Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Purify your Space

Energy can cling. This is why when I learned Witchcraft I was taught to use rough cut stones and avoid smooth, polished tumbled stones. The rough surfaces are better for clinging to energy.

With this in mind, can you imagine how much energy can cling to dirt, dust, bumpy walls, popcorn ceilings, carpets, drapes and other surfaces? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if dust will stick to it, or static will stick to it, then energy sticks to it.

Negative energy building up in our homes is akin to the proverbial frog in a pot of cold water. See, if you put the frog in hot water it’d realize right away the change in temperature and hop out. But if you put it in cool water and slowly heat the water, the poor frog would sit there and be simmered to death because he wouldn’t even notice the temperature gradually rising. Sometimes you don’t even realize how badly negative energy can build up until you clear it away.

My Tip for You Today: 

Purify your space to get rid of negative energy. Wipe things down with a salt-water solution—wipe the walls with it if you like. Sprinkle salt on the rugs and vacuum. Take the curtains down or gather up the fabrics and wash them with a ¼ cup of salt in the rinse water. Vacuum the upholstery and spray it with a salt water solution.

Another great way to break up and rid yourself of negative energy in a room is to fume it with thick incense smoke of sage, sandalwood or some other cleansing incense (please be sure to open windows).
Once your place is purified you may find yourself breathing and sleeping a lot easier, and the overall mood lifted.

Tell me— have you ever allowed negative energy build up around you? What effect did it have?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Create Something Meaningful

The act of creation is a powerful thing. My husband noticed how relaxed I got when I indulged in the arts—painting, scrapbooking, sculpting—anything creative, even if it was just doing coloring books with the kids. Now, when I get tense, stressed, overworked or when I seem wound up he reminds me to take a creativity break.

It reminds me how important it is to human nature to be creative and to have an outlet for expression.

My Tip for You Today: Create something!

You don’t have to be good at art— but it’s a fantastic way to express yourself and blow off steam. Play an instrument, write a poem, and draw a picture— whatever types of creative endeavors you enjoy.

You don’t even have to have a finished product worthy of display— just enjoy the process. You can take the pressure off yourself right away by telling yourself you’re going to burn it as an offering or bury it to return it to the earth. Now, you don’t have to worry about how good it is—just that it comes from the heart.

One of my paintings -- Acrylics on Watercolor Paper

When is the last time you stopped to be creative?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Hold a Dark Moon Esbat

A lot of Wiccans hold Esbats at the full moon— and this is perfectly fine. But “esbat” doesn’t just refer to full moon rituals. “Esbat” is any moon ritual. The dark moon has entirely different energies than the full moon, or the crescent waxing moon. It’s interesting and important to explore these energies as well.

Dark moon Esbats are usually revolve around:
·         worshiping God/desses in their dark aspect
·         meditations that deal with exploring the dark side or solving mysteries
·         divination
·         powerful spells that involve destructive magic (banishings, breaking bad habits, etc.)  

My Tip for You Today: 

Plan a dark moon Esbat. If you’re trying to connect with a dark Goddess as I discussed yesterday, then both efforts can be combined.

You might start by familiarizing yourself and attuning with the dark phase of the moon—hold a devotional to your God/dess in his/her dark aspect if she has one, or simply meditate and allow your energy to interplay with the lunar energies this evening.

Have you ever held a Dark Moon Esbat? Share your experiences!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Connect with a Dark Goddess

“Dark” gets a bad rep in today’s world. Spiritually, thanks to certain popular religions and fiction, dark is often associated with evil. When people say something is dark, it is usually not something admired. It’s equivalent to “negative” (another misunderstood word) or “malevolent”.

The reality is, dark is simply the counter-balance of light. The absence of light is dark; the absence of light is not inherently evil. Light is the obvious, what’s visible and out in the open. Dark is what’s under the surface, what’s hidden, what’s unknown. Perhaps it is this fear of the unknown that leads people to fear the dark, but it doesn't have to be that way. As a Wiccan, we strive for balance—and balance means facing both the light as well as looking into the shadows.

What’s in the shadows? Look at the scholar’s robs, the black belt—in the darkness we find wisdom. mastery. Strength. Working with the dark is not letting your most evil impulses and qualities go unchecked—it is actually learning to take your darkest impulses and qualities, taming them and learning to use them to bring yourself more into balance. Trying to bury them down in the dark doesn't make them go away.

My Tip for You Today: 

Consider connecting with a dark Goddess, for it is the Dark Goddesses who are best equipped to guide us into exploring and mastering our dark sides.

Begin by looking into dark Goddesses—Kali, Lilith, Inanna, Hecate, etc.; as you begin learning about them you’ll find yourself drawn to at least one of them. At that point study up on Her so you learn how to properly honor her, approach her, and so you’re ready of what she may expect from you. In time you may begin praying and worshiping her, and invite her into your life.

Do you feel the call of a Dark Goddess? Tell us about it.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Take a Stretch

The High Priest and Priestess of my coven required us to take classes before we discussed with them the possibility of joining. The class was free and ongoing, and would give those interested enough information on Wicca to make a truly informed decision— and it helped to weed out those who’s interest would wane.

There were almost 20 of us and my High Priest and Priestess really stumped everyone from the first class. They asked about what people did to nurture the mind. A lot of people were able to raise hands and talk about their studies. They asked what people did to nurture the spirit. Again, a lot of people were able to raise hands and talk about their meditations, rituals and such. And finally, they asked people what they did to nurture their bodies.

Most people didn’t raise their hands. In the crowd there were only a couple of people who were fitness conscious—a jogger, a weight lifter. Even they were a bit perplexed—what does this have to do with Wicca? Aside from my High Priest and Priestess, only two people ‘got it’—one vegetarian heavily into yoga, and another a karate teacher.

The fact is, mind-body-spirit is a kind of trinity. We need to focus on balancing the three. The smartest person in the world who has read all of the books and knows them inside-out is not balanced if you never get out of your reading chair. Likewise, you can meditate for hours on end, pray every day and hold rituals every night—you’re not balanced if in-between devotionals you fill your body with junk.

It’s not about being skinny, or attractive; it’s not about self-denial or deprivation. It’s about finding balance—finding a health balance for your body, and finding a balance between the mind/body/spirit connection.

Let me tell you, as someone who didn’t even have a kitchen, who survived on Doritos, Pepsi, chocolate bars and fast food, and who never bothered to exercise because I was so busy, I had a real ‘aha’ moment.

My Tip for You Today

Begin connecting to your body again if you’ve been neglecting it.

I’m not saying you need to rush out and join a gym or empty out the pantry and fill it with organic vegan foods; but you can start by taking a daily stretch. Stretch slowly, from head to toe, feel each muscle in turn. Put your awareness and energy into each muscle—what’s going on with them? Are they tense? Weak? How does stretching make them feel?

Don’t hurt yourself of course—remember, pain is your body’s way of saying ‘stop’. But do get into a routine of stretching daily, or a couple of times per day, and see the difference it makes in the way you feel.

When is the last time you took a good stretch?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Admit a Mistake

One of the biggest faults I had to get over was how hard it was for me to ever admit a mistake. I grew up with a mom who was absolutely certain that she was always right, and who very deeply ingrained the idea into me that being wrong was a sign of major weakness and failure.

This is such a terrible burden to carry; it really is. Everyone is wrong sometimes, and if we don’t learn to accept that it can pretty much be the root of some major problems, and will usually take you down one of two roads.

One road it might take you down is that it will ruin your own self-worth. Your self-esteem is a fragile thing and if it hinges on always being right, then it’s going to get damaged every time that doesn’t happen (which is what happened to me). It may eventually get destroyed altogether. Being wrong doesn’t make you inferior or unworthy; it makes you human, and people aren’t going to think less of you for being wrong. They will think less of you if you can’t admit it.

The other road it may take you down is further and further into self-delusions about your own infallibility, and this can truly destroy relationships because it’s hard to be friends with or live with someone who thinks they are beyond reproach (which is what happened to my mother). There is no glory in always being right, especially when it’s a false victory.

My Tip for You Today: 

Begin practicing humility and admit a mistake that you’ve made. If it’s difficult, then it’s all the more reason you need to do it. If you feel it’s impossible because you’ve never made a mistake, or you attempt to redirect the blame to others (like my mother, who would say, “the only mistake I made was being too nice and letting people walk all over me.”), then you may need therapy— and I do not say that facetiously because yes, you have screwed up; if you think you haven’t you’re in denial.

The Charge of the Goddess tells us to “Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.” We can’t learn and grow if we can’t be honest with ourselves, and others. Delusions, lies, pride, etc., are all the kinds of things that act like a weight on a spiritual journey. Until you learn to dump some baggage you’re never going to reach the heights you hope to reach.  
You might start by writing about it—write a long letter about how you were wrong, and consider the ripples that it created in your life, and the lives of others. Really examine it, and ask yourself—is putting up a front really worth it?

Is there a mistake you made that you are afraid to admit?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Find Your Mantra

A mantra is a type of chant. In meditation, you'd use a mantra over and over again to bring yourself to a state of peace and harmony, to deepen your consciousness and direct your focus inward. A mantra is also a type of affirmation that you repeat to yourself over and over.

The human mind is a funny thing... it's easy to brainwash. It really is. This is why some people are so convinced life is hard, or people are bad, etc.-- because they keep telling themselves that and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. This is why a person with a bad attitude is genuinely shocked and perplexed by those who have a more rosy outlook-- when really the thought isn't a 'fact', it's a perspective-- and perspectives can be changed.

If you do research on how mind control techniques work, one element is to expose the person to a phrase, thought, image, etc. over and over and over again in attempts to get them to believe it. This kind of psychological warfare is usually used with bad intentions, but you can turn the principle around and begin using it on yourself deliberately to promote a better outlook and attitude.

My Tip for You Today:

Wicca is a religion that recognizes the power of nature, and part of that is the power of the human mind and what it has evolved to be. It is important to adopt a more positive attitude if you want to attract more positive energies into your life. 

Therefore, find your mantra-- find the one you need most. If you hate work, your mantra might be, "Work offers opportunities and I may seize them at any time." 

If you think life is depressing and always wonder why things happen to you, adopt a mantra like, "I am in control of my life; life is what I choose to make of it."

If you are struggling with a person in your life who is difficult, you might chant, "I cannot control others; I can control how I react to them."

Begin repeating your mantra daily, talking yourself out of your difficulties and into a better frame of mind to deal with them. Use your mantra when you meditate, when you get stressed, when you need to center yourself, etc. Do it daily for a week, or a month-- does it make a difference? Record the results in your Book of Shadows.

My mantra these days is, "In every moment of life, there is beauty to appreciate."This mainly comes from dealing with my auto-immune disease, and the difficulties it has piled on my family.What is your new mantra?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Write an Invocation

There are many lovely invocations to various Gods and Goddesses out there-- be it in Wiccan books or on Wiccan and Pagan websites. You've probably seen them and used them. 

There's something to be said of saying something that comes from the heart, though. Don't you think?

My Tip for You Today: write an invocation from your own heart to your patron God or matron Goddess. Do a little research if you need to, but come up with your own words, saying what you feel you want to say to them.

It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to rhyme... heck, you don't even need to tell it to anyone, ever. It can be your personal invocation for your daily devotions or monthly esbats.
Some books and websites on Wicca get so wrapped up in all things magic or new age-- from astrology to crypto-zoology. It's so easy to forget that at the heart of Wicca is the relationship with deity that's important. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Take an E-break

Do you ever find yourself saying you have no time to meditate, do a ritual, exercise/eat right, get outdoors, read, involve yourself in other hobbies, etc.? Do you ever feel like you are not spending enough time with your family or closest real-life friends? Do you have chores you're always complaining you can't get to?

Is it possible you are wasting too much time in front of a screen?

Electronics have totally transformed the modern world and become a vital part of our everyday lives. I remember when you needed a phone number you turned to the phone book. For a recipe, you looked through books or files. To get directions, you got out a map. To pay a bill, you broke out your checkbook, and grabbed for some envelopes and stamps. Now we do all these things with electronics. For many of us, electronic devices are vital to work or get information quickly, and it'd be impossible to go without it.

That in itself isn't a problem-- what is a problem is the way electronics dominate some of us sometimes. Some of us just don't know when to shut down the computer, or put down the Ipod. Some of us don't even REALIZE how much time we waste on the computer in a day. Studies show that the average adult spends 8.5 hours per day in front of a screen!

If you deducted necessary tasks ( like working, paying bills or finding an address on GPS) from the time spent in front of a screen each day, how much time would that leave you on the computer for unnecessary tasks (like using the computer to goof off from work, watching TV, wasting time on Facebook or video games)? 

Would unnecessary time add up to more than an hour? More than two? More than 3 or 4? 

Are you sure you don't have time for things? Or are you wasting a lot of time on the wrong things?

In Wicca, we strive for a healthy balance in life in things that we do. There's nothing wrong with spending some time every day in front of a screen for entertainment/social media, but if it's more than 30 or 60 minutes and you find you don't have time for other things, it's fair to say you might have an imbalance you want to tend to.

My Tip for you Today: Schedule a daily hour-long "electronics break" and force yourself to drop all screen-based activities.  

Take a daily E-break and turn off, or turn away from, all screen-based electronics and phones (it's fine to listen to music while you do other things though). Now that you've freed up that hour-- what else can you find time to do? 

Maybe you can split it up-- 30 minute E-break in the morning and a 30 minute E-break after dinner. Put the time to good use and see if you can't find more balance in your life. You may decide to lengthen your E-break. 

Does the idea of getting away from gadgets frighten you or stress you out?
Do you worry you  might have an electronics addiction?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Look for Inspiration in a Different Religion

Sometimes we can gain inspiration from the way other people worship their Gods or put their faith into practice.  

For example, in talking with some Jewish friends, I was inspired by the way they always put their spiritual practices first-- unless someone is truly sick or there is a major emergency. They did not make plans for Friday nights or Saturdays till sundown because they gathered for Shabbos. They made sure to bake the bread, to prepare the home, the family was gathered for the candles and prayers.  

It got me thinking about Christians who made it to church every Sunday, or Muslims who prayed 5 times per day. It got me thinking about priorities, and what it says about my spirituality when I put it further down on the list than chores, work, friends, good sales, or just being lazy on the computer.

I decided that I wanted to re-prioritize and put my religion further up on my list of important things-- not because I had to out of fear of some divine punishment, but because I wanted to, because of what it meant to me, because I knew that making it more of a priority would foster growth and fulfillment. 

I'm not saying everyone should do this, but sometimes we can learn things from people of other faiths and apply them to our own. 

My Tip for You Today: Raid other religions. Read books about them, watch documentaries. Think about their practices or philosophies that inspire you. Think about ways you can apply that to your beliefs. 

For example, Hindus offer their food to their Gods in devotion before eating it. Perhaps this can remind you to stop before each meal and make a small offering or give a small prayer. Catholics use prayer beads to say the rosary-- maybe prayer beads can help you with repetitive affirmations or prayer meditations. 

Look around for traditions you can put to use in your own.

What religious practices from other religions inspire you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Declutter Your Space

I used to be messy. Like- really messy. Ugh, my small bedroom floor at home was a sea of clothes, papers, blankets, garbage. Every surface was covered in clutter. 

When I got my own apartment (well, it was a garage, an illegal rental really), my mess got even worse without my mother to nag me. 

Part of it I think was just rebellion. My parents were sucky parents. I love them, but yes they were. Partially abusive partially neglectful, and totally focused on all the wrong things, they made one huge mistake after another. One issue was that they were neat freaks. Having every single thing in its proper place, exactly right, was more important than anything else going on-- it was more important than spending time with me, more important than my feelings or my interests. 

When I was younger I never had to do chores. My mother did ALL the cleaning, always~ just stay out of her way. And pick up after yourself if you were done with something. A plate in the sink, a water splash on the counter, a smudge on the floor, or -- heaven forbid! -- the dish towel getting dirty or too wet-- well, these things were literally considered "disaster" (her word).

One time my friend knocked over a cup on the table-- the closest thing was my mother's clean, ironed dish towel hanging on the little rack. Before I could say anything, my friend grabbed it and blotted the red dyed juice to prevent it from spilling on the floor. I gasped and my eyes went wide, it was like she had just committed a felony right in front of me! And I knew, no matter what, I was going to get the blame big time (and boy, did I ever).

All they wanted me to do was watch TV and read-- clean activities. So if they came home, I could have the best news, like a great grade, or the worst news, like bullies had beaten me and stolen my lunch money-- but nothing mattered if the house wasn't perfect. Even though I was so artistic, painting was "too messy" and even drawing was messy because of the little eraser bits.

So between having no sense of responsibility and  just hating the very idea of cleaning and chores, I was a total slob. I'm embarrassed to say it now, but I set my altar up and invited my Gods and guardian spirits and ancestors into my home right there in the middle of a real disaster area.

Somewhere down the line, I realized just what a drain this mess was on me. And I began to learn about energy, and how negative energy was like dust-- how it held onto things, built up, got stored in little pockets, trapped. Getting my life together largely involved getting my home and stuff together. I approached it not with a concern for aesthetics, but for convenience-- order. Drop-box organizing. A place for everything. Categories. Labels. 

I had to be hard on myself to keep it up but eventually, it began to take. My life did get better when the mess got cleared and the negativity got cleansed-- it was like lifting a heavy weight off me, it freed me and it gave me more energy. By getting my environment in order, I was freed and had more energy to get my life in order. 

My Tip for You Today:

Look around your environment-- is there any clutter or any chaos that is getting in your way of getting ordered, organized and progressing in life? Maybe it's time to tackle it. In Wicca we strive for balance-- and being too messy or being too neat is not very balanced.

What's too much? I don't know-- that depends on you. Everyone's balancing point is different. For some people, a space that's functional and attractively decorated is the ideal balance-- for others, just having semi-categorized areas for stacks and just cleaning up the real dirt is all it takes. 

If you feel overwhelmed because it's a big job, and you've been too frazzled, depressed or stressed to deal with it (which, by the way, probably means you need it more than you think you do), then start small-- tackle a drawer today. A shelf tomorrow. One corner or one surface the day after that. Little by little it'll start coming together, and give you the strength and motivation to forge ahead. 

Do you struggle with keeping order in your life? 

Does it affect you like ripples in a pond? 

Talk to me...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Practice Feeling Energy

At it's most basic level, every single thing is made up of energy.

It's amazing to think that under our flesh, inside the tissue, down past a cellular level, looking at smaller and smaller particles, eventually you come to nothing more than vibrations. All matter, all things in the universe, they all break down to nothing but a lot of vibrations.

In Wicca, it's important to learn to raise, direct and contain energy. That first comes with learning how to sense energy. This is an essential first step in Wiccan training, or training in any esoteric religion such as ours. 

Learning to sense energy is a major stepping stone. 

My Tip for You Today: Practice sensing energy. Grab something-- a plant, a friend, a pet. Relax, close your eyes, go into a semi-meditative state and hold your hands out.

Hold your hand over the object and let your senses pick something up. You may feel heat, coolness, tingling, radiating-- different things are going to give off different kinds of vibrations. So keep practicing with lots of different things. 

You might want to try some of the exercises found here: Wicca for Beginners: Energy Manipulation Exercises with Crystals

Have you been practicing with energy? 

What are your experiences?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Go on a Mindful Walk

It's amazing how fast life can pass us by. 

It's amazing all the millions of things going on around us, within just a few yards of us, without us even realizing. 

There are a lucky few who still live a slow enough life that they are aware of and in tune with the natural world. But for most of us, not so lucky.

We are born into busy world that has taught us to focus on our man-made problems and take nature for granted. We are trained to think about career, social networking, what we're making for dinner, and we run by a million miracles a day going on over our heads or under our noses. 

When learning Wicca, we have to learn to re-focus our attention in order to re-connect with the REAL world, and not the artificial one we've created on top of it. 

My Tip for You Today: Take a walk for 30 minutes or so in a natural area. 

Shut off the cell phone (not even vibrate. leave it home if it's too tempting). Don't even use an Mp3 player. Do it 'old school'. 

Walk slowly and mindfully putting all your awareness into the moment and into the natural things going on around you. What does it smell like? How does the wind feel in your hair? Is the ground hard or soft? What kinds of sounds do you hear? Notice how dappled light filters through leaves, or the insects racing up and down the trees. 

Try to do this a few times per week, living fully aware of nature and attune to the Earth in a way you haven't for a long time.

What have you experienced on your mindful walk?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Anchor Yourself with Your Breath

Life has a way of getting difficult sometimes. We can throw so many balls up in the air, in a moment of distraction they can all start coming down on us. It can get overwhelming-- but I bet I don't have to tell you that.

Anyone can have a panic attack, or become overwhelmed by emotion-- anger, sadness, fear. Anyone can find themselves in a time crunch, the mind running spinning in circles as you run yourself ragged. Anyone can find themselves obsessing over something, having a hard time letting go of the past or worrying about the future.

Luckily, the Gods, nature, the Universe -- where ever you think we all come from -- have given us an anchor to steady ourselves: the breath.

My Tip for You Today: When you're feeling like things are getting a little out of your control, slow down and breathe. Just focus on your breath, in and out. Steady. Even. Let it flow naturally and put your attention on your breath. Let your breath remind you of what's real, of what's truly important. Life, health, survival-- to keep on breathing.

Remember all other problems are just temporary and be resolved one way or the other. Just breathe and remind yourself you're a living organism that's part of something bigger. 

What do you do when you get overwhelmed?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Go Through Your Book of Shadows

Ahh... ye Olde Bok of Shadows. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and I like to scrapbook and make pages pretty, but is there any Wiccan tool more meaningful or more important than the good old Book of Shadows? 

As much as I like my BOS to have a pleasing appearance, it's most important to me that it's functional. I remember when I was Wiccan for the first 5 years or so... I stuffed anything Paganish or witchy-looking I could find into it, until it was bursting at the seems. 

The sad thing-- most of it was entirely useless to me. Lists of things I didn't ever use, or own. Information of a variety of New Age and esoteric practices, most of which had nothing to do with Wicca, and I never bothered to really study and use them. 

I realized I was worried more about appearances -- about making my BOS look big and thick and 'authentic' and like I was really smart. But in doing so, my BOS became most impractical to use, and I found myself using index cards and papers with my rituals on them instead of the book. 

One of the best things I ever did for myself and my BOS is to purge it of useless information, and to organize it into a more readable format. Now it's even easier to keep my BOS neat and tidy; so many resources are readily available on the internet and in books -- many repeat the same old same old. I don't need to copy it all into my book.

My Tip For You Today: Go through your Book of Shadows. Are there things you stuffed in there that don't serve you-- you were just new and didn't know what you'd end up needing? Is it all jibberish and little substance? Is it actually serviceable?

If something's been in there for 2 years and you haven't barely glanced at it, is it really necessary in your spiritual practice or growth?  

Maybe you thought it would be the neatest thing in the world to copy all your Wiccan info down translated into Germanic runes... and now you can't even read the darn thing and have to look for the notes you keep tucked in your book shelf. 

Re-evaluate it. Assess your own growth and what you've outgrown. Revamp and reorganize it. Edit it if necessary. 

If you're new... and haven't begun a BOS. Maybe you've been frozen because you're not sure where to begin it. Maybe it's time to take the plunge... start jotting down ideas for BOS essentials. 

So what's up with your BOS? How's it coming along?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Listen to Joseph Campbell

I was on the topic of Joseph Campbell the other day, which prompted me to look into my Joseph Campbell books more, which reminded me of another bit of wisdom from the man:

Follow your bliss. 

Yes, it's so simple; but it makes a great personal motto. Campbell felt true happiness came from taking time every day, even if only 30 minutes, to follow your bliss--- to do something that you truly love to do.

I've learned in my life that stuff doesn't make you happy; oh, you get a spontaneous rush when you get things, but it's fleeting. Then you set your sights on more stuff for the next rush. I've also learned that people can't make you happy. Happiness is not something you find outside of yourself, or that something someone gives you. 

Happiness is something you have to find within yourself. 

Remember The Charge of the Goddess:  for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

My Tip for You Today:
Is to follow Joseph Campbell's advice and follow your bliss

Choose something that's both practical and accessible-- following your bliss is not pining over the blissful thing you wish you could do. It's finding something that brings you  bliss here and now-- reading a book, watching a movie, going on a nature walk, painting, dancing, letting a piece of chocolate melt slowly on your tongue (remember, though, that over-indulgence in certain things is not bliss, it's a form of bondage, so be careful with vices). 

My bliss is nature (gardening, nature walks, etc.), arts and crafts, and going to Disney World.

What's your bliss? Please share it below:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Read the Charge

The Wiccan Rede, the Threefold Law... yadda yadda yadda. 

I honestly get sick of hearing about them. 

The Wiccan Rede is actually pretty simple in its philosophy (I'm talking about the 8-word actual Rede, not the popular 1970's poem built up around it; I don't particularly care for that poem myself). In fact, it's a bit overly-simplistic.

If it harm none, do what you will. Otherwise translated as: If you're not hurting anyone, then hey, have at it and don't feel bad.

The Rede is held up as if it's a Wiccan commandment. A lot of authors tout it so much, you'd think that's what it was. But it's not-- in fact, the word "rede" means "advice". And it's advice that came to us in about the 1960s. And while it's good advice, it's not a very complex moral code. 

After all-- the Rede doesn't tell you what to do if you are doing harm. It doesn't tell you how to deal with complex issues, when you have to choose between the lesser of two evils, or when you have to weigh out potential harm of your actions.

And as for the Threefold Law-- I side with Doreen Valiente on that one (who incidentally is the author of the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess, adapted from other works). I think it's poppycock. 

It shouldn't be taken literally-- the idea that there is a big scoreboard in the sky makes very little sense in terms of nature. The only way I can take it so it makes sense is to consider it a simply poetic warning about being mindful of the consequences of your actions. As for it  being a law or some kind of divine payment plan with interest-- it just doesn't make sense.  

Sadly, one major source of Wiccan ethics that speaks to more deep and complex issues is the Charge of the Goddess. This piece of liturgy often gets way overshadowed by those two little quips that fit more neatly on a bumper sticker. 

My Tip for You Today:

Read the Charge of the Goddess. Read several versions of it if you like. 

Here's a good version of it: Reclaiming: Charge of the Goddess  

Read it once; read it twice, or half-dozen times. Read it slowly, read it aloud... let the words sink in.

A good Book of Shadows exercise is to break it down section by section, or line by line, and write about what it truly means, and what it truly implies about how we live our lives. 

Original Painting; Acrylics on Canvas
copyright: WiccanSage (2011) All Rights Reserved

Take one section of the Charge of the Goddess that you find particularly poignant, and share that insight with us!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Watch Your But

Are you ever like this: you think or someone says, You know you really shouldn't (fill in the blank)... 

Your immediate answer: I know, BUT...

And then the excuses come:

  • BUT I really wanted to...
  • BUT I had to...
  • BUT I couldn't (I was tired, I was hungry, I was busy, I was late, I was helpless)
And my personal favorite:
  • BUT he/she/it MADE me (because they made me mad, angry, late, hurt, they're mean, they're stupid, etc.)
Don't get me wrong-- sometimes excuses are legitimate. But I've come to notice there is a connection that people who say, "I know, but..." multiple times per day are usually the people who rarely have legit excuses. And the people who almost never say, "I know, but..." are the people who always have legitimate excuses, and are usually the most responsible, reliable, self-disciplined people around. 

I used to live my life by "I know, but..." but now I try to avoid it. I have learned that I prefer to take personal responsibility for myself and my actions. Sometimes it makes me have to admit I did something wrong-- but it helps put control of my life in my hands. I'm still learning to do this, and I'm such a stubborn person who hates to be wrong that it is still a struggle... BUT I try. 

My Tip for You Today:

Watch that but of yours. Anytime you feel like justifying actions you know were wrong, don't let yourself wriggle out of responsibility with a "but" excuse. And if you do find yourself saying it, examine why. 

A key tenet in the Wiccan religion is accepting personal responsibility for oneself; this means being considerate of actions before you take them, and accepting the blame and the consequences of one's actions. 

This can be very difficult, because it's a blow to the ego-- which is why we often look for excuses, to soften that blow to our fragile egos. But protecting the ego doesn't help us. So don't be afraid to take a kick in the 'but'. Even if you can't bring yourself to take responsibility out loud to others, at least refrain from excuses unless they are 100% legit; and start admitting your faults to yourself. 

When you start owning your own faults and flaws and mistakes, you have a tendency to think more carefully about what you do and say in the future. 

Do you have big BUTS looming over your life? Tell us below if this hits home with you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Practice Listening

I remember my dad used to always refused to drive anywhere in the snow-- he'd complain about the roads being slippery, how slow the car moves, how other drivers drive like maniacs, the salt on the roads ruining his car paint job, how he hates the cold, etc. until one day I went across the street in the snow to wait for the bus and it never came. I was frantic about being late for work because I was opening-- but even though I left super early the bus failed me. So I begged my dad to drive me in-- it was only 10 minutes away.

He finally gave in, halfway there he pulled over, had a panic attack and couldn't drive anymore. I had to walk the rest of the way, and he walked home and picked up the car 2 days later. All those times he was telling me why he couldn't drive in the snow, I wasn't really hearing him. It was more than just an inconvenience-- he was seriously afraid of driving in the snow. 

There is a difference between listening and hearing. Listening is the actual attempt to hear; hearing is getting the message. Sometimes we are passive listeners-- we take in the sound and words, but we're too busy judging them, or formulating a response, or thinking about some distraction. When we listen passively, we don't always hear. 

Active listeners don't just take in the sounds; they focus on the words. They turn off the internal monologue for the time being so they can absorb what's being given to them. They don't just focus on their meaning, but try to understand the user's meaning (since language is arbitrary, what a word means to you is not always what the person speaking it means-- nuances and all). An active listener listens for the unspoken message.

My Tip for You Today:

Practice active listening today. Don't talk much-- listen to others instead. Ask open-ended questions if people seem reluctant to talk. 

If someone says something you disagree with or even that you despise, try not to have a knee-jerk reaction. Hold your own thoughts at bay and listen to theirs. Try to think of where they're coming from (and try to be objective-- don't assume the worst. For example, if someone disagrees with your politics, don't assume it's because they're uncaring, or selfish, or just plain uneducated-- try to really hear their ideas and understand the objective thought processes and motivations behind such an opinion). 

Don't fall into the trap of arguing, defending and justifying your own view today. It's okay if someone doesn't know your point of view. Let it go. It's okay if you don't dump all your feelings on their head. Let it go. Stop thinking you need to educate them, and realize you have an opportunity to learn something (even if it's just to understand people with different experiences and opinions other than your own). 

If you pride yourself on having an open mind, use it, and listen.

Do you consider yourself an "active listener"? Tell us how you do it!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Connect with the Element of Fire

I think a lot of Wiccans miss the point of the Elements. No offense... but it seems to be a big trend for people now who want to be/have "an element" or even to want to "control elements." 

We all have Elements- 4 of them (five, if you count spirit). You may have an affinity for one-- but this doesn't mean a supernatural connection; it simply means you like it more. I have an affinity for Chinese food, that doesn't make it my element. 

The Elements of Fire rules this season-- but fire is not just the flames (that's an element, little 'e', and it is merely a physical form of the Element, big 'e'). The Spiritual Elements are more than just a mere physical manifestation-- Fire is not just fire; Fire is passion, it's courage, it's strength and love and making love; Fire is creativity, fire is brass instruments, fire is dancing and metal smithing and big cats and salamanders. Fire is your sense of sight, it's summertime, it's noon time, it's roasting food and burning candles. Fire is being hot-tempered, and offering warmth; fire is being driven, and it's burning out. 

I explain my understanding of the Elements on my Hubpage article here:Wicca for Beginners: Elemental Powers and Finding Your Element

My Tip for You Today:

Imagine if you lived in some kind of biodome or star ship where open flames were forbidden for health & safety reasons-- how else would you bring the Element of Fire into your life as a Wiccan?

Connect to the Element of Fire in its season. Think about how the things you see move you, cause you to react, excite you, stir your soul. Think about it when you go out under the sun and feel the warmth on your skin, or when you're arguing with someone about something you care deeply about. Listen to some saxophone music, or meditate to the sound of brass singing bowls. Look around your home-- what represents fire? The stove? The furnace? Electric wiring? Your sexy lingerie? What Fiery herbs are on your spice shelf-- cinnamon? Cloves? Prepare a meal with them-- perhaps a barbecue. Savor the flavors. When you're feeling particularly willful, or passion, longing-- this is fire at play. Notice these emotions-- what other emotions do you have that relate to fire.

Think about these things over the next few days, of all the way the Element of Fire relates to your life, besides physical fires. 

Do you find yourself paying more attention to the Element of Fire in the Summer Season?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: You Are What You Eat

Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are -- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I used to be a junk food junkie. I didn't even know it because my family ate only junk food, so I thought Oreos for breakfast, Big Macs for lunch, mounds of pasta for dinner was normal, and soda pop (not water) was what you drank when you were thirsty. I would literally run from vegetables. If Brillat-Savarin was right, and you are what you eat, I was junk-- huge hunks of over-seasoned, over-sauced, greasy meat, mountains of simple carbohydrates, sugar and chemicals. No wonder I felt like crap. 

As I got older and realized the toll my diet was taking on my health I had to really change my way of thinking about food. But I'm actually no over-the-top health food nut but I eat way more balanced meals, healthier foods prepared in a healthier way, and have cut way back on the junk -- I don't even drink soda or eat Oreos anymore. But I'm not going to turn my nose up at a cup cake, some chips, or -- hey, even the occasional Big Mac every couple of months. All things in moderation. 

But in the spring, when the garden really begins to bloom, and when the produce markets start setting up shop with all these beautifully ripe fruits on sale, I usually realize that over winter I have backslid a bit into my old ways. I guess it starts with the holiday season, because it's so busy-crazy I opt for convenience over health, and by January old habits fit like a comfortable old slipper and I forget I'm even in them.

Then spring comes and it's a reminder all over again. That kind of reels me back in because I remember what I really want, and what I want to be.

My Tip for You Today:

Think about what you put into your body. Are you happy with it? Does it serve the purpose that food was meant to serve, or are you using it for something else (instant gratification, to fill a void, etc.)? 

I'm not suggesting that you go on a diet, I'm suggesting you re-evaluate if this is truly what you want and what you need, or have you just fallen into bad habits. Look at other foods that might not have been (taste-wise) your first choice, but think of what they can offer you-- what do they represent to you?

If you start making some small changes, great-- but for right now, just re-examine your relationship with the food you eat and how you feel about that. 

Judging by what I eat, I'm someone who tries to do the right thing, who is not perfect, and sometimes likes to be a bit 'bad' or is sometimes a bit thoughtless-- but who overall strives for balance.

If you are what you eat, what are you? 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca - Read Some Joseph Campbell

I'm a big fan of the late famous mythologist Joseph Campbell. You  might say in a way, Campbell saved my faith. I was going through the struggle that many go through (this might have even been before I was Wiccan)-- when a rational, thinking person struggles with believing in what essentially sound like myths. Campbell made me realize that myths had value, even if you don't take them literally. 

For the young me who first read this, it was like-- Wow. I had never thought of such a concept-- I was raised in a religion in which you took scripture-- well, as scripture. If you couldn't take your religion's literal stories as gospel truth, you were weak in faith (and at the time, as I was taught to believe, going to be severely punished for it). 

My Tip for the Day: 

Do you have trouble reconciling your faith with logic, reason, science, etc.-- have you been taught you need to believe, even if it comes at the expense of thinking? Ask yourself why something has to be literally true in order to have value. 

Recollect some of the great stories you have heard, read, or watched (if you're into theater and film) that you knew going into it were totally fiction, but somehow the message made an impact on your life anyway. Does the story have any less meaning or wisdom in it just because it didn't actually happen?

To further explore this thought, read some Joseph Campbell, or look up some interviews with him on Youtube to hear any of his 6-hour long interview "The Power of Myth". For an atheist, Campbell really 'gets' religion and can be quite insightful. 

Joseph Campbell
Copyright: Joan Halifax (Wikimedia Creative Commons)

What's your opinion on Joseph Campbell? Do you find any of his theories 'speak' to you? 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Be Assertive

I remember a time when it was very hard for me to be assertive and go after what I wanted. I was wishy-washy. I waited for things to happen for me with hope in my heart, and if something didn't happen I'd hang my head in disappointment and cry into my pillow. 

When I first became Wiccan, I touted the Rede and the Threefold Law, as if that was the extent of Wicca's tenets. It was later that I learned the Rede and the Threefold Law are advice/lessons, but no where near the most important ones in this religion. They're good advice, but they lack any real depth. 

A key tenet in Wicca too often overlooked is personal responsibility. Our lives are our responsibility, and it's up to us to make them what we want them to be. That means being pro-active rather than being reactive. It means taking action instead of just being hopeful. 

Since I've taken the reigns in my life, things have really improved. 

My Tip for You Today:

Assert yourself-- if not today, then soon. Ask for the promotion or raise, go apply for the dream job or make that deal you've been hoping to make: the business loan, the mortgage, the car you want to buy, etc. Pushing yourself comes naturally to some people, but not to everyone. If you have difficulty, you should know that the next few days are particularly potent for business deals, but ONLY for those who take initiative.  

Think about your life, and how you are in charge of it. You're the manager-- now what can you do to make it run more smoothly? 

Do you have trouble asserting yourself? Tell us about it. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Start an Observation

It's amazing how the cycles of the seasons are ever turning, whether we're paying attention or not. I remember in an art class in college we had a semester-long project: we had to pick a tree and observe it. We had to check it out about the same time at least once per week and sketch it-- preferably at the same time each day. We had to note the difference in the growth, the fullness, the leaves, the angles of the shadows as we went on through the next few months. 

As a Pagan, this was probably the first time I really sat and paid attention to the seasons as they were changing. Of course I'd noticed the seasons before, but usually it was only when they did something to really catch my attention-- the first day in late fall that you needed to fish out that heavy coat, or the first day you realize you can shed your jacket because it's getting too hot. That night in winter where you realize it's dark already when you're coming home, or that summer night when you can't believe it's 8:00 and still light out.

By observing the tree a couple of times per week it made me sit up and take notice of more gradual changes that go on. and helped me attune to those. 

My Tip for You Today:

Get out and pick a tree of your own to observe. You don't have to sketch it, but feel free to do so, or to take pictures of it. Just start watching it daily, weekly, noting all the minor changes going on with the tree, as well as the changes around it-- the air, the light, etc.; this can be a great minor daily meditation if you have a tree right outside your door or near where you work.