Sunday, July 3, 2016

Daily Journal Post: Preparing to Return to Shamanism

Several months ago, I started studying Celtic Shamanism. When I first came across the practice, I almost overlooked it entirely. Like a lot of people, I didn't really understand what being a shaman meant. I had never truly been exposed to the idea and the image I had in my mind was that of the stereotypical movie portrayal of the Native American Medicine Man. However, the more I researched, the more I realized that Shamanism was far more than I initially expected.

While it is true that many Native American cultures practiced Shamanism, this is true for many cultures across the world as well. The more I read into the practice, the more interested in Celtic Shamanism I became. Eventually, I purchased a book (By Oak, Ash, & Thorn by, D.J. Conway) and began intensively studying on my own.

While many cultures require formal instruction by an experienced shaman, the Celtic practice does not share this requirement. With enough dedication and study, you can learn the practice on your own. While I was attracted to the Celtic teachings for several reasons, the ability to teach myself was a huge draw to me. As someone who practices primary as a solitary, I am put off by any tradition or practice that requires formal instruction from an elder.

As I read and began practicing, I soon realized that none of this felt new to me. A lot of what was suggested in the book and articles I found online, I had already been doing without realizing I was sort of practicing shamanism. My research and study helped me focus more and better develop my skills at journeying and contacting my spirit guides.

With each day, I became more and more in touch with myself and the world around me. It became easier and easier to slip into the altered state if consciousness required for journeying; to the point I found myself slipping into it at random points in time throughout the day if I focused too much on music or nature sounds.

Things were going great!

... and then I hit a block. My home life had become slightly stressful and I began to find myself unable to relax. Zero time to yourself can have that affect on someone. I was unable to quite my mind when I tried to meditate so I eventually stopped trying.

Things have calmed down a bit now and I am VERY tempted to start again. However, in the back of my mind, I know the stress is not gone for long just yet. It will return soon and I am worried about starting again only to have the ability to clear and calm my mind taken from me. I am tempted to wait. I am tempted to put off my study and practice until I know the situation has changed.

While it is tempting to wait, I know I shouldn't. I need to develop the kind of discipline that will allow me to clear my mind an journey even when life gets stressful. I know it will be better for me if I start to study again.

I feel disconnected from the world around me and disconnected from myself. It is time I find that connection again. I need to get out in nature and feel the wind on my face. I need to feel water rushing around my ankles an hear the soft rush of a creek flowing over rocks. I need bird song. I need fresh, wild air.

I need to connect with my soul again...

Blessed be...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book of Shadows: Making Your Own and Why I Have Two

What is a Book of Shadows? In general, it is a "book" (not always and I will explain this later) in which you store all of your Pagan/Witchcraft related knowledge. You may also see a Book of Shadows referred to as a Grimoire. As far as I know, there is not a difference between the two and the names seem to be interchangeable based on which you prefer. If I am wrong about this, please feel free to comment and let me know. 

If you look, you will find several "Complete" versions available to buy. (I use "complete" lightly here as I don't think a proper BOS is ever truly finished.) These can be a valuable resource for someone just starting out. However, pretty much all of the information they contain is openly available online on blogs like this one as well as different online social groups. If you are interested in buying one, I would recommend Grimoire for the Green Witch by Ann Moura. For someone starting out, it is a fantastic example of what a Book of Shadows should contain. It is also a great resource for spells and rituals, correspondences, info on building your own spells, recipes, terminology, altar set-up, holidays, etc. 

While pre-made books are a great resource for beginners, making your own Book of Shadows is a very important and valuable practice for beginners as well. It lets you document what you have learned and becomes a personalized resource for future ritual and spell work (as well as becoming a powerful tool in itself.). No two will be the same. The things I think are important to include in mine will be different from the things you think are important. 

Lets take a moment to go over some of the items usually included:
  • Religious texts or passages such as the Wiccan Rede
  • Moral or ethical rules or guidelines
    • These are often personal rules or guidelines as each individual will have differing sets of morals or ethics. 
    • If you are part of Coven, there will often be a set of rules agreed upon by every formal member of the Coven. These are often included in a coven BOS as well as the personal BOS of coven members. 
  • Spells and Rituals
    • I don't know about others, but the spells and rituals that have been added to my own personal BOS are ones that I have personally used or made. 
    • Every now and then, I will add a spell or ritual I have come across and would like to save, but these are usually saved somewhere else until I have experience with them and know whether or not I will be interested in them later on.
  • Correspondences
    • These usually include lists of things like herbs, stones, incense, oil, etc. and what they are used for.
    • Also included will usually be charts that include things like holidays, gods/goddesses, planets, etc. and what elements, herbs, days of the week, moon phase, etc corresponds to them. 
  • Types of tools
  • Vocabulary
  • Recipes
  • Meditations
  • Crafts
The most important thing to remember when making your own BOS is that it is yours. You can leave out anything you don't want to include and add anything you do want to include. No one can tell you what you are putting yours is wrong. 

It is important to remember that a BOS is a VERY personal and powerful item. I know there are many people who take great care to make sure no one other than themselves (and maybe a VERY select few) ever even sees their book or what it contains. Keep this in mind when asking friends, family, or strangers about theirs.  However, I do not have a problem with people seeing (or even touching) mine. I believe knowledge is a powerful thing and should be openly shared with those willing and excited to learn. 

Now, I'm going to include a little about my own BOS (both of them) and some DIY tips for making your own. 

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I have two. This might seem a bit crazy for someone just starting out considering how much work seems to be involved in making one. The reason I have two is centered around practicality and my love for in-depth arts and crafts. It also has a lot to do with the fact that I love flea-markets. 

Originally, I had opted for a digital BOS. This is a practice that is becoming more and more popular. A digital BOS allows you to keep tons of information in a small and easily accessible place. A tablet or smart phone takes up far less space on an altar during ritual and spell work than a large book. With a digital copy, it is often easier to find information as you can simply search for it instead of searching through page after page of a physical book. 

Lets talk a little about making your own physical BOS:

First of all, remember this is 100% your own making. When I first started (and still to this day) when I am learning something new or planning a new spell/ritual, it gets written in a small journal before it goes into either of my BOS. If you don't want to create a full-blown BOS, consider keeping a journal so you can look back on things you have done in the past and keep track of things you would like to do or learn in the future.

Things you should consider:

  • How much time and effort are you willing to put in?
    • This book is your own. It can be as simple or ornate as you desire. 
  • Are you going to use your physical BOS during spell work and ritual"
    • Keep in mind, there will likely be things like wax, liquid, fire, etc. near by that could damage your pages.
    • I have seen BOS made out of 3-ring binders/notebooks and plastic page protectors to keep pages safe from things like liquid and wax.
  • Ease of editing
    • I would not suggest using a permanently bound book as it is nearly impossible to move things or add items once your book is full.
    • The 3-ring binder/notebook option is also good for changing/adding things.
    • Expandable scrapbooks are also a fantastic option.
  • Expense
  • Your personal skill level
All of these reasons factored into my decision to use two different versions. I can use my digital BOS during everyday spell work or ritual and save my physical "formal" copy for special events. I also just like the idea of having a beautiful physical copy.

This wasn't the case at first. I was more than happy to continue on with only a digital copy and one day, a trip to a local flea-market changed things for me. As I walked past booth after booth in a part of the building that doesn't change too often, I came across a book sitting on top of a box like it was placed there for me to find. It was an old, expandable, rope bound, black paged scrapbook and I instantly fell in love. I paid a few dollars for it, took it home, and within a few days, I was making pages to put in it. As of today, I don't have very many pages completed because I want to take my time with it. I want to make each page special. As this is a formal copy and I also have a digital copy, I don't need this to contain anything and everything right away. There will come a day when it contains everything, but I'm in no rush. 

(This is the front cover. I love it because it is dark and just a little creepy. If you look to the left side, you can see the rope that binds the pages together. It can be untied to allow you to take the book apart to remove/add/rearrange pages.)
(This is one of the completed pages. It is thick, tan (think paper bag color) paper I found in the scrapbook section of our local Walmart. Before writing on it, it has been burnt around the edges, wadded into a small ball, and then treated with liquid coffee to soften the paper and add a bit of depth to the color. It was then glued to the original black page with rubber cement.) 

As you can see, my physical copy is very much my own style. While there are people out there who would love it, there are also people who would prefer something else. This is the best aspect of making your own. 

Decide what you want out of your own BOS and jump right in! A BOS project is a fantastic way further your magickal knowledge as well as your arts-and-crafts skills. Most importantly, have fun with it!

Blessed Be,

Forever the Procrastinator: Daily Journaling

Where has all the time gone? Before writing my last post, I told myself I would post more often and now its been close to two months. If you've read any of my previous posts, you will know I have a bit of a problem with procrastination. It is something I am trying hard to overcome in nearly all aspects of my life and failing where somethings are concerned. (For example, I should be working on completing this weeks work for my online classes but I'm blogging instead. Don't worry, class work is going to immediately follow today's posts.Yes "Posts" as in more than one! It's a miracle, I know.)

While its been a while since I've posted, I haven't procrastinated entirely. In the past few months, I have continued my research and practicing of Shamanism as well as developing a solid foundation for both a physical and digital version of my own Book of Shadows. There have also been several craft/DIY projects that will make up the next several blog posts so keep an eye out for those.

I've posted before that I still consider myself a beginner. I've been interested in all Pagan type traditions, beliefs, practices, etc for many years. I've been learning and practicing for many years as well. However, I have not been open about this until very recently and still do not have as much faith in my own skills and knowledge as I think I should to consider myself anything other than a beginner. Regardless of how I feel about myself, I do still have people who are just starting out who come to me with questions. One of the things I always try to recommend is keeping a journal, and while I recommend it, this is something I have struggled with myself.

It is easy to write down what you do as you do it. When I plan spells, rituals, etc. there are pages and pages of notes that go along with it. I have a small book that is filled with idea after idea. It is recording your thoughts and feelings as you go through day to day life that is difficult. This becomes even harder when I fail at keeping myself focused on learning.

Over the next week, I am going to attempt to journal every day. (This will not be easy as it is a Holiday weekend here.) Even if I don't actually do anything that day, I am going to try to set aside a few minutes every day to think and write about something related to my own journey. I'm going to do this in the form of a blog post. I already have several posts planned to get me into the habit of posting every day. These include crafts, making tools, resources, book reviews, daily musings, spell work, etc.

I'm not sure what else I can say about journaling other than it can be a valuable tool in keeping you focused and keeping a record of your journey. So, I'm going to end this post here and go straight into the next one.

Up next: Musings and a partial DIY for your Book of Shadows.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"A Solitary Experiments with Public Ritual" or "Beltane in the Park"


      If you've read my first post, you will know that I am a Solitary Witch (a term I am still getting use to using on the public stage and in reference to myself). I have been especially guarded of this aspect of my life until this past year. There was no announcing what I am or a "coming out of the broom closet" (as I've heard it put recently). I simply set up a large altar in the public area of my house and stopped hiding my spiritual journey in the shadows of my life. As best I could, I let go of any fears that family and friends wouldn't approve. I am what I am and if they can't love and respect me for that, it's not my problem; it is their's. Fortunately, this hasn't been a problem. Who I was on the outside didn't change all that much because who I was on the inside didn't change. I simply started showing more of the inside to the outside world.
      This past year has held many firsts for me in regards to my spiritual journey. One first happened a little over a week ago: I attended a public Beltane ritual in a local park.
      I identify as a Solitary. That's not going to change anytime soon. However, in the past I have been known to practice with an EXTREMELY small group from time to time. There have only ever been two others I have trusted enough to work with on a semi regular basis. One (from here on out, I will refer to her as "K") is interested, but just starting out and not highly devoted to individual study. The other, I grew up with like a sister, but life has taken us down roads so different, I doubt we will ever speak to each other again.
      K joined me on my excursion into the public setting. We arrived just before noon and there were already a few people gathered near some pick-nick tables. I placed a large bowl of cookies on the pot-luck table (much to the displeasure of the event organizer. He had failed to organize what everyone was bringing for the pot-luck and had apparently not expected so many people to make cookies) and found a nice patch of grass under the shade of a large tree. I spent the next hour talking to a few people and generally observing everyone. As this was my first journey into the local pagan circles, I knew no one. My first encounter (with the event organizer) had not gone well so I was a bit nervous to approach or engage anyone else. After a while, these nerves were laid to rest as more people showed up. We made egg charms to hang in the closest tree, feasted, participated in an AMAZING drum circle, watched a May-Pole dance, and shared stories/life experiences. There were a few more uncomfortable/angry/rude moments that centered around the event organizer, but over-all, everyone was friendly, lively, and wonderfully outgoing.
      So when ritual time approached, I felt comfortable enough to stand with several others when the call to the circle began. There were a few moments of tension as the organizer stormed around trying to figure out what to do because "someone who was supposed to help with circle left early" (I'm pretty sure she left early because she fell in injured herself shortly after noon).  With a woman to my right and a man to my left, I stood hand-in-hand with strangers and helped to cast the circle. We honored several gods and goddesses, shared a chalice of juice, each took a cookie as the tub was passed around the circle, and were each anointed and received a blessing from our "stand-in"  goddess.
      Over all, it was a wonderful experience and I met many amazing people. I am glad I decided to break out of my shell and step into the public space for this event. While I will probably think twice about attending one organized by the same man, I will absolutely be looking forward to the next public gathering I have the opportunity to join.
      The Solitary practice is what feeds my soul. I do not believe my spiritual beliefs could ever align so perfectly with those of a large group that I could join a coven/study group/etc. However, it is an amazing experience to spend the day with a large group of Pagans. If you have the chance, I highly recommend it. There is only so much interacting you can do with other Pagans online. It is good for your heart and soul to witness so may welcoming, good-natured, loving people all in one place and interacting with one another.

Blessed Be...

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Journey Into Paganism and Learning to Pave My Own Path

(One of my first altar set-ups. Oh how things have changed!) 

      This blog has existed for close to four months now and I have yet to make a single post. I’ve spent hours sitting in front of my computer screen debating what I should write about. I’ve jumped from one idea to the next without really hitting any that stuck. Today, I was struck by how my procrastination and indecision regarding this first post mirrors the beginnings of my journey into Paganism.
      While I would still consider myself a beginner, I do find myself farther down the path than many others I have known. There are an infinite number of “paths” you can take when beginning your journey into paganism (spirituality in general really) and many more forks in the road as you go. This is, at the same time, the best and worst aspect of beginning the journey on your own.
      In the beginning, I often found myself wishing I had someone to guide and teach me. Oh how easy it would have been to simply follow the lead of a teacher! To have some pre-determined set of rules to follow or a step-by-step guide to what I should be learning and when would have made getting to the point I have reached now far easier. However, there is a downside to that ease. With someone telling me what to believe or how to practice, there are many aspects of myself that would still be unknown to me. If I had followed the lead of a teacher/priestess/etc. the “brand” of Paganism I practice would look far different.
      Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many great aspects of working with and learning from others. There is a special kinship that develops among members of coven or study group that you cannot compare to anything else. I would encourage anyone and everyone to seek out local pagan organizations, groups, craft circles, book clubs, etc. but do so only after you have developed a firm foundation of knowledge on your own.
      The great beauty of Paganism is how vast and inclusive it really is. There are different traditions such as Wicca, Druidism, Heathen, Hedge Witchcraft, Native American traditions, and many more. More often than not, you will also find that each of these traditions have sub-traditions of their own. Wicca alone breaks off into a vast number of different traditions each with their own set of beliefs/rituals/rules/etc.
      I have known many people who start out trying to find one pre-determined set of beliefs that line up closely with their own, and I fell into this same trap when I was starting out. Wicca didn’t seem to cover everything I was interested in learning; Traditions that only include working with the Goddess felt incomplete; Green Witchcraft had the intense connection with nature I was craving but something was missing there as well; and I soon found myself as disconnected and feeling as alone as I had felt sitting in the pews of our local church as a child.  
      It took a while for me to understand that it didn’t have to be one way. I didn’t have to fit into the mold these traditions demanded. I could blend and mold them into something that fit the way I needed them to fit.
      I have a large altar in the public area of my home as well as a smaller, private one in my bedroom. They are both highly personal and empowering. They are arranged and adorned in a way that is pleasing and works well for me. Objects from different Pagan traditions (as well as a few from other types of faiths) sit side by side among stones, plants, offerings, incense, and candles. I’ve begun to pave my own path. In doing so, I have also begun to trust my intuition, care less about what the rest of the world thinks, and find peace within myself.

Thanks for stopping by…
                                            Merry Meet…
                                                                       And Merry Part,