Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Happy Beltane

The Beltane Issue is Up-- Love the coloring pages & the craft this issue
(even though my kids have gotten too old for Pooka, I haven't!):

Have a Blessed Sabbat!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Don't Fear Power

I've seen these posts on interfaith message boards that say stuff like this;

"Wiccans just want power to control things, they don't want to submit to God."

Seems to be a common concept being passed around in other religions (I won't mention which because it doesn't matter).

First, a correction-- we don't need to submit to our Gods. Our Gods don't ask for submission. They ask to be respected and honored, as is Their right. In return (as with any relationships of mutual respect) They offer us the benefit of their wisdom, guidance, strength, courage, comfort, etc.-- whatever we might need to draw from them.

Okay, now on to this power thing... do I want power? You're damn right I do.

Anyone with a brain wants power-- power over the self. Power over whatever is your own responsibility to control your own life. Knowledge is power. Self-control is power.

The problem with these silly comments that power means some kind of supernatural wingy-dingy crap to make the wind blow or change your eye color or force other people to be your puppets. Yeah, that's not it at all. They are so far off the mark that it makes me sad for them. Apparently they don't understand what self-empowerment is, or why it's so good, if they fear power, and suspect people who want power of something sinister.

My Tip for You Today: Do not fear power.

Like all things in life, power needs to be in a healthy balance. Don't use power to hurt others, to be selfish, to take what's not rightfully yours. No one should abuse power, but then no one should waste it either.

Empower yourself as long as it improves you (by improving, I don't mean bringing wealth, beauty or fame-- though there is nothing wrong with those things when they're earned honestly; I mean improving yourself-- becoming the best self you can be. Becoming a self-reliant, self-respecting, decent, honest human being who continues to strive to grow and improve).

Power is not unnatural. Power is not evil. Power is not selfish and it's certainly not wrong. Don't be afraid of empowerment-- you will not regret it.

Do you fear power?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Follow Through Your Rituals

Ever been to a ritual (or performed a ritual) that opened with beautiful invocations, inspiring observances, went on to powerful divinations/works of magic/meditation-- and then the end of the ritual just kind of falls flat? 

It's like someone's thinking,  "Whew, I'm tired now; I did the important stuff, so let me say a really quick bye-bye to the Gods and Elements and let the circle just collapse-- the circle is open, yay! Time for the pot luck!"

I think it's a bad idea in general; first off, it feels kind of rude. Not properly bidding farewell to the deities or any forces and spirits you've invoked is kind of like being the host who hurries the guests out of the door as soon as dinner is over. 

Aside from being rude, it kind of leaves a lot of energies hanging in the air. It also doesn't give yourself proper time to wind down from ritual consciousness and come back to the natural world.

There are signs that you could be rushing the ending of your ritual:
- you're half out of it, kind of dazed and confused for a while after rituals.
- you've got tons of nervous energy and you feel like you're hyped up on too much caffeine
- the ritual area is left with energy feeling heavy, thick, confusing
- unusual things happen in the ritual area for long after the ritual is done

My Tip for You Today: Work on your follow-through when it comes to rituals. 

Have a closing that's balanced with your opening. For example, if you spent 10 minutes calling the quarters at the opening of the ritual, it should take approximately the same amount of time bidding them farewell and sending them away. If you made three passes to cast the circle, make three passes to draw it up and release it. If you took the time for a flowery invocation to invite your deities, take the time to properly thank them and bid them farewell.

Just as it takes you time to get into ritual consciousness, to invoke, to build energy, etc., it takes time to let everything get back to normal. Don't rush that process. 

Go over the closing of your current ritual format, or of the rituals you most commonly perform, and assess whether your closing balances out your opening. If not, rewrite it. 

In the coming months, as you perform your ritual, put as much time and attention into the closing as you do the opening. See if that balancing makes you feel any different. 

Do you feel your rituals are balanced?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Plan Your Beltane

Beltane is a major Wiccan Sabbat. There are 4 major sabbats: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. For some reason, Beltane and Samhain seem to speak more to modern Pagans in general, and are usually treated as the utmost important Sabbats. 

Originally in Wicca, the holiday was known as 'May Eve' (Gardner started with only four Sabbats: May Eve, August Eve, November Eve and February Eve. The Solstices/Equinoxes were added later by his coven, and only later were the names changed to the Celtic & Germanic words we know now).  It was celebrated the night of April 30th, but now people tend to move their celebrations to the most convenient date. 

The 1st of May falls on a Friday this year-- considering it is celebrated as the sexual joining of God and Goddess (the union of opposites), it is perhaps very appropriate when it falls on the day ruled by Venus. 

Attuning with the Wheel of the Year is very important in Wicca. The Wheel of the Year has multiple levels of meaning. I think of it as layers:
- The Deities
- Seasonal
- Agricultural
- The life cycle
- Ages & Stages of life
- Mythological (the bigger picture)

It's far too much detail for me to go into here in a blog entry, but I write more in depth about each of these layers in my hub An Overview of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year.

So in some way (at least in my trad) it's very important to mark the Sabbats as they pass. 

My Tip for You Today: Plan your Beltane!

What are you waiting for? You should be thinking about this now, with only less than a week to go. 

  • Plan an elaborate ritual.
  • If you're new and lack tools or knowledge, go for a simple ritual. 
  • If you're unable to do a ritual at all, plan an activity: go to the park to meditate for a while, and have some water or iced tea-- toast to the season and pour out a libation to the Earth.
  • If you can't get away, do something special at home; throw out a summer decoration, brew a potion, make a charm, or cook a nice meal.
Basically, find something you can do to attune with this cycle. Treat the Sabbats like the special occasions they are, not as an afterthought you scrounge for at the last minute. Give them their due by thinking ahead; this is how the Sabbats go from 'something you do because a book tells you' to real holy days that you begin to internalize and look forward to. 

If you don't know what to do, you can always refer to my "Wicca for Beginners: Wheel of the Year Resource Guide" and check under the Beltane section. 

I give a very simple, no tool necessary Beltane ritual, some simple magical workings and spells, activities, and even my famous hummus trio recipe (a hit at many a Beltane ritual pot lucks, if I do say so myself).

So now you have no excuse to procrastinate! Get cracking!

 Share your Beltane plans!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Learn the Real Wiccan Rede

Bide the Wiccan Law ye must
In perfect love and perfect trust
yadda yadda yadda...

Would you believe me if I told you that this popular poem is not the Wiccan rede?

It's true... it was originally entitled 'the Rede of the Wiccae" and written by Lady Gwen Thompson in the 1970s. Actually, Thompson swears that her family comes from a long line of Witches and attributes this poem to her grandmother, Adriana Porter, who died before Wicca as we know it today was founded.

The problem is that the original poem misused archaic language, and Thompson has no evidence of this heritage she claims. Most believe she wrote it herself after hearing Doreen Valiente speak, and she incorporated the actual Wiccan Rede into it.

Sadly with the onset of the internet the poem got passed around under the title ''The Wiccan Rede (Long Version)". But it's not. It never was.

To be honest, the poem doesn't make all that much sense to me and I'm not a fan of it. If you like it, however, you should enjoy it. Copy it in your BOS if you like. Live by it. Whatevs. 

But love it or hate it, every Wiccan should be aware one fact: it is not the Wiccan Rede, long or short version. 

My Tip for You Today: Don't confuse Thompson's poem with the Wiccan Rede.

The Wiccan Rede, the whole Rede and nothing but the Rede is this:

'An it harm none, do what you will.

That's it. Eight words, no more, no less. "An" is an archaic word meaning 'if' or 'so long as', so the Rede actually translates to;

As long as it harms none, do what you will. 

Learn it, use it, live it. 

Is this news to you? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Memorize Something

Some things take a little extra effort, but they rewards are so worth it. For me, one of those little extra efforts is memorizing parts of my ritual. At the very least, I like to have the standard opening and closing memorized-- the consecrations, the invocations, etc. 

What is the benefit of that extra effort? Flow. 

When you do a ritual, ideally you get into ritual consciousness. This consciousness occurs when you're brain is in the Alpha state. Just like when you have a standard procedure that you get used to, as I discussed in the previous blog entry here, to memorize the parts keeps things running on auto pilot. It's spiritual cruise control.

When you don't have anything memorized, and you have to keep stopping to refer to your book or cue cards or whatever, it can really break a person's flow. It brings you in and out of ritual consciousness so you never get deep into it. 

When your circle casting is memorized, much like the way you memorize your favorite song, it just flows out of you, as does your ritual.

My Tip for You Today: Try memorizing parts of your ritual.

Start with one thing, such as your circle casting. Memorize it before your ritual, then review it before rituals for a while until you're sure you have it down. Sing it if it helps you remember it. Spend the next month or two casting your circles without reading it. 

You'll probably notice how much more smoothly things go. You'll be amazed at how much flipping through pages can interfere with the spiritual mood.

I'll bet you find it's worth the effort.

Do you have any parts of your rituals memorized?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Standardize Your Ritual

What is a ritual? A ritual is a repeated act. If you get up every morning, stretch, pee, get coffee and read the paper, you have a ritual. If you get home every day, check your messages and change into your sweats, you have a ritual. 

A religious ritual, then, is not just a religious ceremony, but one that has repetitive elements. If you've ever gone to a church or temple service of a more mainstream religion, you've probably recognized this. 

Likewise in Wicca, ritual is not supposed to be just a spontaneous burst of spiritual devotion (although there ain't nothing wrong with that, too!). Ritual is supposed to be structured and repetitive. 

There's a purpose behind this-- it helps you get into ritual consciousness. You develop a sort of Pavlovian response to it. As you begin your usual ritual, your brain eventually begins to think, "Oh, okay... we're getting spiritual now." And then it flips more quickly to the appropriate 'channel'-- or state of mind -- for spirituality. 

Once this happens, you're able to operate on 'auto pilot'. You don't have to think about every little chant, every little action. They just begin to flow out of you. 

My Tip for You Today: Standardize your ritual. 

As an example, I like to keep a standard for the entire opening and closing:

  • My grounding and centering meditation
  • Consecrate the Elemental Representatives with the usual chants
  • Casting the circle with the usual incantation
  • Call the quarters with my usual quarter call
  • Call the deities with the usual esbat or sabbat invocation
Then there's the 'Body' of the ritual (observance, prayers, divination, magic, meditation). This is where the ritual is customized for the event, be it an esbat or sabbat. This is were I let myself be spontaneous, or try different things (different chants, different prayers, different music, different types of spells, meditations and divinations, etc.). 
  • Great Rite (same each time)
  • Cakes & Ale (relaxed)
  • Thank the deities with the usual prayer
  • The usual thanking and devocation of the quarters
  • Release the circle with the usual incantation
  • The usual grounding and centering  

It isn't as important which method or words you choose for each of these things, but the important thing is to develop the standard. 

My Tip for You Today: Standardize your ritual by creating a standard opening and closing.

If you don't generally like standardization or repetition for your spiritual practices, you probably will benefit from it more than someone who does. It has a way of really grounding you and helping you to fully mentally prepare for the undertaking. This doesn't mean you have to stop being spontaneous altogether; it just means you would be adding a little structure into it for balance and to have the best of both worlds. 

Give it a try for 6 months to a year and see how it feels. You may be surprised at how much you can benefit from structure.

Do you have a standard ritual?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca; Don't Be a Religion Hog

You can't follow two, or three, or four (and more) religions simultaneously, and you shouldn't claim to. 

Did I get your attention? Did your blood pressure just hit the roof? If so, stop now and take a deep breath. In... and out... good. Now, please read with an open mind. I'm not telling you what to believe; I'm not telling you what you can and can't do. I'm merely talking about how you might be mislabeling what it is you believe and do. 

I run into a lot of people that are what I call 'Religion Hogs'. They claim they practice several religions-- fully practice them!-- simultaneously. 

Very few religions can be, in their entirety, harmoniously combined yet kept separate. If you practice two separate religions, it would be very difficult to follow both (especially if they are from entirely different cultures). There would have to be compromises where they conflict, or where you don't have time to actively follow the various traditions.  

On the other hand, if you combine two or more separate religions into a syncretic spiritual path, then you are not actually practicing any of the original religions, but a new creation entirely. And if you're the only one practicing it, then it's not really a religion (which is a set of beliefs and practices followed by a group of people).  It's a perfectly valid spiritual path, but since you're forging your own path rather than following an established one, it's not a religion (yet-- it might be in the future. Who knows- maybe your beliefs will catch on). 

You may be influenced by multiple religions, but most likely you are only practice one; or perhaps none (there's nothing wrong with that; religion is not for everyone-- some people need to march to the beat of their own spiritual drum, and that's okay, too). 

For example: let's say someone claims to be a Celtic Reconstructionist, Hindu and Native American Shamanism. The person swears they are not 'cherry picking'-- they are following 3 different religions at once.

They may believe that, but they're not. How do I know? Well, Celtic Reconstructionism emphasizes things like devotion to accurate history of the Celts, learning the languages, dances, folk music, etc.-- this in itself is a tremendous undertaking. Hinduism is another entire, complete, intact path of devotion with different practices. Sure, some beliefs overlap, some conflict though -- and each one would take up the majority of your time. If you claim a Native American religion, dollars to donuts you're not legally recognized as Native American and what you're practicing is New Age concepts of Native American Shamanism (what real American Indians call 'plastic shamans'). Native American is not a religion at all, it's a culture with many different tribes who have many different religions. You cannot be a convert to those religions, either-- you have to be born into them. And Shamanism is Northern Asian in origin, Native Americans don't relate to it or use the term.

So the person in question here is not Celtic Reconstructionist and Hindu and Native American Shaman as they think. They're an Eclectic Pagan-- they're influenced by three different religions, and have possibly merged them in some satisfactory way. That's great, I applaud that they found what works for them. 

But I think it's insulting to Celtic Reconstructionists, Hindus and Native Americans for them to claim that they are following any of those religions in their entirety. 

Which brings me to Wicca, specifically, since this is a blog mainly about and aimed at Wiccans. Our religious group is one of the most guilty of cultural appropriation. You'll find there are a lot of Wiccan trads and flavors. People might claim to be Norse Wiccan, or Greco-Roman Wiccan, or Celtic Wiccan. Sometimes they think it actually makes them two (or more) different religions. 

Again, no. To say one is a Celtic Wiccan does not mean (and was not meant to imply) that the person is practicing an ancient Celtic religion and modern Wicca simultaneously; it means the person is Wiccan, and drawing heavily on Celtic influences (especially relating to the Gods). That makes them Wiccan, but it does not make them Celtic.

So, let's do a quick recap of my points here:
  • If you are actively studying and practicing one religion in its entirety, intact, as an individual religion, then most likely you do not have the time to actively study and practice a second religion, in its entirety, intact, as a separate religion simultaneously.
  • If you follow multiple  religions 'cafeteria style' by picking and choosing from them, and you combine them as desired, you are not a practitioner of any of them; you are merely influenced by them, and you are an Eclectic Pagan, or spiritual but not religious
  • If you actively follow and practice one main religion, and draw influence from one or more other religions, then you practice one religion with another's influence. The one religion you're more fully devoted to is your actual religion. Example: Hellenistic Wiccan (a Wiccan who worships Greek Gods), Pagan Unitarian Universalist (a UU who identifies with Pagan religions), Buddhist Hindu (a Hindu who is influenced by Buddhism), etc. 

My Tip for You Today: Don't be a Religion Hog. 

People who have a tendency to be Religion Hogs are people who are very spiritual and find great inspiration from multiple places. This in itself is not a bad thing; but the Religion Hogs don't want to actually choose-- they want them all. They want to hoard them-- and this is what's unhealthy and imbalanced. It's also intellectually dishonest, and unfair to the people who actually practice the religion because they're misrepresenting it. 

If you feel you practice more than one religion, list them. Then go and do some serious research on each one- not from Neo-Pagan sources, but from strict practitioners. Try to find the top organizations most reputable in that religion... chances are you'll find your actual practices pale in comparison to theirs. 

Once again, I am not telling you want to do, or what to follow, or what to believe; I am talking about what you call it, and that maybe your label is misrepresenting it!!!  
  • It is okay to be eclectic. 
  • It's okay to take influence from various places and apply it to your main path. 
  • It's okay to not have a religion at all and find influence in multiple religions.
  • It's okay to combine religions. 
  • It's not okay to pretend to be something that you're not, or to twist or misrepresent established religions; it's disrespectful to those that are fully devoted to those single religions.   
And one more thing before I wrap this up: if you legitimately are trying to practices several intact, separate religions-- you are probably not getting the full benefit out of any of them. There's such a thing as spreading yourself too thin. 

If you don't believe me, try sticking to just 6 months and fully devote yourself it in study, practice, devotions, veneration, etc. I bet you a will grow leaps and bounds and reach the true depths when you stop trying to be a spiritual multi-tasker and start focusing. 

Sound off: what's your opinion?
(let's please keep it respectful)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Recognize the Awesome in People

I remember in the 90's, there was a woman who used to come to the big Pagan gatherings. She got a lot of strange looks, and a lot of laughs. I don't think most people realize just how awesome she was, though.

She was pretty old... she looked like she was in her 70's to me but it's possible she could have been a bit younger and just had a harsh life. With her weathered skin and long, wild, frizzy gray hair, she looked like the stereotypical 'hag'. She was missing most of her teeth, but it didn't stop her from smiling a lot. 

She always dressed in black. One time at a Beltane day ritual in a large public park, she stripped down to nothing but a black g-string and a black, completely sheer skirt. With cellulite on her hips and sagging old lady breasts, she flitted around that park dancing to the beat of the drums. Mind you, everyone else was dressed-- this wasn't a skyclad event. So you can imagine how she stood out.

She was always alone, but it didn't stop her from joining others, completely uninvited, on their blankets or in their groups-- only she really didn't talk. I don't know if she was mute or didn't speak English, but I never heard her talk. When I tried speaking to her, she'd just smile. She held out her hand to me once and pointed to all the lines. I realized she was asking me to read her palm. I didn't know how, unfortunately; I wish I did, I would have loved to learn more about her. 

A lot of people at these gatherings were in their 20s and 30s. There were a lot of eye rolls; a lot of 'Oh, my Gods" and staring and head shaking. She was quite the spectacle. 

Some of us, though, thought she was kind of cool, and had a 'you go, Granny!' kind of attitude.

As the years went by, and I moved on and never saw her again, I came to realize what a unique opportunity I missed to get to know a pretty awesome person. She was more than awesome, she was practically a Goddess incarnate. She was doing what I hope I can do when I'm about her age-- embracing life, living her spirituality, and not giving a crap at all how she looked or what people thought of her. She was comfortable with her body. She was bold enough to approach strangers and embrace them. She didn't let language barrier or lack of dentures or social conventions stop her.

I often wish now in retrospect that I'd made more of an effort to get to know her. I wonder about her-- what was her life like outside of the gatherings I'd see her at? What was her home like? What was her back story-- how did she get to that place in her life? I wish I worked harder to befriend her. 

My Advice to You Today: Find the awesome in people. 

This is especially true of those people that seem completely quirky, 'weird', the kind of people that are often shunned or made fun of. The reason they're treated like this is because they're bold enough to drop the masks that we all wear in public and just be themselves. They're not pretty enough, young enough, popular enough, educated enough, cool enough, or just too different-- the outcasts, the so-called 'losers'. This scares most people, but don't let it scare you. Try to look at them not as a person who isn't fitting in, but as a child of the Gods who dances to a tune no one else can hear. 

Some of the most exciting and interesting people you'll ever know are the ones other people ignore because they don't fit the social standards well enough. 

And, don't forget-- you're people, too: recognize the awesome in yourself. 

Are you uncomfortable around 'oddballs'?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: List Your Values

Values-- that which is valuable to you. The word indicates our highest priorities in life. 

For example, if someone values their kids more than they value their time spent on Youtube watching funny cat videos, they're going to turn off the funny cat videos to make dinner for their babies, tuck them in and read them bedtime stories. If you value instant gratification more than you value your health, you're going to abandon the diet and scarf down those Big Macs. 

How much do you think you value your religion and spiritual growth? Is it one of your biggest values, or is it not so much? Think carefully about this; you may say it's a value with words-- but your actions might show that you don't place much value on it at all.

How many times do you hear things like this, or say things like this:
- I always mean to do a ritual but I never get time...
- I try to meditate but I get busy or I forget...
- I am really drawn to Wicca but every time I get started studying things get crazy and I don't get a chance to finish...
- I really want to start practicing more seriously and get (books, tools, incense, candles, etc.)  but I can't afford them, why do they have to be so expensive...

Okay. Crap happens. We all get that. Even when religion is a value, it shouldn't be an obsession. You shouldn't get fired because you keep calling in sick so you can do longer meditations. You don't let grandma die of cardiac arrest because you're in the middle of a sabbat celebration. Sometimes other values have to be put first. But then ask yourself this:

- how much time per day do you spend on social media, beyond keeping up with necessary communications?
- how much time per day do you spend on video games, or messing around with little electronic games?
- how much time per day do you spend mindlessly surfing the web?
- how much time per day do you spend laying around watching TV or movies?
- how much time per day do you spend wasting time on completely insignificant things (like I once spent about 30 minutes fascinating by popping bubble wrap when I had other things to do)
- how much time per day do you spend wasting due to poor time organization (like having to run out to the store 3 times because you failed to check what you needed and make a list before the first run)?

Are you  noticing a little discrepancy in the amount of time you say you don't have to spend on religion, and the amount of time you spend on other unnecessary things? 

If so, then you are not prioritizing your values very well. So think about it: do you just say it's a value, or do you actually treat it like a value?

Now maybe... just maybe... you are one of those rare individuals who has all his time organized, you have a day packed full of productive activities, you have a lot of responsibilities and really can't find any time for spiritual pursuits. Maybe.

Of course, people who are really busy (as opposed to people who appear by wasting a lot of time) know how to prioritize their time and values... so they don't usually have problems getting the important stuff done. 

"If you have something that needs to get done, give it to a busy person."  That saying is 100% true.

My Tip for You Today: Make a list of all your values in life right now. Just think about what's important to you at all and jot it down.

This list might include family, close friends, marriage/romantic relationships, educational pursuits, goals, hobbies, chores, health, rest, etc.-- and of course, include your religion and spirituality.

Now prioritize that list, with the most important things at the top. The higher you get up on the list, the more you value something. This means if push came to shove with one thing, you'd be willing to drop anything below it on the list. After all, when it comes to the value of items, isn't that the point? You'd drop a $1 bill if it meant in order to get a more valuable $100 bill, right? 

Where does your religion and spirituality fall on the list?

Think for a second: have your actions, the way your organize your time, etc., reflected that? If not, then maybe it's time it should begin. 

All of a sudden, you may realize-- there is time. You just need to utilize it better.

 Do you ever misplace your values when organizing (or failing to organize) your time?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Enter the Wiccan Sage April 2015 Blog Giveaway

And now for something completely different...

Add me to your Google + Circles and get a chance to win this original hand-painted altar plaque:

This is my own original hand-painted altar plaque, designed and painted by me (acrylic on chipboard). It can be used on an altar or any surface, hung on a wall (it comes with a clear plastic hanger), or glued onto a surface, such as the front cover of a book or on top of a box. It measures 6 3/4 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.

To enter for a chance to win this altar plaque:

1. Go here to read the complete Rules & Regulations for details. (By entering the contest, you affirm that you have read and agree to any and all Rules & Regulations).

2. Come back to this post and add me to your Google + circles by clicking 'add to circles' on the right sidebar

3. Leave a comment on this post or send a message via the 'Have a Question...' form below telling me "I added you to my circles!" Include your Google+ name and a valid Email address in your message. 

4. Contest starts now-- 4 pm hour (EST) of April 15, 2015. Contest ends April 30, 2015, 11:59:59 pm (EST).

5. Winner will be announced on this post on or about May 1, 2015, and prize will be mailed shortly after directly to winner.

My Tip for You Today: Don't miss your chance, enter today!

Not necessary to win, but I appreciate it if you spread the word to anyone you think might be interested-- share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, your own website or blog, etc., with a link back here.

Thank you so much for helping me get the word out, and good luck!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: See What I'm Doing Yet?

Sometimes I wonder if people interested in Wicca, or totally new to Wicca, might stumble upon this blog and wonder, "What the heck does all this stuff have to do with Wicca?" 

Admittedly, a lot of this stuff I write about is not the kind of stuff you  find in Wicca 101 books. I do write that kind of stuff on my Hubpages and elsewhere, but not here. 

So why do I write about all this life coaching type stuff? What does it have to do with 'living Wicca'? Because a religion is not practiced in a vacuum (or at least, it shouldn't be). It's not something you do on the nights of the Full Moons. A religion is something you are-- continuously, in everything you do, in everyday life. 

My Tip for You Today: Consider how you apply your religion to everything in your life. 

Does it help you get through the trials and hardships? Does it help you value your life and things in it even more? Does it help you make productive changes by making you  more self-aware, and helping with self-improvement?

If not, if your religion is only something you think about when you're planning a spell, or standing at the altar, then you are pretty much missing out on a big chunk of it. You're only getting half the benefits, but you're missing the bigger picture. You're seeing the trees but you're missing the forest.

Is Wicca part of your daily life?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Know When to Re-Assess Yourself

In continuing thoughts on criticism, a friend once gave me invaluable advice:

When one person says something, ask yourself, "What's wrong with them?"

When everyone says something, ask yourself, "What's wrong with me?"

Regardless of whether criticism is delivered in a constructive or destructive manner, the point is that some are spot-on, and some are way off. 

This really helped me in learning to deal with her mother. I started to realize that just because she gave me some criticism doesn't mean she was right. It was her opinion, but that didn't mean anything was really wrong with me. 

Other times, when more than one person gave the same criticism, I knew that there must be something there if multiple people were seeing it. 

Think about it: if one person calls you rude, defensive, insensitive, etc., it's easy to say they don't know you, they're misreading the situation, they have their own hang-ups. But if many people are saying it, if it's coming from all different places and situations, then there's probably something to it.

This is what taught me what to do with the criticisms I got-- to file them away as not a problem, or to really think about the issue, the kind of person I am, how I'm coming off to other people.

My Tip For You Today: Consider the criticisms you've gotten from multiple places. Maybe your family and friends always complain that you're late or forgetful. Maybe just about every message forum you go on ends up with you at the center of the drama and people telling you that you need to chill out or be more respectful.

Start listening to the criticism that seems to be coming from multiple sources-- chances are, there is something to it. Instead of taking it as an insult, think about it as advice. Try to remove the emotion and examine it objectively. Think about what you can do about that to better yourself-- not for other people, but for your own benefit.

Are you able to use criticism to your own benefit?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: The Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Criticism

Criticism. It can be hard to take sometimes, amirite? Especially when it pushes certain buttons. 

One of my biggest struggles in life have been with criticism. This is because I grew up with an extremely critical mother who pretty much made sure to obliterate my self-esteem at a very early age and put me on the defense. She criticized everything, and not in a constructive kind of way-- my mother could be out-and-out mean. I realize now it was not her intention to do this, but when you did something wrong she could make you feel like a complete loser and failure. Even if you didn't do something wrong, she could make you (well, me, as I was an only child) feel like a total freak. 

Yeah. It's been a long, hard road to overcome. But like everything, it was a learning experience, and I learned a lot about criticism.

It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to criticism. It can be hurtful, unfair, hard to hear. It can be true, too-- even when we don't want to believe it. But on the other hand, we can learn a lot from the criticisms we get from others. If we're able to objectively look at ourselves, we might find someone's criticism a springboard for change.

My Tip for you Today: Learn the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. It's important to know the difference so you can learn to shake off that which is truly unfair, and you can take the positive criticism into consideration to affect positive changes in your life. 

Constructive criticism:
- is honest and fair
- is not said to be hurtful (even though it might hurt), but meant to help you
- offers you useful advice so that you can employ positive changes
- focuses on the behavior or issue without tying it to your value or self-worth

- Some times when I'm talking I feel like you're distracted by the TV. Can you mute the TV and look at me when I talk for just a minute?
- If you lower the heat when you're cooking, you won't burn the garlic
- Those tight spandex skirts aren't flattering to your figure; you look better in flowing A-line skirts, they show off your nice legs.

On the other hand, destructive criticism;
- is often unfair and exaggerated
- is said to hurt you and tear you down, not to help
- is unhelpful because it's something you can't change, or don't really need to change
- implies you have serious character flaws

- I feel like I'm talking to a moron, can't you pay attention?
- You burned the garlic again. Your cooking sucks.
- You're too fat for those skin-tight skirts and they make you look like a slut. 

Do you struggle with accepting criticism?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Don't be a Privileged Wiccan

Wiccan privilege-- have you heard of it? It's kind of a new buzz phrase going around the Pagan community. 

The term pretty much came up to refer to how Wicca seems to dominate the Pagan community as the norm. It's been compared to the way Christian privilege or white privilege is pervasive in our society. Everyone thinks Wicca sets some kind of standard. Open Pagan rituals follow Wiccan ritual structure. It's hard to find a good Witchcraft book that doesn't cater to Wiccans. The whole thing is upsetting to some Pagans in the community, who are tired of being confused with Wiccans. 

On a practical level, it's understandable; it only makes sense that the largest and most influential eclectic Pagan religion would be the biggest field for common ground. With so many small and individualized Pagan religions it would be impossible to appeal to such a large, diverse community all at once. Many non-Wiccan Pagans do actually draw heavily from Wicca, using similar tools, ritual structure, even adhering to the Wheel of the Year. Authors trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible tend to dwell on that familiar common ground where many beliefs overlap. No one is deliberately trying to marginalize those Pagans who identify less with Wicca; it's just that they are such a minority within a minority group, some even following an individualized path of one, that it becomes impossible to be entirely 'politically correct'.

Still, this Wiccan privilege issue  is enough to make a lot of Pagans cringe at the word "Wicca". It's fostered some resentment towards Wiccans in general. 

In the spirit of respect for individual spiritual identity and our differences, we as Wiccans need to be more aware of Wiccan privilege and have to try not to assume. 

My Tip for You Today: Try not to act like a privileged Wiccan with the greater Pagan community.

I've seen some Wiccans (particularly the new ones) lecture trad Witches or hereditary Witches that they're violating the Wiccan Rede. I've heard of Wiccans showing up at reconstructionist rituals who had the nerve to tell the ritual hosts they're doing it 'wrong'. I've seen some Wiccans speak for all of Pagandom by saying "We believe in the Horned God and the Triple Goddess, and you do comes back threefold." 

We can't help that we are the majority or the most visible, and we can't help that people who don't know much about Paganism might confuse it with Wicca. We can't help that someone on a less popular path might have a hard time finding books that appeal to them, or that people who run open gatherings decide that sticking fairly close to Wiccan standards would be appropriate for their community. 

But we can remember that Wiccan beliefs and practices apply to Wiccans, but not necessarily all Pagans. We can remember not to tell other Pagans that they're wrong or bad or mistaken if they don't follow that Wiccan standard. We can remember to not assume someone is celebrating our holidays or following the Rede. We can remember not to speak for the entire Pagan community with blanket statements, thereby adding to the confusion. 

As a community we need to be sensitive to that. I think we can agree that every path (including and excluding Wicca) is a valuable addition to our community. While we can't change that Wicca is the visible majority, we all know what it feels like to be in the invisible minority. Let's try to be respectful. 

Have you been applying the Wiccan standard to the Pagan community?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Send Someone a Rainbow

If you've been reading my blog for the last week, you probably saw that my elderly mom gave us quite a fright when she was taken ill last Sunday. She's doing much better now, by the way-- she's home and still a little confused occasionally, and has difficulty walking, but for the most part is 90% back to herself. She's right on the sofa beside me as I'm staying by her house indefinitely.

Something I do for people when they are sick and depressed is to send them a rainbow. It's something that a teacher taught me decades ago, and I've been sending my mom a lot of rainbows this week. 

Here's how it works: I go into meditation, envision a rainbow, then envision it moving like a big ribbon to someone in need and I wrap it around them, as if putting them in a cocoon.

Each color of the spectrum has it's own unique energy. These energies can be absorbed by the body, through the chakras (which, incidentally, are each associated with a different color on the spectrum). 

This kind of little energy transfer may seem like a small gesture, but sometimes little things can mean a lot.

My Tip for You Today: Send someone you care about a rainbow. 

Almost everyone is in need of healing or help, be it physical, spiritual, mental, emotional or whatever. not only does this help the other person but it can strengthen your connection to them and in turn help you-- you get that lift that comes with doing a good deed for others. 

Do you need a rainbow?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Seek Knowledge

Before I get into today's topic, let's have a word from someone far wiser than I-- Mr. Feeny:

You have to admit, the man makes a point. I'm not saying this applies to everyone, but it happens. I know I encounter it over and over again with young Pagan seekers. 

"What should I do to become Wiccan/Pagan/practice Witchcraft?" they inquire. 

So I and others who've been doing this for a while respond, "read."

You get a little sigh, a furrowed brow. "Yeah, but what should I do?"

When you grow up in a push-button world (practically), you start getting accustomed to instant gratification. Something as long and tedious as a book -- let alone reading several on the same topic! -- sounds positively like Medieval torture to some people. We have access to streams of information 24/7 yet people spend more time playing games and looking at funny kitty videos than actually learning anything worthwhile.

Then they want to know from me, or some message board of strangers, or some youtube stranger: "What should I do?" 

They might as well be saying, "I want to be this religion, but it's not enough of a priority in my life to devote serious time to. So please give me the 'cliff notes' version so I can feel like I've accomplished something." 

My Advice for You Today: Seek knowledge... stop looking for the bullet point version. 

Roll up your sleeves, wade in and really submerse yourself in resources. Try it for a few weeks. Take notes. Make flash cards. Utilize the technology and the information you have available to you. Start treating them like the treasures beyond measure that they are.

Do you consider studying/learning a chore or an opportunity?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Think about the Difference between Self-Defense and Revenge

In a Facebook group, people got to talking about whether it's 'black magic' to try and facilitate some kind of 'karmic backlash' on someone. It seems to me that a lot of Wiccans will automatically chime in with the 'don't harm/it'll come back to you' mantra these days, and we're all ridiculed for it. 

A lot of non-Wiccans scoff at us. They will say something more to the effect of, 'Aw, hell no! If someone tries to hurt me & mine, their ass is grass. I'm not Wiccan, I don't follow the Rede and have every right to protect myself. I have hexed and cursed people who have hurt me.'  

To me, we all have to consider ethics. I draw that line somewhere between self-defense and revenge. 

Let me elucidate: If you start swinging at me, I'm going to swing back in self defense until you stop. If you hit me and walk away, I'm not going to hit you back. I'm not going to go home and plan a way to jump out and smack you. I will probably never trust or respect you again, and our relationship is over. I may report you to the appropriate authorities. But I'm not going to turn vigilante on you. Once you're no longer an immediate threat, it isn't self-defense anymore. I will defend myself, but I won't try to get revenge. I am not a pacifist; but I am non-violent. 

Let me say right here: I am not one of your fluffy-bunny, white-lighter type Wiccans. My High Priest & High Priestess were kind of old school, and I that's what I respected about them, because I agree. The Rede, in my trad, is nothing more than advice, to be applied with wisdom and prudence. It's not a commandment not to ever do harm. And -- like Doreen Valiente -- we think the literal concept of a threefold law is 'poppycock'. 

I see nothing 'dark' or 'black' or 'evil' or worthy of punishment when it comes to self-defense. However, I have a big problem with revenge, because it comes from an ego in overdrive. Somewhere in-between the two lies balance-- and in Wicca, we strive for a healthy balance. 

My Tip for You Today: Look for that line. Try to figure out that place to stand between self-defense and revenge, and try to find your balance there. 

If you have to defend yourself against a threat, do what you must. Do it without guilt and without fear of retribution. Do not be someone's doormat or punching bag. But if you're not being directly threatened-- if you simply want the satisfaction of seeing a person who wrongs you getting his/her own comeuppance, walk away. Make changes, alert authorities, seek justice from a more objective source-- but my advice to you is to walk away and learn to control your vengeful urges.

We're not objective enough to be judge and jury for someone else. We might think we're 100% right. It might feel justified. But, we are not objective so we might be wrong. Often, it's two parties that contribute to conflicts. There is a reason why juries and judges are supposed to be impartial, objective, and have no conflict of interest with people on either side of the case. Because it's fair. 

Another point is that learning to rise above pettiness is a healthy attitude; and revenge (not to be confused with self-defense or even justice) is petty. It's a childish 'neener neener neener' kind of move. A lot of people who pooh-pooh Wiccan ethics as being too 'goody two-shoes' think that not wanting to enact revenge on others makes us 'weak' and 'fluffy'. They think it's because we fear some kind of triple backlash from some cosmic source (and sadly, some are) and they ridicule us.

But that's missing the point. The point is, we're adults, not children. We're trying to grow and evolve into enlightened, mature beings here. We are trying to rise above base emotions and knee-jerk reactions, to have better control over our own impulses. We have to live with ourselves. We have to have self-respect. We have to learn how to find balance, let things go, move on and not be held back by unhealthy negative urges to 'get back' at others. If you are that desperate to see others hurting (even if they wronged you), then you're the one who really has the problem... you are giving this person power over you. 

Taking the moral high road isn't weakness, it's strength. It's not out of fear of punishment (at least, it shouldn't be; that's preconventional moral reasoning); it's out of desire to handle things with a sense of dignity, and of conscience that extends beyond our own individual egos. I live by certain ethical principles, and I'm not going to give them up for the fleeting satisfaction that comes with seeing a terrible person get his due. 

The most potent expression of real power lies in self-restraint. 


What's your take?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Lean on Your Faith in Hard Times

Well, it's been an eventful couple of days for me. The other day I wrote about going to my mother's for her Easter dinner. Well, things didn't work out as planned-- she ended up in the hospital. She was unresponsive, confused, dazed, barely able to talk or understand, and couldn't keep her eyes open. 

Seeing how she's 86 years old on top of this, then yeah-- it was very disturbing. I had to call 911 and spent the night sitting by her bedside in the ER. She was admitted. 

I tell you, there were times I could have lost it in the hospital. A young me 20 some-odd years ago would have lost it. It was 6 hours before a doctor even came to talk to me about what could be going on. Nurses and other technicians coming in and out to help her were, I felt, not listening to me. They assumed that because she was 86 she was feeble minded in general (she's not-- she gets up, reads her paper, does her crosswords, shops, does laundry, has a meticulously clean house, dresses impeccably, cooks and bakes for the grandkids when they visit, etc.). They assumed that because she had taken pain meds for her sciatic nerve that morning that she was a chronic pain killer abuser (in fact, she hates them and rarely takes them unless absolutely necessary; she only got the prescription 2 days ago). 

Needless to say it was a mess, and it would have been easy to have a total meltdown at some point. Instead, I just drew from my faith. I prayed for my Gods to comfort me and strengthen me. I meditated on the natural cycles of life and death. I offered her positive healing energies to absorb. It really got me through one terrible night. 

Just for the record, she's looking pretty good tonight. She was awake and more alert, but still kind of out of it and tired. No stroke, heart problems, seizures, blood & urine came back clean, etc.-- looks like she did something with her meds (either took too much or mixed them up or they're looking into a drug interaction or allergy issue). 

My Tip for You Today: Lean on your faith. I realize a lot of people out there are going through hard times, be it due to health issues, relationship problems, family problems, job problems, tragic events, etc. Even if you cultivate a positive attitude and have learned to embrace a happy outlook in life, etc., there are always going to be times when life gets you kind of down. 

Don't look to your religion as an easy fix to hard problems. I don't personally agree with the philosophy of all bad things being a punishment of some sort, or that a God will bestow favors upon us by fixing everything if we pray 'hard' enough. Rather, look at your faith as a rock to lean on when things get tough and you are having a hard time holding yourself up. 

Remember in Wicca that our Gods are there to draw from that which we need-- comfort, strength, patience, guidance, etc.; remember that the cycles of nature will always have their ups and downs, and though not equally pleasant they are equally important parts of life. We learn and grow from hardship, and it teaches us how to cope and how to be all the more appreciative of what is good and easy in life (and there is so much that is good and easy, don't take it for granted!). 

Do you remember your faith in times of need?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Join an Easter Celebration

I personally sit on the bench with those who see Wicca as an intact religion in it's own right. It doesn't make sense to me to combine Wicca with other religions. I think for most people, when they become Wiccan, their former religions are left behind (usually something they were shedding before even becoming Wiccan). For most of us, that would be Christianity-- it's just odds, since most people in Western society come from a Christian family. 

Sometimes new Wiccans worry about their new beliefs being at odds with their old beliefs. When you're raised to believe that other religions must be considered 'wrong' or 'evil', and must be avoided lest you suffer divine retribution, those kinds of concerns can stick with you. 

Some new Wiccans are torn-- should I go to the family dinner or Easter egg hunt like I used to every year? Should I go to church with them as usual? Will my family be let down if I don't go? Will my Gods be angry with me if I do go? 

These seem like valid concerns, until you remember that Wicca is an entirely different paradigm. While you ponder that, I'll be at my Italian Catholic mother's house enjoying her homemade lasagna & Easter pie while I try to keep my kids from eating too many Peeps.  

My Tip for You Today: Go celebrate Easter if you want to. 

Look just because we become Wiccan doesn't mean we need to abandon our family traditions and shun our former religion. Our Gods are not jealous Gods in that way. They don't feel threatened because you happen to be around people worshiping a different God. They don't feel let down because you ate a leg of lamb dinner with your Christian grandma and bowed your head respectfully when she said Christian meal blessings. They're not going to be mad at you for witnessing other religious rituals and services. 

If you want to enjoy your family traditions, you shouldn't let Wicca hold you back from that. Heck, you can even consider it an extension of your own Ostara celebration (privately, of course-- I wouldn't go imposing this idea on your Christian family & friends, or former church). As you're asked to bow your head, say a private prayer thanking your Gods and Goddesses for this beautiful season of renewal and for the time you get to spend with your family. 

Enjoy. Have a happy Easter; even if it's not your spiritual cup of tea, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a celebration.

Are you keeping up your old Easter traditions with your family & friends (even if you no longer believe in the reason behind them)?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Plan a Blood Moon Esbat

Tomorrow, on April 4th, there will be a 'Blood Moon'. This is when there is a total lunar eclipse of the full moon, giving it a dark reddish tint for a period of time in the sky.

You've probably heard a lot of hype and hyperbole about the Blood Moons over the last year, ever since some dude wrote a book about it being some kind of herald to doomsday. Well, don't worry about that-- that's bunk. Seriously. Do you know how many of these 'Blood Moon Tetrads' have happened since Biblical times? 62. Yep, that's right-- they're not uncommon. We survived 62 of them, we'll survive the 63rd. So let's forget that conspiracy theory armageddon nonsense... we're not Christians. 

As a Wiccan, the full moons are always time for an esbat and a good time for magic and spell casting. An eclipse-- when the Earth, moon and Sun are in direct line -- makes the night all the more powerful. This particular alignment open us to tap into higher spiritual levels. This is a particularly good time to do divination, meditations, for going within, contact spirit guides, or pathworking. 

My Tip for You Today: plan a Blood Moon esbat. 

Don't let this unique opportunity go by. Even if the actual eclipse is not visible to you, just being on Earth here allows you to draw energy from the sun and moon simultaneously in this unusual planetary alignment. The moon is also in Libra, which makes it a perfect time to find peace, harmony and balance in any situation. 

If you're not sure exactly what to do, let me offer you some resources. If you don't have a standard ritual format, you can use this one here:

Wicca Rituals: A Standard Ritual Opening and Closing for Begining Wiccans

This is a good time for divination. I plan to use my pendulum; if you don't have a pendulum it is a good time to buy or make one, consecrate it and use it:

Pendulum Witchcraft: How to Make and Use a Pendulum

I published this as a Mabon spell, but this full moon is actually a great timing for it:

Magic and Spells for Mabon: Wiccan Spell for Balance

Here is another great activity for tomorrow night:
Some great guided meditations on Youtube to try tomorrow night during or after your ritual:

Enjoy you Esbat!

Tell me about your Blood Moon Esbat plans!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tips for Living Wicca: Study Smarter

I've noticed a disturbing trend among many new Solitary Wiccans... they don't like to study. Not ALL of course, but there are a number who would prefer just to watch youtube videos (which are often taught by the inexperienced and the untrained), or ask questions on message boards.

These people are looking for shortcuts. They're looking for instant spirituality. They want quick answers that won't take up much of their time. They want to be told the 'real' story. 

They are overlooking the fact that spirituality is a complex issue, and Wicca is a complex religion. They overlook that the short answers are rarely meant to be more than an introduction to a topic, and that there's still much more to explore. They don't realize that there aren't always easy answers to tough questions. 

They are missing out on a lot-- don't be one of these people. 

My Tip for You Today: Study Wicca, study it smart. Don't jump into practice before you know what you're doing. Don't rush to the New Age shop and buy a bag full of tools, crystals and herbs. Don't be satisfied with quick little blurbs.

Study smart... read books. Read lots of them. Read the good ones many times. Stop periodically to ponder what you're reading. Make notes in the margins. Compare. When a claim is made, dig deeper to find the source and look for the arguments. 

Have fun with your religion, but take it seriously. 

How Much Time do You Set Aside to Study?