Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A brand new world!

Something a good friend of mine said the other day sparked a thought.  It was in a discussion on journaling and Greyer Jane said, " I'll get a PLAN and love it and think its true religion for a month."

And that really got me thinking, because that is definitely something that I do.  I'll read something or think something, and it will absolutely revolutionize  some or all of my life.  And then, I'll get obsessed with it, and that one thing will become my world for a period of time.  Eventually I'll get overwhelmed and have to walk away from it.  Which is where, in my world, the magic happens.  Because I will sort of forget about it (or at least not actively think about it) for a while...and then one day I'll remember and realize that it has integrated into the rest of my world and now is a part of it without being the whole of it.

One of the most obvious ways this happens is when I work on memorizing something, like a chant.  I'll spend days, doing countless repetitions.  If there is an audio track of it somewhere I will play that one track on loop for days, I'll stop multiple times throughout the day to look at my lyrics and chant along, but even when I'm not thinking about it, I'm hearing it..and often at least partially chanting along.  I'll chant it in the shower, in the bathroom, in the car, while walking to get the mail.  At the start, it will be both exciting and hard.  I'll have to really stop and think sometimes to remember what part comes next.  

Then, as time goes along, I'll start being able to remember more and more of it without really having to think about it.  I'll be able to recite the whole thing through without errors, and then I start speeding it up trying to say it faster than I can think ahead.  The goal is to be able to recite it without having to consider what comes next, to just be able to open my mouth and let the words flow through.  At this point, I can often recite it flawlessly at times, but other times I get completely tongue tied or mind blank.

But that is part of the process.  It's like my mind has been so inundated with that one thing that it starts to balk.  Once I know I can recite it cleanly sometimes, that is typically when I start to pull away from it.  I'll stop actively listening to it, or deliberately practicing.  I'll still recite it through anytime I do think about it, but after a day or so something else invariably catches my interest and I'll not think about it for days.

Then, when I do think about it again, I will almost always find that it has become a part of me.  It is something that I don't have to think about anymore than I think about the process of breathing.  I have poems that I memorized in grade school that I still remember because of this.

And while it is definitely a great thing for memorizing things, it happens when I study a subject as well.  Sometimes I will find an idea or perspective that resonates with me so much that it completely takes over my thoughts on a subject.  Several times in my study of runes I have read someone's explanation of runes that I loved so much that it became my own for a while.  I sort of forget my old thoughts on the runes and devour these new concepts.  When I think about runes or interpret them, the new meanings are the ones that come to mind, even if I have to go back and look up what the meanings are because I haven't quite internalized them yet.

Sometimes, I'll sit down with multiple perspectives and actively try to figure out how they all weave together and become a new whole, but most of the time the old meanings sort of sneak back into my thoughts on the subject without my direction.  I'll look at a rune one day, think of the newer meaning, but then remember an older thought that really works in that situation.  And over time, the new and old end up just being parts of my greater understanding.

I used to be sort of wary of this process....I thought that I was just kind of being a blind lemming, reading something that was interesting and jumping into it and forgetting everything else I knew.  And definitely, for a time there in the middle, when I am mid-obsession, I can sound very much like a follower and not an innovator.  Thinking, and being someone who creates, is a core part of my personality, something that is very dear to me, so the idea that I might just be trudging along behind someone else doesn't sit well with me at all.

But ultimately, I do break off on my own, using the tools I have learned from other people to forge my own way and my own perspective of things.  And I think that works out just fine for me.  It lets me get a glimpse into other people's worlds.  In my own ways, I am walking a mile in their shoes.  Just somewhere along the way, I wear through the shoes and continue and in my own power.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Runes for Transformation (book review)

by Kaedrich Olsen

I was so excited to get this book, I am always looking for ways to deepen my experience with runes. It feels like whenever I read a new perspective, it sort of takes over my thinking for a while before I merge it into my previous understanding. This book, however not only gave me a new perspective, but I feel like it changed my whole view of runes.

The book starts with some very non-rune-centric information, focusing instead on how the mind works. This is another subject that absolutely fascinates me, so I was pretty happy with this. It definitely introduces some deep thoughts, and I think will be something I reread many times. I also think this information is necessary to later parts of the books. That by looking at the nature of the world around us and how our minds interpret the word and influence our experience of it, we are able to grasp some of the ways in which the runes can bring change to our lives. 

Then we start to get into the information on runes. Kaedrich starts by giving us a brief history of the runes and their possible origins, both historic and mythic. I think this is a really great way of looking at their history, as I feel that both feed into how we understand runes today. I also really appreciated the point that he makes about how we have to look at the runes not only through our modern eyes, but also through a historic lens. If we only look at them in one way but not the other, we may not grasp them as fully as we can. This is a very important issue for me, as I find that sometimes Pagan authors either want to draw fully into the modern era and ignore the historical roots or they want to discount our modern life and go back to a previous time. My life may be inspired and influenced by the past, but I live a very modern life, and I need my practice to have application in that modern life.

Each rune is focused on in several different sections in the book, giving a slightly different perspective, though they all build on one another so by the end of the book you have a much broader understanding of each rune's energy and significance. Several runes that I had previously struggled with getting a good grasp on (like Eihwaz and Ansuz) I felt like I understand much better, even after a single read through. I definitely am looking forward to working through the many exercises in the book.

I loved how the book laid out a plan for working with the runes, and it is very personal. Kaedrich definitely supports the idea that runes may represent set energies, but we all may experience those energies in slightly different ways. I am a big believer of this idea, so I love that this book really pushes you to develop your own relationship with and understanding of the runes.

There is a three-fold method for learning the runes from this book. First, you look at the rune energies on their own. This is pretty standard, many books suggest meditating on runes and writing down your impressions, though Kaedrich encourages you to look not only with your conscious mind but first to get your subconscious impressions. Then, you look for the runic energies out in the world. I think this step is huge, and something I haven't seen explored in such detail. Many people may suggest looking for examples of the rune in the world around you, but I really like the approach of finding the runic energy of every rune in everyday objects. It reminds me of thought exercises I used to do in high school, finding a way to solve a problem with every type of energy (for example, if you wanted to shield, how would you shield with fire versus shielding with water, air or earth). I think looking for all the runes in the world around you pushes you to see more subtle manifestations of runic energy that often get overlooked. And then turning that attention inward and looking for the runes in yourself gives you an excellent diagnostic tool for not only self-improvement but also your personal relationship with runes. 

This personal connection is something I have struggled with. I sort of get stuck in my head a lot of times, trying to reconcile my own impressions with the universal impressions. Or I worry that I'm doing something wrong if my experiences aren't the same as the general experiences. This book challenges me to really dig deep and find my own connections and then work with them instead of just giving me the author's perceptions to do with as I would.

The final parts of the book focus on how the runes can be used. I have been doing personal rune divination for a while now, in a few different forms, and I really like the idea of drawing groups of runes and interpreting them as a single sentence. I think this is a very interesting take on divination, but also a good building block for working with bindrunes. 

Bindrunes are also something that are explored, and again, not in just the standard way. Kaedrich not only shows you how to tie runes together, but looks at order as being important. Two runes can be bound together to create different effects. That is one thing that has always appealed to me about runes. I feel they have a lot of innate flexibility. 

I am really excited to work with Kaedrich's approach to sounding the runes as well. I have looked into Galdr before, but this is the first method for rune sound work that I think really resonates with my personal practice. I love how he not only looks at the key sounds for each rune, but how to say the name of the runes themselves. I really like the thought of using the vowels in the words to create the tonal melody. I think this is definitely something I will do extensive work on uncovering my own melodies and tones.

In addition to all this, Kaedrich looks at prominent deities in the Norse pantheon and how they relate to runes, other runewords that are common on historical artifacts and how to incorporate those into your rune practice, and how to create personal statements with runes to be used in working on goals.

I found this book to be really thought provoking. It is full of exercises that I can't wait to start working on. I also feel like the exercises given in the book are not things that I will do only once. I can definitely see myself working through the meditations and exercises multiple times, to keep deepening my connection to the runes and incorporating the things I have learned over time. 

While I don't consider myself a beginner in regards to runes, I also don't consider myself an expert by any means. However, I think this book could be used by pretty much anyone who has an interest in runes, no matter what their level of personal experience is. Some sections (primarily the first parts that delve into how the mind works and universal theory) may be a bit wordy and deep, but overall the book was easy to digest though not lacking in content at all. I would definitely recommend this book to any student of the runes, or anyone wishing to learn about runes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


This is a subject I am definitely not an expert on, but something that is somewhat dear to my heart.  Galdr is a form of verbal or chanted spell.  From what I understand, there is no real specific knowledge on what form Galdr took precisely, but I have encountered a few versions that I'd like to talk about.

One of the simplest explanations I've heard of Galdr is that it is 'singing the runes'.  I've seen this singing taken in two very different directions.  Either the name of the rune itself can be sung or the sound associated with the rune can be sung.  The examples I have heard of this is very melodic, definitely more aligned with singing than with a monotonic chant or spoken word.

Another completely different take on Galdr is a sort of spoken charm, linked to both the name and sound of the rune.  The example that sticks out most in my mind is the 'fe fi fo fum' that most of us know from the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale.  Some people consider this to be a Galdr for Fehu.  That theme, of chanting the base sound with different interpretations (often using the different vowels) can be used to Galdr any of the runes.

I've tried these different methods of Galdr, and had varying amounts of personal resonance with them.  Some runes I Galdr quite well by singing their names.  Others I feel quite strongly when I intone their sound.  The 'fe fi fo fum' method hearkens me back to my childhood and definitely has a strong sense of play to it.

What I find about all of these is that they remind me of other vocal methods of toning.  Many paths use spoken word or sounds as a form of sacred practice.  From my very first days, I don't speak in my normal voice when I cast or do ritual.  My voice either drops and gets deeper or softens and gets lighter.  To me, taking my own voice out of it's normal pitch in this way is a way of honoring the sacredness of the moment.

I've done some work with the Ceremonial method of intoning sacred names.  For me, this feels like I am speaking from a place that is bigger than me, like I am opening up and letting the words speak through me.  While not really uncomfortable, it never felt like me.

I was introduced to chanting years ago now, by the local Pagans I work with.  It is something that has definitely become a huge part of my own practice, and something that I absolutely love.  We also enjoy singing for pleasure, and working on other vocal related things.  Many of the chants I love are more song-like than simple chants (although I do love some very simple chants as well).  I have always found it interesting that chanting doesn't feel the same as singing, even when the chant is probably a song (aka: when it is many verses and little or no repeated lines).  Of course, I have been exposed to call style chants (like the Hawaiian ones) which are often non-repetitive.  But though many lyrical songs move me and bring emotions to me (and have been used in my practice because of the emotions they call in me), I still feel different chanting.  Chanting can bring me out of myself. 

One of the things I love about voice based work is that it is always there with me.  There is power in sound, and we can harness it almost without thought.  But I also feel that power words have resonance even when unsounded.  There are times that I 'speak' my words inside my own head.  They still have a voice, in fact my mind has many different voices.  The words I speak inside have a different energy than the ones I speak out loud, but they do have an energy.

Perhaps I haven't found my own Galdr voice yet.  But I tend to think about Galdr as a way of thinking about voice based working rather than a particular type of voice based work.  Just as there are many styles of music, perhaps there are also styles of Galdr.  When we open our mouths and create magic with our voice, I feel that is Galdr.  It can be whispered or shouted, sung or chanted, spoken or laughed.  It can be our way of speaking our truth to the world, or how the world speaks truth to us.  We can be the voice or we can open ourselves to the voice.  We each have a unique voice, and our words can quite literally change the world.  We just have to let ourselves speak.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I know it's been ages since I wrote, especially considering the original goal of two posts per letter (one a week), plus a monthly topic.  But for some reason, this year, I can't keep my focus, so I am way behind.

In thinking of the letter F and topics associated with F words, I though about a couple of things from Friendship and Fellowship to Fimbulwinter.  But one that I thought of I kept coming back to and that is the Fetch.

I remember reading about the Fetch (or Fylgja in Old Norse), and it was described as the part of your soul that manifested in other realms as an animal.  Other sources have suggested that your Fetch can be a human of the opposite gender than your physical form or even a symbolic form (like a shape).  I have also heard it referred to as some kind of totem or even as a representation of previous actions you have taken (sort of a reflection of your past). 

I really resonate with the idea of the Fetch.  I think that we tend to think of our soul-stuff like we think of gender:  binary and static.  And yet (if you've read my previous posts) you probably know I don't think of gender like that, and likewise I don't think of my soul as being 'human' per say.  I think that whatever it is that makes me who I am, that underlying 'Self' (with a capital S!) isn't human at all.  It is some thing that transcends my humanity, and it just is.  So it makes a lot of sense to me that my soul would manifest in ways that aren't human.

The source I originally read about the Fetch in (which sadly I can't remember where I read about it, I am thinking it was a website of some sort), had a ritual where you used Journeying to travel to an astral realm to meet your Fetch.  I really liked the idea that the Fetch was a part of you, but also was outside of you.  The ritual didn't have you become your Fetch, but called it to your view so you could meet it.  The further suggestion was that as you became more aware of your Fetch and strengthened your connection to it that it could act as guardian or be sent to do things for you.

It sort of reminds me of many of the things that Familiars are associated with.  Another concept I always loved the idea of.  But I think with the Fetch there is a depth that is unattainable through other magical means because it is a part of you and not a servant or companion in the traditional sense. 

Being a part of you also means that there is a lot of inner work that can be done by exploring your connection to your Fetch.  And much like the stereotypes about everyone having powerful, predatory Totems (you will run into at least 50 people claiming wolf or hawk as a totem before you talk to someone who recognizes ant or mouse), you will need to be really honest with your self when you approach your Fetch.  Let it be what it is, and don't try to force it to be what you think it is. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Honey in the River (book review)

Honey in the River(link to Amazon page)

This book wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, and yet it was captivating in it's own way. From the description, I expected more of a look at polygamy and how it worked. Instead, this book shows a darker side: what happens when a polygamous relationship isn't built on honesty and trust.

Honey in the River reads in many ways like a soap opera. There is a lot of drama and heartbreak. Marsha opens herself up and shares all the highs and lows she went through during this time. I definitely found myself both wishing for things to work out for her and shaking my head at the things she and the other people involved were doing.

One thing that I think she does an excellent job of portraying is that the blame doesn't all fall with the other person. Marsha lays blame where it should fall, and takes up her own faults as well. At the beginning she wasn't as aware of this, but by the end of the tale, she definitely is owning her own actions and choices and realizing that she was just as culpable as he was. But at the same time, she was firm in stating, both to herself and others, that he was to blame as well.

I also think she did a good job showing how Oba (the man she was involved with) convinced himself that what he was doing was okay, and how he may not have been fully aware that he was being hurtful. My perception of Oba is that he had many child like mental qualities and was seeing the world from his own self-appointed victim status.

While I definitely don't think that the majority of spiritual figures are like this, there have been enough news stories about charismatic leaders who led their flock astray that I think this book offers a powerful warning. It shows the ways in which someone can be both very alluring and utterly deceitful at the same time. It also shows how easy it is to fall back into the same rhythms, even when you may know that what happened in the past wasn't desirable.

I also really enjoyed the stories Marsha told of the Orishas. There are myths sprinkled throughout the books, stories told about the Orishas that speak to what is going on in her life. And even more than that, both Oba and Marsha talk about the influence the Orishas have in their lives, and how they may be feeling and acting upon those influences. I found this to be a very lovely example of how to integrate spirituality into your everyday life.

But even here, there are warning signs to look for. Oba used the Orishas as excuses for several different things, including cheating behind his legal wife's back. He also used his cultural origins as further reasons why it was all right for him to do the things he did. Both excuses are, in my opinion, perversions of what they should be. I fully support embracing your culture and your spirituality, but I think that when you try to use these things to trick or coerce others into doing what you want, you are disgracing both yourself and your traditions and culture.

Ultimately, Honey in the River was a fantastic read, a very moving story, and a great teaching story, both about Ifa and about the potential dangers that can be found even in spiritual circles. I have quite a few highlighted passages about the Orishas and about other spiritual thoughts. I think I'll finish up with a quote that I think is both great and also sums up the theme of the book quite nicely: “Needing to be happy all the time is addiction. We need to be present with difficult emotions as well as joy. Otherwise, the joy is false.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


My dad was in the Army when I was little, and I grew up a "military brat".  We moved around a lot.  I got to see lots of interesting places, but changed schools a lot.  It also meant that I was raised with a pretty high opinion of soldiers, the military and a deep respect for the men and women who fight for the freedoms I enjoy every day.  When I was little, I wanted to grow up and follow in my father's footsteps, and when given the opportunity, I joined the JROTC in high school.  After 4 years, I realized that kind of structure was not something that I was well suited to live with, and I didn't end up walking further down that path.

But I still hold soldiers in high esteem.  They sacrifice so much, even when they come home safely...or don't get deployed to a combat zone at all.  Being raised in a military family, I understood some of that, from the eyes of the family of a soldier.  My father wasn't always home, and while a part of me enjoyed moving to new places, it was always hard socially.  Long time friends weren't something I had growing up, and it was hard to keep up long distance relationships when you're in grade school.

To me, it only makes sense to continue to honor the soldiers after they have passed from this life.  Einherjar are the dead warriors chosen by Odin to reside in Valhalla and to join him in the battle of Ragnarok.  But I also think that the ranks of the Einherjar include other types of people who have passed but were fighters in life.

This is very much my own UPG (unverified personal gnosis....aka my personal beliefs).  I feel that what makes someone a fighter isn't so much about dying in battle, but the spirit with which you life your life.  A firefighter who risks his life everyday going into burning buildings to save people has that spirit.  So does a mother who fights tooth and nail to defend her children...or to care for them when they are sick or injured.

In the US, we have two days to honor our soldiers:  Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.  Memorial day focus' on the soldiers who have passed on already, while Veteran's day honors those who are still alive (as well as those who have died).  Many Norse practitioners celebrate Einherjar day, choosing either Memorial day or Veteran's day to honor the Einherjar and feast in their honor.  I love the practice of making this honoring a part of my own traditions, and I actually think doing both is a viable alternative.

I have talked about beloved dead before, and I don't think that celebrating the Einherjar is the same as many of the other feasts and rituals for working with the dead simply because the focus of honoring the Einherjar is on their sacrifice.  More than just remembering and honoring them as people, I am honoring the choices they made in life, the things they gave up, to make the lives of those around them better.

I honor the Einherjar as a way of showing my gratitude for all thing things they did.  Many of the people I may remember or honor never knew me.  They may have been part of a different era, on the other side of the world, or they may have been family.  But they all stood up for what they believed in, and that example is one that should be remembered.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March and the changing seasons

So technically not March anymore..but still!

This month's topic was on how the seasons change.  I tend to feel very restless at this point in the year.  This year especially, I think the on and off heavy winter weather left me feeling very trapped in.  I am really enjoying the warmer days, the change to go outside and not feel like I am just rushing to get back inside (and not freeze!).  It always seems like the air is easier to breathe after doesn't burn as you inhale.

I also am rather enjoying the days being brighter.  It's light when I wake up (at 6:30 on weekdays...ugh) and it's light still after dinner.  And in part this is due to Daylight savings time..which I abhor.  The world is getting more global now, and it's hard enough to figure out all those different time zones, but add in DST and it becomes a real mess.  Not all countries change their clocks on the same days.  It's about a month offset, I think, from when we changed to when Europe changed.  I play online games with a very global set of people, and trying to organize anything for this month is an absolute mess.

And even within the US, there are some cities that don't participate in DST.  Honolulu is one.  Indianapolis used to be another, but I've been informed they have been doing DST for a few years now.  I personally think it would be less confusing to keep time the same and just have businesses perhaps run summer and winter hours.  Or just deal with the fact that the amount of daylight changes in the year.  Or finally realize that we have so many things that run on varying shifts (like factories that run 3 shifts and are open 24 hours....or stores/fast food that are open 24 hours) that we should start running more 24 hour things.  Imagine a world where you could go to your bank at 8p if you needed to...on a Sunday!  And now think of the number of jobs that would be created by doing this....

But enough about DST.  Another thing I really look forward to around this time of year is better produce.  Sadly, our stores never have good produce, but it's slightly less sad in the spring and summer.  Things could actually look decent instead of mostly yellow tomatoes and some wilted lettuce.

Of course, this also makes me a bit wistful.  As my husband likes to tease me, I am not very good at growing things (he says I have a black thumb!).  The one thing I have managed is some chives I planted probably 5 years ago....we swear they are like zombies, they come back every year, and have been covered in a foot of snow at times, and still they come back.  They are quite green right now!  Soon they will sprout these little lavender flowers (they look like clover flowers, but purple).  And the flowers are edible!  You can make a pretty vinegar with them, just wash them really good, and toss them into some white vinegar and you end up with a purple/pink chive vinegar.  They can also be tossed onto salads for a bit of chive flavor.

I wanted to grow herbs, both for cooking and magic.  In fact that's where the chives came from.  I got some little starter peat disks and several herbs:  parsley, rosemary, sage (I actually forget what all I got....I think there were six different things).  The peat disks were horrid.  They had this mesh around them once they were all expanded from watering, and that made everything rootbound.  I think the mesh was supposed to dissolve away, but it never did.  The chives were the only thing that lived past the first month, although everything sprouted.  I may try my hand again sometime...without the peat disks.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Drinking at ritual

It seems like a lot of public opinion about Heathen rituals is that they are just excuses to get drunk.  Given that many Heathen rituals do involved ritualized drinking, and more consumption than the sip of wine offered at other Pagan rituals, it is easy to see where this stereotype originates from. 

While I have no doubts that some groups use ritual as a reason to get sloshed (just as some neo-wicca groups use ritual as a reason to have orgies or partner-swap), I don't think that all groups do this.  I don't even feel like most groups treat drinking in ritual like this. 

I've read quite a few accounts of Symbel, which includes ritualized toasting with alcohol.  While it can get extensive, with many rounds of toasts (and if you have quite a few people, this could definitely lead to being tipsy), if you do less rounds or have a smaller group, it is definitely possible to participate without being wasted.  And I would be willing to bet that some groups allow non-alcoholic drinks (just like some Pagan groups have switched to sparkling juice or other beverages instead of wine).

I'm not a teetotaler.  I quite like to drink, and I enjoy the feeling of being tipsy.  I don't really enjoy being falling down drunk (and I definitely don't like loosing bits of time or being hungover in the morning).  For me, it's all about finding that pleasantly drunk place.. and staying there.  But even than, for me, is too much for ritual.

I've been at rituals, not Heathen ones but Pagan rituals, where there was alcohol, and where people partook enough that they were pretty drunk before the ritual even began.  I personally don't feel this to be the right way to approach ritual.  When I go to ritual, it is with the intent of connecting to something higher.  I don't feel that being drunk helps with this, in fact I find it to be more of a hindrance (I'm way more easily distracted and less focused when drunk).  Now, after the ritual, if there is a feast and socializing, I'm fine with getting freer with the alcohol.

Where I really have a problem with other people drinking at ritual is when their drinking effects the other people at ritual.  That is just as disrespectful in my eyes as bringing someone who thinks that Pagan ritual is a ridiculous idea and constantly feels the need to point this out to everyone there. 

Back to the idea of Symbel.  Perhaps it is because I am not part of an actual Heathen group, and have never participated in one, but the feeling I get from Symbel is not the traditional worship type of ritual, but more a group bonding type of ritual.  It seems like the focus is on sharing of the self, toasting (to recognize and honor) deities, heroes and ancestors that are important to you, and setting intentions for the future.  In this light, even if the drinking got a bit heavy handed (and as the rounds went on, it has that potential), I don't see it as being as disruptive as the same level of drinking at a traditional ritual. 

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what we feel is right in regards to intoxication at ritual.  And part of that decision should be the beliefs of the people you participate in ritual with.  As with any group gathering, sometimes your ideals will not mesh with those of the greater group.  If you are working with a group that prefers to take rituals to a place of drunken debauchery, and that is not something you feel is appropriate, you might need to look for a group that you fit better with.  Likewise, if you enjoy being a bit drunk at your celebrations, but your group doesn't seem to approve, you might want to talk with them.  You may not even realize that other people are uncomfortable with your level of intoxication.  Sometimes discussion can help clear the table, and compromise can be reached.  Sometimes you may need to seek out others who better fit with your own preferences.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Review: Breaking the Mother Goose Code

Breaking the Mother Goose Code(link to amazon page)

I have been a fan of fairy tales since I was little. I'm not a huge collector, but I do have a small collection of tales, and I always thought it was both fascinating and strange how violent some were in different versions (and how tame the modern mainstream versions are). I was very excited to start reading Breaking the Mother Goose Code, as I have always thought of fairy tales as teaching stories, and learning more about what they taught, especially in a Pagan light, called to me.

I found a lot of new ideas in this book. I thought it was really interesting how Jeri starts by examining the image of Mother Goose herself. She details her journey of looking for and comparing different pictures of Mother Goose and how the depictions changed over the years. I had never really thought about the figure of Mother Goose much, and was fascinated to read about the many faces she wore. Jeri then goes on to try to uncover which Goddesses might be hidden behind the name Mother Goose. It was a very interesting read to follow these breadcrumb trails and to see the ways that different deities in different areas of the world might have been linked to fairy tales.

Being that her name is Mother Goose, Jeri also looks at the folklore and magic surrounding geese, ducks and swans (as they are often used interchangeably). Not only did I learn a lot about different deities with goose legs (which I hadn't been aware of!), but also the really interesting swan pits, and theories about what they might have been for. The image pained in my head, of women building and caring for these pits, while trying to bring new life into the world, is a beautiful and hauntingly sad one.

Where I really got drawn in was in her analysis of the tales themselves. Jeri looks at the structure of the tales, how most of them seem to follow a archetypal framework. I thought the connection to shamanic trance journeying was an interesting way to look at it. I also really enjoyed her connection between the progression of the main character of the story and the learning process that a magical practitioner might go through.

Another really interesting perspective detailed in this book is that fairy tales might be used as actual spells. By taking key passages, especially if they rhyme, as well as items that featured in the tale, one might use the story as the framework from which to enact a spell aligned with the focus of the story. I can definitely see how fairy tales could inspire this type of reconstructed working.

A lot of information was presented in this book. It is obvious that Jeri did an enormous amount of research, and she shared many of the things she found with her readers. She asks a lot of questions, and encourages the reader to continue asking questions. I am definitely going to be thinking about fairy tales in a different way after reading this book, and I look forward to revisiting some of my favorite tales through this new perspective.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Project Self-love

((Trigger alert!  There will be talk about self-harm at some point in this post.  I don't normally do trigger alerts, however I know that this is a very hard thing for many people struggling with it and I would hate to set back anyone's hard earned progress in self-control.  So if you feel you might be triggered by talk of self-harm, or if it squicks you out or if you just don't want to know that about me...don't read the stuff in ITALICS))

**edited to chance the font so the italics would actually show up

There is a movement, mainly in YouTube, on baring all and bringing attention to the body shaming issues that are running rampant in our society, especially on line.  It was started by NatetheK who inspired a good friend of mine, TheFabledPhoenix.  He then inspired two of my other good friends:  Papa O and GreyerJane (she has a part 2 to her post with pictures).

I think this is a hugely powerful thing.  There is so much dishonesty in the media about what people look like.  I have seen so many articles and reveal-all's showing how all the models are Photoshopped to look the way they do in the media.  The images we are bombarded with day in and day out are these unrealistic 'perfect' fake illusions, and this seeps into our brains and effects the way we think about ourselves and each other.

I think that a lot of the body-shaming comes from people who are insecure in their own selves.  If you feel good about your body, you don't go around telling other people they are disgusting.  You might express your concerns about loved one's health or happiness, but you would do it in a loving and supportive way.  The comments that you see in body-shaming are designed to shift focus away from the speaker and on to anything else that will divert them from their own feelings about themselves.

I am not a picture person, never have been.  It isn't so much a body image thing for me, not really.  I will talk about the things I feel about my body here in a bit.  But I just wanted to touch on the photo thing real quick.  I have never looked at a photo of myself and really felt it was me.  My mental image of self doesn't typically match the wrapping.  Sometimes it's an age thing (my mental age is so not the same as my body-age).  Sometimes it's a gender thing.  I'm fine being seen in person, I just don't like pictures.

So I'm going to paint some word pictures here!  To start with, I live in a 36 year old female body (and I still have to count the years to remember how old I am).  I stand 5 foot 10 inches tall, and the last time I weighed myself I was 230 pounds (I am probably about the same, my clothes mostly still fit the same as they did then).  I am not particularly body shy, though I do keep my private bits private (though I still can't understand why we think wearing a string bikini is just fine, but showing non-see through underwear is bad).

I am overweight.  I know this.  For a long time I didn't want to accept it.  I carry my weight well, and have always gone in around the waist, so I told myself that because I did I couldn't be fat.  But I definitely have extra weight around the hips and butt well as up the waist.  It's just spread out so you don't see it as easily.  I can even tell that I've thickened all around my body because things like watches and rings that I wore in high school don't fit anymore.

I have a son, and I have stretch marks.  I have some shame about them, but not really for what you might think.  I never him (or my husband!) for 'ruining' my body.  Rather, I saw them as a mark of how ill-prepared I was to be a mother.  I didn't do the things I knew I should have done to take care of myself while pregnant.  I didn't put on lotion every day.  I don't know if it would have made a difference, but I do know that I regret not doing it.

I think that my self-image was set fairly young.  I took dance lessons in middle school, and I remember thinking that parts of my body were too big (I want to say thighs or butt, but honestly I don't remember).  And at that time, I was still more or less thin as a board, so I don't know if I was just comparing myself to other stick thin ballerinas or if I was fighting the maturation of my own body.

In high school, I started being aware of sex and boys and all of that, and it definitely effected how I viewed my body.  I was always a tom boy, and I had way more male friends than female.  I didn't do the makeup thing, rarely did the dress thing, and was much more likely to be barefoot than wear heels.  But I liked skimpy clothes.  I liked the feeling of power and the sense of attraction I felt when people looked.  I don't necessarily think it was healthy now, looking back, but it is what it is.  In a lot of ways, it set my mind's thoughts on personal interaction and sexuality, and I sometimes struggle with interpreting interpersonal relationships without that sexual lens (which definitely has gotten me in trouble over the years).  I am still very socially awkward in my own head, and a lot of social interactions leave me frozen inside.

I don't have a problem with casual touch.  I actual am a sort of touchy feely person.  But my mind will race over 'how do I respond appropriately?!?' and I will sort of freeze up and it gets very strange in my head sometimes.  I definitely don't want people to not touch me (okay, there are some people that I don't like touching me...but that is the exception, not the rule), I just muddle through it and take comfort in the fact that all the wierdness is going on in my head and no one else knows about it.

I also started to hit my first dark times in high school.  It's strange, I had a happy childhood.  My parents were strict at times, but definitely loving, and home life was good.  We were well off, and while I was probably borderline spoiled, I did have limits and rules I had to follow.  I was expected to be a good girl.  And it always felt horribly wrong to me.

I felt like I didn't belong in that life, like it was too good for me.  And I knew I had it good, and my brain knew there was nothing wrong with me, that I was a good person, so that made it sort of worse, because then I felt like I was being ungrateful for the life I had.  Perhaps it was just my form of teen angst.  I also have always been empathetic, and as a tom boy, I hated when things hit me so hard.  I hated crying, I hated feeling weak and 'girly'.  I would rather be angry than hurt.

When I was little, I always hated having scabs.  I would pick at them, even if it hurt, until the hard bits were gone.  I often made it worse, blood was common, and to this day, if I am not actively doing something, I may find my hands running over my arms or face, feeling for anything that isn't just smooth skin.

I remember when the first time I thought about hurting myself physically.  Two of the boys I knew were playing around, mock-fighting with some plastic knives from the cafeteria.  One of them slashed at the other, and we were all kind of shocked that he actually cut him enough to draw blood.  I don't know why my brain made the jump, but I know that was where I started.

Cutting with a plastic knife isn't easy and it isn't quick.  It is more of a sawing than a cutting.  And at first it wasn't deep, it was more like scratching at your arm with your nails, over and over.  It became a reminder to me, that I was strong, that I could do something like this, feel the pain, and function.  It was a security blanket, a bandage for the emotional stuff that I was struggling to deal with.  Physical pain was easy for me.  If I could make it hurt on the outside, I could ignore the inside.

At some point I graduated from plastic to metal.  We had serrated kitchen knives, and though they were sharper, it is still hard to cut with a serrated knife.  I liked that.  It was work, it was ritual, it was repetition.  It was slow and it took willpower.  And it lasted.  I would wear the marks for days before they would heal.  I cut the side of my wrist (not the part with the veins!  I swear I wasn't suicidal, just after the pain/endorphins).  I wore a bandana or other thick bracelet to cover it.  

I branched out after that though.  I got dumb.  I was trying to find places that I liked that were less obvious.  I have done the hip bones (where pants rub), and only once across the palm of my hands.  That one scared me.  You actually have to cut deep to bleed there, and I remember reading a book where a girl was accidentally cut across those tendons and almost lost the use of her hand.  I never cut there again.

After I got married, I tried to hide my cutting better, because of course my husband would see more of my body than even my parents.  I would just scratch at my arms with the tip of a blade, barely enough to leave a mark, but it would make it red and I would create patterns all up my arm.  Sometimes they were visible the next day, but often they would be gone completely by morning.

I also discovered razor blades.  This was a different thing entirely.  There was no build up, the pain was instant and it was precise.  I drew lines on my fingers, and designs other places.  I transformed some of what I was doing into deliberate spiritual practice:  creating sigils like a spiral on my shoulder.  And still it was something that I rarely talked about, because there is so much stigma on it.

I don't think that cutting is something that I will ever grow out of.  It is a part of me.  And I don't feel like it is something that I need to set aside.  I am very careful, and have been for many years.  I may have my roots in depression and anger, but it is no longer about that for me.  I don't cut as often, but I haven't set it aside entirely.  And I don't hide my scars.

Those aren't the only scars I have either.  I actually like my scars.  I have on on my arm from ballet class, when I got clipped by a high kick from another dancer.  She had a safety pin on her shoe, and it had come open and made a gash on my arm.  I have one on my elbow from where I tripped over my umbrella walking up some stairs.  I have some on my hand from where I got bit by a puppy while breaking up a fight when I worked at a pet store.  My scars tell stories of my life.  Some are dumb, some are interesting, but they are all me.

My body is not all that I am, but I am my body.  It is who I am, it is who I show the world, and I am not ashamed by it.  I know what power it holds, and I know what it is capable of.  I know it's strengths and I know what it is weak to.  Recently I've been exposed to the idea of treating one's body as an animal (or child..the subconscious mind, it responds to sensations but not so much words).   So I have been talking to my body, which is an interesting process.  I also love the mental trick of always thinking of your body as a temple:  how do you dress your temple, what do you put into it?

I could talk about body related stuff for hours and hours, but I think I'm going to wrap this up here.  All I can say is that I am happy with my body and if anyone else isn't, they can keep their opinion to themselves. 

Friday, February 27, 2015


So this month, the topic was Downtimes/slumps/Fallow periods.  I think these are things that we all face, in pretty much all areas of our lives.  Things move in waves, sometimes you are at the peak and sometimes you are at the bottom, but they are always changing and moving towards the other end.  I chose to title this post Downtime, because I think that slumps and fallow periods have a really strong negative connotation, and while it definitely can feel bad when you are in them, I think they are a vital part of the growing process and prefer to look at them as rest times, or downtime!

I'm sort of an obsessive type person.  Doing things in moderation is something I have to work at.  When I get drawn to something, I dive right in, and want to surround myself with it.  If it is a new show, I want to watch it all day.  If it is a new practice, I want to do it for hours.  If it is a new subject to study, I will look up everything I can find on it, devour anything I can read, and take copious notes.

Sadly this often leads to burnout.  I will get a bit brain fried, and have to step back.  No matter how much I may still be drawn to a thing, just the thought of doing it may make me feel like not doing anything at all.

It used to really frustrate me, these high and low periods.  I like things all tidy and finished and complete, and when I would rush in, and then turn away, it always felt like I was only doing things partway and giving up.  What I have found is that most of the time, this period of not engaging in the activity actually leads to a better understanding of it.

I think that when I am utterly steeped in something it's like being too close to something:  it's hard to get an objective perspective of it.  I am so consumed by the thing itself I can't see how it applies or interacts with other aspects of my life.  By take a step back, by letting it fall to the wayside as I do something else, it's like putting a pot on the back burner.  The heat may be on low, but it will still continue to stew, and the flavors will only intensify.  If you try to cook everything on high, you end up with lots of burnt outsides and raw insides.

This stepping away process works very well for me in regards to creative problem solving.  If I have an issue that is really giving me trouble, I will delve deep into it for a period of time until I have exhausted all my thoughts and resources on it, then I will deliberately turn away.  I will sleep on it, and not seek it out for a few days.  At the end of that time, I can come back to it and look over my notes or rethink it through and most times I have a good solution that comes to me quite quickly.

I also find it very helpful when learning new information.  A perfect example is songs or chants.  I can put a chant on loop, listen to it for a day straight, have the lyrics in front of me and chant along, and at the end of the day, I still might flub the words when I try to chant it on my own.  If I then put something else on to listen to, don't look at the lyrics for a few days and then come back to it, I can normally remember all the words just fine.

I think that we all have a certain amount of resources, energy that we draw on as we go about our day.  And not just one type of energy, but different energies for different things.  I can spend all day doing errands and running around, and still feel fairly energized when I get home and want to exercise, because, for me, they are different types of activities and they draw from different pools of resources.  And sometimes things are just so powerful they drain all your pools.  I find this very true when I am giving of myself or when I am very stressed.  If I am spending all day in a hospital or doing caregiver work, I will just feel absolutely drained and need to do something luscious for myself, something decadent that makes me feel refilled.

That is something that is key for me:  learning to listen to what my body, mind and spirit need and to honor the ebb and flow of the energies within me.  Instead of focusing on how empty I feel at times, I try to look at what would fill me up.  I have recognized this empty feeling since I was a child.  I deep hollow all encompassing feeling that would come over me.  For a very long time, I sort of sunk into it, and just wallowed in it.  Which only fed into the emptiness.

I definitely find that I can fall into a pattern, either of stillness or movement.  And either one, taken too long and too extreme becomes hard to break from.  If I am too busy, eventually I will sort of break down, and just have no desire to do anything at all.  Conversely, if I have spent a lot of days just sitting around, watching tv or wasting time, then I start to feel like I absolutely have to do something, anything, just to break free of the pattern.  And each state has it's own momentum, so the longer I have been still or busy, the harder it is to slow down or speed up.

Ultimately, I think that there is are two types of turning points:  there is a balance point in the middle, and then the apex point at the top.  Staying near the balance point and alternating states may keep you from the deep stillness, but it also keeps you from the great heights.  Pushing to the edge means you have more to climb and more to fall.  I still haven't figured out which one works best for me, but I do know that staying balanced is harder for me to maintain.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


This might be late for C, but I really wanted to write about this and kept here it is anyways!

A word I see tossed around a lot in regards to Heathenism is Clannish.  There is a very common perception that Heathens are very insular, and that they have very distinct ideas about who is in and who is out. To a great extent I think this is true, and it is one of the reasons that I don't identify as Heathen, nor have I sought out a Heathen group to join.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with being a Clan.  I think of Clan like an extended family group.  In fact, the local Pagans that I work with and socialize with often refer to our group as a Clan.  Much like a blood family, a clan has pretty clear lines over who is part of the Clan and who is not.  And, kind of like a blood family, you can become part of the group even if you weren't originally.

I don't think that this concept of group identity is a bad thing.  Our local Clan is very friendly, and we have no problem socializing with other people and interacting with them.  But there is a very real feeling of family for those of us who have been together for a while.  We support each other, and if I am having a hard time or need help, I know that I can turn to them and they will have my back.

On the flip side, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about Clans.  Living in the south, the first things that come to my mind are the KKK and some of the backwoods redneck clans.  Both of which have very negative connections.  And I think they take the idea of a clan to its most extreme and unhealthy level.  If you are so exclusive that you only associate with members of your own clan, you close so many doors on yourself.  And it does often lead to an 'us or them' mentality which can lead you to be very violent to anyone outside your own clan.

I have seen groups that act like this that bear the Heathen label.  They take the idea of a clan and push it to it's cultish side.  They isolate their members and some flat out cross the line into racial purity and other things that I have no intention of ever being a part of.  In fact, by many of these extreme Heathen groups, I am absolutely disqualified from being a member of their faith by my blood and upbringing (being half-Chinese and not raised in a Heathen household).

But like with many things, I don't think we should judge the entire group by these few bad eggs.  There is nothing wrong with being clannish, with wanting to create a family and to build a community of people who share your faith and ideals.  For many of us, we are isolated by our very faith from our birth families, from the communities we live in, and from most of the people we deal with in our every day life.  The idea of having a clan to turn to is very appealing.

I think that the thing to remember is that a clan is like a family.  Many families can live in the same neighborhood, and each family might have different rules in their own home.  But just because they have different ways of doing things, doesn't mean they can't all co-exist together and maybe even gather for a neighborhood picnic from time to time.  It just calls for a bit of courtesy.  I don't go into my neighbors house and demand they do things the way I do at home.  I also don't get offended because my neighbors want to eat dinner at home with their own family.

I feel there is a whole image of Heathens that needs to be broken.  Being Heathen doesn't mean you are a white supremacist.  It doesn't mean that you feel like every Heathen is better or more honorable than every non-Heathen.  It doesn't mean you think that your gods are better than everyone else's gods.  And it doesn't mean that you don't want to hang out with or associate with non-Heathens.  I think these are images that need to be broken and the way to do this isn't to keep pointing the light on those groups that make these undesirable examples, but rather to create new examples of healthy Clans and Heathen groups and to let those groups speak for themselves.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming out and Community

As I mentioned before, I don't consider myself Asatru, Heathen or any of the other Norse oriented branches of Paganism.  It's not that I have anything against any of them, in fact there are quite a few that I think would be lovely places to make a home.  However I know that my particular flavor of practice involves quite a lot of things that are outside the Norse sphere and these are things I hold near and dear to my heart and am not willing to give up.

This leaves me in a kind of a vacuum community wise.  A part of me really wants to socialize with other Norse oriented peoples.  I want to be a part of that community that shares practices, deities and social customs.  But I also know that it is those very differences that I embrace that would make me feel like an outsider, even if the community I was hanging out with didn't have any intention of excluding me.

But let's be honest for a second.  Or at least, let me be honest about my personal experiences.  I have lurked on several Heathen message boards, or checked out Heathen groups, and turned away because I get the sense that they are very clannish.  That is to say that they have a particular way they do things, specific definitions of what they feel is Heathen (or part of their way if they are one of the other Norse oriented groups).  And while they may be perfectly friendly with people who are outside their group, they are not going to invite you in unless you meet their requirements.

So many Heathen groups have such particular requirements that they have developed quite a reputation, both within the larger Pagan community and even outside it.  To those not in the Pagan community, many Heathens are indistinguishable from certain white pride groups, skinheads and flat out racists.  And I have seen some Heathen groups that definitely deserve to be in those categories.  Even within the Pagan community, there is often a judgement about Heathens and what they believe and how they treat non-Heathens.

Very often, this leaves me reluctant to identify Norse at all.  Not only do I not want to deal with Heathens or other Norse practitioners telling me how I'm doing it wrong, but I also don't want to have to break through any preconceived notions that people might have about what a Norse oriented practitioner is or does.  

Sometimes I feel like the Norse oriented are kind of the red-headed step-children of the Pagan world.  I have seen people put them just a step above Satanists (for those that put Satanists at the bottom of the Pagan umbrella or those who would rather Paganism not be associated with any form of Satanism at all).  And while I think that there are groups that take the Norse religious ideas and use them to support a political or racial agenda, I definitely don't think that all Norse oriented people or groups deserve to be judged by those extremists.  It's like judging all Christians by the measure of those loudmouths who end up in the news.

I have seen a lot of attitudes change in the Pagan community over the years.  I have seen a shift within the Norse oriented sub-group, where many people are starting to voice their objections to the more radical groups and try to show people that we aren't all that way, that we don't all hold those attitudes and opinions.  I truly hope that this continues, that people look beyond the stereotypes to the actual words, deeds and beliefs of the people they interact with, and that Heathen grows out of it's negative associations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bargaining, Beholden and Begging

As a Pagan, I call upon deities for aid, I pray to them when I am in need and I turn to them in times of turmoil.  And yet, I have never felt like it was me in the seat of power.  I think that there is a relationship between myself and any deity I work with, and that relationship flavors every interaction we have.

I think there are right ways to approach the divine.  I have never felt like I was less than, but definitely different than, the deities I work with.  I don't approach them as if I weren't worthy of being in their presence, but I also don't feel we are necessarily on the same level.  It's kind of hard to put into words, but it is like we are operating on entirely different wavelengths.  As a physical being, it is much easier (as far as I know) for me to walk over to my sink and fill a glass of water than it would be for Odin to make water appear in the glass.  I think that as energetic beings, deities are more adept at working on that energetic level that is both more subtle and utterly limitless.

But back to the topic.  There is a big divide in the way people deal with other people.  And by people, I'm really talking about how they deal with every being that isn't themselves:  deities, animals, spirits, humans.  Some people treat every interaction like a bargain.  If I give you this, what will you give me in return (or if I do this for you, what will you do for me)?  A similar approach is to think of everything you have ever done for someone and keeping a sort of mental tally sheet of all the favors they owe you.  Sometimes people play the pity card, and give you all the reasons why they can't do something themselves and why they need you to do it for them.

On the other side are people who do things for other people without a thought for what they might get back.  They make sure that when someone does something for them, they express their gratitude, either by doing something in return or simply by saying thank you.  They never think about relationships as a score sheet.  And they are more likely to just do something themselves than to ask for help (even if they need it).

These aren't hard and fast groupings.  Sometimes we act one way, and sometimes we may act another.  Our head may be telling us to act one way and our heart leading us the other direction.

So what does all this have to do with Paganism?  I think a lot of people see devotional actions to a deity as an act of bargaining.  Perhaps someone will take up a regular practice of honoring a deity or doing works in a deity's name, with the expectation that they get something in return.  And I feel that sometimes Heathen practice leads to this kind of exchange of energy.  That there is a sort of honorable duty to repaying any gift or service.  And yet, I don't feel that other people are obligated to me.  Rather, I see the obligation on my side, that if someone does something that is meaningful for me, that I should find some way to express that.

I definitely don't think of other people as being beholden.  Actually, I don't think of myself being beholden to anyone else either.  I am beholden to myself.  If I say I will do something, then I do feel an obligation to do that thing.  Outside of that, I am my own person and I don't owe anyone anything that I haven't chosen to give.  I have known people who try to use guilt to force others to do things they wouldn't otherwise, and it's not something I feel I need to fall prey to.

And while I do petition my deities for help when I need it, I don't feel it is begging.  I don't ask for things I am not working on myself.  I try very hard, actually, to ask for help when I need it.  I tend to be somewhat stubborn, and dig in my heels and try to do things on my own.  And we all need help sometimes.  Learning to ask for help and support is not something that comes naturally to me. 

I think that the more I build my relationships on honesty, the more solid they will be.  This means that there are people in my life that I don't do much for, because that would imply that I want to deepen the relationship, and I don't.  There are also people in my life that I spend a lot of time and effort on.  These are the ones that I feel are important to me, and part of what brings my life joy is bringing joy into theirs.  This is true of deities I work with.  There are deities that I spend a lot of time and energy working with.  And much like I may lend a hand by doing something that would help out a friend, I see sacred action in the same light.  So I do things that I think the deities I work with would like, just because I want to bring joy into their lives.  It's not always about what you get in return.  Sometimes the actions you do for someone else are a return gift in their own way because you know that you have made their life better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


This month the theme for the Cauldron Blog Project is doorways.  January is named for Janus, who is God of beginnings and transitions, of doorways and portals, who is often depicted with two faces, one facing forward and one looking to the past.

I was watching a show a while back on the way the mind works, and it was testing people and how well they payed attention to the world around them.  I have seen several examples of this little trick, but this one had a person at a desk (like a check in desk at a hotel), who would be talking with someone, then they would drop a pen, and duck down (so they were completely out view of the person they were talking to).  A completely different person would stand up with the pen and keep up the conversation as if nothing had happened. 

The amazing (and somewhat scary) thing is that most people don't notice the difference, even if something drastic changed (like a man bending down and a woman coming back up).  This happens because of the way our brains register doorways.

The brain thinks about a room as a completely separate place, with it's own set of memories.  When you pass through a portal (in the case of the example, the desk acts as a doorway:  creating a separation between what happened before the person ducked below and afterward), your brain expects things to be different.  It's kind of like a reset button.

It doesn't have to be a physical door either.  Studies have shown that a character walking through a virtual room in a video game has the same effect.

This effect also explains why sometimes we get up to go get something from another room, walk into that room and can't remember what we went in there to get.  The bad news is that even going back to the original room doesn't help us recall what we forgot!

At first glance, this all seems horribly inconvenient.  And yet, there are a ton of ways we can use this knowledge to our advantage.  Firstly, if you know you have something important to remember in another location that you absolutely don't want to forget....write it down!

But consider this approach when it comes to casting circle.  When we cast a circle, we are creating a room within a room.  We acknowledge this when we cut a door in the circle for any reason.  But even the act of casting circle sets the area within apart from the rest of the room.  This has a real impact on our brain.  In a very real way, our brain sees that inside area, our circle, as a different space, not of the room anymore, but it's own room.  The things we do in circle are removed from the things we do at other times, even if we cast that circle in the middle of our living room with nothing more than tracing our finger in the air:  we are still telling our brain that there is a 'room' there.

I have been blessed enough to have participated in several group rituals, and one thing I always love is when there is a doorway to the circle, both on entering and leaving.  I definitely feel that it gives a weight to the ritual, a sense of otherness.  As simple as it is, even just marking the doorway on the ground, helps create that sense of boundary.

We can also take advantage of our tendency to forget things in previous rooms when we do work with our past.  If there is an event you want to distance yourself from, old feelings you want to recover from or resentments you want to let go of, you can use the power of doorways to help separate your current self from those older experiences.  Use doorways in your visualizations.  See yourself in that time and place where the event took place and then walk through the nearest doorway.  You can continue walking through doorways as you feel you need to.

You could also use the doorway visual as a way to help new traumas from taking hold.  When you feel yourself in a situation that you aren't comfortable with or don't want to deal with, visualize a door between you and whatever is bothering you, and then shut it.

On the flip side, if you are doing guided meditations, and are receiving a message, consider having pen and paper handy to jot down a quick note before you return to your waking mind (since many visualizations involve doorways which might close off that information from you once you have passed through them).  Include your journaling as part of the meditation, give yourself a moment or two to draw or write impressions while you are in the moment.  It doesn't have to be a deep reflection, you can wait on that until later, but if you have a word or symbol pop into your mind, don't trust that you will remember it when you come out of the meditation.

Taking inspiration from Janus, doorways don't always have to block things out or look to the past.  Consider doing meditations into your own future, where you go through a doorway into possibilities.  As it is the beginning of a new year, instead of trying to set resolutions to change what we didn't like from the past year, why not take a moment to stand at the doorway to the upcoming year.  Look at the door, see what it looks like.  How do you feel when looking at it?  Then, open the door and step through.  What kinds of things do you see?  Have paper ready and sketch or write about what you see.  Don't think too hard on it, don't try to see what you feel you should see, just let yourself be open and experience what comes to you.  Later on you can go back and look at your notes and see what messages you find in them and how that can influence your coming year.

One of my long standing visualizations includes a room with many doors.  Some of the doors bring things in, some open to other rooms for specific purposes and still others let me out into different worlds.  I have always loved this visualization because it gives me pretty much everything I need in one place.  But I never really though much about how I changed when using the doorways.  If every doorway leads to a whole new world, then every time you step through a doorway, you have the opportunity to be a whole new you.

I think we tap into this more than we realize.  Think about if you have ever paused at a doorway, to gather yourself.  Perhaps you were about to enter into a room and meet a bunch of strangers, and you pause to gather courage.  Or maybe you were still a teenager, and had done something wrong and knew your parents were waiting just inside the house to talk to you about it.  Or you might have even just had a horrible day and you shut the door when you come home and just lean on it for a second, glad to have that doorway between you and the rest of the world.  Whatever the reason, that doorway transformed you.  The you who was on one side became a different you, embodying different qualities.  And though you may have gathered up your intentions before you stepped through, the instant you were in the doorway was when the change happened.

Monday, January 12, 2015


So many possibilities for the letter A!

I tumbled a bunch over in my head, I might write about more of them later, but the one I kept coming back to was the Aesir.  For many Norse oriented peoples, the Aesir are the primary body of deities that are worked with.  In fact, one of the major Norse faiths is called Asatru which means faith or belief in the Aesir.  While other classifications of deities have some following, when you talk about deities that most people will recognize as Norse, the vast majority are Aesir.

I have read a lot of explanations of the difference between the Aesir and Vanir, and the one that resonates most with me is that the Vanir are more intimately tied to nature and hearken from an earlier time in civilization, and the Aesir then are the deities that evolved later to represent the things that people now valued.  I also feel that the focus of a lot of the deities has shifted from a more personal or small clan grouping to a larger community.  So while you might have had Vanir associated with hunting or even fighting, you have Aesir who are tied to battle.

I have heard a lot of people express reservations about many of the Aesir because they perceive them to be harsh or bloodthirsty.  Others find this to be what draws them to the Aesir.  I think that it is somewhat in between.  I do see a harsh side to a lot of the Aesir, but I don't think that is the whole of who they are.  This works very well for me.  I am perfectly happy to live peacefully and to avoid conflict, to turn inward and pursue my own thing and leave others to their own pursuits, however if you confront me, I am not going to fold, I will call on my inner steel and meet your challenge.

One thing I always found somewhat interesting and confusing about the Aesir is that there is a lot of disagreement over who is whom.  There are connections made between Freyja and Frigga or between Odin and Od.  Sometimes Freyja is considered to be the Queen of Asgard and wife of Odin.  When I was first starting out, I viewed Freyja and Odin as being a pair, but the more I have read and experienced, the more I don't see them as a true pairing.  I think a part of this is learning about Frigga, who was not one of the first deities I learned about.  I do, however, feel that Freyja and Odin have a strong relationship that has involved intimacy at times and arguments at other times.  I don't feel they are the main person in each other's lives.

I think it is somewhat strange how many people classify the Aesir.  I have read a lot of explanations of a sort of ruling council of gods, and most times it lists 12 gods and 13 or 14 goddesses.  The gods are mostly what you would expect, though no one seems to know what to do with Loki.  The goddesses are never what I would expect.  Most goddess listings are Frigga and her 12 handmaidens, and these sometimes include Freyja.  However goddesses like Sif aren't included.  In fact there are quite a lot of Norse deities that aren't talked about much at all.

A while back I made a set of prayer cords, to help me connect with the Norse deities that I felt moved to connect with.  This did include some deities that I don't consider to be Aesir, but rather Vanir or other important figures (like Hel).  I was absolutely surprised when I counted up the knots at the end and found myself with fifty knots on my cord.  I am so used to seeing the Norse Deities listed as a scant handful. 

One thing I really appreciate about the Aesir is that they are gods, and many have powers beyond those that we as humans have, and yet, they are very human in many ways.  They experience feelings:  jealousy, anger, love, sadness.  They make mistakes.  They end up in some crazy situations that they have to wiggle their way out of. 

Monday, January 5, 2015


Last year, I started the year off talking about Ancestry, and this year I'm sort of retouching that topic with Ancestors.  I want to go a bit more into specifics this year, and I've encountered a few new to me thoughts on Ancestors that I want to talk about as well.

Technically ancestors are the people of your blood who have come before, so that is where I'll start.  I think we have lost touch with our ancestors in a way that many of our ancestors would find shameful.  I personally don't know much about anyone in my family further back than great-grandparents.  And what I know about my ancestors of blood I know because I met them.  I have heard the odd story here or there, but mainly about people that I did actually meet.

I feel that loss, like I am adrift in an ocean without a map.  I think that we all do, on some level.  There seems to be a great interest these days, to uncovering stories and information about our ancestors, and I think it is in part to fill that need to connect to our own past.

So how do we honor ancestors of blood if we aren't familiar with them?  I start with the ones I did know, the close dead.  Let me share a little about my beloved dead with you.  I love that phrase, by the way:  beloved dead.  I think that it really reminds me that those that have passed beyond are dear to me.

I'll start with my grandfather on my dad's side.  He was a big fan of genealogy, and hand a bunch of books and had traced back some of our ancestors.  It is through him that I know that I have Pictish blood as well as a connection to one of the Pharaoh's of Egypt.  But as nifty as that information was (especially when I was still in high school), I was more fascinated by the fact that my grandfather built the house he and my grandmother lived in.  My dad's mother (she remarried seven times, so I had two grandmother's on my dad's side) loved the desert and all things strange and wonderful.  She used to tell me, when I was little, that we were aliens, and that she and I were from Venus (though she said my dad was from Mars, so I'm not sure how that worked).

On my mother's side, my great-grandmother was what I would picture a Chinese socialite to be, in all the right ways.  I remember dancing at her birthday party, my mother and I did a traditional Chinese fan dance, and there were hundreds of people in attendance.  She always seemed regal to me.  My other great-grandmother on my mom's side was as humble a woman as you could know.  She wouldn't ask us to help her change a lightbulb (even though we were at her house at least once a week for dinner) because she didn't want to bother us.  I lived with her for a while, in her last year, to help around the house.  She used to always offer me cough drops as candy.  I never knew either of my great grandfathers, and my grandparents are still alive.

When my Tai-po (my great grandmother) was starting to decline mentally, I remember my mom suggesting that we should get her to tell us stories of when she was little.  Her parents came over from China (I forget if she was born here or there), and mom said no one really knew what her childhood was like.  But no one ever did get those stories, and they are lost to time, like so many others. I would like to research, to learn about the places my family lived, both in China and in Europe. 

I also think of myself as having ancestors of place.  For a long time, this meant places that had spiritual significance to me, such as Ireland, China, Hawaii, Egypt.  But recently I was reading a book that also talked about honoring the ancestors of the land you live on, not just your country, but your city and neighborhood and quite literally down to the plot of land you live on.  Honoring spirits of the land has always been a part of my practice, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to honor the people who lived here before.  And yet, now that the idea is in my head, it is something that make so much sense that I feel I need to pursue it.

I see ancestors of spirit also in influential people who have touched my life in some way.  Not just the obviously spiritual ones too.  When I was little, I was enthralled reading stories of Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale and Anne Frank.  I do enjoy a well written biography, but mainly if the focus is on the stories (and not on facts and numbers).  I also have quite enough chaote in me to honor ancestors of spirit who never lived in this world:  influential people from works of fiction.  Several of my childhood idols and role models were fictional, and they served just as good examples for how to live a good life as did historical people.

So how does all this tie into the Norse side of my practice?  I see ancestors as a pretty big part of the Norse mindset.  People who died in this life were not seen as finished, there was a distinct concept of living in the afterlife.  Not only that, but in the disir (female relatives who have passed but continue to watch over their bloodline), we see that they have a continued interest in our lives.  Honor of the ancestors is done at Symbel, as well as other times during the year.

As I said, I am not Heathen, and such haven't participated in a Symbel myself, though I have read about them.  One of the things I loved about the ritual was that each person was given a chance to honor an ancestor.  I have had the opportunity to participate in rituals (general Pagan rituals) where this was done, where each person in the circle shared a name of someone who has passed that they wanted to remember and honor, and could share a story about that person if they liked.  These moments are probably among the most moving I have had in ritual.  There is something very powerful with a group of people who may not know each other coming together and sharing their ancestors.  Some of the stories brought me to tears.

When I think of how the Norse might have approached life, I think that a strong tie to their own ancestors was part of what made them who they are.  I think that looking to other people's ancestors also gives you a huge insight into who they are as people.  Our ancestors shape us in ways we might not even be aware of.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Cauldron Blog Project

So, another year, another new thing!  The people who run the Pagan Blog Project have decided to not run it in 2015, and I had originally planned on just keeping on doing it on my blog, because I did have fun with it, was challenged by it, and it kept me on point with getting posts up.

However, one of the forums that I am a member of has decided to do their own version of it, so I am doing that this year!  It's similar but a bit different, so I figured I'd make an introductory post to explain the differences, and then a bit about my vision for how I am going to approach the project this year as well as a bit more about my own path and self.

The Cauldron Blog Project will still support 2 weeks dedicated to each letter, just as the PBP did, but there is no hard and fast number of posts for each letter.  If I want to write just a single post every two weeks that is fine, if I want to write 10, that is also fine!  I plan on aiming for one a week, but will commit to at least one per letter, and will do more if I feel moved to do more.

In addition, we are adding in a monthly theme post, so each month, those of us participating will pick a topic and we will all write a post on the same topic.  I am pretty excited about this one, I love reading other people's thoughts on stuff, and having everyone write the same topic should be great.

I added a little widget thingie on my blog that will link to The Cauldron forum (to the specific thread for this project), and it is a really great forum, so if you wanna check it out, I highly recommend it.

So, in 2014, I just went in head first, with any topic for the posts that popped into my head.  My personal path is pretty eclectic, so my interests range far and wide.  But I definitely consider myself a Norse centric fusion witch.

What does Norse centric fusion witch mean?  Well to start with, I have worked with Odin and Freyja pretty much my entire spiritual life.  When I was just learning, about two decades ago, picking a god and goddess to devote yourself to was pretty standard.  I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and when I read their names out loud, I got physical shivers down my back...and sometimes still do.  They called to me, in a way that no others have (though I have felt moved to work with other deities along the way, just not so strong and so persistent a call).

But I don't consider myself a Heathen or any other flavor of official Norse Pagan.  It's not that I don't find the practices lovely and moving, but more that I feel that I dip into too many other pools, and I don't devote myself to ONLY Norse stuff.  I don't feel like I qualify as a pure Norse practitioner, so I don't like to label myself that way.  I think it only leads to misunderstanding and necessary arguments. 

Norse is at the heart of my practice though, so I do consider myself Norse centric:  it is the flame at my heart and it is the beat underneath everything else.  And a good friend of mine once described his brand of eclecticism as fusion, because even though he draws from multiple sources, the ultimate goal is to have everything blend together and harmonize, not just lots of bits in a bag.  I feel that definition very much, and that is definitely a goal of mine, to have a path that works with all the different things I am drawn to.

And I fully consider myself a witch, have since I first read about the practice of witchcraft.  My religion is Pagan, but my practice is witchcraft.  It is witchcraft flavored with a lot of different things, from chaos to ceremonial to folk traditions, but it is ultimately witchcraft.

So, why explain all of that?  Well this year I am going to focus my letter posts on Norse things, from my perspective.  They will be how I view the world, the deities, the mythology and my path.  They may include fusion ideas, but the heart of every letter post will be Norse.

The monthly topic posts may be Norse centric or they may be more general, it really will depend on what kind of topics come up.

So this is my intro for the year, this is my plan, and for anyone who wants to come along, I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I enjoy writing them!