Not dead, not on fire

Just very tired. The site I’m on has forced overtime so I’m on ten-hour days, and because I’m on away work getting driven to and from site I don’t get the extra snooze time I usually have on the Tube twice a day. Yes, I’d rather be living at home and working in London, but I like the people I’m sharing accommodation with, I get on with the people in my work team, my supervisor is great fun, and for a rural site the archaeology isn’t actually that bad. Plus the overtime money I get each week pays for my train ticket home each weekend, so all in all it could be a lot worse, but I am just so lacking in energy in the evenings that things are starting to become overwhelming.

Things like replying to emails, writing posts for here, reading my emails, tidying the flat when I’m home, meeting up with friends, and reading everyone else’s blog posts in my Reader. Now yes, I could solve some of the tiredness by going to bed a bit earlier, which I’m working on, but my lethargy/procrastination hasn’t been helped over the past few months by moving jobs, having an eight-hour round trip every weekend, going from nine to nine-and-a-half to ten-hour days, and suffering from site plague, the Norovirus, and an infection behind one of my wisdom teeth. But I’m getting there, slowly. Habitica is helping a lot, on which more later, and the rest is just me booting myself up the arse repeatedly until I start moving.

This is pretty much a holding and information post as my list of actual posts I want to write/am in the process of writing numbers over 70, so yes, I’m not dead, I’m not on fire, and I will be writing actual content again (hopefully sometime soon). I’m also about 1/5 of the way through catching up on reading all the blog posts I’ve missed since about November, and maybe 1/10 the way through commenting or listening/watching – so if you’re an author of one of the blogs I follow and I start reacting to stuff that’s months old or out-of-date, it’s because I’m only just now finding out about it. 🙂

And I’m also doing lots of little things to get my life where I want it to be – stuff like drinking more water, sticking to my diet, not hitting the snooze button, finding something to be grateful about every day, connecting to nature somehow each day, doing more meditational breathing… Tiny baby steps. I’ll get there.

Joyous Solstice!

Mostly. In that I wish you all a Joyous Solstice and hope that it’s going better than mine. It’s not that anything terrible has happened today, but not only am I suffering under the tail-end of a stinking cold that started the day after my birthday party (held this weekend just gone as it’s the closest weekend to my actual birthday) but also my period started yesterday, so I’ve got added lethargy, hypersensitivity, and cramps. So the ritual I had planned to do when I got home from Avebury this afternoon hasn’t happened yet, and at this rate isn’t likely to either, as it’s gone 9pm already.

On the plus side I saw the sunrise at Avebury again this year, although none of my friends could make it. Granted, I had to take two days off work rather than one this time, as I needed the extra day to get from Lincoln to London to my godmother’s, then drove for an hour this morning to get to the circle in time. I need to remember to get up quarter- to half an hour earlier though, as I arrived about ten minutes before the sun was due to rise, and the sky was already fairly light by that point. Oddly, the car park was shut so I had to park somewhat precariously on the edge of the entrance. There also seemed to be a lot more people this year than there were last year, although I’m not sure why – the weather was about the same, being coldish, cloudy, and dryish, although last year we had a lot more wind, and it was still a midweek thing. And I can’t believe that people got the date wrong, as while it’s usually the 21st the Solstice is sometimes the 22nd, and if you’re going to go watch the sun rise on the Solstice you check the date… *Shrugs* It could just be my memory of course, as last year I remember being amazed that there were a lot fewer people than I had expected, so maybe this year there just felt like more. Eh.

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According to the SkyView app on my phone, the sun had just started to rise above the horizon by this point.

Despite being on my own I had a wonderful time, health issues aside, standing watching the visible patch of sky get lighter, hearing the sound of drums and claves like a heartbeat – a sound that I’d heard gradually get louder as I walked through the circle to the south inner ring, spotting the obvious Pagans among the crowd and wondering how many others were there dressed incognito like myself, the occasional sounds of horns from one of the Druidic groups that were there, and just knowing that I was in a crowd of people who’d all come together to watch a sacred event in a sacred place. This year I also took part in the short open ritual that was held after the sun had cleared the horizon, although I’m not sure which particular Druid group was leading it. A circle started to coalesce which more people joined, and one of the older Druids stepped forward and started to speak about the Solstice and what it meant. I heard maybe about one word in ten though, as the circle was by this point fairly large and his voice wasn’t particularly loud and/or projected. But I caught the general gist, I think. Then a couple of bards came forward and recited poems they’d written recently to honour the Solstice and the returned Sun, and another Druid, possibly from another group than the first who spoke, asked everyone to join hands in the circle and spoke a blessing, to the effect that we’d all come from various places but had come together on this day and in this place, and that not only were we blessed by the newly-risen sun and the lengthening days, but also by fellowship with those around us. Then a bottle of mead was passed around the circle and everyone either took a sip, poured a splash on the ground, or lifeted the bottle in a ‘cheers’ motion before passing it on, before the quarters were remembered/thanked/dismissed and everyone gradually began to disperse.

When the area had emptied a little I crouched down next to one of the stones (the ground being too damp to sit on) and did what Kayleigh did last year, and exposed what I guess you would call my ‘main’ tools to the daylight, having brought them carefully cushioned in bubble wrap in a shoebox. Chalice, wand, broom, boline, tiny athame/candle-inscriber, pentacle, athame, my current Freyja devotional necklace, spirit-shaker (which I also used for a couple of minutes afterwards), one of my Tree of Life necklaces which I keep failing to remember to wear for rituals, and the Yule cord Beth made (which I only then remembered I’d packed, and probably should have been wearing from the start). Everything else that I thought could do with seeing the Solstice sun was spread out on my bed at home, and I’d left the curtains open so the morning light could get in. Tarot cards, fanned out so at least part of the face of every card was visible, runes, crystals, my prayer bead collection, mortar and pestle, the mini-chalice I bought for travelling, scrying bowl, and finger-labyrinth. The only piece I took with me to Avebury that I would otherwise have left on my bed is my small quartz crystal ball, as leaving that out on my bed all day with my flatmate at work, even in indirect wintery sunlight, was just not going to happen.

Having returned everything to the box and the box to the car, taking the opportunity to shift it to the now-opened car park to avoid getting sideswiped by incoming cars, I walked round the entire circle of stones, brushing the fingers of my right hand over all the stones as I passed. I went up to the four trees whose roots intertwine where Kayleigh and I stopped last year, where this year there were two (I’m guessing) National Trust employees cutting down the ribbons and so on that had been tied to the branches and around the roots. I have no problem with this, and I can understand why, as such things can damage the tree as well as pose a danger to any animals or birds moving around it, and I can understand why they’d want it done before the new growth in the spring, but I’d have preferred it if they’d done it not on the Solstice. Day after, no problem, but maybe not on the day when people are likely to want to come and tie something on, or at least just spend time with the trees. Aside from that, the walk was lovely, although I need to remember to wear boots with actual tread next year, as there were several occasions where I slid and nearly fell over.

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View from the edge of the south-east quadrant looking west over the bank and ditch towards the stones in the south inner ring.

Pilgrimage completed, I headed for the Circles Cafe run by the National Trust for hot chocolate and jam on toast before having a good long wander and browse around the Henge Shop. I picked up another packet of Faerie incense by Celtic Magic, the first lot of which I bought there last year, and which now just smells like Winter Solstice to me. I also bought myself a labradorite egg, as it’s a crystal I don’t have yet that it’s probably going to be useful to have, and with the peacock flashes I wanted to have a piece that I could turn easily in my hand. Plus it was pretty and only £8. I’d take a photo but it’s currently sitting in a bowl of water soaking the label off. There’s also a lot of books that I want to get, but they will have to wait for better finances or book tokens. I then headed home, arriving about 1 in the afternoon, and promptly fell asleep. Because my body hates me. So, after waking up at about half six feeling groggy I decided that ritual and concentrating on ritual just wasn’t going to happen, but as I’ve got tomorrow off work as well I can do things then, including unpacking my altar items from the shoebox. Although I might light a stick of Faerie incense between now and when I go to bed, or at least partially burn one.

Joyous Solstice!

Declaration 127 against the AFA

Declaration 127 is available for individuals to sign as well as groups and organisations.

Depending on how Heathen-oriented your friends and other followed blog authors are, you may or may not have heard about the recent(ish) problems a lot of people have had with the Asatru Folk Assembly. Although I am a devotee of Freyja I don’t really consider myself Heathen, so the existence of the AFA barely registered. However, the AFA recently, openly, and publicly stated that their organisation is not open to non-white, non-straight, and non-1950s-style-gender-conforming people. Lupa Greenwolf’s post titled #notinmypaganism has screenshots of the AFA’s announcement on Facebook and some of the comments left there.

In response to this announcement, Huginn’s Heathen Hof have created Declaration 127 which has been signed by many different groups and organisations, both within Heathenry and the wider Pagan world. It is also now available for individuals to sign to show their support, and while you do need to create a World Table account to do so, it takes less than five minutes. While I don’t identify myself as Heathen I am associated with Heathenry through my personal devotion to Freyja, through my Heathen friends, and through the Heathen blogs I read. I have signed Declaration 127, and would have done so even if I wasn’t bisexual or a devotee of a Norse goddess. I signed it because I fundamentally disagree with what the AFA said, and while I am cis-female there is no way I currently or would ever conform to the AFA’s views on what ‘feminine ladies’ should be.

We will not promote, associate, or do business with the AFA as an organization so long as they maintain these discriminatory policies.

The AFA’s views do not represent our communities. We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.

I strongly encourage you to sign it as well, even if you know absolutely no Heathens. Paganism is still a fairly small world, albeit growing and becoming more public, and I’d rather not have it tarred with the same brush as the AFA. There’s enough suspicion and misinformation on Paganism out there as it is, and I’m hoping that the more people who sign Declaration 127 the closer Heathenry and Paganism will get to being able to say ‘they’re not with us’ in the same way Christianity does regarding the Westboro Baptist Church, or Islam does about ISIS.

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And in conclusion, a quote from one of Ember Cooke’s posts on the subject of the members of the AFA as opposed to the AFA as a whole:

I’ve long said that the AFA is a bad organization, but not everyone IN the AFA is bad.  Right now I’m worried for those in the AFA who don’t actually share those values, who honestly believed the pretty words put forth and that the racist leanings were just an uninfluential fringe within a larger, generally positive organization. I have known folks in the AFA with Semitic backgrounds. I don’t know any QUILTBAG folks in the AFA off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are a few in the mix. There are bound to be some places where if you’re Heathen and want community, your only in-person choice is the AFA or worse, and I worry for those stuck in such places having no better options.

Condemn the organisation and its views, condemn the members of the organisation that hold those views, but don’t condemn all members just because they happen to be members of a group which has only recently openly admitted to being racist, homophobic, bigoted, and discriminatory.

Autumn, runes, and getting my arse in gear

Autumn has finally arrived! I don’t know why, but it’s only in the last week or so that any of the trees near me have started to turn. But they seem to have done so all at once – I saw a gorgeous array of russets and oranges and fading greens when I was driving down to see my godmother the weekend before last, and since then the trees around my building have put on their autumn finery with the Virginia Creeper climbing all over the walls a gorgeous firey red, and the ones outside my window where I’m staying away are all about halfway between summer green and autumn shades.
The weather’s also started to turn, and the days at work have been a lot colder. It doesn’t help that we’re out in Fen country, so there is bugger-all between us and Boreas. It’s getting to the stage where I’m going to have to break out the under-t-shirts, and that usually only happens around mid-late November.

I know I wrote recently that I felt like I’ve been standing on the edge of something, and I’m thinking now that some of that may have been due to Freyja trying to get my attention again. Since I first realised She was hitting me over the head to get my attention back in February there’s been a few times when I’ve spotted Her influence in my life, but apparently I’ve not been listening closely enough recently. It doesn’t help that I’m not really enjoying the site I’m on, so most of my contact with any of the Deities I worship over the past two months has been prayers to the effect of ‘please, please, please let me get a job in London again…’. Unfortunately, all the real-world actions I’ve done so far haven’t resulted in anything, but I’ll keep trying. But yeah, I’ve spent more time talking than listening, which isn’t the best of ideas when your aim is a conversation rather then a soliloquy.

When I first wondered whether Freyja was trying to talk to me way back at the end of January this year, I said ‘the likelihood of me picking up any kind of message is very low. To use a word I’ve seen used a fair bit in the Pagan areas of the internet, I don’t think I even own a godphone’. And as far as I can tell it’s still true – I don’t own a godphone. What I seem to have ended up with though is a god-answering-machine. Back in June when Kizzy was acting as my Magical Geiger Counter she had an… interesting reaction to the Freyja spirit talisman that Beth made, and in her words has ‘ended up with a second Third Eye in the palm of my left hand’. It’s come up occasionally in conversation since, generally followed by ‘much as I love you: you bitch’. So when I was chatting to her down the phone Kizzy told me that her palm has been pulsing on and off since late August/early September, getting less strong but more persistent. Along with this Kizzy has felt Freyja’s presence every now and then as well (which she definitely blames me for!), so I had her telling me ‘your Goddess says She’s thinking of you’. But the timing is interesting – Kizzy’s been getting that message since I started on this site. We had a good laugh about it, but the fact remains that Kizzy is essentially acting as relay messenger between Freyja and me. She’s just hoping that this is as far as Freyja comes into her life, as Kizzy’s a devotee of Athena and according to her ‘having one battle-goddess in my life is quite enough thank you very much’, and I’m hoping I can manage somehow to get to the stage where I can pick up my own godphone as opposed to listening to the answering-machine.

So to help towards getting to that point as well as generally upping my spiritual practices I’ve brought my runes with me as well as one of my interpretation books, and I’m planning on doing a daily rune draw at some point each evening. The last time I used them was to discover if Freyja was trying to talk to me, and they seem like a good way for Her to get in touch again, seeing as I can’t seem to pick up on anything else unless it’s delivered with repeated use of a sledgehammer.

I’ve also been attending to the other half of my spirituality, and actually using my copy of the Methodist Worship book as opposed to just reading it. I also stopped off at my local Catholic church on the way back from shopping as it’s usually open during the day, and there are times when sitting in a church outside of services is just what I need – coolness, peace and quiet (excluding the sirens going up and down the main road outside), and being in a sacred space. So while my arse may not be moving very fast it’s at least in first gear as opposed to neutral. Baby steps. Baby steps…

Featured blog: Kizzy Can Cook

My close friend Kizzy, she of the luck and abundance ritual and witchy weekend, has a blog! Kizzy defines herself as a kitchen witch, and while she is a talented witch, it is her love of the kitchen that inspired her to start blogging. In Kizzy Can Cook, she shares interesting recipes she’s tried and tested, often on her friends, and reviews of foodie places she’s visited and local suppliers.
Kizzy is also the person who inspired me to start making rumtopf (which is slowly taking over my kitchen) and who gave me the snickerdoodle recipe in my recent harvest post.

Although the main focus of Kizzy Can Cook is, unsuprisingly, cooking, her witchy side does occasionally show through, such as in her post on uses for elderberries. Kizzy also has green fingers, and I look forward to seeing what she makes with the contents of her allotment – especially as I’ve spent a fair amount of time there on my visits helping to clear weeds, cut the grass, and plant carrots.

What is my life…

Or more accurately, what is my theology…

Turns out I have very little idea. It used to be a lot simpler – for most of my life I classed myself as Christian, and was therefore monotheistic. Huzzah, job done. Except it wasn’t really. Followers of Judaism and Islam have it easier in a way, as they are certainly, definitely, absolutely monotheistic. The vast majority of Christians on the other hand (excluding groups such as the Cathars) have to grapple with the concept of the Trinity, which is at once both incredibly simple, and utterly mind-bogglingly confusing.

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The diagram called the Shield of the Trinity. Taken from Wikipedia.

Now most of my Bible reading hasn’t been a from a ‘proper’ Bible, but the amazing  The Childrens’ Bible in 365 Stories, which I’ve had for as long as I can remember. It’s got all the usual stories you find in kids’ Bibles, but also a load that you don’t, as a result of which I’ve been able to answer questions at church quizzes that none of the adults there have known. But I digress. This version of the Bible is where I got most of my Christian knowledge from, with bits added from Sunday School, and it was only when I hit my teens that I discovered that we were supposed to believe that all three aspects of the Trinity had existed together forever, which made no sense to me. Granted there were mentions of God’s spirit before the Holy Spirit showed up at Jesus’ conception and baptism, or descended at Pentecost, so I could get behind the idea that the Holy Spook had been around for a while, and God the Father had obviously been around since the beginning of the Bible, but I just couldn’t get behind the idea that Jesus as the Son had been around for that long as well. It makes no sense to me, even now. Now if you take the view that God knows everything that’s ever going to happen then ok, yes, He knew there would be a point where He’d turn round and say ‘ok, you’re up’ and Jesus would be born on Earth and do His thing. But then you run into the whole free will issue, so ok, let’s say that God knows everything that could possibly happen, depending on what choices we make. Like the ‘choose your own fantasy/adventure’ novels – turn to this page and such-and-such will happen, turn to this page and you will get so-and-so. You don’t know what will happen, but the book contains all possible outcomes for every choice you could make. But then that would mean that one of the parts of the Trinity was just sitting around from the moment of creation on the off-chance They’d be needed. Nope, still doesn’t make sense. So the way my brain saw it was that you had God, then there was his Spirit that showed up a bit later, and then there was His Son who showed up a while after that. As to how that actually works, the best answer I can come up with is ‘buggered if I know’.

And I’ve just realised that my view of the Trinity is possibly closer to a hard polytheist’s view of the gods than anything else. What is my theology…

Anyway, despite this view of the three Persons of the Trinity I could never really explain how they’re all connected in a coherent way. They’re all part of the same god, but seperate, but not as seperate as say Bast and Thor are, but… Yeah. So I sort of sidestepped the problem of ‘how do I have three parts of God that are seperate but the same?’ The Shield of the Trinity that I posted above sort of helps but not really, and while you also have the image of the shamrock or clover as a depiction of the Trinity, with three leaves being part of one leaf, all I can ever think of is the line from the wonderful film Nuns on the Run where Brian (currently masquerading as a nun to avoid being killed by his boss and/or the Triads) has to give a theology lesson on the Trinity, forgets the ‘three leaves, but one leaf’ explanation and instead comes out with ‘God is like a shamrock… Small, green, and split three ways. Class dismissed’. It’s occasionally bothered me over the years that I’ve been unable to articulate one of the core parts of the Christian faith, or explain it, or even fully understand it, which I feel I should be able to do. But then why should I? I’m no theologian. I don’t claim to be able to know the workings of the mind of God, and while I don’t take the Bible literally there are things in it that I believe in, like the Resurrection, which defy rational explanation. Hell, one of the exercises in one of my RS lessons at school was ‘what are the possible explanations for the feeding of the five thousand, the Resurrection, etc.’, where we had things like ‘everyone else pooled their food as well’, ‘they were all spiritually fed’, ‘it was an actual miracle’, and so on. No definitive answer was expected to be given (posh girls’ school, not a faith school), and the other religions we studied were given the same treatment. It wasn’t done disrespectfully, and I had no objections to doing said exercise, but I was still stuck with the ‘there are certain things I believe as part of my faith, but they make no rational sense. And I don’t disbelieve them just because they make no rational sense. Arrgh’. So I sidestepped the issue. And it’s not like I haven’t had people questioning and challenging my Christian faith either – my best friend at high school was atheist and somewhat confrontational with it, and my second boyfriend was also atheist. I couldn’t always explain why I believed what I did, and I couldn’t explain the theology behind the Trinity. But then in a way I don’t really have to – this exchange between River Tam and Shepherd Book from Firefly pretty much explains why. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, River’s just been caught tearing pages out of Book’s Bible and scribbling notes in it in an attempt to ‘fix’ the problems and contradictions).

Book: River, you don’t fix the Bible.
River: It’s broken. It doesn’t make sense.
Book: It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith, River. It fixes you.

Thus for my theology until my third year of uni. That was when I started to really look into and research Paganism, the reasons for which I’ll leave for another post, and while I was tempted to convert to Wicca (which made up the vast majority of what I found on the internet at that time) I ultimately didn’t as I was perfectly happy with my Christian theology, inexplicable as it was, and so just incorporated some of the practices of Wicca such as Deity candles and circle-casting. But I found the male/female split of Deity appealing, as while all the language used to describe God the Father was male (aside from in the film Dogma), which reflected the times in which the Bible was written, the times in which the canonical books were chosen, and the vast majority of the time when the Church has existed and taught, God Himself wasn’t a Him or a Her, but more of an It – even the Bible agrees with that: ‘so God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them‘ – Genesis 1:27, NIV. And while I know there are Wiccans who work with Jesus and the Virgin Mary as their God and Goddess I went towards the Gnostic Christian route, which sees the Holy Spirit as female. So since I began to think of myself as Christo-Pagan as opposed to just Christian my theology has had God as the overarching Divine presence in the world – the spark of Divinity in every person, in the animals, the stones, every part of creation, more akin to the traditional Jewish concept of God than anything else, with Jesus as the easier-to-relate-to male aspect of God, and the Holy Spirit as His female counterpart. So for me, She is the Daughter of God in the same way that Jesus is the Son, and I refer to Her as Sophia, the personification of wisdom.

And I was happy with this. It had a balance to it, it felt right, and while I still struggled with the concept of the Trinity as a thing when I thought about it, I just treated the ‘true’ relationships between each of the three parts as something I would never be able to comprehend – a mystery of faith if you will. And everything went swimmingly until I got tapped by Freyja…

While the contents of this post have been bubbling at the back of my brian for a while, my actually sitting down and writing it tonight was sparked by a conversation I had this evening with the lovely Ellie of Open Circle at Treadwell’s. She was asking what I believed (reasons why to be part of another post), so I’d explained my reasons for becoming interested in Paganism, why I considered and then rejected conversion, and why I then ended up with my Gnostic-inspired-but-still-Christian view of Deity. And then I had Freyja hitting me over the head with a baseball bat to get my attention, which meant that I had to try and work out how She fitted in with Christos, Sophia, and God, and as I was saying this I knew that I had no idea. I really don’t. Is She seperate from God and are Christos and Sophia just facets of God in the same way that Freyja is battle-woman, witch, and lover? Are all four of Them seperate entities like hard polytheists would believe? Are they all aspects of one Goddess and one God? I have no idea, and unless I either get told by one of Them or have some kind of revalation I don’t think I’m ever going to know. And it bugs me that I can’t explain how They all fit together, or even if They fit together. But in a way it doesn’t matter. Sometimes with faith and belief you can’t explain or rationalise what you believe, it’s kind of where faith comes in. I have faith that Freyja exists, I have faith that God exists, I have faith that Christ and the Holy Spirit exist, and I have a few experiences that I can use to confirm my faith. Is it simple? Can I explain it? Hell no. Now this isn’t to say that one shouldn’t try to understand these things, and I’m not saying that I’m just going to sit back and go ‘eh, I’ll never understand this so I’m not going to bother trying’, but spirituality is a journey, and we’re always learning along the way. It’s ok to say ‘I don’t have the answers right now’, it’s ok to not immediately run out and do All Of The Research, or All Of The Divination/Prayer/Trancework/Whatever to get the answers. How I describe myself in religious terms has been slowly evolving since around 2005/2006, along with my faith, and my theology has followed suit.

For roughly the first two decades of my life I was technically monotheistic, but considering my best friend throughout primary school was Sikh and I was given a good education which included unbiased and multi-faith Religious Studies I was actually an unknowing henotheist – I knew there were other paths people took to Deity, and that people in the world believed in deities who weren’t the Abrahamic God, and I was happy to ackowledge this but just worship a single (sort of) godform, the Trinity. I don’t think that what Dad calls the mini-United Nations of a primary school I went to ever gave me the chance to even start to think that Christianity was the One And Only True Way. It was the Way that worked for me, so I kept following it. Then I started bringing Gnosticism in, and became a henotheist and sort-of soft polytheist, and then Freyja came along, so I have no idea what I would classify myself as. I’m guessing I actually count as polytheist now, but soft? Hard? Medium-rare? I’m not even sure any more how to define or describe myself. Definitely still Christo-Pagan, but where the Christian side of my faith was more Methodist than anything else, and the Pagan side was more Wiccan than anything else, I’ve now got the question of am I more than that? I don’t really consider myself a Heathen as my honouring of Freyja isn’t reconstructionist or even that similar to the practices of the Heathens I know, but I do consider myself to be Vanatruar due to my devotion to Freyja. I’m very ecumenical in my Christianity – I have been and will quite happily go to Catholic Mass, Quaker Meetings, Anglican services ranging from high- to low-church, and places like Emmaus Rd, the church a friend of mine went to before she moved across the country, which has an honest-to-God rock band providing the music. And Ellie said she got the feeling that I could be described as Pagan with a devotional relationship to Jesus, so… As much as I’m incredibly grateful for the help Freyja has given me since I realised She wanted my attention, and as much as I truly enjoy having Her in my life, there are times when I miss the days when this was an accurate, if basic, description of my beliefs.

I can say what, or Who, I believe in, I can explain some of the relationships I see between Them, I can even tell of my experiences that have convinced me that yes, that was Freyja or God making Their presence known to me, but I don’t feel that I can, in all honesty, state precisely what I believe about the existence of Deity as I percieve it. And I may never be able to. I’m fine with the idea of never knowing how or if my gods all interlink, up until I try to explain how I deal with four differently-named Divine figures. Then I get a feeling akin to… failure maybe? I don’t know the answer, but at least I admit I don’t know the answer, which is better than either lying and saying that I do, or deluding myself into thinking that I do? I guess?

What is my life…

Harvest, and standing on the edge of something bigger

Aside from my ‘aargh I’m an idiot’ previous post, I haven’t posted anything for seven weeks, and my religious and spiritual practices have been even scarcer. I did nothing to celebrate Lammas, Mabon (yes, I know there’s a lot of arguing over the use of that word, but it’s the one that was most commonly used in the resources I found when I started looking into Pagany things, and became habit) went past with me pointing and going ‘oh look, Autumn Equinox…’, and my altar slowly gathered more and more dust. But it turns out I’ve done more than I thought I had over the past few weeks. I’ve been at my new job for a month and a half now, and while I can’t wait to get back to working in London as soon as there’s any available, the change of scenery seems to have helped my spirituality if nothing else. Also, apologies if this page takes a while to load, there are a lot of pictures.

This weekend just gone, I actually celebrated the harvest season by doing a very minimal Harvest Home thingy. On the Saturday I made snickerdoodles (recepie below) and ate most of them, but I’d kept part of the dough back and left it wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge, for I had plans! My job is up in Cambridgeshire which means I’m only home at the weekends, but on the plus side the view I have when I’m eating lunch is this:

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Cornfield, trees, hedgerows, distant farmhouses, huge wide sky. Very different from the views on site in London.

Which gave me an idea. There were a load of flattened corn stalks near the cabin where the lorry that delivered it had driven, with a few still upstanding near where I sat. So one week I brought by boline with me, took it into work, and harvested five ears of corn, one for each of the Deities I honour, and one for me.

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Properly harvested too, as my boline is sickle-shaped.

So on the Sunday after I made snickerdoodles I threshed and winnowed the corn, ground it using my mortar and pestle, and baked it into the dough I’d kept aside. I made two giant snickerdoodles, one with the rough-ground corn in the middle and one with it pressed into the top, and used one for my minimalist ritual. And it was very minimalist – I cast no circle, only lit my altar and Deity candles, and did no ritual-y actions. I just sat in front of my altar and chatted to my gods, sang along with Steeleye Span’s Marigold/Harvest Home, and broke bread with Them. Well, broke snickerdoodle. I used the one with the corn on top, and the next morning I ate my half (getting up at 5:30am and driving for an hour and a half I need all the energy I can get) and left the other half outside in the flowerbed for the wildlife as an offering.

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I ate the smaller half and it tasted gorgeous, even at sparrowfart.

I realised as soon as I sat down that I’d missed spending time in front of my altar. It didn’t help that it was in dire need of a clean and clear-up which I didn’t have the energy to do, or that there was so much I wanted to get done as relates to my spiritual practice and this blog that I became procrastinatrix extrodinaire when it came to anything non-temporal. So a lot of the chat had nothing to do with harvest, but was me saying things like ‘I’ve missed being here’, ‘I’ve missed talking to You all’, ‘sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to this’, ‘thanks for putting up with me’, and ‘I need to spend more time here in the future’, interspersed with periods of silence when I just appreciated being able to sit in front of a clean altar with my gods again.

Oh yeah, I’d also cleaned my altar as well as baking. Because it seriously needed it. I mentioned in a previous post that I’d moved my altar’s location and posted a photo. I also said at the time that it needed a damn good clean, which I did nothing about. So this, but with two and a half month’s more dust:

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I’m not proud.

Oh gods… So I took everything off and cleaned the table. I washed my altar cloths. I ironed my altar cloths. I took things like my chalice and offering bowl into the kitchen and washed them up. I dusted. I swear, I did more houseworky things that day than I’ve done for a long time. My flat isn’t an utter tip mind you, but dusting? Only ever happens when I want to use a thing that has dust on it, not because decorative items have dust on them. And while I was washing and dusting and ironing I had some of Pagan Dreams altar incense burning on the bare surface. The somewhat damaged bare surface, as the Ikea side table I use had come with the flat and was therefore second-hand.

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It has a sort-of burnt sugar smell but without the acrid note, and a sort of woody scent, and I could still smell it when I went to bed. 🙂
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My altarware in the draining rack next to the washing up. Tres kitchen witch, no?

So I cleansed my altar table, the cloths, the utensils. I dusted the statues, the candle holders, the implements. I rearranged some things so I had more of a ‘working area’ at the front. I took some things off and added some things. Granted, the area around my altar still needs a damn good tidy and clear-up, and I need a better way of storing things under my altar that isn’t cardboard boxes full of things, but I now have a shiny clean altar that is a pleasure to sit in front of, and which honours my gods a lot more. Granted I’ve recently been remembering/bothering to pray to Them just before I go to sleep, but not keeping what is essentially Their space looking presentable is not good devotional practice.

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Proud!

It’s been strange though, over the past few weeks. I’ve been feeling like I’m standing on the edge of something as regards my spirituality, like there’s something big going to happen, or that there’s going to be a lot more in my life. It may be a premonition, or it could just be a consequence of my actually getting up off my arse and doing things. Because looking back, although I feel like I haven’t done anything, I’ve actually done or seen a lot of little things that have added up. I was lying on the lawn outside my building on my way back from shopping just before I started on this site, and while I was looking straight up at the clouds a raven flew overhead. Now I know ravens are more Odin’s birds than Freyja’s, but they are carrion birds, and Freyja is also a slain-chooser and dead-feaster, and while Her battle-woman side isn’t the one I honour, it’s still a part of Her.

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Seriously, a raven flew overhead…

So a couple of days later, quite possibly the Sunday before the Monday I started, I cleaned my Fehu necklace. While the obsidian and dragonwood beads had stopped the tiny copper ones from being in contact with my skin and turning exceedingly green, they had lost a lot of their shine and were in places starting to look a little verdant. So I did a small devotional thing and got out the jewellery polishing cloth. And it made a lot of difference:

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I’d almost forgotten how shiny it was supposed to look.

I also did small devotional harvesty things these past few weeks, mostly at weekends. I have bad arachnophobia, and coming upon them unexpectedly in my house is a nightmare. However, there’s a chemical in conkers that they don’t like, so every year I go to the local park which has an abundance of horse chestnut trees and collect a load of conkers to put in bowls on every windowsill in the house. Now I knew I’d need a lot of conkers as I have nineteen windows, but I may have overestimated… Gathering them was a lot of fun though – I wandered around the trunks singing the song we sing at Treadwell’s Open Circles to cast the circle: ‘enter the circle, enter the circle, bring what you have to give, take what you need’, picking up the gorgeous glossy conkers as I went. Clearly I’d arrived at perfect conker time, as not only were there loads on the ground but, I swear, it was raining conkers. There was one tree where you could hear them fall, and when I stood underneath it I am not joking, one fell every thirty seconds. I got loads from that tree, and also, inevitably, got hit on the head by one. Let me tell you, a terminal velocity conker to the head bloody hurts… I got so many there that before I left I laid my hand on the tree and said thank you for all the gifts it had given me, after I’d laid my hand on the earth in thanks for all the other gifts of conkers I’d recieved.

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These were left after I’d filled all the bowls. There’s at least a kilo of conkers in there…

I even had seasonal reminders of the turning of the Wheel at work. Not that hard really seeing as we’re out in the farmlands and countryside, but I spent the whole day of the Equinox with Marigold going round my head, and since I’ve been there there have been skeins and skeins of geese flying overhead on their way south for the winter. It’s an impressive enough sight to begin with, but when they’re flying over just as the sun’s starting to break through the cloud at 8am on the morning of the Autumn Equinox, well…

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There was one day I was working in a corner of site and they flew over so low that if I’d stood up they would have hit me…

I’ve also started to pick up Roderick’s Three Hundred and Sixty Six again, after doing nothing with it since the beginning of January (!), I’ve walked through the park rather than along the road when I go to or from my parents’ place, and, most excitingly, may be joining a coven. I’ve also been to church twice this past month, which I have a horrible feeling is more times than I’ve managed in all the previous months put together this year, but the details of those two things will have to wait for another post, as a) this one is already very long and b) it’s getting late and I need to make my lunch for tomorrow and pack to go home as I drive straight from work on Fridays.

But it’s loads of little things that feel like I’m building up to something, like I’m on the edge of something and about to step into it. It’s weird, but good. Kind of like the build-up to a wave crashing on the shore but without the crash, if that makes sense. Also, snickerdoodles:

Snickerdoodle Recipe:
125g butter, softened
1/2 mug sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 mug self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 160C fan oven/180C oven/Gas Mark 4.  Grease a flat baking tray.

Mix butter and half mug of sugar together and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add beaten egg and vanilla and beat well.

Mix in flour and the nutmeg until mixture is smooth.

Place the two tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon on a plate and mix together.

Turn cookie mixture out onto a surface and squash together.  Make into a long sausage, handling as little as possible.  Cut into 24.  Take each piece and make into a small ball.  Roll ball in the sugar and cinnamon, squash slightly and place on a baking tray.

Bake for 12 minutes or until slightly browned.

Save the cinnamon sugar in a tupperware and use for the next batch of snickerdoodles. And the next, and the next, and the next…