Friday, September 30, 2011


Despite trying to follow a balanced path, and considering balance to be quite important, this is a subject I catch quite a bit of flak over. Some folks believe that in order to be balanced, you must worship one God, and one Goddess. If you do otherwise, you're unbalanced, no matter your reasons. (I was once even told I was dangerous for worshiping only a Goddess!) So let's talk balance, and all the different ways it can manifest in a person's life.

Since nature has many lessons for us, I'll start there. Following the Wheel of the Year, we only directly see balance two times - around the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes. Two days we see that delicate balance of night and day. Two days out of three hundred and sixty-five days. That's it.

In reality though, the Wheel is always balanced when we look at it as a whole. Let's take the Summer Solstice for example. The longest day of the year, the shortest night - doesn't seem very balanced, and on it's own it isn't. However, when we look at the bigger picture we see there is a counterpart we must consider. Directly opposite the Summer Solstice on the Wheel is the Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day. Together they form a balance. It's the same all the way around it. At Beltane life is at it's peak, at Samhain death is at the peak - either one alone would not be balanced, but together they create a whole.

On a similar level, while the Northern Hemisphere celebrates Yule, the Southern Hemisphere celebrates Litha. Again there is balance, even if it doesn't jump right out at us. Even if we aren't directly experiencing it at that one point in time, in our one local area. 

This can easily be applied to a person's spiritual path. If a person spends a good part of their life worshiping a God in a male dominated religion, then it doesn't seem too unreasonable that for them creating a balance in their life might mean worshiping only a Goddess and focusing on the female mysteries for a time. If we look at one part, it may seem that the person's spiritual path isn't balanced - but when we consider the whole, there is a balance there.

We can also look at the big picture beyond the individual. While we've made quite a bit of progress, society as a whole still doesn't always treat women very well. So when a woman (or a man) finds a safe place to honor the Divine Feminine, it's no wonder that would be embraced. The positive aspects from one helps to balance the negative aspects of the other.

Of course there is much more to consider when forming a relationship with a Deity or Deities. It's not all about balance. Sometimes a Deity brings qualities we lack (which is bringing a balance in it's own way), sometimes They aid us the things we are passionate about, sometimes They bring a lesson to learn, sometimes it's about connecting to an ancestral tradition. There are countless reasons and things to consider! So if a person is a devotee of two Gods, or two Goddesses and a God, or just one Deity, or any other combination - well, so what? That's just the way things work out sometimes, and really, what does it matter? It may not appear balanced, but maybe it is when you look deeper. Maybe there are other reasons. We can't always tell when it comes to the spirituality of another.

Balance can enter into a path in many ways, and it is a very complex topic. Balance will not be exactly the same for any two people, because no two people will be exactly alike. What is balanced for one may not be for another. Even very similar people, on very similar paths likely won't be exactly the same. Trying to force one idea of balance on to everyone could never be truly successful, it's something we all have to work out for ourselves, should we choose to do so.

Fall Friday

(Click for larger view.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Ritual Knife


That is my ritual knife. It is made from Damascus (or rather, pattern welded) steel, with an antler and brass handle. The sheath is leather. It's not a large blade, only measuring a little over three inches before the handle. It is, however, kept sharp.

The knife doesn't just serve a ceremonial function in my practice, but a practical one as well. It's a knife, it cuts. Now I don't just use it to go cutting any old thing (nothing against those who do, your tools, your practice, your business), it is still a ritual knife after all. I use it to gather herbs and plants, making charms from wood or bone, carving symbols onto candles, and so on. In my mind, it's only fitting that the ritual knife be used to gather and craft items for ritual use.

So for me the knife holds this dual purpose.... It is used in the more ceremonial functions, such as blessing, but it also a tool that has a more practical uses. If both can overlap (e.g. carving a symbol while blessing it), and they often do, so much the better. Symbolically I associate the knife with fire, due to how the metal is forged, and the feelings and associations the blade holds. My knife is dedicated to Artemis - so on the rare occasion that the blade is serving no other function, I can temporarily commission it to act as a symbol of Her on the altar/ in the working space.

I take great care in storing my knife. When returning back to the home from the yard/woods with my knife, I gently wash the blade and dry it thoroughly. I then coat the blade in a very thin layer of mineral oil, and wrap it in a small bit of cling wrap. The blade and the sheath then go into a wooden box stored under my home shrine. It is not advised to actually store a knife in a leather sheath, as this can promote rusting of the blade as leather can absorb and hold on to moisture from the air.

The ritual knife was one of my first tools. I've only used two in all my time as a pagan. The first was given to me by my Grandfather, just a plain black dagger, quite a bit larger than my current one. My current knife is my second, bought just this year in fact. After so many years I felt it was time to retire my old knife - this has been a year of many fresh starts as new aspects of my path keep unfolding, so it only felt right to reflect that in my tools as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Personal Ethics

I know I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Not all pagans follow the Wiccan rede. Nor is the belief in the Threefold Law/Karma universal. I do not follow the rede, and I do not believe in karma or the Threefold Law as many people do.

So what do I value? Personal responsibility is very high up there on the list. What this means to me is really considering what consequences - good or bad - my actions will have. Consequences can come back in many ways. Sometimes they're physical, sometimes emotional, other times they are spiritual. Sometimes the consequences affect us, sometimes someone close to us, sometimes an innocent person we don't know.

So before doing something, I must stop to consider the possible consequences of my actions. Who will I affect, and how? It's not always an easy thing to do. There can be a number of outcomes for any given scenario, and it can be hard to account for the free will of others. This is why when doing spellwork, we must be very clear, specific, and focused - no matter what the goal is. Even then sometimes there will be unseen consequences. When we mess up, we have to be the ones to step up and clean up our own messes. No one else should have to do it for us. (However, that doesn't mean we can't seek help if we truly find ourselves in over our heads - or help others who need it.)

It is also important to "know thyself." No one can really know your motives except for you, to know if we are doing something for the right reason. Really examining ourselves is not always easy, but it must be done.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall Fridays!

There's no question that here in New England Fall is a beautiful season. (It also happens to be my favorite season!) I'd like to start a weekly photo series to share that beauty, so every Friday from now until the last Friday of Autumn I'll be posting a picture on that theme.

So here is the first. Technically I took this picture a few days ago, so it wasn't quite fall yet, but I think it's a fitting picture for the first day of Autumn... yellowing grasses catching the fading afternoon light.

(Click for a larger version.)


This morning, at sunrise, I was standing under a large maple tree - the same thing I did roughly 6 months ago at the spring equinox. Unlike that morning, I was not able to watch the sun rise - too cloudy. What I did notice was the striking difference between the two mornings.

On that morning back in March I woke up around 6:30AM. I brought my ritual items out to the backyard, and decided that under the maple tree would make a perfect spot. Some 30 minutes later I was seeing the first sunrise of the light half of the year coming up over the treeline.

It was a cold morning, cold enough to see my breath on the air. I was wearing my heavy winter jacket (and wishing I brought some gloves out), there was a good amount of frost on the ground, and piles of snow in some places. The branches were bare, and the ground still frozen solid and covered in patches of dead grass. It was also fairly silent.

I don't usually wake at sunrise on Mabon, but I was wondering how different the dawn would be on the other equinox. I had to head out earlier, and could watch as it got a bit lighter and lighter out even though the sun was well hidden. It was warm, I was comfortable in a light long sleeve shirt. It was also loud - bugs and birds making all sorts of noises. The grass was long and green, and the trees had all their leaves, even if some were beginning to turn.

Looking back on the past six months, on one hand I've really missed some of the (informal) goals I'd been setting for myself. I have not accomplished as much as I feel I should, as much as I wanted. On the other hand? I really have accomplished a lot when I sit back and think on it. I have learned many new things, I have joined new communities and met new friends, heck I even cleaned out and revamped this dusty old blog. There are things I have to work harder on, but there's been a lot done.

Two very different dawns, yet both days are made up of equal day and night. (Well, close to it anyway. Both had 12 hours and 8 minutes of light here in NH, since we are of course not right on the equator.) The first and last sunrise of the light half of the year. With sunset today I mark the start of the dark half of the year. The days will soon be shorter than the nights, the weather will become cooler, plants will die back. I'm thankful for the abundance the summer months bring, but I also look forward to what's coming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mabon Incense

Today's post is just a simple recipe for loose incense, blended to welcome in the warm scents of Autumn, utilizing simple ingredients that many will find right in their kitchen spice cabinet.

With a mortar and pestle, finely grind...
Two points of star anise
Three allspice berries
Four cloves

Then mix in...
A pinch of dried, ground ginger
A tsp of ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
and 2 tsp fine dried orange zest

Grind everything until it is well blended. Burn on charcoal blocks (make sure you always use charcoal specifically designed for incense - not BBQ blocks!), a pinch or so at a time. Add it carefully, as depending on how much ash is on your block it may spark a bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So, where have I been?

I was planning to get some posting done in these last two weeks, I really was... However, on the 3rd of September I found myself riding shotgun in an ambulance with my grandmother in the back. Apparently she'd thrown up blood in the early morning, and a few hours later she still didn't feel well, so my grandfather was going to bring her to the hospital. Well, she wanted to take a shower first (seriously Mama?), which lead to her feeling faint and she was having a hard time breathing. This is about when I was called upstairs, and it's when we called 911.

Long story short, Mama scared the ever loving hell out of me, but she's fine now. See, she'd ate something sharp (we're thinking a bit of shrimp shell), and it scratched her stomach near the esophagus (or perhaps the other way around, there).

They kept her in the hospital for a few days, so I was left to take care of my grandparents' home. Why not have Papa do it? Well, here's an example. He wasn't feeling well one of those days (too much heat), so he made himself a cold bean sandwich for dinner. Plopped down two slices of bread on the counter, dumped beans from the refrigerator all over the bread (and on the counter), put them together and... walked away. With beans all over the counter. Yeah. (Should I tag this for recipes? Heh. Here's another Papa classic for you. Crumble Saltine crackers into a bowl. Cover with milk. Eat.)

After Mama came home, I had to help her figure out her medications, and still do most of the house work for her. Oh yeah, we managed to fit in Labor day dinner in all this, too!

So, all in all, it put me a week or so behind my own schedule, but eh - life happens sometimes, right? Mama is okay, so I'm all set with whatever else taking a back seat for a while.