‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for August 12

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Before we can share with others, we must have something to share. And all of us do have something to give. Not material things, but we can share our peace and our love and our loyalty.

Before we can share with others, there must be others with whom to share. For if we are selfish and self-centered enough, we will never have to worry about sharing anything. We will be alone.

Before we can expect others to share with us, we must be capable of accepting. We must be worthy of others who desire to share with us; we must deserve their love.

Before the two of us can ever find anything in this world of mutual interest, we must have enough concern and enough love to feel a need within to produce something good enough to offer; not only to others, but to ourselves. If we have abused our own nature with thoughts of bitterness, harboring painful experiences, self-condemnation for little progress regardless of circumstances, then we have nothing to offer.

The French philosopher Achille Poincelot once said, “Some people think that all the world should share their misfortunes, though they do not share in the sufferings of anyone else.”

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Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet:

 

http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

 

Elder’s Meditation of the Day August 12

Elder’s Meditation of the Day August 12

“With one mind we address our acknowledgment, respect, and gratefulness to all the sacred Cycle of Life. We, as humans, must remember to be humble and acknowledge the gifts we use so freely in our daily lives.”

–Audrey Shenandoah, ONONDAGA

The sacred Cycle of life – the baby, the youth, the adult, the Elder. Let us respect all directions, the four directions of the Grandfathers; let us respect their power. Let us remember we belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us. Help us to be respectful to all the gifts You have given us.

Oh Great Spirit, help me this day to be humble. Let me not attack anything in deed or in my thoughts. Let my thoughts focus on the beauty You have created in all things.

August 12 – Daily Feast

August 12 – Daily Feast

Time and space mean nothing to friends. They find each other again and again, to share the things that are important – and a great many things that are ordinary, everyday events. Tsu na li I, friends or close ones, forgive us whether we deserve it or not. They know how easy it is to get off center. But they have high hopes for us – maybe even higher than we have for ourselves. We are at our best when someone chooses to be that kind of friend, to make allowances for our lapses of memory – for no other reason than precious, loyal friendship. It is a quiet, peaceful and dear relationship that never grows old and never ends. Being such a friend is a sweet and blessed responsibility.

~ The Great Spirit has smiled upon us and made us glad. ~

KEOKUK

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for Aug. 12 – Keep reminding yourself

Keep reminding yourself

When you feel like feeling sorry for yourself, stop. Remind yourself that  self-pity won’t get you anything worth having.

When you feel like running away from your problems, stop, turn around and  face those problems. Choose to become stronger and to create real value by  working your way through them.

Is there work to be done, and you don’t feel like making the effort? Remind  yourself that in the long run, getting the job done will feel much better than  endlessly putting it off.

Living with intention, discipline and focus is not all that complicated or  difficult. It’s a matter of reminding yourself that it’s your best option.

You are absolutely capable of creating and experiencing the very best life  you can imagine. You just have to keep reminding yourself to keep choosing it.

A life that’s positive, successful and authentically fulfilling comes from  the quality of the choices you make in every moment. The life you live is the  life you choose, so remind yourself, again and again, to choose the best.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for August 12 – Worthiness

Worthiness

Accepting Our Calling

by Madisyn Taylor

Our worth of being on the planet at this time cannot be judged as we are all worthy and essential to being here now.

The issue of worthiness may come up in many areas of our lives, as we ask, often unconsciously, whether we are worthy of success, love, happiness, and countless other things, from supportive relationships to a beautiful home. In the end, though, it all comes down to one thing: our willingness to claim our space in this life as humans on this planet at this time. When we accept our divinity, we no longer question whether we are worthy, because we know that we are meant to be here to fulfill a particular purpose, a purpose that no one other than us can fulfill.

There are no replacements who can take over and live our lives for us, no other person who has had the experiences we have had, who has access to the same resources and relationships, who carries the same message to share with the world. Our purpose may be large or small, and in most cases it is multi-leveled, with important actions taking place on the interpersonal level, as well as in terms of the work we do in the world. Small acts of kindness share the stage with large acts of sacrifice, and only through accepting and honoring our divinity can we know what we are called to do and when.

Ultimately, we are all equally, exactly, completely worthy of being here in this life. Moreover, we are all essential to the unfolding plan of which we are each one small, but important, part. If we suffer from low self worth, it is because we have lost track of understanding this truth, and allowing it to guide our actions in the world. Seeing ourselves as part of something larger, as beings called to serve, is the ultimate cure for feelings of unworthiness. In the end, it’s not about evaluating ourselves as worthy or unworthy, so much as it’s about accepting that we have been called here to serve and taking the steps required to listen and respond to what our lives are asking us to do.

Midmaiden Crisis

Midmaiden Crisis

Author: Deborah Castellano

I’m having a midmaiden crisis.

Sometimes I wonder if I make my life much harder than it has to be. Like, just about everyone else I know seems perfectly contented working a job that is hopefully not soul-sucking 40 hours a week, getting engaged/married, spending a lot of time at home, paying nominal attention to their religion of choice, occasionally still going out with friends maybe monthly, once in a blue moon going to a club or a party, and just generally going about life.

I understand watching my family’s struggles with secrecy, pain, and shame has made me very resistant to an average, mundane kind of life even though most people don’t have horrible consequences for choosing a life that becomes very insular. I guess I saw almost all my mom’s friends leave her since she would not leave my alcoholic dad and saw how unhappy both my parents were. So the idea of being so dependent on any one person for everything and being so limited in life choices made me decide at an early age that that would never be me.

I’ve spent all of my life trying to make safe/secure life decisions. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted what I never had growing up (a warm, loving, happy family) and to please everyone and be successful. Instead I am staring down:

A career I left because it was crushing me and not nurturing my soul, so I could become a part time nanny and bring home exactly half the money I was previously bringing home for half the hours. This was not the life my mother or I had envisioned for myself. I was supposed to be on a career path! I was supposed to be making lots of money! I was supposed to be working towards being someone important in someone else’s fishbowl! Instead, I am a nanny for two small children for a very nice family and I am helping to nurture them to grow up smart, self-confident, and happy.

Loving, happy, but complicated love relationships. My heart tends to be too complex to fit into a typical Cosmo’s “How to have a successful relationship and give a good blowjob and have an awesome career and spend lots of time with your galpals and girl, get your ass to the gym for some yoga and quality you time!” column. I am truly blessed to have partners in my life who understand this and friends who do their best to try as well. But when you step out of society’s check boxes (Gay or straight? Married or single?), it can also feel isolating and frustrating to not have all the words to explain things quickly or the comfort of doing what’s expected of you.

A religion that’s often misunderstood. I was brought up Catholic (and was a very devout believer), but after my dad died, it started to not work so well for me. I started asking a lot of questions and hoped to find answers that worked for me. And while in my college coursework I found peace with the religion I was raised in, and respect for my feminist Catholic sisters who are fighting the good fight, the revolution was not moving fast enough for me personally. I learned about Dianic Wicca in my studies and was lucky enough to find a circle near to me that started my path as a Pagan. It was (and is) a beautiful, exciting, and moving experience for me. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I miss the ease of Catholicism — go to church Sundays, be a good pony, confess when you haven’t, and God will always take care of you. Following a much newer (and at the same time much older) religion and religious movement is exciting and exhilarating because I feel like I personally am making a lot of impact on it. My connections to my own goddesses and gods feel a lot more personal to me. But there are also many explanations needed, fewer religious texts to fall back on, a firm but smaller support structure, and let’s not forget the whole “I went against hundred of years of tradition in my family” to be a Witch thing.

Not wanting any kids. I love being a nanny. I really do. But I also love going home. I love having the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want it. And that is not going to go over well with my fam when they find out.

Still have a house that is often messy. Part of the reason I left the corporate world was to have more time to tend to my own hearth. To have the time and energy to care for my loved ones, my house and have enough time to cook (another pastime I enjoy). But oftentimes the house is still messy more days than not, we eat casseroles and crockpot meals more often than not, along with the stigma of others (not my partners!) devaluing my labor in the home because it’s unpaid. I also am dealing with my own envy for the women I know who work full time, but make Martha Stewart look like a burnout slacker. It can be very hard to not hold myself up to these other women and find myself lacking.

To say taking the road less traveled is terrifying is nothing shy of an incredible understatement. I remember how scared and anxious I was when I was just out of college, sitting on the concrete train station floor in Belgium, stranded and unable to speak the language with just a fistful of currency (wafflemarks?) in my pocket. If you had told me then that it would pale in comparison to how I would feel five years later, surrounded by friends and family in my own hometown trying to follow my heart like some damned chicklit novel, I probably would have thrown some wafflemarks at you. But yet, here I am anyway.

I guess I’m saying it’s hard sometimes, feeling like not a lot of people in my life can say “I know exactly how you feel” and really mean it. Sometimes this path to my true heart is lonely and often it’s scary. I’ve always, always had a really exacting plan, but I threw my map into the river. Stepping out of my box is really hard for me. My inner critics are loud, bossy, and opinionated. And that’s just my inner critics; forget about my loved ones who want what’s best for me…according to them. It can be hard to stand up for myself to all of them when I still have so many doubts and fears. Because you know what? I don’t know what I’m doing.

In this time of personal turmoil, I’ve gotten so bogged down in the mundane that I’ve forgotten how to practice my spirituality. And, you want to know a secret? I’m scared to get back into a regular practice. To me, it feels like coming home way after curfew, smelling of cigarette smoke, and you know your mom is up waiting for you. At times, I still see my deities as disappointed parents. I’ve been trying to put the magical in the daily (giving thanks to Yemaya in the shower, singing praise to Crow in my car). I’m trying to appreciate all the things I do and accomplish. I’m trying to see the beauty of just being in the grace of the deities who have blessed me by choosing me as one of their beloved. But it’s hard for me to set aside my tendencies to be an overachiever in my spiritual life.

I feel like I should be able to “just” set aside all of my faults in this one area of my life. My altars should be maintained, my meditation practice should be daily, I should give of my time freely and easily to the community and oh yeah, not be critical of my execution of my faith. In other words, I should not be me but maybe Kuan Yin instead. But then . . .aren’t all our flaws and graces amplified in this area of our lives? I’ve been crueler, more selfish, more demanding, harsher, less trusting, less attentive, angrier, and sadder in my faith than I have in any other part of my life. I’ve also been more selfless, kinder, more nurturing, more faithful, more ecstatic, and most peaceful than any other part of my life.

When I can tell my inner critic to take a nap for a little while, I can still see the beauty of my practice, even now. I can see kitchen Witching for Lammas and singing Bridget’s song to Her while I make pan after pan of food with my fellow kitchen Witches and letting a friend cry into my apron when she needed to. I can see myself at the Jersey shore, introducing one of my loves to Yemaya and twirling and throwing white roses into Her sea. I can see my Crow side teasing my friend while I read her Tarot and sort out her love life. I can see my shaman self, dancing to the universal heartbeat at a goth club, dripping in sweat, being brave enough to get on a table and dance my offerings to the Universe and yes, as if no one is watching. And I have to hold onto these pieces of myself during this difficult time, tighter than I’d hold a box from Tiffany’s, because it’s what reminds me that I am part of this universe. It reminds me that I do bring wonder and joy, even when it’s harder to see. Most importantly, it reminds me that following my path to my secret heart is indeed full of miracles and wonders if I can see them through my tears.

Footnotes:
Additional Resources for Soul Searching:

Truth or Dare : Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery by Starhawk: A powerful exploration into using our spiritual power as women to make changes in our own lives, our community, and our world.

Office Sutras: Exercises for Your Soul at Work by Marcia Menter: A very helpful little book with ideas on how to find soulfulness at your current job and how to figure out what will make you happy in the workplace in the long term.

Planet Sark: http://www.planetsark.com/: A beautiful, colorful website with lots of kindred spirits figuring out their life’s path with some really great resources.

The Honesty Room by Dar Williams: A lyrically amazing, gorgeously sung cd that will make you laugh and cry and think about your life.

Practicing With Dark Energies

Practicing With Dark Energies

Author:   Meph   

There’s too much confusion and misinformation out there regarding Dark energy workings, not helped by media portrayals from The Craft to Harry Potter’s “Protection from the Dark Arts” teachers. “Dark” does not automatically mean evil, bad, or nasty. It can just mean “Dark.” “Light” and “Dark” are just two of many dualities in the Universe – e.g., Ying/Yang, Birth/Death, Female/Male. Together, they form a natural balance – without one, the other could not exist. Learning to responsibly work with both is required by many traditions and recommended to make you a better Witch.

Energy is Energy

We believe energy is energy. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” energy; it just is, much like electricity is neither good nor bad. What matters is the intent of the person or persons casting the spell.

Energy can be used for both creative and destructive purposes; however, “destructive” does not have to automatically mean “bad” or “evil”. As the Universe is balanced, and there must be both death and life, so both creative and destructive energies have their place.

Our standard example is healing. How would you possibly use Dark, destructive energy for healing? A friend has cancer and asks for your help; you have full consent and the person will be present in the Circles. You perform two Circles with them. During the first, at Full Moon, you raise constructive White Light energy and direct it to their entire body (less the site of the cancer). This raises their energy level, helps them overcome the side effects of the medical cancer treatments they are taking, and keeps them from developing secondary problems. Then, fourteen days later on New Moon, you have them in a New Moon Circle. This time you deliberately raise Dark energy — killing energy — and very carefully direct it at the cancer itself. An effective use of Dark energy for healing, and an excellent example of using both sides of the duality.

Another use is to remove obstacles or blocks. During Full Moon circles we’ll use each of the four elements’ positive properties to help us achieve a goal. During New Moon we’ll use each element’s destructive properties to remove or destroy what stands in our way or blocks us.

Care and Ethics

Keep in mind using Dark energy is not something to be taken lightly. It requires patience, experience, and, most of all, control and ethics.

In the above cancer example, what would happen if your control was off just a bit and your guidance in directing the killing energy was off by a few inches? Unless you can create, manipulate and direct energy very, very precisely (and know your anatomy), take great care. Otherwise you can end up doing far more harm than good. If you’re going to use magic for healing, take close note of the old medical ethics statement “Primum non nocere” – “First, do no harm”. You wouldn’t hand a scalpel to a child and tell them to operate. So don’t hand Dark workings to anyone not trained and prepared to work them.

Likewise, ethically, always differentiate between removing an obstacle or block and tromping on someone else’s will and freedom of choice. If you’re having a problem getting that cute boy to notice you, target Dark energy to destroy your shyness, not to destroy your competition.

Balance

All of life is a balancing act. Nature is full of balances; never exact but swinging back and forth. The length of day and night, equal at the Equinoxes and most out of balance at the Solstices. The Moon – going from Full to New and back again. The circle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. All of these are balances of dualities. Likewise, Light and Dark energies are merely balances of two sides of the coin of energy.

As you start to work with both Light and Dark energies (or, more precisely, constructive and destructive intents), keep in mind the balance. This doesn’t mean an exact balancing between the two all of the time, but if you find yourself getting too far one way or the other, stop and reflect and see if the rest of your life isn’t getting out of balance as well.

Practicing Light and Dark

The easiest way we’ve found to teach Light and Dark energy work is to start by doing Moon workings. Practice these on the days of the Full and New Moon. I used to have to find a Moon calendar once a year and then remember where I put it; now I just keep the U.S. Naval Observatory’s “Phases of the Moon” page bookmarked ( http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/MoonPhase.html#y2006) . Working on the actual day of is best, but we’ll go one to two days either way if necessary.

To practice, perform a Circle. After Casting, invoke each quarter and invoke the appropriate aspect of the element. For example, during Full you might call upon Water and visualize a soothing bath, or cool breezes for Air. During Dark you might call on earthslides (or mudslides, if in California) for Earth or a raging inferno for Fire (be careful of your candles if you do this latter one). Then raise a cone of energy – appropriately colored – and release it to accomplish your intent. But be very careful in your intent. It should be both specific and ethical.

Another practice takes the form of meditations.

As a Dark meditation, we teach an anger meditation. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Center and ground, and then visualize your anger. Take your anger to each of the four quarters and use the destructive aspects of each element to destroy your anger – burn it, bury it, drown it, blow it away. If all your anger isn’t gone, run through it again. At the end, take a long time to ground very thoroughly.

As a Light meditation, we teach an encouragement meditation. Like the Dark meditation, do the same, but visualize something in your life – part of you, your kindness, getting good grades, or the ability to succeed at your job. Likewise, take what you visualized to each of the four elements, but this time use the constructive aspects of each element to help, encourage and grow what you’re trying to increase or improve.

Balanced Practicing

As you learn and continue to work both Dark and Light, hopefully your life will improve and be more balanced itself. Working with both gives you one more set of magical tools to help you in your life. It’s up to you to use them wisely.

Ancient Knowledge, Dreams, Visions And Understanding

Ancient Knowledge, Dreams, Visions And Understanding

Author:   Lady Abigail 

Dreams, impressions and visions have been a part of my life since my first memories. How excited I became on those special nights, nights my Great Grandmother called “dream nights.” Those special nights only came a few times a year. Sometimes it was cold with ice or snow on the ground, so being outdoors was impossible. But for those that came in the summer, what magickal nights they would truly be.

I was awakened in the early morning by thunder shaking the house. It was wood framed and the windows rattled with each clap. I could hear the wind slapping the branches of the willow tree against my bedroom window. The rain was beating so hard against the glass that it looked like a blue waterfall each time the lightening flashed. I was sitting up and watching out the window to see what might come next, when my Great Grandmother’s gentle voice called out for me.

She was up and already dressed. She was lighting the small candle on the table; I could see her long skirt with the clean, white, crisp apron tied in back. Her hair, braided long, was coming across her shoulder and looked like a thick silver rope. As she pinned her hair back into a bun, she said, “They’re just cleaning the sky, little one, so we can see the dreams in heaven tonight.”

She knew I had no fear of storms; I liked watching them. But I was worried that we would have to wait until another night, because of the rain. I was assured it would clear in plenty of time to read and enjoy the night.

Dream nights began in the evening, on the eve, as the sun would just begin to set. I would later understand this was the eve of the Winter and Summer Solstices. These were days of balance and harmony, days for seeking understanding.

It had been an especially long day for me. The storm kept us inside until afternoon and then I had to take a nap. Naps were something I really didn’t like.

By the time I had awakened, it was late afternoon. I could hear my Great Grandmother working in the kitchen; she was frying chicken for our picnic. I could smell the fresh baked corn muffins. I was allowed the special task of making the honey butter for our holiday night.

The sun was hot and the morning’s rain had made the day muggy. It seemed like a lifetime to me, as a child, waiting, as we got our baskets packed and ready to go. But soon my Great Grandmother picked up the blanket and it was time to go. I was so impatient; it felt like I had a swarm of bumble bees flying around in my stomach.

We walked the narrow path through the back woods to the meadow. I can still hear the birds, singing as we walked along. That meadow was miles from the house and used for growing hay that would be harvested in early fall. It was overflowing with flowers, giving off the sweet aromas from the hot summer day.

The sun was just lowering and caused long shadows on the ground as we arrived. I knew my way from there. It wasn’t long until my Great Grandmother was calling me down out of the great oak tree. She had placed our picnic underneath it, in the shade, where we made a small campfire in the ring of stones placed there since before I could remember.

It still brings joy to my heart, remembering how I had listened to my Great Grandmother as she would tell the legends of her family. As the sun began to set, I liked to lie on the blanket and watch the sky as each tiny star began to show. I would memorize my Great Grandmother’s face as she spoke to me of amazing stories and visions.

This was the time and place I learned to dream. Not the dreams that come from sleep, but the dreams that come as a gift; guided dreams, vision quests, impressions, the time in which we seek knowledge and understanding from the powers of light and dark.

By whatever name you call it, this is the power to walk the veils and travel time by means of energy, sight, or shape-shifting to gain knowledge in divination.

As I lay there, with my head on my Great Grandmother’s lap, I watched the moon slowly rise, making the night as bright as day. Visions and dreams, sounds and songs, came racing across the sky like brilliant flashes of lives recorded from people and places I did not know.

I saw those that lived long before the others came. I saw vast oceans, snow covered peaks, deserts, and lands alive with nature. I walked in lands erased by time and covered by progress. I joined my hands with those that had passed on before me; those that had paid the heaviest price for being different. I learned that I was made up of many parts, past and present, hopes and dreams, not all my own.

My first visions were times of learning. Learning who and what I was, learning that, even as a small child, I carried the knowledge and history of many lifetimes. They were memories of different people, spirits, some passing through, some native, and some that never walked this earth.

This gift of visions comes from learning how to utilize your magick and technique to access the powers of transforming and transformational control. This is found within birth, life, and death, as experienced in the seasons of all existence. To travel in this existence, you must learn to develop and deepen the use and understanding of ancient magickal traditions. Like my Great Grandmother, those who excelled in this ability were called Shamans, the Wise Ones, or Witches.

Again, the name is less important that the feat. It does not matter if you are female or male; it is in learning to respect all things, no matter the direction in life or beyond. If you seek understanding, then you must learn of all the worlds, seen and unseen. You must learn to be a master of your own state of mind. If you desire to enter the trance state, that which is both dreams, sleeping and waking, you must desire understanding of yourself, living and past. You must seek comprehension of who and what you are, before seeking to find answers in the veils of conscious and unconscious thought.

This gift, this power, comes from a consciousness beyond mere idea. Some may enter through meditation, beating a drum, dancing, chanting, or by using mystical brews, or joining with those who have passed before. These are only a few ways some begin this journey.

Once you call for a vision by way of a vision quest, lucidly dreaming, or trance, you must remain focused and conscious, always well aware that journeying into the veils means crossing boundaries of many worlds. This can only be done by seeking to gain insight and knowledge; information that can be brought back into this world and made real. This is done by validating what you learn through words and works, ritual, healing, and magick with complete respect.

I believe that to communicate with the spirit world, you must have a belief in the existence of individual spirits; spirits that not only exist within the consciousness of nature, but inhabit the consciousness of natural objects, as well. This comes as you learn that existence is both spiritual and physical. The two are one. We are both our spiritual and physical bodies. Once this is understood, you can unlock the possibilities to all.

Over the years, I have had to be careful who I allowed into this part of my life. To allow others to know the gifts I have been blessed with could have not only brought disbelief, but danger as well. Reactions from some can be saddening and painful. There are those that have no eyes to see beyond their own minuscule world.

Why? Is the idea of seeking insights by way of personal journeying and visions less acceptable than going to a psychiatrist to get understanding of our inner demons? Both are a seeking and finding within our own spirits; only the philosophies differ by time and traditions.

If this vision questing is your desire for seeking and divination of insight, first learn to visualize and guide yourself to your own personal goals. Then, be wise; learn how to form clear mental images. Learn to focus and direct energy in magick and ritual. As you seek and grow to appreciate your visions, they will come with greater clarity. This clarity will begin to open the door to understanding your own spirit. Then, in time, and with patience, you will begin traveling further than any physical existence.

For me, a vision quest is a quest for the visions within my soul. They help heal us or make us whole, both spiritually and personally. In times past, the elders taught the young how to find their path in life and find their spirits to aid them. I was fortunate; I had a Great Grandmother that taught me the old ways. Today, that is not as common; many have to be self-taught and travel alone.

Today, I can only travel back to the meadow within my visions and dreams. The field that was once filled with life is now gone; the great oak tree cut down, and the stones erased by time and progress. But this will not stop me from lying on the quilt beneath the great oak tree, or talking with my Great Grandmother.

Many have learned too well not to see and not to hear. They live in a world without color, afraid of the truth. Children of the light choose to be open to the visions, the dreams, and the spirits walking with us. We are unafraid of the truth.

Be blessed as you walk in the rainbows of life and witness all the colors before you.

Our Inclusiveness Is Our Strength

Our Inclusiveness Is Our Strength

Author:   Carissa Stormbringer 

If I had to pick one thing that I love most about Pagan culture, it would be the fact that we allow diversity of opinion and practice. I get amused at how much it shocks people when they see a pentacle around my neck. I don’t fit the stereotype of a Witch that most people have in their mind. What people don’t seem to realize is that there isn’t just one type of Pagan. We’re a mixture of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. I’m a middle-aged, professional woman, and one of my best friends in the Pagan community is a college-aged Goth. I’ve circled with feminists, gays and lesbians, Marines, Shamans, Jewish Mystics, Esoteric Christians, Police Officers…all kinds of people. I’ve seen Druidic rituals, Shamanistic rituals, Wiccan rituals. I’ve heard Hebrew, Cherokee, Enochian, and Greek spoken in rituals, and I speak Latin in my own. The rituals of different Pagan paths are all different, but each is a beauty to behold. I walk away from every Sabbat with a new piece of knowledge under my belt. There is always something to learn from each new path I encounter. We’re all on different roads, but our destination is exactly the same. We are all holding hands as we walk through this life. Every one of us is an important part of the whole, and each of us has something good to contribute.

We are thinkers as well as mystics. We question, we ponder, and we allow our fellows to do the same. Some of my very best friends are people who I don’t agree with on a lot of issues. Why? Because I realize that a difference of opinion should never interfere with loving another human being. If I have to treat someone bad in order to make myself feel good about the path I’m on, then I’m no more than a sadist using religion to try and get away with causing others pain. Most Pagans I have met agree with this whole heartedly, and more importantly, they practice it! At any given festival, you’ll see so many different people around the fire, and in circle so many different rituals. It’s truly a wonderful feeling to see all these different people be together in love and unity. We’re all unique, but we walk through this world with our hands joined.

I know that tolerance isn’t always easy, and we Pagans are no more or less human than any other faith community. We make an effort, however, to make everyone feel welcome. We do not publicly exclude any positive path, nor do we say that there is only one way to worship the Divine. True spirituality isn’t about controlling others. It’s about having a sincere, heartfelt connection with Divinity. As a whole, we realize that people need to build this connection in their own way. What works for me isn’t going to work for another Pagan. I will not stand by and tell anyone that they must worship in exactly the way that I do, or they are evil. The very thought it ludicrous to me, as it is to most other Pagans as well. We believe that all people should be free to express their spirituality in whatever way appeals to them. This elevates the human spirit, and allows for future change if we are faced with new facts about the Universe. We can sit and talk with one another, circle together, and appreciate what each path has to offer. This is a far cry from the exclusiveness of fundamentalist Christianity.

I’ve studied many mystical things from many different paths. All of them are beautiful. I love Runes for their power, eclectic water spells for their beauty, ceremonial rites for their attention to detail, and Shamanic journeys for the amazing insight they give. Each path I learn about has something wonderful to teach me. It pains me deeply that anyone would deny another human being the right to explore the spiritual realm and make up their own minds about things. In my opinion, those who do this are committing a gross crime against their fellow man. I don’t want to live in a world where there are no choices, no freedom of thought, no room for growth and change. This isn’t what the Lady meant for us. She meant for each of us to come to Her and the Lord in our own special way. The form your worship takes doesn’t matter. As long as you are sincere and do no harm to innocent people, you will be accepted with open arms into the Pagan community. We will let you be who you are. We will not try to own you. You can think, question, and be treated with respect and dignity in our fold. You can see Deity in whatever form you please. I think our inclusiveness is truly the shining jewel we possess as a community. By the Lady’s grace, I hope we never lose it.

It’s a big Universe out there. If we are going to someday accept beings that will likely be very different than us, we must first learn to accept our fellow man. Tolerance starts here, with us, in our community. I’m very proud of the acceptance and inclusiveness I see in the Pagan community. This is one reason why our faith is growing in leaps and bounds. People are hungry for what we have to offer. They’re tired of being told what to think and how to worship. They’re tired of the dogma, the disrespect of women, and the narrow-mindedness of most mainstream religions. People want choices, not chains! They want a relationship with Deity and common sense morality, not repressive rules and psychological tyranny. Intolerance has hurt our world in so many ways. It has cost countless innocent lives in religious wars and persecutions, and time after time it has been used as a political tool by corrupt leaders and greedy clergy. It’s time to put this monster to rest, my friends. It’s done too much damage to be allowed to live any longer. May we all share this world together in peace, and may the Lady’s blessing be upon us all, regardless of our spiritual path.

The Ethics Of Empathy

The Ethics Of Empathy

Author:   Cael SpiritHawk 

Some months ago, a few of the members of my Grove expressed concerns over the ethics of using empathy, in various circumstances, to “read” other people’s emotional state. We ended up holding a discussion night about it, and several of our members shared their thoughts on the matter. I wrote down my opinion and posted it in the “Philosophy” section on the forums at my Grove website at http://www.shadowgrove.com/, and recently I found it again and thought I would share it here. I’ve edited it slightly, but what follows is essentially the same post I made at the time.

People have different levels of perception in all of their senses; one person may hear poorly and see very well, another may do both poorly, and another may hear with extreme acuity and be completely unable to see. No one can make any assumptions about the sensory perceptiveness of any other random person on the street. If you’re sitting in a Starbuck’s, having a quiet conversation with your friend, you can guess that the people at the table on the other side of the shop cannot hear you, but you have no way to actually know. You might think that the barrista cannot see the sketches you’re drawing to explain something to your friend, but you don’t know for sure; she might.

Walk through a busy place some time: an airport, a mall, a supermarket. Pay attention to what you see and hear. You can hear people talking, you can see people gesturing to one another, and you can see the expressions on their faces.

The sounds of words are carried to you by the energy of compression waves in the atmosphere. The image of a person’s hands and face are carried by electromagnetic energy (light) .

Back to the coffee shop. Pretend you are sitting across the room from the pair of friends who are talking and sketching. You’re reading a book, so you’re not looking at them. But one of them raises her voice, and it sounds to you as if she’s frustrated. You can’t hear the words yet, but her tone is clear; she’s upset. Then her friend stands up, and he begins shouting, and this time you can hear the words. He tells her that it’s not that he doesn’t understand her, it’s that he does, but he thinks she’s wrong. He holds up the paper they’ve been sketching on, and you glance at it and see what they’ve been drawing.

Now, arguably none of this is your business, because you have not been invited to participate. But the energy (sound and light) that they have been putting out has come to you, and it is in every creature’s nature to accept and act upon received information. So you have perceived (because of her tone) a general state of frustration from the girl. You have perceived more precisely (because of his tone and actual words) that her friend believes she is wrong in her position. And you have perceived (by seeing it directly) that what they are talking about seems to be the layout of an advertising flyer that perhaps they’re working on.

Three levels of perception: General, specific, and precise; gained from three types of passive observation – tonal, verbal, and visual.

Now you know something about those two people that you did not know before. Have you been unethical? Not yet. Because you have received only that which they have given freely in your presence. If you took that knowledge and decided to use it in an unethical way, then you have crossed a line. If you moved to a different seat to be able to listen better, would that be unethical? Probably.

But suppose you reached the conclusion that the man is so agitated that he might become violent. Would it be unethical for you to gather your things and leave, based solely on what you’ve seen? Not at all – it would be prudent.

So it is with empathy. Just as words are carried outward through sound energy, and facial expressions are carried outward through electromagnetic energy, emotions are carried outward by the energy of Spirit. Just as there are people who see well and people who see poorly, there are people who are very perceptive of emotional energy and there are people who perceive it poorly, if at all.

When a person is feeling a strong emotion, their spiritual energy is broadcasting that emotion to everyone in their proximity, just as the look on their face is broadcasting that emotion. If they’re laughing or crying or shouting, the emotion is carried by sound as well.

People can learn to hide their facial expressions and contain their verbal expressions. Likewise, they can learn to control the emotional energy they are sending out on the spiritual plane. But most people do none of these.

So where are the ethics lines drawn with perceiving this spiritual energy of emotion (a perceptiveness we call empathy)? They’re more obvious than many people would believe: they’re drawn in the same places that they’re drawn for any other sense.

If a person is shouting, you cannot help but hear. If a person is smiling, you cannot help but see. If a person is broadcasting emotion, and you feel it, you have not violated their privacy, because as an empathic-perceptive, you cannot help but feel what they feel.

The boundaries come in two places: When you try to pry, and when you try to use the information you receive in a harmful way.

Just as it’s wrong to eavesdrop on someone’s phone conversations (because you’re listening to something that has not been freely offered in your presence), and just as it’s wrong to peer between someone’s bedroom blinds at night (because they’ve put the blinds down for a reason), it is wrong to use empathy to try to ferret out information that a person is not offering up freely.

It’s wrong to pretend to know someone, in order to get them to trust you, because you’ve overheard their name in a conversation. It’s wrong to take down a stranger’s phone number that you’ve seen as they write it down for a friend. Likewise it’s wrong to use the knowledge that you’ve obtained through empathy to give yourself an advantage over the person you got it from.

If a person has given you permission to use your empathy, of course, the rules all change. Empathy can be a powerful therapeutic tool, because the emotions that a person is putting out empathically may be different from the emotions he or she thinks are there. A trauma from the past, a phobia, a deep-rooted anxiety, all of these can come out on the empathic plane, while a person feels uncontrollably giddy but can’t explain why.

Empathy is a tool, just like hearing, sight, and even our hands are a tool. It’s not the possession of a tool that is ethical or unethical; it’s the way we use it. It can be used in helpful or harmful ways, just as any tool can.

If we remember that we are given gifts to allow us to better take care of each other, it’s much less likely that we will violate ethical boundaries. If you are a person who is gifted with strong empathy, use it. You were given it for a reason. But use it in the way you would use any other tool; with care, and with forethought, and with a respect for the people that you are affecting. Listen with it for things that are a danger, so that you may avoid them, and listen with it for people who are in need, so that you may be available to help them when they are ready for it and open to it.

It’s very difficult to violate ethical boundaries when your guidelines are respect for others and respect for yourself.

You would not gouge out an eye for fear of seeing someone’s tears; why would you reject the empathy that might help you understand the reason for those tears, so that you might help to solve it?