At the twilight hour on the Fall Equinox, when daylight gives way to the dark, settle into an open, meditative state in a private corner of your home. Close your eyes and place your hands on your belly. Breathe in and out, in and out, focussing your awareness on the movement of your belly with breath, rounding outward and flattening inward, slow, rhythmic, entrancing. Feel your whole body soften and relax with every inhale and exhale.
Draw your awareness inward, like turning all the lights out in your home and using a single candle to find your way in the darkness. Quiet your mind. Quiet the outside noises of the everyday world. Pay attention instead to the movements and sounds of your breath, slow in, slow out, slow in, slow out.
Turn your attention to the changing season outside your doorstep. Visualize the quality of the light and darkness, and the altered appearance of the trees and plants. Smell the Fall scents in the air and feel the change in temperature on your skin. Sense the presence of the descending darkness, calling the natural realm to retreat inward to stillness and rest.
Breathe these seasonal shifts into your body and inner landscape. Imagine them calling forth your own shifting seasons from the hidden places inside of you. Sense them drawing up the deep mysteries and hungers within you, and the parts of you longing for your conscious engagement. Every new cycle begins here, in the powerful embrace of the sacred dark.
Like Persephone, you must forsake the sunlit world of what you know and descend into the Underworld, in search of the new cycle awakening within you. The guidance and answers you seek on your journey of soul await you there.
Take a few moments to check in with your emotions before you begin this journey. Whatever arises, acknowledge it and then let it pass through you. If you experience fear or resistance, take a few slow, full breathes and set the intention to only engage the pathwork that is right for you at this moment. And then let these emotions slip away as well.
Focus your awareness inward and call forth the part of you that knows the ways of Persephone and the sacred dark. Open to your profound hunger to experience and become more, and to seek out the lost pieces of your Deep Self and authentic humanity. Let this part of you lead the way, taking you to the outer edge of your known world to a portal that opens into the dark mysteries of the Underworld.
As you make your way to this portal, feel your feet solid on the ground and your breath and awareness centered within your core. Empty your mind, leaving behind any preconceived ideas or expectations you may have. You are travelling beyond what you know into the wondrous realm of what else is true and possible.
When you reach the portal, take in your surroundings and the powerful draw of the energies emerging from the opening before you. Breath deep of the magic of the Underworld. Be clear in your intention to do the pathwork that is in service of your greater becoming and in alignment with your highest good at this time.
Then summon up your courage and determination to follow in Persephone’s footsteps, and say to the sacred darkness, “Show me what I need to know at this turning of the Fall Equinox. Show me where my journey of soul will take me next.”
Someone appears on the steps below you, a magical messenger come to guide your journey of soul. Take whatever time you need to connect, heart to heart and center to center, with this being who has especially shown up to support your pathwork. Speak your name and anything else that comes to you to share. Then reach for this messenger’s hand and follow her/him into the Underworld.
As you descend the stairs, stay with your hunger and curiosity, empty and receptive; you can’t discover anything new if you are too full of what you already know. When you reach the bottom, surrender yourself to your magical messenger and your own intuition and instincts, and see what comes to you.
Let whatever shows ups — images, insights, directives and energies — flow through you. Grab or cling to nothing, just be with your messenger, be with yourself, be with the dark.
When your work together feels complete, let your messenger guide you back to the foot of the stairs. Say your goodbyes and be sure to express your heartfelt gratitude. Feel the rightness and goodness of the energy that flows between you, and know that you are mending and deepening your relationship with the sacred dark. Ask your messenger for his/her continued support as you embark on this new cycle of your journey of soul.
When you ascend the stairs, feel your experiences in the Underworld settle into your flesh and bones. Let them re-arrange your inner landscape in alignment with the profound roots of this new cycle awakening within you. Don’t rush to solidify any of this into words or plans of action. The mysteries of the dark need time to percolate in your psyche.
As you step over the portal’s threshold, you have returned to the sunlit realm of the world that you know. Feel this shift in energy from the dark back into the light. Let it register in your inner knowing and physical body so you will remember the embrace of the sacred dark when you encounter it again. Then bow to the Underworld, honoring its beauty and place in your life and our world.
It is time to return to waking consciousness. Drink in everything you have experienced. Let the connections you have made strengthen and anchor you in the mysteries of Persephone and the sacred dark. Then use your breath to ground in your physical body and bring you back to waking reality. Gently tap your body. Say your name out loud. Open your eyes and connect with the darkness that has descended during your meditation.
Know that your Underworld travels can be the beginning of a brave new adventure of healing your soul and transforming your life. Let these experiences and insights guide you in the months to come. Profound, lasting change finds its source in the mysteries of the dark and leads you home to your deepest becoming and the beauty and power of your Deep Self.
The Agora is loud and boisterous place where voices are raised in both in contention and consideration. We think it a success when we post about a topic and our moderator/editor doesn’t need to step in to curtail our conversations. That said, we do ask that all who join us in our space try to abide by the following policy.
Our editor’s “rule zero” is simple: regardless of the nature of a comment, if the author of a post responds, he’ll stay out of it. The authors of the Agora are free to engage with their audience, both those who behave with civility and those who do not, and many of them have a very different thickness of skin that does our editor.
As they say, those who can, write, those who cannot, edit; or, something like that…
Please do your best to pretend that you are face-to-face with the others online. Name calling, fighting words, personal attacks, etc. will not be tolerated. That said, we’re all human, so as long as it doesn’t become a pattern, we’ll live and let live. If it does become a pattern, the perpetrator may be banned from the site.
Any content posts of a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc. or of a libelous, defamatory, threatening, pornographic, etc. nature will be removed.
Posts with links embedded within them are automatically placed into a queue for moderation. Our moderator receives an email regarding every such post and will review them as quickly as possible. Please refrain from gratuitously advertising your business. Doing in a way that is pertinent to the topic at hand is fine, though we leave it up to our moderator to judge the fitness of your ad. To be honest, we’re not sure, at this time, what happens when a post with gratuitous links is marked as spam. We hope that the comment author is notified, but it may be the case that they are not.
The Agora, and Patheos in general, hosts authors of many different religious and many of none. We trust that you’ll operate with a basic level of tolerance toward both the authors here and the other visitors on this site. We take a dim view, to put it lightly, of those who visit us only to proselytize, though speaking of the joy your faith brings you and the fervency of your belief is fine as long as you’re willing to allow us to do the same.
If the moderator must step in, he will take two actions. Firstly, he will edit the offending comment either in part or in full. If there is nothing of value in the comment, the original content of it will be removed and replaced with a message regarding its moderation. Otherwise, he’ll perform the online equivalent of *beeping* out the problematic material. For example …
Jimbo Scott, you’re a complete and utter moron who lacks the sense the gods provide to the most idiotic of village idiots, but I would like to say that you’ve surprised me with this article.
… might be altered to …
Jimbo Scott … <personal attack removed by the moderator> … I would like to say that you’ve surprised me with this article.
… while the following …
May the fleas of a thousand reindeer nest in your genitals.¹
… would simply be replaced with a note about moderation. Clearly, these examples are facetious, but they illustrate our intent when moderating.
The second action the moderator will take is to reply to all altered posts publicly explaining why he did what he did. This can be used as a referendum on his actions, though it’s primary purpose is to notify the offender that their comment was altered.
◊ ◊ ◊
(1) Bonus points if you know this reference.²
(2) The points mean nothing.
As we are in the middle of the harvest-related holidays and are getting ready for winter, it seemed a great time to finally sit down and write a simple ritual for Freyr. Freyr is often honored at several autumnal holidays, such as Frexfaxi, Winternights, and Yule, but I have not come across a good, year-round ritual that can be used to honor him. He’s a great God and he really deserves a lot more press than he currently gets. (Though since as he is one of my patrons, I’ll admit I’m a bit biased).
Who is Freyr?
Freyr is a beloved deity of the Vanir. His name means “Lord” (as his twin sister Freya’s means “Lady”), and he is associated with all the good things in life: the prosperity of the land and of the people; kingship and sacrifice; and peacefulness and frith. Freyr is the life-giving sunshine and rain that blesses the fields with fertility and abundance. A lover rather than a fighter, He was struck down by the beauty of a jotun maiden, Gerd, and gave away his sword in order to win Her hand in marriage.
Freyr is also Lord of Alfheim, having been given the rulership over the Land of the Light Elves when he was very young. He is also the progenitor of the Swedes, and his biggest temple was at Old Uppsala, near Stockholm in Sweden. A god of plenty, peace, fertility, and good weather, he was held in high esteem in ancient times, and he was honored on the same level with Thor and Odin. A couple of good resources to learn more about Him are Ann Groa Sheffield’s Frey: God of the World and The Troth’s Our Troth: Vol. 1, which has some great material on Him and the rest of the Gods. (In my opinion, He’s a great foil to the fire, passion, and fiercely independent nature of my other patron, Freya. He grounds Her out a bit and helps to keep her tied to the land and the community.)
What is a blót?
A blót (rhymes with “goat”) is one of the two main types of tradition ritual that modern Heathens use. To blót means to sacrifice or to make an offering, in honor of the Gods, ancestors, or landwights. Back in the day, this usually meant offering up livestock, which the household or community would then use for a feast. As most people nowadays generally don’t have any livestock (or any desire to sacrifice animals) we use alcohol instead. Mead is best, if you can get it; but beer, cider, whiskey, or homemade liqueurs work. Non-alcoholic beverages work just as well as long as they are offered with intent.
When I am leading a blót, almost all of it comes directly from the heart and off script, if I can manage it. It’s not fancy, but it can be very powerful and, usually, all is good. For when you can’t lead a ritual off the cuff, here is the format for a simple public Freyrsblót. It’s pretty basic and can be adapted to use with any Heathen deity. You can add in more info or pare down the flowery bits as needed.
Explain purpose of event
Talk about Freyr/Tell one of His myths/Wax poetic about Him
Fill a horn with a tasty beer, mead, or cider, and toast Him or ask for His blessings
Pass the horn around the group so other people can toast Him or ask for His blessings
Hail Him one last time, emptying the remaining libation out for the local landwights
And here’s my more fleshed-out version of a public blot for Freyr:
A Blót for Freyr
I like to set space prior to people showing up at the event rather than during the event. If we are having the blót outdoors, I do a landtaking, which tends to be a quiet, thorough perambulation around the edges of the space we’ll be using, talking with the local landwights and offering them a libation of some kind as I go. Other people use Edred Thorsson’s Hammer Rite, or Hrafnar Kindred’s tradition of Calling the Dwarves. (There is no One Right Way to do this in Heathenry; your mileage may vary.)
If possible, I welcome each person individually, either as they enter the space or while waiting for everyone to arrive and get seated. I also issue a general welcome once it is time to get started.
Explain the Purpose of the Event and What will Happen:
“Today, we are gathered here to honor Freyr, Lord of Alfheim, and one of the Gods of the Vanir. A blót is an ancient Heathen ritual, common to the pre-Christian Scandinavian, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon cultures. To start the blót, I will tell you about Freyr and His myths. Then, I will raise a horn to toast Him, thank him for His gifts, and ask for any blessings I wish to receive from him. The horn will then be passed around the circle, and you will also have a chance to toast to Him, offer something to Him, or ask for a relevant blessing from Him. If you do not wish to say anything, you can instead say “Hail!” and take a sip from the horn (or hold it briefly to your forehead) and pass it on.
Talk about Freyr (cut or expand as needed):
“Freyr is a member of the Vanir tribe of deities, as opposed the Aesir of which Odin and Thor are members. He, his sister Freya, and their father Njord are the primary Vanic deities that we know about. (Depending on an individual’s practice, they may include Nerthus as another of the main Vanir deities.) These Vanic deities as a whole are concerned with fruitfulness, abundance, wisdom, fertility, sex, and magic. Like has father Njord, Freyr is called a “wise Van”, and when he moved to Asgard following the Aesir-Vanir war, both he and his father became priests to those living there.
“One of his most important myths, the Skirnismal, describes how he won the jotun maiden Gerd for his wife. He was sitting in Odin’s High Seat, from which Odin can see everything that happens in all of the Nine Worlds, when he spied a beautiful Jotun maid with shining white arms in the courtyard of her father’s hall in Jotunheim. He instantly fell madly in love with her, but as she was of the Jotun clan, he knew that no one would support his marriage to her. He fell into a deep depression; the sun stopped shining and the rain ceased to fall. Eventually, his servant, Skirnir, found out about his predicament and offered to woo her for Him. In order to get to her hall in Jotunheim, Freyr had to give Skirnir his horse and his prized sword. Thus, he will have no sword which with to fight at Ragnarok. After multiple attempts at persuasion, Skirnir finally convinced Gerd to leave home and marry the despondent Vanic Lord. Gerd and Freyr were married; the sun shined the rain fell and the crops began to grow again.
“Due to this myth, Freyr is often seen as the thaw that triggers the coming of spring. Gerd, as a Jotun maiden, locked away at her father’s hall in frozen Jotunheim, is often see as the cold earth in the heart of winter, who is thawed and made fertile by the sun and rain of Freyr.”
Then, fill the horn with mead or beer. (Freyr is also associated barley and grains, so a barley beer would be particularly appropriate.) “Freyr, sacred king, Lord of Alfheim, you are wise and generous. Thank you for your gifts. Please bless us with prosperity, fertility, abundance, and all the good things in life. Hail, Freyr!”
Pass the horn:
Pass the horn to the next person in the circle, reminding people to sip with the tip of the horn pointing downward. Also, if people do not wish to drink or say anything, they can pass or bring the horn up to their forehead with reverence. (Note: You can also ask someone to “valkyrie” for the blót–to have them hand the horn to each person, who will in turn hand it back to her when they are finished.
Hail him one last time:
After the last person has toasted Freyr, hail Him again once more, and pour the rest out onto the ground (or a hof, howe, cairn, tree, or body of water) for the landwights. Thank people for attending, chat with people afterwards, and ask for help in clean-up if needed.
◊ ◊ ◊
Despite the countless pages of modern Heathen rituals I have seen and participated in over the years, I actually prefer these kind of simple rituals. My experience is that the Gods appreciate them as well; no long script necessary.
Happily Heathen is posted on alternate Fridays here at the Agora. Subscribe by RSS or e-mail!
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.
One of the things that often attracts people to Heathenry and related practices is our Gods. While the Ancestors and vaettir (land spirits) often hold important places in our hearths and hearts, the Gods draw our attention and admiration. How can they not? They are powerful and complex beings, many with great stories attached to them in our lore. They capture our imagination and won’t let go, even manifesting in modern art (though it’s a more recent phenomenon, DeviantArt is a wonderful place to search for many different modern artists’ renditions of figures from Northern mythology, even relatively obscure ones).
So as a regular feature of this blog, I’m going to provide what I’m going to call Divine Profiles, an overview and description of a deity to provide you with a window to their identity. I will warn: these will hardly be complete; there are whole books written about individual Gods within our pantheon. However, I’ll try and draw pertinent lore (information about them from the Eddas and other older sources), shared gnosis and experience, and in some cases personal gnosis. Worry not; I’m committed to making the difference between the two clear.
One thing that I do not intend to do is the Dungeons and Dragons’ style “statistics sheet” that people often create when writing about Gods. I do not trust the concept and construction of “God of”; the Aesir and Vanir (the primary tribes of deities in Norse mythology) are beings in their own right, and attributes like that, while they make a useful shorthand, are unhelpful in getting to know them as the complex figures that they are. What is a God the God “of”? Heathens are fond of the saying, “We are our deeds.”, so perhaps it’s best to know a God by what they do and have done, and then by how others describe them.
There are not enough words to describe her. The name that we know her by means, “Lady”, a title and position of power. Her name is worked into the name of my column; the Lady’s Quill refers to the fact that I write devotional material for her (thus trying my best to act as her quill), but it was also a sly reference to her connection to both falcons and boars, both of whom bear quills.
Freyja is known as the sister of Freyr and the daughter of Njord. According to Snorri, Freyja is “fair of face and mighty” and “the most renowned Goddess.” She rides in a great chariot drawn by cats, and her name comes easily to those who pray to the Gods. She is pleased by songs of love and often called upon in matters of love.
She is also a Goddess involved with death and the battle-slain. One of her bynames is Valfreyja, Lady of the Slain, as she collects half of those who die in battle herself (possibly getting first choice, depending on interpretation). There is a suggestion in Egil’s Saga that women who are devoted to her join her in her hall after death, as well.
She is of the Vanir, one of the families of Gods acknowledged in Norse myth, often described as “Gods of Nature” (though there are multiple reasons I do not strictly agree with this attribution). In the early days of the Gods’ history the Vanir and the Aesir (the more prominent tribe of Gods in Norse mythology, among whom are some of the better known figures such as Odhinn and Thor, Frigga and Sif) were at war with one another. As part of the settlement between the two tribes, Njord and Freyr were called to live among the Aesir in Asgard. Freyja came as well, but she was not traded. Why she chose to live among the Aesir is unclear, but it is reflective of a theme with Freyja: she makes her own decisions about herself. She is a being that lives by her own power and authority, and refuses to subject herself to another’s will but by her own choosing.
Freyja is a sexual Goddess. She is referred to again and again in the tales as being lusty. Demanding Freyja’s hand in marriage is something that enemies of the Gods do multiple times, her beauty and power are obviously widely desired. Indeed, when Loki is performing his equivalent of a celebrity roast on the Gods, he calls her our for having slept with every man in the hall. To his credit, Njord’s response could be paraphrased as, “So what?”
One place that her sexuality is prominent is in the legend of Brisingamen, her sacred necklace. Though there are different versions of the story, the overall narrative is generally the same. A marvelous necklace is made by four dwarven brothers who offer it to her in exchange for spending a night with them. When she returns, proudly bearing Brisingamen, her husband Odr has gone and she wanders the world, weeping tears of loss that turn to amber or gold when they strike the ground.
She is also known to have to daughters, Hnossa and Gersemi. Their names both mean something similar to “treasure” but little else is known about them (other than that Hnossa is the daughter of Odr).
Freyja is also a powerful sorceress. In the Lay of Hyndla, a devoted follower of hers, Ottar, begs her for aid in winning a contest where the participants are to recite their lineages and prove their worth by their ancestry. Because of all of the offerings and devotion he has given her over the years she cannot refuse it, so she disguises him as her boar Hildsvini and rides him in his dreams and rides him to the lair of the giantess Hyndla to try and convince her to teach him his lineage. Hyndla relents after hurling harsh insults at her and her mount, recounting an extensive lineage and foretelling part of Ragnarok in the middle of it. Freyja asks her for a potion to aid him in remembering all he has learned, which she provides but then reveals that it is cursed and poisonous. Freyja’s blessing shatters the giant’s curse and she throws a ring of fire around Hyndla to protect her and her charge from the giantess before departing.
Her sorcery takes multiple forms, as she herself does; she bears a feathered cloak that can transform her into a falcon, granting her the power of flight. She practices a form of magick known as seidh, which is (in my opinion) a catch-all term used in Norse mythology for withcraft (the sort of powers described as being available to seidh-workers tends to follow standard European folk witchcraft: divination, necromancy, cursing, stealing and bestowing luck, communication with and command of spirits, shapeshifting, etc.) According to the Ynglingsaga, it was she who taught seidh to Odhinn, and he shared the wisdom of the runes with her in exchange. Nowadays Freyja is often called upon for guidance and assistance by those who refer to their practice as seidh.
So from the Lore, we have a picture of a powerful sovereign Goddess, whose name is a title of authority, a woman of agency and might, sexuality and abundance, one who wields powerful magic and who the other Gods are afraid to cross. It’s no wonder that she’s one of the most popular of the Norse deities; both by word of Snorri in the past and evidenced by her popularity among modern Pagans, Heathen and otherwise.
Heiti or Bynames
Some Norse deities have a list of heiti, or by-names, that they go by. Some look to them for a greater understanding of the deity; they are certainly reflective of different aspects of their power and personality.
Freyja has more heiti in the lore than any other Goddess (as far as I’ve been able to discern). She is known as Mardoll (which might be translated as “Sea-bright” or “Sea-shine”). She is called Syr, or “Sow”. Nowadays that might not be considered complimentary but in the cultures in which she was venerated the boar was considered a symbol of robust fertility and abundance as well as being associated with the cults of the Vanir. She is called Valfreyja, Lady of the Slain, as one who chooses half of the war dead herself. She is known as Vanadis, the Dis of the Vanir (Disir are feminine protective spirits, who may or may not be Ancestors, who protect and bless family lines). She is called Blotgythia, the Priestess of the Sacrifice.
I have personal heiti I’ve given her, based on my own experiences with her. I call her Red-Gold, because that is the color that comes to mind in her presence. I name her Wand-Wise, as the wand was an important tool of magic in the North (the name could reference other ways that she is wise about wands, too, though I admit I had to have that pointed out to me). I call her the Mother of Twin Treasures or Mother of Treasures Twain, because her children are so rarely mentioned and few parents are not proud of their offspring or their role in raising them. I’ve also referred to her as Our Lady of the Runny Mascara, because eyes rarely remain dry in her presence.
I’ve given a description of a Goddess from her mythology. Let me tell you know why I love her so, and what she means to me.
Freyja is the being who I admire most of all. She is many of the things that I’d like to be – powerful, beautiful, wealthy, wise, magical, sovereign over her own destiny. She does what she wants when she wants to, but it is not by simple impulse but a combination of her passion and foresight (a trait that the Vanir are famous for) that guide her actions.
Freyja brings blessings of self-love and strength; many of her followers have observed this. She challenges us to be better than we are, pushing at our boundaries and forcing us to confront the things that we lie to ourselves about. That is one experience that seems consistent for most of her devotees that I’ve spoken to: she dislikes self-deception and challenges it.
She has many kinds of love, but none of it is saccharine. Whether it is sweet, sensual, fierce, or even violent, her love is a thing that is felt so strongly that it moves you.
Given that the Vanir are considered by many to be tied to the cycles of Nature I’d often wondered before how that was applicable to her. I came to realize that she is Passion. Passion is what gives us need and desire, what pushes us to connect to the world around us and interact with it. Passion drives us to appreciate the beauty of the world and reach out with our hands and change it where we will. Passion connects us through our senses to the world around us.
There have been many good things said lately about re-enchantment of the world – I think that the Lady is a powerful agent of it. The lifeless, bloodless, dry tick of the watch, the cold buzzing of a fly in an empty room with a linoleum floor, the quiet desperation that so many people dwell in because they know no other way to be feel like anathema to the fiery, powerful Goddess that I know. She demands that you live in the world, that you love the world, that you engage the world around you with your hands, eyes and tongue, with your love, lust, and life, with your magic, wisdom, and passion. Through her I see the world in a Red-Gold haze; her fire burns through the lies that we are presented by society and traditions grown stagnant and corrupt. She demands that you act on what you see, because once you’ve seen past the falsehoods continuing to support them is continuing to lie to yourself, and she will not abide by that. She is the Savage Reality, the Singing Storm, the Burning Heart, the Shrieking Falcon. Hers is the howl let loose in passion (of any kind). Hers is the magic that lets you see and touch the heart of the world itself. Hers is the love that teaches of your own value. Hers is the fire that fuels passion itself. Hers are the brightest jewels and the greatest treasures, and hers is the power to let you see them for what they truly are.
I will always recommend original sources first; read up on her in the Eddas (especially the Lay of Hyndla and with honorable mention to the Lay of Thrym). She is mentioned in many of the Sagas as well, including Egil’s Saga, the Ynglingsaga, and Volsunginsaga.
I definitely recommend Patricia Lafayllve’s Freyja, Lady, Vanadis as a comprehensive and detailed look at Lady. Patricia focuses on information in the lore, although she does discuss modern gnosis as well in one chapter. She’s been a priestess of Freyja for many years and is the first person that I would want to ask if I had a question about the Lady.
Cara Freyasdaughter (of Happily Heathen here on Patheos) runs a wonderful blog devoted to her called The Gold Thread. The blog is filled with good insight about the Lady, including her “Love Notes From Freya”.
Though it may be considered unorthodox (that’s a huge surprise coming from me, right?) to say so, go to the Lady herself. Read the lore, both old and new, but offer to her, pray to her, reach out to her. Share mead and sweet drinks with her, offer her your pleasure, joy, and tears, sing love songs to her and dedicate to her the study and practice of magic. Know whom you approach, but approach her nevertheless with your head held high, your hands outstretched, your heart open and your eyes clear. She brings beauty and wonders to those who bring good things to her, and though some of her lessons may be painful they are always worth the price in the end.
The Lady’s Quill is published on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. You can subscribe by RSS and e-mail.
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.
Most of the time we assume that people seek a fortuneteller because they need answers to their questions. Wrong. Most of the time what people are seeking is excellence: The excellence that goes into formulating a good question. The excellence in knowing that a good, focused question can lead you to making the good, right decision. The excellence in knowing exactly that which we are really good at, and which serves both others and ourselves.
What we fear the most is the paralysis induced by ambivalence: This job, or that job? This woman or the other one? This school or that school? The woods or the city? Ambivalence is a nasty state. When it doesn’t lead to apathy, it leads to indifference: ‘Who cares that I need to do something about my physical workout? I can just sit here and watch professional alpinists conquer the Everest on TV.’ Ambivalence is connected to not taking risks. And when we don’t take risks we risk never finding out what we love, who we love, and why we love.
My whole professional life has revolved around asking questions. While I also comply with the rules of reforms and bureaucracy, however stupid, and pay my dues to Caesar, I teach students to ask questions. I myself try to get better at formulating questions. I prompt people to ask the right questions. What is really interesting? Does it have a soul? Is it really useful in that way which bypasses capitalism and self-promotion and self-interest? I’m all for self-promotion and self-interest, but it has to go somewhere. Some real sharing must be at the heart of it.
What do you want to know?
What I like about the cards is that we can come to them with anything.
We can pose a meta-question:
Cards, why are you so clever?
Because, as a pack, I’m a master strategist. Because posing a good question is like going to war with yourself, and then negotiating for the best course of action.
We can ask the cards a personal question:
Cards, why am I so stupid?
Because you fail to see that not all rides into town are good for you.
We can ask the cards a spying question:
Cards, what does he think of me?
He thinks you’re fascinating. But he’s probably asking: ‘Can I seduce the moon? Hell no.’ Alas…
We can ask the cards to enable an encounter:
Cards, how can I meet the Devil?
Go into some dense woods. Make an offering of 5 coins. Wait until sunrise.
We can ask the cards to perform magic:
Cards, how can I tie the tongue of my lying boss?
Wait for good tidings, when the dragon is asleep and you hold the sword upwards. Then take your cane and an oil lamp and go to a remote place. There, remember what Eve did. She struck a deal with the serpent for knowledge. Make an open fire and cook some tongue on a spear. Eat it.
The Question is Everything
Why is the question so important? Unlike many diviners, in my personal practice I never ever read the cards without having a properly formulated question. The cards have a way of telling a story that makes us aware of the power of understanding ourselves in context. Understanding ourselves in a situation where we don’t just use analogy to create more clichés about our lives. If we get to the point where we can proudly declare: ‘I’ve worked my socks off, and here I am, all powerful and all-knowing,’ are we also able to remember what question got us there? Was our ambition even connected to a question at all? In my counseling with the cards, I often come across this very situation: Successful entrepreneur, miserable soul. If your life trajectory is not the result of a really good question, chances are that it goes to hell.
If you are under the pressure to tell a good story about your achievements, or lack thereof, you will not tell a good story at all. You will fall into melodrama, and start repeating a point about your life that makes us all yawn: ‘Tell me something I don’t know’.
How do we keep the Geist then? Finding a good question to pose is like hunting. First you have to quiet yourself. Then allow for your sense of smell to kick in. A good question follows the nose. Are you curious enough about what you hunt for? Do you even have an idea of what it looks like? The best question will also allow for some mystery to occur: ‘I want to ask about how I can become the governor of California.’ Good. How is your sex life? Do you remember the essential rule of political hunting: ‘If it ain’t sex, follow the money’. I apply this rule to everything.
What we call excellence is often related to acts of violence: You cut. You essentialize to the truth even when some insist that there’s no truth out there. It takes real skill to be able to cut the crap. Skill and diplomacy. Some things you need to keep to yourself. Spilling the beans and rendering yourself irrelevant and predictable in the process will not get you there, to what keeps the Geist, namely, to the point that allows you to exercise some excellence in your ability to give and receive an idea to work with. For free.
I often tell people that I’m an intellectual fortuneteller, as I make en effort to not only get the other who comes to me to formulate a good question but also make sure that in that question there’s a real idea we can both work with. Sometimes I send people three times around the block of formulating a good question before I actually get to lay down the cards. What fascinates me the most is when people formulate a very clear question, but in that question I sense a mystery, or a secret that they keep to themselves. The cards have a way of uncovering that part in a way that makes me feel like Sherlock Holms. Or better yet, forget about Sherlock Holms. How about some black magic conjuring à la the Raven in Edgar Allan Poe?
In the conversation thread following my latest post here about the personality test, I suggested that what we call the secret card – what we know about ourselves but we don’t want others to know – is all about diplomacy. But I could just as well have said that it’s about keeping the mystery of ourselves. Your question has a red thread. Good. But does it have a black one too? The one that excites you in the dark? The one that makes the fortuneteller give you the squinting look? How do you weave what you know already into what you don’t know? Are your threads dancing yet? Is your nose filled with the smell of your prey? Even when you ask about how you can better your communication skills so that you score your dream job? What do you keep to yourself that’s most fascinating, which, however, others can also sense? Do you allow others to hunt you for your excellence? Or are you still watching the alpinists on TV conquering the Everest?
I don’t get the idiotic New Age insistence on ‘tell all’ because only so can you create a connection with others. Such nonsense. I like distinction, and I like essential stuff, not the ‘everything’ of the cliché life, not the ‘I totally get you’, when it’s as plain as daylight that the one saying this is completely clueless about everything. Some fortunetellers aim for that. I don’t. I don’t exercise my empathy by ‘totally getting you.’ I use my excellence to cut to the bones, but in the process, I go mercilessly for the mysterious beauty of the impenetrable obvious.
For my program in Tarot Prompts, you’re welcome to check a full cycle here.
All the cards shown here are in my collection.
The Cartomancer is published bi-monthly on the second and fourth Wednesday here on the Agora. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.
I come before you today, pointy hat in hand, and a burning need to get some things off my chest. All you priest/esses out there, will you hear my confession?
Bless me, pagandom, for I have “sinned” and fallen short of the glory of our gods; it has been two weeks since my last confession…er…post. For seven years now I’ve been a merchant of metaphysical goods and services, and there are days when I feel like a snake oil salesman. I confess my disenchantment with the metaphysical industry and occasional lack of faith in my fellow practitioners. I confess that, deep down, there is a part of me still afraid of being burned at the stake as a charlatan by non-believers, and cursed into ruin by my competitors. Though my religion holds no concept of sin, it is meant to save me from this fear. For these and my many other shadows, I take full responsibility. Awen.
As penance, I’ll go say 13 Wiccan Rede’s and a Hail (Charge of the) Goddess…the long forms…in contrived Old English, just for good measure. <snicker>
“Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack, charlatan, or the like.” ~wikipedia
Confessions of a Business Woman:
While I am a Witch who holds dear the Wiccan Rede, and have sworn before the gods to both serve Spirit, and her community, doing no harm, I confess that I am also the president of a corporation, and that sometimes that feels like a conflict on interests. I work within an *industry* that does not necessarily share my ethical standards.
Note the use of the word industry. Metaphysics is lofty and philosophical, the arrow to point you in the direction of enlightenment. However, once you tack on the word industry it becomes a business that requires profit to continue. Being in business implies that great investments of time and money were laid down by people who want very desperately to survive and continue to feed their families.
Hint: opening a metaphysical store so that you can devote your full-time efforts to priest/essing is tantamount to taking a vow of poverty. We know that going in.
I confess that personal ego is also a big part of the equation. For myself, I will tell you that I am too proud to throw in the towel on my investment and dreams, and so I cannot give up. I’ve put everything I have into this mundane work, because it finances the Spiritual work I’ve vowed to do, and that makes for a compelling motive. I check in with my moral compass every day to ensure that I can both look my customers in the eye without shame, and do the work of my gods with a clean conscious. The last thing society needs is another religious hypocrite. But, just like any other business, we need our rather small community to buy what we are selling, at the highest profit margin we can manage, just to get by. That is the truthful bottom line.
Confession of a Fluffy Bunny:
This is going to seem like a digression, but just hang in there with me through some thealogy and I’ll circle back around to the retail thing…
I confess that I am a “love and light” witch. Wait, wait…hear me out. Before you write me off as a “Fluffy Bunny Playgan” know this: much like the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (5), my love and light can kick some ass. Aphrodite, per my experience, is into some hard-core shenanigans, and she will love you with both a spanking and a kiss. As her priestess, I am happy to administer both. She’s taught me many things about “perfect,” unconditional love. Perfect love is complete, whole, like a “perfect” circle that has all the parts: good, bad, beautiful and ugly. This is her Thealogy of Perfection. Per my paradigm, love is everything.
I also serve Hermes who can be both tricksy and profoundly logical.
IV: The Hermetic Principle of Polarity
“Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.” — The Kybalion.
If love is everything, and all things have a polar opposite, what is the opposite of love?
Answer: The void; the lack of love. I once sat vigil for a year as the midwife to what is born of that void. (Hint: it sucked.) So just trust me when I say that the first thing that issues from the void is FEAR; Fear of the lack of love.
And now circling back around to the retail thing…
Dirty little retail secrets:
This is the part where I confess the sins of not only the metaphysical industry, but all profit-based industry everywhere: fear sells. Specifically, fear of a lack of love, when tweaked just right within the subconscious, can sell just about anything. Much of the new age industry sells a mode of self-forgiveness for this fear, which is valuable, no doubt, but it comes at a strangely inflated price.
Not that the witchcraft industry is much better. First, it sells you on the fearfulness of the Universe. Then it sells you a Magick101 spell book and the many expensive tools you think you need to conquer that fear. Eventually, you realize that is bullshit, and rise above the fear, DARING to live a life of love and grace, when somehow this same industry you fed for decades, has you convinced that your wisdom either has no monetary value, or is so precious that it is taboo to be compensated for it. How dare you even presume such a thing!? They’ve convinced you that your valuable skills and expertise should be donated back for (damn near) free, fattening an industry that then profits from your endeavors, by selling them back to the fearful masses.
Hint: “Fear is the mind killer, the little death…”(7) You don’t need expensive stuff to do the work, not really. They can help, but YOU are the magick. Start with you. Going direct to Spirit costs next to nothing. (7)
Benefit or Bane?
I confess that there are times when I know that I’m enabling baneful behaviors of my customers, but there is the shop rent to pay, and so week after week I sell them another Lucky Gambler candle, Fast Money oil, another High John the Conqueror Root.
I confess that I can see how powerless and victimized a customer feels, and that they purchase these things as a way to defend themselves, while remaining the victim. They are convinced someone put a curse on them. Maybe they are right, but if they continually blame forces outside themselves for all their problems and take no responsibility for their own lives–they will never change their luck. But I have kids to feed, and payroll to pay, and they rarely hear me when I try to subtly guide their purchases back to their own empowerment. So week after week, I ring up another Jinx Breaker candle, another protection oil, another red brick dust, and offer them my blessings for success.
In psychology parlance, they are projecting the locus of their control outside of themselves. The fastest way to “burn the witch (2)” is to attempt to work magick before you have internalized that locus of control. Yet, out they go, purchase in hand, and I sold them the matches.
I don’t know that everyone should be doing magick, and I think retailers need to show discretion on what they make easily accessible to the untrained. For example, a customer once asked us if we sold “black chicken blood.” From what we could tell, he was flying blind. “No we don’t…if you need blood for your work, be willing to make the sacrifice yourself, or you are unworthy to receive whatever aid you are seeking.” <with obvious irritation> “Do you know where I can find a black chicken?” So much NOPE!
Confessions of a Snake Oil Salesman:
I confess that I have knowingly peddled products with “questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit” but retail is a two-way street of supply and demand. What quality products are you demanding of your suppliers? Your dollars are like votes. You can continue to cast a vote for cheap, fake, petroleum-based, artificially colored and scented, spiritually dead garbage made in third world sweat shops, or you can use your dollars to vote for valuable, authentic materials made by nature out of renewable resources, prepared by folks who get paid a living wage, and do their work as a sacred act. These are your choices.
For that matter, from whom are you buying any of these things? Do you support the local priest/ess–so they can continue to teach, heal, and counsel–or do you buy that incense a little bit cheaper on Amazon.com?
Hint: Do not report to the local small business person how much cheaper you can find something on the internet. It makes us grouchy.
I don’t have to tell you these things, my lovelies. You are intelligent, thoughtful practitioners, who understand the co-creative alliance with the Powers that Be. The ingredients from the realms of flora, fauna, and mineral in your spells are chosen for their inherent Spiritual attributes and only the real deal will do, yes?
Flora: Spirit of Rose is present, because that drop of essential oil is the blood of real roses, and is exorbitantly expensive because it is rare and difficult to obtain. Its preciousness is part of the magick. Rose “fragrance oil” may be cheap, but it is synthetic, and no replacement.
Mineral: Spirit of turquoise is present because it is real turquoise, with it’s specific molecular structure, it is rare and becoming more difficult to obtain, so it’ll cost you. An artificially-dyed howlite is so much cheaper and too often is sold labeled as turquoise, but it has the spirit of howlite. That is lovely, but is not the same thing.
Fauna: Parchment is often used for the writing of petition spells, and is made of skins, likely goat, sheep, or calf. This is one way we work with animal spirits in our spells. Parchment is precious, and witchy as all get-out. I don’t care what the catalog says, tan-colored card stock paper is not a replacement.
Candles: Candle burning is a witches’ magickal sweet spot.Paraffin candles colored with chemical dyes bring their own energies to the team, but I doubt its what you have in mind. Understand that I use them, too, when I must, but paraffin is a by-product of the petroleum industry which does systematic harm to our mother earth. Burning a paraffin candle inside is carcinogenic and harmful to all within the breathing space. Beeswax, soy and other vegetable-derived candles, remain a far better choice. The hard work of the bees are systematically beneficial and sacred to mother earth. They even improve the indoor air quality when burned. Yes, they cost so much more, but I’m beginning to feel that it is a necessary part of a worthwhile offering.
Water: This is the one that really gets my knickers in a twist. Right this minute a well-regarded metaphysical supplier sells…get this…rain water. IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE. The only claim the company makes is that it is rain water, and that using naturally collected waters can enhance your spell work. <Well, DUH> Let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the product is exactly as advertised. If you give these suppliers your money, rather than place a bowl out in the rain, consider your witching license revoked. By the power vested in me by the Gods of Good Sense, you are fired.
I challenge you, my lovely readers, to ask yourself a few questions about the products you use in your practice.
Is this material authentic? Honest? Trustworthy? Does this beautiful package actually contain whatever it claims to be?
Was it derived in a sustainable way that does not threaten our interconnected web of existence?
Does it’s production bring benefit to those who made it? Fairly priced? Ethically and legally obtained?
Was it made to traditional specs with sacred intent vs. who-the-hell-knows-profiteer who merely slapped a pentacle on the outside so they could market it on “wicca” sites to rich Americans?
Confessions of a Less-than-Charlatan:
I also work as a “psychic.” That word just reeks of snake oil. <shudder> I offer tarot readings, past-life retrievals, Reiki energy healing and magickal work, with some parameters: I will only work for the highest good of all involved, harming none. Period. You would be surprised how few folks will take you up on that kind of offer. I should make a sign to hang out front that says just that, but then I wouldn’t have the interesting conversations with those who come seeking <um> less than honorable services.
If you are the lovely maiden who comes with tears in her eyes to ask that your cheating, abusive lover to stop hurting you, to be bound to you, so that you can have him for your happily-ever-after dream, I will gently say no, my love–we cannot override his free-will and all that. Instead, I will be that older woman who says the hard things about defending your boundaries, and not allowing yourself to be his victim. Let me offer healing, self-respect, and strength enough to cut ties with your abuser. Young women in love don’t tend to like this advice.
If you are the older fellow whose wife “worked a root” to make you impotent when she caught you cheating on her, no I will not help you reverse that magick. Female solidarity, dontcha know.
But my favorite request is if you ask for help to win a court case wherein you are actually guilty. When I say I will only help “justice to be done” and that makes you go pale and start sputtering, it’s probably best we not entangle further. Karma is only a bitch if you are.
Karma’s Little Helper
Sometimes I am Karma’s little helper and I “release my flying monkeys,” because stopping assholery from harming society further needs to happen quickly. This means that I work for healing, justice, and balance. This should rightfully terrify wrong-doers. I’m willing to act as a magickal warrior defending our boundaries, a law enforcement officer, or social worker, sourced by Divine Love. This is how I do the Work of the gods, and I become a strong link in the chainmaille of our society.
Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म; IPA: [ˈkərmə] Pali: kamma) means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering. Karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in some schools of Asian religions. In these schools, karma in the present affects one’s future in the current life, as well as the nature and quality of future lives – or, one’s saṃsāra. (4)
Clearly, I’m not Hindu. I’m a panentheist from the western esoteric traditions and we have similar laws to describe metaphysical cause and effect. I see the entire universe as an interconnected body of Divinity. That body, like a great river, has movement with direction, a current of flow that my Anglo-Saxon ancestors called the wyrd, interpreted to mean “fate, personal destiny, or the process of coming to pass.” (3)
The wyrd is heading in the direction of both our collective and individual spiritual evolution. I understand this to be Highest Divine Will, and it, like Karma, is a system that brings balance and justice…eventually. Spiritual adepts eventually discover that their true power is found in learning to navigate the river of wyrd rather than deny it. I have found all these things to be self-evident, so I do not waste my energies, or your money, attempting to fight the current. Resistance is so very futile.
I say all this because, in my opinion, the practitioners of other traditions who are profiting upon the fear of a lack of love within others, taking enormous payments while offering “100% guarantees” on their attempts to thwart karma or wyrd–are the charlatans. They are snake oil salesmen. Promising to get guilty people out of convictions, coerce people against their will, or to curse the enemies of strangers, has a whiff of sociopathy that I find distasteful and discouraging, alas.
My Four Rules of Witchcraft (2)
While some days I feel like I’m in the snake oil business, most of the time I can find a way to contribute my own brand of authenticity to this witching industry. I offset fear with knowledge, by teaching classes openly. I find that a regular dose of blunt-force honesty tends to do the trick, too.
No, I won’t help you harm yourself, nor burn any other witch, nor will I even suggest that you “turn the other cheek,” because too often that makes us the weak link. I will happily help you to Go Gandalf on the assholes of the world, but if you want me to work magick on your behalf, you must be present to win, working in partnership with me, and taking responsibility for your actions to reclaim your power. It is a tall order to fill, I’ll grant you, but I have sole discretion over which clients I choose. Prove to me that you are deserving of that privilege.
Then we’ll call upon a Divine Love so powerful that your spine will tingle; I promise you’ll get your money’s worth, and it’ll be authentic. It won’t be easy, but that is how I love you: I expect great things.
Ghost is a 1990 American romantic fantasy film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn, and Whoopi Goldberg. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker. by Paramount Pictures.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1975 British comedy film written and performed by the comedy group of Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin), and directed by Gilliam and Jones.
“The fact that we live without God is, in a sense, not up to us. It’s not really a choice. . . But goodness is a choice. It is the most important choice we can ever make. And we have to make it again and again, throughout our lives and in every aspect of our lives.” -Greg Epstein, M.Div.
I’ve been thinking a lot about belief. Specifically, what the non-religious believe, which subsequently is the subtitle of Greg Epstein‘s book, Good Without God. Greg is a secular humanist, which to me sounds a lot nicer than atheist (though to be fair not quite the same thing). For years I sat alongside Secular Humanists, like my colleague Greg, as a Unitarian Universalist Director of Lifespan Faith Development teaching principles and faith formation that often didn’t require “g*d.” As my beloved mentor, the Reverend Kim K. Crawford Harvie of Arlington Street Church inBoston, once preached a Christmas Eve night, “Some of us are Atheist, some Jews, a few are Christians and aspire to act as Christians should. We are Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, and more… and all are welcome here, under the big tent of Unitarian Universalism. (1)”
And in that transcendentalist egalitarian way that is unique to Unitarian Univeralism, which affirms and promotes the inherent worth of all people, we sang tides of great joy, raised lit candles, and the many ‘non-religious’ whom needed solace became spiritual companions of my mentor and found home. What I call refugees of fractured faith were welcomed. That’s what makes Unitarian Universalism a “saving” faith.
That is NOT Paganism. All are not always welcome, in all groups, at all times. True Story. As a matter of fact, recently we’ve been gathering in the agora about Atheism and Polytheism in Paganism. I’m not about to write about someone else’s truth or trauma experience from one faith tradition (often monotheistic to becoming ‘atheist’ over polytheist). But, in sharing my own story of religious trauma having come through conservative Christian orthodoxy (which can be found in books like Rooted in the Bodyedited by Tara Masery or in sermons uploaded to YouTube), I’ve held the space of many seeking refuge from one traumatic faith tradition into a more inclusive one. Adults tell stories about the faith experiences of their childhood or coming of age, of being fractured by abusive faith traditions, rejected and or told they are ‘not good enough’ for God. So much fear lied in hearts of men and women. No one ever said “we left the Mormon faith because we were beloved.” Wouldn’t that make a different story?
More often, in my experience from teaching faith development people want to know if they will be ‘forced’ to adhere to faith tenants, or if their children will be made to learn the bible. They fear a repeat trauma. They may not even know there is a trauma trigger, just simply that they left one dogmatic experiences, and refuse to create the space for another to resurface. They are likely more “a-religious” than a-god. And the same is true of many who knock on our Pagan doors seeking refuge.
And so, hundreds of thousands of people are “Good without God” and living with just goodness. But eventually, I think everyone needs to explore the wisdom tradition of their past and explore new wisdom traditions. Ultimately, EVERYTHING comes from somewhere. It’s a disservice to teach about love, or forgiveness, and even death, without myth, parables, and legend, specifically the moral tales of faith; because we live in a word peppered with it. Of course, the atheist like Dawkins will say those tales are pure fiction and the creationist like Lucado will say it’s gospel. Somewhere in between is the praxis of what is either belief or known?
What is distinct about Paganism is that we have no litmus test for belief entry. Personally, I’m not deeply invested in what anyone believes, neither my editor Jason Mankey nor my fellow writer John Halstead. I am far more interested in what someone knows. I want to know about how you come into your magical experience. How you document it, break it apart and put it back together. I want to know when you have a direct deity experience and what it feels like in every sensory way. Then I want to juxtapose that with everyone else. Put it in a google doc, sort it and see where there are commonalities and discrepancies, create panel discussion that generate more knowledge. To me this is our religion. Because what I know is that Paganism is also a religion. A modern religion, even for those who are reconstructionist. Religion being largely understood (via St. Augustine’s Latin) to mean to bind or tie to something. If we are not bound to knowing then what are we? Lost in belief?
Paganism is wildly living, even when we “agree to disagree.” In the chaos of conflict there is consideration; this is where we still find harmony. It took me a long time to realize that. I struggled for a long time wanting Paganism to come to me, be on my terms, a custom fit. Some told me I should have written my first blog “Reluctant Pagan” instead of Alone In Her Presence (the original that became the book). About three years ago, before she was my teacher, Thorn Coyle said to me, “either you’re with us or you’re not.” It was the perceptive mirror I desperately needed at the time. I took that too mean a lot of things, some very public, about stepping into the agora of public priesting, but also deeply personal. Meaning that we can’t have one foot in the door of enchantment and one someplace else. It’s subsequently why I am no longer a Unitarian Universalist religious educator.
Not to long ago there were commercials with Christian celebrities asking “whats your personal relationship with God” and part of me wants to ask my Pagan colleagues who are “good without God” to go for a walk. To ground and center, invite breath, invite guides and allies (assuming they acknowledge them) and commune with the land. The academic wants to sift through folklore side-by-side and see how the histories of civilizations long since departed, civilizations that never met, gave similar faces to deities and debate how and why that happened. The evangelist that I was raised wants to write a palm card “Goddess Loves You” and start leafletting, yet I love the trees to much to waist the paper. But instead I offer this.
We are good. But not without Gods, because we are very much of the Gods. This is what separates us from other wisdom traditions. Paganism not only welcomes and invites, but actively trains the ability to have direct experiences with the divine, as we choose to know the divine. I’ll go out on the limb (and someone please correct me in the comments below if I am wrong, cause I know you will) that direct experience is requisite in most forms of Paganism. Even when we don’t agree on the direct experience we are DOING it! And, I for one bind myself to the knowing, excel spread sheet and all.
Part of the knowing is experiencing that I am of the generative nexus that flows in, among, and around us. That is monist, dualist, polytheist, pantheist, however it is not atheist, because to be atheist would deny the self, and the self simply needs no introduction. I call that God Hirself.
Each of us steps into personal sovereignty when we step onto the Earth. When we confront our fears, and we look them in the eye. For most of us, we stepped away from a faith tradition that brought pain and suffering. I was never a-religious, but I did spend a long time replacing “Big Bad God” with “Loving Embracing Goddess” and neither were truly knowing. It wasn’t until I choose to embrace the fear of the past and gave myself permissionto dare with both feet in the circle that I saw how Paganism gives us a radical tool belt of guides and allies, ancestors, and the Divine to heal.
It is in the dare that I found the Divine that had be taken away from me and Paganism’s life affirming commitment to re-enchanting the world became destiny manifest.
Wednesday night I facilitated a memorial service for a Pagan community leader, David Quinn. I didn’t know David, but I had been scheduled to offer a chanting workshop for his group, Sacred Bridges CUUPs, in Des Moines, Iowa. Monday when I woke up I received a message that David had passed away Sunday night.
David was just 37.
Before I get into how I ended up working with a bunch of strangers in Des Moines for the purpose of chanting, singing, and howling grief and loss and love and joy into a grove of trees in the forest around the Unitarian Universalist church where their group is based, it might be useful to explain how I got there in the first place.
This past week I was on a teaching/book tour around the central Midwest. I’ve arranged a few grassroots tours like this when I’m invited to present workshops at an event like a Pagan Pride when that event was a few hours drive away. I arrange a few workshops on the way there, and on the way back, in order to break up the drive and make the trip more financially feasible. This also allows me to offer more workshops for local groups on a sliding scale fee structure. If I’m going to be traveling through anyways, the workshops become a bit more cost effective for both me, and for the attendees. One challenge I’ve had in offering workshops on Pagan leadership and ritual arts is simple math: there are only so many Pagans in any given area, and only a fraction of those who are interested in workshops on those topics. And, many of those who are interested don’t have the financial abundance to be able to pay a lot of money for a class.
My values have always been to support Pagan leaders interested in learning more skills regardless of their ability to pay–but, I’ve also been working to make my own life more financially sustainable in the past years. If I can’t do that, then I won’t have the time to devote to offering this kind of work, as I can’t offer this work if it’s costing me money to teach.
Travel is tiring for me. I know it energizes some people. Me, I’m an introvert. I love meeting new people and talking shop on ritual facilitation and Pagan leadership, but all the driving and the staying in spare rooms and dragging around a cooler of gluten free, dairy free food…that gets tiring. The 80-95 degree heat this past week didn’t help much, and my cooler would be more aptly called “warmer.” This trip I even broke my rule of not using air conditioning in my car when the heat went up to 95 degrees.
I began with a drive from Milwaukee to St. Louis to do workshops at Pathways bookstore, my first time teaching workshops there. Then, on to Columbia Missouri for a workshop at Good Nature bookstore, and then the next day, Sunday, I was the featured presenter at Mid Missouri Pagan Pride. Pagan Prides can be pretty exhausting; I was up late the night before talking shop with two of the organizers, and then up early to set up my vending booth, offer the opening ritual and then immediately after, a workshop on leadership. I had a little time in the afternoon to finish setting up, then I offered a workshop on chanting and did the closing ritual, then it was time to take down the booth.
I opted to drive the two hours to Kansas City that night. I had the option to stay in a hotel, but I wanted to get the drive over with, and I was looking forward to seeing my friend Steve. I managed to change my clothes in my car and power through the drive, and then Steven and I (and his cats) hung out til we couldn’t stay awake any longer.
Monday was my day to sleep in, but I awoke to unwelcome news. David’s wife Andrea had messaged me to let me know that David had crossed over the night before. He had some kidney issues, I later found out, so his illness was expected; him dying this young was not.
I’d never met David in person.
He and his wife Andrea had messaged me months before to invite me to be one of their guest presenters at their Pagan Jubilee, taking place at the church on October 17th. When I’d put out a call looking for places to host some weeknight workshops, David messaged me quickly and we arranged for a chanting workshop on Wednesday night. We thought it would be a great way to build interest in the workshops and ritual that I would be offering at the Jubilee. I told him that we could try out a few ritual techniques that I planned to use for the main ritual and he thought that was a great idea.
At first it seemed the most reasonable course of action would be to cancel the Wednesday workshop, but then Andrea said that she’d like to keep it as a memorial service. While there would be a viewing/wake on Thursday evening, and a formal funeral on Friday at the church, David loved drumming, he loved chanting, and he loved the little labyrinth he and others of his congregation had built together. She wanted a memorial where there could be the kind of drumming and chanting that he’d have loved.
I did my workshop in Kansas City, and then had a day “off” on Tuesday. By off, I mean I wasn’t teaching, but I had hundreds of emails and other work to catch up on. All the things I can’t keep up with when I’m on the road and teaching. By Wednesday I had a rough plan outlined with Zac, another organizer for Sacred Bridges CUUPs. He had been helping Andrea by coordinating with me. I asked Zac a bunch of questions about David; were there any deities he worked with, any particular path he followed, that sort of thing.
The truth is, I had no idea how to plan for this. I’ve been the celebrant for weddings. And I’ve led memorial services. And I’ve led chanting workshops and ecstatic rituals working with the beloved dead.
I’ve never offered a chanting/drumming/ecstatic memorial service. My further challenge was that I didn’t know David personally, other than working to plan with him for the Jubilee. And I didn’t know his group.
I resolved to just go in and do what I do well; make space for ecstasis and catharsis. I’d get people chanting and get out of the way. I’d let them tell stories, if they wanted to. Or just sing. Or just drum. Or make sounds. Whatever it was they needed, I’d make space for it somehow.
When I arrived, Zac gave me a tour of the church and grounds. It turns out that the church Sacred Bridges CUUPs is connected to is situated in a small forest with a creek. David had spearheaded creating a sacred grove in the woods for their group to gather, and a labyrinth to walk. Andrea told me that they first had to clear heavy brush, then level the area to make it able to be walked, and only then could they lay the bricks for the labyrinth.
I’ve built outdoor shrines; this was an awe-inspiring amount of work. This was his baby, she told me. This was his love.
Slowly, community members began to gather. They brought chairs, they brought drums. I set up a small cauldron fire in the center so that, once the sun began to set, we would have firelight. People hugged each other and spoke quietly. Someone offered me bug spray after I had four huge welts on my arms in the span of five minutes.
We began together with some drumming, and then Zac introduced me. I admit it, I felt pretty awkward at first. Here I am, with a bunch of folks I don’t know, offering a memorial for a man I never met. I let spirit guide me in what chant to begin with. It’s one I call the “Aaa Ooo” chant, it’s a soft two-note chant in a minor key. It’s really simple, and great for holding a solemn space. And after a few moments of singing that, people began to weep. At a memorial or funeral, you’re usually working to offer space for two things; grief and joy. Grief at the loss, joy at remembering this person in your life.
We alternated; I’d anchor a chant for a while, and then we’d switch over to drumming. Some other people stood up and told stories or offered a song. One chant that I offered up was about ancestors and descendants–the ancestors, those who have gone before, and the descendants, those who are yet to come, those who we are building all of this for. And then people told stories about how that’s what David was all about–that he wanted to build something for the next generation, leave something positive for the Pagans to come after us.
By the end of the memorial, I felt that I knew David. Zac had told me that David had just gotten a tattoo of Cernunnos, so I sang a completely impromptu invocation to the Horned One. During the drumming and chanting, I almost felt that I could see David dancing amongst us, antlers on his head. Later, I was told that he would have done exactly that, and he had antlers for that purpose. As people told stories about him–his love of Venn diagrams, how he lovingly laid out the brick labyrinth with a massive compass and other tools to get the angles and spacing right, to get the curves perfect. He was a geek for sacred geometry, and he loved drumming and chanting.
As we gathered in close around the fire, people kept saying, “He would have loved this. This was exactly what he wanted to see more of.” We ended with a joyful rendition of “The Ocean Refuses No River” and then people seemed content to hold one another, to drift into soft conversation remembering David’s life while others packed up and took their leave.
During my time there in the labyrinth, in this little grove of trees, I felt David’s work there in the stones beneath my feet, in every brick lovingly laid into arcs set into the ground. I’ve built outdoor shrines and I know the backbreaking work that it takes. I never met this man, but I know the love, the fuel, the drive. I felt it in every brick, every single one.
David’s death is a loss for our community, and especially for his local community. He had a lot of work before him, a lot of things he had planned to do in order to lay strong foundations for the Sacred Bridges CUUPs group to serve the Pagans in Des Moines.
And at only 37, David was just a year younger than me, and I have to admit it; that kind of terrified me to hear. I thought, “What happen if I died right now? What would happen if I died with so much of my work unfinished?”
I’m reminded of what my father told me after he died. Or at least, what I think he told me. My dad died back in 2011, and the message I heard from him then was, don’t wait. Do not wait, don’t wait to live your life, don’t wait for it to be safe, don’t wait for approval, don’t wait til everything’s perfectly lined up to go do that thing you always dreamed of. Don’t wait to follow the call. Don’t wait.
I miss David. I never met him, and I miss him. He was one of the many Pagan leaders out there working to do good work for his community, and he died way too soon. Helping his community to sing and grieve and celebrate is one of the most intense things I’ve ever had the honor to do. I’m the better for it, as I got to know them, and I got to know David a lot better too.
The Grail is life and life force, it’s inspiration, it’s the call. It’s service, and it’s blood and sweat and tears.
And it’s the day that the cup is poured out, empty. It’s the day that we return to the earth, to the ground beneath our feet. David’s ashes are, by now, now buried beneath the bricks he laid; he’s in that ground already hallowed by his own love and service to his community. Blessed be those who serve. Blessed be those who love. Blessed be those who follow the call. And blessed be all those who will miss David; what is remembered, lives.
Seeking the Grail is published on monthly on the third Monday. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.
Land spirits are an important part of paganisms around the world. These are spirits associated with places, whether they might be as small as a stream, or a tree, or as large as a mountain, a village, or a country.
In Europe, such spirits go by a number of names, like the elves and faeries in Britain, and the alfar and landvaettir in much of Scandinavia. But these familiar/well-known examples are just the tip of the iceberg. We can find land spirits almost everywhere, from the Celtic clootie well, to the Korean mudang’s tree, to the Mongolian oboo.
Similar patterns can be found around the world. In some parts of Indonesia, clearing land for farms may require sacrifices for the spirits who live there so that farmers will be left unharmed. Specific trees or stones may be left alone, or simply warned ahead of time so that resident spirits have a chance to vacate before the land is disturbed. Spirit-workers, whether mediums, diviners, or priests, often have a role in determining if there is a problem, and then resolving it.
Sometimes I find it strange that we don’t see this pattern much in modern America. Willy-nilly, we build with virtually no regard for the land at all. We shape the land and use it, but find it hard to believe that the land shapes us in return. True to our pioneer myth, we generally see the land’s power as passive, ready to be put to use by a strong, firm hand.
Ignoring those who already inhabit the land has been part of our mythology. But as we move from invaders to inhabitants ourselves, this changes. Knowing how to live in harmony is a skill, and one that many pagans embrace.
I have moved a fair amount in my life. It wasn’t always like this, but now when I move to a new place, I survey the local land and the local “mythologies.” I then go and find an appropriate location to introduce myself to the land spirits.
When my wife and I lived in Korea for a year, our first weekend trip was to Inwangsan, a mountain associated with Korean shamanist tradition (muism). We left some soju at one of the many impromptu shrines dotting the mountainside, and introduced ourselves to the spirit of the mountain. I must admit, the powerful spirit was singularly unimpressed with our presence.
Inwangsan is an interesting place. Both Buddhist and animist shrines on the mountain are still active, and there was a shop on the mountain that sold a variety of ritual objects. On the way down the mountain, we ran across a woman, probably a mudang (Korean: shaman), ritually tearing cloth. And no, we didn’t stop to snap a picture.
Years later, when we came to the San Francisco Bay Area, my wife and I traveled to the top of Mt. Diablo. This mountain is in many ways the spiritual equivalent of Inwangsan; it has been a holy mountain for the people who have been here ten or more millennia.
We traveled up the mountain and introduced ourselves to all the lands surrounding. Perhaps because of the park system’s strict policy about littering, we neither found shrines nor started one. We simply found a small knoll at the top, and stopped to say hello. We shared some water with some plants there, and asked for permission to stay in the area.
Wherever we go, the landscape is dotted with places like this. Finding them can be a matter of listening to old stories and keeping your eyes open. As it turns out, Mt. Diablo was named by the Spanish in the area, on account of local spirit beliefs.
A Note of Caution
While recognizing the power of the land spirits is only polite, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to dress the part. Wearing any kind of indigenous clothes for ritual is something you should only do when required by someone who has the “proper” authority through that tradition.
On the other hand, be respectful. When going to a sacred site, it might be appropriate to wear long pants and long sleeves, and to take off your hat when speaking with your betters. These are marks of respect in Western culture, and will generally be recognized and appreciated.
Offering some grain, salt, wine, beer, tobacco, soju, or whatever the local spirit-neighbors like is only polite. Dressing up in their clothes to do so is seriously stalker-y.
The Best Way to Have a Good Neighbor Is to Be One
Living well somewhere means getting along with the land spirits just as much as it means getting along with your other neighbors. Being pleasant and non-disruptive is a start in fostering harmony with the land.
When you move into a new place, heading over to your neighbors and introducing yourself is usually the polite thing to do. This is true whether they live in the next apartment or the old tree down the road. If they’ve lived there ten years, you might learn a thing or two. If they’ve lived there three hundred, so much the better!
The Other Side of the Hedge is published on the first and third Sunday of the month. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.
[Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Dana in 2009.]
Over the years, I’ve often heard complaints from teens that older Wiccans don’t take them seriously. You say that we don’t listen and that we don’t respect you, and that we too often refuse to teach you. I know that has to rankle, and I’m truly sorry, but please hear me out.
Now, this is not going to be one of those “When I was your age I had to walk 10 miles through a blizzard every day to go to school” lectures. But I would like for you to understand why our eyes glaze over and we wander away going “Eep! Gloik!” when you attempt to tell us what you know about Wicca. What you know about Wicca and what we know about Wicca are poles apart.
In the years since I first began studying in 1971, the definition of Wicca has changed radically. The kind of person who’s attracted to it has changed radically. And to the older Witch, what you youngsters are talking about when you say “Wicca” does not look or sound anything like what we’re talking about when we say the same word. And both groups believe that their definition is the correct one.
Let’s say that it’s 1971 and some guy is interviewed on the evening news talking about something he calls “Witchcraft.” Not Wicca; nobody was using the word Wicca in public yet. But this witchcraft that this guy on TV described sounds really fascinating. How do you go about satisfying your urge to learn more?
Well, you get yourself down to your local bookstore, and you ask the proprietor where the books on witchcraft are kept. And he gives you this really odd look, and takes you into the back left corner where there’s a shelf marked anthropology. You look at a couple of books about Yoruba and Navajo tribal customs and decide that he must not have understood what you wanted, so you go back and say “No, I mean modern witchcraft.” And he gives you an even odder look and takes you to the back right corner, and sure enough, there are books with the word witchcraft on the spines. But the authors are all Father Somebody and the books all talk about demonology and eating babies and other gross stuff you know can’t be right. So you go home.
Now what? Remember, the Internet isn’t going to go public for another 15 years. The publisher who’ll start putting out all those teen-oriented books on Wicca at the turn of the century is still mostly just doing astrology books. And you don’t know anybody else who’s interested in something this weird.
So you phone the TV station and ask them for the contact information to write to the guy who was talking about witchcraft. After being put on hold forever a secretary reads it off to you. You’re on your way!
Well, no. You write to the guy and ask him how to learn about Witchcraft. And if you’re lucky, in a few months you get a letter back that says:
Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately, I cannot help you, as legitimate teachers of the Craft do not accept underage students. I recommend that you read books on mythology, metaphysics and parapsychology, and perhaps when you are old enough, a teacher will appear.
So that’s what you do. You immerse yourself in Theosophy and Rosicrucianism and UFOs, you dabble in Zen and go to the new Hari Krishna Temple that recently opened in a slummy part of downtown. You check out mythology books from the library, and discover that the theme of Atlantis runs through them and most everything else you’re reading as well. You go back and read those books on Yoruba and Navajo tribal customs, and they’re fascinating. You learn to meditate and start having really interesting dreams. You and your best friend do telepathy experiments at night when you’re supposed to be asleep and you think you might have read each other’s minds once. You discover an East Indian import store and start buying incense cones. In bulk. (Your mother worries that you might be smoking pot.)
And you graduate from high school, and you go off to college or get a job or get drafted, and in general get on with your life. But you never really forget your fascination with the occult, as all these interrelated studies are called. You keep reading and meditating, and by now you’ve actually found a useful book or two about what you mean by witchcraft, the stuff that guy on TV talked about.
Then one day when you’re in your twenties you’re in a store or at a movie, and a total stranger looks at you funny and asks, “Are you a Witch?” and you find yourself saying, to this total stranger, “Y’know, I think I am.” And the next Saturday night there you are, at this person’s house, or sitting around a big table at a restaurant, and there are all these other people smiling expectantly at you. They start asking you questions. Why do you want to be a witch? What have you read? And if you’re lucky–if they like you and think you might be a good fit for their group–this time you really are on your way.
They invite you to parties and discussion groups where the conversation is always fascinating but it’s never about politics or movies or sports. You find that most of the members of the group have quite a lot of experience in one or more areas of the occult or metaphysics, the ones you’ve been reading about. Most of them not only read mythology but anthropology and archeology, and at least one is an astronomy geek. They practice herbal medicine and make their own wine. They sit around singing old folk songs you never heard of but they all know by heart. Pretty soon you know them, too. And a year or so later your friend, the one who seems to run things, calls you up and says, “Go to the Army-Navy store and buy yourself a dagger. You’re getting initiated Sunday night.”
Fast forward. It’s 2009. Books on Wicca (as it’s now called) are not only easy to find, they’re hard to avoid. And with perhaps a half-dozen exceptions, there’s nothing in them that would look familiar to that 1971 teen. Where are the references back to the rest of the Western Metaphysical Tradition? The old songs and poems that turned out to have the layers of hidden meaning? What about Atlantis, or the starry wheel of the heavens, or the lost lands of Hy Breasal and Ys? What happened to the work of turning the Wheel? Where are the living Gods and the Mysteries? Where is the frisson of awe? Not in these books, that’s for sure.
The Internet is now a commonplace part of life, taken for granted by most of its users, especially its young users, as the place to find information. Google witchcraft and you could sit there for days following links; the only problem is that the majority of site-owners are obviously just parroting books–too often just one book–and a lot of them appear to have been plagiarized from each other. And they’re mostly all saying that Wicca is whatever you make of it, that the Gods are symbolic constructs that you can mix and match to suit your purpose, that initiation is just a mechanism to keep people out of Wicca, and that the main purpose of it all is to make you feel good about yourself.
The Wicca of 2009 is not the same thing as the Wicca of 1969. In fact, to those of us who have been practicing it for a generation or more what’s called Wicca these days isn’t Wicca at all. It’s NeoPaganism. And we don’t understand why people seem reluctant to call it by that marvelous name.
NeoPaganism is the new religion of the Old Gods, celebrating the Wheel of the Year and the phases of the Moon. It may or may not include the practice of spells and other forms of magic, though even among those who don’t practice it the possibility is always there. It’s something anyone can celebrate, anyone can do, and as the old top-down ‘revealed’ religions thrash about in their death-throes, NeoPaganism is uniquely positioned to emerge as the Religion of the People and of the Earth. It’s amazing.
Wicca, on the other hand, is not even necessarily a religion, not in the sense most people mean. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Rather than working from a palette of the world’s native deities, Wicca is a priest(ess)hood of a specific God & Goddess whose Names we don’t reveal, but Who can be traced back to certain families in one little corner of the British Isles, the New Forest. It engages in specific small-group rites meant to channel Divine energies to humanity and human energies back to the Divine, and thus maintain the cosmic balance. It has links to the rest of the Western Metaphysical Tradition as well as to the history & mythology of preChristian Britain. It isn’t even actually Celtic except in the sense in which Britons of the 19th Century meant it: that is, natively British and wilder than Saxon. It’s no intrinsically better, or more important or impressive, than any other form of Paganism. And it was never meant to have a lot of members or be popular.
The dismissal some Teen Wiccans perceive coming from some Elder Wiccans has little to do with age and everything to do with definitions and attitudes. By everything you know, Wicca is about Mother Nature and Father Sky and worshipping Them. By everything we know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Wicca is an occult path practicing both deific and practical magic. By everything you know, Wicca is light-hearted, anyone who says they’re a Wiccan is one, and anyone who leads a ritual is entitled to call themselves a High Priest or High Priestess. By everything we know, the study of Wicca is long and intense, only initiates are entitled to call themselves a Wiccan, and only those ready and willing to write the Gods a blank check are fit to be a High Priest or High Priestess. And because we were here first, with that definition, we’re not likely to change it. If we did, it wouldn’t be Traditional Wicca any more, and we’re duty-bound to preserve the Craft as it was given to us.
That doesn’t mean we can’t have common ground, or that there’s no room for mutual respect. Treat us and our ways with respect, and you’ll be surprised at the result: most of us Old Farts™ are friendly and eager to teach anyone who’s eager to learn. Just don’t expect us to embrace someone–of any age–as a Craft brother or sister, much less a fellow HP or HPS, who hasn’t been through a Traditional initiation, because by our definition that’s what makes a Wiccan. It’s not discrimination, and it’s not aimed at any one in particular, certainly not you. It makes sure that only those prepared for it are introduced to those Mysteries specific to our Traditions, so that no harm can occur on any plane. And it helps to preserve the Craft and its Mysteries, something that’s more important to us than anyone’s feelings — including our own. You think it doesn’t hurt to have to turn nice people away?
We want to make friends with the Teens in our communities, to mentor you within the limits we’re allowed. But for most of us, our experience has been that the majority of Teen ‘Wiccans’ are so certain that they already know everything about it that they reject what we have to say before they’ve even heard it. Even when you say you want to be taught, when we tell you that part of the process is waiting, most Teens are outta there.
And about that waiting: the truth is that many teens are emotionally and intellectually capable of studying Wicca. But the majority of Wiccan teachers still do not accept underage students. Before you protest, as teens so often do, that it’s unfair, please hear me out. Your ability is not at issue, nor your worthiness.
Part of the reason for a minimum age is tradition, which is very important to us. Part of the reason for that tradition is that specific ages have occult meanings. That’s right: Few people realize it, but there are ancient occult reasons why, in Western culture, the age of majority is specifically twenty-one and not twenty or twenty-two.
Part of the reason is concern for the would-be student: it’s very easy to get totally absorbed into something as fascinating and open-ended as Wicca studies and practice. It’s very easy to let it interfere with what you should be doing in your teens: that is, getting your education and setting out on your life as an independent, self-supporting adult. Not only is allowing that to happen not doing the young student any favors, their teacher/initiator is in part karmically responsible if that student never gets their act together on the material level and winds up impoverished.
But another part of the reason for a minimum age is self-protection. Traditional Wicca initiates cross-sexually; that is, male candidates are brought in by female initiates and vice versa. This, too, is traditional, and there are sound magical reasons as well. The law doesn’t care about tradition or magic. Wicca teachers can run afoul of laws about corruption of minors and custodial interference, and there are cultural and often legal assumptions that the only reason an older person could possibly have for befriending a younger person of the opposite gender is sexual exploitation. Especially in what’s often called a fertility religion! Sigh…
But in the meantime:
Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission or approval to begin actually practicing the things you’ve been reading about. Realize that there’s no better time than now, and begin doing it. The best preparation for any practice, after all, is the practice itself. If you have to take books into your Circle and read aloud as you perform the ritual, if you’re not sure you totally understand what you’re doing (by the way — nobody ever does), it doesn’t matter at this point. The important thing is to be doing the practices. The Gods are not going to smite you for flubbing your lines (if they did, my entire Tradition would be in trouble!) and you’re not going to accidentally invoke something awful.
The Rantin’ Raven is published on alternate Saturdays here on the Agora. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!
Please use the links to the right to keep on top of activities here on the Agora as well as across the entire Patheos Pagan channel.