religion

Crone’s Corner

March, 2019

We Are ALL Right

I was sitting around a bonfire one Saturday night in early spring, pondering what will happen to me when I die – exactly. I brought out my flute, stared into the fire and I began to play. I played until I went somewhere else and was totally immersed in thinking about my Spirituality. Suddenly, I got this feeling of utter and complete weightlessness and I tell you honestly, for the first time in my entire life, I had a feeling of not only acceptance but genuine understanding. Here is the culmination of what I am now calling my “vision quest.”

I was playing a song on my flute that I call “The Whales Tune” because it was the first thing that I played on my cedar flute when I was in Alaska a few years ago watching hump back whales diving deep into frigid waters, flukes high in the air dripping wet. They were so peaceful and unaware of who I was or that I was even there acting as a voyeur in their world. The bonfire was high and bright and intensely hot, yet the air around me was filled with the chill of the early spring night, the warm chill of the spring night as opposed to the cool chill of the later summer night. There was the promise of warmth in the air as I allowed my mind to wander off.

I was in a deep, thick ancient wood, walking with bare feet on a thick carpet of leaves and moss. Every now and then I could hear the faint call of a cardinal in the woods, calling to me, beckoning me to come deeper into the woods. I stepped lightly and quickly as I made my way through the thick canopy up a small incline. Here the trees opened up in a circle and the sunlight brilliantly shined down in the center of the circle where the greenest grass I’ve ever seen was growing. There were small vivid yellow buttercups peeking up through the blades of grass nestled among clover and pink clover flowers. I entered the clearing and lay myself prone on the ground. My hands were turned earthward and my face turned skyward. The warmth of the sun was beaming down on my face and warming my body. I lifted my hair out from under my neck and nestled into the Mother for a time of quiet solitude. I left my mind to its wandering as I heard the cardinal calling closer and closer and then suddenly further away…so distant I could scarcely hear his call any longer yet I strained my ears to hear more…when the thought suddenly struck me…

What if we are ALL right?

I continued to lay in that circle of light as the sun warmed my thoughts and I went a bit deeper into myself and into the woods. I wondered if we are ALL right in our beliefs. I wondered if the Divine Light, of which we are all a part, has allowed us to each worship Deity in our own way. I wondered if instead of fighting with one another over semantics or over what we each deem is right or wrong in a Spiritual Path that we simply respected one another and learn from each other the varying paths open to us for us to reach and return to the Divine Light. I saw in my mind’s eye Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans and every other Spiritual Path communing. I saw us all acknowledging that which is highest and best in each other and learning acceptance and tolerance. I envisioned acceptance among all people that each path is different in the journey and that the sights along the way are divergent. I was filled with the certainty that each path still leads inexplicably to the same Divinity in the end. I was heartened by the discovery that loving one another in spite of the path, because of the journey, and with open hearts is core of my existence.

I continued to lie in the clearing and absorb that which is good and true in all of the varying paths that I noticed opening up around the circle in which I was laying prone. I heard drums in the forest, I heard chanting in an unknown language in the forest, and I heard the call of the animals in the forest. I heard many divergent paths opening before me, crossing over one another, overlapping, merging, becoming one and uniting toward one great destination. When I truly opened my heart to all that was surrounding me I realized then that we are ALL right. Each of us is right in the paths that we have chosen for our own Spiritual enlightenment, we are ALL right. We are all striving toward the ends of our own roads and along the way, our pathways cross with those of the people in our lives. My path is made smoother by the journey you have already traveled and in the words and experiences that you share with me. Your path is made smoother by the journey that I have already traveled and in the words and experiences that I share with you. We are both right.

When I realized this fully, when I saw the paths opening up in the circle around me, I stood from my quiet contemplation and I called out to the cardinal. I heard his call in the forest ahead of me, not to the path behind me, which I had already traveled. I knew then, as I know now, that I cannot travel back through that path as I have already been there. I have now laid my head on the grass here in the clearing and I have lain prone for the sun to warm my heart in a different way. I must now follow a different path. I stood in that clearing and turned around to gaze upon all of the open pathways. I stepped my foot into the dark and unknown path ahead of me and I took my first step knowing that in my heart I would take the warmth of the sun from the clearing with me and I would be taking the knowledge that you have all shared along the path into that unknown path that lay before me.

I realized as I walked onto the unknown path that a certain coolness approached and surrounded me. An aching had come to my back and legs when I realized that I was sitting before very weak embers in what had previously been a raging bonfire. I heard the song lilting from my flute and I felt the ache of my folded legs. I felt the song in my heart and the warmth of the sun in my heart.

I believe in my heart that we are ALL right. And I think that this little journey that I have traveled has brought to me a clearer appreciation and respect for all paths and a desire to travel them all until the warmth from the sun in that clearing has left my soul

***

About the Author:

Shirley Lenhard has been a practicing Witch and a Pagan since 1983 and lives in New England with her husband. She is employed full time in the legal field and has her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida. Shirley looks forward to living her best possible life by giving back to the Pagan Community and has created the Facebook group “Pagan Plannertarium” where she provides a safe home for fellow pagans to have discussions about their path and to get free planner stickers and layouts. Shirley is a past writer for Llewellyn Publishing and The Peace Paper.

Book Review – Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape by Christopher Orapello and Tara Love Maguire

February, 2019

Book Review

Besom, Stang & Sword

A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape

by Christopher Orapello and Tara Love Maguire

*A Special Opportunity:

Christopher and Tara will be teaching at Delmarva Pagan Pride Day on April 28th.

Location: The Green in front of Legislative hall in Dover Delaware

Info: FB page- https://www.facebook.com/groups/DelmarvaPaganPrideFestival/

There is a stirring within the community of those who identify as witches as what was old has been lovingly and carefully made new again by those who stand at the gates of modern witchcraft. Besom, Stang and Sword is a guide of practice that evolved from the reweaving of Traditional Witchcraft and adding just enough of the evolved form of that practice to create something unique, new and highly relevant to our times.

The authors have done due diligence in both the scholarly rationale and the grassroots approach to the practice of witchcraft and its newer derivative form of Wicca. What emerged was the creation of their own path called the Blacktree Tradition….. a modern, nonreligious form of traditional witchcraft that is rooted in each witch’s specific region. Instead of deities, it deals with the spirits of the land and the ancestors-no gods, many spirits…

Chapter 1jumps right into the discussion of what Traditional Witchcraft is at its roots. As the authors state there are many types of practice that have presented themselves forged from the essential of a practice that is steeped in cultural practices such as Shamanism, Seidr and Hoodoo and magickal traditions, such as Victor and Cora Anderson Feri and Cultus Sabbati. All of the usual topics related to a pagan path and in particular, that of witchcraft are given attention and perspective that pulls together some of the more disjointed pieces of a puzzle that is complex, rich and deep. The Devil and the negative connotation that has come to be associated with those practitioners of the craft is addressed and the reality of this beings energy as being neither good nor evil, but a necessary component in the natural order of a practice rooted in the land. Blacktree calls to the Devil as the Witch Lord, the Lord of the Paths and is considered the embodiment of nature itself. This is a perspective that takes us beyond the semantics and associations accumulated around these that prevent us from seeing beyond and more broadly as to the deeper meanings.

You will find within each chapter the basics of teachings that form a solid foundation for stepping onto the path of the witch. Spell work, Diviniation, the Sabbats, Lunations, Hedgewitchery and more complete this instruction. Each chapter rich with theory and magickal technique. For those who are familiar with a Wiccan or other path that is similar to the principals of witchcraft, you will see the variances in application and tools that are of prominence in traditional witchcraft that have often take a side place of importance more recently.

The title of the book, Besom, Stang and Sword give reference to these three tools being those closely related to the natural world. This is further evidenced in the premise of Traditional Witchcraft and its roots being tied to the earth and at a time when many of the manufactured ritual items that adorn our altars and work were not available. Use of the Besom and Stang takes us back to those cultural roots of witchcraft and making use of and empowering all that we were given from the land itself. We are also introduced to some lesser-known tools, their purpose and how they may be used or created.

The author’s statement in the introduction nicely sums up the treasures and value of this book..

..Our perspective anchors itself with one foot firmly planted in the lessons of the past and the other stepping into the boldest future, while staying focused on the natural evolution of the craft…

I would highly recommend this book as a required read for those new to the craft and more importantly those who consider themselves seasoned and working witches. My gratitude to Christopher and Tara for being able to in such an articulate and grounded way call forth the best of what was and the vision of a practice that evolves and grows in an organic and natural way that we have long forgotten the simplicity, complexity and beauty of.

For More Information about Blacktree Coven:https://www.infinite-beyond.com/blacktree-coven/

Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

The Inner Chamber Volume One on Amazon

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2) on Amazon

Qabalah

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths on Amazon

Qabalah

A Year With Gaia on Amazon

The Eternal Cord

Temple of the Sun and Moon on Amazon

Luminous Devotions

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1) on Amazon

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

The Elemental Year on Amazon

Aligning the Parts of SELF

The Enchanted Gate on Amazon

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

Sleeping with the Goddess on Amazon

Nights of Devotion

A Weekly Reflection on Amazon

Musings for the Year

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

Book Review – Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States by Thomas Hatsis

February, 2019


Book Review
Psychedelic Mystery Traditions
Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States
By Thomas Hatsis
271 pp. Park Street Press

Although it has been the subject of great speculation and demonetization by various religious and political bodies, psychedelic mystery tradition remains one of the great buried seeds of Paganism, hidden under mythology, misinformation, and religious and political oppression — not to mention suppression of information. In “Psychedelic Mystery Traditions,” Thomas Hatsis uncovers a vast history of psychedelic spirit plants in Western tradition and ritual, focusing especially on Greco-Roman tradition and the early days of Christianity.

From the earliest prehistoric discoveries of psychedelic plants and their spiritual potential to the conflation of their use with Satanic witchcraft, Hatsis delves deeply, weaving together the political scenes in which each stage of pharmaka* use developed, while following a coherent narrative through the years. For those who were hoping for a more international subject matter, it’s useful to note that Hatsis doesn’t verge far from the focus of Europe and the Near East — you won’t find information here about the use of ayahuasca in Peru, or psilocybin mushrooms in China.

What you will find is an extensively-researched, academic approach to a controversial subject that synthesizes herbalism, ethnopharmacology, entheogenic practice, ritual, mythology, politics, religion, and linguistics. This may make the book a bit slow going for those who lack the context for the work, but anyone with a good familiarity with Western mystical traditions, herbalism, early Christianity, or mythology will probably find something to enjoy here.

The book boasts a treasure trove bibliography. Hatsis occasionally cites and refers to his other book, called “The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic,” where the subject matter overlaps, but he also taps an impressive number of primary sources, as well as many modern authors. In a few cases, he points them out only to call them out, diverging at several points to argue some misconceptions, such as the popularized idea that ergotism poisoning is similar to the LSD experience (it’s actually much more dangerous, poisonous, and unpleasant), or that the origins of Santa Claus lie in the historical shamanic use of Aminata muscaria (a popular theory for which there is little evidence). It is clear that Hatsis has great love for this subject, but he also preserves respect for the academic process. In exploring the controversy surrounding the historical use of pharmaka, he has an even hand and doesn’t play favorites on the basis of his own bias, pointing fingers not only at those who dismissed or vilified these spirit plants, but also at those who misused and abused these plants for nefarious purposes, such as poisoning, manipulation, and rape.

This rare glimpse into the mechanisms and mythology of mystery traditions is also peppered with humorous observations, as Hatsis refers to bad trips as “what we would call a bummer,” relates amusing historical anecdotes, and makes the occasional pun. But where the book shines the most is in those poetic moments when Hatsis explores the narratives of mythology and ritual that weaved together the experience of pharmaka by exposing and bestowing new cosmological understanding. In these stories, the relationship between humans and spirit plants takes on a life of its own, illuminating both the dark recesses of the human psyche, and the strange roots of spirit plant practice.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions can be found on Hatsis’ website, https://psychedelicwitch.com/, along with many other writings and YouTube videos as well.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants, Magical Practices, and Ecstatic States on Amazon

[*An all-encompassing Greek term for the various plant-derived substances whose uses included theogenesis, medicine, recreation, aphrodisiac, poison, and more.]

For those whose interests are primarily herbological, here’s a short list of some of the spirit plants and pharmaka mentioned in this volume: 

Aconite, amanita mascara, barley, cannabis, haoma, hash, hemlock, henbane, kykeon, laurel, LSD, mandrake, mushrooms, opium, solanaceae (including but not limited to Atropa belladonna), and wine.

***

About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com

Book Review – The Witchcraft Handbook by Midia Star

January, 2019

Book Review

The Witchcraft Handbook:

Unleash Your Magical Powers to Create the Life You Want

By Midia Star

This is a beginner’s book, someone who has some experience may use the spells in this book just as a jumping off point to create some new spells. At the very beginning of the book, the first thing the author writes is “Witchcraft is the practical side of the Wiccan religion.” I have to say that I disagree with that statement because not all witches are Wiccan.

I had a hard time on telling what demographic the writer was going after with this book. There are spells for home, sex, work, and love. While at the back of the book there is a section on Dreamboards. In this section, the writer states that the Dreamboard should be for your dreams and not those of your friends or parents.

While the author’s writing is well done, I do have to wonder about the information this book contains. As far as information on herbs, crystals, oils, and Moon phases the author is spot on. But there are other little small things that I feel are misinformation.

Page 79 of the book the author writes in the Did You Know? box: “Christians once used the pentagram as a religious symbol. Each point represented the five wounds of Christ. To pagans and to witches it represents Morrigan, the war goddess who fights for peace in good fortune for others. If you see the pentagram drawn with the top point of the star pointing to the bottom of the circle, this represents dark and sinister magic, so always draw your pentagram with the top point of the star pointing upwards.” The part about the Christian’s is correct. I honestly don’t know about the Morrigan part. But the inverted Pentacle I do know something about. This is misinformation because on specific paths the pentacle with the star pointing down is a sign of protection or even a sign of attaining another degree within that path.

On page 97 the author writes when talking about A Garden Space: that in the William Shakespeare’s witches’ famous incantation’ eye of newt and toe of frog’ actually refers to mustard seeds and a type of buttercup plant. I had never heard that myself, I would like to know what research the author used to arrive at that conclusion.

On page 123 Midia Star writes in the Did You Know? box: “The Druids where the first to believe and the power of the four-leaf clover.” Now whether this is true or not I don’t know, again I would like to know other resources the author used to arrive at that conclusion.

The book contains no bibliography, or other sources were the author may have gotten their information. The author does state that they have tried the spells and they have worked for them. Again, as I said at the beginning, the information on herbs, oils, candles, and the Moon phase are all spot on. But, I do take exception to the things I have listed, due to the lack of the bibliography.

The Witchcraft Handbook: Unleash Your Magical Powers to Create the Life You Want on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Dawn Borries loves reading and was thrilled to become a Reviewer for PaganPages.Org. Dawn, also, has been doing Tarot and Numerology readings for the past 25 years. Dawn does readings on her Facebook page.  If you are interested in a reading you can reach her at: Readings by Dawn on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/Readings-by-Dawn-1608860142735781/

GoodGod!

December, 2018

Meet the Gods: Mithras, the Pagan Christ Child

 

(This figure of the Persian god Mithras is at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.)

 

Merry meet.

Mithras, god of the sun in ancient Rome, was born around the winter solstice and experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox. The ancient Persian-Roman religion called Mithraism thrived before Christianity, dating back some 4,000 years. It gains attention because the similarities between his story and that of Jesus are numerous.

He was born of the virgin Anahita on December 25. He was, according to an article on truthbeknown. com by Acharya S. and D.M. Murdock, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and attended by shepherds.”

He traveled far and wide as a teacher and a master who performed miracles and had 12 companions. He was omniscient. Both the lion and the lamb were his symbols. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the Lord’s Day, or Sunday, was said to be Mithras’ sacred day. Baptisms were important, midnight services were held and he was often said to carry a lamb on his shoulders. Mithraism’s scared rock was Petra.

As the ‘great bull of the Sun,’ Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace. He ascended into heaven. Mithra was viewed as the Good Shepherd, the ‘Way, the Truth and the Light,’ the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah,” according to the article.

Mithra was worshiped as Mitra or Itu in the Indian Vedic religion. It is believed he was born in a cave on December 25 and was the mediator between man and god.

 

(In this relief from the 2nd century AD, Mithras kills the sacred bull and from its blood and semen arise the plants and animals. Source: Neues Museum, Berlin)

 

His cult spread from India west to Germany, Spain and England, and was supported by soldiers of the Roman Empire, becoming the primary rival to the newly developing religion of Christianity. In 307, Diocletian consecrated a temple on the Danube River to Mithra, “Protector of the Empire,” as stated in britannica.com.

According to myth, Mithra was born, bearing a torch and armed with a knife, beside a sacred stream and under a sacred tree, a child of the earth itself. He soon rode, and later killed, the life-giving cosmic bull, whose blood fertilizes all vegetation. Mithra’s slaying of the bull was a popular subject of Hellenic art and became the prototype for a bull-slaying ritual of fertility in the Mithraic cult,” according to the entry written by the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Mithra, also spelled Mithras, was the god of light in ancient Indo-Iranian mythology.

The Persian version of Mithra was a benevolent solar deity bestowing wealth and health.

He was mighty, strong, unconquered and king of the gods, and was often portrayed as a sun disc in a chariot drawn by white horses.

Winter festivals, common in cultures around the world, were intended to strengthen the fire of the sun so that it would return. They were celebrated in the name of Mithras, who can be called as a god to your circle this Yule.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Bringing Up the Next Generation of Witches

November, 2018

October is quickly coming to an end, and I have never been more thankful. October brought sickness and trials. It was a difficult month to say the least.

But with October coming to a close, Samhain is fast approaching.

Samhain (or Halloween as Little Bear calls it) has always been one of my favorite holidays. Even when it was banned from my childhood home life.

The veil is thinning, the days grow darker, and the nights become almost black.

Living in the Midwest means the weather is unpredictable at the end of October. It could be sunny and hot, or rainy and wet. As a child, “Halloween” meant snow. I can remember more snowy Halloweens than not.

Little Bear and I will make the best of it regardless of the weather. He has his costume picked out. He is going as a zombie SWAT guy. He’s talked me into being a zombie also. He’s a bit obsessed with The Walking Dead right now.

This year, I let Little Bear go wild and decorate the whole house. We put up window clings, black garland, laid out fake spiders, decorated foam pumpkins, and hung up door covers.

Yesterday, we visited the local pumpkin field/corn maze. They have so many activities and it’s a must every year. They have goats, chickens, rabbits, long horn cattle, corn boxes, corn mazes, pumpkin guns, tug a war ropes, inflatables, wooden trains, etc. It is a full day.

Tonight, is pumpkin carving time. I’m sure that my excitement is at a way higher level than Little Bear’s because of the pumpkin seeds. I have dug out some recipes from Pinterest and plan on trying at least three. I have to do normal salt pumpkin seeds. But I’m going to try a sweet version with cinnamon and brown sugar. The other one I haven’t decided on because there is so many variations that can be done. However, I’m leaning towards a savory that uses sea salt and white vinegar. Not sure how it’ll turn out, but we shall see!

One of my favorite traditions for Samhain is the dinner. Eating dinner at the table is something that rarely happens in our home because of scheduling. But when Samhain rolls around, I take the day off. I plan a meal as if it were Thanksgiving and I set the table. I always set a spot for my sister who we lost back in 2015. It helps to bring her close. Little Bear gets excited and will start talking to her spot as if she never left.

Little Bear started asking questions again about “God” last week. This is a conversation that we have quite frequently as he has a hard time understanding something that he cannot see. So, I go into the explanation again. We have talked about the many different religions of the world. Although I am raising him in a Pagan home, I understand that the Pagan path may not be for him.

I found a wonderful series that touches on the spiritual side without focusing on one certain religion. It’s the The Giggles and Joy series. A three-part series that focuses on positive poems. It’s a neat series that I recommend. You can check out my review on them in this same issue!

Spirituality Without Religion

October, 2018

Spoiler alert: this piece is not really about Spirituality without Religion. The way of the shaman is certainly not exempt from paradoxes and miracles.

It was August 5, 2018. My Chinese calendar predicted it would be an auspicious day for rituals but a bad one to embark on a long journey. Rituals it was. I went to my favorite café in Bangkok, the city where I was living, and put fingers to keyboard.

It had not been a good week; I had submitted a piece commissioned by a website that receives nine million unique visitors a month, and it had been turned down. My agent pitched the site for an article about living in intentional communities. I was happy to write about that topic, since I had lived in a spiritual, environmentally friendly community in Scotland and had first-hand knowledge of what the experience of communal living was about. Moreover, my first steps in shamanic practice took place during that stay, so it was a subject dear to me.

However, the editor of the website had understood that the piece would go over actionable strategies for people to create more intentional and meaningful relationships in their own communities, like setting aside time to walk around their neighborhood, join new groups, etc. Would I be open to pivoting the piece to touch on this idea?

It had not been an easy piece for me to write; the website preferred articles written in third person, very much “news you can use” and tips with quick, easy takeaways about how to improve the lives of their millions of unique visitors. About 700 words was best. Which was exactly the opposite of what I do: I write long articles, in the first person, reflecting on the perplexing circumstances of modern life, concluding in general that the world is a very confusing place and that most of the questions we ask ourselves are probably wrong. I wish I had easy takeaways to offer; I would be the first one to benefit from them. It is a happy day when the unique visitors to my site reach two digits.

Still, I wrote the piece, but it was turned down. Of course, I was open to pivoting the piece. I was in the middle of the promotion of the recently published Shaman Express, a novel I cowrote that had sold less than one hundred copies in its first month. Any chance to promote the novel was welcome. Take every opportunity you can to post your writing to different platforms was the advice of a blogger writing about how to make a living as a writer. When you first set out to freelance, you’ll have to stomach crummy pay, cantankerous editors, and take on all assignments that come your way. Let’s be honest, in the beginning, you can’t afford to be picky was the more radical advice of another blogger writing about going freelance. I spent the following week honestly trying to pivot the piece to touch on this idea of the neighborhood.

I started by reviewing my most recent experience walking around my neighborhood, which at the time was funky Banglamphu in Bangkok. I spent the first month in a cheap, murky, no “chocolate on the pillow” hotel. I divided my time between writing at a the café downstairs and attending a spiritual group that had me absorbed to the point of firmly believing that everything that surrounded me was a transient, repetitive cycle of suffering based on attachment. Why generate additional suffering by creating attachment to my neighborhood? Then I moved to a condo for the following two months, apparently built for the sole purpose of sheltering young and fleeting Airbnb travelers. After a few days I started recognizing some faces at the next-door Family Mart where I did my late-night shopping. Still, we would not greet each other in the elevator. And I did not use the gym; that alone qualified me as an outcast. No good luck in drawing from my experience here either.

Before setting out on this trip, I lived in a house in Buenos Aires for several years. I could think of only two times in which I had connected with the neighborhood. The first one was a failed attempt at bribing the neighbors with bottles of wine on the eve of my fortieth birthday party. The strategy did not prevent the neighbors from calling the police, in fact repeatedly, with a noise complaint. It was a loud party. The next occasion that I reached out to them was when the Armenian church across the street installed a cellular antenna the size of the Eiffel Tower in their backyard. I attempted to gather signatures to file a robust complaint against the cellphone company that owned the antenna, with the hope that the lucrative agreement between church and big business would be terminated. I asked my pious neighbors to choose between brain cancer hazard, the naughty neighbor I had been, and the powerful grip of the Armenian patriarch. Naturally, I ended up filing the complaint alone. This did not make me any more popular in the neighborhood and killed my chances of being admitted to the Armenian kitchen supper club.

The harder I tried to pivot the original piece, the more evident it became that more than a pivot, I had been asked to perform a quadruple somersault. If you have nothing to say, there’s no point in singing it was the advice of yet another blogger who writes about tech, culture, and startups. To make matters worse, or perhaps better, I had started to study The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I learned that, surprisingly, once we get accustomed to the omnipresent possibility of death in life, we feel greatly liberated. So I resolved the article conundrum by deciding that no matter how strongly I wanted to promote Shaman Express, I had to be honest and not write that piece. The sense of immediacy of freedom was exhilarating.

Then came the possibility of writing about Spirituality without Religion for PaganPagesOrg. My initial idea was an inflammatory article against the Roman Catholic church. I gathered all sorts of evidence and set to reading Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World and Betthany Hughes’ “Ruination in the Name of Jesus.” Simultaneously, I reread the Vatican documents A Christian Reflection on the New Age and Aspects of Christian Meditation, where the Vatican sternly warns its adepts against mixing Christian practice with Eastern approaches to spirituality.

I might have moved from the murky hotel to the Airbnb condo, but I was still attending the same spiritual group in Bangkok and studying The Tibetan Book of the Dead with renewed energy. I was being taught about such spiritually edifying principles as belief means reliance, not defiance. I had sat in meditation to be rid of negative thinking, intolerance, and cynicism. My spiritual teacher showed me money, fame, food, Facebook, fantasy, series, social media, sugar, gaming, gossip, love, lust, work, war, pain, power. The list is without end — and so is the condition. I had even tweeted, We realize that all compulsion is only based on the illusion of substantial continuation, enduring substance, binding essence. Hence, I could not respond to the opportunity of writing about Spirituality without Religion with the cheap line of debasing the world’s oldest continually functioning bureaucracy.

Cornered, I asked for guidance in meditation. I reflected on how to bridge the infinite void of separation. Bob Thurman, in his translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, explains that there are no boundaries to our interconnectedness with limitless dimensions and universes. Buddhism can only have drawn this from shamanism, the earliest form of spirituality in the planet. Later that day, my spiritual teacher talked about a God, not in a religious dimension, but as a form of spirituality that was different from the one I had departed. It implied a connection with the Universe. It was about a psychospiritual change and awakening. He talked about a higher force that we can all plug into, nothing at all like a human relation in the Judeo-Christian system of belief. Not an out-of-body experience either, but a practice that needed training to be perfected. We could find it where we thought there was no possibility of anything to exist. The spiritual part is rather the absence, the space around it, not the object itself, he taught.

He then proposed I should create a balance sheet. On one side I was to list all the reasons I could for believing in such higher force, and on the other side a list of all the reasons for disbelieving. I came up with this:

Reasons for believing:

1. The direct experience of the divine in meditation, yogic practice, and shamanic journeying.

2. The guidance of Helping Spirits that present themselves as friends, fellows, and teachers, recognizable from previous lives.

3. The intuitive knowledge of previous lives in such encounters and thus of the fallacy of separation.

Reasons for not believing:

1. Playing the atheist as an intellectual stance.

2. Scientific information.

3. The toxic political play of major religions, namely Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

My teacher nodded and explained that religions are man’s attempt to organize the spiritual experience. Organized religions, even if organized in an honest, earnest, well-meaning attempt, are always corrupt, because they are about men. A futile attempt indeed, because we know that the spiritual part is rather the absence, the space around it, not the object itself, he insisted. In this quest for spirituality, what we need is to have no escape, so we can experience what happens. Time, then, acquires a different dimension. Space has a different dimension. There arises a new possibility in Spirituality, where before it was just a necessity.

“Very well,” he concluded after reviewing my notes, “your first column is Spirituality, the second column is Religion. That is how you can have Spirituality without Religion.” I was speechless; my teacher had just written the article for me. Spirituality, not Religion, is the faster road to that greater freedom we all seek. The way of the shaman is certainly not exempt from paradoxes and miracles: he who is blessed with the guidance of a wise teacher shall learn to perform formidable pivots.

***

About the Author:

Omar Beretta is the co-author with Bénédicte Rousseau of Shaman Express. A former lawyer, yoga instructor and publishing company owner who – after a near-death experience – left his corporate career to practice yoga and shamanism, Beretta is now a traveling writer. For more information, see www.yacarevolador.com

 

Shaman Express

GoodGod!

January, 2018

Meet the Gods: Boreas

 

 

Merry meet.

When the wind would blow and the windows or the screen door would startle her dog, my aunt would say, “That’s Maria,” referring to Kingston Trio song from the ’60s, “They Call The Wind Maria.”

When you hear the cold north wind blow this winter, you can call it Boreas, the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter. His name meant “North Wind” or “Devouring One” and is the source of the adjective boreal, meaning of, relating to, or located in the northern region.

Like Maria, he will wail, whine, blow the stars around and set the clouds a-flying. The lyrics continue, “Maria makes the mountains sound like folks was out there dyin’.”

The same can be said for Boreas, only without the banjo, guitars and matching outfits.

He was the son of Astraeus and Eos; Hesperus, Zephyrus, and Notus were his brothers. Boreas lived in a cave on Mount Haemus in Thrace. Beyond his land was a northern land known as Hyperborea that was said to be a place where people with extraordinarily long lifespans lived in complete happiness.

Some legends have him the father of Cleopatra and the Goddess of Snow, Chione; along with the Boreades, a pair of winged heroes; three giant Hyperborean priests and 12 horses.

 

 

According to Myths and Mortals (Greek Mythology) – Wind Gods on wattpad.com, Boreas is closely associated with horses – as were the winds from all directions – and is said to have taken the form of a stallion and fathered 12 colts that could “run across a field of grain without trampling the plants,”

Boreas is depicted as very strong, with an equally strong temper. “He was frequently shown as a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, holding a conch shell and wearing a billowing cloak,” according to wattpad.com.

Often he is shown with winged human feet. His wings are purple. Another representation depicts him as a face with puffed cheeks blowing cold winds, in keeping with the belief he’d sweep down from the cold mountains of Thrace, his icy breath freezing the air and bringing snow.

Legends say the people prayed to him and sent winds that destroyed ships that were to attack the Athens, and that he assisted the Megalopolitans against the Spartans who honored him at Megalopolis with an annual festival, according to the “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.”

As the Athenians of ancient times, commanded by an oracle, prayed to Boreas to be saved from attack, today’s pagans can call upon the North Wind to blow something away, keeping it from harming you. You could also recognize his arrival with the Solstice and presence during winter, thanking him for his cold that brings the world rest and offers a time of reflection, wisdom, visions and insight.

Instead of making sacrifices to honor him, an offering would be more appropriate – perhaps snowflakes cut from folded paper, or a snow globe. And when you feel him against your face, thank him for his gifts.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

 

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Finding the Pagan Way

April, 2016

findingpagan

by: Boy So Blue Graphic s and photography

With all the right wing and reactionary posts which have seeped into many pagan groups in this last year, I have been forced to reappraise my own position. I did not feel comfortable posting to pages that shared narrow-minded and bigoted views. I stepped back for a while and looked to my own beliefs. I realised that participation in group activities is not totally necessary to re-affirm our own personal stance. I turned my focus to what is important to me as an individual.

I have friends from many mainstream religions and I detest Christian bashing as much as any other form of xenophobia and fear mongering. All creatures react with fear at times when it is necessary, but only humans nurture fear and build it into the bedrock of their lives. Most of us have some element of fear motivating us, but we need to face up to it and understand its corrupting influence on our lives. We all excel at self-deception, but by accepting the underlying current of fear in our lives, – we can allow it to flow through us and eventually, reduce its impact on our lives and our actions.

One thing that helped me was to look at the core of my beliefs and remind myself why I became a pagan. The concept of the Lord and Lady and the balance which they bring to the world, helped me to bring balance to my own life. Likewise the turning of the seasons, and realising my own place in this, grounded me in a way that Christian mysticism never did. But this is a matter of personal need and personal choice. What helped me may not be so useful to another person. For me, the best way to explain my beliefs is through my poetry. I can express much more in rhyme than I ever could in any other way.

The Sacred Marriage.

The Lord and Lady glide about the forest, as the softly sighing leaves are whispering in the silver light.
The dwellers of the woods are quiet and still, and dark eyes gaze upon the scene entranced,
No man, nor beast would dare disturb the ritual of this night.
Above, the Goddess lights her emissaries, as the moon and earth enjoin in Sacred Dance.

Tall and stately like a silver birch, the Lady flows like liquid moonlight through the trees,
Laughter, like the tinkling of a golden bell, caresses sensual lips and flutters off into the waiting night.
Great Pan himself, is so enamoured of her beauty that he pauses in his play, to place a kiss upon her knee,
Then He resumes His Dance and placing pipe to lips, He fills the Still night air with merriment and pure delight.

Fire to speed the coming of the Sun, blazing high, as sparks are flying to the sky’s,
Warm the Earth!
Writhe like new-grown saplings reaching to the light!
Naked feet, caressing and cajoling Mother earth, can feel Her Spirit and Her Power rise,
And Spring, is surely hastened with the coming of Her Lover, at sunrise.

I was not there, I cannot tell this tale in full.
Perhaps my senses are too numb, perhaps my mind to dull.
But every day I ask the Goddess that I may Awake,
and every night I look up to the Moon for guidance,
for the journeys I may make.

Patrick W Kavanagh

I believe that there is much yet for me to learn, even after 50 years of searching. I know that when I touch the core of life that these are the images and emotions that flood my mind and heart. I am aware that I have an ongoing and evolving relationship with spirit which has guided and helped me for many years. There have been thousands of messages and hundreds of times when Spirit has physically helped me. There have also been hundreds of times, when I did not listen and paid for my own stubbornness. This is my journey and not anyone else’s, but, I hope that by sharing what I have been given, I can help others to make sense of some parts of their own journey. This is why I write.

Lord of the Woodlands

Dawn brings a cold grey light beneath a moody sky
that does not seem to greet the day with joy.
A sleepless night is followed by a solitary walk.
I long for peace, – but expectations are not high.
The glistening grass has soaked my feet,
and chilled me to the bone.
I curse myself for such a choice of routes,
but still I’m grateful for this time alone.

The woodlands beckon me with sheltered paths
beneath its softly sighing trees.
Perhaps in such a sheltered grove
My aching mind may find some ease.
So I wandered in that twilight world
that held the dawn at bay,
beneath its gently waving arch of green
that kept the world away.

The woodlands watched me as I walked,
Though lost in morbid thought,-
it’s little voices whispered gently in my ear.
Inviting me to share the home they loved so dear.
Slowly, carefully I walked,
in case I should disturb the woodland creatures at their play.
Watchfully, I carried on, fearful to arouse the beings
who live within the pause between the night and day.

But there He stood, despite my care.
Wreathed in mist, the sparrows nesting in His hair.
As He walked, the flowers bloomed beneath his hooves,
and though I wished to run away I could not move.
Eye to eye, I thought that I would die from fear.
But as I held His gaze, I felt my misery dissolve.
Emotions flooded through me, and then they washed away as tears.
For only goodness flowed from Him,
and if He wills it,
I will walk with Him for all my Years.

Patrick W Kavanagh

 

Spiritual Seeker

September, 2013

I feel like this month has not been very spiritual productive, and so I had a hard time writing this column. I spent several days trying to come up with a topic that I could write about that would allow me to show some sort of progress. But, this was a month of dark nights of the soul, failure, and stagnation.

 

My biggest failure was my attempt at meditation. I signed up to take part in a 21-day guided meditation program with high hopes that it would provide the impetus I needed to get back into a regular practice. The daily program was short; I just needed to find fifteen minutes a day to fit it in. By day three I had already fallen behind. And, when I was able to make time, my son could race cars around my feet or decide it was the time to try to have a deep discussion with me about his latest Lego creation. I tried to explain to him what I was doing, but needing time to not think doesn’t make a lot of sense of a five-year old.

 

By day five of the program I was done. I decided that talking about Lego and watching videos with my son was a better use of my time. He isn’t going to be small for much longer, and I want to cherish my time with him. And, when I stopped to think about it, I’m pretty sure I learned a greater spiritual lesson by making this choice than I would have learned by sticking with a meditation practice that isn’t working right now. However, when my little guy is back in school in a few short days, I will develop that meditation practice. The few moments of peace I was able to achieve this month through meditation showed me that it is something I should be working into my spiritual path.

 

Without getting too personal, the dark nights of the soul that I experienced this month taught me a few things too. There are parts of my life right now that I love. I am so blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and I’m also blessed that my husband is able to work from home the majority of the time. We get to spend a lot of time with our son, and I am very grateful for that. I’m also lucky that I can pursue my interests with relative freedom, and that there isn’t anything that I need that I don’t have. But there some things that cause me a lot of mental strife, and sometimes those emotions break loose. Working through those emotions calmly can bring spiritual peace, and so can the practice of recognizing our blessings. I still need to work developing some equanimity, though.

 

The petulance I was feeling this month meant that I didn’t spend much time reading holy books or spiritual writings. I felt like my attitude would somehow sully the words I was reading. But, now that I think about it more clearly, I realize that reading one of those works would likely have helped me regain my even keel. Don’t most of us turn to religion for comfort and wise words when we are feeling out of sorts? We pray to God or the Goddess, we meditate, we study holy books, read Tarot cards, or speak to our co-religionists. I did none of these things. I sulked, hid, and ignored the spiritual help that was there for me.

 

This month I’ll be back to work, most likely focusing on ways to bring, at least at this point, a sort of generic spirituality physically into my home and life. I’ll also be back to reading books, perhaps the Koran and some of Rumi’s poetry. And, of course, I’ll try facing my old bugbear, meditation, yet again.

 

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