beginners

A Moment for Meditation

September, 2014

 

Merry Meet and welcome to my first column on meditation.  I am honored to be part of the PaganPages.org writing family.

I am a Certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher; I have been practicing for 20 years and teaching for 16.

In this column, I will be discussing the different aspects of meditation, which will include, but not be limited to, mantra (vibratory sound), mudra (yoga positions for the hands), posture, visual focus, breathing techniques both simple and not-so-simple, and so on.    

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that life is fairly stressful for most of  us.  Meditation and proper breathing technique can help to calm your nerves and slow down your heart rate, which will allow the body to calm itself naturally.  This, in turn, helps you to rationally deal with the situation at hand.

To meditate is to breathe.  Your breath is Prana; Prana is life, plain and simple. 

When you make the effort to tune into a daily meditation sadhana (spiritual practice), you become calmer, more centered, grounded and balanced.

It is my hope that you will take this journey with me, learning the basics of meditation and breathing your way to a happier, healthier you.  

Blessings and Namaste

A Year And A Day

August, 2013

Wiccan Basics

 

There are very few ‘rules’ in Wicca.  In fact, a lot of people like the fact that there is no rulebook, dogma or strict hierarchy in Wicca.  Of course, this varies between traditions, as some groups have more guidelines then others.

 

Rulebook or not, there are a few key tenets that most Wiccans follow, such as the Wiccan Rede, the Rule of Three, and even the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief as set out by the American Council of Witches in 1974.

 

Wiccan Rede

The Wiccan Rede provides a common moral system for those practicing Wicca and other pagan religions.  Doreen Valiente first published the famous ‘eight word’ couplet in 1964, “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will”.  The long Rede below came from Earth Religion News in 1974.

 

Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.

Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.

 

For tread the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.

To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.

 

Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much.

Honor the Old Ones in deed and name, let love and light be our guides again.

 

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.

Widdershins go when the moon doth wane, and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.

 

When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.

When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart’s desire seek.

 

Heed the North winds mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.

When the Wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

 

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss you on the mouth.

When the wind whispers from the West, all hearts will find peace and rest.

 

Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.

Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.

 

Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God’s insight.

Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.

 

Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.

Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.

 

Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.

White are the flowers of Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.

 

Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.

Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.

 

Elder is the Lady’s tree burn it not or cursed you’ll be.

Four times the Major Sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.

 

As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it’s now Samhain.

When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.

 

When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn.

As the wheel turns to Lammas night power is brought to magick rite.

 

Four times the Minor Sabbats fall use the Sun to mark them all.

When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.

 

In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.

When the Sun has reached its height time for Oak and Holly to fight.

 

Harvesting comes to one and all when the Autumn Equinox does fall.

Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you’ll be.

 

Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you’ll know.

When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.

 

With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend.

Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

 

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.

When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.

 

Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.

These Eight words the Rede fulfill: “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”  

 

Rule of Three

Some Wiccan groups follow the Rule of Three, also known as the Threefold Law or the Law of Return.  The Rule of Three states that any energy you put out into the universe (negative or positive) will be returned to you threefold, like a system of ‘cause and effect’.  Some liken this to the Buddhist view of Karma, or even the Christian ‘Golden Rule’.  There are many variations of the Rule of Three, with one being taken from the Wiccan Rede:

 

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should, three times bad and three times good.

 

Thirteen Goals of a Witch

Scott Cunningham included these ‘Thirteen Goals of a Witch’ in his very popular book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  Although written more recently then the Rede, many Wiccans try to stay true to these guidelines, in both their mundane and magical lives.

 

I.             Know Yourself

II.            Know your Craft

III.           Learn

IV.          Apply knowledge with wisdom

V.            Achieve balance

VI.          Keep your words in good order

VII.         Keep your thoughts in good order

VIII.        Celebrate life

IX.           Attune with the cycles of the Earth

X.            Breath and eat correctly

XI.           Exercise the body

XII.         Meditate

XIII.        Honor the God and Goddess

 

As there is no central authority figure, dogma, or ‘Bible’ in Wicca, it promotes independence and personal responsibility.  It allows each person to determine their own ethical balance as opposed to being told how to live their lives.  And although this can sometimes be hard, it is very empowering!

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Three_(Wicca)

http://www.religioustolerance.org/wicrede.htm

A Year And A Day

June, 2013

“What is Wicca?”

 

This is the first of a monthly column which is aimed at seekers, those new to paganism, Wicca, and the occult.  The ‘year and a day’ reference comes from the fact that most Wiccan groups require seekers to study the craft for a year and a day before they can be formally dedicated or initiated into the group.  It is also said the Celtic goddess Cerridwen stirred her cauldron of knowledge for the same amount of time.

 

One of the most basic questions new seekers have is what is Wicca?

 

Most sources agree that Wicca is an earth and nature-based spirituality that celebrates the wheel of the year, personal power and responsibility, and living in harmony with the universe.  Wicca is a path of empowerment and personal growth.  Scott Cunningham also states that “Wicca doesn’t view deity as distant.  The Goddess and God are both within ourselves and manifest in all nature.” (Wicca: A Guide For the Solitary Practitioner)

 

In one of my favourite 101 books, Wicca for Beginners, Thea Sabin describes Wicca in a series of points.

 

1. Wicca is an old-new religion.  Although based on pre-Christian pagan traditions, what we today call ‘Wicca’ comes mostly from Gerald Gardner in the 1950s, compiling ancient pagan traditions with modern influences, such as the Golden Dawn and Freemason traditions.

 

2. Wicca is an earth-based religion.  Wicca celebrates the earth and nature, the wheel of the year, and the cycle of life.

 

3. Wicca is experiential.  You don’t just read about Wicca, you experience it by participating.  Your experience tells you what’s true, what works for you, and what you believe.

 

4. Wicca is a mystery tradition.  Wicca celebrates the mysteries of life such as birth, death, love, and deity.  Wiccans reach beyond our five senses to try to commune with the divine, such as meditation and pathworking.

 

5. Wicca is European Shamanism.  Although not exactly the same, Wicca shares a lot of similarities with shamanism and Native American traditions in that they work with altered states and their psychic abilities in order to overcome our fear and take charge of our spiritual paths.

 

6. Wicca is a magical system.  Wiccans use magic, whether ‘Low’, ‘Folk’, or ’Practical’ magic, such as everyday tasks like finding your keys, or ‘High’ magic, such as manifesting your own personal power and divinity.

 

However Wicca is NOT:

 

–          Satanic or anti-Christian.  Satan or ‘the Devil’ is a Christian concept, and while Wiccans believe that everything has a ‘light’ and ‘dark’ side, they don’t believe in an innately evil being.

–          Dualistic.  Although Wiccans believe that most things have dual and opposite symbolism, they don’t believe that these opposites are antagonistic (such as God and Satan).  Wiccans believe in opposite partners, or two parts of a whole, neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad.

–          Proselytizing.  Wiccans do not try to convert others or feel that their path is the ‘one true path’.

 

Wiccan groups are divided into ‘traditions’, each with their own viewpoints, rituals and practices.  Examples of traditional groups include Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Georgian Wicca.  Groups that arose from the feminist and political movements of the 1970s include Reclaiming and Dianic Wicca.  But the beauty of Wicca is that there is no “right way” to practice, and many Wiccans follow an eclectic mix of other traditions, either working in covens or solitary.

 

If you are just starting out on your pagan or Wiccan path, I say read as much as you can, challenge yourself, and above all, have fun!

 

 

Sources:

 

“Wicca: A Guide For the Solitary Practitioner”  Scott Cunningham

“Wicca For Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice“ Thea Sabin

Meditation Moment

January, 2012

A Meditation on Meditation for Beginners

There are 1440 minutes in every day.  You can easily schedule 5 of them for yourself, right?

Did you find yourself thinking about how many things you are going to change in 2012 over the holidays?  Have you made resolutions, or set goals, to start on January 1st?

Are you looking forward to starting a new year, or do you find yourself feeling down or anxious?

Meditation as a daily practice has been scientifically (medically and psychologically) shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.  It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves the function of every cell, organ, and system in your body, and is apparently the best thing since sliced bread.  Sliced gluten-free bread, even.

Can you afford to give yourself five minutes a day?  Would you be willing to give up a single press of the snooze button, a cigarette break if you suffer that particular addiction, or five whole minutes of Facebook time?

Meditation doesn’t have to occur in a void.  You don’t have to be alone, in a quiet dark comfortable place with burning candle and incense.  You can meditate while you brush your teeth, or walk the dog.  You can meditate while working out, dancing, coloring, painting, or even mowing the lawn or cleaning dishes.

Meditation is a state of mind.  It’s not something you do, it’s something you be.

Many people fail at incorporating meditation as a daily practice because we are so used to thinking about our lengthy to do list, and it’s super difficult to make that inner ticker shut the heck up.  How can you relax and just be if every cell in your body  seems to be demanding you do something “productive?”

It is much easier to meditate while satisfying your left brain with action.  Some people have little labyrinths they trace with their fingers while they let their minds quietly lead them to solutions to a problem.  Some people have full size labyrinths they can walk for the same purpose.  Some people meditate while coloring mandalas or beating a drum.

You don’t have to invest in anything special to give meditation a try.  If you decide to make daily meditation a goal for 2012, here’s one effective way to start:

ñ  Set an alarm if you need a time limit, before you start your task.

ñ  Choose a task you would be doing anyway, that you could do backwards in your sleep with one arm tied behind your back.  For this example, I arbitrarily choose the task of a morning shower.

– While you do your task, the first day focus one sense on what you are doing.  Being hyper-aware of how the water feels on your skin, for example.

– The next day, hyper-focus on a different sense, and every day after until you’ve covered the five senses.  What do you smell, taste, see, hear?

–  On the sixth day, let go and see what your sixth sense might be trying to tell you.  Allow yourself to receive messages from the Divine, from your guides, or your Higher Self.

ñ  On the seventh day, just breath.  Count your breaths while you do your task of choice, or just allow your body to move while your mind enjoys are few moments of blessed peace.

Tune in next month for a guided meditation on Imbolc. <3

Wiccan Basics

December, 2011

Learn to listen

I recently watch a movie called “Eat, Pray, Love”. And in this movie there was an old Italian parable about the man who daily for most of his many years asked this Statue of a Saint the same thing… “Saint, Please let me win the Lottery. Then one day the statue comes to life and says to the old man “My son, Go by a lottery ticket.”

This struck me again with how much we ask, of others, of God and Goddess, of the world around us. But how often do we take the time to listen for the answers?

Too often we walk around thinking if we only had an answer, or even a clue about the answer or even a better understanding of it all that we would be, richer, happier, smarter..

But we do not take the time to listen for the answer. We have it… it is there. In our hearts … in our heads. The Charge of the Goddess tells us that “And you who seek you findest me not within thee, you will never find me without, for behold – I have been with thee from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.” Translates to God/dess is you and you are God/dess. You do not need to look outside of you for ALL the answer. And when you ask for the answer, listen for the answer.

Years ago I received one of those silly chain letter. You know the ones I am talking about… they have a great/ sad/ poignant message followed by the nasty “send this to …. People or something terrible/ wonderful will happen to you.  But the story stayed with me for years. It was about a young man who kept asking God/dess to show him some sign that they were there. And every time he asked some moment of beauty regaled the world. But this man was so self-absorbed that he could not see and was again disappointed. He always wanted someone else to show him the miracle instead of looking at it and “seeing” it. We need to look with-in and see/hear our answers. When we do not we then miss many of the things we may need to grow and heal and learn. The answers are within. We are all perfect manifestations of God/dess. We have only to ask ourselves and s/he will show us the answers.

When we learn to listen to our inner voice, the one that we call our conscience, we will then find that our guidance.. Our answers were not so far away as we thought.

Blessing until next Month

Wiccan Basics

April, 2011

Grounding

To Ground Energy After a Magic Work

To ground energy after a spell or a particularly potent magical circle, use simple symbolism. Sit on the ground, placing your hands in direct contact with the earth. Let the excess energy pour out of you .Continue relaxing until you feel the buzz in the air passing and your senses returning to normal. It also helps to eat some simple foods like raw vegetables.

This spell also works for people who feel the need to keep their feet on the ground. If an outdoor location is not available, go to an area close to the earth, like a cellar or sun porch.

If you cannot get out or close to the ground use a bowl of coarse salt and run trough your hands until you feel better.

Blessing until next Month

S.Dunham

New to the Craft

January, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Wicca is a path rich in symbolism.  Ritual and symbols connect practitioners, forming a common thread which ties them to the same tradition.  Solitary Wiccans are not necessarily as bound as coven members to follow the same protocols – after all there is no one working alongside them to see what they may or may not do in their private practice.  But just as myths form a common heritage of wisdom which we can all draw upon, the traditional symbols of Wicca offer a way of joining both coven witches and solitaries via the same language.  After all, symbols are not necessarily useful in themselves, but instead point us towards profound ideas and truths which we may not see in our ordinary lives.

The famous tools of the witch are an important part of traditional Wiccan symbology.  As a solitary it is easy to ask why and even if these tools are required.  For instance the athame, or black-handled knife, is a crucial part of circle construction in British Traditional Wicca.  Is a solitary therefore stuck unable to construct a circle until obtaining one?  Of course not.  One of the hallmarks of Wicca is improvisation.  Tools have the psychological impact of making one feel connected to and a part of Wicca, and at the same time they aid the new witch in using the most important tool of all: the mind.  Visualization and the manipulation of energy by willpower is the basic practice of magic.  It is completely possible to use no tools at all and perform successful spells.  But when you are a beginner that’s sort of like trying to fly before you can crawl.  If I use an athame to direct energy and create a circle my mind sees what I am doing and the visualization is reinforced.  All of our tools are used in this way, in order to strengthen our skills and aid our practice.  Here is a brief summary of the primary toolkit:

Athame – the black-handled knife used to direct energy, especially in circle construction; traditional Wiccans bestow this upon 1st level initiation to signify that the member has become a witch; commonly represents the element of fire

Cup/Chalice – a vessel which commonly holds wine or water to be consumed during ritual; many traditional rituals call for combined use of the athame (as the male symbol) and the chalice (as the female symbol); commonly represents the element of water

Pentacle – a flat disc inscribed with a five-pointed star; objects to be consecrated are typically placed upon the pentacle; commonly represents the element of earth

Wand – a length of wood (through sometimes made of other materials) used for invocations; commonly represents the element of air

Those four are the primary tools used in most rituals and representing the basic elements.  There are also a few tools which are very useful for practical reasons, they are:

Censer – the incense burner; burning incense is a common way of identifying the working space as sacred; it also combines the elements of fire and air in a literal way on the altar (to likewise combine water and earth Wiccans can add salt to the chalice of water in ritual)

Cauldron – a large vessel traditionally made of cast iron and resting on three legs; this is a very practical tool for creating brews or herbal remedies, but can be used for a variety of purposes including as an alternate incense burner; strong symbolic links to the Goddess and reincarnation

This comprises the basic list of Wiccan tools.  There are many others, such as the broom and the bell, which I will not mention here solely due to my unfamiliarity with them.  Many witches might also add tools of divination like the crystal ball.  Which tools one finds to be the most useful and necessary will naturally vary from person to person.  In my own practice I focus on the tools which represent the elements and aid in the creation of ritual space.

After knowing what the tools are and why they are important the next question for a beginner is when to obtain them.  I am not of the mind that you need to run right out to the nearest occult store and buy every tool on this list before you can begin.  In fact I am emphatically against it.  Sure you may end up with a shiny set of new tools, but if there is more of a process or effort in finding them the rewards are a set of meaningful tools that the practitioner can connect with and use much more effectively.  Handmade tools can be even more useful, and one doesn’t need to be a master craftsman to be effective.  Creativity can only add to the result.  A simple knife can be painted black at the handle and consecrated for use.  A found branch can be whittled to make a wand.  The more personal the tools are the greater they will be in harnessing your energy and imagination, after all that is what you are imprinting them with when you make them!  There is also something to be said for gradually obtaining or creating each tool as you progress in Wicca.  Solitary practitioners have no one to tell them how fast or slow to go, and sometimes in our eagerness we want to do everything at once.  That is when it is important to remember that it is not the outward symbols that are of primary importance, but rather the inner journey.  Witches can have no effectiveness unless they are able to train their will, and while these tools definitely assist in that process, they are no substitute for the discipline necessary to harness one’s power within.

Journal for the Month of December:

Most of this month was taken up with frenzied holiday cookie baking and shopping!  Currently I’m reading A Witches Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar.  It’s a fascinating look at traditional Wicca as practiced in Gardnerian and Alexandrian circles, and as a solitary I’m drawing a lot from it in terms of structure for rituals and such.  I’m not a big “follow the rules” kind of person when it comes to spirituality, but if I’m going to deviate it helps to know what I’m deviating from.

The holidays have confronted me with an issue I’m sure many of us deal with which is -how do I go about celebrating and do I tell my family anything about my new path?  Do I start saying Yule instead of Christmas?  Personally I have a very loving family who has never been anything but supportive – but I am not planning on telling any of them about my path in Wicca.  Of course I don’t want to risk a bad reaction with people I love and see every year, but I think it is also because I just don’t want to make everyone uncomfortable.  My family is Christian, though not overly-religious.  I don’t know how much they know of Wicca, and of course I could explain it to them, but for something I am new at myself I don’t want to put myself in the position of defending something I am maybe not yet equipped for.  I feel a bit sad keeping it inside, but I remind myself that this is after all a personal journey, and I understand that religion is a very sensitive issue to a lot of people.  Once I am more comfortable and knowledgeable there might be a time to “come out of the broom closet” so to speak.  But for now, I am planning on spending a wonderful solstice with my family and friends, and whatever name we all call it by, we are all there to celebrate the season with those we love – that part will never change.

Until next month, blessed be! )O(