Are All Sabats Created Equal?

Most witches, Wiccans, and Pagans follow the Eight Great Celtic Sabat model (although there are thousands of other traditions.  Read The Grandmother of Time by Z. Budapest and The Pagan Book of Days by Nigel Pennick for more information).  The benefit about following the natural world is the major holidays are nicely spaced throughout the year.  Getting bummed after Yule? Imbolc is right around the corner.  We are constantly celebrating life and the Earth and our faith.

Yet, I have found that try as I may to celebrate every holiday, I have noticed a pattern about how I approach the Wheel of the Year:

  • Yule: Christmas (a very important day in my family) is a few days away and since that’s such a high stress holiday I am too wiped to stay up with the Goddess as she births the God.
  • Imbolc: Very informal celebration.  This year I had my friends over for mead.
  • Ostara: I always seem to forget about it.
  • Beltane: One of my favorites, but it always falls on finals or reading days.  I do make an effort to do some sort of ritual, though.
  • Litha: I go to a local farm festival with my mom every year and go home for a late night ritual.  One of the best days of the year.
  • Lammas: So. Much. Baking.  Always a laid back holiday.
  • Mabon: I adore Mabon.  Never miss it.
  • Samhain: I celebrate it, but I always seem burnt out due to a variety of reasons.

I do not treat them all with the same amount of pomp and circumstance.  I mean, it’s not practical for me.  I have school, work, family, friends, boyfriend, extra curricular activities, taking care of myself, etc.  The prep time is not always there.

What ultimately drives celebratory worship is the connection to particular times of the year.  For me, I feel at home in summer and fall holidays.  They speak to my soul in such an empowering way, which is what matters the most about sabat celebrations.  That connection is key because that is what allows the worshiper to benefit spiritually from the ritual.

© Ariadne Woods

Witch Tips: Extending Earth Day All Year Round

Happy Earth Day!  As a witch I think that since I have the means to be green, it is my duty to live an earth friendly lifestyle.  Here are a couple of ideas that you can do to be a little greener.

  • Be a Better Recycler: Check with your provider about what types of materials they take as well as the best way to sort the cans, bottles, and newspaper.  In addition, save soda tabs and bottle caps.  Organizations take them to further fund charitable projects.
  • Buy Reusable Water Bottles and Travel Mugs: Not only will these purchases reduce the amount of recyclables, but also save you money in the long run.  Some coffee places will give a slight discount if you bring your own container.
  • Turn Off Water and Lights:  Even if you’re brushing your teeth, turn the water off as you clean your teeth.
  • The Twirly Lightbulbs: They do use less energy and cost less money on your gas bill.  If you are a college student and have little choice in lightbulbs, consider hanging Christmas lights as your primary light source.  I did the math, they use 1/3 less energy than the florescent lightbulbs my overhead lights use.
  • Walk: If you don’t need to drive, then don’t.  Also, biking is great too.
  • Become a Localvore:  Buying local products is not only really good for your local economy, but also uses less fossil fuels in transportation.  Local veggies and fruits tend to be cheaper, too.
  • Reusable Bags: Throw a couple of reusable grocery bags in your car.  If you forget, you can recycle plastic bags at Target.

© Ariadne Woods

Cycles, Rituals, and Women’s Spirituality

Today I noticed two things as I woke up.  The first was that it was roughly 65 degrees, sunny, and bright.  Later as I walked about campus, several of the trees have bloomed and the community has taken to the lawns and decks.  As I write this post I am sitting at my sunny bedroom window, which is thrown wide open.

The second is that my period came a day early.

It’s been ten years since I first woke up with it.  I do not really remember it in the same way I do graduating high school, my first legal drink, or my initiation into Paganism.  It blends with the roughly 120 other times my courses have come and gone.  I didn’t have a coming of age ritual, but rather my mom bought me a box of pads, made me a cup of tea, and told me to ignore it.

That casual, flippant attitude always bothered me, the way this life cycle is treated.  Even the word period makes me uncomfortable, as if the biological process of being a woman isn’t something a part of me all of the time.  It’s not just a week of every month.  I am always an aspect of femininity.

When I embraced Paganism, the connection with the female divine was by far the strongest pull.  It’s not that I wanted a deity as an epitome of perfect womanhood.  In fact, I wanted a goddess who understands that the balance of anger, peace, joy, sorrow, power, weakness, life, death, newness, and tradition.  The illusion of ‘perfect’ in deity is ridiculous because the universe is not perfect.

However, the universe is steeped in cycles.  Life to death, school year to school year, etc.  Part of what the divine teaches us is how they relate and transform every day life.  There is no ideal to be taught, but rather how to live within the ever-present rhythm of life and self.

The way I have connected with personal cycles is to create a series of rituals.  They are driven by the need to connect to deity throughout the month, year, and stage of life.  While I missed out on my coming of age, I celebrate every birthday, end of semester, and yes even ‘that time of the month’ with prayer, offering, and respect to the Goddess and God.  By connecting with the divine in the seemingly routine parts of life, I draw them closer into my world and in turn am drawn into theirs.

So today I am relaxing and enjoying being a woman with a large mug of tea.

© Ariadne Woods

Updates and Exciting News

Hi Readers!

First things first, I GOT INTO GRAD SCHOOL!  I am extremely excited and perhaps a little giddy.  I am going to be a librarian!  

In related news, t-minus 50 days until graduation from undergrad.  I have lots to do, including finishing my senior project.  Hopefully I won’t have to take a hiatus from Cauldron and Brew, but I will give all a heads up if need be.  I am stating to feel a little nostalgic about leaving, but I think it’s time. 

A Cauldron and Brew update: I have added new content to the Pagan Funny Pages.  If anyone comes across anything I don’t have listed on the page that is kind of hilarious, email it to me please!

I hope everyone has a great week.  Blessed be,

Ariadne

Witch Tips: Choosing a New Deck, Set of Runes, or Other Divination Tool

There are many different forms of divination, or the art of discerning deeper into a particular situation based off of symbols and archetypes.  Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t trying to “see into the future,” but rather weed through the various forces surrounding a situation.  They can be turned to at points of personal conflict or as part of a daily practice.  If doing a reading for a friend, if possible do it ‘cold,’ or completely ignorant of the situation.  That way you won’t be reading the symbols in a way that is contrary to your friend’s understanding and perceptions.

The methods that require tools include:

  • Tarot or Oracle Decks: This method relies on common cultural symbols to divine the forces around a situation.  Tarot decks tend to be more old school and require a lot of study and practice, while oracle decks are more self explanatory.  This is by far my preferred method of divination.
  • Runes: I honestly do not know a lot about runes, however these can come in many different types (although the most commonly presented are Futhark).  I prefer the system Scott Cunningham shared in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner,
    because the Futhark runes take more study than I currently can allow in my schedule.  However, learning to work with the Futhark runes is on my Pagan education back burner.
  • Pendulums: These are simultaneously the simplest method and the most complex.  You would think a weight at the end of a string would be easy to master, but the amount of concentration needed to master the pendulum is incredible.  If you are into gemstones, these come in gorgeous carvings.
  • Scrying: Ever laid in the grass and found pictures in the clouds?  That’s scrying!  You could use water, leaves, fire, clouds, or a black scrying mirror.
  • Dream Discerning: Again, not particularly knowledgeable about this topic, but there are a lot of books out there on interpreting dreams.

If you have never practiced any of these forms, don’t be nervous.  Work off of your instincts and balance reading up on it and practical work.

There are a couple of ideas to keep in mind while buying a new deck or set of runes.

  • If Possible, Do Not Buy Off the Internet: I own two decks: a traditional Waite deck I bought in a small shop in the Netherlands and a Goddess oracle deck I bought off Amazon.  I get stronger readings off the Waite because I handpicked it from ten others on a table rather than researching and purchasing a deck based off recommendations and reviews.  It’s also a matter of compatibility of energy.
  • Can You Make It?: While this method may be harder for decks (unless you are an artist, then go ahead!), but most divination tools can be made quite easily.  Paint runes on small stones, use an old necklace for a pendulum, and follow these instructions to make a black scrying mirror.
  • Think Practically: What will you really use?  Do you really need a pendulum even though you are a highly visual person and maybe tarot is more your thing? It isn’t the amount of divination tools you own, but rather your skill and personal practice with them.  This tip is especially important when it comes to buying books about a divination practice.

After receiving your divination tool, a lot of people (myself included) like to program the object.  I usually sleep with it under my pillow or carry it with me for a few days.  The key is to use the cards, runes, or pendulum as often as possible.

© Ariadne Woods

Spiritual Growth, Inhibitions, and Trees

I went on a walk today and I noticed two things about the trees in my neighborhood. The first is that nearly all of them have been pruned to accommodate electrical wires.  These trees show large scars on their sides. In our lives, we all bare some sort of emotional scars.  Some of them are even physical from accidents and trauma.  In a lot of ways, our pasts define our perceptions and our actions.  We accidentally touch a hot stove while cooking and are careful every since.

Emotional scars seep into our spiritual life.  For myself, a large part of the reason I began questioning my Christian roots is the shame I felt for not conforming to their religious ideals.  I didn’t want to go against my beliefs, yet was told they were wrong.  It took me a long time to reconcile my feelings and to trust my spiritual self.

The second thing I notices are the first signs of spring on these trees.  Buds have started to form on the remaining branches.  This sight have left me feeling happy, hopeful, and refreshed.

Listen, we’ve all got our deep seeded problems and emotional scars that inhibit our spiritual growth.  The key is to accept that they are part of you, just as all of the growth is.  If you are having trouble reconciling these aspects, talk to your deities and ask for guidance   Also, consider talking to your High Priestess or Priest if you are in a coven or another member of the Pagan clergy.

The most important thing you can do is to actively acknowledge that you are your past and present, but also your future.  You carry your strengths and weaknesses all of your days.  Know them and through discovery find peace.

© Ariadne Woods