“those upsetting words”

Had some good talk time with book club friends tonight, and I was reminded once again how hard it can be to talk about my spiritual path – not because I don’t love it, but because the words available to me are sometimes so loaded.  It reminded me of this section from a book I use as a resource, and I thought it would be good to share here…

*note: I am not actually Wiccan. I don’t mind the word witch, because the root is simply “to change” – but Wiccan viewpoints largely align with most pagan or new age beliefs.  They just have more specific rituals and traditions, which is great for some folks, just not my personal path.  So, I use a lot of their materials, even though I’m not specifically Wiccan by a long shot.

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tough word #1: “witchcraft”
the root of the word wic, or wicca, means “wise”, for witches were/are keepers of wisdom.  Another definition was “to bend and shape”, meaning those who practice the craft can bend and shape natural energies to drive change, usually within themselves.

tough word #2: “power”
for Wiccans, power has little to do with control over people and things. Power is a natural state of being that comes from uniting with the vast flow of nature and operating from an experience of accord with that flow. In the Wiccan view, power is a shared, subtle energy that flows through all things.

tough word #3: “ritual”
Rituals in Wicca involve symbolic words, sounds, colors, and gestures. Wiccans understand that each element of a ritual speaks the language of the deep mind, and thus awakens the movement of psychological and spiritual energy. The symbols in Wiccan ritual emerge from both time-honored, shared correspondences, and personal associations that can emerge from dreams, meditation, personal experience and insight.  Rituals involve words and actions that help align your mind and body with specific energies, making you more connected to the divine. (example: in the Christian faith, the act of taking communion is a powerful ritual with a lot of meaning that helps those in attendance experience a certain power, emotion, energy – pagans do the same, but the rituals honor various energies, times of year, etc.)

tough word #4: “magic”
Magic is a term that sometimes causes confusion or fear. In popular imagination, magic is about getting things that you want through forbidden, dark, or dangerous forces. Wiccans understand magic as a natural process. It is the ability to change one’s consciousness – one’s frame of mind. It is the ability to arrive at substantial realizations and broadening insights that change one’s relationship as a human being to the world. Out of one’s change of consciousness comes change in the world. (“As within, so without”) The processes of magic reveal our internal patterns that can help us live in close contact with our full human power.  Empowerment and responsibility are the heart, and true lesson, of magic.  Magick (spelling with a “k” is sometimes used to differentiate from stage magic) is the art of making change, manifesting your dreams, and banishing the things that no longer serve you and hold you back.

tough word #5: “occult”
The word “occult”, derived from the Latin occultusanum, literally means “secret.”  Few Wiccans today use this term when referring to their contemporary magical or spiritual practices. However, the word simply refers to hidden teachings or energies that are available to all.  The world of spirit and energy is a mystery to most all humans, making it part of the occult.

tough word #6: “pagan”
Pagan comes from the Latin paganus, meaning “a peasant or country dweller.”  Formerly people used the word in reference to a non-Christian.  The word then expanded over time to pejoratively mean anyone who was not “of the Book”, namely a person who was not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.  It gained negative connotations over time and came to mean someone who was an uncivilized “idolator.”  In contemporary practice, a pagan is someone who follows a polytheistic or pantheistic spiritual system. Typically, a pagan is someone who believes that the universe, the earth, and all of its inhabitants contain divinity.  The divine force is inherent in all life and form. Spiritual does not mean divorced from the physical, earthly realm. The earth is one of the most divine forms in all creation. All life, all nature, is the divine manifest, and most pagans honor the earth as a living being, a source of life.

tough word #7: “spell”
Simply put, a symbolic act through which anyone can channel nonphysical energies to move toward a goal. Spells are the same as prayers – simple acts of sending out intention to the divine, asking it to manifest.

tough word #8: “polytheist”
Although witches are usually considered polytheists, meaning they acknowledge and honor more than one deity, they recognize the one spirit running through everything. Perhaps the word monist, one who recognizes the divine in everything, is a more appropriate term, but most pagans identify as polytheists. The gods, goddesses, and spirits they recognize and honor are expressions of that one spirit, leading to a more personal relationship with the divine.

These words are often tough to explain in conversation, but hopefully, over time, they will come to reflect their true meaning – I find this spiritual path to contain some “dark” words, but in beautiful ways! The dark and mysterious can be beautiful, just as night can be beautiful, the space inside the womb can be beautiful, and even death can be beautiful…right?

(sources: The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, and Wicca: A Year and a Day)

the Diamond.

“Most mainstream religions, particularly the Judeo-Christian traditions, are monotheistic, acknowledging only one god: theirs. Some feel these traditions focused on the masculine vibration of the divine and saw it as the one and only source of life. They are looking at the brilliance of the whole diamond, but are blinded to look at the individual facets. Or they are fascinated by one facet of the diamond, one god, and exclude all else. The spiritual ancestors of modern witches were in a position that seems unique to us today. Because of their polytheistic nature, they could recognize the gods of another tribe, land, or culture as different expressions of their own gods. They could see the diamond as a whole as well as the individual facets.  As we look to the Great Spirit at the center of the diamond, witches remember that we, too, are facets of the diamond. Like the trees, oceans, and animals, we are expressions of the divine, the Goddess, God, and Great Spirit.

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(C. Penczak, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft)

Thursday thought…

…to meditate on, perhaps?

“When I say witchcraft is a spirituality, I mean it is a spiritual path.  You walk it for nourishment of the soul, to commune with the life force of the universe, and to thereby better know your own life.  Witchcraft is a daily commitment to renew yourself in the cycles of the Earth, to synchronize yourself with the powers in life.”
(C. Penczak, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft)

Spirit-of-Nature

Reblog: In Search of the Sacred

Maia Toll is an instructor in my Witch Camp (online courses) and she has written some fantastic blogs.  This one really resonates with me, so I wanted to share it here!  Original post is here.

We contemplated the nunnery
not out of fear, but out of love.
Love of what, we could not say.  But we knew

it had something to do with the way
a flower twisted toward sunlight,
the way storms gather, bruised and swollen.

This, we could call God…..

My search for the sacred started early, in arguments with Hebrew school teachers and long afternoons sitting beneath the willow trees that were planted to keep our backyard from flooding.  College brought philosophy classes and a severe revulsion for the trappings of religion.

I sought a language of the sacred in the built landscape (thus a few years of architecture school), in art (yup, there was a year of art therapy training), in poetry (which I taught to elementary school children in Harlem), and even in the dreaming journeys of shamanism.

Ultimately, I found communion in the green world, amongst the flowers and trees and the stones. I found a peace and joy in the small messages that a butterfly can bring and in the odd rant of the ravens.   And when I did — the questions, the searching and striving, simply fell away.

I have become familiar with the feeling of communion, how it resonates in my heart and quiets my mind. I know the light frisson of joy that electrifies my skin and reminds me that I am alive and a part of a larger dance.

This feeling is a tuning fork by which I measure the vibration of the places and events in my life.

And so… I walked into the Church of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia is not an ancient church.  It was started in 1882 and is still an ongoing project.  There is a sense — not only in the present space, but in the writings of its architect Antonio Gaudi — that this is a project for the generations.  That time and evolution are to play a part in the dance of its creation.

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You will have noted up above that I studied architecture.  From merely looking at the photos of his works, I had wondered (as my husband Andrew did!) if Antonio Gaudi had the word “gaudy” coined for his style.*  I had thought Gaudi’s work was fanciful at best, and frivolous at worst.

And then I walked in and looked up.

The columns of Sagrada Familia are designed to feel like trees. They are precisely proportioned and so, despite the overt ornamentation and allegory, I felt deep peace.  I felt awe for the human accomplishment of this vision that spans from generation to generation, enticing artisans from each decade to add their mark and become part of the greater whole.  It was breathtaking…  and soul-stopping.

The church was crowded the day I was there, as was the Old City of Jerusalem as I stood at the Western Wall five days later, contemplating the seekers and the sacred, wondering what makes a place holy.

We had gone to Israel to visit my sister and her family and to attend my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah.  I expected to sit in ignorance as the service went on around me in a language I neither speak nor understand.  Instead, the Rabbi switched back and forth, Hebrew to English.  He talked about the torah reading for that particular day, and how it turned on the concept of holy space.

He asked my nephew “What space is holy for you?”

My nephew told him that his holy place is his summer camp in America.

The rabbi asked “what makes it holy?”

My nephew answered “The people and the friendships and the memories that are created there.”

As the Rabbi closed the service, he offered a blessing to my nephew: the blessing of finding the holy in every place that he visits so that there is no place that is not sacred.

In that moment, my mind wandered back to Barcelona, to a small church courtyard in the winding alleys of the Gothic district.  An ethereal voice floated over the square, singing Silent Night as the sun dipped lower, casting long shadows over the cobblestones.

We were halfway across the plaza as the singing began. I looked back to see that the ephemeral voice emanated from a squat woman in bright orange sweatpants.

I smiled…

… and a frisson of joy ran down my arms.

Your turn:

Have you stumbled upon an unexpected moment of the sacred? Or been somewhere where you expected to feel that deep sense of peace but felt nothing?  Share below!

Need to be able to create sacred space for yourself wherever you are?

Try putting a few drops of essential oil on your palm, rubbing your hands together and sniffing.

Which oils?

This is soooo personal!  Frankincense, Myrrh, Davanna, Palo Santo, Sandalwood, and Sage have all been used in various cultures to connect us with divinity.  But you may find that the scent of Jasmine or Pine hold a particular association that is just right for you.

Follow your nose and use what speaks to you, personally.

* Oh, and Gaudi and gaudy: no relation!

Merry Meet!

Hello, world.

I decided I need a place to record my magickal musings – I have a private Book of Shadows, but I share with my “tribe” often, so an easily accessible online page seemed like the place to record these nuggets of wisdom as I learn them.  An online, share-able magickal journal, if you will.  With the added bonus of being searchable – the worst part of paper journals is flipping through 75 pages to find that ONE Beltane ritual you wrote down two years ago…

Magick?  Ritual?  I can see the scowls on some faces now. No matter.

I am what you’d called a Pagan Pantheist.  Or maybe a Pagan Panentheist.  Honestly, I am still trying to decide.  I go back and forth, and expect that one day I will suddenly KNOW, deep down, which I resonate more with.  In the meantime, it doesn’t matter – this small point does not affect my daily life in any noticeable way.

I am a Pantheist/Panentheist because I believe that the Divine, Source, God (whatever you like to use) is in ALL.  My internal debate is whether the Universe and the Divine are the same, or if the Universe is a PART of the Divine.  (See my dilemma?)

I am a Pagan (root of the word meaning rustic, country dwellers) because I find the Divine in nature, and believe any number of archetypes can be powerfully used to invoke the sacred within ourselves.  One Source, but many, many manifestations of it – and any can be considered sacred and powerful.  Gods, Goddesses, trees, rocks, vibrations and sounds, magnificent locations, animals, saints…the list goes on.  (What’s powerful for you?)

I’ve found a lot of excellent blogs, videos, and books as I study the path of spirit.  My only wish is that they might occasionally be divided into smaller, more mentally-digestable chunks of information.  If something is connected to spirit or myth, I often have to let it sink in for a while before moving to the next part.  So, here, we will have pagan pantheist pieces.  Literally. Small, easy pieces.

I am a:
Thirty-something,
Happily married,
Childless-as-of-today-but-parent-of-three-furry-children,
Professionally employed,
Continually seeking,
Woman.

And these are my musings.

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