Friday, June 27, 2014

PBP- Week 26: Multiple Gods with the same focus

One of the big debates in the Pagan world is about the nature of Gods. When I was learning, the prevalent explanation for deities was that divinity itself was nameless, formless and pretty much unknowable, however it expressed itself in the form of individual divinities (as well as in the rest of reality). In this view, different deities are like the different masks that divinity would wear, though the unseen face behind all the masks was eternal and unchangeable.

But this view doesn't really work for some people. In a way, it is sort of like saying that all human beings are the same person because underneath our differences we are all humans. Sure, we are all people, but you and I are not the same person at all. I do feel that there is divine nature in all things, but that doesn't make all things one (on more than a philosophical level). Likewise, I don't feel that all Goddesses are the same anymore than I believe all women are the same.

I was thinking a while back, however, about deities that are considered to be influential in the same field. It is pretty common to find lists of deities for various purposes: love, justice, peace, thunder, moon, sun, plants, animals...the list goes on. I have never felt all the deities in a particular list are the same (and it somewhat irks me when people pull deities from very different pantheons and try to treat them as if they are the same when they only share a few characteristics).

I don't work exclusively within a single pantheon. There are deities that I work with that come from very different backgrounds. So when I am thinking of calling upon a deity to work towards a goal, sometimes there are multiple deities that come to mind. There are many moon deities, sometimes even multiple deities strongly associated with the moon from within a single pantheon. So when I work with the moon, should I pick one deity to work with? And if I do, how do I decide which one of the many moon deities I have worked with to work with on any particular occasion.

Sometimes there are distinctions. For example, love deities come in many forms. I would work with a different deity when working towards love with my husband than I would for love with my son. But sometimes I work in a purely honorific way: such as a ritual to show gratitude for the sun for it's presence in my life. In such a case, I would want to include all solar deities. I see this sort of like working with my ancestors: sometimes I may want to work with a single ancestor and sometimes I want to work with all my ancestors. In the same way, I can work with the Sun, and through the symbol (the sun itself), honor and work with all solar deities.

Another thought that came to my mind was if deities would be offended if I worked with one of them over another. Would Thor be upset if I worked with Grandfather Thunder? This is a bit more tricky in my mind, and much more individualized. I think we all have different relationships with deities, and even with different deities. It is up to me, when I work with deities, to figure out what type of relationship I have with them and what allowances they will give me. Some deities might have restrictions that I am not able (or willing) to work with (like requiring exclusivity), and it would be unwise and pretty rude of me to try to cultivate a relationship with that deity while ignoring their restrictions.

Our minds are complex and wonderful things. When multiple things are associated with one purpose, it can be almost impossible not to think at least a little about all of them. We might not even be aware of the direction our thoughts are taking, and yet still we give that mental nod to all things that are connected in our minds. Even when picking just one deity to work with, we still honor the others by connecting them to the work through our mental maps.

Friday, June 20, 2014

PBP: Week 25- Masks

Masks are powerful. There is a lot of work done using masks. From animal masks we don to take on the aspect of the animal to very realistic masks we might use on Halloween to look like a specific person. But wait, that last one isn't a magical practice, is it? I think it is. I think we use masks in way more ways than we think, and that when we recognize all the ways we use (and can use) masks, we open up a whole new arena to work within.

What is a mask? A mask is something worn on the face to disguise or make us look like something else. Masks can either hide, reveal or change the self we project to the world. Most people, when they interact with another person, focus on the face. Our face is the portal through which we shine out for the world to see. When we mask, we alter the image we project, and often this changes the way others deal with us. But masks touch us more than skin deep. They often change the way we act as we adapt to fit the mask we wear.

Masks can hide by covering up features. They can cover imperfections, like when we put on makeup to cover up a scar or blemish. They can cover insecurity, like when keep our mouth closed when we smile because we feel our teeth are unattractive. They can give us a sense of anonymity, covering up our entire being, when we veil or wear Harlequin style mask. We can use this knowledge to chose to keep hidden things we feel are private. It can also be empowering to work on revealing things we normally mask. Some things are easier to leave unmasked with strangers and others with those closest to us. Even spending time alone and completely unmasked and dealing with our bare selves (by spending time meditating with our own reflection, focusing on the parts we normally avoid or mask) can bring a lot of compassion back towards ourselves (which can be the one person in our life we may be the harshest towards).

Masks can also reveal things that may not be obvious. We all have many pieces in side of us. Most of us have different parts that hide or reveal depending on who we are with. I expose different parts of my self when with family versus friends. Learning to call up specific parts of our selves at need is a very powerful tool to have at our disposal. Likewise, learning to set aside masks we have donned for our own protection can help us grow beyond past trauma's and defenses.

Masks can transform us into things we don't feel we are (or things we want to cultivate more of). I believe we have a tiny bit of everything within us, so even when I am working with something I feel I have almost no innate capability for, I am confident that there is the tiniest spark of it somewhere inside me, I just have to find it and call it out. But masking can help us to build up these tiny pieces by creating a bigger place to express them from.

Most of us would not want to walk around wearing a physical mask all the time, and luckily we don't have to. We can build and don energetic masks that will work just as well. When we start it might be helpful to build a physical mask and practice using it. We can use these physical masks in rituals designed to help us take on the traits they represent. If you have people who would be interested in masking rituals, you can get a group together and everyone can build (or bring) a mask, and you can interact with others and get feedback on what they felt from you. The more you work with a mask, the more you learn how to call up those pieces within you. As you get more familiar with them, you may find that you don't need the physical mask anymore to call up the energy within you.

You can also tie the mask into another (less obvious) item while you are learning to work with it. If you do not feel you are confident enough to express yourself in a job interview and are working with a mask to be able to show that you are a good and talented worker, you probably don't want to wear the mask to the interview. However you can tie that energy into a piece of jewelry or an outfit, and use the other items to draw upon the energy of the mask. When you are working with the mask at home, make sure you wear the other item that you will be wearing for your interview so that the two become energetically bound. Make a ritual about putting them on and taking them off (put the mask on last and take it off first). Then, when you dress for the interview, instead of putting the mask on you, place it on your altar or another place of power (in front of a mirror, on the pillow of your bed, hanging from your clothes closet).

Friday, June 13, 2014

PBP- Week 24: Laundry

I wrote this topic down a couple weeks ago (I try to brainstorm ahead of time so I'm not scrambling for an idea the day I sit down to write), and then forgot why I had wanted to write about it. When I popped open my file last week, and looked ahead I was a bit flustered. And yet, as I thought about it throughout the week, I remembered why I wanted to talk about laundry.

Laundry is one of those things that most of us do on a regular basis without much thought (besides possibly how much we dislike doing laundry). It is a chore that we often put off as long as we can (and when we pull that last pair of underwear out of the drawer, we groan knowing we have to do it). There is an old saying about not airing our dirty laundry in front of guests, which speaks about all those things we do in private or between family that aren't that pretty (arguments, bad habits, or whatever), and how we try to keep those things private.

If we look at the things we actually wash in the laundry, it is pretty intimate stuff. We of course wash our clothes, but we also wash towels and sheets: all things that we put against our bodies. These things will not only pick up the physical grime that we collect throughout the day (and night) but also energetic resonance.

When we go out, our clothing is exposed to pretty much everything we are exposed to. I think of clothes in two categories: outer and inner. Outer is pretty much anything everyone else is supposed to see, where inner is the things that are not meant to be seen (underclothes). Both pick up different types of grime.

Our outer clothing picks up contact types of dirt. If we sit on a dirty bench, our pants or skirt gets dirty. Likewise, if we hang out with people who are upset or angry, our outer clothes pick up those energies. Inner clothing gets a stronger hit from things we react to. When it is very hot out, our inner clothes tend to get sweatier than our outer clothes. If we end up in a situation that is personally distressing, that energy will cling to our inner clothes more.

Of course, we wash our clothes after we wear them, but we often don't work on cleansing them energetically. We may end up with clothing that builds up a negative aura and we will shy away from wearing it because we pick up on that without really knowing why we no longer like to wear a particular thing. Or worse, we pick clothes in a rush and don't realize we have picked something that makes us uncomfortable until we are already out and about, and then the rest of the day we feel off.

When we wash, we dry ourselves off with a towel. That might be a hand towel in the bathroom, a bath towel after a shower or a kitchen towel as we cook. The process of washing is naturally cleansing, and many of us also add an energy cleanse component to our washing. But consider that anything you release into the water may still be clinging to the water on your hands, then when you try them, bits of that energy are now absorbed by the towel. Those little lingering bits can add up over time (especially if you are like me, and wash dishes when you are upset).

Bedsheets are something we don't think about that often, but I feel play a really important part in our lives. Sleep is the time our body resets. We know how powerful dreams can be. And yet when we have particularly strong dreams, what do we do about it? Anytime someone in my house is sick, once they start to feel better, my first desire is to wash all the sheets and towels: anything that might be holding any lingering germs. With powerful times of stress, fear or anxiety, we may have troubled sleep. As we work on resolving those inner issues, we should make sure to cleanse any lingering energy from the bed and bedclothes as well. Don't forget to cleanse and bless the bed after you take the sheets off too!

So how do you go about doing all of this? As you load up the washer, think about each piece you put in. If there is a particular issue you are aware of, acknowledge it and then thank it for it's lessons and release it. If there is nothing particular about a piece that you know of, then you can still thank the item for it's work in your life (after all, most of us would be pretty uncomfortable without clothes, towels or sheets!) and ask that it release any energy it might be holding onto. Once the washer is loaded up, you can add a sachet (make sure it doesn't include anything that will damage your washer, and is sealed up nice and tight) to further bless or cleanse your things as you desire. In the drier you can make your add your own scent (like tossing in a drier sheet) by taking a piece of cloth and putting a few drops of essential oils on it (put them on the scrap of cloth, not your clothing to avoid stains and over-scenting). You can embroider symbols or wishes onto the scent-cloth to enhance the effect.

Friday, June 6, 2014

PBP: Week 23- Lore

I might well be a Lore-aholic. It's more than just liking lore, enjoying stories about the things I am interested in, or seeking out tales my ancestors used to explain the world. Lore opens doors that let me really get into the heart of things. It's like the difference between peering in the windows of someone's house and being invited in...somethings are hard to see from the outside.

I think that lore is often undervalued. In many cultures, there is no definitive lore. We humans have been around and been telling stories for so long that things have changed. Considering some of these stories have been around since before writing, it is no surprise that many of them have changed a lot. Play one round of telephone (where everyone sits in a circle and one person whispers something to the next person, and the message gets passed around until the last person says it out is always turned into something crazy), and you will know how quickly a story can devolve.

These changes are often argued over vehemently. The details of the story are inspected for validity, bias and author influence. Stories from different cultures about the same event or person are determined to be more or less 'accurate' depending on the origin of the subject of the tale.

I think there is some benefit to all this examination and debate...if you are a scholar (or are interested in scholarly validation). But in my daily practice, it doesn't amount to much at all. What lore gives me is substance. If I read about a deity, and get a comprehensive list of the things that deity is associated with, what people have worked with them about, or what they are supposed to's like reading a grocery list of ingredients. I may be able to work out what someone might cook from the ingredients, but it will be nothing like actually sitting down and eating the meal.

Lore fleshes out the facts. Lore makes people more understandable (whether we like them or not). Lore creates connections between things that on the surface might look very different. The story form of lore also helps with retention: it is much easier to remember a good story than it is to remember a list of things.

Nothing in life is simple. All things have many facets, and when you add people into it, then there are a million ways to experience something. Lore from different cultures doesn't need to be the same, because they are flavored by the culture they grew in. Consider a pivotal battle between two peoples. One side wins and becomes ruler of all. Both people write tales about the battle, but the tales will tell very different stories, and yet both will be 'true' from the eyes of the people who wrote them. If you only read one, you will have a one-sided view of what happened. If there was a third culture who was there, observing, but not involved, you would have a third view that many would think to be unbiased, but often that outsider view is just that: an outsider. They may be more objective on the facts (though of course if they have feelings towards either culture that could impact their view), but they would be missing the emotional connection that the participants had.

I don't think there is one way to approach things. We have personal relationships with deities, just as we have personal relationships with the people in our life. I love both my mother and my father, but I relate to them in different ways. My husband has a completely different relationship with my parents than I do, and likewise, my interactions with his parents is different from his own. None of the people involved change, and yet the way we all interact is very different. I see this in the way we interact with deities. My relationship with a particular deity might be very different from someone else's. This doesn't make either of us wrong, nor does it mean we aren't working with the same deity, just that as we are different people, we interact differently.

The same thing could be said for correspondences. I may have different reactions to certain herbs than other people. Many cultures see the very same item in very different ways. Color comes immediately to mind. Black is the color we wear in America at funerals to represent mourning. In Chinese culture, white is worn for the same reason. Depending on how you were brought up, where you lived, and what influences you had, you may have very different associations than I do.

I think that Lore helps us understand those that are different from us. When we read (or listen to) a story about a different culture, we may not agree with the things they believe or do, but often we connect with the characters and we can understand why they do the things they do. A good story teller can help us to empathize with people we might struggle ordinarily to work with.