Thursday, November 29, 2007

Silence Between Breathes

This is the quiet time. The dark time. The empty time of waiting that must come before I can be refilled. My soul screams for respite and solitude while my mind shudders at the thought of isolation in this desolate season. The Outside World demands that I work full throttle to finish this semester, but my being rebels. This is the season of Isa, rune of stillness. Rune of silence. Rune of the cold center where we must go to rest. I am tantalized by the promise of it's embrace. I need to be emptied so that I can be replenished with something far more nourishing. I need to stop long enough to be remade in my own image.

There are several passages from Seasons of the Witch which call to me at this moment. All of them are too long to type out here, but I will type one of them out anyway.

In the center of every forest is a well of sweet water. By the time you reach it, you will be desperate with thirst. You will have been walking through the day and into the night, and the woods will have been growing darker around you, and you will have seen no water at all.

And then, a clearing lit by silver light.

You do not see her standing in the shadows. You cup your shaking hands and dip into the well. But a bony hand grasps yours.

Shaken with surprise, you look up.

She is veiled. From beneath the veil she speaks. Her voice is full of the mystery of endings. She asks what you want.

Water, you begin to say.

Then your heart is flooded with memory and need. You remember losses and pain, driven days when you burned with yearning, bleak hopelessness of abandoned dreams. Your parched throat will not let you speak. And there is not time enough to answer, for what you desire has become immeasurably and inexpressibly vast.

She is waiting.

You stand worldless before her.

She opens her arms to you, and suddenly she is all that you desire: arms to hold you, a breast to weep upon, a murmuring voice to sing in your ear, a softness that is more comforting than you have ever known.

She is sweet water in the dark forest. She is abandoned reams restored. She is all the world at once,, and all the time you need.

After reading that the other day, I was moved to write the following:

Isa is the answer that comes when you stop asking the question. Only when you have ceased your restless searching can she come to you, in the stillness of waiting without expectation. Only when you can sit with What Is can What Will Be reveal itself to you, in all of her splendor, in all of her glory.

Not as powerful as the inspiration, but that is what I pray for with every breath right now. The strength to sit without expectation, knowing that the truth and beauty will be revealed.

Now is the time of the silence between breathes. May I learn to sit here patiently.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shopping Pilgrimage

Since it was a holiday week-end, I decided to take a day off to relax and go visit my local area-of-many-witchy-stores. It only takes me an hour to get there, but I hadn't been in more than a year.

In addition to the little spell candles I was looking for (you know the ones -- they're less than an inch thick, come in every color of the rainbow, and burn down quickly) I found two books. I tend to be overly picky about pagan books, as there is so much shallow garbage out there, so I was a bit surprised to find two books that called to me. One is The Heart of Wicca, which I've heard good things about. While I don't identify as Wiccan, I am certainly Wicca-derived, and it should be very interesting to read a treatise on the deeper aspects of that path.

The other - and far more surprising - book is Seasons of the Witch by Patricia Monaghan. I first picked it up hoping for something about the wheel of the year, and found a volume of poetry oriented to the turning seasons. I was wary at first, but the poetry is good. I mean really, actually, truly good. I'm still amazed by that, which I find sort of sad. I mean, pagans are a talented, creative bunch; why I am so surprised to find a really good book of Goddess poetry? Is it that the loudest, most visible pagans also tend to be the least well-developed, and thus produce half-baked work, while those who allow their craft to mature and develop tend to keep to themselves more? That's the most likely explanation that I can think of.

I strive to someday contribute to the body of work produced by the latter group. I can only hope that I will be as successful!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Where's a ritual when you need one?

I need a ritual. Since the pagan internet is so very huge, you wouldn't think this would be a problem. Why, we must have a ritual for anything!

Except we don't. If you want to celebrate a Sabbat, any phase of the moon, a birth, death, or wedding, then you're all set. There are thousands of those to be had. But what if you need to mark a transition in your life, need to do something ritually to commemorate what is happening, but the occasion isn't one of the Major Ritual Occasions? It's time for some pagan ingenuity!

I seem to be lacking in that department right now.

In less than a month, I will finish graduate school. In less than a month I will be transitioning into the adult world of full time employment (or at least looking for such). And I am, in a word, terrified. Soul-numbingly afraid. I need to *do* something with this. I don't want a spell -- I feel this way for a reason, and I'm going to need to work through it -- but I do need to mark this is some way, ease my transition..... reassure myself that this is not, in fact, a tragic catastrophe (please don't ask why I feel that way, as I'm not sure myself).

I can't be the first person to need such a ritual. And while I never use one that someone else has written, I would like to see what others have done, to provide some much needed inspiration. I guess I'll have to keep looking.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I'll be having the obligatory family dinner, though I can't say I am looking forward to it. This is one holiday I've never been able to get into, and it hasn't improved since I stopped eating meat. Plus, I'm hypoglycemic, which means that I need to eat small frequent meals with a good mix of carbs, fats, and protein - the exact opposite of Thanksgiving without the turkey. So I'll feel like crap withint an hour of finishing the meal.

Aside from the dietary problems, I just feel like it's the wrong time for this. The real harvest was at Mabon -- there's not a whole lot still growing right now. And in my little self-made tradition the time between Samhain and Yule is dead time, neither part of the old year nor of the year to come. That doesn't exactly lend itself to a celebratory feeling.

Sorry for whining. I'm in a bit of a crummy mood, but I'll try to have actual content next time ;-) But for everyone who likes the holiday, happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Altar moved

I finally brought my altar inside this evening. I will probably be bringing in more bits and pieces for a few weeks, but at least I've got the essentials taken care of.

It's nice to have the altar where I can see it more frequently. It is now in the same room as my computer and all of my craft supplies, so I'll have far more opportunities to see it and be reminded of Spirit. I'm glad of that. Of course, in a few months I won't ever be home during the day again, but that's a subject for another day.

I had a really wonderful week-end, so I'm going to try to focus on the happy vibes, and maybe ignore my worries for a little while. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Altar problems

When I moved into my current apartment in May, the enclosed front porch seemed like the perfect location for my altar. It was out of the way, had a beautiful view of the moon most nights, and let me feel more connected to nature than if I were entirely inside. Since the windows faced east, the morning sun would keep it warm enough that, with a warm coat or robe of some sort, I would be able to keep up my daily practice through the winter. Such a nice theory.... The reality is that it is only mid-November and I already can't spend more than five minutes out there before my fingers start to get too stiff and cold to move.

This leaves me with a bit of a problem. I can bring the altar inside, but there really isn't anywhere convenient to put it. I might be able to find space in the dining room, but that's hardly out of the way, and I'd worry that my pet rat would wreak havoc on it when I let him out to frolic. Plus, I would have to move the altar when my parents came over (My mother is alright with my path, but my father and I have only achieved peace by carefully avoiding the subject). The bedroom might be a possibility, but that would require a lot of rearranging.

I could just set up a small shrine indoors for me to do my daily activities, and then do full rituals on the porch. This would mean remembering to move all of the appropriate tools outside with me whenever I did ritual. Since I have enough trouble remembering to bring out the rose oil that I use (it was solidifying in this cold), I somehow doubt that I will have an easier time with additional tools. Plus, I'd really miss working at my altar every day.

I'm leaning towards bringing the whole thing inside. I could even make the biannual altar moving a part of my seasonal transitions... take it in after Samhain, and back out again at the vernal equinox, perhaps. I'm just a bit irritated, as I really like my current set up. Ah well. The weather doesn't really care what I want, nor should it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Group ritual: the verdict

After all of my angst, the ritual was wonderful. It was apparently a smaller group than is usually present, but that's fine by me. I don't do well in large groups anyway, so this was a lovely introduction to their ritual practices.

The ritual style was very participatory, which I like. For instance, I tend to be put off by lengthy, scripted invocations of the elements, so I really appreciated their "speak and gesture as the spirit moves you" approach. And there was free-form chanting/singing with percussion. Which happens to be a critical part of my personal practice. Joy!

Not only was the ritual very much in line with my personal practice, but the people themselves seemed very nice. There didn't seem to be any of the ego trips or other unpleasant social dynamics that I was afraid of. And it didn't feel like an episode of "You Had to Be There", either, which is something that I've experienced in my past forays into the world of Other Pagans.

I'm probably not being entirely coherent, but suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time, and will definitely be returning next month!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Group ritual, at long last

I'm actually going to a group ritual tonight.

This is a big deal for me. Since college, my tentative forays into the land of pagan groups have been unsuccessful and few. One problem is that I actually prefer celebrating the full moons and most Sabbats by myself. Another is that I have about 68,000 pagan pet peeves, which means that it's unlikely that any group will live up to my exacting standards (I'm not proud of this, but I have to accept that it's true before I can try to change my perceptions). Plus, I'm terribly shy, a bit of a homebody, and afraid of being rejected by the local pagans (it only happened once, but I seem to have been more burned by the experience than I thought). But the truth is, I'm lonely.

I found out about this particular group in June. I was very excited because I've always been a fan of the Reclaiming tradition, and didn't know there were any such groups on the east coast. Plus, they meet on the new moon, which is a time which I only celebrate intermittently, so it won't mean missing out on the ritual that *I* want to do. I really wanted to go, but it seemed like every celebration fell on a day that was physically impossible for me; my parents were coming up, or my friends were visiting from far away, or I had a major paper due the next day.... And I'm sure that I also missed a few on the grounds that I was too tired/stressed/busy/nervous/pick-you-own-excuse. When the e-mail for this months ritual came around, I decided to bite the bullet and go. I'll never actually want to put myself in a situation where I'm surrounded by strangers, so I need to stop waiting for the perfect moment and just do it. And thus I shall.

I pray to the Gods that I am able to keep an open mind tonight, and maybe find some of the community I've been longing for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Free Will Astrology

I'm not normally a big believer in horoscopes (I enjoy astrology, but find the idea that my month/week/day will be identical to everyone else with my sun sign a bit far fetched). This does not stop me from loving Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology, however. His weekly horoscopes are part poetry, part inspiration, and only part prediction.

For instance, this is what just arrived in my in-box:

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Though Wales is at the same latitude as Siberia, it's free of frigid tundra. Still, its climate isn't exactly balmy. Cool, cloudy, damp days are common. That's why Welsh horticulturalists cheered with shocked exultation last summer, when three outdoor banana plants produced fruit at the National Botanical Garden. It was an unprecedented miracle. I predict a comparable development for you, Cancerian. A source that has never been more than lukewarm will get downright tropical. An influence that has been inhospitable to your passion will become fertile and welcoming. As a result, you will bloom in a way you never have before.

If you ignore the implications of global warming, that horoscope is downright inspiring. I can only hope that it holds a kernel of truth for the coming week. I had a completely unexpectedly wonderful day at work today, so it's certainly getting off on the right foot!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Samhain Altar

Unfortunately, none of the photos I took immediately after the ritual came out, so this actually the altar as it looked this morning. All that's missing is my chalice (in the kitchen to be washed) and the offerings dish (already taken outside). I intend to post pictures of my altar is its regular state eventually, so I will limit myself to discussing those aspects of the layout that were unique to this Sabbat.

The small string of beads with skeletons at the ends which is hanging off of the left side of the wooden stand in the back represents my link to my ancestors, and was made for Samhain 2006. Propped up against that same wooden object is a card depicting Persephone. I don't work with Persephone officially, but I have been drawn to her from time to time, and I thought that picture eloquently summed up the emotions behind this Sabbat. Particularly the darkness which I am experiencing this year.... My usual white candles have been replaced by black.

This little display was on the left side of my altar. The antler, which always sits there, was a gift from a friend. It was particularly appropriate for this ritual, as I met the Wild God in my journey (more on that later). The stone skull was purchased in Salem last year, while I collected the squirrel paw, sparrow skull, and sparrow claws this past winter. Yes, I got them myself, from road kill. Since I am a vegetarian, this was particularly difficult for me to do, but I thought it important that I gather them myself, and deal with the death first hand. I wanted the squirrel skull, too, but that was a bit too much for me.

The ritual itself was very healing. I've been struggling with a recurrence of depression lately, and I was able to make peace with that part of myself. At least temporarily, I found myself able to see the role it has served in my life, the gifts it has brought me, and the way it has led me to the path I am currently walking. That peace didn't really last, but I know that I have the seed within me.

As for meeting the Wild God.... My practice has become rather goddess-centric in the last few years, and I was getting hints that Someone would be showing up soon to fix this imbalance of mine. I was open to the experience, so I waited patiently. During the full moon a week or so ago, I was scrying with my quartz ball and saw an animal (could have been a fox, a coyote, or even a deer), and immediately thought "the Wild God". So I wasn't entirely surprised to encounter a greenman with antlers when I did my shamanic style journeying on Samhain. I know what he wants from me now, and that I will be working with him extensively in the future.