Perseid Reflections

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By Brocken Inaglory, via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milky_Way_Galaxy_and_a_meteor.jpg

😊

So last night was a little rough; I wasn’t feeling particularly healthy, and thought that maybe a full night’s sleep would be better for me than a meteor shower. I decided to cancel the alarm I had set for 2am and went to sleep.

Then around 2:20 or so, I found myself awake. I find that often happens, when I plan on setting an alarm, I wake up before it rings anyway 😊.  So I decided to go out and have a look after all.

I’m staying down in the south end of a city now, and the visibility was quite good – I haven’t seen so many stars in a long time. I only saw a couple of meteors, and only stayed out a few minutes,  as the mosquitoes had found me. But it was worth it, just to get out and look at the stars again.

This morning, I feel so refreshed; it feels like a fresh start. I’ve been going slowly, took a shower, took a bit more time with my hair. Savouring things a bit more.

I think it’s transformative, to be under such beauty. To look up at all those sparkling lights, and know that you are also part of them, and they of you; that our bodies and everything, everything we like and dislike, it all came from stars. To picture that starry sky inside you. To see it when you close your eyes.

What a good practice for the summer 😊 visits with your star elders.  I’ll try to get further out of town next time, maybe learn a few more constellations.

 

EDIT – as a side note – the birds are out in droves this morning! The crows outside my window got me up around 7:30, the goldfinches are doing their happy little dives going “Tweedley dee? Tweedly dee!” 😀 and an eagle flew right above me earlier too. Not related to stars, just related to nature being amazing 🙂

The Perseids Are Coming!!

And happening right now as well, I guess ☺. Check it out – I will stay up at least for a while to watch. Too bad, I was getting so good at waking up early, and sitting out in the garden with all the creatures doin their morning things…..so much for that 😁. Oh well, the nighttime is a beautiful time to experience too.

I’m thinking this shower can be part of my wheel of the year. Lammas/Lughnasadh completely whizzed by me this year, and it hasn’t really signalled a shift in the seasons where I live anyway. I thought this post on Patheos was quite good, on that topic.

I’m not sure what making this a point on my wheel would entail; maybe a chance to study the stars and the universe, to remember how much more there is out there beyond the Earth and to stand in awe of that for a while.

OK, back to the study of archetypes; it’s no longer new and shiny and fun, after three whole days 😁, but I do want to try this whole sticking with it thing.

The Study of Archetypes

Look at that, day one and I’m still on track ;D. Well done me!

For my first session digging into archetypes, I’m working on untangling all my different ideas about what they are, how they are formed, how they affect us, and how we can work with them more consciously. I’m not able to get out to the library now, though I do want to learn more about what Jung and other psychoanalysts have to say on the subject. However, videos are so much more digestible than full books, and they certainly do get my brain rolling. So I’ve been listening to the first ten minutes of Joey Morris’s discussion of the subject. This post is a bit rough, a bit of a hodge podge of my ideas, reflections on Joey’s thoughts, and my own experiments; just so that you’re warned!

She gives a good definition from Jungian psychology: “An inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc, universally present in individual psyches.”

Archetypes are universal figures that embody a particular quality, attribute, or emotion. While there are many that are universal across the human experience, they are interpreted differently by individuals, based on our experiences, what we’ve learned, what we’ve read, etc. I think that you can argue that there are some that are less universal and more culturally specific as well.

In my understanding, we typically construct archetypal images for ourselves without too much conscious thought, probably mainly when we’re young and our brains and ideas are more flexible. (I know that Jung has ideas about the collective unconscious, but I’ll have to dive into that another day.) I think it would certainly be possible, and maybe more beneficial, to work on constructing them more consciously, considering the forces, energies and figures that we need in our lives at this moment. For instance, if you need support, you could visualize and work with a supportive archetype. I think that there are many different ways to work with archetypes, which I’m looking forward to exploring as well!

Gods and goddesses, heroes from mythology, figures from popular culture, and people currently living can all represent archetypes. (Even places too, as she mentions later on in the video!) Joey goes into an interesting example of a person currently living as a modern interpretation of an archetypal energy. I’m not sure I feel comfortable visualizing a living person as an archetype, using them (or my idea of them) as a tool in my spiritual practice; I feel that to a certain extent, this reduces the complexity of a person, seeing them only in a specific role. I think you’re in danger of making them into a sort of stereotype, where you’re only seeing the aspects of them that fit with that archetypal definition. However, you can keep in mind that they don’t always embody that archetype (we have the capacity to embody just about everything and anything); but if their role in a particular context is a powerful image or representation of that archetype, that can be an inspiration for us, a source of support.

She notes that archetypes are important for the tarot as well, of course – that’ll be interesting to get into.

I think those thoughts are slightly less tangly now. The more I learn, the more ideas I get and avenues I realize are available for exploring too 😀 which is good, if a bit overwhelming sometimes. For my meditation, I’m going to focus on an angel as an archetypal figure of love. I haven’t had a strong relationship with the concept of angels throughout my life, apart from some mild exposure to Christian doctrine and fairly clichéd examples from popular culture; but when I thought of a personification of the power of love, images of an angel full of gentleness and kindness come to mind. I can work with that :).

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Kristus i Getsemane (An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane) (1873) Carl Heinrich Bloch

Continuing this on day two, with post-meditation notes…

Now, this is the idea of the personification of an abstract concept. I realize that I have a source of love within myself, that I can tap into, even in difficult times. Visualizing the figure of an angel, the personification of love, helps me to make that connection.

Taking it a step further, and getting a bit more playful, I give my archetypal figures a bit of a personality, too. I don’t just want to talk to bland angels who are singing all the time, that would get dull fairly quickly. I let myself be open to whatever conversations pop up with this figure, who understands completely where I’m coming from and why I’m suffering at the moment, whether it’s something genuinely terrible or a mild annoyance. I know that they are created using my imagination; but I also know that love exists, in some way, if not in a physical way. It exists in our experience of it, I suppose. And talking with a personification of love is a way to tap into that source of love within myself. (A bit like asking yourself WWJD, only maybe more like “What would Jesus say to that”.) And if I need to trade jokes with the angel to keep myself entertained, well, I never promised I would be a serious stoic all the time.

This may sound a bit like creating your own imaginary friend. As long as you’re aware of the difference between physical reality and the imagination, I don’t think there’s much harm in that – it keeps my inner child entertained ;).

On a related note, while I’m comfortable crafting the image of an angel into an archetype that meets that need, I’m less comfortable using the archetype of Jesus for that end. (I think it’s fair to say he’s an archetype of love, and that different people will envision him differently depending on their life experiences.) This is partly because I’ve met people who have such a personal, emotional connection to this figure, and I feel a bit disrespectful to adopt their figure for my own work (not that I’d tell them, but still); but also because of all the religious and cultural baggage around that name. When I think of that name, I already have a lot of different images and personalities that come up, and they’re not necessarily what I want to picture when I’m focusing on pure love.

I like the idea of archetypes as role models as well. Joey shares a quote on the Morrigan as an archetype: “In the Morrigan, we can see their love of warfare, their pride in protecting their land and loved ones, their positive attitude towards women in general. She reflects the Celtic ideal of a woman in power: she is both fierce and beautiful, as likely to share a man’s bed as she is to fight beside him on the battlefield.” It’s good for women to be aware of figures like these. I had some strong female role models growing up, but I think I heard a lot more about how women should look, how worried they should be about staying thin and young and beautiful. I never doubted that I could do anything I wanted to do, but I can’t think of any role models like the Morrigan who were in my awareness growing up.

We can’t control the figures we’re presented with as children, but we can certainly seek out figures that empower us to live in our full power as adults.

(c) The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Ceridwen (1910) by Christopher Williams – another powerful woman from myth

Meditation #2: Focused on the source of love in the core of my chest; worked on directing that love towards a part of my body that bothered me; and then towards a family member who bothered me. With the help and encouragement of Love, the archetypal angel. Yeah, I think his name is just “Love” too. It suits him :).

The construction of these figures is a bit of a collaboration between my initial ideas and improvisations from my imagination, from my non-cognitive, more intuitive side.

Finishing up that video on day three…

So, Joey ties this in to using myths to build a relationship with a deity. I don’t feel particularly called to do this right now. I’m happy to allow that gods and other spiritual beings could exist, but I have the sense that these pantheons that various cultures have created are more their way of dealing with the unknowable than literal and accurate depictions of celestial beings. If gods do exist, I think they’re probably not within our realm of understanding; and while I want to open myself to different ways of experiencing the universe (and stimuli from non-physical senses is a part of that – oh my, getting serious, using words like stimuli now 😁), reaching out to specific deities created by older civilizations just isn’t my cup of tea. Or if I was to do so, it would be with the awareness that I’m dealing with my perception of that archetype, rather than some pre-existing figure. I think that archetypes that I’ve defined myself are more easily grasped than unknowable deities, and can be more useful tools to work with, at least for me.

The last thing that Joey mentions is the idea of using archetypes as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of yourself – and as a tool to tap into all the different aspects of yourself, I’d add. We can get too hung up on our definitions of ourselves, and make claims about our abilities based on that. Archetypal figures can help us to connect with the neglected parts of ourselves, and really live in our power.

I started with a meditation today; I had an idea of a different character. The wise woman, the wild woman, the witch, the priestess. I think I would address her with all four titles, they’re each too narrow on their own. This is again tapping into the archetype of the witch that I dug into in this post. She was very helpful as a guide; may dig more deeply into that next.

Wow, that’s finally the end of this post, three days in the making. Hammering out your ideas isn’t easy work 😅… and I may need to have more of a balance of practical, intuitive work vs logical study. I’m interested in the logical study, but it’s the attempts to touch and work with the non-physical that will really keep me coming back to this, I think. I know this approach isn’t the only way that people work with archetypes, but I hope my notes are also helpful to someone out there. 🙂

Spiritual Practices and Consistency

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Another friendly old tree outside my window. Crows come to share the news up on its dead branches, and wrens and goldfinches visit often too. 🙂

Kelly-Ann Maddox has given me more food for thought ;P. You all know at this point that I have a bit of a girl-crush on her, but I can’t help it, her videos keep giving me these insights into what I’m doing here. I do keep up with other writers and bloggers, like Thorn Mooney and Áine Órga, but Kelly-Ann just keeps poking at things that I’m drawn to really think about. The most recent one was about spirituality and consistency.

Going with the Flow

I feel a bit bad when I don’t blog for a few months. This is the space where I really do a lot of focused study, and I do consider it to be part of my spiritual practice, though a much brainier part than a heart-centered part. But there has been a lot going on in my life, a lot of upheaval, and it wouldn’t have made sense to spend time blogging, really. I did keep working with my tarot cards fairly often (as often as I wanted to, not on any kind of schedule), and I paid attention to the moon cycles on and off, and I learned a bit more about the spiritual aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle. I’m just realizing these things as I reflect back on the past few months 🙂 because when I came back to this blog, I looked at the most recent post from March, and thought “hoo boy, completely jumped off the wheel of the year there”.

But now I’m thinking, maybe that’s okay. For me, spirituality is something I’m pulled towards – it’s not usually present in my life unless I make space for it and make an effort to include it. I don’t know any other pagans offline, so I wouldn’t keep coming back to it if it wasn’t meaningful and powerful for me, if I didn’t miss it when it’s gone. Sometimes I’m struck with a passion or a need to touch that spirituality, and I think it’s good to follow those urges, rather than try to fit practices into a schedule. I fear that they could become chore-like; if I already have enough to do during the day, I don’t think it helps to feel bad about missing some devotional practice that I don’t have time for.

I’ve struggled with this when it comes to meditation lately. It’s so not easy to get myself to sit for ten minutes in the morning and gently train my brain to follow my breath :P. I know that it can be useful in so many different ways, for visualizations, living more mindfully, better mental health, etc; but it’s a bit like trying to get myself to take some uncomfortable medicine that I seem to survive okay enough without when I fall off the wagon. I know that consistency is good for a meditation practice, as it is training for your brain; you won’t see the same results if you only do it a few times a month. Maybe I need to have some kind of reward waiting for me at the end of each meditation session – maybe I should get a meditation chocolate bar or something, one square for each session ;).

One example where I feel like inconsistency doesn’t necessarily detract from my experience is journalling. I don’t journal every day; but when I do need to, I find it to be so very helpful. It’s a way for me to better understand my emotions, name them, and get ideas about other perspectives through which the situation can be seen. I’ve had a lot of powerful shifts through journalling, and I’ll keep coming back to it when I need to. But I don’t feel like it’s something that I need to do every day. When I try to stick to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, for instance, I end up not writing much, daydreaming, and getting bored; but when I’m going through an emotionally tumultuous time and I need to work through it, journalling helps me immensely. So for that particular practice, at this point in my life (having kept a journal for years on and off, something that came to me quite naturally), I don’t feel like I need to do it consistently for it to be an effective tool when I need it.

So, that’s one side of my feelings on the subject; I think it’s better not to worry too much about “missed” practices, and that following your passion is important. But after listening to Kelly-Ann, I am coming around to the idea that some level of consistency is a good thing.

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Is it just me, or are there creatures in this tree? 🙂

 

 

 

Sticking with a Practice

This topic also reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing in Big Magic. She approaches her writing as a devotional practice, as communion with powers beyond her control and understanding, as a kind of spiritual practice in a way. And she talks about the importance of sticking with it, even when it doesn’t come easily, to get to the point where you do see results, when it does come easily. She makes the great point not to struggle through it too much either, even when it’s not easy; to appreciate the things you do love about it.

Kelly-Ann talks about how a consistent spiritual practice can help to support you in bad times, when you need something to fall back on. I’ve often seen that with Christians, who rely on their faith when faced with death or major challenges; the thought that God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle, the power of prayer, the faith that God will care for your eternal soul after death, and the souls of your loved ones. I can’t logically reconcile myself with many Christian beliefs, but maybe I can still find some sources of strength in the beliefs that I do hold (which are still being worked out, and may keep changing as long as I keep growing) and the practices I pursue.

She talks about the value of sticking with something every day for 6-8 weeks, no matter what you choose. I do like that idea 🙂 keeps me from being too flighty with my interests, skipping back and forth between each shiny new thing.

One more important point: the idea that daily spiritual practice can be a way of “accessing the strength in the core of yourself”, to prepare for the day ahead. Who do I want to embody today? A vision of myself in power, in full witch mode? 😉

So I think the common important themes here are to choose something that brings you strength (or that you think will bring you strength), and commit to it for a set amount of time, without double-guessing your choice of practice while you’re doing it.

For me, for the next six weeks, that practice will be working with archetypes. I’ll only commit to ten minutes of study and ten minutes of meditation to begin with, and I’ll have to see if that’s feasible with my current life; maybe the first week can serve as an adjustment period, after which I won’t abandon the project, but decide whether those time constraints are working or not. I think this work could be most useful and could serve me most in my current situation, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’ll keep notes in a draft on here, though I may not have anything that’s ready to share for a little while. And yes, I think I will positively reinforce my work with a bite of chocolate or two. 😉

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When it comes to consistency, I think the bottom line is, don’t feel too guilty when life gets in the way of spiritual practice. We all need to do whatever we need to do to survive, and sometimes work or relationships or health or whatever it is needs your full attention. But I do think that pursuing a regular practice can be beneficial; can give you something to fall back on when all other supports aren’t there for you.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with spiritual practice and consistency. Are some practices easier to maintain than others? What keeps you coming back? What helps you most in your times of need?

Witchcraft: My Definitions and My Journey

It’s been a tumultuous summer! Hoping for a much calmer and healthier time coming soon. Seasons change, and I think this one will move on eventually too, as hard as that can be to believe when you’re in the midst of a challenging time.

I’m watching this (again 😊) and thinking about my own connection to the word witch.

 

The Archetype of the Witch

What does he/she look like for you? I envision a woman, probably because I am one ;).

TARA – Goddess of Compassion (2007) by Michael Tracey

She is powerful, sure of herself, confident. Strong, empowered. Wise, knowledgeable, informed about lots of different fields, like a bit of a Renaissance woman. Mysterious, not giving everything away.

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Morgan Le Fay (1880) by Edward Burne-Jones

She is in connection with her inner child; curious, playful, adventurous, mischievous. She can be solemn and serious or gleeful and lively, depending on the situation.

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TARA – Goddess of Compassion (2007) by Michael Tracey

She doesn’t conform to rules and social norms that don’t suit her or serve her. She is brave enough to be more than a little different by living in a way that is authentic for her.

The Practice of Witchcraft

What does the practice of witchcraft mean to you? What do you have to do to be comfortable considering yourself a witch?

For me, I feel like I need more study, for one thing. Though I may always feel that – the more you study, the more you realize how little you know :D. But the practice of learning is important to me in the pursuit of witchcraft. Maybe I’ll consider doing a course of dedicated study for a year and a day, as some traditions require – appeals to my inner academic! I would spend that time studying the texts that are most important to me, practicing, and experimenting. Of course, this wouldn’t stop at the end of the year and a day period – this study would be ongoing. It’s like a profession, you need to continue learning and improving, at a healthy pace of course.

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A Witch (1646) by Salvator Rosa

Also, practice. Regular practice. My practice has been somewhat haphazard up to now; to really grow and have it be a bit more useful, it’d be good to keep track of what works well, what resonates with me, what doesn’t. Might be nice to find a primer for easy spells that has an approach I like, try mastering those first. The challenge is that I generally find few texts where I agree with everything they say; I really need to create my own way forward.

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The Magic Circle (1886) by John William Waterhouse

My Personal History of Witchcraft

I’ve always been so drawn to the idea of magic and witches. The Harry Potter books were a big influence, of course, which I’m rereading now; I recreated many classes with my brother and the neighbor kids, making potions and practicing spellwork. I gravitated towards fantasy books until I was in my early twenties, when I felt like I should expand my literary horizons. But I do keep coming back to them, time and time again.

When I was a preteen, I started learning a bit more about contemporary practice. I downloaded and printed about 100+ pages on magical systems, wicca, spells, witchcraft, and more. This was found by my mom, who was more than a little freaked out 😊 – I thought I’d been sneaky enough, but obviously I hadn’t! Her reaction led me to put it aside for a while.

Eventually, when I no longer lived with my parents and had a bit more freedom, I would dig a bit deeper into the teachings, explore some of the basic books that are available. But I would usually run into some people stating their own beliefs as gospel, giving no sources for their information or explanations for how they came to these conclusions. Granted, a lot of the topics we deal with in witchcraft are not provable/quantifiable; but it rubs me the wrong way when I read someone making statements about how the universe works, or about how one should practice the craft, without adding the disclaimer “this is what I feel to be true, and my life experiences have led me to this conclusion”. Hearing a bit about how they came to these conclusions helps as well. Even if it’s just that they read it in a book and it instantly felt true, I don’t think that’s something to discount.

The Philosophy of Witchcraft

Being a witch can impact the way you approach everything in your life: the food you eat (what impact are you having on the earth and your body?), your interactions with other people (considering what they’re going through, what forces beyond their control have brought them to this point), your livelihood (how are you impacting the world, what kind of energy are you working with and spreading in the world?).

Kelly-Ann shares a lot of quotes that resonate with her path, some of which really ring true for me as well.

Witchcraft as Personal Growth

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From Kelly-Ann: “Much of my witchcraft is about better understanding and unraveling myself rather than trying to play with stuff around me. An internal shift creates a longer-lasting and more effective external shift.”

Also really important for me is the way being a witch affects your relationship with yourself. It can empower you, knowing that you have strength to draw on. Knowing that you have the capacity to embody any archetype you need. (I really like the idea of embodying archetypes, to dig into later 😊). Knowing that you have the power to influence the events of your life. That you aren’t just going along for a passive ride, but can take action to influence more good in the world, more level-headedness and critical thinking, more kindness and generosity.

Witchcraft as Critical Thinking

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I think that’s a big part of why Kelly-Ann and her work appeals to me so much. I don’t resonate with all of her magical practices or beliefs (from what she’s shared publicly anyway), but her approach to learning and being open to possibility is the way that I want to craft my path.

Critical thinking is another important factor in witchcraft for me. While I’m open to just about anything, I won’t blindly accept something without exploring it more deeply. For instance, I’m not sold on crystals having magical properties, but I have little experience with them, so I wouldn’t bash it without giving it a proper examination. (Even if I’m disinclined to use that system, I wouldn’t bash it, because I’m not an asshole :P.) Again, the tricky thing is that most of the topics related to witchcraft are not things that can be easily measured or observed, which is why many of them are not considered scientific.

Witchcraft as a Path of Transcendence and Wonder

Despite a lack of tangible proof to back up our practices, I think it’s really important to remember that we don’t (and cant) know everything about the universe and how it works. Not to mention what’s beyond the universe. Living as though the current scientific discoveries are all there is to life is so limiting! (Another thing I’d love to learn more about is physics, and theories about the nature of time! To be explored…)

Witchcraft can also be a way of creatively engaging with your life; making it more colourful, adventurous, exploratory. Working with your inner child and the realms of imagination can be powerful tools, as intangible as they may be.

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Witchcraft as Communion with Nature

As a comment on #8, she says: “If we are thinking of ‘nature’ as the places and things not made by the hand of man, then we can think of the path of the witch as one good way to get our hearing back and start listening, deeply, carefully..” I haven’t even touched on the relationship to nature in this post – maybe because I consider that to be more to do with pagan spirituality than the practice of witchcraft. But I do think that witchcraft involves working with the natural world (of which we and everything are a part – considering ourselves as separate from nature is problematic in so many ways…).

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Hecate (2006) by Joanna Barnum

Witchcraft as a Connection to Gods and Goddesses

A quick note on gods and goddesses. Ants can have no real conception or understanding of us. Bacteria can have no real understanding of ants- both of these statements should have the disclaimer of “as far as we know”. From looking at their brains, it seems like they don’t have the capacity to understand much of our lives or why we do what we do. Consider this: we study beings who seem to be mostly less complex than us – though maybe that isn’t true for the larger mammals. Still, we see ourselves as the dominant species on the planet (and are, as far as we can tell). Maybe there are beings or forces outside our understanding and conception that impact the universe and beyond. We would be like ants to them, incapable of truly understanding or perceiving them. There certainly are many natural forces beyond our control and understanding. Maybe for me, part of being a witch is to allow for these things that we can’t perceive or understand, to open myself to their workings.

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Joining the Goddess (2011) by Maria Jose Leon

Despite the fantastic illustration above, for me, so far, witchcraft is something that I practice alone. I could be able to work with others, allowing them to follow their systems in conjunction with my own; but I am very solitary by nature. For now, I’m happy to work alone and share my thoughts with the community.

That was a lot to get out :). Glad that I did though! Sometimes I can feel things, sense that I have some understanding of things, but I’m not quite satisfied until I’ve found the words that get the closest to expressing those feelings. This was a good step in that direction. 🙂