Category Archives: Mike C

Muscle Memory

I have been calling myself a pagan for a little over 20 years. For around a third of that I was very enthusiastically Wiccan. I then practiced Druidry for a couple of years while studying the Bardic grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. For the past five or six years I have been a Heathen (Germanic paganism, where my initial interest had lain), but at times it has been a challenge. I would like to share something that is helping me see it in a different light.

I recently visited an exceptional massage therapist, hoping for relief from shoulder pain I’ve had for years. My massage therapist explained – in terms I could understand – that I have layers of scar tissue over my muscles. This is usually the result of an untreated injury or over working yourself. It means my muscles can’t expand and contract properly. The scar tissue also prevents blood from adequately reaching my muscles, so they can’t heal properly. Without treatment first, exercise often builds more scar tissue rather than fixing anything. I have the same problem with my neck, back, chest, arms, and legs. She even believes my hands were broken at some point, which was news to me.

Even after just a couple of sessions with her, the change has been dramatic. While moving an unused door to the shed, I realized in mid-stride that I was feeling no pain or tightness in my neck or shoulders. I immediately had flashes of a time when physical activity came so easily. Through the years, I have been slowing down. Exercise feels different and the results aren’t the same. I thought it was age or I wasn’t trying hard enough, and I practically gave up… but what if the massage therapist is right? What if untreated injuries building up over time is partially to blame? The happy ending to this story is that with her help, I am at the start of a road to health.

This physical realization brought with it a spiritual epiphany. I had flashes of a time when my budding pagan spirituality seemed to flow so easily. A few years ago I was involved in some serious spiritual drama, and everything has been more challenging since. I even considered returning to those paths where things had felt smoother – Wicca and Druidry – but I found they were no longer so easy. I think it’s because it isn’t that path that’s the challenge. It’s the spiritual scarring, making everything more difficult and preventing proper healing. I have been hobbled on this stretch of my spiritual journey.

The best news is that this story can also have a happy ending. Now that I have identified the problem, I can find solutions. Just like with the massage therapist, part of it will include asking for help from people I trust. Another part will be getting back into the routine of strengthening myself, and without the barriers it’s a pleasant responsibility. If the comparison holds true, confronting some of these things will be painful… but in the end, worth it all.

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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To Pray is A-Okay!

When the ideas that would form into Treewise were first floating between us, we talked about wanting to share a variety of things in our posts – including prayers.

With the Sun gone out of sight

I welcome the Goddess with the night

Watch over me Lady while I rest

That in the morning I may be blessed

I don’t think the exact wording of this bed time prayer needs to be strict. The rhymes make it easy to remember (I hope), but is the Sun gone OUT OF sight, or FROM sight? Does the Lady watch over me WHILE I rest, or AS I rest? I think the important thing is trying to inspire a bit the magical mystery of the night, and asking it to watch over you (or your child) while you sleep. You could easily tack on a list of other people you would like Her to watch over. Quick note: I think at first glance this poem is Goddess-religion centric, but it isn’t necessarily. Balancing the Goddess with the Sun (ie Sun goes, Goddess arrives) suggests more of a duo-theistic view with a God and Goddess. Really, even Heathen (Teutonic/Northern European) pagans trying to reconstruct their beliefs based on historic accuracy could use this. In many Northern myths, the night is a Goddess that gives birth to her Son (Day) every morning.

Wyrd Sisters watch over me

Help me Accept the Past, Respect the Present, and Shape the Future

In Northern myth, the Wyrd Sisters are three women (Norns) who’s identity has mingled with the three Fates from Classical myth. Today they are commonly seen as weavers of Fate (the Web of Wyrd). I see this second prayer as more of a morning one, preparing to deal with what may come that day. The message is quite straight forward. Accept what has happened, pay attention to what is going on around you now, and take responsibility to bring about the future you desire.

I hope you enjoy these!

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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Wave Thrower

There is the smell of Spring in the (cold) air, and it makes me anxious to return to the shore.

Wave Thrower

Far off the shore an old man dwells
Beneath rounded waves and foamy swells
Father to all creatures within the Sea
And I think he’s throwing waves at me

I watch them come – some crash, some roll
Each lapping tough doth sooth my soul
He seems to know my doubts within
And assures me like some Elder Kin

So often I seek peace at the shore
Wondering how many have done this before
How long has this old man soothed my kind
That come to the beach knowing where to find

A place to hear the Old Gods call

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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Listen to the Seasons

I’ve always believed seasons here in New Brunswick were the right length, because as much as we love each one, as it draws to a close we are ready to move on. Right now is a perfect example. I think everyone loves that romantic first snowfall heralding the end of the year. The popular ideal of Christmas is a white one, and for me personally I still hope for a Christmas snow storm like in all those claymation holiday specials. After the holidays, we enjoy a couple of months of sitting by a cosy fire or reading a book while a heavy blanket of snow covers the earth. Then, as the Spring Equinox approaches…we’re ready for it all to be over. Right now I long to see growing grass and budding flowers, and feel a warm breeze on my face.

Like many pagans, I try to find inspiration and guidance from nature and it’s cycles. I find myself wondering what this eagerness for seasons to change might be trying to say? What is it saying about this spiritual path I’m on? What does it say about my (hopefully) constantly evolving sense of pagan identity? What does it say about the people in my community, and how I interact with them? There’s not going to be one answer for any of these, but it’s interesting to think about.

Sometimes we have an early Spring, and the turmoil of dealing with Winter storms easily transitions into sighs of contentment watching the wind blow through the new leaves on the branches of still mostly bare trees. Sometimes a Summer heat wave persists beyond our patience, and we find ourselves angry in an eternal furnace of frustration. I know I personally find myself melancholy in Autumn, reminded of past loss and sometimes feeling like the upcoming holidays won’t be enough to overcome it. Then with Winter, after the big holidays, comes a hermit like period of isolation that eventually leads to cabin fever.

So what might these things mean?

Spring finally wearing through Winter’s blanket reminds me that sometimes the most calming change comes through patience rather than action. The frustration of Summer’s heat, as all encompassing as it seems at the time, eventually fades to echoes until we once again look forward to a Summer’s day – which tells me when I feel angry at someone or something and never want to see it again…eventually I might be okay with it. The return of Autumn’s loss is healthy, and deserves it’s time, but we can’t dwell on bad things and must to be open better times returning. The message I feel from Winter right now is fairly modern: it’s easy to feel contentment in a cocoon of high speed internet and digital cable, but when the snow melts it’s important to pull yourself away from that and find yourself face to face with other people.

There are dozens if not hundreds of different seasonal transitions, and ten times as many things that each of those might mean, but these are the thoughts coming to me now. I guess the important thing is to accept that while life is made up of cycles, each cycle still has it’s own identity and is different from those that came before. We still have to engage with them each and every time to find how to deal with them and to see where they might take us.

page-breakMike CMike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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The Bubble Barrier Stigma

It’s amazing to think how important context is and how easily and often we disregard it.

As an example, any person who has truly felt overwhelmed knows how all encompassing it can be. In that raw state, reason often abandons us. We can’t concentrate on the thing in front of our nose, never mind focus enough to find ourselves an exit. It is a true feeling of helplessness, with no solutions in sight. In this vulnerable state, what a person needs most is a tool to help them get their feet back under them. One of the simplest ways to do this is to picture yourself in a bubble. Being inside a bubble creates a distance between you and whatever is overwhelming you. It allows you time to catch your breath, or for a moment remove yourself from the situation. Visualizing yourself inside a bubble is a very popular New Age technique to deal with stress, and therein lies the rub.

What was old becomes new again, and many New Age tricks and techniques are variations on spiritual or religious trappings. It’s perfectly normal for these practices to continuously change – or evolve, if you’re a “glass is half full” type – to suit the needs of the people of the time. Look at meditation, which has been practices for thousands of years by the wisest and most profound thinkers of all time…and which you can now learn at a local community centre for $5 a session. For many people, that simple half hour of quiet contemplation can change their entire outlook on life.

One challenge in the resurgence of Earth-based spirituality is how we are perceived by people outside our own circles. To be fair, not all of their criticisms are unfounded. Taken out of context, a lot of what we do would seem foolish. I think the same is true if you think of the ceremonies of any main stream religion. In our case, I think part of the blame lies in the commercialization of our spirituality – from false self proclaimed gurus to energy bending witches in television and movies. There is also a naive over-sharing enthusiasm in our community, as the exposure to our religion exceeds it’s maturity. These things don’t invalidate our choices, but the spotlight we are sometimes hit with can take them out of context. It can make others doubt us, and more dangerously it can make us doubt ourselves.

I have an old pagan friend, that in fact is among the first group of pagans I ever met. We haven’t celebrated much together lately, but we still sometimes talk about that first study group we belonged to. My friend often brings up that he misses the secrecy and privacy that used to surround Paganism. It’s great that a person in need can readily find a book that tells them to envision themselves inside a bubble to protect themselves, or encourages them to look for a local meditation class. What maybe is missing is a firm suggestion to keep these things to yourself. We all have vulnerable moments, and we are choosing our own spiritual tools to help us get through them…but perhaps we should save a piece of the strength we gain from them to keep our private lives private, so it can’t be taken from us when we need it again.

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Mike C

Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

 

 

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Hope on Solstice Night

Imagine it’s a cold and clear Winter’s night on Canada’s East Coast, and two friends are walking down a dimly lit and snow covered street. A biting wind pushes down the lane and steals their breath, carrying the sound of a mournful howl. Looking up to the heavens, they watch a falling star burn slowly across the sky. One of the friends buries his face in the scarf around his neck while he trudges along, the experience already forgotten. The other stops in his tracks and stares up at the night sky. Years later he remembers the night vividly, including the something it stirred inside him.

Neither of these friends have to follow a specific spiritual path. It isn’t as though these inspirations are only intended for one religion or culture. Sacred or magical events simply happen, and hopefully our spirituality has given us a vocabulary and a set of tools to do something with them. Even a person that wouldn’t call themselves spiritual might be moved by a falling star. In the above story, what really separates these two friends is that one of them was open to the experience.

There has been a lot of media attention concerning the end of the Mayan calendar on the 2012 Winter Solstice. Even if most of the hype is misinformation and propaganda, it may be giving the world an opportunity. If people have it in their mind that things could change, then that improves the chances that things might change. With no cataclysmic event, some will reflect on what it all could have been leading up to…and hopefully it shows them something personal and spiritual.

From tarot cards to Ragnarok, our symbolism reminds us that when a cycle ends it is not the end of everything. It’s letting one thing go, to allow another to begin. Most pagans are familiar with the cycles of days, weeks, and years. These aren’t just measurements of time, but times of awakening and growth followed by decay eventually leading again to awakening. What if everything around the 2012 hype is just one more cycle, thousands of years in the making? What if the spiritual challenges of our recent past are a necessary decline, to allow for the opportunity for something greater to grow? Whatever may come, will we bury our faces in our scarves and trudge on…or do we raise our eyes to the sky made clearer for the cold and dare to hope?

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Mike C Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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