March, 2011

Happy Ostara!!

March, 2011


Merry Meet Readers!!  And a Happy Ostara to you all.  We hope this Spring brings many blessings upon you all!!

This month we see the return of our herbal Column The Witch’s Cupboard.

We are still looking for an Oils & Incense writer.  If you are interested email us at admin@paganpages.org

We are keeping this short and sweet so you can enjoy this issue.  Have fun reading.  Remember to leave your thoughts with us!!!

Musings of a Massachusetts Witch

March, 2011

It Is Just An Illusion

Reality is an illusion. Do you agree? All that you see and experience here on earth are simply projections of what you want, believe or expect them to be. It is all perception and perception is subjective. What I deem as reality may or may not be yours. Our realities or perceptions are based on what we experience through our interactions with people we come in contact with, our environment and situations that we’ve had as we expanded on this plane of existence this time around.

There is no one absolute truth (though many religions will try and convince you as such). Many claim that their reality is The Way or The Truth. But that is just not so. You can change anything in your reality that you do not like. You can keep the things you most desire. There is no one absolute reality. Yes, I know. What about the world? How can we all be living in our own reality and still be living in the world? Well, there is one “generally accepted reality”; a reality that we all agree to but even that is an illusion. But even that reality is what we, as a group mind, have created and it, too, is malleable. Imagine if we could coordinate and come together with one goal or thought in mind. Do you realize that if we were able to accomplish that – we could in fact change the “generally accepted reality”? The challenge we face however is that not everyone has the same desire or goal. This is the reason that we experience the contrast that our current physical plane of existence offers us. Is this a “bad” or “good” thing? Well, again that is subjective. It is all in your personal perspective and understanding of what “bad” or “good” things are.

Once you understand that there is nothing certain that there is no one absolute truth then you have become empowered. It is at this point that you truly understand that anything … ANYTHING is possible and that you and only YOU are The Creator of your own life experience. You have infinite possibilities. There are no limits or boundaries to what you can experience in this lifetime. Isn’t that truly amazing?! What is it that you most desire to do in this lifetime? What is it that you have been told you will never be able to do? And why is it you believe them? I don’t believe them. I know that I can do whatever it is I desire most to do in my lifetime. I am the only one who places restrictions on myself. And those limitations are by my own choosing.

Skeptical? Let me share an example with you of how I created my own reality. I have two children from a previous marriage, a son and a daughter who are four years apart. After my divorce the children and I lived with my parents, the three of us sharing one bedroom, until I had saved enough money to move into a place of our own. Six months later I had enough money for the security deposit and first month’s rent for a small apartment closer to my job. The tenement was on third floor and had only two bedrooms so the children had to share a room. Our family grew to four when I remarried. Almost four years later we knew we had outgrown the apartment and began our search for a new place. Honestly, I didn’t want to live in another apartment no matter how many rooms it had. I wanted to rent a house; a house with three bedrooms and a backyard, somewhere in the city but in a nicer and quieter neighborhood. I was told that what I was searching for was going to be expensive. I was crazy to think I would find a place with rent for the amount I wanted to pay which was less than some of the three bedroom apartments that were available. Those words from other people didn’t discourage me. I believed that we would find that house. We gave our thirty-day notice without even having a place lined up. But was I concerned? Nope! I knew we would have a place by the end of June. Well, on the weekend of July fourth of 2008 we moved into our house. It was even nicer than I had anticipated.

Regardless of what other people believe and what they think is impossible, I’m here to tell you that you can create your reality. You can have, be and do whatever it is you most desire. You ARE the creator of your life experience. So start deliberately creating!

Hally’s Hints

March, 2011

An Energetic Reflection

There is no doubt that this year has been extremely intense for all of us. The subtleties of the shifts have been completely omitted as the wash of enthusiastic transition affects us. We have seen some dramatic weather conditions from floods, cyclones, typhoons and fires that affected us on some level, whether personally or through our empathic nature. The weather itself has left us bewildered as to what is to follow in the coming months.

On a deeper level clearly a lot is going on. When it is so blatant in the conscious we can only assume that underneath we are truly feeling the force of change upon us.

Is it in preparation for December 2012? Is global warming finally taking its toll? Or is it something else altogether?

I have heard a myriad of theories and the varying beliefs are rather interesting. The fact is for the most part there are only speculations from within and the perceived relevance of how these changes impact upon us.

Energetically we speak about increasing our vibrational level to align to our higher self more efficiently, we consider methods to create balance through meditation, and then, many of us are seeking an answer to the purpose of our journey. In addition to this, we seek to increase our personal awareness and develop further than where we are right now.

I wonder, how many of us know, when we have attained each of these levels. How do you know that you are aligned to your higher self to the point that the binds of the physical world become transparent and fluid? Whilst I know the answer for me, have you ever considered that the teachings of others is based on their own experiences and like understanding why the planet is emphasising its change, anything that holds relevance for us specifically can only be defined by the individual, not the masses?

I often hear stories of people that want to be “like” someone famous and I wonder how much of themselves they lose when they decide to take on the path of another. Would it not be the case that your lessons would be altered and you may actually lose the essence of what is right for you?

So, what does all of this mean? There is speculation, perspective and that which we become consciously aligned to. We all have the ability to find suitable boxes to put our beliefs into at appropriate times. However, I wanted to put this to you – should you choose to remove your conscious beliefs of what you have been told and what is shared by others; then take a moment to reflect from within and ask the question of what is happening relevant to you – what would the answer be. You may be surprised that it is completely different to what you had expected and thought was the case.

The interesting aspect of fulfilling your own purpose upon your journey is the need to reflect from within, speak from within and align from within. There is only ever one that can ensure your purpose remains pure and authentic, and that is you. When we allow our conscious to dictate what is without really allowing our higher self to serve us as it is intended, we lose the value of its presence. In turn, we may lose connection with ourselves and become dependent on the external.

Consider where you are in your energetic journey and what you see before you. Take a moment every day in the quiet of yourself to ask the questions that matter and benefit from the answers that are truly authentic to you.

Across the Great Divide

March, 2011

Springtime Calls Ghost Hunters Back Outdoors


Ridgelawn Cemetery

Well we had a big winter thaw here in Michigan.  Two feet of snow melted and the temp even hit the 50s.  The blanket of winter draws back to reveal the grass, freshly green from its long slumber.  The birds return and the scents of new life are in the air.

It was short-lived, though.  As I finish this article, a winter storm- complete with snow, freezing rain, and sleet descends upon the area.  But that brief taste of springtime brings with it thoughts of sunny days and fun in the great outdoors.   If you’re a ghost hunter, thoughts this time of year turn to revisiting favorite cemeteries and once again traveling into the unknown and investigating buildings and places.

I love the poetic duality of cemeteries; from the serene landscapes to the ornate markers.  From the sadness of a newly-dug site of a young person to the historic intrigue of a cracked and faded headstone of those long gone and forgotten to the pages of time.

I’ve stated time and again that if you’re one of those groups that think you’re serious and professional paranormal investigators, but all your troupe does is sneak into cemeteries in the dead of night to snap a few pictures and laugh and have a good time, then you’re not only fools, but trespassers.  There’s a big reason why laws in recent years have been established closing off these otherwise public places during the night.  This was made all too clear in a recent news segment here in the Detroit area.

Vandals caused extensive damage to Detroit’s historic Woodmere Cemetery this month.  Rows of toppled headstones, smashed statues and headless angels replaced an otherwise tranquil setting.  110 headstones in all were pushed over, some destroyed beyond repair.  This is the third time vandals attacked Woodmere in the last six years.  Here’s a link to the video from the newscast: Vandals Strike Detroit’s Woodmere Cemetery


Vandal damage at Woodmere Cemetery

If you’re caught in a cemetery at night, no matter the reason, and you have no permission to be there, then you deserve to be charged with trespassing. ‘Nuff Said.

Now, I like to use cemeteries as a place to train new members, and even when I’m just out and about enjoying a nice day.  I’ll come in with nothing more than a camera and recorder, or maybe even an EMF meter.  I’ll try to get a few EVPs or pictures; most of the time I’ll use the weather to my advantage and snap off a library of gorgeous professional photographs.  If a wandering spirit sees fit to make their presence known, all the better.  I’ve caught enough material in cemeteries over the years to make the experience not only enjoyable on a personal level but worthwhile on a scientific level.

Some claim that paranormal activity in cemeteries is impossible.  The reasons being that those interred there are long gone and any haunting will take place around the place of death, not where they were moved to up to a week or more after death; this being a long enough time for whatever spirit energy to cease being attached to the physical body.

Others disagree and claim that cemeteries are the most haunted spots around.  Much of the photographic “evidence” is the subject of ridicule from serious paranormal researchers because they were often taken at night, quickly, and generally under humid conditions including mist, ground fog, and even the condensation of the photographer’s own breath.  The time and steps needed to rule out these environmental x-factors are simply not taken into account.  Just because you’re not sweating doesn’t mean there isn’t humidity in the air. When the temperature and dew points are within 10-15 points of each other formation of ground fog is highly likely.

A dirty, abandoned cemetery is going to stir up a tremendous amount of dust and dirt.  Snap a flash and the resulting reflections will produce photographs that look like they were taken through a dirty car window.  These are NOT the souls of the citizens of the cemetery.  Nothing burns my biscuits more than being presented with picture after picture filled with these dust particles and the taker eagerly chimping away “but look at all the spirits!”  Don’t waste my time or your own with orbs.

Aside from that little rant on orbs, cemeteries can be a great asset in many ways for researchers.  You can, of course, travel freely in them during the daylight hours, but if you want to conduct nighttime investigations you can do so legally with just a few phone calls.  Contact the church, organization, or municipality that presides over the daily care and maintenance of the cemetery and seek permission.  As always, be sincere and honest in your approach.  If you do get the go ahead, then contact the proper authorities, and inform the local law that you will be conducting a scientific experiment in the cemetery.  Get permission from caretakers IN WRITING and provide proof of that permission, along with the date, time, and a list of those group members that will be participating.  They may even be willing to direct traffic around the local roads during the experiment so as to help reduce contamination if at all possible.  It never hurts to just ask.  The worst case is they simply say no.  Thank them for their time and try for daylight hours.  The problem here is that the increased traffic and noise levels of daytime could taint any data you collect.

As with any investigation do your research.  Check local records for a history of the cemetery.  Most records will at the very least provide a list of who is buried here.  Also look for any local events that could have caused this location to be active.

Use the daylight hours to get a map or plot from the caretaker or sketch out your own, especially if there’s a particular area that interests you. You’ll want to have all the landmarks and topography of the locations planned in advance for a smooth and speedy investigation.

If you or your team are thinking of doing grave rubbings check with the caretaker first.  Some very old, weather –worn headstones may be so far faded that even the light rubbing of a charcoal stick can cause further erosion.  And please, do NOT do what I saw in one local cemetery.  Someone had taken permanent markers or paint and lazily colored in the engraved letters on several headstones in order to make the etchings stand out.  Not only is this disrespectful but is legally considered vandalism.

If it’s damp, foggy, or raining, cancel and re-schedule for more favorable conditions.  Any material obtained under such conditions would be inadmissible as scientific data.  Besides, I sure wouldn’t want to be trekking around out in the rain and mud.

As always investigate in teams and designate a central command area and timetable.  A great thing to due that will not only garner you great respect from other groups, but the gratitude and endearment of the cemetery owner is to bring a trash bags to not only clean up after yourselves, but clear the landscape of other trash and debris.

Sometimes cemetery caretakers aren’t interested in your data or the results, but in either case send them a professional thank you letter for allowing you to investigate.  Check with them as to their wishes regarding any evidence you may have.  If you obtain overwhelming evidence it and make it public, it may entice those aforementioned less-respectful types to invade the cemetery or invite vandals.  No one wants another Woodmere incident on their hands.

So as the sunny days of spring return, keep these things tips in mind.  Please, above all else respect yourselves, respect the sites, and respect the field.  Happy Hunting and see you next month.

Romeo Cemetery

Interweavings

March, 2011

March Simplicity

This turn of the year brings with it bird song, flower buds and warmer days. It is a time for new beginnings and births. We instinctively long to be outside to feel and connect with the return of the sun.

I try to walk everyday and I love to hear the birds sing on these chilly mornings! I am ready to reconnect with the wider world after winter’s dark quiet. All of the ideas that have been germinating in my mind are ready to move into the light and grow. I have the energy to put action behind the ideas. To “give birth” to plans conceived in winter!

Our families are bursting out also. There is so much to do at school, after school and weekends that we can become scattered and feeling detached. How can we juggle everything at once? Ever feel like the plate jugglers on the old variety shows? Don’t let the plates slow down or they will drop and break! Yikes! A wise man once said to me, “you can do everything you want to do, just not at the same time.” How true. And how comforting a thought. I can do everything and our kids can do everything. The lesson is to choose what is right for the current time. Prioritize. Don’t overbook yourself and don’t overbook your children. We all need play time and we all need to be together in peacefulness. Soon enough, they will be out on their own. While we are a family under one roof, let’s cherish and protect as much time together as possible.

Being present in our children’s lives

Those of us who live with children know the amazing energy and powers of observation children have. It is my opinion that there is nothing more important than raising our children ourselves. I mean by that statement, that we must not allow television, advertising, movies, computer games, other children or families to raise our children for us. It is harder than one can imagine, and I believe a responsibility we automatically have the moment we invite a child into our lives. I was raised in a time when children were seen and not heard. Whereas I believe in teaching manners and appropriate behavior, I also know that children have much to teach us. We must listen and watch.

When we leave the television off and play a hand of crazy eight’s with our kids after dinner, we are enriching their lives on many levels. Memories of fun times shared follow us throughout our lives and bring smiles to our faces. Taking thirty minutes to walk outside with our kids brings to us the fresh awareness of life around us and how miraculous it is. Our children show us by their example how to marvel at the most humble of life. Watch a young child discover an earthworm. We will learn to breathe in and look a new at nature around us. We will also learn more about these people in our lives.

Nature shares many lessons with us. One of them is the lesson of rhythm. There is a rhythm in the seasons. There is a rhythm to our day. An inward breath of reflection and quiet, and an exhale of expansiveness and action. When we allow the natural rhythm of our daily lives to guide us, we can put some order into our family life.

We can do it all. We have a lifetime to do it in. And so do our children.

Rites and Rituals

March, 2011

Ostara and the Quickening Moon, the Magick of Spring

“I remember that I kissed you,

I kissed you as dawn kissed the day.

Sweet dew wet your lips,

You took my breath away.

The Earth trembled beneath our touch,

The forest moaned with our lust,

as I kissed you so endlessly.

And the Wheel turns, can you feel the fire burn inside?

Do you hear the wind sing our names,

of a destiny that cannot be changed.

As it is willed, so is it done,

our dance is now begun,

when the Moon is kissed by the Sun.”

Ostara, the Vernal Equinox, is the place upon the Wheel where the magick of Water and that of Fire, truly begin to embrace. It is the moment where the great dance, first softly whispered at Imbolc, begins to surrender within the passion of Spring’s song. These are Nature’s days of seemingly reckless abandon as the forces of shadow and light spectacularly crash upon each other, casting a stunning display of color across the skies. Dark rain laden clouds break against the mountain’s flanks just before an ever more determined Sun tears them asunder with shafts of brilliant light. Rainbows, conjured from this eternal battle for dominance, are born over forest and field alike. I stand in the midst of this inspiring chaos and I open myself to Nature’s wonder. I do my best to mimic the great trees beside me, reaching above and below to bridge the worlds. The energy present, as old as the stars, yet reborn within this moment, now rains down over my outstretched spirit while I breathe with the trees. Beneath my feet, all that was returned by Fall’s touch and diminished through Winter’s hold, now vibrates with anticipation of the transformation summoned as the great cauldron of Spring is vigorously stirred. From the above and the below these energies embrace and entwine. Their spell of warm and wet joined, spreads like an unseen mist, drifting over forest and field, intoxicating all it touches with the passionate, magick of life. With my arms outspread, my hands pressed against the old skin of the two cedars towering over me on either side, I gently move my feet until I feel a connection with the damp earth. Slowly and deeply I breathe. Three breaths up from the Earth below, three breaths down from the far reaches above and finally, three breaths to connect  the above and below with my core. The energies present begin to move through me as I do my best to stand as a doorway, open, yielding my ego to Nature’s flow. The rush of Spring fills my spirit, carrying away the mundane world’s possession of my conscience, unbinding my senses as I feel my awareness heighten. I can feel the patience of the old trees within me, focusing my vision, allowing me to peer deeper into the heart of the forest. As my ears listen to the myriad chorus of birds and insects vying for attention, further within I begin to hear the whispered words of the great dance’s song. A gentIe, cool breeze envelopes me and I can taste the richness of the forest’s flora floating above the dark soil, just as my eyes take note of all the buds about to blossom.  The song grows stronger and I can almost see the Maiden gliding through forest and field, radiating her magick and seducing all in her path to become infatuated with Spring’s passion. I can almost see the youthful God stepping out from shadowed vale, reaching for her hand and asking for this dance. Tears well in my eyes as I feel my heart expand with the love I hold for my goddess. I think of the son we brought into this world as my tears are returned to the Earth. I feel so connected to all that exists around me, seemingly able to fathom all that shall soon come to pass, bridging in this fleeting moment, the past to the future. This is the wonder of Spring, the ability to make us all believe that something more lies ahead, if we just trust the dreams held in each of our hearts. Movement pulls my eyes out over the river to catch an eagle traveling upstream toward the mountain. It pulls me back and I realize the day is waning.  Soon the Quickening Moon will be full, shimmering down over a forest and river too busy to sleep and the stark stillness of the Snow Moon will have faded into distant memory.  I do not know how long I stood between the two trees and drifted but I think that is the goal. For Spring is the time upon the Wheel to immerse one’s self in wonder. These are the days to allow yourselves to suspend belief in the trappings of the mundane world and walk, with a spirit open to Nature’s magick. Merry Ostara to one and all……………..                           

Rebel Rede

March, 2011

Pantheacon 2011 – A Personal Review

Pantheacon 2011 was Friday February 17th through Monday February 21st in San Jose, CA. Just like previous years the convention was at the Double Tree hotel located by the San Jose airport. This was my second year attending the convention, and overall it was a great experience once again. Just like life isn’t perfect though, Pantheacon is also not without its imperfections. This article is meant as my personal review only, and is in no way an endorsed opinion. I am here to tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Pantheacon from the personal perspective of one desert witch.

In my opinion, the best parts of Pantheacon are the people you meet and the group rituals. Every year the Goddess knows exactly who I need to meet and what I need to hear. It is such an amazing feeling to know that the Divine is so strongly at work during a short Pagan convention! For example, one of the highlights of the convention for me personally was getting to meet Le’ema Kathleen Graham. She is a snake priestess who uses dance and yoga to worship the snake goddess in all her many forms. I had no idea Le’ema was coming to the convention, nor that I would stumble into her workshop only to discover how much I needed to connect with her. Other highlights included: meeting Ruth Barrett and attending her “Walking Our Talk as Dianic Witches” workshop, meeting Z Budapest and attending her “The Sacred Body of Woman” ritual, attending CAYA Coven rituals and events-including the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s “The Rite of Lilith” ritual and the Grove of Hekate’s “Journey to the Nocturnal Realms” ritual, attending the “Call of the Battle Raven: A Morrigan Devotional” ritual, meeting Sparrow and Mojo from The Wigglian Way, dancing at the Pomba Gira devotional, getting to reconnect with my online friends and Family of the Rising Phoenix Tradition coven mates, and lastly the goodies I bought from the vendors. There really is nothing like the rituals at Pantheacon!

Unfortunately this would not be a thorough review if I did not mention my more negative experiences of this year’s Pantheacon. The first thing I noticed right away this year was that attendance seemed much lower. It was nice as far as the hotel felt less crowded, but it was kind of sad because the events and rituals felt smaller. The largest complaint I have is the same as last year’s, and that is that the food situation is horrible at Pantheacon. There just aren’t enough restaurants near or in the hotel. The food at the hotel is ridiculously expensive! It was also very frustrating that they did not have more vegetarian or vegan food options! The hotel was under new management this year and so we were told that the elevators had been fixed since last year’s convention. Unfortunately, even though the elevators were “fixed” they were still a major issue. Each elevator could only handle 8-10 people at a time maximum and even then they still malfunctioned from time to time. It is really difficult to get to a ritual on time when the elevators do not function properly! My overall recommendation to fix the negative aspects of Pantheacon would be to hold the event somewhere else. I would love it if we could have the convention some place with both indoor and outdoor event space, and of course better food!

Despite the few setbacks of Pantheacon I would definitely recommend attending the event. It is well worth the few frustrations! Just getting to spend time with fellow Pagans and attending group rituals is enough of an incentive for me. For me personally, nothing compares to having ritual with my Amazon Priestess sisters or my Dianic heroines. When you attend Pantheacon the Gods and Goddesses really are alive and afoot!

Pagan Theology

March, 2011

Pagan Theology:  Blessings

A Unitarian Universalist minister I know recently said that one of the purposes of religious practice is to empower us so that we may go out and bless the world [1].  That idea of empowerment as a vehicle through which we both are blessed and bless the world intrigues me.  How do we Pagans bless ourselves, so that we may be powerful enough to bless the world?

As Pagans we talk a lot about blessings.  Blessed be.  House blessings.  Blessing the working or tools.  We even use “blessings” as an address when closing out letters or e-mails.  But what, exactly, is happening when we bless?  Who is doing the blessing, and what happens?  In the Christian beatitudes there is a whole list of people and traits that are blessed, like the poor in spirit.   When we bless what do we place in the recipient of the blessing, and what do we retain for ourselves?

One way to understand blessings is that they are given and received, thus establishing a relationship between the giver and the recipient.  Blessings create a social contact between those involved.  They are an exchange of magical energy that empowers both the giver and the recipient.  The giver is empowered through the creation of the blessing and the contact with the other, while the recipient is empowered by the acknowledgement of a relationship between the giver and receiver, and by the happy generosity that is received.   Without the exchange, without the giving, there can be no real blessing.

But we can bless ourselves, can’t we?  Of course.  You can do anything you want.  But it may not be all that effective of a blessing.  After all you can give yourself twenty dollars, but when you do you won’t have an extra twenty to spend.   If you believe that there is something special exchanged in the social interaction between giver and recipient [2], then blessings require that someone give, and someone else receive.

This is not all that hard, given that many things can give a blessing, and many things can receive.  We can bless objects in the world, or, in the case of a circle casting, we can actually bless the world.  We can receive blessings from the Gods and Goddesses if we ask.  We can send blessings to our ancestors, or ask to receive them.  But the idea of blessing seems inherently related to the philosophical concept of encountering the other, the “not me,” who humbles us and reminds us we are not the center of the universe.  Blessings tell us others are in the world, that they are part of a sacred whole, and that they are related to us, and we must relate to them.

“Blessed be” as a neo-Pagan expression probably derives from the fivefold kiss [3].  But it’s an intriguing expression, one that perhaps deserves more analysis than it has been given [4].  While the original intent was pretty clearly to bless, or acknowledge the already blessed status, of the vessel into which the Goddess would be drawn, the expression in isolation seems to convey a lot more intent.  The archaic language, typical of early neo-Pagan rituals, would suggest that the statement is more of a declaration than a blessing, in effect saying that the bits being discussed (feet, knees (knees, really?), womb, lips, etc.) are already blessed and the kiss is simply a way of acknowledging that fact.  In this sense the expression is saying you are already blessed, and you should exist in that state in peace.  The fivefold kiss is also a way, theoretically, for the High Priest to acknowledge the presence of the Goddess in the Preistess.  “Blessed be” acknowledges that everything is sacred, including the person you are addressing.

If that were the case, that everything is sacred and blessed, then where would the exchange of blessings come in?   In this case the Goddess has already blessed everything by the act of creative existence.  She exists, and is constantly creating and destroying and in the process blessing the world.  Then nothing needs to be done by us, other than to acknowledge the sacredness of that which is.   Blessing becomes more of an acknowledgement than a gift or a magical act.  We are simply reminding ourselves and others of the fact that everything is blessed.  This is a very static form of blessing, one that does not compel any action to be taken in the world, including the act of blessing itself (because its redundant).

However “blessed be” has another, more existential, interpretation (which is why I like it so much).  Instead of a static declaration of fact, we can emphasize the verb “be” and see it as an imprecation to “exist in the state of blessedness.”  The “be” that just hangs out there at the end of the expression suggests a lot more than “you are.”  Instead it suggests that in making the statement we are recognizing the existence of the one receiving the blessing, the “existential otherness” of another conscious being.  Someone who receives the blessing just “is,” exists as an independent actor in the world, one who we are attempting to relate to through the expression.

In this sense when we say: “blessed be,” we are creating an existential dialog between ourselves as subject, and the recipient as subject.  We are actively blessing instead of acknowledging merely a static blessed status.  After all if everything is blessed, then Fred the Druid is not much different than Barney the dog or rocky the field stone when it comes to being blessed.  Somehow I suspect we mean something different when we say: “blessed be.”  It is an address to an independent consciousness in the world, one that is the same as the Gods and Goddesses, and different from the rocks and trees, one that makes decisions, feels, and needs our blessing.

This makes the expression “blessed be” a complex, three-fold, blessing.  At one level it does remind us that all existence,  all “being,” is blessed by the Goddess.  It also is a way for us to acknowledge the special “otherness” of those we are addressing, acknowledging that we hold the responsibility of treating them as a subject, as an equal, and not merely an object.  And, finally, it is an exhortation to the recipient to “exist in a state of blessedness.”  It is a magical expression that tells the recipient they are not alone, but that there are others who wish them the greatest happiness and fulfillment and will (hopefully) work with them toward that goal.

But wait, that last statement, that we need to do more than just state the blessing, that we need to work toward creating the effects of the, suggests that we can’t just bless and go, that we need to stick around and do something more.   To better understand how blessings work in the world we probably need to go to their polar opposite in order to understand how Pagan blessings work in the world.  Curses.

For some reason ancient Pagan blessings are less well preserved in the archeological record than curses.  Perhaps this was because curses were often written down on lead tablets [5] made of lead and buried.  Or they were buried in bottles or under thresholds, which makes it a lot easier to find them.  The curse tablets covered a lot of different topics, ranging from stolen property to legal disputes.  What is most important is that, by appealing to the Gods and Goddesses (of the underworld), people thought they could affect the world through their magic.  The magic of the curses empowered them in the world, either directly by intimidating the victim, or indirectly by giving them a sense of assurance that their path in the world was being overseen by another.  They had the power to affect their own outcomes, even if it was magical.

In blessing something similar is happening.  In giving a blessing we are giving ourselves the power to affect others in the world.  By blessing the circle through casting we are giving ourselves the power to create the sacred in the world.  By smudging a house we are giving ourselves or the owners the power to live in a blessed state.  And by creating the sacred, we bless the world through our own actions.  Likewise by blessing others, even if it is a simple “blessed be” in ritual or in an e-mail, we are empowering ourselves through our willingness to give some of our sacred self to others, and we are empowering others by telling them that they do not walk alone, that we are giving them some of our magical energy in support of who they are.  In the case of “blessed be” we are giving this to them not only with respect for their own place in the world, but we are also telling them to remember that they are and are in a place that is inherently blessed.

This inherent nature of blessing in the Pagan world means that Pagan blessings are not simple.  They are individual exchanges of intent that occur within the broader landscape of a sacred existence.  Everything is sacred, while at the same time we create the sacred within the sacred through our actions.  By choosing to bless we are stirring the sacred cauldron in new ways, creating new weavings of connection between the blessing and the blessed.

And once these blessings are out there, we never know where they may end up or what effect they will have.  They empower us by opening up our hearts and minds to the other.   They give us the confidence that we actually can create the sacred, that we can stir the cauldron of the sacred with confidence and good intent.  At the same time our stirrings touch others and the world, and cause effects we cannot see.

Thus a Pagan blessing is the magical invocation of the sacred within what is already sacred.  It is an absurd task, absurd because it is unnecessary.  But this inherent absurdity, that it is being done without needing to be done, that makes blessing a great gift of power.  We are doing something for another that does not need to be done, but that connects us by transferring our good intent.  We ask for blessings because we need that connection, we need to have the other tell us that we do not journey alone, that in our journey we are blessed by the Gods and Goddesses.

As Lisa Theil says in her song “Invocation of the Graces” [6]:

Bless me with good means

Bless me with good intent

Bless me with good estate

Finer than I know to ask.

[1]  Do not get me confused with a Unitarian Universalist.  While I am a member of a UU church, I’m a Pagan member of the church.  UU is what I would call a very externally focused religion, despite its small numbers and tendency toward becoming an intellectually and socially isolated enclave of NPR listeners.  Paganism tends to be an internally focused religion, dwelling on personal empowerment and growth vice social justice or righting the wrongs of the world.  Its not like there are no externally focused Pagans, or internally focused UUs, but in general the things that Pagans talk about are magic and meditation and connection with the Earth while UU’s talk about social justice, cultural equality, and connection with the Earth.  The question inherent in all this is how “blessing” works in these two environments.  The UU focus would be on blessing ourselves and each other so that we can do great things out in the world.  The Pagan approach would be for us to bless ourselves and the world, with little focus on exactly what we are going to do in the blessed world.   This dichotomy is important, in my opinion because it makes us ask how our Pagan blessings change us and the world.

[2]  Throughout this essay I’m going to talk as if two people are involved in giving and receiving the blessing.  However all of the same discussion applies to the Gods and Goddesses giving and receiving blessings, they are, after all, existential entities that act in the world like we do.

[3] Blessed be thy feet… Blessed be thy knees…Blessed be thy womb…Blessed be thy breasts…Blessed be thy lips…  The fivefold kiss is part of the Drawing Down the Moon ritual where, in classical working, the High Priest draws the Moon down on the High Priestess.  The fivefold kiss, in addition to being a nice way for HP Gardner to work with the young ladies, is done immediately before the actual invocation of the Goddess and represents a symbolic blessing of the vessel into which the Goddess will arrive.  See, for example, Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches’ Bible, Phoenix Publishing, 1981.

[4]  While everyone likes to focus on the threefold law and the Rede as the foundation of Pagan religious ethics, something I think is a terribly weak foundation, perhaps if we mine other aspects of the early neo-Pagan religion, like the expression “Blessed be” we can come up with sufficient material to build such a foundation.

[5] Curse tablets are found throughout the Greek and Roman Mediterranean.  For a nice discussion go here:  http://www.pinktink3.250x.com/essays/tablets.htm or see John G. Gager, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World, Oxford, 1992.

[6] http://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Thiel/e/B000APYA2E

Journey of a Witch

March, 2011

Ostara-Goddess of Light

“In the light
Everybody needs the light.”
Led Zeppelin

The radiant dawn.

Who is the Goddess Ostara?
Does she hail from Germanic lands or elsewhere?
In some Pagan and Wiccan circles, March is associated with the Spring Equinox and the Goddess Ostara.

Controversies surround the validity of Ostara and her associations.

Bede the Venerable wrote about a Spring Goddess called Eostre who was honored with feasts during April.
There are some who that believe Bede the Venerable simply made her up in his writings.
Bede was an English monk who lived in the 8th century.
He was responsible for writings of historical, theological, and other works, and is regarded as a historian today.
Still, other historians think she was the reconstructed dawn goddess from various prehistoric cultures.

While I am certainly no historical scholar it is fascinating to read about human history.
Writings based upon older writings, based upon even older writings, based upon oral tradition seem to be the flow.
Meanings can get lost in language translations, the bias of the writer, and in time itself.
And let’s not forget that history is written from the perspective of the conqueror.
I do think people can get caught up in the past and forget what is going on in the present.
Regardless of the origins of Ostara, we have the seasons happening right now, whether that is a snowflake, raindrop, or sunshine.

Absence of validity is only important in those looking for validity in themselves.

The essence of Ostara is in the blooms and the gentle winds that surround you.
She remains within our memory and lives in the trees and grass.
In every heart today and in the past.

Though spring may not have been celebrated as it is today in modern pagan rites, it was a very important time for agricultural societies to plant crops after the last frost.
These people of old most likely did not perform elaborate rituals for the seasons, there was no time!  Living off the land they were already a part of the cycle of the seasons and a part of Nature that we are very much removed from in our modern cities.

Spring was relief from the bitter cold, a time when food became plentiful, and the dullness of days inside were sweetened by the taste of spring outside.

Spring is also the time when animals are busy making baby animals.
That baby bunny may look cute in the pet store but that baby bunny grows up.
It can be surprising as to how big a cute tiny bunny can get and how long they can live.
If you are looking for a bunny or any animal it is very important to research that animal, its care, housing, and life expectancy.
Be sure you are ready for a financial and life commitment.

Shine on.

Spring can teach us to honor our own light by reaching out to others whose light has dimmed.
Like the Dawn Goddess bringing light to the day, you can bring light for someone in need.
Whether that light shines on a person, creature, or Earth you will be sending Love and Light.
Plant a garden, even if just a sprig of Rosemary in your window sill. It will reward you with with seasonings and reminders that nature exists even in crowded cities.
Send a care package to a soldier (http://anysoldier.com/).
Read to an elderly person or take them a meal. Donate blankets to an animal shelter.
There are many things one can do to shine light on a dim day.

This is not only a good time for that spring cleaning but also a time for spiritual cleansing.
Let go of the harboring you cradled in winter. Release them into the wind to transform into droplets of dew or mist.

Everybody needs the light.

In the first warmth of the sun on the Spring Equinox greet Ostara or just the light you feel and release your pain to the warmth.
Light and Love can transform pain into joy. Share your day with loved ones with a meal held in honor of Ostara or Light and Love if you wish. Light gold or peach colored candles to bring in the day and let light bring its warmth. Meditate on the light and plant those seeds of patience, love and kindness within yourself to help you on your spiritual journey.

Radiate your light and shine on.

Enchanting Eats

March, 2011

Ostara is approaching. I can already feel the winds of March, blowing out the winter, blowing in the spring. During this time of year, I dwell on sprouts and spring lettuces, green onions, and tender herbs. Other foods associated with the early spring are eggs, seeds, edible flowers, honey, carrots, rabbit, hot cross buns and other sweet baked goods. Again, find what is in season for your region and what “rings true with you.”

Last year I became fascinated with bento boxes and funneled that inspiration into our Ostara meal. There is a lot of prep work, but I think it engages you, reconnecting you with the food. This is a wonderful activity for a family, group, or coven to participate in. Everything can be set up in advance so that each person is able to choose their own ingredients and construct their own unique scene. You may even create an additional piece as an offering. I used the construction time to explain the significance of each ingredient and how it relates to Spring.

Ingredients

Prepared short grain or “sushi” rice, cooled (2 cups is plenty for 4)

Hard-boiled eggs

Alfalfa sprouts, spring lettuces

Raw vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, green onion

Edible flowers, such as pansies, tulip petals, dandelions. Just make sure they are in fact edible and pesticide free!

Herbs, such as lavendar and thyme

Directions

1. Give each participant a plate or bowl. Set out paring knives, peelers, and other tools to share.

2. Arrange a bed of sprouts and/or greens on the dish as a base.

3. Using wet hands, roll the rice into a symbol of Spring. We chose bunnies. (Make a mini snowman. Use slivers of carrot for the ears and cucumber halves for the hind feet. Black sesame seeds work well for eyes and whiskers.) Other options could be a rain drop, clouds, or a nest to hold your hard-boiled egg.

4. Add vegetables, flowers, and eggs, carved with symbols or cut into images that represent Spring. You can use metal cookie cutters on most vegetables, as well as cheeses. If it will not go through, use it as a stencil with a paring knife.

Once everyone is finished, a blessing or poem would be entirely appropriate. Enjoy and Blessed Be!

Look! The Earth waits breathless

After winter’s strife

Ostara shows folk deathless

Spring leads death to life

-from “Ostara Carol” by Anna Stockinger

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