Ostara and recent updates

This Ostara was an extraordinary opportunity. I wrote and led my very first group ritual. It was in the spirit of Northern Tradition and called upon the Norse gods. It also included a sumbel, which really amplified the feeling of ritual as a communal gathering of people. It was a very connective and powerful experience. Someone told me beforehand that it would be a wonderful experience because I was “born” to do this kind of work. I have been feeling a very strong pull in this direction for a long time, and writing/performing ritual feels very natural to me. Afterwards, everyone who attended had something to say about how it touched them on a personal level. Its nice to know that I can help connect other people with meaningful experiences.

It seems as spring has returned, so many new opportunities are arriving in my life, each of them filled with far greater expressions and chances to do things I might not have considered before. Two weeks before Ostara I led a discussion on ‘the sacrificed god’, and then alongside Ostara ritual, also led a discussion on Ostara.  I have submitted a few proposals for workshops I would like to run at Pagan Picnic this year, and as soon as it is approved I will begin writing those. Also beginning to plan for Midsummer. Hoping to get the chance to vacation and attend a troth event up in Canada this summer. We will see how things develop between now and then.

Opportunities come knocking

Last month was especially difficult. It was the middle of a hard winter, and a very close friend of mine went home to her concept of the divine after a long battle with cancer. Other things have come up since then and I wanted to write about so many things, but I write what I can in the time I have. I came out of a meditation one day feeling like this was going to be one of those deeply transformational times in my life, but also in the lives of others. An old adage says that opportunities come knocking when the time is right. Recently I lost a friend, and virtually at the time of the black moon I gained a deeper relationship with a current friend of mine.

I am on a cycle of returns. Where I walk in my path these days, I see myself returning to places I have been, subjects I have studied before, and now I see them in a new, yet renewed light. One of these areas concerns subjects like psychic vampirism and otherkin. In my twenties this part of my life was lit brightly while my magic kind of waned. I had no idea then how I would have ever integrated the different parts of my life. And just like that an opportunity came knocking. Someone who recently joined a group I am a member of, had serious questions about psychic vampirism and I found myself thoughtfully searching my own past for those replies. Before I knew it I was thinking about writing on these topics again. Things I had not considered in over a decade. And my reasons for leaving those communities were valid ones. I was bored. That doesn’t sound very valid, but it is. I didn’t like the direction I saw things moving in, and rather than sacrifice my true feelings and reasons for pursuing the subject as I had, I just quit, and focused on other areas of my life. But like with all things grand and bigger than ourselves, when it is a strong connection, it calls us back.

In the near future I plan to write some articles on the subject. The basis of this is to provide a resource for others who are looking for introductory information. If it develops into something bigger, then that would be awesome.

Samhain, ancestors and the Gods

Samhain came and passed with an incredible feeling I haven’t felt in years. Nothing at all. There was no terrible fear that wrenched me at my core, like I had experienced so many times before. For Samhain ritual with the group that I support, I had drawn up a series of art cards, each with visual concepts of the predominant stories, legends and energies at this time of the year.

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Many of the Welsh symbols and stories had come to me at this time as well, and in particular those of the lords of Annwn who lead the wild hunt. Never before had the spirits and deities that I attract ever been so straightforward or so simple to me, in a way that it made sense. I long understood the Norse connections. They have always been there. But for the Welsh gods, I was very confused.  One of the predominant themes that the spirits have driven home to my mind have addressed ancestral connections to geographic locations, and to the old gods of those regions. And my strongest link via ancestry inevitably ties me to the landscape of England, though I have never been there.  The truly amazing revelation was when I realized that some of the ones who have come to me at this time, I had dreamt about nearly 12 yrs ago. The same ones were trying to teach me the same things then, the only difference is now I am listening, and now I am ready to walk those paths. It is said there is a time and place for everything.

I have always kept journals that record these things – dreams, waking visions, and other things, and periodically I need to go through what I call work journals, because they’re an amalgamated mass of things all muddled together. And maybe I’m a bit too structured for such disarray, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll realize what an amazing paradox that is. And many of the recent records capture information about experiences where specific deities have been popping up a lot. I will search within most of the time to see what lessons they are trying to teach me at that moment.

Among the Norse gods, I am experiencing a heavy pull towards the Rokkr, what are known as the giants or primordial ones. And given my history with gods and goddesses of Chaos, that makes perfect sense.  I continue to walk a heathen path, one where the Norse and Welsh gods are predominant, alongside ancestors and nature spirits. One of the things I have always loved dearly about the Norse gods (and this is based on a longer tour of duty with them, as I have worked with them for longer), is that my experiences have taught me that many of them are very supportive to the people who honor them (whether they are blood related or not), and who are strong in heart and soul. And if you are one of those people and you break down, they will absolutely be there for you.

A one-year journey in public ritual

Mabon marked a one year journey. It was this time last year that my family began attending ritual with a local group that had begun its own. It was a wonderful experience to be able to have included my son in ritual during this time, and with the approach of this Mabon we will be celebrating his second birthday. Also, it has been a harrowing experience for me. I have witnessed many changes within myself, primarily associated with the direction in which I find myself walking. During that time I have taken on greater roles in ritual. I have also taken on greater roles outside of ritual, both in my own personal journeys and in my relationships with others, reaching out to friends and making myself available to assist others in need.
My own journeys have led me into deeper realms of Norse and Welsh spirituality, and also deeper elements of my own mediumship and seership. Shamanism has taken on a decidedly important role. The divine feminine has manifested itself in many different ways throughout the past several years, and has shown me that there is a necessity to understand and utilize its messages and imagery in our world. This has made itself apparent in my writings and in my illustrations. It has also manifested itself as a strong link between my spirituality and my professional vocation (historical research).
One of the most earth-shaking experiences I have garnered from my work with others in public ritual has been how it has opened up all of my senses to the concept of community and support. On the anniversary of when I began my work with Spirit’s Edge, last night I found myself sitting and really listening to people for what feels like the very first time. Not only to what other people are saying about their own experiences, but what they aren’t saying. It reminds me of some of the things that my father taught me about observing others in their element, and in the general environment. He was a student of nature, and in many ways I have also followed in his footsteps.
Recently I have been feeling a very strong calling to continue to explore my studies in witchcraft and also to take it to the next level. For years I have had people tell me that they felt I would make a very good teacher, and the last month or so has found me surrounded with spirits, guides and gods who have made it very clear that it is time for me to pursue an in depth study of what it truly means to serve the greater community as a walker between the worlds. The time I have spent engaged in ritual has taught me that what I want more than anything is to help other people. Being called to ferry messages between the dead and the living is only a small part of this experience. And not all of the work and interactions between people happens here on the physical plane, but that it happens across many dimensions.

A voice, and a shoulder to lean on

In a conversation with a friend of mine earlier, she revealed to me that she really is as green as it gets to witchcraft and paganism, and is without a teacher or guide. She has resources, but what she really needs is someone to talk to, who has been through some of the same things. And this conversation got me thinking about my own past. I was in a similar place 16 years ago. And I began to wonder if I have completely lost that frame of reference, or if I have enough experience to be able to relate to her thoughts and concerns here in 2013. I wouldn’t ever consider giving advice to anyone that I wasn’t willing to take, if it were given to me.

I wonder if things would have been any different, had I had someone I could have talked to, when I was in her shoes. The truth is I did, but they appeared at different points in my life. I tell other people that the first time I began studying witchcraft was in my teens, but in reality it wasn’t. It happened that when I was eight, my brother’s then girlfriend used to take me with her to the local botanicas for supplies. She gave me some of my first crystals. I was very much into them then and it was with one of them that I cast my very first spell. And then it was at 16 that I was re-introduced to witchcraft through some school-mates.

It is a very different thing trying to find your own way while living under your parents’ roof, than it is as an adult. When I began it was a journey that was my own, and in some ways I knew it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought. I also knew that if I wanted to pursue it, I couldn’t share it with my family. It later turned out that I was right, as it was an unspoken point of contention that could never be voiced or explained well enough to take the sting out of the delivery. I see this friend of mine is in a unique position, without any parental constraints. She can go in any direction she likes, but I sense she’s looking for a common frame of reference; examples of experience from others. Its an independent path, and not an easy one when you first reach the precipice and find before you a multitude of paths and directions.

My instincts tell me that a lot can be gained by talking with her, and listening to what it is she is looking for on this road to her own self-discovery. And I shall certainly strive to help her in any way that I can.

Some thoughts on ecstatic trance

Having a chat with a fellow Seidr this morning has brought to mind some things I have discussed on here in the past, but things that I’ve probably never ever told another person face to face. Around the age of 18, I used to have hot flashes. At least, that’s what I thought they were. Even before that I found possession to be quite a natural thing, even if at times it was difficult to maintain for very long. Any time spent doing research on shamanism will find the astute scholar seeing connections between classical shamanism and the celtic “fire in the head”. It is a strange thing growing up, in a Catholic family no less, knowing that there are any number of spirits around you at a given time, even though you might not be able to see them, knowing that they are coming and going, and that they are always there. Now I’m not talking about “exorcist” type possessions, but the kind where you suddenly find yourself sitting in the backseat of the vehicle, observing someone else in control in front of you.

This is why it was so positively auspicious that I began researching Seidr when I did, within the last couple months, as several of the Norse deities began making regular appearances. Surprisingly, it took about two years to move from a state of fear and confusion about the plumes of heat rising off of my body, to the place where I am now, of randomly timed possessions.  Many sources on the subject refer to it as the swaying trance, and with good reason. Not just is the swaying a natural rhythm of the body to keep it balanced with the earth, but swaying, dancing, song all help to maintain a kind of equilibrium with the internal and external forces that are impacted during trance.

Sexuality in Paganism

This time last year I attended a very thought provoking workshop on gender and sexuality in the context of Paganism. It was an examination of how our gender and sexuality, on an individual, personal level, impacts our spirituality. A friend of mine recently spoke about the importance of creating your own universe without impeding upon other people’s universes. I think this line has relevance in this issue. Its important to know who we are in these ways, to be able to see how and why we act as we do. These are concepts I have personally been exploring very deeply across the last several years. And as a result, many lessons learned under the tutelage of Ishtar and Lilith. For those who aren’t familiar with these two deities, let me explain. Ishtar is the Babylonian goddess of love, sexuality, and war. Lilith is the Jewish goddess-turned-demon, who steals sexual energy from men, and who kills children in return for Jehovah’s murder of her children. These are both the standard definitions according to the mythos. Ishtar and Lilith, in my view, are two sides of the same coin. Both goddesses of love. Both goddesses of war. One way to think of the relationship between Ishtar and Lilith, is to think of Lilith as similar to Ereshkigal, Ishtar’s sister who reigns in the underworld. Lilith teaches us to embrace the darkest aspects of our sexuality while releasing any guilt or shame that we might have associated with pleasure. Ishtar helps us to see the love and beauty within ourselves. But if we need it, both will hold us to the fire, to show us how to be honest with ourselves about how we truly feel about our own sexualities, and face the inner mirror that shows us who we really are.

I have always been very androgynous, all my life really. However, it wasn’t until my lessons with Ishtar and Lilith, that I truly began to realize that I am in the closet. And it was never really intentional. It was just something that I wasn’t used to discussing about myself. And even now, although I enjoy discussing the subject of sexuality, I have never talked about it as an advertisement for my own sexuality. In fact, many of my friends and family have no idea exactly how I identify myself. Most of them believe, for some reason, that I am a heterosexual.

For some reason when I was younger I always felt very awkward about the subject. Perhaps it had much to do with my upbringing. I was raised in a Catholic family. So maybe there is some credibility to the idea that these things are different for converts than they are to those who were raised in the craft. But it doesn’t matter where we start. What matters is where we find ourselves when we begin to recognize what we see within, and how we choose to cultivate with our vision and our actions to produce externally what was always within. And this brings me to the matter of love. When I was a child I had a conversation with my mother. She was explaining to me that my aunt is a lesbian. She had alot of trouble with it. And then I told my mom that if my aunt and her gf love each other then what’s the problem? So in my heart I’ve always known that I view sexuality through a prism of love. And although I am not Wiccan, suddenly the words ‘perfect love and perfect trust’ come to mind, as I sit here thinking about sacred sexuality and divine ecstasy.

Sacred sexuality is a subject of particular interest to me. It has been part of my path ever since my time with Ishtar and Lilith. Certain ancient shamanic rituals have described sacred sexuality as a marriage to the gods, in which male practitioners dress as women, and join with the gods in divine union. A few weeks ago I was listening as a priestess attempted to explain to one of her pupils the reasons for why a practitioner might dream or envision sexual relations with their deity. She put it very well. She said, “sometimes we are so close to our patron gods and goddesses that the love we feel can be very intimate.” I think to someone who has not yet walked that path, it is a wonderful way to describe it. Historical accounts of ancient religion describe a ritual called the sacred marriage rite, where the priestess, who is the ritual embodiment of the goddess, joins with the king. And their union is essentially the conferring of divine power upon the king, and the blessings of the gods upon his reign and the land. In these rites, the priestess is not only symbolic of a specific goddess, but has entered a trance state where she has channelled the goddess within herself.  This is also why sacred prostitution was so important throughout the ancient world. Because these were holy places where men and women could make that connection with the divine, for the price of a donation to the temple.

With the gradual rise of Paganism in the modern world, we’re beginning to turn our attentions to the ancient world, and rethinking what sexuality was, is and should be, in the 21st century. We are also turning our attentions inward, to consider the ways in which our sexuality shapes our spirituality, and how both are reshaping our world.

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