Yule

Yule (Photo credit: Jupiter Firelyte)

Blessed Yule everyone!

I’ve been away for the last couple months. Work has kept me busy, really busy. I’ve also needed time to regroup and focus on what is important so as not to get scattered. My rituals have been simple and my meditations brief. I could probably use a lot more time to just sit and breathe. I’m looking forward to the holidays to get my balance back and to reconnect. Actually, just the act of writing this blog right now is having a surprisingly calming effect.

I did a journey not long ago and asked how do I get my balance back. I saw myself aboard a ship in the middle of a storm. There was one message: Get off the ship. So that’s what I am trying to do. Life sometimes feels like it is setting the agenda and it takes a lot of energy to get the control back. The hardest part is usually to recognize the madness as out of control. And then to stare the beast down and rise above it. So that’s what I am trying to do. I’m also trying to reconnect with what brings me joy. You know, the feeling deep in your being that takes over and makes you laugh uncontrollably, or create wonders, or sigh in deep contentment. I wish you many of these moments.

The moral of the last few months is that there is a time to focus entirely on you. The world is usually all the better for it.

Tonight, the whole family lit a candle to help the sun come up. We made wishes for our happiness and for there to be light in our world. It was simple.  The candles are still burning bright behind me. As we enter the time of celebration of this light, whatever we may call it, I make a wish to reconnect with Joy. May the light shed our fears and bring out the authentic self we were born to be.

Blessed Yule!

I must have said this before, but I love Lent. I know that it sounds strange, since it is supposed to be a time of penance and sobriety. But there is such power in this time of the year. Every year, without exception I get a big revelation. I set out with a need, an intention for something I want in my life or something I want to change. Just by putting out that intention, I usually end up with something that hits me in full force. This year was not different. I just sat at my altar, quietly listening, and it became clear what would be my quest this year. Sorry for the suspense, but I am not sharing. This is my lesson for the year. I don’t want to influence anyone in what they need to invite in their lives. Try it just once, to sit and listen to the voice within and you will be amazed at what comes up.

Here is how Lent manifests in my life:
First I listen for that lesson I need to learn. Then I make a commitment to work on it for the duration of Lent. Then that lesson becomes a guide for my actions over the next weeks. Holy Week usually offers a final insight on my life, something that really stays with me. For as long as I have done this, I can recall every lesson that has been given me this way.

Since hearing my lenten lesson, I have been putting the lesson into action and pushing my limits. Just being in the mindset creates opportunities for the lesson to manifest. One thing leads to another and the world just opens up into a dialogue between me and the Divine. It is precious beyond words.

May your Lent be filled with Grace.

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

I just saw something that shook me up. I crossed into New York state for a training this morning. I passed by a church that had a billboard in the front. The billboard said: ‘God wrote the first Valentine with two boards and three nails.’

Am I the only one that finds that offensive? I don’t see how an act of violence like the crucifixion can be construed as an act of Divine Love. I understand the rhetoric of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice. To me, the act of crucifying someone isn’t the ‘act of God’, but the ‘act of Man’ and I don’t understand why the act has to be glorified. I have sat in contemplation on the mystery of the cross and it has brought me many teachings on a symbolic level: the surrender to divine will, the acceptance of my humanity, the concept of karma and the payment of a karmic debt. The glory of the crucifixion was that our humanity and divinity were combined in one last act and that the Innocent took on the karmic debt of the many. It links many mystery traditions through the depiction of the slain god, pierced and hung from a tree. It is a beautiful symbol. But my tradition is one of love and inner power, and it is a travesty of that mystery to elevate violence and confuse it with love. God’s love has nothing to do with two boards and three nails.

In any case, today is Ash Wednesday. I love Lent. It is a period to reflect about the kind of person I want to be and the lessons I want to learn. We strive to be like Jesus: a perfect combination of humanity and divinity. I get frustrated with myself very often for not being able to move on to that place of Spirit, for getting bogged down with the nitty gritty of human existence. It feels like an invisible wall that I just can’t cross.

The truth of the matter is that no one knows what happened on the road to Cana. No one wrote how Jesus felt before he came into his power. No one knows how frustrating it might have been for him to deal with humanity or how he came know that he could transcend it all. No one knows the road to Cana. No one knows what happened in the desert to transform him. So maybe all this doubt and frustration we are feeling is just our road to Cana, our journey through the desert. Maybe the awakening is coming.

I haven’t decided what I will work on this Lent. But I will reflect on what I need to do in that desert to come out the other side a better person. 

Darkness, darkness, I feel thee. I see thee. You surround me now, as if it were all to end. I see you in the eyes of others like me. I feel your grasp around my heart as you squeeze the air from my lungs. I know you and I know your names.

And yet, I do not fear thee. For I am not alone in front of you. All around I see my brothers and sisters holding up their light to your face. They shine their light and raise their hearts way up high so that it feels as bright as day.

This light is ours. This light is mine. This light has been since the abyss before the beginning. Blessed be thou, darkness, for bringing it forth tonight.Image

Easter Vigil - the fire

Easter Vigil - the fire (Photo credit: Dean Ayres)

My dear friends,

How great to be sitting here and getting back on-line!

Sometimes when you take time away from yourself to give it to others, you end up on a journey of spiritual discovery unlike any other. It has been such for me over the last few months of winter. I gained spirit lessons the like of which I have not had in a long time. When I decided to put my writing on hold to give more time to my family, I was suddenly given time to find sacred space for my own soul. I read a book for fun. I did more shamanic journeys. I dreamed more. I made encounters that taught me great things. I took up yoga again. And somehow, I still had plenty of time to take care of the ones I loved.

This time somehow brought me back to the place I aught to be. I am a Witch. I bless my house. I ask the Spirits to guard us. I counsel others when they need me. I listen, I live, I learn, I become. And all these lessons that I learned, they belong to me and nobody else. I live a blessed life, even in the midst of hardship, this I cannot deny.

For those of you who are curious, I am happy to report that my son has done incredibly well since I have made the decision to put my ‘other activities’ on hold. We have gotten one very good evaluation result a couple of weeks ago which has given us much hope. We are scheduled for more tests next week which will give us a clearer idea of the situation. I don’t want to scream ‘Victory’ yet. I will keep you posted.

But for now, we are ready to enter our most holy time of the year. Every single year, without fail, a revelation is given to me, whether I seek it or not. It just enters my mind, like a Presence, and my vision is forever changed. This year was no exception. This is my own revelation, one that I must live with and grow with. I pray Our Lord to give each and every one of you such a blessed visit this week. This is the week to sit in silence, to slow down the pace, to move more slowly and to talk in measured tones. It is the time to listen to the story of our Lord’s passing and to ask ourselves: “What did it all mean? What does it still me to us now? What does it mean to me?”

 

May the blessings of the Paschal season be with you all

Books

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I’ve been asked numerous times to help new seekers in their learning of Christian Witchcraft. There is nothing that fulfills me more (aside from my home angels, of course) than to share that which I have learned over the years. I have started to post exercises on this blog (under the tag study group) to share what I consider to be the basics of the practice. Here I come again with a renewed offer. I list here what I consider to be my level 1 course. You will find here a list of readings and homework that I consider to be essential for all of those of you who are starting out (and maybe the others who want a little more structure in their learning). I suggest a deadline of Easter for completing all the coursework. All homework should be kept in a notebook. All exercises should have an entry in a book of shadows with comments and descriptions of the experiences. Each reading should also have a summary of the book with comments of what you found interesting or puzzling in the material. This is how I was taught and I hope that you will find it both challenging and inspiring. You may send me your course work once it is all completed. I will not take in partial homework. I also offer no guarantee that I will read all of it. But I figure that it gives an added incentive if you know that you may receive feedback in the process. As I have posted on Facebook, I am still keeping my day job, so I hope you will all understand that I am offering as much time as I can.

 

Coursework for Level 1 – Course in Christian Witchcraft

 

Mandatory Readings:

Crafting: Arin Murphy-Hiscock, Solitary Wicca for Life

Magic: Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A guide for the solitary practitioner

Magic and Mythology: Berg & Harris, Polarity Magic

Pagan history: Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon

Anthropology: Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman

Christian Mysticism: Kyriacos Markides, Riding the Lion

Christian Studies: Pagels, Elaine, The Gnostic Gospels

Energy and healing: Selene Vega and Anodea Judith, The Sevenfold Journey

One work of fiction that relates to Christianity, Paganism or a combination of both. Highlight the elements that stir a new understanding of these spiritual paths.

Some suggestions of works of fiction:

Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt by Anne Rice

The Gospel According to Pilate by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt

A Love Divine by Alexandra Ripley

Bless the Child by Cathy Cash Spellman

Any of the Chronicles of Narnia

 

Homework:

- Define Magic and Energy. What do these concepts mean to you? Why do you want to study magic and what events in your life have brought you to want to undertake such studies?

- Define Paganism, Witchcraft and Christianity. What are these practices/religions to you? What are the differences and the similarities? What calls to you in each one?

- Do the Elemental explorations (study guide)

- Practice Centering and Grounding (study guide)

- Practice energy work: energy fields, shrinking and expanding, seeing your energy field and others’ (study guide)

- Practice visualization exercises (study guide)

- Watch the DVD ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ and comment it

- Build an altar (take a picture)

- Perform a ritual from start to finish (either a Sabbat or an Esbat or a ritual spell)

- Research the concept of deity. What is deity for you and how do you express it?

- Each lunar month, do the exercises for one chakra in The Sevenfold Journey

 

Some of you may finish quickly and others may extend beyond Easter. I wish you an exciting journey with this. God and Goddess bless you on your journey!

Another topic I wanted to come back to was the topic of the altar. I realized part way through my teaching of ritual that I had forgotten to talk about how to set it up.

First off, I would like to make a distinction between an altar and a shrine. Many people use the term altar to relate to both, but I like to make that distinction. An altar is a place, usually a table top, where you perform a rite (magical or otherwise). A shrine is a place that is usually set up on a permanent basis to honor a deity or a tradition. I have a shrine in my living room that honors my tradition, where I put representations of my Lord and Lady, some devotional objects and objects that remind me of my path. When I do a ritual, I will set up a different space, usually the living table or the floor in my office and will use that as an altar. If I use the floor, I usually set up an altar cloth. For the living table, I don’t. Suffice to say that an altar or shrine is very personal and is meant to represent you in the higher spheres. So, it is really your own to build and create.

Now for standard practice: An altar (for ritual), usually has a representation of each element, two candles for your deities and all the tools you will use during your main rite. Everything else is up to you. You may choose a certain color for your altar cloth (or none at all). You may choose certain tools, like an athame (which is a ritual blade) or a wand or a chalice. In Wiccan rituals, the athame and the chalice are standard tools. The blade represents the male element (as a phallic symbol) and the chalice represents the female womb. When both are combined, you get a symbolic Great Rite, a mating of the God and Goddess to produce all there is. It is not a custom that I have gotten used to, but if it feels right, then it is for you. My altars have the simple elements and the candles and whatever I need for my main event. I usually bring the elemental representation with me when I call the Quarters and I leave it in each corner. So essentially all that is left are the candles and the tools for my main event.

Another common practice is the cakes and ale. You may have a chalice of wine (or juice or tea) and a plate of cakes (or bread) to share after your rite is done. This is standard Wiccan practice and it fits quite well in a Christian Pagan practice as well, for obvious reasons.

The important thing is that you feel comfortable and that you have all you need to do your ritual. Witchcraft is a very practical spirituality. So a little hint before you go into it: Don’t forget the matches!

The Goddess

Image by LilithSativa via Flickr

I promised to come back on the concept of deity. It is a topic that comes back regularly on the Christian Pagan Fellowship and that evokes the most controversy. I’ve addressed this in my book ‘The Path of Christian Witch”, but surely one small book cannot cover such a wide topic. An entire library could not cover the question we are really asking: ‘What is God?’

I do not claim to have the answer to that question and will not attempt to answer it. The question that is often asked is how do we view God from the point of view of a Christian Witch. How do we deal with polytheism and how do we include biblical figures and mythological figures into our practice? Do we view God as an almighty energy or do we give It faces? Are these two views mutually exclusive? Are these faces really Gods and Goddesses?

I don’t have THE answer. But I have my answer. I see God as a multitude of things and somehow, I feel that all of these can coexist without contradiction. I see God as an action rather than a being. The ein sof, the breath, described in Kabbalah. This is the breath of life that brings things forth all there is from the great Void. But even though I believe in that Essence, I also believe that it does manifest itself to us in very real terms. I feel all representations of gods and goddesses in mythology, our biblical figures and saints and other holy people hold a parcel of that Essence. I think we all come here with lessons to learn and these figures are different ways for God to talk to us in a personal manner. S/He gives us different lessons through these Holy people. Are they gods and goddesses? They are expressions of God, so to me they are divine. Do I worship them? I do in the same measure that I also worship the divine within myself.

 

From a practical point of view, what should a Christian Witch/Pagan do about worship? She can choose to worship the essence of God, the Almighty, the Great Spirit. She may decide that she needs a representation of that Essence either in one figure or in a deity couple that represents our human polarity. She may decide to worship God the Father as we have been taught. She may also worship the Goddess uniquely or in combination with the Father. She may decide to choose one or two expressions of the Divine from any pantheon and walk her path with them to learn the lessons that she has to learn to fulfill her calling. Any combination of this is all right. We will only really know the full expression of God when we cross over, so for now, the best we can do is have a taste of Its many manifestations.

Two Candles

Image via Wikipedia

Once your circle is cast, you invite your deity figures to come in and bless your rite. The concept of deity is complex in a Christian Pagan setting and I would like to give that topic full attention soon. So bear with me on this for now. Suffice to say that you want to invite that which blesses you in your rite and in your life. You may already have a name and a face for this essence, or it might be just that, an essence. Nothing comes into being without the Great Source. This is why I always invite it to bring life to my rituals. You can do spells without invoking deity. Then you draw solely from the elements at hand in your spell (like the energy of the earth, of herbs, of a flame, etc…) I walked into Witchcraft with the intent to live a practice that honors the Divine. That is why I call on that Divine source to assist me in my rites.

Traditionally, there are two white candles on the altar: one for the god and one for the goddess. I realize just now that I did not talk about the altar at all. I’ll save that for later as well. (Please somebody remind me if I forget…) As you light your deity candles, much as you invited the quarters, you invite and honor your God and Goddess. You may wish to welcome them with any words you might see fit and that inspire you (or you may do it silently or chanting or in tongues, or any other way, for that matter) My invocations have changed over the years as my religious practice and the definition of myself changed with regards to that other realm. It is nice to keep track of these in your grimoire/book of shadows to see how you have changed over the years.

Lately, I welcome my Lord and Lady in the following way:

‘Blessed art thou, Lord of all Creation for giving us the Mysteries,

That we are made in your image, co-creators of all that is and divine in essence;

And blessed art thou, Holy Mother, Gardian of Heaven and Earth,

from whose womb all blessings flow so that we may know Life;

All glory to you Lord Jesus for giving us the teachings of the most High,

Guide me with your wisdom.

Hail Mary of Magdala, Holy Priestess of Our Lord,

Bless your servant who humbly presents herself to you.

All glory to you for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever and ever.’

**Amen**

By popular demand, I am now switching from energy work to magic. A lot of my magical work is still very much ingrained into basic witchcraft. But I do incorporate my Christian symbols here and there.
Just a note on the distinction between spell casting and ritual. A spell is a series of steps that symbolically represents your request and sends out your intent. It can also be called folk magic. A ritual incorporates a religious dimension. You usually call spirit protectors/quarters and invoke your deities to assist you in the magic that you are about to do. Both are OK. Depends on your need of the moment.
I’ve listed this before, but here is a little reminder of the steps of a basic ritual.
1)      Cleanse the space and yourself;
2)      Call quarters;
3)      Cast a circle;
4)      Invoke deity;
5)      Perform your rite (spell, celebration, main event…) This usually involves the raising of energy.
6)      Thank your deities;
7)      Thank your quarters;
8)      Take down your circle;
9)      Feast.
Step one: Cleansing
There is a multitude of ways to cleanse space. This was usually left to the level 2 students before public rituals. First and foremost, you have to physically clean the space. For a major ritual, I usually add birch leaves to the water to purify and protect the space, blow on the water in the sign of a cross and then a circle and proceed to washing the floors. For a simpler ritual, I just sweep the floor with a broom. I usually draw up energy from the earth let it flow into the broom, so that a nice wave of energy also removes discordant vibrations at the same time as the dust. Once that is done, I stand in the middle of the room, draw up energy from the earth and let it explode through the room to remove all debris of floating energy. I also like to call up a wave of each of the elements, as each one has a cleansing property.
I then proceed to cleanse myself. I find this to be an important step and often it is not emphasized in books on magic. If energy is to flow through me to achieve something, I have to make sure that I am not carrying anything that will tag on to that energy and distort it somehow. I think it is also one of the meanings of doing ritual skyclad. I have never done this myself, but I see how performing a rite in the nude might have that feeling of leaving everything behind. My way of doing that is through ritual washing. There can be many ways to do this. Depending on the ritual, it might be more or less extensive. Most of the time, like when I am about to read Tarot, I just wash my hands and wrists whispering: “Bless these hands and the work they do.” You can wash with an infusion of herbs that you have chosen, strain the herbs and wash with the water. Remember to let the water cool down before doing this (personal experience…) You can also add these herbs to your bath water and let your body and your mind release all negativity. I have used chamomile, birch, lavender, thyme, and mint. It is truly a glorious experience!
When I am about to do a serious ritual, I perform a more formal preparation. I do my ritual cleansing in the shower. I wash my body, consecrating it to my rite:

Bless these feet that walk your path;
Bless this womb, which springs forth life;
Bless this heart from which love flows;
Bless this voice that sings your praise;
Bless this mind that seeks your truth;
Bless these hands that do your work;
Bless this soul that yearns for you.

After I am dried and dressed, I anoint my feet, my heart, my third eye and my wrists with scented oil, usually myrrh in commemoration of my Lord and Lady. I am then ready to enter sacred space.

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