My ladder arrived today!

Sort of. It showed up at the parents’ on Tuesday (it’s easier for me to get parcels sent to there than here) but I only picked it up today. Which worked quite well from my point of view as Fridays are the days I light incense for Freyja, so I got to sit in front of my altar with the scent of amber, rose, and chocolate wafting round me and unwrap the parcel. As ever, Beth’s goods arrive padded and wrapped in tissue paper so there’s this sense of anticipation and excitement as each layer comes off, and then the joy of lifting whatever it is out of the organza bag. Even before I opened it, my first thought on holding the bundle was ‘that’s heavier than I expected’, although I have no idea why – my lapis lazuli mediaeval rosary is a lot heavier than any of my others, and I knew that Beth had made most of the ladder out of gemstones… But oh it’s pretty! The one thing that the pictures in the listing hadn’t been able to show was how much the ceramic pendant shines – in the photos it’s possible to see that it’s glazed in the closeups, but in reality it gleams however you hold it. Passing the beads through my fingers, from the dragonfly to the wing, felt a bit odd as I’m used to using round gemstone beads rather than faceted ones, but when I reread what Beth had written about each of the stones she used I realised that the faceted ones, which felt rougher under my fingertips, were the areas I found hardest to deal with. Here’s what Beth says:

Dragonflies are useful allies in dreamwork, enchantment, and achieving clarity, and are sacred to Freyja. Garnet is a gemstone talisman of strength, security, and vitality. Strawberry quartz aids in amplifying intentions of love, gratitude, and generosity, and can assist in attracting a soul mate. Tiger eye enhances integrity, willpower, self-confidence, and personal power. Amber assists with protection and healing, clears negative energy, and assists with manifestation. Red quartz enhances emotional healing and promotes union with the divine.

I said in my previous post that the stones fitted neatly into why Freyja’s entered my life, and without going into details I’ve come to realise over the past couple of months that it’s because I have problems with my self-esteem, how I look in the mirror, how I react to compliments (disbelief), and a whole range of issues stemming from being sexually harrassed and suchlike, and She feels I need fixing. Which I do. Anyway, the only smooth-feeling beads in my witches’ ladder are the red quartz hearts and the garnets, with the ‘roughest’-feeling ones are the tigers-eye and amber, with strawberry quartz in the middle. And what do I have the most trouble with? Self-confidence, feeling personally powerful, negative thoughts, depression from being dumped, not really believing that people with a romantic/physical interest in me actually care about me, etc. I love how the beads that make my fingers ‘think’ more represent the areas of my emotional life that I need to work on the most.

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I would have taken my own photo to show you, but my ladder is draped round my neck as I type and I don’t really want to take it off. So here’s a photo Beth took instead.

Now I am the first person to admit I can’t sense energy in things, so I don’t know whether I’m actually starting to develop some energy-sensing skills, or whether it was a mix of the incense, flickering candles, and tiredness, but when I had these beads wrapped round my right hand I got a feeling of warmth that had nothing to do with temperature. It was comforting, with a vague sense of ‘this will help/is help’. I had my Freyja spirit talisman wrapped round my left hand at the same time and felt nothing on that side, so as an experiment I swapped them round, and holy crap I actually felt the difference. I’m lefthanded, so according to most people my projective hand is my left, and my right is receptive, meaning I’m more likely to feel things with my non-dominant hand. And, for once, I actually did. Where my ladder felt warm and sort of close, the talisman felt more… distant isn’t really the word, seperate maybe? And when I concentrated there was this feeling of power, which makes sense, seeing as since I got it my spirit talisman has always felt like it belongs to Freyja instead of me, and She’s letting me use it. But yeah, actually got a feeling off an object. Two objects. It was really weird.

Oh, and the red quartz hearts? I was amused to find when I first ran the ladder through my fingers that even though they’re a lot bigger they’re incredibly similar in physical feel to the glass hearts that make up my Dominican rosary that I’ve used since about 2006 (just not with Catholic prayers or meditations). I was assuming that ‘union with the divine’ meant with Freyja, but this near-identical feel and the way my fingers automatically made the same motion over the surface of the bead makes me wonder whether it’s union with the divine in general, instead of/as well as union with one particular Deity.

And it’s now technically Saturday morning. But, as I haven’t gone to bed yet and the sun hasn’t come up it still feels like Friday night. However, I should really go to bed as I’ve had a physically exhausting week at work and a long list of Things To Do tomorrow (Saturday). Night!

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Books, flowers, Beth, and connecting to Earth

Right now I should be at my HEMA class, but seeing as I realised I forgot to pick the car up from the parents’ place just as I was walking out the door with all my gear, my Historical European Martial Arts will have to wait until next week, which is no end of annoying. (Interestingly enough, while I’ve been doing HEMA since I was 18 my prowess in swordfighting has nothing to do with my devotional relationship to Freyja, despite Her battle-woman status.)
So, instead of hitting people with swords and getting multiple bruises in return (I’m hideously out of practice) I thought I’d write up a few things that have happened over the past week, which while not deserving of a journal entry of their own can be lumped in together in a ‘this is what I’ve been up to recently’-type post.

Last Monday I went to Treadwell’s Open Circle again, which was wonderful and will be the topic of a future post, and as I arrived about an hour early I had a good browse of all the bookshelves. I hadn’t meant to get there that soon, but I didn’t realise how quickly I’d get there walking from Tower Hill and stopping off to have dinner on the way and it’s not like I’d ever be bored while waiting. There were several books I was tempted to get, but I’m trying to save money at the moment so I can get rid of my overdraft so I decided to leave it, think on it, and if the books were still there next time I was passing then I’d buy a couple. So, on the Thursday I was back in Treadwell’s again, having made a trip there after work with the specific purpose of buying books. Oh dear… But I’m very pleased with my purchases – one copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron in translation for just under £6, and a book I’d spent a long time flicking throgh when I was there on the Monday, the 1995 edition of Love is in the Earth by Melody.
It’s a book that I heard about through the wonderful Melissa Zupan of Three Hundred and Sixty Six who calls it her ‘favorite metaphysical mineral reference book’, but none of the metaphysical shops I’d visited at theat point had a copy, and all the copies I found online were around or over the £15-mark, which was too much for me to buy on-spec when I couldn’t see the inside first. So imagine my joy when I found it for just under six quid as well. I spent a lot of time reading the entries for stones I was familiar with, as a sort of test for the rest – if an entry matched with some of what I already knew about the stone then it was a fair bet I’d actually get a lot of use out of the book, as opposed to merely using it as a supplementary work.

Although I have to admit that one of the reasons I had to pause before buying All Of The Books was because I’d recently purchased this beauty from the ever-talented Beth of The Wytch of the North:

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Beth’s photo of what is now my Freyja witches’ ladder.

It hasn’t arrived yet, but when I was her first post on the Morrigan and Odin ladders Beth made, my first thought was ‘I can’t wait to see what she does for Freyja!’, and I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t planning to buy it, as I already have a set of prayer beads for Her, but the stones Beth chose just fitted so well with why Freyja’s come into my life that I couldn’t really not. Plus it means I’ll have a set of beads for Her that are definitely mine, as the spirit talisman I have for Freyja (also one of Beth’s creations) feels like it actually belongs to Her but She’s letting me borrow them. Odd, but true.

I also spent some time connecting with the Earth on that Thursday as well. I wasn’t planning to, but the grass banks I pass on the path outside my flats were covered in daisys, and when I got in the gate to my building the bit of lawn just inside was covered in daisys as well. So I dumped my rucksack and bag of books on the ground and lay flat on my back, still in my dusty work gear with steel boots on, and just allowed myself to relax. And oh it was wonderful! It was about 8pm, the evening was warm, the slight breeze was cool, the earth was soft, the grass slightly prickly, blue skies, birds making bird noises, and a tree spreading its branches overhead. I have no idea how long I was there for, but I felt so much better after I sat up. I need to remember to do that more often now the weather’s good.

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I know it’s impossible to tell from the photo, but this was the view I had when I was flat on my back looking straight up.

And, as an added bonus when I got in the door that day, the tulips I’d bought the previous weekend had well and truly perked up and opened up as well. Lots of smiles that evening.

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So pretty!

Flowers for Freyja

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Spring has definitely arrived and is heading towards summer; this weekend and the week just gone we’ve had hot sunny weather, blue skies, all the trees are covered in green and shedding blossom, and flowers are blooming in the flower beds and the grass.

Just outside the gates to my building are grass banks covered in daisies, and as I was walking past on my way to the supermarket I thought about making a daisy-chain when I got back and putting it on my altar as an offering for Freyja that was different from my usual incense and occasional chocolate and alcohol, as well as seasonally appropriate. However, when I got to Sainsbury’s I saw that among the flowers they have for sale just inside the door there were a few bunches of tulips. Tulips are probably my favourite flower, or at least my favourite that’s available commercially, and I decided to buy some. I wouldn’t normally have chosen pink ones, but it was only as I was reaching for them that I realised they would make a lovely present for Freyja, as mid-to-dark pink is one of the colours I associate with Her.

As you can probably tell they’re sitting on my dining table as opposed to my altar, for several reasons. One is simply there’s not enough space on my altar for a vase that size, another that I spend most of my evenings in the living room and would therefore enjoy the flowers more if they were on display there, and I wanted my flatmate to be able to enjoy looking at the flowers, even if he doesn’t know the underlying reason why I bought them. I think there was also a feeling of wanting to bring Freyja’s influence into the rest of the house instead of just my room, and of wanting to remind myself that one of the things I want to/should work on is bringing Deity into my everyday life more – not just Freyja, but Christos and Sophia as well. I’ll have to look out for some colour-appropriate tulips for Them as well.

Belated Beltane

I celebrated Beltane/May Day yesterday, which broke my every-ritual-celebrated-on-the-actual-day streak that I’d managed to keep up since Yule. However, I’d always planned on doing the ritual on the 2nd as opposed to the 1st, due to my original May Day plans. I had planned to drive down to my friend’s in Portsmouth on Friday night, commute from there to the Living History event I was supposed to attend, make the mini-wreaths in the evenings, drive home on Monday, do ritual. Instead I ended up not going to work on Friday, stayed home all weekend, made wreaths on Sunday, and celebrated yesterday. The plans I originally had for celebrating didn’t change, aside from not being able to dance the Maypole at the event.

I started by having a long hot bath with candles, which was the first time I’ve used the bath in my flat as I only got round to buying a bath plug last week, and it also gave me the chance to try out the present of rose-scented bath salts that my flatmate brought me back from a trip he made to Bath. And it was lovely just lying there is the water, watching the steam rise, smelling the faint scent of roses, and poking the floating rose petals. It was really odd having those in the bath with me – I have an abhorrance to seaweed (aside from in sushi), especially when it’s in the water and plastering itself against me, and I was expecting the rose petals to do a similar thing, but they just floated and mostly left me alone. The candle I lit was one I’ve had for years but never got around to burning – a teddy bear figurine holding a love-letter, which I thought was fairly appropriate for the Sabbat that celebrates union.

Once I’d dried off and eaten dinner I headed into my bedroom for a low-key ritual. I was planning on celebrating in the nude, as to me Beltane has always been a sensual and sensuous festival, but it was late evening by the time I got round to it and bloody cold, so I wound up wearing my night attire but I did wrap my Freyja cord around my waist under my dressing gown. After casting a circle and lighting the candles I read some poems, two that came with the Pagan Dreams kit for Beltane, John Donne’s On His Mistress Going to Bed, which for me is one of the most erotic poems ever written, and the Song of Songs from the Bible (yes, it’s read as an allegory for Christ’s love for the Church, but as far as I’m concerned it was originally written as just a sexy poem and given its allegorical meaning by the early compilers of the Bible because they felt it should be included as it was written by Solomon but needed a way of being able to include what is essentailly porn). Then I rebraided my Beltane charm, also from the Pagan Dreams kit, burnt the bindings I’d used last year, used my Freyja prayer beads, and closed circle.

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My May Day altar with my newly-braided charm on my pentacle, Beltane-coloured candles, and plastic roses that I use as set-dressing for this festival with my bale-fire in front of them.

While I did enjoy the bath and ritual I have to keep in mind that I should really leave more time between starting ritual and when I need to be in bed. Feeling slightly sleepy I could cope with, if it wasn’t for my concentration drifting off.

10 Pagan Things I Mostly Did (even though I don’t argue)

Jason Mankey recently wrote a post on Raise the Horns called 10 Pagan Things To Do (Instead of Argue), a list of ten Spring-inspired Pagan-y activities to occupy one’s time instead of getting embroiled in any of the arguments currently occurring in the Pagan parts of the internet. I’m aware of some of the topics and issues being argued about, but that’s only because people whose blogs I read have mentioned said issues – my own path is unusual enough and my readership tiny enough that Church and Circle hasn’t been a target for any of the ‘you’re doing it wrong’ accusations, and as I haven’t been to any conventions and am not currently a member of any discussion forums the debates, arguments, and (by the sounds of it at times) flame wars have passed me by.

However, Jason’s list of Things To Do is a good one, and I highly recommend reading what he did for each, as when I read his post for the first time I realised that I’d already done quite a few of the Things, and have now at the time of writing done most of them to some degree. So, here are the 10 Pagan Things I Mostly Did (even though I don’t argue):

Get Out of the House and Get Outside
This one’s always an interesting one for me. As an archaeologist my job is often outside and intimately connected with the earth, but I work in urban archaeology so I’m always on building sites with concrete dust, noise, and fumes everywhere, and when we’re working on a basement site I don’t see the sun or breathe fresh air for most of the day. I was supposed to spend this Bank Holiday weekend at a Living History event set in a patch of woodland on the south coast, surrounded by green leaves and woodsmoke, and dancing round a Maypole, but due to a stinking cold that had me off sick from work on Friday those plans fell apart really fast. However, yesterday I felt somewhat more human than I had the previous two days, so I went on a walk around the two bits of park encircled by the housing estate next to my flat and then wandered down to the canal and back along the river, and it was lovely. There was sun, people on narrowboats going through the locks, waterbirds, and the sound of moving water. And actual fresh air too – although I’m walking home from the tube station now instead of getting the bus I’m still walking along the main road, which counts as ‘getting some fresh air’ to a lifelong Londoner and career urban archaeologist like myself, it is nice to be able to get a lungful or two of air similar to what I was breathing when I was away at my rural university.

Work on a Beltane Ritual
Due to plague, a lot of my Beltane plans went out the window. However, I was able to do something on the day which was make mini May Day wreaths and post them through the letterboxes of the flats in my part of the building, an idea I took from the Circle of Northern Fountains Beltane ritual in 2014. I also made one for my flatmate, which he found in the evening of the 1st hanging off the door handle to his room. I used natural willow wreaths for the bare branches of Imbolc, green and pink ribbons for Ostara, as these are the colours I use for my altar candles at that point, and red roses for Beltane – love, lust, and the beginnings of Summer, with luggage labels with the ‘April showers bring May flowers’ poem on one side and my name and flat number on the back, so they knew who it was from.
Tonight I’m going to be doing an actual ritual, partly because in my original plans that was going to happen today anyway, after I’d come home, and partly because yesterday I was still feeling disgustingly coldified.

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Nine mini-wreaths, just before they were put in envelopes and posted.

Spring Cleaning Anyone?
This part is to do with spiritual spring cleaning rather than the normal housework kind – cleaning shrines, rearranging altars, tidying relevant bookshelves and so on. And ye gods do I need to tidy my altar! The actual working surface isn’t too bad, although there’s a fair bit of dust and ash, and my altar cloths could really do with a wash. The rest of it though… Underneath the Ikea side table that I use as my altar are so many boxes, bits and pieces, bags, and piles of paper that finding something I’m after is pretty much impossible unless I pull everything out and go through it. Part of this is due to the fact that I haven’t really unpacked from when I moved all my religious gear into the flat, but most of it is due to laziness. Yes, I’m a slob. I shall therefore try and get that area of my room sorted before Midsummer. I did, however, do a fair bit of mundane Spring Cleaning and upkeep this last month which makes me feel slightly better.

Talk to Some Actual Pagans
Yeah, I admit I haven’t actually done this one. I mean technically I could say that I have, as I’ve talked to Kizzy who’s a Pagan, but we weren’t talking Pagan stuff. The idea behind this one is that when typing words are stripped of vocal tone and body language, the subtle signs we use to communicate meaning in conversation just as much as we use words. However, I’m booked on for the Treadwell’s Open Circle next week so I’ll have the chance for face-to-face Pagan-themed discussions then.

Do Some Gardening
Thankfully gardening doesn’t always require a garden, as while my flat complex has a beautiful courtyard garden (which doubles as the car park, although there’s a seperate lawn) with a gazebo and a bridge over the pond, it’s managed by a groundskeeper, so the chances of me doing any proper gardening are out, even if it wasn’t too much like work. However, as Jason points out, ‘putting a few potted plants on a deck or porch works just as well!’. And I did just that, by repotting the plants I was given as housewarming presents into proper terracotta pots.

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From left to right: my money plant with a statue of Freyr in front of it to encourage growth, my Christmas cactus with a statue of Hel in front as it’s a plant my dead grandmother always had in her living room, and some breed of cactus. I’m not entirely sure why I got given an actual cactus as a housewarming present, unless the giver thought I’d inherited my mother’s amazng plant-killing abilities, but still.

Read a Friggin’ Book
This one was easy – I’ve always got at least one book on the go, and on the rare occasions when I’ve finished a book and don’t know what I’m going to read next I get twitchy and will obsessively run my eyes over my bookshelves until I spot my next book.

Craft for your Craft Needs
The last thing I made (for myself at least) that had anything to do with my spiritual practice was a croched bag for my little quartz crystal ball back in March last year, and while I do need a box made to keep my candles in with dividers so the colours don’t bleed it won’t be me who makes it, as I do not have the skills. Aside from that, the only other thing I’ve thought of doing is knitting myself a shawl to wear during meditation, which will happen after I’ve finished all my current WIPs – not for a long while essentially.

Honour Your Gods and Goddesses
Ehhhh… It’s not that I haven’t been doing this, it’s just that I haven’t been doing much of this. My plan of doing daily devotions at some point each evening (no time and not awake enough in the mornings) has fallen by the wayside and is now happening roughly once a week. Posting on here, which I view as a part of my religious practice and a way of honouring the Divine, has dropped to every two weeks or so, and my spiritual reading, whether it’s sacred texts, instructional books, or stories about the Deities I honour, is even less frequent. I need to work on this.

Indulge in Something
Having had a cold for the last four days I’ve been doing a lot of indulging recently. I have indulged myself with curling up under blankets for most of the day, watching American true crime series on Netflix, and munching my way through far too many packets of dark chocolate hobnobs. Much as I hate being ill, I admit it has been nice to be able to just sit there knowing that even if I had the energy to do things like housework and DIY it would only make me worse, and I could therefore ignore everything until I got better.

Love Fiercely
To quote Jason:

Tell a loved one how you feel about them. Hold your lover close. Spoil your cat. It sounds trite and ridiculous, but I’m serious about loving fiercely. Share a little bit of how you feel with those you care about, it will make everyone involved feel better.

I need to work on this as well. It’s not that I take the people I’m close to for granted, but I don’t let them know often enough how much I appreciate having them in my life.

So that’s my list. It may not have been complete, but at least journalling my way through it has shown me where I need to focus my spiritual attention over the coming weeks.