Starting tomorrow I will be off work (and probably offline, because I won’t want to do much thinking at all) until the beginning of June. This will be my first vacation in three years. I’m not sure I remember how to take vacation…..
(((NOTE: In this post I am NOT using “Journey” or “journey” in the sense of taking an astral walk-out-of-my-body. The word is used more generically unless I specify otherwise in the text.)))
I wasn’t sure I would be able to post yet. As it is, there is a lot going on that I really don’t know if I’m ready to have anyone read- much less the whole internet. (as if the whole internet cares about this little blog. Hah. I amuse myself.) Still, I couldn’t pass up the chance to sink my proverbial teeth into one of the letters I have really been looking forward to. J is for Journeys and Finding Joy. Your Joy, specifically.
I probably need the reminder, since there appears to be a major crossroad up ahead of me.
I do not define paganism (or any spirituality, ideally) as a singular thing. It is human nature to explore. Exploring leads to changing of paths- or rather, to a continuation of our own path in a different direction. The Journey really is the Destination.
And I have Journeyed. I like to say that I survived Catholic school as a child. In high school I explored other types of Christianity and was generally displeased with what I found. I didn’t really love the Church anymore, but I couldn’t get comfortable with a religion that didn’t acknowledge the Blessed Dead or the Mother (ie, most Protestant churches) I found my way back to Catholicism in college in a desperate attempt to find some deeper explanation for the confusion and the things I could see and feel and understand. From there I took a rather mystic turn as I tried to find an explanation for the different feelings I got when people talked about God. I kept wanting to use different pronouns, all the pronouns, pronouns that don’t actually exist in regular conversational English. I kept wanting to respond to different symbolism, react to different stories. I could not forget the myths I loved hearing as bedtime stories when I was small. I could not forget the connection between the land and my own hands and feet.
When I finally discovered Druidry (I read up on the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids first, but the Ancient Order of Druids in America wound up being the form and ideology I tend to prefer) it was the dawn of a whole new world. There were people out there who didn’t think I was crazy for feeling the rhythms of the world the way I do. There were people who acknowledge that history is at best confused regarding some of the gods-turned-saints. There were people who cared about the land we’re living on, and wanted to learn to live with her instead. My path has wound ever outward, but there are elements of this first eye-opening stop in Druidry that will probably not fade in this lifetime.
From Druidry I took a closer look at magic, first as an idea, then a whole bunch of ideas. My current “use what works and work with the rhythms of the world” approach bears a strong resemblance to the intuitive kitchen magic that I learned growing up without ever hearing the word used. I was taught early to tell when something is “right” or needs “fixing.” I find that I know deeply and instinctively to work with the tides and the moon and the seasons, as well as the things that grow and things that move about on four legs or two wings, I learned to use the currents of energy around me. I don’t know if there’s a name for this. It’s just what I do.
When I took a turn towards a couple of Hellenic deities in the last just-over-a-year-now, it took me by surprise. I was quite content working only with the land spirits, the moon, the herbs and stones. Then a goddess rose out of the Sea and I hear Her laugh. It was such a clear, strong, beautiful, joyful laugh. She laughed for the joy of living. Not long after I felt a god shatter all my house wards as if they were dry brittle bones and He came in and caught me when I was falling. Quite literally. They told me then that They had always been watching over me, waiting for me to reach a point along my Journey when They could contact me without terrifying me or being rejected outright. They showed me that some of the things which have been constants in my life were Their own influence. I am inclined to believe Them.
I met someone- a bunch of someones, actually- at Beltane this year that might set me on a different angle. Or might not. I’m not sure yet. I heard some theories about possible connections between the Northern and Mediterranean paths that I had never heard before. My mind was well and truly blown, and I am still trying to decide just what to do with the information. If anything.
There have been some constants through all the changes in direction. These constitute the core of my path and are the things in which I continually find joy. I love having my hands in the earth. Pulling weeds around a garden, digging fence post holes, more weeding, watering, weeding, harvesting, weeding… there’s a lot of weeding. It’s hard work, but it brings a joy and a satisfaction that I don’t think I could ever be happy without. I love making music. I write words that dance; I play flute and sing and these things are my magic and my joy. I can’t live without them and be happy.
It took drafting this post, a few long angry conversations with the therapist, and some ugliness at work for me to realize that I have lost my joy lately. I am spending most of my time in a place where I am not appreciated or compensated accordingly and that by itself is driving the joy out of my life. I have been clinging to a dream that is no longer physically possible, the demands of which would drive me ever further into dark despair. I have to let that dream go so I can walk on. My old dreams have become twisted nightmares that shackle me to my past. Dreams are supposed to give you wings to fly. Now I must grieve for a fallen dream, a fallen past. Then I will be able to walk on and find my joy again. I will always be a Warrior. I will always be a Healer, and a Farmer and a Bard. There comes a time when a Warrior must rest. My time is coming soon. I will always be a Warrior, but now I will allow myself to be everything else as well. I will allow myself to find my Joy.
Inside my head is not pretty right now. I’m forgetting things-big things- at work and around home. I’m not reacting right. I can’t focus our find any motivation. It’s bad enough that my job is actually on the line if I can’t get it fixed. I’m too tired to function And too upset about not functioning to get any rest.
I’ll be back of and only if I get things sorted out.
Yes you read that right. Ways to avoid using that most common of all religious and spiritual items: smelly smoky incense.
Well you see, I live in an apartment and there are some pretty strict rules about what you may burn and in what manner you may burn it. I have had to find a few ways around the most common applications of incense in order to continue with my practice. You might even say that this is a detailed continuation of the previous week’s post where I rambled about how inventing ways of getting things done in adversity (or absence of availability of details, by far our most common adversity.) See what I did there?
Incense gets used for a lot of things and is really a very pervasive little tool. I’ll focus on the few things the I used to use it for regularly before moving.
First, to represent Air or Air and Fire in a ritual:
Incense is pretty epic at being the Air symbol. It’s also pretty epic at being the combined Air and Fire symbol if you’re short on space. When incense isn’t a viable option there are plenty of other ways to symbolize Air. Or Fire. I like to use feathers for Air. I have a couple that I’ve found in my wanderings through the trails on the farm that sit in a small glass votive holder on the Eastern corner of the permanent altar. It works beautifully and lends some wildness to the space. I don’t see why you couldn’t use purchased feathers if you wanted to use that symbol and couldn’t find any just floating around. Air has other symbolic associations that could be used instead: the color yellow works well for me, as do paintings of birds or clouds. You might also set an ornamental folding fan wherever you need to symbolize Air.
If you are using incense to combine Fire and Air, use some fire-aspected stones or crystals to weigh those feathers down and keep them from blowing all over the space with every puff of wind. Or, find a scented candle with an Air-y perfume. If candles and scents are out of the picture totally (asthma, allergies, pets, building rules, whatever else) I would look for flame-colored decorations. Find a red bird- it’s red like fire and a bird for air. My Fire corner is separate on the permanent set-up, and involves a red glass votive holder and a scrap of brilliantly red silk that came from I-have-no-idea.
Second, as aromatherapy:
I assume that if you are exploring aromatherapy then you are aware of your own allergic triggers and do not have uncontrolled asthma- because mixing that with aromatherapy can backfire horribly. I’m an EMT. I’ve been on those calls.
If burning things is not feasible but you want to use aromatherapy I recommend steams instead. They are great. The process has it’s own set of warnings so I recommend you do some serious research first. If you’re looking for something a lot more low-key that will be safe for kids and pets, my personal suggestion is to use the most safely natural smelly objects you can get ahold of and put them waaaaaaaay out of reach. Pomanders (oranges with cloves stuck in them) smell freaking AWESOME and can be hung from a ceiling fan where all but the parrot should be safe from clove ingestion. Simpler still? Simmer a potful of your favorite smelly herbs and flowers on the stove for a while. The scent will linger for a long time. Simmering lavender is lovely.
Third, for ritual cleansing:
Take the idea that you have to smudge away nastiness, crumple it up and throw it out the mental window. Smudging with sage or passing through incense smoke is wonderful, beautiful and effective. It is not mandatory. I know there are all kinds of articles out there about how to cleanse objects in running water, under moon or sun light, in the earth, and with smoke. You can use all of these techniques on yourself, too. When I moved in I wanted to cleanse the apartment. Problem, no incense allowed which certainly precluded the smoke-heavy smudging. So I thought back to other things that break up negative energies and got a string of bells- the old bells that I still have from my old pony’s harness- and used them to break up all the negativity still hanging around the place. It was fantastically effective and broke no building regulations.
Don’t get me wrong. I love incense, it smells wonderful (most of it….) and is convenient and energetically effective. It’s just not always feasible for me. I know I’m not the only one struggling with building regulations and I remember dealing with uncooperative roommates. None of my roommates have ever been allergic to the stuff but I know they’re out there too. For everyone dealing with one of these or another problem, I hope this gave you some ideas.
If you have other ideas or suggestions, please tell them to me! That’s the whole point, after all
A blessed and happy Beltane to you and yours! There will be more posts, including the April photo dump and the next pagan blog project post if i can get them written and scheduled before i leave for May Moon in Virginia. Big Beltane Festival of Epicness. Also the official start of my camping season. Don’t count on me getting both done but i will try to get at least one post scheduled.
Meanwhile, Blessed Beltane! For now i give you an Imbrium original chant. Feel free to use and share with credit
Light the fire and sound the drum
Let the joyful people come
And dance for the joy of living
And sing for glory of Spring!
Which is a little bit different from creativity. I thought about writing I is for Insight, but it occurs to me that insight and inventiveness have a lot of overlap between them.
Inventiveness and Insight are enormously, gigantically, hugely important to paganism as I know it. Why? Because my paganism, while being in part historically inspired, is a make-it-up-as-you-go paganism.
And that’s OK with me. “I” could also stand for “I” in this post, since I am the final authority on what I do or don’t do.
I think I can better illustrate this particular Pagan Blog Project letter with a short explanation about tools I use in my practice. There is a cleansing tool employed by a couple of reconstructionist Hellenic bloggers I read on occasion: khernips or lustral water. Follow the link for a really cool video about it. It seemed to me, after some examination, that the goal was more or less to include all 4 elements in a cleansing ablution. I don’t have ready access to the particular herb being used here, so I took the idea of involving all four elements and made my own. I used rainwater that I had saved, added salt, basked in the sun, and passed through an airy incense to include all for elements. Results: elementally balanced cleansing water. It’s not khernips and I would never claim that it is. Rather I had an insight to the energetic nature of the tool and invented a way around my lack of specific items. The two processes are connected by a thread of creativity and knowledge base and result in some very effective (if hardly traditional) items.
This simply doesn’t work for everyone. I suspect someone is thinking “but Imbrium that just isn’t the same thing!” and they’d be correct. It isn’t the same thing. It’s as close as I could get and after experimenting a bit I’m very satisfied with my different-but-related tool. I will probably continue to use it.
If we start with an existing knowledge base, add some new information which combines with the old for insight, then add creative application of that understanding (aka Inventiveness) we can figure a way around most obstacles. This is not just a pagan concept, even thought it seems to be getting more exercise in the pagan community(ies) than elsewhere. If a bunch of people living near each other have knowledge (vegetable scraps from dinner, no space for composting) and add new knowledge (their neighbor has space and just got a couple of chickens for eggs) they can have a bit of creative insight to a solution (offer scraps to neighbor to supplement chicken feed, request a portion of eggs) where everyone comes out ahead (not buying feed, well-fed chickens, plenty of eggs to go around.) And yes, that example is from The Real Life of Imbrium, too.
Inventiveness, in my experience, is a process. It’s a process that can be learned and applied to a variety of situations. It’s just another thing for me to add to the list of “Things I probably already knew but didn’t really realize until paganism.” Which is why it belongs on the PBP list.
And yes, I know that I am late. Again. I’ll probably be late next week too because I’m going out of town for Beltane fun and frolic. More on that later.