Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Month of Poetry for Brighid

I am not a Cill member officially, as I do not currently have a shift, but Brighid has claimed me, and here seemed the most appropriate place to put this.

I have come to a decision: I have not been nearly as consistent in actively honoring Brighid as I should be. I have decided that I need something firm and, perhaps a bit drastic to change this, and to reconnect with Her.

I have decided to commit the Month of January to writing poetry. For one month, I will write a poem every single day, leading up to Imbolc on February 1st. I will post them here, and anyone who wants to can join me on this. Feel free to post your own poems here, and be on the lookout for mine, starting January 1st.

Getting over the Hump (of Prior Beliefs)

I was raised to believe that spiritual travels were something to be afraid of. In "born-again" Christianity, it is believed that if the soul leaves the body, you leave your body vulnerable to demonic possession. I was taught that meditation as in deep contemplation and thought was acceptable, but to stay in full control over my mind and not to meditate in the Eastern sense.

I'm 30 years old and I started breaking away about 10 years ago. I understand that Christians feared other paths and labeled other deities to frighten people. In an academic/historical sense, I have complete understanding about how the Old Religions were stomped out... and I truly believe that much of humanity suffers spiritual disconnect. Which is what has enabled us to institutionalize such horrors as factory farming, whaling, oil drilling, strip mining, etc, etc.

I have this intellectual understanding of WHY I'm drawn to paganism. But I can't get over the hump of letting go of fears that were embedded deep within my psyche from 20 years of programming.

I've heard "ghost stories" from people whom I trust to be honest about tools like Ouija boards inviting the wrong sort of spirits in people's homes. And I know that people use sage to cleanse a home of evil spirits.

So... if I want to begin to meditate and commune with other entities... are there precautionary measures to take?

Another embedded fear is that demons communicate in disguise. Christianity teaches that demons mask themselves as such things as spirit guides. I feel conflicted because I've felt disconnected from Christianity for so long for so many reasons... but my spiritual fabric was entwined so deeply in it for so long that I feel it's blocked me from engaging on other paths on anything deeper than an academic level. I know "about" other religions, beliefs, etc. I know "about" meditation, astral projection, spirit guides, etc. But I haven't been able to take the plunge and explore on a personal, spiritual level.

Can anyone relate? Any tips for easing in the waters?

Oh and one last thing... I have tried meditating, astral projecting, and remote viewing here and there. I've gotten as far as feeling my spirit start to detach in that tingly way. But I always pull back in. I guess I sort of gave up, it's been a long while.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Getting my Witchy Groove Back

So, I've been going through a very long phase of evaluating my spiritual life, or lack thereof. I've come to realize that one thing I really need to do is to build a personal spiritual practice that I can rely on every day, rather than constantly looking to a group to meet my spiritual needs.

I wanted to ask folks here... what are the sorts of everyday things you do to keep your spiritual groove? How do you weave your path into, say, your job? Or running errands? I'm looking for simple things I can do, easy crafts I can make, etc. If it's not something simple, it won't happen... a 15 minute daily devotional I could work into my life, but not a complicated, hour long ritual that involves 17 different offerings that I have to make.

I want to put some spiritual touchstones in my work environment, but I'd like them to be fairly unobtrusive so I don't have to answer 500 questions about them (though most people at work know I'm Wiccan). I want to "witch up" my house, but I need ideas that are frugal and cat-proof (altars on every flat surface aren't going to work...)

I'm sort of going back to basics here, but coming back to "square one" after being on the path for 15+ years is different. I'm not getting that newbie enthusiasm back. But at least I have a good idea of what's likely to work for me, and what I've failed at in the past (and why).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice 2011 [Tonight Dec 21]

Hey, what is this thread? The night beginning at sunset on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. To celebrate the winter solstice (a.k.a. Yule, Midwinter, and probably other things, depending on your tradition), a bunch of us plan to stay up all night and post here in this thread off and on throughout, sharing our experiences or random thoughts...sharing photos or artwork throughout the evening...or just encouraging each other to stay awake!

So if you’re trying to stay up till dawn, or just want to pop in to converse with those of us who are, this is the place! (Or if you're lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoying the warmth and sun of summer solstice, tell us what we're missing!)

In that spirit, I'm yet again resurrecting a modest rhyme I composed specifically for our winter solstice efforts. Tradition dictates that I offer it as invocation to kick things off:


by Altair

Light dwindles, life despairs
A bitter chill is in the air
The sun departs, and with it goes
A fruitful season free of woes
As winter’s icy grip takes hold
The sleeping landscape to enfold
Many hours of dark must pass
Before the sun returns at last
To make its long-awaited climb
With promise of a flowering time

Until that hour, let dark prevail
Greet longest night with strong wassail
Sing and dance, feast and drink
Or solemnly reflect and think
From strange and hidden wells partake
With one rule only: Stay awake!
From dusk till dawn, hear our refrain:
Let the solstice revels reign

[In the last line, swap in the word “vigil” for “revels” if the feeling is more contemplative than festive]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bringing Religion and Ritual into the Kitchen

I've always had a very dynamic connection with food - many wonderful moments in my life can bring me back to a food memory and, conversely, the worst bouts of depression have always contributed to disorded eating and rapid and unhealthy weight loss from unnecessary, non-spiritual fasting.

Lately, I've found myself in a break between jobs (starting work again in late January) and I've been spending several hours a day in the kitchen experimenting with recipes. I no longer cook only for sustenance, but to provide an enhancement for my day to day life. I would like to start incorporating more "mindfulness" into my cooking ritual and I'm very interested in finding out how others have incorporated spirituality and religion into their daily food preparation - I'm always looking for inspiration.

I have looked up the term "kitchen witch" but Google seemed rather cluttered those terrible blogs that only seem to exist to have ads, so I'm having trouble finding any solid info.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Cults": Awareness and Avoidance

As a student of religion, I know that "cult" is a problematic term, in that it is often used improperly to describe religious or spiritual groups that one disagrees with. It can artificially create a sense of fear towards "alternative" religions that is usually unwarranted.

Most members of the pagan community are reasonable, sane people, and I suspect most groups are probably likewise comprised of reasonable sane people. But there are dangerous people out there too. It is possible to run into toxic and dangerous groups, and sometimes people get sucked in before they realize what has happened.

I thought it would be valuable to have a discussion on what to look out for, and how to avoid getting wrapped up in the groups that are legitimately dangerous.

A while back, I made a new friend who was leading a pagan group out in my area, which was a branch of a larger group centered in Escondido. But she left soon, before I could investigate it, and had to move to the coast. She had talked about the center Circle before, but not in too much detail. I decided rather on a whim that I wanted to meet them and at least see what they were like. This past weekend seemed the perfect time, as I had an audition in Escondido anyway. So I met the group, and MOST of them were lovely people.

Then I met the leader, and by the gods, this guy scares me. His energy seemed to thrust violently into the room when he appeared, he ordered people around, and seemed to suddenly flip a switch from anger to ingratiation. Add to that references by group members to his "not letting them leave," a plan for a castle with a 20-story underground bunker attached, that he is credited with knowing "everything there is to know about the occult," and the fact that he has fathered children by at least 3 members of the group had me all but running scared.

Later a friend and I discussed all that had happened, and rated the group as 70-80 range on the Bonewits Cult-Danger Evaluation Frame.

So primarily I want to start a discussion as to what to look out for and how to handle dangerous groups? Are there other qualifications besides Bonewits' frame that you use?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Worship Without Altars

I've been thinking about what I'm doing for my deities, and I've realised that I'm notoriously bad at holding rituals regularly, and even quite bad at organising for the big ones (Beltaine, Samhain, Oimelc...), and I was thinking about how I'd go about getting myself to work properly.

I began to think about what I *can* do - I'm quite good at memorising things, especially words, and I love the old mythology and stories, and I'm about to start learning the harp (as soon as I have the money to get one). I thought, what if I practiced with these things - telling stories and playing songs for other people and my deities instead of or as well as performing rituals.

Does anyone else practice like this - with performance specifically, or with another, similar, activity?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

"Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice" 2011 edition, coming December 21st

Get Ready! "Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice" 2011 edition, coming soon...

And some of you may ask: What the heck is this "all-night technopagan" thing he's talking about??

It's an annual tradition here at the Cauldron; it started when a bunch of us realized that we like to pass the December solstice--for the northern hemisphere, it's the winter solstice and therefore the longest night of the year--by staying awake all night long. (Or trying to stay awake all night long!) We thought: Why not do it together? Why not use the magic of the Internet to connect us into one global pagan party for the night, and stay up together?

And so, with Randall graciously offering to host us, "Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice" was born.

It's really simple: A dedicated thread will start here in "Holidays and Festivals" right before nightfall on the night of the solstice, to which everyone is welcome to come and go and contribute as they please. Some of us go the distance for an all-nighter; some people drop in just for part of the night; some lucky sonuvaguns in the southern hemisphere rub our noses in the the warmth and daylight they're basking in (since it's they're summer solstice, the sun-kissed devils)...just about anything goes (within the usual board rules, of course).

In previous years, we've done "non-themes": sharing recipes one year, sharing stories around our "virtual campfire" the next, sharing the night's photos/images last year, etc. Non-themes are, as the name suggests, non-binding--just a starting point to get ideas going. (Recipes always seem to come up no matter what the non-theme...chocolate mug cake, anyone?) Any ideas for a non-theme for this year? Chime in, please!

People with better chat skills than I also do a MUX chat here that night. (I'm going to have to learn how to do that, so I can participate in that aspect...I missed a lot of the best chatter last year by being MUX-clueless.)

My favorite part each year is vicariously watching the march of darkness across the globe, via various Cauldronites' posts. It makes the anticipation of sunset absolutely delicious!

This year, the solstice occurs at about 5:30 AM Universal Time on December 22, so we'll be celebrating the night before, beginning at nightfall on Wednesday, December 21. Watch for the "Up All Night: A Technopagan Winter Solstice" thread to appear right around then.

For an idea of what goes on, you can see last year's all-night gabfest on the old board, here:

So...who's up for it this year?

Isis and Ra associated with Yule?

I was doing some reading about Yule, (here http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yule.htm ) and saw a section in the reading that mentioned gods and goddesses associated with it. In that section, Isis and Ra are mentioned. What exactly is their association with Yule? What kinds of offerings would be presented to them to honor them on this holiday? I don't work with them, but I'd like to honor them somehow during Yule.

22 Card Tarot Decks

Has anyone worked with 22 Card tarot decks? I've seen the Medici Expanded Tarot deck and love the artwork. As I've only worked with the 78 card decks, I'd like to have feedback (positive and/or negative) about the smaller decksize. And if you've had chance to work with this particular deck, I'd love to get your opinion on it (and where you could get it at a little more reasonable price).

Peter Pan

I was reading some articles about Peter Pan, one of my favorite stories ever, and some very interesting things were brought up. The fact that Peter may be based on Pan or that he has attributes similar to Psychopomps. But the Lost Boys are able to be killed so the idea of them being dead is contradicted. Also, there are a lot of similarities between Peter Pan and Totenkindergeschichte "Tales of Dead Children".

I find it really fascinating. Has anybody ever read any of those types of stories or could you point me to some? And what are your opinions of Peter Pan?

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