Imbolc: Part Two

Expressing your spirituality.  What an odd concept for those of us who have been hiding in closets all of our lives.  I’ll skip the moaning and groaning about not being mainstream for now – we’ve all done our share, and we have all heard it before.  On a brand new college campus, I haven’t really scoped out the existence of any of “us”.  As far as I can see, its mostly “them”, though I’ve heard there are a few of “us”.  In any case, here are some ideas for some nice, calming, non-boisterous attempts at connecting with the Great Mother and her aspect, Brigid on the upcoming sacred day.

  • Walk – simple?  Absolutely.  But taking a walk – a walk designed purposely for observation and intentional connection with the world around you – that is a walk that can be full of spiritual implications.  Look up, look down.  Do you see the ants’ nest you almost stepped on?  Look for plants or animals that stick out – does it mean something?  The skies and seas and in between are full of signs just waiting for you to interpret.
  • Sunrise – Watching the sunrise can be exceptionally poignant on Imbolc, the time when the sun is finally beginning to make some progress in the wintery world.  If you live in the North or far from the equator, it may be difficult – don’t put yourself in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation on snow or ice.
  • Make Something – pick a goal – and then make a representative of it – be it an amulet or something else.  Brigid is the ruling goddess, the goddess of the smithy – you may find your hands work better than normal or you experience a creative surge as you go about your day.  Don’t be afraid to pick up a piece of wood and start carving it.  If you have a rare opportunity to visit a metalworker – go for it!
  • Action – the most important part of this holiday is taking an action, symbolic or useful, towards creating change within your life.  The power well is there, *USE* it!  Take a run, if you want to lose weight.  Begin your meditations on dance, if you want to learn about the subject.  Take the time to create that positive change in your life, and you may find that the rest of the days within this year flow easier.

Remember as a witch, or a pagan, not to get down when others go about their days and you want to shout at the top of your lungs, “It’s Imbolc!  Time to Celebrate!”  You can tell people, invite them to acquire the knowledge about our sacred day.  But a lot of times, at least, I find myself with a secret smile as I go about my day – today is a day which I have decided to set aside, make special.  Its that secret joy harbored within which has driven us solitaries for the duration of our lives, that sense of secrecy which has allowed to craft to survive and flourish.

Enjoy!!!

Imbolc: Part One

Sort of a short post today, as I’ll be running back and forth for the beginning of the semester.  I am now situated in New College, an extremely small, public honors college, the only one of its type in Florida.  Two days from now is Imbolc!

Imbolc has always held a special place in my heart, mostly because what it represents is such a powerful image.  It is the height of the cold.  But it is also the sunrise, the beginning of the sun really starting to make a difference in its rising power.   The image that always comes to mind is the sun’s first break over a line of evergreens, snow slowly beginning to melt, and animals finally coming back to life.  As I am in eighty degree weather currently, I am unable to enjoy the parts of spring which I have always witnessed before now.

Imbolc, also, holds a powerful energy of renewal.  It is that time to begin the physical changes within your life.  Brigid, the smithy goddess, represents changing something dull and ugly, useless, and through an act of intense heat and trial and stress upon the material, making it beautiful, shinier, useful.  We can harness this energy ourselves, and through her energy, become stronger, more faithful, more energetic, build healthier habits, and discover new spiritual truths.

What changes do you want to bring?  You should have been thinking about it before now, but the decision is upon us:  What will you manifest today?  This coming year?  Season?  Hour?

Stay tuned for some “practical” expressions of Imbolc – hopefully tonight or tomorrow.

Taking It Slow: The Hummingbird’s Omen

Here in New York where I live, there is only one species of Hummingbird, and we see this specimen only when we look hard at where we are and what’s going on. Yet, in the tropics, flitting through all levels of forest in Costa Rica, you see hummingbirds hustling about their duties.

In terms of ecology, the hummingbirds and the plants that are their food supply have a very intimate, dependent relationship. Without the hummingbirds, those vibrant red flowers with their deeply cupped shape would not be able to reproduce. And without the carb-loaded sweet nectar found within the depths of those flowers, the hummingbirds would not be able to survive the night.

We were blessed with the opportunity on our travels to visit a hummingbird garden area a few times. We got to watch the hummingbirds fight and challenge each other over the previous spots along the feeders for at least an hour in the dim light of the setting sun.

Hummingbirds use so much energy during the day that sometimes they fall into a near-death state, called torpor, at night to conserve their energy. Can you imagine running yourself so near death everyday that you’re not really sure if you’ll be able to get your heart working in the morning?

Slow down! It works for the hummingbirds. It doesn’t work for us. There is something to be said about the perseverance of these little birds with their flashy colors and quick moves, but they are made for their job.

We learn to take life one step at a time from these little creatures, some of which are no bigger than the size of your hand.

Hummingbird

Controlling the Crowd: Mass Hysteria

I’m not a psychologist, or by any means an expert, but anyone can learn and document the behaviors of others without going to college and earning a degree, or learning all of the ‘fancy’ terminology that goes with it.

Unfortunately for us, there exist times in the world where people tend to use the ‘supernatural’ as a means to gain control over others. I am not bashing experiences that you may have had, and I recognize that there is some truth in all experiences and perceptions. However, there is also powerful magic at play in group situations, and that powerful magic can wreak havoc on the spiritual, emotional, and physical grounds of play.

Mass hysteria is well documented in history – the Salem Witch Trials, the hunt for Communists, the “War on Terror”; as well as in pop media, culture, and everyday life. Here, I am defining this ‘mass hysteria’ as a group atmosphere, which upon the suggestions and actions by its group members creates a different atmosphere or different rules which is/are separate from an outsider’s perception. Please note that what I am talking about is relating specifically to ‘supernatural’ hysteria. Hauntings, things following you around, etc. I do recognize that there are things out there which will haunt and hurt us – but I also recognize that 99% of those astral creatures don’t care whether we live or die, and want nothing to do with us.

My first experience with mass hysteria was several years ago, with two friends of mine. One, slightly mentally unstable (as all teenagers are), began to slip in and out of trances. Eventually, she worked up to a full possession of her body by a man who wanted to have sex with me (No joke.). We spent the entire night, wrapped up in the idea that she was possessed and trying to fix her.

When I spoke to my high priest later that night (Who I don’t believe was my high priest at the time) he told me to get my head out of my own ass and go play cards – or something to that effect. He told me she was fine. He was right.

How did I find myself down that dangerous road of delusion? Simple. Breaking it down, we find that the instigators of mass hysteria follow a similar pattern.

  1. Gaining Trust. The instigator will gain trust of the others or will have already established trust with the other group members. This may be through close contact (hanging out together all day and acting sane) or verification of sanity through name/information dropping(Ex: my friend who’s a cop told me once that; the teacher said; my high priest/ess said; I read in a book that).
  2. Establishing Grounds and Baiting the Hook. The Verification of Sanity is actually part of the second step. The instigator will slowly lead into a topic which the others are “not informed of” yet. They may use the name dropping skill or, in the case of themselves being possessed, begin to lapse in and out of conversations, or do something dramatic, like changing voices or accents.
  3. Gaining Control. If the group – even one person – accepts the bait – its a downward slope. Once the instigator has the attention or partial attention, they will focus their efforts on maintaining the attention. How far can they string you along? If it is a “third party haunting” – a creature inhabiting the room – they will get chills, or a cough, or something will have moved – the lights outside of the room might have ‘shut themselves off’ according to the instigator. If it is the instigator’s haunting, then they may employ any and every trick. They may laugh or cry, or play with knives, or do something classified as creepy.
  4. Maintaining Control. The instigator will try to do everything in their power to keep the group on the subject at hand. As the group drifts from the topic, the claims or actions will get more outrageous. Following the instinctual rule, “Where attention goes, energy flows”, the instigator will get ridiculous in attempts to keep the focus on them.
  5. Losing Control. If the instigator loses control, they will either drop the subject and never speak about it again, or, becoming desperate, try to rally others to their cause, through telling the truth or confiding in them.

How does this relate to my trip? One of the places we stayed at was a family owned, remote and rustic lodge in the mountains of Costa Rica. We, for the most part, had ice cold water only. The door to our cabin wouldn’t shut. There were half-doors for crawlspaces and curtained windows leading to planks and nails because the building had been expanded. Our bathroom door was temperamental and locked itself. Because of high winds, our outside door was constantly opening and closing itself.

Prime territory for someone to come and play instigator with the group. Which, they did. There was myself and three other girls staying in this particular cabin. One of the girls began the process with a one-liner from a scary movie: “Did you hear that?”

Unfortunately, I was ill at the time, and had completely lost my voice. I kind of wheezed the entire time, and I couldn’t make out more than a word or two at a time. I was coughing every minute or so and my throat was on fire.

The door had slammed – the first of many times. Ensued a discussion about how creepy the place was. How they didn’t want to be in there alone. I tried to interject and explain that nothing was going to happen – I was a witch, etc. I was trying to disarm the situation quickly.

Two hours later, the entire group had entered our cabin to play a friendly card game of “Spoons”. When all had gathered, we played a round, and then the girl spoke up again.

“Guys, I have something to tell you, but I promised (Professor) I wouldn’t say anything.”

People vie for information. She refuses for a few minutes, then proceeds in a hushed voice.

“(Professor) said this place used to be a barn used to slaughter horses and cows.”

[[Collective opinion: Not so creepy. Instigator tries again.]]

“She said that the couple used to have a child before (child’s name). They had bought the place, even though the locals said it was haunted.”

[[The couple who owned the place were not Costa Rican. They have one daughter, an adorable two year old. Group takes the bait.]]

“I guess a bunch of weird stuff used to happen here. Doors would slam, and windows would break, things would go missing. And then their first daughter, she fell down a well and died.”

[[Group mutters. Someone asks why they stayed.]]

“Well they had this second daughter, (child’s name), and it was a really lucky day that she was born, and they did a bunch of things to be lucky, and they named the cabins and the place after her to keep away evil.”

[[Instigator’s boyfriend rises, and goes to shut the door which has slammed, loudly. He walks back in and leaves the door open. Someone notices that the lights are off outside of the room, and they should be on.]]

“I don’t know, they were off when I got there.” [[Instigator’s boyfriend]]

[[Instigator becomes freaked out, muttering and rambling about how she doesn’t want to stay there, practically screaming. Place calms down as I choke out, “Why don’t we play cards?”]]

This continued on until everyone left and the Instigator ‘confided’ in us that it had all been a ‘joke’ – the energies with which I had to deal with, silently, for four hours.

So!

How can we as witches, or as concerned members, who recognize what’s about to happen, disarm the situation?

  • Change the subject. By focusing the attention on yourself – “Ow shit, does someone have a bandaid? …. So did anyone hear about the new regulations at…” – you take attention away from the to-be-instigator.
  • Silence. Not participating in the discussion – at all – can sometimes disarm the situation. Complete disinterest is not what the instigator wants. Its a fine line, though, between being interpreted as indifferent and being interpreted as fearful.
  • Self-validation. Not the best decision, but can work in some instances. Saying to them, “I’ve dealt with these situations before, just relax” takes power away from the instigator. However, depending on the group dynamics, you may be marked and filed as either crazy or not part of the conversation, or not ‘qualified’ enough.
  • Leave. If all else fails, the least you can do is remove yourself from the situation.

Keep in mind that staying does feed the unstable energy. And when enough of that unstable energy is around, things will start to happen in the group perception. This time, I chose self-validation and then silence, for lack of a voice and energy to do anything but let the issue run its course.

Got any fun stories?  Feel free to share!

Notice!

Unfortunately, I have a life; and part of that life is spent in school. I opted over the fall semester to travel to Costa Rica for ten days this January, for a class called “Costa Rican Natural History”. I will be gone from tomorrow, January 6th(traveling to airport) until January 17, 2007(returning late at night). You should expect a post from me on January 18th, or at the latest, the 19th.

I sincerely apologize to you new readers and you loyal readers – and I hope that those of you who have viewed once will continue to visit my site, if not in my absence, then when I return.

I’m excited to go to Costa Rica, and with exception to sudden death, I will be very happy to return and not only recount what I saw and heard and smelled and ate and experienced, but also what lessons I’ve learned from the trip about our Great Mother Earth and all of her children.

By the way.  If you’ve gotten here via a search, and have not found what you’re looking for, comment on the page(this post, even)!  I do see the stats and where you guys came from to get here, and I try to take from those possible topics – but I have a list, which is pretty small!  I always welcome new topics – everyone’s creativity takes a fall.  I gladly answer all requests for communication that are not solicitations for sex, drugs, or other religions. I don’t want my blog to just be a place for my opinions – I want it to be a place that’s useful for everyone that comes along.

Blessed be, all, and be safe!

Credentials in Religion?

We all do it. “Hi! I’m Wiccan!” pops up at some point, and if the person you’re speaking to is of like-minded religion, you start testing each other.

  • Who has more experience?
  • Who has a more verified path?
  • Who has read more books?
  • Whose books do they read?

Think about it. I know you do it. Even if you’re Christian, the debate changes slightly, but remains the same.

  • How long have they been Christian?
  • What church do they go to?
  • What version of the bible do they read?

Is this justified? I think so. Its hard for us not to discriminate, and it tends to be the case that, when speaking to others who claim to be along the path, they’re either on the path in this world, or on the path of some other world. The first thing a wiccan wants to do when they meet you is establish if you’re the real deal or not. Questions pop up like, “Who’s your favorite author?” To see if its Cunningham, or RavenWolf. Or somehow, you’re goaded into answering some version of, “Who taught you?”

The people who are just getting into our religion, but are doing a pretty damn good job of not being “Fluffy bunny” about it, will probably take the most shit from both people along the *real* path and the weekend witches.

“Oh, you’ve only been studying a year.” They’ll say smugly. “You don’t know about the super secret codex of Gardner.” (You may substitute “Super secret codex of Gardner” for some other bullshit.) Or, “No, I think I have more experience dealing with this infestation of fairies on my own.” After you, the newbie, offers the concept of meditation and centering and communing with the Gods.

I have to tell you, take a step back people! I’ve been pagan all of my life, and I grew up a lonely, contemplative only child, talking and singing to the winter wind as it blew softly through my southern window. I didn’t know it was a religion until I was somewhere between 10 and 12, and I dedicated somewhere in there. I began a coven with my friends who had somehow found the same path when I was 13, and we were together until just before I turned 16.

However, the length of time since I initiated tells you nothing of what I know. Those first four years, before I met my current high priest, I was probably fluffy bunny by way of understanding very little of how magick worked, how energy was used, and how ritual was conducted. Yet, in the first six months of my relationship with my high priest, I knew more than the majority of online communities had to offer me.

I try not to do it, but I’m just as guilty as you. As humans, we are always searching to play a role, and as Wiccans, witches, pagans, we are always trying to fall into either the teacher or the student role. Because information – real, sacred, information, is so sparsely found – we create a need for lessons from anyone, anything. This can be good, or bad.

So, before you take any more bits of wisdom, here’s my qualifications:

  • I first picked up “Teen Witch” by Silver RavenWolf at my local library. Yes, I, who bash all things Silver RavenWolf, learned originally from her.
  • The next books I picked up were “Celtic Magic” and “Norse Magic” by D.J. Conway, as well as one classic: Spiral Dance, by Starhawk.
  • I scoured the internet for resources on spells and associations. I never really performed too many spells, I was more interested in gathering the information.
  • I self initiated when I read Teen Witch.
  • I began a coven with my friends somewhere in 2002. We celebrated two years worth of rituals together, and grew close. It was here I learned about group dynamics, especially under the tutelage of my high priest, who was not a part of our coven. I was, for the most part, high priestess within.
  • I met my high priest in February of 2003. He became my high priest in September of 2003.
  • I initiated into my second degree in February, 2004.
  • My coven and I celebrated together until March of 2005, when our newfound differences in beliefs broke us apart.
  • I have been a solitary practitioner since then. I am still second degree, but it is mostly formality – we have not yet finished the process. We face a dilemma with my advancement, because he accepted my first and second degree as a solitary practitioner: should I self-initiate into the third?

That is my personal experience. It is now 2008, which makes me going on seven or eight years along the path officially. In terms of authenticating my high priest, he is a man of 31 years, a life long ancestral witch who learned from his mother, who was present at the American Council of Witches’ Witchmeet in 1974. His family tradition dates back before Gardner, several centuries long(Roma/Gypsy heritage), but much of what he teaches and we discuss is based on a mix of Alexandrian and Gardner formal methods, along with a significant amount of what he calls “Spiritual Mechanics” – how energy moves.