Day 1: Earth-Centered Spirituality
4 June 2007
And so it begins…
Roderick chooses to begin his program by addressing “earth-centered spirituality,” which basically serves as a reminder to pay attention to physical experience while seeking spirituality. He says:
Spirituality had its birthplace right here–in the dirt, in the soil, in the struggles and triumphs of everyday life. It emerged from human laughter and fear. It was something that pervaded one’s eating, sleeping, eliminating, and reproducing. It governed family and community life, the coming of age, marriages, births, and deaths. Spirituality had little to do with lofty philosophical notions–the things that emerge from thinking–it centered on the hard facts of life.
Too often, I am guilty of locking myself within an Ivory Tower–so to speak–and forgetting to go out into the world itself. It was good to hear Roderick say “this path requires you to settle down into the metaphorical dirt–the experiences of the world itself–and get your hands and feet muddy.”
So today, to fulfill the exercise “Connecting to Earth,” I knew I couldn’t just go out to my back yard and sit on the ground. My yard is too public, to cluttered with sounds of hectic traffic and passing radios, too rancid with the smells of fried chicken and hamburgers from the convenience store next door to allow for any real experience of nature. I had to really get dirty, so I drove to nearby Mounds Park and walked to Circle Mound to do the meditation.
When I got to Circle Mound, I sat at the base of a red oak tree near the middle of the mound. It was a sunny moment in the middle of a very rain-scattered day, and the scent of fresh white clover blossoms on the air was almost overpowering. It was cool beneath the trees, and a light breeze tousled the branches and leaves, but not enough to disturb the birds calling to each other above me. It was very pleasant, and helped me feel a bit more centered just in general.
The exercise itself is really just a simple grounding and centering technique, calling for you to sit in a natural setting and imagining roots extending from the base of your spine, into the earth and “out to everything on it.” Roderick’s exercise asks for you to “Take a moment to feel the pulse of your connection to the great All. Notice where your connection to things and people might be weak and where it feels strong. […] When you are finished […] consider the following questions:”
- In what way was my connection strong?
- What do you suspect is the reason for any strong connections?
- In what way was my connection to things weak?
- What do I suspect is the reason for any weak connections?
- What actions can I take that may strengthen any weak connections?
When I did this grounding exercise, the core of me felt centered. At the very least, I know who I am, whether or not I choose to follow through on the actions I know would make me a better person. But I had a very hard time putting down roots–in fact, I don’t believe I did so successfully, and it was very difficult to envision this grand connection. I don’t like to rely on others, which is quite a problem as that’s the definition of connection. I do have issues asking for help and taking it when it is given, and this is a pretty big problem.
It was very nice, however, to relax into the oak behind me. It cradled my back perfectly and held me. Nobody and nothing holds me anymore, and it was wonderful to relax into the sensation that something so much sturdier, so much bigger than I am was supporting me.
I know that I need to learn how to take as well as learn to give more effectively. I need to relax into the total matrix and find myself a part of the fabric rather than the one who’s always weaving the thread. I need to put my ego aside.
Day 2: Those Upsetting Words
5 June 2007
In his introduction to today’s exercise, Roderick makes a very good point about the symbolic nature of language which is well known by those schooled in literary theory:
To Wiccans, a word is not reality itself. For example, the word “apple” is not itself an apple. You can hear the word and understand it intellectually. However, in order to know an apple you must hold it in your hands, smell it, and take a big juicy bite. Likewise, the word “god” is not deity itself. It is only a mental abstraction, a convenient symbol that we can all use to refer to something that goes beyond the word.
Whenever I’m reading outside the context of literary theory, observations like this shock the hell out of me with their clarity. Life is all about experience, and words are just shadows that try to represent some idea of that experience and translate it between minds.
So how well do my ideas of these nine Wiccan words match up with the broader context? Let’s see:
Regarding each of these words, explore the following questions:
- What is my comfort level in using each word?
- How do I understand each word?
- How do I imagine that each word impacts other people who are not involved with Wicca?
I’d say my overall comfort level in using this word around others is a 5 of 10, mostly because of how I think it impacts those not involved with Wicca–but we’ll get to that momentarily.
At it’s purest, I believe this word stands for a religion that strives to make the divine a very strong part of a person’s life. It is a religion that demands personal accountability. There is no relying on a minister, there is no relying on a church. If you fall in your spiritual path, you fall because of you. If you succeed, you succeed because of you. I think Wicca is a religion that strives to find natural connections in an increasingly unnatural world, yet at the same time Wicca is a religion that works within a contemporary life. Wiccans look back to older traditions for inspiration–Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American shamanism–but do not recreate those traditions. Instead, they try to glean the essence of what these other traditions are doing and try to put them in a ‘language’ more immediate to the practioner. It’s a beautiful aim, but it can become so chaotic. There is not centrality to Wicca, and every Wiccan’s idea of their faith can be completely different. Because we have no real clergy, because our priests and priestesses have mundane lives alongside their spiritual paths, we always fail in our best intentions. We reschedule the dates on which we celebrate Sabbats, we let prayer too often degrade into cockeyed motions of candlelighting, we get caught up in metaphysical trappings and forget to look beneath forms. But we are also not afraid to reset our practice when we recognize our failures. Because we know to whom we are accountable.
Unfortunately, I believe that people unfamiliar with Wicca believe that the religion isn’t worthy of being a religion. I think that they believe that Wiccans are a bunch of lost people searching for meaning in dark, mistaken places–or worse, putting on a show for shock value. I believe that they look at Wiccans as the sci-fi/fantasy geeks who have lost touch with reality. Sadly, I don’t believe they are entirely mistaken. We do have these people within Wicca. We have the lost, we have the weird. They are the ones most likely to be drawn to Wicca, and those least likely to find the purity of its purpose. So no, I don’t feel comfortable identifying as a Wiccan to outsiders because their concept of the word is likely far different than mine.
I’d say I have a comfort level of an 8 or 9 with this word. However, this is because I do not believe it to be a synonym with Wicca in any way. I do not believe practioners of witchcraft are trying to find ways to connect with the natural world or following any sort of spirituality. I think witchcraft itself is solely the practice of magic without spirituality–and as such I think it’s a fairly empty word. I think this sort of practice leads to ridiculous applications–like spells to help you find parking spots. However, I do think that witchcraft practices can be tempered with Wicca and other spiritualities to great effect, at least in the psyche of the practitioner.
This is one instance in which I think the ‘outsiders’ do have a fair grasp on the word–likely because it is one in which outside perception had a large role in shaping–someone who bends metaphysical powers to their own will. Witches try to do this. Wiccans who use witchcraft can do this too, of course, but I find that most Wiccans do not rely on magic to a great extent, and tend to use witchcraft more as concentrated prayer than as a force to control.
Again, I think I have a comfortability level of an 8 or 9 with this word. To me, power is something like energy. It’s a moderately neutral force in itself, present within and outside of everything, and I would like to think that this power can be subtly augmented or reduced through means like prayer, ritual and witchcraft activities. I think that most everyone would recognize this aspect of power, but would also recognize the dominance aspect. We do use this word in the construction “has power over,” and to denote control. I think that there are elements of witchcraft which access this denotation, but I believe that Wicca itself is more focused on the energy itself.
Comfort level of 10, easy. Everyone has rituals, and most people do choose to use this word to describe roughly the same thing–an action that symbolizes something deeper–like how the Catholic celebration of Mass ’symbolizes’ (and in symbolizing becomes through perception) the body and blood of Christ. Wiccans have rituals to symbolize the changing of seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, and other natural cycles. I think that when Wiccans say “I’m doing a ritual,” outsiders may raise an eyebrow or two–but I think that perhaps this is because the word ‘ritual’ is a private word. It’s rarely written or spoken–it’s one kept to the self so that the experience is made greater.
I’ve got a lower comfort level for this one–maybe a 5 or 6. See, magic to me is a personal thing–it’s about shifting an inner viewpoint, tapping into a larger picture and seeing connections. But to outsiders, it’s a bunch of “useless wand waving” (to quote J.K. Rowling’s Severus Snape) or a sinister manipulation.
Queerly enough, I’m very comfortable using this word. It just means “hidden” or “secret,” and there’s nothing bad about that. Heck, doctors even use the phrase “occult blood” to refer to bleeding that isn’t easily seen. However, I do concede that it is a ‘weird’ looking word, and the fact that it contains ‘cult’ as a syllable doesn’t really help matters much when it comes to those who do not have broad vocabularies. Still, that’s just a simple matter of education and one I’m not particularly troubled by.
Oh, this is a troubling one. Among other ‘pagans,’ I’m much more comfortable using this word than ‘Wiccan’ because it is a much more inclusive term, encompassing many lifestyles, spiritual view points, and metaphysical practices. There are even parts of me that feel more comfortable using ‘pagan’ than ‘Wiccan’ in the outside world because I know that many people think Wicca is something nefarious, and ‘pagan’ simply means ‘not Christian.’ However, the Bible and many famous Christian documents and sermons often use ‘pagan’ to refer to those unbelievers who are damned to hell. I suppose that in that religion, non-Christians are in fact damned, but I don’t really want to tap that connotation.
Ah, I suppose I’d pick a very high comfort level for this one–8 or 9. However, there’s a large part of me that giggles when very spiritual acts channeling divine energy are called ’spells.’ It’s just a word too trivial and esoteric to tap that deep meaning for me.
Comfort level of 10, easy. To me–and I think to most people–this is a religious path that largely emphasises respect for the earth and all its inhabitants. I think that those in main-stream religions might pejoratively view those in earth religions as tree hugging hippies, but there’s not too terribly much condemnation involved. It’s a pretty politically correct term.
Day 3: Melting Beliefs
6 June 2007
Today Roderick asks us to perform a ritual act based on our word reaction responses from yesterday. We are to review our responses, paying attention to emotion-laden words like “fear, anxiety, etc” and try to identify a common emotional tone, then reduce that tone to a single word. Then we take a white taper candle and inscribe that word into the shaft. Then we are to mediate on these emotions:
Find a comfortable sitting position and close your eyes. Take a few breaths and allow the dominant feeling, the main theme of your emotional reactions, to emerge in your awareness right now. Whatever the emotional state you’ve noted, try to feel it fully within your body. Allow this feeling to transport you back in time to a scene from your life that you can explain your feelings. The scene can be just about anything: a frightening bedtime story about Witches, a film, an illustration. Do not deny whatever scene emerges. Once you have an image that makes some sense, open your eyes.
Then we light the candle, vow to remain aware of these feelings over the year and a day, then visualize the word and feelings melting and transforming along with the candle doing the physical act. When the candle guts, Roderick asks us to address the following questions:
- What was it like to take part in this small ritual?
- What emotions did the ritual bring up in me?
- Did I “let go” of anything with this ritual?
No single word itself jumped out at me from my responses to yesterday’s exercise. However, I did get the recurrent theme of ‘disconnect’ from them. In most instances, I noted that what I felt each word meant to me stood for something entirely different in the mind of ‘outsiders.’ This was really troubling to me, because a language relies on words having common denotations and connotations, and it is incredibly hard to overcome one set of associations with another.
As I thought more and more about this, I realized that the times I’m most likely to be squeamish about Wicca-related things is when I have to try to explain or defend my beliefs and faith to someone who doesn’t know much about it, who hasn’t had their primary associations challenged. I just don’t have the energy to debate and enlighten people every time I choose to identify myself as a Wiccan, so 9 times out of ten I don’t. I’m “a member of an alternative religion.” I’m “not Christian.” At the very most “I’m a pagan.”
As these thoughts swam in my head, a memory came forth. I was about 17 or so and had decided that I was going to write a real ritual for Samhain. I’d been too scared to do so previously because my family is the type to barge into your room at any time during the day, and my mother is a very light sleeper, waking up even if she hears a cough. But I was determined to take a stronger hand in developing as a Wiccan–I’d been studying since I was 14, yet had barely practiced at all.
So a couple weeks before Samhain, I brought home a few of the Wiccan books that I’d been keeping in my locker at school so that I could piece together a ritual. I stashed a couple under my mattress and another couple in between sweaters in my closet. Every couple of days after my parents went to sleep, I’d read a few chapters and maybe take some notes. A few days before Halloween, however, my mother decided that she would wash my bedding. She found the books I’d hidden under the mattress. When I came home from school that day, I’d found that she’d ransacked my closet, my desk, in every corner she could think of, because there on my bed were all the books I’d brought home and a small assortment of mildly metaphysical effects.
My mother was furious. I don’t think she had ever been angrier at me–before or after this event. She screamed at me for what seemed like hours, though I’m sure it couldn’t have been longer than ten or fifteen minutes, then she made me watch as she went over every book on my bookshelf, pulling out every title that had “witch” or anything similar in the title and throwing them on the floor.
I’d had a small collection of Silver Ravenwolf’s fiction, which even then I knew wasn’t great in itself, but I really loved reading about Wiccan witches. Even if they were fictional, it made me feel less alone. Four books, gone. I’d had four or five titles from Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series at home. Gone. I’d had three titles of the children’s series “The Worst Witch,” a 2nd or 3rd grade level forerunner to the Harry Potter series. Benign, but gone. I fought bitterly for the Harry Potter series and only won that battle because my mother’s sister had raved about how her kids loved them. I lost a Cunningham book I’d slipped behind a folder. I lost an old copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and barely managed to remind her that she herself had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Jordan and me before it joined the ranks of the doomed.
Before she was done, Mom had at least twenty-five titles thrown on my bedroom floor. Part of me was already calculating the large portion of my teenage dollars I was about to lose. Part of me was spitting mad. But the largest part of me wanted to break down and cry.
Then my mother told me that if she ever saw another one of these books again, if she ever got the slightest hint that I was still “into witchcraft,” my parents would not pay a single dime of my college tuition. I would no longer be welcome in their home. I would be totally alone, just as I deserved to be.
My mom didn’t know what she was doing. She thought she was saving me from myself, from Satan, from eternal damnation. How could she think anything different? Satan was all she knew from her associations with ‘witchcraft.’ Instead, my mom ended up doing one of the most hurtful things she’s ever done to me.
But I didn’t try to stop her.
Perhaps there was no trying to stop her at the time. She was ‘hellbent’ on purging, and I doubt anything I could have said would have changed her mind. It probably would have made her angrier and put me into quite a pickle.
But I could have been better. I could have stopped hiding quite so completely. I could have let her know by littles, shown her that I was still the same person, that I wasn’t selling my soul, that I was becoming more spiritual if anything.
In other words, I could have been a good Witness, to steal the Christian phrase, and could have introduced new associations to my mother over time.
Perhaps this is what I need to do now to overcome this ‘disconnect’ and the gulf of alienation that I feel–integrate outward practice into my inner beliefs. I think that would be the only real way to ‘melt’ that chasm. I’m not talking about draping myself in pentacles and eyeliner–I’m talking about being a rational member of society, but one that doesn’t shirk from showing an occasional flash of faith.
It was really enlightening to take part in this ritual. It really was a bit of nothing–thought and lighting a candle–but I wouldn’t have come to the realizations that I did had I not done it. It was surprisingly emotional. It was hard to really remember that moment with my mother. It’s one of the more ugly moments in my life, and it was hard to remember that sadness, but there was a strong element of hope in it this time around. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve “let go” of anything. That sounds far too new-agey…but I think I’ve partially resolved some fears I had packed away.
Day 4: Questioning Your Path
7 June 2007
The theme for today is truth–being candid with yourself. And oh my Gods, do I ever need to be more honest. In college, Shea and I used to laugh whenever I said the phrase “I lie. I lie a lot.” Yes, it sounded cute and I always said it in a joking manner, but a large part of me was being serious. I have a huge problem with lying–to myself, to others. It’s practically become something I rely on. In many aspects of my life, I don’t know if I can succeed if I don’t lie.
So I will try to be very honest as I answer these questions.
Why am I exploring the Wiccan path?
Well, honestly I’m not all that sure any more. I started learning about Wicca back when I was 14. I’d seen Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch once and laughed about it, wondering how any one would be silly enough to believe in witchcraft. But then I’d read the Harry Potter books and heard all the press about how some parents thought they were teaching kids witchcraft and thought I should probably see what ‘real witchcraft’ was about. So I snuck off to Waldenbooks once while my mother and aunt were shopping and found Teen Witch. I read through Silver’s introduction and the 1974 “13 Principles of Belief” and quickly realized that there was definitely no Satan involved and that everything mentioned as an area of belief seemed quite rational–honoring natural cycles, believing in an interaction between conscious and unconscious planes, an inclusive deity that was every deity and in and outside of everything, respect for those who teach, respect for those who learn, and a large emphasis on individual discovery. It was liberating, and I wanted to know more.
I still want that. I want to find ‘God’ for myself, not have him handed to me in a nicely packaged form. I want to be a good person for the sake of being a good person, not because I’m scared that sins will send me to Hell. Wicca gives me a way to do that by being open to new forms of worship and by incorporating older ones. If I like a Catholic practice, I can adopt it. If I like a Buddhist one, I can use it too. I don’t have someone telling me “This is God,” and I like that because I really do think God is different to everyone. I think that this is why I’m exploring the Wiccan path now, but there’s still a part of me that wonders if I could find this in a mainstream religion–even almost 10 years after I began my path.
What were my previous spiritual practices?
I grew up Catholic. When I was little, going to Church was pretty fun. I loved looking at the statues and the stained glass windows. I loved the traditions of the Church, the religiosity of the whole thing. And when I was very little, I took a lot of comfort in knowing that God the Father was my daddy as much as Daddy was and that Mary was my mommy just like Mommy. It’s kind of funny to realize now, but I never gave Jesus a lot of room, and I found the Holy Ghost just plain superfluous. After all, God the Father was the one who called all the shots in the end–so when I was young, my concept of God was one of a Father, with Mary the Mother who often interceded on our behalf.
As I got older, it did irritate me that women couldn’t be priests. My parents had raised me to believe that I could be anything I wanted, and the whole priest issue was really the first time I’d encountered something that I couldn’t do. Even kids have enough sense to realize that nuns just act as the gophers of the Catholic Church. Then there was the whole aspect of birth control and abortion. Though I understand that there is an ethical aspect involved, I don’t understand why it has to be so horribly condemned. Birth control is necessary, I’m sorry to say. We cannot afford to have scads of children in this day and age. Abortion is a pretty distasteful topic as well, but I’m rational enough to realize that there are several cases which make its avaliablility necessary.
So I did have some dogmatic and political issues with Catholicism, even though I loved the form of the religion so much.
Did any of these past practices lead me to investigate Wicca? How?
Well, yes they did. Women are allowed a dramatically larger role in Wicca, and there are even whole individual traditions that exclusively focus on the feminine. That is appealing, and was a large factor in my investigation of Wicca. A larger part though was the more direct relationship with God. I could be my own priest. In fact, I had to be my own priest. Wicca isn’t a religion that just requires a practitioner to know the peripheral details. You have to get into the nitty gritty. You have to read the philosophers and make your own ideas. You cannot be a sheep.
What are my hopes in engaging in this path?
I hope that I become a more spiritual person. I hope that I become wiser. I hope that I can meet every day knowing that there is more to life than just myself and my experiences. I hope that I can find some peace.
What are my fears in engaging in this path?
I’m worried that I’ll never find people who work at this faith as I do. Most people involved in Wicca are really drawn to the witchy hodge podge. And this is fine. I like the hodge podge. More hodge podge says I. But at the same time, there are a lot of scary people in this path, and a lot of people I wouldn’t want to be in a community with.
I’m worried that I’ll never find a man who would accept this faith. I want to be married someday, I want to have a family. I don’t want to raise my family in a situation where Daddy’s religion says that Mommy’s is evil. That’s a terrible thing to ask a child to confront!
I’m worried that without a Church as a social scene, I’ll end up isolated.
How will I handle friends and family members who might not approve of my spiritual search?
Gracefully. I don’t see any reason to come screaming out of the broom closet. My spiritual search isn’t really anything my family and friends need to concern themselves with. If it comes up, it comes up. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. If, say, my parents cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that their daughter’s ‘a witch,’ all I can do is just continue to be myself and hope that eventually they will see that.
Aside from transitioning to a new spiritual path, are there other major events that impact my life at this time?
Hah. Outside of the fact that I need to get a move on with life–do the whole apply to grad schools/find a future–no, nothing’s going on in my life.
If I have major life events happening right now, is this the best time to explore a new spiritual path? Why/why not?
Hey, I’ll admit that right now I’m just generally screwed up and questioning what my purpose in life will be. And yes, the turmoil might not be the greatest of times in which to tackle spirituality…but then again, I’m trying to find my future. This will be a large part of it. When would be a better time? Tell me.
Day 5: Natural Sacred Energies
8 June 2007
Today Roderick again stresses the role of experience in Wicca, in particular experiencing “the life force of nature […] as it flows within you.” He quotes a great line from Barbara Ardiner in saying that “Through experiencing this natural energy, Witches come to know that […] ‘matter is clotted, lumpy spirit, and spirit is finely strained matter.’” I also really thought his point that “No Witch worth her cauldron invests herself in beliefs. Beliefs spring forth from the limits of the critical, thinking mind. Thinking can help you understand spirituality in theoretical terms, but it stops short when it comes to the experience of spirituality.” Well, I want to experience, darn it, and today we have a practice to help with that.
Practice: Experiencing Life’s Energy
Close your eyes and take several deep, slow breaths. With each exhaled breath, feel your body relax and release all the tensions that it might store. Become internally quiet; try not to allow thinking to interfere with simple breathing and sensation.
If thoughts come up, simply observe them with detached curiosity. Perhaps you might notice how thoughts are creating muscle tensions or contractions in your body. Notice, too, how these tensions transform themselves into your emotions. Try not to get involved in the story line of your thoughts and subsequent tension–that is a trap that can keep you from the experience of this exercise.
Now, refocus your attention on your solar plexus region (around the lower stomach and navel area). Focus your attention on the feeling of the life force inside your body within this region. Most likely it will feel like a humming, buzzing, or tingling sensation. Now, widen your awareness. Allow your focus to include your chest. Feel the inner body’s energies in the chest and in the solar plexus regions. Now include your hips and legs. Feel the sensation of energy buzzing within this region. Now add your feet into your focused awareness. Now add your arms and hands into the awareness. Finally, add your neck, head and face into your awareness. You should now be fully aware of your inner life energy from head to toe.
Stay with this feeling for a few minutes. When you sense that you are ready, open your eyes. How did it feel? If you felt “cut off” in any area of experiencing your body, it is important that you continue with this basic energy practice several times a day for 5-10 minutes at a time, until you are able to sense a unification of your body’s energies.
Oh, I like this exercise. I like it a lot. It’s very relaxing, yes, but enlightening and energizing too. After deep breathing and relaxing a good deal of the knots and kinks in my back and shoulders, I concentrated on my solar plexus and was amazed to feel a strong, humming vibration. It wasn’t as though my body itself was vibrating, but I had that sensation nevertheless. It wasn’t quite as strong when I let my awareness go up my chest, but it was decently strong across my breasts and even stronger than my solar plexus when I let it travel into my arms and legs. My hands and fingers felt the vibrations very strongly, as did the tip of my nose. I felt like my lips had expanded to Angelina Jolie size, and when I really became aware of my face, my eyes sort of ‘relaxed’ and all of a sudden all I could see was this fantastic sky blue behind my eyes.
Like I said, it was pretty cool.
I tried to do this exercise upon awakening this morning…but it put me back into a very relaxing sleep. It’s definitely a ‘later in the day’ activity for me.
Day 6: Wicca and Shamanism
9 June 2007
Roderick begins today’s introduction by bluntly stating “Wiccan is a shamanic spiritual path.”
Okay. To me, a shaman is a specific person–a Native American spiritual leader–and I wasn’t too entirely certain I could follow Roderick’s point. So I looked up ’shaman’ in the dictionary and found the following definition:
A person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, esp. among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.
That actually sounds very similar to what Wiccans attempt to do in ritual, so I set aside my disbelief and continued with Roderick’s explanations. He says that “a shaman is a spiritual leader […] who has an immediate, direct connection to the divine force.” As such, the “shaman’s gods are totemic; they take many forms such as stone, plant, animal, human, and spirit. The powers of the shaman are those of the earth, the wind, the waters, and the fire. Shamans also gather secret, magical knowledge from the hidden worlds of their familiar spirits.” Shamans also have the ability to cross outside of reality in ecstatic rites–”altered frames of awareness during which [they] feel as though [they] transcend [themselves].” Roderick continues to say that you do “not choose to become a shaman” but rather “the path chooses the individual” and gives the following “hallmarks of the shamanic experience:”
- A traumatic incident (such as the near-death experiences, lucid dreams, visions, or near-psychotic breaks) which typically occurs in childhood
- A close relationship with nature
- Demonstration of natural psychic, magical, or healing abilities
- The ability to spontaneously “move between the worlds” of physical and nonphysical reality; this usually entails extended periods of disorientation induced either by trance, drumming, dancing, or psychoactive herbs
- The ability to understand the underlying spiritual or energetic nature of all things (both animate and inanimate)
- The ability to receive intuitive messages (whether in the form of words, images, or sensations) from both seen and unseen sources
- The ability to harness spiritual power
- The ability to cause change through unseen or magical means
I suppose at some point Roderick realized that a fair bit of this does seem something like insanity because he concludes his introduction by addressing ‘madmen’ saying that “The shaman is someone who experiences a degree of control over his or her otherworld experiences. The shaman can move between the worlds and can function effectively within both a mundane and spiritual context. Not only can the shaman converse with spirits, but he or she can function concretely and practically within the framework of a society. The madman goes off into the otherworld and is never heard from again.”
I’ve got to say, I really appreciated this distinction. I think that getting caught up in the “fantasy” of Wicca is a big liability, and I’m glad Roderick made it clear that shamans balance the real and unreal in a healthy manner.
Finally, Roderick asks us to answer the following exercises:
Describe in writing your own “calling” to the Witch’s path. Take note of which of the shamanic hallmarks describe your own experience.
Do I have a ‘calling?’ I’ve never really thought of it that way. I’ve never really felt that Wicca was actively pulling me; that it was a path I was absolutely destined for. It’s just a comfortable agreement. It matches my theological and practical concerns in a way that other religions don’t. We fit. But I don’t feel irrepressibly compelled to be a Super Witch.
As far as these ‘shamanic hallmarks’ go, I can barely find one or two that fit my experience. I had a blissfully trauma-free childhood, though I did have a wonderful imagination and had very many lucid dreams. I could have sworn I could fly, for instance, and for the longest time believed that I did. I have a decently close relationship to nature—I’m not saying it couldn’t be better, but I’ve always been one to have a great time playing in the woods. I’m somewhat intuitive, but I don’t believe I’ve ever displayed any “natural psychic, magical or healing abilities” , and I’m a person firmly rooted in this physical plane. I can be a downright stick in the mud.
We all have characteristics of both the shaman and the madman. In what ways are you a shaman? In what ways are you a madman?
I think I’m most like the shaman in that I do experience control in whatever plane I’m in. I’m not one that gets lost easily. However, I do have the tendency to get absorbed into things—a book I’m reading, or a project I’m doing. When I do these things, sometimes the process takes my entire focus and the rest of the world slips away. I’m sure this is normal, and even a very good attribute to have. However, I also think this is a small-scale experience for what it’s like as a madmen. They get absorbed into a psychosis permanently.
Day 7: Witches and Sacred Symbols
10 June 2007
Symbols in themselves are nothing really new to anyone—they are just something that represents something else, often times something that is not concrete. Roderick places special emphasis on symbols in the context of Wicca, stating that “In Wicca, symbols are the distillation of spiritual insights and magical wisdom. Symbols are the essence of divine principles that are neatly summed up by images, artifacts, sounds, words, colors, movements, or even smells.” Later on, he continues with:
In Witchcraft, symbols are the primary means for reaching and transforming the deep mind, known in psychoanalytic terms as the unconscious mind. It is from this deep mind that the arts of magic begin. Freud, Jung, and other pioneers of psychoanalysis discovered that the unconscious can only be reached and expressed in symbols—through art, myth, dream, and fantasy. In reaching the unconscious mind through symbols, the Witch’s practices result in psychological integration and spiritual empowerment.
It makes sense. After all, what is religion but a ‘language’ of metaphors unbound from the linear constraints of real language? What is it but a striving to enable an access to an aspect of divinity? We just have to learn to interpret the metaphors. In a religious context, however, the ‘larger’ symbols seem to deal with matters recurring throughout history, cultures, and mythos. As Roderick mentions, the anthropologist Adolf Bastian named these symbols “elementary ideas,” which include such motifs as “life must feed on life” and “life does not end with death.” In Wicca especially, a lot of our connection to these ideas are derived from natural phenomena we view as symbols: sunrises and sunsets, the change of seasons, the waxing and waning of the sun and moon, destruction and creation in nature.
We just have to be careful to approach symbols with a mindset removed from our mundane rational—the search for facts and our tendency to literalize. We can’t get caught up in the form itself, we have to keep that deeper view and realize that the symbolic form is not the important part of the relationship.
Practice: Sunrise, Sunset, Symbols
Take time today to witness either the sunrise or the sunset. It is important that you don’t substitute an “imagined” sunrise or sunset—really go outside and engage in nature. As you experience either the sunrise or sunset, take note of your feelings and your state of mind. After this, take time to commit your thoughts to paper regarding these questions:
- What did you experience internally as you witnessed this event?
- From this experience, what do you imagine this sunrise or sunset could symbolize?
- Now think about a symbol from a spiritual path from your past. Spend time contemplating this symbol’s meaning. What could this symbol mean for you today?
Okay, I’ve got to come clean…I missed both the sunrise and sunset on the 10th, so I caught up watching the sunset on the 11th…which I nearly missed too. I think my clocks might be a bit off.
Watching the sunset, I felt calm. It was just watching an event happen, after all, just as I have before and will again. I knew that this was the only time I would see this sunset and that it was the death of a day I will never live again, but that was okay. Because there will be others, and after I’m gone, the sun will still go on rising and setting. The activity going on around me seemed to confirm this: I watched the sun set from my front porch, which overlooks a busy street in my town. The traffic kept zipping on by, quick as anything, practically oblivious to the sun as the last sliver dropped beneath the tree line and out of sight. Flocks of birds flew by, silhouetted against the orange and rose sky. Everything was continuing just as it had.
From this experience, I would say that a sunset is an appropriate symbol of cyclical conclusion. It’ll happen again and again–heck, the only ‘permanence’ it has is just that.
As far as symbols from my spiritual past goes, well…I grew up Catholic. We had lots of symbols. One of the more enduring in my memory was the lamb. Lambs seemed to pop up a lot to me. Jesus was our shepherd, we were the lambs. We herded together, aimless without him. I hated that. I didn’t feel like a lamb. God had gifted me with a brain and a conscience. That was shepherd enough–I didn’t need to personify it as a god. Besides, Jesus didn’t seem like much of a shepherd. He was all goodness and fluff–simply believe in him and you will be saved. He didn’t require a lot, and really didn’t seem to be protecting or guiding us in any real way.
Yet, Jesus was a lamb himself–the paschal lamb, the sacrifice. I liked this lamb. He was a beloved thing–born to die, and then to be miraculously resurrected…reborn with the rising of the Easter sun. It was very specific to Jesus. It happened once and only once so that all of humanity could be saved.
Now, what I think Roderick means by asking “what could this symbol mean for you today” is how might I view a lamb under a Wiccan context. Unfortunately, the lamb is just an object–not the symbol itself. I cannot change that particular association no matter how hard I try. However, I suppose I could attach ideas of new beginnings to the lamb object. It’s a baby, just beginning life–and it’s naive and needs leading (though that could be said of all sheep)–and new lambs will crop up every year, just as the sun will rise. It could happen.
Day 8: Meditation
11 June 2007
I suppose it’s true that just about every Witch worth her broomstick mediates. So why have I never consciously made the effort to do so? Well, I suppose I’m hardly worth the broomstick is why.
In all seriousness, though, I have a devil of a time trying to still and focus my mind when it comes to mediation techniques. It often just degrades to what happens just before you fall asleep—the thought train goes wild as your body relaxes. Then when it comes to ‘active’ mediations—like what some people describe knitting to be—I get too caught up in the activity and don’t let go enough to meditate. Roderick, however, is trying to ease everyone into some form of mediation, however, and today he looks at the differences between Eastern and Western techniques.
The Eastern techniques—usually from China, Japan, and India—are the quiet forms, striving for “physical and mental stillness” which seek to “align your internal world of perceptions with the external world, and for a single unifying reality.” Roderick says that “Eastern styles […] do not require that you create mental stillness by blocking out your thoughts. Instead they suggest that you observe your thought processes in a detached way. […] Allow your thoughts to exist naturally, but do not try to engage in any of them.” Western methods, on the other hand, often incorporate activity and imagery through “guided mediations,” “a controlled, planned dream through which someone else leads you.” I’ve done these before—in fact, quite frequently in my gifted/talented elementary program where our teacher called them ‘scampers’—and I love them. However, I find it difficult to find that detachment through them. I use a lot of critical thought.
When all is said and done, however, Roderick asks us to answer the following questions and decide which style might fit our personalities more:
Exercise: Meditation Temperaments
To assess which style suits you best, consider the following questions:
- Do you like your life to be perfectly organized or do you not mind a bit of chaos?
- Do you respond to most queries with action or with contemplation?
- Are you active and mobile, or are you laid back and sedate?
- Do you believe that every question has a definite, logical answer, or do you think that questions can sometimes beget more questions?
- Are you naturally internally or externally focused?
- Are you naturally patient or not?
- Are you strong willed, decisive, and direct? Or are you easy going and more indirect in your approach to people and tasks?
Consider your answers and decide which style might be best suited to your temperament before you begin with the meditation exercises tomorrow. Individuals who consider themselves to be organized, action-oriented, mobile, and logical might try the Western types of meditation techniques. Those of you who see yourselves as laid back, contemplative, less active, and nonlinear might try the Eastern meditation methods.
I think I straddle the fence on this one, though with a slight leaning towards the Eastern camp. I love an organized life, but I think the fun is found in the chaos. My responses generally have a good measure of contemplation involved, but then I’m quick to action. As far as the rest go, I would say I am more internally focused, naturally patient, and indirect in my approach to others. And, of course, I think that the best questions lead to more questions. I think if I mastered it, I could do well with Eastern methods, though mixing it up here and there with guided work would be nice.
Day 9: Meditational Breathing
12 June 2007
As Roderick notes, as Wiccan rituals and ceremonies begin and end in the direction of east and air, it is all too fitting to begin meditation with a focus on breathing.
Yes, we do it every day without thinking, but it is a foundation of many a discipline–Roderick mentions hatha yoga, akido, tai chi, qui gong, and how the kahuna (the magical practitioners of Hawaii) rely on ritualized breathing methods–and helps the body and mind to relax.
Before performing the exercise, Roderick asks us to first take notice of our regular breathing, without altering it in any way. “Is it short and shallow? Is it deep? Is it regular and rhythmic? Where does the breath feel as though it reaches? Your stomach? Your chest? Your throat?”
Exercise: Powerful Breathing
Take a slow, deep breath. As you do, notice what happens. Does your rib cage hike up and cause your shoulders to wrap around your ears? Does it feel as though it stops short in your throat? That’s improper breathing. Don’t worry, most of us who lead stressful, fast-paced lives do that. Let’s jump right in and learn the secret of a powerful, magical breath.
As you take your next slow, deep breath, focus your attention on drawing the air in and down. You want to create the sensation that your belly fills with air as your back expands in the process. As you exhale, allow the breath to go naturally. Now that’s good breathing.
Next, let’s focus on the exhalation. Practice releasing your breath just as slowly as you’ve inhaled it. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Notice how your tension just seems to melt away? The next time you face a stressful situation, take time to breath deeply and slowly and you’ll quickly regain your composure. Just get cut off on the freeway? Breathe. Is your boss on your case? Breathe. It will soon pass and you’ll be all the more relaxed in the meantime.
Practice powerful breathing at least once daily, for three to five minutes at a time. A deeply relaxed state of mind and powerful energy raised by proper breathing is what Wiccans need to successfully employ their craft. Powerful breathing is the first step toward a thriving magical practice.
I’ve heard the hype on breathing for so long it’s all become White Noise. Still, you’d think something would have sunk it at one point or another. I was amazed to discover that I had no clue how to “power breathe.” My normal, everyday breathing is actually pretty short and shallow. When I breathe in, it feels like the breath just stays in my head, centering on that point just behind and centered between my eyeballs. At most, I’d say my throat has most of the physical pull. When I took a deep breath, my rib cage when right up to my ears…and I was shocked to learn that this was not a ‘deep breath.’ I’d taking singing classes back in elementary–I thought I knew breathing.
The trick for me was in really focusing on bringing the breath down, and I’m not entirely sure I have it yet. I still have a tendency to bring the ribs up instead of belly out. However, when I do get it…oh. That feels damn good. Amazing relaxation, a natural high! And I feel centered! I’m very much liking this technique.
Day 10: Meditational Sitting
13 June 2007
Now that we’ve discovered ways to be still and feel the energy within us and to power breathe, Roderick introduces another technique: proper sitting. Presumably based in Eastern techniques, the focal points in a good ’sit’ include:
- Elongated spine. No slouching!
- Straight, level head. Not tilted forward or back.
- Teeth together lightly, comfortably.
- Tip of tongue pressed lightly to the mouth roof behind front teeth. This will help avoid excess saliva buildup and frequent swallowing.
- Shoulders are down and relaxed
- Arms are relaxed with the wrists resting on the lap
- Hands rest one on top of the other, palms up, thumbs touching slightly.
Roderick mentions that you can assume this position (oooh, kinky!) in a chair, bending your knees comfortably and placing your feet flat on the floor. He also recommends allowing your back to rest on the chair backrest, but notes to keep the spine aligned and straight. Roderick goes in to further detail in describing a ‘zafu,’ which sounds something like a small version of the college beanbag chair. According to Roderick, you “sit of the front third of the cushion, so that the pelvis tilts slightly forward. Both knees should touch the ground and the legs should be arranged in a loose “Indian style,” so that one leg is folded in fron tof the other. Finally, there should be equal weight distribution on your rear end and both knees, so that there is a tripod effect.”
Honestly, the zafu sounds really promising to me. My legs fall asleep if I just sit on the ground, but I find it hard to hold posture if I’m in a chair. But for now, chair it will be, particularly as I do the following exercise.
Practice: Wall Gazing
To begin, sit on either your cushion or chair while facing a blank wall. Sit so that you are at least two feet from the wall’s surface. Assume your usual sitting posture. Look downward at about a 45-degree angle. Soften your focus until the wall feels insubstantial, almost as though it has lost its solidity.
Allow your attention to settle on your breathing. Try not to breath deeply or erratically–simply breathe as you normally do. Begin to count each exhalation, from one up to ten. If you notice that your attention drifts from the counting and you become caught up in memories, future planning, emotions, or situations outside of your direct experience, start counting over. Practice this meditation technique today and for the next several days until you feel as though your mind is settled on simply counting.
Okay, so I tried to do this at work–which isn’t exactly the best place to try meditating as there is always one part of me–no matter how involved I get in another activity–which is always on the alert waiting for the phone to ring.
That being said, I’m not sure I would have done much better had I not been at work. The whole ’softening focus’ was an issue. My eyes don’t focus evenly even when I’m trying, and intentionally softening focus was a disaster. I kept getting distracted by the unevenness. Then as I tried to count from one to ten, my attention drifted into future planning. That is, a future involving a candle instead of a wall.
Me: Hm. I bet this might work a bit better if I was gazing into a light. Oooh, a candle might work!  Oh, that would be really lovely. But I hate old pillar candles. They just look bad if you don’t keep them lit.  I’m sure I could use a tea light. I could even put it in a jar with sand like I saw at Target  Wait, I’m not supposed to be thinking. Damnit.   That candle would be lovely…
My inner self is a consumer whore.
I think I need some more practice.
Day 11: Meditational Walking
14 June 2007
If I had that much trouble with the whole “stop thinking” bit with just sitting, I’m not entirely certain adding more variables to the mix is going to help anything. However, I like the idea behind this concept.
Roderick says that “in walking meditation, you aim your practice toward a specific end, such as raising magical energy to achieve some specific goal.” Raising energy? Doesn’t that sound a bit like a ritual? Oh yes indeed–and Roderick says that walking mediation can be used in a ritual context, though the whole rigmarole isn’t necessary. So what is the goal in a non-ritual setting? Roderick says that “you might focus on the sensations of your body, such as the feelings you experience as your weight shifts from one leg to another. You might focus on counting your steps, counting in rounds from one to 10.”
In continuing, Roderick says there are essentially two styles of meditational walking: brisk, gentle ’sunwalking’ and the slow, pensive ‘moonwalking.’ Based on what I know of myself, my initial impulse is that sunwalking would be ‘better’ for me to start with, because I know I’m fully focused on the physical NOW when I speed things up. I daydream when it comes to drifty things. Still, I’m going to do the exercise.
Exercise: Moon or Sun?
Determining whether you are naturally a Sun or Moon walker is a simple process. Below is a list of some solar and lunar qualities. Circle the qualities that best describe you.
Solar Lunar Fiery: Expressive Mellow: Contemplative Fast paced: Active Serene: Sluggish Impatient: Moving Forgiving: Tranquil Overt: Frenetic Discrete: Secretive Sexual: Passionate Sensual: Emotional Cerebral: Analytical Empathetic: Compassionate Logical: Reasonable Intuitive: Introverted
Whichever category holds the most markings represents your natural type, either solar or lunar. If your markings are evenly distributed, you have integrated energy and can use either method with success.
Jeepers, that was hard–especially the first three. I still think I could easily go either way on those. I behave mellow, serene, and forgiving a darn good bit of the time, but I do prefer the other bits deep down. So my verdict? I think I could have pretty good success with either method, though I might be more inclined to sunwalking.
Day 12: Moonwalking and Sunwalking
15 June 2007
For this exercise, find a place where you can be undisturbed for up to 20 minutes. You can practice moonwalking either indoors or outdoors in some natural setting. The best time to practice moonwalking is at night, under the energetic influences of the moon.
To begin, stand straight, feet together. While holding your head straight, squarely above your shoulders, lower your gaze so that you are looking down at about a 45-degree angle. Place your left hand on your abdomen, just above the navel. Place the right hand over the left so that your knuckles overlap and align. This hand posture is one that represents (and evokes) containment and protection.
Allow your breathing to be natural and rhythmic. Turn your attention to the weight of your body. Feel the pull of gravity and where your body supports itself. Wherever you sense tension, release it by taking a deep breath and imagining the muscles relaxing as you exhale.
Step forward with your left food about half the length of your right foot. Feel the weight of your body shift as you step forward. Breathe naturally, but wait for at least three exhalations before you step forward with your right foot. Focus your attention now on your steps. Count each step as you moonwalk forward, counting from one to ten. If you catch yourself thinking, start counting again from number one. Try not to allow counting to disrupt your stepping forward.
To begin, find a place where you can be undisturbed for 20 minutes. As with moonwalking, you can practice sunwalking either indoors or in some natural setting. Try this exercise during the day, under the influence of the sun.
Because you will cover more ground in 20 minutes of meditation, it is important to find either a long, level stretch of walking area, or to mark out a mediatational walking circle. If you choose to practice sunwalking in a circle, mark out a nine-foot diameter space, using a 4 1/2 foot length of cord to demarcate the circumference. Indicate your circular path with stones, candles, seashells or some other aesthetically pleasing and spiritually awakening items.
As in your moonwalking exercise, begin by standing straight with your fet together. Hold your head erect and lower your gaze so that youa re looking down a about a 45-degree angle. Place your right hand over your left so that your knuckles overlap and align as they rest on your abdomen.
Allow your breathing to be natural and rhythmic. Turn your attention to the weight of your body. Feel the pull of gravity and where your body supports itself. Wherever you sense tension, release it by taking a deep breath and imagining the muscles relaxing as you exhale.
Begin to walk forward, stepping first with your right foot. Establish a brisk, but relaxed base, try not to change it. Focus your attention now on your steps. Count each step as you move forward, counting from one to ten. If you catch yourself thinking, start the count again from the number one and continue the count in rounds of ten. Do not disrupt your stepping forward when you renew the count.
Day 13: Guided Imagery Meditations
16 June 2007
Today we have the last type of meditation: Guided. In a nutshell, someone slowly reads a script to you in order to focus you toward a specific goal or experience. The more “skillful” guided meditations are those which really bring you to that goal, be it “healing, evoking magical power, insight, or releasing old ways of thinking.” Roderick provides this following script for us to try. I recorded it for my own use and sent a copy to Natalie as well.
Exercise: Finding Your Power Place
Reader: Find a comfortable sitting position, or lie flat on your back on the ground. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths. Mentally scan your body for tension, starting at your feet and working your way up to your head. With each exhalation, imagine that you release any tension that you have sensed in your body.
Once you have released any noticed tension, shift your attention back to your breathing. Begin to take deep, slow breaths. Inhale and exhales slowly. Imagine now that a bright white mist begins to form at your feet. With each inhalation, the mist is drawn up around your body and begins to spiral. As you draw the mist upward you feel warm and comforted. Continue to see the mist climbing your body with each inhalation until it envelops you completely.
Once you are cloaked in this magical mist, you begin to feel weightless. Your usual sense of time and place slips away from you. All that is left is a feeling of floating inside this soft, glowing, white mist.
Soon you recognize that you are moving. You cannot sense the direction, whether forward or back, up or down, but you feel movement as the mist transports you across time and space. It is taking you to your place of power. Allow the mist to move you and it will stop when you have arrived at your power place.
Reader: pause for a moment
When movement has stopped, the mist begins to clear to reveal a landscape. Where are you? Are you on a desert mesa? Are you stationed by a shady mountain stream? Are you on the beach near a sparkling sea? Whatever your surroundings, note them in detail now. As you explore this place you will find a particular spot in the landscape that draws your attention. Go to that spot and sit there. This is your power place. As you sit here, you are able to regenerate your energy; you are able to relax and cultivate a sense of peace. You are safe here. You gather magical powers here. This is your spiritual home.
Stay here for as long as you need. When you are ready to return, imagine that you gesture with one of your hands in a spiral motion near your feet. As you do this, the white spiraling mist will appear again and will climb your body. As the mist covers you, you lose the sense of time and place again. The feeling of motion returns, and the mist transports you rapidly back to the place where you began.
Reader: pause for a moment
Once you have arrived back in the place where you began, open your eyes. Take a few moments to recount your experience.
Okay, I’ve got to say that I’ve tried to do this exercise a few times and it’s not working for me. I need to re-record this (again) reading it much, much slower. No mater how slow I read this thing, it doesn’t seem like I have enough time to visualize. I think I should also add a whole “get relaxed, bring your focus to breathing” beginning, as this one sort of launches into the meditation before you can establish a meditative mindset.
6/20/07 Update: Before I tried this guided meditation, I actually found a few podcasts with recorded guided meditations. I’ve been doing one or two of those a day for the past several days and am really getting into the swing of things. I need to work on making sure I’m properly breathing, but I have been able to get into a meditative mindset with some of the other recordings.
Day 14: Re-Thinking God
17 June 2007
The ‘monotheistic philosophy of deity.’ We can’t escape it. If you live in the Western world, it’s a part of the popular culture. It’s on every piece of currency in America, and it’s in our lexicon of cursewords. It’s the mythology of our times, and it shapes us, no matter what faith we belong to.
In today’s section, Roderick points out that “monotheistic religions propose that if you are a reasonable person, it should be clear to you that there is an intelligence behind the design of the universe. […] At this point, an unwarranted leap in logic takes place. […] Behind the scenes is, in fact, a specific, singular god [… who] governs all affairs, much like a monarchy, and he has some definite opinions and regulations about how things “should be.” Monotheistic religions […] therefore conclude that human beings should be vigilant lest they violate the fundamental grain of the universe […].”
There are quite a few things going on in this statement, but I find that the most interesting is the implication that political structure may have influenced the form of religion. That phrase “much like a monarchy” speaks volumes. Outside of township government, which is only really effective among very small communities, monarchy is likely one of the oldest political systems with its roots in tribal chieftanships. Whether a monarchy be absolute, elected, hereditary, or constitutional, the common idea is rule under one. They are, if only in a ceremonial sense, the final word on government.
It is a comforting idea, in a way, to know that debate and discord have a single, final checkpoint. In fact, it is so comforting that the American democracy is headed by a singular person–our President–and the great majority of Americans persist in erroneously viewing him as that final voice.
If this is a preferred method for framing our mundane lives, why should the structure of our spiritual lives be any different?
Personally, I think the ‘once source’ structure is problematic because it becomes the focus of massive quibbling on fairly irrelevant details. If Mike views the ‘one true God’ as an old, bearded white man (and perhaps his Son and a ‘Holy Ghost’) and Shirley says that the ‘one true God’ is a young, black woman, then it stands to reason that one of them must be wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of energy, study, time, and even lives are wasted in fighting out which of the views is the right one. At the end of the day, is it something that really matters?
I think that Wicca tries to resolve this ‘deal breaker’ question by being as pluralistic about divinity as it possibly can be while at the same time allowing for the inclusion of those who choose to see the divine as one or two very specific images. God is both immanent and transcendent. God is all gods and goddesses. God is energy. God is beyond complete personification, yet can also be reduced to a form. There is no one end, no final voice, just a wide range of paths.
As part of today’s topic, Roderick asks us to answer the following questions:
- What images of god did you hold as a child?
When I was a girl, God was the old, white, bearded man. He was the be-all-end-all. I grew up in the Catholic faith, and to Catholics, God is a sort of 3-in-1 deal. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all have equal footing, and are all the same being deep down. As a child, I understood this, but did not see it practiced. To me, God the Father was the originator. He made Jesus to undo a ‘wrong’ of his, and save us from his condemnation. After Jesus was resurrected, he introduced the Holy Spirit to his apostles. Thereafter, whenever someone was baptized in Christ’s name, the Holy Spirit became the part of God that resided within the person, guided them towards divine truths and brought to them the seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. (In Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas defined these respectively as: perfection of speculative reason in judging the truth, ‘common sense’ or the gift by which self-evident principles are known, the perfection of practical reason in judging the truth, prudent response to reason, the firmness of mind required to endure evil, the instigation to pay worship to God as our Father, and a fear of separation from God. The first four can be used when the person wishes, the latter three when the Holy Spirit wishes.)
To be perfectly honest, the theological concept with which I was raised is not entirely dissimilar to the Wiccan concept. However, I really don’t think most Catholics–or most Christians for that matter–really give any practical inclusion to the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, the focus returns to the external God the Father (or Jesus in the more New Testament-heavy traditions). It really is a bit like the actuality vs. the perception of the US government: the government is a single, interconnected unit of three bodies with multiple checks and balances over each other, yet most Americans look at the federal government and only see the President.
When I was a child, I saw the old white man and I saw the President. As an educated adult, I do not want that singular vision any longer. I want to actively participate in a real faith that holds me accountable for understanding and practicing its views and traditions.
- How have these childhood images influenced your understanding of the divine today?
Unfortunately, I have a tendency to want to personify a God outside of myself. I have a lot of difficulty finding the immanent aspects. They feel foreign.
- Are the images of god that you know actually representative of god’s fundamental nature?
Ye old white man? Not really. He is unfoundedly capricious. There really isn’t a single image that I know of that completely encompasses the divine’s fundamental nature. I’m really doubtful that any one could.
- Are images of god important? Why?
You know, I do think images are important. Our world is not one in which abstractions easily exist. We can know a duck because we can see a duck, feel a duck, hear a duck, taste a duck, and observe the behavior of a duck. It’s not quite the same thing with God. Our experiences rely on images for some understanding. However, I think it would be a mistake to view these images as anything but a placeholder for God proper.
- What is the purpose of believing in deity?
Oh heavens. I don’t know. It really seems more trouble than it’s worth.
I suppose that believing in a deity is a form of hubris, in a way. It’s a way of saying that we don’t understand everything and have faith that total comprehension is an aspect beyond us. I don’t think, however, that this is a real ‘purpose,’ though. I think the real purpose is to keep us searching.
- Do we cheat ourselves at any level by characterizing god through image? Why? Why not?
Yes, we do cheat ourselves by pinning God down into an image or images. By doing so, we exclude all the other aspects not found in that image. It’s like the old Indian story of the six blind men and the elephant. The one touching it’s side swore the elephant was like a wall, the one grasping the tusk said the elephant was like a spear, the one hugging the trunk thought the elephant like a snake, the one circling it’s leg found it like a tree, the man fingering it’s ears claimed it was a fan, and the man clutching the elephant’s tail refuted them all and said ‘rope.’ All were a little right, but all were very wrong.
Yet, an imageless God is too big, too unfocused. Even though it cheats us to be restricted to one aspect, we need these aspects to build whatever relationships we can.
- Does it bother you to see the word ‘god’ not capitalized in this workbook? Why?
Yeah, actually. I understand the whole socio-political aspect of not capitalizing ‘god,’ as a capitalized word would immediately infer the Judeo-Christian Yahweh and ‘God’ is more than that. But the word looks insignificant and tiny when it is not capitalized. It’s not special anymore.
- Does the word ‘god’ need capitalization?
Maybe not. I think my issue with the capitalization primarily lies in making the word ’special,’ and the divine isn’t really ’special.’ The specialness makes it removed, outside. Uncapitalized, the word flows with all the others in the sentence just as ‘god’ flows within everything.
- What automatic, conditioned responses do you have in relation to words, letters, and grammatical formalities?
Oh, now we’re getting all Derrida and I can honestly say I don’t have the energy to get into an exposition of deconstruction right now.
Day 15: Divine Polarity
18 June 2007
Roderick begins today’s discussion by stating that “The universe is a singular ‘great energy’ in the Witches’ world view” and that attempts “to give this unifying energy names” like ‘god,’ ‘tao,’ etc. have all been inadequate. Although he doesn’t explicitly say this, the inference is that some of that trouble is likely due to the “dichotomous” “nature of spiritual energy.”
Though it is reductive–and erroneous–to say that Wiccans believe in a god and goddess, we do symbolize this dichotomous nature in male and female terms. Roderick (and other) attribute this representation to the largely dimorphous states in the plant and animal worlds. “As above, so below” is one of the more basic magical axioms, and Roderick points to it in his explanation of our representation of polarity, saying that “Witches view nature in all of its manifestations as an expression of the divine.” To finish his discussion, he includes the following brief list of ‘energy attributes.’
|Conscious Mind||Unconscious Mind|
At first when I looked through this list, I got a little bit perturbed. There are a lot of aspects on both sides of the column that I wouldn’t necessarily put with a god or goddess. Not all goddesses are ’soft,’ for instance. What about warrior goddesses? But then I realized that I was thinking of ‘god’ and ‘goddess’ in personified terms instead of a more general abstract male/female division. As Roderick notes in his inset “Word to the Wise,” Carl Jung wrote that each of us carried gender traits opposite of our physical gender. Women do have an internalized male nature, the animus, just as men have an anima. We combine traits. Gods and goddesses also combine the animus and anima. If I remember this and restrict myself to viewing polarities, this list becomes much more agreeable to my sensibilities.
Exercise: Exploring Polarity
As with all Wiccan symbols, the energies and the polarity of god and goddess represent aspects that reside within all of us. It does not matter if you have male or female physical characteristics; every human being has qualities and energies that express both the god and the goddess. Let’s find out now how you express them.
- Look at the brief guide to polarity above. As you consider the very short list of god and goddess energy attributes, what other words might you add to both sides of the list? Take time now to develop a more comprehensive list for yourself.
God Goddess Willful Docile Fast Slow Closed Open Loud Quiet Overt Subtle Sensible Sentimental Planned Spontaneous Muscular Plump
Clearly this list could go on and on…but between Roderick’s bit and mine, I think the idea is self-evident.
- Make a list of qualities that represent your ‘god’ energy. then make a list of qualities that represent your ‘goddess’ energy.
My god energy? Okay… Well, I’m generally more rational than emotional, and I tend to plan things out rather than spontaneously going along with a flow. I think my focus is more on my conscious rather than unconscious mind. I’m generally cold and aloof and fairly willfull at that.
As far as my goddess energy goes, I’m a nonlinear thinker who struggles to put things in a linear fashion. I’m passive and internal, indirect and quiet. I’m slow to action, preferring to contemplate the situation thoroughly before I make a decision. I’m very round–not muscular in the least!
- Review both lists to determine if you seem to express one side of the divine polarity more than the other. Which aspect do you most express in your daily life? Which energy gets least expressed in your daily life?
I think I’m fairly balanced between god and goddess energy. I know I have to work hard to do many things in both ‘columns,’ but many others come very easily to me. If I had to pick one that gets least expressed in my daily life, however, it would be the god energy. I’m in an extremely passive phase these days and need to get up some ‘gumption’–harness the warrior woman, that sort of thing.
Day 16: Sun and Moon: Divine Polarity in the Sky
19 June 2007
Wiccans do not worship the sun and the moon. However, they and their cycles figure largely into our spiritual practice. They directly cause or otherwise influence many phenomena in nature which we take to symbolize different polarities of god and goddess energy. However, in addition to addressing this polarity, Roderick’s brief discussion of the sun and moon highlights an aspect of these celestial orbs that I am quite often guilty of forgetting: their interplay.
It’s easy to forget the interplay of the sun and moon–after all, they belong to two different realms that never really touch. But as Roderick says, “The sun radieates energy and vitality. Without the sun there would be no light, and subsequently no life, on this planet. The light of the sun gives life to the plant world, and in turn the plants give life to the animal world. Likewise, the moon reflects the sun’s light and caresses the earth with a reflective glow that allows time for life on the planet to rest and rejuvenate itself. Without the regular rhythm of night punctuated by the appearance of the moon, life would soon wither and die.”
Active, rest. Active, rest. Active, rest. It’s the warp and weft that make the fabric of life. Without one of the two, we just have a collection of strings that quickly fall apart.
The second part of Roderick’s discussion is just as memorable as the first, so I will quote it in its entirety:
In Wicca, the sun represents masculine, active, or god energy. The moon represents feminine, receptive, goddess energy. The natural interplay of sun and moon gives rise to the Wiccan mythology suggesting that the god and goddess not only maintain all life but infuse it. In reality, the mythology is true. When you eat something, you eat the light of sun and moon (as well as all other natural phenomena that come together to form your food, such as rain, wind, soil, etc.). You cannot survive without these heavenly luminaries, and, in fact, they form and nurture your very body and mind.
I love it. “Not only maintain all life but infuse it.” It’s just perfect, and always so present, yet so easy to overlook.
Exercise: Solar and Lunar
Use the list you developed in yesterday’s exercise to help you think of your life in four basic categories: your thoughts, your activity, your feelings, and your body. Consider whether the sun or the moon best represents your energy in each of the four categories. For example, someone whose thoughts are solar would have linear, analytical thinking much of the time. Someone whose thoughts were lunar would have more intuitive and circular thinking processes. Below is a list of words that can help you discover your own symbolic representational energies of both moon and sun in your four categories.
Active, lively, vigorous, dynamic, direct, orderly, energetic, bold, assertive, proactive, confident, assured, logical, rational, careful, sequential, cheery, high-spirited, joyful, vain, haughty, pompous, hot-headed, muscular, angular, thin, firm.
Receptive, indirect, passive, reflexive, reactive, subtle, fine, understated, circular, inclusive, intuitive, spontaneous, holistic, reflective, moderate, introspective, moody, disorganized, insecure, timid, apprehensive, emotional, touchy, round, soft, plump.
Oh do I ever have circular thinking. When I’m reading a book and trying to come up with an analysis, my mind goes absolutely everywhere in a hundred different directions coming up with the most convoluted web of connections. It’s so hard to try to pull a clear string out of it to form a paper or line of questioning. Yet, I am capable of logical thought, and no matter what the process is, it is always a lively and vigorous one. I might just call this one a draw, but leaning slightly towards Lunar.
Ah, this one makes me a little sad. When I was younger, I was lively and energetic. Bold, assertive, proactive. I had some caution, yes, and would sometimes wait to assess a situation before plunging in, but I would plunge and eventually dominate. As I’ve gotten older, my behavior has become much quieter. I’m fairly timid now, and very slow to rile. I wait and wait. I’ve become very reflective, and fairly insecure. I’m inhibited. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m Lunar here.
What feelings? I’m cold and distant. I do not make friends easily. I’m not the huggy sort of person one might typically associate with the feminine half. I am vain, I am haughty, I am a snob. There are very few things that can get under my emotional armor. When they do, I do dissolve a bit into giggles or tears as appropriate…but by in large, I think I’m clearly Solar.
I am round. I am soft. I take plump to a whole new level. I’m Lunar.
Day 17: Tracking the Sun and Moon
20 June 2007
Shh! We’re trackin’ celestial bodies!
Alright, in all seriousness, I often get so caught up in the minutiae of banality that I forget to keep track of the moon’s phase. Heck, with the way I essentially move from climate-controlled home to climate-controlled car (well, not so much these days–the AC has gone out) to climate-controlled office, the march of the seasons has become something I watch rather than live.
That’s pathetic. I know–just as Roderick says–that celebrate the changes in the Sun with the Sabbats and plan our Esbats on the moon’s 28 day cycle. Part of our practice is keeping track of the sun and moon. It’s not rocket science.
Roderick suggests purchasing a Farmer’s Almanac, which handily tells you when seasons change, and to check with an astrological ephemeris to chart the passage of the sun and planets as they pass through the zodiac. I’ve got to admit, I’m not too fond of the Farmer’s Almanac–but I have been purchasing Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac since 2001. I hadn’t yet bought a copy for 2007 as I’ve been trying to keep the pagan-related books to a minimum while I’m living with my parents, but I did go purchase one a couple weeks ago.
Today the moon is waxing in the first quarter (crescent) and is passing through Virgo. Tomorrow the sun will enter Cancer as we celebrate Litha, the summer solstice.
In today’s write up, Roderick gives a brief explanation as to what the lunar phases are. This is not something I’ve really ever had any issue with: Waxing means developing to full, waning means decreasing to new. When I look at the moon in the sky, it’s also fairly easy for me to tell whether the crescent moon is waxing or waning: I draw a line connecting the two points. If the moon makes a D it’s developing. If it makes a C, it’s ‘crumbling.’ If the moon is gibbous, I still draw the line. If the full circle curve is on the D side, the moon is still waxing; C side, the moon is still waxing.
Day 18: Meeting the Goddess: Maiden
21 June 2007
Happy Litha! The sun enters Cancer at 2:06 pm on this, the longest day of the year. The moon is still first quarter waxing and is in Virgo.
The concept of the triune goddess “Maiden, Mother, Crone” is not a new one to me, and I understand that these symbolic forms are usually the stages through which most women pass in their lives. But honest, I haven’t really investigated the matter that much. The way I have viewed it in the past is by placing Maiden/Mother/Crone on the same level as I would any mythic, named God or Goddess–like Athena or Isis. I haven’t looked at these aspects as symbolic archetypes, and this is what Roderick asks us to do today, saying that “they are symbols that represent the internal stages of consciousness that are common to all human beings, regardless of gender” and that “Each of these aspects has it’s own internal polarity–a light and a dark side, if you will.”
And so we begin with the maiden.
As Roderick says, “this aspect represents youth, newness, beginnings, brilliance, and simplicity.” Because of the young, new, fresh aspects, she also represents potential, but “She is not partial to the direction that potential manifests itself. All potential is the maiden. She is the future, creativity, and fecundity.” The planted, but unsprouted seed, “the maiden is that part in each of us that is our innocence, purity, and raw energy.” The dark side of this coin is that the maiden cannot realize potential and “can be a dilettante, lacking in depth.” Darker yet, Roderick notes that “she can represent a perpetual unworldliness, childishness, internalized fear, and overdependence upon other people.” There is certain charm in the maiden–freshness is fantastic–but there comes a time when the seed must either sprout or shrivel.
As part of his discussion, Roderick includes the following “Table of Correspondences” for the Maiden which he asks us to commit to memory:
Lunar Phase: New
Seasonal Phase: Late winter/early spring
Pagan Celebration: Imbolc, February 2
Time: The darkness that precedes the dawn
Incense: Myrrh, orris root
Essential Oils: Heather and Basil
Magical Number: 2
Vocalization: long u as in “You”
Herbs: Angelica, bay laurel
Body Part: Sexual Organs
This is one place where I wish Roderick would have given a few reasons for why these are “Maiden” correspondences. Some are just common sense: the chakra, body part, time, direct, Pagan celebration, and seasonal and lunar phases. But as far as the rest? Why orange? Why those incenses and oils? Why the number 2? Why the moon–is it the Diana association? I’ll do my best to commit these to memory, but I’d also like to research them out a bit and see if I agree.
Now, this also marks the second time Roderick has mentioned chakras in the course of the year and a day, and I bet that he’ll be mentioning them a lot more in the days to come because he includes an aside quickly describing where the chakras are and what they govern.
|1 Root||Between anus and genitals.||Root, grounding, connection to earth|
|2 Genital||Just above genitals.||Sexual activity|
|3 Solar Plexus||Just below navel.||Anger, mastery, control|
|4 Heart||Center of Chest.||Love, compassion|
|5 Throat||Hollow or base of throat.||Communication|
|6 Pineal||Center of brown, between eyes.||Conscious awareness, psychic activity|
|7 Crown||Top of head.||Connection with deity|
Now, if all that information wasn’t enough, we also have an exercise for the day!
Exercise: Knowing Your Maiden
Think about your own maiden traits. On a single piece of paper, draw a line down the center. On one side write down your personality traits (no matter if you are physically male or female) that reflect positive maiden qualities. On the other side of the page, write down any shadowy maiden qualities you might recognize in yourself. If you do not note any of the maiden’s qualities in your life, this is an archetypal energy that might require balancing and integration in order for you to claim your full potential and power as a Witch. Over the next few days, you will learn how to evoke these qualities into your life.
|Positive Maiden||Negative Maiden|
|I love to begin new projects.||I have trouble finishing something I begin.|
|I’m impressed by simple, elegant arguments.||I often get bogged down in detail and my own thoughts to produce my own.|
|Aesthetically, I prefer simple, clean lines and no bric-a-brac lying about.||I often allow the clutter to spread.|
|I’m very excited to begin my adult life and move on with it all.||I’m too scared to take definitive, progressive steps. I rely too much on my parents. I’m stuck.|
I notice a decent bit of the maiden within me, and I do enjoy this particular aspect. However, I think I currently have far too much of the dark maiden. From what I understand, the maiden is a wonderful aspect–but, just as all these aspects are, she is temporal. There has to be a time when newness succumbs to maturity, else we find ourselves in danger of becoming a “Delta Dawn.” I love that song. I was listening to the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ version of it earlier and couldn’t help but wonder if I was in danger of falling down that slope.
Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
Did I hear you say he was meetin’ you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?
Day 19: Meeting the Goddess: Maiden
22 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and has begun the waning half of the year. The moon leaves Virgo to enter Libra at 7:43 am and moves into its second quarter at 9:15 am.
Today, perhaps to compensate for yesterday’s load of information, Roderick just has one meditative exercise on the menu.
Exercise: Calling on the Maiden
Pick or buy fresh flowers today. Place them in front of you. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Smell the sweet scent fo the flowers in front of you. Relax your body from head to toe with each exhalation. Once you are relaxed fully, imagine that you stand in a vast, grassy field facing the east. It is dawn. With your spirit-voice, internally chant the name of one maiden goddess. Watch for her to appear on the horizon, holding flowers.
She will approach you and hand you several flowers, one at a time. With each flower she gives you, she will name a trait that is important for you to develop in order to access her power. Once she finishes handing you flowers, bid her farewell. Return to the place where you began your journey and open your eyes.
For the remainder of the day, embrace the traits or qualities the maiden has given you.
What a wonderful meditation! To begin it all, I went out and picked a nice bunch of wild tiger lilies. Perhaps they were not the ‘best’ of flowers for this particular exercise as they are not fragrant. However, they were nice and bright and orange and I had a wonderful time walking in the stand of lilies under the sun. When it came time to do the meditation, I lit a stick of myrrh incense and it seemed to do the job well enough.
I settled myself into my ‘big comfy chair,’ closed my eyes, and did the deep belly-breath as we’ve been taught. It took me awhile until I felt calm and and somewhat still enough mentally for the mediation to flow. Even then, it wasn’t a continuous, clear narrative. It sort of warped in and out. I had an image of this rolling field I drive by on my way to and from work, and the sun was just peaking up over the trees in the distance. In retrospect, this would have been a setting sun in reality, but it was rising in my vision. It was still, and the colors were deep, yet somewhat gray in the barely-there morning light.
“Athena,” I called. “Athena!”
Now, I generally don’t view Athena as a typical maiden goddess. She’s a warrior woman through and through–very stoic in her way. But I called her, and she appeared in the gully–quite far away from me–carrying a bouquet of white lilies and purple lilacs. She began walking toward me, but sort of flickered closer and closer instead of a walk like we do. Within four or five ’steps,’ she closed a distance it would take me a good 10 minutes to walk.
She looked down at me–and I say down because she was a good two feet taller than I–and she was beautiful. She was a strong woman, obviously–not a wispish waif at all–but fit, and trim with an almost conventionally pretty face and soft, brown waves of hair. (Actually, in retrospect, she had Natalie’s hair.) She was a pretty woman, not the strong, almost androgynous Roman-esque image we usually see.
She looked at me, and I looked back, silently asking her to tell me what I needed to know. Then she began to hand me flowers at a steady rate saying, “Be Joyous. Be Spontaneous. Take pleasure in the fresh beginnings of each day. Be present in that moment. Enjoy it. Live it. Laugh. Love. Be within, and gladly experience the without. Then let it go when the time comes. Move on to the next part, experience that for what it is, but never forget to grasp the new and to fling yourself with all your heart into that pleasure.”
She finished as she handed me the last of her flowers and dropped her hands to her sides. We held each other’s gaze a few moments longer until I bowed my head in thanks and the vision dissolved.
Day 20: The Maiden: Intonation
23 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Libra and in its second quarter.
Today Roderick introduces the concept of intonation, which I have to admit is a fairly new one for me, so I will quote the explanation in its entirety:
In magical parlance, intonation means to vocalize. Vocalization for magical purposes usually involves resonating or vibrating a particular sound so that it feels as though it originates from deep within. When you intone a sound or word, it may feel as though the sound emerges from your diaphragm, which is an area just below your navel and just above the pelvis.
Today, we are to access the maiden’s energies using her vocalization: the long u sound. We need to wake up an hour before dawn (That dark time before sunlight, remember? Full of potential?) and arm ourselves with an orange candle and a compass to find northeast, where we will use the intonation exactly twice–basically stacking as many correspondences for her in our favor.
Exercise: Intonation for the Maiden
Look in a local newspaper to find the exact time of dawn today. Set your alarm clock so that you are awakened one hour prior to dawn. Use your compass to locate the northeast and find a comfortable sitting position while facing that direction. Be sure you are sitting in such a way that your spine is aligned and balanced–perpendicular to the floor. Set the orange candle before you, light it and cast your gaze upon the flame. Take a deep breath that expands the lungs and fills the belly as well. As you exhale, begin to vocalize the sound “u” (which should sound like “you”). Sustain the sound until all air vacates your lungs. Then allow the inhalation to arise from this emptiness, and again fill your lungs to capacity. Repeat the intonation a second time. When you finish the second intonation, sit in silence for 15 or 20 minutes to allow the essence of this intonation to realign your consciousness. Extinguish the candle when finished.
All right, I already get up pretty darn early on Saturdays so that I can go to work…but I just couldn’t make myself get up that extra hour earlier on the Saturday this particular exercise happened to fall upon. So I’m writing this from the ‘future’ of July 7th. Last night, I made sure to be in bed by 11 o’clock so that I wouldn’t be tired–and wouldn’t you know it? I beat my 5:30 am alarm by a full half hour. I happily lazed in bed for the extra half hour, and when I got up, I felt nice and languid. I cleaned out my tea machine and put it on for a couple cups of Yunnan gold, then gathered up my candle and went to sit on our front porch to watch the sunrise.
It was quite the pretty morning, with just a hint of rosy pink tinging the lavender-blue of the dawn sky, and it illuminated the Celtic cross above the Lutheran church across the street nicely. Now and then a car drove by–it is, after all, the 2nd busiest street in the city–but it was still a quiet dawn, with the exception of a few morning bird songs.
I lit the candle, closed my eyes, and took a moment to become aware of my breath before beginning the intonation. With every time I said “you,” I felt myself get calmer and more centered. I think that perhaps that was the greatest benefit of the exercise–the centering it allowed me. I felt a little more ‘rooted’ in my root chakra, but the changes were subtle. It was more of just a moment of zen than anything else. I didn’t feel particularly Maidenly.
Day 21: The Maiden: Magical Pass
24 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Libra, but will enter Scorpio at 8:26 pm. The moon is in its second quarter.
Perhaps it’s the Catholic in me, but one of the things I really like about casting a circle in a more traditional method are the body positions used to invoke the God, Goddess, and the elements. Today, Roderick expands on these position by introducing the concept of the ‘magical pass.’ According to him, “A magical pass is a hand gesture that a Witch uses to symbolize and therefore invoke specific spiritual energies.” Today, we learn the pass for the maiden.
Begin by facing the northeast. Stand with your arms at your side, palms flat, facing behind you. Your thumbs should both be touching your outer thighs.
Bend the elbows so that only your forearms move. Open the thumbs so that they are at a 90º angle witht he forefinger. Bring the hands together so that the tips of both thumbs and forefingers touch. The hands should meet in front of the body at the genital area. The opening that the two hands create represent the cosmic yoni, a term that refers to the vulva of the goddess. It is the personification of the female principle in nature.
Take time today to practice this magical pass and sense what energies it invokes for you.
I suppose my arms may be a little short. When I do this pose, my hands center on a spot just above my vulva instead of over my genitals. Interestingly enough, however, I feel a buzz of energy just below that–right at my opening, in fact. Yet, the uterine area as framed by my hands feels rather empty. Psychologically, I feel strong in this stance. It’s empowering, and I feel at ease…and I have the odd impulse to give my hips a good, languid sway.
Day 22: The Maiden: Invocation Prayer
25 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Scorpio and is in its second quarter.
Part of following Roderick’s Year and a Day is learning bits and pieces of a complete ritual invocation process of his creation. I don’t particularly agree with what I can determine, at this time, the overall form to be, nor do I have any particular affinity for the language he uses. Nevertheless, I’m following his program and so I shall follow his invocation. However, I think I’ll be starting to craft my own variants shortly.
Roderick carefully explains that in Wicca, an invocation “is a type of summoning” and that we can summon various entities and aspects of divinity to achieve any particular purpose. He is even more careful to stress that we invoke our gods within a formal sacred space–that is, a circle of our own casting. For now, however, Roderick would like us to practice the following invocation words and gestures (and notes that “you may notice a change in your personal energy, or the energy of the room”).
The Maiden Invocation
Stand facing the northeast. Light an orange candle and set it on a table before you. Ignite self-lighting charcoal, then sprinkle loose incense (myrrh or orris root) on the hot coals. Practice the magical pass of the maiden and hold your arms in this position while you say:
By Persephone and Pandora,
By Ariadne and Athena,
By Brigid and Branwen,
And the countless names of power,
By the crescent moon and horn,
Come ye Maiden goddess,
Thy Holy Rites reborn!
When you are finished, sit where you are, close your eyes, and sense the maiden goddess’s presence.
Alas, I wasn’t able to do this one strictly by the book. I had no appropriate loose incense–in fact, I really wasn’t able to use any incense at all, as my father and brother were home and would have disturbed me had they smelled the incense. However, I lit the candle, centered myself (though I must admit I really could have done better here…I was a little anxious), lit the candle, whispered the invocation, and performed the pass.
I was a little antsy because in my mind, we should treat the gods with the same courtesies as we would extend our guests–and that includes not whispering their invitations and skimping on their treats. The mild anxiety did not help my invocation at all, but it did not entirely destroy it either. As I gathered my energy together and sat down, I felt lighter. I whispered the last two lines of the invocation over and over in a chant “Come ye Maiden goddess, they holy rites reborn” until I felt I had built enough energy up and relaxed myself a bit. And she was there in me, as she always is, but often quieted. I felt playful and happy. I couldn’t stop myself from peering out my window to see all the happenings and from rubbing my legs across the carpet just to feel the sensation. I felt rather childish, actually, and I liked it.
Then I got the impulse to pull a tarot card. I almost never have that impulse, so I felt I should follow up on it…especially since it was only a minimal matter to reach up and get the cards out of my desk drawer. I shuffled and shuffled (they were arranged in order) while asking the Maiden goddess to tell me what she wants me to know. When I finally pulled a card, another dropped from the deck as well. Since I believe there are no small accidents in divination, I picked it up as well.
The card I drew was the Four of Swords. I looked at it and laughed. It really doesn’t seem a maidenly thing to draw, after all. A strong part of me had expected to draw something like the Three or Ten of Cups, or even the Fool or the Sun. But I immediately knew why She had guided me to the Four of Swords. It’s an image of a tomb, and in death the only thing that really persists (if anything) is the inner voice. I have been having trouble recognizing my internal self and having even more trouble in giving it a voice and following through on it’s speeches. Often times this card is interpreted as a challenge to be still and contemplative, to rest. Sometimes I think that if I could be anymore “still,” I’d go mad. It’s been ages since I’ve been tweaked out with college stress. My job isn’t stressful at all, I have no obligations, no tremendous bills to pay. I’m actually coasting. However, I’m filling up the hours with a lot of pointless busywork. I spend far too much time on the internet. I stay up late and sleep in. I watch TV and read silly magazines. I’m doing nothing but filling up my life with a lot of white noise. And why? Because of the Dark Maiden. Because I am scared to grow up and face the next step. I think the Maiden knows that her qualities in me are far skewed to the dark rather than light. She wants me to be joyful and spontaneous, not petulant and childish. I think she’s calling me to step back and take perspective of my situation and cut out the white noise in order to grow as an adult and bring balance into her light and dark aspects.
The second card, the serendipitous card, was the Hermit. When I saw him, I laughed out loud again. Here’s a strong major arcana card very much reinforcing the message I got from the minor arcana one I drew. The Maiden is practically beating me over the head, isn’t she? Like the Four, the Hermit is a signifier of introspection and solitude–but with an aspect of searching, of being that perpetual student. I looked him up in my Joan Bunning book, Learning the Tarot, and in addition to reminding me that “the Hermit often suggests a need for time alone,” “a period of reflection when distractions are limited” and “the still center that must be created for balance” “in times of action”–she says that the Hermit also recalls the story of the Greek ascetic Diogenes, “who is said to have gone out with a lantern in hand to search for an honest man.” In that respect, the Hermit is also a symbol of the search for truth. I need to actualize the truth about myself, find it and force it out rather than keeping on the fairly destructive path I’m on. Thank you, Maiden.
Day 23: Meeting the Goddess: Mother
26 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Scorpio and is in its second quarter.
Today we shift our focus onto the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. As Roderick notes, she “represents birth and nurturing” and is “the archetype of actualized potential.” She is all things that have flowered and now bear the fruit, and her alignments are with “energy and the full power of growth and adult maturity” and also represents “compassion and understanding.” Her darks side is that of the smothering mother, she who makes others completely dependent on her–”compassion,” as Roderick says, “but expressed in a self-serving way.” She is Aphrodite selfishly keeping Eros from Psyche.
As with the Maiden, Roderick provides a list of Mother correspondences he would like us to memorize:
Lunar Phase: Full
Seasonal Phase: Late summer/early fall
Pagan Celebration: Lughnassadh, August 2
Time: Late afternoon
Incense: Meadowsweet and oak
Essential Oils: Lotus, cucumber
Magical Number: 4
Vocalization: the a as in “say”
Herbs: Hollyhock, frankincense
Body Part: Heart, lungs, hands
Chakra: 4th–heart, center of chest
And, of course, gives us an exercise.
Exercise: Knowing Your Mother
Consider your own motherly traits. On a single piece of paper, draw a line down the center. On one side write down your personality traits that reflect positive mother qualities. On the other side of the page, write down any shadowy mother qualities you might recognize in yourself. If you do not note any of the mother’s qualities in your life, this is an archetypal energy that might require balancing and integration in order for you to claim your full potential and power as a Witch. Over the next few days, you will learn how to evoke her qualities into your life.
|Positive Mother||Negative Mother|
|I love the feeling of fullness when a project or goal comes to fruition.||I can often try to horde that feeling and force it’s prolongment.|
|I love caring for others–making sure my friends are safe when we go out, cooking for others, tending to their needs.||I can see where I can be overbearing and possibly smothering. My friends and family have to learn to do these things on their own.|
|I’m pretty compassionate with others. I listen to their woes and offer comfort.||I can be a hard-ass. I have a limit, and cannot abide persistent belly-aching when advice I’ve offered is not followed. I can sometimes take this so far as “My way or the highway.”|
As far as it comes to interacting with others, I really think that I have balanced the mother act fairly well. I am compassionate, I am caring. I think I do have a slight tendency to be smothering–I do want to take care of it all for the people I love (heck, I even e-mail Natalie for this program to make sure she knows if we need anything special for a particular day or need to do something at a particular time)–but I do think that I have that tendency checked pretty well.
However, I don’t think I’m a good mother to myself. I’m so hard on myself. I don’t accept anything as good enough, I’m scared to take that leap into securing mother qualities for myself. I know I’ve got to work on that.
Day 24: Exercise: Calling on the Mother
27 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon leaves Scorpio for Sagittarius at 8:23 am and is in its second quarter.
Exercise: Calling on the Mother
Indulge in comfort foods today regardless of any diet you may be on. Eat familiar foods that nourish your soul. While you eat this food, maintain a sense of attention on how this food might bring forward your own maternal instincts. Perhaps it simply reminds you of home or makes you want to be loved and nurtured. Maybe it reminds you of something you’ve lacked in childhood. Try to honor and observe with reverence whatever it is that comes up for you while eating this food.
When you have finished eating, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Relax your body from head to toe with each exhalation. Once you are relaxed fully, imagine that you stand near a beautiful waterfall that faces the south west. It is late afternoon. With your spirit-voice, internally intone the name of a mother goddess. Watch as the waterfall parts and she walks through it toward you.
She will take your hand and place another of her hands on your heart. Feel your heart soften and fill with love and compassion. Once she finishes touching your heart, bid this holy mother farewell. She will disappear again into the waterfall. Once she has vanished, return to the place where you began your journey and open your eyes.
For the remainder of the day, embrace the compassion and love you felt from the mother goddess and allow that compassion to inform your actions.
Well, I’m not exactly in a place where I can just cook all sorts of real comfort food without someone questioning why I am doing so, but I did really relish (hah!) me some sandwiches today. I love sandwiches. It doesn’t matter what’s in them–they’re total Mary comfort food.
As far as the meditation went, I really am starting to think I’m getting the hang of it. Within a few deep breaths, I felt, well, meditative! It surprised the heck out of me. I do need some work maintaining it, but I’m starting to be well on my way. To begin the meditation, I lit a green candle and sat facing the southwest. From my experience with the Maiden meditation, I realized I’m complete rubbish at imagining myself in a specific direction–but if I placed my body facing that direction, I still felt I was oriented the same way in the meditation.
The waterfall wasn’t terribly tall–maybe about 15 or 20 feet high–but it was set in a place that looked just like a waterfall I saw when Shea and I were in Ireland–Torc Waterfall in Killarney. I stood before it, just at the water’s edge on a sand-mud bank and called to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Soon, she materialized out of the cascading water, her mantle and robe flowing and falling just as the water had been a moment before. She walked toward me, her feet just touching the water’s surface. I couldn’t see much of her hair beneath her mantle, but her eyes were a perfect water blue. They were captivating, saying so much more with a glance than a thousand words ever could. It was pure love I saw in them. Love for everything. It’s the gaze every artist tries to duplicate when they depict the Virgin. She reached me and Saw (yes, with a capital S) me and loved me unconditionally.
She reached her hand toward me and touched the space between my breasts, just where my heart sits, and when she did I felt the love that she felt for everything. Just that joyful celebration and acceptance. It seemed like an eternity, but was really just a few minutes until she took my own hand and tried to place it over hers. I resisted. She tried again, and again I resisted. She fixed me with a very quirky, very bemusedly frustrated, very un-Marian look, gave a quick little spin, and spun her whole body into mine. Suddenly my eyes were hers. My hands were hers. My body was hers. She was within me, but still seperate from me. I saw her mantle flow around my head. And I felt her unconditional love for me become my own love for my own self. It was beyond…everything.
All too soon, Mary stepped out–though I could still feel that love coming from my own self–and became the waterfall again.
Day 25: The Mother: Intonation
28 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Sagittarius and is in its second quarter.
Exercise: Intonation for the Mother
Set your alarm clock so that you know to begin this exercise in the late afternoon today, at approximately 3 or 4 pm. Using your compass, locate the southwest and sit in a comfortable position facing this direction. Set the green candle before you and light it. Set your gaze upon the candle flame. Take a deep breath, expanding both the lungs and the belly. As you exhale, begin to vocalize the sound “a” as in “say.” Sustain the sound until all breath vacates your lungs. Allow the inhalation to arise from this emptiness you create from the vacated lungs, and then again fill your lungs to capacity. Repeat the intonation three more times, which will make a total of four intonations. After you complete the fourth intonation, sit in silence for 15 or 20 minutes and allow the essence of this intonation to reverberate your consciousness.
As with the Intonation of the Maiden, this felt a little more like a centering exercise than any particular strong call to the Mother. My heart chakra felt nicely stimulated, but I didn’t feel particularly mothery. As with the Maiden, this felt more like a pleasant, loving ‘moment of zen.’
Day 26: The Mother: Magical Pass
29 June 2007
Begin this practice by facing the southwest. Stand with your hands placed on your chest. Set the right hand on the right breast and the left hand on the left breast. The tips of the fingers of the right and left hands should be touching lightly. Elbows should be raised from the sides and your forearms should be straight lines perpendicular to the floor. Open the arms now so that the palms of your hands face front and are at the level of the hips. The arms should be at 45 degree angles to the trunk of your body.
Practice this magical pass with a heightened sense of inner attention and discover what energies it invokes for you.
I really did like this pass from the psychological stand point. It made me feel loving, like I was pouring my heart out for all–which is really what this particular motion is all about, I suppose. Now that I’ve used the pass of the Maiden in an invocation however, the pass of the Mother fills incomplete–like it’s only half of something. With a pass I’m opening myself up to the Mother energy. I guess like I’m making myself a better home for her. I need that invocation to fill the void created by the pass.
Day 27: The Mother: Invocation Prayer
30 June 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Capricorn and becomes full at 9:49 am. (How great is it that we have the last day of Mother work on the full moon?)
The Mother Invocation
Use the compass to find the southwest. Face that direction. Light the green candle and set it on a table before you. Ignite a self-lighting charcoal and then sprinkle the loose incense (meadowsweet and oak bark) on the hot coal.
Practice the magical pass of the mother, and hold your arms in this position while you say:
By Demeter and Dana,
By Aradia and Astarte,
By Cerridwen and Ceres,
And the countless names of power,
By the full moon and branched horn,
Come ye Mother goddess,
Thy Holy Rites reborn!
When you are finished with this invocational prayer, sit where you are, close your eyes, and sense the mother goddess’ presence.
As with the invocation of the Maiden, I felt the presence of a mothering, loving, compassionate sensation emanate from within me. Very quiet, very subtle, but also very much there. What was a little bit funny about the thing was that the mother energy wasn’t solely compassionate…it chided me! Beneath it all, I felt a little good natured nagging feeling like, “Ok, very well…now get on with it! Stop dawdling!” Yup…I’ve got a pretty balanced inner Mom all right. Loving, but not afraid to send the babe out to fall flat on its dupa
Day 28: Meeting the Goddess: The Crone
1 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Capricorn and is in the third quarter.
A day after the full moon and we begin our study of the Crone. She is the final phase of a woman’s life, the time past childbearing. It is the time of the elder, the wise leader; but a leader coming to her end. As Roderick says, “the crone is the archetype of female power turned inward. She is no longer the fragrant, full bloom, but she’s brimming with the seeds of wisdom.”
Something Roderick brings up that I hadn’t though of was the the Crone “also represents justice and the reaping of whatever harvest we have planted. Sometimes what we reap is not exactly the thing for which we hoped. […] The crone represents life lived beyond the crutch of hoping, wishing, and dreaming. She is an all-or-nothing lady.” I really never connected the idea of hope with the crone. I suppose it makes sense…hope is something a person has when there is a stretch of future in front of them. The Crone’s is not a stretch so much as a hop. Hope is rather pointless. You simply deal with what is in your present rather than wistfully look forward. It’s either ‘this’ or it isn’t. Very cut and dry, and very level-headed.
Naturally, the dark side of the Crone is the ‘crotchety old geezer.’ Bitter and off-putting, the dark Crone “can represent […] self-sufficiency to the point of isolation. When we have dark crone energies in our personality, we might believe that we need to […] set endless boundaries with other people, and criticize without noting much of anything positive.
As with the Maiden and Mother, Roderick gives a list of correspondences for the Crone which he asks us to memorize and an exercise to do:
Lunar Phase: Waning/dark
Seasonal Phase: Late fall/winter
Pagan Celebration: Samhain, October 31
Incense: Mugwort and star anise
Essential Oils: Sage, cedar
Magical Number: 6
Herbs: Nightshade, fly agaric
Planet: Saturn, Jupiter
Body Part: Eyes
Chakra: 6th–pineal, at the center of the brow
Exercise: Knowing Your Crone
Consider your own crone traits. On a single piece of paper, draw a line down the center. On once side write down your personality traits that reflect positive crone qualities. On the other side, write down any shadowy crone qualities you might recognize in yourself. If you do not note any of the crone’s qualities in your life, this is an archetypal energy that might require balancing and integration in order for you to claim your full potential and power as a Witch. Over the next few days, you will learn how to evoke these qualities into your life.
|I’m a cut and dry person. I tend to deal more with facts in the present rather than dream of what could be.||The cut and dry routine can be limiting. It doesn’t let me see how variables can change.|
|I’m the one who’s always responsible.||Unfortunately, I tend to nag at my friends and family when they act immature.|
|I’m very self-reliant.||It’s hard for me to make friends. My standards are so high.|
|I’m a critic. Hell, it’s what I want to do for a living.||My first impulse is to describe my dislikes before my likes. I have to battle this every time I sit to review.|
Like the Maiden and Mother, I have a decent amount of Crone qualities–and like the Maiden and the Mother, I have a hard time with the dark side. One of the problems I’ve had with the way Roderick phrases the way he would like us to evaluate our response is in seeing how many Crone qualities we have, period. If we don’t have many, we need to balance and integrate the Crone. I think that if we have a lot of dark qualities, we need to work on balance. All these things in the dark column–the tendency to isolate, to criticize–this is what happens when the crone falls too heavily on one side of the scales. Like the other aspects, I need to do some serious work to bring these tendencies back into a healthy balance.
Day 29: Exercise: Calling on the Crone
2 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Capricorn and enters Aquarius at 1:24 am. It is in the third quarter.
Exercise: Calling on the Crone
Sit in a corner of your home at night and light several candles. Watch the flicker and dance of the flames until you feel your eyes becoming heavy. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Relax your body from head to toe with each exhalation. Once you are relaxed fully, imagine that you are standing in the dark outside of a rickety wooden cottage in the middle of a dense forest. It is midnight. With your spirit-voice, internally intone the name of a crone goddess. Watch as the door of the cottage opens and an old woman walks toward you.
In her hands she holds a magic mirror. This is the mirror that reveals your wisest self. She silently holds up the mirror to your eyes and an image appears. It is the image of you acting throughout your day from a center of wisdom. She then whispers a word that represents a trait you must accrue to become your wisest self. Listen. After she speaks, she turns silently away and disappears into her cottage. Once she has, you will return to the place where you began your journey, seated in the chair before the candles, and open your eyes.
For the next 24 hours, try to live by the wise rule of the crone, guided by her magical word.
You know, I had a good bit of trouble beginning this meditation. I’d been looking forward to it for a couple of days and even splurged on a new candle holder for the occasion (not quite as spendthrift as it seems–it’s the only one I have!). So I lit the candle and sat down to begin the meditation and thought, “Gee, who am I going to call?”
I didn’t ‘know’ any Crone Goddesses.
Outside of the Greek and Roman pantheons, I really don’t know much about world mythologies. Sumar? Complete mystery. The Hindu deities? Really couldn’t tell you much. Egypt? Outside of the outline of the Isis/Osiris myths, I’ve got nothing. So I thought to myself, “Who in the Greek pantheon would be considered crone-like?” And unfortunately I didn’t come up with much. Most all of the Greek Gods and demi-Gods were young and spry. My mind turned to Hecate briefly as She is often given by Neo-Pagans as an example of a Crone Goddess. However, this has not been an example I’ve felt comfortable with. Hecate has had a long evolution, and from what scholars have been able to determine, her original worship was as a goddess very similar to Artemis–the Greek Maiden. Honestly, the Crone qualities seem to have been given to her solely by Neo-Pagans. So to cut to the chase, I don’t feel comfortable calling her as a Crone.
So I made a rather radical choice. I called to Hestia. Virginal Goddess of the hearth and home, she seems like she would be a more logical choice for Maiden or Mother work. However, out of all the classic Olympians, she is the most pragmatic and self-reliant. When Dionysus grew in power, some traditions say that the Olympians argued as to what to do with him. Instead of joining the fray, Hestia gave up her own spot among the twelve in favor of Dionysus and left to live on her own among men. She is that “all-or-nothing” quality of which Roderick spoke. She sees a situation for what it is and acts in accordance without attaching extraneous hopes and desires. Moreover, by giving her Olympian throne to Dionysus, She is really the only member of the pantheon who really experienced that particular ‘death.’ So it was to Hestia that I called.
I gazed at the candle, relaxed my body, and closed my eyes. In time, I saw a cottage–but it was not rickety in the least. It was snug and tight, with a thick thatched roof and a clean, minimalistic garden. It sat near the edge of a lake cove, and right behind the cottage lay a stand of horsetails and reeds. The lake was still and dark, the trees surrounding the clearing just giant columns of black upon black. The only light came from the windows of the cottage, flickering with cheery orange firelight. I called out her name three times, and the cottage door opened.
Hestia drew nearer to me. Her head was covered by a mantle not unlike that of the Virgin Mary, but her pose was not Marian in nature. Instead of the sweet, demure downcast look, Hestia approached me with a straight back and level gaze. It was queenly carriage. As she drew nearer, I saw that her face was quite youthful–not the weathered, wrinkled look one would think of as associated with the Crone. It was not the face of a twenty-year old, but perhaps that of a fifty-year old woman who has been happy and self-aware. The only clue as to her great age was her hair, which was stark white. Twisted into hundreds of thin dreadlocks and gathered into a great thick rope which fell across her breast and down to her knees, it greatly contrasted against her olive skin and burnt-orange clothes.
As she reached me, she held up her hands and a mirror materialized between them. She raised it to my eye level, removing her face from my view. In its place was my own, and in it, my posture had changed to mimic her own queenly stance. As I looked into my own face, a crown materialized over my head in the mirror. It wasn’t a little tiara, or an artistic piece bedecked in gems, but a ruler’s crown–threads of silver spun into a delicate, but commanding band. It settled upon my image’s head, and though it looked light and airy, I felt a great weight fall upon my own brow.
My image’s expression never faltered when it was crowned. It continued to look at me with a cool regard. I was a woman who knew her power, who could not be daunted or made timid. Yet, I knew the onerous weight of that power. With it came the charges of compassion, justice, and mercy. If I left them altogether I would be unbalanced, despotic. If I embraced them too strongly, I would be weak and bungling. However, If I kept them checked with rationality, I would be wise and effective.
It was a charge to balance sense and sensibility.
Hestia lowered the mirror, and her expression identically matched that of my reflection. The mirror disappeared as she drew her hands together and brought them up to touch my forehead, where I still felt the weight of my crown. “You know now what it is to be regal,” she said as she finished her blessing. I bowed my head in acquiescence and she withdrew back into the cottage. After a moment, I turned and walked–with a new queenly posture–back into the blackness.
Day 30: Exercise: The Crone: Intonation
3 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Aquarius and is in its third quarter.
Exercise: Intonation for the Crone
Set your alarm clock so that you know to begin this exercise at dusk. Take out your compass, locate the west, and place a cushion on the floor or set a chair so that when you sit you will face this direction. Set the indigo candle before you, light it, and set your gaze upon the candle flame. Take a deep breath, expanding the lungs and belly. As you exhale, begin to vocalize the sound “Mmmm.” Sustain the sound until all breath vacates your lungs. Allow the inhalation to arise from this emptiness you create from the vacated lungs, and then again fill your lungs to capacity. Repeat the intonation five more times, making a total of six intonations. When you complete the sixth intonation, sit in silence for 15 or 20 minutes and allow the essence of this intonation to change your consciousness.
As before, I did really like the intonation–the focus on breath, the focus on the Crone’s essence as I say her sound. I liked the calm that came over me. I liked the small buzz I felt around my sixth chakra. It was very centering. But it was not dramatic. And I like the drama of a full on visualization. However, I can see where this sort of ‘moment of zen’ could be much more useful in a daily situation.
Day 31: The Crone: Magical Pass
4 July 2007
To begin the magical pass for the crone, stand facing the west. Stand with your hands at the sides, palms flat, facing behind you. Bend the arms at the elbows and raise the arms so that your hands can rest, palms open, crossed on your chest. The right hand should be resting on the left breast and the left hand should be resting on the right breast. Witches also call this ritual posture the Osiris Position.
As you practice this magical pass, attend to whatever sensations or energies it seems to awaken in you.
Well, psychologically, I feel very…cool. One of those calm, collected, higher moods. My head feels clarified, more open, which I suppose is that 6th chakra influence. It’s funny how connected to the chakras these postures and exercises feel–I really want to read more about them and do some additional chakra work. At any rate, though the pose does have little tendrils of energy with it, I’m coming to realize that the poses themselves feel a little empty–like half of something. I think the other half is the invocation itself.
Day 32: The Crone: Invocation Prayer
5 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Pisces and is in its third quarter.
The Crone Invocation
Use the compass to find the west and then stand facing that direction. Light the indigo candle and set it on a table or on the floor in front of you. Ignite a self-lighting charcoal and then sprinkle on the hot coal the loose incense you made from dried mugwort and star anise.
As the smoke rises, practice the crone’s magical pass and then hold your arms in this position while you say:
By Hecate and Hel,
By Sophia and Sekhmet,
By Inanna and Rhiannon,
And the countless names of power,
By the dark moon and buckled horn,
Come ye Crone goddess,
Thy Holy Rites reborn!
When you are finished with the crone’s prayer, sit on the ground or in a chair near the indigo candle, close your eyes, and sense the crone goddess’ presence. When you are finished, extinguish the candle.
Whew! Did she ever just blow into me! This is the first time I’ve had the relative privacy enough to actually say the invocation as opposed to whispering it–and dang! I wasn’t able to burn the incense, and I was actually burning my white meditation candle instead of Her indigo color–but wow. Immediately after saying the invocation, I felt my back get straighter, my head get clearer, and my whole psyche feeling more confident. It truly was regal…and impressed the hell out of me.
Day 33: Contemplative Day: The Center of Knowledge
6 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon leaves Pisces for Aries at 10:56 am. It is in its third quarter.
Today we have the first Contemplative Day of the year. On these days, we are to basically meditate on a question–today’s being “What is at the center of knowledge?” Because this question is about knowledge, and so situated firmly in the Air element, Roderick suggests we light a yellow candle and sit facing towards the east when we meditate.
How to Use the Contemplative Question
Find a comfortable meditative sitting position in a quiet space. Light a candle if you are using one and sit it before you. As you sit comfortably and settle your consciousness, cast your gaze upon the flickering candle. Imagine that you hold the contemplative question firmly in the abdominal region. Imagine that you apply pressure to the question as though you were internally gripping an imaginary yellow ball with your abdominal muscles. Relax your shoulders and arms and breathe normally. Sit with this internal “holding” of the contemplative question for about 20 minutes. If you should notice extraneous thoughts intruding as you concentrate on holding your contemplative question, simply maintain awareness that thoughts are coming and going in the mind, but quickly shift your focus back to holding the question.
Try not to solve the question through rational means of any sort. Just hold the question internally until an intuitive answer emerges. It is important to note that an answer to the contemplation may not emerge in one 20 minute sitting alone. You may not intuit an answer in direct response to your mediative inquiry. It may occur to you hours, days, or weeks later. It may occur to you as you take a shower or stand in line at the grocery store. For this reason, it is important to merge with the contemplative question and engage it through each of your everyday tasks. Be prepared to receive an intuitive answer at any given moment. Give this process time and eventually a shift in your perception will take place through which you will realize your own answer.
All right, I know half the goal of this particular exercise is just in the practice of meditation–and Lord knows I could use the practice. However, as I was typing out the exercise for today I was struck immediately with a very strong intuitive answer. I actually felt a shock and shiver when it hit me. Desire. Knowledge is a cumulative total of known facts, information, and skills acquired and used–but one does not acquire these things without having the express desire to do so. Remember groaning through a class in grade school you hated? How much of those facts/info/skills do you recall now? What about a class you were excited about and greatly interested in? I’m sure your retention rate is much higher. There is no learning without the autodidact. There are no autodidacts without the desire, the hunger to know.
It’s just a truth that hit me like a ton of bricks. So I should just accept that I got off “easy” today.
Day 34: Devotional Day: Honoring Isis
7 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Aries and enters its fourth quarter at 12:53 pm.
Fresh from our day of contemplation, we have our first devotional day, this one dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Isis.
I’ve never particularly felt drawn to the Egyptian pantheon, but you can’t exactly be a Pagan without encountering Isis in some way or another. So many people are drawn to her (or vice versa) that even those who know nothing about the Egyptian deities know that Isis is a very ‘complete’ goddess. She seems to have a hand in most areas–which is something Roderick brings up in his brief discussion of her, saying that “Isis is perhaps on eo fhte most complete and all-encompassing figures in myth and symbolism.” He mentions that Isis became the Greek and Roma “star of the sea,” but was also a goddess of sky and earth, the life principle, an enchantress and goddess of magic, a teacher of the healing arts, and all natural magic.
What I know of Isis is of Isis the Sister-Wife of Osirus. Seth was jealous of Osirus and murdered him, throwing his body into the Nile. Isis found her husband’s body and hid it from Set so that he could not desecrate it before his burial. But Seth found the body and, enraged, tore it into 14 pieces and scattered them across Egypt. Isis eventually found 13 of the pieces and reassembled her husband, using a golden phallus to replace the missing piece. She bound him as a mummy (indeed, he was the first mummy), and brought him back to life. She became the goddess of Everlasting Life and her husband the god of the Underworld. After she brought Osirus back, they conceived Horus, and Isis became his devoted mother. Isis is many things, but she is also very much the pleasure of life and living.
Exercise: Isis Practice
In honoring Isis today, create an altar to her using the various symbols, images, candles, and incense that evoke her presence. Once you have created your altar, take time to face it and slowly intone her name, one syllable at a time, until you feel or sense her presence surrounding you. Once you become aware of her energies filling your magical space, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to align with this aspect of deity. Take time to ask Isis what it would mean to live life through her energy and listen for her answer. Spend the day honoring this goddess by fulfilling another person’s desire.
I took a statue of the Virgin Mary as the centerpiece, deciding it would be appropriate as there is a large school of thought that the Virgin Mary was the church’s answer for converting local Isis cults in the Roman times. I love the statue anyway because of the life the artist put into it, with Mary twirling about, and the angels and birds come to attend her. It’s full of life and movement and motherhood–three very ‘Isis’ qualities. I also included a bowl of water as Isis is a matron of sailors, the pentacle because she is the queen of sorcery, the candle with the spiral goddess because it takes the same shape as the Nile goddess, the stones for decoration, and the candle to bring light and life to the altar.
I chanted ‘I-sis’ for a good long while, but I never really ‘felt’ her presence. This didn’t surprise me. Like my whole experience with the Crone, I don’t really ‘know’ Isis. I’ve not worked with her. I don’t know her myths. I don’t know her history. So how could I feel her, know her energy, if I don’t know her stories? After a good long while, though, I got the intuitive hook to ‘be open.’ Isis is an old goddess who has gone through many cultures, many eons, and has changed. She’s been twined with other local goddesses to become a greater cosmic goddess–and she had to be open to do that. To be so central to human desires for so long, Isis had to be open to change. I need to know this openness.
Day 35: Day of Silence and Review
8 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon leaves Aries for Taurus at 1:54 pm. It is in its fourth quarter.
A series of firsts! Just as with the day of contemplation and the day of devotion, every thirty days or so we have a day of silence and review. The idea of these days, as Roderick says, is to stay as silent as you can–to “limit your utterances to only that which is necessary.” The idea behind these silences is threefold–historically, you remained quiet in regards to all things magical so as to avoid persecution; practically, you remained silent because words really cannot describe spiritualism; and magically, silence sort of acts as a recharge of the magical battery. In many ways, it’s a bit like the vow of silence monks and nuns would take when entering monasteries and abbeys. By keeping silent, you can better observe the world around and better communicate with the divine outside and in.
When the day is complete, Roderick asks us to contemplate the following questions:
- Was it difficult to maintain silence?
- When did I most want to verbally communicate?
- Did silence help me to notice what was going on in my own body, mind, or spirit?
- Did I have times when mental activity increased or decreased?
- Did I have times when physical activity increased or decreased in response to silence?
- How might periodic observances of silence be beneficial to me?
The first and foremost lesson I learned today is that silence is not just speech. I suppose that’s kind of a no-brainer, but I hadn’t really realized it. I sort of made a vow to not speak unless spoken to today, but I did a lot of communication that didn’t involve my tongue. I wrote a couple journal entries, went through internet forums, online chatted with friends…yeah. In retrospect, I wasn’t very silent at all. What else might silence entail? Reading? Receiving communication as well as making it?
I don’t think I can adequately answer the questions Roderick poses at this time. I’ll have to address them at the next day of silence.
Day 36: Meeting the God: The Inseminator
9 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Taurus and is in its fourth quarter.
Today we finally get to a side of divinity I’ve really been impatient to work with: the God. One of the things I do not like about Wicca is that so many Wiccans seem to forget about the God entirely, or simply view him in a relatively minor role. Eclectic Wicca in particular is often guilty of this omission.
But today I turned the page to Day 36 and couldn’t help but cringe. The Inseminator? You know, I took a bit of offense to that. It would basically be like calling the Mother the Incubator. But I am willing to put aside my semantic disagreement for a few days to experience Roderick’s treatment of the God–which he initially presents as a balanced triple god–Inseminator, Protector, and Sage. And I’ll give props where it’s due: this is the most balanced complement to the triple goddess I’ve seen. I’m not entirely sold that it’s the best model for Wiccan practice–but it’s a very equitable balance of divinity.
In Roderick’s schemata, the Inseminator is roughly the masculine counterpart to the Maiden. As Roderick says, “In this aspect, the god represents youthful exuberance, pure undirected energy, and a sense of play. The inseminator is the bold youth, full of foolish bravery and carefree charm. He is the archetype of youthful, active, outwardly directed power. He is boisterous, sexually motivated, and extroverted as he faces the world. […] This archetype represents the wildness of fire and spontaneity in all of us. […] He does not know what lies ahead of him in life, therefore he has no obstacles. The inseminator knows no limits; all things are possible to him. He is the energy of one who won’t learn from other people; he must learn from doing and experiencing for himself.”
So in other words, the Inseminator is the drunken, happy-go-lucky frat boy I want to beat mercilessly about the head with a crowbar.
As with the aspects of the Triple Goddess, the Inseminator has his dark side. As Roderick explains, “In his dark aspects, he can represent our wild destructiveness, a lack of impulse control, a lack of constructive direction, indolence, and our potential for flagrant self-indulgence. [… He] can represent our potential to be driven blindly by physical urges and impulses.”
Honestly, Dionysus sounds like the perfect Inseminator god. Roderick gives a list of others, including Pan, Eros, Cupid, Enki, Gwion, Loki, Hermes, Janicot, Iacchus, Adonis, Mabon, Lugh, Prometheus, Dianus, Raven, Faunus, Shiva, and Taliesin. And, of course, he also gives us a list of correspondences before giving us an exercise:
Solar Phase: Waxing year
Seasonal Phase: Spring
Pagan Celebration: Beltane, May 1
Incense: Cinnamon or pine
Essential Oils: Carnation, cinnamon
Magical Number: 3
Vocalization: ‘ah’ as in caught
Herbs: Woodruff, hops
Body Part: Muscles
Chakra: 3rd–Solar plexus, between navel and stomach
Exercise: Knowing the Inseminator God
Think about your own inseminator traits. On a single piece of paper, draw a line down the center. On one side write down your personality traits that reflect positive inseminator qualities. On the other side of the page, write down any shadowy inseminator qualities you might recognize in yourself. If you do not note any of the inseminator’s qualities in your life, you need to get out and enjoy things a bit more! You will find it spiritually beneficial to spend time cultivating this archetypal energy. In the days that follow, you will learn methods for invoking this energy. Use these methods to invoke the inseminator in you whenever you need a boost of energy or if you simply need to lighten up.
|Positive Inseminator||Negative Inseminator|
|I don’t think there is anything more thrilling than being swept off your feet in a truly spontaneous adventure.||I know that I have a tendency in me to go overboard. Make a revel of glee a destructive Bacchanalian orgy. I am destructive in my hedonism.|
I am so deficient in Inseminator energy it’s not even funny. I cannot let go of propriety. I cannot jump and be spontaneous. I cannot let down my guard. I know I have a tendency to let things I take pleasure in to become minor obsessions, and this is not exactly the healthiest of behaviors. What if I did let that guard down? Would I develop addictions? It’s not responsible…and yet…
I’ve never had an orgasm. I thought that perhaps I might have once or twice, but if I have to ‘think’ it, I know I didn’t. I can’t let myself go. Heck, I have a hard enough time bringing myself up to anything resembling arousal. I have an incredibly difficult time holding a fantasy. I rarely have sexual dreams, and when I do, they really aren’t all that terribly sexual or even very explicit. I cannot get over that inhibition. I can’t “break on through to the other side.” I’m like that in every part of my life. I don’t take risks. I think before I act. I plan and plan and plan to the point where sometimes I forget to do. When I go out with my friends, I’m always the designated driver, and when I’m not I drink so very little that I might as well be. I’ve been drunk twice…and it was badly paced so that I flipped a switch from happy to sick far too quickly.
I guess I really do need to ‘lighten up.’
Day 37: Calling on the Inseminator
10 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon leaves Taurus for Gemini at 4:10 pm and is in its fourth quarter.
Ok. I have wondered lately about how serious I’ve been taking some of these exercises. There are a few I disagree with, like the invocations, but instead of just whipping up my own I do feel an obligation to try it as Roderick says first before I jump on my “I can do better” horse. Consequently, there have been some days where I just sort of roll my eyes and go through the motions. So I’ve been sort of questioning my dedication.
Well. Apparently I should question no more. My subconscious is dedicated even if I am not.
For today I bought a vibrator.
I’ve been wanting to get a vibrator for, oh, years now. Pretty much ever since college began. But I’ve always been too chicken. So what brought on the sudden courage? Today’s exercise.
Exercise: Calling on the Inseminator
Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Relax your body from head to toe with each exhalation. Once you are relaxed fully, visualize yourself engaged in sexual activity with a partner. With your spirit-voice, internally intone the name of an inseminator god. Soon he will appear before you as you engage in your fantasy sexual activity.
Look into the eyes of your imaginary sexual partner and you will notice a flame, a wild energy there. This is the energetic expression of this deity. Continue the imagined sexual act and soon you will hear a word that represents your own inseminator energy. After you hear the word, immediately return your awareness to your physical body and then open your eyes. Remember the word you learned in your vision and act from that word for the entirety of the day. Here are some questions you might consider:
- Was I either unduly drawn toward or did I feel repulsed by this visualization?
- What might be some contributing factors to my feelings about this exercise?
- What are my experiences with sexuality?
- Should religion and sexuality ever find common ground? Why? Why not?
So I bought a vibrator. Even better, I did so without planning to or anything. I just looked up ‘massage’ on a the Target website, saw they had some, and hopped in my car without giving it a second thought. When I got to the Target, the store didn’t have any I really felt suitable, so I went to Wal-Mart. (Desperate times…) And lo and behold, they had exactly one left of the exact model I had thought would be perfect!
Reading over the exercise now, I realize it never says to masturbate or anything…but I guess I must have thought I’d want to! At any rate, I’m sort of glad I went and did this. Now, onto Roderick’s questions.
Was I either unduly drawn toward or did I feel repulsed by this visualization?
Meh, not really either one. I wasn’t particularly repulsed, but found it very difficult to envision a sexual encounter, let alone the God peeping in. I wasn’t repulsed by it, but neither was I drawn.
What might be some contributing factors to my feelings about this exercise?
Oh, perhaps the fact that I’m so incredibly virgin that I think my head would explode if I ever were to get laid. And a bunch of body issues. I think that most of my block in regards to sexuality is that I can’t ever envision it happening to me at all. I’m simply not attractive and can’t really find a way to become so. I truly can’t envision anyone being between my legs, so I can’t fantasize about it.
What are my experiences with sexuality?
My right and left hands. When I was 13 or 14 I’d read a Q&A in Seventeen about a girl who wanted to know if she was normal for masturbating. The whole concept had never even occurred to me, so I decided I’d give it a try. I hadn’t a clue about what the clitoris was, so my idea of masturbation was basically plunging. Honestly, I think the first few times I tried it were my most successful in producing a response…which is just sad. Anyway, I quickly got paranoid about being found out. I thought there was something wrong with me because I got all wet whenever I tried to masturbate and it was such a nuisance. I’d imagine that I could smell it for days after I tried. I washed my hands obsessively to try to eliminate the imagined smell. I’d think that the whole house would hear me so I trained myself to be as still and quiet as possible. Even today, if I have the whole house to myself, I can’t even make myself moan a bit. So I suppose I sort of brainwashed myself out of passion.
Should religion and sexuality ever find common ground? Why? Why not?
Oh Lord, yes. The last thing anyone needs is all the crap I’ve given myself about sex–and that’s precisely what the religion I grew up with practiced. No premarital sex. No masturbation. No oral, anal, anything. Sex just for procreation. Sex just between a married couple. Heck, I still have major freaking qualms about everything sex now because of it, even though I intellectually know better. Besides, from what I hear, an orgasm is just a hair short of religious ecstasy. The two should be entwined.
Day 38: The Inseminator: Intonation
11 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Gemini and is in its fourth quarter.
Exercise: Intonation for the Inseminator
Set an alarm so that you know to begin this exercise during the sunlit morning hours today. Use your compass to locate the east and arrange yourself so that you will sit facing this direction. Light a yellow or gold candle and set it in front of you so that you can gaze upon the flame. Take a deep breath that not only expands the lungs but fills the belly as well. As you exhale, begin to vocalize the sound ‘ah’ (like the vowel sound in caught). Sustain the sound until all breath vacates your lungs. Allow the next inhalation to arise from the empty feeling you create in your lungs. Then fill your lungs to capacity and repeat the intonation. Practice the inseminator’s intonation for a total of three breaths. When you complete the third intonation, sit in silence for 15 or 20 minutes and allow the essence of this intonation to realign your consciousness.
Very interesting. As with the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, I had a sort of ‘moment of zen’ experience–but it was much more psychological than spiritual. My head was calmer, but I didn’t particularly feel any sort of identifiable Inseminator energy for a very long time. It wasn’t until about 15 minutes in when I had given up and begun to write this that all of a sudden I had an urge to shirk off the plans I had made for the morning and play. Which, actually, I might just do.
Day 39: The Inseminator: Magical Pass
12 July 2007
The Inseminator is a Death Metal sort of dude. Wykkid Bytchin!
Begin the magical pass by facing east. Stand with your hands at your sides, palms flat, facing behind you. Bend the arms at the elbows and raise the hands so that they are level with your ears. Hands should be approximately eight inches away from the ears on either side of the head. With both of your hands, extend the forefinger and the little finger, and close together the remaining fingers and thumb. This forms the Witch’s “stang” (symbolizing the antlers of the young horned god).
As you practice this magical pass, focus your awareness on any sensations, thoughts, feelings, or energies that it may evoke for you.
Mmm, I might just say that my response to this pose has been my strongest yet. Psychologically, I felt, well, abandon. Like I just wanted to release something inside of me and dance, dance, dance! It was incredible! As I did this pose, the Angels & Airwaves song Valkyrie Missile happened to be playing, which just added to the compulsion to dance and be free. (I did eventually just break down and had to dance to the song. Thankfully nobody was in the house to witness the horrible, horrible sight…but it sure felt good!) I felt light and happy, but I also had the compulsion to press my forehead to the ground and try to ground myself after the pose. I’m really liking the Inseminator!
Day 40: The Inseminator: Invocation Prayer
13 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon is in Cancer and is in its fourth quarter.
The Inseminator Invocation
Use the compass to find the east. Face that direction. Light a yellow candle and set it on a table before you. Ignite a self-lighting charcoal and then sprinkle the dried cinnamon bark and pine onto the hot charcoal. Wait for this to smolder. Assume the inseminator’s magical pass, and hold your arms in this position while you say:
By Pan and Prometheus,
By Dionysus and Dianus,
By Loki and Llugh,
And the countless names of power,
By the morning sun, by hoof and horn,
Come ye fertile god,
Thy Holy Rites reborn!
When you are finished with this invocational prayer, sit where you are, close your eyes and sense the inseminator god’s presence. Set the candle someplace where it can safely burn completely out.
Day 41: Meeting the God: The Provider
14 July 2007
The sun is in Cancer and the year is waning. The moon leaves Cancer for Leo at 10:43 pm and enters the New Moon phase at 8:04 pm.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Today we shift our focus from the Inseminator to the Provider, and I’ve got to say that I’m a little perplexed by this new aspect. In his introduction to the Provider, Roderick says that “In his provider aspect, the god represents self-sufficiency. He is able to care for himself and others.” It’s that other’s bit I have a problem with, especially when put next to self-sufficiency. I grant that others are implicit in a ‘provider’ role–as a transitive verb, the most common construction works on a variation of ‘to provide someone with’ and as an intransitive verb the construction is ‘provide for.’ In either case, the general idea is to supply another person or thing. However, I think the Provider is an aspect that is primarily concerned with self before others. After all, a good provider doesn’t take on a family unless he (or she) is certain that he (or she) can supply them, can support people in addition to him (or her) self.
In other words, I do not think that the Provider is a masculine mother. He does not allow his charges to become emotional leeches. He’ll always have a sort of distance between them.
I don’t think this is a bad thing–in fact, I think it’s terrific. He’s the one who has the distance enough to see what needs to be done for the good of all. As Roderick continues “The provider represents action done because action is needed. There is no hidden motive behind the actions of the provider. […] Societal, communal, or tribal benefit is often the reward of his action.” And because of this, “The provider is the vehicle of society. He is the archetype of adult male power: he is focused, attentive to what is needed, active and purposeful. He represents the growth-movement of all life.”
I think Roderick is dead on when he talks about our internal providers: “The provider represents our drives to complete what has been started, to provide what is needed and to be self-reliant. He is the part of every man or woman that becomes motivated to accomplish. We can see his energy when someone demonstrates a paternal concern for other people. The provider in each of us notices societal/social limits, guidelines and structure, and understands the benefits of honoring these limits. On the flip side, the provider is also that part of each man or woman that understands the importance of challenging the limits so that new frontiers can open in a way that benefits the whole of society.”
Of course, as with all the other aspects, the Provider has his dark side, which pops up when we try to overly control as opposed to allowing a free flow of his energy. He can become “blind ambition and self-reliance taken to the point of self serving. [He can be] anger and impatience [… or …] our potential to inflexibly identify with the rules of our society, our jobs, or organizations.”
Table of Correspondences: The Provider
Solar Phase: Full midday sun
Seasonal Phase: Summer
Pagan Celebration: Summer Solstice
Essential Oils: Frankincense, chamomile, benzoin, patchouli
Magical Number: 5
Vocalization: e as in “heat”
Herbs: Chamomile, hemp
Body Part: Neck, throat
Chakra: 5th–Throat, at the hollow point/base of throat
Exercise: Knowing Your Provider
Consider your own provider traits. On a single piece of paper, draw a line down the center. On one side write down your personality traits (no matter if you are physically male or female) that reflect positive provider qualities. On the other side of the page, write down any shadowy provider qualities you might recognize in yourself. If you do not note any of the provider’s qualities in your life, this is an archetypal energy that requires balancing in order for you to claim your full potential and power.
|Positive Provider||Negative Provider|
|When moved, I am single-minded and focused.||Ambition…yes. When I am focused and self-aware, I know that my life fantasies are self-serving.|
|Often times, I am situated so that I am the one everyone else relies upon.||I can twist this reliance to serve my own aims.|
|I’m very self-reliant.||It is hard to make friends. I ignore others to the point where it is detrimental.|
|I see limits and I honor them…to a point. I recognize that well-chosen breaks from tradition breath life into us.|
You know, I think my Provider traits are fairly evenly balanced. Over all, I think I’m much more a ‘Mother’ than a Provider, and will likely have to work on strengthening my Provider side, but as far as Dark/Light goes–I think it’s a healthy balance. I have a tendency to get very ambitious, but I can often check myself before it gets too bad. I think I’m at a point in life where I can manage Him.