My Hopes as a New Pagan Parent

This post, and many of the posts to follow, were scheduled six months in advance.  It’s actually late October.  But I know that right around this time, I will be going to labor with my first child.  Even as a newbie to the whole parenting experience, I have enough sense to know that come April, I will probably be pretty busy with a newborn, so I figured I should get the blog squared away for this month well in advance.  But as of this writing, I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl yet.

I do know that I will screw up lots.  I will get things right, and I will get things very wrong.  I know that I will set goals as a parent.  I will meet some, and I will fail at a lot of other things.  But as a spiritual steward of this new little soul, I hope to get at least this much right.

I want my child to know that the spiritual life matters.  I really don’t care what path he/she chooses.  Really.  I’ve walked many myself.  They’re all beautiful.  I wouldn’t want to tell him/her which path to take, but I do want to show them the road map.   Speaking of which:

I want my child to know that when it comes to the spiritual lives of others, our job is to learn.  Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism—-these ancient faiths all have important lessons.  They didn’t get passed down a hundred generations for no reason.  I want to expose my child to every possible avenue of faith.

I want my child to respect nature and living creatures as a manifestation of god.  The way you treat helpless creatures, human or animal, says more about the state of your soul than any other single barometer.

I want my child to understand that things are to be used, but not worshiped.   It seems almost insurmountably difficult in our culture to teach a young mind why materialism is so corrosive to the soul.  But I intend to do my best.

I want my child to recognize art as divine expression.   What moves me may not be the same as what moves you.  But it’s the moving that counts.   Art isn’t a medium; it’s not a category.  Art is not limited to dance or music or sculpture.  Sometimes it’s a surf board.  It’s taking any medium and creating something that can only come from a human soul.  Art is the paintbrush of your divine nature.  Make it beautiful.

Most importantly, I want my child to know that the more deeply he/she loves, the closer he/she will be to what some people call “God.”  I think that says it all.

Here’s to high hopes.  Wish me luck.

Advertisements

10 Tips for a More Spiritual Mind/Body Workout

DSC_0040

Mind/body workouts are all the rage right now.

But Eastern societies have long understood the connection between the mind and the body.  Tai chi, yoga, belly dance and a variety of martial arts incorporate spiritual elements into physical conditioning.

Make your workout do double duty as a sacred time to reconnect your higher spiritual awareness to your physical body.

1.  Take it outside.  The simple act of moving your yoga mat outside transforms your practice tremendously!  Now that warmer days are on the horizon, take advantage of them.

2.  Use soothing music.  While many people think fast-paced, turbo-charged music “pumps up” or energizes them during workouts, soothing music actually helps to make difficult postures and movements easier and less strenuous by tuning you to your inner thoughts.

3.  Remember that slow, controlled movements are good for the mind and the body.   Mind/body workouts tend to use slow, precise muscle control to condition the body.  Warrior pose may look easy to the casual observer, but ask him to hold it for five straight minutes and he’ll see just how hard it is!  The concentration required to achieve and hold these postures aids meditation, self-control and the sacred connection between the mind and the body.

4.  Use your workouts to “un-knot” mental blocks.   If you’re feeling tense, frustrated or anxious, use your mind/body workout to work through these feelings.  We tend to encourage ourselves to “let go” or forget about our struggles while working out, but it can be just as useful to focus on relieving and healing them. 

5.  Be creative!  Try customizing your own workout, or inventing your own new fusion.  Popular workouts like barre and Zumba are really just someone’s creative ways of integrating different disciplines.  Maybe you can think of an interesting way to integrate yoga with a martial arts discipline you know–try it, and keep things interesting.

6.  Make your workout space a temple.  Try using an oil burner to diffuse energizing essential oils like orange and lemon, or light candles to encourage a peaceful state of mind.

7.  Don’t just stretch–“check in” with your body.  Notice areas of tension, aches and pains that you might not be aware of when you’re distracted by your daily activities.  Listen your body; it probably has something to say that you may not be hearing.

8.  Try a simple meditation session after your cool down.  Grounding and centering is a nice way to transition back into your everyday life.

9.  Instead of showering after your workout, try a candlelit bath.  Bust out the essential oils and rub your muscles down with a salt scrub.  Take the time to treat your body like the temple it is.

10.  Make massage a regular part of your fitness program.  You may think you can’t afford regular massage, but many malls offer $1 per minute massages, Groupon has specials all the time and most gyms have automated massage chairs at little or no cost to members.  If nothing else, trade massages with someone who loves you!  It’s a great bonding activity.  Massage is a fantastic opportunity to concentrate completely on your body while someone else brings your attention to areas you may often ignore.

post sponsered by

Dark Witch: Working in the Shadows

The theme this week is light and darkness.

First, let’s discuss what “dark” or “black” means in the craft, and what it doesn’t.

We’ll start by talking about what it isn’t, or what misconceptions are often associated with it, and why it sometimes makes even the most seasoned practitioner uncomfortable.

What it isn’t, is evil.

Or at least, not the way most people think of evil.

Evil is a Western monotheistic concept.  In Judaeo-Christian philosophy, there is good, and there is evil.  One is “right” and one is “wrong.”  One is wicked, one is pure.  There is no gray.  Things or concepts are either one, or they are the other.

Let me stress that there’s nothing wrong with seeing the world this way—–but it isn’t the only way.

Broadly speaking, in the craft, and most especially in the realm of Wiccan philosophy, there isn’t so much “evil” and “good” as there are opposites.  In the world of opposites, one opposing force does not exist without the other.

Without darkness, there cannot be light.

From a purely scientific perspective, “coldness” does not exist at all—–it only describes the absence of heat.

There is no need to qualify these things with morality.  They are simply forces of nature.

Fire is a force of nature.  It can be utterly wicked, blindly destroying anything in its path.  But it also sustains life, providing warmth in the bitter cold of an otherwise absolute-zero universe.

From this perspective, “light” and “dark” don’t have moral qualities any more than “wet” and “dry.”

This does not mean we go around willy-nilly behaving any way our emotions pull us just because we feel like it.

It simply means we are guided by the effect we have on reality rather than instructed directly by the laws of religious doctrine.

For the practitioner of witchcraft, there aren’t so much “punishments” and “rewards” as there are natural consequences.  Everything you do, mundane or magical, sets these natural consequences into motion.  They will come to fruition one way or the other.  No amount of prayer or forgiveness will help you escape them anymore than prayer and forgiveness halts ripples on the water after you skip a rock across a still lake.

Newton’s famous Third Law eloquently states:  “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

This concept is both scientific, and spiritual.

(This might be a good time to point out that far from being in contrast with religion, all scientific concepts are also spiritual.  And by “science,” I don’t mean kooky fluff bunny soft science, I mean real-deal hard science you’d find in any college biology, physics or chemistry textbook.  If those things don’t make you believe in a higher order, I’m not sure what will.)

If you hex someone, you essentially hex yourself along with them.  This is sometimes called “the boomerang effect.”  It’s why most people decide to approach this form of ritual with extraordinary caution.  A sensible person rarely finds the consequences worth the satisfaction of revenge.

We tend to think of our “magical” lives as somehow separate from our “mundane” lives, but really, all aspects of life are spiritual, and these principles apply equally.

It always amazes me how some people self-righteously declare dark magic evil, all the while going around making their own “witchcraft” in a secular way.

You don’t have to hex someone to experience serious spiritual consequences for wishing them ill.

If you go about saying nasty things about your husband’s ex-wife, you send out a negative energy that will come back to you.  Usually, this kind of behavior says more about you to others than the person you are slandering, and so you are essentially slandering yourself.  Justifying this behavior by saying she’s done X, Y or Z to you will not spare you from the spiritual consequences any more than justifying a revenge spell with similar logic will spare you from the consequences of hexing someone.

Of course, hexing is not the only form of shadow magic.  It’s just the most taboo.  The following types of spells also fall under the category of “negative” magic.  Note that by “negative,” we are not referring to the concept of “bad” or “evil.”  Negative merely describes the driving away of someone or something rather than the drawing to.

*Exorcism
*Weight loss spells
*Banishing dark energy
*Banishing a person
*Protection spells
*Stop gossip spells
*Cleansing rituals

Divination also falls under this category.  It is sometimes literally referred to as “peering into the darkness.”

Note that we don’t think of these things as “bad” or “evil.”  But that doesn’t mean they don’t have consequences, for better or worse.

white witch

Now, let’s talk about “white magic,” and why it isn’t any more “good” than dark magic is evil.

While those outside the practice often associate “white magic” with “good, purity and light,” we as practitioners are often guilty of this oversimplification as well.

Just as is the case with “dark” or “black” magic, it is a fallacy to color the concept of white magic with the pen of morality.

Before we get into that, though, let’s look at the kind of spells we think of as falling under the category of “white” or “positive” magic.  Again, by “positive” magic, we don’t mean “good,” we mean to draw towards us as opposed to drive away.  This concept has no more moral implications than the attraction/repulsion behavior of ordinary magnets.

*healing spells
*baby blessings
*marital rites
*love spells
*beauty and attraction spells

Many new practitioners of modern witchcraft think of these types of spells as safe, good, even angelic.  But those with experience (or unique wisdom—-not me, for sure!) recognize that it isn’t about “goodness” and these types of spells are equally fraught with unknown consequence.

Love spells are frequently noted for their unforeseen, unintended consequences.  These spells are rarely cast in malice.  On the contrary, they are usually undertaken in a desperate attempt to redirect unrequited love.  In fact, learning to cast a love spell is often the very thing that draws people to witchcraft, and they are typically disappointed to be swiftly dissuaded by the wise old hand of the craft.   (Or swindled by a charlatan.  Either way, beware!)

Of course we want to be loved by those we are attracted to.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  It is not “evil” or “bad.”  Even trying to force the issue with a love spell is not inherently “bad.”  After all, people use all kinds of mundane tactics to attract a love interest.  Makeup, false sweetness, feigning mutual interest in order to seem compatible—-none of these things are any more “dark” in nature than casting a love spell, but we can clearly see they carry with them a similar risk of fallout when the ruse becomes clear.

We may desperately want someone to be attracted to us, but we may not be so attracted to them if they turn into a clingy mess.  Or worse, a psycho stalker.  In the heat of the chase, most people don’t have the presence of mind to understand that the chase is really what’s driving their infatuation.  Once it’s over, so is everything else.

(And although rarely funny to the direct participants, these consequences are often quite amusing to the outside onlooker.  Never was the hilarity of these notorious repercussions better exemplified than by the great William Shakespeare himself in his brilliant comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

This tale of “be careful what you wish for” is almost folklore in witchcraft.  But sometimes it doesn’t manifest that way.  Maybe you cast a love spell and, by attempting to control another person’s free will, you consequently end up in a relationship with someone who is controlling you.

And it’s not the only example in what we call “white magic.”

Beauty spells often cultivate vanity.

Marriage rites and baby blessings are the staple of any pagan officiant, but any married person or parent knows that marriage and babies have serious consequences. 

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bless babies, or perform marriage ceremonies, or ever want to make ourselves feel beautiful in a magical way.

Sometimes, it’s all worth it.  Sometimes it works out for the best.  Just like life.  It’s all full of risks.

I can already hear the naysayers crying, “Well, that’s just it!  That’s why all magic is bad, and evil, and we should avoid it all together!  Stay away from it and spare yourself!”

To that I would point out once more that magical behavior has no more serious consequences than mundane behavior.  Everything you do is essentially some form of magic.  If you live your life in service to others, it has the “magical” effect of drawing happiness to you, and goodwill from others.  If you abuse those around you, take without giving back, and live a life that generally revolves around making others miserable, it has the “magical” effect of making you miserable.

Of course, most people, being imperfect, do a little of both.

In life, we must live our day-to-day experience with a series of actions.  Appreciating that you will “be paid” for your actions, whether magical or mundane, does not stop you from falling in love, or baking a cake.  To be perfectly still is to be dead.  The fact that anything you do, from getting out of bed in the morning to firing an insubordinate employee, has consequences, ought not paralyze a healthy person into fearing any action at all—and it ought not to paralyze the practitioner of witchcraft, either.

Knowing that there are karmic consequences for your behavior either way guides the spiritually-minded person in mundane activities, and it guides practitioner of magic as well.

post sponsered by

Spirit Boxes and Mini Shrines

I started this project as a way to pay homage to the many religious and spiritual traditions that have inspired me in my travels around the world.

An interfaith approach blessed me with many experiences that shaped me as a practitioner.

Naturally, there is no way to encompass the knowledge, wisdom and even failings of any given tradition in a tiny box.  Rather than trying to capture the whole, I focused on small aspects to honor in this art project.

Mini shrines are great if you’re traveling, or simply looking for a visual way to express your own unique spiritual perspective.

il_570xN.737593272_r34h

Altar to Shiva (Hindu).  My favorite part of this one is the (faux) fruit offering, which fit perfectly!  The border symbolizes prayer beads.

IMG_5004
Altar to Aphrodite/Venus (Hellenism/Roman Pantheon)  

IMG_4629
Element of Water in a box.  (Various traditions).  You may remember this one featured on a recent post about my sea witch altar.

IMG_4619
Love Spell Altar (Wicca).  The red roses are associated with love spells and rituals in the Wiccan tradition.  The key represents the “key to the heart.”

IMG_4585adjusted
Ostara altar.  (Neopaganism/Various)  I made this one as an altar piece for the Spring Equinox early this year.

IMG_9232
Altar to St. Cecilia.  (Catholic/Eastern Orthodox).  St.Cecilia is the Patron Saint of Music.  My favorite part of this altar is the tiny dollhouse violin.

You can get these little wood boxes at the craft store.  The possibilities are endless.   Try it!

post sponsered by

Make the Most of Your Smudge Stick

Your smudge stick is bored.

Let’s be honest.  You bust out the old girl once or twice a month for ritual and then lay it to rest on the altar or in a drawer somewhere for a few weeks.

But your poor smudge stick has so much more to offer you!

10 Ways To Use Your Smudge Stick

I’ve compiled a list.  Here are some ways to use smudging that you may not have thought about before.  Of course, I wouldn’t suggest doing all of then.  That’s a little too much smoke!  But I invite you to chose one or two and try it for a while.

I don’t want anyone to get stuck on the correspondences.  You can use any type of smudge wand for the following purposes, but I have included some suggestions about herbs to try in each case.
1.  After a nightmare or bad dream.  There are few things more spiritually unsettling than a disturbing dream.  A series of them can even interfere with sleep and contribute to insomnia.  Clear the air.  Light protective rosemary smudge bundle to heal the sacred space of your bedroom.

2.  Before meditation.  We are often told that smudging brings us into the “right frame of mind” for ritual.  Use this state of mind to contribute to your meditation practice.  A lavender smudge stick can be especially effective for this purpose.

3.  Before yoga practice.  Similarly, if the smoke doesn’t bother you, smudging your practice space with sage before a yoga session can aid concentration.

4.  After recovering from an illness.  If you’ve been battling a bad cold and you’re finally on the other side of it, smudging is a nice way to realign yourself with good health.  Pine works well for this.

5.  To bless a sacred meal.  If you’re cooking for a sabbat, dry one of the key ingredient herbs and burn it as an incense offering on the table before breaking the bread.  If it’s comfortable, have everyone hold hands around the table while it smokes.

6.  After arriving home from work.  The simple act of smudging yourself between work life and home life helps ease the transition and center your focus.  Ceder smudging is nice for this.

7.  Before or after you bathe.  Whereas a shower is more utilitarian and mundane to me, a bath feels like a sacred experience.  Your mileage may vary.  But if you feel similarly, once a week or so, light some candles, put in a few drops of essential oil and smudge before or after for a relaxing treat.  Try a peppermint bundle to refresh and sooth.

8.  After a household argument.  Every healthy marriage has them.  Every healthy family has them.  Living with other people means occasionally disagreeing and not necessarily with grace.  Smudging the the two (or three, or more) parties involved in a dispute after it’s resolved helps to seal reconciliation.  Lavender is also excellent to restore peace.

9.  In the midst of general chaos.  The school called to inform you that your child threw his shoe at the birthday clown.  The dog tore apart the trash can.  Again.  Your husband is staying late to make a deadline and he will not be home in time to help you with dinner.  Or bedtime.  Which is especially unfortunate, because you can’t remember the last time you slept yourself.  These days happen.  You may not think so, but taking even five minutes to settle your nerves helps immensely.  Try something with a little chamomile in it.

10.  Whenever you’re starting something new.  Going back to school?  Starting a new job?  Moving across the country?  Mark the occasion with floral smudge wand to “reset” life.

post sponsered by

A Green Witch’s Guide to Nature Walks

A simple walk in nature has the remarkable power to promote well-being, reset your spiritual awareness and expand your knowledge as a practitioner. Today, I’m going to tell you why you should take the time to do them, how they will benefit you and how to get the most of out them.

A Green Witch Guide to Nature Walks

Tips to make the most of your nature walks.

-Try wild crafting.  There are all kinds of useful things in nature.  Bring some home, get creative, and even save some money.  Instead of paying $45 for a wreath from the craft store, go outside, find some lovely evergreens, and create something truly unique for free.

Cook with nature.  Obviously, never eat anything if you don’t know what it is and make sure it doesn’t have any residual pesticides.  But it doesn’t take long to learn.  Did you know the annoying wild onions that sprout up incessantly in your lawn are actually pretty tasty if you fry them in butter?  Wild strawberries make a beautiful topping for ice cream?  You can candy wild violets and top cakes and cookies with them?

-Focus on the tiny details.  The veins in a leaf.  The tiniest flowers.  The dime-sized mushroom you almost stepped on.  These things are magical.  Broad, sweeping landscapes may take your breath, but the perfect geometric symmetry of honeycomb will leave you with a sense of wonder.

the small things

-Bring home the seasons.  Cedar branches burned in the fire place in the winter make the whole house smell divine.   Pine cones in a bowl make a simple, elegant centerpiece.  And field flowers are so much more charming on a spring table than anything store-bought ever will be.

-Pay special attention to the animals you see.  Any and all animals, but particularly if it’s a rare animal.  Many cultures around the world regard the appearance of unusual wildlife as a sign. Once, I was walking with my husband hiking a few miles from our home when we spotted a large (40 pounds?) wild black cat about 15 yards off the path.  I’m glad my generally skeptical husband was with me, because I wouldn’t have believed my own eyes had he not seen it, too.  I spent weeks searching the local wildlife data bases trying to identify it, but no large black game cat is known to our region by any of the local wildlife authorities.  I will always wonder where that cat came from, and why it appeared to us.

turtle

-Find a secret hiding spot.  Whether it’s a off-the-beaten path grove of trees, a secluded beach or part of the desert you know well, discovering hidden gems in the land is one of the awesome things about getting to know your local natural surroundings.  Having somewhere to go that is quiet and away from everything else in your life is a tremendous gift.

-Do whatever you have time for, and nothing less.  If you only have 15 minutes to go outside today, then go outside for fifteen minutes.  If you have two hours to wander aimlessly across the landscape, then take an extended journey.  Think of your nature walks as mini vacations.  The time spent immersed in them will make the life you go back to that much richer and more peaceful.

-Make it a point to learn the local plant life.  Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a blank composition book.  Every time you go on a nature walk, snap a photo of a plant you don’t recognize.  When you get home, identify it.  Within a year, you’ll become an expert on your local plant life.  This is an excellent skill for any witch.

the little things

-Create an outdoor altar.  Any sort-of flat surface will do.  A large rock, the cleanly chopped trunk of a tree.  An oak in my mother’s yard was struck down by lightening ten years ago.  I asked the landscapers to leave the stump, and for me, it still holds all the power and charge of that one stroke of energy.  Whether it’s on your land, or tucked away in local park, periodically leave items you find there.

Look up.  Every day, the sky is a new work of art.  Lie on your back.  Look for shapes in the clouds.  Notice the pastel colors of the sunset.  Like everything else in life, this moment is fleeting.  Take the time to let it capture your imagination.

Benefits of nature walks:

-Live healthier, happier and longer.  One 30-minute walk a day has a profound impact on your body, your mind and your emotions.  Try it for a week and witness the powerful transformation.  You won’t believe what a difference it makes.

Reduce the amount of time you spend around electronics.  There’s no way around it.  We’re all “wired.”   The more time you spend in front of a computer or glued to your phone, the less in touch you are with the world that surrounds you.  This is includes your loved ones, your spiritual awareness and your natural environment.  Most people don’t have the luxury of retreating to Buddhist monastery or living on a commune.  But you can keep your screen time to a minimum, and nature walks are one way to do this.  If your kids think the outdoors is boring, it’s time to show them that their iPhone is the real snooze.

-Increase your sensitivity to environmental issues.  The first time you cringe when you see a plastic bottle floating down the creek by your walking path, a bird’s nest made of paper litter or (worst of all) a wildlife animal struggling to free herself from tangled debris, you will begin a lifelong journey of sensitivity to the earth around you.

-Become in tune with the seasonal cycles around you.  Direct experience with and awareness of the subtle shifts in seasons creates harmony in the spirit, promoting internal balance.  You may (depending on your climate) think of the seasons broadly, as in Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.  But the turning of the seasons is actually very gradual, yet distinct.  When is mating season for butterflies?  Horseshoe crabs?  Have you ever noticed turtles are everywhere for like a week in the spring?  People who go on regular nature walks pick up on these things, and they are worthwhile observations.

post sponsered by

‘Tis the Season to Make Witch Balls

Witch balls are an Old World pagan tradition.  Hang them in windows, over beds to ward off nightmares, in the garden to bless new growth, in kitchen to welcome good spirits or over doorways to protect the entrance.  The glass of the balls is believed to deflect negative energy.

I filled mine with all-natural ingredients like rose (for a loving home) and cinnamon sticks (for protection).  I even picked fresh green moss from the garden and preserved it using a new method I just learned.  I think it came out cute!

IMG_2876 IMG_2888

Hopefully it will inspire you to create your own, or if you’re not so crafty, I’ll be happy to make one for you!

post sponsered by