Daily Archives: July 18, 2011

Vision Quest: Seeking the Spirit the Old-Fashioned Way

Vision Quest: Seeking the Spirit the Old-Fashioned Way

Author: Sunny Dawn

A vision quest is a challenge. The verb in Lakota literally means, “to cry out for a vision”. This means you have to suffer in exchange for a gift. The words “cry out” may also refer to songs or chants sung by the person undertaking the suffering. In my first coven, it was highly desirable, if not precisely required, for third-degree initiation, although I did not attempt a vision quest or receive third-degree initiation from my first coven.

A vision quest has little to do with astral travel or guided “journeys”. Anyone who has ever perused the shelves of a pagan bookstore knows there are plenty of books available on astral travel. Any pagan who has ever attended a workshop, retreat, or festival has probably had an opportunity to participate in a guided “journey”.

Vision quests involve a little more advance planning, and a lot more sacrifice. They can also have a high rate of failure. Both are good reasons why the vision quest tends to scare folks away. But the most important reason why vision quests are no longer that popular in terms of pagan spiritual practice is that there isn’t a whole lot of sensible, contemporary advice on how to do one successfully. With this article, I hope to change this perception a little. A vision quest isn’t easy, but it is more accessible than most pagans think.

First, let’s start with the question of what a vision quest is, and what it probably isn’t. A “vision” is something more than a vivid dream that is easily remembered upon waking. It can be hard to describe to someone who hasn’t had one, but a “vision” is usually of profound personal significance to the person who receives it. It is more than a dream that rehashes the person’s recent experiences. It is almost always a foretelling of one’s personal future. It is often accompanied by some sort of supernatural event (however mild) that “marks” the vision as more than a dream.

If this describes the “vision”, then what is the “quest”? Traditionally, the “quest” involved a four-day fast done outdoors without food or water, and without drug use of any kind. Tobacco was offered, but not consumed [see note below]. Deloria uses the term “fast-vigil” as well as the more common “vision quest”. It was undertaken by young people (more often men than women) as a rite of passage, and not just by children or teen-agers who hoped to grow up and become medicine men someday, but by anyone who was serious about their spiritual path [see note below].

Most people who did a vision quest simply expected to live their lives to the fullest with some protection from the spirits. Others sought to obtain powers that would enhance their capabilities, but this imposed additional responsibilities on them. These responsibilities set them apart from the everyday life of their community, so it is probably fair to say that most hoped for the “vision” and not much more.

Deloria reports that the vision quest was nearly universal among Native American tribes. Because it was difficult to determine the validity of a vision, youths would discuss their vision with one or more elders who would help them decide if this vision was the primary one meant to shape some important part of their future [see note below]. Then they would get help “re-enacting” it down to the smallest detail, to demonstrate their intent to make the vision a reality. In the case of Black Elk, his vision involved the whole tribe, so the entire tribe participated in the reenactment (but this was the exception rather than the norm) .

What does a non-Native American “vision quest” look like today?

It is probably fair to say that the seeker is a “youth” on his or her spiritual path (my primary vision came accidentally during my first year on a pagan path) . Three or four days are still the goal, but the fast is from food only. It should be done outside, but it can even be done at a crowded campground if you have no other options, since your dreaming is most likely going to occur at night when things are quiet. Any vivid dreaming which occurs during this time may be considered sacred, but you will have a pretty strong “feeling” about a dream that is actually a vision.

Even a fast from food scares off a lot of folks. Assuming normal health, it shouldn’t. The fast is a very important part of what you’re doing the whole long day. It will get successively harder each day, and it will leave you pretty strung-out on the second and third day. There is often some loss of motor control on the fourth day, depending on the individual. Fasting only from food is popular because it allows the seeker to undertake the three or four day quest without being attended by someone else, assuming adequate advanced preparation.

There is no requirement that you be bored to tears during the long days. You can read, or play an instrument, or take long walks surrounding yourself by nature on the second or even on the third day, or sleep more than usual (a very common phenomenon on a fast) . None of this is “cheating”.

Fasting makes you more aware of your surroundings, particularly on the second day. In the morning, the smell of wood smoke from a neighbor’s tent site permeates everything. A birdcall really does sound as if it is trying to tell you something. You notice the fresh smell of the earth that comes up at the end of the day and washes out the fish odor next to a river. You are more aware of that honeysuckle scent in a shady alcove along the water, or the sudden splash of a fish that cannot be seen.

You will definitely want to set aside some time to observe the sky at night, to see if there is a prominent star whose god or goddess is “governing” your vigil (this can be meaningful even if you have dedicated your fast to deities that have nothing to do with the Greek or Roman gods normally associated with the night sky) . On the night I observed the sky, Mercury was strikingly close to the Earth, and it made everything else look as if it had lost its batteries. This meant that Hermes, the god of merchants and thieves, and the psychopomp who guides the dead to their just rewards, was guiding my fast. After it was over, I was to find out what this meant.

Choosing a tobacco offering is important. Whether or not you smoke is irrelevant, because the tobacco isn’t for you. I considered buying a pipe, but decided that a pipe is very closely associated with the Thunder Beings, the most powerful natural elements on the Plains, and that I did not know enough about these deities to call on them appropriately. So I spent seven bucks on a fancy cigar instead.

Each night I wrapped it up in the small bag that holds my extra tent stakes so it would stay dry, and the next morning I withdrew it, and lit it as the first offering of the morning. A sage bundle is probably an acceptable substitute for those who cannot tolerate tobacco. Those who are concerned about the purity of their tobacco offering will definitely want to stick with loose pipe tobacco.

Fasting without water is not something I can speak to personally. It will be A LOT more painful, both physically and psychologically, particularly if it is your first time going without water. It is also essential to have someone attend the seeker who abstains from water (this may mean arranging for someone to take off time from work and compensating them for lost earnings) . Your attendant doesn’t have to camp right on top of you but you will want them close enough to check on you frequently. This “someone” had better have competent first aid knowledge, as well as knowledge of the various phases of dehydration from the swelling of extremities like fingers or toes all the way up to hallucination, loss of consciousness, and death. It goes without saying that if you have an extensive background in meditation; you are going to be able to slow down the dehydration progression. If you don’t, you may want to rethink this one.

Say I’ve got a posse with enough time and dinero to make a field trip out of this. Any advice?

The Lakota considered the Black Hills the sacred center of their world, and Native Americans still use the Black Hills extensively when they want to do a vision quest. So do quite a few non-Native Americans as well. On the western end of South Dakota, just north of the motorcycle stomping ground of Sturgis, is a popular spot called Bear Butte (a.k.a. Bear Butt) . It won’t be private, and you will see tourists walking by you on most days, but folks tend to be respectful because this mountain does get a lot of spiritual use. It also has a nice campground adjacent to the mountain that your group can use as a set-up base.

I can’t speak for Harney’s Peak, although I suspect it will be crowded due to its proximity to Rapid City, SD. As the highest peak in the Black Hills, it is very important to Native American spirituality. “Women Killer” General Harney made a sport of killing non-combatants, so the reader may imagine what most Indians think of having their sacred peak named after this dude. “Would you name the highest peak in New York after Hitler or Goebbels? Didn’t think so, ” one remarked to me.

Just over the state line in eastern Wyoming, Inyan Kara Mtn. is said to be less accessible than the other two peaks and therefore more heavily associated with spiritual use.

What is an “accidental” vision?

According to Deloria, visions that simply “came” were a transition between relying on dreams and actively seeking a vision during a traditional experience of four or more days of ceremony. As a young pagan, this is actually what happened to me. With a minimum of fuss, I did a simple ritual, and asked for a “vision”. At the time, I wouldn’t have even known how to go about a traditional vision quest. A few nights later, I got my wish.

Marshall relates that the teen-age Crazy Horse at first did not trust his vision, which was also “accidental”, because he had not pursued it the traditional way (through pain) . Visions that came without sacrifice were distrusted. Still, with his father’s encouragement, his people accepted the first vision.

The vision I received was a “culminating” vision, a fairly common category among visions. It showed me an unavoidable personal disaster, dealt with events that happen to me in old age, and showed me my descendents who are not yet born. Within the vision, it seemed to me that there were also tantalizing glimpses of things that could not be seen. It is of little surprise to me that many people wish to undertake a second vision quest at some point in the future after their original one, in hopes of potentially exploring these tempting gaps.

It can take a very long time to get confirmation of the events one sees in a vision (the first of my descendents was born to a sibling six years later) . A “culminating” vision was considered a special gift because it showed the seeker that he or she would live into relative old age, a precious blessing among traditional communities with high adult mortality. The other side of this is waiting a long time without “knowing” if any part of it will come true. This is rather ironic considering that “knowing” is the whole point of seeking a vision.

Seekers who get a lucky “accident” sometimes wonder whether they should attempt a second vision under traditional circumstances. Unfortunately, I can’t answer this with certainty, since my second attempt failed. The literature relates that Black Elk would say that the biggest mistake he ever made was attempting a second vision in hopes of supplanting the meaning of his original one. Crazy Horse did attempt a second vision some twenty years or so after the first, but his descendents said that no vision came to him.

Seriously, what’s it like going three days without food?

Honestly, somewhere between “no big deal” and “WTF am I doing this, where am I, and why am I in this hand-basket?” You are feeling pretty hungry during the second day, but it still fits the “not that bad” category. If you get hunger headaches, you need to decide whether or not you will permit yourself aspirin (I decided to “work around” my headache, but I don’t see anything wrong with aspirin if it helps.)

You also need to wear more layers at night than you normally would if you were camping outdoors on a reasonably warm night, because your body will be more sensitive to cool temperatures while fasting (I found that I needed four layers on my chest to feel comfortable, in addition to the blankets I was sleeping under.)

It is also important to pay attention to signs in the environment at the beginning of your fast, because these will give you clues to the outcome. As I was setting up my campsite, a pair of scissors I was using broke. One of the handles simply cracked off. My experience has been that when something out of the ordinary like this occurs right at the beginning of spiritual work, it is usually a sign that nothing will come of it. Then it is up to you to decide whether or not to continue, or call it off.

Initially, I thought I would do a four day fast. After this happened, a three day fast seemed more appropriate, because I suspected this would be a purification rite, which is pretty much what you end up with when a “vision quest” fails.

The third day is tough, but the thought that there is only one day left keeps a lot of people going. On the morning of the fourth day, I had trouble buttoning my jeans, and quite a bit of trouble tying the laces on my hiking boots. Having someone attend me if I had wanted to do another full day would have been wise. I broke the fast early the fourth day. You get nearly instant strength from eating, enough to dissemble a campsite. It takes an hour or so to see an improvement in motor control, however, and a strung-out feeling may persist for several hours (although caffeine helps – stash a Coke for the end of your fast) .

Deloria has an interesting point about fasting. He feels that the four days of fasting was not a determining factor. He notes that many Indians had fasted far longer than four days when on a hunt, so four days was not a challenge. Also, some people received messages on the first or second day of their ritual, before any real physical deprivation of their body began to alter perceptions of the environment. It was the intent to do a four day fast that mattered (and still, many would simply report a bird or insect came before them, signaling that their efforts had not been wasted, but there would be no profound communication or interaction) .

What about “failure”?

It can be really disappointing if you have not experienced a vision, and have doubts that you ever will. The powers designate their recipients themselves. Your earnest effort may not move them.

On the other hand, no sincere effort is really a failure. If you successfully complete three days of fasting, and never thought you could do something like that, the sense of empowerment is palpable. Also, pay attention during the days after your fast is completed. The gods have their ways of acknowledging you privately even if they don’t “gift” you with a vision.

What are some other common types of visions?

Seeing an animal was fairly common. In one of Deloria’s examples, a man called Le Bornge saw a graceful peace spirit, the antelope. He did not see a war spirit, like a wolf or grizzly bear. This meant he was to guide his people by counsels, and protect them from the evil of their own feuds and dissensions. He would not gain renown by fighting.

Seeing an animal would be meaningless for a lot of modern folks today. A vision usually comes in a context that the recipient can at least partially understand. You may not feel the need to “reenact” it to demonstrate intent the way traditional practitioners did. But it is a good idea to talk the vision over with someone on your spiritual path whose experience and wisdom you respect, if you have access to such a person.

In my case, I was able to talk about it with the high priestess of my first coven. The first thing she told me was not to “read too much into it”. This was actually wise counsel. Feeling filled with certainty about something as exceptional as a vision is a swell recipe for a big head.

She also helped me distinguish what made the vision “real”. After I described it, she told me flat out it sounded like a dream, not a vision. I felt differently. So I described it again. This time I realized it was important to tell her how I came awake after the first part of the vision, and heard the sound of drumming that seemed as if it was right outside my house. I described how I badly wanted to go downstairs and find the source of that drumming, but ended up going back to sleep and having the final portion of my vision.

When I awoke again, I could see gray morning light coming through the skylight, and the sound of drumming was still there. By the time I got downstairs it was gone.

My priestess gave me an intent look, and said she felt I had in fact had “something more than a dream”. The whole process of defending it to her made me recall it from various angles so I could see myself if it really was valid.

Why do a vision quest at all?

There are a few different answers to this question. Some of them come straight from the journal I kept during my recent vision quest.

On the first day I wrote:

“When a vision comes to you without asking, as it did for me many years ago, you have no idea what it is like to actually ask for one. What will the boredom be like? What will be the hunger be like on the second or third day? Will I do it a fourth day? You come out here to ‘know’ into the future, but there is so much not ‘knowing’.”

On the second night I wrote:

“My stomach is hurting. So is my head. Best thing to do is to stay in the present. If it teaches you anything, a fast teaches you to stay only in the present moment. Don’t worry about the next day of the fast. Just deal with what you are dealing with right now.”

Others expressed different reasons. These range from the pragmatic, to a hard-wired yearning for the future, to a profound respect for the best that an “alien” culture had to offer.

Deloria excerpts the vision of a young man called Siya’ka:

“I was not exactly singing, but more nearly lamenting, like a child asking for something. In the crying or lamenting of a young man seeking a vision two things are especially desired: First, that he may have long life, and second, that he may succeed in taking horses from the enemy.”

The second reason he gives is interesting. It implies he was facing a problem of scarce resources. Some of the warrior chiefs were facing far worse than this.

Dee Brown writes of Crazy Horse:

“Since the time of his youth, Crazy Horse had known that the world men lived in was only a shadow of the real world. To get into the real world, he had to dream….In this real world his horse danced as if it were wild or crazy, and this was why he called himself Crazy Horse. He had learned that if he dreamed himself into the real world before going into a fight, he could endure anything [see note below].”

John Mason Brown writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1886, observed:

“It cannot be denied that whites, who consort much with the ruder tribes of Indians, imbibe to a considerable degree, their veneration of medicine. The old trappers and voyageurs are, almost without exception, observers of omens and dreamers of dreams. They claim that medicine is a faculty which can in some degree be cultivated, and aspire to its possession as eagerly as do the Indians.”



Footnotes:
A Few Personal Observations

Quests involving peyote or other shamanic plants are a different animal from the vision quest that involves no drug use. The former is “easier” to do, and certainly more popular in certain quarters. But every account I have read suggests that the seeker is more likely to receive general wisdom than a specific vision of their personal future. This does not mean that drugs could not be used to obtain a personal vision of one’s future with the spirits’ blessings. But it is worth considering how much of the vision is actually yours when it comes from a drug, and ends as soon as the drug is metabolized. When seekers aren’t hallucinating from the drug (or from thirst) , they have little doubt where their vision is coming from.

Why the emphasis on determining the “primary” vision? It is important to remember that the average layperson (non-medicine man) relied on many different types of omens from the natural environment, or visions for their divination needs. This meant they would do more frequent vision quests for mundane needs, such as determining the best time and place for finding buffalo, or the best way to raid the neighbor’s horses without catching an arrow or losing their scalp. It was important to acknowledge the more sacred nature of a “primary” vision, as well as its longer lasting impact.

Physical toughness combined with meditation skills acquired through bow-and-arrow hunting may explain in part why Native American youth could successfully handle a four day fast without water. Marshall relates that Crazy Horse learned his bow-and-arrow skills by shooting grasshoppers in high grass before he was old enough to join real hunts. Think about this for a minute. It requires incredible precision to hit a creature as small and quick as a grasshopper. He would have had to slow his breathing, and achieve incredible stillness before and during each shot, and he would have had to practice this over and over again to get it right. Hand me a hand-made bow and arrow, and I’d be lucky to hit the broad side of my cat at fifteen yards, let alone a grasshopper at that distance. Today’s adults no longer possess the meditation skills that Native Americans used to learn as kids.

Dee Brown was trying to explain why Crazy Horse “dreamed”, and his words resonate on an intuitive level. But Marshall relates that Crazy Horse took the name from his father, who gave up his own name because he sensed that his son would need its power. The father of Crazy Horse was then called by a weaker name, so that all power would flow toward his warrior son.

Bibliography

Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, Henry Holt and Co., New York, NY, 1970.

Only a couple of references are made regarding the vision quest, so I won’t describe this book in detail. This book is considered the primary 20th century history of the Native American struggle to survive a holocaust.

Deloria Jr., Vine. The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO, 2006.

This fascinating survey should be mandatory reading for any pagan who has even attempted a sweat lodge, let alone a spiritual quest. In the first chapter titled, “Dreams – The Approach of the Sacred”, the author writes about visions, shared dreams, and sacred intrusions, including many examples of both men’s and women’s visions. Remaining chapters don’t deal specifically with the vision quest, but they all seem to relate some wisdom that someone seeking a vision may somehow find useful. The author was best known for his 1970’s tongue-in-cheek classic, Custer Died For Your Sins. This final work was published a year after his death in 2005.

Marshall, Joseph III. The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota Story, Penguin (Non-classics) , 2004.

This biography of the Lakota leader who was murdered when he was 35 years old was written by a tribal member who interviewed the descendents of Crazy Horse’s relatives. The author’s view of the great warrior’s legacy, and what it means to his people, is different from the way Crazy Horse is remembered by most whites. Crazy Horse’s vision is central to this story; the author alternates the words used to describe his vision with impressionistic glimpses of Crazy Horse’s surrender right before he was killed. Don’t miss the final chapter called A Story: The Lightening Bow, a moving look at the gift of sacrifice that a leader makes on behalf of his tribe, and what happens when the people don’t even understand how much that is worth.

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks: New Edition, Bison Books, 2004.

It has been so long since I read this book that I hesitate to review it, but I do want to recommend it because Niehardt goes into elaborate detail on Black Elk’s original vision of the slaughter of his people, and his subsequent “false” vision of the Ghost Dance as a possible means of saving his tribe. Black Elk relates that his primary vision was so bitter that he could not bear it, but his subsequent vision was mere wishful thinking because he could not accept the truth. For anyone in search of a subsequent vision, this is wisdom worth pondering.

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On Fluffy Bunnies…

On Fluffy Bunnies…

Author: Sarenth
As our religion becomes more prominent in the mainstream media, I find myself feeling more and more getting a feeling of competition within the Pagan community. Given that my exposure to the community of Paganism in general is relatively little, consisting of the Pagan community in my backyard, what is in books and on the Internet from sites like Witchvox.com and Rendingtheveil.com, I don’t entirely know if this is rippling through the Pagan community at large or not.

However, as I see it, there are well written but somewhat short-tempered, self-righteous or outright assertive posts and essays being written about ‘what makes a Pagan a Pagan’ and what a Pagan ‘should and should not be’. Some of these are to be found on Witchvox and Rending the Veil, some are to be found on personal websites and yet more in the pages of books from authors of all stripes.

It would seem that some in the community, whether they are in a prominent position such as that of author, editor or any other seemingly ‘big’ role in our community, are wishing to define exactly down-to-the-letter what makes our religion, our religion.

Mind you, I am in the Georgian Tradition of Wicca as an Initiate, but I still work with Gods and Goddesses that I did as a Solitary, so I understand that tradition and values of a ‘lineage-based’ coven structure can be as important to a person as a ‘free-form experiential based’ spirituality. I know that traditions and codes of practice can make or break a person’s spirituality, both from my time as a Catholic and as a Georgian. I also know from my experience as a Solitaire, that sometimes the complete defining of rules and regulations as to ‘how the world works’ and ‘what Paganism is’ is not only spiritual caging, its spiritually debilitating.

Yet, this view of spoon-fed spirituality and/or religion seems to be what some in the community want, a Codes of Behavior and a ‘This is What We Do as Pagan’ manual. I’ve been there, done that with the Papal, Canonical and Scriptural law of Catholic Christianity. Maybe this is my own bias, but after many of us in the community come from a spirituality and religion of strictly defined relationships with God, Goddess, Spirits of all types, our fellow humans and Nature Itself, why would you build up another faith that embraces the same kind of rules that inspired you to move away from, or not accept?

As an example, recently codes of dress have been examined as to what a Witch should and should not wear. Sometimes the opinions therein were based upon what would and would not offend others, which, to a point I can concede is important that you be mindful of others. However, why would we go to a religion that celebrates life, traditions and paths in its myriad of forms, and then shut up those who celebrate their particular form, tradition or path, self-made or no?

The many ‘anti-fluffy bunny’ websites out there that made extensive use of examples of ‘what not to do’ or ‘what makes a fluffy bunny’ are another example of what I see as community self-hate. Rather than ask what these people believe, and try to see their point of view so even if their information is historically or practically (i.e. rooted in this physical, mundane reality) our community, it seems, has taken to name-calling and elitism.

Yes, I know that some viewpoints cannot be argued with, changed or sometimes understood because they are believed in so fervently. I also know that some individuals should not be tolerated, such as those that seek to harm children or those who exist in our religion for the sole purpose of fattening their wallet. Despite this, many ‘fluffy bunnies’ are picked on, ostracized and in general, swept under the rug or pointedly hushed down by those who do not agree with their views. While I am not asking those who do not agree with what is called ‘White Lighter’ or ‘Fluffy bunny’ views to spontaneously accept or begin dialogue with them, I would ask you this: think upon what impact you have on them.

Let’s do a few what-ifs down this line of thinking, with three differing scenarios with three possible results afterward.

Scenario 1: The person is new to the Craft and Paganism and has a near-to-no understanding of either. They are looking for information on these subjects and things related to them. They read a book or a series of them and look at it/them as canon as to ‘how the Pagan world works’ (whether by cosmology or magick) and so, embrace the book and its author as their religious and magickal foundations.

If you approach this person in a manner that is demeaning or hurtful (i.e. judgment calls, jabs at their inexperience or lack of understanding) then you could do a number of things to them. First and foremost, you could drive them from ever fully embracing Paganism and learning the subjects you would prefer they learn. Second, if you don’t outright drive them off, you could make it so they will have a precedent of what a person ‘who knows what they are talking about’ acts like; would you care for someone to treat you like that and represent your religion as you just did?

Third, if they do not leave Paganism and do/do not adopt your ‘views’ as you gave them to them in your demeaning/hurtful stances, they may yet go further into what might be the very practice you feel is incorrect. Worse, they may get into other forms of the same practice that are much more dangerous or forms that might reflect poorly on the Pagan community.

Scenario 2: The person is one who has been in the Craft a year or so with a little experience of Paganism under their belt and is starting to foment relationships with Goddesses, Gods, Spirits and the like. They tell you that (as an extreme example that I have seen cited elsewhere) the Celtic Triple Goddess, The Morrigan, has tapped them for a special partnership and it involves something like making war on anger with hugs and practicing Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

While this might make you laugh, think of how your dismissal of their spirituality and personal relationship with Deity affects them. Not only this, but who are we, as people to dictate to others how God/dess relates and shows itself to other people? While we do have precedents of how most of our Deities act, react and go through the cycles of the year (i.e. the general nature, demeanor, etc. of The Morrigan) , who are we to tell them that that particular Deity ‘just doesn’t do that’ or ‘never acts like that’. I would feel for so many peoples’ criticisms of absolutist faith and/or spirituality (this I feel can occur in any faith) in the Pagan community that such thoughts, while they may be true for our realm of experience, may not be true for theirs and so, should not be dismissed out of hand.

Approaching a person with such an attitude can have little effect on them, especially if their faith in their God/dess, path, etc. is strong. However, for those who have just began or are strengthening their relationship with their Deity, I find that this is a particularly vulnerable time for new Pagans or Pagans developing in their faith; one which needs care and gentleness to be heeded when people of the same faith speak with them or work to ‘correct’ (i.e. historical precedent of The Morrigan in this case vs. the person’s personal experience) their perceptions of the Deity in question. An approach that is too strong in terms of confrontation, or too harsh in terms of the ‘correction’ can produce long-lasting harmful effects.

First, among these effects could be a sense of not knowing what Deity is like for them. If they have approached Deity, I would believe most have had a certain list of things that is associated with the ‘presence of’ or interactions with of Deity. When people are then are told such things are wrong and given a differing list, one that feels alien or perhaps even exclusionary to their feelings on Deity Itself, they can be turned off to working with Deity entirely and either focusing solely on magick or other Pagan pursuits, or simply dropping Paganism altogether.

Second, I have seen people whom go through a bout of the possibility listed above, only to come out of it always questioning if they have really perceived the ‘presence’ of Deity, or second-guess conversations and interactions with Deity. This is not to say, ‘get rid of your critical thinking when Deity tells you to do something’ or something similar, it merely means that the entire belief in the Deity, or It’s ‘presence’, faith in It’s existence as the Pagan has experienced it, etc., suffers. Faith that is blossoming can suffer a little or a great deal, and I find this is dependant on the person, their convictions and perhaps how much support they have from their community. Though I have seen a Solitaire friend of mine endure the two examples I listed above, I do not find in my speaking with Pagans (like those I find/listen to in bookstores or in chatrooms or message boards) that this is usually the case. People need a support network, and it serves no good to take the Goddesses and Gods they work with in the way they work with them, out from under their feet via their budding faith.

Third, if they do weather the first two outcomes, it could be entirely possible that they emulate the behavior of snap decisions, judgment calls and judging others’ relationship with Deity by their own experiences or by history’s standards. To reverse the situation: would you want a person who has worked with The Morrigan for twenty years tell you that you are working with/worshipping/etc. Her all wrong, and that the She now and always has wanted Her priestesses/priests to make war on anger with Perfect Love and Perfect Trust?

Let’s say in this hypothetical that the history books and records of The Morrigan’s followers are in line with what this person claims, and that you feel completely different, that Morrigan is (as She is described to us in actual Celtic lore) is a War Goddess, but not just of War, but also Death and Fertility?

Scenario 3: The person is part of a group/coven/order/etc. that espouses what could be considered to be ‘fluffy bunny’ beliefs, doctrines, relationships with Deity, etc. They are devoted to these beliefs, and so on, and fervently believe them, but they make claims that are, for instance, historically inaccurate about The Morrigan and Her followers, priests and priestesses when the Celts as a culture still thrived. They follow these teachings with a deep attachment, despite whatever historical or practical errors there may be in them.

As I have asked before, who are we to dictate how people relate to Deity, or practice said Deity’s teachings in a modern context? Are we to begin the practice of ‘proper way to honor’ such-and-such a God/dess? Are we to eliminate Unverified Personal Gnosis (a sudden spiritual awakening that can be brought about by ritual, possession by God/dess or other methods, with results, such as messages from Deity, internal enlightenments, ah-ha moments, etc.) from our religion?

What if you were told something by your God/dess that It wished to change a practice, ritual or your relationship to It, immediately, contra to history’s record? Would you tell you God/dess no, that’s not how we’ve done things, so you aren’t this or that God/dess? If someone made the move to ‘correct’ you on your beliefs, your coven’s teachings, etc., how would you feel?

From the perspective of the person whose group vision you’d be trying to ‘correct’…

First: they could react to your news in either evaluating their religious, spiritual, magickal, etc. conclusions or otherwise absorb the information you present, or put up resistance of some magnitude. At its worst, this would probably escalate to a screaming contest, whether or not you participate. Putting in the way the Chris Rock as the character Rufus does from Dogma, (directed by Kevin Smith) : “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.“ It may not, however, be your responsibility to be a catalyst for this growth; it may need to come from within the group.

Second, whether or not they absorb your ideas is moot if they shut themselves off to the ideas of others, replacing their ideas and beliefs with just as much zeal as they previously had, maybe more. So, rather than enlighten, inform or otherwise aid your fellow would-be Pagan, you may just trigger them to shard off from the community at large even further. Teaching them an open mind, much more than the ‘correctness’ of their faith, I feel, is the way to go. You cannot absorb new information if your mind is closed only to what you are told or believe. How are we to expect our children or fellow Pagans to be open to others if we expect them to adhere to hard-and-fast rules about how they ‘are to be like’ or what is ‘officially Pagan.’

Third, they could take everything you try to instill in them the way that you desire, and either assimilate or otherwise consider the application of the knowledge, teachings, what-have-you that you wish to bestow upon them. They could also take everything you’ve said wrong way, become incredibly embarrassed and/or angry, or worse yet, hostile and retaliate.

This is how Witch Wars start, by absolutist thinking.

Absolutism, by its nature, allows no other viewpoints other than the one in control, and so long as two sides disagree and cannot peaceable communicate, there is conflict. This is part of my issue with the Pagan community in general; we bill ourselves so often in public life as being the compassionate, tolerant ones that don’t mind other peoples’ faiths, or beliefs and then we turn on our own people who ‘might make us look bad’. For what?

Why do we even persecute the ‘fluffy bunnies’ real or no? Is it for us to hold up a sign saying ‘We aren’t those flakes! Look at us, we’re Pagans and have as much right to be part of the mainstream! We don’t have weird, counter-culture beliefs or relationships with God/dess, Spirits or any of that crazy stuff!’?

Is it so somehow we feel we get a smidgen of superiority for pointing out that ‘this is only a subgroup’ to people who question us about the attitudes and beliefs we actually normally hold, which are then attributed to ‘fluffy bunnies because we don’t want to explain them, they are controversial or are contra to the mainstream religions?

Look at the Great Rite or Heiros Gamos, for instance; how many of us have explained to others, that though this started off, for instance in Wicca, as a fertility rite between a High Priestess and High Priest of a coven only symbolically? It was performed for real at one point, we’ve only recently stopped doing it, and it’s not some fringe thing.

Pagan rituals are abundantly about fertility, sex and the two colluding between the High Priestess and High Priest and the land for a bountiful harvest. Yet I have seen this practice of the physical copulation referred to by authors and people of the Pagan community as something ‘the fringe’ which, generally, will include fluffy bunnies does, and it The Great Rite is now largely symbolic

In short, it is time to stop using the ‘fluffy bunnies’, ‘goths’ ‘Renaissance Festival freaks’ and all the other straw man labels as scapegoats for the parts of our religion that we don’t want to talk about, that do not jive with the mainstream faiths, or to one-up each other. It is time to stop competing and it is more than time to start coming together and working as a whole for a better future.

If we do not open up our ears and our minds to other people, how can we expect others, i.e. Congress, to do the same for us when we want a bill passed? If we are waging war on people of our faith, regardless of how we express it, then you are doing no one any good, save those who wish for our faith to disappear.

I am not saying capitulate to those whose view you do not believe, but I firmly believe that clinging to dogma, or beliefs for the sake of doing so is not wisdom nor is it courage. It is stubbornness and self-destruction that drive us to doing this, and it is time we stopped arguing with each other, and started conversing.

As much as you may not like it, I feel it is high time we listened to these voices of our community, who may, if we listen, teach us more than our books and personal knowledge can.

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A Year and a Day – Origins and Applications

A Year and a Day – Origins and Applications

Author: del Luna la Madre’ Temple
I have seen the following in many, many posts. Competently trained Priests and Priestesses look at these words, and say to themselves – “Oh, You Truly Have No Idea”. The Phrase that I am referring to is:

“I have been studying for a Year and a Day and so I am now close to being ready for Initiation.” or “I am half way through my Year and a Day and so I now have questions about where do I find a group to Initiate into?”, There are other varying forms of this, and if you read through the many thousands of posts, you will surely come across that variety.

The Truth of the matter is that training in the Crafte does NOT take a Year and A Day. It sometimes takes much longer. Wikipedia lists the following information under a year and a day:

The year and a day rule was a principle of English law holding that a death was conclusively presumed not to be murder (or any other homicide) if it occurred more than a year and one day since the act (or omission) that was alleged to have been its cause. The rule also applied to the offence of assisting with a suicide.

• The period of a year and a day was a convenient period to represent a significant amount of time. Its use was generally as a jubilee or permanence.

• Historically (England) the period that a couple must be married for a spouse to have claim to a share of inheritable property.

• In mediaeval Europe, a runaway serf became free after a year and a day.

• When a judgment has been reversed a fresh action may be lodged within a year and a day, regardless of the statute of limitations. U.S.

• Note: a lunar year (13 lunar months of 28 days) plus a day is a solar year (365 days) . Also those 366 days would be a full year even if a leap day were included.

Magickally speaking- the Year and a Day rule is a hold over from the Masons. Their training period for an Apprentice was a year and a day of service and hard work. Gerald Gardner – the father of the modern day Crafte movement derived much of his early work on the Crafte from his Masonic roots, using the model of the Co-Masonic Lodge and its training as a basis for some of the early rules of the Crafte. It is known that in the early texts that Gardner wrote, that there were EXTREME similarities to Masonry, OTO and Golden Dawn.

As I stated before, A Year and A Day is quite misleading when it comes to serious study within the Crafte. It is a guide that is used by most of the Traditions to indicate that this is the MINIMUM amount of time that can be spent working toward a degree. In some cases, it is the minimum amount of time that one is allowed to spend working on one area of training within the Crafte itself.

So before you embark on telling the world that you have spent the last Year and a Day working on your studies of the Crafte, think, will those who I tell this to take me seriously. Can I really hold my own when questioned about what I have learned? Am I still unsure about the names and purposes of Deity within the Crafte? Do I understand that there is much more to learn and that I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg? Have I investigated books and other learning tools that are not just mainstream Crafte?

These are some serious questions that you need to ask yourself. Why? Because, if you do find others who are serious about their Crafte, be prepared to be asked some serious questions in conversation. Remember, they have studied long, and hard for the information they possess, their Oaths in many cases restrict them from passing on the intricacies of their Faith. Many of them feel that it is NOT their job to school the masses about the simplicities of the Crafte and its terminology.

If you want to be taken seriously, then learn the proper terminology, understand the terminology, and by all means – don’t act like a KNOW IT ALL. No One Knows It All. And a Good Teacher, High Priest or High Priestess will never be ashamed to tell you that they don’t know it all, but by their years of practice, not just studying or reading, have given them sufficient knowledge that they know that there is so much more out there to learn, that they will always be a student and practitioner.

So think before you infer that you have been studying for a year and a day, and that now you are properly prepared in the Crafte and therefore you should be granted all sorts of privileges, because of your studying for that year and a day. You now deserve to be taken as a serious authority on some level.

If you think this, say this, write this, be prepared for a good deal of laughter. But also be aware that there may also be some that are not laughing, and those are the ones that you need to be cautious of, for they are the ones that may see you as their next target of humiliation or degradation.

To ere on the side of humility in this case is a good thing…

Something to also consider is that even after you have studied long and hard, that is no guarantee that the information that you have studied is even correct and can withstand closer scrutiny, that, you are certain to receive if you spout off about ‘studying for a year and a day.’ You may have only read all the information published by one author or one publishing company. There is so much more to the Crafte that is not found in any book.

Nothing can replace pure and sincere experience and practice. So think about your Year and a Day, and ask: How far have I come and how far do I want to go? Have I experienced all that I can or do I need to experience more? Your answers might surprise you!

Wishing you Blessings Upon Your Path!

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The Sacred Symbology of Trees

The Sacred Symbology of Trees

Author: Eldyohr

It is difficult to imagine a more perfect symbol than the tree. This may seem a bit odd at first glance, especially in comparison with other such powerful symbols as the pentacle, the cross, Thor’s hammer, etc. On both a physical and spiritual level, however, the tree provides a symbol that speaks to any and all earth-based religions in a powerful and meaningful way. The best way to begin is by noticing the appearance of the tree in various world religions and mythologies.

Trees have been sacred for as long as we have had the written word and probably long before that. The sorcerer of Trois Ferrois was depicted next to a tree and is one of the oldest known glyphs of in mythico-religious iconography.

The Hebrew Goddess, Asherah, who was later known as Ishtar, Astarte, or Inanna, had as her sacred symbol the tree groves. The druids long held trees, especially the oak, ash, and yew, to be sacred and divine symbols and their bardic schools were located within the heart of the forests.

In the dying/resurrecting God myths, the tree plays a prominent role. Christ was sacrificed on a cross made from a tree, Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil to gain the secret of the runes, and Osiris’ maimed body was recovered by Isis from the root of a tree and later resurrected. The most ancient cross-cultural symbolic representation of the universe’s construction is the world tree.

For instance, the Norse considered Yggdrasil, a giant Ash, to be the central structure of their various worlds and, in essence, it contained all of the worlds within it. Other examples of trees featured in mythology are the Bodhi tree in Buddhism and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Judaism.

In folk religion and folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits. The tree plays a central role in world mythology and religious iconography, but why would its inclusion be of such importance to religions with such widely different belief systems?

The tree is powerful for human beings because it mirrors, symbolically, the way we should be living our own lives. First of all, the tree is rooted to the earth; it is grounded. Just as the Muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, grounds all of our spiritual energy, so the tree is grounded to the earth.

Grounding is as important as reach enlightenment. If we are always trying to spiritual and focused on the heavens, we will not be able to care for our physical needs. As pagans, we celebrate our physical life so grounding is especially important and almost sacred to us.

The tree is rooted in the earth, but it grows upward and its branches constantly stretch out and reach towards the heavens (for sunlight) . Just as it is important for us to be grounded, it is equally important to strive towards something greater than our physical selves, or at least to have recognition of it.

Pagans meditate, pray, celebrate the sabbats and commune with their Gods. All of these actions move away from the strictly physical and open us up to the spiritual. Thus the tree is grounded in the earth, but reaches towards heaven. Like the trees, we should be rooted in reality, but striving towards the spiritual until we unite the two in the dance of life, symbolically represented by Shiva’s dancing form.

The tree, like the pentacle, also represents the elements of the world in which we live. The pentacle has four points representing earth, air, fire, and water while the fifth point represents the spirit that binds them all. The tree also symbolizes these qualities. The roots of the tree draw up the water from the deep earth for nourishment. The tree is rooted in the earth and the soil provides nutrients for its continued development and growth.

The tree takes the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and uses it to assist with its energy requirements. It is interesting to note that the tree exhales, as it were, oxygen. Thus we live with the trees in a symbiotic relationship proving the tree with the carbon dioxide it needs, while they provide us with the oxygen we need. Finally, the tree uses the sunlight for photosynthesis to create its own food via internal chemical reactions (fire) . As discusses earlier, the model of the tree being grounded, but reaching for the heavens is a symbol of spirit. Thus, the tree shares the major symbologies of the pentacle.

The tree is also symbolic of the cycle of death and rebirth. Some trees follow the natural cycles of the seasons. They blossom in spring and thrive in the summer. The light of the God brings them renewal and life. The leaves begin to change and the trees symbolically begin to die in the fall and meet their death in the winter when the light of the God resides in the womb of the mother. This cycle repeats itself every year and we can see in the trees the truth of our being. On the other hand, some trees are deciduous and thrive the entire year and this, too, is symbolic. Our true selves, the essence or soul, never dies, but lives on after death in a different form. So while certain trees provide a reminder of physical death and rebirth, other trees serve as a reminder of the eternity of our spirit. In many of the world mythologies, the tree is central to the dying/resurrecting myth of the Gods, such as Odin, Osiris, and Christ.

In summary, the tree provides a near perfect symbol for the pagan. It is a reminder to be both earthly and spiritual, it is reflective of the elements that created and sustain life, and it is a symbol of death and rebirth. While the pentacle and other such symbols may be as equally powerful in their own way, the tree is something we see every day and they as diverse as the people who see them. We have fat, skinny, tall, short, green, and variegated trees reflecting the diversity inherent in our world.

The next time you see a tree, stop and spend a moment with it. Look at its roots and its mighty branches. Sit beneath its canopy and listen to its story for it is a story of magick and hope.

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Beyond the Smudge Stick

Beyond the Smudge Stick

Author: Amy

Do you find the smoke of smudge sticks to be, well, wimpy? Is what you need a truly cleansing smudge? Then try some Hibachi Herbal Magic. Tossing loose herbs on hot charcoal is style of smudge favored by the Mesoamerican indigenous for a few thousand years, like this recent experience of mine in the Mayan Yucatan:

A red glow danced across Paloma’s dark skin as she leaned toward the modest bonfire, using a small stone rake to draw steaming embers to the edge. She deftly a large terra cotta chalice with one hand to scoop up hot charcoal and tossed on copal granules from a bowl with the other, quickly rising up and walking toward me in a cloud of thick white smoke. With a few swift motions up my body, she enveloped me in swirling copal fumes.

To become immersed in smoke is a baptism, a complete submission to another world. The animated smoke feels alive with strong aromas that can transport the mind and liberate the spirit. If you have herbs, a fire container and charcoal, you can do this, too.

More Than Sage

In making a smudge stick you’re limited to herbs still on their stems. But with loose herbs on hot charcoal, the possibilities are boundless, with not only leafy herbs but resins such frankincense, sandalwood and other woods, plus seeds, flowers, berries and a plethora of essential oils.

Ooomph up a sage smudge with super purifiers like blue vervain. Add in protective herbs so that the vigorous cleansing doesn’t leave you vulnerable. Tailor the smudge for your event, using a rich, sweet myrrh and mugwort-based blend for the emotional openness of Moon ceremonies. Salute the Sun with a mix emphasizing rosemary and bay laurel for a sharp aroma that will quicken the mind.

A smudge can be fashioned for any sabbat, with Beltane and Summer Solstice bonfires having strong herbal traditions. A male-honoring smudge might be musky with highly spiced overtones. One for women could reflect their complexity, with sweet and warm aromas brightened with elements of green herbs and grounded with earthiness.

Here’s an example of a woman-honoring smudge:

Feminine Focus

Aroma: resinous – sweetly musky with spicy overtones
Ceremonial Use: purifications; Venus, Moon and women’s ceremonies
Significant Days: New and Full Moons; goddess and divine feminine days

Preparation Notes: Crush the cardamon pods, myrrh, sandalwood and valerian root, if necessary, and grind into a rough powder. Add thyme and blue vervain and blend.

cardamon (or cardamom) pods1/2 cup 1 part
myrrh resin 1 cup 2 parts
sandalwood 1/2 cup 1 part
thyme 1/4 cup 1/2 part
valerian root 1/2 cup 1 part
vervain, blue 1/2 cup 1 part

The warm aroma and purifying qualities of the lunar myrrh and sandalwood are paired with purification punch of blue vervain and thyme. Valerian provides relaxed grounding, while cardamon adds spice and pays tribute to Venus, the goddess of love. (See note about balancing with solar blends in Lunar Purification, below.)

More Than Smudge

You can push smudges a step further with adult-only blends that I call immersents. The smudges are done naked or lightly clothed. Active ingredients in the smoke are absorbed through bare skin and inhaled into the lungs. They should only be done with lung-buffering herbs like coltsfoot and great mullein to counter the stress of inhaling smoke.

Immersents are ideal for situations when you want to create a mind-altering effect in participants in a mild and gradual way so the gathering doesn’t go all wacko. Hibachi Herbal Magic is not for parties, but can be used to take your mind to new places.

Psychotropic herbs can be used to foster passion and induce trances, deepen divination and cause prophetic dreams. Some facilitate deep meditation. None should be used if driving within three hours of partaking.

Even if mind altering is not what you seek, you can guide your gatherings with non-ceremonial inhalants for sharpening the mind when folks have gotten too loose or chilling out when overly revved up.

It’s Better Together

One of the cool things about Hibachi Herbal Magic is the way it puts the herbs and their power at center stage. When being blessed with a smudge stick, I’m always aware of the person who’s doing the smudging. But with loose herbs on a hibachi of hot charcoal, it’s just the smoke and the smudgee.

Everyone’s been through the interminable wait while the circle is smudged with a stick. But with Hibachi Herbal Magic, to smudge a group of people they just have them stand downwind, or use large hand fans to direct the smoke. Using the Mesoamerican chalice technique you can still smudge people individually, while doing it quicker and with a more potent smoke.

Hibachi Herbal Magic can also sub for a Beltane or Summer Solstice bonfire in places where open fires are not allowed. A leap through the smoke of special seasonal herbs can be a perfect conclusion to a ceremony. It’s very tactile and memorable!

But the technique also excels for individuals and small groups. It’s an awesome experience to do Hibachi Herbal Magic alone; it’s like a dance with the smoke. Either way, you can even straddle the hibachi and smudge the goods!

Fire Up!

The whole igniting-charcoal-in-the-hibachi thing can be intimidating for the barbeque-impaired. It all depends on the charcoal you use. Self-lighting charcoal briquettes are a breeze; one flick of a Bic will get them started.

Natural charcoal or regular briquettes are by far the more environmental option. Both use waste from lumber processing, with pre-charred wood scraps making natural charcoal and sawdust mixed with binder for briquettes. Or look for treeless briquettes made from coconut shells, which have a great aroma.

Use ethanol a plant-derived lighter gel, which is essentially liquefied Sterno, for the complete green approach. Using a charcoal chimney can will help the lighting process immensely.

Charcoal fires can a bit of an art, and a messy one at that, but worth it. The poised glowing fire of the hot embers provides a powerful focus point for any gathering. The clouds of smoke redolent with complex aromas can focus and entrance a crowd, quickly transporting them out of the ordinary in a very whole-bodied way.

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Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?

Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?

Author: Autumn Heartsong

Like many of you, I didn’t have the experience of being raised Pagan. My baby feet never toddled on a Pagan path and I was well into my middle adult years before I stepped out on that road. I’ve not looked back, save for an occasional glance over my shoulder to compare the road I’m on to those I traveled before. As you might expect, there are vast differences between them, but it is a similarity that has been top of mind lately, one that touches what is, to me, the very heart of a Witch’s walk.

I was raised in a Christian faith that put a great deal of value on reasoning, study, and careful thought. Services were quiet, orderly, and structured. Even the music was quiet. There were no choirs, no soloists. Most of the time it seemed as though everyone in the congregation was trying to under-sing everyone else, as if actually being heard would somehow lessen the holiness of the moment. I always felt, no matter how much knowledge we acquired, our worship was cold and empty. There was no joy, no bliss, no celebration. It was all head and no heart.

As a young adult, I ventured away from that branch of Christianity into more charismatic churches. Ah, I thought, here were people who knew what bliss was! They really understood and felt their faith! They sang lustily, prayed loudly, even danced in the aisles. Yes! I loved it! But when I began to ask questions about the basis for their faith, I found very few answers.

“It’s all a mystery, ” they said. “We’re not meant to understand.”

Not meant to understand? You mean my eternal salvation or damnation depends on some mystery I’m not meant to grasp, on a book I’m not really meant to study, and on questions I can’t know the answers to? That didn’t sit well with me, either. Empty ecstatic celebration might as well have been a rave as a religious experience. It was all heart, no head.

I became a spiritual wanderer, looking in every book, under every rock, and up every tree for answers, listening for the ring of truth. When I found it, more in the rocks and trees than in the books, the ring of truth sang out from inside me where it had been all along. And in that beautiful realization I found the balance I had sought, a path that used both my heart and my head. The more I learned, the more I had to celebrate, and the more I had to celebrate. I was so filled with wonder and joy and happiness at finally finding my place in the Universe, my role in the great scheme, how could it not overflow into my every thought and word?

Imagine, then, my confusion when I look around and see so little expression of that ecstatic experience in my pagan community. There is a hole in the happiness landscape of our everyday life. Where have all the happy Witches gone? Where is the joy?

How is it that people who are deeply connected to the rhythm and flow of nature, who commune with Deity without shame, guilt, or intercessor are not beacons of happy light in the world? Why aren’t more people spontaneously dancing in the moonlight and singing with the stars? Why aren’t we so caught up in the rapture of our connection to the Universe that we find ourselves unable to keep words like “happiness, ” “bliss, ” “joy, ” and “Yes!” out of our everyday vocabulary?

Yes, I’m aware those last few lines were a bit over the top, and I know how difficult it is to be ecstatic when your back hurts, your car payment is late, and your 401K balance is plummeting. I am aware of the state of the world we live in and know intimately the press of the “real world” from all sides. And I’m respectful of the seriousness of my path, the personal responsibility and accountability I take on when I choose to work with the fundamental energetic building blocks of the Universe. I know those things, and I’m still filled with joy and wonder, still dancing in the moonlight at every opportunity.

I have heard the naysayers among my Pagan brothers and sisters, the ones who cast knowing glances at each other and mutter “newbie” (though I’m hardly a neophyte) or, my personal favorite, “fluffy bunny.” They equate my ecstatic expression of my faith with naiveté, my joy with the zeal of the newly converted or a lack of respect for the serious nature of my path. On the other hand, there are those who welcome my celebratory enthusiasm but turn away when the conversation moves toward deeper topics. They’re content with mysteries they aren’t meant to understand.

It seems that some in the Pagan community are squaring off into two camps, head versus heart, much like the churches of my youth. I’m not willing to join either camp. My “church” is in the dance of both perspectives, where head meets heart and knowledge spawns celebration.

My enthusiastic embrace of a more charismatic Pagan path is neither naïve nor fluffy. It is a conscious choice – the choice to allow reason and emotion to overlap, to be aware of the less-than-perfect nature of the world without letting it become my focus, to grow in knowledge and experience without allowing myself to become jaded, cynical, or too sophisticated to feel wonder. From where I stand, every new bit of knowledge I gain only increases my sense of wonder and awe. I choose to embrace both head and heart in my walk – to know and to feel, to think and to dance, to see the shadow and still walk in the light.

As a Witch, I believe embracing a life of awe with will and intent is my birthright and my responsibility. It is a conscious act of creation wherein I take the gifts and insights offered to me and transform them into a life that is both grounded and ecstatic. I would wish for each of you a life filled with wonder and joyful expression. May your learning open doors in both mind and heart.

Whether you choose to physically dance in the moonlight or dance privately in your heart – dance, Witch…dance!

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Today’s Runes for July 18th is Hagalaz

Today’s Runes

Jade Runes are most commonly used for questions about love, friendship, and relationships. Hagalaz is the rune of hail. Hail is a destructive and elemental force, so one can expect this rune to represent the disruption of one’s life. In the harsh northern winter there is a halt to activity, and so delay or hindrance is frequently associated with this rune. The opposite of chaos is yet more chaos, as illustrated by the fact that this rune cannot be reversed.
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Feng Shui Tip of the Day for July 18th

If you feel burned out, tone down your Fire energy. Devote time to solitary pursuits like reading, meditating, and nature walks.

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