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.