Saturday, January 11, 2014

Charm for Wellbeing in Pregnancy

I was asked to assist a grove member's daughter who has had some complications in her pregnancy by working up a pregnancy blessing ritual.  Part of that was researching what the old norse and irish did, in which I was immensely helped by Living Liminally the blog of another ADF member and reconstructionist.

I found a record of a norse charm carved on wood with threads of red, white, and black wound around it.  The bindrune that was carved on the wood was lost in antiquity, nor were any words recorded.  So though I had the basis of an idea, it needed some filling out.  I designed a bindrune, based on the helm of awe and including imagery designed to call on Laima, the Lithuanian goddess of fate, birth, and luck.

I wrote the charm upon the deadwood from a hawthorn tree that I harvested from my daughters schoolyard with thanks.

I spun thread from icelandic sheep in the three colors required using my drop spindle.

I wrote a charm for the pregnant woman to repeat and now I am ready with my herbs and charm for our working tonight.

The is the Charm of Wellbeing to be said by the one who is pregnant:

One by one the charm’s begun
Black thread for dark, and safety, and the earth mother’s mark
White thread for light, and health, and all the gods might
Red thread for love, and life, and the blessings of blood
Wind and wind
We bind and bind
Until three by three so it be.

The three threads are wound around the charm and put in a safe place in the pregnant woman’s bedroom until she gives birth, then the wood should be burned in offering and thanks along with the black thread. The white thread is made into a bracelet for the mother and the red made into a protective charm for the child.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Resolutions

As a pagan, the new year is a little more fluid for me than it is for many.  Many pagans see the new year  as starting at the beginning of November, when Samhain is celebrated.  This is part of the Celtic tradition which has heavily influenced Wicca and is part of the Celtic Reconstructionist paths.   Some pagans follow more modern traditions of starting the new year in January.  This too has it's basis in the past in the Scottish traditions of Hogmany.  This is very similar to our modern new year traditions.  Think Auld Lang Syne.

So I do usually have a few New Years Resolutions in the traditions of my past and of my ancestors. This year I have two:

The first is to smile more.  I've had my children tell me they love my smile, but they don't get to see it enough.  I've had my husband and loved ones wonder if there's something wrong.  It seems, for whatever reason, that when I'm concentrating, or reading, or just not really thinking of anything I look a little scowly.  So a new practice for this year is smiling meditation.  To smile can change our biochemistry.  It can change how those around me perceive me.  Plus, I've got entirely enough frown wrinkles. I think I'm going to carve those crow's feet at the corners of my eyes a little deeper this year.

The second is about my relationship to things.  The last few years have taught me a lot of lessons about my relationship to money and attachment to physical things.  We moved and I let things go.  I've had to let go of old houses, of stability, of ideas I had about money from my suburban upbringing. I've let go of the idea of showing love through big expensive gifts.  I've realized that I can find creativity anywhere, and while I enjoy using paint and canvas or other bought items, I can use local materials with good effect and less damage to the earth.

I also usually start the year with divination. I have had a number of divination sessions, both my own and from others, that indicate that this may be a challenging year.  It seems it may be filled with some fairly serious change for me.  One of the things that was indicated was that there was something or some things that need to be offered up in order for this change to occur successfully and well.  Thus we come again to attachment to things.  I will focus on letting go of my need for stuff and of my fears about money.  I will embrace simplicity more fully and with more joy in my heart.

I am a priestess of ADF, and I'm still figuring out what that means.  The old stories tell us limited things about what the priesthoods of our pagan past actually did.  The threads of lore must combine with inspiration to fill in the gaps.  I have bits and pieces. There are stories of gifted madmen and women who could speak with the birds and the animals.  They ran wild in the woods with nothing at all, not even clothes.  There is evidence that the Volva, a keeper of the sacred songs in the northern lands, would travel from one village to another, never staying in one place very long.  There are the Vaidelutes, fire priestess who committed to tending the sacred flame for all their lives.  Though wealth is not viewed as a bad thing, in pagan practice, it seems to me, that when we look at the lives of those who were the keepers of sacred knowlege, it was not their primary goal.

I've never been very good at making money, so I will continue to focus on saving money by needing less.  I'm not sure how that will turn out, and hopefully I will find guidance and wisdom in the seeking. I do want to continue to grow my creative outlets and discover new ways to create income to help my family, but I will do so in ways that focus on my vision of creativity in harmony with the earth.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Raising Pagans: Cemetery Offerings

As the wheel of the year turns to the darker half of the cycle we pagans turn our attention to our ancestors. Even as I am furiously sewing costumes and decorating with skeletons and jack-o-lanterns I want to help my kids reflect on the more serious side of death. We are lucky enough to be able to walk to a cemetery from our house now and a few days ago we gathered flowers from our garden and went to give offerings to the ancestors.

Now, these were not our ancestors of blood, nor were they people we ever knew. We live in a mobile and transient world and the graves of my grandparents are very far away.  Instead, we wandered along like flower fairies, reading headstones and leaving little blessings in our wake. 
Not only was this declared, "Super fun!" Our walk spurred lots of good conversations. We talked about death and about being kind to others (even other ancestors!) We had a great conversation on the reality of magic and I paraphrased the classic definition,"Magic is the art of changing conciousness at will." 
Instead I told them, "If you want to change the world with magic, first you must learn to change yourselves. "

The children particularly liked leaving flowers on the graves of children and grandparents.  Maybe in some other town someone is leaving flowers on the graves of my ancestors for me.  Sometimes all we can do is pay it forward.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Prayer is more than Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

Prayer is more than hands folded and looking upward.

Prayer is a way of communicating with That-Which-is-not-Human.

Woman in the Water 
Many years ago when I was newly pagan the idea of prayer disturbed me intensely.  I hated the whole idea.  The way people would sit around with folded hands and beg for help from some power so remote that he barely managed to have gender bothered me.  This Being, who, if the story was correct, was so vast that he had created everything.  I seriously doubted the usefulness of such a tiny pinprick of emotion and need cast forth into the cosmos for something so large to notice.  Would it be anything but a drop in the bucket for something like that?

It seemed so self-serving anyway.  First world problems, if you know what I mean.  “Please let me just pass this test.”  Or “If only he would look at me.”

Fast-forward 15 years, and I get an email from a member of my grove. They are asking for prayers for their failing grandparent. Without hesitation I reply that I will get on that. I go to my altar and light my oil lamps.  I pour water into a stone well.  As I begin to speak the familiar words of cleansing and hallowing I light incense that wafts upward in delicate spirals.  I feel peace and calm descend upon me as I control my breath. My mind focuses on the task at hand and my worries about daily cares fade away for a time.

I give offerings of rice and hand spun yarn and speak words that feel meaningful to me.  These are no empty gestures. My hands tingle with energy and my mind is focused and calm.  I speak words with strength that I can feel resonate outward.  Long practice has built confidence in these patterns and in the Powers that I commune with. As I speak from my center I wait in stillness to see Who will come.

Sometimes I feel a heat rise within me radiating outward like a radio signal going toward the person in question.  Sometimes I see an image of a God or a Spirit in my minds eye.  Sometimes I recognize them.  Sometimes I don’t.  It doesn’t matter.  I am at a center of the world, and in that moment I am a channel for the sacred.  I allow myself to have faith in the process and in the relationships that I have built. Sacred Beings know more than I do.  I trust in the work, in my practice, and in the Gods and Spirits that I have built relationships with over the years to keep me safe and doing good work.

Prayer as petition is only the tip of the iceberg, or maybe in my case, the tip of the bonfire. We certainly communicate with the non-human in order to ask for things.  It’s a natural part of relationship.  Healthy relationships involve a take as well as a give. Which leads me rather naturally to another way to pray, the giving way.  Then there is the blessing way, the prayer of rapture and delight, the prayer of thanksgiving and probably lots I haven’t even thought of.  I believe there are a number of ways to pray, and I’m hoping to explore them in the coming months, particularly ways to use creativity in this idea of prayer as communication with the non-human.

Sun Woman Sees Their Pain

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moment of Change

 It can change in an instant.
News that travels comes across like a pain in the side, like a slap.

A dark minute stares at me.
A thread of comfort and friendship 
Fate forever altered, for the worse.

The day continues onward.
Dinner and the dentist will not wait.
News to come waits, as do I.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seeking my Solitude: Ways to Connect with Self

I was a lonely child. I had no siblings, and though I did have friends and cousins, day camp and swim lessons I also had large chunks of time where I was alone.  I remember long summer days when I had played every game I could think of. My Lego spy devices bored me, my Barbies laid on the floor in their pirate costumes. (Why didn’t they have Pirate Barbie? Or caveman Barbie? That was where it was at as far as I was concerned.)

I would stare at the clouds through the silver maple in my back yard and listen to the birds and the june bugs because there was simply nothing better to do.  I learned how to make cardinal sounds and grass whistles. I sat and thought of nothing, nothing at all, and watched the clouds move by and longed for someone else, anyone else, to do something with.

Fast forward a couple of decades and here I am now. I live communally with adults and children and pets.  There is always someone around and I never need to be lonely.  Life is good, but there’s an ironic twist to my happily ever after:

I need solitude.

I need to be alone.  Living communally is teaching me lessons on how to honor my need to turn inward.  In case you hadn’t caught on yet, I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean that I dislike people, but it does mean that it is more restful for me to be alone than for me to be with other people.  Personally, I think it’s good for everyone, introvert or extrovert, to make sure and spend some time just with themselves simply as an exercise in self-awareness. The trick, in my opinion, is to make sure that alone time is high quality.  What I mean by saying “high quality” is that just like we can spend time with our children in a way that creates connections and good memories or we can spend time that creates frustration and powerlessness, we can also spend meaningless time by ourselves or we can turn inward in a way that creates meaning and value.

So in an attempt to marshal my own thoughts about the topic, here are the ways I create a space to commune with my own self:

There are a lot of ways to go about meditating, and it’s not just sitting there counting breaths, though I do that too.  Dancing, walking, listening quietly to my surroundings, and pondering dreams or images are all ways I spend time turned inwardly.

I work through my emotional side in my creativity. I also find peace in creation. I prefer to create art, but even cooking or tidying can be creative when I come from a place of creation of harmony, attention to detail, and a job well done.  I will admit, I go to a special place in my mind when I paint, what sometimes is referred to as flow.

Feeling my emotions:
Sometimes I need space to reflect on my life experiences by myself.  When I am with others it’s too easy for me to harmonize my actions with their needs and emotions.  We all are empathetic beings.  Sometimes adjusting to what other people are feeling is just too easy.  By being alone I can consider my own feelings and motivations in isolation and understand more clearly what I feel about a situation.

Spending time with the non-human:
This one is particularly important and all too easy to disregard.  For years now I’ve known that I need what I call “Tree Time”.  I go out into the woods, or find a hiking trail and disappear for a while.  In a way I mean that quite literally.  The self that I think of as me fades and I become a part of something much larger than me for a while. I love David Abram’s ideas on the subject; he writes a wonderful essay on Reciprocity and the Salmon that is worth reading.  The idea that we as humans need to get away from our own creations on a physiological and psychological level is compelling.  We didn’t evolve in cities or with video games.  We evolved within a matrix of other species with their own needs and drives quite different from our own.  Allowing ourselves to be re-immersed within that matrix, even for a short time, can be quite powerful.

Courtesy of Magpie Photography and Design
I could write an essay on each of these categories, (and probably should) but for now I find that I need to finish up typing this stuff and get my butt out into the warm rainy day so I can smell the loam and the pine pitch.  Take care kind reader, and may the blessings of the sweet earth be with you this day and every day.


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