Friday, October 17, 2014

PBP: Week 42- Understanding

Understanding is a different thing, in my mind, than knowing. Knowing is more related to facts and book knowledge: memorization. Understanding goes much deeper than that. One way I like to put it is that it is when something becomes internalized...or when it picks up personal meaning to you. I can read an article and come to know something, but I don't typically understand it until I can apply it to my life.

Understanding is very important to me. I consider something learned until it is understood. And understanding isn't static, but made up of all kinds of plateaus. I think that anytime you start to study something, you gather knowledge, and then when you think about, practice or try to apply that knowledge you may reach a level of understanding. That understanding may change or even dissolve, if you later uncover new knowledge. The process starts over, as you work to bring the knew information into a different level of understanding.

There are things that I have studied for decades now. Some of them have grown and the understanding I have now is multi-layered and deep. Other things I have shattered my old understanding of them and developed a completely different understanding. Typically, I find that my understanding is challenged more by other people's experience than by uncovering new facts, although both can create room for growth.

There is a word, used in science fiction, that I heard when I was a child and loved. Grok: to understand intuitively or so completely that something becomes a part of you. This is pretty much what understanding is to me. I don't consider something learned until it is so familiar to me that it is like my own self. It is when you can do something without thinking about it, when it becomes instinctual. To me, this is the start of working with a skill. You practice it, study it, live and breathe it, until it becomes a part of you, and then you can really start to develop it.

I also like another word: kenning. There are a lot of different meanings for the word ken. It means to know, but it can also mean vision, as in how far can you see. And I think that vision is a part of understanding. The more open your eyes are, the further you can see, the deeper your understanding will be. If your eyes aren't open, you can think you know something and be very mistaken. Another meaning of ken is to teach. And I think that in order to teach effectively, you really have to understand a subject. While anyone can pass along facts, to share understanding requires a much more thorough grasp of the subject. And, as many people who teach know, often the act of teaching helps deepen your understanding of a thing. The teacher learns from the student through the questions and discussions they share.

One of my favorite meanings of kenning though is a metaphorical description of something. For example, Yggdrasil can be referred to as Odin's horse. On the surface, this doesn't always make sense, but as you explore the meanings, you uncover the reason behind the association. Hanging from a tree could be referred to as riding the tree, and as you ride a horse, the tree becomes the horse. Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil to learn the runes, and so Yggdrasil becomes Odin's horse.

Kennings give a lot of ways for us to explore and go beyond the facts and numbers. I have seen kennings all over. Many of the more fanciful names of herbs (things you might find in old spells and recipes) are kennings. Eye of newt is thought by many to refer to mustard seed (because it looks like a small yellow eye) rather than the actual animal body part. I also have found kennings in many games. Brain box being used instead of skull, whale road for the ocean.

I think that creating kennings of our own is a great way to challenge our own understandings. My favorite kennings are not too obvious, but if you know the lore or subject, then they make complete sense. In a lot of ways, kennings remind me of alternative alphabets and other codes. And I love those, and always have. There is something fantastical and wonderful about communicating in ways that are not immediately obvious.

Friday, October 10, 2014

PBP: Week 41- UPG

Upg is an acronym for unverified personal gnosis: things that we have experienced that are not based on historical or universally accepted consensus.  Upg is a phrase that has been used more and more, and often in a somewhat negative light.  

There is the tendency to discount personal experience in favor of historical accounts.  Modern society teaches us that fact and history carries more weight and this has more value.  And even in the Pagan community, where we value personal expression, we often deny the validity of a person's experience when it is in direct opposition to what is generally accepted to be true.

But I think we forget that ours is a living and evolving tradition.  In fact, I think this is one thing that sets us apart from most other religions is that we do not have a static set of practices.  Instead, our beliefs are constantly changing and growing.  And this is all based on the experiences of the people practicing.

Every single one of us contributes to the body of work that is Paganism.  It is our experiences, shaded through the lives we have lived that future Pagans will turn to as they work through their own path.  Each of us will experience the world in our own way because we are all individuals.  This is why our experiences are so varied.

If you ask ten people to describe a situation, you will get ten different descriptions.  If you ask a hundred people, you will surely get a consensus, a common thread that runs through the many stories, and yet there will always be outliers.  And yet, those people who have different stories, are not wrong.  They just lived through a different experience because of their unique life experiences.

There is a lot of discussion about who is right or wrong.  Which in turn often leads to discussion about whether or not the Gods themselves can evolve and change.  Can they appear differently to each of us, and if they can are they still the same Gods?

I don't feel like this diminishes our beliefs at all, rather I think this gives our beliefs depth and complexity.  Instead of being a simple flat picture, it becomes a sculpture with texture and volume.

But what about when someone's Upg is completely contradictory to the general consensus?  I think sometimes it can be a matter of perspective, like those pictures that are so close up that'll you can't tell what they actually are.  Perhaps we are simply not able to see from far enough away to see how it fits.  I also don't discount the human error.  There have been plenty of times when I thought I understood what has happened and then later realized I was completely wrong in my assumptions.

And let's not forget too that some people do create their own versions of things that are meant to be provocative.  They want to create strife and stir things up by insisting that their experience is both real and valid.  It is my experience that people who insist their version is the true one and other people's are not are often blind to the greater vision, either through choice (when someone decides to keep their blinders on) or fear (like covering your eyes so you can't see the truth).

Ultimately, I celebrate Upg because it adds depth and clarity to my path.  Even when someone else's Upg is different from mine, I learn about how other people see things and sometimes about how I my own visions define me.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Voices of the Sacred Feminine (book review)

 (Amazon link)

I found this book to be very moving, although not exactly what I had thought it was going to be. I'm not a very politically minded person, and typically I don't follow a lot of the political debates and struggles, so some of the book was pretty alien to me. But even in the parts I was completely out of my element in, I found myself learning about things and hearing the reflections in my own heart.

I think that some of what makes this book so very powerful is that the viewpoints expressed in it are so varied. While I do try to expose myself to views different from my own (and almost always find that I learn so much when doing this), it is not always a comfortable place to be. There were parts of the book that I didn't identify with so much, and parts that I felt very connected to even though the author and I were very different people.

What really broke my heart was that the many descriptions of the ways in which women (and men) are struggling with gender roles and stereotypes is something I see every day. What I found very inspiring was the many ways that people, all over the world, are working to fight against these long ingrained perceptions.

I think one of the things I found most relevant was the point that women tend to turn a blind eye to the way that other women treat women. And this is something that I find to be very true. I think that there is definitely value in banding together, but that in doing so we must keep our eyes open, we must be brutally honest and call out the limiting attitudes we see all around us, even when those attitudes come from other women. It is something I have personally struggled with for a long time, and have always felt more at home with men than women because of the aggressive and often two faced nature that many women have taken up. If we don't recognize that nature for what it is (an unhealthy way of interpersonal interaction) how can we move beyond it?

A couple of the chapters talked about the archetype of the Queen. I am a big fan of archetypes, and I really like the inclusion of the Queen into the more traditional trinity of Maiden, Mother and Crone. I loved how the Queen was described, not only as a decision maker but also as one who receives. I think that many women can benefit from working with the Queen inside and feeling that sense of self worth.

I also appreciate the many ways that this book includes men, not only in the celebration of the Sacred Feminine in the women in their life, but also inside themselves. I think that gender issues face us all, and that trying to separate them builds walls that only hurt us. By accepting all the parts of the self, especially when they don't fit into traditional categorizations, we open ourselves to true unity within, and that type of unity leads us to deal with others from a balanced place instead of one of insecurity.

But I also think that things like the Red Tent are great tools for women to learn to know and love the women within. Building a space where women can be and love and receive is something that many of us simply do not have in our lives and something we so desperately need (though I do think that men need their own tent to spend time in as well). What I have always thought was truly magical about the concept of the Red Tent was that it was a time for to step outside of the roles and responsibilities we bear every moment of every day and just be.

There is a beautiful meditation in the book, where you are led through a method of healing in order to bring about change on the DNA level. I think the medical community is just now starting to really open up to visualization and energy as tools to augment traditional medicine. Meditations like this are really exciting for me. I think we all have things to heal, and that by learning to look within for answers can help us to heal ourselves.

I think that this book does a fabulous job of addressing a huge part of the schism that divides us as a people. And it approaches this issue with the goal of working with each of our strengths to move forward instead of pointing out reasons why we are built to have certain frailties that hold us back. I think we are poised on the precipice of a huge upheaval in the way society views itself and the people that make it up, and that gender issues are going to be a huge part of that. In order to grow and move forward, we need to examine who we are and where we came from, and this book does a lot to highlight the many ways in which the Sacred Feminine has been treated.

As much as I tend to not like to be involved in political issues, one thing that I walked away from this book with is that avoiding things like politics (or gender issues) because we don't like the face they take just leaves them to run rampant. The political issues discussed showed me that there is a lot of crazy stuff going on out there that I was ignoring and that by not being a part of it I was giving it permission to do what it wanted. I do think we need to all make ourselves a little uncomfortable and face the things that we feel aren't right in the world if we want to make it a better place.

This book gave me a lot to think about, and that is one thing I highly value in a book. Some parts I agreed with, and some I didn't, but I learned so much about issues I either didn't know much about or wasn't paying attention to. This is the kind of book that I think that everyone should read and be aware of, and that we should start discussions on the ideas it broaches. The more we bring these issues to light, the more we talk about them, the more we work to change what we feel is broken, the closer we come to having the type of society and world that we dream about.

Friday, October 3, 2014

PBP: Week 40- Temple of the body

Ours is (typically) a path that doesn't have established temples, and so often instead you hear the phrase “your body is your temple”. We are reminded that we are sacred and that our body is holy. I think this is a reminder that is very necessary in today's society where we are often told by media and the like that bodies are not desirable unless they are perfect (and photo-shopped!), that the physical is messy and somehow less than the spiritual and that if we don't like something that makes it bad (and somehow makes us bad as well).

I am not perfect by any means. And I don't just mean that fantasy perfect of the girls in the magazine (because they are all young too....age is just another flaw, or so we are told). I don't always love myself as much as I should. There are days where I just am really angry at myself for the way I look (for things I have control over, like weight), or wistful and wishing I looked different (for the things I have no control over, like height).

Now it's time for some brutal honesty. I am female, 36 years old, 5'10, and last time I weighed in I hovered around 230 pounds (we don't have a scale at the house). I have a lot of bad habits. I am not nearly as active as I should be. I spend way too much time on the computer (playing games as well as just loosing braincells to YouTube or other time killers).

I don't eat the way I should. We don't eat out that often, but partially due to budget issues, we definitely eat out of the freezer more than I would like (pre-packaged freezer I should say). But I also struggle a lot with serving size. I'm a grazer, and I know I have food issues that I haven't worked out because I don't just eat often, but I have a tendency to eat more at a sitting then I should. If there is half a serving of something left after everyone is done, I'm more likely to eat it then to put it away. My brain and body don't typically communicate well, so my body doesn't send a signal of being full.

I have some other mixed signals. In some ways I cross the pain/pleasure barrier. I can push through pain to reach that endorphin high. My stubbornness feeds into this, and I feel like I have to prove (mainly to myself, though a little to the world) that I can survive the pain, whether it is mechanical (like a bruise or scrape) or internal (like a headache).

All of this factors into my self-image, which in turn effects my path. I definitely struggle with feelings of self-worth, and so being able to fully commit to working towards a goal can mean starting in the hole. It's like having to fill in that gaping place of empty inside yourself, just to get on an even keel...and then you have to build up to where you want to be. Some days it just doesn't happen. What I have learned is to accept those days. On those days, I try to work on being with those feelings instead of trying to block them out. Sometimes that doesn't happen either, and at the end of the day I will realize that I have spent the whole day doing things who's whole purpose was to distract me from anything I might be thinking or feeling.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. If it was frequent, I would worry, but most days I am good. And I think those darker times help remind me that there are places in myself that are not strong or stable or happy. And those slightly broken places emphasize the good in the rest of my life. When you stand on the other side of the pit, you can look back into the depths and see how far you have come. If everything is on the same level, then nothing looks up.

When I was first starting my path, I was in high school. I was definitely in a lower place then. I think, like many teens, I was struggling coming into my own, finding my place and figuring out who my friends were. Add in all those lovely, turbulent teen dating issues, and you end up with a roller coaster of emotions. I was very much a tomboy, and so any emotions I thought were girly were not something I was comfortable with. I tried to distance myself from it as much as I could. I embraced the harder emotions: anger and pain. I drew a lot of my power from those.

It took me a long time to break out of the cages I built around myself. I had worked so hard to deny my own emotions that when I started to let them back in, they weren't there. I had to go searching for the things I had run from.

I have scars, both physical and emotional. I am proud of my scars, for one reason or another. Some of them I am proud of because they were gotten when I was fearless and pushed forward even though I knew I might get hurt. Some I am proud of simply for having lived through the experience and not letting it destroy me. I think that our scars tell the story of our lives, and though we may look back and cringe, every mark we bear has built us into the person we are today. Without them all, we would be different.

The temple of my self isn't a huge gilded building with stained glass windows and marble floors. It doesn't gleam in the darkness and it isn't so clean you could eat off the floor. I've been in these kind of temples, and it is intimidating. You feel like you can only talk in a whisper, and like someone is watching you just waiting for you to mess up. You are afraid to touch anything because you might break it or leave a smear or fingerprint. You feel under-dressed and somewhat shabby no matter how nice your clothes are and how smartly you are done up.

I don't think that viewing the body as a temple means that you should strive for perfection. I do thin that it means that you should do your best to do what works for you. This might be very different from what society says you should do.

I don't diet. I don't tell myself I can't eat particular foods. In fact, I give myself permission to eat whatever I want. What I do is remind myself that every single time I eat more than is reasonable, I feel miserable, and I feel that way for hours. If I eat too much sweets or salt (I am more inclined to eat salty foods than sweet), then my tongue hurts (it's kind of wacky, but I will have a single taste bud get swollen and achy).

I do try to work out. And I tend to push myself too hard sometimes (it's that stubborn thing). And when I do it too many days in a row, something will smack me upside the head and make me stop. Last month it was my knees. I overdid the workout (with a lot of higher impact stuff than I should be doing), and my knees felt swollen for about two weeks. On the flip side, if I go for several days without doing anything physical, I just don't feel as good.

I am learning how to cry, and how to be okay with that. I find that the more I try not to cry, the more it feels like it is building up in my head. I am working on not being embarrassed with myself when I cry over crazy things (like commercials or hearing certain songs).

The temple of my self is well worn. The chairs are patched but comfortable. The carpet is stained, but thick. You take your shoes off when you come in, not because you don't want to track dirt in but because it lets them breathe.

The Witch's Eight Paths of Power (review)

I just got done reading this book, and I was extremely impressed. Let me start off by saying that Lady Sable has a wonderful writing voice. The book was simply enjoyable to read! She writes as if she were talking to you, with bits of humor, and without sounding like a lecture. There are plenty of technical terms where appropriate, but it never became hard to understand.

Lady Sable lays out the Eight Paths in a progression, from the ones that form the foundation to pretty much all magical practice, to the more advanced arts that many might not have worked with. She includes instructions and exercises with variations for both men and women, solitary and group work. If you follow the course laid out in the book, and work with the exercises as suggested, this book would definitely build a strong practice.

I wouldn't call this a 101 book, though I think this is what many 101 books wish they could have been. I think that someone fresh to the practice could take up this book and work through it and build a solid core practice. The things that aren't in this book that are often in other beginner books are things that I think most people would research more on their own anyways, like deity lists. There are some very nice charts at the end which cover a lot of the correspondences. She doesn't cover Sabbats in the traditional way (there is no section for them, though there is a chart that shows the basic essence of the Sabbats), so if you aren't already familiar with them, then you will need to research those on your own as well. What she does cover is how to build a ritual, so that you can create your own. In my eyes it is the difference between the types of lessons you got in grade school (here is the information: memorize it) and the type you got in college (here is the structure of how to write a paper, pick a topic and do your research).

I really loved the exercises. There are just under a hundred and thirty in the book, and many of them have different variations. The exercises fit with the content well, and often build on earlier exercises. Some are core practices, such as shielding and grounding. There are a lot that are tools that will be used again and again, like the exercise for dealing with anger or the one for processing grief. The exercises really focus on looking inward, on processing how you think and react to things, which put them a step above many other books that include exercises but only talk about the physical actions and don't point you inward to reflect on them.

Lady Sable doesn't hold back. She talks about difficult subjects that aren't explored in a lot of books (besides very specialized books that only deal with one particular subject). Things like using mind altering substances, sex and pain are explored, and she not only explains how they are often used, but shares her own personal experiences (or reasons why she chose not to work with certain things). She takes a very balanced approach, sharing very solid cautions as well as the main reasons why these practices are used.

One of my favorite topics was Channeling. I have read a lot of descriptions of drawing down or invoking, and often it feels more like authors are talking about the process rather than explaining how to do it. Lady Sable not only gives an excellent explanation of many different types of Channeling and what you might expect, but also shares a lot of her own experiences and tips for how to have a safe and productive session. I very much appreciated her thoughts on non-traditional gender bound channeling. I think that there is still a pretty big assumption that women will channel Goddesses and men will channel Gods and if two people are channeling it will be a God and a Goddess. Lady Sable talks about ways to use channeling in same-gendered pairings as well as channeling deities that do not match your biological gender.

I also had the opportunity to check out some of the companion videos she has made to accompany the book. I haven't watched them all yet, but I loved that she made videos for the 5 Tibetan rites and Dance. One thing that is often very hard to get across with writing is movement, and having a video that you can watch to show you how to do the different movements is much easier for me to learn from than just text (although her written instructions are very good, and the book includes excellent pictures to help illustrate).

She also has a video where a nice selection of chants are demonstrated. I am a huge chanting fan! I absolutely love learning new chants, and I know dozens of them already. She has some on her chant video that are new to me which is lovely, as well as many that are extremely well known. Chanting is another thing that I think really needs audio, I am always frustrated when I find a new chant I really like, but it is only the wording and I can't find the tune for it.

I am definitely going to be re-reading this book many times, and working through a lot of the exercises. There were a ton that I was excited about while reading through the first time. I think that this book makes a lot of things really approachable, whether you choose to add them to your practice or not, you will walk away with a much deeper understanding of the practices. While there is plenty of 'how to' in the book, I think what I appreciated most was that there was an equal amount of 'why' answered as well. I think that is something that a lot of books don't explore as much as they should.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Eight Paths (intent, trance, spellwork, intoxicants, movement, control, the scourge, the great rite). While I do think that this would be a good book for someone just starting out, it has such great depth that I think it would appeal to a more experienced person as well.

Friday, September 26, 2014

PBP: Week 39- Time

It's been said that time is the only thing we are truly limited by, and while it is definitely true that we can leverage our time, it is also true that we all get exactly the same amount of time in a day, no matter your age, race, financial status, political affiliation or any of the million other categories we shove ourselves into.

And yet time can be subjective too. The old saying, “time flies when you are having fun,” and the alternative idea that when you are bored or doing something you don't enjoy then it seems to last forever. If you are truly focused on something, time ceases to exist, each moment seeming to stretch and stretch and though it feels like you just started, you realize hours have passed.

I am pretty broad in my interests. I find so many things intriguing, that I can enjoy a great many things. This is definitely a two edged sword. On the one hand, I can be happy doing a vast many things. On the other hand, I will never fully explore all the things I find interesting.

Time management is something I don't do particularly well. I have a kind of strange relationship with time. I don't do time well. In my daily life, time has very little meaning. I am a stay at home mom, so I don't have as many time constraints as some might. But I do have things that happen on a schedule. In fact, I tend to schedule more, everyday, than my husband (which drives us both crazy on his days off when we have things to do). Because I tend to loose track of time easily, I find that my days flow better when I lay out the things that happen at specific times alongside the things that I need to get done that day.

So in the morning, I will plan my day with markers: I wake, stretch and meditate, then eat breakfast and drink my coffee. Lunch and dinner happen at specific times. My son comes home from school (or I pick him up on the day he stays after), my husband wakes up (when he is on night shift) or comes home from work (when he is on days). Right now I am helping out my in-laws, so I drive over to their place to take out the dogs. If I have things (like grocery shopping) that have to be done, I figure out when I want to do those as well.

My husband prefers to just do things as he thinks of them. But that doesn't work for me. If I don't set times to do things, I will get caught up in whatever I am doing and time will slip by me and when I look up at the clock, it will be way past when I thought and I will then end up stressed and rushing trying to get everything done in time (and often this is when things don't get done). For me, the planning makes my life easier and at the end of the day when I look back, I feel better about my day. I have also noticed that I often actually get more done when I have a schedule.

The key to organizing my time is prioritizing. This extends to all aspects of my life, not just household and family chores. A couple years ago, my husband got me a Kindle for Christmas (he is Atheist, so we do Christmas at home). I am an absolute book addict, so I was ecstatic! And I quickly found the millions of books that you can get for free. I think I downloaded a couple hundred in the first week. Anything and everything that sounded interesting. And my interest can be peaked not only by things that I find personally interesting, but also by things that might effect my life (such as books written by fundamentalists of other religions, either explaining their world view, or extolling the dangers of my own path).

I quickly ended up with way more books that I could possibly read, even if I was reading every waking moment of my days. I was downloading 5-10 books every day, and rarely reading even one a day. Worse, I felt compelled to actually read them all, even when it was obvious in the first couple of pages that they were kind of horrible. This is something I have always struggled with in books: I don't want to let go of them once I get them. If they are awful, I will still hoard them because I might want to read them one day (or I maintain hope that they will get better later on in the book).

I was talking with my dad one day, about kindle books, and the many things I was interested in reading about. And his response to me was more or less that there may be all these things that peak my interest, but just because it is interesting doesn't mean it's actually worth my time to read it.

At first I was kind of resentful about this. I mean, if I was interested in it, shouldn't I be able to pursue it? But the more I thought about it, the more I started to see it in a different light. There is only so much time, and so if I have an hour of free time, what should I spend it on. There are plenty of things that I find interesting or enjoyable, tons of things I could easily spend an hour on. But if I just pick a random interest out of a hat, I might never have time for the things that are deeply important to me.

It is a winnowing process for me. And it is hard. I don't want to pass things by, and so much is fascinating. I don't want to admit that the book I was so looking forward to reading ends up not being what I thought it would be (this happens a lot to me...the summary sounds incredible, and I end up being disappointed because it doesn't live up to the picture in my head...but I so want the picture in my head I don't want to admit that it isn't going to match up).

But I am learning to let things go. To stop reading books that I don't like. To delete (or sell or give away) books that I found worthless. To really be honest with myself about the likelihood of a re-read. To accept that I will not learn all the skills and abilities that I think would be neat in this lifetime.

And this allows me to turn my focus onto the things that really matter. To do the things that are part of my core being, the essence of who I am. I may still dabble in other things (because sometimes you don't know what something means to you until you try it), but I work really hard on forcing myself to be honest about how important something is to me.

Friday, September 19, 2014

PBP: Week 38- Spell books and Spell-a-day Calendars

My very first Pagan book that I owned was a spell book, I admit it. When I was first starting, I was definitely obsessed with reading new spells. While I did love (and read lots of) theory books or more general how-to type of books, I always wanted to look through every spell book I came across. I still do.

It's not that I don't like writing my own things, as I have always loved making my own spells. I was a huge poetry fan, both more structured and free form, so writing the wording for spells is pretty natural for me. I also love ritual, and finding things to use towards my goal (or finding ways to use what I have towards the goal I want) is endlessly entertaining for me.

I did use the books when I was first starting. But it quickly became frustrating for me. I would find a spell that I wanted to do, and the wording would be clunky or way to long. The one that really amused me was one that was a spell to call upon the Muses and bring inspiration to you. It was an almost page long invocation that 'must' be memorized. I figured it would probably take me less time to get through any type of creative block than it would to remember the whole passage.

Sometimes published spells call for ingredients that I didn't have. Most of the times this was obscure herbs or very specific incense blends. I started practicing in high school, I lived at home and didn't have a lot of disposable income. I didn't have any type of herb supplies, and didn't know of a good place to get them.

But I learned a lot from the spell books. I started adjusting spells: either making up for ingredients I didn't have with my own substitutions, or rewording parts of them so that I felt they flowed better (or so the words matched my personal goals better). And now, I still look to spell books for inspiration. Sometimes I will read a passage or verse that I absolutely fall in love with and know I want to use for something, even if I don't care much for the rest of the spell. Or I'll see an interesting bit of symbolic action or ingredient and think of different ways to use that process in my own workings.

I was thinking a couple months back, about spell-a-day calendars. I have been reading one this whole year, and for each day of the year, there is a spell to honor a particular deity. It is mainly a spoken passage to be read, suggested foods for the day, a chant and a type of offering. Most days it isn't something that I feel moved to do.

But it did make me think. I know one of the hard things for many people when they start is learning to write your own spells and becoming comfortable with actually doing the workings. Having a daily practice of spellwork helps build the skills needed to craft and fine tune spells to any need, as well as building up the skills used in workings and the confidence in your own ability. And yet there are plenty of days where I don't feel a pressing need to do anything specific, so trying to decide what I might use for my spellwork that day leaves me feeling very uninspired.

So why not use a spell book or other resource that is full of spells as a launching point? If you have one that is calendar based, that is particularly easy, you just go to the day's date, and see what is there. If there is a part of it that really appeals to you, take that single part and build your own working based on it. Perhaps you like the theme, but it's not quite right. Personally, I am married, so any 'find a new love' spell wouldn't be something I would do, but I could easily work one into a 'bring new inspiration into your current relationship' or something like that. You might like part of the chant used, but feel that it might address a different problem better. You might feel a strong pull towards a single ingredient, which might lead you into a bit of research into what that ingredient means to you or new ways to use it.

If you just have a book with lots of spells in it (or website, or even your own notes on spells that you have liked), then flip through it. Think of it like a form of book divination: you flip through and pick one without looking, and that will be the thing you need to work on that day. Again, you tinker with it to make it really fit you, but this way you can also spend a bit of time thinking about why the one you picked fits for that day. That introspection can help you tune the spell itself to be really well suited to your needs.

I think that spellwork has a kind of bad reputation in the Pagan community. I have seen a lot of (to me) strange attitudes on casting spells, and sometimes have seen it stated flat out that casting spells 'for personal reasons' is selfish and shouldn't be done. But we all want to be better, and doing things for ourselves is how we grow. I don't think we should all go about casting to mess with people or to take things that don't belong to us, but I also think that if you do it will effect you in ways you probably didn't think about.

Making spellwork a regular practice helps cultivate a deeper way of thinking about casting. When you really start thinking about the workings you do, and why you do them, you examine your motivations and desires. And you may find things you want to work on because you don't like the desires you find. Or you may find that you shy away from doing things for yourself because you don't feel worthy or you think you should be doing things for other people, and so you might want to spend some time working on cherishing your self. I strongly believe that in order to help other people we need to build ourselves up to a place where we are loved and love ourselves, where we are strong and secure in our own being. If we don't start in this place, then the actions we take for others are flavored by our insecurities and doubts.

I don't think that daily casting is a bad thing. I think that by saving it until it is a last resort makes it feel somehow unclean. It's like you are saying that it isn't good enough to use on little stuff, that you only should be focusing on the really important stuff. But if you wait until it is the last thing you try, that's like calling that last person on your friends list to go see a movie with you: that friend knows that you only called them because you didn't have anyone else to call. And eventually, they will stop calling you back when you call.

Spells don't have to be huge, elaborate affairs. We can take moments to acknowledge the magic and wonder of the world, to tap into that power that is both within and around us, and make a conscious choice to work on changing our world for the better. Each time we make the decision to focus like this, to bring our desires into our thoughts and then act on them, we reinforce those desires. We strengthen our will and we build up our belief. We put one more grain of sand into the glass. Each grain may not be much on it's own, but if you put a grain in every day of your life, how big would the glass have to be to hold them all?

Magic is something that we have to hold onto. We have to practice opening our eyes to it. We have to block out all the negative messages the world tells us. The more you tap into magic, through spells, through ritual, through worship and prayer and meditation, the stronger your connection to it will be.