Rites of Passage

I’ll never forget reading a book about rites of passage in one of my college classes.
The entire class, in fact, was about rituals and rites and how we humans make sense of the world.  I read about some more culturally disturbing rituals, in which young men are required to “take their elder’s seed” into their mouths to receive the knowledge and strength of their elders (they perform oral sex on their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers).  But overall, the threads of that class — how a ritual is structured, the purpose of a ritual, and all of those things — I see them running through my daily life.

I witnessed a Ph.D. defense yesterday.  Well, the public part. They do the actual defense in private, but I had an opportunity to watch him tell a room full of people about his research. Although much like a normal presentation, an oral dissertation presentation has an additional layer of both nerves and giddiness. It’s not uncommon to hear jokes intended to up the ante, like, “We’ll leave all the questions to your committee,” or, “I’m sure they’ll talk about that later.”

Rites of passage are all around us.  From the training videos at national corporations like Target and McDonalds to the elaborate customs and decorations involved in handfastings and weddings, there are often symbols tied up in our everyday activities.

This line of argumentation or description may be helpful to you in your encounters with the non-pagan world. One of the more common arguments from others is that magic isn’t real, or even worse, magic is evil. Magic, if you remember, is the simple act of demanding change from the world. Any time that someone declares “I do” or “I will” in response to a question or statement, they are engaging in magic. From the court room to the DMV, magic and rituals are all around us. Pagans should not be demonized for calling what they do, what it is. The only difference is that the rituals associated with paganism are less common than the rituals associated with church on Sunday.

My thoughts on astral travel: Answering a question

This email came to me today, and after I responded to her, I thought it would be good to share it on the blog, so that other people with similar questions can see my opinion on the matter:

Hi I wanted a bit of advice about whats going on around me a while back my 3rd eye opened it was so magical I thought that I could become part of it the lights around my eye was amazing I have a hooded figure around me ive seen it 3 times twice while I was a wake and once while I astro travelled the 3rd time it jumped at me ive seen lots of things and spirits come to me and tells me things some of the spirits ive seen have fightened me im not sure if its spirital warfare if it is how do I deal with it ive had lil people throw liquid at me like I said my 3rd eye opens during the night and its still dark seeing things that I wouldnt nomally see with my normal eyes open I do see things with or without my 3rd eye opened if that makes any sence? I do feel as tho im going crazy and have been to a doctor can u put some lught on this please thank you

 

My (truncated) response:

I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to spirits and astral travel.  The mind is a powerful thing, and what you experience is very individualized.  If things in your astral travels are scaring you, I would recommend that you stop engaging in those experiences.  If you’re seeing things while fully awake and/or coherent, I would make a visit to your doctor again, and possibly a psychiatrist.
There is a phenomenon which you may want to investigate, called sleep paralysis, and the related “hypnagogia.”  I’ve included the link to Wikipedia, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia
Basically, these are related phenomena where, when you’re coming in/out of sleep, you experience a sense of paralysis, lights, sounds, smells, and even visions.  It happens when your brain isn’t quite fully asleep.  Although we don’t understand much of it, it is harmless.  Anxiety, migraines, and some other illnesses are all comorbid with sleep paralysis (e.g., they occur together).  I, myself, occasionally experience loud noises, visions, and sleep paralysis when I’m moving in and out of sleep.
If you’re using psychoactive drugs, either prescribed or illegally, these may also influence your perception.  I try my best to live a “clean” life and stay away from cigarettes and marijuana, and only drink alcohol occasionally, in moderation.  Remember, treating your body and spirit well are the best way to honor the Universe/gods.

Pagan beliefs summarized

Of course, if you’re looking for Wiccan beliefs summarized, I suggest you make your way over to the 13 principles page, but I want to talk about paganism in general.

Neo-pagans are characterized by usually believing in the following:

  • There are many deities / many faces of God
  • All living things are sacred
  • We celebrate our lives throughout the year on agriculturally important holidays
  • There is magic in action and prayer

In other words, pagans frequently believe in multiple gods, magic, and a celebration of life that revolves around respecting all living things and recognizing the cycles of the earth.  Of course, many pagans believe other things as well.  Do you have anything to add?

Thinking About Science and Magic

I’m going to attempt to make my return to this blog.  This year was hard on me, but as far as the rest of my life, keeping up should be relatively easy, except you know, grad school in a year.  Ah, well.

Okay, onto the topic of the day.  Something that I never pursued, but would like to, is relating our magic potential to the process of photosynthesis.  For all of you non sciency people, photosynthesis is when plants take water, carbon dioxide, and light, and create sugar(their food) and oxygen.

So magically, this could relate to our process of taking a situation and conforming it to our desires.  I wanted to get more into the technical processes and relate everything, because as we know, the world works in both macro and micro cosms. 

Anyway.  So let’s take a loot at this diagram.  ATP, or adenosinetriphosphate, as well as NADP/H are both energy sources for the plant.  NADPH is specific to plants, but ATP is universal.  NAD/H is the version of NAD that we use in our systems(without the phosphorous).

To recharge energy so we can use it, we need to split water with light.  There are two types of systems that do this.  The first.  photosystem II, gets an electron from breaking water.  It’s passed to photosystem I which uses the electron to produce ATP and NADPH.  Oxygen is also produced.

I’m *really* summarizing here.  This diagram doesn’t really get into the details.  Anyway, you can read through the diagram on your own.  I’m getting distracted.  Okay.   So let’s look at the macroscopic view.  You have to put in energy and molecules to get anything out of it.  In terms of magic, this could return to the sacrifice that is required for change to occur.

The sacrifice of water, and the use of light, allow previously uncharged molecules to become charged.  Your sacrifice creates a potential!

Now check out where the charged molecules go.  They require a starting material – CO2, but then we get to go through the calvin cycle, in which the CO2’s are converted into a few different formats before reaching a final format.  Notice that the final format can be any number of things – and as such, we should be ready to accept all possibilities of our actions.  Our energy will go to where it’s needed most.

If a plant needs an amino acid or some other compound, it will activate and create the enzymes necessary for producing that instead of just storing the object made as sucrose(food).

It’s looking at scientific models with magic and life in mind that really help me get a new perspective on life.  The last time I took a look at photosynthesis as a magical process, my conclusions were different than above.

What Is Magic?

Magic is the act of taking responsibility to create change. This is the simplest, most encompassing definition that will span a range of religious and spiritual traditions, regardless of time or geographic region.

Wiccans perform magic. Christians perform magic. Hindus, Muslims, even Atheists practice magic. Magic is self responsibility. Magic is standing up and deciding to walk to your car. Magic is praying for a better world.

Magic is conscious change.

What Defines Life?

I think this post is going to start a series of posts relating science and religion in ways you may have never wanted to see them related.  But, as one of my stipules of life is to do just that – relate everything back to the way I see life – to challenge my ideas and to improve my sense of the world around me and world view – it seems that that is the direction that I am headed in today.

Anyway, today we get to the definition of life.  It is usually one of the first things that a biology class goes over.  Of course, “biology” does mean study of life, so it would only make sense.  A lot of people probably get over that question real quick, but viruses are that half and half thing that make the definition relatively important.

For me, the definition got old about four years ago in the sophomore year of high school.  It was “wow, cool” and then nothing more.  Granted, I’ve seen the exact same definition in about 5 different college level science classes.  But nonetheless. The definition of life normally includes the following factors: metabolism, growth, movement, communication…

But what about us?  We tend to view the world as living.  The entire world.  The rocks and the trees and the fire and the wind.  How do we get these two views to mesh?

I suppose when I can get my thoughts in order, I’ll answer that.

The Ethics of Birth Control

Hey guys!  How is it going?  I have to admit that this semester is killing me, just because i find myself neck deep in primary scientific literature.  That means terminology, sentence structure, and impossible to understand graphs and charts.  For hours on end. 

Beyond that, I did go to the doctor, and after much inner debate, opted to get birth control. 

The option of birth control confuses me, as a pagan.  I don’t run into the same problem as Christians, because I don’t really think that God is going to smite me dead if my ovaries aren’t in constant use.  But it does irk me a bit, because our current hormonal birth control methods – the most effective ones – are exatly that: hormonal.  So I’m subjecting my body to a series of drugs to make it think it’s pregnant. 

That is what I have an issue with.  Should I be interfering with my body’s cycles?  I’m primarily interested in birth control as a method of easing pain and complications with menstruation, not as an actual – birth control -. 

I did decide that the risk of interfering with and regulating my body’s cycles – at least for now – is an okay decision.  If too much affects me in the wrong way, I will stop using it.  That means weight gain, rapid mood changes, acne/skin quality deterioration, and weird sleep/wake changes. 

Anyone else want to weigh in?  Should we be forcing our bodies into cycles that aren’t inherent to them?