Monthly Archives: May 2016
I began my nature awareness task by following Dangler’s advice to locate a special nature spot to visit regularly. I selected the nature preserve where I like to go jogging. It was an area I was already familiar with, but I hadn’t previously taken the time to really get in touch with the nature there. The nature-awareness activity forced me to explore the area outside of jogging, take note of the flora and fauna there and just experience the environment without my headphones on. This pursuit started out alright, but as soon as the weather became cold, I stopped going. I found it easier to visit my own back yard during the winter than I did the nature preserve. When the weather warmed up again, I explored a few other areas away from home and returned to my previously-selected spot a few times, but I found that my bond with the Earth Mother was strongest in my own yard. At the end of the day, the nature I found out and about in the city wasn’t much different from what I had at home already. Everything around here is still “city” no matter what natural-sounding title they give to the place. So I returned home and started forging a bond with the land spirits on my own land. I did a small land-bidding ritual and took up the task of gardening for the first time in my life. Even though only a few of my seeds sprouted and a cute baby rabbit ate most of my only kale plant, my time spent working the land has increased my bond with the Earth more than any other activity over the past year. The Oak tree I recently planted in my front yard is the most meaningful symbol of my new-found connection with the land. This weekend, I intend to purchase several starter plants for my garden in hopes that they work out better for me than starting from seeds. After all, my transplanted blackberry plant is still hanging in there. I have plans, when time and money allow, to make my own yard the natural retreat that I seek and which the city parks have denied me.
Questions from Dangler’s Through the Wheel of the Year:
1. Where does your trash go?
It goes to one of two landfills.
2. Are there options for recycling that you’re making use of? Why or why not?
I make use of my city’s single-stream recycling, which offers a major perk of convenience. I have struggled with pretty severe OCD-related anti-hoarding for much of my life. This results in a compulsive need to dispose of excess stuff in my environment as soon as possible. When recycling was a more obscure concept (i.e. no idea where to go, sorting confusion, not many people did it, etc), saving stuff to recycle until I could figure out where to go with it was nearly impossible. I tried, and during my better phases succeeded, but over all it became a huge source of stress. I especially struggled with cardboard boxes. Oh my word, those boxes. Once the internet took over as shopping-place-of-choice, boxes were everywhere all the time. And I threw them away. Then I would feel terribly guilty about not recycling them. The single-stream recycling program has alleviated so much of that anxiety.
I still struggle with items that can’t go in the curb-side bin — especially clothing. I am much better about this as of late, however. I keep my giveaway items in a bag to accumulate for as long as I can bear it, then I ask my husband to take it to a thrift store. Knowing that I can count on him to take my giveaways almost as soon as I ask alleviates much of my stress. I don’t have to worry about fitting it into my own schedule, which is usually what leads me to dump my unwanted stuff in the nearest trash bin. I know it sounds silly. When I am in a more stable state of mind, I can’t figure out what my problem is.
As for other forms of recycling that I make use of, I tried to recycle plastic bags for a while. Believe it or not, I was holding onto all the bags until I could take them to the nearest store to recycle. This was easier for me to handle than clothing recycling because I already make trips to the grocery store as part of my regular schedule. Unfortunately, my husband and I both noticed how much trash was mixed in with the bags at the place I usually went to. I doubt anyone takes the time to sort it out before recycling. I’ve also heard rumor that some retail stores don’t actually recycle the contents in bins labeled “recycle.” Even if I just went with it and hoped for the best, the bins were often overflowing when I went, so I couldn’t use them. I’m trying to figure out an alternative for the bag situation. I try not to use too many bags in the first place. I need to get better about bringing reusable bags with me to places. I do like to have some plastic bags on hand at home because I reuse them myself for various things. I should probably figure out alternatives for that as well, but you know – baby steps.
3. Are there steps you can take to help reduce the amount of refuse you create?
Besides what I already mentioned in question 2, yes, there is still so much I can do. I read stories about people who produce hardly any waste and I aspire to be one of them, but it’s a slow going process. I want to start composting and my husband is on board with that idea, so hopefully that will be my next eco-friendly step.
4. What happens to your wastewater?
It goes to a wastewater-treatment facility, where 95 percent of the pollutants are removed before being sent into the South Platte River.
5. What rivers are nearby? Do you have a connection to them? What sort of
The South Platte River is the major river of this area. A park near the river is one of a small handful of nature-spots in close proximity to me (i.e. within a 15 minute drive). I have taken walks by the river and filmed one of my recent youtube videos by it. My walks are usually pretty short because when it’s not too cold, there are too many bugs. I have yet to become familiar with all the seasons in the park and I am hoping to find just the right one to really appreciate the area without being too distracted by cold or bugs.
6. Describe the basic climate of your area. Is it often wet and rainy? Dry and
sunny? Wet and sunny? How has this affected the kinds of plants and
animals in the area?
Denver has a semi-arid climate and more sunny days than one would expect for a city near the Rocky Mountains. Apparently, we have enough sunny days to put Miami to shame. Incidentally, I remember sitting in a class last year when my professor remarked how the sun here is particularly obnoxious – that in no other place was she so blinded by it so often.
The most prevalent wildlife in the Denver-metro area includes geese, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The nature preserve where I go jogging is a coyote habitat and there are several open-space prairie dog habitats near by. Closer to the foothills, near Boulder, the diversity of wildlife increases. According to the city of Boulder website, there are 59 documented mammal species and 100 species of birds in the area.
7. What visible effects have humans had on the natural landscapes around
I am sure there are more sophisticated answers to this question than my own, but to me the answer is as simple as urbanization. Everything is city here. They could do so much more to make the parks in the area better retreats from the surrounding metropolis. There are too many industrial areas and boring open spaces with uninspiring views of even more city. Unless I go to the foothills near Boulder, there is no escaping the urban-industrial ambience.
8. Where do the winds usually come from? Are there different winds at
different times of the year?
The winds come primarily from the South except in April, they decide to mix it up and come from the North. :p
9. What major crops are grown in your region? Why are these particular crops
Hay, corn, wheat, sunflowers, potatoes, cabbage, onions, peaches, apples, and cantaloupe are the major crops in Colorado.
10. Where does your power come from (i.e. nuclear, solar, coal, gas, etc.)?
46% Coal, 24% Natural Gas, 12% Wind, 12% Nuclear, and the rest from an assortment of other sources.
Behold, the evolution of my altar:
As you can see, my altar has undergone a few changes since I first set it up. I’m still trying to keep the arrangement simple, although the over all look is definitely cozier than before.
I changed the candle style twice. The first candles were tea lights that were too short to be easily and safely lit within their wood holders. I replaced them with taller candles and discovered the hard way that different types of candles have different names for a reason. A votive candle != a pillar candle no matter how similar I think they look (#^^#). I briefly lamented my candle situation and thought that I’d have to do away with my beautiful holders. Fortunately, I discovered extended burn tea lights which are twice the size of the standard ones. Easy to light and the wax pool stays where it belongs.
The first offering bowl, pretty as it was, had to go because it became terribly discolored from holding water. I only ever used it for water offerings since that’s what I did my first rituals with. I replaced it with one, then two pretty tea cups – two for larger rituals which require more offerings.
I moved the incense burner off the altar because I ended up rarely offering incense. I tried in the beginning, but got the feeling that the Kindreds didn’t care much for the same incense as I. It now sits off to the side for personal use.
I also added several items. First, the pendulum I use for clarifying my omen interpretations, then a devotional mini Mala for Fréo, one of my patrons. And yes, i’ve decided to start using the term “patron” openly and comfortably. If I might go off on a tangent for a moment here…
Over the course of my time spent with ADF, I was at first eager to find a patron, then hesitant, then open to the idea but not in a hurry. My biggest issue was the general pagan-community’s understanding of a patron. Most of the accounts I read come across as much more of a serious priest(ess) type of relationship that what I was looking for. Outside of deity relationships, a patron is simply a person who supports, endorses, and/or protects another. Before getting too involved in the online pagan community, a patron deity to me was one who could and would offer guidance, wisdom, protection to an individual follower or community. A patron could be a deity that rules over one’s own line of work or one who has specific relevant teachings for an individual, whether temporarily or for a lifetime. But then I mingled with pagans online and realized that everyone else with a patron had made a serious oath-type commitment and was in über solemn service to that deity. I held back calling my patrons what they were for fear of ridicule online. But you know what? I’m so over that. Oh boy am I over that. Yes, there are many things I will keep private about my spiritual experiences because they are necessarily private, but I’m not going to be intimidated out of publicly expressing the non-private just because paganism is turning into a dogmatic-path-in-denial.
When I call on the Deities as part of my general invitation to the Kindreds, I say, “I call out the the Shining ones, my Matrons and my Patrons…” Because thats what they are. They are the small handful of deities out of hundreds, thousands of others who have expressed particular interest in my life and well-being. If that’s not what a patron is, then go ahead, call me a fool. But I do what I want. There are three of my seven patrons who are especially close to me: Fréo, Thunor, and Mona. I expect these three to be life long patrons. The others, Frige, Hretha, Woden, and Hel, may or may not be with me for life, but that doesn’t make them any less my patrons at this time.
Well, anyway, getting back on track now…
Because I have yet to put up shelves for individual deities, I want my current altar to have symbolic representations of my primary patrons. This is why I keep Fréo’s mala there. The altar itself is oak, and some of you may recall, I chose oak especially to represent Thunor. He was the very first deity in my life and my current gatekeeper. Speaking of oak, aaaah!! I’m so excited!! Guess what I got?? I got a baby oak tree for my front yard. I named him Atlas. Look at him, look how pretty he is:
Don’t worry, he has been properly supported since taking this picture. Yes, I know, the irony that “Atlas” should need support 😉
The dark blue ritual cord is for both Mona and the Star Goddess. The latter not a personal deity by any means, but she is the original source of ~all the things~ and if that is not reason enough, I have several more personaly relevant reasons for representing her there.
I keep other devotional items off to the side and place them on the altar only on the days I honor the particular deity associated with them.
Lastly, I added some crystals around the well. No particular reason except that I like how they look there.
I’m pretty happy with my altar the way it is now. I thought I might like to change the arrangement of the fire, well, and tree, but experience so far has led me to decide the current configuration is best.
Completely off-topic random info dump – because there are too many exciting things to share and not enough places to sneak them in above 😉
I got to learn how to make mead yesterday. \(^^)/
One of my Grove’s members is an expert brewer and has won some awards too. He led a mead-making meetup yesterday wherein we learned some basic techniques and started a five gallon batch for future Grove use. We got to sample several of his current selections. And oh my word, let me tell you, his lemon mead was possibly the best tasting anything I’ve ever had.
In other exciting news, I’m going to a goth prom on the 28th. Denver’s first annual goth prom. So so so excited. I have an awesome outfit and I got it in for alterations just in time.
And even more exciting goth-related news. VNV nation will be here in October and I am going. I saw them years ago in Atlanta when they were touring with And One. I love VNV Nation. It will be a 3 hour show 😮
My husband has another interview tomorrow. I’m really hoping he gets hired soon. I’ve done some candle magic for him and just last night, my friend and senior druid of my grove made him a rune charm to carry in his wallet. Please, if you can guys, send some positive energy my husband’s way. This job hunt has carried on much longer than we expected. We came to live in a metro area specifically so searching for an attorney job wouldn’t take too long.
Despite the little bit of sad I have over the job hunt, I have so many things to be happy for that I really can’t complain. Life is pretty good right now. 🙂
Despite all the sunny days we’ve had since Eostre, Beltane managed to land on a cold and rainy one. I made the best of it in my mind by thinking of the weather as the dark half of the year’s final farewell. After all, my enthusiasm for this time of year is more for Walpurgisnacht than it is for Beltane, so I took the weather as a positive. That is, until I arrived at the outdoor ritual site. I was equipped with a hooded coat and an umbrella, but the wind did not agree with my hood, which kept blowing off my head. I abandoned my umbrella in order to free my hands, but ended up have to hold my hood in place most of the time instead. Irked as I was with my situation, I didn’t let it deter me from appreciating the ritual as best I could.
This was a Celtic rite in honor of Belanus, Caer, and Aengus. We had a small fire, appropriate for the day as both a cold one and a fire festival. Unfortunately, the heat of the fire did not extend very far out and I was not near it for most of the ritual. Because of the cold, I had trouble focusing during the grounding and centering meditation. This left me feeling slightly disconnected for the remainder of the ritual. I went through the motions and said the words, but I was not as mentally present as I should have been.
Since I have a small personal pantheon, but no single patron at this time, I decided to give my praise offerings from now on to each deity from my pantheon on the High Day I associate most with them. Previously, I was offering to deities as they came into my life. I gave my praise offering to Fréo (Freya) this time since she is associated with both fertility and witchcraft. Fertility is a significant aspect of Beltane, while witchcraft is significant to Walpurgisnacht.
The omens drawn for this rite were Elhaz, Naudiz, and Uruz. The head druid couldn’t immediately interpret the first omen, so he drew two more for clarification. After ritual, he remembered that Elhaz pictorially represents wings. One of our patrons, Caern, takes the form of a swan, so this was definitely a good omen. The other two were also interpreted as positive.
We were supposed to dance the maypole after ritual, and at least two of us, myself included, brought drums for the occasion, but no one felt up to it in the wet cold. Once again, we went to Denny’s to seek warmth and to feast.
I just finished watching the 7 part mini-series, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you haven’t seen it, you must! It’s based on Susanna Clarke’s novel of the same name. I haven’t read the book yet, but I intend to.
The story is set in an early 19th century England where magic is no longer practiced, or so everyone thinks. The two title characters, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange, are practicing magicians who make it their mission to restore magic to England. Strange is briefly Norrell’s apprentice until the two part ways due to ideological differences.
Mr. Norrell has an impressive library of magical texts to which he is extremely attached.
He relies on these books for his magical practices and, although Jonathan Strange is prone to doing his own thing when it comes to magic,
even he can’t escape books entirely. He has to bring a whole trunk of them to the battlefront after joining the army as the King’s magician. Everything any magician could ever want or need to know is assumed to be in a book somewhere. Towards the end, when out-of-the-box thinking is called for, Mr. Norrell quite firmly asserts that he “can’t just make up magic.”
I have mentioned here and there in my musings that I am drawn to book magic. Yes, I get that doing your own thing sometimes can be empowering and lend to overall spiritual growth, but I am discouraged with all the negative press that book magic gets. As always, I find that I was born into the wrong era for fitting in. This is the age of the individualistic, self-empowered witch. The advice to “write your own spells,” “don’t rely on props,” and “just follow your intuition,” is everywhere. It’s in the memes that pop up on my Facebook news feed, it’s in the very books that I am not supposed to rely on, it’s in the blog posts of the more experienced witches whose advice I ought to be taking. It’s even in my most recent lesson from my Kitchen Witch course. My homework is to intuitively come up with my own correspondences (herbs, colors, etc) for all of the High Days.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going rogue from time to time. I am, in fact, looking forward to my correspondence project. But I have Mr. Norrell’s love for books. Books *are* magic, especially those written on the topic of magic and that contain pre-written spells or lists of correspondences. The words on the pages are magic via the power they accumulate each time a magician uses them. The way I feel when I imagine opening a very very old and dusty book of magic is one I can’t describe adequately. Of course, I have my own Grimoire and it will collect these same magical energies over time. But the energy of a communal spell book is even greater.
This argument holds for prayer as well. Even moreso for prayers than for spells is an insistence on from-the-heart-only prayers. The best I can ever do when it comes to heart-felt correspondence is more along the lines of babbling than anything that resembles a prayer. And that’s fine. I talk to my Gods all the time. But when it comes to anything artistically written, I don’t have the talent. I’ve written a few things here or there, but it’s not something that comes to me naturally. My preference for pre-written prayers is based more on need than anything else. I was really happy to come across the following in support of pre-written prayers:
In many cases, this attitude [against set prayer] is, itself, not authentic. Neo-Paganism is cursed with a number of problems that have their roots in the childhood practices and beliefs of its members. Since they belong to a religion formed mainly of converts (a situation that is, fortunately, now changing), neo-Pagans have a bad tendency to react against their early religious background, which, in most cases, is Christianity. They seem to believe that Christianity is a religion of rote repetition, whereas Paganism is, by nature, spontaneous. This does both Christianity and Paganism a disservice. The repetition of a memorized prayer is not necessarily a mechanical thing. It involves a relationship between the pray-er, the prayer, and the one prayed to. This relationship is expressed through the words of a prayer, perhaps, but each prayer event is no more identical to those before than each performance of a particular piece of music is the same as another. Ancient Paganism, for its own part, had set prayers. The Rig Veda is a collection of prayers that acquired canonical status. In Pagan Rome, following set prayers was so important that an assistant with a prayer book stood next to priests, whispering the proper words to them. There is, thus, definitely a strong Pagan tradition of set prayers. And why shouldn’t there be? Our circumstances aren’t that much different from those of others— we mourn, feel gratitude, desire to praise, want to make requests. Why should each of us have to compose a prayer each time we need one? I happen to be good at writing prayers. I’m a lousy plumber. If there is a plumber out there who isn’t good at writing prayers, why shouldn’t we avail ourselves of each others’ talents? Most important of all, there are times when we want to pray, but words fail us. I think here of mourners at a Catholic funeral praying the rosary. Locked in their grief, they fix their minds on words they know by heart. They no longer need to think; they give themselves over to mourning and are comforted. It would be a shame for Pagans not to have the same gift.
Serith, Ceisiwr (2002-06-01). A Book of Pagan Prayer (pp. 65-67). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.
So, I just want to say, yay books! #teambookmagicforever \(^^)/
First, a little update on my DP plans. When I started this work, I was still in graduate school. Because of my busy schedule, I postulated that I wouldn’t finish the DP within a year’s time. When I left graduate school, I thought I might be able to complete the DP by Lughnasadh. By this time, I had fallen off the track of Dangler’s Through the Wheel of the Year, though I referred to sections of it as they seemed relevant. Recently, I decided to look back through that guide book and weed out the weeks I either skipped or glossed over. I have now worked up a new weekly schedule that will have me giving my Dedicant Oath on Harvest Home. Even though completing by Lughnasadh is possible, I didn’t want to feel rushed. I also want time to engage more with the optional material in Dangler’s text.
Now that I am backtracking slightly, some of my posts will involve revisiting concepts rather than being introduced to them, such as this one on the ancestors.
The Dedicant Manual, Our Own Druidry includes helpful introductory kindred attunement work that I already did early on in my path, though I didn’t do a write up for the corresponding week in the guide book.
Before I started the DP I had almost no interest in my ancestors. I am ashamed to admit it, but it is what it is. When I thought of ancestors, I only thought a generation or two back. I thought of the early 20th century and how little interested I was in this time period. My disinterest in 20th century culture led me to a disinterest in my ancestors as well. I forgot to think of them as individuals, with their own hopes and dreams and personalities, some of which might match up with my own.
My mother is the genealogist in the family. She is and was always telling some family history story or another, and I used to pay little attention. My disinterest in the 20th century is only superseded by my disinterest in most of American history. When I heard my mother’s stories, all I heard was a generic version of an American history lesson.
I always felt bad for not paying attention. I knew it was wrong to pay no mind to my own family history. But I couldn’t, for the life of me, force myself to be interested. I can’t tell you exactly what has changed, but I am interested now. The DP and wishing to deepen my spiritual practice in general had something to do with it, but I was slowly opening up to my mother’s stories before I found ADF. Beginning the DP only motivated me to increase my focus on this new interest.
I will probably never be the genealogist that my mother is, but I have a new appreciation for my ancestors nonetheless. I still struggle with disconnect from time to time. Paying attention when the story is about an ancestor whose lifestyle is too unrelatable or undesirable to me takes some discipline. But that’s OK. I don’t need to feel a bond with every single ancestor. Some of them will feel closer to me than others. This is no different than our interactions with other humans in general, family or not.
My interest is definitely at it’s highest when my mother speaks of someone from the 18th or 19th century. Sometimes I wonder if my attraction to certain places or dates, when it transcends superficial curiosity, indicate a past life there. There are a select few places and time periods I feel so drawn to that I almost feel like I am in a dream currently and will wake up to return there. It’s not a desire, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.
Since paying active attention to my mother, I have learned so many wonderful things about whom I am related to. I’ve always known that I am related to General Daniel Sickles, who donated his self-amputated leg to a museum, to the guy who invented the dishwasher but no one knows it because his company owned the idea, and to assorted Spanish and Italian pirates on my father’s side, but only because these were the stories repeated most often such that they had to stick in my head eventually.
Now, I actively seek out family history. I’ve learned that I do, in fact have an Icelandic ancestor. All along, I though I had absolutely no connections to the Nordic lands. I am the 37th great granddaughter of Gróa Þorsteinsdóttir, who married a Scottish Earl and thus ended my connection to Iceland. I am very very Scottish, from both my mothers and father’s sides. haha. I’m also related to the Polidori and Rosetti Families. In an old document from my great grandmother, it appears I am a direct descended of John Polidori, though I am aware he didn’t have children. The document isn’t so clear and some of the names don’t perfectly match the public records. I am descended from one of his nieces or nephews, most likely. For those of you who don’t know, John Polidori wrote The Vampyre and is credited with beginning the modern romanticized vampire genre.
In addition to learning the stories of my ancestors, I’m also beginning to collect their photographs, for those who have any. Here are a few of them:
Ireta is my maternal grandmother. She went by Lorraine, her middle name, which is also my middle name. I hardly knew her though. She had Alzheimers when I knew her and died when I was still very young.
My paternal great grandmother, Aurea. She used to make beautiful dolls, three of which I have.
My paternal grandmother Martha. She’s still with us, but this picture is too beautiful not to share. I spent much of my childhood with her and my grandfather. We are very close ❤
I am really happy to finally be forging connections with my ancestors and including them in my spiritual practice.