Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Time correction

Time, as an exact thing, is a human creation.  Nature and the world around us has timing, but it doesn't have time.  Time helps us communicate and work together, and in order to all be on the same page we need to have a common language and system for measuring time.  But, in order to make it neat and tidy, we have found that, once every four years, we need to make an adjustment, we need to correct our time.

On a Leap Year, we add a whole new day, we fix the error in our timing, in order to bring everything back into sync.  This is a great time to bring other areas of our lives into sync, but also an energy we can tap into during the rest of the year.

There are so many different cycles we live through, whether it is the week, month, moon, seasonal, work week, school year...our life is a never-ending series of cycles.  And sometimes things will throw those off kilter.  I remember when I was in school, whenever we had to miss a day, the whole rest of the week felt like scrambling.  Today, I have my personal life set so I do certain things on certain days, and when I have to adjust that I feel very off-balance.

Setting our time back into sync can be as simple as making a conscious effort to either add or remove days.  When we add days, it's like Leap year, we are taking the day and setting it outside of time.  Often, we treat holidays like this.  They become these little capsules of time that don't follow the normal rules.

Think about holidays as a often got fancy foods, you might have a different bedtime, or you might be allowed to skip your chores.  As adults, we often continue these trends.  When we get an extra day off, like for a holiday, we relish that time, and all bets are off.  We set it aside and really just give ourselves that gift of time.  It becomes time to catch up...not on things we 'should' be doing, but on things we wish we had time for.

I don't know how many times I have wished for extra hours in the day, and I am sure I am not alone.  We have so much we want to do, and often the fun things are pushed to the back of the list.  We say we'll get around to them when we have time, or when everything else is done.  And that time never comes.

So sometimes, we may need to make a conscious choice to give ourselves a day.  And then treat that day like a holiday from our regular duties.  Of course you will still want to make sure everyone is fed and the absolutely necessary stuff gets taken care of, but think about ways in which you can make even those duties fun.  You have to eat dinner, but you can make fun snacky foods or maybe get takeout, or pick your favorite frozen meal so you don't have to cook.  By setting the day 'outside of time' you are acknowledging that it is special and that it's okay to goof off.  And sometimes, that is exactly what we need.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, sometimes we need to make the mental adjustment to remove days.  My days are normally pretty free, but I do have days where I'm just not home.  I might have a lot of errands to run, or maybe I am going to an event.  Pretty much, if I am only going to be home for a few hours, I consider the day a null.  I find a way to reassign or just flat out cancel the normal stuff I would do, so I don't feel compelled to cram all the normal stuff into those few hours.

Some things are easy to put off.  I clean twice a week, but we can get by with once a week.  So if I can't clean the day before/after, then I just nix one of the cleanings (or do a partial, I might run a vacuum but not sweep or dust).  I have a decent little list of daily stuff that I do, and on null days most of that list gets scrapped. 

The big thing here is to do it deliberately, and to go into the day knowing it's going to be a null day.  Getting behind, being rushed, and then realizing you just simply can't do a thing isn't the same.  Because you will be thinking about it and it will be weighing on you.

 I also find that time correction may become necessary for regular routines, when things happen.  When we build up a habit, we want to keep that momentum running.  We might feel guilty for taking days off, or for breaking our own rules.  But sometimes, taking breaks can be what helps us keep going in the long run.

The immediate answer that comes to mind is cheat days on a diet.  Now there are two ways to approach cheat days, one is healthy, the other...not so much.  If you plan on a cheat day, and you treat it simply as a day 'outside of time' so your normal rules don't apply, then you can enjoy that day without guilt.  This is a great thing to do if you maybe have a friend's party to go to or your partner is taking you out for a special occasion.  You may not want to be thinking about the diet, you just want to enjoy the night, to appreciate that special time. 

The bad way is when you make a mistake (because we all do), and you cave into your impulses and you get that piece of cake...then say "Oh, well, since I'm now on a cheat day I might as well have half a dozen donuts, some cookies and this whole bag of's okay, it's a cheat day."  Because you didn't plan on the cheat day, and it wasn't done deliberately it becomes a guilty thing.  Plus you are over indulging, and almost trying to make up for all the restrictions you normally follow.  It's like if you were trying to set aside a dollar every day to save up for a big purchase you wanted, but you keep giving in to temptation and saying "Oh, it's just one purchase..." but buying something that costs more than you saved all never actually save up enough for what you wanted.

 Letting go of days (or taking days off) can be very hard, so you might want to create a specific ritual to help you get in the right mindset (and not let these correction days get out of hand).  I do morning planning, so when I know I have a day that needs adjusting from  my normal routine, I can literally put that down in my planner, and schedule the off day.  Also, if it is something I know about ahead of time, I can plan around it...but even if it's a last minute thing, I can use my planner to shift tasks that absolutely need done, so that I can actually relax into the day.

But even if you don't have a regular planning practice, you can create a ritual or change something specific at the start of the day, to make it a conscious choice.  If you are taking a day off, maybe you don't even get dressed, but stay all day in your pajamas.  If it is a day you have to let go of, perhaps you plan on grabbing coffee and breakfast on your way to your first thing, instead of having to take even more time to do it at home (or you prepare something the night before, so all you have to do is grab it and go).

I personally love the phrase 'time out of time'.  I think of ritual time that way, as it doesn't quite fit in the normal flow of time.  I consider off days to be time out of time, as if they aren't quite real, and being able to step into that mindset may require a bit of ritual.  Consider lighting a candle and taking your watch (or phone if you really want to be ambitious!) and setting it on your altar...for the rest of the day. 

Calling upon the energy of Leap Day can also help you make that mental shift, so that you are able to adjust the time in your head.  And that is the most important thing.  Once you get your head in the right place, the rest will follow.  So, as we approach Leap Day this Leap Year, think about places in your life where you might need to correct your time...and plan on doing it!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Party with meaning!

Who doesn't love a good party?  Pretty much every group I've been  a part of, that does any kind of communal gathering, enjoys having a good time.  It's part of the reason why we gather.  And our Sabbats and celebrations are often a cause to gather, to have good food, to share company, to sing and dance, and to have a good time....pretty much a party!

And I'm all about getting my party on!  But I think we need to make sure that the meaning of what we are celebrating doesn't get lost.  One of the biggest parties around is Mardi Gras.  It's famous across the globe and people travel from all over to take part.  But I bet most people who join in the celebrations don't know what they are celebrating...they are just there for the party.

There are a few stereotypes about Pagans that are related to mindless partying.  In the early days (especially when talking about Wiccan covens), the rumor was it was all just an excuse to have an orgy.  With Heathen groups, it's that everything is all about getting drunk (and possibly playing with weapons).  With some of the earth-centric religions, some people think it's just an excuse to get high.

And I think all of those are really dangerous stereotypes.  I have no problem with sex, alcohol, or the drugs most commonly used for religious reasons, but if people think that our whole religion is based on using faith as a reason to be able to overindulge, that is a problem.  We are already fighting for legitimacy with people who don't want to accept what we do, and if they think it's all a smoke screen for socially unacceptable behavior, that just makes the struggle for acceptance that much harder.

But I also think it's dangerous on the inside.  If we start letting the party aspects of gatherings take over, and we loose the ritual aspect, we are cheating ourselves out of a deeper connection, both with ourselves and our faith.  It's like people who go to a religious service, but spend the whole time on their phone or daydreaming instead of taking part...why even go?

Historically speaking, a lot of festivals had a very party vibe, but they were partying with a purpose.  The night might start with a reminder of why the festival was taking place, and then people would actually start the celebrating.  I think this is a really good way to approach celebrations.

Having a clear line between the ritual part of an evening and the social part is also a nice way to handle things.  If you are having a gathering for a specific purpose, but also know that people will hang out and socialize afterwards, then making that boundary clear helps keep everyone in the right headspace.  I definitely prefer if drinking doesn't start until after the ritual (if the ritual involves drinking, that is fine, but don't be chugging down beers while waiting for ritual to start).

I also feel like if people get too deep into the party mindset, it can be hard to pull back out of that.  Joking, laughing and making irreverent comments is awesome when just hanging out, but not very appropriate for most rituals.  I don't feel like ritual needs to be super serious, but there is a weight to it that needs to be respected.  Being deliberately sarcastic can make the experience awkward for other people.

I find that making an announcement, about the start of ritual, is very helpful, as is having a transition activity.  We tend to smudge and bless people as they enter circle.  This not only helps everyone get in the right mindset, it also controls how people enter the circle.  It turns it from a mob moving to a procession.  Sometimes we will chant as we enter circle, which can help as well, especially when it's an easy chant to follow along, it gives people something to do and focus on while they wait on everyone to be in circle, so there isn't restlessness and a temptation to start chatting. 

Likewise, at the end of ritual, we normally make a clear statement that ritual is over and the feast and celebration is to begin.  Food is a great way to bridge the gap after ritual.  It gets everyone moving, gives them something to talk about (especially great if not everyone knows everyone else), and even allows for more shy people to ease into conversations (because they can be busy with the eating and just listen in for a bit without feeling out of place).

Normally, celebrations take off after everyone has eaten.  People are refreshed and ready to dive into conversations or break out the instruments and chant or dance.  Having shared food brings people together and often the conversations follow the theme of the ritual.  We will socialize, but there is that connection, remembering what the reason was for the gathering.

And I think that's the real important part.  You can have a wonderful party, you can relax and get wild, and still honor the root of the celebration.  Having that time for a more pointed and serious ritual at the start helps set the mood.  It flavors the rest of the gathering, and without effort people are drawn back to that theme. 

Many times, we gather because we are more solitary in our daily practices.  The coven structure isn't the predominant form of Paganism anymore, but we still crave to be with people who honor similar things.  We crave that connection, and through celebrations we can get together and enjoy both a beautiful moment of ritual and then the camaraderie of like-minded people.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mental care is self care!

So, it's become sort of a tradition of mine, to broaden the definition of love as we approach Valentine's day.  I have talked about self care before, but I specifically want to talk about mental health in regards to self care and Paganism.

Firstly though, I want to acknowledge that everyone goes through mental issues, whether they are small and temporary or huge and permanent.  Whether they are diagnosed, self-diagnosed or unknown.  Mental health, in many ways, is like physical health, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and maintaining your mental health is a journey.  Your journey might include trained professionals, regular practice, friends, family, support groups or you may be traveling alone, but we all travel this road.

I have seen people say that you shouldn't practice if you aren't healthy, especially mentally, and this is one of the most harmful things that I think someone could say.  I want to talk about this from two different sides, the spiritual and the magical.

On the spiritual side, I think that our faith and religious practices often are a great boon to our mental health.  When we are struggling, we often turn to things outside ourselves for strength.  Knowing that the universe (the Gods, Spirit, Divinity...however you recognize it) is rooting for you can see you through very dark times. 

I also think that we often find a special community through our faith.  We find others who share the same beliefs (either in part or in whole), and they understand us in ways that other people can't.  We speak a common language, and when you need words of encouragement, they know what to say to help you. 

Now, many Pagans faith practice includes things that might be hard to do if you are in a dark or hard place.  And because we often practice alone (in the sense that we aren't going to a church and attending a service hosted by someone else, but are often in charge of our own rituals and practices), this can become a struggle where we feel like we are not being 'good' Pagans or that maybe we are letting our Gods down.

I personally feel that the Gods know when we are unable to do things versus when we are just being lazy and not wanting to put for the effort.  I also think that making allowances and doing what we are able to do takes a special kind of strength, and this is something that is recognized.  We may have to adjust our expectations, and find new ways of doing things, but we are not bad Pagans because we can't practice the way everyone else does (honestly there is no standard to be held up against, everyone's practice is what works for them, so you do you!)

On a magical side, there is some reasoning behind the concept that you shouldn't practice when you aren't well...however the flip side to that is sometimes the best time to practice is when you are in the thick of something.  Also, if you are struggling with a chronic condition, you may judge your days in different shades, and 'functioning' may be one of your better days. 

I personally find that, for me, when I am feeling particularly bad, giving myself something to do helps.  I will almost always choose 'easy' things, stuff that is more light and simple, but also fun.  Chanting is a big one for me, chanting is something I turn to when I am feeling poorly, and it helps a lot that I can pick chants that counteract what I am feeling!  But also something simple like checking in with my altar, maybe moving some stuff around, picking a new backdrop for my computer..things that don't take a lot of effort, but have meaning.  Sometimes it's as simple as taking a moment to sit and stare at the sky.

I also talk mostly about solitary practice, but if you work with a group or are attending a group function, and you have an issue that you are worried about or are struggling with, please mention it!  Depending on how well you know the group, you might want to bring one of the organizers aside, or you might speak in more vague terms.  It might even be as simple as asking if there is a quiet place where you can get a minute alone if necessary.  Or asking if certain topics are going to be explored that you aren't comfortable with (many people struggle deeply with certain things, and some rituals might be problematic...knowing ahead of time so you can decide if you need to opt out can be very helpful).

Sometimes, we still treat mental health issues as if they aren't as valid as physical ones (and we still sometimes don't treat physical issues with as much care as they deserve), but I think this is a conversation that needs to happen.  It is important for our Pagan spaces to be safe spaces, and this means for mental health as well as physical health.  I think that, as Pagans, we have so many lovely tools for working with our mental health, both on our own and in groups, and it is important to respect the process that people are going through, your Self especially!

No one knows your mind and mental state as well as you do.  Never let anyone shame you for feeling the way you do, or for doing things in a way that works for you.  And as we celebrate love this Valentine's Day, remember to shine some of that love back at yourself, wherever you may be and however you may be feeling on any given are worthy and you are loved!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Is it bad luck...or?

We all go through times where it seems like nothing is working for us.  We drop things, we get hurt, we loose stuff, it rains, there are a million things a day that could go 'wrong', and when too many start to add up, we may wonder, are we just going through some bad luck, or is something else going on here?

It is inevitable that someone will bring up being cursed.  Especially once you accept the existence of magic and spiritual energy, the idea that someone else has created these circumstances in your life isn't that far fetched.  And it is absolutely possible that someone could have cursed you.  But what you really have to ask yourself is how probable is it?

First though, I want to talk about something else that could be seen as a cause for bad luck.  Now, you may or may not know my thoughts on Karma, but many people believe that 'what you do comes back to you' in one form or another.  Sometimes this sentiment is extended through multiple lifetimes, so things that happen to you in this life might be ripples from another life.

Though I am not a fan or follower of this idea, I'm going to play Devil's advocate for a minute here.  Let's say that the things that are happening to you are some kind of energetic reaction, and that sometime (in this life or another) you did something and now that action is swinging back towards you.

Think about this energy as a pendulum.  You pushed it, it swung out, and now it's coming back towards you.  There are several things you can do about it:  you can step aside and avoid it, you can redirect the energy, you can brace and grab the pendulum....or you can be caught totally unaware and get smacked in the back of the head with it.

Now, I tend to think that avoidance is just a temporary measure.  Let's say you dodge out of the way of the pendulum, so it swings past you.  But then, what does a pendulum do?  It reaches the end of it's arc and swings back.  So you will have to keep dodging, keep figuring out some way to avoid that energy until enough time has passed and it is depleted.

A similar thing happens if you redirect it.  You push it in another direction, but it will come right back.  And, because you have simply reacted to an incoming threat, you may not even be paying attention to where you are shoving it, so you might create a new ripple effect by trying to deflect it.

Obviously we don't want to get caught unawares (though that is often how this whole thing starts), so we are left with bracing and grabbing it.  It's kind of like catching a ball, if you are prepared, there is some impact, but you can absorb most of it, and then you have the ball (or pendulum). 

Now, remember, we were talking about Karma, so the base of the idea is that this energy was something you sent out.  Being able to brace and catch it implies owning up to what you did (and possibly taking action to help correct the initial imbalance).

Of course Karma isn't the only reason why you might be having bad luck.  Sometimes we are the direct cause of our 'bad luck', but we can't see it.  It can sometimes be hard to see our own faults, or to see clearly when we are in a bad place.  If we are exhausted, we may be more clumsy than usual, and being that tired also often means we don't think right, so it just seems like we are having a string of bad luck, but really we are so tired we aren't functioning properly.

A very common type of bad luck is relationship bad luck.  I think we have all had a friend who complains constantly that they have the 'worst luck when dating', and they are absolutely convinced that no matter who they go out with it will end badly.  But what they can't see is that they are picking the exact same type of person, and that is what is leading to the bad relationships.  This type of bad luck is often very hard to see from the inside, because your feelings cloud your judgement.  It can be hard to trust your friends over your heart, but when they keep pointing out the same thing, it may be time to listen.

Sometimes our bad luck is a lack of proper planning.  This often happens in regards to money issues.  When someone doesn't plan for the unexpected, but instead spends all their money all the time, then gets hit with something unusual, and they say it's 'just their luck' that it happened a week before payday.  But they don't change anything after that experience, and it happens again and again, and it isn't just luck anymore, it's a failure to adjust and plan.

Now, like I said at the start, it is possible that you are actually cursed.  People come in all kinds, and there are nice people and nasty people.  This is true in the magical community as well.  Just like there are Trolls on the internet who don't care who they hurt, as long as they are hurting someone, there are people who will curse anyone, for any slight.  There are also people who let their emotions run away with them, and will curse you in the height of passion, because they got upset and acted before they stopped to think.

There are lots of ways to protect yourself!  Of course regular cleansing and shielding help a lot, but there are also protections you can cast on your property to help ward off any bad energy sent your way.  A very common method is to place (often bury) something at the four corners of your property, as a form of protection.  This might be protective talismans, witch bottles, crystals or whatever you prefer to use for protection. 

My personal favorite specifically for curses or other malignant, directed energy is mirror protections.  You might bless and charge a mirror to protect you from curses.  I use a small, pocket mirror, and I have placed a protection sigil in it, so the sigil is reflected in the mirror when it's closed (this way it protects from all sides).  You can also visualize the mirror, as a form of shielding.  What I like about the mirror protections is they send energy back at the caster, so it's a bit more aggressive than just shielding or protecting yourself, but I think that if someone is sending things my way, then sending them back is fair game.

One interesting sub-set of actual cursing is accidental cursing.  Energy follows thought and emotions, and if someone is feeling something intensely enough and wishing for harm to come to you, they may be sending that energy your way.  It won't be as focused as if they were doing it on person, but it can still be powerful.  I actually think this kind of cursing happens more than intentional cursing.  You can guard against this type of cursing exactly as you would intentional cursing, and if you like, you can even word your protections to help people see when they are unintentionally sending bad energy out.

It is actually possible to 'curse' yourself as well, and this is a big part of what negative self-talk does.  If you are continually thinking that you are unlucky, you will be seeing and remembering the bad things that happen to you more than any good.  I have talked to people who absolutely believe themselves to have the worst luck ever, and objectively they actually come out on top more often than not.  But because they only focus on the bad times, that is all they remember, and they start to create more bad luck.  Some of this is pure self-sabotage, if you feel like you are doomed to do poorly at something you won't typically try as hard as if you are determined to succeed.  The best way to counteract this type of curse is through paying strict attention to your self-talk, and changing how you view your life.

There is one final thing that I want to talk about, when it comes to strings of bad luck.  Sometimes, they just happen.  It's like the example of flipping a penny.  The odds of flipping a penny heads 100 times in a row are astronomical, but possible.  The thing to remember here, is that if you have flipped the penny 99 times to heads, the next time you flip that penny, the odds of getting heads (on that single flip) are still exactly 50/50.  Sometimes there is absolutely no reason for bad luck except...bad luck!

What it is important to do, if you are experiencing a string of bad luck, is to do your due diligence.  Check to see if there are logical causes for what is happening.  Check to see if there are people who might actually be seeking to cause you harm.  Consider the fact that it might just be bad luck.  Boost your protections if it makes you feel better, but don't live in constant fear that people are cursing you, because while possible, the other options are typically much more likely.