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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.

 

 

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.