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Archive for the ‘essay’ Category

Author: Layla Talora Eshe
Posted: June 28th. 2009

When I first began my journey into Witchcraft, there was much to learn: history, myths and the proper way to perform spells and rituals. All kinds of new things awaited me. I eagerly delved into any books I could get my hands on and talked to anyone that would listen. I bought book, candles, oils, herbs, wands, bells, cards and anything I could get! And so my knowledge (and witchy stock!) grew.

Throughout the coming year I faithfully did rituals each Full and Dark Moon and celebrated on Sabbats. I performed spells and various other rituals in between. Taking time to research, plan and execute all my workings. I set out the proper tools and said the proper words, and was faithful to my workings. And so my practical experience grew.

What did not grow however, was my relationship with the Gods. I realized that just by simply calling myself Witch or Pagan did not give me that relationship. By doing rituals and spells and reading also did not give me that relationship. This, just like anything else would also require work. I knew that this would not be an easy task, but it was something I felt strongly about. That is what I loved about this path, the fact that I could have a close relationship with my Gods, free from restraint and restriction. I was not about to let this pass me by.

So I set out to know my Gods better, to really understand them and their place in my life. I decided to create daily devotion times to connect with my Gods. In the morning I rise and greet the new day, light a yellow candle and sit near the window as the sun rises, and speak to them.

What I say does not matter, it is not scripted or planned out; it comes simply from the heart. Some days my words are filled with hope and happiness, and some they are filled with sadness and despair. But either way I feel the Gods around me, supporting me, and giving me hope. They are there to comfort me when I need it, but also there to celebrate and be happy as well. I get whatever I need, just by simply asking, and then I can start my day with a fresh perspective.

At noon, I take a few minutes to myself to speak to them once more, discussing my morning, plans hopes and feelings, anything I like. It’s a nice break in my mundane day to reconnect with the Gods, and to take a few minutes out of the rush of jobs and housework to concentrate on my spiritual side and myself. It revitalizes me so that I can tackle the rest of my day.

Before I sleep each night I light a candle and sit near my altar and give thanks for the blessings I have, and sit in quiet reflection of the day, and plan for the next. I get ready for sleep, and wind down from the stresses of the day, this is my time to sit and talk with my Gods. While I do love the talking part I also must remember to stop and to listen to what they are trying to say to me in return.

I think at times we all, myself included, are so wrapped up in the talking and planning and thinking of the days, we forget to simply listen and to be aware of what is around us. Many messages I have received when I finally stop and listen to what the Gods are telling me. For they speak to us in many ways, through dreams and visions, in our minds and our hearts, but most of all we can see them all around us, out in nature.

They are the sun on our face, warming our souls. They are the wind at our backs, pushing us to move forward and look ahead. They are the green on the trees and in the Earth, reminding us to stay focused and grounded. And they are the rivers and oceans, reminding us to always be compassionate and hopeful throughout our lives.

But most of all they are inside of us, giving us strength, hope, love and determination. They never leave our side, even if we stray away from them for awhile, they are always there waiting for us to return to them again. Never judging us for our imperfections, but loving us despite them. The Gods love us unconditionally and without wavering, as we should all love ourselves and those around us.

I guess my point is that just because you belong to a particular faith (Wiccan, pagan, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) does not mean you automatically get an in-depth personal relationship with the Divine. This takes work, devotion and most of all, love. This is a relationship that you will continue to nurture and grow throughout your entire life. It is important that you tend to it just as you would your garden, your pets, or any family or friendship. A relationship cannot exist without both sides working for it. The Gods are doing their share, now how about you?

To begin to have a relationship with your Gods you must go to them not only with an open heart and open mind, but also with complete, unconditional love. For this is the same way they look upon us. I think it also important to not only seek them out for help with problems, but also to seek them out for celebrations and happy times as well, to give thanks for the blessings that they bestow upon us.

Yes, it’s true; sometimes it feels like the Gods have given up on us; hen the world is black and dreary. And while we know they will not give us more then we can handle, sometimes we wish they would not trust us so much. But deep down we know that with their strength and love, we have all the tools we need to get through anything life hands us, if we just ask.

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Source: Witchvox

I need to improve my daily devotionals. I’ve been ill and stressed recently and it seems that my response is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.

I need to pick up my daily meditations again, and journey at least weekly. I keep saying I will, but then I fob it off – the same with my harp practice.

I’m only cheating myself on the harp front, but I’m letting the spirits and deities down when I don’t acknowledge them.

Like Bat said, “What’s stopping you?”

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Having slogged through By Oak, Ash and Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism by D. J. Conway – and it was a slog in places – I have begun reading Roebuck in the Thicket: an Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
The essays are a surprisingly easy read for the amount of information they contain, well written, well researched and, most wonderfully of all after reading Conway, I am halfway through with no mention of “Christian* brainwashing”.

Which brings me to the crux of this post: I am thoroughly sick of hearing from Complainin’ Pagans about how the Christian community is teaching bigotry and intolerance and committing what would be a hate crime, if the roles were reversed, against the poor little Pagan who aren’t hurting anyone because the Rede says… etc. etc.

The only thing I can think when I hear this is ‘Oh, grow up’.

I guess this feeling has been growing for a while. It was probably brought to a head by following Pagan groups on FaceBook, YouTube and an interesting juxtaposition of essays on WitchVox – Pagans Need to Stop Caring About What Other People Think and The Magick is in the Witch…Not the Bitch

An early paragraph from the latter reads as follows:
“The problem that most non-magickal people have with Magick, aside from centuries of brainwashing by Christianity, is the concept of a binary world. The concept of a binary world is anathema to traditional stratified religions where there is Earth, Heaven, Hell, and only The Creator and The Destroyer can manipulate “Magick” to make things happen. Even then, it is only good and “Holy” when that power comes from God or Jesus, and “evil”, “unnatural”, or “Satanic” when it comes from any other source, for as we all know, that which is not exclusively from the domain of God, comes from the Devil’s own hand.”

I wonder if the Complainin’ Pagan would be surprised to learn that I know more non-religious folk than religious ones, and the majority of Christians are – in my experience, at least – indifferent about my religion. The most interest I’ve had from a Christian was my born-again evangelical housemate at university, and she was mildly curious about the religion at best.
Where’s this brainwashed, bile-spewing Christian they keep harping on about? I’m obviously moving in the wrong (or the right) circles.

The only bad experiences I’ve had with Christians were with the Shadowmancer novel (I still feel betrayed by that book), and with a friend who I’d known for years before his conversion to Christianity, and I’d say he was more ignorant than vitriolic, asking if Paganism was Satanism and eventually – frustratingly, after the time I took trying to explain that non-Christian religion does not mean a lack of morality – denouncing the religion as ‘bullshit’ (he’s as entitled to his opinion as I am mine).

I guess what I’m saying is that yes, I used to be a Persecuted Pagan – overly defensive of my religion and ready to fight all comers – but I’ve grown out of it because I found it both unnecessary and a complete waste of energy. Now when I see it in others, I tend to see it a mark of immaturity.
I probably sound a bit smug here, but I don’t consider myself superior: it’s not that long ago I was much the same, but I find that lately I’m regarding what the Complainin’ Pagan says or advises more critically than I would normally. I’m also tending to put books back on the shelf if I find the same vitriol in print.

I understand that I am fortunate, and these defences might be necessary for some people, but I cannot believe that this degree of intolerance is so widespread that it warrants the number of Persecuted or Complainin’ Pagans I have found in the community. Furthermore, I don’t think that it helps when Pagans bang on about how Christians are universally awful and always on the lookout for new ways to stop us being the honest, good, decent people we would be if they weren’t forever having a go at us.

Why can’t you be religious or spiritual without shouting about it? What’s stopping you being a good Pagan and a good person now?

I don’t care whether Jo/e Anyman is a Satanist, Atheist, Christian, Muslim or member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All I care is that s/he treats me with the respect I deserve as a fellow human being, and I promise to return that respect.

IIRC, about two thousand years ago a man was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be if people could get along with each other. There’s a lesson in that somewhere…

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* You never hear about ‘Muslim brainwashing’ or ‘Jewish brainwashing’. I guess railing against the status quo is a cool now as it was when we were teens.

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Witchvox – Magick and Science
I like a scientific explanation for things – I cannot get behind things that require me to ‘take someone’s word for it’. If I can’t do it or see it done, or if you can’t at least explain how it’s done, I’m sceptical, to say the least.

“What if the very act of imagining, visualizing, or having an expectation of an outcome, caused an actual change in the matter and energy around you?”
I’m not sure E=mc^2 is the best example of the theory, but the idea behind the essay is a valid one.

When observation of an experiment affects the outcome, is it unreasonable to suggest that the subject must have an awareness of being observed? Even when the subject is a subatomic particle? I don’t think it is.
(Sentience is not implied, but awareness or consciousness is at least plausible.)

I don’t think the particle knows ‘whether to appear as a particle or a wave’, as that implies a degree of intelligence that I’m currently disinclined to attach to a sub-atomic particle, but expectation can certainly influence outcome.

If that’s the case, the mind seems to be able to affect the physical world and, if so, perhaps magic isn’t so implausible.

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Bibliography
The Matter Myth – Dramatic discoveries that challenge our understanding of physical reality – Paul Davies and John Gribbin

The Mind of God – Paul Davies

The Cosmic Blueprint – Paul Davies

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawkings

*The Eagles Quest – A physicist finds scientific truth at the heart of the shamanic world – Fred Allen Wolf

Parallel Universes – Fred Allen Wolf

*The Spiritual Universe – How Quantum Physics proves the existence of the soul – Fred Allen Wolf

Taking the Quantum Leap – Fred Allen Wolf

The Big Bang Never Happened – Eric J. Lerner

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After collecting CR resources in my last post, I came across this eaasy at Witchvox, Traditional Wessex Witchcraft, and want to clarify my position to myself.

This essay outlines when I see myself going in the future; traditional craftwork using herbs and land spirits for healing and divination.
I also wish to honour the large sections of my family from Ireland, hence the CR research.

I do not consider myself a Witch – although I may be forced to change my mind. I do not consider myself a Heathen – although I may be forced to change my mind. I do not consider myself a Celtic Reconstructionist or even a Polytheist – although I may be forced to change my mind.
I have not yet had any first-hand contact with the gods.
Perhaps when, or if, I meet them, I will know.*

For now, I will trust to the spirits to guide me; they know the lay of the land better than I.

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*Currently, I regard the gods as powerful nature spirits, à la Living Druidry, which doesn’t fit with Heathen or CR polytheistic models at all.

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Witchvox article: Kangaroo Magic

I have never believed that coloured candles were necessary (perhaps I did when I was 13, but I’m not convinced I was convinced). Once you start looking into symbolism and realise that green is the colour of wealth in the USA (because dollars are all greenish), but the colour of the cuckold in China, and a race of people in Sudan. Colour symbolism simply doesn’t translate well (green may have been a bad example – it almost always translates to growth and nature for obvious reasons).

A number of books on crystal healing I have read give different attributes to different stones. I wore carnelian for a year or two to help with my back pain, only to read later that it is the stone of feminine fertility in a different book and nothing to do with the back.
Frankly, next time I feel like using rocks to help an ailment, I’ll ask them if they will first.

When I first began to journey, I met Ant by a riverbank. We had a chat, but I didn’t ask what he wanted to teach me. I looked it up in Animal-Speak, and found that Ant symbolises success through persistence and co-operation.
If I’d looked elsewhere, I would find that ants represent self-discipline, patience, delegation, the number 12 and/or socialisation. In the Way of the Shaman, insects represent illness or disease to be removed.

When I met Bat, Animal-Speak said that bats teach seeing using more senses that just your eyes (something I definitely need help with and was happy to accept). Alternatively: transition and rebirth (apt), facing fears, solitude, shyness, an ability to find your way, illusion, communication and journeying (again, apt).
Bat has guided me across the Otherworld, refused to let me run from monsters and protected me from danger – even going to far as to scold me for going off on my own. He is a defender, a teacher and a guide. Although many of these qualities are listed in the symbolism I’ve dredged up, nothing about him has ever indicated shyness or solitude – bats are very social creatures, so I don’t know who applied that symbolism to them.

Now I don’t buy into all the pink-candles-for-lovespells-green-rocks-for-wealth stuff, and I’ve stopped listening to people who try to tell me that it’s the unassailable truth.

I shall listen to the spirits, trust my intuition (Bat again ^_~ ) and do what is right for me.

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Hat ettiquette at JourneyWoman
Green skin in Sudan @ Michigan University’s Department of Anthropology
Bat symbolism at What’s Your Sign.com

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Sacred flatulence

Witchvox: Sacred Flatulence

This essay made me laugh ^_^
“Just use a little extra incense”

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I have been giving some serious consideration to the inclusion of shamanic practices within my interpretation of Druidry. At one point, I was certain there was a link, but as I find myself digging deeper and deeper into shamanism, I wonder how this links back to my original intention. Exploration of a fascinating subject is hardly something to be censored, but I think I’m getting off-topic at this point.

Looking over my library, I find it full of books on shamanism and Celtic shamanism and very little on Druidry. On the other hand, I appear to have a large quantity of books on Celtic myth and legends and a few books on the history of the Celts. I think this is where my research should take me next. Leave Cowan, Matthews and Harner. I have dug out Solitary Druid – it’s ADF, but it might be useful – and Druid Magic – which is Llewellyn but has a bibliography and some interesting exercises at the end of each chapter.

That said, I mustn’t dabble. As I have seen, the Otherworld can be dangerous and there is no room for tourism. Commit to something, achieve it, move on and maintain practice.

There is an interesting essay on Celtic shamanism on the OBOD website – [link] – indicating the adventures of Fionn MacCumhail are plausibly shamanic Otherworld experiences: questing to retrieve mystical artefacts, knowledge or power, being dismembered and returned to wholeness stronger than before and receiving traits that mark him as being definitely outside society. The author also suggests the CS-bashing I’ve been seeing is an academic trend, and – as a classically trained, initiated shaman who has actually attended ISS workshops – doesn’t have an issue with Harner’s definition of a shaman as ‘a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness – at will- to contact or utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The shaman has at least one, and usually more, “spirits” in his personal service’ (quotes are Harner’s), although there is no evidence to suggest drumming as the aural trigger, the Celts had no shortage of instruments or songs that might be used in this fashion.
The spirits of shamanism are, perhaps, the faeries of British folklore. I’ve always avoided faerie-faith books like the plague, but now it seems they might have something to them beyond pink fluff and sparkles.

So: Celtic shamanism? Yes, but it has it’s own distinct flavour. I mustn’t get distracted by the Celtic-everything trend, attempts to homogenise shamanism or a watering down the faerie-faith (I never thought I’d say that).

Other areas for research:
– Celtic myths and legends (look for shamanic practices)
– Faerie healing (being careful of New Age fluff)
– Biddy Early and canny folk who practice/practised around the British Isles (any from East Anglia? That’d be a nice find)

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