Friday, November 21, 2014

PBP- Week 47: X-roads and intersections

So I fudged a little with X. I had this idea for using the cute version of crossroads, although I did look up other words that start with X (and next week will have proper X words). But I really kinda wanted to talk about X-roads, intersections and those inbetween places.

When I started, there was a pretty big emphasis on harnessing the power of the inbetween. Whether it was a time, a location or some other blending of forces, these things were felt to be important. It is why a lot of things were done at midnight. Not only is it a time where not many people are up and about (and so if you don't want to be seen doing something, it is a pretty good time for it), but it is also the inbetween time of days (with sunrise and sunset being similar times).

There is a lot of magic that involves X-roads...the actual intersections of roads. X-roads are places of change and possibility. At a proper X-road you have three options of which way to go (four technically, if you want to count the possibility of turning around and going back the way you came). So if you are doing a working that is trying to open a new path and you aren't exactly sure where you want to go, working with a X-road is a good way to go. Not only will it give you a path, but options on which path to take.

X-roads also are great for dealing with people who are looking for you or chasing you in some way....and whom you don't want to catch or find you. When you reach the X-road, you are reaching a place where your pursuer is not sure which way you took. You can tap into this confusion to help take them off your trail. This is why a lot of things for banishing are buried or left at a X-road. When you leave it behind, it is less likely to be able to follow you back to your home. Many such workings caution to not look behind you, and I would say this is sound advice. Looking behind you draws your attention back to the thing you are leaving, creating a new connection that you just worked to sever. Once you place the item, turn and walk away and don't give it another thought.

X-roads can be even more symbolic. If you take two ribbons and lay one over the other, you have created a X-road. I was just reading a book on hoodoo that suggested this (or using sticks or really any other item that can be used to form an X) as a substitution for a X-road if you don't have one you can work with. But going back to the ribbons, if you want to not only draw upon but blend together two very different energies, you can use this X to do so. Lay a representation of your target (a picture, charm, statue or even a paper with a name written on it) directly over the X and then wind both ribbons around the object, tying them in a secure knot when you are done. You can use color or material type to represent the energies you are working with, or write down the type of energy on the ribbon itself.

To take this a step further, if you are wanting to change one type of energy into another (for example, if you have been planning a project for a long time and want to turn all those plans into action), you can wrap the ribbons separately, one over the other, to represent the one energy being transmuted into the other type. So you would take the item representing your project, and wrap it with the ribbon representing all your plans and ideas. As you wrap, think over the plans you have made, and the ideas that you like the most or find the most appealing. Then tie off the first ribbon. Slip the second ribbon, representing the energy of action, under the first one, and then wrap it around the object, in the opposite direction (so that it forms an X). As you wrap, think about the steps you need to take to act upon your plans. Tie off the second ribbon. Then place the item somewhere that you will see it to remind you that it is time to act.

Another interesting X-road to consider is the doorway to your house. One line is formed by the wall, and the other by the path in and out. So one energy is that of protection and safety, while the other is of travel and hospitality. Both are things you want to encourage in your life and home, and you want them to work together. Most people don't want their house to be a prison or to make other people uncomfortable, nor do they want their house to be open to malicious strangers or to not feel safe leaving their house. So blessing the door, to encourage those energies to work together, helps build balance in these areas. A lot of times, the X symbol is used together with a O, so you could bless a wreath to encourage these energies to blend in harmony and hang that on your door.

A very common place to see the X and O together is on rolls (think hot cross buns: the X is marked on the bun which forms the circle). In many cultures, bread (and the grains it is made from) is considered a staple, and represents having the things we need to survive in life. If you bake your rolls with honey, you are adding sweetness and luxury: the things we want that make life that much better because they aren't needed. Again, the X and the O work together to bring things things into your life.

Friday, November 14, 2014

PBP: Week 46- Wishing versus Whatever

Our world teaches us to want things. We have dreams and aspirations and they are specific. We ask little kids all the time what they want to be when they grow up, and we expect answers like fireman or scientist. We wish on stars and candles, and we hold these wishes close to our hearts.

Wishing is narrow and particular, and that's not a bad thing. If you are in college, and you want to pursue a particular career, you need to know what you want to do so that you can take the necessary classes to earn the degree you need. You need to have a narrow enough focus to turn life science, into biology, into medicine, into brain surgery. If you want to be a neurosurgeon, taking only general health and medical classes won't get you there.

But wishing is like using a peephole filter. If you take a piece of cardboard, and cut a tiny hole in it, and use it to look at the world, you will have an extremely narrow focus. What is interesting, is that things you see are clearer (I wear glasses, but I can use a tool like this to actually see things further away without them). But there is a ton of things you can't see because you can only look at one little area at a time.

When you leave yourself open, without expectations, you are allowing 'whatever' into your life. Whatever is a powerful thing, especially when whatever is in the hands of a higher power, a guide or your own subconscious. When we open ourselves to whatever, we allow ourselves to welcome in things we might not have otherwise experienced.

One of the very common examples for wishing versus whatever is love spells. A lot of people feel very strongly that you should never use magic to make someone else fall in love with you. Some people are okay with using magic to catch a particular person's attention (though what you do with that attention after you have caught it is up to you), and some think that any targeted magic is an interference with other people's free will. But no matter what your ethical take on it is, doing a targeted love spell is very much using a wish. You are deciding a particular person to pin your attentions on.

Doing whatever love magic is when you work to open yourself to love, or bring love into your life, without putting limits on it. And it doesn't have to be an absolute thing either. You can put some perimeters on your working, things that you might be unable to compromise on, and still leave the rest open. For example, if you have children, one thing that you may want to include is that the person you comes into your life must be compatible with your kids.

The trick comes in knowing when to work with the wish and when to embrace whatever. And that is not only a very thin line but also a very hazy one. If you never wish for particular things, motivation becomes an issue. Leaving everything up to the universe doesn't afford us a lot of stability, and it is hard to work towards a goal if you don't have a goal.

On the other hand, learning when a wish is a true desire versus an idle dream can also be tricky. To go back to the love spell, we may have always thought we were only attracted to brown hair, and be tempted to put that in our spell, but if you think about it a moment, it's not the hair that is important, its the attraction, so you can work your spell to embrace whatever by asking for someone with whom you have a strong physical attraction, instead of someone with brown hair.

The big thing to remember, when deciding wish or whatever, is to really examine what your motivations are. How vital is something to your essence? If you can imagine other things that you would be just as happy with, then you may need to work on opening to whatever instead of wishing. If even the thought of something else makes you miserable, then perhaps you should wish.

And if we are very careful, we can work both at the same time. To take the job example, we can wish to become a doctor, work to become a doctor, and embrace the whatever of finding a job that not only fills our physical needs but our intellectual and emotional ones as well. By holding the wish, and working toward it, we move forward. By embracing the whatever, if we suddenly are offered the opportunity to be a singer and produce an album, something we may have never even considered as a carrier, we can jump to the new dream.

The trap to whatever is that you can't stop acting just to wait on it. You have to be moving or you won't recognize the blessings that whatever has brought to your life. You have to be willing to jump on them, grab them and run with them, as soon as they appear, because whatever can be fleeting. And you can't rely upon whatever, so if you want to pay your bills, you have to do something in the meantime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Pagan Portals- Hoodoo

Pagan Portals-Hoodoo

(link to amazon)

I have had the great pleasure of knowing a friend who works within the Conjure umbrella, and even before he shared what he does with me, I have found Hoodoo fascinating. I think there is a lot of confusion between Hoodoo, Voodoo, Conjure and other practices with roots in Africa.

This book primarily focuses on Hoodoo: the folk magic tradition that grew in the Mississipi area but is rooted in practices brought over from Africa and combined with local faith and traditions. Often, Hoodoo is used by people who practice a religion based in similar areas, but the practice of Hoodoo itself is one of magic and not faith.

While there are many practices that are going to be familiar to magical practitioners such as candle magic and incense blending, there are others that many might not know about. Some are so misrepresented in popular media, such as the voodoo doll, that the wider usage (making poppets for healing) are completely overlooked. This book examines a wide variety of practices.

One thing I really enjoyed is that the author clearly states that these are her interpretations of the practices. She has taken the common practices, and not only shared more traditional recipes, but her way of doing things, which includes substitutions for things that aren't so common to access. Since my personal path involves a lot of fusion and using what I have on hand (instead of always buying or acquiring specialty ingredients), I found it really great to have practical advice that was immediately useful. I also find that when authors explain how and why they use substitutions, it makes it easier for me, as a reader, to learn how to make my own substitutions in ways that work.

Also included in the book is a selection of deities that share roots with Hoodoo. I was at least passingly familiar with a lot of them, thanks to my own friends who work with many of these same deities and their generous sharing of their experiences with me, but some were completely new to me. If this is an area that you are interested in, there are good descriptions to get you started and so that you can decide which deities you might be interested in learning more about.

I have always found the terminology of Hoodoo to be very poetic. I love that workings are referred to as laying tricks. There are wonderful names for different things, like hot foot powder (to burn the feet of those who cross it), four thieves vinegar (to protect, as legend says it protected the thieves from the plague) and Honey jars (to sweeten people toward you). The imagery behind crossing (jinxing) and uncrossing (removing a jinx) works very well in my mind.

I also found the sections on foot track magic to be wonderful. I have always loved the idea of using footprints in magic, and laying magic across a place for someone to walk over is a great tool to have in one's toolbox. There are so many ways to use the information given in this book!

Feeding is something that is very necessary in a lot of practices related to Hoodoo. It is not something that I see used a lot in other practices, or at least not given as much importance. I have always wondered why, because to me, it makes a lot of sense. If you are doing any kind of long term workings, then there needs to be energy put into them in order for them to keep putting out energy. There are a lot of methods for 'feeding' workings, and this book covers a large variety of them, including recipes for powders or liquids used to feed mojo bags, jar spells and other ongoing tricks.

I definitely enjoyed this book. It lived up to it's purpose, I felt it was a great introduction to the topic of Hoodoo. I think it explained the basics in a way that was easy to understand and made a lot of techniques available to the reader. It also gave a lot of information to point you in the right direction if you decide you want to study the subject further. I think this is a really ideal book for anyone seeking to expand their current practice with Hoodoo techniques as it embraces the idea of fusion.

Friday, November 7, 2014

PBP: Week 45-Wandering

We talk about how life is a journey and not a destination, and yet so much of modern life focuses on not only where we are going, but how quickly and directly we can get there. We spend so much time trying to save time, so much effort trying to do as much as possible, that even our time off is often spent trying to maximize returns instead of actually relaxing.

I have always been a wanderer, in mind, in body, in interests. I can be focused if I need to be, but my natural inclinations are to wander. I love it when I am doing something and something completely unrelated catches my interest and literally drags me off on an adventure. I don't always follow immediately, so I have notes all over the place. I have post it notes for my computer and tablet desktop, note in my phone, a notepad in my purse, post it's on my desk, and tons of little scraps of paper all over with little reminders.

Sometimes, they are things that I want to research, sometimes they are things I want to do. I keep notes about subjects that interest me...my web browser is full of favorites that are things I want to read but don't have time for right now (and I use a favorite keeper website to hold even more)! Sometimes I make notes to help me remember things while I work on them: chants I am learning, practices I am working with, quotes I want to ponder. I definitely make notes of things I need to remember to do: bills that need paid, errands that need done, appointments to be kept. I even use visualized notes! I have an astral temple that I have worked with for decades now, and when I need to remember something and don't have paper (like in the middle of a meditation or while laying down right before sleep) I will paint it on one of my temple walls so that I will have a note to remember it by!

I really think without my notes, my life wouldn't function.

I also love going on walkabout. Sometimes I walk with no direction, but I also walk to get places. I don't always have a car, and my hubby and I do walk for exercise (a couple miles at a pretty brisk pace over hills), so walking a mile to the store or the library is nothing to me. In fact, in a lot of ways, I enjoy walking more than driving (though I love driving, will get to that in a bit). I have walked like this for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I used to walk to friends' houses all the time. In high school, I would sometimes walk past the normal bus stop (because sometimes the buses were slow...they were public buses, not school buses). There is something very soothing to me about walking, just the act of putting one foot in front of the other.

I used to be on the track team in middle school. I loved the meditative quality of running, and I am built for long distance, so I would have a long time to run. I could easily fall into a trance state while running, and can still while walking. I find that walking gives me lots of time to think, and that the act of moving my body helps me to focus my thoughts better. There are things that only seem to come to me when I am moving, whether it is walking, exercising or dancing. I have to hit that state of no mind (because I am focused on the movement) before the thoughts will flow. I find it very good for problem solving or getting inspired. I will think of the problem or the project I want to work on, and then go do something physical and repetitive enough to drive all thought from my mind, and when I am done, I will have ideas.

Driving can be soothing as well, and the focus required can be good for thought. I have always loved to drive, I like the freedom of it. I have spent a decent portion of my life somewhat restricted. I was a caregiver for my great-grandmother in my late teens, so needed to stay in the house to watch over her. Then I got married and moved, and spent years in a small town with no real transportation of my own (since hubby had the car for work). I went an entire year without driving at all (which sort of boggled my mind when I realized how long it had been). The ability to get in the car and go someplace that is practically unreachable by foot is so incredible, and something I think we often take for granted. I know how far I can get on foot and the world is very small without transportation.

But I do love wandering. I can spend hours wandering through stores. Pretty much any type of store. Whenever I have errands to run, if I am not under time constraints, I will pick a store nearby and wander through it. I am almost never actually looking for anything. Most times I don't have any money, so even if I saw something fantastic, I couldn't get it. I just wander, look at things, and let my mind drift. It gets me out of the house, out of my regular routine, and into a mental place of possibility. Typically I have music going, which further helps to take me outside of my head.

It's kind of a strange thing, but it is very soothing for me. I walk, I look, I touch. I've always been a tactile person, and I definitely need to touch things when I wander. If I am at a store, I will run my fingers along stuff on the shelf, or even just reach out and touch things with my fingertips if they call to me. Outside, I typically will want to touch trees, plants and fences. It's sort of a whole body sampling of the places I wander.

Wandering is a skill, the more you do it the more you become aware of . The easier it is to fall into that passive wander mode, where you aren't going toward anything you are just moving and experiencing. The less likely you are to think about what time it might be or the other items on your daily schedule. From the outside my life seems pretty open and empty (as far as time constraints), and yet my mind is constantly checking the clock and what I know has to be done: how long until my son gets home from school, how long until my husband is home from work, when I do I need to start dinner, when do showers need to be taken so we can all get them done with hot water, when does laundry need to be done, the housekeeping, the bills, the shopping. Carving out time to wander lets me step away from all of that and not be weighed down by the never ending stream of stuff that has to be done to keep life flowing smoothly.

Friday, October 31, 2014

PBP: Week 44- Variety of Soul Food

I'm one of those people who both likes and dislikes familiarity. There are some routines that I cling to. When my daily schedule gets interrupted too much, I need some unwind time...I have to submerge myself in something that brings me back to who I am...kind of like a child clinging to their favorite stuffed animal when put in a new situation. But I also love trying new things, especially learning new things.

I think that there is a balance there, between doing things that we feel are a part of us and pushing outside our comfort bubble. We know that nutritionally, a variety of foods is better than eating the same thing over and over. I think the same thing can be applied to feeding the soul. I have always felt a deep inner need for things that inspire me. For things that make me feel like there is so much more in this life than we can ever comprehend. That make me feel both insignificant and mighty at the same time.

And I find that the more different ways I feed this feeling, the greater it becomes. Wonder is not something that can be let to grow stale. If we want to keep seeing the world through fresh eyes, we need to look at new things. This is one of the reasons I love talking with other people and seeing how they approach things.

Everyone has things that just work for them. Things that make their world a fantastical place. And what works for you might not work for me...but I can get a glimpse of it by hearing you talk about it! And that can make me see the things that complete me in a new light. The more we share the more we all grow.

I think that pushing outside our comfort zone is something else that can feed the soul. Sometimes it is the things that terrify us that end up bringing us to new heights. There are a ton of things that I was petrified to do, and once I had done them I couldn't imagine not doing them again. I really try to work with my fear and look at why I am afraid of things. Fear can be a signifier that something is important. Even when there is a real reason for the fear (if something is dangerous), examining that fear and finding ways to work with it in a safe way (perhaps visualization or art therapy) can help us to see how these fears effect us and what we can learn from them.

Beauty is also something that feeds the soul. And not just traditional beauty. We can find beauty in wonderful places, by looking beyond the surface into the heart of a thing. I love pictures of elderly, I think that a person's face, their wrinkles and scars, tell a story and that story can be infinitely lovely. The more I look at things that may not be considered traditionally beautiful, the less I see standard beauty as a thing and the more I see the world around me as the magical, fabulous place it is. To me, perfection is an aberration, not a goal.

I can always tell when I am depleting my spiritual resources. I start feeling down, and tired, and just not enthusiastic about anything. I know that this means it is time to do something to build myself back up. And much like when you have eaten the same leftovers for a week straight, the more I have done the same spiritual work for a while, the less appealing it is..the less sustaining.

This doesn't mean that my practice doesn't involve staple workings. I guess I see this like drinking water....it is the things you do because they are absolutely necessary. I shield, I ground, I meditate...these are the core of my practice, the water that I have to have. But I also find ways to stretch and grow. I love to try new exercises, to learn a new practice or to read about someone's spell or ritual. It's like going to a new restaurant and trying a dish I've never heard of before. Sometimes it is so great that I have to go out and learn how to make it myself...and sometimes it goes on the list of things I'll probably never eat again. But I would never know if I liked it unless I actually put the food in my mouth (or in the case of a practice, tried it out myself).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Optimized Woman

 (Link to Amazon page)

I have read a handful of other books about how a woman's body changes throughout the month, and I am always fascinated by the idea of this cyclical fluctuation and how it effects me. I found Miranda's take on the cycle to be very thought provoking. I really enjoyed reading about her Optimal Times, and found that the wording to be great. Sometimes I find books that talk about menstruation either end up very clinical or very woowoo (witch sometimes makes it hard for other people to take seriously). But the terms Miranda used were ones that I think I could easily use when talking to someone who hadn't read the book and they would understand me with a minimal amount of explaining.

The book starts off explaining the concept of Optimal Times: basically that your cycle can be broken down into four quarters and each one you have different strengths and weaknesses. As a woman, I know that I definitely have always thought of menstrual time as effecting my life, but I hadn't thought much about how I might change during the rest of the month. Each of the four Optimal Times is explained, and the strengths and weaknesses are explored. Miranda talks about why each time is good for certain things, using lots of easy to relate to examples. When a phase is weak in one area, but another phase is strong, she points out when certain activities would be better suited.

But she also explains how to work around these ebbs and flows for when you may not be able to do things in their Optimal Time. And I think that is a very important thing, because we can't all arrange our schedules as we may like to. Knowing how to deal with times where we may struggle with things is an invaluable tool.

Another thing I really appreciated was that she really kept the greater picture in mind. Each Optimum time was not only examined for what it shined at, but also for the role it played in the cycle as a whole. As I read, a fuller picture emerged, and I really saw how she was creating this flow over the course of the four Times that could be used to take a project from the start through to the end, with each Time supporting the others. I am definitely looking forward to working with this concept more.

Where this book shines is in the plan that is laid out for me to follow. It gives 28 days worth of activities in three different categories (well-being, goal achievement and work enhancement). Each day's description starts with an overview of how that particular day fits into it's larger Optimum Time. Then the three suggested activities are explained. These activities give several options for things that are particularly suited for this part of your cycle.

Miranda also addresses how to adjust the plan to match your own personal rhythm. As each woman is an individual, we won't all fit into a 28 day plan. And even more than that, some of us may spend more or less time in each of the four Time's (one woman may spend almost two weeks in one phase but only a couple of days in another), and she explains how to adjust the plan to accommodate this. Not only does this mean that every woman can hand tailor the plan to fit their own cycle, but also that if you find your times slightly off this month from where they were last month, you can adapt the plan to fit where you are.

I am really excited about trying out the plan and the activities contained in this book. I think it is very easy to understand, and yet has so much room for depth. I love how she keeps reminding us that the more we pay attention to how our bodies feel, the more we will be able to make the most use of the incredible talents we have at our very fingertips. I think that is one of the things I really find wonderful about the plan is that each month we can focus on a new project or goal and build towards it, so we don't feel like we are doing the same thing over and over.

I think that if you are a woman that is looking for more insight into your body and how to be happy and fulfilled in your life that this book is well worth looking into. I also thought it was great that she included a chapter for men who were interested in better understanding the women in their lives and how they might better interact and support them at different times.

 

Friday, October 24, 2014

PBP: Week 43- Vision

I read a book a bit ago: Steampunk Magic by Gypsey Elaine Teague. Definitely a book I'd recommend, it covers a whole style of magic based on the steampunk genre. One of the tools that was mentioned was goggles, with the idea that the goggles were worn as a way to see into the beyond. And it definitely got me thinking.

I wear glasses. I have since middle school. Both my parents wear glasses, and when I was little, I so wanted to wear glasses because they both did. Of course, not long after I ended up needing glasses, I realized they were a bit of a hassle! But I have been wearing glasses for a very long time now. My eyes are a bit tricky, one is more farsighted while the other is more nearsighted. Without my glasses, everything is in a kind of soft, fuzzy blurriness. I can see well enough to not bump into things, and I can read stuff up close (thought it is blurry), but anything much beyond arms distance I need glasses to see well.

I used to think I could see really well at night, because I never felt blind in the darkness. What I realized was that I was sort of used to being able to function with that level of blur, and so it didn't unnerve me. Nothing was actual in focus at night, but my brain ignored the soft edges and told me what was there anyways. And I rarely tried to read in the dark so sharp focus wasn't needed. I still have no problem wandering around my house in the dark in the middle of the night. In fact, I sometimes feel more at home in the dark when everything is fuzzy because I don't feel like I need to rely on my eyes as much....I feel more than I see.

So how does this relate to my practice? Well thinking back to the goggles, I had thought about trying to make a set, because I loved the idea. I had a lot of interesting thoughts about it: things that could be done with the lenses to change the way you saw the world (there are a lot of awesome things that can be done with camera lenses in the same way). You could make the light refract so there would be rainbows everywhere or tint the lenses so you see the world in shades of different colors. You could make different glasses or goggles for different workings (imagine a set of colored lenses for working with chakras).

For me, though, a lot of this 'stepping outside the mundane' can be established by simply taking off my glasses. My glasses form a shield between me and the world. I am constantly aware of them, either by feel or sight (I can see the frames). I have worn them long enough that most times they don't bother me, but if I am fighting a headache, I would rather have them off than on. But I definitely think I see things more intuitively without them on. I have taken my glasses off for ritual many times. Even if I need to read something, I can manage without them.

I feel that when I take away the sharp focus, the clarity of vision that my glasses provide, that I pull back my attention on the physical. If I can't make out the details on a thing, I don't typically try to force it into focus. Instead, I look beyond it's material characteristics and see the essence behind it. I definitely think I rely more on other senses when I am not seeing clearly (especially at night, I rarely am vision primary at night), which works for me because I am not a visual primary person to begin with (although sometimes I think I try to be because so much of our world is based on sight).

When I was little, before I learned about meditation, visualization or aura perception, I used to daydream all the time. And I had a vivid imagination. I created and lived in worlds of my own making. And I could 'see' those worlds over the waking world, even with my eyes open. But I would drop all focus on the material world. If you have ever tried one of those 3-D images (the ones that are all made of dots, but if you shift your focus the image appears), it was like that, except the image that appeared was in my mind...the rest of the world just blurred out behind it. And even though I say image, it wasn't a picture. It was simply a knowing. Like when you read the word chair, and your brain pulls up an amalgamation of different examples of chairs. You may or may not have an actual chair pictured, but you definitely know what the meaning of chair is.

I have found this type of visual refocusing to be very helpful. While I do meditate and visualize a lot with my eyes closed, I find a different type of experience when I do it with my eyes open. I can move through the world and still see another world entirely.

We use all kinds of tools in our practice, and yet this mention of goggles in Steampunk Magic was the first one that I recall that focused on shifting vision (not counting things like the black mirror which are scrying focused). I think that there is a lot of potential in using tools to help facilitate a visual shift, or to help us step into other worlds. The tool doesn’t' even have to be glasses or goggles, you could use a veil (which is great for creating a separation from the physical), a mask or even makeup.