Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shadow Work and Introspection Season

I'm soon to begin work on my dark half for the year. This is the time of the year when I retreat inward to muck out my hidden issues.

I suffer from quite a few....neurosis? I have not been seen by a professional since 2002, but I know enough about my past and some of my life long problems to know that I suffer from things that I need to face.

I have food related phobias and OCD. I have generalized anxiety disorder (this was why I was seen from 1996 - 2002), social anxiety and panic disorder. Also, from talking to a therapist friend of mine, it's very probable that I have PTSD (no idea how badly, and I can't afford therapy to find out) from my childhood and an abusive parent. I am thankful that none of the above issues is as bad as I've read from some other people who suffer from them, but I do have a lot of muck to deal with. The food related phobias have caused me the most problems. Having a couple of actual food related physical problems (allergies, etc), it's really caused me to go off the deep end about food. I had lost an obscene amount of weight in 2011 and I was actually starting to get very scared about my health. Me being scared about my health is a bad thing because I teeter on the edge of legitimate concern for my health and full blown hypochondria. I can't watch health programs on TV or shows like House or ER. Those are damned death sentence for a person like me.

I watched a show about hantavirus once. Just once. And, then I saw a mouse and about had a damned heart attack and was convinced for about 4 weeks that I was going to die of hantavirus. My husband had a heart attack in 2008. I'm so glad he survived and is doing well, now. But, I've been waiting for my heart attack ever since. Every twinge on the left side of my body is an oncoming heart attack.

As for my generalized anxiety, it's mostly controlled now. But, I have to do a lot of work to keep it that way. I have to plan absolutely every single social interaction. Nothing can be spontaneous or it sends me into fits. I shop during off hours because going to the Walmart or grocery store is an exercise in control that I'm only now starting to get good at. Crowds make me want to vomit and I'm very uncomfortable in them. Where I live, there is no such thing as person space, the people here will crawl right up your leg until you can smell what they've had for lunch. I also don't do very well with small talk. If I don't know you well enough to have a full on conversation with you, I'd rather you just nod and move on. Stopping to talk to obscure people I don't know well makes me want to run for the truck and I'll return at midnight when everyone should be sleeping.

It takes me days to recover both mentally AND physically from social gatherings. I recently went to my in laws' for 5 hours. It took me 5 days to shake the "social gathering hangover". My panic attacks are caused by stress and too much anxiety. If I get worked up without a break, I have attacks. I also can have random attacks for no reason, but those are rare now.

The food thing is....actually kind of funny in a way. I've always been really weird about food, even as a toddler. I wouldn't eat anything. I ate 3 things for like 4 years of my life and none of my food could touch. Ever. I'm still like this, only am a little better about it. If it's meat and potatoes, it can touch. If my dessert touches my gravy, I will squeal like a stuck pig. It grosses me out. My mother puts fruit in her salads. In her green, dinner salads! Those are two flavors that shouldn't even be in the same room at the same time, let alone in the same bowl! Gross. I'm very close to divided plates.

I also have this crippling fear of food allergies. I have some legitimate ones. I'm allergic to melons. Deathly. That one allergy has caused me years of torment. Not because I like melons, I don't. But, because my mother used to torture me with this phrase: "You can develop an allergy at ANY time." Now, I'm afraid to eat. All the time. I've got IBS, so this doesn't help. Gluten intolerant doesn't help either. I haven't eaten seafood since 2000. Not because hate seafood, I love it. But, because my mother told me I could be allergic to it at any time. Haven't eaten it since.

Trying new foods? Nope. No can do, Chief. I might be allergic to it. What's that? You want me to try frog legs? Not only is there the chance of an allergy, but yuck. No. You can imagine what it's like to live with me. Here's the cruel twist to this. It's coming up to pumpkin season. Each year, I must fight my food related OCD and phobias to eat my favorite veggie, the pumpkin. I might be allergic to it, now.

I'm also deathly afraid of under cooked food. Chicken, pork, both deadly. I love both chicken and pork. But, either me or someone I trust must cook it! I would never order pork at a restaurant, and very rarely order chicken. I'll get steak all day long, med. rare please (this is an enigma to me, I don't know why I can eat almost raw steak). But, chicken just isn't something I will do when I go out to eat. Fish? No.

These are the things I work on during the dark half of the year. I don't face any of these to any serious degree until Autumn Equinox and after until Mid-winter when I take 30 some days off to switch to the light self. The time between Mid-summer and Equinox is my time off , as well. I just meditate for peace during that time.

Starting on Equinox, I'll be meditating on my mental hang ups, on my generalized anxiety, etc. I will be socializing a lot more than I do during the light half of the year. I will be facing some of my very crippling fears about food and actually, I usually try a new food during this time. I will be having a few panic attacks I would imagine. I usually do when I do shadow work. Nightmares, too. But, I wouldn't be as far as I am in dealing with all this stuff without meditation and exercise. Those are two life savers, believe me!

I'll also be dealing with something that only pops up during the winter. Germ related OCD. Now, please don't get the wrong idea. I don't have this as badly as a lot of sufferers do. I don't suffer from this like some people I've read about and I'm both thankful for that and sad for those people. My problem with this is bad only because I have to go places where sick people are. I have to take myself and my son to the doc's office at least once during this time of year. That place is a death factory. I don't touch anything in doc's offices. I won't use their pens, read their mags, touch their chairs with my hands, nothing. I bathe in germ-x so much during the winter that we go through 2 gallons of the stuff. Every time I get a virus, it's very tough to keep myself calm because I'm convinced it's going to turn into pneumonia and kill me. Or, that one of my kids will get sick and die, I'm really anxious about my kids, too.

These are not fun things to deal with. Back when I was kid, most of this stuff was already making itself apparent. Instead of helping me like any normal parent, my mother would chastise me and call me a faker or a hypochondriac. Hypochondriac isn't a slur, it's very real disease and it's not funny. But, for some reason, she finds it hilarious. Even though I have had some very real health scares that could have been very deadly and serious, and still have a couple, she would call me a faker, or a hypochondriac. She would never give them any real thought, or care. So, my work to overcome my mental hangups is pretty daunting. But, the first step was even admitting I had these. That's been in the works for years because I denied them for a long time.

I'm hoping to include drawings with some of my shadow work. I don't know that I will be able to, or can. I'm not a good artist and never have been. But, we'll see.

What will you be doing for the dark half of the year? What "shadows" plague you?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Use of Divine Images in Spirituality

I don't know what it is about atheistic paganism that gets people's hair all in a snit, but it seems as though someone has taken issue something I said my first blog post. This post was republished on Humanistic Paganism dot com, so, I'm not sure if the emailer I just heard from read it here or on that other site.

In the post, I mentioned that just because I don't believe the Gods exist in physical, sentient form that doesn't mean that I won't use their images in my own spiritual practice. I had a commenter over there ask me about how I use the images or would use them, but I don't think this email came from that commenter. I will redact the personal information and just give you the gist of the email.

The emailer wanted me to know how off putting it is to hear that other pagans are "using" images of deities in their practices while not actually honoring or believing in said deity. One example was that if I used the image of Bast either on my altar (I do have a mildly functional altar) or in my rituals, if I don't really believe in Bast and am not living my life in honor of Bast, I am actually at risk of offending deities. The deities "don't like this".

No offense intended, but........I find that laughable, frankly. I'm sure that I've done a lot more in my life that would be offensive to Bast than using a cat image in an occasional ritual or on my altar. Like, I don't know, running a stray cat out of my yard and away from my truck, or, not feeding a stray cat. And, how exactly does one live their lives in honor of Bast?? Does anyone really have an answer to that? Or are you all just making this up as you go along the same as the rest of us?

The thing is, I don't believe people who say, "I work with Bast." Because, no deity, if they were real, would have any real reason to "work with" a human being. I have always wanted to ask them, "what kind of work does Bast do, exactly? Do you show up at the homeless shelter and try and save all the homeless in the name of Bast?" My hunch is that's a big "no". You just live life. You might worship Bast, you might honor Bast. You might believe in Bast, 100%. But, I just have always highly resented the "work with" phrase when dealing with deities. It's not convincing, especially not while telling me that the same deities would have a problem with me "working with their images."

So, I suppose that makes us even. Mr. or Ms. Emailer? Doesn't it? You take issue with the fact that the face of the deity I see as representative of the holiday or practice in question and not as something that requires my worship or belief or undying fealty, and you believe the opposite. You believe you've got a personal window into Bast's psyche.

I don't care what other pagans choose to do. I'll freely admit that in the back of my mind I'm questioning them the same as I'm questioning any Christian or Muslim or Jew who claims their God is real and claims to know what these deities would want if they were real. Their images aren't that important to me beyond how they fit into my daily connection with the Wheel of the Year. How their images have, for centuries, been associated with certain aspects of the seasons and of nature. The thing is, I just don't really care about the deities beyond that very elementary connection.

And, just to prove that it doesn't really matter which deity you choose, I'm going to do something. I had toyed with this idea back when I wrote the first post and even more when I wrote the Grimoire post. This email just basically made the decision for me. Not because it made me angry, because I wouldn't give it that much credit, but because I actually found it funny enough to do this.

Each year, I'm going to use a different deity as my symbolism. Some of them might be known to a lot of people, but the one I'm going to start with isn't a deity of old. He's a totally made up deity. I'm going to show that the spirituality doesn't change even if the face of the deity does change. I'm going to prove that Bast isn't going to come out and bite me if I use her image, or that lightning bolts aren't going to shoot me in the ass if I use Zeus without actually believing in Zeus.

This next year, 365 days starting All Hallow's to All Hallow's, I'm going to be dedicating everything to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarian paganism? Could be fun.....! I'm even going to tailor my holiday menus to include a pasta dish. All my Grimoire pages will be connected to incorporating FSM into naturalist/atheist paganism. I'm going to show that naturalism is the same regardless. That one doesn't need to concern themselves with the offense of the deities, Christian, Pagan, Pastafarian or otherwise. The offense comes from people not deities. When we live life, we're just living life according to our individual set of values and morals and none of it really has anything to do with deities.

I actually look forward to this. I plan to explore all sorts of different deities over the next few years and devoting 365 days to incorporating their image into naturalist/atheist paganism. Complete with prayers and rituals and incense offerings. Should be a lot of fun and will be a great way to learn the mythology behind the deities from an atheist perspective.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mid-Life Crisis

It seems my in laws might be in the midst of a mid-life crisis. We visited over the weekend. That's unusual because they don't live in town and we don't like to go out much. But, some things were said while we were there that gave rise to my post today.

My sister in law apparently wants to die. Both hubby and I were pretty shocked at that revelation since she's one of the happiest people we know. I don't think I've ever met a more jovial person in my entire existence. But, she was saying some pretty strange things. Like she wished she had cancer, and that life sucks and she wants to die. The really strange thing was that she said it while laughing and smiling and we thought she was kidding. Then she said, "No, really. I'm serious."

When we got home we sort of mulled over the topic of the "mid-life crisis". What does this have to do with paganism, naturalism or atheism? Well, my in laws are Christians. And, that got me to thinking. Every time I hear about someone having a mid-life crisis, they're always Christian. I think I have yet to hear about a pagan having one. It almost makes me want to poll pagan forums to ask if any have ever had one. I'm sure they have, they have to have. But, why do we only hear about religious people having these things?

Then we kind of touched on the issue of ourselves. Because the in laws are that much older than we are. We both agreed that we kind of had the crisis already. We did that stuff when we were in our 20's. It's true, as weird as that sounds. We both just went off the deep end and did all kinds of stupid garbage in our 20's. So, that leads me to wonder whether we will ever have an actual mid-life crisis, now. Better yet, what in the world would we do that we haven't already done if we have one???

I don't know that there's a point to this entry, just rambling. Maybe a pagan who's had a mid-life crisis can weigh in on it. I'm kinda worried about my sister in law, now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ponderings on Lughnasadh

Yes, yes, I know. Lughnasadh is over, but I want to direct attention to a post I just read about this holy day. I've often said that I have some very fundamental issues with the eight pagan holidays and this post basically outlines a lot of them. The author articulates what he's trying to say far better than I ever could. The author is John Halstead who writes "The Allergic Pagan" blog on Patheos.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Planning for Autumn Equinox

I know what you're thinking. "'s only August!", right? Yes, I agree. But, if I don't plan these things, they always get fouled up in the details. And, when you live on a budget, you have to plan. Thoroughly.

School starts here on the 26th, and the stores are full of Moms and Dads taking little junior around to get his clothes and supplies for the year. Now, that none of my kids are in school anymore, I get to use these times to stock up on crafting supplies. Mainly for this Grimoire I'll be doing.

Remember when I said that I had tried the Grimoire thing before, I just couldn't get into the digital type media to create the thing. Old habits.....they die hard, isn't that the saying? I bought a new printer, and I have things in mind for how I can incorporate digital art into my book. For some reason, I just have a fire under my butt, now.

So, Equinox. It's still going to be over 85 degrees here during that time, so the traditional food of the Wiccan Mabon has never made sense. It did when I lived up north, but I've been down here for 10 years, and no one is eating stews and soups in September. I also have little to no ties or connection to some of the more traditional foods that pagans serve on Autumn Equinox.

Like, Colcannon. This is a traditional Irish dish, a great many pagans list it as one of their traditional recipes for both Lammas (Mid-summer for me) and Mabon (Autumn Equinox). Sometimes it seems like some people just reprint some of the recipes they see on the correspondence list on someone else's site and you wonder if they're really serving that. I used to get stuck behind that barrier. Colcannon is traditional, but my family has never done any traditional Irish or Celtic cooking. What to do.

Since it's still hot here, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking a stew all day. Or eating Colcannon. So, we will be having a roasted chicken breast green salad with homemade ranch. For dessert, it will be baked cinnamon apples. There will probably be ice cream involved in this, also.

My meditation for this holiday will be similar to what we do in America on Thanksgiving. Except, instead of giving thanks with a prayer to God, I'll be giving thanks by meditating on all of the good that has happened this year and saying good-bye to the light half of the year. I'm also going to try and convince my husband to drive out to the lake for some "Welcome to Fall!" photos. We'll see. The colors don't like to change here until around Halloween.

I'm also planning something else, this has nothing to do with Equinox, though. I am planning to make Egyptian Kyphi. With my trying to transition into making my own loose incense, it made sense to try this. It's only in the planning stages right now, and I can't get some of the ingredients until I save the money to do it. But, I'm excited. I've wanted to make Kyphi for years and just didn't think it was the right time. When it gets closer to the time I'm going to make it, I'll post the recipe I'll be using. I really hope it turns out!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Astrology and Naturalism

Someone asked me, about a year ago, if I also believed in astrology "like most New Agers do". Once I finished wincing at the term "new ager", I told them that I didn't. And, then I told them that "new age" has nothing to do with me, I'm an atheist.

I revisited the question a couple of times wondering if I actually should believe in it, though. I mean, my path really revolves around the Universe and how it affects everyone. So, why not believe in astrology? In the end, I still don't do astrology.

I'm a Scorpio. I've had my chart all mapped out. Scorpio sun sign, Pisces rising sign, Capricorn moon sign. Plus a bunch of planets in various places. The description of my character based on the very generic descriptions given by astrology is really only vaguely accurate. I suppose it would be easy for anyone to believe astrology works when the information is as generalized as it is.

At the end of the day, I do believe that planets and the sun and the moon have a lot to do with people and affect us greatly. Just not on a personality related level. I don't believe in horoscopes, or that I should be hard to get close to because I have a scorpion for a leading constellation. I am.........hard to get close to. But, not because of my astrology, it's because I'm a giant introvert. And, many Scorpios I know aren't introverts at all.

I guess I just don't see a reason to believe in categorizing people based on star alignments. I see personalities as random occurrences and I think if most people looked at other people on an individual basis, instead of a generalized one, they'd see that there is no real way that astrology works.

Then there's the fact that "new age" is attached to it. A whole other problem in and of itself.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mid-summer is Here!

For most pagans that I know, last Thursday was when they were all celebrating Lammas or Lughnasadh. For a lot of traditions, this time of year is the time to celebrate the first harvest and I always got a "beginning of fall" undertone from Lammas when I first got into the pagan lifestyle.

And, actually, I never heard the term Lammas spoken or saw it written until I found the pagan community on the internet. Lughnasadh is what this time of year was always called in the circles I was in.

But, in every place I've ever lived, August is certainly not the beginning of fall by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's 101 degrees where I live right now and tomorrow it's supposed to be a whopping 107! It's the hottest part of the summer, here. Kids are now beginning "hell weeks". Hell week means 3 different things where I am. One group uses it to describe the 3 weeks of football camp at the local high school for this year's upcoming football season. Another group uses it to describe cramming all the swimming, BBQing, boating, camping, etc., that they can before school starts the 26th. And, the local Christians use it to describe their local push to get the local youth into youth camps and groups before school starts, keep the sheep well guarded.

Today, I got sidetracked. This is usually a day where I would be preparing the roasted chicken feast to welcome the peak of summer! Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out this way. This morning, I found out that brown recluses like to make homes in cardboard boxes and it just so happens that I have a bunch of those storing things in this house. Needless to say, I'm on a mission to unpack from cardboard and repack into wood or plastic tubs. I've been mindfully using this time as my ritual for preparing my home to be closed up for the cooler months. I normally wouldn't even be doing this stuff until October, here. But, I guess now is good and I can always repeat it. It's good for the soul!

My meal will have to wait until tomorrow, but tonight's offering of incense will be a spectacular apple/blackberry scent and I have been burning an oak and pear scented candle today. My meditation today was focused on switching to my dark self. I've got some things to work through this year, it will be quite a task, I'm sure.

So, Happy Mid-summer to you. And, Happy Lammas/Lughnasadh!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Insincerity in the Community

I lurk on quite a few forums. Some of them are dedicated to paganism and some of them are not.  Out of frustration, I've stopped reading a couple of them in the past due to what I see as an epidemic in the paganism communities. Insincerity.

It seems as though the pagan community at large has a high volume of people who put forth an air of "shiny, happy people" and of being above the natural responses people have toward annoyances or hostility or silliness. It's seen as PC for them to sugar coat the world, so that paganism is seen as "above" everyone else and all the drama.

But, there are weeds in every yard and they can't escape the fact that it's not really all that believable and some of us can see through the veneers that they erect to fool people. This whole "epidemic" is why I left the greater pagan community awhile ago. I don't want to be associated with people who lie to put forth a different face.

Recently, there was a question posed on a forum that asked, "Do You Accept Other People's Religions?". This question has been posed in many forums, not all of them having to do with religion. I posted that the word accept really wouldn't be the correct word. If we use the word accept we are setting ourselves up for a loaded world. That would mean that we accept those beliefs that space ships are going to come and pick people up when the comets come by. Or the belief that we are all going to hell for not accepting Jesus Christ as our savior. Perhaps a very few people do accept those beliefs, but I doubt many of them are pagan. The correct word we want is tolerate.

Yet, that doesn't stop them from saying that they do accept it. Why? Does anyone really think that by saying the accept these things they are showing that pagans are more accepting than other people? Because that's what it seems like. It seems more like people are too afraid to say what's real and instead and just saying anything so that they don't draw attention to themselves. I don't believe that these people really accept everyone's religions, unwaveringly. That would go against out very human nature. Are we suddenly evolving past rudimentary skills like judgement? I would highly doubt it, and I really hope that's not the case.

It kind of seems like pagans have decided to one up the Christians by showing them what "Judge not, lest ye be judged" really means. Sadly, I just don't believe that it's genuine and I never have. I know how people talk when they're around like minded kind. I saw it all over eclectic wiccan groups and I still see it today. Say one thing when you're in public and then say what you really think and feel when no one's looking.

Can you really say that you don't judge those people who protest funerals of fallen soldiers with greatly offensive signs?? Can you really say that you accept their religion? They're a completely extremist branch of Christians, you accept this?? Does that mean you accept extremist Islam, too? The Boston bombers for instance? 9/11? Or is it that people just don't think before they speak anymore? You're setting yourself up for a giant can of worms bursting open if you put forth the opinion of acceptance.

One person who commented mentioned that they wouldn't want to subject another human being to the word tolerate and instead would rather use honor. Again, I have to raise eyebrows at this. It's a very loaded word when it comes to just what kinds of ridiculousness there is in the world, today. People honor killings in the name of religion?? That's what you get when you take religion wholesale and not use judgement on it. You get extremism. Do you really honor that??

I'm sorry. I apologize to whomever I many offend, but I don't buy it. I just flat don't buy it. No one is saying to themselves, "You believe it's okay dominate women because your prophet says to do so?? Alright, I can honor that." Rational people aren't doing this. The only people who are doing it are people within that religion. Don't sugar coat things to make them more in line with the erroneous assumption that pagans have to be more passive and accepting than other groups do. I don't know where this incorrect assumption got started, but it needs to die. Now, preferably. No one is honoring WBC. And, if they are, they need some professional evaluation. No one is accepting WBC, except WBC. Why do people feel the need to give off the illusion that they are?

It's these insincere perceptions that have kept me from really connecting with pagan community as a whole. Twenty years, and I still can't take most of them seriously because not very sincere. Pagans are just like any other group of people in reality, everyone. We use judgement. We do it every day. The ones that say we don't judge are lying. The ones that say we do judge, we just do it in favor of the oppressed, are still lying. We also say what we really mean when the PC police aren't listening. I will flat out tell you to your face, but I guarantee you, most people who look overly PC on the outside aren't like that on the inside. They're making the same judgements everyone else is making when faced with silliness and extremism. I just don't believe they really accept any of it. It makes no sense to say they do.

This brings me to my point. People have got to stop whitewashing and sugar coating in paganism. I've seen so many people ranting over the years about how the fluffy bunnies have whitewashed their Gods. Turning dark skinned Gods into light skinned beings, turning dark Gods into huggy, loving beings, and trying to make the public at large believe pagans are only really singing kumbaya by that fire in the forest. People have got to stop sugar coating everything they say to make it go down the PC gullet easier. The bottom line is, if you really aren't using any judgement, you're pretty dangerous.