What My Pentagram Means To Me

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When I first started wearing a pentagram I was brand new to Paganism. I was trained by someone who had a plethora of medallions, goddesses, and pentagrams hanging around his neck at any given moment. I had never worn anything to represent my faith. Not even a cross. My branch of Christianity didn’t believe in the cross. So the idea of wearing something ornamental that would identify me with my faith was foreign and a little exciting. I’m not very ornamental myself. I don’t like to give a lot of thought to jewelry and accessories. I don’t wear rings, my earrings are permanent, and if I put a necklace around my neck it will be there until it falls off.

So I bought my first pentagram and wore it constantly. In fact, I was wearing it when the elders from my former faith paid a visit and decided to disfellowship me for apostasy. That particular pentagram went missing soon after that. I had worn it over a year, yet soon after the visit from the elders it disappeared like it had absorbed all the negative energy it could and needed to take it away.

I bought my second pentagram at a Celtic festival in Philadelphia. I spent a bit more on this one. It is sterling silver and cost me $60 for the medallion alone. It is beautiful and I take very good care of it.

I don’t identify myself as Wiccan and don’t practice as a Pagan. I still hold to many of the beliefs, like reincarnation and the personal empowerment that comes with controlling one’s own destiny through ritual. I still value the connection I have gained to the natural world and try to make choices that are sustainable and environmentally aware. I love the moon in all its phases and still find my greatest spirituality under its silvery beams.

Yet none of that represents what my pentagram means to me. I still wear it prominently. I never take it off and never tuck it under my shirt. I had an employer tuck it under the collar of my uniform once so I wouldn’t offend her clientele. She only did that once.

My pentagram doesn’t consciously represent my connection to the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit). It doesn’t represent my association with a particular deity or doctrine. What it does do is act as my shield. I can’t tell you how many people have started out treating me with kindness and consideration until their gaze falls upon my chest and they visibly draw away from me. I haven’t changed. I’m the same polite woman they were animatedly conversing with just moments before. The only thing that has changed is their fear and ignorance has now taken over. Rather than investigating for themselves what the pentagram means, they choose to believe I am fornicating with the devil. My pentagram protects me from such people.

I spent my life under the tyranny of such fear mongering. I forced myself to engage with and form relationships with people who were so ignorant and filled with fear that they couldn’t think for themselves. I don’t want those people around me any more.

Occasionally, when asked why I wear a pentagram I tell people it is to piss of the Christians. That is only partially true. It keeps ignorance away from me. It prevents all Christian faiths from trying to indoctrinate me. Most people don’t mess with me when I am wearing it. It represents my hard-won freedom and its appearance keeps me free. It shields me from judgment since those who spew judgment usually won’t come within a country mile of me.

Before anyone points out that it sounds like a lonely life let me just say that a surprising number of people are not repelled by the pentagram. The vast majority of people won’t treat me any different because they realize it is not the necklace but me that truly matters. They either ignore it or openly ask me what it means. Those who are open and receptive get the “5 Elements” answer. Those who I want to antagonize get the “It’s meant to piss of the Christians” answer.

Tonight I was lying in bed contemplating whether to turn off the light or read. I reached toward my neck, as I habitually do, and noticed the chain wasn’t there. I had taken it off earlier in the day while doing yoga. I recently put the pentagram on a longer chain and it gets in my way during some of the yoga poses. As I lay there, I asked myself how I would respond if someone, a friend, sincerely asked me to remove it to avoid offending someone. When my initial response was anger, I had to ask myself why it meant so much to me. I realized it had come to stand for everything I had lost and gained and the need to maintain the barrier between the two. It is my shield against ignorance and judgment and I believe it protects me in more ways than I am consciously aware of. It also helps identify me as a member of an exclusive group who search for better things through personal growth and empowerment. I have had the privilege of meeting some very kind people who recognize my pentagram and approach me. The simple observation, “I like your necklace,” is usually enough to recognize a kindred spirit.

I am a middle-aged woman with no tattoos or facial piercings. I wear normal clothes and drink too much beer and coffee. There is little to identify me as the member of a fringe group but my pentagram. I wasn’t allowed a Goth stage when I was a kid and the only thing that keeps me from exploring it now is the knowledge that I would look completely ridiculous shopping at Hot Topic. So I wear my pentagram and I have become rather attached to it as the symbol of my freedom from the narrow road. Don’t ever ask me to take it off. Don’t ask me to hide it beneath my clothing. Such a request will be viewed as an assault against my freedom and all I have had to sacrifice in gaining said freedom.

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GPS for the Soul

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I am still working my way through Eckhart Tolle’s Power of NOW (1999). Something he said made me realize that we have an inner GPS system which pokes us when we aren’t living the life we are meant to live. If we know when to recognize it and listen to its guidance, we will experience greater contentment and a healthier mental state.

On page 27, Tolle says, “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment…”

This observation really resonated with me! First, I was reminded of my last few years in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. I was in mental anguish and couldn’t figure out why. I went to see a therapist because of it–something frowned on by JW’s, in general. I was seriously decompensating. I couldn’t focus. I was saying and doing all the wrong things. I thought of death on a daily basis.

After reading the above in Tolle’s book, I now realize that I was resisting something that had become painfully obvious. I don’t know if it was my subconscious mind, authentic self, Higher Self, or Spirit Guides, but something was prodding me to get out and I wasn’t listening.

On more reflection, I could trace similar periods in the past. When I was a full-time minister for Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1997, I went through another comparable phase. I would break down into tears during the meetings for no particular reason. I attributed it to my own “sinful inclination,” which only made it worse. In this case I decided to leave English and start attending a Spanish Congregation. Things improved for a short time while I was distracted, but the red-eyed monster kept popping up and getting progressively more insistent until I finally figured it out and left the religion.

I’ve been going through something similar in the past few weeks. Since we moved to PA, I have been helping my husband with his Ebay business while my ankle heeled. Initially, I loved going to auctions and researching items and seeing them sell. Then we went to a few auctions where there was a lot of negative energy. I came home distraught. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was a total fuck up. I got yelled at by a cashier at the local Giant grocery store and left the store crying. I started thinking about death again.

Then I read the above words in The Power of NOW. Was it possible I was causing my own pain with my resistance? “What was I resisting?” I asked myself. That same day, I decided to go back to work doing massage. I had been toying with the idea for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. I felt some fear after making the decision because I have been a basic shut-in for a year.

The next morning, though, I awoke with a whole new perspective. For the first time in weeks, I felt genuine enthusiasm and confidence. Is this what I was resisting? Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me, “You’re not a hustler. You’re a healer!” I went from being afraid of venturing out of the house to eagerness in getting the process started. I couldn’t believe the about-face!

All I can attribute it to is Tolle’s observation that unconscious resistance creates disharmony and pain. It’s like we have this inner GPS system that keeps us on our prescribed path, and lets us know (in no uncertain terms) when we get off-course. All we have to do is recognize the signs and adjust when necessary. Remember, 1) Pain, 2) Judgment, 3) Negativity. If your every thought is consumed with one, or all, of those, ask yourself what you are ignoring that needs attention. Is it your job? Your relationship? Your roommate? For the sake of your mental health, stop resisting and embrace the sweet relief that comes with following your innate guidance system! Resistance is futile.

 

Fear Promotes Ignorance

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Shortly after I stopped being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was introduced to an amazing tool that has been invaluable to me on this journey–The Tarot. In the three years since I started learning Tarot, I have been amazed how it depicts the ups-n-downs of life, the major life lessons, and the paths that bring us greater success. Its wisdom is incredible and it never ceases to amaze me.

I have traced my entire life’s journey with Tarot and predicted challenging times, including the sale of our house, the death of my husband’s mother, and the breaking of my leg last year. It’s the most valuable tool I possess.

So, perhaps you will understand why I became incredibly incensed by a conversation I encountered on Facebook recently. I just started an advanced Tarot class through Biddy Tarot. The webinar has created a group page for students to interact, trade readings, and post our homework. One of my fellow Tarot readers asked how many of the students hid their Tarot from censuring friends and family. I was amazed, and angered, to find that many did. One attorney can’t even bring his deck into his house because his ex-wife has threatened to take him back to court over child custody if the deck is even under the same roof as their kids.

Is our society really so slow to evolve that people with alternative beliefs still feel they have to hide from puritanical witch hunts?! It’s the 21st Century! How are we, as a society, supposed to evolve to the next level of enlightenment if we keep hiding who we are from narrow-minded Neanderthals?!

People who are judgmental and narrow-minded are the ones who should be forced to hide. Society shouldn’t support their attitude, nor fear their judgment. The world is evolving away from such limiting paradigms. The more we hide, the longer it will take for ignorant superstitious fears to be eliminated by human evolution. We’ve become so conscious of “other people’s feelings” we have become a society of apologizers and doormats. Those of us who actually worry about offending others end up enabling such ones to keep their ignorant, barbaric perceptions. Growth requires change. Change requires exposure to new paradigms. If people who are afraid of change must hide to protect their paradigm, let them. Let them hold onto their ignorance! If we hide from such ones we are contributing to their ignorance. We are hiding our authenticity behind fear of criticism.

Never fear censure, but fear a society ruled by fear.

Heal Thyself

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I have been battling my weight for more than ten years. Until I got married at 30 I never had a weight issue and could eat and drink whatever I liked without consequences. I married someone who had his own weight problems. Suddenly food took on more importance as I was eating more regularly, eating out more consistently, and hitting the drive-thru more frequently. Marriage was also a huge adjustment for me and I battled with depression off-and-on. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was 100 lbs heavier than I had been on my wedding day–and no, I can’t blame any pregnancies.

I had an “aha” moment a little over a month ago. I was going into the local YWCA for a massage. (I have a membership to the club, but I don’t use it for anything but the pool and the massage therapists.) My physically fit massage therapist came out to greet me and I followed him down the wide hallway past gyms, racquetball courts, and Zumba classes. We weaved our way around ellipticals and treadmills. I kept my eyes on my feet trying to look small despite the fact that I am almost 6 feet tall, 255 lbs, and wearing baggy clothes that only accentuated my size. I imagined everyone looking at me and judging me. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

As I lay on the massage table I thought, If I could just lose the weight I would be happy.” Then it occurred to me that this had been my mantra my entire life. My weight was just one more reason to hate myself–as I had done since primer school. The first thing I hated about myself was my red hair. Then it was because I was too tall. My eyes were too far apart. My mouth was too wide. I had bad acne. I had bad acne scars. My hair was frizzy. I had no personal style. My teeth weren’t white enough. I had an awful personality. I was too fat.

I asked myself what I would do if I lost the weight. Would things really be better? Or would I just find something else to beat myself over? Is it possible the problem isn’t my diet, but me? Why should I take care of myself when I find myself so undeserving? I didn’t have any motivation to improve my physical appearance because I believed it a hopeless endeavor. I had reached a point where I realized that I was my own worst enemy.

As I drove away from the “Y” that day, I squinted into the summer sun and stuck my right index finger into my mouth to chew on the already non-existent fingernail. I asked myself, “What can I do to make myself feel more attractive?” I replaced my right hand on the steering wheel and looked at the fingernails. I had chewed on my fingernails since I had stopped sucking on them at age 8. I had learned about Oral Fixations thanks to my college psych class, but was it possible my ferocious attacks on my digits had a deeper meaning? Wasn’t I literally trying to devour myself–chewing the fingernails down until they bled and hurt? (It’s probably a good thing I am not flexible enough to get my foot up to my mouth…at least not literally.)

I resigned, right then and there, to see if I could stop my habit of feeding on myself. I wanted to determine if that wasn’t somehow contributing to my tendency toward self-annihilation. I have attempted to quit in the past, but it was always very hard and I eventually caved.

This time was different, however. Once I made the decision, I didn’t even have the urge to chew my fingernails. I went out and bought a manicure kit and some black fingernail polish. The black polish appeals to my latent Goth personality. I love it! I have started wearing jewelry more often and it makes me feel a little more feminine.

I have also started a regimen of positive affirmations. I have a wooden rosary (no, I’m not Catholic) and I use it for  affirmations on a daily basis. I have also started meditating again.

My peace of mind is improving. I know exercise would help enormously with improved self-confidence, endorphins, and increased energy. I determine every day to do some exercise and always find reasons not to. So, I am still working on that one.

My husband and I have stopped eating out all the time and we avoid the drive-thru. We are endeavoring to eat better food from better places.

So far I have lost 6 lbs. It is slow progress, but I believe that life-long changes must come gradually or we just return to our old habits.

I wonder how many of us battle with weight, addictions, relationships, or depression because of deep-seated self-hatred? Is that self-hatred brought on by the Western world’s definition of beauty or masculinity? There could be any number of reasons a person may consider themselves unlovable or unattractive. But instead of focusing on what we need to do to change the way we look, we should focus on changing the way we feel:

  1. Look in a mirror and look past the usual flaws you focus on. See the beauty. Look into your eyes and see your incredible soul.
  2. Don’t allow a negative criticism to cross your lips. Everything you say about yourself must be said with admiration and gratitude.
  3. While you’re practicing the art of not criticizing yourself, maybe extend it to others. If you are in the habit of saying negative things about others it creates a dark energy that will only drag you down.
  4. Practice gratitude for your life, body, family, and wealth of knowledge and experience you have gained. You’ve come a long way, Baby!
  5. Stop living in the past and remembering only the parts that include you as being young and/or thin. You had problems then too. Being thin/young doesn’t solve everything.
  6. Stop imagining the future as a time where you will be thinner, healthier, more confident, and more successful. If you push those goals into a nebulous future, that is where they will always remain. Make those goals part of your present, and the future will take care of itself.
  7. Be present! Stop regretting the past and dreading the future. Be completely immersed in every moment. See the wonders of the world around you and bask in the excitement of every minute we are alive and breathing. Live in the present and, trust me, the gratitude will overflow!
  8. Don’t meditate to lose weight (I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work). Meditate for your own mental health. Meditate because you know that anxiety and stress only contribute to weight gain. Meditate because a healthy mind will inspire you to develop a healthy body.
  9. I’m not telling you to keep a food diary. Pour out your thoughts, fears, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. Download all the mental gobbledygook onto paper so you don’t have to carry it around with you.
  10. Finally, be consistent. I have ADD when it comes to personal improvement. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I had stuck to something a year later when I have gained 20 more pounds. You will have bad days. You will cheat. Just make sure you keep getting back on that horse. You won’t regret trying, but you will regret not trying.

 

Diggin’ Up Bones

After my previous blog on the ego, I was reminded how powerless we can be before the onslaught of the ego and its demand for retribution and recognition. I was wandering around an auction house last Sunday waiting for the auctioneer to take his stand. I overheard a man a few feet away loudly expressing his opinion on every item he encountered to whomever was around him. I moved in the opposite direction because, as an introvert, I find people who talk for the sake of talking obnoxious.

I was reminded of an event that happened at a summer convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses I attended (around 2006) in Portland, Oregon. My brother, an extrovert and Pisces, was being his normal dramatic self and talking to my other brother, when a man with an “Attendant” badge stepped up to him and asked him to be quiet. (Attendant badges are given to men (only) who have authority over the crowd of minions in his assigned section. Their assignment usually entails finding people seats after the session has started and counting attendees, but it could involve quieting unruly children or asking women with short skirts to sit more modestly in the stadium seating.)

When my brother was asked to be quiet, it was not during the session. It was at lunchtime, and this “brother” told my brother that he needed to lower his voice and stop talking about what he was talking about because nobody else cared what he had to say nor wanted to hear it. My brother, trained as we all were to be doormats, apologized for living and continues to this day (no doubt) with one more memory meant to obliterate any self-esteem he may have deigned to develop after 45 years under Watchtower control.

I was not present for this put-down but heard about it later, after the same man had lectured me about crawling over stadium seating (in my skirt) to avoid a crowd of people blocking my aisle. He also went on to reject my friend’s offer to assist in First Aid, which upset her so much she couldn’t attend the convention and spent the whole time weeping in her car.

Now I take you back to the auction this last Sunday in Cascade, Maryland. I’m walking around remembering all of this, not for the first time, and feeling such anger I am fantasizing about the things I wish I would have said to this stain on humanity, this “Attendant.” I am picturing myself standing beside my brother as this total stranger approaches him and tells him to be quiet and stop ruining everyone else’s day by talking. Before my brother can apologize for being alive, I step forward, point my finger in his face (because misogynistic men love it when women do that), and say, “Who the hell are you to tell this man to be quiet?! Do you think just because you wear that “Attendant” badge you have any right to lecture people on how to act and talk? I want you to turn around and walk away. I don’t want you to address me, my family, or any of my friends with your corrosive presence. As a matter of fact, if you come near anyone I know, I will seriously fuck you up! Now go fuck yourself!!” The original version had about 30 more swear words added in, mainly because I know how much Jehovah’s Witnesses hate that shit–but you get my drift.

At any rate, I was in full ego-mode. I was carrying some serious angst about something that happened almost 10 years ago. Some might say this kind of anger is good because it prevents me from being taken advantage of again–and they would be right–but I have had this same conversation 100 times, at least, in the intervening years. Some days the anger strikes me more aggressively than others, but overall it is the same helpless anger I feel over many similar situations within that organization. Situations where men in power used that power to humiliate and oppress people whose ability to defend themselves has been taken away by their fear of God and his reprisals. (My brother is still in that religion and has likely been the brunt of many more hurtful scenarios. I don’t think he will ever recover in this life. By now his ego likely needs so much propping up that organized religion is the only way he could survive.)

While I was walking around the auction stewing, I happened by this little boy who was excitedly admiring a small antique, tin train. His mother and grandmother assured him they would get it if they could. My first thought? I’m going to bid on that, because mom and grandma didn’t look like they had very much money, just so I can see that little boy cry. (I didn’t. Nobody else did either. He got the train.)

My point is, my ego was having a heyday. I was completely immersed in the past and dwelling on things I can’t do anything about.  My residual anger, which had only gotten stronger over the years, actually had me convinced I wanted to hurt someone else so I wouldn’t feel I needed to shoulder the whole burden of my own pain. In a sense, I had turned into one of the bullies I find so repugnant. I wasn’t targeting another adult. I was targeting a helpless child. Someone who couldn’t defend himself and wouldn’t understand why he couldn’t get the train. Would it have made me feel better? No, I assure you, I would have felt like shit afterwards.

But it got me thinking, how many people have we hurt while in the throes of ego obsession? How many times have we been hurt by those experiencing an ego-reaction that has no bearing on the here and now? I think ego can be good if it encourages us to stand up for ourselves (to an extent), but once the chance has passed, is it really beneficial to keep digging things up and reliving them? If it’s not helping you process your feelings, then no. Move on. Write out your feelings on a scrap of paper and burn them. Shout them out to the moon. Put them in a blog–actually, this is a test, I’ll let you know if it cures my angst surrounding this situation.

The journey to reign in the ego is an arduous one, but I believe it a worthy goal. Imagine the peace we could enjoy if we could control our reactions to the past, present, and future?

Me, My Ego, and I

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In the fall of 2011 I started studying Tarot. This in spite of a lifetime of being taught it was forbidden by God and was direct contact with the Devil himself. Many of the books and magazines published by the Watchtower Society show images of Tarot cards and Ouija boards as examples of Satanic practices. (I am now the proud owner of 4 Ouija Boards and 3 Tarot decks.)
One of the first things I learned when I started studying Tarot was how to figure my life and year cards. By adding the numbers of our birthday and our birth year, or the current year, we get a number that coincides with a Tarot card and establishes the theme for our life/year.
I was so fascinated by this prospect that I actually went through and figured out every year card from the day I was born until 2016. It took me hours, but I was intrigued to notice how the cards corresponded with various key moments in my life. Every year now, I carefully consider the theme of the year and do a year-ahead reading to get a grasp on what the year will bring. I was able to predict the exact time in which our house in Oregon would sell and even predicted my mother-in-law’s death.
This year, from my last birthday in September 2013,  I am in the energy of the Death card. This is the first time I have ever had this card as a year card. Rarely does it mean literal death (although it did in the case of my father). It usually means profound change. Something dies so something else can be reborn. It often relates to parts of the ego dying.
I have been interested to see how things would play out this year, and since the year is winding down (Death card energies will end at my next birthday, Sept. 7th), I have seen some interesting shifts. I didn’t even know what the ego was a year ago, but I am beginning to grasp its significance. I had a friend explain it to me and I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now. I liken the ego to a toddler within us who sometimes throws tantrums, thinks the world revolves around them, and obsesses over inane things–like believing the world is way more concerned with what we do and how we look than it actually is.
When we feel persecuted, or forget to appreciate what we have because of the many things we want, we need to remind ourselves that our ego is taking over and we need to reign in our inner toddler. Eckart Tolle calls the ego “a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.” He goes on to say that “to the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only the past and future are considered important…It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it–who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there. It says: ‘One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.’” (Tolle, 18)
Dwelling on the past, or future, and preventing us from being fully present is a state of the ego, the false self who only makes us (and sometimes others) miserable. If we could focus more on the here and now, we could increase our gratitude and reduce our anxiety and angst.
How do we separate ourselves from our ego? Start noticing its existence. As you mentally stand back and observe its negative reaction to things, notice that a separate part of yourself is detached from the ego–it has to be in order to notice your behavior. (Most of us can remember times in which we have reacted to something and a part of us was detached enough to recognize our reaction as a speculative, or critical, observer.) The more we practice this ability to detach, the more we can control our reactions.
Since I’ve been studying the metaphysical, I have received lots of guidance to meditate in order to quiet the mind. When reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, she encouraged writing three pages of Morning Pages every day. I heard a friend recently refer to these as “stream of consciousness” writing, but I didn’t really get the significance of either. I have tried meditation and Morning Pages off and on over the years but could never see the long-term benefits enough to continue for long.
Thanks to Eckhart Tolle, I finally understand why we are encouraged to meditate and write without necessarily having something concrete to write about. He says on page 19 of The Power of Now, “Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.”  Consciousness, the place where the thinking mind is quieted, is where creativity is born. If you are anything like me, you have insisted that you cannot be creative. But if we could learn to stop thinking, stop the ego from taking over and regurgitating the past and projecting it into the future, or over-analyzing everything we do, say, or write–we could find creativity hidden within us. How do we quiet the mind and tap into the super-consciousness where creativity lives and breathes? Meditation, stream of consciousness writing, anything that quiets the mind and allows it to drift. I can already tell you this isn’t easy. My mind is very stubborn and I have spent my entire life thinking my intelligence was the only thing I have going for me, but now I understand why I should learn to quiet my mind.
I recently read a book on Dowsing by author Joey Korn. He says, again and again, that it’s not the rods, pendulum, or willow twig that does the dowsing–it’s the dowser. The earth’s energies interact with our own and communicate what we are looking for, be it water or energy fields. Since most of us aren’t in-tune enough with our psychic abilities, the rods (etc) give us the answers we need.  If we aren’t getting the reactions we need, it’s the fault of our own mind disabling, or second guessing, the pull of the earth’s energies. So, once again, the thinking mind is getting in the way of our super-conscious mind which knows how to interact with energies, spirits, and our own creative potential. If we can learn to control our thoughts and emotions by quieting our ego and our intellect, I believe the possibilities are endless!
“Enlightenment means rising above thought…In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before.” (Tolle, 19) It’s time we reached out for enlightenment and gained control of our minds. Imagine what kind of world this would be if we were all more creative and less reactive!

“Witchcraft Today–60 Years On”

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Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is an anthology of written work gathered from various expert sources. Pagans, Wiccans, Fae, Druids, male and female all contribute information regarding their path, beliefs, and journeys. The reader is given a nicely rounded-out account of how witchcraft has developed in the 60 years since Gerald Gardner’s seminal work.

The first chapter gives us a succinct look into Gardner’s Witchcraft Today (1954)and its development. Following are chapters on  Alexandrian Witchcraft, Seax, Eclectic, Dianic, Hedge, and Egyptian traditions. There’s even a chapter on the future of Witchcraft as an ever-growing entity. What may sound like a boring subject is made fascinating by the personal, heartfelt accounts of each of the contributors. Their devotion is inspiring, and their knowledge and intelligence captivating!

The final part of the book is devoted to personal accounts of various adherents who were forced to take a circuitous path to their calling in the Craft. The stories of those who began in controlling Christian religions resonated with me the most.  As a child, I remember feeling intrigued by talk of Witchcraft and the occult, even though I was taught to fear it. I was fascinated to learn of others who felt the same pull between 10-14 years of age, but were more courageous than I. Some of them followed their heart at an early age–I waited another 20+ years before I had the courage to do so.

Recently, I have allowed my Craft to wane since I moved across country and most of my supplies are still in storage. Reading this book has fired my enthusiasm to get back to something that brought me so much comfort and empowerment as I recovered from my Patriarchal roots. The chapter on Hekatean Witchcraft showed me where my next path lay. When I first started studying Witchcraft in 2011, I was drawn to Hecate. I was born in the dark of the moon and it is my favorite time of the month. Samhain is my favorite holiday and Autumn my favorite season. I am fascinated with the world of the dead and beyond. I was informed only older women can be devotees of Hecate, so I chose someone else, but it never felt right. Now I realize I can embrace the patron who feels right to me and I am excited to do so!

This book is for anyone who is curious about Witchcraft and its various paths. It is faith inspiring to read of how others live in accord with the earth and its spirit. And it can fire up anyone whose interest has waned or wandered.

Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is available as an e-book or paperback for a very affordable price. (In fact, it is the first e-book I have read entirely on my Nook, something I have been viciously opposed to till now.) It is brand new from Moon Books and edited by Trevor Greenfield. You can find it through the publisher’s website or  Amazon.

Coven Cautions

About eight months after I decided I was done being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses it occurred to me I could believe anything I wanted. I know, I know–why did it take me eight whole months to figure that out? I had 38 years of other stuff to sort through. I spent most of that time unlearning everything I had placed my faith in. I visited a lot of ex JW websites and partook in a lot of forums–all intended to uproot a lifetime of indoctrination.

As I said, at some point I realized I could learn anything I wanted and worship in any way I wanted. I knew I was fed up with Christianity and organized religion as a whole. JW’s spend a lot of time convincing their followers what is wrong with every other religion out there. Once a person realizes there is something wrong with JW’s there really isn’t much left. So I chose a path that has intrigued me since I was 13 years old–Paganism. I remember the stories in the Old Testament of the evil and debauched Canaanites whom God drove out of the Promised Land. Their sex orgies, temple prostitutes, drunken revelries, and illicit sex made their religion sound a whole lot more fun than burgeoning Judaism and its many rules.

Now, I could be a pagan if I wanted. I could study witchcraft or the dark arts, if I wanted. I could even (perish the thought) touch a Ouija board or have a seance, if I wanted. However, I had no idea where or how to get started. I didn’t even know what to look up online. I didn’t know the proper terminology or anything. I was on Craigslist last summer and found a couple in a nearby town looking to form a coven. They even offered instruction for those with little to no experience. I promptly shot them an email and heard back within a day or two. They wanted to meet and interview me before they let me know where they lived. No problem. I met them at the local Barnes & Noble. They were a pudgy couple we will name Jerry and Sandra. Jerry claimed 16 years of practice as a Wiccan and was a high priest. He also, apparently, had numerous large and successful covens in the Portland area. (Even one in which he was the only man and they all tried to put a love spell on him, according to him.) Once i had heard all the foregoing I felt I was in good hands, and, once I apparently passed muster, they informed me of the books I would need for instruction and ritual. I ordered the books (cost me $50) and arranged to attend the first meeting. It was about this time I was informed that the three of us, and one other, made up the whole coven.

We had our first coven gathering the following weekend. It was supposed to be a picnic near the river. I drove 50 miles to attend this coven gathering and the other gal, the other newbie, didn’t show. Not only did she not show this day, she never showed. I never met our potential fourth. The picnic was a disaster and every instinct I had told me to run. They brought four dogs on the picnic and Jerry’s mother, who he proceeded to fight with most of the time. The whole picnic was spent fighting the damn dogs: they didn’t have enough shade, they didn’t have enough water, they wanted to eat our food, they wanted to lay on the blanket after getting wet, etc. Now might be a good time for me to clearly state that I am a cat-person, through and through. I find dogs demanding, messy, needy, loud and irritating (I also find I tend to avoid children who display the same tendencies).

Now that I have alienated 80% of my readers I will continue–soon after this ill-omened picnic, Jerry decided to schedule the first initiation of his wife and I. Sandra and he had only been married two years. She had left her husband and two kids in Louisiana to be with a man 5 years her junior. They had met on the internet. Sandra was more a victim of cult mind control than I. She didn’t have the capacity, intelligence, or self-esteem to escape her southern Baptist roots. She was always apologizing for things, and though I felt a lot of pity for her, I find her shouting at the dogs during rituals rather annoying.

So she and I were initiated without having the slightest idea what we were doing or why. Jerry performed the Alexandrian First Degree initiation ceremony as laid out in the Witches Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar. He performed the 5-fold kiss on our nude bodies. I don’t have a problem with nudity, never have. After the ceremony, he lights up some marijuana and I take a drag or two. It’s pretty good stuff so I am feeling it and we’re just sitting around talking. It’s not long before he informs me how much he likes the way I smell, then they start talking about sex. I find they are open to most everything: menage a trois, polygamy, swinging, etc. Well, I should say, that Jerry is open to himself swinging but he gets violently ill whenever his wife tries it. I seemed to be the only one in the room aware of the unfairness in this situation. Eventually, the high tapers off and I go home. I must say, I was feeling pretty good about myself for the first time in a long time–somebody actually found me attractive.

Over the next couple weeks I keep trying to get Jerry to show me things or teach me or even answer questions and he just looks at me with a look so blank that his narrowly spaced eyes almost cross. They live in a huge apartment complex in a one bedroom. Their bed is in the living room so they can make the bedroom the ritual room. There is a big black and white flag on the wall with the words FUCK YOU and a picture of ‘the bird’. Oh, and by the way, Jerry is an ex-con. It is becoming quite clear that I am going to have to educate myself. So I start to ask if they have any recommendation for a good book on solitary witchcraft. He lent me a couple books by Silver Ravenwolf. I devoured them! By the time I was halfway through the first one I started implementing the things I was learning at our coven meetings and I quickly realized I knew more than he. I also had more than he did: a besom (broom used in ritual), a pentagram (also important in ritual), a sword (nice to have but not as necessary as the previous two), a scourge (necessary in some initiation rituals)and a bell (also necessary with certain rituals). I had all these things within the first month (the sword, scourge and bell I had for years). I quickly realized he spent most of his money and time on pot. Sometimes I would drive the distance to attend a coven meeting only to find the plan was just to smoke and talk. That is not what I was there for!

He finally found a fourth. A nice guy who worked at the local Burger King and looked like Captain Jack Sparrow–I am not kidding you. A month after he had joined, Jerry decided to initiate him into the coven. I volunteered to act as High Priestess and spent hours sewing a chiffon ritual robe. On the night of the ritual I brought my sword, bell, athame, robe, scourge and the books I was returning. That night belonged in a SNL skit. As we were burning incense and sage for the ritual space the smoke detector kept going off until I reached up to the ceiling and ripped it down. Then the dog pee’d in the hallway. During the ritual, the neighbor walked into the apartment and informed us she had fallen in the parking lot and was bleeding, but could she please take our pictures in our cute ritual robes. WTF? All of this was occasionally punctuated with Jerry telling me how beautiful I was and what a beautiful body I had. This after informing me some weeks earlier that if I wasn’t getting enough sex at home he could help me with that. Fiasco doesn’t even begin to describe that night, and Captain Jack Sparrow never returned.

About this time, I was introduced to the genuine pagan community of my local area. Where there were full moon ceremonies every month and Tarot and Reiki classes all offered by a licensed professional counselor. I loved the group I met at her house and the energy was intoxicating. I paid one more visit to Jerry and Sandra’s. I wasn’t there for 5 minutes before I felt like someone had sucked the energy right out of me. I could tell there was some negativity in the apartment but I felt like everything in me was telling me to run. I left with some stones they gave me as I was just getting into the power of different gemstones. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed, then I remembered the stones. I hadn’t cleansed them. I quickly burned some sage and cleansed them of any impurities or negativity. I had learned to do that through a school I had found online called Witch School. I had also found a font of books and literature and have joined a group on Facebook of exJW pagans who are always teaching me.

I think I do owe Jerry and Sandra for showing me the proper direction in which to take my self-instruction. Jerry couldn’t teach me anything because I honestly don’t think he knows much. Even after 16 years he didn’t have any ritual, invocation, or chant memorized. Everything was read from a book. Which I think seriously inhibits energy and power. I am constantly working on memorizing rituals and invocations. They keep advertising on Craigslist for coven members and in fact their recent advertisement asks for people only within their city limits–this was a blatant slight against me because I told them I couldn’t come and meet with them since money was tight and I couldn’t afford the gas. I thought that was better than saying I didn’t respect them and couldn’t stand the psychic drain in their company. Why must he surround himself with a coven? His rituals are empty of feeling and spirit, so it couldn’t be the prospect of a greater cone of power. I think it is a power trip for him. He likes being in the lead, with his own private harem. I don’t know what happened in his previous covens but sex, and sex with him particularly, seemed his primary concern. Unfortunately for him, all I needed to do was read a single book before I knew more than he.

Since then I have run into a few solitary witches who flat out refuse to join a coven and I can understand why. If you are a practicing, or aspiring, witch be careful in your choice of covens. Interview them to assure you’re a good fit, and don’t make any commitments until you have attended some rituals. Don’t be too trusting until your trust is earned. And make sure if you choose to have sex with the High Priest/Priestess that you won’t hate yourself afterwards.

Pagan Land Blessing

As some of you may know, I am a new pagan–just a few months old. I am also an avid reader and have been absorbing as many books on the subject as my slow reading ability allows. Recently, I was reading my second book by Silver Ravenwolf, “To Stir a Magick Cauldron.” In chapter 2 on conjuring sacred space, she talks about the spirits of the land. I realized that land can affect the people who live upon it. She told of a monk back east who told a family if they moved onto a piece of land that had a western flow they would lose all their assets. They didn’t believe him, but a year after moving there they went bankrupt. My land has a northwestern flow, but since we have moved here we have lost everything financially–of course so has everyone else since we moved here at the beginning of the recession.

She also related how she would go to people’s properties and speak to the land spirits and erect outdoor shrines to appease them. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized the trauma my land had endured over the last five years. The previous house had been burned down intentionally by a drug addict. That same person refused to haul away his garbage so he would bury it on the land or just pile it behind wire fencing he erected between trees. The contractor my dad hired to clean up the property had a nervous breakdown when his baby died and he tried to steal the property from my dad. While the land and framed-in house sat abandoned for a year, people dumped their garbage on the property and meth heads stole all the copper wiring from the electrical. Some drughead friends of the contractor dumped their holding tank out on the ground when the county asked them to stop camping on the property, and once we took over the house and used an attorney to sever the contractor’s hold on it he stole all the building supplies my dad had given him as well as the money. We have cleaned it up and finished the house and now live there. My father died here in 2010.

These were the many thoughts that went through my head causing me to think the land might need some attention and love and apology. Silver Ravenwolf says the place for an outdoor shrine will reveal itself. It didn’t take me long to look. We live in the high desert and are surrounded by scrub junipers and sagebrush. But right next to our house is the biggest juniper I have ever seen. It is full and tall and doesn’t resemble a juniper at all. Its branches have created an oasis underneath where someone can stand up. It seemed the ideal location for a shrine to the land, since, to me, that tree was the centerpiece. I started looking at the tree and realized that the idiot who lived there prior to us had wrapped wire fencing around the tree so long ago it had actually grown into the tree and cut off circulation. The lower part of the tree was smaller because of the wire and it actually looked swollen above the wire. It even looked like it was bleeding sap. I felt so bad. I went to the shop and grabbed up as many tools as I could to cut the wire and try to free the tree. A couple of the nails had embedded so deeply in the tree I couldn’t get them free, but I did manage to get the fencing off then knelt by the tree and placing my hand upon it, said a brief prayer to Gaia asking her to heal it.

I knew I wasn’t done, though. Silver Ravenwolf had mentioned blessing the four corners of the land and planting a stang for the shrine. I had no idea what a stang was nor what to do about the four corners. The only thing I could be thankful for was the fact that we had the property surveyed so I knew exactly the four corners of my five acres. I tried to do some research and found precious little about how to bless land. Then I joined a pagan group on Facebook who are all ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses like me. One of them is very experienced with the occult since she had been part of the occult aspect of Jehovah’s Witnesses since she was a child. She gave me some ideas, so I went about choreographing my blessing ritual.

First of all I got four small mason jars for burying. On my next menstruation I put menstrual blood in all four of them since I was the owner of the land and had inherited it. Then I did some research on herbs and oils and their meanings. Based upon what I had in my house, I settled upon:

  • Parsley to stop misfortune
  • Garlic to guard against evil
  • Mint for prosperity
  • Lavender for healing
  • Ginger to assure success
  • Myrrh to emphasize healing
On the next full moon I had a ritual where I cast a circle and, placing the ingredients in the jars, I blessed and consecrated them to my use.
Silver Ravenwolf had mentioned the importance of  doing the ritual on Saturn day so I awaited the next Saturday. The day dawned clear and warm. I spent the morning burning the symbols I wanted into my stang. Let me define stang first, it is
a ritual tool which usually represents a phallic symbol to the god. Some people attach antlers to the top to symbolize the horned god. It can also be used as a vertical altar. I had found a stick about a month ago that I really liked. It was long with two forked branches on one end. I thought it would be perfect. I drilled a hole between the forked branches and glued a quartz crystal point (to amplify healing) at the juncture. I had done some research on runes and symbols so I knew what I wanted on it. I used the Othel rune since it signifies physical property and inheritance. I also burned in an Ankh for protection; an eye of Horus to ward off evil; the upside-down triangle signifying the element earth; a pentacle for protection; and the symbols for the horned god and triple goddess. That pretty much took me all morning.
 
In the afternoon, I took my stang down to my chosen location and buried it firmly in the ground. I then hung upon it a pentacle I had made from evergreen. I placed some flat stones at its base to serve as an altar and began the consecration ritual to cleanse the space. I used the four elements to cleanse the space then mixed the candle wax (of a black candle), the salt, water, and incense ash into a paste. I had previously buried the four jars with the magickal ingredients at the four corners, placing flat stones over them. Starting in the northwest corner, I used some of the paste to draw a banishing pentagram upon the flat stones while saying:
“With this sign I banish ye, foul shades of the earth! Let this land be freed of your baneful influences!”
I walked the entire perimeter deosil (clockwise), doing this at every corner.  I then put down the paste and picked up the salt and scattered it around the perimeter.  The final trip, I sprayed holy water ( which I had made during the full moon two months earlier) while reciting a healing chant I had written:
“Deep in the earth
the Goddess is alive.
Deep in the ground and trees
Her life force is strong.
Deep in the stones and waters
I believe she will heal.
I feel the Goddess at this hour
Filling this land with health and peace.
Abundant life forces of the Universe
Flow through this land
and banish all negativity.
The earth, the trees, the dirt,
and the vegetation, are healing now.
The Goddess force is in this space, this land
and it is healed.”
I kept repeating this as I sprayed the holy water around the perimeter. After four trips around my 5 acres I was pretty tired, but I had an interesting experience. On my first trip around with the paste, I found a beautiful bird feather with black and orange colors. On my second trip, with the salt, I found another beautiful feather with the same coloring only more perfect than the first. I remember thinking these would be perfect gifts for my new stang and outdoor altar. I hoped I would find something on my last trip around because I felt that would prove the Goddess recognized my efforts and would bless them. Only I wanted a different feather all-together. I wanted a black feather to signify the banishing of negativity from my land.
I made it all the way around with the holy water and chant without finding anything. I was fairly disappointed but then I hadn’t been able to look because I was busy reading my chant while I walked (I only take the time to memorize things I will use more than once). I gathered all my supplies from the Northwest corner and cut across the field toward my outdoor shrine. That’s when I found it–the black feather. I was so excited. I attached it to my stang along with the white feather I had found when I initially chose the space. I had also found a rock that didn’t look like any rock I had ever seen near the black feather so I placed that as an offering upon the altar.
So there you have it. It took a long time but I think it was worth it and I enjoyed doing it. I find when I take a proactive approach to problems and emotions with ritual I always end up feeling better. So far I am loving every aspect of paganism. That must be why Christianity tries to scare people away from it–otherwise, everyone would be pagan!

Contemplating the Precipice

As we approach October’s full moon–otherwise known as the blood moon– I have been noticing my dreams are becoming very active. The Blood Moon, or Hunters Moon, is the first full moon after harvest or the autumn equinox.  It gets its name from hunters who tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead. There is a greater significance to this moon if you are a witch/pagan. As we approach Samhain, otherwise known as Halloween, the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is at its thinnest. This is a very good time for divination, for contacting the dead, for sensing the shift in energy, and for paying attention to dreams.

All last night I dreamed of falling. Initially, I was at a huge amusement park where people were jumping off a very high tower and screaming as they fell. At first I thought it was a ride, but then I realized they were just hitting the ground. I was appalled and couldn’t figure out why they were doing it. Next thing I know I am standing on the edge of the tower looking down. I am terrified of heights and there was nothing between me and the ledge. I slipped and fell only just managing to catch myself. Someone nearby helped pull me to safety.

It doesn’t end there, however. I was on a narrow bridge walking along the edge. The great void pulled at me.  Once again I fell over the edge, catching myself on some sort of plastic netting that hung from the bridge. I was barely hanging on, but no one could help me. Through much struggle I managed to slowly pull myself up and reach safety.

I went to My Dream Visions online and found that such images could mean:

  • A point of transition, such as within a process or between phases
  • A feeling of being forced to change, adapt, or take action of some kind in your life
  • The idea of limited options
  • An obstacle or challenge
  • A sudden loss of support from others (perhaps giving you the opportunity to “fly” on your own somehow in your life)
  • Feeling pushed to an extreme or limit
This basically coincides with the tarot cards I have been pulling recently. Like the II of Swords indicating my own denial that changes are coming in my life, whether I want to hide from them or not. (Hence the woman with the slipping blindfold and her back turned to the rocky shores.) Also the III of Swords which depicts a heart pierced by three swords indicating painful awareness or betrayal. Finally, the IV of Swords representing a period of rest before one returns to a challenge they must cope with. I am getting the impression the universe is perceiving me as an ostrich with my head stuck in the ground. I am hoping for more time, which my massage therapist calls bargaining (at least I’ve moved on from denial).
So what am I going to do about it? Nothing. I’m still bargaining.
How about you? Have you had any interesting dreams this month?