The Daily Motivator for Oct. 8th – Looking happy and being happy

Looking happy and being happy

Happiness is not based on the way you appear. Happiness is an authentic state  of being that you can choose.

When you are truly happy, people around you will no doubt see it. Yet there’s  so much more to being happy than merely looking happy.

If you’re striving to impress others with how happy you are, you’re not happy  at all. Let go of the striving and the needs, and allow happiness.

You can be happy doing nothing. You can be happy doing anything.

Happiness does not come from the situation the person is in. Happiness comes  from the person who is in the situation.

Be the person to allow happiness. And you can experience it at any and every  time and place.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Pets in Ritual: Some Basics

Pets in Ritual: Some Basics

Author: Bronwen Forbes

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you want your pet in ritual with you, and not that he or she has wandered in by accident. That being the case, here are some things you need to consider and plan for.

If you normally cast a circle as part of your magickal workings, and if you have issues with pets casually crossing that magical barrier, you need to figure out in advance how to keep your furry friend from leaving once you’ve started. A dog can be leashed and kept in your circle. So, in some instances, can a ferret, a rabbit, or an iguana. But a cat isn’t likely to take too kindly to a harness or collar and a leash. And if your cat is anything like mine, he will yowl like he’s dying if you put him in a carrier.

What are you going to do? Frankly, you’ve got two choices: either resign yourself to the idea that a cat is going to cross the energy barrier you’ve erected but not affect it, or shut your cat away so he or she can’t participate.

Our cat likes to patrol the perimeter of the circle, but he never comes near the altar. Maybe he’s keeping an eye out for unwelcome entities. I really don’t know. His predecessor used to lie in the center of ritual space with the attitude, “You may all now commence adoring me.”

By the way, if you plan to have your dog in ritual, it’s a good idea to let him or her go outside and do his business beforehand. Nothing interrupts a good ritual like one of the participants barking because he needs to potty!

Something else to consider on this same topic: for obvious reasons, small puppies aren’t the best participants in long rituals, say, longer than thirty minutes. For lengthy sabbats or esbats, take your puppy out beforehand, and then crate him or her (or whatever you do at night) during the ritual. Post-ritual pee and poop cleanups when you’re trying to dismantle the altar and get the ritual feast ready just aren’t fun.

Speaking of altars, if you like to have an altar or shrine set up at all times, you might want to consider setting it up where an inquisitive cat or teething puppy can’t get to it. Cats love to knock things off altars. Puppies like to chew things – and they don’t care if it’s your $70 wand, your favorite Buddha statue (true story) , or a chew toy.

When I first started doing ritual, my cat at the time loved nothing better than to yukk up a hairball on my altar. Needless to say, a hairball was so not the kind of offering I wanted to make to my Gods! If your pets are doing your altar more harm than good, consider moving it to a pet-free room or large closet with a firmly latching door, or to a wall shelf strategically placed where Kitty can’t comfortably jump to.

If you frequently invite newcomers, especially people who are new to Paganism, to your ritual, you may notice that your pet chooses to sit on or next to that person while you all ground and center. This frequently happens in my group, and the newcomer always reports that the pet’s presence helped them feel less nervous, and they were better able to follow the grounding and centering meditation.

Another note about newcomers to your ritual: inform them at the time of invitation that you have pets, and what kind. That way, if they have serious allergies or major phobias, they know ahead of time and can choose for themselves how they want to deal with it, i.e. take antihistamines or not accept the invite.

We share our home with a shaggy, extra large old-fashioned German shepherd, and we always warn people that there’s a HUGE, LONG-HAIRED dog in the house! Karl is a complete goofball who wouldn’t hurt a soul (and in fact, is totally, utterly, and completely devoted to our four-year-old) , but he sheds constantly and weighs approximately 120 pounds. That way, people who don’t think dog hair counts as a condiment (despite the fact that we regularly dust and vacuum) or who might be too scared to concentrate on ritual with a humongous wolf-looking creature in the house can choose in advance not to come.

For safety’s sake, consider making some adjustments to the placement of Cakes and Wine during your ritual. Most of us are used to setting the cakes and drink on the altar – or under it, if the altar is too small. Let me tell you: with pets actively participating in ritual, that doesn’t work! Remember that alcohol, grapes (including grape juice) , raisins, any sort citrus fruit or juice, and chocolate are extremely toxic to cats and dogs.

Besides, do you really want to drink out of a chalice after your toilet-drinking, butt-sniffing dog had a sip? Or eat a cookie she’s licked? I didn’t think so! Put the stuff somewhere your furry friend can’t reach, like a nearby bookshelf or table. That way, all the humans can partake without grossing out – or poisoning the pet.

Maybe you could also have some water and dog and cat treats for your furry participants to enjoy during Cakes and Wine! I have heard that people who invite their ferrets or rabbits into ritual provide a small plate with a couple of raisins or lettuce on it.

With a little pre-planning, adult pets and carefully supervised kittens and puppies can be delightful, useful, and meaningful participants in your rituals. But always leave yourself the option of letting them out – and keeping them out – if they get too rowdy or otherwise disruptive.

Our ritual room is also where we keep our dogs’ crates, and for the most part they’re voluntarily hanging out in their crates (with the doors open) when we do ritual. We know the ritual is a success if the dogs are snoring!

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!

How Do You Know A Magical Working “Took”?

How Do You Know A Magical Working “Took”?

Author: Bronwen Forbes

I ran across this question on a Pagan forum the other day, and it got me thinking back to when I was new at all this ritual and magic and witchcraft stuff – was that really half a lifetime ago? – and so unsure of my ability to do even a basic working. Fortunately for me, the Gods I chose to invoke were kind, patient, and tolerant of my novice fumbling, as were my teachers and fellow students.

There are actually several ways to know whether or not a ritual or a magical working “worked” or “took.” Some are immediate; some are long-term. In general, sabbat observances and celebrations don’t have the success bar set very high. If you feel like you’ve “done” Litha, or Mabon, then that’s good enough — whether you’ve participated in a three-hour ritual or simply prepared a satisfying barbecue in the back yard for your friends and family.

The first (and sometimes only) indication you have that your spell or ritual was a success is to ask yourself: How do I feel? Do you feel better than you did before the ritual started, or do you feel worse? If you feel better, i.e. less worried, less frightened, more confident, more energetic, calmer, happier or whatever then, at least on some level, the magical working was a success (I’m assuming no one is stupid enough to actually do a working to increase worry, fear, low self-esteem, lethargy, nerves, or sadness) .

Paganism and Witchcraft do have one thing in common with all other religions, and that is to offer comfort and a life raft to the practitioner in times of troubled waters. So if you’re done with your spell or ritual and you feel better, that should that tell you something.

Also, sometimes you just know. There’s almost an audible “click” that means, “Message received. Action forthcoming.” In fact, it sounds a lot like the “click” you hear when you meet someone for the first time and then say to an old friend, “I don’t know, we just clicked!” That click.

If you aren’t already, you should start keeping an informal log or journal of what magic and rituals you do when, and what result (s) you hope to achieve. For one thing, it’s a good idea to keep track of what happens. Say you do a magical working for an easing of financial difficulties. You write it down in your log and forget about it.

Three months later you look back and realize that, since you did that working, you’ve gotten a small raise at work, a nice tax refund from the federal government, and all of your Pagan 101 books that you posted for sale on amazon.com have actually sold! Does that sound like your spell was successful? It does to me!

Another good reason to keep a log or journal of the specifics of your workings is that, if the rite is a good one, and it works — two or three months down the road — you can re-create the working years in the future, if you find yourself in the same situation. Even better, you can share the basics with a friend who might, say, be in a dire financial situation just like you were and isn’t sure what to do, magically speaking, to fix it.

Sometimes, though, with big workings on big issues like, “I want to move to another part of the country, ” or “I want a child, ” one ritual or one spellcasting just isn’t going to have enough “oomph” to help you accomplish what you want. You may need to wait a few weeks (one lunar cycle is good) and do another one. And another one on the next major holiday. And another one on the next holiday after that…

For a big working, I suggest you vary the details slightly in order to cover all the different aspects of the issue. For example, if you want to move across the country, try doing one working to choose your new location wisely and help you get yourself and your stuff there safely, another working to get a job that will take you there (or be waiting for you when you get there) , and still another working to help you find good friends and a congenial community once you arrive. They are all rituals to help you move across the country, but each one focuses on a different aspect of the moving process.

How do you know whether or not you need to repeat the working more than once? Same way you get to perform on stage at Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

Unfortunately, when you’re talking about magic and ritual, there is no box you can check like there is on your email to indicate message received and read. And it really doesn’t matter how carefully you prepare and how well you execute your working. Some things just aren’t to be – at least right now. Does this mean that your time and effort and energy were for nothing? No. It just means that energy has been “banked” somewhere, and is waiting for more favorable conditions to act.

Patience is more than a virtue, here. It’s a necessity.

Let me give you an example: ten years ago, I was doing regular intense workings in order to find love, or for love to find me. But no matter how many losers I hopefully dated, the time was not yet right. But the day I woke up (and I don’t mean in the morning) and realized that one of my oldest friends was Mr. Right, all that energy that I’d sent out and the Gods had stored for me fueled one heck of an intense courtship!

Within 3 months I packed up and moved to where he was currently living. A year later we were married. As of this writing, we’ve been happily wed for over eight years.

When the time is right for the working to “take” – be assured, it will!

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.

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name


Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!