Daily Archives: December 15, 2011

Totem Hummingbird Spirit Guide, Power Animal or Animal Familiar

Totem Hummingbird Spirit Guide, Power Animal or Animal Familiar

 

 Joanne E. Brannan

A hummingbird totem or spirit guide is nimble ally in Shamanic work, and with delicacy and lightness of touch comes great power!

Learn how to understand and work with a hummingbird power animal. Shamanic practitioners fortunate enough to enjoy a hummingbird spirit guide have a good natured and hardworking companion who will help them to achieve goals with agility and speed. Always regarded as a magical animal, the hummingbird makes a wonderful power animal with a wide range of powers. Do not be fooled by the light build and gentle nature of the hummingbird, he is a truly transformational creature! He brings bright colors and incredible skill to every aspect of his, and your, life.

Universal Hummingbird Shaman Symbolism

The hummingbird power animal has many positive characteristics:

  • The hummingbird is a remarkably long-lived and wise creature, his life force is strong and as straight as a laser.
  • The hummingbird is incredibly hardworking and energetic, he can lend you strength and steadfastness in your shamanic journeying.
  • Hummingbirds can often be revived from seemingly hopeless stupors with a little food, warmth and love. The hummingbird animal familiar signifies remarkable powers of renewal and resurrection.
  • A hummingbird power animal offers joyfulness with his persistent good natured love and support.

When Hummingbird Shamans should call on their Spirit Guide

A hummingbird power animal is of particular service to you, his Shamanic companion, when:

  • You find yourself to be tired or disheartened, your hummingbird spirit guide will be sure to comfort and encourage you.
  • A difficult situation calls for careful negotiations and skillful maneuvers, the hummingbird power animal will instantaneously find the best approach and the most tactful words.
  • You feel short of inspiration and creativity. The hummingbird totem animal brings an abundance of ideas and a fertile imagination.
  • You need a little sweetness in your life! Your hummingbird spirit guide can help you tune into the love and tenderness that are always present in any situation, even seemingly dark and desperate ones.

Hummingbird Animal Familiar Unlocks Deep Mysteries and Powers

With the company of your hummingbird power animal you will be both quick to react and remarkably powerful, though always gentle. Relax and ride with the uplifting energy of the good natured and hardworking hummingbird. Seek out the good things in life with the intense precision of the hummingbird, treat passing events with the lightness of touch of his wingbeats and persist with people and situations that are important to you with his persistence and strength!

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The Language of the Stars

The Language of the Stars

Author: Radko Vacek

Having listened to the language of the stars closely, I do think it is spiritual, and in accord with the properties of – our own minds! To realize that their language, in all its heavenly grandeur, shares our own mental properties helps us feel better about ourselves. To think that we, in spite of all our flaws, are in the image of the heavenly and the Divine gives us the confidence and the hope to resume reaching for the unreachable star!

I do think that astrologers have been right all along! The language of the heavenly bodies does seem to reflect the events of our daily lives, which highlight that spiritual, divine aspect of life so easily overlooked. This makes the language of the stars, astrology, spiritual! I agree with you: astrology communicates mostly nonsense, but that is if we equate astrology with sun sign and newspaper horoscopes. But if we learn the language as it is meant to be understood, it becomes truly spiritual. How great this is, because as a spiritual language, it is very relevant to us as human beings concerned about our welfare.

To speak of spirituality to one another can have a great impact on our well-being, even turn our whole lives around. In the Introduction to his 2007 book, Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy, Dr. Kenneth Pargament began by describing his work doing psychotherapy with a client named Alice. She struggled for decades with manic depression. He described Alice’s turning point towards recovery, when she was describing how, when she was first hospitalized, she felt terrified while lying on her bed. She went on to share how then she felt something warm in the center of her chest, how the feeling spread through the rest of her body. She said that through this feeling, she knew God was with her, telling her He always would be with her.

Why was she depressed? Maybe she hated herself. Do you sometimes hate yourself too? Each of us can feel better about ourselves and be empowered, by experiencing Divinity in our lives and sharing that experience with each other, as people receptive to spirituality being a very important aspect of life. Knowing that the relationships of the very heavenly bodies, in all their awesome grandeur, are reflected in the events of our lives, which seem so short and trivial in comparison, why would we not be open to spirituality? Knowing that, no longer does it seem hard to believe that a power so great, underlying the whole of this vast universe, could be felt by us on our lowly level as this personal Deity. In this sense, spirituality becomes a value to embrace as a very important aspect of our daily lives. So, the language of the stars is spiritual in the sense of giving us this vital message about our spiritual nature.

I do think that the language of the stars also is a human language, in accord with the properties and the powers of our minds. You might not want to embrace this idea, preferring to think of theirs as like a tongue of angels, or whatever celestial beings you believe in. Take consolation in this: things could be worse. The stellar language could be computer like!

What exactly are the properties shared by our languages and, more generally, the properties of our minds? Considering that we are around people much of the time, and cannot help but live with ourselves all the time, you would think these are easy questions. Actually, they have been the topics of much debate for thousands of years! On the one hand were those who thought of human language as being atomistic, in the sense of being reducible to the words from which sentences are composed. On the other hand were those who thought of it as being holistic, in the sense of being functional and implying sentences from the very beginning. That is, if a toddler says, “wawa”, the whole sentence, ‘I want a drink of water’, is implied, according to this school of thought. In fact, rarely does a toddler, according to them, say a word just for the sense of mastery in saying it; rather, they thought that language usually is inherently functional.

Whatever theory a person had about the nature of human language usually went hand in hand with a theory of the nature of the human mind in general. Those who had an atomistic model of language tended to think of the mind as more like a blank slate. They argued that the environment is more influential, with people acquiring language and other complex behaviors in bits, put together through learning in step-by-step approximations. Those who had a holistic model of language tended to think of the person as being born with a mind already prepared to organize bits into some type of whole, and therefore from the very beginning responding to roughly holistic perceptions in roughly holistic ways.

The verdict finally is in and, based on the evidence, the vote of the scientific community favors the holistic model of human language and its acquisition, as well as a holistic model of how the human mind, from birth, tends to perceive the environment and respond. Linguistic ability definitely appears to be stored in the human brain as a set of unconscious patterns of mental grammar, which is inborn. Of course, nothing is the result of nature alone. The environment always affects the unfolding of the natural potentials of any organism. In the case of children, they learn the specifics of their particular language through interactions with other people, but always, that learning occurs in the contexts of a genetically encoded “Universal Grammar” which provides the framework for all human languages. In fact, many other human abilities appear to be made possible through such inborn, mental organization. (See Ray Jackendoff, 1994, Patterns in the Mind.) It does appear, from the evidence that the mechanisms of human language serve as an effective model for understanding the way we are.

This has crucial implications for astrology as a helping profession and a body of knowledge. This is great news for those who worry about science disproving astrology. Astrology is most fundamentally a theory for understanding the way we are. It is not quite a science yet, for the lack of scientifically rigorous research confirming so many of its beliefs, but still, I do think it is a metaphysics, based on the pondering, from personal experiences, of many intelligent people over thousands of years. Definitely, it is more about understanding the way we are, than about what we are in the process of becoming. Like psycholinguists, astrologers recognize how the environment always affects the unfolding of the natural potentials of people, but always, like psycholinguists, astrologers emphasize the eternal influence, in the background, of a framework for empowering learning, with which people are born. Psycholinguists speak of “Universal Grammar”; astrologers speak of the natal chart with equal enthusiasm. Both, addressing natal factors, propose ways of understanding the way we are.

Given that astrologers and psycholinguists have all this in common, it behooves astrologers to teach and to practice their art more in accord with psycholinguistic findings. They teach the art in an atomistic way, in introducing the planets first, like words, then putting them in the contexts of signs and houses, but still in a way isolated from the rest of the planets and the natal configuration as a whole. Finally, the aspects between these planets, like sentences, are introduced. It is believed that this approach makes learning astrology easier, but does it? There is much evidence in the brain sciences, that people naturally perceive and interpret new stimuli in holistic ways, which perhaps also applies to the natal chart.

Astrologers want to get away from a fortunetelling model, in which events are fated by the stars, in favor of a counseling model of helping clients make informed decisions. This is understandable, in that the latter seems to be a more promising way of helping people. In doing so, however, many astrologers perhaps lose sight of the foundations of their art, definitely most fundamentally a means to understand the way we are, and secondarily, although importantly, to understand what we are in the process of becoming. No interpretation of transits or progressions can be made without the contexts set by the natal chart, as a reflection of the way the person is. Surely progressions and transits can reflect the changes a person undergoes, but the nature and the extent of change is always in astrology put in terms of the constraints set by the way the person naturally is, as reflected by the natal chart.

For instance, a person may be born when Mars is in Libra. Mars traditionally is said to represent the vital drive, which can manifest in either a good or a bad way. The good way is through assertiveness, and the bad through aggression. Libra traditionally is said to represent the quest of the person to unite with one’s other half, in marriage or some intense relationship. Some astrologers suggest that, if the person chooses not to gratify this Martian desire, the Martian aspect of the person becomes bad in discharging its drive through aggression. As much as the exercise of your freedom of choice is to be encouraged, I think that this interpretation of Mars is inconsistent with astrology as a nativist theory and unrealistic in its optimism about the extent of human free will. A sounder interpretation of Mars is to interpret it in contexts of the distance it is from other heavenly bodies and aspects it makes to them in the natal chart. Depending on these factors, Mars may tend to be either a predominantly aggressive or an assertive influence throughout the person’s life.

It sounds tragic; it surely can be a very dark cloud. Yet, I think it does have a silver lining, two in fact! One, Mars may reflect a force with which you must grapple for the rest of your life, but there is as well a chance of other, friendly forces accompanying you throughout your life. Two, grappling is not necessarily such a hostile activity! When I was a child, I did judo, of which grappling, much like wrestling, was a part. It was a mock adversity, because really it was friendly; we were strengthening each other through the struggle. Judo is respected by most people, but boxing? I have heard some call it barbaric. This is, however, a matter of the attitude you choose to take, as is the status of Mars in what is considered to reflect a predominantly aggressive force in your life. If you develop into a skilled boxer, then, in spite of the suffering you and others may face, you have allowed that something, which is a part of your nature no less than everything else, to manifest. Without doing so, you would not have been all that can be. In a similar way, regardless of what others say, letting that predominantly aggressive, Martian force have expression could let you be all that you can be. The choice still is yours, whether or not you want to pay the price of the suffering you and others may face.

The message of astrology is that, although we are constrained by our natal charts from becoming whatever we would like, nevertheless we can choose whether or not the way we are is an actualization of all that we can be. We do have some freedom after all! If you choose that path, then you might find your starlink.

Oh no! Is it real? It is the morning after!
What happened to all the causes for the laughter?
The Hell is in the living
With the unbelievable things which I have done!
The humanness is in the grieving
For all that I have lost, the beautiful now gone!
The enchantment is in the believing
In the resurrection, the reincarnation,
The cause that makes life go on.
The hope is in the reaching
For the unreachable star.

 

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Get in Tune With the Moon

Get in Tune With the Moon

Author: Jess

The modern age has led us to believe that we are better than nature. We have calendars that help us count the days and clocks to tell time for us. There is just one problem with that: it’s incorrect. How is it that our months have different numbers of days? Or that we have to adjust our calendar every four years to make up for our current systems inadequacies?

These are simple issues that all lead back to our ancestors and how their primeval ways were sometimes more advanced than our own. Humans of the past followed the moon’s cycle, a simple and natural way to connect with our planet and its time.

Following the moon’s cycle can help people to better understand their own internal clocks, especially women. There is a reason that the female body has a twenty-eight day cycle, and that females have such a passionate range of emotions.

The moon has much more power over us than a lot of people seem to believe. But we Pagans have a leg up on most people in that department. We acknowledge the moon and its stages along with the Goddess. So how much do we really connect with our beliefs in that regard? The moon helps women’s bodies change, sways our emotions, and even allows us to experience more enlightenment when the time is right.

No one can argue against the moon’s connection with women’s bodies. We wax and wane along with this bright beacon in the night’s sky. At our fullest we are fertile and I have met many a man who finds women more attractive during this time. It’s only natural.

Unfortunately, nowadays many women take oral contraceptives. And with good reason, of course. The world is overpopulated, and having a child is a big responsibility. But by masking our natural connection with the moon, women hinder the bonds with the Mother Goddess. That makes it harder to feel at peace with oneself.

My husband and I learned this when I stopped taking birth control pills to conceive our first child. Since then I have been much more in tune with my body, nature, and the Gods. After my daughter was born, I did the natural thing and breastfed her. While doing so I did not have my cycle. Its nature’s way of allowing your current baby the nourishment and care it needs.
Now that my daughter is a toddler and weaned, I do not wish to get back on any form of hormonal birth control. Since I have been off of the pill I have had less mood swings, and am much more in tune with my body. And there are so many other options of non-hormonal birth control.

Our hormones drive us to do what is natural, especially women. So when healthy women are taking unnatural doses of these chemicals to keep from getting pregnant, they alter their natural behaviors. This is not to say that I am against birth control in any way, but I have found that there are so many options out there that hormonal options are not always best.

Now that I am no longer on the pill I feel more connected to my body, and have found that following the moon’s cycle prepares me for what is coming next. I am more aware of when my mood may be more sensitive than others. And my husband is thankful that he can follow the moon in order to better understand how I may be feeling.

Next, there is no doubt that people have more energy when the moon is waxing, and that surge of energy is often able to contribute to success as opposed to the new moon stage, when a lot of people often feel drained or downtrodden.

I call this nature’s way of forcing us to slow down and take it easy. But many people fight these feelings in our fast paced society, creating adverse effects like depression or anger issues. A lot of us experience pressure to do better in the workplace or at school. But you cannot do more when you are feeling like less of a person.

Then there is the last and most intriguing of the moon’s direct effect on people. When we adhere to the moon’s cycle, it is possible to reach higher heights. Certain meditations are best done at specific days and times that coincide with the moon’s stage that best suits the practice.
This is where the gods come in. Being that the moon represents the Goddess and the sun represents the God, these spiritual high times are when the presence of the gods can be felt at a stronger and more intimate level. Nature is our direct link to the gods.

And nature’s clock is the sun and the moon; there is no sleep button, no loud buzzing alarm to set. Taking the time to listen to the moon and perform rituals and spells accordingly will help your practices be more effective. This is also more helpful in finding enlightenment or even simple piece of mind.

The full moon has always been the greatest time to have an out of body experience for myself. And when mastered, a knowledgeable spirit can glance into the Summerlands. There is so much more to life than what the technological world offers. Sure technology is great if used as just another tool, but the natural world is much more substantial.

Connecting with nature and understanding the moon helps people to live better lives. It allows us to be more conscious of the world around us and inside of us, just as following the sun helps people to draw on the elements. And by following the different stages of the moon, humans can better understand each other.

Men can better understand why women may be a bit more emotional during certain times and to be more understanding when emotions run a bit hot. Whereas women can be more in tune with their bodies, their emotions, and we can all experience more enlightenment. Following the moon’s cycle helps people to have a better grasp on the world around them. You don’t need a computer to tell you that.

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Five Elements of Magick

Five Elements of Magick

Author: Taliesin McKnight

In several forms of magick such as Wicca and ceremonial magick, there are five Elemental powers that are invoked, directed, and utilized. These are the Elements of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit. The Fifth Element of Spirit (and this is very important) is not really an Element unto itself, but this will be dealt with shortly. These Elemental powers are called upon in ritual to stand guard over sacred space and to protect the practicing magician or witch from hostile entities and energies. It is for this reason that they are often referred to as the “Guardians.”

The very fact that many systems of magick utilize the powers of the Elements reveals that magick has its basis and foundation in the world of nature: the wind, the sun and moon, the oceans, the passage of the seasons, and mighty storms is truly the treasure house of magick. To be a student of witchcraft is to be a student of nature, regardless of what form of magick one chooses to delve into.

The Element of Earth represents the material world. It governs such things as finances, prosperity, good luck, success in business, fertility, harvests, and other such things. Earth also represents the state of solidity in alchemical lore. Earth is the starting place where we begin our journey. To deny the body and the material world in which we live is to live in denial and poverty. Earth is what grounds us and brings us back to the world of the senses. The Element of Earth stands guard and protects the northern section of the magick circle, in which magick is performed. It its the guardian of the north.

Air represents the world of mind. It is thought and logic. Air, therefore, encompasses such things as knowledge, education, learning, communication, popularity, and philosophy. The witch will invoke the forces of wind and Air in order to gain hidden knowledge. Thus, Air also rules over divination. The mind can, indeed, be likened to the sky. Thoughts pass through the mind as clouds. Sometimes our thoughts are sunny and enlightened. Other times the mind is filled with darkness and dreary thoughts.

It is thought which vitalizes and manifests reality. Without the force of reason our civilization would be as nothing. Think of the Element of Air to represent the Great Mind of Nature, whilst the powers also represent the faculty of thought within the microcosm: Man. The witch calls down the forces of wind to gain knowledge of the unknown and to advance in education. It also protects and stands guard over the eastern quarter of the magick circle. In alchemical language Air represents gas.

Water is the realm of emotion. Love, compassion, depression, empathy, and other such emotions are within its domain. Water is also connected to the moon. Emotions are like the tides of the ocean: ebbing and flowing, and always in a state of motion and change. Sometimes the seas of emotion are stormy, while at others it is calm and placid. Water also rules over intuition, artistic inspiration, dreams, romantic love, and psychic ability. It is the realm of the subconscious mind. The forces of Water govern and protect the western part of the magick circle. It represents fluidity in the art of chemistry.

Fire is also emotion, but represents more fiery emotions such as anger, lust, ambition, and zeal. It can be said that it represents passion more than emotion. Fire is also the destructive Element. It burns away the old and destroys. It is also the Great Transmuter, causing matter to transform from one state into another. In this way, it is the philosophers’ stone of alchemy. Fire also represents the spiritual element in Man. Without light (brought by Fire) , we cannot see. But bring forth the fiery light and we see reality as it truly is.

Thus, Fire represents spirituality, enlightenment, passion, and destruction. It is called upon by the witch to destroy enemies (however unethical this may be) and to bring protection. Fire is the guardian of the southern section of the circle wherein magick is done.

The Element of Spirit is not really an Element unto itself. It is more like the primordial essence from which the other four Elements (Earth, Air, Water, and Fire) draws its being. The Element of Spirit encompasses and transcends the other Elements. It is symbolized by the center of the circle. Spirit is called by many names by various traditions and magicians. Some call it the Divine Element, whilst others prefer the more Hindu sounding name of “Akasha.” It can truly be said that the other four Elements are merely manifestations of spirit, or that the other Elements act as intermediaries in which Man may ponder and contemplate the fathomless essence of which Spirit is. It is truly beyond mortal comprehension.

Do these Elements really reside within physical fire, water, air, and earth? This is highly debated within the occult community. Some will say yes, and that these are merely the astral or spiritual counterparts of the physical elements themselves. Others, however, will claim, just as strongly, that the physical elements are only symbols in the mind of Man. However, even if they are just “symbols”, the powers are still linked to the physical symbols themselves. Thus, whatever the case may be, the Elements are linked to their physical counterparts.

Now that this is understood, one may grow to grasp the deeper mysteries of magick. One should always keep in mind, however, that the true mysteries or “secrets” have never been written down. They are the secret and unutterable doctrine of occult science. Speaking them to the profane has been forbidden since the beginning of time. Even if one wished to communicate them, they are unable to be expressed into words, as they transcend human language.

These four Elements will guard and protect you in ritual. They will bend and bring to you your every desire. The Elements will take care of you if you let them. Allow their powers to manifest in your life.

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Doing The Work: Building a Spiritual Practice

Doing The Work: Building a Spiritual Practice

Author: Faye Dewell

What defines a Pagan? Is it just the belief in the old Gods and Goddesses? Is it doing Ritual work? Do you even have to believe in Magic to be a Pagan? At this point in time, it often seems like anything goes. And while I agree with the general premise that we should be careful about how we limit who and what we define as Pagan, because it can have detrimental effects on our community, I also believe that we need to have a clear look at what we define as being a practicing Pagan versus holding Pagan beliefs. Because I think there is a difference.

While there is no such thing as being “Pagan enough” there is something to be said in terms of qualifying our practice in regards to Sunday or Holiday Paganism (to borrow a Christian term) or Armchair Paganism (to take from Pop Culture) . There’s nothing wrong with being an Armchair Pagan if that’s what you want from this path. And if you only want to sign up for public rituals, so be it. I’m not here to judge those choices.

However, the fact of the matter is, whether you’re a 101 or 1001 Pagan, if you’re still stuck in your armchair, you’re not going to get as much from your craft as you could be. And that’s a choice you have to make for yourself: What do you want from your spirituality? Is Paganism even about spirituality for you? Or is Paganism a set of beliefs that help you understand the world, but nothing more?

We bandy about terms like Priest and Priestess, identifying Pagan practitioners (often, not always) as being Priesthood holders. But what does it mean to be the person responsible for your own faith, your own spiritual path?

Well, in a very literal sense, I suppose it could mean whatever you want it to mean. It could simply mean holding a certain set of beliefs. For example, it could mean believing in Lugh, Brighid and Tuatha de Danann without actually doing any more than praying to the Deities within that pantheon. Is that Pagan enough? For some it might be and I’m not in a position to judge that as being wrong. If it works for you and defines the space spirituality takes in your life, all the more power to you. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what you are looking for from your Paganism.

However, I would argue that there is a great difference between holding Pagan beliefs and carving out a Pagan lifestyle. Wherever we are on our path, and however we define the nature of our path, I think it’s important that we make the effort to understand what our pathwork entails and then hold ourselves up to that level of commitment. And even within the ways we carve out our Paganism, there may be vast differences that can lead to arguments between members of the community in terms of what is “right” and “wrong.” I’m not here to look at that. I’m here to think about what it means to you (and me) to do the work if the work itself is something that interests you. For me, that means making an effort to actually claim my path, do the work, develop a practice, and make it mine, which is very different than Sunday (or Ritual) Paganism.

After all, how in Hades are we ever going to be any good at things like magic if we don’t take the time to hone our skills? Or have a relationship with the Divine if we don’t take the time to get to know them? How will we know ourselves enough to live a life of spiritual intention if we don’t spend time getting to know ourselves and contemplating what our spiritual intentions are?

Seriously.

I’m not asking the question to be rude or confrontational. Because honestly, these are questions that I ask myself on a regular basis, every time I fall off the wagon and let every day mundane (muggle) life draw me away from my practice. And it’s harsh but honest, and it keeps me in check. These questions keep me doing the stuff and developing the path that I am committed to following.

Every week I create new prompts for a 52 weeks of Pagan Art Journaling project I’m hosting, and in this week’s art journal prompt, I asked: what do you want people to know about your path? And my answer was this: that it requires serious levels of commitment and self-discipline. It requires that I do the work. Often without support systems, often at odds with the materialism in the world around me, often despite my own personal laziness and apathy. Because more often than not, I am my own worst enemy and as a member of a “fringe” religion, I don’t have the benefit of mainstream culture keeping me accountable or reinforcing the value system I’ve “created” for myself. (Which sounds like a lot of big pompous words to just say that sometimes this path is a bit more challenging because it isn’t necessarily aligned with what the world around us is doing and how our society is encouraging us to live) .

But more importantly, a Mystery Tradition, by its very nature requires a great deal of inner work in order to understand it. No one expects a yogi to reach enlightenment without yoga and meditation. So why do so many modern Pagans expect to being able to do magic and understand the Divine without doing the “Pagan variation” of the same things? Exercise and contemplation (or rather, if you will, practice and meditation) . If we can’t discipline our minds enough to focus our will on the intent of a spell, how will we actually create strong and effective spell work?

And more importantly, beyond the magic, how do we complete the “Great Work” of our Mystery Traditions if we don’t understand what the hell that means?

Don’t just take my word for it. Pick an area and focus on it, work it. Get to know the feel and shape of it. Study it like you’d study a university subject. Be dedicated to learning your craft on a daily basis (or at least somewhat regular basis) , be it doing the Sabbats and Moons, or meditating daily, or taking time to observe the lunar cycles. Start small and build up. Don’t try to do it all at once because that’s a recipe for failure. But pick one thing, get that down, and then add another.

At this point in my practice (in loose, ambiguous terms that you can read between the lines of) , this is what my daily practice includes:

Meditation
Exercises
Dream keeping
Study
Weekly Classes
Journaling (art and written) reactions, thoughts, questions, emotions, etc
Tarot Work

On average, I spend at least 30 minutes a day devoted to my practice, if not double or triple that. If you’d asked me at the start of this work if I’d be capable of that, I would have emphatically denied my ability to be that self-disciplined. I am not good at self-discipline and never have been. But I started slowly. I have a buddy system. I am accountable to others when I fall off the wagon. And all of these things are things that help me stay focused. And it’s been worth it. Because trust me, if you don’t know it already, this path is amazing in terms of what it can bring into your life.

My practice has turned my world upside down and inside out, but the things that I have learned about people and myself have been phenomenal. I returned to this path after years in academia feeling jaded and wanting to believe but having a hard time reconnecting. Now I don’t just believe. I know again.

And knowing is half the battle!

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Earth Science Photo of the Day for December 15th

Rainbow Over Nordlingen, Germany

December 15, 2011

Noerdlingen_klein (2)

Photographer
: Jens Hackmann; Jens’ Web site
Summary Author: Jens Hackmann; Jim Foster
The panorama above shows a modest rainbow arching over Nordlingen, Germany as viewed late in the day on October 19, 2011. Regardless of how far or near a primary rainbow appears, its width is always approximately two degrees, and it always appears at an angle of about 42 degrees about the antisolar point.

Nordlingen is located in southern Germany, in the middle of the Nordlinger Ries, an impact meteor crater that’s estimated to be 50 million years old. In order to take this picture, I positioned myself at the top of the “Daniel,” a 230 ft (70 m) tall church steeple in the center of town. Note its shadow in the foreground.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day for December 15th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 December 15
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

The Umbra of Earth
Image Credit & Copyright: Wang, Letian  

Explanation: The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, it has a circular cross section most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. For example, last Saturday the Full Moon slid across the southern half of Earth’s umbral shadow, entertaining moonwatchers around much of the planet. In the total phase of the eclipse, the Moon was completely within the umbra for 51 minutes. Recorded from Beijing, China, this composite eclipse image uses successive pictures from totality (center) and partial phases to trace out a large part of the umbra’s curved edge. Background stars are visible in the darker eclipse phases. The result shows the relative size of the shadow’s cross section at the distance of the Moon, as well as the Moon’s path through Earth’s umbra.

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How to Pet-Proof Your Christmas Tree

How to Pet-Proof Your Christmas Tree

  • Nicolas, selected from petMD

Winter holidays are especially exciting, with all the sparkly lights and streamers, delicate ornaments and brightly colored garland, and don’t get us started on the candies and treats! All of these things are great fun, and no less so for our pets. So, before you start taking out the decorations, take a few minutes to consider how their placement will affect your pets.

Ornaments

Just to protect your pet and yourself from excitable accidents, hang your delicate and treasured ornaments on the uppermost branches of the tree, and secure them to the branches tightly. In general, it is easier on the whole household if you select tree ornaments that are not likely to shatter. For delicate, glass or treasured ornaments, you might consider creating an area where they can be displayed that is out of reach for your dog or cat, such as from a garland that is hung across a mantel or window. Tinsel, for all its glittery prettiness, is one of the most dangerous tree decorations you can choose. If your pet ingests even a few strands of tinsel — and pets do this more often than you might guess — she is highly likely to suffer the ill, and even deadly effects of an intestinal obstruction. Same goes for edible ornaments, such as popcorn and cranberry strings and candy canes. Leave these things off your tree or your pet will be climbing the tree to get to them.

 

Lights, Plants and More

Christmas lights should be positioned away from the very bottom of the tree unless you are sure that your pet has been successfully trained not to chew on the cords. Electric cord injuries are very damaging to the mouth tissue and can lead to long term problems with eating, amongst other issues. Check the electric light cords frequently for signs of chewing.

Other tree decorations that can be hazardous to pets (and children, for that matter) include angel hair — a spun glass or pvc decoration, garland, lit candles, mistletoe, poinsettia plants, and holly berries. Decorations that are not a part of tree trimming, but that are also worth mentioning are advent calendars, in which candy is placed in the small numbered cubbies; and liquid potpourri, which can be spilled or ingested.

It is safest to stick to artificial plants and plastic or unbreakable ornaments, just to be on the safe side. When you can rest in the knowledge that you have done everything to make sure your pet cannot be harmed, then everyone can share in a happy, healthy holiday season together.

 

More Christmas Tree Tips

It can be very difficult to keep a young, still-in-training pet away from the Christmas tree, particularly if this is his or her’s first Christmas. Even for an older pet, who may have learned not to jump on the tree — either because it fell on him last year or because your admonitions worked — you will still need to be cautious with the ornaments you place within his reach.

A live tree can be especially hazardous. Dogs and cats like to chew on sticks (i.e., limbs) and greenery, and the fir tree oils can be irritating to the mouth tissue causing such symptoms as drooling and vomiting. Also, if your pet is chewing on the branches, there is a good chance he is also swallowing some of the needles. If enough needles are swallowed they can get caught in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing obstruction. Both can have deadly consequences.

A popular tree decoration called flocking, an imitation snow product, can also cause serious problems when significant amounts of it are swallowed. If you are going to have a tree in your home, it is best to at least get a non-flocked tree.

In addition, some trees are treated with chemical preservatives to keep them fresh longer. These chemicals leach into the water in the feeding dish, making the water poisonous to drink — which pets will do if the water is left uncovered. If you do not have a tree skirt to cover the water dish with, you can use towel, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.

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