  For example, if you are anointing a candle for love, you may wish to use an oil with rose.  If you’re not quite sure what to use, a really good virgin olive oil will work too.  Annoint the candle with the oil beginning at the center of the candle and working your way out towards each end.  Keep concentrating while you are working on your intention.    

You’ve got all you need.  Cast your circle and work your spell.

Have a very Blessed Imbolc.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beltane Ramblings

For my next Blog, I wanted to write a piece on Beltane.  Ah.  Beltane.  Arguably the second biggest festival of the Pagan year…and yet one of the few that really has no counter celebration in the mundane world.  (Even Imbolc has Groundhog Day…only Lughnasadh is as covert as Beltane.)  Imagine collecting spring flowers and putting them in small baskets to deliver to all your neighbors, or weaving them into wreaths to wear on your head.  Picture young, unmarried men going into the forest and returning with a tree that would be turned into the maypole.  Young folks dancing around that pole…with those colorful ribbons winding around and around.  Tables set with a feast and the laughter and dancing and music.

So why was it so difficult to write about this Sabbat?  Beltane is a fertility holiday, but unlike many other holiday and rituals that clearly mark fertility in agricultural terms, Beltane is often THE Sabbat for sex.  If you’ve been around Paganism long enough, you have certainly heard the stories of old of young couples disappearing into the woods on May Eve only to return the following morning wearing flowers…and apparently big smiles. 

Could it be that for those of us who are clearly on the other side of youth, Beltane seems to rarely live up to its potential.  Let me honest here.  I don’t care how many articles I read that the fertility of Beltane can apply to any creative project…it’s just not the same.  Beltane = sex.  It’s the Pagan equivalent of New Year’s Eve.  Goddess forbid you don’t have a date…you’ll be stuck at home watching Ryan Seacrest in your PJs with a bowl of chocolate ice cream – only in May it’s on American Idol instead of at Times Square.

Work schedules and weekday commitments usually push public ritual and private group celebrations to the weekend…leaving May Eve to my husband and I.   I absolutely despise “scheduled sex”.   I am much more the spontaneous type, and as a woman who reached menopause over 10 years ago, those moments of spontaneity are less and less frequent.  After arriving home from a long work day, we’re both tired.  So we have changed our own Beltane custom to one of romance.   Soft music, candlelight, great food, a bottle of wine…either out at a restaurant or in our own living room helps set the stage for a night that is about us.   We concentrate on the partnership aspect of Beltane.  Those wild nights of youth may just be a pleasant memory now, but we have each other and we can cuddle in each other’s arms, just enjoying the moment.

Unless of course, he whips out that leather Green Man mask….I said I was older, not dead.

What are your suggestions for celebrating Beltane for those of us who are on the other side of the hill…or for those of us who are currently not in a relationship?

Friday, January 18, 2013


How many of you actually own a besom?  Or must admit that it is the last ritual tool you either bought or made?

A besom is a broom made of a bundle of twigs tied to a handle.  The brush part of the besom is usually round instead of flat.  The bristles can be made of straw, herbs or twigs, and folks have used various woods for the handle.

Besoms are used mainly to sweep out negativity from a space…be it the ritual circle or your home.  Many also believe that if you keep your besom by your hearth, it will help in preventing negativity from entering in the first place.  It is often used in handfasting ceremonies, with the couple jumping over the besom during the ritual.

Despite these uses, I have found that often folks just aren’t fond of the besom.  It could be that it’s reputation with witches in a negative sense makes folks cautious in obtaining one.  They can’t get over the picture of ugly crones (or the Wicked Witch of the West) flying around on a broomstick…or are loathe to endure snide comments from non-pagan friends when they see the besom next to the fireplace.  I’ve experienced those comments first hand:  Do you actually ride that thing?  I knew you were a witch – there’s the broomstick!  Followed by chuckles.  It is such a stereotypical symbol that some shy away from it.  They don’t want to be a caricature of their spiritual beliefs.

On the other hand, why not?  It is thought that since the besom was an everyday household object back in the Middle Ages, it was an important tool used in witchcraft because it wouldn’t raise suspicion.  I like the idea of embracing our roots…of honoring those who have walked this path before.  An item can only demean your beliefs if you allow it too.  This year embrace one of the oldest ritual tools and acquire a besom.  You can find instructions on making one on the web…or purchase one you love at a county or Renaissance Faire.  Display it proudly and use it often.  Come up with answers to all those questions…answers that you can give with a wink and a mischievous smile.  It’s great to keep them guessing.