Year and a Day Journal #37: June 5th, 2016

Well, here I am again, kind of wondering what to write about.  Why is there no full and complete list of 366 journal prompts somewhere on the Internet?  Somebody needs to make that happen.  I mean, I guess I’m doing it, but…somebody else should be in charge of this.  I can barely make toast some days.  As I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’m out of soy milk, too.

Anyway, no one should be surprised, I suppose, that I’m again taking some inspiration from the Pagan Perspective!  Seriously, if you haven’t checked them out, you need to do that pronto.   They have some really great information for pagans, whatever level of experience you have.

This week’s prompt is also taken from my own life, really, because this is it: How does food play into your path? 

Now, if you have the chance, go back and read my previous post, which was Food-for the Soul?  I don’t know why exactly, but it got a lot of hits, and I have the suspicion that it’s because that topic speaks to a lot of us.  Or maybe because it had a proper title unlike most of my posts, but that’s neither here nor there.  Anyway, probably 90% of the population has a weird relationship with food at best.  But, as I said in the end of that post, we have to try to mend this relationship in order to be at our spiritual best (or something to that effect).  Perhaps there’s no better way to mend this relationship than to make food into something spiritual in itself.

I’m leaving this prompt wide open, so if you ever use my prompts as inspiration, you can take it however you’d like.  Maybe you want to think about some recipes you make for the different sabbats.  Maybe you want to talk about how eating everyday is some kind of spiritual experience for you.  Maybe you want to talk about how your food choices are tied to your beliefs.  Now that I’ve suggested these things, I’m going to do all three.

Firstly–recipes for the sabbats.  I don’t freely celebrate the sabbats due to still being firmly located in the broom closet, but a lot of these recipes are just seasonable dishes that you can make without raising too much suspicion.  For example, for Yule I made wassail, which is a drink utilizing apple juice and spices.  There’s nothing inherently magickal about this particular recipe or anything, but the spices in your nose and wafting through the kitchen can help to warm your spirits.  I even used it as an offering for my Yule ritual.  I think the most important thing about sabbat recipes is to bring the essence of the sabbat into your cooking.  Why not make recipes with flowers for Beltane, or lots of wheat bread for Lammas?  Make stuff with pumpkins for Samhain, and stuff with eggs for Ostara (if you eat eggs).  For inspiration, I really enjoy the book The Kitchen Witch, by Soraya.  I have the Kindle version.  The author compiled lots of recipes for each sabbat and even has some extra tips.  The only frustrating thing about it is that the majority of the recipes including meat and dairy, which I tend not to eat.  But the book is really interesting and helpful, nevertheless.

Secondly–making food spiritual in itself.  It might be helpful here to insert the beautiful phrase, “Self love is synonymous with self care.”  I heard that once on YouTube (I’m so enlightened).  Regardless of the source, though, I think that the message is really important: if you want to love yourself, you have to take care of yourself.  If you want to take care of yourself, you have to love yourself.  So when you’re cooking, you’re (hopefully) caring for yourself.  You need food to live, to survive, to thrive.  The act of making your sustenance is the act of caring for yourself.  It is, perhaps, a very personal thing.  A ritual in itself.  Some people choose to treat it as any other ritual, with the lighting of a candle and the use of special utensils.  Sometimes I’m not that focused.  But once in awhile, if I’m making something that feels especially witchy (like homemade soup), I’ll actually set an intention for the food and I’ll put energy into the spices and herbs.  I’ll stir the thing deosil or widdershins.  Usually I make this soup for the purpose of healing and health, so it’s packed with tons of vegetables and good intentions.  I’ve eaten it myself when I had a cold to help me recover, and I’ve given it to friends who were sick.  I even told my friends that it was “special healing soup” and that it would make them better, because mentality is sometimes half the battle.

Lastly–food choices in relation to our beliefs.  As you can probably figure, I’m referring to certain lifestyles like vegetarianism and veganism.  For me, personally, my ideal lifestyle is vegan.  I was vegan for a few years, and while I’ve been abroad I’ve been vegetarian/pescatarian (the food culture here makes it very difficult to cut out dairy, eggs, and fish).  When I buy food to make for myself, it’s almost always vegan, but eating with friends or in restaurants is usually another story.  When I return to the United States, I hope to go back to being about 95% vegan.  Of course, people in the vegan community might tell you that there’s no such thing as being 95% vegan, and if you are truly vegan, you’re 100%.  But I’m kind of a believer that each time you make a positive choice is what matters, and doing something positive is better than nothing.  For me, veganism started out as a diet choice based on my weight and my obsession with food, but at least in the midst of my obsession I did get to learn a lot about the meat and dairy industries, and how veganism can impact these industries.  I don’t like to hurt animals.  I don’t really like to eat animals or animal products, at least not when I think about it.  I don’t want to harm anyone or anything.  Does that sound like a familiar lesson we Witches learn?

Food is such a complex thing sometimes, but I truly hope that someday I, and everyone else, can have a healthy relationship with food.  Regarding food as a spiritual tool may be one way to make that happen.  When I eat, I want to know that it is the best thing for me, and that it doesn’t conflict with my values.

If you’re interested in hearing more about other Pagans and their food choices, check out the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube from a few weeks ago.  They touched on veganism and had some pretty interesting things to say.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food–for the Soul?

 

Today I’m going to talk about something that I think affects a lot of us.  It’s a personal story kind of day; there’s no prompt.  However, this is going to lead into my next Year and a Day Journal, so keep an eye out for the follow-up.

Food is one of the most complicated and yet most integral parts of our daily lives.  We simultaneously love it and hate it, and need it to survive.  I don’t know if people’s relationships with food were always so complex–somehow I think it’s a symptom of what we consider modern fashion–but in any case, nobody alive today doesn’t know what I’m alluding to.

As for me, I’ve had a weird relationship with food for a long time now.  (Cue story time.)  It intensified in college, unsurprisingly, and the scariest part was that I didn’t even realize how messed up it was at first, even though I had been pretty thoroughly educated on eating disorders.  Basically, I’ve always been a kind of endomorph (one of the three basic body types you learn about in high school health class).  I’m tall, I have big features, and I naturally carry a little more weight.  I also had some very tiny friends growing up, and I often compared myself to them.  I mean, I think the first time I was self-conscious of my body was when I was six.  I remember sitting with my knees drawn up to my chin and poking my little calves and watching them jiggle and thinking, “Is this normal?  When did this happen?”  I was also always the tallest kid in my class, and when I was in second grade our teacher wanted to show us how to make averages, and he got our height and weight from each of us.  There were only two kids in my class who were over 100 pounds, and yep, I was one of them.  It really wasn’t because I was heavy or anything.  In fact, my whole childhood I was very active and a normal weight.  But I was just so tall and averagely proportioned, and I was never this skinny little thing you see kids being.  And so I compared myself, and it never felt good.

In high school, it was of course more of the same thing, but even worse.  I was absolutely normally sized, but I was on a dance team with a lot of girls who were extremely skinny or very athletic-looking, and even though I did a lot of exercise I just never looked that way.  In comparison to the other girls, I always looked big.  And I always had to order large dance wear because my limbs were so long.  I remember a track jacket that we had as a uniform once; they were meant to fit tight and cute, but because we had to dance in them, I had to make sure it covered my wrists when I moved my arms.  So my jacket was loose and frumpy, while everyone else’s was little and adorable.

In college I had more control over my schedule.  I was able to choose everything I ate and make time to go to the gym.  I was a bit happier with my body and felt okay with a lot of things.  I even lost eight pounds instead of gaining the freshman fifteen.

My sophomore year I continued to work out nearly every day, but unseasonably brutal weather made me kind of sick and I didn’t feel like working hard when I went to the gym.  I don’t think I gained any weight, but in October I was in an improv comedy show where I wore I skirt, and I saw a picture of myself later, turned around so you could see my thighs from behind.  I couldn’t stop staring at them, and I felt mortified.  It was like, all this time my thighs have looked disgusting, and I didn’t know it?

About a month later, I ordered a book called Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman.  It advocates for a nutritarian lifestyle.  Now, I still really like this book.  I think it is a great resource and it gets at one of the fundamental problems of our culture–not eating in excess, but eating the wrong things.  When I found this book, I was dead-set on following the plan, and I did.  I basically went vegan cold-turkey (perhaps “cold-turkey” isn’t the right phrase when you’re going vegan…), along with some other diet choices.  I dropped another eight pounds, but this time over the course of one month.  By Christmas I was, proportionally, the smallest I could remember being.

Unfortunately I began to obsess, and my diet slowly fell apart.  I had the mentality of an eating disorder; I would eat the same things every single day, I would justify strange behaviors, and I changed other things in my life to surround food.  My friends started going to eating disorder workshops and seminars held by the college to see if their suspicions were correct.  On the surface I thought it was crazy, because I had tons of food on my plate every day (almost entirely vegetables).  But my problem wasn’t about not eating–it was about obsession.

I would binge on the wrong things or drive myself crazy with food choices.  Very slowly I gained a couple pounds back (probably normal, actually), and I panicked.  I ran to the Internet and found a different lifestyle, HCRV (High Carb Raw Vegan), or Raw Til 4, which is the lifestyle of Freelee the Banana Girl, the YouTube personality.  Her tight bod and her videos had me in love.  I immediately was eating a ton of fruit a day, but not much else.  And I’m not saying this diet doesn’t work, because it might in the long-term or it might work better for some people than others.  But I gained a lot of weight back, and my self-esteem went into the toilet.

Now, I’m actually proportionally the biggest I’ve ever been, although I don’t look unhealthy, in my own opinion.  I’m certainly not really skinny, but I’m not about to sign up for The Biggest Loser or anything.  I’m actually blessed that I’m so tall, because I carry weight very well on my body.  That being said, I know that while I’ve been abroad, I have not been eating the way I want to eat.  My roommate and I eat lots of sweets, a lot of processed starches and relatively few vegetables.  Spinach, which was one of my biggest staples in the U.S., is really hard to come by here, especially in the quantities I used to eat it.

I’m hoping that when I return to the United States in about a month, I will have the opportunity to make health one of my main focuses.  Of course, I want to slim down, but I want to do it the right way, with the right goals in mind.  I’m going into the adult world, and I have to start seeing things as an adult–no longer as a college girl, for whom everything was all-or-nothing.  So, for example, I’m cool with going nutritarian again, or being vegan as much as possible, but I also understand that maybe that can only be a 90% thing.  Sometimes you want to go out for dinner, or you want to eat a piece of birthday cake.  And those things shouldn’t be off the table.

I know my boyfriend also wants to get in shape, so I’m hoping we can do it healthfully and together, with each other as support.

I’m talking about this because our spirituality is only as healthy as our minds, and our minds are really connected to our bodies.  I’ve never liked the idea that our bodies are secondary or that they’re dirty things that need to be rejected for religion.  I think they’re crucial.  And unless we take care of our bodies–including eating well and having a good relationship with food–we are going to have a hard time being spiritual.

My next post is going to bounce off of this one, so look out for that coming soon.

Thank you for reading.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

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(

 

 

 

A Little TV Magic

In which I detail why Merlin has been the best show possible to watch while navigating this strange path I’m on.

So yeah, I’ll get to it.

If anybody reads my blog pretty regularly, they might recall a couple months ago when I did a post for Witch crushes, based on the Pagan Perspective video at the time.  If you don’t recall, it was my Year and a Day Journal #30.

In this post, I mentioned my Witch crushes of the moment.  The list included three fictional characters: Hermione from Harry Potter, Alice from Alice and Greta, and Merlin from, well, Merlin (I think it’s actually supposed to be The Adventures of Merlin but who ever calls it that?).  Well, I wrote that post back when I was in maybe season two of the show, and now I’m just two episodes from the end.  Truthfully, I could have gotten here sooner but I’ve been dragging it out spectacularly just to get it to last as long as possible.

If you haven’t seen Merlin, I can say that it’s basically a retelling of the King Arthur legends, but instead of Merlin being an old wizard, he’s been re-imagined as young guy (the show supposedly starts when he’s a teenager and ends when he’s in his late twenties, I would guess) whose magic is a secret.  It really ties in the BBC go-to bromance (think Sherlock and John), especially since you have the two major hotties in Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur) appealing to the masses of women who then turn to writing fantasy-fueled slash fanfiction.

I tried to watch Merlin several years ago, probably a little after it first aired.  My first boyfriend was really into some pretty geeky stuff, and he sometimes appealed to me with various video games and things, so Merlin was one of the many television series he tried to introduce me to.  I distinctly remember watching the first episode, and maybe even the second, and thinking, “Well this is stupid.”  I mean, first of all, Merlin as a young guy?  Special effects that looked like a college kid had done them on his laptop?  Cheeky humor that seemed a bit forced?  I basically told my boyfriend I wasn’t interested.  (Later I also turned down Firefly, Dr. Who, and a whole slew of shows that most geeks usually fawn over.  Don’t worry…as with Merlin, I’ve come around to a lot of them….)

Recently though, I’ve been living in my foreign country, and Netflix was just introduced in January.  I already have a Netflix in the states, which I share with my current boyfriend, so once I found out it was now available here, I logged in and started looking through which shows were available.

Sadly, perhaps because it’s a foreign country, Netflix started off with a woefully dismal selection.  Scrubs, The Office… none of my favorite shows were featured.  For a few weeks, I didn’t even try finding anything interesting to watch.

Then one day I decided to check in and I saw Merlin come up in my queue.  I remembered my first boyfriend’s unsuccessful attempt to get me to watch it, and recalling that he later got me into Sherlock and I became obsessed, I decided to give Merlin another try.

A few months later and I’m thinking that I had no idea what I was getting into.

The show itself is fine, it’s great.  The special effects still sometimes leave something to be desired, and I love how the show pushed its headliner as John Hurt although he really only voices the CGI dragon.  However, the rest of the cast–including Anthony Head and Richard Wilson–is phenomenal.  And although I started off not really liking the character of Merlin, he quickly–like, way too quickly–grew on me.  Colin Morgan had the look and even some of the mannerisms of a decade-younger Benedict Cumberbatch (another British actor I’m obsessed with) and as the show went on, he made Merlin as a character iconic again.

And therein, I must say, lies so much of the appeal of the show.  Of course Colin is fantastic, and I’m now lining up all of his roles on my bucket list, but the character he brings to life is a character like I’ve never seen before on television (I mean, I don’t watch a lot of television, but still).  He’s a hero with a destiny, which is nothing new, but his destiny is as old and real to the viewers as the history of Great Britain.  For centuries there were real wars fought between England and Wales that were driven with a sort of sacred mission and a belief in the legend of Arthur, so much so that Wales fought under his flag with his crest.  No one in the western world hasn’t at least heard of King Arthur, and whole legions of liberal arts students have read the Arthurian legends and Le Morte d’Arthur.  I can imagine that it was a tall order for the BBC to bring back this legend in a well-executed way.

The greatest thing about Merlin, however, and the reason why I’m writing about it on this blog, is because the show isn’t just about swords and battles, it’s about magic.  And not just Harry Potter style magic with flashes and bangs but real, old religion magic and beauty and nature.  And the persecution of those who revere and practice such things.

Merlin himself shows up in Camelot unwilling and afraid to understand or enter into this world.  In the beginning, the “old religion” is a dirty term, referencing dangerous sorcerers and people wanting to do harm to the city.  But as the show goes on, Merlin (and the tone of the show, by extension) accept that magic is not an evil, and that it is woven within the fabric the world, of nature, and that many people who practice it use it for good.  Eventually Uther, who rejects anything with magic, is replaced by Arthur, who does not kill people on the sole grounds that they have magic.  As the final season of the show (season five) comes into play, and Merlin’s power becomes greater, he understands more and more his connection to the intrinsic magic of the Earth, and the part that the old religion plays.  At one point, Merlin and Arthur are near a sacred place in the forest, and Arthur asks Merlin how he knew the place was sacred.  Merlin responds by saying, “Everything here…so full of life.  Every tree.  Every leaf.  Every insect.  It’s as if the world is vibrating.  As if everything is much more than itself.”  Arthur then says, “You feel all that?” and Merlin simply says, “Don’t you?”

In that moment, I knew that it wasn’t an accident that I started watching Merlin now.

For all the shows that treat magic as dark and evil, or as something flashy and unreal, Merlin makes it physical, makes it tangible, makes it rooted in something we all know and need.  With the main character a flawed and yet admirable young man with a lot of difficult decisions to make, the audience gets to see how important a reverence for the world is, how important tolerance is, how respect for misunderstood things gets you much further than hatred.  We see how the majority of people who practice magic are good, and while it can be used for evil, it is not evil in itself.  In 5×09, Merlin in disguise tells Arthur, “There is no evil in magic.  Only in the hearts of men.”

I know that in the next episode I’m about to watch–the panultimate episode–Merlin will temporarily lose his magic at the hands of Morgana (the Morgan La Fey character).  Because the show aired years ago already, I’ve been exposed to enough spoilers to know that he will be saved by an understanding that he is a child of the Earth, which is magic, meaning the he himself is magic.  And he cannot lose what he is.

This is the show that all people starting on this path need.  At a time when I’ve questioned everything about myself and about the world and about magick, Merlin–a mainstream television show broadcasted across the planet–has taught me so much.  I feel in my heart that this series has impacted my life in a way that I can’t explain.  It said that it’s okay to be different.  To believe in the magic of the world.  To be a Merlin.

We’ll just say getting to watch hot actors is a plus.

Anyway, I don’t need to explain that I highly recommend this show to anyone, if you haven’t already watched it.  If you did watch it and you have a different opinion on it, please feel free to leave a comment.

I hope you all have wonderful days filled with nature (and possibly a little Netflix).

 

Blessed be!

)O(

[Update:  Apparently this is my 50th post on this blog, and I have to say I couldn’t be happier about the topic.  Thanks everyone for sticking with me for so long.] 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #36: May 18th, 2016

I’m going to say straight away that I don’t really have a journal prompt for today.  I just feel like talking about a recent experience that I had, and maybe in the end I’ll get some kind of summary out of it that seems like it would make a good prompt, in case anybody uses this site in the future for journal prompt ideas.

This last weekend I went to my friend Oriole’s cabin in a far less populated part of this country.  Oriole (her code name, as I’ve established here before) had been a student, but she only took classes with me for about two months before it got too expensive for her.  Thankfully we became fast friends while she was my student, because I can say that, hands-down, no other person here has been so beneficial to me in so many ways.

Anyway, it wasn’t just Oriole and I at her cabin, but several of her friends, including two other girls that I’ve become pretty close with while being here.

Now, the cabins in this country aren’t like the luxurious cabins that litter the North Woods in the United States.  They’re not like the retirement cabins that various well-off couples, including my aunt and uncle, spend their golden years in.  These cabins are wood, often built by hand, insulated with natural materials and featuring wood burning stoves to keep everything warm.  There are usually different buildings for each necessity–one building for sleeping, one for a kitchen, one for a sauna, one for a toilet, one for a shed–and, as is customary in this country, you can’t wear your shoes inside (nor can you go barefoot), so you have to walk between places with your outdoor shoes on, then take off your shoes and put on slippers to go into each place, then take off your slippers and put on your shoes to leave and go to a different building….  It can get pretty tiring.  Eventually I just walked between places barefoot and wore my slippers inside.

Let me talk about why going to this cabin was such an amazing experience.  First of all, it’s located in a village surrounded by absolutely gorgeous country.  It’s springtime, and the dandelions, the tulips, the daffodils, and all the other early flowers are blooming.  (And yes, I consider dandelions to be beautiful, and useful at that.)  I think I found one of my favorite places in this whole side of the hemisphere, just sitting on the top of a sloping meadow, looking down over a river.

More than that, though, this cabin was a bit of an escape.  Just to take two days to live in a more simplistic way feels like everything I’m supposed to do.  Of course it can get old–and I’m addicted to the Internet, so it can be hard not to have my Netflix and stuff–but somehow, just two days of country style living like entirely more slow and peaceful than two days of doing anything else.  I took photos of the flowers, I actually read a book, and I got some quality bonding time in with people I really love and care about.  I mean, you don’t do naked sauna without sharing your soul a bit.

I also had the opportunity to think a bit more about what I take and what I give to the Universe, to the Earth.  One of my friends really liked me making dandelion garlands for her hair, and she insisted I pick a lot of dandelions for this purpose.  I realized that I was taking a lot without giving anything back, and so each time I picked a dandelion, I started thanking the Earth for it.  And when I inevitably had leftovers because my friend decided she didn’t want the thing I had made for her hair, I braided the leftovers and hung them on the gate.  Maybe next time I go I’ll leave something else as an offering.

I know that my boyfriend wants a nice, modern house.  He’s been inspired by a south-suburban luxury that his successful sister has obtained but neither one of us has ever had.  And yet, I hope that if we get married and move in together, he can compromise with me.  If we have an ultra-modern house, I would like a little shed in the back.  I’d like my own little paradise where I can garden, and do spellwork, and make herbal tea.  Perhaps I’m a little too idealistic about it all, but I can’t deny that my happiness is far more exhilarating when I’m surrounded by nature.

…Well, I don’t think I got a good prompt out of this, and maybe I didn’t even say everything I wanted to say.  But at least I got the thoughts out there.

I hope everyone is having a great week.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #35: May 13th, 2016

 

First of all, I’d like to start this journal by giving another shout-out to cutewitch772 for doing a very difficult video in which she explained why her Patreon is so important and how her subscribers could support her entirely if only 13% of them donated a dollar a month.  Having talked to her personally and received individual advice from her (sometimes advice lasting several hours), I can say that she offers a LOT to the Pagan community and what she does is certainly worth $12 a year.  When I get home and start getting paid in United States dollars, I’m going to sign up to be one of her patrons, especially since it was one of her videos that introduced me to this path in the first place.  I mean, I would spend $12 on popcorn and pop at a movie theater, so I’m pretty sure that I could help support one of the very small handful of people who knows me personally and supports me on this path.

Anyway, I was inspired by one of her videos recently to do a journal entry on grounding.  This process is a way to connect to the Earth’s energy before doing a ritual or a spell, in the effort to not use so much of your own energy.  The Earth has so much usable and renewable energy, which we can take part in for our Craft.

Cutewitch772 shared a bit about how she visualizes for grounding, and I’ve heard a few different ways, but it’s interesting to see that many people seem to change the way they ground over the course of their practice.  In which case, I thought it would be interesting to document my current method now and look back at it in the future.

So, today’s prompt (again by me): Do you use grounding?  When do you ground?  Which method do you utilize/how do you do it? 

[The upside to making my own journal prompts is that I can, frankly, make them say whatever I want.  The downside is that I can make them say whatever I want, and where’s the challenge in that?  Somebody find me a book of prompts….]

I would say that, for me, grounding is a relatively new thing.  I’ve definitely tried to cast spells before without grounding first, and I’ve reaped the real consequences from it.  Just a few months ago, before I really knew much about grounding, I did a health spell for myself and I don’t think I grounded very effectively beforehand.  The next day I got up with a major migraine, possibly unrelated but seemingly too strange to be just a coincidence.  It seemed like a “magickal hangover,” something I had heard of from the Internet (but couldn’t find any remedies for when I was looking the next day).

As for my method of grounding now, I discovered it by literally going to YouTube and putting in something along the lines of “grounding meditation.”  Not surprisingly, there were several relatively short guided meditations that came up, and I found one that I liked and listened to it as I was lying in bed before going to sleep.  Not only was it an effective way to relax before bed, but it helped me finally get a good idea of how to visualize the process of grounding.  The smooth-voiced man in the guided meditation described feeling like you are a plant, reaching roots into the Earth, sprouting down farther and farther until you reach the core of the planet.  He described allowing yourself to feel rooted to the core of the Earth, and using this connection to help you get rid of the negative energy in your body.  When you feel firmly planted, you can allow the energy of the Earth to spill into you and begin to overflow from the top, allowing you to reach through space into the sky, pulling in the energy of the air around you.

Now, I really like this meditation, because I think there is something to be said for having your bottom firmly rooted and the top kind of free, like the air.  However, I also really liked what cutewitch772 mentioned, which was connecting the top all the way to the sun, so you have two hot anchors holding all the cold tendons between them.  I haven’t really put this one into practice yet, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness for me, but I think the idea makes a lot of sense.  Probably the most difficult part for me is that where I live, the sun is never above me (always somewhat south…and/or on the other side of the planet) so I have a feeling I’ll have some difficulty visualizing a tall connection between me and the sun.  I feel like it would throw me off to feel like I’m reaching off to the side somewhere.  Maybe it’s a meditation I would best leave for midday.

In any case, I don’t have a lot of complicated things to say about grounding, but I just wanted to make note of what I do as part of this important process.

I hope everyone is having a fine spring.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

Bloom Closet Opened: Entertaining My Family, and the Beltane that Wasn’t

Before anyone has a mind to congratulate me on coming out of the broom closet, let me start by saying that it’s not what you think.  This post is going to mostly be about my mother and brother visiting me from the United States.  I’ll talk a bit about Beltane.  And there is a closet (well, a cupboard) involved.

Basically I’ve been MIA because about two weeks ago my mom and brother flew into this country from the US and I’ve been playing the tour guide for the majority of that time.  We’ve literally been eating, talking, spending time, and even sleeping together, so me sneaking away to write posts onto a Witchcraft blog would probably not be well-received.  I don’t think I need to remind anyone that I was raised Catholic, and apart from recognizing that I entertain my doubts, I think my mom still considers me to be Catholic.  While she has certainly let her church attendance drop recently (due to many complicated reasons, most of them not pertaining to the Church itself), she was raised Catholic and presumably her family has been Catholic for many generations, and she’ll probably be Catholic until the day she dies.  My brother, on the other hand, has had just as strange a journey as I have, and he’s a bit more understanding.  He had a time in late high school where he was basically agnostic as I understood it, then in college he had a mild fanatical moment where he was taken into a Biblical group and he felt he had a spiritual re-awakening, then that sort of died down and he settled into what I would again consider to be pretty stagnant agnosticism.  I don’t know if he’s actively pursuing any spiritual ideas but I think his philosophy is pretty much that it’s not worth it.

In any case, I knew before they came that evidence of my path would have to be squirreled away.  I had literally several dozen burned down tealights scattered around my room and tons of other candles, which I use for various reasons.  I had my makeshift altar things on an altar-y table out on the balcony.  There’s a white cupboard just over the table where I usually store things for my rituals, so I decided to shove everything in there and kind of make it look like a mess and hide all the symbols, just in case somebody peeked in there, although I didn’t think anybody would.
Of course, therein lies the evidence that I’ve been away from my mother for too long, because I’d almost forgotten how extremely curious(/nosy?) my mom can be.

So my mom and brother arrived in the capital of the country–which is NOT where I live–and we spent a few days there, which was stressful as hell because I don’t know the capital so well and absolutely nothing is written in English, whereas in this city it’s a bit more friendly to tourists.  So my mom and brother were entirely relying on me, because they don’t read this language at all, let alone speak it, and my mom, who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet but certainly has her faults, spent a lot of time questioning where I was going and alternating between assuming I have a better mastery of the language than I do and insinuating that I have no idea what I’m doing.  Of course, she was probably just equally stressed at being in a different country where not a lot of people speak English, and she had to add to that being led around by her 22-year-old daughter.  And I don’t deny that I can be an awful tour guide sometimes.

On May 1st we celebrated several holidays in this country, one of them being a very late Easter (which is celebrated later here than in Western countries), and of course, I wanted very badly to celebrate Beltane in some way.  I guess the only thing I can say about the night leading up to the first was that we certainly partied from dusk til dawn (and after), and it was certainly a night of debauchery.  But being in a busy capital meant that I didn’t get to go out into the woods or a meadow and hang pretty ribbon spells from a tree or make flower crowns or anything that I kind of romanticize about Beltane.

Tell me if I’m wrong, but one of the great things about Beltane seems to be that it is the only genuinely carefree festival of the Wheel of the Year.  Hear me out: We’ve got Samhain first, which I think most people would agree is a pretty dark and sometimes solemn sabbat.  Then we’ve got Yule, which is nice and hopeful but you’ve still got the rest of winter coming and it’s also dark and cold as anything.  Imbolc is next which is nice and also hopeful, but by this time of the year you’re kind of feeling the weight of several months of cold and if you live in the north, the end really still isn’t in sight.  Ostara is great and exciting but spring still isn’t quite here yet and it’s still cold.  Beltane is finally the time when the leaves might be coming out, the weather is becoming fine, people are happy and lusty and dance-y, and you’re like, “Bring on summer.”  Then we’ve got Litha, which is obviously awesome and bright BUT it’s the death of the Oak King, which means that it’s getting darker again and the idea of winter is looming ahead.  Lammas is the hard work of harvest and preparing for winter, Mabon is kind of the same but more in earnest, and…well, then winter’s set in again.

Moral of the last paragraph: BELTANE IS AWESOME, and I have never gotten the chance to freaking celebrate it yet!

I’m still hoping that even though I’m almost two weeks late, I can still get out and do some ritual in nature.  Is that a thing?  Do people celebrate sabbats late?

Alright, alright, now I know this is getting a bit long already and I still haven’t exactly gotten to the broom closet (although I did some foreshadowing back there).  Basically, after spending a few days in the capital, we traveled to the city where I live–more specifically, I live in the suburb of a big city, though not the capital–and I got much more confident and comfortable taking my mom and brother sightseeing and whatnot.  I know this place, man.  I’ve been here for a long time.

Yet bringing your mom and brother to live in your living space can be so risky, too, especially if you’re in the broom closet.  The first couple days, we were way too busy for my mom to worry about my apartment much, although she did rearrange the kitchen because we had it “poorly organized” before.  The real trouble started in the last couple days when we had some downtime, and my beautiful mother started wanting to straighten up everything in sight.

“Let me fix the cupboard in the kitchen.”

“It’s not necessary, we don’t use it.”

“I want to sweep the floor.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it later.”

“I know you don’t like them, but you need to buy some chemical cleaners.  Vinegar and lemon juice aren’t going to get the grease off the stove.”

“Mom, I’m pretty sure that grease has been here since the 1970’s and I don’t think we’re going to be the ones who get it off.”

(Okay, now that I’m writing these things down they don’t seem so annoying or invasive, but I was PMSing a bit and I just wanted my mom to leave everything alone.  Of course, then she started on my room.)

“You should throw out those old flowers on that table.  Are you keeping them for some reason?”

“No, Mom, I just like the aesthetic.  It’s my room.”

“Well, the table is messy.  Let me clean it off.”

“Mom, leave it.”

Anyway, on one of our last evenings together, my brother and I left my mom to go with my friends to the city and of course, in my absence, she did everything she could.  She swept everywhere.  She threw out old potted plants and good dirt.  She tried to take out the garbage, got lost, and thankfully met my roommate outside.  And dang it, she went on the balcony and tried to tidy up my freaking altar table.  And she LOOKED IN MY CUPBOARD.

I knew it immediately when I arrived home.  I saw some of the plastic plant containers sitting on my altar table, and I knew she had been out there.  I hoped that she hadn’t looked in my cupboard, but when I went into the kitchen and saw her cleaning dishes, she held up a sponge and said, “You know, you have another one of these in that cupboard out on your balcony.”

I swallowed.  “You mean you put one in there?”  Please, do not let her have been rifling through that cupboard. 

“No, there was one.  And there are a ton of candles out there, and there’s a melted candle on that table on the balcony.”

My heart was absolutely pounding in my chest.  “Yeah, there are a lot of candles.”  And then I went in my room and felt absolutely exposed.

I should be thankful that my mom didn’t realize what was in that cupboard, although all it would have taken was a bit more digging, or picking up one of the candles and seeing the image of the Goddess that I carved on it with a knife.

Later that day she walked into my room, opened the balcony door, and went to the cupboard in front of me.  I had been talking with my brother over something on the computer but suddenly my mouth was dry and I couldn’t hear a word that he was saying.  She picked up the sponge out of the cupboard and held it up for me to see that there, indeed, was a sponge out there.  Then she reached toward the back–where I had hidden some of the more incriminating things–and I felt panic grab me.

“Mom,” I said suddenly, “bring me that melted candle from the table!”  Anything to get her out of there. 

She pulled out a glass container from the back of the cupboard.  “Look at all these little containers back here!”

“Yeah, yeah, they’re cool.  Can you bring me that candle, please?”

She pointed out the herb packets that I kept out there, and the bowl of salt.  “Ugh, don’t use this stuff for cooking, it’s been exposed to moisture out here.  You should throw it out.”

“Sure, I’ll do that.”  I snapped my fingers like an impatient kid.  “The candle, please!”

She unstuck the melted wax from the table, closed the cupboard, stepped back into my room, and handed it to me.  “Why do you want to see the candle so bad?”

To get you out of my stuff.  “I want to see of it’s salvageable.”  I knew it wasn’t–half of the candle was flat, and it was broken.  But at that moment, it wasn’t just fear that wanted my mom to get out of my cupboard.  It was a sense of sanctity.  It was my mom unknowingly violating things that I held spiritually sacred.

After I brought my mom and brother to the airport, I looked around my apartment.  It looked bigger and cleaner in the absence of their belongings, and certainly my mom had done me a huge service in straightening up the kitchen and things like that, even if I hadn’t wanted her to at the time.  But my besom had been used for mundane cleaning, sitting bristles-down on the floor; there were dirty flower pots sitting on my altar, and my mom had even thrown pizza coupons there–treating it like a normal table.  None of these things were that big of a deal, certainly, and my altar only has the value that I give to it, but…damn.  I felt like I had been roughly laundered and hung out in a damp room.  These were silly little trifling things, and of course my mom had no way of knowing that these objects where important to me, or even mine (there are a lot of things in our apartment that do not belong to us).  But yet, it was like a needle stuck in me.  Sitting here now, I can’t even imagine what it has been like throughout history to have your religion misunderstood or disrespected, or have the things you hold sacred be desecrated.  Whole peoples, including Pagans, have been subjected to that and worse.

Someday I’ll tell my mom about my path, but certainly this vacation wasn’t the time for that.  It was a time of being tourists and entertaining my family and hopefully they enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it too.  These little events don’t negate the whole goodness of it.  But I saw that I was simultaneously strong and weak when my broom closet was opened and yet not revealed.  I saw that I could keep secrets in plain sight, but I hope that in the future it won’t be a secret anymore.

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(

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #33: April 25th, 2016

Today’s blog post comes after another week-long dry spell in which I haven’t been getting a lot of writing done.  And, once more, this is a question of my own design.  It’s kind of strange to think that I started my Year and a Day Journal at the first of November, and now it’s almost the opposite time of the Wheel of the Year, Beltane.  And yet, I’m only about a month’s worth of journal entries into the endeavor.  At this rate, how long would it take me to finish 366 journals?  Er…well, if there are twelve months in a year and each month’s worth of journals takes me approximately a half-year, then I should finish up after about…six years?

28-year-old me could very well still be a novice Witch.

But anyway, like I was saying, today’s post is of my own choosing, so here we go.  Does music play a role in your Craft?  How do you use it in a spiritual sense?  

I was inspired to write on this topic today because I have been absolutely obsessed recently with a Swiss musician/composer named Adrian von Ziegler.  I stumbled upon his music one day when I was searching for some meditation music or something to listen to while doing yoga.  I was feeling particularly drawn to Celtic music, so I just searched on YouTube for Celtic instrumental music, and some of his stuff came up.  What a lucky day that was, because now I listen to his stuff all the time.  One of his songs in particular, “Fear No Darkness,” has become a song I regularly listen to and I’ve been considering purchasing, along with some of his other works.  (In the country I’m living in right now, torrenting or illegally downloading music is really not frowned upon at all, and is considered the normal thing to do.  However, I usually use iTunes and really tend to shy away from anything illegal.  I’ve been referred to as a goody-two-shoes on numerous occasions in my life.)  Anyway, I was on his website and listening around for the best songs and, yeah, I think I’ll buy some.  I highly recommend his stuff, and you can listen to it on YouTube or on his website first, if you want a tester.

In any case, this kind of music does something really powerful for a magical setting–it puts you in the correct mindset.  As a novice Witch, something I really get sucked into is doubting myself or my ability (and sometimes even the existence of magick itself), and yet, when I listen to this kind of music, I momentarily forget that I’m even in a 21st century world, in a run-down 20th century apartment.  For a moment, I think I’m thrust back into a land of myth and a time of magic (I’m a Merlin nerd), and I can do anything.

Composers like Adrian write with this idea of transcending time in mind.  You only have to look at the titles of some of his works (“Ancient Storm,” “Kingdom of Bards,” “Druidic Dreams,” and even “Morrigan” are some of the names he’s given his pieces) to understand that this music is meant to bring you to that sacred place of the moors, the forests, the lochs–even if you can’t leave where you are.

Obviously, I’m lauding prerecorded music right now.  But I haven’t yet talked about another equally powerful–if not more powerful–method of invoking magick, or even just getting into a magickal mindset.  That is, of course, producing music yourself.

I was very lucky to be raised by parents who tried to afford me every opportunity.  As a result, I have been able to travel all over, and, even at home, I’ve tried everything from acting auditions to modeling to dance.  Not everything stuck long-term, but I took piano lessons for eight years, starting at age six.  I never had the passion for it, but it gave me the ability to read music and I can still play a bit.  It really set me up for my next instrument, however, which was violin.  I started that when I was ten and I played all through high school and college, and I still play (I didn’t lug it across the ocean, but when I go home I’ll pick it up again).  I also sing, and I’ve sung in choirs and done solos for various things, including church, weddings, and even a performance at the Sydney Opera House (like I said, I’m extremely fortunate).

It is certainly not far-fetched to say that music has always been and will always be a huge, important part of my life.  It only makes sense, then, that I would incorporate it into my Craft.  I’ve already tried doing this before.  For example, if you go back to my post about Yule, I wrote about how I wore jingly earrings to bring sacred sound into my ritual–like an offering to the Universe–and how I sang the song “As the Dark Awaits the Dawn.”  It not only was a defining and focusing part of the ritual, but it truly was an offering of my skill to the Universe, to the elements, to the energies of whatever gods or goddesses were at play.  For me, singing was something so powerful to give, because while most offerings laid on an altar or out in nature are things from nature which you change in some way (for example, making a flower braid), the gift of singing is something which comes very much so from me.  It only takes the things that nature gives me to sustain myself.  And it truly is a whole-body experience.

I’m looking forward to going back home and being able to use my violin to do further offerings or rituals.  I have a very woodsy backyard, and I can definitely picture myself wandering around playing among the trees.  The best part is that it doesn’t have to be amazing.  It just has to come from me.

So, this one was pretty short and sweet.  Music is great and I definitely find a place for it in my Craft.  There are many other things which I have incorporated or would like to incorporate into my Craft as well, which I’m sure I’ll detail here in the future.

Just one week ’til Beltane!

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(