Friday, October 31, 2008

Samhain 2008

Last year I divided Halloween and Samhain up into separate days, with 10/31 marked as a day of creepy mirth and celebration, and 11/1 as the serious holy day. Due to time constraints, I am not doing that this year, and I think it is a good thing. That was a false dichotomy which I created last year. It may have been appropriate at the time, but no longer serves. I should know better than to try to separate the holy and the ridiculous -- I've had my spirit guides appear in matching knitted scarves, for Pete's sake!

My clothing today is oddly reminiscent of that fact. In honor of Halloween, I am wearing orange tights with black spiderweb style fishnets over them, black skirt and top, my Halloween choker.... and the pentacle I wear on all holy days. A fitting combination of the two holidays that occur today, isn't it? I'll add my witch hat later, once trick or treaters start arriving. Once the kiddies are done, I'll perform my Samhain ritual, hopefully without freezing to death on my enclosed front porch! The altar moves indoors tomorrow, so this will be my last ritual out there for six months. The wheel turns ever on and on...

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I've signed up for NaBloPoMo this year, which means that I will be trying to post here for every day in November. Since I'm going away for at least one weekend in there I'm not sure if I'll be 100% successful, but I'm going to try! If any of you know of any groups of pagan bloggers participating this year, please let me know!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Star

Thanks to my experiences at Twilight, I have now found a local shamanic drumming circle. They meet twice monthly, and I was able to attend last week. I am so glad that I did! I won't be able to make it to their next meeting, and it's very important that I keep going with this influx of spiritual energy while it's still fresh! We took two journeys, the second of which tied together a number of different journey themes from the last two weeks. It was very satisfying, and also inspiring - I met a figure who associated herself with The Star in tarot, and a quick glance at shows that to be a very positive card. It also confirms much of what I had extrapolated from what that figure told me. So that means that I have two tarot cards talking to me right now, since I picked up The Fool at the end of the major ritual at Twilight (it was singularly perfect -- I actually started laughing when I picked it up, because it was so obviously perfect). I feel like the two of them together shed a lot of light -- and a lot of hope -- on things that have been going on with me for a long time (internal issues regarding my depression), as well as more immediate concerns (job issues).

The star figure (who didn't give me a name, but said that she is a mirror of who I truly am, so I think that she is more of a psychological construction than a full fledged spirit) also told me that I would find something to help me connect with her during a trip I was taking this weekend. I was having trouble staying open and receptive while wandering around with my friends, but I did eventually figure out what the Star had in mind, and purchased something that was being sold as a "wish mirror," but which I will use simply to remind myself to remember her. It's a clear quartz which is rounded with a rough cloudy exterior, but which a flat translucent plane, like a window or a mirror. I haven't quite decided what to do with it, but I was meant to have it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Twilight 2008

Over Columbus Day weekend, I attended my very first Pagan spiritual retreat. I've been trying to process the experience as fully as possible, but it's difficult. Suffice it to say that it was an intensely meaningful weekend, whose repercutions I hope to continue feeling for a long time to come!

Allow me to start by explaining the format of the weekend. Basically, the entire time we are there is a ritual. We have an Opening Circle Friday night to get it started, and the ritual isn't over until the Closing Circle on Monday. Every day we have four attunements to keep us tuned into the flow of the ritual: one before breakfast, one at noon, one before dinner, and one at midnight. No one makes it to all of them, but they are nice. The ritual follows the path of the four elements. Saturday morning is dedicated to air (this when we are getting oriented to our clans and the weekend, so lots of communication going on). Saturday afternoon is fire (when we're building energy to get to the heart of our work). Starting Saturday night and lasting through all of Sunday is water, when we really dive in deep. On Monday we move in to earth to ground and prepare us to return home. In addition, each person is part of a clan. You rank your top four selections during the application process, but only find out which one you go into two weeks before the event. Each clan focuses on different concepts or techniques, and all of them seem fascinating. I was in Eagle clan, which focused on core shamanism.

I could not have picked a better clan! Not only was our clan work perfectly suited to my practice, but everyone in my clan was so wonderful! They really made my weekend what it was (namely, a wonderful, transformative experience).

It's incredibly difficult to write about this kind of deep spiritual work in a way that conveys the magic of the experience, let alone is interesting to read, so I don't think I'll even try, at least right now. Perhaps eventually I will try to write about some of what we did. I learned a lot over the course of that weekend: about reaching out to people, about fearing to be the fool, about stepping so far outside my comfort zone I couldn't see it with a telescope on a clear night, about the magic of community (both with people and with spirit guides).... This was the perfect way to usher in the dark half of the year.

My challenge now is to keep those lessons from slipping away, to keep the magic alive and integrate it into my regular life. It is easy to connect to spirit and magic in a secluded setting surrounded by people who share that same goal, but more difficult when faced with challenges of a job you now realize you hate and surrounded by people who, while wonderful people, are not interested in hearing about your struggles on a spiritual path. But I will integrate it into my life. I won't let the magic slip away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October 7th horoscope

I know I've plugged Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology here before, I am going to do it again. My horoscope for the coming week is so hilarious, I absolutely must share it!

CANCER (June 21-July 22): One of the most famous pop culture icons in Indonesia died last July. Mak Erot, who was over a hundred years old, was renowned for her skill in helping men develop more sizable reproductive organs. The official story was that she used nothing more than prayers and herbs, but there are hints that she also had supernatural powers. She's your patron saint this week, Cancerian, even if you're a woman. I am calling on her inspiration, and I hope you will too, to help you lengthen and strengthen your inner, metaphorical phallus, by which I mean your will to accomplish your dreams.

Interesting. I like it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Seasonal Eating

I've been wanting to write about seasonal foods for awhile, and now that it is autumn it seems like the perfect time. I love fall foods!

As a pagan, I feel that it is important to stay connected to the cycle of the seasons, the rhythm of the earth. One way of doing that is to try to eat seasonal, locally grown food. This isn't to say that I don't eat food shipped in from California, Mexico, and other locations far sunnier than my own (if I didn't, I'd probably starve to death in the winter. I admire the perseverance of the early settlers, but sometimes wonder why they didn't go farther south!). But I do try to eat locally whenever possible, and from late spring through the fall I can say that I almost all of the produce I eat is locally grown, and thus seasonally appropriate. I also try to can as much of the harvest as I can. This year we put up several jars of tomatoes, prepared enough sundried tomatoes to last the next year, and froze pesto.

I am lucky to be able to do this. I have the disposable income to spend on slightly more expensive produce, and I live in an area with an abundance of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's), which are farms from which you buy a share up front. Every week I get my share of fresh produce grown only a few miles from my home. It's hard to get more local than that! Sometimes, eating locally can be rather frustrating, for instance in the beginning of the season when you seem to be swimming in a sea of greens. Other times it has been rather illuminating, as when I received a watermelon in early September. Who knew that was when they actually ripened around here? But most of the time, it's simply delicious.

On one level, some foods just don't taste right when they're flown across the country. Have you ever eaten asparagus that's traveled across a continent? It's disgusting. And strawberries in February may be tempting, but they often have the flavor of moist cardboard (a fact which genuinely saddens me, as they have such a short growing season!)

Sometimes, when I get too busy and too distracted to even notice what is going on outside my window, it is my food that lets me know what season it really is. Earlier today I was wondering why it felt like autumn was only just starting, when we've already run through all of September. Then it hit me; we've only started getting winter squash two or three weeks ago. It didn't feel like autumn yet because it *wasn't* autumn yet. It was only the calendar making me think it was!

It's particularly nice to eat locally and seasonally around the sabbats. For Mabon this year I had a delicious delicotta squash (from our CSA!) stuffed with wild rice and a rich creamy sauce flavored with nutmeg. Magnificent! I find Samhain to be more difficult, as a vegetarian. The season really demands mat, in keeping with the themes of death. Last year I made due with fake sausages and apples (the apples were local, at least!), and likely will do so again this year.

As I said above, I know that I am privileged to be able to follow the wheel of the year in my food choices. With luck, the world will start to change soon, and more people will be able to afford to do so.