Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Vital Carriage: Our Sacred Body

The body is the vehicle by which the Self unites with the world; it is a crossroads between the inner mysteries of our being and the outer Other. It is only through this vital carriage that any existential experiences are known. Even inner practices, such as meditation, are made possible only because of physical functions of the mind and body.

The body is the river that swells forth from the well of creation carrying upon its current the fruit that feeds the lurking fish beneath the surface. Our inner-being feasts upon the mysteries of life only because the body provides us with a place within which to reside. Literally the body is the physical layer of our spirit. It the layer that is seen, felt, interacted with, and known before anything else.

With the five (or seven if your lore dictates) senses of the body we hear, smell, taste, see, and feel the world around us. Yet there are parts of existence around us with which we have no manner of sensing or even knowing of without special equipment. Likewise, our own bodies mirror this in that we are a spectrum of seen and unseen. The Witch uses the tools of the body and practices of the Craft through which to experience, know, and sense the unseen parts of the self.

Looking inward is a journey unto the threshold of divinity. Delve into the world within and from it the Witch will manifest outwardly into the world reflections of what they found therein. The path, however, is not one-way only. The outer experience of the Other provides the palate for which the inner landscape is painted. Choose wisely the quality of paint that is put upon the pallet of life.

Our bodies are sacred; treat them as such.

Boidh Se!

-Spanish Moss

“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Very Pagan Christmas

As a kid my family did Christmas. Now I don’t mean that we attended any church service or engaged in religious aspects*. Nope, like many families, many Contemporary Pagans as well, Santa came in the night, gifts were shared, and we spent the day with family eating way too much. The manifestation of Christmas into my adult life is a bit different. We’ve moved all the traditions around the holiday that we like to Yule.

Some would argue that we are simply stealing back what was ours, but I don’t think of tradition that way. Tradition is organic. Tradition can’t be stolen, only spread. These things survive to me as a living way not because we reconstructed them from some book, which sometimes creates awesome lore, but because people never stopped doing these various practices. I recognize the legacy of all those that have engaged in festivities around this time of year, and I am grateful.

So here we are on Christmas morning and kids everywhere are destroying a forest worth of wrapping paper, but my kids had their time digging under the tree looking for just one more with their name on the tag three days ago. Our family doesn’t do Christmas. No semantics of what came first or any fight over political correctness. None of that is really important in the heart of the season and while amusing I think it is dividing, so I don’t play along. The reason is much simpler.

By the time Christmas arrives for many others, we are done. Done. From the beginning of the month each day is marked by hanging a special ornament upon our Yule tree and a candy cane is had. Each day is full of holiday music and the watching of all the classic movies; the Grinch, Charlie Brown, etc. Not to mention the commercial bombardment by corporations that began back around Samhain. Yule morning for us is like Christmas morning for others; full of presents, play, and laughter. The rest of the day is spent with family culminating into a small family ritual to honor the birth of our Lord and the labor of our Lady, after which we feast and are merry. So by the time Christmas rolls around we are content to let others celebrate, feast, and honor the birth of their Lord. Just as our extended family comes and spends parts of Yule with us, we will attend the feast they have prepared and invited us to. To us this is what Christmas is about.

As much of a Christian holiday as Christmas is, and it is; today isn’t about any of that for us. For us it is about supporting and participating in the religious lives of our community not as adherents but loving family who is happy to see family. The spirit of the day that was known in my childhood has moved to Yule—Yule is now Christmas, not Christmas. Today is about loving our family of other paths for who they are and giving them support; they did the same for us three days hence. Christmas for us is a day that shows we can all be of different paths and yet be upon the same mountain.

For those that celebrate in some form today; enjoy, be happy, and let the song of eternity sing in your spirit! You are blessed and have my blessings!

Boidh Se!

-Spanish Moss

“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

*My father and I would attend CoR’s Yule rite, but it occurred on the solstice.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lessons by Flame: Tending the Hearth

Thus far this year, neither my wife or I have needed to turn the household heater on; partially because it has been a rather warm winter in this part of the country. It was in the 70s last week. We have only had a few really cold days, such as today when we awoke to below freezing temperature, which is cold when acclimatized to the local southern weather. I would have considered this a nice warm day during this time of year when I was living in Ohio. The other reason that the heater has not been needed is because the few cold days have been combated by using our wood burning stove. I think that I prefer it this way. Sure it’s a lot of work but something primal calls that this is proper. As such I have learned some very strong lessons about hearth work.

The fire in the hearth is the same as that which warms our bodies. It is energy and it heats. Literally it is fire that keeps the house warm and makes it a place that is livable. Likewise, it is the heat of our bodies that is a sign of life. It is the warmth provided by tending our spiritual inner fire that warms our spirit through the cold night and winter. By tending that inner spark we make our life a happy and kind place by which we are nurtured by its warmth.

If there is to be warmth; there must be work. It is not easy to keep a fire going in the hearth or in one’s heart. There must be a willingness to venture out into the cold. Practically speaking, to fetch more wood, but it is in the depths of the shadow places of our being that we find the fuel, the strength, of our Higher Self that warms us until the Dark Night of the Soul passes and the Dawn comes.

To build a strong fire in hearth and heart, the process must start will small steps. Without kindling it is very hard indeed to get flame to stick to the larger logs that keep the fire going. Building up the spiritual fire at the center our life takes time and starts small. Knowing the sound of our own heart does not begin until we have taken the small step to listen.

Once there is a fire going the work is not done. To quit now as if some goal had been reached would be to allow the fire to die. The fire must be tended. Sometimes the coals must be stirred, the logs rearranged, or the air flow altered. The same is true in regards to walking a spiritual life of which we are mindful. Sometimes effort must be put into stirring ourselves into action, even completely rearranging aspects, or making tough decisions in regards to what parts of life we will allow to grow and which will not.

At the center of this process stand our Ancestors. Reflect back and know that all that have gone before us had to tend flames, both literally and figuratively. The hearth was the center of their life and heart and also, even if we have no literal fire-place, there is a flame at our center for which we tend.

Boidh Se!

-Spanish Moss

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

First Day: First Ancestor

In some lore, yesterday was the day in between. It in the time of the birth of the Sun and is a moment suspended upon the branches of the world tree, much like mistletoe, and it not a day counted in the calendar. It is a day placed in the branches by our own setting aside of it. We are the hands of the divine.

This in turn makes today the first day of the life of our Sun Child. He is First Ancestor. He is our spiritual center and is reflected as the path of all those that have gone before us and is manifested in us as we transverse our own way through the mysteries of life. To honor Him it is customary to light a candle and place it upon the home altar.

Light the candle and say a simple prayer unto the flame of divinity within each of us, to all those who have traveled the path of the heart, and to our Lady and our Lord; light it in the name of First Ancestor. Spark the flame and for a moment reflect upon the sacredness of the now and take a break from the hectic turmoil our culture makes this time of year. It takes rest as well as work to tend our flame.

Don’t have a candle? Pretend.

Boidh Se!

-Spanish Moss

“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Memories of the Oak and Holly King: Winter Solstice Story!

Growing up in CoR, Yule was one of my favorite rituals. Yule itself always has a special place in the heart of children… but I liked the ritual too. I have found that Contemporary Pagan children love ritual, so be sure to include them as well. Ritual is after-all a community affair. The best part was the story of the Oak and Holly King. Ing, one of the founding members wrote the version CoR used. Every year growing up it would be read by my Uncle, the High Priest (we used the title Druid though) of CoR, and I was whisked away. As an adult, I have read it every Yule since leaving home. I have read it at public rituals, private Coven rituals, and hearth rituals with my family. It was read every year by CoR and then by me and so it has been  read without fail by someone for the past twenty-six years. It has become part of my family heritage as I read it to my own children every Yule, and will do so tonight again just before our evening rite and meal. Enjoy!

A Solstice Bedtime Story
By: Ing, CoR Co-Founder and Chief Bard

The Oak King wore a crown made of deer antlers intertwined with leafy branches of oak and mistletoe bearing its white berries. The Oak King was majestic as he strode through the forest. He was following the sun, and he was finding the path colder day by day. Each time he crossed a stream, the Oak King would take a drink. Each time he did, he began to see that he was growing very old.
Soon the Oak King found it difficult to continue. His old and stiffened body could not carry him much further. As he pulled himself to the edge of a calm, clear spring, he said to himself; "Each day grows darker; soon I shall die." The ancient Oak King bent to take a drink. As he looked at his reflection, he saw ice forming on the surface of the water. The Oak King felt the darkness. The ice was closing his vital drinking space.
Just as he was failing, the Oak King looked again at his reflection in the spring. This time he saw the ice melting away. The antlered crown of the Oak King began to change. The rounded oak leaves became sharp and pointed. The white mistletoe berries became red as if the life fluids of all animals flowed into them. The Oak King lifted his head and felt the life force grow strong within him. As he looked into the unfreezing stream, this time he saw holly leaves with red berries instead of oak and mistletoe.
The former Oak King, now the Holly King, leapt from the stream bank, and pranced through the forest. He now follows the sun on its upward course. With each step the Holly King takes, he melts the ice, leaving the ground ready for the Goddess to awaken her tiny plants.
So Mote It Be!

Boidh Se!

-Spanish Moss

“Lost in a thicker bare-foot upon a thorned path.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hallowing the Mundane

 The Craft is not a path that teaches us to hide away in solitude. Granted sometimes an individual keeps secret aspects of their practice. This and the inherent mystery around Witchcraft in general are not the same as a doctrine of seclusion, separation, and renouncing. In fact, the Craft of the Witch teaches the exact opposite—that our practice is to become part of everyday living and that everyday living is to become our practice. There is no set time only for spirituality. The call is always there. At times we may enjoy a routine of focusing only upon the inner aspects of our way, but these are self-prescribed out of devotion and not dictated by others, custom, or law.

Daily practice becomes so engrained into what we do that vacuuming the floor is a prayer of mindfulness when we allow it. The rising and setting of the sun is a threshold moment upon which we pause as we step into the next sacred manifestation of the all-encompassing now. Rituals, mediation, and practice of all forms are not separate, but part of the day. With the tides and flux of the cycles of life we dance the cosmic dance of living and the immersion of practicing our Craft within the norm of daily life does not lessen the sacredness of those acts. Nay, instead it hallows the mundane.

Making the Craft part of daily life and having a regular daily devotional practice consecrates the hours of our lives. Each act is holy; and with each one we place our seal of commitment unto our inner heart upon the whole of our lives. Practicing the Craft is the arte of living a life of sacredness, magick, and allowing our hearts to shine through as the Crown upon our Brow. It is not an easy job; but if we do not invoke forth the fire of our own inner self, no one will. Immerse yourself and take up thy Witch tools, there is Crafting to be done.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

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