Sorry for the missing post earlier this week. I was visiting my mom, and her computer was down due to a virus. So I had no internet access for several days.
This week’s post is about my personal practice. I don’t fit into any particular category like “Wiccan,” I just do a variety of practices and hold beliefs that I’ve picked up over the years. So I guess I’m officially eclectic. My spirituality is a work in practice, as is life, as are we all.
Here’re the core components of what I call, with tongue-in-cheek, the 'lynnish tradition' (‘cause my name is lynn):
This week I’ll discuss the Wiccan aspects, and I’ll periodically go through the other elements of the list until I reach the end.
WICCA: I live in the Northeast, so the wheel of the year -- which is based on the European pagan traditions as they evolved in response to living in a temperate climate -- really resonates with me. I adore the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall; the cycle of cold, darkness and rest followed by warmth and light. All these elements of the mama (mother nature) weave themselves into and form the framework of my life.
Even before I was pagan, I used to get excited over the solstices and equinoxes. I didn’t mark them formally or anything, I would just keep track of them and the changing seasons. I remember people thinking this was kind of weird. :-)
Later on in life when I got into alternative healing I would do a juice fast or a cleanse in the weeks leading up to the spring equinox. These days I mark the sabbats (including the ‘cross quarter’ days which lie between the equinoxes and the solstices) in various ways. Sometimes I follow tradition and sometimes I make up up my own stuff.
Like for the winter solstice my husband and I (who is also pagan, although his practice differs from mine), throw a 2-3 day long party. So far we’re the only people we've invited. We drink mead and cook a big feast, make an altar, light a bonfire out back, say our prayers under the sky and watch all three Lord of the Rings movies.
For Beltane (May Day) we go to a local pagan gathering which is held in a big field in the rural area where I live. There’s live music and other performances, lots of people dressed up in Renaissance faire type clothing (which is really fun to look at), a maypole, Wiccan ritual, vendors, food and a huge bonfire/drum circle when the sun goes down.
I think that dancing around a fire was probably one of the earliest forms of religious expression; I know it hits me on a very primal level. And you gotta have drums to set that rhythm and raise the energy. This in my opinion is one of Africa’s true gifts to the world, West African percussion music. One of the things that leaves me cold about a lot of contemporary pagan ritual music is that it lacks a good, soulful groove.
The first drum circle I ever went to was at a nyabinghi (Rastafarian celebration of Haile Selassie’s birthday) in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the mid-90s. A Rasta friend took me. This was the days before Brooklyn was super-gentrified, but even then I couldn’t believe that the cops would allow that big fire, and all that weed smoking, all out in a public park during those very uptight days when Giuliani was mayor of New York City. I remember walking out of the park that night feeling so fed, on every level. Just lighter than air. But I digress.
Back to the Wiccan influence, I also like to observe the esbats, meaning the full and new moons. The new moon -- which I call the dark moon -- is a private time for me, during which I basically cast a circle, light candles and call out to the gods (as I conceive them) and the four elements.
I also do some type of body cleanse at this time (like raw foods or juicing). I start the night before the dark moon, through the day of, and then I start eating normally again the evening of the next day, when that first sliver of the waxing moon can be seen peeking in the western sky at twilight. Comes out to about 48 hours. I very much like setting myself to the lunar cycle.
Fasting has always been a time of introspection for me, and doing it monthly helps keeps me focused on what’s important. It keeps the ego in check, as going a little while without satisfying my every appetite definitely gives me perspective on the bigger picture.
So if my life has started to get crazy, or I’ve gotten unfocused and distracted, or if I find myself being pulled in some undesirable emotional direction, ‘dark moon fasting’ always gets me back to feeling connected and grounded.
From the time I was a little girl, I always felt a special connection to the moon. I can remember staying up late at night as a little girl just staring out the window at it. For hours. Bathing in the light. When I hit my teen years, I can remember being very angry that astronauts had walked on her and defiled her with the American flag. I wanted no one to touch her.
I lost that deep connection with the moon as I grew up. A lot of it was due to city living, where the sky is covered all the time by buildings. Then when I consciously got into paganism two years ago, it was like:
‘oh yes, I remember you, moon. well hello again.’
Now it’s gotten to the point where I can tell what time it is by looking at the sky. (This includes awareness of the sun’s path as well.) Living in the country now, I can watch the moon come up and go down pretty much every day, barring the clouds.
The full moons are a time of high energy for me. I get so charged. I’ve tried doing my solitary casting a circle thing at this time but I’m just not feeling it, usually. It has an incompleteness about it.
Full moons feel more to me like a time of getting together with other people and uniting energies. In April -- that was the Wind Moon -- my honey and I lit candles and made long, slow love by the window under the light of the moon blazing in, the cool air flowing in as well, and it was positively ecstatic.
Last fall around the equinox I got together with some people and we had a big fire, out in a field. It was also the night of a big brilliant harvest moon. We played guitar and sang all night. This is the kind of thing I’d like to do more regularly.
I also keep what is known as a ‘book of shadows.’ When I first started walking this path, trying to sort out my spirituality, I put together a notebook of things I wanted to remember, explore and incorporate into my practice.
I made sections for spells, rituals, gods and goddesses, sabbat ideas, beliefs, Tarot, etc. I am currently working my way through Christopher Penczak’s workbook ‘The Inner Temple of Witchcraft,’ so I keep a journal in my book of shadows of my experiences with that as well.
My book of shadows -- I just use a plain binder from Staples -- has really been crucial in helping me to forge my own spiritual path ‘from the heart outwards,’ as I like to describe this ongoing process. I go through it every so often and throw out stuff I no longer use.
Like in the beginning, when I first became pagan, I saw a lot of people online talking all about Brigid and Yemaya and Kali etc. So I collected a lot of info on the various gods and goddesses I had heard about, to check them out.
I learned a lot, but then when I thought about it I realized that I have never, ever been able to relate to personified concepts of deity, so why would that change now just because I was pagan?
Like for instance when I was Christian I never really considered “Jesus as my personal Savior.” Just didn’t seem real. Instead I used to just pray to God as an abstract, all-pervasive consciousness type of entity.
So it didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t relate to any of those pagan deities either. I was still the same person who can never put a face or a name to the divine, much less any concrete personality type stuff. I’m still all about that abstract consciousness, which I conceive of as containing at times various energies. Energies experienced by some of us as individual deities. But they aren’t really separate beings. They’re just aspects. In my mind anyway.
And that’s about it for the Wiccan stuff.