Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why do so many rational Pagans embrace unprovable things?

I am almost two months into my second, and deeper dive into Paganism. And so far, so wonderfully good. But there is one thing that I've long wondered about.

Why are there so many modern, 21st Century, rational Pagans involved with something that has so many unprovable aspects. And mind you, I don't meant this in a negative way. I am involved, and believe in many unprovable aspects. But I'd like to hear some of your explanations.

We believe in, pray to, and have close relationships with beings that the mainstream would consider as fictional creatures of myth. We believe that crystals, oils, herbs, rituals and spells can have an impact on reality. And we believe that either the divine realm, our our divine center, can maniuplate cards, runes and pendulums to communicate with us.

Have you taken a leap of faith? Do you just have a strong sense that these beings and things are real and valid? Have you actually experienced these beings and witnessed unquestionable proof of magical objects and activities? Do you give the universe the benefit of the doubt? Are you both rational and spiritual, but the spiritual side has won? Have you seen the effects of pure materialism and rationalism on the society and yourself and realize both are found wanting? Have you figured our senses are so limited and assume there just has to be stuff beyond our senses?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Honor your body & nourish your spirit


As pagans, wiccans, heathens or druids, we are committed to honoring and protecting the earth. And I believe this includes honoring and protecting our body. Also, living a healthy lifestyle also nourishes our spirit, as well as puts less of a burden on our environment.

So I created a healthy lifestyle group for pagans, wiccans, heathens, druids and adherents of other earth-based religions called "Blessed Be!". It is one of many groups on the weight loss / exercise web site "Lose It," which helps you monitor your eating, exercise, and other health factors. It has great iOS and Android apps, and interfaces with a number of other apps and healthy lifestyle devices. And it's FREE to join at the basic level. 

So you are invited to join this community not only to support each other, but also share any methods you've found helpful. This could obviously include recipes and exercises. But it could also include spells and rituals.

Just go to www.loseit.com and register. Then select "Find Group" in the left column, and search with the keyword "pagan." (Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to link to any of groups in Lose It!

So join. Eat well. Exercise. Support each other. And Blessed Be!

And PLEASE, spread the word!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shrines, Shrines, and More Shrines

This weekend, I made some adjustments to my shrine. I made it so it's dedicated solely to Brighid. And I put all the other pictures in separate shrines.

The first Bridghid version is here. First, obviously, is a wonderful image of Brighid in a frame. I flanked her with two red primroses. (Primroses were often found on my altar years ago when I first got into Paganism.) Underneath Brighid are three candles, which represent the three circles at the top of the symbol for Awen. Then, I have three more candles extending downward to represent the three rays in the Awen symbol. Then, next to the center ray, I have little metal cups with earth, water, and incense. To the left and right, is my Wild Wood Tarot deck, with my Daily Tarot Card, and my copy of A Book of Pagan Prayer

But the next day, this is the setup I came up with. First, I had added three more candles to make the three rays more distinct and removed the cups. Then, I put the Tarot card leaned up on the left. But then the whole thing was off balance. So I thought the right needed something. I looked around the room and spotted my wedding picture. Of course. The thing I love most belongs on my altar. So I added it on the right, along with one of the hand-made sachets that my wife had made as wedding favors. 

But then I thought about the three rays. To me, the ray in front of my wife and stepdaughter, should represent love. And love for all of humanity. Then, what do the others represent? 

I saw a pattern. The right represents love, which in my mind, correlates with the element water. So are the other elements there? Where's earth? Of course, not only should I love people, I should love the Earth. So maybe I put something that represents the earth. I wanted to put a type of statue, but don't have one at the moment. So I found a wonderful image of Gaia and framed it. I wanted to add some other earth-representative objects as well. And after a look around the house, my yard, and even a short stroll around the neighborhood, I came up with a stone, a seashell, and a mandarin orange.

So the middle ray? Well, element-wise, it represents both fire and air, which to me is the interaction between the the Great Mystery (Brighid as Awen) and myself. Sprit outside myself. And Spirit within. Thus, a perfect place to put the day's Tarot card.

Above and behid (not seen) is a Hanuman wall hanging. I'm going to try and make a hand-made hanging with the Awen symbol in the middle. Higher above is this cheap, little hand-made pentagram made of woven twigs that I picked up at a craft store. And above, to the side is a cheap, little hand-made broom made of some kind of stiff straw or reeds. I occasionally use it to spiritually clear the space. (But I usually forget.)

And this one I just made this today as a whim. It started as two azaleas I picked up today at the supermarket. Then I wanted put put a small bowl of fresh fruit in my office, and it seemed to fit in front of the flowers. Then, for some reason, I added a scented candle. I think I wanted to add a pleasant scent to the room without firing up some incense. Then found a very beautiful painting of Awen online. I printed it out, framed it, and looked for a place to put it. It seemed to fit well with the others. Except the two flowers were now too much. So I moved one of them elsewhere in the room.

I find it quite beautiful. And since it's sitting right next to my computer, it helps to balance out the tech. And I think I'm going to make another one like it at work.

And here is where all my Hindu pictures went. It was hastily-built, so I still need to get some more frames. From left to right: Krishna; Ganesh (figurine in front); Kali; the Holy Mother Sarada Devi; one picture with Rama, Sita, Laskshmana and Hanuman; Hanuman (figure in front); Sri Ramakrishna; Lakshmi (figure in front); Swami Vivekananda; and my late Gurudev, Swami Swahananda.

There's also a stuffed and embroidered Hanuman hanging above, which was hand made by a talented friend in Brazil that makes all sorts of deities and other objects. You can find samples of her work here.

And here are my Christian images, St Francis, Jesus, and Mary with the infant Jesus.

Now, any time I'm in my office, I light the single candles in my Hindu and Christian shrines, and the three top candles in my Brighid shrine. I usually only light the rest of the candles when I'm praying at it.

Any feedback is appreciated!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Common Experiences at Religious Events

I've been reading a lot accounts by Pantheon attendees. And they all describe similar experiences or reactions.

Here are some examples:

I Wear My Crown - by David Salisbury
PantheaCon: Much Work to be Done - by Teo Bishop

But what I found most interesting, is they're descriptions are IDENTICAL to those I heard from people that have attended similar Christian events, whether multi-day conventions or weekend retreats. And this includes my experience during and after those events. (And I'm sure some of the Woodstock attendees experienced the same thing.)

I would feel a massive, dramatic, sobering movement of the spirit during the event. (Usually coming to a climax during the final program on Saturday night.) Then leaving the event, glowing and floating on a cloud. Then the following week, having to process all the inputs and impressions. And eventually, things going back to normal.

At the time, it would give me confirmation that Christianity really is the one true religion. Because if it wasn't, these things couldn't have happened.

But I have long stopped thinking that way. And I love hearing all these similar stories about PantheaCon. Because it is just another example of how similar all the spiritual paths are. That spiritual experiences happen to everybody in every religion. And no one religion is any better than the other.

Or, it just proves that we're all nuts :)  

Hail Holy Queen Brighid

I've noticed that there are a number of prayers to Bridghid that devotees have created by adapting prayers originally written for St. Brigid. I myself don't really feel that much of a connection to St. Brigid, but I do have a life-long connection to the Blessed Mother Mary. And one of my favorite prayers to her is "Hail, Holy Queen." And sometimes, when sitting with Brighid, the prayer pops up in my mind. But I don't want to recite it, because there are elements that don't connect with Brighid. And not enought elements that do. And it mentions sentiments that I no longer ascribe to, such as "that we may be made worthy of the promised of Christ."

So I took the time to adapt the prayer to be more aligned with my devotion to Brighid. Here is my first attempt:

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of comfort!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor wandering children of Danu,
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Cover us, most gracious goddess,with thy thine mantle of healing;
And show unto us the blessed mysteries of Awen;
O clement, O loving, O sweet Mother Brighid.
Kindle our flames, O Holy Mother Eternal,
That we may spread mercy, compassion, and love throughout all the earth.

I posted it on a few social media sites. And most of the feedback was positive. And though I didn't receive any negative feedback, I did get some scholarly correction. Mostly with my use of "Awen," since it is technically a Welsh term, and Brighid, maybe at least as I spell it, is an Irish name. There was also some feedback about my use of "Thee," "Thou," and "Hail," saying the culture or spirituality out in which Brighid is central would never use these terms.

Well, I responded to some of this feedback, and I wanted to share it here:

------------------------------

Keep in mind, that I wrote this out of love of Brighid. And I wanted another way to put those feelings into words. So I was not aiming for scholarly accuracy. But emotional resonance. And though Brighid is a Celtic deity, to me, she is that and much more. 

To me, she is the human-faced persona that I currently clothe the Goddess in. And the Goddess has been the comforter and protector all my life. For a great while, that persona was Mary. And for some part, it was the Holy Mother Sarada Devi in the Hindu Ramakrisha movement (along with Kali and Lakshmi). But now, Brighid is calling to me. And I am calling to her. And this prayer was one way of carrying over some of those feelings I have felt and feel for Mary.

The final result, is obviously very syncretic. It contains elements of my Catholic past (and present), connection to modern Neo-Druidry and Neo-Paganism, and Irish and Welsh language/mythology/spirituality. And my use of Awen is deliberate in that it is the name most used within modern Druidry to refer to the Great Mystery behind this whole picture show.

Obviously, this originally catholic prayer to Mary can be used as a backbone to a prayer to (almost) any Godess to any Pantheon. (I'm thinking of doing one devoted to Kali for my Hindu friends.) Thus, if you were so inclined, I would encourage you to do an authentically Irish one. Or, I might just take your feedback and do one myself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Use Google Calendar as a Spiritual Diary

I have a number of posts from my old spiritual blog, The Four Realms, that I want to migrate to here. This is the first.

I assume many Wiccans and Pagans keep a diary or journal. I myself sometimes post to the private online journal Penzu, and sometimes in my hardbound journal. And with a diary, you can look back and see what you've been doing and thinking, so as to track your spiritual progress (or non-progress, as it may be.)

The problem with these type of journals is it's hard to get an overall view or spot patterns and trends. Also, sitting down and composing a paragraph is sometimes intimidating or takes up too much time. So, in addition to my traditional journaling, I've been tracking stuff in my Google Calendar as well. Sometimes, this entries are all I do. Sometimes they serve as notes to when I do write the long-form entries in Penzu.

First, I started by creating a new calendar called Diary, and colored as I saw fit. Then I started adding significant spiritual events. But, over time, I started adding more and more stuff. This is not only helpful, but coincides with the concept that one should not have a spiritual life and a mundane life, but should be one and the same.

Things to Add
  • Practices such as meditations, rituals
  • Positive and negative personal interactions
  • Spells and successes
  • Acquisition of sacred objects and books
  • Daily Tarot Readings - I tag these as "DTR"s
  • Creative pursuits
  • People you've met
  • Encounters with the divine
  • Communion with nature
  • Things that weighed heavily on your mind
Put Things in Context

Another thing that helps is context. I have other calendars in view, such as personal events and appointments and U.S. holidays. But I've added other stuff as well that helps put spiritual and personal diary entries in context.
  • Wiccan Holidays
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Moon Signs
Some calendars can be found by going to the "Other Calendars" box in the lower left, clicking on "Add" in the lower right corner of the box and selecting "Browse Interesting Calendars." Then you'll get to a page with three tabs near the top: "Holidays," "Sports" and "More." You will find Phases of the Moon under "More."

Unfortunately, with the other two, I don't have links. I found them and added them, but forgot where I found them. If you're net savvy enough, I'm sure you'll manage.

These contextual elements not only benefit looking backward, but forward as well. By seeing the future Moon phases and signs, you can prepare yourself accordingly. This is especially helpful with scheduled personal events. You can see in which phase or sign things sit such as business meetings, doctor visits, and social gatherings. It may even influence when you schedule these events.

Other things to try

Since you can create multiple banners, and color code them, I thought about color coding things as positive, negative, or neutral. Or, you can create a calendar for each of the elements, color them accordingly, and tag them to the bullets where you think they had the most correspondence. Such as, blue/water for personal interactions, yellow/air for creative or intellectual pursuits, green/earth for communion with nature or actions toward sustainability, and fire/red for passionate or bold events.

Things to look for

Once you have all your events and all your context, look for the following:
  • What do you see happening during waxing and waning times. Are you more meditative during waning? Are you more productive during waxing?
  • Do your bullets align with the Moon signs.
  • Did your DTRs pan out for that day?
  • Are there clues to why you had times where you were depressed or spiritually dry?
  • Are there clues to why you had times where you were happy or spiritually ecstatic?
  • How did your spirituality correspond to the current season?
If you like this concept and have other ideas of what to post as well as other tweaks such as color-coding, please leave comments.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why I Think Describing Myself as Pagan is Perfect for a Spiritual Eclectic Like Me


I had been thinking a lot about Spirituality lately, and specifically what it means to me to be Pagan. And I had an incident last night (which I will describe shortly) that gave me a better understanding.

I had my first opportunity today to express this new understanding today during my lunch break. I had found and joined a Pagan Community on Google+ and introduced myself. I first recounted my history with many religions, and listed current group of chosen deities that I commune with, which included Jesus, Hanuman, Brighid and Krishna.

The rest of the intro went like this...
I don't how to describe myself in religious terms. In shorthand, I just call myself a spiritual eclectic. But, since I am a polytheist, and have a strong tie to the earth and seasons, I sometimes consider myself as just Pagan. And I know some would only consider people that worship deities outside the mainstream religions Pagan. But, in my personal conception, I see Paganism as just an umbrella term for anyone who not only accepts all religions, but prays to many of the deities within those religions.
Then, a little bit later, I read a post by John Becket titled "Tension in the Big Tent of Paganism." In it, he writes...
First, I’m in favor of “Big Tent” Paganism. When someone says “Pagan” I want that to include hard polytheists, humanistic Pagans, Nature worshipers, hedge witches, shamans, ancestor worshipers and anyone else with similar beliefs and practices. That doesn’t mean I want us all doing the same Wicca-lite ritual at the Solstice. It means I want us talking to each other, cooperating with each other, and learning from each other.
If that makes it impossible to draw clear lines around what is and isn’t “Pagan” so be it. The idea that if a term can’t be precisely defined then it doesn’t mean anything simply isn’t true. “Pagan” means something – we’re arguing about what that something is. I’m advocating for as loose a definition as possible.
It was refreshing. Here was one Pagan, at least, who seemed to be as comfortable with a liberal idea of "Pagan" as I was. I immediately wanted to share that description of myself I had posted with him. But I didn't have time at that moment.

But when I finally sat down to share my thoughts in a comment on his Blog, it was obvious that I had a lot more to say. And this post was a result.

Last night, before I went to bed, I paused at the shelf of spiritual books sitting atop my dresser. I wanted to take one of my prayer books to my bedside table so I could recite a prayer before I went to sleep. And I had a few choices, which included Hindu prayer books and Catholic ones.

Well, the past week, I've been making my way through Rev Mark Townsend's "Jesus Through Pagan Eyes." Reading it has brought me a lot of blessings, including a new appreciation of the Spirit-Person that I had grown up with. And I had been reading minutes before pausing in front of my books. I was feeling more and more comfortable with the possibility of a devotion to Jesus fitting within a Pagan spirituality.

So did I choose one of my Catholic prayer books?

No. I chose was A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith.

And why did I choose it?

First of all, let me say that it is a wonderful prayer book. I bought it three years ago during my first dip into Paganism.It has a great variety of specific and unspecific prayer. It is nicely organized, with prayers to times of the day, sabbaths, seasons, situations, etc.  It's a beautifully constructed and designed book as well. I carried it everywhere. In the morning, I would read some prayers on the train to work. I would read some outside, under a tree at work.

But that's not why I chose it last night.

I have been searching for God most of my life. Especially from my college years on. I was looking for the true truth. I looked for the one true religion. I looked for spiritual figures that seemed to have really figured out the universe or had achieved a direct line to God. I looked for a sacred scripture that didn't have any mistakes or contradictions.

And every once in awhile, I would chance upon something and think I had found what I was looking for. It happened with many religions, figures, texts. Including Paganism. And I would say, "Aha! Here it is. I've found what I'm looking for. All my problems are solved." And I found comfort in that certainty.

But, as some of you searchers like myself can attest, eventually the flame of the convert dies out. The certainty disappears. I think, "How could I have thought that person, religion, text was 100% perfect and accurate?" Soon, thereafter, the days of doubt would creep in. And it felt like God disappeared. And I slipped into months of existential depression.

Fortunately, I eventually came to the realization that all religions, figures and texts are flawed. God isn't that easy to understand and figure out. But there are people that seemed to have gotten closer than others, and I can learn from all of them. And I can also learn from all the world's sacred texts and religions and commune with all the world's deities.

I also learned to embrace uncertainty. I learned to accept that mystery is a HUGE part of God, the Universe, and Life. And I'm comfortable with that. It's a relief to know that I will never understand it all and I don't have to kick myself for not figuring it out.

And that's where Paganism, or more accurately, Neopaganism, comes in for me. Many (thought not all) Pagans accept that their religion is largely a constructed, modern religion. They don't claim it came down from the sky from God. There is no founding figure that sat in a mountain and dictated God's words.

And I, specifically, see a huge benefit in being polytheist, no matter who or what these "gods" and "goddesses" truly are. That's not important to me now. I just want love and communion with them. And through them, love and commune with the Great Mystery that lies behind them.

And there are other qualities to Paganism that fits with me. Pagans (again, not all) don't believe their's is the one true way. They don't follow a doctrine, creed, or recognized authority. They include nature in their devotions and rituals. And so on.

And all of this adds up to a spirituality that fits me RIGHT NOW. I've looked for the perfect and ultimate truth and failed. Thus, Paganism is great because it isn't looking for or claims to have found that truth. Spreading my devotion across several Gods and Goddesses also prevents me from clinging to and focusing on one. It prevents me to falling into fanaticism or fundamentalism.

You see, I'm the type of person that needs variety. I guess, in some aspects of my life, I am "afraid of commitment." I don't like to buy a box of tea that has one flavor. What if I get tired of it. I'd much rather buy a variety pack. I also don't like candles or potpourri that are one single sent. I'd rather have a blend.

So when I saw that Pagan prayer book, with it's variety of prayers to a variety of deities, I thought, AT THAT TIME, that's what I want. This accurately symbolizes my "Bit Tent" spirituality. It includes all. Jesus, Brighid, Krishna, and anybody else I find drawn to. And I also decided that more and more, I like the concept of describing myself as Pagan. Not Christopagan, or Hindupagan, or Eclectic Pagan.

Just Pagan.