Day 8: Meditation Temperaments, (from Wicca, A Year and a Day)

We are asked to consider Eastern meditative practices as those that include stilling the mind and passively observing our thoughts. We are asked to consider Western meditative practices as those that involve action, guided imagery, and linear thinking. In this light, we are to answer the following questions to discover whether our temperaments lie more in one direction or another:

Do you like your life to be perfectly organized or do you not mind a bit of chaos?

I love to be organized. I love organizing. No amount of organizing, however, can eliminate chaos completely. I’m OK with that. As a friend of mine once said, “Invite Coyote into your circle because he will come anyway.”

Do you respond to most queries with action or with contemplation?

I contemplate before I act.

Are you active and mobile, or are you laid back and sedate?

Both. I am active and mobile until I run out of gas and need to be laid back and sedate. I need about a 2 to 1 ration of those two things.

Do you believe that every question has a definite, logical answer, or do you think that questions can sometimes beget more questions?

I don’t get why these two things are supposed to be in opposition. Every question has a logical answer whether it leads to more questions or not. All those new questions also have logical answers. Truth is true. Existence exists. A is A.

Are you naturally internally focused or externally focused?

I’m not sure on this one. I do like to talk about my hair an awful lot, so I suppose that’s an external focus. But then I talk to myself all the time about my own, inner goings on, so that’s internal. I think my focus is split. I experience things externally, then process them internally. Both of these are important.

BTW: I’m kinda kidding about the hair thing.

Are you naturally patient or not?

Again, it depends. I am patient when it comes to loved ones, I am impatient with people who are rude and/or discourteous. I am patient waiting in lines. I am impatient with bad drivers who get in my way. Aren’t we all naturally both?

Are you strong willed, decisive, and direct? Or are you easy going and more indirect in your approach to people and tasks?

I am strong willed and decisive with an apparent easy-going and indirect approach to people. I try to be the iron fist in the velvet glove. Regarding tasks, I am definitely the former.

I knew before I started this that I am definitely more of a Western temperament when it comes to mediation. I have tried both styles in the past, and I have never been able to still my monkey mind without guided imagery, and even then it’s a tug-o-war.


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Leaving the Skull Be

baron-samediLast night at the grocery store, I saw a shelf of resin skulls ostensibly for Halloween decoration. They had two kinds of pirate skulls, two kinds of Day of the Dead skulls, and then there was Baron Samedi. If you can believe it, among all the kitschy skulls, an honest-to-gods Baron Samedi complete with top hat, playing card, and cigar. I picked him up and showed him to my friend. It was so odd. I suppose some people do “voodoo” style decorating for Halloween, but I have never seen that around here.

“The thing is,” I told my friend, “this is really getting into something. This is a for real religious object.”

The resin Samedi definitely had an animus. I was strongly drawn to buy it and I couldn’t explain why. I have always tried to steer clear of Vodou Lwa and symbols out of respect for a culture and religion that definitely do not belong to me. Because of this, despite the draw, I put him back on the shelf, said a few words of respect in my mind, and walked away. He may have been there for someone else. I didn’t want to get in the way.

I have actually had a few dreams of Baron Samedi in the past. All were unbidden. Last night, after touching the resin Samedi, I had another one.

I dreamed I was helping a friend bury her ancestors. The graves in the graveyard were all on an extremely steep slope so that one had to drag themselves up the slope by grabbing onto the foot of an open grave, then a headstone, then another grave rim, and so on. My friend’s ancestors were being buried at the top. There were two of them and they both shared a single grave. Each one was in a small rosewood box. Their whole bodies were contained within, not just ashes.

The gravedigger was a scraggly woman in her fifties. She had blond-gray hair matted into a single mass. Her face was leather from decades of smoking. Her hands were gnarled like the limbs of a dead tree. What teeth she had were bright yellow. She wore a gray, ratty robe with a faded yellow marabou collar. She wore red pants and black men’s shoes. She asked my friend if she wanted lead weights in the grave with her ancestors, something about holding the boxes down. There was an extra cost, of course. My friend declined politely, telling the woman that such weights were unnecessary. The woman snorted and began to tell my friend a tale of how the dead would be deeply offended if she didn’t pay the extra cost and how, because they were not weighted, they would easily pass through the grave dirt and wreak vengeance on her and her family. As the woman told this story, her face turned from human to a huge skull that flickered with white, blue, and green in succession. When the story ended, her face turned back to normal. My friend stood solidly with her arms crossed. “We don’t need it,” she said, “and I don’t appreciate your cheap scare tactics trying to get us to spend more money.” The woman shrugged and filled the grave.

When my friend and I made it to the bottom of the hill by scooting on our backsides down the slope, I realized I hadn’t asked permission to enter the graveyard in the first place. I hadn’t left an offering by the gate. Nine pennies, to be exact. I hadn’t asked the Lord of the Graveyard permission and paid my toll with the nine pennies. I was panicked. I had no pennies on me and had no idea where to get them. I searched in the gutter that ran along the low border of the cemetery. There I found four, but they were filthy and unfit, I thought, for an offering.

In my mind, I said, “Baron Samedi, please forgive me that I made no proper offering coming in. I would like to make the offering now, but I can’t find any suitable pennies.” I closed my fist and closed my eyes. When I opened my fist again, it was overflowing with the shiniest pennies you have ever seen. I walked to the graveyard gate and was going to offer them all when I felt a strong impression that I was only to leave nine and keep care for the rest should I need to enter the graveyard again.

After I left the pennies, I stepped back from the hill and noticed this was no ancient graveyard as the gravedigger had said. This graveyard was built on the hill behind my dear departed great aunt and uncle’s house. The house was built in the 70’s and the land was not organized that way until then. I looked closer at the weathered headstones. They looked as if they were hundreds of years old, but the actual dates on the headstones were from people who had passed no earlier than 1981. While still an active graveyard where real persons were buried, it was a graveyard beset by fraud.

To add insult to injury, I looked behind me and saw my great aunt and uncle’s house lit up with the gravedigger and her scraggly husband cackling at the kitchen table and counting their ill-gotten gains. They were defiling the house of my own ancestors. I spent the lion’s share of my childhood there and they were filling it with filth and deceit.

My soul flamed with anger. I felt my silver-tipped staff in my hand, (a staple in my dreams when I am angry), and I barged into the house. The deceivers looked up. I came at them like a bolt of lightening and knocked both of their heads back, snapping their necks. I realized then the house was also full of dirty, disrespectful, deceitful spirits. They let out a singular gasp when I murdered the gravedigger and her husband. “Leave, all of you, disgraceful trash that you are. This house belongs to me. Leave or I will burn you up.”

There was a mad, spiritual rush out of the house. Some remained, obstinate. I “lit the house” without hesitation. In waking life I do this also when I feel something with ill-intentions has gotten into my house. I see in my mind’s eye a white hot flash lighting up the house and property, reaching into every corner, every dark place, every hiding spot. I pulse this bright flash until I feel anything harmful has disintegrated in the nuclear heat. The obstinate spirits were eliminated immediately and the bodies of the gravedigger and her husband were nothing but ash.

I looked around the kitchen and into the living room. The place was filthy and in deep disrepair. I had a lot of cleaning up to do. I let go of my staff and it disappeared as swiftly as it had come to my hand. I started with a broom, sweeping the ashes of the dead out of the house.

I woke up.

I feel without a doubt that “dream” was influenced by my contact with that Baron Samedi skull. Not that I deserve a prize for doing the decent, human thing, but if perhaps the shining pennies and drawing my attention to the desecration of my ancestors’ house were small favors in return for being respectful enough to leave the skull be, I am very grateful.


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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.



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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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.


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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 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 (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 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.


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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.


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

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