‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Variety is said to be the spice of life. Anything in which we can continually find something new, a difference, will hold our attention indefinitely. Even the most interesting work can become monotonous if there never is a change. We are a restless people, finding life more livable and exciting when we know there is a bit of a change in store.
One isn’t always aware of monotony. It is a subtle something that creeps silently into a well formed routine. And most are unaware of its presence until its victim, interest, begins to lose ground.
Sometimes a change of pace fulfills a need for variety, but the most satisfying is one’s ability to lay aside a regular routine to lend a hand to a neighbor when he needs it.
The very old and happy habit of helping your neighbor never found a body bored. The hearts of helpers are light, not because they are searching for variety, but because variety find them when self is forgotten and the need to help a neighbor is the only thought.
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
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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – March 26
“In our modern world today, we may seem like drowning men because of the loss of much of our spiritual tradition.”
–Thomas Yellowtail, CROW
Our spiritual tradition shows us the way to live in harmony, balance and respect. The tradition taught us how to behave and how to conduct ourselves. The spiritual way taught us to pray and to purify ourselves. Handed down from generation to generation were the teachings about a way of life. Our relationship to Mother Earth and to each other was very clear. The Modern World does not relate to spirituality but to materialism. If we do not allow spirituality to guide our lives, we will be lost, unhappy and without direction. We are spiritual beings trying to be human, not human beings trying to be spiritual. It is said, Know thyself.
Grandfather, lead me to spirituality.
March 26 – Daily Feast
The end of the day brings out the emotions. Some come alive at the first sign of dusk, and evening softness suggests things to be – and things that never were. And then there is night – a time when bone-tiredness can make a pillow heaven until some bit of worry begins to tap on the consciousness. Night, like the tongue, magnifies, and everything is bigger than life. But morning comes – and with it the realization of what is finished and what there is left to do. If night has not done its work well, the day has to call the shots – and the sooner the better. This day does not belong to stress. I will call it peace.
~ You told us to speak our minds freely. We now do it. ~
LITTLE TURTLE – MIAMI, 1795
“A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Lay the foundation
A secure, stable house is not simply placed upon uneven, unprepared ground. Before the house is built, a strong, solid foundation must be prepared.
A winning sports team does not win merely by showing up and playing each game well. The players must drill and practice in all the fundamental skills, for hours each day, over months and years.
Whatever you desire to have, to be, to experience, you must build the structure in your life to support and develop it. You must lay the foundation, and continue to keep that foundation strong.
True commitment to a goal means commitment to create and maintain the structure that will support it. You accomplish that with your habits, your attitude, your thoughts, your choices large and small.
What day-to-day activities are building the foundation for the life you envision? What can you do right now, and again and again, to create a solid, supporting structure for your dreams?
Each moment gives you the opportunity to infuse the character of achievement into every part of your life. Lay a strong, robust foundation, and let the great achievements flow.
— Ralph Marston
The time to blossom is now, not sometime in the future when you believe the stars will be aligned for you.
Having a vision for our future that differs from our current circumstances can be inspiring and exciting, but it can also keep us from fully committing to our present placement. We may become aware that this is happening when we notice our thoughts about the future distracting us from our participation in the moment. We may find upon searching our hearts that we are waiting for some future time or situation in order to self-actualize. This would be like a flower planted in North Dakota putting off blooming because it would prefer to do so in Illinois.
There are no guarantees in this life, so when we hold back we do so at the risk of never fully blossoming. This present moment always offers us the ground in which we can take root and open our hearts now. What this means is that we live fully, wherever we are, not hesitating because conditions are not perfect, or we might end up moving, or we haven’t found our life partner. This can be scary, because we might feel that we are giving up our cherished dreams if we do not agree to wait for them. But this notion that we have to hold back our life force now in order to find happiness later doesn’t really make sense. What might really be happening is that we are afraid to embrace this moment, and ourselves, just exactly as we are right now. This constitutes a tendency to hold back from fully loving ourselves, as we are, where we are.
We have a habit of presenting life with a set of conditions–ifs and whens that must be fulfilled before we will say yes to the gift of our lives. Now is the time for each of us to bloom where we are planted, overriding our tendency to hold back. Now is the time to say yes, to be brave and commit fully to ourselves, because until we do no one else will. Now is the time to be vulnerable, unfolding delicately yet fully into the space in which we find ourselves.
On Choosing and Following Your Own Path
Author: Alfred Willowhawk, DMsc, RMT, CTM, Shaman
“What path is right for me?” is a question that each seeker asks at least once in their lives. As children, most individuals follow the pathways of their parents. Even if a parent has no particular spiritual path, the child is influenced by their parent. This is almost genetic as, regardless of a path, the mother, to the child, is the goddess. As they grow older and begin to think for themselves, they begin to feel a desire to either embrace or reject their parental suggestions. This includes the chosen spiritual path of the individual.
In my own life, I have spent time in many “spiritual” and “religious” pathways. Some of these were even of my own choosing at the time, so I thought. However, as we are social creatures, even the most reclusive of us, we still seem to blunder about until we finally settle on what works well for us.
Over the years as I facilitate myself and others on reaching some kind of accommodation with their desires for spiritual connection, certain indications seem to be prevalent with the majority of individuals.
What is a Spiritual Path?
Dictionary.com defines the word spiritual, (among other things) as: of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature: a spiritual approach to life.
We will not concern ourselves in this article with the definition of the soul, despite differing presuppositional ethics, but accept this as a good working definition to add to our word “path”.
Again, Dictionary.com defines a path as: a route, course, or track along which something moves, or a course of action, conduct, or procedure.
So, combining both of these we have a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person.
This definition allows for many diverse methodologies including those that are primarily of the physical realms, and those that are primarily of the non-physical realms.
Pressures that act as filters
As we stated in the introduction, many factors influence our examination and determination of our path. Some of these factors include, environment, social network, (including parents, friends, and co-workers), ethnicity or bloodline, and connectedness, or lack of it, to the world around us.
Each of these acts as filters through which we see the world around us. Ask any couple in a relationship how many times they “read between the lines” of a statement just to see how effective filters are in our daily lives.
One example of filters in relationships is as follows:
One partner is cooking dinner and asks the other partner: “Would you please take out the overflowing trash please?”
The partner who was asks responds: “What, why do you do that, I work all day and of course I will take it out. I simply forgot. What do you think I sit and read all day? I work too! If it is too much trouble for you to cook dinner tonight then we could have gone out!”
The first partner is taken aback by the vehemence of the response as all they really asked was for their partner to take out the trash! Not everything else! The second partner read between the lines, of the other through there own filters.
While this is an extreme example, you can see what filters do in this mundane world, imagine what it does for our pursuit of a spiritual path. Each individual’s path is unique. One may utilize the same aspects of the divine; yet call them by another name. Take the deific aspect of healing.
In some pathways, the deity of healing is Bridghid, (and lets not forget that spellings and language for even the same deity show regional differences), others it is Kwan Yin, and others Quanyin. Whole nations have gone to war over the NAME of a particular deity rather than listening to the aspect and intent of the name.
In our early 21st century world we have many examples of what I call “filter-itis”. Christians fight Muslims, Jews fight Christians, and Wiccans fight Heathens, on and on and on.
Therefore, the first step in choosing a path is to put away the expectations of the society you are in and focus on the intent of the pathway without these filters.
Society and Acceptance
There is a quote from John Donne (1572-1631), which is in his “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions”, Meditation XVII: that goes like this:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
While Mr. Donne was a Christian, the sentiment expressed above is still true, (See, I practice what I preach). We are social creatures that desire the acceptance of those around us. The problem occurs when we desire our existing friends, colleagues, family, etc, to accept our new choice, just because we do!
Our brother or sister, who follows another path, cannot always see that our path is equally valid. Sometimes this is because they are not following their true path either, however, it can also be that they truly feel that their path is RIGHT and yours is WRONG. While, based on the concept that all paths are one path, (my own pre-suppositional ethic), this is not necessarily the filter that others see through.
Therefore, seeking acceptance by others, while part of our social conditioning, does not “play well” with some of those around us that follow a different path.
I have many Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, (not what they call themselves-a topic for another article), Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, Eclectic, Heathen friends, and family, the only thing that is important to me is that they respect my path as I respect theirs.
What to look for in a path
Since, each of us must live within our own filters, examine the path that calls you in as objective way as possible. If you are called to Quanyin, (the bodhavista form of the deity of Compassion and Love – androgynous) then accept that particular deity as one that speaks to you.
If you feel that the trees speak with you, and you can hear/feel this then follow this where it leads you and don’t automatically say, I am not ____ (insert appropriate group here) and can not really be associated with trees.
If you feel that a particular set of rules (i.e. The Wiccan Rede) speaks to you and reverberates within, then follow it and find others that can support you.
What is important is that it fills some needs within you.
The next step is to investigate the teachings of the path and take on that which speaks to you.
Be true to yourself and don’t belittle, or agonize over the choices you have made.
Be confident in yourself. You are the one who must follow the path, so you are the only one that needs to “understand” the path.
Lastly, do not label yourself if it would put you in a box that you do not wish to be part. Boxes are created by large groups and if you are a “round peg” why fit into a “square hole”?
Enjoy the Journey! After all – ALL life is a Journey.. We don’t REALLY know what is TRUTH – (OOPS, another topic for another day)
The Answers You Seek
Author: Lady Wolfwind
My daughter tells me that the answers that I seek are in the Bible. Oh, if she only knew. She doesn’t know me very well. I laugh to myself. I don’t seek any answers. I am at total peace within myself. I know that the answers will be revealed to me when I am ready. The more you chase after them, the least likely you are to find them at all.
True, at one point in my life I ran here and there. I was never satisfied. I was always reading and questioning everything. Surely, the great knowledge that I seek must be in a book somewhere. I was impatient and surrounded by chaotic thoughts. Caught up in the mundane world where money mattered above all else.
I don’t know when it changed. A few years ago. I’m not sure why. Some inner voice was whispering, nagging me. I wouldn’t ever listen. If I listened I knew I would have to take a different road, one no one else understood. I would stand out, I would not fit in. Long ago these were important things to me.
One day something changed. A new thought appeared. I had read and studied most of the world’s major religions. None of them appealed to me. What did appeal to me? Something I had heard long ago. A distant memory of quiet words spoken. “Follow your heart, for it will never deceive you. You are one of the few who has been chosen to walk with me.”
It seems like forever that I ignored that voice. That beautiful musical voice that one day would show me a path so magical that it seems an injustice that more people cannot hear. I now understand all that She had to tell me. To be quiet and listen. That all is not silent. The Universe speaks volumes to your soul. That I was born to be different; to march to a different beat and it is okay. That I have a purpose here on Earth to do Her work. To stop asking the questions and chasing answers.
The answers that I seek are on the wind. They are in the raindrops and the stars shining at night. Departed ancestors who deserve to be honored whisper them to me. They are heard in my children’s laughter and felt in my cat’s soft breath. They are all around me. I had to be still to hear. They’ve always been there.
When I first set foot on my path I was overwhelmed and could not learn enough. I read everything I could find, I researched terms and tried to find groups to join. I wanted to buy everything I thought I needed. I still wasn’t paying attention. Soon I learned to meditate, to open and heal my chakras, yoga. I learned and I practiced how to be still. Then I began to hear.
I am now a solitary and a very happy one at that. I don’t need all those fancy tools. Our ancestors and fellow wise women did not buy their tools. They didn’t gather together in secrecy. Most were loners who loved nature and knew how to use it to make the lives of everyone better. There is no chaos within me. I do not seek answers. The Bible, which my daughter speaks of, holds no interest to me. I feel that she is the one who has been blinded by false leaders and it saddens me.
Witches of old were wise women and men who knew the value of the silence. Great secrets are not written in books. They are not shared with just anybody. The witches of yesteryear listened and learned and healed. It was a mistake to forsake them, to bury them in history, to make them creatures to be feared. The true witches know the secrets and know how to keep them and who to share them with. The true witches are full of love for the world and all of the creatures in it. Witches do not need manmade laws to control their actions. We have a strong moral code within us that makes it impossible to hurt what we view as divine.
My daughter made a last ditch effort to convert me. It was a mistake. It made me think deeper. It made me realize how peaceful I was compared to others. She does not see the happiness in me. I sat and thought and really understood who I had become since I took the Goddess’s hand and began to walk with her. I am happy, I am wise and I am powerful. I am beautiful and I see beauty in everything around me.
I’m not so sure that her Bible will teach her any of this. Her words were filled with anger and disdain. Words that a child should never say to their mother. I had to step back and think about all that she had said. Were her words true? If so, I had made some terrible errors in my life. I talked to others who know me best, who have been with me for years. No, they didn’t understand what she was talking about or where this anger came from. It had been an attack that was unprovoked.
I listened and chose to write back. Why does it matter so much which path that I follow? Is this what she learns in her church? I chose not to send the letter. It is my belief to never do anything preceded by strong emotions. This is my child; I will not use words to hurt her. My answer is silence.
I say a blessing for her and her family. I shield my two younger children and myself. If anything, her mistake was to ingrain in the two younger ones the realization that Christianity may not be all that it is said to be. They asked me how her god could create such anger and pain. Didn’t her Bible teach her to love and honor her ancestors? Deep questions that I need to take the time to answer.
I suppose things will be a little different this full moon. We will need to send positive energy out to my daughter and her family. We will need to talk about forgiveness. We will need to discuss anger and pain and how it can be a bad thing as well as a good thing if dealt with properly. We will need to address how to deal with it properly and learn not to become consumed by it. I’ll need to teach them what happens when these emotions take control of your mind, how it will destroy you and those around you. How you cannot hear the Goddess speak to you if your mind is full of hate and not tolerance for others and their beliefs.
This morning I smile to myself. No, the answers I seek are not in the Bible. From what I can tell the answers my daughter seeks are not in the Bible either. All of this has confirmed that I am treading the right path, gently guiding the others who follow me. The Goddess has shown me how difficult life can become, even between a mother and daughter. I’m sure in time this will all heal. I know that I will forgive her, just not yet. I am human and first I must deal with the hurt.
It will be interesting to see what lesson comes from this situation and who was meant to learn it. I suppose there will be something for each of us. The question is, who will listen?
The ‘Power’ Of A Word
Author: Lady GoldenRaven
I am so tired of hearing the constant misuse of one particular word: POWER.
We need to lose the egos people. Being a Wytch, Pagan, or Wiccan is not about power. It is about honoring and celebrating the Old Ones and Their Ways. It is about keeping them alive.
Being a Wytch (from this point on WYTCH will refer to Wytch, Pagan and Wiccan only to simplify the writing) is about caring for Mother Earth and her children. These children include ALL life, not just human. Being a Wytch is about honoring the God and Goddess. It is about observing the Sabbats as well as other rituals.
First, we must understand what the word power itself means. According to Merriman Webster Dictionary, the word power means:
Main Entry: 1pow·er
Pronunciation: ‘pau (- and ) r
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French poeir, from poeir to be able, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin potere, alteration of Latin posse — more at POTENT
1 a (1) : ability to act or produce an effect (2) : ability to get extra-base hits (3) : capacity for being acted upon or undergoing an effect b : legal or official authority, capacity, or right
2 a: possession of control, authority, or influence over others b: one having such power; specifically: a sovereign state c: a controlling group
For most people, the word usually refers to the second meaning: possession of control, authority, or influence over others. For those making the transition from other religions to the Old Ways, they misuse this word.
As a Wytch, we DO have power according to the first definition. We can produce effects, but we can also misuse it as in the second definition.
Being a Wytch for over 30 years, I have seen many folks attempt to threaten others with their wytchy “powers”. I have seen wytches brag how “powerful” they are over other wytches.
In those 30 years, all those who claim to have this “power” have all misused it. They use it to control other people.
They use it to get what they want instead of either working for it, or obtaining it from some other means such as bartering for it. Most of what they want is not material items, but just the ability to “show off” to friends, feel threatening to those they wish to bully.
We need to first of all, strip the old familiar mindset of what power truly is. The power as described in the second definition is one that comes from man’s need to control everything. Yes, I mean men as opposed to women.
Don’t get me wrong, many women throughout history have misused this as well, but true misuse did not come along until Christianity and when MEN decided they had more power than women. I am not writing this to bash men–that is not my intent.
When women ruled this planet, there was a lot less war, killing, and rape? Puh–leeease!
But, I digress.
I hear so many young people say that they turned to Wytchcraft for the power. They are NOT in it for the religion. This upsets me terribly. We are trying to get rid of negative connotations to our religion and along come those who think they can have Power like they see on television.
I tell people, if I were a wytch like they portray on television, why would I be working my butt off week after week? I would not be in debt; I would have enough food so I would not go hungry, etc.
If I were a wytch as seen on television, I would be popping over to Paris for lunch with a twytch of my nose. I would be in the Bahamas with a blink of my eye during the cold winter nights.
I would not be driving a car that is old and falling apart. I would drive my Mercedes one day, my Porsche the next. I would have hit the lottery for millions several times over.
You get the picture.
What really almost pushed me to my limits was an event that occurred the other day. Debbie, a friend of mine considered an “adopted” daughter, is under my guidance as she learns our Ways.
She met a 23 yr old girl whom I will call Mary and they were talking about wytchcraft.
Mary said my daughter, ” I am more powerful than you will ever be!”
At age 23!
This girl claims to have more power than those older than her?
The wrath of a pissed off Wytch comes to the surface. Now, all my self-control was sorely needed. Not just because I felt the urge to just slap her silly, but I also had to watch my mouth.
I think the definition of the word ‘Power ‘should be changed to “the ability to maintain control over oneself”.
I am glad I had some time in between hearing the above statements and in my future meeting with Mary. It gave me time to think how I would handle this situation. I am still torn in some ways. The egotistical human side of me wants to just beat her down (verbally), but the Old Crone in me knows there is a better way to handle this situation.
I think we need to redefine the word power. As wytches, we do have the ability to influence not just other people, but events our professions, etc.
Have you ever heard the phrase: He had the Power to Influence others on the jury?” (Ok, the statement is redundant. It is like saying He had the Power to Power others.)
Our biggest “job” as a wytch is to not just worshipping and praying to our respective God/Goddesses, it is not only to heal Mother Earth and Her children.
Our biggest job is not letting egos affect us in any way.
We are HUMAN–we will NEVER be so powerful that we can instantly snap our fingers and have a mansion appear on our path.
Our jobs in healing the earth and in other rituals and/or spell works that we do is, in fact, to act only as a conduit through which the Ancient Ones may affect Their will. They alone know the Big Plan.
Let’s say we were doing a healing ritual for a person who is ill. This person recovers. Did WE do the actual healing? No. We sent our energies, prayers, and thought forms to the Ancient Ones. It was in Their plan that this person recover.
What if this person had crossed over? Some people blame themselves. Again, it is not our choosing nor is it our call on what happens to whom. If this person has crossed, the Ancient Ones had it in Their plans long before any of us were born.
As a Reiki Master/Teacher, I give my body to the God/Goddess to use as a conduit for their energy to heal. One can stand in the room and feel the heat increasing.
I am not supplying the energy that is being used to heal. If this were the case, none of the Healers in this world would be doing anything except sleeping to restock their supply of energy. The amount of energy used is far greater than what I as a human could ever “conjure” up.
Final words: Drop the word POWER from your repertoire. You really are not all that mighty and powerful.
Spiritual Spice: The Mixing of Pantheons
Isis. Odin. Hera. Anubis. We know the mythology which accompanies each of these ancient Gods. We study their history, their followers, the teachings and morals which we believe they stand for. Indeed, as with all ancient reflections of Divinity, it is only the mythology and scattered records of their existence which has been left for our modern interpretation. Yet when all is said and done and we sit before our altar in prayer, just who is a confused Pagan supposed to commune with? Isis? Odin? Maybe I’ll play it safe and just go with Zeus. Errr… but then Kali will get pissed. Oyi!
I believe that it could be beneficial for the Pagan community to stop and take a step back from the onslaught of Pantheons which seem to be flooding our global village. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Where do the Gods and Goddesses come from, and why do we really pay so much heed to their existence? The answer is one which philosophers have struggled with for years beyond measure, yet still the stories of Athena and Loki resound within our community. They are indeed teachers and guides to us, friends and approachable (within limit) allies. And beyond all, there is the fact that each God and Goddess is him/her self only a specific reflection of the Divine. They are portions of a greater view which, sadly, far too few attempt to see.
There is a ‘Pagan Spiritual Pyramid’ which can illustrate the idea of all pre Judeo-Christian Pantheons. It is by far not the only idea about Divinity’s structure, yet it is one which I find to be particularly insightful. At the peak of this proverbial pyramid is the Divine: omnipresent, omnipotent, the universal soul which resounds through, around, and within all living things. It is the beginning, the fount of life eternal, the circle of creation, death, and rebirth all in one. It is male, female, good, bad, and every shade of gray imaginable as well as the mixing pot of all emotions. It is the heart of Magick. Yet not all of us can, or particularly want to, envision such an immense source of life as that which we celebrate. Indeed it is hard, if not downright impossible, for any mortal mind to envision such an immensely beautiful consciousness while in prayer. Yet as nature is our most imminent teacher, we find that all things are born by two opposites. Male and Female. If it is reflected in all aspects of nature, surely it must be true for the Great Spirit. The Divine, then, can be divided into two separate yet unified halves- Male and Female. Let us name the second level of the Pagan Pyramid “God and Goddess.” Whether you envision the God and Goddess as metaphors for the split of Divinity to humanistic (and therefore slightly more understandable) representations, or as actual manifestations which govern the universe, it is not of primary importance. That is an essay unto itself. So now we have Divinity, the God and the Goddess. Yet even divided into the natural reflections of all things, all parents and thus all creation … there is still a vastness about them. They, split into the energies which might be best termed with their respective sexes, continue to be beings of immensity and, well, supremacy. As it should be. Right?
One God and one Goddess, as perfect as They are (whether taken in a literal or symbolic sense), still do not give much variety when it comes to matters of general theology. We have the story of creation in which They star, but … then what? The spiritual leaders of old knew that to further explain the many aspects of Divinity there must still be additional “break downs” of its diverse aspects. If the Divine is the proverbial sea of all existence, and a mortal desires to work or appeal to one specific aspect of its depths, then how are we to extrapolate that faction from the rest? The Gods and Goddesses might have been seen as ways to not only appeal to the specialized emotions, energies, creativities and overall power of the Divine, but also as ways to grow myths rich with symbolism and story about the way the universe works. If an individual Pagan wants to get in touch with the Love energies of the Universe, it can be intimidating to pull (or call) that specific desire amongst a sea of equally powerful and pure emotions. Yet there is a Branwen, a Chama, an Aphrodite to appeal to. They are the focal points of a unique aspect of the Divine. They are teachers through their myths and the personalities which have sprung from their stories. The Gods and Goddesses speak to the generations as beings of human quality, while providing a pure focus to attain connection with portions of Spirit. Despite the fact that I personally choose to appeal directly to the Divine, or to the God and Goddess, I do understand and value the legends of the fragmented forms of Divinity which exist throughout the world.
Should we mix Pantheons? Of course we should! Each legend, personality born through associated emotion, power, and reflection of the Divine should be treasured. If one God or Goddess particularly “speaks” to you, then commune with them. Perhaps they offer a channel to an aspect of Spirit which you might not currently have open to you. Perhaps they can help unlock a greater portion of yourself, and share some of their own knowledge. The Gods and Goddesses are alive and well, each one sustained by the rainbow of emotion, thought, and will which exists in all expressions of creation. If anything, it is no wonder why there are so many Pagans flocking to research about the Gods and Goddesses of old. Who knows the wonderful treasures an ancient civilization might have discovered then imbued in the likeness of a God? Who knows what wisdom lies out there just waiting to be uncovered! However when seeking Pantheons to research, keep mindful of the religion from which they spring. Many of the pre Judeo-Christian religions have Gods and Goddesses which can basically “stand on their own”. However later religions have a different form of spiritual ‘families’. Christianity, for example (as it is a religion many of us are quite familiar with), has a Deity structure which will not stand without the backing of the religion as a whole. If you are to accept one aspect of its Pantheon, you must accept it all. Or at least recognize its relation. Such religions and their Pantheon make incorporation to Paganism a titch more difficult, however not truly impossible.
Some think that the act of being “eclectic” can lead to the pollution of the Pagan path. They might go so far as to state that the use of too many Deities will dilute the pool of “hard core” Paganism we are still working to purify. I, for one, believe that all the Gods and Goddesses are simply further avenues to celebrating that which is the Divine, the Great Spirit, the Universal Soul. Celebrate, learn and grow from each fragment you study. We all have a working mind and spirit of our own. I believe that each one of us is more than capable of differentiating fact from fiction. By carefully examining the myths of ages past, and working with those aspects which speak to us as truth, we can further regain our Pagan heritage. After all, isn’t one of the greatest truths in our religion the realization of Divinity as a whole?
Just as there are Male Gods for any particular legend, energy, or emotion there can be seen a Female counterpart. In the Universe there is balance, and this simple truth is reflected too in our religion through the equality of the Male and the Female. Be it the God and Goddess, or the multitude of “specific” Gods and Goddesses which have sprung forth from our own human history. In any light the balance is kept. The mythology which fuels the personalities of Spirit are alive through our texts, in our minds, and in our hearts. By keeping Paganism (or any one of its divisions; Witchcraft, Wicca, Shamanism, etc.) as your spiritual rock, I do not believe it is possible to be “too eclectic”. How can one home have too many paths leading into the world? How can a tree have too many branches?
These have been a few of my own thoughts and should be taken as such. The Gods and Goddesses truly are alive and do speak to us. They are never silent. Their voices are whispered on the wind, and their messages written in the veins of every leaf. Strive to understand them for yourself, and truly know the touch of Divinity.
In blessings and light,
Spirituality: A Personal View
Author: Rhys Chisnall
It seems that spirituality means different things to different people and perhaps as spirituality is a very individual and subjective experience this is only right and proper. However as the word is often used in different contexts I believe that it is a phenomena that is worthy of some thought, so for those of you that may be interested here is my take on this difficult subject. If you care to look at the Oxford English Dictionary you will find that it says that spirituality is 1. Relating to or affecting the human spirit as opposed to material or physical things. 2. Relating to religion or religious belief.
For me this raises more questions than it answers.
What exactly is meant by the human spirit? Is it really something that differs from material and physical things? Is it a literal human spirit as believed by followers of some religions; a dualist point of view of a spirit that is of a different substance to the body that survives after death as Descartes claimed? It certainly seems to imply this, but that just does not seem to describe my experience of spirituality or those of some others that I know especially as I am someone who finds the dualism pill a hard one to swallow. These are perhaps questions for another time and are discussed in my essay, Spirit and Character.
Then there are those people who do not feel that they can’t fit their beliefs into any particular religion or religious belief. These people often regard their beliefs as their spirituality, but are they just splitting hairs as others might describe their beliefs as religious? That aside there does seem to be the intuition that spirituality is different to, though related to religion. Perhaps the key word here is ‘relating’, perhaps spirituality is about relationships. Within this article I am going to argue that spirituality is actually a certain kind of relationship that has particular qualities and we shall explore what those qualities could be?
In his book, Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon the American philosopher Daniel Dennett suggests that people’s belief in God may be in part down to the idea that people love God, or at least the idea of God. Dennett argues that some people continue to believe in God despite scientific evidence that makes a personal God unlikely because they are in love with the idea of him. So is love a necessary and sufficient condition of the relationship that defines spirituality?
Of course, Dennett is not suggesting that it is. After all someone who really loves Manchester United or his or her brand new convertible car is in a loving relationship of a kind. But however entertaining harbouring the notion might be, it would be a very long stretch of the imagination to believe that they were engaged in spirituality.
Love is not sufficient for spirituality and neither is it necessary. After all it is not hard to imagine someone who has a relationship with ‘God’ that is based on resentment and even hatred. Several Hollywood films seem to be based on this premise, though the characters may still feel that they have a spiritual relationship with the deity. The characters in the films Dogma, Signs and the Poseidon Adventure seem to fit this picture.
In real life I dare say there are many practising Christians who feel a sense of hatred or resentment (perhaps unconsciously) towards God for how their lives may have turned out. One wonders how Job might have felt towards God as he was plagued by misfortune in the myths of the Old Testament.
Who is to say whether historical pagans felt that they loved their gods? They obviously felt that they had a relationship with them and no doubt felt a sense of spirituality (thought they may not have expressed it in quite that term) but they did not always seem to love them. The Egyptians use to get in right huff with their Gods if they didn’t do what was expected of them.
In modern times the anthropologist Pascal Boyer described how a traditional community banished one of their local goddesses for not fulfilling her side of the religious bargain. Perhaps rather than love, the pagans took a more pragmatic approach to their deities based on appeasement of powerful ‘beings’ or the reciprocal altruism of ‘if I worship you will you be nice to me’.
I can recall reading an account of a reconstructionist pagan — these are modern pagans who are literal polytheists and seek to reconstruct pre-Christian pagan religions (within one assumes the bounds of the law) — who suggested that despite having spiritual relationships he did not feel any particular love for his gods. Mind you, he later changed his allegiance to a Chinese Goddess for whom he did feel it but nevertheless it seems from the evidence that love is not sufficient.
It seems to me that spirituality involves the kind of relationships that feel to the people who pursue them as being extremely important. These are relationships that are so important that we would feel the poorer or bereft in some way if we could not pursue them. This kind of relationship reminds me of the relationships described in the essay written by the phenomenologist Jane Howarth entitled Neither Use nor Ornament: A Consumer’s Guide to Care (an essay that I first assumed to be about middle managers) .
In the essay, Howarth uses the concept of cherishing, an idea similar to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concept of care, to describe the relationship between subject and object. In other words she says that cherishing something comes from a history of interaction; the relationship between the parties involved.
For example, imagine two old friends that have gone through the hardships of life together, supporting each other through tough times, cried on each other shoulders, looked after each other’s kids and been through hell and back. They have also shared the good times, partied together and rejoiced at each other’s triumphs and shared each other’s joys. They have a history together, a history of interaction.
It could be argued that perhaps from their perspective it is the relationship that is cherished as much as the other person. The relationship has an instrumental value but it is also intrinsically important and cherished due to the history of interaction. By this I mean that you can have other friends, but you can never replace that specific person, you can never replace that relationship. The other friends and other relationships are just not equivalent. The experience of the relationship, the history of the interaction can never be repeated.
Admittedly in her essay Howarth was talking about relationships and interactions directed towards objects that we cherish and her ideas are often used in arguments within environmental philosophy, but it could just as easily be applied to people or characters.
Before we go on, I should just note that you don’t necessarily have to love something to cherish it. It could be argued that people have all sorts of habits and personality traits that they cherish. They may cherish certain traditions not because they particularly like them but because that is what they have always done and it gives them a sense of familiarity and positioning within their lives.
They may also have relationships with people that they simply cannot stand, but cherish these relationships nonetheless, if only to cause annoyance and upset to the other person. I daresay there are a few marriages that are carefully cherished for that very reason. However surely this is still not sufficient for our idea that spirituality is about relationships. After all, the fanatical football fan and car fancier could still conceivable fall into this category. For surely they too have had a history interaction leading to cherishing their object.
To me it seems that spirituality is an important relationship so important that many people who experience spirituality whether religious or not, says that it has helped them to endure times of hardship and difficulty. I would argue that this was the kind of relationship that the existentialist psychiatrist Viktor Frankl had with his wife.
During the Second World War, the Nazis imprisoned him in the Auschwitz concentration camp. As a Jew he was stripped of his psychiatric practise and forced into slave labour and endured terrible hardship including being separated from his wife who was imprisoned elsewhere. Frankl tells the story of being forced to march through the dark accompanied by guards driving them with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with sore feet was supported by their neighbours and a man stumbling close to Frankl murmured to him from behind an upturned collar, “If only our wives could see us now”. As they stumbled through the dark, Frankl’s mind turned to his wife, and he later wrote that he saw her image in his mind eye with uncanny accuracy; that on that cold dark night she seemed to him more luminous than the rising sun. And in that most horrific of places by contemplating his beloved he could still know a bliss that helped him endure. Sadly, his wife was later murdered by the Nazis at the Bergen-Belson concentration camp.
Is this an example of a spiritual relationship? Many people might not consider the idea that Frankl’s experience as spirituality but I personally think that it is. Perhaps it is similar to the kind of relationship that a Christian has with God or Jesus. It is of the upmost importance and sustains them through adversity and even, if genuine, sustains them in the face of death. Though I should add that this does not necessarily imply that the object with which they form the relationship has any literal reality.
For me, it is the same as the relationship and connection I have for and with the wonders and horrors of nature as personified through the Lord and the Lady of the Craft. My pattern’s relatedness and connection to the rest of the wider pattern related through such symbols — that which the famous mythologist Professor Joseph Campbell describes as transparent to the transcendent. It could be argued that Frankl felt this wonder in his relationship with his wife, and I see no reason why we can’t experience this in another person. It was the quality of the relationship that sustained him and led him to bliss in the most horrific of circumstances. I daresay that no matter how much the football fan loves their team or the car fancier cherishes his car their relationships with these objects are not sufficient to sustain them through hardship, grief or terminal illness; it does not connect them with something more important.
The relationship of spirituality, from my perspective engenders a sense of wonder. By wonder I mean that spirituality connects us with something other, it is a relationship, which is perceived as greater and more potent than ourselves. It takes us beyond ourselves, beyond limiting self-service and the limited sense of self. It connects us with something wider and other, yet intimately the same. It is that kind of relationship beyond ourselves that leaves us with that sense of awe and wonder which can’t really be adequately described in words and hinted at only with metaphor.
The 19th Century philosopher John Stuart Mill said that it was familiarity not understanding that destroys wonder. I would argue that it is mystery and awe despite an intellectual understanding that can fuel the wonder and awe in the relationship. Often intellectual understanding can add to the wonder experienced. For example I understand intellectually the process of evolution by natural selection and yet the process fills me with wonder at the blind power of nature. We intellectually know the stars are thousands of light years distant, that it takes thousands of years for their light to reach our retinas. We know that when gaze at the night sky we are looking back in time. Is that not wonderful and is it not awe inspiring, perhaps more so because we know these facts about them?
The British philosopher Ronald Hepburn claims in his essay on Wonder that, “if problems should arise over the philosophical basis of belief, and worship becomes impossible for a person, wonder is probably the nearest intense appreciative attitude and emotion that is free of problematic metaphysics and so remains available”. It is this relationship of wonder that changes our outlook, adding depth to our existence relating us to the mysteries of life and death. It is sustaining and life changing and so very important. It is the connection and interaction with the larger picture.
To my mind spirituality is not necessarily about spirits or spirit (what spirits are, is another question) . Rather it is found in the quality of a relationship or the character of the relationship. It is not simply a love for something, or just a history of interaction within the relationships. Nor really is it simply about relationships, which are seen as being very important, although these factors are part of it.
I consider spirituality to be about a relationship that is bigger, more powerful, with greater potency than just ourselves; a relationship that is based upon wonder that can sustain us in times of extreme adversity as it did with Frankl, and so provides us with a sense of meaning in times of extreme hardship. It is a relationship that takes us beyond ourselves and limited self-interests.
To sum up with metaphor I think that spirituality can be likened to beer; life without spirituality is like drinking pub larger, bland and flavourless, whereas life with it is like supping real ale, richer, more fulfilling and with greater depth and flavour.
The Wisdom of Buddha
An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.