Libra Art Deco

Isn’t she gorgeous? I found her today looking for a pic to share with a friend on her birthday. I am also a Libra and I adore Art Deco, so she’s a perfect match for me as well. I wish I had her on a pin or a plate or, better yet, embroidered on the back of a jacket.

-M.

libra-art-deco

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Day 7: Witches and Sacred Symbols, (from Wicca, A Year and a Day)

After reading a discussion of the importance of symbols to all religious traditions, and especially to witches, we are asked to answer the following questions after witnessing a sunrise or sunset. I chose a sunrise.

1) What did you experience internally as you witnessed this event?

Whenever I experience a sunrise, without exception, I feel a sense of peace and freedom. The peace comes from the fact that most of my immediate world is not yet awake and I can imagine I am the only person around for miles and miles. It is as if nothing is capable of disturbing my reverie. I have this space in time to dance with myself and my thoughts.

I don’t know exactly how to explain the sense of freedom. Perhaps it is tied to the sense of peace. If the demands of the day and the demands of others are not yet tugging at me from every corner—are not yet grabbing at my heels and pulling me backwards, then that is freedom indeed. In the wee hours of the morning, I could fly away like the doves I watch come into the yard to coo and look for seed. This is a magical time and I am magical in it.

Some mornings, in the hour before sunrise, I swear I can feel the planets moving and hear the music they make.

2) From this experience, what do you imagine this sunrise or sunset could symbolize?

The sunrise could be a symbol of peace, much like the dove herself. It could be a symbol of personal freedom, much like wings. It could be a symbol of the liminal—a time out of time, a walk between worlds. I hesitate to say “new beginnings” which is the most common interpretation because I hate to think of the real sunrise I experience that way. I don’t want to know my day is about to begin with its various stressors. I only want to know the moment of sunrise itself.

3) Now think about a symbol from a spiritual path from your past. Spend time contemplating this symbol’s meaning. What could this symbol mean for you today?

It is hard to find a symbol in Mormonism that is nondescript enough to be repurposed for another spiritual path. The angel Moroni who blows his trumpet at the top of the temple spire could not be used to symbolize anything but the coming of Christ.

moroni

Then my mind goes to the mysterious sunstones seen on many temples. The first sunstones had faces and rose over waves or clouds, the builders weren’t sure which. The design was given to them directly by Joseph Smith who saw it in a vision. He never fully explained the symbol, however, so the meaning is up for interpretation. He was a Mason before he founded the LDS church, so perhaps there is a clue there. I don’t think I could repurpose this symbol either. It speaks too much of the temple.

sunstone

Finally I think of the beehive Mormons use to symbolize community and industry. The beehive is one perhaps to which I could ascribe another meaning. Beehives are sacred to Demeter and symbolize abundance, sweetness in life, and gifts from the gods. Using the beehive as a symbol in the exact artistic rendering Mormons use it would be tough.

beehive

Honestly, I don’t think doing such is even a fair or ethical practice. I think that often the idea of cultural appropriation is applied too broadly, but on purpose taking a certain religion’s unique symbol and incorporating it into your own religion but with a different meaning is, to me, the very definition of appropriation. I am disappointed with the author on this one. I know the intent of the exercise is to dig into the power of symbols, but the suggestion to appropriate symbols is smarmy. I suppose I couldn’t expect to agree with this author at every turn.

-M.

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Day 6: Wicca and Shamanism (from Wicca, A Year and a Day)

Today, after a short reading, I am asked to respond to the following:

1) Describe in writing your own “calling” to the Witch’s path. Take note of which of the shamanic hallmarks describe your own experience.

I wish I had a sexy story for this one. I wish I could say I had a mighty vision or that Hermes, the Master Magician himself, descended from Olympos to inscribe the witch’s mark upon my forehead.

No such thing happened.

I looked into Wicca because I was looking for spiritual freedom from the terrible bondage it had been in all my life up to that point. In exploring Wicca, I came across magic. I was curious, so I thought I’d give it a try. With all the subsequent spell backfires, I could see that I definitely was capable of summoning up some power, albeit control over the direction of that power was not my strong suit. Because I believed I could summon up power, I kept on doing it. That is my witch’s call. Nothing terribly mystical there. Curiosity, experimentation, and pragmatism on repeat.

Of the “shamanic hallmarks” described in the book, my life bore and bears the following:

“A traumatic incident (such as the near-death experiences, lucid dreams, visions, or near-psychotic breaks mentioned previously), which typically occurs in childhood. The ability to understand the underlying spiritual or energetic nature of all things (both animate and inanimate). The ability to receive intuitive messages (whether in the form of words, images, or sensations) from both seen and unseen sources. The ability to harness spiritual power. The ability to cause change through unseen or magical means” (Roderick, p. 10″.

I won’t go into the details of my “traumatic incidents” here, but there were many. I have always been able to feel and intuit the spiritual energy of both animate and inanimate objects. I hear them. I know what they are saying. Harnessing spiritual power came after I began to actively work with it, as described above.

Also, although not mentioned here specifically, I have always had visionary dreams that sometimes tune in directly to other people’s experiences. By virtue of a dream, I will know when a friend is sad even if s/he is thousands of miles away. I have been warned about loved ones in danger. I have even had the deceased loved ones of friends and acquaintances show up in my dreams to deliver messages that I do not understand at all, but that mean something to the person to whom the message is delivered. Although I am not in control of it, this ability was probably the greatest predictor of my future witchitude.

2) We all have characteristics of both the shaman and the madman. In what ways are you a shaman? In what ways are you a madman or madwoman?

I am a witch, not a shaman. In my opinion, a shaman’s primary function is public. She serves the community. Being a witch, to me, is more of a private affair. A witch may also be a counselor, a community leader, etc., but her primary work is done for herself, for those closest to her, and for those who ask for her help directly. One quality I do share with shaman however is the capacity for mystical visions and dreams achieved through an altered state—either sleep or deep relaxation.

I am a madwoman in that I have experienced dissociative breaks from reality during my time of great, continual trauma. I was not in control of either dissociation or reassociation. The ability to dissociate, however, does not come from a place of weakness, but from a place of an extremely powerful self-preservation instinct. I am not ashamed of my stints as a madwoman. I embrace them and am ever grateful to my mighty mind for having induced them. I would not have survived otherwise.

-M.

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The Three Me’s: Frasier, Mrs. Lovett, and Homer Simpson

I just did a very interesting exercise via one of those Facebook challenge things that go around occasionally. It ended up quite blog-worthy.

The challenge was to describe yourself in three fictional characters and their pictures. Here’s what I picked and what I wrote:

frasier
Frasier Crane
—I have been told, to my face, on more that one occasion that I am just like Frasier. The first time it was, “Oh Honey, don’t worry. You can’t help talking like that. You’re just like Frasier!” The association is dear to my heart.

mrs-lovett

Mrs. Lovett (from Sweeney Todd)—From time to time, a bit of real wickedness, a bit of a schemer. Also, from time to time, foolishly wanting things/people just out of reach and/or that/who are bad for me. (She also sings!)

And finally:

homer-undies

Homer Simpson—Because if you don’t have at least a little Homer in your soul, there is something seriously wrong with you. I definitely have more than a little. The picture says it all.

I believe every one of those descriptions to be totally and completely accurate, except that I’m not quite as snobbish regarding other people as Frasier was, but that’s the Homer Simpson coming out. When I posted the pictures along with the descriptions, the picture of Frasier was the largest and, on its right side, two smaller pictures of Mrs. Lovett and Homer Simpson. I pulled the screen out of zoom and looked at the visual. It’s incredible. That is truly an accurate, if not entirely complete, depiction of me, inside and out. It is shocking to see it laid out so plainly.

I am Frasier on the outside to a T. I talk like Frasier, dress Frasier-esque, deport myself similarly, etc. Then, inside, the wicked schemer sometimes, the idea person, the plotter, the planner, the wild-haired wild card. And last, but definitely not least, Homer. At my most basic level, I am all kinds of Homer, for better or worse. I am simply loving like he is. I have a child’s heart. I make insensitive mistakes. I take humor in the silliest things. I can be a glutton, and I definitely dig donuts and beer. I can have a stupid temper and get annoyed at little things. Even more than Frasier, I am pleased with this association. Homer is a lot to handle sometimes, but he is ultimately good-hearted, as is Frasier for all his pomposity. I am allowed a small, evil piece, and that’s Mrs. Lovett. Again, scary that those things all fit so perfectly.

I challenge each of my readers to do this exercise. It is shockingly enlightening.

-M.

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Mabon Celebration, Spells, and Feast

A. picked me up around 9:30am. We were to celebrate Mabon at her new house.

First we went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for our feast, plus corn kernels and empty jars for our magic. Our first stop was alcohol. We bought Coronas for A., my nephew, and I, and we bought A.’s fiancee Coors Light. For our libation, which we didn’t end up doing simply because I forgot about it, we were first going to make an autumn sangria. We looked at our schedule and, considering all we had to do that day, we decided to change it to moscato because, while I am fond of wine, A. is not and that is the only one she can handle. While actually in the booze aisle however, we chose a fancy vodka instead thinking that everyone could enjoy this, including the gods. It was salted caramel vodka. We bought apple cider to mix it with.

For our ritual, we bought corn kernels and, instead of buying pricey mason jars, we bought two jars of cheap baby food, (apples for the season), and planned on eating the apples for a snack then using the baby jars for our magic. The gods appreciate clever frugality, we figured.

All in all, the ingredients for the ritual and a small feast that would feed six people twice, plus alcohol, was $97. Not too shabby.

img_1164When we got back to her house, we put the stew on immediately as it needed to cook for eight hours. The recipe called for it to be cooked in a crockpot, but since we were making a crap ton, we put it in a giant black stock pot under super low heat instead. It was very bubble, bubble toil and trouble. Perfect.

Next, we went to work on the finer points of getting her moved in and settled. She had about twelve plastic tubs full of miscellany to sort. We went through each one and got things organized, which was fun because they were like time capsules. There was a bunch of mouse pee in one where she had stored some old puppy food. I was the one who found it… the hard way. Par for the course, I suppose. Nothing like a little mouse piss to signify a real change.

As we worked, sorted, hefted, and lugged, I thought that this, perhaps more than any magic in a book, was apropos for the season. Summer turns to Fall and we work toward completing a major change in her life. There is live woo in that—real, live woo.

After a couple of hours, it was time to start the pecan-caramel pumpkin pie. I let her do that all by herself. While I reign supreme when it comes to stews, soups, and brews, she is an excellent baker. Pie in the oven and we went back to work.

We finished everything and were all cleaned up at about 4:30pm, plenty of time to take a little break before we had to start the woo. We sat down, ate our apple baby food, and watched “Ozzy Man Reviews” on YouTube until we nearly laughed ourselves sick. (Small correction: I only ate a couple of spoonfuls of the baby food. It tasted like apple slime and had an aftertaste of chemicals. I thought: “No way I am ever feeding that crap to my kids!” Luckily, Angela was happy to eat the rest of mine.)

img_11685:30pm and it was woo time. The idea was for us to get cleaned up before we did it, but we were both too tired, so we went to our woo grungy save for freshly washed hands. The rituals from Wicca, A Year and a Day called for us to make a corn dolly and bless it in a circle of corn kernels with candles at the four elemental points, but corn husks were nowhere to be found at the grocery store, so we made a corn kernel stick figure in the circle instead. The way she came out, it looked like she was dancing. That was perfect.

I lit the candles because A. is somewhat afraid of lighters. We held our hands over the circle and recited the following from the WYD book:

“Mystic dame of Harvest Home
Lend the spirit of the gnome,
In this circle of the corn,
May your blessings thus be born!”
(Roderick, p. 149).

Something about speaking it with our inside voices made it seem flat, so I decided we should do it “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” style. We said it again louder, then again louder, then a third time to raise the rafters. That was powerful. It seemed to call all the energies of the Goddess and God and our chosen pantheon in. It was like the natural forces stood up and paid attention. It was as if all of these were enjoying the sensation of rare loudness from us.

Not a part of the official ritual, we went with our guts then and made wispy hand movements over the corn circle. “Break the bubble,” I said, “and spread that good juice all over the place in this house.” We pulled the goodness out, flung it all around, and ended up smiling brightly. We were finished, yet it seemed like some kind of closure was needed. Again, on impulse, I banged my hands on the table in a drumroll of ever increasing volume. She did the same. We ended and both said, “Yay woo!” I realize now that the drumroll was actually a form of grounding. Strange how, when you allow it, a great part of the magical process is instinctual.

The next thing the book asked us to do, (for another Mabon day, but we were consolidating), was gather the corn from the circle and put it into jars, (baby food jars to the rescue). We broke up the circle and the goddess figure and swept the kernels into our jars. We were then to fill the jar up with purified water, (we used bottled water), and add mandrake root and blessed thistle. I tried to obtain these before the ritual, but they were too expensive, so we put cinnamon in the water and asked for the same blessings of purification and protection. Cinnamon is an excellent spice for all manner of things—and handy. It also seemed appropriate considering the two main elements of our feast, the stew and pie, both had cinnamon in them.

We closed up the jars, (or tried to, as cheap baby food jars are a bitch to reseal), and sat there for a minute not knowing exactly what to do. I thought perhaps we ought to shake them in a clockwise swirling motion and ask for each of the gods’ blessings while we did. We asked blessings of the great Goddess and God, and also of each of the 13 Olympians. When we reached Dionysos, I couldn’t think of anything specific, so I simply said, “Don’t make us go insane.” We both laughed, and I feel Dionysos laughed with us.

As per the book, we then took the jars out and put them in a place were the moon would touch them. We are to leave them there for a full lunar cycle, then bring them in, strain them, and use the water for blessings. Neither one of us could do the on and off the windowsill at night thing the book called for because we are both incognito witches, but instead we set them outside, on the ground, behind one of the planter walls so they will be in shade during the day and the moonlight will bathe them at night.

img_1166Soon after we were finished, sunset came, and so did my nephew, (happily and unexpectedly visiting me from his marine base in Hawaii). Next to arrive was A.’s fiancee. His friends, known to us as “The White Boys” didn’t come over after all, so we had all the crap ton of stew and bread and pie to ourselves. We drank and feasted and all cleaned up together. We sat down after and watched Family Guy until, again, we were near sick from laughing. Around 11:00pm, A. drove my nephew and I home and our Mabon celebration was over. I can’t imagine a better time.

Many thanks to the gods and their parents for the myriad blessings of love and timing that went into our day. It was the best Sabbat I have ever experienced.

Blessed be.

-M.

(The practices detailed here consist of days 154 and 158 in Wicca, A Year and a Day.)

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Day 159: Mabon, Past Life Regression (from Wicca, A Year and a Day)

spiralIn today’s exercise, we are asked to do a simple past life regression exercise. The book has a script for the meditation, but because reading it to myself would be rather difficult, I used instead a past life regression meditation I already had in my audio library that I haven’t used in years. The album is Journey into Past Lives by Denise Linn. I chose the fourth track which is about journeying to your “highest” past life—a life in which you were particularly gifted and/or powerful.

As I did the meditation, I was skeptical. I thought something like Queen Elizabeth I or Joan of Arc would come up which, to me, seems complete wish-fulfillment rubbish.

Rather I was greeted by a red-haired English country girl. Her skin was pale and slightly freckled. Her eyes were a striking, almost cobalt blue. Her curly hair, which was long enough to reach her waist, was loosely tied at the nape of her neck with a thin scrap of cloth. She wore typical peasant clothes. Her chemise was made of a rough, cream fabric. Her bodice was brown and laced loosely. Her skirt was a grayish brown, also of rough material—probably wool. Her feet were bare.

I saw her father was a rural blacksmith. His hair was white-silver and his eyebrows were black. His skin was wrinkled from years of bathing it in forge smoke. I saw the girl trounce happily into his shop and kiss him on the cheek. He didn’t smile, but it was obvious in his eyes that he loved her.

As I watched I thought, “What sort of special gift or power does she have?” I wasn’t denigrating her because she was a peasant. I was simply curious.

Then I saw it. The boys and girls of the area gathered around a bonfire for a celebration. Some were drumming. Some were playing simple wind instruments. Some were sitting with their sweethearts just beyond the throw of the firelight. My red haired girl, who was maybe 16, danced around the fire in her bare feet, her arms up in deep pleasure from the music and the movement. She was the best dancer in the area, so one young man whispered to another. She paid them no attention. The music moved for her. The fire seemed magically to follow her dance, as if her body so commanded it.

Another flash and I saw her in the woods having a tryst with one of the young men. Another night, another tryst, another young man. Several nights, several trysts, several young men. Yet among men, she was never the topic of ridicule or shaming. She was reverenced, in an odd way. It was something about the way she made them feel—something beyond sexual pleasure.

For her part, she was free. She was free of convention. She was free of caring what other women said. She made herself free to do as she pleased. She was charming but bold. She was not a thing to be caught and kept. She belonged to herself and no other.

The meditation then asks you to see this person at the end of her life. It asks you to see her in the very last moments before she slips away.

I saw my young woman, her hair held the same way but now silvery white. Some of the curl had loosened, but still her hair was beautiful. She puttered around in her long chemise inside a small, wooden house. It was deep winter. She had a fire going. She fed her cat some milk, got something hot for herself, then sat down in a favorite chair. She wrapped a shawl around herself. She laid her head to one side. She closed her eyes. Death came and she accepted it with a happy sigh as if she were greeting an old friend.

She had never married. She had never had children. She was not lonely. Women in the village often came to her for counsel. While not a witch or healer exactly, she would always make these women a special brew when they came to talk to her. “It’s a bit of the truth,” she would say. She accepted with a sly smile that the woman who would seek her counsel one day would denounce her as a harlot the next. This was the way of the world. This was human nature. She did not deride nature, either human, divine, or earthly. She held onto her freedom until the moment she passed from this world.

Above all else, even above the dancing, her special power was freedom, always freedom—freedom in the face of adversity. It was also uncompromising self-hood. Both of these are traits I have only in small degrees and glimpses. She might have been a queen for all that I admire her.

After the mediation, I went back to the Wicca, A Year and a Day book and found my homework. I am to answer the following questions:

  1. How did your past life circumstances relate to your present conditions?

    This is a matter of fullness and lack. She may not have had the privileges I have had regarding financial comfort and education, but she had fullness and satisfaction in herself. I struggle with that. I have a dark past that still affects me deeply and tamps down my sense of freedom. Whenever I begin to feel it, memories of my past cut it down. In this life, freedom is what I most long for and that is what she had.

  2. What of this exercise surprised you?

    I was surprised that I could feel her inside me and I could feel myself inside her. Our flesh seemed to match. I thought the experience would be only observational, but instead it was entirely physical.
  3. What did not surprise you?

    Nothing in this vision was expected.

In the end I cannot tell  whether this was indeed a past life or rather wish-fulfillment. Either way, it was deeply affecting.

-M.

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Happy Autumn Equinox / Mabon!

In honor of the Autumn Equinox, Mabon, and the official changing of the seasons, I thought I would share some photos of Autumn leaves I took along Natchez Trace when I lived in Nashville, TN.

I hope the day is a great one for all of you. Enjoy yourselves. Beauty and relief from the heat come quickly.

-M.

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