Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pagan Insights #11

I can't believe how long I've been delaying posting! It feels like a week or two but my last post was on the 9th. Time I sat down and finished a PIP entry that's been sitting in my drafts for like two months.


In your own words
Sometimes I fall behind in my practice, and I feel a lot of shame about that. I feel like the gods will be frowny in my direction. And in some ways that's a bit ridiculous of me; the Havamal does say better to offer too little than too much. Especially with the amount of fatigue I've been dealing with on the one hand and my anxiety on the other. It's a balance I'm having to work out. At the same time, some of those feelings of shame are probably a result of the anxiety. It's something I have to keep in mind but at the same time it doesn't make life any easier to remind myself of that.

I'm exhausted at the moment, and so wound up. That's Eksmas, I guess.


Post a Pic
Here's a sunset from earlier this month ^_^




Musical Musings
Another meditation track this month! This time it's "Escape from Gravity" by Deuter. Sort of "the Shire" meets China. It's emotional and soothing and inspiring and everything.




Action, Action!
The other night's Midsummer ritual was bare-bones, and very brief. I wasn't at home and didn't have my altar or anything. In a way it was perfectly pleasant and fine, but I wish I had done it a day earlier with my altar and so on. I do enjoy ritual.

I'll do a Heathen ritual in the next few days. I have some cassis to offer, and I hope the gods like it!



Eureka!
I've discovered a much better way of learning the runes is to read the poems on a Monday and let them percolate in my mind through the week. Every so often I'll stop and have a muse, and come up with some new thought that I'll rush to scribble down. Or I'll have a spare moment, and flick open one of my rune-books to read what this person or that had to say. It's less mentally intensive than sitting down all at once with all my books, which is good, because I can work on runes for an hour and then be utterly spent for the rest of the evening.

And Helgi! The whole reincarnation thing! That was really interesting. That's one of the benefits of really making the effort with my reading, I suppose! Speaking of, I received "The Word Exchange" for Eksmas. It's Saxon poetry! Most of it is probably Christian but I'm still looking forward to picking my way through it.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Shoutout to My Boy Helgi

Tonight I read the Second Lay of Helgi. I was not a fan of the First Lay which.... confused me. I may have been over-tired when I read it. Actually, I was really over-tired tonight, but the lay is so good that I lost that tiredness. So good, you guys. MAN. Like. So romantic. I can't even.

And! Here's an interesting thing which I should save for a PIP entry but instead will just repeat it when I get around to writing that post. At the very end is the line:
It was the belief in olden times that men were born again, but that is now called old women's superstition.
And it surprised me. It surprised me because for one, although there are mentions of people being the rebirth of so-and-so, I've always read that as metaphorically i.e. they embody the same qualities as so-and-so, and read "they were born again" as "they lived on as legends". And for another, except for a brief hand-waving in one or two 101 books, and on a couple of forums, I've rarely come across this discussed in Heathenry before. Hey! Reincarnation was a thing at one point! By the time lay was written it was superstition, OK, but the Heathen beliefs spanned a fair amount of time and incorporated changing beliefs and practices. Such is the joy of a folk religion. But often when it's brought up, it's shouted down as someone's hold-over belief from when they were "Wiccan". Yep, that's right. I have seriously actually seen people put down for just bringing up reincarnation: newbie-related snarking, "This is Heathenry, not Wicca", etc.

At this point it may not surprise you to learn I no longer spend much time on Heathen forums. Or for that matter, Pagan forums generally. I'm either ducking punches or itching to punch someone myself.

Hold on, let me dig out Road to Hel.

See, this is what the Edda has done to me. I am researching stuff in academic books at 1am instead of sleeping like a sensible person.

Excellent! Good ol' Hilda has a whole section on rebirth, and she directly quotes the very section I just stumbled across. High five, internet! She also gives several other examples from the lore, which makes it all the more bothersome to me that it hardly ever comes up. Granted, Heathens tend to focus on their living rather than their dying, but on the other hand reverence of the dead is a massive aspect of the religion also.
 
Anyway now I am really tired, and I am going to finish writing this and go to bed. My eyes are all sore. BUT if someone ever tries to bitch you out for bringing up rebirth as a Heathen concept you can just go Oh yeah well what about Helgi?!  and that'll shut him up. Mmmmmhmm.

Oh and P.S., I didn't think Road to Hel would be available anywhere as it's a notoriously hard to find book and it's been out of print for a while, but it turns out it was reprinted early this year. As always when it comes to H.E. Davidson, it's exemplary. (I may not agree with every hypothesis she puts forward but it's damn well researched.) Grab yourself a copy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Shiny Things

The necklace I commissioned came today! It's exceedingly gorgeous. I know it looks gorgeous in the picture but it's even more gorgeous in real life.





The green stones are moss agate. The grey are dark larvikite, and they have a gorgeous sheen to them. The darker small beads are blue tiger's eye (or hawk's eye I think it's sometimes called), and the clear stones are quartz :3 I love the degree of variation in the green, and the way the larvikite could be stormy skies or stone peaks. The quick sliver of shine from the tiny tiger's eye is like a whisper, a ghost, here and gone; the flash of lightning or of a blade; and the quartz may as well be ice.

The whole piece glows in the sunlight, but in a really subtle sort of way, like it has hidden secrets.

Morgandria names her pieces, and this one she called The Silent Wood. I love having jewellery pieces that have names.

I bought a couple of pieces off've her website as well. Sorry for the poor images. I only realised they were a bit sub-par when I'd loaded them onto my tablet and at that point I couldn't be bothered going through the process again.

Greenwood

Greenwood is aptly named; the stones really do look like wood. I believe the stone is called serpentine and it definitely has a snakey feel to it. It has a fresh, living quality to it. It has a simplicity to its nature, too. It's a pleasant, fresh spring breeze, heavy with morning dew.


Third Harvest
Smaller beads of Third Harvest are bone. It's got a very sort of blood-and-bone, feast for crows, Samhain-y look on the one hand, but the red stones - garnet, I think - also have a very berry-like element to them. Death and food. Vibe-wise it feels very bare, like bones lying out on the ground, and in that sense feels very honest. It makes no pretences.

I like sitting here, turning them over in my hands and seeing what they say to me. What the stones sing and what the pieces sing as a whole.

I am a big fan of Morg's work (and Morg as a person!) and I know for sure I'll be ordering more from her in the future, and probably commissioning more personal pieces as well. She works a lot with stones and she has a good feel for what works together, and she can take a set of ideas and coalesce them into something beautiful. I really encourage you to go take a look at her work. It's gorgeous stuff. Many shiny things! Check out her website, Witch's Cauldron Creations, and her Etsy page.

For the past couple of days I've been collecting prayers and folk charms. I found one by a user called SierraDawn on the comments to this page that got me thinking about folk charms and spells, and I'm in the mood now to go hunt for some interesting ones. I used her one today and felt better for it. One uses it when adding sugar to coffee or tea and goes thus:
(Stirring anti-clockwise) A little less headache, a little less strife,
(Stirring clockwise) A little more sweetness into my life.
Theoretically one could stir widdershins and deosil instead, but I liked doing it this way; clockwise felt like it was setting something for me, or confirming it, which may be due to me being right-handed, or may be because that's the way you turn things to tighten them. I'm going to hunt down some more folk charms, prayers, and spells, and scrapbook the ones I like, even if I never intend to use them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Starting with Structure

Part of taking care of oneself means taking care of the spiritual side. I've been neglecting that element of self-care in favour of ones involving more instant gratification lately, but I really think it's an element I should be focussing on quite strongly at the moment.

I don't know if I mentioned it last time - I think I did - but I've been in need of some structure or guidance. I don't think I can find it wholesale from anywhere else, but that doesn't mean I can't use some of the same tools others use to help me find my own personal way. On the Path in the Woods I have paused. I'm prodding the ground ahead of me with a staff, to help me find my way. I look to each side, and down, though I still look up to the sky more often than not, but for guidance this time - Sowilo, the sun, the stars, the compass. Judging the next step.

So it has to be a day-by-day thing. Today I might read something and write some notes, tomorrow meditate on something specific... I don't even know what I'll do or when I'll do it, to be honest. But I need to plan ahead, even just a day ahead, instead of blundering along and getting nowhere fast.

It's funny.... Well. Let me start again. I need accountability with things that need to be done on the regular, or I forget and let them fall by the wayside. I often think I'll jump on some forum or tumblr and update some sort of public record for that accountability - people are expecting me to do it. I always fail, and I fail because I'll do the task but I can't be bothered updating the diary. It's adding an extra (and frequently tedious) step onto something I'm likely to procrastinate from anyways. Pretty soon I quit with the record-keeping altogether and it's not too long after that that the rest of the task also gets neglected.

But here I am, doing it all over again. Except, not a record, this time. Record-keeping always seems fine when I start it but soon it's unutterably boring and I can't keep it up. It's a shame, too, because I like the idea of looking back at however's long worth of records and seeing change or improvement. This time I want to do something more formless. I want to come on here a couple of times a week (instead of a couple of times a month!) to talk about some of the thoughts I've had or things I've read or done. As on the Path, I'm only feeling ahead a step or two before I take it; I'm building my structure as I go. It could grow or collapse or take on a wholly other form.

So here's today. Well, the above is today also, but - I was walking my puppy (have I mentioned my puppy? I have a puppy. He's a mix of two herding breeds so he's a barker but very smart. He's asleep on my bed right now) and we walked somewhere I used to live as a child. I crouched down and it was exactly as I had remembered it - and suddenly the air seemed more still and more dew-heavy, and there was a pleasant scent I couldn't identify... maybe flowers from someone's garden, or the damp wood of the fence. It smelt like... not precisely like life in general terms, or fertility or anything vibrant, but the cool peace of things being quietly alive. I could have been transported back in time, it was so like the days I remember as a child. Like a pocket-universe where things don't change.

I commissioned a piece from Witches' Cauldron Creations a little while ago and when I asked for what I wanted, I tried to invoke that same sort of feel of heavy stillness. Deep green forests and heavy grey skies and a hint of nostalgia, but crisp air instead of warm. The same scents of moisture.

Here, I still have the message I wrote to the artist, Morgandria, about it:
I'd like something, not "ritual garb" as such, but something celebratory. Something to wear on festival days. If you feel like making something Nordic and slightly stormy, let me know. My mind is full of iron and steel, swords and spears, grey skies and green woods and soot-blackened hearths.
Part of it was working with Teiwaz and Berkana, the rune of Tyr and that of the birch, steel and green. Part of it was reading the Eddas. And part of it was playing Skyrim, in the sort of vague way where all you do is run around looking at scenery and building houses. Skyrim has, for me, a heavy layer of melancholy tinged with nostalgia. Maybe it's the music. I don't really know what it is. There's probably a German word for it. No... actually, the Portuguese "saudade" might be more accurate. A sort of fatalistic sense of sorrow; a longing for something one cannot get back.

And I felt a little of that today. We grow up and we change and, gods, it was so much easier as a child, when the weight of the world and life's expectations didn't crush you further into the dirt with each exhalation. And there I was with the grey sky overhead threatening to rain, and the green hedge to one side and the wooden fence to the other, crouched down and seeing everything exactly the same as it had been, and it felt wrong to straighten and be tall again, and so much has changed, and everything's much more sad now than it was. Saudade.

Not that I ordered it to make me sad. The necklace, I mean. I don't think it will make me sad. It's to  celebrate all those things, and the Gods, and the world. Not sadly, but not cheerfully either. Things I don't remember, but at the same time I feel as if I almost do... things that feel important, like the smell of steel and rainy days in the mountains.

I'll post pictures when it arrives.

Also at some point I'll answer your emails. I'm avoiding it at the moment because I feel heavily guilty for neglecting them for so long, resulting in me neglecting them for even longer which is not helpful but there we are. I'll get to it.

PS it's too hot here. I need to move to Reykjavik or something.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wanting Peace

I haven't written a ranty - or informative - blog post for a long, long time. The fact is while there are things to discuss, like that offensive "god graveyard", I'm just not in the emotional zone for writing things like that. At least, not when it comes to my religion.

It's early summer. A year ago, I was consumed with an anxiety disorder that was getting worse and worse. Now, I'm medicated, and much more stable. A year ago, I was feeling the urge to "start over", to get back to basics when it came to religion. Now, I still have that feeling, but it's combined with one of wanting simplicity, wanting peace, wanting to bask in the world around me as it is and reach out to nature and just be, and now I'm mentally in a better place to do that.

Part of it is that I've recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. (My fibro seems to be pretty mild, so generally speaking, I don't mind it - I'm happy just to have a diagnosis and that it wasn't something more serious like rheumatoid arthritis.) Even after a good night's sleep, I often feel tired. Sitting down and burning through a bunch of energy on a ranty post, and dealing with potential arguments in the comments, just feels like too much energy to be spending. Which isn't to say some subjects aren't worth the spoons... but personally, I don't want to write like that at the moment. Right now, that's not what I'm chasing. 

I do, however, want to write more often. I'm hoping next year will bring some new blog project or set of prompts, so I can write something actually interesting from time to time. That's one advantageous thing about the secular year starting in the middle of summer: things are alive and fertile, and so's my creativity, so it's a good time to start new projects. 

I'm holding rituals, I'm praying, but aside from that I don't feel as if I'm doing on a spiritual level. I don't feel like I'm connecting. I'm going to go and hunt for some spiritual exercises to help me feel more "in tune"... or maybe it's that I need something to muse on. The "sit! stop! listen!" drive remains with me, but I'm finding it hard to do. In my last post, I talked about how in the visual metaphor of my spiritual journey, I am not looking where I'm going. In a way perhaps this is a reflection of that; I'm stumbling and I feel like I need a guide of some kind.

The full moon is hanging above the ocean like an enormous copper coin. Tonight might be a wonderful night for a full moon meditation.

Quick admin thoughts before I disappear.... first, I haven't checked my email in like 6 months, so if you sent me one and I didn't reply, uh, sorry. I'll go check them now. Second, I might set up a G+ for Hagstone. I had one for about two weeks and didn't like it so I closed it, but it may be time to try it again, so if you see me on there say hi. :) Thirdly, a very special thank you to everyone for your comments and good wishes over the last year. It's been a year of health issues and confusion and unrest for me, and I'm really really thankful for all the support. You've been amazing and I can't thank you enough for it.

<3

Edit: G+ is still awful but here is the Hagstone page anyway. Also I had a bunch of amazing emails and now I feel awful for not checking my inbox earlier.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sit, Stop, Listen, Feel, Hear.

Spring is moving on towards summer. It feels too early for that, too early in the year, but I remind myself it is October and Summernights (Beltane for some) is on the horizon. While I don't like the brightness of the sun, or the heat, I think that this year spring is a balm for my soul. The hopefulness of the season is infectious; I feel like the world is full of possibilities. 

I am trying to focus on compassion. I have found that when I remember everyone around me is a person with their own struggles, I feel less anxiety. I have found that when I hope for the best for others, and pray similarly, I feel more at peace. Compassion soothes my stress, and as it seems to be so beneficial, I am trying to practice it more often. Not that it's easy. Humans are noisy and annoying, and I am cynical and bitter, and some people are just deliberately awful. Looking at you, Tea Party. But not for long, because I am striving for peace and you make me angry.

I am dealing with medical issues at the moment regarding mysterious pain. I had tests for rheumatoid arthritis, and researched it heavily for a week or two. Its progressive nature distressed me - as a Heathen, as a Pagan whose faith incorporates activity and physical strength and improvement. I'm a runner, as of this January, and I want to be strong and able to defend myself. I realised that these avenues may become closed off to me at some point. I started thinking about alternatives. If I could not do this, what else could I do to embrace spiritual experience? I wondered if being a seidh-kona was my role in life, if I was to throw myself into mystic experiences. The RA tests were negative, but that sense of spiritual drive has remained. That "why aren't you meditating more?", that "there is so much work to be done!", that "sit! stop! listen!" of it all. I think of Heathens of ages past Sitting Out on mounds and suchlike. I reflect on how much I used to go Hedge-Riding compared to now, and wonder, did I skip steps, back then? Am I returning now to a place I spent too little time in before? Sit, stop, listen. Let the world come to you. Smell the air, feel the sun, hear the whisper of the wind.

And in a way this links back to the compassion: there's an element here of being spiritually receptive, rather than... I don't know, reactive, perhaps. It's something in the air, something in the dawn of Summer. Something in the close of the secular year. It's all caught up with the strawberries in champagne, and the hope of newness. And it's so much better than last year because I'm not an anxious mess. (I'm still anxious, but I'm not a mess. Baby steps!)

I'm not entirely sure where this is all leading me. I think of the Path in the Woods, as I often do when confused as to where I am and where I am going. Today when I think of it, the Path in the Woods is green and gold. The ground is packed earth, clear of leaf-litter and twigs, but uneven, twisted, broken by tree roots. I am not looking at the ground. I am looking at the sky, visible above, blue and dotted with fluffy white clouds. Golden sunlight filters down. The trees here are not overly tall, and their leaves are wide and bright, bright green. The sun lights them from above and they almost glow. The Path is pleasant at the moment, but I wonder to myself, because the path itself is treacherous, with its sudden drops and raised roots, and I am not looking where I am going. I wonder if this is an Omen.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pagan Insights #10

In Your Own Words
A couple of nights ago, in the early morning, while tossing about waiting for sleep, I happened to see a glow through a crack in my curtain. I put on my glasses and got up to look out the window. The moon was full, yellow, and glowing, hanging in a dark grey sky. Small clouds were blowing across it as happens in movies set in mountain forests. A witch-moon; dark, and cold, and utterly beautiful. I thought of my Goddess, as often when I look at the full moon. It was the sort of moon that made me think to myself, "the Goddess is truly Queen of the Witches". 

Last night one could barely see the moon, as a storm blew in from somewhere and my night was spent looking at the lightning flashing and listening to the rain pour and the wind gust. Thunder sang me to sleep. It was exceedingly pleasant, and today, everything smells extra-fresh, and even more like spring.




Post a Pic


I was fortunate enough to spot a Rosella last week! It's the bird on the right, a small parrot, and they're a released species here. You're lucky to see them a couple of times a year, and generally all you see is a flash of red as they fly past you. This one was having a scrap with a tui, which are all over the place during the spring.




Musical Musings
.....Yeah, I got nuthin'. Not much to say music-wise this month, just what I've been listening to generally ("Mother We Share" - Chvrches, and EA's "FLAG" album).





Action, Action
I've been keeping up with my weekly studies, although I tend to forget about it until the last moment on a Sunday, at which time I think "shit!" and drag out my books. Generally speaking, I've been exhausted lately and I'm waiting on the results of some medical tests, so I've been trying to be generous with myself and haven't worried overmuch about whether I've been praying at altar or not. Still, I have a couple of rituals to perform in the next couple of days, and I may leave an offering to Persephone somewhere as well. I've always been fond of Persephone. 




Eureka!
I think there's something about long-distance running that... speaks to a part of us as a species. And I don't mean, like, marathons, necessarily, but even 5km or so.... Which, by the way, is about my limit at the moment, and that's on a good day. A part of this feeling is probably the endorphins, and the general satisfaction at improving at something, but.... I don't know. Running, sustained running, feels right somehow. Whatever that means. At any rate, I like feeling fitter when it comes to running; religiously, I feel like the gods appreciate fitness.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

And All is Green and Blue

What the fuck is going on

Where did all these people come from

*hyperventilates*

I just came on here to write a thing about spring that I've been putting off for like a month now and I've had 1000 hits?! I don't know how to deal with that. Where did everybody come from.

*cough*
Well, anyhow. So. 

Spring.

It hath sprung! In fact it sprung almost a month ago now. A day or two before my first-rite-of-spring, which went splendidly by the way, I saw butterflies whilst on my run. Butterflies, as I'm sure you all agree, are a certain indication that spring is upon us. They were followed quickly by the blossoming of flowering trees, the popping up of daffodils and the hatching of ducklings. The kowhai tree is in bloom. The tuis are singing. This is obviously one of those things that differ depending on where you live; I imagine down south it took quite a bit longer for spring to arrive. But up here it has been clearly spring for so long now that people's insistence that September 1st was the beginning of spring have been rather confusing to me. Did they just think it was a particularly flowery winter? Do seasons mean anything to people any more? The birds have been singing the joys of spring for a month now. I wonder to myself whether there was a time years ago I wouldn't have noticed either.

I can hear the tuis singing to one another from where I sit. The sun shines in my window. The days are getting longer. The sun is brighter, but not yet the burning wheel of fire that torments my every waking moment in the summer. And there are ducklings. Spring is a good time of year.

My First Rite of Spring went well, though in a way, it was unnecessary. Sometimes I hold my Sabbat rituals to speak to a part of my mind, or my soul, to really grok that the Wheel is turning and the seasons are changing. I didn't need to do that for the beginning of spring; I already knew it was here. So the ritual was solely celebration. It was enjoyable, and afterwards, I felt all fresh and new, like blue skies, yellow flowers, and green growth. And it is not so long now until the Equinox, when I'll change the black candle on my altar for a gold one, and really start to dread the coming of summer.

I really need to live somewhere less warm.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pagan Insights #9

In Your Own Words
Winter is drawing to a close, which always makes me unhappy. I don't want to meet the coming season with dread instead of joy, but I do. Winter wasn't cold enough. Winter wasn't long enough. Sigh. Nature isn't "inspiring" me at the moment. I feel distrust towards it. I blame the insect documentaries I've been watching. Sometimes you just think "nature is wonderful!" and other times you think "centipedes are part of nature. Nature is horrible". 
 


Post a Pic


   
A Solstice-morning fire :3


Musical Musings
I've discovered Patrick O'Hearn on Pandora and tracked down his albums on Spotify. I really like a couple of his tracks when meditating. My favourite so far is Panning the Sands. I might play it during my next ritual, even.



Action, Action
I'm slacking everywhere at the moment. Slacking in daily prayer, slacking in ritual. Slacking most of all in meditation. I have been reading out a few modified prayers, some of which I quite like, but not that frequently. I know the value of repeated prayer is in repetition, but I feel I grow.... not bored, but like, I enjoy exploring different ways of knowing the God and Goddess of my tradition, particularly wordless prayers. I guess what I'll have to do is pick a particular prayer to work with, and repeat it at the end or beginning of whatever other sort of prayer I choose to do.  



Eureka!
I have no Eureka this month, I don't think. Well.... I've found that I've been taking more pleasure in my Heathen studies than I have done. I'll put off reading this or that and then when I'm snuggled in bed with a book and a highlighter I find it hard to put down the book and go to sleep. This is a good thing! I need to start reading with a notebook beside me because I keep thinking "ooo, what if...." and then going to sleep and forgetting about it by morning.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dewdrops in the Moonlight

The Pagan Prayer book I ordered arrived on the same day as my copy of Game of Thrones and the Hobbit Moleskine I'd ordered, so that was a good day. I've had some time to play around with it now and edit a few of the prayers, but it's the sort of thing that will be a bit organic in how I go through and choose this one or edit that one or take the other one as inspiration.



I was meant to start the hours today and I forgot all about it. Of course, now I have the book, it turns out the hours are almost exclusively sun-focused and there's nothing Goddess-oriented in the mix! So I've had to add my own. Such is life!

Shanddaramon's brand of witchcraft is actually tri-theistic - or possibly monotheistic with a trinity concept, it's not totally clear to me. At any rate, the third entity is something called "the Child", explained as the manifestation of the God and Goddess, which doesn't... I mean, most ditheistic Pagan witches lean towards imminence of deity, so why would there need to be a separate deity to symbolise manifestation? And how could a third deity symbolise manifestation if the first two can't? It's peculiar. There are a few references to the Child in various prayers, and a couple dedicated to it specifically, but these can easily be ignored or rewritten. He calls the new moon the "Astor", which I had not heard before. That's not important but I thought I'd mention it.

Shanddaramon shines best when he doesn't rhyme his prayers. He doesn't seem to have the knack for rhyming and keeping metre at the same time, and should stay far far away from trying to rhyme. It's awkward and unpleasant. There's not one of these I can use as-is; I've re-written one or two but most just have to be jettisoned, they're so bad. It's a bit of a shame.

There are two major issues I personally have with his prayers when it comes to using them in my witchcraft tradition. The first is that his deities are very much stuck with one word each. His god is a god of light, and his goddess a goddess of love. All his prayers involve these concepts somewhere. Fair enough - but while my God is a God of Light He is also a God of Darkness; darkness, not light, is where wisdom lies in my tradition. My Goddess is more a Goddess of Passion than of Love; while passion as a concept does (or at least can) include love it is in no way limited to it. This isn't a particular problem within any one prayer; it's more the repetition that got to me in the end. The second issue is that Shanddaramon is very community-oriented in his faith expression. Community is fab, for some of us anyway, but Shanddaramon's prayers ask for blessings in a pan-community way that makes me quite uncomfortable. What does the Hindu family down the street want with my deities' blessings, let alone the Christian couple next door or the atheist on the bus? I'm not comfortable asking for blessings for people I don't know - Hel, I'm not even comfortable when it comes to most people I do know! So for the most part, lines about the community or world at large get left out or edited. Truth be told, when you read that many "and please bless mummy and daddy and give us world peace" type prayers you start to feel a little like someone's been copy-pasting from a Christian prayerbook. And if you're going to copy-paste from a Christian prayerbook you may as well do it from the Book of Common Prayer or something. 

For example, here is a few lines from (and I kid you not) a prayer for World Peace:
"For only in peace can we praise and worship.
God of light, reveal this truth within us.
Goddess of love, show us how to live together."
Now as a Heathen, I can't be going around saying things like "only in peace can we praise and worship" with a straight face. The gods would disown me. It may be true for Shanddaramon, but I'm not sure how one would explain that to all the war gods and goddesses in the world. Especially smirk-making for me is that he begins the prayer "O gods of all nations and all peoples, unite!". Err...

But for all that I rather like it. It's short and far from perfect, and some of the prayers are badly written and others are very keyed to his particular religion, but they're easy to edit and give you a base to build your own prayers upon, which, I believe, was his main intention. He's succeeded in that. Mine has scribbles all over it already, in erasable purple ink: crossing out this, adding that, jotting down notes for new prayers and lines to add in to incorporate, say, my Goddess into a God prayer so that it is for both of Them, or making a "child" prayer work for my God. 

After complaining a little, I feel like I should share a couple of good ones. Shanddaramon (Digivolve to..!) doesn't capitalise pronouns, but I shall.

Here's one for gardeners:

O Lady,
though I set the garden,
it is from You that the plants must come.
O Lord,
though I plant the seeds,
it is through Your light that they grow.
These things I recognise:
that through my work
and with Your blessing
these plans shall take root and grow.
I marvel at the miracle in which I take part.

And here is one for a night without a moon:

O great and silent mystery
that is the core for all life,
teach me to embrace the dark.
Show me how to live in the unknown.
Let me know the wonder of the many stars 
that shine down upon me.
Through these things may I come to know and honour you.

Though, even most of the rather good ones now have scribbles of personalisation on them. For example, the one for the night without a moon I have changed very slightly to include a mention to my Goddess and another half-line about walking in shadows, because I felt like it needed it. Shanddaramon says in his introduction to prayer, "I encourage you to adopt them to suit your own personal theological understanding" and am taking to it with gusto. He also provides a basic outline of how he writes his prayers to help the supplicant write his or her own, which was nice. For a person given to working with words, it's like messing about in a garden, trimming this and planting that and pulling some weeds here and there, and in doing so, something takes shape. Perhaps not for everyone, but I'm enjoying the process.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Midwinter

Yuletide has arrived. 

Last year on the last day of Yuletide, I made an Oath, and looking back, I feel that I mostly fulfilled it, though I could have done a bit more. There were stumbling blocks in my way, from within and without, and generally speaking I think I did fairly well. I intend to make another Oath this year, but I don't know what. I've been thinking on it. Granted, it's not essential.... maybe if I can't think of anything, I won't make an Oath this year. But I like the idea, and it keeps me motivated.

I just don't want to make an Oath like, "I'll read the Eddur three times a week" or something and then fail to do that. I don't want to promise to do something I really think I'll just not manage to do, through forgetfulness or procrastination or whatever. But we'll see how it goes. I'm not the world's most motivated person.

Generally I've been very slack with my Yuletide celebrations. I haven't even held my Winter Solstice ritual yet for my Lord and Lady. Maybe I'll do that tonight. I don't have a clue why I've been so slack. Part of it may be that my body clock has flipped itself by about eight hours, so now I sleep like a normal person. Which is good! But for a week or so I was exhausted all the time. And then I had a bit of a cold, and there was a day I was hung over.... so... yeah. And I'm used to doing my rituals all after midnight, which isn't really an option any more, so I find myself running out of time - next thing I know I should be in bed. So there it is. I need to plan out my day a bit better. At least getting up in the morning means I feel more motivated overall.

Last night I bought myself this little book of prayers by Shanddaramon. I've had trouble finding prayer books I like, because many of them contain prayers that are very very basic conversational types of prayer, and what's the point in a prayer book if it contains no poetry? I am thinking of, for e.g., the Book of Hours or the Book of Common Prayer, beautiful little things containing prayers for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. That's what I want. I had a little look inside, and for the most part I rather liked what Shanddaramon has written - and the ones that do not fit my religion can easily be modified, which is what the author intended. So, the book will soon be on its way, and I am looking forward to it.

And there are prayers for hours! you know - dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, bedtime. That sort of thing. Now I've mentioned before how much I like the idea of monasticism insofar as rhythm and seclusion and meditation and so on goes, and this sort of thing is right up my alley. Short term, mind; I don't have the motivation to keep at something like that. But I was thinking, maybe for a week. For a week, I'll get up as early as I can, and read the prayers at the appropriate time of day. I'll let you know how it goes.

The weather is chilly. Some days I light the fire in the morning and sit by it all day, with both of the dogs beside me. Perfectly acceptable for winter - in fact it could stand to be colder. I like a cold winter. The sky can be blue or grey, so long as the air has a bite to it.

Winter is a knuckling-down time for me. So we'll see how things go.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Those New Beginnings

Back in January, I mentioned that I felt very much in a "back to the beginning" sort of spiritual mindset. This "starting over" was something instilled in me, or something I noticed, during my Midsummer Solstice ritual. But while the spirit was willing, the brain and emotions were weak, and for a long time I wasn't really in the right place to do anything about it.

I feel more in the right place now. I've noticed it in the things I'm doing: googling prayers, spontaneously getting out a candle for some meditation, browsing online bookshops for newly published witchcrafty goodness. It's time to get back to it.

Speaking of browsing online bookshops, I keep coming across ones that look quite interesting. There was one called "Initiate". Week by week plan with a focus on "exercises and rituals for energy work, spiritual development, self-knowledge"? Shit yeah! Sure, it's all ceremonially and has circles, but I'm in a place right now where I'm willing to try out not just new things but old things that didn't work for me the first time, just to see if anything's changed or if there's some element I like that I might create my own analogue for. But hold, this is book two. I should go and have a look at book one, for the sake of completeness.

Book one has a "look inside" option.

I look.

Oh.

Yes, I'm afraid the author uses the word "Wicca" in the same sentence as the term "burning times". She even states that she's rarely come across a witch who isn't also a Wiccan.

So much for that!

That's the sort of thing I want, though - something simple, not even entirely Pagan, maybe just a devotional thingie to follow along with for a few weeks. To get myself back into things, turn my thoughts towards the spiritual more often. I've been praying more, but reaching the point where I want to shake things up a little in that area as well, maybe find or write some new prayers, or pray at different times of day... A guide would help with that. But it's hard to go along with a spiritual teacher who doesn't know basic history. There are more poor teachers out there than good ones, and it's hard to look too long for a book at any one time because of how quickly one becomes disillusioned and cynical with the whole idea. 

I don't want to be cynical about this. I am full of the fresh feelings of starting the next stage of a journey, and I don't want that to be ruined because so many people are writing books when they have so little knowledge of the subject matter. I have ended my sojourn in the clearing and am stepping onto the forest path once more.

This path is sloped downwards. A gentle slope. I can't see very far in front of me, but it is light. The leaves have gone brown for the winter, but it is warm. I have paused; I am not racing ahead. I can take my time. I can breathe deep of the air and listen to the birds. I can reach out and caress each branch as I pass.But.... I don't. Because I'm not moving. I stand still and listen to the birds, and like it, and touch the branches and like it, but I don't move forward.

I want to enjoy the new beginning. And it's hard to do that when everything I read to give me some sense of orientation, something to feed my mind upon, ends up angering and frustrating me instead. I lose my enthusiasm. I get further frustrated because, in not being able to find what I'm not even sure I'm looking for, I'm not clear on what to do next, you know? I'm stymied. Maybe I'm paused because, while I want to go forward into the forest, I don't know how. I need guidance here. Proper guidance. Structured guidance.

I really should start journeying again. I haven't Walked the Hedge in a long time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pagan Insights #8

A few days late, as is becoming tradition.

In Your Own Words
Winter's arrived. The seasons are always a bit temperamental here, but a southerly blew up the country yesterday and plunged temperatures into the single digits all day. Now my southern friends are probably used to that, but here in the north we are certainly not, especially as the first real cold day of the year. My bedroom was frigid and damp all day. Today isn't terribly much warmer. And it occurs that I still have not held a Winternights and Alfablót ritual. Tonight would have been just the night for it, and I even have some red wine to hand, but before I knew it it was 2am, so it will have to wait until tomorrow. I do like the cold. Winter is my favourite season. 


Post a Pic
Hmm. Oh, I have one for you, actually.... It's the park where I run with the dog. The sun was setting and it looked rather nice.

 



Musical Musings
I've recently joined Spotify, so I'm much better equipped to find music to listen to. On the other hand, Pandora has things like Ambient Radio, and that's where I go usually to find meditation music. Tonight I was at a loss, though; at some point I had liked a few beautiful piano pieces and now all I was getting was piano pieces. I wanted some really, you know, synthey sort of music. In the end, I put on Gregorian Chant Radio instead, and it was pretty wonderful to meditate to. One of the things I dream of is a monastery environment where Pagans might go to rent a cell for a few weeks or months, and meditate, garden, write, maybe join in some group activities like choir or chant or guided meditation. I envision it being a quiet place where no one speaks unless it's necessary, and there are lots of books and high places where one can sit cross-legged and look across the valley. 



Action, Action
The daily prayer continues. I do skip some days, if I've just remembered when I'm already in bed and it's cold and I'm comfortable and I think "oh, sod it". I've slacked on my meditation, and felt it's lack in my mental health, so trying to fit it back into my day. I do get bored, though. I'd really like a simple course to follow along with, maybe with a forum or something as well, a good community, and with a Pagan theme. But who am I kidding! Ha. Most of the meditation sites online are selling something. I'm not sure how much I can be bothered digging through the dross to find the gold.



Eureka!
I feel more together than I have in a long time... like my spiritual life is a part of my every-day life in a way I've been struggling with for a while. I feel more whole. Additionally, I think things that were set up a long time ago are coming to pass, and my struggle with anxiety is a part of that. I'm coming to terms with growth and with change as beacons of hope. Things die back and grow green again. I'm moving forward and trying not to be afraid of it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

I talked a bit the other week about (some) Christians taking things for granted. I think that's one of the things I experience issues with personally as a Pagan in comparison to some more popular religions: the resources to which you have access. I don't complain much, and I'm not really complaining now... These are just small irritations that many other religious people don't find they need to worry about so much.

Book-wise, we do tend to lack serious academic works. Ronald Hutton is our champion in this area, of course. If you're a reconstructionist you have more luck in this area, but with some exceptions, the writer tends not to be a member of said religion, and some of the older works can be a bit insulting to the adherents, as if monotheism was the inevitable end product of the evolution of spirituality. Not that the author being non-Pagan is a particular issue in many cases - so long as they're respectful - I'm merely thinking of centuries and centuries of Christian studies. Compared theological Christian works, we come up short. (Trouble is, I suppose, far too few Christians actually delve into those centuries of Christian thought. C'est dommage.) On the less academic side of things we're more well-represented; one could complain that most of them are flakey nonsenses, but Christianity has its share of those as well, so that's OK.

Related, there's sacred texts. Oh, yes, you're bound to be able to get your hands on a copy of Works and Days for a few dollars without too much trouble, but say you wanted a presentation copy, or something small and beautiful to slip in your pocket. Maybe a gilt-edged, leather-bound copy of the Havamal, or the Homeric Hymns. You'll have no trouble finding a tiny copy of the New Testament, or a huge copy of the bible in whatever language or translation you like to pass down through your family. You'll have a shit of a time trying to do the same for most Pagan texts. When you travel, you'll find a copy of the bible in your bedside drawer but it's a rare hotel that will provide a holy book that is relevant. You have to bring your own along to swear on in court or other places. - But, really, it's the lack of beautiful editions that bothers me most. I really want that tiny little gilt-edged Havamal.

I think most of us make do quite well with altar tools. Many are relevant to other religions also, and there are any number of websites that will sell chalices, hammers, or athames. A nice offering dish is a bit harder to come by.... one might end up scouring junk sales and so on. But it's easy enough to make your own with that sort of thing, too. 

On the other hand, finding a place to worship can be more difficult. Now I'm not one for group worship much myself, but when one is out and about, or perhaps travelling, it would be nice to be able to stop in somewhere for some peace and quiet worship or to pay one's respects. It's a way of touching base, particularly if one does not have a travel altar or similar. Christians can find a church in any city, usually even in their personal denomination. And what churches! There are some beautiful, spectacular cathedrals around. I spent an entire day in Canterbury Cathedral and adored it for its own sake, and can't help wondering wistfully how much more I might have enjoyed it if it was erected to my own gods. As an animist, I think old buildings have a soul of their own, and I think of many great churches as monuments to the dead as much as anything else (they are, after all, buried underneath the floor), so I can enjoy them quite well, but even so. A nice glade, even. A park is all very well, but there is no peace or privacy. Having a small garden for Pagan worship in a city, maybe with a few shrines to various pantheons.... I think that would be lovely.

And apps! My kingdom for a nice little altar app, maybe with a bowl of water and a deity statue and a candle or something to mess around with.... you know? Finding religious apps is difficult. Most of them are Christian or Muslim: there's copies of the bible and koran, social prayer apps, personal prayer apps, devotional thoughts of the day, etc. When you search "Paganism", the top results include Muslim and Christian apps. Most of the Pagan ones are spell books or sparkly wallpapers. The only one I really quite like is Daily Asatru. I feel like I go on about this a lot... I don't know... I love my smartphone, and how I can organise my life through it, so bits and pieces that are faith-related, that I can take with me every day, would be pretty cool.

A lot of this is just a numbers game. We don't have this or that because we're too few, or too new. Maybe financially there's no reason to invest in a public place for Pagan worship, or whatever else. Maybe you're not inclined as a hotelier to buy copies of this text or that if no one has ever enquired about them. And that's fine. It's worse when you ask about something and the person in charge, rather than discussing logical reasons why support for your religion is lacking in an area, acts like your religion isn't legitimate or does not take you seriously. 

There are a lot of much more complicated issues to do with having an uncommon religion that reach into every day life. Do you raise your child in your religion? Would you even feel safe doing so? If the child mentioned your religion in certain company would that be OK, or would you feel incredibly uncomfortable? If you start up a Pagan business like a bookstore, or indeed a public worship space, will it be vandalised? If you're in hospital and need to talk to a chaplain, is there one available who understands your religion? Will your wishes be respected regarding your funeral? Can you find a person of your religion to perform services, like marriage? So these things are pretty minor in comparison. But they are day-to-day things, and their lack is something I've become accustomed to in the same way that someone might take the church down the street or the bible in their hotel room for granted.

Monday, May 6, 2013

You Can't Be a Christian in the Army Any More (pfffff whatever)

Perhaps you have heard that Christians in the American military have been reminded that bullying their fellow soldiers into submission is Not OK. All of a sudden, a million Christian blogs cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. Christians are the persecuted minority! You can no longer be Christian in the military! Christians are the only religious group whose fundamental right to free speech has been revoked! &c. 

This, may I remind you, mere days after the National Day of Prayer, along with its presidential speech laden with monotheistic language. (Separation of Church and State? What's that?)

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was this blog. It's not just the hyperbole that drives me mad. It's the utter self-centred blindness and lack of empathy it must require to just not see the people around them who have it less great than Christians because of what they believe. Every American president has been a Christian. Do we really think a non-Christian stands a chance at that office, at least in the near future? An atheist president? A Jewish one? God forbid, a Pagan one? I'd say the Jewish candidate would have the best chance at a shot, myself. Many children in America are told they could grow up to be president one day, and it must hurt when they finally realise that their religious beliefs essentially disqualify them.

The problem is privilege. Christians have it, and some of them want desperately to keep it. Any challenge to the preferential treatment they get and a certain type of Christian will have a temper tantrum. I'm not speaking of all Christians, but nor an I speaking only of the Bill O'Reillys of this world; some of the nicest people can turn into utter little bitches when someone suggests everybody be treated the same way.


Like it or not, some aspects of Christian privilege in the USA are cultural, and are ingrained enough that they will take a long time to remove. Take Christmas, for example.... I live in a mostly secular country, and Christmas is still a national holiday. (On the other hand we are lazy as hell when given the chance, and not likely to give up a day off.) The churches on every corner in some states aren't likely to go away either, so long as people are still attending. But so much could be changed. I mean, are the prayers in national events really necessary? A National Day of Prayer? Really?

I've mentioned before that most Christians I've met have been excellent and empathetic people. I don't like to be reminded that some of them even outside the far-right teabagger set have their heads so far up their arses they are in danger of drowning in their own digestive juices.

The concept of someone who says they love everyone as Christ told them to actually thinking it infringes on THEIR civil liberties when people tell them to stop bullying, cajoling, and threatening non-Christians under their command, non-Christians who are supposed to be their team-mates, just blows my fucking mind. The fact that they then think Christianity is a breath away from being made illegal.... I mean, what planet do these people live on? Are they really that self-involved?

Really?

Ugh.

(PS: I know my readers are mostly mature and kind people, more so than me for the most part in fact, but just in case, please don't throw a million harsh comments at the person's blog I linked above. I thought you'd like to read it as some of the things she says are astonishingly ignorant and selfish, but I dithered about linking it in case I inadvertently sent 20 angry people to her comments section.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pagan Insights #7

I'm supposed to do these at every full moon. "I'll do it tomorrow", etc etc. So here we are at - so my phone app informs me - 63% waning gibbous and I haven't written one up yet. Oh well. All things in their time, I suppose.

In Your Own Words
Time gets away from me. It's "Old Year's Night" sometime next week. I have it on my calendar.... the 5th. I don't know when I'll hold Winternights. I feel like I only just finished Winterfinding. I do always like touching base with Lady Hel, but right now I don't have anything to give Her. 

I'm still moving forward with my practice slowly. It's taking time to get back into things, and I don't want to rush it and then have a freak-out or something. I'm enjoying incorporating the spiritual back into my life gradually, without putting pressure on myself.

There's also that sensation, occasionally, of newness, of that thrill and enthusiasm I had when I was fairly new and ignorant. The person you were Back When, who pressed her nose against the magic shop window and coveted a simple silver pentacle, who saved up for Cunningham books and wrote out chapters verbatim in an exercise book of shadows. I'll never get that back, not in the same way, but off and on I've been feeling a little of that energy again. Maybe it's just nostalgia.




Post a Pic
This month a link to a picture. This one is from Deviant Art. I blogged it on my tumblr, and within a day it had 200 notes. It's now at over 700. I'm not sure why it appeals to people so much. But it's an image I keep thinking about just because of all those notes (why don't all my posts get that many notes??) and it's evocative. What does it make me think about? trad craft, but not really mine. I'd be sitting, cross-legged, probably in any old clothing, maybe building a cairn in front of me or drawing pictures in the leaf litter with a stick.



Musical Musings
I've been lax in my meditation, as always, but I try to find time in the day. I've been heading over to Pandora and trying out their "ambient" radio station. I like some songs better than others, and not all to meditate to, but it's good to have a go-to for meditation music when I'm in the mood. 



Action, Action
I've been keeping up my daily prayer, for the most part. It's adding a sort of structure and stability to my daily life, and a richness, even though it only takes a moment. It weaves the gods into my every day. I like having more of an option as to Who to pray to each day; I've only been at it a couple of weeks, but the option of greeting the same deity every week or exploring other deities with links to that god is quite interesting and I think adds more of a richness to the activity. Last time I kept to the same god every night, and grew bored pretty quickly. This way I can reach out to or thank gods Whose influence I am feeling or Whose blessing I am seeking. 

I am finding the daily worship, however minor it may be, personally beneficial on many levels. I think - though I could be wrongly attributing this - that it's proving helpful to my anxiety recovery. I feel loved, I feel warm, I feel comforted. I also feel more of a sense of direction and guidance, as if I was flailing around loose and have been tied back down.



Eureka!
This relates to the previous - the reminder that daily prayer, while it may take a while to have a noticeable effect, can influence one's life. Both the boring prayers where you feel nothing much, to the ones that take you up with something approaching ecstasy, and you raise your arms and cry out in passion and wonder, and give you a new take on the gods. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

A New Daily Devotional

The seasons have truly turned at long last. Some days are warmer than others, but layers are a thing once again, as are long sleeves. Tonight the rain pours and the wind blows, and I feel warm and cosy inside, and thinking thank the gods.

Speaking of the gods. I took inspiration from the Lagutyr blog post about daily devotionals. In the past, I have tried to honour the god each day is named after, but this quickly got repetitive and I felt as if I was calling to particular deities when I'd said everything that was presently to be said a week earlier. The variation of this presented in said blog post is to speak with or honour a deity associated in some way with the god the day is named for, or one you tend to think of as being thus associated. 

Last night was Sunday, and the association I drew was with Freyr. It was a very brief prayer, before my altar with hand on Hammer. All I said was:

Hail Freyr! Thank you for good harvests

and kissed the back of my thumb. For all its brevity, I felt wonderful for it; it felt good to be doing something small, something one could do every day - to, as OrderintheQuartz phrases it, cultivate daily devotionals. It was so minor but it leant something of a richness to my day, I think partly because it was so small. It's been a long time since I truly brought the gods into my day-to-day life, and I think it's time to do that again.

And tonight? Njord, I think. Although, for some reason, I feel like perhaps Hel...?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pagan Insights #6

In your own words
It's been forever since my last one of these. And I'm very late in posting. I wrote the draft a while ago, but haven't come back to it since. Finally, finally, the weather is getting cooler. It's been a long, long summer, and I can't wait for winter. Hopefully it will be a cold one to balance out the hot summer. I'm still not feeling very religious-y, and sometimes I feel like a failure and a disappointment to the Gods. But that's all part of how things go, I suppose.

This is supposed to be a sort of checking-in every month to see how things are progressing, but I haven't been doing much for the longest time.


Post a Pic
Here's my altar picture from the Equinox,  as promised :)




Musical musings
I've wanted to chant more lately. I'll have to find some chants or folk songs that match well for me. Few of the standard chants - most of them by Reclaiming, I think - don't really work for me. I also want to track down some good meditation music. Generally speaking, my jam at the moment has been Emilie Autumn's "4 o'clock", which is completely unrelated.


Action, Action
I've not been keeping up my daily prayer terribly well. Or my study. I've held two rituals within the last month, though, and I'm starting to get back to my reading, so that's better than nothing. Slowly but surely I'm coming back to things, and I'm getting into more discussions about Paganism.

Last week was Lokablót. It wasn't the most moving Lokablót ever; I'd been so tired the last few days. But I also offered Him some chocolate covered coffee beans and hopefully I think He was pleased. And sooner or later I should hold my Winterfinding ritual. I like to do it on the first cold day after the equinox, but I'm having some trouble deciding what counts as "cold".


Eureka!

This one's always difficult. I never know what to say. I had box cutter in hand the other night going through one of Ravenwolf's books for more pictures and maybe subtitles and things to slice out, the better to stick 'em on something. And I had a moment where I thought, hey, maybe a book of shadows doesn't need to be just information you already have in your head. Maybe it can be a collage, snippets of poetry, things that inspire or make you think of the topic in question, or sum it up for you visually. I also had some ideas about possible pocket shrines, so I might start being "crafty" sometime soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Equinox

First post in ages! To be honest I feel anxious even sitting down to type to you all. I know I shouldn't because you're all so good to me, but I do anyway. Things aren't easy and it's a long, slow process, even with the medication which is working really well for me. 

I skipped ritual in February, because things were so up in the air emotionally, but now things are settled a bit more I thought it was time to get back into things. I held my Equinox ritual last night, and it went very well. Maybe not as well as some rituals have gone in the past, but it was easier than I thought it would be to feel the old sensation of ritual, the anticipation getting out all the bits and pieces, and so on.

And I have photos! Here's my altar:



And with candles lit:


 

In many ways I feel like getting back into and more immersed in my religions, in studying and actively practising, may help me. Meditation helps my anxiety, but only to a point. I wish I had more structure to the practise of meditation, to give me more reason to go back to it. I have been picking up books on Paganism and Witchcraft a little more often, and feeling very positive about reading them, instead of like a failure which has been my general feeling recently. 

Also, I wanted to share a personal impression about my Goddess. My Goddess may or may not be your Goddess, or similar to your Goddess, but at any rate I enjoy reading when other people share their experiences with their deities and I wanted to share one of mine. This ritual was for my religious Hedgecraft, not Heathenry - that one is more based on the weather, and I'll it hold on the first cold day. So I spoke, in ritual, to and of my Goddess and in doing so pictured Her. I intended to picture Her in a dress of autumn leaves, but instead the image I received was of a naked figure in a forest: petite and strong, smeared with dirt, one hand on the trunk of a tree, stepping with splayed toes over some roots and into the rich mulch of leaf litter. This is my Goddess, and sometimes I forget Her nature, and try to picture a beautiful tall woman in a shining dress. I forget that my Goddess has twigs in Her hair and callouses on Her feet.
 
I think I'll be posting more often. It's the Full Moon soon and I intend to do another of those "Pagan Insights"
 posts (I've saved one of my altar photos for it!).

Thanks for your continuing patience and support! They mean a great deal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Of Popes and Pills

Hi guys!

First I want to thank you all for your kind support regarding my last post. You guys are amazing and I really appreciate it.

To update you on that specifically, I have been to the doctor, I have been given pills, and I am feeling better already. They do take about a month to six weeks to really settle in, because they have a cumulative effect, or something. In some ways it's bizarre to realise how your brain has been malfunctioning and just how much that affects how you feel on an emotional level. Basically, the pills I'm taking stop the chemical serotonin from being sucked back up by my brain cells before the next brain cell across the synaptic cleft has time to realise it's there. There are side effects, but those are getting better as my body gets used to the pills. 

I'm very pleased with how things are going so far. I avoided the idea of pills for a long, long time, because I've heard real horror-stories from people regarding them not working, the terrible side effects, feeling worse rather than better. But I reached a point where I really needed them, physically, in order to feel better. And I do feel better. I have so much more energy and concentration to devote to things I want to do. I'm amazed now at how much of my energy every day was going towards just living. No wonder I was unmotivated; I didn't have any space in my mind to spare on anything. It feels good to get back to actually being alive, even though I still have a long way to go.

Baby steps.

So I haven't held ritual for the last holiday. I feel bad for not doing so, but I also recognise that I need to spend time looking after myself and getting better. It's a shame to miss it, but I know I'm better off for it, taking the pressure off myself and so on.

Baby steps. But things are getting better. 

In other news, omg, the Pope resigned! I take a lot of interest in the Catholic church because of its focus on ritual (which I find interesting and appealing) and because of its long and fascinating history. The history of Europe is tied into the history of the Catholic church; learning things like "the last Pope to resign was nearly 600 years ago" is just beyond amazing. That history is so long, and things are remembered so well, and I love that. On the other hand no one in the Vatican seems to know what to do about this situation, which is also fascinating: in an institution where so much is ritualised, so much is traditional, having a situation where no one knows what comes next is such a rarity, and that in itself makes this situation special and incredibly interesting.

For us as Pagans, the choice of the next Pope is pretty interesting. I don't feel like we as a group are under any sort of threat from a Pope or from Catholicism as a whole; for some reason that concept strikes me as a bit silly, but then again I am lucky to live in a peaceful, relatively secular country. But it's still nice to be respected. I'm not sure Benedict commented on Neo-Paganism much - if he did, I wasn't paying attention - but he wasn't very nice to traditional and animist African believers, with whom many of us feel a sort of religious kinship on the basis of being animists or similar ourselves (although calling them Pagan? not sure I would.... on the basis that they'd probably reject the label themselves and fair enough too).

So the Pope not being a dick, that'd be keen. Turkson seems like a decent chap, or at least less of a dick than most of the others, although I've not made much of a study of cardinals and wouldn't know, really. Still, if I had a vote, I think I'd vote for him. Or Stephen Fry.

Much love, you guys!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A bit of a personal update

I've talked a lot about being anxious this last six months, mostly as an excuse, every couple of posts, for not posting more regularly. It's been invading my practice; I don't want to hold ritual or do readings as much as I did, and sometimes thinking about those things makes me feel anxious and I either try to avoid them or end up holding ritual in a paroxysm of anxiety and feelings of failure. I keep waiting for it to end, and it hasn't. The things that used to keep me on an even keel, like exercise, aren't working the way they used to.

It occurred the other day that perhaps this is a problem. Perhaps it isn't my fault at all, and instead of pushing myself to do things and then feeling like a terrible person if I don't do them - or of I do them but do them poorly because I am feeling anxious - I should take more care, and recognise that if I am not in a healthy place, I am not under obligation to push myself into doing things. I don't have to feel terrible about the fact that I haven't been keeping up my practice as much as perhaps I should have; the Gods do understand.

After the realisation that this might be a problem I decided to take steps to address the problem via my general practitioner. This is a decision I made largely because I am just fucking sick of feeling this way; when I reach a point of thinking that something is beyond a pale, that doing something involves less effort than trying to keep on keeping on, it is much easier for me to do something about it - yet I am proud of myself for making the step. This is something that involves, for me, some degree of courage but there's also the sense of meeting matters head-on rather than denying it, for taking steps to solve an issue rather than pretending all is well. 

For this reason, though the Gods of the North tend to be pretty gung-ho and one wouldn't necessarily think of Them as being all that tolerant of a person's issues with anxiety, I get the impression that They approve. I feel like I have Their total support in this, that They are behind me. But They are behind me, not in front; I have to go into the breach myself, and take those steps. And that does require some element of strength and courage, and that's why I think the Gods approve. Plus, I'm sure They are more sick of my "sorry I haven't done anything, I've been anxious lately" excuses than you are, Dear Readers. But now I am going to deal with it, I'm taking responsibility and I'm willing to do the work. A lot about anxiety is avoidance, and fear, which are not valued qualities. Facing the realities of the situation and working to change them are. The reality of this situation is that anxiety is illness. It's not enough just to say "no, you will not beat me" because these things are so ongoing, and exhausting; you can say "you will not beat me" to anxiety as much as you like and it still won't go away. No Heathen would look down on another for seeking medical attention for a physical illness; it's not weakness to get help for a broken limb or a ruptured appendix. The same applies for mental illness: one must seek medical attention to fix what is malfunctioning. The enemy is too strong for me to defeat alone, and has skills I cannot counter; I must hire mercenaries to assist me. And I really, honestly think the Gods approve, even though a part of my mind is still chirping away, saying "a real Heathen would just harden the fuck up". It is great reassurance to feel that the Gods think otherwise.

Hopefully that is the last I'll say on the matter. This isn't a forum for my mental problems, and I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about them, but I thought I would mention it as there are a lot of people out there going through the same thing. It's nice to share and reach out. Reducing the stigma of mental illness is an important issue for me and this is something I can do something about just by being honest about things. 

Here are some links about anxiety. If you are having issues with anxiety or other mental illness, there is help; you don't have to feel this way and you don't have to do this alone.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The New Year

I've been MIA for a few weeks, though I'm not really sure what to tell you. I've thought about writing a few times, but right now, I don't have a lot to say. Nothing relevant, anyway. I've felt like I have to start over, to go back to the type of books I was reading when I started, but when it comes to the actual doing, well, that hasn't happened yet. ;-)

It's interesting, the beginning of the year. In many ways I don't feel like the beginning of the year is much of anything by itself. It's always felt incredibly arbitrary to me - like when people make a big deal about the modern definition of a "blue moon" as if when the full moon fell relative to the months actually meant anything. I mean because of the international date line, whether a moon even counts as a blue moon or not differs depending on where you live. I've always felt the same way about the New Year - it's a day the same as any other day. But I don't know.... it felt a bit different this time. I still think the modern concept of a blue moon is a bit stupid (it used to mean something else, but it's a bit confusing and relates to seasons and farming and.... I just can't be bothered with it) but this year's NYE actually felt like it meant something to me. It may be man-made and arbitrary, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate it, essentially.

And I don't know why I felt differently this year. Maybe it's because of the people I was with, and the environment I was in. Maybe it's because of the things I've done this year, Pagan-wise, and the more I've learned as far as Heathenry goes. It's changed my mindset a little. But it might just be because of 2013 itself. 2013 feels like it's going to be a good year. 2012 wasn't a bad year, it just wasn't a good year. Maybe subconsciously, I'm just very pleased that it is now 2013.

Courage is a Heathen value. I don't think I was very courageous in 2012. It's hard, when you have mood problems and anxiety problems, to be courageous. It's hard to have strength. I mean it's hard for everyone, but when going down the shops is a big drama.... I don't know. I had a hard time with anxiety in 2012, as you may have noticed. I don't really want to do that any more - well, I didn't want to do it at the time, either. But I must remember courage in 2013, and try to be courageous more often. Tyr reminded me to have courage, and I shall try.

I think this blog's anniversary is coming up. I seem to start all my blogs in January. I'd never noticed it before. It may just be a coincidence, of course. Still interesting, though. 

I skipped the Pagan Insights this month. That's OK - I didn't really have anything to say. Next month I may have a little more.

I held my Midsummer blót on the 3rd of January. Late, I know, but it's still in some ways the middle of summer. I know there are people who hold their mid-season celebrations later when the weather's caught up with the sun a little more. Mine was.... good, and also not so good. The cassis liquer went very well with the occasion; it's not something that I'd offer, normally, and to be honest I'm not sure it's the sort of thing the gods would readily accept. But as a Midsummer drink it went very well, and They seemed content. But lord, the weather.... it's been so awful, dear readers. I was in a car heading to the busstop on New Year's Day and I was so hot I started feeling nauseous and my hands and feet started to tingle. I even started to tremble. Thank all the gods the bus had air con; I felt better almost immediately upon sitting down. I didn't expect to be taken quite so with the heat. I'm very very glad I do not live in Australia. But still.... if the weather keeps getting hotter year upon year, I might have to look seriously about moving to a country that is more realistic about its summers. So, when it came to celebrating the season, and honouring Sunna, I felt very conflicted and all but burst into tears while pouring out for Her, which isn't right and isn't fair. But She did not seem cross. All the same, it's not a time of year I enjoy and it is difficult to sit there and declare it wonderful when all I want to do most of the time is sit in front of a fan with the windows open and the curtains drawn, sobbing quietly to myself.

So. The new year. I don't make "resolutions", on the basis that if I really wanted to make a resolution, I could do it at any time I wanted, and further that resolutions made at New Year's seem to have this clause that means you don't actually have to follow through. Instead, I prefer to take on year goals or projects. Last year I did the Pagan Blog Project which lasted until the Ls until I got tired of it. This year I'm doing the 50 Book Challenge and Project 365. I know last year there was some sort of Pagan book challenge, like 20 books or something? I probably won't take that one on as well. But I do hope to keep reading. 

Although, it is sort of tempting to start up with the PBP again. I don't know why. Actually, I don't think I ever did the As. On the other hand, I admit to being a little disappointed when I checked back and discovered the PBP was going with the alphabet again this year. I was sort of hoping they'd have a new theme, a new project, you know? Still. I guess I can always pick it up again when they get around to the Ls! 

So, that's my new year. I'm tense and bothered, but I'm filled with hope and plans. Oh, and I finally downloaded "Zombies, Run!" so I can prepare myself properly for the imminent zombie apocalypse. Cardio, you guys! It's rule 1 or something. 

Happy New Year!