Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Always comes back to the Hanged Man (Modern Gods: Part 1)

I have mentioned on my previous blog, but I don't think I covered it here: I am a devotee of Odin/Othin/Wotan. It is a path that I never thought that I could be on, that I would be on, but here I am, almost 2 years later. While I do have Northern European ancestry, I don't necessarily put much stock into bloodline when the Gods come a-calling. I have always felt that if a God shows up and seems to wish to work with you, there is a reason. I'm not saying that you can't say no, but I am saying trying to reason the will of a God is like trying to puzzle a cryptographic cipher. You may figure out the pattern, but you'll go mad doing it.

My journey with Odin has been... interesting over the past while. I always find working with a God, learning the quirks and their mannerisms and how they communicate to be challenging. I also find the way in which they appear (and I don't mean *ta-dah poof* there they are, I mean how their presence reflects in your mind's eye) to be different depending on their needs, and the person.

When I think about depictions of the Gods, I always try to think of them in the context of when the source comes from - what period the literature about them was written, and how they would have been described. I think that Gods, because they are living entities, will shift their appearance and presence as time marches forward - not only to continue to be involved in the world, but also because they wish to remain relevant.

For example, many of the depictions of Odin from traditional Norse mythology have him appearing ready for battle, spear in hand, often riding Sleipnir. The tapestry on the left shows an earlier depiction of Odin. Wotan was generally the robed wanderer. Many people still associate these images with Odin in modern day. They are classic pieces, meant to conjure a time past, and connect us to that time.

As you move further in time, like with this 16th century Icelandic depiction, we have him outside of battle armor, but with a sword that would be more modern to that time, and he's clearly a member of the upper class or ruling class. Same with his hat, which looks part hat and part crown. He's also shown with a rather large sword, which would have been more common a few hundred years earlier. I find this depiction interesting, as it seems like there are numerous manuscripts from the time that depict him as a noble of some kind, as opposed to a obvious god. It's interesting, especially since in the next image they really go the complete opposite direction.

This version by Johannes Gehrts from 1906 draws on a lot of the popular Art Nouveau of the time - it's actually very Greco-Roman, but again, very common of the time. This style saw a massive upward surge in the late 1800's- early 1900's because of the Victorian obsession with historic revival. You see him here with the giant winged helmet, nude and shrouded in a cape, looking regal and powerful, surrounded by Hugin and Munin, and Geri and Freki. He looks like a king here, very powerful - completely opposite of the last image.

At the same time, you also saw this historic realism at the time, like with this piece in 1896 by Georg von Rosen. I like to think that this is the picture that inspired JRR Tolkein to create Gandalf. He looks wise and weathered. He looks harmless, until you catch that glint in his eye. This is pure wanderer Odin/Wotan. When I see this version of Odin, I am always expecting a test of knowledge. I am expecting a mind fuck, but in the best way possible. I expect a challenge. This has always been my favourite depiction of Wotan.

Now, you say, this is all nice, and thanks for the history lesson, but what does this have to do with anything? 

Well, dear friend, this brings me to modern day. Neil Gaiman tapped into the idea in American Gods, of Gods having to take more mundane forms to survive in our modern world of science and reason. I, being a modern witch, works with these types of energies. They make sense to me, much like working with the depictions of gods in the past made sense to my ancestors. They seem relevant.

When I think of a modern day Odin, I think of the wandering vagrant, the aged and gnarled hands, the squinting eye with a tinge of madness, the large beard. I think of him smoking a pipe, feeding the crows, drinking coffee sitting on a bench on a street corner crossroads. When spoken to, you get a toothy grin and honeyed, double entendres. There is always a sense that he knows a little more than he is letting on, like a private joke only he knows the punchline to. One eye doesn't look quite right, you think it might be glass, but you're not sure - but there is something unsettling about his gaze.

A little bit like this.


Working with Odin, I have found that he enjoys offerings of mead (especially homebrewed) and tobacco. I usually offer a weekly offering on Wednesdays in the form of a cigar and mead from my own stores. The last few weeks have been hectic with work and personal stuff, and I have been remiss in my offerings.

Well. Oops.

In the run of a year, I may see 3 people smoking cigars on the street. Maybe. Cigarettes, sure. Lots of those. But I may see someone from a wedding party or a tourist light up a cigar on the street once, twice a year.

This week, I have seen 5 bearded old men smoking cigars on the street. One of them was wearing an eyepatch. Yes, really. I try to look at everything with a critical eye, but really - there's coincidence, and then there is something slapping you upside the head with the desire for you to pay attention.

You think someone is trying to tell me something? Yeah. I sheepishly already have the cup set and ready to go for Wednesday.

This is part one of my modern Gods series. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The world is a scary place sometimes.

This world is a sad place this week. After spending November 11 thinking about the sacrifices people have made to keep peace, the rest of the week was full of terror and sadness - Beirut, Baghdad, Paris, Japan, Mexico. Terror brings out the worst in everyone.
I'm going to repost my (slightly improved, without character limit) diatribe from Twitter last night, and that will be the last thing I say on this matter.

So many people are willing to cry ‪#‎notallmen‬ and ‪#‎notallwhitepeople‬ but are okay with lumping Muslims into one group. Please actually explain to me how that makes any sense. Please explain how an entire group of people are responsible for the actions of few. No one wants to be judged by the bad apples of their bunch. Holding 1.6 BILLION people accountable for the actions of maybe 1000 total is wrong. There were 7 people involved in the attacks in Paris - there is no way to tell if any of those people were Muslim. One may have been Syrian, and one was a French national. That is all we know.

If that's the case, white people, we are fucked. We have to be held to genocidal standards. Meaning the enslaving of entire peoples is on us. Most of the fighting and unrest is because of us, because of colonialism and us believing that our race, our culture was better and more worthy. We do not have the right to treat other groups like sociopaths, because look at what our ancestors did. At what we wrought. I don't like being told that I am responsible for what my ancestors have caused. Instead, I try and be better than them and do better. I abhor racism - I will not stand for it, I will call it out, I will fight against it - because it makes no sense to judge someone based on the colour of their skin as opposed to their actions. If we all judge people by their actions as being a part of the colour of their skin, all white people would be neo nazis or anarchists as most of the terrorism in this world has been perpetuated by white nationalists or political dissidents.

23% of humanity is Muslim, most of them being from Indonesia. Let's not judge them for the .01% of them that are rotten. Being Muslim now is like being Jewish in the 1930's or Irish in the 1900's (or 1960's-90's UK), or the Romani people pretty much always. Why do we need a cultural group to try and marginalize? Why do we need to allow racism control us and drives us to disenfranchise so many people? Why do we need to allow the actions of a few dictate a generalization of the whole?

Let's be better than racism. We need to be better. Be more compassionate. Be more accepting. Be less prejudiced. Stop letting ourselves be controlled by fear. Let's stop blaming 23% of humanity for the actions of 6 or 7 people tonight, actions that almost all of that 23% abhor and disavow. Let's work on building an understanding, because you cannot fight hate with more hate. When we live in fear, we live with hatred, and the terrorists win. It is easy to hate, it is easy to be racist, and to let distrust drive you. Do the difficult thing - be better.

To quote a great philosopher: "Be excellent to one another."

Be better than the hatred, be better than the fear. We are all human beings, try and remember that.

Mes ancêtres sont venus de France, il ya 400 ans à la recherche d'une nouvelle vie. Ils étaient des immigrants. Ensuite, ils se sont déplacés à cause de la guerre. Les réfugiés ne sont pas le problème. Les extrémistes sont. Placer le blâme là où il appartient. Les réfugiés qui fuient les extrémistes.

Ce qui rend mes ancêtres français mieux que les réfugiés syriens?

Rien. Ils voulaient tous sécurité et le bonheur loin de la guerre.

Je me tiens avec Paris, Baghdad, Beirut. Je me tiens à la justice. Je suis contre le racisme et le profilage.

(My ancestors came here from France 400 years ago searching for a new life. They were immigrants. Then they were displaced because of war. Refugees are not the problem. The extremists are. Place the blame where it belongs. The refugees are fleeing the extremists.

What makes my French ancestors better than the Syrian refugees?

Nothing. They both wanted security and happiness away from war.

I stand with Paris, Baghdad, Beirut. I stand with justice. I stand against racism and profiling.)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hal-Con/ Samhain Mischief

October has been a strange, strange month.

It has been a month of incredible ups and downs.

Firstly, I had a lovely vacation back on my island home. It was lovely to see the people we did. It was relaxing.

On the flip side, lots of changes happening in my life. Nothing I can really get into, as the people involved have not announced things publicly, but it's got me feeling mixed up inside. Happy, but very very sad. It is the culmination of that Death card popping up, and it makes life a little more dim.

All things said, I feel like taking some time off was a great thing. It gave me time to deal with things, gave me time to feel things (which is so important, guys. So many people don't allow themselves to just feel how they feel, good or bad. It can make all the difference.), and in the end, was a good thing. I go back to my day job (hopefully temporarily) on Monday with trepidation.

This past weekend has been a flurry of activity. Hal-Con has been on, and we've gone for the past few days. I'm usually not great with crowds, but I felt like no point was exceptionally crazy. I had a few instances of there being just too many people, but I got over it and moved on quickly without incident. I am not a crowd person, and I'm pretty introverted. I spent 10 hours there on Friday and 8 today. I'm supposed to go tomorrow too, I got the weekend pass, but I am feeling utterly wiped by just being there that I don't know if I can muster it. It is super fun and worth the cost, but I may just need some quiet time tomorrow.

Tonight, on Samhain, my coven went to the public ritual that was being held. My city has had one since 1997 - some have been phenomenal, some have been just okay, and some have been absolutely wretched. The gentleman who usually runs them does a great job - he's had some off years, and some fantastic years. I have not been to a public event in about 4 years (because the community is full of racists and cowards who shelter them), but we thought tonight might be fun.

It was an amazingly good time! We danced, we sang, we offered to our loved ones, to the gods. We scared a few normal onlookers (I heard one man say to another 'let's get out of here quickly'). We drew a crowd of onlookers. I got to light stuff on fire and wave it around. The drummers was phenomenal. It was a great crowd.

We came home after, I made the traditional cider (though maybe with a bit of spiced rum this year!), we ate a meal and drank together. As the coven drifted off into the night and I was left alone with my time, I set out offerings of mead, tobacco, and wine for my gods and ancestors. I lit candles and sang their praises. I burned sweet offerings to them. I then asked for their guidance, and shuffled my tarot cards, asking for guidance on the next year.

Tonight brought me the Emperor, asking me to take a leadership role in my own life and my future; and the Page of Cups, asking me to be more open and self-loving about the process and to others. I need to build a strong relationship with my future, and be structured and diligent about maintaining.

As I wait for my candles to burn low, I thank my ancestors and gods and spirits. I drink deeply of their knowledge and experience, and seek to learn what I can from them.

As the clocks tick back an extra hour tonight, I am rejoicing in an extra hour of sleep. I grow more and more tired as the minutes tick on, so now seems the time to pour myself into bed to awake to a new month with new possibilities.

Mischievous Samhain blessings to you (and holler at my Beltane readers in the land down under!). Dream of your loved ones tonight.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A word about books

I have made no secret of my love of books. I love most books more than most people.

Which is why I will be glued to Rue and Hyssop all October. All month, Jen is doing the Great October Book Giveaway. If you love books as much as I do, get your butts over there and enter to win some free books (and check out the rest of her blog too, because it's pretty darn great).

Gotta support my fellow Canadian witches!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Low key Harvest Home

September has been a weird month for everyone, I think.

Retrograde has not been kind to pretty much anyone I have spoken to. It's been a rough one, trying to remind ourselves to thinking before speaking and not locking ourselves into any long-term commitments or signing any paperwork. It's never ending game of chasing people, pleading for connection. Holding your tongue and your opinions to yourself, even if you feel you shouldn't. It's wild.

I have been pretty open about my mental health in the past, on my previous blog. I have an anxiety disorder and depression, both diagnosed by multiple doctors and psychologists. My recent work schedule had me working all evenings, pretty much opposite of everyone else I know, and weekends - when everyone I know is off. After almost two months of it, I was a raw nerve. I am an introverted person, but I was spending 90% of my time alone, not speaking to my husbands for days. I was feeling isolated, lonely, and burned out. My stress and anxiety are good bedfellows and play well together, so I was getting sick and run down. I ended up calling someone, who hooked me up with a counsellor/therapist. After speaking with her, and my very understanding workplace, I have opted to take 6 weeks sick leave to work with the therapist on a weekly basis to get myself in better shape mentally.

Mental health can be a bit of dicey subject for some people, but I have always thought it would be better to be open about it. It's like any other illness. If someone has diabetes, it's not usually treated with shame or skepticism - anxiety shouldn't either.

So with my ample time off, I've been working on some psychological exercises. I've been working weekly with my therapist. I've been trying to connect with friends I don't see often. I have been doing a huge purge of my apartment - 2 car loads to the charity shop. I've been trying to spend time with my loved ones. I'm headed home to PEI for a few days next week to see some good friends we missed at the weddings.

I've been trying to relax, but that is not something that comes easy. The universe has some funny timing about that.

We (our coven) opted to skip our regular equinox celebration since everything was crazy, everyone was busy, and retrograde was bringing the bullshit. This past Sunday, we opted for a day trip to the Annapolis Valley to do some apple picking. It's always an activity we enjoy, because it connects us directly with the harvest. Plus, eating all the apples our bodies could hold.

I lived in the Annapolis Valley for 5 or 6 years about 20 years ago, and it's one of those places that always feels like home to me.

Afterwards, we drove around to a few little spots, but spent a lot of time enjoying the valley views.

This cow was hilarious. I would moo at him, and he would moo back, and then the field of them would all moo, and I would crack up.

We rolled back into the city, content and full of fruit, the trunk of the car jammed with fresh produce to make many, many tasty things from.

Sunday night was the lunar eclipse, so we wanted to go out and watch it.

Remember how I said the universe has some funny timing? As we were walking down the stairs to the car, I missed a step and fell down the stairs. Yep. Full on fell. I was carrying photo equipment at the time, so I ended up slamming my metal tripod into my shoulder, twisting my knee and slamming it against the stair, hitting my elbow against the wall, and landing on my camera and tripod on my hip and ribs.

Ow. Just ow.

Other than some severe stiffness and soreness, and some bruises starting to form, I am in one piece. Nothing broken, didn't hit my head, surprisingly no photo equipment damaged. I won't lie, I am extremely sore. I can't carry anything, I can't stretch or bend over. I pulled my neck when I fell, so sleeping is difficult. Sneezing is excruciating. My knee was swollen for a day or so. Now I just feel like the bruises are starting to settle in.

So of course, I rested.

Yeah, right. I went out and took some photos. I won't spam with a bunch of eclipse photos, but we were slightly out of town, the stars were beautiful.

So I clearly came home and rested yesterday and today, right?

Nope. I canned. Well, DPM helped with the pickles. Baking is a creative stress release for me. I love it, I find it relaxing, and I especially love doing it this time of the year. Like the proverbial squirrel, I'm wanting to make and freeze all the things. 

Apple sauce, apple butter. pickled carrots, garlic dill pickles, apple jam, raspberry jam.... not pictured is the basil tomato sauce I made for the freezer.

So I got a pretty good stern talking to tonight from my husbands. They want me to rest tomorrow.

Let's be real, here. I'll probably make pie. I am terrible at relaxing. That is precisely why I am on leave from work - to relax. Tomorrow I do want to bake, but I am forcing myself to bake really easy things that require little movement. Maybe I'll make some pan rolls in the bread machine (for the dough anyway), and make a pie or some turnovers or something. I still have half a bag of apples to use up.

Or maybe I'll listen to everyone yelling at me, and spend the day on the couch. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015


Tarot is an odd thing.

Sometimes, it's half truths and promises. Other times, it hits the nail so firmly on the head one would think it was destined.

I have had a rough week, which culminated in something I held dear crumbling apart like dry mortar. My voice was not being heard, so I bowed out. It has been a source of stress and heartache for me, which has led me into being here at home, sick with a cold and lacking a voice above a whisper.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

Often in these times of trouble, I look inwards, and looking inwards often involves tarot. I have always viewed it as a great introspective tool, one that can help you see beyond what your surface feelings might be showing you, into the crux of how you feel. It can show you situations, confirm or contest feelings you may have.

Over the last 3 days, I have drawn the Death card 3 times.

Death as a card never scares me, aside from the sudden change it can bring. It's always an ending, sometimes a needed one. I know there is an ending or transformation coming, and I am best preparing myself.

Death almost always necessitates rituals for me. Tonight, head full of cotton, I head down to a sacred place to severe my ties to the past, as the rain mists down. In silence. I have procured a new tool to do just that.

Autumn is change. It is the new moon. New beginnings. Change.

I have a choice. Wallow in heartache, or pull myself up with fire in my fists and burn anew.

There is no choice here.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Give me a break.

I have written about this subject a number of times, and I feel like yet again I need to pull this post out and repost it - originally written in 2011!

I am growing really tired of all of the bickering and elitism that seems to be rampant in the online pagan community. It's been particularly bad in the last 5 or 6 years.

I started really noticing it on tumblr. 'Oh, you aren't a real Wiccan because you weren't initiated by Gardner himself'; 'My practice is so much more authentic than yours because I get my information from seances where I contact the dead philosophers themselves and fact check'; 'If you are not of Scandinavian stock, you cannot practice Asatru or Heathenry! Lol Hitler lol'. 

Then I was noticing it on Facebook. 'Oh, I can't use a dish, I NEED a thurible. Why does no one have this expensive piece of equipment?'; 'Oh, you can't read THAT. If you aren't reading everything in it's original Greek, you're a poser'; 'If you aren't initiated, I don't want to hear your opinion.' Or this delightful piece.

Seriously, people. Fuck off.

I am all for checking your practice. What I mean by that is validating your practice using various criteria. Is it culturally appropriating in a destructive or offensive way? Do you have at least 2 accredited sources to fact check your mythology and methodology? If you are a reconstructionist, you generally do this anyway, but I think it's a valuable habit to have. I'm also not saying that there is no wrong way to do things - there definitely is a wrong way to do things. A lot of these paths are very self driven, and it's a lot of work. It is up to you to educate yourself on the proper ways to do things.

My issue comes from people claiming you need to be initiated into some mystery tradition (like Gardnerian Wicca) to have a valid opinion. Not being Wiccan, I'm obviously not initiated into anything like that. I'm a member of a tradition I created - I have done dedication rites to my gods and spirits within the structure of that. However, if someone is a solitary practitioner and studying Wicca, dedicating themselves to that path is within their right to do. They couldn't dedicate themselves to the Gardnerian mysteries, but they could certainly take the rough framework and be a solitary eclectic Wiccan. I do believe that to be the part of a specific lineage (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Seax) you need to be initiated into that lineage by someone of that lineage. It's not something a solitary can do. It would be like trying to be a Catholic without receiving any of the sacraments.

However, in no way can anyone presume to tell you how you talk to your deities. It's exceedingly arrogant and privileged to tell someone that they cannot be a Wiccan because they weren't initiated into a coven. If you follow the Wiccan belief structure, and live by Wiccan ethics, you're a Wiccan - in the same scenario, if you believe in God and follow the Bible, you are a Christian. Denying someone the right it believe whatever they want is a way to exert control over someone else - and it's being a dick.

My favorite example to give is this - say, for a minute, you're living in a tiny town. The nearest city with any significant population in 6 hours away. You live below the poverty line with 2 small children. No one will teach you online, you must come and learn in person. In order to get any training in Wicca, you would have to make a 12 hour trip (there and back) weekly for 3 years. What are you expected to do? Choose between feeding your children and learning Wicca? Or, perhaps,  you could make 1 trip into the city and buy 2 or 3 books. Over the next few years, you could learn from those books, and chat with others online. You could develop your own practice, following the guidelines of Wicca.

When you start making Wicca (or any occult traditions) elite, you start making them only available to the rich, and it becomes incredibly difficult to take anyone seriously. If Gardner could see how weirdly fanatical orthodox fundamentalist his followers have gotten, the rolling in his grave could power Glastonbury. Gardner disliked the church because of it's elitist practices.

It's not just Wiccans - there is a certain snobbery that goes along with traditional witchcraft as well. Most traditional witches are solitary by nature, and it seems the more 'dark' and 'into dead stuff' you are, the more witch cred you have. It's a lot of bullshit that turns into screaming matches about who is more witchy than thou. Commence eye rolling.

Now, I'm not saying that mystery traditions shouldn't be selective about their members, especially those running covens or groves. I'm simply saying that focusing all your energy on what other people are doing, and none on your own practice kind of negates the reason to have a practice or tradition in the first place. Listen, I don't give a shit how you practice. The only thing I care about is how I practice, and how I honour my own experiences and my own deities. Life if short, as I have just learned. Stop spending all your time worrying about how I practice, and worry about your own gods.

To each their own, right?

Raymond Buckland started teaching Wicca to the uninitiated because he was tired of the hierarchical bullshit inherent in Wicca and realized that in order to grow and change, it needed to be presented in other ways to different kinds of people. Does it ‘dilute’ Wicca? Sure, I guess, if one can ‘dilute’ such an abstract concept as knowledge. Keeping things ‘as they have been’ is the issue that the Catholic church has been running into for years - you can’t run something like it’s still in the dark ages. ‘The old ways’ are not necessarily the best ways. Society has to grow and evolve somehow.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Unreasonable Expectations

There are a number of things that are true about Pagans.

We are demanding. Many of us are unreliable. We feel that our own knowledge often trumps the knowledge of others. We are rampant complainers. Generally, Pagans have high expectations of local and national (and sometimes international) festivals, rituals, and workshops.

We, dear Pagans, have unreasonable expectations.

I'll throw a little personal anecdote out there as an example. This happened a number of years ago.

I used to run a group with 2 other people - both of whom I have known for a long time. We held monthly meetings and the occasional public ritual. We worked very closely with one of the other groups in town for over 3 years.

This one witch, for whatever reason, decided she needed to write some pretty unkind (and untrue) things on her blog about how we ran our group. She called us cliquish and self-centred. She called our topics mundane. She said she didn't connect with us, and every meeting she had been to has been about environmental stuff or planning stuff (which may very well have been true - I had seen her at a grand total of 3 meetings). 

As organizers, we worked closely together to co-ordinate meetings and rituals. There is a deep sense of trust and reliability when you are working in close quarters like that for awhile - these are people I can do magic with, you get used to the rhythm of how their minds work. That's not cliquish. Our meetings were always open to the public, and we had always been welcoming to others coming to meetings - otherwise, why have a public group? Why not start a private group, called a 'coven'. We have seen people come and go. We had a few repeat guests, so we got to know those people the most because they are the ones who showed up. If someone didn't connect with us, that's no fault of ours. Unfortunately, a group cannot fulfill every need or niche. So if it doesn't work, why not leave it at that?

This was on a volunteer basis - we didn't get paid to do this. It took up a lot of free time, between running meetings, writing and running rituals (plus all the planning that goes into those) that if we were doing that for attention or to fulfill some narcissistic need, we could have chosen a much better vehicle to do so. It is a thankless job. We all worked full time, or were full time students with other extracurricular activities on top of this, plus time for regular family and friend interaction.

 As for topics, we had had over 30 topics in 3 years. All different, ranging from Men's Mysteries and the role of men in Paganism to the Paranormal, or holidays and altars. We didn't really do social coffee nights, or talk about magical mystical faerie princesses. No one wants to work all day, and then go to a meeting for 2 hours to hear people yak about their kids or their cats or whatever. It was a spiritual group - we addressed spiritual topics.

This witch could have come to us directly, or taken us up on one of the multiple times we had asked  the group at large what they would like to see us do or talk about. Instead, she took to her blog and aired her grievances, and guess what? Nothing came of it. Nothing changed. She complained for the sake of complaining. Shortly after, she started her own group, which fizzled out in 2 months. Guess she learned that that kind of thing is a lot more time consuming than she thought.

Fellow organizers (past and present), does this sound familiar? In my experience, working with the public for 16+ years and volunteering running a spiritual organization for over 5 years, people are never satisfied. There is always something not quite perfect, or not quite to exact specifications or imagined value.

Pagans in particular are very critical of one another. We expect perfection, and offer many a nuanced critique, but we fail to see the actual issue. We do not value our volunteers, the people who do what they do for the sheer joy of it. We all think we can do better, but when the time comes to step up and take the reigns, we are nowhere to be found. Of course. This is a giant part of the dysfunction in many modern pagan groups - when people don't share the work burden, you end up with organizer and volunteer burnout. Of course, when the free events and rituals stop happening, people complain that they aren't happening. Well, no shit, Sherlock. When you treat people like shit, what do you expect? You expect those people to just put up with the multiple people bitching at their efforts without once offering to lift a hand to help? Would you?

 One of the first things I tell people when they start to complain about these types of things - if someone is willing to do what the group is doing, to the quality of how they do it, or do it better, go ahead. What's stopping you? That is usually enough to either shut someone up, or to open the doors for all the excuses to pour out. "I'm so busy, though." Oh, and I guess all of these people who spent the last year planning for this event just sit at home and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for something to happen.

Of course they aren't. They are students, they are parents, they have careers and families and responsibilities just like everyone else. Like, really. Give your head a shake.

I know many people who have been student organizers, people who have run public events or weekend retreats. That shit is a lot of work. Even a priest or minister has to pre-prepare their sermon for the week. It's not like people just stand up and open their mouths, and the right words just brilliantly come tumbling out. People spend days, weeks, sometimes months working on these things to try and have them run as effectively as possible. On top of all of that, who do you think provided the candles and matches and snacks? Providia, the goddess of potlucks and witchcraft ritual supplies, did not suddenly appear and wave her hand and make it appear. Those things were purchased or made by the organizers.

There is the expectation of perfection. When people say "well, yeah, or COURSE I can do it better" and step up to do it, only to find out how much work it is, they either flounder and quit; or they start to realize that all the shitty stuff they were complaining about was really shitty to complain about and they pull up the ol' bootstraps and put their heart into it.

Honestly, I wish more people would be willing to run and help put on events and rituals. Yeah, it's scary for the first few times (but so is anything the first time). You shouldn't let that stop you from trying. It does get easier. No event is perfect, but volunteering your time and efforts can make you truly appreciate the time and effort that others put into free events. I'm not saying everyone has to be centre stage, but something as easy as making a batch of cookies for hungry participants is always appreciated.

Some events and rituals are poorly planned and terrible. Sometimes that happens, despite everyone's best intentions. Sometimes people who have no business running a dishwasher, nevermind an event or ritual, are put in charge - and they make some poor planning decisions. I'm not here to say that every free event is amazing. People can honestly and truly drop the ball and leave people feeling wretched about the whole ordeal. In those situations, you can make the choice to complain about it, or to do better. Everyone makes mistakes, and even with the best of intentions, things can end up tits up. It happens. Give people the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to make amends (unless something abusive or terribly offensive happened, in those cases something should be said and the offending people should be avoided like the plague). People have off days. Sometimes luck is not on your side. I have made stupid mistakes, I have run some terrible fucking rituals - all despite my best intentions and preperation. Mistakes are there to learn from, so it's best for organizers to own up, explain, and do better next time. On the participants end, if something went horribly wrong, it may have an easy fix. It's better to approach an issue with suggestions of a solution than to just complain about the problem. It certainly makes dealing with the organizers a lot better and causes a lot less drama.

There is the last option.

You could also say nothing at all. You could be thankful that you live in a place that events like that happen, for free, and just take what is given. That is an option. 

At the end of the day, these people are volunteering their time and efforts to provide you with something that you could do yourself, but with an added benefit - community. You should look at the offering as hospitality, and you should do your best to honour someone's hospitality. You wouldn't walk into someone's house and take a dump on their offered meal, so choose words wisely when addressing an organizer. Some opinions do not need to see the light of day, and complaining about it without addressing the crux of the issue will do nothing but cause hurt feelings and eventual burnout. It could even mean the end of local, free events.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Handfasting and general updates

Us, with some lovely flowers from D's pops after our ceremony.

One wedding down, one to go.

Back on July 25, I got handfasted to my sweetie, D. He is an amazing human being, and I am so so lucky to have someone like him in my life.

It's been a weird journey. Coming out to extended family as an alternate family unit was difficult. People we thought were trustworthy and loving turned out to be, well... not. There's been a bit of a schism between D and a few members of his family that's been a difficult thing to adjust to. There are many, many people who know about us, and who have been supportive and loving and accepting in the last 10 years. D's mum, rest her, was the first person he told, and she was lovely about it. Many members of his extended family have taken the time to message us and tell us how happy they are for us. Combine that with our chosen family, our coven, our parents... it's been a lot of love on all sides. The familial blow up over the past few weeks has been difficult, but I am so proud of my now husband for standing up for himself and asserting how he feels. He can be a bit of a pushover for the sake of harmony in many situations, but this was something that immediately got under his skin - and he can have a bit of a temper when something gets under his skin. The last 2 weeks or so have shown me the angriest he has ever been since I have known him. There have been many late nights of him ranting and raving about how floored and angry he is about this, how hurt, and what damage has been done.

Me? I just feel utterly betrayed. I had a lot of trust and love placed in the people involved, and it's never a fun or welcome thing to find out that kind of thing is misplaced. To be painted as something I am not is never a fun thing, but unfortunately, it's something I have practice in dealing with. I am just staying out of the conflict, doing my own thing over here, and hopefully it'll be resolved, eventually. The friendship I had is dissolved, though, and I don't think we'll get that back. That's something I have to deal with, in time. Betrayal and lies never sit well with me. I'm a loving person, and I am a good person. I wear my heart on my sleeve in a lot of ways. I am forgiving - and almost always willing to do so - but I never fucking forget. Ever. My mental rolodex is organized by the wrongs done.

All that nastiness aside, it was a lovely ceremony presided over by GarmsTears. We gathered in a local park. It had been pissing rain all week, but the rain held off for 5 or 6 hours, even opening up to blue sky during the ceremony. A raven flew overhead, croaking a hearty approval. Our coven sister DragonLady took some pictures. Afterwards there were hugs, tears, and joy. After that, we had a picnic of cupcakes and finger foods (and we snuck some wine in too!) and sweet tea. We chatted and shared time with everyone, and then we tidied up and walked along the lake to catch a bus home. It was really, really nice.

Our altar. We wanted it sort of inconspicuous and general, but we did want to include D's late mum. The handfasting cords we picked out. The box holding our rings was given to me by D's father after D's mum passed, and belonged to her.

This is my favourite picture of the whole day. D is reading/sobbing his wedding vows (and quoting one of my favourite movies, The Princess Bride), I'm beaming at him, and behind me is my soon-to-be-husband, partner of 17 years, DPM, radiantly smiling at both of us.

Exchanging rings and swearing oaths to one another in front of witnesses.

Being bound through handfasting.

Kiss kiss!

Life has been blessedly quiet since that point. August is going to be a busy month, with people visiting, trying to catch up with all those folks, and making plans for marriage #2 in September, the legal one. Thankfully, no ceremony. Just off to the courthouse for a quickie, or 'to sign some paperwork', as DPM is fond of saying. The paperwork and courthouse cost a bit of change, so there is  the cost for that we're saving for. I also had to order rings - 2 for myself, and one for DPM. I have the ring I got for my handfasting (I ordered it from Etsy a while back - very simple little silver ring with aquamarine), but it's shape makes it difficult to pair anything with, so I ordered a beautiful set on Etsy of two rings, one for each. Sterling silver with a floral design, and one of the rings has a piece of mystic topaz in it. DPM's ring is a handmade titanium piece, also from Etsy. Our family is coming over, we plan on having a family lunch and a big dinner with all of our friends. It'll be fun.

I've been trying to finish up my reading. I just finished the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman - they're making a series and after reading the books, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm currently reading Armada by Ernest Cline. His first book, Ready Player One, is one of my favourite books ever. So far, Armada is a fast read - a little derivative of his first book, but still enjoyable. The characters are great. A lot of comparisons to Last Starfighter and Ender's Game. When that's done, I've going to try and read Goblet of Fire in french. I've been trying to brush up on the language - it could be very handy in my current career, and I used to be fully fluent - and reading a book I've read a million times should be helpful.

After that, I have a whole bookshelf of books to tackle. I wanted to give my brain a break from the non fiction for awhile. I have a few fiction books to pick through, stuff I ordered awhile ago when I was picking through Goodreads recommendations, but I still have to finish a book to complete my yearly requirements for IDGAF, but I have a few (just a few? ha!) to choose from.

I'm going back on Eifnir in a few weeks to talk about Skyrim and Elder Scrolls. That should be a gas. I haven't had much of a chance to play any games lately, but I've been thinking about picking up Animal Crossing again. DPM's been obsessed with Pokemon lately. I've also been thinking of picking up something else. D really enjoys Uncharted, so I may give that a go.

That's about it, I think. I have another article in the works, but I think that's a few weeks off. I don't think I have anything else to cover.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Unsolicited Criticsm and opinions

Me, every time someone feels the need to express their unsolicited opinion.

So I have been recently dealing with some criticism in my personal life over my choices. It's been a bit of a thing, but it has ended my relationship with an extended family member. I have had some other things happening in another sect of my more immediate family that I do not agree with, but I have held my tongue (because it's none of my business) which have been kind of weird as well.

So I got to thinking, because I like to take things like people being assholes and turn it into a lesson that can apply to other people and other situations. There should be a way to turn something wretched into something you can learn from. It's not about putting a positive spin on things - sometimes, things just suck and there is no turning that frown upside-down. It's about taking the situation, removing the emotion from it, and using it as a blueprint for other, similar situations so you can have a plan for how to deal with these things that crop up in the future.

I thought it might be a good thing to talk about dealing with unsolicited criticism and opinions about your choices, your life, and your craft.

I really believe that the choices we make in this life are ours to make. I think too many people are willing to stick their noses into things they have no business being wrapped up in, and it causes more grief than it is worth. Everyone feels their opinion is valid, important, and needed. This is not always the case.

People should ask themselves these four questions before the open their mouths/type away on their keyboards:

- is it true?
- is it kind?
- is it needed?
- is it something I need to say?

Opinions or criticism should have some grain of truth to them. They should be constructive (aka kind). They should be necessary - and actually necessary, not just because you feel 'it's the right thing to say', and it should be something that you feel you are required to impart to the party receiving it.

How do you know if it fulfills these simple requirements?

Firstly, and always, you need to look at where the criticism/opinion is coming from. Is it someone you trust, or whose opinion you value? Is it some random stranger? Why do you think they are saying what they are saying? Have you decided to become a drug mule or join a crime family, or did you just get your hair cut short or paint your bedroom? Most times, when these things are coming from trusted people, like family members, they are coming from a place of love. Most times. Because they are family, there is a certain expectation that their opinion carries more weight. When your old Christian aunt is telling you that you are going to hell because if your beliefs, it could be coming from a place of love. It could also be coming from a place of condescension. Maybe auntie thinks your beliefs are stupid, or silly, of that you aren't capable of making your own decisions? The key is learning to interpret the tone of their concern, and act accordingly.

My old Catholic grandmother, gentle soul that she is, told me at 14 that I was going to hell because I would not get confirmed. It was so matter of fact, with not a lick of condescension. She merely said she would pray for me, hugged me, and we both moved on with our lives. It came from a place of love. The recent drama of a few months ago came from a place of condescension and foolishness, and it was rebuked.

Secondly, use your own critical thinking skills and judgement to determine if the criticism/opinion holds any merit. Sometimes people around us try to present us with situations that we may be otherwise blind to. Maybe you're culturally appropriating something and it's offensive to the people around you and to that group. Maybe something you present online or in person is actually super racist. Maybe your practice includes some manner of hurtful or harmful practice, and people are concerned for your wellbeing. Maybe you're mentally ill, and off your meds, and people are concerned for you. We can't always see things that are right in front of us, and sometimes it takes an outside observer to clue us into what we may be missing. There are valid points in being criticized - we often learn from it in a beneficial way if it is constructive and seeks to better you as a person. Hell, a large portion of my schooling was learning to take constructive criticism, which is super important as an artist who works commercially. Not everyone is going to like what you present, or agree with your own opinions.

Thirdly, you have to realize that you have every right to disagree or rebuke the criticism/opinion. If someone is disagreeing with how you are practicing, you have every right to tell them to go pound sand. Depending on the source, you should be able to decide how you want to act. It also depends on how forceful or backward the opinion is - if the person is family but is holding a bigoted and hurtful opinion, you have every right to disagree with what they are saying, and explain to them how they are incorrect. Opinions are not factual - they are not immovable, or static. They are moveable and should be ever evolving. If they then refuse to alter their opinion, and choose to continue to hold a hurtful viewpoint - for example, they're racist, homophobic, bigoted, sizeist, etc - you can make the choice to be willing to accept that as a part of who they choose to be, or move on in life without them.

Now, I have a pretty strict policy on just cutting people out of my life. Part of that reason being I spent a large portion of my life being a doormat and letting people treat me poorly. I decided a long time ago that life was better spent with those who can respect me and love me rather than out of obligation. Life is too short for bullshit. I know I am a good person who deserves to be treated with the dignity and respect I seek to treat others with. I will not lower my standards to expect any less. Second chances are given, but if someone wounds me badly enough, no amount of 'I'm sorry' is gonna cut it. I can always forgive, but I have the memory of an elephant and I will never forget.  (Short version: I know I'm a good person, and if you treat me like crap I will cut you.) 

How you choose to proceed is your choice. Always know that as an adult, you have the choice to have a relationship of your choosing with family or friends. Some families suck, some people have had abusive upbringings or have been kicked out by parents, and it's not feasible to maintain a relationship. There is no obligation - no one owes anyone anything. You owe your parents nothing - the gratitude for bringing you into the world and raising you is fine, but that was a choice they made in having you. Realizing that is liberating, and can also set you up to address issues and problems that could be hurting your relationship with family. It can help to form real and lasting bonds built on mutual respect and equal footing. The same goes with friends - they are people you choose to surround yourself with. How and what relationship you choose to have with them is just that - your choice. The quote 'the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb' comes to mind - we often build secondary families outside of our blood relations who we often have stronger bonds with because we can choose those people based on their merits and that they closely align with our own sensibilities. I have relatives that are crazy conservative, pro-life nut jobs, I have an aunt who physically and emotionally abused me as a child. I actively make the choice to disavow those people because we have no common ground to stand on - we are so vastly different there is no way to reconcile it. We are blood, but we are not family, if you get what I'm saying.

I should also point out that not every opinion should be aired. Sometimes, there are things you just need to keep to yourself. Yeah, okay, Susie's hair does look like it was cut with a weed whacker, but telling her that will only hurt her and serves no purpose other than to be judgemental - maybe Susie likes her hair like that. Assuming you know better than Susie makes you a dick, because Susie is her own person and can do whatever she goddamn pleases with her hair. Maybe Joe's altar looks tacky and cheap - still not your place to comment, because that's Joe's space and has nothing to do with you. Unless it involves the serious well being of someone or involves you directly, it may serve better to keep your opinions to yourself.

In the case of this criticism coming from an outside, anonymous source - I normally evaluate it, but often ignore it. It is hard to make personal judgements on someone without knowing who they are. If the person is actually making a really good point, even if it contrary to how I feel, I will take it under consideration and use my critical thinking to evaluate it's usefulness. I try to approach all of my problems in a logical, matter-of-fact way. I often try and put myself in someone else's shoes  - like if I was an outside observer in the situation, how would I react? If you remove the emotion from the situation, and look at the words said and the intention behind them, you can get a fairly clear sense of what you should do.

I'm not advocating cut and run - not even remotely. I am advocating personal choice, and telling you that if you are an adult, it is okay to make that choice if it is better for your wellbeing overall. Don't keep people around out of obligation - it serves neither of you any purpose, and just builds resentment. It breeds guilt and doubt. Cut the ties, move on, and maybe someday you can get to a point of reconciliation and trust again - people grow and change as life and circumstances change.

When you are expressing your own opinions, remember those four points - is it true, kind, needed, and are you the vehicle to impart it? It makes conversations and discussions a lot more functional, that's for sure. Anything that can make socially awkward people communicate effectively deserves a high five or self five.

I'm going with self five. Socially awkward FTW.

Friday, 10 July 2015

So I'm getting married. It's legit a thing.

So, I realize that I don't talk too much about my home life - that's for a lot of reasons. It really doesn't have any bearing on what I write about. My home life is sort of complicated, and I've been sort of hesitant to talk about it for a number of reasons. I figured that it's been long enough, and I am old enough not to give an actual shit what people think of what I am doing. I realize that were I to talk about my upcoming nuptials without context, people may get confused.

So here is the lowdown.

DPM and I have been together for 17 years. Since high school, actually. We didn't really like each other at first, but as these things go, we grew to like each other, to become good friends, and eventually to have real feelings for one another. He is a beautiful, kind, and intelligent soul with a calm stoicism that I appreciate. He has always had my back, but he is not afraid to tell me when I am doing something stupid or misguided. We moved in together back in 2000, after I graduated high school, and we have been common-law spouses since around 2001 sometime.

We discussed over the years the prospect of getting married, but it never really appealed to us. As we have grown older, we thought about registering a domestic partnership. We had the paperwork printed out, but life has gotten in the way and it got put on the back burner. As we were watching the fight for equal marriage rights unfold in the US, we came to see that a domestic partnership is really not the same rights or privileges as a marriage. So, after 17 years together, we have decided to legally marry in September. It is a courthouse deal with the family, nothing insane, but a nice meal out that night to celebrate with our nearest and dearest friends. Nothing huge, but perfectly us.

Now, I have mentioned before that I am in a different sort of relationship. I have a second partner, D, whom I have been with for 10 years. We started out as friends after I had a rough summer and was on medical leave, and it blossomed into real feelings. He is bright and sunny, goofy and giving, with a heart of gold. We have been talking about our options for a few years - on all government paperwork, he is a single man as we cannot be legal partners or legal spouses. He files as single on his insurance. We do nothing illegal. However, we wanted to celebrate our partnership, so we have decided to plan a handfasting for this summer - purely a spiritual ordeal, no bigamy charges forthcoming. Again, a small and simple affair with a member of our coven officiating and a BBQ afterwards.

Just to clear up some things. It's not:

- a cuckold situation, so don't even go there
- illegal
- easy
- an open relationship
- immoral, as we are all consenting adults
- about sex
- anyone's goddamn business

It is:

- pretty much our choice to do what we want, as 3 consenting adults

We consider ourselves as family unit - we share finances, we go to family events together (and yes, our immediate family knows), we care for and support one another. Our friends are supportive and lovely. We don't even really think about it as a weird dynamic, until someone says something and then we remember that this is not the norm for a lot of people.

Now, you can like this, or you can not. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter to me. I am happy. They are happy (why would they want to marry me otherwise?). In life, it's all about being good people and finding love and happiness where you can. Score 3/3. Judge, or don't judge. The people who know us and love us support us, and that is all that matter to me. Anyone else can just mind their business and go pound sand.

...on the upside, I am getting to do something I never thought I would do, and I get to do it twice in two different ways. How cool is that?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Crafting Pagan Ritual

What is ritual?

A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community.

It is driven by a mindset – to celebrate a holiday/season/special day, to create and execute a spell, or to honour a deity (or other spiritual guide or being). Normally there are certain parameters that are established (a circle, a boundary), and certain actions taken, depending on tradition and personal beliefs. It can celebrate a rite of passage (a birthday, for example), and usually has lasting traditions (birthday cake, candles, presents) that can be repeated year to year (month to month, etc).

Really, let's be frank; a ritual can be anything.

For me, a ritual (in a spiritual sense) is a space to create a psychological mindset so that I can focus on my intention, and get my purpose done.

When do I create ritual?

You create ritual to celebrate an occasion, to mark a holiday, to honour a deity, or to raise energy for an intended purpose.

A ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle and saying a prayer, or as complicated as a mystery play with multiple participants, costumes, and several songs. It is dependant on what you choose to involve, and whom (if) you choose to involve.

Purpose: The Necessary Ingredient


Without a purpose, you do not have a ritual. A ritual without purpose is like a ham sandwich without ham – sure, the bread, mayo, and mustard are edible, but they are not as good, as nourishing, or as satisfying without the ham. In fact, they suck. You can attempt to do a ritual for any old reason – but trust me, it will go nowhere fast without a clear purpose.

Purpose gives you something to focus on. An example: Beltane is May 1. I may decide to do a ritual to mark that passage in the wheel. So – I could say 'my purpose is Beltane!'. Or, I could go one better, and say 'Hm. Beltane is often associated with fertility – my purpose is fertility!' Or, I could go even deeper – my purpose could be the specific gods/goddesses (Demeter, Green Man, Hathor) associated with that holiday – so I could be petitioning for their help. My friend Sally could be trying to have a baby – I could use her as a focus for my purpose.

You want to have a clear purpose, and you can narrow the focus as much as you like. However, I have found that in larger, more public settings, it is better to have a focused purpose that is more general – more along the 'fertility' option. The other participants may not know Sally, or perhaps they want to focus on their own fertility. It still gives the ritual a structure and a place/concept to direct the energy, but it allows it to be more accessible for the general populace.

Psychologically, the purpose gives our minds a place to go to – and allows our imaginations and visualization capabilities to fill in the blanks. It helps us to figure out how we want to picture the energy, and how exactly we want to send that out to the universe. Piggybacking on the Beltane example, I often visualize fertile energy as green energy starting at my sacral chakra. It gives us the freedom to work with the energy as we want, but allows us to work towards the same goal.

In personal ritual, it is just as important to have a purpose. Being in ritual headspace all the time is exhausting – if you are working a spell or honouring a deity, you want to conserve that energy so you have no issues raising it when needed. It would be the equivalent of going to a mall with no purpose – not to shop, or browse, but just to wander aimlessly for hours and hours. You end up tired and cranky, and that bleeds into your ritual work.

An example: One year, I decided to do a ritual. No real reason, just wanted to do one. So I cast my circle with my wand, and just.... sat there. I didn't have a purpose, so I had no focus. I ended up just sitting there, stewing about something that had made me angry earlier, and that energy just got supercharged. I got angrier and angrier, and ended up channelling so much of this into my wand that it snapped!

My Magic Formula

To be fair, this is a pretty old formula. I just molded it to fit my needs.

This is a classic example of the visualization of plot. As in, a literary device. 

Almost any ritual can be slid into this formula – it represents any purpose, and gives a clear beginning, middle, and end. A ritual is simply a story being told in a poetic way to illustrate a purpose. This graph is your best friend.

Building ritual from a skeleton

Let's break it down simply.

The introduction: This is where you set your stage. You decide if you want a circle to create sacred space, and how to do that. Some people prefer the 'hand to hand I cast this circle'. Some prefer taking their pointy tool of choice (finger, athame, or wand) and going around the outside. Some people hand a ball of yarn around so that it is a physical representation of the circle.

You also decide how to call your quarters. They can be as simple or as flowery as you like. They can be creative – a few rituals we have done word association.

Decide on what gods/spirits/beings you want to call into your space. This will be relevant to your purpose. Make sure the beings get along – don't call opposing entities to work together in cohesion – I guarantee it's not happening.

Direction: This is simply your statement of purpose. It can be as simple as 'we are here today to celebrate Imbolc' or as complicated as “We gather here on Brigid's day to celebrate the turning of the wheel. We have come to honour the gradual warming of the earth, the persistence of the coming spring, the waning of the ice and cold of winter's grasp. At Yule we honour the gifts of darkness, and today we honour the gifts of the light.” This is the statement that puts the celebrants (or yourself) into ritual headspace.

I also like to explain any activity that will be done, and why we're doing it. Like, if we're going to be singing a chant, I pass out sheets with the words, or teach people the words, so we aren't stumbling when the critical point arrives.

Rising Energy: This is when you are ... well, raising energy for your purpose. You're chanting, singing, meditating, whatever. The point is that your focus is on the purpose, and you are channelling life into that.

Climax: The release of energy into the universe. Pretty self explanatory.

Denouement: The falling action – the part of the ritual that is essentially used to help people ground. Often, people will serve cakes/ale, or hold a meditation, or simply ground.

Completion: The end of the ritual. You thank your deities, dismiss your quarters, take down sacred space, and thank the participants.

These terms make up the skeleton of a ritual – they are key points that keep the ritual cohesive. This ensures a clear beginning, middle, and end. Use these key points to initially create your ritual, and fill in the rest as you go along. I find writing out (and blocking it) is extremely helpful.

Samhain, 2006

Altar is decorated with black cloth, scattered leaves, gourds, acorns, apples, and black and orange candles. In two candleholders, there are taller black tapers. A variety of breads and fruits for feasting on a pentacle. A lit black pillar and unlit white pillar sit near the tall black tapers candles.

Intro: Outline your circle with bird seed and salt. Cast the circle (using athame) and call Quarters (simple calls)...... invoke the Crone aspect of the Goddess by lighting the black Goddess candle... invoke the God by lighting the black God candle.

Direction: Explain the significance of the holiday (using script). Set the scene using props (apples, boline). Statement of purpose (the honoured dead, those who have passed, death as a cycle). Explain myth of Persephone.

Rising Energy: Bless the food. Begin chant (likely Hoof and Horn). Have drummers to keep beat. Slowly chant faster.

Climax: Send energy to focus. Have everyone raise their hands and shout.

Denouement: Snuff black pillar (old year). Light white pillar (new year). Pass around blessed food to enjoy.

Completion: Thank God/ess. Dismiss quarters. Drop circle (using athame). Hand out leaves to participants.

Meat : Now safe for vegans

Now here comes the actual work of the ritual writing – the meat. By meat, I mean all the decisions that need to be made about what is in the skeleton. So you're going to call the elements – how are you going to do this? Is it freeform, or will you have a script? This is where you write that script. You need to block out everything, down to where people are standing and what people's jobs are.

This part can take research. It can be really easy if you are writing for yourself – most of the time you can do it freeform, or read it off a paper. In a larger setting, this can be a challenge. I will get into the type of people you need in a later section.

The script gets written – depending on how eloquent you are (or how eloquent you want it to be), this can be a challenge. If you need someone to pass things around, or need someone to perform a specific task or chant, that has to be included here.

Think of it this way: you're making a sandwich. You have decided on the type of bread you want, and the condiments you want – what do you want to be the main part of the sandwich? Is it ham, beef, sprouts? Do you want to shaved, cut, or raw? What kind of cheese do you want, if you want it? Aside from the purpose, this is the most important part.

Drama: why it is necessary (and not the crummy type)

It's all well and good to write out a beautiful ritual, but actually running it is another story. Any great story or play is going to have drama, and you had better sure you have some as well.

When you are looking for other participants to play parts in your drama, you need to be sure that you are choosing the right people. Can these people read with passion and conviction, or do they have the stage persona of a wet dishrag? With encouragement, anyone can show promise – but when you are running a ritual for other people, it is very important your ritual has a good flow and is suffused with enough passion and zeal. Nothing wrecks a mood like a quarter-caller who reads with the passion of a banker's box. Practice your ritual before the big day – DO NOT leave it until the last minute. You want the ritual to feel confident and effortless, so people should know exactly what they need to do and when. Being unprepared shows in your ritual – you are directing the energy, and you want to keep the revellers on point. Having everyone read through their parts a few times so they don't stumble over words or lose their place in ritual will keep the energy flowing – but most importantly, it will keep everyone in what I call 'ritual mindset'.

Ritual mindset is the psychological state we enter when we enter a ritual. Many things can effect this – sounds, smells, visuals. I knew someone who would instantly go into a meditative state when he smelled benzoin. This is why there are people in robes, a decorated altar, drummers and bell ringers. All of these are tools to keep you focused and intent on what needs to be done. I have written about this in my past article The Importance of Ecstatic Ritual.

Every religion has it's own pageantry – paganism is no different. Catholic priests wear ritual robes and often carry censers of frankincense and myrrh up the aisle of the church – Jewish men wear the yarmulke as a pious custom. These 'costumes' are ways to differentiate the religious leaders from the flock – in paganism, we often wear these clothes to symbolize the shedding of the mundane and stepping into sacred space. This is not to say that I would not have the ability to lead a sabbat ritual in jeans and a t-shirt; I certainly could, but would people seeing me, in jeans, automatically think 'ritual'? Doubtful.

Sometimes, donning ritual jewelry, a robe, a cloak, or even all black clothing is enough to non-verbally communicate 'we are in a sacred space'.

The fear: or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the Gods

Here it is – you're standing in front of a group of 5, 10, 30 people. They are looking at you expectantly. You're pretty sure if you could, you'd pass out from fear. Renée, you ask, how do you get past this?

Honestly? I am a pretty shy person, and every ritual is a challenge for me. I find it hard to speak in front of people, and I have screwed up so many times in ritual from fear and nervousness – I can't even count. You are your own worst critic – nothing is ever expected to be perfect. The god/esses are not going to judge you because you said south when you meant north. I also find laughing it off, or a little self depreciation works just fine. “Oh, ha, I had a dream I visited Australia last night – still running in Aussie headspace!

Mistakes happen. We are all human, and any other expectation is unrealistic. Just focus on having fun. If you've done a few runs of the ritual, you should be comfortable enough to lead with little issue. Every ritual is a celebration, and if you spend the time worrying about every little thing, you're throwing the wrong energy out there.

A Final Note
I have been involved in the community in the past, running and assisting in public rituals. Community was always my focus, and it is my goal to make people understand how much work goes into a ritual, but also how easy it can be to create the ritual, either for personal or public use.

Please note that this article is based on my own experiences and methods. If something does not work for you, or if you disagree with my opinions or thoughts, that is okay! It is all about giving you a basis so you can learn to create and nurture your own methods!