Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Direction

So, obviously the whole Pagan Blog Project thing doesn't work well for me.  I think it is an absolutely fantastic idea.  The problem for me is that I'm a writer, who doesn't much care for writing. 

It's funny.  For as long as I can remember, I've been an avid reader.  And I mean literally for as long as I can remember back to my first memories as a child.  I love to read.  I'm a picky reader, though.  I read for entertainment and for specific information.  This means I mostly read sci-fi/fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and non-fiction only when I feel a particular need for it.  Growing up everyone was always saying that I should be a writer when I grew up, since I love to read so much.  Not really sure why people think loving to read stories and being capable of producing stories go hand in hand. 

Often my biggest problem with writing is word or page counts.  Usually in school one had to write a certain number of pages, double spaced.  This sort of thing is often difficult for me as I tend to be very succinct, so unless I'm particularly interested in or passionate about a topic, it doesn't take me as long as usually required to say what I want to say or think needs to be said. 

Problem two with writing for me is how my education in it started.  Before moving to Indianapolis, my experience with writing involved having a topic and writing about it.  It was graded for grammatical errors, spelling, coherency, appropriateness, and so forth.  When I changed schools, I struggled with writing because all of a sudden I was supposed to start with a thesis statement.  My only knowledge of a thesis statement was that it was how you started a thesis paper.  One of those incredibly long papers one writes for graduate school or before getting a doctorate or when preparing a scientific treatise.  I missed at whatever point my new school system first started teaching writing this way.  I was repeatedly instructed that I was supposed to be discussing everything I was going to talk about in my essay in the thesis statement.  But....  That's my essay.  If I say what I'm going to be saying in my essay, especially with how straightforward and to the point I want to be, what's left for the rest of the essay?  I managed to slide by somehow or another and with good grades.  But since I didn't really, truly understand what I was supposed to be doing, my first year of college involved tears over my favorite professor telling me that I didn't know how to write a college level paper.  It wasn't until my second year of college at a different college that someone managed to explain it to me in a way that I understood.  It's like the topic sentence of a paragraph, only for the whole essay.  -.-  But by then writing had become associated with trauma in my mind and so writing assignments tend to make me anxious and on the verge of a panic attack. 

This is one reason why the Pagan Blog Project didn't work out for me.  I thought by making it so I had to write something each week, I'd be able to write something each week.  Instead, it triggered the panic attack feelings.  However, there's also reason two.

Reason two why the Pagan Blog Project didn't work out is that........  I've ended up becoming a professional writer.  Yes, that's right, I get paid to write.  I'm a freelance SEO writer.  I write press releases, articles, and web page content.  Oh, and blogs.  Yup, as of this moment I've actually two blogs that I'm paid to write for weekly.  One of the damn things requires two articles a week.  This all started at the end of March and beginning of April.  You may note that my last posting to this blog was on March 20.  I just couldn't keep up with one more project that I was required to write.

But.  I still want to do this blog.  I still want an outlet for my thoughts and philosophies.  Being an SEO writer, I know that having a successful blog means having regular posts.  Weekly is best.  Two or three times a week is even better.  However, between my antipathy for the writing I have to do for pay, the need for a recreational outlet from work, and my family obligations, I can't commit to a regimented writing schedule for my blog.  I'm not sure that I could even with all the free time in the world.  Right now, I don't have a large "following" so I don't get much feedback, questions, or other inspiration about what people might want or need to hear from me.  So, for the time being, my posts will be rather sporadic.  Appearing when there's something I really think needs to be said or put out there.

If you enjoy my random little musings, please comment and share your thoughts.  And/Or let others know about my blog, too.  :)  I've a few things I'm considering writing about, but some of those family obligation things are in need of attention, so it will have to wait! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ostara and other musings

While during Imbolc we know that Spring is returning and that things have begun to happen, we don't see it, yet.  Ostara is the celebration that Spring has begun to be seen by human eyes and that winter has been shaken off, as evidenced by the growing length of time the sun's light is seen.  On this particular day, not only can signs of Spring be seen, but there is balance between the length of the day and the length of the night.  From this day forward, the day light hours will be longer than the night time hours.  And so we celebrate Spring, new things, beginnings, fertility, life, and balance.  These things are symbolized by eggs and seeds: the progenitors of life in animals and plants.  Also by rabbits/hares who are very fertile creatures.  By baby chickens and ducklings, cute little fluffy creatures who come from eggs and will grow to create more eggs, directly or indirectly, and who are seen being born now or soon.  Also by lambs other cute fluffy creatures commonly born and seen in the Spring in large numbers.  Eggs, seeds, new plants, and baby animals would have been highly important to ancient man as an improvement to their meager winter diets as well as assurances that there would continue to be more food to cultivate in one way or another.  Popular colors associated with the holiday are pale greens, yellow-green, yellow, white, purple, blue, and pink, think of the colors of new grass and leaves and the flowers that are blooming right now, such as daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinths, and even a few trees.  I've recently seen a reference to not only decorating eggs, but decorating with ribbons as signs of freedom.  I've generally associated ribbons with Beltane and the Maypole, but I could see it for Ostara, too.

Balance and moderation are things that we, as humans struggle with time and time again through out our lives.  How often have you found yourself starting a project only to get overwhelmed because you've taken on too much at once?  And it is certainly easy to do this to ourselves in the Spring.  There's so much that we haven't been able to do and enjoy during the Winter months that many of us go a little crazy trying to do everything at once as soon as the weather turns warm.  For myself, I'm struggling to find balance with a number of things that I not only want to do, but that I need to do.  I'm launching a campaign to find work as an SEO article writer, which has required a lot of reading, research, and now mass emailing potentially clients for work.  In my quest to overcome fears, I've decided to not only get myself out into the Pagan community by attending festivals, while I'm there I'm going to be vending some fabric and jewelry craftings or at least trying to do so.  People have been telling me they'd like to see more of my work, specifically for sale, so I'm going to see how that actually works out in practice.  Of course, that means I have to make a bulk supply of things to sell, which takes time.  I need time for the gym to work out.  I want time to be outside and time with my family.  And I have to cook and clean and take care of two active little girls, 10 months and 2 years old, respectively, as well as my two older children a 9 year old girl and 10 year old boy, although they require less time since they are not only in school but live primarily with their father.  And I'm in school part-time.  So, my husband and I have been struggling to get ourselves organized and on task to help each other with all the things that need to be done to achieve our goals.  While there have been some frustrating days, I'm pleased to say that I think we are getting better at it, which is very exciting.  It's nice to see successes, even if they are small ones in the general scheme of things.  But any growth, any movement forward, is better than none at all and therefore deserves to be celebrated.

A lot of what I see people suggesting for Ostara celebrations involves planning and what you'd like to see come about in this growing season.  There's certainly a call for that as now is the time when gardening season is upon us and stores are just now putting out more than just standard seeds, but also tools and starter plants.  But for my Trad, the first half of Winter is the time for reflecting on what has passed and the second half is for planning what we'd like to see come about in our lives.  Imbolc is the time of planning for Spring.  I see Ostara as being a celebration of not what's past or what is to come, but a celebration of what is right now.  Being balanced means not yearning too strongly for things either in the past that can't be changed or the future that hasn't come about, yet.  Accept the past, wait for the future, but live in the now.  If you don't live in the now, it will soon become the past and will have passed you by, possibly causing regrets.  Look out your window and you'll see that Life is good today.  So, for today, forget yesterday, it can't be undone, unlived. For today, forget tomorrow, it's time will come.  What is good about life today?  What are you thankful for in your life, your world, be it big or small?  What blessings do you already have in your life?  What have you already accomplished?  Feel free to share these answers.  :)  

I'd also like to share a YouTube video shared with me that is a wonderful expression of Ostara, The Witch's Sabbat: Ostara

Sunday, March 18, 2012

PBP -E is for Elitism

Recently a discussion group I'm a part of on Facebook was discussing British Traditional Wicca and British Traditional Witchcraft.  My limited experience with people who claim either of those titles is a negatively elitist attitude.  They claimed to be authorities on every subject that came up.  They were quick to point out what was wrong with other people's practices.  But they were very limited on providing any useful information since all of that is classified.  I always wondered what the point of their being in contact with the public was.  If someone doesn't have the option of doing what you do because you won't give them the option, why do you have so much interest in what they are doing on their own?  And such negative interest?   Since that time, which was early in my Pagan days, I've learned that people practicing BTW of either kind, don't usually announce themselves like that.  And I'm pleased to say that those of this discussion group, while mentioning that there are things that can't go into detail about, aren't acting like they have the only right way to go about things.  Can you imagine if there was only one right way to do anything?  We'd have no variations of culture, food, clothes, etc.  (On a humorous side note, for sci-fi fans, have you ever noticed that 99% of alien races have uniform features?)  Elite is another word that has different connotations depending on the exact usage.  "Jack is an elitist (prick)." Versus, "Jack is so talented; he is one of the elite (someone to be admired)."  I think it's one thing to have high standards and expectations.  It's okay to be proud of yourself or a group.  It's another thing to think that means others are less than you are.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, even if they aren't always obvious.  There's always something that you could learn from someone else.  Strive to be of the elite, but never strive to be an elitist!

PBP-E is for Eccentric or Weirdo?

Now this could apply to many different kinds of people, not just Pagans.  But let's look at types of Pagan people.  Many Pagans are just like anyone else you might see walking down the street.  There's nothing about them that screams their religion.  Go to a Pagan Pride Day event, and you will observe many people looking just like they would for any other public outing.  Then there are the moderates, people like me.  I seem pretty normal just walking down the street.  My personal style is only slightly unique, but in culturally acceptable norms.  For example, during the warmer months, I favor flowing skirts and tunic style tank tops.  But my top might be homemade and of a slightly sheer fabric, the kind that you would only notice if really paying attention.  And I usually wear something fun and creative to PPD.  And then there are the eccentrics and the weirdos.  But how do we tell the difference?  Or more importantly, isn't it odd that we differentiate between eccentric and weird?  Both usually wear clothes of a very unique style.  They definitely stand out in a crowd.  How can you miss someone wearing all black with accent chains, numerous pentacles, spiked boots, and purple hair?  But the eccentrics tend to be respected, while the weird tend to be either shunned or patted on the head, depending on their other behaviors.  There was a girl a grade behind me in high school who often wore a cape and twisted her hair in wires to create tall antlers (she had very long hair) and called herself a "non-conformist."  She irritated another friend of mine who considered herself a "non-conformist" as well, because there was a difference between simply not conforming to popular standards and making a point of going the complete and utter opposite.  She felt the other girl made "non-conformists" look bad.  It made me laugh.  Why did she care how society viewed "non-conformists" if she didn't like society?  But I guess that's where I get my difference between these types of people.  It's all in the attitude and that aura people project.  The outside really doesn't have a great deal to do with it.  For there are also people who "look" like everyone else but aren't.  I've learned to rely more on my senses, my intuition, rather than on just appearances.  Maybe they dress oddly because they are so excited about Paganism and want to express it in their every day life.  I did at one time.  When I was around 21-22, I had black hair with blue streaks and habitually wore a long-sleeved cloak.  My son was around 3-4 and needed speech therapy.  His therapist told me that another therapist had been watching us in the waiting room and thought that many of the other parents could learn a thing or two from me because of how well behaved my kids were.  It made me laugh, yeah, take a pic and put me up as a pattern card for Carmel moms and see how that goes over.  On occasion, I wouldn't mind having the black and blue hair back, but I wouldn't do the cloak again.  And then there's the guy from a Coven I was with for about a year.  Fairly nondescript guy, polite, kind, knowledgeable, but there was just some indefinable thing that made my skin crawl.  He ended up being something of a sexual predator.  Thankfully, I wasn't involved in any of what happened.  Normal, eccentric, or weird it's all about the indefinable something that we project that truly effects how people see us and react to us.  Don't be afraid to be you.  If it's truly You, then you won't get negative reactions from it.  On the contrary, you might be surprised at how many people envy how comfortable you are with yourself.  Eccentric is cool, didn't you know? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

D is for Dedication

Posting number eight for the Pagan Blog Project.

I've noticed that it is sometimes difficult to pin Pagans down to a particular date and time for an activity, let alone get them to commit to a long term schedule.  I even find myself doing it.  There's just always something that interferes:  family, school, social plans, work, kids, distance and a myriad of other responsibilities and excuses.  Now I'm not saying these aren't valid reasons to not be dedicated to religious attendance and that they aren't important activities in our lives.  But.  It bothers me.  Especially, lately, when I've been trying to determine the best time to set up for a meet-up.  There are Christian churches, practically on every corner in some places, that are full of people who go every Sunday at 10:00am (or there about).  Some of us went to one of these regularly at some point in our lives.  Although, mine met at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and we couldn't work or play from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night.  So, why is it so hard to be dedicated now?  To something that we supposedly feel so strongly about?

I think some of our issues with dedication has to do with timing.  Most Pagan events and activities occur at night on weekends, and so do most social activities, extracurricular activities such as sports and concerts, family dinners, and second shift jobs.  And weekend afternoons are often taken up with all the things that we can't do during the week due to work, such as grocery shopping and extra family time.  Weeknights are spent relaxing after work, spending time with family, and children's activities like sports practice.  That leaves us with weekend mornings, when many people wish to sleep in because they can.  And Gods know, it's hard to argue with that one.  I love my sleep!

But something has to give if we truly want to be involved with other people.  If you've been having a hard time in this area, take some time think about where you want to go with your path and what you're willing to do to get there.  Figure out you're excuses and what you can do about them.  Then figure out what's really holding you back.  Maybe you have all these excuses because there's something you're afraid of or unsure about.  Maybe you don't really want to be in a group or that group.  But if you find that you do want to be a part of a pagan group, figure out how to make it work.  If so many of other faiths can carve out a time every week, we can do it, too.   

D is for Dragon Spirit Tradition

Posting number 7 for the Pagan Blog Project.  Dragon Spirit Tradition is my brainchild of over at least 10 years of study of ancient religions and cultures, other contemporary groups, general anthropology, and psychology.  If one counts my tentative questions as a child and fascination with the ancient mythologies and cultures, it's really something I've been working on my whole life.
We are a highly intellectual and eclectic tradition of Contemporary Paganism that combines panentheism, duotheism, polytheism and animism.  We believe that the Divine speaks to us in the manner we are each most likely to hear and respond to in an active (hopefully positive and constructive) manner.  Have you ever noticed that every, single religion practiced today has "true believers?"  People who believe they've had some sort of experience that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever they believe in must be true and real.  Maybe there's a good reason for that.  Notice I said maybe.  We aren't talking about absolutes.  While reasonable explanations can be found, we acknowledge that there could be other valid explanations.  It's just that we like our explanations.  :)

Pagans.  Yes, Yes, I hear you nit-pickers!  Technically, the word pagan is from the Latin adjective paganus meaning "rural", "rustic", or "of the country."  Or as a noun meaning "country dweller" or "villager".  Some even claim it was used as a pejorative like hick, redneck, or country bumpkin.  Well, whatever it might have once meant, today it is a pop culture umbrella term for those who are just plain not Judeo-Christian and/or those who favor nature based, polytheistic religions.

We use the term "contemporary" because the Tradition isn't something that existed in the past, although it is heavily influenced and inspired by ancient history.  At the most basic, we see it as something similar to the Unitarian Universalists, but with a more decided Pagan influence and practices.  We've come to feel that all religions have something of value to contribute to one's personal growth and spirituality.  If one were to take a look at each religion (of light/good) with both an objective and idealized view, one would see that at the heart of all religions are guidelines for being a good person.  The differences are in the accessories.   

We are eclectic because we believe in using the best tool possible for the job and don't wish to limit our "toolbox" by adhering to only one brand, as it were. 

We are an intellectual group in that we expect members to be able to read, research, study, experiment, and report back on findings.  It's okay if one needs guidance in these areas or help getting started.  However, if you're looking for a group to spoon feed you all the information you need or will ever need to know:  this might not be the place for you.   

If you should decide to study with the Kindred of the Dragon Spirits, you will find that one of the biggest differences is that we go into detail about why we believe something to be the way it is or why we do something a certain way.  Just because something's been done a certain way for (insert number of years) by (insert large number)s of people, doesn't make it worth believing or doing.  What makes something worth believing or doing is if it makes sense and works for you.  The whole point of our study groups, Hearths, are to help people find what makes sense and works for them, even if it's not with us.   

C is for Candle Magic

Posting number 6 for the Pagan Blog Project!  This one might be one that is a pretty "common" type topic, but it's one of my favorite ways to do a magical working.  I've included two examples of candle gardens:  one for winter and one for spring since we are rather in between those two seasons right now.

A Winter Themed Candle Garden

Magic for me means working with a combination of tools at one time.  And with a candle garden, so very many tools can be incorporated.  If it exists, it can be used in a candle garden.  Popular items to use for candle gardens are flowers, crystals, mirrors/glass, colored and/or scented candles, tarot cards, pictures, elemental associations, and deity representations.  The options for candle gardens are just endless from the simple to the complex.  Candle gardens are an excellent tool for use in group magics, as well, because each person can contribute some thing or things.  The task of organizing your collective things creates a bond with the group members boosting the power of the candle garden.

Often in magic we are told each item used should have a specific purpose towards the working.  But, in my opinion, at least, the objects chosen for a candle garden don't have to relate directly to your working.  I call these accessory items boosters.  They are there for beauty and effect, which boosts your energy and connection to the working.  Besides being for a specific magical working, candle gardens can be used as devotional tools, made in honor of a particular deity or season or in celebration of some special event.  As such the items you choose are most likely based on their ascetic or emotional value, not their magical value.
A Spring Themed Candle Garden

Candle gardens speak to and for us on many levels.  The most obvious, of course, is sight.  Looking at a completed candle garden is a beautiful thing.  (Unless you were going for something different, I suppose.)    Another subtle way they speak to us can be through smell, if one uses scented candles or incorporates incense.  A large enough candle garden can emit enough heat to be felt.  Giving your candle garden a musical accompaniment can give it a voice to be heard.  The fire light, the colors, any scents, the objects themselves, as well as how they all fit together speaks to and feeds our spirits.