Category Archives: Spiritual Living

Flirting With an Old Flame…and Wind and Sea and Earth.

This turned out to be a bit of a ramble, sorry.  When I started writing this I intended to tell the story of why I left Wicca, but instead I wrote this much more cheerful thing.  That other post is coming – I think I’m resisting writing it because I think I already seem crazy enough to people without adding to the fire, and it’s a very personal and painful story that requires me to be way more honest than I have been on this blog lately.  I’m sure you’ve noticed the distinct lack of meaningful content here in the last year – a big reason for that is thanks to my mental illness I spend most of the time mining the stinky depths of my psyche and I just get tired of self-analysis.  So, that post is coming, but for now, I just thought I’d share some observations:

wee6

I used my own pic because I got tired of chasing sources down rabbit holes. You are absolutely welcome to steal this image. If you do, do me a favor and Photoshop out the cat hair.

The other day I got sucked into a Pin-nado and found myself wandering from one board to another on Pinterest, starting with one subject and ending up all over the place.  Rather unexpectedly I found myself browsing a lot of Pagan/Wiccan pinboards.

It’s funny.  When I started my career as a Witch I was 16, and our town didn’t have the internet yet.  By the time I got to college UT was requiring every student to have an email address, but it was still kind of a strange thing for a lot of people, myself included.

I’ll never forget when I first discovered the Pagan internet – not only were there other people who shared my beliefs on campus, they were all over the World Wide Web!  And most of them had really ugly websites!

Spinning pentacles.  Blinking titles.  Embedded midi Enya.  Those were the days.

Most everyone was on Geocities back then, and the word “blog” didn’t exist yet.  Neither did 90% of the sites we take for granted now:  YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy.  Hell, MySpace wasn’t even a thing yet. There was no such thing as Grumpy Cat or even I Can Has Cheeseburger.  It wasn’t the dark ages, but the lightbulb was certainly dimmer.  Nowadays it’s neon lights as far as the eye can see.

Looking through these pinboards and Etsy shops now I see some amazing stuff – not only has the state of amateur photography improved by leaps and bounds, but so has the quality of graphics in general, and anyone can have a decent looking blog with little to no coding knowledge or design experience – maybe not a gorgeous blog, but one that’s very readable and doesn’t make people’s eyes bleed.  Not so, 15 years ago.

Oh, sure, there’s still plenty of eye-bleedingly bad art out there, but thanks to Photoshop the baseline level of “good” has risen.  And while the face-bashingly awful rhyming couplet invocations are still legion, as well as the really lame puns and anti-Christian jokes that sound more desperate for approval than funny, it does seem like the overall standard for art and writing has definitely climbed, particularly compared to the Wiccan Craze of the 90s where books were flying from the presses no matter how ghastly they were because the Craft was trendy.

I saw all sorts of altar photography – I’ve always had such a love for altar building, and I love seeing other people express their spiritual creativity that way too.  There are dozens of pinboards devoted to images of altars and shrines, both made at home and in sacred places all over the world.  We can see the worship habits of cultures on the other side of the planet just with a click.

There are tutorials for all sorts of things I had to figure out myself – lighting charcoal tablets, for one thing, which took me forever to get.  There are YouTube channels that show you how to blend incenses and oils; all sorts of pretty quotes and graphics you could hang over your altar; and the sheer number of Book of Shadows pages is staggering.  There are plenty of downloadable books, courses, infographics, and templates for all manner of topics.

The first Pagan book I ever read I bought secretly at the Renaissance Festival because there was simply no way to get them in my hometown – the only access I had to Pagandom was through fandom newsletters and zines, and if I’d ordered anything through the mail it would have been intercepted.  Now, anyone can find what they need to know online, and unless their parents watch their browser histories, there’s no risk (except the risk of finding bad information, which I am sorry to say is as prevalent now as ever – some of the Pins I found were so insanely inaccurate I had to physically pull my hands from the keyboard to keep from, well, essentially trolling with my Vast Mystical Knowledge).  It’s a whole new world.

Not only that, the quality of Pagan crafting has exploded.  We have access to so many amazing materials – thanks to the altered art communities, paper crafting, new art supplies like paints and high quality markers – and so many ever-evolving techniques (also easily found on YouTube) that it almost seems a shame to buy anything premade, which I imagine is hard on those artisans and spellcrafters who sell their work.

I’ve been away from the Pagan world for several years now – people keep asking me to attend events or make appearances based on my first two books, and I just can’t do it.  It would feel incredibly dishonest, and I’d also have to reread my own work because it’s been so long.  Aside from general spiritual malaise, I had experiences with other people and with particular spiritual entities that scarred me, and I had to get away.

But the internet provideth, I suppose.  I find myself wondering who the big authors are now, what the good blogs are, what the new and trendy ideas are – are there still people touting the “9 million Witches died in the Burning Times” nonsense or did that finally die?  Do people still do everything via Witchvox?  I’m completely out of touch with what used to be the most important aspect of my life, and it’s unsettling – it’s like finding your ex on Facebook and seeing he’s married with five kids.

I don’t miss the community, to be honest.  In my old age (snort) I’ve finally let go of the need to prove to myself that I like big groups of people, and I’ve accepted the fact that I’m an introvert, I’m not a joiner, and that’s just fine.  I prefer most of my social interactions to be online.  My experiences in Pagandom were…mixed, let’s say, an interesting balance of pretty good and dreadful, punctuated with moments of both agony and ecstasy.  I absolutely hated festivals and great big rituals – in fact, I could have done without the Sabbats altogether, or at least chucked the ones I didn’t like (Beltaine, Yule) and stuck with the ones I loved (Ostara, Mabon).

Being a Pagan with a public presence exposed me to a lot of bullshit drama and sectors of the community ranging from silly to terrifying.  Again, I felt like I had to get out there and be known – but I finally figured out that I don’t write books so I can be a public speaker.  I’m a writer to write.   My personality ensures that there are only so many people I can deal with at one time – a day or two here and there is fine, but whole 4-day-long weekends surrounded by 1000 of my horniest friends is basically hell to me.

But there are things I miss. 

I miss casting Circle, especially dancing the way our coven used to do it.  I miss opening up half a dozen jars from my apothecary cabinet and creating something to help a friend find love or protect her home.  I miss sitting in front of my altar doing the same thing for myself.

I miss hearing trees talk – I haven’t heard that in a long time, because I stopped listening.  Once I could lay my hand on a trunk and feel that drowsy, good-natured energy that moved soooooooo slooooooowly.

I miss the time when I snatched up every new Pagan book I could find.  I’ve checked out quite a few from the library in the past year, but I haven’t pored over new releases and loaded up my wish lists like I used to.  Now I do that with cookbooks, craft books (lowercase c) and memoirs.

I miss ending my email signature with a Triple Moon:  )O(

I miss the sense of import that ritual gives to both big and small things – cleaning house, starting a new job, moving to a new place, beginning or ending a relationship, baking, making homemade bath/body products.  I still make my own perfume oil, but without charging it.  I still burn incense all the time, but I don’t ever smudge the house.

I miss the sight of my black-bladed, ebony hilted athame resting on my altar.  She was my favorite ritual tool – when she was in my hand she felt alive, and I felt like a badass (especially if you add my fabulous full length, bell-sleeved ritual robe, which is the Witchy equivalent of a long black coat).  I think that athame is the fifth one I went through – I started with the cheap brass-handled number you can get for ten bucks in any catalog, and went through something with faeries on it, a wood model, and at least one more I can’t remember before going on a long and arduous hunt for just the right blade to represent my magical will.  I found her…in fact I may unearth the box where I’ve stored my ritual implements and bring her out again, even if I never use her for anything, just for that old feeling.

So along those lines, a challenge for you:  tell me your favorite Pagan blogs, Tumblrs, et cetera – and tell me which ones are the Big Popular Thing right now.  I can’t afford to buy books, but if there’s a newer one (last year or two) that rocked your socks, tell me that too.  And don’t forget e-books.

Also, if there’s a spiritual-type blog that isn’t specifically Pagan but is compatible, tell me that too.  I’m a Nomad, after all; I take on all comers.

Comments are open.  Link me up, baby!

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Introducing a New E-Book!

I’m quite pleased to unveil a little project I’ve been working on:

A Holy Instrument of Joy: 14 Days of Ecstatic Dance

If you’ve ever wanted to try meditative movement but didn’t know where to start, this e-book is for you.  A two-week program using daily prompts, each with music suggestions and inspirational notes – click on the link or the book cover above to find out more and download the book!

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Up to Here With Teeny Tiny Gods

I have a thing for miniatures.  Not once in 34 years has my body been considered unusually small, but in my mind, tiny things inhabited tiny lands just out of sight of the Big Folk.  If I were to let myself, and was willing to devote the time and money to it, I’d absolutely get into making faery houses and doll houses and scenes for all my goddess figures to inhabit, just for fun.

Thus, since I am absolutely utterly uninspired to work on what I’m supposed to be working on tonight, I thought I’d give a brief tour of my (admittedly small) collection of Weeities.

A quick definition:  A Weeity is a miniature or otherwise very small statue (not a pendant, but something that stands up on its own) depicting a deity, regardless of culture or mythos of origin, who measures no more than 4 inches in height.  I have a 5″ Shiva figure that I don’t really consider a Weeity – he may only be about 5″ tall, but his presence takes up a lot of space, so I leave him be.

Earlier today I mentioned having acquired a Wee Green Tara, which I’ve been casually looking for for years; I knew that the right one would find her way to me if it was time to work with her, and there she was, in the locked case at Book People!  I posted her pic on Facebook (unforunately a very blurry pic) and a few people asked about my collection, so here we are.

Most of these figures are on my altar, but they do tend to migrate from time to time.

From left to right:

1.  A ceramic Goddess I found at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  She feels amazing in my hand.

2.  Devotion, one of the Windstone Editions’ JourneyStones by Maya Hill.

3.  Fertility, same source.

4.  A hand-carved wood goddess I bought from a young woman at a festival who was selling her art to pay for cancer treatment; she told me the story of how she was rafting some huge river in Colorado and found this perfect stick, an aspen branch, which she whittled down into a goddess the rest of the trip.  I love to just sit and hold this one while I meditate.

 

Here, we have two of my favorite pieces from Bell Pine Art Farm:

On the right, we have Radiant Health, one of BPAF’s newer pieces.

On the left is Open Heart.

Bell Pine makes a lot of lovely sculptures, but one of my favorite things they do is that their “family” series can be ordered with same-sex parents.

 

Next up we have the Ganesha Funtime Band – a brass Elephant God in the background, plus a set of three smaller Ganeshettes which I place in various nooks and crannies of my altar.

Now for the Boods!

Four of these Buddhas are placed throughout the house, tucked in cabinets where you can barely see them unless you’re looking just right.  I love the thought of all these iddy Buddhas poking out from behind a pile of towels and saying “Pssssst!  Psssst!  Breathe, you are alive!” and then vanishing again.

The other two stay on my altar; one is for travel, the other for laughter.

Then, of course, we have our Venus of Willendorf, this one made of pure clear quartz, a gift from a dear friend.

Last of all we have the Weeity that inspired me to do this, the beautiful Green Tara I’ve been looking for for years.  Not only was she the perfect size and color, with all the detail I wanted, she was insanely reasonably priced, so if you’re looking for a Green Tara about 4″ tall go to Book People (they still had one yesterday).

It’s especially poignant that I found her this weekend, for reasons I’ll be going into this week – that’s right, my posts might include actual substance now that I’m through writing book 4 and am trying to decide what goes to the top of my to-do list.  I’m actually considering another non-fiction book, I just don’t know on what.  I’ll keep you posted.

But here she is:

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Three Things Make a Post!

Thing the First:

Yours truly is featured on Penguin’s SciFi/Fantasy webpage, so check it out (scroll down slightly).

Thing the Second:

You still have one week to register for the newest round of Becoming a Spiritual Nomad!  Registration is $25 for the six-week course.  Click here for more info or to enroll.  The course goes live on April 16 and registration will be closed that morning.

Thing the Third:

I made this. Let’s see how many of mine you agree with – then go make your own.

 

There’s a lot more fun stuff coming up around here in the next few weeks, so keep a sharp eye!

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The Power (and Pain) of Empathy

I thought this post needed a smiling puppy to balance out the sad.

Empathy isn’t just an affliction for psychic vampire musicians.  It’s a very real thing that strikes when you least expect it, like on a sunny Saturday morning through a window.

Every Saturday I work the front desk at Thrive fitness studio where I take Nia classes.  I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, and it’s always a good way to start my weekend – nothing like riding the energy groove of a class full of happy dancing people to put a smile on your face.

The studio shares its parking lot with a veterinary clinic, so I often see people arriving with their dogs and walking across the narrow street from the lot to the vet’s office.  I’ve seen all sorts of canines and all sorts of humans with them.

This morning I was in the middle of marking off class cards when a luxury SUV pulled into the parking lot and all but flew into a space.  A blonde woman in her mid 30s and a typical dude-bro looking man got out and ran around to the back of the vehicle.  They opened the hatch, revealing a large dog crate.

Right away I knew something terrible had happened.  The woman opened the crate door and reached inside…then a moment later backed up, hands going to her mouth.  The husband (?) didn’t seem to know what to do, so he stood there patting her back awkwardly.

I realized I had just seen their dog die.

The woman lost it.  Completely.  Right there on the curb, she went to her knees and threw up into the landscaping, then sat rocking back and forth sobbing for several minutes.  The husband ran into the clinic and came back with a cup of water for her.  Finally he helped her to her feet, caught her when she nearly passed out, and the two closed the SUV’s door and walked into the clinic together.  He had seemed kind of helpless in the face of her pain, but once he figured out practical ways he could help her, he was pretty amazing.

By the time they came out, the woman was calmer, but she had that shell-shocked look people always get when death strikes them out of the clear blue nowhere.  They got back in the SUV and drove away much more slowly than they’d arrived, taking their dog back home.

I managed not to break down sobbing while I was behind the desk – there’s nothing more awkward than walking in on a crying woman – but as soon as I got in my car I had a brief but intense moment of weeping for the woman, the husband, and their dog.  I felt terrible, not just because of what had happened, but because I felt like I had intruded on what should have been private grief.  I tried, in my clumsy way, to send them love – love for the dog, as he or she passed; and love for the humans he left behind, especially the woman who loved him so much she broke down in the middle of a busy Saturday on South Congress.

On the outside these were not the sort of people I would ever have spent time with out in the world.  But we’ve all felt that kind of pain, that sweeping loss that washes everything away.  I found myself thinking about other people I’d seen that morning.  The lady who cut me off in traffic – what if she did that because her dog had just died and she was driving his body home to bury, her eyes overflowing with tears?  What about the weird smelling guy at the post office?  Any one of the people in the studio at that moment dancing?  I know from experience that to dance is to free stuck emotions and break up energetic stagnation, so any one of them could have been dancing out a deep wailing grief just as easily as just having a good time.

Or even when people have been cruel to me, I still have no idea what’s going on in their hearts at the time; I just know that it’s almost never about me. The woman from Pilates class who gives me the stink-eye when I arrive for Nia…it could be that she hates her body so much she can’t imagine loving a body like mine.  It could be that her mother died due to diabetes and she feels like her weight was a direct factor.  It could be her high school bully was a big girl who taught her to fear large women.  That won’t, of course, stop me from giving her the “Can I HELP you?” look, which usually earns an embarrassed retreat, but it does remind me that behind every person causing pain, there almost always is pain – a mountain of pain left to fester and rot until it stinks up everything around them.

You just never know what’s going on with someone – why they look the way they look, act the way they act.  That’s not to excuse inconsiderate behavior by any means, but it does give me pause when I get ready to leap to judgment against someone.  Just as they have no idea looking at me what I’ve been through, I have no idea what wounds they are nursing, what demons they’ve faced.  You just never know.

There’s a quote that’s been on my mind since then, often attributed to Plato but actually traceable to the 1890s and a writer named Ian MacLaren:

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