Magic and Me

In my first post I talked about how divination, magic, and energy work fit into Christianity. For this post I’m going to talk about what this means for me in my practice.

Divination wise I primarily use two techniques. First is with bibliomancy: divination with the Bible. There are different ways to do this, I generally use a random number generator to indicate what book to look at. Then depending on the book, I may use the random number generator again to narrow it down further. Sometimes I have a specific question in mind with this technique but often it is done with more of a mindset of seeking what God wants me to think about. I used it for a specific question when I was contemplating the old practice of libations and offerings that were done in the Old Testament. I wondered if God wanted libations from me. I prayed about it and thought about it. And for the next three days, my randomly generated readings included an emphasis on libations and offerings. At that point, I went with yes. Now a few times every month, or whenever I get the urge, I offer a libation to God of red wine. I also frequently burn incense for the Trinity as an offering.

The other technique I use for divination is tarot. Unlike many tarot readers though my deck is specifically dedicated to the Christian Trinity. I pray to Him about a question or situation and ask that if it is His will I will be granted some clarity with the reading. Sometimes I do a weekly draw asking about what I should be aware of for that week. Sometimes I do multiple cards, asking other questions like what I need to be focusing on or what God wants me to do that week.

Magic is one thing I do not practice much. I have done one spell in regards to health. I do not endorse, under any circumstances, doing magic instead of going to a doctor. But I knew enough about the situation to know that the doctors would tell me I had been foolish (I had) and that all they could do was wait and see. I did a spell to support my body healing. I asked a friend more versed in Christian based magic than I for advice. The spell involved an index card with my name on one side, my specific request on the other. I grounded and centered myself next. I placed the index card under a red candle holder with a small green candle in it, the colors for healing and associated with specific Christian angels for healing. I read out loud the verses from psalms she recommended and prayed. Then the candle was lit and I let it burn all the way down. It worked. My body healed for which I am very grateful as if it had gotten worse it would have meant surgery.

I do a lot of energy work. I pray regularly. Both quick prayers-like for patience or strength-and longer communing prayers. I described this second style of prayer to a friend once and she said it sounded rather shamanistic. I always thought of it as a form of visual meditation. I am more likely to have a bit more of a back and forth in this form of prayer. I’m not talking about hearing God speak in terms of a voice in my head. Ideas, inclinations, maybe a fleeting emotion. Sometimes my goal in this is not a conversation as much as to feel a connection to the Trinity.

Other forms of energy work include warding my apartment. I created a few of them with slightly different intentions, tied them to a decorative cross on my wall, and handed the reins over to Jesus. This was after an overnight guest that was more sensitive than I had an encounter with a less than friendly spirit. It flat out ignored me in my room and focused on her in my living room. I am not so sensitive but thought it would be a wise idea to ward my apartment anyway.

I also utilize an amulet, a crucifix necklace that I made. It would work as an amulet whether or not I did anything intentional with it energetically because of the centuries of belief that have been poured into the shape. I also try to remember to cleanse it regularly and charge it with the intention of helping to shield me in my day to day life.

The Eucharist is another instance of energy work. I ground and center and use prayer and energy to bless the wine (and wafers, when I have wafers). In this case, I channel the Trinity’s energy into the wine and wafers before consuming them. This would be an instance of me being different from most Catholics. According to the Church, I cannot do this myself.

©Brightest Twilight

Overall, I feel like these practices have brought me closer with God and strengthened my relationship with the Trinity.

Musing about Music

Music is an inescapable necessity in my life. It’s not that I despise silence; sometimes I need it. But, on the whole, music is one of my favorite bridges between the mundane world and something much greater. With that comes a lot of good, and a little bad and ugly.

I have anxiety disorder. Diagnosed years ago, used to be medicated for it, the works. About a month ago, I lost my iPod. I wasn’t upset because it was an expensive piece of equipment, but because I was slowly driven mad until a friend of mine loaned me their old one to replace my lost treasure. During the time without it, I realized just how much music meant to me. The wait for the bus got so much longer, and so many anxious thoughts crept up on me. Waiting for appointments, long spans of time at work—all these things became so much more difficult to manage. I started to get easily agitated, even around my friends. But, now that I have another music player, everything is going back to normal.

It sounds a lot like a drug, which amuses me given how many songs are written about the power of music. It’s truly an intense power. There have been times where I have been on the verge of an anxiety attack, and there are songs that I can turn to that soothe me down. This also helps when I can’t sleep at night due to acid reflux symptoms. Of course, I do take other medicine to actually deal with the acid problem, but music can keep me from thinking about it too much, which, again with the anxiety, happens a lot. That then prevents me from tensing up and making the stomach trouble worse.

And then there’s the bad and ugly side. There are some songs that I outright cannot stand to listen to. It’s not an average distaste, either. They are simply too emotionally deep for me to block out. I’m convinced that the way I listen to music lowers my shields and makes me more vulnerable to the energy the music presents. That can lead to soaring highs, or…intrusive thoughts of flinging yourself out of a car into oncoming traffic because a song is playing on the radio and the driver refuses to change the station even though the other person in the back seat is yelling at them to please do something because this person is clearly having an anxiety attack and can barely breathe. Funny how some music can stave off or even prevent an anxiety attack, but others can induce it.

But that’s exactly why I find it to be so important in my life. It has been the amusement of many of my friends that I can find a song for just about anything. My previous iPod, which I had kept up for years, had a rather extensive library. In middle school my friends and I would play a game called “the iPod shuffle game”, where I would set it to shuffle, ask a question, and then hit next. The “answer” would either be the song title or some other information, like album, artist, or the lyrics. After a few years, the iPod got very good at this game and seemed to develop a distinct personality. It was about that time I learned that there is actually a word for doing divination like that: shufflemancy.  My new iPod, despite having the same music library, still seems to be learning its way around. Sometimes I still sense a glimmer of the same personality shining through, and I like to think of it as if there was a spirit attached to my old iPod that is starting to follow me to this one.

I find this to be relevant to my religious practice as well. Some of the first times I’ve ever felt entranced have been through music. It’s how I met Joan. When I began to learn to dance, I began to feel connected to a goddess, who later stepped forward as Het-Hert. Now when I go to events or conventions that have a dance, I like to take a few minutes and dance intuitively, through Her, for Her, and with Her. Often She laughs at my lack of flexibility or awkwardness, but it’s all in good fun. But, it all ties back to the music. I have to be feeling the music in order to dance intuitively. In theory, yes, I can industrial and Fortnite dance to everything, but there’d be no passion. Without passion, the energy doesn’t flow and the connection is lost.

A lot of that passion of mine, I think, derives from how I listen to music. I mentioned that my shields seem to lower when I do. I listen with more than just my ears. I feel it in my core, and there are often little visualizations that come along with it. Colors and waveforms, mostly. A song is greater than the sum of its parts, and focusing on one instrument will bring a different visualization than another. It’s strange to me that I never learned how to do this. I simply did. It’s one more thing that is so normal, everyday, and basic that I feel it gets overlooked. That’s why I wanted to honor it, at least for today.

© Kahleo 2019

To Book or Not To Book…

One thing I’ve noticed about spiritual paths today is the huge focus on studying. There are dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of books about almost every topic imaginable now. If you want information about something, chances are, someone else has written about it.

If you want to follow a path, you HAVE to read about it….  Right???

Wait, what? What happened to experiencing a faith? To actually doing the work? Did I miss something?

In a world that is increasingly about knowledge, we’ve found ourselves at a crossroads. Do we read, read, read, absorbing as much information as we can, hoping that one day we might know enough that we can actually do something in our practice?

Don’t get me wrong, I have zero issues with book learning. I’ve just noticed a trend in modern practices where a person is expected to know their respective myths and lore inside and out. It makes it super intimidating to newbies coming in, who are expected to have at least read them well enough to have memorized the basics before announcing themselves as (insert practice name here).

Have we really come so far that the emphasis is on the written word, rather than experiencing the joy of a faith? The devotion? The very experiences that give us our faith in the first place?

I’m saying this as a writer. As someone who consumes every word put in front of me, and never forgets anything I read. Oh, I may mess up a few details here and there, just like anyone, but that’s not the point. I’m supposed to come into a practice with this ingrained knowledge before I announce to the world that I follow X gods…  Why?

Why can we not get to know our gods in a personal way first? Why can we not experience them and hear their call first, leading us to want to learn more? I find it insulting that there are some faiths now that expect you to study like your life depends on it, simply because you “can’t be a true believer in X if you don’t know all their stories…” Yeah, I’ve heard it before.

Not only is it intimidating, but it drives people away from pagan paths. Yes, I agree that the newbies need to learn, but isn’t that what elders are for? Not to direct you to this book, and then that one, and then that one, ad nauseum, but rather to pass on the teachings? To embrace new followers of our Gods and lead them? Why does it all have to be so based on independent learning?

I’m not condemning independent learning, but I think we need to focus more on building a true community as well. One where those who have been around for a while might take a newbie under their wing, so to speak. Mentor each other. Everyone brings value to us as a group.

Instead of answering a question with “go read so-and-so,” we need to be taking the time to answer personally. To really get in there. Who cares if it starts a debate? Why do we fear that? Debate can be healthy and lead to growth. It prevents us from becoming stagnant.

I’m not thinking of, or directing this to any one path or practice. As a multi-tradition practitioner, I’ve seen it way too many times. It seems to be endemic at this point. By sending the newbies to books to learn, we miss the opportunity to teach, to share, to learn ourselves, and to build strong communities. We miss the chance to pass on our faith in the Old Ways. Many of the paths we follow as pagans are based upon ancient practices…  Oral practices…  Why do we not value that as a way of teaching now?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me…  I don’t think so though. I don’t believe I am the only person who thinks we’re missing the point here. Our faiths are living, almost breathing. By constantly sending people to study, we suffocate it. The debates become about the validity of a source, instead of taking what we can from it and discarding the rest…

So I beg you, the next time someone asks a question of you, try to answer it. give them your opinion, or your experience. Then, if you still feel it’s necessary, then you can send them to the library stacks…

 

©Lauren Michelle 2019

Why I Picked Up The Call

As I have explained in my previous post (The Calling of Shiva), I wasn’t born into a Hindu family and hadn’t had any exposure to Hindu culture up until I met my husband. My father still doesn’t really understand why I chose Shiva over the Christian God, so this post is as much for him as it is for the regular readers of the site.

To understand why I (and many others I have met later in my life) wholeheartedly chose Hinduism you need to take a look at its teachings of responsibility.

Personal responsibility

Hinduism does not have a Savior in the manner Christianity has. Yes, there are stories of gods and goddesses saving mankind and the world in general from various dangers. But on a personal level, one is not considered a good person simply because they are worshiping a particular god. One will not get a better next life, achieve moksha (no more births) or ‘go to Heaven’ simply because they worshiped a particular deity.

One needs to get a grip over one’s own life and actions and lead a mindful existence, paying attention to every action one makes and thinking over how that action will affect one’s – and others’ – karma.

This theory of personal responsibility is what I like the most in Hinduism. Expecting salvation from outside is, at least in my opinion, futile. In my opinion gods, angels, saints, all the beneficial spirits can give us help, they can give us strength and encouragement to do the best we can, but if we ourselves are not working on it, then it is not worth a peanut. In a simple example, think of a drug addict. They can attend rehab, go to meetings and listen to people who came clear, get help from specialist doctors. But if they themselves don’t want to come clear, none of these external influences will help them. We ourselves have to want to be ‘good’. We have to work on our faults and make the most of what we have. No worries if the most is not much. There are many lives ahead of us, we don’t need to do everything at once. But the most it should be.

Reincarnation aka Samsara

This brings me to the second thing I really like about Hindu philosophy: reincarnation and that eventually everyone will reach perfection and attain God. Hinduism teaches that we are born here to experience human existence as a whole: in all its darkness and glory. In my view, every soul comes here to Earth to experience a certain set of things in each life. In one life it might be being a serial killer who had abusive parents, in another to be a perfect mother of ten children, and anything in-between. A soul needs to experience every aspect of Life, and every emotion available to us humans. When one has experienced every facet of light and darkness then nothing ties the soul to earthly existence, it has no desires left, and it can peacefully return to the Creator – to draw an analogy, it can go to Heaven.

For some it might take just a few lives; for some, hundreds and thousands. But eventually, everyone will reach salvation, where they don’t have to be born again and can join the Creator once more, in perfect peace and contentment. Everyone.

That means even The Worst Person in History has the potential to achieve union with God, through hard work on themselves, possibly in the course of many incarnations.

That makes so much more sense to me than having Heaven and Hell and chucking everyone into the latter who wasn’t mature enough to lead a ‘good’ life at their first go. And it just isn’t fair to expect everyone to be on the same level of ‘good’, irrespective of their circumstances. Yes, some Christians believe in Purgatory so there’s that. But the expectations are still very high, knowing human nature.

Karma, dharma, and lessons

Another reason I like Hinduism is the theory of karma, dharma, and lessons we need to learn through lives. It ties in with both personal responsibility and samsara but I wanted to talk about it separately. I might even write a post about it later, who knows. But to cut it short, here’s what it all means to me.

Karma means in very simple terms the law of action and reaction. You are a jerk, you get people treating you like one. Now put a twist on it: you are a jerk in this life, but that’s what you came here to do, that’s how you advance on your journey and that’s how you help others on theirs: it’s your dharma, your life task. Therefore, you go on being a jerk and people who expect karma to work like a policeman are surprised that you lead a happy life despite being a horrible person. Alas, karma is not a policeman, but after you die, you might be assigned the task to suffer from a similar ‘jerk’ in your next life – and learn what you have to from it: humility, standing up for yourself, or active rebellion.

Again, this does not mean that you don’t have to try and become a better person because being a jerk is “your life’s lesson”; if you realise that you hurt others by being a jerk, and change your behaviour, then it might just save you a life’s worth of lessons right there.

I think that overcoming our basic nature is one big step upward on the ladder of samsara – but I’ll write more about this later. What I like about all this is that there are countless opportunities for us to see behind the curtains and understand why things are happening and accept our lessons with grace.

Polytheistic world view

Hinduism has millions of gods. To a Hindu person, one god extra does not make a difference, and that is why initially early Christians, Persians, and Muslims could live in India in peace. No one cares what you believe in, or if you believe in any god at all. If you are a good egg, you can stay and you will be welcomed. Of course, by now this notion has been corrupted and many people forgot how to be tolerant towards others. Why, now there are Hindu Extremists out there! What a laughable notion! Only a Buddhist extremist would be further off the edges of sanity. Anyway, this is Kali Yuga, the age of darkness for you. I do find it refreshing that none of the gods say that he or she is the only one people should worship. In Hinduism, only demons say such things, and they are punished for their audacity at the end. Not that I want to draw a parallel with any other religion. And this is why sometimes you can even find statues of Mother Mary on Hindu altars, like for example in Skanda Vale in Wales? If you haven’t heard of Skanda Vale yet, you must google them.

I believe that from every religion, each and every god exists, and each and every one of them are facets of the one creator that has no personality nor a name, who we cannot imagine or describe by human words. Which facet you worship makes no difference.

The gods

Until now I wrote about philosophy and things that are more or less understandable why someone like me would be impressed by them. But here’s the thing: Hindu gods are weird. They have extra limbs, extra eyes, extra heads – sometimes that of an animal – they dress strangely – if they are dressed at all… it’s all very confusing to someone not versed in art history or art interpretation. One day my dad called me up and asked me why does Shiva have four arms and snakes all over him. My first, somewhat dumb reaction was… why not? He’s a god, he can look like anything he wants to! Or rather, any way the artist sees him.

It doesn’t really matter how an artist has painted the portraits of gods; they don’t really have bodies the way we do, therefore they don’t really have a form the way we do. They can appear to us humans any way they like, be it a man with four arms or a talking pillar of scorching fire.

And especially Shiva is said to be formless energy – that’s why he is represented by the lingam, or a pillar of fire too. Of course, his four arms on pictures have a meaning, as have all the other weird stuff, too. That belongs to art interpretation, and I will get to it in another post. So to ask why Hindu gods look the way they do is the same thing as asking why the Christian God is an old man with a beard sitting on top of the clouds. It’s because this is the image that over time has been widely accepted to represent that particular spirit. Nothing more, nothing less.

But why did I choose one of the weirdest of the weird gods, the one full of contradictions? Why not the (seemingly) simple Vishnu with his protective nature? Why not cute Ganesha who would remove all obstacles from my way? Why the dangerous Destroyer?

Well, as for myself, and many other ladies as I came to know later, the energy of Shiva has a magnetic effect on us. There is a certain primordial strength radiating from him, the suggestion of power, control over himself, a feeling of ancientness, of wisdom and fairness, of serenity and boundlessness. He is beautiful, inside and out. Some might even say, the perfect man – in India, girls pray to Shiva for a good husband because he is considered to be the best husband there is even though his true form is pure energy. More on this in a later post. As I said in the “Calling of Shiva“, his image as Nataraj grabbed me by the collar from early childhood, and the more I know about him the more I love him.

I have never got the same feeling of safety and peace from any other god what I have now with him. This is something no one can take away and something I would never want to give up. I may work with other deities, I might even keep an icon on my altar (I do actually). But Shiva has his place deeply embedded in my heart, for this life and the rest.

©Katalin Patnaik 2019

Sleep & Its Spirits

Sleep. We all need it, sooner or later. And, like any other shared human experience, it’s subject to its share of myth and magic. There are a few deities across cultures who rule sleep and/or dreams, but there are also spirits who disrupt it; we’ll look at a few examples of both here, starting with the good…

Baku
Though not deities, these helpful Japanese spirits go around devouring peoples’ nightmares. Appearing as a composite creature with an elephant’s head and tiger’s feet, the Baku can be called upon to protect from nightmares before going to sleep or to devour a nightmare after waking up from one so that it won’t return upon falling back asleep. The petition for Baku to eat a nightmare must be repeated three times.

Caer Ibormeith
This Irish goddess ruled dreams and prophecy. Her main myth involves her appearing in the dreams of another god of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who sought her out upon waking to marry her. Also according to this myth, she spends most of her time in the guise of a swan. If you’re having trouble with disruptive dreams, try leaving her some food or drink offerings before bed; based on the ancient tradition of Celtic offerings being buried or thrown in bogs, I’d recommend tossing these offerings outdoors the next day.

Hypnos (Roman Equivalent: Somnus)
Probably the best-known god of sleep and powerful enough to put even Zeus to bed, Hypnos is the son of the night goddess Nyx and twin brother to the death god Thanatos (who is his frequent companion). And luckily for us, the ancient Greeks always considered the youthful, winged Hypnos to be gentle and wrote several surviving prayers to him (including one written by an insomniac who lamented apparently having offended the god). So if you’re having trouble falling asleep, try pouring Hypnos some wine, or keeping a bouquet of red poppies for him.

Oneiroi
In some myths, Hypnos and his wife Pasithea are the parents of the Oneiroi; in other versions, they are siblings to Hypnos (as children of Nyx). The Oneiroi collectively refers to the innumerable gods of dreams. In the poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the three named Oneiroi are Morpheus (god of dreams), Phantasos (god of surreal dreams), and Phobetor (god of nightmares).

My Personal Nighttime Prayer to Hypnos:
“Beautiful winged Hypnos, I call to You. Gentle Hypnos, son of Nyx, twin brother of Thanatos, I honor you. Youthful theoi who dwells by the river Lethe, surrounded by crimson poppies, I ask for Your assistance. Hypnos Epidotes, grant me a restful night’s sleep, that I may awake renewed; when your dominion falls over the beasts of this land, may I find respite from the day as well. On my behalf, ask that your kin of dreams Morpheus be kind to me, and that your kin of nightmares Phobetor pass me by. Gracious theoi, beloved of the gorgeous Pasithea, I thank you.”

Unfortunately, not every spirit of the night has our best interests at heart. Some spirits will attack in dreams, or strike at a vulnerable sleeping body. These attacks often manifest as recurrent nightmares or sleep paralysis.

Succubus & Incubus
Likely the most recognizable spiritual threat of the night in modern times, the succubus (female) or incubus (male) are known for attacks that tend to be sexual and/or violent in nature, often using the guise of an attractive human in dreams to deceive victims. They feed off the life energy of their victims, causing fatigue. Given their rise in Christian times, such as their description in Demoniality by Sinistrari, religious protection would usually be recommended to dissuade them from targeting a person.

Penanggalan & Manananggal
Its name, meaning to “detach” or “remove”, describes the Malaysian Penanggalan pretty succinctly; this vampiric creature, though appearing as a normal woman during the day, is believed to fly through the air at night as only a head, though with still-attached organs and glowing entrails trailing after, as well as an accompanying odor of vinegar. (In other areas, the Penanggalan is also known as Krasue.) And with both names coming from languages of the Austronesian family, Manananggal can also be translated to refer to removing; this time, it’s the entire upper torso which can detach itself and, sprouting bat-like wings, fly off at night through the Philippines. Both spirits allegedly favor pregnant women as their targets, feeding on their blood, and the Penanggalan especially favors newborns or women who just gave birth. Their attacks are sometimes blamed for things like disease, miscarriage, or deformities at birth. The Penanggalan is deterred from entering a home by the scattering of thorny leaves and wrapping of thorny vines from local plants, which injure the creature’s exposed organs; sleeping with scissors under the pillow also deters attack. The Manananggal, like a typical European-style vampire, can be discouraged with garlic and salt.

Hag/Boo Hag/Witch
Here in North Carolina, the term “witch” didn’t always necessarily refer to a human magical practitioner. There are many older sources, such as the Life of William Grimes (a runaway slave who details his experience with a “witch” around page 29), where a witch is described as a creature that rides and exhausts human victims at night, in some versions leaving their skin behind at home when going out to do so; some old ghost stories even describe a witch transforming victims into horses to literally ride. Also known throughout the American South as a Hag, this ugly and terrifying spirit attacks at night by sneaking into a victim’s bedroom and sitting on their chest. Victims would awake to feel the pressure on their body, or even see the creature atop them; given their tendency for repeated attacks, it’s believed that a hag could eventually cause its victim’s death. Given that a Hag was believed to enter through a door’s keyhole, something like a sieve/colander would be hung on the doorknob so that the Hag would become confused going through all the holes (or that the spirit would compulsively try to go through every single hole); alternatively, the sieve/colander was kept near the bed. Playing off the same belief in the Hag’s compulsions, a broom could also be kept laying by the bed, where the Hag would be driven to count every single straw on the broom. These methods essentially occupy the Hag, wasting time until the would-be victim wakes up in the morning. Sulfur around the bed or an open pair of scissors under the pillow will keep the Hag away.

Specific examples can be a good starting point for focused thinking about the subject, but when it comes down to the practical application, your quality of sleep will likely be improved by the presence of any form of spiritual protection. However you ward your home–be it amulets or tools, or purely energetic barriers–it is likely that it will keep out much of the spiritual nuisances out there. Also, any friendly spirit can provide protection and comfort during the night, if you only ask.

And of course, magical efforts must always be helped along with practical, physical efforts. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, read up on “sleep hygiene” and what you can do to help yourself along. As a lover of teas, let me recommend a blend of chamomile, lavender, catnip, passionflower, linden flower, lemon balm, and/or peppermint. You can mix these with each other as you please (they are among the more palatable herbs), or mix them with other naturally non-caffeinated herbal teas of your choice. All these herbs are sedatives and/or relaxants. These herbs are also among the safer herbs to take regularly and don’t tend to interact with any medications you may be taking. As always, be aware of any herbal allergies you have; I would also note that there is some controversy on taking non-commercial herbal teas while pregnant due mostly to the lack of data on certain herbs in unmeasured/copious amounts, although these specific herbs listed are commonly used commercially and considered safe in reasonable doses. (You can always look through the ingredients list on commercial tea bags to find what you need; most of these companies adhere to FDA-approved herbs in safe quantities.)

©Blue Huntington 2019

The Quest I Didn’t Know I Was On

All of my pagan life, I’ve been on a Quest. Not just a quest, but a QUEST. One of those big journeys that is supposed to culminate in some huge lesson, similar to the Quests that knights would go on in the old tales. Quest for the Grail and all that.

Strange right? I mean, I didn’t even know it was happening at first. I just studied wherever and whatever my heart led me to. I didn’t really have any goals in mind, any one thing that I was supposed to be learning. I just went where my heart led me.

It wasn’t until recently that it all began to come together. We’re not talking about a couple years of searching though. I mean, twenty years is a long time to be searching for something you didn’t even know you were searching for.

But that’s what happened…  Let me back up and explain a little of this journey…

I became pagan at the young age of 12. Yup, 12 years old. And yes, I knew what that meant then. I was the only one I knew, sort of. See, my grandmother was really New Age. As far as I know, she was Christian (at least nominally). Yet she had her own deck of Tarot cards (Rider-Waite) and a bag of runes. I remember sitting there somewhere between 10 and 11 years old, and playing with them. I read the little books, and tried to figure out what they meant, but just couldn’t grasp it at that point (it honestly took me years to be able to read Tarot, and I’m still only beginning my journey with runes).

After watching my efforts, my grandmother took me to the local bookstore she frequently haunted and let me roam the shelves of the New Age section. Nestles tightly between books on angels and crystals were spell books and books on REAL TRUE WITCHCRAFT!!!  Imagine the shock that went through my young mind to learn that witches were real! It was hands-down that most eye-opening moment of my life. I never struggled with the thought. Instead I embraced it, and began down the road that led me to this moment in my Quest.

At the age of 19, I began to study in earnest. I was finally able to understand what I was reading and I read everything I could. As it was the only word I knew, I called myself Wiccan, even knowing that it wasn’t the right word for what I did. More often than not, it was just Pagan, even though I was regularly having to explain what that was. It wasn’t a word that most people knew then. The internet was still a baby at that point, and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed were just beginning their foray into the wonderful world of witchcraft.

Moving forward a few years, I was in university and my studies there led me into the Arthurian tales, as well as myth cycles such as Y Mabinogi. I didn’t then realize what an impact they would have on me. One tale led to the next, which led to some historical work, and eventually led me to the edges of Druidry. Along the way, I was still studying magick, but I was becoming more and more disenchanted with it. Something was missing…

That search for the missing whatever it was became a search for my “real” spiritual path. I explored so many things, among them Heathenry, Druidry, Irish Celtic, Kemetic, and an Avalonian Tradition. None of them was right for me in it’s entirety, although I learned a lot from them. I learned more about who I’m not than I did about who I am, which led me into a deeper confusion. I was searching in earnest now, but still didn’t know what I was searching for.

All this searching was leading me into a crisis of faith. I mean, if I couldn’t find my right path, how could I truly call myself pagan in any way? I realize that that question doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense, but it’s how I was feeling. My entire identity had become wrapped up in who I was spiritually.

A decade of searching led me down many paths, none of them what I truly needed. I finally gave up. I started coming to terms with the thought that I would always have this really, REALLY, eclectic practice. I felt incredibly alone, like no one would ever understand how I felt and what I was looking for. After all, I didn’t know myself.

It took some time, but I was finally able to just relax and accept that my practice was really different from the rest of the pagans I knew. I knew that in the end, it didn’t really matter, as long as my practice, such as it was, meant something to me.

Then lightning struck…

I came to realize that my faith matched up with my Arthurian studies from so long ago. What I had begun then was the forerunner of where I was to end up. Suddenly, everything began to make sense to me in a new way. It was like putting together a puzzle face down, and then turning it the right way and seeing the whole picture! I had the answers all along, I just didn’t see it!

My path is in search of Awen, which is the Welsh word for divine inspiration. You see, in my mundane life, I am a writer. Not just here, but in multiple places. I recently had a book of poetry published and am currently working on two new ones. I was so close to my spiritual path with my writing that I couldn’t see it.

I work now primarily with Welsh deities, although it’s still very new to me. The words, the language, the myths, I am taking baby steps down this path, soaking it all in bit by bit. The term for the path, for those who are like me and like labels to define things, is Awenydd. Those who seek Awen, and strive to bring it into every day life, who work with the gods and spirits of Brythonic culture, attempting to bring them forward again.

I have found more peace within myself since coming to realize that the signs have always been there. I will continue to work with the gods I’ve already established relationships with, but now my Quest has become more pressing than ever. I feel like I am 12 years old again, reaching for those books that taught me about this world in new ways. I have come full circle, and move now into a new journey.

©Lauren Michelle 2019

The Black Bird Buffet

There is a fast food place not terribly far from where I live, which I suppose can be said for most people living in the United States. Around the side of the establishment is a fenced in dumpster area, usually overflowing with leftovers from the buffet. Recently I’ve begun noticing a large number of black birds swarming the area and feasting on the morsels within. In the days after I first saw  the avian feeding frenzy I’ve had trouble getting it off my mind. My initial thought was a lamentation of just how wasteful our species can be, followed shortly thereafter with “well I’m glad someone is eating it”. Neither of those thoughts are what this article is really about though.

Those birds out there exist within the same space as us but still in their own world, separate and alien from ours. The two are of course related, completely interdependent on one another. What we do effects them and what they do effects us even though our worlds are different. As someone who practices two traditions that both put an emphasis on the spirit world and the connection between theirs and ours, it was impossible for me not to see a resemblance.

In my own faith and practice I believe that there are two main divisions or worlds in which we exist, the physical world and the spirit world. These worlds exist side by side and influence one another. In Wicca or Wiccan inspired beliefs we often refer to the existence of a “veil between worlds”. The terminology is interesting here because it heavily implies that these worlds are not as far from one another as they may appear. A veil is a very thin cloth, basically porous. This reflects the idea of spirits passing from one world to the other and back again in a constant loop.

The tldr here? Your house is haunted. Everyone’s is, some places are just way more active than others.

Now back to the birds. They have their own complex behavior, pecking order and forms of communication. Heck, who are we to say they don’t have their own form of culture as well? Throughout history, humans have been fascinated with the idea of a culture for wild animals and we see this reflected in the extensive mythologizing of them. Mythology and folktales are told throughout the world of animals speaking,  living in tribes or other societies, having laws and codes of ethics. This fascination hasn’t stopped in modern times either, just look to the wildly popular Warriors series by Erin Hunter for evidence of that.

I suppose what I’m really trying to get at in this rambling mess is that those birds served as a reminder that more exists in this world than what we see in our daily lives. It’s easy to get stuck in this rut of doing the same thing over and over and missing the bigger picture. Kemeticism and Wicca help me to see glimpses of this grand scheme (whatever it is exactly) in the small everyday things. All you have to do is look up occasionally.

 

©Terra Akhert 2019