Article: As We Approach the Winter Solstice

As We Approach the Winter Solstice

If you are like me, December can be overwhelming…. As we approach the Winter Solstice, the gift of sunlight is hard to come by, causing light deprivation, circadian disturbances, and shifts in melatonin regulation. The subsequent effects on mood, behavior and health can be difficult to deal with, especially since the reins of life’s expectations don’t loosen to accommodate these seasonal shifts. Instead, the holidays bring their own unique stresses and can add to a sense of depletion and anxiety.

In my case, it’s the same each year. The effects of light deprivation sneak up on me, much in the way that seasonal allergies seem to. I start feeling sluggish and apathetic. My eyes take on a dull ache and my skin and hair feel like straw. My sleep is less rejuvenating and I feel starved for more of it. When the morning alarm rings, it takes me by surprise like a nighttime intruder on my dreams, rather than the harbinger of a new day. I crave food that can be defined as ‘sticking to the ribs’–starches, sweets and carbohydrates. I move about my day in an uncomfortable fog, as if I’ve shifted into a Winter torpor.

Obviously, the effects of these shifts in our circadian rhythms can have major implications for our functioning. The term SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, has been specified by the American Psychiatric Association as a recurrent major depressive disorder. There are many treatments for SAD, from lightbox therapy and negative air ionization to antidepressants and vitamin D supplements–all of which can be valuable.

However, what I think is critically missing from the conversation surrounding this ‘condition’, is that it is actually quite a balancing force, allowing the external energies of Spring and Summer to gently ebb into the reflective and restorative influence of Fall and Winter. In this way, we are connected intimately to all of the other living beings around us. Those of us who don’t choose to migrate by feather, fin, foot, engine or airplane to lands of longer days, are given to the same process of slowing down. Amphibians bury themselves in the cold muddy bottoms of ponds and slow their metabolic rates to a crawl. Bears, rodents and small mammals snuggle into burrows, caves, hollowed logs, warrens, dams and tunnels and hibernate. Deciduous trees shed their leaves, stop photosynthesizing and go dormant. Perennials pulse energy and nutrients through their roots. Plants and animals are allowed the most logical and reasonable response to the shifting in seasons–rest.

As for we humans, it is essential that we allow some self-care rituals to usher in the shorter days and colder weather to avoid feeling at odds with our environment. SAD is, at least in part, a result of the cultural expectation that our patterns should remain the same, despite the changes in our environment. Our culture is not set up to keep us thriving through these transitions. Our work and school days remain the same. Our financial pressures only increase with the need to heat our homes and accommodate holiday spending. We are accustomed to eating the same varieties of foods in these lean times as we do in the vegetative abundance of summer. We can feel isolated and alone as the roads become icy, and the weather less appealing.

However, we can take a cue from some other Northern cultures that have adjusted for the dark days surrounding the Solstice. Scandinavian countries, specifically Denmark and Norway, have adopted the concept of ‘Hygge”. This is a term that signifies a physical and psychological state of coziness, safety, togetherness and well-being. Hygge is a state of being that does not try to defy the influence of these circadian changes, but rather embodies them in a celebration of reflection, unity and restoration. There is much evidence that this concept is good medicine. Despite sometimes as much as 17 hours of daily darkness, the Danes are one of the happiest people on the planet.

And while it is unrealistic for most of us to shirk the responsibilities of modern life, we can adopt some of the principal tenets of Hygge into our daily routines. Below is a simple, attainable list of small changes that can have mighty effects on our mental, physical and spiritual health as we enter these Winter months.

  1. Declutter. Physical clutter leads to mental congestion and makes it harder to relax. Make your home a sanctuary by creating tidy and clear spaces. Focus instead on coziness–soft blankets, warm socks, and plush textures work wonders.
  2. Create a glow. The warm, flickering light of wood stoves, candles and soft lighting give a softness and security that incandescent lighting can’t match.
  3. Exercise first thing in the morning, outside in the natural light. This helps in multiple ways–it keeps circadian rhythms fixed and maintains a strong sleep drive at the end of the day. And, exposure to natural morning light can stave off grogginess for the rest of the day as it signals the body to cut down melatonin release and increase serotonin levels.
  4. Maintain a consistent sleep and waking cycle.Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day can work wonders on keeping our circadian rhythms aligned.
  5. Put away the back-lit gadgets at least 1 hour before bed and enjoy the natural warm light of a fire or candlelight instead. The blue spectrum light given off by electronics confuses the brains rhythm’s and inhibits the hormonal release needed for good sleep.
  6. Be together. Hygge is created through togetherness. Allow the holidays to be a chance to come together and help each other, rather than a cue to buy presents. Give the gift of your time and be present, and ask that others give the same. Physical objects cannot create happiness the way that feeling secure, unstressed and valued can. Together, we can support each other and create an unparalleled expression of light in the darkness: the feeling of being loved.

I hope you all have a happy Solstice, and a cozy start to your Winter! For more information about Hygge, check out Meik Wiking’s book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well.
Herbal Truffle Recipe

These truffles make beautiful and healthful gifts for the holidays. They are a great way to give your loved ones the benefits of herbs as they enjoy the luxurious treat of homemade truffles. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup maca powder
¼ cup turmeric powder
2 tablespoons damiana powder
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon rosemary powder
1 tablespoon cardamom powder
½ tablespoon black pepper finely ground
3/4 cup tahini or almond butter
1/2 cup raw honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut shreds or black sesame seeds to roll balls in
Directions:

Mix the nut butter and sweetener together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the powdered herbs.
By hand or with an electric mixer, slowly add powdered herbs to the nut butter mixture.
Form mixture into 1-inch balls and then roll in coconut shreds or sesame seeds.
Store in airtight container in the refrigerator—refrigeration will give the truffles a firmer texture.
Enjoy 1-3 truffles per day.

Source: Good Witches Homestead

 

Advertisements
Posted in Articles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Article: Jumping Starting Your Regular Practice

Originally posted @ patheos.com

Jump Starting Your Regular Practice
Starlight Witch
Nov 27, 2017

Although you could live a long time as a pagan without rituals, I don’t recommend it. It’s sort of like driving a car and deciding to shift into neutral. Coating could feel fun for a while. It’s certainly less work! And, as long as you’re going downhill, you’ll still be moving. You’ll probably even feel the wind in your hair . . . at least for a little while.

However, once the potential energy runs out, you can get stuck very easily.
candle ritual pagan wiccan practice regular

When we allow our spiritual practices to coast, we might not like where we end up. We might find ourselves in a crappy neighborhood. In the lowlands, stressors can compound. It’s easy to make bad decisions when we’re stressed and feel we have few choices. When the car won’t start up again, summits can seem insurmountable. If we feel we can’t escape, we might decide to find a place to live in the lowlands.

I’m saying all of this from personal experience. Living without a spiritual practice led me, unknowingly, down a dark path. Fears crept into my subconscious, and I took them on without questioning whether I believed in them or not. I felt alone spiritually.

How do we end up in the Spiritual Lowlands?

Life happens. We have to work, take care of our bodies and homes, and tend to our partners, friends, and family. All this takes a lot of time. When additional responsibilities show up, time can pass by faster than we like. The evaporation of time can be imperceptible. Before we know it, we may have missed a full moon or a sabbat.

Or maybe a crisis happens, disrupting regular life. This can take many forms, such the death of a loved one or an accident; or natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. These all-encompassing crises can take over our lives. When happens, anything not related to survival can fall by the wayside.

Or maybe your coven had problems. Maybe you didn’t vibe with them anymore, or perhaps there’s a problematic person that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Or, if you’re a solitary practitioner, you may find it harder to commemorate the sabbats with a satisfying ritual. If there’s no one reminding you of the date or planning a ceremony, you might run the risk of “dialing it in.” It can be so easy to merely think a happy thought on the full moon and carry on. That’s what I did, for quite some time.

Only, happy thoughts don’t go very far.

Jump Starting Your Practice

The first step in recovering your practice is to realize it has slipped. When was the last time you celebrated a moon or sun cycle? Why has it been so long?

At this point, it’s important to set an intention to get back into practice, no matter what phase the moon is in. Look toward the next moon or sun cycle. Even if you don’t feel like you can do anything, mark it on your calendar anyway.

It’s important to realize that we often need divine intervention the most when when we’re the busiest. We need reinvigoration when we’re spending our energy like it’s free, when we’re scrambling to go to this meeting or that, when we’re setting up appointments between coffee lunches and an almost-empty gas tank. Taking a moment to connect is crucial. Do everything you can to prioritize your coming-back ritual over any other events on the same day. Say no, or reschedule other events, if you must. Keep your ritual plans.

Over the next few days / weeks, think about this celebration day. What does that specific holiday means to you? Figure out a way to work your intention into the sabbat. Or if it’s a new moon, set your intentions to renew your spiritual practice. If it’s a full moon, release anything holding you back from performing your spiritual work. You may want to purchase or gather anything that helps you connect to the ritual, like a new candle, or a bouquet of wildflowers or herbs. When the day comes, show up and do the work! Write down how you feel afterwards. You may be surprised at your emotions.

Other ways to get into the spirit again include the following:

  • Go to a pagan festival. Not all of them involve camping – there are a few in hotels, with all the convenience and hygiene you can take!
  • Join a local group and take part in their next ritual.
  • Build some kind of pagan community, even if it’s on social media with a fake name. You may find that other people can inspire you to delve deeper, or maybe you’ll discover something new that will inspire you.
  • Get real and honest. Maybe you’ve evolved so much that your patron deity doesn’t suit you anymore. Celebrate yourself where you are and where you want to be, and be open to growth, possibly with a new god or goddess.
  • Do research. Buy new pagan books and read them, cover to cover. Look up rituals and gods on the internet. Research a ritual to help you get your spirit back.
  • Go to therapy. This is a no-brainer, but if you’re feeling stuck, there’s nothing like talking to a therapist to help you sort things out. Especially if you’ve been coasting for a while, it might be time to dive deep. There’s no shame in therapy. I’ve been there, and several of the most well-adjusted people I know have gone as well.

Avoid Slipping Back into the Lowlands

The trap that I’ve fallen into at this stage is slipping back into a busy life and forgetting to plan ahead. This kind of sporadic practice is what I call “fix-it ritual,” or the band-aid approach. In this state, one appeals to the gods only when there’s something wrong, or when it’s convenient. While this sloppy practice might be good enough so that we can still set intentions and manifest, it’s usually not enough to truly form a bond with our beloved deities.

If you don’t show up for ritual to celebrate the gods very often, do you think they listen? If we only practice only when things are really bad, we run the risk of looking like whiners to our beloved gods, and no one wants to be that person.

If we only ask for growth in the darkest of places, we miss the beautiful upward and inward spirals of spiritual evolution that can only happen when we’re feeling good. That’s why this next step is crucial.
Plan Ahead for the Next Ritual

Once you get back into the ritual swing of things, keep it up! Mark the next date on your calendar. Better yet, buy a pagan calendar that has the moon and sun holy-days already marked on it. There are tons of great pagan calendars out there — your purchase will support a pagan business. Best of all, you’ll never have to look up the time or aspects again for that year. They’ll already be on your calendar, clearly marked and prioritized.
Build a baseline

Once you’ve started your metaphorical spiritual engine and the juices are flowing, create a regular practice again as a sort of baseline. Decide what works for you. For me, it’s celebrating the new moons, full moons, and the solar wheel of the year. That’s enough for me to feel reinvigorated and to sow my intentions / cast away what I don’t need on a regular basis.

Regular practice is like the fluids in our autos. The more we upkeep the maintenance, the longer we’ll have the car, and the more agreeable the car will be to getting us to everyday places as well as up that giant hill, and to the next gathering.

Regular practice helps connect us to the cycles of the earth, our own internal rhythms, our evolving desires, and our sense of self. When we connect with our gods, we have a strong foundation to stand upon when things go awry. Ritual elevates everyday life to a more fully lived life. Don’t wait for things to get really bad, like I did, before coming back. Rest if you must, but keep moving forward.

“If you can’t fly, run.
If you can’t run, walk.
If you can’t walk, crawl.
But by all means, keep moving.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Source:  Patheos: Jump Starting Your Regular Practice

Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

Ten Ways to Piss Off a Pagan

Ten Ways to Piss Off a Pagan

1.Ask them if they are Satan worshippers.
2.Be considerate, rearrange their altar so it will look neat.
3.Blow out their altar candle if it is still day light.
(No need to waste a good candle!)
4.Pick up their gems for a closer look.
5.Sharpen their dull black-handled knife.
6.Witness to them about the “true religion”.
7.Untie the knots in their cord.
8.Take hold of their jewelry for a closer look.
9.Play card games with their Tarot cards.
10.Ask them if they are Satan worshippers.

– by Grey Mantle

Ten More Ways to Piss Off a Pagan

1. Ask them if they talk to their crystals.
2. Ask them if they have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
3. Exorcise them, their home, or their personal belongings.
4. Ask to see their witch marks.
5. Give them a copy of the Necronomicon “because I know you’re into that stuff.”
6. Bring the plate of food they left out inside so it won’t spoil.
7. Leaf through their Book of Shadows.
8. Open all the doors and windows of their house to get rid of “that nasty smoky smell”.
9. Call them “acorn worshippers”.
10. Ask them if their crystals talk to them.

– by Honeyblossom

Posted in Pagan Humor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Morning Witchery

Happy Samhain!

Tonight after work, I’ll be performing my Samhain ritual. The plan was to do it over the weekend but my intuition said the timing wasn’t right. Technically, Samhain doesn’t start until sunset tonight anyway through tomorrow at sunset. It is my hope my first steps of the New Year are in the right direction.

Starting today, I will do a couple things in the morning: grounding and centering meditation, affirmation, tarot card reading and horoscope. I was not consistent with a meditation routine. Today my blood pressure was 148/93/87 (diastolic/systolic/pulse) before my meditation. Fifteen minutes later, I took it again (after my medication was taken and my meditation done) and it dropped to 136/81/81. The skeptic in me wants to say its the medications kicking in, however the other part wants to believe meditation helps. I’ll have to change a couple of things (i.e. take medications after meditation) to see the results.

While I’m relaxed now, I can feel the tension, the anxiety, starting to build about going back to work after three days.  Knowing that the people aren’t going to change overnight, what can I do to keep peace within myself. With that in mind, I asked the Odin and Freya to guild me and pulled the following:

pentacles_02Two of Pentacles

Prepare to juggle two life-events at once without losing control. You will know harmony and contentment even though there are changes going on around you. This is the times of ups and downs in moods and energy.

A Guide to Celtic the Celtic Dragon Tarot, pg. 145

 

Not only am I anxious but I also want to keep my controlling behavior(everything done a certain way and right) down to minimum. Therefore, I choose an affirmation from Pagan’s Path . For anxiety: “I trust the process and flow of life.“; for controlling behavior: “I am safe and allow others to be who and what they are.

Lastly, I have to see what is in store for me via my horoscope:

You are at a turning point today; you need to make some aspect of your dreams real or walk away from them without looking back. Your work is set out for you and there’s no avoiding it. You must incorporate recently learned information into your plan or watch it fall apart before your eyes. Fortunately, your logic is sound now, so don’t be afraid to trust your own judgments. Once you embark on a new path, be firm in your convictions and apply yourself relentlessly until you manifest your vision. As Yoda said, “Do or do not; there is no try.”

The point of all this is three fold. One, to start my day fresh, grounded and relaxed. Two, focus on something within myself to change through an affirmation. Three, actually change my behavior, daily. In other words, do something about a situation, person, event, whatever it may be.

There are no expectations right now. I’m going to let the Universe flow handling whatever is thrown at me at that moment.

Posted in Morning Witchery | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Four Steps to Starting or Strengthening a Pagan Practice

Four Steps to Starting or
Strengthening a Pagan Practice

 

1. Make a choice.

When it comes to religion, the only thing we can be certain about is that there is no such thing as certainty. If you insist on certainty you’ll either be waiting till you’re dead or you’ll latch onto some fundamentalist who claims to have certainty when in fact he has no such thing. It’s not all the same – different religions and different traditions have different beliefs, practices, and foundational stories, and different ideas about the core questions that religion should address. So choose something.

What does your heart and your brain tell you is true? What whispers that there’s more? What calls to you? Who calls to you? Here’s a hint – you’re reading a Pagan blog. Something brought you here, and whether that something is internal or external, perhaps you should pay attention to it.

If you’ve been wanting to explore Paganism, or if you’ve been exploring and now it’s time to get serious, then make a choice to start now. Or if this isn’t for you, then make a choice to be a Buddhist or a liberal Christian or whatever seems like a good fit. But make a choice and commit to something.

2. Build your foundation.

We live in a society that is nominally Christian but that is thoroughly materialist at heart. Nature is valued only for how its “resources” can enrich humans. The only God anyone knows is the God of Abraham… or perhaps all Gods are made up. Magic is fantasy for children. These assumptions – and that’s all they are, unproven assumptions – are embedded in our wider society and in our lives. Mainstream Western society has made us blind and deaf to mystery, to the Gods and spirits, and to everything else that doesn’t involve buying and selling.

We need to build a foundation for our Pagan practices based on our experiences of Gods and of Nature, and on the results of our dedicated spiritual practice. We need to read: the stories of our ancient ancestors, the great works of Pagan philosophy, and the wisdom and experience of contemporary Pagans and polytheists. Paganism is as reasonable as any other religion or no religion at all. But we have to get past the unstated assumptions of the mainstream society.

3. Begin a devotional practice.

If there is a God or Goddess who is making Their presence known in your life, then begin a devotional practice to Them. If not, then what deity seems like a good match for you? Whose myths always struck you as more than stories? Relationships can be initiated by either party – pursuing the Gods is a good thing!

Read Their stories and read the scholarly work about the cultures in which They were originally worshipped. Talk to Their priests and see how They’re being worshipped today. Tell Their stories and invoke Them in ritual. Speak to Them in prayer and listen for Them in meditation. Build a shrine. Make offerings. Do Their work in this world. Pick one or two things to get started, then add others as you go.

It’s always good to honor the Gods.

4. Keep it up.

Don’t be the Pagan equivalent of the January gym goers! Commit to practice every day between now and Imbolc – it’s only four weeks. The best way to insure that you do is to start small. Start with once-daily prayers and once-weekly offerings. Or once-daily meditations and twice-weekly study sessions. This will require some discipline and may require some tricks – schedule your practice time on your phone, or set an offering bowl on your kitchen table.

Do the easy stuff first – whatever is easy for you. You’ll get into the habit of practicing every day, and that will make it easier to keep it up when you start to add practices that are harder and less fun, but still necessary.

The holidays are over and the new year is here. The season of Imbolc calls us to deeper practice. Something is in the air, or in the æther.

What will you make of this opportunity?

Source:  4 Steps to a Deeper Pagan Practice (Patheos, Under the Ancient Oaks)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

4 Ways to Make Everyday Magickal

For some, magick isn’t something to be contained into back room rituals and secretive assemblies in the dark depths of the forest, it’s something to be celebrated daily and integrated into the most mundane aspects of our lives.

Magick, intention, energy can be harnessed and used to make your life better, keep yourself grounded and provide spiritual enlightenment and growth.  Performing small acts of magick daily increases your power and knowledge.

Here are four small ways to make simple daily tasks and actions magickal:

  1. The power of herbs, roots and minerals for consumption similar to using potions. When you cook, be conscious of the magickal properties of the ingredients you’re using, use them with proper intent and focus your magickal intention to get results.

chicken-soup

  1. Walking and chanting, similar to saying spells, creates kinetic energy which powers your magick. Repeating a phrase or mantra or spell when walking, especially in a natural, forest or rural setting, can ground you, focus your energy and multiply your magickal intention.

forest-walk

  1. Music is another example of everyday magick. Songs, words, instrumentals all offer power and energy both through the music itself and in the movement of your body.  As you dance and connect with the message of music, you amplify your emotions and magickal intention.

moving-music

  1. Cleansing, purifying and grounding magickal tools and yourself is an important part of any ritual. Focusing in on the elements of cleansing; washing away negative energy, renewal and purity; when you clean your home or in the shower can bring magick to everyday life and take that small piece of ritual and normalize it to make everyday life more magickal and connected to supernatural energy and power.

shower

 

 

Integrating small acts of magick into daily life preserves your power, energy and intention and creates a lifestyle promoting your paganism and spirituality.

Source: 4 Ways to Make Everyday Magickal

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Beginnings

Back in August 1998, I was initiated into a Gardnerian coven. While the details of who and what fade away, I do have fond memories of esbats and Sabbats I attended throughout the years. Then life spiraled out of control for me, I became a solitary with no particular path.

For the last ten years of my life, my spiritual practices of Witchcraft was at a minimum. For me, as a recovering addict, my priority in life was my sobriety. However, at the same time I knew my Higher Power, the Goddesses and Gods I believed in, were always there. I did what I could, when I could but it was never a real commitment.

Now that my ten year anniversary is around the corner, I feel a definite change in the wind. I have moved to my own home in a very small rural town in Upstate New York, where no one will know nor bother me. I’m in a much better place mentally and spiritually. Thus, when I moved in July 2017, I dedicated to start all over.

For the last couple of months its been hard. As I continue to receive information from old newsgroups and new groups I have joined, there is so much I want to learn and do, yet I have not found a solid footing as of yet. Therefore, I have made a promise to myself and the Gods.

As Samhain 2017 approaches, things in my life are slowly falling in place. I can feel a great change coming within myself. I look forward to whatever the Lady and Lords have in store for me in the new coming year.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment