Friday, December 26, 2014

PBP- Week 52: Zeitgeist

I have been in love with the word zeitgeist since I was in middle school and heard it for the first time: the spirit of an age. I think that a lot can be learned by tapping into different zeitgeist, not only for use in our present lives, but also for understanding the era in which the zeitgeist was born.

One thing I see a lot, is that people will look back at the past and try to judge actions by modern standards. And on the one hand that is important, because we need to look to the past and see what actions were taken that we no longer find acceptable. This is how we draw upon the past for lessons, how we move forward with conscience. But I think it is also important to try to look at the actions of a time in the eyes of that time. To understand how the person acting might have thought. Sometimes this gives us a huge insight into how people came to the conclusions they did.

Why is this important? Because we are always making new mistakes. We can use the lessons learned in the past, apply them to a new situation and try to see how future generations might look back and view us.

But more than that, zeitgeist refers to the spirit of a time. So one aspect of the zeitgeist of WWII would be terror and conflict. It is the prevailing attitude, the energy that connects all beings in a time. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes subtle. And I think that part of what defines and age is it's zeitgeist. When the zeitgeist changes, the age changes. This, to me, is more definitive than a date or event.

So what makes up the zeitgeist of our current age? When I look around, I see a lot of change. I think the energy of today is that of radical change. The earth is changing, we have seen a lot of violent changes in the form of natural disasters. We see a lot of social changes, issues that have been simmering on the back burner for a long time are being brought into the light, are being rediscussed and re-evaluated.

I also think we are changing our spiritual viewpoint. So many things that are accepted in spiritual communities are being shared with the world and welcomed with open arms. It warms my heart to read about hospitals offering energy healing to their patients. To hear things like aromatherapy, meditation and visualization being discussed as valid and valuable.

I think we are getting ready to enter a new age, a new zeitgeist. I think that all this change is going to need time to settle, and that we will burst through into a new place and then spend some time getting used to it. I am hopeful and hold in my heart the vision of acceptance and peace that I think is within our reach. I believe that we can build this energy, that we can create the new zeitgeist and break free from the fear and judgment that is so prevalent in this time of change.

This is my last post of the 2014 Pagan Blog Project. It is the ending of the age of this endeavor for me. I found so much of myself by doing this, and I hope that anyone who has read any of my blogs has enjoyed the bit of me I have shared. It was definitely something that pushed me to think of myself in new ways, to bare parts of my self that I tend to keep inside, and to bite the bullet and post my thoughts and be true to my own heart.

But as one thing ends, another must begin, so next year, the posts will continue, and I'll share more about that soon. I wish everyone bright blessings, and much love, and may you find all that you seek in life!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

PBP: Week 51- Zippers

Almost the end of the year, and though this post ended up late again, I am really happy with the whole process. I think it was a wonderful thing to do, and even though the official Pagan Blog Project might be ending, one of the forums I am a member of is doing our own version in the coming year!

But the topic: zippers. I love to craft stuff, and always pick up little free crafting idea pamphlets when they have them at the store. I was going through some the other day and saw some crafts for zippers, and it got me thinking.

We have zippers on so many things these days: clothing, bags, shoes. Most of us use zippers multiple times a day, and probably never think about it (or how much easier a zipper is to use verses anything besides maybe velcro). Many zippers have a hole in the pull tab, so it is very easy to add a charm to them. Even if they don't you can use a bit of nail polish or marker to add a symbol. Every time you use that zipper you will then be activating the symbol or charm.

A zipper works by weaving together the two sides of a thing so that it becomes a continuous whole. This makes them great for bringing together two things that may be connected but not working in harmony. You can take a bit of thread and stitch in your desires in the small area between the actual zipper and the thing it is attached to (or even tuck the stitches in the extra fabric where the zipper is sewn on).

If working with something like a coat zipper, why not add some protection? When you put the coat on and zip it up, you benefit from the energy you worked into it. If the zipper is on a purse, wallet or other pocket type thing, you can add security, so that the things you put inside will be safe every time you zip it up.

I have a purse that has a bunch of pockets on the outside that are closed with zippers, as well as a zipper to keep the main bag closed. It came with little faux leather pull tabs tied onto the zipper pulls, but I replaced the main one with a knotwork pull with stones attached to the ends. I have also made some jewelry style pulls with lobster claw hooks that could be used as zipper pulls. There are lots of wonderful supplies in the jewelry making selection. Many charms (for charm bracelets) come with the little clips so you can just hook them straight on. I have some like that on my backpack zippers.

Even beyond zippers that are already attached to things, you can use zippers in your workings. You can buy zippers at a craft store, and often you can find them at stores that have any kind of sewing section. They can be used whole, cut to different lengths, or separated into halves. There are a lot of beautiful zipper crafts that could easily be adapted to hold a spell or be the focus of a working (especially if you are wanting to gift it to the recipient).

Zippers would make a great tool for working on strengthening relationships. Dedicate each side of the zipper to one person in the relationship. You can sew on charms or representations of the qualities that they bring to the partnership or even the things they need fulfilled in their life. The zipper pull can carry symbols of harmony or communication. Start the spell with the zipper fully unzipped, and as you work, zip it up. If you want to really bind it well, you can sew the zipper shut after it is zipped up.

They also can work to help sever unhealthy relationships. Again, you would set up each side to represent a person, this time focusing on the things they need on their own, or the things they are loosing to the relationship. The zipper pull could be dedicated to being healthy, to happiness or even simply to separation. For this one, start with the zipper closed, and then unzip it. If you don't want to completely remove the people from each other's lives, you can leave it connected at the bottom, or if you want them gone you can separate the two pieces entirely.

You could also combine the two and do a spell to both strengthen and separate. For example, lets say you have a pretty rocky relationship with your in-laws. You don't really like them as people, but you want to get along with them better when you are around them. You could set the zipper up with the parts you don't want to associate with at the top, and the parts you want to get along with on the bottom. Leave the pull in between the two, and charge it with balance or harmony. Likewise, if you have someone that you used to be in a closer relationship with but want to create some separation but still have some connection with, for example an ex-partner who is the parent of your children. You can set the top part of the zipper for the things you want to release from your relationship and the bottom for things you want to strengthen. The pull can be dedicated to transition or peace. Then unzip the zipper to the middle.

You aren't limited to relationships between people either. You can use a zipper to bring together qualities, to merge energies into a project or separate yourself from a past trauma. The threads on the zipper itself can represent steps on a ladder, taking you from the very beginning of a project when nothing is established, all the way through to the end when it is complete. The phrase 'zip your lip' refers to keeping silent, so you can use a zipper to keep a secret or to open up lines of communication and uncover information.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Pagan Portals- The Awen Alone

 (link to Amazon page)

I have always had a fascination with Druidry, since I was little, but my personal spirituality has never explored the practice deeply. I was very excited to read this book, and it didn't let me down. I think that Joanna did a wonderful job of opening the door to Druidry and making it approachable.

The book opens with a short 'day in my life' story, which I think was fabulous. I really enjoyed the simple and down to earth way that she describes her activities. The many times, throughout the day, when she stops and takes just a moment to honor her path, really makes it visible how anyone could add these moments into their own life, no matter how much time they feel like they have. I always love people who can make spiritual practices relatable to our busy, modern, lives.

One of the first things that she addresses is the debate between solitary and group work. I think she sums up the major points quite nicely, and her ultimate message is that both have their strengths, and you need to do what works for you. Sometimes that can be group work, but it can also be solitary work, and that just because you don't have a group to work with doesn't mean you can't build a solid practice for yourself.

Joanna talks for a little bit about the history of Druids and the definition of Druidry. Then she explains Awen. Awen is one of those concepts that always felt a bit cerebral to me. Perhaps it was because I hadn't studied it extensively, but her explanations made it real to me. I had always understood Awen to be inspiration, and kind of a artistic type of thing, like I might be inspired to write something or create art. But she expands on the definition of inspiration, that it can literally be transcribed as 'to breathe in'. This brings a whole new level to the concept of Awen for me. Breathing in is a quite physical way of internalizing something, and I never feel like I have really learned a thing until I have internalized it. I also like the idea that we are constantly exposing ourselves to Awen, to inspiration, to spirituality. With every breath we take.

She then brings this breath idea around, that through the breathing in and breathing out, we are creating a conversation with the world around us. And there is definitely an exchange going on every second of ever day. I think we often take this exchange for granted, and that we aren't always aware of what we are taking and what we are giving back. I think there is a lot of value in bringing our focus back to the breath, back to the moment and back to the ways in which we are conversing with the world around us.

Though she does talk about deities in Druidry, she doesn't go into specifics. Rather, she explores the different ways we may experience the divine, with a special focus on seeing divinity in the natural world.

One topic I really enjoyed was her take on ancestors. I have thought (and written) before a lot about the difference between ancestors of the blood and those of the spirit: those we are related to through our genetics and those we feel a spiritual connection to. I am always glad to see others write about things like ancestors of the spirit, because I think it is a powerful concept that deserves attention. But she added in another type of ancestor that was new to me.

Joanna calls them ancestors of the future. She uses this term both to refer to us, those of us practicing right now, as well as future generations to come. But the thought is very similar, and it is a good one. When thinking of myself as an ancestor of the future, I definitely want to leave behind a legacy that future generations will be proud of. Not only in the way I treat the world, but the thoughts and ideas I leave behind. I also think that giving consideration to future generations and what they might need, can lead us to living more consciously in this lifetime.

One final ancestor type is ancestors of place. I know a lot of Pagan's work to connect with spirits and deities local to the area they live in, even if those spirits are somewhat outside of their preferred path. But I think it is a good idea to add in ancestors of place. I definitely like the idea of reading up on where you live, connecting with the generations that lived there before and keeping up a good relationship with those who have passed in the area.

She looks at the yearly cycle both in the eight major festivals as well as the four seasons. I loved that she connected different types of ancestors to different parts of the year. I think she gave a very good outline of things that you can do throughout the year to better connect with the energies of the time and the world around you. She also includes suggestions for prayer, meditation and an ongoing inner pathworking that you can work your way through.

Joanna covers many of the basic techniques such as meditation, ritual casting, altar setup, prayer and pathworking. I think that her instructions are simple enough that someone brand new could follow them easily. But she offers her own take on them, so even if you are already familiar with them, you may find new ways to deepen your own practice.

I found this book to be very inspirational. Even though I live in a fairly rural area, most of my day is not spent out in nature. I always struggle with books that only give suggestions that include long walks in deep woods or being otherwise alone and secluded in a natural setting. Though the focus of this book was on connecting with nature, I felt that Joanna did a really fantastic job of making that connection something that everyone could feel was within their grasp. I also think that she gave lot of consideration to how most people find time to be hard to come by. Many of her activities are easily done in small chunks of time, and are not intimidating if you have a busy life with little spare time.

If you feel spiritually connected to nature, even if you aren't particularly drawn to Druidry, I think you would enjoy this book. If you are interested in Druidry, but haven't read much about it, or are intimidated by more indepth books, I think this is an excellent starting point that will give you a foundation to work from as you go forward.

Friday, December 12, 2014

PBP: Week 50- Yin Yang

I'm not a big fan of absolute binary systems. I don't think things can be divided into black or white. I do like the concept of yin and yang however. I love the idea that within one extreme, at the height of one power, there is a tiny dot of it's opposite. And that the transition from one to the other isn't a line in the sand but a graceful curve. Each quality fades into the other.

I think the other thing I like about the yin yang idea is that the qualities aren't seen in opposition, but complimentary. It isn't the fight of light and dark, but how the light plays with the dark and how the shadows are formed.

There are a lot of areas in life that we have looked at in absolute binaries for many years, and are just starting to see in shades of gray. To take the most basic, one of the first things most children learn is that there are boys and girls. And society is beginning to acknowledge that the boy or girl absolute might not be accurate. Not only are traditionally assigned masculine and feminine traits not always exhibited by all boys and all girls, but we are seeing more and more people coming forward who don't feel that they fit as either a boy or a girl, but somewhere in between.

In the magical community, for a long time there was a black and white division. People talked about white magic as things that were helpful and healing and black magic as things that hurt or controlled. When I first started it was very much an either or thing, and it was very slanted toward black. If you talked to a random person, they would assure you that most Pagans were white workers, that we worked for the good of all and were healers. And yet, if you probed a bit, they would tell you that a good witch never did harm. Yes, NEVER. If you ever considered taking an action that would cause harm, even if it was for a greater cause or to protect a loved one, then you were no longer a white witch. Same for control or any number of other no-no's. By those standards I highly doubt the majority of witches were white...especially considering how many teens there were that were interested.

For a while, people talked about gray witches, and this concept still is used today. If I had to qualify myself, this is what I would consider myself. I dwell quite firmly in the shadows. More often, however, now you hear that 'there is no color to magic, it is neutral, what makes the difference is how you use it.” I do think this has some validity, but I also think it opens the door for all kinds of abuse. It becomes much easier to justify taking darker actions by saying you were doing it for a good reason. At the end of the day, it is you who has to live with the consequences, so you do what you can tolerate. Or you do something and live to regret it and it becomes a lesson of where the line is that you will no longer cross.

But to bring it back to yin and yang, I think that there is a lot of value in looking for that speck of other that is inside of us. If you consider yourself to be a thing, then explore the things that you don't consider yourself to be and really look for what qualities you might have inside of you.

Sometimes you end up coming full circle too. When I was younger, I got this crazy idea that I wanted to be a nurse. I really don't remember why I thought this was a good idea, but it was what I ended up telling my in-laws that I wanted to be when we first met. I had spent some time doing care-giving work, taking care of my great-grandmother. And while I loved her dearly, I hated the actual work.

I don't really consider myself a caregiver. I can (and do) care about people, but sick people trigger me in weird ways, and I spend way more time that I am comfortable with just keeping myself from freaking out, which means I don't really feel I am giving the other person my all. It makes me feel hollow and sort of inhuman, which I also don't like. And then I feel helpless. Because I may be able to help others, but there are limits on what I can do. I can't wave my wand and make pain or illness disappear (as much as I may wish I could).

And yet, there must be a part of me that wants to be a caregiver, because I keep finding myself in the position to care for others. And not just being forced into it, but offering to do things before I am asked, or asking if I can help knowing that if I just keep my mouth shut I won't get asked to help.

I don't know what the answer is yet, but I know it's in that tiny part of me that is the flip side of the majority. It is the dot in the middle of the swirl, and if I can just find it, I can see what it means to me.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

PBP: Week 49- Year and a day

When I first started (and why do so many of my thoughts start out this way....makes me feel old!), the degree system and the whole year and a day thing was huge. Every book mentioned it, and I know a lot of the people I was learning with (we were all solitary and learning from books and whatever other sources from the internet we could get our hands on) felt that practicing for a year and a day was more or less required if you wanted to consider yourself a witch.

The word used then was dedicant. For that first year (and a day!) you weren't considered a practitioner, you were learning. And the thought was that it would take you that long to learn enough to make an educated decision about whether or not this was something you wanted to continue to pursue or not.

I think this decision making process has a lot of value. Firstly, it gave you a body of knowledge that related to the path you were wanting to take. This core information was the foundation on which further practice was built. But it really did serve to give you an idea about the things you would learn about and do in the future. If it didn't work for you in the dedicant period, if you weren't feeling it or if you just couldn't shake the idea you should be doing something else, then it probably wasn't for you.

I think it gave people a graceful period of time, especially when working with a new group, where they could say that they had given it an honest go, but that it just wasn't right for them. It also gave you a grace period, where you were still a dedicant, and therefor weren't expected to know things. I think that offered a lot of peace of mind to people. They were still learning, and everyone who knew that understood that.

Most systems had their own list of things you should know by the end of your year and a day. And by know, they meant 'be familiar with the basic structure and comfortable doing the actions required', not that you should have mastered it. While many systems had differences, there were some things that were common to almost all. Things like: casting a circle, knowing the Sabbats, some form of divination, elemental correspondences, working with candles, working with incense, deity knowledge, grounding and centering, shielding.

I rarely see the year and a day thing mentioned anymore. Most 101 books still include the basic information, but it's just labeled beginner now. The term dedicant has fallen out of use, and that is understandable, because it was most commonly used to refer to people joining a particular group, and many of the 101 books now assume you are going to be solitary (or at least not joining a specific group if you are learning from a book).

But I think that the idea of spending a year (or more) and really buckling down the basics has a lot of value. Where I think it can really shine is if you were to spend that year figuring out what you thought the core practices were for you.

If you look at the year and day as an outline for future practice, you will have a framework for the the type of practices you will do throughout your year. Many of us celebrate a yearly cycle of holidays, whether it is the eight Sabbats or some other set of holidays that have meaning for you. Though this cycle may evolve as your practice does, having a starting point of times throughout a calendar year that you wish to honor helps give you landmarks throughout the year.

From there, you can examine other cycles you might wish to honor. Many people honor the cycles of the moon and sun. I was introduced to the idea of Esbats as meetings of a coven once a month, but I have also heard them referred to as rituals to honor the moon cycle. These smaller cycles can give a lot of structure to a regular practice, but some people find them too restrictive.

Typically, for rituals like the ones mentioned above, a circle is cast and a more formal ritual structure is used. Figuring out what your ritual structure will be is a necessary step in building a practice. I started out using a much more formal ritual structure than I use for most rituals today. Even though I don't use the same structure now, I definitely think that working with the more formal structure has influenced my practice and I am glad that I started out with something more formal. For some people, working the other way is better, and they start out with a very simple ritual structure and then build it up as their practice evolves. Whichever way you feel comfortable with, explore a couple of different types of rituals and then practice with the one you find most appealing.

I think an important thing that is often overlooked in a lot of 101 books today is why we do the things we do. Spending time researching and thinking about the things you add to your practice makes it something that is a part of you instead of just something that you do. I found it really helpful to put my thoughts on paper, as if I were writing up a topic for a school project. I also found that discussing things with others helps me a lot. Whatever way you find works for you, really put some thought into why you like and choose to continue doing the things you do.

Ethics are something that also seem to fall by the wayside. There are a lot of ethical catch phrases out there, like “harm none” and the “threefold law”. Knowing what you find acceptable and unacceptable is very important. If you don't think about it ahead of time, you may find yourself in situations that you aren't prepared for. It is much easier to do things that you aren't really comfortable with if you haven't spent time figuring out what you think is okay. There are lots to consider when it comes to ethics.

Do you think it is okay to take money for practicing on someone else's behalf? What about teaching? Is it okay to use magic on someone without their permission? What about healing? Is eating meat a problem for you? How important is green living? These are just a few topics that many people feel very strongly about, and sorting out how you feel about them gives you a starting point for figuring out how to live your life in a way that makes you happy on all levels.

One final thought about the year and a day. Learning is it's own cycle, and every year we have the opportunity to continue to grow and develop our practice. My own practice changes every year as I learn new things, meet new people who inspire me, and find new ways of thinking about the world. My core practice changes as well. I am constantly looking at what I do and seeing if it is the best thing for me. I am very much someone who both clings and changes. I will hold a practice tightly to me, for years and years, but the moment it stops working I will search for a new way of doing things until I find something that fits. I can walk away from things I have done for decades without looking back. And sometimes I do cycle back around and pick up old practices. Everything changes, and trying to hold onto something just because it is how you have always done things can mean you are stifling your own practice.

Friday, November 28, 2014

PBP: Week 48- Xenophobia and Xenophila

Okay, proper X words this week! So, Xeno is stranger and of course phobia is fear and philia is love. So this week I'm going to talk about strangers and the many ways we fear and love them.

When I was little, those personality tests were big, the ones that you take and they spit out a 4 letter code about what type of personality you have. I remember that the very first time I took it (I think I was in middle school), I got an X for the introvert/extrovert exactly in the middle. And I think in a lot of ways that still holds true. I am definitely someone who likes my alone time, if I spend too much time always with people around me, I get a little crazy and have to wander off somewhere by myself. Which works out pretty good as I am a housewife, and my hubby works six weeks on days and then six weeks on nights, so I always have some time to myself, alone in the house.

But, if I spend too much time in the house without going out and being around people (other than my family), I get a bit twitchy too. As much as I love my family, I think that it's not really healthy to only spend time with a small group of people. And as it has been said, you can't be everything to everybody, and I don't think that anyone should be everything to you. So my family fills some needs for me, but my friends fill others.

Friends and family are one thing. Strangers are something else entirely. I think that we have a kind of xenophobic society. We are taught from a very young age to fear strangers, and we don't really outgrow that fear. We see on the media all over about serial killers, kidnappers, rapists and other nasty people out there. We hear the crazy statistics which are really horrible and rate our chances at being abused in some way pretty high. As a woman, we are pretty much taught to treat every stranger as if they want to violate us. It's kind of a horrible way to live.

I have always taken a more aggressive approach. I don't fear to walk around at night, alone, as a woman. I take reasonable precautions and I project an aura of not only fierce self-reliance, but also determination. I remember, when I was in high school, reading an article that was talking about women getting attacked while walking alone, and it said that the best things to do were very simple: walk as if you weren't afraid and had somewhere to be. Act like someone was waiting for you.

I take a page from the animal kingdom too. Act like you are bigger than you are. I am not a small woman, standing at just under six foot (so with shoes I'm just about six foot!), so that gives me a bit of an edge, but I definitely 'puff up' when I am anywhere other than broad daylight. If I feel threatened in any way, I start projecting more aggressive energy. Kind of the puffer fish approach: make yourself big and spiky so that predators will look for easier prey.

I haven't personally taken self defense courses, but I have heard that any sort of fighting back is really important, if the worst were to happen, and someone were to try to attack or grab you. Strangely enough, a lot of predators are kind of cowardly, and they trust in the fear factor to render their victims docile. Yell, fight, be a pain, and you are more likely to get away.

On some level, strangers terrify me. Even long distance strangers. If I have to call someone I don't know on the phone, I get nervous. I have to build myself up and kind of put on extra armor. When I know I am meeting new people, like people I know on the internet but have never met face to face, I have that same kind of fear. It's not fear of being hurt or attacked, I tend to believe that my instincts are good enough that I can get a feel for people, and I don't meet people I don't know at least a little. But I am sort of socially awkward at times....very much so on the inside at least. I worry about embarrassing myself, about being laughed at or being made fun of. Perhaps it is a remainder of being sort of nerdy as a kid (well and just children are mean in general!) but I always think that people aren't going to like me and that just makes me nervous.

Funny thing: I used to be scared about posting stuff in the same way. That my words would be judged and ridiculed. I have had some bad experiences on forums, and seen some horrid viscous personal attacks on other forums, so it's not completely ungrounded. One of the things I had to face up to, when I started this blog, was that people might read it (yeah, I know, people reading it is kind of the point of a blog). So it's a character building thing for me, to write and post, and I definitely find it's easier over time.

But I really enjoy people. I like meeting new people, and talking to people, especially people who are different from me. And it is those very differences that I sometimes find terrifying. But it is also those same people who can open our eyes to whole new worlds, things we might have never considered otherwise.

I think that we focus too much on the negative sometimes. That we let fear bind us. We stress over all the millions of horrible things that might happen, and we forget that there are even more wonderful things that could happen. If we only look for the bad stuff, we can be so worried that we overlook the magic. It's a matter of being observant. We need to look, without preconceived notions. Not only will this let us see the wonder in things, but if there is danger, we will see that too.

Every stranger is a new part of our life. It could be a good part or it could be a bad part. They all help us grow, some through giving us challenges to overcome and some by giving us blessings in our lives. Every person in your life, from family to friends to coworkers, they were all stranger at one time. Some people are forced into your life and you get to know them whether you like it or not. Some people we invite into our lives, and then have to figure out how to get rid of them. And some people we chase, always wanting to know them, but never getting close.

Friday, November 21, 2014

PBP- Week 47: X-roads and intersections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

PBP: Week 46- Wishing versus Whatever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Pagan Portals- Hoodoo

Pagan Portals-Hoodoo

(link to amazon)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

PBP: Week 45-Wandering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

PBP: Week 44- Variety of Soul Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Optimized Woman

 (Link to Amazon page)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, October 24, 2014

PBP: Week 43- Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

PBP: Week 42- Understanding

Understanding is a different thing, in my mind, than knowing. Knowing is more related to facts and book knowledge: memorization. Understanding goes much deeper than that. One way I like to put it is that it is when something becomes internalized...or when it picks up personal meaning to you. I can read an article and come to know something, but I don't typically understand it until I can apply it to my life.

Understanding is very important to me. I consider something learned until it is understood. And understanding isn't static, but made up of all kinds of plateaus. I think that anytime you start to study something, you gather knowledge, and then when you think about, practice or try to apply that knowledge you may reach a level of understanding. That understanding may change or even dissolve, if you later uncover new knowledge. The process starts over, as you work to bring the knew information into a different level of understanding.

There are things that I have studied for decades now. Some of them have grown and the understanding I have now is multi-layered and deep. Other things I have shattered my old understanding of them and developed a completely different understanding. Typically, I find that my understanding is challenged more by other people's experience than by uncovering new facts, although both can create room for growth.

There is a word, used in science fiction, that I heard when I was a child and loved. Grok: to understand intuitively or so completely that something becomes a part of you. This is pretty much what understanding is to me. I don't consider something learned until it is so familiar to me that it is like my own self. It is when you can do something without thinking about it, when it becomes instinctual. To me, this is the start of working with a skill. You practice it, study it, live and breathe it, until it becomes a part of you, and then you can really start to develop it.

I also like another word: kenning. There are a lot of different meanings for the word ken. It means to know, but it can also mean vision, as in how far can you see. And I think that vision is a part of understanding. The more open your eyes are, the further you can see, the deeper your understanding will be. If your eyes aren't open, you can think you know something and be very mistaken. Another meaning of ken is to teach. And I think that in order to teach effectively, you really have to understand a subject. While anyone can pass along facts, to share understanding requires a much more thorough grasp of the subject. And, as many people who teach know, often the act of teaching helps deepen your understanding of a thing. The teacher learns from the student through the questions and discussions they share.

One of my favorite meanings of kenning though is a metaphorical description of something. For example, Yggdrasil can be referred to as Odin's horse. On the surface, this doesn't always make sense, but as you explore the meanings, you uncover the reason behind the association. Hanging from a tree could be referred to as riding the tree, and as you ride a horse, the tree becomes the horse. Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil to learn the runes, and so Yggdrasil becomes Odin's horse.

Kennings give a lot of ways for us to explore and go beyond the facts and numbers. I have seen kennings all over. Many of the more fanciful names of herbs (things you might find in old spells and recipes) are kennings. Eye of newt is thought by many to refer to mustard seed (because it looks like a small yellow eye) rather than the actual animal body part. I also have found kennings in many games. Brain box being used instead of skull, whale road for the ocean.

I think that creating kennings of our own is a great way to challenge our own understandings. My favorite kennings are not too obvious, but if you know the lore or subject, then they make complete sense. In a lot of ways, kennings remind me of alternative alphabets and other codes. And I love those, and always have. There is something fantastical and wonderful about communicating in ways that are not immediately obvious.

Friday, October 10, 2014

PBP: Week 41- UPG

Upg is an acronym for unverified personal gnosis: things that we have experienced that are not based on historical or universally accepted consensus.  Upg is a phrase that has been used more and more, and often in a somewhat negative light.  

There is the tendency to discount personal experience in favor of historical accounts.  Modern society teaches us that fact and history carries more weight and this has more value.  And even in the Pagan community, where we value personal expression, we often deny the validity of a person's experience when it is in direct opposition to what is generally accepted to be true.

But I think we forget that ours is a living and evolving tradition.  In fact, I think this is one thing that sets us apart from most other religions is that we do not have a static set of practices.  Instead, our beliefs are constantly changing and growing.  And this is all based on the experiences of the people practicing.

Every single one of us contributes to the body of work that is Paganism.  It is our experiences, shaded through the lives we have lived that future Pagans will turn to as they work through their own path.  Each of us will experience the world in our own way because we are all individuals.  This is why our experiences are so varied.

If you ask ten people to describe a situation, you will get ten different descriptions.  If you ask a hundred people, you will surely get a consensus, a common thread that runs through the many stories, and yet there will always be outliers.  And yet, those people who have different stories, are not wrong.  They just lived through a different experience because of their unique life experiences.

There is a lot of discussion about who is right or wrong.  Which in turn often leads to discussion about whether or not the Gods themselves can evolve and change.  Can they appear differently to each of us, and if they can are they still the same Gods?

I don't feel like this diminishes our beliefs at all, rather I think this gives our beliefs depth and complexity.  Instead of being a simple flat picture, it becomes a sculpture with texture and volume.

But what about when someone's Upg is completely contradictory to the general consensus?  I think sometimes it can be a matter of perspective, like those pictures that are so close up that'll you can't tell what they actually are.  Perhaps we are simply not able to see from far enough away to see how it fits.  I also don't discount the human error.  There have been plenty of times when I thought I understood what has happened and then later realized I was completely wrong in my assumptions.

And let's not forget too that some people do create their own versions of things that are meant to be provocative.  They want to create strife and stir things up by insisting that their experience is both real and valid.  It is my experience that people who insist their version is the true one and other people's are not are often blind to the greater vision, either through choice (when someone decides to keep their blinders on) or fear (like covering your eyes so you can't see the truth).

Ultimately, I celebrate Upg because it adds depth and clarity to my path.  Even when someone else's Upg is different from mine, I learn about how other people see things and sometimes about how I my own visions define me.