Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Playing at Pagan

I wrote the bulk of this post after finishing Witch Crafting by Phyllis Curott. Something she said near the end of the book stuck in my craw. I've been musing over it for a while now, asking others for their thoughts.

Curott is not alone in what I'm about to discuss - those who have read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk will recognise it. It is the concept of the gods not as real entities, but as, to use Curott's words, "anthropomorphic metaphors".

I know there are Pagans who don't believe in gods. That's fine. There are Pagans who view deities as archetypes or, indeed, anthropomorphic metaphors with whom one can work to understand more about one's own mind, in a Jungian sort of way. But I had, heretofore, imagined that most of these not-really-theistic Pagans were up front about it. You come across them, from time to time. Even if one disagrees with how they refer to the gods, they tend to be honest about their beliefs. But, as I have discovered, it is not always so.

What I don't really understand is why a person would bother spending so much time and effort writing about deities they don't believe in, from the standpoint - or the guise - of a religious person. Why spew forth love over ten pages for a goddess you don't actually think is real? Why, indeed, hold ritual several times a year for a deity you don't believe exists? Why the pretence? It seems so dishonest.

I suppose it would explain all the rampant disregard for deities, cultures and myths you get in these books. They're not real, so why does it matter? Of course there are no mistakes (as Curott cheerfully tells us). It doesn't matter if you call in the wrong god (!) because not only is he just an aspect of this other god, this other god himself is just a metaphor.

But that reduces whole traditions down to just play-acting. People writing books about playing at being Pagans. You can understand it when teenagers get into it for a month or so, hold some dramatic rituals in the part and then lose interest and refer to it as their "Wiccan stage". Because... well, OK, you can't really understand it, but at least they have the excuse of youth, and at least they tend to get over it fairly quickly. But this sort of thing is on a whole other level.

Is this because so many people have based their practice on Wicca, but have not been initiated? have no way to contact the deities of Wicca? That would make sense; they try to contact the deities and, with no luck, assume said deities are metaphors and then focus their rituals on self-help and general back-patting.

For me rituals are always an experience of closeness and worship and dedication and love and friendship with the deity for whom that ritual is held. They are, usually, moving and important experiences. I'm fine with the concept that a ritual might be more for me than the gods, because I sometimes do get that impression from the gods while performing ritual, depending on the ritual in question. But I just have a great deal of difficulty with the idea that they have so little focus on the deities. If they're not a part of your faith, then they're not a part of your faith. Be honest about it.

There's a term, play-gan, and I forget who came up with it. (Sorry.) Pagans who view the whole thing as a giant LARP. Not believing in gods but pretending to hold rituals for them because it's fun... or something. It's fun to pretend to be a witch, or a Pagan, or a mysterious person in black who holds rituals with candles and knives!

I just... I don't understand it, and I find it both frustrating and upsetting.

Especially if you don't believe in the gods and then you go and write a book about the gods and how you worship them. I mean, not-really-theistic? Fine. Hold rituals your own way in your own space? You know what, totally not my business, like, whatever. Write books about your love for the goddess you don't actually believe in? That's where I get totally confused. It feels seriously dishonest to me. It does. Sorry.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Playing with Threads

When I was younger, I very much liked Tamora Pierce (actually, I still do) and I read her "Circle of Magic" series. I love storms and I was overweight and shortsighted, and more at home with books than with people, so I identified strongly with Tris, the storm mage. She matched me far better than any of the other circle-of-four mages, and in many ways I feel still does. I still wear glasses though I'm no longer overweight, and I'm still more at home with books than people. I still love storms more than nearly anything - wind and rain, thunder and lightning.

But I've come to realise I am also very much a "thread" person. Storms are impressive, and fun, and exciting, but thread is practical. With thread you can join two things together, mark things as your own, create clothes or latches or jewellery. When I make a new cord for a pendant, I do it by plaiting together three strands of thread, and I weave energy into them as I do so. A plaited thread can store energy. Embroidery can weave intent into cloth. I have a fondness for cross-stitch, as it's very simple and can also be done while one's mind is elsewhere. There's a sense, when one stabs one's needle through the cloth, of prehistory; I feel an echo of bone needles stabbing sinew through leather. That, though, is something I will never do, as if I was to do it it would be something of a waste of good leather! Other people can do it better than I, so I will leave them to it and buy the result of their craftsmanship. But I do like the sensation of needle-stabby, and I like making an image from something so simple as a cross. 

I would like to do more in the way of devotional pieces, but there are few good Pagan designs and the make-your-own programs are a bit strange. I wouldn't like to try a devotional piece designed through such a program and have it come out looking awful. So for now I focus on a face of Jack Skellington.

Knots have a finality to them. Witches' Ladders and knot-spells are some of my favourites because they are simple, but also because the act of trapping energy - or fate or desire - within a knot makes a great deal of sense to me. Of course, a knot spell isn't "right" for everything; tying knots isn't going to be the solution to every problem. But I use them when I can, because they appeal so much to me.

A part of me also rebels against the thread, because I associate embroidery and sewing - along with baking, cooking, housekeeping - with housewifery, which has never appealed to me and which I find rather repellent. Sandy from Circle of Magic was never really my sort of person, and nor was her mentor Lark. They were homey people, and I'm more what you'd call a hermit. I will, occasionally, bake, but I feel out of sorts when doing so unless it is early autumn and the right-sort-of-day to be baking. (I have made scones in the past. Honestly that's the only thing I can remember baking.) I'll also make something if I really have a hankering for it, but that's about it. I don't like to cook anything that takes longer to make than it does to eat, because I feel a time deficit if I do. I'd rather buy clothing than make it myself. But I like the sensation of cross-stitch, so occasionally I'll feel the need to do something with my hands while I watch TV, and off I'll go to buy a cross-stitch pack or a set of threads. I've discovered I prefer bookmark packs, as when you've finished you get something useful out of it rather than something you'll put in a drawer and forget about. It's also a bit of a mission finding designs that aren't insipid and distressing, but there are more little "Fuck You" collections around nowadays. I found one on flickr not long ago with a Black Books quote: "Whores will have their trinkets". Best thing ever. But, as I say, a part of me does not like the idea of working so much with thread. That's a part of myself that I ignore because thread is practical, and I'd be a fool to discard something so practical, simple and easy to find in favour of something big and flashy. When in need, a bit of stray thread from clothing will work just as well.

Even the act of tying things together has an appeal and a finality that works so well in my craft. Thread joins like to unlike. Thread transforms - but it doesn't transform in the manner of cooking, or of chemical reaction. Thread transforms in the manner of change of state: water to ice to water. Thread can be unpicked. Knots can be untied. It can be cut or unwoven. Pull in the right place and a whole working can be undone. Thread echoes magic; you can twist it around your fingers into shapes or capture someone's wrist. Other things can be tied - sheep gut, wire, plastic - to make music. Rope can hoist a sail or keep secure. Knots are magic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pagan Insights #12

It's been forever! I can't even really tell you why. I feel like I've been moving forward with the fibro and the anxiety, makin' important strides for myself, keeping up with my Heathen study even (for the most part!). I was meant to update this blog once a week and I've left you hanging for over a month (she says, flattering herself that you all look forward to posts). I figured, what better way to get back into things than with a PIP entry?




In your own words
Winter is here, but not as cold as it could be. Some days I find myself in a t-shirt, which bothers me, because winter shouldn't be t-shirt weather. Today is chilly, though. I've been waking earlier in the day, which is good. I even caught a few sunrises, which was a seriously magical thing. I think in my last post I talked about the magic of dusk, and dawn is magic too, in ways which are similar and at the same time utterly different. I want to experience more dawns. They are still and quiet and sacred. 



Post a pic
You get two pics! The first is from one of those dawns I was talking about. Low in the sky you can see the crescent moon, and above it, Venus. Apologies for the quality.... my big camera was out of battery (to my utter dismay) and I had to make do with a phone camera.





The other is a toadstool I found while walking my dog the other day. I love seeing these things, they're so story-book. I feel like there are more around now than there were when I was a kid. Shortly after taking this picture, the dog ran over it and squished it. Sigh.







Musical Musings
It's not really Pagan-y, but I am really into "The Joy of DH Lawrence" by Erik Enocksson right now.






Action, Action!
Haha oh man, I have been so bad at my nightly prayers recently. So bad. I can't even tell you. Once I've gotten into bed I just don't want to get up for my prayers at my altar. I keep reading about morning prayers and twice-daily meditations etc people do and think "I would be so into that" and then completely fail to follow up on it. I am a lame-o.





Eureka!
I bought a claw, in silver, because I thought it was beautiful. When I started wearing it it felt like it fit me in a way a piece of jewellery hasn't in a long time. This past Old Year's Night, I asked my Lady to bless it. It doesn't feel as much of a tool as my old pewter pendant did, but it still feels special in some way. It's interesting, though, that different metals feel a bit different magic-wise. I hadn't really thought about it before, although it stands to reason. Pewter I feel like I can really use as a launching pad, something to bounce myself off've or as an amplifier, while silver is much more sly and whispering and reserved. Maybe it has something to do with the way pewter is an alloy, and has been smelted together, while silver is just its own thing.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Winter's here already!

I hold winter-finding, my Heathen autumnal holiday, on the first cold day after the autumnal equinox. This year, it didn't fall until April 20th. It's a little unnerving, to have had such a long summer. In fact, now that the cold weather seems to be staying put, the change from summery to autumnal temperatures seems abrupt, and the cold nights have set in so quickly, and before I know it it's halfway through May and winter is here, already! 

It's good to be able to wear all my long-sleeved tops again, but we have no fire this year, so it won't be the same. 

I feel a bit cheated out of my autumn. I love autumn. The rain, the smells of the season, the long,  early twilight. The cool air and the peace. The blues and greens and browns - the trees knew when autumn was meant to be, and many have shed their leaves by the time it rolled around. 

And now it's winter - well. Not insofar as we've had a morning frost, or anything like that, but I went outside at 4pm today and the shadows were long, and the sun was so near to the horizon, and it felt like winter. The twilights are shorter now, too, somehow. That's something I'd never noticed before with the changing of the seasons. 

I haven't yet held my Old Year's Night ritual, but I plan to do so tonight. It's a week late, almost, but I keep missing holidays and I really feel that I have to hold this one, to usher winter in. It's my favourite holiday. My Heathen celebration will wait until I smell winter properly in the air. I'll know when the time is right. 

Sorry to have left you so long without a post. I feel like I've been a bit.... all over the place, for the last couple of months. It's really time to pull myself together - I mean, actually pull all my projects and bits and pieces inwards, and look at them and take stock and centre myself and work properly with them. But it's that time of year, really. Introspective. 

Oh but you have no idea how happy I am that it's winter. I missed this season so much. The summer was unbearably long.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I had a great idea for this post last night, lying in bed, but I didn't write it down and now I've forgotten what it was. EFFIN TYPICAL.

I haven't held my equinox ritual yet, slacker that I am. Time got away from me, somehow. I want today to be a "faith-focused" day; with this, and that, and the other thing, I still feel like my faith and my craft are not properly "integrated" into my everyday life the way I would like. My anxiety took a massive toll on my spirituality that I'm still struggling to get back. 

But the gods - or my wyrd - conspire to get me back to what I should be doing. Occasional pain flares from my new friend fibromyalgia force me into meditation to keep a handle on things. I've started using prayers and chants as "mantras", to calm and focus myself. "The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return return return return" works quite well, and I've been using another I wrote myself: "Lord of the Dance, You are the Rhythm, Lady of Music, You are the Song".

I was fussing about with the Standing Stones BoS last night, and Cunningham actually has some quite interesting ideas. I don't even cast circles and I like the idea of his stone gates. And his prayers are rather nice. I'm trying to re-work one or two.

Looking through the Big Book o' Spells at the moment for interesting looking love spells. Autumn is the wrong time of year for it, I know, but I'm bored! I want someone to rub my back, and be supportive, and... and various things. There are lots of ideas in here, but none that appeal to me, and if they don't appeal, how can they work? There's not much in here that I feel I can re-work, but there's still more to get through. What's this one stuck in my head... Sweet Mother, Sweet Mother, bring your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy m- wait, no, that's something different. 
Still. Interesting. Could be reworked. "Sweet Mother, Sweet Mother, bring Your child unto me, for I wish for a lover who will rub my back". Ha.

My stick is still standing in the corner of my room. I have this idea that I'd like to bless it in my equinox ritual and then have it ready for dedication at Old Year's Night. I'd like to sand it, maybe wrap it round with thread. I have some nice read thread somewhere, and some green. And I could hang some agate beads from it, or some moonstone. Maybe some silver charms. And feathers.

Hmm.



Friday, March 14, 2014

A Storm's Rolling In

Cyclone Lusi is a category 3 tropical cyclone and is headed my way. I am so fucking pumped! We haven't had a decent cyclone since I was a kid! ....which is the general feeling among people my age. We're a nation who will go down to the beach to get a good view of a storm surge. We're pretty daft that way, although we prefer to think of ourselves as a hard lot. So we're looking forward to it, in a foolish, my-emergency-kit-is-not-up-to-standard unprepared sort of way.

There's also a fairly decent chance my room could get crushed by a tree. The Norfolk pine outside my house is afflicted with some manner of disease, and the top half of it is brown and dying. Bits may well fall off and land on my roof. Also the cat will want to stay outside because he hates being inside when it's windy. I know he'll probably find somewhere warm and snuggly under the house and be safe as safe can be, but I'll still worry. And I'll still try to get him inside even if he yowls in protest all night. 

Right now, the skies are grey. It is like any other overcast day. But the wind is beginning to pick up, just a bit. Normally it wouldn't mean anything much, but it seems more portentous when you know a storm's on the way.

The dogs are agitated today. I don't know if they know on some level that a storm's on the way or they're just being a pain in the arse and I'm over-attributing. 

I'll have to appeal to Thor for His protection, lest the house collapse or something. 

Moving on.

I was walking my puppy yesterday in the early evening. I turned down a shortcut, a path between two houses, high fences, thinking about times I'd walked down there before. It was twilight, just when the sun has dipped below the horizon and the sky is darkening, but still pink in the west. Not dark but no longer really daylight. It's such a bizarre time, so surreal, that it honestly felt, walking down that path, that it would be possible to take a wrong step and find myself in the past, or the future. That in the twilight moment, it could be possible to move through time. Cross worlds. Literally find oneself, accidentally, in an Otherworld, the kind which one returns from to find a hundred years have passed.

I've talked before about Border Country. But now I wonder that I don't perform more spells and rituals at twilight, when things are so... insubstantial. It's absolutely something that I'll have to focus more on in the future. 


Friday, March 7, 2014

Books and Tools

I'm thinking more "spiritually" lately. Which is good. I feel like I'm returning to a place I haven't been in years. I'm working spiritual study further into my schedule, and I'm putting myself back in the "new student" role and taking a look at some 101 books with new eyes.

This week's endeavour is Green Witchcraft by Ann Moura, that I might review when I'm done with it. So far, it's less awful than I thought it would be, but still pretty disappointing. I imagine it's worse if you're a new witch, picking it up hoping for something new and interesting. Most of it is basic sabbat info or stories about the author's family (who cares??) and it's filled with contradictions. On one page she talks about how her Catholic mother was a "green witch", and on the next says "green witchcraft" worships two soft-polytheistic deities. It's a religion or it isn't; make up your mind! There's a lot of info that's flat-out wrong, so not one for the newbies after all. (Freyja does not "represent peace"! Hagalaz doesn't mean "karma"! I mean I don't even know where you got that information.)

Still, despite the "wtf is she talking about?!" I'm actually enjoying getting back into those old books. I've never read Green Witchcraft before; it's been sitting inside my altar for forever, waiting for me to get around to it, and happened to be near the top of the pile when I went spelunking for a Pagan book to read, so that's the one I grabbed. I'm in a "glean what you can" mood, and the rituals are interesting. There's one where you apparently get given a secret name by your gods and a part of me really wants to give it a try to see if it works. I can't help but wonder what happens if you subscribe to Moura's religion and do this ritual, and you don't get a name. Are you, like.... a failure? Did you do the ritual wrong? Are you not worthy? I wish I could ask her. 

A month or so ago I was walking the dogs and I found a stick lying at the edge of a sports field. I imagine some kids had found it and were trying to make it into a staff before they were instructed by a parent to leave it alone. At any rate, only a few twigs needed to be removed to make it into a rather good staff. It will need some sanding, and maybe I'll carve some things into it, and stick other things onto it, or something. Then all that will remain is to find a use for it! A staff is a sort of tool that I've always sort of wanted, but never really had a use for.... although thinking about it, it would make a rather good conduit to the Otherworld. Carve some Raidho on there, hang my witch's ladder from it, maybe some feathers... What do you think?

I like to buy myself birthday and Yule presents each year, as sort of like.... self-love I guess, self-appreciation. This year for my birthday, I bought a silver fox's claw from Blood Milk Jewels. I saw it and thought, "yes, this is meant to be mine". It arrived yesterday, and it's perfect. It felt like a part of me from the moment I put it on. I don't want to take it off, but the patina might come off if I shower with it, and right now, it's on a beautiful chain that I don't want to break. Once I find some pliers so I can take the claw off its chain, I'll put it on a length of cord so I can wear it every day without worrying about breaking the chain. Then I can keep the chain for more special occasions. 

You should check out the shop, though. There's lots of witchy type jewellery. Hand made silver gorgeousness - but it's pricey, so tempt yourself at your own risk!