Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My eclipse experience!

I didn't actually have big plans for the eclipse originally.  I tend to get caught up in my daily life, and all the regular stuff, that sometimes I forget about these big events.  I remember an eclipse when I was in grade school, though looking at the dates, it must have been an annular (where the moon is smaller than the sun) and not a total eclipse, because I would have only been 1 year old at the last total eclipse! 

But what I remember is the wonder and fascination.  I vaguely remember some kind of glasses, though I also sort of remember the pinhole box thing, so I don't actually know how we viewed it, but we did stuff for the eclipse at school.  I was really surprised that so many schools closed for the eclipse.  My son's high school didn't, however he brought a form home that we could sign that would allow him to stay home, 'officially' so that we could watch the eclipse from a better viewing location.  He went to school, but said that very few people did.

Because I didn't have big plans, I didn't actually have glasses or really any kind of set idea about what I wanted to do.  Then I saw someone post pictures of painted rocks they made in honor of the eclipse.  I love painted rocks, and really work with rocks a lot (both actual crystals as well as ordinary rocks), and knew I just had to try my hand at it.  And then my art journaling group had the eclipse as this week's prompt, so now I was doing eclipse stuff!

On the morning of the eclipse, I decided to start with my rocks.  I had some of those plain black rocks that are sold for decorations (I got mine from the dollar store, though you can also find them at the hardware store or craft stores).  I use these for all kinds of purposes, but I love to paint them.  Normally I use nail polish (I love the durability and I have tons of bottles in all kinds of colors and glitter options), but I think because I saw painted rocks and was thinking of my art journal I went with proper paint this time.

The first step I have to do when painting these kind of rocks is wash them really good with hot water and soap.  They always have a sort of waxy coating on them, and it doesn't completely come off, but it gets better.  I assume the coating is to make them look sort of shiny like polished river rocks, but it's not kind when you want paint (or polish) to stick to them.  Then I cut little circles out of a post-it to use as a blocking stencil.

My thought was that the rocks were black enough I could paint the halo, using the post-it to keep the center unpainted, which would make it look like the eclipse.  Post-its are sticky enough to keep in place, but easy to peel off (because trying to peel off actual tape without messing up your paint edge doesn't work well).  What I forgot the first time through was that I have to take the stencil off as soon as I am done painting.  If I let it dry with the stencil in place, the paint peels off with it.

Of course, I painted both the gold and silver parts of the halo, and used a hair drier to set the paint and then tried to peel the stencil off....only to peel off the paint with it!  I knew I'd have to redo them, so I figured I'd try my hand at painting the detail before I did, so I knew if it would work or if I'd just have to leave them plain (because I could see that just the metallic halo looked pretty cool on it's own).  I used the stencil to mark out the edge for a tiny yellow crescent, and then added a white starburst.  I tried to add a bit of white haze too (as the one I saw had it and it looked neat), but I couldn't get mine to look right, and I thought it looked nice without it so that's what I decided to do.

A bit of nail polish remover took the paint off my rocks, and I started again, this time painting and removing the stencil right away.  I actually got brave and painted the crescent on one of my rocks free-hand (and wasn't that terrifying....my hands shake with tiny detail work, so frustrating).  But I was super happy with how my rocks turned out!  They have been sitting on my desk altar now, and it's fun to be able to look up and see the shiny metallic halo, and I absolutely love how the crescent and star effect came out. 


Once my stones were painted, I wrote in my art journal for a bit, working through the prompts about the eclipse.  I am really loving the process of journaling and then painting (or collaging) over my journal entry.  I have so many ideas about things to art journal in the future!  I had thought I might actually get my page painted before the eclipse, but by the time I got my stones to where I wanted them, and had painted on the Gesso (to help cover the writing and give the paper in my journal extra weight), I knew I wouldn't have time to paint the page properly, so I decided to paint it later.

I was not in the path of totality, but we were at a .99 magnitude (over 1 is considered a total...so we were close), and I had looked up the times, ours hit at 1:30, but stretched for just under 3 hours around that time.  I knew I wanted to charge my eclipse stones outside in the eclipse light, so hunted about for a place to set them.  I am always nervous setting things outside unattended (and I knew I wouldn't be outside for the full time of the eclipse) because we do have neighbors and little kids, and these were shiny painted rocks!  But there was no good place out back on our tiny patio, so I set them out front on one of the columns near our door where they got the full light.

I went out myself about five minutes before the peak of the eclipse.  Most of our neighbors had gathered in the front, and there were quite a few kids.  I knew I wanted to sit and just enjoy the experience, so I went out back, toting my art journal with me.  I didn't have glasses, but I also know that I can do quick glimpses at the sun (I don't recommend this....I'm not always smart with myself lol), so I sat out with my journal open to my eclipse page on my lap and let the sun wash over me.

I'd look up for one blink, then close my eyes.  I could see the afterimage of the eclipse with my eyes closed, and it was really interesting to watch it change as time passed.  I could see the sky getting darker and more blue.  Colors seemed to be changing, and the temperature dropped.  It had been really hot and muggy, and now it was sort of cool and pleasant.  As I was looking around, it was just different enough to make it feel like I was looking at the world through a strangers eyes, or that the world around me was subtly different from the one I was used to.  It was a fascinating feeling.

I was leaning backward, looking at the more-blue-than-usual grass, and had another moment of slight disorientation.  Something about the way I was leaning and the angle of the hill of grass behind me, made it feel like the world was curved.  I lay back, so I could see nothing but sky and arched my head so I was looking at the sky below me and the curved horizon of grass above me.  It was a total inversion of the world, and crazy cool. 

I lay there, for the rest of the eclipse, watching the sky get darker.  The sun itself was no longer directly in my view, but off to the side, so I could stare at the sky easily.  And I thought:  about taking this moment to pause, about just existing in that space.  It was something I had written as my intention for the day (I set an intention each morning as part of my calendar work), and today it was to pause.

I realized I don't often just stop and let myself BE.  I do often zone out, or tune into something like music or a show, but I haven't been spending as much time tuning inward, sitting with my breath and the earth and the sky...and I missed it!

For me, this really encapsulated the eclipse.  I my not have planned ahead, but I did decide that I wanted those moments, that time right at the eclipse, to just be, and to be me.  I didn't care about what the neighbors were doing, if they were to come out back and see me and wonder.  In that moment, none of that mattered to me.  I found my peace and stillness and I cherished it.

My last moment of wonder with the eclipse came as I was walking down to get the mail.  We were still in the eclipse window, and I noticed the light filtering through the big tree onto the driveway.  I had seen instructions for viewing the eclipse through small holes (like a strainer or the holes in your blinds) by looking at the shadows it created, but I thought it was particularly lovely to see these crescents of light where there would normally be just random patterns.  I think there is something really special with noticing these kind of magical, natural moments.  Things we normally don't even register, but something happens to make them different, and all of a sudden it is this unique crazy thing and when we stop and take notice, it changes us.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Finding your Flow

Today is the start of the school year, which means my whole day changes.  In some ways, I have more structure when my son is in school, as I get up earlier and go to bed earlier.  But in other ways I have more freedom, as I can do things during the day whenever I want, without worrying about what other people are doing.

I definitely think that freedom is a two edged sword.  Having lots of time means that I am always tempted to do things that I enjoy first...and then get sucked into them and never get around to the stuff I actually need to do.  The more structure I can build myself, the better my days tend to go, and the more I get done.

One thing that is always very evident, especially when I first get back on a more regular schedule is that I am very productive in the mornings.  I can get a lot done before lunch, and during the summer, when I often stay up late and sleep in, I get so much less done, because I'm just in a different mental state late at night.

I am a night person, in that I love nights and feel more comfortable at night.  But while I am awake and alert at night, it is a different kind of awareness.  For productive things, I am often better off settling in and getting them done early in the day.  It is a strange thing, because I am SO not a morning person!

And this is one of those things where the phrase 'know thyself' becomes very important.  I can ignore the fact that I am productive in the morning and try to push myself to work at night, where I am more comfortable.  But even though I may not enjoy getting up and doing things in the morning, I accomplish so much, and it leaves my evenings free for me to do the fun stuff (that I do very well in the night time). 

I read an article a while back on ebb and flow in regards to personal energy.  It really stuck with me.  I think we all have our own personal cycles, whether we are women or men, at all phases in our lives.  We also often just have 'good' or 'bad' days.  Some days, I am very ON, and it feels like everything is easy and I can just get a ton done.  Other days, it's like pulling teeth to even get basic stuff done (like cooking myself lunch).

It is tempting, even on days where I am on a roll, just to play around and do things on my 'want' list instead of my 'need' list.  Especially if I have had a string of days where I was just not feeling up to doing a lot.  Those down days drag on, and make you feel like nothing is much fun.  When I feel more energetic, I want to do fun things!

But I know that I also have things that I do on a regular basis that are so much easier when I work on them when I'm in a flow state.  And sometimes I may not have that many great days, so I really need to capitalize on them.

It is hard sometimes, to push yourself to work when all you want to do is enjoy the day.  This is one place where my thinking mind really helps me.  If I put of my work, and play, there is always that voice in the back of my head, nagging me and giving me guilt for not doing the work I should be doing.  At the end of the day, when I look back over what I have done, I feel less happy if I didn't get productive stuff done when I could have.

If, on the other hand, I get my work done, I feel so much better.  And then, on days where I just don't feel like I can do things, I don't feel guilty about not working, because I know that trying to push through those hard days often leaves me more worn out (and doesn't lead to actually getting much done...I may fiddle about and pretend to work for hours, but actually end up just avoiding doing work).

Part of knowing yourself and your rhythms is knowing how often you have good days and bad days.  If you know about what you need to get done, you can decide how much absolutely needs to get done on any given day.  I always have a timeline in the back of my head, with the things I have going on, when they need to be finished by, and how much I feel I can do on both a good and bad day.

Having worked on writing regularly for several years now, and having done many years of NaNo (which is such an intense writing project, it really pushes my limits and helps me grow as a writer), I definitely know how much I can do when push comes to shove.  Even when I don't 'feel' like writing, I can often get some things done.  I may do more research or background building, just jotting down notes to myself for when I am ready to actually write what I need to write.

It can definitely be hard, to use your good days and productive times, to do things that may not be the most fun, but need to get done.  Sometimes, I think it's more a matter of reminding myself that things will be so much harder if I put them off until I am right up on a deadline.  I know that I can push through and force myself to finish, but that I will also probably be a little miserable doing it.  If I can remember this, when I'm feeling good and productive, it can help entice me to buckle down and work when the working is easy.

No matter how much I want to do something, there are always bits of the work that are more tedious.  I love to write, I really do.  But some times it feels like never ending work!  There is always more to work on, another project to get written, and works that I want to edit and finish up (which are definitely piling up!) 

There are a lot of spiritual books that suggest doing certain practices at specific times of the day.  And while I do think that there is often a reason for the times they suggest, I also think that if those times don't work for you personally, it can be detrimental to try to force yourself to do them as suggested.  You may feel frustrated and never really pick up on the practice, because it just was the wrong time.

As much as I love night time, doing things (like journaling) right before bed just doesn't work for me.  And doing it right when I wake up doesn't work either...I'm definitely not enough of a morning person to roll out of bed and be able to come up with anything coherent right away.  But after a little time, to eat and drink some coffee and wake up, then I find I am in a good place for thoughtfulness.

It can be hard not to get frustrated, especially if you tend to have more hard days than easy ones.  But it is never hopeless!  Start keeping track of not just how you feel, but how different activities flow throughout your days.  You may find that there are times where you are much more capable at deep mental tasks while other times are more suited for more physical things that don't require much thinking.  By paying attention and learning to match the things you need (or want!) to do with how you feel and what kind of energy you have, you will be able to accomplish so much more, with ease!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bread Making

There is something really special about baking bread.  At it's most basic, bread is some kind of flour and water which is then baked.  But there are so many wonderful variations of bread, and so many ways in which we can not only bake it but also use it once it is baked.  Bread can be part of a feast, it's consumption can be part of a ritual or it's creation can be magic!

Whether we bake our own bread, use a mix or buy breads, they are often part of my magical path.  When I was first learning, I had 'cakes and ale' at pretty much any ritual I did, even just for myself.  If I could, I tried to get some nice pastry, to offer up and partake in as part of my rituals, along with a special (often alcoholic) drink.  But sometimes it was a few crackers and some water.  What was important to me is that it was food and drink, and the food typically was a bread like thing.

Often breads are created in specific shapes, and those shapes bear special meaning.  Hot Cross Buns were the first special bread I ever knew of (because of the nursery rhyme), but breads (and cookies, which are definitely like breads!) can be made into all kinds of fancy shapes.  They can look like other foods (like grains or vegetables), people (like gingerbread men), structures (like gingerbread houses) or animals (I made some very cute bunny rolls several years back for an Ostara ritual...sadly I can't find a picture of them).

You can also make simple shapes and press or carve symbols into them.  I have done this with both salt dough and cookies.  Runes or other symbols could be used to infuse the dough with the energy of the symbol.  These could be used as offerings, or consumed (if the dough is edible) to bring that energy into yourself.  Symbols abound, and when you start looking for them, you will find them, as I did when I drew the spiral WomanRune, then realized that my breakfast that day was in the spiral shape! 


I love working with and playing with salt dough.  It is a really simple and easy way to create symbols of things you want to work with, or basic statues.  As it can be nothing more than salt, flour and water, it can be used as leave out offerings that won't be harmful (for an offering that doesn't need to last, you can actually omit the salt and just make a basic dough with flour and water...the salt helps keep it together if you want to keep your creations around).  Basic shapes, such as this pentacle are fairly simple to make, by just rolling the dough into long strands and pressing them into the shapes you want.  

While an unfinished piece like that may eventually weaken and crumble, you can make your pieces last longer by sealing them.  You can use craft or hardware sealants, anything that will keep moisture out of them.  You can paint them before you seal them if you want them to have more color.  I sealed these ones with nail polish, the small Odin statue (which was a blast to make) is sealed with just clear nail polish, while the snakes I played with different colors (I really like the shimmer in some of the colors on the snakes).  The cat I kept a plain dark, since it is less detailed, I kind of liked just having it be monochromatic.  And the wolf head actually isn't salt dough, but clay (but since he was another small figure I've made for my altars, he was in this picture).

What I find really fun with dough is that you can add all kinds of things to them.  I have modified my salt dough with both coffee grounds and cornmeal.  It was definitely an experiment to get the consistency of the dough right, but I loved how they came out.  This is the cornmeal dough, which I made into small offering stones.  I cut most of them with tiny 'cookie cutters' that were originally meant for kids' playdough.  I used the same molds to press shapes into different ones.  And I made some spirals and simple round 'bun' shapes with X cut into them.

The ones I made with coffee grounds reminded me a little of concrete, because the grounds gave them a much rougher texture.  Salt dough, even without being sealed, will last for a very long time as long as you don't get it wet.  I made this set two (or three) years ago, and it is still hard and hasn't changed.  And they still smell a little like coffee!  I was having a hard time cutting the designs into this dough (because of the texture) so used a toothpick to poke the patterns in.  I thought it was neat that the outside got so light as it baked, but where I had poked the dough down, it stayed dark (and the bottoms, where they were resting on the pan stayed dark as well).

And whether you are making salt dough for ritual use or bread dough for eating, you can pick additives based on your purpose.  I love to add herbs to my dough when I am baking, and my pantry is full of choices.  Actually most of my magical herbs are kitchen herbs, so picking from the pantry isn't a new thing for me. 

The bread making process has plenty of places to add a little extra magic.  I often give herbs (and sometimes salt) a bit of a grind in my mortar and pestle, especially if the herbs are quite large and I don't want such big chunks.  Grinding as well as kneading are times that I find perfect to chant and focus on infusing my work with my intentions.  If you are working with a dough that has to rise, you can use that time to charge the dough, either by placing your bowl on a sigil or other symbol, or covering it with a cloth that is appropriate (which could be laid over the cloth or paper you have covering the dough).

Bread is just such a versatile medium with which to work.  If you haven't tried your hand at it, I highly recommend it!  There are many simple recipes that you can try, and a basic salt dough can take just minutes to whip up (as it doesn't have any leavening, so no need to rise).  There is something really special about the transformation from ingredients to dough to finished product (whether that is a bread or a statue).


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back to School

Even though I don't go to school myself, my son is still in high school, so our year still revolves around the school year.  Summer is drastically different in our daily life than school days, as neither of us are naturally morning people, so when given the chance we stay up late and sleep in.

But even though I'm not a morning person, I am definitely more productive early in the morning.  Sometimes I can get things done at night, but I'm more likely to really get the nose to the grindstone before lunch time.  So in the summer, when I pretty much don't wake up until lunch time, less things get done.

That means that when my son goes back to school, it often calls me back to my own studies.  I am very much a scholar at heart, I always enjoy learning things, and can't even imagine not having books to read or subjects to study.  It is one of the things I love about Paganism:  that there is this call to uncover more, to learn more and to continue to grow.

There is a fine balance that comes with study.  Our brains need some amount of time to absorb information.  If we just keep trying to add more stuff, without ever taking breaks, it is very easy to burn out. 

I get this with new projects.  When I get interested in something, it is very easy for me to obsess about it.  If I start learning about a new thing, I can dive in deep, spending hours a day just trying to find out as much about it as I can. 

This sometimes leads me to becoming burnt out on a subject.  I'll have spent a week in intense study, have read everything I can get my hands on and made copious amounts of notes...and then I'll just be so sick of it I can't even bring myself to finish up what I was working on.

Often, when I hit this point, I have to walk away from a subject, and sometimes that will lead to HUGE gaps where I don't really work on that subject at all.  I did this with chakras.  I spent days reading about and making notes on the root chakra, but I couldn't bring myself to go beyond it.  I still have my notebook with pages of notes and pictures involving the root chakra...and nothing more.

But more often, I end up taking a break and coming back to my study.  I have done this with runes many times over the years.  Typically when I find a new book or website that explores the runes in a new way, I'll dive in and spend some time looking at things from this new perspective.  But then, once I've consumed all the new information, I'll let things set and not really work with them for a while.

When I do come back to my studies, I find that not only am I mentally refreshed and eager to start learning again, but that I have really internalized things that I have learned.  I will find myself pleasantly surprised to realize that I can recall things without trying or really having to think about them.  The information is now a part of me, and not just something I took notes on.

The really interesting thing is seeing which subjects come 'naturally' to me and which I am most resistant to.  I have never really been good with time or dates, so things like astrology is a huge struggle for me.  I still couldn't tell you what sign someone is if you told me their birth date (without looking it up).  And this even extends to me not being as familiar with the qualities of each sign (it's like the fact that there is a date involved means that I just block all associated information).

On the other hand, stories work very well for me.  When I know the story behind a thing, I can remember it.  And I start to work more information into the story, so that thinking of the story makes me recall even more.

This is why it's so very important in my own studies for me to look into the why's of things.  Learning legends and myths or how a belief evolved is vital to my being able to recall the actual information later.  Stories make things real to me. 

And I think that is a very important thing to know, no matter what your learning style is.  We all learn slightly differently, and figuring out the way you learn best means you won't have to work as hard to learn things.  This may mean trying different styles of working with information until you find what works best for you.

When I am first learning something I prefer to have a written record of it.  This way, I can spend as much time as I need with the information, quickly and easily reference points that I might want to compare and skim through things that are repetitive.  Once I have a basic grasp on a concept, I might enjoy a video of it, especially if it is something that is very visual (like a how-to on making an object or actually doing a ritual), but I really dislike trying to understand the basics from a video. 

I know some people who are the exact opposite.  For them, videos are much more relatable and trying to figure out information from a block of text is tedious.  This is why I think it is very important to know how you personally absorb information best and to find ways to work within that.

Sometimes this means that you have to translate one type of information into another.  If the only source I have for a subject is a video, I may need to make my own notes off of it, then study my notes to actually figure things out.  If you learn best through hands on learning, and you can't find a workshop for the thing  you want to learn, perhaps you can try making a study group and finding other people who want to learn as well, and you can all try it out together.

I think that sometimes people have bad experiences with school as a child, and they think it means they aren't good at learning things.  But I think that most of those bad experiences are based on trying to learn in a format that doesn't work for you.  Instead of thinking about the things you struggle to learn, think about the things that are easy for you to learn and figure out a way to use that knowledge to your advantage!

If you have always had a really easy time picking up sports, you may be a physical learning, needing to actually do things to learn them.  If you struggled memorizing poems but had no problem picking up new song lyrics, you might be an audio learner (or it could be the music that is key for you).  If you are always frustrated with doing things for the first time but once you figure it out you never forget how to do it, you may be a repetitive learner (also sometimes known as muscle memory).

So when you are struggling to learn something you need or want to learn....take a moment to consider why it is so hard!  Perhaps you need to just take a break and let it all sink in.  Perhaps you need to adjust your study method so that it fits your learning style better.  Perhaps you need to look at the information from a different angle.  But instead of getting frustrated and beating your head against a brick wall (or book!) try something different and see if that helps!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Picnic magic

When I first thought of this topic, I was thinking sort of literal.  I thought it would be neat to talk about magic that could be tied into the food and accoutrements of a picnic.  In many ways, the process of preparing, setting out and consuming a picnic has a lot of ritual structure.  You are planning a meal, but you aren't going to be in a traditional eating place, so you need to make sure you have all your prep work done and that you don't forget something.

There is something very magical about picnics.  I've loved them since I was little.  I think that when we swap things up, even something simple like where we eat, it completely changes the experience.  Many times, picnics are as much about the location as they are about the food, and being out in nature makes me pay more attention to the experience.

A picnic can be simple or fancy.  It can range from pure finger foods and basic things to fancy meals with silverware and plates.  Some meals take more planning, if you are bringing foods that need to be kept cool or warm, or that need special dishes to eat.  But part of what makes a picnic special is that extra effort that was taken to make everything just right.

There is more to a picnic than just food too.  Whether you are using a picnic table or laying out a blanket, whether you are on a towel at the beach or around a campfire in the woods, it all feels very different from how we normally eat.

I think this is even more true in today's cultural environment.  Meals aren't always a regular 'sit down at the table and let's talk about our day' affair.  It seems to be more common now to eat while doing other things, while in different parts of the house, or on the run between different activities.  When we picnic, we are really taking the time and making the meal special.  Just that level of interpersonal bonding make the time special.

There is a lot you can do to magically enhance a picnic.  First, you will definitely want to pick the location with your purpose in mind.  What type of picnic are you wanting to have?  Is it a laid back and fun family outing?  Or perhaps a romantic pause, a break from the hectic daily grind and a chance to connect to your partner.

You will also want to consider how simple or fancy you want your picnic to be.  You can easily just pack up the food in a backpack and stop where you feel is right along your favorite nature trail, but you can also pack a basket with all the things you will need, bring blankets to lay things out on, and chairs (or pillows) to sit on.  If you know of a camping site or park with tables, you may need to reserve them.

There are lots of options for cloths to lay out, so it is quite easy to match your cloth to your purpose!  You can buy flat sheets or blankets (like for a bed) for a simple cloth, and can often find these with lots of pattern choices.  Another good option is table cloths, and if you like, you can find waterproof ones (which can be nice if you think the ground might be damp at all).

Depending on how discrete you want the magic of your picnic, you can really turn the whole process into a ritual.  A picnic makes a lovely basis for a ritual meal, especially for a Sabbat celebration.  You can tune everything from the setting to the foot to the seasonal theme.  As you prep the foods and pack, make sure to pack all your other ritual needs as well.  Then, when you are laying out your things, do it like you would set up for a ritual.  You may choose to lay out and prepare all the food before you start, or you can have the serving of the food be a part of your ritual.

If you are wanting to be more discrete, you can easily work in correspondences into things like dishes without anyone the wiser.  Pick foods and ingredients that work well together and that feed your magical purpose.  You can add tokens or symbols into decorations as well.

While there are many things you can do with an actual picnic, I also think the picnic metaphor is a great one for magic on the fly.  I tend to do most of my planned rituals here at home, though I also participate in several larger rituals throughout the year with local people.  But I have planned rituals on my own that aren't at home, and the picnic analogy works great when thinking about taking your magic with you.

Just like with a food picnic, you will want to make sure you have all the things you need, and that they are all packed in a way that makes them easily accessible and portable.  Just as some foods might require special considerations, so do several ritual items.

It is always a good idea to keep legalities in mind, when practicing outside of your home.  There are laws about how alcohol can be transported (I believe the laws in my area say that any open containers must be in the trunk or somewhere that the driver can't get to them while the car is in motion).  There are also often rules about carrying weapons (which many of my ritual blades would raise concerns with law enforcement I'm sure).  You definitely don't want to cause alarm in people who may come upon you, so you might need to change up how you normally work.

This could also mean that you might use other alternative supplies, besides changing up what tools you use.  At some points in the year, or in some places, fire might not be allowed, so if you normally use candles or incense, you may want to try other ways to work with those elements without risking open flames.

While at home you may use full sized things, for portable magic you may consider scaled down versions or even replicas.  I have done workings using laminated pictures for different purposes (as quarter representations or for the deities), and have recently made art journal pages that represent altars and tools both!  I really love painted stones, and could see a whole working set made with nothing but stones.

There are many ways to carry your magical tools when you work away from home.  The simplest way is to use a backpack, and to pack everything inside of it.  You might also consider a fabric roll (like the kind that artists use to carry a selection of pencils) for things like wands, or a fancy dice bag (which may have sections within a bigger bag for lots of smaller items). 

I have used a tackle/tool box before and really found that useful.  It  had hard sides so it protected all the things inside, and had an inner layer that lifted out so it was very easy to keep everything organized.  There are even more elaborate options, such as hard cases that fold out into small tables (which would make a really handy altar when you are out and about).

If you know what you are planning on doing, it is much easier to plan what you might need, but I have also found it nice to have a basic set of things that were pretty much ready to go at the drop of a hat.  I find there are certain things I use all the time (salt, candles, favorite stones) that I would want to have if possible.  I have several small boxes with compartments, and have made portable magic kits in them.

When I know I want to bring specific things with me, I will often package them up in either containers with compartments or small plastic bags.  I try to keep things as waterproof as possible, just in case!

The final thing to remember when you are done with your picnic, whether it is of the food or magical variety:  always pick up after yourself!  You want to plan ways to take away any trash or leftovers you might have.  If you have things that can be safely left out (like extra food), then you may wish to leave it as an offering.  But remember that other people may want to use the space as well, so be sure to put it somewhere considerate (don't just leave food out on the picnic table or chalk drawings all over the benches).

Picnics can be great and magical things.  They can be a lot of fun, not only to plan, but also to participate in.  With a little planning, you can make a lovely experience and not miss the comforts of home (much).  And the benefits of stepping outside for food or magic can be amazing!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Abundance

I have a sort of strange relationship with money.  In a lot of ways, I am very good with money.  I don't spend a lot, and when I want something big or nice, I have no problem saving up money until I have what I need to get it (as opposed to buying things outside of my means or using credit for things that I just 'want' and don't 'need').  But, I also typically don't have a lot of actual money.  On any given day, I will probably have less than $20 in my wallet (and if I don't have the cash in my wallet, I don't spend money).

Of course, I am only talking about fun money here.  We have money in our accounts, and I go grocery shopping and pay bills and do all that other money stuff every month.  So the essentials get handled, I just have this strange outlook when it comes to spending money.

I sometimes have odd moments, where someone will mention that they just found out about a thing and had to have it, so they put in an order or bought it right then.  Or that they are out of spending money 'for the month/week' and will have to wait until next month/week to get something.  While I am starting to build up some personal income (with things like Patreon), this is sort of a foreign concept in my daily life.  For most of the past decade, I haven't had any sort of regular personal income, so either I had money or I didn't, but money was never something I planned on having.

We have this concept of wealth and money as an indication of how successful you are in life.  And of course money gives you opportunities, many of which you can't have otherwise.  It allows you to purchase things you may want or need, but more importantly it allows you to have experiences.

In some ways, I am a stuff person.  I love certain kinds of things:  books, tarot cards, games, dice.  These are mostly things that I always want more of, there are always new ones I would love to have and work with.  I enjoy other things in more limited ways:  clothes, nail polish, food (as in more splurge food instead of just basic food).  These are things that I very much enjoy, but I don't typically spend much time looking at things I might want to have.

I don't have a lot of regular personal expenditures.  I don't wear makeup or perfume every day.  If I am on my own (which I am a good chunk of the week) I don't eat out or order in.  I often go months without spending any 'extra' money at all.

And what I have come to realize is that there are lots of ways in which I have a ton of abundance in my life, that I sometimes don't appreciate.  It's not that I feel like my life is lacking, but more that I don't stop and take the time to really be grateful for all the things I have.

I have pretty broad tastes, so it is easy for me to find things that I enjoy, which means that there are always tons of things to keep me busy.  I own more books that I can read (in a lifetime if you count digital books).  I have more games than I have time to play.  I actually have quite a lot of time on my hands that I can fill with whatever I wish to do.

While I appreciate high quality things, I can also find joy in simple things.  I do art, and most of my supplies are things that we had on hand:  old school supplies, free magazines or catalogs, dollar store paint.  What makes art fun for me is the process more than anything, so simple supplies often work just fine for me.

I am blessed in that I have (mostly) good health.  I have a wonderful family that cares for me, so even when I am under the weather, I feel safe and secure and well taken care of.

I think that it is easy to put too much focus on stuff and money when we think about how blessed and abundant our lives are.  But money is nothing but little pieces of paper that we have said are 'worth' something.

When you think about the abundance in your life, don't think about the cash you have.  Think about the things in your life that bring you joy!  Think about the experiences you have, the friends that are part of your life, the things that make you smile.

If you don't feel like you have abundance in your life, look to see where you can bring in more joy!  Find things that make you feel happy, and work them into your life.  Try new things, to see what might work for you!  There are lots of ways to fill up your life, even if you don't have cash to spend.

There are a lot of workings out there for abundance, but most focus on monetary of physical things.  There is nothing wrong with working to earn more money or get that brand new outfit you want!  But I really feel that true abundance is the feelings behind all of that.  You want the money because it lets you feel free (to buy whatever you see that you like).  You want the outfit because it makes you feel good or powerful or pretty or whatever it makes you feel.

But when we start to look beyond the physical, we can uncover the roots of our abundance.  We can see what the physical things bring into our lives, and really embrace those underlying emotions.  This can be especially necessary if we find ourselves constantly chasing 'new' stuff for that initial rush of having something new...but then we need to get the next new thing as that rush starts to wear off.

It can also be easy to equate gifts with affection, and we definitely do use gifts (whether it is something we bought or something we made) to show how much we care about someone.  Whenever we look at something someone gave us, we are reminded about them and that they liked us enough to gift us.

When we find ourselves feeling that emptiness, that sense that our life is lacking, it can be helpful to take stock.  Look at the different areas of your life, and see what you have and what you feel you need.  But make sure you look below the surface, look beyond that basic things in your life to the energy that runs below it.  Think about the ways in which your life is rich, even if those ways aren't obvious.  And spend some time really letting all the blessings in your life, no matter how small they seem, sink in.  Wrap yourself up in them and keep reminders around you, of all the ways in which abundance touches you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prayer flags

This is the time of year when I think about flags more than I usually do.  Often when we think of flags, we think about our country flag.  We may also think about flags that are used on ships, whether it is a flag used to communicate messages over large distances or simply flags used to identify the ship and it's purpose.

One of the distinctive qualities of a flag is that it is used to represent an idea.  Often they indicate that one thing belongs to or identifies with a group or person.  We use flags to represent clubs, in parades or other large group gatherings or that we personally support the person or thing depicted on our flag.  Flags can represent concepts, even as symbolic as letters or warnings (like the Jolly Roger or flags that were raised over a household to indicate there was sickness inside).

Flags make a beautiful addition to our practice, in that we can create flags for many different purposes.  Not only are they beautiful, but the represent things that are important to us.  We can fly flags for the deities we work with, for the elements when we cast circle, or as part of our spell work.

I have a small set of Tibetan prayer flags that I received in the mail, simple paper flags on a string with block printed designs on them.  The paper that came with them said that when the wind blew through them, your prayers would be carried away on the wind.  Of course, I hung them inside so the wind that moved them was mostly the wind of my own creation...I would blow on them when I had a prayer to send out.

One of my favorite novel series (The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind) has a character that wears a prayer dress, which has small scraps of cloth all over it, each one was added to her dress by one of her people, so that when she went out into the world she literally carried their prayers with her.  I always thought this was such a beautiful idea.  I have this vision of making a prayer belt or prayer cloak to add to my ritual gear, where I can add on prayers or have other people add prayers, that I then carry with me.

I think what really makes something a flag in my mind is that it hangs up somewhere, wind can move it, and that it represents something.  Many banners are a variation of flag.  We use banners for celebrations and the like, why not for ritual as well!  You could create a flag that represents the celebration (for things like Sabbats) or purpose (for spells), and then have it flying while you cast circle.  Even after the ritual is over, the flag could be hung outside (from a tree) or inside (on your wall or from your altar), and when you want to refresh your working, you could make sure it is out where the wind can catch it.

I also really like the idea of worship flags.  Making flags for the different deities you work with can be another version of a deity statue, in some ways more portable (definitely less breakable than many statues).  A worship flag could be painted, embroidered, quilted or printed.  You can pick a single image to represent your deity, or have several symbols.  You could even just write their name out on cloth, if that works for you.

If you have a permanent altar, but work with different deities at different times, you can use your flags to represent this.  You could also make flags for the different seasons or Sabbats or moon phases, to tailor your altar to what you are working on.

The simplest flag is simply a piece of cloth with several holes or loops along one side (to be used to hang the flag with).  But you can absolutely make your flags fancier by adding on trim or using loops to hang them from wooden dowels (which could also be embellished).

Making a flag for a particular working might incorporate symbols or words to represent different aspects of what you are doing.  If your working involves a particular deity, you might include their name or a symbol that is dear to them.  You can work in colors that represent the elements you are drawing upon.

I also don't think things like prayer flags need to be fancy works of art, so if you don't feel like you are artistic, don't worry!  Think about a lot of country flags that use very simple symbols and bold colors to represent the country.  Likewise, your flag could be a couple of symbols painted on in carefully chosen colors.

One simple way to mark shapes on cloth is to make stamps.  You can find a simple shape or symbol you like, and trace or print it onto paper.  Then get a potato that is big enough to hold the shape, and cut it in half.  Place your paper on the potato and carefully cut out your symbol, cutting away any potato outside of the outline.  You have now made a basic stamp that you can paint and press onto your cloth to stamp the picture onto it.

You can also make very personal flags by laying out your hand prints or foot prints.  For a spell working, you could make your paint a part of the working, not only picking the color, but adding herbs or other components to the paint, and then using it to make your flag.

If you want more complex images, consider checking out thrift stores and looking for tee shirts or other printed cloth with images that work for you.  You can cut out the ones you want and either sew or glue them onto your flag. And of course, you can add things like glitter or trim!

We fly flags to show the world what we believe in.  We fly flags to declare our allegiance.  We fly flags to get our message across.  What flags will you fly?