Tales of a Southern Pagan Mom

Posts tagged “correspondences

Beyond Pagan 101

d7ff58a26b32f8fe0b532c96a1027961Something I’ve noticed is that when you start browsing Pagan books, the great majority of them are ‘Pagan 101’ – what is is/means to be Pagan, how Pagans practice their faith, etc. I am a researcher by nature, and tend to be drawn to books on spirituality and on Pagan paths in particular. It’s been disappointing to see the same material rehashed over and over and over again: what Sabbats are, correspondences, dedication rituals and how to ‘be’ pagan – the very basics. Oh sure, it’s a little different; re-branded or spiffed up and published under a new name or path, but so much of it is the same basic, beginner material that you can find all over the place.

I’ve been thinking about why that is; why so many books are ‘beginner’ style books for Pagan spirituality, and have come to several observations. First, I think that a lot of Pagan practice is ‘first generation’. People are dissatisfied with mainstream spirituality and they go exploring. Because there are so many different styles of Paganism, it’s hard to ‘pick one’, and so each style or path has its own interpretation of the Path. Additionally, there are different ‘branches’ of Paganism: Wiccan, Heathen, Asatru, Druidic, Dianic… the list goes on, each with their own specific way of doing things.

Secondly, as information and technology have increased access to information, the sheer volume of beginner Pagans has increased to the point that such a volume of beginner material is necessary. Since there are so many first generation Pagans, there isn’t a large population of people who have practiced long enough to move beyond basics. Although I know many who have been in practice for decades, a great many of those have switched paths or gone eclectic or solitary for lengths of time, and developed their own traditions, rituals and styles of practice and don’t feel the need to publish it publicly. Add to that the general consensus that Pagans don’t like to be told ‘what to do’ or ‘how to worship’, finding an open group to practice with can be extremely challenging, which leaves many/most new Pagans solitary.

Thirdly, of those who have practiced for extensive periods of time, they don’t feel the need to indoctrinate their children into their faith, allowing the children to find their own paths, as it were. Without that indoctrination, children who grow up Pagan may or may not feel the need to pursue their own spiritual path. I know several adults who were raised by Pagan parents and although they may be interested on the fringe, most tend not to practice actively, at least among the people I know in this situation. Obviously, that’s not true across the board, so no slight intended if you’re a third or fourth generation practicing Pagan. These are just my observations, and I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Though I understand these as logical explanations, and accept whatever other possible explanations there may be, they don’t mitigate the fact that the majority of Pagan-centered books available are beginner-level books. For those who have been practicing long enough to have personalized their faith and practice, investing in new books can be disappointing because even seemingly promising books end up containing only a little bit of new information. While I certainly do not claim any authority, I thought I would share some of the ways that I have found helped me to move beyond ‘Pagan 101’ and into a more deeply personal and meaningful practice.

One method I found to circumvent getting trapped in the newbie books has been to move outside of strictly Pagan-themed books and into history, philosophy and world religion books. (Side note: My path isn’t deity-centered, so if yours is, the same types of methods for researching and deepening your knowledge about your pantheon or deities applies.) Beyond a certain point, even the most devout reconstructionist Pagan practitioner is just making stuff up to fill in the gaps in whatever factual/historical recorded information they have managed to piece together. From that viewpoint, their opinion on how you should practice is no more authoritative than yours. Additionally, many strictly Pagan-themed books tend to be European in origin, which means that they may be making recommendations for alignments and correspondences for a different hemisphere, climate or botanical availability than where you;re practicing your path. I am a firm believer is adapting my practice to suit my environment and many nature or earth-based paths focus on that connectivity almost exclusively. It seems silly to try to find herbs or wood to work with that you wouldn’t have any personal connection with because you’ve never seen, touched or smelled it!

If your path is earth-based; hedge-witches, kitchen-witches, and the like, and herb-crafting is a big part of your practice, then you’ll only find a handful of information in your typical Pagan-themed herbal companions. Look into books on gardening – learn native flora and what grows best when. Growing your own herbs, flowers and plants can make them so much more effective when you need them to work and the connection that you have to your garden and materials is a big part of making your path come alive. Continue your education; learn about using plants as medicine, how to distill essential oils, and anything else that strikes your fancy from sources that aren’t strictly Pagan-oriented. If the only information you;re lacking is the magical correspondence, those are easy to find online. If food is your bag, then the same applies; research cooking and recipes; experiment with flavors and use herbs and ingredients that you grow yourself.

I’d also suggest researching folk magic – hoo-doo and root-work, Santeria, Native American religions and other types of old, earthy magic. Many of those types of religions can be hard to find information on, but it’s worth it when you do. If your ancestors come from those religions, then even more so. My personal task over the last year or so  is considering how ancient holidays could be modernized. I have posts about Lupercalia and Matronalia, and will be doing similar posts this year. I may not get them ‘right’, but it’s been a fun experiment, and adds value to my practice.

Another way to find more meaning in your practice is just that – practice. If you are a new practitioner, especially if you’re coming out of a religion where Pagan things are taboo, then you may be reluctant to actually do the things that you’re reading about. Even if you’ve ‘been Pagan’ for a long time, but don’t practice, moving beyond the basics means getting your feet wet – sometimes literally (if ritual cleansing is part of your practice). If you haven’t found anything in what you’ve read that appeals to you, make something up! There’s no right or wrong way to do an Esbat or Sabbat Ritual; there’s no right of wrong way to perform a candle spell, or sage your house, or  create an altar. Don’t be afraid to try something, whether it’s all written out for you or you make it up yourself. If it has meaning for you, then it works. I view my path as an ever-winding road, with new things to learn and try around every corner, and I’ve been practicing for twenty five years. Some things I’ve tried flopped entirely, some things worked for a time or were interesting to try out, but ultimately didn’t stick, while others have become a regular, essential part of my practice. our spiritual practice should add meaning and value to your life, even if it’s a simple ritual like lighting a candle and incense with your morning coffee.

My final tip for moving into a more mature practice is to connect with the Pagan Community. Not just online, but in person. If your local community hosts Pagan Pride Day, or has a ‘Pagans Night Out’ or other meet-up, make an effort to go. If you have children, look for (or organize!) a Pagan Playdate or Pagan Game Night. There’s a group in the Houston area of TX that hosts an Interfaith Tea & Game Night, and there are organizations like Celebration of Womanhood and Women Of Magic And Nature (WOMAN) that host retreats for Pagan women each year. Meeting the incredibly varied group of women at WOMAN for the last 2 years has been such a great way for me to learn and explore different paths and practice dynamics and has added to deepening the meaning and value in my own practice. Plus, it’s just plain nice to be around other people who have similar (even if very different) beliefs.

How have you moved beyond Pagan 101?

Brightest Blessings,

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New Moon Names – Part 1

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Most of us are familiar with the various names for the Full Moon, but when I went looking for the names of the New Moon, I was a little surprised to find that there weren’t any. It seems odd that such a notable recurring event wouldn’t also have names to mark the passage of time, especially pre-calendar. I’ve talked before about non-traditional elemental associations and since this is one that I am making up, I thought I’d share my thought/creative process. For each month, I looked up several things, ranging from the history/origin of the month’s name and the deity(ies) they were associated with, as well as properties and other associations that go along with them. I also considered my own personal feelings and insights. Since this is a slice of my personal practice, how I interpret the months and times of year as the cycle turns plays a role in how I chose their names.

Because it’s the first of the year, let’s start with January. Even though, for many Pagans (myself included), January isn’t the beginning of the magickal year, it’s still ‘a’ beginning. I orient myself in the years’ planning starting in January, so for me, it is a beginning. Because I typically print of create my Moon Calendar by calendar year, and because my almanac runs from January through December, this is a logical starting point to me.

The Latin word for January is ianua, or door, since January is the door to the year. January’s deity is the Roman Goddess Juno. There’s some contention with that; apparently Janus was the original deity associated thought to be associated with January as He is the God of Beginnings and Transitions, but more recent research suggests it was, in fact, Juno. Because I am a woman, happily married and mother, the association with Juno speaks to me more. She is generally thought to be linked with protection of the state and of women, love, youth, fertility and vital force, marriage, and other complex roles. In particular, Juno’s name is associated with the Latin words iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, which could potentially connect her to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, which suggests that she may have been revered as a moon goddess. I like that idea. The word for January, or door, fits because in a way, Juno – and thus, January – can be seen as the guardian of the new year. She holds the doors to the year ahead, and as a gatekeeper, creates the way for the new path. For me, January is a time of beginnings – it’s when I reset my calendar, I’ve filed away things from the previous calendar year and get ready for the new year ahead. It’s a time of starting fresh, of making plans and setting goals and intentions – it’s sloughing off the previous year and starting anew. Because of those ideas and concepts, I’ve decided to call January’s New Moon the Renewal Moon.

Because of the potential length of this post, I am breaking it up into several parts. I will come back and edit the list below with the links to the other posts as I make them. For now, subscribe and you’ll get future posts in your inbox!

  • January – Renewal Moon
  • February –
  • March –
  • April –
  • May –
  • June –
  • July –
  • August –
  • September –
  • October –
  • November –
  • December –
  • Black Moon (2nd New Moon in a month, also called the Secret Moon or the Finding Moon)

Do you have names for the New Moons? I’d love to read about it!
Brightest Blessings,
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Lupercalia 2016

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There’s something I really enjoy about making old celebrations new again, and so this year I am taking a stab at honoring some of the long forgotten (or transformed) holidays a little more modern. Obviously, the historically ‘accurate’ traditions probably won’t translate well into today’s accepted celebratory rituals… sacrificial goats are a little hard to come by around here and we’re rather fond of our pup, so that’s clearly out. Plus, what would the neighbors say? The boys are also not keen on public displays of either dancing or nudity, so we’ll have to skip those parts as well. It occurs to me that, while the turning of animal skins into leather might be a useful skill, creating lashes with which to chase and hit young women is also going to have to be forfeit as we don’t generally condone violence, and definitely prohibit violence towards women … so again, a more modern interpretation in necessary, I think.

Apparently, not even the Romans knew the origins of the festival, or even which deity it was associated with; they just that it was a thing and they celebrated it with enthusiasm. That makes it a little hard to find modern-day associations, but there are some that seem obvious to me, even if they’re not historically accurate. Since the word ‘lupercalia’ is derived from both Greek and Latin, and where we find modern words for wolf, it seems natural to me that the deities associated with wolves and other canines would be the focus at this time of year. Whatever your chosen pantheon, there’s likely a deity that is associated with wolves: Fenrir for the Norse; Anubis for the Kemetic/Tameran; The Morrigan for the Celtics; Cerberus for the Romans; Pan for the Greeks; Inari (Kitsune, Dakini) for the Shinto, Hindu and Buddhist … there are others as well, but those are some of the ones I am more familiar with.

Fairly consistent with historical practice, these deities also are associated with themes of fertility, protection, ensuring good favor and good fortune. According to the oldest records, Lupercalia was a festival designed with rites ‘to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility’. That’s pretty common at this time of year, with Spring on the horizon – Imbolc is just passed, with ‘waking the Earth/Goddess’ and preparing the ground for seed to be sown, love is in the air as animals come out of hibernation and look for mates, Valentine’s Day is celebrates (with it’s historical ties to Lupercalia and other Pagan festivals)… even though this is an ‘ancient’ holiday, we’re not as far removed from it as it might seem on the surface!

So how does one translate traditional celebrations into modern day observances? Starting with the obvious, exploring Lupercalia and its connection to wolves is a logical beginning. Wolves symbolize strong family connections, loyalty, communication and stand as guardians.  Spring is a time of planning and sowing, and so introspective questions arise:

  • Are my goals clear?
  • Am I communicating my intentions?
  • Am I guarding my space to ensure that I am able to work effectively on achieving my goals?

Taking the themes popular in the Spring, my deities of choice are The Morrigan and Fenrir. The Morrigan is probably more well-known for her associations with ravens, but she’s also known to take the form of a wolf in folklore. Her role as a Mother Goddess, protector and fierce warrior is well-known, and in the context of my path at this point in my life, appropriate. Fenrir is also a strong figure, tasked with overcoming Odin at Ragnarok. As Odin could be seen as the personification of Wisdom, defeating ‘wisdom’ to make the world anew is an interesting concept.

Fenrir candle from WitchcraftsArtisanAlchemy.com

This Lupercalia, then, is celebrated with meditation and introspection, with a focus on honestly considering my needs and goals, moving forward with making plans for the coming year and making sure I am clearly communicating what I need in my life to accomplish them. It’s not flashy, but it does feel ‘right’, and that’s all one can ask!

Have you tried taking/making meaning from old traditions?
Brightest Blessings,

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Air in the North, Part II

air in northI really miss the alphabetical challenge that the Pagan Blog Project was doing – though I understand why they stopped, it was a fun challenge, and even though I don’t think I completed one of them ‘on time’, it did keep me writing. So I thought I’d do a modified version of it just for myself, with a more-or-less weekly alphabetical update.

I also found another site with monthly blog prompts, at Mom’s a Witch. I’ll probably work some of those in over the course of this coming year as well.

Starting with ‘A’, this week’s post is on Air in the North, Part II. A while back, for one of the other PBP posts, I did the original Air in the North post, but I’ve learned more since then and thought it was worth another post. I also met another few people who put Air in the North, which was really cool, since most of the people I practice with on a regular basis keep to traditional elemental directions.

At Pagan by Design, the article starts off with acknowledging the discrepancy and sometimes conflict among different Pagan paths regarding elemental and directional correspondences. There are a lovely few paragraphs that indicate other Pagan cultures and paths that use additional directional and elemental correspondences (of note, Chinese, with fire, wood, metal, earth and water). I particularly like the Celtic and Gaelic preference of North, East, South, West, Above, Below, Within; and the concept of the Spirit being divided into 3 – Light, Dark, and Soul. I’ve written Druidic-inspired Rituals, using only three correspondences: Land Sea & Sky; and have participated in Native American-inspired Rituals where we did a Medicine Wheel rather than a traditional Quarter Call.

Part of my preference for Air in the North comes from thinking along these lines:

Native American:

The North improves mental wisdom, discovery, and logic in an illuminating fashion. Knowledge accumulated through our lives is purified, as if a swift breeze blew away all dust and confusion. We prepare for intellectual illumination as these winds sweep into our awareness. It seems that gusts of enlightened, intellectual processes of “knowing” blows into our lives.

I was also particularly intrigued to find that the Lakota People also associate North and Air. I am not Lakota, but I’ve learned a bit about them over the past few years as one of my good friends is of Lakota heritage, and identifies with some of the spiritual paths and practices of the People. That makes total sense to me, as the Dakotas would be among the first territories to feel the chill of the Northern Winter storms – Air would absolutely make sense coming from the North for them, which is a big part of my feeling that Air belongs in the North for me as well.

After a lengthy explanation of why traditional correspondences exists and speculation as to how they came about, Pagan’s Path ends with this:

For you, the wind might be warm instead of cold. The waters might be cool instead of warm. What do you “feel” when you think of each element? Does the fire rise or flicker? Does the Earth rise or spread out upon a vast land? Make your own saying and then think about where these elements fit within the cardinal directions of your location. Is it cold in the North or the South? Does the warm water flow to the South or East? Does the sun represent your fire? If so, when it rises in the East or sets in the West? Does the Earth rise up to greet you in the mountains of the East, West, or maybe some other direction? These are the things that make you connected to the elements, the directions and the Divine Energy around you. It’s not how your friend feels, or your partner thinks, or what your Teacher says is right or wrong. None of those outside forces are going to be there when YOU sit down to do a working or to commune with the Divine world around you. So this is your time to think about where you are, and what you believe. You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.

That, I think, is one of the key elements as to how ‘being Pagan’ works. “You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.” This, exactly.

Though I am pretty vocal about my preferences, I don’t have to have Air in the North to be part of a Ritual Circle. I have, and do, function just fine when someone whose correspondences differ from mine leads Ritual. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that my practice is enriched by being part of Circles where things are vastly different form how I normally do them. Being exposed to new things always adds an element of wonder to my experience within that Circle, and I have always come away from that experience with something to take back to my practice (or know with certainty that something is ‘not for me’).

If you keep non-traditional correspondences, I’d love to hear form you – what they are and why you have them!
Brightest Blessings,
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PBP: The Wheel of the Year – Part 2

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?”
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In Part I of this prompt, I discussed making connections to the Sabbats for the first part of the calendar year. In this part, I will continue with my thoughts on the Sabbats during the latter half of the year.
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Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is all about the God for me. I mean, yes, the Festival of First Fruits is in there, too, but the Celebration of Lugh is one reason why I cannot call this Sabbat ‘Lammas’, even though that is a perfectly valid name. Cernunnos, Herne, Pan, Dionysus, Bacchus  – all of the Earth Gods and fertility gods are highlighted on this Sabbat for me. The legend of Lugh as a ‘jack of all trades’ is one I like very much. As The Equinox Project says, “Lugh was a traveler, a master of all crafts, hand skills, sorcery, divinations, magic, healing, miracles, music and trade. as “lawfather” he set the rules that governed family life and Celtic society in both Ireland and on the Continent.”  As such, Lughnasadh is a time to examine our family. As my children grow into young warriors and hunters, this is a time to honor their growth from the past year, and make plans for the coming year. Lughnasadh is also the time when last year’s plans and planting have come to fruition. For spellwork, I make plans and cast in the fall (Mabon or Samhain) or in the beginning of spring (Imbolc or Ostara) for fulfillment by Lammas. The Goddess is the Grain Mother, full and ripe with the seeds of the new year. She fully embodies the Mother aspect, and as such is a position I relate to, being a mother myself.  
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Mabon

BlodeuweddMabon is another easy connection for me. When I first heard the legend of Blodeuwedd the Owl, it struck a chord for me. She’s gotten kind of a bad rap over the years, but when the culture and circumstances of her life are discovered, her role and actions in the larger tapestry are revealed. The Triple Goddess is another important part of my path, and at Mabon, She is represented fully to me. Of the three Harvest Festivals (Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain), Mabon is the one that is ‘Thanksgiving’. It’s the main harvest, and as such a time for reflection and giving thanks. It is Spring, fulfilled, and celebration for the completion of what was planted earlier in the year (be it seeds or a garden, spellwork, or plans). For my family, Mabon is a season of pouring back into the community and into the people who touch our lives. Though we are involved in community service work throughout the year on a regular basis, Mabon is a time for recognizing the blessings we have received and showing thankfulness through generosity. Mabon is also a time to celebrate the Dark Mother. As the earth is dying just a little, preparing for Winter.  Persephone/Proserpina and Demeter/Ceres are also honoured at this time, as the earth descends to darkness and the Crone aspect of the Goddess is beginning.
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Samhain

Samhain is my favorite Sabbat, as it is for many Pagans the world over. It is the third and final Harvest Festival, and a Cross-Quarter Day. The Crone aspect is at it’s fullest, and the Veil that separates the world of the living form the world beyond is at its thinnest. Samhain is the time for Divination, and communing with the Ancestors. I tend to do a lot of meditation around this Sabbat – it’s easier to fall into meditative states and trances when the Veil is thin (Beltane & Samhain). I borrow from other traditions, and keep an Ancestors Altar, and our Circle group always has an Ancestors Altar set up in addition to the main altar as well. Many Pagans consider Samhain the end of the old year/beginning of the new year at Samhain as well. I haven’t made a decision one way or the other, personally. It doesn’t ‘feel’ like an end to me, so I lean more towards celebrating the new year at Yule. At Samhain, I honor Cerridwen, for her wisdom and inspiration; Cailleach Beara (Brigid’s crone aspect), who is reborn this night; Hades and Osiris for protection and divination; and light candles for my Ancestors.
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Yule

The Yule season is another of my favorites. I love re-reading the Legend of the Holly King and the Oak King, and observing the ever-turning cycle of the Wheel. I have always had a hard time with ‘transitions’, from one phase to another, and Yule helps remind me that all things must flow into thier next phase, whether we’re quite ready for it to or not. This is the beginning of the ‘new year’ for me. Along with Yule, I also observe Modraniht, or Mother’s Night, on December 24th, as a time not only to honor the Goddess, but also to honor my own matrilineal line. I can trace my maternal lineage back to the 1600’s, with each passing year adding a century or two as more information is processed and put online. I love the connection to both deity and my ancestors in this way.

Yule is the Winter Solstice as well; traditionally a time of rest – settling in with kith and kin by the fire, counting blessings and weathering out the last of winter. Though I’m in the Southern United States, and our temperatures reach to 80’s (F) sometimes, the sentiments are the same – gathering close to freinds and family, and counting ourselves fortunate.

Another observation that I feel is important to do is ‘Walking the Boundaries’.  Every year, on the Quarter Days (Yule, Ostara, Litha & Mabon), I walk the boundaries of our property and leave Thanks and Offerings to the boundary spirits for continued good-will and protection. We share the land with Those Who Came Before, so we try to honor them with a little something.

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One thing that I absolutely love about the Sabbats is the both the variety, diversity and continuity of the legends surrounding the Wheel of the Year. I find it easy to connect with the many myths and legends surrounding the Gods and Goddesses, and the continuity of the overall great arc of the Wheel. Each year, I tend to focus on a specific legend and tale, which gives each Sabbat a unique ‘flavor’ that makes it more meaningful and individual. The Sabbats are never boring for me. Being eclectic gives me the freedom to re-invent each Sabbat, or to find meaning in ancient ways or celebrate in grand style or a simple affair.

If you’re so inclined, feel free to use the same promt and write your own blog post. Be sure to link back!

Brightest Blessings,

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Women of Magick and Nature 2015 Retreat

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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.

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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!

Brightest Blessings,
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Crystals and Gems for Everyday Use

gemstonesI was asked recently about my stones and crystals, and thought I’d make a post about them; specifically, about how they’re used. But first, some basics!

Most of the Pagans I know tend to think of their stones as ‘living’ objects, and by that, I mean that they recognize the energy and effect that stones and crystals have on their user/wearer. If you’re not familiar with stones and crystals in your personal practice, they can be a useful addition. I recommend getting a couple of books on stones, both scientific/geology-related and Pagan-related, to get an idea of what it is you’re dealing with. Knowing the geological profile of a stone can help you place it into your practice and correspondences more easily, in my opinion (especially if you use non-traditional correspondences, or follow an eclectic path). DK Press has several ‘stones and gems’ books, and I found one that is organized by color that is useful for identifying stones I find in the wild. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem and Metal Magic is another good one, and The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall is another good one.

While it’s tempting to start your stone and gem collection and pack it away, stones and crystals can’t help you if they’re tucked away in a drawer. To get the most effect, they need to be handled, loved and taken care of. It’s important to recharge your stones, too. But first, let’s talk about choosing the right stones for your collection.

Choosing Stones and Crystals

So how do you go about choosing the ‘right’ stones and crystals? Mostly, it’s by ‘feel’. Sometimes, you can be drawn to certain stones or crystals and know instantly that it’s right for you. Other times, you may need to touch and hold several in the bin before finding the ‘right’ one. It’s not uncommon for me to be walking around outside by the beach or in the woods and be drawn to something I can’t readily see, only to find a beautiful bit of sea glass or a stone that feels like it’s ‘mine’. Crystals seem to be a bit different, in that they often warm to the touch if they’re meant to go home with you! I can imagine that it has something to do with the cuts and the vibration of your personal energies, but that could be a load of hooey. In either case, crystals are easier for me to choose or recognize that it’s not meant to be mine than stones.

Can you use ‘just any’ stone or crystal? Probably, but if you don’t feel it, then chances are you won’t see the result that you were looking for.

Cleansing & Charging

Imbolc Altar (alisonleighlilly) Tags: outdoor altar pagan imbolc offerings druidry uploaded:by=flickrmobile flickriosapp:filter=nofilter

This isn’t my picture, but my set-up is very similar to this.

I’ve read a lot of different methods for cleansing and charging. As with any magickal tool, I feel like cleansing prior to use is essential. Not only does cleansing clear whatever other psychic vibrations or energy attached to it, but it also gives you a chance to impose your energy on it, and ‘tune in’ to the stone or crystal. I use crystals and stones all the time – herbs and stones/crystals are probably the most often used in my personal practice – so I want to make sure that my stones work for me. Cleansing is a vital step for best results.

Among my favorite methods for cleansing are Sun Cleansing, Moon Cleansing, and Water Cleansing. With Water Cleansing, you can use Salted Water, Moon-Blessed Water, or Holy Water to cleanse. For Sun Cleansing, I choose a day when the sun is bright and the sky is clear. The Summer Solstice is an ideal day to cleanse stones in the sun, but any day would work. If correspondences are important to you, then you might choose a day that corresponds to the stone you’re cleansing, and use other favorable trappings as well (like color of tablecloth, or herbs on the table as well). I don’t cast a Circle for cleansing stones, but I do set a small, temporary altar, with the elements represented and the stones in the center. I leave the stones out in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day, and bring them in afterwards. A word about Sun Cleansing for crystals – I don’t use the sun for crystals. The UV rays can discolor your crystals, and some crystals can crack or shatter if they get too hot. They’re still the same, energetically speaking, but not as pretty.

other ways to cleanse stones and crystals

For Moon Cleansing, I recommend waiting until the Full Moon. I try to cleanse and charge my crystals by moonlight only, and every month. If I am home, it’s easy to leave them out overnight, but even just a little while under the moon can cleanse and re-charge them. You don’t have to do anything fancy; leaving them in a windowsill where the moon can touch them is perfect if you can’t get outside.

Something that is also very effective is Spirit Cleansing. Spirit Cleansing is ideal for those on a limited budget, or who practice discreetly, or just prefer to do things without a bunch of ‘stuff’. We Pagans tend to like our ‘stuff’, so sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics, and really connect with the idea that the power is in the witch. Spirit Cleansing is essentially using your own energy to cleanse and charge a stone or crystal. Using Spirit to charge is common; it’s how I charge all of my stones and crystals – but using Spirit to cleanse as well is just as effective. If you think about it, the intent is what matters. Even with other methods, you’re still drawing on your energy to set the intention. Spirit Cleansing is just a little more overt. To cleanse with Spirit, like with other methods, I don’t cast a Circle. I prefer to do Spirit Cleansing at my altar, with my altar and working candles lit. Spirit Cleansing is a little like meditation practice, in that you’re holding the stone and focusing your energy into it, and through it, and drawing your will and intent into it.

Charging your stones and crystals is something different from cleansing (though you can do both at the same time). Much like with Spirit Cleansing, charging uses either your own energy, or the energies of the elementals and things around you, combined with your will, to help the stone or crystal do the work you intend it for. One of the reasons stones and gems and crystals are effective is because you’re drawing on its own energy as well. When your intent is in alignment with the energy and purpose of the stone or gem or crystal, then it just works! Generally speaking, to charge my stones, gems and crystals, I hold it in my hands, and use visualization and focused meditation to set the intention for the stone. Some stones, I have specific goals for; others are for more general use.

Everyday Use

One of my favorite ways to use stones is by wearing them. Lots of places have necklace pendants that you can either tuck a stone into, or open and put a stone in. I have both kinds, and pendantsthey’re ideal for wearing small stones. The ones I have are large enough to put multiple stones in, which makes customization easier. Using harmonious stones or gems in one group can maximize a particular effect, or mediate the effects of one stone by using another. I wear my stones to help control anxiety and stress, and to promote compassion and harmony in my interactions with people. My son wears stones to help with gastrointestinal stress, and digestive issues. They’re also useful on the bed-side table, to help with falling asleep, staying asleep and dream-magick.

Another way to draw on the healing and/or magickal properties of crystals and stones is to make tinctures or oils with the stone or crystal inside. My jars and vials of Moon Blessed Water, for example, usually also contain a bit of moonstone, or quartz (or both). If you’re making massage oil, adding rose quartz, amethyst, tiger’s eye, or carnelian can either help with relaxation or help spice things up. For prosperity oil, gold, adventurine, unakite, goldstone, labradorite and other stones that attract wealth or luck can boost the oil’s effectiveness.

Many stones also have a deity connection; that is, a stone or crystal is associated with a particular deity. They can be used to focus on your connection and communication with a particular deity, or to establish one. In some cases, being drawn to a particular stone may be deity trying to get in touch with you! If that’s something you’re open to, a little research can go a long way towards figuring it out.

I also use stones in spellwork. Larger stone can be used as candle holders – I drip some wax onto the stone, and set the candle into it, then place it on my altar until it’s done or my work is finished. Stones are also great for long-acting spells; stones are very stable and can hold onto an intention for a long time (especially with regular care). I use them on my altar as place-holders for intention or as the visible reminder of spellwork for prosperity and protection that are either in other areas of my home or outside (like Witch Balls).

Crystal grids are another good way to maximize your intent. Laying a grid can be somewhat time-consuming, but once it’s laid, the stones use each other to stay active. The old infomercial ‘set it and forget it’ comes to mind (only don’t ‘forget it’ – you ARE the magic)…. Stone massage is another great use for your stones. Much like the very popular (and costly) ‘hot stone massage’ that many spas offer, you can achieve similar effects with your own stone collection. Certain stones are aligned with the seven chakras, and can be used to balance them, and affect your musculature and overall health. Though you can buy fancy sets of chakra stones (and there are some really nice, big flat stones that are engraved), you don’t have to go to such lengths to get the same effects that you can get from stones you find our buy in rock bins.

Crystals, stones and gems can also be used in decorating. I mentioned a while back that I was somewhat interested in Feng Shui, and found that they can be useful in bringing harmonious energies in, and helping the flow of energy in your home in general. I haven’t put this to the test, but I am fascinated by the possibilities and will probably try it and see what sticks.

Something that I’ve found to be very useful is purchasing vials of stone or crystal chips or shards. Those are very small, and can go into things like charms and spell bottles more easily than larger stones. They can also be ground in a mortar and put into things that you might not otherwise think to put them in (like sprinkling in doorways or around the foundations of your home for protection).

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If you’re not currently using stones in your personal practice, I encourage you to give it a go. Start simple; your birthstone is a good place to start. Those are really easy to find and
completely inconspicuous (if discretion is important to you). From there, you can learn about the correspondences associated with it, and how you can use it to focus your energy, will, intent or spellwork. Birthstone jewelry is simple, but can be an important tool, too.

This is far from an exhaustive guide to how stones, gems and crystals can be used, nor are my methods the only ones. One of the most important facets of many Pagan paths is personalization. Trial and error are expected; ask any witch and they’ll tell you about the many mistakes and fumbles that they endured when they were new to the Craft. It’s okay to try something and if it doesn’t work for you, to scrap it. It’s also okay to try something multiple times until you get it (to a point where it feels) right, or to discard it today only to pick it up down the road.

How do you use stones in your practice?

Brightest Blessings,
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