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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.

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.

 

Pagan Blog Project: Goddess spirituality

Goddess Spirituality

One of the common themes out there in the world of Paganism and alternative spirituality is the concept of generic Goddess spirituality.  There are many different things that people mean when they say that they follow Goddess spirituality rather than a specific religion or spiritual path.  In all honesty like all spiritual paths Goddess spirituality is a very personal path.  There are some common themes and traits among Goddess spirituality so I am going to cover a few of those themes today for you to follow and understand.

What is Goddess spirituality

What is goddess spirituality?  Goddess spirituality is in the end a relationship with one divine great Goddess.  This Goddess is the mother of everything.  She is the creator of everything.  She has no name but is mother to every one who follows her path.  The Great Goddess is both apart of this world and separate from this world.  The Goddess is in everything and is a part of everything.

Goddess spirituality is actually as old as time.  The earliest figures that we have found appear to be mother Goddess figures.  It is believed that because women are the ones to give life that the ancient and primitive cultures believed that it was a feminine divine entity that created life.  They also believed that it was to her that we returned when we die.  She was the womb and the tomb.

The great Goddess is a theme that comes in many different forms and styles.  Goddess spirituality is essentially focusing on the Goddess as the source of all life.  Its celebrating her form through all life.  The great Goddess in Goddess spirituality is the one who can heal, who can protect, and can do everything.

In Goddess based spirituality all you focus on is her energy.  The Goddess is the one who gifts you with everything that you need to have in life.  She is abundance.  She is sexuality, she is passion.  The Goddess is the fertile fields, the growing tree.  She is the laughter of children and the fiery protection that parents have for their children.  This Goddess is love and light but is also fierce and protective.  She is also darkness and fears.

 

Theism and Goddess spirituality

In many pagan paths you find the concept of polytheism.  That is a belief in many different Gods and Goddesses.  When it comes to traditions and practices of Goddess based spirituality it ca be hard to define exactly if it is a polytheistic path or not.  Goddess spirituality can be a polytheistic path or it can be simply a path with out any real form of theism.  For now I am going to cover a few of the different theistic or deity centered ways that Goddess spirituality can be experienced.

In Goddess spirituality there are several ways that it can manifest.  The primary form of Goddess spirituality is a form that is that of Panentheism.  Here they believe that the Goddess is everything in the universe and beyond the universe.  The great Goddess both made the universe and makes up the universe.  The Goddess is here at all times and everything.

A related view of Goddess spirituality is that of Pantheism.  In Pantheism the Goddess makes up all of the universe and all of the known reality we live in.  She is everything here.  The Goddess is the universe manifested.  Just by living and experiencing life we experience her.  There is no need for prayer or worship.  Simply live life and enjoy the beauty and you have found the Goddess.  The Goddess would be in all the food we eat, all the plants we see and any and all animals that you encounter.

Many people who follow Goddess spirituality are soft polytheists of sorts.  These people believe that the Great Goddess has many faces and names.  They believe that all Goddesses are aspects of the one Goddess.  In soft polytheism they believe that she is so vast and so great that as humans we can not fully understand or appreciator all that she has to offer or even all of her mystery.  So we created and experience her face in many different forms.  In short those who follow a soft polytheistic path believe that  no matter what name you use for the great Goddess you are worshiping her.

The other way that Goddess spirituality manifests soft polytheism is believing that one great Goddess created everything and that this Goddess is both male and female.  In other words its not just the Goddesses that make up the Great encompassing Goddess.  In this view they believe that even the Gods or male aspects of the divine make up aspects of the great Goddess as well as the feminine.  This great Goddess is male and female all at once.

Hard polytheism .  In Goddess worship through hard polytheism the great Goddess isn’t one Goddess.  In this form of Goddess spirituality you are contacting the feminine divine forces through individual Goddesses.  Some one who follows Goddess spirituality through the form of individual Goddesses as separate entities worships the Goddesses as feminine divine forms.  Here they may worship the individual Goddesses for different reasons for their associations or for what ever reasons the Goddesses they worship call to them.

Then you have monotheistic Goddess worshipers.  The monotheistic Goddess worshiper believes that there is only one divine force in the world.  That one divine force is the Goddess.  They believe that no other divine force in the universe.  All the divine power and all divine influences come from this Goddess.  They believe that everything came from this Goddess and to her everything will return.  This is probably the most common form of Great Goddess worship and Goddess spirituality.

How to practice Goddess Spirituality

In Goddess spirituality the idea is that there are many different ways to practice Goddess spirituality.  Like any spiritual and religious path it is going to be a very personal path and choice.  Like all paths there will be different ways that you can go out and find the Goddess.  There are many ways you can work and make a relationship with the great Goddess and be a part of Goddess spirituality.

The best advice I can give on Goddess spirituality and practicing it is to remember how important feminine energy is to life.  All things in this world need both masculine and feminine energy in order to produce offspring and thus survive.  Life is the gift of the Goddess.  By appreciating life and enjoying life you are living with the Goddess and enjoying all that the Goddess has to offer you.  That is a form of Goddess worship.

In the poem the charge of the Goddess there is a line that states “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”.  This is one of the truths about true divine Goddess spirituality.  In true Goddess spirituality doing the things that you enjoy, the things that move your spirit and make you feel whole are ways you can honor and be one with the Goddess.  Yes sex and sexuality are implied in that wording but it means more than that.  If you live to perform find ways to dedicate your performances to the Goddess.  If you paint involve her in your activities and let her direct your painting.  By being true to your inner self and your real joys and pleasures in life you are being true to her and letting her move you.

If you are the type of person who likes to do formal ritual than go for it.  Goddesses and the divine in general do enjoy formal worship.  When ever you are working with any sort of spirit of divine being its important to give them offerings of types at different times.  This is how you worship them and stay in their presences.  With the great Goddess and Goddess spirituality its not really any different.  It just depends on how you interpret the Goddess in your version of Goddess spirituality.

Now you may think that Goddess spirituality is just for women.  This is not true.  While you may find and will find a majority of Goddess central or Goddess based spiritual paths are women only, this is in part because the Goddess spiritual movement has been tied in with feminine power and movements to empower women.  Goddess spirituality also in many cases and ways focuses on women mysteries hence forth it is a female central path.  There are men on this path its just different for them and they often times feel out of place.

Paths and traditions

The following is a list of known Goddess central and Goddess spirituality based paths.

Dianic Wicca-Formed by Z Buddapest

Reclaiming- Starhawks tradition a mixture of Dianic Wicca and Feri witchcraft

Resources

Goddess spirituality is not one of my expertise.  It is an area that I have only done some vague research into.  I have presented you with the information I have found.  I am providing you with some resources now on Goddess spirituality that may be more beneficial to you,

Books:

The Spiral Dance by Starhawk

The Book of Womens Mysteries by Z. Buddapest

The White Goddess Robert Graves

Websites:

Goddess movement Wikipedia

Temple of Diana

If you have a book or link on Goddess spirituality that you would like to share comment and I will add it to the list. I will also add them to the links pages as I get those resource pages up and running.

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.

A: Altars-Phase 1- 6 key points and exercises to building an altar

This is the first post of the new year.  Once again I will be participating in the Pagan Blog Project.  The Pagan Blog Project involves one post a week on Friday based on the prompt of that week which will be a letter of the alphabet.  With 52 weeks that means each letter will be done twice.  So it’s appropriate that my first post of the year be a part of the project which got me writing and developing my audience.  With out further Ado:

Pagan Blog Project week 1: A

Altars:

The simplicity and the complexity

One of the first questions that many seekers ask themselves and look for an answer when they read a book is how to set up an altar.  To be honest this is something I have often asked myself.  Every path has a different style of worship and a different type of an altar.  This is why altar creation is often a confusing topic for seekers.

I have found that altar creation often goes and works in two phases.  The first phase is one of basic simplicity and progress of development spiritually, magically, religious or what ever.  The second phase is one of more specificity.  Here the path and orientation of the altar is more specific and designed for a specific path and practice.  While a person develops spiritually they may end up going through both phases multiple times to expand horizons and to develop the way they wish to.

So with out further ado here are the seven key tips and pointers I have found for altar creation and development during the first phase of the altar and spiritual guidance.  As a person evolves in their spiritual path their altar and how they use it will evolve with them.  The first stage may see a lot of changes rapidly and that is completely normal.  It’s important you try to be like water and adapt.

Seven points of Phase one

  • Define Altar
  • Figure out what style of altar you have in mind (ceremonial,shrine,easily hidden, permanent, easy up&Down, travel, indoors, out doors) each of these types of altars have different things to take into consideration.
  • With no specific deities or altar set up in mind let the altar build itself until you get a feel for where you are going (maybe start with a candle and some incense a statue, things that relate to your path, ect)
  • Tend to the altar regularly (spend time working with it, using it, making things for it, cleaning it, ect)
  • The Gods and spirits will guide you-let them
  • Experiment till you find what works for you

So let’s start with the first point as it then gets into the second point.

1) Define Altar

Any person who has spent any time reading books on meditation, psychic development, witchcraft, magic, spirituality, paganism, occult philosophies, magick and the like has read several different definitions of what an altar is and why it is used in that manner by that path.  For this I can understand why it can be difficult to try and understand how to develop your own altar and what you might want to put on it.

Here is my definition of an altar:

1: A work surface for magical workings (spells, crafting magical obejcts, consecration, ect)
2: A place for placing offerings for spirits and deities
3: A focal point in ritual to direct and manifest energy to be sent out during worship
4: A place dedicated to a very specific spirit or deity where prayers and rituals are offered

When I am working a ritual I typically use all four definitions at one time.  I often feel that in my religious and spiritual practices as well as philosophical experiments and practices I find a way to implement and use all four definitions.  In that way I have an altar for every need including two for a two very specific types of spirits (Dragon and ancestral).

Exercise 1:
Take a piece of paper and at the top of the page write out your concepts and ideas for what an altar is.
Include diagrams of how you might picture your own altar or altars

This brings us up to point 2:

2:  Figure out what type of altar you would like

In my outline and introduction I mentioned that there are many different types and styles of altars.  There are altars outdoors, altars set up in Temples, altars that take up a wall, simple altars, complex altars, path specific altars and many more.  In many cases books will provide some diagrams for altars, or can provide altars that look so complex and overwhelming that a new seeker and practitioner will get overwhelmed.  That’s why before any one starts to form an altar they need to have their definition and an ideas.

So remember those sketches I had you do?  You might have ended up with a diagram like this

Altar 8 simple and ceremonial altar

or this:

Book Altar Diagram

The important thing is that you may have some sort of idea in your mind.  This is great.  Part of coming up with your definition of an altar was coming up with how you were going to be using your altar in your spiritual and religious development.  With your definition you now have some idea where to start.  The second point here is to decide exactly what type of altar you are going to construct.

When you consider what type of altar you are going to build there are many considerations.  For one do you want to have an altar outside or do you want to have it inside?  Is your altar going to be up permanently or is it going to be put up and taken down when you need or desire to use and work with your altar?  Is you altar going to be open for any one to see or is it going to be hidden?  Before one can construct an altar they need these questions answered.

Exercise 2:
On a new piece of paper (or the back of the same paper) answer the following questions about your altar
Inside or out?
Hidden or open?

Permanent or only when needed?

Once that is done we can get onto the next set of questions related to figuring out what type of altar you are going to be setting up.  How you answered the above questions is going to dictate what happens next.  For example I myself want to have an outdoor altar but I don’t have one because I can’t.  For years I had to decide if I wanted to hide my altar or if I wanted it open and there was a time when it had to be hidden.  There were times when I could keep my altar up all of the time and there were times when I had to dismantle it after a ritual and setting up the altar actually became a part of the ritual.

Third exercise:
On the same piece of paper under the last three questions answer the next set of questions
Is my altar going to be ceremonial?
Is it a focal point for energy in ritual?
Do I want something simple or something complex?
Does my path require something specific at this point in my studies?

Now that you have decided on how you ultimately are going to set up your altar you can get on to point 3.

3: Let the altar Build itself

Now that you have an idea and decided what you want to do it’s time to start letting the altar build itself.  The first step is choosing where to place your altar.  If the altar is outside figure out where and how you are going to use it.  Think about if it’s going to be environmentally friendly (if permanently established outside or in a closed area).  Once you have that it’s time to build your altar.

Here you need to think about what you actually want to put on the altar.  As a starting point you may want a candle holder and and incense holder.  You may also want to put on any objects which seem to be spiritually important to you and help you focus.  What you start with may be impacted by your location and supplies on hand.  Never forget that you can use household candle holders and the like for your altars and rituals.

The simplest altar I have:

Altar 4

Here you can clearly see a single candle in a candle holder and two religious symbols one for the God and one for the Goddess.  You can also see that I am simply using the top of my dresser as the altar.  It’s a simple altar for basic daily affirmations and meditation exercises.  It was also used for focusing energy towards the spirit of the home and land before I could give the offerings to the spirit in person.

Some people freak out when they see an altar like this (not mine):

Altar 9 Complex Altar

Early in my seeker years the above picture is how I always figured a magicians and witches altar would look like.  I never felt my small altar (like the one pictured above) would actually work for magic.  Though all the books I read stressed the importance of making sure that your altar reflected yourself and what you had, I never felt comfortable and that I was doing it right even though I was doing what seemed to feel right.  This goes into the next exercise I have for you:

Exercise 4:
Find where you are going to build your altar and clean it.
Gather up the items you are going to place on your altar and place them to the side of the location.
As you put the items on the altar focus on the altar and it’s new purpose and keep an image in your mind of what you are using the altar for.
When done stand up and say something like a dedication prayer:
“I now call this my altar and it shall be consecrated and dedicated to all my spiritual, religious, and magical pursuits”. 
Focus your energy into a ball and “throw” it into the altar
Now that you have an altar built and established it’s time to talk about the fourth point which is tending to your altar regularly.

4: Tend to the altar regularly

Tending to an altar seems like a simple task right?  Well it’s not that simple.  Tending to an altar can be simple but it can also be very complex and require time and effort.  This ties into the first point about understanding and defining an altar and then figuring out what you are going to be using the altar for.

An altar that is dedicated to a specific spirit type such as a Dragonic Altar:

Dragon altar

Tending to the altar is a daily task.  The management of these altars is the primary way to  maintain relationships with these beings.  Here you will give offerings, keep the place clean, offer prayers, focus energy in worship, and use as an aid in both magic and spiritual endeavors.

A meditative and simple focal altar like the one on my dresser are simply tools for practice and serve specific purposes.  Maintaining them is about using them to build practice and strengthen your meditative and trance practices.  They are primarily magical tools and working with them exercises those magical mussels.

Altars set up for generic rituals, and specific sabbatts are designed to be created and maintained as part of worship and a development of a relationship with the Gods and spirits.

Sabbat Altars:

Altar 5 Winter Solstice Altar

Exercise 5:

Once your altar has been established spend about 5-10 minutes a day working with your altar.
Fondle the items on the altar, light the candle,  give a prayer, etc.  Build energy and focus the energy into the altar.
Record each day your experiences.
After two weeks feel the energy of the altar before you begin your altar maintenance and after.  You will be seeing how an altar starts to develop ts own energy and persona.  Take that energy and mix it with your own and put the new combined energy into the altar.
Record and repeat.

This brings up to the fifth point of developing an altar.

5: Gods and spirits will Guide you, Let them

As you begin to build your altar and your relationships with the spirits involved you may start feeling the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits directing you over time as to what may and may not belong on the altar.  It is important that you listened to these voices.  The altars I have posted above are always evolving and changing.  With each change I try to capture a photo of it that I can eventually place into my BOS for prosperity.

 

worship altar 1

For that reason there the final point of this essay is important.

6: Explore and Experiment

Over the years my altars have been experimental.  Sometimes the layout and the rituals just failed.  Sometimes the ritual worked, but the altar layout failed and didn’t make any sense.  It’s through these trials and errors that we finally start to figure out what works for us and our path as well as the spirits and deities that we are involved with.

The experimentation should also reflect growth and trials for new things and development.  You need to be willing to fail and willing to try something before putting it aside.  You need to have the courage to develop on your own.  You can use what others have shown and have it be a base, but in the end you need to make it your own.

As you evolve the different aspects of your spirituality may evolve and start to merge together into one cohesive path.  This is what starts and evolves into a tradition.  Things that were separate blended together to make one, a syncretic path.    A key way to discover this and see how they are becoming one is to watch you altar over time (this is why the pictures are important).

As I understand my deities and my path I hear their voices and my instincts have started to guide me in developing my altars to reflect my path.  Every once and a while when something doesn’t sit right a new altar is created and it allows for new insights and different types of worship.

That is the essence of exploration.  Now my path has three distinct altars one for dragons, one for ancestral and home spirits, and one for worship.  With out exploration I would have never found that this was the best balance for me.  The worship altar does change as I have a different sabbat altar than I would a ritual and prayer altar.

My Dragon altar evolved from God and Goddess with a Dragon too being it’s own altar:

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Dragon altar

Exercise 6:Once a month try a new set up to your altar.

Draw a diagram or take a picture of the differences and record the physical changes.

During the month continue the maintenence exercise as above and record the differences.

Notice any changes that occur in your energetic field. 

If something feels wrong change it and record the changes.

  If you feel more powerful or more positive record the changes and start to expand and understand the way the energy works. 

You may find that one setting is better for you than an other

I hope that this outline and guide has helped you as a seeker.  As I said this only covers the first phase and part of altar making and development.  The second phase is a bit more indepth and will be the focus of next week.  If you have any questions or thoughts please post them in the comments section.

~Loona Wynd 1/5/2013 12:01 am~

 

 

 

Samhain and Hallowmas- The festival of the dead and the ancestors (Pagan Blog Project)

Samhain and Hallowmas:

The Holy Week:

Death and Rebirth in the cycle becomes complete

Part 1: The Spiritual Aspects and implications

I write this as Samhain and Hallowmas come to a close.  The festivals of the dead and the transition from the lords of the land to the lords of the underworld completes the transition.  I figured that as part of my job to help seekers on their search for questions I should provide some insight as to exactly what this sabbat is about and why people celebrate the sabbat in the ways that they do.  Like everything else there are many ways to explain and experience the mysteries of these sabbats and not every ones view will agree with yours or even make sense to you.  All I can do is provide my own insight based on my personal experiences and sources.

As I have started to develop my own personal theology this sabbat has come have a different meaning to me than other people might have.  That is why in my own practice I call the holiday I celebrate Mortedon.  However since most people are familiar with the names Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day that is what I will use here.

According to many sources this time of year could easily be considered the witches new year.  The God is officially dead and in the underworld.  He wont be born again until the Winter solstice and as such he is dead and in the underworld.  This is the time to transit between one working season and the other.  It is a time of completion and reflection that may bring about the planning ad start of the new planting season for the next harvest.

In many ways the major difference between those who call themselves Traditional witches and those who consider themselves Wiccan is that the majority of the rituals in traditional witchcraft deal with ancestral veneration and ancestors as divine while the rituals found within Wicca focus on the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady rather than the ancestors.  This is alright.  Not every one is meant to worship and venerate the ancestors.  Anthropologically it has been said that ancestral worship was the first form of worship, which is why for me it has become a source of my foundation.

I actually appreciate these different theological styles.  There is one holiday in which they both meet and they both share the same view.  It is viewed by both paradigms (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) as a day to honor both the dead and the ancestors as well as the God and Goddess.  It is also an acknowledgement by both sides that the season of reflection is upon us.  It is now that we must spend our time upon reflection and preparation for the new year and seasons.

Samhain, All souls Day, All Saints Day, Ancestor Night…all of these are names for essentially the same festival.  This festival is an acknowledgment of every one who has gone before us.  It is also an acknowledgement that there is life after death.  It is here we can really see how even though the people we love and cherish may have passed on from this life, they really are still near by and watching us.

In many ways this is the time of year where the festivals a person honors and celebrates explains at least in part what their view of the afterlife is.  For some people who believe in reincarnation this is also a time to connect with any of their past lives so that lessons they have to impart may be gives.  This is the second festival where the veil between the worlds of the living and dead as well as spirit worlds is lowest.  That is why contact with spiritual allies at this time of year.

Part Two: The Theology and Mythology of the Sabbat

Folkore and myth united

This is according to many sources the last sabbat of the year.  For many witches the year starts at Yule and ends at Samhain and begins at Yule.  In reality there is no real start or finish to a cycle.  Cycles are circles and will always come back to a point and start again.  This is how the world and the universe exist.  Everything in the universe will be used again in the universe at some point in time.  Every thing physical you see on this planet is made of of a star that existed eons before we were born:

Theologically, spiritually, and mentally it makes sense that the world as we know it would work in cycles.  The physics at work in the universe simply provide a non-disputed example of how reincarnation exists.  Here at Hallowmass and Samhaintide we are really able to see and understand how death and destruction/decay are essential to the growth and development of future lives and crops.

According to the Cycle of the Year and the 8 sabbats within Wicca and Eclectic witchcraft Samhain is when the God is dead.  He was sacrificed at Mabon to ensure the fertile grounds of the next harvest.   At one point in history it was believed that the king was sacrificed to bring life to the land for the next year.  This was symbolic of the God’s death for the fertility of the land.  Latter corn dollies were sacrificed instead of a human.

Blood was and still is the essential life force.  If a creature is alive it bleeds.  By the God sacrificing himself his blood (his life force) goes into the land giving life to the land.  He knows that he will be reborn in his son in the end of winter and he will from the underworld guide and symbolize his son’s birth and his return by the return of the sun’s light starting at the Winter solstice (Yule).

It was believed that once a person died their body became the land.  The blood of the sacrificed victim nourished the spirits of the land for the winter and would gain their favor for the spring.At Samhain the ancestors and other spirits from the land of the dead returned to give their blessings for the following year to their descendants.

The God at this time was in the Underworld understanding and being reborn.  At Beltaine he had impregnated the Lady, his lover and wife, who would bear the child of promise who would carry and light the way for the Lord to be reborn at Yule (the light returning slowly) with his actual birth at Imbolc.  The rest of the sabbats continue along this line.   So in some ways Samhain is both the start and the finish.

The knowledge that there is life after death and life in death is symbolized no better than with ever greens (one of the reasons why those trees are decorated at Christmas).  It’s also one of the reasons I feel that the hope to get through the winter for the spring exists.  To see something that is alive and producing chlorophyll in the winter while the rest of the trees are inherently dead proves that there is life in death.   It is one of the reasons I can see that death allows for the continuation of life.

With these thoughts in mind it is time to get to:

Part 3: A sample ritual

Ways that honoring the ancestors can be done

Now that it has been established why honoring the ancestors is so important I can start to give you some ideas as to how you as a seeker or as an active Pagan could honor your ancestors and the Gods and celebrate this sabbat and simply begin or further expand your understanding of this sabbat.  For myself I gained even deeper insight into the mysteries this Samhain.  As I post this the gates start to begin closing and the path seems to close, yet the creepy and spooky nature that is Samhaintide and Hallowsmass remains, the time to honor the ancestors comes to a close.

I have had a week to reflect on what I wanted to write for this entry and I have finally come to the last part of the entry where I can really start to explain how one can go about celebrating this sabbat.  For many years as a seeker I was honestly unsure of what to do with my offerings for any sabbat.  Samhain was another one that left me confused, so now I feel it it is time to give some sort of explanation as to how you can give your offerings to the Gods and the ancestors.

So here is a very simple ritual:

Ancestral Ritual For Samhain:

Materials:

Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol

Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds

Two cups

1 tree

Ritual:”

As you pour your drink concentrate and think of your ancestors and the Gods and the land.  Focus intently and place this light into the food and drink blessing it in the names of the spirits, the ancestors, and the Gods.  You then pour two drinks one for the Spirits, ancestors and Gods and one for your self.

As you take your drink say a prayer for what you are thankful and towards any ancestors you wish to contact and communicate with.  Take a moment and think of them.  Then get into your trance position.  For this it may be best of you lie facing down with your hands working as a head rest head in a comfortable position.  After you get into position think and state to your self:

“I Vibrate in harmony with the Underworld and the Gods of the Underworld”.

Repeat this statement over and over until you reach a state where you see and become one with the God or Goddess of the Underworld.  Continue the trance until you have gained all the insight you will receive.  Slowly reduce your vibration into yourself.  Once you are back into yourself take another drink in honor of the Gods and the lesson you learned.

Eat the red apple or the pomegranate seeds.  If you eat the apple place the seeds aside till the morning.  If you eat the pomegranate seeds place a few aside till the morning.

Go to bed expecting dreams based on the rite you performed.  The following morning write down any dreams you may have had.  When done and dressed for the day take the seeds and the same drink you had the night before and place them in a whole at the trees base.

Reasoning behind the ritual:

By taking in that blessed drink you understand that the drink is the fruits of the Gods who you worship as well as the ancestors who literally are the land.  This drink is their blood after the sacrificial blood of the god had been spilled, this is their response.  When you eat the fruits of the land or drink of the liquids you are taking in the essence of the land and your ancestors.

When you let a drink in a cup evaporate overnight that drink is consumed by the air and the essence of life.  The ancestors who have returned to visit partake of this liquid.  In the morning the seeds and the remaining liquid are returned to the ground.  This nourishes the ancestors and the spirits as well as the gods.  This is how we can honor and nourish them.

Part four: My conclusion:

For me this really explains a lot.  Through the ritual expressed above I was able to understand the roles of the Gods and the Goddesses that I worship.  I was also able to understand exactly what the underworld does to work with rebirth and reincarnation.  Finally When I look at astrophysics and how the creation of new universes begin and what black-holes really are I can see how my theology and philosophy line up with science.

I really recommended that any seeker of the wisdom of the cycle of destruction, reformation, creation, growth, and development take a basic physics course.  This course will explain how the various galaxies came into being, how stars and suns are born, and how new universes are created.  In some ways it may also lead a seeker to see how magic could be seen to be the force that keeps all of these things working in balance.  That is what Samhaintide and Hallowmas is all about.

Lore-What it is and why it’s important

Lore

Many people talk about mythology and folklore and how they study them to gain ideas and insights about their religious paths and practices.  Today witches actually have a plethora of lore that we have access to.  For many people this is a problem as there is so much lore out there they don’t know where to go looking for lore and they don’t know what to do with it once they have found the lore.  This blog entry is going to cover a few of those concepts.

The goal of this blog is to help witches and pagans know just how much lore there is for them to sort through.  Part of that process is going to be giving examples of lore and how I have started to study and interpret folklore.  The following concepts will be outlined and discussed in this blog entry:

  • What defines Lore
  • Where to find Lore
  • How to decide what lore to use
  • Interpreting Lore
  • Why we use lore
  • Applying lore to practice
  • Writing your own Lore

What defines Lore

There are many different ways that people define lore.  For myself I define lore as sets of oral and written stories and practices that inspire the practices of various witches and pagans.  Many people often forget that family recipes and traditions are also different types of lore that can be included into their practices.  For myself there are family traditions that I have started to incorporate into my practices.  For example every year for Christmas my mother makes Meat Pie which is a throw back to her family’s French Canadian roots.  As a pagan and witch I have added this to my Winter Solstice as well as my Yule celebrations.  Freyr was worshiped by the Franks (French and Yule is his holiday) and meat pie as made by my family mixes beef and pork.  So for me baking a pie for the Solstice and for Yule are perfectly acceptable lore additions to my practice.

Where to find Lore

One of the things when I first started to practice witchcraft I found was that there were no specific myths for my practice.  While many neo-pagan witchcraft books contain a basic mythos for the sabbats and the wheel of the year I often found that concept to be rather incomplete.  There were no specific myths written out that I could find that described the events in the wheel of the year.  For a time I went with what was told and figured that was all there was to the concept.  Then when I started to actually do more in depth research I found a few authors who actually gave a few of the fairy tales and myths associated with various spirits and analyzed them.  Then I started to really look.

So where can you find lore?  The answer is every where.  There is lore in poetry, songs, plays, little sayings, old traditions that no one seems to remember where they come from, history, and anything far and in between.  Fairy tales are rich sources of lore.  Myths from various cultures can be fascinating pieces of lore as well.  Old stories and tales often considered “legends” often have deep traces of lore in them.  Believe it or not the book “Hammer of the witches” along with the accounts of the witch trials  are actually full of lore.  Some of it can be pure hate based, but there are aspects of gold in there.

yes I did just say that you can use the witch trials as sources of lore.  Now why would I as a modern witch even think of using hate based lore?  The simple fact of the matter is that the stuff about witches shape shifting is true, but not in the literal sense.  The same thing goes about the witches sabbats.  Often times there were and still are sexual themes and uses of substances to enhance the ritual trances and achieve unions with the divine.  You just need to know how to read and look through the lore.

Deciding What Lore to use

This is a very personal thing that only you can really decide.  There have been bits of lore that I have accepted and there are bits of lore I have  not accepted for my practice.  In the end while I can give you some advice it is a personal choice what you use for the lore that make up your unique practice.  No matter what any one else says there will always be something unique about your practice. So now on to how we pick out which lore you will use.

The first thing you need to do is read any and all lore that you can get your hand into.  Once you start reading the lore you need to pick up a notebook to write down any and all thoughts that you have after you read the lore.  After you read the lore look at your thoughts and your emotional reactions to the lore.  If the symbolism in the myths and lore relates to how you view and understand the world than you should add it to your personal collection of lore.  If the symbols and the theme of the tale doesn’t relate to your views than you can simply not work with that lore.

Like everything else you need to work with that which makes sense and works for you.  One of the first things you will need to do before you can work with lore is have some sort of understanding of your own beliefs and views of the world.  If you dont know what you believe you wont be able to gain insight from lore.  our beliefs are what form the basis of our practices and the understandings we have about the world around us.

Interpreting Lore

Over the last few years I have spent several semesters studying various stories and myths.  One of the things literature classes teach their students is how to analyze the literature that they read.  A key thing in analyzing and interpreting lore is being able to back up what you get from the tale.  For example I did a paper on Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher” and I compared the story to Poe’s real life and I used it as an example of sickness.  Through out the paper I used quotes from the story and his own life to support the views.

When a person starts to interpret lore there are many things that need to be taken into consideration.  The first thing is cultural research and historical information.  By looking into the history and culture of an area you can gain a better insight as to what they symbols may have meant to the people who originally read or told the stories.  By looking at the culture context becomes clear and the meanings of stories become more obvious.

Context is key in interpreting lore.  Once you have context you can start to apply personal meaning to the deeper messages and thus start to gain a deeper practice.  Personal meaning comes from the reflections and thoughts that a person has after they read or hear the lore.   Interpreting Lore is something that takes a bit of meditation and work, but the rewards are worth it.

Why we use Lore

There are many reasons why witches and pagans use and study lore.  The most basic reason is that lore provides insight as to why things are done the way they are.  Lore can also provide keys for the deeper mysteries that provide the gateway to ascension and higher spiritual evolution.  Lore provides understanding to the personalities and the interests of the various spirits.  It gives ideas as to what we can use for offerings and what is sacred to these beings.

Applying Lore to practice

In the previous sections I mentioned that one of the uses of lore is to gain an understanding as to what the various deities and spirits may enjoy for offerings and sacrifices.  One of the things that is essential to have a successful practice that is very fulfilling you need to have a connection to the deities and spirits.  The best way to establish these relationships is through sacrifices, offerings, prayer, meditation, and contact.  The best way to learn these things is through reading and researching lore.

Once you start reading the lore you will find some practices and myths that relate to your practice.  You take your information gained from reading and your own thoughts and combine the two together.  Once combined you are then well on your way to having a nice and well rounded practice that will be supported with references and research.

Writing your own Lore

One of the things I have started to do is write my own lore based on my experiences in my trances.  I use these experiences to create the myths that work for myself.  I use these myths to round out my practice.  It takes a long time of piecing together experiences and rituals to have a setup where you can write lore that works for you.

What counts as writing your own lore?  writing poems, stories, and anything that is done in honor of the spirits and deities that you work with.  Once you start writing your own lore you’ll be able to really piece together your own practice based wholly on your own personal experiences and nothing more or less.  The first and most important step here is for you to write down all your thoughts, experiences and the like.

Additional reading and sources:

Hedge Rider by Eric De Vres

Witching Way of the Hollow Hill By Robin Artisson

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