Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thinking on Imbolc

Depending on your reckoning, Imbolc either begins tomorrow (2/1) or the next day (2/2).

This is my least favorite holiday. So far as I can tell, there are two possible variations. It can be a celebration of the first stirrings of life in the cold. A lovely sentiment, but not terribly appropriate when you are in the middle of the coldest part of winter. Any sheep or cows foolish enough to give birth in this weather will not be passing on their genes in the immediate future. Alternatively, this holiday could be sacred to Brigit, Celtic goddess of poetry, smithies, and healing. She is a wonderful Lady, but not one with whom I have had the honor of working, and it seems presumptuous to pretend a relationship with her for one holiday in the year. Thus, that avenue is also closed to me.

For years, I've solved the problem by basically ignoring the holiday. I hate February, and by this point in the winter I generally hate everything else, as well. But this year is different. For the first time, I'm working a job with regular enough hours that I've been able to notice the days getting longer. It isn't pitch dark when I leave work anymore, and that seems pretty amazing! It calls for a celebration. But of course, it is still too damn cold to think about the return of life....

But I recently discovered a third way of looking at Imbolc, courtesy of Goddess in a Teapot. She suggests looking at it as a holiday of the hearth, of everyday life. And that struck a chord. I spend this time of year feeling like a prisoner of the cold, the dark, the gloom, the endless dreary brown tree trunks and dead grass.... but why not look at it as an opportunity? Yule tends to be too busy to really turn within, so that comes after the holidays are over. But now we can look outward, just a tiny bit. Not out into the big wide world, not out into bold adventures, but outwards just enough to enjoy our homes. To bake cookies. To light a fire. To attend to all the little projects that we put off until 'someday' comes. That is an Imbolc that I can celebrate. That is a holiday that I can believe in.

This year, I will be leaving for Arizona on Imbolc, which I suppose is the opposite of what I have now established as it's meaning. But what if it isn't? What if I need to go away for a bit to appreciate all that I have here? I don't know if that is the case. If not, then I can always celebrate the holiday in mid-February, when I return home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lost in the woods

It's time that I admit that I don't know what to do anymore.

I don't intend that to sound negative, or defeated, or self-pitying. Its the honest truth. I have no concrete, definite idea what to do to heal my long time depression, build a satisfying life, and find happiness. I could spend the rest of my life listing the reasons why I am in this situation (and will certainly continue to contemplate them, if only because I rather enjoy doing so), but that wouldn't fix the problem.

Where do I go from here, if I know that I don't have the answers?

I know that it is not fashionable for a pagan to "let go and let god(dess)," but sometimes that is the only way. It's time for me to stop struggling blindly and to admit that I am lost. Insisting that I am following a path when I am really wandering blindly doesn't do me (or anybody else) any favors. I am lost. When lost, you need a compass. If I sit down, let myself be still, and sink deeply into my core, I will find the answers. I know that Spirit will guide me as I travel towards myself.

In a week, I will be going to Arizona for the first time. Between now and then I hope to center myself enough that this trip can be something of a pilgrimage of the soul. The Southwest is as far from my comfort zone as I can imagine: the perfect surroundings in which to surrender myself to myself. And while the answers may be inside, sometimes different surroundings can help to illuminate them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tarot Dreams

I am eternally fascinated by the tarot. I had a Rider-Waite deck in high school, but it did not speak to me at all, and eventually I let it go. After all, I worked with the runes quite effectively, so that should be enough, right?

Yet I keep wanting to try the tarot again. The cards are so beautiful, so rich in meaning and symbol. And there are so many unique decks to choose from! I love the simplicity of the runic symbols, but the ornately cluttered details of some tarot cards fascinate me. I'm a rather cluttered person myself, after all. But to what end? I love them, but I cannot read them. I am conversant in the basic meaning of the major arcana (and I do mean *basic*), but the minor arcana baffle me.

I've looked into take a class, but they always seem to require the use of a Rider-Waite clone, and those leave me on a frozen tundra of bored incomprehension. The imagery of Rider-Waite does not speak to me.

A few years ago I picked up "The Wild Spirit" tarot. The art is lovely, but the meanings ascribed to the cards do not particularly match up with traditional tarot. Plus, the cards may be lovely, but they rarely convey much meaning to me.

Since that purchase, I have tried - unsuccessfully - to forget about the tarot. For awhile I was considering getting the major arcana only deck of the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert. Her images are rich and human, and I love her descriptions of the cards. Plus, I thought that a "majors only" deck might help me to overcome my biggest obstacle -- memorizing the meanings of so many cards! Yet I never ordered it.

Now, I find that my favorite faery artist has a deck coming out later this year. I found a page with pictures of all the cards, and they are stunning. I could gaze at those all day. I love how she plays with the traditional imagery - it seems like each card has some of the expected ideas, but she isn't afraid to play with it. But is it too non-traditional for me to learn with? I have no idea. A voice says I want!, but I know that voice does a poor job of predicting what will and will not make me happy in the long run, so I don't know what to do.

People have told me over and over again that you have to take the deck that speak to you, but I thought that my current deck would do that, and instead it leaves me flat. Tarot decks are expensive, and I would prefer not to make that mistake again. Plus, I am still in the middle of a project whereby I am working my way through the runes, in depth. Wouldn't it behoove me not to split my focus that way?

And most of all, why does such a simple question torture me so much?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I've been feeling less than spiritually connected of late. I find myself wallowing in the quagmire of my own neuroses, accumulating a thick layer of psychic sludge. Of course, there's only one way to deal with that - a good bath.

I have developed a bit of a ritual around my occasional bathes, such that they follow a very specific progression. First, I bring in a solitary candle (any candle will do). Then I set up my iPod and speakers, and begin my carefully selected Goddess Bath playlist. I set the water to running (very hot), pour in some sea salt and several drops each of lavender and peppermint essential oils (my signature cleansing blend). Then I settle into the slowing filling bath, and let the healing begin.

It's like coming home after a long journey. The music keeps me from getting restless, and I just soak in the glorious water, letting the salt dissolve whatever negativity is clinging to me, while the oils cleanse my spirit.

When I emerge, I feel like I have achieved some sort of mystical at-one-ment with the universe. I am calm and centered, loving and at peace. Unfortunately, this state is at odds with the world around me, and so encountering other people (aka, my husband) can be very jarring. I'm still working on that problem ;-)

Tonight, after coming out, I decided to consult my deck. I was shuffling the cards when my hand touched one that just felt right, so I flipped it over. It was the ten of water, subtitled "Calm." I don't know much about tarot (except that my deck is not very traditional), but this just seemed so fitting. The picture shows a man in a white robe sitting in a field, incense in one hand and feather in the other. A heron stands beside him, and in the foreground a small bird perches on a branch.

I hope that I can hold that kind of space within myself in the days to come.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Phantom of the Opera

To me, the most interesting part of Phantom of the Opera is Christine's choice between Erik (the Phantom) and Raoul. Erik is dark, passionate, seductive, and has the sexiest song in musical history ("Music of the Night"). Raoul is kind, protective, supportive, and safe. Erik is also the model of an abusive lover, while Raoul is (let's be honest) rather lacking a personality.

It's a choice between night (Erik) and day (Raoul). Christine can have one, but not both. She must make a choice.

But isn't it a false choice? Day and night are opposite sides of the same coin. One can not exist without the other, and no one can chose to live entirely in light or entirely in shadow, no matter what they may think that they want.

In "The Music of the Night," Erik sings
"Close your eyes
For your eyes will only tell the truth
And the truth isn't what you want to see
In the dark, it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be"

Who hasn't felt that way? Sometimes, the truth really *isn't* what it ought to be. And while you always have to open your eyes eventually, sometimes you do need to pretend, for a bit. But there is something bigger in these lines. Sometimes what is literally true and what is metaphorically true don't line up. In the day, you have to face the literal truth. But at night.... well, "in the dark, it is easy to pretend that the truth is what it ought to be."

But just as the literal must make way to the metaphorical, so must the night make way again for the day. Raoul sings
"Let me be your freedom
Let daylight dry your tears
I’m here, with you and beside you
To guard you and to guide you."

The dark passion of the night can be it's own prison, and daylight can then mean liberation. Just as darkness was liberation from "the cold, unfeeling light" (also from Music of the Night), now Christine wants "freedom, a world with no more night." But she won't always. Someday she will find herself wanting the freedom of the night.

Day and night, light and dark: both are prisons without the welcome realize of their opposite. Christine's choice is so difficult to comprehend because it isn't a choice which anyone can be expected to make. It would be as if you were asked to pick between food and water -- at different times, you need both.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Daily Practice 1

Approximately a year ago, I resolved to begin a daily devotional practice. I didn't know what to expect or whether I would manage to keep it up. I don't generally consider concentration and consistency to be among my strongest qualities. However, this was something I felt was important. A daily practice might provide a foundation upon which to build a stronger spiritual life, and I know that is something which I need. I decided to make it a morning practice, since that is the most consistent part of my day, routine-wise.

Surprise of surprises, I have maintained that morning practice until this very day. It has grown and changed somewhat since then, but the heart has remained the same.

First, I put a drop of rose essential oil into a shell that I found on the beach during my honeymoon. I recite the following (what began as free-form speech has become my one piece of liturgy!):

Freya, I give you thanks
For love and life
Truth and beauty
Passion and magic

Ideally, I then give thanks for specific things as the spirit moves me, but some days I am just not feeling grateful and so I leave it at that.

Next, I take up the cowrie shell rattle in my right hand and the quartz crystal in my left hand, and rattle while I perform a short wordless chant, two times through. If I go through it more than twice, I start slipping into trance, and I don't want that!

I pick up the prayer bead bracelet that lies on my pentacle, and give thanks to two of my spirit friends. On each bead I silently repeat an affirmation, which changes based on need. Then I put the bracelet on my wrist, to remind me of Spirit throughout the day.

I definitely see a difference when I forget to do this. It's as if I go through the day at a 20 degree angle -- not so far off that I can't function, but more than enough to throw me off balance! That said, this practice has not caused any monumental changes. Some days I am just going through the motions, and don't feel any connection at all. I almost never remember to look down at the bracelet on my left wrist during the day to remember what it signifies. But I would like to think that it still helps keep me more centered than I otherwise would be.

Ideally I would like to add more routines into my day, more times to remember and reconnect with the sacred, but there's no rush. If I did it once, I can surely do it again.

Friday, January 4, 2008

101 in 1001

I have jumped on the "101 Things in 1001 Days" bandwagon. I won't be posting about that here (except when I am working towards goals that are relevant), but it has gotten me thinking about setting intentions.

I think that at this point we all have heard about "setting your intentions", and how the universe will respond. And isn't that partly what this project is about? Setting down your goals in black and white (or 1's and 0's) forces you to work out exactly what is most important, to visualize it to some extent. Exactly the same things that we are supposed to do in spellwork. I find it interesting that writing out your goals is sensible advice, while spellwork, which can be essentially the same thing (depending on your style), is a taboo practice that marks us as irrational, somehow. If magic is causing change in accordance with will* (one popular definition I have heard), then how is that different from anything else we do? Aren't we always trying to influence events in our favor by our actions? It's something to think about.

I may do a spell this week-end to support my 101 goals. If so, I will try to share it with you.

*I think there is more to it than that, but it is still useful as a starting point, if nothing else

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spirit creeping in

It's interesting, the way that spirit creeps into my life. It started with my taking lunch down by the river, and communing with an aspect of the Goddess. It got to the point where I couldn't go down there without Her demanding my attention, at least for a minute. Now that it's too cold to eat outside, I just take a walk around the area where I work, and the Wild God has claimed that time for his own. Not that I mine it -- His presence is a breath of fresh air in the middle of the workday! But now I am almost unable to take a walk alone without connecting to Spirit in some way. I didn't consciously choose this -- it's just slowly crept up on me. That's ok though. I never would have been able to stick to such a resolution if I had, and I'm glad of this development. Being with Them is always a blessing.