Tag Archives: pagan

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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The Season of Faith

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” ~ Hal Borland

This has been a long winter. Though the snow did not really arrive until mid December, I have found the cold months colder than I have in many years. Snow still covers everything as far as the eye can see, and I am restless from too much time spent inside. A good friend of mine from Arkansas has been teasing me with photographs of spring gardens. Where he lives, the leaves are still falling from some trees while others are just beginning to bud, and what little snow they got this year, lasted only a few weeks. While we are shoveling, he is raking. While we are purchasing seed for our gardens, he is watching bulbs sprout beautiful flowers. It seems unfair.

This is a magical and meaningful time of year in many faith communities. There are calendars, such as the Baha’i and Iranian which begin on the spring equinox each year. Jewish Passover and the Christian holy day Easter, are also celebrated at this time. In Japan they celebrate a national holiday, Vernal Equinox Day. This day and season have been recognized by many cultures for thousands of years, with feasts, stories, local traditions and spiritual celebrations.

The vernal equinox takes place in March of each year, opposite the autumnal equinox which occurs in September. It is the date when day and night are believed to be equal in length, midway between Yule and the summer solstice. In fact, whether day and night are of equal length really depends on where you are. If you are in the far North, the vernal equinox is the beginning of approximately six months of light, but in the far South it is the beginning of an equal time of darkness. For us, here in New Brunswick, this is the time when the days, which have been lengthening since Yule, reach the midway point and begin to grow longer than the night. At this time the sun is directly over the equator. The Earth is not tilting toward or away from the sun.

This year in the Northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox fell on the 20th of March. Ironically, the sun rose on this day to reveal more than a foot of fresh fallen snow, in spite of nearly two weeks of warm temperatures. It appears, for all intents and purposes as though Mother Nature has decided to extend the deep freeze a little longer.

March can be a terrible month for snowstorms at a time when we are all craving spring and fresh air and green blooming things. After two weeks of feeling hot sun on our skin, smelling the thawing earth and hearing melting water, this seems especially harsh.

Pagans celebrate the vernal equinox with the sabbat of Ostara, dedicated to the turning of the wheel and the welcoming of spring. The themes at this time are those of fertility, rebirth, spring and resurrection. There are stories and myths from many cultures that involve the resurrection of prominent figures such as Jesus Christ, the Roman god Mithras and the Egyptian god Osiris. These individuals rise from the dead, at a time when the season is changing and plants and flowers are also rising. Soon the world will awaken, and the snow will melt. Our rivers will rise and spring flowers will begin to poke their heads upward from the frozen ground in search of sunlight.

This year, my family celebrated the equinox with a snow day. There was much shoveling to be done, supper to prepare, and no sign of the sun through heavy grey clouds. We are all gardeners and outdoor lovers. We are spring fanatics in this house, and we could not have felt further from spring. Since our families are a mix of Pagan and Christian backgrounds, we tend to double up on holidays. We celebrate our own days and also celebrate other holidays with family members. This means a lot of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

Eggs are a common part of celebrations at this time, from egg rolling contests to Easter egg hunts. There is an old urban legend which states that at the exact moment of the equinox, an egg can be balanced on its end and will remain upright. This is mostly fiction however, as the right egg can be balanced, ANY day of the year. It has nothing to do with gravitational effects in relation to the equinox.

Some people dye eggs in beautiful colors, or tell tales of the Easter bunny, who in some versions of the tale lays eggs. The nocturnal hare was considered by some cultures to be connected with the moon, as its gestational cycle consists of 28 days, the same as a lunar cycle. In the wild these hares create nests. Sometimes when they abandon the nest Plovers move in and use it to lay eggs. The myth about the Easter bunny laying eggs may actually come from some confusion that arose when eggs were found in what was clearly a rabbit’s nest.

Our Ostara celebration is generally a simple observation. We have supper together and, well, this year, shovel snow. We save the chocolate and candy for Easter Sunday. On the equinox we are more concerned with frost charts, which varieties of beans to plant, and how to head off problems that arose in last year’s gardens. We are talking about things like drumming by the river and swimming in the lake.

It is hard to believe that such change is so close at hand, while the world is still blanketed in white, but this is the season of faith.

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kp

Katie P is writer, reader, drummer and certifiable nature nut. She lives rural New Brunswick, where she spends far too much time frolicking in the bulrushes. She also blogs at Wyldwomyn.ca

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The Wheel

Life is full of changes and transitions.  In fact, it’s said that the only constant in life is change.  We each handle change in our own ways – some of us try not to deal with it at all – but as things never stay the same, we all move on in some manner or another.

ImageOne of the things that has helped me deal with change is the concept of the Wheel of the Year.  A common image in modern paganism, the Wheel of the year represents all fours seasons with each of the eight Celtic solar holidays positions around the wheel.  Think of it as a simple calendar on which you can see, in general terms, where you are along the course of the year, and where you are in relation to everything else.

Unlike a “regular” calendar, the Wheel is, well, a wheel – circular in shape, so that one transitions to the next phase of the year in a continuous loop.  The course is laid out for us, always changing, but showing us the path forward.  It also shows us the constant patterns of life – dark will come after light, light will come after dark – and that we can count on these changes as cycles to be repeated.  So even as change is inevitable, so are is the cycle of the year.  We always know what is coming up next.

These days, I think most of us are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., a condition that affects people in the dark half of the year due to the lack of light as their area of the globe moves farther away from the Sun.  People with S.A.D. can be depressed, tired all the time, have a hard time concentrating, and generally find the dark half of the year very difficult.  I used to suffer from this quite a bit, and still experience the symptoms from time to time.

Yet when I discovered the image and concept of the Wheel of the Year, I began to look at the dark half of the year in a different way.  I could see it was just a time of the year that we all had to pass through, and that the light was inevitably on its way.  Yule became a holiday of triumph for me: the longest night and shortest day were at hand, and now the light would return.  Slowly, perhaps, but the light would indeed return.

In most of North America, tomorrow is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time (I always think of it as the end, but that’s not actually correct).  We “Spring ahead” and set our clocks forward one hour.  This is the day of the year that I celebrate as the “we survived the Winter darkness!” day.  As promised by the Wheel, the light has officially returned, and we are now full-swing into the light half of the year.

So remember to set those clocks one hour ahead tonight, and enjoy the full hour of extra daylight we now have in the evenings!  Blessed Be.

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ang

Angela has been following her pagan path for over 17 years. When she is not blogging or promoting Treewise, Angela knits, runs her own business, and falls a lot while trying to play roller derby.

 

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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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More Good Things to Come

Golden ball

Even now, I can sit in front of our Yule tree for hours gazing at the twinkling lights, the sparkling glass ornaments, and the shimmering ribbons and bows, lost in Christmases past. As a child I loved to sit at the foot of the tree, among the presents, daydreaming as I basked in its glow. Christmas was much more to me than the acquiring of gifts. It was, rather, a magical season ripe with wonder and warmth. There was sacredness to Christmas time that I understood deep within.

Today I celebrate as a Pagan, but the Yule season has lost none of its magic for no longer being centered on the birth of Jesus. It is no secret that Christianity borrowed many traditions from pagan winter celebrations. I am very glad they did, for this beautiful blending of pagan and Christian tradition is what makes it so easy for my family to enjoy the holidays together even though we are of different faiths. While most of my family remains Christian, and my partner Doug and I are Heathen, we still find meaning and enjoyment in common symbols, customs, songs and rituals. We can still share Turkey dinner, exchange gifts, sing carols and enjoy our time together as a family.

In our household, we observe the twelve days of Yule from December 21st to January 1st. It begins with Mother’s Night (inspired from traditional Anglo-Saxon paganism as well as the Norse Disablot) and at this time we honour the mothers and matriarchs of our families, living and dead. In Heathenry, the idises or disir are powerful female ancestral spirits often thought to be guardians and guides to their descendants. This Mother’s Night is especially important to us, as it is my first as a new mother. We continue to keep Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mostly as they were, with Christmas Eve being a time to spend with family watching movies or playing games and staying up late to catch a glimpse of Father Yule, who brings gifts and blessings, while on Christmas Day we open presents and feast. On the night of December 31st, we drink to the Wild Hunt and pray that it passes us by without taking us, as it sweeps up the remnants of the old year in a cold wind, and the dawning New Year follows in its wake.

There are many wonderful traditions and enchanting myths which surround Yuletide, and though I adore all of these, the whole sacred season culminates to this (cheesy at it may be): love of others and the potential for good. Spreading goodwill and cheer, being charitable and kind, reaching out to family and friends, setting differences aside, showing our appreciation of others (human or god, living or dead) with gifts and ceremony, feasting and reveling together and wishing to spend the next year in each other’s company – these are all things which we can share, whether we are Pagan or Christian or Atheist or something else. And we can all feel the special magic generated by these good things, and the potential for more good things to come.

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Natasha D

Natasha is a busy new mom, nurse and down-to-earth Pagan living in Dieppe, NB with her family. She also blogs at Planting Seeds.

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