Reawakening- Reflections on Imbolg

So this winter has been wild. I saw a week or so ago that three cities in Ohio were among the 20 coldest in the US, one of which is our nearest metropolitan center. Early last week, schools and businesses were closing due to the extreme cold, and tonight we’re being told to look for 6-10 inches of snowfall. I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely feel like the Cailleach has her hands all over us this winter. It has been wild and unpredictable and extreme, yet I do see that coming to an end. It was in the 50’s over this past weekend, I totally felt like Brighid gave us a bit of a respite, a sign that, yes, this winter shall end.

Things have been a bit chaotic in our house, and so we didn’t celebrate Imbolg in any particular way. With having the poultry out at the in-laws, I do try to at least make time for some small rite to ensure their continued health and fertility (that’s my goal for this weekend). We just bought a house (closing next week!) and have been busily packing for our move. That, along with my return to school, E’s busyness at work, and the cabin fever and minor illness that has just lingered through the winter (sniffles, colds, and sinus issues), have just not made for a “good” time for celebrating. Though one could argue that it’s the perfect time to celebrate, we made it through the winter! I’m just not in the mood to be in charge of that celebration, and I think this is a hang-up all solitaries face.

But I have been reflecting on what it means to be pregnant at this time of the year. During my last pregnancy, I spent this time freaking out and going over all of my options (abortion, adoption, carrying to term), and didn’t spend much time thinking about how awesome it is to be pregnant at Imbolg.  We see the first signs of returning life, the first sheep are coming into their milk, soon we can put down our cold weather vegetables, and winter is nearly over! While winter itself is cold, we retreat into the warmth of our homes until we can reemerge into the bright warmth of summer, like a babe emerging from the womb. Due to the circumstances of my son’s birth, it is medically inadvisable for me to carry past my due date. So I know this baby will be here by Earth Day, we will be moved into our new home (hopefully) long before then, and we can take that time to welcome in the fullness of spring and the reawakening of the Earth. But for now, I can feel the baby getting bigger, and I know his time is coming, just like the Earth is awakening and preparing for another year of richness and abundance.

One-God Pagan?- UPDATE and Revision

Back in July, I posted about being a monotheist, and my belief in one God (One-God Pagan? How’s That Work?). And even at the time, I was having a really hard time getting down to defining exactly what that is in relation to me. Well, since then I think I’ve gotten a little bit further in that endeavor.

First, let’s address monotheism. That wasn’t the correct term to use, plain and simple. Though at the time, it really was the closest fit I could come up with. This past fall, I read Isaac Bonewits’ “NeoPagan Rites“, and came across a much better term: panentheism. The author defines Panentheism as “the belief that God/ess or Gods are in everything (and vice versa)”. Monotheism lends itself to belief in recognizable consciousness of the One God. Panentheism is more about the divine nature being present in all existence. And that falls more in line with my beliefs on the Supreme Being/Single God/Big Divine Goop. Its like the spiritual side of matter.

Another point of clarification would be on the phrase ” And I do believe God wants us to be whole…”. The Divine Goop doesn’t want anything, at least not in the ways we understand wanting. To try and draw a parallel, imagine unstable isotopes. Those isotopes don’t want to be stable, they don’t have a consciousness like ours to want like us, but they “seek” to be stable. When the protons and neutrons come back into balance, the element stabilizes. If we are made up of divine matter, it would constantly be “seeking” to stabilize. And that’s more of what I mean by wholeness.

Just as life on Earth is made up of carbon, all spiritual beings (which, IMO, is everything that exists) are made up of the Supreme Being. And, like matter, it just exists, regardless of acknowledgement or worship.

Sovreignty and Marriage- Part I

I had an awesomely vivid dream last night. Nothing supernatural about it, pregnancy just does this to me. But the entirety of the dream involved my husband and I beginning to hike the Appalachian Trail up in Maine. Just us getting stinky, hiking through the woods, along a dried river bed that was muddy in some places and turning to hardpack, then having to swim across a lake to reach the other side of the trail. I remember jumping in the lake and tasting the water, not clear and springlike, but slightly muddy, algae-ish, lakewater. And my husband climbed back out and looked at me and asked “Wouldn’t you rather rent a canoe?”. Then I woke up. It was so awesomely normal, and us, it was a great reprieve from the completely whacked out weather we’ve been experiencing in Ohio lately (it’s 40 degrees today, but was -10 on Monday). But I feel like this dream not only came from my need for some idyllic nature time with my life partner, but from some of the ideas that have been bothering me lately.

One of those ideas has been marriage counseling. Especially, spiritually based marriage counseling. Like, why do we not have this available in the Pagan community? Other than the fact that we have such a diverse collection of religions and beliefs, but why do we not have this within the individual groups? We were married by some awesomely out of the box Christians, and spent a few months right before our wedding with them doing some pre-marital counseling. Then spent a couple months this past summer in marriage counseling with them again. Yeah, the first year of marriage is hard, and it definitely was taking its toll on me. And I was taking it out on E. This was good for us, and especially good that we were able to go to a couple that knew us, and our somewhat unique situation, for advice. They obviously drew their advice and inspiration from their Christian beliefs, but never pulled out a Bible (they’re somewhat anti-Bible people) to back it up. They’re believers of “Do-er” faith, not book faith. This is why we connect. But where are the Pagan equivalents? These are normal people, without degrees, who have training in counseling. Something anyone who was dedicated to offering this service could do.

While most of us don’t have a sacred book, we do have our myths. And a recurring theme in Irish mythology is the importance of the marriage of the king with the land. Definitely not advocating a submission of one partner to the other, I don’t believe at its core that’s what this marriage is about. But the importance of partnership and accountability to the health and fruitfulness of the family/community/land/etc. While the land is often referred to as female, and the king as male, there is an interesting attribute to these myths that one doesn’t usually see in effect in certain other religions. If the king fails in his duty to protect and nurture, the land sickens, and the people depose (or kill) the king. Not advocating killing your husband. But I think it shows the seriousness of of accountability in marriage to your partner, and your family. One person isn’t just declared head, and can do whatever they want, with little to no repercussions. Its a duty to always be encouraging and nurturing everyone else toward fruitfulness, before the self. That is the sacred duty of the king. Who, I feel, need not be the male, or more “masculine”, partner.

New Year Musings

  • Accountability… I’m such a failure in this. We had our monthly meet-up, which I’ve kind of become the organizer for since the other gal that I was originally working with just had a brand new baby. And I was 40 minutes late. And no one was there. I did hang around for about an hour, just in case someone wandered in late. But I didn’t have my cell on me, and no internet until I got to the coffee shop, so no way to send out last minute reminders. While I acknowledge I dropped the ball on this, what about the people that had RSVP’d they were coming? Just because it’s an informal event, doesn’t give a person leave to just not show without some contact with the organizer. This mentality has been a big deterrent in my desire to offer workshops, or work with Pagans on their personal learning tracks. As you can gather from my last post, my husband believes I already stretch myself to thin between projects. Why would I take on the further responsibility of teaching, whether just a short workshop or a long-term commitment, when those who so adamantly shout for more, better, accessible teaching aren’t willing to prove they can hold up their end of things? Three years ago, I was that person. I hate that I was ever that way, but we can always grow out of our shortcomings. I hope I am well and truly on the other side of that one.

 

  • Beginner books… This just popped up on me today. I see so many people recommending “beginner books” or “101 books”, but they all seem to have the same flavor. It’s eclectic witchcraft, pretty bland, trying to encompass the entirety of the Pagan movement, or at least not delve too far into any particular branch. But is this really how we should always approach “Paganism 101″? I have yet to read “Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions”, but shouldn’t we start new Pagans off with books talking more about what Paganism is/can be, instead of “here, cast this good luck spell”? Then offer introductory books that are more path/tradition/culture specific? I just find it frustrating to be faced with circumstances where Pagans are ignorant of the other branches out there because their introduction to Paganism was focused on spellcraft and deity worship, and not about Paganism.

 

  • Thoughts on the priesthood in modern paganism… I reading an article the other day (probably on one of the blogs I follow, but I’m not sure) discussing the evolution of the priesthood in Christianity. How at the time of inception as a religious force, the priesthood was trained class, separate from the masses it served. Then with the Great Schism and Martin Luther’s break with Roman Catholicism, we see the introduction of the laity into the priest class. Then it branched off into the Anabaptist movement (which would be the groundwork for the Amish and Mennonite cultures), and the idea that everybody is equally equipped to join the priesthood, So we’ve gone from the specially-called elite group to the ordinary everybody group. And I wonder what parallels can be drawn in the Pagan community.

I find myself looking mostly at American/eclectic Wicca, and the prevalence of the term “Priest/ess”. It seems that everyone is/claims to be a priest, or is at least a priest of such-and-such deity. And of course your coven cannot be legit unless headed by the High Priest/ess. Now, I realize that it just may be the Wiccans I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with, none of whom are in traditions that are even similar to BTW or any other secret/initiatory traditions, but what it begs the question “What is a priest?”

For me, a priest is a person that has taken vows in the name of a specific deity, tradition, or spiritual/religious belief. And with those vows comes a caveat of service, to deity/tradition/belief AND the community based around deity/tradition/belief. If one were simply to focus solely on the deity/tradition/belief, I would argue that one is more of a monk than a priest. I also feel that there should be a formal ceremony/acknowledgement of those vows, even as simple as members of the community bearing witness to the priest’s vows.

I feel like there are others in the community working towards a more formal structure for Pagan priesthood (I’m talking Cherry Hill Seminary), but, just as not all Christians can afford to attend seminary, not all Pagans can either. I do find it especially troublesome that they still aren’t fully accredited (I believe they are as a distance learning school). It is one of the major turn-offs for me, as someone sitting on 20k in undergrad debt, with more to come before I have my BA in hand. If I am going to pay even more for graduate level work, I need  it to mean something to people outside the Pagan community. (After writing this, I think it was a post by Sam Webster that started this off)

Thanks, Husband (we need a sarcasm font)

It’s New Year’s Eve! Yay! And last night my wonderful husband and I got into a little bit. He accused me (yet again) of trying to take on too much. What a jerk, right!? Except he had a point. He sat there and lasted off ten different projects/endeavors I was currently involved in, several of which are fairly time demanding, and finished with “…and those are just the ones I know about. You get into so many things, its hard to keep track!”. Well, I did ask for discernment on Samhain. I just wasn’t planning on it manifesting in my husband, Mr. Super-Laid-Back-Jumps-Into-Everything Guy. So it looks like my New Year’s Goals list (not really resolutions, just a list I revisit at the beginning of every year), will be shrinking, or at least rearranging, significantly. Be careful what you ask help with during rituals, especially on the holidays, you might not necessarily like how your requests are answered. Happy New Year!!

Happy Solstice!

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Happy Solstice!

So the more I grow, the less impact the solstice and equinox holidays have on my spiritual practice. You know; Yule, Ostara, Litha, Mabon. While we have a pretty good indication that’s the solstices and equinoxes were acknowledged in pre-Christian Ireland, we really don’t have any leads as to specific festival practices. So while I do celebrate what I call the Big Four, I associate them with more spiritual/cultural events. The turning of the seasons, however, is more of an acknowledgement to the link between physical nature and the Mythic Realm, regardless of deity or culture. Still important, just not as impactful.

And it really didn’t feel like the beginnings of winter yesterday, what with it reaching 62 degrees and all the snow melting. Bah-humbug.

Samhain- In Review

I’ve had bits and pieces of this post lying around for the past month, and just now am finding the time to sit down and organize it all. Even starting as early as I did with my planning, Samhain still snuck up on me and I wasn’t totally prepared. Though, honestly, who is? But I would definitely call the celebrations a success.

So here’s how our family observance was going to go: I was going to wake up early and totally scour my house, saining as I went. A and I were going to spend the day listening to traditional and tribal music, make parshells, and go around in costume. Them I was going to cook a lovely dinner, lay out the Feast for the Dead, and eat with the family. After E and A went up to bed, I was going to bust out my drum, and do some meditating before launching into my solitary ritual service. Sounds like a wonderfully laid plan, right?

Here’s what really happened. A spent the previous week adjusting his sleep schedule from waking between 8 and 8:30 to around 6/6:30. I am not a morning person, ever, so waking up early was shot to hell. But we did get up, and what could have been cleaned in about an hour to an hour and a half, took a little over three. I’m convinced toddlers exist to disrupt cleaning. But the house was cleaned, if not sained, and ready for company. We did listen to some music, but then A decided he needed to watch every Thomas the Tank Engine movie ever made, so off went Pandora. We made no parshells, and my attempt at the masks I wanted to make flopped. But hey, the house was clean, and I kept the thought of the Ancestors foremost in my mind that day. I did make a lovely, delicious dinner, and invited the Ancestors in, and laid out leftovers as offerings outside for any Folk about that night. And then I crashed.

I did have the opportunity to attend ritual the next evening with a group that are Celtic/Norse influenced within a Neo-Wiccan/Eclectic framework. I absolutely loved their group dynamic, and the energy flow during the ritual. It began with calling the quarters and such, but there was an altar for the Dead, individual cleansing, deity invitations, and toasting, all of which I practice personally. Attending something like this that is led by a group that obviously has an understanding of the cultures and deities they were working with was a pleasant experience. Near the end, we went around and announced what our New Year’s resolutions were, and within the energy raised and the group focus, it felt binding. Mine is to find discernment and empowerment in the projects I undertake, to not let myself become overwhelmed, to let things flow away that I can’t control or worry over at that moment in time. So far, I’ve felt empowered, but not so discerning, because I still find myself taking on (what I feel to be) too much.

A few days later, I believe it was November 12th, we had our first snowfall of the year, and it was a real snow, not just a super light dusting that was gone by midmorning. I skimmed a bowl full of snow, and once it was filtered and melted, I ended up with about 6oz. of water. At least I now have water for saining.