‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
“I owe no man anything but love” it is said. But what is love? Love is duty – whatever duty may require to accomplish a good thing.
Love is peace. One must not only be peaceful but contribute to the peace of others. Let there be peace and let it begin with me.
Love is sometimes pain. We must give up something that causes us pain because it is for the good of the greatest number.
Love is understanding. That others do not have to forever explain their actions to us. That we know their reasons without being told.
Love is courage. Courage to lead where one has the ability to lead. Courage to stand up for what one believes in and wants to live.
Love is faith. Faith in God, faith in self, and faith in others. Everyone is not above reproach, but we must have faith that the majority strives to be.
Coleridge wrote, “He prayeth best who loveth best,” which seems to rule out all hollow and self-heard prayers. For those who truly love do not hear themselves only, or rule all life useless because they cannot love or pray.
Life can be as simple as love and prayer. Where the two mingle there can be no jealousy, resentment or fear.
Jealousy makes us compare our lot with another’s. And there can be no comparison, for no two people are alike.
Resentment plunges an otherwise logical soul into despair and an endless journey of revenge.
And fear rushes us headlong into situations that detract, accidents that could be prevented, and long delays in reaching our goals.
But if we can, for a few moments, invite into our hearts a thing called love, then we can pray. And if we can pray we have the source of all answers to our aid.
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
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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 – January 29
“We grieve more because we have been disconnected from our earth, our first Mother, our spiritual Mother.”
–Larry P. Aitken, CHIPPEWA
Where does all life come from? The Earth. Where does everything return to? The Earth. Where do values come them? The Earth. Many people are lost because they don’t know the importance of connection to the Earth. They connect to money, to relationships, to success, to goals. When we are disconnected from the Earth, we have feelings of being sad or lost. When we are connected to the Earth, we feel warm and secure.
Great Spirit, help me to stay connected to the Mother Earth.
January 29 – Daily Feast
New life comes in only as we turn loose of the old. There must be a place for what we want or need. If there is not a place prepared, the new circumstances flow on by – and we are left with the same things we have always had. If we think we cannot bear to part with an old way of life, we are not ready to accept anything new. Instead we can make a personal decision, a firm commitment, to forget what is behind and push forward to what is ahead. Our mental and spiritual attitudes make room for new life when we set them in motion with our words. Nothing will overtake us, not love, not prosperity, not peace and joy – until we make a place for them and ask them to come in. Hope, alone, does not do it, but a firm decision for a new life will clear the way.
~ My people, before the white man came you were happy. You had many buffalo to eat and tall grass for your ponies – you could come and go like the wind. ~
‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Do this day right
Do this day right by getting it off to a good start. Do this day right by giving it a meaningful, positive purpose.
You have precisely one opportunity to discover and to live the unique value of this day. Get started on it right now.
Get started strong, and keep going with enthusiasm and love for the possibilities. Decide that you will do something truly great with this day, and then enjoy doing it.
Remember that every moment is a choice, and all those choices add together to determine the quality of your day. Choose wisely, choose intentionally, and choose to add great richness and meaning to your world today.
The immense value of this day is yours right now. Make good and purposeful use of it so that tomorrow you’ll have no regrets.
Do this day right by living it with love, joy and authenticity. Do this day right by bringing its outstanding possibilities fully to life.
— Ralph Marston
Owning Your Emotions
Name It and Claim It
Whatever the nature of your feelings, carefully define the reaction taking place within you.
Our feelings can sometimes present a very challenging aspect of our lives. We experience intense emotions without understanding precisely why and consequently find it difficult to identify the solutions that will soothe our distressed minds and hearts. Yet it is only when we are capable of
naming our feelings that we can tame them by finding an appropriate resolution. We retake control of our personal power by becoming courageous enough to articulate, out loud and concisely, the essence of our emotions. Our assuming ownership of the challenges before us in this way empowers us to shift from one emotional state to another—we can let go of pain and upset because we have defined it, examined the effect it had on our lives, and then exerted our authority over it by making it our own. By naming our feelings, we claim the right to divest ourselves of them at will.
As you prepare to acknowledge your feelings aloud, gently remind yourself that being specific is an important part of exercising control. Whatever the nature of your feelings, carefully define the reaction taking place within you. If you are afraid of a situation or intimidated by an individual, try not to mince words while giving voice to your anxiety. The precision with which you express yourself is indicative of your overall willingness to stare your feelings in the face without flinching. Naming and claiming cannot always work in the vacuum of the soul. There may be times in which you will find the release you desire only by admitting your feelings before others. When this is the case, your ability to outline your feelings explicitly can help you ask for the support, aid, or guidance you need without becoming mired in the feelings that led you to make such an admission in the first place.
When you have moved past the apprehension associated with expressing your distressing feelings out loud, you may be surprised to discover that you feel liberated and lightened. This is because the act of making a clear connection between your circumstances and your feelings unravels the mystery that previously kept you from being in complete control of your emotional state. To give voice to your feelings, you must necessarily let them go. In the process, you naturally relax and rediscover your emotional equilibrium.
Animals, Nature, and the Craft
Author: Flame warped mind
I love animals — not all of them mind you, little bugs, spiders, bees, and rodents still freak me — but I respect each for what they are. Respect. It’s a big part of being Pagan. Ants and spiders are just as important as cows and elephants, each being distinctly different from the next.
‘Witches only love their black cats! They sacrifice everything else to the Devil!’
Really? I don’t like cats at all, and I’ve never sacrificed anything to the devil. I’m just far too busy trying to gather what understanding I can from the animal kingdom to worry about sacrificing to a being I don’t believe exists. “What we have here is failure to communicate.” –Cool Hand Luke.
For as long people outside the Craft have known about any form of earth based spirituality and the people involved in such practice (whom we will refer to as Pagan for the remainder of this piece) , there have been misconceptions involving animals and the Craft. An animal spiritually tied to a person practicing witchcraft (often called a familiar) , was and still is often thought of as a demon in animal form sent to assist in spells against and bewitchment of the God-fearing public. This theory is both prejudicial and nonsensical, not just to the person but also to the animal involved as well. During the Witch Hunts, animals were routinely sentenced and executed for witchcraft along with their masters. This practice went so far that in medieval Europe cats were massacred based on the theory that all cats were Witches’ familiars.
Oftentimes people assume that all Pagans have cat familiars (as though it were a requirement) and while cats have been a part of Pagan society since before the Pyramids were built, they are not by any means spiritual requirements for practicing Pagans.
Another old (incorrect) theory, which has become common knowledge is that Pagans routinely sacrifice animals to appease the devil, a demon, or a god or goddess. The vast majority of Pagans love and respect animals as much, if not more so, than the average person because of an inherent desire to be close to nature. Some pagans forgo all meats in order to avoid the feeling of having caused the death of an animal. The confusion here lies in the difference between “animal sacrifice” and an animal that was hunted to be eaten. Sometimes a ritual item or personal belonging fulfills this function. Sometimes the sacrifice is the worshiper’s dinner. Ask a deity bound pagan, a bought offering is rarely as desirable as an offering strived for.
In my home we have several animals. If at any time animals are used in my practice, the cat is the absolute last choice for a spiritual partner I would seek out. For me, there is only one choice of animal to partner myself with spiritually, ball pythons. Don’t run away screaming just yet.
Snakes are amazingly beautiful creatures contrary to their poor reputation. Captive bred snakes are wonderful animals to work with. The temperament is different between wild (aggressive) to captive bred (calm) snakes. You can have an animal very close to its naturally occurring instinct, (usually) without the aggressive nature. I have three beautiful ball pythons all of which have been involved with some ritual or another. One of their biggest strengths in a ritual is how predicable they are. Dogs, cats, rodents, arachnids, lizards, all have a tendency to be unpredictable, and occasionally volatile. Dogs bark and fight. Cats don’t do what their pets (owners) tell them. Arachnids are entirely unpredictable and easily injured in my estimation. Lizards have a tendency to run away or get into obnoxious places when no ones looking. They’re all too impatient for my taste.
A snake will sit still until they smell food, get too cold/hot, or get curious enough to slowly wander off. They don’t make noise, and, for the most part, don’t resist where they are placed. Best of all, when there is an occasion where they get aggressive/defensive, the posturing and hissing gives those around ample warning as to the change in demeanor. If this occurs, it is normally during a very active part of the ritual; snakes don’t like things being moved past their heads quickly. (At this point most other species of animals are retired from the rites anyway.) Also as long as the surrounding temperature is amiable, they can be placed in a bag, which is then tied up, to prevent wandering and to bolster the animal’s sense of security. I’ll bet your dog wouldn’t let you do that!
When humans allow themselves to be as close to nature as animals, our instincts take over. Some of the most powerful and well-balanced magical workings I have ever witnessed involved Pagans reverting to base instinct. Powerful and pure, Nature is instinct. Nature is not always civilized and pleasant; oftentimes it is harsh, cruel, and gory. The more “civilized” humans become, the more we forget how powerful instinct can be. Animals are the epitome of instinct, and so it is wise to sit back, watch, and learn from the varying multitudes our scaly, slimy, furry, feathered, chitinous, brethren encompass. Even though their speech is limited to sounds that mean nothing to humans, they each have something to say. There is always something new to learn, an untapped facet of primal knowledge… if only we know where to look.
Some of the smallest animals often teach us the most valuable lessons. The ants learned long ago that to cooperate is to survive; infighting only leads to ruin. Salmon show that life is an uphill battle, but anything worth doing should receive our full effort. A snake could have easily inspired Theodore Roosevelt when he said, “speak softly, but carry a big stick.” These are but a few of the lessons that nature offers those willing to listen.
So sit back, shut up, watch and learn, and above all remember nature is “natural”. It’s not good or evil. It’s not right or wrong. It is spectacular and beautiful, bountiful, and calm and at the same time, nature is savage, bloody, vicious, and violent… a self-sustaining balance at its finest.
Cool Hand Luke
When Your Pet is More Than A Pet – Familiars and Avatars
Author: Bronwen Forbes
As a prologue to this, you need to know that Herne has been my patron God since I was nine years old. You don’t need to know, but you’ll probably figure out by reading this (if you haven’t already) that sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.
A few months after adopting my red and white beagle mix Herman, I was trying to sleep in one Saturday morning when I began to idly wonder, “There are so many Goddesses with dogs as part of their symbolism. I wonder what Gods are associated with dogs, too?” And then it hit me like a two-by-four to the forehead. Herne, Lord of the Wild Hunt, is very much associated with dogs, especially red and white hunting dogs, than you very much. (I warned you I’m a little slow sometimes) .
Needless to say, sleep was no longer an option. I sat up and looked at Herman (who had spent the night, as he usually did, asnooze at my side) who was already staring at me with a definite, “took you long enough to figure it out” expression.
And just like that, I not only had a familiar, I had an avatar.
I’m defining “avatar” here not as a recent hit movie or a small picture that represents you on various blogs or discussion boards, but as the earthly representative of a deity. And for the love of me, I hadn’t a clue what to do with mine.
Four months later, we adopted a German Shepherd mix named Katie – and lo and behold, she was also what my husband likes to call a “God-touched” dog. But unlike Herman who was also my familiar (notice the past tense; I still miss him) , Katie let us know pretty quickly that she had no interest whatsoever in being my husband’s familiar, but would happily attend her Goddess Nehelennia’s tasks of safe travel, healing and commerce. Period.
Since acquiring Herman and Katie in 2001, I’ve alao gotten the clue what to do, not just for my special dogs, but for anyone else who may wake up one morning and see deity shining through the eyes of their pet.
First and foremost, and I know this sounds obvious, you have to keep treating your pet like a, well, pet. Your animal companion is your spiritual and or magickal support (familiar) or a little bit of deity (avatar) but he still needs proper food and water, adequate shelter, regular veterinary checkups, exercise, training, vaccinations, etc. After all, it’s not like the Gods can or will take care of your pet for you.
But once the regular, responsible pet ownership duties are taken care of with your familiar or avatar, there are still some things you need to think about to keep your relationship with your animal companion – and your deity – as smooth and fulfilling as possible.
1. Remember that, despite her spiritual role in your life, your pet is still going to act like an animal. Herman used to drive me crazy with this. He was a daily reminder of my relationship with my patron deity, helped me work through some serious ritual issues, was a whiz at helping new students ground and center simply by sitting in their laps during ritual – and he was also a master escape artist. He could climb or dig under any chain link fence, and did so on a pretty regular basis.
Katie, a born healer, is also a big dog and an unrepentant counter-surfer. I can’t begin to count how many times I packed my lunch, left the kitchen to get dressed for work, and came back to find my lunch bag and food containers in Katie’s crate and my ex-lunch in her stomach. She may be God-touched, but she’s still a dog!
2. Give your familiar and/or avatar full autonomy regarding ritual attendance. This includes personal workings, small group rituals, festivals, and rites of passage. Shortly after my Saturday morning revelation about Herman, my husband and I took him with us to visit my parents for the weekend. While we were there, I helped my parents bury the ashes of our old family cat in the side yard garden – an understandably emotional activity. Herman was in the back yard, separated from me by a picket fence. He could see me through the fence, but couldn’t get to me. As my father dug a hole for the ashes, Herman went nuts, for want of a better word. Instead of pursuing squirrels (his usual pastime in my parents’ backyard) , he was throwing himself against the fence and barking frantically, trying to get to me. I should have stepped over the fence, opened the gate, and allowed Herman to join the small ritual. After all, he only wanted to do his job.
There have also been instance and rituals where Herman or Katie did *not* want to attend a particular ritual, and we quickly learned to “listen” to their opinions – rather like knowing that it doesn’t feel right to take a certain tarot deck with you when you go do readings at a community event. We learned this lesson the hard way when we took Katie to a ritual she clearly didn’t want to go to and she had a seizure.
3. Give your pet enough down time. Just as you can’t be in ritual 24/7, it’s unrealistic to expect your pet to be “on, ” i.e. actively acting as a divine representative or helping you with your spiritual work all the time. Don’t bug him to help you if he clearly doesn’t feel like it – the fact that he’s asleep or ignoring you are clear signs that he “doesn’t feel like it.”
If you find yourself needing extra protein, water or sleep after a working or ritual, offer some to your familiar or avatar as well.
If you have a pet that also enhances your spiritual practice or connection with your deity, you have been given a gift beyond price. Very few animals, at least in my experience, can do this, and if you get one or even two in a lifetime, you have truly been blessed. It’s also not something you can actively look for; it’s like love (actually it *is* love) – the more you try to find that special animal, the less likely you are to succeed.
Be patient. If and when you’re ready, the right animal will come.
Witchcraft, Ethics and the Role of Animals in Society
Author: Skye of the Hallowed Grove
Witchcraft is more than a religion; it is a magickal way of life that encourages living with compassion and tolerance toward all of Earth’s creatures and working to heal and protect the environment as well as ourselves. We acknowledge that we are part of the great web of life, and this interconnection extends to all beings.
Our daily lives are intertwined with not only other human beings, but with the animal kingdom and the Land as well. Without this relationship to animals and the Land, our civilization would not exist as we know it. As Witches, it is our moral obligation as protectors of our planet to speak out against injustices towards other living things and our environment.
The Role of Animals In Society
In the pre-history of civilization, our ancestors were nomadic hunters and gatherers. As agriculture and the domestication of animals developed, small clans were able to merge into larger communities. Domesticated animals played an essential role in these communities, providing labor in the fields, meat and milk for the table, and skins for protection against the elements. The herds were protected and cherished, because man’s survival was dependant upon them. In the warmer months, crops were plentiful but in the harsh Winter months, the fields were fallow and communities relied heavily on meat and animal products to sustain them until the next growing season. The history of Imbolc is a classic example of the reliance on ewe’s milk for survival during Winter.
When animals were slaughtered for food it was done with great respect for the life taken. Many cultures would offer prayers of gratitude to the spirit of the animal. Ritual animal sacrifice was not uncommon during this period. These sacrifices were not senseless acts of violence but reverent ceremonies where the most prized and valued animals were offered to deity in exchange for something considered as having higher value – namely, favors and blessings for the community’s prosperity and well-being. These animals were extremely well cared for, as only “perfect specimens” could be sacrificed.
The method of sacrifice required a quick and humane slaughter (which was most likely far less traumatic than methods used in commercial slaughter today) . If the animal cried out, flinched or otherwise showed fear (“unwillingness”) , the sacrifice was considered null and void.
We won’t argue that throughout the history of mankind, some ancient civilizations were notorious for animal mistreatment, much of which was purely for sport. However, rural communities for the most part, were much more concerned with the welfare of their livestock.
Centuries passed and communities grew larger as human populations increased. Beginning in the eighteenth century, agriculture made improvements in farming techniques, which allowed for improved yields, which in turn supported the urbanization of the population during the Industrial Revolution. People migrated from the countryside and moved into large cities, distancing themselves from the Land that sustained them.
In the late nineteenth century, there was a movement towards mass production in industry, causing another surge in urban settlement. This again meant more people to feed, with fewer farmers to supply the food. As a result, the agricultural industry had to begin adopting the same mass production techniques that lead to the demand for more food. At this point in history, meat and animal products were not only considered a necessity for health and survival, but also an economic commodity.
Factory Farms and Animals
To meet ever-increasing demands for animal products, factory farms began to emerge. The first animals to be factory farmed were chickens. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, led to vitamin supplements, which in 1920s America allowed chickens to be raised indoors. In 1960’s America, pigs and cows began to be raised on factory farms. This innovation then spread to Western Europe.
The concept of the family farm, where animals had pasture to graze and room to exercise their natural behaviors, gave way to large-scale commercial operations whose sole purpose was mass production of meat and animal products. The well-being of the animals was no longer a priority. Family farms simply could not compete economically with these factories.
Today, there are now nearly five million fewer farms in the U.S. than there were in the 1930’s. Of the two million remaining farms, only 565, 000 are family operations. (1.)
Yes, the government now imposes rules and guidelines for factory farms to follow, but the sheer volume and speed at which animals are processed makes these rules difficult to enforce, and the result is extreme suffering for the animals. The factory workers themselves often become desensitized to the violence and suffering they witness and inflict on a day-to-day basis.
We find it rather ironic that society today shudders at the thought of ritual animal sacrifice in ancient cultures, when the widespread exploitation and inhumane treatment of animals in modern society is met with such indifference.
Disregard for factory farm animals persists because few realize the ways in which these animals are mistreated, and even fewer actually witness the abuse. Once aware, most Witches are appalled, not only because they support animal rights, but because they also know that animals feel pain and that morally decent human beings should try to prevent pain whenever possible.
Most of us are also completely unaware that the dairy and egg industry also contribute to an enormous amount of exploitation and suffering. Everyone should have an understanding of where their food comes from and how it was handled from farm to table. Earthlings and Food Inc. are two excellent documentaries that chronicle man’s relationship to animals and the animal farming industry.
Factory Farms and the Environment
The livestock from factory farms are major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, which are thought to be responsible for global warming. They are also major contributors of ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. The term “livestock” refers to all farmed animals, including pigs, birds raised for meat, egg-laying hens, and dairy cows.
Livestock are also key players in increased water use, accounting for over 8% of global water use, mostly for the irrigation of feed crops. Factory farms are probably the largest source of water pollution, contributing to “dead” zones in coastal areas, destruction of coral reefs, human health problems and the emergence of antibiotic resistance. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. (2.)
Thankfully, with the renewed interest in organic farming and agricultural sustainability, family farms are beginning to make a comeback. I’m sure most Witches would agree that this is at least a step in the right direction for ensuring better conditions for farm animals and the Earth as well.
Every Life Counts
Regarding other sentient beings as objects or property for the sole purpose of serving mankind is ethically questionable. So is attaching a value to the life of other species based on their differences from humans. This is known as speciesism, which is a form of prejudice and discrimination against non-humans. A double standard also exists in society regarding the preferential treatment of pets and the inconsequential treatment of farm and laboratory animals. If anything, we owe farm and laboratory animals a great deal of gratitude for their service to humanity.
The mainstream religious view is that animals were put on this Earth to serve mankind. This view may also be shared by some Pagan belief systems. A common theme in defending speciesism is the argument that humans “have the right to compete with and exploit other species to preserve and protect the human species”. Witches should examine these statements before accepting them outright.
Witchcraft, as a religion, does not take an ethical stance on whether slaughter and the consumption or use of animal products is morally right or wrong. Witchcraft does however, object to the exploitation, disrespect and inhumane treatment of the Earth and Her creatures. We realize that Witches may have differing views regarding the role animals play in our lives, but animal mistreatment is unacceptable no matter what view you support. Of course, it is up to the individual Witch to ultimately decide for themselves what is morally right and what is wrong.
Witches have always believed in our interconnection with all of creation (both physical and spiritual) , and with new insights into quantum mechanics, science is now suggesting that this interaction of energy and matter occurs at the sub-atomic level and perhaps even beyond into levels of pure consciousness. In light of this new paradigm, do we really want to be consuming fear, pain and unimaginable suffering, or even supporting it on any level? If we know what is going on, and we continue to do so, aren’t we just as morally accountable as the individuals who are inflicting such suffering? Animal exploitation and cruelty doesn’t just apply to the food industry, it extends to the clothing, pet and entertainment industries as well.
Do your karma a favor and do not support these industries, and educate others about these issues as well. Reducing (or ultimately eliminating) our consumption or use of animal products, and/or purchasing organic and local food when possible, is a realistic and attainable goal for anyone who is willing to commit to it. We may not be able to stop the abuse completely, but together we can all make a difference in reducing the suffering of animals and the destruction of our planet.
Veganism, The Compassionate Choice
Fortunately, with all the technological advancements in agriculture, a better understanding of nutrition and supplementation, and a wider variety of organic and plant-based food options available, consumption of animal products is no longer a necessity for health or survival. Individuals can now make an alternative choice as to how they wish to nourish themselves.
Strict vegetarianism, or veganism, as it is more commonly known, is a lifestyle option for modern Witches who are concerned with animal rights and animal welfare; the ethics of factory farming; the environmental and social benefits of organic farming and agricultural sustainability; and holistic wellness. Veganism promotes the health and well-being of both the individual and the planet.
For Witches who embrace a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, this could be considered as taking the “harm none” concept of the Rede to the next level. In this context, the Rede might be literally understood as meaning: do not cause intentional harm to anyone or anything and, to the best of your ability, avoid participation in the intentional harm of anyone or anything. “Harm none” basically refers to the intent, and under these circumstances the intent would be the reduction of suffering and the preservation of life.
There’s no doubt that veganism can be a challenge initially. It involves a complete lifestyle change and this change can be overwhelming for some. But it is not an impossible or difficult lifestyle and with time it becomes second nature. It does, however, require education, commitment and practice.
Witches work very hard at taking ultimate responsibility and control over their own lives and this can be an excellent exercise in self-empowerment, as well as a magickal and very rewarding experience. This is the essence of magick – causing change in conformity with Will.
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon’s Blood
1/2 part Red Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
a few drops Red Wine
To this mixture add a pinch of the first flower (dry it first) that is available in your area at the time of Imbolc (February 1st). Burn during Wiccan ceremonies on Imbolc, or simply to attune with the symbolic rebirth of the Sun — the fading of winter and the promise of Spring.
(The above recipe for Imbolc Incense is directly quoted from Scott Cunningham’s book: The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews, page 72, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.)