Meh

The Pagan Blog Project: M is for Meh

Because that’s exactly how I feel right now.  I don’t really feel like writing anything pagan-related.  It hasn’t been in the forefront of my thoughts lately.  And you know what?  It doesn’t have to be.  There’s a lot of other things going on, many good things, some stressful things, and sometimes those things get more attention.

May Meh be a teacher of life balance.

 

Lantern

The Pagan Blog Project: L is for Lantern

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really have a good feel for deities.  The ones I’ve connected with the most are those in heathen traditions.  Today I want to talk about imagery used for deities in my experience.

I’ve used two main image sources for altars: actual physical statues/picture representations and symbolic imagery.  Statues and pictures are nice if you find something (or better yet are able to create something) that speaks to you as authentic in your mind.  I’ve seen people commission artists for portraits to adorn their altars and shrines which can often be much more personalized than ordering one of maybe four designs of a deity’s statue online.  Depending on the deity, you may have more options or much, much fewer.

For me, I find hard images to be helpful if I don’t have a great grasp on the deity.  The face is helpful.  There is of course the drawback though that being fed an image created by someone else, you are going to basically imprint with that specific image in mind.  Still, if the image works for you, use it.  And remember, it doesn’t always have to specifically be a statue or portrait of that deity.  This may go a little into the realm of symbolic imagery, but if you have an image of a character that makes you think of that deity or an unrelated design that just strikes you as perfect, those are perfectly acceptable as well.

I usually enjoy symbolic imagery better for a few reasons.  First of all, I don’t feel as if I’m drawing impressions off of someone else’s idea.  But possibly more important for those who have to keep their pagan life sort of secret, you can be a lot sneakier with symbolic imagery.  And by sneaky I mean you could possibly create a shrine in the middle of your living room without guests or family ever batting an eye at it in suspicion.

The title of this post is “Lantern” because that is one of my main symbolic images.  The first deity I was very drawn to and to this day continue to go back to when I’m lost is Heimdall.  After awhile, I wanted some kind of image of him, but was not satisfied at all with the sculptures available (which are sadly few and far between).  I thought about a Gjallarhorn representation, or something Bifrost-like.  While the horn didn’t really work out, I did end up making a multi-colored tile incense burner for his shrine.  But it was more for him and not for me to use as a way to reach him.

I ended up choosing a lantern because to me a lantern represents vigilance as well as self-knowledge and path-finding.  All three of these things are aspects I see in Heimdall or that he has helped me with.  I like this even more because the lantern I found (pictured above) has a tealight holder in it, so lighting a tealight is sort of like training my mind to get into a different mode.

Each person should really use whatever speaks the best to them.  While I’ve noticed that my symbolic images tend to resonate with me more than the statues or portraits, I know many people really enjoy the more traditional route and get a lot out of it.  But I am also glad that I found something that worked for me.  The lantern has provided a lot of comfort at very dark times.

 

Learning

The Pagan Blog Project: L is for Learning

As I’ve mentioned before, this year my focus is less on deity worship/spirit work and study and more about putting myself back together.  I have a tendency to get swept up in something that interests me to the point that I lose myself either in whatever it is I’m interested in or I lose myself to an idea of myself which isn’t true.  This leads to me going into things that I think should be interesting to me and then being overwhelmed by disappointment when they really aren’t doing anything for me.

I used to mask this issue with learning.  It was like I was a constant student willing and able to learn anything presented to me.  Always the perfectionist and straight-A student, learning came easy to me (and when it didn’t I faked it pretty well anyway).

In pagan studies, there are so many tracks that it’s easy to not know where to start.  But that wasn’t really the issue here.  The issue was more that there were so many images of myself that I entertained that I became fractured.  This is why learning has gotten set aside, at least relevant to paganism.

It may sound really weird to most people how you could lose yourself to ideas of yourself.  I’m not really sure how common this issue is.  For me, I don’t have the most “normal” of emotional interfaces.  I’m extremely non-reactive, or I just react how people expect me to.  (That is until I suddenly overreact to nothing important at all, but anyway.)  A lot of basic human emotion doesn’t really register with me.  This has been pretty normal since I was a child – in fact, my family suspected I had AS, but never got me diagnosed, so here we are today acting like a robot and often being accused of “not liking fun” because I don’t experience “fun” the same way other people do.

Thanks to stunted emotional development, my personality and subsequent social skills have suffered.  It’s manifested as more of what people have made me to be, but housing a will that wants to be something else but doesn’t know what or how to be it.  Because of the emotional and social issues, I have a tendency to mimic what others do if they are a person I admire.  I want to be like that person.  So, for example, if there’s someone I respect a lot in the pagan community, my go-to strategy is to do exactly what they are doing and be exactly like them.

This was a huge tangent for the “learning” topic.  So what’s the point?

The point is that I’m having to change what learning means to me.  Before it has always been what I can learn from a book or a person and their behaviors.  It’s always been show me and tell me.  Now it’s turning in to something else.  I’m having to learn about myself.  This sounds easy to most people who can with confidence say, “I love the color green and mint ice cream is my favorite food and I love to sing.”  It’s not easy for me.  The same list turns into, “Do I like green, really, or did I paint my wall green because someone said it makes a happy house?  Do I like mint ice cream, really, or was that the flavor my best friend in third grade liked and so I liked it because I wanted to be just like her?  Do I love to sing, really, or did I take that major in school because people told me I was good at it and so I went with that?”

It’s honestly been very painful so far.  Things that seemed completely honest and true are staring at me with new faces.  Everything I think I like I have to step back and look at.  Many times I find that it was an idea I was obsessed with, not the thing itself.  The thing itself did not provide enjoyment.  What’s been the hardest part is that somewhere in the past twenty years I seem to have lost most of my ability to enjoy something.  I fall into routines that make me not miserable, but not happy.  But at least they are easy and they make sense.

I feel like this makes me come off as extremely shallow or codependent.  This bothers me because I know I’m not.  I feel much different, I just don’t know how to express the difference.  Often my expression becomes a reflection of the things around me, and that seems to be the biggest issue.  It seems like I just need to cover the mirrors for awhile and learn about what’s within instead of without.

 

Keepers and Keys

“A Gate on the Music” by muggiahrr on DeviantArt.

The Pagan Blog Project: K is for Keepers and Keys

Gate Keeper.  Lore Keeper.  Secret Keeper.  Titles like these spark something deep in my mind.  The act of keeping is so much more than the word suggests.  At the surface it sounds like an act of greed, but really it is more an act of protection.

I think we are all keepers of something, probably many things on different levels.  On a surface level, I am the Keeper of my House.  This means that I manage the goings-on in my house and take care of the finances involved.  This means that I take care of the inhabitants of my house.  These things become not a chore but a ritual.  These are the times I most understand Frigg as a Keeper of Keys.  On a deeper level, this same title means so much more.  As the Keeper of Keys and Household that means I have access to all in it.  The maintenance of it becomes a reflection on my spiritual and emotional state.

Beyond titles, we all keep even more within us, and I feel like a large portion of our lives is to find the right key to figure out what it is we keep.  Some people seem to know right away and are proud in their role, while others of us are still fumbling with the key-ring.  I am definitely the second type of person.  This sense of knowing there is something more but not being able to put my hand on it is what’s been driving me for the past three years.  I’ve gotten closer – a few keys have fit a little better than others, but nothing’s turning the lock yet.

Why is something so integral to our beings kept secret from us?  Is it to protect us?  Is it meant to be a challenge?  Is it some distant memory that we are usually unable to comprehend?

I have a “soul memory” for lack of a better description that involves crossing a barrier that I will never be able to cross back over.  This memory tugs on emotions ranging from nostalgic all the way to the pain of exile.  I’ve tried many times to think of something in my life that may have caused this sharp emotional reaction to anything that triggers the memory, but there’s nothing I can think of.  It seems to be the only bit of that secret coming to light, but as it stands I don’t know what to do with it.

Maybe somewhere in this old house there’s a drawer with a lot of unmatched keys thrown in it.  Guess it’s time to keep looking.

 

Braided Rope Spell for Increasing Business, Good Luck, or Whatever Else

cicadinae:

I love crafty spells and enchantments. This is a great idea.

Originally posted on This Crooked Crown:

Braided Rope Charm for Bringing Business, Luck, Prosperity, etc.

A simple household charm that just about anyone can do. This is more of a technique than a flat-out spell and is easily altered to your needs.

Heads up for enchanted shit in the pictures and sigils that may be in the background. I’ve included a sort of step-by-step how to below.

My entry way staircase with the new spell rope.

First gather your materials. Here I’ve created one to help with business so my choices were a fine mesh gauze gold ribbon and a red silk ribbon, seven bells (five gold, two silver, one blue), and a key. The gold and red ribbons stand for wealth, and the bells were enchanted for various things (example: “may the hearer of the bell always have wealth”). They key is because my business is a home business. It’s braided in to keep the business and home…

View original 553 more words

Kemeticism

“Classic Mythology-Anubis” by MelUran on Deviant Art

The Pagan Blog Project: K is for Kemeticism

Today I want to talk about a path I tried very briefly.  While I found that it wasn’t for me, I did learn some lessons from it that have had lasting effects, and because they’ve so influenced where I am now I want to write them down.  Apologies in advance for how rambly this is inevitably going to be.

When I was still determined to find a solid pagan group and when heathenry wasn’t really doing it for me as a community, a few things drew me to look into Kemeticism.  For starters, some of the most helpful and non-dramatic people can be found in the Kemetic community.  They are extremely helpful to new-comers and provide a safe place where you can ask questions without fear.  They also provide a lot of resources to those willing to do more research.

Of course, community doesn’t mean much if you lack the common interest that holds everyone in it together.  There were other factors that drew me to try Kemeticism as a practice.  First, when I was a lot younger I’d been very interested in Egyptian symbolism and stories.  I’ve noticed this is a common experience among many Kemetics, most of whom say they were so happy when they found out you could really actually worship those deities and practice that religion.

Another factor was my love of cats.  This sounds weird at first, but really – there are a lot of deities and spirits associated with cats, but you can’t get much more cat-like than Bast.  Having a few cats in my care, it seemed logical to try and make that connection.

Aside from Bast, other deities I read about and tried to feel out were Sekhmet and Djehuty (though he has always been Thoth to me).  By “tried to feel out,” I mean that I made a shrine space where I gave water and incense offerings daily for about a month, and spent some time (a few minutes to fifteen minutes) daily meditating in front of it, or just talking/praying.

One month isn’t really that much time, really, and I acknowledge that fully.  However, it was enough time for me to realize that my academic interest in these deities was not translating over to a spiritual one.  I quickly realized that I was going through the motions, and while I would occasionally get some sense of presence, that presence usually seemed more like a polite head-tilt of mild curiosity, but always ended in a mutual “this isn’t really working”.

It surprised me, honestly, especially with Bast.  I’ve had multiple people with various forms of sight tell me that there is some kind of cat-thing around me almost all the time.  I’m very cat-natured, and cats usually really like me.  We understand each other.  But Bast and I just didn’t mesh.

When I decided to formally thank them and move on (which, I hadn’t made any promises, so this really wasn’t a big deal though I know a lot of people may think it is), I chose to break from most study for a few months.  It was near the end of the year and I was very busy with family and friends anyway.  I’d gotten the impression multiple times that I needed to nurture myself before I started my pagan searching again.  In fact, if it wasn’t for keeping up with PBP each week, I probably wouldn’t even be thinking about paganism regularly.  I’m glad this project has kept me thinking while not bogging me down.  More on all that in another post, I’m sure.

My jaunt with Kemeticism was far from a waste of time, despite not making any lasting connections.  I continue to be very interested in studying it academically.  I also learned about some concepts that have influenced my thoughts and my work: Ma’at and isfet.

Ma’at if often considered as a goddess, but as I understand it’s really more of a concept that has been deified (and please forgive me if I’m not explaining this correctly – I am NOT an expert).  You can find a pretty good explanation of it here.  While I don’t understand it fully (and it is probably impossible for a human to do so), what I like about the concept is the fluidity of balance and what the “right thing” is.  What may be the right thing to do right now may not be the right thing to do in a slightly different situation.  It’s an idea that also seems to mock physical boundaries and instead enjoys freedom from all boundaries, to the point that it is even difficult to confine it with a definition.  My favorite image of Ma’at is the weighing of the heart against the feather of Ma’at.  To pass the test your heart must not be heavier than the feather.  Does this mean you have to have practiced balance and “the right thing” your whole life?  Does it mean you must somehow physically make your heart lighter through spells?  Does it mean that the feather itself is so complex that the simplicity of a human heart will be lighter anyway?  I love this concept because of how dynamic it is.

The other concept which has helped me a lot could be considered Ma’at’s opposite: Isfet.  Isfet is commonly defined as “chaos,” but like Ma’at it defies simple definitions.  Needless to say, it’s the bad stuff.  Every time I think about it, I think of Ashitaka’s demon arm in Princess Mononoke, like a corruption that seeks to bring down the functional whole.  While I was going through all of this spiritual change and turmoil, I was also having a recurrence of depression.  “Depression” has always seemed like an insignificant word to me.  It sounds so mild for something that is literally feeding on your mind and heart.  Isfet to me will always be true depression, and in fact once I became familiar with the concept I was able to use the word to get my depression under control.  I’ve always been one of those people that thought naming something would give it more power.  In this case it was the exact opposite – I had power over it.  Even better, I could visualize it, which meant I could get rid of it.

Now I’m not at all saying this would work for everyone or suggesting you try it if you have similar problems.  Most Kemetics would probably read that and think I’m pretty far off-base.  I’m just writing what it did for me because it ended up being so significant to my life.

Overall, I’m very glad that I stopped off at the Kemetic station for a month and am grateful to the people I met there, many of whom I still follow and respect the opinions of.  While the practices aren’t my own, many of the lessons I learned there about community will carry over no matter where my path leads.

 

Juniper

 

The Pagan Blog Project: J is for Juniper

While herbalism and general herbal lore has always been interesting to me, I’ve never quite had the dedication to fully study it.  Part of this stems from the fact that I’m very bad at identification.  Juniper trees, however, are one of the few I am pretty confident in naming.  While there’s a lot of varieties apparently, I can at least recognize them.

My most recent memory of a juniper tree was from March when my partner and I were on vacation to a state park.  She likes to fish which I couldn’t care less about, so while she was doing that I found a nice little shaded cubby-hole to curl up in and write.  The tree I was leaning against was a juniper.

I live in a city, so getting this close to a tree in a quiet place is a rare occurrence for me.  And I wish it wasn’t!  I’m pretty much deaf and blind to spirits of any kind, and even I felt a sense of curiosity as I worked, like I could really sense the personality of the tree.  After I kept still there for twenty minutes or so, a couple of birds came to it and, while they didn’t get too close, were not startled by my presence either.

Other juniper trees I’ve met have felt similarly.  I don’t know if this is normal or if I just happen to like them so I get that from them whether it’s there or not.  In any case, I find their presence to be an odd combination of calming and inspiring.

However, I’d never really spent any time researching the properties of juniper.  I just did a few web searches to see a few impressions.  I can see fairly quickly how we might be compatible.  I’m not especially skilled with most magic, but one thing I’ve got down pretty well is purification and protection, two of the main properties of juniper according to multiple sources.  They’re also known to aid in clairvoyance.  Seeing this makes me think my initial impression isn’t all that off.  Inspiration works with the psychic aspects, and the protection aspect I felt as a calming presence.

Looks like it’s time for me to take a few walks till I find a juniper tree locally in one of the public parks.  I need a new friend.