Litha Playlist: 2 Hours of Music for the Summer Solstice

Ah, summer.  For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere (and in a place where, for at least half of the year, it is quite cold), summer is an especially sweet time.  It brings to mind bonfires, sunlight streaming through green leaves, flowers waving deliciously in a warm wind.  Sure, there are June bugs and mosquitoes (a LOT of mosquitoes), but these are small prices to pay for finally being able to go outside without wearing ten layers.

Despite the fact that the season of summer doesn’t officially start until the solstice, midsummer has become, for me, a slightly bittersweet celebration.  In the past, I didn’t start feeling melancholy at the fleeting nature of the season until probably mid-August.  After tuning into the Wheel of the Year, however, I realized that, in many traditions, the “light” half of the year actually ends at June 21st or 22nd.  At the summer solstice, the light king (sun god, Oak King, however you want to refer to this deity) actually dies, or at least gets defeated, by the dark king (Holly King).  This is just one tradition, of course.  I have also heard that some people consider the light half of the year to be from Ostara to Mabon, and the dark half to be from Mabon to Ostara.  This makes sense to me, too.  Perhaps I’d feel less of a pang of sadness at the summer solstice if I kept this in mind.

In any case, we do recognize the power of the sun, or the sun god, at this time of year.  This is the longest day, and the shortest night.  Where I live, this difference is quite pronounced.  For example, today the sun rose at about 5:30 in the morning, and won’t set until after 9:00 pm.  It’s not quite as obvious as when I lived even farther north in a foreign country for a year, but where I am now is my home.  I’ve always known warm, well-lit summer evenings.

It is only fitting that the music we listen to on a day like this is relatively sunny.  So, with a little inspiration from my favorite playlist lady, Ozark Pagan Mamma, I’ve come up with my own Litha playlist.  These aren’t in any particular order, and all songs are accessible on Spotify.  Explanations on why each song was chosen are below the list.

  1. Litha (Lisa Thiel)
  2. Dans ar keriadenn (Skarazula)
  3. Noon of the Solstice (Damh The Bard)
  4. Sun Arise (Rolf Harris)
  5. Three Drunken Maidens (Chris Hennessy)
  6. Rise With the Fire (Reclaiming)
  7. Sacred Fire (Deean)
  8. Summer Solstice (Libana)
  9. Firebird’s Child (S. J. Tucker)
  10. Sister Sunshine (OMNIA)
  11. Dancing At Whitsun (Tim Hart & Maddy Prior)
  12. The Oak (Spiral Dance)
  13. A Rosebud in June (Elizabeth Nicholson)
  14. The Hills They Are Hollow (Damh The Bard)
  15. Solsitce Call (Gaia Consort)
  16. Don’t Carry It All (The Decemberists)
  17. Trotto (Skarazula)
  18. I’ll Follow The Sun – Remastered (The Beatles)
  19. The Old Favourite (The Gloaming)
  20. Tolven Stone (Spiral Dance)
  21. English Country Dances: Newcastle (Musica Pacifica)
  22. Caluski Pastora (Beltaine)
  23. The Mystic’s Dream (Loreena McKennitt)
  24. Only Desire What You Have (Kate Rusby)
  25. The Willow Maid (Erutan)
  26. Fairy Nightsongs (Gary Stadler, Stephannie)
  27. Healing Power of the Green (Lisa Thiel)
  28. Fairy Dance (Erutan)
  29. Litha (Threefold)
  30. Celestial Soda Pop (Ray Lynch)
  31. Solringen (Wardruna)
  32. Oak, Ash and Thorn – Recorded for the Peter Bellamy Oak, Ash Thorn Project (The Unthanks)

 

Explanations for each song:

  1. Litha – Lisa Thiel has an album called “Circle of the Seasons” where she makes a tribute to each Sabbat.  Obviously I wanted to include this one.
  2. Dans ar keriadenn – Just a fun fiddle piece with some interesting instrumentals that reminded me of a great summer party.  The instrumentals bring to mind Australia, which I have noticed seems to be a running theme through many summer-style songs.  For some reason the digeridoo seems to be associated with the sun in music.
  3. Noon Of The Solstice – Damh The Bard is a massive gift to Pagan music.  I also heard he’s going to be making an appearance at Minnesota’s Paganicon next year (2019).  This song brings to mind the battle between the Oak and Holly kings, which I mentioned above.  But, as he points out, the wheel keeps turning, which means that summer will come again.
  4. Sun Arise – Now this artist is actually from Australia.  The song is about the sun rising (perfect for Litha), but with lots of digeridoo.  Personally knowing somebody from Australia makes me love this song even more.
  5. Three Drunken Maidens – I thought this song just particularly brought to mind the playfulness of summer.  Three drunken maidens came from the Isle of Wight, started to drink on a Sunday, didn’t stop til Saturday night…  Just classic.  There are many versions of this song out there, but I love this one.
  6. Rise With the Fire – This is a chant-style song that slowly seems to raise energy throughout.  It’s all about how fire can be for healing and truth, not necessarily for destruction.
  7. Sacred Fire – Another repetitive song that you can easily memorize, basically a prayer in song form.  Denean sings about fire illuminating her dreams, burning through the night.
  8. Summer Solstice – This is a pretty choral piece that, for me at least, evokes images of an English meadow and a bunch of kids playing in it.
  9. Firebird’s Child – So opposite from the previous song!  S. J. Tucker is a vocal powerhouse as she sings about a maiden who can dance in fire.  In the end, though, we’re all the Firebird’s children.  I also love this piece because the Firebird is a creature of Slavic mythology.
  10. Sister Sunshine – A dreamy song about the innocence and beauty of the sun shining sweetly, and the knowledge that she’ll always come back.  This is a great song if you associate the sun with a feminine deity, rather than a masculine one.
  11. Dancing At Whitsun – I’m not going to lie, I had to look up what “Whitsun” is.  Whitsuntide is apparently the seventh Sunday after Easter, which puts it usually somewhere in late May or early June.  I love that the song focuses around an elderly woman who has been dancing at Whitsun for the past fifty years.
  12. The Oak – If you love the Celtic mythology of trees, this song is a great, meditative piece on the parts of the mighty oak tree and its power.  According to the Celtic tree calendar, Oak rules over the period of time between June 10 and July 7, after which Holly rules for a little under a month.  There are thirteen trees in the Celtic tree calendar.
  13. A Rosebud in June – Does anybody remember Pirates of the Caribbean 4?  Where the pirates try to capture a mermaid, and the mermaids in turn sing the song “Bonny Sailor Bold” to the pirates?  If you like the haunting appeal of that song, you’ll love this little solitary tune about summertime.
  14. The Hills They Are Hollow – Damh The Bard loves to sing about the British Isles.  In this piece, he describes how the hills are home to the fae, which dance on Midsummer’s eve.  “Some people don’t understand when I say, these are the things I believe.”  Just for all you guys out there who sometimes feel like people think you’re crazy because you’re Pagan.
  15. Solstice Call – A super fun, jolly piece about gathering everyone for Solstice celebrations.
  16. Don’t Carry It All – I saw this song on another playlist, and it’s probably the least Pagan-sounding song on this list.  But, the very first line talks about the turning of the season toward the sun.  The album name is also “The King Is Dead,” which probably has nothing to do with the Oak King, but we can pretend.
  17. Trotto – Skarazula has all these festival-sounding dance pieces.  I think I just picked this one because I thought it fit, to be honest!
  18. I’ll Follow The Sun – You probably never thought you’d see The Beatles on one of these lists.  This song probably has more to do with a relationship than with the actual sun, but I can appreciate the point of the lyrics.  “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”
  19. The Old Favourite – Another instrumental piece that I just absolutely love and wanted to put in this list.  I think it just feels like rolling meadows and hills, maybe going down a dirt road on a bicycle.
  20. Tolven Stone – I assume that this is a reference to the Tolvan/Tolven Holed Stone, which is in Cornwall county, England.  The song talks about how on Midsummer Eve, the girls go to the Tolven Stone.  This is just a nice, upbeat song in general.
  21. English Country Dances: Newcastle – Exactly what its name implies, this is a nice little country dance with violin, drums, and harpsichord.  I definitely picture a fun solstice dance in the meadow.
  22. Caluski Pastora – A different kind of dance, this song by the awesome band Beltaine includes a lot of jazzy flute, violin, and finger snaps.  Just a great, cheerful number that brings to mind the sunny days of June.
  23. The Mystic’s Deam – This song is another fantastic piece performed by Loreena McKennitt.  It’s hazy, dark, and mysterious.  It turns those sunny days of June into the humid evenings with fireflies.
  24. Only Desire What You Have – One artist that I’ve found in the past year and really appreciate is Kate Rusby.  She records a lot of British folk songs and her voice is really unique.  This one is a great piece about appreciating what you have when you have it.
  25. The Willow Maid – This is actually a rather sad piece, and I guess I’m not sure why I ended up including it.  It’s about a forest sprite who cannot leave her willow tree, but a covetous man comes to chop down her tree and take her as a wife.  She becomes a flower because she can’t leave.
  26. Fairy Nightsongs – Beltane is supposedly the time when the veil between the Fae and the mundane world is thinnest, but Midsummer is also a classic time for honoring Faeries.  This dreamy piece is just a good addition to this list.
  27. Healing Power of the Green – Lisa Thiel knocks another piece out of the park with this devoted piece that lauds the healing that we experience when we return to the earth.  And, at no time is the earth quite as green and stunning as during Midsummer.
  28. Fairy Dance – I’m not going to lie, I love this song.  It’s just a beautiful, flute-y piece that sounds like an actual fairy party.  This is just one beautiful piece on the whole album “Court of Leaves” by Erutan.  She’s known for recording in her coat closet, which is neat.
  29. Litha – Threefold does a song for every Sabbat.  They’re actually quite nice for meditative purposes, because they’re very repetitive.  I love the battle motif in this one, since Litha is a time when the Oak King and the Holly King fight.
  30. Celestial Soda Pop – When I was a kid, my dad and I used to listen to many of his favorite artists in the car, and I realized that my musical taste was really influenced by his.  Ray Lynch was one of our favorite artists, and I used to make my dad play this song on repeat.  I guess I’m not sure what it has to do with Litha, but it seemed to fit this playlist more than any other.
  31. Solringen – Just like with Fairy Dance, I absolutely LOVE this song.  It’s in Norwegian, and it translates to “Sun Ring.”  You can look up the translated lyrics to this online, but I could just listen to the Norwegian all day.
  32. Oak, Ash and Thorn – This is based on Peter Bellamy’s song version of Rudyard Kipling’s “Oak, Ash and Thorn” poem.  The poem itself is beautiful, the song ads a fun medieval/renaissance style flair, and this version is a darker, lovelier version.  I definitely love it.  The last verse has to do with conjuring summer in, and every chorus talks about midsummer’s morning.  Just a classic.
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Ostara Altar

I’ve got to say, around this time of year, altars can get very fancy.

They’ve got loads of cool and intriguing items on them — flowers, antiques, incredible athames, and homemade wands.

My altar, on the other hand, tends to be pretty chill.  I have the same items that I switch out time and time again, and many of the same items stay on the altar all year round.  For example, my candle of feminine energy (goddess candle) and my candle of masculine energy (god candle) stay there all year.  The grapevine circle behind them is also a staple.  And the tree branch that I found outside some time last spring has made it through the whole year as well.  I might have to rethink it soon since it’s incredibly brittle by this point, but at the moment I’m still enjoying it.  Plus it’s a great place to hang my Witchy necklaces and other jewelry.IMG_20180314_085025

For my Ostara altar, we have some of the typical symbols of springtime, along with some fun little touches.  Honestly, though, I don’t know if this is the final product or the epitome of an Ostara altar.  If I had the time and the resources to really get an amazing altar going (and if it were a slightly bigger table), I’d love to make something really impressive.  As it is right now — well, this is what I’m working with.

I’m sure all of you frugal Witches will understand.

As you can see, my altar cloth is pink and stripey, bringing to mind the pastels of the springtime.  Unfortunately, where I live, there is still a boatload of snow on the ground…but the Sabbat represents the ideal, in a way.  Next,

 

img_20180314_085034.jpg

My own image, but the classic Marseilles Tarot.

we’ve got some of my other lovely staples: an incense burner, a myriad of candles, the central cauldron, and a

 

displayed Tarot card.  The Tarot card I wanted to display for Ostara is Temperance, which is, for me, a symbol of balance.

Balance is actually a very important part of Ostara (it being the vernal equinox, and therefore the time when daylight hours and nighttime hours are roughly equal).  I tried to show balance and contrast a few different ways with my altar.  Of course, the goddess and god candles are balanced on their own.  However, we’ve also got a small white tealight candle and a small black tealight candle in the forefront, with some crystals that represent Ostara, divided by their light and dark counterparts.  (I was supposed to have two on each side but my moonstone is somewhere in the jumble of everything in my room.)

IMG_20180314_085042 Then, of course, we have the rabbit.  Rabbits are, as most of us know from years of Easter decorations, a symbol of this time of year — as are eggs.  This little rabbit started its life as an Easter decoration in the home of my great aunt.  When I was a kid, we made plans to visit my grandparents for Easter and my great aunt (who lived in the same town) was invited to come to Easter services with us.  On Easter morning, she said she didn’t feel well and stayed home.  When my grandparents went to check on her later, she had passed away in her bed.  It seems strange now, but we all gathered at her home after she had been taken out and ended up taking mementos with us.  One thing I chose was this little rabbit snow globe, since she had her Easter decorations out.  I’ve kept it all these years and now he has his place on my altar — a symbol of fertility, life, hope, and new beginnings, even though the woman who once owned him is no longer here.

Among the other things on my altar are spring-scented and brightly-colored candles, my full moon candle that is standing in place of an egg-shaped one, dried roses, and feathers.  These are just things that seem to bring to mind the inevitable brightness of the season.

Lastly, I can’t forget the little Irish touches that I have on my tree branch.  IMG_20180314_085123Although I’m not Irish (that I know about), I love the history of the British Isles, and I obviously celebrate the Celtic Sabbats.  That means I also look forward to St. Patrick’s Day.  I know that it’s a very controversial day for Pagans — St. Patrick drove the “snakes,” in other words the pagans, out of Ireland, after all — but I can’t help but enjoy the way that, for a day, everyone appreciates the mystery and myth of the Emerald Isle as much as I do all the time.  This year, we plan to host our neighbors for a traditional dinner (I’ll be eating a vegan version), and I made a playlist of Irish traditional music that’s nearly two hours long.  I do love Spotify.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my Ostara altar.  It’s been such a blessing to be able to expand my path and make it more open as time goes on.  My mom even jokingly called me a “Wiccan” the other day (I don’t identify as a Wiccan specifically…but it’s a start).

Ostara Blessings!

 

Imbolc Playlist: Music for the First Hints of Spring

 

 

Here we are at another Sabbat; and I must confess that this one is just as difficult for me to place as Mabon was. As someone who was not raised Pagan (in fact, I was raised Catholic), I have all the experience in the world with the common secular holidays and religious ones. I can tell you all about Ash Wednesday and what you should and shouldn’t do during Lent (the roughly 40 days leading up to Easter). Groundhog’s Day is an underwhelming, yet present, part of February for Americans. Then there’s the saccharine Valentine’s Day, which I actually have a great fondness for (I love pink and hearts). As for Imbolc, however – this holiday has no obvious equivalent in modern Christian or secular culture. At least with Yule, Ostara, and Samhain, I have some kind of basis for the traditions and how to celebrate. Imbolc is a bit of an enigma.

Therefore, I’ve tried to make it my duty to look up ways to celebrate this Sabbat, especially since it is, actually, one of the four greater Sabbats. That includes the playlist I’ve taken it upon myself to build for each Sabbat – with lots of input from other Pagans (I’ve been heavily inspired by Ozark Pagan Mamma). I started back at Beltane, and so far, I’ve created playlist for each holiday. Now we’re at Imbolc, and then there’s just Ostara left to do.

So, whether you enjoy this playlist or not, I think that it speaks to the feeling of the season. Some hopefulness, some dreariness, a lot of Brighid, and light-filled themes. As usual, I’ll put the full list, and then below, the list plus reasons why I chose each piece.

I hope you enjoy. Again, these are no particular order (other that what I find pleasing), and they are all currently available on Spotify.

  1. Dante’s Prayer (Loreena McKennitt)
  2. The Wild Song (Anuna)
  3. Shepherd Moons (Enya)
  4. Candlemas Song (Lisa Thiel)
  5. Return to The Mother (Reclaiming)
  6. Banish Misfortune (Erutan)
  7. The Quickening (Spiral Dance)
  8. Song to Brighid (Lisa Thiel)
  9. Born of Water (Lila)
  10. Eiri na Greine/Sunrise ( Eamonn Cagney)
  11. Imbolc (Lisa Thiel)
  12. The Dove’s Return (Aine Minogue)
  13. Deeper Well (The Wailin’ Jennys)
  14. Brighid’s Kiss (La Lugh)
  15. No One But You (Erutan)
  16. Brighid (Damh the Bard)
  17. Maiden, Mother, Crone (Kellianna)
  18. Siochain Shuthain (Lukasz Kapuscinski, Adrian Von Ziegler)
  19. Hearth Blessings (Lisa Thiel)
  20. Imbolc (Threefold)
  21. Have you seen but a white lily grow? (Evelyn Tubb, Michael Fields, David Hatcher)
  22. Brighid (Kellianna)
  23. Triple Goddess Blessings (Lisa Thiel)
  24. Tiny Geometries (Ray Lynch)

Here’s the breakdown why I included each song:

  1. Dante’s Prayer – This song is a really great opener for any playlist. I’ve talked about how much I love putting instrumental music at the beginning of a playlist, and while this isn’t instrumental all the way through, it starts with some really great choral singing, as if from a deep, quiet cathedral, or maybe slowly stealing through the still, wintry woods. Loreena is gorgeous here, as always. This song is about finding the light, sometimes in other people, when everything seems lost in the darkness.
  2. The Wild Song – An equally complex and simple song, this number brings to mind the first few sounds of springtime after the winter starts to thaw. The lyrics of this piece will bring you to beautiful places, and the vocalizations are quite something.
  3. Shepherd Moons – When I was a kid, my dad and I used to listen to Enya in the car. So, when I saw that this song was on Ozark Pagan Mamma’s list, I couldn’t NOT put it on mine. The quiet hesitations of the melodic piano line are so in-tune with the way that spring slowly winds into being, awakening from under the snow.
  4. Candlemas Song – Always the thoughtful lyricist, Lisa Thiel reaches out with a simple chant/song to Birgita, an aspect of Brighid. She asks Birgita to awaken the flame within each of us, to relight and rekindle that which has been lost in the darkness of the winter.
  5. Return to the Mother – The great thing about this song is that another song by this group, Sun King, was on my Lammas playlist. The solid beat underneath this song matches up perfectly with either song. It’s a great mirror between the death of the father sun and the reawakening and returning to the moon mother. Almost as though it’s all a circle, isn’t it?
  6. Banish Misfortune – Although I absolutely love Erutan, hers is not the old rendition of this popular, dance-y strings number. I just love the idea behind even the name “Banish Misfortune,” since it calls to mind dancing through the brutally cold winter and still dancing as the springtime peaks out and the first birds start singing.
  7. The Quickening – Spiral Dance has quite a few interesting pieces on their various albums. This one starts out as a fast-paced dance number, then the vibrant vocals come in, celebrating Brighid and the spring being born from the winter Crone.
  8. Song to Brighid – I realized that I put an awful lot of Lisa Thiel on this playlist, and that tells me that she might have a special thing for Brighid. In this piece, Lisa calls Brighid a “blessed woman” and asks her to guide her. It’s such an authentic invocation of the goddess, and you can almost hear the pleading in her voice. I’m pretty much a soft polytheist, but I’m not immune to the devotion some of these musicians have to their spirituality.
  9. Born of Water – There is no way that you won’t sing along to this song. It starts off with some simple birds chirping, a rain stick, a flute…and the chant comes in, simple and memorable, empowering women and anyone who associates with the element of water. “Born of water, cleansing, powerful, healing, changing, I am.”
  10. Eiri na Greine/Sunrise – Just some lovely instrumental music. I looked up the first part of the name before realizing that it was already translated: “Sunrise,” in Irish. This is the time of the year that we celebrate the sun coming up earlier and earlier, and bringing back its warmth with it.
  11. Imbolc – More Lisa Thiel! This song was part of her Circle of the Seasons album, in which she did a song for each Sabbat. However, this piece is again, a dedication to Brighid, as the keeper of the home.
  12. The Dove’s Return – I think this is meant to be a Christmas song, to be honest, considering the album that it falls under on Spotify is “Celtic Christmas II,” but the ethereal sounds of the harp and the vocals bring this bright melody right into the first touches of springtime.
  13. Deeper Well – I am a big fan of The Wailin’ Jennys. They’re actually Canadian, which you can tell on this song due to the lack of a British accent. This isn’t my favorite song of theirs, but I can appreciate the message of looking for something more – instead of “drinking” shallowly in life, you need to “drink” from a deeper well.
  14. Brighid’s Kiss – It’s not too often that I have something from a Celtic Woman album on here. But, there can’t be any doubt that their voices blend so well that they deserve a spot on any playlist. This song isn’t entirely in English, but the parts that are talk about nourishing the people with the sunrise and the epiphany.
  15. No One But You – Here’s another piece by Erutan. Fun fact about this musician – she has recorded in her closet before, using the coats as acoustic dampeners. Anyway, her clear voice is oddly haunting, and I feel like in this playlist it gives us a reminder of the sweetness of springtime, but the iciness that can still overtake the land at this part of the year. Where I’m from, spring is still dragging its feet as Ostara and sometimes even Beltane. So, Imbolc is only the tip of the iceberg.
  16. Brighid – This playlist reminds me of all the songs that were called “Mabon” around that Sabbat. Brighid is everywhere on this playlist! Damh, of course, treats us to some guitar and introduces us to Brighid as the Triple Goddess of fire, healing, and spring.
  17. Maiden, Mother, Crone – I hadn’t previously had Kellianna on one of my lists, but looking back, I have heard about her. In this gorgeous song, lined by some simple piano, she sings about the Triple Goddess in her three aspects. Her voice also gets fuller as the song progresses, going from the Maiden onward.
  18. Siochain Shuthain – I think this song is about a lot of ducks floating on the water (as far as I could tell by the translation…or it’s about peace? Help me out, Google translate). Anyway, it’s a gorgeous instrumental piece using Celtic guitar.
  19. Hearth Blessings – Even more Lisa! Brighid is the goddess of the hearth, and while Lisa doesn’t mention Brighid in this piece, she does talk about the blessings of the house and the home. Since Imbolc is a time of spring cleaning and purifying our space, this blessing for the home seems like a perfect addition to this list.
  20. Imbolc – Threefold is a really curiously awesome group that has very instrumental pieces that incorporate vocals as though they’re chanting instruments, kind of in the background. This song is quite lovely but has almost rock-genre beats to it. It will definitely get you in the mood for spring.
  21. Have you seen but a white lily grow? – The interesting background to my choice of this piece is that I sang it back when I was in voice lessons as a kid. Sometimes I still sing it in the car when I don’t put any music in. Somehow, this song seemed perfect for Imbolc, hinting at the purity of the flower, its comparison to snow before anyone has walked on it. There’s something about the white softness, the sweetness of the imagery, that made it a shoe-in for the Imbolc playlist.
  22. Brighid – Yet another piece of Brighid! This one is by Kellianna again. In this song, Kellianna almost likens the Triple Goddess to an actual flame herself, leading the people out of darkness and into Love and Light.
  23. Triple Goddess Blessings – Here’s the last Lisa Thiel piece for this playlist. In the past I’ve had some hit-or-miss moments with Lisa, so I was pleased that her soft vocals made it onto this list so much. Again, with this piece, you can tell Lisa’s dedication to the Triple Goddess and the ebb and flow of the circular progression, going from Maiden, to Mother, to Crone, and back again.
  24. Tiny Geometries – Just like my father and I listened to a lot of Enya in my youth, we also listened to Ray Lynch. This is the first time I’ve included Ray on a playlist, but I can’t believe it’s taken me so long. The beautiful thing about Tiny Geometries is that you can imagine anything with the pulsing, tender, electric-sounding energy that this music creates. It could be a sunrise. It could be ice crystals melting. Perhaps it’s the birth of a lamb. Anything is possible at this wondrous time.

Thank you, and Blessed Imbolc to you.

Year and a Day Journal #42: August 11th, 2016

*Because I couldn’t figure out how to gracefully work in this question later on in the post, I’ll start off with the spoiler: What is your concept of the afterlife?  How does it work on your path? 

When I got off work today in the evening, a big storm was just rolling in.  I looked out the windows of my job and realized it looked much, much too dark for 7:15, but I decided to dilly-dally anyway.  By the time I finally headed out to my car, a massive, ominous, tidal-wave-looking cloud had shrouded the whole sky, leaving only a thin strip of whitish sky that was quickly being overpowered by the front moving in.  Thankfully I managed to make it home just as the drops were starting, and within two minutes of getting inside, it started to rain in earnest.  There was lightning, thunder…a real dark and stormy night.

I currently have four adult housemates (all right, one is my mom and one is my brother, and the other two are a couple from my foreign country), and the foreign woman suggested that we watch a horror movie, since the weather was very fitting.  We ended up scrolling through Netflix for ages (it has a surprisingly good selection) and finally settled on The Awakening, a 2011 British film about a woman who is an avid non-believer in ghosts, until she is hired to investigate one at a boys’ boarding school.

The movie was pretty good, very touching, and although somewhat predictable in hindsight, I was certainly captivated by it in the moment.  The main character was a woman named Florence, a university-educated woman in 1921 England.  She didn’t believe in ghosts, she didn’t believe in the afterlife, and she didn’t believe in God.

Quite honestly, although I knew that Florence would eventually meet a ghost that couldn’t be scientifically explained, I was rooting for her in the beginning.  We all know I’m not a huge fan of the Christian God, and I don’t like to believe in Heaven or Hell.  (It seems awfully boring in Heaven, to be honest–I don’t particularly want to worship at God’s feet outside a gleaming Jerusalem for all eternity.)  The ideas of a perfect Heaven or a absolutely abhorrent Hell are difficult to imagine, certainly, especially in a logical sense.  After all, what is happiness without sadness, and what is torment without relief?

Because of my desire to refuse the Christian afterlife, I similarly have trouble recognizing or wanting to believe in any other kind of afterlife.  I know that a lot of Wiccans believe in reincarnation, something that I understand from Scott Cunningham’s books.  But obviously not every Pagan or Neo-Pagan or Witch believes the same thing.  For example, reincarnation seems a horrible thing to me right now, where I am in life.  Let me explain.

In college, when I was really in the throes of philosophical quandaries about my religion, and about God, and about the afterlife, I was also a terribly tired individual.  I wouldn’t sleep until projects were done; I did a lot of extracurricular activities and I worked a campus job on the side.  Sometimes I wanted to fall into bed and sleep for the rest of my life.  Severe exhaustion does weird things to a person’s mind, and it may have been around that time that I decided that “living” forever, no matter how perfect eternal life might be, would suck.  I was so tired that honestly, the idea of just dying and sleeping in the ground forever sounded pretty damn good.

While I’m not so depressingly bleak these days, I still think that, after living a good long life (which I hope I do), being faced with reincarnation would be the last thing I would want.  I’m still thinking that it would not be a bad thing to just die and be done with it.  My body would go into the earth.  Maybe a tree would grow where I was buried.  Maybe I’d have a legacy or maybe I’d be forgotten almost right away.  In any case, I lived while I lived, and I don’t need anything more than that.

Of course, I know that there is a huge possibility that things might not be that simple.  I’ve never personally seen a ghost, but I can imagine that they could exist.  It’s more plausible to me than Heaven is, at least.  And I know that as my path takes shape, I might change my mind about what I believe.  But for now, there isn’t necessarily a need for me to have an afterlife.  I think people, over thousands of years, created these religious afterlives to deal with facing death.  And while it always sucks when someone close to you dies (especially if you don’t believe in an afterlife), I’m not sure I’m afraid of dying if I live a long life and do the things I want to do (again, fingers crossed here).  I’m afraid of dying now, certainly–I haven’t done everything I want to do.  But an afterlife isn’t going to help me do those things either.  I’m not going to write a YA novel or get married or have children or travel the world while I’m sitting in Heaven or Hell.

I suppose that was the long answer to a very full question.  I’d be interested in hearing what some of your ideas are.  I’m always open to new ideas.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #39: August 3rd, 2016

I’m going to give a heads-up right now that this journal doesn’t have a question in it, per se, just some interesting news….

Things have been pretty intense since I got back from my foreign country.  If you regularly read my blog, you know about my dear boyfriend, who waited for a very long time for me while I was off in foreign places.  When I came back, he took me on a special trip and PROPOSED, which I did not see coming.  We have been together for a long time, so it’s not outlandish that we’d be engaged now, but it still seems weird (probably since we’ve been together for so long as boyfriend/girlfriend).  Also, somebody give this kid props because he picked out a gorgeous ring.  And he went for some pretty deep symbolism in it, and when he explained it, I realized again how much my significant other is the kind of ideal in many ways that a lot of women spend a long time searching for.  So I feel very lucky.

The interesting part about getting engaged was that, in the car on this trip, I was telling him about the full moon ritual I’d done (in a somewhat uncertain way, since honestly, I think he’s still getting used to this path I’m going on, and he doesn’t exactly know what to make of it), and yet, despite how strange it probably all sounded, he asked me to marry him later that day.

The high of the moment doesn’t last forever, though, and when we got home from our short trip, and we finished celebrating with my family, reality sort of crashed in.  Now I have to plan a wedding–a wedding that my mom, the Catholic who doesn’t know anything about my spirituality, will be overseeing and contributing to and helping finance.  I realized that now I have a finite amount of time either to tell her about my path or to just suck it up and keep it intensely secret.  My fiance thinks that there’s no reason to tell my mom if I don’t want to, but…I mean, guys, she wants me to have a Catholic wedding in a Catholic church with a Catholic priest.  And definitely–at the absolute least, like if I have an outdoor wedding–she wants a member of the clergy to officiate.  I think my family might combust if I don’t have the clergy involved.  (My aunt literally said to me, “But the clergy is going to be involved in some way, right?”)  And my fiance’s mom is even MORE staunchly Christian.

I’m not sure what I should do.  On one hand, I want to have a really classic wedding, with beautiful flower sprays and a gorgeous dress and everything.  It’s been my dream since I was a kid.  But now that it’s real, and I want to think about how my spirituality is involved in such a huge event, maybe I want some tradition that plays more into my path.  Maybe a handfasting, or something.

Or perhaps I should separate the two.  I’ve heard of people doing handfastings a year and a day before their scheduled wedding, as a sort of extra engagement.  Maybe I could have a very small, adorable little Pagan handfasting, and then my wedding will be for the people, Biblical rhetoric and all.  I mean, I still don’t think I could manage having it in a Catholic church (my fiance isn’t Catholic, either), but I understand compromising with my mom on this one.

If any of you guys have had a handfasting or been to a Pagan wedding, let me know what it was like or if you have any suggestions.

By the way, this week the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube is doing a video inspired by my blog (THANKS GUYS!).  Head on over to their channel to check them out.

 

I hope you’re all having a beautiful summer (and Lammas/Lughnasadh if you celebrate it!).

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

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!)

 

 

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.] 

 

 

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 #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(