Thursday, November 15, 2012


I found a nifty article the other day:

I am impressed by this on so many levels.  Firstly, I think it gives a lovely workable model for exploring the worlds of Norse cosmology through the wheel of the year.  I find these types of models fascinating.  There are so many levels on which we approach our practice, and finding connections between them are always valuable. 

I also appreciate the fact that they explain their thought process.  I love seeing how people's minds work, and reading about how they worked out what went where and why they felt it worked not only makes the end product more understandable, but it helps show how you could apply the same method to other things.  My practice is very much a fusion of different aspects I have found appealing, and finding ways to weave different practices together into a working whole is always valuable to me.

I think it is interesting to note that this was written, not by a Heathen group, but Druid.  Granted, one of the goals of their group is to find ways to connect the different Indo-European practices so that they can communicate with each other and work together, which I find a very admirable goal. 

But it is something I have noticed before, often inspiration comes from outside the circle it influences.  It is as if people on the inside are afraid to mess with their own practices.  Perhaps that is just my eclectic mind speaking, but innovation of my own practices is pretty high up on my priority list.  It seems like a lot of groups tend to work with whatever method they were taught and never question if that is the best way to do things.

I don't think there is any single best way for everyone, but I do think that questioning how and why we do things, even if it doesn't lead to change at all, strengthens our practice.  Seeing the meaning behind the actions and looking for ways that we can deepen that meaning makes our practice a living, breathing thing that grows with us.

Monday, November 5, 2012


I was at a lovely gathering the other day for Day of the Dead, and had a minor part.  As I had gotten the lines a day in advance, and there were only six (and they rhymed, so even better) I decided to memorize.  And of course, I flubbed a little bit.  It's funny, I can recite things flawlessly on my own when it's not important, but in front of a group sometimes I still freeze.

I work very hard to not be shy, but ultimately, when in a social situation, I am very aware of myself.  I dunno if it stems from being on the fringes as a kid, and it just carries over, but especially amongst people I just met or don't know very well, I am pretty self-conscious. 

But back to the Day of the Dead.  If it had been someone else, who had stumbled on their part, I wouldn't have thought any less of them at all.  It occurred to me, looking back (which I do...endlessly if I don't stop myself) that I judge myself way more harshly than I judge anyone else.  I will beat myself up over really inconsequential things...stuff I would never consider giving someone else grief over.

There is a fine line between striving to be the best you can be and really being down on yourself for trivial mistakes.  Obviously, we all want to succeed at everything we set out to do.  Ultimately, there will be little trip ups (and sometimes big failures) along the way.  Don't let it get you down!  Pick yourself up, and move on.  Take a moment to recognize what happened if you like.  But make sure you look at the bigger picture.

At the end of the night, we had an absolutely lovely ritual, and any hiccups in the execution didn't diminish in any way from the beauty of the gathering and the purpose it fulfilled.  I am quite sure that in a month or so, I will probably be the only one who remembers that I stumbled in my part (okay maybe a few others will now that I've rambled about it here *grin).  A year from now, it won't make a difference if I had said it perfectly, forgotten it entirely or said the wrong word (for some reason I kept trying to say winter's end when I would practice, not sure why).

After looking at the big picture, step outside yourself for a moment.  I can't remember where I read it but someone once said that most people are concerned more about themselves than other people.  And I mean that in a good way, not that they don't care about other people, but that five minutes after you embarrass yourself most everyone else will have forgotten (if they were even aware of it in the first place).

Just a quick aside:  there are idiots and bastages out there who live to make other people feel bad.  These people will go out of their way to loudly and publicly mock you for anything they can possibly make up.  They aren't worth the time to respond to, and your real friends won't listen to them anyways, so don't give them the satisfaction of bothering with.

Bottom line is this.  Treat yourself with the love and forgiveness you would treat another.  Let your stumbles, mistakes and down right failures go with a laugh and a smile.  Know that each step you take is a step forward, even if it involves falling flat on your face.  It's never as bad as we think it is.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Today begins my month of madness.  I have been doing National Novel Writing Month for years now (I want to say five, but not certain).  I am crazy enough to have finished every year.  I won't lie, it is hard, and there are definitely days that I don't want to write.  I set my daily goal higher than the minimum...high enough that I can finish 5 days early, or have 5 days to slack off if I end up getting busy with other things.  2000 words a day doesn't sound like that much, or look like that much, but when you are trying to write with a goal in mind, sometimes it seems endless.

What really surprised me the first time I did it, and to a lesser extent every time since, is how having that 2k word goal a day not only pushes me to write, but pushes me to do other things too.  As I have mentioned before, I am a stay at home mom.  There are quite a few days where I really don't have anything specific I have to do.  And this can be problematic for me.  I kind of like having stuff to do, not just stuff I can be busy with, but a focused goal.  Even goals I set for myself can be kind of set aside.  It is easy to make excuses to one's self (though those are the worst excuses to make, trying to pull the wool over your own eyes is an exercise in futility).

I go through periods where nothing seems to appeal.  I will find myself sitting and staring off at nothing, just trying to sort out what I want to do.  I will turn to things that will distract the mind but that don't require much effort, such as TV or reading (what I call easy reading, things that don't require or encourage thought).  Sometimes I can't even get myself motivated enough to do those.

When I have a project to work on, everything else seems to fade away.  I can become consumed, and for me that is a good thing.  It snowballs.  One good project gets my mind fired up, and I seem to run in all directions at once.  It brings it's own struggles, trying to stay focused enough on one thing to get something done can be a challenge.

NaNo (the short way of referring to National Novel Writing Month) was intimidating the first time I thought about it.  Writing 50,000 words in one month.  Even broken down, 2000 words today, it is big.  Part of that scope is what makes it exhilarating.  At the end of my words for the day I feel like I have done something.  If I know I am going to have a busy day, and I push and get my words done, I feel even better. 

And I find that the writing process sparks interest in many other things.  I sometimes have to work to keep at the keyboard and finish my words because I'll get drawn into doing something else.  I leave myself notes (I absolutely love having sticky notes as an application on my computer, there are little notes all over it somedays).  Notes are a tiny extension of lists, of which I am also a huge fan.  Lists help me get things done, and help me remember what I need to do when memory fails me.  Lists help me organize.  And much like breaking NaNo down into bite sized 2k word a day chunks, lists give a sense of accomplishment as each item is checked off and the list finally gets done.

This year I am really challenging myself.  Every other year for NaNo, I have written fiction.  I have written things that let me be crazy and go in whatever direction my mind leads.  I don't judge my NaNo writing.  I have written a novel that was more or less one long dream sequence.  I wrote one that started out to be a vent against people who annoy me and ended up being a kind of random food description.  My vampire novel spent pages exploring crazy technology I dreamed up.  But this year, I am going non-fiction.  I am going to write about my form of modern Paganism, which should prove challenging.  I am always second guessing myself, when I write non-fiction, wanting to include more information, all the why's and how's and all those other questions that swarm around in my brain.  I want things to be perfect, and I never feel like I am explaining myself well.

So here goes, my foray into non-fiction in a crazy month of writing.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tools of Earth

This was the last of the four base element tools that I found.  I have seen some beautiful carved and burnt wooden pentacles that would make lovely earth tools.  Mine is a simple silver-tone coaster.  It doesn't have a pentacle on it at all, but it is flat and round.  I use it mainly as a blessing spot, sort of a small energy nexus on my altar.  If I am making offerings or putting energy into something, it goes on my pentacle.  I guess maybe I should call it a shield.

The first time I read about using a shield for an earth tool I thought it was a bit fantasy roleplaying....not that I have a problem with that, it just seemed a bit contrived to me.  But the more I thought about it, the pentacle is a shield, just not the kind that stops swords (unless they are magic swords!).  The pentacle symbol and tool are often used interchangeably (though most of my pentacle jewelry is blessed towards five elemental balance not just earth).  It is very commonly used as a symbol of protection or warding, much like the magic circle actually. 

I was going to talk about the pentacle symbol and my thoughts on it's meaning in another post, but it kind of fits here, so here we go.  If you think about the pentacle shape, you have the pentagon in the middle, surrounded by the 5 triangles pointing out and finally enclosed in a circle.  I see energy as moving through the pentacle in mainly two ways, in or out.  The star becomes a focus for either sending energy out along the points from the middle or drawing energy in to the center.  Either can be used for shielding or charging, depending on how you want to work things.  If you envision the pentacle as a shield, a 'hit' could be drawn inward and absorbed (neutralized) or spread outward and dissipated.  For blessing or spellwork, you can draw energy in through the points to charge the item in the center or draw energy in through the center (and the item) and then send it out along the pentacle points to do it's work.

When I was writing about water tools, I almost included my mortar and pestle, because a lot of times they are associated with water.  I know people who use them as they would a cauldron.  I don't really.  Mine is an earth tool.  The process of grinding something down to me is a very earth process.  But also, I rarely use it for liquid processes, normally it is dry grinding and mixing only.

I know a lot of people use crystals as earth symbols, and I do sometimes.  I have a small collection I inherited from another witch as well as rocks I have collected over the years (some from as long ago as grade school).  Some I use as symbols of other elements.  I have favorites I use to cast circles with (not just as quarter markers, I actually normally use 12 to mark a circle).  I'm not sure I would consider my stones tools of earth though, because I do use them for such a variety of things.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I am a Bokononist!

As the sentence of the Books of Bokonon states:  "All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies."  Recently I was reminded of Bokononism, which I first experienced in high school.  Bokononism is a religion that was created by a character in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s book Cat's Cradle.  In the book, a man named Johnson was shipwrecked on a fictional Caribbean island.  In the island's local language, Johnson was pronounced Bokonon.  Seeing the state of the people, Bokonon and his fellow shipwreckee decided to take over and make everyone's better, and to do so they created Bokononism.  The basis of which is the premise that Bokononism (and it's texts) are formed entirely of lies, but if you through belief and adherence to these lies, you can be happy.

One of my longstanding statements is that Truth (with a capital T) is absolutely unknowable, and not only is it unknowable, but it is absolutely useless.  My truth, what is real to me, could be very different from what is real to you.  If there is an absolute reality, knowing it is impossible, and can not benefit my life in any way.  It is through seeking my own truth that I find my path.  I think this could very easily be translated into Bokononism's concept of foma-  harmless untruths.

"Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."  One of the reasons Bokonon based his religion on lies was that the truth that was apparent on the island when he landed was horrible.  The people were starving and poor, and all they could see around them was misery.  By building up this religion of lies, he gave them hope.  Picking and choosing your lies is a very tricky thing.  Looking back at the concept of foma, it's not just about lies. 

Harmless untruths could be considered white lies.  We live in a society where many people prefer to be told little white lies than be told the truth.  People don't want to be told they are overweight, that they don't have model looks or that they aren't wealthy.  Deep inside they know the reality of these things, and yet with a few foma, things aren't quite the same. 

I think that one of the key attributes people forget when thinking of foma is 'healthy'.  Live by the foma that make you healthy.  I am not a slender model.  By the scale (which I don't even own), I need to drop quite a few pounds to be in the healthy range.  But when I think of myself I don't think obese.  My foma is not that I think I am skinny, but that I live like I am skinny.  Think of it a bit like 'fake it until you make it'.  I might not be a dancer anymore, but I still dance.

Bokononism has quite a cache of unique terms.  Zah-mah-ki-bo is inevitable destiny.  I think that a lot of Bokononism revolves around this concept.  Not in the sense of having no control of your life, but rather that there are currents in your life that lead you places.  You might have the choice of how you get to those places, but sometimes you will notice that you seem to be drifting in a particular way.  Maybe you wanted to be an artist all your life, but every time you work to pursue your goal, you get nudged in another direction.  Now, of course, this doesn't mean you can't be an artist, but it is very worth while to see where the winds of your life are leading you.  Maybe there are things you need to do first that will make your artistic life even better. 

Human beings want to understand.  We want to quantify things.  We want to be able to point a finger and say, "there! that is the reason for all this stuff that is going on."  We don't like feeling helpless.  We want to feel like we are advanced and that we have evolved to a point where we can control the world around us.  We want to feel superior. 

And so we fight our zah-mah-ki-bo.  We stubbornly beat ourselves against the same dead end, trying the same failing strategies to get through the brick wall.  We are blinded by what we see as truth and can't use our foma to create a door through to the other side.  It's not a matter of thinking outside the box but one of realizing that the box is just walls we made up to protect ourselves from the chaos that is life.

The best and most powerful thing about foma is they are mutable.  I can change my foma as needed.  I create the world I want to live in by believing in it, not by trying to find a way to live with the cards that are dealt to me.  A Bokononist who is about to commit suicide says, "Now I will destroy the whole world."  And in a very real sense they are.  When I die, the whole world will die with me....or at least that will be my perspective, and ultimately that is the only reality there is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Water tools

I've always wanted a cast iron cauldron, and someday I'll get one.  Though it is the most iconic water tool in some ways, I don't really associate the cauldron with water, probably because I would burn things in it more than I would use it to hold liquids.  I do have a small ceramic cauldron, only an inch or so in diameter.  I forget where I got it from, but when I want to offer water or other liquid in a ritual, I often use it.  It's a good size for solitary practice.

I also have two chalices.  Both I got from kitchen goods stores.  The first is a dark red crystal wine glass, so dark it looks black unless you hold it directly up to a light.  The second I probably wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have the first.  It's a very pale pink at the top, a champagne flute, and the stem is a pale green and they fade into each other in the middle.  It's not my typical style, but when I saw it I thought it would make a nice contrast to the other, so I would have one for darker aspects and one for lighter.

I don't always make offerings for solitary rituals (excepting Sabbats) so I don't always use a chalice in workings.  I used to use them more, but I used to use more elaborate circle castings all the time.  The kind where you use the Athame to mix salt into blessed water and consecrate the circle.  I think when I was starting out, I needed more ritual all the time, and now I break out the fancy ritual for special occasions, but it isn't necessary for every circle.  Perhaps it is a confidence thing, but I don't feel I need the salt and water to purify space, I am more than capable of doing it all on my own.  Of course, if I am working something big, or just want that extra zing, I'll go that extra mile.

I have a couple of things I consider tools of water that don't typically get mentioned.  The first is a bottle that I store blessed water in.  It is one of those green glass beer bottles, the ones with the fancy ceramic stopper hinged to the top with metal.  I fill it with water and then bless it myself.  Normally it lives on my altar, and is my representation of water.

I also do a lot of water work in the bathtub.  Though I haven't consecrated the tub itself, I typically bless the water and sprinkle it with salt.  I have also used herbs in the tub as needed (if you don't want bits of herbs floating about, use a teabag of appropriate tea or make your own with a coffee filter tied together).  The tub is absolutely my go-to when I am emotionally out of wack and can't seem to pull myself back together. 

Friday, October 12, 2012


I was watching the Paralympic closing Ceremony, and it was absolutely lovely (for those who haven't seen it, go see!  It's druidy).  The main speaker reads from a book and I was thinking about that.  There is a big push in a lot of circles to memorize everything said in ritual (or speak from the heart...but either way it's sans book).  There is a lot of reasoning for this, but I think that a proper speaker can make a read passage wonderful.

I'm a memorizer.  Have been since gradeschool when I had to memorize poems (which I can still recite:  Jaberwocky and Stopping by Woods).  Once something is locked in my brain it becomes a part of me.  I like the fact I don't have to run and find the book I saw something in to reference it.  When it comes to lyrical or poetic pieces, I love being able to just ramble them off without a lot of thought.

I recently got into chanting, and that is so much fun.  I think that chanting really illustrates the power of memorization.  You don't want to have to think about what comes next in a chant.  To really get into it and feel the chant, it has to become a part of you, something you just are and can do.  The words flow out of you and you don't have to pay attention to them, they just are.

My memorization process is essentially two-fold.  There is an initial period of learning.  In terms of a spoken thing, I say/chant/sing it while looking at the lyrics.  I do this typically as many times in a row as I have time for.  I don't try to remember what comes next, I just read the words as they come and try to keep the flow going.  Sometimes I'll put songs on repeat on my computer so I listen to a grouping over and over for several days.  Step two is a bit counter-intuative, but has been part of my learning process since high school (or at least that is when I figured out it was part of my learning process).  I walk away.  I go on and do something else and don't try to think about it for a while.  Almost always, after a couple of days, I can recite whatever it is just fine and a lot more naturally than I could before that resting period.

It's a little different for information, though the immersion-rest cycle is similar.  When I start trying to learn something new, something that I know I'll want to remember without having to go look it up, I go through an intensely obsessive period where I read everything I can get my hands on.  I'll have multiple tabs open on my computer so I can compare different pieces to each other or look up stuff that one resource references.  Writing is an important part of my learning process too.  I find I learn and remember better if I work on making my own copy of the information, putting it into my own words or combining different ideas into a cohesive whole.  The more involved I can get my brain, the better.

What I struggle with is seeing a project through to the end.  My attention span is quite spastic, so sometimes in the middle of working on something, I'll get drawn in an entirely new direction.  I'll end up on a whole other project before I realize I've left the first one, and it can be years before I get back to what I started.  What I find though is that I often retain a lot more than I thought I would, sometimes I'll get asked something or try to explain something and realize that I have a broader understanding than I would have said I had.

But back to memorization.  One of my favorite quotes is from Indiana Jones:  "I wrote them down (in my diary) so I wouldn't HAVE to remember them."  There are some parts of my practice that I feel are key.  Concepts that are so integral to the workings of everything else that if I didn't have them memorized I wouldn't be practicing anything, just doing random motions that had no meaning.  The elements and their correspondences (in general) are one of these things.  I never have to look in my books to remember what colors go with which quarter, or what the elements represent.  If I go obscure enough, then yes I do have to look stuff up (I doubt I could tell you what choir of angel is associated with east of the top of my head).  But that is why I write down stuff that interests that when I want to find it again, I have it.

When I first started practicing, I had some pretty hefty Wiccan (in the mass published sense) influences.  The charge of the Goddess, the story of the decent of the Goddess, the great rite...these all have wonderful spoken bits, but weren't things I used often enough to memorize.  The Wiccan book of  Law is waaaay too long to bother with (though I did hand copy all ten pages of it).  I have copies of various Sabbat rituals with full spoken texts that I think are pretty, and if I were ever to perform those particular rituals, I might memorize the bits I was supposed to say.  

The one drawback I find to memorization is that things that become rote...become rote.  It is really easy to slip into automatic drive and say the words and go through the motions without engaging the deeper mind.  I did some work with the LBRP (lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram), and I don't know if it was the daily repetition, the resonating of the letters, the angelic imagery or what, but I found it hard to really commit to it.  I would catch myself, saying the words and doing the gestures and whole sections would have passed and I didn't really remember more than that I had done them.

So, to memorize or not to memorize....I guess for me it depends on what I'm doing.  Some things I am definitely drawn to memorize and not have to look up.  I am always looking for new sources of information and impressions on runes because divination is definitely in the "don't want to have to look up" category.  It just kinda blocks me if I have to go looking through a book to find out what something means.  Chants are definitely in the memorization category (as are songs).  Most of everything else falls into the "whatever my whim leads me to do", sometimes I'll feel the need to memorize stuff, sometimes I'll feel the need to just copy it down and not really internalize it....and sometimes I'll think I'm just copying it and will find it cropping up enough that one day I realize I remember it without having to go look it up.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wands + Staffs

Mainly I am going to talk about wands, and just briefly talk about staffs.  I don't actually have a staff, though I have plans in the works to carve one.  It won't be what some think about when they think staff, more like what I would call a rod, but much more substantial than a wand.  One of the books I read a long while back modeled their staffs this way, instead of being an "almost as tall as you walking stick type" it was "thick enough to circle your fingers around and about three feet long".  I kind of like the idea of an inbetween tool, because really a full sized staff is quite unwieldy in most places I would do magic.  Someday I would like to have one, just because I think it would be fun to decorate, but then I would probably do it up like a ladder between the worlds more than a traditional staff.

But wands.  I have two right now.  One is the very first wand I ever had, and I made it in college.  I have always liked working with wood, for me sanding is an experience all in it's own.  So I was walking around my college campus (University of Hawaii), and they were trimming trees.  I don't know what kind of tree it was even.  There was just this pile of tree trimmings, and there was a stick in it that called to me, so I nabbed it and took it back to my dorm room.  The one thing I do remember is there were large seed pods also (but I just looked at a photo file of seed pods of Hawaii and none jumped out at me so that isn't going to be much help).  After a period of drying, I peeled off the bark, rounded off the ends and gave it a sand.  Voila, my wand.  It is simple to the extreme, no oil, no finish, just sanded wood. 

Around the same time, I was wandering through another part of the campus and they were trimming the bamboo.  I found a piece of bamboo trimmings that were just about the diameter of my pinky finger, with the sections about a foot or so long.  If you've never worked with bamboo, it has sections that are sealed off and hollow inside.  I had been thinking of making something for a friend of mine (who was also Pagan), and this I thought would make the perfect base.  I cut it off just outside of two of the section joints, so I had a full sealed section in the middle.  He was born in the month of May (as am I), and I had a bag full of non-gem quality emeralds, so I used some string to fix one to one end.  There was a lovely American Indian store near where my Great-grandmother lived, and I had previously picked up some leather lacing and mock eagle feathers (they were turkey actually, but quite large and fluffy and white).  I also had a pair of earrings with little wood tubes and stones dangling on wires.  I wrapped the whole length with the leather, fixed the feathers on the end opposite the emerald and added the dangley bits from one of the earrings with the feathers (I kept the other earring, intending to make a matching wand for myself).  It came out spectacular looking and was well received.  For some reason I never found another piece of bamboo that I liked to make it's pair.

Then last year, I was wandering one of the parks around here looking for wood pieces for some carving work I want to do (and still want to do but haven't gotten beyond the sketching phase).  I had some pieces drying and was sort of working on trimming them up to prep for working them.  One of them had a neat little bend part way down, almost like a handle (not a severe angle, maybe about ten degrees or so, just a little bend).  But I thought it would be a neat feature for a wand and decided to finally get around to making my own fancier wand.

I carved a little depression into the tip of the wand to hold the emerald bit I wanted to use.  Using leather lacing, I strapped it in as tight as I could.  That is one of the things I like about the leather, you can stretch it and get quite a good tie on things, and it molds around indents in stones and the like.  I was still using leather lacing I had gotten over 15 years prior, and ended up with less lacing than I would have liked.  The first one I had made used all tan lacing, but this time I had a bit of white suede lacing I ended up using to weave a latice like pattern, so you can see the bark through in places.  It was finished with the feathers and dangles, which gives it a bit of a rattle on the back end, which I like.

Ultimately though, I'm just not a wand person.  I've rarely used my wands, much preferring to work with my Athame.  It takes a conscious decision for me to work with my wands, no matter how lovely I think they are.  I don't know if it is a weight thing, they feel like air in the hand.  One thing I do like about the wand though, is it is a very public friendly tool. 

Actually I will mention one other tool I use in a wand like manner (though not exclusively).  I have a rosewood fan, the kind that opens and closes and is made of various slats of wood.  I have found it makes a pretty good wand, and I like the double association with the fan and air.  I read of using a fan magically in a book on Chinese dragon magic, and the fan was used as a tool in a shielding exercise, fanning the air around the body for purification, so my fan doubles as a kind of pentacle (in the pentacle=shield sense..will talk about that when I talk about pentacles!).  I also like the fact that it is scented.  Air for me is strongly associated with scent (fire-sight, water-taste, earth-touch, spirit-sound).

In some ways, I think about tools in a somewhat backward sense.  I don't think of a wand as it's own specific tool, separate in function from the staff or blade, but rather that the wand is a tool of air where for me the blade is a tool of fire.  The wand isn't the only tool of air, my fan is also a tool of air, so even though I use them in different ways, they are blended in my head as versions of the same tool:  the air tool.  I consider smudging feathers another version of the air tool.  Actually, when I really think about it I sometimes consider my incense burner a tool of air, but I think I'll talk about that in it's own post, as incense is a big enough topic I can talk about it separately.

Strangely, I don't have a magical broom yet, though I do sweep magically with my regular broom.  I definitely consider the broom to be a tool of air.  My air tools work differently than fire tools.  No matter how little it weighs, a blade has a weight in my hand.  Even the completely non-sharp ones have a focus on them of capacity for harm that just isn't there with my air tools.  I'd say it was that they are just so light in the hand, but the broom isn't, in fact it is definitely heavier than some of my blades, and yet it moves in a different way.  My air tools dance in my hand, they follow those capricious wind motions, like when you try to ride the currents of air that pass by your window when you are in a car.  Out of all my tools, my air tools have the most movement to them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Warrior soul

Not giving up on the tools, just switching it up a bit, figure I'll toss a few other thoughts out in between so it doesn't get stale.  This was something that was wandering about in my brain and recently demanding attention.

I've thought and written about this before, being a warrior.  I think there is this tendency, especially among some of the Pagan groups, to assume that we are all pacifist, love-all, tranquil seekers of warm fuzzy feelings.  Some of it is part of the ongoing PR project to convince mainstream peoples that we are not all child/animal sacrificing monsters out to corrupt their virginal daughters.  But part of it is this deep set belief that to be enlightened, we must be above all this human stuff.  That the image of a gaunt, bald man wearing a toga with a little half smile on his face sitting in lotus position on the top of a mountain is the ideal we should all be working towards.

It's not that I have anything against peace or tranquility.  I rather like them both and get quite cranky if I don't have moments of still and silence in my life.  But I also know that there is a huge part of my core that is built around the warrior mentality.  My natural inclinations aren't to roll over and turn the other cheek.  I don't think that everything can be worked out through talking and logical reasoning.  And it's not because I don't think that there are reasonable solutions out's that you don't always have the luxury of dealing with rational people.  If I am dealing with a religious fanatic who thinks I am going to burn in Hell AND that my very presence puts his family at risk of eternal damnation....well there is no talking to them.

I don't go looking for trouble.  I would much rather find a nice way to make everyone happy than to go pissing in beehives (because while you definitely rile up the bees, you also get stung in uncomfortable places).  But if you back me up against a wall I will fight back, I will be ruthless, I will expect to be hurt so it won't surprise me when I am, and I will not feel guilty about it afterwards.

Peace comes at a price.  All these people who are protesting the war and making a big stink about our soldiers are blinded by their own hypocrisy.  We are a country BECAUSE we stood up, took up arms and fought for what we believed in.  If we didn't maintain an army, someone by now would have come in and taken us over and we wouldn't be the country we are today.  The cops step in to prevent the criminal element from running amok.  I can leave my door unlocked at night if I want and not be totally paranoid that someone is going to try to come in and take my stuff or hurt my family.  There are parts of the world where that can't be said.

Not everyone is set up to be a warrior.  Heck, not everyone is set up to be a soldier, and I think there is a difference between a warrior and a soldier.  A soldier fights for someone else.  That isn't to say that they don't believe in what they fight for (good soldiers won't fight for someone who believes in something contrary to their own beliefs).  But they work within the structure and follow instructions.  A warrior fights because something inside them says they need to.  They follow their own path.  It might sometimes lead them to working with others, but when they get pulled in a different direction, they go.  Soldiers have a much higher honor code than warriors, but warriors will go places that most soldiers wont.

We need warriors and soldiers both, in our mundane and magical lives.  Not everyone wants to be on the front lines, and not everyone should have to be.  The world we live in today doesn't let everyone step out of the broom closet.  Not without risking things they might not be able to stand to loose.  No one should feel bullied into taking actions that would harm their family.

But on the other hand, don't tell me I'm a horrible person because I won't back down.  Don't tell me I should fight fire with flowers or that there is always a way 'in the light' to overcome all.  There are things that don't back down, people that really want nothing except to cause as much damage as they can and just times in life where there are no good options.  I don't fault anyone for their choices, but don't judge me for mine until you have been where I have been and been faced with what I have seen.  It's very easy to preach peace and love if you have never been in a serious situation.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I was sort of thinking of doing separate posts for different bladed tools, but honestly, I mainly use an Athame, and while I may have a few other bladed tools, they aren't primary for me, so I don't feel I would have enough to say on some of them.  As a quick overview, I have two Athame (double-edged daggers), a white handled knife, a doctored up letter opener (not sharp by any definition) and a sword.  These are my magical tools, my actual blade collection is quite a lot bigger.  What can I say, I am a blade girl.

My Athame is my primary tool.  If I am going to use just one tool, it will be my Athame.  As I said, I have two, one is the very first one I ever bought for use and the other is my current one.  But if I am going to start from the beginning, the very first blade I ever used in magic was a small pocket knife.  It was a simple thing that I had been given by my Grandfather.  It had just two blades, was slightly rusty and old.  My Grandfather used to collect junk that other people threw away.  He would walk the woods and come home with really crazy things, I loved it.

For a starter blade, the little pocket knife was perfect.  Firstly it was small and easily concealed.  I could carry it in my pocket, backpack or purse and really no one would notice or think about it if they did (it was actually quite a bit smaller and more dainty than my everyday pocket knife which was a huge serrated monstrosity).  It was also a functional knife, so I could use it to carve or what not as needed as well as more purely magical operations.

At the time I was very big on tools and having read about the split in blades between the black and white handled knives, I set out to get my own.  I found a lovely sushi knife at a kitchen store.  It has a very pale (almost white, but not painted, just very pale) wooden handle and sheath.  And it was fairly small (about a 4 inch blade or so) and quite sharp.  For a working tool it was excellent.  I especially appreciated that it came with it's own sheath so I didn't have to worry about accidentally cutting myself.

I was in Hawaii at the time, so wandering about one of the little swap meets, I found a selection of dive knives.  They are not huge, small dagger size (about 4 inches as well).  The ones I was looking at weren't the dive knives with the blunt end for prying things up but more traditionally daggery.  They were double edged, with just about an inch by the hilt that was serrated (for cutting through cords if needed, but I have a preference for serrated blades, so it was wonderful for me).  They were black handled, and they had one with a ying-yang symbol, which is one of the symbols I really am called to.  They also came with a sheath, that had a belt loop on it.  The one drawback was the handle and sheath were plastic, but I decided to try it anyways, and that blade became my Athame for close to ten years.  I never had a problem with the plastic, in fact it was probably one of the things that led me to my disbelief in some of the non-modern thoughts on the magical use of things like plastic and technology.

Sometime around here I was looking for a more publicly usable blade.  I knew that I couldn't go waving about these sharp blades, especially since I was still in school at the time.  I had a letter opener that was very plain, just a silver looking blade shape, rounded on the edges and not very pointy.  I managed to pretty it up a little with a grip (I don't even remember where I got it from, but it was black leather with little cut out patterns). 

I didn't get my current Athame until about ten years or so ago.  My husband and I were out at a swap meet, and I always look at blades when I see them.  There was this little stall that had a couple of things, and one dagger caught my eye.  It is longer than any that I had used before, from tip to tip it goes from my elbow to my fingertips.  It was also heavier than I was used to.  The blade was long, but thinner, much more spike like.  The tip is quite pointy, even though the edges are still pretty dull.  It can cut, but you have to use a lot of force to do so.  The hilt guard and pommel are brass, a metal I don't really generally like, but most of the hilt grip is a kind of greenish-white bone, so it works well together.  I went home with the dagger that day.

My sword was a valentines present from my husband (how well does he know me!  I don't get chocolate and roses but blades *grin).  It is on the smaller side, and slightly ornamental, and really only my dips into Ceremonial thought made me want a sword for magic at all, but I have one.

All of that and I still don't quite think I'm there yet on blade tools.  I am too much a kitchen witch.  I would like a dagger that has a good cutting edge that I could use, but haven't found one that calls to me yet. 

Having said that though, I have a much deeper relationship with my Athame than any of my other tools.  It is the only tool I have that has a name (which has never been told to anyone and probably never will).  My Athame is a part of me, a companion in my workings and a personality on it's own (well most of my tools have personality, this one is just more pronounced to me).

So now that I've rambled about the tools I have, some thoughts on bladed tools in general. 

I don't think that there is a hard and fast right/wrong for the blade you work with.  I've worked with sharp, not-sharp, plastic, black/white/colored hilt.  All the rules for magical blades I've broken at one time or another and never had a problem.  What I think is important is what you want to do with your tool.  If you like having just one tool to work with, then it will need to be more adaptable.  If you don't mind having several, you can be more specialized and have a blade set aside for harvesting plants (some consider the Bioline to be only the curved sickle-like blade used for herb harvesting, some consider it to be the white-handled utility knife that does all the actual cutting).

One thing I will touch upon briefly is the belief that a ritual tool should be only for ritual.  I definitely don't agree with this.  I have no problem with people who choose to keep their ritual tools only for ritual, but I don't feel that using a tool for a non-ritual purpose in any way diminishes it's ritual power.  Rather, I find that a closer association with a tool brings a tighter bond and more control in ritual.  By correlation, I don't find anything wrong with using an Athame to actually cut stuff, it is a blade after all.  If you want to have a separate tool for practical stuff, fine, but if you want to use one for all of it, that is fine too.

I have always worked with the blade as a tool of fire.  I know that ceremonially, the sword/blade is air and the wand is fire, and some pagan groups use that association as well.  I've seen some lovely explanations for why that is.  But to me, the wand is wood (well mine are at least), and branches that have been surrounded by air, where the blade is metal and forged in fire.  I also think that the wand is a less aggressive tool than the blade, so fire works better for the blade.  It might also be an emotional pull, since I am drawn stronger to both the blade and fire than I am to air/wand.

So sitting here thinking about it, I really don't know why the handle is supposed to be black.  My guess would be that the black holds all colors (well for pigment not light) or that it is meant to absorb any negativity, but I can't recall it ever being spelled out as to why it should be black (or double-edged for that matter).  I do know that some covens require it, but if you are working on your own, I would go with whatever you like.

Speaking of which, the name Athame is one of those crazy touchy subjects that BTWs (British Traditional Wiccans) get proprietorial about.  I've been flat out told that I can't use that word for my tool because it is not a proper consecrated-in-their-tradition tool and that is the only blade that is an actual Athame.  There might be some truth to that, Gardener is often considered the originator of the term (even though a similar term was used for a black handled knife in the Key of Solomon).  This is one of those places where I fill popular culture over-rides.  I will never claim to have a consecrated BTW Athame (well unless I become a proper BTW and get one...but that is unlikely), however since the very first book I picked up, the working blade has been called an Athame, and that is what I call mine.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I've been thinking about tools a lot lately, and am going to have a bunch of thoughts on individual tools, but I first wanted to explore the general concept of tools.  There is a huge range of opinions on tools, from the very ceremonial outlook that tools must be made by you, in a very specific manner, each detail lined out and explained.  On the other end of the spectrum is the belief that tools are completely unnecessary and the self is the only tool you need and the rest is just fluff and glitter to make you feel special.

I fall somewhere in between, and my use of tools varies with my mood.  I have tools, some of which I have made myself and some of which I have bought.  I have tools that are fancy and tools that are simple.  Sometimes I work with the tools of my body (gesture, word, posture), sometimes I work with the tools of my mind (visualized and astral rituals) and sometimes I work with no tools at all (just pure desire sent out).

Many of my beliefs about tools were formed early on.  When I first started practicing, much was made about the interaction between the talking self, younger self and higher self.  The higher self being the soul or the divine part of us, the talking self being the conscious mind and the younger self being the subconscious.  I really do think that we work magic through accessing the higher parts of our self.  By tapping into that divine within us, we effect the divine in everything else.  But I do also know that my talking self tends to try to talk me out of things.  It is where my fears and insecurities live.  And I think of the younger self as the child me, doing whatever it thinks the other two want it to do.

The problem is that the younger self doesn't really respond to words well.  Like a young child just learning to speak, actions and emotions speak much louder to the younger self.  So if I have a pretty little chant for a spell, my younger self might only understand a few words.  Think about a poem or song verse you really like, and then pick three key words out of it.  It probably won't make much sense anymore, and worse you could probably combine those three words to mean very different things.

This is where tools really shine.  They give the younger self something to fixate on that it can understand.  And the more you use them, the stronger the connections are formed for the younger self so the quicker and better it gets involved in your workings. 

Tools are really more than just the blade and wand or what many people think of as tools.  The candle we light and the paper we burn with our wishes on it are both tools.  The ritual bath we take before hand is a tool.  The music we have playing in the background is a tool.  If you think of it like a play, the talking self can read a script and understand what is going on, but the more props, costumes, theme music and acting going on, the more the younger self can follow what is happening.

I think it is more important to use tools when you are first starting out.  It not only helps the younger self to work with you and achieve your goals, but it also clearly defines 'magic time'.  When you get out the tools, slip on your robe (or whatever ritual clothing/jewelry you use), your entire mind realizes something special is going on.  As you get used to working, you will find it much easier to get in the right mind frame without all the ceremony.  That isn't to say you can't start your practice without any tools, it will just be harder for most people.

It makes me sad, to read beginner books now, that don't explain why tools are useful.  There is something very Harry Potter to me about a lot of modern books.  They kind of make it seem like the stuff is magical and you are just using it.  The magic is within, the tools just help us to touch it until we can recognize it's feel and see it all around us.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Asymmetrical balance

I've been thinking a lot about balance lately, and with Mabon here, it seemed like a good time to talk about it.  I have a strange relationship with my brain (no laughing!), and sometimes I come to some off the wall compromises trying to get my right and left brains working in the same direction.  I have a very strong analytical side that likes things neatly ordered and likes every little aspect explained.  But I am also blessed with a creative side that just likes playing with color and sound and movement.

For a long time, I struggled with wanting everything in neat little patterns.  I wanted to devote equal time to honoring the God and the Goddess.  I wanted my rituals to follow the same structure and rhythm.  If I found a neat ritual or exercise for one of the elements, I wanted to do something similar for the others.

And it absolutely wasn't working for me.  Things don't just always fall into neat equalities.  I am not equally drawn to the feminine and masculine, and I don't devote myself equally to the deities I worship.  I am not always balanced in the elements or my approach to them.  And trying to make everything perfect was making things worse.

I should have thought back to my art lessons.  Although I guess it doesn't surprise me that I didn't because I struggled with asymmetrical symmetry in art too.  I was fine with creating balanced compositions as long as I didn't think too much about it, but once I started trying to make things balanced but not symmetrical, I would end up with really boring pieces that just kind of fell flat.

What I've learned in my practice (though it is still a work in progress to apply it to all aspects of my life) is that balance does not mean equal.  I like to think of the things in my life having different weight.  If you were to imagine it as items on the scale, not everything is made of the same substance.  Some things weigh more or take forms that occupy less space.  If you were to just look at two items, you may think you know which one is more weighty, but sometimes looks can be deceiving.  It is only when you put them on the scale and see how they actually balance that you can see which one you need to add more too.

To make it more difficult, the scale of our life isn't on a flat and stable surface.  We are always changing, always moving and sometimes quite tilted ourselves.  Now you have to put that scale on a mound of sand.  Sometimes it will be at the top of a pile, and the balance will have to be exact to keep the whole thing from sliding down one side or the other.  Sometimes it will be at the bottom of a hole, and you can fiddle with it to your hearts content and it won't budge.  And sometimes it is sitting on the side of a steep slope, and because of the tilted base, you will have to make the two sides of the scale different to end up with something balanced.

I am lucky in that my life is pretty much my own, my days are mine to fill as I please.  I have a kind of obsessive personality, so it is very easy for me to be consumed by things.  I have to work to keep balance in my life or I will wake up and realize that for the past week I have done nothing but "insert current obsession here".  Sometimes I need to immerse myself like this, but most of the times it just wears me out.

I have also learned that intensity really plays a part into this.  The more intensely I engage in an activity, the quicker it builds up in me.  Being mindful and fully immersed in my activities gives me a level of control over my life that just isn't there if I kind of muddle through and just let my body do things.  I also sometimes have to make the decision that I don't care what other people think and just do what I feel I need to do.  If I let myself be concerned with my image, I let things slide that aren't good for my Self.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Odinism: a reflection

I just finished reading "Odinism The Religion of Our Germanic Ancestors in the Modern World" by Wyatt Kaldenberg on my kindle.  I'm not going to call this a review, but a thoughts on it after having read it.

The first thing I have to say is that I am glad I slogged through (okay, I skipped past) the first big section of this book.  I really had no desires to read a bunch of quotes about how Heathens hate Islam (and to a lesser extent Christians, Jews and Wiccans).  It was a pretty big chunk, I would guesstimate about a third of the book.

But once that was over, I thought there were some really good points brought up.  I also liked the no nonsense voice of the author (probably a bit abrasive for some, but I like snark).  Wyatt makes no bones about speaking for all Heathens, nor even about there being a cohesive "Heathendom".  He actually suggests that diversity is desirable, and that everyone should explore their own expression of their Heathen faith and practices.

The biggest thing I walked away with was a really interesting explanation of deity evolution.  The author talked about how the Gods adapted to the evolution of the people.  Wyatt's premise starts with Yggdrasil being a sort of spiritual creator for our world (with there being other trees for other worlds).  As people developed and had needs, a god or spirit would be created to fill that need.  So when man started using tools, a god (Odin) was formed to represent the basic tool (a pointed stick...spear) and what it represented (war, hunting, innovation).  Man also used clubs (Thor), but they weren't as useful in the beginning (spears had the advantage of deadliness) so Odin was a mightier god than Thor.  There were no swords yet so no Tyr (this whole thing was kind of an explanation of why he felt Odin was an older god and more important than Tyr).

He then goes on to talk about how man started to develop different technologies:  flint napping, metal forging, agriculture.  As each came about, the gods changed and adapted, and sometimes their positions in relation to each other changed.  Here we come back to Tyr, and when the sword became the prominent weapon, Tyr rose in power.  But as people became less hunters and more agrarian, the Vanir grew in popularity and Frey comes into the picture. 

This evolution was taken into the present.  We no longer fight with swords and spear, nor are we a farmer society.  Why would the gods have stopped the evolution they had shown and not picked up the tools and resources of the new age.  Would not Odin (god of knowledge) be tapped into the internet?  Would not Ullr (god of hunting) take up hunting rifles?

I think this is a really potent thought.  There is a lot of anachronism in the Pagan world.  A lot of people really approach their faith from an antiquated perspective.  It's like the whole concept of deities couldn't possibly have matured with us.  Sure there are spells and rituals for modern things, but they almost always call upon ancient gods that are kind of slotted into modern usage.  And yet, our perception of them is almost always ancient in nature.  If you call upon Epona (horse goddess) to help you acquire a new car (figuring that horses were a main form of transportation), do you visualize Epona riding in a shiny mustang...or on a brown mustang?

I have always understood deities to be people.  In the sense that they have personalities and lives outside of their archetypal attributes.  I think they have their own motivations and interests.  I definitely think they evolve and mature as the world does.  It just makes no sense in my mind that deities would be stuck in a primitive state.  I do think that some may have a certain fondness for their glory days, if you will.  Sort of like the big football start from high school, who grows up and becomes a banking investor, may always remember those high school years as the 'best time of his life', and sometimes he likes to put on his old jersy and relive those experiences.

Wyatt also had a lovely section of prayers.  I agree with him, that prayer in the Pagan world can be something fraught with controversy.  Which I think is ridiculous.  People think of Christianity when you say the world prayer, but what is prayer except talking to deity?  And if you aren't talking to your deity, what are you doing with them (and why should they listen when you ask for something in a spell)?  Prayer is one of those things that I sort of struggled with, but I found that if I just let go of all concepts I had with the word prayer, and just lit a candle and started talking, I would do just fine. 

The prayers included in this book mostly revolve around  the concept of Gebo:  the gift exchange.  It is more than just a social convention, it is an obligation.  A gift deserves an equal gift in return.  Wyatt works this into daily offerings.  He gives offerings with two intentions it seems.  Firstly as a gift in return for the gifts of his daily life, and secondly as a gift given to encourage future abundance in return.  In some ways this may sound quite mercenary, but I really think it depends on how you think about the exchange.  If you approach it as a child might thinking "If I give you this toy, then you have to give me that ice cream I want," then I think you are in for some disappointment.  However, if you approach it as an act of love and respect, like you might give something to your spouse knowing that they will give you things in response because they also love you but not expecting anything in particular, then it becomes something else entirely.

The book ended with a list of beliefs and oaths expressing these.  I skimmed this part too, because they were just a touch too exclusive for me.  I have a lot of Heathen leanings, but it is not my only interest.  I approach a fusion of Heathenry with other things, and I feel it works for me.  I do have ancestors in that area, so from a "Heathenry is the worship of your ancestors and if you don't have them in this area, the gods will not speak to you" I technically count, although I don't follow that line of thought at all.  I definitely believe in spiritual ancestry:  I think you can be deeply spiritually connected to people, cultures and deities that you have no blood link to.

I was a little put off by the importance breeding had in the book, as in breeding new generations of little Heathens and raising them in the Heathen faith.  Not that I have a problem with the importance of family, nor of families raising children in their beliefs, but it just gave off the feel like the whole purpose of life is to breed more followers and that just was a bit much for me.

All in all, I think that parts of the book were brilliant though there are parts I will never fully read.  The book wasn't deleted from my kindle, but put in a folder for future reference.  If anyone was interested in reading it I would probably suggest skipping the first bit, but the rest was worth the time it took to read.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Here we go!

So, I'm not really naturally a blogger (or a journal writer even with pen/paper).  I have good intentions, and sometimes crazy ideas, but I tend to keep them all locked away in my head.  I like writing, don't get me wrong.  I find that when I put things on paper (virtual or otherwise), it helps me to organize my thoughts better, and sometimes to even get them more refined.  It just seems like there is always so much going on and something as simple as writing sometimes get pushed by the wayside.

I have been on quite a few forums, and one of the things I always dread about joining a new one (besides feeling like your stepping into someone else's party) is posting an introduction.  I understand the need for it in a virtual world, since no one can see you and make a first impression.  It is both liberating (I get to choose what to share) and daunting (what do I say?).  It sets the tone for those first initial posts until people get a sense of who you are.

So this is my introduction post!  For all of you out there who don't know me or what I do, and for those of you who do know me, well consider this a 'me in a nutshell'.

Basics first.  I am a married woman, mid thirties now (wow, sure doesn't feel like it....I swear parts of my mind will always be a teenager), and I have one son in middle school.  I am a stay at home mom, and have been since my son was an infant.  I have been a Pagan, in one shape or another, since high-school.  My husband doesn't share my beliefs.  Neither, for that matter, do my parents, although they did find out when I was in college and we had a lovely awkward discussion about it and then kind of don't speak about it now.  They don't treat me differently, so it's all good on that front.

My roots are in what I consider commercial Wicca.  Not the lineaged British Traditional Wicca, but the Wicca 101 type of books you can find in mainstream book stores.  I actually got introduced to the concept of magic and witchcraft through a book called The Power of Magic, which was in my high school library (only slightly was a private Christian school).  The pictures absolutely captivated me, along with a note that contacting a Coven wasn't that hard, and that in North America they even put advertizements in magazines.

Needless to say, it wasn't as easy as that to make contact with others.  I did end up finding a New Age type shop and talking to some of the people there, and strangely enough making random contact with quite a few young military Pagans after being abandoned at a dance club by a 'friend'.  During this time I absolutely devoured anything relating to witchcraft, Paganism or the occult.

My husband and I moved from Hawaii (where my Dad had been last stationed in the military and where we had met) to the mid-west (where my husbands parents were).  I continued to practice pretty much solitary, though had some interactions with a local coven.

After we moved again, this time to a much smaller country town, I pretty much lost contact with everyone.  It was a kind of lonely time for me.  Eventually I found some Pagan forums, and started meeting others online.  One of the forums I have been on for a long time is more Occult based, and so I learned from and talked with people who are not of the Pagan faith, but more interested in Eastern philosophy, Ceremonial Magic, Chaos and a whole world of other practices.  This still highly influences the way I think about and approach magic.

But my heart is really in witchcraft and Paganism.  I have a lot of calling towards Heathen concepts, and have been working on exploring them.  At the core I am a kitchen witch, I can practice with whatever I have on hand (or just my hands!), but I like to play dress up from time to time and work with fancy tools and ornate rituals.

So, in my blog you will encounter all kinds of ramblings (have you noticed I tend to be a bit wordy...), ideas from any number of sources, and just crazy thoughts I have had pop into my mind that won't let me go.  Hope you enjoy, and love to hear from anyone reading (just forgive me if I don't respond right away....sometimes I forget that there are comment sections on these things!).