Monday, May 27, 2013

52 weeks of pagan art journaling: week 17

This week's prompt: Different Pagan Paths

While I am Wiccan, on this blog I use the term Pagan in the loosest of ways because I understand how vastly different each individual on a pagan path understands this particular term. In part I feel that I understand this because I spent so much time wandering down various avenues before settling back into the place from which I began (I can never do things the easy way... no, if there's a complicated way to do something, yours truly will find it and actually complicate it a bit more for good measure)!

I did everything from looking for patron deities to researching my ancestral roots to everything in between. I dabbled in Unitarianism and Yoga, I thought about joining a Buddhist sangha and I even contemplated looser, more liberal forms of Christianity.  In the end, none of it really connected for me and I came back to what really drew me to an alternative spiritual path.

Granted, nowadays my idea of the original path that drew me in is vastly more complex than it was when I started out, but the core truths that drew me still hold true.

Sometimes I think we are so blessed to live in an age where such types of spiritual exploration are possible, but at other times (you know, those moments of spiritual crisis or loneliness), I think that it can be hard to have so many choices. I know, 1st world problems and all that... but sometimes too much in the way of choice can be more crippling than limited choice.

In my own personal experience, the quest for community and teachers has been complex and frustrating at times. I've been walking this path, on and off, for 19 years as I write this, and yet, in so many ways, I'm still a complete newbie.

I remember the days when I used to feel filled with anxiety over ever finding a spiritual community of my own. I worried that I would never find good teachers. I thought that I would always feel like the alienated pagan, walking the path alone.

I wish that I could go back and re-assure my younger self that it would come, that it was all part of the progress and that there would come a day when I would be confident in my own practice and connection that the need for community would seem less important than I once thought it was. But I suspect that I would never have believed it at the time. I was too caught up trying to figure out stuff that I couldn't see past the stuff to my own core truths and knowledge.

I care less now about paths and more about values and lifestyle choices. When I think pagan path, I don't necessarily assume shared values or life choices anymore. Even though I use the term in the loosest possible sense, I don't know that any fellow pagan necessarily shares the same path at all because despite some commonalities, we are all walking our own unique paths in life. You know?


Friday, May 24, 2013

gratitude updates

Still plugging away at my monthly gratitude journal:

Interesting to note... the more I do this exercise, the more I find to be thankful for. I think that's a pretty damn great thing!

Have a lovely weekend.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

look... they're growing!

Not much to say other than to share this:

Slowly but surely they're all growing. I'm so proud!


Monday, May 20, 2013

52 weeks of pagan art journaling: week 16

This week's prompt: Hand Mudras

As a practice, hand mudras are more of a tradition we associate with yoga, but have some basis within the Western Magical tradition.

Do you use hand mudras in your practice/meditation?

I've been thinking a lot about mudras lately, particularly in combination with astrology and palmistry. Traditionally I've only ever used the first and third fingers, paired with the thumb, in my meditations but I'm thinking about switching that up to see if working my way through the elements associated with each finger has any effect.

What about you, do you play around with systems to see what they can bring about in your practice? If you do, I'd love to hear about what you're trying out cause it might be worth copying!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

52 weeks of lists

I haven't been doing this project lately, mostly because I haven't been called to it and I'm working on keeping true to practices that call to me and letting go of ones that don't.

So for a while I let go of this exercise because it just wasn't right for me. And I'm all good with that. But this morning I woke up, wandered over to my feedly blogger feed, saw the prompt and thought... hey... I could write about that. So I am!

Today the prompt is: What do you want to be known for?

In no particular order, I want to be known for:

  • creativity
  • integrity
  • loyalty
  • calm
  • meditation & yoga
  • kindness
  • spirituality
  • healing
  • sustainability
  • community
  • story
  • family
  • knowing what matters and not getting caught up in the rat race
  • honesty/truth
  • practicing what I preach
  • living a life that is my own and not what society hands me
  • environmentalism & social conscience

Whenever I contemplate questions like this, the next thing I ask myself is: am I living a life that reflects those aspirations?

I think it's really easy to aspire to things but not so easy to actually practice them in the ways we mean to. For example, I aspire to be known for kindness, but in my day to day life am I really known for being kind? Or am I known more for being impatient, gossipy, and temperamental?

In all honesty, I'm probably a combo of the 2, good and bad. I can be really bitchy and sarcastic. I am not always patient with students and some days, with some students, I find it really hard to remember to see them as individuals instead of whiny, self-entitled brats who want you to do the work for them. Yeah. I love my job but there are days and there are students that get in under my skin and I find myself biting my tongue, counting the seconds till I can kick them out of my office. This doesn't really do much for my kindness rep does it?

By the same token, when I think about this question in light of my spiritual practice, I see a disjunct there too. I'm less concerned with magic than my current life choices indicate and at odds with my intentions. I've always been far more interested in the mystical than the magical when it comes to my spirituality. On some levels I'm far more interested in kitchen witchery and healing than hermetics and high magic. This bears some thought for me in terms of where I want to take my practice in the next few years. Impending motherhood has me shifting back to things that I'd left behind in coven work, only to find myself far more revitalized by my more earthy workings: craft based healing and using magic in the mundane objects around me than in formal ritual. I want to feel energy coursing through me and nature and not feel caught in rigid structures.

Yet therein lies a bit of a paradox, because on some level I think that we need the rigid structure a bit in order to have the discipline to learn things. And I'll be honest, it's one of the things I fear the most when it comes to leaving the group: that I won't have the self-discipline and people helping me learn and push myself to grow and then I won't be realizing the spiritual in my life the way I long to.

I don't have answers to these thoughts yet, in fact, I see this blog, in some way, as a means of figuring that out and working towards knowing what those goals are and finding ways to practice said aspirations in my day to day life, both magically and mundanely.


Monday, May 13, 2013

52 weeks of pagan art journaling: week 15

This week's prompt: Illness

How do you see illness in relation to spirituality? Do you see them as being connected or as being separate?

In my own recent experience, my baby brother, who is estranged from the family, suffered from a rather serious medical incident involving a coma and brain surgery.

As a magical practitioner, I found myself hesitating when it came to intervening in his case with magic. In fact, this is something that I often question when it comes to magical medical intervention because I do tend to see much in the way of illness as being somewhat linked to spirituality. This is not to say that I think that every illness is the result of spiritual dis-ease or karmic debt, because I don't.

On the other hand, sometimes there are clearer cases, like my brother, where it seems quite possible that the illness in question is somewhat related to karmic debt. (It's a long story, but suffice to say that I have good reasons to have this perception). As a Wiccan with a strong Buddhist bent, I believe that part of my duty/service to the Divine is related to easing the suffering of others, so this is where my questions become a bit complex.

I believe that I should do what I can to help, but I also believe that sometimes nothing can be done because the individual in question needs to learn the lesson that is being given.

For example, a coworker of mine recently approached me to tell me that she feels like she's been hexed because she keeps falling ill or hurting herself. Upon closer examination and discussion, I felt like it was less of a question of being hexed and more of a question of her needing to slow down and let her body heal before forging ahead; that the universe was trying to tell her to slow down and take care of her health through a myriad of small wounds and illnesses that were forcing her to stop.

I don't think this is always the case for everyone. In fact, the same brother who is estranged from the family, has suffered his entire life from a serious medical illness that I would never attribute to karmic debt. I actually believe that he has been dealt a rather shitty hand in life when it comes to some of the stuff that was handed to him genetically and in terms of his biological family (not mine).

What he has chosen to do with that and the other opportunities that have come his way since then however, do feel like they factor into where he is at in life right now. On some level I feel that he's been given this amazing opportunity to start again with a cleaner slate and want to help him, only to see how he is mucking it up again.

As someone who wants to help others, I find myself hovering on the line between intervention/action on his behalf and staying safely in the realm of prayers offered up to the god/goddess, leaving it up to a less discriminating judge than I feel that I am capable of being in this moment.

How do you see questions/incidents like these when it comes to your own magical path? Do you think that illness is a lesson or does it have nothing to do with spirituality?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

revisiting an old goal

For Imbolc I set the goal of seeing this art show. I'm pleased to say that I finally made it and it was totally worth it!

Sneak peak of Mr Faye enjoying the show (wow, look at me getting all personal and showing pics not only of myself but also of my partner... next thing you know I'll be posting Baby Faye on the webs too! Who knew. I started this blog with no intention of ever sharing this stuff. I guess things change and so on and so forth):


It was an interested exhibit and the gallery did a nice job of contextualizing the art for those of us (me) who didn't have the cultural knowledge to fully appreciate the work.

It's interesting, lately I've been on an art and culture kick. I suppose I'm trying to squeeze some in before the baby arrives. But I also suspect that it's partially due to the weather being nicer and wanting to get out more. I kind of hate winter. I really think I'm meant to live somewhere warm! What I'm doing in eastern Canada (ok, maybe not east to those who live on the East Coast, but east enough for this West Coast lady), braving Canadian winters, remains a complete mystery to me.

That said, it's been a nice change of pace and has reminded me of my love of art and culture, and why I hold them to be so important in our society even if society doesn't tend to agree. I love it when art can make you think, be it in a photograph, painting, book, or music. I need to remember to do more, even as a mother, to nurture that in my personal life, in the life of my wee little family, and by extension, my community because I do support and show how it is valuable.

What was the last work of art (music, photo, book, movie, painting, etc) that prompted you to think? 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gratitude: art calendar of Simple Abundance

So a while ago I talked about taking up or revisiting a practice of gratitude in my daily life. I officially started it May 1st and have been enjoying it so far.*

I wanted to keep things simple. Instead of looking for 5 things, I'm just looking for 1 thing to remember gratitude for. So far, I've found that I have days when I'll have tons and days where it's a bit harder to find 1 thing.  It's a work in progress... what can I say.

That said, narrowing it down to 1 item has made the practice a lot more pleasurable and manageable.

* Side note: when going back to search for the post, I was struck by how life is very cyclic. I tend to be attracted to the same practices at the same time of the year. And Spring for some reason, is about recalling gratitude in my day to day life. Who knew?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Scrapbooked Book of Shadows & Bookmarks

During my last goal setting endeavour, I decided that I wanted to work on my Book of Shadows. I didn't do as much as I'd hoped, but I did get one page done as well as creating bookmarks for the book.

Here's the page:

This is something that I've been researching a lot lately and am working on incorporating it into my daily (or mostly daily) practice.

Here are the bookmarks:

In a pile, they don't look like much, but I think, spread throughout a book, they'll work well. I used old supplies: origami stars I'd made for another project and old ribbon in my stash.

That's it for now. Hopefully I'll have another page or two, dependent on what I start working on learning in the next little while.


Monday, May 6, 2013

52 weeks of pagan art journaling: week 14

This week's prompt: History

How do you see history, particularly in relation to your path?

When I first started exploring paganism, I saw the film The Burning Times, featuring Starhawk. I was really intrigued by the retelling of history from a more feminine, pagan centric viewpoint.

I'm a little more cynical these days about the veracity of all the claims being made in the film (though I do still believe in a fair amount of about the ways the Malleus Maleficarum was used to incriminate and victimize individuals who didn't conform to social standards or who got in the ways of personal agendas).

That said, I don't buy into the pagan/wicca-washing of history either. I think there's some truth in some of the claims, but as a whole, I believe that Wicca and much of what counts as paganism today is based on much more recent history or rewriting of history. This isn't meant to insult the revitalists out there. Or the Wiccans. Hell, I am Wiccan!

But if my studies have taught me anything the art of historical tellings, it is this: history is subject and reflects the agendas of the writer and the society from which it emerges. As such, I feel that it is very important to read any history treatise on magic with a critical, questioning eye, knowing that we may never really know the truth of the past any more than we necessarily know the truth of the present.

But those are just a few of my random thoughts. What do you think?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

sustainable clothing consumerism

Did you know that a pair of jeans today costs approximately the same price as a pair of jeans in the 1980s?

How can that be, given that inflation and everything else in between has raised in price dramatically since then?

The only answer that explains this is the rise in cheap, global factory labour that drives the cost of labour down in order to be able to produce goods at cheaper and cheaper prices. However, in light of the recent garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where at least 160 workers are dead (as I write this) because at their $40/month salary they could not afford the luxury of not going to work, even though they were concerned about factory conditions, I wanted to take a moment to think about this practice of cheap labour for cheap goods in relation to sustainability and clothing.

Image Source

Amongst many other North American companies that this factory provided goods for are Joe Fresh and Walmart, both of which are sellers of cheap clothing and popular shopping choices for families on a budget.

Did you know that it used to be cheaper to make your own clothes than to buy them? And that this is no longer the case these days?

I'm not condemning people for buying cheap clothing. We all want to save our sheckles. It's a fact and it's understandable. Most of us are either saddled with debt loads that can feel crippling at times or making wages that make it hard to maintain a certain, expected and desired, standard of living. So we make choices that reflect those realities.

After all, why would we buy jeans for $496? And given how often we hear about greenwashing, we have to be careful to read into products that claim to be eco. In fact, if you look closer at those $496 jeans, you'll notice that they are "Bleached wash finish using eco-friendly processes" but there is no mention about whether the cotton is made under sustainable conditions or whether the workers made a fair wage.

Did you know that fair trade does not necessarily mean that an item is ecological?

In light of the state of the clothing industry, the growing ethical challenges of our capitalist society, and our consumerist society, I can't help but feel that the only real solution is for us as consumers to really look honestly at our spending choices.

It's inevitable that we will all will buy something we thought was eco and fair trade, only to find out that it's been greenwashed, that we will endorse something only to realize that the wool had been pulled over our eyes. There are just too many things to look into, to many veiled loopholes that are exploited.

All we can do is our best. And yes, admittedly, sometimes our best won't feel good enough and sometimes we'll drop the ball because it just feels like doing our best puts us in a losing position. But here's the thing, I'm not convinced that eco-consumerism, as it is touted, is really the answer.

Did you know that recycling is really the least effective of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle?

Ironically we are told to vote with our dollars, but I think that we actually might be better served to think of NOT voting with our dollars, in other words, embracing the idea of reducing our consumerism and our goods.

Don't get me wrong here... I like shopping. I'm totally that girl. I like buying things, things make me happy. And for every step forward I take, I take a step back every now and again because I get lured in by some fancy new thing that I just want to have. Not that I need, but that I want. But why?

I know I've been talking about this a lot lately, but it's part of the challenge that I've set for myself to reduce the stuff in my life; to be less ruled by stuff; and to reduce the amount of stuff I bring in during this turn of the wheel (from Ostara to Beltane).

This week, I'm working with students to promote Earth Week and one of the projects that relates to this ramble down the eco, sustainable shopping aisle, is a booth set up by students who bought goods second hand and altered all the items to make them more modern, and fashion forward. While I realize that sewing it not an option for everyone, there are choices that you can make: consignment stores or stores that specialize in selling upcycled goods. One of the stores here in Montreal that I have long admired is La Gaillarde, which originally offered goods upcycled and refashioned by women who'd been in prison as part of their rehabilitation process and has since evolved to have a much broader scope. 

I think that we need to stand back and look at our purchasing choices and make smarter decisions: from "Do I really need this?" to "Do I need so much of this?" to "Can I buy a more sustainable version of this?" to "Can I support local, small business by making a different purchasing choice?"

The trend of shipping our labour off shore in order to get cheaper prices is a problem that extends well beyond the clothing industry and is having a pernicious effect on not only our national economy but also our personal livelihood. Every time that you and I make the choice to buy something that is produced abroad in factory conditions where workers have no choice but to come to work, despite their growing dis-ease with their personal safety, we are not only endorsing a system that exploits them, but also a system that cannot be maintained with serious detriment to our children and our children's children.

The way I see it, we have the following options, all of which are dependent on our financial ability and our personal investment:
  • Buy less
  • Buy things that are local
  • Buy things that are more ethically produced
I'm not going to lie to you... I personally am making the choice to find a middle ground between the 3 options. Sometimes I will continue to buy that cheap good, but I'm trying to only buy it if I need it, not just want it. And I will continue to fall short of my ideals from time to time. I know this and I accept this. But I am trying. I'm trying to buy things that are more locally produced and to not cave into my love of new things so much. When I need a new fix... I'm trying to go second hand shopping! It's a baby step, but still a step, right?


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beltane Goals

Another turn of the wheel, another set of goals!

First, a recap of what I did last time around:

  1. Spring Cleaning Purge: done!
  2. Purchase and Plant Seedlings: purchased, but waiting for them to arrive.
  3. Rune Sticks: I didn't consecrate them, but I did start using them. We're having a rough go of it right now. I'll write more after I've tried them a little more
  4. BOS pages: One page done as well as some pretty origami bookmarks. I'll share soon
  5. Daily Cleaning Ritual: Ok... Kinda... I need to personalize this schedule to fit my own lifestyle
  6. Pre-Natal Fitness: done! I joined a pre-natal aquafit course and have been doing some pre-natal yoga.
  7. More Water: I've totally been good for this one overall this past turn of the wheel. Some days are better than others, but overall I've been good!
  8. Finish A New Earth : Not so much. I'm sleepy these days, what can I say!?

For this turn of the wheel, my goals are:

  1. Finish up a bunch of art journal pages in advance
  2. Make my own cleaning schedule, tailored to my needs
  3. Be better about my pre-natal vitamins (I've been bad this past month)
  4. Finish up my baby projects (baby wearing wrap, decorating the nursery) and then sit back and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy without starting anything new for the baby... no just 1 more thing kind of attitude
  5. Make some freezer meals to store for just after the birth in order to make things easier on us during those first few weeks
  6. Create at least one more BOS page
  7. Get rid of all the pens/felts/paints that are dried up in my craft space
  8. Work with my Rune Sticks a bit more to see if I can get a better read from them
That's it, those are my goals for the next turn of the wheel. I'm hoping to keep things simple so that I can just enjoy things as I finish up my last trimester. I don't foresee myself setting goals for myself during the next sabbat (or 2), but we'll see how it goes.