Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reflection and Being Thankful

In the spirit of starting the Yule season off on the right foot, I like to reflect on the past year and the things I’m thankful for not only from this past year but also always. Personally, I am most thankful for my family and friends. I hope most people feel that way, but I know that is not always the case. Not everyone has family, or friends who are as close as family, but if you do, don't forget to show them how much you appreciate them. 

I confess that I’m as bad as everyone else, and sometimes it takes the reflection and meditation of the beginning of the year and leading to Yule, and of course, the traditional Thanksgiving holiday, to remind me how blessed I am. However, that’s one of the things that we should all think about more often, not just how thankful we are for our family and friends, although that is huge, but how thankful we are for all the wonderful things in our lives.
I have a wonderful family, and a great group of friends that have been my extended family for over 30 years, some for most of my life. I’m not sure you can really ‘be’ thankful enough for that, simply because, without it, I don’t know how we’d function. In the words of John Lennon, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and I think that’s true of all of us.
Family is wonderful, sometimes, and having a good relationship with your family is something to always value, but not everyone has that luxury. There are many reasons that we may or may not be close to family, not all of them necessarily bad; they just are, and our relationship with family may change over the years. Personally, I am closer to my family now than I was for many years, and I love them dearly. However, during those years when I wasn’t as close to my family as I am now, I became part of an extended family that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I wouldn’t begin to know how to thank these people for what they have meant to me through the years, and I can’t imagine spending the past 30 years without them. We have partied together, cried together, been present for childbirth and graduations, anniversaries and holidays. We have bonded over parents who are aging and children who are growing up much too fast. Many of my friends are creative types, musicians, writers, artists, photographers, and chefs, and let me just say my college graduation parties were pretty epic, but that’s beside the point. What isn’t beside the point is that most of us have people like this in our lives, and we should find ways to let them know how much we appreciate them.
Most years I try to show my appreciation for my friends and family by having a Yule celebration dinner at my house each year. I fix dinner and share the feast with all those who have been there and been my family and extended family for all these years. This year, someone else is hosting, but seeing everyone all at one time is always a wonderful time. Other than the fact that we party considerably less now than we did then, nothing has changed.
This might not be possible for everyone, it wasn't for me this year, but I do want to advocate finding some way to say thanks to those who have kept you sane over the years, and we all know we have them. We also know we probably wouldn’t have made it this far without them, if for no other reason than that they’ve given us an outlet for those quirks that we couldn’t share with anyone else.
"A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself."
Jim Morrison
On another note, this time of year, I think it’s also important to make sure to give back to your community as well. It’s so easy to pick up a toy for a kid or a warm coat. Some groups have people who will come get them. We all have rough times and sometimes that one gift can make a huge difference for someone who is not as blessed. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Celebrating Samhain

Samhain, finally!! I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite holiday. Day of the Dead Celebrations, Halloween costumes and parties, and the feel in the air make me happy. I have a sugar skull clock hanging on my wall. Ritual was last night, and we didn’t make it, but we’ll have a small celebration here to honor those who have passed and letting go of the past, so we can welcome the New Year.

Samhain, or summers end, originated with the ancient Celtic celebration of the end of the “light” part of the year represented by the harvest, and the beginning of the dark portion of the year as daylight hours become shorter and the weather grows colder. It’s one of only two times a year, people extinguished hearth fires and relit them the next day to celebrate the new beginning. This happens at Beltane and Samhain, and at no other time. Celebrations start at sundown on October 31 and continue through the day on November 1.

At Samhain, the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest, and departed spirits can return to mingle with the living. Samhain celebrations take many forms. People often clean house to clear the way for the coming year. It is also a time for reflection on the past year and on goals for the future. Samhain is one of the best times of the year for divination and looking to the future.


Just as the ancients inventoried their stock and the last of the harvest, it is time for us to take stock of our accomplishments and goals, our beliefs and rituals. What is working for you? What is not working for you? What changes can you make, and keep, that will make your beliefs, rituals, and life work better for you?

I’m not talking about making “New Year’s” type resolutions. We all know how well those usually work.  What I’m talking about is more subtle.  Review your grimoire or book of shadows, or start a new one.  Revisit the teachings you have been living by, and look at new teachings and ideas. Expand your outlook.  Are there other ideas that would fit with your belief system? If your focus has been on stones, read about herbs.  If you’ve been studying the tarot, learn something about runes.
Every skill and idea we add to our knowledge becomes a part of our philosophy. This gives us a much larger spiritual harvest to carry us through the winter months. Just as the ancients harvested crops and herds to feed themselves through the winter months, so can we seek a spiritual harvest of knowledge to feed our souls. We can approach this from many directions; personally, I prefer to spend time in study, meditation, and ritual, and truthfully, I make the decision based on how my heart leads me at the time.
Sometimes, I will spend an entire evening reading and explore new ideas to find out what I want to study over the winter. I think this year, I'm going to read Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft by Christopher Penczack, Celtic Mythology by Ward Rutherford, and Handfasting & Wedding Rituals by Kaldera/ SchwartzsteinIt doesn’t really matter what path or paths you explore, as long as you expand your knowledge and look for something new to learn.

Other times, I will conduct a divination ritual or depending on the position of the moon, a moon ritual outdoors. For divination, I know I’ve mentioned that I use the Motherpeace Tarot deck because I like the more feminine and peaceful images, but whether you use a tarot deck, angel cards, spell cards, or runes, any divination ritual will let you look within yourself. Then you can reassess what has passed, what is to come, and how you can manifest in your life the things you want and need. Only then can you start to create what you want for the future.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Strength



Sometimes when I sit down to write a blog, I get Aeslin to draw a card to give me inspiration. She uses the Magickal Spell Cards by Lucy Cavendish, so that gives me something extra to draw on.  I use the Motherpeace deck personally, so sometimes it's nice to get a little extra perspective on a concept. This week the card is Strength.

The Strength card represents strength, determination, power, and a higher level of consciousness. This card also represents responsibility and compassion. Just as the woman in the picture on the card offers patience and compassion to the lion in order to tame him, we offer patience and compassion to others to develop our energies around this card.

If you're like me, that's easier said than done. Sometimes I find it more difficult than at others to exercise that patience and compassion toward other people. This usually happens to me when I forget to take into consideration that the other person almost certainly doesn’t think the same way I do. Nor do they have the same values. I am constantly amazed at the varied approaches people take to situations, and to life in general. One of the hardest things in the world to do is to watch someone make a mistake, especially someone you care about.

Part of having patience and compassion is having the ability to let others have their own space, strengths, and weaknesses, and to realize that you can’t impose your expectations on other people. If you don’t base those expectations on what the person is capable of doing, you’re sure to be disappointed. Part of gaining the Strength of the Tarot is acceptance of people as they are. With this acceptance, you can gently influence others rather than criticizing them.





As an example, I tend to work a lot, simply because I love what I do. I love writing and research and working on the store. I love finding new merchandise and information that we can share with you, so that’s what I’m doing most of the time. However, sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay that not everyone is that focused on something. Actually, it’s most definitely a good thing. Most of us have this tendency, so that's an area where our control of our reactions and our treatment of others comes into play. 

The lion in the picture, on most decks, represents the animalistic nature that we must overcome at times. We all have baggage, and at times, all the stuff, we have sublimated, comes out. Anyone who tells you different is lying. Many times the way this comes out is simply in intolerance and impatience. We base our reactions to what happens to us on experiences we’ve had in the past, and the strength of the tarot is the strength that allows us to overcome our baggage, and allow others their own path, even if you’re convinced you know better. I usually am, but you can only master your own feelings and actions. Knowing and allowing that is part of the strength seen in the card.   

Strength also relates to responsibility for yourself and your world. Learning to work properly with that passionate, instinctual core inside all of us, gives us the strength to create our world as we wish. We all put on masks at some point, maybe when we go to work, or when we’re with certain people, we feel the need to hide our true selves. When we can appropriately control and work with both sides of our nature, we gain the ability to create our world as we wish while being truly ourselves. This is truly a gift.





Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fall

It actually felt like fall for the first time this year. I live in Texas, so it will warm up again, but it’s here! I love most seasons except summer, so I’m relieved that part of the year is over. Like most pagans, I’m also looking forward to Samhain, and while I don’t know about anyone else, I’m looking forward to winter. That said, I’ll admit we don’t get much snow, or really have what most people would call a winter, but I like it because it’s just cold enough that you feel like getting out and doing things, but not so bad you can’t go anywhere.

Along with fall comes Samhain, which is my favorite holiday. The veil thins and magical energy intensifies. You can feel the extra energy in the air, and everything seems a little sharper and clearer. I generally use the time between Mabon and Samhain to prepare for Samhain. I reflect back on the past year and determine what I want to let go of, and what I want to begin or change in the New Year.

If you keep a journal, all you have to do is look back over the past year to see what you want to let go of to close out the old year and prepare for the new one. If you don’t have a journal, spend some time in reflection to see what has served you and what hasn’t over the past year. Sometimes it’s easy because you had a bad relationship, or you have lost a friend or family member, and sometimes, that makes it that much harder to let go. I have seen it take years for someone to be ready to let go of the grief and pain and move on.



Sometimes it’s much harder to find those things that no longer serve you, so you will need to meditate, journal, sit outside in nature, or even just sleep on it to find the things you want to leave behind. The end of the year at Samhain takes us into the New Year and the fall holiday season, and you always want to start the New Year on a positive note. It will give you a head start to carry that positivity into the New Year.

In my case, I’m usually letting go of bad habits, but I don’t approach it like a New Year’s resolution. I try to incorporate keeping those habits out of my life when I set my intentions for the New Year. Taking a different approach to something than you have in the past can be all it takes to achieve your dreams. You create your own universe through your thoughts and actions. What will you become next year?

Our spell this week was about cleansing and charging your tools, and that is one excellent way to prepare to cut ties with the old year. However, whether you do that, spend time looking back over the past year, or decorate your space, you want to get rid of the old and set intentions for the new. What do you want to accomplish in the New Year? Let us know in the comments.



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ladybug Luck





I have a ladybug living on my desk.  I’m happy about this, of course, because ladybugs bring good luck. This belief may originate from their propensity to devour aphids and other bugs that harm plants.  Farmers love them, and who can blame them. For my money, that ladybug can eat all the other bugs he or she wants.

The ladybug made me think about the concept of luck. Some believe it is fated and nothing you do can affect how much good or bad luck you have. Others believe the amount of good luck you have is directly proportionate to how much work you do. If you’re like most people, you’re somewhere in the middle. We can influence the amount of luck we have, not only through our actions but also through our manipulation of energy through spells and connecting with the universal source, the divine.

The equinox reminds me how hard it is to maintain the balance required between our actions and our spirituality. It’s incredibly easy to become involved in the day to day of everyday life and fail to match our actions to our beliefs, and vice versa. This results in loss of contact with our spiritual selves, and we have to work that much harder to reconnect.



Friday's free spell this week was a spell for balance and harmony, which we need in order to create the reality we want. Obviously, we can’t work with the universe to create a new reality, if we aren’t in touch with it. One of the ways I like to connect to the universe is to sit outside and just enjoy the beauty of the nature around me. I’m lucky in that I still have just enough country left around my house that if everything is growing and green, and I don’t look to the left terribly closely, I can pretend I’m still surrounded by trees. It doesn’t work as well during the winter, but it’s still close enough for me to have a way to connect, informally, with the universe on a regular basis.

Connecting with deity during ritual or at a gathering is one thing, but to accomplish your goals, you need a daily, personal relationship with the universal energy or deity. Many people, myself included also use reminders of that connection such as amuletscharms, special candles, or even just having your altar visible and set up. I also make sure to cleanse my jewelry and my beads, so that when I’m making jewelry, I can feel my connection to the elements and the all.


The things that remind you of that connection will be specific to you, and sometimes you’ll find an unexpected one just by looking at the items that are important to you. When you maintain that connection and match your actions to your intentions, you create your own reality. Maintaining the balance to maintain the connection is not easy, and some days it will be extremely difficult. The important thing is working to keep that connection alive. It feeds the creation of your desired reality.


Friday, September 8, 2017

A Spell for Luck




With Mabon fast approaching, many of us are considering how we will celebrate. As for my house, we’re having a pot roast made with homegrown potatoes, carrots, and onion.  For those of you who know me, no, I did not grow these at “my” home. My thumb is unfortunately, somewhat brown, but my roommate keeps us in herbs and tomatoes. However, no matter how good he is, we just don’t have that big a garden.  This is a feast to celebrate the harvest though, so it’s only fitting to use fresh vegetables.

One element of my preparation for Mabon is to decide what type of ritual and spell we want to do for the Equinox, and get ready for that by casting a luck spell beforehand to add energy to our ritual.
As with most spells, the caster can customize the spell to individual preference. Many people simply choose to wear a talisman or charm to add to their good luck. Others want to cast a circle, call the quarters, and use formal customs. Both types work equally well. The focus, intent, and beliefs of the caster determine the effectiveness of all spells, so if something about a spell is not working for you, change it. Your ability to put everything into your spell will determine the outcome, so you want to make it good.

Not only can you draw good luck with this spell, you can also bless and anoint a good luck talisman of some sort at the same time. You will need the following:
Bowl or cauldron (we have some adorable new ones in bright colors)
Wooden Spoon

Set up your altar with small things that represent good luck to you. As you might have guessed, many of my altarpieces are triquetras of one form or another, so that’s what I use. Collect whatever says luck to you, and place it or them on the altar along with the candles, the bowl, and the oils. If you wish to bless an item, gather it within your space. Since you’re doing a blessing as well and blessing amulets, use your athame to cast a simple circle and raise energy.

Place the bowl in the center of your altar and combine your oils, pouring one at a time. Whether you want only enough of the blend for anointing your candles, and your amulet, you will use 1 tablespoon of almond oil to 1/8 tsp. each of the rose oil and the peppermint oil. If you want to save some to wear as a perfume, use 1 ounce of almond oil to 1/8 tsp. of each of the other oils As you pour each one, say

            Bless this oil that it bring its luck to me

When the oils are all in the bowl, gently swirl them together. Use your spoon to complete the blending.

Carve what type of luck you want, love, money, business, home, into the candle. Anoint your candles with the oils. As you do so say,

            Good luck and good fortune flow to me

Light the candles.

Dip your amulet into the bowl until the charm itself is covered. As you do this say,

            Bless this sign of fortune and see
            As my will, so mote it be


Slowly release the energy and your circle. Let the candles burn for at least one hour.






Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why do We?





The other day, while I was thinking about what I would write this week, I asked a friend, what he would like to see if he were new to Paganism. His answer made perfect sense.  If you’re new somewhere, what do you want to know? Why they do what they do? At that point, I thought it might be a good idea to do a periodic, “Why do We?” Let me know what you'd like to know about.
If you have never been to a ritual before, or you’re new to paganism, your first ritual can be a bit confusing, so we’ll start at the beginning, with casting the circle. The first mention of magic in connection with circles comes from the Greeks, but the first written reference to casting a circle comes from, Henry Cornelius Agrippa in 1510.
From ancient times to modern, man has worked with, and within, circles. Stonehenge, and Gobekli Tepe, a series of stone circles in Turkey, built 6,000 years prior to Stonehenge show how long we’ve found circles conducive to creating sacred space. All religions have some concept of sacred space, whether it's a temple, a church, or a synagogue, many of which are circular or have a large circular space within them. Pagans create their sacred space through the casting of the circle. This also creates a circle of protection around the participants and helps them raise power.


Most casters will have a personal variation of their own to solidify their bond to the circle, other than its circular shape, there is no one rule that applies to every circle. As a general guideline, in Wicca, the circle should be 9ft. in diameter, but the point of your circle is to create a sacred space within which you can work. The size of the circle and the elements you use to create your circle can vary depending on the size of your group, the purpose of your ritual or spell, the season, and the phase of the moon.
People cast circles in a number of different ways as well. Some use salt, stones, or some other physical item to mark the circle, while others use energy only. You will probably want to try both to see which works best for you. When you’re preparing to cast your circle, gather your tools, your altar, candles, altar cloth, chalices, athame, and boline, and bring them all inside the circle before you close it.


Tools you will need specifically for the circle will vary depending on the type of circle you plan to cast. A simple athame can be tool enough to cast your circle if you want, or you can use salt to draw your circle on the ground. Quite often, a part of generating the energy to seal the circle and to do your magical work comes from “calling the quarters.” If you choose to do this, you may choose to use small altar tables to hold candles and offerings to the elements of the quarters.

Casting your circle also involves visualization. Regardless of the method you choose to cast your circle, you need to visualize the circle of energy surrounding you. This “cone of power” is your sacred space. Within this space, you can work your magic, worship your deity, conduct initiations, and celebrate Sabbats. Here there is peace and serenity. 
What questions do you have? Please let me know, and I’ll do my best to answer them.