The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
A few weekends ago, Bridey and I went to a retreat called W.O.M.A.N. – ‘Women of Magick and Nature‘. I’d learned about it earlier this year, and had been looking forward to going for some time. Despite how ‘connected’ I tend to think I am, it always surprises me to stumble upon some gem of knowledge or activity or event that is totally new to me. WOMAN has apparently been around for years, though it’s gone by several different names and changed leadership over the years – but the spirit of the gathering is in tact (at least I hope so – what I brought home from the experience was absolutely wonderful).
Over the course of the weekend, I got to meet so many bad-ass Texas witches – who have been around for years and both been instrumental in shaping the Pagan community in Southeast Texas and guiding the women who will come after them. I love that the traditions that started within Texas are being passed on, and at the same time, new life and vitality and ideas are breathed into them as new ones learn and adopt and grow. It felt good – being part of a group that, with each change of name and hands, both honors what came before while accepting and facilitating the changes to come. It’s a process that’s on-going… not without moments of frustration and sadness for what was lost, I’m sure, but overwhelmingly with love and excitement for that which is yet to come.
One of the things I was surprised to find is how much I enjoyed talking with the older women at this retreat. Having a community with a more diverse mix of ages is something that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mother and grandmothers and aunts and great-aunts (both those by blood and those by choice) would sit around talking and shelling peas, or playing cards. I always assumed that I would have that when I grew up, and I suppose in some ways, I do – but there were often elements of faith discussed in those kitchen-table gatherings and that’s the part that’s been lacking. It was energizing to be in an environment where spiritual ideas and concepts were so openly discussed and considered.
In my friend group, I am one of the oldest there – my kids are older, I’ve been married for the longest… I don’t have anyone to learn from. That’s not to say that I know everything, or that those with less time on the clock can’t or don’t have things to teach me – they absolutely do, and I eagerly accept their teaching just as readily as I do that from elders – but it’s not the same as being taught/mentored by an older woman. There’s something about the way an older woman imparts her knowledge – not universally, of course – personalities are what they are, but in general, the wisdom of years has something unique to offer, and I’ve missed it.
It was lovely being around so many women who wanted to teach and to learn from them. There’s something about the Pagan community, about the willingness to teach and be taught, that I don’t see in other religious communities. Whereas other communities all look to a single leader or group of leaders, at events like this, the floor is open to anyone who has something to offer. We had classes and workshops all weekend long, from divination, to crafts, to astrology… it was really interesting and fun to be part of. I felt like there was plenty of room for everyone’s time and differing opinions were heard and no one was belittled or told that they were ‘wrong’… it was such a great atmosphere.
One of the things I learned that I just love is a style of stone divination. Basically, you choose small stones, one for each planet in the solar system, plus ones for the sun and moon, and (to start with), a stone to represent yourself. Using either traditional or personal correspondences for the planets/stones, cast the stones within a circle (a 3’ loop of leather cord, or on a cloth or other surface with a defined edge). Depending on your preference, you can read the stones with the center point as the present, moving outwards for a timeline, or as the edge of the circle closest to you being the present, moving further along the timeline as you move away form yourself. Stones that are closest to ‘you’ (your signifier in the spread) have more of an effect, or their influence is in play, while those farther away from you have less influence. That’s a very (very) simplistic explanation, but gives the gist of the method. It’s also highly adaptable and open to various personalizations. We were left with the instruction, “Make it your own!”, so I did.
And then, there were the rituals. I won’t go into detail, simply because I feel like those were special times to me, and private. But these ladies went all out for planning and preparation, and it was really just awesome to be part of it.
I am so glad that I went. I struggle with anxiety issues, and as a child, I’d have passed an opportunity like this up. I’d have wanted to go, and been regretful for bowing out, but the stress and dread of meeting new people and participating would have been too much, so I’d have declined or bowed out when it came time to leave. I am so glad that I’ve worked through a lot of those issues. It was still hard to walk into a room in progress (we arrived mid-class), but without a doubt, this was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time and I am so glad that I got to share the experience. There’s another retreat in the Spring, and I am hoping that I get to go!
As Pagans, it’s fairly safe to say that most of us are somewhat familiar with rituals. Those of us who are heavily involved in the local Pagan community either attend, take part in, or lead at least eight Sabbat rituals, and often many Esbat rituals as well. Even if you’re a solitary practitioner, you likely celebrate the Sabbats, Esbats and other marks of the passing year with some sort ceremony. Even in other religions, there are rituals. I’ve been watching The Borgias on TV, which showcases many of the rituals associated with the Catholic Papacy (many of which are oddly reminiscent of Pagan rituals, as many know and recognize), and have always been fascinated and drawn to the ritualistic aspects of ancient religions.
Most would say that it is these rituals define the practitioner, and indeed, you can usually identify a person’s beliefs often by the rituals that one takes part in. A priest wears ritual garb, a teacher leads the class in the Pledge of Allegiance, a nurse checks your vital signs… all of these rituals tell you something about the person who leads or initiates them, or takes part in performing them.
Wikipedia says that:
A ritual may be performed on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community; in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for it; either in public, in private, or before specific people. A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states.
Ritual is defined as a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. In a religious sense, for both Pagans and Catholics (and some other forms of Christianity as well), the rituals of bread and wine have heavy significance for us because of the meaning behind them – the body and blood of Christ; the union of the Lord and Lady.
As moving and meaningful as these rituals are, I thought I would discuss some of the small rituals that I perform daily that identify me as a Pagan practitioner, and some of the little rituals that I’ve helped my kids develop as they’ve grown and taken on more of a personally active role in their spirituality.
Like many Pagans, I keep a bowl of water on my altar. Sometimes it is moon-blessed water, sometimes it is sun-charged water, sometimes it is salt water, sometimes it’s Holy Water made during a Sabbat or Esbat observance. I usually press the tips of my fingers into the water, then to my forehead every time I pass it, but I often start my day standing before my altar, taking a few moments to connect with the quiet inside before going about the start of my day. I will go back again to my altar when I need to think, or chill out or meditate, sometimes with incense or chakra music or meditation music, as needed. I’ve mentioned before that we made meditation jars to help the kids learn how to focus and find their inner calm. They keep their jars in their rooms now, to use when they feel the need.
In addition to the water, incense also plays a big part in my persona practice. I make my own, but am not adverse to buying it; my particular favorites are from sandalrose and bergamot from ElvenKeep and the Hari incense from RamaKrishnaNandaStore.com. I love the way that the scents of incense permeate my house, and how the scent lingers long after the ember is gone. The I often use incense for meditation, and just to have that subtle scent that is ‘other’ to keep me grounded and focused.
My youngest child has found quite a desire for incense in his room. A year or so ago, we deemed him old enough to have access to incense, a burner and lighter in his room. He’s 11 now, and that was a responsibility that he’s taken well to. When we go shopping for incense, he’s always on the lookout for something that calls to him now.
Tea time is another big ritual for me, and for the kids. We started having ‘tea time’ when we started homeschooling – a time to relax and connect between lunch and dinner. We have the chance to talk and re-connect in the middle of the afternoon over a nice hot cuppa. This isn’t a ‘pagan’ ritual per se, but it certainly can be depending on the discussion.
Tea time can also tie into tasseography, or the art of fortune-telling through tea leaf reading. It’s a practice that I am not terribly experienced in, but enjoy immensely. I’ve been learning more and more about it over the past couple of years, and it’s been a fun journey.
Candle magic is another ritual that I engage in almost daily. From lighting my altar candles, my devotional candles (even if for only a few minutes), to lighting spell candles (what some might view as ‘prayers’), candles play a central role in my daily practice. Fire in my element, so connecting with primal elementals helps me keep my focus, even when things are hectic and life gets chaotic. Oddly, this is one of the first things that I tend to stop doing when things get busy, and one of the things I most enjoy picking back up when I realize how much I am neglecting my spiritual path.
One of the amazing things about rituals is the calm and comfort that comes from the performing of them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stressed or scattered, and been able to fall back on established habits and rituals to find myself again. Whether big or small, rituals help me be the best that I can be as a practitioner.
I was poking around WitchVox the other day and came across an article called ‘Living Your Religion Every Day‘ by James Bulls. In it, he writes about moderation:
As it concerns living your religion everyday, the loud dramatists advocate set rules and habits for life: meditate for an hour every day; read cards every day; exercise every day; never eat this; never drink that; always perform the quarter, cross-quarter, full-Moon, and dark-Moon rituals; and so on. And so the misguided accept one absolute after another into their spiritual devotions until all their time and energy is devoted to planning for the next event.
The trouble with living your religion in terms of absolutes is that each of us is fallible and will fail to satisfy an artificial schedule and arbitrary definition of “spiritual perfection.” Absolutes invite failure, failure invites discouragement, discouragement invites dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction invites mediocrity. This “mediocrity” of which I speak is the ball-and-chain, which prohibits daily expression of one’s religion…
The article is wonderful, and I highly recommend reading all of it, but I especially agree with the last big. Holding unrealistic precepts for yourself is a sure way to burn out. Instead, I choose to focus on what I am able to do, and enjoy each thing fully. The more I appreciate and find joy in what I can do, the more I want to do. The more I want to do, the more I make time for. And when I start expecting too much of myself, then I find joy in re-establishing communion with my deities in more simple ways.
I’d love to see how you make and re-make those connections if you’d like to share!
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!
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.
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!
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.
This is a subject that I know next to nothing about, but am extremely curious about, so I thought I would write my ‘T’ post on it – Tea leaves! More specifically, the reading of them.
Some of the girls in my local Circle and I joined a tea co-op, and for $6, I now have bags upon bags of wonderful, flavored and traditional loose teas sitting in my kitchen just begging to be read.
I also come from a long line of teacup collectors, so it seems natural that tea leaf reading would be implied. However, the religion I was raised in had very strict censures on anything even remotely related to divination ‘lest the demons get ‘cha‘, (you have to say that part with one eye squinty and a really bad Southern accent to get the full effect of that statement), so I’ve never had the opportunity to play with it much.
I also didn’t know that there were special tasseography cups, so the combination of tasty loose tea, knocking on Satan’s door via the practice of divination and another tea cup to collect? Sign me up!
To begin with, I haven’t yet bought any books or materials to go along with this art. I say ‘yet’ because of course I am going to be collecting books on the subject; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I had The Girls over a while back with instructions to bring teacups so we can practice. We had a lot of fun trying to interpret our own cups and each others.
Some of the websites I’ve found that I plan to use are:
This seems to be a pretty good step-by-step for the beginner site. I have read through the steps, but still haven’t learned enough to go without a refresher. This website says that since tasseography is so subjective, that reading your own leaves is preferable and likely more useful than having someone else read for you. She likens it to the Rorschach tests – what I see may be totally different than what you see. That makes sense to me; since what I am thinking about while reading may be something totally unrelated to what you’re thinking about, and so our readings will naturally reflect our differing states of mind. I do like that she gives a pretty long list of symbols and possible interpretations; I think that, like dream diaries, keeping a log of my own symbols and interpretations would probably be useful as well.
There’s another symbol list at mojomoon.net, but the one at tasseography.com seems to be a little more complete, and has more symbols. I tend to prefer multiple lists and usually create my own with a mixture of traditional meanings and space to write my own interpretations as well.
For practice, Reading Tea Leaves has a long list of specimen cups that you can work on to improve your reading skills. I thought that was a neat thing to offer! There’s also quite a bit of general information on tasseography as well. There’s also a symbol dictionary as well.
Serena Powers’ website has something different than other sites I’ve seen; she mentions that before you even drink the tea, the reading has begin. Signs to look for are bubbles, floating tea leaves, an accident of teaspoons… I wonder how much of this is superstition and how much of it might be considered a true part of the reading, but most superstition has roots on coincidence of facts, so who knows. It’s fun, in any case. Serena also has a symbol guide at the bottom of her page.
There is also a set of tea leaf fortune cards that I think would be fun to play with.
What is your experience with reading tea leaves?
I was reading on Wild Hunt this morning about the predictions of psychic Sylvia Browne on her predictions about Amanda Berry, and considering my own opinions about psychic ability and the ethics of making predictions, and about being pagan and addressing such issues within our community.
I am going to potentially hang myself and say outright that I don’t believe that the vast majority of people who claim to have the power to accurately and outright PREDICT the future are able to do so. I believe that we can be taught to use the tools available to us (tarot, scrying, tasseography, crystal gazing, etc.) to expand our awareness of factors that may influence the future, and to clue ourselves and others into those factors, but outright prediction? No. I certainly don’t have this ability, and I have never seen it unerringly in play. Feelings and foreknowledge for myself? Yes; absolutely. But I would never profess to know with certainty and without error, what the future holds for someone else. I believe that it is unethical to tell someone definitively that XYZ ‘will happen’, or to assert a possibility as a certainty.
There is never a circumstance where this is more true than in the issue of a missing child or person, especially – especially – when someone is coming to you for hope. To play on a grieving person’s emotions in such a way – either to give hope or crush it – is callous and absolutely immoral.
I have always felt that people who profess psychic ability in connection with publicity (for example, in highly publicized missing persons cases) are seeking the limelight more than genuinely trying to help. Together with the examples of the kind of ‘help’ often seen (‘I see a body near a railroad track, close to a highway and body of water‘ Srsly?? Name 2 places in the entirety of the United States that isn’t near a railroad track, a highway and a body of water! ), I loathe the idea of commercial ‘psychic ability’ being linked to the pagan community.
One of the first experiences I had with my religious preferences being made public was fear – fear that I would cast a spell on someone, or that pagan meant stereo-typical ‘voodoo’ (complete with dolls). Followed closely by desire – desire to use my skill and belief for their own gain (love spells, money spells and the like). Despite correcting these views and expectations, that initial fear didn’t go away. Having attention-seeing charlatans parading around as commercial psychics does nothing to improve the general opinion of such typically pagan attributes as being attuned to the possibilities that the future may bring.
One of the comments on that article was the assertion that ‘psychic’ and ‘pagan’ should not be confused. I agree, but agreeing with that sentiment doesn’t do anything to dispel that notion from the eyes and minds of the general public. The suggestion was made that the pagan community decry any connection with charlatanry, and to denounce such persons as the unethical and immoral sharks that they are, and again, I agree. But doing so does nothing to protect the few genuine psychics who may be out there. However, in my experience, even the most adept at reading the signs in tarot or other divinatory methods will caveat their predictions with phrases that let you know that what they see is only one possible outcome; that things can change or other factors currently unseen may play into the situation. Furthermore, they don’t use their abilities to gain fame or fortune (please don’t misread – I am not saying that charging for genuine and ethical services is in any way wrong).
So how do we go about separating the perceptions? Can we? One on one, yes maybe, but short of going on a national campaign to educate the general public about pagan belief, which would be virtually impossible considering the many differing paths and beliefs therein, there’s no way to correct these inaccurate perceptions, any more than we can separate the Christian population’s association with paganism/witchcraft and the devil.
Should we, as pagans, even worry about this connection and perception? As a rule, I think not. At least, not any more than we worry about any other mistaken connection. Of those who are commercially psychic, I wonder how many of them are pagan? Enough to worry about? Maybe, but I don’t think that the majority of them are publicly professing to be pagan. So then, is there really damage being done to the pagan community by commercial psychics?
These are interesting questions, and I hope that other pagan news and commentary sources continue this discussion.
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.
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!