Sunday, December 29, 2013

Looking back on the year, and looking forward to the next.

I spent a bit of time today reading back through my posts for this year, thinking about my spiritual growth through the year, as well as looking back on my year as a whole.

Spiritually speaking, the year started off strong. I was motivated, I was accomplishing goals, and things were going great. Then things took an interesting turn... Not going to go into too much detail, but it's enough to say that there was an interesting series of events which lead me to focus much more on other aspects of my life over the spiritual aspects. I mean, my spirituality is always with me, it's always there, even if it's more in the background at times - and that's really how much of this year went. That spiritual foundation was always there for me, but there were other areas which really took a lot of my time and focus.

And it was not a bad year. Actually, it was pretty great. Took up some new hobbies, visited some old hobbies, found new interests, started taking better care of myself, hit a few health problems - but also found ways to deal with them. Did a lot of things, became interested in a lot of things, that I'd never really considered before. Really opened up and got a lot of new perspective on things.

So a great year, even if my spirituality didn't always take the spotlight. However, it also showed me that even if there's not always the time for tackling specific spiritual goals, the core of it all is still always with me. I've been able to build a practice that sticks with me, even when my focus is in a lot of other directions.

So what about 2014? Well, I'd like to take a lot of what I picked up in 2013 and keep going forward with it - but I also need to remember to make time for spiritual practices that go beyond the foundational core. That's really all that was missing from this year, and if I can bring everything all together during the next year? It'll be fantastic.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Samhain

Happy Samhain and happy Halloween!

My original Samhain plans ended up being tossed around a bit, so this year it seems I'll be doing the bulk of my Samhain celebrating tomorrow and the day after. Which actually works out well for me, because it will coincide nicely with my regular lunar rituals for the last day of the cycle and the new moon, which have a very nice overlap in symbolism. Isn't it nice when disruptions end up working out?

Still, I was able to celebrate a bit last night as well. Yesterday it rained most of the evening, but stopped around midnight - it was foggy, warmer than it had been earlier in the day, and everything smelled damp and earthy. Perfect atmosphere for a small Samhain ritual. First I went to the edge of the woods and just spent some time meditating. Then I left some simple offerings for the spirits - flat bread, eggs, and apples.

I also ended up doing a little spontaneous working. I'm sure many are familiar with the basic concept of this working - you list negative things you don't want in your life, things that are holding you back, bad habits, and so on, then you burn the list and picture these things being removed from your life. This time of year is traditionally the time to cull the herds, the time to let things go, and of course has associations with death and release, so I thought it would be a perfect little working which would utilize those energies of this season.

I expected the real benefit of this working to come in the actual listing of what's holding me back, and to an extent that was helpful. There were no surprises on the list, but it was good to actually write these things down, to really see them and acknowledge them.

However, the surprise of the ritual was when I actually went back out to burn the paper. I felt like I received two clear messages from Westya (who is personified in flame), who I'd never really felt anything so clearly from before. Until now, our relationship was very quiet - a mutual sort of I'll remember and honor you, and you'll gift your blessings to my home, and that was it. But during the working, I felt she gave me two messages... First, that it's going to be hard work. Change is coming, and it's going to be hard, it might be a painful process, and to remember that I asked for it when that time comes. Not that unexpected of a message, really, it made sense. The second message, though, was that it was all going to be alright. That if I put my faith in my foundation (my deities and core/daily practices), I would get through the change, and that she is taking an active role in this, but likely in an unexpected way, and she will burn through my obstacles as long as I am willing to put the work in. The other deities I work with will be there to, but that in this I should look to her first.

 Honestly, for such a small ritual, I couldn't have asked for more, and I was not expecting anything like that. Simple rituals can still have big impacts.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Prompt: Magical Names

Do you have a magickal name? Do you share it with others? Maybe only with your coven sisters/brothers? With the God and Goddess only? How did you choose it? Did it "choose you"?

At this point in time, I do not really have a magical/spiritual name, although I've had several in the past.

The first spiritual name I remember choosing for myself was when I was an Egyptian Wiccan, and it was MeketHeru - which means something like 'protected by Horus.' At the time I wanted to take on the name as a dedication of sorts, as Horus was the first deity I'd ever felt pulled to develop a close relationship with. I chose it by looking at many ancient Egyptian names and their meanings, and carefully chose something which I felt reflected part of my relationship with Horus.

Names were considered very important in ancient Egypt, and this is shown in a few myths and customs they had. So, as I moved from Egyptian Wicca into reconstructionism, the significance of names and their role in my work grew quite a bit. I was initiated into a reconstructionist tradition and given another name, which I spent a lot of time meditating on. I took an interest in doing "true name" work, put simply, that is finding your soul's name, so to speak (which I did not have much success in - but learned a lot from at the same time). I also looked into taking on temporary names, working with them as talismans in a way, to develop a particular trait in myself, and that sort of thing.

I actually really enjoyed much of the name work I did as an Egyptian reconstructionist. I realize not everyone finds significance in spiritual names, but it was something that really spoke to me in the context I was working in at that time.

Now though? I don't really have a spiritual name. The name I took, and the name I was given, will both always have a special place with me - but they no longer reflect who I am now. Where I came from, yes, and that's important, but I don't go by either name now. It just doesn't feel right. Name work seems to be something I left behind with reconstruction, with the Egyptian deities who stepped back when my path took a dramatic change. The deities and spirits I find myself honoring and working with now don't seem to care one way or the other what name I call myself... It might be something that I might find myself exploring again some day, but right now? It just doesn't have a place within my current practice.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Confession Time

So here's a confession for you all... 90% of the time when someone makes their spell/prayer/ritual rhyme, I think it sounds corny.

I know, I know. I'm sorry.

I mean, I would never point at someone's work directly and say to them, yeah, you tried, but that is so silly sounding - that's just rude, right? It's uncalled for. Still, I can't do it myself. I don't ever bother with making anything I write rhyme, and I can't remember the last time I incorporated something into a working which rhymed. It just doesn't do anything good for me.

Unfortunately there seems to be this idea floating around that you need to make things rhyme, because that's the only way to raise power. Which is flat out wrong. Yes, this might be a good technique for some people! I know lots of folks who like when things rhyme... it makes it easier to remember, and yes, the flow of it helps them build energy for the working. Awesome, if it's working for you, go for it. It doesn't work for me, though, and I know I'm not alone there. The rhyming usually takes me out of the right mindset for a working.

So, if you're new to witchcraft, just know that you don't have to work with rhymes, even if someone says that's the only way to do things... because it's really not. There's so many ways to raise power, and heck, you don't even need to include words at all in a ritual if you don't want. Find what works for you. If it's a rhyme? Great. If not? Don't worry, try something else.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Samhain and the Thinning of the Veil

There's one phrase that is commonly used to describe Samhain, and that is "the time of year when the veil is thinnest."

Let's start with the basics here - what exactly is the veil? In this context, the veil is what 'separates' this world from the unseen world. Many traditional witches will use the term hedge instead of veil, which might help paint the picture. A hedge is a boundary between one thing and another - such as the tame land of the yard and home, and the wild land of the forest... or, the seen world, and the unseen world. The veil is that boundary, that separation between the two.

This is not a hard boundary. As an example, think of a typical bridal veil. It's there, you can see it, touch it... but it's often thin, gauzy... you can see through it, air passes through it easily, water would too. If the veil is a few layers thick, it might take some time for water to pass through, but it would - if it were just one thin layer, the water would pass through quickly and without issue.

Of course, calling it a boundary may bring about the wrong impression. The unseen world is not just a separate location - as a backyard might be from the woods - but it is interwoven throughout the seen world, as well. We're just not usually aware of it. The veil, the boundary, is not really an actual block between the two, but more of the limit of our own perception.

So why is the veil said to be thinnest at Samhain? One reason often given is that Samhain is the peak of the dying season, and it's that transition that causes the veil to thin. I like this imagery myself, but I don't think that's the complete answer.

There are other times of the year when the veil is said to be thin - many associate Beltaine with another thin spot, as it is the peak of the "birthing" season. It's not just death that thins the veil, after all. Beltaine, along with Litha/Midsummer in some cultures, are classically times when the spirits are quite active - although they became more associated with fae and other such spirits as opposed to the dead that are associated with Samhain. Of course, the dead are not only associated with Samhain, because we see things like the Wild Hunt of Yule/winter in many European cultures. The Greeks thought the restless dead wandered with Hekate on the last day of every month (what we would now call the new moon). Other cultures have their own, different views.

So what is it really that causes the veil to thin? I don't know that it is really anything external, like the changing of seasons, at least not in itself. I think a big part of it rests within the human mind. These symbols, these expectations and ideas of a society, they stick right into our subconscious and they change our perception. If you're in a culture where the dead wander every new moon, that will influence your perception of the veil accordingly.

Likewise, if you're in a culture where Halloween is that spooky time, where horror movies and ghost hunting shows take over the TV, where people start sharing their stories, going to haunted houses, putting on costumes, putting out decorations, etc. that cultural belief is, again, going to influence your views and perception.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A bit of rambling...

I've been dead tired these last few weeks, which makes it hard to get any writing done. I had some good ideas for the pagan blog project, but just had no energy to get them down, and I haven't forgotten the deity writing project - just, again, same problem there. I'm slowly getting some longer posts together (really hoping to get the one on the equinox out), but meanwhile, how about some possibly disjointed rambling?

I bust out the Mabon decorations earlier this week since it had been cool for a while - and then we hit that mini heat wave with some 90F weather. Wasn't really feeling the whole autumn thing anymore, but it looks like it's going to cool off again, so the decorations are going up. The leaves are starting to change outside, too.

Been spending a lot of time cleaning out the house. Just sorting and organizing... well, everything really. Whenever I spend a lot of time working on the house like this, I feel pulled to spend more time at the hearth shrine, and focusing more on the home on that spiritual level as well - which makes sense, really.

Cleaning has made me realize that I have a lot of (pagan) books that aren't really relevant to my path anymore - a lot of Wicca 101, and the like. I'm thinking that I need to go through and re-read them all, review them, and move them on to better homes. Make room for some new books that might get read more often. (Especially since I just got two new books today, with a third on the way!)

On a final note for now, I usually like to post pictures here, either alone or with text, but my camera is dead. I don't know when I'll be able to get a new one, possibly not for a few months. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prompt: Teachers (and Students)

There are many people this day and age that are searching for teachers. If you browse any Wiccan or Pagan forum, you'll find people searching. So the questions I am asking today is...What makes someone qualified to teach their spiritual path? In the case of Wicca, what would you look for? Years of study and practice? Initiation into a tradition? Teaching experience? What makes someone qualified, in your opinion, to teach another? At what point does a "student" become a "teacher"?
(Pagan Blog Prompts)

I'm not going to speak about Wicca (not being a Wiccan...), or even any other specific tradition, but instead I'm going to look a bit more broadly at the qualities most teachers, regardless of tradition, should have.

The first is, of course, at least a few years of solid experience in whatever they'll be teaching - be it their tradition, herbalism, or whatever else. It's hard to name an exact number, because the truth is, to steal a line from Doctor Who, "It doesn't work like that. Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It's not the time that matters, it's the person." To give an example, I've met people who happily boast about having been a Wiccan for more than fifteen years... and yet, they don't know when Imbolc is, or what it's about. Something that many others with much less experience would be able to tell you about with no issue. You need to find someone who hasn't just collected years, so to speak, but has filled those years with actual study and practice.

The problem is, if you're new to the information, you might not know how to tell if someone really has done this, or if a person is just lying or exaggerating. Years and even titles can be misleading, or totally made up. This is why it's important to get recommendations from others about a teacher, or to see how respected they are within their particular community, if you can do so. Even those things are not always a solid guarantee, but often they can shine light on some big problems.

Another necessary thing is some degree of consistency and stability. Personal practices grow and change, of course, but if someone is frequently making big changes that might be a sign that they're still working through a lot of things in their own practice, and so might not be ready to guide someone else on theirs. (One or two big changes is probably not a huge deal, that happens, but several in a short time is more of a red flag.)

Experience is good, but it's not enough. Knowing things doesn't automatically mean you'll be able to teach them. A teacher needs to be able to explain these concepts to others in a way that's easy for a beginner to understand. A teacher needs to understand that different people learn in different ways, and at different rates. A teacher needs to understand the order in which to teach things - how to build a strong foundation, and how to work off from that. How to present information, while still letting the student put in the work necessary to the practice.

A teacher needs to have patience, but a teacher also needs to know when a student (or potential student) is simply wasting their time. A teacher needs to know their own limits, and they need to be able to admit when they don't know something, or when they've been wrong about something. A teacher needs to be willing to still be a student, too. It's not easy to teach, and frankly I think we often don't give enough credit to those who do so well.

What about students, though? If you're looking for a teacher, the first thing you need to decide is what exactly it is you want to learn. I'm sure that sounds obvious to many people, but there are a lot of people who seem to skip that step for some reason... Additionally, a lot of people want to learn 'paganism,' which isn't really possible - paganism isn't a single tradition, it can involve all sorts of different practices and beliefs. (There are, however, some out there who are able to guide someone through forming their own eclectic practice.) You'll need to have some idea what it is you're after. If you're looking to learn a specific tradition, see what the requirements are for a teacher to have - if there are any. Some traditions have strict guidelines, while others are much more open.

Remember that teachers are people with their own lives. Don't waste their time - sincere questions or struggles are not a waste of time, but consistently being late, making last minute changes to plans, messing around, or not putting in the work to learn all are. If you're having lessons in the teacher's home, or in a public space, be respectful and leave things in the same condition as you found them (throw out your trash, etc). Be respectful of the teacher's tools and belongings. Don't expect your teacher to hand you everything on a silver platter, there will be points where you have to work for your information, and there will be points where you have to do the work of putting the information into actual practice.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Queen Anne's Lace (Wild Carrot)



Flowers of Queen Anne's Lace - note the single red flower in the center of each cluster.
Queen Anne's Lace (daucus carota), also known as Wild Carrot, is a plant that can be used in a variety of ways. The roots can be eaten when the plant is young, older plants can be used in herbal preparations, and it can also be used to create dye. Queen Anne's Lace is often found in fields, ditches, along road sides, and in other such areas. 

Queen Anne's Lace is so called because the flowers resemble lace. If you look closely, you can see a single red flower in the center of each cluster. In folklore, this is said to be a drop of blood from Queen Anne, who pricked herself with the needle while making the lace.
Queen Anne's Lace gone to seed.
Leaf of Queen Anne's Lace
  Queen Anne's Lace takes two years to fully mature. During the beginning of the first year the root can be harvested and eaten much like a carrot, however, after that small window the root becomes too tough and woody to eat. The young leaves are also edible. During the second year the plant will grow taller, often around three to five feet, and produce flowers.  The flowers are edible as well, and can be eaten raw, or cooked in a variety of ways (such as dipped in batter and fried like a fritter). Later in the second year the plant's flower clusters will turn to seed, and the cycle begins again.
The leaves of the plant can be used as a diuretic, used to aid stomach upsets, and can be taken as a preventative for kidney stones. The leaves of Queen Anne's Lace can cause the skin to become very sensitive to sunlight, so take care when picking or handling the plant. The seed of the plant can cause uterine contractions, and has traditional uses as birth control. The root can have similar effects.
The flowers, and some also use the stem and leaves, can be turned into a dye that ranges from yellow to deep green.
 
Ritually, the plant can be used to promote fertility, sexual stamina, and to attract love and passion. The roots can be used to keep one grounded and balanced. Forked roots are considered to be lucky.  

Stem of Queen Anne's Lace
It is very important to correctly identify Queen Anne's Lace, as it closely resembles water hemlock, and poison hemlock - both quite toxic, and both can make you very sick, or even kill you. There are a few key ways to tell the plants apart. First, the stems of Queen Anne's Lace will be covered in fine hairs, and as was mentioned earlier, when the flowers are in bloom a single red flower can be found near the center of the flower cluster. The stems of poison hemlock will be smooth, hollow, and covered in purplish splotches. With Queen Anne's Lace, a bit of crushed leaf or root will smell like carrot, where poison hemlock has a different odor - sometimes described as more earthy. As always, please do your homework if you're going to be foraging or engaging in herbalism - be sure you're picking the right plant, and be sure you're using it correctly.

Queen Anne's Lace is not native to North America, and is often considered a pest plant due to how aggressively it can spread, which can cause it to take over areas and coke out native plants. It's my understanding that in some states of the US it is even illegal to plant or transport Queen Anne's Lace, so it's best to check your local laws if you wish to cultivate it.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Day Three - Symbols of Artemis

3. Symbols and icons of this deity.

Artemis' bow is probably one of her more iconic symbols. These days, many like to associate the waxing crescent moon with Artemis' bow - and I admit, I like that symbolism myself - but classically Artemis' bow and arrows are described as being golden. The bow is not Artemis' only hunting weapon, however, as she also carries a spear and hunting/fishing nets. She is frequently shown wearing a short hunting tunic, as well, and is accompanied by a pack of hunting dogs.

Artemis is also said to have a chariot, again usually described as golden (or all gold), which is drawn by four deer with golden horns, and deer in general are one of the animals sacred to Artemis.

The torch is another of her symbols, and she is often shown or described as holding a single torch, or twin torches. When she is holding a single torch, often her bow is in her other hand, but sometimes she will be shown holding something else, such as a snake.

Artemis has some ties to music and dance, and is frequently shown holding a lyre (a stringed instrument).

Deer were not the only animals sacred to Artemis. Bears were also particularly sacred to her, as well as boars, dogs and wolves, partridges, quails, guineafowl, and other ground birds, and the buzzard or hawk.  

Artemis also ruled over fishing, and was sometimes said to be a goddess of lakes, so fresh-water fish were also sacred to her, as well, and it would seem a pool or spring of fresh-water fish was a common feature at many shines to Artemis.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day Two - Beginnings

2. How did you become first aware of this deity? 

I can't really remember when I first learned about Artemis - without doubt I was exposed to her myths, and other Greek myths, when I was much younger. When I first came to paganism the Greek pantheon was actually the first that caught my eye, and was the first I tried to form some bonds with. Nothing came of that, however.

It wasn't until many years after that, that Artemis came to my attention in any sort of spiritual sense. I feel like I'm probably going to get the dates wrong here, but if I remember right I think it was sometime around late 2007 when I first started to feel pulled to her.

At that time, I had just come out of Egyptian reconstruction, and I was struggling a bit with finding direction. Even though I knew reconstruction was not where I belonged, I still worshiped the Egyptian deities. They were the only real constant for me then, so feeling this other deity on the edges? I wasn't having it. Frankly, it was scary. It felt like too much change, too quickly. It would have been just like starting over... Which, as it turns out, was what I really needed on many levels, although of course I didn't know that at the time.

There was also the fact that this was the first non-Egyptian deity that I had ever felt anything from, and that was a bit intimidating in it's own way. It was almost like there was a bit of something akin to culture shock from that.

So, I put off truly responding to this pull for a very long time... at least a year, but if I remember right it was closer to two years. (I know I've written a bit about this before, I need to go back and tag it properly sometime...) Eventually, I had a dream which contained a message I couldn't deny, I knew what it was I should be doing, and at the same time many other areas of my spiritual practice began to stagnate, and eventually the Egyptian deities that I worshiped and worked with seemed to collectively step back - while at the same time, giving a nod to what needed to be done.

So I went with it - and it's lead me to where I am today. Walking a path that makes a lot more sense to me on a personal level than anything I was doing before... and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it here had I not ever become aware of Artemis, felt pulled to her, and actually finally responded to that pull.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Prompt: Advice to Newbies

Everyone has their two cents on where to start, so where do you weigh in? If someone new to Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft approached you and asked for some direction, what would you say? Start with books? If yes, what books would you recommend? Start out in nature? Seek a mentor?Today's topic is all about where you think a good starting place is and why.

My first bit of advice to any beginner, regardless of what path you're looking into, is to write things down! Record good information, record things you disagree with (and why), record any experiences, record what you're interested in learning more about... just write and record all sorts of things.

This serves two purposes. First, it's just a good way to keep and sort through all the information you'll be coming across - because there's very likely going to be a lot of it, especially if you're looking into more than one tradition, or taking an eclectic approach.

But second, as you progress down your spiritual path, it's really nice to have this sort of thing to look back on. You can see where you've grown, see where you may need to grow more, remember when you were interested in a particular topic, and so on.

As for where you learn? Unless you're looking into a particular tradition, often the best way to go is by using a variety of resources. Books (both historical non-fiction and modern pagan books), websites, talking to other pagans, and yes, if you're looking into a more nature-based path, get out into nature and learn there, as well. Cross-reference, get recommendations, fact check.

How one chooses to learn is also quite a personal thing... As a hedgewitch, I've come to where I am in my practice though self-teaching with books and the like, and that worked very well for me. However, others might find they learn much better with a teacher. That's really up to the individual, and how they best learn - although, of course, some traditions have specific requirements in that area.

Beyond that, I'd say another common mistake is putting off any form of practice. Pray, meditate, spend time in nature, learn little basic rituals, that sort of thing. It's good to read, it's good to study, it's good to have an understanding of what you're going to be doing... but too often I see people feel they need to study for a year, or years, before they can do anything - and then, even if a good amount of time has passed, they find themselves stuck, and unable to take those first few steps. Sometimes this is because they've taken in too much information, they get caught up in how much they don't know, they loose track of what they do know, or where they should start to later move to more advanced things. Don't jump into the deep-end with no idea of what you're doing, but do start taking those baby steps, building that strong foundation for your practice, sooner rather than later.

A similar mistake is feeling like you need every tool, herb, stone, etc. under the sun before you can do anything. Again, sometimes certain things might be tradition based, but generally speaking there are a lot of basic practices one can do that require NO materials at all. Don't let a lack of tools discourage you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day One - Short Introduction to Artemis

1. A basic introduction of the deity.

Many modern pagan sources seem to give a limited view of Artemis - often just nothing more than the short description of "Greek moon goddess," and while she does have lunar ties, Artemis is so much more than that.

Artemis is very much a goddess of hunting, and of wild animals and wild places. I have seen her described as the 'soul of the wild,' and that is a very fitting description of her. While she is a huntress, she is also the protector of wild animals.

Similarly, she had ties to healing and health, and she is a protector of girls and women - yet she was also thought to be responsible for bringing disease and sudden death to them as well. Again, being both protector and destroyer.

Beyond that, she was also a goddess of childbirth, a goddess of the dawn and of the frost, and also had some ties to singing, dancing, and music. She was a virgin goddess, yet the Ephesian Artemis had close ties to fertility.

Artemis is a very complex deity (as they often are!), and it's hard for me to keep her introduction short... but there are 29 more days to get into more detail, so I'll leave it a bit simple for now.

Still, if you're looking to read (a lot) more about Artemis, I strongly suggest her page on Theoi.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

30 Days of Deity Devotion

While messing around on Tumblr recently, I came across this list of prompts which focus on 30 days of writing about a specific deity (of the writer's choice). I thought this would be interesting to do, although I'll likely be doing it over a very long period of time between other posts. Always good to have some prompts around when the ideas run low!
  1. A basic introduction of the deity
  2. How did you become first aware of this deity?
  3. Symbols and icons of this deity
  4. A favorite myth or myths of this deity
  5. Members of the family – genealogical connections
  6. Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
  7. Names and epithets
  8. Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
  9. Common mistakes about this deity
  10. Offerings – historical and UPG
  11. Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
  12. Places associated with this deity and their worship
  13. What modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?
  14. Has worship of this deity changed in modern times?
  15. Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
  16. How do you think this deity represents the values of their pantheon and cultural origins?
  17. How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
  18. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)
  19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
  20. Art that reminds you of this deity
  21. Music that makes you think of this deity
  22. A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
  23. Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity
  24. A time when this deity has helped you
  25. A time when this deity has refused to help
  26. How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?
  27. Worst misconception about this deity that you have encountered
  28. Something you wish you knew about this deity but don’t currently
  29. Any interesting or unusual UPG to share?
  30. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hekate

“Asteria of happy name, whom Perses once led to his great house to be called his dear wife. And she conceived and bare Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hekate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her.”
Hesiodic Hymn to Hekate

"Out of Erebos and Chaos she called Nox (Night) and the Di Nocti (Gods of Night) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate ... a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.403


Hekate is the Greek goddess of crossroads and thresholds, witchcraft and magic, the night, and of ghosts and necromancy. She is said to have power over the sky, the earth, and the sea, and also has strong ties to the underworld (which the Greeks called Hades).

Hekate’s origins are unclear. Some suggest she originates from Heket, the Egyptian goddess of childbirth, but there is very little evidence to support this. It is perhaps more likely that she has Thracian origins, but there are also other theories. Despite the debate surrounding her exact origins, she does appear to be a fairly ancient goddess of pre-Olympian origins. It is believed that when the Olympian pantheon displaced the Titans, Hekate is one of the few Titans who was allowed to keep what was hers (dominion over land, sea, sky, and underworld), as Zeus respected her power.

Although Hekate is a Greek deity, she is not an Olympian, but instead she is often regarded as a chthonic deity – that is, a deity relating to the underworld. Even so, as a goddess of thresholds, she did not fit neatly into that category at all times.

The meaning of Hekate’s name is not entirely clear, it seems most likely that it means something like ‘worker from afar’ (Hekatos). Hekate is a more accurate Greek spelling, where Hecate is the Latin spelling, either spelling is acceptable.

The earliest depictions of Hekate show her as a young woman holding either twin torches, or a key. Frequently she is dressed in a short tunic, similar to Artemis. In later periods, Hekate was often shown in triple form, but she does not really fit neatly into the modern Maiden-Mother-Crone archetype. In Greek thought, she was shown in triplicate form to symbolize the wide range of her rule, her mystical nature, her ability to see into the past, present and future, and her link to the triple crossroads. When depicted in triplicate, she is often still holding her twin torches, a key, and a knife.

The Greek Magical Papyri, a series of writings from Graeco-Roman Egypt, often describe Hekate as having one or three animal heads, or as having the head of a maiden (sometimes horned), and two animal heads. The animal heads could be that of a dog, cow, bull, goat, horse, or serpent. It is likely that in addition to having specific links to these animals, she is shown with animal heads to symbolize her link to the wilderness, and to the wild and primal.

Hekate rules over the crossroads. We usually think of a crossroads as two roads coming together to form a cross, but it is actually a triple crossroads (three roads forming a T or Y sort of shape, for example) which is most closely associated with her. It is said that her triple form faces three directions so she can guard the triple crossroads. It was common to find wayshrines dedicated to her erected at the crossroads.

Hekate was also associated with borders and thresholds of various sorts, such as the city walls, doorways, and so on – the crossroads also fit into this pattern. As a liminal goddess, she also stands between the two worlds (upper and lower, or those of the living and the dead), as well as serving as a mediator between the Olympians and the titans, or the Olympians and the Chthonic deities. Hekate was thought to guard such thresholds, and was said to be able to protect them (be it by not allowing evil to cross the doorway into a house, or by not allowing the dead to wander the world of the living), and as such this also meant she could refuse to protect someone against these things, and even send them against people should she wish to do so.

Her threshold associations can be seen in the myth of Persephone (among other myths), where she was a witness to Hades’ abduction of Persephone from her cave – a threshold to the underworld.

Hekate is also a goddess of witchcraft and magic – which also includes the creation of potions, tinctures, poisons, salves, and so on, and the knowledge of herbs required to do such things. The witch Medea is said to have gotten her power from Hekate (and she was also a priestess at Hekate’s temple), and Medea practiced magic that is frequently described as nocturnal in nature, or necromantic. Hekate is also said to have given Medea incredible knowledge of, and skill with, all the herbs that grow on land, and all the herbs of the water.

Hekate is a goddess of the night. She has some lunar ties, especially when she becomes more identified with Selene, but it might be more accurate to say that she is the goddess of moonless nights – especially moonless nights where the stars are fully visible.

Hekate is also a goddess of the dead, and of the underworld. She rules over necromancy, allowing the living to contact the dead for information or aid. She is said to lead the ghosts of the dead around the world of the living during the night, and that howling dogs is a symbol that she is passing by. In addition to leading the earthbound ghosts, she is also sometimes said to lead the spirits of the dead to the underworld. Being that she has the power to let the dead loose, she is also sometimes invoked to keep the dead from wandering.

Hekate was also related to the keres, female death-spirits who were daughters of the goddess Nyx, which include the Moirai (the fates), among other figures.

Hekate was not only associated with the dead, but also had some ties to childbirth as well. Additionally, she also had some associations with purification.

Animals sacred to Hekate include the dog, who have ties to the underworld in Greek mythology (and indeed, often in Indo-european myth in general), as well as having ties to the living (as companions/guardians of humans). Additionally, dogs were thought of as being threshold guardians – be it in guarding human homes, or Kerberos, who guarded the entrance of the underworld. Hekate was often accompanied by dogs, and there are a few myths where a human woman was turned into a dog (for various reasons), and became one of Hekate’s.

The polecat (a sort of weasel) was also one of her sacred animals. Again, in some myths she is accompanied by a polecat that was once a person, but was either turned into polecat by Hekate, or was turned into weasel by another, and Hekate took pity on them

The red mullet, a type of fish, also carried some loose associations to Hekate. As did serpents, cows and bulls, and horses, all to some extent.

Plants sacred to Hekate include aconite, mandrake belladonna, saffron, garlic, dittany, yew, cypress, and oak. Ebony was also said to be sacred to Hekate, as was bronze.

Some of Hekate’s titles include:
  • Night Wandering
  • Lady of the Underworld
  • Queen of the Dead (or Queen of those Below)
  • Angry/terrible One
  • Tender/delicate (hearted) One
  • Of the Crossroads
  • Of the Wayside
  • Nurse of the Young
  • Leader of Dogs
  • One That Turns Away/protects
  • Holding the Keys
  • Before the Gate
  • Savior
  • Light Bringer

Hekate had a few public temples, but household shrines were often erected in her name, often in hopes to ward off witchcraft, or otherwise to protect the house from all manner of evils and ills.. A Hekataion was a little shrine placed at the front door, which was dedicated to Hekate, and were very common in Athens.

Offerings to Hekate were said to often be made to during the night, and at the crossroads. As a Chthonic deity, offerings to her might have also been burned whole, or buried in the ground (unlike offerings to the Olympians, which were often communal meals).

In one epic, a man named Jason placates Hecate in a ritual given to him by the witch Medea. He was told to bathe at midnight in flowing water, and to dress in clean, darkly colored robes. He was then to dig a pit, and to erect a pyre next to the pit, so that an ewe could be sacrificed within the pit, which should then be burned whole on the pyre with an offering of honey. He is then instructed to leave the offering site without looking back, even if he hears the sound of people, footsteps, or barking dogs – which would all indicate the presence of Hekate. The elements of this particular ritual are all very chthonic in nature. However, not all of Hekate’s traditional offerings were done in this manner.

A common sacrifice to Hekate would be that of dogs (or puppies). When dog meat was offered, it would usually be offered at a crossroads, and it would often be shared in a communal meal with those present.
In some locations, notably Athens, the end of each lunar month brought a festival dedicated to Hekate called the Deipnon - or sometimes Deipna Hekates (Deipnon is the Greek word for the largest meal of the day, Deipna is the plural of Deipnon).

This festival contained two parts. The first was to fumigate and cleanse the home. The home and household shrines were cleaned out, and the cleanings were gathered up to become part of the offering (the cleanings often contained dropped food, leftover offerings, waste blood, dirt/dust, ashes from sacrifices or incense ashes, and so on), and the home was purified. This ensured a fresh start for the beginning of the month.

The second part of the festival was to offer a meal to Hekate, which could include cakes, eggs, garlic, leeks or onions, fish, and cheese. At the end of the evening, the cleanings and the meal were usually left at the end of the path connecting the house and the main road, which of course formed a triple crossroads. The offering was placed there, and it was not to be looked at as one went back into the house. It’s not sure what was done with these offerings the next day, but often the food would be taken away by the poor in the night.

"Ask Hekate whether it is better to be rich or starving; she will tell you that the rich send her a meal every month [i.e. food placed inside her door-front shrines] and that the poor make it disappear before it is even served."
Aristophanes, Plutus 410 ff (trans. O'Neill) Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C

Hekate is often said to be one of the virgin goddesses, much like Artemis and Athena. Many myths say she is unmarried, and she is often said to be without children, but occasionally myths say she is mother to the sea monster Scylla.

Hekate is usually regarded as the daughter of Asteria (“Starry One”) and Perses (a deity of destruction and war), who were both Greek Titans. However, a few sources say she is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Sometimes said to be a daughter of Leto (a Titan who was sister to Asteria, and the mother of Artemis and Apollo), perhaps because of her association with Artemis.

Hekate assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, and became Persephone’s companion during her time in Hades. Due to this, she became a key part of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and served as a guide to the initiate of the mysteries, as well as perhaps serving other roles (little is recorded of the mysteries).

Hekate, in later times, was often heavily identified with Artemis and Selene. Eventually these three formed a triad deity, Hekate-Artemis-Selene, who was fairly popular in the poetry of Roman era Greece. Sometimes she would be linked to just one or the other, forming Artemis-Hekate, and Hekate-Selene.

Hekate was also identified with the Thracian goddess Bendis, who was a goddess of the moon, hunting, and witchcraft. Bendis was also associated with Selene and Artemis, and indeed the Greeks essentially saw her as a combination of those three deities. It is likely that this is the source of Hekate becoming linked to closely to both Artemis and Selene.

The Romans equated Hekate with their goddess Trivia.

"Hekate Einodia, Trioditis [Trivia], lovely dame, of earthly, watery, and celestial frame, sepulchral, in a saffron veil arrayed, pleased with dark ghosts that wander through the shade; Perseis, solitary goddess, hail! The world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, Nymphe, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near."

Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate

Additional Sources:
Hekate on Theoi.com
Hekate Liminal Rites, by Sorita d'Este and David Rankine
Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hekate, by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spiritual slumps, downtimes, and self-motivation.

This is a topic that I've seen coming up a lot lately - which is probably a good place to start this post with. If you're having a bit of a spiritual slump, lacking motivation, energy, or whatever else - you're not alone. Many pagans find themselves going through cycles in their spirituality, and I don't think I've ever met a pagan who hasn't found themselves in some sort of spiritual slump at one point, for one reason or another.

People can find themselves in these situations for all sorts of reasons - not having time to practice due to work, or a health issue, a fear of moving into a deeper practice, laziness, and other reasons. 

Still, no matter what the cause is, there's really just two things you can do... First, you can recognize that you will have such cycles, and simply accept that as part of your spirituality. I'm sure there are those who think this is probably awful advice, but look, sometimes things are just what they are. If you're the type who goes through these cycles, there's nothing wrong with choosing to work with that, if that's what you want to do.

And doing that doesn't necessarily mean totally ignoring your spirituality for that period of time. You may choose not to do things like daily devotions at an altar, meditation, and so on - but you can still have a spiritual mindset during these times. A nod to the sun or moon while out on a walk, spending a bit of time thinking about the seasonal cycles during your commute, and so on.

Alternatively, one could find a way to just power through these times. Establishing some sort of daily practice can be helpful in this, and truly, it can be helpful in preventing slumps in the first place. If time is a problem, it's good to try and tie your daily practice in with something you'd be doing anyway - a prayer over a meal, a small devotional while dinner cooks, a purification while showering. Any somewhat consistent time can work well though, like after getting up, before going to bed, or whatever works for you.

Having some sort of visual reminders can also help you remember/motivate you to practice. An altar is, of course, a great reminder - but anything can serve as such a reminder if you put the association to it. Jewelry is also great for this... it doesn't have to be something obvious like a pentacle, again, anything can really serve as a reminder if you consider it to be one.

When you're in a slump (and even when you're not), it's important to think about what you want to do, and why you want to do it. Is it something you truly want, or is it simply something others have made you feel you need to do? If it is something you really want, if there are goals you have, it might take a bit of work to get yourself there... but, chances are it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm back!

That blogging break lasted longer than I expected, but I'm back now. I'm still traveling around a bit right now - soon I'll be off to see my new little niece for the first time! - so updates might still be a bit sparse, but I miss writing and I'm going to work on making more time for it when I can.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A slight hiatus...

I've had a lot going on recently - not necessarily bad things, work, travel, family events, and so on - and unfortunately that has left me with little time (or motivation) to write.

I always hate to leave my blog neglected for very long, but right now I'm not sure when I'll be back to get back to maintaining it. Soon, hopefully, but I can't know for sure right now.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fate, the Future, and Foresight

A common question surrounding the tarot, runes, and other methods of divination is are we able to change the futures that they show us? When we divine, is what we see written in stone? Guaranteed to pass for better or worse? Do our divination tools show us our fates? Frankly, I think Yoda said it best...

"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

I do not believe that we have a single fate that's set in stone, that we are powerless to change. I'm of the belief that we have a hand in writing our own futures - that we can shape our own fates. Every choice we make affects our future, as do outside influences. Everything that happens now causes the future to change, to adapt to the choices and changes made today. The tarot may show us a glimpse of what might come, should we continue on the same path we're currently walking... but that's it. Many times, there's nothing stopping us from changing directions.

This is not to say that we're always in complete control, because again, there will always be outside influences that affect us. We don't generally have control over what other people choose to do, and certainly we can't always control things like weather, natural disasters, illness, and so on. The choices others make can impact our futures - and likewise, the choices we make can impact the futures of those around us.

One of the better ways I've heard it described is likening it to a river. Going with the current is like going with our current fate. Going with the flow, and letting things play out as they've been set up. Going against the current is working against our current fate, changing the situation to avoid a particular outcome.

Sometimes the current is gentle, and we can go against it without issue. However, there will be other times where we're caught in a strong current. Events are set in motion, either by ourselves or by outside influences (or both, in many cases), that form a current that is hard to break away from. We might be able to swim against it, to beat it, but it will be a struggle - and there will be times where we get swept away no matter how hard we try.

Tarot cards and other forms of divination show us what is likely to happen should we continue to go with the flow. Sometimes events unfold that are truly beyond our control, but we're often given many opportunities to shape our own fates.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ostara

Welcome to spring, welcome to the light half of the year, and welcome to the foot of fresh snow that came in along with it.

A lot of people seem surprised at the snow we got, but it's pretty normal to get a storm right around this time each year. Last year was actually the odd year out, with Ostara temperatures hot enough for a trip to the beach and a bonfire! The year before? Snow, just like this year.

Still, the signs of spring are getting harder to ignore - even under all this snow. The days are becoming longer than the nights, and temperatures are rising... if slowly. Not much longer now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fluff Bunnies

Fluff bunnies, fluffies, whatever you want to call them, it's a topic I've seen going around a lot recently (and not just with today's PBP "F" topics). Some people really take issue with this term, while others don't have a problem with it. From what I've seen, One of the big problems is that there is no real single definition for what a fluff bunny is.

Some people use this term to describe those new to paganism, those who don't know much - but are trying to learn, or those who make common beginner mistakes. To me, it doesn't really make much sense to insult those types, to look down on them. We were all beginners once, after all. We all had to seek out the information, and if there's anyone out there who never made a silly beginner's mistake? Well, I would seriously doubt that claim...

Then there are those who use the term to describe anyone who practices a path that focuses more on the lighter stuff in life, the 'fluff.' Well, it's not my cup of tea, but if it's legitimately fulfilling to them, then I don't really think it's any of my business. As long as they're giving me that same respect, then to me there's no problem there. Sure, some of them don't respect anything but the 'all light all the time' paths - but, truthfully, there are plenty who look down on the whole 'love and light' thing too. It goes both ways. (And, of course, fluffy is sometimes also applied to the other end of the spectrum, the whole doom and gloom bunch. Same thing with them.)

I think though, in most cases it's used to describe those who lead a shallow spiritual life for show, for the attention. Or for those who want to remain willfully ignorant. These are not the people who are honestly looking for information, these are not the people who pick up incorrect information along the way, but are willing to adjust when presented with correct information. These are the people who ignore the facts that don't fit in with their views. The people who claim Wicca is an ancient religion from the stone age, unbroken in practice - or the people who claim that millions of people were killed during 'The Burning Times' - and absolutely refuse to acknowledge that their facts are easily proven wrong.

Now, a question often comes up with that last group - why does it matter if someone is willfully ignorant? After all, they're only hurting themselves, and no one else, right? Well, no, they actually are hurting people. Purposely spreading misinformation hurts the people looking for the actual facts. It muddies the waters for everyone. Especially when you have some 'popular' authors, authors with books which are easily accessible to many people, doing the same thing. It's the sort of thing we should not let slide by, because it hurts our newcomers (and at times even those who've been around for a while), and it reflects poorly on paganism as a whole.

Truthfully, it's because of all these variants that I don't really like the term fluff bunny, and it's why I don't use it myself. It's not that I have an issue actually addressing problematic behaviors and the like, but if I say fluffy and mean X, but someone else thinks I mean Y, and yet another thinks I mean Z...? Well, I guess I just find it more helpful to be specific with these kinds of issues.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winter Wednesday

The last winter photo of the season - next week spring is officially here. You can start to feel it a bit, too. The nights are still cold, but the days are warming up a bit. Good weather for tapping trees to make syrup. (Something I'd like to get back into, one of these years...) Melting snow mixed with yesterday's rain has the stream running higher than usual.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This year's garden...

So I think I finally have the garden all planned out for this year. Mama's only request was scallions, and there will be plenty of those since we accidentally doubled up on scallion seeds. We've all been talking about making our own pickles again, so I also picked up some pickling cucumbers. My grandfather usually buys tomato plants for the garden, rather than starting them from seeds, but I thought it might be interesting to grow some mini-tomatoes (yellow pear) from seeds. I'm sure there will also be regular tomato plants, as well as cherry tomato plants, so if mine don't grow well it won't be a big loss.

One of the main things I wanted to try growing this year was a bit of corn. Corn (mainly in the form of cornmeal) has become a fairly important element in many of my workings, so I am looking forward to growing some of my own.

Then there are the herbs and flowers. Sage, lavender, mugwort, blue flax, and sunflowers. I've actually seen mugwort growing locally, and have been able to gather some at times, but it's often in areas which are hard for me to get to. (Or right up along roadsides, which are not great places to forage from.)

Of course, right now the garden is still covered in snow, and there's still a lot of work to be done before planting - it's been a long time since I've really been able to work in the garden, I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Equinox

We see two equinoxes in a year, one in March, and the other in September. It is a time when the tilt of the Earth's axis is not inclined either away from or towards the sun. A time when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth's equator, which causes the night and day to be (nearly) equal in length. The exact length of the day and night on the equinox varies with where you live, but in many locations it will be close to an even split.That's essentially what equinox means - equal night - as in equal amounts of night and day.

In the southern hemisphere, the March equinox is the first day of autumn, and here in the north, we'll be celebrating the coming of spring. Both equinoxes are quite important in my personal path - they are where I split the year into the light and dark halves. From the spring equinox forward the days are longer than the nights, the light half, and when we get to the autumn equinox the nights become longer than the days, the dark half. They are the sunrise and sunset of the year.

At the spring equinox, we get ready for the planting and growing season (literally or metaphorically), and at the autumn equinox we're bringing in the harvest, giving thanks to the land that sustains us, reaping the rewards of our hard work, and getting ready for the colder winter months.

In New Hampshire, it's usually still cold and somewhat snowy at the time of the March equinox. It can be hard to really feel that spring has begun, even though some of the early signs are there. It's not yet time to get the garden ready for planting, it's still too cold for that. However, there's still some preparation that can be done - the seeds can be blessed, and some seeds do better when they've been given a head-start indoors. Getting those seeds started at the equinox will have them ready for transfer after the last threats of frost have passed.

It's become a bit of a tradition for me to get up a before sunrise on the morning of the spring equinox to go out and welcome the sun, the spring, the light half of the year. To make offerings to my Gods and the land spirits. It's very informal, just some offered incense and a shared meal, yet it's become one of the points of the year I look forward to the most. It's cold, it's quiet... but it just feels so rich with potential. I can sit out under the big maple tree and perfectly picture the coming summer. The growth everywhere, the leaves and the shade they provide from the hot sun, the flowers, the noisy insects that have been gone for so long. Part of it still feels so distant at the equinox, but even so you just know it won't be much longer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Natural Egg Dyes (Part One)

With Ostara and Easter right around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to start playing around with natural dyes again. This is something I tried a little bit in the past, but never had great success with. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong then, I distinctly remember having poor results with turmeric - but this time around it gave a rich and even color. I suppose, like many skills, it just takes a bit of experimenting and practice.

So, I decided to give four dyes a try - turmeric, beets, mugwort, and smoked paprika. (We did not have any plain paprika at the time, and I'm not sure if there would be any real difference anyway.)

First I had to boil some eggs. There are lots of ways to do this, but my favorite method is to put the eggs in a pot, only a single layer of them. Fill the pot with cool water to about an inch above the eggs. Put the pot on the stove, over medium high heat. When it comes to a boil turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for two minutes. After two minutes, remove it from the heat, put the cover on the pot, and let it sit for 12 minutes. At that point you may want to take one of the eggs, run it under cold water, and make sure it's done. In my experience though, this is a fairly fool proof method. Then run all the eggs under cold water, and let them cool. If you use fresh eggs, they'll be harder to peel. It's best to get your eggs four or five days before you'll need them.

Turmeric
Turmeric produced a very vibrant and even yellow dye. To make this dye, I mixed two tablespoons of turmeric into a cup of hot water. I let the dye cool to room temperature, and mixed in a tablespoon of white vinegar. First I put the egg in for just a minute or two - that produced a pale yellow-orange egg (left). I put the egg back in for another five minutes, which gave a really rich yellow (right.)

Smoked Paprika

The paprika dye was made in the same way as the turmeric dye. Two tablespoons smoked paprika into a cup of hot water. When it cooled, I mixed in a tablespoon of white vinegar. this dye didn't coat as evenly for me. I left it in for a minute or so, and it came out pale orange with some dark orange splotches (left). After another five minutes, it was a darker orange, but still a bit splotchy (right). Leaving it in the dye even longer didn't seem to change it much. Not an even dye, but it did make some interesting patterns.

For both the turmeric and paprika dyes, you will have to allow the eggs to dry a bit, then gently wipe off any spice sticking to it.(Or just strain the water before dipping eggs.)

Beets
The beet dye took the longest to make, because I used fresh beets. Using the liquid from a can of beets would probably be quicker - but I love eating beet greens, so I went for fresh. I diced up a cup of beets, and added that to two cups of water. I let that come to a boil on the stove, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about forty minutes. Strained the beets from the liquid, allowed the liquid to cool, and added a tablespoon of white vinegar. The beet dye made a lovely pastel pink after a minute or two (left), and five minutes added to that gave a deeper pink (right).

The final dye was made with mugwort. I let two tablespoons dried mugwort steep in a cup of hot water until the water came to room temperature. Strained the mugwort out, and added a tablespoon white vinegar to the liquid. I left it in for a minute and saw no change to the egg. After about ten minutes longer in the dye, the egg was a very pale green. I didn't think it worked well, so I didn't bother to take any pictures - but the color seemed a bit deeper this morning, so I included it in the group shot above. I think in the future I'll try something else to make a green dye.

Whatever dye you use, if you like the look of really glossy eggs, you just need to rub a little olive oil onto each egg. Putting rubber bands around the eggs while dying them can make interesting designs, and you can always use wax or crayon to make more detailed designs before dipping the eggs into the dye.

Later this week I plan to test out more dyes, as well as a few different dying methods. Should be fun! Later this month I also want to write about making talismans from hollow eggs, which can be a nice thing to include as part of an Ostara ritual.
 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Wiccan Rede

There are two common misconceptions surrounding the Wiccan Rede that I'd like to address today.

The first misconception is that it's something all witches/pagans follow, or even that it's something that all witches/pagans must follow, and if they don't? Well, then they're not a real witch/pagan. Frankly, I don't understand how this makes sense to anyone - especially when it comes from 'elders,' or the more influential people in the community who really should know better.

Wiccans are pagan, that's true, but we know not all pagans are Wiccan. Likewise, not all witches are Wiccan. So why should all witches/pagans follow the Wiccan Rede, even if they're not Wiccan? (Heck, when you really get down to it, the Wiccan Rede is not even something truly emphasisied in all Wiccan traditions!) Yes, some non-Wiccans choose to follow the Wiccan Rede, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, there are a number of traditions and individual paths which have their own morals, ethics, and so on. The Wiccan Rede is not a part of every tradition, and it doesn't need to be. It really is that simple.

Beyond that, let's look at the meaning of the word rede. Rede doesn't mean law, and it doesn't mean commandment - instead it means something more along the lines of advice or counsel. A word of advice is a lot different than a set in stone law, so even if someone didn't follow the rede in every situation, would it really make them any less of a Wiccan/witch/pagan?

The second misunderstanding is from those who whittle the Rede down to two words, "harm none." It is impossible to never cause harm, but luckily the Rede does not say that. The Rede says "an it harm none, do what ye will" or, alternatively, "an ye harm none, do what ye will." An means if, and ye of course means you. If you harm none, do what you will. In other words? If whatever it is you're planning to do doesn't cause harm to anyone, go for it. The Rede is permissive, not restrictive.

If it does cause harm? The Rede doesn't actually say what to do in that situation, but we can assume that the advice is implying that one should carefully weigh their options in such a situation - perhaps that unnecessary harm should be avoided. However, no where does it say that causing any harm must always be avoided. An additional line to the Rede has been floating around for a while now "an it cause harm, do as ye must." Although it's not an 'official' part of the Rede, perhaps it does help clarify the spirit of the Rede more than just saying "harm none" does.

Now, to be fair, no, I am not a Wiccan, and no, I do not personally incorporate the Rede into my path. So perhaps it isn't my place to be commenting on what the Rede does or does not mean, since I don't even follow it... but, well, I figure since it's pushed on me so often I might as well toss my two cents in on the matter now and again. There are several different ways one could interpret the Rede, but I think taking the "harm none" approach just doesn't do it justice.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Eclecticism

What does eclectic mean? Looking at a dictionary, we see...
1. Selecting or choosing from various sources.
2. Made up of what is selected from different sources.
3. Not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.

Really, that's about all there is to it. Spiritually speaking, to be eclectic means to pull what works for you from various sources, to put those different elements together into a working path. Although I usually just call myself a hedgewitch, it would be accurate to say I'm an eclectic hedgewitch. There are hedgewitches who work only with the symbols, belief, deities, etc. of one culture - but many of us, myself included, usually find ourselves pulling from a few different cultures, for multiple reasons.

Some people take a bad view of eclectics - we can be seen as flippant, indecisive, lazy, disrespectful. Truthfully, there are certainly some eclectics who fit that description, but there are many more who don't.

If you're going to be eclectic, it does take work. Being an eclectic should not just be about doing "whatever you want," it needs to be about doing what actually works for you, and those are not always the same thing. Beyond, that is it also not always about doing what "feels good" or "feels right." To grow spiritually we must know our personal limits, and occasionally push past them. Spiritual growth is not always good feeling, it can be uncomfortable or downright painful, but that is necessary at times.

So how do you find what works? The first step is often study, and lots of it. Know the original context of the idea/practice, know the history behind it, know why it was done, how, the real meaning of it. Occasionally some of that knowledge may be lost to history, but we should learn what we can. If we're talking about a Deity, same thing, study their history, their mythology, how they were traditionally worshiped, and so on. You don't have to worship a deity exactly as was done historically, but it's good to know the information, and it can keep you from doing something that would be seen as inappropriate.

After studying, an idea can be put into practice. Try it out. Experiment a bit. If it works well for you, you can work on incorporating it into your personal practice. If it doesn't? You may want to give it a few more tries, but if it still isn't working after a good while, you can move on to find something that does. You don't have to force yourself into doing something that just isn't working, but some techniques may require persistence to really get right.

Being eclectic is not about just grabbing anything pleasing and shoving it all together, hoping that you get something somewhat functioning. We need to be respectful to the cultures we borrow from - and sometimes, that can even mean not borrowing a particular practice or belief at all.

Remember, these are often sacred symbols, beliefs, and so on - not just to the original culture, but if you're going to incorporate it into your practice then they are sacred to you too. Treat them that way.