Daily Archives: April 4, 2012

Who Else Is A Lonely Young Witch?

Who Else Is A Lonely Young Witch?

Author: Wolfmoonsinger

So many teen witches out there know what I’m talking about when I speak of the loneliness, wonder, and longing to become part of a coven. Or even just finding another witch in your community! It is very hard trying to bring up the subject of religion with people when it’s so touchy. So how do you find out who’s a pagan and who isn’t? What if the person you were talking to five minutes ago is a witch and you didn’t know because the subject of religion doesn’t come up because of beliefs?

How are you supposed to find other pagans in order to create a coven or even to talk with in person or just to talk to another witch without driving a long way to that person? All good questions. Me, myself, and I would like to know those answers as well.

My one ‘ex’ friend introduced me into Wicca three years ago. We were best friends and we shared everything. We were both interested in it; not me as much because I was a bit skeptical about it, but she was really into it because her aunt was. And now, I’m the one who is an ardent witch with a true understanding of paganism and witchcraft, and she’s addicted to booze and boys and has completely erased the love for the goddess in her life.

Through my time reading tons and tons of books and websites about Wicca, I was gaining and learning more and more information about this mysterious and attractive religion. Never would I have guessed that once I had my fill of the basic knowledge, I would have to really put it to an effort. Now, I have been very successful so far, becoming a good mediator, ritual caster and spiritual person. But doing these things alone sometimes can be very sad because if you have one of those moments where you really understand something or a spell has gone wonderful for you, you come to the sad realization that you don’t have anyone to share these things with. It’s depressing.

It’s not like you can tell your best friend who’s a Christian or your Christian parents about it because it may be scary for them because of their ignorance of what you are talking about, or they just don’t want to hear anything about it. It hurts because you go through your life hiding your religion from others who don’t understand Wicca — and don’t try to or want to — and you really wish you had someone to talk to who really understood what you were talking about and really appreciated it.

I may seem selfish to some of you who are reading this, but this is how I feel. I have always been a loner, but sometimes it is more than I can bear. Sometimes I ask the goddess for a companion (s) to celebrate her glory with, to celebrate sabbats with, to hold hands and soak up the moons glow with, to share experience with, and to share the same thoughts with…

A lot of covens are either a “look at me” coven, a “wannabe” coven, or a “one and only true way” coven. Some witches think that if you join a coven, you join it for life, but really in many paths and traditions, you just share the same path with your fellow coveners and don’t necessarily have to stay in that coven forever.

The good thing about joining a coven is that it provides you with some discipline while practicing your craft. You will celebrate the Sabbat without fail every year and do your daily devotions. Meeting other like-minded people can be an extremely rewarding experience and then you have the High priest and High priestess to guide you. Most agree with me that a lot of witches want a coven to share a subconscious connection with, and a coven does that with the “mind connection”. The only bad thing about this ‘mind connection’ is that if someone leaves, the connection is broken and has to be healed.

If I could openly ask people what religion they were and where I could find a coven, I would, but that would be rude, inappropriate, startling, strange, not fair, and a bit bold. So how do you find other witches? Talk to people long enough to find out what their religion is? So few people are witches in small areas like where I live. It would be very difficult to find one, let alone a coven. I keep hope that, one day, I will come across someone and the topic will pop up, but that seems very unlikely.

I am a teenage witch of age 17. I don’t know any other witches my age. Most of the teens who are pagans are either fluffy bunnies or they live in towns far away from where I live. A big factor in the difficulty of connecting with other witches could be that most witches don’t come out of the broom closet out of fear of public bias. But you honestly shouldn’t fear what other people think (unless they are crazy) and if people don’t want to be grown ups and try to understand what it is, then that’s their choice. But the chance still remains that if you openly tell people flat out that you are a pagan, it could cause positive changes in your life, including someone listening in and chasing you down later to tell you that they are also of the same faith.

Lucky for me, I’ve met people who were curious about Wicca and didn’t judge me for being a witch, but none of them were interested in it THAT much. You will always find people who will understand what it’s about, but to find someone who really UNDERSTANDS it and knows what you’re talking about is harder than finding a needle in a haystack…

So to me, making a coven or finding others in the same faith and beliefs is important because they could end up being like your family. When you have a close connection of friends like that, you become really connected and it’s hard to imagine life without them… well, at least I would think.

I will still keep hope that finding a coven won’t be as difficult as I think it will. It would be easier to just start one myself, but with whom? The problem of finding others of the same beliefs still remains.

So if you’re a lone wolf out there reading this, know that your not alone and that there ARE witches out there who feel the same way you do. They’re just too afraid to come out of the closet. And I know that coming out may be a bit brave and dangerous for some, but sometimes such risks must be taken if you ever want to find others like you.

Be bold, be brave, and be honest.

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Confessions of a Former Otherkin

Confessions of a Former Otherkin

Author: BellaDonna Saberhagen

I’ve been contemplating this article for a while, but someone’s response to The Chicken or the Egg prompted its necessity. I was going to make it a less personal piece, however, I think it comes off as less judgmental when explaining my own experiences rather than appearing to tear into others’ beliefs.

Karl Marx stated that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’. I love being Pagan, I love the gods, and I love being me. Sometimes however, Pagans become deluded; their brand of Paganism seems to have become a wild LSD trip. They refuse to face facts or accept reality at all. These are, unfortunately, the ones who yell the loudest and get the most media attention (making people unfamiliar with our religions assume we’re all wackos) . Those Pagans who speak out against these claims (such as myself on some forums) are called closed-minded and bigoted. But must we be so open-minded that our brains fall out?

Want to know a secret? I used to be one of them. SHHH! Don’t tell anyone! I’m going to take you back to when I was a fairly new Pagan. When the world was all shiny, my friends weren’t just witches and shamans…they were werewolves and dragons and angels and gods. What was I? I was a fairy.

I say I was fairly new because I hardly count my high school days of having two Cunningham books hidden away and being active in my parents Church (and still wishy-washy about which way I wanted to go) as being an active Pagan or Witch. I still hid when I was at home on break, but my closet was non-existent on campus. Sometimes I was too ‘out and proud’ for some of my friends.

The culmination of my personal ‘delusion’ really was the fall semester of 2001. That semester, our group believed we were being psychically attacked by a blind lizard druid (a side note: this guy was actually dangerous; he choked one of my friends) . My boyfriend (at the time) believed we’d always been together in past lives (and that we were the real-life inspiration for Gomez and Morticia Addams in a past life) …he also stalked me when I broke up with him (and I almost beat him upside the head with a Sobe tea bottle. We’ll call him Stalker Boy) . Before I broke up with Stalker Boy, my roommate (henceforth called Dragon) , another friend (henceforth called Angel) , and a third person decided to implant the idea in my head to tell Stalker Boy I loved him by waking me up and pretending to be the Fates. Since when I’m woken up, I’m actually AWAKE, it didn’t work.

Dragon really thought she was a dragon. When her aura got too dirty (as it did from time to time as she was dealing with a bad break-up and the rest of that semester’s insanity; September 11th certainly didn’t help) , it got scaly and had to be cleansed. When it got scaly, she supposedly could not physically move. After the crazy events of 2001, she either stopped being Pagan or stopped practicing as those same events scared her from delving any further. Our friendship ended in May of 2003.

Cleansing was done by our shaman friend (who set himself up as our leader long before this, and either thought he was a werewolf, or was so intimately connected to his totem that his aura could shift against his will) . This was before the term ‘therian’ was used (or at least, if it was, our group remained ignorant of it while we were together) . I’ll call him Wolf. Wolf and I had an odd connection. He set himself up as my teacher, and honestly, I rue the day I saw him as such. The relationship I had with him kept me in my little bubble much longer than I probably would have been otherwise. Whenever I doubted my fey-ness, he would be there to re-affirm it and keep me in the fold. Luckily, I escaped his influence in May of 2004.

Angel is more like me. We have remained friends and laugh about those old days. She still feels a strong connection to heaven, but I don’t think she believes she’s an angel anymore (at least not as far as I am led to believe) .

I can’t say I really knew anyone who professed to be a god from myth reborn in human form. However, in our state, my friends and I saw certain gods in acquaintances. We were wise enough not to tell them, though. We confirmed their godhood through pendulum use (which is a very subjective form of divination, but it was our favorite at the time) . Stalker Boy’s pendulum was a glow stick on a string, which, looking back, hung crookedly, so it couldn’t be properly balanced to work as such. However, I will take this chance to state that this is the most harmful form. Look at cult leaders who tell their followers they’re Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s the same kind of thing. Even if the person claiming to be a god fails to have the charisma to be a cult leader, they (at the very least) have delusions of grandeur and are being extremely rude to those that worship that god.

I’m not saying that a god could not choose to become incarnate for a human lifetime, but I am dubious as to any real reasons why they would choose to do so. Why would they abandon those who believe in them by limiting their perceptions to those of a human being? It just makes no sense to me. Even if they could somehow get the actions of the faithful (prayers, circle castings, and I’m not even sure how invocation would work) fed into their limited human brain, they would not be able to manage… have you ever seen Bruce Almighty? It would be like that but without a computer to help manage it.

In one of the most profound visionary experiences I ever had, I shared some portion of my consciousness with Cernunnos, and it was overwhelming just to feel the forest directly surrounding me in all of its processes for even just a moment. I refuse to believe that such consciousness is maintainable as a human and that therefore being a human would be a viable option for a god.

What does all of this have to do with anything? Well, I outgrew my personal delusions once I left a crowd that fed them. By refusing to allow others like me to call someone on some of these behaviors, we make it impossible for them to escape that cycle and face reality. We create a community that consistently feeds and reaffirms the beliefs of such people. Sadly, the Internet can be blamed for a good bit of the inability to escape that cycle. Even when I was involved, otherkin forums began appearing, though, as with ‘therian’, the word did not seem to exist then.

So how crazy was I? I believed that I not only had fey blood, but a fey soul. I believed I had wings that simply could not manifest due to there not being enough ‘magick’ in the world. I believed that Stalker Boy, Dragon, Wolf, and myself were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that we were to tear open the ley line intersections at places such as Stonehenge on December 21, 2012 to bring about the new age of magick into the world. I was crazy. I was deluded. I was insane. Now, I am not.

I’m not saying that to be Pagan, you have to believe exactly as I do, but there is a line of sanity. Some Pagans cross that line.

And guess what? You don’t have to be a god to be an effective magician. You don’t have to be a fairy to work with them or be a powerful Witch. You don’t have to be a dragon to have a hoarding problem. You don’t have to be a therian (wolf or otherwise) to be a wonderful shaman. You are MAGICKAL ENOUGH without giving into delusions.

So why do you need to be more ‘other’ than Pagan? Being Pagan automatically puts you into society’s ‘other’ category.

I felt different from most of society because spiritually, I was different. I wanted something different to feed my soul than what I saw as the obvious options. Maybe that was why I felt so disjointed and jumped to the ‘I must not be human’ thought; maybe that’s why most of those who see themselves as such do this as well. I can’t speak for anyone else. I can speak for me. I can say that having moved beyond that particular period that there were rocky times; there were times when I felt disconnected and lost my faith. I think I purged too much of the ‘good’ of my faith when I purged the ‘bad’ and am now fighting to get some of that back. But it does not mean I really am a fairy in denial and that that denial caused the rockiness of more recent years. I think I am afraid, knowing my propensity for becoming deluded, and I second-guess my spiritual findings too much. That is my own lesson to learn.

At the very least, otherkin claims should be understood to be Unverifiable Personal Gnosis. Not everyone will believe you, or has to believe you because you’re Pagan and they’re Pagan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of your religious experience at all. You can have had a vision that King Arthur is really a dragon god and it could be really meaningful to you. That does not mean that everyone (or anyone) else has to accept that vision as well. It is yours and yours alone.

So, if you think you’re (insert otherkin here) , it might be wise to keep it to yourself until you’ve vetted the group you’re entering. They might not want to encourage you and you shouldn’t feel they have to. I would highly recommend that if you do think you’re otherkin to really examine why. If spirits came to you and told you such, examine those spirits; see if they had your best interest at heart (often many like to mess with the human mind, and some definitely do not have our best interest at heart) . If a sensitive told you, examine how accurate he/she has been about other things… and how flighty or grounded he/she is in his/her own life. If you just feel ‘other’ somehow and don’t know why, check for any variations on your sexual orientation or for any forms of gender dysphoria. I couldn’t accept my own bi-sexuality until I acknowledged and accepted my humanity.

Even if being otherkin isn’t a ‘delusion’, there are reasons not to focus on it. You may have been a fairy or a dragon in a past life; but for whatever reason, your soul chose to be born as human now. There are some lessons that are best learned by being human and you cannot truly be human if you’re constantly trying to recapture the magick of your past incarnations. You’ll stagnate and be stuck in a form your soul is not entirely comfortable with… over and over and over again, until you learn to be human.

There might be trace amounts of holdover DNA, however, just as I doubt you could find any of the Cherokee or Italian markers in me that are supposedly a part of my family’s genetic heritage, you will never be able to verify it through science. And I would have to think, just as there’s a ratio cap on your bloodline for being able to call yourself a member of a specific tribe or nation (my 1/64th Cherokee doesn’t get me in) , that fairies and dragons would think similarly and laugh at you for calling yourself ‘Fairy” or ‘Dragon” like you’re a full-blooded member of their camp.

So if you find yourself caught between needing to learn this life’s lessons and being so infinitesimally related by blood that being recognized by full-blooded members of those species is unlikely, you might want to just give it up and be human.

Humans are magickal and that should be enough for any of us.

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A Thinking Witch’s Approach to Silence (and Quantum Physics)

A Thinking Witch’s Approach to Silence (and Quantum Physics)

Author: Ehsha Apple

Most of us who teach, concentrate on the theological approaches to Paganism. This makes sense – it’s religion, right? But what if your worldview imagines “Science” as part-and-parcel with “Theology”? That’s where I found myself. And then I found that there were a good number of Pagans just like me. I teach a very impressive assortment of students who were not finding “purely religious approaches” to spirituality fulfilling. They needed something to tickle the academic part of their brains. For them, I formulated a series of courses that combine both science and theology. If you are like us, and you enjoy a dose of science in your religion, come along.

The very first lesson that I share with my students is the importance of silence. (1) Unfortunately, we still live in a place and a time where Paganism – or anything outside of the American Christocentric imperative – is not welcome. Primarily, this is because of misunderstanding, but such misunderstanding is often based in jingoistic bias. (I recommend my students watch the documentary, The Burning Times. While there is some conjecture about the numbers presented in this film, the overall point remains valid.) Of course, we don’t literally burn witches anymore but I have known plenty of people who have been burned by the judgment or ridicule of others. So, there is a very “real world” reason for Pagans to maintain silence and anonymity. This doesn’t mean that I support hypocrisy. I would never recommend that you “pretend” to be something that you are not, but I recommend that you think about all aspects of your secular life before making your spiritual life common knowledge.

Some of you are fortunate to live in open-minded arenas; some of you live in less amenable atmosphere. Some of you have broadminded families; some of your families will be angry, hurt, upset, or even fearful about your decision to study Pagan spiritualities. This isn’t their fault. More than likely, they will base their comments (if you decide to tell them) on their feelings of love for you and their misguided belief that you are “dabbling” in something dark, dangerous, or even demonic. (If you are just now deciding to tell your family or your work/social circle that you are Pagan, there is some really practical advice on Patti Wigington’s “About.com” pages.) Aside from avoiding judgment, there are other reasons to maintain silence. Maybe not about being Pagan, but about conducting a Pagan ritual. Many practitioners will tell you that they maintain silence to protect a coven secret or rite. This is all very appropriate and should be respected.

Before I begin talking about silence in earnest, I would like to explore a very important phrase: “To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent.” As we all know, this phrase comes from The Four Powers of the Sphinx, written about most extensively by French occultist, Eliphas Lévi. And an introduction to the The Four Powers of the Sphinx comes from Lévi’s most popular work: Transcendental Magic. He states:

To attain the SANCTUM REGNUM, in other words, the knowledge and power of the Magi, there are four indispensable conditions–an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE–such are the four words of the Magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.

The Sphinx, a composite creature, has the head of a man, the torso and paws of a lion, the rear of a bull, and the wings of an eagle. In its design, it signifies the Four Powers of the four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. He adds:

You are called to be king of air, water, earth and fire . . . the human head, in order to possess speech; his the eagle’s wings, in order to scale the heights; his the bull’s flanks, in order to furrow the depths; his the lion’s talons, to make a way on the right and the left, before and behind.

To attain such an achievement it is necessary to KNOW what has to be done, to WILL what is required, to DARE what must be attempted and to KEEP SILENT with discernment.

We must WILL to create change
In order to WILL, we must DARE
In order to DARE we must KNOW
And to maintain control we must BE SILENT (show discipline)

To Know refers to the idea that the spiritual journey is one of knowledge. And that’s why we are all here. We must recognize that the quest for knowledge is never-ending. We must constantly be learning, questioning, and expanding our experiences. Also, we must know ourselves before we can know our true paths. “Know thyself.” That’s what the spiritual journey is really about in the end. If you are on this path because you want material riches and worldly power, you will be very disappointed. And you are short-changing yourself. The riches and the power you will obtain by examining yourself and finding your place in the grand scheme of things far supersede any material goods or earthly authority.

To Dare can be understand as “courage.” By daring to face the unknown, even the unknown within our Selves, we inevitably grow stronger.

To Will means more than determination and perseverance. The will is the ultimate tool of the practitioner (Magician, Witch, etc.) . Alistair Crowley, founder of Thelema, defines Magick as: “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”

To Keep Silent seems obvious, but it’s more complex. Yes, being silent means that we do not share the teachings of our coven, that we do not “out” other members of the Pagan community, and that we do not discuss Magickal workings outside of the sacred circle. But it also means that we learn to maintain a level of stillness, inner silence.

This last point about silence brings me to another phrase: “In perfect love and in perfect trust.” Many Pagans use this phrase to indicate the sanctity of “trust” in our community. The safety provided by perfect love and perfect means that we are safe within our circle and that we avow to protect one another and to never harm one another. This is imperative. When working together (as a solitary, you may not face this) you must have complete trust in those working around you. The vulnerability that comes from functioning within a community – either physically or online – can make or break a magical work and a spiritual path.

But more importantly, I think, there are two reasons to keep silence. Both are very theoretical: one based in psycholinguistics and the other in quantum physics.

One major reason to keep silent involves the nature of Magick and of spoken language. For me, to speak is to conjure. Both Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan knew this. Power resides with those who control language. We can subvert language and we can evolve language, but we only do this because it is language that gives us such power. This is not only true in the cultural-linguistic realm, but this is true in the realm of Magick and Craftwork as well. Consider: most popular representations of “the magician” involves a “magic word”.

Think of Disney’s many magical characters and phrases, like: “Bippity-Boppity-Boo” of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, “Prestigigitotium” of The Merlin, Angela Landsbury’s “Treguna Mekoitis Tracorum Satis Dee” and any number of things that came out of Mary Poppins’ mouth. Think of the many magical-sounding terms in the Harry Potter series. Think of “Open Sesame” from “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Think of almost any TV show or movie involving witchcraft (I particularly remember “Shazam” from the 1970s) . It makes sense that popular culture should represent a “magic word” as the key to all magical working.

Consider Ancient Creation Myths where the universe is spoken into existence by a god/dess (typically one god and one goddess representing order and chaos, respectively) : Mesopotamian, Mesoamerican, and Middle Eastern Creation Myths all include a “speaking” into creation (“And God said, ‘Let there be light, ’ and there was light”) . Further, there is the presumably-antediluvian Enochian (or Angelic) Language, given to Victorian Magicians, John Dee and Edward Kelly by the Great Angel Ave, which suggests that all things, even the apocalypse, can be spoken into existence.

This last part, to me, seems reason enough to keep silent!

If quantum physics is your thing, another reason to keep silent is to refrain from collapsing the wave. Ly de Angeles explains that consciousness, “the pattern of thought” as she calls it, “moves as light moves and is, therefore instantly there and instantly not. It is both particle and wave, as is light, which, incidentally is why spells are told to no one. To speak a thing is to collapse the wave” (Witchcraft: Theory and Practice. 7) .

I won’t pretend to be a physicist, I will do my best to draw an analogy between Magick and two popular scientific ideas. The first is the “Quantum Double Slit Experiment” and the second is “The Copenhagen Paradox” otherwise known as “Schrödinger’s Cat.” (2) Quantum Physics is the physics of atomic and subatomic levels, and quite honestly, the rules of “normal” physics do not apply on these levels. Electrons, protons, and neutrons move about without passing through the space between. In essence, they are constantly vacillating between existing and not existing. They literally “pop” in and out of existence. We don’t know why. We don’t know where they go. We don’t know from whence they return. Not yet, anyway. There are all sorts of cutting-edge theories that suggest multiverses and parallel universes. (If these things are said in a religious context, we are scoffed; we say them in a scientific context and it’s deemed “cutting-edge.”) This is why I contend that there is nothing supernatural; I believe that we simply cannot account for all of the majesty of our strange and complicated universe – yet.

Return to de Angeles’s reference to consciousness and thought as “both particle and wave.” To make any use of this, we first must try to grasp the difference between a particle and a wave. A particle, quite simply, is perceivable matter – something with mass; a wave is a transfer of energy within some substance – i.e. a disturbance in the water or in the air. Subatomic – quantum – particles are not particles – they have no mass (i.e., they don’t exist) – until they are observed. No fooling. This gives a whole new meaning to the tree falling in the woods paradox.

The answer is “no” – it makes no sound, because there is no tree if it is not observed. (It’s like when the little boy on The Matrix tells Neo, “There is no spoon.”) For some mysterious reason – a reason that keeps scientists banging their heads against their Bunsen burners – everything in existence is nothing more than a wave of information (or possibilities) until we observe it in some way. Until we actually observe the not-yet-a- particle, it’s nothing more than a wave. Sounds nuts, right? Wait, there’s more. That wave is “pure potential” itself. In other words, the wave exists in every possibility at the same time. It’s doing everything that is potentially possible – all at once. Once we observe the wave, it “solidifies” into a material reality. Therefore, we create reality just by observing it.

Need proof? OK. The Double Slit Experiment is a quantum experiment that shows us that subatomic material will take every possible path at the same time as a wave when not observed. When observed, the particle collapses down to one point as a particle. Likewise, The Copenhagen Paradox argues that all potential outcomes are in existence until one of them is observed. The paradox continues: who observes the observer? Some use this as a “proof” of deity; “god” is watching us all. But, then, who is watching “god”? That is a question to be puzzled out later. The universe is full of incongruities; all of our natural laws have exceptions. This too is a Mystery. (3)

But what has this to do with Magick? Much like the collapsed wave or the observed cat, some practitioners believe that speaking a thing changes it. Many believe that confining the meaning of a Great Mystery to the limits of spoken language can “ruin” a spell. This is like taking “potential everything-ness” and reducing it to an observable/hearable singularity.

This is not to say that language is not used for spell-crafting. But in the instance of casting, language is used in conjunction with the will. This makes the words carry the will rather than the literal meaning of the word. Yes, this is a Mystery. But there seems to be something to the argument that banal or causal conversation without the power of will weakens the power of the spell.

Further, some practitioners believe that speaking a thing makes it so. For this reason, they will never talk of magical affairs without first casting a protective circle. Whenever two or more witches are together and start talking about magic, for fear of “drive by” casting, you are likely to find one who will insist on some witchy prophylaxis. If, as many believe, words are thoughts and thoughts are things, we create every time we speak.

I believe all of these things – and then some. For these, and so many other reasons, I encourage you to keep your silence. Protect it. Nurture it. Enshroud it. It is always possible to reveal a thing – it is almost impossible to re-conceal it.

As they say, you can’t un-ring a bell.


Footnotes:
1. This information first published on my teaching blog, with some revision. (Apple, Ehsha. Open Path Sanctuary Training Program. “On Secrecy (and a bit of Quantum Physics) : Phase 1, Lesson 2 (Practice) .” 20 September 2011. Web.)

2. This has been met with criticism. Most of the criticism (firstly with Godel and Einstein) about the Copenhagen Paradox revolves around the superposition state and the specialty of observation.

3. There are mysteries and then there are Mysteries, or Great Mysteries. The kind that involve a sort of “initiation.” The word “Mystery” translates to “secret rite or doctrine.” Therefore, one who practiced “Mysteries” is referred to as a “mystic.” The specifics of these religions are kept “behind closed doors, ” or “secret.”

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The Witch’s Pyramid

The Witch’s Pyramid

Author: J Rainwoods

A while back, when I was first learning about Witchcraft, I read about the four pillars of the Witch’s Pyramid. I was working solitary and getting all of my info out of books, and it seemed to be an important thing to know; so I used a little trick to memorize them. When I showered, as I poured shampoo onto my hand, I would draw a pentacle. As I did this, I would list the four pillars of the pyramid as I hit each corner of the pentacle I drew. It worked really well, and to this day I can list off the four pillars on demand when necessary. After a while of doing this, I became interested in using my shower power to learn other things. Life went on, and the Pyramid got filed away into a dusty corner of my brain.

I don’t know what happened to resurrect it, but here lately I have found myself hitting each of the four pillars with shampoo without even meaning to. Realizing this has brought the Witch’s Pyramid to the forefront of my thoughts. I find myself asking – how do I take this further? There is, of course, a fifth corner in a pentacle. I haven’t accounted for this one yet, because when working with the four pillars of the Witch’s Pyramid, you’ve got to have those four pillars worked out before you can even start to turn your attention to what follows. That’s OK, though, because a Witch can spend their lifetime – in fact, they are absolutely expected to – mastering the challenge of the four pillars. Here they are:

To Know…
Knowledge. Wisdom. Study. Experience. Book smarts vs. street smarts. A Witch is expected to study the ways of the Craft and to use that knowledge to enhance their practice. Of course. Sure. Got it. That is a given – the easy two-second explanation of this pillar. What about the rest of it? None of us spend our lives in Circle 24 / 7. What about the time we spend in the mundane world, which for most of us is almost all the time? Do we act, speak, think, make decisions, make friends, make love…with wisdom? Nothing, but nothing that comes from the Gods is ever given carelessly. What have They taught you in your practice? How can you take that beyond the Circle; and live your life to reflect the wisdom you have been blessed with?

To Dare…
To take a dare generally means you commit to doing something that up to this point you have not done – usually because you’re afraid of something. More than once as I have walked my path over the years, I have been afraid. Now, we humans are blessed with fear – it keeps us from jumping off cliffs or standing in front of a buffalo stampede; but sometimes the best view is from the cliff’s edge. Sometimes, the most amazing dance of power comes to us from the dust under the herd’s feet as they run with the wind and you’d never know it unless you stood right there. Often, facing down a fear and conquering it is what we need to make our lives better in some way. No chance we’ll ever be on a journey worth taking without a scary roadblock or two. We all have a treasured memory of a time when we faced down the fear of something – or someone. We get stronger this way. We get wiser this way. What are you afraid of? How would your life change if you conquered that fear? Got the guts to do it?

To Will…
Ah, will…you manly thing, you. For me, you are always over the next hill. You are always on the other side of tomorrow. Like too many of my sisters in this world, I was raised to be anything but willful. From the time I was barely able to realize the difference between good girls and bad girls, I knew that willful was not what I wanted to be. Willful girls always had their name on the chalkboard. They always got detention. They were always talked about behind the cupped hands of the popular girls as they walked across the classroom. Even in our Craft, so many of us write will off as that hot, sunny God-attribute the boys get to have. It’s not for “us girls”, so why worry about it? We’ve got our intuition, we’ve got our moon, and we’re good! Right? Someone agree with me before I get embarrassed for speaking out of turn…

Ever hear of girl power? Ever marvel at the things our daughters and little sisters do (“get away with”) that we never would have done ourselves at their age (probably because our moms would have grounded us to the end of the world for doing whatever it is) ? Ever watch a female use her goddess – given gifts: charisma, looks, brains, or maybe just a loud voice and a “Who gives a damn if I make a scene in public?” attitude to get her way; and then watch with longing as she walks away, victorious?

Some of us don’t have a problem with will. Some of us were those girls on the chalkboard, in detention, and damn proud of it! Some of us have the will of an autumn leaf as it goes wherever Father Wind tells it to go. Most of us tend to have a mix of both, leaning way more towards autumn leaf than Lady Get-My-Way. To be a Witch – true to your inheritance, true to your pledge, TRUE TO YOUR WOMANHOOD, guess what you’ve got to have – and I’m not just talking about the Witch within the Circle. What you try to work within will never amount to anything if you do not demonstrate the will to manifest without. Back to the next generation for a minute: think about a young girl / woman that you know and love. What do you want to teach them about will? What is your attitude towards willfulness in women? They’re watching – what kind of example do you set for them? These pillars are starting to get to me…I’ll never shampoo the same way again. But wait! There’s more!

To be Silent…
For a minute there, I thought about leaving this one blank and waiting to see if anyone got the joke…nah. Silence holds all the power in the universe. That’s why it is impossible to master. Traditionally, the fourth pillar – To Be Silent – has referred specifically to the things you do and the people you know within your craft. Basically, if you’re not with your coven don’t talk about coven stuff. I would offer this thought to chew on…silently. A minute ago, I said that silence holds all the power in the universe.

Here’s another one: to know yourself is to know your power. Getting to know yourself – to see yourself with honest love and objectivity instead of relating to yourself the way the world has always related to you – can be accomplished only when you take the time to shut out the world. Sit down (in silence) and listen. Ground and center. Meditate. Do it for real. Mean it. Say (to yourself and the Gods – without actually using your voice) I am open to good. I am receptive to wisdom. What is it I need to know? Do this often and regularly. A minute ago, after the part about the power in the universe, I said silence is impossible to master. Sitting in silence is really hard, even for folks that have been doing it a long time. If you’re new at the practice, it’s usually a frustrating waste of time. Commit to doing this every day and you will come to know yourself. You will come to know your power and know the Gods are working in your life.

I have committed to working the Four Pillars of the Witch’s Pyramid into my life. I want to use them to grow and to learn and to challenge myself to do great things. I will explore different ways to honor the pillars through the week, and I’ll keep in touch and let you know how it goes. This promises to be fun, frightening, and utterly stupid at times and hopefully will get others thinking about how they can live what they believe – whatever that is! Blessed be!

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It’s Elemental, My Dear Watson

It’s Elemental, My Dear Watson

Author: BellaDonna Saberhagen

In most modern neo-Pagan paths, there are four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. When I first started out, these were unquestionable facts. All the books I bought broke up the elements this way, ascribed certain tools to certain elements (though whether the athame and wand were air or fire often changed with the writer) , assigned the same directions for the elements and even gave their times of year. It even kind of makes sense from a scientific standpoint: the four states of matter are solid (earth) , liquid (water) , gas (air) and plasma (fire –ok, not quite, but lightning, which is plasma, often gave birth to fire) . It wasn’t until I left neo-Wicca and began researching ancient cultural religions that I even considered the ‘whys’ of the elements.

The elements as we know them now, are an ancient Greek construct. Around 500 BCE, Empedocles wrote Tetrasomia, or Doctrine of the Four Elements. It is doubtful he came up with the idea, but he was the first to write down all four elements as the foundation of the universe. When looking at a map of Greece and Europe, it’s easy to see why the elements were assigned the directions they were given.

In the Northern Hemisphere, as you travel south, it gets warmer; hence the realm of fire must lie to the south (Summer being assigned to fire also makes sense due to the warmth of the weather) . The Olympus Range is to the north of most of Greece (it separates Thessaly from Macedonia) , thus the home of earth being in the north makes sense; as does earth being assigned to winter, as when you travel north it gets colder, as it does when you travel high enough in mountains.

Most of the Mediterranean Sea is to the west of Greece. If you travel far enough west, you reach the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean; so the home of water should be to the west (though why it is assigned to Autumn, I really don’t know other than to make the transition from fiery southern summer to earthy northern winter flow nicely) . Air is more ambiguous; perhaps wind is more easterly than usual in Greece, or perhaps it was the only direction that elemental association wasn’t obvious.

Most books I’ve read say it is because the sun rises in the east, but that makes very little sense to me as the sun is a bringer of warmth and should thus be associated with fire. After all, the sun is in the sky longest in the summer, the month of fire. Aristotle added the fifth element, which he called ‘quintessence’, but is often referred to as Akasha, Ether, or Spirit by the modern Pagan community. And thus we have the five points of the pentacle. (A point which I find very interesting: If you wear a pentacle, you might state that it is a sign of protection, each point is an element and they are connected by the circle. However, according to elemental tool assignment and tarot cards, the pentacle is assigned to earth.)

Taken out of Greece, the directional associations we are so comfortable with start to break down. In the Southern Hemisphere, it gets warmer as you travel north and colder as you travel south (I have heard that some practitioners in those regions flip directions as they also flip the Sabbats) . How about in the northeastern USA? The closest ocean is to the east, not the west; the closest mountain range to me is to the west; the wind can blow from any direction, though the sun still rises east-ish (it only rises in the true east all year at the equator) ; it does still get warmer if I travel south. It would almost make more sense to me to put earth to the west, water to the east and air to the north… almost, if it weren’t for the power behind the belief in the traditional associations.

So that’s where our traditional elemental associations come from. How about other cultures? Let’s first look at two other major European cultures for comparison: the Celts and the Norse.

In Celtic cosmology, there are three realms: Land, Sea, and Sky. We can associate Land with earth, but it is more than that. The Land isn’t just the dirt and rocks, it’s the trees and plants and animals that live there, it’s where humans live and beneath which the dead reside. Sea is water, but it is also the gateway to the Otherworld from which the gods came and the way to travel to unknown lands. Sky can be associated with both air and fire. Wind moves the clouds in the sky; but the sun is also of the sky and fire first touched the land as a gift from the sky (lightning) ; the sky is also how time is reckoned by movements of the sun and moon. There were no directional associations as the Land was the land around them, the Sky was the sky above, and the Sea was the sea wherever it was found.

There were also three elements according to the Norse: Earth, Fire and Ice. If you look at places such as Iceland, this makes a lot of sense. Northern Europe is very cold and there are places in the northern most reaches of Norway and Sweden where the sun does not rise at Yule and does not set on Litha. Snow and ice have a greater grip and impact than they do elsewhere, frost giants were a very real threat to winter survival. You can perhaps associate ice with water and air, but it was more than that, it was something to respect and fear. The powers of ice were not called upon lightly. Earth was closer to the Land of Celtic beliefs than earth of Greek beliefs. It was the earth that sustained them, but it also suffered at the hands of the frost and fire giants. Fire for the Norse was trapped within the Earth. Iceland was (and is) very seismically active. Fire could be friendly to those in the cold north, but it could just as easily overwhelm towns and destroy all they had worked to survive on.

Let’s move further east now, to India and China. They also each have elemental systems that differ from our most common cosmology.

In Hindu belief, there were once only three elements: fire, water and earth. Air and Akasha were added later. The elemental health system of Ayurveda uses all five elements but breaks people down into three health types (or doshas) . The doshas are air-space (vata) , fire (pitta) and earth-water (kapha) . Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and each have their own rules about how to bring the other elements into balance within your body.

Similarly, the Chinese elemental system is used in Feng Shui. Contrary to western belief, Feng Shui is more than just a decorating guide; for example, one of the Feng Shui masters (known as The Living Treasure of China) has a restaurant, which serves food based on the elemental balance of Feng Shui his patrons need to maintain optimum health. There are five elements within the Feng Shui system: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. What we would refer to as earth is divided into three separate elements. Wood is associated with trees and plants. Earth is associated with stone, clay and mud. Metal is associated with all metals, both the ore that is mined and the finished pieces. Fire is associated with the sun and flames. Water is associated with bodies of water. There is no air element and no conglomeration of elements that one can extrapolate air from.

The Chinese and Hindu systems are older than the Greek system; at least based on dates they were recorded. Since the Celts and Norse did not have their own writing (use of ogham and runes aside) , it is impossible to date their ideas. My books do not cover Egyptian and Sumerian sources, so I do not know if they had elemental associations or what they might have been. However, having studied what I have, it does make me consider the whys of what I use in my spiritual and magickal practices. It’s important to understand why you use something or do something a certain way beyond “it’s what the book/my teacher said.”

Understanding the ‘whys’ of your practice will make your path deeper and your magick more effective. If you find that the Grecian elemental assignments do not work for you, you can always adapt them to your own geographical location or you can use another system altogether; just try to be mindful of mixing cultures in ritual. (I’m a bit uneasy about doing it. Others might be fine with it.)


Footnotes:
Aveda Rituals by Horst Rechelbacher (he has a great section of Ayurveda)

Feng Shui by Gale Hale and Mark Evans

Mind, Body, and KickA** Moves (a BBC martial arts show that interviewed “The Living Treasure of China”

The Way of Four by Deborah Lipp

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Mythology of a Southern Witch

Mythology of a Southern Witch

Author: Seba O’Kiley

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world. — Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

I am the Southern Kitchen Witch. I am the stuff of legends and myth, honeysuckle and red-clay dirt. In my small frame, I carry the histories of my people: Celt Irish, Cherokee and African heritages that manifest in small fires, fried okra and the tribal beat of a semi-tropic sunset. My people are both the backbone of a continental history and the brunt of a universal myth that hints at ignorance and simplicity. But history has lied to you before.

My grandmother lived along a country river, just under the Tennessee line, and cooled her milk in a stream. She renamed (or re-spelled) herself in the sixth grade, quit school to pick cotton and came right back to “learnin” out of a deep need to “better” herself and her people. Her own folks were farmers and builders, and from that heritage, she became a self-taught blueprint artist and landowner of her own right. Let’s be clear here: my people had goat stews and said “ain’t, ” spit “chaw” and put the evil eye on you if you weren’t right. Somewhere down the line, someone decided that this denoted ignorance. As my dear Grandma once told me: we talk slow so as you can understand us. There’s much to say between the lines.

You see, our cadence and diction have little to do with our intellect or spirit other than the sweet, syrupy transference for which it allows. We have spawned several Presidents, dealt harshly with our demons and even held down an army or two in defense of our historical architecture. I was the first in my line to earn a doctorate — not on account of my ancestor’s lack of intelligence, but rather their lack of new money and time away from the fields. There exist within me two voices: one down-home, countrified low-river gal and one highly educated, trans-atlantically published sharp academe. Pick one? Hell, naw. Like any goddess, I refuse fracture. I am all things and one, the tenacious echo of the Divine, myth personified. It is a subject that both “chaps my bum” and “intrigues my sensibilities, ” but both are me. I label myself Southern and Witch and Dr. and Mom. Today, these things are Seba. When I am gone? Myth.

But what of this earthly phenomenon? Why this primal need for naming, signification, legend and myth?

Recently, my (Pagan) students and I were waxing long in front of a fire on the subject of myth. It was probably the most exhausting lesson I have ever thrown down on a hearth (literally, fire and all) but was worth every deep breath and three cheap bottles of red. As a Hereditary, I cannot divulge much–but I can note the obvious. Lacanian theory speaks of the signifier and the signified, the psychological need (born of desire) to name that which is illusive, transitory and slippery. [1] As Pagans, I believe that this concept is not one that denotes weakness or ego, but rather is a critical tool in our endeavors to surpass the somewhat rigid boundaries of the physical realm. We, as humans, need this tool–and you can’t get it at Lowes. As careful as I am with Christian sensibilities, I will forge into territory that may or may not be offensive. However, there comes a time for truth-telling and unadulterated bravery, so here we go.

30, 000 years ago, a diminutive statue was formed by Paleolithic man. [2] Her name, given by her excavators, is “Venus of Willendorf.” While other, larger, statues have been found as far as Siberia, the diminutive stature of most Goddess images have been noted by scholars as intriguing. How could a people emblazon their Holy One in such a small frame? Ah, well. Most of my Christian friends would tell you that they understand their Higher Power as fantastic in size, looming large over their world (usually, not universe) and a bit reserved in His demeanor unless provoked. I have noticed, in my teachings of expatriate Christians, a certain sense of removal from their access to the Divine and have queried that this phenomenon is due, in part, to those early religious sanctions. “He” is all knowing, I remember hearing, easily angered and removed from His people by the hierarchy of a chosen half-human child and a ghost or two. “We” are in a state of terror from birth that there awaits a scathing hell into which we could be cast for loving the wrong flesh, saying the wrong words, or even wearing the wrong t-shirt. “God” is, to use an analogy, THE FORCE. One does not sit down and chat with THE FORCE. In effect, He is unsignifed–and for some of us humans, this breeds terror.

The problem for a large faction of us rebellious souls is our need for a bit more materiality–a little more personal, please, when our souls are on the line. Michel Foucault, a French theorist, wrote that the “rule of materiality that statements necessarily obey is therefore the order of the institution rather than of the spatio-temporal localization; it defines possibilities of reinscription and transcription, ” and this, my friends, is what myth exists to do. [3] In layman’s terms this means that: what has been named can be co-opted. What has been co-opted can be then reclaimed.

Once upon a time, as Merlin Stone points out in When God Was a Woman, there was a Female Divine. [4] A “barbaric yawp, ” as Walt Whitman would put it, sounded through peoples across continents long before Facebook and MTV. [5] She had names, so many they cannot be listed here, and held an interpersonal relationship with her subjects. Sure, there were priests and priestesses, medicine women and soothsayers, but these were the equivalent of wise ones whose purpose were to be the conduit, if you will, rather than the police of spirituality. Foucault’s “rule of materiality” applies neatly to ancient understandings of the Great Mother: so expansive, so omnipotent, she allowed herself to be signified in order that her subjects could better reach her, hear her, feel her. There was a time before myth and a place before ours that allowed for the human condition: fallible, faltering and in deep, abiding need for signification. Why was she depicted in such small form? Why, to carry her, my dear. You see, a goddess doesn’t need to impress you. You need to impress Her.

Then what of myth? Why have these amalgams, legends and analogies to reach the Great Divine? Ah. Because we are still in this physical realm. We are signifiers, storytellers, history builders and operate in linguistic patterns that our subconscious demands if it is to participate on a higher plane. Let me give you an example:

I create a lesson that explains why we need a “name” for our goddess.

I get confused looks, scuffling feet and scribbling pens.

I turn to an analogy, the cousin of myth (very Southern of me, yes?) that relies upon the movie Men in Black. [6] “The universe is on Orion’s bell.” How can something that, um, phantastmatically GRAND be so small? (See the Christian upbringing here?)

It’s simple, really. Why would “It” be removed from its subjects? The only thing small here, folks, is our mind. Women walk around every day with glorious, little microcosmic moon cycles in their core that wax and wane, go full and go black. Men, it’s been proven, have mini-cycles within the course of one day. We have always harbored the universe, grand and omnipotent and strange and beautiful, within us. Why would She mind a little signification? We are Her echo, after all, in bloody, breakable flesh.

I remember a movie from 1991 called The Butcher’s Wife. [7] Like any movie that has a reference to Pagan precepts, it did not do well at the box office. Yet, there was this moment, on a rooftop, when Demi Moore explains the existence of the human belly button as the scar of the separation of man from woman. It was riveting. Of course, it also was unscientific, ridiculously impossible and utterly born of myth. I sat and cried for an hour with a bottle of Jim Beam. You see, myth breaks my heart in a way that science does not. I have this theory that science is our own millennial mythology: provable, measurable, crystallized myth. Do I know it’s true? Why, yes. Am I primally torn at the fracture of science from its ontology? More. Touch me; I’m real. Cut me, I bleed. Love me . . . I’m legend. Prove that, I dare you. And take note: I’m 5’2 and 124 pounds, soaking wet. See?

I’m as small as a bell around a cat’s neck and still throb like a universe. I am signified.

Which brings us ’round to our original musings: why myth? Why signification?

I’ve always felt that it is the inherent right (or rite) of a soul to signify its own self, rather than exist as the victim of signification. We are untranslatable until we translate ourselves. I cannot imagine a Goddess in need of the same, for She is already, well, everything. Translating her is our need, not the other way around. Indeed, on this plane of existence, we crave myth as the signification of our heritage, of our transcendence and of our paths. Myth is our secret weapon, you see, the Orion’s bell around our neck that holds the universe.

And just for good measure and some final signification of all the myth that I embody:

Y’all know that thump in your core that smells like home and sounds like buffalo? Have you felt the way your soul heals right up when you eat butter smeared on homemade bread or nestle yourself under a worn quilt? Seen someone you love smile with the sun laying down on his or her face all gold and worn in the late afternoon? That’s the echo of the Divine. That’s Southern. And down here, we share myth like it’s homemade wine and signify you as kin.

Blessed Be,

Seba (aka Dr. PD)


Footnotes:
1. I am particularly working with Lacanian theories of the signifier as it relates to psychoanalytic studies of desire. This theory was originally attributed to Saussure. See: Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics (trans. Wade Baskin) . London: Fontana/Collins, 1974. Also see: Gates, Henry Louis. African American Literary Criticism, 1773 to 2000. ed. Hazel Arnett Ervin. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1999: 261.

2. I find it altogether fascinating that many, if not most, of found Paleolithic sculptures and drawings of the Goddess had tapered or nonexistent feet. While we, as humans, must “ground” in order to find balance, She is always already embedded in her earth.

3. Foucault, Michel. “The Order of Discourse, ” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present 2nd Ed (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001) , 1458.

4. Stone, Merlin. When God Was a Woman. Florida: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1976.

5. Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself, ” Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1900.

6. Men in Black. Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld. Columbia Pictures, 1997. This particular line was misheard as “Orion’s Belt.”

7. The Butcher’s Wife. Dir. Terry Hughes. Paramount Pictures, 1991.

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Special Kitty of the Day for April 4th

Stryper, the Cat of the Day
Name: Stryper
Age: Seven years old
Gender: Female
Kind: Tabby
Home: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Iadopted Stryper from the Edmonton Humane Society seven years ago as a birthday present to myself. She is a brown tabby with amazing stripe patterns (thus the name) and her coat is thick and beautiful with cinnamon colored highlights. Raised in the land of long winters, she can tolerate going outside until it is -20, but any colder than that and she stays in!

I had spent eight months without a furry companion, and from the day I brought Stryper home, she has brought me smiles and joy. She has one of the sweetest personalities of any cat I’ve known, she is very social and greets everyone who comes into our home, and is always there to greet me when I get home from work. Because we lived alone for some time, Stryper is quite a talker because I spend a lot of time talking to her. Although cuddly and sweet, she is not a lap cat and prefers her own furniture to the couch. Precisely 10:00 pm every night is playtime and she makes forlorn sounds while stalking through the house with a small hair scrunchy in her mouth. When I got together with my husband two and a half years ago, they immediately bonded and Stryper has special cuddle time with Daddy when Mommy isn’t around. Stryper spent the first five years of her life on the 16th floor of a high-rise with only a balcony. When we moved in with Daddy, though, she got a yard to play in. It didn’t take her long to become an agile, outdoor kitty during the day! We love her!

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Dog-gone Doggie of the Day for April 4th

Brennan, the Dog of the Day
Name: Brennan
Age: Two years old
Gender: Male Breed: American Pit Bull Terrier
Home: Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Brennan is a very special dog that I’ve enjoyed bringing into my life. He hasn’t always had a wonderful life though, and his story started out on the streets. Brennan was thrown out and left to fend for himself when he was a puppy. He was found starved to death and living off of mulch by a compassionate family on the other side of town. He was smart enough to eat what he could find, and I’m sure that’s how he survived as long as he did in his condition.

The family took him in, nursed him back to health, got him vetted, and put him up for adoption. He was on Petfinder.com for eight months before I stumbled upon him and immediately fell in love. He joined my life in November of 2010, and is now approximately two years old.

I can’t possibly understand how nobody could want him, because Brennan is nothing but a lovable dork. He loves playing fetch with his favorite green octopus, going for walks, meeting new people and children, and eating everything he thinks is edible, including a couple of shoes and leashes. He is one of the things that brings character and life into my day, and there is nothing more entertaining than coming home to the sweet whimpers and butt wiggles of my goofy boy. He isn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box, but he is mine and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Brennan, the Dog of the Day
See more images of Brennan!

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