Friday, February 20, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Study the 'Boring' Stuff

I've written pretty extensively on the topic of Wicca, but usually I would send it out to be published in books, magazines or other people's websites. Since starting to write for Hubpages a couple of years ago, I am able to see how each individual article does. I can see how much traffic the title gets, as well as get a general idea of how long people spend on the article before moving on.

It's interesting, and probably telling, that some of my articles that do best are about spells, Wiccan names, elements, magical practices, tools, etc. Not only do they get the most hits, but people spend the most amount of time on them. 

Articles that get the least hits: ethics, philosophies, essays and generally anything of a more theological nature. These are often the articles I'm most proud of, but readers reactions seem to show that this kind of content isn't as worthy of their time. I get fewer views, fewer comments and fewer E-mails about them.

And it's not just me. Ask almost anyone who's been interested in Wicca for less than 5 years if they've read Silver RavenWolf (cringe) or any kind of  'spell' book; most, if not all, hands will go up. Ask the same crowd if they've read Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente or Ronald Hutton... crickets. If any hands do go up, most of them will be either initiates or neophytes in a coven. 

People are much more attracted to the 'fluff', the oversimplifications, the flashy stuff for putting on a show. They're so interested in the meat, they don't eat their veggies.

My Advice for You Today: Go read the 'boring' stuff. 

It may not seem as exciting as the steps for putting on a dramatic ritual or casting a spell, but it will usually give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of those practices. It's the 'boring' stuff that really digs and get into the depths of understanding Wicca.

Do you  want to be in 'Wicca 101' forever? If not, then you need to read the 'boring' stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Make a Plan

In yesterday's post, I talked about making a bucket list. A bucket list is just an idea of what you would like to do, things you want to accomplish.

Ideas can be dreams-- wishes, basically, that are nice but highly unlikely. We all have our little fantasies, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Then, ideas can become goals. Real goals. Solid goals. Goals that you can actually accomplish. The way to turn an idea from a dream/wish to a goal is to begin making a plan. 

My Tip for You Today: Begin making plans with the items in your bucket list.

Pull out a couple of pieces of paper in your bucket list and take a good look at them. Can you start formulating a plan? How can you accomplish this goal? What spells can you cast or meditations can you do? What research is necessary? What actions need to be taken?

For example, if 'write a novel' is in your bucket list, what are you waiting for? Start setting aside even just 30 minutes per day for you to just write. Or make a goal like '1 page per day before bedtime'.  Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Perhaps your goal is to travel to another country. You might not be able to do it right now, but that doesn't mean  you can't start planning. List a few steps you can take-- can you start a savings account? Or stick a coin jar in your underwear drawer at least to begin your savings? Start looking up what a trip will realistically require. 

Some goals you'll find will require you reaching other goals first; for example, you must graduate high school before you can graduate college. Split up multi-step goals into smaller goals and start tackling them one at a time. 

What goals from your bucket list are you actively working towards?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Make a Bucket List

I had a dear Wiccan friend. She's now deceased, but she was older than I was and I saw her as something of a mentor. She used to tell me that goal making was good, because just making a goal helps send a little bit of energy toward that goal. This in itself is an act of magic-- projecting the will to draw something that is desired. 

Goals are good, and sometimes just a major step is writing them down. 

My Tip for You Today:  Start a Bucket List.  

Put a container somewhere-- perhaps on your desk-- and begin writing things you hope to do on little slips of paper or index cards. I encourage you to do this physically, rather than keeping a file on your computer-- files get filed away. A little bucket is there, always a reminder. The papers are physical representations. 

It doesn't matter if everything on your list is realistic or reachable; for now, these goals are just ideas. But that's where things start. 

What's something on your bucket list?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Listen to an Opinion You Don’t Agree With

In past posts on this blog, I've suggested practicing your listening skills. Sometimes that's harder than others.

I've found it most difficult to really listen is when you have some notion that the person is going to say something you disagree with. Perhaps they identify as something you generally consider 'wrong'. This is not only an issue with religion, but various lifestyles, and -- of course -- politics.

Basically, there is a knee-jerk reaction to the label. Let's say you met someone named Joe who is an evangelical Christian. You have this preconceived notion of evangelical Christians that you have developed. Now, everything Joe says, you are filtering through that 'evangelical Christian' lens in your mind.

The problem with that is that Joe's life and experiences and opinions weren't formed with your lens-- so your lens may give a distorted view. You may assume a lot of things about Joe that simply aren't true. Instead of trying to understand where Joe is coming from, you've already heaped a bunch of pre-conceived notions on him.

This is sad, because Joe might actually be a good guy, with interesting insights. Despite the fact that you disagree with him, you could get along from him and learn from him. If you could learn to listen better, that is, to understand Joe rather than your perception of who Joe might be.

After all, wouldn't you expect Joe to drop his lenses and listen to what you're actually saying? Wouldn't you expect Joe to drop pre-conceived notions and listen to what you mean?

It doesn't have to be religion. It could be lifestyle-- perhaps you are an earthy person, and think people into makeup and fashion are shallow and frivolous. Perhaps a businessman may not understand why someone could want to be an artist.

Politics is a big one, and lately it’s gotten out of hand. I've been on numerous message boards where a person of one political party painted everyone from other political parties a certain way.

Democratic Representative Alan Grayson comes to mind, when he said, "If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: 'Die quickly.' That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."

I think if Grayson truly listened to Republicans, he’d find their objections were simply to the means and methods of health care laws that Democrats were proposing; not that they wanted sick poor people to die. But listening through their ‘Republican lens’, this is what some Democrats like Grayson heard.

What’s worse, by broadcasting this, it helped millions of other people develop a ‘Republican lens’, or reinforced their own lenses that impede them from really listening. Likewise, Republicans have their ‘Democrat lenses’. And this has resulted in what politics are now: two major parties with both leaders and citizens who just do not really listen to what the other is saying. It’s enough to make you sick.

My Tip for You Today: Drop the filter, and listen to someone you don’t agree with.

Watch a Youtube video, read a book or a blog. Jump on a message board and have a conversation.

You may still disagree with the person you listen to, and that’s fine. The object is not to change your mind, but to try to understand what someone is saying without letting personal expectations, prejudices or preconceived notions of your own cloud that message before it comes through to you.

I’m warning you, it’s going to be hard. Those filters are pretty solidly in place. But it’s an incredible learning experience, not only of how you view others, but about how others might view you. You’ll begin to recognize your own filters, the filters of those you both agree with and disagree with. You’ll take differences less personally, you’ll learn to develop your ability to understand, empathize and have compassion for other people. You’ll learn to see past labels, and see people. You’ll become a better listener, and you will reap many benefits from this ability.

This will make you a better person; and a better Wiccan.

Have you ever realized that you have not been really listening to someone else? Tell us about it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Do Some Bird Watching

I love watching birds. These creatures of air never cease to amaze me with their power of flight. How they glide through the sky, seemingly effortlessly and without a care in the world. 

I've found bird watching to become a powerful meditative experience myself. My spirit animal happens to be a bird (blue jay). On Hubpages, I wrote of one of the most profound experiences of my life that involved birds. You can find that here:

Religious Experiences: Gift From My Spirit Animal

The idea of watching birds being a spiritual experience is not new; the ancient Romans practiced augury, the practice of interpreting the will of the Gods by watching the flight of birds. It's a form of divination. The Greeks had similar practices. 

Ornithomancy is a more modern term for divination with birds. This involves studying flights, patterns, behaviors and cries of birds. With their ability to soar into the heavens, it's no wonder birds have long been considered spiritual messengers and heralds of the Gods. 

My Tip for You Today: Do some bird watching. Get into the habit. 

You don't have to become a full-on ornithomancy; but it's good to start making yourself aware of our feathered friends, even if only to put yourself in touch with the local cycles of nature. Consider it an exercise in the Element of Air.  

Then again, you might start getting some signs and messages that you weren't expecting.

Share your mystical experiences with birds here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Start a Book Journal

Did you ever read something and find some quote or brilliant little tidbit that you wanted to remember? And then months later you find yourself ripping through book, trying to remember it, wondering where you found it?

If you’re an avid reader, no doubt, you’ve done that… we all have.

Years ago, I got the idea of starting a book journal. Basically, whenever I read a book. I have a separate journal where I open a new page and write the title and author of the book. Anytime I read something I want to remember, follow up on, or find particularly profound, I mark it down, and mark down the page number. I might also mark down something in the book that doesn’t make sense, that is incorrect or that I disagree with.

Copying something down gives me further opportunity to ponder it, and to give my impressions about it. Then years later, I don’t have to necessarily re-read the book and strain to remember—I can just browse through my book journal.

This journal started out being a small pocket wire-bound notebook; now since most of what I read is on my kindle, I keep a digital file. It’s been very convenient, especially when studying, to help remember your sources and the important lessons learned..

My Tip for You Today is: Start a book journal of your own.

If you’re studying Wicca, you should at least have one related to your spiritual readings. You can even make it a section in your Book of Shadows—your impressions on whatever spiritual reading matter you pursue. 

You'll find it really helps with keeping track of what you're reading and learning.

Do you keep anything like a book journal? Tell us about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Write Yourself a Love Letter

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love is in the air today-- and it's a good day to start thinking about one true love of your life. The person you know most intimately. The person with whom you will be in the longest relationship-- one that lasts from birth to death. 

I'm talking, of course, about yourself. Today is a day for love-- and I challenge you to express what may be the most difficult kind of love for anyone to express: self love. Love yourself!

The more that idea might intimidate you, then all the more important it is for you to give this matter attention. You need to love yourself: you deserve love. You've earned it. And the more love you can give to yourself, the more you'll have to give away.

My Tip for You Today: Sit down and write yourself a love letter. I want you to praise yourself for all your good qualities, all the good things you've done. I want you to gush over yourself, and how much you are worthy of love. I want you to go on for pages, telling yourself how happy you are to be you. 

It's best if you mean it-- but do it even if you don't mean it. Sometimes the first step in feeling it is saying it. 

Write and write, doodle in the margins with little hearts and kisses, spray some perfume on the paper and put it in a pretty pink envelope. Then tuck that envelope somewhere secret, somewhere private-- and when you are feeling down on yourself you can go to it and read it.

Do you feel you love yourself enough?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Create an Altar to Air

In my trad, we're moving out of the 'season of Air' and into the 'season of Earth'. Some of the tips I've provided recently are related Air, as well as how you think and communicate-- qualities over which Air rules.

Before we totally leave this part of the Wheel of the Year, I urge you to continue to reflect on the meaning of the Element of Air in your life. Being aware of the Elements and their affect on you is the best way to learn how to strike that healthy balance between them all.

My Tip for You Today: Build and Elemental Altar to Air. You can go to it whenever you feel out of balance with this Element, or whenever you feel you need a particular boost of its influences.

Elemental altars don't have to be huge and elaborate... they don't need to have tools on them, nor do you have to perform major rites and rituals at them. It's simply a quite place to go and contemplate that Element in your life. 

Think about things like this:
  • Where do you really feel the element of Air? If it's when a gust of wind bursts through your window, perhaps you can set up a small altar on your windowsill. Perhaps it's in your back yard, or where you go to study, or on the small table where you keep your telephone. 
  • What symbols represent Air to you? Feathers? Birds? Paper and pencil? Books? A certain herb or crystal? Whatever they might be, place a couple of these items on this altar to remind you. It doesn't have to be elaborate-- it could be as simple as the right wind chime hanging outside your bedroom window that reminds you to stop and think of Air each time it tinkles. 
A perfect altar to Air, and no one would ever know:

  • Is there a chant, a breath exercise, a prayer or song that strikes a chord within you, relating to the Element of Air? Something you find inspiring? 

Tell us about your altar to Air.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Train Yourself Out of Negativity

I remember a time in my life when I wallowed so thoroughly in negativity, that I didn't even realize I was doing it. I was so deep in over my head, I thought it was completely normal. 

Someone actually brought it to my attention by telling me I used negative words like 'can't', 'won't' and 'don't' a lot. I'd never thought about it before; I had no idea I was doing it, and was even skeptical at first. 

The things that ran through my head were along the lines of: Of course I use those words. Doesn't everyone? I don't use them anymore often than anyone else-- at least I don't think I do. Besides, how else do I say what I mean? I can't even think of a way to say things differently.

Well, this person began to call me out on this habit. She brought a bag of metal bolts and put an empty coffee can on her desk. Every time I phrased things negatively, she'd toss a bolt into the can, making a horribly loud 'clank', and then she made me re-phrase it. 

Holy cow, how I hated that clanking sound! I'm sure you can imagine. At first, there was just a constant clanking sound. Even as I tried to rephrase something, I'd rephrase it negatively and get one clank after another. Ugh, how it grated on my nerves-- even now, a loud clanking sound just makes me cringe.

Though the method was a bit dramatic, it really helped bring my attention to my speech patterns-- and the person was right. I was a total 'negative Nellie'. 

In time, I began thinking about what I was saying and how I was phrasing things, and the clanks lessened-- they grew fewer and farther between. She would congratulate me with a big smile once I began speaking in a more positive way without getting a clank.

More amazingly, as I began to say things in a more positive way, I began to think in a more positive way. I started becoming a more positive person... eventually, with this exercise and other efforts, I went from being a complete pessimist to a fairly optimistic, happy person. The journey all started with a coffee can and a few bolts.  

While this person frustrated the hell out of me at first with every single clank, I came to love her dearly for what she taught me. 

There's actually a name for it, if you want to learn more: operant conditioning.

My Tip for You Today: Start training yourself to stop thinking or speaking negatively.

Wicca teaches us how our words, thoughts and deeds affect us-- as well as everything around us. We create our own environments with the kind of energy we pour into them. Do you really want to live in a pool of negativity and pessimism? I doubt it. We all have the power to change that. 

It's good if you can get a close friend in on this, because chances are they'll point out things you yourself don't even realize you're doing. If you don't have someone to toss a bolt into a coffee can for you, then try putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it on yourself every time you catch a negative thought formulating in your head, or negative words leaving your lips. 

You'd be surprised by how, after just a few days, you become much more aware of your thoughts and words, and much more aware of how they reflect on your mood and emotions. A crappy day can be turned into a pretty good day just by shifting your focus from the negative to the positive. 

Tried it? Tell us about it. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: List Your Accomplishments

I notice that a lot of people are just too dang hard on themselves-- they're harder on themselves than on other people. They don't give themselves a break. They spend so much time harping on their failures or mistakes, that they totally take their accomplishments for granted. 

Perhaps some people are taught that pride is a 'sin', and that it's more virtuous to be modest and humble. Thus, giving oneself credit for something seems almost shameful. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is it you, or maybe someone you love?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it totally crushes the self-esteem. Your self-esteem is important-- it's your self worth. It's how you value yourself. 

Think about how you treat things for a minute: how do you treat some silly little trinket that means absolutely nothing to you? Now, how do you treat things that you value greatly? You probably will notice a vast difference. If you don't value yourself, how are you going to treat yourself?

In Wicca, the Gods are not just who we honor; they are part of us. We are part of them. Everyone has that spark of the Divine within. We are all sacred.

We believe in striking a healthy balance in all things in life. This includes things like pride and modesty. Neither are healthy in excess, but then neither are healthy in absence either. Imagine yourself standing with your two arms out, holding dishes like a live version of an old-fashioned set of scales. Pride is on one dish, and modesty is on the other. Too much of one and too little of the other will have you tipping over. You need to bring them into balance for a healthy, productive life.    

They say it's important for people to have at least one accomplishment of which they can be proud, because it helps to build confidence and foster a health self-esteem. But when we ignore our accomplishments or take them for granted, we miss that little lesson. 

My Tip for You Today: Write a list of your accomplishments. 

Sit down and think about everything you've ever accomplished in your life-- all your achievements, all the goals that you've ever met, anything that you're proud of.

Can't think of anything? Then this entire post is probably about you-- of course you have accomplishments! Start thinking of small things, like something you learned how to do: can you sew? Cook? Garden? Play an instrument? Not everyone can-- congratulations!

It might be personal goals-- have you learned to balance your checkbook and juggle your finances successfully? Have you gotten a good job, and become self-sufficient? Have you organized your home, and made it a comfortable and practical space that you enjoy? Have you managed to have a happy marriage for 10 years? 20 years? More? Have you been a loyal caregiver to someone, or a steadfast employee?

The more you begin thinking about your accomplishments, the more accomplishments you will begin to remember. Do not belittle anything, telling yourself that it's 'not a big deal'... every single thing you have personally accomplished is something others have and continue to struggle with. 

Put your list in your Book of Shadows, journal or on the fridge-- and begin adding to it regularly to remind yourself of how much you are truly worth!

Share some of your accomplishments here!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Getting to Know Air

I often find myself trying to explain the concept of the Elements in Wicca to newbies. For example, right off, people assume 'Air' is the same thing as 'air' (oxygen, a gust of wind). While air is Air, Air is so much more than air.

Catch my drift? There is more to the Elements than just the scientific compounds for which they're named. I go more into all this in this article here

As a Wiccan, it's important to get in touch with the Elements-- all of them. It's important to get to know each of them intimately (not just their most obvious physical manifestations), and to find balance within each of them.

In my trad, the season from Samhain to Imbolc is associated with the Element of Air. Air is a gust of wind, but it's also the sense of smell. It's the first breath of life, and it's the dying gasp. It's wisdom, it's arrogance. Air is thinking, communicating, learning. Air is playing a flute, a bird in flight, your athame, taking a vacation. Air is Winter, the dead of night, the Northern mountains.

Have you acquainted yourself with Air yet?

My Tip for You Today: become better acquainted with the Element of Air.

Go someplace and meditate for a couple of minutes, and put your awareness in your sense of smell. What do you detect? 

Stand on a hilltop, or in a rushing breeze. What does it feel like?

Watch a bird or a butterfly in flight. What do you notice?

Have a conversation with someone, and be aware of the communication process-- the breath coming out of your mouths, the body language and gestures, the facial expressions. How do they convey thoughts? 

Challenge your brain to learn something new, memorize something, or do a puzzle-- what is it like when your 'wheels are turning' in that noggin of yours? 

Write all your experiences, thoughts, questions and feelings related to Air in your Book of Shadows or a journal. 

Tell us your experiences with or revelations about the Element of Air. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Fasting for the Soul

Imbolc just passed here in the Northern Hemisphere, and my celebration was very small and quiet. One thing I always like to do around this season is fast.

Fasting has been a tradition in many religions for ages. It's part of a process of purification, usually done to promote a state of mind conducive to meditation, prayers and visions. It's not an attempt to induce suffering, but rather an attempt to free oneself of excess.

In addition to this, for me-- as a Pagan-- it helps me understand what our Pagan ancestors went through this time of year. Food was scarce, and Spring must have felt an awfully long time off. I can only imagine how elated and grateful Pagan ancestors must have been to see the first stirrings of Spring. The best way to help us appreciate what we have is to go without it.  

My tip for you today: Go on a fast.

If you've never fasted before, I don't recommend going on an absolute fast without first checking with your doctor. Most people can safely go on a partial fast. 

For a partial fast, drink only water. Abstain from food for most of the day-- only eat what is absolutely necessary to your health, but keep your meals quite small, sporadic, and walk away still hungry. Keep your meals very simple and bland-- like unseasoned oatmeal or some kind of broth to sip.

Do NOT put your health in jeopardy for this-- the Gods don't require you to become sick or endanger your health. If fasting would pose a health risk, try giving something up for a longer period of time-- something you love on practically a daily basis, but that is not necessary to your health: chocolate? Coffee? Fast food? Pre-packaged meals?

Journal about your experience, and meditate on it.

What's your experience with fasting? Share!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Getting Back to Blogging

Whew, it's been a while. But like the old saying goes, 'life is what happens when you're making other plans.' 

My family has been plagued with some health issues, unfortunately, in the last couple of years. Just a year & a half ago I thought I was dying-- on my birthday, no less. I actually give a more detailed account of the story here: The Real Power of Prayer. Recuperation has not been a smooth road; there have been a lot of ups and downs. 

But things really got out of whack for me when my husband came down with an illness-- which I prefer not to go into because it's not my right to write about his personal issues. But suffice it to say, it's somewhat serious, but he'll (probably) survive it, and we've taken the matter in hand together.

I did decide to limit my internet time to devote more effort toward our relationship, our kids, and our health issues.  Now that we've all got a better grip on those things, life is returning back to normal (or maybe a new normal for us that I'm getting used to). Anyway, I hope to dive back into my regular posting here. 

I have to admit, I felt a bit guilty for not keeping up with my blogs and websites. I didn't want to be a quitter, or someone who started things and didn't finish them. But then, I realized, it was time to prioritize-- and when you do that, sometimes things have to get bumped off the list.

And by taking a hiatus, I noticed that coming back, feeling refreshed and renewed, is a bit like spring awakening after hibernation. I'm feeling more refreshed now, and ready to go again. 

Going through trials and hardships are a strange time. I find that, oddly, it's when I begin to appreciate life the most. I've had a lot of thoughts, ideas, inspirations, questions and what-not coming and going through my mind. Maybe exploring it here can help me with the processes of healing and dealing. If nothing else, these experiences have reminded me of what an important part that my spirituality plays in my life. 

My Tip for You Today: 

Think about it: are you ready for a reawakening? 

Is it time for you to pick up a stalled project and try again? 
Tell us about it.