Saturday, October 5, 2013

Welcome Back! Your Dreams Were Your Ticket Out...


So, I’m going to try to get into being more regular with this blog. I never was very regular but, if you’ve noticed, I’ve been on a hiatus that lasted over a year. Last year, the first derailment of the blog was my Halloween costume. My office actually has a costume competition every year and I wanted to go as Queen Elizabeth I. The costume ate a lot of my free time in September and October, with a mad dash at the end to complete it. However, I did manage to do so and I won…so it was worth it. This year, I started my costume in July and it’s…mostly complete now. I hope to avoid the mad dash of last year.

The other reason I backed away from the blog is I was hoping to focus on fiction and get a novel pumped out. That didn’t happen either. I have found that my writing style is probably best suited for non-fiction as I tend to be conversational (which is awesome when writing dialogue, not so good when trying to develop action).  This leaves me firmly entrenched in non-fiction.  Which, while it’s still a creative outlet, really diminishes the likelihood of my becoming a famous author and thus rich through my writing.  The problem is that many of the ideas I have had lately have already been discussed at length by people who are “more out there” than I am (not necessarily Big Name Pagans, but at least Mid-level Name Pagans who seem like they are Big Name Pagans to me), being a pretty much No-Name Pagan.

In most recent developments, Barnabus and I have been accepted to train as distance students in a Traditional Witchcraft coven, which we are both very excited about, but which will probably only be discussed here in very vague terms.  Not because we feel we’re getting any super-secret, oath-bound information, but because it’s quite frankly not something easily discussed.  I’ve never been a student of anyone’s before (in Pagan or Witch related things anyway), and I’m not exactly sure how it will go. Only time will tell.

So, that’s where we’re at right now.

 

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Vampire Experiment

So, I recently purchased a very silly book (ok, I was laughing at it and Barnabus bought it for me). How to be a Vampire by Amy Gray. It was $4.00 at Books-A-Million and it is filled with pictures and lessons on being a vampire. I certainly hope the author isn't taking it seriously (but even with the stylized Vampire: the Masquerade art, it doesn't look far off from the cheap illustrated spell books I have, which are supposed to be serious, even if you can't stand in a 3 ft. diameter circle in a robe with lit candles and not turn into an effigy) and it should be a lark. Of course, even if it takes itself seriously, it'll still be a lark.

So, I think I'm going to review it here for the fun of it. Sometime this weekend, I will go over the Table of Contents with you, as it, in and of itself, is worth a look.

Until then.

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fire Water Burn



There’s something I don’t understand. It’s a sentiment that has been bugging me since I read my first book on Wicca. I didn’t really believe it when I first read it, and I believe it even less now that I’ve really thought about it.

I’m talking about the rule that says (paraphrasing, of course), “Never blow out candles because it offends the element of Fire to be using Air to put it out.” Why do I not agree with this?
First, it’s counter-intuitive. The very first act of magic that any child in America uses is blowing out the candles on their birthday cake while making a wish. Not so much witchcraft as wish-craft, but it’s still one of the most common forms of folk magic we use in modern society. When I was a kid, blowing out candles granted wishes, it made magic. I think this explains the rule not meshing with my core beliefs.

Another reason is that Fire is a very interesting element. It cannot survive without Air and Earth (in the form of burnable fuel), and Water (which is chemically made up of flammable gases) puts it out. Fire has a very interesting relationship with the other three elements and its one that needs to be taken into consideration when pondering this rule.   

Let’s look at what blowing out a candle does. If the fire were large, adding wind from one direction would push the flames onto new fuel, spreading the fire and making it larger. In the case of a single, candle’s flame, it pushes the flame off its fuel source, extinguishing the flame since there is no other fuel source directly behind it.  This is why it takes special effort to extinguish multiple candles on a birthday cake.  

The preferred method for extinguishing candles in Wicca 101 books is through snuffing. Either with a snuffer made for that purpose, with the tip of your athame (which just gets it all black and waxy), or (my least favorite) by pinching with wetted fingers. When I tried to believe this, I used my athame to snuff them out precisely once (I hated what it did to the blade and vowed to never do it again). I have a healthy fear of the power of fire, I don’t even test the iron by the lick and touch method (I won’t even use hot styling methods on my hair anymore), so the pinching method was out. So I bought a candle snuffer. But what does snuffing do? It removes the Air that feeds the Fire. Therefore, you are still vanquishing Fire through manipulation of Air.

You can’t get away from using other elements to extinguish Fire. Camp fires are put out with a combination of Water and Earth used to smother the flames. If using Air to extinguish Fire offends it, then shouldn’t it also be offended when you safely put out any Fire using any of the more natural methods available to us to do so?

The most ridiculous thing I’ve seen as a way to “avoid blowing out a candle” is someone waving their hand over it to create enough air flow to blow the candle out. That’s still using Air, so it’s just as “bad” and it looks ridiculous. Though they probably thought I was an uneducated philistine for blowing mine out.

Anyway, back to my birthday cake analogy. If magic is supposed to be a combination of your own will and the power of the world around you (however you quantify that power or how you choose to manipulate it), then you are only adding more of yourself to it by adding your breath to the equation. Breathing techniques are very popular in many forms of the modern Neo-Pagan movement, most of these are taken from Eastern influences, though you might be surprised that the Odic breath was the breath of life in Norse mythology (though there is some discrepancy if Odin gave the Odic breath, or if it was Freya’s vanished husband Od, or even if Odin is Od) and are used to quiet the mind in preparation for ritual and some are used to raise energy in a more subdued way than through chanting or dancing. If you finish everything by blowing out the candle, you’re just adding more of your own power to the spell…and isn’t that what magical techniques are about anyway? Making spells more personal and more effective? 

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy, 

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fluffy

So, I have been considering the definition of "fluffy", or at least what it means to me. I've realized that the term is too broad and I need to narrow it into categories. Please note that, in most cases, I'm also poking fun at my past self. I used to be fluffy, in a variety of ways.

A "Fluffy Bunny" is a baby Pagan (Pagan for under a year) who has read one book on Wicca (or any form of Paganism, but Wicca is typically the go to for beginners) and declares themselves to be experts on all things magical and gives themselves titles such as Lady/Lord in either online discussions or at public Pagan gatherings (though they seem to meet Pagans in real life very rarely). I actually still have issues meeting with Pagans in public. I'm a bit socially awkward and afraid that if I say anything at all, I'll offend someone, so I just say nothing (basically I'm either all filter or no filter). I don't have issues pissing people off online because I don't believe there can be any real energetic interaction through cyberspace (I know there are online covens who would disagree, but I even think electricity in general can cause issues with working magic, so I don't think an entirely virtual Pagan experience is entirely valid) therefore, I don't believe they can give me the "evil eye" or, as the Irish would put it, "overlook" me; that is not the case in physical reality.

Someone who is just "Fluffy" can either be Pagan or subscribe to some form of New Age spirituality that is not necessarily Pagan in influence. I don't really know that Neo-Paganism should be lumped in with New Age spirituality, but according to bookstores, it's the same and while there is some overlap, there are vast differences. A Fluffy person can be on their path for years and still be Fluffy. The main criteria here is the belief that there is no evil in the universe and every spirit (or alien race) you come across wants to be your friend and help humanity evolve to the next level of enlightenment. This is a foolish outlook. For Pagans, it completely ignores the folklore of our pagan ancestors (there are PLENTY of stories about pissing off gods, faeries, etc and how NOT to do that and the repercussions of doing so) and essentially states their beliefs were wrong while we are somehow still trying to build a system based upon those beliefs. This makes absolutely no sense. For the New Agers out there: there is absolutely no reason to believe that any alien race that is more technologically advanced than us (if there are any that are that advanced) would automatically want to help us and not destroy us before we do to the galaxy what we have done to our own planet. These can also be big believers in The Secret (which, by the way, was a concept even spouted in the 1980s on "The Golden Girls" and was not new or worthy of all the hype by 2006-when the film debuted) as a way of life. Basically, Dharma from "Dharma and Greg" was a Fluffy. Not necessarily a bad person, but definitely has an outlook so bright that it becomes hard for them to deal with harsher realities that come their way.

Here's a new one I came up with: "Fluffernutter". This is the category I have set aside for those Pagans (or New Agers, though typically they have outer space or Atlantean connections) who may or may not already belong to the first two categories, but also believe they are somehow "special" or "different" (and thus, a better Pagan than you).  Most "Otherkin" belong in this category for me. I have heard some compelling arguments for therianthropy,  but I still think they're misinterpreting a natural shamanic gift (and in some cases spiritual disease) as somehow being "other" than a normal, human Pagan. Those who believe they are the avatars of Pagan gods (see one of my first posts) definitely get this title (as it's not only "out there" but extremely rude to those who worship said Pagan deity). Typically arguments contrary to their "otherness" are met with vehemence and the assumption that you are somehow a closed-minded bigot. These, again (like the Fluffy Bunny), are Pagans that typically don't get out into the real Pagan world and when they do, expect the same form of acceptance they get on their Otherkin forums. Fluffy Bunnies are the perfect candidates to eventually become Fluffernutters (it's a very easy step, I know because it happened to me).

I need to come up with a name for the type of fluff that ignores historical evidence altogether in favor of the fakelore often passed down as factual history within the Pagan community. The "Burning Fluffs"?  Hmm... need to work on that one and a description, but I think I'm going to let it go at this for now.

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Busy Weekends

The past two weekends have been busy and I have not been home to write. Last weekend was a blast at a friend's "tent city" birthday bash. I think it was quite a suitable way to celebrate Lughnasadh a bit early.

I barely had enough time before Lughnasadh to decorate my broom (one of the things I do, more to remind myself and get myself into the mood for a Sabbat is decorate a broom that I hang over the entrance to the apartment, for Lughnasadh, it's fake grass, wheat and sunflowers) before we had to pack up and leave on Saturday.

In more recent news, I am branching out a bit from my North-western European focus and am actually adding a Roman deity to the mix (this is a big deal as when you mention Rome to me, I envision Boudicca kicking their asses). This deity is Fortuna. While Roman culture does not appeal to me, I must say that the USA is the "new" Roman Empire (and we are crumbling from within in the same manner) and we have similar visions as to what constitutes fortune and luck. I cannot think of a directly cognate deity that fits in with the rest of my worship (other than maybe Guldveig, but she was a giantess reviled and murdered by the Aesir for bringing greed into the world...I don't think Barnabus's Odin would appreciate her presence).

The reason I feel I got the green light? Well, Fire Lyte and Velma Nightshade have both brought her into their live recently and things have been going well for them (at least according to Inciting a Riot). I'm kind of sick of being poor, I'm sick of working jobs I hate, barely making ends meet, and not being able to afford much fun at all. So, I considered spending some of my birthday money on a Fortuna statue. I pulled one up on Amazon, but I would not commit to buy it. Now, I have a bit of a Firefox tab addiction, I open tons of tabs and keep them open for no real reason other than not to have to load the page when I want to look at it again, so the tab was up for about a week. And in that time I won $50.00 on  a $2.00 scratch off ticket. That was the green light. So I pulled up Ebay to do some price comparisons and I found a white porcelain Fortuna that was about half the price of the bronze one I was looking at on Amazon. Not only was this one cheaper, but it matches better with the  Greek statues I purchased for Barnabus in the past (aside from Odin, he's mainly into the Greek pantheon) and looks more classically "Roman" (yes, I realize that they were painted all sorts of bright colors originally, but when we see these statues, they're so white and pristine it's hard to imagine them as anything else). So, Fortuna is on the way. Now I just need to find suitable shrine placement.

One of these days, I'll replace my plaques of The Morrigan and Cernunnos with real statues, but I'm finding it very hard to find ones I like. I like the older imagery, but I'd like it to be updated (without becoming modern "witchy" fantasy-esque...I see so many images of The Morrigan that make her look more like a Gothic Witch than a bad-ass Goddess that it kind of saddens me).

Anyway, that' the news. If you want the weather, look out your window.

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Seeing" things

So, as part of my daily practice, I have been doing awareness exercises (specifically as outlined in Robin Artisson's book "The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill"). I do this exercise, along with the Serpent Breath twice daily and I think it might be paying off...

Or I'm going insane (again). I'm skeptical to my core and one of my knee-jerk reactions since escaping my fluffy years is to doubt anything without a physical manifestation. Back then, I thought I saw things all the time (including a salamander - a fire elemental- in the elevator of my old apartment building); and so, naturally, when I dredged myself out of the fluff-pit and chose to face reality, I began to doubt all the things I'd seen and experienced as part of my early Craft years.

I work in what is now an office building but used to be an old train station during the 1800s, it's known to be haunted. I've started seeing things out of the corner of my eye, only to move my head to get a better look and find nothing there. On Friday, going up the stairs, I saw a dazzling bit of rainbow light zoom up the height of the stairwell as I was coming up. Now, have I really been "seeing" those things? Is it my over-active imagination?

Basically, I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I'll keep my practice going and try not to knee-jerk my way out of it again. Maybe I can find a balance between the realities that doesn't involve me completely living in fluffy la-la land.

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Vocabulary of Energy

So I'm reading Energy Essentials by Maya Om. First thing I must say is that she has a very unique background from the typical Pagan that I've come across. She was born in Jordan and had a grandmother who was a traditional healer in their village. This very fact makes the book worth reading if only to gain insight into how another culture views magical practice.

However, there is something I'm having a problem with and I think it has to do not necessarily with her style or method, but with the influx of Eastern (particularly Indian) energy concepts into what I see as a predominately European tradition: witchcraft (there's a reason I used traditional healer to describe Maya Om's grandmother, she certainly would not have used the word witch to describe herself as many in her shoes would not have and do not, it's just not part of their culture to embrace the word "witch"- it's not part of many cultures outside the modern Pagan movement to embrace the word Witch). From my earliest days on the Path (and even more so during my Yoga/Tantra phase), knowledge and use of the chakra system was (and still is) the predominate way in which energy is described. But it feels a bit alien now that I'm going down a more semi-reconstructionist/folkloric road.

Now, I can say that the people of India come from the same cultural grouping as the Celts and Norse whose folk practices and lore I base most of my Craft upon. The issue here is that there was already a very prominent culture in India by the time their branch of the Proto-Indo-European culture got there, and I just don't know enough to say with absolute certainty just what part of their current culture comes from the older system and what can be seen as cognate beliefs with their European cousins (who eventually became known as the Greeks, Romans, Germanics/Norse, and the Celts). Was the chakra system (or a more rudimentary form) a common thread among the Indo-Europeans? Or was the system already in use in India when their branch got there and they just attached Sanskrit to this concept? I just don't know. What I do know, is that it has become so entrenched within the Pagan community, probably from its infancy in Britain (I know not all modern Paganism got its start there but a fair share of the paths have) since for a very long time Britain controlled India and their spiritual concepts were adopted by a new religion known as Spiritualism in the late 1800s (through Spiritualism, it entered the generic "Occult" world that existed at that time and from there into Paganism), that most books I've seen doing any sort of energy exercises utilize the chakra system and expect their readers to not only be familiar with it, but to embrace it wholeheartedly as part of the Pagan path.

Only I'm not so sure it should be so integral in Witchcraft. As I mentioned, I see the various systems of Witchcraft as a European tradition, drawing from the cultural folklore of Europe. The chakra system is not part of that folklore and I bet Biddy Early (a famous Irish "faerie doctor") and other cunning folk would have stared at you in utter confusion if you asked them how to better align your chakras. It just wasn't part of their magical vocabulary.

I think part of my discomfort with the chakra system is that it is so very much part of the Vedic tradition and I don't know that the followers of any Indian religion (since there are more than just Hinduism) want to be lumped with the modern word Pagan (even ancient pagans didn't call themselves pagans). Another part of this is the symbolism that comes with the chakra system-by which I mean the chakras being visualized as lotuses  with specific numbers of petals and a specific Sanskrit word, for me...these are all very Indian (or very Asian) images and I can no longer relate to them the way I used to. When I was going through my Yoga/Tantra phase, I found these beautiful glass lotus tea-light holders. I bought nine of them. Two I kept plain (these are on my "Asian" display, along with my Kwan Yin, my Buddha and Bodhi tree, and my Sun Wu-Kung statue from that phase...they're still pretty even if not spiritually significant to me anymore) and the other seven I stained with "stained glass paint" the color of the chakra lotuses. They now collect dust on the bottom shelf of the bookcase that houses the "Asian display".

Do I think there may have once been a European system? Perhaps there was.In the legends of Cuchulain, he is often described as having a firey aura that only showed up in battle (which could lead one to believe he drew power from some source). People thought his father, Lugh, was the sun rising when he came onto the battle field in the Second Battle of Moytura. The energy was there, but the vocabulary on how to use it seems to have died. Freya Aswin in Leaves of Yggdrasil suggests the Norse may have had a similar system, but that it had an eighth chakra beneath the feet (as most spiritual work was done standing, instead of seated in the lotus position) but admits that it is just her personal gnosis that makes her believe this. Currently, I've been using a three energy "cauldron" system I developed myself combined with the sacred tree. I'll give you my reasoning. In Norse and Celtic myths, a sacred well or cauldron is located at the base of the World Tree, this is the first energy center, the well of the Underworld (this pretty much is located at the root chakra, but it is a different kind of energy). The second is the cauldron of the middle world, physical reality, aka, the cauldron of Earth (the Tree's trunk starts here, but its roots go to the Underworld cauldron and below; this cauldron can be seen as replacing the belly and solar-plexus chakras, though it is still a different type of energy). Lastly, the cauldron of Fire is in the head, upheld by the branches of the tree (this cauldron takes the place of the last four chakras as it governs passions, inspiration and spiritual matters). These three centers are connected by the Tree and it makes one a microcosm of the folkloric macrocosm of one's European forebears (particularly those of Celtic/Norse influence). From a numeric perspective, multiples of three were more important to the Celts and the Norse than the number seven would have been. However, this system is my own personal gnosis, I don't expect anyone else to adopt it, but it makes more sense and aligns more easily to my current path than does the Indian chakra system.

So, back to my problem with Energy Essentials. Since I don't use the system she incorporated into pretty much every one of her exercises, it kind of leaves me to either just finish the book for its general knowledge value or re-write all of her exercises with my own system replacing the chakra system....maybe I'll do the first and consider doing the other once the book has come to a close. It's not that her methods are wrong in any way, but most of them just don't feel very witchy to me.

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen