Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yuletide is here!

With Thanksgiving (US edition) past, it is now officially the Winter Holiday Season (tm). I'm lucky, in that I've never had any real trouble reconciling my celebration of the winter solstice with family Christmas. It helps that my family has never had a religious Christmas and that most secular yuletide traditions are either pagan-based themselves or interface nicely with my spiritual leanings. Evergreen trees, stars, gift giving, eggnog, candles and cookies can all be nicely pagan without raising the eyebrows of more conservative family members!

It also helps that my husband and I have started hosting Christmas (which I am attempting to rename Yule, as no one present is celebrating the birth of Christ), which means that I am in complete control of the setting. I have the opposite challenge from most Neopagans -- my main struggle is not to break away from Christian traditions, but to be able to insert spirituality into the proceedings at all! I would never do any overt, if for no other reason than because it would be disrespectful of my guests, but I do like to make sure that everything is in line with my personal take on the season. For instance, my decorating focuses on greenery and candles/lights, and there will never be an angel topping my tree. In fact, I don't think there are any angels on my tree at all. I am not 100% sure about that, though. Almost all of my ornaments were gifts from family and friends, and thus serve the purpose of reminding me of my loved ones, so I don't particularly care what they are -- for me it's the memories attached to ornaments, not the ornaments themselves, which is most important.

I'm curious how other people merge Christmas and the Solstice? Or do you keep them entirely separate?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stocking up for Winter

There's something very appropriate about stocking up for winter right now. Our first wintr share pickup was two weekends ago, so we have a ton of root vegetables right now. They'll last for a long time, of course, but not forever (especcially since we don't have a root cellar or anything like one). We spent most of today preparing things to freeze, such as roasted butternut squash, some pasta sauce (also made from butternut), rue for soup/stew, and pizza dough (to made pizza using the roasted squash -- we had a lot of squash!). In two weeks, we'll get another share. It's amazing!

Since I'm now unemployed, I'm looking forward to spending more time in the kitchen. I'm planning on making all of our bread and trying my hand at both crackers and tortillas. This seems like the right season to be spending lots of time preparing food, stocking up for winter. It's sort of counterintuitive, since summer is when there is tons of food available and you have to work hard to preserve it, but the early winter and late autumn are the time for puttering in the kitchen. Does that makes sense?


I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my post about centering earlier this week. I can't believe that I hadn't thought to try various breath control methods! When I took voice lesson last spring the instructor had us try breathing in for 4, hold for 4, then out for 8. It's quite centering, really.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday shamanic circle

Through my experience at Twilight, I have become involved with a shamanic drumming circle in my area. Thankfully they decided to host a circle today, despite the holiday weekend. Yay! I woke up feeling decidedly cranky, and was not in a great mood for the majority of the day, so I almost decided not to attend. I'm very glad that I dragged myself out, though. I knew I would be. Getting out and journeying with people -- not to mention the drumming and rattling and dancing -- is a wonderful energy boost. And my two journeys, while brief and not very intense, were at least informative and helpful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Group Cleanse 2008

I mixed up some sun water when I got up this morning (several drops of orange essential oil, plus a couple of drops each of lemon, rosemary, and geranium and two tiny amber beads in a small spritzer of water) and set it in my southernmost window to absorb the energy of the sun while I was out today. This was for use later in the cleansing I did as part of Sacred Susie's group cleanse for this new moon.

I started by turning off all of the lights and then setting a single lit candle in each room. After grounding and calling on the spirits I went through my apartment counterclockwise with a sage stick while chanting/singing* in order to get the stagnant old energy out. I made sure to get the smoke into all of the nooks and crannies and to linger in any spots that felt particularly stagnant, and I relit the sage at each of the candles. Many spots throughout the apartment did need extra attention. When I was done, I danced with the lit sage stick, watching the smoke billow around me in a rather serpentine fashion. Next, I went through clockwise, spraying sun water everywhere to fill the space with the power, energy, and joy of the sun. There was chanting in this round, too, but I'm not sure that I found the best possible chant and thus have not bothered to include it. I made sure to get all of the windows, so that only good energy can get in. Lastly, I went around (still clockwise) with my rattle to seal the energy in. No chanting this time.

I think I may make this my new tradition for the new moon. Who couldn't use a monthly cleansing?

*Watch it burn
Watch it burn and let it go
The fire frees us
Frees our soul

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

US Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so I have spent this entire evening baking pies to bring to the family gathering (one pumpkin, one apple, one carmelized pear, if you were wondering). Generally, Thanksgiving is my least favorite required holiday (as explained in last year's post), but this year I'm not minding it so much. I couldn't tell you what has changed, but it seems more appropriate this year. Could it be the new moon? The fact that today was my last day at this job? The fact that I really like pear pie? I just know that it feels right to get together for a big dinner, and maybe even give thanks. I have an awful lot to be grateful for, after all: a wonderful husband, accepting friends, the health of those I care about, a burgeoning spiritual practice.... the list goes on.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It's amazing what a huge impact small actions can have, yet how easy it is to forget to do them! I know I've said that many times here, but it's something which I seem to rediscover again and again. I just spent five minutes chanting at my altar, and I feel so much more centered. In just five minutes! I've realized that singing/chanting is the single most effective way for me to center (possibly the only effective way for me to center, actually). On one hand, it is nice to know how I can center, since that isn't my strongest skill. On the other hand, it is not practical to sing or chant when I need to center myself in public! Does anybody have any suggestions how else I might be able to center myself, which might be more, shall we say, portable?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Listening to the Body

I was just thinking that I must be slipping into another depression -- I've been tired and listless and haven't been keeping up with any of my interests. But that's not actually the most likely explanation. I'm sick! I think I've been fighting this off for at least two weeks, maybe longer.

I've been trying to do some work with learning to listen to my body more. The original intention was to help me to cope better in our diet culture, but the lessons of Bear (the totem who has shown up to help me in this work) extend to other things as well. For instance, learning to realize that just because I'm not sick does not mean that I am healthy. Or learning how to tell the difference between real limitations which I need to respect, and limitations which I have created and which I would do well to push through. There is really very little that we do that isn't rooted in the body, whether we acknowledge it or not, so this work is much more far reaching than I initially realized. I suspect that I listen to my body far more than most people, who seem to view the body as something to conquer, yet I am slowly seeing that I am not nearly as adept as I could be. If I was, I would eat fewer baked goods, spend more time singing, use more aromatherapy, and spend more time crafting (and yes, I think that everything on that list is something my body wants).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good night.

Due to either an incipient cold or exposure to kitty allergens, I am not feeling terribly well this evening. Thus, I think that I will avail myself of the magic of hot chocolate, and get some rest.

I apologize for the insubstantial nature of this blog post, and hope to have something more interesting to say tomorrow!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It is something of a truism that magic will only work when you take appropriate actions mundanely, as well. Considering how much better I feel now that one of the two major sources of last week's panic are taken care of, I have to say that it is a truism for good reason. Now as soon as I make it to the post office I should be feeling free as a bird! Then, perhaps one more good cleansing will get me back to rights.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter woes

It is so cold outside the my eyes go numb in the wind as as I ride my bicycle, and I can no longer deny that it is winter. This fact does not please me. I love Yule, I love snow, I love hot chocolate on a cold day.... but I do not love winter. The long season of dead trees and bare ground, of shivering through the warmest coats and breathing heat dried air all day seems to get longer and harder every year. I love the crispness, the brightness of ice and winter skies, but they pale in comparison to the dull weight of the season. I want to find the wisdom and magic of this season, but I can't seem to feel it.

I turned to Seasons of the Witch by Patricia Monaghan to find some insight on the season. I found the chapter on winter ("To the Mountains of the Hag") to be filled with lovely poems and imagery... wonderful reflections on the nature of the cold months... but nothing which really spoke to me, or lightened my oppressive dread of the coming winter. Perhaps we just aren't far enough into it yet. I mean, it's quite cold out, but we don't have that frosty nip in the air that truly signals wintertime. And we haven't had any snow yet where I am, either. So maybe I should give it time, and get back to Patricia Monaghan later.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The energy is right.....

I just glanced over at my calendar and realized that the new moon for November falls on American Thanksgiving this year. Neat! Coincidentally, the previous day will have been my last day at my job. I could not have planned this better if I tried! I'm glad that I realized this now, so I'll have some time to think about how best to utilize this energy. We'll be visiting family, but I may be able to get away for a while and do an outdoor ritual/spellwork depending on the weather. Of course, relying on pleasant weather during the end of November in New England is not a wise idea, so I will want to come up with some alternate plans.


Last night's spellwork does not seem to have protected me from another crappy day. However, one good thing did happen today - I got positive feedback on my first sale on etsy! Yay! And I made progress on one of the Major Problems that had come up. I think that this means that I need to keep repeating the cleansing stuff, but that it is chipping away at the muck.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Luck cleansing

As you may remember from yesterday's post, I wanted to do a bit of magic to deal with a run of murky luck I've been having. I'm glad that I took the time to think it over today, rather than rushing into spellwork last night. Things went much better for having had that time to mull it over.

Simplicity being the soul of effective magic, I decided not to do anything fancy. Instead, I combined a number of techniques which I have utilized to good affect in the past. I started with a nice hot shower and my favorite scrub: sea salt, just enough oil (usually grapeseed) to moisten it, and essential oils of choice. My favorite cleansing blend is lavender plus peppermint, but today I added rosemary to the mix. I put in a great deal in order to get a very strong fragrance. This combination is fantastic for doing an energetic cleansing. Muck is no match for this stuff!

After the shower I moved straight to my altar, where I used a technique which I seem to have developed, though I no longer remember when I first started doing this, or where the idea came from. I just start singing a wordless chant that seems to somehow channel my feelings, and wait for it to change. Sometimes it takes awhile to settle into a tune, but today I found one on the first try. Instead of waiting for it change though, I spontaneously stopped at the point that felt right and said a few words (something along the lines of "The past is in the past. From this moment forth I carry forward only positive energy. I leave behind negativity, ill-will, and malaise. I am filled with positive, clean energy"). Then I started up the chant I sing every morning to center myself.

I don't feel markedly different, but I do feel somewhat cleaner, energetically speaking. I may need to repeat this a few more times in the coming week in order to effect a real change, but that's ok. I think that ongoing magic is more effective most of the time anyway, because it makes me return my focus to the same thing multiple times. Though I will use a lighter touch with the essential oils in the future --I have an all over tingling feeling that suggests that I may have overdone it. I just hope I don't break out in a full body rash or something!

I also took out my White Light oil from Twilight Alchemy Lab. I'll put that on in the morning to try to keep the cleansing energy going through my workday. I generally prefer to make things myself, but that stuff really works!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bad luck

This week sucks. I'm not comfortable revealing all of the details on a public forum such as this, but in the past four days I have gotten my first speeding ticket and been told that I am very overdue paying a bill for which I never received a bill of any sort. And I had a really bad day at work today. None of this is likely to be terribly dire, but I am feeling the need to do some sort of spell work to banish this crap. I probably ought to do it tonight, but I am tired and cranky and really ought to try to be in bed right now.

My current rough outline is to use rosemary or clove essential oil and some singing to do the banishing (either tonight or tomorrow), and then try to invoke some better luck at the next full moon. I'll post details once I've done the spell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why you should always follow through on promises made to a deity

When you make a promise to a deity, it is important to follow through on it. Likewise if you take a temporary geas upon yourself to bond with a deity, it is very important not to break it. This is basic stuff; anybody who's ever read the Brothers Grimm or a single myth from any culture could tell you as much. Which just goes to prove that I am a massive idiot.

One of my yearly traditions is to give something up for the time between Samhain and Yule. I've found that giving up some food item is usually the most effective for me. The idea is that every time I unable to eat whatever tasty treat, I remember my connection to spirit, and thus to my patron goddess, Freya. It can be difficult to find something that I eat enough of to be effective for this, but which I can reasonably give up nearly two months. This year I gave up mass-produced sweets. This means that I can eat desserts which are homemade by myself or friends, or which I know were made by the people I am purchasing from (thus locally made ice cream and hot chocolate are safe), but nothing else. So far I have already broken this vow three times. The first time was an honest mistake, though still stupid. The second two times, however, I knew exactly what I was doing. I tried to make excuses for myself, but I knew that what I was doing was breaking the temporary geas.

Not surprisingly, Freya is strongly displeased with me. To make it up to her, I have been asked to take a second geas on myself. Since both of the times I broke the vow consciously were related to chocolate, I am now limited to only eating chocolate items which I have personally baked myself. No locally made hot chocolate. No cookies baked by friends.

Since I have a major sweet tooth and am a known chocoholic, this next month will be interesting.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Too many books, too little time

I'm thinking of starting to read more academic texts on paganism again. I used to be really into that -- I loved Drawing Down the Moon and Witching Culture, for instance. The friend I was staying with this weekend has an impressive collection of anthropological/sociological texts on the modern pagan movement, and it's rather inspiring. I've been meaning to finish reading Triumph of the Moon for ages, but right now I want to try Her Hidden Children. Since I'm an American pagan, I find studies of our brand of paganism slightly more interesting than studies of British witchcraft, even though they share common roots. I do intent to finish Triumph of the Moon eventually, though. Really! I was also enamoured of her copy of The Paganism Reader, which is a collection of excerpts from a variety of texts that have been important to the pagan movement. It looked fascinating.

And then there are the non-academic books I want to read! I just read a review of a new book about the elder futhark runes which sounds fantastic (Runes for Transformation - I found the review here), and I heard that Dianna Paxson has a new book out on trance states, Trance-portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World, which also sounds interesting, though I haven't taken a close look at it yet. The Amazon blurb makes it sound like it might be taking a lighter attitude toward the topic than I would prefer, but you can't judge a book by its Amazon blurb! Or by the back of the book blurb, for that matter. So it still warrants a closer look.

With the holidays coming, I may find myself asking for some very strange books this year!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Well, Jon Stewart was, in fact, awesome. It was less of a talk and more of a stand up comedy performance, which is just fine by me. He managed to make fun of the college's new mascot (which I am not so fond of either -- a bright pink pig in a tri-corner hat would never have happened in *my* day!), as well as cover gay marriage, what he will miss about Bush, why Obama will be a good president, the stress of parenting, and why computers will not save us, all the while keeping us in stitches. It was weird to be on my old campus again. It's just not the same place as when I was a student, because it doesn't belong to me anymore. What I miss is bound up in the people and shared experiences, which just aren't there anymore. When I visit campus it's like seeing the empty shell of what I miss. It's sad, but you really can't go home. I did see a few friends at the alumni reception beforehand, which was nice.

Now I am staying with one of my pagan friends from college, which is wonderful. It's fun to be able to share books (she has a TON of academic texts on paganism) and music (I brought my new chant CD along). I miss having other pagans nearby to chat with about spirituality. Email just isn't the same as a lively discussion in the same room.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I am leaving now to hear Jon Stewart talk at my alma mater. Yay!

Expect a more substantial post tomorrow (possibly about spirituality, but probably about Jon Stewart. If we're really lucky, I'll manage to combine the two)

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Today has been a decidedly non-spiritual day. After a rather long and crummy work day I got home and wasted the entire evening on the internet. I'm going to go try to turn my shower into a cleansing ritual, and then either go to bed, or watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I'm getting it via Netflix. It's so amusing to see again after so long!)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quartz = Moon

With a little lunar oil, it really is amazingly how well a clear quartz ball can impersonate the moon. It's sad that I can't see the full moon from my indoor ritual area -- I love the view during the warm months -- but my crystal ball does make an excellent ritual stand in. Now I just need to figure out why it wouldn't stay balanced in the shell I use as a holder. It always balanced perfectly well before.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Magic of Alanis Morissette

The simple rituals are always the best, really. I just finished dancing my heart out to emotionally charged music (Alanis Morissette's "Incomplete" and "You Learn"; Jewel's "Goodbye Alice in Wonderland") in a candle lit living room, with my totems in attendance. Of course I sang along, too. Why do I always forget how wonderful that simple magic is? I feel so much better.

I remembered the joy of singing while I was making dinner and listening to Alanis Morissette (yes, this influenced my musical choices for the evening). I really do believe that singing is the most effective way for me personally to move energy. I have little formal training in voice, but I love to sing, and I do it with love and conviction. Life is better when I sing, whether while cooking, in ritual, walking down the street or sitting down to formally practice a song. This is coming as a revelation tonight, though I think I've been aware of it for years. Maybe it's sinking in on a deeper level.

While collapsed on a chair after dancing, I realized something else, too. Squirrels are always darting around from one thing to another. They have the collective attention spans of... well, of squirrels. But they manage to get enough done to make it through the winter. I may feel like I don't stick to anything long enough to make a difference either, but I do manage to get things done in the end. It just may take me a bit longer, since I cycle through so many projects/obsessions.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hard to be flashy

It's really hard to do try to do something actively spiritual every day in order to write about it. I got off to a very enthusiastic start, but that pace is proving to be more than I can maintain. That isn't to say that I'm not doing anything spiritual: yesterday I contacted a spirit animal to help me with an issue I've been struggling with for years (I felt odd putting out a spiritual help wanted like that, but it seems to have gone well -- but that's not far along yet for me to say much about) and today I made a bracelet to help me connect with an existing totem. So it's not as if I'm sitting idle. It's just difficult to come up with something flashy right now. I've been pretty emotionally tired -- not sure why. Maybe because I'm working extra hours at my job until I leave? It's still part time though, so I really don't know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Greeting the sun

Since today was so gorgeous, I decided to try working with the sun a bit. I work with the moon fairly as an entity fairly often, so i don't know why it never occurred to me to do the same with the sun. Perhaps it's because I feel more aligned with the domain of the moon: intuition, feeling, oceans. But that's really a false dichotomy isn't it? I live more in the light of the sun than the moon. Distancing myself from that energy is just foolish.

Has anyone else ever realized that they were creating a false dichotomy which was holding them back? I'd be curious to hear about it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pondering the nature of totems

I've been thinking about the nature of totems/power animals/what have you lately. There's no real consensus among Neoshamans (at least that I have seen), which leaves the questions open to anyone who cares to care about them. I think that discussion can be divided into two main categories: external v. internal and collective v. individual.

External v. Internal

Are animal guides (or any spirit guides, for that matter) external entities with an existence outside of our own, or are they internal psychological constructs which we interact with as if they were external? It is my opinion that the spirits exist outside of our minds, but I also don't think that the question is terribly relevant. If the spirits give good advice and bring me closer to their animal children (for animal spirits, anyway) then that is enough.

Collective v. Individual

When working with a totem, am I speaking to an individual animal or to the archetypal representative of the species? This is the question which I have the most difficulty answering. I've always assumed the latter, but lately I have begun to wonder. The animal spirits I interact with tend to seem, well, smaller than I would expect if that were the case. They aren't grand or domineering, but instead rather unassuming, for the most part. The problem may well be one of false expectations, but it is enough to make me wonder.

Some people get around this problem by saying that totems are the archetypal representatives of their species, while animal spirits are individual animals. I like this explanation, but it doesn't seem to work in my experience. Squirrel gave me a personal name to call him when we first began interacting. If he is the representative of all grey squirrels, then why give me another name? He is very firm that he is my totem, so it can't be that I have him wrongly categorized.

To a certain extent, I suppose that it doesn't matter any more than the internal v. external question. If my work with them is rewarding for everyone involved, then I suppose the precise nature of animal totems is irrelevant. But this question seems more important to me, for some reason.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Connection on a tired day

The intense focus on working with my spirit friends seems to be making difference. Despite having had a very busy day and not feeling terribly well, I did manage to maintain a connection to squirrel (one of my main spirit friends, and what most would call my totem) on and off during the day. It didn't work any miracles -- I was still tired and distracted -- but squirrel was there with me, and I could feel it.

That said, I'm too tired right now to make a substantive blog post. Sorry!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'll be the first to admit that I tend to become infatuated with new ideas. Case in point: after finishing DIY Totemism I placed interlibrary loan requests for three books the author recommended. Not surprisingly, they all arrived at the same time, and now I am staring at a pile of three books to work through. If I can get renewals on all of them, that should give me two months, which is plenty of time, but renewals can't be guaranteed, and I can't predict which one(s) will end up with requests on them (thus rendering them non-renewable) and which I should thus read first. I'm just going to have to hope for the best.

That said, I am very much looking forward to diving into those books! In order to avoid overwhelming myself with too many exercises to try and avenues to explore, I intend to read with a notebook nearby to scribble down any ideas. Then, when the first flush of obsession has passed and I am no longer drowning in a sea of ideas, I can go back to my notes for more leads to follow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Scattered thoughts (this may become a trend)

We did it! I felt a profound sense of relief when I woke up this morning and found out that it hadn't been a dream -- Obama really did win. I can have my country back!


I'm still excited to deepen my spiritual practice, but I'm already getting overwhelmed. I need to create some sort of structure, rather than running blindly from one inspiration to the next. Meditation is yielding all kinds of interesting ideas, and I'm trying to follow them all at once, which won't work. I've been down that path (so many times!), and it leads to discouragement and eventually giving up, which would be a shame after I've made so much progress. I don't have the energy tonight, but tomorrow I would like to sit down and, with the help of my spirit friends, draw up some sort of plan or outline for how to approach all of these ideas.


One thing I need to deal with, preferably soon, is grounding/closing ritual. With all of the spirit work I've been doing, I've been even more spaced out and distracted at work than usual. There has to be some way to signal that the magic/ritual/meditation is done, and that it is time to return to normal consciousness, because that's not happening right now. One of my spirit guides suggested a bell, but I don't currently own one. I use a rattle to go *into* trance, so that's out. Some sort of sound would work well, but I'm having trouble thinking of one.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Perils of the indoor altar

I'm having trouble adjusting to having my altar indoors again. There are too many distracting noises! For instance, my altar shares a room with my computer, which is rarely turned off when I am both at home and awake. But the sound of the computer running, quiet as it is, serves as a potent distraction. So if I want to do any kind of spiritual work, I need to turn that off first. This evening a discovered that the dishwasher is also too distracting, which is much more difficult to turn off on a whim, since I need clean dishes! And my husband is a musician, so I have to negotiate time when he isn't playing, too. I know that I need to learn to concentrate around distractions, but it's tough in here!

The presidential election going on in the U.S. today isn't making it any easier. I'm on edge waiting for the results, and have been all day. And I seem to have done something to my shoulders, because I woke up in a dull agony late last night, and it hasn't gotten much better since then. Yes, I am full of complaints today. With luck, I'll be feeling more celebratory tomorrow!


Hey, if I put the new pagan chant CD* in the computer and turn the volume way up, it drowns out a lot of that noises I was just complaining about! I bet I can use this information to my advantage. I doubt that I can meditate with my spirit guides while listening to "Weavers," however cheerful, but I bet there's something I could listen to instead that would work...... Yes! The extended track of "We are One" is perfect! I was able to sing along enough to get into a trance state, and then the chanting in the background was enough to keep me there. I didn't stay long, but I suspect that had more to do with shoulder pain than anything else.

*Weaving the Web of Life, by Mothertongue

Monday, November 3, 2008

Freedom!, and projects

One of the side effects of my recent resurgence of spiritual practice is that I have given notice at my job. It's amazing how difficult it is to remain in an unhealthy, counter productive situation while spiritually revved up! I'm actually wondering how much of my spiritual lag was due to the ennui generated by that job. Probably more than I would like to admit.

I will be at that job for another month, but I am already feeling heady with freedom. I plan to enjoy my unemployment for at least a little while. I can put that time into continuing to recharge my spiritual practice, working on my etsy store, and possibly initiating a project which I have secretly been nursing for more than three years now: the internet pagan library. The plan would be to use create entries for books and websites relating to Neopaganism (classified using the Neopagan Subject Thesaurus I wrote for a class, naturally!). Each entry would link to as many reviews of the book as I can find, it's page on Amazon, and a discussion board. I think it could really be a valuable resource, but I'm not sure if there would be any demand for it, or even if I have the skill and dedication to pull it off, so it's still very theoretical at this point, but I would be interested in hearing what other people think of the idea. So please, give me your thoughts!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Meet the cowrie!

While reading random posts from the author I was telling you about yesterday, I encountered a description of how she words with the spirits of the animals in her drum. I can't find it right now, or I would link you all directly to it, but I found the idea fascinating, and surprisingly obvious. I'm ashamed to say that the idea had never occurred to me. So today I decided to try that myself. One of my most prized spiritual possessions is a cowrie shell rattle which I use every single day -- isn't it about time I gave some recognition to the spirit of the animal who died so that I could have it?

I thought that it would be best if I went into this knowing a bit more about who I was contacting, so I started by researching what sort of animal a cowrie shell actually comes from. This turned out to be much more difficult than it looks! It was easy enough to use wikipedia to find out that cowrie (or cowry) is the common name for a group of sea snails. But there are over 200 species, and I wanted to figure out which one, specifically, my rattle was made from. More Google research turned up the "purple top tiger cowrie," but I could only find biological information on the tiger cowrie, not the purple top variety. Mine very clearly has a purple top, so I wanted to get information on that variety, not the generic tiger cowrie! Yet more Google research led me to the realization that tiger cowrie shells have a solid purple layer under the top layer -- purple top tiger cowrie is made by dipping the top in acid, so it eats through to the purple layer. Mystery solved!

In doing the meditation, I contacted both the individual tiger cowrie spirit of my rattle and the totem tiger cowrie. Shell cowrie seems somewhat surprised that I had taken an interest in her (I think it was a her) after all this time. She was miffed that I hadn't thought of the shell as having once come from a living, breathing animal, but was willing to forgive me when I apologized, as it is a common error among humans. I asked if there was anything I should do to honor her, and she asked that I periodically rub essential oils onto the shell. Then I asked to speak to tiger cowrie, the totem, who was more prickly. S/he is irritated at mankind for using cowrie shells as currency and decoration for so many years without even knowing, in most cases, what kind of animal is comes from. My attempts to work with him were met with some hostility and disbelief. I said that I would try to encourage more people to look at cowrie shells as more than just a pretty beach souvenir, and s/he agreed to work with me. However, I need to come back in a few days, as s/he can't think of anything to tell me right now.

When I finished my meditation I went through my essential oils to find something appropriate to rub into the rattle. I selected ylang ylang as a nice, sensual, loving sort of oil. I think she liked it.

The experience seems to have gone well. It was my first time contacting the spirit of an individual animal, or the totem of an invertebrate, so it was a new experience for me!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shamanic Kick-Start!

Since getting back from Twilight, I've been wanting to deepen my spiritual practice again. I got off track over the summer, but now that we are well and truly into the fall I feel called to start moving again. This was confirmed in both the rune reading and journeying I did last night as part of my observation of Samhain. It's time for me to renew my commitment to this and have a new start (the rune reading said other things, too, which I may discuss at a later date). I received some practical advice on how to do that, but not much. I never do get much practical advice from my spirit friend; I think they prefer to force me to work things out on my own.

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!) I am focusing more on my shamanic practice. Not only did I get a jumpstart in that direction with my work in Eagle Clan at Twilight, but that has been a central aspect of my spirituality for a long time now. I've deviated some from Core Shamanism in that time, which I don't think is a bad thing, but I've more or less been in a holding pattern in regards to my shamanic practice (among other things). I need to start moving forward. The obvious way to do that is the talk to the spirits themselves, ask them what I need to do. However, in addition to rarely giving me practical advice, I find that my spirit friends rarely respond well to open ended questions. I need to go to them with more specific ideas of where I want to go, but I'm coming up short. Thus, I turn to books.

I started by rereading parts of Shamanism: as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, which I had enjoyed previously. I still have some issues with the book, but it did give me a few interesting ideas to explore regarding the Middle World. Normally I do all of my work in the Lower World, but it seems that exploring the spiritual aspect of the world we live in can only do me good. Not that I've gotten around to this yet.

Then my newest book purchase arrived in the mail: DIY Totemism. I read almost the entire book yesterday; it's that good. Then I found the author's blog about creating her own shamanic tradition. Both of these resources -- the book and the blog -- have given me much to think about! Aside from seeming to share all of the same pet peeves about neopaganism and neoshamanism, it is refreshing to read about shamanism from a perspective that is neither straight Core Shamanism or Indigenous Shamanism. I was surprised by how well some of what she has discovered fits with my experiences. For instance, that you can talk to totems/guides/spirit friends in meditation/trance or journey. I've always done that, but felt like I was doing something wrong, since I'd never heard of anyone else being able to contact their guides outside of the Other Worlds. I've always felt that it was safer and easier to have a conversation in trance than to go on a full out journey. I'd rather save visiting the Other Worlds for, well, visiting the other worlds! I'll be very excited to start working on the exercises in the book. You can probably look forward to reading about my results as this month progresses.