SUBSCRIBE

paganism

Spiralled Edges

March, 2017

Spiralled Edges – Real Pagans

 

witches

 

Occasionally, I see a resurgence of the perpetual “What is a ‘Real Pagan?’” argument. Usually connected to something that has been reported in the news, or a round of gossip or bitchcrafting.

Nothing new under the sun, these same arguments made the rounds years ago without the aid of social media. Invariably, any argument or discussion that being with “Real Pagans or True Pagans…..” finished with a list that manages to include everything the person does and excludes everything the person doesn’t. And for every single “Real Pagans don’t do X” I have seen I can point out a Pagan somewhere who does do it.

All Pagans are real Pagans. Not just the ones who follow a limited definition. This means that the Pagan who does curses is just as real as the Pagan who never curses. The Pagan who follows one God is just as real as the Pagan who follows many, or none. The Celtic Pagan is just as real as the Hellenic Reconstructionist. The Polytheist is just as real as the Pagan atheist. The witch who studied at grandma’s knee is just as much a witch as the witch who looked herself in the eye and recited “I’m a witch” three times.

Am I saying that anyone who calls themselves a Pagan is a Pagan?

Yes, actually, I am. It is neither my role nor my place to tell anyone else what or who they are. Pagan is not a single religion, it is an umbrella term that encompasses many religions.

I also see Pagans placed on pedestals by other Pagans, with a somewhat naïve expectation that because someone is Pagan, they somehow are above or incapable of negative actions. So let’s clear up a few of those myths and misconceptions.

Pagans come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and flavours. There is no one size fits all here.

  • Some Pagans cast spells, some don’t.
  • Some Pagans celebrate the Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year, some don’t.
  • Some Pagans follow the three-fold law, or the 7-fold, or the 9-fold. Some don’t.
  • Some Pagans follow the Wiccan rede. Some don’t. (Hint, if someone isn’t Wiccan there’s a good chance they don’t.)
  • Some Pagans are lefty-leaning, eco-warrior, long-haired hippy freaks. Some Pagans aren’t.
  • Some Pagans are right-wing fundamentalists. Some Pagans aren’t.
  • Some Pagans never eat meat. So do.
  • Some Pagans would never dream of doing a binding spell on anyone, let alone a curse. Some Pagans won’t hesitate to zap your butt if you threaten their family or loved ones.
  • Some Pagans are pro-life. Some are pro-choice.
  • Some Pagans are criminals. Most aren’t.
  • Some Pagans abuse their spouse or partner or children. Most don’t.
  • Some Pagans are obnoxious assholes. Most aren’t.
  • Some Pagans are sexual predators. Most aren’t.
  • Some Pagans I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. Some I would trust with my darkest secrets.
  • Some Pagans are extroverts. Some are introverts.
  • Some have chronic illnesses, or mental health issues. Some don’t.

Pagans do not hold a monopoly on goodness and light. The vast majority are every day folk, just going about their lives the best they can. But, we are human and like all humans we have our good and our bad points.

We are all Pagan because we all claim the title of Pagan. It is not my place to exclude someone just because they aren’t the same kind of Pagan as me. Nor is it yours.

Process & Spirit

January, 2017

There is an old Chinese proverb: “When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” This saying reveals the missing element in spiritual disciplines that do not bear fruit. You may read all the manuals of shamanism and witchcraft, and so forth, that you like, and you may try practicing one particular discipline consistently, following the steps laid out for you in the manual, and yet achieve only weak, spotty results at best. These disciplines all seem to require a commitment greater than one is willing to make in order to be effective.

We are living in a mechanistic age, a time when all problems are approached as though they are engineering problems and can be solved by the correct application of skill and discipline. We think that by learning a certain technique, and applying it efficiently, we can surmount difficulties in any field, including the realm of spiritual effort.

I once knew a young man who was socially backward and asked me to describe the “right approach” to women, in order to “get some action.” I said that the right approach is to genuinely like them; they really appreciate being liked. He was nonplussed at this advice, recognizing immediately that no technique could make him like women if he instinctively distrusted them, which he did.

The same thing applies to the religious or spiritual realm, and this was recognized in the pre-mechanistic age when the “technique” followed was interaction with spirits. Spirits are persons, not processes. You can switch a computer on and work at it for as long as you like, then save your work, switch it off, and later when you come back it will be ready to resume, whether you had stayed away for an hour or a year. Persons are not like that. If you put in time with a mate and then stay away for a year, you will not find that person very willing to resume where you left off if you come back to him or her. The same is true of spirits.

Another difference already alluded to involves the emotions. Your computer doesn’t care if you like it or not, but a person will care. You must not only like someone, but must show it as well; even in friendship, a certain amount of devotion must be paid. To some extent this follows upon effort, that is, if you make a great personal sacrifice of time and energy for the sake of a person, that person will acquire a measure of importance in your eyes, and vice versa. However, it is never a matter of mere investment on your part. You must dedicate yourself past the point where you forget profit and loss.

In the same way, a religion cannot be a mere hobby, one activity among many. Witchcraft comes to mind in this connection. For many, witchcraft is a hobby, something that can be taken up or laid down at will without consequences. There are no spirits in hobbies; you may lick and paste all the stamps you like into an album, but the album will remain unaware of you, and thus you can relax and simply enjoy yourself.

If that is all witchcraft or some other mystery religion means to you, that is all right, but realize that you will remain in the outer court of the mysteries and never pass through the gates into the inner sanctum. The gates of mysteries are guarded by spirits, and spirits are persons, and if you are to pass within, you must initiate, and keep up, a personal relationship with those guardians. When your efforts begin to bear fruit, instead of thinking “it’s starting to work,” think instead “the spirit is responding to me.” This will follow in the unpredictable nature of results, which come in their own time and way, seemingly incommensurate with the amount of effort put out; and this is another reason for regarding them as the behavior of a spirit, rather than the automatic results of an impersonal technique.

In our tradition, which might be described as Celtic-eclectic (that is, focused on Celtic lore but open to borrowings from related traditions), three initiations are held, preceded by a dedication. When a student is ready, he or she may request a dedication ceremony, at which a promise is made to study the Craft and the coven tradition for a year and a day. This is a promise to the coven, not a vow; as yet, no spirits are involved.

At the end of the dedication period, the dedicated one may request actual initiation into the coven. This ceremony, which naturally must remain secret, includes a vow and personal “introductions” of the initiate to the Watchers, the “great ones” or gods of the four quarters. The Watchers each govern a kingdom of elementals, and one elemental from each kingdom passes into the appropriate elemental tool of the initiate. In our tradition, a sylph passes into the wand, a salamander into the athame, an undine into the chalice, and a gnome into the pentacle. An initiate should have all four tools on hand for an initiation, though sometimes this is deferred until a particular tool is acquired. But in any case, the first degree initiation marks the beginning of a personal relationship for the witch with each of the four spirits known as “Watchers”.

The Watcher of the East is the elemental spirit of Air, and governs knowledge. The Watcher of the South is the elemental spirit of Fire, and governs will. The Watcher of the West is the elemental spirit of Water, and governs daring (that is, devotion or dedication); and the Watcher of the North is the elemental spirit of Earth, and governs inner (and outer) silence.

One’s relationship with the Watchers and their respective spheres must be personal, and this applies also to the elemental tools, for these must not be thought of as tools in the mechanistic sense, but rather as fetishes, each housing a spirit. The association of the tool with the elemental quality should be reinforced by having the wand at hand while learning, the athame while exerting the will in disciplined action, the chalice while going beyond one’s limits in a super-effort, and the pentacle while going within in inner silence. Traditionally the witch will name his or her tools, as it seems; but actually the name is for the indwelling elemental.

The philosopher Nietzsche, in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra, describes the “last man” and contrasts him with the “overman” (by which he meant the self-overcoming man). The last man is the product of mechanization, he (or she is understood) who seeks to cut corners at all costs, he who never gives himself in commitment, he who is unable to despise himself. The world of the last man is one in which one hears “a fool, who still stumbles over stones or human beings!” For in the mechanistic, measured-out world, stones and human beings are alike regarded as mere obstacles to one’s goals.

By contrast, the overman has gone through an overwhelming experience Nietzsche calls “the hour of the great contempt.” “What matters my learning?” asks the overman of himself. “I do not see that I desire knowledge as the lion desires food!” And similarly for the other virtues, the overman sees and rejects his own half-heartedness and disinclination to give himself to his values. This is the atmosphere of the witch dealing with his or her elementals and the Watchers. They are persons, not means to ends.

For pagans in general, the same can be said of one’s relation to one’s patrono or matrona, the personal god or goddess with whom one has a special relationship. Every deity has something to teach, a discipline to impart, and the devotee learns and follows the teaching, the discipline of his or her sponsoring deity. In our witchcraft tradition, the witch will put special effort into his or her relationship with one of the great ones, whether a Watcher of the four quarters, or one of the deities of the height, the center or the deep. In paganism generally, the patrono or matrona can be chosen from any deity in the pantheon of one’s chosen tradition.

Whomever one chooses, the important point is to dedicate oneself, not exclusively to the one spirit, but with the intensity and focus one would have towards a lover or intimate friend. A too exclusive dedication, as in monotheism, leads to spiritual imbalance; nevertheless, one should feel that one’s patrono or matrona is an important person in one’s life, and make continual (though not continuous) efforts in that deity’s discipline.

The benefits accruing from such a relationship will reinforce the efforts of the devotee, but must never eclipse the personal importance of the spirit involved. If this happens, one has fallen back on process and will make only mechanical, half-hearted (at best) efforts; and then the relationship with the spirit will wither and die. The wrong man will have used the right means, and the right means will have worked in the wrong way.

Spiralled Edges

September, 2016

Spiralled Edges: Do Pagans Have Free Will?

Every time I think I have something figured out about myself, my Pagan practice, or the Gods something invariably happens to make me thing – do I still believe that?

Recently, I’ve been considering the idea of Free Will. Philosophers and religious scholars from every religion have been cussing and discussing it for centuries. Free Will or Pre-Destiny? Do we make the choices in our life, or are out paths laid out for us well in advance of our arrival.

Or, is it somewhere between these two extreme ideas?

spiral

 

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend (Religion and culture: Hindu) about the subject of Free Will and he shared with me something he had been taught by his father.

Free Will can be compared to a goat tethered to the ground. The goat can freely decide where it will walk, and what grass it wants to eat within the radius allowed by the length of the rope tethering it. Free Will in this example is an illusion, existing only within the limits placed upon the goat.

Likewise, as humans, we have an illusion of Free Will within the limits that have been placed upon us.

When they were young, my children liked the independence of being able to choose what they wore each day. I made my life easier, and gave them an illusion of choice, by limiting their choice. Red shirt or blue shirt, blue shorts or brown. How many of the choices that we make as adults are in their own way just as limited?

My own ponderings on this subject have been triggered as I have explored what it means for me to be a priestess of The Cailleach. For years, I have told people that they always have a choice on which God/s they might serve and how, and on what God/s may be their Patron, whether or not they choose to also dedicate themselves to that Deity. Over the years I have had Patron Gods and I have worked with them, but never had I been called to actually serve as a Priestess. Until now.

I will probably still tell others that they always have a choice, but I am beginning to question what illusions there might be between free will, and planned destinations. How much choice did I really have in agreeing to be a priestess of the Cailleach? Or was I presented with limited choices that ultimately would have led me to where I am now, regardless of which choice I had freely made.

How often as we move through life, thinking that we are exercising our own Free Will, do we discover through hindsight wasn’t quite what we thought. Free Will within the limits placed upon us by circumstance, location, and possibly even a Deity or two.

Over the past few months, She has shown me ways in which She has steered me in my decisions in order to bring me to this point in my life. Seemingly unrelated events, like the creating of my staff over 20 years ago and the move to the UK 18 years ago were each tiny links in a chain. How often, I ask myself, have these not-so coincidental occurrences steered me towards who I am today.

How often have each of us lived under an illusion that we were exercising our free will, never realising that we had been limited in the options we were given?

It is only now, looking backwards through time, that I can see the patterns and the points where The Cailleach had touched me, spoken to me, and guided me on my journey. Hers was the whisper in my ear telling me to select the sapling of a particular tree for my staff instead of a branch on another tree. Hers was the urge in my soul to move further east than I had ever anticipated from my Kansas home when I ended up in London instead of moving west to California. She is the one who led me to study the art of Soul Midwifery so that I may one day work with those who are at the end of their life.

I am still working out just what being a priestess of The Cailleach means. One thing she has made clear though, I am the one, with an occasional nudge from Her, who will be doing the working out. With or without Free Will.

Spiralled image created by Nan using WeaveSilk.com

Spiralled Edges

August, 2016

Spiralled Edges: To Take Responsibility

I’ve spent these past three months looking closely at what some call the Four Pillars of Magic: To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silent. To be very honest, I have never really thought much on these nor felt it necessary to apply them to my own Pagan or witchcraft practices. However the task at hand was to discuss ways that they applied in my own life on my blog, and I have gained a lot of new insight into myself along the way. You can read all of those posts over at Writings of a Pagan Witch within The Pagan Experience 2016 (https://writingsofapaganwitch.wordpress.com/the-pagan-experience-2016/).

I mention that here because each of these pillars individually have shown me there is a 5th, or perhaps a central pillar that must be looked at: To Take Responsibility.

Responsibility, in my mind, can be separated into two words response and ability. My ability to respond. Looking at these words together, I ask myself – “Do I have the ability to respond to this situation? If I have the ability, does that mean I must or have to respond? What, in all truthfulness, and I really responsible for in this life?”

The answer is: Not nearly as much as I once believed.

spiral

 

As a Pagan, as a witch, as a mother, as a woman, as a human being I have the ability to respond to my own actions and to my responses to the actions and words of those around me. As a mother, I also have the ability to respond to the needs of my children, and to teach them how to respond to their own needs without taking upon themselves the responsibilities for the actions and words of others around them.

When we take responsibility for our own actions and words that means we can’t blame anyone else when things go right, or when they go wrong. Taking responsibility also means standing firm in our convictions of who we are, what we believe, and how we will be a part of the world we live in.

It means not taking away another’s ability to respond, but standing aside so that they can take responsibility for their lives, and stand firm in their convictions of who they are, what they believe, and how they will be a part of this world we live in.

Even when we disagree. Even when I think I know better than they do. Especially when I think I know better.

Taking Responsibility in spellcasting

When I create magic through spellcasting, I am responsible for the decision to do a spell, I am responsible for implementing it, and I am responsible for the results of that spell and any consequences that may come from it.

  • To Know when and how and if I need to take responsibility for a situation.
  • To Dare to take responsibility even when would be easier to lay the blame or the credit at someone else’s feet,
  • To Will to take responsibility for my personal decisions and intentions.
  • To Keep Silent when necessary and take responsibility for my words and silences.

The Pregnant Witch

August, 2016

Originally written as a talk for the Pagan Federation Online Lughnasadh Festival 2016. Feel free to view the whole talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5fPKOmp2k

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5fPKOmp2k[/embedyt]

Lughnasadh is more or less the mid-point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, and as such a point of transition, of change and of transformation. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my own experiences with pregnancy, motherhood, and how my spirituality transformed alongside my own transforming body and mind.

It was a complete shock to me, finding out I was pregnant. I had experienced a few odd symptoms; dizziness, alternately low and high blood pressure, not wanting to smoke or drink any more. I didn’t read anything into this until my 2nd missed period. When the test came out positive, I just stared at it.

It was a difficult time. My boyfriend at the time, though thrilled 24 hours later, was either disbelieving or simply didn’t care. I remember feeling totally alone. Then my friend Jane came to visit, and I was reminded of the power of friendship, and the joy of having people in your life who simply want others to be OK.

I was pretty active in my magical group at the time. I remember when I had got together with Nathan’s dad, telling him he would have to be mindful that I took my practice seriously, and at first he was supportive, although there were often snide comments about dancing around naked, or having orgies; I’m sure you’ve all heard the like.

I immediately started to think of all the things I might not be able to do. Would I be able to go to coven meetings with a new born baby? Would I be able to practice magic whilst all hormonal from pregnancy? I’d never been pregnant. I had no idea what to expect, and no idea how it would affect my spiritual path or my magical life.

The answer is, pregnancy and motherhood changed me in a multitude of ways, but ultimately I am the same person with the same spiritual leanings, and if anything I feel closer to the world, to nature, and certainly to my inner child since having Nathan.

One of the things I love about being on my nature based path is the way it encourages you to notice the details in the world around you; the butterfly resting on a leaf; a cloud shaped like a dragon, or a sunbeam breaking through leaf cover. Having a child, and noticing how a child sees the world, is like having a direct line into that way of viewing the world. A child, especially a young child, is seeing everything for the first time. Everything is a joy, a treasure; a gift met with wide eyes and wonder. Walking the world with a child gives us the special pleasure of channelling this sense of newness. It gives us the chance to experience the world afresh, to almost begin anew.

Going back to my pregnancy, I found that there were certain things I couldn’t do, and certain things I could do better. I didn’t want to or feel capable of doing any focused intent work; no healing, no transformation and no spell work. I felt that my intent was too unfocused, and that the hormones raging within my changing body would not cope well with this. I was worried that my magic would go astray, and that I would not end up with the results I wanted. I felt like I had energy bubbling out of me, and that, in my mind, was dangerous. Once, near the winter solstice, I stopped in front of a charity shop window, eyeing up some rather beautiful festive decorations. I was about to check my purse to see if I had enough money, when a woman reached into the window to pick them up for a customer. I was angry, in the way you get angry with unfair situations, and immediately that this emotion was upon me, the woman dropped the decorations and they smashed. I remember walking away quickly, red faced and ashamed. I can’t say for certain that I had anything to do with that, but I felt responsible, and it put me off any sort of ‘spell’ work in case this ‘bubbling over’ of energy occurred again.

Although I pulled away from actual magical work, I found great solace in meditation, yoga and pathworking. My mentor did some wonderful guided meditations and pathworking with me, and I found that while I was pregnant the visions were all the more vivid, and the symbology that occurred seemed to have great meaning. I wrote everything down and found I had a depth of patience for analysing the visions that I had never experienced previously. I could now take the time to really go through the images ad figure out what they meant to me.

I had never done yoga before, but my friend gave me a dvd that was adjusted for pregnancy, an also had exercises that could be done whilst suffering with symphysis pubis disorder, which hit me quite badly during my second trimester. The pain was really severe at times, and I had to take time off work, which was not ideal.

Being able to meditate and do yoga made a huge difference for me. I suffer from depression and during my pregnancy it became quite severe at times. There was the combination of my physical discomfort with the SPD, a poor relationship with my then boyfriend which led to deep feelings of loneliness and disappointment, and the underlying depression that was always there to some extent. Finding that I did have an affinity for meditation which I had hitherto not really explored was a massive gift, and one I have treasured since that day.

I imagine that these findings would be different for everybody. I know some people become very vigorous and fit during their pregnancy, and therefore they may find a stronger spiritual connection with nature and the outdoors by going for more walks, and exploring their surroundings. Others may find themselves drawing closer to their covens or communities, whilst others may develop their solitary work to a deeper level. I think the latter is quite common, as when you are pregnant I think there are always times when you end up on your own, even by the necessity of needing space, so to be able to use this time and space to develop your own innate skills is fantastic.

Another aspect I had to be careful with was my herbalism. I had just started my herbalism course when I discovered I was pregnant, so of course had to be very careful about what remedies I self-tested, as the last thing I wanted to do was harm Nathan or myself. So ultimately, I stopped working with herbs, except for making lavender bags for friends and the like. I continued my studies without the practical side, and remember bawling out a lady at a craft fair for recommending a raspberry leaf product for pregnant women, without even realising that raspberry leaf is only indicated in the very late stages of pregnancy, to help encourage the onset of labour.

When Nathan was born, it felt immediately as though he had always been there, whilst at the same time being completely surreal. I really didn’t want to stay at the hospital. I wanted my own home and hearth, my ancestors around me; but of course, they always are, wherever I am. Hopefully you feel that too. I really, really didn’t want to stay in the hospital, but my blood pressure was high and I had a fever. Nathan wasn’t the most vocal baby, but of course one baby on the ward would start crying and it was like a chain reaction; the next baby would cry, then the next, and so on until the whole ward was a cacophony of wailing. It was incredibly depressing, and it was felt like it was just Nathan and I against the world. I should have realised that this was quite prophetic in a way, as it was only a few years before we were back to it just being me and Nathan again!

The first few weeks being home with him shot by in a sleep deprived blur. I was communicated with people in only the barest of ways, and although I was still in touch with my magical group, we hadn’t been together in a circle for a long time. I felt a yearning in my soul for something, and as is the way of things, something came along to fill the gap that had been developing.

Through friends, I discovered the Covenant of Hekate, and wrote a hymn, and some music, and found I was again exercising that part of myself which had been becoming lax and lazy. I could write in my journal while Nathan was sleeping. I could meditate during nap times. I was honoured to perform the Rite of her Sacred fires as a solitary practitioner the very first year it was a global event. I felt the energy of Hekate very keenly, and I do feel that she was a very strong presence during my early months of becoming a parent. I don’t think this is because she is a particularly motherly goddess at all, but I was at a junction in my life, a crossroads, a point where decisions needed to be made in order for me to keep moving forward, and Hekate is the goddess of the crossroads. Her twin torches light the dark roads ahead, and illuminate tired and clouded eyes. She is Enodia, of the ways; she guides but she also pushes us to find our own way; to open our own doors and combat adversity.

I was already devoted to the Morrígan, who also teaches us to combat adversity, albeit in perhaps a more confrontational way. I think it is very telling that at a time of fatigue and depression, when I couldn’t face confrontation head on, Hekate seemed to find me and remind me that there are other ways to move forward that don’t involve head on collisions or having to fight.

Once I had found my feet back onto my spiritual path, I found it easier and easier to write and record my experiences, until at last I was on the way to writing my first book. I would sit with Nathan in his sling, feeding, whilst I tapped one handed at the keyboard- not terribly good for my back, I grant you! But I began to be proud of myself for what I what achieving, and joyful to be able to combine this with spending so much time with my little one.

Now he’s six, and we are both busier than ever. I am technically a single mum now, although I live with my partner and his little boy, so we help each other out and the boys love each other to bits. I don’t hide my paganism from Nathan but I don’t encourage him to believe what I believe. If he asks me anything, I answer, and his own wonder of the world often leads him to the same conclusions as me about a lot of things. He tells me all the time that he sees spirits in the trees, or in the sky, and whether he is seeing these or they are just figments of his wildly over active imagination; well, I don’t think it really matters. He is comfortable talking about such things and that’s all that matters. If he didn’t mention them at all, I would be equally happy, as his path will be his own, and I certainly don’t expect it to be quite like mine, if anything like mine at all.

If I inspire Nathan in any way, I hope I will inspire him to be kind, compassionate, and caring; to be considerate to the world, to others both human and non-human, and to never judge others for the path they walk on unless it deliberately harms others.

If he asks me about magic, I tell him. If he wants to know why I call myself a witch, I explain this to him as well. Sometimes he wants to look at my wand, or my crystal ball, or my crystals, or my cards. He likes to flick through my books, and asks me to read him excerpts from the books I have written. But sometimes weeks will go by when we don’t discuss anything that could be considered ‘pagan’, and that’s OK too. But of course, we are always out and about, exploring nature, turning over stones, singing songs, listening to birds, watching squirrels, identifying plants; so maybe we are discussing pagan things every day, or at least the aspects of paganism that can benefit everyone, regardless of your spiritual path.

I hope my experiences of pregnancy and motherhood resonate with some of you. It’s not something I’ve discussed at great length before, but would be happy to answer any comments you have. Joyous Lughnasadh. Sláinte!

Following the Sun-Wheel

August, 2016

The Shape of My Practice

 

*Dedicated to my High Priestess, Wendy Morris

I am a third degree Celtic witchcraft elder. I live in Norway, a country with covens few and far between. I helped found a coven still thriving in Colorado Springs, with my high priestess, Wendy Morris. I moved to Norway eight years ago to be with my family, but I maintain contact with the coven in Colorado and my close friend Wendy. I have been solitary for some years now, and have developed a style of solitary witchcraft which I would like to share with all who are interested. My practice follows the paradigm of the Sun Wheel, which many will recognize in its calendar form, the Wheel of the Year. However, it is not necessary to practice it on the calendar dates, though that is beneficial, especially if you are in a coven. I will begin and end my description in the North, the Place of Power.

*

Witches chart their sacred occasions around the year on ‘the Wheel of the Year’. The wheel resembles a compass, with the eight sabbats marked out on the eight cardinal and intermediate points. Thus, Yule corresponds to the northern point, Ostara to the eastern, Litha to the southern point, and Mabon to the western, with Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh (or Lammas) and Samhain mapped to the northeastern, southeastern, southwestern and northwestern points, respectively.

The Wheel of the Year can also be used to map the lunar month and the twenty-four hour day. The winter solstice (Yule), the dark moon and midnight correspond to the northern point at the top of the wheel. By following the Wheel, witches and other Pagans can align themselves with the energies of those times.

In addition, the four quarters, marked out on the wheel by the lines connecting the intermediate points (northeast to southwest and southeast to northwest) correspond to the four classic elements 1 of earth (northern quarter), air (eastern), fire (southern) and water (western quarter). These elements contain inner elemental powers, the four powers of the Magus: to keep silent or be still (north), to know (east), to will (south), and to dare (west). The ongoing purpose of witchcraft is to cultivate the four elemental powers in one’s life in a balanced fashion.

Once she is dedicated to learning the Craft for a lunar year and a day, the apprentice witch’s natal horoscope is charted, if birth information is available. The planets’ positions in the various signs are noted with respect to the elements of those signs, and in this way the tasks chosen for the present incarnation are indicated, in order to achieve a better balance among the four elements. As the balance between the elemental powers improves, the fifth power of the Magus gradually becomes available to the witch, the power to go, meaning to go on astral journeys up and down the inner pillar, exploring the various worlds or dimensions encountered along the way.

In my own case, I have most planets in air signs, then in water, then a few in earth and none in fire. This is presumably because I have already done fire work in past lives and now I am meant to emphasize the other elements in that order. Thus, I began by cultivating knowledge (air), then daring (water; daring to explore the unknown), then stillness, both mental and physical (earth), and, as a final touch, will (fire). I am beginning to make astral journeys, first from a state of lucid waking, 2 and subsequently from lucid dreaming, dreaming while being aware I am in a dream. Both are springboards to traveling up and down the inner pillar, cognate with the World Pillar or the trunk of the World Tree.

The Sunward Path

In witchcraft we say that words will have power if we do not tell lies. We are not constrained to tell the truth on every occasion, but have the option to remain silent instead. This is following the sunward path with our speech, and if we do this, the Sun will empower our words. In the same way, if we promise to do something, we should expend every effort to keep that promise. Not to do so is another form of lying. If circumstances prevent us from keeping our commitment, we should explain this to whomever we made our promise, and offer an alternative. Otherwise, our word will be doubted, and we shall have to pull the weight of a broken commitment behind us. That will inhibit and diminish our magical power.

The sunward path is the path of optimum use of energy. It is not an ethically prescriptive path. It does not say, unconditionally, do not lie. It says, “If you want to make the best use of your energy, either tell the truth or remain silent.” It is similar to the Rede, which means advice. “If you want to be free to do as you will, harm none.”

The Hindu teaching about this states that if we take our journey through life facing the Sun (and therefore following the Sun), the shadow of pleasure will follow us. If we turn our backs on the Sun, the shadow of pleasure will ever recede before us. The shadow takes the shape of our own outline, but omits our substance. Thus we will never succeed in catching our shadow.

This does not mean that the witch abstains from pleasure. She is not running from her shadow, and accepts pleasure as it comes to her, but looks toward the Sun, the light of truth and Self-knowledge. As the Sun lightens the world, it both symbolizes and embodies truth.

Cultivating the Elemental Powers

In order to cultivate the four elemental powers of knowledge, will, daring and silence, a certain amount of free energy is necessary. This energy is usually in short supply, because it has been appropriated by habits conditioned by society and largely squandered. The key to accessing and cultivating elemental powers, then, lies in saving what little free energy we possess.

In each quarter, the business of cultivating elemental power goes through four phases, corresponding to the three lunar phases of purification, consecration and charging, and culminating in the ‘earthing’ phase of the dark moon. This last phase lies on the transition point to the next quarter. Thus, the earthing phase of the northern quarter lies on the Imbolc northeastern point, overlapping a little with the quarters of Earth and Air.

Purification is governed by the Maiden and the waxing phase of the moon, and consists in freeing up a portion of our everyday energy, thus creating space for the influx of elemental power. Before we can receive something new, we must let go of the old. Once space has been created, the accumulated power can be put to some focused use. This is consecration, governed by the Mother and the full moon phase. As power continues to accumulate and be channeled into the consecrated purpose, it becomes magnetic, as it were, capable of creating real change in the witch’s habits and perceptions. This is charging, the harvest of power governed by the Crone and the waning moon. These phases need not occur during the actual lunar phases, for ‘she is old or young as she pleases,’ but timing to the lunar month invokes the Lady’s special assistance. Finally, the cultivated power sinks into the witch and becomes second nature, part of her emerging magical personality.

The work of cultivation takes two forms, which may be called practice and praxis. Practice involves performing or inhibiting certain actions at set times and, when possible, set places, preferably on a daily basis. Praxis, a word I am adapting, consists of small actions taken randomly throughout the day or night when we think of them. Both practice and praxis are necessary to cultivation, and should support each other.

The linchpin of praxis is to bear in mind the words “my energy.” At any given moment, you have the freedom to observe what is capturing your energy, and to decide to withdraw your energy from it if you so choose. “My energy, my choice” is the motto of praxis. This is especially important in moments of negative expression, such as voicing irritation, which can whittle away our energy, or outbursts of anger, which can consume all the magical energy freed over the course of a day.

North

In the quarter of the north, praxis involves restraining certain habits of nervous motions when they start up: twitchings, scratchings, tapping the foot, and other small nervous movements which, taken collectively, consume a large amount of our energy each day and promote mental unrest. When some energy has been saved and accumulated through praxis, the witch can try sitting still at certain times of the day, further quietening down the body through regular practice.

As the body begins to be still, the restlessness of the mind comes to the fore. The witch now realizes the point of cultivating stillness, and the full moon phase at the northern point begins, through meditation.

Since the witch is left free at this point to choose how he or she will meditate, I can only describe my own experience. As I close my eyes, I notice my phosphenes 3 briefly, then my current thought patterns emerge. 4 I note them as they recede, and presently I am able mentally to slip between them, falling a little down my inner pillar to quieter thoughts and feelings. This feels like a sudden mild jerk, as in an elevator which has slipped its cable a few inches, or as we sometimes feel while falling asleep.

My mind is still talking to itself a little, but increasingly it is more like whisperings. The usual feelings and images which accompany me in everyday life recede, and presently older nuances of feeling from earlier times in my life float by. These are accompanied with earlier feelings of my own existence, and I seem to become more flexibly myself, like a deck of cards that has been shuffled and re-dealt. I am still myself – it is still the same deck – but there is a new deal.

I may hit some hot spots at times, old obsessions or enthusiasms, and I try to work around these and continue descending into the quieter depths of memory. I am going down into what witchcraft calls my ‘Deep’. How far I go will depend upon how completely I have cultivated my four elemental powers in balance together. Thus, the power ‘to go’, the power of aether or spirit, is approached gradually through many descents. When I reach the Summerland or Tir-na n’og, and come into contact with my root-soul, I may experience aspects of myself from previous lives. One Vedantin monk who went this far presently got up, quit the monastic order, and went into the desert to study wildflowers. He had never desired to do so in living memory, but apparently he had been a botanist in a previous life.

This means to me that when I reincarnate, my root-soul begins growing a new shoot up into Middle-Earth, and as I live my life here, my shoot or inner pillar keeps growing. The way back down to my root-soul, then, lies through my past memories and feelings.

On the way back up the inner pillar to my body resting in Middle-Earth, many feelings from my ‘Deep’ accompany me. These include the way it felt to be me and alive many years ago, along with insights from those times. As I awake into my everyday attention, these feelings and insights from long ago have at first an uncanny, fermenting effect on my everyday personality, like yeast added to bread dough. At the same time, energy flows more freely through my mind, as some of my usual obsessions have been swept aside by the force of my descent and the arrival of past nuances of feeling. I feel more childlike, for I have more free energy not harnessed by mental foci. Children are playful because much of their energy is not directed by a mental agenda. Perhaps this is a foretaste of that joy reported by witches who have reached the ‘true Sabbat’.

As these nuances begin integrating with the concerns of my everyday life, the flow of free energy in me stirs within, and feelings of inspiration and intuition arise. I have reached the boundary between stillness and knowledge, governed by the Dark Moon; I have arrived at the northeastern point.

East

The northeastern point is celebrated at Imbolc, February 2nd, or, more authentically, February 1st. 5 This is the time when ewes begin to feel the stirrings of unborn lambs in their wombs. Likewise, the witch, having reascended his or her inner pillar, feels the stirrings within of feelings and images recovered from the long past, along with the creativity enjoyed then before it was covered over and forgotten in later years.

This is a joyful phase, recalling the enticements of the elf-maid of Brittany, as she lured young men to the plain of Tir-na n’og, the plain of youth:

Deuit ganin-me da gompezenn al Levenez

O! Mar goufec’h e teufec’h’vit atao!”

Come with me to the plain of Joy.

Oh! If you knew, you would come there forever!” 6

Energy must continue to flow freely in order for the ideas it contains to emerge at the eastern point. The praxis for ensuring this is to catch the mind at the point of continuing past conversations, or anticipating future ones. One simply acknowledges them, thinking ‘that is the rehash,’ or ‘that is the rehearsal,’ and the mind will tend to relax into the present sensuous moment. This prepares it for the encounter with unique energy in the form of music, artistic images, or ideas. The Maiden works with this in the phase of purification when she gradually winnows the free flow of feelings and images from the ‘Deep,’ shaping them towards the eastern point of consecration, when the Mother articulates them as ideas. This is the time to surrender to the new, taking it in as for the first time, as we did in childhood. Too much critical analysis at this point, saying “that sounds (or looks) like x,” will assimilate it to past habit, missing its unique quality. A hallmark of such new ideas is that they are taken in lightly, without strong feelings of partisanship. As children we felt free to learn a large variety of things and enjoyed playing at ideas, strong preferences being formed only later in adolescence.

South

According to my natal chart, I have no planets in Fire, and I have interpreted this as meaning I worked with that element in a past life, so that I need to catch up with the other elements. That being so, I should have an overview of the quarter, and in fact I have. The Sun-Wheel is often depicted in ancient cultures as a swastika, but note it is a sunwise-turning swastika, with the bent arms trailing back to the left, the opposite of the Nazi symbol. To me the swastika resembles a fire-drill, as seen from above. The bent arms are twirled sunwise, with the drill making friction in the flints below, in ‘the Deep,’ thus igniting the fuel at its base.

At the southeastern or Beltane point, it becomes clear how one’s everyday life needs to make room for new knowledge. Old habits must be set aside or redirected. This is the purification phase of Fire, and here the fire-drill comes into play, creating friction between old and new habits, and building that magical heat the Hindus call ‘tapas,’ the fruit of spiritual discipline and austerity, which will rush up from the ‘Deep’ when it has accumulated sufficiently.

The practice of purification can involve something I call the ‘Inventory’. A spell, music or other creative act is a projection of energy, and it requires a conduit to carry the energy involved. Most of our conduits are blocked by past projects we have neither brought to completion nor canceled. By making an inventory of the physical clutter in the home, or of an overcommitted schedule, a witch can discern which projects are worth completing and which should be dropped and forgotten. In the case of the latter, the documents and other debris left over from the unfinished project need to be discarded or put to a different use. In the course of doing this, the witch will acquire practice in putting a project out of mind, a process that is of paramount importance in spellcraft, after the spell is cast.

Every project or task that extends over time requires a groove or conduit to convey the energy from one day to the next. By canceling past projects that are no longer needed or desired, and by completing others, the witch opens up a number of conduits which can serve to convey the energy used in spells. At the same time, beginning new projects makes use of the magic of the beginning, which becomes available increasingly as we get free of ever-pending tasks. The witch moves out of the dead calm of in medias res, always being in the middle of affairs, to the creative space of beginning afresh. New projects are then monitored and dropped if they become bogged down and no longer progress towards their goal.

When home and schedule have been sufficiently freed from clutter, and the work needed to optimize conditions for the new project has been done, the witch has reached the southern point of Litha or Midsummer. The Mother at the full moon phase now consecrates it to action. In case of a spell, the witch may now resort to a book of methods. 7 As the witch practices the mechanics of the spell, or the musician masters the new music, it becomes familiar and second nature. The Crone’s phase of charging lends it a personal style, called ‘the knack’ at Lammas (or Lughnasadh), as symbolized by the sacred loaf baked on that occasion and eaten at midnight.

West

Let us review our journey thus far. In the North, the journey back up the inner pillar brings with it liberated magical energy and psychic materials from ‘the Deep’. At the northeastern point these are integrated with portions of the everyday psyche covertly, in the Dark Moon phase of Imbolc. Every time this point is reached, the magical personality grows and partially replaces the old conditioned everyday personality.

At the eastern point, new knowledge emerges, and is articulated, through ideas, music, art, or the sense of a magical goal.

At the southeastern point, habits and conditions in everyday life are identified which must be changed in order to realize the knowledge physically. This identification is intuitive at first, in keeping with the character of the Dark Moon.

In the south quarter, space is cleared for the spell or other creative work by suppressing or redirecting habits incompatible with its construction. This is followed by the construction of the spell (music, art, etc.) in physical terms. The Crone charges the work accomplished by uniting it with the will, so that at the southwestern point the spell or other work becomes the knack, the personal skill of the practitioner. As in previous Dark Moons, this is accomplished covertly, as symbolized by the oven baking the sacred loaf on Lammas Eve.

The western quarter is the quarter of daring, that is, daring to penetrate the unknown. Its element is Water, which seeks the lowest point and goes around obstacles by taking their shape. The work of Fire replaces many comfortable habits with the new construction of the spell or other creative endeavor. These habits are missed because they provided a sense of orientation; they were shields against the onslaught of the unknown.

In the west the witch goes fearlessly into the unknown, in anything from taking a new route to work to undergoing some form of initiation. The portals of the unknown lie in altered perception or attention. The witch spreads his/her visual attention from where the eyes are pointing to the side, top or bottom of the visual field, and the aural attention to background sounds. As much as can be seen of the head without looking in mirrors or some other reflecting surface is held in the attention. This naturally places the attention on the periphery of the visual field. Background sounds are reproduced mentally as a way of increasing focus on the aural environment.

These practices, or praxes, sound exhausting but are actually relaxing because they switch off our usual sensory filters. The witch becomes one with his/her perceptual environment. Every day is like a day at the beach.

Continual practice or praxis of redirection opens up the body at certain points, such as the muscles at the outer corners of the eyes, to an inflow of energy carrying feelings similar to those encountered in the north, during the journey down the inner pillar. The difference is that now these feelings come up by themselves into the everyday world. At the western point of Mabon one’s dead ancestors and friends may begin showing up in dreams. When they do, they may be invited to attend ‘dumb’ suppers through the month of October, culminating in the great Sabbat of Samhain at the end of the month. In the Craft we say that the human dead are released for visits at Mabon, and the nonhuman dead are added to their number at Samhain, in the emergence of the Wild Hunt.

It is at or around Mabon, the autumn equinox, that the ‘fast’ spell is cast, though a ‘slow’ spell can be cast at Samhain, earthed when finally released. 8 This can be timed to follow the actual wheel of the year, or sequenced with previous work following the Sun-Wheel. The Sabbats celebrate these points around the Sun-Wheel and often witches in a coven will time their private work to draw on the solar energies abundant at those times, but shorter sequences can occur outside the calendrical dates.

The spell, then, may be cast in Circle by raising the Cone of Power, working together with other witches, or some more private method, such as the spell of nine knots, may be used. The important point is that the witch should be open to the spirit world through practices of daring, as described in the examples given above. Note that these are my practices, but other witches may employ visualization, mantra, or a number of other methods.

At the northwestern point of Samhain, the ‘slow’ spell is released into ‘the Height’ and (with the Wheel of the Year), added to the Wild Hunt and earthed with it when it returns to the Underworlds. Thence it will rebound into our world of Middle-Earth and accomplish its magical purpose.

It is now forgotten, as though it had never been, as the witch enters the quarter of silence and stillness once more.

*

Bibliography

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, Spells and How They Work, Custer, WA, Phoenix

Publishing, 1990.

1 In modern terms, these four elements correspond to the solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, and to observable energy or fire. The fifth point of aether corresponds to more subtle states such as plasma.

2 In lucid dreaming, we are aware of being in a dream while dreaming; in lucid waking, we are aware of being awake while waking. Neither state is taken for granted.

3 Impressions of lights and squiggles produced by the pressure of the eyelids on the retina.

4 In dreams these appear as synopses, defining in advance the current dream-situation.

5 Changed to February 2nd by the Church.

6 From Janet and Stewart Farrar, Spells and How They Work, pp. 95-96.

7 Such as Janet and Stewart Farrar’s Spells and How They Work. See Bibliography.

8 A fast spell is released suddenly, as with the Cone of Power. A slow spell is released gradually, as with candle spells, which are cast gradually as a candle burns down.

Finding the Pagan Way

August, 2016

Why Paganism anyway?

When I returned to the business of seeking a spiritual path, – it was Neopaganism which provided the encouragement to look around again after many years of just keeping my nose to the grindstone and concentrating on work. It was lovely to meet groups of people who followed very different systems of beliefs, and yet, who managed to meet socially and prepare rituals and celebrations which were inclusive rather than divisive.
The sheer variety of beliefs was breath-taking, and many events took on a carnival atmosphere. Every festival was colourful and eccentric, – and every gathering would include mead, music and lots of laughter.

In many ways, the festivals seemed to carry me back in time to a less hurried age. Despite the modern materials and the overall cleanliness of the festivals, they reminded me of a medieval market. Each one would have its fair share of workshops, stalls, readers, healers, dancers and musicians.
Arrays of bright tents lined the meeting areas, where traders, who seemed more intent on social interaction than profit, sold crystals, oils, incense, wands, staffs, craft items, new-age clothing, books and Oracle cards. There was always a fire pit, where the noisier members of the milieu, – like myself and Tina, would be happily singing and banging our drums with the addition of an occasional didgeridoo and wood flute. Children and dogs could wander happily and safely and somehow, everyone seemed approachable. Conversations are struck up easily in the relaxed atmosphere that prevails at the smaller festivals.

I believe that festivals are a breeding ground for ‘synchronicity’. You have a question in your head, and next thing you know is that someone is randomly sharing an insight which answers your unasked query. This fact more than any other has convinced me that Spirit is very active amongst the neo-pagans, – where so many people are searching for answers in an open-minded and relaxed way.

It was my first festival as a would-be stallholder at Cabourne Parva where I met a lovely couple called Liz and Ian. Ian introduced me to the concept of the “Unsupportable Supposition” and I immediately became a member of that august group. In truth, everything we believe, is an unsupportable supposition and it pays to be tolerant of others beliefs.
At the same festival I met a lovely character named Graham, who gave me a fascinating past life reading for free. It was impossible to discount what he told me, as it explained many personality quirks of mine, – which he had no way of knowing about through ordinary means.
I had asked around the festival for anyone who had seen or interacted with the faeries. I wished to include some more personal stories in the forthcoming book by Bill Oliver and myself, – “The Faery realms”, which is still with Galde Press awaiting a final edit. Graham gave me an amazing account of the types of earth sprits and their ‘duties’ which I have included in the volume.

Again, at the Nottingham Pagan Pride gathering, I was given a reading by a lovely lady named Linda. It was a beautiful late Summer Sunday, and just strolling through the multi-coloured crowds of people brought a great sense of peace and relaxation. I was drawn to a stall with a large unicorn banner outside and went across to arrange a reading. There was just something about Linda which drew me to her and we made an appointment to call back.
I sat in a flimsy white nylon gazebo with the sun shining and music all around us. Tina stood beside me half way into the tiny stall. Having read tarot cards for over forty years, I realised that some of the deck was missing and it seemed a bit chewed. When I mentioned it, she explained that her dog had eaten some of the cards, but it was her favourite deck and she still preferred to use it.
Bemused, I allowed her to continue. She proceeded to give myself and Tina a reading which spanned the following three years and was later proved to be incredibly accurate. She also said much about our lives at the time which was uncannily detailed and again very accurate.

Even the hustle and bustle around us seemed to add to the magic of the experience. Just across the little path through the arboretum were two larger Marquees, where there was a workshop on shamanism being given by a lady named Firechild. The large tented area was filled to capacity and many more were gathered around outside as she took the audience on an inner journey. Under a large tree, a gentleman named Paul was telling a circle of entranced listeners about the time of Robin Hood. A little further away there was a circle of ladies teaching and demonstrating belly dancing. From the bandstand, which was near the entrance to the Arboretum, a wave of music washed over us from loudspeakers as a succession of heavy metal musicians blasted away with great enthusiasm.
Somehow, all the chaos and the noise blended together and it worked. To me it is further proof that when intentions are focused on a similar worthwhile goal, then all the different approaches blend together to give a positive outcome. The many facets of Neopaganism are an opportunity to explore new ideas and find what resonates with ourselves. We will benefit from the experience greatly or less so, – depending on what we ourselves put into it. If we leave our false sense of certainty behind us, we may learn much and make some great connections to help us on our own spiritual journey.

Certainty

Like a suit of armour,

Polished gold that gleams and sparkles in the light.

That Blessed Shield that keeps our ego safe.

No niggling doubts disturb us in the night.

No second thoughts to make our conscience chafe.

The Joy of never being wrong,

Those great eternal truths that beam down from above.

Our principles that keep us different from the milling throng.

When we love Certainty,

Its charms can keep us safe from any other love.

We feel misunderstood by those who do not truly Know.

Their dreadful ignorance and anarchy surrounds us every day.

If only we could set them on the path they need to go.

If only they could understand the things we try to say,

Then we could let them bask in our enlightened glow.

But then,

How can I teach the sparrow how to fly?

They seemed to know just what to do,

Before I ever had a chance to teach them how.

I often watch in envy as they dance and weave beneath the evening sky.

The crimson setting sun, that lights their antics, lights the furrows on my brow.

Streaking red and gold across the purple hills and dark green fields,

It’s rainbow glory blinds my eyes and lets me see,

This world was doing fine before there ever was a Me.

Patrick W Kavanagh

01/08/2013.

Finding the Pagan Way

March, 2016

For many years of my life, I was reluctant to believe in the survival of the personality after physical death. I suspected that any such belief was just wishful thinking combined with my Roman Catholic upbringing. After the death of my father at the age of twelve, I walked away from mainstream spirituality and looked to more materialistic answers to the questions that life poses to us all.
I was fascinated by the writings of R.D. Laing. In his book, Sanity Madness and the Family, he described the ability of a young man, being treated for schizophrenia in a mental hospital, to give details of his family’s actions. The young man was able to describe situations in his wider family circle which he had no physical way of knowing about. I came to assume that this was merely evidence for the existence of some type of telepathy. I believed that we all received these signals, but a healthy personality filtered them out to enable people to cope with modern civilisation.
There was some fascinating research done in the USSR in the 1950’s which theorised that the human nervous system acted as both an aerial, and a transmitter, for electrical signals and which even calculated the frequency which telepathy worked at. I was quite confident that most unexplained phenomenon would eventually turn out to be undiscovered science.

Other books, such as ‘Supernature’ and ‘Lifetide’, by Lyall Watson convinced me that all life was somehow connected. However, I saw no reason to assume that this connection was not part of the normal material structure of the universe. I came to believe that it was simply a matter of convenience and comfort as to which gods or goddesses we chose to believe in and that atheism was just another viewpoint which was equally as valid. It seemed to me that somehow, mankind had inexplicable skills which were simply aspects of undiscovered natural laws. I learned how to live with doubt and found it was a great liberator. I accepted that my beliefs were simply that, -my beliefs, nothing more. I was happy to believe in the possibility of an underlying intelligence to the universe. It was also obvious to me that this intelligence had many aliases and was happy to answer to all of them. Even Yahweh (Jehovah) means “I AM WHO I AM”.

So why am I a Pagan?
I was fascinated by “The White Goddess”; – She reminded me of a vision I had as a child.
I asked her to show herself to me many years ago. I was much like a prayer to the Unknown Goddess. My life was to totally change before she appeared. She came to me with the gift of poetry and slowly revealed herself over the last six years.


The Goddess Calls

Who are you?
Strange longing that has crept into my restful soul,
I hear your quiet whisper, but, in words not of my race…
There is nothing in this world is seek, – My cup is full
and yet you call me softly from some distant place.

Are you the whisper in the wind that calls my name?
Or the Breaking of the waves against some rocky shore?
Or Moonlit shadows rustling in some country lane.
I feel as …if somehow you’ve called my name before.

Stay! Don’t fade away!
Your gentle torture seems to stir my bones.
I wait and listen in this dying light of day,
Perhaps My Goddess speaks in these soft tones.

Oh that I were not deaf and blind
to all those things on which my spirit soars,
If all the thoughts which cloud my mind were gone,
And only You and I remained as once before.

Patrick Kavanagh
16/04/12

As the riddle of the Goddess unravelled itself in my life, I became aware of the reality of many things which I had previously suspected were only tricks of the mind. For example, had anyone told me ten years ago that I would not only believe in the faeries, – but also interact with them, I would have never have believed them.
It was at Cabourne Parva, in Caistor, Lincolnshire, that I met the Faeries again for the first time since childhood. They completely changed my life and filled it with magic and meaning. My Goddess is the Goddess of the Fae. She is my muse and my inspiration. She is my protector and my guide. I have other guides, but meeting the Goddess was probably the scariest experience I have ever had. I no longer have any real doubts. I now live the life which I never truly believed was possible, although I have a long way to go before I canny fully act from my heart rather than my head. I still try to keep an open mind on all things. However, I am now on the inside looking out, – so real objectivity is pretty much impossible!

Walk With Me

Leave your nagging doubts behind and walk with me to find some quiet place.
When the glamour of the life you thought you’d love has gone.
When the worries, and the stresses, get too much.
When you’ve gone along the road as far as you can go,
When you learned to doubts the things that used to mean so much.
Then walk with me.

Leave the noise behind,
Leave your watch behind and leave your mobile phone.
Find a place where you can truly be alone,
And find me waiting there.

In a forest, field or quiet garden.
In a beach or park, or just a candle in a quiet room
You will find me in the silence,
Stop and listen, Find the light behind the gloom,
And you will find me there.

You wonder who I am.
I am the gentle touch upon your hair.
I am the comfort and companionship when there is no one there.
I am the eagle flying high, I am the wolf, – I am the bear.
I am the Dawning and the End of Time.
Look within yourself, and I am always there.

Patrick W Kavanagh
21/09/2013

Intimations of the Dream Soul

March, 2016

The Pagan doctrine of multiple souls is a stumbling block for many Neopagans who are used to associating their soul with their identity. The ancients tended to associate the idea of soul with mental phenomena that are more or less under the subject’s control. This leaves room for psychic entities that serve the identity as instruments, and through long association we can come to identify with these instruments and consider them to be all or part of ourselves. Thus, the word personality derives from the Latin word for the mask worn by actors in Greek dramas, which was so shaped as to act like a megaphone, amplifying the actor’s voice so spectators in the last row of the theatre could hear what was being said. Similarly, the word for the personality in the Dahomean religion, which posited as many as five or six souls, was derived from a word meaning “voice”. This idea of the instrumental nature of the personality seems to have been widespread in ancient cultures.

The Hindu Upanishads speak of two souls that sit, like birds, on a branch of the same tree. One of them, the jiva or embodied soul for that incarnation, sings and flaps its wings and does the things that birds do. The other, the atman, looks on silently and rarely does anything. This is because the atman is identified with the jiva and, at least for the time being, thinks that it is doing the things it sees done by its companion. It is similar to what happens to us at the movie theatre when we become absorbed in the picture and identify with one of the characters on the screen. We will share its reactions, starting when it is startled, laughing when it laughs, and so on. It is only when the film is over that we awaken, as it were, come to ourselves, realize it has all been only a sort of dream, and get up and leave the theatre.

The two souls encountered in most Pagan cultures may be called the life soul and the dream soul. 1 The life soul, like the Hindu jiva, is the active partner during an embodied life, doing most of the thinking, speaking and feeling; while the dream soul looks on. The dream soul, as may be imagined from its name, is active in dreams 2 and, in the case of shamans, goes on spirit journeys down to the Underworld or up to the Overworld, or to any other worlds in between. When the body dies, the life soul lingers by the grave and was the object of grave offerings in many ancient cultures. It eventually passes into nature near the grave, into a special tree associated with that person throughout embodied life, or into flowers, birds, and so forth. Our custom of placing flowers on a grave was originally directed towards the disembodied life soul, called the siela in Baltic religion and the suld in Mongolian-Siberian religion. The dream soul goes to the Otherworld 3 and there awaits rebirth. But apart from lucid dreams, shamanic journeys and the final journey to the Otherworld at death, there are moments when the dream soul steps back a little from its identification with the life soul; or, to speak in terms of identity, there are moments when we identify less with the personality and feel more authentically ourselves. We have all had these experiences, these intimations of the dream soul, our deeper self.

In Boyhood with Gurdjieff, the first of two memoirs 4 written about the years he spent with the Kafir-taught mystic teacher Georges Gurdjieff, Fritz Peters mentions an evening when he first got drunk in the company of Gurdjieff and some of his pupils. Gurdjieff was in the habit of holding elaborate dinners where many toasts were made and drunk in Armagnac cognac. To persuade a gendarme present to participate, Gurdjieff said

“ ‘…here is such goodwill that anyone can drink without bad effects. Even children can drink here.’ To prove this point, he called me over to him – I was serving at the table that night.

When I was standing next to him, he poured a water glass full of Armagnac, and told me in Russian to drink it down at one gulp. I did, although I had never tasted such strong liquor before…The liquor had such an immediate effect on me that, while I did continue to pass various dishes to the assembled guests, I only did so by staggering around the table and shoving the platters at them, feeling giddy and completely unconcerned. I had never experienced such a sense of carefree well-being in my life. I thought it was particularly comical when Gurdjieff, each time I arrived near him, would direct attention to me and my complete sobriety. I remember having a strange feeling of separateness as if I had actually departed from the confines of my own body and was able to watch myself, as if from a distance, tottering gaily around the table with the heavy platters in my hands.

“…Even so, and in spite of my high spirits, the dinner seemed interminable, and I was greatly relieved when I was able to stagger off to my bed at a very late hour. It seemed to me that I had only been asleep for a few minutes when I heard the insistent ring of my buzzer. I was amazed to see that it was daylight, and managed to get into my clothes and answer the inevitable coffee summons. Gurdjieff laughed at me when I appeared in his room, and asked me how I felt. I said that I supposed that I was still drunk and described to him the way I had felt the night before. He nodded sagely, and told me that the liquor had produced a very interesting state in me, and that if I could achieve that kind of self-awareness when sober, it could be a very important accomplishment…’In future, when drunk,’ he said, ‘try to see self this same way as you saw last night. This can be very good exercise for you, can also help not to get drunk.’ “ 5

In 1870-1 the young poet Arthur Rimbaud, writing to his friends Georges Izambard and Paul Demeny, made the statement “I is someone else [je est un autre].” 6 He spoke of the falseness of the ego and the necessity to become a seer. This is to be accomplished by “a systematic derangement of all the senses.” He does not say “I am someone else,” for the entity he is talking about is not he; it is the instrument mentioned above, the life soul. I am no stranger to this derangement, though I would prefer to call it a reconstruction of perception.

In 1972 I was living in Encanto, then a semi-rural community of southeast San Diego. At that time I’d found that three or four hours were about as long as I could attend to background sounds before thinking would start in again. Then one day while walking along Imperial Avenue, it suddenly occurred to me to mentally imitate the sound of a truck that had just driven by. This immediately resulted in heightened attention to sounds and a powerful surge of energy.

At first my mental reproduction of engine noises was not very accurate, but that improved with practice. Sometimes I reproduced sounds mentally a moment or two after they occurred; at other times the echo happened immediately afterwards, and became like an extra resonance to sound. I called the first the ‘delayed echo’ and the second the ‘immediate echo’. The delayed echo heightened attention to sounds, while the immediate echo prolonged such attention.

The echo combined well with other explorations and amplified their effect. On this occasion I tried mentally echoing sounds just heard while keeping my eyeglass frames in view. The result of this doubling up was three full days (not counting sleep) in the penumbra, my word for the field of peripheral sensation.

At one point the feeling of lightness became like a breeze blowing through my body from back to front. Things seemed to take on a bluish tinge, but this was feeling rather than vision; it had to do with how fresh everything felt. The feelings blowing through my body flooded every pore with wordless knowledge.

By the third day, the breeze had risen to a light wind and was blowing through my memories. My personal history, the sense of who I am, was being shuffled like a deck of cards, or rolled like those little pictures in the windows of slot machines.

I call this episode in my life ‘the spirit wind’. By the end of the third day the wind set me down somewhere else in myself; that is, my store of familiar memories was completely revised and my feeling of myself permanently changed from that point on.

Mental talk uses the memory of spoken words, played back on a sort of internal tape recorder, I reasoned. When I mentally replay sounds just heard, I momentarily unplug this tape recorder from my store of familiar memories and plug it instead into immediate memory, into sounds selected randomly by circumstances. The effect, after several hours, was to send my memories on a roll. In the longer run I discovered that the echo was like a feedback signal and provided a sense of inner companionship I usually derived from thinking. I talk to myself because I am usually lonely and want to have a companion, here in my mind where I feel most alone. With practice, the echo replaced mental talk as my inner companion.

The above account is taken from a treatise on sorcery I wrote in 2000. I wish to call attention to the use of the echo as a feedback signal. This is characteristic of the experience of separation between the dream soul and the life soul. While we are identified with the life soul and its mental chatter, it is so constant a companion that we are not aware of it as a companion. We think we are the voice doing the thinking, though actually it is the voice or persona that is saying even this in the mind. The dream soul does not think, it proceeds with complete paradigms of silent intuition. When the echo effect replaces this identification, it does so explicitly, so that we are aware of it as companion and hence we can sense a separation from it. A feedback signal makes us aware of the interval preceding its reception. Whether it comes as the result of deliberate cultivation (as in the narrative above) or from ingestion of alcohol or drugs, or as part of a spontaneous experience of separation, the feedback signal sets a period on every action, every moment, so that we feel as it were both on stage and in the audience watching ourselves. It must have been such an experience that led to the original coining of the word personality from the persona, the actor’s mask.

When I become aware that I am watching a movie, I am free to get up from my seat and walk out to the foyer of the theatre and have a smoke. In similar fashion, when I disengage from the life soul and find myself in my dream soul, my authentic self, I already begin to move away from Middle-earth towards my root soul in the Underworld. This movement is through the river of personal memories, as described above. First I penetrate the backdrop of familiar memories that I carry around with me in my everyday life, which changes from time to time but by which I define my feeling of myself in any given situation. Half-forgotten memories begin to surface, and as they do they bring with them feelings of myself and my life that I had years before. As I swim down the river of memories, my backdrop changes. It is like shuffling a deck of cards. The longer this goes on, the deeper the memories brought to the surface, until finally some come up that have nothing to do with experiences of this incarnation.

According to Swami Atmarupananda of the Vedanta Society, this has happened to monks in deep meditation. One of them got up one day and announced he was quitting the order. He said he was going into the desert to study wildflowers! Apparently he had been a botanist in a previous life. This may also explain why Rimbaud only wrote poetry for three or four years and then abandoned it for a life of adventure, eventually traveling as a coffee merchant in Aden and running guns to King Menelik of Choa. 7 When I returned from my three-day flight on the “spirit wind,” I was a different person, though still myself. I was a “new deal” of myself, and my life took a different direction from that point forward. My dream soul returned and hooked up again with my life soul, but both had changed and the latter had become more childlike; and no wonder, as its backdrop of memories and consequent feeling of itself had completely changed.

These intimations of the dream soul have shown me the mutability of the life soul, and made it easier to accept the Buryat Mongol idea that the suld or surface personality drops off at death and goes into nature as an elemental. This idea is expressed even more drastically in Gnostic doctrine and is illustrated in that very strange and wonderful Gnostic fantasy novel by David Lindsay, A Voyage to Arcturus.

In this novel two friends named Maskull and Nightspore meet a strange man named Krag, who offers to take them on a voyage through space to Tormance, another world circling the double-star Arcturus. Maskull agrees to go even though he is forewarned that only Nightspore will return. There he becomes immediately separated from Nightspore and Krag, and the main story of the novel concerns him and his adventures with the different characters in the symbolic landscapes of a primeval world. It is a complex novel that I won’t attempt to interpret in depth here, but Maskull’s journey across Tormance is a sort of lived dialectic of the soul in its development. But the music isn’t playing for him; at the end of the penultimate chapter, Maskull dies and the final mystery he sought to fathom is revealed to Nightspore by Krag. This made little sense to me until my experience of separation from the life soul. This personality, Ian Elliott, will go on the journey of life, but only I will return. The personality is a mask, a persona: Mask-skull. The dream soul is a seed that sprouts in darkness and grows through the night between lives: Night-spore.

Bibliography

FOWLIE, Wallace, ed., Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters, Chicago & London,

University of Chicago Press, 1966.

LINDSAY, David, A Voyage to Arcturus, Holicong, PA, Wildside Press, 2002.

NIKHILANANDA, Swami, translator, The Upanishads; a New Translation, in four

volumes, New York, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.

PETERS, Fritz, Boyhood with Gurdjieff, Baltimore, MD, Penguin Books, 1964.

SARANGEREL, Chosen by the Spirits; Following Your Shamanic Calling, Rochester, Vt,

Destiny Books, 2001.

___________, Riding Windhorses; A Journey into the Heart of Mongolian

Shamanism, Rochester, Vt, Destiny Books, 2000.

TRINKUNAS, Jonas, ed., Of Gods and Holidays; the Baltic Heritage, Tverme (city),

Tverme (publisher), 1999.

YORK, Michael, Pagan Theology; Paganism as a World Religion, New York and

London, New York University Press, 2003.

1 I owe these terms to Michael York’s excellent study, Pagan Theology.

2 The life soul is active in dreams also, weaving the plot of the dream story. The dream soul only escapes identification in dreams when it realizes it is dreaming, in what are called “lucid dreams”.

3 In Baltic cultures, to the Overworld; in Mongolia and Siberia, to the Underworld.

4 The sequel is called Gurdjieff Remembered.

5 Boyhood with Gurdjieff, pp. 126-7.

6 Rimbaud, Complete Works, pp. 304-7.

7 Rimbaud, p. 3.

Finding the Pagan Way

December, 2015

Living with Spirituality
For me, Neopaganism is about reaching out to the universe and listening to the messages that spirit gives us. This is not always an easy task,- accepting the advice of spirit does not always guarantee an easy passage through life. Listening to spirit, or the “God(s)/Goddess(‘s)” is a path which is open to everyone, regardless of belief. Even an atheist who follows their “hunches” is doing exactly the same thing. The beauty and the freedom of neopaganism lies in the acceptance of many paths to wisdom and guidance. My own journey consisted of finding the “truths” in many beliefs, until I reached a point of total acceptance of my own uncertainty,- and the value of every belief system for people at various points in their journey towards awakening. Over time I widened my views until I was able to accept that almost every belief system is a valid tool for dealing with life, for those who are in need of that particular level of guidance. For example,-as a devout Catholic, I received help and guidance in response to my prayers and questions. Then as I explored many other beliefs,- I found the same loving response from the universe, regardless of my particular view at the time of asking.

Angels in the Wind

I stand and feel the wind’s embrace,- as kisses, soft as feathers, touch my smiling face.
Gentle laughter, hushed as falling snow is calling,- and it leads me where I need to go.
Swirling leaves are blowing all around,-that somehow leave a gleaming trace.
But as the seasons meet within my heart, I feel a joy, an all-consuming grace.

It grieves me little now to say that all I think I know will, someday, pass away.
It does not matter that the world will turn and all my dreams may die and never be reborn.
This perfect moment is enough, within the pause between the night time and the day.
With tiny angels dancing all around in laughter and in play.

“Walk with us between the worlds and let imagination fly.
We will show that all who ever lived , will never die.
We will heal your aching heart and help you understand,
That only love can heal the world and soothe the heart of man.”

Patrick W Kavanagh 16/11/2015

Art by Bill Oliver boysoblue.com

paganway

 

If there was one gift that I could give to the world, it would be the gift of uncertainty.
Tempered with acceptance,- it is the royal road to calmness and peace of mind. When we accept uncertainty as a working principle in our lives , we can learn to no longer feel threatened by the beliefs of others, and can treat those who are desperately afraid with more patience. The evangelist, the fanatics and the elitists are simply terrified of uncertainty. This is why they cannot reason with others or live in peace. Once we accept uncertainty, we can become open to hearing the song of the universe much more clearly,- although our human condition makes full understanding very unlikely, until we have evolved a great deal more. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool for increasing the likelihood of spiritual awakening.
Certainty

Like a suit of armour,
Polished gold that gleams and sparkles in the light.
That Blessed Shield that keeps our ego safe.
No nagging doubts disturb us in the night.
No second thoughts to make our conscience chafe.

The Joy of never being wrong,
Those great eternal truths that beam down from above.
Our principles that keep us different from the milling throng.
When we love Certainty,
It’s charms can keep us safe from any other love.

We feel misunderstood by those who do not truly Know.
Their dreadful ignorance and anarchy surrounds us every day.
If only we could set them on the path they need to go.
If only they could understand the things we try to say,
Then we could let them bask in our enlightened glow.

But then,
How can I teach the sparrow how to fly?
They seemed to know just what to do,
Before I ever had a chance to teach them how.

I often watch in envy as they dance and weave beneath the evening sky.
The crimson setting sun, that lights their antics, lights the furrows on my brow.
Streaking red and gold across the purple hills and dark green fields,
It’s rainbow glory blinds my eyes and lets me see,
This world was doing fine before there ever was a Me.

Patrick W Kavanagh
01/08/2013.
I believe that we are immortal, spiritual beings who are undergoing transformation and evolution trough our interactions on the earth plane. If this is true, then there are no absolute “rights” and “wrongs”. I feel that exercising, Love, Fairness and Compassion are likely to lead to less suffering for ourselves and those around us, but regardless of our actions, we will all awaken to our true self in time. This is why I consider reincarnation to be a very strong possibility. There seems to be quite a bit of evidence in favour of its reality, but, of course we cannot be certain!. Brightest Blessings.
So Many Worlds in One
So many worlds in one.
Maybe in some far off time they will return to where they’ve first begun.
Spirit flies beyond the bounds of space and time,
The past, the present and the future beat within a single endless rhyme.

The poet and the prophet speak with just one single voice.
We listen to their ramblings and their ravings, for we sense they have no choice.
They only say the things they hear, and try to show the things they see.
But neither they, nor we, can truly understand, until our ego’s cease to be.

Yet the world we know is sometimes kind,
And the worlds beyond this world can heal the heart and mind.
If we open up our eyes and see the vastness of eternity,
It’s there in front of us, if we could only stop the world, and simply be.
Patrick W Kavanagh
27/04/2014

paganway2

« Prev - Next »