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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Of Peculiar Red Hats and other things

A few months ago, I read Irish Witchcraft and Demonology by St. John D. Seymour. The book was filled with all sorts of folklore. One tidbit was that Irish witches wear peculiar red hats (and they noted this was also common to Scottish folklore, which makes sense considering the Scots invaded from Ireland). However, no clue was given for this other than the old rhyme: "By yarrow and rue and my red cap too.." So, why the red hat? Well, I considered that and my wealth of lore that lives in my brain came up with an answer. Faerie creatures (horses, deer, hares, cows...etc.) are white with red-tipped ears. These creatures travel freely between this world and the Otherworld. Mayhaps, the red hat symbolized a temporary "feyness" that allowed the witch to travel in much the same way. Therefore, I have acquired a "semi-peculiar" red hat. Why is it only semi-peculiar? While it would certainly look odd to wear in public, a red Robin Hood hat isn't particularly odd. However, I have added a crow feather and Celtic knot-work button accent and I must say I think it looks pretty good. (pictures of it and other things will appear in another post).

So..I admit that I don't know what I don't know. I'm a lore and myth junkie and I can talk about magical theory until the cows come home. However, there are some things I am weak on, some things which  *gasp* I don't think I'll be able to learn from a book.

One of the things is divination, it never was my strong suit and there's part of me that is really skeptical of those who try to make a living at it.

Another is anything to do with herbs, particularly in the identification arena. If my herbs didn't come in neat little labeled bags to then be put into neat little labeled jars, I'd mix them all up. One of the labels fell off a bag and I had to throw it away because I had no idea what the f-ck was in the bag. Unless a tree has leaves on it, I can't tell what it is by the bark (and that's only for the few trees whose leaves I know). I have books that tell me what herbs are good for what ailment. And I can get the herbs online or even in pill form. But that doesn't really feel "witchy"...and what if the Zombie Apocalypse does come in December and I have no internet access and we need to live off the can I tell what I can eat in the woods from what I shouldn't put in my mouth ever? Most books only have pencil drawings that make every plant pretty much look the same to me and even then, not for every plant.

Yet another is healing with energy, the most common form being reiki. My issue with reiki is that you can learn it so quickly, but that quick little attunement can cost hundreds of dollars. I don't know whether it's real or not because having to spend so much money on such a small window of teaching is very suspicious to me (again with my skepticism breaking through). Before I make my mind up on reiki, I should probably have it done to me to see if I feel anything from it at all. If it turns out to be awesome, it might be worth the investment (whenever I get lucky enough to have the extra of my biggest pet peeves is that price of all the "lessons/seminars" that I've come across...based on their prices, I can get several books and eat well or eat only Ramen and have nothing new to read for months just for spending the money on one's never seemed worth it to me....but I don't even go to concerts that cost more that $25.00 a I'm just too frugal).

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I am a very bad blogger

I have a hard time coming up with things to write about, at least on a smaller scale. I post my longer opinion pieces to Witchvox and their bit on copyright is a bit hazy (at least to me) so I'm not quite sure if I'm allowed to post articles I've put up there on here. I keep telling Barnabus he's free to write, but he's delved into the depths of Civilization 5 and only comes up for air when I'm up and home. Then, it's pretty much mutual-entertainment time. We only have one computer and it's our main source of media entertainment (you tend to need high-definition/widescreen when watching contemporary sub-titled anime) as our 20 year old Zenith just doesn't cut it for most viewing and what would be ok to watch on's just easier to keep the set-up as is and not f-ck with it based on age of the show we're watching.

In other news, my apartment is actually clean! This is a fairly recent phenomenon. Barnabus and I are notoriously lazy when it comes to this. The goal is to keep it up so that we never have to spend an entire week scrubbing again. Usually we spend an entire week every 6 months or so and then we SWEAR we'll never do it again. Maybe this time we'll keep our words. I'm hopeful, because this means I can have people over and have an empty table top suitable for the rolling of the dice.

There is something I've noticed about myself and it makes me sometimes unfair to other Pagans. I pretty much live, breathe, eat, drink and sleep my Craft. I pretty much only read books on Witchcraft, history, folklore, mythology, ancient religions, etc (even my chosen fiction has a Pagan or Witchy flavor). Most of my "fun money" goes into my Craft, whether acquiring more books, tools (or the raw materials to make my own). My computer time is spent writing/researching articles for Witchvox. My goal in life is to own and run my own Pagan shop (other than trying to set up shop as a "psychic" it's the closest I can get to being a "Professional Witch" in this day and age). And about a third of the conversations Barnabus and I have are about Pagan/Witchy subjects (I would not do well if trying to have a relationship with someone not of my path). In many ways, I'm a one-trick pony. But I can also be as stubborn as a donkey. By that, I mean that I sometimes don't "get" other Witches that aren't as gun-ho Witchy as I am. I don't understand why someone would prefer to spend their time (and money) playing video games or going on long car trips to be in the SCA (or other re-enacting/role-playing events), on top of having a job (and watching tv) and yet still claim they're spiritually fulfilled. I almost do nothing socially after work (a bi-weekly or so role-playing game may be starting, but we've been here a year and none have started/we haven't been invited to join any current games yet, so I'm a bit skeptical that it will happen) and with trying to keep up the house, trying to get into an effective exercise routine, and trying to keep up with all the shows I love...I don't feel I do enough and often feel spiritually cut off because I can't do what I want and make Witchcraft my job. What I need to learn is that everyone has differing levels of need. Not everyone drawn to any form of the Craft or Paganism needs to make it the most important part of their lives. I still feel, though, that if you're going to study and practice a religion (especially one as demanding as Witchcraft) you need to be devoted to it and therefore you may need to let some parts of your life fall by the wayside. If that means cutting back tv time to two hours a day (rather than 4-6..I'm talking to myself here, by the way), do it. Obviously, I'm not in a position to not work and I don't suppose any of us really are, so scaling back there is not really an option. What you can do is stop checking FaceBook 50 times a day (damn you George Takei and your fabulous statuses), cut back on social time (if you actually have a social life...because I really don't) if need be and use that time for your path (whether to study, do devotionals, meditate, actually DO rituals...I tend to be lazy about this but Sabbat nights inevitably fall on work nights and I just don't have it in me after working all day and I tend to be forgetful come the weekend...yet another reason I want to be a professional Witch) .Ok, where was I? Oh yeah, about not judging people who call themselves Witches but whose life doesn't appear to revolve around Witchcraft. I need to stop doing that, I don't know what they do at home. They may have much more energy than I do and could do it all in a way that I cannot. Just because I'm kind of obsessive about Witchcraft does not mean all other Witches need to be.

See? I did it! A real blog entry! Kind of meanders all over the place, but it's a start (again).

May you be blessed by whichever gods you fancy,

BellaDonna Saberhagen