Pagan Parenting in the Bible Belt

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PBP: The Wheel of the Year – Part 1

Prompt: The Wheel of the Year

“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Since the prompt begins with harvest season, I suppose I will start there. The easiest answer is that, it’s Harvest Season – we harvest the things we’ve been cultivating through the year. Not only does this mean that we start seeing produce from our garden, but also the things that we put into play (by will, by virtue of The Universe, what was given to or asked of the Gods, by virtue of spells cast – whatever you want to call it) are starting to see results by this time. It’s drawing closer to the Dark of the Year, and the time to examine the progress we’ve made thus far is nigh. There’s still some time to work, if it’s needed; or if the harvest is good, then it is time to look forward to relaxing in the Winter months.This is also the time of year where we make offerings of thanks, and ensure the continued protection and good will from our border and land spirits. Like Spring cleaning, we do Autumn cleaning, which is more taking stock of what we have and what we will need come Spring than actual ‘cleaning’. This applies to clothing, seeds, materials, and spiritual things as well. We save what we will re-use and donate what we can.
As far as connecting with the roots of the Sabbats, I have found it extremely helpful to do some research. Knowing the history and traditions of the Sabbats, and the meanings of them in the eyes of our ancestors, makes the Holy Days much more personal for me. Much of my family comes from Northern & Western Europe – Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, England, France & Germany. I am drawn to Celtic and Scandinavian traditions, in addition to others (and the more I learn, the more influence I see from those countries in my path). Since we homeschool, learning our family history and working through the projects we’ve done (and continue to do) on those countries and their peoples, the changing governments, and religions in those countries makes it more ‘real’ and easier to make a personal connection to the Holy Days that they celebrated, and thus, to my own.
As for my Holy Days, over the years of celebrating them, I’ve found that each of them has a ‘reason’ for me to connect with. I am part of a Flamekeeping Cill for Bridgid, Cill Willow. That is a primary focus for me at Imbolc; the focus on Bridgid (I am actually writing this on my Flamekeeping shift). There are traditions that appeal to me, such as snuffing and re-lighting hearth fires (even though I don’t have a fireplace in my house, we do it symbolically), sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new, baking bread, making corn dollies and the like. With the kids, taking time to celebrate the beginning of the calendar year, recalling seasonal and Sabbat Lore to strengthen their connections to their paths is always a focus. As the first Sabbat of the calendar year, it’s easy to make the connection with the beginning of the year, the first signs of the approaching Spring. Since this is a devotional Sabbat, it re-affirms my own path, and helps me maintain my focus for the coming year.
I feel a special affinity for cross-quarter days (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh & Samhain). These ‘in-between’ times are times of change and examination. This is when I evaluate, and make adjustments when needed, to my path or journey towards a goal. I update my journals, Shadow Books, make changes and consolidate information, add a new binder if I need to. It’s a time of ‘housekeeping’ and organization.
I struggle a bit with Ostara, I admit. My own past and hang-ups associate Ostara very much with the Christian Easter, which was always a problem for me. The Easter traditions are so blatantly Pagan in nature (rabbits and eggs as symbols of fertility, re-birth as a theme); I could never comfortably celebrate Easter in good faith. I have found that now, as a Pagan, I have a harder time letting go of the Christian associations to comfortably and fully fall into it as a Pagan celebration. Weird, I know, but that’s how it is. I am still trying to work past it. I don’t dye eggs or decorate them with my kids, which is a huge association that I am grateful to be rid of (though oddly enough, I don’t have a problem using eggs in my Ostara decoration or altar themes, and I’ve been wanting to try Pysanky for the longest time).  This past year has been the first time that I’ve successfully maintained a garden throughout the entire Summer and into the Fall; in part, I believe, due to the seed blessings from the previous Ostara. I am looking forward to 2014’s Ritual, where some of the seeds I’ve harvested this year will be blessed and hopefully grow well next year. The themes of ‘Spring Cleaning’ and fertility, waking up the earth, taking stock and preparing for the planting season are also connections that I honor at Ostara. It’s great fun to walk with the kids around our house, stomping and banging on the ground with staves to ‘wake up the earth’, and making Spring-ish decorations (like birdfeeders and window clings).
Beltane is one of my favorite Sabbats. The theme of Holy Union and fertility permeate the atmosphere, and Summer is right around the corner. The energy of Beltane is so very powerful; everything is ripe with promise. Beltane is when sex magic is at its peak, and the blend of male and female energies makes for that much more power. This is when I do most of my long-range goal spell-casting for the year. Seeds are planted, both actual seeds and ‘seeds’ of goals and creativity; the first steps towards future plans are made. At Beltane, too, I honor the ‘fruit of my loins’ – my children. The energy and vibrancy of youth is much reflected in the spirit of Beltane, and so I like to take some time to be thankful for them. This is, again, a time of re-dedication, and so I make offerings to some specific deities, and re-affirm my dedication to them.
Litha (or Midsummer, Summer Solstice) is another one that’s easy for me to connect to. As the beginning of Summer, it’s a great time to begin new things. Summertime is the season for outdoors, and we take full advantage of t – hiking, beaching, swimming, canoeing – all things outdoors fill our activity calendar. With the kids, writing the summer’s ‘bucket list’ comes into play, as well a s celebrating Faerie Lore. One of my favorite traditions is in the legend of the Holly King & The Oak King. At Litha, the Oak King, who reigns from Yule until Litha – the Light half of the year) dies, and the Holly King is born. The God, in this aspect, will reign from Litha to Yule (the dark half of the year). ‘Mourning’ the death of the Oak King, and ‘rejoicing’ at the birth of the Holly King is something we look forward to the closer to the Solstices we get.
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.
This post is getting kinda lengthy, so I am going to make it two parts. I’ll continue with the second half of the year in my next post.

Brightest Blessings,


Houston Pagan Pride Day 2013

Once again, Houston PPD has come and gone. Can I just mention how much I love PPD events? The community is so cohesive, and seeing people I’ve met in the past, and meeting new people is always so electrifying!

This year, our PPD was held in October, rather than the traditional September. It was cooler out, which was a definite plus, but it was scheduled for the same weekend as the annual Witch’s Ball that’s held in Galveston, which was not so great. I think we lost some of the usual PPD attendees due to the conflict. Hopefully next year, we won’t have them scheduled at the same time.

Even with the conflict, we had a nice turn out! We were on the roof/parking garage area of Khon’s Wine & Darts. We had a section of the upstairs space blocked off, with the vendor spaces surrounding an open area. The stage was at one end, for the performers and entertainers. This year’s performers included Sparkling Shadows belly-dancers, drummers, and some amazing singers (including my favorites, Robin Kirby, Ginger Doss & Bekah Kelso).

There were two Rituals; one nearer to the beginning of the event, and the main ritual (Summerian), hosted by the lovely Kaleen Reed. I only caught a bit of the main ritual as I was downstairs taking a breather and grabbing something to drink, but it was lovely, and I am sad to have missed it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to walk around, because I was vending! My local Circle decided to snag a booth and vend this year (our first year vending). We had a ton of stuff, all handmade (or handcrafted/upcycled) by our Circle-mates. We brought 4 of our kindred, along with me and Bridey, and had a really great time!

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This is what you’d see when you walked up.

We had handmade boxes by Inspired Woodcraft, with pyrography by Bridey; and spirit boards that I made (available by custom design via my etsy shop); and several small trinket boxes by Scara Darling.

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Travel altars, beaded spiders & Blessed Kitchen plaque by Bridey; Scara’s bracelets, and mini travel altars, plaques, goddess bowls, catrinas, tarot boxes & prayer beads that I made.

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And amazing Goddess Dolls by Magnolia Moon Crafts. Please go check out her page to see these dolls in better photos – they really are great. I have Blodeuwedd on my altar and she is absolutely beautiful!

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All in all, this was a great vending experience for us. I think we made more connections than money, but we were able to donate some of the funds made to our Circle’s treasury, which was part of our goal in vending. We’re considering heading out to Austin’s PPD next year in addition to Houston’s.

If you’ve never been able to attend a Pagan Pride Day event, please try and make that a goal for 2014! It’s been such a great experience for me. Being Pagan can be such a lonely path; gathering with the larger community is so refreshing. Having this community here to bring my kids into is another boost – for them to see that they’re not the only kids ‘like this’ is awesome.

Brightest Blessings,


PBP: Divination

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I haven’t gone away! The end of the year is always very busy, what with holidays and birthdays in my family. But things have settled down again, and I thought I’d get back into the habit of updating with Pagan Blog Prompts.

From what I gather, they’re following along with the Pagan Blog Project, which takes a letter of the alphabet as a prompt. This week’s letter is ‘D’, and the topic is ‘Divination’.

My favorite form of divination is the tarot. I’ve gotten really lax about practicing, but my enthusiasm is returning. In fact, yesterday, Bridey and I met with a new person interested in joining our local Circle, who reads, and that interest piqued my own.

I have always had great success with the tarot. I use the Medieval Scapini Tarot most often. I’ve used other decks, but this one reads best for me. I used to read every couple of weeks, and could track changes  I always write down the spread and put it in a journal so that I can see what things have happened. I’ve read for others as well, and seemed to be pretty accurate. I love that there is so much information in a spread.

Our local circle was hosting a tarot class each month, using the Rider-Waite deck, but we’ve gotten away from that. We’d take 3 or 4 cards from the deck and write everything we could see or feel or get form the card, then share those observations, then look up the traditional meanings. It was a really good exercise – a fun way to learn to read intuitively. I was surprised at how often my intuition corresponded to what the traditional indications were, and surprised by some of the ones that didn’t match up! It’s been an interesting study to compare the imagery between the RW deck and my deck. Some of the images are similar; others are completely different. I plan to go back and use my deck alone in the same manner, and see how my intuition with it compares to the RW deck.

I’ve used other methods of divination as well: scrying, pendulum, deep meditation and tasseomancy (tea-leaf reading). I really enjoy tea-leaf reading, but am not very practiced at it. I had some friends over for a tea party some time back, and we practiced our tasseomancy skills, but I haven’t employed this method on any sort of regular basis.

I have a pendulum board, and this is probably the method that I use most often for a ‘quickie’. It’s great for yes/no questions or for a quick response, but less helpful for a more in-depth answer. It took me a log time to get the pendulum and board to work for me. It wasn’t until I made my own pendulum that I saw results.

To make my board, I used a slab of wood from the craft store. The one I chose was unfinished, and had bark on it still. Then I drew out the design I wanted, and used a wood-burning tool to make the design. I used acrylic paint to color, then lightly sanded and sealed it with spray poly.

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Scrying… oh, boy… scrying and I don’t get along, LOL. To be honest, I’ve not put much practice into it. We’ve had scrying at two different Sabbat rituals over the last year or so and I have not been successful either time. I do have a scrying mirror, and have tried water scrying and we tried it with leaves once… maybe I just do it wrong! In any case, I am comfortable knowing where my skills are and where they are not!

Brightest Blessings,

Pagan Blog Prompts

 

 


Flamekeeping, Cycle 6

This post is part of my Flamekeeping Diary for 2012. I started printing these posts out and keeping them in my Shadow Book to reflect on and to have a written record of my time with Brighid.

This cycle is the sixth; I am amazed that it’s already my shift again. After my last shift, I wanted to make a devotional candle to burn during my shift – one that was specifically for Brighid. This is what I ended up with – I love how it turned out!

I used a white glass 7-day candle that I found at the dollar store, some craft necklace chain, wire and beads from my jewelry-making supplies. Then I found a picture of Brighid that I liked, and printed it, then ran it through a sticker-maker so that I could attach it to the candle.

This particular candle is one that came without any pre-printed decoration. The glass was clear, so I only had to remove the price sticker and clean the glass before putting the sticker on. I also created a sticker for the back with the history of Cill Willow and my upcoming shift dates. Upon reflection, I should have checked my dates more carefully; I made a mistake in the counting of days and was off, so I had to fix the dates. I’m going to end up re-printing the back sticker.

For this shift, I started the day off in a sour mood. I woke up late, my phone was acting up (I could hear people, but they couldn’t hear me), my modem was acting up (randomly turning itself off and refusing to re-load correctly), the kids were acting obnoxious – it just wasn’t a good day. As the evening crept closer though, things started to get better – in tiny, almost immeasurable increments, but they did start getting better.

My dad called and invited us all to dinner and the boys to watch the football game, so that eliminated the need to cook dinner. I also got to spend some time with my dad, which was nice. Then I left the kids at his house for a while and went back home. I had a couple of hours to myself; I got out my jewelry-making supplies and played with my beads for a bit while listening to the ever-soothing Lord of the Rings soundtrack. I’m a huge geek, and LotR just pushes all of my buttons, so that was utterly enjoyable!

The the men-folk came back home, so I retired to my bedroom to re-decorate my altar for Samhain (it was still decorated for Lughnasadh – I seem to have skipped Mabon altogether, which is unusual for me, but I just wasn’t feeling it). I lit some amber/sandalwood incense that I found at The Witchery in Galveston (that stuff has become my new favorite incense – I burn it all the time!) and just took my time cleaning my altar and putting the old decorations away. I cleared off some of the things I’ve been keeping on it for a while, and pulled out some things that I haven’t used in a long time; it’s nice to see those things again. I used a purple silk altar cloth and brand new purple candles, which is different; I usually use more neutral colored candles. I also cleaned out my ‘magic trunk’ and organized my herb jars under my altar in neat rows. I’m really happy with how it looks, and am breathing easier now that my trunk is all clean and organized. There’s definitely truth to the old saying about physical clutter being linked to mental clutter.

At bedtime, I put the flame out (my LED candle needs batteries), and re-lit it this morning for a few minutes before I extinguished it so that the kids and I could meet up with some friends. When we got back home this afternoon, I re-lit my flame and went to take a nap before we had to leave again, and had the flame next to my bed. I fell alseep quickly, and dreamed, but can’t remember what about now; something about my sister and I in an SUV going somewhere, I think.

This shift was odd in a way; while I was focused on making a connection, I didn’t feel particularly connected to Brighid. I feel like her influence was there, as both the inspirer of creative pursuits was there, as well as her role as a Goddess of the Hearth, but I didn’t feel like She was as attuned as I have in the past. Not that I expect her to be all in my face or anything, but I feel more like I was reaching out more and in the past She was reaching for me.

In any case, it was a lovely shift. It was just the thing I needed after a very chaotic day yesterday, and a busy day today.

Brightest Blessings,


Offerings

This week, I am combining my Pagan Blog Project post with Pagan Blog Prompts. It works, because the letter I am on is ‘O’, and the topic at blog prompts is ‘offerings’… I was struggling with finding a topic for ‘O’, so that worked out well.

We were asked:

For those who perform rituals, do you give offerings? If so, what kind?

What is the meaning/purpose of offerings?

 

Leaving offerings is something I do pretty often, both in ritual, and just in general. Our Lughnasadh ritual was last week and during it we made sacrifice dolls (decorated corn dollies) to burn at Mabon. In the meantime, mine rests on my altar, collecting bits of things I will offer at Mabon in the fire. This is fairly common in my group’s rituals; at Yule, we each decorate Yule Logs to burn – the idea is that the effort that goes into making a beautiful Yule Log is the offering to the Gods. We also generally leave flowers, bits of cakes and ale or wine, pretty things (seashells, nuts, and other Nature goodies) on the Circle Altar when we leave for the evening.

In my personal practice, I leave offerings as well, especially when hiking or walking in the woods. A couple of years ago, I came across a video featuring offering stones made from cornmeal. The kids and I have made several batches and we keep them in a bag in the van. When we go walking or hiking, we grab the bags, and choose a place to say a prayer and leave a stone. The stones are all natural, so they dissolve and nourish the ground and animals around the area we leave them in.

I also keep an offering bowl on my altar. I have made several goddess bowls, and have a few in my etsy shop, Exoptable Thaumaturgy.   I have them all over – in my bedroom on my main altar, in the kitchen window, on my desk… they collect coins, feathers, shells, bits of paper (fortunes from fortune cookies), beads – all kinds of small, pretty things.

Pregnant Tarnished Silver Goddess Bowl

The idea of leaving something for those unseen appeals to me. Deities, faeries, guardian spirits – each of them traditionally ‘require’ something different and paying homage to their preferences is usually  a matter of minutes in terms of real time, but the effort to take the time can be monumental. It’s a small token of thanks, appreciation, acknowledgement… it’s hard to define, but all of those things, and more. The practice of making offering stones, of decorating an item to throw into the fire, of finding something pretty and leaving it in a special place all keep my mind focused on deity. It keeps me in constant connection by providing a tangible way to interact with Them.

Offerings also help me teach my kids about being thankful, and about mindfully going about their day. It’s easy to take a walk or go on a hike without really appreciating the cycles of Nature and the Seasons that make each moment so. By intentionally taking the time and making that connection, the practice of making and leaving offerings provides me with a ready-made teaching tool.

To read more about other Pagan topics that begin with the letter ‘O’, be sure to check out the Pagan Blog Project 2012. To read more about offerings, check out this week’s Pagan Blog Prompt.

Brightest Blessings,

 


Flamekeeping Diary: Cill Willow, Cycle 2

My sisters with Cill Willow have completed a full cycle and started on our second. I started my second cycle a bit late – my husband and I were on a date when the sun set, then we went to pick my children up from my parents and visited with them for a bit. Even though the flame was technically not yet lit, as Brigid is a hearth-goddess, spending time with family is always honoring her.

Once we got home, I lit my candle and put it on the table next to me while I worked on some signs to direct traffic – we hosted a party for our  dojo to congratulate our newest black belts. It was odd; I noticed that when my mind was on lettering, my flame would go out. I would re-light it and continue. This happened several times – until I finished with the signs and brought the candle into the living room where my attention was not as divided.

For bedtime, I turned on an LED candle, which has been on my altar since my last shift; I tried putting it away, but it felt wrong so I left it there. Both nights of my shift, I slept soundly, and don;t recall any dreams. I woke up fairly early for a day filled with family activities.

I wasn’t feeling well Saturday afternoon, so I went to lay down, fully intending to practice reiki and do some meditation – perhaps the intent was enough as I fell asleep shortly after lying down and woke feeling refreshed and much better. I woke in enough time to see the end of my shift through with a real flame – a white candle in thanks and honor of Brigid’s healing energies.

Overall, I am less happy with how this devotion went. I feel like I made more of a connection last time, but I also realize that life has a way of mucking up the best of plans. I am working on being flexible, and the realization that there is always a way to make the connection, even if it wasn’t ‘on schedule’. Since I didn’t get to craft much during my actual shift, I have been working on Lughnasadh amulets as gifts for our Circle’s Ritual next weekend and am making a Brigid’s Cross from some of the leftover wheat stems from the amulets. I’ll post pictures when I finish it!

Brightest Blessings,


Keeper of the Eternal Flame

Saturday, June 30, 2012 8:22PM CST began my first shift with Cill Willow to tend Brigid’s Eternal Flame. I have ‘shift 4′ in a 20-day cycle (with 19 Flamekeepers and one day that Brigid tends the flame herself, then the cycle starts again). Each shift starts at sundown and continues through the night and following day, until sundown, when you pass the duty off to the next Flamekeeper.

I posted about this a few weeks ago, and I wanted to come back and talk about what the experience was like; document what I did and how I felt.

I lit my flame just after sunset. I also lit some incense that I made. I plan to make another blend specifically for tending my flame (possibly with the sisters in my Cill), but this time, I used a blend that I made in Circle with my local group last year at Mabon. It’s one of my favorite blends and since it was made in Circle, I thought it was appropriate.

I chose a white candle to burn for Brigid. White corresponds to spirituality, cleansing, purity, perfection, innocence, integrity, healing, freedom, opportunity, forgiveness, and acceptance. It is also a color of simple power; white carries the powers of all the colors and can be directed towards almost any use. In this case, I specifically wanted to channel spirituality and cleansing. White helps eliminate negative energy and creates inner peace, which I found to be very true in this instance. It also corresponds to the Maiden form of the Triple Goddess, which is Brigid incarnate.

I was able to spend four hours in mindful tending this evening. I listened to songs and stories and even watched a documentary on St. Brigid of Kildare. Some of my favorite music devoted to Brigid is Lisa Theil’s Song to Brigid, Isaac Bonewit’s  Hymn to Brigid, Brighid’s Kiss by Triniti, Chalice & Blade’s I Hear You Calling, and Kelliana’s Brighid.

During that time, to honor Brigid’s call to creativity and her affinity for healing, I created a flat woven beaded panel that features a Native American Medicine Wheel. It didn’t turn out all that great; I had no idea how many beads it would take and ran out of the ones I started with and then the others were too small. I ended up editing the design once it was in-progress and it just… yeah – not so great. It looks nothing like the original design, but I am relatively happy with it (for what it is – call it a ‘proof of concept’). But the effort was there, and I plan on getting more beads to make a ‘real’ version of the panel. If it turns out well, then I will make another panel and sew them together for a ‘Medicine Bag‘. I very much enjoyed the process of beading. I am considering getting a loom, although flat bead weaving wasn’t too bad.

I will keep a natural flame burning for some time yet and when I go to bed I will switching to a LED candle. I would prefer a natural flame to burn the entire shift, but safety comes first and leaving a candle burning while I sleep wouldn’t be safe. I would also worry that the flame would go out while I slumber; an LED flame will be burning bright until I wake.

One thing that this experience has taught me is that I am not connecting with my deities deeply enough lately. I plan to spend some time over the coming weeks and months devoting my practice to a particular deity, rather than just honoring the Gods in general. I also found that I need to schedule more devotional time into my day. Though four hours is a bit much to expect on a daily basis, perhaps once a week would be feasible.

Something I would like to comment on before I go is meditating with children around. I have two children, both active boys, and my husband has been home this evening. They’ve been in and out of the kitchen (where I was meditating and beading), and asking me questions, commenting on my handiwork, turning the TV up too loud – all while I was in my makeshift ‘sacred space’. I decided before I began that trying to retreat to my room to practice in solitude and relative silence would be an exercise in futility, and so I adjusted my mindset. I knew that I would be needed (probably more than usual since my mind was to be elsewhere), and so I went into this evening with that in mind. Instead of being resentful or annoyed at interruptions, I looked at my divided attention as honoring the Mother aspect of the Goddess – caring for my children and family as She answers us when we are in need of Her attention – even when there are others who need Her more. Even though I was interrupted countless times over the course of the evening, my peace was undisturbed. I am relaxed and my mind is restful – I enjoyed my evening very much.

If you have young children, I wonder how looking at tending your families needs as part of your practice might work. When my children were younger, I felt like I didn’t have time for devotions, because I was so needed all the time. Looking back, I wish I had  more of an open mind about how my daily practice should look and feel. I also wish that I’d been more open to incorporating my boys into my practice when they were younger. I actually have mixed feelings about that, as I don’t want to ‘indoctrinate’ them into any religion – I want them to know about and explore other paths and find the one that’s right for them. That said, I do wish I’d taken more time with them in spiritual matters when they were younger – for that matter I wish I had taken more time for spiritual matters myself when they were younger! Oh well, done is done – time to focus on the here and now. My youngest did come craft next to me while I was beading. He is sculpting a little man figure from clay; we sat together and enjoyed some of the music I lined to above with me. A mother can’t ask for more than that!

I may write more tomorrow – I will have a full day of Flamekeeping to fill. ‘Till then, have a blessed night!

Brightest Blessings,


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