Friday, March 30, 2012

Gratitude and Being Grateful

Gratitude is a word many of us think we understand, we have heard our parents or some other adults at some point in our lives talk about how we should be grateful for the things we have or we’ve heard them talking about how so and so is ungrateful and doesn’t deserve the things they have.  But often we had no idea what it meant to be grateful. We just knew we weren’t getting what we wanted and sometime we didn’t always get the things we needed.

In either of those contexts the words gratitude and grateful are being used with a tinge of guilt added to them. That tinge of guilt is thrown in to remind us to stop asking our parents for things they don’t believe they can afford to provide for us or in some cases for things they really couldn’t provide.

I suppose you are wondering how this fits into my magick practices. For me gratitude is something I had only halfheartedly included into my spiritual practices as an adult. I thought if I said “thank you” for the blessings in my life that would be enough. The problem with that is I rarely was able to see anything in my life as a blessing. I had become so accustomed to not receiving the things I wanted that I never really believed what I had was anything I should be grateful for.

I spent most of my time bitching and moaning about how I was just barely surviving financially, or how my job just sucked because of a variety of reasons. I never seemed to be able to find anything to be grateful for or about.

I spent a great deal of time saying “thank you” for things I didn’t want and for situations that were sometimes unhealthy for  me simply because I was told that if you weren’t grateful for the survival style life I was living then somehow things would just get worse and I sure didn’t want that.

I don’t remember where or even when I started seeing gratitude come up in my magickal studies. I do remember that I saw it mentioned in nearly every book I picked up to read and in every reading I received (didn’t matter the divination method).

The face of ungratefulness
Yes, there were great descriptions in the books I read, from books on spell craft by Laurie Cabot and other magickal authors to books and radio programs by Louise Hay,Wayne Dyer or books and CD’s from Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham). I had all but given up on the idea that my life could be filled with anything but the very basics for survival and mediocrity.

I still thought I was being grateful. I had no idea what it really meant to be grateful.

After hearing about “The Secret” for over two years and ignoring the nudge I was receiving from the Universe, I finally broke down and bought the book and the movie. I remember watching the movie and feeling something inside me shift. I suddenly understood that just saying “thank you” isn’t enough if you don’t really like or want the people, things, and experiences you currently have in your life.  

I also learned that you need to “feel” gratitude and being grateful isn’t just an intellectual process.  This was a new concept to me. I hadn’t really felt grateful for anything since I was a small child and I really wasn’t sure what I was remembering as the feeling of gratitude was really gratitude.

I tried feeling gratitude for things I didn’t have and wasn’t experiencing in an attempt to make my life seem more tolerable. Looking back it really wasn’t that bad, I was just in a really screwed up place. What I didn't understand was that this doesn't really work unless you can find even a tiny portion of your experience that you are truly tankful for and really feel it.. even if it is something as tiny (or as big) as being glad you have a place out of the weather to sleep for the night.

Nothing worked… the Vision Board I created was fruitless, the spells I cast didn’t work, the never ending mantra of  ”I am grateful for my job”  only seemed to make my job steadily grow worse.

I finally gave up on all of it…. I gave up on me… I nearly gave up my life…

I ended up having an appendicitis attack, quit my job and stayed home for six months. I was in counseling and ended up taking antidepressants to get me through the first couple of months.

During this time I started my spiritual search again. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, and I wasn’t sure I’d find it…. I hadn’t felt a connection to divinity in over five years.

I watched “The Secret” again and was reminded that it hadn’t answered my questions in the past and still didn’t hold the answers I was looking for. I think it was because I had received the message in its fullest the first time and it was time to look deeper. I read some books by the authors mentioned in the movie and started to understand a lot better what this elusive emotion, gratitude, might really be.

I began to recognize that there were thing I used to take for granted in my life that I really enjoyed and these things made me feel a certain type of happiness… I took notice of these things and pretty soon I understood this feeling was gratitude and when I felt this emotion, things seem to magickally happen the way I wanted it to. I also noticed that when I allowed myself to fall back into the old patterns of not recognizing this feeling of gratitude, then things just seemed to go all wrong.

I then found out that the creator (Rhonda Bryne) of “The Secret” had written a third book (The Magic) in the series and since I had read the first two; I figured I might as well read the third. Well… I did… and I am currently working the exercises in the book. I am halfway through the recommended 28 day time frame … and I am finding that I now experience gratitude on a daily basis and it has become more common for me to feel gratitude than it is for me to feel the ungrateful, deprived, judgmental and desperate feelings that used to be the normal feelings I experienced.

I don’t know if the shift in the way I experience life really has anything to do with “The Magic” or if it was just time for all those ideas, spells, affirmations and exercises from the past to come to fruition. I tend to think it is all of the above, but more importantly I believe it was my deep desire to actually experience something that would change my life by allowing me to be happy right where I’m at.. Ultimately allowing me to open up and allow more people, experiences and things in my life to enhance my feelings of gratefulness…. right where I’m at…

Have a Wicked Good Day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Familiars and how I understand them

This is the second week of the letter F for the Pagan Blog Project. I’ve considered a few different subjects. I finally settled on Familiar and what a familiar is to me.

The common definition of a familiar is an animal, often a cat, that is a witch’s helper in magickal workings.  I have come to the conclusion that the term familiar is something that started out to be a completely different relationship altogether. 

Miriam-Webster defines Familiar like this:

Definition of FAMILIAR

1: a member of the household of a high official

2: one who is often seen and well known; especially : an intimate associate : companion

3: a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person

4 a: one who is well acquainted with something
   b: one who frequents a place

Both 1 and 2 seem to be a pretty good place to start with an understanding of what a familiar is. 

I believe the term familiar originates with wise men and women working with animal spirits, and “others” (clergy, conquering tribes or those not of the practice or area) describing this practice in a way that sounds like the wise person is working with a living animal.
A witch and her familiar spirits.

In the past it was thought that witches could shape shift into the form of a cat, particularly a black cat. I’m sure this is because cats were common place in Europe; they helped to kept pestilence down. There is also some thought that places frogs and other small creatures as the familiar spirits of witches.

You also have this notion that witches are flying around on brooms at night and cats and many other creatures associated with witches are nocturnal creatures, so it would make sense to link these from a superstitions standpoint or from a place of condemnation.

So, back to the working with animal spirits…. Many healers, wise men and women, shamans, medicine men and women; from many different cultures have worked with them. Sometimes they are thought to be totem animals, animal spirit helpers, or representative of clan affiliations.  
Witches and their familiars

I believe the term, familiar, became associated with magickal workings with living animals, based on a misinterpretation or misdirection about working with animal spirits. I’m not saying that working with a living animal is not possible, nor am I suggesting that they cannot be representative of the spirit of a particular species in a broad sense. I am saying that often traditions from the past are told by people on the outside of the particular belief system, and there is misunderstanding and misrepresentation when an outsider of any community or belief system retells the practices or beliefs.

I grew up with a variety of animals on the farm and in the wild areas around the farm, and of them all, the cat and I never hit it off. I’ve had several cats in my life on and off and I will admit... I am not a fan of cats… so for me the idea that familiars are primarily feline, just doesn’t work.

I have worked with living animals in my magickal practices, but I do not include them in my workings unless they have made it very clear they wish to be included. I more often work with the broader understanding of the animal species.  I tend to think of these animals spirits as partners and sometimes as extensions of myself. 

I know my understanding of familiars is not the same as most people have, but it is how I work with my familiar, totem or partner animal spirits.

Have a Wicked Good Day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Equinox 2012

This year the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox as most of us know it is marked on most calendars for today (3/20/12). It happened to be at its apex in AZ (where I live) at 10:14pm yesterday (3/19/12) this year.

Because of the time difference caused by the time zones, I started my Spring celebrations yesterday and carried them over to today. Yesterday was an interesting start to Spring for us here in Southeastern AZ, we had a really good snow storm that lasted most of the day and into the evening, covering the local mountain ranges, (The Huachuca Mtns, The Mule Mtns, and the San Jose Mtns) it even flurried in the River valley (San Pedro) where I live.
on the way up the canyon

Normally we do not have snow this late in the year and this year is a surprise because it has been such an exceptionally mild winter. I’ve been out in the yard in my shorts and T-shirt a few days this month.

My nine year old daughter, Jolene, and I started our Spring celebrations by coloring eggs. By the time we had our eggs dyed, the snow was coming down pretty good and my oldest Son (Albert) showed up with my his daughter (Leilani), who is also my oldest grandchild. We watched the snow fall and talked about going to play in the snow in the mountains. When Chris (Fiancé) and Travis (youngest son) got home from work we did decide to head up to the Mtns to play in the snow. After bundling up and deciding on which canyon to go up, we headed out.
Can you feel the Magick?

As we got closer to the mountains I started to feel the Magick. I can’t describe it any other way. I know it is a local Mtn deity, and this deity is sometimes male and other times female. I am not sure if this is a pair or if this is one deity.

I hadn’t felt this particular entity in six years; I haven’t felt any divine energy in five. I’ve been plugging along and trying to get through my daily life knowing that at some point I will reconnect with some form of divinity.

Huachuca Mtns.
Yesterday marked the sixth year since I had felt the connection with the Mtn deity. Six years ago I was in some turmoil over a Magick Shop I owned. I had started this shop online and had built it up for several years. In 2004 I opened a physical location for the shop and in 2005 took on some business partners. A lot of things went on within the business until the spring of 2006. At this time it was clear to me the partnership needed to dissolve and that meant I would be handing over my business to my partner. It was a difficult decision, but one I finalized at the community Equinox Celebration in the Huachuca Mtns.

Sun, Moon, and  South marker
One of the local covens was conducting the ceremony and many others were in attendance for the ritual. A friend and I chose to support the ritual by climbing up the canyon wall and drumming for the duration of the ritual. The whole time we drummed the snow fell thicker and faster. This would be the last time I participated in the general pagan community in my area.

When we arrived in the canyon yesterday, I could feel the energy of the area, it was almost palatable.

Chris, Leilani, Travis, Jolene, and Albert
Right way I took Leilani and Jolene over to the circle. I was surprised and pleased to see that someone had been using the fire pit and I saw that two of the directional markers as well as the sun and moon rocks were still in place. I felt as if I had come home. After the guys all showed up in the ceremony area, they started snow ball fighting and just having a really good time.

Me, Jolene and Leilani near the circle

I didn’t cast the circle, nor did we have ritual there, but we did have great family time and I was so pleased to share this sacred place with Jolene and Leilani for the first time. I did leave a small offering of hair pulled from the nape of my neck in one of the trees.

Today I looked out at the mountains and could feel them again as I did yesterday. It’s like this separation from divinity has been ended. It ended at spring equinox six years ago during a snow storm and was renewed yesterday during a snow storm. I am looking forward to building my relationship with the Mtn. deity, whoever she/he/they may be.

Huachuca Mtns as seen from my yard this morning
Spring Equinox Altar
After Jolene hunted and found all our colored eggs, many of them with magickal symbols drawn on them, we used them in our Equinox ceremony. After smudging our altar and each other Jolene and I placed  Blue for water in the west, green for earth was in the north, yellow for air was in the east, and pink was in the south for fire. I know fire isn’t pink, but it is as close as we could get with spring colors. We also placed the green egg marked for the green man on the right and the pink egg marked for the goddess on the left.  I’ve never really included a male deity in my workings, and since this is a time of balance, I made this the first time to include him, with the intention to make a connection with the male aspects of deity.

Jolene being a friend of the Equinox Rabbit
We blessed her candy rabbit (white chocolate) and a glass of milk for the goddess and a cup of coffee for the Greenman. We chose coffee for the Greenman in honor of my fiancé, the green man of our family. He loves his coffee!

After this was done we took the drinks outside to our outdoor circle and sprinkled them all around the parameter. At each of the four directional markers we left an offering of a fresh egg, and in the center we left a huge carrot for the birds and animals who might want it... We also gave our horse Bubba carrots along with his breakfast. He was really surprised, but gladly ate them right up.

This year we baking sweet egg bread. I'll let you know how it turns out in another post. ;-)

I hope your celebration was as special as ours was.

Have a Wicked Good Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

What is a fetish?


What is a fetish?

Fetishes are created by the Zuni people in New Mexico and Arizona.  A Fetish is a representation of animals or other spiritual beings. They are usually carved from stone, with the most common being serpentine. This is because of the abundance of this particular mineral in the Zuni Mountains.

Other materials used in making fetishes include Turquoise, corral, jet, jasper, pipestone, bone, antler ivory, and other local minerals and materials. Turquoise is considered the most sacred of these materials used.

The most common fetishes are representations of animals. These small carvings are thought to contain the spirit of that type of animal and it is important to feed the fetish and keep it in a safe place. When feeding the fetish it is thought that an offering of cornmeal and ground turquoise is best.

When I feed my fetishes I often give them small amount of the foods they would normally eat if in animal form.

There are fetishes for clan affiliation, hunting fetishes (to insure a bountiful hunt), and for protection in conflict. Often the neighboring Navajo traded for fetishes of sheep, horse, goats, and cattle. They felt the fetishes, if cared for properly, would protect their herds.

My Horse fetishes
Traditionally the fetishes are kept in a clay pot, but I have found that the fetishes I have like to be in a small basket. I have two fetishes, both horses. These are not just representative of horse energy in general; they are representative of Sir Prize and Buddy.  Sir Prize was my first horse and Buddy was the first horse I purchased on my own. I had had ponies when I was little, but they were always a cranky bunch. Both of these horses were my best friends and lived their lives to the end with me. I keep their fetishes with a lock of mane and tail from each one.  

Many of the fetishes available today are produced for the tourist and art collector trade. This means usually they have not been created with the intention of connecting with these energies. It does not mean these effigies can’t be charged or aligned with the animal spirits they represent.

Bear fetish w/feathers
When working with a new fetish it is important to cleanse the fetish as you would any other magickal tool. I like to use a sage and sweet grass smudge, but you can use another form of cleansing if you feel called to do so. I would suggest that before you use water or other liquids that you inspect your fetish for feathers and other organic materials that may be damaged by liquid.

In the case that the fetish you are working with may have been created with the intention of magically or spiritually representing a particular animal; it is important to honor these energies and ask if they wish to stay and work with you prior to you cleansing the fetish.

After you have cleansed your fetish of any residual energy, you will want to spend some time getting to know your fetish. Often they have their own personalities, as well as representing a particular animal energy. Once you have made a connection with your fetish, it is time to “feed” it. Again this is commonly done with cornmeal and ground turquoise, but you may find that a bear fetish prefers berries or small pieces of salmon. My horses like hay and grain and sometimes really want carrots or apples. 


Animal figurines at Perdigões Portugal

It is also important to remember that you do not have to purchase a Zuni made fetish in order to work with fetishes. Cultures from all over the world, Including other Native American tribes and tribes from Europe have used similar effigies to work with the animal spirits in their home area.

Have a Wicked Good Day!