Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Solstice

I hope everyone had a happy winter solstice. The weather here has been pretty mild since the solstice, quite warm, even at night. It's been nice for spending a bit of time outside, especially at night to do a bit of stargazing. With everything that's been going on lately I haven't been spending much time outside the last few months, and it's definitely time to turn that around.

One thing I really enjoy about the colder months is the silence that comes with them. At night there are no sounds of bugs, and rarely are there any animal noises. It's a bit eerie at times, but peaceful... Sometimes you can hear the slight movement of branches in the breeze, something stirring out in the woods, but tonight it's just dead silent. Looking up at the moon and stars with nothing else going on, it's quite rejuvenating.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflecting on 2014

With Yule just a week away, I suppose now is a good time to begin looking back on the year.

I actually started by looking back at 2013 a bit. 2013 was a great year for me in a lot of ways, but my spirituality tended to take a back seat at times. A lot of my energy went to other things, and I have no regrets with that, but for 2014 I did want to bring a bit more balance to my life. I do feel like I've accomplished that.

In 2013, and to some extent 2012, I felt a bit like I was trying to walk in too many directions at once. 2014 has brought some clarity there, and my path has become much less eclectic, and more focused. At this point, it's certainly been working much better for me.

2014 has been the year of coming full circle in many ways. Most notably I have dedicated my time fully to the Greek deities, those deities I originally sought out when I first became pagan, and Aphrodite in particular, being called to work a specific goal with her, making up for my botched and somewhat selfish attempts of so many years ago. It's a real reminder not just of the progress made this year, but of just how far I've come since starting out on this path. It's a nice reminder to have, because I think many of us can get caught up in the idea we should be doing more, or moving faster, and that can cause us to lose sight of the progress we really have made. 

I'm not quite sure what spiritual goals I'll set for 2015 yet, it's something I have to think about a bit more over the next week or so. I suspect community will come into play, somehow, since that's been on my mind for a while now. I know there are also some herbalism projects I'd like to tackle. Still working out the details there.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Pagan Experience Blogging Project

I was looking forward to perhaps being in a better place health-wise this coming year so I could commit to doing the Pagan Blog Project. Unfortunately, it seems like 2014 was the last official year, and so I won't have that chance. I thought about perhaps just doing it as a personal writing challenge of sorts, and may still at some point, but it seems there's a new project this year called The Pagan Experience.

Overall it seems a bit more loose, there will be prompts or a theme each week, but I guess you don't have to follow them very strictly? (Or at all? Bit confused on that part.) I think I'll give the project a go, especially since my old go-to for weekly prompts, Pagan Blog Prompts, completely died out very shortly after being taken over by someone new. (Quite frustrating - it could have at least been handed off to someone else, since I know for a fact the two people who did take it over were not the only ones who expressed interest in running the blog.)

Anyway, it'll be nice to have a new set of prompts with a bit of a schedule. Still hard to believe we're so close to 2015 though, where'd the year go?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Community and Health - Again

As a follow up to a post from a few months ago, I've been to a few specialists in order to figure out what's going on with my health. Right now there's a good bit of evidence pointing to an auto-immune issue. I'm waiting on another test result, and then in two weeks I'm due to see a rheumatologist.

I'm hopeful that I'm finally coming up on the end of a lot of wondering, and that I'll finally be able to begin some sort of treatment that will allow me to feel better. Being sick has, unsurprisingly, affected a lot of areas of my life - and that includes spiritually, which has been hard.

I still make the time to keep up with my minimum commitments, tending to Aphrodite's shrine one a week, and the other shrines once a lunar month (at least). It is very important to me that I keep up with the work I am doing with Aphrodite, and it's important to me to maintain some connection to my other deities, as well. However, there are other projects and goals which have fallen to the side for now.

The other issue has been with finding spiritual community. I mentioned before there is a pagan group here as part of a UU church, but since I would have to walk to the church I'm going to wait for my health to get a little better (or at least for warmer weather) before looking into that.

So for the moment I'm left with online fellowship. There are still a lot of days I miss my old forum hangout. It hit me the other day that it's been almost two years since the issues with ownership/activity on that forum began. It's been hard to lose that place, because even though we often believed in different things, and practiced in different ways, it felt like we were often all on the same page. Oh well, guess there's no use dwelling, huh?

Beyond all that, I also want to mention that I have not forgotten the 30 days of deity devotion, it's just been hard to get the thoughts together in my mind with all that's going on. I do plan on getting back to it this month, hopefully on Sunday or early next week, although I do think I'm going to have to say some of the days out of order, and save some of the longer topics for now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: HedgeWitch by Silver RavenWolf

I've spent quite a while debating whether I should bother writing this review or not, and after seeing three different people asking about the quality of this book in the last week, I figure now's probably the time.

In the interest of honesty, Silver RavenWolf is an author that I would absolutely not recommend in most circumstances. I know she's a popular author to bash, but I actually own and have read several of her books, and there have always been issues with them. That said, I really did try to go into this book with an open mind - and after reading it, I have no problem saying this is the worst book of hers I have read to date.

Let me address the core issue first - this is not, in any way, hedgecraft. At all.

Now, many hedgewitches will recognize this as a common issue. Quite a few of the more generally popular authors who've written on the subject have really missed the mark, such as Rae Beth's earlier works which paint hedgecraft as a sort of watered down solitary Wicca, which hedgecraft is not. That said, sometimes these books might not be good resources on hedgecraft, but occasionally they work for those interested in green witchcraft or kitchen witchcraft. I do not feel that HedgeWitch is one of those books.

If you've ever heard of "The Secret" that is essentially what HedgeWitch is about. HedgeWitch teaches that you can pretty much get anything you want, so long as you're positive about it. In RavenWolf's own, often repeated, words, "it always works!" If you're not getting what you want, then gosh, you're just not being positive enough! The universe will literally give you anything you want as long as you think happy.

This is, in my opinion, a rather naive view of magic and the universe. A view that can actually be rather harmful when taken further. Aside from the fact that, frankly, it's a bit delusional, it also causes issues when looking at other people's circumstances. As an example of what I mean, the author of "The Secret" apparently once said that natural disasters can only strike people who are "on the same frequency as the event." In other words, people who've been affected by natural disasters brought it on themselves. This is just as disgusting as the fundie Christians who say that such disasters are meant to punish sinners.

RavenWolf herself doesn't make such a harsh claim (although she does blame some more minor events on negative thinking), but that does seem to the logical end of this particular way of thinking. I would write much more on the issues I have with taking positive thinking to such an extreme of "it always works!" but, frankly, a lot of people have already done this, and there are plenty of other issues in this book to get to.

Now, at the beginning of this book RavenWolf says that "the universe" doesn't understand "big words, flowery prose, or disclaimers." Using words like don't, won't, etc, in "spells" is a big no-no. Personally, I disagree with this idea quite a bit, because I do not think this is how magic 'works,' so to speak, and this idea is not present in many traditional forms of magic. Different people have different views, of course, but my real issue with this is I don't know if this is something that RavenWolf has, essentially, just made up, or if this is something with a bit more foundation to it. This issue of presenting everything as solid, indisputable, universal fact, even when it's just her own view, is a common one. There's nothing wrong with an author wanting to share their personal beliefs and experiences, it's part of what can make a book great, but just stating everything as total fact is not the way to go about it.

Perhaps a better example of this is her statement that "HedgeWitch prayer beads use twenty-eight beads on a string, with twenty-eight corresponding to one moon cycle." Where the heck is this coming from? I've never heard of it before, never seen it in any other source on the subject (good or bad). I mean, at this point in the book (about halfway through), it's clear RavenWolf doesn't actually have any idea what a hedgewitch is (or, perhaps, she just doesn't care). There is no universal structure for prayer beads within hedgecraft. This is in no way the absolute fact that she presents it as.

Another issue with this is while she presents these "facts" quite readily, she rarely addresses the actual "why" behind any of it. She'll say do this, use this, say that, and often doesn't explain the reasons behind any of it.

A fair portion of the book is dedicated to thirteen rituals, to be done over thirteen days, which end in... a dedication ritual. Yes, apparently thirteen days is all that's required before you should dedicate yourself. (To be fair, she also says they can be done over thirteen weeks, which is still rather questionable.) Fourteen days until you have all the power you desire, until you can have anything you want. This book reads like a snake oil scam - it'll cure anything!

After the dedication ritual, the rest of the book covers some craft ideas, a touch of herbalism, gardening, and some of the same old 101 stuff you can find anywhere. There are other books I would recommend for any of these subjects, as they go into more detail, and have a more solid base in them to work from. That said, it's not like the recipes and ideas in this section are necessarily bad, although I do find them to be a bit bland personally, but... there's that same issue again and again, the word hedgewitch keeps being used, but there is no hedgecraft in this book. None. Tossing the word hedgewitch everywhere, and casting a hedgewitch circle, writing in a hedgewitch book, and making a hedgewitch herb mix... none of it has any meaning. Hedgecraft is a personal and flexible tradition, but that doesn't mean you can just make up anything you want and declare it to be hedgecraft, without ever addressing any of the core elements that set hedgecraft apart from other practices. It's frustrating to see my tradition so misrepresented, and it's a waste of time, money, and effort for anyone who would actually like to learn about hedgecraft.

If you want to learn about hedgecraft, this is not the book for you. If you want to learn about green or kitchen witchcraft, there are much better sources. Unless you're really looking for "The Secret" with a bit of crafts and a little bit of shallow witchcraft, this is not the book you're looking for.