November, 2008

Welcome to The November Issue of PaganPages!

November, 2008

Welcome Everyone!  Hope your Samhain was a wonderful and Safe Holiday.  Write us and tell us your Samhain Stories!

We have a great issue this month.  Our biggest surprise for our readers: an interview with the Wonderfully Talented author Nigel Suckling!

nigel203a

He is the author of many great titles and took time to discuss his newest book Faeries of the Celtic Lands with us, as well as some interesting information about himself.

We have a new column premiering this month, Faeries, Elves, & Other Kin.  And a new feature a Witchy Crossword!!

We want to thank everyone for helping by bidding on our auctions.  You have kept PaganPages up and going and we appreciate all the help.  We will feature more auctions throughout the month.  We are especially glad you like the BOS Bookmarks 😉

The Samhain Soldier GoodieBags went over so well we are doing it again for Yule.  If you would like to contribute something to put in the bags or donate money towards shipping you can get more information by writing us at pagangoodiebags@gmail.com

We are glad to see that people are making use of the new commenting abilities with the articles, we love to hear from you!

We hope you have a great month and…

HAPPY READING!!

Let’s Spell it Out

November, 2008

Valley of the Yews November 22nd

Ydalir (yew-dale) is a Norse holiday is under the ruler-ship of the god Ullr (pronounced “ool”).  Also known as the “The Magnificent”, the “bow God” and sometimes the “Death God”; he is the god of skiing, archery, hunting, sports, combat, contests, sky, fertility, magick, sea, beauty and enchantment.  He was thrown out of Asgard by Odhinn because the All-Father was jealous.  His parentage differs on whom you ask, but he is said to be the brother of Ullin, son of Sif and the Step-son of Thor.  He is responsible for justice and oaths were sworn on his ring, called the “ring of Ull”.  He carries a bow, wears snowshoes and his shield is also used as a boat.

The Yew in Celtic mythology holds wisdom in its fruit, which is eaten by the salmon.  Whoever eats the salmon, gains the knowledge of all the answers they seek.  The Druids used the Yew to make wands for divination.

This spell is designed to ask Ullr to guide your path, offer up to him a sacrifice (of bread) and to swear on his ring to the old gods.

SUPPLIES: Stylis (something to carve a symbol into a candle; like a pin), candle, loaf of bread

THE SPELL:

Carve the Sowilo  image001 rune onto the candle and say:

“God of sky and of sea,

Justice and fertility;

Son of Sif, Step-son of Thor,

Guide my boat and be the oar.”

Lay the bread upon the altar and say:

“Ullr,

On Your ring, I swear an oath,

And offer up to You this loaf.”

Light the candle and say:

“To the old gods I swear,

Held in my heart everywhere.

In the Valley of the yews

To share the knowledge with the few.

To speak Their truth and defend Their ways,

Until the end of our days.”

Spend some time in mediation to receive any guiding message or take note of anything in your environment in the next few days that may “steer” you on your path.

AFTER THE SPELL:

Leave some of the bread on the altar overnight but be sure to place the reminder outside for the animals and nature spirits.  If at all possible, leave the candle to burn out, but if you cannot, burn it everyday until it burns down and then bury the remaining wax off your property.

Embracing the Darkness

November, 2008


For when it comes, that shadow called night
Upon a wave and beckoning lullaby
When I alone greet darkness warmly
Embracing those things that come alive
For long the howling winds bring solace
And skies that glow of amber moon
Bade call to come and join the dance
Embracing those things that are alive
For casting glance in pools of water
With eyes that shine of emeralds dark
Barely covered with earthly cloak
Embracing those things that came alive
For burning desire of want to wander
To ride the fearless call this eve
Tresses met with caress of the darkness
Embracing those things I am alive……..
Natures Healing Child
October 2, 2008

This Month’s Crossword

Ghosts and Hauntings 101: A Procedural Manual for the Investigation of the Paranormal

November, 2008

PICTURE PERFECT
Photography and Paranormal Investigation

Now, let’s have a look at exactly what a “spirit entity” actually is. I have investigated three separate incidents in which the entity encountered was so solidly manifested it was impossible to tell it from a living person. One of these incidents happened to me, and it was the purest accident that I discovered it was not a living person. An account of this experience, titled “The Little Girl in the Ga Garden,” is included in my collection of true paranormal accounts titled Footprints in the Snow: Tales of Haunted Russia, published by Zumaya Publications.
I have also had—and still have—personal encounters with spirit entities who can and do manifest regularly in differing states of, for lack of a better word, solidity depending on their mood and the situation at the time. Bo Both of these are guardian spirits who travel back and forth among a very closely interconnected group of people on a regular basis. While they are essentially the guardian of a particular person, they take that responsibility to include anyone this person considers to be close family.
One of these has been familiar to me since I was around three or four years old (and earlier, but I have no real memories of that time). I mention this because, at first, I did not know this was, in fact, a spirit but thought it was simply another adult who looked in on me from time to time. Over a period of forty-five years, his appearance, when he chooses to fully manifest, has not changed.
It was in this way that, over time, I learned that spirit entities can, if they choose, manifest solidly enough to be capable of doing anything that can be done by a living person—and considerably more. On their own plane, and in the transitory astral plane, they are a living person, and are no more constrained than we are, having basically the same senses and abilities, although enhanced a great deal. What I am about to say might sound odd, or simply unbelievable, but it is true. It is unnerving, to say the least, when one is cooking and gets the distinct impression of “too much salt,” “too much pepper” or “Are you trying to garlic me to death?” It is also less than flattering when you are informed by a spirit entity that the whiskey you are drinking “tastes like kerosene.” It is even more unnerving when the spirit entity in question is fully materialized or nearly so, and you can see the grimace on their face.
One thing I continually tell new people in this field is that there is no need to be afraid of a spirit entity. They cannot physically affect you, let alone harm you, unless they are completely physically materialized. The exception is if it is a guardian spirit specifically responsible for a given person or location. It is important to note, however, that the full or even partial physical manifestation of a spirit entity, particularly in a field investigation setting, is extremely rare. The actual presence of a spirit in any state of manifestation makes up less than three percent of all cases investigated anywhere by anyone. Full, or even partial, manifestations in a field investigation setting make up
slightly less than one percent of even that small figure. The plain fact of the matter is that the investigator in the field has a far better chance of being struck by lightning than of seeing or capturing on film the presence of a fully or partially materialized spirit entity. Out of some two thousand cases investigated and a vastly larger number of photographs analyzed, I have personally recorded half a dozen cases of full or partial
materialization that could be considered authentic.
I’ve analyzed photos professionally for years, and even so it is often impossible to tell if a photo is genuine. The best that can be done is to eliminate obvious and detectable flaws, errors and the possibility of manipulation of a negative, print or bitmap (in the case of a digital image). An experienced investigator should be able to at least give a rudimentary analysis of both the print and the negative of standard film photos and should be able to pinpoint errors of photographic process, photographer error or known defects in the camera and film.
To analyze a photo of an anomaly, the main process is to eliminate all other known potential causes of such an anomaly. That which remains is the authentic photo. If the anomaly is still present, and has no known cause, then what is there may or may not be paranormal in nature but it is certainly real. Personally, my philosophy is not to analyze photos for the specific purpose of finding hoaxes, although I’ve found quite a few. My goal is to establish evidence that the paranormal, as such, exists. I have found that most photos that I analyze—about 90% of them—are honest mistakes, or problems with the camera or film. About five percent of the photos I have analyzed are actual
anomalies of some type—and I emphasize “of some type;” about that same amount are deliberate hoaxes.
No Now that might sound like a low figure for authentic anomalies, but it isn’t,
given the volume analyzed. Keep in mind that out of about 2,000 cases our group has investigated over the past fifteen years or so only about three percent represent actual spirit entity activity. The rest have perfectly normal explanations, although some are a bit odd in that the incident is produced by a combination of random factors that are, to say the least, unusual, and singular in nature.
A good example of this is a case where a previously unknown, and unsuspected, underground hot spring found a way to occasionally vent itself right in front of a little shrine erected to a Saint, producing a beautiful mist at random times. There are also cases of unusual acoustics and atmospheric conditions producing what appear to be the activities of spirit entities and/or anomalies on film or tape. It would amaze you what a buried powerline or telephone cable will do to an EMF meter, and how often the signs marking their location have disappeared.
This is all what I mean about doing your homework. When a report comes
in, there are a lot of things that should be done before going out and conducting a field investigation. It all depends on the nature of the report.
What amazes me, and upsets me most, are cases in which someone, for
whatever the reason, produces a deliberate hoax—and some of them are quite good. Most of the time, it’s their idea of a joke that gets out of hand and out of control, or caused by a craving for attention. I’ve seen instances where an entire community, or at least an entire business community, will propagate a tale in order to generate tourism and business. It’s not common, but it happens.
I also know of one case where people working in a photo laboratory cooked up a very elaborate and very convincing hoax just to pull a particular investigator’s chain for a while. It took the poor guy months to figure out that the best ghost photo he had ever taken was a fraud—not his, and not his fault, but a fraud, nevertheless. He wouldn’t have figured it out even then had one of the perpetrators not come down with a case of guilty conscience and admitted it.
What is more disturbing is the number of deliberate hoaxes that are perpetrated for the absolute best of reasons, and in a “good cause.” Many people—fortunately, very few are professional investigators—will produce a hoax, or fake a photo, EVP or video in order to “prove” or “demonstrate” that the paranormal is real. Their motives may be good, and their heart might well be in the right place, but this kind of thing hurts us. Once something like that comes out for what it is, it casts doubt on countless examples that are not hoaxes, and brings the reputations of countless investigators into question.
The thing is, it’s just as important to our field, and for the advancement of our field, to expose hoaxes and frauds, where they exist, as it is to prove the authentic cases. This is true of any branch of science, and that is what our discipline is, or should be—a branch of science, nothing more, nothing less. All theories are just that—theories—and must be proved or disproved. The only way to do this is through the development of a working set of field techniques and methods based on scientific procedures, practices, and the collection of an empirical trail of indisputable evidence.
This is perhaps the best time to “grasp the nettle” and approach a rather touchy subject among paranormal investigators: orbs and orb photography.First, let’s look at the subject in detail. Exactly what is an orb?
The fact is, no one really seems to know. They have as many names as they
do descriptions. These include “globes,” “globules,” “balls of light” and “hovering round balls.” In photographs—they are rarely ever seen by the unaided eye—they appear in all ranges of brightness from sharp and glowing to faded and barely-visible. They usually, but by no means always, travel quite fast and follow an erratic pattern of flight.
Some believe positive orbs to be the spirits of the dead. I am not, generally speaking, one of those individuals. Other theories suggest that they might be separate life forms or even nature spirits. I am not one of those individuals, either. The problem is that most orb photos are simply false positives, or developing/processing flaws.
There has always been a controversy concerning orb photography with regard to authenticity. Although some—a very few—orb photos are believed to be authentic, there are still many that are the result of airborne particles set aglow by the flash, airborne droplets of water, small insects or simply flaws in the processing of the film. This happens with both indoor and outdoor shots. Be Because of this, it is extremely difficult to disassociate the false positive orbs from the real ones or to take orb photos in general seriously. Think of what happens when you open a heavy curtain inside a dark room to let in the sunlight. Have you ever done that and seen all the dust in the beam of the light? Dust can and does show up in a photograph, particularly a digital photograph, as orbs. This is especially true when the dust particle is very small and very close to the camera’s lens. The reason that it is more certainly true when a digital camera is involved is simple: digital cameras are more sensitive to small objects than standard film. A very small moving object that is either just outside the focal range of the
camera or moving slightly faster than the pre-set shutter speeds used in digitals will be distorted in the bitmap image into an “orb.” Moisture (humidity), mold and pollen are also major contributors of false positive orb photos.
It is important to mention that in the case of standard film, it is not
unheard of for the processor to improperly dry negatives or prints, leaving a
flaw in either or both that will resemble an orb. Be Because of this alone there is
no real way to confirm an orb’s authenticity with our present knowledge.
Therefore, it’s likely that most orb photos are false positives—more than
ninety percent are the result of nothing more than the conditions at the time of
the flash.
To demonstrate this, take your digital camera outside and throw some dust
in front of the lens. Multiple orbs will appear in the picture. Any of that dust that is within four inches of the lens or at the extreme focal length of the lens will appear as orbs in the photo. You can also take a spray bottle to simulate humidity and spray directly in front of the lens; the result will once again be multiple orbs. Additionally, no digital photo of an orb can be considered to be completely free of flaw since there is no negative with which to compare the finished print.
Although digital cameras are a useful tool in paranormal photography, at the current state of the art, they simply cannot be entirely trusted when it comes to any false positive photo. A good, dependable 35-mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera is far less likely to create dust mote orbs on film or any other flaw. This makes them the camera of choice.
Some “experts” in paranormal photography advise that the investigator should use the lowest dpi digital camera available, as they are more likely to record orbs. This is true. They are more likely to record a number of common flaws that tend to make the investigator look quite foolish. Quality is quality, and you get what you pay for.
As for other reasons why I consider a 35-mm camera superior to the digital variety for most applications in paranormal-related photography, the principal ones are:

— The relative cost of a digital camera compared to that of a 35-mm,
makes the digital, for everyday use, cost-prohibitive. A very good 35-mm SLR
camera may be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a digital camera of the
same relative quality. While the digital is somewhat less expensive to operate,
owing to the absence of film and processing, the average person can buy a
virtual lifetime supply of film for the difference in price between the two types
of camera.
— The very best quality “pocket” 35-mm camera is currently selling at
retail for less than half the price of the low-end digital of the same size. One
can also buy a used high-end 35mm SLR for less than half the price of the
lower-end digital of the same approximate size.
— The 35mm camera has a far greater variety of function than the digital
because of the availability of specialized films such as infrared and ultra-high
or ultra-low speed.
— A higher level of quality in enlargement. To put it plainly, with the
proper film, a 35-mm negative may be enlarged to, literally, wall size without
significant distortion. This is impossible with a digital image, as they will
rapidly be reduced to a bitmap.
— A wider range of shutter speeds and aperture openings. A 35-mm SLR
camera is operator variable. This means the photographer can alter the lens
opening and shutter speed of the camera at will to compensate for lighting
conditions. This is impossible with a digital camera.
— The resulting print is less vulnerable to tampering or doctoring. It is
extremely difficult and time consuming to doctor a 35-mm print effectively.
Most common attempts at tampering are easily detectable and quite obvious.
Anyone with an over-the-counter copy of Kodak Imaging or Photoshop Pro
software can alter a digital image, almost at will.
— Positive prints may be compared to the negative for purposes of
analysis. This is impossible with a digital image.
— Digital images are far more susceptible to dust, water vapor, small
insects and particles showing up as orbs, mists or vortexes. This is because
the image is recorded as a bitmap, and the area of light dispersion resulting
from a reflected flash is exaggerated, while the actual outline of the object
reflecting the flash is lost completely in the bit map pattern.
— Digital cameras have a more limited depth of field than a 35-mm
camera, and therefore have a far more limited target area.
— Digital imaging is more susceptible to distortion by movement at very
high speed.
— It is impossible to use a digital camera for nighttime or low-light
photography without the use of a flash.
I am not saying that you should not buy or use a digital camera. If you have
the money to spend and want to purchase a digital for other purposes as well as use in paranormal investigating, please do so. However, we maintain that the purchase of a digital camera solely for the purpose of use in paranormal investigative work is not only a waste of money but is, for the most part, a waste of time.
As the state of the art in this technology increases, this will possibly change, but for the moment we strongly advise against the use of digitals in paranormal work. They are simply too expensive and lack the reliability and versatility of a 35-mm.

It’s in the Cards

November, 2008

Dear Reader,

Welcome to ‘It’s In the Cards’ for http://www.PaganPages.org. At one time this column appeared in Finer Things Magazine in New Haven, CT, and I am very pleased to be writing my column again; this time for the Pagan Community.

Every month, I will do a tarot reading for one person who I chose for this column. Also, by writing me, you will have a chance for a free tarot 10 minute reading on the phone. If you would like to contact me about purchasing a reading, please visit my web site at http://www.SubRosaMagick.com or white me at SubRosaMagick@aol.com.

Since I first began reading for the public 13 years ago, I found that I fell in love with being able to help people in their personal lives and on their path as a spiritual counselor. The cards, I have found, often tell us what we need to know, and not necessarily what we want to know. They provide a way for me to see deeper into the heart of an issue and often what magickal advice I also need to give to bring about change.

Even if you aren’t familiar with tarot cards as a form of divination, they also work in the same way other forms do, be it the Runes, I-Ching, oracles or Ogam. The symbols of the tarot speak on many levels, and allow a connection to be created with spirit; opening a doorway for the universe to communicate on a personal level. As an artist as well as a priestess, I acknowledge the power of these symbols, but as a psychic, I use them to “see” more clearly.

Mediumship isn’t something I intentionally practice, but sometimes I do receive messages from spirit or departed loved ones, and if I receive messages I will relay these to you as part of the reading.

This following is the question chosen for this month.

Merry Meet,

My name is Teresa.  My date of birth is Feb. 20, 1965.  I have recently resumed my education at a local jr. college amidst the rumblings of a boss who thinks I am being foolish.  He is discouraging me and trying to make me feel bad about returning to school (although I work all day and school at night).  My husband and family have been supportive but my boss keeps making these funny faces and these weird sounds whenever I mention the word school.  I work for a lawyer and I am trying to get my degree in criminal justice.  I would like to go into the field of Field Evidence Technician / Forensic Photography.

My questions is:  Will my education really benefit me and my family or is it a waste of my time as my boss tells it?  Do I have a future?

The first thing you should know is, that yes, indeed, you have a future. Life, however, is what happens when we are making other plans. It struck me that you were born the same year as myself, in 1965, the Year of the Wood Snake. You are highly capable, with a quick mind, and your biggest weakness as a Pieces may be giving your power away to others, perhaps as you seem to be doing with your boss right now. The people who love you in your life will no doubt be the best judges. Whatever trials you may face, you can count on luck to carry you. As I told a friend recently, not trying have never garnered me anything in life, I’ve always gained more by trying anyway, and it may accidentally lead me to something better. I believe this is the key here – make sure you leave yourself open to something better than what your dreams currently are.

I have chosen a layout for you called the Pyramid Spread because it is a complex situation involving a number of people who may influence your decision. It is a ten card layout beginning with four on the bottom as the foundation, then building on top of them with three cards, with two more at the next level with the possible outcome crowning the triangle. I will go over every card and tell you how they relate to your current path, and the patterns that form from them.

These ten cards are:
1. The King of Pentacles (inversed)
2. Queen of Swords (inversed)
3. Two of Swords
4. Queen of Cups
5. Ten of Swords
6. Three of Cups
7. The Empress (3)
8. The Magician (1)
9. Two of Wands
10. King of Wands (inversed)

Your question begins with the King of Pentacles, which is inversed, and represents the question asked, either consciously or subconsciously. It seems much of this is focused around the material, and not in a good way, and in all likelihood, this is how heavy your boss’s impressions are weighing on you now. Looks like to me, that truly, he is not a happy person, and the real issue may be that he doesn’t want to see anyone else succeed, or be happy. Abuse of authority is something he can rationalize. Perhaps you may want to consider finding another job before he becomes more abusive.

Your second card is the Queen of Swords, which is inversed, and represents the root of the matter, and looks deeper into unseen and subconscious. This is something. Or someone else who is holding you back. This is a mature woman who may be bitter, and seem cold and uncaring, who does not know how to give to others. This feels like someone in your past who was a negative influence who affected your self esteem on a deep level, so much so that she is still influencing your decisions now.

Your third card is the Two of Swords. It represents the conscious, literal and practical matters regarding your question. There is a very real need to make a decision here, even if it isn’t the decision you were originally looking for push is coming to shove, because both this card, and the position it is in are very much saying the same thing: make a good logical decision then act!

Your fourth card is the Queen of Cups. It represents the heart of the matter, the emotions and intuitions. The Little Prince said, “It is only with the one can see rightly,” and that seems to be the case here. You need to follow your heart and your dreams – this is coming from a very real need within you. You have a right to be happy.

With these four cards forming the foundation of the reading, there is a message of duality, and of balance throughout it. Balancing the logical and the emotional is the key to making this decision. Only you know what that key is that will turn the lock.

So we now begin the next row of three, to where this situation is leading, in relation to the cards that form the foundation.

Your fifth card is the Ten of Swords. It represents the price that is to be paid. As with all things, there is an exchange to maintain balance. There is an ending here, something that you will have to let go of to move forward that will cost you anguish. It may appear to be a situation where all is lost, but this is a card of hope, because it is always darkest before the dawn.

Your sixth card is the Three of Cups. It represents unhelpful influences in the situation. Don’t let family influences, no matter how special they may be, keep you from your task at hand. I also see this card as the center of the reading – how much the rest of your life revolves your family.

Your seventh card is the Empress. It represents the unexpected. I feel this is a strong powerful woman who will be your ally. She will be the door your key will go to – when she appears follow her advice because she is very wise and worldly. She is more than she appears to be.

So what we have in these three cards signify three very different things, but the challenge of each one will come in succession. If you make it this far, then everything will get easier from this point forward.

Your eighth card is the Magician. Both the card, and its position suggests helpful influences. This is the place where you need to use your will, your own power, to make changes and create the opening you need – turn lead into gold.

Your ninth card is the Two of Wands. It is the suggested action you must take, that which is already in your hands. You need to challenge yourself creatively here.  Moving yourself into a new position that will better serve your needs, even if there is more work involved will suit you. Take time to pause and reflect before you go forward.

These two cards side by side speak of magick and intuition. A little bit of spell work should be called into play at this point.

Your tenth and final card is the King of Wands, which is inversed. This represents the final outcome. This is definitely a card of change, although it is the final outcome – it feels like a riddle. The tenth card is the crown of the reading, marked by a King. This person may actually represent an aspect of yourself rather than a person. Kings themselves can be fire, drive and ambition, especially coupled with the wands. Before taking this final leap, make sure you have looked inside as to what will hold you back.

I was told years ago that the brave die but once, but the meek die a thousand times. I see that it is possible, but you still make take a somewhat different direction than the one originally planned. I say go for it. Where there is a witch, there is a way!

Blessed be!
Rev. Alicia Lyon Folberth

WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR READING TO APPEAR?

If you would like me to do a reading for you in the next issue of Pagan Pages, please send me your:
1. Name you would like me to use in the article (it doesn’t have to be your given name)
2. Full birthdate
3. Your question. Feel free to ask anything!
4. Send it to: SubRosaMagick@aol.com

Hally’s Hints

November, 2008

What is Success – to You?

What is the definition of success? Is it completing a degree? Is it having your parents say they are proud of you? Or perhaps it is making your first million dollars? In the scheme of things does it matter what success is? Or do we put so much into the end result that what gets us there doesn’t even matter.

When you think about being successful what comes to mind? Is it the white picket fence, 2.3 children and a happily ever partner? Perhaps it is hitting the glass ceiling of the corporate world with the six figure salary? When is what we have achieved deemed successful?

We get so caught up on how we look in everything we do. How good our resume looks. How good we look to our friends and the opposite (or same) sex that who we are and who we need to be to achieve happiness is an after thought. When I have done this or that then I will focus on being happy. And in some cases it isn’t even about being happy. It is about how good we look in a pair of shoes, the colour of our hair and perhaps how much weight we have or don’t have. Success becomes measured by material items rather than the person doing the hard work.

When did being ourselves stop being at the top of our list in what we want to achieve? We watch movies upon movies of what we would like to be like or perhaps what we believe our lives are missing and yet don’t do a single thing to create change, to create any of what we desire to be part of our day to day. Is it too hard? Is it too unfamiliar? It is probably too unreal to believe that what we see on a ten foot screen could actually happen to us.

Most of us aren’t rich or famous. Most of us were brought up with the basics of what is right and wrong. We are all so different but in essence we are all the same. We laugh; we cry; we eat and at some point we will die. And the whole time we are so busy being envious and jealous, judging  we don’t take the time to stop for one moment to look in the mirror. Not to do our hair or make up, but rather to look at ourselves as we are without the make up, without the facade of the roles we play and front we wear every single day to protect us – from ourselves.

We are always told not to trust anyone. That we should look after number one, being ourselves and yet though there is some truth in this we find ourselves so busy in getting everyone else’s approval and usually from those that haven’t even taken the time to say more than two words to us. For some ridiculous reason we believe the opinion of a stranger is more important than our own.

It is as though putting trust and faith in a complete stranger validates our necessity of connecting with someone outside of ourselves that may know some truth that we haven’t yet been confronted with.

So, what moves us forward? What is the secret to our own success?

Perhaps success for some is when we stop worrying about everyone else and ask ourselves the question. When we start to look within for the answer rather than requiring the constant acknowledgment that we are worthy; that we are perfect right now. That success isn’t about having a lot of money, about the world knowing who you are going out with but rather being happy to be you.

Perhaps this is when we have reached success – the success in being true to ourselves and having the courage to live as ourselves. We can run, we can hide but you will always be present for everything that happens.

Imagine how empowering your achievements would be if you were present in achieving your success, whatever that may be for you. That instead of dimming the light you turned it on to see yourself for all of your beauty.

The next time you are envious of somebody else and projecting what you don’t have, have a look within and see how amazing you are for all the things, no matter how big or small, you have achieved and the courage it took to get you to where you are today. The only person that can tell you if you are successful is you.

You owe it to yourself to celebrate the amazing success it is to be you!

Celtic Awareness: Celtic Spirituality

November, 2008

Celtic Spirituality is and has always been based on the fundamental knowledge that all existence is born of cyclical nature and therefore, all existence whether human or from nature has a direct link connecting the otherworld to the realm of the material world. From the Druidic teachings handed down through the Welsh tradition we are shown that there is an unseen world that intermingles and affects our perceptible world.

Things are not always as they may seem. Everything that “is” exists on numerous synchronized levels. The human being, the cognitive creature that he is comprehends the world around him as having three dominions or levels as it were: the spiritual, the corporeal (physical), and the emblematic. Consequently, the Celtic culture became one with nature, thusly, expressing their beliefs through the varying possibilities of being. Moreover, Celtic religion has taught the appearance and manifestation of divine beings on Earth and reincarnation of the human soul.

The Celts saw every existing thing or being because being composed from the three realms of reality. These three realms overlie and interrelate with each other in magnificent ways.  The astrophysical chart of the primordial Irish people consisted of three realms or spheres (Ord Draiochta na Uisnech, 2003).

Known as the “Magh Mor (MOY-mor), Mide (Meath), and Tir Andomain (Cheer ANDO-vain.) In other words, the ancient Irish people “believed in the “Great Plain” of the upper realm of Sky, “Middleland” for the Earth (Land), and “Land-under-wave” for the lower realm of the Sea” (Ord Draiochta na Uisnech, 2003).

The Three Realms

The Realm of Sky (Magh Mor)

The Realm of the Sky represents the future and the spiritual. Many of the Gods and Goddesses reign over this realm, though it should be understood they transcend all three realms. : Gods/Goddesses, Other World, Spiritual.

The Realm of Land (Mide)

The Realm of the Land represents the present and the phyiscal. We are beings of this realm that we share with the animals and the nature spirits. : Present, Nature, Spirits, Our World – Physical.

The Realm of Sea (Tir Andomain)

The Realm of Sea represents the past and the mental and emotional aspects of existence. This is the dwelling place of our Ancestors, whom we wish to know and honor. : Past, Ancestors, Underworld, Mental/Emotional.

(Ord Draiochta na Uisnech, 2003)

The Makeup of the Irish people’s entire reality existed of these three realms, which in combination made up their entire reality. There were and are no boundaries extricating these realms of being, the realms overlap and intermingle into on another; forever shifting and changing within time and realities.

Just as the Druids of the past we continue our search to seek out the boundaries, holding the thresholds of time and place as powerful and above all sacrosanct. The lands of Tir Andomain (Sea) and Magh Mor (sky) each have influence and authority in our mortal domain the realm of Mide (Land), just as the succession of the seasons is the caused by the oscillation of the Moon and Sun the cycles of death and life are affected by the sphere of the Sea which manifests itself into the realm of Mide (Land) (Ord Draiochta na Uisnech, 2003). Moreover, both Goddesses and Gods hold authority in Magh Mor, Mide, and Tir Andomain. Furthermore, even the mortal realm Mide influences the two other realms, for the depths of the lochs, the burial mounds, and even the caves are entrances to the underworld to the underworld.

Bibliography and Works Cited:

Ord Draiochta na Uisnech, (2003). The Three Realms. Retrieved October 20, 2008, from

http://www.irishdruidry.org/publish/the-three-realms

Pagan Theology

November, 2008

Experiencing the work:  What Witches Do [1]

In the last two columns we discussed various ways in which Pagans can connect with the divine.  We can use prayer, meditation, shamanistic journeys, ritual, magic, or other means to connect with the Gods and Goddesses.  But what happens once we do connect?  What evidence do we have for a connection in ourselves, and in others?

This is a complex and important question that leads across psychology, philosophy, and theology.  Because its so big, and I can do it so little justice even in the column space and time that I do have, we’ll break this topic up into three installments, starting this month with a general discussion of the topic, and beginning a detailed discussion with the problem of desire.   In the next few columns we will discuss how it changes how you deal with people, and how you deal with the world.

This is an important question for a couple of reasons.  First, if we understand what to expect once “contact is made,” we can establish internal criteria for our growth along the Pagan path.  We can also recognize, as too often happens, when we are stagnant, or, heavens forbid, way far behind where we think we are!  When we meet people who profess some experience along the path, and who wish to present themselves as learned, or as teachers, we can have some criteria to assess whether they are what they say they are.

Obviously there will be a lot of different ways in which people will be affected by an encounter with the Gods and Goddesses.  We cannot possibly list them all.  However we can characterize them into broad categories, then look at some examples of how people might be affected in each of those groupings.

In my view encountering the Gods and Goddesses is a fundamentally transformative experience.  It changes what we think about, and how we think about it.  An encounter with the Gods and Goddesses opens up the expansive terrain of a reality whose limits have moved.  The Gods and Goddesses move the markers of what is possible out, out beyond what we are thinking of as the limits of the conventional world.   In the process they expand not only how we think about things, but also our emotional and social reactions to the world and others.  The scales of conventional reality fall from our eyes and we see.  And what we see is a world that has possibilities we didn’t think of before.

This line of thought fits in well with what has long been a supposition of mine:  kids are natural born Pagans [2]. For a kid of a certain age the world is a boundless unknown.  Magic is possible, spirits live in everything and everywhere, and any new object or experience is a source of wonder.  Unfortunately, we quickly outgrow that stage [3], but while we are there we are open to the idea of magic actually happening in the world.  You could say that some people never outgrow that stage, and they go on to become Pagans.  Or that some people are willing to admit that this early stage is sufficient, and nothing more is needed to explain what they encounter in the world.   Or that we actually manage to find a path that takes us back to this world of childhood, a path that leads away from a socially constructed world, and back into the naturally existing one.

So what changes when we return to this state of childhood with our adult selves? Ultimately it has to come down to something simple, something that when you see it, catches you and turns around the way you look at everything.  For some Christians this is the “born again” experience.  For Pagans it has to be the realization that the Gods, Goddesses, and lesser spirits actually walk with us in this world, and we can work, live, and play with them through our ritual actions.  If you really know that the world is filled with spirit, you are going to behave differently.

How will we behave differently?   We will change in many ways, including changes in desires, in relations with other people, and in how you view the world and how it works.  Lets discuss each of these ways in turn for now, and perhaps by the time we get to the end we will have thought of others.  But this is a good enough place to begin.

Desire

In the Buddhist tradition desire and ignorance are the roots of suffering.  Because we want, we have a problem: whenever we get what we want we get bored and want something else.  Only when we stop wanting everything will we truly free ourselves from the suffering that comes from want.

The existentialist Christian writers, such as Kierkegaard, maintain that someone who truly believes, not just pretends, but also actually believes, has a real problem [ref].  For them the world changes: things that used to be important become less important, or not important at all, and the drive of their belief will ultimately run everything. The world as seen through the lens of a radical and unequivocal belief will demand that radical and substantial actions be taken on the part of the believer.  Otherwise the belief just isn’t that strong.

Both of these philosophies get at what I consider a fundamental of spiritual belief, that there is a basic challenge to our normal way of living that occurs when deity is encountered.  You change, the world changes. Everything changes when you know (or believe) that the Gods and Goddesses exist.  This fundamental re-orienting of the world is not something that is often discussed in Pagan religious discussions, perhaps because it is seen as a reflection of the “born again” tradition that so pesters us in this country.  However it is not the same.  It is not the same because Christianity is predicated on belief, and Paganism is predicated on knowledge.

Unfortunately, for us, because we know, not just believe, we have fewer excuses than even the Christians do.

In a Pagan theology that has us actually encountering the Gods and Goddesses, Kierkegaard’s line of reasoning presents substantial challenges to our continuing to behave as if nothing happened.  We don’t just have faith, we know because we’ve seen the Gods and Goddesses.  We don’t even have the excuse of faith to get us out of radical action based on belief.  We are caught.

At the same time our knowing of the Gods and Goddesses in this world, challenges the Buddhist contention that desire leads to suffering.  The Gods and Goddesses exist in the same, suffering, world that we do.  They, as we do, have desires and suffering.   Desire, in the Pagan [5] perspective is simply part of the world; it does not necessarily lead to suffering.  Suffering, in its turn, is also part of the world, part of the overall way in which we, the Gods and Goddesses, and everything else in the world exists.  To escape suffering would be to escape the world, and to escape the world would be to deny what we, and what deity, really is.

But the fact that we can both be enlightened Pagans and still desire stuff does not answer the logical next question: what should we desire?

Proscription of desire is a common application of religion.  Many religions, trapped at one of the more infantile levels of spiritual progress, seem to be used mainly to tell people what they can’t have.   Religion is often advanced as a way to keep people in line, lest they figure out there really are no rules and run amok [6]. Religion exists to channel and repress desire, so that people behave themselves.  While this is a very naive approach to both ethics and religion, it does fulfill a very large number of those who are religions and seem to desire the structure and limits it imposes on their lives.

However as Pagans we cannot get away with this sort of limited approach toward religion and desire.  We have, and do, experience the Gods and Goddesses directly.  This forces us to confront the existential dilemma of Kierkegaard and other that asks: “they are real, so what are you going to do?”  One would suspect that the answer would be “A lot of things. Differently.”  Because we know the Gods and Goddesses firsthand, they will not let us run away or ignore them.

This direct experience does not change our desires; it changes the nature of desire.  We do not want to run amok, not because we might be punished, but because we have seen something better.  We have an alternative, and that is in the Gods and Goddesses.

After our encounter with the Gods and Goddesses, our most basic desire becomes the experience of the magical and the sacred.  This leads, in turn, to a spiritual pilgrimage, which many of you are probably taking right now.

First, having experienced the Gods and Goddesses once in circle, often when we first are called to the Pagan path, we seek to continue that sacred experience either through continued ritual practice, or through magic.  As part of that experience involves constructing circles and worship with others, this inevitably leads to complications and intrusions into the central experience of the Gods and Goddesses.   Anytime group activities have to be put on, we have the potential for trouble, and work.  Eventually this intrusion of others into the relationship with the Gods and Goddesses begins to drag; there are schedules to be kept, newsletters to be published, articles to be written, and irritating people to be avoided.  As time goes along, however, the balance between people and spirit, between organization and circle and the Gods and Goddesses, comes back into equilibrium.  Those that reach this level understand that without the relationship with the Gods and Goddesses they can’t be much use to the coven, or to Paganism in general.  At the same time, they also understand that without the Coven, one of the central parts of public worship is missed.

This sounds a lot like a progression of understanding and goals for those entering the Pagan path.  It generally corresponds to the three degrees of initiation as laid out by Gardner.  The first level, or the newly minted Pagan, is enthused and energized by their encounter with the Gods and Goddesses, and seeks more in the form of covens and circles with others.  This leads to relationships and responsibility, which distracts from practices of the spirit.  Eventually, at the third level, the sprit and the social become integrated, and brought into balance.  The enthusiasm and ability to speak with the Gods and Goddesses becomes manifest in your relationship with others, and the world.

It is this melding, or integrated spiritual practice, that fulfills all of the spiritual desires of the Pagan, both religious and mystical.  The mystical encounter with the Gods and Goddesses provides a center of calm and balance, and perspective, on how you deal with the world and the other individuals in it.  There is no desire to play political games, or to squabble or criticize, as you can see such things in the context of the radical proposition of the Gods and Goddesses’ existence.  Likewise you don’t have the same overeager and naive approach toward the mystical experience, having grounded it in much practice and relationships with others.  Your feet are in the ground of community worship, while your head is in the radical experience of the Gods and Goddesses.

Defining the trajectory of desire for Pagans leads us not to discussions about naughtiness, but rather how our direct relationships with the Gods and Goddesses affect our relationships in the world.  How do you integrate the Gods and Goddesses into your beliefs about everyday living?  As Pagans we have no choice, they will be present, its how we react to them and use the knowledge of their presence that really matters.

But we started off with desire. What is the fate of desire in the face of the radical proposition that the Gods and Goddesses exist?  To understand desire we needed to understand the process of maturation and growth through a Pagan spirituality.  Initially the relationship between spiritual experiences and desire out in the “real world” is not very clear.  We may desire, strongly, to “be” a Pagan, to have the label as a witch or the standing of an initiated level.  However as we work in ritual and magical practice we learn firsthand what love and community will give us.  It is not the object of “being” a Pagan that appeals to us; rather it is the reality of the Pagan experience, which keeps calling to us again and again.

If our faith and practice lasts, over the years the nature of the work begins to affect how we look at the world.  The world becomes full of the Gods and Goddesses.  It becomes our sacred project, a project that results in our changing how we treat others, our ambitions, and ourselves.  If you truly see and have experienced the presence of the Gods and Goddesses, then you would not treat a sacred world badly, nor would you treat another within whom the Gods and Goddesses dwelled disrespectfully.   In the end you get wisdom, and wisdom changes what you desire.

A friend of mine who became a witch by going to the local Goddess bookstore started off by threatening to, jokingly; hex everyone at work (including me!).  While we kept joking about her not being allowed to hex at work, she kept at her path.  Four years after she started going to circle we had a serious talk about what her path had done for her.  “It makes me want to be a better person, it makes me want to do the right thing, to change my life in a way that the Catholic Church doesn’t.”  That is the desire that the Gods and Goddesses inspire.  They do it without a lot of fuss, without intimidation, without guild, but softly, with guile and patience, a patience that comes from the stones, and trees, and breath of the Earth.

[1] This is a direct allusion to Stewart Farrar’s book What Witches Do:  A Modern Coven Revealed.  1983.  Not because I believe in what they say about Alexandrian Witchcraft in the book will help you figure out what I’m talking about, but because at least some of this column was inspired by a recent meeting with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.   A meeting that showed me very clearly what it is like for someone to be far long the path of spiritual development as a Priest, Priestess, or Witch.

[2] There is another interesting argument, which we’ll discuss later that says that the “ground state” of human religious experience is polytheistic.  Not only are kids born Pagans, but humanity was born Pagan as well.  Only after it grew up, went to work, and got a job did the monotheistic exclusionists take over.  Probably to make sure we all went to work, but I digress…

[3] There is yet another line of argument in the psychological literature (James Fowler, Stages of Faith, HarperOne, 1995) that says we go through various stages in our faith development, much like we may go through stages in our psychological development.  The usual evolution seems to be from an intuitive and mythic approach to faith to one that acknowledges the truth inherent in all faiths and the transcendence of any one path.  In my opinion this type of psychological characterization of faith is a little weird when applied to Pagan faiths, and seems mostly directed at western Christian faiths where there is often a process of conformity followed by questioning and acceptance.

[4] Kierkegaard also sets up a kind of progression in his work: from “childish Christianity” which is a tendency to venerate the external manifestations of the Church and Christ to “objective Christianity” which is a definition of being Christian because one adheres to the tenants of Christianity, to “subjective Christianity” which is confronting the existential, subjective, questions posed by faith.  (See the “Conclusion” section of Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Soren Kierkegaard, (Swenson and Lowrie trans.) Princeton, 1968.)

[5] Here I’m talking specifically about the western deconstructionist paganism, not world paganism.  Whether to include Buddhism in Paganism is an ongoing debate that we won’t get into here.  Suffice to say there is always a question about the more ethereal sorts of Buddhism as to whether it is even a religion vice a philosophical outlook.  The more practical, every day, sorts of Buddhism as are often practiced in Asia clearly fit into a Pagan construct.

[6] Fowler argues that the first stage of faith is simple wish fulfillment, through certainty and unreflective faith, until, ultimately you may reach a sort of integrative faith that is open to all things, even those that threaten your concept of self worth.  While all this is thoroughly doused with psychological speak, it does provide a framework for discussing how different people integrate faith into their lives at different times in their life.  Unfortunately, the Pagan experience, which is sort of a combination of the first and later stages (magic plus openness)

October spin

November, 2008

dear October, what have you for me this year?
will you flood my inner senses?
will you let ‘them’ come through the mist?
will you fill me with fright?
will you sooth me from my dreams?
will you let me observe from my beloved rocker
and marvel as the spirits swarm?
will you let me find peace for another year?
kismet life is like this.
life is death. death is life.
spin the wheel…

ming AKA Babs
oct.2, 2008
10:29 am

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