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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

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.  **

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.