Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Storm

A storm started rolling in on Wednesday, very thick, heavy snow. Tore down tons of branches, bent small trees and flower bushes right over. A lot of people were without power. I was at my grandparent's house, and we lost power that night, right before I was about to sit down to make some apple pies.

The old maple tree out back has lost two huge branches. I'm hoping the tree won't be too bad off, and I'm definitely planning to take a bunch of wood from the fallen branches since that tree's a bit special to me. I've only had time to go out and take a quick look, but there also looks like there might be a nice branch for a stang there.

I'm not sure I want to make another stang, since it's the sort of tool where, for me, I would think one would be enough... but man, that branch is just so perfect for it. I might also take enough to make a new set of ogham staves, and perhaps some for charms?

Winter storms bring a lot of damage, and this one left a lot of people without power for days, and having to throw away tons of food that spoiled, but I can always count on them to supply some fallen wood for various projects, might at well get some good from the damage.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Approaching Aphrodite

Aphrodite's altar is coming along. I want to post a picture in the next few days. I preformed my first ritual at it yesterday morning. I was actually planning to do it sooner, but there were a few days where my health wasn't letting me, and then another morning where I took a ritual shower, got dressed, and things just didn't feel right. I didn't preform the ritual, and I spent some time thinking about what was off... eventually it hit me, it was the clothes. I shouldn't be wearing them. I shouldn't be wearing anything

That was a new one for me. Fifteen-ish years of paganism and I have not once ever felt the need to do a ritual in the nude. It's not so much that I'm uncomfortable with the idea, but it just wouldn't be practical for the types of rituals I tend to do. I've never been big on ritual garb one way or the other, really, my everyday clothes have just worked fine for most things up to this point.

So since I had no real objections I went ahead with it. I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've seen a few other pagans say that the first time they practiced nude they found it totally freeing, and amazing, and wonderful, and they'll never go back... and nope, didn't get any of that myself. It wasn't super amazing, and it wasn't uncomfortable or awkward, it just felt normal and like the right thing for the ritual. I will continue to do it when honoring Aphrodite in this same setting, but I don't see it becoming a regular occurrence in other ritual settings.

As for the ritual itself I probably should have written more of it out, rather than just be beginning and part of the middle, because I found myself rambling a bit at times. Shortly after the ritual I found myself thinking of another deity, and realized that perhaps this deity should actually be included on the altar as well (and that I perhaps should be directing my specific request to this deity?). I'm still thinking on that...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Western Astrology

In the last week or so I've seen three different people saying things like "I really like this person but I'm a Leo and they're an Aquarius and so we shouldn't date, right?"


Look, let's assume for a minute that astrology is always correct, right? Even if that happened to be the case there's a lot more to astrology than just whatever your sun sign is. A full birth chart is much more detailed than the single sign that was determined by the month-ish long range of dates you happened to be born in. I mean, I'm an Aquarius, and so is my mother, and so is one of my best friends, and so is an old high school friend... and we are all very different people from each other. So the idea of basing things like relationships off of only a sun sign is perhaps not the best idea.

But let's look a bit deeper. The fact is that western astrology is not the only system of astrology that's out there.  There is also the Chinese system, and all it's variants, there's the Hindu system which shares some qualities with western astrology, but also has a lot of differences, and other systems. The truth is these systems can often conflict with each other. You're an Aries and she's a Virgo and that's a perfect match? Great, but oh wait, you're a tiger and she's a monkey and those are totally incompatible? What do you do then? (I'm making up those examples completely, but you get the idea, right?)

Interestingly, according to western astrology and Chinese astrology, my SO and I are pretty darn incompatible... which explains our twelve year long happy relationship. Although with the small Japanese variant we're compatible. So I guess the Japanese got it right, right? Or maybe that's just an example of why relying on astrology to make major life decisions isn't always the best idea. 

I also tend to think there's a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy with those who rely heavily on astrology. They're convinced they'll never get along with a Leo, and so... they never get along with a Leo. Sometimes I'll see someone saying, wow, good thing Mercury retrograde is over! Is it...? I didn't even know that was a thing that was happening, but apparently it was supposed to be hugely disruptive to my life in some way? Hm...

It's a bit like the old myth that the ER is much more busy during a full moon, ER workers all claim that to be true... but statistically, it's not accurate, that myth has been completely debunked. Still, the myth persists because of similar situations.

This is not at all to say astrology has no ritual or spiritual applications, it certainly can, and if using it in such ways works well for you, well, keep at it. I just think that maybe, you know, maybe making huge life decisions and judging someone entirely from their astrological birth chart is not really the best choice to make.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Homemade Skincare

Often in pagan communities the topic of various homemade products comes up. Usually the conversation is more about homemade cleaning products, but sometimes the topic of skincare comes up as well, and whenever it does a lot of not so great suggestions for things to put on your face always seem to pop up.

One thing I find worrying is the idea that "if it burns, it's working!" You do not need to burn your face for something to be effective. The skin on your face is generally quite delicate, and treating it harshly is not a good idea. Of course, everyone is different, and some people can be a lot more harsh with their skin than others... so, before trying out any homemade remedy, or even any store-bought product, it's always best to do a patch test. To do that just use a small bit on a small area of your face, and see if there's any odd reaction in the next day or so. Some people repeat the test for a few days in a row, especially if they're prone to acne, as it can take a few days to really see if something is causing you to break out. Sometimes it's better to do the patch test on your wrist, especially if you're testing for any sort of allergic reaction.

Another thing to look out for is anything that makes your face feel very tight. A lot of people like that feeling and have come to associate it with being clean, or whatever else, but the truth is it just means your skin is too dry. Try something with a bit more moisture!

Now, what sort of things should you avoid putting on your face? I'd say avoid anything that has baking soda, lemon, and cinnamon. Baking soda is very basic, and is quite harsh on the skin, especially when used as a scrub. Using it as a scrub or mask is an especially poor choice for people with dry or acne prone skin. Sometimes a small amount of baking soda can be used when it's added to other things, but just using it straight, or using large amounts of it, isn't a great idea. Lemon is the opposite of baking soda in that it is too acidic. Additionally lemon and lime (and perhaps other citrus?) can make you much more sensitive to sun damage. That can either be a severe burn, a rash, or blistering. Cinnamon is a common ingredient in those "it burns so it's working!" remedies, but again, burning doesn't mean it's working - and many people are sensitive to cinnamon and can get actual burns from it.

If you're specifically making a scrub, avoid anything that is very coarse - nutmeg and ground nuts are commonly suggested, and not really that great for the skin on your face. A good scrub for your face would be something like a mix of brown sugar and a bit of olive oil. Be gentle with any scrub, and only use them a few times a week. People who have very sensitive skin or issues with acne should usually avoid scrubs.

What else is good? Honey. Honey is anti-bacterial and is slightly more acidic than the skin on your face, making it a good treatment for acne. It's also a humectant, which means it'll keep your skin nice and moisturized. It can be used as a mask, although it can be pretty messy to apply and keep on. Plain Greek yogurt can also be used as a mask. Apple cider vinegar can be used like a toner, but avoid white vinegar which has a lower pH and isn't as gentle to the skin.

Those are just a few examples of things that are okay, or not okay, for your face... and remember, everyone's different. There are apparently people out there who scrub their faces vigorously every day with baking soda and say it's amazing, but do your skin a favor and patch test, and maybe consider options that might be less harsh.

It's also good to remember that just because something is natural, that doesn't automatically make it good for you!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Advice for Those Seeking Advice

If you're ever looking for advice or help with something, please be specific.

Be as clear as you can with what the issue is. Give details. If you've already tried something, say that. If you're already familiar with particular resources, list them. You don't have to weigh down a question with the story of your life, but think about any relevant information that will help.

Honestly, while I enjoy answering questions and helping people out when I can, it's quite frustrating to type out a reply and be met with a simple "I did/know that already." If you're already aware of/have tried the common solutions, take the minute to mention that so you don't end up wasting someone's time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating Aphrodite's Altar

Often I tend to favor somewhat simpler, clean altar designs. As an example, for a long time Artemis' altar was simply a statue of her with two candles on either side, although it has grown a little bit in the last few months. However, I feel like that sort of altar doesn't really fit with Aphrodite. I feel her altar should be one that easily engages all the senses when at it.

So I started thinking about the visual aspect first. I have a white statue of Aphrodite that will be in the center of the altar, but I am thinking of painting some of the details of the statue with gold paint so it stands out a bit more. Unlike my other altars, which tend to be kind of flat and symmetrical, also I want to play around with different heights, colors, and styles. 

I also knew scent would have to have a focus. I will likely burn incense at the altar at times, but I think having one of those reed oil diffusers on the altar would be a nice way to have a constant scent that's also not overpowering - perhaps something in apple blossom?

Those are probably the easier ones, though. I started thinking about things like sound... I do not think my rattle or a drum would would here. I thought about getting a little desktop fountain, or wind chime, or something like that, but couldn't quite find what I had in mind. However, I ended up finding a little silver hair stick with bells on the end of it, which seemed quite fitting. I will probably actually use this as the primary way of cleansing the altar space. (I still need to write that post about cleansing with sound at some point...)

And touch? Well, having a variety of things on the altar to interact with should cover that... candles to light, incense to place, the bells to ring, and perhaps putting on a silk wrap before beginning any ritual? I think the details of that will come together a bit better with time.

Taste is the last sense to cover. This was an interesting one to think about, as I was not originally intending to have food offerings be a major part of the day-to-day rituals done at this altar. (Also, I do not usually consume the small food offerings I make. Shared meals tend to be for more special occasions.) However, I think there are perhaps a few ways I could go about including something like that, but again, I'll probably have to wait for everything else to come together to see what would work best.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Het-heret / Hathor's Shrine

As I mentioned in my last post, I am planning a shrine for Aphrodite. Part of that planning was figuring out the best location for it. It could go in a small corner of the front room, or it could go in the office room where I spend most of my day, and usually have a bit more privacy... but that's where Hathor's shrine is currently located.

I knew the second location would be much better, but of course it means moving or dismantling Hathor's shrine. After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided that for now it would be best to dismantle it. It is important to me that I still honor all the Egyptian gods who were a large part of my life for so long, but at this point it makes more sense to me to do that as an actual yearly festival of sorts, instead of keeping a more specific shrine that no longer sees a lot of use.

So that's on today's list of things to be done. It's a bit of a sad moment, it's the first time in many, many years that there will not be a shrine to one of the Egyptian deities in my home, but I know at this point it's the best course of action. An inactive shrine doesn't do anyone any good, after all...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coming Full Circle

While I'm not ready to get into the reason why just yet, I've recently found myself planning a shrine for Aphrodite. While thinking through the details of the shrine last night it hit me that in a sense I've somewhat come full circle on my path, as Aphrodite was the first deity I remember ever setting up an altar for and trying to establish a relationship with.

Now nothing really came from that attempt, which makes sense when I look back on it. My reasons were quite selfish and misguided at the time - but hey, I was only in the 6th grade, pretty much brand new to paganism, I still had a lot to learn in a lot of ways!

Still, I find it interesting that some fifteen years later I'm turning back to the first deity I ever felt anything for. I'm back at this starting point, but this time I've learned and experienced so much, and I think if I hadn't gone out there and really explored so much for all those years, I wouldn't have what was necessary to really be able to be successful with my current path.

I had to get out there and see that there were other traditions besides Wicca, I had to explore the religions I did, honor the gods I did, build those relationships, fall into reconstruction and see what was good about it, and the benefits of learning the history, but also at the same time to have some of the more negative experiences I had, to know what I did not like, what did not work for me, to have those experiences with other people, with tradition leaders, to meet good and not-so-good people. Even on a more day-to-day basis, to build relationships with family, to know myself and my own body more, heck, even to fall in love, live across the country, travel...

So coming back to this starting point, it's like another turn of the wheel, and I'm very excited to see what the coming years will bring.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I hope everyone had a happy Samhain! (Or Beltaine!)

I didn't do much in the way of ritual for Samhain. I am planning to do some delayed offerings to Hekate, the ancestors, and Hestia this week. Unfortunately my health has been on the poorer side these past few days, and I just didn't have the energy for ritual on top of other celebrations and activities. Of course, just because something isn't ritualized, doesn't mean it's not important - I spent the weekend cooking for, and spending time with family and friends, and that's always important, too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Astronomical Cross Quarter Dates 2015 to 2019

There are two sets of dates which can be used to determine when the cross quarter days fall. The first is simply a set of fixed dates, although those dates can vary slightly from person to person, tradition to tradition. Fixed days are perhaps more commonly used. With fixed dates Imbolc is always from sundown on the 1st to 2nd of February, or Samhain is sundown on October 31st to sundown on November 1st - or whatever dates one chooses to use, the same dates will be used every year.

However, there is also the method where the dates are calculated by the position of the solstices and equinoxes of the year. For example, Imbolc would be the exact midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and Beltaine would be the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice, and so on. Since the solstices and equinoxes can shift slightly from year to year, so can the cross quarter dates when using this method.

The following is a chart of cross quarter dates based on the solstices and equinoxes for 2015 to 2019, all based on Eastern Standard Time.

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 4
Beltaine - May 4
Lammas - August 6
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7

Imbolc - February 3
Beltaine - May 5
Lammas - August 7
Samhain - November 7