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.

Advertisements

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?

The Give and Take of Mycorrhizae

This summer, I was lucky enough to get an internship that is National Science Foundation funded, to study plants in the desert environment. I’m living in Tucson, AZ for the summer, instead of New York. Last week, we decided that my project would be looking at the effects of mycorrhizal associated and levels of phosphorus on various aspects of plant growth. We will be measuring plant mass, root to shoot ratio, carbon to nitrogen ratio, and possibly the presence of heavy metals in leaf tissue.

Anyway, for those of you that don’t know what mycorrhizae are, since I’ll most likely be talking about them throughout the summer, I figured I’d give a brief background. Mycorrhizae are fungi which live in symbiotic relationships with roots. In exchange for providing plants with essential nutrients, fungi recieve carbohydrates and other byproducts of photosynthesis in order to survive. For the most part, mycorrhizal relationships are mutualisms – the relationship helps both parties.

The big problem for mycorrhizae though, is that the plants can kick them out if they’re not needed anymore. So nursery plants, for example, which caretakers are sure receive all of their nutrients, etc – never get the chance to make mycorrhizal connections, and they can suffer when they’re transplanted and suddenly on their own with no fungi to help them find nutrients where there are none.

So these fungi help plants to survive and grow. In the desert, there’s not really much known about how dependent plants are on ther mycorrhizal connections. The mycorrhizae are sort of hard to find, unless you go through a series of maneuvers that kind of draws them out. So we’re slowly figuring out which types of mycorrhizae can be found with desert plants, and now, I want to see how effective the relationship between the two is.

So that’s my experiment. Spiritually, I think that this experiment can reveal a lot of things. Mycorrhizae are obligate to their hosts – they can’t really survive without their hosts. And they can’t control the weather. So, in a way, the plants are sort of the deciders as to how far or how successful the relationship will be. If in making an analogy, we place plants::mycorrhizae as humans::magic, we can see a correlation in terms of magical success. If we need the magic to happen, and we give it our time and attention and energy(the plants’ photosynthetic byproducts) – we will grow faster, be more successful. If we have all the things that we need to do stuff on our own, the relationship won’t be as effective. Afterall, why give your time and energy to someone else when you can do it much easier yourself.

I think this concept of need is one that should be considered when working magic. The universe is a relatively good filter. If you’re praying to magically become thin, and praying, and praying, but you have opportunities for fitness or nutrition ALL the freaking time, chances are, it’s not going to work. At that point, the universe, your inner self, whatever – everyone knows that you can do it yourself.

Did you know that if mycorrhizae are attached and suddenly weather becomes good or nutrient levels grow, they almost become parasitic in nature? The mycorrhizae still want their energy – but they’re not really giving anything in return.

In the same light, by continually throwing your own energy at something you can do yourself…you’re allowing the magic to parasitize you, so to speak. You won’t have the energy to make the change yourself, because you keep throwing it away towards needless prayers.

Wow, that entire post was sort of depressing. Well, more like, it makes you want to smack yourself across the head if you’ve ever done anything like that. You know…”please help me get an A” instead of studying. “I need to do well on this presentation for work” without working on it at all…

Have a great day!

The Meaning of Bears

Bears are kinda cool, in my book.  They’re relatively inoffensive, as long as you don’t get between them and their cubs, or them and some really, really good food.  There are a variety of species, and they eat a variety of things.  They’re not always bloodthirsty and angry and roaring.  They’re playful and inquisitive and intelligent.

If a bear is your totem, it could represent a good balance in your life – the ability to be curious and figure problems out, but also the ability to live a balanced and healthy life through your diet.  In addition, some bears hibernate.  A bear coming into your life (hopefully not in the, “I’m going to kill you!” sort of way) could indicate that you are in hibernation, about to emerge.

Bears also care very deeply for their young.  We say that someone is a mother bear, or that mother bears are the most dangerous creatures in the world.  With a bear as your totem, you know – or will know – how to hold onto and defend what is yours.

Protector of the family, intelligent, adorable AND omnivorous, what’s not to love?

From an AP News Article on Bears

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.

Cleansing the Body

Cleansing the body is as much a mental and psychological – and spiritual – thing as it is something physical.  Cleansing the body, in this instance, is something more than just taking a shower.  It is taking into account the recognition that much of what we put into our bodies, and what we expose them to, is “impure” or “unclean”.  In many cases, these impure or unclean substances are created by society.

Many people have differing ideas of unclean.  For some of us, a cleansing may be as simple as using only stuff that is “primary” – has only gone through a few steps before it reaches us.  Things like fruit and vegetables, as well as simple bread, or other grain products which we could/have made ourselves.  People tend to think of mixed substances – cookies, cakes, hot dogs – as impure or polluting of our bodies.

Is this leftover from the Jewish standards?  Or is it simply our subconscious recognition of the idea that not all of what society does is good?

In any case, we are faced with a problem.  How do we cleanse the body?  What do we have to consider?

  • Is this a “for-good” cleansing?  A permanent lifestyle change?  A specific defense against current circumstances?  Or is it something that is going to need to be repeated either on a schedule or by how we feel?  If it will need to be repeated – can we create a smaller event for maintanence?
  • How much time can this cleansing take?  How busy is your life?  Is this a fifteen minute cleansing?  Or a week long one?
  • What do we consider necessary for this cleansing?  Diet?  Hygiene?  Emotional Connections?  Personal psyche?  Pain?  Meditation and contemplation?  Deprivation of senses or material goods?
  • How effective do we want this cleansing to be?  Is it simply for the body, or for the mind and spirit as well?
  • What restrictions will be on us during the cleansing period?  No talking?  Fasting or limited eating?

A very simple cleansing ritual that would last all day, and weave in and out of every day activities is one that I most often use.

When I wake, I shower.  During my shower I pray and meditate for peace and strength and wisdom.

When I dress, I dress simply – nothing in my clothing that is representative of a mood.

When I eat – if I eat – I choose foods that are simple – fruit, fruit juice, milk, water, toast, vegetables, etc.  I stay away from large meals and fast or prepackaged ones.

Before I eat – if I eat – I offer a prayer as a way to make myself conscious of my actions.

When I have free time at night, I will pray and meditate once more.  I sleep naked or with little clothes on, to represent my natural state. (And to be truly free, you will be skyclad in all your rites)…

I do not practice a maintanence rite, but if there was one that I would like to pick up, it would definitely be ritualized hand or foot washing before entering my own room or the ritual room(if I had a ritual room).

What do YOU do for your cleansings?

“Too” In Tune

I was informed that it was too early to think about autonomy yesterday 😉  So, we’ll go for a lighter subject today.

Well guys, here comes a story that is bound to make you smile.  Wiccan, pagan, or just spiritual alike, we all have those days where we begin to work with the Universe’s energy to create change.  We call it magic.  But sometimes, the magic is unintentional.  Because I went on the same cycling trip last year – From Buffalo to Albany – I sort of knew what each day was involving.  Granted, they did change some of the routes – more trail was added – but overall the ride was very similar, up to the very weather that we had.

So, we’re pulling out of Syracuse, and I remember that this day’s trail follows along the REALLY old canal (there are three canals – the Erie, the Enlarged Erie, and the Barge.  The Barge canal is the one that is still open and used by tourists today.) – the one that is 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep.  Because it isn’t used, it’s overgrown, the water is stagnant or with a very slow current, and as a result it is teeming with wildlife.  Green algae blankets the top, but in the spots where it is clear, you can see two foot long fish chilling at the surface, turtles, water birds, and the like.  Along the path, you can see any of your ground animals – bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, foxes, raccoons, opossums, etc.  I saw the first three of those.

Anyway.  I decided before I left that when I went through that type of environment, I wanted to see a turtle.  They’re pretty hard to spot when you’re going fifteen miles an hour.  Well, I was doing ten on that trail – damn was it bumpy!  But anyway, that was my will.  And somehow, a fleeting thought like, “I want to see a turtle!”  caught the Universe’s ear.

Three miles out of Syracuse I had my first flat.  It was about 7:15 AM.  Three wonderful people – only remember one name: Mike – stopped to help me fix it.  Twenty minutes later, I’m back on the road.  I get to our first rest stop an hour or two later, and my tire is still just a little soft from our patch.  It wasn’t leaking, we just hadn’t pumped it enough.

So, I decided to borrow someone’s pump and give it a few pumps of air.  It gets just up to the right psi, and we try to take the pump off.  The valve came with it – big, big popping noise.

As we change my tire, comprehension begins to set in.  I had been craning my neck allllll day to see a turtle, but it was still morning.  Turtles will only come out to bask on rocks when the sun is shining and its warm.  I have now spent two hours of the morning off of my bike, begging a tube off of someone to fix mine.

By the time I get back on the road again, it’s 11:30.  I don’t normally stop to eat, but since I figured it was that or another flat(gotta love the gods!)  I opted to stop into Canastota’s Sunrise Cafe for some lunch.  By the time I hop back on my bike, the sun is shining down hard (although it’s still a beautiful day!) and right before the afternoon rest stop?  I see a turtle.  Sunning itself.  On a rock.

turtle along the erie canal

turtle along the erie canal

Just to sum up and bring us back to the title of the post, is there a point where you are “too” in tune with the universe?  Because I think that’s the point where your thoughts become dangerous(Ooh!  I want to see a turtle!) and meditation(keeping your louder thoughts, quiet) may be the only route to your own safety/comfort.

Remember the number one of the Top Ten Things A Witch Learns Over Time?

Never Underestimate the Gods’ Sense of Humor.