Sunday, 5 June 2016

What I Did Last Samhain... and Plans Going Forward

Bright Blessings and Warm Greetings to you, dear reader!

We are now at the beginning of June, and thus the beginning of Winter here in Australia. We have had a few nice cold days, which have been lovely. It doesn't get freezing here, but I love to pull the jeans, jumpers, boots and scarves out of the closet.

My daughter Adele was born on the 6th of April, and I have been somewhat quiet on my blog and in the IDGAF community ever since (understandably, I suppose). She is now 2 months old. I will have to blog about my birth story sometime on my other blog, but I won't do that here, except to say she and I are both doing well and we are settling into life as a family of four.

I have been having some trouble finding time to read, but also having trouble concentrating on what I'm reading and retaining the information. However, I think that is changing... I have a cold at the moment, which I think has slowed me down, and on the weekend I got the chance read a relationship book called The Five Love Languages. I then went on to read some of the book Evolutionary Witchcraft by T. Thorn Coyle, which I am finding a wonderful read. I discovered the work of T. Thorn Coyle a couple of years ago when I was right into listening to podcasts and I came across her Elemental Castings Podcast. At first I thought the whole Feri/Reclaiming thing wasn't for me, but surprisingly to me I really loved her podcast and I now have massive respect for her work. I have already read another of her books, Kissing the Limitless, and I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, mostly in terms of the positive perspective on life that she fosters, her focus on discipline and diligent regular (if not daily) spiritual practice and her compassion and commitment to service of the planet and those less fortunate (in any small way that's possible for you).

So far, in reading Evolutionary Witchcraft I have read about some practices that are vastly different to what I have done in the past, which I am looking forward to trying out. She also endorses some very simple practices (such as meditating in the shower and visualising washing away your cares), which are great for busy people. I firmly believe that even if you're a busy person that doesn't mean you can't practice the craft or be spiritual... especially when you can make small things sacred and make every moment magical and special as much as possible. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book, and also reading Ritualcraft by Amber K. I really want to get better at formal ritual, although at present with my time constraints I have a very free-flowing practice that is working well for me.

In the month of April here in Australia we celebrate ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), and my husband and I took the kids to a Parade. I find this very much in the spirit of Samhain, just in terms of honoring the dead and the sacrifices they made and paying our respects. At Samhain I made a pilgrimage to my local cemetery, where I took a long meditative walk (it's a large cemetery that backs onto a beautiful park), photographed some water lilies that were growing in a nearby lake, and collected some dirt from atop a grave (for which I left an offering of patchouli leaves from my garden).

That night, I made tacos for dinner, with homemade guacamole and we ate together as a family. Everyone didn't stay silent in the tradition of the dumb supper, mainly because we need to prompt my young son to eat! I left the graveyard dirt at my altar with my other graveyard dirt, and lit candles. I have been running low on black candles. Luckily I picked up some cute little black chime candles half price from Loot Homewares the last time my husband and I went there. What an awesome find! They will be really great for my workings (and for next Samhain if I have any left). I use black candles rather frequently, to release negativity.

I am very much looking forward to Yule, and to continuing my reading. Because of my concentration issues, I can't always read. I can however listen to podcasts, watch people on YouTube and read the odd blog post here and there, so that I am always learning, always thinking and growing and evolving as much as possible. I am planning some gifts for notable people in my life in keeping with the Yule Tradition. I may just bake cookies (which I haven't done since I was still pregnant)! I have been limiting my time on social media, since it can be such a time waster that takes up time I could be doing other important things (reading, gardening, spending time with the kids, keeping the house clean and staying on top of chores), as well as having face-to-face interactions with people, which I am trying to increase. As a mother with small children a lot of my face-to-face interactions are with other mums with babies, talking about poo. Needless to say, I like to balance this with anything at all not related to poo. Haha!

My mother-in-law has been unwell recently, she has commenced smoking again and is on the brink of pneumonia, so I am staying away while I have a cold. Fortunately she has a marvellous friend of the family staying with her at the moment and helping to care for her. I'm not happy about the smoking thing, and neither is my husband, but I guess it's her life and we have to accept that she's going to do what she wants to do. I may have contributed to her stress by arguing with my sister-in-law (in a spat that has mostly now been resolved), but ultimately she made the decision to pick up the cigarettes again. I just hope we still have a matter of months left with her and not weeks. We love her to bits.

Yesterday I was going to stay home and just read more, but my husband talked me into going to the annual Eco Fest held at the Tondoon Botanic gardens (where we got married 6 years ago). I'm glad we went. I always enjoy seeing the stalls and learning more about how we can look after our environment. The highlight was meeting Costa Georgiardis (a television presenter from the show Gardening Australia) and hearing him talk.

His talk was very interesting, he talked about our values regarding buying food, and went on to talk about community gardens and teaching young people and kids about food gardening.

Hopefully I'll get through the next few months and be OK. It's almost election time here, which always gives me the shits because I don't like being lied to or not having viable options.

Thank you for reading. Blessed be!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Transitions and Shifting Energy

Greetings and belated new year blessings to you all! So I am finally getting around to updating this blog for the first time since moving to my new house. Needless to say, the move was a pain in the butt, but now that I'm on the other side of it I'm so grateful to be getting settled in and preparing for a better future in our new living space. We've mostly finished unpacking; we haven't set up the new baby's room however, and that makes me slightly nervous since I'm at the start of my third trimester now! The pregnancy is still going well. I can't complain too much, however I am experiencing a few more common pregnancy complaints (back pain, tiredness etc.) with this pregnancy than I did when I was pregnant with my son over three years ago now. I don't know whether it's because I'm older now or if it's just down to it being a completely different pregnancy and baby, but I'm already looking into my options for long-term contraception so I never have to do this again! I am overjoyed to be having another baby and looking forward to meeting her, and I'm mostly doing really well mentally and emotionally (apart from being a bit sensitive and prone to tears), I think having 2 kids will be an amazing blessing and I am facing the uncertainly of the future with serenity rather than anxiety.

I have been keeping up with my reading as a part of my requirements for IDGAF membership. The most recent books I read were: Spirits of a Sacred Grove by Emma Restall Orr, Inanna by Diane Weinstein and Samuel Kramer, and The Book of Lilith by Barbara Black Koltuv, PhD. These were all relatively short as well as being easy-to-read, so I got through the former two in a matter of weeks and the latter in a matter of days. I aim to read something a bit longer next. I have Ritualcraft by Amber K lined up, which I am told is an easy and fun read despite being long. 

Spirits of the Sacred Grove was an absolutely beautiful and evocative read. I had a lot of moments where I closed the book and sighed before reading on because the passage I had just read was so gorgeous. Even though it's not a thourough how-to guide to Druidry and other Earth-Centred religions, it had a lot of examples of beautiful rituals featured that could always be adapted, and it was utterly inspiring. I plan to read more books by Emma Restall Orr in the future because I think she's such a great teacher of Pagan theology and cosmology, and she explains her thoughts and ideologies so beautifully.

Inanna was a beautiful translation of the hymns to, and stories of, the ancient Sumerian Goddess Inanna. The first part of the book retold these stories, illustrated by beautiful art from this time period (all of which an appendix at the back of the book explained), and the second part of the book was an historical account of life and religion in ancient Sumer. The stories were brief but entertaining, and you could see how they could be worked into rituals and workings (although I haven't tried this yet). The second part of the book was a surprisingly easy read as well. Like the book Helen of Troy (which I read last year), despite being a historical book, it was a juicy and delicious read that really brought that time period to life for me. I saw this book on someone's Instagram feed and decided to read it. I'm glad I did!

The Book of Lilith was quite brief, but it was a basic break-down of the myths and stories about Lilith taken from the Talmud and other historical sources. The main thing I got out of it was personal insight into and an understanding of why I am drawn to Lilith and working with this often maligned female figure as a Goddess energy. To me she represents the shadow side of not just femininity, but humanity... the side of ourselves that disobeys and chooses the path of freedom, even though this may come at a cost. The downside to this book is that it was brief. There is a lengthier book specifically about Lilith called Which lilith?, not sure if I'll get to read it though as it retails for over $100!

Since getting settled in at the new house, I have maintained a regular spiritual practice. This involves daily meditation, journalling, working with tarot and oracle cards and prayer/invocation to my Gods and Goddesses and to the divine as I envision it: both as the Earth and forces of nature, and universal source/spirit. I'm finding it very spiritually enriching to have a regular spiritual practice, even though it is quite basic and simple. I do mean to get back into more formal and complex ritual (which is why I want to read Ritualcraft), and the main reason I haven't is that I don't have my main altar set up yet. In the new house I have a whole room to use as an office, spare bedroom and sacred space, however I have decided to give my old bookshelf with the toy chest underneath to the new baby (so both of the kids will have one). I have a new bookshelf on order which will have a drawer underneath, which I think will suit my purposes even better, and I think it's going to be slightly bigger which is great! So it will just be a little while longer and I will have my new altar to put all of my books and ALL THE THINGS on. I am going to sort through my books and keep all the "reference" books that I turn to regularly in my practice on that bookshelf. I'm exited for that, but in the meantime I am making do with what I have and enjoying a spiritual and magical practice that's not quite so outward, but quite internalised and introspective if that makes sense. It may even be a bit New-Agey rather than hardcore Occult and Pagan, but with everything I have going on right now (what with my Mother-in-law's illness and the pregnancy and the move and all), I am doing what calls to my soul and works for me at this present point in time, and I don't think I need to apologise to anyone for that. Here is a photo of my current altar set-up: 
I have my stone pentacle on there, with some stones, shells and crystals in the wooden bowl and strewn on the altar, with some candles (I'm using beeswax tea lights right now, yum!), incense (I either use stick incence, palo santo or sage), card decks (I mix it up with the decks I use every couple of weeks or so, since I have made the decision to intentionally and purposefully amass a modest collection of decks and I have so many now) and two Goddess statues, Isis and Lilith, which to me not only symbolise their specific energies and archetypes, but the archetypes of the Goddess of Light & Life and that of Death, Darkness and the Shadow (if that makes sense). I don't have a God or masculine divine archetype present at the moment. I believe He knows He is always in my heart and will be represented prominently in my sacred space when the time comes. I watched a very interesting video just today talking about feminist spirituality and how the dualism of divine feminine/divine masculine can be seen as heteronormative. This isn't the case for me, but as someone who wants to be inclusive of people and sensitive to issues of gender and sexuality, it's something I want to explore more and be acutely aware of. It's funny how you can be a practicing Pagan for years and years and still have aspects of your spirituality that you feel you know so little about! For me that's part of what keeps it exiting though. There's always more to explore and learn.

My garden is quite neglected and overgrown at the moment, partly because my husband's mower is at the shop getting repairs, but also partly because we haven't gotten out there to tend to it much as we spend most weekends with hubby's mum; and frankly it's been bloody hot and humid and it's hard work for a pregnant lady to get out there and weed the damn thing! I am lucky that none of my plants have died. I took some photos, and it's beautiful in it's own way, but I am looking forward to having a nice manicured garden again, haha!
At my old house I had rosemary planted in the ground, which grew huge and beautiful. I took a few cuttings hoping it would strike, and luckily one did, so here is it's progeny.
This is my mugwort, with some purslane next to it. It's still alive, I can say that much. Luckily I have a shitload of it dried, since it's one of my favourite magical herbs, so I've got plenty to keep me going until I get this one re-potted and growing better, perhaps in a shadier spot.
Common garden sage. Effective in lots of workings, even if it does remind me of a roast dinner.
Three of my plants that are growing better in the sunnier garden: two roses and a desert rose. I'm looking forward to seeing them flower.

I'm feeling called to grow some cacti in the new garden for protection, although I'll have to sort something out so the kids can't touch them. Magical protection is something that I had been sensing a need for in recent months, but I wasn't quite sure what to do about this feeling until recently. I had always gotten by with a few simple sachets of herbs and carrying stones with me, and to be honest, I was quite wishy-washy and blaisé in my approach... I was previously of the mindset that I was safe from other people's negativity and psychic/magical attack unless I believed I wasn't (and I still think this is true, up to a point), however in recent months I had the persistent sense of something being not-quite-right energetically and feeling ill-at-ease in a way that was affecting my state of mind. I tried taking practical steps towards rectifying this and asked for advice from virtually everyone I trusted (I even sought out a reading on the matter from a trusted witch); in the end what worked was inner work (on the "astrals", if you will) on forming strong energetic barriers and protections, calling in my Gods, guides, ancestors and departed loved ones and holding very strong visualisations that I am energetically safe and protected. I feel that this experience was a spiritual test that I had to pass, and I'm glad I maintained my wellbeing throughout it. Realising that magical protection is actually a necessity for me and that I have to take it seriously has made me wiser through experience, and I'll continue to trust my instincts as well as my learned wisdom.

With the coming of this new year, I reflected on the spiritual goals I have met during the past year, as well as the goals that I have moving forward into the new year. I am proud of myself for making regular spiritual reading a priority, as well as having a regular simple spiritual practice and daily meditation. Those are things that I have wanted to do for a long time, and even though I am reaping a lot of benefits from those practices, reaching my spiritual goals is also a reward in itself. This new year I want to study the tarot a lot more and get serious about doing more regular formal rituals. I also want to make time for daily yoga asana practice and have a better morning routine. I am taking steps towards these goals, and I have the IDGAF community to thank in no small part, for making me accountable in a loving and supportive way. I'm reading the book 78 Degrees of Wisdom and I bought a daily yoga planner. I'm already taking steps towards having a great morning practice that makes me feel good and sets me up for a great day (rather than feeling crappy in the morning and taking hours to become productive). I'm looking forward to ending this year having worked on my spirituality and self development even more.

We're not sure how much longer we have left with my husband's mum Earthside. A few months ago they told her she might pass right before the baby is born (at the end of April) or right after. Luckily she has now had some radiation which should slow down the progression of her cancer and give her a bit longer. It has also alleviated a lot of the symptoms she was having, such as mobility issues and difficulty speaking. Unfortunately, she now has a burning sensation in her throat and chest, which I hope passes soon. I am going to send her some healing during my meditation tonight. Today I asked her if I can have a necklace of hers to pass on to my daughter one day. I was really nervous and almost cried asking her, but she was glad I asked and she said yes. My sister- in-law was there and she's happy for me to have that necklace too. I'd rather have my Mother-in-law around for my kids to know in years to come than a dumb necklace, but I'm glad we'll have something to remember her by.

Well, I was hoping this blog post would be a bit more polished and feature photos of a completely set-up house and flawless garden, but that's life, and life is beautiful and filled with magic even if it doesn't always look like what you expect it to! Thank you for reading, and I wish you love and blessings. :) xx

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Cancer and Chaos

It has been a while since I've blogged and I wanted to let you all know what has been going on.

My husband's mother has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and the cancer has also gone to her lymph nodes. My husband found out he more than likely has a condition called Marfan syndrome, which is a disease of the connective tissues of the body and can cause heart problems. There's a 50/50 chance that if he has it our son does too. He needs to undergo more testing.

Throughout this ordeal, someone in my life who I thought was a friend has shown their true colours and proven that they were actually never my friend, and it was all about them. At the ripe old age of 30 I am learning valuable lessons about people and how to know who you can trust. I now understand why some people are standoffish and wary of people, instead of open-hearted and friendly like I have always tried to be.

My mother-in-law is busy seeing both oncologists and other specialists as well as naturopaths to look at what her treatment options are. If she is going to get through this she needs to be focused and positive and do everything she can. I need to be strong for her, and to do that I myself need to be focused and have the right people around me.

I don't anticipate that my current life problems will deter me from keeping up with the requirements of IDGAF, on the contrary: I am finding myself turning to my spirituality almost more than ever. I am feeling a pull towards the dark goddess, which is something I am exploring through study, meditation and divination. I am still reading the book Shadow Magick Compendium by Raven Digitalis, which is brilliant. It contains stories from the mythologies of various cultures and traditions, information about shamanistic practices such as animal spirits, spirit guides, herbalism and dream work, and shadow work (both in the Jungian sense and the nocturnal/dark witchcraft sense). When I got up to the part about totems/animal medicine I reached for my copy of Totem Magic by Yasmine Galenorn, which I am now reading as well. It's not a comprehensive guide to working with totems and animal spirit medicine (like Scott Alexander King's Animal Dreaming or Ted Andrews' Animal Speak, but it is an extremely practical starting-off point for beginning to work with animal spirit guides. I read in one of the two books (can't remember which) that Samhain is a great time to work with animal magic, which is interesting as that was my focus this Samhain.

I meditate daily and I practice something simple almost daily. Larger workings are reserved for when I need them, and I celebrate the wheel of the year and sometimes lunar cycles (I love the new moon but often feel icky around the full moon). One thing I have been focusing on a lot is divination using tarot and oracle cards. I am thinking of getting my runes out and starting to study and use runes again. I have been making a fair amount of YouTube videos, and I recently gave away a reading to one of my subscribers. The reading went great, it flowed well, felt comfortable, and I got great feedback from my quearant. It's something I'm thinking of doing more of soon.

The next holiday coming up is Imbolc, which I am looking forward to. Imbolc and Lammas/Lughnassadh are often overlooked in favour of certain other, flashier holidays, but this year I have been paying more attention to them and enjoying them a lot... perhaps that's a topic for another blog post?

That's about all for my update. I have more posts in store, so hopefully it won't be so long between posts next time. Thanks for reading, and blessed be. xx

Monday, 15 June 2015

Conceptions of Deity

For some reason I once had the perception that all real witches were hard polytheists to whom the gods communicated clearly and directly. I think I got this impression from a few witches I respected and saw as magically effective who identified as hard polytheist. For these witches it seemed that their gods, spirits and magical beings had a very direct and full-on way of communicating with them, and that to them the gods were as real as you or I.

So I tried really hard to be a hard polytheist. I was like "right! Come at me and speak, gods!" *Crickets chirping* Did this mean I wasn't a real witch? I have since come to the conclusion that it didn't, and it doesn't. Not all witches view their gods through the lens of hard polytheism in this form. For me, the way that I experience, communicate with and relate to the gods is less direct. The gods may not communicate with me directly in my mind just as though I was having a conversation with a friend, but they do send me signs and signals, they put "coincidences" and synchronicity on my path for me to recognize (or stumble over!) and they speak to me through divination.

For a long time I have struggled with the concept of belief for much the same reason as I struggle with the concept of worship: the conditioning of my Christian upbringing. I guess for many hard polytheists belief doesn't come into it because of how the gods communicate with them, but for the rest there is faith that their deities exist independently as self-aware entities. A soft polytheist would believe that all of the different deities are expressions of one supreme being that can appear to different people in the way that they can best recognise and work with. I like this idea, but I still don't actually believe it in the "blind faith" sense. I have had experiences of course, but I recognise my personal experiences as subjective.

I have realised that spiritual atheism is a bit of a taboo among some pagans and witches. For some people it's almost as stigmatised as Satanism, or the concept of Christo-paganism. Why this is, I'm not sure. I personally don't see the problem with having a spiritual practice without an actual belief in a deity or the adoption of a religious dogma or doctrine. Having come from a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion, I am glad to get away from the idea that one must have blind faith in a deity without evidence. I am a grown adult, and I give myself permission to experience and perceive deity in my own way... I am no longer being told when to sit, stand, kneel, pray and what to believe without proof.

So, what is my present conception of deity? As a pagan witch I feel I am mainly a pantheist, animist and soft polytheist, however I have often felt I am essentially a spiritual atheist. I understand you can't be both a theist and an atheist, but I guess I'm just trying to work out where I stand... I just feel that if you could somehow prove to me that there is unequivocally and without a doubt no independently existing and self aware deity, then for me there would still be spirituality. There would still be nature and the universe and cosmos and the gift of our senses and minds to perceive it with, and to me that's sacred and divine. Maybe that makes me a pantheist, but does that imply believing there is divine intelligence behind it all? Even if there isn't, to me it's still sacred and awe-inspiring.

As you can see, this isn't something I am set on hard and fast at this point in time. Much like where I fit into in my witchcraft practice. I am very eclectic, but I see myself as fitting somewhere into the hedge witch/hearth witch/green witch categories. I do work with deities. As I mentioned, I do not worship - rather I honour, revere and adore their spirits. The deity most dear to my heart is the earth herself, and that isn't a matter of belief - she just is.

Perhaps I am struggling too much with my conception of deity, perhaps I have too much time on my hands! My conception of deity may be different and unorthodox, but it is my own.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

I Bless this Blog of Shadows...

Well met and blessings.

Has there ever been a practice or aspect of your spiritual path that you enthusiastically threw yourself into at the beginning of your path, but has recently dropped off or been neglected? For me it is the art of magical record keeping, or keeping a Book of Shadows.

As a young teenager I would borrow whatever books on paganism and witchcraft I could possibly get my hands on from my local library. I would pore over these books for hours, and whatever information I considered useful to go back to later I would copy into a spiral-bound notebook bound in animal-print faux fur. I would also journal about the personal rituals and magical workings I regularly practiced. I still own these notebooks from my early studies, which I treasure. Sadly, as adulthood encroached and my personal life struggles ensued, my magical record keeping fell to the wayside. In recent years I have recommenced my journaling in the form of blogging. This has the added advantage of getting to share my thoughts about what I am learning with other human beings.

Allow me to introduce myself a little bit more. I am Gemma, a human female Earthican who has lived in Queensland, Australia all my life. I am currently 30 years old, a married mother of one, and a crazy cat lady. I have been studying and practicing some form of pagan witchcraft for 17 years now, since I was 13 years old (and I was already interested in magic, the occult and connecting to Mother Earth before that).

My spiritual path and my life as a witch will be the focus of this blog. My path is forever changing and evolving and will always be a work in progress. I want to document my path here as well as share it with like-minded others, and even folks following a different path if they choose to come into my online space respectfully. Everyone else... I reserve the right to banish, bind, block and delete.

I will go into more detail about my specific path and personal philosophy throughout the course of my journey writing in this blog, but I will try (hopefully not poorly) to sum it up here: as a pagan witch I am a soft polytheist, animist, pantheist and at the end of the day essentially a spiritual atheist. I do not identify as Wiccan, but I am influenced by the books I have read on Wicca. My path is very Shamanistic, fluid and perfectly suited to me as an individual. I am a child of Mother Earth, and I work with a few other pagan deities as personifications of the divine, while simultaneously recognising the divine within myself, other people, and everything in the cosmos. I am very much a hearth witch, finding that my magic works best when I weave it into every facet of my life as much as possible. This is an ongoing challenge; as you know, it can be hard to feel magical when there are beds to make, floors to mop, dishes to scrub etc. This is where having a mindfulness practice and other spiritual concepts I have adopted that aren't necessarily specific to paganism or the craft come in. I am also a Reiki healer, which I see as an extension of the healing work I was already doing before. Last year I joined the controversially-named fledgling online tradition of witchcraft, the IDGAF tradition. Since doing so I have found a structure and discipline in my practice that had been lacking for a long time previously. I have made a commitment to my own spiritual development that I am really proud of, and I have also found a community of genuine, interesting and good-hearted people.

I'm really exited about starting this new blog. I have a lot of ideas spinning around in my head that I want to share with my readers. This will be the place that I blog about the books I read, the workshops and courses I take and my ever-evolving spirituality. Who knows, perhaps I'll even get back into creating a physical Book of Shadows?

I protect this Blog of Shadows in perfect trust and perfect love
I call upon the ancient powers of all things below and above
This Blog of Shadows is blessed by the stars, moon, earth, and sea
This Blog of Shadows is sanctified, as I will, so mote it be!