Blessing Beads

After a whole lot of discussion with my doula over what exactly I was going to do around ‘pagan-happy-rituals for birth’, with the two main constraints being:

  1. none of my family is pagan, and few of my friends are, and many don’t even know I am, and therefore I can’t invite them to a rit or do one ‘energetically’ with them assuming they’d be okay with it, and
  2. most of my friends and family live way far away, so they won’t be around for rits, baby showers, or the birth itself,

we finally landed on the somewhat popular and fairly straightforward blessing bead.

In case you’re not familiar, this is a practice where you ask supportive friends/family to send you a bead to represent their best wishes, blessings, and support for you, your baby, and whomever else you may have around (ie: partners, siblings, etc).  You collect the beads, string them onto something (rope, ribbon, thread, yarn, etc), and bring it with you to the birth.  It’s a less-overtly-pagan way to do a ‘blessingway’, but still offers a way to bring supportive, positive, happy energy with you to your birth.

For me, it feels like a good compromise.  It doesn’t require a full ritual (I’m very uncomfortable with assumptions about other people’s willingness to get involved – even energetically, even if they don’t believe in it- with rituals of any kind… similarly to the way core shamanism teaches you shouldn’t offer healing without permission), and yet it ties me to my very-geographically-extended support network in a way I rarely get to experience.  I’m excited to send out cards with the request– fresh, in the new year, at the beginning of my third trimester.

So, if you’re looking for a way to bridge distance and disparate spiritual beliefs, consider asking for beads or a similar physical extension of goodwill and positive energy.  Even those who think it’s all “hooey” are likely to still honour your request (after all, when you’re pregnant, you get to ask for weird shit.  it’s part of the deal, I guess)… hopefully without raising too many eyebrows or awkward conversations.

 

 

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Nurturing the Self

So as I began to restructure this blog to support the kinds of things I need to write about in a framework that inspires me, I realized I’d left a “writing about myself” section off the list.

How weird.

And then I came to realize that the blog category “heartside” – which is about relationships– friendships, family, pets, children… also includes relationships with yourself.  Because really, heartside is about stuff you nuture, and dear gods, we need to focus more on nuturing ourselves too.

So this isn’t a mental-health tip or a blogging tip or anything like that… just a documented realization that when figuring out what I want to write about, I actually forgot to include myself.  And what I learn about myself.  And my personal growth.  And what I want to do/be/inspire/cherish.  And for a pagan to forget about the direct inclusion of those things… well, it feels like a wake-up call to remind myself about Things That Matter.

Some of you may follow Carol Tuttle’s Energy Profiling system.  For those who do, I’m a type 4.  For those who don’t– it’s a system that works for me, and after years of looking for a system that made sense to me for both myself and the people around me, this one just seems to click.  I’m not saying it’s the only truth, or that it’s a truth that will work for you.  But since it does for me, it’s offered a framework that supports the things about myself often considered ‘flaws’.

One of the things I don’t do well is scatter attention among a wide variety of different things.  This is basically heresy for a Gemini sun sign to admit, but there it is.  And when I consider what has been nurturing me over this past year, one of the really critical themes is that I’ve been content to be supported by a relatively limited number of online sources (aka blogs & sites).  From the interwebs, that seems to be pretty seriously frowned upon.  In a world of *more* — more likes, more follows, more sites, more information, more… I really prefer to select less.

So for 2016, there are exactly four sites that have been offering up stuff I am really enjoying.  They aren’t pagan, or even really themed.  But they’re real, live sites, and they deserve some recognition for all the support they hand out regularly to a whole host of folks… one of whom happens to be me.  For my own notes, in the future…

2016 saw me checking, loving, and learning from the following:

Carol Tuttle’s energy profiling sites

This isn’t one site- it’s a whole system of sites, and most are for-profit.  (You’ve been warned).  I don’t actually mind for-profit sites, and I do pay for content when it makes sense to me to do so.  I also do my best to support companies that support content I enjoy.

In this case, Carol has a whole host of content designed to support her system of energy types… and I really enjoy this framework.  It works for me, it works for me when I’m thinking about my partner, my mom, my siblings… and it works when I’m thinking about what really supports me (read: simple, clean, direct stuff…).

Reading My Tea Leaves

This blog is a check-daily kind of thing for me.  I love reading about her approach to simple living in her itsy-bitsy apartment in New York.  So much of it doesn’t make sense for me (I have a house, for starters, which spans a whole 1700 sq ft and I cohabitate with a hardcore maximalist… and we don’t live in the USA), but it’s refreshing and inspiring, and I enjoy reading it even when our perspectives on things differ.

Fringe Association

I am such an amateur crochet hooker it almost doesn’t bear mentioning in association with my name.  I can’t knit to save my life, and I can’t sew.  I can darn holes, fix seams, and sew on buttons… if I can find what passes for my “sewing kit”… but I don’t count as a true maker in any sense.  Nevertheless, I read Fringe Association every day.  I absolutely love reading about her wardrobe planning, and her queue updates, and her super-cool improve top-down sweater knitalong… there’s no real reason I should read this blog, let alone regularly, but I do, and I love it.  Go figure.  Her for-profit store, associated with the blog, is filled with absolutely gorgeous stuff.

DanielleLaporte.com

Not being a social-media-maven, I don’t retweet, repost, or even “like” Danielle’s posts… but her site is inspiring, and so I check in every week or two to see what she’s written recently.  I also use her Desire Map Planner (for 2016) and I’ve gone so far as to purchase the workbook and Desire Map Planner for 2017 already, because I loved the 2016 one so much.  I first read her Desire Map book in 2015 (after reading the Fire Starter book in 2014) and have been insanely inspired by her approach to re-orienting yourself to your days, weeks, and all goals.  Obviously also mainly a for-profit site, but also again worth it, for me.

 

Slow Fashion October- the Intro

The amazing Karen at Fringe Association tripped me onto this a year ago, and she’s invited the community at large to discuss again this second time around.  I lurked (exclusively) the first time, but I was fascinated.  There are some amazing stories, some amazing fibre artists, and some amazing eco-activists posting around this topic– check out @slowfashionoctober for a bunch of them (and, you know, creative folks who actually photograph their super cool stuff), or follow at Karen’s blog, above.

For those who don’t know, Slow Fashion is described as “a celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe” by Karen.  This week, the first week of October, is about introductions… namely, how this plays out in your life.  And this time, I was determined to actually be involved.  Even if I have a weird intro story.

I first became conscious of Slow Fashion in 2006.  A good friend had invited me to her place, and when I went to use her washroom, I noticed a bunch of weird cloth things pinned across her bathtub to dry.  In my extremely subtle 20-something way, I immediately went into the hallway and yelled down to her, “hey, what the hell are these things?”.  She kindly explained they were her reusable pads.

I’d never heard of such a thing.  But I had a lot of faith in this friend, so I looked up the company- a tiny, women-only company making their stuff by hand, out in Vancouver.  And I read their blog posts… full of discussions of financial sense and eco-friendliness and general logic… and a not-so-hidden promotion for supporting a group of women making something for women, that they actually used themselves, that worked, that didn’t need to be thrown away.

Are “traditional” pads and tampons the definition of fast fashion?  Maybe not typically… but they hold a lot in common.  Weird processing of weirder “fibres” and polymers and unknow-a-mers, dyed and bleached and packed in more plastic, and sold by the thousands to customers oceans away with a completely overt lifespan of one-time-use.  Okay, granted most fast fashion doesn’t explicitly say one-time-use… but the similarities are there, as are the bulk stash most women have (at least two or three brands, with at least one or two old pads or tampons floating around from before you switched)… and there are commercials, and brand loyalty, and shame.  Lots of shame.

I switched that year to lunapads and have never looked back (and no, I’m not affiliated with them).  I do love them, though.  Their products, their activism, and their outreach have made a huge difference in my life.  And I love supporting a group who work so hard to make this another part of a more conscious wardrobe.  For those who are wondering, no, as far as I can tell they aren’t particularly good at disclosing origin of fabric (and they use PUL in some of their products).  Here’s what it did do though– it made me think.  About something I’d never even questioned before.  Of course women go to that horrible aisle in the grocery store/pharmacy/whatever and stand there, staring blankly at 3000 different products all promising to make sure no one else will know she’s on her period.  What else would we ever do?

For me, this is the true beginning of a slow fashion wardrobe.  I guess any habit-shift has to start with awareness.

The what are you? Game

Over the holidays I had the interesting experience of discussing what I believe with someone I’d previously never met.

You know how it goes- a friend’s new romantic partner, a carefully arranged dinner to introduce said new romantic partner to other friends… and a bit of social lubricant, and whammo.  We begin the “but what are you?” game.

It goes like this.

New Romantic Partner (nrp) : “So, what do you believe in?”

you: “Good tea, proper grammar, and electricity.”

nrp: “Ha.  Ahem.  What I meant was, like, spiritually.”  (some sort of vocal or physical indication of whoo-whoo weird shit is usually used here.  This is the moment you can be sure your friend shared that you’re into “weird stuff”).

you: “Ah.  Well, as it happens, I’m pagan.”

nrp: “So, like, Wiccan, right?”

you: “Nope, but many people think of ‘pagan’ as a big umbrella term for non-Christian/Islamic/Hindu/etc, and as such, it works for me.”

nrp: “So, you’re not a witch?  What are you?”

you: “Actually, I’m pretty comfortable with the term witch.”

nrp: “But not Wiccan.”

you: “That’s right.”

nrp: “Huh.  I thought witch was just the not-nice word for Wiccan.”

you: (inwardly sighing) “Wicca is a religious practice.  I also have a religious practice, which I classify generally as pagan.  But many people use the word witch to discuss a craft… Like being a hooker.”

nrp: (eyes bulging) “A what?!”

you: “Bad choice.  A quilter, then.”  (This is when you start to wonder where your friend picked up this npr, and also where you write off any future jokes that may relate to computer history, weaving, and fanfic).

nrp: “So… you don’t have gods?”

you: “well, I do, but I happen to be a witch who is also Pagan.  To me, they aren’t necessarily the same thing.  But many people use the terms interchangeably.  They… tend to be Wiccan, since the two are so closely linked for them.”

nrp: “But… doesn’t a witch do spells?”

you: “Sure, among other things.”

nrp: “I thought Wiccans do spells.”

you: “Usually.”

nrp: “But, I thought you did spells in a big circle naked with other people… and that you called your gods.  If you can do spells without gods, what do you do them with?” (admittedly, this question showed some very loose understanding of Wicca, anyway, which possibly puts Buffy fanfic back on the table for future discussions).

you: (vaguely).  “those are usually rituals, and we’d do spells with… other shit.”

nrp: “Uh, okay.  So, what are you?”

 

I know I’ve discussed it before, and I still believe that coming out of the broom closet *just because* isn’t really the best idea, especially if you aren’t really considering the headspace (and heartspace) of those you want to inform.  I also, however, don’t believe in hiding away… especially from people I may need to encounter socially on a regular basis.  My friends know I’m cis-gendered, pagan and bi, just like they know I bellydance and design data experiments for a living.  A handful care to dig into the ‘pagan’ bit, and a select few beyond that want to understand why I differentiate between Pagan and Witch.  Of course, they’re usually either practicing or also following some breed of Pagan or Heathenism or Witchcraft, but that’s no different than the fact that usually only those in related fields ask for anything beyond ‘algorithms and experiment design’.

When asked, even by someone whose knowledge is clearly derived from the Craft (the movie), Buffy, or maybe Charmed, I try to be clear about the distinction, because I think it’s important.

I’ve never discussed the ‘entities’ that I work with, because for the most part I don’t believe it’s anyone’s business.  But the honest truth is that I do believe that religious devotion and craft practice are two different things.

I think conflating the two is what leads to gaps in knowledge and training, and, for the most part, all of the fluffy-bunny-newbie ridiculousness that floats around the interwebs and eats up a whack of our forums.

It’s the same reason that eCauldron.com is a religious forum (and discusses, in large part, theology, mythology, and religious devotion), and traditionalwitchcraft.net is a craft forum (**I lurk on both, but am not a member of either (actually, any) forum.  They illustrate my point**).  Mixing the two foci together simply muddies the waters, even if some of the people in the mix (like me) belong to both groups.

… I’m aware this is a pretty contentious subject… but I think it speaks to the point that both of those forums are still going strong.  Of course, strong moderation and leadership probably helps, but it weakens my point, so… 😛

Holla, 2015.  And the next time someone mentions they’re “pagan and a witch”, you’ll know why there’s an “and” there.

-Beth

 

**Update:  I’ve joined eCauldron.com as I realised after posting this that it’s a bit quirky to have a blog to get my thoughts “out there”, and to mention forums on my blog… but to avoid those forums.  traditionalwitchcraft.net is not currently accepting applications for membership.  **

Into the dark

We’re very near the longest night of the year, and I’ve always found this to be the time best used for big change reflections.  I think that’s why people work for New Year’s Resolutions– it’s a *thing* because it’s a convenient date that follows this bit of deep introspection.

I know many would disagree- the whole winter is for introspection, Beth!  (I hear people chime knowingly).  And I don’t disagree.  But these few weeks before Solstice are a special time of clarity for me.  I find that answers come now– not through tarot, not through scrying, … just by working it through.

As it happens, I work things through in my head.  I’m not really a gut/heart/soles-of-the-feet kind of person… Intuition comes to me as a voice in my head, in this sort of weird someone-else-is-acting-in-my-head way.  It’s the unprocessed thinking that works for me … as if someone pops open a file cabinet in my head and grabs out a script that has all the right words magically ready to go.

I think that we get this bit of extra-deep intuitive time to give us those introspective months to get habits going.  Most people seem to think about change about now– change for the next Year… and pagans tend to be in an odd place around this, since so many of us consider the Years to change at other times (Wiccans and most neo-pagans who follow Celtic paganism consider November 1st to be the first day of the new year, for example).  There’s still something particularly fascinating about having the ‘fresh start’ of a new calendar year (as an aside, I have no idea how it works for those in the Southern Hemisphere, since calendar years don’t match up with their winter-introspective time, but I consider it an added perk for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).  There’s been a lot of research on habit formation, about how you need at least 30 days to form a daily habit (or break a bad one!).  There are a few things that I’ve been thinking about that I’d like to develop into new habits, and one of them only became clear to me today.

As a words-in-my-head person, you’d think I’d know exactly how powerful words can be.  Three years ago I refused to call one of the rooms in our house the “Junk Room” anymore– I renamed it the “Prosperity Room” (based on a little amateur feng shui modelling of my house), and thus it became difficult to just throw our stuff in their willy-nilly.  Don’t get me wrong- it didn’t get magically better overnight (oh, shoemaker’s elves, where are you when I need you?).  But it helped.

This year I’ve been struggling with how to keep my house.  In a previous post I shared my favourite blog post from a fellow pagan blogger, who urged everyone to consider the role of each room of the house.

I guess I just needed to let that percolate for a little while, because today, while developing a series of routines for myself, specifically designed to fit in time for ritual and meditation and energy work daily, I finally figured out that my big issue with getting housework done was that I’ve always called it ‘doing chores’.

My schedule literally had “Chores for Monday:  floors & stairs; laundry: wash dishcloths and tea towels”.  And all of my many, many lists have had that label.  Chores.

My mom called them Chores, extended family had farms and called everything they did around the farm and house Chores, and I just continued that.  But “doing chores” sounds awful.  Chores are a terrible, painful, time-killing activity that Adults Do (or Make their Kids Do) and it always sucks.

Finally, today I figured out what I should be calling this time.  I don’t do chores.  I don’t do housework.  I do housecare.

I know, it sounds ridiculous.  But it finally clicked for me, and this works.  I *want* to care for my house, to return the love and gift my house gives me and my family.  And keeping my house clean is caring for it- just like keeping my dog and family members clean and well fed… that’s care.

So here’s to a little bit of that fabulous extra deep introspection over the next few days.  And here’s to having those bright moments of intuition that help us find new ways to think/feel/be!*

 

*More on the thinking vs. feeling vs. being thing later.  🙂

 

-Beth

Words Have Power

Do you remember the first time you read that phrase?  “Words have power”, said Blanche Barton, and I was riveted.

As it happens, I’m not a satanist, but the introductory letter Blanche Barton wrote remains to this day one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read.  She knew exactly what she was doing with her audience- and she chose those words so carefully.  Artfully.  Although most pagans that I know would smack me for saying it, LaVeyian satanists have their PR act together.  We could probably take notes.

All Hallows Eve, Hallowe’en, or Samhain, as you prefer, seems to polarize the average pagan into one of two camps: run-for-the-broom-closet, or scream-your-devotion-from-the-mountains.  Of course, there are additionally articles galore by the various media machines about Hallowe’en, and rituals, and witches-but-not-the-neo-pagan-kind, and witches-that-are-the-neo-pagan-kind, and broomsticks and black cats and dressing your offspring up as Sexy <whatevs>.

There are declarative statements about having all of us pagans band together and come out and show the world that we’re real, we’re here, and we’re– wait, I think that’s the wrong cause.

There are lots of times in my life that I feel just a touch out of step with the world, but Samhain, and the entire month of November, just seem to amp that discord up a touch.  In my not-overly-humble opinion, if we want to come out of the broom closet with a bang, we should do it when everyone, and I do mean everyone, is excited, happy, and READY FOR SUMMER, BITCHES.  Many of us call that Beltane.

I’ve never been able to figure out why the festival that heralds the beginning of the turn-inward, quiet-down, and reflect on life and death and yourself season makes people think about sharing their witchiness with everyone and sundry.

Sometimes I think that those of us who focus on a nature-based practice should remember that as humans, words have power- so true.  But as beings on this Earth, seasons have power.  So much power.  And we should honour those seasons and that call in ourselves and in others, regardless of their spirituality/faith/whatevs.

Maybe you’re feeling super compelled to out your pagan-y weirdness to your family, your loved ones, your boss, and the grocery store clerk right now… and if you are, feel free.  But as we come up on this beautiful full moon, so close behind our sorrowful remembrance of our ancestors, take a moment some night.

Look up at the moon.

Look down at the reflection- in a puddle, a lake, the sea, or a bowl…

and remember that the driving need you feel to connect with something deep… so many, many beings feel that call to the bones this season.  It’s in our blood, in our spirit.

This isn’t the season to ask people who can’t articulate that driving need to pull away from their inner reflections and focus with an open heart and open mind on the crazy-shiny-new-excitingness that is your heart full of pagan joy.

This is the season to smile quietly, hand them a cup of tea, and commune with them the old fashioned way- through stories and memories and the bittersweet wonder of watching the world come to a close.

Then go outside, smile up at the moon, and make a note of that tree near your place.  It will let you know, with a joyful push of grass-green buds, when it’s time to ask your non-pagan loved ones to open their hearts to your path.

That’s what we witches do.  We dance with all of the seasons.

hearth witchery & unfucking your habitat

I can’t take credit for ‘unfuck your habitat’ as a phrase, though I wish I could.  There are entire sites dedicated to this fabulous phrase (and it’s much more safe-for-conservative-work “unfilth your habitat” version), which I suggest heartily, especially because of their joyful focus on seriously I can’t devote every fucking day to cleaning my house.  I just wish I could. 

And that is where I come in.

The unfuck your habitat group (and groupies) correctly note that there are additionally some ‘old fashioned’ notions associated with most housekeeping blogs/journals/books/videos/sites/etc.  Feel free to translate ‘old fashioned’ as ‘intended for women only and usually Christian’.

Is true.  Additionally, they often focus on things like how to properly take X stain out of Y fabric with Z (green!  homemade! weird! unheard-of! unexpected! biased-and-sponsored!) cleaner.

I’m not going to teach you how to clean your house.  I can barely do that myself, and I’ve been living on my own for twelve years (*living on your own is defined here as actually being responsible for all the cleaning.  All of it).  I will say that if you’re struggling, as I have, many people will tell you to go ‘see the flylady‘.  I won’t.  I’ll tell you to go to see the Lost Art of House Cleaning as published by Jan Dougherty.  It’s a simple read and she’s refreshingly blunt.

Okay, Elizabeth, I can hear you say.  What does this have to do with hearthcraft?

Good question.  I’ve struggled for a long time to find a way to address my need for spirituality to be reflected in my housekeeping.  I keep thinking that if I could only reframe the way I see cleaning and my house, I’d be able to find some magical synergy that would just -bam!- solve my problem with cleaning the bathtub.

I do truly believe we co-habitate with our homes.  Maybe you can live in a house, but you live with a home, and I adore mine.  Seeing her all grimy and cluttered, with towels slung over the banister and 3-day-old dog paw prints repatterning the floors (what, you don’t live like that too?) kind of makes me feel like I’ve failed her.  Not my mom- my home.  She’s been standing here, on this bit of earth, holding out weather and keeping me and a whole slew of people before me warm, and comfortable, private and safe… and I can’t even be bothered to vacuum the stairs most days, let alone energy cleanse the front hall.

It *is* a systemic habitual lifestyle issue, being messy.  I get it.  I need to form habits.  A little bit at a time (hello, flylady, yes, I know, the sink, the sink).  And I’d love to say it doesn’t stick because my cohabitating partners in crime think that sleeping under a pile of (dirty) laundry is, well, normal.  And yes, that goes for the dog and the guy.

But at the heart of it, I think the real issue is I haven’t ever taken the time to seriously consider the myriad jobs my home does for me, my family, my friends, and all the strangers who are probably glad we live behind solid walls and closed doors.  To that end, I stumbled over the “Front Doors are for Warding” blog post of the fabulous pagan blogger Thalassa.  Yes, blog-o-sphere, the post is old (2013!  Elizabeth, where have you been!?).  Nevertheless, the framework she presents is just exactly that little kick I needed to start thinking about how to address my relationship with my home.  And once I’ve got that all sorted away in my brain, a system to integrate spiritual support into everyday housekeeping chores?  Yep.  That’ll come.