Going Above And Beyond

So, I’ve been looking up possible post-undergraduate paths for myself, and graduate school, along with law school, are both options which are in the back of my mind.  I was researching one Master’s program last night, and they had student bios of all of their current graduate students.  And this program – which I am *rather* interested in – had students which had gotten their undergraduate education, gone out into the world and done a shit ton of things, and then come back to school.

How am I supposed to beat that sort of experience?  The answer is the post title: going above and beyond.  I need to volunteer(like crazy) over the next two years in environmental action, environmental restoration, and other environmental groups if I even have a shot of getting into a program invovling environmental field work.  And so, the next few months?  I’ve asked to volunteer with the Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeepers; The Alzheimer’s Walk, and Habitat for Humanity.  Don’t forget about my AIDS Ride for Life campaign either – I certainly haven’t.

But I’m not doing these things just because I want to get into graduate school.  The only difference in my volunteering habits this year, is that I’m trying different organizations.  I want to be a leader.  And you should, too.  A lot of Christian organizations are all over the place, helping people(Habitat is one!).  Why don’t we have similar groups?  Organizations?  We should be the leaders, without a doubt – we care about the earth AND its animals, plants and people.  Is it our inherent distaste of hierarchy?

Remember that reputation of Wicca and paganism I’m always talking about.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s known that we’re pagan – unless it comes up, of course.  What’s important is that between the Gods and you, you have an agreement – that you will help their children, and they will help you.

Blessed be!

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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?

A Little Bit Of Crazy

I know I’m a little late on this particular post, but to be honest I couldn’t think of anything to write, and I did not wake up until 12:30 this afternoon after going to bed at 3am.  Not the healthiest of lifestyle choices, but sometimes, especially with such a non-structured schedule, it works.

Anyway, I keep hearing the same themes from my friends and family in reference to my cycling habits.  The words “crazy” and “insane” come up quite often, and although I know they aren’t too serious, after a while it does jab a tiny little place in my heart called “submerged feelings of inadequacy” which we all, to some degree, possess.

I spent much of my younger years trying to “fit in”, which was rather difficult, given that I was sort of steered along into skipping two grades in math and one in foreign language, rendering my middle school years a disaster.  I spent more time in the library of our school, waiting until a period for a different grade started or ended, than I ever should have.  I loved my school career, but I never fit in with my friends, at least academically.  At best, I was closest to the six people that were in the same boat as I – in a class of 300 – academically.

When I hit high school, it got a little bit better, despite not sharing a whole hell of a lot of classes with my peers.  Granted, I took the AP Calculus exam in eleventh grade and was basically in college my senior year, but I always had my eyes towards college where I could start fresh.

Then, I got to college and basically, the same thing happened.  Too far ahead (31 credits – I went in as a sophomore) and I eventually gave up on being normal, as I tend to attract strange and be an overachiever in my own fashion.  The problem(or great thing) is that I get urges.  And when I get an urge to do something, I do it.

The urge from 15 on was, “bike along the erie canal across new york state.”  And since I did that last year(and again this year) my newest urge has been, “bicycle across the country, from washington to maine.”  It alternates with, “bicycle ride across every state.”

And so, it’s been decided.  Two years from now, I will bicycle across the country.  The questions now are,

  • Will it have a purpose other than my spiritual fulfillment?
  • Will anyone be accompanying me?
  • what will I be bringing with me?
  • What route will I take?
  • How long will it take?

The first and the second are the most important, in my opinion.  Should I be supporting a cause?  It I support a cause, will that take away from my own spiritual fulfillment and experience as I am looking everywhere with one purpose: to get money for (cause here).

Anyway, my entire social circle is rather upset right now, because they can’t seem to understand why I would want to spend more than $100 on a bicycle.  I’m looking at purchasing a road bike, for better speed and better quality.  My bike is a little better than a mountain bike, a hybrid from Raleigh a few years ago – the c200.  But I want to take my hobby to the next step.

Is something crazy only when your social circle doesn’t agree with your choice?

They all know that I’m pagan, not-Christian, etc.  My parents have settled with, “It’s a religion and she’s happy” and claim blissful ignorance over any details.  Were my religion to come up in a conversation between them and others, I’m sure their response would rate somewhere along, “Oh, she’s into that nature stuff…” or something along those lines.

My friends accept my religion too, but some of them do refer to me by the various names – nature girl, crazy pagan, you/that witch, etc.

And so, my seemingly meaningless post comes to a round-a-bout end: religious tolerance.

It’s not always about the big legal battles.  Sometimes, it’s about the little things too.

The Sacred Numbers

While browsing my blog states today, I noticed someone searching out why 13 and 21 were significant to witches.  This is a primarily Wiccan post, as our numerology is different than other schema and identities.

I am going to quote Gerald B. Gardner in his brief, confuddled explanation in Witchcraft Today, below:

Because three and five make eight, many things must be in eights; but eight and five make thirteen, and so thirteen is another good number; but since five eights, or three covens and a leader, make forty, forty is a good number and certain things must be forty.

Does anyone else feel like they were robbed of intelligence with that reasoning?  Either way, that is the traditional perspective.  The numbers in Gardnerian Wicca which are special are 3, 5, 8, 13 and 40.

Spiritually, the numbers can easily be assigned deeper meanings.

3 – The God, the Goddess, and Life/Child/Creation/etc.  The goddess in her triple form.

5 – Man.  The Pentacle.  The God.

8 – The Wheel of the Year – the 8 solar sabbats.(4 “height of (insert season here)”, 2 equinoxes, 2 solstices)

13 – The Wheel of the Year – the 13 lunar esbats.(full moons)

40 – I’m at a loss here.  I do like his explanation.  Three covens and a leader.

Keep in mind that within Gardnerian tradition, these numbers become exceptionally important in the initiation rites – the purification/test act of scourging is assigned to these various numbers.  I believe I mentioned the scourge in an earlier post.

I’m sure I’ll come back to the intricacies of Gardnerian Initiation Rites at some point…but as I have not slept in some time, that’s a rather large chunk of information for me to process at this moment.

Blessed Be!

“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.

The Pros and Cons of Autonomy in Witchcraft

Alright guys, the principle of the day is the sixth:

We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

Watching the news in my brand new RSS feed, I am informed that 25% of the Anglicans will not be attending their world conference because of an argument over a gay bishop.  This is one plus of being a witch – we’re smart enough to realize that we would never get a good showing for a world conference.

Unfortunately, this also means that we are not totally united, except by our historical documents.  And we know how well that has turned out for Christianity.  But at least we have a lot less historical documents, right?  we have the 13 Principles, The Rede, and any number of books published by Gardner, Leland, Valiente, Sanders, etc.  You can add all of those together and you still won’t get a 1200 page book.

Autonomy also means we are responsible – not only for ourselves, but for those we teach and lead.  Because the authority is not guaranteed or even encouraged, being in a group setting lends itself towards democracy.  The principle itself is almost admonishing us by using the words “honor” and “respect” and “acknowledge” in its wording – but it also gives us a way out.  You can honor and respect someone’s teachings without following them.   Indeed, “acknowledging” something guarantees no solid course of action.

There is one thing that I’ve found we’ll stick together for: religious discrimination.  We’re filled with the minority complex that makes every little thing a pin in our sides – not that this is a bad thing.  Although perhaps not filled with the spirit to the extent of picketing the White House (we do have rights!  It’s just a matter of seeing them through unabused) we will gladly jump to the defense of anyone suffering religious discrimination.

So is autonomy better than hierarchical leadership?  I am tending to lean that way.  Because large group unity is almost never achieved anyway.  I would rather run or be a part of a small group of people with common goals than signing myself up with the masses in something where I don’t really have a say in what is going on, where others dictate what I am supposed to believe.  The only thing a large group has going for it is political power.

Skill vs. Strength

There are so many times in life when we are presented with a challenge which the more experienced or more skilled could accomplish more easily.  Whether it is a new website design in a language you only half know, or a presentation you had exactly one hour to prepare, we all know that sinking feeling when someone asks, “Well, I can always give the job to _____”, a more experienced person.

For me, it is my upcoming bicycling trip with Parks and Trails New York.  It’s 400 miles across the state (Buffalo to Albany) along the Erie Canal.  I did the ride last year with no knowledge of biking in groups, or really, biking at all.  I never even knew what the point of all those gears were, except that the higher gears made you go faster.

Now, I have so much more experience, but I haven’t trained as much (not that I trained too much last year, summer classes got in the way).  I’m also not as pushed towards excellence this year.  Last year, I made a promise to myself that I would bike every single mile of that trip.  Make it up every hill.  This year, I am more inclined to take pictures of everything and anything – I really want to capture the beauty of the trip.

I’m also promising to myself to enjoy it this time.  Not that I didn’t, last time, but sometimes I got too focused on the fact that I was going slow or the need to be done for the day.  This time, I really am going to focus on the touring aspect and not so much the athletic aspect.  I am satisfied – I have done those hills before.

In the same manner, it is skill that opens us to enjoying new things.  Just like when we reach a new degree along our path, or a new discovery, we get like, a new playground to explore.  When we graduate high school, the world opens up for us with more opportunities, not less.  And so, having done this trip before, I think my eyes will be opened to an entirely new variety of experiences to be had in my week long vacation.

But, that brings me back to my point.  Am I strong enough?  Will my skill compensate?

Just some thoughts.

Blessed Be!