The Care of Others

In my family, as I’m sure in many of yours, there is more than one person who needs help to survive.  One of my family members lives alone, but has aides and PTs and nurses always coming in and out.  My other family member lives with us, but is more independent and able to get around than the other.  The first is female, the second male.

I’m not going to get into healthcare or any of those big, annoying, boring issues.  As (of course) my focus here is on paganism, let us bring another issue to the table: the care of others.

Is it my responsibility as a human being to take care of those people who have need in m life?  Absolutely.  BUT, let us refer to the rede; “An it harm none, do what ye will”.  In the case of one of my family members, she is able to walk.  The only thing missing is her toes on one side.  She just fell apart when they were removed (probably 10 years ago” and transformed from a loving, caring nurse, to a co-dependent, handicapped older woman.

We are always trying to get her back into life.  We encourage her to walk, to get out of the house, but she doesn’t have a lot of opportunity for the second, and the first is difficult.  Its much easier for her to use a walker or be wheelchair bound, like she is most of the time.  So, she lives fifteen minutes away, and she calls, and we pick up medicine for her.  We take her once a week grocery shopping.  Sometimes, we eat with her.  But, my parents work7-3 jobs, and I always have things I need to do – I have an internship, freelance web design jobs, or I’m away at college.

I am not saying that we should stop doing these things with her – the bottom line is that she is not able to transport herself to the store.  But, to what extent should our care be going?  Is our help to her really aiding her spiritually?  It seems to us like she’s not trying to improve her own situation.

My second relative, who lives with us, has congenital heart failure, and just had a pacemaker put in.  He is, unfortunately, well past obese, diabetic, Parkinson’s, the works.  He is trying to improve his living conditions.  Thankfully, he is also a veteran – so they foot his bills.  He just asked me to buy him a cheeseburger….

Do you buy someone on a no-salt diet a cheeseburger?

There are certain responsibilities in life which we all have to have.  Caring for our elders, and for our children, are the ones which are almost guaranteed to come up.  But, as a pagan in a non-pagan household, family, world; how can I explain to those I care for that change needs to happen?  We are bound to help others advance spiritually.  If I allow for the stagnant to continue, how can I cause the change?

And these…these are the questions that makes one a witch.   Whenever a question arises, we must return to the documents that bind us.  In this case, the appropriate one is my oath from my initiation… (excerpt)

Where possible, I will work to ease pain and promote growth. In all things I will strive to do no harm lest it be in the defense of the helpless, the innocent, myself, my coven or my family. To these ends, I will put aside fear for courage, death for life, and life for death when it is right and necessary to do so, from now until the end.

Pretty strong words, huh?

I hope my discussion of the issue – if it is one you have, have had, or will have – has caused questions, thoughts and ideas.  It seems my answer was right there, all along…”Ease pain.  Promote growth.”

Merry part and happy new year!

Drinking and Drugs within Wicca

Interesting topic, right? I know in other religions, consumption of alcohol is generally frowned upon unless it’s drinking the blood of a dead person(no offense meant towards my wording to Christian readers).

Well, in ours, its okay! Sort of. We are told to drink wine or mead for our rituals, with the gods to honor them. We offer them the first and best of our fare, and then merrily go about our ritual.

We are also told as a general rule, to obey the laws of the land in which we live. This of course means that I, as under the age of twenty one, should not be consuming alcohol yet.

Although I’ve consumed alcohol in ritual once, I’d have to say that for the most part, I don’t drink at all outside of the circle – I don’t like the taste, and I don’t like not being in control of my own body and thoughts. But it is allowed. I mean, Dionysus/Bacchus, depending on your choice of pantheon is the god of wine and grapes and the frenzy.

You have to remember, that by most accounts, those who are healers and walk the path of a witch are not high class, stick-up-the-butt sort of people. They come from small towns, in history, in small villages, and lived and died there. At most they were upper middle class.

Wicca is a path of celebration and knowledge, not repentance. As long as you don’t drink in excess, and behave responsibly or relatively so (honor your path and your ancestors and your oaths) while drinking, there is no reason at all to feel guilty.

Some of us choose not to drink. Choosing not to drink does not necessarily make me a stronger person. I already stated my reasons for not consuming alcohol – I don’t like the taste, and I don’t like not being in control. If offered alcohol within ceremony, I would be much more willing to take it.

The general category of drugs is similar. We are told to obey the laws of the land. Yet, shamans, and those of the pagan sort from all walks of life have engaged in recreational and hard core drug use, for both appropriate and inappropriate reasons.

As the United States outlaws the use of marijuana, ecstasy, crack, mushrooms, belladonna and other hallucinogenic drugs, I will not be using them anytime soon. But, I wouldn’t necessarily look down on someone who, in a ritual context, took one of the above drugs to aid in vision questing. As long as it is not drug abuse, they understand the risks, and the occurrences are few and far between, I believe it is appropriate.

Tobacco, I have a serious issue with, that is just now beginning to lessen. Both of my parents smoke, and I despise anything to do with smoking. A few close friends smoke, and I am forever telling them to quit. And let’s face it, kissing a smoker tastes nasty.

However, my high priest smokes. When yelling at him for smoking, he responds to me that because he is Native American, he is worshiping the earth and receiving its gifts each time he smokes.

He worships the earth a lot.

If you’re addicted to the nicotine in any form of tobacco, remember: tar, lung cancer, emphysema, and death come along with it.

I guess that brings me to my final point. This entire time, we have been skirting around the edges of a very important concept: Personal Accountability. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you understand the risks and accept the consequences for your actions.

“An’ it harm none, do what ye will” applies to the self, too.

Gaming and Religion

I’ll be the first to admit that I am an avid RPG and MMORPG player. I just got into World of Warcraft, and it eats my soul (lol). But, even in the most childish of things, I try to find spiritual wisdom. WoW is no different.

To be a programmer, you have to be able to understand and manipulate all aspects of a world. To be a witch, you have to be able to understand and manipulate the world around you. Sound similar?

In World of Warcraft, you can choose one of ten races, each which have ‘racial passive’ and ‘racial’ abilities. The racial passive abilities might just give you a boost on certain skills, and the racial abilities are fun. Undead, for example, get to eat humanoid flesh to gain health (Cannibalism), and night elves get ‘shadowmeld’, an ability which allows them to more or less disappear and avoid detection.

In Wicca, if you tend towards healing, you’ll find that things in your life work better than they used to. You touch a friend, and without intending to, you’ve suddenly allowed that friend a lessening of pain. When you become in touch with the abilities within yourself, you get side effects which are beneficial to all parties involved.

Also in World of Warcraft, you can choose from professions to complement your usual killing things. These professions include:

  • Fishing
  • Cooking
  • First Aid
  • Enchanting
  • Tailoring
  • Herbalism
  • Alchemy
  • Mining
  • Blacksmithing
  • Engineering
  • Skinning
  • Leatherworking

Now you can have all of the first three, then any two of the others. Enchanting and Tailoring are independent of all other professions. But, alchemy relies on herbalism, blacksmithing and engineering rely on mining, and leatherworking relies on skinning.

Similarly, in life, there are a wide variety of things you can do. However, specializing in a few particular areas enable you to be more effective in life (be happier, be more successful, have more money, etc). You can choose a few hobbies, usually one profession, but the skills you have determine these. As you grew up, and now that you’re here, your skills have increased.

Its an interesting, methodical way to look at things. Devoid of passion, perhaps, but you find that if you know how to read music, playing instruments gets a lot easier (lol). This enables you to begin to write music and sightread. You then may find yourself becoming a leader in the realm of music in family and social events.

As a witch, you start out with the basic lore of witchcraft. From there, there are any number of things you can do. But, if you do all of them at once, you’ll progress to ‘effective’ over a much longer period of time. However, if you devote all of your attention to a few subjects, you’ll become an expert.

For those of us interested in divination: it is near impossible to master the tarot cards, the runes, I Ching and astrology all at once. But, if you set aside time to learn and understand one at a time, suddenly, what you’ve been learning over 3-4 years can be done in 1.

I mention this because my high priest told me to choose something to specialize in. Its about that time that I be making my way to a third degree, and that means I need expertise, in some field or another. I know that Jerome over at Violet Sun is pretty much an expert in Rune divination. I know that, were I to want to learn runes, I could head to him with any questions. My high priest’s specialization is in tarot.

Wicca is a religion and a path, which enables you to gain knowledge in all areas of your life. Unlike other religions, we don’t celebrate every Sunday, or Saturday, or Friday. We celebrate at the moon and the sun’s beckoning, but we connect with our gods each and every day: when we divine, when we pick up that pretty stone on the side of the road, and when we make conscious decisions intended to further our spiritual and practical knowledge.

Beginning Practice

Hey everyone

(apology here)

I’d just like to point out a few things for those who are interested in paganism and pagan practices, and are unsure of where to do. Keep in mind this is purely advice, and in fact, you are most likely more knowledgable than I on much of what I say. First, term definitions:

Paganism is a collection of polytheistic or animistic traditions which focus or center around either the concept of many gods, the concept of nature, or a combination of both. Being pagan does not necessarily mean you are of a particular religion. Pagan practices do not make you pagan – being pagan is a title you choose to adopt. As the Wiccan religion focuses on nature and polytheism, Wicca is a pagan religion.
Wicca is a religion based on the teachings, at its base level, of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders. These two figureheads of Wicca are the most well known (in my own opinion) and are worth mentioning as well as devoting some time to studying. Wicca, itself, is a non-hierarchal religion, centering for the most part on the individual or small groups, known as covens. The three documents most well known and respected regarding Wicca are:

Magic is an intentional act or series of actions meant to cause change in the physical world through use of thoughts, words, prayers, rituals, dances, meditation, etc.  Everyone practices magic by this definition, on a daily basis.   In addition to the practical magic of making every day decisions and executing plans, magic can be used for healing, self improvement, control, enhancement, advancement of knowledge, and any other number of things.

Divination is an intentional act or series of actions or rituals intended to discern past and future events via extensive symbolism.  Sects of divination include tea leaf reading, tarot card reading, numerology, I Ching, Runes, cloud reading, pendulum use, etc.

Magical tools are objects which aid in any of the above.

This all being said, if you are interested in any of this, you have a wealth of decisions to be making.  The first question is:  Why and what are you interested in?  Are you interested in the practical aspects of pagan belief, the theoretical and religious aspects of pagan beliefs or just divination?  Do you want to heal?  Divine?  Better yourself?

If you’re interested in just the practical aspects, with none of the religious and morality issues that tag along, be warned:  they tend to go hand in hand.  If you are Christian and in a church which believes that forms of divination or use of magic is morally wrong, you’ll have to find some way to reconcile those differences.

If you’re interested in just the theory and religious aspects, be warned: the practical aspects come along too.

Now, for the fun part.  I picked this up in high school, but generally, let’s review the learning curve.  Information which is valid will be:

  • Something that is effective (in cases of practical magic and using those aspects of paganism)
  • Something that is universally accepted (if you can find something in more than three resources, chances are, its a good concept)
  • Something that is spelled correctly (if the person who’s trying to teach you can’t bother to run spell check…should you really be taking their knowledge at face value?)
  • On the internet, free resources are always better.  The resources being free means that the person who has taken the time to post them is interested in helping you, and not the money.
  • Something which references the three documents listed above, if you’re examining Wicca.
  • Terms to avoid: Warlock, Wizard, Harry Potter

Now, in terms of book learning, for Wiccan students only, I would recommend these authors:

  • Scott Cunningham
  • DJ Conway
  • Starhawk
  • Deborah Lipp
  • Margot Adler
  • Richard Hutton
  • Doreen Valiente
  • Gerald Gardner
  • Alex Sanders

I would avoid anyone who publishes under an extensive ‘magic’ name – full of hawks and moons and wolves and colors (Uriel RavenHeart-Jackal or something similar).  It shows they’re either not ready to come out of the closet to others around them, they’re too open about what they do and otherwise lacking in knowledge, or one of the few who believe that they are dragons in human form.  And, I personally, tend to avoid the following few authors:

  • Silver RavenWolf
  • Raven Grimassi
  • Raymond Buckland

There are great resources available around:

If you’ve made it all the way down here, I congratulate you and myself:  apparently, I’m not that boring!  On a final note, the Order of the Gecko will be re-activated soon, and I’m looking for members and teachers.  If you think you know enough to teach a free online course, let me know!

Northern Delights

This past weekend, the good earth dropped about a foot of snow on the town in which I live (I am home from college).  Having had several experiences with southern friends, of pagan origin, I can safely say that the cold weather, though never directly spoken of in religious texts is essential for a complete understanding of our gods.

Snow and winter are entirely different than heat, or rain, or even a chilly breeze.  For example, following along the seasons, the times that I, at least, feel most with the gods are:

Spring – Dawn

Summer – Dawn

Autumn – Sunset

But in winter, that perfect time of silence?  Its at midnight.  Walk out into a cool, wintery night at midnight and you’ll understand – the breeze barely blowing, shivering slightly as you stand in the eerie darkness that isn’t quite dark because the snow reflects the moon’s glow.

You see, nothing is active in winter – except the elements themselves.  Everything is in hiding!  Its not a bad thing – the trees are slumbering.  As my high priest put it once, in the winter, the tree spirits move below the ground, into the mother herself.  The smaller animals are hibernating, and some, like deer, are just trying to survive.

Silence from life is a wonderful thing.  Being able to stand outside, away from human light or cars, you can hear the wind softly rustling what’s left of the vegetation.  Even in the summer, late at night, there are always animals up and moving.  But this special winter, snow muted silence, it teaches us respect, and humility, and patience, and reflection, and peace.

It’s like you’re working twenty four seven around the clock, and your life is so busy.   But if you wake up in the middle of the night for a cup of water, and you step outside, there’s a special, vibrant, northern magick that just permeates through your core, and makes you appreciate life just a little bit more…

And that peace and understanding doesn’t come from an inch of snow or forty degree weather.

Winter is the time of the silent journey into the self.  What you find will be directly related to the path you choose to walk.  It is that hanging time of reflection – the time to tie the past – what you have done – to the future and what you will do.

Finally, winter teaches us about determination.  Because there’s nothing more annoying than trudging through slushy, snow covered sidewalks and entering your house with salt stains up to your knees.

More controversial topics soon.  Blessed Be!