Day 365: Devotional Day, Honoring Yourself

As we’ve learned, we ourselves are parts of the divine.  The divine in us is who we our in our core essence.  The divine is therefore as flawed as we are.  Our lives, just as they are, are the lives of the Gods.  So we take time to honor ourselves and take our places among the pantheons.

It’s a good idea to take some time and build a list of our own correspondences, perhaps starting by reviewing our numerological correspondences.  We can design our own magical symbol (perhaps based on runes or astrological signs or other meditative work), choose which of the magical tools is most “us”, what herbs we have penchants with, and what oils feel representative of us, the directions we have the most affinity with, and what our greatest skills, gifts, and spiritual assets are.  We can also list our newly-found animal symbols, the foods we find sacred and delicious, and the stones that hum closest to our own energies.  Once we’ve got all this figured out, we can construct an altar that best embodies who we are as magical, divine beings.

Huh.  Building an altar to myself seems so…decadent.    But I guess it makes sense, given how we see the divine in ourselves as well as in the world and myths around us.  I guess I might as well give it a go.

If I had to come up with a table of correspondences for myself, I think it would look something like this:

Table of Correspondences:  Melissa

  • Symbols:  Bee
  • Tools:  The Pen of Writ, Book of Shadows, pentacle
  • Magical Essences/Herbs:  Grapefruit, vanilla, frankincense, jasmine
  • Direction:  Interior
  • Color:  Orange, sky blue
  • She Rules:  Pragmatism, pedagogy, practice
  • Animal Symbols:  Badger, bee
  • Sacred Foods:  Cheeses, blueberries, citruses, tea
  • Magical Stones:  Larimar, butterscotch amber, carnelian
photo-1.jpg

My altar to myself.  Sorry it’s so blurry.  I did this late at night.

I think it’s important for me at this point to acknowledge that this altar could not, would not, have existed in this form back in 2008 when I started this project in earnest.  Nor would this altar have looked like this back when I first set foot on the pagan path waaaay back in the late ’90s.  It won’t look the same a year from now.  My inner divine self is always changing, always learning new things about itself, about others, and about my relationship to them.

This time this year, I only owned two of the items on this altar, my chalice and my pen.  Everything else has been something that’s caught my eye or been gifted to me this year.  It’s been a huge year.  I’ve been initiated.  I’ve got my life back on track.  I’m dreaming again.  I feel like a divine self rather than someone who is just existing.

I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunities that have brought me this far, and I look forward to seeing how my divine self grows in the future.

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Day 301: Devotional Day, Honoring Aradia

I saw this picture somewhere and thought, "yeah, I can see that representing Aradia."

I saw this picture somewhere and thought, “yeah, I can see that representing Aradia.”

Aradia is another deity name that is peculiar to contemporary Paganism and Wicca.  Historically, the most we know about this figure comes from a text that Charles Godfrey Leland published in 1899:  Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.  Unfortunately for us, this source is not without a level of controversy.  Leland reported that whilst researching Italian folklore, he became acquainted with a woman he called Maddalena in 1886, and she became the primary source for his Italian folklore collecting for several years. Leland described her as being a part of a dying sorcery tradition and wrote that “by long practice [she] has perfectly learned… just what I want, and how to extract it from those of her kind.”  Over the years, he received several hundred pages worth of material from her, which was incorporated into his books Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition, Legends of Florence Collected From the People, and eventually Aradia. In his foreword Aradia, Leland wrote that he had “learned that there was in existence a manuscript setting forth the doctrines of Italian witchcraft” in 1886, and had urged his friend Maddalena to find it.  Over a decade later, Leland received the Vangelo by post. The manuscript was written in Maddalena’s handwriting, and Leland understood it to be an authentic document of the “Old Religion” of the witches, but explains that he did not know if the text came from written or oral sources.

Today, we do not know if Leland invented the Vangelo himself or if it really was delivered to him by an Italian witch.  Since the repopularization of witchcraft, various scholars have chimed in with their opinions as to the work’s legitimacy.  Most recently, pagan studies scholars Ronald Hutton, Chas Clifton, and Sabina Magliocco have weighed in.  Hutton takes the skeptic’s stance, and doubts that there was a religion the story claimed to represent in addition to doubting the existence of Maddalena.  He argues that the likeliest scenario is that Leland created the whole thing–and it does seem that this would be easier to swallow that Leland believing some random Italian fortune-teller.  Clifton takes Hutton to task, saying that he’s essentially accusing Leland of “serious literary fraud” based only on the fact there is no evidence to disprove that Leland received this information from an Italian source.  Magliocco, on the other hand, believes that the manuscript really does represent a folk tradition involving Diana and the Cult of Herodias.

Title page to Leland's original 1899 edition of Aradia.

Title page to Leland’s original 1899 edition of Aradia.

Yet, whether or not Leland’s book is truth or fiction, we have to acknowledge that the book contains very little information about its title figure.  In fact, the main figure in the book is the goddess Diana, who was the goddess “first created before all creation”, and “out of herself, the first darkness, she divided herself […] into darkness and light.”  The light became her brother Lucifer, who was hailed as the god of light, the sun, and the moon.  When Diana, the darkness, finally saw the light, she desired to make it a part of her once again.  But Lucifer rejected her and fell to earth, so Diana appealed to “the fathers of the Beginning, to the mothers, the spirits who were before the first spirit”, and they told her that “to rise she must fall”, or that to become the chief of goddesses she must become mortal.  So Diana, too, went to earth.  While there, Diana taught magic and gave rise to the witches and supernatural creatures, or “all that is like man, yet not mortal”.  Eventually Diana took the form of a cat that her brother loved, and when she had been admitted into his bed she took on her true form and coupled with him.  From this union Aradia, or Herodias, was born.  The divine Aradia was then mortally reborn and sent to teach witchcraft to the poor men and women who had been made slaves by the rich.  After Diana recalls her daughter to heaven, she bestows upon her the power to aid those who invoke her to help them achieve success in love.

Coupling this scant information with that of various legendary fragments concerning a Herodias, Erodiade, Aradia, Arada, or Araja, we can pull together a picture creating a mythic figure who can syncretize polarities or opposites, who has a deep understanding of magic and counter-magic, who has a vested interest in education, and in justice–particularly as it applies to deconstructing class problems–and who fully understands the nature of sexuality (the blending of two opposites into one) and of love.  Whether or not Aradia is a cultural figure or one sort of created from contemporary scholarship and the growth of Wicca, you have to admit…she’s a deity you can get behind.

In his introduction to Aradia, Roderick writes that as a representation of the blending of light and dark principles, Aradia “is the keeper of secrets, both light and dark.  She is the spirit of nature, and as such she is the complementary divine-feminine figure to the gods Cernunnos, Herne, or Pan.  She is the goddess who hangs between the balancing points of maiden and mother–perhaps we can call her the archetype of the temptress.  She is fertile and she expresses sexuality openly, not for the sake of pleasure, but because it is a magical act.  For Aradia, sexual union represents the blending of two into one. […] She is the patroness of the woods, since that is where her devotees erected her sacred groves.  She is also a goddess of justice, equality, wisdom, and magical policy.”  Moreover, he tells us that “her sacred symbols are cypress tress and the crescent moon.  Her magical essences and herbs are cypress, John the Conqueror, lemon, jasmine, and anise.  Aradia is aligned with the north, with earth, and midnight.  Her sacred colors are white and black.  Her animal spirit is the cat, but she also takes the form of fish and the wolf.  Aradia’s sacred foods are crescent moon cakes, poppyseed cakes, and grapa (an Italian wine).”

Aradia Practice
In honoring Aradia today, build a sacred altar to her divine presence.  Take time to face the altar and intone her name, one syllable at a time (pronounced Ah-RAH-dee-ah) until you feel her presence surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it mgiht mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Take time to ask Aradia what it would mean to live life through her energy, and listen for her answer.

Spend the day honoring this goddess by working magic of any kind and by seeking to bring justice and social awareness to yourself and others.

My Aradia Altar

My Aradia Altar

The altar I created for my Aradia devotion included a printing of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, for it depicts a dynamic marriage of light and darkness in hills that look like they could be in Tuscany (really it’s southern France) with cypress trees in the foreground.  I flanked the Justice tarot card with those of the Sun and Moon to show Aradia’s parentage (and was amused to see that the Justice card here seems to have visual elements of both the Sun and the Moon cards).  I nodded toward Aradia’s interest in polarity with a plaque I have that looks a bit like the Lovers card in the Rider Waite decks, and I flanked it with a pair of black and white candles.  I added a pair of quartz crystals and some moonstones, my amber and jet necklace, my pentacle, and an offering bowl of brewing jasmine tea with a slice of lemon.

It took me awhile to sense Aradia’s presence after I began chanting her name, but eventually I felt what could only be described as a spunky energy!  It seems that Aradia is quite the whippersnapper.  Bright and alert, she reminds me a bit of the teacher who taught through sheer enthusiasm.  The type of teacher where you couldn’t help but grow to love her topic because she loved it so darn much.  It’s a very interesting and enjoyable energy, and I can’t help but compare it to the previous devotion, Janicot.  That, too, was an energy that seemed very much a “teacherly” one, but with so much more calm than Aradia’s.

Day 242: Summoning the Gods

Before beginning today’s practice, complete all the circle-casting steps we’ve learned this far.  Set up the altar and the tools, light the quarter candles, consecrate the elements and yourself, cast the three layers of the circle, and draw the invoking pentagrams for each element as you call the elements to the circle.  Once that has been completed, follow Roderick’s instructions for calling down the deity:

Stand at your altar in the center of your magic circle and face the south.  Allow your arms to hang at your sides naturally.  Open your hands so that the fingers all point down.  Open the thumbs away from the fingers so that they create a 90-degree angle.  Bring your hands together now at your pelvic level so that the tips of your thumbs meet and the tips of your index fingers meet.  This should form a triangle with the point down.  The palms of your hands should be facing your pelvis.

Take several slow, deep breaths.  Imagine sacred energies from the earth climbing your legs and filling your body.  When you sense this energy, separate your hands and slowly bring them up in an arc along the sides of your body so that they meet above your head to form a second triangle–thumbs and tips of index fingers touching.  This time, the point of the triangle is up, and the palms of your hands are facing away from you.  Now imagine a white-hot energy penetrating the crown of your head, filling you with divine energy.  Imagine this energy mingling with the energies of the earth.

Tilt the top of the triangle away from you and point it down, bringing the triangle back to the place where you began, in front of your pelvis.  Imagine the energies of earth and sky meeting within you.  Now say:

You who have been from beginning to end,
Our rites and mysteries now attend.
Most ancient of Maidens, Mothers, and Crones,
Lord of the Hoof, of antlers and bones,
Where fire meets earth, and wind meets sea,
Hearken our call; so mote it be!

For all intents and purposes, you’ve now cast a magic circle!  Congratulations!  At this point, for a full working, you’d need to perform the working  and conclude with the cakes and wine before closing down the circle.  That is not necessary at this point–just take a few moments to rest and feel the energies present in the circle.  However, since you have constructed a magic circle, you can’t just walk away when you’re done:  you have to properly dismiss the energies.  To do so, you thank the gods for attending, and then bid them farewell, then banish the elements (going from east to north, draw the banishing pentagrams and bid farewell to the elements), then close the three layers of the circle.  Walk widdershins around the perimeter while imagining the energies subsiding.  Roderick recommends saying “Earth will crumble my circle, Water will cause it to fall, Fire will burn what’s left in the urn, and the winds will scatter them all” as you do this.  When you arrive back in the east, it’s customary to declare the circle open, and many do so by saying something like “The circle is open, but unbroken.  Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!”

Triangle of ManifestationIf you are just calling down generic God and Goddess energy, I think this method of inviting deity into your circle is quite lovely, although it does really resemble the grounding and centering I’ve been practicing with Hartwood Grove before ritual (minus the gestures).  I like that it allows you to consciously tap into the energies that are outside you, then bring them into you.  It echos the whole ‘as without, so within’ theology, and really does serve as a very light ‘drawing down the gods’.  It’s really effective!

I also very much enjoy the use of a magical gesture here,  and this is one that is very useful for a solitary drawing down.  The downward triangle is a feminine symbol, and we’ve used one made of the hands and placed before the pelvis before as part of a Maiden Pass.  At that time, I also noted that a similar gesture has also been used as a water gesture, and–as you’ll see, that upper triangle has been used as a fire gesture.  It is a more masculine gesture.  Magically, the combination of an upward-pointing triangle and a downwards-pointing triangle form a hexagram, which represents perfect unity and the magical axiom of “as above, so below.”  Again, then, this fluid pose combining the two states is very appropriate for drawing down the diving masculine and feminine energies.

However, this is obviously not the only way to call deity, nor would I even say it is the best way.  Deity calls sould be as specific as you can make them.  If you really want to call Brigid and Cernunnos, for example, you should call them by name and invite them with specific prose, movements, and offerings that would appeal to them.  Sometimes you might just want to call a god or a goddess–not both.  Whatever you do, though, you should obviously put some good, constructive thought into what you’re doing to invite the gods you want to work with into your circle.

Day 212: Devotional Day, Honoring Hecate

An image of Hecate Triformis from the British Museum archives

Hecate, according to the wonders of Wikipedia, is a pre-Olympian chthonic (underworld) Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.  She also has a large history of being associated with various liminal spaces, like doorways, and times, like childbirth and death.

In his work, The Golden Ass, Lucius Apuleius associates the Egyptian figure of Isis with Hecate, giving Hecate (as well as Juno and Bellona, major Roman goddesses) as a name by which others know Isis.  This may indicate that Hecate had a large following and similar symbolic repertoire to Isis elsewhere in the Mediterranean world at that time.

Hecate may have her origins in the Carians of Anatolia, for many names use hers as a root there, and she remained a prominent figure there up through historical times, especially at her cult site in Lagina.  However, it is possible Hecate originated somewhere in Greece for late-dating monuments to her in Phyrgia and Caria have been discovered.  If Hecate was a goddess adopted from Anatolia, it would likely explain the oddities in her stories.  Much of her roles were already filled by the Greek goddesseses Artemis and Selene, and outside of the stories told in the Theogeny, the Greeks do not relate a consistent story of her parentage or of her role in the Greek pantheon.  Sometimes she is said to be a Titaness who was not banished after their defeat by the Olympians for she aided Zeus in the great battle.  Sometimes in the Theogeny she’s said to be the daughter of Gaia and Uranus, sometimes the only child of Perses and Asteria.  Hesiod maintained that Zeus allowed her to maintain her pre-battle positions, and so she had sway in the three realms of sky, earth, and sea.  Therefore, she lent kings counsel in their judgement, she gave victory and glory to the troops and athletes she willed to win, supported horsemen, sailors, and fishermen.  She worked with Hermes to increase and decrease pastured animals at will and became a figure associated with shepherds and pastoralism, and since Zeus made her an infant nurse who opened the eyes of babies to the dawn, she became associated with childbirth, too.

I think this early tripartite sway may have lead to her common depiction as three goddesses or three faces in one body.  In addition, my guess is that her relevance in all three of these states enabled her association as a liminal goddess, for she was able to traverse the boundaries between the different physical states.  I also think this liminality is what eventually lead to her associations with the underworld and with sorcery, both of which rely upon a “between the worlds” sort of feel.  In this state, she became the Roman goddess Trivia, who–like the later Hecate–who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, she wandered about at night and was seen only by the barking of dogs who told of her approach.”

Roderick notes that we can consider the night sky, crossroads, broom, and cauldron as some of Hecate’s symbols and divination tools as her tools.  He also lists camphor, water lily, and jasmine as her flowers and says she has an “inward” direction.  That makes some sense as she rules the “hidden mysteries, old age, wisdom, secrets, death, the underworld, birth, midwifery, herbalism, and divination.”  Some of her animal symbols include the owl, horse, boar, and dog–but it is really the dog who pops up most in Hecate myths.  Her sacred foods include the pomegranate and the apple (she offered help and kindness to Demeter when she was looking for her lost daughter, Persephone), and Roderick lists mother of pearl and amethyst as her magical stones.  He sacred colors are lunar colors:  black, midnight blue, and white.  Roderick also says that “when we tap into the archetypal energies of Hecate, we evoke our own abilities to create magic and to reverse the ‘evil eye.’  Hecate reminds us that we are all multifaceted begins, and that we should honor each of our ‘faces’, both the strong and the less-than-stalwart.”

Hecate Practice

In honoring Hecate today, honor an old Roman custom by going to a crossroads at midnight and leaving an offering of a single apple and a black candle.  Walk away from the offering without looking back.  As you walk, intone her sacred name one syllable at a time (pronounced Heh-KAH-tay) until you feel her presence surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend time contemplating how you might serve this deity.  Take time to ask Hecate what it would mean to live life through her energy, and listen for her answer.

Spend time honoring this goddess by considering the mystery behind each aspect of your daily routine and every person you encounter.

Alas, between the rains and the fact that I live in a highly populated neighborhood, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a lit candle at a nearby intersection.  Instead, I propped up a dark blue candle (I didn’t have black on hand!) and an apple onto my altar when the clock struck midnight and visualized handing these gifts to Hecate.  Then I lit the candle and laid down facing away from the altar and began intoning Her name.

I think I am a little out of practice, for it took several minutes of intoning and changing my breath pattern several times for my consciousness to shift.  When it did, it was the most interesting experience.  The physical entity of myself sort of felt like this black, empty void and the part of me that resonated with Hecate was this silver lining around my black, lumpy self.  This lining wasn’t a part of me per se, but it also was.

After I came out of the trance, I realized that feeling was a very liminal one, and that is definitely a Hecate association.  I meditated on times when I felt that way and realized that living life through Hecate’s energy involves a certain level of living on the fringe edges of society, of being fluent in a social language, but also breaking free of it and staying open to possibility.  Hecate’s energy isn’t a determined sort of rational force, where a pursuit of knowledge is a cumulative progress.  Instead, it’s experiential and a lateral process.  You have to see around the edges of a nominative focus in order to see it.

Day 92: Devotional Day, Honoring Demeter

Today is the third devotional day, and it is dedicated to Demeter.

Unlike the previous two devotions, I have more knowledge of this goddess.  In fact, she’s twined with memories of my mother.  There was a period of time where my mother was phasing out of reading Jordan and me picture books, and one of the last I can remember her reading to me was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales.  Jordan and I would pick one of the stories, and she’d read us parts over a week or so.  I very much remember “The Pomegranate Seeds” because it made me so sad that a child could be stolen from her mother.  Hawthorne’s description of Mother Ceres wandering through the world (and looking in all the wrong places because Proserpina was being held in the underworld) made me cry…and made me much more affectionate towards my own mother!

It is from Demeter’s sorrow that we have the light and the dark year, for while she searched the world for her lost daughter, she neglected her fertile responsibilities and the earth became barren.  Now when Persephone returns to the underworld, Demeter grieves until her daughter is returned to her for the light half of the year.

Roderick notes that Wiccans “associate Demeter with the mother aspect of the feminine divine” and that when”you tap into the archetypal energies of Demeter, you also evoke your ability to work within the framework of natural cycles.”  In other words, we see that there is “time for every purpose under heaven” to quote Ecclesiastes 3.1 (or a lovely Byrds song).

Exercise:

Assemble an altar in Demeter’s honor today.  When you have completed this task, face the altar and intone her name, one syllable at a time, until you sense her presence surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Take time to ask Demeter what it would mean to live life through her energy and listen for her answer.

Spend the day honoring this goddess by celebrating the diversity and bounty of your own existence.  It does exist.  Look for it!

I was a little flummoxed as to what I should present to Demeter on my altar.  Roderick notes that her symbols include grain and a scythe, and that the boline and other working knives are among her magical tools.  So my boline went on the altar, as did a handful of tiger’s eye stones, lodestones, and bloodstone.  I chose the tiger’s eye because Demeter watches for the return of her daughter, bloodstone for the hardship that colors her most fertile time, and the lodestones to represent the polarity of her calendar and the rhythms it creates.

I also added the Susan Seddon Boulet depiction of Demeter, but my altar still looked pretty empty.  I went to our kitchen to snag some fruit (alas, we only had apples) and to pick up some beans.  When I went to scoop up the beans, however, it just didn’t feel right.  The barley, however, picked me immediately.  I went out to pick some daisies from across the street, but the poppies growing outside our front door called to me.  I chose one of our red ones and a couple wild California poppies, too.

I don’t know if I knew this and forgot, but barley and poppies are both significant to Demeter.  One etymology of her name is “barley goddess” and blood-red poppies often grew among the barley.  The figure ‘Demeter’ may also be linked to a Minoan poppy goddess.  At any rate, poppies seem to fit Demeter for their riotous summer explosion, their pod’s resemblance to pomegranates, the food source of their seeds, and their soporific effects.  One might say Demeter would want to sleep her way through the winter to forget the loss of her child.

Interestingly enough, there are several sources that note that beans were excluded from the feasts of Demeter.  No wonder they didn’t feel right!

After performing the meditation, I came away with the sense that to live life through Demeter’s energy is to accept and move with change.

Day 62: Devotional Day, Honoring Cerridwen

Today is the second of the monthly devotions, and it is dedicated to Cerridwen.

Like Isis, Cerridwen isn’t exactly a deity I have much experience with.  For some reason, I like to deal in the Greco-Roman pantheons–though lately I’m becoming interested in other mythologies.  From the little research I’ve done, however, I know it’s a rather debatable question of whether Cerridwen was ever considered a Goddess by the Celts.  Ronald Hutton, for one, has suggested that she was created exclusively for the Tale of Taliesin, which dates only to the mid 16th century–just a couple decades before he era of Shakespeare.  The earliest reference to her was, however, in the twelfth century.

In modern recreation, however, Cerridwen is a Welsh Goddess, and one who is often depicted as a Triple Goddess.  She is highly associated with the cauldron, and through its greal, change and wisdom.  Because of her pursuit of Gwion and all the forms they took, she is a patron of shapeshifting and magic.  Roderick notes that Wiccans associate her with inspiration and the inner knowledge revealed through initiation.  She is that which can change consciousness.  Above all things, though, she is a reminder of constant change.

Exercise:

Build an altar in Cerridwen’s honor today.  When the altar is complete, face it and intone her name one syllable at a time (prounouced: KER-i-dwen) until you sense her energies surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve her.  Internally ask Cerridwen what it would mean to live life through her energy.  Listen for her answer and follow her advice.

I had a devil of a time constructing this altar.  It was hard to find things that screamed “Cerridwen” to men.  Ultimately, though, I chose the obvious cauldron.  It’s resting on my copy of House of Mirth, which I will be writing on this term.  It is a text that inspires me (and which I’d like some cosmic help on!).  There’s also a card depicting Susan Seddon Boulet’s Gaia, which shows the Goddess surrounded by a multiplicity of animal forms.  It’s being propped up by a moonstone.  A quartz point, a small pentacle, a claddagh ring, and a couple candles stand by.  I included the moonstone because Roderick lists it as one of Cerridwen’s stones.  The quartz and the pentacle are for Cerridwen’s interest in knowledge and the occult.  The ring is there because it symbolizes transformation and return to me, and the two candles are included for the knowledge and passion I find in the Cerridwen myths.

I had to try the devotion twice, however.  The first time, I couldn’t settle.  I kept getting up and fidgeting.  The second time, however, I persevered and after a moment, I felt this blossoming of limitless potential and discovered that to live within this energy, I would have to find a way to live without barriers–to recognize them, then to see around their construction to the limitless truth.

In a way, this is the object of my work as an English graduate student:  to recognize how culture is a creation that limits, to demonstrate this, and to find the alternate potential.  Perhaps I should learn more about this Goddess?

Day 52: A Day in the Life of the Goddess

And now we turn to the Goddess within:

Exercise:

Set time aside in the morning to begin this process.  Start by making a list of your traits that you feel represent your personal connection to the goddess or spiritually feminine aspects.  Again, list any traits from your physical body as well as your thought processes, activities, actions, and feelings.

Once you have your list, mark out a 4-foot diameter circle on the floor/ground using a mixture of sea salt and poppy seeds.  Place the four white/silver candles at teach of the four compass points.  Find a comfortable sitting position and anoint yourself with an essential oil (rose, hyssop, lily, and nutmeg are all good) at each of your seven chakra points.

Light the four candles.  Now close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.  As you inhale, expand the heart region around the center of the chest.  Relax your body and imagine that any muscle tension you detect drops away from you and is absorbed by the earth.  Imagine that your heart region begins to radiate a bright, silvery light.  This light represents the goddess’s energy within you.  Allow this energy to expand and to grow with each inhalation.  As the silver light grows, imagine that it fills your entire being.  Continue to breath and watch the energy grow until your entire body is flooded with this silvery goddess energy.

When you have finished, open your eyes.  Take time to assess how you feel now that you have attuned yourself with this divine feminine energy.  Take a few moments to stay centered in this energy before you begin your usual daily routine.  When you sense that you are ready to begin your day, extinguish the candles.  Sweep up the salt and seeds, take it outside, and bury it.

For the rest of the day, pay close attention to the goddess aspects of your personality, actions, or communication style.  Complete all of your usual daily tasks from the center of this silvery light that permeates your entire being.  Allow the silver light to direct you in your tasks and to inform your decision making.

As with the God exercise, I didn’t exactly get up at the crack of dawn to do this.  I thought I’d delay my day a bit and get some of the housework out of the way–cleaning the bathroom, getting dressed up, going to the bank, etc.  Basically, I wanted to do everything I had to do before I had to sit down and work for the rest of the day.

That being said, I did have better luck with this meditation than I did with the one for the God.  Perhaps it’s because I felt my attention wandering, so I focused it with one of the mantra techniques I learned in the Kundalini class.  (Sa-ta-na-ma–trying to get through that five times in one breath).  After I got some focus, visualizing the light became easier and I did feel much more feminine all of a sudden.  The scent of the rose oil I used seemed to intensify all of a sudden and I felt luxurious, sensual, and loved.  I’ve been kinder to everyone all day, now, and more apt to lend a hand or to listen to a story.  It’s been nice.

My feminine characteristics list:

  • I’m compassionate.  Well, -ish.  I’ll be the shoulder for any of my loved ones to cry on, and I’ll help them solve their problems.  But I’m not exactly compassionate for all of humanity.
  • Domestic goddess much?  I cook, I clean, I craft.  I’m a realistic Martha Stewart.
  • I love dressing up.  It makes me feel frilly and feminine.
  • I understand that its disconcerting that two of my top three feminine qualities involve being domestic and being dressy.  I don’t really think these are definitive traits of the feminine, just more of a fringe benefit.
  • I am diplomatic.  I can be aggressive when I need to be, and passive when I need to be–yet all the while, I’m guiding the group toward my opinion.

Day 34: Devotional Day, Honoring Isis

As with yesterday’s day of contemplation, today we begin another monthly practice: honoring a specific deity. Roderick’s first candidate is Isis. He gives us a list of correspondences for her, gives three paragraphs of what she represented through the different ages, and then asks us to do the following 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, vocally intone her name, one syllable at a time (I-sis), 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.

Now, I’ve never really worked with Isis before. The Egyptian pantheon is largely a mystery to me. And Isis herself is confusing.

See, the ‘Ancient Egyptians’ really weren’t one consistent nation. They changed over the different kingdoms and dynasties. Other nearby cultures were assimilated by them. New gods and goddesses were added and some fell out over the years. Others, like Isis, became representative of so much that it is difficult to really say “this is Isis.” Heck, by the time the Romans got to her, she became a goddess of the seas–not something the Egyptians ever really troubled themselves with. So you can see how I might have a little trepidation honoring what currently appears to be an ambiguous deity.

Now, I did 50 days before. I knew this day was coming up, and I knew I struggled with it before, so I made sure to secure a book by an excellent Wiccan author, Ellen Cannon Reed. During her lifetime, Mrs. Reed was a well-regarded priestess in the Isian Tradition and published two books dealing with Ancient Egyptian magic and modern Wicca: Circle of Isis and Invocation of the Gods. Unlike some traditions that try to recreate every last detail of some ancient way (good luck, mates!), Mrs. Reed was explicit in stating that recreation was not her game. In fact, the notes on the back of her Circle of Isis actually say “this book does not pretend to recreate the religion of ancient Egypt, but rather will bring knowledge and worship of its deities into modern Pagan practice.” So I made darn sure to get this book and give it a read-through before we got to this day.

Unlike other pagan authors, Mrs. Reed went to academic publication to help bolster her knowledge of the Egyptian pantheon. But she also expounded upon this knowledge through her own meditations. Through her I learned that Isis and Osiris (or Aset and Asar) were the rulers of that pantheon. Isis lost her love, Osiris, so those who needed comfort reached to her. Those who suffered in love reached to her. She defended her son against everything, so parents reached to her for protection for their children. Those who need a Mother turn to her. Those who need a friend turn to her. She is the power behind power, beautiful and strong.

In her discussion of Isis, Mrs. Reed also makes a beautiful point that I think Roderick misses. The aspects of divinity are not just energies. In Wicca, our gods are both immanent and transcendent. They are energies that surround and infuse, yes…but they are also wonderfully immediate. They are personalities we can know and have relationships with. Mrs. Reed emphatically says that “they are real beings, not archetypes, not representatives of certain kinds of energy. You can come to know them personally.” Isis is such a profound friend to Mrs. Reed that Reed actually has difficulty even addressing her feelings for this deity. Instead, she offers the experience of Willie, a friend and fellow priestess of Isis. I think it is worth quoting in its entirety:

In 1977 I had been a pagan for a couple of years. Like a good Christian turned Pagan I worshiped and revered my Goddess from afar. I meditated, prayed, lit candles to Her, but there was nothing personal in our relationship. One day I fell, nothing serious but bruises and lots of aches and pain. That night I just couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep. Finally, in desperation, I cried out, “My friend, please help me!” I heard laughter that held all the music of the spheres and a gentle voice full of mirth saying, “It’s about time you called me friend.” A healing warmth filled my body and my pain was gone. I was able to fall asleep and when I awoke, so were all my bruises.

Isis had let me stumble around for a couple of years until I realized that a relationship with Her is very much in-your-face personal. She doesn’t want to be adored from afar, She wants to be a part of your daily life. To serve Isis you should not be on a level where you are removed from Her as an untouchable Deity to be petitioned, but as energies that are lived with, loved with, and laughed with on an intimate, daily basis. Since then, she has been my best friend and confidant.

My altar to Isis

Is this a relationship I am ready for? Isis does sound like someone I would be proud to call friend, and whom I would work to please for the joy of pleasing. Would a taste of her energy be enough? Could it even offend a deity who wants so much to be an active part of our lives?

Well, I tried. I set up a small altar with some myrrh stick incense, a green (Mother!) candle, some rosewater, and salt. In the center I placed my compass, a small stone once chosen to represent myself as part of REDE, and a piece of chrysocolla. I purchased the stone just days before I got the Reed book and was shocked to see that she considered it a symbol of Isis–the coincidence seemed fated. Chrysocolla is a “tranquil, sustaining stone” that I purchased to help me meditate and communicate. The shop owner told me that “it can help you to accept with serenity situations that are constantly changing, invoking great inner strength.” Another source says that it it is a stone of “tranquility and peace, intuition, patience, and unconditional love.” Both of those seem very, very Isian to me.

As far as the rest of the practice goes…I rather think Isis was as hesitant about me as I was about her. I felt her poking at my consciousness and became very aware that I was sitting in my arm chair as though it were a throne and felt very confident and centered. It wasn’t, however, an undeniably strong experience.

I do think I’ll continue learning about Isis and the Egyptian pantheon, though.

Day 32: The Crone, Invocation

On a poetic note, I approve of Roderick’s coupling of the internal “nn” of Inanna and Rhiannon much better than him stretching for the initial alliterative as with the Mother’s Cerridwen and Ceres. It’s also the first time I’ve ever heard of the phrase “buckled horn.” I literally cannot find it mentioned anywhere else on google but in this passage. Something in me likes the phrase as a the god’s equivalent to the dark moon symbol…but it is so close to meaning ‘broken,’ I just can’t bring myself to believe it appropriate. Weathered maybe? Seasoned? Gnarled?

Exercise:

Stand facing the west. Light an indigo candle and set it on a table before you. Ignite self-lighting charcoal, then sprinkle loose incense (mugwort and star anise) on the hot coals. Practice the magical pass of the crone, and 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, sit where you are, close your eyes, and sense the crone goddess’ presence.

I think I have learned something very important from the combination of the gesture and the invocation. It really does help align the immanent and transcendent aspects of the deities. I first evoke the aspect within me, then I invoke the aspect around me. It’s a very elegant subtlety. Though none of these invocations have been particularly powerful or resonant with me (indeed, they feel like dead words), they still bring something and I am more attuned to it because I have already found that energy within myself. I think I understand why Roderick has organized these aspects like this now.

The crone invocation was confidence, pure and simple. Queenly confidence, within and without. Bliss.

Day 31: The Crone, Magical Pass

Now this is a pose that I know well from other applications in Wicca. This is the God’s stance–what you assume when you draw down the sun or invoke the God. Oddly enough, I’m very comfortable with adapting it for use with the crone. She’s the independent one of the bunch…beyond the point of worrying about gender. Really, with her self-reliance, you could argue a case that she’s a rather masculine aspect.

Roderick asks that we stand facing the west–the crone’s direction–as we perform this pass. Easily done.

You know, there really isn’t all that much difference between this pass and that of the mother. The hands are just about in the same place, but the right is over the left part of your chest and the left over right. The feeling, however, is completely different. There’s just no other way to describe it…but I felt centered. Almost like I was more me than I’ve been in ages. I had all my power there at my disposal, I didn’t have to reach for anything else. I could provide for myself, rely on my own faculties upstairs, and just…be.

This could be addictive.