Beltane Blessings

So, I don’t perform rituals much anymore – I’m always in the wrong spot at the wrong time, etc.  I do have small ceremonies, often without tools like chalices or even food offerings for the gods.  Sometimes I just take some time to sit in silence and think, and pray, and maybe even sing a little.

Those were my activities on Beltane night.  I sat on a bench, feeling the cool breeze and the wet air, the promise of summer still far away.  I thought about my life and where it has come from and where it’s going, and also about my partner’s life.  My partner has been having some issues lately – the economy hit him hard and for a while, he was jobless.  We live quite a distance away from each other, and I can’t be there for him when I need to.

In any case, I ended up just praying that he would find happiness again, and not three days later, he made an opportunity for himself and he now has a job.  It was a surprising career choice, but you take what you can get, and I’m definitely not complaining.

In the end, that’s all I want.  For those I love to be happy and safe and well cared for.  I hope that this Beltane – or soon after – has found you all the same blessings.

That’s the thing about prayer.  You walk around in a fog for a long time before you sit down to pray – you complain, you think its unfair or too tough or none of it is your fault, etc.  You get angry at the world.  Depressed, sad, maybe you cry.  And when you’re done throwing your temper tantrum, what you do next is most important: Sit down.  Think.  Sing.  Pray.  Decide what you want and how you’re going to get it.  And then do it.

You have support when you’re at your lowest point.  Granted, our gods don’t carry you through.  They pick you up, dust you off, and remind you that you have two feet and a world of opportunity.  But isn’t that all we ever need?

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Healthy Living: Keeping Balance

There is a visualization that I use, that I never really realized that I used until just this moment.  I was thinking, “well, what do I know about healthy living, anyway?” and then began thinking about a conversation with a friend that I had a few nights ago.  He was feeling depressed because his ex girlfriend had called to expressly tell him that he was a loser – right after his business partner decided to leave the business, among other things taking  a turn for the worse.  And so he told me that he felt like he failed at life, on and on – and I said nothing.  And a few minutes later, I found the words I was looking for.

You see, he may have the worst luck in the world sometimes.  His choices of ex-girlfriends are less than stellar, and the pure absurdity of some of the situations he gets into is almost unbelievable.  Yet, there is a reason that I deeply care for the man: Whatever he does, he does for others.  He takes this to the extreme.  He will spend an entire Christmas(he’s pagan, but still) devoted to others.  His entire savings will go to buying children of his neighborhood cool presents that their parents can’t afford.

Even what he does now, personal training, is aimed at helping others.  Since I’ve known him, he’s counseled pregnant teens, people suffering from suicidal thoughts and depression.  He’s worked as an in-home nurse, security – he’s planted trees and organized volunteer movements to decrease violence in his home town.  If there’s something that needs to be done, he does it.

At cost to himself, his livelihood, his health, and anything else.  Enter my analogy.

When you think of yourself, think of yourself at the very center of a very large, very connect web.  Each strand represents an interaction you’ve had recently where some of your energy and vibrations has left you to connect with that other person.  Not literally, left, but more – that piece of you has gotten scattered and disorganized.

If we were to look at this man’s web, I think that he would actually be pushed to a corner so everyone else could take his place in the center!

So, when you’re feeling unbalanced, a good exercise to use is to slowly imagine each strand of the web being pulled back to you, until it’s just you, with yourself healthy, clean, and whole.  And reminding yourself of this web everytime you promise someone that you’ll do something, or go somewhere, or think of something, or lead something – may just keep your priorities in check.

It’s great to do all you can to help your community – your family, your workplace, your friends – but doing it at the expense of yourself helps no one.

Have a great day!

Dying Alone

I know its a weird way to start my actually-here posts, but I returned from my trip to find my leopard gecko had passed away.  Caleb had been doing bad for quite some time, and I think it may have been my fault.  I always gave him food and water, but I think that while I was away at college, though my family gave him the same materials, they did not give him any attention.  I know they never took him out and held him or interacted with him.

As a result, I think my gecko, in part, died because of lack of interaction.  It may have also been his time – he was a rather old gecko.  But leopard geckos are the worst when they get old, because they just stop eating (or all of the ones I have had, have).  They’re desert animals, so it takes forever for them to die.

I cried today.  Not necessarily because of the death of my gecko, because everything has a time to go, but more because the poor creature had to die alone.  I think to an extent that all creatures are as scared of death as we are, although it may resurface and rework itself in many different ways.

Along the bike trip, throughout the day, we would pass by on the roads various roadkill.  From birds (I think there was a hawk at one point) to deer to groundhogs and squirrels, the roadkill we passed counted as objects to avoid riding over.  As a result, our trail markers often marked the area around them – drawing a flourescent pink circle around them (that was the color of the trail paint) – and one particular volunteer would place mardi gras beads on top of them.

It was meant as something to make the riders smile, but it also held a solemn note – we were saying goodbye to the deaths that no one was close enough to, to realize, to mourn, to recognize.

The entire earth is a community.  I don’t mean to make us all cry every day for the many, many animals, plants and other organisms alike that pass on, but an occasional moment of solemn awareness, a recognition of the gravity and importance of death, is a good way to start.

My high priest once knew a woman who would go out and draw or photograph roadkill.  Then she would name it, frame it, or in some other way categorize it.  I think that’s taking it a little too far.  But if no one notices the dead, how are we supposed to truly appreciate the living?

Describing an Outdoor Space – Physical

Well, this semester, I am taking the following:

Plant Biology + Lab
Physics + Lab
Chemistry (Part II) + Lab
The Politics of Poverty and Homelessness
Comparative Genocide

And in Plant Biology, we had the following exercise to do, which doubled as a great observation and visualization exercise. So, I will post the instructions, and then post my observations.

Find a small patch of nature, no more than a three foot by three foot by as tall as you are box, and observe it. Write down everything you possibly can observe about it. Then, return to your computer and type up your description from your notes.

(My added bit to make it a spiritual experience) How does observing nature help you better understand yourself? What did you expect from this, and what did you get from it? Were you able to see any reactions between plants and animals or plants and plants that enabled you to learn better how the world interacts? Describe these. Reflect.

My results: (Purely the physical observation – the spiritual observation will come tomorrow!)

Describing a Small Outdoor Space

Beginning with my feet planted firmly on the ground, I survey my surroundings. Surveying from up to down, I see a wide variety of plants – from the pine tree on my right to the small saplings directly in front of me, to the plants that make the ‘grass’ and ‘weeds’ portion of the ground.

Turning to the right, I find that the pine tree has needles in clumps of five, with a relatively soft, green color to them. The smooth bark is only barely marred by now-missing limb scars, with no sap leaking from it like some of my trees back home. Looking ahead of me, I find an ant crawling on the toothed leaves of a small sapling, fighting its way to the light. The leaves barely showing any damage from the oncoming autumn or insects, their veins strong in their out branching patterns. The sapling next door to this one has more circular leaves, with toothy edges. These different leaves are beginning to yellow with the autumn, and holes and tears in the leaves are much more prominent, giving it the almost-fall look.

I look towards the ground and find that almost no grass is present. Instead, bulbous-leafed plants that look like clovers, sort of, are present. The dark green clover-like plants had five leaflets coming from their stems, and the light green circular leaflets on another small plant were already beginning to die. Looking carefully, I find another plant beginning to produce wood, with tooth, oval shaped leaves crowning the top.

Although finding no more variety of life within my small box, I am still amazed at the diversity of the life within the section. I expected to find two or three different species – certainly not six distinct species hiding in such a small patch of nature.

Homemade Altar(Outdoors)

Welcome to part two of “Homemade Altars”! You made it through my bungled attempt at speaking about something I haven’t really devoted a lot of time to – yet. But, altars outdoors, I can tell you about. I have built several, from the simple pile of rocks to an elaborate stone circle with altar, to spirit houses, and everything in between.

Keep in mind that the conditions around the place you want to build your altar are important. Are you on high ground? Because if you’re not, your altar’s surrounding area may become wet, flood, or in the very least, remain muddy long after the majority of other places in the woods.

What about property rights? I have to my name, no wooded area. The places I build my altars are usually public, state, county, or sometimes, private property. If its yours, secrecy isn’t a big thing. But, if it isn’t your property, you may find one day that you enter the area and suddenly, you find it destroyed. You want to be able to safely access the altar you’ve built, but at the same, you have to care for it – if its on the side of a well worn track, chances are that some other, less respectful members of the human race, will do something to the energy that you are trying to create.

Materials: if you’re in a wooded area and want to make a stone altar, but there are no rocks in sight, that means that you will have to carry your rocks. Generally, with any altar, you want to try to use objects and plant life that is native to the area. You don’t really want to go and buy mulch to put around your altar in the middle of a patch of woods. It just ruins the effect.

In addition, you want to make sure that your materials won’t harm the wildlife around. If you leave an offering of grapes, for example, make sure you didn’t leave something that could injure the wildlife too, such as an inordinate amount of milk chocolate, or a plastic bag, or one of those six pack plastic holders that we were always told, would kill fish. Remember, you’re not the only one using the woods. Don’t leave any hazardous materials that could run off with rain – aerosol cans, lighter fluid, etc.

Advantages to building an altar outside

  • Closer connection to nature
  • Freedom of worship in a secure area – no telephone, no screaming kids, etc.
  • Beauty of the seasons all around you
  • Freedom of the area – you can build the altar as big or as small as you want – in an enclove, or all around a tree, or in a wide open field.

Disadvantages:

  • If you’re in the north like I am, ‘skyclad’ doesn’t happen in the fall and the winter.
  • The weather can prevent a trip for you
  • Distance – it might take you a 1/2 mile walk, or a 30 minute drive, to get to your altar.
  • Natural wear and tear – you’ll find that the stones, the trees – everything undergoes the natural process. Things may fall, or break. Therefore, it might take more upkeep to keep an outdoor altar

What’s your altar look like? For a long time, I had 4 very large stones built to have a waist high altar, via a rectangular shape (we had storage underneath!). It was in the center of a stone circle, and in the south, there was a small spirit house. To the west was a creek, flowing north. In the east was a small valley for deer to bed on, and in the north, we had an open space to celebrate. The entire area was encased in a small, horseshoe shaped valley just off of a trail. We had our area destroyed, close to three times, before we left it and moved. Soon after, we disbanded, but I still visit on occasion.

Use your heart, and all will turn out beautiful.

Homemade Altar(Indoors)

Altars are not hard to make. They can be small, or large, or any size in between. They can have one object, or fifty. I could literally set up an altar, here in my bedroom, in probably less than five minutes. But, what makes an altar, well, an altar? Here are a few things I’ve found:

  • The energy surrounding an altar must be sacred.
    • Therefore, the area must be kept clean
    • There should be no clutter around the altar
  • There must be a way to ensure that the area is respected
  • There must be, if possible, a way to cast circle around your altar, that it may come to use to you (Wiccan, specifically)
  • There must be some sort of offering to the Gods made, even if occasionally

Some people prefer altars to be related to one specific thing – be it a spell or a goal they’re working on, a specific deity, or a specific time of year. Some things to consider:

  • Colors – what colors relate to your purpose?
  • Balance – have you given all four elements thoughts and places? What about the Gods? What about your Ancestors?
  • Living things – keep in mind, before you place food or plants on your altar, they may attract insects…or your dog.
  • Water and wine spill – but wine’s a lot harder to clean up.
  • Objects – are the objects that you’re placing on your altar energized the way you want them to be?
  • Surface – what surface is your altar on? A floor? Inside a closet? How might that affect the energy you’re working with? Is the surface clean? Pure?

Some ideas for altar locations:

  • Top shelf of closet
  • On top of a dresser or a file cabinet, where small hands and furry paws can’t reach
  • A small card table, set up in a corner of your room

Granted, if your entire family is pagan, or you’re head of the household, you can do whatever you want. Ideally, when I get my own place, I’d like to devote a room just to ritual.

But right now, I’m stuck with the top of a college dresser in a dorm room used by god knows how many people, for gods know how many things…

My next article will relay the finer workings of outdoor altars. These I’ve actually built 🙂