Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deja Broom: Considering coven-style practice?

Considering coven-style practice?  One might first ask you --- what is it you are looking for in a coven?

  • Are you wanting to train in a specific tradition?
  • Are you seeking mentorship with more active or advanced practitioners?
  • Are you simply looking for others to socialize with who share similar spiritual interests?
  • Are you desperate to get help with some problems, both magical and mundane that you feel are out of your present level of experience or aptitude? 
  • Are you trying to find validation for your current knowledge base, hoping to share what you know with others or just bursting at the seams to not feel like you're the only one in the world where you live?
There are as many reasons to work in a group as there are to be solitary, and both ways offer benefits and drawbacks. What is really telling is discovering your motivation for whichever way your path takes you at any given time in your life. Be honest. Be authentic.

If it is camaraderie and social acceptance you're after, then try attending local Pagans Night Out gatherings, meet-ups, or occult topic book discussions in your area ----and know that the "in your area" part might not necessarily mean in your backyard....you may have to commute a bit to find one.  In fact, I highly recommend expanding your search to visit as many as possible within an hour's drive...if only to get exposure to a wider bunch of groups and individual personalities so you can compare and contrast to find our more about what suits your needs.

If it is study advancement you're leaning toward, try checking out some pagan-friendly bookstores in your vicinity. Many have bulletin boards that speak of class offerings, open circles and festival events. Also try looking up your local chapter of the Covenant of the Goddess or peruse the local group and individual listings on Witch Vox to see if anyone may be hosting any events you can attend.
"Fortune favors the bold!" as they say, so don't shy away from getting out there and introducing yourself at these opportunities.  But beware that the oft-quoted adage "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear" may not necessarily apply...many covens --particularly traditionalist ones--- do not advertise when they are open to new students. Instead they may work through a referral system via their present members, so you just never know if someone you bump into at one of these pagan-friendly meet-ups or classes may turn out to be a great networking buddy who can later help you in your search for a group. 
Thus your getting out there to "show face" has the dual advantage of allowing you to meet with folks who could potentially offer you exposure to particular pathwork that would not otherwise be offered to the greater pagan populace.  The personality fit, the "personal chemistry" match has to be there before some groups will even acknowledge that they would consider you for candidacy in the training curriculum of their closed, private group.

Most of all, know that a true coven is more than a bunch of random folks who get together for circle every month and on occasional holidays.  They are close-knit family of sorts, and you cannot just petulantly stand on their doorstep and demand to be adopted.  There has to be a time of getting acquainted with you and you with them. Covens aren't generally looking for any warm body to fill out their membership numbers....they're looking for a "good fit" for their established group.

Consider your seeking time more like an interview for a prospective dream job. Not every candidate belongs to every niche, but you can greatly increase your opportunities if you spend your solo time perfecting your rudimentary skills on a personal level and diligently searching for what you need.

Probability will work in your favor (what's that little thing about 'sympathetic magic' again? *grin*) and your chances are greater that you'll soon find the perfect home to call your own the more often you put your intentions out into the universe.

Good luck in your search!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Navigation of Rough Waters

I have had good intentions with this blog space, but unfortunately, I have also had distractions too.  Hence the infrequent posts, and those that have made it thus far have been mostly "re-prints" of older items.

One of the reasons "Broom Handle" has suffered in the past year was due to the hackers who infiltrated my blog site and caused a hellfire mess therein. 

The other reason, if I haven't admitted this previously, has been my dealing with the painful disintegration of my marriage and the amount of time and energy and focus that has sucked out of most other aspects of my world.

To spare the gory details....my Real Life(tm) simply got in the way, and while I didn't let my Craft suffer in the literal sense, I haven't had the gumption to devote what creativity and inner emotional fortitude I have left to spare into writing much.  I've been preoccupied with "holding my shit together" elsewhere, for keeping my career going and working through my home-life struggles.

**Yeah, must be the "joyous side" of elevation at work....the third-degree of getting one's life in order so that the Gods can....er, help you....uh, get onto the path where you ought to be.**

It feels like I'm in a prolonged 'sophomore slump'...you know, like the way many professional artists and athletes are predicted to have a stellar trajectory of creativity, but immediately following their debut and rave reviews, they hit that lackluster phase that makes everybody question whether they gave up or had just been a lucky hack to begin with.

In my case, when my home-life's wheels came off, my sense of direction and creativity foundered along with it.  I haven't been inspired to write anything.  My muse, like Elvis, has left the building.  She says she'll come back after the demolition crews have finished their messy work and the remodel is under way.

The implosion of my 10-year marriage has left me gasping.  I'm busy trying to get myself to a more stable place in head and heart...because nothing shakes the foundations like having your primary relationship die a slow and painful death.  It is hard to try to teach and promote the understandings of Perfect Love and Trust....when you've just learned that your mate has decided that he doesn't love you anymore and you don't trust him anymore these days either.

So that's what has been going on here, folks.  Not an excuse, not really, but it is an explanation. 

The legal stuff is eminent, hopefully before the end of the year, but the packing up and moving his stuff out of the house has already begun.  Each day gets easier to breathe, each day I find out how much stronger I am than I'd thought I was capable of being.

When the dust settles, when the ride on the emotional waves becomes manageable, I'll be back with witticism and sarcasm and food for thought.

I'm turning 42 in a few weeks....and didn't Douglas Adams declare that magic number to be the answer to the universal question?  Well, I have a tongue-in-cheek suspicion that it will bring me wisdom alright.  Gotta gear up to see what that holds.

And then I'll write about it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts on Karma and Dogma, Trad-style

On a Yahoo e-group I belong to, a discussion started about how BTW folk feel about New Age ideas and topics. 

In the main, the matter was raised concerning the more New Age views on reincarnation and karma, and how BTW Witches do not appear to ascribe the same philosophical meanings to these particular terms though they be Eastern in origin, since their practice is supposed to derive from only British sources.

A rather brilliant poster to the group, himself a 25+ year high priest in the Craft, mentioned that those of the Wica do indeed have a differing and very specific understanding of these particular terms within the context of their beliefs --- that unlike those of Eastern faiths, we do not consider them to be matters dealing with transcendence, but of immanence.

We do not utilize our understanding of "karmic laws" to measure or delineate a regimented path leading one to graduated and ever more elevated ranks of status in a grandiose hierarchy of spiritual evolution.

For those of the Wica, karma is a natural law in action, one which quite literally shows us our responsibility in the here and now, and not something in the far off future or to be reconciled in another incarnation or lifetime.

To us, Karma is an apparent application of action-reaction, cause-effect and propagation through change. It allows us to witness and take responsibility for our motives and actions by which we alter the currents around us.

Reincarnation, too, shows us this on a larger scale, concerning our own existence.

Through following the cycle of events --birth, love, death and rebirth-- we are participating in a regenerative and living process. We acknowledge that we have a causal relationship within this process, and that is evidenced by our every thought and action. We have free will and boundless choice at our disposal --- and not merely in a linear, goal-setting sort of way --- but as a connected being amongst the entire web of all things in existence, now and at every point on the time continuum.

We Witches are practical folks.

We do not tend to view life as a trial run for some higher plane of existence to be achieved later, nor as a punishment being meted out for our past transgressions.

To us, life is an activity which we try to fully engage in at every moment. Our individual input affects everything around us, and we are trying to be more cognizant of our influence. This predicates a very hands-on, involved, and mindful approach to all that we do, say and react to.

Witches do not beg for the intercession of some outside entity to do the work for us. We willingly do for ourselves and take the responsibility of whatever consequence of events unfolds thereafter.

We do not kowtow to someone or something high in the sky which we cannot see. Instead we recognize and acknowledge that we are as much a part of everything else as it is of us, and so should offer our respect to our place in this wondrous design. It is a matter of respecting all the other components in the equation who are likewise affecting their own changes.

This is our understanding of immanence. For us, it is a self-renewing and endlessly mutating pattern, growing more complex and more involved with each moment. And yet, the simplicity is in the fact that pattern of creation and destruction is limitless, not linear.

Our magic is our input into how the next generative part of the design will turn out, how it will mutate, grow, alter and effectively change and interact with everything else. Infinite possibility but directed with intent toward a plausible probability.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pagan Head-Scratcher: The "Gold Standard"?!

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

When you notice something odd once, you think:   hmm, that's weird...

When you notice the same oddity twice, you think:   gee, what a remarkable and strange coincidence....

But when the same idiocy shows up in greater frequency, you think:   Really? You have got to be kidding me!!

And so it was that I've witnessed the phrase:  "Gardnerian Wica is the 'gold standard'" several times this week, much to my chagrin and increasing acid reflux. 

What on Goddess' green Earth does this silly affectation imply?  Who is perpetuating such nonsense?  Does anyone honestly believe it?  Anyone else think this comment and the list of erroneous assumptions behind it are ridiculous to the point of wishing to offer the speaker of this phrase a Professor Snape-like smack to the back of his or her head?

It is just wrong on many levels, and it comes across as a left-handed compliment of the type where you are not quite sure if the speaker is attempting to flatter you to gain your trust by means of excessive and overt manipulation or if they have just given you a sly and subtly disguised insult couched in the guise of nod to your ego.

First off, let's start with the Gardnerian's perspective of this phrase.  

On the surface, it appears to give deference and praise to the accomplishments of our particular form of witchcraft, but in reality, it is attempting to hold us accountable for what other traditions and practitioners do, as if we have some authority to grant them authenticity or validity based upon the private goings on within our own trad.  That does not make any sense whatsoever.  What a Gard person does with in the privacy of their own coven, line and tradition family, is their own business and they have utterly no weight in the giving or withholding of credence or standards outside this circumscribed parameter.  Gards (and other BTW's for that matter) don't really give a damn about the goings on in other factions of the Craft, so long as those other factions do not seek to imply they have knowledge of our inner workings or may speak on our behalf when they are genuinely not privy to same.

I've given my novel on this subject before in other posts, but the subject keeps rearing its ugly head.  It leaves me wondering if the current wave of new witches is truly suffering from fragile egos or if there is still some faction of rigidly asshat traddies from circa 1960's still fighting the war on eclecticism.  I'll be darned if I've ever met any of those older folks like that in the many pagan circles I run with (no pun intended).  Coincidentally, every time I run into a newbie who says they've met one of these calcified oldsters and I ask them for the person's name or contact info, they can never provide it so I can verify the interaction for myself and take it up with my traddie brethren to remedy.  Hard to fix the alleged problem, if I don't have concrete evidence of its existence, only second-generation rumors and hearsay.

So back to my point, all the Gards I know aren't flattered by this "gold standard" idea and certainly don't believe it of themselves. 

It defies logic and seems to imply that if you're not part of this one specific type of witchcraft, then you aren't worth your herb closet.  But the proof of witchery is in the pudding...the action and good outcome of your workings, the temperance and wisdom experienced in your path that determine whether or not you are legit.  The litany of "who begat whom" isn't what warrants you the merit, as lineage is only an indicator of the manner of study you have undergone and the standards by which you'd be measured amongst others of similar practice.  We don't measure others, we measure ourselves. 

Now then, this "Gardnerian gold standard" phrase also is rather insulting towards all the other long-standing, viable types of witches...some of whom are contemporaries of the Gardnerians, some who pre-date the formalized Gardnerian path and some who have formed more recently but are no less functional and worthwhile versions of witchcraft spirituality.  It must really irk them to be forever ranked "less than the Gards" somehow, either because they're not as widely recognized and known or else they don't have the recorded history/lineage longevity that the Gards may have. 

For example, in the BTW world, there are many varieties of witches who link back to the New Forest area of Britain, but not all of them descend from Gerald Gardner or have any direct affiliation to his contributions to modern Wica.  Some of these folks come from family traditions that may have existed concurrent to Gardner or perhaps may have at some point stemmed from an earlier common, insular source.  Not all of these varieties participated in the exchange of occult information during their formative years.  They weren't interested in "saving witchcraft" as old Gerald, and later Alex, may have been, and so perhaps they didn't have a spokesperson out there talking to the media and informing the general public of their existence.

And so these hidden witches could, and probably do, have widely different practices than what the Gards possess.  Practices which fulfill needs, promote ideas and offer avenues of thought outside the ken of what Gard folks may or may not work with.  Thus, to call out only one type of witch --in this case, the more visible Gardnerians-- and not account for these other groups, seems unfair and misleading.  How can you have a standard if some folks allegedly being "measured" would be off the charts altogether?

Now onto the completely felonious usage of this "gold standard" statement as it relates to the Eclectic movement. 

If I were still an eclectic practitioner, this concept of having a "gold standard" would totally piss me off.  What purpose does it serve me, as an eclectic, to be constantly compared to something which I know little to nothing about and therefore cannot hope to achieve any sort of credibility without paying deference to them?  Why should I pay deference to anybody at all?!

It's my favorite analogy again.....as if the automakers would go around trying to sell their wares not by speaking of their own good qualities and benefits, but instead by constantly speaking in terms of reference against the qualities of their competitors:  "Buy our Chevy Trucks because they are as good as Fords"...or "Go with a Jeep since we're practically a Land Rover."  See what I mean?  It is like offering your respectful submission to the other party by even stating they are related to you.

If there is such a thing as a Gold Standard....it implies that there are such things which are less than Gold.....and who wants to fight that no-win comparison battle all the time?  Who wants to forever look for validation and affirmation from outside themselves?

Answer:  No one.

Pagan Head-Scratcher: The Online Coven

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I have to stop poking my head into those online wicca/pagan/whatever forums with the preconceived notion  that I may yet find intellectually satisfying conversations afoot therein.

Seriously.  One day, I'm going to have an anuerism.

Well silly me had some lunch time left to kill and so I'd made the grevious error of browsing a pagan forum site entitled "Newbies, Looking for Advice?" or something similar.  About a third of the way down the page, past the littany of folks saying they are completely new, their parents don't understand them and that they are not sure which book to read next --The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spells or The Only Wiccan Spellbook You'll Ever Need-- was a comment from some young woman saying she's brand spanking new to the path but wants to start an online coven....would the next 13 people who want to join her in her quest kindly email her back channel.

I swear to Gods, upon reading this, I literally made the same confused and frustrated squawk noise that the Gilbert Godfrey 'spokes-duck' for AFLAC does in his commercials.   ACK?!!?!

This, in turn, made me laugh aloud...you know, the whole making a duck noise just justifies the Monty Python sketch about how to determine if someone is a witch (and if you don't get that reference, you probably shouldn't read this blog anymore).

Comedy aside....
what the hell IS an ONLINE COVEN? 

I'm completely baffled at how that would work. 
Like does everyone get a copy of the same rite and then agree to perform it and report back their results later in a chat room?  Or is it a real time thing on Skype, with everyone facing their computer screens and yelling their quarter calls and such in unison with the microphone?  Oh no, wait, maybe it is this whole syndicated, coordinated teleconference thing with a bunch of robed practitioners all signing into some monumental webcast and syncing their webcams?

How do they come to share actual energies with each other?  How does the sharing of the cakes and wine work, one guy or gal mailing individual cookies to everybody the night before the ritual?  What are the logistics of creating sacred space, power raising, charging and sharing combined energy?  Is it all an astral, dreamstate thing where you cannot completely let yourself get into the moment of the power because you still have to type or read a teleprompter?

I guess I can wrap my brain around forming online friendships and study groups together with others, but the concept of what a coven means to me is apparently waaaaaaay different than what these newbie folks consider it to mean.  They think it is a closed-door group with a secret handshake, groovy sounding name and someone's photoshopped fancy logo.

I'm sure I'm about to be ranted at by all those "online coven" members who will find a way to lynch me for having a contrarian opinion.  Silly me, I prefer my covens to be real-time and with actual physical participants standing in circle together.  But hey, that's just how low-tech, old school witches like me roll....a lot more actual doing of the Craft and a lot less time spent in front of a computer

Pagan Head-Scratcher: Fools and Their Money

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I had some time to kill on Saturday afternoon, so I meandered into the local Barnes & Noble to browse. They were out of the current Paris Vogue, didn't have the Robert Greene book in the psych section I wanted either.

So I was just sort of aimlessly looking at the endcaps on my way back to the exit when I had a brain cramp at the latest new agey crap being tossed out there for the clueless pseudo-pagan market. You know, when the publishers of these cheap-o books go trolling for the
"I'm not sure WHAT I am yet, but I know I'm into the barest fringe of occult thought....I've read some Sylvia Browne, Dan Brown and maybe heard of crystals and reiki, but never actually done any spells or stuff myself because I'm all a-scared I'll conjure up a demon who will haunt my home, make my milk go sour and scare my cats."

Thus, we have things like this....that's right....a $17.95 automatic writing kit.  Yes, it contains paper, a pen and a booklet telling you how to free your mind so your hand will write stuff supposedly drawn from either your subconscious or from some altered reality or some channeled entity using your hand as a means to communicate with those on this plane of existence.

That's right, a pen, some paper, and a booklet. Nifty, ooga-booga packaging though.  (NB: As of this reprint 2011, Llewellyn has stopped making these.  They're now on clearance at Barnes & Noble and Amazon...wonder why?)

And, as luck would have it, while I was standing on the end of this aisle, mouth agape and staring incredulously at this assinine item, I overhear a conversation between two teens sitting on the floor checking out various witchcraft books:

"Yeah, so I've decided to be vegan now. Oh, and I finally told my parents I was bi, which made them completely freak, but then what can they do, right? I'm almost 16 and in a few years when I'm 18 they won't have a say at all anyway. Besides, they got more pissed off when I told them I wanted to practice vampire wicca, but its my life not theirs so they can just deal."

Ow. Brain cramp.

Never mind the sexual preference part, but did that little pinhead just say she was a "vegan vampire witch"? How does that work? Does she suck the juice outta carrots under the light of the full moon or what?

And we wonder why regular folks don't take pagans seriously as a religious sect after witnessing crap like this?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Miss Manners For The Pointy Hat Crowd

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

Did you know that there are delicate matters of etiquette and protocol you are expected to know and abide by when attending a ritual, even an open, public one?  Are you aware of what is expected of you as a guest to someone's covenstead and circle, so you don't make an embarrassing faux pas or accidentally insult your hosts?
 Some of these tips below are common sense and a few are requisites for the more traditional type circle arrangements, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of decorum even if attending a non-specific ritual gathering.

Ask permission before bringing outsiders with you. The reason for this is two-fold: unless otherwise stated in the invitation, it may extend only to you because of your relationship with the hosts. Outsiders, even spouses or family members may need to be cleared with the hosts or the other participants first. The second reason is that the hosts may be using the RSVP’s to their invite for a head count so they have enough supplies for the ritual or enough food for the feast.

Don’t come empty handed. This is, foremost, a hospitable ‘thank you’ to your hosts for all their planning and gracious use of space. A dish for the potluck feast, a bottle of wine or mead, flowers for the altar….all is wonderful gestures. Additionally, some invitations cite that the host group may be collecting canned goods, clothing or other items to give to charity. Or that they may accept, or even require, a monetary contribution to cover the expenses of materials used or the space rental if in a large forum. Sometimes these monetary contributions are on a sliding scale, but don’t be so gauche as to expect to not pay anything at all if the hosts have alerted you about this up front. Springing a “pass the hat” on you without prior warning, however, is tacky on their part.

Have robe, will travel. Most invitations will state whether or not street clothing is acceptable. And it is pretty darn unlikely that a semi-public or public event will be skyclad. For the most part, it is customary to have your own ritual robe to wear while in circle. Some hosts may have a spare for guests to use in a pinch, but don’t assume they will have one set aside for you….or that it will fit! If you don’t own a robe, usually Renaissance wear or all-black attire is a good choice for a substitute. Do not wear anything with monstrous logos --- save your Dickies shirt or your favorite sports team jersey for your own time!!

Bring your own personal working tools. Just like the robe, you should have your own personal working tools with you and not expect them to be provided. It goes without saying that you cannot expect to borrow any old athame! Should you find yourself without yours, just use your finger. Be aware that in some traditions, female witches are also “required” to wear a necklace of some sort. If you don’t have one, ask the hosts to borrow something.

A simple, yet powerful word: Hygiene.  It may sound ridiculous to have to put this on the list, but I can attest to having been in some public circles where this should have been on the loudspeaker. Brushing one’s teeth and bathing are mandatory. Some covensteads may offer facilities to freshen up if you’ve traveled some distance to attend, but don’t rely the hosts giving you a place to take a full-on shower if you’re coming to circle straight from your workout or whatever. Please arrive clean and groomed. Also be very sparing with your cologne/perfume; better to skip it entirely. I’ve been to rites where the person next to me was so overwhelming as to distract or clash with the incense. Please know that eau de parfum is not a substitute for soap and deodorant!!

Let your hair down. Again, according to myth, folklore and what is mandatory to some traditions, your hair should not be plaited or bound during ritual. Some say it is the work of the faery, some say it knots up the personal magic, some say it tangles the energy of the circle. Whatever the reason, it is nice to be completely unfettered during the rite…just be careful if you’ve got waist-length locks and are dancing near the quarter candles!!

Be on time….or if you’re unavoidably running late, do the courteous thing and CALL.  I cannot stress enough how completely obnoxious it is for people to use that lame-ass excuse of “Pagan Standard Time.” It is unaccountably rude to your hosts and the other attendees who have managed to arrive on time to have to alter their schedules to wait around for you. It may be that the ritual itself has a time-sensitive component which cannot be halted because you got caught in traffic, couldn’t find your keys or whatever. If you’re running late or have a flat tire, please be mindful that the universe does not revolve solely around you and call your hosts. Allow them the option of continuing to wait for you, to start the rite and cut you into circle late or else ask that you skip the rite this time.

Make your own babysitting arrangements.  Do not assume that it is ok for you to bring your kids or pets to the hosts’ home and that they will find something to keep them occupied while the adults are in circle. Either find a babysitter or call the hosts to ask if it is alright to bring your children. If you are allowed to bring them, you are responsible for their behavior and responsible for keeping them busy/occupied during the circle. Don’t expect that your hosts will have entertainment set aside for them or allow constant interruptions of the rite to cut you in and out of circle to attend to your children’s needs.

No talking or giggling during circle.  You would think it obvious that folks who attend the ritual would want to pay attention and participate fully, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, there are always a few who think it is playtime and who find that if the attention isn’t on them, that it is appropriate to make comments under their breath, make sound effects, start giggling or goofing around or otherwise draw attention to themselves. If you cannot control your borderline ADHD behaviors, perhaps you should rethink your participation in a group setting. For all intents and purposes, you are like a visiting dignitary in someone else’s kingdom.

Treat the hosts with respect and you will be treated likewise.  Do not critique the ritual while it is in progress; besides, most folks don’t want to hear “in my group, we do it this way” sorts of feedback. Even if you have something nice to say, please save it for private disclosure after the rite.

No drugs or alcohol prior to the rite.  This too goes along with being responsible for your behavior…..hello Rede anyone? Intoxicants and hallucinogenics alter your cognition and perceptions. Those around you in circle who come to expect a certain level of perfect love and perfect trust from their fellow attendees cannot be confident that you will behave accordingly if you are drunk, disorderly or spaced out. If the objective of most rituals is to get everyone on the same mental/emotional/spiritual plane, it is immensely difficult to do if a participant is whacked out on something. This may also include the ingestion of some over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines too. So if the warning label says “do not drive or operate heavy machinery,” chances are it is probably not good for you to take prior to ritual.

If you’re sick, do not share in the communal cup or do not attend the ritual.  Please don’t spread your illness to others, especially in light of this latest round of cold and flu season! If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re recovering from being sick, please be considerate and not partake of the communal cup. Asks the hosts to give you your libation in a separate vessel or else just “kiss the cup (at the base)” when it is passed ‘round the circle to you but do not imbibe.

Find your own transportation.  Kindly make your own arrangements to get to and from the ritual site. It is not the responsibility of the hosts to retrieve you from the airport or the train station. If you don’t have your own vehicle, call a cab or share a ride with other attendees, etc.

Disclose any allergies. This may seem a bit silly, but it is practical. Outdoor rituals have the episode of bee or wasp stings. Some indoor rituals are hosted in homes that have pets and if you’re allergic to fur, feather or other pet dander you could be in for a sneezy night! Same goes for food allergies. Best to know up front if you should skip partaking in the ritual cakes if they might contain tree nuts or other ingredients which would make you need a trip to the ER. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

When proper, do not disclose real names of participants. Out of respect for privacy, there are some events where the participants may wish to be known by a pseudonym or “circle name” only. Do not “out” anyone by their real-world name if you happen to know it unless you have permission to address them as such.

Always move deosil in circle, unless expressly directed to do so by HP/HPS. A good way to remember this is always walk with your right side facing the center of the circle. Perhaps it is a superstition, but for some traditions, this idea is further extended in that you are not to do any ritual movements or gestures using your left hand (even if you are left handed). You may want to either ask the hosts or just observe what is customary for that group and follow along.

Try to stand in alternating ‘Male-Female-Male-Female’ while in circle. Again, this may be a strict rule for some groups and an ideal situation but not mandatory for others. When in doubt, it seems best for energetic purposes to position participants in this manner. Take a cue from the host group as to whether or not they observe this custom.

Go to the bathroom beforehand. Just like when you leave for a long car ride, please take care of your private business before things get underway. It is disruptive to the circle’s energy to have to cut people in and out of the sacred space for potty breaks. Pregnant women do get special dispensation for this though. *grin*

Shut off your cell phone, Bluetooth, iPod or other electronic device.  It is all about not disrupting the flow of energy folks. Not only should you NOT have such electronic device with you in circle, but please turn them on mute or completely off during the rite. Nothing shatters group concentration like hearing your annoying ringtone or the rhythmic buzz of your cell in the background of a meditation or during a pinnacle point of the ritual.

Be aware of any “home court” rules. Different covens or groups have their own local preferences. For example, if they put their altar in the East and you’re used to working with yours in the North or the Center, you have to abide by their local customs while on their turf. Do not expect to impose the version of ritual style you may be used to working in someone else’s ritual space. If you fear something may be so distracting or abhorrent to you that you do not wish to participate, ask to be cut out of the circle and quietly, peaceably leave the ritual. Do not wage a formal protest in the middle of the circle.

Lastly, say 'Thank You!'  A little courtesy is worth a lot these days.  Showing appreciation for the amount of time and effort your hosts have put into the event is gratifying....and may garner you more invites in the future!
Should the ritual you plan to attend not advise you of these things by word of mouth or as a part of the written or online open invitation, it is in your best interests to contact the hosts in advance to make inquiries BEFORE the event. Chances are they will be busy on the day of and may not have time to answer you properly or fully, so be contentious and ask them well ahead of time.
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DEJA BROOM: On Being a Skeptical Witch

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I'm not saying this tale is the end-all, be-all, but I can tell you it is a frequent enough refrain that it leaves a trail marked with breadcrumbs that folks who have been a part of the pagan scene for more than 10 years can attest to the truth it belies.

Everyone who first comes into the Craft starts out with such puppy-dog enthusiasm and excitement for all of it. The idyllic concepts of gods who are accessible to us, the understanding that magic is both real and attainable, the real and deep interconnectedness with ALL THAT IS! How empowering! How full of delight and love and joy!

This state of exuberance, like everything is all Midsummer Nights' Dream, generally lasts for the first months or a few years. Gradually, as one participates in "pagan community" to some degree, there is a space of deflation, disenchantment that comes along.

Of finding out that things aren't all happy-sunshine and hearts and flowers between the participants. That there are egos which grandstand and merchants who take advantage of those who think the trappings of faith are imbued in the latest fancy-schmancy tools and accoutrements. There are charlatans and liars and idiot savants and average, patient folks who want to put their efforts towards creating something worthwhile and meaningful.

There is an awakening that no matter how positive and lofty and ethereal our initial spiritual goals, we still have the real-time human element to deal with.

We still have to operate in a mundane sphere while we juggle our awareness of the Otherworld and Underworld. Our religion does not segregate and cloister us away from our day-to-day world, but instead challenges us to find the mystical inherent in it despite all the muckety muck muck of running a household, paying bills, going to a job for 40+ hours per week and paying our taxes to a government we may or may not fully trust to do what is in our best interest.

Like that old gem about how young lovers cannot truly sustain themselves by living only on love for each other....they have to eat, sleep, move, better their surroundings, survive.....so too must the modern witch get over the lofty and pipe-dream idea that there is a way to circumvent life in order to be some fairytale caricature of our spiritual endeavors.

We do not have the luxury of living in a sequestered commune, set apart from the human thrall, only dispensing our wisdom and power when approached like some divine intercedant like the Pope, the Dalai Lama or one of a hundred historic guru-figures. We are practical sorts who are given to do what needs to be done, in the moment, in the dirt, in the messiest and fully-alive parts of our lives. In pain, in terror, in ecstasy and in fully blown desire.

Ours is not the path of wishing for beautiful hippie-resonating notions of universal peace and unconditional love....nor is it about fears of Mayan calendars forewarning the apocalypse. Ours is the path of struggling to balance the individual, personal moments of life and death and love in our lives and letting those be exalted expressions of our path, everyday. Every. Day.

The cynic in me, the jaded person who once wanted all those glittering and wondrous childhood dalliances to be true when I "took up the pointy hat" is now happy to be a practicing skeptic AND a practicing witch. When I dropped those expectations of BS, I came to know from experience that there is beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility and all those illuminating aspects right here, right now, exposed and visible in my life, if only I take the time to breathe and seek them in the moments apparent and around me.

My wish, if I dared to notice it, has already come to pass. I just have to uncover it, a bit at a time, and take it into my heart. And I love watching others wake up to this. Rather than being saddened by their dreams for witchery being broken and found to be rippled by too much wishful thinking and not enough reality....most of them learn that there is enough here to feed them. To give them a new sort of hope and outlook.

I've heard this saying ---and if you know the author, please tell me!!--- and find it speaks exactly of this moment: "Many people are drawn to the Craft for what it isn't. Those who stay in the Craft appreciate what it is."

DEJA BROOM: Debatable Intelligence

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I believe 95% of people come to blogs, online forums and chat groups to learn from each other.
Yes, we do get that small percentage of folks that come looking to get their ego stroked as if they are reincarnations of Merlin or Gandalf, Morgan le Fay or Glinda the Good witch. We do get those who want pity for their self-imposed victimhood, or those who want to make a buck off somebody buying their spells, online books, phone tarot readings or emailed sparkly doo-dads with crystals attached.
But pretty much the rest of us are here to exchange info and trade resources.  Young and old, new and seasoned....I don’t believe that the majority of people here in internet-land are attending merely to brow-beat and argue without purpose.

 The issue is that, I suspect, some folks who are not cemented with a firm footing in their own beliefs and understandings tend to mistake every dissention to their opinions to be a hostile attack from others.
Rather than seeing such things as an opportunity to scrutinize what they hold as a personal belief so that they may measure and weigh and test it to make sure it fit in a real scope...those who aren’t self-assured and actually practiced in their theories take any challenge on as a though it were the other party being mean, being needlessly abrasive.
To these folks I say: A challenge is not necessarily a conflict! An alternate view is not necessarily a threat! It is an opportunity to LEARN SOMETHING!!

If you hold a theory or opinion solely because you “just feel it to be true” and you haven’t road-tested it in practice….and then you are confronted by someone who challenges you and says they have road-tested such a theory and developed an alternate understanding about how realistic and practical and useful it is…..then yeah, you’re likely to feel like the other person isn’t being nice because they don’t just believe you because you say so.
In the end, it isn't about "the feeling that something is true" but the ability to prove it.
The proof must come from one's direct experience, and it is through experience that we can form an educated opinion. This educated opinion then, may be replicated by others, when they too take your same experience data and try it for themselves to reach the same conclusions you do.
This is what translates into provenance of factual data and historic reference.

If, however, the only "proof" one can provide for their theory or opinion when being given a challenge by others is "well...because it is my clever theory and I just feel it, ok?" Then that’s when the challenging opinion will cite evidence for why their theory is more appropriate.....when the other party produces factual-based evidence to the contrary.

Challengers won’t just say "I'm right, you're wrong, so deal with it!"...but if you take a deep breath and read carefully their responses without being immediately defensive, you too may see that YOU are the one who needs to step back and empathize. Test drive that opposing view and see how things look from that vantage point.
Now go back to your original theory that you just “felt” was true. Does your original opinion still hold water? Can you come up with justifiable, concrete evidence to counter this opposition and cite factual references beyond "well I just feel it?" as your reasoning?
At this crux, when opposing sides are engaged in a debate, that is when it is the mature tact to shut the hell up and listen. To see if there is a flaw in the logic being employed somewhere. To see if there was a miscalculation in the conclusions being drawn...or if logic was omitted entirely.
There is room for skepticism and fact in the Craft. Ours is not a religious persuasion rooted in dogma and scripture….ours is a founded in PRACTICE and the RESULTS achieved from the PRACTICE.
This is why it is a remarkably mature thing to do to sit back and be open to listening to others when they challenge you. Rather than being defensive and angered by someone questioning you, it takes strength to let your ego move out of the way so you can just allow the other opinions to come before you to be investigated further.....because you may find that what you held as truth may not be accurate after all.....or, you may find the means to gently explain to the opposition where their theory went awry.
You cannot accomplish intelligent debate through name-calling. Telling someone they are judgmental and short-sighted and stubborn and snobby and elitist and rigid and obsolete IS NAMECALLING.
You cannot win over the hearts and minds of others by "taking your conversation ball and going home" either. Doing the dramatic display of saying how everyone else is so close-minded and mean and then shutting down the conversation or deleting it is tantamount to throwing a tantrum and sticking your fingers in your ears.
No one can grow or modify or expand their understandings ….or to strengthen the resolve of their theories unless they have them challenged occasionally to see if they still hold true.

I've had plenty of pet theories of my own over the years, and been shown alternate viewpoints to them. The difference is, rather than dig in my heels and get defensive, I have learned to take a deep breath to squelch my inner warrior and now stop to listen and reconsider. To weigh the new info against my theory and see if my theory is still applicable. We all should reserve the right to augment, adapt or wholly change/rescind our latest theory based upon the new evidence and perspectives.
The most any of us sharing in this forum can hope for is that we come into occasional contact with folks we can relate to, whose opinions we respect even if we don't follow them all ourselves. The hope is that we are each adult enough to say, "Hmmm....I never tried that idea before, never considered things from that point of view, and so I'll have to take what you are saying under consideration."
At one time or other, every "truth" has been challenged.  The Earth was once thought to be flat. The Sun was thought to go around the Earth.
If it weren't for the light of new evidence, new expressions wrought with new facts shared, we’d still believe those things. That we have grown and shared and altered our perspectives, we have new theories today to believe and understand as truth.
Everyone has pet theories. And you know what? That is ok. You are still, despite the dissenting comments, entitled to hold to your opinion.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Switching Sides...Babies and Bath Water

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

Another misconception worth exploding --- the idea that if you want to make the leap from practicing witchcraft as an eclectic practitioner and want to explore the rigors of undergoing traditional style practice, your prior experiences are worthless. That is wholly inaccurate.

It would be incorrect to say that you deserve "automatically get credit for time served"....as in, the idea that you should be instantly promoted to third degree in the trad's framework just because you were the leader of an eclectic coven or have had X number of years of solitary or online self-study.

It would also be incorrect to say that everything you've learned to date gets tossed out completely because you aren't considered up to snuff to traditionalists' eyes. It isn't a judgment being passed here.

When switching over from the eclectic witchcraft camp to undergo traditionalist Wicca training, you do not have to discount or discredit or otherwise give up any of your previous study endeavors. Your previous study is not without merit.

I'm here to tell you that I was a fine eclectic practitioner and competent witch for 20+ years before I decided to study with and eventually become elevated within a Gardnerian group. At no time during or since my "graduation" to autonomous high priestesshood as a Gard, was I ever told that I needed to relinquish my previous experiences outside the world of my Gard pathworking.

What is correct and I was told ---and there is much wisdom if not really painful humility in this--- was that I needed to let go of whatever I assumed I knew about what Gard-style witchery was and to put aside my ego built up by my prior eclectic work in order to be open to starting from square one while unlearning and relearning a few things as a Gard path student. The only way I could really let those lessons reach me was to put aside my personal affectations and unfounded expectations associated with my prior eclectic work and come at this Trad version as a newbie.

What I found most surprising about doing this was that only when I let go of my preconceptions about what I'd believed things aught to be and stopped interrupting my teachers to decry "how in my old group we did things like so-and-so"...that's when the epiphanies started to breakthrough for me. When I instead experienced the new trad stuff with the fresh perspective of someone who set aside, temporarily, my prior impressions of the rites and exercises....only then was I really able to get to the core of them in the way that my trad was trying to teach me.

I had to let go and stop trying to steer and justify everything in accordance to my eclectic mindset and trust that by looking at things from the basics all over again, I would be open to seeing things I'd missed or at least being open to different trad-style perspectives because I wasn't already so full of ideas that didn't apply to this new trad pathwork I was trying to grok.

Like the Karate Kid movie.....I had to start my (re-)training by learning to "paint the fence" and "wax the car" before I could reach the right headspace to fully integrate the Mysteries as a Gard as opposed to an eclectic. I had to come empty in order to get filled. And that is why after my initiation and each subsequent elevation within my trad work has been so meaningful. Whereas before I had gone through the motions, had recited portions of the same scripts.....it didn't hold as much meaning nor expose me to the depths of understanding and relating to the Mysteries until I learned to do it the 'proper' way, the way this stuff was originally designed and intended to be passed.

The really amazing thing was that my prior eclectic study wasn't discounted or worthless in my coming to understandings in the trad system either.

Some of it did "translate" and was of great help to me when latching onto ideas faster....even if the building blocks were arranged differently in the trad world views. Ideas and concepts that I knew one way in eclectic-speak, meant something different or slightly off-what-I'd-previously-believed-was-center in the trad-speak.

It was like becoming someone who was multi-lingual....some words were the same in both languages, some had similar root etymology but now had different prefixes and suffixes that altered them a bit and some words were completely new identities for the same objects.

I just had to shift my brain around amongst different company to be sure that I was communicating properly and to the fullest extend of the meanings I was now trying to convey to folks.

So, yeah, I hate it when folks say "Trads do the FORMAL training and the Eclectics do the INFORMAL slap-dash." That's not accurately describing either one, in my opinion. And frankly, it sounds demeaning to both path styles. They are really two different systems entirely, even if they did somewhat come from a common root source.

This continued fighting over which one is more dominant, more preeminent; more right is such a waste of time. They both work, but they are both very different breeds of witch. It is just that simple.

DEJA BROOM: Saying "Tradition" when you mean "Denomination"

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem.

Let's have a vocabulary lesson here, shall we?  There's a difference between calling something a denomination and calling it a tradition. Nowadays, people tend to confuse those words or attempt to use them synonymously.

Which is why you'll hear more than a few snickers from the older generation of pagans (those older than say 40 yrs) when  newbie folks announce to all and sundry your shiny-happy intentions to "create my own tradition."
Whenever someone creates a system anew and practices their own formula for witchery, they have in fact built a new denomination, not a tradition.

Something only becomes a tradition once there is a provenance of material and practice which can be tracked over time and through several generations of progeny (literally generations within a family-like setting, or like an upline/downline system) all sharing in the same unique formulaic practices.

As such the members of the same tradition all agree to certain parameters about what defines their trad. This they mindfully share with others who also adopt it, exactly as passed, and continue to follow it, intact in orthopraxy and methodology, if not also in written/oral/demonstrative lore and material.

Here's an example:

Let's say that you always wear a blue shirt on Tuesdays and that might be YOUR unique thing.If you find others who also like the Tuesday blue-shirt thing.....like say you teach your kids to do it and they carry on the practice every Tuesday and then teach their kids, your grandkids to do it....then you'd all be a part of a blue-shirt-Tuesday-tradition.

Notice that the key points that are hallmarks to the path have been kept intact: the "blue shirt" AND the specific day "Tuesday" as day of the week. The material is the same, as is the practice of applying it and teaching it to others in the same way.

If however let's say you do it on Tuesdays but your kids decide to rebel a bit and each chooses a different day of the to wear their blue shirts instead. Does this mean they are still related to you in the tradition? The answer is no.

While they could be said to be tangentially related to you under the wider umbrella of "blue-shirt-wearing" as a denomination or sect of society who likes blue shirts on a weekly basis, but they would no longer be, by definition, carrying on your Tuesday-based tradition because they've deviated from your starting point, in this case, your chosen day of the week as Tuesday. They aren't technically carrying on your idea exactly as passed.  Get it?

Ah, but for some all this talk of tradition or denomination is just semantics anyway.  Some folks don't care about following a pre-existing path and instead prefer to carve out their own way entirely.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter WHAT KIND of witch you are...only that you are living this path the way you best see fit and it works for you, and you don't snatch others labelling systems when they don't apply to you.