Year and a Day Journal #40: August 4th, 2016

Forty and fine!  I have a feeling that this Year and a Day is going to last a lot longer than a year and a day….

First of all, I’d like to give another shout out to the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube, and especially to cutewitch772, because they’re doing a topic inspired by my blog this week, and it’s brought a lot of traffic to my blog (relative to what I normally get–I mean, we’re talking like ten views compared to one or two), so thank you again.

Today’s topic comes from Wicca: A Year and a Day by Timothy Roderick.  On Day 6 he asks the reader to consider the following: Describe your own “calling” to the Witch’s path.  We all have characteristics of both the shaman and the madman.  In what ways are you a shaman?  In what ways are you a madman or madwoman?

The Day 6 section was about shamanism in Wicca, or rather how Wicca is a shamanistic religion.  Now, I don’t necessarily label myself as Wiccan, but I understand that it is the sort of more-widely-heard-of branch of magickal spirituality.  I also don’t know much about shamanism, like, at all.  It seems to me that considering myself to be shaman-like is a big stretch, because I’m, you know, just Chloe lying on my stomach on my bed right now, writing this thing, and maybe I’ll eat some spaghetti later.  “Shaman” is one of those titles that makes me sort of go, “Oh God, okay, this is getting serious.”

That being said, let me start with the first question.

My “calling” to this path is sort of a lifelong fascination with magic and the sort of magical time in history.  I love Renaissance festivals, for example, and literally every summer since I was a child, my parents have asked me, “Okay, this year–the State Fair, or the Renaissance Festival?” and I’ve been like, “Is that even a question…?”  Of course they’re not historically accurate or anything, but this sort of world where magic is real and wizards and fairies and mystical forests with bands of jugglers exist…it has always drawn me in.  By some extension of that, I love fantasy novels.

I suppose therein lies my “shaman” aspect.  I love reading and writing fantasy–the sort of ability to get lost in and control a non-physical world, something just inside my head where anything is probably possible.  When I write fantasy, I’m creating something no one else has ever experienced yet (unless I’m over-inspired and end up plagiarizing a bit and it just sits in my computer forever).  And of course my venture onto this path is an attempt to understand and interact with the non-physical world.

The “madwoman” aspect comes into play, according to Roderick, when you get completely lost in this otherworld and you can’t function in society.  While I obviously don’t want to consider myself a madwoman, I think that my desire to write fantasy for a living could indicate a desire to completely get lost in this fantasy world.  Or perhaps coming onto this path, instead of just cosplaying at festivals, is an attempt to consume my life with the fantastic.  But I think I balance it well (after spaghetti today I’m going to my part-time job tomorrow).

In any case, it was an intriguing question to think about this lovely August day.  Sometimes I don’t take the time to include my path in my every day life, but I’m trying to get better at it.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

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Lonely Moon

I guess I’m what I, and others, would consider a solitary practitioner.  Having discovered Witchcraft in the way that I did–in an ashamed, secretive way–and bringing in the sort of religious background I have, which is one in which community is absolutely necessary, I suppose I approached Witchcraft thinking that my whole life I could just be a mysterious woman who maybe did spells in her spare time but never shared them with anybody.

As I’ve continued walking down this path, however, I find myself sometimes wishing that it didn’t have to be a secret, and that I didn’t have to do everything alone.

Last summer, I suppose about a year and a month ago, I celebrated my first Esbat.  I went outside with my Tarot cards and some water to bless and I felt the power of the Mother shining through me.  I even managed an impromptu poetic verse invoking the power of the moon.  For my first time, it was an influential experience in my path.  It was also a wholly solitary experience, and sort of squirreled away in secret.

The next month I did my Esbat with Ibis, which I posted about a long time ago in one of my first Year and a Day Journal entries.

In that case, I don’t know if I did my Esbat with Ibis because she happened to be at my house, or if I already felt like I needed someone else to share my spirituality with, but regardless, I shared it outright.  I’ve always been a very open person, and with Ibis I could even share my new path, which was just barely becoming visible.

Now, a year later, I went outside and stared up at the Buck Moon and bathed my Tarot cards, my journal, some other special items, and some water in the crisp white light.  The warm summer breeze was gorgeous and the sky crystal clear–I’ve always been in love with summertime, if that’s not obvious–and even though I’ve been on this path for well over a year, I still felt a shiver as I wondered if anyone could see me from their house or window.

It looked very much like my first, shy Esbat.  And I wish it didn’t have to be like that.

I want to go outside and dance in the moonlight.  I want hold hands in a circle and light candles and watch them flicker in the wind.  I want to talk with people who wholeheartedly understand my ideas and have new ones to add.  I may think of myself as a solitary Witch, but it gets lonely being a secret Witch.

About ten minutes after I came inside from my short midnight moon session outside, I turned off the light in my bedroom and saw the silhouette of a person outside on our driveway.  I could easily see from his shape that it was my brother.  He and I both froze–perhaps he saw the light go off in my window–and waited, feeling, for a moment, we were both being watched.  Then, slowly, he put his hands in his pockets and turned to look at the moon.

I watched him for a moment, then I, too, took a step toward my window and peered at the silver circle between the black leaves of the maple outside.  And, for one quiet minute, we together looked at the moon in all her glory.

My brother is a self-proclaimed atheist.  He believes too solidly in the chemical workings of the brain to be able to accept the concept of souls.  But he can appreciate things of wonder and beauty, and in the end, that’s all I’m doing, and maybe I’m not as alone as I think.

I suppose the difference is that when he turned around a minute later, and I heard the front door open and close, I knew that he was going back to his computer desk and I was going to my makeshift altar.  But even these things are maybe not so different in the end.

If only I had the courage to open the broom closet so we could all go out and dance.

 

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #38: July 19th, 2016

This entry is based on Day 3 of Wicca: A Year and a Day by Timothy Roderick.

I think, as Witches (or whatever you call yourself), we have a nice, looming obstacle in the way of peaceful practice.  When I considered myself to be a Catholic Christian, my faith was out in the open (not everybody agreed with Catholicism, but still, it wasn’t a secret that I was Catholic).  When I got baptized, it was a big event.  When I had my first communion–another big event.  When I got confirmed, my whole family came and watched and I got a big pink cake with a cross on it and like a half-dozen family heirloom rosaries.

If you strip away the common factor that makes these things acceptable to our society–Jesus–then suddenly you have a bunch of rituals, and, to be quite honest, rituals that could easily be mistaken for Pagan rituals.  Baptism is water symbolizing birth and being washed clean, and a candle is lit to symbolize spirituality.  Communion is partaking in the fruit of the vine and the work of our hands to worship (although, Catholics believe in transubstantiation, wherein the wine is really the blood of Christ and the bread is really the body of Christ, so that’s a little bit more involved).  And at confirmation, I was anointed with oil and even given a different, spiritual name.

And yet.  Those rituals are acceptable to society, and Pagan stuff is apparently terrifying.

Of course, it’d be nice to think that we have just the one obstacle–society–and nothing else stands in our way.  That’s rarely true.  In fact, I think that one of the biggest obstacles that blocks my way is, unfortunately, myself.  Half the time, I don’t feel comfortable with what my path is, and with using terminology.  Reclaiming and all that aside, it’s not an easy task to call yourself a Witch in front of friends and family, or to say that you do magick or spells.  I know as well as they know what exactly comes to mind when you tell someone you’re a Witch.  They start thinking you’re delusional, is what starts happening.

I mean, truly, it’s not all that different than believing in a Christian God who will answer your prayers (and yet somehow it’s a hundred times more appealing than relying on God).  Either way, there’s some unseen force that exists in the Universe and you must appeal to it, whether that’s by sticking your own hand in and guiding it (magick) or praying (a whole host of religions, including Pagan ones), or calling on the saints for intercessions.  But Witchcraft just sounds dirty to the untrained ear.  And my ear is sometimes very untrained.

I liked Day 3 of the Wicca book I’m reading because it asked me, the practitioner, to Consider some essential words: Wicca, Witchcraft, Power, Ritual, Magic, Occult, Pagan, Spell, and Earth-Religion.  Answer the questions for each: a) What is my comfort level using each word? b) How do I understand each word? c) How do I imagine each word impacts other people who are not involved with Wicca?

I don’t want to go into immense detail about what I decided for each word, because it’s pretty personal, I suppose.  But I wrote a lot about skepticism, misunderstanding, and fear from both sides (myself and others).  In the end, I narrowed it down to one word–confusion.  I think that summarizes the negative emotions that both I and others feel about many of the key words that the book asked me to consider.

The book then asked me to write this one summarizing word on the side of a taper candle, to be burned away and the remaining wax buried far from my home.  But in the meantime, it wanted me to think of where this emotion comes from.  A scary cartoon about witches? the book suggested, or….

Well, I think I can understand where much of my confusion comes from.  I was raised Catholic, after all, and while Witchcraft-removal isn’t the main thing on the docket these days for the Catholic Church, certainly drilling into my head that there is One True God and only those that believe in and worship Him can have eternal life isn’t exactly Witchcraft-friendly.  Likewise, learning the history of Witches as only those Puritans who were tried and hanged in 1692-1693 and not as any real practitioners doesn’t do anything to help suggest Witches could be real people.  And the way that some parents react to children’s books with magic themes (Harry Potter topping the challenged book list, anyone?) definitely paints a picture of a society where hostility towards Witchcraft is alive and well.

And yet, as I was lying on my back thinking of where all the negative stuff came from, I also thought about how I was drawn to Witchcraft–how it felt like the right thing, how my fascination with magic had been something real and strong my whole life, how even when I wrote fantasy stories, magic wasn’t something that you could just snap your fingers and get, but something real, something simultaneously tangible and intangible and physical and something that required your effort.  I thought about how I fell in love with Renaissance festivals and the world of magic and whimsy there, and how every Halloween I was a witch or a sorceress.  How Harry Potter didn’t make me want to be a Witch, but how wanting to be a Witch made me devour Harry Potter. 

I know that this is all far from easy.  I watched my mom absolutely mock my brother this weekend for considering himself an atheist, and I could only sit there and think how much she would be appalled if she knew of my Tarot cards and essential oils.  I can hope that someday it’s not all so terrifying and confusing.  I’m trying to melt away some of that confusion now.

Well the candle burns down.  And only time will tell.

 

Blessed be!

)O(

(And a happy full moon to you all!)

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #36: May 20th, 2016

If you read my blog frequently, you’ve probably seen me mention my best friend, Ibis, a few times.  Well, her birthday is in two days, and I’m in a foreign country, maybe 4,000 miles away from her.  I mean, I haven’t always been able to spend her birthday with her of course, but I usually try to do something.  Take for example two years ago, after our junior year of college.  She was studying abroad that semester, but the school year ended and we were back in our hometown about a week later.  I called up her mom and asked if I could come over as a surprise, so I rode my bike about seven miles to her house with two bottles of liquor in my backpack (it was her 21st birthday) and just strolled in her backdoor.  She was cooking in the kitchen and thought I was her mom at first, but when she saw me (for the first time in about four months) she freaked out and hugged me.  We both had been through a lot that semester, but at least we got the chance to spend some time together in the end.

I don’t think I’ll be able to do quite the same thing this year, since I’ll be coming home about a month and a half late.  In fact, she’ll probably want to do something for my birthday, which is in July.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get to is that Ibis is a truly irreplaceable friend.  We’ve had our ups and downs of course–this year probably being a down, since we haven’t seen each other in nine months–but in the end, we’ve been friends for a solid eight years.  I mean, all through the tumultuous times of high school and college.  That means something.

So today’s journal prompt has something to do with this idea of friendship, the kind of friendship that you can’t just find anywhere.  Today’s prompt is as follows: Do you have any friends with whom you have a sort of spiritual connection?  How can you describe this connection?  Does your friend inspire you on your path?  

I can say very honestly that Ibis is a friend with whom I have some kind of spiritual connection.  I remember back when we were in high school, we were sitting by the side of her backyard pool and we were talking about everything–life, school, even God–and I realized that somehow, we had so much in common that I truly felt we were like the same person.  I felt like our spirits were kindred, as though we were soul sisters (as cliched as those terms have come to be).

My connection with Ibis is so powerful that when she turned eighteen, I wrote a poem lamenting that she was going to become an adult without me.  The poem was about our innocence and how it seemed that I had lost too much innocence to be a child but I couldn’t yet follow her into adulthood.  The shining hope in the piece was that we had decided to go to college together, and I didn’t have to be so afraid of the future if I was stepping into it just behind her.

I would say that, although I was the one who worded the prompt question and of course I should be able to answer it, it’s very difficult to describe the connection that I have with Ibis.  I think that the best way to say it is that our souls strive for the same thing, even if we don’t realize it in the moment.  For example, when we were sitting by the side of the swimming pool back in high school and we were discussing God, we seemed to feel the same things in our hearts.  If I recall correctly, we both had experienced a period of intense devotion to Him, but in the end had found that it didn’t satisfy us, or it didn’t make sense in the way that we had hoped it would.  I think that we both want something a little more out of spirituality than what the Christian God can provide, or at least more than we understood He can provide.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think that Ibis is about to join me on this path anytime soon (even though it would be ridiculously awesome if she did), but we’ve had many moments over the years of connection in spiritual thought.  For example, once we were walking together on campus and saw a spring bird flitting from tree to tree.  And it seemed that in that moment we both expressed that the bird must have a soul, that it has a whole life and existence beyond what we understand (I would say that whether or not we take on this label, we both have some belief in animism).

Sometimes I don’t even realize that we have the same goal and beliefs in mind until later.  For example, my freshman year of college, Ibis and her boyfriend were part of a big campaign to ban bottled water on our college campus.  At the time, I was vehemently against this ban, on the sole grounds that it was a “ban.”  I thought that if I wanted to buy bottled water, I should be able to.  I actually became somewhat furious over the whole thing, because I felt like they were telling me I was a bad person for wanting to buy bottled water.  In reality, I’m pretty sure I felt guilty myself.  After a couple arguments with Ibis about the whole campaign, we completely reconciled, and about a year later I realized I had been extremely selfish about the whole thing.  Now I think about my impact on the environment constantly, and Ibis and I both truly care about the Earth.  It was like she, once again, was one step ahead of me and I just had to grow up a little to figure out that we were still the same person.

Clearly Ibis and I have a lot of things in common, which definitely is important for us being friends.  But more than that, it seems that we have some sort of kindred connection, even from afar.  For example, one day I was walking in a park not far from my house, and I saw an ibis.  Instantly I felt my friend flash into my mind.  It was as though her soul was present in the bird–perhaps all birds, since she’s said a few times that if she could be an animal, she would be a bird.  But more importantly, I could feel that there was something there, and I made plans with her as soon as I could because I felt that seeing the bird was almost a sign.  This is why I call my friend Ibis on this blog.

Now, like I said, Ibis isn’t on this path.  But she certainly has served as inspiration and support for me while I’ve been figuring out what I believe and what I know.  She was the first person I told about magick, and she didn’t even think I was that crazy.  She’s participated in a ritual with me, and she even sometimes reads this blog 🙂  I think the fact that we strive for the same things in life help her to understand where I’m coming from a little bit more than your average person, because (as I said with the animism and stuff), we have a lot of the same feelings and beliefs, even if hers haven’t been translated to a belief system the way I’ve been trying to translate mine.

So, thinking about her birthday coming up, I’m hoping to get her something really special.  I can’t say what it is yet, because I don’t want to give it away in case she reads this!  But she always knows that it’s something from the heart.

Of course, the biggest gift will be when I come home and we pick up exactly where we left off.  I don’t think she’ll ever be able to get rid of me, to be honest.  No matter how many months or years or decades we spend apart (but hopefully not decades, because that would suck).

If you read this, Ibis, I love you to pieces.  I wish I could be there for your birthday, but I know that when I come back, you’ll be 23, and I’ll step into it behind you.

 

Blessed be ❤

)O(

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #34: April 26, 2016

I’m currently job-hunting.  I know that my job in this foreign country is only going to be relevant a little longer, and once June is up, so is my job stability.  Thankfully, they love me over here, so they’ve basically said that I could come back whenever I wanted, but I’ve got a lot of stuff to do in the States and I can’t bail on those responsibilities to go on prancing around in a foreign country, sniffing the foreign flowers and learning a foreign language.

*Sigh*  Such is life.

It’s times when I am job-hunting that I truly begin to think about my abilities and talents.  I see qualifications for certain jobs and I can’t help but think, “Dang.  Why can’t I do that?”  Sometimes it’s not so cut and dry; for example, I can’t just will into existence five years of experience in a certain field (although sometimes employers seem to be under the impression that us unemployed folks can indeed perform such miracles).  But I sometimes think, Why don’t I know how to use that program?  Why can’t I work better with children?  Why didn’t I get ESL certified?

The nice thing about working on a resume, however, is that I do get to actually think about the skills that I do have.  For example (I’m thinking to myself at this very moment), I am an excellent typist.  I can do 120 wpm if I’m really booking it, and I rarely have mistakes.  I also possess some pretty stellar spelling and grammar, which probably stems from a childhood of reading and writing for hours on end, plus this year I’m spending teaching English as a foreign language.  Nothing makes you understand a concept quite like pretending you know everything about it.

So, for this journal entry, I’m working with a prompt that’s kind of an extension of yesterday’s prompt: How do your talents and skills play into your Craft?  How have they influenced your path?

Yesterday, of course, I talked about music, so if you’re interested in that topic, you can just keep scrolling down.  But today I’ll try to touch on some other skills that I have.  If it sounds like I’m getting a big head, just remember that I’m job-hunting and I have to be able to pitch myself like a pro.  Also it’s my blog, so….

  1. Writing.  It seems like the sensible skill to start with, seeing as this whole blog wouldn’t exist if I didn’t sincerely enjoy writing.  Writing is really at the core of my Craft, because I usually focus my thoughts on spirituality through writing, as you can all see here.  In addition to this blog, I keep a hand-written journal.  It’s not exactly a Book of Shadows, per se, but an actual journal that I’ve kept for awhile.  It has regular, everyday entries in it, but as my life has gotten progressively Witchier, so have the journal entries.  Recently, I’ve taken to bringing my journal with me into my ritual space.  I’ll light the candles and then contemplate my ritual.  I’ll write down my thoughts in my journal, along with my intention for the ritual, and any incantations or things I do in the process.  Then I’ll actually do the ritual, and make some post-ritual notes.  It’s turned out to be a great focusing project.  I’m sure that this idea will eventually turn into a BoS at some point, but right now it’s just a way of focusing my thoughts.  Writing is really at the center of my Craft; more than that, however, it has entirely shaped my path.  For example, if I hadn’t become completely obsessed with fantasy stories, I never would have thought twice about wanting to be a witch, and then I probably would never have thought twice about wanting to be a Witch.  Reading has always had a great draw for me, and more than that, emulating the kinds of fantastic things that I read, in my own writing.  I’ve always wanted to be the next J.K. Rowling (as ridiculous as that sounds these days, because nobody can compare to Queen Jo), and somehow, despite the fact that I’ve started literally hundreds of different stories, I always come back to fantasy.  Nothing gets me as excited as the idea of magic, and I suppose that eventually turned into a fascination with magick.
  2. Dance.  Now, I’m not exactly a phenomenal dancer.  I danced basically from the beginning of my schooling until I graduated from high school, and then picked up less formal dance in college (such as Zumba), and I consider it to be something that I’m not too awful at.  But the great thing about dance is that it entirely engages your body in something that is utterly unique to you.  Nobody dances in exactly the same way, nobody reacts the exact same way to music, and giving dance as an offering to the Universe is a beautiful and visual experience.  So far I haven’t used dance much in ritual because I don’t have a lot of space, but recognizing dance as something that could be a part of ritual has opened me up the idea that, really, physical movement of any kind can be something sacred to myself and to the Universe.  Walking down the street, feeling my heartbeat in my chest–these things are spiritual experiences.
  3. Art.  My artistic ability is kind of like my dance ability–it’s always been something I’ve done for fun, though I don’t think I would get any critical acclaim for it.  That being said, making art for spiritual purposes or for ritual is, like anything else, not something that is going to be judged by others.  I think there is something highly sacred in creating, and whether that is an arts n’ crafts style project or a classically-done painting doesn’t really matter.  It can be really helpful to get out the paintbrushes and glue when it comes to making your tools or decorations for your altar or for different sabbats.  After all, many of us are Witches on a budget, and while it’s great to support your local metaphysical bookshop or local artist, sometimes it’s just better to make your own representation of the Goddess for your altar, rather than drop $50 on something you saw on Etsy (though there’s nothing wrong with doing that, either, if you have the money).  Sometimes, making your own things is the best way to forge a real connection between you and an item or decoration.
  4. Being a good friend.  This one is not exactly a skill, though I think it can be challenging for some.  I wanted to put this idea in here because I recently did some off-the-cuff spellwork that really revolved around one of my good friends.  Last weekend, Oriole (whose code name we’ve seen before on this blog) and I were out walking in the main part of town, running some errands.  She tripped pretty badly earlier on in the day, almost hurting herself.  While we were out walking, she tripped again, quite hard, and less than thirty seconds later, she tripped a third time.  Of course, because she didn’t get hurt, it was pretty funny, and we were of course laughing our butts off.  But in reality, I was getting a bit concerned.  It wasn’t like Oriole to be particularly clumsy, and she already faces quite a few health problems that could definitely be aggravated if she took a tumble.  So, while we were in a shop waiting to be helped by the shop assistant, I grounded myself and set an intention to keep her safe and healthy.  I know that it seems like a strange spell, but I just filled the nearest thing to her–her backpack–with positive energy, and hoped it would keep her safe.  Of course, I don’t know for sure if it was just a coincidence, but she didn’t trip or stumble any more for the rest of the day, even though we got a bit tipsy at a restaurant.  I know there is some controversy over casting spells on your friends who are unaware that you practice Witchcraft, or could be against the idea of having a spell cast on them, but I do know Oriole pretty well and she is someone who would kind of shrug and say, “Alright then, cool.”

Well, it’s gotten pretty late and I’m pretty exhausted, so I’m going to wrap this up.  Perhaps if I think of more ideas later, I’ll add them.

I hope that you all get the opportunities to use your own special skills in your Craft.  Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had in the comments.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

Am I Appropriating Culture?

Alright, everyone, here is the big post that I’ve been saying I’m going to do.  It’s a lot of questioning, so if you have any answers, please let me know.

It’s no secret that cultural appropriation has been a hot topic in the last several years.  Things that flew under the radar for a very long time, such as dressing up as a Native American for Halloween, white people wearing dreadlocks, people getting tattoos that they don’t fully understand, Americans claiming to have achieved Eastern spiritualism when really they just do yoga a couple times a week…these are all being shoved out into the limelight as cultural insensitivity and appropriation.  I, as a white, middle-class, Midwestern, European-descended American, probably could never understand the full meaning behind the phrase “Namaste,” let alone take on the heavy history of southern gospel music, or a Native American pow-wow, or…you know, basically anything except when I was born and raised with: a Midwest American lifestyle with a nod to my Norwegian heritage thrown in at Christmas in the form of lutefisk and lefse.

Now, just because we’re born in one position doesn’t mean we can’t see something better or even equally interesting and want to learn about that or strive for it.  I don’t have any heritage from the country that I’m in right now, but I was interested in it, and I studied it, and I came here to teach English.  I met little resistance on the ethics front because I’m white and this country is mostly white, so nobody was questioning if I was taking on the “white man’s burden” of going to Africa or India or something and teaching English.  (I personally don’t find anything wrong in going to Africa and volunteering or teaching English, but I recognize the tones of colonialism behind it and why it can be such a controversial thing.)  Anyway, I’ve been immersed in this culture for over half a year now, and I’d studied it long before I came, so if I go home and cook the food from this country and speak the language of this country and teach my children the traditions of this country, I won’t really feel like it’s cultural appropriation, because I like to think I understand it pretty well.

Also, one has to consider that in America, we are like a melting pot (though I prefer the term “tossed salad”–many different parts that offer their own unique flavor and bring something different to the table but work very well all together), and therefore every American is introduced to a whole slew of cultures.  I’m guessing that if you account for the whole United States, you could probably find first-generation immigrants from basically every country in the world.  So, of course, even if my heritage is Scandinavian, I can be introduced to–and even fall in love with–another culture.  Take Mexican culture, for example.  Near where I live, there are a lot of Mexican immigrants.  It’s not hard to find Mexican shops or restaurants in my area.  I even volunteered for a few weeks in a school where the student body was nearly 70% Latino.  I studied Spanish in high school and have used it on more than one occasion to order food, to help limited-English customers at the store where I worked, or to help Latino students at various schools.  I used it in Mexico when my family and I went there for vacation.  Mexican culture is something that I find very interesting and I consider myself to know at least a bit about.  I was, after all, one of the officers of the Spanish Club at my school and I did win some awards at Festival Quijote (a traveling one-day event for high schools celebrating Spanish and Mexican culture).  That being said, I would never consider myself to have a full understanding of what Mexicans have gone through.  I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to celebrate their holidays in the same way that I like celebrating the holidays of the country I’m in now.  Does it have something to do with race, with perceived differences in us based on the color of our skin?  Maybe.  Perhaps it’s because I haven’t spent more than seven days in Mexico, and that was all at a resort in Cancun drinking pina coladas.  But I know a woman, a white, probably Scandinavian-descended woman who lives in my region, who loves Mexican culture so much that she takes a group of women there every year for a retreat, she decorated her house with a lot of Mexican-inspired elements, she changed her name to sound more Latina (her name ended with a consonant and she added an “a” to the end), and she even adopted Mexican children (no, I’m not kidding).  As much as I’m inspired by and admire this woman for a ton of reasons (she’s a lifelong vegetarian, a local-business supporter, a fitness instructor at age 65, and she grows an urban garden), I can’t help but feel like her adopting Mexican culture (and Mexican children) seems a little out-of-place.  Maybe even inappropriate.  After all, cultural appropriation is a symptom of privilege.  Many Mexican immigrants have to come here, learn English, and “act white” just to survive, but this woman can take on Mexican culture as a kind of intense hobby or lifestyle choice.

I think that, by now, many of you can probably understand where I’m going with this.  As I’ve said a few times, my heritage is half-Scandinavian, and I celebrate that with my family.  (The other half is mainland European but we don’t celebrate it as much.)  For most of my life, I was pretty content on living with the traditions that my family had always had, including going to Catholic church, celebrating Christian holidays, and being a pretty patriotic American.  Then I started branching into studying the culture and language of the country I’m in now, as a matter of interest (and I’ve been doing that for the last five years).

But you all know that I’m on a journey, and this path, at least the one I’m trying to walk on, seems to simultaneously come from a pretty specific tradition and sort of borrow from a ton of different traditions all at once.

Most Witches that I know do at least something with the Wheel of the Year, which includes these old Celtic holidays of Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas/Lughnasadh, and Mabon.  They maybe draw inspiration from the gods and goddesses of several traditions, including ancient Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, Slavic, Germanic, and others.  It’s a pretty open path, so you can kind of choose anything you want and roll with it.  It’s a beautiful thing, for the most part.

But here I am, kind of preparing myself for Beltane, scrolling through Pinterest and finding cool ideas, reading about the origins of this holiday, and realizing something pretty important.  This is not my heritage.  As absolutely fascinating as the Pagan history of the British Isles is, I’m not British, I’m not Irish.  I’m drawn to this tradition, and yet it feels like it must be far removed from me.

I know that you don’t have to have a heritage of Witchcraft to start on the path (at least, that seems to be the general consensus among a lot of practitioners although there is some contention).  In fact, thinking that one must fit into a certain box in order to be a Witch is pretty damaging.  But for the last few years of my life, I’ve been actively trying to educate myself on how to be a better human being, and part of that has been becoming conscious of things like cultural appropriation and sensitivity.  How can I sit down one day and decide that I’m going to follow a calendar that I’ve never followed in my life?  How can I wrap my mouth around these old words and act out these old traditions when I don’t have the context of them?  Even if I studied them for years the way that I studied Spanish, can I just adopt them, as I see fit, as a luxury?  After all, the same privilege is at work here–Pagans have been killed throughout the ages for not assimilating to Christianity, but here I am with the privilege to say, “Well, now I’m Pagan (or Neo-Pagan)!”  Doesn’t it have the same bad taste as if somebody decided they were going to align themselves with Native American traditions and spirituality when they haven’t been invited and haven’t had to experience the pain of the past?  Or (and this is the question I’m asking)…maybe it really is okay?

And as much as I know that there are Witches out there who fight against this notion, I must ask myself a question–even in the midst of the Reclaiming tradition, should I, someone whose family has been Christian as far back as I can fathom, really seek to consider myself a Witch?

Should I forget being politically correct for a moment and just do what I want, as long as I harm none?

These are all questions with which I have been grappling.

I’m eager to receive any comments or ideas from anyone.  If you have an interesting thought on this, or if you have also questioned this, please leave a comment and I’ll answer you as quickly as I can.

Thank you for your help and support.

Blessed be.

)O(

 

 

 

Practical Magick?

For those of you who read my blog at least occasionally, you probably know that my real name isn’t Chloe.  I keep Chloe as a pseudonym, as my Witchy name, because I have a real life outside of the Internet that isn’t quite ready to be out of the bloom closet yet.  This blog is my real personality here, and I write my real thoughts, but there is also a real girl out there in the world who is me, who is working and living and trying to avoid major bumps in the road.

The reason I’m reminding you all of this is because the real me suffers from migraine headaches, and I just had one yesterday.  They are entirely unpredictable.  I have no idea what triggers them, and they have no pattern.  I didn’t even have the first recognizable-as-a-migraine episode until I was seventeen.  During my freshman year of college, I had to run out of class and throw up, then go and sleep it off.  I had auras about 15-20 minutes before the pain started, just long enough to gather my books up from the library and head home or email my professors that I wouldn’t be in class.  If I could take two Excedrins before the brunt of the pain settled in, I could sleep through the nausea and wake up about four hours later feeling like I had slept through being brutally hammered in the skull repeatedly.  I had them as often as three times a month, until they abruptly stopped in February.

I had one more that I remember on move-in day of my junior year of college, and possibly another at some other time, but this is the first one I can recall having in quite a long while.  Of course, it’s disconcerting, because if I have no clear pattern, I can’t tell what the triggers are.  It’s also difficult to cancel out of things at such short notice.  I was able to call in sick from work yesterday, but I had an individual student I couldn’t cancel.  I threw up (from the pain–a side effect of the migraine) about four minutes before she arrived, and throughout the hour-long lesson I excused myself two more times to go discreetly vomit.  I should win an Oscar because she had no idea that I was ill.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about this on my Witchy blog is because it’s things like this that make me curious about the practical effects of magick.  It actually set me to looking for magickal remedies for migraines, a few of which I found, but of course there is the underlying question, What does magick actually do? 

I know, as well as any other person studying Witchcraft, that magick does not fix all problems.  It cannot make something do an action that is outside of its nature.  I can’t turn a tea kettle into a flower pot or anything like that (unless I get really crafty with Pinterest).  And likewise, magick is no replacement for medical advice or treatment.  If you break your leg, you can’t magick it back.  You can use magick to help you cope or to possibly heal faster, but that’s about it.

What about with unseen problems, like migraines?  Things that don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, but they just happen?  What about depression, or the resulting apathy?  What about cancer?  We can say that we have preventative magick, but what does it do in times of real health crisis?  I mean, just the night before I had my migraine, I did a spell to improve my health (by helping motivate me to eat right and exercise).  I burned candles with dill and rosemary, I burned petitions, and I made sure to repeatedly qualify that the spell shouldn’t harm anyone.  Yet, the next morning, I get my first migraine in years.  What gives?  It even sent me to the Internet to see if there was such a thing as a magickal hangover.  Maybe I didn’t ground enough and used too much of my own energy?

And yet, part of me was thinking, This is silly.  When you were a “Christian,” you never assumed it was God that was giving you migraines, or that He would take them away.  When you were an atheist, you didn’t look into outside causes.  And that is entirely true.  Now that I want to tap into the magickal energy of the Universe, it seems that I should be able to defeat this in some way.  Now that I’ve put my first real hope into something in a long time, shouldn’t it–you know–not let me down?  Isn’t there some herbal blend I can take, or some meditation exercise I can try to do (while lying under the covers wishing I were unconscious)?

Or is magick, is Witchcraft, just one more call out into the void in our hopeless search for some power and control in this messed-up place?  Could there ever be such a thing as practical magick?

I know these are all very dramatic thoughts for a novice Witch to ask, but I always have questions for my own life philosophies, and Witchcraft doesn’t get let off the hook in any way.  That being said, I’m very happy to take any bits of wisdom, because these are real questions I would like to have answered (or at least have soothed in some way).  Comments are welcome below, and I’ll approve them as soon as I can.

Thank you for reading.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #15: January 29th, 2016

I spent some time today searching around for good “year and a day” journal prompts, but, to be honest, I didn’t really find a lot of good sites, and also, (SURPRISE!) aspiring Witches are not the only ones coming up with writing ideas for the pretty popular length of 365 or 366 days.  So the search was not entirely fruitful today.  I did come across some more interesting Pagan information on my search, as one might expect, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  For example, there’s even a book called Wicca: A Year and a Day on Amazon, and I thought about buying the Kindle version, but there’s only like $13.75 left on my gift card, and the book was a little over $14, and that seems ridiculous but it is a real obstacle when you are on a tight budget.  Plus, I didn’t know if I could justify buying more books when I’m struggling to read the ones I’ve got.  I also promised my foreign friend here that I would read a very famous book by one of the authors of this country, and I said I’d do that by March, so that’s not looking good.  I’m on like, page four of that.  And I’m trying to learn this country’s language on top of that, which requires some time and effort.

Maybe I’ll do all these things on the weekend.  Except I’ve been invited to a birthday party and nobody parties like the people of this country, so I’m expecting Sunday to be a bust.

Anyway, I guess that I ought to get to the actual journal part of this post.  So, another question that I’m just making up as I go: What do you picture when you think of a Witch?

I think this question is really important for me, which is why I’m addressing it.  As I said in my “If I Went to Hogwarts” post, the desire to be a Witch for me has sometimes been confused with the wish to be a witch, as in like, Hermione Granger.  Who doesn’t want to be able to levitate things, mix up magical potions, or fly?

The thing is, though, that even if I wish I had Hermione’s magical powers, the thing that’s really drawn me to Witchcraft is the back-to-roots feeling of it–turning back to the Earth, being reverent of all life and all things that contribute to this Universe, using natural methods and empowering oneself to make change, instead of waiting around for an unseen God.  When I first started getting seriously interested in Witchcraft, I simply searched that term on Pinterest and what came up was a lot of Bohemian-vibe women who looked like they 1) couldn’t care less about what other people thought, and 2) were experiencing something so universal that it could and should be shared by everybody, if only we’d take a moment to pay attention.

I remember one pin that I really liked–it pictured an elderly woman, sitting in natural-looking, earth-tone clothes, wearing a babushka-style scarf, sewing an herb wreath, surrounded by other drying herbs, and it said in bold white letters, BLESSED BE THE MAGICK OF THE KITCHEN WITCH.

I love that.  I think that it’s amazing how traditions have been passed down, how many of the ancient cultures honored magick, and how that’s survived even to this day.  Not every old lady is the uptight pearl-wearing grandma who always sits in the back pew of the church service so she can start making her way out after Communion (I mean, my grandparents weren’t like that either for the most part, but I’m just making an illustration here).  Some people still believe in the profound joy and reassurance found in nature, and some people want to surround themselves with the old ways.

That’s why my tagline for this blog is “journeying on a new old path,” because this path is new to me, but really it’s got so much heritage.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with adding new touches to the old ways.  If you prefer to wear all black instead of the natural fibers of the bohemian look, that’s pretty badass and I’m with you on that.  I love the different styles Witches have–since they’re all unique–but there’s just some mysterious thread that runs through all of them.  Like they could all sit in a circle in the woods and not even say anything, except this silent secret and everyone’s answer is, “I know.”

I think it’s important to find your own path with Witchcraft, which is what I endeavor to do.  And certainly it’s not just the image of the Witch that keeps me going, but when I think of who I want to be, I hope I fall somewhere in that ballpark.

 

)O(

Blessed be!

 

 

 

A Fresh Start

Hello.  I’m Chloe.

Well, sort of.

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Changing like the seasons do, except I don’t know which season I’m in and I don’t know what’s coming next.

I guess, in many ways, I don’t know who I am.  In the words of one of my favorite literary heroines, “I’m afraid I can’t explain myself…. Because I’m not myself, you see?”  I am different today than I was yesterday, and yesterday I was much different from a year ago.  For example, a year ago, I considered myself a (very, very) flawed Catholic.  I was a student in college.  I was living in a communal house with several other people, and I probably defined myself by the extracurricular activities I participated in.  Compared to last year, my life is pretty unrecognizable.

The good news is, for the most part I’m not afraid of change.  (I say “for the most part” because sometimes change scares the crap out of me.)  I’m inclined enough to accept change that, after college, I picked up my entire life and moved to a foreign country.  I speak the country’s language on a minimal level, but I have a job teaching English, so at least I fulfill my job requirements.  I don’t anticipate staying here forever, either–probably just a year.  So then I’ll pick everything up and move back to the United States, and so there’s even more change coming ahead.  It’s a strange feeling, actually, because I’m the kind of person who makes friends for the long haul, and coming here I’m very aware that I will be leaving in a relatively short time–but not a short enough time not to bother making friends.  It’s a little conflicting at times, but I’m making do.

While I’m here in said foreign country, I’m living with a roommate from the UK.  He’s an interesting fellow, and we don’t always understand each other.  Thankfully he doesn’t really judge my inquiry down this path (at least, he doesn’t seem to).  And you’re probably thinking, what exactly is this path?

The answer is, I don’t know.  I was hoping somebody could tell me.

I’ve had a weird life, religiously.  I won’t go into it now–it’s a lot to read, and it will probably go into a second post.  But for the first seventeen years of my life, I was Catholic.  Then I was atheist.  And then I realized that the universe is something incredible, and that sometimes I want to use my own self to alter the things around me, instead of relying on God or somebody else to do all the work.

So I started looking on Pinterest and I realized that there were crazy amounts of pins (and subsequent links) and information out there on witchcraft and Wicca.  And while I don’t identify as Wiccan (yet?  I don’t know), I think witchcraft might be something worth doing.

I haven’t been studying very long–I’ve been working with meditation and yoga for almost two years, but only started researching witchcraft specifically for less than one year.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about it, and starting to work with it, so I wanted to start a blog (this is not my first blog.  I might have a problem).

As you probably can guess though, I’m in the “broom closet.”  Only a few people close to me know anything about it.  And, for that reason, I’m Chloe.  Because I’m not really Chloe Verena Eastey, but I am here and now.

So I think that’s where I’ll start.  I have a lot to say, and a lot to learn.  I’m really glad to start this journey.

)O(

Blessed be.

[By the way, the quote at the beginning is from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, in case you have been living under a rock.]