In a few days in the Northern Hemisphere, Pagans and witches will celebrate the festival of Imbolc. It’s strongest aspects are love and fertility celebrating the Celtic goddess Brigid.
The most well known part of the holiday is it as the “Festival of Lights.” You probably have been noticing the lengthening days, the growing strength of the sun. For anyone sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for spring, feel free to begin watching for robins and first shoots. It’s a good holiday to build a bonfire or fill a room with candles. Feel free to interpret light in personal ways. For example I am a writer, so for me Imbolc is the festival I use to celebrate inspiration and the creative self.
Imbolc also comes at the time in which life is starting to stir. You know what’s in a few weeks? Valentine’s Day. This is a time for find love and life. Do not restrict it’s meaning to romance, but use the holiday to celebrate what you are passionate about, whether it’s a partner, a career, a family, etc.
Because of the growing life and light, I also think it is a good time of year to look at your life and finally clean out some negative aspects. In just a few weeks it’ll be Ostara and the world will be fresh and clean. Why not use this time of the year to do some spring cleaning, literal or spiritual?
I hope everyone has a bright Imbolc and beautiful start of spring.
© Ariadne Woods
Generally I try to adhere to the Rede principle of Harm None. While perhaps it is too black and white or too simplified, I interpret it as living in a way that has no intention of hurting other and when I do harm someone taking action to rectify the problem. However I daily struggle with adhering to this principle in the grey areas.
Take last evening. I was in a situation that I felt really unsafe in my own room* because someone came into my suite without permission and deeply insulted my roommates and me. It scared me so much that I ended up spending the night at my boyfriend’s place. In the aftermath, I am wrestling with the question of what action to take in response. On one level, I am waiting to hear back from my residence administrators about the pseudo-legal consequences and the potential dialogue to prevent this from happening again. But what I am struggling with is the actual violation of entering my home and making me feel weird. I cannot believe anyone would do that. It’s the college equivalent of breaking and entering. He harmed my sense of security. I am going to have to work hard to achieve peace and safety in my suite.
While I wait for an answer from my school, my main goal is to take my anger and channel it into recreating my sense of home in my dorm room. I have constructed a permanent shield around my room with highly filtering properties. It makes me feel more secure and more comfortable. I also am going to do a full cleanse on Saturday and perhaps put up some runes or stones that will help deflect negative energy. I have already resolved that it is not my place to personally confront this person, both in the mundane and the magical. That is what the residence administration is for, to mediate disputes. For me to respond with malice, it just keeps the cycle of conflict going which I do not want. Regardless of the outcome, I will work hard to resolve this situation within the bounds of my faith.
© Ariadne Woods
*I apologize that I can’t give a full account of what happened. I have been asked to keep the situation quiet and even though I do not publish under my given name, I still want to respect the wishes of my building administration.
Well, this is the last first week of my undergraduate career. Everything is going well, but a bit busy. My classes are all on topics I enjoy, including religion. We’re not covering Paganism, but I am excited to become more familiar with myths and legends and traditions of other faiths. Overall I think it’s going to be a good semester.
At the same time, I have been diligently working on my grad school applications, applying to schools all over the country. Most of them are in metropolitan areas. In addition to researching the schools, I have also been looking at the Pagan culture in the cities I may be living. In the next stage of my life, I will not know anyone and interacting with my community will be important to getting used to a new town. So I’ve been just seeing what is out there.
© Ariadne Woods
Sacrifice is the giving of something to a deity. Its role in personal practice varies from individual to individual Some people give at sabbats and holidays, while others give when called. Some traditional ideas include:
- Libations of beverages
- Food and herbs
In terms of what to give for what reason or with what method, well that’s up to you. For myself, I like to use the following guidelines:
- Look to Lore: A lot of myths contain a detail, such as a plant or object, that would be appropriate to give to that God or Goddess. For example, consider 6 pomegranate seeds to Persephone or a feather to Horus. This does not need to be used every time, but it certainly is a good place to start.
- Timing: Is it a day sacred to your deity? Do you think the moon cycle is important to this sacrifice? Or is this something spontaneous?
- Logistics: Living in a dorm room? Can’t burn anything. So what’s your alternative?
- Why: While I think it is important to honor the deities you work with on a regular basis, is there another motive you are sacrificing to deity? Perhaps you need a question answered or clarified. Examine these before proceeding.
One thing I think is rarely appropriate is blood or flesh sacrifice. Yes, I know it is traditional and whatnot, but I am not comfortable with killing animals or injuring oneself in the name of deity. I know some people are called to do that, but please examine all other forms of sacrifice first. And remember a flesh sacrifice can also be a piece of chicken meat from the grocery store, not just a live chicken. If you are called to animal sacrifice, please look at the legal requirements in your state about humane methods and remain disposal.
Regardless of what form you choose, I think it is important to take a moment and properly thank the deity for their role in your life. Obviously that is part of the reason why you are offering the sacrifice to begin with, but I think it reinforces the practice in your mind. The method can be as simple as closing your eyes and thanksgiving quietly.
© Ariadne Woods
One of the cool things about being Pagan is the freedom of choice. There is no set dogma or rules. You can follow the Rede or Hammurabi’s Code. No judgment. However there is one drawback when it comes to role models and their role in the overall community. We do not have one person to point to to say, “Hey, what do you think about this guy? Pretty cool, eh?” I am not talking about a religious leader, such as Jesus or Moses. I am talking about a community elder. Someone to pass on traditions and to be an example for younger Pagans of what it means to be a good person.
Part of this conundrum is in the framework Pagans create around their independence. We’re a loose community of believers. Covens are an obvious foil to this idea, but even then they are limited by size and secrecy. Also, some festivals, such as the Pagan Spirit Gathering, have leadership within that particular community. It can be just for the event or for the entire year, depending on the group and the dynamics. Yet all these instances are still very specific to a subset within the overall community of Pagans.
If the Pagan community has large-scale role models, who are they? The most obvious is the Gods and Goddesses themselves. Whether you have a patron or stick to the Lord and Lady, they serve as a moral compass in personal and group work. Authors such as Scott Cunningham and Starhawk also fall into this category because they diffuse information to everyone, not just a small group of people.
As we as a community develop in the coming decades, I will be interested to see if any clear-cut leaders and role models do emerge for the Pagan community. Who knows, reader? If could be you.
© Ariadne Woods
Happy New Year! Now what? In the last few weeks, it has been a whirlwind of parties and rituals and presents and people. Phew, time to sit down and take stock of life.
For me, my spiritual life seems to wane during the holiday season. I think part of it is the physical dormancy of the earth. I spend so much less time outside; instead it’s in front of my computer or TV screen. Another is the exhaustion from finals and end of semester work. For the first three days of break I was so tired I barely got out of bed. Plus everything is just so chaotic and busy at this time of year. As much as I love parties and events, they do take their toil on my time.
I know a lot of Pagans and Witches consider the spiritual New Year to be at either Samhain or Yule. However I mark it today, the secular New Year. While the relationship is recent, I work with the god Janus for whom the month January is named after. In my personal practice, marking the year hear makes more sense.
So my resolutions. Well, a few of them are academic, namely getting into and starting grad school. All of my applications are due at the end of the month, so that one is immediately on my mind. And of course I want a successful final semester at my university. I also aim to become better at organizing and documenting my life. Therefore I am going to create and stick to a budget, among other things. It’s also a good point to get rid of things, so I am going through my clothes.
My resolutions in my spiritual house seem a little less obvious. Become closer to the deities I work with? Well, yes. Continue to read and learn as much as I can? Of course. But what else? I may have to get back to you.
May the God and Goddess bless you in 2013.
© Ariadne Woods