Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Voices in the Landscape


 Beara Peninsula

   As we packed for our second pilgrimage to Ireland I jokingly said to my partner that it was like we were packing for a trip to the Otherworlds. And after a moment he nodded and said “Well, yeah. We are.”  On the one hand my grandmother on my father’s side was born in Ireland, and grew up on a little farm in Mayo.  It is a place that has family ties and calls to me on that level. And on the other hand, it does feel like the Otherworlds in my mind. It is the place where the myths happened. It is very difficult to describe the awe I find in walking through the landscape of old dusty stories I have read and cherished, stories that have shaped my views of the Gods and my devotion to them. To not just walk the land but touch the stones upon it, breathe the air where the myth happened. I suppose it might be like going to Jerusalem from some people.  If there is a Mecca, a holy place for me, it is Ireland.

 Poulnabrone Dolmen
   My first trip was strongly centered on the Morrigan, as we were traveling specifically to sites connected to her. It deepened my understanding and devotion to her in so many indescribable ways.  It could be called an initiation, or perhaps a deepening of a devotion.  Even now I think of things in terms of “Before the Cave of Cruachan”, and “After the Cave of Cruachan”. Because I crawled out of that cave altered, different than when I crawled in.

   So as I packed for our second pilgrimage, facilitated through the highly recommended Land Sea Sky travel, I really didn’t know what to think.  Would this trip be like the last? I tried very hard to go into it without expectations. And as it turned out this trip was more subtle, but no less moving.  Our focus was on several of the Gods of the Tuatha instead of one single one. I felt the Morrigan often. Saw many hooded crows along our journey.  But this time The Morrigan was a background presence, there and powerful, almost as if she was stepping back, guarding the boarders, so that I might talk and connect to other things.

Tech Duinn, Donn's island where the dead
gather before moving on
   On the last trip I knew I needed to go into the cave. I can’t even describe the pull I felt, the utter glee and drive I felt, to dive down into that dark muddy cave entrance not knowing or caring what was in that darkness. Because I needed to be there. And that was that.  This time was a little different. The sites I hadn’t expected to connect with were all the ones I had the most profound experiences with.  What I also didn’t expect was how strongly Brighid and The Cailleach’s presence would come through for me on this trip.  What I love about pilgrimage is that everyone on the journey with us is there for different reasons, sometimes picking up very different things from the places we visit. Our journeys where all markedly different, yet we could travel the same road together, each finding what we needed. For some it was about connecting to ancestors, other to the Good Neighbors, for others The Gods, and for others it was the journey itself. 

   A friend recently posted online about how her practices the longer she has been Pagan have become simpler.  It’s something that really resonates with me.  I still do large public rituals, and they can be very moving and powerful.  But in my own personal practice I find the majority of the things I do are simpler, and quieter than my Paganism ten plus years ago.  Sitting and connecting to a place, quietly communing with the Gods as I pour offerings and stand before an altar. 
These are the things that are at the center of what I do. We did a few simple rituals on our pilgrimage, one a ritual in motion as we hiked the landscape, which I enjoyed immensely.  But our focus was the land, the Gods and spirits, and connection. Ritual can give you connection. But sometimes just sitting quietly, being still and open, can be more profound than ritual. 

Tree with hundreds of coins jammed into the trunk

   Being of service to the lands and these sacred sites can also build that connection.  Everywhere we went we picked up garbage left behind. And we removed certain offerings that were damaging the sites. At many of the sites we visited people left pennies and other coins. I’m unaware of specifically why modern people have started doing this. Many of the places we found them it seemed like people left coins simply because they had seen that other people had done the same. Some were even wedged or jammed into the stones themselves or into the trunks of trees. So yes we removed these offering.  We went about it respectfully, and the removed coins were collected so they could be left in donation boxes at the sites meant to help with the upkeep of these sacred places. In a way these offering that were damaging these sites have become a new kind of offering, one that will sustain the land instead.  Once we removed the coins, the damage was very clear in many places.  The coins in particular causing corrosion and damaging the rocks. My favorite picture of the trip is one at the Cailleach’s stone with everyone’s hands around it as we picked up coins and garbage from the place. I didn’t get any profound messages from that site, although I know others did, but the message this place had for me was different.  For me it was less about me getting something, a message etc, than it was about caring for the place itself. The energy felt stagnant when we first arrived, like a damned up river, but when we left it felt like that river was flowing and peaceful again.  The feeling was so profoundly changed I held back tears. Later on that day at Derreen Gardens I found a hag stone as we walked one of the trails, and I took it as a positive sign from the Cailleach, acknowledging what we had done.

Working together to clean the Cailleach's stone

Stone circle at the top of Cashelkeelty
   Our last stop that day was visiting Cashelkeelty.  To get to the stone circles at the top, which also has a spectacular view that no picture can do justice to, we hiked through a forested area, past waterfalls, through rolling hills and through sheep fields. We stopped at different changes in the landscape and spoke of the different faces of Brigid.  And when we reached the top we found the highest point and made offerings to her and sang in praise of her. Afterwards as we explored the stone circles I touched one of the standing stones and experienced what could be called an aisling, a vision of sorts.  And I understood why the Morrigan had been there guarding in the background, because for this trip is was my time to deepen my devotion to Brigid, to acknowledge something that has been playing out for a long time.  Brigid has been a part of my life as long as the Morrigan has, may times the two operating in tandem.  It was a quiet moment, yet a deeply moving one for me. 


   Some years ago at a snowy Imbolc ritual in CT my friend has embodied the Cailleach in ritual, starting out stooped and veiled. In the ritual she drank from a well and pushed back her cloak transforming into Brigid. Acting as a vessel for Brigid she gave messages to those gathered. And what I experienced on Cashelkeelty echoed and reaffirmed the message from that ritual years before.  And I found a synchronicity in that both the Cailleach and Brigid were present in that long ago ritual, and that they both spoke strongly to me during my journey on this trip through the Beara Peninsula.     

   This pilgrimage was just as profound and moving as the first one. But I find it difficult to explain my experiences at times. To my co-workers I went on vacation and came back with lots of pictures “of rocks and sheep”.  Some of my Pagan friends have asked if we did lots of spectacular rituals. And my answer is no, but we did a few simple ones. Then what did you do for ten days? Well.....

   I sat and spoke to the land, I listened for the voices of the Gods in the winds, sought their presence in the places where land meets sea, looked for them on rolling and cresting waves, I sat and was quiet and listened, and all the world spoke to me in those quiet moments.

Whale Watch and a day connecting to ManannĂ¡n


Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Divine Who-Ha Does Not A Moon Deity Make: Or Why the Morrigan is not my Moon Goddess





   Let’s just file this under pet peeve.  Because there are far better myths and modern misunderstandings to dispel about the Morrigan, like how she is not a sex kitten, not a goddess of sex, or a declawed war goddess. One of which you can find in a blog Morgan Daimler wrote: The Morrigan is Not My Sex Goddess.  But because this keeps cropping up and because a whole lot of people ask me about it or use it as a reason to conflate the Morrigan with other Goddesses I feel it’s worth addressing, at least in a blog post.


SO…repeat after me.

The Morrigan is not a moon goddess.

She never was, never has been. 

   And probably a lot of other goddesses you are calling moon goddesses aren’t really moon goddesses either.  Moon does not instant equal feminine any more than solar instantly equates to masculine.  It does in some systems and pantheons, but not all, and not even the vast majority.  I wrote a whole book about the solar feminine and why we need to stop putting our ideas of masculine/feminine and moon and sun into strict little boxes: Drawing Down The Sun.  Or current mindset is the result of the view points of those who pioneered the study of comparative mythology, namely that everything must be held up to the standard of Greek & Roman mythology and everything else was deviant. As well as some of those very binary view points making their way into modern psychology, like the works of Jung, which modern occultists tend to be a fan of and apply to things that they probably shouldn’t apply them to.

   Just because the Morrigan is female doesn’t mean she is instantly connected to the moon. The Irish didn’t really have Gods that fit the pattern of Greco/Roman pantheons where there were clear solar/lunar deities.  Seeing how often you have a sunny day, or see the sun shining without cloud cover in Ireland, I am not surprised. And if there are any deities in the Irish pantheon that could be considered for the title of lunar deity, all the ones that come to mind are male.  

   But the Morrigan is a triple Goddess, you say, like the phases of the moon! The concept of maiden, mother crone that we connect to the moon’s waxing and waning is a concept you can thank Robert Graves for in his book The White Goddess.  And yeah there are places where that model works, but in the Irish pantheon it doesn’t. Just like with the triple Brigid’s the three Morrigans are more like sisters than maiden, mother, crone. They are different aspects of a greater whole, or from another view point a triple set of sisters given one title who may not even be a unified being. So to connect the Morrigan to other lunar Goddesses based on the idea that she appears as a maiden, mother and crone trio doesn’t work either.
   So why do suggest working with her, or guises of her, during different moon phases, you ask? Well because the moon and her cycles, as well as the sun and planets in their dance around the universe, can be harnessed for magical purposes.  Working in conjunction with these energies and these cycle can result in some pretty successful magick.  And harnessing and aligning our work to that is always a good idea.  So it really doesn’t matter if I am working with the Morrigan, Oya, or an angelic intelligence, there will always be a preferable time to do certain work based on those heavenly bodies.    
   So please. Stop calling the Morrigan a moon goddess. And really look at the myths and attributes of other Goddesses too. A divine who-ha does not a moon deity make. Maybe look up the myths of some moon Gods to get some perspective. Rethink what you classify as relegated only to the masculine and feminine.  And don’t try to fit the Gods into boxes, they are far too old and vast to fit easily in them.  







Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Feast for the Morrigan: Creating Tradition Where There is None




   It’s a new year, and Florida is experiencing quite the cold front.  Perhaps nothing by New England standards, but the chill in the air, the novelty of seeing my breath as puffy clouds of steam when we have gone hiking brings back memories of other cold January nights making offerings to the Morrigan shortly after the new secular year.  January 7th as a Feast Day to the Morrigan is undeniably modern.  As far as I can tell the date can be traced back to Edain McCoy, who mentioned it in one of her books.  There isn’t really an explanation as to why she picked that date.  Perhaps there was a reason, perhaps not.  In the end though I don’t think it actually matters.  What I do find interesting is how we establish traditions where there are none. Whether something has been lost to time or the deity one worships never had a sacred day or feast day connected to them, how do we go about making one? And should we?

   There are many days you can connect to the Great Queen and her mythology.  Samhain usually being the most important one I honor Her on, but certainly not the only one. But even with Samhain one must ask themselves when is the correct time to celebrate?  Oct 31st? Or Old Samhain, which thanks to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar moved the day the ancients would have celebrated to somewhere around Nov 12th .  As modern practitioners we like things to be on an infallible schedule, one we can always rely on, but that isn’t always the case.  Even Newgrange with the sun’s light hitting the inner chamber on the winter solstice can be misleading.  Because while we can figure out the exact day of the solstice via all the convenience of modern technology, the sun actually shines into the passage tomb for several days around the solstice.  That begs the questions, which day or days did the ancient Irish celebrate or hold sacred?  Which is the right day to honor? Well the answer is simple. There is no right answer. 

   Perhaps in the end all that matters is our intentions, our reverence for the Gods, that makes a holy day sacred.  In more ways then one the yearly three days of the Morrigan’s Call Retreat have become Feast Days in honor of her.  Our main focus for the entire weekend is The Morrigan, connecting to her, making offerings, coming together in her honor.  As we approach those days each year I feel her stirring, pacing, readying for those who gather.  And I think of how our ancestors gathered to honor the Gods at different times, traveling perhaps long distances to honor sacred days, not unlike what we are doing in today's world with different Pagan festivals and events.  They may not fall on a holiday of the Wheel of the Year but in many ways we have create our own new sacred times.  And I think no matter how long The Morrigan's Call event goes on those days will remain sacred to her.  The second weekend of June will always be a time I must make offerings, call to her in ritual, because now she expects it. We have given those days to her, perhaps as much as some of us have given her January 7th to her, making it sacred with offerings and intentions and the dedication of returning and continuing the practice year after year.   

   Perhaps we should create more modern Feast Days to our Gods, and in the case of the retreat perhaps some of us have already create some without realizing it.  A Feast Day or holy day doesn’t have to be ancient for you to make it valid.  So if your Gods don’t have holy days that are remembered or recognized create your own. And if someone else celebrates that day alongside you, great.  If not, that is ok too.  

   So even though I know its not ancient, tomorrow I will pour whiskey, speak prayers, and wander into the wild places of the area I now live and honor the Queen. And its fitting in a way that as far as the weather predictions go, tomorrow will be the last day of chilly weather in my tropical home (at least the 40 and below kind).  A mirror to other days where I walked through snow drifts to honor her. For whatever reason on those past Feast Days feeling it was important to make my offerings outside, feeling the cold and sting in the air. Letting it be a reminder that cold and struggles can be weathered.  That winter and difficult times yields eventually to spring.  And even here in Florida with mostly eternal summer, by my New England standards, there are reminders, days kissed with frost to remind me that her blessings come on the edge of a blade.




Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Problem with Karma: Down the Rabbit Hole of Pagan Ethics



   Ethics can be a difficult topic when it comes to Paganism.  Mostly because Paganism is made up of so many different traditions, pantheons, and paths. We don’t really have a universal code of ethics.  The Rede isn’t something that is universally accepted and furthermore it is less than a hundred years old. It does not reflect the ethical constructs of ancients Pagans.  Ultimately the Rede is a suggestion, good advice and not something one can easily use as an ethical framework.  There are too many holes.  What interests me is how ancients Pagans dealt with ethical problems, how they sought to lead a good life.  But that is a whole different blog post all together. What also interests me is how we have gotten to the place we are as modern Pagans with our views on ethics. Because we seem to have some hang ups and carry overs. And they are fairly obvious, especially when we look at the concept of karma.    

   The first thing we have to accept is that what Neo-Pagans call “karma” isn’t actually karma. Karma in a Hindu context we have hijacked and bears only the mildest resemblance to what Neo-Pagan, and westerners in general, call karma. In Hinduism one’s karma (both positive and negative) is something that is worked through over the course of several life times.  It is not as we have come to think of it as “instant justice”.  To some extent we have merged the idea of the Threefold Law with what we think karma is to create our own uniquely 20th century Pagan concept. 

   We find the Threefold Law’s first appearance in 1949 in Gerald Gardner's High Magic's Aid, and has since been adopted as part of modern Wiccan liturgy.

“Thou hast obeyed the Law. But mark well, when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold. (For this is the joke in witchcraft, the witch knows, though the initiate does not, that she will get three times what she gave, so she does not strike hard.)”

Blend this together with the Neo-Pagan version of karma and you have the modern Pagan concept of how the universe deals out justice.  If you do something bad, something bad will happen to you.  If you do good, good things come to you.  And this is usually used as an argument against cursing or hexing, even when protecting one’s self in a given situation would be the justified thing to do.  Striking back against an attack is often second guessed out of fear of causing bad karma or energy to rebound on us.  
  
   Furthermore the Threefold Law is often equated with the Law of Attraction.  While similar these don't really act the same way.  The Law of Attraction is a conscious thing.  If I use a certain herb or colored candle to attract a certain energy or quality while doing magick, the force of my will is directing it.  I am calling like to like consciously, and to some degree it is a mental que that I am using to get my mind in the right head space.  Something I use to attract certain things might not have the same connotation to someone else.  A criminal doesn't continuously want to be caught, or seek to manifest that result.  Quite the opposite, their will is focused on getting away with the crime. 

   But lets take a step back. What are the roots of this concept of universal justice?  Because that is what it all boils down to. The universe deals out good and bad karma, based on our actions.  Essentially we see the universe as dealing out justice. It’s a cause and effect that we have no control over and is outside of ourselves.  Sound familiar? If you were raised in an Abrahamic religion replace “universe” with “god” and you have exactly the same world view on how justice is handed out in the cosmos.  Whether its god or the undefined universe we see it as a universal law of restitution.  Like gravity it acts with impunity.


  Now there are some problems with this.  Like Morticia Addams points out “What is normal for the spider is chaos to the fly”.  What we perceive as justice often depends on our own point of view.  We are often heroes of our own narratives.  And sometimes justice and what is perceived as good or bad falls into a gray area.  If I do a spell to get a job and as a result land the job, have I done something the universe will punish with bad karma?  Maybe I might not have been the best candidate, maybe by bettering my own odds I am taking money and food out of the mouths of someone who needed it more. Yet from my perspective I didn’t do anything wrong, I brought something good into my life. So who is right? Will the universe from this mind set punish me or not?  And who is to say our human concept of justice, or good and evil is the same as the universe’s? Or the Gods' for that matter?

   I think in many ways we have taken a way of viewing how the world works from the religions of our youths and unconsciously carried it over to Paganism.  I can not say if this is necessarily good or bad, but certainly worth some reflection.  Certainly ancient Pagans had the concept of divine retribution and the gods dealing out punishment, but it wasn't exactly a universal thing. And at very least in Greek mythology punishments dealt out by the gods weren't always justice, but at times petty.  But ancient Pagans, regardless of culture, were very concerned with what it meant to live virtuously.  With what it meant to live a good life and what constituted right action.  The different is that it wasn't a force outside themselves, it was something that had to be sought within.  


  For myself I have to come to the conclusion that there isn’t a universal crime and punishment system that acts like a force of gravity. After all bad things do happen to good people. We don’t always catch the criminal.  And bad deeds often go unpunished.  I do think in many ways magick plays the role of evening the odds for those with no other avenue to do so, or for that matter have no other avenue of seeking justice. And I think that perhaps a consequence of having free will and agency as a being means that we have to seek out our own justice.  I’m not talking about taking the law into our own hands or becoming Batman.  But instead that is why we have laws as part of society, why we feel the need to wrap our minds around concepts like justice and ethics.  We must seek it out, its not a guarantee.    

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft





   For whatever reason this morning my Facebook feed was filled with some interesting links to “articles” about Witchcraft.  They featured pictures of women with their eyes closed, face frozen in a state of ecstasy and arcane power.  Like they know the secrets of the universe and its all moving through their bodies in one giant sexy Witch orgasm that reveals the secrets of the universe by osmosis.  And to be honest they are my biggest pet peeve, and you’ve probably seen them too if you are Pagan and have the internet. 9 Reasons Why You Are A Natural Witch.  8 Reason Why Being An Empath Makes You Wolverine.  5 Reasons Why Being Psychic Means You Are Destined to Save the World From the Rapture, and similar nonsense.  Harmless right? The problem is I see people accepting these things as legitimate statements about Witchcraft, and statements and images they need to attach to their identity as a Witch.  The images attached to these articles are always the same and project a certain stereotype a lot of modern Pagans feel they need to imitate or fit into.  I see a lot of folks who feel they need to always project an air of zen harmony, or buy all the “right” Witchy clothes to be taken seriously.  They have to be like the women in those picture that have the secrets of the universe whispered to them and are all powerful in their lives.  And that is not Witchcraft at all.  Sometimes the whispered secrets of the universe shatter you so hard you have to rebuild the pieces of your life as they lay on the floor.  Sometimes your best use of your craft as a Witch is when you don’t have all the answers and your life is anything but zen.  Sure I have ritual clothes but half the time I do ritual or magick in a T-Shirt and jeans.   

   Now don’t get me wrong. I like mindless internet fun on occasion too.  I’ve done those silly quizzes that tell you what Egyptian Goddess you, or which mystical animal is your Patronus (I’m pretty sure mine is Deadpool, or at very least Xena’s love child with Deadpool).  So aren’t these other article just the same thing? At first glance they might be, but how we portray Witchcraft both to the world and among ourselves is important.  Because just like words have power images do too.  Is this the image of a Witch we want to create and inspire? I think not.    

So I thought I’d put together my own list: 9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft



1. It Makes Things That Shouldn’t Be Taboo, Taboo:

  I’ve talked about declawing war gods, well this is declawing witchcraft - you need the dark too. Hexing, cursing, defensive magick, blood magick, and even warding to some degree are becoming increasingly taboo to talk about much less practice in modern Paganism.  These are practices that have been a part of Witchcraft and magick in general from its very beginnings.  Sometimes magick is about leveling the playing field and giving those with no other means of doing so to invoke justice or simply defend themselves.  If you don’t think ancient people used curses, there is a plethora of archaeological evidence that proves otherwise.  The curse tablets found at the temple of Sulis-Minerva are very interesting.  All I can say is don’t steal pants in the ancient world, or people will curse your ass.   These are all practices that you might not often use but are worth understanding the mechanics of.  You might need them someday down the road, or you might be on the receiving end and need to know how to handle it.  No knowledge is ever wasted.      
 

 2. Love & Light isn’t Balance:  
   Life is hard. And sometimes it just outright sucks. People go through difficult times and situations.  It’s part of living, and if we are lucky we can learn and grow from the darkest parts of our lives.  But when we portray Witches as always being in a state of all knowing bliss, it sends the wrong message.  It says that being broken is bad, not having life figured out is a failure.  It’s not.  Not even the gods have everything figured out.  The goddess Akhilandeshvari whose name means “Never Not Broken” is portrayed with her body shattered into many pieces. She is constantly reforming, and fitting the pieces back together into something new.  When we stigmatize darkness, and try to always be positive we will ignore the gritty difficult things we need to work through in life. Ignored problems, and not solved problems. And our spirituality of choice should foster us through such times. When we teach people it’s not ok to have these emotions people become afraid to show they need help or have life issues. 
 

3. Hard Work isn’t Sexy Buts its Reality:

 Master your craft. Mediate every day, do something magickal every day, do daily devotionals, whatever it is. Practice your craft, to master your craft.  There is no such thing as 9 easy steps to becoming a Witch. It takes work and time.  Being an empath, seeing spirits and visions arent some cool mutant power that doesn’t make you all knowing.  From experience, I can say being an empath means you need to really master your skills at energy work. Seeing sprits or feeling the emotions of other isn’t always fun or easy.  These are things that can take a lifetime to master, require daily work. 

4. Do You Want to Be a Dress Up Witch Or A Real Witch?:

Images of those ecstatic women should not be seen as empowering, sometimes Witchraft is doing what is needed on a dime and on a moment’s notice, it requires practicality and sometimes its done when you are crying and snotting on the floor and a real mess. It’s not pretty, and it’s not supposed to be.  You don’t need to look pretty to be a Witch, or have fancy occult clothes and jewelry.  Those things can be used to get your mind into a different state, but ultimately you are the source of power that drives your Will and magick.  It is you that are speaking to the Gods, not your fancy wand.  I like bling as much as the next Pagan but all the bling in the world isn’t going to make you better at your craft.  In the end dress up Pagans don’t integrate their spirituality into their life, it’s just to feel good.

 

5. Being a Witch Isn’t About Being All Powerful, or Always Knowing the Right Answer:

  This is kind of a follow up to some of the above points.  When our mental image of a legit Witch is based on these images of Witches dressed to the nines seeming zen wisdom from their every pore it attracts followers and students to the wrong people.  Because there are people out there who put on that exact image to draw people in.  People who want to manipulate others and can be dangerous.  The cult of ego is very real and when people put teachers on pedestals, it can be hard to take them off those pedestals when they realize they are just human too; when the cult of ego is harmful and not really about teaching but rather to make the predator feel empowered.   

   Remember that your teachers are human too, they make mistakes, they aren’t all knowing so don’t expect them to be.  Think for yourself, and recognize the cult of ego when you see it.  Witchcraft isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about finding them along the journey and making them a part of your life.

6.   If We Start Taming Our Craft We Will Start Taming Our Gods:

 I’ve talked about this in other blogs and I think to some degree this is already happening.  When we shun the darker aspects of life and ourselves we in turn try to make aspects of our Gods less threatening.  We refuse to see them from what they are.  We can see this with the general taboo nature of dark gods, or gods connected to battle.  Just because we are uncomfortable with battle does make Ares any less a war deity.  And even if we don’t go off to actual warfare now it doesn’t mean he can’t teach us valuable lessons.  It’s only the surface of what he, and other dark, Gods embody.  What it does not mean is somewhere along the way Ares was demonized and turned from a god of picking wild flowers into a mean god of war that we can now tame back into his hippy flower picking ways.  It’s just not how this works, it’s not how any of this works. 


7. Witchcraft Isn’t Something You Do, It’s A Way Of Living:

This is a big one. Being a Witch is something your become, and at the end of the process it’s a part of your everyday life. It’s not an alter ego you put on when it’s the full moon or just on Wednesdays.  After all the revelations, mystical rituals, classes, there is a point where you need to run all the threads through your own life and make it your own.  The first time you experience ritual or feel the presence of a God can be mind blowing, then the next step is to make it part of the ordinary.  You wake up in the morning, put pants on, pour whiskey to the gods, say a daily devotion, go to work deal with your boss, etc etc.  It’s not separate from your life.  



8. Trivializing Magick Diminishes It:

I find it really surprising when a magickal practitioners is shocked that their magick works, or that dealings with Gods can have consequences.  Yes, magick is real. Yes, the Gods are real.  Trivializing your magick is a sure way to either not get the results you expected or for you to have spent a whole lot of time and energy shaping you Will and energy to just make it go poof.  If you don’t believe it’s real, guess what, it’s probably not going to work that well.  After all your beliefs and thoughts are what is shaping it.  Trivializing the Gods can have far worse consequences, anything from you realizing how very real the deity actual when your life turning upside down or having them turn their backs on you. No one wants to talk to someone who doesn’t even believe they are real in the first place.  



9.  Magick Isn’t Attention Seeking:

  There is a reason why it’s called occult after all.  Magick is between you and the gods, and the forces of nature, spirits, or whatever else you might be connecting and working with.  It’s not entertainments, or a stage show.  It’s something that should improve your life and your relationships with the world around you.  It’s not 9 easy steps, or 9 signs that you are Dumbledore. What is your goal?  Why do you want to be a Witch?  If it’s to post pictures and memes to either make people afraid of you or envious of you, then you’ll just be the same person you always have been just with a veneer of crystals and arcane symbols.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cauldrons in the Dishwasher: Devotion in Action


   This will be a short post, as I’m writing it in an underground bunker at the moment.  Well not exactly a bunker, but we are below the ground surrounded by poured concreate. Maybe we can call it the Raven Lair.  I’m lucky enough to have a partner who’s job both requires him to ride out hurricanes at work (making sure everything stays running) but also welcomes family and pets to ride out the storm in a safe location complete with generator, water and snacks.  Maybe the internet will hold out long enough for me to finish this blog post.

  This week has been a long one of watching the weather channel and getting a crash course in armature meteorology.  So as a category 5 hurricane barrels across Puerto Rico and Cuba, and heads toward my home in Florida along with all the other mundane hurricane preparations of boarding up windows and filling water cubes and the bath tub, there have been other less mundane preparations happening as well.  Libations poured, offerings made, advice asked for and received. Now that everything is done and we are set up in the Lair, safe and waiting for the storm to do whatever it is going to do, I realize just how important my devotional work is to me.  How interwoven and vital it is to my life.  In between organizing food stores in the pantry I light the candle on the Dagda’s sprawling altar.  It was much smaller at one point, and I had this incredulous image in my head of him with a raised eyebrow saying “Really? Me. I’m going to fit in this tiny space”. He has an entire shelf now, his items somehow have become sprawled out like that person who is a bed hog and just stretches and takes over the whole space.  I pour him whiskey and ask Him to stand between us and danger.  His cauldron which is a resin replica is fragile so I put it in the dishwasher so if anything does get through the windows it is safe.  I saw a post online about putting photos and things you want to keep safe or from water damage in the dishwasher.  Other people are putting photo albums in there, me I’m storing God Bling for safe keeping.

   We board up the windows and later that night I make offering to Hekate to guard the boundaries, to protect this place and those who dwell here.  Each morning I made offering to the Great Queen, going through my usual prayer cycle and adding to it a prayer for protection written by Morgan Daimler.  There are other offerings made, to Oya, to Brighit, and to all the Gods I have a deep relationship with.  Its as vital to me and the practical things we are doing to prepare for the storm.  Their voices are familiar, the prayers I say are familiar too, because I speak them often, they are a regular part of my life.  And I realize how important these relationships are to me.  

   Devotional practice is often a difficult subject to describe to others. By its very nature it is a very personal practice and each individual will go about it in a myriad of ways.  In the end its all about building a relationship with the divine.  Its not a 1-800 number to the divine vending machine, and its not a number you dial only when you need something.  Building a relationship with a deity is a rewarding experience.  Just like any other relationship you learn to recognize Their voice, likes and dislikes. The strength of that bond is carried with you in everything that you do.

  Devotional work, our relationships with the Gods, should be something that sees us through hard times.  Its not just there on Mabon or Samhain etc, or the next Pagan festival.  Its there all the time, fulfilling us, urging us onward and sustaining us as only the Gods can.


   

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Halidom of Macha: Oaths on the Point of a Blade


"Fergus said: ‘By the point of my sword,
halidom of Macha, swiftly shall we wreak vengeance.."
-Tain Bo Cuailgne

   The topic of oaths has been on my mind lately.  There are many different kinds of oaths, and none should be entered into lightly.  The oaths we take often can shape our lives, our relationship to the Gods, and the very core of ourselves.  Because once spoken, they can never be unspoken.  They weave threads through our lives and choices.

   This past Morrigan’s Call Retreat myself and a few priestesses were asked to facilitate a private dedication ceremony for a member of Morrigu’s Daughters.  I loved how we all came together to create something meaningful and beautiful for that person.  Challenges were met, and one of the items used in the ceremony was a sword that I had sworn my own oaths on, with the blade point resting again my chest.   That sword has a story of its own.  If our little tribe of Morrigan devotees have our own magickal treasures, like the Tuatha De, this sword would be one of them.  You can check out Morgan Daimler’s blog posts about its creation which literally involves being forged in a storm (http://lairbhan.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-story-of-sword.html) 

   In the Tain there is a line about Fergus making an oath on a sword dedicated to Macha (again see Morgan’s blog for more about this) and it reminds me very much of that sword and my experience with it. I’ve seen people make grand oaths during ritual, oaths that are forgotten shortly after, not unlike new year resolutions, and then soon after they find their life is in an uproar and don't understanding why.  In my experience the Gods expect us to make good on our promises, especially ones made in a sacred way.

  I’ve made oaths during initiation rituals and when I dedicated as a priestess, but I think the one that has truly impacted me the most, shapes my life and myself by holding true to it, is the one I made upon that golden sword forged in a storm and dedicated to Macha.

  Here is part of something I wrote about the experience after that first retreat.   

   The candles flicker in the small room, a gentle glow that illuminates the golden polished bronze of the sword pointed at my heart.  The bite of its point against my skin feels so welcoming, and I would impale myself upon it if I could.  Not in a real sense, but there is power there, flowing from the woman who holds it fast in her hands, and I would soak it in.  I would let it fill me, no matter the danger. So I hold my arms out welcomingly, and lean towards the danger, because I am not standing before a mortal woman anymore, but a goddess. 

  After a devotional ritual to Macha deep in the woods of Massachusetts the rest of our companions had returned to their cabins and tents, while myself and two of the priestesses who had facilitated the ritual returned to the little screened in building we had created as a temple to the Morrigan and her many guises for our stay in the woods.  The camp we were staying at had been using it as a mediation area, up high on top of the mountain, and that is where we had hauled our altars, swords, and statues for the Great Queen.  And I’m not even sure how we managed to make it up the small dirt path, that we had been jokingly calling a “goat trail”, in the dark after an exhausting ritual.  But we did.  Nothing is easy with the Morrigan, at least not at first.  

   During the ritual one of the priestesses had channeled the Morrigan in her guise as Macha, and we had called for those who wished to speak to Macha to come forward to meet Macha’s challenge and offer her their oaths if they wished.  I had felt the need, but resisted.  I was helping facilitate the ritual, I was there to help the others move through the ritual.  And that is how we have ended up here, in her temple, just the three priestesses, in the dark.  Because there is more to say and more to be heard.  The ritual isn’t over.  Not until the Morrigan says it is.  And when I look into my friend’s eyes they are not her own, there is a vast wild depth to them.  I am almost afraid to be caught too long in their gaze, but I resist looking away all the same.  Her voice has a new familiar edge to it, I have heard that voice in my dreams.   And she seems taller, perhaps the only time I have ever felt short next to my friend who is easily a head shorter than myself. 

   Those eyes look at me expectantly and I say my oath, three in fact.  Three promises that would shape the course of my life and practices for the next several years, and I have no doubt will continue to.  Because once said an oath can’t be unsaid, it’s as binding as steel.  And then the Morrigan speaks, and there is truth and warning in her words.  And prophesy, always prophesy.         

   The Great Queen spoke for a long time that night.  Afterwards we sat exhausted on the wood floor of the temple.  Candle light illuminating her statues, my friend drained but back in possession of her own body again, the bronze sword returned to its sheath.  The sounds of our friends’ laughter further down in the woods calling us back to the normal world.  But the Morrigan’s words stayed with me. The feel of her blade pressed against my breast remained. 

   It would not be until a few years after that I fully understood all of what she had said or the path that my own words would set me on. That night in the woods I made what was both a heartfelt vow and one that I foolishly thought I could easily keep.  I stood before the Morrigan and vowed to fight for my own happiness.  Simple right? Well I thought so.  I wasn’t happy with many of the circumstances or people in my life.  And some part of me felt, if I just did the right spell, asked the right deity to help me, it would be easy to fix.  All the puzzle pieces that I was desperately trying to force to fit together would magically connect with ease. Or perhaps my perspective would change.  I couldn’t really be unhappy with my life, I was just looking at it the wrong way.  I would gain a new perspective, and learn to be content.  Of course that wasn’t the case.  What I had to accept was that what I had to do was turn my life upside down, burn parts of it to the ground and remake myself out of the ashes. I would also make some unpopular choices, but ones that were for my own good, even if others did not like them.  I would leave a long broken relationship.  I found one that nourished and fulfilled me.  I moved and found a better job.  I pulled the dead things out of my soul, and realized I couldn’t please everyone.  That I didn’t need to. Deep powerful magick, doesn’t come without a cost.  Healing festering scars doesn’t happen until you burn the rot out of the wound.  And the process isn’t easy, nor is it without pain. Nor does it happen without criticism.   Yet I don’t regret it. I chose to fight for myself that night. I put myself first.  Not everyone was happy about that, it is amazing the amount of enemies you’ll make when you stop placating people, and when you do what is right for yourself despite the opinions of others. Or when you speak your truth no matter the subject. But I can say that once you have burned your life down to ashes and risen up from them renewed, you’ll never be afraid to do it again.  Because you’ll know exactly how strong you are, you wont put up with the bullshit of others so easily.  You wont be as afraid to have unpopular opinions, because you’ll know yourself, and you wont loose site of who you are as easily. 

    An oath isn’t something you say once and forget, its something we are constantly reaffirming.  Something we are constantly challenged to hold true to.  A constant reaffirming of our devotion to the Gods and ourselves.