Never Stop Learning: Metaphysical Bookshops

I have no idea why I suddenly decided to write this post.  I’m currently in a country where I think the idea of a metaphysical bookshop would throw people off entirely.  It’s not that the people aren’t superstitious or don’t believe in the unexplained, because I think they do.  But despite some of the pagan-esque beliefs in place here, they are all weighed down by the tradition of Christianity, and I think that a metaphysical bookshop would go over like a lead balloon.

Anyway, I was just inspired to think about the metaphysical today, having seen it in an article I was reading, and consequentially this post sort of formulated itself.

I’m from a state in the US that actually has a somewhat impressive Pagan community.  I’m not saying that Pagans make up a significant portion of the population or anything, but there are some Pagans and they have managed to congregate in a way that has justified festivals, groups, and even a brewery run by Pagans.  Bookshops are absolutely no exception to this.  Of course we have chains like Half-Price Books, which often have a “philosophy/metaphysical” section, facilitating a whole generation to quickly shift their eyes to Kant or Aquinas if somebody intrudes upon their hurried search for interesting books on Witchcraft.  These types of bookstores certainly have their place, and, as I said, have perhaps made it easier for teenagers to disguise their study if they’re not quite ready to come out of the broom closet.  And by teenagers, I mean me.  All the time.

However, if you’re looking for a slightly more positive environment, there are two great metaphysical bookshops that I know about in the city center.  Both of them create an amazing community where you’re in a safe haven when you’re inside the shop.  Nobody is going to judge you, nobody is going to question when you purchase an athame or a book on Witchy gardening or a tarot deck.  In fact, the hardest thing you’ll have to do is duck in and out of the shop, if you’re in that stage where you’re worried about what the people on the street will think when they see you coming out of a place named after an Egyptian god.

I think my favorite thing about these places is that, in a lot of cases, they are a one-stop shop for a whole slew of different belief systems.  In one metaphysical bookshop, you can find things for Druids, for Wiccans, for Satanists, and, yes, even for Christians, if you can get past the other stuff.  The people who work there are almost always understanding; they’re in your shoes, or at least they’ve been there.  They know that there are people out there who are just beginning, and they’ll help you, if they can.

Stepping into a metaphysical bookshop is often like going beyond the looking glass.  You step off the smoggy street into a basement shop that smells like a hundred different kinds of incense.  Beautiful tools hang low from the ceiling or are arrayed under glass.  You can buy charms to wear or resins for ink.  You can find books on just about anything spiritual or magickal.  And for once, you don’t have to pretend you are just really interested in Augustine or Locke.  You can look how you want, ask what you want, buy what you want.  Everybody is here to learn and grow.

If you are desperate to find the Pagan community in your area, Google metaphysical bookshops and start there.  You’ll be surprised how much it already feels like home.

 

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #22: February 18th, 2016

Today has to be a short entry because this working girl’s got stuff to do in the morning and needs a full night’s sleep.

I’ve made my way to the sixth Goal already, so today: Discuss Goal of the Witch #6: Keep your words in good order. 

I think there are many ways to interpret this one, which is maybe why it was so difficult for my friend to help me translate into a foreign language.  She asked me, “So it means, like, watch what you say?” and I said, “Um…I guess?  Kind of….”  So perhaps I don’t have a firm grip on this one either, but I’ll give it a shot.

Cutewitch772 started analyzing this one with the statement, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” and I think that’s a good place to start.  As Witches (even those who don’t care about the Wiccan Rede), we often adhere to the idea of harming none.  It’s such an important idea that it often gets put into the end of spellwork, so that our intention is clear.  I’m going to again refer to the everyman’s (or everyWitch’s?) author, Ellen Dugan.  She often gives nice stock phrases to say during ritual or for spells, and that woman has come up with about a dozen ways to fit the idea of “and it harm none, so mote it be” into rhyming couplets.  It’s an attractive little way to end your words, like the flourish at the tail of a really beautiful pen stroke.  And it simply helps to tie up loose ends, so that your harmless little prosperity spell doesn’t deliver by killing your wealthy relative who happened to leave you in their will (I mean, it’s probably rarely so dramatic, but haven’t we all learned something from The Monkey’s Paw?).

There are more magickal reasons to watch your words.  Again, in Ellen Dugan’s book Natural Witchery (where would I be without dear Ellen?  I think I’ve cited her about fifty times in these blogs.  Don’t worry, I’m reading other authors too, but I just find Ellen’s quips particularly memorable), our Witchy author talks about her daughter’s senior year of high school, when a boy asked her if her mom was a Witch, and her daughter quickly denied it.  When Ellen’s daughter confessed to her mom about this encounter, Ellen chided her daughter about lying, since lying lessens the power of a Witch’s words.  She went on to say that this was not so well-received by her daughter, and I’ll be honest, I’ve gotta side with her daughter on this one.  Having my mom chastise me for something like that, especially when she’s the one who’s gone out and become a bestselling author and made my life a bit more complicated, is probably the last thing I’d want to hear at a moment like that.  But perhaps I’m biased, being much closer to a teenager in age than to, presumably, very adulty Ellen Dugan.

That being said, I think Ellen makes a good point.  Witches often rely on words, and if you lie about something, immediately that creates a disconnect between what comes from your lips and what is reality.  And, if you’re trying to affect reality by what comes from your lips (magickally), you probably should go for the strongest connection possible.  Besides, lying kind of does a number on your spirit.  I’ve had a couple situations in this foreign country where I’ve either had to lie about something or just kind of clam up, due to politics or negativity toward my views (and, as you know, I’m a closeted Witch, so my religion is currently “Yeah, I’m a Catholic…”), and that sucks.  I’m generally a very open person, and I don’t like doing stuff that’s against my nature.  So even though I’m totally on the same page with Ellen’s poor daughter, I gotta say that maybe mom does still know best.

One more thing about your words, and not so much in the magickal sense this time: I think if you truly want to embody the idea of harming none, you have to consider what you say.  That means that you maybe do your best to avoid slurs, knowing that someone could be offended.  Maybe you try to use person-emphasized language, like “people experiencing homelessness” instead of “the homeless,” or “person with autism” instead of “autistic person.”  If someone tells you something offends them, make a note of it, and try not to say it again.  My friend is a transitioning transgender male, and when he talks about people using his deadname, whether by accident or on purpose, or misgendering him, I can tell that that pain is so hard to endure.  He’s fought a long battle to be where he is, and yet people can’t do the simple thing of taking the “s” off of “she.”  And, even though I personally like swearing, and don’t particularly like to censor my words, if I have a friend who I know gets offended by hearing curses, I’ll tone it down.  Why make them uncomfortable, just so I can throw around a couple of four-letter words?

And, ultimately, I think one of the other most powerful things we can do is not hold everything back, but rather let it out–admit when you’re wrong, say you’re sorry.  As much as people like to share that imagery of a cracked mirror with a Band-Aid on it and go, “Yeah, this is what ‘sorry’ means–nothing,” I have to say, when you make a mistake, it is so much better to try to correct it than to leave it festering.  If I slip up and drop the f-bomb in front of my ultra-Catholic friend, I will do my best to go back and fix it.  A simple, “Sorry, ‘fudge,’ sorry–” can actually mean something.  It’s like us language teachers say–if the student says it wrong the first time, give them a moment.  If they go back and correct the mistake on their own, that’s the true knowledge, and the true moment of learning.

Well, this was a bit longer than I anticipated, but somehow I liked what I had to say more than in the last post.  Maybe I think about speech a lot.  Could it be because I teach English?  Nah….

Have a wonderful evening, everyone.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

By the way, check out Cutewitch772 on YouTube and at her blog.  She did an interpretation of the 13 Goals of a Witch, which I’ve been reading as I’m doing my own.  I can’t post the link because it will reveal which country I’m residing in, but you can Google “cutewitch772 blog” and it’ll come up.

Year and a Day Journal #21: February 17th, 2016

How fitting that on this day, when I’m going to be discussing Goal of the Witch #5: Achieve balance, I couldn’t even come up with the resolve to not hork down more than one chocolate bar.

Truth be told, there is a lot to say on this topic.  I think, perhaps because I am in the broom closet, there might be even more to say on this topic than if I were an “out” Witch.  Closeted Witches…I feel like we have to be balanced in who we tell certain details to, who we share our excitement with….  You can’t just ecstatically talk about a ritual you did or a sabbat you celebrated.  Every comment is measured, which can be a really tricky thing.

It’s not just comments, though.  Maybe you’d love to celebrate a sabbat with a group, but your parents don’t know about your beliefs.  Maybe you want to keep an altar, but your boyfriend would freak out.  None of these are particularly great situations, but they do happen.  You have to decide what’s the most important to you in these moments–maybe all you can do is have a couple of statues on a table instead of having a full-on altar.  Maybe you have to celebrate the sabbat on your own or in secret.

Sometimes it even comes down to your old beliefs versus your new beliefs.  For example, if you’ve read some of my other posts, you know my family–especially my mom–is Catholic.  The chances are, even if I stay on this path and someday tell her about my beliefs, she will likely always be Catholic.  That means that I will probably still go to Catholic mass sometimes; that means that my mom will disagree with me on certain aspects of faith; that means that when my mom dies, her funeral will be in a Catholic church where the priest will be saying that her soul is probably okay because she was a great Catholic mom (this is what happened at my grandma’s funeral).  Or, perhaps if her daughter is an “out” Witch, nobody will be saying she’s a great Catholic mom (because obviously she didn’t pass on her faith well enough to her family) and that could put her soul in jeopardy, according to the Church.  Woo-hoo.  As unpleasant as all of this sounds, it’s always going to be a part of my life, and really the only thing to do is roll up my sleeves and deal with it.

Of course, there are other kinds of balance that need to be achieved, as well, and these don’t just apply to the closeted Witches.  Finding the balance between the elemental energies in my life is something that I hope to work toward.  From reading Ellen Dugan’s various books, it seems elemental blockages tend to be some of the causes of problems in our lives.  By working toward achieving elemental balance, other types of balance might naturally fall into place–the balance between exercise and relaxation, nutrition and indulgence, work and play–the list is probably endless.

I don’t know why this particular post took me so long to write.  I think it’s because, at the moment, my life does feel horribly unbalanced.  I’m living far apart from everyone I know and love, my eating habits are garbage, my Internet addiction is pretty awful…it’s probably a good thing that I’ll only be here for one year (unless something drastic happens) because recovery from one year of spinning too fast is easier than trying to fix it somewhere down the line.  I’m hoping that going back home will somehow slow me down a little, and I can find my proper footing again.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #20: February 15th, 2016

So I’ve heard/seen from various sources that it’s a cool idea to write your Book of Shadows in code, or, that is to say, in a language that is not readily readable by those who might stumble upon your BOS.  Very contradictorily (is that a word?) I’ve also seen things that say–No, please write your Book of Shadows in a language you know fluently, otherwise you’re going to be running for the dictionary every five seconds when you’re trying to read it.  Having tried my hand at the Witches’ Alphabet, I would have to agree with the person who recommended idea #2.

That being said, there’s nothing that says I can’t try to become more fluent in a foreign language, eh?  After all, I’m living in a foreign country where I’m (er, very slowly) learning the language.  So, this weekend, I had my friend help me translate the Thirteen Goals of a Witch.  She didn’t know what she was translating, but thankfully the Goals are pretty generically good ideas for life, so she didn’t suspect a thing.  Especially when I made #13 into “Honor God” instead of “Honor the Goddess and God.”  That’s right, keeping it covert….

Anyway, now I at least have the Thirteen Goals written in a foreign language, so I know how to write them in the future.  The downside is that I currently reside in a country that uses that language, so writing in code is actually very counterproductive.  I’d have more of a chance that someone who would find my journal here doesn’t understand English, than the other way around (not including my roommate, who’s from England).

Back to the goal I need to talk about now.  Discuss the Goal of the Witch #4: Use knowledge with wisdom. 

I actually had to describe to my friend who was helping me translate what this one meant, so I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on it.  It means that you can’t just know information, you have to put it to good use.  You have to know your audience, and you have to know what you use your knowledge for.  I kind of related it as being an expert in science, but not knowing how to explain anything to anybody.  Your knowledge is useless unless you can share it in a way that benefits others.

Of course, I’m not saying that everybody has to be a great teacher.  I probably just look at it that way because, well, I am a teacher.  For me, it doesn’t matter how great my English is–I have to be able to communicate with my students.  I have to develop a good relationship with them, and I have to know what level they’re at so I know what kind of vocabulary and grammar structures I can use.  I have to hop between levels depending on who I’m talking to, and if I’m in a group with various levels, I have to use the level of the weakest person there.

As a Witch, I think this rule can apply to many different things.  Take the Wiccan Rede for example–An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.  Just because a Witch knows how to use her energy for ill intent doesn’t mean that she should, or that she does.  I know that, once I get a little better with magick, I could cause harm to another person–but I wouldn’t do that.  It isn’t wise, and it isn’t ethical, and that is a type of knowledge that you just know, perhaps for the purpose of avoiding using it practically.

This is maybe even one of the easier goals to interpret.  As Witches, we learn, learn, and learn some more, but that knowledge is not all for indiscriminate use.  We are not just the knowledgeable ones, we are the wise ones, and that is a good thing to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex and Self-Acceptance

Now, I’m supposed to be on the fourth goal of the Thirteen Goals of a Witch today, but in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I’m going to address something else.  And the topic of the day is (da-da-da-dum!)…sex.

This is basically going to be my story about how I came into my own sexuality, which played a big role in my disenchantment with Catholicism.  If you don’t like some touchy subjects, you might prefer not to read.  But here goes.

I’ll be frank with everyone; obviously I was raised Catholic, as I’ve stated many times, and we good Catholic girls are taught to save ourselves for our wedding night.  I did the whole thing were I even signed a little plastic card that I kept in my wallet.  I’m pretty sure it was called the “Pure Love Promise” card.  I signed and dated the back.  If I remember correctly, that was in 2008, when I was 14 or 15 years old.

Let me tell you all a little something about me, though.  I was one of those poor innocent kids who knew absolutely nothing about sex for a very, very long time.  It wasn’t that my parents tried to shield me from it or anything.  In fact, I remember watching a PG-13 movie when I was just eight years old, with my family, in our basement.  I think a lot of little kids would sit on the couch and watch with some element of awe on their face, but I was one of those kids who didn’t know, and didn’t want to know, about anything bad.  I distinctly remember watching that movie from behind the couch, and every time a bad word was said or a questionable scene happened, I ducked out of sight and made my parents tell me when it was over.

Looking back, it was no surprise that by age nine, when I was in fourth grade, I still did not have a grasp on the very basic concept that having a baby requires a man and a woman.  Yep, you heard me right.  Even more embarrassingly, I tried to convince my teacher that I knew somebody who had a baby without a man.  I remember her face very well.  You could definitely describe it as a pained and conflicted expression.  I remember her saying to me, “You don’t understand, there has to be a man somewhere, even if they’re not married…”  Two years later, I was sitting in sixth grade health class and while I finally understood that there had to be a man and a woman, I still didn’t know what they did or, frankly, why.

To be fair, my parents tried.  They really did.  They gave me that American Girl book set which included the infamous childhood ruiner, The Care and Keeping of You.  That thing described every aspect of puberty in awful detail, including cartoon illustrations of how to put a tampon in.  (I feel really bad for the artist who came to work one day and was like, “I’m going to be drawing WHAT now?”)  And, like I said before, my parents did not keep me away from risque films or anything.  I mean, they didn’t let us watch anything rated R until we were probably 12 or 13 (I remember watching the first half of Titanic as a kid and then having to go to bed while my parents watched the second half), but as I said before, PG-13 films weren’t too uncommon.  And yet, I didn’t really know much about sex itself.

Hilariously, when I started the Catholic confirmation process at fourteen, I still was not very in-the-know about sex.  It was easy to sign that little “Pure Love Promise” card, because I seriously thought sex would be disgusting.  I had no idea how people could possibly go through with it, even to have children.  I resolved to adopt, and I even told my (probably very bemused and/or partially concerned) parents this.

Then, when I was fifteen, I freaking FINALLY had my moment of blooming.  I had a crush on a boy (whose family was from a different country and spoke a different language–which just so happens to be the country I’m in now, and that is not a coincidence) and even though he went to a different school, I invited him to my school dance.  I remember the exact moment, when we were dancing in the dim cafeteria, and I saw him move, and I felt a lurch between my pelvis and stomach that I had never felt before.  How many people can say that they remember the exact second of their sexual awakening?  I had never wanted to do sexual things to anyone, up until that moment.

As I think it always is when you bloom late, suddenly I was pretty much consumed with trying to discover myself.  I fell into probably the most extreme crush you could imagine on this poor boy.  It lasted about two years in full craziness, and even turned into real, kind of tragic, love.  He was gay, which was really heartbreaking, but he decided to give me my first kiss, which was confusing as hell.  Honestly, it’s really hard to describe that relationship.  I’m in a committed relationship with an amazing boyfriend now, but you can never quite forget–or, dare I say it, even get over–your first love.

In the midst of this compelling crush, I was doing insane research, trying to fill in all the gaps that I never got in my public school health class education.  What exactly was sexual arousal, and what caused it, scientifically?  What happened to boys during sex?  What happened to girls?  I became a sort of expert on the biology of it.  As I got into my junior year of high school, having just been freshly confirmed, I convinced myself it was all just for theory, and not for practice.  But curiosity was burning in me, really.  I even tried my hand at reading and writing erotica.

One day I decided to masturbate in the shower.  It’s a taboo subject, I know, but I think we should be able to speak about it honestly.  To be quite real, I actually masturbated long before that, but because of my weird innocence, I had no idea what I was doing.  It’s the sort of strange kid behavior where you press yourself up against pillows or whatnot in bed, because it feels nice, but you don’t know why.  But in the shower, this was deliberate.  And I was breaking my resolve.

When I think about this time now, it’s really quite sad, actually.  I had a journal much like I do now, and I wrote in it almost every day.  On those pages I scrawled prayers, sometimes multiple prayers, to God, to the Virgin Mary, asking for resolve, asking for strength to deny myself indulgence in my own curiosity.  I even hung white towels in the bathroom to remind myself not to give in to temptation.  Yes, I put white towels, to represent the purity I was losing, in the bathroom, to guilt myself into not exploring my own sexuality.

At the end of my junior year, even though I still was in love with the boy from the other school, I decided to go see a movie with a guy who I knew liked me.  We had actually seen a movie the year before, but at the time he had seemed too old for me (almost three years older).  We went to see another movie, and, though during my sophomore year I had refused to hold hands with him, this time I took his hand during the tense part of the movie.

Mind. Blown.

If you’ve ever had extreme sexual tension with someone, you know just how stimulating holding hands can be.  Even though during this movie, we just held hands in a sweaty, clamped sort of way, I remember him running his thumb along my thumb, and the sparks it sent through me.  During the next movie, our hands did not stop moving throughout the entire two hours.  We were trailing our fingers over each other’s fingers, rubbing our palms against one other’s palms…we had an electrifying intimate connection, just through our hands alone.  It was so intense that when I would sext with this guy (yes, we sexted, and we were pretty great at it), sometimes he would just describe how we held hands together, and that was sexting enough.

This guy inevitably became my first boyfriend, and I’m really, really glad that he did.  He was much older than me, like I said, and he had had many sexual experiences before me, because he had been an early bloomer.  But he absolutely respected that I had no practical experience whatsoever.  I think he saw me as a little bit of a white flower, and maybe he kind of relished slowly getting me dirty, but even so he “corrupted” me with the utmost care and concern.  He knew I was Catholic, and he knew how much (I thought) I wanted to be pure for God.  I don’t think the crosses and crucifixes I drew on my hands went unnoticed.  He knew very well that I was fighting an inner battle.

We started with strict rules, the ABC’s.  He couldn’t touch my Ass, Boobs, or Cooch (laugh if you like, but it was easy to remember), and likewise I couldn’t touch his Ass, er, Balls, or…you know.  Yes, in the beginning, he was not even allowed to touch my freaking butt, and despite all the girls he’d gotten off before me, he did not object, because he liked me that much (that is called dedication).

Slowly, the rules became hard to keep.  I realized how sexual contact was a slippery slope, and eventually I found myself hating the rules I had made to protect myself.  I wanted to touch him, and I wanted him to touch me.  I drew the cross in Sharpie on my hands.

I remember the first time I decided he could touch my butt.  I remember the night in the car when he touched my chest the first time.  And I remember the overwhelming guilt that came with it–not because I didn’t think I was ready, or that I hadn’t done enough research, but because I was losing my purity, which I was meant to keep for my first husband, and for God.  I remember all of these moments that we had together, and I remember, too, when I decided that it wasn’t worth feeling guilty anymore.  Sexual curiosity seems like a foolish thing to lose God over, but sometime, during my senior year of high school, probably in the front seat of a parked car, I decided that God wasn’t worth it.

Eventually, over the year that we dated, we repealed all of the rules, but we had a process for doing so.  We couldn’t repeal a rule in the heat of making out, and if we wanted to repeal a rule, we had to decide three days in advance, and then three days later decide if it was still a good idea.  I cannot stress enough that this boy was a full-fledged adult, dating a senior in high school, having had easily ten girlfriends before me, and yet he did all this for me.  Part of it, of course, was that he didn’t want to do anything that would get him in trouble, but I know that even that motivation wouldn’t have been enough to do what he did for me.

We never had sex.  That moment came at the end of January when I was nineteen, with my second (and current) boyfriend.  I wasn’t ready.  We didn’t have a system in place, and we sort of made a decision in the heat of the moment, which was something that my first boyfriend had prevented me from doing many, many times.  It wasn’t my second boyfriend’s fault, or even my fault.  It just kind of happened.  And really, there was no reason it shouldn’t have happened.  The only reason I wanted to wait was because, somewhere, deep down, I still wanted to save that moment for my wedding night.  That “Pure Love Promise” card had long been chucked from my wallet, but that deeply-ingrained notion of that perfect moment after wedding bells had rung was something I never was able to leave behind, even if reality is never so perfect.  I was already basically an atheist, but even so, the night that I had sex for the first time, I felt all of the years of conditioning sneak in and steal my self-worth.  Instead of it being a great moment, I started having a panic attack halfway through and I rolled away from my confused boyfriend.  While he got up to get a glass of water, I stared at the wall in the dark, and I remember thinking that I had failed.  Failed who or what, exactly?  Nobody and nothing, except the ideas that I still hadn’t been able to shake, the ideas that said I was now spoiled.

Did you know that in the Catholic Church, premarital sex is a mortal sin?  As opposed to a venial sin, mortal sins are supposed to completely cut you off from God.  You are not allowed to take communion after committing a mortal sin.  If you die with an unreconciled mortal sin on your conscience, you go straight to Hell with no hope of purgatory.  If your sin is grievous enough, you can even be excommunicated from the Church entirely, which bars you from the sacraments (not just communion).  Sins worthy of excommunication include things like abortion.

I’m twenty-two now.  I’ve been dating the same boyfriend all this time.  We’re really smart about sex; we’re hygienic, I have basically foolproof contraceptive, we have a great time.  The irony is that I might even marry this guy, this guy with whom I first had sex, but because my first time won’t be on our wedding night, I’m still not the spiritual being I might have been, so says the Catholic Church.  And yet, since my first time, I’ve realized that sex is not the be-all and end-all that the Church thinks it is.  Sex is fine and normal.  Sometimes even lazy.  If you’re smart about it, you really have none of the adverse effects to worry about, at all.

And yet.

I have a Catholic friend from college who was home-schooled through the end of high school.  She had the same views on sexuality as I had when I was fifteen, and so one day I decided to tell her what I had learned–that sex is not everything the Church has made it sound like it is.  I told her that I was not a virgin.  It was a huge mistake.

This “friend” of mine is a constant reminder of how mental I might have been about my sexuality if I had stayed on the same path I was on in high school.  I realize now just how demented the ideas are.  This “friend” has condemned me in every way, has told me that my boyfriend is using me and my body to satisfy his base pleasures, and that inevitably he will leave me.  And because we’ve had sex, I will be destroyed beyond repair.  She felt comfortable saying all this after having met him once, for five minutes.  I can say anything I want to try to convince her otherwise, but all she will ever believe is that if a man has sex with you before marriage, he doesn’t care about you at all.  And if you have sex before marriage, you are signing up for a lifetime of devastation.

Wow, this post has gotten crazy long.  I didn’t know I was going to go into so much detail and depth about my life (and, er, my sex life).  Maybe because I use a pseudonym, I feel comfortable letting it all out or something.  Or maybe I just finally had to talk about the biggest reason why I initially strayed from God.

Of course, since then, there have been countless other reasons why I have decided not to return to God or the Catholic Church whole-heartedly.  Philosophical problems, conflicting interests and beliefs (and frankly, seeing the craziness of this Catholic home-schooled girl) have all kept me from going back the way I came.  I’m really glad that the path I’m walking down now is a little more accepting when it comes to sexuality.  I like that the LGBT community is welcome.  I like that I don’t have to feel like I’m ruined because I enjoy having sex with my boyfriend.  I like that sexuality is even celebrated as part of the Wheel of the Year and the cycle of life.

After all, no one should have to hang white towels in the bathroom.

 

 

Blessed be, everybody

)O(

Edit: I’d like to add that I do not regret my decision to look away from Catholicism and the Christian God.  I mean, sure it sucks sometimes because that’s the way I grew up, and that’s what my family expects of me, but I think it’s for the better now.  I think maybe my post doesn’t do that fact justice, probably because I was writing it at four in the morning.

I want to stress that, when I was seventeen and wanting to explore my sexuality with my boyfriend, I was now educated on sex and how to be careful, I felt like I was old enough, and my own personal ethics found nothing wrong with doing these things.  The only reason I was conflicted was because of my relationship with God.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I like Neo-Paganism, because you have the opportunity to follow your own ethics, as long as it harms none.  So, let me stress–if my boyfriend had taken advantage of me, or the other way around, our actions would not have been ethical.  But the way we were doing everything, in mutual respect and care, was entirely ethical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #19: February 7th, 2016

I’ve been meaning to get to this journal for a long time, like over a month.  It’s a really important one for me, so if it takes me a few days to figure out exactly what I want to say, then so be it.  You’ll see when you read it why it was so crucial.

For the Christmas holidays my friend came from another big city in this country to stay with me for a few days.  We used to live together in the same house at college, so we are pretty dang comfortable with each other.  I got to know him pretty well.  I mean, due to his partyish nature and his spontaneous attitude, I even saw him naked once as he came downstairs drunk, wearing only tennis shoes, saying, “I’m going for a run.”  There was probably a foot and a half of snow on the ground.  (I’m not saying it was a smart day for him, but nobody can say he doesn’t have balls.  I mean, I’ve seen them.)

In any case, I don’t know if anyone was more surprised than I was when I found out that, this last summer, he was baptized into the Catholic Church.  I hadn’t even realized he was interested in Catholicism.  It seemed like the only experience he had with it was 1) living with me, and 2) being exposed to this ultra-Republican, ultra-conservative Catholic girl who had a crush on him and was usually hanging around our house.  It turned out that maybe he kept some more of his life private than I realized, because apparently he had been doing Bible study.

So, when he came to visit, naturally religion was one of our topics of conversation.  I had casually slipped into a message to him before that I was looking into a Neo-Pagan path, but he hadn’t commented, so I thought perhaps he had missed it, or didn’t really care.  To be fair, he is a great person, and pretty laid-back, so even when he visited, it was obvious that he didn’t care that I was investigating this path.  He knew that it wasn’t his place to say what I could or couldn’t do.  But when I did ask him what he thought, he unfortunately referred to it as “that Wiccan bullshit.”  I was like, er, thanks, buddy.

Luckily, the conversation didn’t stop there.  He was cool with discussing it further, just like I was cool with talking about Catholicism (those are my roots, after all).  I think the worst thing about it was that, being a novice myself, some of the questions he asked me were really difficult to answer.  For some of them I didn’t have an answer, and for some of them my answer seemed really stupid or unfounded.  I mean, it’s not easy to go toe-to-toe on religion with somebody who’s a freshly studied/baptized Catholic, when you yourself have some books you’ve read and a few YouTube videos to go on.  I was finding myself wishing I could tap out and get an expert in there, because no way was I holding up the actual beliefs of Neo-Pagans.  Maybe I ought not to have asked him about his opinion, but something good did come out of it–I really had to question the path that I’m on.  And that is the best thing you can do when you’re on a journey.  Who, when traveling in the woods, wouldn’t look forward and back on the path, just to double-check they’re heading the right direction?  I mean, that’s exactly what I did when I was studying Catholicism, and for awhile I was really, really into being Catholic.  I read Catholic books when I didn’t have to.  I sometimes drove myself to church when my family didn’t want to go.  But eventually I realized I had some deep quandaries about Catholicism, and I wasn’t willing to continue with a religion that didn’t sit well with me.  So questioning is the best thing you can do, and it’s totally normal.

So, I’ll get to some of the things my friend questioned me about.  I can’t remember all of them, and when I asked him again, neither could he, but he did remember one topic he questioned.  He said that he had a problem with any religion that lets you sort of pick and choose what you want to think or “the moral characteristics that you prefer.”  For example, in Neo-Paganism, you could study or honor various different gods from different pantheons (he said “like Ares as courage or whatever”) and there is no “higher authority” to “keep it in check morally.”  He said it was like making a religion around your values and therefore it won’t “facilitate any kind of spiritual or moral growth.”  It was like saying “I like these things, so I’ll make a religion around these things and keep doing these things.”  He said that religion should be a tool for self growth and he failed to see how neo-paganism facilitated that growth.

I remember a few other things, for example when I tried to explain the idea of “And ye harm none, do what ye will,” and he asked what prevented you from harming other people, I described the Rule of Three (whatever you do to another comes back to you three times over, like karma in a way).  He said, “Really?  Who came up with three as the rule?  Does the Universe always dish out punishment in three’s?”  (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is what I recall from our conversation that happened over a month ago.)  And then, “Is the Universe a sentient being?  Does it discriminate who deserves punishment, or is the Universe just like a scientific rule, where every action ALWAYS has the same reaction?  If you tested it again and again, would it have the same results?”

These questions, are, of course, important.  God, for example, is supposed to be a sentient being, and therefore His reactions to different things will always be different.  There is no “Rule of Three” with God, because He is supposed to take everything into account.  And, as we know, bad things sometimes happen to good people, and vice versa.

I don’t think I have answers for these things.  I really wanted to have answers, but I just didn’t at the time, and I don’t think I do now, either.  These are the kinds of questions you only really get into philosophically when you have been studying a religion for a long time, and I really haven’t been studying Neo-Paganism for that long.

Additionally, my friend said that it seemed that this whole path wasn’t really a “religion,” but a “philosophy.”  Sure, you can have a philosophy of living in tune with Nature, and how to act, and I know that even some Witches or Wiccans don’t want to necessarily say that they abide by a “religion,” because religion has become a dirty word in some cases.  But additionally, is saying that this isn’t a religion somehow diminishing it?  Is living by a philosophy less respectable than living by a religion?

 

I know that in the last couple weeks, I’ve suddenly gotten a few subscribers (probably because WordPress made my blog searchable finally).  If you are a new subscriber of mine, and you made it through this post, I would love to know your opinion in the comments.  I’ll approve them as soon as possible.  These are big questions that I obviously don’t have answers for, and I’m reaching out to the community for some help 🙂

Also, thank you to everyone who has subscribed to me recently.  It means a lot to me!  If you want, please share this blog with your friends.

 

Blessed be, everyone.

)O(

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #18: February 5th, 2016

As a teacher, you get some good days, some bad days, some unremarkable days, and, once a week, you get to be glad that it’s Friday.

This week was actually a pretty light work load for me, which is good and bad–good in that I get more time to do things in the morning, and bad because I get paid less after the pay period.  There is, of course, a minimum payment, provided that I showed up every day to work, but when I have extra lessons, I get paid extra.  So seeing as most of my students canceled on me this week, I know I’m going to get a light paycheck in two weeks.

It doesn’t really matter how much I get paid, however.  I really do get paid more than enough to survive here, and the biggest thing I seem to spend money on is food and LUSH products (the LUSH obsession is new, but it is surprisingly strong).  I think that my next big expenditure should be buying a new yoga mat, because I don’t particularly enjoy doing yoga on the hardwood floor.

Yoga is actually one of the things I’ve been doing in some of my spare time.  I truly, truly love doing yoga–it produces a feeling unlike almost anything else.  My first experience with yoga was actually in the Caribbean.  Imagine doing yoga looking out over the sunset in the evening.  It doesn’t really get much better than that.  But the yoga studio I went to in college definitely was a big contender.  I loved the teachers and the environment, and I was always bringing my friends to come do yoga class with me on Friday for $5.  I brought enough new people that they gave me a coupon for a free class as appreciation for attracting so many new customers.

Additionally, this week I have been slowly getting back into being active.  Every other day I have been doing yoga or some cardio or other exercise.  It’s not much–really, I mean, it’s only 15 minutes or something of exercise, and on the yoga days it might be 30-45 minutes–but it’s enough that I feel like I’m doing something.  Even if it’s only 15 minutes, I already feel a little bit better about myself.  And there’s something nice about walking around with sore legs or arms.

Anyhow, most of this stuff doesn’t really seem to have much to do with the Goal of the Witch #3, and today is supposed to be: Discuss the Goal of the Witch #3: Learn and grow. 

I actually have a lot to say on this subject.

As a teacher, facilitating learning and growing is my job, but as any teacher knows, it goes the other way around, too.  I’m always learning things from my students, even if I don’t know exactly what it is at the moment I’m learning it.  Now that I’ve finished college (my bachelor’s degree), however, it can be difficult to actually hunker down and do homework or learn something new.  It’s very rewarding once I’ve done it, but it’s tempting to go waste time on the Internet instead of opening up a book or doing my homework, especially my language homework.

I think it’s important to realize that there are always bumps along the way in our path.  Heck, I’ve been trying to figure out my spiritual stance for years now, and I usually don’t feel like I’m any closer to the end than when I first started.  But then again, that’s the point, isn’t it?  Truly, there is no end to learning and growing.  It’s like the song Amazing Grace.  One of the verses says, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, there’s no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.”  Grammatical issues aside, this verse is so poignant, because it speaks to the eternity of time.  Now, of course, we’re not going to live forever, but the same idea still stands–we are never really closer to the end of our learning and growing, because the learning and growing never stops.  You could probably argue that you are learning and growing right up until your last breath, because I suppose that the process of understanding you’re about to die is a form of growth.

Now, I said I had a lot to say on this subject, but at the moment, it’s really escaping me.  So I guess I’ll tell an anecdote.

As I’ve stated before here, I’m in what many Witches call “the Broom Closet.”  Basically, I’m not “out” as someone who is studying Witchcraft.  Now, to be fair, it’s not entirely true.  A few people know, but some of the most important people in my life are not aware, and I daresay will continue to be unaware for some time.  That being said, I made a major step the other week and I called up my brother, who is, at the moment, over 4,000 miles away in America.

My brother and I actually talk about religion and spirituality quite a bit.  It’s been a strange experience, because we are almost never on the same page spiritually.  When I was very innocent, he was a boy in high school who was not so religious; when I was quite religious in early high school, he was a jaded senior who was still not so religious; when I became a jaded upperclassman in high school, he went to college, got involved in a religious group, and was experiencing a time when he actually seemed to feel very religious; then, for a brief time, we were both basically atheists; now I’m doing this–whatever this, exactly, is–and he is, again, pretty atheist.  However, when we were on the phone, he surprised me a little, because he said that, while he’s pretty much atheist, sometimes he spurts out a little prayer or something and gets some actual results.  For example, he said he was on a good streak for saying, “Please, God, let the bus still be at the stop when I get there,” and the bus still being there.  Whether or not he genuinely credits this to God is pretty dubious, but he mentioned it, which means he’s been thinking about it.

I decided to go for it and ask him, “What do you think of Wicca?” and he blew me away by saying, “What’s that?”  My first boyfriend had brought Wicca up a few times (he had an eclectic group of friends) and I figured that, for sure, my brother had some idea about what it was, but he was clueless.  So, not expecting to have to explain everything, I fumbled around a crash course in some of the basic ideas of Wicca.  [I want to reiterate here that I do not identify as Wiccan, but sometimes it is easier to say Wicca than Neo-Pagan Solitary Witchcraft-type thing…]  I probably butchered it, to be honest.  I find that, when I’m reading about Wicca or Witchcraft, things make sense to me, but then when I try to explain it, I sound like an idiot.

At the end, my brother seemed to not really care, but rather expressed the opinion that it’s easier to not even bother.  In his science-y mind, human existence is about procreating and producing dopamine.  There is no purpose to being alive, and likely no afterlife, and he even said that the logical thing would be to just end one’s own life, except we don’t because of the prospect of getting more dopamine in the future.  (If you’re getting alarm bells, don’t worry, I was like, “Wtf?” too.  However, I know my brother well, and it’s not like he actually wants to kill himself–he’s just speaking in a cold, factual way.  Probably for shock value.)  When I said, “Well that sounds depressing,” he just said, “Really?  Why?”  And, I guess that in some sense, he’s right.  I went through this existential crisis back in college, and I couldn’t figure out what the purpose of my life was.  I had to settle on the only thing I could–much like what my brother settled on–which was, it doesn’t freaking matter why we’re here, it just matters that we are.  And while we’re here, there are people who are suffering.  And my duty, after whatever need for self-preservation there is, is to preserve my species.  And I want to do that by decreasing the suffering of those around me.  I’ve romanticized it a bit and said, “If I can just help one person in this life, I’ll be happy at the end,” but I’m basically saying exactly what my brother said.

So, I want to say, I understand where my brother is coming from on almost all accounts.  But the one thing I couldn’t really get behind was what he said about church.  He said that, since there is no purpose, there’s no need to bother with alternate spiritualities.  We were brought up Catholic, and even if you’re atheist, you might as well still just go to Catholic church and keep up the facade and get some enjoyment from singing the songs or whatever.

But I don’t think I can agree with that entirely.  Sure, I still feel Catholic sometimes.  When I see a Catholic church, I love to go inside.  I feel like it’s a home for me still, in some way.  I feel something spiritual when I look around and see all the beautiful work people have put into praising God.  I love singing the music that I grew up with.  I still think of my home church as a community that I belong to.  I still take Communion, even though that’s definitely frowned upon in my current state of sin (but I think it’s between me and God, so to my friend once who told me she’d take me to church but I couldn’t eat the Communion because she knew I’d sinned–get over yourself).

I want something else, though.  I’ve got all the cold, hard facts of our existence and its futility.  But I want to do something for myself.  I want to discover new pathways and study magick, if there’s a chance that’s what flows through the universe, and grow beautiful gardens with healing herbs; I want to get back to the old ways and yet enjoy the new things we can take advantage of.  I want to be able to trust myself and yet find a community if I want to.  I will do what I want to, damnit, if it doesn’t hurt anybody.  And ye harm none, do what ye will. 

I don’t want to just sit in Catholic church and listen to the same parables telling me the same things.  There’s something wonderful about having that past, and still loving that tradition, but looking for more, too.  That is learning and growing.

Well, then.  I guess I had something to say after all.

 

)O(

Blessed be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #17: February 3rd, 2016

I’m typing this quietly while some of my adult students are taking their final test.  Scandalous–writing about Witchcraft while, just a mere two or three feet away, my probably ultra-Christian students are struggling to remember second conditionals and vocabulary about film production!  Mwa-ha-ha.

In all reality, though, I probably shouldn’t be typing too much, so I’ll finish this when I get home…

 

—————

Well, now it’s the next day.  My bad.

Anyway, this journal is supposed to be: Discuss the second Goal of the Witch: Know your craft. 

As someone who is only just beginning, it seems like knowing my Craft is very far away.  I spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking at things that other Witches have posted, and I love how they look, like I talked about in my Year and a Day Journal #15.  I love that idea of someday having a cool Bohemian home, wearing natural clothes, being vegan, having a great garden with lots of herbs, having animals, and generally really immersing myself in this world while decreasing my negative impact on it.  I want to compost!  I want to teach people!  I want to have socially and environmentally conscious children!

Of course, this isn’t really my Craft, per se.  I also want to stress that I don’t even know if I technically HAVE a Craft yet.  I don’t know if I’ve really cast any spells, or had a good enough ritual.  I only know a handful of Witches, and none close enough that I could have a ritual with them or really understand everything they’re doing.  I want to experience some of the things that people in covens have described, like passing balls of energy or doing psychic work, but part of me thinks that’s beyond my reach.  All I really want is some of my own utility in this world, I guess.  I don’t want to give up all of my personal power to God.  I want to say, “Here, I’ve got a problem.  Let me try to fix it myself.”  When my future kids are afraid of the dark someday, I want to be able to come in and smudge for them, or sprinkle some salt water around the room, or cast a circle with them.  I want them to feel like there is real energy and real protection, not just praying, “Don’t let the monsters get me.”  I want my kids to know that they have real defense against the monsters of the world, whether the monsters are real or imaginary.

My Craft is really young and inept, but through study I know that I can improve it.  I want to understand the Craft.  And hey, that’s why it’s one of the “Goals of the Witch,” and not “Things you have to do before you can consider yourself to be a Witch.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imbolc

One of my favorite writers on Witchcraft is probably Ellen Dugan.  Granted, I haven’t read a huge variety of authors on this topic, but with those that I have read so far, Ellen has a great sense of humor and her writing style really mimics my own, so I can relate to everything she says.  She also seems very down-to-earth, which I love.

I have her book Seasons of Witchery on my Kindle, and so every time another sabbat comes around, I read about it in this book.  The first thing that caught my attention about her Imbolc chapter is that it is a time to really focus on personal powers and intuitive gifts.  It makes me wish that I could have had another extra ounces of space in my backpack so I could have brought my Tarot cards to this country.  My deck was the main divination tool that I was working with in the months leading up to my departure, and I wanted to bring them badly.  However, the set was quite heavy, and my mom started rooting around in my backpack, wondering “What the heck is in here?” and so I decided that I had to leave them behind in my table dedicated to Witchcraft.  That table is simultaneously really important and terrifyingly unguarded, and unfortunately I left my room in shambles when I had to leave, so there is a pretty good chance that my mom will open one of those drawers and see some crazy books and stuff.  Ideally not.  But perhaps it would lead to conversation.

Eh, still.  Ideally not.

Anyway, despite reading up on Ellen Dugan’s interpretation of Imbolc (and yes, I know it’s just one interpretation), I’m still not feeling too informed about it.  I know it’s a sabbat of light and preparation for spring, marked by the goddess Brigid of the hearth and home, by red and white candles symbolizing fire and snow, and by Lammas corn dollies all dressed up in bridal attire, but I’m not entirely sure still what exactly it all means, you know?  I understand that it’s important that spring is coming, and I know that weather divination had its importance in the past also, but Imbolc doesn’t seem to have the vital themes that the other main sabbats do.  Like, Samhain is all about the spirit world becoming close to the living world, and Beltane is about fertility and the beginning of the warmest months, and Lammas is about the harvest.  But Imbolc, what are you? 

Additionally, there is no real parallel celebration in popular culture right now.  Samhain has Halloween, which essentially kept most of the traditions of Samhain, and Yule has Christmas, which, again, kept much of the Pagan symbolism and tradition, and Ostara is Easter and even Beltane’s got May Day and the maypole and whatnot.  But Imbolc has become…what?  Groundhog’s Day?  Valentine’s Day?  A combination of both?

I guess what I’m going to use this sabbat for is, of course, celebrating the proximity of springtime, and lighting candles and everything.  I’ll probably try to eat some festive foods, and I would even like to do some Imbolc cleaning.  I have never really worked with the concept of Brigid, so I have never grown an attachment to her, but the traditions including her seem pretty cool, so I might leave an offering or some cloth to bless.  (I want to reiterate quickly that I do not actually believe in Pagan deities, but I do enjoy honoring traditions associated with them and celebrating them as conceptualized understandings of different aspects of the Universe.)  Even though this is a major sabbat, I think my Yule ritual was a lot more close to my heart, so I’ll also use this time to evaluate my progress on my Yule goals (spoiler: they haven’t exactly been that great).  Thankfully, the weather right now is a little milder than usual, so I’m enjoying the extra motivation coming from this and using it to get off my butt and actually do some of the things I’ve been wanting to do–basically, yoga and exercise.

I definitely accept that this Imbolc is not going to be groundbreaking for me, but this marks about a year since I really started looking into Witchcraft.  I don’t count that time as starting my “year and a day” of study that most Witches strive to endure before describing themselves as a Witch, but I think it doesn’t matter if that time is included or not.  For me, a year and a day is not really enough to get to the bottom of my own philosophy or to decide what the best path is for me.  I think this journey is going to take me a long time, but it’s not hurting anybody, and I’m willing to go the extra mile to find something that makes me happy.

 

Blessed Imbolc, everyone.

)O(