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!).