Postcard #46: Home at the Shrine

There needs to be more shrines — in every city — on every block — places of peace — sanctuaries for silence, comfort, where I am embraced by Gods… Places of seeking, sharing, spaces of Away-from-Time and into Nature-Nurture. I seek a shrine nested in nature, un-interrupting the trees, a haven for birds and squirrels and many other creatures, one that lets plants grow over it, a shrine no person carefully manicures.

I want a wild shrine carved out of rock and petrified wood and earth by the wind and water. A shrine that is natural shelter, perhaps serving as the neighborhood safe house, more like Mother House — the place to go during tornadoes and hurricanes, a place never ravaged by storms or floods or fire or earthquake, and yet created by them. And when there, as I feel my heart blowing me down, when no one can hold me up, when no clergy or friend can console me, when my own tears threaten to drown me, a sister slips me underneath a warm blanket and the Gods’ stone likeness catches me under their ever-watchful eyes.

The most perfect shrine glows here with the special warmth of a camp fire, fragrant as incense and every exotic perfume I love, tender as the womb and every mother hug, calming shivers and curing panic, replacing every doubt with courage. My Gods do not suffer cowardice, and yet they know the human value of a good retreat, that in order to free myself from overwhelming defeat, I must recharge, find this place of wound-soothe and mind-quiet.

Here I re-connect with my Source. Forces far greater than myself reside in the Gods’ Home Mother House Shrine Storm Shelter. Here the space is peopled with the beings that move the world and push the buttons that make me think and dream. When I’m here I am taught I am part of all this powerful importance, that somehow this small woman I call me has more time to go, more work to finish… that this place is not the place of petitionary prayer and whimpering wishes, but another place for me to collect and list my dreams and ideas, whisper my desires and make them happen in Their name.

I want to build shrines.

I want to mark maps full of them.

Every where I walk. Place one somewhere — some invisible, some tiny, some large, for each God, and even for the Unknown Gods that walk the darkness beyond human understanding. There is no dot on the world’s map not worthy of a spot for a shrine.

I want to visit more shrines. Every one. Collect them in my memory like postcards. Write them down in poems. Like this. Places in my mind like gifts.

I believe in gifts. I believe in feeding the Gods with gratitude, not out of obligation, but of devotion, and not just with objects or food, some gifts are actions, duties, favors. A God may pass through the body of someone walking by. One may ride on the back of an animal or whistle through the trees in the form of a bird. Picking up a piece of garbage from the side of the road may save the life of a creature — one less thing that will not offend the ground or poison the water — because the land is religion, is the shrine, the place I count on to be here, especially after I am dead.

I will bury myself someday in this shrine. You will visit me every where it is planted in the earth.  My grave markers will be likenesses of my Gods dotting all over the world.  I can smell the dirt hugging me already, it is cool and dark chocolate, just like I thought a cemetery would feel, and very silent. Just like when I was above, I’m all alone and with the Gods. This place is life and shelters and molds me, takes me away from every pain…

Will I see you here, tomorrow?

Why You Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Paganism

Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

If you are insecure about what you believe, much less what you practice, chances are you are losing your religion. Or perhaps the faith was not yours to keep to begin with? If you become embarrassed by the way your fellows worship, could it be a sign that you are simply prejudiced against your own kind, or that you really don’t belong? If you cannot join them, why are you there? Why complain and judge and spend so much time debating how they should change, when perhaps it is you who needs to make the change? If you are not dancing with your friends, the joy gets knocked out of you, and you cannot experience the joy the others are sharing. The only way to find your true way is to take a cue from your heart, step back, do not judge, and move towards that different beat calling you away…

If you find yourself ashamed of what you once loved, take it as yet another “ordinary” omen; you are growing into and beyond faith, moving past the surface you clung to, and soon you’ll prove to yourself what it is you truly believe. At some point we have to separate ourselves from the community we once identified with, and it is very healthy to become disillusioned with the behavior of our peers, especially when we decide it is time for us to create our own practices.  But it is also just as important to remember our roots, to honor where we have come from, and thank the people who fostered us during those early days when we first set foot on our path.

There are a great many young Pagans today who are ashamed of being associated with other Pagans and who are embarrassed by public performances of Pagan communities at Pagan Pride celebrations. This used to anger and upset me to tears. I took this as a terrible rejection, especially when close friends decided to no longer worship with me, or after many years apart I would find out they were not Pagan any more.  We would get into arguments over whose way of thinking and believing was more correct, or needed improvement, and we’d compare religious thought like who has more money in the bank.  I would tell myself that this is how we were showing each other we cared, yet we did was hurt each other and waste our time, time we could have spent building each other up instead of putting each other down.  With time, I’ve come to accept my friends’ choices to quit Paganism, not as a rejection, but as part of the personal spiritual journey they are going through. Who am I to judge them? And why should I care when they judge Paganism an embarrassment?  For I am certainly proud of it.

It reminds me of a time when some lesbians and gays would get embarrassed by all the flamboyant drag kings and queens on the floats at Gay Pride parades. “I don’t want people thinking that’s what we’re all about,” they would say, worried about the images of gays presented to mainstream America in the media.  It still pervades today among different subcultures across the world — we all get our panties in a bundle over stereotypes! So worried other people will lump us all in with the louder, weirder, crazier, fluffier, campy members of our little tribes that it keeps us from truly enjoying who we are and what we do.

The problem with letting this embarrassment get to you is the shame of it all. At the heart of being ashamed is humiliation and guilt: both are tell-tale signs that we make ourselves feel inferior to the point where we remain restrained by the anticipation of shame brought upon us by another culture we deem more powerful, all because we are guilty of belonging to a group we believe is without power. When we believe our community does not have power, we in turn believe we have no power when we stand with them, and we cease to believe our religion has no validity compared to other religions with less embarrassing behavior and practices.  When we are ashamed, we support powerlessness.  We cave in.

I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

The other danger of letting embarrassment rule your judgment is the way in which you come to treat other people — will you let yourself fall into the Hall of Assholedom?  Or love, respect, and wisdom?  The people we are embarrassed of, are people we make invisible.  We stop validating their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and rights.  We start to judge them, not for the friends they are, but as strangers you deem them to be.  Even if you know them, you stop seeing them.  You don’t know what level they are standing at, or what they’re going through, and they have no more importance.  Even if you claim to live by a code of honor and be the best human being you can be; if you hold any prejudice against a group for being different (that includes flaky), you best check yourself.  It is not righteous or heroic to bully a group’s right to worship as they see fit, and they will worship and behave as they will, with or without your approval because it makes them happy.  The same goes for any individual who is different than you, too.  Let them be different.

When in a group, it is good etiquette to practice as the group does, improvise when the time is right, share ideas, and speak up! If you do not like working with a group, don’t work with a group. To get along with others it is essential to let people be who they are. Let them tell you what they are all about. Don’t assume you know all about them just based on how they look or even what they say. They might be deeper individuals than you think. People always surprise me once I get past that first impression. Judge a book by the cover? Covers lie, my friend. Ask any best-selling pop fiction author, they usually never get to pick what art will grace the cover of their books, but the content may blow your mind every time.

If you judge people you have no time to love them. ~Mother Teresa

I tend to fall in love with people no matter who they are, regardless of age or sex, and want to adopt them all as my family. Perhaps I am unique in that sense. I have never really been ashamed of the silly, fringe, New Age-y members of our community, however at one point I was greatly annoyed to the point of irritation. I was in my mid-twenties then, found myself surrounded by adults older than myself who talked about Witchcraft like teenagers giggling about boys, as if it all were the latest fashion, and I immediately assumed these women were definitely not going to stick with “the program”. Then I realized what a waste of time it was that I spent complaining about them. As I whiled away the time groaning over their girlish behavior, anxiety ate at my gut and I could not relax. They were really having fun and I was rotting like a big poop.

Focusing instead on being more productive, plus cutting loose and letting my (to *gulp!* quote one of those New Age phrases!) “inner child” out to play, was so much better. I often liken our rituals to getting outside to play! When you feel ashamed, you won’t dance or laugh, you can’t do anything but stand there feeling the fool. When you are free from shame, you’ll not feel like a fool, in fact you will be far from caring whether or not someone else thinks you are one. This is when being part of a group helps loosen the inhibitions. You’re not alone at play! You’re among your own kind and we will not judge you… at least that is the way it is supposed to be.

Why else do you think we swear perfect love and perfect trust? That was not made up to procure fantasy.

You do not have to change an entire religion in order for one person, or a new generation, to feel comfortable and respected by the rest of the world. There are reasons why neo-Paganism is the way it is and why it will remain so. There are no rules other than:

  • Everyone has the right to follow their own Path
  • We believe in a Higher Power(s) — God/desses
  • Nature is to be venerated

So why worry about what other people think? When confronted with co-workers, family, strangers on the bus, or other silly persons who snicker at the religion I identify with, I adopt an attitude of being Un-Spookable, because ultimately my religion is a personal issue that is left out of their business (they can say whatever they want, but they can’t take it away from me and I shall not be bothered!). When I’m at a job, I’m there as an employee. I leave my private life at home. If someone brings up my beliefs, or anything else that is private, I do not discuss those things at a job. It’s not professional to get friendly like that. If a boss Googles me, they are sticking their nose in my personal business. It does not matter if I have made my blog public and that I call myself Valentina the Witch, that is my persona separate from any other job I’m hired to do. Yet. I have it easy. I’m freelance, it does not matter if I advertise myself as a Witch or not, it goes along with my illustration.

It’s weird that nowadays folks find it easy to make fun of Pagans and Witches then be afraid of them! There are still some parts of the world where announcing your religion of choice could get you killed, yet at least here we can express our spirituality as we see fit. In the late 1980′s/early 90’s when I first discovered Witchcraft, I saw a few Goddess-centered public rituals that were pretty damn intense that included nudity, fire, mud, and large statuary representing giant genitalia. Back then more people were spooked by Paganism not scoffing at it!  A lot of people liked the tenets of belief and practice, yet weren’t as brave or wild to invent such crazy performances, so even then there were people embarrassed by that. Thus began movements to tame down ritual into simple, child-like, easy-to-swallow forms for personal and public use.

Pagan religion, movements, traditions… they are always evolving, changing, rituals get rewritten, no one way is supposed to be the only way, you make your way of worship your own way.  This is not disorganization.  This is individualization.  It is the way all of religion is flowing into the future.

Most Pagans today find an introduction to our religion by books, or by websites, much of which filled with half-truths and myths written mainly to lead an individual to further study.  In our age with the instant gratification of information and popular spirituality, we have a multitude of authors (some posers, some true authorities) out there to test young minds.  Yet I find that part of being Pagan is discovering the truth behind the fictions we are given.

I once had a teacher who was a terrible drug addict and dealer! I did not know it at the time, but there was something about him that did not feel right to me, some of the things he said and did were off, and after finding out how messed up he was, I still walked away with mighty lessons. He taught me what NOT to do, but even though he was delusional, he was a powerful magician with years of herbal medicine experience and introduced me to other Witches who weren’t addicts who taught me more than he could. His behavior was appalling, and perhaps someone else may have walked away in disgust, never again to dabble in the Craft, but not me.  Even the worst guide can still be a guide.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. ~Richard Cowper

I find that often Paganism is a gateway religion for many seeking another path that is out there for them to discover and experience. Yet I would advise you all not to abandon Paganism for a passing fad, or continue to treat Pagans with harsh criticism because you have come to the conclusion that it does not work for you, or you find you do not fit in with the crowd. If any of you grew up in a strict religious family, or have ever been confronted with ultra-right-wing religious conservative people,  you would do well to remember how having their doctrine forced upon you felt. And the more someone argued with you, attempted numerous times to convince you how wrong you are, and policed your behavior with phrases like “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” while you were simply just being different, the less you stayed within the church of your upbringing, and the less their words had any effect on you. Pagans are against that practice. Why?  Because we are not a religion that hates or inhibits anyone’s freedom.  We do not force people to stay in a religion that they are embarrassed of, or have out grown. If you must move on, please go in peace. We will not try to change you.  We ask nothing from you.  Just be yourself.

So, please, with all due respect, do not try to change us. Because we’re happy with ourselves. We’re not ashamed like you are. Don’t shape us into what you think we are. You might someday discover we never fit that mold to begin with. But we’ll forgive you just the same.

As for me, this Witch always has room in her heart for you, who ever and where ever you are, no matter what religion or subculture you belong to, and even if you think me silly and want nothing to do with me, I’ll miss you while I dance with the whole wide world under the pale moonlight!

The Old-Fashioned Mirror Spell

UPDATE: After reading about this love divination spell, be sure to read The Love the Mirror Predicted, or Sometimes True Love isn’t a Lover — it’s what We Love Doing for the results of this spell.

Besides performing my seasonal rituals during Samhain, I indulged in a little experiment last week that I waited all year-long to try. It’s an old-fashioned spell passed down from Appalachian folk magic practices and beliefs, much I am not experienced with, yet from what I remember when I was a teen living in southwestern Missouri, one spell stands out in my memory as being most potent. It was a genuinely spooky spell that passed down through generations of women seeking to know who their lovers will be (I use the term “lover” instead of future spouse because most often it foretells only who has an eye on you already). In another time that lover would be a suitor and, all too soon, girls’ husbands were not of their choice, and they married at a young age, taken away from their families to start ones of their own with men they barely knew. Knowing who will be your future mate ahead of time helped a girl prepare herself for the rest of her life — a much more important prospect than it is today. Today it is a frivolous, parlor game, akin to low magic than to high magick, to take a peek into a mirror and scry for a lover one may only have a short affair with.

The basic spell is one I learned at a slumber party, and I did not realize it was “real” magic at all. My friends and I really loved fortune-telling, especially Tarot reading, but trying out a thing where you plunge yourself into total darkness except for the light of one little candle was a spiritual adventure. What sort of visions would we see? Church pastors threatened us with direct trips to Hell for peeking at our Horoscopes, let alone daring to ask the Fates for a look-see into the future to find out who we might marry! This made the activity ever the more delicious to try. Kids love to dare each other, but they also seek experiences that challenge what is forbidden. I was a bold girl, obsessed with cute boys (um, still am!), and very curious. When someone told me about this spell, it was right up there with “Bloody Mary” and other urban legends, a thing that must be tested, something I can prove myth or truth, but mostly truth or dare.

The Hair and Mirror Divination Spell

The basic spell requires: a dark room (turn off all electrical lights and all other electrical equipment), one white candle (it should be the only source of light in the place, make sure the candle is a long-burning taper or votive that will not burn out during the course of the spell), and two mirrors, one large one big enough to see the top part of your body fully, and one small one to hold in your hand that you can use to see the reflection of the back of your head in the large mirror — both mirrors have to be ones that a woman (or a man, given that he has enough hair) gazes at herself everyday when she does her hair.

The day that is best to do this spell: midnight before Halloween or the midnight of Halloween.

What to do: You must comb your hair over your face til your tresses form a kind of veil over your face. You should still be able to see through your hair, yet still mask your vision a little. Use one hundred strokes to comb your hair. Count each stroke, don’t go too fast or too slow, pick a comfortable pace that will put you at ease. The act of combing (or brushing) your hair should be pleasurable. While getting through your hair, thinking fondly, but not specifically, on the kind of person you would like to meet. Sit in front of the large mirror with your back facing the large mirror as you stroke your hair. After you reach your one hundredth stroke, use one hand, your dominant hand (right or left) to hold your small mirror in front of you. Sit quietly and stare through your hair at the small mirror’s reflection of what is behind you in the large mirror.

What will happen: A vision or apparition of your one true love will appear behind you, staring back at you.

Did the Spell Work in the Past?

Did the mirror divination ever work when I was young? Yes and no. There are a lot of distractions when you are in a group of silly, giggling girls who, like you, are too excited to see anything other than perhaps what they want to see.

It was only when I was in college that I tried it again, with a few friends, as part of a joke, and  what I saw was not my fiancé! Yet the vision was also not a face I recognized as anyone I knew, or as anything real or specific, so perhaps I was too drunk to see a damn thing.  When I reached my early 20’s, the Hair and Mirror Divination Spell I thought superstition, however I discovered later that some Witches have used it successfully once they adapted it. In other words, you can make an old spell, even one based on superstition or legend, your own. You do not just follow the ‘instructions’ verbatim, you study the hidden meaning behind the legend that makes the spell, where it comes from, how you can make it work for you, change it to suit your fancy, and do a few ‘test runs’ before hand to see if it’s a spell that is truly doable.

I am a firm believer in “Magic is a practice, not a last resort! Use it everyday” because why learn and become an initiate in Witchcraft if you are not going to practice magic as a lifestyle? If I have a problem, I do not wait til the last-minute to page through a grimoire to help myself or someone else, I should be able to perform something on the spot when needed. Like every skill and talent, it requires practice and experience, and the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Another thing I’ve learned: A Witch needs to know what spells work and what do not. This especially comes in handy when you’re tempted to pick up that nice, glossy paperback book with the pretty Gothic-looking cover that claims it contains a never-before-revealed new batch of magic spells by today’s next popular author. After ten to twenty years of practicing Witchcraft, I should page through that book and quickly determine if it is junk. Libraries are full of books that are specifically published to exploit the young, curious, and gullible cowan (the uninitiated Pagan or Wiccan, or one who is a wanna be).

In this age of too much information and not enough guidance, it is no wonder we have such an over abundance of pop culture magic that only serves to pat the back of the soul, not truly empower it. I do not blame any one author for this, but consumerism itself for the trend. People like to make money, Witches or not, someone with magical knowledge can effectively market that to make a living, yet the selling of half-truths should lead the young soul to seek further study, however too many people want to be told what to do as opposed to finding out what to do for themselves. This has not changed over time.

Did I Make it Work Now? What are My Results?

I waited til Samhain to seriously do this spell, first out of keeping to tradition, and to honor the legend, as well as to see if performing it on the time advised to do so makes a difference. Previously this year, I tried it several times on different pagan holy days, as well as different lunar times (waning, waxing, dark, and full moon), once during the day, and at various different times during the night. I tried different mirrors. I tried with and without combing my hair over my face. All with varying degrees of visions produced, but none were of any human faces or forms. Like any divination practice, I found that the exercise helped me slip into a nice, comfortable trance state that made it easy to clear my mind and open my imagination to interpretation. All in all, I gave it all up to revisiting dreams of my youth.

But enter the celebration of my favorite holy day, Samhain 2012, right when I am most in the mood and at a time I consider a very spiritual time when I have the most success practicing divination, I did experience a vision, one most surprising to me, and one I’m not quite sure how to interpret at this time. I first cleansed my home, uncrossed myself, cleared my mind of any possible manipulative intentions (that required meditation), darkened my entire home except for one candle, and even let my cat participate by sitting in the mirror’s reflection with me (because he is in my life, too, so if someone loves me, they have to love my cat as well). With all that done, it paved the way. Like previous attempts, I had a hard time adjusting my small mirror to get the right angle to see behind myself without only capturing my own face. You have to hold the mirror somewhat above your head and at the larger mirror behind you directly into the pitch darkness. After moments that seemed to put my hand and neck into a strained position, the pain of holding that pose faded and the candle light flickered, casting shadows over the mirror to make them appear as if something is dancing behind me. Then the candle light became very bright enough to light up the mirror to give it a sort of glow. Looking at the reflection through my hair was like looking through a golden brown mist not unlike trying to see through the steam in a sauna. For what seemed like a full minute (or longer, I was unsure), I saw a face form, but I could not see who it was. The smile was overly exaggerated, reminded me of a Venetian carnival mask, or most like the comedy mask of the muse Thaleia.

My answer: Yes, it worked. Worked in the sense that I was given a vision. It may not have been the face of a man, or a person, but the symbol of something that could represent someone wearing a mask, or represent the profession, a costume, or some other sign to look for in the future that could lead me on the path to love.  Or a spirit may have been laughing back at me!  It could be the most simple answer of all:  Someone smiling!

I recommend the spell to others, but keep in mind that it takes adjustment.  If you are a man, you may want to not try to comb your hair over your face if you have short hair, yet do stroke through your hair for the recommended one hundred times.  However, if you are bald, you may want to try a different spell, or just try something else to veil your head.  Experiment.

Various uses to divine for other types of true loves that I believe can be adapted in this spell: scry for a new best friend, business partner, the next leader of a group, or any true and worthy person you want in your life, but at the base of it all it must be all about love, and you must have a clear mind.  A clear mind can be a hard thing to achieve because often our desires and needs take up our full attention.  But…  when one desire really bugs us, it is not a bad thing to use a little magic to get what we want.

Case in point: I once performed what was formerly a love spell to attract a lover, but I changed the focus of the spell to attract the perfect doctor for my psychiatric needs!  You do not have to use the love spell to attract a lover per say, you can adapt it to bring a different kind of person you need in your life.  My doctor is one of the coolest people I know, she even dresses like I imagined she might, wearing leather pants and a half kimono blouse during our first appointment!  She even decorated her office with Rococo and Japanese embellishments; two very unique styles that make me feel comfortable and ideas I let leak into my mind when I was thinking about what I wanted while dreaming of the perfect  psychiatrist.  She was even a horsewoman, too.  She was very much like I had special ordered her from the Gods.  That is how magic can manifest your desire, but you have to be careful what you ask for, and you better work for it.

Not all modern-day Witches make the best Oracles, we’re human and make misinterpretations. Sometimes it is up to the querent to make sense of the message they are given, and not all signs and omens make much sense, but the best Oracles are guides who can break it down in simple terms for the average person to understand without being condescending. Those of us who make divination our area of expertise, continually practice it, if only on ourselves, to make it of practical use for others, or like any study, a subject of fascination we seek to re-discover time and time again. A new revelation may be experienced, or a different experience may produce a new way to come to new revelations. The practice of divination, whether you believe it works or not, is not crazy, it is a way to enhance and broaden our perceptions through the use of archaic, and even modern techniques, to achieve inspiration for both the self and community. It does not always deal with seeing into the future.

The Hair and Mirror Spell I performed as per the traditional Halloween legend inspired by Appalachian folk beliefs, you can say gave me an inspirational vision, not necessarily one that produced a prophecy of new love. But maybe? I have a whole new year to see it unfold! I won’t go crazy-obsessive looking over my shoulder for anyone with the face of an exaggerated smile in a literal sense, but my immediate interpretation is that whatever is ahead of me is a very happy ending in an area of my life that has always given me misery.

What I’ll write about next:  Black Cat Power Part 2: Lore, Luck, & Magic
Go here to read Black Cat Power Part 1: Origins & Witches (My most popular blog post!)

Postcard #45: Celebrating Friendship!

“Friendship should not be mourned,” They said.

And when I say, They, I do not speak of People, or voices that may populate my head.  I talk of They that travel on the wind, whisper unseen, guide the lost when they stumble, and sometimes purr through the cat who shares my bed at night.

“Friendship should not be mourned,” They insist, keeping me awake when I want to slip into a nap this afternoon, “Friendship has no funeral. It requires no grief. It should not be mourned. You must celebrate it!”

Pick up your favorite pen, Valentina, my fingers ache with longing, and my back burns with hurt as I stretch and strive for a comfortable position, groaning as I seek my journal, find a page and make your mark so this won’t disappear. Don’t let these thoughts go! Come on, get going, make it so!

Out the words flow — ! My handwriting a river I fall in love with every time I give a damn, I set my pen in motion, the very act of holding it (although pinching my fingers and strains my wrist up to my elbow) is a flight through water, like Antarctic birds do under the ice in the deepest, darkest, undiscovered places. My pen is black and silver, shines in my hand, sharp and slim as a dagger, but does not cut paper as my every drawn word appears thin, small, and slants distinctly stiletto to the right.

I once challenged my friends with my handwritten letters… My handwriting, considered fancy and too archaic to easily decipher, only friends with a curiosity I could pique for Graphological inspired Cryptography (a pseudoscience that I thought I had made up when I was in High School), or who had a penchant for recreating the sort of 19th century literary correspondence our favorite authors had, would be interested and dedicated enough to read, let alone appreciate my letters. Such writing made for excellent handwritten essays only professors lavished attention upon, and I would sigh and dream of a day when I could enjoy a romantic friendship worthy of all my handwritten sentiments. Who did I kid? My rivers of right-slanted, sharp-emoted writing would not serve anyone good but land me a role only worthy to frighten people away as the demented, obsessed woman who scribbles in some horror movie… almost. In real life that is the impression I give! I ought to change it. Yet. Now it does not matter. I write my letters to myself. Occasionally I type them as I may, as I am now, in celebration, too good to keep secret.

This is the public side of true friendship — the celebration of sharing experience — for is that not what friendship is all about, what starts the love between people, this drawing together of mutual interests, the stringing together of the things we enjoy that ties us to one another and leads us to collaborative co-existence?

“Do not EVER mourn it,” They possess my pen, and I shake with so much passion, it takes every part of me not to burst, “Dance it!”

Words escape, the pen does not drop, only feeling excites, makes me fall into bed, pillowing my every thought, They comfort and do not quit, a swooning peace, of only knowing love. I forget all ills. Mercy replaces anger. Tears all dry. A reverse Lachrymatory appears; a bouquet of white roses soaks up the river at my bedside.

“Friendship won’t be mourned again,” It is I who says this, without question, without another memory of a slight or disappointment to mar it, only closed eyes and a smile to support it.

Postcard #44: My Samhain

This is MY season, the in between time that makes shivers and tests your wits, when you can dance with monsters and dress like ghouls and if people look twice it is to admire your costume, and if you’re not looking weird, people wonder what is wrong with you. I love it because it’s home to me — a celebration of graveyard love, freak glamour, and treats — the one week in the year everyone wants to meet a real Witch, get their fortune read, make me their friend and buy me a drink. But mostly it is a date I keep with my beloved dead friends and relatives. Yes. If I cannot be alone, sometimes those spirits push me with people that they wanted me with, and such a thing happened this Samhain, I had a spontaneous reunion with my brother and father — and they did not pick on or yell at me once! I did not call them, did no begging for them to pick me up. I had consigned myself to a lonely night, but Dad dragged me out, then he pulled Star out of his apartment, and soon it was a family affair!  My tear-dampened heart dried up and got swallowed up by fire, turned pink and got all hot red like fallen in love, and excited as if going out on a date.

Even though it was not my choice to observe my new year and commune with the spirits at a local casino, I am a Witch and can make ritual and magic anywhere I am. I learned long ago that I need not even bring tools, set up an altar, or even recite fancy words to get my point across to the Gods. The point is to do something, show and live your respect, and the only way to do that is to create beauty from your heart and really put an individualistic touch to your magic. Well, at least that is how I roll.

Shine a Light, Any Light

Even though it was just a tiny tea light set in a lotus-shaped votive, and only used for ambiance during dinner at the casino restaurant, handled by many strangers and seemingly void of magic energy like a blade as dull as a fruit knife, it was a fire. I could not be home at midnight. Family came first this Samhain. I knew this was what my mother would have wanted, especially while I’m missing a friend. My Mom, if alive, and sitting across from me at that restaurant table, she’d force me to stop looking glum and go out to see a movie with my brother, or just do anything but not cry. She would sing “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…!”

So I shine a light, I hold the fire, any flame, and I look into it, and it is my doll-sized hearth fire, one I can hold in my hand. I can dance around it with my fingers and hum the songs all witches are singing all the world over this night and my heart cracks, snaps, flares up and roars like a match struck, and I’m lit up and glowing, snarling, rising up with trails of smoke. I’m not alone in the restaurant, but at that table, in my mind, I am anywhere in the world, even let myself feel as if in several places at once. My body is at the table waiting for her feast to come, yet my thoughts take different forms, like little ghosts of me in sparks, feeling like bits of me exploding in fireworks, the blood in my veins giggling with magic.

And no one notices. No one thinks I’m crazy or spooky. I’m just an ordinary woman sitting at a table. Everything is taking place in my mind. At home I would be at my altar, I would be dressed in a robe, all candles lit, and my place transformed into a temple.

A Witch’s Church is Anywhere

I can worship anywhere at any time, there is no space I cannot make sacred. I have the power to change the profane and ordinary into holy. This is why I do not need to make a permanent spiritual home, why witches and pagans can settle down and then take off for anywhere as they please. It is not because we are The Great Disorganized, it is because we have no need to make a building our singular place of power. That is why I can sit at that casino restaurant, look around and see past the trappings of commerce and notice beyond the surface images in the jazz age inspired decor symbols that comfort me, as if I were meditating at a temple.

And what spirits lurk here? Especially during All Hallow’s Eve when the time is ripe, the dead are most active, or so it’s said, and how can it be doubted when all of nature around us reminds us that winter will soon steal away the life from all we see?  I don’t like to think of winter stealing anything but making the days shorter.  I love the night, so I look forward to longer darkness, if only so I can have that hermit time to myself, when snowed-in days mean no-interruptions from neighbors and other outside world things.

The Fine Art of Talking to the Dead

People often ask a Witch about how to best go about getting messages from their dead loved ones, but what about talking to the dead? Does anyone consider the enormity of that? Unless you are someone who refuses to believe that the soul can linger after death and can have the willpower to manifest and/or communicate with us, it might not occur to you that communicating with the dead involves talking to them more than provoking them to speak to us.

Talking to the dead is not about getting them to talk back anyway, it’s about respect and honoring their memory. Even if you do not believe in ghosts, the ritual of visiting graves and paying tribute to the dead with celebration, ceremony, and other rites keeps the living ALIVE.

Talking to the dead is all about talking to ourselves, the parts of us that died when we forced to let go of someone we loved. During Samhain, as I gaze into the fire, whether I think it or say it aloud, I say sweet things to the dead, I tell them how life is, how much I miss them, how happy I am they are a part of me, that I am grateful I am alive because their lives gave me life, and how much I look forward to being with them some sweet day. To show I care, I set aside some food, something bio-degradable and edible for local animals (just in case a living creäture might get at the offering, because maybe a bird or squirrel will let your grandmother ride its body so she and it can enjoy the treat) that won’t also harm the environment (leaving a trail of Mountain Dew will dry up some plants due to its high sodium content).

One of the traditions I have adapted from my inter-tribal American Indian heritage is the practice of tying prayer bundles on tree branches, except the prayer is not only a prayer, but also offering and tribute all-in-one (which, now that I think of it, is exactly what prayer bundles are, really). I sometimes make them during Samhain, but do not make them bound by cloth, nor do I hang them from branches where people can find them easily. I place Kinnikinnick in small, rolled pieces of birch bark and tie them up along with dry pine cones filled with organic peanut butter and bird seed. These prayer offerings very quickly disappear.

Always remember the ghosts, because we may become them someday.

As much as I do not like to think I would willingly decide to keep myself haunting a single place for years and years, I would love my shade to appear in the nature reserve I love so much. What a legend I’d make! The Witch in the Woods all dressed in black wandering through the trees spooking the university students… um, I think I already do that and, yes, I’m still alive. *giggles*

All is a Journey, Therefore All Requires Journal Keeping

When I am finally alone, Samhain is all about Divination: The practice of communicating with the Divine (my idiom).

First I talk to the dead, then I talk to the Gods, then one or both of Them talk back to me, and sometimes They do not talk with words but with symbols, understanding those symbols requires Trance. I like to record the thoughts, visions, images, poetry, all that comes to mind in notes and drawings. My bedroom is a workshop for dreams.

Every Samhain I draw one card out of the 22 Major Arcana cards from the Tarot. This card will indicate my “fortune” for the upcoming year. Consider it a pre-2013 prediction. 2011 I pulled Justice, 2012 my card is The High Priestess, and 2013 will emerge… The Sun!

Outside of blogging, I do a lot of handwriting, in fact most of my writing is writing in notebooks and drawing in sketchbooks. I have many “secret” books of stuff, yet if I were to die tomorrow I do not believe my poor relatives and friends would make much sense out of any of it. Divination is very personal, and quite often I do not get premonitions of world events, only private events. This is year I thought I would try world predictions, but only one event happened that I foreseen and my imagination exaggerated it, perhaps because I may have been picking up on the anxiety behind the anticipation of it. It was about the solar flares and their effect on digital devices, but no major internet losses of data or massive power outages occured. However… now that I look at what has happened with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, I wonder if I was unclear and had seen something else.

Prediction is measured according to someone’s, or some thing’s, behavior, or what is likely to occur based on the previous actions and decisions a thing usually makes, and they can direct their fortune with their wits, but some things like forces of nature are complete chaos and can only be tracked as they happen. Having performed duties as an oracle for hire, and privately for close friends, I’ve learned that my specialty, even when I divine predictions for myself, are largely empathetic. Tarot is easiest because it is a tool that gives me a boundary. I can pick up information about people by handling items they have invested great emotional meaning into like jewelry or clothing, but it must be an organic thing, metal, wood, cotton, or silk, nothing synthetic, and yet… I can sit on a vinyl couch where someone just sat and pick up on their emotional crap, that is, if they are really emoting.

It is a crazy-frying-your-thoughts sort of thing, and writing about it eases that discomfort, helps distance myself from it all, and when I instead focus on myself, what I want, and what I feel, it keeps me together. Samhain is a super-charged time of spiritual activity because of its association with death and life, between two very drastic seasons. The time that falls into Winter is downright creepy, and Halloween is the much-needed “Christmas” of a darkening time when the cold-approaching makes people anticipate what the future holds. I wonder if the tradition of the casting of runes, bones, shells, and other divining tools started during times like this out of that sense of impending doom, when humans need to turn to the spirits and Gods the most for signs of hope?

But more than hope, truth. I don’t know about you, but it is the dose of truth I often seek. I want to know who is pulling the gears behind the curtain. I seek to know what is causing the problems I suffer from and how I can fix them. Perhaps knowing why can help me change a future I once thought fate and doom consigned me to. Maybe I should not give up on what I think maybe? So I shuffle the cards for myself and other people. We have ourselves a long look-see at all the alternatives, yet…

There are times when Spirits aren’t playing around, they won’t give excuses or alternative views, they know answers are asked, and the sugar-coating is only for the Trick-or-Treaters. I was always told that if you are going to give a powerful reading, best time is do it during the Hallow-In-Between time (again, my idiom) where the old Wiccan adage “during the season when the veil between worlds is thin” when Spirit and Physical shake hands for a short while. That creates a little bridge where you can take peeks into mystery and get some sense made out of life, or death (if the case may be).

And the Moon Shines like a Smile

The hours after midnight, between 3am and 4am is when the veil between the physical world and spiritual world is really the thinnest. This goes for any day, even beyond Samhain, yet especially on Samhain waiting through that night into wee morning is a vigil. I never sleep the night between Halloween and All Soul’s Day, I’m either celebrating with like-minded friends (not just the Witches) or at home alone singing and reading Tarot cards, and only sometimes I’m outside to drink in the smile of the moon…

I did give myself the chance this year to let the moon really shine down into me. I also directed Her light to cleanse my altar space and tools. I performed an uncrossing, re-activated so many things I left dormant out of everyday distraction, and got rid of the clutter that prevented me from saving enough room to invite the love I felt lacking.  The “universe” even helped getting rid of a manipulative gossip monger in my life, too, and re-connected me to two old friends I lost contact with!  How about that?

A Witch is never alone during Samhain. Even if she’s surrounded by cowans (non-intiate) can still observe her favorite holy day and not be alone. All over the world there are Witches connected by their common bond of fidelity and love for their beloved dead, be they ancestors, spouses, lovers, family, children, or friends, we have this spiritual matrix, it is a fire in the blood, music in our souls, and even if no one else can hear it, it is the song that never ends.