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Mercury Retrograde February 2014

It started on my birthday (and ends on my mother’s — how’s that for weird?) and it has been miserable this time around.

Usually, a retrograde Mercury doesn’t bother me all that much.  It’s more of a minor annoyance.  But this time…

I have had nothing but trouble with electronic devices.

My cell phone wouldn’t pick up a signal the other day, yet someone else was having no trouble at all.

My computer has been lagging and temperamental.  (Okay, it’s old and cranky but it’s not normally this cranky.)

The computers in at work really hate me.  I’ve been rebooting them seven times a shift or more.

There was some sort of a glitch and a scheduled payment didn’t happen.  (The money was in the account but somehow it just never happened.)

And let’s not talk about transportation issues.

But all that aside, a couple people have asked me about Mercury retrogrades, and at some point in explaining them the following came out:

Mercury retrogrades are not a good time for communication.  Messages are missed, misdirected, and misunderstood.  Communication is disrupted in one way or another.

But retrograde Mercury is a good time to meditate on communication: on how you communicate, on how you fail to communicate (remembering that communication is a two-way street — you not only have to speak, but listen), on what you do and do not say, on what blocks your own personal communication — with others, with the gods, with yourself.

There are always lessons — even from things like a retrograde Mercury.

In fact, the best lessons come from adversity.

And, I just realized that Mercury is the Roman version of Hermes, who is one of my primary deities, and I do believe He has been trying to get my attention.

So if you will all excuse me, I have a couple more days of retrograde to use to use to improve my communication with Him…

Be blessed, and blessed be.

New Year’s Day 2014

I’ve burned away the things that I don’t want to be a part of my life anymore – I wrote them on small slips of paper and fed them one by one to a candle flame in a small cauldron on my altar.  (Don’t worry – I had a bottle of water open and within reach – the element of Fire and I occasionally have issues.) Part of today will be spent meditating on the things that I want to draw into my life to replace the things I burned away. (Nature abhors a vacuum – if you banish something you need to replace it or it will sneak back.)

I’m also starting some new traditions this year.

One is an idea that I got from Face Book – a gift jar.  Throughout the year, whenever something good happens, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar.  Then on December 31 open the jar and read them as a reminder of the good things in your life.

(I have done something similar in the past – when I feel stressed and hounded by negativity I keep a Gift Journal.  It’s just a small notebook in which I write at least one “gift” each day.  It doesn’t have to be something tangible – it can be a beam of sunlight through clouds, something someone says, the caress of a breeze, anything that gives your spirit a boost.  The point is that “energy flows where attention goes” and it’s so easy to only focus on the negatives and not see the positives.  Change focus, change events.  As within, so without.)

I’m also doing a challenge (along with some friends) to spend time every day doing something creative.  For me this means something in addition to writing, which I do just about every day anyhow.  I’m hoping that this challenge will result in some finished cross stitch projects this year.  (And also a start on a Book of Shadows – or at least my CookBook of Shadows…)

Part of that creativity challenge will involve crocheting my way through the stash of yarn in the basement. I’m not sure how we came to have so much of it, but I think that it’s time that it gets turned into afghans and donated to charity: a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter.

And, of course, there will be my ongoing work of becoming more focused on my spirituality on a daily basis, making it part of my daily life.

May all of you have a year filled with blessings.

So mote it be.

List Magic

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when, despite your best intentions, the number of things to do and the number of days to get them done are constantly at war with one another.

I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do between now and the end of the year, which means it’s time for a little List Magic.

Seriously, lists are magical — there should be an actual “school” of spell casting based on lists, like candle magic, sex magic, knot magic… list magic.

How does it work?

Well, you start with a list.  For ongoing things that need to be done daily or nearly daily I have a Word doc on my computer.  For more short term lists (errands to run that day, for example) I prefer a paper one.

And sometimes the two lists get combined into one and sorted out later.

So, my current list of things to do by the end of the year might look something like this:

put together yearly calendar
Weekly Pagan Coffee Night
get gold spray paint
check to see if I have regular blue paint
ornaments for in ornaments
make ornaments
Diet Pepsi
clementines
24s (this really does mean something to me, honest!)
post office
library
memoir group
Sue’s graduation
writers’ group
socks
grocery list for Yule baking
eggnog
finish Book One of The Other Mages
get Sanguine printed
first edit on Sanguine
get book 5 of The Academy of the Accord printed
print outline for bk 5
find editing bag (seriously? how do you lose a large bright red and black bag?)
White Elephant
read for Seidh group
Weekly Pagan Coffee Night
books for Becky
stuff for Caro
sign for library

That’s all that I can think of off the top of my head, although I know there is probably more. (Weekly Pagan Coffee Night is on there twice because it meets two more times this month.)

The list looks long — and intimidating. (It’s especially intimidating because I know that there are some things I’ve forgotten to put on it, but that’s the great thing about list magic — it is endlessly flexible.)

So, I have my list.  I can approach it in one of two ways.  I can leave it as is and just cross stuff off (or use strike-through if I keep it in Word) or I can prioritize it either by importance or immediacy (when stuff needs to happen).

It doesn’t really matter how or if you organize it, but I usually like to organize it a bit more as it gives me a better grip on things. (For example, I would make a list of the places I need to go and things I need to do and get while I’m out today, and another list of things that are happening/need to be done soon, and another list of more distant deadlines.)

Once you have your list (or lists) the key is crossing stuff off of it.

If you’re keeping it on the computer, don’t just delete the completed items, use the strike through. (With a hand-written list there may come a time when you need to rewrite it so that you can better see what you still need to do, but before you dispose of the old list compare the two and see how far you’ve come.)  If you delete things, yes, the list gets shorter, but you don’t get the same visual satisfaction of seeing how many things you’ve accomplished.

And here is the important part:  everything that you mark off of the list is an accomplishment.

Everything.

And that’s where the magic comes in.

Everything that you cross off of the list is one less thing hovering over you.  One less thing to worry about.

And one more thing that you have gained control over, one more step taken toward gaining control of your temporarily out of control life.

If you’re the sort who likes the drama of ritual — or if it’s been a particularly nasty list — you might enjoy tearing it into long strips when it is finished, or burning it, or even giving a satisfied smirk as  you delete the file from your computer as you free yourself from the tyranny of too much to do and too little time to do it.

To Walk a Pagan Path

I started this blog because it occurred to me that my spiritual life was getting lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day concerns of modern life.  With everything else that I was doing it always seemed as if spirituality got pushed to a back burner, or was mufti-tasked with something else, and not given my full attention.

And that bothered me.

So, since I was “too busy” for religion, I took on something else – this blog.  It at least got me thinking about my path on a more in-depth and consistent level, even if I hadn’t actually increased the doing of it.

And shortly thereafter I started going to a weekly gathering of Pagans.  No workings, just getting together and socializing:  more attention to be paid to my path as I participated in and listened to conversations that flowed around me.

I was, however, still not quite succeeding at creating a daily practice.  Oh, sure – I was more focused on my religion, was devoting more time, energy, and though to it, but something was still missing.

Enter Alaric Albertsson’s book, To Walk a Pagan Path: Practical Spirituality for Every Day.

Hmmm, I thought when the Pagan Coffee Night’s group page announced that he would be there doing a book signing.  This sounds like something I could use.

So I bought a copy.

And, instead of relegating it to a shelf for “later” I read it.

And I took notes.

And I have added it to my list of recommended reading material.

This book is exactly what I was looking for, even though I didn’t know I was looking for it.

This isn’t just a “how to” book, or even a “this is how I do it” book – it is a “Do It” book.   In the very first chapter Alaric challenges you to stop reading and start doing, by dedicating yourself to the work of “Hal Siddu” – of developing traditions that bring together the body, mind, and spirit.

The rest of the first chapter is devoted to seven steps to assist you in that goal:
Connecting With Spirit
Creating Sacred Space
Creating Sacred Time
Sacralizing Daily Activities
Making Regular Sacrifices/Offerings (Observing regular (monthly) rituals)
Observing the Holy Tides (Wheel of the Year)
Finding Your Folk

Chapter Two talks about creating your own sacred calendar, based on the path that you personally follow and what resonates with you, with a strong emphasis on understanding why you celebrate the days that you do.  He gives examples of sacred days from various traditions, not only from his own path.

Chapter Three goes into daily devotions: everything from greeting the gods in the morning to meal time blessings to bedtime prayers, and everything in between as well, truly drawing the sacred into every facet of your day and making it a part of your daily life.

Chapter Four talks about familiars, discussing the pros and cons of various species as well as the historical accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the traditional “witch’s familiar.”  He also gives tips for training your familiar to participate in a circle.

Chapter Five, “Leaf and Fruit,” begins introducing you to ways to connect with the cycle of the year, in part through planting, tending, and harvesting a garden, or at least a few vegetables.  (I think I’m going to try to grow leaf lettuce and radishes in my planters next year.)

This theme continues in Chapter Six, “Bark and Branch” with ways to honor trees and woodland deities and spirits.

“The Birds and the Bees” (Chapter Seven) returns to the concept of knowing where your food comes from with a lengthy discussion of keeping hens and bees. (I know you were expecting it to be about something else.  Don’t try to deny it!)

Chapter Eight has some great recipes, making it near and dear to this Kitchen Witch’s heart.

Chapter Nine covers crafting items to be used in ritual:  candles, incense, corn dolls, even a scare crow – including how to make one for smaller spaces.  If I do plant lettuce and radishes in my planter boxes next year I am definitely making scarecrows to guard them.

The final chapter covers a variety of Yuletide traditions, and, of course, gives you suggestions and ideas on creating ones for your own sacred calendar.

The entire book is filled with humor, personal experiences and anecdotes, along with factual information presented in a way that is never dry.   This isn’t just a book that I’m going to recommend to others — it is one that I am going to keep and use as a reference for a long time to come.

 

 

Kitchen Witch

What is a kitchen witch?  There are a variety of answers to that, but the most common is that a kitchen witch is someone who uses the kitchen and cooking as their primary focus of magic.

Many also set up a small altar in the kitchen.  (When I find the image I want, I will have one to Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth, on, over, or near the stove, which is the modern-day equivalent of the hearth.)

I don’t know if I am strictly a kitchen witch, but I do use kitchen magic a great deal: from my own “traditional” meals at Sabbats to daily cooking to making something special.

And, as with many things on my path, I got my start long before I had heard of any form of Paganism, and back when “magic” was just something in fairy tales and fantasy novels.

I was in high school, and was tasked with making a meatloaf for supper.  Normally I didn’t mind cooking, but for some reason lost in the halls of time I really didn’t want to do it that night and was feeling somewhat resentful.

I asked my (paternal) grandfather why his meatloaf always tasted better than mine:   after all, he was the one that I had learned from.

He said he didn’t know, but he would watch me make it and see what I was doing that was different than the way he did it.

Ground beef in a bowl, salt and pepper added, eggs added, I started tearing bread into chunks and dropping them into the bowl, all under his watchful eye.

“It’s the way you’re tearing the bread,” he said, reaching out and taking it from me. Strong gentle fingers broke the bread into pieces.  “You have to do it with love.”

And in those words is the key to kitchen magic – to any magic, really:  intent.

Many years later those words still guide me in my cooking and I am aware of when I am not cooking in a spirit of love and nourishment, but doing it with an attitude of resentment.

I try to remain focused when cooking. (It’s not always possible, but I try.)

I stir widdershins to banish illness if cooking something when I’m sick (or for someone else who is sick), and deosil to draw in health and prosperity.

Of course, the direction you move the spoon isn’t all there is to it:  there is also the focus, intent, and visualization – illness leaving, or abundance and health coming in – imbuing the food with magic.

And, truly, it is the intent that makes the magic…

“You have to do it with love.”

Religion or Magic?

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…

Remembering

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.

wile e coyote tunnel

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.

Time to Pray

Tomorrow is Lughnassadh.  I can’t believe that it’s here already – the first harvest.

And I have to ask – what have I harvested lately?  Sometimes I feel as if my spirituality falls by the wayside in the midst of day-to-day life.  I mean, I work full-time, work on novel-writing  on a daily basis, and have other hobbies, as well: counted cross stitch, miniatures (I’m remodeling a doll house, and have others to assemble and do from scratch – as soon as I create enough room in my craft room to work on them),  terrariums, houseplants in general, scrapbooking (well, as soon as I create enough room to spread all of that out, as well – right now I’m better at collecting stuff for scrapbooking than I am at actually making them, although I have several planned: one for my poetry, one for poems that I like that were written by other people, a Scrapbook of Shadows, etc).

So, yeah – my life is crazy at times, but it took an email from a friend of mine (Stevie Miller) to pin it down for me.

I had invited her to get together for a write in, and she agreed because, since we would be writing it wouldn’t violate her new rule.  I had apparently missed her Facebook post so she emailed it to me:

I’ve come to a realization that my life is getting too crazy lately. I’m so over-committed that I don’t have time to do the most important things in my life, namely making art and spending time on my spirituality.

This came to my attention first when I read an awesome article called “Creative People Say No”   (I sent her that article.)  I read this fantastic piece, and then I decided ok, I’m declaring an “art weekend” for myself the first weekend I have available, and I will not allow anything else to intrude on it. Then I saw that the first weekend I had available was a month away. And I still ended up committing myself to something for the Friday of that weekend, despite my best intentions.

It came to my attention again this weekend when I kept trying to pray right before falling asleep in bed (the only free time I had) and I kept falling asleep in the middle of my prayers.

It came to my attention again today when I wanted to spend some time with my sister and I realized the earliest free date I could offer her was September 20th. And it’s only July now!

Clearly declaring one “art weekend” is not going to cut it when art is my chosen way of life. And clearly saying a few hurried prayers right before I pass out at night is not going to be spiritually fulfilling for me.”

Her post went on to say that she was declaring a moratorium on new commitments until October.

And her post made me think.  I’m good at guarding my writing time, and my alone time. But I’m not so good at guarding my spiritual space.

I do think about my path on a daily basis, but actual practice?  That is often confined to Pagan music in my CD player in my car and prayers said while driving.  And I hate that.  I hate the idea that I am multi-tasking my religion.  It’s not right.

So, instead of cutting something out of my life, I’m adding something in – namely, this blog.  I had started it ages ago but never kept it up, and that is changing today.

I will be making weekly posts (Wytchy Wednesdays) to talk about… well, stuff.  Whatever has wandered through my head during the week, or progress on daily goals for making my spiritual path as important as my creative ones – including decluttering my way to my altar, and daily morning prayers that occur before I get breakfast and get online or into a novel.

I’d love to hear from my fellow Pagans about their daily practices.  What do you do?  How well do you do at keeping them up?  How and when do you find time?

And I don’t mean just the little things, like dedicating a task to a specific deity, or meditating while, say, repotting plants (guess what else is on my agenda for today?)  but setting aside time on a daily basis, whether to light incense and a candle, pray, meditate…  I’m open to suggestions and ideas.

Meanwhile, be blessed, and blessed be.