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Excited for Tonight

Visiting family usually means that my mental discipline goes out the window.  Not that I’ve had much recently in regards to religion…  With a craft show coming up, my free time is filled with more sewing than meditation, ritual, or spellwork.  I even brought my work with me so I can create while visiting family.  So far I’ve made a small dragon and another mushroom spirit.  I’m in the middle of working on a larger doll.  I think I’ll have a nice collection of whimsy available for the craft show!

Obviously I have my hands full and am mentally distracted.  I brought my traveling altar with me and did a quick devotional on Thursday evening.  Otherwise it’s hard to find a private, quiet time to do anything.  I pray or chant to myself.  My Gods, while they do like attention, are not so full of condemnation when I cannot visit my altar each day.  They hear my whispered prayers, I think.  They are tribal Gods and seem to understand the importance of family time.  My patroness is pleased by art and, to me, sewing is a way of bringing her honor because she is my muse.  It is a different sort of ritual and I am coming to terms with that.  There is a sort of magic in art – that cannot be denied. 

  My family is not Pagan, although some of them have animistic tendencies.  They are accepting of my beliefs, and I am free to talk about them, but I do not go out of my way to rub their noses in it.  I may pray in front of them from time to time, as I did for Thanksgiving, or discuss my ways, but I generally find myself a quiet corner to perform any rites in.  I prefer it that way.  I don’t want to be a spectacle. 

Not tonight!  Tonight will be full of magic and socializing – with my witchy friends in Utica!  Since moving to the North Country, my old Pagan pals stopped meeting openly.  The high priestess*, my dear friend, has learned a lot from her teachers and she is forming her own coven/circle/study group**.  They’ve continually made it known to me that, no matter my path or where I roam, I’m always welcomed to join them.  I’ve started to take them up on that offer.  I miss the frequent magic and Pagan fellowship.  Between ADF rituals and amidst so much work, this is exactly what I need. I cannot exactly put into words exactly what I feel about working with them all except to say that we’ve all grown.  There is a palpable trust and understanding between us which allows me to feel very comfortable and welcomed despite my different ways.  I think we intersect on our love of folk magic and academic study.  The high priestess and one of the others seem more and more influenced by traditional witchcraft – something I am also continually drawn to.  I feel like Druidism is my religious path, but traditional witchcraft can fit very nicely in there.  This is something I’m still exploring, and the group in Utica is just what I need.  I’m so excited for later.  🙂

*I am not sure if she is comfortable being called such, but, to me, that is what she is and that is the role she plays.  In my opinion, it sounds less cult-like than “leader.”  😛

** They are not actively calling it a coven, but I can see it going that way. And you know what?  I’ve grown spiritually since a couple years ago and find myself comfortable being a part of that.  Totally another entry for another day…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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A recent conversation inspired this post.  I was talking with a group of (mostly) Wiccans and eclectic Pagans.  They all have varying amounts of experience and knowledge.  Many of them adhere to the belief that a magic practitioner should possess two knives – the athame, the ritual knife, and the boleen, the “practical” or “mundane” knife which is used for cutting herbs, wood, etc...    If you know me well, you know that I hate those words when juxtaposed to magic as if magic couldn’t be practical or mundane, or as if your everyday actions couldn’t be magical and therefore meaningful.  If you believe that such a distinction is an important practice, by all means continue!  You must remember that I’m a Druid and our practices are, sometimes, different from those of Wicca*.

When I first started to study Paganism, I went to the usual suspects – the Llewellyn 101 books.  They were very nearly clones and I tired of them.  They came with the usual chapters on ritual tools – a shopping list of sorts.  Every book said the same thing – one knife for energy work, and one knife for practical work.  Some of them attempted to explain this because of some tradition they couldn’t easily explain – as if every magician that ever was did exactly that.  So much for being a real witch and thinking for yourself!  Some of the books explained that to cut an object with your ritual knife would somehow tarnish the athame.  Really?  Now I could, perhaps, understand if you were more interested in transcending earthly bonds, but a majority of Pagans I know are adamant about being an Earth-based religion.  How can you claim to celebrate the beauty and magic of the world around you while somehow declaring contact with earthly things like herbs or stone to be profane?  That makes no sense to me.  If you are offended, I do not mean to be harsh, but plenty of Pagans point out the inconsistencies in Christianity.  If we’re going to be critical of other religious practices, we must first be critical of our own or else we will never grow.

I have a knife.  I use it for ritual purposes and I consider the gathering of herbs and the carving of tools and charms to be a ritual.  I do use kitchen knives and I suppose, in that sense, I do own more than one ritual knife.  Like kitchen witches, I believe that working in the kitchen on even a lowly bowl of gruel is magic.  Preparing the food is magic.  Peeling the veggies is magic.  Chopping them is magic.  Removing the inedible bits is magic.  I believe that the world is magic – the whole world – not just the ritual circle.  Are some things more magical?  Sure, but everything has magic and putting one in contact with the other will not somehow tarnish it.  Trust me.  It may change the energy or transform it (I don’t advice touching lava with your ritual knife!), but it won’t make the knife profane unless you yourself ritualize such an action and declare it so.  If you are comfortable doing that, by all means continue (I can understand how keeping one knife strictly for ritual space would work as a mental key), but in my belief and practice, magic is spiritual and physical.  My knife follows me outside of my sacred space into the larger, shared sacred space of the world.  Do I sometimes work with one aspect instead of another?  Sure.  Trance is one way where I move more on the spiritual plane than the physical – but I am still seeing the spirit world as I would the physical world.  Our perception is based on the physical and it seems incredibly hard to escape.  I don’t believe the two can easily be separated – if that’s even possible.  To me, they are interconnected.  They are like inhaling and exhaling – each part of the same life processes.  If I use different knives, it’s because I don’t want the potentially poisonous juices of an herb to mix with my food.  That is all.  Primarily, I use one knife in my ritual – the knife I use to carve sigils into candles; the knife I use to harvest herbs; the knife I use to cut twine in the garden; the knife I use to carve ogham; the knife I carry on my nature walks in case I need to defend myself.  I use that knife for so much and I believe that it is infused with a lot of energy.  It has the green energy of the garden, the fiery energy of hearthside crafts, the metallic energy of protection, and the wild energy from beyond the hedge.  Through such frequent use, it is one of my most important tools.  It is as multi-talented as Lugh or Brighid.  My practice is very influenced by ancient Irish belief and multitalented spirits were and are highly valued!

And let us be sensible.  Imagine yourself generations back.  If not a wealthy ceremonial magician with ties to masons and aristocratic patrons, you were probably a wise man or woman of some sort.  You were poor like most people.  You were lucky if you could afford one knife, let alone two.  Your magic was practical.  If you want a knife dedicated to a very specific goal, and only want it to be filled with energy relating to that one practice or occasion*** – go for it!  I’m certain that your knife will be filled with power through such consecration and use, and that it will be exceptionally helpful to you in that goal.  Me?  I like my kitchen witch, multi-talented approach.  🙂

In the end, all one can say is, “To each his or her own!”

* You also must remember that not all Druids practice or believe the same.  I’m highly influenced by ADF, CR, and, most recently, traditional witchcraft.

*** I know of knives or sickles only used for initiation or the harvesting of one type of plant, for example.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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My Old Grimoires

I recently listened to this episode of the podcast New World Witchery.  It’s all about grimoires or magical texts.  I’ve been toying with the idea of making one again and the show inspired me to share some of my previous magical books with you.  At left you’ll see a photo of my first “Book of Shadows,” (red), my second (black), and my third – which was really just a pink binder full of unorganized paper.  😛


The original was a birthday present from my first boyfriend.  I asked him for a nice journal I could use as a book of shadows.  This was when I was learning about Wicca.  The page with the goofy illustrations includes a recipe for “Mabon Apple Crisp.”

Here’s a couple more pages in the Red Book of Shadows.  I was examining some runes on one.  I like the illustration of a cat behind a candle I did on the other.  The Red Book of Shadows is really special to me.  It was given out of love and I tenderly filled it with everything I was learning.  I don’t often fill notebooks, but this treasure is pretty full.  I look back on a lot of it now and laugh at my ignorance – but we all have to start somewhere.  🙂

Here we have the Black Book of Shadows.  I was maturing into a more serious practitioner and was doing more regular magical work both alone and with others.  This is about spell I performed with a friend using a poppet, candle, and mirror.

                                                                              More of the Black Book.  I was reflecting on Lughnasadh and the cycles of the moon.  This book isn’t as colorful but is more thoughtful in my opinion.  I also started to include snippets from magazines, ritual outlines, and chant sheets as you can tell from the photo.

   

Finally, a shot of the pink binder – the last time I would attempt to create a “book of shadows.”  I’m now more drawn to the word “grimoire.”  I don’t look down my nose at anyone who uses “book of shadows,” but for me personally, grimoire is more satisfying.  I understand what “book of shadows” implies, but grimoire seems like a more widely used and understood term in magical history.  Plus it just rolls off my tongue…

Anyway!  The Pink Mess of Shadow Papers was meant to be organized…  I just never got around to it.  It was a collection of printed material (original and “borrowed”), hand written and illustrated pages, newspaper and magazine clippings, liturgical outlines, chant sheets, and pressed herbs preserved in contact paper.  I kept collecting things and, eventually, I had too much!  The binder is bulging.  I was overwhelmed and growing away from Wicca and eclectic Paganism – which is mostly what this focused on. I lost interest.  All three books have been sitting on my shelves.  I don’t really use them now, but I keep them with me as memories.  I’ve carried them with me to each new home as I consider them to be a part of my soul.

I’ve recently found myself wanting to make a Druidic Grimoire.  I want to document this part of my life and have something more mature and representative of my beliefs to pass onto a child or apprentice.  My problem with the first two magical texts was that I couldn’t organize things according to purpose.  I tried to tape tabs onto the Black Book of Shadows but it was still obnoxious…  The binder was supposed to help with that, but instead I ended up with a mess!  I want to actually write and illustrate it with my hands, though, so I don’t intend to type it out.  I have ideas, but more on that another day…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Have any of you been reading The Juggler?  For those of you out of the loop, it’s a member of the Pagan Newswire Collective and focuses on Pagans in pop culture – tv, movies, and books mostly.  I really dig the author’s most recent post about some of the best Pagans on TV.  I loved that she included Lisa Simpson.  How many of you saw that episode last year where Lisa started to study Wicca?  It was probably one of the best portrayals of the religion on TV I’ve ever seen.  I highly recommend it if only for the significance of such an event.

I also like that Lucius Vorenus from “Rome” is on the list.  I haven’t started the second season, but I was impressed with the very authentic portrayal of ancient Paganism.  There might have been some imperfections that Roman geeks could have spotted, but based on my growing understanding of authentic ancient magic and polytheism, it seems pretty spot on.  

I was also happy to see Tara from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  The show has a horrible understanding of what Paganism is.  It doesn’t understand Wicca.  It’s as if the creators read the first paragraph of a Wikipedia entry and decided to mash and mix that understanding with the standard Hollywood portrayal of traditional witchcraft.  As the Juggler says:

Why not Willow, you say?  Don’t get me wrong, I love Willow as I love all the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  But Willow, like a lot of television witches, was a caricature of a witch.  She was an imperfect, magical, supernatural and most of all fictional character.  Tara, from the moment we met her at UC Sunnydale’s student Pagan group, always struck me as much more organic. Sure, she is part of the same mythology but she just felt more down to earth, more real.  Though there is no evidence in the story, I can see Tara attending a Samhain ritual and honoring the Goddess and calling the quarters.

I totally agree!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Today I attended an Esbat – the first in a couple years, I think.  It was put on by the local CUUPs chapter.  There weren’t as many people there as there were last time, but still some familiar and new faces.  The ritual was very Wiccan, which isn’t a problem, of course, but I’ve not been to anything like that since leaving Utica.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and the ritual wasn’t briefed very well beforehand so there were some awkward moments.  We did get some energy flowing, which was fun.  We made some holy water for spells and consecrations which will be nice to have.  The ritual leader never lead us through a grounding which I believe helped trigger a headache.  I did some grounding when I returned home which helped. So…  all in all, pros and cons to the ritual.  I really liked getting to know people, working with others towards a magical goal, and seeing new ways of doing things, but I think they could plan it better.  In their defense, they did admit that they hadn’t really planned well to begin with!  I do intend to keep going for now.  There was some good energy and the fellowship is nice.  

I also did some shopping today.  I bought some clothes, some art supplies to make more tree spirits, and the latest edition of Witches and Pagans.  I have a lot to keep me busy!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Having worked with many wonderful Pagans in an open network/group, I’ve experienced the frustration, sometimes even disgust, with other Pagan paths/traditions.  I’ve also experienced the mental and social reconciliation that can happen when two people who believe very differently can come together, learn, and make something beautiful like a ritual or even a lasting friendship.

In MVPN down in Utica, there was always a huge lack of Heathens.  We had one come during a meet and greet (I was not lucky enough to make his acquaintance) but he never returned.  He was looking for others like him and not the Wiccans that were present.  My friend Parallax worships Heathen deities but I’m not 100% sure if she calls herself a Heathen.  She practices through an ADF context, as do other would-be Heathens who take issue with Asatru’s folkish (sometimes racist) stance.

Jason Pitzl-Waters, author of “The Wild Hunt” blog, steps up and questions the often deliberate distance placed between “us” (All of Pagandom) and “them” (the “traditional” Heathens) in his entry entitled “Asatru and the Alternative Right.”  The whole she-bang is definitely worth reading, but the best bit is the final paragraph:

In the end it comes down to this. I don’t have to like all Pagans, I certainly don’t have to practice with all Pagans, and I’m long over the notion of any sort of real “Pagan Unity” ever being feasible, but a broader idea of solidarity is important if we are to capitalize and build on the legal, political, and social gains we have made. When we trash each other to impress other groups or individuals, we don’t damage the integrity or utility of those other religions and traditions, but we do harm the vital solidarity necessary to get the things we all want. This doesn’t mean you can’t draw distinctions or even civilly criticize paths different from your own, but when folks start implying that you shouldn’t be in the larger movement, that’s counter-productive and drains enthusiasm from the activists working for the rights of all Pagans.

Jason is brave to stand up for everyone, and I applaud him for doing so.  At the same time, we need to remember that not all self-described Heathens are like that.  It’s unfortunate that many Heathens have ostracized its more liberal members – the ones who see beyond skin color and country of origin.  Thankfully they have a home in Ár nDraíocht Féin  and the larger Pagan community.  We have our differences, but we need to stand together for our rights.

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Gus diZerega, Pagan blogger on Beliefnet, posted a list* of what his readers believe to be the worst cinematic (or television) portrayals of Pagans – specifically the much maligned witch.  It was an interesting read.  “Hocus Pocus” was one of the top worst offenders.  Although I completely agree with the argument, it’s still a favorite movie of mine.  I love the singing and the over-the-top witches.  It’s just a fun story.

I’m ashamed to say that I have yet to see the original (or the remake) of “The Wicker Man.”  I’m saving that for Muin Mound.  Apparently it’s a tradition to watch it after initiation into the grove!  I’ve also yet to see “The Craft.”  My hubby owns it, so one of these days…  I never really got into “Buffy”, mostly because I didn’t have cable.  Someone commented about the character Willow and how she was “dismissive of Wiccans as: ‘Bunch of wanna blessed be’s. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she’s a sister to the dark ones.'”  Yes it’s a fictitious story, and real magic as we know it is not so spectacular on the movie screen, but it’s annoying all the same.  And really, ‘the dark ones’?  Give me a break!  I tend to write off anyone who uses that sort of ignorant, goth-tinted language.    I’ve never seen “Charmed,” however I must say I’m always extremely annoyed when someone sees my triquetra tattoo or necklace and thinks I’m a fan, as if the symbol came from the show!  




At the same time, one has to have a sense of humor.  Like I said, “Hocus Pocus” remains a favorite of mine, in part because it is so over the top and makes no references to Wiccans or people who actually practice Paganism.  There’s also a wicked little part of me that thinks, if I was going to be some sort of supernatural bad girl, I’d want to be like that. **  And how many Christians find various church-bashing Monty Python skits hilarious?  Most can’t help but crack a grin because there is a grain of truth there.  Perhaps it’s the same with negative Pagan portrayals.  The characters represent what some in our community have deluded themselves into thinking is real or possible because they have no concept of reality in this plane/dimension/world/existence.  Some Pagans are, for lack of a better term, bat shit crazy.  Some really do see the world through purely dark or purely sparkly white lenses.


So what do you think are some of the best portrayals of Paganism in modern entertainment?  For my readers who are not Pagan, what are the best and worst portrayals of your religion?

*For my lj friends: http://blog.beliefnet.com/apagansblog/2010/03/the-worst-movie-depicting-witches-and-other-pagans.html

** For the record, I don’t really want to be that way.  I’m just saying.  It would be cool to (temporarily) change people into cats though.

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