Duality

Apollo, by Thalia Took

Radiant Apollo, Crowned in Light

Farseer, You Who Stand Upon the Boundary

Fair Healer and Destroyer

I call to you now from this liminal place; this place of power.

Purify me with your searing light

Guide my words and focus my mind

Help me to achieve mastery of my fears

And inspire me to excellence in all things.

It has been nearly a month since I stood in the river in the middle of the woods, surrounded by my sisters, and spoke my vow.  Dressed in pure white, with sunflowers as an offering.  I dedicated myself to him, and then we purified ourselves in the water of the river.  I emerged soaking wet, but alive, and reborn.  It felt so good, and so right.

It felt like a new beginning.  I expected to wake up the next day with a new found dedication to my writing; to productively go forth and conquer!

… I did not.  In fact, I’ve spent most of the last month running headlong into the night, into revelry and the arms of Dionysos.  And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  Dancing, laughing, drinking, flirting — that girl is as much me as the one sitting furrow-browed in front of the computer searching for the perfect word.  I cannot have one and deny the other, any more than I could have Apollo without Dionysos.

In truth, I’m more afraid of Dionysos than Apollo, though I think they’re equal in their capacity for both gentleness and ferocity.  But with Dionysos, one can get lost in that dark — and I’ve been there before.  At the same time, to deny him is to invite him in.  He cannot and will not be ignored.

I must find a way to embrace this duality within myself.  I need to find a balance.  As it is now, I’m never sure whether I’m running from, or running to.

… and I’m back!

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It’s been a while, but I’ve been wanting to update this blog again.  I didn’t want to talk about anything for the past few months, because it would’ve necessarily involved facing things that I didn’t want to face.  You see, towards the end of April I broke my foot, through a mixture of clumsiness, idiocy, and four inch heels.

To say that I was upset about it is an understatement.  I was working out, and starting to get in shape, and the arrival of spring was beginning to make the weather perfect for being outdoors — I was feeling really good about my life.  And then I suddenly had my foot in a cast, throwing all of my plans out the window!

My response to this at the time was to act like nothing was wrong.  I didn’t want to complain about it, because it wouldn’t help anything, and probably would’ve just reinforced my own misery.  So mostly I just joked about it, and went about my business as usual — minus doing half of the things I enjoyed doing.  Occasionally, in private, I would come close to tears with anger at myself and at the universe; a feeling which I would immediately try to suppress.  So of course I didn’t want to blog, because then I would’ve had to mention that it had happened, and at the time I was desperately trying to pretend that it hadn’t.

It’s funny how the lessons life teaches us are rarely the ones we wish to learn.  Learning how to depend on other people and ask for help.  Reminders of mortality (from the sharp blow to my head as I met the pavement).  I was perfectly fine with being fiercely independent and immortal, no thanks to you, universe!

In the end some good did come of it though.  The reminder that life could end at any time inspired a kind of fear in me, which became a driving force to finally begin writing the story that I’ve had in my head for years.  The thought that if I died, my entire inner world would die with me — it scared the hell out of me.

So maybe things do happen for a reason.  Or maybe chance was simply kind.  Either way, it’s been an interesting experience, and I’m all about interesting experiences.  That doesn’t mean I’m not happy that it’s over though!

Readiness and change

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Persephone Brings the Spring

(Picture by aragon64.deviantart.com)

A couple weeks ago I suddenly decided that I was sick and tired of having love handles and being out of shape.  Of course, I’d had these thoughts for a long time:  “I’d love to be able to fit into that cute dress again!”  “Sure wish I could walk up these stairs without getting winded!”  And so on and so forth.  I would come up with a grand plan for how I was going to make it happen, and then… I would go sit in front of my computer, eat some pizza washed down with a 20 oz. of cherry Pepsi, and just kind of hope the pounds would magically vanish.  I knew I should exercise.  I knew I should eat better.  I told myself over and over that I was ready to live a healthier lifestyle — but some part of me deep down was not ready to make those changes.

Then a couple weeks ago I randomly pulled out my Dance Dance Revolution mat, loaded the game up on my old PS2, and danced for about half an hour.  Then I spent another fifteen minutes doing some sit-ups and push-ups, followed by stretching and yoga.  Then I did the same thing the next day, and again on the next.  There was no plan; I just thought it would be fun and that it would feel good to move my body.  And it did — it felt amazing.

Surprisingly, I’ve been keeping it up — I’ve been doing that routine 4-5x a week, and hopefully will be able to start jogging with my husband on the nature trail soon now that the weather is turning nicer.  I’d like to get down to the university gym to spend some time with the rock wall as well.  It’s like some switch in my mind suddenly turned on, and I’m finally ready.

I think the biggest reason I’ve been successful this time is that my primary motivation hasn’t been to lose weight, although that will be a wonderful side effect.  But I’ve kept it up because it feels good.  It’s like my body is waking up from a long sleep, and remembers it’s true purpose of dancing and running and playing.  I’m getting stronger, and faster, and more flexible, and I love it.

I’ve also been eating a lot healthier.  I’ve been cooking almost entirely from scratch, and including a lot more fruits and vegetables.  Again, the motivation has been to eat better because it makes me feel better, and I know that whole foods are going to make me feel a lot better than something that’s been highly processed.  But sometimes eating macaroni & cheese and having a few adult beverages makes me feel pretty good too, at least temporarily, so despite all that I certainly haven’t been depriving myself.  ;)

Anyhow, I feel much more grounded and centered in the real world these days; more confident and in touch with my physical and mental self.  I think that’s a good foundation for a spiritual practice — which will bring me to my next post.

I Hear You Calling

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I hadn’t intended to make a music post again so soon, but this is just one song, and it made me cry like a baby.

I’ve always really loved The Charge of the Goddess.  When I first came to Wicca it was one of the very first things I discovered on the internet, and despite no longer identifying as Wiccan, it’s always stayed with me.  I still think it’s the most beautiful and moving piece of pagan ritual that I’ve ever read — the second half in particular:

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

“I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to rise and come unto me.  For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.  From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.  Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold — all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.  Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.  And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery; for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.  For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

The bolded bit is the part that always gets me.  Because I have such a hard time with that, but the words ring so true.  I seek and seek and seek, and never find it within, or without.  Perhaps on rare occasion.  But not often enough that I don’t tear up hearing The Charge spoken aloud, or sob like a little child hearing those words set to music.  The first time I listened to this my husband was sitting at his computer beside me, and I wasn’t expecting to react like I did.  I was pretty embarassed, and told him to stop looking at me, and had to excuse myself from the room.  It’s not often that music hits me on that level.  So go ahead and have a listen.  “I Hear You Calling”, by Chalice and Blade:

Altars, old and new

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It’s been barely two weeks since starting this blog, and already my noble intentions of frequently updating have fallen to the wayside!  I could say that I was busy, but no, not really.  No, I just got intimidated by my own blog.  There is this terrible thing that happens whenever I begin any creative endeavor:  I write/paint/draw something that I like, and then I begin to fear that the next thing won’t turn out as good.  That I’ll make a mistake.  That it won’t be perfect.  And then I’ll pretend to myself that I just lost interest, though in truth I just thought it better to not try than to try and then fail.  But really — WTF.  That shit was old way back in high school, and it’s still old now.  So, I’m just going to try to keep moving forward.

Anyhow!  About a month ago I signed up for Dianne Sylvan’s spiritual nomad course (see side-link), because I love Dianne Sylvan, and my spiritual path has been nothing if not nomadic.  I’m a little behind on the material, some of which is due to being busy with school, and some of which is just due to my own natural tendency to procrastinate (this blog isn’t called Bad Pagan for nothing!).  So, even though I just got module four in my e-mail today, I just finished doing a challenge from module one:  stripping down my altar.

2008 Altar

I’ve always loved my altar.  It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it?  Or was, anyway.  That photo was taken in 2008, and it fit where I was at spiritually at the time.  Then a few years went by.  I changed, but my altar did not — except to gather more things and more dust, anyhow.  Old coven projects.  Yule gifts that I was going to store somewhere eventually.  Some things from my grandma’s house.  A tarot deck I never put away.  Just kind of… sitting there, taking up space.  It’s no surprise that when I began the task of taking it down, I didn’t feel any sadness, only relief.

Altar Stuff

When I looked at all the stuff laid out on my bed I thought — well, actually what I thought was “Holy crap, look at all that holy crap!” and then cringed inwardly as I realized the terrible truth that my husband’s sense of humor has corrupted me and I am forever bound to see horrible jokes everywhere.  But besides that, I thought that it was no wonder I didn’t feel any connection to my altar anymore.  All of those objects, and all of their associations, so many of which meant nothing to me anymore — so much of it had no place being there, but the whole time I thought the problem was with me.  Well, I’m sure some of it is.  But the altar certainly wasn’t helping.

After removing all of the items I cleaned the altar, and polished it.  Looked at it for a while.  The challenge for the nomad course was to leave it bare, but I decided to return a few things.  The ADF notion of arranging one’s altar to reflect the three worlds has been speaking to me lately, and so I placed the wood, the cauldron, and the fire to represent the midrealm, the underworld, and the heavens.

New Altar

And then I placed the key.  It seemed appropriate.

It’s amazing what a little change can do.  Suddenly my altar seems full of potential again.  I’m sure I’ll add more things back to it eventually, but for now, I’m enjoying it’s simplicity.

God, Then

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Back in highschool, a couple of friends and I wrote a collaborative story for a while, which we called HELLo Vacation.  It was a sort of Gaimanesque, Good Omens inspired romp through hell, following the adventures of L’Ange, La Diable, and my own character Daemon.  I hadn’t thought of it in a long time, but last night while looking through old LiveJournal entries I stumbled across a fragment of the story that I wrote, and thought I would share it here.

The room was surprisingly small, and dark. A bare lightbulb glowed faintly in the center of the room, the sole point of light illuminating the man seated at the desk. He sat looking down at a hand of cards and occasionally puffing on a cigar. His face remained hidden in shadow. Daemon cautiously walked closer, and slowly took a seat in the chair facing the desk. The man sat silently for a long minute, intently studying the cards, until suddenly raising his head and smiling brightly as he recognized his visitor. The man’s face was nondescript, simultaneously old and young, but so unremarkable that one would have difficulty remembering what it looked like if asked to recall. The only thing memorable about him was his smile – secretive, amused, as if he knew something that nobody else did.

Daemon crossed her legs and began to speak, “Look, I don’t have much time…”

The man smiled and nodded knowingly, “I know.”

“Still, I just wanted to stop in to discuss a few things, like, why I haven’t heard from you in a while…”

The man glanced down once more at the cards in his hand, slipped one underneath the pile, and drew another. “I know.”

Daemon blinked. “I know that you know.”

I know that you know that I know.”

Damnit! Yes, you’re omniscient, I get it, we all get it! Just give me an answer!”

He smiled, completely amused, “My apologies.” He fell silent again for a moment, re-arranged the cards in his hand, put two underneath the pile, and drew another pair. “Very well. But the answer to your question is simple. As you might imagine, being God keeps me very busy.” 

And that was how I used to envision God.  The Ultimate Dealer.  Inscrutable, amused, and far, far too busy to keep in touch.

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“This is what I believe:  That I am I.  That my soul is a dark forest.  That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest.  That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.  That I must have the courage to let them come and go.”

- D. H. Lawrence

The Moon and the Nightspirit

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I love music!  Okay, I guess it’s pretty safe to say that *everyone* loves music (except for this one really grumpy guy I used to know).  Seeing how that is, having this blog seems like a good opportunity to share some of the pagan-flavored music that I love, and there’s no band on that front that I enjoy more than The Moon and the Nightspirit.

The Moon and the Nightspirit is a Hungarian pagan band with four albums to their name.  The Wild Hunt describes their sound as a “unique mixture of ethnic folk and neoclassical darkwave.”  I would describe it as “zomg amazing”, but that isn’t nearly as eloquent, so we’ll just stick with the first description.

Their first album contains some songs in English, and the following three are all entirely in Hungarian — it matters very little though; all the emotion of the songs is carried in the strings of the violin and clear, beautiful vocals of the lead singer Ágnes.  I often just put all four of their albums playing in a row on repeat.

I hope you’ll enjoy their music as much as I do.  :)

The journey so far

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Since this is my first blog post, and much of this blog will deal with my spiritual journey, I suppose it makes sense to describe the journey so far.

I was raised Lutheran, and my family went to church on a pretty regular basis.  I went to Sunday school, served as an acolyte, attended youth group — all the typical stuff.  My parents tried their best to raise me Christian, or at least went through all the proper motions.  We never talked about faith, though.  To this day I’m not actually sure how much of it they really believe.  Still, it’s hardly their fault that it didn’t stick.  Then as now, I was always questioning, always skeptical.  Why was God only referred to as male?  Why did we follow some things from the Bible but not others?  Why was the concept of sin so stupid?  (maybe that one was more opinion)

The real journey began in the mystical land of AOL 3.0.  It was 1997, and I was thirteen years old and discovering the internet for the very first time.  I’d come across a magazine called The Web, and it had an article about witchcraft on the internet.  I’m sure it was highly questionable journalism, but regardless, my mind was completely blown.  People who worshipped a goddess?  And practiced magic??  I remember distinctly reading this in the cafeteria of my middle school at lunch time, and I could not get home fast enough to satisfy my intense the need to know more.  That evening was spent devouring every scrap of information on Wicca that I could come across.

Magics!

(Actually, yeah, I did kind of think it was like that.)

Despite my enthusiasm, in the beginning I was still sure that I was going to hell.  I would lay awake at night and beg God to forgive me.  Thankfully, that stage eventually passed, and I even found out (much to my delight) that my best friend was also Wiccan.  As a convert to a new religion, things were pretty black and white, and there was a kind of peace in that certainty.  It wasn’t until later that the questions began again:  Why did the circle have to be cast clockwise?  Why did the Goddess always seem to be elevated at the expense of the God?  Why was the concept of the three-fold law so stupid?  (okay, opinion again there…)  Combined with the anxieties of simply being a teenager, religion fell to the wayside.

Around the time I was eighteen or so is when I really began to explore my faith in earnest.  I was living on my own for the very first time, and the world seemed alive and full of possibilities.  I went on walks around my neighborhood to appreciate nature, and would stop by the Catholic church to say prayers to Inanna in the face of Mary.  I read about pantheism, and explored the mythology of different cultures.  I no longer considered myself Wiccan.  I wasn’t sure what I was.  I even explored Judaism for a while, but ultimately rejected monotheism for the second and final time.

Eventually I found a coven, and completed the “year and a day” of training.  I thought I’d finally found my home. Unfortunately, the very month after initiation the coven was put on indefinite hiatus, to my extreme disappointment.  Looking back, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — I still needed room to explore, and I was given plenty of it.  I read about Buddhism, and women’s spirituality.  I took a short course on Hinduism.  I attended a regular full moon circle for a while.  I explored Asatru.  For a couple years I had a strong interest in Hellenic Reconstructionism, although I found that approach did nothing to allay my fears of “doing it wrong.”  For all of the exploration that I was doing though, I wasn’t doing a lot of, well, *doing*.  The gods seemed distant.  I didn’t talk to them, and they didn’t talk to me.  Sure, there was the occasional attempt at ritual, but I was never sure what I was supposed to feel.  My pursuits were intellectually fulfilling, but spiritually I felt hollow.

Thor is awesome

(Hey gurl, I'm game to chat if you are.)

A few years later out of the blue, Sarah, the priestess of my old coven, contacted me and the other members and asked if we were still interested in being a group.  Needless to say, I was thrilled!  Better to feel spiritual malaise as part of a group than to feel it alone, eh?  Fast forward to the present day.  In the time since then, our coven has had some ups and downs, and seen old members leave and new members become initiated.  In the past year especially though, it feels like we’ve really come together as a group, and my coven sisters have become some of my greatest sources of strength and inspiration.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m definitely still wandering.  I definitely still struggle to feel connection to the divine.  But I’m much less concerned with labels than I used to be.  I consider myself pagan, but I have little use for trying to define what that means.  I’m content to continue learning and exploring and letting my path evolve organically over time.  At least now I have a few good friends to travel the road with me.

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