‘THINK on THESE THINGS’

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

If we could be read it, all human beings carry the marks of their character in the lines of their faces. The very expressions are etched there by habitual thought. The most beautiful features may be blank of expression, lacking depth of thought or understanding, while the plainest face may be lighted with a radiance only sincerity and inner beauty can produce.

Alexander Smith was a Scottish poet who wrote, “On your features the fine chisels of thought and emotion are eternally at work.”

No pretense can hide the thoughts and feelings. The narrowed eyes of suspicion and discontent tattle, while serenity and devotion to others can reveal such beauty of spirit that the shape of the face is forgotten.

“In thy face I see the map of honor, truth, and loyalty,” wrote Shakespeare, and it is safe to say that being able to see those things in another’s face is an assurance that he also had such a face. To see only avarice and selfishness in every expression turned to us is to know that our own expressions lack something to be desired.

Life does not have to be full of ease to reflect beauty. Some of the most beautiful faces in history have not had eyes to see nor voices to move their lips, but have possessed peace and serenity that only faith could render.

________________________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site:
http://www.whitebison.org

Elder’s Meditation of the Day April 25

Elder’s Meditation of the Day April 25

“In some mysterious and wonderful way you are part of everything, Nephew. And in that same mysterious and wonderful way, everything is a part of you.”

–Nippawanock, ARAPAHOE

In order to experience this, we must be aware of how limited our senses are—eyes, ears touch, smell, taste. These senses help us to function in the Seen World. What we see is interpreted by our minds and put inside our belief system, and this can become our reality. But there also exists an Unseen World. In this world we experience connectedness; we experience the mystery; and we experience another whole point of view. If we pay attention to both the Unseen World and the Seen World, our belief systems will print in our mind a new and wonderful reality. We will see and know we are a part of everything.

Great Spirit, today, give me the knowledge to know this mystery.

April 25 – Daily Feast

April 25 – Daily Feast

Someday, we will know how to take living in stride, to sidestep a great many things and completely ignore that many more. Sometime, we will learn to pay less attention to the imagined and stop fussing about things we had nothing to do with in the past – and cannot change significantly in the future. One day, like the elderly Cherokee, we can say, “So long a time since I see you….I don’t care anymore.” Soon, we will rid ourselves of things we saved for no good reason – and have room for what we really want. As soon as possible, we will worry less about trouble…knowing some people need it for their security. Very soon, we will sit together in the sun a whole day and just be happy that we can sit together in the sun all day and just be happy.

~ Even as you desire good treatment, so render it. ~

HANDSOME LAKE

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

The Daily Motivator for April 25th – Harvest the richness

Harvest the richness

Even when it seems that life is not good to you, be good to life. Even when there is no reason to be positive, live with a positive outlook.

The best things in life do not come from reacting to what has already happened. The best things in life come from choosing to make new and positive and valuable things happen.

Decide not to be a slave to the way others live their lives. Instead of following the crowd, follow your own highest vision.

Choose not to be limited by your history or your circumstances. Choose instead to find the positive possibilities in this day, and to act on them.

There are all sorts of perfectly understandable reasons to be disappointed with life, but there is never any necessity to be. You can always choose to be positive, enthusiastic, empowered and effective.

Live each moment from a perspective of positive, loving purpose. Your life is, right now, your great opportunity, so harvest its outstanding richness in every moment.

— Ralph Marston
Source:
The Daily Motivator

The Daily OM for April 25th – Waiting for Someday

Waiting for Someday
Why Not Now?

by Madisyn Taylor

All the joy and passion you can envision can be yours right now, rather than in a future point in time.

The time we are blessed with is limited and tends to be used up all too quickly. How we utilize that time is consequently one of the most important decisions we make. Yet it is far too easy to put off until tomorrow what we are dreaming of today. The hectic pace of modern existence affords us an easy out; we shelve our aspirations so we can cope more effectively with the challenges of the present, ostensibly to have more time and leisure to realize our purpose in the future. Or we tell ourselves that we will chase our dreams someday once we have accomplished other lesser goals. In truth, it is our fear that keeps us from seeking fulfillment in the here and now—because we view failure as a possibility, our reasons for delaying our inevitable success seem sound and rational. If we ask ourselves what we are really waiting for, however, we discover that there is no truly compelling reason why we should put off the pursuit of the dreams that sustain us.

When regarded as a question, “Why not now?” drains us of our power to realize our ambitions. We are so concerned with the notion that we are somehow undeserving of happiness that we cannot see that there is much we can do in the present to begin courting it. Yet when we look decisively at our existence and state, “Why not now, indeed!” we are empowered to begin changing our lives this very moment. We procrastinate for many reasons, from a perceived lack of time to a legitimate lack of self-belief, but the truth of the matter is that there is no time like the present and no time but the present. Whatever we aim to accomplish, we will achieve it more quickly and with a greater degree of efficiency when we seize the day and make the most of the resources we have at our disposal presently.

All the joy, passion, and contentment you can envision can be yours right now, rather than in some far-flung point in time. You need only remind yourself that there is nothing standing between you and fulfillment. If you decide that today is the day you will take your destiny into your hands, you will soon discover that you hold the keys of fate.

Source:

The Daily OM

Instant Witch

Instant Witch

Author: Sunfell 

You’ve seen them: They’re usually the ones with the most outrageous costumes and jewelry; the ones who at times are almost a Hollywood parody of a Pagan, who look like they’ve escaped a Tolkien novel. You’ve heard them–giggling clutches of teenage girls in the new-age section of the bookstore poring over ‘love spell’ books. You try to avoid them–their incessant pontification and magical one-upmanship can drive a veteran Pagan crazy (and by ‘veteran’, I mean someone who has been practicing for at least a decade).

All right, old timer–time to sit back and remember your early days. Remember when you had your ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment–when perhaps you read about a particular spiritual practice in the first edition of Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon”? and said, “That’s for me!” Remember rushing home from the bookstore with the first edition of Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance” and staying up all night reading it? Remember those lonely BI (Before Internet) days when you wondered if you were the Only Witch/Pagan/Druid in the world and if you’d EVER run into anyone else with similar beliefs? And how you felt when you finally did? I do.

In the 28 years since I realized I was a Witch and a Priestess, a lot has happened in our community. Much of it has been very positive. And some of it has not. One of the perhaps not-so-positive things has been the instant do-it-yourself, be-a-witch-in a week sort of book. Are they useful? Could they be considered dangerous? Should they be taken seriously? How should a Pagan Veteran handle an eager newbie? What are the dangers to a newcomer? I shall try to address these things in this essay.

Perhaps my own story of my journey to the Craft can be used as an example. At the tender age of 12, I knew that my religious path was not going to be in the church of my parents. I felt a calling beyond that stricture, and I knew in my heart that mine was to be a different path. I sat down with a candle at a makeshift altar late one evening when the rest of the family was asleep, and declared myself a Witch. I was a little fearful of that word, but it seemed to me that ‘witch’ fit me better than any other designation. Somehow, through the limited resources I had at that time (1973), I knew that the Witch I had declared myself to be was a Priestess, not an evildoer. And even though I did not know Her by Her many names yet, I felt myself embraced by the Goddess.

And so things remained until I left my home and family to join the US Air Force in 1979. Away from Arkansas and the fundamentalist stranglehold on the libraries and bookstores, I found Starhawk’s and Adler’s books, and many others. My education began. I read those books, and true to the teaching “when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear”, I began running into people who were instrumental in teaching me the principles of Magic and becoming comfortable with rituals outside a church service. The Rosicrucian Order was a great help in doing that. In 1985, I went overseas to Germany, and there my training towards Wiccan initiation began. I was fortunate to get to study with a wonderful group of people, and they believed in a long-term commitment. My training to Third Degree took a total of 7 years–one for the Year of Inquiry (neophyte), one for the First Degree, two to Second, and three to obtain Third. I had moved to England by then, and my Craft Mother made a trip to England to see me and initiate me. While in England, I received additional training and initiations from several different groups, including a ‘Fam-Trad’ lady of the Old Ways.

Now, my path is probably not typical. And I do not claim that my initiation is any ‘better’ than anyone else’s. But I was brought into the Craft in the ‘traditional’ way, even though I called myself a Witch long before. I had no “Instant Witch” books–I just ‘knew’ who I was.

I think that the main thing to look at is the quality of the books in question. Are ‘Instant Witch’ sorts of books useful? Yes, they are, if they have the right concepts. A good Witch primer should teach the basic laws of Magic, and emphasize the ethics of the Craft. They should outline our holidays and our roots. They should contain a self-blessing or dedication rite that is simple to perform, but spiritually effective. They should give the seeker a resource to contact like-minded others and learn more. If used correctly, they permit the seeker to ‘try on’ our rites and mindset and see if they ‘fit’ their own spiritual feelings. Such books can bring forth that ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment–that flash of recognition of ones own spiritual community. But it has to be emphasized that such books are only the beginning of training–they serve as gateways only.

Are such books dangerous? Not in themselves. The dangers lie in the mindset of the seeker. Why are they interested in becoming a Witch? Do they seek an alternative way to acknowledge God/dess or are they looking to have ‘power over’ others? Are they on a manipulative ego-trip? Or do they crave a return to a less dogmatic path than the popular religions offer?

An experienced Pagan can usually spot out the power-tripper pretty quickly. They’re the ones who misuse our rites to threaten or manipulate others by fear and ignorance. Or they’re trying to build an ‘instant Coven’ and inviting one and all to join it. Or else they are trying to shock others by taking on an ‘evil’ persona and relying on the general ignorance of Wicca by the mainstream to have their way. Some are mentally ill. Some want to be ‘fashionable’.

Should a neo-Witch be taken seriously? Yes!! Were you, when you were a young pup? How were you treated when you finally found your community? Newcomers should be treated kindly and courteously. Yes, they are Witches, or ‘baby Pagans’ as my friends like to say. And yes, they can be annoying. But as ‘babies’, they need to be guided and closely watched, because they are going through the measles and mumps that every spiritual ‘baby’ in the Magical Traditions undergoes. If you do not consider yourself a Craft Mother/Father, please, find your newcomer someone who is, and who will give him or her the proper care and guidance.

Here, courtesy of Starhawk and Z. Budapest, are some spiritual ‘measles and mumps’ that every newcomer runs into one time or another. Without a guide, our Instant Witch can be destroyed by any or all of these. The following is excerpted from “The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries” by Z. Budapest, First printing 1980. Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1, Publisher.

“ÖIt is a necessary part of everyone’s magical education to fall victim to one’s character traits occasionally. We all find ourselves ego-tripping, do-gooding, showing off and all the rest from time to time, but how else can we learn compassion and tolerance for others who go off on the same tangents? Falling victim to one’s own illusions eventually confers a sort of immunity, much like the result of a childhood disease, and with luck, recovery is rapid and complete. Here, then, are the ‘mumps’ and ‘measles’ of magic.

“Omnipotence. This is quite common when first discovering that your Will can effect events. You may feel a tremendous rush of power and believe that you can do anything and everything.

“Guilt. You may believe you can do everything, but sooner or later you will fail. ÖUnless you realize that magic has its limitations and works within the framework of laws (just as standard medical science does) you run the risk of feeling responsible for everything that goes wrong in the universe. Relax. You are not that powerful, nor are you that important.

“Paranoia. As your awareness grows and you become more conscious of negative energy and impulses in others, you may become oversensitive and begin jumping at shadows Ö(and) ascribing every negative thing that happens to you as a ‘psychic attack’. A healthy streak of cynicism is a good defense against this one. Remember that magic that is ‘real’ rarely conflicts with common sense.

“Saintliness. It is hard to resist the temptation to be more ‘spiritual than thou’, to offer unasked for advice to your acquaintances, and to look down on others who have not ‘seen the Light’ – all while trying to appear humble. With any luck at all, you’ll come back to earth before you lose all your friends.

“Showing off. This, like Saintliness, is hard to resist. When the fanatic Jehovah’s Witness in your chem class spouts off about religion, how can you NOT tell her you see a hypocritical green spot in her aura? With painful experience, however, you will discover that listen to your advice or commentary unless they have asked for it, and that magic only works when it is for real, not show.

“Going Half-Astral. When you get so caught up in magic and psychic work that you neglect the earthly plane and your physical body, you will become drained and weakened. In extreme cases, people who lose touch too completely with earth can have what amounts to a psychotic ‘break’. This is easily avoided, however, by making sure you stay grounded and centered when you do any magical work or meditations. Also, it is vital to have a satisfying and rewarding earth-plane life, including a good sex life and a love of good food.

“ÖYour very best protection, against all these ills and any others you may meet physically or psychically, is to maintain your sense of humor. As long as you can laugh at yourself, you cannot head too far down the wrong path, and you always have an immediate ticket back to truth. ÖRemember, laughter is the key to sanity!”

So, you see, becoming an ‘Instant Witch’ is only the first step along a long, but rewarding path. The ‘Instant-Witch’ books should be a sign of how far we have come in 25 years. It is the veterans, and the soon-to-be Elders in the Craft who have done the hard work of clearing the brambles from the entrance to our Path. Look at our young self-starters as a sign of our success, and welcome them warmly, take them in hand, and train and initiate them properly.

Sunfell

In The End, We’re All Solitary

In The End, We’re All Solitary

Author: Chi 

I’m not bashing coven practice here – It’s a wonderful spiritual path and way of learning and it works for lots of people. Those people have my blessings and all my best wishes. There are plenty of teens that someday want to be part of a coven, and there are dozens of adults who warn against teen groups (and even several of articles on Witchvox about it) . But if solitary practice is so wonderful, I have to ask myself why no one advocates it, at least not until asked or provoked. That’s what I will attempt to do, to go over some of the things that solitaries have the opportunity for, and even solitary fundamentals that anyone can use.

After all, you are an individual. In the end, you are solitary. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean it in the most glorious way possible. At the end of the day, the Divinity shines down on YOU and recognizes YOU for what YOU are, and takes you into their arms as their child with your own uniqueness and respects you for every ounce of it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are many people who consider themselves to be solitary Wiccans or solitary Witches. I almost want to say there is a majority – but I don’t have the statistics on hand to back that up, just my observation.

Most practitioners consider it a long-term goal to be able to get into a coven or other pagan group. Even though there are sometimes degree systems in place for covens, being a solitary is usually considered being “at the bottom of the food chain”, so to speak.

Some people are solitary because they choose to be, they know it is the best for their learning and they know it is better to study alone then with people that have the potential to delay your spiritual definition. Others are solitary simply because they have to be, there are no covens around, they are too young to join a ‘real’ coven, they do not have enough experience, or what have you.

I personally am some blend of the two. I began really studying and dedicating myself to “this path” a few years ago. I knew that I needed to study; I believed I had to have every rule memorized if I was ever to reach the glorious rank of a coven member.

However, since that time I have come to realize many things. First, I am not only a Wiccan. I am also Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Shinto, and a multitude of other things…so joining a group of strict Wiccans would probably drive several of us mad!

Second, I know how I learn. That’s not to say I do everything right, but being a solitary has taught me a lot of things about how to self teach, how to remember, and how to adapt that I don’t think I would get if I was being taught by another sole person (or group of teachers) .

Third, I don’t fit into a category that any degree system or standardized test can put me into. I consider myself to be very well-rounded in many types of practice; I meditate at least once a day, I am very accomplished in divination, plus some alternative and spiritual healing…but at the same time, I had forgotten what a “boline” was a few weeks ago and had to Google search it. You might find some of these apply to you and you may find they do not.

My point here is that self-exploration is essential to your learning. I have been self-exploring and self-coaching myself for long enough that I think if I were to join a coven, it would have to be very flexible at the least. And that’s fine with me.

However, most solitaries, including myself…no matter how much we love our individual practice, we want some sort of structure, some group or support system. This is not a bad thing, if anything it shows us that we are realistic. I myself have daydreamed about starting a teen Pagan study group (notice I did not say ‘teen coven’) before…leading group meditations and having workshops to carve our own wands and such…sounds glorious doesn’t it? But I know that in the end that is not what a group is for.

I have joined many Pagan forums and websites…some of which are like my own online Grimoire. I say almost nothing to members but comb through hundreds of information pages and topics, completely in awe. On others, I have a group of elders or mentors that I ask for help quite often, whether it’s “Can I use this pretty dish my mom gave me instead of a chalice?” or “Who can tell me in detail the exact workings of the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram?” (And to be fair…some of the websites out there are total B.S.) . Many casual groups have the potential to help you.

This is the first rule of being a solitary. Solitary does not equate to being alone. I like knowing that I can plan my own rituals, or re-schedule a Sabbat, and that I can adapt coven rituals to my practice. But I also know that there are always people I can turn to. I might talk to my non-Wiccan parents about finding spirituality in ‘everyday’, or ‘mundane’ life (as I found out in recent months, my sort-of-ex-hippie Dad and New-Age-Spiritual Mum are great for those kinds of things) . I might go on the Internet if I want to construct my own ritual. I might ask some online Elders for their book recommendations or good websites.

The thing about being a solitary is, instead of having a coven Priest or Priestess as your teacher, the whole world is your teacher. You usually have to ask several people about one question and go through each answer until you can combine the facts you need and get your own. You may find spiritual answers in simple social contacts or in the workings of nature.

Not to say that coven members “miss out” on this, but it is often unrecognized. I suspect that since Covens are a quick resource, that problem solving may not be emphasized as much, especially with limited resources.

One of my mottos that I have come to revisit often is this: everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn, and everyone is sacred. So even if you’re in a coven, a solitary might be a good person to ask about making up your own rituals. Maybe that seemingly fluffy teenager over there really does have some good books to lend you. If you have no one teacher, you have to branch out to anyone that has the potential to give you knowledge – that means you have to find that potential in everyone.

There are pros and cons to every kind of practice. If you’re in a coven, you still need to be willing to branch out and seek information from people who don’t have the label of a third degree high priestess. Maybe those with less experience do have things to offer you. If you’re solitary, don’t assume that you’re 100% on your own, there are Pagan festivals and new age shops everywhere that are likely to have people willing to teach you a thing or two, and there are plenty of online communities or websites that list meet ups and moots in your area.

In the end, we all have to do our own self-teaching of a few things. No matter what path we’re on it’s always nice to have some sort of mentor to turn to, but keep in mind in the end it is you who decides what is best for your learning, and you are responsible for comparing and gathering information, and adapting to your learning needs.

A good example is taking a hike in a mountain forest. You can take an experienced Guide, or you can go in with your supplies and a map. If you take a guide, you’ll probably get where you want to be without wasting time, and you’ll learn a lot – maybe you’ll be able to become a guide for someone else someday if it’s really your shtick. However… You might go through the path with your backpack, flashlight, and map. This is riskier, because you have less experience. You have tools at your disposal and you need to know how to use them. You might get turned around. You might take longer than the tour group. But there is a potential for you to learn a lot of things that the tour guide will overlook.

Okay, so you might not get the mountain path right off, and that’s okay. But maybe you can learn a lot more about forests in general. You’ll learn the skills in how to find your way through the thick forests, and you might discover wildlife the guides will walk right past. Maybe you don’t know the mountain path so well, even by the time you’re done with your hike. But, by the end of it, you probably know a lot about finding your way when your lost, telling directions without a compass, using your resources, marking your paths, and you’ll even know your own strengths and weaknesses better.

Not to say that the tour group missed out, I mean hey, they had their fun too, and they get to do all kinds of stuff in groups that you simply don’t have the energy/time/resources for. But ultimately, it depends on what’s best for you.

In keeping with the metaphor, forests can be dangerous. Some more than others. Some places you simply shouldn’t tread without a guide, at least for a while. And never go in alone without supplies in the dark, when no one knows where you are to a place you’ve never been. You can ask a guide every now and then even if you aren’t in a tour group. And there is no reason members of that tour group can’t go on their own hikes.

Back to spiritual paths, that translates to this: go at it alone, if it suits your fancy. You will learn a ton, I guarantee you. You might not learn as much about traditional paths, but you will learn a lot about what your spirituality means. You will have the chance to dissect it, analyze each piece and synthesize it along with the paths of others. But be wary of where you go, and always be safe. You will need to learn to self evaluate, and other life skills.

Coven members may have these skills and they might be better at it than you, but you still have the chance to grow and explore your own self-definition.

I admit whole-heartedly that I have no coven experience to back this up. I have let several coven members read this and give me their thoughts, and I have spoken to many about coven practice. I am not bashing anyone who is in a coven – it is a wonderful way to learn, and I hope to have a similar experience someday. But I feel the need to stress that somewhere along the line we all need to self teach and self-explore. And if you make that self-teaching and solitary practice part of your everyday life, it gives you a lot of potential in the long run. You can learn things in unlikely places, and I think solitaries know that lesson quite well.

Remember:

Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach, and everyone is sacred.

Blessings.

Converting to Paganism

Converting to Paganism

Author: RuneWolf

To say that I converted to Paganism would be somewhat inaccurate. I think one must first belong to one religion before one can convert to another. As I claimed no religious affiliations when I came to Paganism, I don’t really think of myself as converting, so much as finding what was missing all along.

I’ve told a bit of my tale before on WitchVox, mainly to set the stage for some other topic. I’m not at all shy about the details of my arrival in Paganism – I came to it as a direct result of getting sober in ’93 and joining AA. I suppose it’s a bit indiscreet to mention the program in these essays, but since I’m using my “Pagan name, ” I think it still qualifies as “anonymous.” And I think one of the reasons the Gods helped me get sober was to help other Pagans in recovery, and that would be difficult if I kept the fact of my sobriety to myself.

But I digress…

The irony of the whole situation, I suppose, is that I found my way to the Goddess and the God through AA, which is founded on Christian principles, although it is – ideally – supposed to be a non-religious fellowship. The sad fact is that there are plenty of folks in AA who don’t mind you having a “God of your understanding” as long as that understanding is the same as theirs. They seem to echo the Religious Right that claims the founding fathers didn’t mean freedom of any religion, just freedom of Christian religion. Similarly, there are some who believe that the founders of AA really meant a Christian God of your understanding, not just any old Deity and certainly not – shudder – a Pagan Deity! You can even be an atheist, as long as you are a “Christian atheist, ” i.e. you choose not to believe in the Christian God.

Now how’s that for dysfunctional?

Thankfully, as vocal and obnoxious as this contingent of the fellowship can be, it does not hold sway, and many suffering alcoholics of non-Christian belief can find the help we need. Despite the attempts of some to co-opt AA for their own agendas, the fellowship remains open to all who seek it out, and anyone can get clean and sober regardless of their religious beliefs or spiritual preferences.

I was raised Methodist, in the suburbs of DC. I wouldn’t say that my parents are particularly liberal, but they are Earthy and pragmatic individuals, and as dear as the Church is to them, they don’t feel particularly constrained by it. They live their beliefs, through their relationship with life and nature, through right action and love, and don’t presume to limit the God of their understanding to a particular building on a particular day of the week. So it wasn’t really out of character when they decided to try their hand at farming in the early ’70s and bought some land on which to raise cattle. Needless to say, this took up most of their spare time and, little by little, going to Church on Sunday became less important than being at the farm. Eventually, around the time I was 13 or so, we stopped going altogether as a family. My parents didn’t insist that we children do something they weren’t, and they let us decide individually whether we would continue with the Church.

While my sister continued on, my decision was already made. For some time I had been restless and discontented with the Church. Not so much because I disagreed with the tenets of Christianity, but because I felt the Church was getting away from what we would now call “Mystical Christianity.” Our church, at least, was very much into socio-political issues such as the anti-war movement, women’s liberation, civil rights, feeding the hungry and homeless and such like. At the time, I didn’t have the life experience to realize that true spirituality can be found in just such things. Rather, I was looking for the “burning bush;” what later decades would come to call “peak experiences.” I felt I could get all of the “social studies” I needed from school or the morning paper. What I wanted from Church was to feel the breath of God blow through my soul, and I just wasn’t getting it.

So I went out to find it on my own.

My quest, as it were, started out pretty well. I began to read extensively on other religions and spiritual paths throughout history and the contemporary world, assimilating what I liked and leaving the rest. In my mid-teens, I was introduced to the martial arts – karate, initially – but within a few years had discovered aikido, and the whole concept of ki, ch’i and the Tao. Taoist thought and philosophy had a profound effect on shaping my personal spiritual philosophy, as it meshed so well with what I intuitively believed about the nature of Deity and Its relationship with us. As silly as it may sound, my self-conceived “Western Taoism” resembled nothing so much as Lucas’ concept of the Force – and this was years before Star Wars came out.

I saw Deity as the whole of existence, including all the myriad alternate universes that must exist. I saw Deity as both transcendent and immanent, existing both apart from and as a part of all Life. I saw no paradox in this, at least none that could not be resolved by a truly infinite Deity. And why then should that Deity be limited to any single gender, nationality or form? To even consider such a thing was ludicrous. An omnipotent God must, by definition, be able to assume any form, any gender, in any place or places, any time or times, simultaneously or uniquely.

Long before I new that modern Paganism or the Craft existed, I had decided that God could be Goddess and visa versa, if She/He/They wanted to.

With this general spiritual bent and direction, I probably would have found the Craft years earlier than I did, had my voyage not run aground on the shoals of alcoholism in my early 20s. But run aground it did, and I stayed a prisoner of the disease for the next 15 years.

One of the significant effects of active alcoholism is that it leads inevitably to what we call “spiritual bankruptcy, ” a loss of all connection with any concept of a Higher Power. Which isn’t surprising, since prayer and meditation don’t work very well if you are getting up every 5 minutes for a cold beer. Nor does a spiritual life mesh well with the desperation, frustration, humiliation and degradation that the alcoholic experiences with increasing frequency and force. Not only the physical addiction to the substance, but the mental obsession with it, crowd out all other considerations, and the first to go is often our faith and belief in a Power Greater Than Ourselves. For many of us, it happens as a result of the shame we feel at what we believe we have become. How could any Deity, no matter how loving, love us?

The beautiful truth is that the Gods do love us and care for us, even when we do not love or care for ourselves. For those of us who become desperate enough, They ultimately lead us to the solution.

In May of ’93, I had finally had enough, and I reached out for help. I went into treatment, where I received the bad news that, if I wanted long-term sobriety, I would have to join AA. Like so many, I thought AA was something of a cult, but I was desperate enough to try anything.

Happily, I discovered that AA was anything but a cult, and that the only thing required of me was a desire to stop drinking. I fell in with a group where not drinking one day at a time was the single most important thing in the world. No one really cared about your race, creed, color, politics, job, sexual preference or anything else. The quest for sobriety eclipsed all other considerations. It was from that group that I learned the true heart and purpose of AA. “Our primary purpose is to stay sober, and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” That’s it – period. It doesn’t say anything about advancing our political, religious or economic agendas, although I have seen people try over the years. But AA remains resistant to such tampering, and for that I am grateful to the Gods.

AA’s concept of a personal relationship with a “God of our understanding” validated rather that repudiated what I had come to believe about spirituality in the early days of my quest. I found that quest renewed and nurtured in AA, and it was from the foundation of physical sobriety and spiritual awakening that I found in AA that I struck out again to find a personal spirituality that would “fill the hole in my soul.”

After less than a year sober, a friend brought to my attention a workshop on shamanism being given by a Lakota “medicine man.” Back then, I earnestly believed that everyone on Turtle Island was one big happy family, and that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with a white learning the Red Way. I’ve since come to understand that some among the Native Peoples find this distressing and exploitative, and that some Native “teachers” peddle spurious goods against the wishes of their Nations’ Elders. But I knew nothing of such things then, and I was intrigued by the advertisement for the workshop.

Whether Ghost Wolf was the real thing or not, whether he was earnestly trying to teach for the good of all mankind or was a fakir making a buck off of credulous white folk, I do not really know. Nor does it matter, in the final analysis. Because whether Ghost Wolf was a true and sincere teacher or not, he set me off in a new direction that ultimately led, not to the Red Way, but to the Way of the Witch.

I assimilated everything I could get my hands on regarding shamanism, eventually finding Michael Harner’s excellent book on the subject. In addition, I joined the online community discussing shamanism and journeying, and it wasn’t a far leap from there to the online Wiccan community. Again, my interest was sparked, and I took the “road less traveled” at the next fork. For some time, a desire had been growing in me to externalize some of the internal work I had been pursuing with such fervor, and the richness of Wiccan ritual seemed the perfect vehicle for that expression. Shamelessly, I admit that I began my career in the Craft as a “dabbler, ” trying out various rituals and techniques gleaned from books and the online community. But it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

What I found in the Craft was something that no other path had offered me – a spirituality AND a religion that expressed what I had come to deeply believe. AA often makes the distinction between spirituality and religion, and I think it is an important distinction to understand. The beauty of the Craft is that it fulfills both needs in me – the internal need for a mystical spirituality, a relationship between myself and the Divine, and the external need for ritual, liturgy and form. Not to mention community.

I am an initiated Wiccan, who now practices as a Solitaire out of equal parts circumstance and temperament. The Way of the Witch feeds my heart and soul, and I wouldn’t trade what I have found along this Way for all the green cheese in the Moon. My only regret is that I did not find this Path sooner. But then, O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido, did not create that art until he was in his 40s. I have many years yet in which to serve the Lady and the Lord.

I left Christianity, not in anger but out of a need to find something more. I lost many years to the prison of addiction. In the end, through circumstances beyond my imagining or control, I found my way to the arms of the Goddess. Like so many of us, after years of wandering, I came home at last.

In Their Service,

RuneWolf

Can You Recognize a Pagan or a Wiccan When You See One?

Can You Recognize a Pagan or a Wiccan When You See One?

Author: jajlo b 
 

I have only been studying and practicing Wicca (and I say practicing since I’m not perfect) for the last 10 years. I’m very much eclectic, and have had to do much of it on my own. I just haven’t found a teacher that I feel is right. And in all honesty, I’m not looking for one just now. I enjoy my freedom to digest what I read in many forms and what comes to me through my dreams, and mediations.

But I often wonder… can you really tell who is Pagan or Wiccan and who is not, by some outward sign?

I mean I know a lot of people who wear t-shirts with faeries and fey on them. I have seen people with bumper stickers saying, “Give me that old time religion” and a Pentacle right next to the phrase. I have even seen t-shirts in Kansas near where the Wizard of Oz museum is with “Good Witch” on the front. (I actually have that one because I have a strange sense of humor.)

But in all honesty, how do you tell a Pagan or a Wiccan from everyone else you meet in your daily life and travels.

The reason that I ask is because of two separate occurrences that happened to my husband and me.

Okay picture if you will, walking into a truck stop about 11 p.m. one night and the cashier is busy with a line full of costumers. And she is wearing one of those fancy sterling silver pentacles. Not a pewter one, but one that you know is sterling silver and she has a small Pentacle ring on that I notice as her fingers are flying across the cash register keys.

Anyway my husband and me finally make our choices and approach the cashier. “Hi, that is a pretty necklace.”

“Thank you, I’m a High Priestess, and my daughter had me order this from such and such” is the response she gave.

Ok, not exactly the response that I was looking for or expected. I only commented on her necklace. I had to do double-check my appearance; yep my pewter Pentacle was safe inside my uniform shirt. And I don’t have any tats or rings or earrings that have Pentacles on them. So why did she just come across with that answer.

Just then I realize she is still talking about the necklace. She goes on to tell me that she was thinking about doing a consecration ritual when it comes in the mail. But she decided not open it till the night of the full moon. So she could do the whole ritual properly (I still haven’t said anything else at this point) .

She goes on to explain she got her ritual bath and set up her altar and went to her room to get the necklace (This was an outdoor ritual she adds almost in a whisper as there is another customer at the register) . But as she goes to take it out of the tissue paper that is wrapped up she gets a shot of what she can only describe as static electricity.

Just then she says she realized that the maker of the necklace had consecrated it when they created the piece. Her daughter quickly tells her to just put it on, and wear as the artist that created it had to be stronger and more skilled than her and her ritual would only ruin the piece.

I tell her that is amazing and thank you for sharing with me and I walk away with my husband, who looks at me and says, “She’s a High Priestess. You didn’t even tell her you were Wiccan. So how did she know?”

I just look at him and shrug, “Beats me”

About a month later sitting in Montana at another truck stop we are eating. I see the younger couple come in (They look to be in their mid to late 20’s; my husband and I are in our 40’s) with their two children. I’m facing the door so I can see the t-shirt the young woman is wearing” 51 percent Angel/ 49 percent Pagan {don’t push it}.

I laughed. “ I like your shirt” I say while giggling about the thought of it.

“Thanks. I’m a High Priestess, ” she says back to me. And walks past.

I look at my husband; he looks at me, and says, “ What is it about declaring High Priestess status suddenly?”

I shake my head and double-check my appearance. My pentacle is in my shirt, not visible to anyone. So what is the deal with people saying this when I just comment on something they are wearing?

Suddenly the young lady comes back over to my table and she ask me point blank.” Do you know what Paganism is?”

“Yes, I do.” I tell her then I tell her I’m a solitary Wiccan.

“Oh really!” she says with a smile and some excitement in her voice (someone that she could talk for a few minutes) “ I was a solitary but then all my friends started coming to me and asking me to help them figure out what books they should read, so I ask them if they wanted to just start a coven with me.

They all said yes, and I told them we could do this but I would have to be the High Priestess since they came to me for advice in the first place.”

“Did they all agree to that?” I ask.

“Yes they did, ” she informs me. “My husband drives truck and he is heading to take me home so that I can do a new moon ritual and an initiation this weekend. I have to run to restroom. I’ll be right back”

She walked off, and my husband looks at me and asks, “Is that the way it is done in a coven” (I’m Wiccan; my husband is Catholic)

“No, ” I tell him, “ it is not done that way”

The young lady comes back and asks me to hold out my left hand palm down. I did and she places her right hand under palm side up. She looks at me and proceeds to tell me” Your energy isn’t very strong. I think you need to study more”

“ I have a head and chest cold that is eating up a lot of my energy right now trying to heal.”

“Well I can tell when people aren’t that strong of a Witch. I was doing a tarot reading on a chat line and for a woman in Ireland and she left in the middle of her reading to talk to her High Priestess”, she says

“Why did she go talk to her High Priestess? “ I asked

“Well when she came back she told me that her High Priestess told her that if I was able to pick up on the things that I was that I was one of the strongest High Priestess she had ever heard of.”

“And the woman told me that her High Priestess was now afraid of me”

I just smile and say, ” That is wild that another High Priestess in another country would be so afraid of you.”

She smiles and says” But I know that I’m that powerful and can do that, so that makes me one of the strong elders in this life”

She says she has to go; her husband is motioning for her to come on and help with the kids.

My husband and I get up and walk up to pay for our food, and my husband ask me, ” How do people just know that you are Pagan or a Wiccan?”

“I don’t know, ” I tell him.

To this day, I often wonder. Can you really tell a Pagan or Wiccan from some other outward sign?

Or were these two women just trying to startle me because I made a comment about their religious items?

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Author: Patricia Telesco 

I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.

Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).

Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?

How about someone who:

  1. Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations
  2. Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future
  3. Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill
  4. Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely
  5. Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord
  6. Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.
  7. Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital
  8. Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life
  9. Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).
  10. Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain
  11. Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it
  12. Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.

In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!

Patricia Telesco,