Tag Archives: Spirituality

Rainy Days and Sundays

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The sun woke me early this morning. 

It’s always a welcome awakening. Shining through my east bedroom window the beam strikes the mirror (positioned to catch it) and light floods the entire room. For a few moments, I lay silent, letting the illumination fill me; it reaches into the shadowed corners of my psyche and I feel both hope and purpose propelling me to rise.

This morning, like most, I fed the cat, made my coffee and completed my morning devotionals, a changing mix including meditation, prayer, intentions, reading, and journaling. Now, I’m sitting in my quiet space and the clear sky has given way to gray clouds. I hear the sound of soft but steady rain and it evokes a different feeling than the sunrise, a calm sense of contentment and appreciation. I’m reassured that all I need is provided in balance, in light and dark, sunshine and rain, stars and moon in the black velvet night, joy and sorrow, growth and rest.

It’s not always so easy to remember this. Quiet mornings become busy days and the voices of doubt and fear speak louder to me than the silent proof all around me that the light always returns, the bounty of earth blooms every spring, that I live in a place and time where my needs are easily met, and my worries are mostly a foolish waste of my time in this life.

“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

~ Julian of Norwich

It’s sometimes difficult to wrap my brain around what the 14th-century holy woman intuited in her messages from the Saviour of her understanding, Jesus Christ. It’s not as simple as saying this too shall pass. I think more so it means that what we experience in our human existence as suffering—unmet need, loss, sorrow, pain, illness, and death, are as well in the fact of their existence as when they are overcome; all manner of things shall be well.

It’s from the sun and the rain that bounty grows, it’s from the adversity and the prosperity that we grow. All manner of things.

Each of us meets our metaphorical rainy days against the backdrop of our personal experience. I have buried four young men in our family, my step-son and three sons-in-law, the most recent just six months ago. The depth of that despair is now familiar to me and colors the lens of my perspective.

Friends wonder how I survive, how I go on. For some time, I thought I didn’t have a choice; the world goes on, the sun continues to rise every day, sometimes the rain falls. I am faced with the same challenges and triumphs I have encountered before, and will again in many guises.

But with such great loss, has come a gift of deeper insight. I now see that the joys and sorrow of life dress differently for everybody but are felt the same. I may be able to look at a mother who mourns the loss of a baby never held in her arms and know she cannot imagine the deeper sorrow of losing one she has known and watched grow, maybe to adulthood; it doesn’t matter because this is her greatest pain.

A parent or grandparent who has never stood at the graveside of a child they nurtured and protected, sees a future taken away by drug addiction or unwanted pregnancy, or debilitating illness or injury, and feels that loss as deeply. A spouse who cares for their dying partner, or one who watches, helpless as their marriage dies in divorce, each feel their pain as intensely.

Regardless of what measure they are dealt in, sorrow and joy are the two sides of the coin that is this life. They boil down to two known quantities—what am I afraid of, and what do I yearn for?

My fear of loss is great, it haunts me daily because I know how much more I could still lose, but the depth of that loss equally expands the boundaries of my yearning for joy, because I know how much more is still here within my reach.

A moment spent with my daughters in their otherwise busy lives, the mess of my grandchildren’s muddy boots in the entryway, the comfort of a warm cat sleeping in my lap, the light of the sun breaking through the clouds, all give me infinite joy. I have only to choose to embrace it.

That is how I go on, in sunshine or in shadow.


Simple Witchery — Part 2

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witch·craft
/ˈwich – kraft/
noun

synonyms: sorceryblack magicwhite magicmagicwitchingwitcherywizardry; spells, incantations.

I have to say I take exception to the rather archaic concept in the definition above specifically the descriptor, especially black magic. Most of the definitions I found with a simple dictionary search were equally as faulty.

Yes, some witches practice black magic, not all, and not even the majority. So why the inference that all witchcraft has a menacing element?

The persecution of witches (mostly women, but men too) is a time honored tradition of suppressing power. Not magkical power mind you, but that which resists the ruling powers of the prevailing institution. One very effective method to thwart opposition is to cast aspersions that create fear, and also promise repercussion for offenses. It plays out as convincing the masses that a witch is to be feared and reviled. It is a vehicle to prosecute and punish accused witches, up to and including death.

The rest of the definition, the casting of spells and use of invocation is accurate enough, if not amusing. By that definition, I was a witch sitting in the pew of the Roman Catholic Cathedral attached to the church school that I attended for 9 years—because if chanting litanies to the saints doesn’t fit the description of a spell, and calling forth the body and blood of a religious icon, a man who died over 2,000 years ago isn’t invocation of a spirit, then I guess I don’t know what is.

The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that is a religion.

~ Mad Goddess

Here is where I’m going to go off the rails because the further out of the broom closet I come, the more this is becoming my pet peeve. The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that it is religion. Some witches do intertwine their personal spiritual faith belief with their practice of the craft and in that way it fits the frame of religious practice.

The saying often goes, all Wiccan’s are witches but not all witches are Wiccan. It serves its purpose, but there are a few glitches even in that.

  • Wiccans are not the only witches who incorporate spiritual faith belief into their practice.
  • It is possible to practice Wicca without ever incorporating spell work, an essential component of witchcraft.
  • I know I can do spell work and invocations without a trace of religious trappings, or for that matter, belief in a supreme being; the only belief required is that in the properties of natural and physical laws, the properties of energy and the affect of motive and intention.
  • Finally, witchcraft can be practiced by those who follow a religious faith. Their faith may or may not approve, but otherwise, the two are not exclusive.

The least assumptive definition I found was, “The use of magic to help or harm people.”

Uhg. There is so much wrong with even that statement, some of which could be remedied by just dropping the last word. Yes, witchery (not necessarily magick) can and is used for both help and harm, depending on the practitioner—but help or harm can be directed to all things energetically connected by the web of life.

Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for
the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a
specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.

~ Mad Goddess

If any of those dictionary scholars were asking me (and they aren’t) this is what I’d tell them: Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.

A witch has a deep and abiding relationship with nature and the natural world, including an understanding that simply because many parts of the natural world are unseen to us it doesn’t mean we cannot enlist the aid of those properties and powers. In other words the belief that if E=mc², ( all physical matter consists of energy) that energy can be tapped into and used.

Many witches practice with a deity or deities, but even this does not a religion make. The major religions of the world call for belief in and worship of an all knowing supreme being (or beings) responsible for the creation and/or oversight of life as we know it, with the power to reward and punish our deeds. Witchcraft requires no such thing.

The practice of modern witchcraft, or neo paganism, primarily arises out of the desire to eschew the dogma and doctrine of organized religions, yet in many cases veers right back into those codes of behavior. Old habits and beliefs are hard to break; for those who were raised with prescribed religious practice it can be difficult to leave that aspect behind. Thus witchcraft and spiritual practice have become so enmeshed it can be difficult to tease one out from the other.

Working with the energetic qualities of archetypes and deities, gods, goddesses, prophets, saints or spirits, as opposed to worshipping or venerating and or submitting to the same, separates witchcraft from religious practice.

A witch might call on the energy of a particular animal to inspire its qualities, for example an Owl’s powers of observation. Indigenous American spirituality would describe it as calling on the animal’s medicine. Likewise, one could call on the energy or medicine of the ocean, the mountains, the sun, moon or stars, rocks and trees—as well as deities, spirits or human forms no longer of this realm; even archetypes and symbols have associated energy.

If witchcraft requires any faith belief, it’s the belief that all things have an energy that can be combined with our own to achieve a goal or manifest a desired result. Or, at the least the belief that we hold within our aspect the energy of all living things, each to be called forth as needed.

If either of those possibilities sounds a little crazy to you, consider how these concepts have permeated our culture:

  • He is the salt of the earth
  • She is an angel of mercy
  • I’m sly like a fox
  • WWJD – What would Jesus Do? What would your mother think? What would your father tell you?

All of these and many more are the calling forth of energy to our purpose. Of course, that alone does not make a witch. No more than my husband is a Catholic priest because he can still recite the entire mass in Latin (altar boy for three years). Nor I am Madonna because I can sing all of her songs. Yes that Madonna, not The Madonna—it’s okay for witches to have a sense of humor too.

You are not a witch until you know you are a witchTo Know is the first of the Four Pillars of Witchcraft*:

  • To Know
  • To Will
  • To Dare
  • To Keep Silent

The meaning of the first might seem obvious—you have to know witchy things to be a witch. But this pillar also commands the witch to know thyself above all else. It is essential to know not only what witchcraft is, but why you choose to be a witch.

Whew! It sounds like simple witchcraft is anything but simple.

Think of it this way—it’s like playing the piano. You learn to read music, practice the scales, develop and ear for the the sharps and flats, you have to know how to play all the notes and chords. Where you take it from there determines whether you’ll become a virtuoso or play chopsticks the rest of your life.

There is nothing wrong with playing simple tunes the rest of your life, just as there is no failure in making simple witchery the entirety of your practice. It’s not necessary to have a working knowledge of the uses for every herb in the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. You can do everything you need to do with herbs that are easily grown in your region or purchased (fresh or dried) at your grocery store.

Likewise, you don’t have to have one of every crystal and gem in your collection. A clear quartz crystal can be charged for any purpose. For that matter, a stone natural to your region holds scads of magick to be used.

Truth be told, you don’t even need that much. I’ll cover this in more detail in my next post—Everything You Need to Know About The Four Pillars of Witchcraft. Suffice it to say, the only thing you need to practice witchcraft is yourself and your intent. The rest is accoutrement.

My idea for simple witchery is to develop a practice easily incorporated into daily life, your daily life, because consistent practice is the key to effective practice.

Simple witchery is knowing that lighting a candle and invoking sacred space, is as effective as calling a circle and holding formal ritual. That drawing a magical symbol on a small stone to carry in your pocket, is just as effective (maybe more so), than a pricey, magical bracelet or amulet. That isn’t to say it’s okay to be a lazy witch (never putting much effort into your practice) or that you shouldn’t make fair exchange for the things you desire (it’s okay to buy the bracelet, purchased from the metaphysical shop).

Remember this; you will get as much out of your practice as you put into it—no more and no less.

Blessed Be and Journey Well

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Simple Witchery — Part 1

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What is simple witchery? Perhaps an explanation of witchery, or practicing witchcraft, is first called for.

Truly, there are so many schools and styles of witchcraft, and so many more personal takes on each, that trying to even touch on all would be a herculean task and not at all in the spirit of keeping it simple. You have Google for that.

Know this, the first rule of witchcraft is to seek knowledge, always.

It may be easier to explain some of the things witchcraft is not.

Witchcraft is not devil worship. In witchcraft there is no devil of the widespread Christian understanding. Witchcraft holds that all that is good and all that is evil coexists within each of us, much as in the Cherokee story of the two wolves. Witches acknowledge and work with their shadow side to recognize, understand, and in most cases, temper its influence, or at least reserve it for specific use.

Spells are not conjuring or working with the devil. See above, there is no devil. Spells are focused intention, usually a petition or expression of gratitude. In that way they are not unlike a prayer. However, unlike prayer they are not always directed to a deity or spiritual entity. This makes them also like a mantra or positive affirmation. To whatever extent science confirms the success of positive thinking, self fulfilling prophecy, and fake it ’til you make it, it also supports the success of spell casting.

Spells are also science. Whatever science has proven about quantum physics, it proves the same about sympathetic (or correspondence) magic.

Ethical witches do not attempt to manipulate the free will of others. This is probably the number one rule among true witches and translates to the shorthand, “You do you.” It applies to how you practice your craft, and all the personal choices you make both in magical and every day life. A coven or other gathering of witches may have guidelines and rules, but those are upon your voluntary membership—if you are accepted and join (initiate) you agree to this and that.

This is why most witches worth their salt will not cast a love spell to inspire or change the feelings of a specific person. A love spell is worked either on yourself to prepare you for the right relationship when it comes along, or to appeal to the powers that be (energies) that the right love be sent your way.

Witches do not always belong to a coven. Many witches practice their craft as solitaries. Take appropriate cautions if you join a coven, as you would joining any group of people you don’t otherwise know, remembering that a coven is considered a family bound by oath—you will likely share vulnerability and deeply personal aspects of your life.

If a witch ever, in any situation, asks you to participate in something that goes against your values and ethics, get thee away from said witch(es) post haste and never, ever return.

So, while were on the subject of covens and groups . . .

Sky clad (naked) ritual is not necessary. It is practiced by solitary witches and covens, but you don’t fail at being a witch if you don’t dance naked under the moon, or in the hot tub or whatever else may be the setting for stripping down. The reason for sky clad ritual is to show to the deity God/Goddess that you come in perfect love and trust with nothing to hide. It also demonstrates the same to your coven.

Again, if you join a group or a coven that does make sky clad ritual a required part of their group practice, it should be stated up front and understood. You can and should decline joining if it makes you uncomfortable. You should also leave any coven in which you feel there is an abusive element to naked ritual. I do not practice sky clad; for one thing, it’s too dang cold six months of the year in my realm to even consider it.  I doubt that I would ever join a coven that requires it—but never say never!

There is no rule against personal gain. Other than those which apply to dishonor and greed in every day life. So go ahead and cast that spell for a raise, or promotion, or the winning lottery numbers. It never hurts to try.

There is no threefold rule. Other than the every day concept that you get what you give, you reap what you sow, the golden rule, etc. The idea that whatever you send will come back to you times 3 is part of the folklore, crafted by some of the early, modern day witches. However, do not take this lightly, every witch has a story to tell of the spell that manifested with consequences not anticipate, even though they thought they had considered every possible outcome.

There isn’t even a rule of do no harm. That too, was written in by the modern day practitioners. Ethical witches are also just ethical people; we practice under the same real world laws of nature, physics, human emotion, and civil laws as everybody else. The important thing to remember here is our belief that all life is connected and what we do to any one, we do to all, including ourselves. For deity witches, there is also the belief that every living thing harbors the Divine within, and so to harm any is to harm the Divine. “As above so below, as within, so without, as the universe so the soul.” ― Hermes Trismegistus

Before we leave this concept, all witches believe in complete acceptance of the consequence of our actions. We do not deflect, we do not whine, we do not say, “Woe is me.” To know this down to our bones, greatly governs our actions.

Witchcraft in and of itself is not a religion. Wicca is a recognized religion, but not all witches are Wiccans. In fact not all witches practice the craft as a religious/spiritual practice. Some practice strictly as magic, magic being the understanding of the laws of nature and the physical world, and using that understanding to create (manifest) their intention, to the extent that many modern day witches study quantum science and string theory. Some witches are simply on a path of personal betterment without high magic.

Many self identify as folk, garden, hedge, herbal, kitchen, or green witches (not referring to skin color, but working with nature elements). Others identify by the deity they primarily worship, such as Hekataen witches, Dianic witches, etc. There are traditions pertaining to pantheons, such as Celtic, Norse, Italian, Slavic, etc. This is a comprehensive list.

Witchcraft is not all about the magick, but the magick is fun. First, magick with a  K differentiates the craft of the witch from the art of illusion practiced by magicians.
Magick is real. Think of it this way. Fire was magick to the ancients – sent by the gods in lighting bolts. It remained magick until they discovered the science behind fire, until some astute being observed that friction could also create fire and that s/he could create friction. And so it went until we were cooking with gas, not to mention short wave radiation! Magick happens all around us, understanding how it happens allows us to discover ways of harnessing it.

And while we’re on cooking . . .

Cooking is magic by definition. Taking any number of ingredients, applying either heat, cooling or some physical action, to arrive at an end result that is more than just the sum of its parts, is alchemical magic. Take the simple act of whipping egg whites into meringue, or churning milk into butter. Or combing milk, butter and sugar to make caramel. In a time before these things were common skill, they were first magick. Once upon a time, only nature could make a diamond, but not any longer.

Your near ancestors were witches. Women mostly, but men also, were kitchen, hedge and hearth witches, they were water diviners, weather predictors, and tillers of soil. Whether they called themselves such or not, their ways were the ways of the witch, they worked with the seasons, natural elements and physics. They practiced folk remedies and cures with plants and herbs. They tossed salt over their shoulders, hung symbols in their homes, planted their gardens and harvested their crops by the moons. Some of their traditions were part of a religious faith, but not all of them were. They lived with an understanding and working knowledge of the physical world around them.

Witch, as we know it, is a word and concept that was created by the early patriarchal religions of the world to wrest the power of a relationship to the natural world, divinity and faith, and cultural belief, from the hands of the masses. Power was shifted to the governing body of the church. Pagans were simply the unlearned, unbaptized country folk in the beginning—the simple folk. Most often, when they were persecuted, tortured and murdered, it was for ulterior agendas (such as property and land grabs) or out of ignorant fear.

As I said in an earlier post, my practice of witchcraft is a reflection of my reverence for the Divine signature in all living things, especially humanity. It is an ongoing effort to rise above ego and seek the greater good. My practice is rooted in the simple faith that there is something bigger than myself, bigger than humanity, bigger than this life as we know it. It doesn’t matter what I call it or how I aspire to connect with it, because when I do, when any witch does, we are woke to the knowledge that God and Love are one and the same.

Blessed be and journey well.

Click here to read Simple Witchery — Part 2


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