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21 Day Challenge Journal

Night 1

I realized quickly how much I might appreciate silence if I’d make the room for it.  Today was hectic.  I spent the day running errands, checking on relatives, and driving out of town to appointments.  Clearly, I need to let some of the rush and clatter go.  A few moments of silence before bed on the first day is what I allowed myself.   I thought it was a sad start but then I scolded myself for being a bit too critical.

Night 2:

On day two I worked for ten hours came home and suddenly realized my most optimal quiet places would either be outdoors early in the morning prior to going to the gym or while I was in the bathroom.  I felt a yearning for the quiet as if it might bring me an unexpected solace.  The dark was cold, I was outside and grateful to be without the buzzing of mosquitos over my head.   My fuzzy red robe brought warmth as I sipped hot tea and sat in the swing.  I could still hear birds flapping and chirping in the trees.  Briefly, my mind wandered to my father and back again.  My eyes settled on the oak tree.  Fifteen minutes had passed and that felt like a good start.

Night 3:

Tonight, I chose my fifteen minutes of silence in front of my altar.  One candle flickered in the darkness and I sat and gazed at the smoke rising up from the burning mugwort.  A heavy creak moaned across the ceiling and I felt a presence behind me.  I chose not to panic despite the spiked heart rate.  Breathing myself into the calm I sat.  I ended the time and acknowledged what I felt and heard.  I followed up with something to eat and watch on T.V before bed.

Night 4:

The sun rose early and  I enjoyed the near silence.  In the distance, I could hear a few cars starting and I was nearly startled into getting up and getting the day started.  All the things I needed to get done were on my mind.  I could hear myself questioning if I needed the silence and knew immediately the thought indicated that I did.  The air was cool, damp leaves were piled under my feet.

Night 5

Dreams of winged monsters lacking in ferocity shrieked across my dream.  The witch in my dream seemed to know the monsters personally.  She felt sorry for them saying “Poor thing, it has been too long since you’ve eaten, the beast seems to have taken over.” As though it were ashamed of itself the monster wailed and flew away.  In the past five days, my dreams have become more vivid.  Also, I recognize my need to create something -anything.  I picked up my paint and started working today.

Night 6

My family and I attempted to put up the Yule tree tonight.  It was a little disaster. I wanted everyone to enjoy the experience, to put the tree together, instead, there was complaining and corrections, directions and criticism.   I recovered from it by going outside with a hot cup of tea and discovered my inner critic has been on the rage.  Why I wondered am I so critical -of myself and sometimes of those that I love? I asked the question out loud and let it go for a while.  Much of it is due to expectation and hoping that those around me will enjoy it as much as I do.  I couldn’t see joy, I felt that others had a “could care less attitude” and it frustrated me.  The dark brought calm as I drank my chamomile tea and listened to the migrating geese flying south for the winter.

Night 7:

Day seven was spent sitting at the base of a gum tree.  I settled myself in the little warmth the sunlight offered and sat at the base of the tree.  I’d decided to simply sit and look -nothing more.  I noticed the spiky seed pods on the ground.  Some of them were withered without spines.  They appeared alien but I felt tempted to bag them and roll them in glitter when I got home.  I resisted the urge -barely.  Red and orange leaves dappled the damp ground nearly covering the small parking lot.  In this space, I felt calm.  Few children played in the park. As the sun set, I found myself alone in the park, the night settled in and I packed up for home.

Night 8:

On the porch, darkness waited. A large cup of tea rested warmly between my palms.  I sat in a chair at the edge of deeper shadows cast by trees and bushes. This is where I met the dark goddess in my dreams last year.  She came with the snow and I let her into my home without hesitation.  I closed my eyes and called out to her.  Silence settled into my surroundings.  Crickets stopped chirping and for a moment the only sound was a buzzing streetlight.  I focused on the sound of my breath until I was suddenly startled by dogs beginning to howl.  The sound was eerie and seemed to echo.  As suddenly as it began, the howls ceased.  Steam danced from my cup and warmed my nose.  Without a doubt, Old Mother was listening.

Night 9:

A raccoon attempted suicide by leaping in front of the van I drove this evening.  I missed.  I was greatly relieved that I would not have to contend with the guilt of viewing an animal carcass in my rear view mirror.  I felt grateful for that.  The rune Isa greeted me as I settled into mediation.  Sulfur streaked up my nose as I lit the singular white candle this evening for meditation.  I caught an image of a warm hearth fire in the dark darting across my thoughts as I glimpsed the first flicker of the flame.  I resign myself to silence, not to think but to wait until my mind finds the quiet.  Floating in the velvet abyss, I lost track of time, consciousness shifted in and out.

Night 10, 11 and 12

Night 10: Silence continues to be a daily practice.  The past three days were documented in a written journal I refer to as I write here.  I’ve noticed a restlessness settling in my spirit.  It has made meditation difficult; silence even more so.  On night ten I sat to paint.  The results were a myriad of colors painted over abstract forms I’d sketched months earlier.  I felt a frustration rise and fall as I painted.  I’ve encountered this before.  I do not judge it, I acknowledge it and clean up for the day.

Night 11: needed to be spent moving.  I wondered briefly to myself if I was uncomfortable with stillness and if I was actually seeking to avoid it.  I breathed and considered the thought for a moment. I danced and recorded it.  I played it back and noticed myself smiling.  Dancing made me feel very good when I was a little girl.  I started writing out of a need to express pent up energy and emotions I could not express to anyone else.  Still, something deeper is calling me.

Night 12: Silence was a matter of ten simple minutes setting in front of my altar space.  I found I was tired and falling to sleep.  Right before bed is never a good time for silence.  It lulls me into dreams.  My dream journal yielded positive results with a message that felt more like a warning.

The message was this:  The Price is Too High.

Night 14, 15 and 16

Night 14:  Tonight was more formal.  I decided to sit down and connect with my guides.  Lately, I’ve had more trouble than I’m willing to admit connecting to them.  The facts are in, I’m avoiding something.  Still, it is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what.  It is the “something is amiss” feeling. The theme of my dream tonight was an apple.  I did not recall the details clearly but I remembered the image of a T.V. with dancing figures that had no faces at all. Night 15:  Earlier today, I was delighted to find that a book came in.  While digging deeper into the stories of the dark goddess, I came across a book called:  “Journey to the Dark Goddess How to Return to Your Soul” by Jane Meredith.

Night 15:  Earlier today, I was delighted to find that a book came in.  While digging deeper into the stories of the dark goddess, I came across a book called:  “Journey to the Dark Goddess How to Return to Your Soul” by Jane Meredith. Although only a few chapters in, I find myself able to connect with the text.  I am most interested in the exercise she called “Listening to the Underworld.”  I put this into practice tonight.

Night 16: Although being formal doesn’t make it more likely that I will connect with my guides, I am lured to ritual.  I enjoy the beauty, the sounds -and in some cases the lack of it.  Tonight is the second night I am listening to the underworld.  There were vague whispers and in my own inner vision, I saw images from previous dreams drift in and out of my visual frame.  Tonight, I chose not to become drawn in but to linger in that space to familiarize myself with the feeling. An eerie feeling settled in behind me, I breathed with it for a while and decided to go to bed.

Night 17:  No Silence

I did not sit with silence today.  It was difficult to find it -make it.

Night 18:

My favorite place for silence, the shower. I set candles on the counter by the sink and in the corners of the tub.  A spell for peace helped me along the road to silence. I sat in the steaming water and listened.  Tonight was without murmurings or noises from the rest of the house.  Everyone was gone.  I don’t mind that sometimes.  It felt good.

 

Night 19:

It is December 10, 2016, as of the fifth,  I’ve given my notice at work to return to work with the school.  I need the flexibility.  It does make me a little nervous but I know that things have a way of working out.  I feel that I am in a safe place with people I can trust.  It is time to move forward though I’m sure I carry some naivety regarding the meaning of forward. I reorganized my altar and drew a rune before beginning.  I received Fehu.  Tonight my mind was active.  I pictured work I’ve done old and new.  I find that I am concerned about my future and my ability to be more decisive.  I wondered if my thoughts would abate and had to bring my attention to the sound of my breath.  I wanted to stay in the “breathing space.” It was more peaceful.  I am looking forward to a little silence every day.

Night 20

My most notable observance are that my dreams appear to be clearer.  I sat in silence but this time with the intention to listen to the house.  I heard creaks and moans and the whiz of electricity, snoring of dogs and suddenly, I found myself turning inward, away from the house and into myself.  I considered for a moment that when I dream, I am able to reflect upon my life by seeing the “condition” of my inner home.  Within the silence I felt something, it had little form but I felt it, something is coming with the winter, I need to find more silence to understand the message.  I crave silence now.

Night 21 (The Final Night of Silence)

The more I sit in silence the more I hear.  I place my ear low to the ground to hear the whispers of the underworld.  Silky darkness brings flourishing dreams that I record each morning.  A new chance is coming but I must release something first.  Today, I decided to let my job go.  The pay was decent but in order for me to complete school I needed more flexibility.  I discovered there may be more to what I desire.  I am “called” to be honest with myself, to consider what I deeply desire and to move forward without hesitation.  Before the stillness,  I first ask a question.  Often one curiosity leads to more inquiry and because of this I don’t move to the next one before clearly hearing the answer to the first.  From silence I’ve learned, I am impatient with myself and that this need needs to be addressed.  Silence holds many gifts.  Embrace it willingly without defined expectations.

Finding Stillness

Finding stillness in a busy chaotic world full of chores, to-do lists, work and play can be a challenging effort. How can we find the stillness we need and what can if offer us? How do we know that we need stillness? I place my hand in my rune bag and move it in circles. The tips of my fingers move the pecan shells around until just the right moment. I feel a cool zap and a rune catches between my fingers. I’ve drawn the rune Isa (stillness) more than three times this week. Images of a standing tree in the winter time or the quiet of the darkness when it is cold are the memories I’ve associated with this symbol. It hasn’t been drawn since early last year so I sit for a while and reflect upon the week I’ve had.

At work, tension builds up as the new versus the old way of doing things play tug of war through fellow employees and leadership. On the homefront, my father and I reconnected after eleven years and to say the least, he is in rough physical and mental shape. Neglecting his health and well being, life now forces him to look at the difficult time ahead of him if he chooses not to make a few relevant changes. He is a man without resources in regard to savings, health insurance, medical provider, or healthy living choices. The reality is, I am not able to care for my father the way he needs to be cared for. He is a man of pride and stubbornness and he desires deeply to keep as much of his freedom as possible. When I say he is the kind of man that would pack a bag and vanish into the forest I am not kidding.

In the past five days, I’ve gone on what feels like endless errands, attended work meetings that were scheduled last minute to deal with new team membership challenges, and got my little girl started at school again. My father’s partner had an accident and the doctors have sent her for recovery in a nursing home. I’ve spent time visiting her and updating her on how my father is. This, of course, does not omit the reading for my own classes that begin tomorrow, taking care of the house, pets and yard work. My own routines of going to the gym and completing my morning dream journaling have all taken a back seat. Frankly, the permeating feeling is on of exhaustion. After a long night of sleep last night, I sat down for my cup of coffee this morning and nearly fell to sleep in it!

This week, I’ve decided on a stillness dedication. Stillness is my own point for rejuvenation. It is a state of receptivity where I do not try to do, to visualize, to think etc. I take a nice nap for thirty minutes, I make warm tea, I go for a walk. Because I love to talk -a lot, I promise myself to speak less. In the time of stillness, I may observe where I need to prioritize my energy. I may discover what drains me or sustains me. I am the kind of person that looks around and discovers a plethora of activities to keep me moving; walk the dog, do the dishes, fold the laundry, read for school, exercise. Not moving leaves me with a sloth feeling and some regret that activities are not finding completion. The result is feeling worn and having little ability to respond to my usual “pick-me-ups.”

When I begin to buzz back and forth almost mindlessly, it is the first sign that I need stillness. To do this, I have to call upon my own boundaries. I turn off my cell phone, the t.v. and stop checking social networks online. Stillness means saying no to those that are constantly interrupting the time needed for restoration.

I place the Isa rune back in its sachet with the promise to myself in mind. I acknowledge my busy list of things to do but set them to the side until I must do them. Until then, I set boundaries where necessary. I choose to sit in stillness and listen to the darkness.

Meditation First Steps

Training The Mind Is Mandatory

As a beginner, I recall feeling a little confused about what meditation was.  A woman I knew said she meditated while out walking.  The father of a friend of mine sat in a private room in the evening and meditated.  He told me he did it every day and it helped to “quiet” his mind.  Others I’d encountered meditated while dancing or writing and a few mentioned meditating with visual images. What exactly was meditation and how did I begin?  What was the best way for me to meditate?  What did it mean for me personally and How was it going to affect my work as a witch?  These are questions that are answered most easily with only three things; time, practice and exploration.

If you look up the definition of the word meditation on google you pull-up the following: The action or practice of meditating.  Various synonyms are listed:  contemplation, thinking, deliberation, concentration, and musing.  I find these words lacking in adequately explaining meditation in a way that appeals to the senses.  My first attempt to meditate came with the simple, beautiful act of breathing.  To begin, I put away distractions and sit somewhere comfortable in dim lighting.  I set the intention to stay aware of my thoughts but not to engage them.

Tools such as the athames, scissors, cauldrons, and more are wonderful, but the mind is the root to any connection or working.  Developing the mind helps the witch to discover her own talents, to connect to the Otherworld, to cast effective spells, protect the energy body, replenish energy, to stay grounded and connected to self and to explore new pathways.  Beyond witchery, meditation is a useful tool for anyone who desires to live mindfully. On a personal level, it is wonderful for dealing with stressful situations.  If I am faced with an indecisive moment, feel confused or have any big decision to make, meditation helps me to stay calm and often helps me discover solutions.

The First Meditations -What To Expect

In the beginning, my mind chattered away constantly.  I found it very difficult to sit still, my skin crawled and muscles twitched.  Three minutes was a serious achievement.  With time, three minutes became five and five became ten.  Now, I am able to meditate for over an hour.  It is important not to overwhelm yourself.  Start with a few minutes and work your way up.  It helps to build confidence and willpower.

Discover Your Own Way To Meditate

The only way you will ever know how to meditate is to do it.  One aspect of the developing your personal craft is to discover what techniques work for you personally.  In this case, the knowing grows with the doing. What follows below are a few of my meditation tips.

  1. Find a place and time where you can be to yourself.  You don’t have to wash the dishes or do the laundry first, set the firm intention to meditate for your well being
  2. Start meditation simple.  Just breathe and watch the flow of your breath.  If you have thoughts, let them move away like currents carry things down rivers.  Each time you notice them, just return your attention back to your breath.  It is tedious in the beginning, don’t give up.
  3. Don’t force or control your breathing -just watch it.
  4. Start with a few undisturbed minutes at a time.
  5. Don’t lay down in the beginning.  I admit, I love to lay down but when I attempted this, I’d fall asleep every time.
  6. Try meditating indoor and outdoors I love a screened-in porch, the buzz of mosquitos and bite of ants is very difficult for me to get past.
  7. Try meditating in as much silence as possible for a while and then meditate with music.  See if you notice a difference in the way your mind and body responds.
  8. If you are a dreamer, meditate before you are exhausted to boost dream recall or set dream-working intentions.
  9. Keep a meditation journal to note your personal research, techniques, amount of time and locations that you’ve meditated in.
  10. Relax, place your attention on something that feels good and use it to enter a meditative state of mind.   As an evening routine, I’d brush my hair with a soft bristled brush.  I found myself slipping pleasantly into a meditative state of mind while performing this simple act. Another example is playing piano, I still consider myself  a beginner, time slips away when I play and it leaves me feeling peaceful when I play -even if I am only making up my own music.

While I am not an expert, I will say, I feel deeply that any person can greatly benefit from meditation as a daily practice. Take my tips with a grain of salt and try things for yourself.  It is the only way you will ever know what meditation will suit you best. After some time, you may develop your own personal rituals that go along with your meditation such as a particular song, smudging with dry plants, or lighting candles. Be creative, gbe patient with yourself and most of all, have fun and good luck at building your practice!

Happy Harvest

The First Harvest

The garden is in full bloom with tomatoes, kale and a variety of herbs.  Trees are heavy with greenery and the Killdeer birds wake me early with their songs.  This morning, it was unusually cool as I sat on the back-porch watching the blue jays frolicking in the large oak tree who’s shade I’ve enjoyed all summer long.  The harvest can be felt approaching for those of us who work closely with the seasonal tides.  It can be seen as twilight approaches with more haste.

I’ve lived in the Heartland for most of my life, surrounded by farmers.  This time of year, the tractors are moving from field to field.  If your out early, you know that traffic jams are not the result of too many cars around here.  When I see these machines gilded with teeth and claw,  I think back to the days when having a garden in the yard was a necessity and people worked it with minimal tools and their bare hands.  A grateful feeling wells up in me concerning the comforts of life we enjoy and the privileges that are easily taken for granted.

While I do enjoy the small garden in my back yard, the immediate realization is that it is not necessity. I began a garden to learn a skill and to help me to connect to the Earth.  I decided right away not to use pesticides or even tillers.  It was me, my daughter, and my partner with rakes, hoes, shovels and a few other hand tools.  My body quickly learned how much work was involved doing things “the old fashioned way.”

Many people today live modern lives away from the toils living close to nature. Never-the -less, our lives are still dependent upon the seasonal harvests in one form or another.  How can we relate to the seasonal harvest beyond plants and soil?  What does the harvest mean to people today living in urban settings?

I like to begin with questions.  What work do you do?  What direction are you moving in?  What steps are you taking and What intention have you set?  Harvest are far more than planting seeds.  It is the promotion received after years of hard work, saving funds for investing in a future car, it is the student taking steps toward their dreams.  A harvest can be in the act of attempting to improve ourselves and our lives in many different facets.

 

WAYS OF RELATING TO THE SEASON

Although I enjoy summer and I feel some sadness in its ending,  I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Autumn and its shades.  The first harvest sets my mind into a reeling motion.  I begin to think about the eminent changes of weather, what costume my daughter and I might wear for Halloween, and how I’ll save food from the garden for the Winter season. As a child, I can recall that August was the month my mother took down her large picnic basket from the top of the refrigerator.  I’d watch as she packed it with sandwiches, fruit and other goodies. It was still warm enough to visit the lake and sit down at a table for a picnic lunch.

Questions I asked myself when attempting to relate to the harvests were questions like:  What is working in my life?  What do I need to let go of?   What do I need to prepare for the season ahead? During a harvest such as this, when the moon is waning, I review and reconsider relationships, work, projects, choices, and more.  If you happen to enjoy a system of divination, reading runes, cards or implementing other tools for guidance is a good idea.  This year, my focus for the harvest is the symbol of the sickle.  I am ready to cut out what does not serve me, to cleanse myself of “old baggage.”  The effort to cleanse is centered in the purpose to clarify intentions and create a more clear vision of what I am working towards in my own life.

In the past, I’ve worked with the season’s energy by baking bread with friends and family and then having it at dinner with everyone.  My daughter enjoys playing with salt dough to make creative harvest designs.  Working with flour is a way to  honor my ancestors, who once relied upon bread as a primary food for survival.

The harvest season is a wonderful time of year to consider the path we are currently on. It is a time to take stock and to enjoy time with those we love.  After the intensity of the summer sun fades, I will pull down my own picnic basket from the fridge, pack it with satisfying delights and a small offering for the land spirits. My family and I will drive to the park with filled with trees and a small pond.  We will play until we are tired before sitting down to a refreshing drink and outdoor meal.  The smiles of my family, cool shade and beauty will be only a few of the things to be grateful for as the sun sets on the Harvest day.  Discover the way you relate to the harvest, embrace the season and have a happy  celebration!

 

Day to Day Living As A Pagan

After the barrage of beginners books, and years of living “magickally,” it eventually dawned on my that what I was truly seeking in my own life was integration. The spiritual aspect of my life was very important to me but I couldn’t neglect other aspects of my life in the process. At one point, my life seemed compartmentalized. There was a “box” for the various aspects of my life. This isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing if polarizing is necessary but it was frustrating sometimes. How can we (as pagan folk) integrate our lives as a seamless whole -without creating complete upheaval?
I settled upon routine first. What can I do in the morning that will help get me started? I know that I am not the only person with a crazy schedule. Often, I’ve been unrealistic about the kinds of goals I set, because of idealistic expectations I seem to think I must rise to. Hosh-posh!
I wake up in the morning and before I jump out of bed in a terrible rush, I reach over and grab my dream journal. This is something I’ve been doing since I was fourteen. It is an aspect of my daily routine that has become much like breathing. My eyes open and my arm swings out to the right immediately expecting to feel the spine of a book.
After my writing or during, I grab a delicious cup of coffee or sometimes a cup of piping hot cinnamon or chai tea and sit down in my gliding chair until every last drop has gone. Many years flew by before I realized this ritual was a kind of daily communion with my higher self. It gave me time to rest my mind and just breath. Really, it is a delightful, simple joy.
These two rituals are my most consistent, the rest is a mess. I may wash up, make breakfast and then get dressed or toss all of those around before rushing off to work and coming home to make dinner and slide in some time with the kid so I don’t feel guilty.
At one point, I was meditating every day for fifteen minutes, scribbling in my journals and cleaning like a mad woman but I didn’t make time for play, creating, or a nice outing; what a bad girl. Kidding of course.

I feel that most people struggle with daily balance and integration. It takes time and effort to develop daily rituals and consider how time is actually prioritized in our lives. So, what is the first step to integration and balance? Keep in mind these are the ways I’ve found it and it could be completely different for someone else out there.

1. Create a simple morning ritual around what you enjoy. I enjoy dream working, tea, and my hearth.

2.Get dressed and feel good even if you are not headed to work. Looking good and feeling good is important for me. When I get dressed it is like saying to myself “we are starting the day, this is going to be a good day, you deserve to look good…” This doesn’t mean I’m not in my red fuzzy robe sometimes for hours on end but it works -try it.

3.  Call a friend or talk to someone you love at least once a week.  Many of my friends do not live close by.  Life happens, and most of us trailed down paths that lead to different cities.  When this first happened, I complained that people never came to see me anymore.  At some point, I simply decided to visit those around me that cared for me.  I’d drop in for an unexpected check up and simply sit and visit for a time.

4.  Garden.  I am only learning to formally garden.  Through the years, my experience with plants has been either picking them from the front yard, identifying them and working with them magically and herbally from books or having another worker show me something new that they learned in one way or another.  Beyond green onions and lettuce being regrown in the kitchen, I’d never tilled up soil and planted seeds successfully until last year.  I have to say that despite the work, it is so very rewarding.  Even if it is a couple of plants in a pot, try growing a few things.   A friend of mine turned an old fish tank into a plant terrarium and it looked so nice I almost did it myself.

5.  A Formal Promise:  If I swear it to my gods and the spirits I work with there is guarantee I’m going to do it.  Dedicate yourself to integrating your practice into your daily routine (whatever that may be.)  It can be a challenge and a lot of work; a little help from the Otherworld isn’t a bad thing.

6.  Play with Pets.  When I moved back home to live with my partner.  He had two small dogs and I had two cats.  After introductions, the furries decided they would all get along.  Pets are a wonderful way to connect to the natural world while being able to express yourself spiritually.  I consider my cats quite sacred and I love them very much.  The dogs need a little more attention but I found myself suddenly feeling very connected to the dog as a kind of helper energy….

7.  Cooking:  Cooking was an everyday activity but when the schedule goes nuts it is time to prep in the kitchen.  Sundays is a busy day in my house.  Aside from that morning routine, everyone in the house gets up in the morning and decides what we would like to eat for the week. Then it is off to the grocery store and home to cook, seal and freeze.  Yes, I’ll admit that sometimes I dread the Sunday cooking but the rest of the week makes it all better again.  Plus, the evenings mean a little family game time, a long walk or other activity that we find fun.  Plus, any kitchen witch will tell you that cooking is a great way to charm the home and family in a most positive way.

These are some of the ways that I find it best to connect.  By no means will this work for everyone.  How do you integrate your practice?