‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for November 1st

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Leave yourself a choice. It is a sorry state of affairs when a person’s life becomes so regimented that it is impossible to make even one change in plans. There is a story about a gentleman who kept a record in minute detail of his living and every cent he earned so that he could make a trip abroad. The record keeping became such an obsession that when he could make the trip he took along crackers to keep from eating in the dining room aboard ship. The journey was nearly over before he discovered the price of his meals was included in the fare.

How much do we miss by refusing to accept the bounty of choices? “If only” and “I wish” are so over used. We bind ourselves daily by refusing to recognize the volume of opportunities open to each of us. All of life is not free, but there is much available for our personal selection.

Dr. William S. Sadler wrote of a woman who was so orderly and systematic in her living that she inquired of her minister how to go about dying since she had never done it before. Living in a systematic world is possible, but there are limits to what we can prepare for and about which to be orderly. Daily we meet and settle many small emergencies, and some not so small. And it is our developed ability to meet these things successfully and on the spur of the moment that makes a well-rounded individual.

But the steady, uniform methods of doing things do not necessarily mean a person is ready to meet every situation in life. In fact, such living often makes change practically impossible when change is sorely needed.

Order is heaven’s first law. But order means first things first. A place for everything and everything in its place. Then, if we’ve learned how to live, we never have to worry about the art of dying gracefully.

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

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – November 1

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – November 1

“Times change but principles don’t. Times change but lands do not. Times change but our culture and our language remain the same. And that’s what you have to keep intact. It’s not what you wear – it’s what’s in your heart.”

–Oren Lyons, ONONDAGA

Going back to the old ways doesn’t mean giving up electricity, homes and cars. It means living by the same principles, laws and values that our ancestors lived by. This will allow us to live successfully in today’s world. The spirituality our ancestors lived is the same spirituality we need in these modern times. There are too many influences from TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and negative role models that are guiding our lives in a bad way. Our stability is in the laws, principles and values that our ancestors were given and that our Elders teach us.

Great Spirit, let me live my life in a spiritual way.

November 1 – Daily Feast

November 1 – Daily Feast

The danger point comes after a victory when we think there are no more battles. How many wars have been fought thinking this is the war that will end all wars? Even in our own private battles we cannot lie back and think we have won the right to peace. We do need to know and remember that we are more than conquerors. It is a life promise, but we have to claim it. Other claims have taken precedence – weariness, lack, sickness – but we are conquerors, even more than conquerors. We are winners and overcomers. Believe it, because it is true, and the more we claim it, the stronger it is.

~ Where is our strength? In the old times we were strong. ~

CHIPAROPAI – YUMA

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

Daily Motivator for November 1st – Get life going your way

Get life going your way

Don’t wait for life to go your way. Get your own thoughts and actions going  your way and the other things in life will reliably follow along.

Step forward and take a positive, active role in creating your own future.  Instead of worrying about what might or might not happen, work to make what does  happen the best you can imagine.

With every moment and every choice, you have an influence on the way your  life unfolds. Instead of being a victim of circumstance, find ways to utilize  each circumstance for meaningful, positive purposes.

Though you cannot control every influence in your life, you absolutely can  control what you make of those various influences. Make the choice, again and  again, to make the best of them.

Take what comes, whatever it may be, with gratitude and positive  expectations. Do what you must to make something good out of it.

There is always a way forward, so take it. There is always something useful,  valuable and positive you can do, so do it, and get life going your way.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for November 1st – The Death and Rebirth of Self

The Death and Rebirth of Self
Life Transitions

 

by Madisyn Taylor

 

Sometimes a part of us must die before another part can come to life.

 

Sometimes a part of us must die before another part can come to life. Even though this is a natural and necessary part of our growth, it is often painful or, if we don’t realize what’s happening, confusing and disorienting. In fact, confusion and disorientation are often the messengers that tell us a shift is taking place within us. These shifts happen throughout the lives of all humans, as we move from infancy to childhood to adolescence and beyond. With each transition from one phase to another, we find ourselves saying good-bye to an old friend, the identity that we formed in order to move through that particular time.

Sometimes we form these identities in relationships or jobs, and when we shift those areas of our life become unsettled. Usually, if we take the time to look into the changing surface of things, we will find that a shift is taking place within us. For example, we may go through one whole chapter of our lives creating a protective shell around ourselves because we need it in order to heal from some early trauma. One day, though, we may find ourselves feeling confined and restless, wanting to move outside the shelter we needed for so long; the new part of ourselves cannot be born within the confines of the shell our old self needed to survive.

We may feel a strange mixture of exhilaration and sadness as we say good-bye to a part of ourselves that is dying and make way for a whole new identity to emerge in its place. We may find inspiration in working with the image of an animal who molts or sheds in order to make way for new skin, fur, or feathers to emerge. For example, keeping a duck feather, or some other symbol of transformation, can remind us that death and rebirth are simply nature’s way of evolving. We can surrender to this process, letting go of our past self with great love and gratitude, and welcoming the new with an open mind and heart, ready for our next phase of life.

Daily OM

 

 

 

Once a Witch, Always a Witch

Once a Witch, Always a Witch

Author:   RuneWolf   

I’ve heard it said “Once a Witch, always a Witch, ” meaning that if we were a Witch in a previous life, we are more or less destined to be a Witch in this one. I don’t know if that’s specifically true in my case, but it might explain some things in the story of my journey to the Craft.

As with many of my generation (and other generations, of course!), my first introduction to the concept of a Witch was the infamous Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Oddly enough, when most of my friends and relatives were rooting for Dorothy and her crew, I was on the side of the Witch. After all, she wasn’t that horrid to me – Margaret Hamilton looked better in green and black than she did in plain black-and-white, and she had a better personality than many of my friends’ mothers! And most importantly, all she wanted were her late sister’s shoes. More than anything, it was the matter of the Witch of the East’s death and the dispute over the slippers that really set my young mind in turmoil. Why shouldn’t the Witch be mad at Dorothy? The little brat had killed her sister and stolen her slippers. Wasn’t that wrong? It seemed perfectly logical to me that the Witch should be irate. Even after my parents and friend tried to “explain” things to me, I still had my doubts.

Then came Bewitched. I don’t think I missed an episode in the first run. Aside from the madcap comedy, I was attracted by the underlying story of Samantha – a Witch just trying to live an everyday life. Little did I know that that admittedly exaggerated and fictionalized story line would become my own life story decades later! But despite the enthusiasm I had for the show, I also realized intuitively that Witchcraft was much more that waving your hands, reciting rhymes and twitching your nose. On some level, I knew that although they might have some things right, they were still way off the mark.

So much for the media influence on my childhood – what about religion and spirituality? My parents are devout Methodists in their own right, and raised us as such. That is to say, they believed that your religion (synonymous, to them, with spirituality) was something that you lived and breathed every day, not just in the confines of the church or congregation. To the point, in fact, where going to church became less and less of a priority for my parents as their children matured. Eventually, we would all drift away from the “fold” to find our own ways. There came a time when my parents no longer insisted that I accompany them to church. This was about the time I “came of age” and began to search for my own independence. I stopped going to church, not because I was particularly anti-Christianity, but because I found no spiritual fulfillment in our church. It was the early ’70s, and the church was heavily involved in “political” issues – the War in Viet Nam, women’s rights, racial equality and so on. All very worthy endeavors – but to me, they were just newspaper headlines, and did not address the yearning that was beginning to awaken within me. So I left the church but not in anger, and I bear it no particular animosity to this day. I know many people for whom it has become a spiritual anchor, a source of strength and beauty in their lives, and who can decry that?

Thus began my journey, though I didn’t think of it as such at the time. Over the next few years, into my early 20s, I would develop my own understanding of the Divine that, oddly enough, would dovetail very neatly with the Paganism that I would encounter years later. Principally, I came to see that Deity was immanent in the world, not separate from it, and that Deity could as easily be Her as Him. In fact, I clearly remember one of the most insightful moments of my young life, when I saw the bumper sticker that read “God Is Coming, And Boy Is She Pissed!” – and I thought “Of course! Why shouldn’t God be female? He/She/Them/It can be anything They want!”

Interestingly, during this period, I was heavily involved in school theatre, and played the Rev. Hale in The Crucible, and John the Witch-Boy in Dark of the Moon. It was the latter experience that really fueled my nascent interest in Witchcraft as a viable and living Tradition, as well as a mystical Path, and would stay with me through the dark and tumultuous years that were to come. It was also through Dark of the Moon that I made a connection with my Appalachian roots, and the long, deep tradition of Witchcraft that runs through the hollows.

Unfortunately, shortly after my graduation from high school, my life ran aground on the shoals of alcoholism, and remained marooned there for the next decade and a half. That’s not to say that I didn’t try to find my way, but spirituality and addiction are mutually exclusive. As much as I sought, and read and tried to practice, I never could make any headway. Duh! Zen meditation doesn’t really work if you’re getting up every five minutes to get a cold beer.

I ran the gamut from Taoism to Zen to Shinto to Western Occultism and even into Satanism, and nothing seemed to “work.” Eventually, I just gave up and drifted, empty and in pain.

When I’d had enough of that, I finally got sober. It’s interesting that it was through the gateway of AA, a spiritual program with decidedly Christian origins, that I finally came to the Craft. For years, I had assumed that the concept of Deity I had evolved in my late teens was somehow “wrong” because it wasn’t like “everyone else’s.” Then I got into AA, and one of the first things I really heard was “God as we understand Him.” That went through me like a lightening bolt, and suddenly everything that I used to think I believed in was supported, validated and encouraged. Suddenly, I was back on the Path, back to my journey of discovery.

It would take another two years, involve a side-journey through the realms of shamanism, and finally an introduction to the Internet, but at last I came “home” to the Craft. Even that was a near thing – my Teacher and I met on the Internet, began a correspondence that became a friendship and eventually led to my Dedication and Initiation. But how easily we could have missed each other! Surely the Gods were working that day to make sure we got together.

Since then, my journey has continued through many trials, including lapses in my sobriety. And I am even more convinced than ever that my sobriety must come first, for without it, I am totally cut off from the Gods. But when I am sober, and in tune with my Deities, my life is sweet beyond any ability of mine to describe. Not always easy, mind you – not always gentle. But always sweet, even if there is a little tartness or bitterness to set off the sweetness.

I began as a lone wanderer, became a Wiccan Priest, and now find myself something of a wanderer again. I must confess I am more at home in the role of Solitary – what some call a Hedge Witch – than I am as part of a coven or even less formal group. The Tradition into which I am Initiated is descended from Gardnerian Wicca, but would surely be considered Eclectic by hard-core Traditionalists. And I am a bit eclectic even for my Tradition!

And so it goes. Each day, I find a new aspect to my Craft. Some of them fit into my practice of Wicca, some fit into my practice of hedgecraft. I’ve come to realize lately that when I thing of myself as Wiccan, I think in terms of the religion and the group. When I think of myself as a Witch, I think in terms of my individual spiritual life and practice. There is, to me, a wildness and freedom about being a Witch that doesn’t always fit well into even the most liberal of Wiccan frameworks. And yet I derive strength and awen – a Druid term – from each.

This is my tale. These are my thoughts and opinions. May they be of amusement or use to someone out there.

Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them

Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them

Author:   Treasach   

My continuing series on pagan abbeys has been well received and I have had many inquires about pagan communities in North America, lay and cloistered. For those of you as hungry to be a part of such a dedicated group as I am, but have not yet found the right one, here are a few ways you might be able to connect with something suitable. If there are no structures in place in your area that fit your criteria, and you have the inspiration to create one, I have included some suggestions for that as well.

Identifying

One of the main reasons for dissatisfaction in a group is that most aspirants don’t start by identifying their needs correctly. In Western paganism, and especially in North America, there are often so few dedicated pagan groups that one must join whatever is available regardless of any misgivings or wrong fits, simply to partake of a community setting. This is a pity, as it often does not satisfy either the seeker or the other participants. They, or others, soon leave, or there is a long drawn out period where everyone becomes unhappy. Since there are so few options, and as the community is often so close knit, that a withdrawal or rejection from one group often leaves the seeker with even fewer choices for the future.

We can achieve the honing of our expectations without burning our local bridges by clearly identifying what is most important to us before we even attend our first meeting. Most reps aren’t willing to answer a long form questionnaire for the pleasure of your presence, of course, but most are agreeable to addressing your most important concerns. As it is quite an effort for most smaller groups to include new members, knowing what you need ahead of time can save everyone, including you, a lot of grief. What exactly does a group require for you to be happy in it? What can you live with, and what is a deal breaker?

* Dedicated to your deity, sect, or practice? Atheist? Non-denominational
* Supportive or focused on other communities as well – Gender or sex based, LBGT friendly, actively and pro anti-racial, anti-ablist, anti-agist?
* Level of commitment – Full time, ritual only, class based, coven like? Working in the world or simple meet-ups?
* Level of spirituality – Full time, full ritual, same tradition, like minded or causal?
* Travel – how far are you willing to go? To move, commute, or pop by?

Be honest with yourself. Your needs are your own and no one can criticize you for your choices. Don’t expect others to change their group for you, since they probably won’t, but your self-knowledge will make the task of narrowing your selections much simpler.

Locating

Now that you have broken down into a list of what you actually require, locating a group becomes much easier.

An additional avenue to consider is the practice of your spirituality along with your sacred calling, tasks, or interests. Many pagans find inspiration and sacredness in history, traditional skills, crafts, role-play, sexuality, activism, and other practices. There are many other individuals that also share those interests, and those kinds of groups don’t need to be sacred for you to feel as though you are fulfilling your spiritual needs. They are often easier to find and connect with, and you will learn from them how to better serve your deity (if you have one) and spirit, by honing and practising the skills that you associate most with the sacred.

Another bonus of connecting with any of these communities, religious or secular, is that you should be able to network with others that share your interests, and have an even better chance of finding a less well known but perfect group for your needs. If you find something sacred, so do others!

I’m going to make the leap here that you already know how to search for a pagan group in your area using Google and other on-line means. Witchvox of course lists many local pagan groups. If you still can’t see any that fit the needs you’ve defined, do not despair! There are a lot of avenues that many people miss when they are searching. Here are some suggestions of where to start looking for a group that meets your requirements that may not have an online presence or local listing. Feel free to suggest more.

A word about Message boards: Even though scouring Craigslist, Kijiji and social networking are the first places to start, many communities don’t have the work hours to keep posting on too many sites. Going down to a physical location, like an occult or new age bookstore, whole foods store or community centre and checking or posting on their notice boards is an increasingly disused option, but one worthy of pursuit. For many groups, it’s so much easier to leave up a poster and wait for inquiries than maintain a FB feed. You will always find at least one event or group that you never would have found any other way.

Organized:

Religious, National and International:

Unitarian Universalists
The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids
International Humanists: Canada, US, UK, Spiritual Humanism
Maetrum of Cybele
Abbey of the Green Flame
Copper Horse Abbey
OTO
Student groups at Universities and Colleges

Less organized, organic:

Red Tent Movement
Pan Indian movement and Idle No More
Drum circles
shamantic offerings
bardic circles
healing circles
Iron John retreats and The Good Men Project

Cloistered or Segregated secular communities:

alternative healing retreats
Intentional Communities: ecovillages, cohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, co-ops, housing cooperatives

Secular Communities of Sacred Interests:

ReCreationist:

Society of Creative Anachronisms and medieval reCreationists
Steampunk
war reenactors
LARPS
Bellydancing and other traditional folk dancing
sacred circle dance
Yoga
martial arts and other moving meditation, archery
Women’s and Men’s Healing
Gender Activism
LBGT groups
poly groups
sexuality groups, like BDSM
eco activism
animal activism
political activism
traditional skills – herbology, fibre arts, cookery, leatherworking, blacksmithing
music – medieval, bardic, folk

If you want to move to the country and dedicate yourself to a full time cloistered community, for example, and you *don’t* want to pretend or convert to Catholicism or Buddhism or Taoism or go Amish, but you don’t mind if everyone else isn’t doing the same prayers whenever you are, then International Communities or the new Ecovillages springing up are an excellent alternative. Most are secular, but not anti-religious, and are supportive of most lifestyles.

It would be fabulous if we had already available spaces for pagans who want to dedicate themselves full time as professional monks, for example, but we don’t. Yet. So for the moment, we must satisfy our spiritual selves as much as possible, before we can make those kinds of dedicated communities a reality.

Creating

Even with honing your sacred skills, you now want to dedicate your life to helping others experience that sacred community space. But there are no groups that fulfil your needs in your area, so you have decided to create one. What to do? Here are some suggestions.

Canadian laws are very different from American and other countries, of course, but there are some guidelines.

First, get your ducks in a row. Research what needs aren’t being satisfied in your area, and how to cover those. Redundancy doesn’t help anyone, and the larger the vacuum you are filling, the greater chance you have of attracting participants. Do you need a weekly group meeting at a brick and mortar temple, or event planning group, or non-denominational cross pagan discussion group?

For those interested in becoming full time dedicants in a cloistered community, there are few other substitutes for pagan abbeys, and those communities will definitely need to be established for us. The complexity of creating one is the apex of organizing skill, as well as our significant validation as a major religion, but it is certainly doable, with drive, vision, and a love of detail. To get some idea of how it’s accomplished, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Visit a few real life abbeys, convents or monasteries. (After all, a lot of them are directly derived from pagan abbeys in the first place!) Many have weekend or weeklong visit privileges, or you can just ask to learn from them. There is a Buddhist Abbey in Nova Scotia that I am planning on conferring with or hanging out in. They have been around since the early 1980’s. You should select one that’s a bit older, too, so they can tell you the problems they have encountered. One in your own state would better, since laws vary so much. Amish or other religious communities can help you see how that works in practice, too.

Then, *do your paperwork*. If your group is even at all organized, like renting a space for a temple, your best bet is creating a corporation or organization that can have a board and be accountable for bills and other legalities. That way, no one person is ever on the hook, and no members are so key that it falls apart if they leave. It’s one of the main factors that determine if your group makes it after the Founders all move on. If that is the best choice to get done what you need to do, make sure you have everything you need to establish your not for profit or even for profit corporation. If you want charitable status, it’s even harder, but you’ll figure which one works best for you when you come to it. Get your founders and other personnel lined up.

If you have a regular, physical location that you rent or own, make sure you pick your space with the locals in mind. They are part of your equation, too. If they feel put out or a lack of consultation, they will punish you, and all your people, and all your visitors. You will be interacting with them to get most of your services and equipment, even if it’s just parking space. It’s not good to piss them off. So arrange team games or picnics or Open Houses for example. If they know you, they will be more likely not to bother or fight you. And maybe even defend what you do.

Once you have your structure in place, with the appropriate advice from other professionals on what they have done, and what went wrong, then it’s time to listen to the community you are serving, to discover what they need to satisfy them. Unlike private or even coven worship, a temple, monastic or segregated community is completely reliant on everyone pulling their weight; as in, they WANT to be there. That means, no matter what your vision is, it can’t replace the gestalt that your group will create. It’s your job to get it together, keep the base going, and make adjustments, but they aren’t minions. If you get too controlling, or conversely, not controlling enough and let a few idiots ruin it for everyone, they will all simply leave, and badmouth your operation to boot. So choose carefully to start with. Pick people who share most of what you see, but not exactly, and select the ones you are reasonably sure aren’t going to flake on you. You can’t push people too hard for this, but you do need to help them stay motivated. Take them with you to investigate other institutions. Make sure they have the hunger for it, like you do.

Once you get it going, you will also have to maintain. This is the biggest mistake most make. Nearly all pagan communities, temples, communes or IC’s end in one generation, because no one builds it to continue. You will, for example, encounter at least one split or takeover attempt in the first 5-10 years, and one every two decades or so after that. Anticipate those, and build your group to withstand it, or it will simply dissolve. If you require a physical location for your work, purchase property if you can, instead of leasing, or in a decade, you’ll have to move, and that can destroy the community entirely. Bring in a wide variety of skill sets, and make sure your people feel nurtured and heard, or they won’t put up with it, and they will think they can do it better, or that another place can do it better. Which is why you may want to include all pagans like we do and not, say, just Wiccans, but that’s your choice. Ego, yours and usurpers, will kill your group gestalt, and then everyone loses. You are the MC, the house manager, and the CEO. But you are not the choir, and without them volunteering their lives, you have no community.

Make no mistake about it: this is a lifelong task. If you do not have these skill sets, then you must either learn them, or join an already existing community and lend your strength to growing that one. It will not happen unless you make it happen, and give it all your personal energy and focus, but without exhausting yourself and leaving you vulnerable and the task unfinished. We are at another time of change, and about to re-build and re-learn what our ancestors had. Some remnants are still here, but most aren’t. Pick where you are best suited to direct your energy, and then do it. For the rest of your life. It still won’t be long enough.

_______________________________

Footnotes:
http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.ca/2013/07/pagan-abbeys-practical-heritage-for.html
http://www.uua.org/
http://www.druidry.org/
http://iheu.org/
http://humanistcanada.ca/
http://americanhumanist.org/
https://humanism.org.uk/
http://www.spiritualhumanism.org/
http://gallae.com/
http://www.facebook.com/AbbeyoftheGreenFlame
http://www.facebook.com/CopperHorseAbbey
http://oto-usa.org/
http://www.facebook.com/RedTentMovement
http://www.idlenomore.ca/join?splash=1
http://www.ic.org/
http://sca.org/
http://www.gampoabbey.org/

Perceptions of Pagans: What Are People Afraid Of?

Perceptions of Pagans: What Are People Afraid Of?

Author:   Ares Hearthfire   

It is amazing to me that 30-plus years after the late Dr. Leo Martello won his right to hold a ritual in Central Park we still have to come back to discussing how we are perceived. The public at large is not afraid of our religion. No, most of them tend to let us be and mind their own business. I say that with certainty since that is human nature. However, there are still those that fear…or do they?

It seems that every few weeks there are more stories mentioning Witches, Wiccans or Pagans in general. While most of the articles are now positive and informative, there are still those that report that so and so of blah blah blah church held a meeting that people are going to the devil. In listening to them talk we find that they really do not fear us. They fear the loss of their own voice.

One reason why many see the Christian extremists in this country demanding that laws be made to support the Judeo-Christian belief system is that they can feel the changes coming. Just like us, they open the same papers and do the same Internet searches and find so many articles and sites discussing Pagans. We are all humans after all; it is not like we have different sources of news and information!

They, like us, can plainly see that there has been a rise in articles and hence, a rise in the amount of Pagans there must be. While many complain that these people see the devil in all things not Christian, I feel that is very much another reason that they perceive us differently. They do not care about reading what Pagans believe. What we believe does not matter. It is not our beliefs that bother these extremists. It is the fact that we exist and breathe. There really is no logic in this.

The goal of these groups and people is not to slander our paths. That actually is just a means to an end. They simply want to make sure that people keep following their ideas. They have been brought up in regions where there has been nothing more than pure homogeneity. Almost everyone in their communities was the same in terms of race and religion. In reality, they simply fear change. For some reason they are just resisting the tides of change that are happening in the communities. It is the change that they truly fear, not us.

In general, most people are very accepting of our beliefs. There have been Pagans serving with and even as heads of interfaith organizations for over ten years. The organizations that they have sat with and chaired accepted their membership. From this it can be implied that clergy of many other religions have absolutely no problem with the Pagan path. Indeed, many are intrigued and want to learn more about it themselves. This type of inclusion would have been impossible to dream of several decades ago. This shows a great deal of progress. After all, if you can gain acceptance of some shepherds you also gain the acceptance of their flocks.

During Samhain season, it seems that almost every newspaper in America interviews a Witch. Most of these reports are positive. While some still include words like “warlock” and may describe some practices as “hokey,” we cannot let that blind us as to what is truly being said. Since many of the journalists do not read books on Witches or Wicca they would not know what “warlock” means to us. Since they do not tell us every word they are using, we cannot correct them ahead of time.

Behind the semantics, they still report normal people doing things a little differently. They may seem hokey to those that do not practice our faiths, but they do see that we are not harming anything and have fun doing what we do. That is the point! The general public is not stupid. They do not care what we do, as long as they see we are open to people watching and reporting they will begin to trust us.

In some parts of the country being a Wiccan is not even a big deal. Here in New York the Covenant of the Goddess used to have a local council, however the “Gotham” council was disbanded. Simply put, the community here is accepting of us already so the need is not there. Pagan shops operate without opposition, festivals happen in major parks with no protestors showing up at all. While this may not be the case in some areas, things do take time!

Remember, a long time ago it was the cities that converted to a new faith and the country dwellers were slow to follow. Now times are changing, history is repeating. The cities are becoming more accepting of their Pagan residents and the rural folk are coming around, but slower. We can see plainly through the media and the interviews in these more rural locations that the general consensus is favoring acceptance. The majority will only grow larger over time.

All we need is to do what we are currently doing and a lot more of it. We need to take ourselves seriously. We should indicate our religion when the census is taken. We should take part in political campaigns and send letters to the elected officials. Whenever we see an article that is not positive, we should send letters to the paper…even if it is not a local one! More than everything else we should make Pagan Pride Day every day of the year. Always be proud of who you are as a person and as a Pagan. For every voice that is willing to speak there is always a larger audience of people that are willing to hear.

In conclusion, the people that fear us do not fear us for what we believe or how we practice. This information is readily available to anyone that wants to read it. The general populace is becoming more and more accepting of our beliefs. Interfaith groups are accepting Pagans as members and leaders. We as Pagans always talk about the past; we remember the burning times and the witch-hunts. We should also remember that those in the country come around slower to new ideas, but after a time they will begin to accept them.

Practical Magick

Practical Magick

Author:   RuneWolf   

Speaking only for myself, I believe that magick is quite practical. But this may simply be because of my personal definitions of magick and practicality. To me, practicality equals results, and magick is the art of changing consciousness at Will (among other things). The ability to change consciousness at Will is a powerful tool, with direct and immediate effects in the manifest world, and thus must be considered practical, because it gets results.

For example:

I am, fundamentally, an energy structure. My job is, fundamentally, and energy structure. When the energy field of my job envelops and subsumes my energy field, then I am controlled by my job, and my life suffers because of the imbalance. When I enrich and extend my energy field so that the situation is reversed, such that my energy now contains and controls that of my job, then my life is restored to a healthy balance, and my job resumes its proper place in the scheme of things. In the process of reversing the energetic relationship between my job and myself I am changing my perception of that relationship, and as perception is a constituent of consciousness, I am therefore changing my consciousness at Will, making this a magickal act. This change in perception, in consciousness, has tangible positive effects in the manifest world – reduced stress, enhanced well-being, increased productivity, better workplace relationships – and thus produces results. Therefore, it is practical.

I’m one of those people who believe that anything that enhances my ability to deal with life on life’s terms is useful and practical, and while I have my favorites, I don’t care what others use, so long as it doesn’t harm them or others. If gargling with peanut butter helps you deal with a broken water pump in your car, then gargle away. Magick helps me to deal with the exigencies of life by helping me to empower myself, and leave victimhood behind. When I convince myself that I am being slammed about by the hockey stick of “Fate,” and I have no control over what is happening to me, my ability to respond appropriately and effectively is hampered by my perception that I am powerless. Magick may not always fix the problem, but it lets me do something, even if all other avenues are blocked, and that empowerment helps me to respond with Right Action, even if that Right Action is to accept the situation as it is and ride it out. At the very least, I am not just throwing up my hands and complaining that I never seem to get a break. I get a lot of breaks – an awful lot; they just don’t seem to come when and where I want them. Magick – the Willed change of consciousness – helps me to see that fact when I am feeling victimized, and to pull myself out of that unhealthy state of Being.

There are many systems for altering our perception of life and empowering ourselves to “take control,” some ancient, some not. My personal definition of magick borrows from many of these, because that is what my experience of magick has been. I often hear someone describe, for instance, an NLP technique, and I think to myself “That’s magick!” We are, in other words, talking about the same “spiritual technologies;” we are simply using different terminology. Several authors have written on the subject of using the principles of aikido in interpersonal relationships, and I follow many of those practices myself, which again, I call magick. Magick, to me, is not simply spellcraft or ritual. Anything I do that changes consciousness and/or moves energy is magick. And since quantum theory seems to be telling us that consciences and energy are inextricably linked, it’s basically the same thing. We have all been in those situations when “the energy shifted,” and I think each of us could reflect on those occurrences and trace that shift directly back to a change in a person or persons perception of that situation.

Magick is often less about having what I want and more about wanting what I have. The Willed change of consciousness that empowers me in a situation often does so by allowing me to truly see and accept the situation for what it is, in this infinite Now. When I am thwarted in some endeavor, and I bring magick to bear on it, what I often find is I end up realizing that it wasn’t as important as I thought it was, or I didn’t want it nearly as badly as I did a moment ago. Or that, in fact, things aren’t all that bad just the way they are. I subscribe to a couple of apparently conflicting philosophies: “Good is the Enemy of the Best,” and “Better is the Enemy of Good Enough.” The first helps me to avoid complacency, to not always settle for second-best, and to challenge myself to improve my life and the lives of those I love and care for. The second, however, tells me that sometimes it’s not a good idea to screw around with a good thing. My incipient need to “tweak” things has gotten me, on more than one occasion, a lot less than I had before the “tweak.” I’m sure many of us can relate to that one itty-bitty little extra bit of fine-tuning that did nothing but crash the whole computer. Or the last spoonful of sugar that made the coffee undrinkably sweet. So there are times when I engage the power of magick to effect change, and realize that, in fact, change is neither appropriate nor necessary.

In my understanding, all of the above come under the heading of “personal transformation,” so that magick is in fact both practical and a tool for the development of the Self. In fact, it is a rising spiral: magick helps me to grow, and growth helps me to access more powerful levels of magick, which help me to grow more, and so on. If practicality can be defined as producing tangible results in the manifest world, then magick and personal transformation must be practical, because as I improve as a human being, as a Witch, my contribution to the betterment of the world improves and increases. The age-old question is “Why are we here?” I believe that one of the answers to that question is “To love and help each other.” Through magick and personal transformation, I am better able to love and help those who share this life with me, and I can’t think of anything more practical than that.

Remembering and Reconnecting

Remembering and Reconnecting

Author:   RuneWolf   

I do consider my religion – Wicca – and my particular practice of it, to be Earth-based. Such a statement might seem absurdly obvious on the surface, but it is, I think, important to state it in this fashion. Wicca has within it elements of Ceremonial Magic, and it has been my personal experience that it is quite possible to become obsessed with and lost in the liturgical and ritual forms, to the extent that what one ends up practicing has, in fact, more in common with CM than with Wicca.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: We need ritualists and liturgists who can preserve the outer forms of our religion, and re-invent them as time goes by, so that we neither lose our traditional roots nor become mired in them. The creation, preservation and cultivation of ritual and liturgy are important, but I’m not talking about that here. I am talking about an unhealthy balance where an individual or group over-focuses on those outer forms, often to the detriment of the inner energies. So it is important, I think, that we remind ourselves, individually and collectively, that our religion IS Earth-based, and that, in my personal tradition at least, re-connecting with the Earth and Her cycles is one of the central concepts and objectives.

But then, what is this whole “re-connect with the Earth” thing, anyway? Sounds like a bunch of neo-Hippie, tree-hugging, New Age bushwa, doesn’t it?

Oh, contraire…

Western thought seems to enjoy lampooning and belittling whatever it doesn’t like or cannot understand, as if by satirizing something, it is made harmless and non-threatening. (This, oddly enough, is a very Celtic concept. Bards of Old Eire were feared for their power to debilitate a powerful leader by the use of satire.) Culturally, we will even go so far as to transform an inherently neutral or positive label – New Age, for instance – into a synonym for something wacky and outlandish. So those outsiders – or insiders, for that matter – who roll their eyes when they say or hear “re-connect with the Earth” obviously haven’t bothered to fully consider what that means.

We aren’t talking about sticking our feet into the ground and putting out roots. What we are talking about is simply becoming fully aware of – and experiencing as fully as possible – our relationship to the biosphere. For the most part, citizens of modern technological nations have fallen out of that awareness and experience. Some would argue that, without this awareness and experience, we as a species are doomed, because nothing short of these will prevent us from terminally fouling our nest. In more immediate and individual terms, however, I believe that a fuller awareness and experience of our relationship to the biosphere and, by extension, the Universe itself, is mandatory for true physical, mental and spiritual health. This is, as I understand it, the primary thrust of Taoist philosophy and religion, and is certainly a primary objective in my practice of Wicca.

Wicca, as I have said, is my religion. My spirituality, however, is Witchcraft. Some would not agree with this dichotomization, but then, as mother used to say, that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate. I make the distinction because I define those terms differently. Wicca is my religion – it is something I joined, a community that has a unique identity, and to be part of that community I am obliged, to a greater or lesser degree, to conform to the community template. I, personally, believe that there are certain things that I must agree to, that I must practice, that I must believe and that I must espouse, in order to be Wiccan. While there is certainly a great deal of individual latitude, I nonetheless believe that were I to deviate too far from the “community template” of Wicca, I would no longer be practicing Wicca. In the practice of certain martial arts, students are given a great deal of latitude to improvise and personalize the art. However, at a certain point, if that improvisation and personalization goes too far, that individual is no longer practicing that particular art, but something unique unto themselves that they have created there from. This is not a judgment on the art itself nor on what the individual has created from it; it is simply a statement of fact.

So it is, I believe, with the practice of Wicca, or any religion, for that matter. (But then, these are only my beliefs, and have no power beyond the tip of my nose.)

Witchcraft, on the other hand, I define as that body of techniques that enables the practitioner (Witch) to live in harmony with the rhythms of Life. “Life” here may be seen as synonymous with All That Is: an individual’s life-path, the greater community of Humankind, the biosphere and the Universe – in short, Everything. And those rhythms include the “bad” as well as the “good.” By this definition, Wicca is just another “technique” in my practice of Witchcraft, something which helps me to attune to the rhythms of Life. And this is, for me, as it should be: religion should always be the servant of spirituality. When that formula is inverted, we are left with dictatorial religious institutions.

When one truly seeks a deeper, fuller understanding of our connection to and place in the Universe, one cannot help but develop, I believe, a concern for the welfare of the “natural” world, i.e. the biosphere. Even if one were a staunch “scientific Pagan,” I don’t believe one could overlook the necessity of preserving an uncontaminated environment in order to ensure the survival of Humankind. And if one looks beyond mere survival, then we must recognize the necessity of preserving the beauty of unsullied nature as an adjunct to the mental, emotional and spiritual health of humanity.

Those of us who believe this face grave obstacles today. We are now ruled by an administration that is obviously bent on furthering the cause of “Big Business” – which has always been the destructive exploitation of the Earth for profit – at the expense of the environment. More and more, corporations are freed of the restrictions imposed on them by former, relatively saner, regimes. More and more, they are free to “rape and pillage” as they see fit, regardless of the destruction they cause. Nor can we simply blame “Western thought” for these travesties, as the policies of China in modern Tibet relieve the West of sole responsibility in the rape of the planet and the destruction of her children.

At times, it seems overwhelming, and it may well be an effort doomed to failure, although such failure will certainly doom humanity to eventual extinction. But we must try, each in her or his own way. I myself am not much of a “joiner,” and taking care of what little land is “mine” takes up most of my time. So you won’t see me at many demonstrations or protests. But what I lack in “discretionary time” I make up for in “disposable income,” and I can and do support the environmental cause with my monetary contributions. In the end, only money can defeat Big Money, so I don’t feel that this is merely a token gesture to assuage my conscience. And I do take an active, if geographically limited, part: there is a nature trail in the community near my home, which I avail myself of at every opportunity. As one might imagine, this trail is subject to all kinds of littering, not only from walkers but from nearby homeowners. When I walk, I always carry a trash bag, and I clean up what I can. When someone creates a mess too big for me, I make sure the community association knows about it, as there are strict rules regarding such abuse. I don’t know that my actions have ever led to the censure or fining of a guilty homeowner, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

Tattle tale? Snitch? Ratfink? You’re damn right.

And then there are the “little” things that all of us can do: proper soil management on our property; avoiding fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; using “low impact” products; driving fuel-efficient autos; using mass transit when possible; recycling. It is gratifying to see that, in our neighborhood at least, we have a very high percentage of participation in the recycling effort. But then, these things should be “no brainers” for everyone, Pagan or not, in my opinion.

Perhaps the biggest difference between me and my neighbors is that, when I recycle or pick up litter, I see it as a sacrament, an acknowledgment that I AM RESPONSIBLE; not for the whole shebang, but for what I, as an individual, can do. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that “a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.” On any given day, I can’t solve all of the world’s environmental problems. But I can do something, even if it’s only picking up one piece of litter. No action occurs in a vacuum; every action has consequences, and resonates along the Web of Wyrd.

Despite the odds, none of us are totally powerless; we can always do something. And sometimes, in the wee dark hours of the morning, that’s all we have to hold onto.