Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pain and healing

There are a lot of thoughts about magic and healing.  I have often seen it stated that you shouldn't do anything magical when you are under the weather or hurt except for self-healing work.  But as one of my friends pointed out, if you have a chronic condition, you either learn to work with your own body and energy levels or you don't work.

For me, I think it is always hard to do work when I am hurting or sick.  Not so much because I can't do the work, but rather I just get so caught up in that miserable head space that it doesn't even occur to me to do something about it!  It is definitely something that I am working on.

I'm also a very 'work through the pain' kind of person.  When I am sick or sore, my first instinct is to just grin and bear it, to continue on doing what I was going to do anyways, or even to push myself harder (just to prove I can...I'm kind of stubborn about that).

Today was a pretty good example.  I had pain in my neck and shoulders as well as some kind of sinus thing and all that led to a solidly throbbing headache.  Which I promptly tried to ignore.  Then I took some pain medicine (just over the counter stuff).  Finally, I decided to try to stretch out the body and work with yoga and directed healing breathing to help with the headache.  And a hot shower (more on that in a bit)!  And now, hours later, the neck/shoulders still ache (but are better), but my head isn't killing me anymore (though everything still looks too bright).

So, I figured I'd talk about some of the things I do when things hurt.  I am definitely in the 'do what works for you' camp.  I think we all respond differently to things, and what works for me might not work for you at all.  But, in case it does, I thought I'd share!

I'll start with headaches, as I think that is my most common complaint.  I used to try to track my pains, but it was sort of depressing, so I stopped.  It is not uncommon for me to have headaches multiple days a week, or ones that last for several days.  Often they radiate out from my sinuses, but both front and back of the head are also pretty common.

I am definitely not against over the counter medicine.  I tend to try to avoid it for 'little' pain (and I classify anything that doesn't actually stop me from doing what I had planned on doing as little), but I am slowly learning that little pain often blossoms into big pain and that doing something to stop it before it gets too much is so much better.

Massage is definitely one of the first things I do, for a headache.  I'll rub the back of my neck, my temples, the bridge of my nose or the base of my skull...wherever it hurts.  Sometimes, that is enough to help lessen the pain.  I also like to get my hands really cold before I do the massage, so run them under cold water or hold a cup of ice, so that I can apply cold as I rub.

I also find that a pressure point in the very center of each palm often helps.  I always press the right hand (using my left hand) first, as my left hand is weaker, and if I press that point first, it can't press as hard.  This is one of those points that is on a nerve, so I do feel a little pain, which always pushes away the head pain while I am pressing, and often will reduce the pain even after I am done pressing. 

I also love a hot shower, for headaches.  Especially those with sinus or neck strain.  As hot as I can stand (which is pretty hot), I will start the water off hot, and then nudge it hotter as I get used to it.  If I am going to take a pain medicine, I often take it right before the shower, so that it can be working as the heat is working too.  If I am having any sinus pain, I will put my face in the water, holding my hands over my nose so that I can breathe in carefully through my nose without inhaling water, but still getting all that hot, humid air as well as the direct hot water right on my nose.

I really like stones for pain as well.  I have a few that I love.  One, I recently picked up is Brecciated Jasper.  The one I have is carved as a worry stone, so it has a nice flat side that I can hold against someplace that is hurting.  My oldest stone for healing is just a round 'river' stone (the kind you can get for landscaping), almost palm sized.  I read a long time ago about how the Pow-wow (the Pennsylvania Dutch, not American Indian) tradition used a stone to represent fire and for healing, and I loved the idea.  I find that the cold stone held up against someplace in pain feels incredible.

We are still in cold season, and colds are definitely something I treat with food.  If I start getting a runny nose or sore throat, my first reaction is to start putting garlic, ginger and cayenne in about anything I can put it into.  I almost always make myself soup with all three.  I also sprinkle powdered garlic and cayenne on other foods.  For a sore throat I am a huge fan of honey and apple cider vinegar.  I like mine strong, so I go with at least three teaspoons each mixed into a glass of water.  I also find this is great for digestion.  When my throat is sore, I also always crave beer..something about the yeast.

When I am congested, I often like to have a hot bath.  It is also nice to have scented steam, so I will add tea bags or loose herbs to the bath.  I actually like baths for all kinds of healing.  I will add olive oil to treat dry skin (though it does always make me think of pasta!), or lavender for a relaxing soak during menstruation (the heat definitely helps me with any cramps).

As I mentioned earlier, I have a pretty solid stubborn streak.  I like to push myself, and often end up sore after exercising.  I have a knee that gives me trouble, and am sort of klutzy so it is pretty common for me to have bruises and scrapes that I might not know how I got.

I'm a little bit paradoxical when it comes to actual injuries.  Most of the time I try to stretch an injury out.  If it is serious enough that I feel the need to wear a brace or avoid a certain action, then I will definitely do that.  Sometimes I use the brace as a reminder to be gentle on that part of my body.  But even when using a brace, I will reach a point where I need to use the injured part.  My body responds really well to mindful exercise.  Even when my knee is at it's worse, walking or doing exercises that work the muscles around it end up helping more than trying to keep off of it.  It's a sort of funny distinction, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out which way I should be going:  rest or work!

For bruises, I definitely believe in massaging them.  I find that rubbing a bruise helps break it up and bring healing to the area so that it goes away quicker.  For small cuts (things that don't require stitches of course), I apply pressure to stop any bleeding, but I dislike wearing bandages.  If I am going to be doing something particularly messy, then I will, but otherwise I much prefer to let them breathe.

I am very hands-on with injuries.  Anytime things hurt, I will use my hands in some way to direct healing to the area.  I often do this by massage (especially for achy muscles), but also just by laying a hand or fingertip over the area.

I also love chanting, so if I can think of an appropriate chant, I will use one.  Fire chants for chills, water chants for fever, air chants for respiratory and earth for body aches.  There is a Braucherei chant that really resonates with me that I use all the time, mostly for headaches. 

"Across a red plain I see a red wood,
and in the red wood I see a red church,
and in the red church I see a red altar,
and on the red altar I see a red book,
and on the red book I see a red knife,
and with the red knife I cut out the pain."

I believe, when I read this, that it suggested using a red handled knife as a focus for any healing work with that charm, and that it should be repeated 9 times (9 is a power number in Braucherei).  While I do have a red handled knife (its a Swiss army knife, which I think is great for a healing focus with the red handle and little shield and cross icon), often I'll just put my first two fingers on my temples (or wherever the pain is) and repeat it three times (as three is one of my power numbers).  Braucherei has many interesting healing chants, but this one really stuck with me.

A final thing I almost always do when anyone in my house has been sick.  Once they are well, I will burn incense and carry it and a candle around to all the rooms to banish any remaining sickness or stagnant energy and to restore health and balance to the house.  It doesn't feel clean until I do.

I'll end with a suggestion that someone I knew made several years back.  We were talking about healing in a forum, and about how we often don't feel up to serious energy work while ill.  And one of the ladies said she charges candles for healing and keeps them in her supplies, so that when she is under the weather, she has candles that she personally charged to burn even though she might not have energy in the moment to add to them.  I always thought that was a really lovely idea (even though I haven't actually done it yet).  I think it could be easily expanded to small personal healing kits, with pre-charged candles, incense, stones or whatever else you think you might need.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Embracing the Shadow Side

I subscribe to quite a few spiritual newsletters, and one of them today was talking about how we have the choice in every moment to act from a place of love or a place of fear.  This is a pretty common idea, that we may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.  I am definitely on board with this, what I am not on board with is the idea that we should always be choosing the side of love.

Okay that sounds a bit shady doesn't it...I mean why would we want to choose to act from a place of fear?  Let me explain!

Fear exists for a reason.  If you are out in the woods at night, and see a wild bear up ahead, that fear exists to warn you of danger and to prompt you to act in a way that will preserve your life.  Sure, you may love the bear, but it is wiser to act on your fear and to slowly back away, than it would be to run forward and hug the bear.

Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but it feels to me like the overwhelming attitude in a lot of spiritual circles is that we should all be trying to rise above our darker aspects, to face our shadow and overcome it, and to fill our lives with love and light and everything wonderful.

I'm all about the joy.  I love when things are fabulous and everything is going my way.  But I am also very entrenched in my own darkness.  Sometimes this isn't in my benefit, but I naturally work very well in dark places.  I embrace parts of myself that are dirty and violent and low.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again for good measure:  I believe life is about balance.  I've done the 'wallow in my own darkness' thing (yes I was a little bit goth in my day...yes goth, it was before emo was a thing), and it wasn't healthy for me.  But I don't think trying to abolish and eliminate the darkness would be either.

So how does this pan out in everyday life?  I think that is one thing that the email that started this train of thought got right.  In every moment we have a choice in how to react.  We just have to have the piece of mind to be able to choose what actually serves us best in the moment.  And sometimes, reaching for love and trying to surround ourselves with only light IS a fear based action.  We are running from our own darkness because it scares us.  And I think that is a very different energy than embracing the light for it's own sake.

I've been thinking a lot about self-esteem and body image a lot recently.  This is another place where I find this tricky balancing act.  It is a pretty well known fact that hating on our body as it is now isn't a fun way to live.  Sure, many of us have things we would like to improve upon, but that doesn't mean we need to shower ourselves in negative self-thought all the time. 

I sort of think about it like I would approach a small child.  When my son was little, there were tons of things that he did that I wasn't too happy about.  And if he was old enough to know he was doing something wrong, he would get an appropriate punishment.  But it was always accompanied with a suggestion for a more appropriate behavior and a reminder that just because I didn't approve of the action he took, that didn't mean that I didn't love HIM any less.

And I think that is a great way to approach much of life.  We look at the things we do/think/feel and we can acknowledge when those things aren't what we want them to be.  We can give ourselves that moment of 'oh I really shouldn't have done that', but then we should definitely follow it up with some kind of positive action towards what we wanted to do and a reminder that we are all human and mistakes are okay (just try not to make a habit of them).

But I definitely think it is healthy to have an outlet for those darker emotions as well.  Things happen that suck.  Life isn't fair.  Sometimes you just have that horrible day, everything is going wrong and it feels like people are going out of their way to do you wrong.  Embrace it!  Run with those emotions!  Rant about it on paper, dance it out to your favorite angry song, pull out the crayons or finger paints and scribble all those ugly feelings out, or build something (like with clay or legos) with the intention of destroying it!  And then turn that dark energy into a focus that will move you forward.  Channel that rage and stubbornness into standing up for what you need.  Use those emotions to give you strength when people try to take advantage of you!

I think sadness is another emotion that people shy away from.  I am a crier.  I don't always want to be (it's messy, uncomfortable, and part of my brain tells me it is the action of someone who is weak).  I definitely cry a lot more than I would like at horribly inconvenient times (I hate crying in the middle of an argument...and I swear I never do it to be manipulative).  I cry while reading books or watching tv (even commercials).  But there is something very cathartic about crying.  Especially when I stop resisting it and just roll with it.  I definitely find that I feel the sadness more deeply when I do.  And there is a profound purity to deep sadness.  This sense of emptiness as if nothing in the world can ever touch you again.  There is also a sort of peace and calm.  When you are in this place nothing can hurt you because you have nothing left to loose.  It is a sort of certainty that can't be shaken.

The thing I find about these darker aspects is that they take work (although I also find that the light takes work, for me at least).  When you first face them, it is easy to be overwhelmed, to fall into their power instead of being able to harness their power to work for you.  It is only by sticking with it, by working with them and really being mindful about it, that you start to be able to ride the wave, to be able to direct the storm instead of being battered by it. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Art and how to create like a child!

At the start of the year, I participated in a virtual retreat, which centered around creativity and self-expression.  It featured art quite heavily.  Now I definitely think of myself as an artist.  I have always loved art, took art lessons in school and privately as a child, and still love to create stuff.  I have my own personal self-critical thoughts about my art, but I still love to make it and quite often love what I have made.

My son does not consider himself an artist.  He is only a teenager, but he very firmly believes he is horrible at it (no matter how many times I assure him that he is fine at it, or that when his English teacher assigns a poster project with drawings on it, he will not be expected to create something perfect). 

I don't think art is something that anyone is horrible at, if they truly are letting their inner self speak on the page, then that is a form of truth that is honest and beautiful.  I think that it is a horrible thing that people think that only picture perfect pieces are worthy of the title of art.

I scribble stuff with crayons!  Little stick figures, or smiley faces or whatever happens to come out.  One thing I absolutely love about crayons (especially my box of crayons which are never sharpened, and the colors sometimes look drastically different from what you think they will look like) is that they sort of force you to be okay with simple drawings and playing with color.  Flesh is rarely flesh colored, grass might be sort of aqua and the sun more orange than yellow (because really, yellow doesn't show up well on white paper...)

One of the things I love most about art is color.  I have been a fan of coloring since I was a child, when my art teacher introduced me to layering colored pencils.  I did it first on this picture I had drawn of some monkeys.  After sketching out the outlines, I would then pick one section to color.  That section got colored in white first (which was definitely challenging to see if you were covering it all!)  And not just sketching with the white pencil...it had to be carefully filled in with small circular motions...basically I was creating a white pencil layer to smooth out the rough pockets in the paper.  Then, I would lay in the actual color, again with the little circles.  Finally, it would be gone over again with white, which would smooth out any last inconsistencies. 

Sounds tedious...and it was....but I loved it!  Something about the meticulous nature of the practice, definitely very meditative, but I also adore how it turns out...deep, rich and silky.  I have also found that layering colors on top of other colors gives a nice effect too.

As much as art and magic have been parts of my life forever, it feels like I never really connected them until recently.  Sure, I have always done some things that cross the line (like making divination cards or prayer mats or even just drawing sigils or making runic patterns), but making actual art for magical purposes was new to me.

And this is one place I think that art play can be very powerful and definitely does not have to be technically accurate.  One of the things I was introduced to was a practice where you seek inspiration or guidance through art.  So you think of something you want guidance on, then grab a pen/pencil/crayon and close your eyes and scribble.  Then you look at the scribble, turn it around and around until you see something in it...and then sketch to fill out what you see.  It's pretty interesting to see what comes up, what sticks in your head and wants to be drawn, and what surprises you.  I recently did one of these thinking about family issues, ended up drawing what I saw as several hooded figures in front of a big moon, and then just filled it in with color.  It was sort of disjointed for a while, and I absolutely couldn't see how it related to my issue, until I then sat down with a pencil and just let the words flow like the color had.  And ended up getting a message about how to build stronger ties and where to get wisdom from.

I've also been playing with collage lately, mainly to make vision boards.  What I love about collage is you really don't have to draw anything at all.  I don't actually subscribe to any magazines, but I love catalogs, and sometimes the library will have stacks of old magazines for free, which I will pick up if they look interesting.  So I'll flip through and see what images and words call to me, clip them out, then start playing pasting them on to a board (or paper).  I will often use some paint to put color on the page first...not really painting anything particular, just adding bits of color here and there.  Then the collage goes over that, then I might take more paint and add swirls or lines (or use a sharpie!)

I think there is great power in letting our inner child play like this.  Consider grabbing a box of crayons, colored pencils or markers (they are always on sale at the start of the school year), and when doing spellwork, instead of writing out what you want, sketch it.  Do stick figures, or find a coloring page that represents what you want (there are tons online you can print out!), or even just let the emotions fill you up and scribble (it doesn't have to look like anything at all).  The great thing is that your subconscious will connect that image with your goal!  If you like chanting or have a statement you are working with, you can add that verbal component as well (or just toss on a song you love that fits!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fangirl, Fanboi, or just plan fan....

I am definitely a fan of quite a few things, from certain video games (and yes, there are video game companies that I will be predisposed toward games they make because I am a fan), authors, tv/movies, anime, genres (werewolves, I'm looking at you!) and topics (witchcraft, witches, magic, Pagan, Occult....the list goes on!)

Of course I have been aware of the term 'fan' for years, but Fanboi was a new one to me about the time I started reading fanfiction.  The way I encountered it, a fanboi was someone (yes typically male) who was particularly devoted to a fandom (Harry Potter was the one I learned it from).  And I had heard the term used for females as well.  Fangirl was something I came into through anime, often in reference to the stereotypical teenage girl who fawned over their favorite band (or tv star). 

Neither Fanboi or Fangirl have particularly good connotations.  Both imply that the person who is a fan is very over the top, obsessed (sometimes to dangerous levels), and somewhat unhinged in their devotion.  It conjures up images of stalker fans and people who are so devoted to a particular thing that they refuse to accept the possibility that it might have flaws.

I had never really thought about the word fan in the same light, so imagine my surprise when I looked up the etymology of it (I am a HUGE etymology fan too *grin).  Fan is a shortened version of fanatic, which apparently came into English usage in the 1500's, meaning 'marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion', and was made popular in reference to baseball fans.  It's roots are in a Latin word meaning, 'insanely but divinely inspired', and was originally a reference to a temple or sacred place.

I think it is really interesting that the deep roots point to divinity.  To me, it sort of speaks to the idea that the workings of the Gods aren't always something that makes sense to the human mind.  But really all versions of the word fan imply a sort of crazy obsession.

I don't really consider myself insanely devoted to things.  At least I like to think that I make sense in my interests.  But there are definitely things that I will seek out, that my eye will always be drawn to, or that I will be predisposed to like, just by the nature of their being.

It is like pulling teeth for me to pass by something witch related.  I have a site that lists free kindle books, that I look at every day.  I was originally grabbing everything magic related that came up on the list, but quickly realizing that quite a lot of those books weren't really worth my time to read.  Either they were very basic, intended to be a 'first look' kind of book, and stuff that I have read a dozen times or more already, or they were very opinionated, and not opinions that I agree with.  I have slowly started to be more discerning with my tastes, though I still at least look at the summery of everything in my fandom's that crosses my path.

One thing I find really interesting about being a fan is that it definitely colors how I view the world.  I will catch references (Easter eggs!) and that adds whole layers to things.  The part of me that loves puzzles finds this immensely satisfying.  But even when the reference isn't intentional, I definitely find myself comparing things I encounter in my daily life to my favorite fandoms. 

In Pagan realms, this often means that I will look at the world through the lens of magic:  I consider things and how they might be useful to me in my path.  I especially love fictional magic based stories and worlds.  I think it is really interesting to see how magic is believe to work in different ways.  Even when the ways of magic from a fictional source are absolutely not possible in this world, I think that exposure to those ideas can challenge our thoughts on how magic works and what might be possible.

I love the fact that, in today's world, being a fan of things that aren't sports is becoming not only tolerated but actually quite popular.  Tv fandom's are huge.  And again, not just the traditionally popular ones, but the breadth and range of things that people are delving into is breathtaking.  I love that we are now encouraging people to really embrace what calls to them, and that if they want to take a thing they love and build their wardrobe around it, decorate their house with it or act like it...they can do this!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A new Year, New projects!

Two years ago, I participated in the Pagan Blog project, which I enjoyed immensely.  Sadly, it ended, and last year I attempted to do something similar with the Cauldron Blog project, but (as you can see by the state of my blog) didn't go as well. 

I definitely get inspired by things, jump into them with both feet and the best of intentions, and sometimes end up burning out and abandoning them.  Last year was quite underwhelming for me on a lot of fronts.  I had also intended on using a desk calendar as a sort of 'yearly log', not only was I marking down my daily rune draw (which I actually kept up with), but also intended to jot little notes down everyday.  Just things I learned, phrases that stuck with me or other tidbits like that.  That project only lasted a few months.

Life is a process, and the more I move along, the more I learn.  I definitely learn as much from where I falter (when I take the time to look back and examine my unfinished projects) as I do from my successes. 

I want to blog more.  I am a big fan of words, of talking about stuff, and the blog format works really well for me.  It forces me (through the knowledge that it is out there and that other people can read it) to formulate my ideas in a way that (I think) will make sense to other people.  There are times where those little niggling doubts jump in my mind, asking why I bother, not that many people will read this, will it even be interesting to anyone? 

But I keep in mind the vast number of words I have read that have touched my heart, often in the most surprising of places.  The way I figure it, if even one line in one of my posts means something to someone out there, then it will have been worth it.  Actually, even if it only helps me, I definitely learn by writing!

One of my start of the year projects is going through my favorites (on my browser) and dealing with my plethora of links.  I have been using delicious (an online link saving site) for years now, and had accumulated quite a lot of links.  Some are so old that they are broken, some are about things I am not super interested in, and oddly enough I had quite a few Wikipedia pages saved (seriously, I have no clue why I saved those links as I could just wiki search and find them again probably quicker than looking for my saved link).  I am on the letter E now, of my alphabet of tabs, and am down to 900 something links.

One thing that was quickly apparent, as I started this link-purging process, was that my taste was and remains broad and a little crazy.  My brain wants to know things...about everything.  My dad said something to me a while back, talking about books.  My bookshelves are a similar mess of too many and all subjects.  And I had made the comment to my dad that I just had more books than I could read (I think it was right after I had gotten my kindle, so with all the free digital books out there, I literally could read non-stop for the rest of my life and still probably not finish reading all the content that I have).  And he told me that even though I might be interested in everything, my time was limited.  So I had to make choices about what I wanted to spend that limited time doing.

That is a really powerful thought to me, and it has become a sort of measuring stick for me.  I don't ask myself anymore, "is this something I want to know about," because pretty much the answer will be yes.  Rather, I ask myself, "is this the thing I MOST want to know about right now."  And as I am writing these words, it occurs to me that is sort of how I am approaching much of the rest of my year, not just in learning but in doing as well.

I have the luxury of staying at home.  Many days, other than cooking dinner for my family, there isn't much I actually HAVE to do.  And this leaves me in a very tricky spot.  I acknowledge how lucky I am to be in this dilemma, but the fact remains that I have wasted many a day doing what amounts to killing time just because I had no clear focus.  I did what was here and not what I really had a drive to do, and then at the end of the day looked back and wondered how I managed to go an entire day and not do anything.

So, this year, the calendar makes a return, but my focus has shifted.  I am taking the time to schedule myself for the day.  I am planning what I want to do in the morning, so that I can keep going back to that list of things and keep myself on track.  I am setting aside time for me...time to do whatever I may feel the need to do that day.  Today, it was actually taking a nap.  The first week back to a school schedule (I do get up with my son to see him off to school still) after the holiday late nights.  We are all night owls, given the choice, we will sleep from about 1 or 2 in the morning until around 11...needless to say breakfast isn't eaten often on holidays.  So I end up sort of sleep starved the first week, as I get used to actually going to sleep at a more reasonable hour.

My other main focus for this year is to tune inward and open up.  I am wanting to focus on moon cycles, and in just the past two months have definitely realized that I am much better at doing than I am at opening myself up and really being aware of what comes to me.  And I feel like I am closing myself off to so much by not being able to listen well.  So I am on a moon based track this year, a listening and a stillness and a looking inward.  But of course the moon has it's phases so there will be plenty of action too.  It actually is kind of crazy how quickly time flows, now that I am working on really being present throughout the phases, realizing that some of them are a mere 3 days keeps me on my toes!

And so, for anyone out there reading this, there will be more blog posts this year!  I am not sure what they will be about yet, I don't have a particular plan for them.  But they are on my schedule, every Wednesday (possibly more!), so check back and have a wonderful year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A brand new world!

Something a good friend of mine said the other day sparked a thought.  It was in a discussion on journaling and Greyer Jane said, " I'll get a PLAN and love it and think its true religion for a month."

And that really got me thinking, because that is definitely something that I do.  I'll read something or think something, and it will absolutely revolutionize  some or all of my life.  And then, I'll get obsessed with it, and that one thing will become my world for a period of time.  Eventually I'll get overwhelmed and have to walk away from it.  Which is where, in my world, the magic happens.  Because I will sort of forget about it (or at least not actively think about it) for a while...and then one day I'll remember and realize that it has integrated into the rest of my world and now is a part of it without being the whole of it.

One of the most obvious ways this happens is when I work on memorizing something, like a chant.  I'll spend days, doing countless repetitions.  If there is an audio track of it somewhere I will play that one track on loop for days, I'll stop multiple times throughout the day to look at my lyrics and chant along, but even when I'm not thinking about it, I'm hearing it..and often at least partially chanting along.  I'll chant it in the shower, in the bathroom, in the car, while walking to get the mail.  At the start, it will be both exciting and hard.  I'll have to really stop and think sometimes to remember what part comes next.  

Then, as time goes along, I'll start being able to remember more and more of it without really having to think about it.  I'll be able to recite the whole thing through without errors, and then I start speeding it up trying to say it faster than I can think ahead.  The goal is to be able to recite it without having to consider what comes next, to just be able to open my mouth and let the words flow through.  At this point, I can often recite it flawlessly at times, but other times I get completely tongue tied or mind blank.

But that is part of the process.  It's like my mind has been so inundated with that one thing that it starts to balk.  Once I know I can recite it cleanly sometimes, that is typically when I start to pull away from it.  I'll stop actively listening to it, or deliberately practicing.  I'll still recite it through anytime I do think about it, but after a day or so something else invariably catches my interest and I'll not think about it for days.

Then, when I do think about it again, I will almost always find that it has become a part of me.  It is something that I don't have to think about anymore than I think about the process of breathing.  I have poems that I memorized in grade school that I still remember because of this.

And while it is definitely a great thing for memorizing things, it happens when I study a subject as well.  Sometimes I will find an idea or perspective that resonates with me so much that it completely takes over my thoughts on a subject.  Several times in my study of runes I have read someone's explanation of runes that I loved so much that it became my own for a while.  I sort of forget my old thoughts on the runes and devour these new concepts.  When I think about runes or interpret them, the new meanings are the ones that come to mind, even if I have to go back and look up what the meanings are because I haven't quite internalized them yet.

Sometimes, I'll sit down with multiple perspectives and actively try to figure out how they all weave together and become a new whole, but most of the time the old meanings sort of sneak back into my thoughts on the subject without my direction.  I'll look at a rune one day, think of the newer meaning, but then remember an older thought that really works in that situation.  And over time, the new and old end up just being parts of my greater understanding.

I used to be sort of wary of this process....I thought that I was just kind of being a blind lemming, reading something that was interesting and jumping into it and forgetting everything else I knew.  And definitely, for a time there in the middle, when I am mid-obsession, I can sound very much like a follower and not an innovator.  Thinking, and being someone who creates, is a core part of my personality, something that is very dear to me, so the idea that I might just be trudging along behind someone else doesn't sit well with me at all.

But ultimately, I do break off on my own, using the tools I have learned from other people to forge my own way and my own perspective of things.  And I think that works out just fine for me.  It lets me get a glimpse into other people's worlds.  In my own ways, I am walking a mile in their shoes.  Just somewhere along the way, I wear through the shoes and continue on...barefoot and in my own power.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Runes for Transformation (book review)

by Kaedrich Olsen

I was so excited to get this book, I am always looking for ways to deepen my experience with runes. It feels like whenever I read a new perspective, it sort of takes over my thinking for a while before I merge it into my previous understanding. This book, however not only gave me a new perspective, but I feel like it changed my whole view of runes.

The book starts with some very non-rune-centric information, focusing instead on how the mind works. This is another subject that absolutely fascinates me, so I was pretty happy with this. It definitely introduces some deep thoughts, and I think will be something I reread many times. I also think this information is necessary to later parts of the books. That by looking at the nature of the world around us and how our minds interpret the word and influence our experience of it, we are able to grasp some of the ways in which the runes can bring change to our lives. 

Then we start to get into the information on runes. Kaedrich starts by giving us a brief history of the runes and their possible origins, both historic and mythic. I think this is a really great way of looking at their history, as I feel that both feed into how we understand runes today. I also really appreciated the point that he makes about how we have to look at the runes not only through our modern eyes, but also through a historic lens. If we only look at them in one way but not the other, we may not grasp them as fully as we can. This is a very important issue for me, as I find that sometimes Pagan authors either want to draw fully into the modern era and ignore the historical roots or they want to discount our modern life and go back to a previous time. My life may be inspired and influenced by the past, but I live a very modern life, and I need my practice to have application in that modern life.

Each rune is focused on in several different sections in the book, giving a slightly different perspective, though they all build on one another so by the end of the book you have a much broader understanding of each rune's energy and significance. Several runes that I had previously struggled with getting a good grasp on (like Eihwaz and Ansuz) I felt like I understand much better, even after a single read through. I definitely am looking forward to working through the many exercises in the book.

I loved how the book laid out a plan for working with the runes, and it is very personal. Kaedrich definitely supports the idea that runes may represent set energies, but we all may experience those energies in slightly different ways. I am a big believer of this idea, so I love that this book really pushes you to develop your own relationship with and understanding of the runes.

There is a three-fold method for learning the runes from this book. First, you look at the rune energies on their own. This is pretty standard, many books suggest meditating on runes and writing down your impressions, though Kaedrich encourages you to look not only with your conscious mind but first to get your subconscious impressions. Then, you look for the runic energies out in the world. I think this step is huge, and something I haven't seen explored in such detail. Many people may suggest looking for examples of the rune in the world around you, but I really like the approach of finding the runic energy of every rune in everyday objects. It reminds me of thought exercises I used to do in high school, finding a way to solve a problem with every type of energy (for example, if you wanted to shield, how would you shield with fire versus shielding with water, air or earth). I think looking for all the runes in the world around you pushes you to see more subtle manifestations of runic energy that often get overlooked. And then turning that attention inward and looking for the runes in yourself gives you an excellent diagnostic tool for not only self-improvement but also your personal relationship with runes. 

This personal connection is something I have struggled with. I sort of get stuck in my head a lot of times, trying to reconcile my own impressions with the universal impressions. Or I worry that I'm doing something wrong if my experiences aren't the same as the general experiences. This book challenges me to really dig deep and find my own connections and then work with them instead of just giving me the author's perceptions to do with as I would.

The final parts of the book focus on how the runes can be used. I have been doing personal rune divination for a while now, in a few different forms, and I really like the idea of drawing groups of runes and interpreting them as a single sentence. I think this is a very interesting take on divination, but also a good building block for working with bindrunes. 

Bindrunes are also something that are explored, and again, not in just the standard way. Kaedrich not only shows you how to tie runes together, but looks at order as being important. Two runes can be bound together to create different effects. That is one thing that has always appealed to me about runes. I feel they have a lot of innate flexibility. 

I am really excited to work with Kaedrich's approach to sounding the runes as well. I have looked into Galdr before, but this is the first method for rune sound work that I think really resonates with my personal practice. I love how he not only looks at the key sounds for each rune, but how to say the name of the runes themselves. I really like the thought of using the vowels in the words to create the tonal melody. I think this is definitely something I will do extensive work on uncovering my own melodies and tones.

In addition to all this, Kaedrich looks at prominent deities in the Norse pantheon and how they relate to runes, other runewords that are common on historical artifacts and how to incorporate those into your rune practice, and how to create personal statements with runes to be used in working on goals.

I found this book to be really thought provoking. It is full of exercises that I can't wait to start working on. I also feel like the exercises given in the book are not things that I will do only once. I can definitely see myself working through the meditations and exercises multiple times, to keep deepening my connection to the runes and incorporating the things I have learned over time. 

While I don't consider myself a beginner in regards to runes, I also don't consider myself an expert by any means. However, I think this book could be used by pretty much anyone who has an interest in runes, no matter what their level of personal experience is. Some sections (primarily the first parts that delve into how the mind works and universal theory) may be a bit wordy and deep, but overall the book was easy to digest though not lacking in content at all. I would definitely recommend this book to any student of the runes, or anyone wishing to learn about runes.