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Book Review – Of Witchcraft and Whimsy: A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Witchcraft by Rose Orriculum

November, 2018

Book Review

Of Witchcraft and Whimsy: A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Witchcraft

by Rose Orriculum

 

 

Of Witchcraft and Whimsy: A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Witchcraft is a great book written by Rose Orriculum. It is tagged as a beginner’s guide to witchcraft, however, after reading it, I feel that anyone could enjoy the contents of this book regardless of where they are on their magical path.

The book begins with a chapter on the “basics”. This tends to be the run of the mill basics but Rose is honest and open. She makes it a point to let you know that witchcraft is not a certain way. She makes it feel open and inviting. This would be a great read for someone who is on the fence about joining the magical community.

One of my favorite chapters is Potions. This chapter is about infusing your hot chocolate, coffee, & teas. Rose makes magic so simple that you can incorporate potions into your daily life.

The book goes into detail regarding the seasons and how you can celebrate them. One of my personal favorites from her collection is how you can use a snowman as a poppet. What a grand idea. Especially since it would allow families to do the act together.

At the back Of Witchcraft and Whimsy, Rose has included many of her own spells, glamours, bindings and curses.

Rose Orriculum has such a way with words and spells. I enjoy her work and cannot wait to see what else she comes up with. To learn more about her, check out my interview with her in this issue!

 

Of Witchcraft and Whimsy: A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Witchcraft on Amazon

3 Pagans and a Cat Monthly Feature

November, 2018

3 Pagans and a Cat Podcast

Three Paths, One Journey, No Cat

In this highly informative & entertaining podcast, three family members embroiled in wildly divergent traditions gather in one room to discuss, debate, and flat-out argue about their magical, mythical, and mundane lives, all for our education and pleasure.

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Each Month… we will share the previous month’s episodes with you from their site to help keep you up-to-date with their impressive podcast. While there, don’t forget to listen to this month’s as well, we wouldn’t want you to miss a thing!

 

October’s 2018 Podcasts

Episode 21: First Steps – Sacred Spaces: Car, Gwyn, and Ode discuss sacred and liminal spaces: where they can be found, what they can look like, how to establish them, and why they might be useful.

Episode 22: Wheel of the Year – Samhain: In the seventh of a series of Pagan Holiday Specials, Car, Gwyn, and Ode discuss Third Harvest, communion with the dead, and Jack of the Lantern.

Episode 23: A Wood of Many Ways: Car, Gwyn, and Ode discuss their respective journeys from Christianity into their various paths and traditions. Also, Car introduces a new segment.

 

 

 

This Month’s Podcast Share from their Backlog

Episode 4: Monikers and Metaphorical Spaces: Car, Gwyn and Ode discuss the pros and cons of hiding one’s faith or practice, the steps one can take to leave the Broom Closet, and the use (and selection) of names.

 

Where Else to Find 3 Pagans and a Cat…

Their Website: http://www.3pagansandacat.com

Their Twitter: https://twitter.com/3_Pagans

Their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/3PaaC

Their YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ0GJacu9SUzuumXJNNUZwQ

Their G+: https://plus.google.com/u/2/collection/oCWVXE

 

Remember …

You can always support your favorite podcasts with a donation. Every bit helps to keep them going.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Wright is a witch on a path of change that is always winding. She founded PaganPagesOrg in the hopes of giving those a platform to share and learn without judgment. There are too many important things to her and not enough room to mention them. You are one of them.

Findhorn: Reflections on Peace

October, 2018

NB: This is a combination of two pieces that originally appeared in my personal blog Living from the Inside Out in July 2010 that has been edited and updated for publication in Pagan Pages Magazine in October 2018. I’ve retained the present tense the article was originally written in.

In 2010, I had the great honour of visiting Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. Doing an Experience Week there was really life-changing for me in more ways than I can speak about with words. I highly recommend a pilgrimage there to anyone who hasn’t been yet. First, it might be good to explain a bit about what Findhorn Foundation is and how it got started.  The Foundation is a spiritual community, education center, and ecovillage.  There are two geographical parts to the community: Cluny College is the main education center and where I am staying and then there is The Park, which is the place where it all started from a caravan about forty years ago. The purpose of this community is encapsulated in their vision: “By living and working together, putting spiritual values into practice, we are creating a positive and sustainable future for humanity and the planet.” The three principles Findhorn works with are as follows: listening to one’s inner voice, co-creation with nature, and work is love in action.

“The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years. They first came to northeast Scotland in 1957 to manage the Cluny Hill Hotel in the town of Forres, which they did remarkably successfully. Eileen received guidance in her meditations from an inner divine source she called ‘the still small voice within’ and Peter ran the hotel according to this guidance and his own intuition. In this unorthodox way – and with many delightful and unlikely incidents – Cluny Hill swiftly became a thriving and successful four-star hotel. After several years however, Peter and Eileen’s employment was terminated, and with nowhere to go and little money, they moved with their three young sons and Dorothy to a caravan in the nearby seaside village of Findhorn.

Feeding six people on unemployment benefit was difficult, so Peter decided to start growing vegetables. The land in the caravan park was sandy and dry but he persevered. Dorothy discovered she was able to intuitively contact the overlighting spirits of plants – which she called angels, and then devas – who gave her instructions on how to make the most of their fledgling garden. She and Peter translated this guidance into action, and with amazing results. From the barren sandy soil of the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park grew huge plants, herbs and flowers of dozens of kinds, most famously the now-legendary 40-pound cabbages. Word spread, horticultural experts came and were stunned, and the garden at Findhorn became famous.” (www.findhorn.org)

As part of the Experience Week program, we work in one of the departments in the community four mornings in the week.  The departments to choose from are: kitchens, gardens, homecare, and maintenance. Everything in this community is done in a ritualistic way.  When we gather in any circle of people–be it our experience week group, to eat a meal or in our work groups-–an attunement to each other is always done by holding hands and setting an intention for our time together.  This is preceded by a lighting the candle in a beautiful centerpiece garland of flowers that is common here in every room and pictured above at the beginning of the post.  In many ways, this centerpiece has come to represent what this community is about.  Everything that happens here is done with a particular intention set by the group beforehand. That doesn’t mean there are no problems, conflicts, or hiccups–we are human, after all– and yet because people are holding their intention with the commitment to take ownership of their shadow aspects, things seem to work out well in the end.

I have met a ton of people this past week from both campuses and what surprised me most was that these people are from every country in the world imaginable.  I thought that I was coming to a place where there would be mostly Scottish and English people.  In my group alone there are people from the following places: Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Canada and the US.  And there are people who have been living in the community for over thirty-five years.  It has been fascinating to talk to them about their personal journeys of evolution in that time.  All the founders have passed on besides Dorothy who still lives near the original caravan.  It is a vibrant community with a lot going on: various workshops and ongoing classes are offered on a regular basis. 

They really encourage people to meditate and to find a type of meditation that is natural for them.  I enjoyed hearing the different meditations that people did to get access to their inner voice: ironing clothes, doing dishes, sitting meditation, guided meditation, walking meditation, singing meditation, dancing meditation, and being in nature.  The last one seemed to be the most common; folks all over the world go out into nature when they want to quiet their minds and hear that inner guidance.  As a shamanic practitioner, it was not surprising to me that nature was considered the most healing source for people all over the world.

I have been attending the singing meditation every morning before I leave on the bus for my love in action work at The Park.  Singing has always been my main way of connecting with Spirit and with myself.  My mom and my godmother used to joke that I sang more than I talked when I was a kid.  I really always did have a song in my head and that has not abated as I’ve become older.  Singing for me is my way to express what is going on inside me and to let that out so that there is room for Spirit to enter and take care of the rest. Singing is also the way I celebrate life, expressing gratitude and joy.

In order to decide what love in action department each of us was going to work in for the week our facilitators took our group through a guided meditation.  They asked us to notice which department elicited an inner response of some sort when it was read aloud and to make note of it.  Then when the meditation was over, they read out the departments again and people raised their hands.  There were only a certain number of places to be filled for each department and so after a bit of juggling, everyone found a home.  I was really surprised that I was not in the gardens.  I was drawn to do homecare at the Park.  This work entails cleaning and caring for several buildings at the Park including all three sanctuaries and the big community center where everyone comes for their meals and tea.  In these communities, we all eat together and the kitchen department cooks for everyone so there isn’t a need for people to cook at home unless they want to. 

I wasn’t really sure why I was in Homecare at the beginning, but now at the end of the week, I am getting clarity around that after this morning.  Part of my love in action at the Park is caring for the sanctuaries.  We clean them physically and then energetically by sending up prayers or singing or ringing bells after our work is done.  I was one of the people who went to cut flowers for the sanctuary candles and then spent time arranging them.  I really love this creative work so I was thrilled to be with the flowers and make something beautiful for the community center tables and sanctuaries.  I was perplexed the entire week that in the Homecare Nest where we meet every morning, our sanctuary candle had rocks around instead of flowers.  After all, it is not winter where I could understand rocks, shells, feathers, and pine cones replacing flowers in a seasonal way.  Another thing I noticed is that almost everyone in the group had some sort of body illness or then were drained of energy.  Then today when I was cleaning the Nature Sanctuary (by far my favourite place on both campuses), I realized that I too was exhausted by giving so much of myself without taking time to receive some of that love in action.  When I went to do the flowers for the sanctuaries, this morning, I also grabbed our ceramic container from the Nest, emptied it of the rocks and created an arrangement for us to enjoy.  When we came back in after our love in action was done to debrief and “tune out” (give thanks and blow the candle out to a cause), I found it interesting that only one person noticed the new arrangement in the middle.  During my sharing, I explained my revelation and we all decided to clean the Nest for ourselves as a project for tomorrow (my last day).  

And I realized why I was there in that group.  I have that tendency in my life to give more than I allow myself to receive.  In a way, I think that those of us that are natural caregivers tend towards neglecting ourselves, our space, and our own inner lives.  When I looked around our group this morning, I saw exhausted people who simply had not taken the time to care for themselves.  It may seem like an insane thing to do when the “to do” list is a mile long, and I have learned this week that doing up a flower arrangement–even when there are piles of laundry to get through–makes all the difference.  It gave me the inspiration to do those piles of laundry with joy and love.  It took the drudgery out of the work and turned my focus to seeing it as a meditation.  Stewart Friendship, a Glaswegian man who is a longtime resident, told me that it is not love in action if you have the end goal in mind.  When he explained that, he said that everything that needs doing gets done eventually.  Part of the purpose of attunement is to align with the most easeful way to accomplish something.  What gets in my way, I realized, is all the planning of how I think it “should” go; if I am in the flow and stay in that meditative state, the most easeful way reveals itself step by step.

I took this practice out with me yesterday morning when I went out to do Earthshare with my group in the pouring rain.  Twenty-six of us descended on the muddy crop fields like locusts and weeded the rows of carrots and onions in about three hours.  Many hands do indeed make light work.  I am accustomed to working as a gardener in the rain and rather enjoy it most times.  Others in my group were not so sure about this!  The work ended up being playful and joyful.  We all sang songs or talked or went about our work quietly.  At one stage, it was so wet that the mud was spilling over into my hiking boots and I had to pull my feet out of the earth that was sucking me in.  I looked over at Ken and he had taken his shoes and socks off so I followed suit.  I felt like a kid playing in the mud.  Others started taking off their shoes in droves and soon we were laughing like children and having a good time.  I even made peace with the occasional encounter with what Scottish folks lovingly call stabbies and jabbies (another name for prickly thistles).  I enjoyed working the earth with my bare hands and feet and was so grateful that I got to garden after all this summer. 

As I looked around our group this week, I saw people from many different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, gender, sexual orientation, and professions.  It amazes me still that peace and common ground can be found in such diversity.  I am not sure why it surprises me; nature thrives on variety.   Certainly, my creative ideas seem to come from places that my imagination reaches but my logical intelligence cannot always access.  I believe that Brent Cameron (founder of SelfDesign Learning Community) is onto something when he says that creativity is human kind’s best bet at getting out of the problems we’ve gotten ourselves into; the same thinking that created the problems will not get us out of them. 

In our group this week, I set my intention to sit in my heart space while being with people and listening to them.  I didn’t always agree with what they said or how they did things, and yet I understood where they were coming from with their words and their actions.  There is something interesting that happens with deep listening from the heart: all those differences evaporate and don’t actually matter anymore.  I think it all goes back to a principle that a wise kindergarten teacher once shared with me when I was a student teacher:  all behaviour makes sense on some level. She was encouraging me to put myself in the children’s shoes to understand why they might be responding a certain way, what they are feeling, and perhaps intuit what they might need that they can’t verbalize. And this week, I saw that with our group. 

The angel card we drew for our group was SUPPORT and I really saw people holding each other with openness in their hearts during some pretty rough moments.  And I think that is really what brings about peace.  Can we leave room for people to show up exactly as they are and hold a loving space where they have the possibility to transform a pattern in their life that is not working for them?  We were proof this week that this could be done cross-culturally.  And I find myself sending up prayers that world leaders, nations, and citizens of the planet wake up to this way of deep listening in order to access creative solutions to the problems that threaten to wipe out the human species.  As Brent Cameron said, these are human created problems.  We got ourselves into them and I know from experience that we can get ourselves out of them with a willingness to put our wisdom and love into action.

“What matters is creating the space where people feel safe to share their truth and support each other. To end the cycle of violence and bring peace to our families, communities, and the planet, we need to expand our ‘I’…and connect to the compassion of the cosmic…The ancient wisdom traditions of India offer three powerful principles for transformation and peace–one loving thought, one loving word, and one loving act at a time.”

-Deepak Chopra, M.D.

 

Resources:

Jennifer Engrácio’s blog:

Living from the Inside Out: https://jenniferengracio.wordpress.com/

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

May, 2018

May 2018 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Bright Blessings!

Here in Central Ohio, the Cailleach continues to rule, reminding Brigid she is still queen for now. Many of my non-Pagan friends are complaining up and down, saying winter needs to go. I say give the Cailleach her time, we will all be whining we are too hot soon enough!

Soon, Beltaine will be upon us. If you have read my past articles, you know I love to plan a gathering for Beltaine. It’s been a year, or has it been two, or has it been three???? Since I have hosted a Beltaine gathering?

I will be honest. Sabbats, for me, just are not that special when I’m alone for them.

It’s all about the fellowship, and doing ritual for me.

 

The folk- the Wicca, or Soul Kin

A simple internet search for “The need for religious kin” turned up nothing. I read a few articles about mankind’s need to have companionship, and be surrounded by like-minded individuals because we feel most understood and validated by them than the people less like us.

I did not find the references to share to support the point I want to make, so I’m just going to make it myself.

Many of us find we feel the presence of whoever we worship best in the presence of other worshipers. A Xtian I once knew referred to it as “sanctification within the community.” As we become the hands, voices, and deeds of our gods, we feel their physical presence through circling with others.

In magical traditions, group magic raises more energy than magic worked alone.

I got so used to doing everything with a group, when I stopped doing so, I felt completely alone. My health and mobility dictated I had to do so, and not only did I stop hosting, or going to other people’s rituals, but I also stopped working. Then I stopped driving. Then, I went some months without leaving the house many days.

If you want to find out which of the friends and friendly acquaintances feel you are important to their lives, drop off the map, and you will find most all of them forget all about you. They easily replace you with other people who are conveniently wherever they are, and you may as well have never met them.

So, for those of us who have fallen off the map from the Pagan community, a Sabbat, which used to be the highlight of our lives, is just another day.

 

Embracing Aloneness

From my Catholic days, I remember something Mother Theresa said :

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Now, I have already said I experience my gods through others. Examples of that are when somebody is acting as an oracle, and guidance from the goddess comes. Another example is when we are doing a fund raiser together for a good cause. This is the gods using us to help one another. Yet another example is when you need emotional support, and another human being embodies the compassion of the goddess.

Sometimes, we spend so much time working with others, that we have little to no time on our own. This was true for me for many years.

I heard the voices of my gods spoken without human tongues. They visited me in dreams, in waking, in nature, and in the gut instincts I got.

Whenever I asked for communication, they answered. It’s not like I had NEVER spoken with them on my own. It just became habit that I spoke with them in the presence of others.

I spent so many Sabbats and gatherings in the company of others, I began to hear only that particular method of communication from them.

However, I’ve been like this for a while now, and I have made some realizations. My gods have not fallen silent. I just had to listen differently, and I made some realizations about how solitude can bring communication with them.

 

In the Silence of the Heart

I have learned something I never could have before when I was always busy, always surrounded with people, always planning, organizing, working, and always moving.

How to truly be still. How to be truly silent. How to be truly alone.

And how to be comfortable with that.

Most within our circles take time to do the form of meditation where you sit, do nothing, try not to move at all, and try to make your mind blank.

That is not what I am talking about.

Can you be completely alone for many hours or days at a time, go no place, see nobody, and do very little besides the necessary?

Can you endure tedium? Being unnecessary to everybody? No contact from large amounts of people for long periods of days, weeks, or months?

Can you live for a time, basically being as a hermit? Away from the hustle and bustle of life, the influence of society, and the expectations of others?

I am not saying I think everybody should just hole up and do so forever.

Let’s explore first, what a hermit is…

 

The Hermit

We have all seen the Hermit Card in Tarot decks. He turns up quite a lot for us. He represents going into ourselves, to search our souls, or retreating into solitude for a time. Depending on who you speak to, reversed can represent isolation and loneliness, or it can represent coming out of solitude.

Historically, some of the most famous hermits have been very religious. Christians still cloister some of their orders of nuns and priests, away from society. It is believed this withdrawal from society cultivates a closer relationship with the divine by some.

In the middle ages, it was not uncommon for hermits to build huts into the side of the church, and be ceremoniously bricked up permanently. They relied on the charity of people going to church to bring them food and necessities, and they enjoyed a window into the church where they could hear liturgy. These people were called anchorites, and people visited them for advice, as they were believed to have dedicated their lives to communing with their god and the angels full-time, and were considered very wise.

One of the magickal workings to discover one’s True Self, and the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelema entails months of a hermit like existence, and devotion to prayer and magical operations. The solitude allows for removal from distractions and interference of others.

In the quest for enlightenment, the Buddha became an aesthetic, withdrawing to be a hermit for a time.

Monasteries in many different religions have a structured life of prayer, ascribed exercise, a specific diet, a uniform, or habit, and life away from he mainstream society in general. Devotees may be called to take vows of silence, or chastity as well. I refer to this as cloistering, and cloistered life away from society supposedly gets you more in touch with who you are, and what is important.

It’s not for everybody.

My life has been semi cloistered for over three years now, and there are times I wonder how I lived a lifestyle of constant noise and crowds. I have learned a different side of reality.

  1. I realized I did too much- Society pushes us so hard, demanding we do MORE, buy MORE, ARE MORE. We are never enough, and we constantly have to prove we are worthy of simply existing. I found out that is wrong. Our worth as living creatures can certainly be diminished if we are terrible people who do terrible things, but our worth is not proven by our worldly accomplishments, and I discovered that because I just could not accomplish the volume of things I once did anymore. By nature, humanity is quite competitive, but that can become toxic and unconstructive. Sometimes, we struggle to do SO much, the quality of our work suffers. Quality trumps quantity, I found.
  2. What I do does not create who I am- I was told this by a very talented psychic long ago. The things we do change every so often, and often, we suffer identity crisis as the tasks and jobs we complete transition. We are not our jobs or our accomplishments. We are people, not actions, or things.
  3. In stillness comes peace- I had initially misinterpreted it as boredom. The silence was deafening. Now, TOO much noise overwhelms me, be it sound noise, or visual noise.
  4. I leaned to slow down- Not only do I no longer focus on quantity over quality, but I realize speed does not make things any better. Oh, there are going to be times tight deadlines loom, but times when they don’t, slow down, and enjoy the process.
  5. In the quest to do more, faster, we forget one another- We leave behind our loved ones, and neglect the time we should be spending with them. I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken with who get to middle age and beyond, and state they regret NOT spending more time with loved ones than they have. If the focus is on DOING things, instead of moments with loved ones? That is all our life becomes.
  6. I have time for things I said I wanted to do for years- Since leaving the house and working was not on the front burner anymore, I found time to pick up art again. I stepped away from it when I graduated college, and both painting and writing was literally abandoned, as I focused my time on career. I did study music for some years, but I never excelled in music. The written word, and art were my first loves, and I do both again now.
  7. I learned things about myself- I used to be high energy, high accomplishment rate, and never sat still. That did not provide the opportunity for me to pay attention to myself. I discovered I work best with no noise, visual, or otherwise. Before, I was in jobs where I had zero privacy to work, and my productivity drops in that setting. I think most people’s does. I discovered I don’t give myself credit, and people had been urging me to do so for years. I discovered I prefer a small, intimate friend group, rather than moving from group to group. I also discovered I’m not materialistic, which surprised me as much as I love “things.”
  8. I do not miss the loud, busyness- At all.
  9. A lot of people envy me- I have had so many say they wish they “did not have to” leave the house. On one hand, I point out it can be horribly isolating sometimes, and I tell them to be careful what they wish for. I am a very productive, self-starter, and a lot of people NEED a schedule to leave the house, or they just sit and rot. I always find things to stay busy, and a lot of people cannot endure boredom, solitude, or lack of excitement. A lot of people who envy me could not endure this.
  10. I am online more- Lots more. I do communicate with people all day long through social media and texting. I read and research more as well.

I am not saying everybody should cloister, or semi cloister. I am saying, the Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and others are onto something in their assertion solitude can bring you closer to the divine, because it changes the way you think about yourself, the world, and life in general.

Personally, my concentration is better. I focus on the important things now. I read and study more. I have slowed down, which makes it easier for me to notice things. I pay attention to people and experiences more now as opposed to things, and tasks. I do not compare myself to others as much, being as competitive as I used to be.

All of these things create more connection with the self, and it is within us our connection with the divine lives.

Solitude can be used as torture. Prisoners in solitary confinement don’t benefit from it. The sick who are shut-ins or whose impairments keep them from communicating certainly don’t benefit either.

It seems religious hermits live as such only temporarily, or in such a way they are still able to connect with others. Monks have a community away from society, but they do so in groups, and they have each other. The public comes to them for religious guidance as well. I have already mentioned the medieval Xtian hermits whose huts were bricked into the church, and they saw and visited with people often. They just never left. The Buddha was a hermit for a time, but not for very long.

Human beings need one another, for certain, but sometimes, we need time alone, to retreat into ourselves to find the aspect of the divine we cannot experience with other people. This alone time has to be balanced with time with other people, or else it is not good for us.

Each person has their own level of time they need alone, and with others. Too much, and it’s bad, not enough, and it’s just as bad.

For Beltaine Working, I’d like to recommend how to find ways to have more alone time for scared workings.

I know it can be difficult. My friends who are parents and or have careers can attest to this. There have been times in my own life when I worked, sometimes two jobs, that the only time I had to myself was when I fell asleep, or was getting ready to leave for the day, or just getting in! I probably sound like somebody who has no place dictating to busy people how to carve out quiet, alone time!

I don’t assume everybody can find that alone time daily. As I said, I’ve been there! So what I am going to do is offer suggestions for sneaking in a few minutes here and there. This can be time to do ritual, devotions, or just sit quietly for a few minutes on a break from work or classes. It does not have to be large blocks of time set aside, but I will share some ways you can include quiet, alone time in even the busiest schedule for a LITTLE bit of that peace if that is all you can get

 

Saoirse’s Suggestions for Quiet Sacred Time

  1. When everybody else is asleep- Some of my friends who have kids swear this is the only time they get to themselves. That time is often filled with chores, paying bills, and or showering. It also, sometimes eats into their sleep time. Any spare second of time you get when it is crazy busy that NOBODY else is in the room with you can be gold! If all you get a chance to do is light a small candle or stick of incense, so be it, but it is your time.
  2. Short Mantras- Everybody loves time to relax, unwind, and sit in silence to meditate, but not everybody has the time. Even if you have time, there are days when everything is just so crazy and hectic, you simply cannot focus enough to truly meditate. Some people can do so no matter what! But for those who lack the time or ability to focus, short mantras, or sayings that are meaningful can help. One for me is the reminder “I create all that I am , and all that I will be.” Each of us needs little reminders for support all the time, and when we cannot read or meditate to reset our minds, personal sayings can supply some relief.
  3. A Weekly Hour- Is there a day of the week you can get a solid hour with very little deviation? Say you do two classes per week and have an hour and a half between them all. Can you head to a quiet spot during that break, and have your “Quiet Hour”? I have even known some people to utilize the time they commute to and from work as their quiet time with books on tape of sacred readings, or even spiritual music. Go to your car for lunch if the breakroom is busy and noisy. It might not last an hour, but a few quiet moments count.
  4. Lighting the Candles before bed- This is one thing my mother did. We had a low table in the hallway, and on it, she put a white tablecloth, and a single red taper candle. We would kneel before it to say our prayers together at night right before bed. I was small, and she was a single working mom, so I can’t imagine this nightly ritual lasted for more than a few minutes. We prayed, she blew out the candle, and we headed to bed!
  5. Go outside, touch the earth- This is a big one for me. I have always felt best with outdoor time as often as possible. Now that I have a dog, of course, that is multiple times per day! Most especially for those who follow an earth-based path, time touching the earth, or just breathing in the sweet perfumes of her air are crucial to us. Some suggest walking barefoot on the earth spiritually grounds one. I have never found that true for myself, as my feet hurt, but some people swear by it.
  6. Have a pouch, pile, stash, or stack of whatever helps- I used to keep a small bowl of crystals by my desk at a very stressful job. I would hold the crystals to help calm myself. Carry these things in your car, in your bag, wallet, or even on your person as jewelry. I have known some people to have things tattooed onto themselves that serve this purpose.
  7. FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- Foods and drinks nourish the body, which has been called the temple of the spirit. If you are not properly hydrated or your nutrients are off, you are going to feel awful. Good tasting things, also, help make you feel happy. Joy is not THE goal for spirituality, but it can help keep you going.
  8. Maintain Self-Care- Do things for yourself. I am not talking about a bite of chocolate or a bubble bath. Do that anyhow. I am talking about respecting your body’s limitations, and not jeopardizing your health. Maybe that means shutting the TV off early and hitting the sack, or being absent from a social gathering because you are just spent. Things like this can give much provided time without stimulation the body and mind needs so we don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted.
  9. Learn to say no- This is very difficult for some of us. Ate your kids screaming to hit ONE more store, and you feel guilty, but your sugars are low, and you have to go in to work early? Tell them no, and they better stop that screaming, too! Does your circle want more of your time than you can offer, and they just can’t find anybody else but you who qualifies to write a newsletter? Well, if nobody can write except you, then they sure can’t read either, can they? So, they sure don’t NEED that newsletter. Cutting down on unnecessary activities people guilt us into provides opportunity for more you time, and thus more time for your personal spirituality.
  10. Turn it off- I discovered in a strange way, that electrical currents do not always promote rest and calm. I slept in a cave with no electric on one night, and I have got to say, it was the most peaceful night of sleep I have ever gotten. It is the only time in my life when complete darkness and silence surrounded me. I was there with three other people, and one of the men was so overwhelmed, he had to leave. It was such a foreign feeling, and not for everybody. Not everybody can have that opportunity, but you can emulate this is small ways. Turn off the radio, and open the window to listen to the birds sing. Put down your cell phone, and watch the sunset.

 

Of course, each of us has our own personal ways of adding some quiet, alone time to our days that goes beyond anything I can suggest.

I wish you a Blessed Beltaine, Blessed “Me Time”, and Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide

May, 2018

 

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Beltane

 

I love Beltane. The flowers are just blooming. The green is just covering the hedgerows. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary!

There are huge celebrations all over the place, though not nearby it’s just that this year I am craving something quieter. Something a bit more romantic and I can’t quite put my finger on it. One of the best things we ever did was to do the Hastings East hill drumming and dancing in the dawn. On a hill in the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea we watched the light, a sliver of silver light creep, and turn red, then gold.

I’ve never done anything like that before or since. We were all done and dusted by 5.30 a.m. It was magickal. There were Morris dancers dressed in white. Pagan folks in regalia. Folks walking their dogs and people to watching the people.

After some food and a really good nap it was time for the huge parade. More Morris dancers and figures dressed as green men and women and Horned Gods drummed and danced through the streets. Dabbing people with green sponges. It really felt timeless. It felt like the whole town was magickally awake. The whole county!

A lot of pagans I know do camps from about this time of year. Where I had been busy, camping is not an option for me right now. Yet the pull of the wild still draws me. There is something utterly pagan about my island this time of year. Just under the skin of it.

Formal Beltane rituals can seem a bit hetro-centric but at its core Beltane is about the warmth of attraction. About reception and giving of energy. It is, at its core a ritual about balancing energy and understanding; within and in the world around us. It is the internal anima and animus finding momentum to create. It is about harnessing rather than repressing our wildness and turning it into something alive, be it art or science or poetry or an offspring. It is about the power of being alive and being grateful. Grateful for another year, another sunrise, a new day. It is a celebration of life.

It is not about what is in your pants, or whom you want to have sex with (if you want to have sex). That is a very limited view of self, sex, gender and identity. It is about the ritual. The receiving of energy, the channelling of energy, the using of energy to create something new. Ritual is a dream language, a psychological and social tool for healing and re-balancing a group and the self. When we exclude ourselves from the group or ritual we lose out on much of its power and deeper understandings.

As with all things this is a celebration of life has a touch of death with it too. Within Beltane’s warmth is the chill tingle of Samhain’s death. Acknowledging life means accepting death too. This roots you into and puts you out of time. You can see and feel the echo of your actions. Of course the bonfire was made of bone as well as wood. The death in the life as well as the life in the death.

For the May-pole and ribbons are only half of Beltane. The other part is about cleansing, warding off disease and illness through the power of death and fire. Cattle were driven through the ashes of bonfires, or between two large fires to do just that. People would dance around the fires and even jump over them. It was about dousing the hearth fires and re-lighting them from a group, a community fire. It was about re-igniting the heart within the home and community. Within the home. Within the self. It is to be in the dark, to be outside the usual bounds of social norms and to return changed for the better.

I recommend, if you are lucky and privileged enough to have folks nearby, to have get some folks together dance naked around a bonfire with at dawn. If that is not your bag, go and find a high spot. Climb a hill or go to a bridge or ancient ruined castle in the dark. Stand and wait in the darkness facing the east. Drum if you can. Or just be in the silence. Light a candle, or a fire if you can too. Watch the sunrise. Dance if you can. Or just stretch. Be at the mercy of the weather. No-one is outside the circle of life and death. After all it is the impulses and desire and joys that make us fully human.

 

Going Shamanic Radio

April, 2018

 

Going Shamanic” is hosted by Jennifer Engracio on P.A.G.E.  Media Project’s blogtalk radio each month. The show focuses on how to integrate shamanism into every day life. Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living.

This month features Honouring Elder Wisdom…

We live in a time where elders are seen as a burden on our health system and as expendable by society at large.  This is not how we used to perceive elders in our community.  Today’s show explores the value of elders.  

Our guest today is Grandmother Ann Dickie.  She is a grandmother, mother, and fabric artist.  Ever since she was a child, she has known she was a spiritual being connected to all things.  Over thirteen years ago, she began studying shamanism.  During that time, she has done ceremonies with children aged five to twelve as well as participating in many personal ceremonies herself.  She co-authored the book “The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”.  

Join us for a conversation that explores questions around the value of elders in our society and what we can do to bring them to the fore.

 

 

Going Shamanic is hosted by Jennifer Engracio, about how to integrate shamanism into everyday life. 

Instead of relegating the spiritual aspect of ourselves to Sundays at church or weekend workshops, this show will support listeners in weaving ritual, prayer, magic, alignment with the Spiritworld and the Earth into their lives to enrich their experience of living. Jen is also the founder of Spiral Dance Shamanics.  

To contact Jen and find out more about services offered go to: www.jenniferengracio.wordpress.com

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic practitioner, Reiki Master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing”

Click Image for Amazon Information

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

April, 2017

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times April 2017

Pentacle2

Bright Blessings!

I missed doing an article for last month. My computer crashed! I am thankful we have a new computer now, and I can write all I want!

This month falls in between Sabbats, March 20 being the official date of Ostara.

This is one Ostara that I have planned no gatherings, and will not attend any.

It’s not that I don’t have peeps, and it’s not that I lack invitations.

It’s that staying in has become routine for me.

Those who have been reading my articles know I’ve been struggling for a bit over 2.5 years now.

I am not having nearly as many bad days as I did before. Travel is still difficult for me sometimes, however, so I do not commit to anything I don’t absolutely have to.

Plenty of people interpret a thing like this as lack of interest, but a lot of other people in my Community know firsthand how it feels to be this way. They have been very supportive, and make me feel slightly normal. This means more to me than anything else.

I admit, a few years back, I struggling with Community, and was thinking of becoming a Solitary. I was embracing the counterproductive attitude that “Pagan Community” is somehow flawed, and I was too good to deal with “the drama”.

The fact was, I was actively engaging in the drama, and all I had to do was disengage.

When I got sick, I did not have the energy to engage in the online or in-person debates so many other opinionated “socially aware” people in our community, like myself, were taking pride in. I considered it educating people when I “called somebody out.” The result was World War Three, every single time. I unsubscribed from all chat groups, and stopped posting views and opinions online completely. I focused on things like spending time in person with people, and working on my art, which took up so much time, I did not always check my social media page every day.

More importantly, I admitted there were some individuals I had relationships with who were not healthy for me. It was just a few people, but once I decided I could not maintain these relationships anymore, I started spending time with other people who were uplifting and supportive.

Fast forward about two years, after countless doctor visits, endless tears, and worries I would NEVER recover. I started having more good days, and I got a job reading Tarot at a new local shop. I was offered hours also doing so at a different shop. A group of us gathered at the one shop to do an arts and craft group, and potluck once per month. I was asked to teach at both shops. I also shared my art at community shows, and even made a few sales! My things will never make it to a fine gallery or make me rich, but it fills my days and my heart, and I enjoy the people I am involved with.

My role in community changed from online discussion and free, open to the public things to being a part-time businessperson people treated with love, and respect. The crafts group gave me the opportunity to just show up and be a human being nobody expected anything from. There has not been one bit of tension, drama, or disagreement in that group, and we have been gathering for almost a whole year. We are all Pagan.

These things showed me how dramatic, and whiney I was being thinking “Pagan Community” is flawed. How could that be so? There are so very many different circles in our communities and so many different circles within circles. There is endless opportunity for all the diverse people we are, and there is always room for a new person. There is also room for change.

Back when I ran open to the public groups twice monthly, I saw myself as the one who made things happen for people. Now, I see that’s the wrong approach. People who manage, facilitate, or direct are not the doers, they are the delegators. I realize in our communities, typically they say clergy do the work, and other folks just show up…but I learned a very valuable lesson. That isn’t necessarily so. Pagans are like Xtians in the sense there are plenty who like to help. Maybe out of 40 participants, five to ten people help run the gathering. But that is ten to twenty percent of the attendees who are making it happen. That is pretty good. Even if all one person can do is show up and empty the trash or give one person a ride home one time, that is still helping, and almost nobody shows up for Community and has no desire to contribute. Maybe somebody can’t contribute except to just attend today, but in a couple of months, they can.

I misunderstood Community and it took me being too sick to put up with things I made the mistake of allowing, and then just being too sick to leave the house to learn to value just how good of a Community I do have.

Community has been a very big part of my healing. Two of the very first places I was comfortable being was at the Pagan shops where I read, even on days when I am not feeling my best. On days when I was not up to leaving the house, friends from the Community came and kept me company many times. On the days I had no company and was home alone, I could reach out to loved ones online. On the days they were having bad days, they reached out to me. Being able to share my talent for divination, and the information from my years of study makes me feel appreciated, but most of all, it makes me feel useful.

I honestly did not think, sometimes, that I would survive this illness, but my Community kept me going on days I would have not have otherwise bothered. It literally, helped save me. I am so thankful for all the wonderful gifts being part of the Pagan Community provide.

May you all be blessed with a great Community as well.

Blessed Be.

MagickalArts

January, 2016

What Is It You Are Joining?

Last month, I wrote about the considerations given before deciding to become part of a magickal group. My own journey since April of this past year has been in forming a new coven and providing the place of community for those seeking a spiritual home that encompasses more than that of solitary practice. To that end a new coven was birthed at the Winter Solstice and a new family of seekers was welcomed.

This month I would like to provide the perspective of the person(s) who are providing the home and space of learning that may become the place of consideration and deciding factor in whether to join (or not).

How A New Coven Comes Into Being…

Forming a new coven requires time, dedication, hard work and commitment. First the thought of what is possible presents itself and the desire to create a place that will serve the larger pagan community takes hold. These first seeds of idea then quickly become the vision of shared experience and spiritual growth achieved in a space of safe haven and support.

Months of planning, meditation and workings of attraction become the central focus. Structure and strong foundations are necessary to attract what will become a purposeful structure of work and foundations from which membership can soar.

The first steps are offering classes that will serve as a foundation for the magickal practice of membership. These classes also offer the opportunity for potential members to interact, share their knowledge and see their points of commonality. Additionally, the classes allow those seeking membership in the new coven to experience first hand the style and methods of teaching that leadership of the new coven uses to inspire and co-create with membership. ?

Activities that will create collective memory are vital to feeding the construct and image of what this new coven’s energetic signature will become. Ultimately, those who become the Charter Members of the new coven, hold the mantle of responsibility as co-creators with leadership of what that Coven looks like, what its work will have potential to be and, most importantly, what the flavor of future members will be.

Just as with any good recipe, there should be flexibility built in to adjust the finished product to what the tastes of those experiencing are; while holding true to the basic idea of what that recipe consistently produces. And, those that will become classic tried and trues become those covens and groups that are sustainable and have the greatest longevity.

There is no finite timeline in the birthing of a new coven. There are markers of historical significance that rise to the surface and of course, all of the “firsts”. First class of the study group that fed the new group. First charter member accepted. First planning meeting together. First group ritual. First open ritual. And, the day of dedication of the new coven, and more. And, the lack of finite determination, leaves room for growth, expansion, contraction and everything in between that ensures that the coven, as well as its membership continue on a path of spiritual growth.

The point of synchronicity is when the seeker finds their place of spiritual home in the group that has been birthed with the intention of attracting those who are just the right fit and resonance for the Great Work of Community.

Blessings of this New Year!

In the Words of Mama Bear

January, 2016

What Goes on in Putting Together a Pagan Festival

Mama Bear hopes you all had a wonderful Yule. Now that everything has settled down, with the holiday season, I hope you’re enjoying a calm, restful time of the year.

Most people I know enjoy the winter months as a time for drawing inward, introspection, and self-work. Not this Mama Bear! Between classes and festival preparation, it seems as if every day is a new and magical adventure! Someone asked me what it takes to put on a pagan festival, so…

What goes on in producing a Pagan festival: time, money, blood, sweat, tears and a lot of coffee. (Hail Caffinea!) That is what goes into the production of a Pagan festival. Whether it’s a weekend intensive, a 2 week festival, a 4 day festival or your local Pagan Pride Day or Pagan Picnic, it’s an epic ton of work.

I’d try to dive into a breakdown, but like the elements of a spell, everything is interconnected. So, bear with me as I explain things to you from the heart and mind of an organizer. I also present this like I’m trying to teach you the basics, because that is just the way I explain things.

Organizing and actually putting on a festival.

A year or so before, you sit down and hammer out a budget. You need to account for everything from toilet paper, to airline tickets for speakers. Believe it or not, speakers and bands actually want to be paid for coming out to entertain people. This is how some of them make their living. Would you work at a job that didn’t pay you? No? Good. These people have bills to pay, food to put on the table and things like house payments. So they have to be paid. Travel expenses, lodging and meals for your speakers and bands must be paid for as well. In my experience, none of these expenses are arbitrary.

Then there’s insurance. You’d best have event insurance. From everything from natural disaster to stupid human tricks, if it can happen, it will happen. Insurance will give you peace of mind, but it does come at a price, and generally runs into several hundred if not thousands of dollars, dependent upon your event.

Venue Rental. Unless you are very lucky and own a property free and clear, you will incur a venue rental fee. That can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $25,000. Having written a couple of checks for one venue for around that amount, I can tell you, it’s not a far-fetched number. For instance, for a festival of 200 people, that comes out to $125 PER PERSON. Not per adult. But per infant, child, teenager, and adult. That does not include speakers and bands whose admission festivals are absorbed into the costs by the festival.

Then there’s everything else. Toilet paper, lightbulbs, supplies for ritual, supplies for children’s activities, shelters for this that and the other, portapotties if your venue needs them, ice supplies if you need them, shower trailers or portable showers, first aid kits, postage (pre festival need), website (pre festival need) program printing, sign printing, the list can go on and on. But, you need to set a budget to cover all of it. You estimate your cost at $10,000. (Trust me this number is low. I’ve worked on a festival a few years back with a budget of over $80,000) Then you estimate how many people will want to come to your festival. (After all you are putting on the best festival EVER! Why wouldn’t they want to come?) You estimate that 500 people will want to come to your festival. Well divide that in half. (I’ll explain more on that in a minute, hang in there with me.) So 250. Then divide $10,000 by 250. That equals $40 per human being on site regardless of age.

I told you I’d get back to you on something yes? That divide it in half? 250. You NEED 250 PAID IN FULL REGISTRATIONS to make your budget. That does not include speakers, bands, your festival staff or children. So you tier festival pricing to cover your speakers and bands, and because you like children, you tier the pricing for children. So, $40 per person, $20 for children….WAIT! And here’s where it can go downhill quickly. Some people don’t want to pay anything to bring their children. Even their 17 year old, consumes like a grown up, children.

Now you get to go play with math. Or, you can adjust your figures by drawing on the experiences of others. Whatever you do, make sure that what you’re charging is going to cover your budget and also give you a little wiggle room, because again, Murphy’s law. But wait, there’s more.

You’re going to get people who feel entitled to come to your festival without paying. For a myriad of reasons, whether it be their status in the community, the ownership of a large pagan store, or the fact that they believe all pagan festivals should be free, they are seriously not going to want to pay. When you politely but firmly tell them that there are no free tickets to your event they will get huffy, defensive, and not come to your festival, and will also run it down to others every chance that they can. Stick to your guns. You don’t want to pay out of your own personal pocket for them to come do you? Then stick to the admission fee. For everyone.

To add to the time factor, you must make rules for your event, and STICK TO THEM. This brings in both time and tears, lots of coffee and sometimes, even a little blood. Making rules is never easy, nor is it pretty. People get offended for rules designed to keep all event attendees safe, and to ensure the safety of the venue.

That’s where your first and basic set of rules comes from. The Venue. Those rules are out of your control. List them out first. Sometimes, they are all that you need. Other times, you need to create and enforce rules based on past experiences, voiced concerns from your staff and co-coordinators, or based on things you’ve seen done wrong elsewhere.

Two of the biggest rule issues I’ve seen are over nudity and alcohol. Huge controversies that have people up in arms because they want to be drunk and naked. They use the phrase “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals” to excuse behavior better suited, frankly, to a frat party. There are huge issues that come up when allowing alcohol at events. They shouldn’t but they do. Everything from people with alcohol poisoning, to minors with alcohol. It’s more hassle than it’s worth. Do you want to be responsible personally for those sorts of situations? Think about it carefully.

Same goes for nudity. Most pagans are fine with keeping their clothes on. We live and work in a society that deems it necessary. However, you will get people who argue with you that they should be given special permission since their path demands it. Here’s the deal, not everyone is comfortable with nudity. Some venues do not allow it. Then, there’s always that one person who tends to creep on others who are nude. They take nudity as consent. From anyone. Regardless of age. What’s right? What’s wrong? Your best bet as an organizer, IMHO, is to not allow nudity. Again, is that something you want to be personally responsible for?

By this time you’re well past the “thinking about planning stage and are well into the planning stage, there’s so much more that goes on in this stage. The biggest one being sweat.

Let’s talk about sweat. You’re going to sweat. Whether you’re hauling wood for the fires, helping in the kitchen, or merely trying to negotiate things with people, you are going to perspire. Your brain is going to hurt. You’re going to bleed. Wait, I said I’d get back to that bleeding part didn’t I? Let’s talk about the blood, because we all know about sweat equity. Blood is infinitely more interesting.

You are going to bleed. Keep a first aid kit handy. I’m not saying this to scare you, but I know from experience, that unless you’re wrapped in bubble wrap, you will bleed. Paper cuts, cats doing burn outs on your leg while you’re updating the website, walking into a door frame because you’re reading where the most awesome people on the planet are coming to your festival, or banging your shin on a chainsaw blade, catching your chin on a car door….there will be blood. Take it in stride. However, you’re going to want to also make sure that you have the same supplies on hand to help out your attendees. Make it a dedicated medical team. Seriously. Those people are going to save you a lot of headache. Take care of them.

Speaking of taking care of people, let’s talk about more of the time aspect.

Take care of your meals provider. That team is going to keep you fed, and go above and beyond for you and all of your attendees. They’re also saving you time, money and headache by taking on a sometimes thankless task. They are invaluable. Invest in them as much as you can. Give your time to promote their meal plan, and them as people too.

Take care of your merchants as well. They put in a lot of hard work doing what they do, and they bring something unique to your event. In fact they bring things to people who might not have access to magical items otherwise. Treat them well and they’ll sing your praises far and wide. Give them the time to promote them and encourage people to “shop locally”.

Take care of everyone who waltzes through the gates of your festival. If they are there, it’s up to you to make sure they feel valued, welcomed and safe.

Invest some time into researching what needs to be done to put on a festival. Go buy Tish Owens’ book “Chasing the Rainbow” and READ IT CAREFULLY. There are myriads of reasons that Tish is my hero, and this book covers them all.

 

 

In the Words of Mama Bear

December, 2015

I had been working in a small community within the larger Pagan community when I received a very insidious Facebook message that began with, “You’re too emotional when it comes to this community. It’s not all about you, nor is it all that important”. The sender then began to question my skills as a community leader, because I was still “new” (after 10 years) and told me that the pagan community as a whole, the one I worked tirelessly for, “wasn’t that big of a deal.”
It ended with a smiley face emoticon and a message of “You know I’m only saying this because I love you right?”
It was a quick, and destructive little Facebook message, but everything about it and the situation in question was a perfect example of the quagmire of disrespect, insidious, gas lighting, boundary-pushing nature of the Pagan community (within a community)I was involved in. If I had called this person out on their emotional manipulation and denigration in a Facebook message, what would have happened? I could have screen shot it and posted it to my wall, but what good would it do? I would have been seen as a crazy troublemaker while this person was vilified as a God/Goddess (sexual identity concealed to protect the guilty) and I would be laughed at and mocked.
I was depressed. I felt powerless in a situation involving a community where bullying, slander, libel, gossip, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment, sexism, and homophobia seemed to be celebrated. I had been told that I needed to “grow a pair” and acquire a “tough skin” to do the kind of work in the community, that I was doing and that I needed to “not take it personally” when people exhibited these behaviors. When I complained about the toxicity of the community, I was told it was just the way it was for this community to be blunt and rude in order to have an authentic and truly open dialogue. This was the only way that we, as pagans could have a true authentic pagan experience.
When I was questioned about decisions I made for the position in the community that I held, I went from politely firm to loud and angrily defending myself in just a few short moments. I was told that I was overly emotional and that I just didn’t understand where the community was coming from! Talk about double standards! When I got that Facebook message, it was the last straw in dealing with the insanity in my community. I couldn’t do anything in that community without the threat of harassment or physical injury; I made a hard decision, and let my feet cast the deciding vote to leave.
I remember that day so vividly. I had gone to St. Louis with my husband for a weekend away, and as we were riding around the old neighborhoods, I received a phone call telling me that I was indeed still welcome with open arms. In fact, I was being asked to continue to be a leader. I remember chuckling and telling them “No, just give it to someone else, but you know I love you right?”
What I wasn’t prepared for was the grief I felt over the loss of my “big fish in a small pond” role I had carved out for myself in the community. I grieved hard core. People I had been friends with for years suddenly dropped me like a bad habit. Phone calls weren’t returned, people began to drop off of my friends list, and the people who had cheered me on and held me up for over 10 years suddenly disappeared.
Then came the feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. I started to doubt people and my own feelings. Whenever I met someone new, I always criticized them, wondering if they were just pleasant to my face and secretly undermining my dreams for the larger community that I’d started working on in earnest? Thankfully, my handful of longtime friends who had stuck with me showed me a way out of that dark and scary place. I still felt sad and lonely and often times avoided social situations so I didn’t have to deal with people in general.
I’m lucky, because it turned out that my core group of friends, who weren’t in that particular community supported me and my decisions. I didn’t go in to great detail about my woes with the other community, but I did tell them that I was suffering from burn out and needed a break, and a new project to work on. They understood, and supported me in several new endeavors. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how loving and supportive my entire core group was, but they cheered me on and helped me get to where I am today. I will never forget that and I am amazingly blessed by their love.
In retrospect, I didn’t leave that pagan community because there was a huge price to pay for doing so. You were cut off, ostracized, and often times your name was disparaged so badly you just left, rather than to deal with it. Paganism is supposed to be what we sleep, eat, breath and it should be our passion, something we work on even in our spare time. There is incessant talk about community, cohesiveness, unity, spirituality and working on projects for the greater good. To walk away from a community within a community for mental health reasons is considered selfish and not for the good of the greater community. Talking about why you walked away from a toxic community is also one of the largest no-no’s in the world. People don’t want to risk burning bridges and closing down the chances of keeping important relationships. The impact is that no one talks about leaving a toxic pagan community. They quietly leave and find somewhere else to spend their time and talents. When people don’t visibly leave a community, it tends to make others in the same position think that they don’t have any options either.
It is my personal opinion that when someone leaves a toxic pagan community, they need to loudly let everyone know why they are leaving, so that people in those positions know it’s ok to prioritize themselves over anything else. We need stories of people switching covens, dropping leadership roles and telling these toxic communities to “get bent”. This is the main reason that I’m sharing my story.
I don’t ever want anyone to experience the racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism, and all of those other nasty –isms that are going on around the communities these days. No one should have to ever endure putting their heart and soul into a body of work for the greater good only to have it all trashed by people who are threatened by their fresh ideas, new outlooks and positivity. No one.
How do you identify a toxic community?
That has got to be one of the most difficult questions, yet one of the simplest questions to answer. The answer at its simplest form is to watch. Watch how people interact with each other. Are they assholes? Seriously? Is there lots of backstabbing and gossip? Then it’s probably toxic.
Most importantly do the larger groups value the smaller ones? Does the leadership of the larger groups interact with the smaller ones in a positive manner? Do they reach out for input on festivals and events?
How do the larger groups who run festivals and events treat people? Are they welcoming of new ideas and people? Are they a bunch of money hungry business owners hiding behind a festival or an organizational name? Do they donate money to the local community for smaller events? Are they really pagan or just using that as a mask to hide behind so people will support them?
How do the shop owners treat people? (Not the employees, but the owners) Are they welcoming, accommodating and enthusiastic about the local community? Do they think they’re better than everyone else? Do they treat their customers as important individuals or do they brush them off indifferently, seeing them as only a part of their profit margin?
Does the local community value their people? How are newcomers treated? Do they thank them for reaching out, encourage them to get involved or merely pat them on the head and tell them to “let those of us know what’s going on” do the work? Will you fit into the community? Does the leadership build up people, or does it tear them down?
In the end, you may not be able to find a good pagan community that also fits your learning interests. You may want to found your own pagan community where you can build in respect and encouragement from the start. You may decide to leave the public pagan life for a chance to develop your own beliefs and paths. You may even decide to leave the toxic community all together.
The point is you have options. You have valuable skills and the drive to help in a community you still see as new. There are good people willing to help you in the larger community, and within smaller, more concentrated groups. Just because they are pagan, don’t lump them in together with that which is toxic, because they need your help to form a healthy community.
The toxic community will survive without you, and your new community will value your skills even more.
Find a community where you can be loved, respected and appreciated, because you deserve it.

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