29 May 2013

Magickal Community - I Want It

A few weeks ago I attended a local Pagan Pride Day planning meeting down in Tacoma.  The current group running PPD are a hard working and incredibly welcoming group.  It was so nice to walk into a group of people I barely know and instantly feel welcomed and respected.  I knew it was a group where I could make suggestions and give my opinion, and that they’d form their opinions on the quality of what I said, rather than what group I was a part of or who I studied with.  It made me realize just how much I miss being a part of an open-minded local community group.  

When I first started practicing magick, back at Wellesley, I was blessed by being part of an incredible group.  We were all beginners struggling to learn together.  Everyone was pretty much equal and everyone pitched in and helped the group to learn and grow.  In retrospect I realize how incredible that group was.  I found a second family in that group and some of us will be sisters forever, even though we’re spread across the globe now.  The most remarkable thing was that because none of us had any “lineage” in the craft, we could only judge each other on what we actually said and did.  We had no past to be judged on.  

When I came back to Seattle I expected to be able to find local groups that would be as open and welcoming as the group I left.  To say that I was disappointed by what I really found would be a gross understatement.  What I found was a community shattered by politics.  I found people who didn’t care who you were unless you were introduced by someone with status,  I found “open” groups with no interest in even saying hello to new people (let alone welcoming them), and I found it almost impossible to even find the community without an “in.”  My friend and I once went to an open sabbat and spent 30 minutes in a dark room while the group hosting the event came in, late, and one by one passed us by without even saying hello.  When we asked if we were in the right place we received looks that clearly stated we weren’t welcome - even though the event was advertised as open to all.  Gotta love the Seattle freeze.  I’ve found people that wouldn’t give me the time of day because I wasn’t 50; I’ve had others that wouldn’t talk to me because I wasn’t under 25; and goddess help me if I mention that I don’t “embrace the warmth and light of the great mother.”  I once had a fellow practitioner tell me to my face that I was evil for working with Kali - way to be understanding lady.  

I had almost lost hope that there were, in fact, decent groups out here.  Then I started hosting Grey School info booths at the local PPD events.  The thing about PPD events is that their entire purpose is to foster community strength and understanding.  The folks that take the time and trouble to come out to them are, generally, friendly people who genuinely want to talk to new people.  At this point PPD is pretty much the one day a year I spend out in my local community (other than supporting local magickal merchants).  Through PPD I’ve met several local community leaders that don’t make me want to pull my hair out.  (There’s a really terrific Dianic group here - too bad I’m not Dianic.)  

I’ve met some amazing people in the local area, so what on earth is stopping us from coming together?  Terrible inertia? A lack of leadership?  Fear? Come on people, getting together in a coffee shop once a month isn’t exactly rocket science.  I suppose if I want local community I’m going to have to put on my big girl pants and make it happen.  *sigh*

27 May 2013

Review - The Book of Shadows Tarot

 I stumbled across the Book of Shadows Tarot about six months ago and was immediately intrigued by the concept.  This tarot is actually two decks; As Above and So Below.  The first deck, As Above, has been out for a while now and is designed to address the spiritual side of the question at hand.  The second deck, So Below, has just come out and is designed to address the mundane concerns of the query.  Quite an interesting approach no?

As witch with some strong Wiccan leanings this tarot immediately caught my attention.  I always enjoy exploring tarot the strong Pagan or Wiccan undertones because they resonate with me a lot more than the more ceremonial and alchemical underpinnings than classic tarot, like the Rider-Waite or Thoth decks (not that I don't use them from time to time).

The So Below deck has all the cards of a standard tarot, while the As Above deck is a little different.  The As Above deck is a larger than standard tarot deck that uses its own version of the major arcana.  For example, it has The Summerlands rather than The Fool and Wisdom rather than The High Priestess.  It also has a card for each of the Sabbats.  The So Below deck has all the cards of a standard tarot deck, but with Wiccan imagery. 

Both decks have the four standard suites  The As Above deck using The Elemental, The Maiden, The Mother, and The Crone as trumps.The So Below deck uses the more standard Knave, Knight, Queen, and King as trumps. 

I really enjoy the way the two decks work together.  The As Above deck is full of fantastical, mystical imagery, while the So Below deck has images of everyday life that I think will be familiar to any practicing witch.   It's nice to see a tarot system that actually addresses the dichotomy of the mysticism of the mind everyday reality.  It makes translating the reading into practical advice very easy.  The only criticism I have of the decks is that the imagery is too female heavy.  I'm a card carrying feminist (I went to Wellesley, it's sort of requires), but magick is not all female and the lack of male energy in the cards is palpable.  As a woman it's not really a problem for me, but I'd be interested to see how it worked in male hands.

I decided to do a simple 3 card (past-present-future) reading to see how the two decks work together.  I asked the simple question: what do I need to know?

From the As Above deck I got: Initiation, 8 of Air, and 4 of Fire.
From the So Below deck I got: 10 of Chalices, Knave of Wands, and The Hanged Man

From this I interpreted that in the past I had metaphysical initiation and mundane happiness.  In the present I have the mental clarity and focus of meditation, while biting off more than I can chew in the mundane (I took this to mean that my focus would help me deal with my having over loaded myself a bit).  In the future I have metaphysical action and mundane stasis - quite an odd combination.  As I'm planning to get started on my next book (which requires furious though and a still body) I'm going to take this as an OK thing.

It's an interesting combination of decks to use, but I think I like it.  I'm absolutely going to have to play with it more.

18 May 2013

Upcoming Events May 25th and 26th

I've got two events coming up soon.

On Friday, May 25th I will be on a panel at PNW Paracon (a subset of Crypticon).  From 4-6pm we will be discussing the Legal Aspects of the Paranormal and Investigating. 

Hilton Seattle Airport & Conference Center
17620 International Blvd.
Seattle, WA 98188

On Saturday, May 26th I will be at Avebury Mystikals in Bremerton.  I will be doing a workshop on Common Magickal Pests from 11-12:30pm and from 12:30-1:30 I will be there signing copies of my book, Defense Against the Dark.

544 4th Street
Bremerton, Wa 98337

I hope to see you there!

17 May 2013

Practice for Practice's Sake

I've been very fortunate during my time as a witch.  I have a deep connection with my deity and have traditionally always felt a pull to do the things that my deity wants me to do.  I've come to depend on that tug at the back of my brain, the feeling at the base of my spine, to let me know when I need to do something and what.  It could be to go to a particular place and meditate, to do a particular ritual, to learn a particular skill, etc.  When I was a beginner that type of direction was imperative; I just didn't know what I needed to do on my own.

These days it's a little different.  Things are a little less urgent than they once were.  I used to need to do certain rituals on a regular basis because I'd come under attack if I didn't.  That's no longer the case; your everyday boggles just don't come anywhere near me.  I used to need to do formal devotions to retain my connection to deity, that's not really an issue any more.  These day I kinda of live and breathe my practice.  On the one hand it's great - I don't lose anything if I skip certain practices and make substitutions for others.  On the other hand, because nothing is as urgent as it once was it just doesn't feel the same. 

I find myself in that odd place where any formal practice I do is solely for my own benefit.  My rituals are formal reminders and elaborate focusing exercises.  Sure, they give me an opportunity to feel my connection to deity without distraction, but that connection is always there.  All I had to do is close my eyes for a few moments on the bus to sense its presence - if that.  Spells and rituals are less about creating power and connections at this point than they are big pointers at what's already there.  Most of my spells these days are accomplished with a thought and a flick of power as I go about my life.

I really don't have to do any kind of formal practice, but sometimes I do it for its own sake.  Sometimes it's good to go back through the practices that gave me the foundation for what I do now.  Sometimes doing a formal ritual, even when I really don't have to, is a wonderful reminder of just how solid magickal practice can be.  When everything I do is almost instinctual it's easier to write it off, forget just how much impact it can have.  It's a lot harder to doubt what I do when I watch flames dance when there's no wind and feel the temperature drop when the circle is opened.  It's good to be reminded of the wonder I felt when I first started practicing.  So these days go out of my way a bit to bring some of the formal practices that I've dropped over the years back into my routine.  We can all use a little more wonder these days.

03 May 2013

Belated Beltane

Well, I was going to have a nice blog post all about shadow work on Beltane ready to go for Wednesday, but then I caught a very annoying cold and decided to watch television instead.  However, some groups still celebrate Beltane on the 5th of May (Old Beltane) so I don't feel too badly.

In general, Beltane is all about sex, fertility, growth, and color.  It's definitely the most uninhibited holiday we Pagans have, with giant phalli abounding and folks going off for "alone time" in the forest.  Traditional symbols like the Maypole, bonfires, and fresh flowers are all about the explosion of new life and the sympathetic magick of human fertility inspiring crops to be equally fertile.  It's about as un-shadowy as you get.  Of course, there is Walpurgisnacht on April 30th to counterbalance all that sex and joy (Walpurgisnacht is sort of a mini-Samhain).

Much as I do love Walpurgisnacht and doing ritual while listening to Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky, this year I wanted to actually celebrate Beltane.  Wellesley's been in my thoughts a lot of late, with the marathon bombing and my upcoming 10 year reunion, and Beltane was always a big deal for us there.  We'd wake up before dawn and go around the lake to do ritual while the sun rose and then have a big celebratory breakfast.  We'd make May Baskets (paper cones filled with candy and flowers) and give them to our friends.  My senior year we went all out and had a maypole in front of the chapel and a massive bonefire by the lake.  The Beltane is one of my favorite memories of undergrad and I still have the picture of all of us in front of the maypole up on my altar.  This year I really want to recapture some of the joy from that day.

Since I spent the 1st asleep on my couch with a big box of tissues, this year I'm celebrating Beltane on the 5th.  It's supposed to be a stunningly nice day so I'm going to get myself out into the woods to hike up to Fragrance Lake.  I'm going to get up as early as I can make myself, since it's about 2.5 hours up to the trail head, and get out into the forest.  It's early enough in the season that the forest will still be dark and rather dank in the morning and will gradually get warmer as the sun rises.  I think the progression of the hike should nicely mirror the progression of the season and the heat and sunshine I'll get by the time I get up to the lake will be a wonderful reflection of the energy of Beltane itself.  Hiking is always meditative for me and I feel that it's fairly reflective of the old practice of going out into the woods to have a mystical experience. 

Maybe I'll swing through La Conner on my way south to see if any of the flowers are still blooming.