Advent of Hope

I remember as a kid we had a hanging advent calendar in the shape of Santa, and beginning on December 1st, each day I would move a little plush mouse through all the numbered pockets leading up to the one marked 25. It was something I always got excited about and wouldn’t let anyone else move the mouse except me. Most kids anticipate the gifts of Christmas above all, and I won’t deny that the presents excited me, but I would remember the feeling of Christmas more than anything, and it was that feeling that I anticipated the most. I’m the type that usually enjoys the journey as much as the destination, and I thrive on anticipation.

Christmas is a sacred holiday that is bright and joyous, but also at times mysterious and deserving of deep respect. I feel this darker tone originates from the feeling of desperation that many of our pagan ancestors felt during the shortest days of the year. The “advent” season for them was the hope of the returning sun, and I would imagine this time was spent in reverence and devotion to some form of personified deity representing the sun. In a culture that lived so closely with the land, that didn’t have the resources we have today to preserve food through the winter or cultivate food in harsh conditions, the returning sun was a literal salvation from death.

I am so grateful to be living in this age of technology, because our lives have been made so much easier. But I can’t forget the significance of what this time of year meant to my ancestors, and what it means to me today. I think of the darkest moments of my life, when it felt like all hope was lost, when I was starving for nourishment, when it felt like my heart was freezing out in the cold. It’s in those moments of darkness that hope is all we have to hold on to. Hope of that guiding light to show us the way out, and to warm our hearts after being left out in the cold. This is what advent means to me. Even if life is going great, this season is about hope and welcoming the return of love, compassion, and protection from the darkness. This is why we celebrate the divine birth and the coming of the “Sun” of God. Whether you see it as the birth of Jesus, the coming of Santa Claus, or even the birth of Horus. These are all symbols on the surface, but in our hearts it means so much more. So to anyone reading this, what are you hoping for this advent season?

Spend this time in reverence of whatever divine power you acknowledge, and appreciate the blessings that are all around. Share those blessings with others when you can, spreading joy to others who may be hoping for more. This advent season, I will prepare and welcome the returning God as he is born anew from the womb of the Goddess, and with it the returning life energy that sustains us all. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate, even if you don’t believe in anything, but hold on to hope. That is what keeps us moving forward into the new year, and paves the way for greater things to come.

A Year and A Day

I’ve thought of beginning an official ‘year and a day’, something I haven’t done since I started studying paganism and witchcraft, but as the new year approaches it just seems like a good time to start. My thoughts on it have always been that it’s basically a “trial” period of deciding whether the Wiccan path is right for you and during this trial you’ll learn all the basics before being initiated (this would be in a coven setting). As a solitary who’s been studying for a few years now, I have the basic knowledge but I have no intention of joining a formal group, so what purpose could a year and a day serve?

Well I see value dedicating myself to something, anything. I consider myself a wanderer, but if I just keep wandering in circles, I’ll end up nowhere new. Maybe it’s time to start surveying the landscape I’ve traveled and set down markers indicating where I’ve been. Before dedicating myself to a path, I feel it’s important to really be honest with myself, question the beliefs that I hold, and in the process let go of those things which I won’t have any use for. I’m really tired of feeling lost. I’m tired of carrying around useless baggage that weighs me down, causing confusion along the way. I’ve read a lot of books, most of which I respect and learned a lot from, but the many voices cloud my vision making it hard to focus. I blame myself for craving information and foolishly thinking I can cram it all into my little head, hoping somehow for it all to make sense, but one thing I’ve learned is that this isn’t something that can be rushed. Patience is key, and I’ve just gotta go with the flow.

I love witchcraft. I love all the different correspondences and symbolism, and the art of bringing things together to form a spell. I also feel deeply connected to the old pagan gods and I enjoy the idea of them being able to interact with us today. My draw towards Wicca is inspired by this, and I feel that’s why Wicca is right for me so starting a year and a day just seems like the right thing to do. But I also fear the idea of committing to just one thing. I guess I’ve always been scared of labels, and being forced to go into a box, so subconsciously I jump from one thing to the next to avoid settling in one spot for too long. Maybe it’s a fear of facing myself and actually looking at who I am as a complete and whole person. This is where I need to begin this journey of a year and a day. I need to look at who I am, and every aspect of my being that comes together to form the unique person that is me. I’m not really good at this, but I’m going to try anyways. This is the start of a new direction.

Solitary Life

I’ve gone back forth over the idea of either joining a group or continuing to practice on my own, and I’m trying to look at the pros and cons of both to make the wisest decision. By nature, I’m a solitary person. I’m typically very reserved, quiet, I can often get lost in my own thoughts until an outsider notices and reels me back to solid ground, and since I was a kid I’ve always had a hard time fitting into groups. Whether it be at school, church, or even just within my neighborhood, I’ve always been the odd one out. As an adult now, I’ve got a wonderful partner who loves and supports me, and I’ve got at least one close friend who I can always count on, so I’m definitely not alone in the world, but definitely a loner in spirit.

I’m very active in my spiritual studies and my interest in the occult could be borderline obsession, so logically it would make sense to find a community of others to discuss ideas with and make some friends. I’ve attempted to join a couple of local pagan groups, but my search so far has not been the least beneficial to me in any way. Now, I realize I may sound a little selfish and I’m very aware of my naturally judgmental attitude towards strangers, but I question why I should even bother anymore.

I have attended two different groups and I have also met with two individuals from those groups outside the circle setting. The groups themselves seem to share some common characteristics between them, one of them being the way nobody seems to have a clear understanding of why they’re there. I have a pretty good idea of the general direction of my path, even if it changes over time, and it was frustrating to not have anyone that would hold an intelligent conversation on any occult subject. At the time, I was focused primarily on Wicca, which comprised the majority of the attendees, but my knowledge and experience seemed to have no relevance among them. I made a reference to ‘The Kybalion’ to someone, which in my opinion is a crucial read for any serious occult student of the western tradition (including Wicca), but my comment fell on deaf ears and nobody even seemed open to other sources aside from Scott Cunningham or Christopher Penczak. Now I’m in no way trying to elevate myself above anyone else, and I can’t judge someone for not having a knowledge of that book, but I simply use that as an example to how alienated I felt among these self-proclaimed “experienced” and “mature” pagans. I guess I held too high of expectations that couldn’t be met, at no fault of the group, but at the same time I’m not going to waste my time. One other thing I’d like to mention about these particular groups I attended, are the people I decided to meet outside the group setting. The first one claimed to be a witch for 9 years, and upon visiting his home i was shown his magick room full of trinkets and herbs galore. We became pretty good friends and I thought for the first time, I finally found someone who I connected with and who could teach me anything I wanted to know. I was so wrong. The focus began to change from spiritual to physical very fast, and I got very uncomfortable with the friendship before distancing myself from him.

I’m obviously pointing out all the negative experiences I’ve had, and I can’t say they were completely bad, but I just feel like it’s time to accept this solitary path for what it is. I’m sure that there are great communities out there consisting of knowledgable occultists; I feel like YouTube and the blogging community have some amazing people, and so maybe this is where I should focus my energies. Magic is such a deeply personal thing for me, in ways I can’t even put into words, so it truly frightens me to think of opening up that intimate part of myself to others. The irony of the internet is it’s a place where the whole world can see you, but you can also be the most discreet by only sharing what you want. In the future I hope to share more of myself through writing, and maybe someday soon create my own youtube videos (eeek!), but one step at a time to get me where I’m going.

Tarot as a Foundation

I was reading a recent post by Frater Acher over at My Occult Circle that discusses using the Tarot as a foundation for all of our spiritual work, and it got me thinking about my own relationship to the cards. When I look back now at the progression of this spiritual journey I’ve been on, Tarot has been there since the beginning and continues to function as a guide through every step of the way. The struggle to find a solid base to build from has been a consistent burden while I’ve gone from book to book trying to find the perfect teaching that will guide my next step. I’ve gone from Wicca to Ceremonial Magick to general Witchcraft and then back to Wicca, feeling dizzy from all the bouncing around and not realizing that what I was trying to find has been with me all along. I’ve confused my need for stability with a desire for new knowledge, and in doing so I haven’t been able to build a solid personal practice that is uniquely me because I’m constantly looking to others to fill that void. Both needs have their proper place in my life, but it wasn’t til now that I realized they both have different ways of being fulfilled.

Without being properly initiated into any magical group setting, the stability required to build a proper magical practice must come from internal sources rather than external structures. This is where Tarot plays such a crucial role in teaching me the basics of all magic, and even life as a whole. Regardless of the history and origins of the cards, I can’t  deny the significance and beautifully perfect system found within those 78 cards. They operate on so many levels that anytime I need advise, a word of encouragement, or even a slap on the hand, they always come through and I find myself aligned with the universe. Going even beyond the technical aspects of the cards, Frater Acher discusses that using Tarot allows us to test our assumptions and build relationships with our inner guides that will direct us on the correct path to chose. That’s something that no one book will ever be able to teach us. Most of the books written today, although insightful and educational, can only teach us based on another’s experience. In order to mature and build my own practice, I will need to search within, using Tarot as my guide. The knowledge acquired from books allows me to see what others have experienced and learn from their wisdom so that I may travel out on my own to create experiences unique to my life.

Moving Along

The world of magic is vast, scary, and overwhelming at times, but even in the moments of frustration when I can’t seem to figure out what’s going on, I can still marvel at the energy present all around. The seeming coincidences that are reminders that I’m still doing something right at least. In my mind I think of the purpose for all of this, and wonder why I even care. Why am I not content to accept the world the way it’s been presented to me? People around me continue on with their lives, completely oblivious to the unseen forces that affect us day after day, minute by minute. In my studies so far, it would seem that in the occult there are no innocent bystanders. Once you’re in, and you peek through the veil, there’s a call to interact and be a part of this universal force that lies lies in the unseen realm.
I said I wasn’t going to buy anymore books for a while, after being continuously disappointed by recycled Wicca books, but I’ve decided to not let those books stop me from exploring. I know there are books of true wisdom out there, that aren’t watered down new age nonsense. I love the symbolism and practices of witchcraft, but because Wicca has become the catch-all term for anybody remotely pagan who wants to practice magic, there appears to be limited resources on practicing a true path of the witch. I’ve tried and tried to be content with Wicca as a religion and a complete practice, but my intuition is guiding me beyond those boundaries. I love Wicca, and I think it’s a beautiful expression of our connection with nature, the cycle of the seasons, and our intimate connection to the Divine, yet why won’t my higher self allow me to settle? In my heart I feel like being a witch is a lot more than just drawing down the moon, doings spells for a new car or lover, or attempting to celebrate these supposedly “ancient” holidays that usually have no relevance or historical validity. I see a lot of blogs on here written by people who claim to be witches or magicians and their practice is so genuine, built from years of practical experience, not learned from some Wicca 101 book.
I’ll continue to seek and find my own path somehow, because I trust that the spirits around me will continue to guide my way, it’s just a matter of me having the wisdom to see the world as it is, not the way someone else tells me it is.

New Levels

chakrasThis is sort of a response to Sy Calaelen’s video called Magick vs. Witchcraft and for those of you who are unfamiliar with her work, she has an amazing insight into all things occult and she’s been a huge inspiration for me on my path. If you’re reading this Sy, you’re the best!

I’m currently in a state of transition. More of a shift in consciousness to be more accurate. I recently decided to put a stop to everything I was doing spiritually and just take a break. I took a weeklong vacation to spend some quality time with family and just let everything that was clogging my mind to just sort itself out, well that was the expectation. A few days after returning to work and trying to get back to normal, I began to look over my spiritual life and really see it for what it was. I looked at what I thought I believed, and the practices associated with those beliefs, and started to see that the “spiritual” person I was attempting to be was just a reflection of all the outside influences in my life. Whether direct or indirect, I was starting to see that these influences were dictating to me the path I should follow, instead of me finding who I was deep within and allowing my true self to connect. It wasn’t until I stepped back and evaluated myself that I came to realize there is something growing inside of me that is way bigger than any box I could put it in.

One of the thoughts that kept coming to mind was my idea of what witchcraft is, and how the practice relates to me. For almost two years now I have spent so much energy tirelessly studying witchcraft and Wicca, only to still feel spiritually unsatisfied. Upon my reflection of the meaning of witchcraft, I started to gain a clear picture of what it was that was holding me back. Witchcraft is a magical practice for the mundane, and its uses lend itself to finding love, gaining wealth, and basically helping to solve life’s little problems. I have no doubt that witchcraft is a powerful tool and a beneficial practice, as I have personally experienced its positive effects in my own life, but what happens when we don’t need money or a new job, and we’re happy with the love in our life, or at least content with all of these things? And this is where I was left thinking, not that I couldn’t allow witchcraft to be a part of my life, but that in order to truly grow spiritually I need to expand my horizons to greater knowledge and wisdom.

Enter in.. Hermeticism. I find it very interesting that one of the first books I ever read after starting my exploration of paganism was ‘The Kybalion.’ This book has probably affected me more than any other book I’ve read because of its simple and pure philosophies about magic, God, and the Universe. ‘The Kybalion’ is not pagan specific, and doesn’t adhere to any specific religion, but gives such a strong foundation to all hermetic philosophies. I’m now beginning to explore the world of magic as it pertains to the Western Mystery Tradition, and I feel like witchcraft was the gateway for me to dive deeper into my occult studies. Even now as I’m just beginning to step through that door, I’m gaining a better understanding of witchcraft through the eyes of magic and I can already see a lot of the influences that helped create modern Wicca. I haven’t completely left these two things behind, but they are definitely taking on a different role in my life as I venture forward into the unknown. My only goal is spiritual ascension, and I will follow the path that I need to get there with the guidance of my higher self.

The Witch’s Pyramid

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Originally written in my journal on Jan. 12, 2012, when I was just a few months along on this path:

Beginning at “To Know,” this is a charge to learn, to understand why you live the way you do, and why you believe the things you do. Many people are going to question my path and I need to be knowledgeable of it. Only a fool follows blindly. And this is a path that treasures knowledge as the seed of power. Once you know, you can dare to follow. What “To Dare” means to me is making a conscious decision to apply what you know to your life. In my own life I feel like I’ve reached this stage, but it takes courage to dare. It takes guts, and a drive to live as a witch. No more passive attitude that lets the days pass by. It’s time to grasp each moment and treasure it. If it’s a bad moment, question the lessons to be learned. If it’s a happy and positive experience, dare to have an attitude of thanksgiving towards the God and Goddess.Thank them continually for the blessings in your life. Even in those bad moments, be thankful for the lessons you’ve learned. Once you dare to live your life as a witch, you can begin “to will” for change. You begin to see the world in a different light and you begin to will this new found power towards making a better life for yourself and those around you. Walking as a witch, you feel the connection with the universe and your will begins to align with the energies around you. I believe that our will is a gift and that to will harm on any other creature is to defile not only that gift, but also the Source that bestowed it. When we connect with the universe the seed of energy planted within us begins to grow and develop, as does our divine will. As we feed our energies back into the world we create a cycle of giving and receiving that creates change. This is magick. Will is energy. And in doing magick, it is essential that we remain silent. I feel this is so because our conscious mind directly speaks through our mouths. When we speak, our words carry vibrations that have a direct effect on the environment around us. Our conscious minds are not able to fully grasp the energies of magick, as we are usually focused on the mundane. It is when we silence our conscious mind and begin to listen with our spirit that we begin to attune with those energies. As a witch, learning to listen with your spirit allows you “to go,” and to ascend to a higher level of living. A life of power, of love and light, and to achieve a perfect balance with the universe. Ultimately this leads to the perfection of ourselves within the Source, and through many lifetimes, becoming one with the All. And until that perfection is attained, the spiral continues…