I’m Better!

Yes, that’s right, I have finally kicked the nasty creep and crud. That means we should be getting back to regularly scheduled blog posts and some interesting information.

Today I wanted to discuss altars. What an altar is, what is can be used for and why you might have one, no matter your beliefs. Merriam-Webster.com defines an altar as:

1: a usually raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship —often used figuratively to describe a thing given great or undue precedence or value especially at the cost of something else sacrificed his family life on the altar of career advancement

2: a table on which the eucharistic elements are consecrated or which serves as a center of worship or ritual

So…with that as a working definition, do you have an altar without realizing it? Is there a table or countertop in your house where you have things you value or that represent your faith? If you answered yes, you have an altar, whether you realized it or not. Often times we have more than one without even realizing that is what we are creating.

I burn incense on the table next to my altar. The only thing I burn on my altar are the candles associated with the magick I am working or the meditation I am focusing on. I am also, not a big incense person. I have more of a tendency to burn a candle (which I make), with a scent that works for me. So, I do differ from the working definition in that way. Candles just make me happier, so that is what I use.

My main altar is in my bedroom. It is the one that I change with the Sabbats or the celebrations in my life. The one the crystals, and the table cloth change regularly, that I do my magickal workings at and that I do my meditations close to. However, I have several scattered throughout the house. The top of the china cabinet in the dining room is full of crystals that have been placed as I felt they were needed, along with totems to my spirit animals. The bookshelf in the family room has a shelf that is slowly getting taken over with the things I feel need to be in there for us to be more centered and family oriented. My husband started one without realizing it on his dresser, as we collected things he wanted and felt drawn to.

Altars are simply places we put those things we value, that show what it is we hold as a belief and a trust within ourselves and our faith. So, do you have one or two?

Today’s tarot:

Three of Pentacles: You’ve mastered one phase of your chosen career and you’re looking forward to the challenges of the next. The praise you receive makes you work harder than before – use it as inspiration Oaks you work your way toward your goal. Expect a nod from this higher up the food chain but not much more than a grunt from those below; you can’t impress everyone.

Key Words: Recognition, Hard Work, Skill

Pagan, Wiccan or Witch???

Today I wanted to share a little more about some of the things I do on a daily basis (or as close as possible) regarding my beliefs and practices.  However, I realized that before I delved into that perhaps a discussion and personal breakdown of the concepts out there was in order.

Often the three words above are used synonymously.  While most of us who live the life understand those outside don’t know the difference, there are those who become highly indignant or offended when someone refers to them as one of the others. While I am not one of those, I felt that, before I could begin talking about my own practice, I need to clarify what each of them entails and holds.

First, let’s start with some simple definitions (from The Celtic Connection):

Wicca:   A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes.

Witch:   A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves. This term has nothing to do with Satanism.

Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Paganism:   General term for followers of Wicca and other magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic Earth-based religions. Also used to refer to pre-Christian religious and Spiritual belief systems.

So, as you can see each of these has some overlap, and yet is unique in its own right.  I will try to expand a little bit in regards to Sacred Mists as a school as well as to my own practice.  I want to start by saying that one of the things I like most about Sacred Mists, is that while they do follow a traditional Celtic base, they allow their students the freedom and flexibility to follow their own beliefs as well.

Now, on to a deeper definitions so to speak.  Wicca:   A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. The Modern Wiccan Tradition is attributed, usually, to Gerald Gardner.  He was initiated into a traditional coven and then began supplementing with other “non-traditional” belief systems (Free Masonry, writings of Alastair Crowley and others).  While he claimed to stay true to the traditional pre-Christian beliefs, he supplemented the traditional pagan beliefs creating Modern Wicca.  Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes. All of this holds true for Sacred Mists as well as within my personal belief.  In addition, the Goddess and God are embodiments of all Goddesses and Gods as well as Mother Earth and Mother Moon. So there isn’t any single deity focus.  All historical beliefs and “religions” are called upon depending on  your need, desire, want, area of focus.  Celtic, English, Norse, Egyptian, Japanese…all Gods and Goddesses become available to you. 

Witch:   A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. So this is where it can get sticky.  There are many Wiccans who use natural items in their practice, but don’t necessarily consider themselves a Witch. I, however, am not one of them.  I use stones, candles, water, food, herbs, colors and even nature itself on a regular basis in my daily practice of the craft.  I am a Witch and I will stand by that.   It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves. This is often where those who practice, or don’t, get offended.  There are many Wiccans who are not Witches, and there are some Witches that are not Wiccan (that is their belief is not necessarily that of following the Rule of Three, or of staying within the boundaries of “white magick”).  This term has nothing to do with Satanism. The last sentence is by far one of the most important.  There is nothing Satan related in Wicca or Witchcraft.  One has to believe in the conventional idea of “Satan” before there can be any relation to him. This is not to say all Witches are good and work only for the good of all.  There are many who practice beyond the scope of what is Grey or White magick.  However, their belief is that what they are doing may be the right things. 

Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Paganism:   General term for followers of Wicca and other magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic Earth-based religions. Here are all the sticky widgets.  You DO NOT have to be Wiccan to be Pagan.  There are many other traditions that you could follow that make you Pagan.  Often people will refer to themselves as Pagan as general term that allows those who aren’t sure of the definitions to understand they don’t follow a modern religion.   Also used to refer to pre-Christian religious and Spiritual belief systems. The link here is back to the Nature Based Religions and Beliefs.  Those that are not necessarily monotheistic and have no single deity that is worshipped. 

I hope that these help you understand some of the overlap as well as some of the differences.  I think these are important to see and be able to reference prior to reading about specific rituals, practices or ideas.

 

Being Present

Where are you? Physically? What is the space you are in? Can you describe it? Are you really there? Do you know the people around you? Do you care to?

With today’s face paced technology and connectivity to, people we know, social media and live feeds, we are very often not present in mind even if we are in body. We might be sitting in a classroom, or at work, or even out to lunch or dinner with someone and yet we aren’t really there. We have been allowed over the past 10 years to become less and less present where we are.

I realized the other day, as I was sitting in my classroom getting ready for today, that I was spending as much time looking at my phone as I was working. My phone was open on my desk next to me as I was lesson planning and creating Google Slides for the first day. I wouldn’t say I was multi-tasking, although I am really good at that, as I was not being present. I didn’t really want to be there, and I was feeling pretty ready, so I allowed myself to be there. I was not the only one by far, but it made me recognize how often we are not mentally or socially engaged with where we are physically.

Dinners have become pictures of everyone looking down, engaged only with their phones. We went to dinner the other night with some family friends. There were 5 young men ages 14-23. They were all playing the same game, but it was on their individual phones. While they were all in the same physical space, mentally they were in the game. Even playing together they were engaged by their phones, not by the people surrounding them. They were by no means present, and yet they weren’t as absent as they could have been.

When we celebrate Ritual at Sacred Mists we do so online. We are an online school and we bring together such a diverse and amazing group of people and to be able to practice that way the technology is needed. As we have progressed in technology and new students come to the Mists there has been a change in energy. I know from talking to some and from my own distractions when not leading, that we are not always present, even at ritual. It has become too easy to be distracted or to find ourselves looking for something else to do. Constant stimulation has become a necessity. This makes it difficult to be present where you are when it is moving slow or is designed to help you slow down.

My goal for the next few weeks is to be present where-ever I am. To put down the phone, to listen fully to those speaking. To make eye contact, to hold conversations and to acknowledge those around me. To give my attention to the things that are before me. This isn’t easy. Even as I type this I know today was a rough day for this. I was better than I have been, but I definitely had moments…we had a staff meeting. No excuses.

What do you say? Put the phone down? Have a conversation with no phone in hand, no messaging or Google or Instagram? Would you find this difficult?