Category Archives: Deities/Divinity/God

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.

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.

Pagan Blog Project-A: Asking and answering questions

Asking and Answering Questions

Why we ask questions of ourselves

The process of seeking spirituality is a difficult one.  There are a lot of questions that come up as you being to question your path and your beliefs.  Many people when they leave their previous belief systems don’t really understand what they are looking for.  They may feel something missing but be unsure of what it is exactly they need.  During this period its good to read anything you get your hands on.  You should read basically any material regarding religions and spirituality you are drawn to.  There may be something in those sources that fits what you are looking for, or it could provide you with more confusion.

When you begin seeking a path there is often more information out there than you can handle at once.  There are so many texts and websites all offering different insights on how to start and where to begin the practice.  They all offer different insight into the lore and the belief systems of various religions and paths.  Its too much to take in and can cause confusion and ultimately frustration.  Don’t worry.  There is something you can do to fight this problem.

So before you throw out all your books on the different topics out of frustration, before you find yourself hopelessly lost in the sea of information you should ask yourself some questions.  Wait?  Ask myself questions?  You got it.  Ask yourself-your higher self (spirit guide, soul, how ever you want to see the part of you that is connected to the divine and exists in the spirit worlds) to answer some questions.   Your spirit will answer.  Even if the answer is not exactly specific pr uncertain you will at least have a place to start.

OK so I get asking questions now.  So what are these questions?  These questions are questions that will help you find the path you are looking for.  They will shed light on what you personally believe.   You may think you know what you believe but have you ever really asked yourself what you believe?  Many haven’t considered their position on many beliefs out there that you might not find in traditional religions or spiritual paths.

Asking the questions

So here are the questions.  There is one big overall question with some smaller questions for each section.  This is to make you really think about all aspects of the questions.  They may seem simple but these are deep questions that you need to think about.  As you write down these questions create a journal and write your answers down.  You may want to focus on one question or question set at a time.

1: What is your belief in deity?

Do you believe in multiple Gods or just one God?  Do you think that one God can manifest in different forms?  Do you believe that the multiple Gods are all different individuals?  Do you believe that the divine exists in everything and everything is part of the divine?

2: What do you believe in regards to spirits?

Do you believe that all things contain spirit (animals, plants, rocks, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, etc)?  Do you believe in different types of spirits (Dragons, Fairies, Elves, Dryads, Nymphs, etc)?  Do you believe in angels and or demons?  What are the relationships these spirits have with humans?  With the divine?  Do you believe in spirit guides?

3: What is your belief in the soul?

Do you believe in a soul?  Do you believe in an eternal soul or does the soul die/change after death?  Does the soul have multiple parts (like a mind, the spirit guide, etc) or is it one thing?  How does the mind relate to the soul?  The body?  Is the spirit and the soul the same thing?

4: What is your belief in death and the afterlife?

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you believe in heaven?  Hell?  Do you think that there is a place where we go after we die till we are reborn or till our memory fades away? Do you believe in multiple afterlives and multiple realms of the dead?

5: What is your belief in magic?

Do you believe in magic?  What is magic to you?  Is it something you want to use in spirituality?  Is it something you want to be a part of your religion?  Are you looking to use magic for more practical means? Do you think prayers are spells and magic?

6: Religion or spirituality?

What does religion mean to me?  What does spirituality mean to me?  Do I need one to have the other?  What do I want out of religion?  What do I want out of spirituality?

Answering the questions

I just gave you a lot of questions to answer and think about.  I don’t expect the answers to come to you easily.  The idea is that you will think about these questions.  You might be wondering how do I answer these questions?  I can’t really answer that.  You have to find the answers yourself.  I can show you how I answered these questions myself, and continue to answer them myself.

I have a journal that I have used to write down these questions and the answers I have come up with.  I have one page that lists all of the questions.  I start with the first question I asked.  I center myself through breath and focus.  I call to my higher self and spirit asking that they provide me with the direction to go in.  I then focus on the question and just start writing down my thoughts related to the question.

Don’t limit yourself.  Write down all the thoughts that come into your mind when you think about the question.  Don’t worry if there are questions you think of when you answer it.  Write them down as part of your response. This the gives you something to work with.  When you feel that you can’t say any more on the subject you have channeled all the answers you will have for the time being in regards to that question.

Write down your experiences with any of these things.  If you have experienced the divine write about that in the questions about the divine.  Write about spirit encounters under spirit beliefs.  Experiences often say more than beliefs.  If experience something you don’t necessarily need to believe in it as you have first hand knowledge and experience of it.  If the experiences made you question something or want to know more about something write that in.  Most pagan and spiritual paths are mystery and experience based.  That is why including personal experiences with these entries is important.

What if I can’t think of anything to write?   What if my answer is I don’t know? Then you start with that.  Just keep working the pencil.  As you repeat “I can’t think of anything to write” you will eventually find some thoughts coming into the page.  If you keep repeating I don’t know eventually you will have a few thoughts or ideas filter into the writing.  This is your answer.  Your starting point.

Once you have answered a question give yourself a day before going on to the next question.  Do not underestimate the amount of spiritual energy and mental energy used when writing these answer and thinking about these questions.  You do not want to overwhelm yourself when you first begin seeking.  The more time you spend writing about and thinking about spiritual concepts, practices, and the like the more comfortable and aware you will become of the energy used around you.

Using the information

Once you have answered the questions you have asked yourself give yourself a day or two before reading them.  This will give your mind and your soul a little rest.  You have been asking and looking deep at big questions.  A day or two to wait before reading your reflections and thoughts is not a bad thing.  You have given yourself a lot of information from deep down and processing it will take time,

So where do you go from here?  The next thing you need to do is look at each question group specifically.  Start with the deity question.  If you found answers along the lines of multiple deities than you have an idea that looking at pantheons may be a good place to start.  From here you can then think about any cultures you feel drawn to and start with those myths and god concepts.  Then you look at the spirit question.  If you already have a pantheon look within other myths and fairy tales or folklore to learn about the spirits in that culture.  If you don’t have a pantheon or god concept to start with then looking into shamanic practices is a starting point. I think you see where I am going with this.

The idea is that by answering the questions you can find cultures and spiritual paths that deal specifically with those beliefs and concepts.  You may find several different paths that hold similar beliefs.  At this point you will be able to read and look at them all.  Now is the time to write down as you read what you agree with in a path and what you don’t agree with.  You’ll already have an idea of your own beliefs.  So finding where you fit in is easier.

The journal you started with answering these questions is going to serve as your spiritual development journal.  This is where you will continue to write down questions you have.  You will write down what you agree with in certain paths, what you don’t agree with and the things you are not sure about.

As you continue you will find more questions and more answers.  You may find that when you review your original answers you have questions there to explore.  You may have found the answers to those questions.  If you do write a page about that question, when you asked it, and when or where you found the answer in your journal.  There will probably be some repetitive entries, but that’s ok.  It is your journey and it is going to be unique to you and you alone.

H: Heathen practices and me

Heathenism

For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian.  If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen.  Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition.  I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans.  My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.

The heathens of today are often hard to define.  For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path.  For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.

You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible.  There are several Germanic cultures to choose from.  You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes.  Each tribe had slightly different lore.  By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.

It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from.  It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest.  Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders.  These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette.  From these sagas we learn how they lived.  That is why they are excellent sources to use.  The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:

Saxo Grammaticus: The history of the Danes

,Heimskringla: The life of the Norse Kings

Right now I am in the process of reading  Heimskringla.  I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla.  Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods.  Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.

My Heathen Practice

My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts.  Witchcraft  as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture.  There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki.  Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant.  That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.

Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning..  These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like.  As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative.  I have gained much wisdom from those practices.  Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.

So what makes me a Heathen?  Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun.  I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines.  The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd.  There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.

The Norse were very much a warrior culture.  For them it was about honor and the battle.  Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless.  Yes.  The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes.  It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.

My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can.  It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like.  The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry.    For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.

What my heathen practice entails

I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism.  While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that.  My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods.  It involves prayers and obviously magic.

I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic.  Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes.  Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism.  It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom.  There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.

My practice also entails a lot of study.  There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me.  My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions.  I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual.  One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.

The path to wisdom is never ending.  This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.

 

    ,

D: Dedication

Dedication

The subject of this post is something that I actually have to think long and hard about.  Lately when I think about it I can’t honestly say that I have been fulfilling my honest statement of being dedicated to serving my readers and myself on my personal spiritual journey.  The last few weeks have been full of self doubt and self assessment.  To be honest I even asked myself what right I had to run and even continue to post on a blog dedicated to helping newbies and seekers find their own paths.

I honestly felt that there was no reason for me to continue posting this blog.  I have had a crisis of self esteem and self worth.  It just hit me recently that while I may not be exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my life I am exactly where Fate has dictated I belong.  This for me was a central part of accepting my current situation and current feelings of worthlessness.

During this time I have had to take a look at where I stand spiritually.  I have to admit I have never completed any training beyond my Reiki 1 certification.  I am proud to be a dedicant in the Temple Tradition.  This to me also shows and states quite a bit about the truth regarding myself.  I consider myself dedicated to the truths of witchcraft and finding my own path.

So this post is about the process of dedication and what exactly dedication means.  It is actually something that I consider several times a year as I look at my studies in witchcraft, paganism, philosophy, and magic.  With everything that I want to do in my life I have to make sure I study diligently .

Dedication or Initiation?

One of the most common things that new witches find in books on solitary witchcraft is a self initiation ritual.  A self initiation ritual does not work.  One can not self initiate.  To be initiated means that you are being brought into the religion or tradition.  You can not bring yourself into a religion or tradition.  You can however perform a dedication ritual announcing to the Gods and yourself that you are going to be following their path.

As a person seeks their spiritual path they are going to have to decide at some point if they want to a solitary practitioner (alone or maybe with a close friend or family member or if they want to seek out a group.  There are benefits to both of these choices.  I have never been a member of a group so I can’t speak for the benefits, though I am seeking one for fellowship and joint worship.  Groups may call for initiation rituals (Any British Traditional Witchcraft coven will require it and other traditions are also initiatory).  This is choice will found the rest of your path for the near future.

Types of dedication rituals

As dedication rituals are personal there are many different ways and many different types of doing a dedication ritual.  When I am exploring the worship of a religion I have not studied I perform a different type of dedication ritual than I do when I committing myself to the worship of specific set of deities.  All of these dedications are important rituals to be taken seriously.  Each type signifies a different level of commitment to a relationship with deities.

The first type of dedication is one of an introduction.  An introduction ritual is one where you are telling the Gods that you want to learn about them and their worship.  That you are opening yourself to them and that you are finding your path.  In this way you are not saying that you are going to stick around forever but that you are exploring and wishing to get to know them.

Here is a simple introduction ritual.  It is this ritual I have used when I introduced myself to the Germanic pantheons.  I will make similar rituals when I go back and study Hellenic Paganism, Roman Paganism, and Kemetic recon.  This ritual is only used when I am simply saying “Hi.  I’m…. I want to learn more about you and will try to honor you as I study about you, your culture, and your history”.  For me it is a sign of respect to introduce yourself before you start blindly studying and working on a base relationship.

Introductory Ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”

Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water.  State “With salt this water is pure”

Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.

Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.

Go to the altar and light the candle.

Here is where the ritual is going to essentially different for each person.  Every culture and every religious tradition out there will have a different sort of prayer style.  Some prayers are invocatory and others are more free form.  This is where a seekers early research should pay off as they should have some sort of idea as to what rituals the Gods of that pantheon like.  This is where you will state in ritual and prayer you intent to learn about them and is the first step in developing a relationship with the deities.

Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind

Sit in silence for a few minutes.

Go to the what ever you are offering.

Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”

Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.

Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day

You have to keep in mind that was just a simple outline for some one who has no real experience or any real knowledge of ritual structure and organization.  The more experience you have the more complexity you can add to the ritual if you so choose.  This ritual was simple because it is simply an introduction and they can be very simple.

The second type of dedication ritual is one that is sort of like a marriage.  You are committing yourself to your path for actual service to the Gods.  During this point in time you will have many trials and tests as you figure out your role and what the deities want from you.  Some its teaching, others it’s healing.  Some people never quite find exactly what the deities they worship want out of them for service, so they do what comes naturally to them or they simply continue to hold rituals in honor the memory of the Gods they worship.

One thing I did for the longest time to help me gain confidence and keep on track with my spiritual studies and practices was to do a renewal ritual.  This ritual always renewed my spirit in the process.  It also always brought me back into myself and into my place in my studies.  It also always seemed to bring me closer to the deities I had introduced myself to.

Recomitment ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”

Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water.  State “With salt this water is pure”

Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.

Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.

Go to the altar and light the candle.

Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind

Sit in silence for a few minutes.

Go to the what ever you are offering.

Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”

Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.

As you place your offering state your promise to start serving with more honesty and more dedication.  Announce proudly that you are giving yourself to service to these Gods for however long you are planning to keep at this level of service.

Look for any signs in your dreams or day to day life that the deities are listening to you and ready to accept your service to them.

Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day.

The ritual you see out there is one of my reasons for having such a strong connection with the Germanic deities.  I have spent a lot of time working ritual in honor of the Germanic deities.  It has fostered my relationships with several different deities in the Germanic pantheon.  In some ways this is a connection to my believed ancestral path.

The last name of Boynton is very Germanic.  There is a shire in Yorkshire England which holds the name Boynton.  My research has indicated that this shire would have been under control of the Saxxons.  This is a place I need to visit when I next visit England. I mean a shire which has the same name as my biological surname?  How can I not visit that place?    In which case the Germanic pantheon (which includes the Anglo’s, The Saxon’s, The Franks, The Norse, and several more tribes) would be a home coming for me which is what it felt like to me.

The third type of ritual is one that indicates a more serious commitment. In this final dedication ritual you are completely giving yourself to everything any anything that the deities you worship desire.  This is a very difficult and very important type of ritual that will cement your future.  Here you are asking to become an active priest or priestess.

The final dedication is one of an initiation from the Gods.  When witches talk about how only the Gods can initiate and make some one a priest or priestess of their path this is the sort of ritual that they have in mind.  This is a life changing ritual and is one of deep meaning. It is this ritual where you finally accept what it is that the Gods truly desires.

This is where one becomes a true servant of the Gods.  You are not only doing rituals for the Gods, but you are also offering services to the community.  You may start doing more volunteer work, you may teach a few people, you may even become an interfaith Chaplin.  In accepting the true mantle of what it means to be a member of the clergy (a true priest and priestess) one has given all that they are to their deities.

Remember when I said that a person would have to choose between being a solitary practitioner and as a member of a group and how I mention that BTW requires an initiation of sorts? The level of commitment that this dedication entails is the same as an initiation into a BTW Coven.  How can I say that with out actually being initiated into BTW?  It’s simple.  I have enough friends within various BTW traditions both with valid initiations and one oath breaker related tradition to say for sure that initiation into BTW makes you a priestess of those deities.  That means that within your coven and in your day to day life you are serving the needs of those Gods in what ever way they need from you. That is the sort of commitment that this level of dedication and initiation requires.

I am actually at this point in the development of my own witchcraft tradition.  I have yet to formalize the arrangement through a ritual.  This is something I am working on.  I have some what reluctantly accepted the mantled of priestess.  Perhaps this is the only way I can develop access to the mysteries that my Gods have instore for me.  For this reason I can not give a sample ritual.  If you are looking for some ideas you might want to look at:

  • A witches Bible By Stewart Farrar
  • What witches do by Stewart Farrar
  • Solitary Wicca by Scott Cunningham
  • Witchcraft for Today by Gerald Gardner
  • Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland
  • The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczack

Pagan Blog Project: B: breath The essence of Life and much more

Breath:

The essence of life and much more

No real introduction to this post.  I am just going to cut to the chase,  This is a post I have been meaning to write for two weeks because there are essentially two key points that I wanted to make with this topic that would benefit two separate posts.  One is on the origin of it’s spiritual component and the other is on a magical aid and as a trance inducing practice.  Like I said both of these posts would be related in that they are both centered around the concept of breath and what it means.

One of the reasons I have both felt the need to write these posts and have been unable to complete or even begin starting these posts is that here in Maine its the middle of winter and that’s bad news for asthmatics like myself.  If I am struggling to breathe properly it makes sense that while I would both be in the perfect state to explain the properties of Breath as life I am also not in the best states to think of anything but focusing on my own breath.

It is with both of these things in consideration (and the personal stress I was feeling for not posting for two weeks at this point) that I have decided to write this post.  I have a lot of different sources to pull on how breath is both life and is also counted to be an aspect and an essence of the soul (though I’ll try to give enough info for you to create your own opinion).  This is a wide topic so let’s start with science and the birth of a human baby and the “actual full death” of a human.

Breath in the human life cycle

After a mother has given birth to her child the doctor slaps the baby on the ass to begin crying and thus start breathing.  A human is not considered alive if they are not breathing.  If a baby does not cry with that action they are not alive and thus need work to be able to breathe or may be considered dead.  In the elderly a person’s whole mind and spirit could be gone yet their body kept alive through food and automatic breathing considered “life support”.

The ability to breath and to have the freedom to some what control one’s breath has always been part of what makes a person alive.  So long as a person is breathing and their body can “physically” function even with the support of machines a person is technically considered alive.  This is a thought and a concept that has been buried deep within human cultures and thoughts for many reasons and a lot of it relates back to lore and mythology.

I mention that this has been buried deep and that would be correct.  There are many different mythologies around the creation of man.  There are two central themes I have found that in the creation of humanity.  One is that we have been physically created out of the earth by the hands of the Gods.  The other is that it wasn’t until the Gods gave us breath that we became fully alive, even if other Gods had contributed other factors to what made a human being, we were not alive until we were given breath by the Gods.

There are two examples that I can think of that support this though. .  While many people may not be able to understand and accept this, when it comes to the creation and what actually brought humans to life Christians and those who follow Germanic paganism have one thing in common: The breath of life from their High God.

I’ll start with the creation myth of humans from the Poetic Edda (one of the Norse and Germanic sacred texts):”

17. Then from the throng | did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, | the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate | on the land they found,
Ask and Embla, | empty of might.

18. Soul they had not, | sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.”

Here Soul is often equated with physical life.  The warmth of our body and fact that it actually reflects life was the gift of Honir.  Two of the elements that make humans alive were given from one deity.   The abilities to make sense/understand the world is one of the gifts of the Gods.  That gift was given by Honir.  Finally we have Odin’s gift.  Other translations list Odin’s gift last as it is not until breath and life is actually given to Ash and Embla that the first humans come to life.

As you can see from my analysis soul and breath in Germanic lore are associated.  The breath of life is important.  It enters our body at birth and leaves at Death.  The breath can be seen as being the vessel for the soul.  It enters at birth and leave on death.  That s what the soul is.  In some ways the soul and the mind and the breath can all be linked exactly to life.  The heart starts working before the mind, and the breath.

In the book of Genisis humanity is not aware or alive until God gives them the breath of life:

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

So that is the connection in the creation of humanity.  In both cultures humans were born from the earth in some form.  In Christianity it’s from dust.  In Germanic lore it’s from trees that we were born.  In both sets of lore it is also only through the gift of the breath of life that humanity becomes aware and able to live.

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