Category Archives: Pagan
There is a 30 day Pagan journaling challenge for the month of September set up on Instagram and I thought it would be fun to do it – and would get me back into the swing of things as well.
And back into blogging here as I answer the posts. (I’m not much of an Instagram person.)
Today’s question is:
Why did I become Pagan?
Because it felt like coming home.
I was raised Christian, but it never really felt right to me; it never “fit” with what my soul actually felt.
Once I found Paganism and the concept of both God and Goddess, I felt like I finally had some place where I belonged.
I’m not going to lie. It was a struggle at first, dealing with the guilt, and fear of hell induced by the Christian church.
How did I get past them?
One was the knowledge or understanding or whatever that various forms of Paganism had been around since long before Christianity. (I never did get a satisfactory answer to the question of what happened to all the people who died before Jesus was crucified.)
Then came the understanding that Satan is pretty much a Christian concept, not part of the Pagan mythos or belief system.
That helped, but what really clinched it was a dream I had one night, a few months after my grandfather’s death. That was over 20 years ago and the dream is still vivid.
I was outside of a little country church. It was late evening; the moon and stars weren’t visible yet, but light spilled from the windows of the church. I walked up the gravel driveway toward it but my attention was on the forest beyond it, the pine trees nothing more than a black silhouette against the dark purple sky. Outside all was quiet and peaceful, but from inside the church I could hear a man’s voice: the preacher speaking. It was a service for my grandfather, one of the gentlest, kindest men ever to walk the earth, but not a church-goer, and the preacher was praying that he would be received into heaven even though he didn’t attend church regularly.
I stopped walking toward the building and turned toward the forest.
I woke with the words, “What a sad religion” in my head.
I was beginning to think it would never come.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the changing of the seasons, and I think that winter has a special beauty that you don’t see in other seasons, but this one’s “special beauty” passed its prime long ago. We had over 20 inches of snow more than normal, and long streaks of abnormally cold (sub-zero) temperatures, unusual for Western Pennsylvania.
I am ready for spring.
Well, okay – spring started at Imbolc, according to the way that I see the Wheel, but it sure hasn’t been looking much like it around here.
We could still get some snow, even up into April isn’t unusual, but now the hours of daylight are going to outlast the hours of darkness. The earth is awakening and soon there will be flowers. And green!
But on the equinox itself, for a moment, day and night, lightness and darkness, will be equal, will hover briefly in balance.
That is, in part, what the equinox is about: balance, about finding it within ourselves so that we can live in and celebrate each moment, even as we remember and acknowledge that the wheel continues to turn, and that the only constant is change.
Meh… Enough with the philosophical stuff.
My plans are to maybe go out to the state park and walk along one of the trails, looking for signs of spring. (Depends on the weather and my knee.)
I’m also planning to cook ham and make deviled eggs. (Any excuse for deviled eggs!)
And I will spend some time meditating on balance, as I always do on equinoxes.
And this year I am feeling called to be more active, although I am not yet sure in what way.
Do you have an altar? That’s probably a silly question – most Pagans have an altar of some sort in their homes. It is where we worship, pray, celebrate, work our magic…
Is yours a permanent altar, set up all the time? Mine is. I used to only set up my altar for Sabbats and Esbats, but for most of the time I’ve been practicing I’ve had a permanent altar set up. I like having it there as a visible reminder of my path.
(Pack rat that I am, however, the top of it tends to become a catch-all for various bits and pieces of magical… stuff. Currently it contains (in addition the items that are supposed to be there) an assortment of feathers, rocks, and crystals, an extra athame or two (I’m an Air sign: I like knives), a leather pouch, an extra goblet (where did that come from?!), a few branches of sage (why?), and a small figurine of a horse (no clue, although I rather suspect that I put it there to keep it safe while I was working on my bookshelves).
(You know, there is something to be said for not having a permanent altar…)
A mess? Yes. But everything on it is, in some way, sacred. (Yes, even my little porcelain foal – I’ve had it for half of forever and it holds an emotional attachment for me.) And, yes, clearing the altar off for use is time consuming and sometimes I get irritated with myself about it, but it is also a chance to spend some time with my tools and other items, reminding myself to slow down and connect with the Sacred.
And that is one of the good things about setting your altar up each time – it gives you a chance to slowly enter into the right frame of mind for ritual as you bring out each tool and place it on your altar.
(Ha! My clutter serves a purpose! It forms a bridge between having a permanent altar and one that I set up each time.)
(More seriously, I just realized that most of the “not supposed to be there” stuff relates to either Air or Earth, the two elements that I tend to work with the most.)
Is your altar always the same? Mine generally is, minus the aforementioned odd items that congregate on it when I’m not looking. Sometimes I will decorate it for the Sabbats, but I don’t usually.
Whether I decorate it or do a separate Sabbat altar depends on how much stuff I’m decorating with – I still want my main altar to be useable and I just don’t feel overly comfortable with a candle flame and a burning incense stick next to dried cornhusks or wheat. (I set my besom on fire once when I was just starting out – I’m now very careful about what gets near the Fire element.)
(How did I set my besom on fire? That’s a story for another time!)
So, what’s on your altar? I’ll get some pictures of mine eventually, but in the meantime…
The altar cloth is a table runner that I embroidered ages ago and someone that my roommate used to work with crocheted the edging on. The fabric is white, the flosses I used for stitching are silky white and golds, and the crochet thread on the boarder is a yellow and white variegated.
My athame – the one I actually use – is a Depression Era glass cake knife. Hardly traditional, but I bought it at a flea market long before I’d heard of the Craft. I saw it, fell in love with it, and the guy gave me a really good deal on it because it was the end of the season. I owned it and moved it from home to home for a few years before I discovered my Path and it became my athame from that moment on.
My wand is a stick of wood found in a parking lot in downtown Pittsburgh. (Well, more in the Strip District than actually downtown.) There were no trees around, just this piece of wood that I walked past for a few days, each time thinking, “Hmmm. That would make a nice wand.” One day I stopped and picked it up, and it measured from the inside of my elbow to the tip of my middle finger. It was mine. (I still don’t know what kind of wood it is, how it ended up in that parking lot, or how it avoided being crushed beneath car tires for several days, but I do know that it is mine.)
There is a flat stone to represent Earth, and a small pottery saucer with a spiral on it that I use to hold matches until they cool, and an incense burner and “ash catcher” which never catches the ashes so there is also usually incense ash on my altar as well.
In the center there is a small cauldron.
For Fire I now use an oil lamp. (The trick to that is to remember to make sure there is oil in it before you start ritual – yet another story for another time.)
For Water I have a clear glass seashell that was originally supposed to be a candle holder. I put water in the hollow that was supposed to hold a votive candle.
And there is a goblet, of course. The goblet that I use does change occasionally, mostly because I haven’t found “the” goblet yet.
And, of course, there is a statue of the God, along with a couple pine cones and an antler that I found in some woods next to an old cemetery. There is also a statue of the Goddess, and an agate egg. I don’t usually use deity candles, but when I do I have a large variety of candles and holders to choose from. (Is there a witch out there anywhere who does not own enough candles to get through an extended power outage? Are there any others who could supply half the neighborhood with light during said power outage?)
And I have a bell. I really want to find a small gong but there isn’t any place here that sells them and I want to hear it before I buy it. Meanwhile, the bell has a fairly good sound that isn’t too jarring.
Sometimes there is a crystal ball. (I have a few crystal balls but I don’t know why – I can’t scry to save my life.)
The altar itself is an old secretary desk that I bought from a second hand shop. Closed up, it rather looks like a chest of drawers, and I love that I have the drop down desk for extra working space, not to mention all the storage of its drawers.
And that’s about it. (You know, I didn’t realize I had so much stuff on there…)
I love synchronicity. So often it seems that I’ll be thinking about a subject, or talking about it with a friend, and suddenly that same topic seems to turn up in half a dozen different ways in vastly different areas of my life.
The two current topics are finding time for spirituality, which has been cropping up a lot for the last month or so, and, more recently, the use of magic.
And, oddly, the two are related.
When I first started on my path, I did a lot of energy work, both with and without crystals. Healing, shielding, meditation… all were part of my daily life. And I cast a circle for every Esbat (full moon ritual, for the non-Pagans who might be reading) and Sabbat (our eight “holy days” (in quotes, because all days are holy – or should be) that mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year.)
And I used magic. I used it to clear negativity from my home and to keep it a safe haven. I used it to clear my own emotions. I used it to help in job-hunting.
I was open to energy and magic and my life was full of wonder and connectedness.
And then… something happened.
I’m not sure what, or why, but it seems as if I sort of… stopped… working.
My Esbats and Sabbats became more informal. I rarely if ever cast a circle or even had cakes and ale. They became more of a mental exercise, a meditation on the meaning and event.
And slowly the magic in my life began to fade away.
And I want it back.
“As above, so below,
As within, so without,
As the body, so the soul.”
Somehow I had forgotten the connection: that what we do on this plane ripples into the others.
I always felt that magic was secondary to the religious and spiritual aspect of my path, but now I am beginning to realize how completely intertwined they are. When one of them fades – becomes less important in your life – the other fades away as well. And when I let magic fade — because it was the religion that was important — ritual observances faded away as well, because, after all, it’s what’s in the heart that matters most, right?
I’ve been feeling as if I’ve lost my way, and now I’m beginning to see why: it’s not magic OR religion, it’s magic AND religion. And with that realization came the understanding of how to get back on track.
I need to get back to basics, to bring the spiritual into the physical. That was sort of the point of this blog – that spiritual life was taking second place to physical life and I wanted to correct that, to bring spirituality back into my life.
But I’ve been going about it the wrong way: instead of trying to bring the spiritual into the physical, I need to start by taking the physical into the spiritual.
“As the body, so the soul.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ritual to see to…
So, I had a week off work.
And it was wonderful. Relaxing. Non-stressful. I got a fair amount of things done.
I made one carnivorous and three regular terrariums.
I did some stitching (counted cross stitch) and kitted up a couple more charts.
I did some writing. (Not as much as I wanted or needed to, though – I need to kick myself back into gear for that or this series will never get finished, let alone get finished by the end of the year.)
I completed a bunch of small but time-consuming projects. (And kept moving a few others further down the list.)
I made some small progress in the chaos in my room. I’m not exactly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but at least I’m aware that there’s an actual tunnel and not a painting by Wile E. Coyote.
And most importantly I have taken a few minutes each morning before starting my day to spend time opening up to the gifts of the Gods and to thank Them.
And I have remembered – or been reminded – how much that helps.
I work in a jail. Not exactly the most relaxing, peaceful, or spiritual place on the planet, but it’s a wonderful place to learn. (And you probably don’t really want to know some of the things that I’ve learned there!)
I find that my day goes much better if I take time, either while walking from the parking garage to the entrance, or before getting out of my car, to ask that the Gods, especially Apollo and Hermes, be with me through my day. (Sometimes I feel the need for Athena or Ares, but usually Apollo and Hermes.)
What do I pray for?
I ask that Apollo fill me with His presence so that my presence may be one of warmth, healing and enlightenment to all with whom I come in contact. And I ask for protection, spiritual as much as physical. And I give thanks for the reminder – a shaft of sunlight, a brush of breeze – that I am not alone, that my Gods are there with me. And I ask Hermes to guide me safely through the darkness and back into the light so that I don’t lose my way.
Those brief moments before I enter the doors help me find my center – and make it easier to return to it when it gets lost during the demands of my job.
And when I step outside again at the end of my shift those few moments taken hours before make it easier to leave the darkness of the spirit behind me.