Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are you Pagan Enough When Life Gets Tough?

OK, this is the day I feared, the one on which I felt it was long past time to post something, but feeling I have nothing new or time-worthy to say. Emoting over my every change in mood does not make for good reading, though many drama divas seem to gather a huge following by chronicling the perils of their lives.

I've decided life is perilous enough all by itself without any added drama. Most of the people I know well have all the drama they can handle simply getting through each day. This clusterf@%ck of "things I must do yesterday" causes all the upheaval I never wanted.

Think about your own life. Not just the broad picture, but the daily details; the things that make you crazy, waste your time, and sap your energy. Standing in long lines everywhere for any service, going through a ten minutes "press 8 if you want to talk to another computer" before you get a live person on the phone, unexpected pet messes, children's schedules and dramas, automatic payments deducted earlier than agreed upon, planning meals, illnesses, doing housework, paying bills, etc. Then there the nightmare of working itself, tasks which can make you feel like you're a car stuck in the snow without any hope of gaining traction.

Many of us remember when one salary could support a family. Somewhere between the 70s and the 80s this task suddenly took two incomes. Now most families need more than two income to keep going, and adults are taking part-time or seasonal jobs to pay the bills--not for the extras, but for the basic necessities of life. People well-past retirement age are out working to pay for the high cost of living, not to have something useful to do as was common in the past.

Then comes the trade-off mind game? How does one decide if a sick child, an elderly relative, personal medical appointments, or or other surprises requires giving up a day at one job or another? If that job is given up for the day do you risk losing it, or do you just lose the pay you need to pay for the surprise. Do you work when you're sick and stay home with sick relatives? That says a lot about the love you have for family, but what is it doing to your health and sanity?

Almost all of us put family and close friends first in our lives, and almost all of us have been faced with circumlocating the normal routines of hectic days to accommodate upheavals. We start our days before sun up, and then we hope for some quality time with loved ones and some private time before we have to start thinking about tomorrow and getting into bed. Face it, we all know we are a sleep deprived nation of over-stressed parents, over-worked employees, and overdrawn bank accounts.

Where does the general Pagan attitude toward life teach us that can help us get through the bad days? And, face it, we've had a lot more bad days than good for the last few years.

Trying to avoid making negative statements is easy for many of us simply because other Pagans, or even non-Pagans who believe in the power of positive thinking, call us on it when we say the wrong thing. However, there are no thought police, and sometimes convincing ourselves that everything is and will be fine is a huge hurdle to overcome. I've managed to catch myself in many of those mind-gaffs and mentally erase the images and words and re-create my present and my future. Is it working? Yes. No one has handed me a winning lotto ticket yet, but the focus on abundance has pulled me through the economic nightmares of this long recession.

I've written before about magick going mainstream, especially writing magick. Keep a notebook of positive, present tense affirmations. Write them daily--over and over. Put them under your pillow. Believe in what you write. After a few months of this no one will have to remind you to believe in prosperity for all ever again.

I don't feel jealousy for a friend or family member who succeeds. I feel an honest joy in their good fortune and know that the Goddess has created more than enough abundance for all. This was not always the case. It took time to fully assimilate the fact that no one's good fortune can take anything away from me. In fact, I believe that being around successful people about whom I care makes my own energy toward abundance stronger and, therefore, more open to receiving these blessings when they come my way.

For today I played the trade-off game. I work three jobs and attend grad school, but I have a sick dog and a brother with a family short one car. Today I chose to scale back the job duties and take my dog to the vet and be my brother's ride. I never forget every moment of life is a choice, and only I can make the choices, and only I can be blamed if those choices were not good ones.

To any of you reading this while juggling jobs, school, children, housework, networking, and other "have to do" things, please know you're in good company. Start realizing you can make positive changes in your corner of the world just by changing your attitude. No one said it would be easy, but, as Pagans, we know that nothing worthwhile comes without effort.

Wishing abundance to all,

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Bucket List

For the first time in my life, the transition to a new year created several disturbing weeks of looking back on my life rather than looking forward toward new goals. I don't know whether to blame the economy--which has hit my extended family hard, just as it probably has yours--or the fact that my croning time is coming soon and, for the first time in my life, I actually feel a bit old. (And really embarrassed now about my overreaction to age 29.)

I never want to believe the best years are behind me. My grandmother took her first motorcycle ride at age 82 over the rocky backroads of the Texas Hill Country. I was nervous. She loved it!

I have observed enough death to observe those who grow old with personal goals and self-imposed limitations outlive those who have no concrete ideas about a future. Sadly, I've seen many of the these people become sick, physically and mentally. I concluded, when the mind realizes it will have nothing new to learn nor any fresh experiences to process, it prepares to die. Though at 52 I'm going to assume I'm still a long way from "kicking the bucket," these feelings stirred up by 2010 are my wake up call to make a list of the many things I still wish to accomplish. And, no, I'm not going to subject you to my list.

As magickal people we know the power of words, and we know written words have been sacred for thousands of years. The mainstream self-help books contain more of this old wisdom every year. I find that amazing and encouraging. Did you know there is a book called "Write it Down, Make it Happen?" It's not officially a book on magick. It's not shelved with the books on magick, yet it teaches nothing but magick--self-transformation through will and words.

Though I've already ridden a motorcycle, my grandmother's golden years were full of travel to new places, trying new things, and refusing to accept the myth that being over 80 equates to waiting around to die. She ignored the disgust of those she called "little old ladies" (most of them younger than here) and forged ahead into whatever struck her fancy. Many times she told me she missed climbing trees, and just as soon as she was shed of her body she was climbing the thickest, highest tree she could find. Only then would she be content to move on, anxious to see my grandfather again.

That inspired the title of my own bucket list: Never Give Up On Climbing.

BB, Edain

You Need Boots!

Nope, not what you think. It's the snow and ice, eight inches deep and more to come. All through the rather boring post-holiday winter Indianapolis has been pretty lucky to have had it so mild. On the flip side, the nasty stuff that usually falls on us has been going south for the last few years, smothering areas not accustomed to snowfall.

Why bother to tell you this?

WTF are we doing to our planet? Sometimes it really scares me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"I see no connection between religion and violence."

Huh? That phrase was recorded in a legal deposition by the former president of the University of Texas's San Antonio campus back in the late 1980s. A book connecting religion and violence had been published by one of the history department's young, well-liked, professors. The best defense against giving the man tenure was, "I see no connection between religion and violence."

I don't know where he was getting his daily news but mine has always been full of religions enacting crimes of hate against other religions, or even against those who practice a slightly modified version of the same religion.

Wouldn't it be nice to say the silly "Witch Wars" of the 1970s are over and Pagans worldwide live in peace and harmony? In my opinion things have improved, at least for us in the Americas. For us and our European "co-religionists" there looms a gap as wide as the ocean that separates us. The hundreds of choices those of us in Americas have on our huge spiritual buffet are astounding. When we lift up one of the choices we find many other layers of choices derived from or formed in opposition to the one most visible on the buffet.

I love western Europe, and most North American Pagans know we have western Europe to thank for the foundations of our thousands of Pagan traditions. We live in a country in which people change residences on an average of once every 1.8 years. We are united by cable TV! We meet people from other ethnic and spiritual backgrounds every day. We cannot help but be open to many cultural expressions in every aspect of our lives. And when it comes to the spiritual we also look at what Native Americans can teach us, we look at what the syncretic religions of Latin America have to offer, and we look at our own European heritages, and we blend these until they become what many of us refer to as Eclectic Wicca.

When I came to the craft in 1981 I was taught Wicca referred to only the Gardnerian and Alexandrain traditions of England. So I called myself a Witch, and still do. Today I am referred to as Wiccan by many people and I have learned the labels they place on me are irrelevant and I do not argue over them. What is important is my inner-faith, something no one can tamper with without my consent. I keep an open mind and read critically in hopes of new insights. What I do not do is slam ANY other faith, Pagan or not, for what they believe, do, or practice. The universal "Golden Rule" is part of all religions, including Paganism's: AS IT HARMS NONE, DO WHAT YOU WILL.

Over the last few years relations between North American and western European Pagans have been strained about as far as they can be without snapping. A well-known and respected American Pagan author was invited to England about five years ago to present some workshops. His reception was less than warm. He was corrected every time he used the word Wicca in a context his London-based audience felt he should use the terms Witchcraft or Paganism.

Oddly enough, it was the wife and co-founder of the Alexandrian Tradition (one of the British Traditional Witchcraft lineages), probably the single most codified tradition in all of modern Paganism, who befriended him and became one of his personal heroes. Maxine Saunders above all others certainly has the background to claim a right to "correct" the language of Witches from the Americas but she chooses not to do so. She knows religion must grow and change to fit the people it serves or it dies. She knows American Pagans have European DNA but we also have global minds.

The most difficult battles we have to face are over cultural claims for which we Americans have little tolerance. This is not to say we deride or disrespect anyone's specific European culture or any specific Pagan religions the natives of those countries deem to be theirs alone. In the America we pick and chose our Paganism, its traditions, and varied practices as we chose marriage partners or best friends. We want to have some things in common but ethnicity, spiritual tradition, and how these are expressed to others is something Europeans have a difficult time understanding, much less accepting.

I am only one American Pagan/Witchcraft author who is weary of lobbing the verbal missiles back and forth, but I'm not alone. I know a Celtic coven who worships the Greco-Roman God Pan, and another who prays to Diana. Not very Celtic in the truest sense of the culture. Do we care? Usually not as long as we understand from where these dissonances come. We are not illiterate. We know Pan's origins are not in Ireland, but one coven chooses to use him.

We Americans tend to pull deities, spellings, rituals, customs, and other accoutrements from the world over, toss them into our multi-faceted cauldron, mix thoroughly, and call it by whatever name we like. The same is done in Latin America where the numbers of people practicing religions that blend African Paganism with Catholicism and western European Paganism reach into the millions. Many call this blend "another form of Catholicism," a label that does not sit well with the Vatican which, by the way, is in Europe.

I have been forced to listen to loud and long negative diatribes about books on Scottish Pagan that are not acceptable in Scotland, heard variations on Italian Strega excoriated, and sat nearly silent while an Irish-based trad I once belonged to was trashed.

What our European counterparts can't understand is how we can draw from sources outside a small, cultural framework then hang an ethnic label on it. For example, the Irish who claim to practice a pure, pre-Celtic version of Irish craft excludes the words Wicca, Wicce, Wita, Witta, and Weeka. Yet, in spite of this controversy, many still accept some books with the word Wicca in the title to be considered part of their cultural spiritualism.

Though my own book on the Irish-based trad I was taught is long out of print, I've lost touch with many who practiced with me, and little about it part of my current Pagan practice, I still find myself goaded into defending my claim that it is Irish-based. Note that I do not call it Irish or say it is THE Irish way of Paganism, nor do I grasp why these ideas are so threatening to European Pagans. No one is asking them to model their practices on ours. For Goddess's Sake, we don't even try to make someone in the next county practice as we do.

Diversity in the Americas is reflected in everything we have, do, or say, which is one reason we have our own infighting about what is truly American and what is not. National identities fight against our many ethnic roots daily. If we can't get it straight among ourselves, I doubt we will reach a compromise with our European friends on any of these practices and terms.

Think about all the many Pagan expressions we have here in the Americas to try and to use if so moved. Is Santería merely another form of Catholicism here? Yes, it is if the practitioner worshipping Ellegua believes it is. Can aspects of British Traditional Witchcraft be the basis for American versions of Irish, Scottish, Italian, or German Paganism? Yes they can if the practitioner wants it so. Can Celtic deities be brought into the Norse pantheon and the coven still be said to practice a Norse tradition? In America it can and it is.

At American Pagan festivals I meet thousands of people every year from whom I learn wonderful insights into new ways to practice or to think about my Paganism. In the almost 30 years since my dedication I have worshipped in a myriad of settings. I've seen rituals from ceremonial magick interpolated into Egyptian Pagan rites, listened to a Celtic priestess of the Morrigan call out to Pan on Samhain, and in Latin America I see Santería shops actually built onto the annex of staunchly Catholic churches. I have taken folk saints from Latin America and prayed to them for assistance and never have a I felt my Anglo-Irish-Scottish DNA fight against me.

Let's get over the semantics, my friends. Words have power, yes, but they have the power to harm as well as heal, and using them to denounce someone else's Pagan practice benefits no one. It just makes us tired and likely to snap just when we should be offering the hand of friendship and understanding. We all change, grow, move on, move out, move in, carry forward, blend, borrow, and bend our Paganism into systems that work for us, and, with luck, our ideas may stir a need in someone else.

.... I was going to conclude this blog entry at this point when I friend read it over for me and said I needed to declare myself first.

"Declare what?"

"What tradition you are."

"I don't think I have one any more and that's the point."

"You must call what you do something," she persisted. "So name it!"

"It has no name--it just is!"

"Not good enough. People expect a brand."

"But that's what I'm arguing against," I say as I lose the fight.

My agent, also a Pagan author, Denise Dumars, and I have talked about the use of these terms and who "owns" them and who may use them as they wish. She and I are as content in an Eclectic Wiccan circle as we are in the rites of Santería or Umbanda. We've done Celtic, Nordic, and Egyptian and felt at home. We do not feel we are bound by any person, culture, or spiritual leader to define ourselves. We ask no one to do as we do, and we cause no harm.

I suppose I recently realized that I am American in the broadest sense of the word. My Witchcraft and my Paganism are inherently American, a blend of the practices of both North and South America and, should I ever find myself living in Europe, I would bring these practices with me and continue to build upon them.

Maybe the time has come for Pagans in the Americas to stop trying to ID ourselves using European terms. Our practices might be based in old Europe simply because the majority of our ancestors came here from Europe and we feel that connection, but it is also clear we say and do little that Europeans would recognize or with which they would be comfortable when it comes to Pagan practice. But that's OK. It should be OK with everyone. It's all part of the many paths to the creator--the end purpose of all our Pagan rites--and there will always be those people in Europe who hold tightly to the local Pagan traditions. It would be a huge cultural loss if they vanished forever and we Americans would miss learning about and seeing these rites enacted in their native lands.

Back to the issue. My current Pagan tradition, you ask?

I'm a PanAmerican Witch and very, very proud of the rich, multi-cultural heritage of the Americas, and of my European ancestors, all of whom contributed to the special spirituality that is mine today. As for tomorrow.... who knows? I may bring in some Russian or Thai practices, but I will still be, now and forever, a PanAmerican Witch.

I wish you peace and blessings in all languages and customs,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"You want fries with that?"

A long time ago I was told having a college degree--any degree--would open doors in my future. As anyone else reading this who also majored in the liberal arts knows, this door opening was not always wide enough for us to squeeze through. If we did land a good paying job we worked hard to keep it, fearing our next job would involve the phrase, "You want fries with that?"

Maybe after a long wait liberal arts students are being valued in job applicants. Having a degree got me in the door at Charles Schwab where I first got my broker training and licensing. Schwab actually told us that the economics, accounting, and finance majors often did not perform as well as those of us with a broader background of knowledge. My younger-than-me boss admitted to being a philosophy major! One day I asked him what he had been thinking. His reply, "I don't know. It was the 70s."

Like most of my countrymen I now find myself struggling to hold on to being middle class as food prices, banking fees, and interest rates go up and the only work ethic remaining seems to be that of greed for greed's sake. I've been forced to take on a second job, and sometimes a third.

This year I am substitute teaching, something I was not sure I could do. I am always uncomfortable giving workshops or lectures, but those audiences were of my peers. Always nerve-wracking when you know the people you're talking to know as much as you do, and some of them know more. I tutored one-on-one for a while and really loved that. It sounds cliche to say it was rewarding, but it was beyond belief. To see a young person's eyes light up when he "gets it" is one of the best natural highs I've known. I also work with a company that grades standardized tests both from Indiana and other states. The things the various boards of education look for have helped me tutor so my students can excel in these.

Though the school district in which I live tries to place subs into their declared areas of knowledge, sickness and sub shortages mean venturing into areas I struggled with in school. To my surprise I'm finding I can actually be helpful to students in a wide range of subjects. I credit much of this to having a broad background of knowledge. My life experiences too, my travels, the jobs good and bad, the voracious reading, all have helped broaden my awareness and hones my critical thinking skills. I am not the girl who graduated with a bachelor's in history. To my surprise I'm finding the rewards to be found in the classroom. They are small but I hope I'm lighting a spark in the minds of today's youth that just might blossom into a broad background of knowledge for them as well. Then they can pass that spark to the generation after them.

This is all just another facet of the cycle of life. Yes, I'd rather be paid the big bucks--who would not? Lucky for me, I've discovered that being paid in satisfaction and peace of mind is worth almost as much as a paycheck.... almost.

BB, Edain

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Samhain 2009

As the Witches' new year comes in I've noticed many issues coming forth to be dealt with, dismissed, or modified before Samhain comes and goes. I will definitely be doing a "get rid of the old baggage" ritual. I've also been made aware of things I need to carry into the new year, issues and needs that must manifest ASAP. Like most every working person I know, I have been smacked down by the economy and improving this aspect of my life has become a priority not only for me but for many of my friends and family as well.

I'm substitute teaching--again--and finding the classroom atmosphere has drastically changed in the last 15 years. The need for bilingual teachers is helpful to me and I enjoy working with those kids. I never thought the elementary level of school would interest me but I'm much happier there than in the junior high or high school. It's true that no one is safe from surprises until they're dead, and I'm not convinced they stop even then.

The other exciting news is that one of my closest friends is finally forming a coven. At first myself and another friend were going to "co-priestess" because we are all aware of the vast expenditure of time and energy a coven takes. With family, school, and job issues the two of us cannot commit for the foreseeable future and are pleased our "little sister" is forging ahead. Samhain will be our first gathering. It will be small, intimate, containing a coven birthing ritual, and allow us to honor our ancestors. The coven's future should be bright. I'm excited!

Everyone have a blesséd and beautiful Samhain,

Monday, October 19, 2009

An opera-singing spirit?

Being clairaudient around Samhain, when the veil between all worlds thins, the unexpected chatter of unseen guests can be a challenge both to concentration and sleep. I've come a long way in my acceptance of them, as have many Witches. What terrified us as children is now either interesting or annoying because we understand the source. Understanding always defeats fear. We also know when well-meaning spirits know they are welcome and will have an audience they love to drop in for a visit. Even my mother, who viewed my talk of disembodied voices with skepticism, is now a believer because sometimes the chatter has been loud enough to be heard by anyone with functioning eardrums.

I freely admit I would not want to return to a time when the voices of spirits were not audible to me or--worse still-when I was afraid of them. Still, I've been asking those who pass through my home on their autumn roaming to please lower their voices, especially when I'm sleeping. Last week I was awakened from sleep by a very nice, but robust, tenor voice doing a piece from the opera "The Barber of Seville." I sat up in bed trying to figure out what I was hearing. I saw the security alarm was set, meaning the television was not on and I was alone in the house with my dogs, one of whom also looked around trying to understand what she was hearing.

An opera-singing ghost was a novel experience. An opera ghost? Hmmm.... does this make him a "Phantom of the Opera?"

Gotta go ponder this one....