Friday, September 28, 2012

Voting: It is a Very Pagan Thing to Do!

My parents don’t vote. They could if they chose to, but don’t. Their reasoning is one of complete pessimism and disregard for anything being achieved by the act. As far as they are concerned, the system is rigged and voting thus is pointless. Growing up the only person I ever saw vote was my paternal side Grandmother. Without fail she would make her voice known at every election, and then proudly wear her “I Voted” sticker with a big peach in the background (it’s what they give/gave out in Georgia) for the rest of the day no matter where or what she did.

What I find most interesting about all of this is that though voting and republics are age old Pagan institutions I was raised by Contemporary Pagans not to participate, and my only real influence family-wise for voting came from my Grandmother, whom is certainly not a Contemporary Pagan by any means. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not trying to say that I am surprised by Christians, or other religion’s practitioners, involvement in voting or championing the ideals of a republic as a system of government. What I do find peculiar is that there are some Contemporary Pagans, whose vote is direly needed in the conversation of governance, who choose not to use them.

As a religious, social, and civil movement (cause we are all three and some more) our voice as a group is important. This doesn’t mean that Contemporary Pagans everywhere agree on every issue our country faces and how to steer our collective/individual course of action; not at all. I know personally Contemporary Pagans that are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independent, or members of the Green Party. However, the voice that is overwhelming across this spectrum, regardless of the other issues at hand, is rhetoric of virtue and values. There may not be consensus on fiscal, foreign, or domestic policies, but there is a fairly unified discourse in regards to respect, tolerance, compassion, honesty, ethics, kindness, and a whole host of other morals emphasized by our spiritual and religious focus. Regardless of any political affiliation, I feel that by participating in the process and the system by taking the brief and minimum effort needed to cast a vote each of us through our collective effort of individually informed choices makes the moral values that are our community’s commonality expressed both within political parties and the electoral process.

So register to vote and make sure to follow up come election day, it is a very Pagan thing to do.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Emergency Magick vs Operational Magick: What's the Difference?

With the recent heart attack of a friend, Peter Paddon, I saw rise up amongst the fellows around me a great collaboration of magickal workings. I know of Covens in the Eternal Harvest, Briar Rose, Roebuck, and Alexandrian Traditions, and scores of individuals, which put will to action and set the flame of intention burning within the cauldron of renewal and healing. For those of you that don’t know, Peter is doing well considering. He is off sedation, responding well to medication, and talking. The magick that was employed was not planned out over a great length of time, and lacks the strategic quality usually used within spellwork whereby the Crafting of magick and the mundane are conjoined in advance towards some specific goal. Nope, this was emergency magick.

Emergency magick, in of itself is not a bad thing, but it is about fixing a problem that has occurred so as to restore balance. It is not about taking the steps of advancement unto the goal. Understandably it can and often is the catalyst for operational magick; which I’ll get to in a moment. When life gets crazy either by injury, unexpected bills, or what have you, then it is emergency magick that gets set on the burner. Most experienced Witches keep as stock of magickal supplies on hand. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, if one has a regular practice, say burning incense daily as an offering, then to prevent multiple trips to the store each week it is good to just have what is needed on hand. The second big reason is that any Witch worth their pointy hat is capable of turning those same items into effective components for use in emergency magick. When all else fails they improvise.

Emergency magick is simply that, magick done on the fly to address an immediate situation. Returning to our example of Peter (sorry Peter), emergency magick was deployed quickly to try and bring healing, calm, health, and positive outcomes to him. In this situation, if the magick is to have a continued and prolonged effect that assists the mundane efforts of doctors then it should not cease at the first word of good news, but now is when the workings shift from being emergency oriented unto operational. I have no doubt in my mind that Peter, his Coven, and others close to him will continue to work towards his recovery and health in less dire fashion, the magick will be operationally oriented.  Whereas emergency magick can, and often is, very effective, it is operational magick that has the better track record for bringing about change in the mundane and deeper spiritual path. But Why?

Operational magick is planned and prolonged whereby there are multiple energetic, symbolic, and ritualized aspects in play or being conducted over a span of time. For example, a long time ago when I was job hunting, I began my magickal and mundane workings simultaneously. Just as I did not put all my eggs in one basket by sending only one resume out, I didn’t only do one working towards finding employment. Operational magick isn’t always concerned with the mundane plane but often the spiritual. Yup, magick can be used to help one along their spiritual path. For example, perhaps someone has been delving into ancestral memory as a means of awaking spiritual inspiration and bring a better understanding to an aspect of their praxis. Magick could be used in this situation to make the ancestral recall easier, more likely, more visceral, etc.  

With all that said, magick has its time and place; and sometimes that is the now because the stew is burning to the bottom of the cauldron and needs immediate action to save dinner, however, like in magick if the pot is tended then dinner is more likely to be savory.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Read All the Things

As a young Witch studying the Craft, I was told to read a lot of books. Mind you, I wasn’t told to read anything specific, just everything that I could get my hands on. So I did. I read every single one of my Dad’s books on the occult, magick, Witchcraft, Wicca, New Age, and the like. Then I started to read what the local book stores had. I would sit in Barnes and Noble for hours reading the newest selection, or if I was slightly less poor than usual I would buy something and reread it many many times. I borrowed books from friends and read the few books on the subject at the local library.

The relationship between Contemporary Pagans and books has been a very strong one since the beginning of our movement. As the saying goes, “We are not the people of ’The Book’, but the people with libraries.” As happens over time, I slowly ran out of good Contemporary Pagan related books to read. I had read most of what was stocked on the shelves of the New Age section, which is still the case today. Additionally, as my practice grew and I become more learned between all the reading, training, and group and personal experience, the books that were available didn’t hold my interest. I am all for beginner books, everyone has to start somewhere, but as some point the step beyond them has to be taken.

The next phase of my Contemporary Pagan book reading took the form of Book Lists. With the entering of training with a different Coven in a new Tradition, I was given book lists full of things I had never read. These were books not available at the book store, many only able to be found used and tattered. It was at this time I made a big discovery in my seeking of books. I had decided to read what the authors of these books had read. So I researched and looked in the references and lived at used book stores and delved into the depths of the internet.

Looking back at that phase of my reading journey, I realize I made two BIG mistakes. For starters, I at the time was only looking in the New Age section of book stores. There is so much more out there that is relevant to our spirituality. At some point, I began to branch out and truly took the advice to “Read All the Books” to heart. Nowadays, I can be found in the New Age section (sometimes a gem will land here), psychology, mythology, science, nature, religion, poetry, philosophy, martial arts, and pretty much anywhere else in the store. Why? Because it is all relevant so long as I remember to read critically and make intellectual and intuitive decisions about the material as it relates to my practice. I have been doing this for some years now, and can honestly say that my Craft has flowered because of it.

The second thing that I discovered was small independent, albeit limited, specialty publishers of books on Witchcraft, Magick, or Contemporary Paganism. These publishers are doing great things in terms of putting more advanced books on the market. Mind you, many of these titles are in no way intended for beginners. Below are my favorites.

Know of a good independent publisher not listed; PLEASE share it in the comments.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dirt Pagans and the Natural Order of Things

Part of the Rhetoric of Witchcraft and Contemporary Paganism as a whole is that ours is a Nature Religion. In part this means that Witchcraft is a path built upon observation of the natural world and is a reflection of the divinity therein. It also means that within the discourse and practice of Witchcraft there is an emphasis for things as they were naturally intended to be. This came about as a result of the alliance that Contemporary Paganism made upon exporting to the United States; the alliance between what was once primarily a fertility religion and the many forms of activism, such as environmentalism, that was in full force in the United States during that era. Don’t get me wrong, Witchcraft is still a fertility religion, the path has just absorbed some other titles as well.

My own elders in CoR (Church of Rhiannon) were very much aligned with these various movements. They were so inclined because they felt spiritually obligated by the ethics and morals they had developed from Contemporary Paganism. Interestingly enough they called themselves Dirt Pagans. This, I feel, perfectly illustrates the relationship between Contemporary Paganism, Witchcraft, and the various social and natural activist movements. Before I get into that, I will digress just a bit. Just as their spirituality informed their choices about involvement in these various movements, the ideas, ideals, and stances being promulgated within the movements informed their Arte. As a result of this push back there developed an emphasis upon ’The Natural’.

The identity of Dirt Pagan came about dually from a group identity crisis and an accidental moment of spiritual epiphany that came about as a result of a pair of Christians arguing. Long story short, CoR was a synthesis of Witchcraft, Druidry, and local folk traditions. As a result, they did not feel they could properly identify with Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidism or Druidry, or any other popular form of Contemporary Paganism at the time. Nor were they exactly eclectic; they were formed of Initiates from many different paths and effectively had created a working and traditionally operated Coven and Church of their own, eventually hiving several smaller groups. Then one day, one of the founding members (my Uncle) overheard two Christian ladies talking. One of them was speaking not too nicely about his being a Pagan. The other lady came to his defense, sorta; she said, “Don’t worry about him; he is just playing in the dirt looking for God.” Whereas yes, it has some derogatory connotation as it was said, that is not how it was received. It was a moment of complete revelation. Therein was a statement emphasizing that the divine exists in everything, every act, and that even playing in the dirt reveals the sacred unto those which will take the time to open themselves to it. The name was aptly adopted by CoR.

The title Dirt Pagan is about finding the sacred in the world around us. Its emphasis is upon the natural world around us as a result of the involvement of CoR elders in activism. However, this is not to say that the sacred in not everywhere else, just to say that it brought with is a feeling of connecting with divinity via participation in activities, whether worship or other, that seem to be aligned with ‘how nature intended.’ It is this idea of having a natural role that appears within Contemporary Paganism, even if it is not often pointed out or said of such.

So much of my own life is molded by the idea of a natural role. My choices on food, whether to recycle or not, being an ally of the LBGT community, bare-footing, my dislike of shaving, thinking everyone should garden, and so much more; all of this falls into that realm. These are my own personal interpretation though and only the surface and micro level expression of the macro. As a Nature Religion there persists within our rhetoric arguments of cosmic level archetypes, essences, natural roles, what have you, which basically makes two bold statements. The first is that nothing exists that is not natural; it simply would not exist otherwise. The second is that since the macro existence has a natural role thereof, so do we.

The basic essence of what it is to be human is a parameter into which we are born; it is not something we can change, so let’s not fight being human. Likewise, there are some aspects of our individual existence that are also determined by nature. Members of the LBGT community are quick to assert that they were born who they are, and rightly so, and that who they are is not a choice.

In the end, part of what the path of Witchcraft attempts to teach an individual is to learn how to uncover and discover for themselves their own natural role as dictated by their own spiritual progress and divine participation in the cosmic order. It is something only they can do, to take the seed planted in their heart by the sacred at their birth and to nurture it into a flower beyond compare.

There is a danger that exists within this form of thinking. In Hinduism, the caste system came about as a result of the belief that everyone is born into a specific function that is there natural role; thus the accepted inequality of the Casteless, which is but one example of many prevalent within Hinduism as a product of this form of thinking. This is not the discourse of Western Contemporary Paganism at the moment. As a New Religious Movement that is still developing its infrastructure, included in our efforts needs to be an awareness that our emphasis as a Nature Religion could bring with it practices that are very unlike the activism movements with whom we allied ourselves with that originated the idea in the first place.

How much of your path is shaped by involvement in activism or natural oriented living?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sailing upon the Black Northern Wind of Winter: When Autumn Equinox Arrives

This past week has been a doozy, roughly 15 hour days, outside in the sun, while engaging in career related work that is to be evaluated which is both physically and mentally tiring. As I was outside I was very much tuned into the current cycle of weather and energy. This is for two reasons. One, I am a Witch whose practice is aligned with the cycle of the seasons and I take extra care to know what is occurring. Secondly, the weather, that being the temperature, humidity, whether it was raining or not, the wind, the angle of the sun, and the amount of clouds in the sky, at any given moment has a direct impact upon the quality and likelihood of success for what I was doing. Subsequently the quality of success had a direct impact upon my professional career, both short term and long term. I paid VERY close attention for most of each day. So I was there when the shift happened, I felt it and I recognized it. 

Monday was a very hot day here, with the sun bearing down and little to no wind or shade. It was a typical Eastern North Carolina summer day. The wind was blowing steadily from the south, and it brought warmth upon its back. Tuesday morning started out the exact same way, but then at roughly 1100 it all changed, right then and there, and I was a mindful witness. The wind shifted directed, a complete 180. The black Northern Wind of Winter sailed upon winds of change and came strong like a horde come to conquer and plunder, the weather changed instantly. In that moment in which the direction of the wind shifted, a storm showed up, and then left, and then showed up again, over and over again all day.  The next morning the struggle of summer was over, the battle had been won and He had apparently begun his descent into the Underworld. The North-wind was steady, and the over-bearing heat of summer was gone, it was still warm out in spurts but if the wind blew it took it away and brought a chill. The new weather pattern was here to stay, summer had departed.

Most interestingly I recognized it happening but was unaware at the time that autumn equinox was at the door knocking. I had immersed myself so heavily into the mindset I uphold at work and purposely cut myself off from everything else, I had no clue. I had turned my phone off, no email, no Facebook, no contact with the outside world beyond what pertained to the process at hand; I barely saw my kids and wife upon returning home before going to bed and repeating the process the next day. I thought that the equinox was not for another week at least, I just believed that the chill heralding winter had come a bit early. It was not until yesterday, when I was standing outside at 0400 filling out my evaluation paperwork for the day, freezing my tail off, did I realize what day it was. The revelation came because I had to date the paperwork. It was at this point that I realized that for the past week I had stood as a direct witness to the change in the weather, acutely so, and only in retrospect knew it for what it was.

As I sit here now, I feel privileged to have experienced with such intensity the turning of the wheel. Blessed Autumn Equinox everyone!

Boidh se!
-Spanish Moss
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Long Week

Please forgive the lack of a regular blog. I have worked 75 hours in the past five days. I am planning a new blog for tomorrow.  

Boidh se!
-Spanish Moss
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Filling the Heart Vessel with Compassion for Others

Yesterday I briefly discussed vessels in the relationship unto words. Part of the paradigm of the Witch revolves around lore in regards to the sacred vessel. It is mythically the womb of our Lady. However, it is more than that. The cup and cauldron are central to ritual and as such represent the place of creation, potential, death, and the empty within the divine play that is existence. The vessel is one half of the whole that is the central point around which rotates the Mill of the Stars. This Mill is manifest as the earth about us, stretching into the four directions.

With each of the directions there is a chamber of the heart; which interestingly is divided into two halves. The heart is more than the physical mirror but is a vessel of the center of where the being of the selves conjoin. For some it symbolized by a flower or by a star.

In Druidry, it is a cauldron which is on its side at our birth. As we age is rotates and is filled with all of the experiences, actions, and trials of life. This Heart Vessel is akin to the vessel yesterday’s post. It can create and form beauty about us, if we allow it to sing.

Our statues are a conduit of focus whereby they are proxies of our Lady and our Lord, symbolically speaking. Likewise, the sacred Other is a conduit. This Other is simply the people whom we encounter in the course in our lives. Just as we are divine, so are they. It is the actions by which the Other is interacted with that feed our heart vessel. Our behavior and relations with other people and beings are the substance of our offerings unto the Gods through our own center; just as the offerings made to statues in ritual are sacred, so too are the offerings made to our fellows.

Depending upon which Deity is being worked with will determine what constitutes are a favorable and quality offering to make. The offerings made to the Other is also upon a spectrum of worth. By laying compassion, empathy, and goodwill at the feet of the Other are we making truly beautiful offerings.

Let us not confuse these actions with weakness. There is a time for severe interaction, especially if self-defense is warranted. In these times the action taken is not an offering unto the Gods via the Other but to the Gods via self-preservation. In the end, spiritual authority is derived neither from threats or subservience, but from wisdom. Learn when which offering is to be made and be mindful of the action in the doing, and the Heart Vessel will be filled to the brim of like quality brilliance.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Words: The Cycle of Birth, Death, and Rebirth

The horn and the chalice are both empty vessels that are the potential of what will be. In the act of creation the chalice is poured full of what has been and is. The horn is put to the lips of the divine and sounded is the creation of the holy word.

From the Nothing of Potential comes the recitation of the utterance of all of creation into being. It is here and now and it to be experienced. As the sound draws to an end, the existence that was brought forth is returned to the depths of the womb from which it was born.

In the instance of speaking our words create. If our words are repeated of old, whether of scripture, incantation, or song, they pull from the store of that egregore and birth forth anew that which has previously been returned to the vessel of the past. It is a cycle of death and rebirth.

Writing is the manufacture of words that stay. The script itself can become a symbol, but the recitation and hearing of the sounds that are the divinity of that creation’s egregore bring it forth into being. It is as if life is being breathed into the essencec of the symbol. As with all cycles though, the birth and life of the universe contained within one’s speech enter into the silence of death.

Contemporary Paganism has no holy and authoritative scripture because all words, written and spoken, equally draw upon this process. Better yet, it would be best to say that all writing is a form of the sacred and so none is set apart. Whether or not an individual finds at the center of those words a key to their inner being is another topic all together, and is something that only the individual can discern.

It should be no wonder as to why so many of our kith and kin are so deeply involved in and fascinated by books, song, language, and all manners of utterances.


As a side note, for the next week or so the blog is going to be updated sporadically, I have career obligated work to do.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Willingly Condemned: When There is Only One Answer

Now that you have found yourself upon your path; obviously a spiritual one, likely within the realm of Contemporary Paganism, any more than that I dare not guess. How we got here, where ever here may be, is usually a known, but why did you come; now that is a question. The inward path of the Witch is not an easy one. It takes work. There will be hardship, boredom, stagnation, pain, and challenges to what was thought to be true. Why then? Why walk the path?

Perhaps it was community and the seeking of fellowship that brought thee in these ways. I must point out the folly of the reasoning if this is the sole and only reason. There exist communities of folk around pretty much any activity, belief, practice, or hobby that can be brought to mind. Spend just a few minutes browsing google and quickly it can be seen just how diverse of communities that exist in the wide span of all of out there. Let’s not miss the mark though, community is and can be great. I know and am proud to know many in my community. Here in this path we converge and even travel together for a bit, but in the end the journey in mine. So why then take that next step upon the inward road?

It could be that the reason is of a more esoteric nature whereby some condition is sought to be overcome. The world’s major religions each has at its core some condition of which needs, according to their rhetoric, to be alleviated, obliterated, overcome, transcended, or in some other manner rectified; whether it is suffering, sin, ignorance, separation of self… etc.

Witchcraft is a nature religion and our theology is not contrary to the essence of being as is apparently the norm for many revealed religions. There is no condition to surmount because there is nothing inherently wrong. Nature is as it is and so are we. One informs the other. Yes, there is severity in life, but looking at the nature of existence one can see that it is a quintessential aspect of the very fabric of the All. However, in all fairness, perhaps the struggle of one’s own life leads them to seek to overcome something. Why then play here? There are entire spiritual traditions where the alleviation of a particular condition is the entire focus. The answer lay in the why. Different religious goals construct different pathways to reaching those goals.

Sometimes it is particular Gods and Goddesses that call their kin to the expedition of the heart. The call could have been ignored. Why then answer? Devotional work is the work of a relationship, and as the freedom of our being dictates, it could be just as easily cast aside. How many do you know that have chosen to focus their life in the realm of the mundane? So then why?

I could ask a hundred times over—Why? Why? Why? Why? But…

I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you what I have found. Sure I am free, and at any point I could decide not to walk the Witching Path, but in all honesty, I don’t think I could. I have caught a whiff of the essence of truth and I am like an addict seeking the next fix. The ambrosia of the Gods once tasted will never leave the lips. As one of my teachers is fond of saying, “To do this work, you must either be crazy or have no choice.” I think that perhaps I am in both categories. On the one hand, I am condemned to a path of seeking the inward truth, and on the other hand, I am crazy because I do so willingly and knowing.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Acceptance of Self

Only you can accept your existence. First and foremost the Self is found not by another but by the willingness to look inward. Therein hidden under and through the Thicket of the Inner Labyrinth of Self-Deceit are the Keys to the Map to the Crown of Knowing-Thyself. Stand in defiance of the ego, shadow, and that which lurks upon the outer of edge of perception. When the battle is about to be won, realize and accept that in defeat of these there is a division from self-mastery. Stay the stroke and link arms with would be allies whose fight is but a tool used by the Sovereign to steady the Compass upon the Path.

At the core of the Being there is a framework for which is the Vehicle of Experience that is the means of this life. It is an empty cauldron whose contents have yet to be gathered. This is to say that a blank slate of potentiality is the Vessel of the Heart for which is fed the Essence for which will be, thus is the Nature of the Portal to the Self; it is the Hand that Creates the weave of the All.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."