Category Archives: Mythology

Book Review: Pictish Orthodox Druidism

Pictish Orthodox Druidism

This is is very interesting book that covers and obscure religious and spiritual practice.  This book is not like anything else on the market related to Celtic traditions.  This book is very unique, and while it does cover Celtic spirituality and Druidry it does some from the tradition of the Picts.  Most books on Celtic Paganism or Druidry cover Irish or Welsch traditions.  Very few touch on the Picts and their tradition.

The author covers this tradition from the way it was taught in his family.  In places where his family tradition had gaps the author did his best with research into history and lore to complete the tradition.  This book is his way of preserving his view and style of Pictish Druidry.

This book is not really broken into chapters but parts with related sections.  Aside from the introduction there are eight sections in the book.  Each section focuses on unique aspects of this tradition providing information on lore and history as well as theory and practice of ritual and magical workings.

In the Introduction the author starts by presenting several common terms and definitions used within the book and Pagan traditions and spirituality.  Next the author explains his approach to reconstructing religious and spiritual traditions.  This is essential to understand as the practices in the book are a mixture of reconstructed practices and traditions passed down in his family.   The introduction concludes with a summary of principles. Here the author also outlines what exactly he considers Pictish Tradition to entails.

The first section of the book is entitled Pictish Orthodoxy.  This section begins with an overview of Celtic spiritual traditions and the different forms out there.  The author presents an argument for Pictish Tradition origins and how we does have information to build a base on.  This section here is also where we are introduced to the Gods.

The section on the Gods covers a basic introduction to the world view.  It covers several of the spirit concepts as well as the type of Polytheism that Pictish tradition followed.  Here the author introduces the idea that the Picts would have adopted some Norse traditions.

Here the author covers information on the various Gods of the Pict tradition.  He gives their names and attributes.  The author covers three different “tribes” or types of Gods worshiped.  There are the Greater Gods, the Brethren Gods (Norse Gods), and the Tuatha DeDannan.  Through the categorization of the Gods we get a view for the complex syncretic path that is the Pictish Tradition.

The section ends with a discussion on the concept of the trinity and the sacred three.  Here we learn about the Celtic three other worlds and the Celtic Knot.  The author also explains through this sacred three why certain deities are seen as a Triad.  To tie in the Norse tradition with the exploration of the Celtic other worlds (3) the author lists the Nine Norse Realms.

The section part in the book is called Awen.  This section is about taking action and how worship is through action.  Here the author covers the sacred Holidays.  The section on the holidays is rather small.  It does present a few examples of how those sacred days could be honored through actions and activities rather than ritual.

The third part of the book is one of the most interesting.  This is the section on the Faerie faith.  Many spiritual traditions work with beings called the Fae.  This section is about the Pictish tradition and their take on the Fae.  Here we get a taste for ritual work and how the Picts dealt with contact with spirits.

This chapter had some of the most useful information.  It starts out by explains what the faerie spirits really are and how the modern view of fairy’s is actually quite far from the historical perspective.  The author explains that he believes this would have been the practice of the common folk and was less to deal with Gods and was more animistic in nature.

After giving brief examples of offerings and how the Faerie Faith may have been practiced the author begins to discuss the different types of Fae.  Here we see the variety of spiritual forces found within the Pictish tradition beyond the Gods.  The author gives several different types of fae including descriptions of Norse Fae.

Once we are familiar with types of Fae we get into the first practical bit of spiritual work within the book.  Here we are learning how to set up an altar to suit the practice of the Faerie faith.  The author covers three different types of altars to the Faerie people and the types of fae best honored at each.

The chapter ends with ideas on how to make contact with the Fae.  Here the author covers plant talismans and flowers in your garden that could attract the fae.  The author also presents a detailed guided meditation to use meditative techniques to meet fae and work with them.    In all reality the section on the Faerie faith could be a book in its own right.  The author does a great job of presenting information that gives an introduction to the practice within the context of this particular cultural view.

The fourth section of the book is about the priesthood.  Here we find out the authors view on Priesthood and why its not a mantle to be taken up easily.  The author covers the different types of priests and Druids in this chapter.   With each type of druid or priest the author covers the roles they had and how they worked for the Gods and the community. Here the author also covers the various Norse Priests that would have filled similar roles to the Druids.  The author makes it clear that for him priesthood and ministry are the same thing.

The fifth section is where we first get introduced to the practice of magic.  The practice of magic is one of the main draws to practices like Druidry, Shamanism, and witchcraft.  The idea of being able to perform rituals and take specific actions to create change in ones life is very appealing.  So it is important to cover the use of magic and the theories behind it.

In this section the author covers the hows and whys of magic.  Before getting into magical laws and theory the author outlines the phases and steps involved in spell casting.  He explains several magical laws and magical theories.  This gives you the basis to start exploring the magic discussed later.

The majority of the section on magic focuses specifically on the Druid practice of magic.  The author gives examples of types of magic he calls Low, Middle, and High.  In each section of low, middle or high there are examples of types of magical workings and practices that would fit within those concepts.

The chapter ends with a discussion on Druid rituals, tools and the organizations.  With the information on ritual and tools the reader now has enough information to create simple spells and workings within this magical paradigm.  It is here that we have really begun to be able to piece together a practice from the material presented.

The sixth section in the book is on Magical languages.  Here the author introduces Ogham and symbols that are used in magical ritual.  The author covers tattoos and scarification rituals as ways that the Picts used magical symbolism on their body.  The section on magical languages ends with a brief introduction to Runes and Runic magic.

The seventh part of the book is dedicated to Runes.  This is one area of the book that is entirely dedicated to a Nordic aspect of the tradition.  Here the author covers the Rune poems and the three different Rune systems.  He covers the use in magic and the use in divination.  The author even covers creating your own traditional Rune staves and doing traditional Runic readings.  This section and the Faerie faith chapter are the two section of the book with the most practical information and the most unique information.

The author ends the book covering a variety of related spiritual traditions.   The author begins the section by covering different Druid and Celtic traditions and organizations.   Here the author covers traditions like Shamanism, Wicca, and general Witchcraft.  This shows that the author not only respects these other spiritual traditions but he also sees how they are connected and possibly related to his own traditions and practices.

Overall the book provides great insight into this spiritual tradition.  There is enough information that the reader could decide to explore the practice for themselves personally.  The author gave enough information to form a workable practice without doing all of the work for you.  He allows the reader to start with this information and work with the spirits and Gods through personal work to develop their priesthood and their practice.

I would recommended this book to people interested in both Celtic and Norse Pagan traditions.  While I may not agree with all of the information presented on the Norse traditions, I feel that the author did an excellent way of presenting how the Picts would have adapted the Norse Gods and practices into their traditions.

Ancestor Oil- a few ancestral workings and a prayer

Ancestor Oil

Ancestor Oil

Today I am going to talk to you a bit about my ancestor oil and a bit about ancestor veneration since they are connected.  This oil was crafted to be a tool in ancestral veneration. This oil was created to be used as an offering to your ancestors.  Its a perfect daily offering.

The herbs that create this mixture all have associations with the underworld, the dead, and or funeral rites.   Funeral rites and working with the dead is a powerful spiritual practice that crosses many cultures.  There were a lot of herbs and oils with those associations. It was hard to make my choice on which oils and herbs I could have used.  I personally couldn’t make the choice of which herbs to use.  I didn’t bother fighting it either.

I simply asked my ancestors and the ancestral spirits what they wanted to have in the oil.  It was meant for them so they should have choice in what goes into the blend.  So in essence I was simply the vessel for this ancestral working.  The spirits guided me to make this oil, from the herbs chosen to the prayer used and the way it was charged.  All of the creation of this oil was directed by the ancestral spirits.

This oil like all of my oils can also be worn as a perfume.  I use it when I want to feel close to my ancestors.  Its literally a way you can honor your ancestors in daily life with out a lot of ceremony.   As you inhale the scent you are inhaling blessings of ancestral spirits.  If you apply it with a prayer you have  This oil was charged on my ancestral altar for a month before it was bottled.  So for this reason its a perfect oil for daily workings.

Ancestral veneration is a major part of my spiritual paths and practices.  Ancestral veneration is the practice of honoring your dead.  Your ancestors are those who have gone before you the recent dead and the long lost dead.   In essence ancestral veneration is working with the dead, but it is also the most basic and earliest form of spiritual practice known to man.

In many cultures the dead are not really gone from this life.  They are still present in a spirit form.  The practice of ancestral veneration in some cultures keeps them here.  In some of these cultures there really is no difference between the world of the physical and the world of the spirit, so its easy for spirits to be both in their world and in our own world.  By offering them water, and food from our plates we provide them nourishment and the energy that they need to keep us protected and to watch over us.

In death like in life our family is always there for us.  We give them offerings and gifts and they help us out.  The relationships we had in life do not end at death.  They simply change forms and require a bit of a different approach.  It is for this reason that the first spirits many paths teach you to work with are your own ancestors.  They will help you out when no other spirit will.  The powers and ties of the blood and heart are that strong.

Ancestral prayers are a very simple way to have a daily practice.  This practice not only builds your own connection to the spirits and the spirit world but will also help you start to develop a sense of your own power and energy.  The more you pray the more energy you build up.  The more you will be able to reach spirits and the easier it will be to sense when they are there.  Its a very simple thing to pray to your ancestors.

Daily practice helps us become more aware spiritually and helps us to become our true selves and be full of our own power.  Daily prayers to our ancestors help us deal with the losses we face when loved ones die and it helps us to remember that they are still here still with us even if we can’t see them.

Here is a simple ancestor prayer that you can use in your daily practice.

Ancestor Prayer

Blessed ancestors

Those who have gone before

I welcome you this day

May you guide me, protect me and may your love be free

May you open the roads before me and may your wisdom guide me

Blessed ancestors

I welcome you this day

Simple ancestor working:

Working with ancestors does not have to be complicated.  You do not need to set up a formal ritual circle and invoke gods or spirits.  The prayer mentioned above is really all you need to start working with your ancestors.  If you have space an altar and candles with that prayer is all you need.  It does not need to be formal.  No head bowing, no feelings of unworthiness.  Just you, the altar, your ancestors.  That’s all you need.

Here is a simple ritual for working with your ancestors:
Materials:
White candle
Bowl of water
Ancestor Oil

Ritual:
Take the ancestor oil and dab a drop or two on the candle.
Rub the oil from the bottom to the top thinking about your ancestors
Light the candle
State the prayer from above
Fill the bowl with a bit of water offering them a cool drink
Sit there and feel the love and power of the ancestors
After a few minutes extinguish the candle
Either keep the water in the bowl so your ancestors have fresh drink or pour it into the earth as an offering to the earth our central ancestor

You can get your ancestor oil here:

Ancestor Oil by Mystic Echoes

Ancestral Veneration

Ancestors:
What Types there are and How to work with them
Introduction:
What is Ancestral Veneration

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.
Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.
The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.
Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.
Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.
Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.
Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are two primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These two forms are the altar and prayers. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.
The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:

First ancestral altar
First ancestral altar

Second Ancestral Altar
Second Ancestral Altar

Ancestor Altar 3

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.
Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.
Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

Pagan Blog Project: Pagan Pride Day

Today I am going to talk about Pagan pride Day.  In the US there is an annual festival at different times in different states where Pagans can come together and celebrate being who and what they are.  Its a day for rituals, friendship, exploration, and much more.  There are workshops and there are vendors.  You have a ritual for the harvest (all are harvest themed) and sometimes other mini rituals in workshops.

I love my local Pagan Pride day.  Its been going on for 11 years now.  Its been a great way for me to meet friends and be a part of a community.  The vendors are typically the same year after year (with new ones from time to time) and many of the attendees are regulars.  There were many people I saw once a year at the Pagan Pride day that I still considered friends.  It was a fellowship of a kindred mind and spirit that kept us close.

For many years I went just as an attendee.  I went for the workshops and the vendors.  The ritual component was always nice but they didn’t always make much sense to me.    The people were the reason I went.  I learned a lot from workshops.  One year I learned the LBRP by heart by the end of an hour workshop.  Other years I did ancestral work and learned about kitchen witchcraft.  One year I learned of a completely new way to look at herbal work from a different perspective.

Pagan Pride days are great.  Even when I volunteered for a few years I was still able to see my friends, go to the workshops, and participate in the rituals.  I became such a regular scene there and was often so lucky with the raffle that it became a joke about my entering raffles in the Pagan scene.  Its still a joke today for those who remember those days even though the event is being run by other people now.

With the change in leadership my role at the event also took a change.  I went from being an attendee and a volunteer to being a vendor.  This is where I launched Mystic Echoes last year.  With this change I gained even more appreciation for vendors and attendees of Pagan pride Days.  I was supported by the community in my venture to open a New Age and Metaphysical store.  I now knew and understood why vendors came back year after year.  I also now understood why people liked the vendors.  Its all exposure to different products you might not see or have otherwise.  Its also a great place to learn about making new things and how things worked.

Pagan Pride Days are a wonderful thing and need to be embraced more.  They offer community for those of us who practice alone but want fellowship every once and a while.  They offer education to the general public.  They offer understanding, small business sales and development, and do a community service.  The fee for the local Pagan pride day is a canned good of some sort.  The non-perishable goods are given to a local food pantry so that those in need can have food to eat.  Last year they also raised food and toys for the local animal shelter as well ensuring that the animals had food and toys as well.

If you are interested in seeing a world of different pagan religious practices, and in exploring them I can’t recommended going to a Pagan Pride Day enough.  The website: Pagan pride Day organization provides a link for you to find local events. They are non judgmental so all are welcome. You don’t have to be Pagan to go and enjoy it. So please go check out a local event.

Review: The Spiral Dance

The Spiral DanceThe book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature.  The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information.  In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.

The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the feminist movement and feminism.  At the time the book was written the author was heavily involved in the feminist movement and feminist spirituality, so it makes sense that this book would reflect those interests and activities.  This book is one of the reasons that religious witchcraft is considered to be “women’s religion”.  The theme and focus throughout the book is the use of witchcraft and Goddess spirituality to reclaim women’s rights and women’s power.

The subtext to the title “The Spiral Dance” reads :”A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess”.  The text is a very apt description for the information that you find within the book.  When you combine the focus on the Great Goddess with the feminist movement at the time you have a book that covers feminist witchcraft and feminist spirituality and why its important for the world we live in.

Now Starhawk does talk about why feminist spirituality like the Goddess movement is important to men and what Men can get out of the practice of witchcraft.  So while the book is geared towards women and feminist spirituality, there are benefits described for Men and practices of Male witches discussed.  The overall tone though is geared towards women and women’s mysteries.

This book is 13 chapters long.  Each chapter has a specific lesson that expands on the information in the previous chapter.  Within several of the chapters are easy to do exercises and meditations.  These meditations and exercises are provided so that a solitary witch or someone seeking witchcraft can learn practices that will allow them to become witches in their own right.

Each chapter starts out with a ritual or a description of the practices found within the chapter to illustrate the lessons and information found within the chapter.  Some of these stories are fictional and some of them are from experiences within the authors own coven settings.  These personal experience illustrations form some of the most powerful aspects of the book allowing the reader to see what sort of experiences they may have in their own work while not telling them explicitly that these will be your experiences as well.

The first chapter completely discusses witchcraft as a Goddess focused religion.  Here is where we first learn the concept of a Great Goddess and of feminist spirituality.  The author also goes into the history of witchcraft and what exactly witchcraft is as a religion and a practice.  Its a basic starting point illustrating the misconceptions and issues many people have with witchcraft.

The second chapter goes into the worldview of witchcraft.  Every religion has a way of viewing the world.  Here we re provided with a creation myth for the birth of the God and Goddess within this version of witchcraft as well as the essence of the Great Goddess.  Here we are given the concept of the soul/spirit as well as the concepts of energy working and the view on the cosmos.

The third chapter talks about covens.  Here we learn about the common structure of religious witchcraft and the way that this structure functions.  The author illustrates both same sex covens as well as mixed gender covens and why coven structures work.  The comparisson between covens and traditional religious structures provide ways for seekers and students to understand the functional differences between a church and a coven.

The fourth chapter discusses sacred space.  One key component in witchcraft rituals is the creation of sacred space.  This chapter provides several different ways of working this ritual as well as reasons behind the creation of sacred space.

The fifth chapter is all about the Goddess.  This religious witchcraft tradition is Duotheistic meaning it focuses on the worship of a Goddess and a God.  In this chapter we are introduced to the Goddess and her roles within the religion.  We learn how to call her and how both men and women can relate to her.

The sixth chapter is all about the God.  While the Goddess is the focus in the feminist version of witchcraft that the Spiral Dance teaches, the God is still important.  This chapter illustrates the relationship between the Goddess and God and how they need each other and work together to be one.

The seventh chapter is all about the use of symbols within magic.  Magic works through the use of symbols and directing energy related to those symbols.  This chapter in the book has several different spells to try as well as exercises to develop your own understanding of symbols and your own association with symbols.

The eighth chapter is all about the Cone of power.  This particular chapter focuses on Coven based workings, but the concepts of raising and directing energy in the shape of a cone is applicable to the solitary student.  Here we understand what it means in witchcraft when the concept of energy direction and manipulation is discussed.

The ninth chapter is about trance work.  The basic definition of magic given early in the book is the idea and the ability to change ones concious state at will.  This chapter explores the use of trance and the reason why trance work is part of witchcraft.  Basic meditation and trance concepts are addressed here and there are several different exercises within the chapter for trance work and meditation work.

The tenth chapter of the book focuses on initiation.  Solitary witches who read this book will not get as much out of this chapter as a witch who is working for initiation within a coven or specific tradition.  This chapter describes what it means to be initiated and provides a coven based initiation ritual as a sample.

The eleventh chapter in the book focuses on esbats or moon based rituals.  Within witchcraft the moon is sacred and is revered as a symbol of the Goddess.  Moon rituals are typically in many cases working rituals while sabbat rituals are more worship based.  Moon rituals can be based on the full or new moons or other moon phases, though full and new are the most common.

The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on the wheel of the year or the sabbats and holiday celebrations of this tradition of witchcraft.  Here the author provides sample rituals for ideas as to how to honor the sabbats as well as providing information on the lore and meanings behind the sabbats.

The final chapter of this book is focused on developing religion.  Here the author explains the issues that can arrive when religions become based on dogma and established practices and don’t change.  The author explains what exactly witchcraft as a religion is and how it has to continue to change and evolve in this modern world.  Here we learn the dangers of thinking in strict absolute terms as well as in dualistic terms.

Despite the age, this book is useful.  Its a good book for establishing witchcraft as a religion and explaining why religious witchcraft is so different than traditional religions.  The book covers the basics and provides enough information that a solitary seeker man or women can start their own practice and create their own relationship with the God, Goddess, and the Great Goddess.

Basics-What they are and why they are important

Basics:

What are the basics of any path and why they are important

Today we are going to talk about an important topic.  Today we are going to discuss what it is when they mean “tell me about the basics of X religion or X path”  This is a question that many seekers often ask in forums and on mailing lists.  In some ways this question seems obvious to answer, but it also at times seems to represent a lack of previous research.  The lack of previous research is not necessarily a bad thing as at this point in the seekers stage they may be looking for bare bones information from which to refine their search for their path.  This is why it can be important to look at some 101 books before you read to much lore on a specific culture.

What the basics include

The basics of any religion or spiritual path are easy to outline.  While not every path has every belief or idea I am going to outline, the idea and concepts behind these basics are found in enough spiritual paths across the world that they can be considered what the basics would be.  Basics of a religion include the pantheon or pantheons involved in that particular path (this covers the basic mythology of the path), the style and types of rituals involved and a rough idea of what ritual entails, views on the afterlife and the soul, views on spirits and spirit realms, holidays, and ethics.  Each of these basic components provide excellent insight into what each religion essentially believes in and what may be involved in being a part of that particular path.

As I cover the basics of what religions and spiritual paths include I am going to use a few different pagan paths as examples.  Most of the references in this post are going to come from either Germanic paganism, Witchcraft (many different forms), or Hellenic Paganism as these are the paths I have the most experiences with.  However in general use the examples as an idea for what you may encounter with the paths that you are looking to explore and study.  These examples are going to illustrate why these aspects of a religion are important to understand for those paths and why they form the basics.

Pantheon, Pantheons and Spirits

Every religion and spiritual path out there has a unique set of spirits and spirit beings that they work with.  These beings do not need to be Gods or even called Gods.  They can just be a set of spiritual entities which are worked with for spiritual development.  The establishment of which beings are in which path helps a seeker to know which myths are going to be the source for knowledge on the Gods.

It also gives the seeker a culture to research and in some cases a specific name for a path to follow.  For example if you know you want to work with the gods from Shintoism you would be following a Japanese pantheon and set of spirits.  If that was our path you would now also want to do research on the culture and the history of the Japanese people.  You may even want to learn some of the language.

Style and Type of ritual

Different cultures and religions had different rituals.  The rituals in Asatru (A Norse/Germanic Paganism recon pagan path) are not the same type of rituals you will encounter in Wicca.  The rituals in Wicca are different than the rituals in a Kemetic (Egyptian style of paganism).  The rituals in each culture and path are a reflection of the ways that humans and Gods interacted in those cultures.  By understanding the basic outlines of different types of rituals you can understand a bit more about the cultures that religion and ritual style is dedicated to.

In Wicca and many forms of religious witchcraft the rituals involve typically a circle being cast.  That circle creates a sacred space. The elemental forces are called.  The God and Goddess are invoked.  Here we have the workings either magical or sabbat related.  There is an offering given to the Gods.  The Gods are released from the circle and the other elemental forces are released.  The circle is taken up and the ritual is over followed by a feast or grounding with food.

This ritual outline there gives a seeker an idea of what exactly will happen during a worship service and ritual.  This information gives a person a vague idea of what they will need to do if they seek to follow that specific path.  This is useful information because if a person doesn’t like the basic outlines of rituals in a path then that path may not be for them, or they may need to study further to see if there are other ways that they can adapt rituals.  It is a starting point for ritual work concepts any way.

Views on the soul and the afterlife

Many religions have views of some sort on the soul and the afterlife.  For many people their belief in the afterlife and the soul is a large defining aspect of their path.  So in many paths this is a basic concept.   Many people will choose spiritual paths which reflect how they personally feel about their beliefs in the spirit and the soul.

Christianity for example does believe in a soul and in an afterlife.  The specific views on the soul and the afterlife play a large role in the beliefs and works of this religion and as such it forms a good example of why the view on the soul and the afterlife are basic components of a religion and or spiritual path.

Spirits and Spiritual Realms or Spirits and Cosmology

Different paths have different spirits that they work with and believe in.  In some of these paths there are many different realms where different beings and spirits exist.  One of these realms is typically the realm where the Gods live and at least one other realm aside from the physical world is the world of the dead.  Other paths like Asatru teach that there are many different realms with different spirits that live in those worlds.  For example in Asatru there are nine different realms.  These realms are Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotenhiem, Midgard, Muspelheim, Swarvelheim, Alfheim ,Helheim, and Nifelheim.

Here is a meme depicting the cosmology of  Germanic and Norse Paganism.

Asatru world tree

Each of those realms have a few specific type of beings that live in them.  Asgard is the realm of the Gods in Norse Myth.  Here Odin lives.  Helheim is the realm of the dead.  Jotenheim is the realm of the Giants.  Vanaheim is where the Vanir live.  Alfheim is the realm of the light elves.  Swartvelheim is the realm of the dark elves or dwarves.  Midgard is earth.  Nifelehim and Muspelheim are realms of fire and ice.

In Norse religion understanding how these realms interact and how they work together is a part of the basics.  Here you have seen the realms that are involved in this cosmology and you have been introduced to the concept of a few of the spiritual beings that are encountered in the Norse/Germanic Myths.

Holidays and special occasions

One of the main things people think about in religions are the holidays.  What are the sacred and special days of the Gods and spirits of this path.  These holidays provide times for worshiping and or strengthening relationships with the Gods and spirits.  Some times holidays provide further ways to examine the lore and engage in cultural activities that were specific to that holiday and that time of year.

Some cultures have massive holiday schedules.  The Hellenic holiday calender is very complex and long.  Those who seek to practice Greek Paganism often have a long list of holidays to choose from.  Each of the holidays had a specific reason for being there and some of them were specific to certain Gods and cults.  The major holiday in Hellenic paganism that most look into the the festival surrounding the Elysian Mysteries.

With pagans who have complex festival cycles and associations they can often choose which ones to follow.  Typically you find the holidays that were the most important to the Gods that you are worshiping in that culture.  For example those who are close to Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone would definitely be doing something for the festival of the Elysian mysteries while a Greek Pagan dedicated more to Pan would find festivals for Pan.

This illustrates the key point I wanted to make with the holidays.  There is a major misconception that all pagan paths follow the 8 sabbats or the wheel of the year as it is known and seen in Wicca and Wicca flavored Pagan paths.  Asatru does not have the 8 sabbats.  There are 4 of them but not all 8.  Hellenismos has lots of festivals.  Other religions have only one or two that are key components.

Ethics and Morals

Every path out there seeks to teach the idea of what is right and what is wrong.  Many spiritual paths form the basis for how we as individual treat each other.  Some paths have been so influential on cultures that the ethical considerations of that religion have formed the basics of how that culture interacts with people.  Basically ethics influence how we act as a person and how we act in society to other people and with other people.

The rede is the basic ethical outline considerations for Wiccan styled pagan paths.  The idea is that you basically do what ever you want so long as you harm none.  The rede even states: “an it harm none do what ye will”.  This is the way many witches who follow Wicca inspired paths live their lives.  Other witches follow different ethical considerations that are more informative.

Some paths don’t call their ethical or moral codes ethical and moral codes.  Some paths call them virtues.  The Germanic paths idea of how you should live life has a set of what they call the nine nobel virtues.  These virtues outline personal behavior as well as different types of actions that can be found.

Here is another meme that lists the nine noble virtues:

Nine Nobel Virtues

By knowing the ethical standards of a path a person can get an idea of what sort of lifestyle they can have.  The idea of the morals and ethics are the ideas behind how the Gods want their followers to behave.  Often times these ideas include day to day life as well as during conflicts and social settings.  The ideas in the ethics are what that path considers to be a good person and living a good life.

Conclusion

This entry here has given you an idea of what the basics of any particular faith are.  The examples given come from some of the most popular pagan and spiritual paths.  Its important to understand what the basics of a religion or magical path is before you start to get to deep into studies.  The basics of the paths provide everything you need to know to understand the beliefs and practices of that particular path and practice.  If you understand the basic concepts before you step too deeply in the path, you can have an understanding on if those beliefs and concepts resonate with your personal beliefs and concepts.

Once you understand the basics of a path you can then start to take your studies deeper.  With Norse paganism you can start to spend time to study and experience the various realms.  You can look at other practices including magical traditions in the Norse belief systems.  You can find ways to look at the basics and become deeper involved with them.  Once you know the basics its all building from there.

Though a true seeker knows that revisiting the basics is at time a good thing to do.  It strengthens foundations and deepens experiences with more advanced concepts and practices within the belief system you have chosen to follow.  Once you know the basics you can start to also go off and create your personal understandings and developments spiritually.  The basics give us a strong base from which to grow our understandings of that universe.

 

Review: The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

The Way of Wyrd

The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.

The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.

In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.

In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.

The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.

Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.

The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.

In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.

The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.

Pagan Blog Project: Beginnings

The most common question I am asked is how did I actually begin my practice.  I’m sure that you readers are now wondering the same thing.  You have looked at your own beliefs.  You have come to have a decision and a direction, and you have figured out your concept of the divine.  Now that you have all of those choices and all that work done what do you do?  You actually begin your practice.

Beginning Your practice

The first step on your path is to perform a rite of introduction to the Gods and spirits of your practice.  By now you should have read a few books on the practices of the path you are taking.  If you have a reference for this then that is great.  If not I am going to give an outline for an introduction rite.  Yes before you begin performing offerings on a regular basis it is important that you at least introduce yourself to the pantheon and the spirits you intend to work with.

Now it is important to note that an introduction rite is not the same as a dedication rite.  That is something we can cover another time.  An introduction rite is a more formal way of saying hello.  You may have prayed and gave offerings before as part of your decision making.  Thats good.  Its a start.  Now you are formally declaring your intent to study their ways and work with them.  Before it was a “Hi this is for you if you want”.  Now its more formal.

So what was the point of the ritual before hand if we are beginning with a deeper more direct ritual?  This ritual is a step below actual dedication.  You have not completely dedicated yourself to their service but you are basically promising to study their ways for a year or so.  During that year you will perform rituals, pray, meditate, read, and reflect.  If after your year of studies you have formed strong bonds and feel called to do further work on that path then you will perform a rite of dedication.  For now a rite of introduction is still important.

What does this rite entail?  It entails preparing yourself mentally and physically before the ritual.  Its going to entail blessing the offering in their names.  Its going to entail prayer and meditation.  Its a very simple and basic ritual.  However when you put all your emotions into the ritual you can find that even the smallest ritual gesture like lighting a candle with intent can produce substantial results.

The Ritual

Materials:

  1. Candle to represent your passion and your flame
  2. Note book to write down the ritual and any personal messages you get during the meditation
  3. Fresh soap for the ritual shower  & your normal shampoo and conditioner
  4. Candle for the God and or Goddess
  5. if you are 21+ an alcoholic drink to share as a communion if not sparkling ciders are good
  6. Chalice
  7. An incense you find appealing
  8. Water
  9. Salt

Here is the rest of the ritual

Ritual Shower:

  1. Set the shower at as high a temperature as you can stand and get in.
  2. Begin to wash your body with you soap.  Using the soap suds see the soap becoming all negative energy and all doubts from the day.  See them coming from your body into the  soap.  Put the soap down and rinse your hands.  Let the soap stay on your body for a moment and let it continue to absorb your negative energy and thoughts.
  3. Take your shampoo and lather your hair.  Do the same thing you did with the body to your hair.  This time focus on intense emotions and thoughts.  Focus on stress and frustrations during the day.  See those items become the suds in your hair.
  4. Rinse your hair and place the conditioner in it.  Let the conditioner soothe those thoughts and feeling.  Let the conditioner bring you a sense of peace and relaxation.  Work that sensation all through your hair.  Let is set for about five minutes.
  5. Stand in the shower in a position where your hair wont get wet but parts of you can.  Start to rinse yourself off.  As you start to rinse see the shadowy soap bubble run down the drain and fade away.
  6. After a few moment step under the shower directly and rinse completely,  This time seeing everything run down that has not already gone away.
  7. Repeat the shower one more time.  This time chanting “Water Water Wash Away.  Water Water Cleanse today”
  8. End the shower.  As you towel off wrap yourself up in a white light of positive energy.  This will replace and replenish the energy that was removed through the cleansing shower.

Introduction rite:

  1. Get dressed and set up the altar or place for the ritual.  Make sure you have a container for the water and a container for the salt as well as your offering of food and drink to the Gods.
  2. Mix a pinch of the salt into the water.  You are making Holy water right now.  As you mix the salt and the water see any impurities in the water be gone.  See the water being filled with sacred light from the great divine forces out there.
  3. Light your incense
  4. Take the salt water and either in a circle or simply by sprinkling the water in the four directions dedicate the space as being sacred.  Call upon any guards and guides as you see fit to witness this rite.
  5. Repeat the process with incense.  Now you have consecrated the space with all the elements.  Earth and water in the holy water and fire and air with the incense.  The place is now set for spirits and gods to come and answer.  At this point it is best to remain in the ritual area.  You should only leave in an emergency situation.  If you do say a quick prayer for exiting and a prayer for entering.  Other traditions have other ways of entering and exiting the space in ritual but this prayer will work for now.
  6. Light the Candle for the God and Goddess (both or just one depending on what you had chosen to do)
  7. Call to the Gods.  If you have read an invocation or prayer to them for calling them to a ritual now would be a great time to recite that work.  Basically ask them to come with you now and to join the rite.
  8. Light the candle to represent yourself.  State your intention to learn the ways of those Gods and their followers.  State who you are and why you are serving and learning their ways.  Promise to do your best to learn all you can and integrate what you learn into your life.
  9. Bless the drink and pour a drink for them and for you.  Share this drink with them.  You can praise them or you can silently meditate on their presence and the meaning of the rite.  You should have an idea at this point if they are accepting of you and listening to you,
  10. When you are ready thank the Gods and the spirits for attending the rite.  If you formally laid a circle or walked a circle you can release it now.  If you just sprinkled some water and consecrated the ground by extinguishing the incense and the candle the space is being released. You can then extinguish the candles.  You can pick up and put away.  You may now say a final prayer of thanks and wishes for continued guidance as things get put away and cleaned up.
  11. Record the ritual in the notebook.  Write down everything you did all your feelings and all your emotions.  Write down what you think about what you did and how you felt before and after.

You have now formally introduced yourself as their student.  You have now taken a step into letting the Gods lead the way and be your teachers.  Now you just need to listen to what they have to say.  You may find the lessons come in very strange forms and you may find that things come into your life for no reason after doing this.  These actions are a result of your introduction and prayer manifesting.  The Gods are listening.

Pagan Blog Project D: Direction, Decisions, & Divination

Crossroads1

 

Direction and Decisions

The last few posts have given you several things to think about as a seeker.  As you have thought about those things and your own beliefs you should have compiled or started to find a list of belief systems or religions that match up to what you are looking for to some extent.  These religions and spiritual paths should have as many things related to your beliefs as possible.  You may find there are a few which only have a few of your major beliefs in them but not all of them.  That is ok.  The point is you have a list of paths and options.  No what do you do?

You need to make some choices.  You need to make some decisions on where you want to go now.  There are options.  Now you need to choose.  So how to choose?

Direction

Right now you may have a list of belief systems you are eager to explore that have things you want to explore.  There may be many parallels in beliefs to what you hold.  This is a good position to be in.  It means you know what you believe you are just looking for more structure and concepts to develop from.  You are looking for direction.   Having a direction in which to focus allows stability and confidence building.  Focusing on one specific direction can and will deepen spirituality.

Choosing that direction can be difficult.  I myself look over all the paths I have studied that have things I believe in and wonder where I should go in my studies. I’m sort of in a cross roads right now myself as well which is part of the reason for writing this post.  Directions can and will change in your studies and as your path and your spirituality grows.  This is also a good sign that you have learned a lot in one area but need to grow in another.  By changing directions and choosing a new direction when you start you already really begin to grow.

So to begin choosing your direction you should look at two of the paths or religions that inspire you the most.  These are good places to start your exploration.  These will be the focus of your deciding factor. You will still want to read about and research the other paths out there that interest you.  There is a reason they are interesting to you.  They have something to offer that you will benefit from.  For now though having one direction or focus is essential.

This direction will for some time be the focus of your studies and growth.  You will use this to establish your foundation if you are new to exploring spiritual options.   Here you will start to establish relationships with specific gods and spirits according to the path you choose to walk.  Here after you do additional study you may want to then do a dedication and deeper studies for a while before exploring elsewhere.  The point is the direction you pick will be the foundation of your spiritual home and your path.

If you have been exploring spirituality your new direction will add a new level to your spirit house and you will have a deeper knowledge base to choose from.  This will expand your spiritual awareness.  You will probably meet new guides and spirits in the new direction you choose to explore.  Your previous understandings will develop and may slightly change.  You are reaching the next level in spirituality and practice as it were.

Making the decisions

Now that I have highlighted the reasons for choosing one direction rather than exploring multiple paths at once it is time to explain and go over how you can make the decision for yourself.  There are many ways you can make the decision about which path to take.   I am going to list them here and then go into each one in a bit more detail.  In the end there are two ways you can really go about making this.  You can do a soul and spiritual searching of it or you can do some practical work.  You can also do a combination.

Spiritual decision making aids

Here are the spiritual and insightful methods. There is a meditation method.  There is the prayer method.  You have divination through cards or even using a pendulum.  You finally have the what does my heart say about what I know about this path right now method.  All of these methods involve working with a spirit or some aspect of the hidden self you have to contact in some form.  Now I will expand on each of those methods.

I am going to start with the meditative method.  The meditative method actually comes in two forms.  The first form involves contact with your own spirit guides and guardians for advice.   The second form of the meditative method is a bit more introspective yet just as effective.  Both are in a meditative state so they are both the meditative method of making your decisions.

The first meditative method to discuss then is the method where you contact your spirit guides and guardians.  Here you can go into a meditative state and contact your spirit guides and guardians for advice.  You can give them an idea of why you are having difficulties with this decision.  You can ask them where they think you should go.  They may give you an idea or they may show you something that you have to think about.    Either way through contacting your spirit guides you have been given their insight on the matter which should prove useful for your own decision making.

The second meditative method is less about spirit guides and more about yourself and your thoughts.  The idea here is that you will get into a meditative state and you will be able to focus on asking yourself the question “which path is mine?”.  You may find symbols appear that relate to one path.  That is your answer.  You may even find yourself brought on some sort of vision quest by your higher self.  That quest there and that experience there.  Either way your answer comes from yourself, your heart, and your spirit.

The prayer method is a method that many people use.  Here you will work on praying to spirits or guides for the answer.  If there are specific Gods and Goddesses in either path that you are interested in more than others you can pray to them.   If there is a specific type of spirit found in each culture you are interested in you can also pray to them. You can also pray to both pantheons in a general reaching out prayer and see who answers.    The same thing applies to the various spirit entities found in the different paths.

When you are working with the prayer method you are leaving the answer to the question up to the Gods and the spirits.  In the end it will be them who make the decision about accepting your worship or working with you or not.  You can not force a deity or spirit to work with you that is not willing to work with you.  For this reason many people recommended prayers above other methods.  All of the methods I am telling you about are useful and worth trying.  I do have to agree that prayer is one of the more powerful ways to connect with willing spirits and Gods.

Divination methods of decision making

Divination is a method that takes many forms.  Here you have tarot cards and oracle cards.  You also have pendulums and scrying.  Channeling is also a form of divination.  In using divination you are spending the time contacting the spirits directly.  From how you connect to the spirits the various forms work to provide the answer.

In the oracle card methods (tarot decks and other decks) the answer comes out through the meaning of the cards pulled. By looking at the order the cards were pulled and where they stand in the reading your answer can be interpreted.  There are thousands of different oracle decks out there.  Tarot cards are one form.  Doreen Virtue has several oracle decks out there as well.  In working with these decks you will find that some card decorations and symbols speak to you more than others.  Those are the decks you want to work with.

On to Pendulums! With the pendulum you will have a movement answer for yes and a different answer for no.  One of the best ways to use a pendulum in this fashion would be to hold the pendulum over the text of the paths you are interested.  Ask it if its for you.  The answer will be in the movement.  Do it over the other text and see the answer.  If you don’t get an answer from either of those you may just need to take more time or try another method.

Now not everyone has a stone pendulum.  That is ok.  I am going to share a secret with you.  Ready?  Every one can make one themselves.  Yes.  You can make a pendulum yourself with objects you have around your house.  If you have string or something to suspend the item with you can make a pendulum.  The best examples are taking a necklace chord unused and put a ring in the center.  Then hold the necklace with the ring suspended.  Ask it for yes and ask it for no.  Presto instant pendulum.

Scrying is the next item on the list.  Scrying is basically starting into a reflective surface and relaxing your gaze.  After some time an image will appear.  There are many methods and ways of accomplishing this methods.  You have the fire method which can include candles, campfires, wood stoves, and much more.  There is the water method.  Here you can use ice, a glass of water, a lake, a pond, or basically any form of water you can think of.  Other methods include using a reflective mirror made for that purpose or through using a crystal ball.  Other people may be able to use incense smoke of fire smoke to scry.  Try it and good luck.

Channeling is the final method that was mentioned as a way of working divination.  In channeling you basically call a spirit into your body or mind for the answer.  You ask them the question and they will be answer.  This is the process that mediums use.  If you are not comfortable speaking you can try the same method with automatic writing using a paper and pen to let the spirit basically write down the answers to the question.

So I have given several different ways you can work divination to get an answer.  The idea behind divination is that you are working with a spirit or your higher self for an answer.  The answer is coming from outside of you.  The only real difference between these styles mentioned is the fact that they all use different techniques.  The philosophy behind their use and why they work though is basically the same.

Spirits and Gods can be powerful allies in answering questions.  They have access to wisdom that we do not have.  They can also be very powerful teachers in our spiritual development.  All of the above methods are ways of contacting these guides and beings for assistance in making the decision about the path you are about to take.  I must be mentioned however the above methods of making a decision with spiritual aids can be used for other situations in life.  Here they are just used as tools in choosing your spiritual paths.

 

Practical decision making tools

I have just spent some time illustrating ways that you can combine looking for a spiritual and religious path with doing active spiritual path work and spiritual development.  While these tools are important to be used in working with spiritual choices there are other options.  You can use your day to day decision making tools as well to work with this. 

What are your day to day decision making tools?  Well there are a few.  You have pros and cons, evaluating available information on the topic at hand, space and time, economic, and you also have emotional aspects to play into this as well.  Anything you would use to make a decision in the rest of your day to day life you can use for spiritual choices as well.

I’m going to start with a basic tool.  The pros and cons tool.  This tool allows you to list all the good things about taking this path.  It also gives you a place to list any issues or problems that could come up because of practicing this path.  You can if you feel the need to make a column for places of thoughts that are not an issue or a great thing but just there, or something you are not sure where it goes.  That would be the column for that.  When you have listed everything you can think of in one page for one path do it for the other path as well.  When you have done both take some time to rest before looking at them and comparing the three lists.

The tool of evaluating the amount of available information on a subject is actually quite important when choosing a path to work with.  There are some paths out there which have a lot more information on them than others.  This may have already been a consideration in the Pros and Cons aspect of the path.  For some people the lack of or overwhelming information of a spiritual paths practices can be a key reason in their interest in pursuing it.  You should consider this as you look at your options for paths.

The factors of space to practice, time to practice, and the economic aspect may actually all fall together under one thing which is can I practice this path where I am now with what I have now?  Some cultures have rituals that require elaborate dances or at least a lot of movement for space to work the spiritual paths.  Other paths may work with herbs that are expensive and exotic or out of your reach.  How much time will it take to perform the ritual?  These are all things to think about.  If you can’t effectively perform the rites where you are with what you have is it worth investing your spiritual energy into spirits and Gods that may not respond for lack of traditional rituals?

Finally one thing we all use in our day to day decisions is our emotional reactions.  Some of us are going to have stronger emotional reactions to the tales and legends of spirits and Gods than others will.  Looking at the emotional reactions we have to thinking about the culture, the myths, and the powers we read about in some cultures may be where we should be looking for answers.  Here is a personal example.  I for one have always been fascinated by Egyptian Gods and myths as well as their culture.  Yet when I read the myths I feel no emotional response.  I had no interest previously in looking at the Germanic Gods.  However when I read the myths and legends I had an emotional response.  This proved to give me insight into my spiritual direction.  I urge you to look at your emotional responses to myths and legends as you read them.

 

Conclusion

In this blog post I have given you several tools to use to make your decisions regarding which paths to study and follow when you are attracted to multiple paths.    You can always go back and explore the other paths after you have done some study and practice of the first path you choose.  I strongly believe that we can all find truths in every path out there.  It is just up to us to find them as individuals.

 

*Photo found on http://www.alanbrookscrossroads.com/*

Pagan Blog Project: D- Divinity

Divinity-What is it?

The question I just asked here with the beginning of this post is a very difficult one to answer.  In my post about Questions and answers I gave several different questions that deal with you as the seeker trying to figure out and understand what the basis of your view of the divine is.  There is a reason I leave this question basically open ended and up to you the read to decide.  The idea is that by the end of this post I will have explained a few concepts of the divine and divinity that will allow you the reader to understand more about the possibilities out there.

The world is full of various concepts of the divine.  In some cultures you will find multiple views combined and worked together.  This post is going to illustrate some of the most common concepts of the divine.  By posting these concepts any then looking at the question asked about the divine previously I can point to which views are associated with which questions to help you further understand your path options and choices.

Concepts of the divine

Animisim:

Animisim is the view that all things are composed of a spirit aspect.  This belief means that everything is alive.  Every tree has its own spirit as does every other plant, animal, rock, and mineral.  This belief further can be expanded to have individual places like lakes, streams, mountains, ponds, ect to have their own spirits as well.  This was a fairly wide spread belief among ancient pagan religions and was a large part of the very first religions.

Pantheism:

Pantheism is the believe that the universe itself is the divine.  The world and everything in our reality makes up the divine.  The Divine is not personal or considered to have human form or a form to basically interact with.

Panentheism:

Panentheism is the belief that God is in the world.  The belief here is that the divine is found in everything.  It is a part of everything in the universe yet also extends beyond the universe.  Here we are also part of the divine.  Everything in the world is divine.  The world is divine.

Henotheism

This is where you believe in and worship one God while accepting that other Gods exist and may be worshiped that are not your God.  This is where monotheism and polytheism can co exist simultaneously.  You may personally only acknowledge one god and worship one god, yet you acknowledge other people believe in and worship other Gods.  So its acknowledged other gods while not believing in them yourself.

Agnosticism:

Being Agnostic means that you believe that the nature of the divine to be unknowable.  It is not something that can be either proven or disproved.  This is a stance that can be applied to spirits as well as to the divine and basically any spiritual or metaphysical stance or belief.  There are stages of this like there are agnostics who believe divinity to be unknowable but personally believe more in the possibility and are more open to it.  You also have some agnostics that believe that because divinity is unknowable there is no reason to spend any time on the thought or concept.  If its there its there if its not its not.  There is also a state in between where you just aren’t sure and leave it at that.

Atheism:

Atheism comes in a few forms.  In one form it is the completely lack of belief in divinity.  In another form it is the disbelief in any deities.  Basically it comes down to the fact that Atheists do not believe in any deities guiding the world and the universe.  This does not necessarily include a lack of belief in spirits or spiritual forces but specifically divine forces.

Monotheism:

Monotheism is the belief in one high and all mighty God.  There is only one God.  This god is the one who created everything and who rules everything.  There are no other divine beings in this world than them.

Soft Polytheism:

This is the belief where all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess.  Within this view there is also a view of the divine where there is one supreme creator that manifests as a God and Goddess in order for humanity to understand it better.  Here the various other Gods and Goddesses throughout history are simply facets of this one Goddess and one God.  Here it doesn’t matter which God or Goddess you call on in your ritual and work as in the end you believe them to all be one person.

Hard Polytheism:

Hard polytheism is where you believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses.  here you believe they are all unique and specific individuals.  Here Freya is different from Frigga who is different from Juno etc.  In this way each God and Goddess have unique personalities and work specific unique roles in their pantheons.  With this view you can not simply pick and choose your deities to work with.  Its more specific as they all have likes, dislikes, proper offerings, and many other things to consider within cultural contexts of the deities.

Deism:

Deism is the belief that through reason and observation of the natural world one can establish and determine the existence of a divine creator.  Along with using reason and observation of the natural world to determine the existence of a divine creator a deist rejects revelations (sacred texts and the like) as religious authorities.  They use their observations and reasoning to come to their own conclusions on the nature of the divine and or the existence of multiple deities or one divinity.

Where to go from here

By now you have a pretty good idea that there are many different ways and different concepts involved in understanding the divine.  It is up to you to figure out what your personal view of the divine is.  Twelve step programs out there have it right when they have a step in the process to come to understand God in your own way.  Not everyone who follows a twelve step program will understand God the same way.  Some may not believe in a God per say but they may believe in their own personal divine spark or higher self.

The concepts of the divine I listed above may be able to give you a name for your own beliefs and concepts of the divine.  As I said before in this post several of the forms of divine concepts can work together.  You can be a hard polytheist, animist, and panentheist at the same time.  Its all about thinking of your personal beliefs.  There is no right or wrong way to experience the divine.

In the end the divine is a mystery that we must all come to experience for ourselves.  The various religions and spiritual paths out there serve as ways to experience these forces.  In the end we must all come to our own understanding and our own relationship with the divine.  This can take work but in the long run the relationships formed are well worth it.

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