Monday, December 5, 2011

Pagan in a Strange Land

I have to face the fact that I'm a mutt, as I think many Americans are. I don't call myself "European American" or "German American" or any of the numerous countries that are in my family history. Frankly, my recent genealogical research has revealed so many cultural origins that I really can't lay claim to any of them.

By percentage, I'm probably more German than anything else. And yet there is some part of me that doesn't feel appropriate when I try to immerse myself in the Asatru religious variants. Something just didn't feel like it clicked, probably because I've never even visited Germany.  I felt the same thing when I studied British traditional witchcraft. The names sounded foreign and there was a cultural flavor that felt slightly foreign. So, do I call myself a witch, a druid, a shaman, a hoodoo, or do I just not bother with labels and worry about doing my own thing?

Recently, as I was considering the state of my being on this front, I began the following speculation. What if the Gaia/Great Spirit resonates around the globe with different flavors, like the different sounds from a drum head? You beat the drum near the edge, you get one tone; you beat it one inch closer to the center and the tone is slightly different. So it occurs to me that the spirituality of man may be different in each area of the world because the Spirit that inspires religiosity resonates differently in each part of the world. That would mean that religion would be spiritualy influenced by geography. Certainly this is true in the physical (for example, snowy areas would influence different pagan myths than tropical areas). But what if religion went deeper than just observing the natural world -- deep enough to be a blooming of the Great Spirit itself?

All this thinking that region may inspire religion at the spiritual level, rather than just through physical stimuli, has caused me to once again wonder how religion would look if there was no culture at all. How would I worship if I had zero cultural bias? I had to make some decisions about my beliefs at their very foundation.

My first belief of which I'm sure is that I am drawn to wonder at and respect the natural world. No matter what they may be, the cycles and drama of the natural world (known and unknown) makes me feel the presence of the divine.

Secondly, I'm sure that I believe that nature itself (and therefore myself) is a manifestation of this divine presence and I'm able to directly interact with the divine presence through an interaction with nature and my own energies.

I believe that there are energies and levels of consciousness about which we understand little, but nonetheless can be employed to produce change or knowledge.

Lastly, I believe that the study and understanding of nature (and therefore myself and others) allows me to deepen my understanding of and relationship with this divinity.

Since I was born, raised, and still live in America, I could potentially operate under the premise that a particular resonance of the Great Spirit is calling me to investigate the paganism that was indigenous to America, in particular the American southeast. Unfortunately, that's a broad order.

Not being racially Native American, many would say I have no rights or claims to Native American spirituality. Some critics would likely accuse me of the misappropriation of culture if I did claim it. But it does give me some direction when considering where to go to find pagan lessons that will advance my spiritual growth. Since my genetics are Celto-Germanic and my body is a product of America, I could integrate the native shaman and Druidic principles.

I may simply have to do some dodging of the labels that so many pagans want to use.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sacred Chores

I often find repetitive physical work to be a kind of meditation. So I wanted to share with you a sacred moment I had recently.

The trees near me are finally done dropping their leaves, which means I couldn't continue to put off the raking of the yard. I told myself I would wait until all the leaves were down. Now the work needed to get done if I wanted any kind of lawn in the spring, and I had to do it before all the plants under those leaves died. Since this is a job that I do only once every year, I decided to make it into a simple little sacred moment.

My Ritual:
I smudged my rake saying, "May this tool become an extension of my hand and follow the directions of my desire." (This is my stock request when purifying a tool that isn't one of my usual ritual tools.)

I smudged myself saying, "May this work bring strength to my body, focus to my mind, and peace to my spirit."

That's all it took. I then spent half the day raking leaves. I spent time thinking about the benefits of my actions. Here's what came to me:
1. My body gets a workout, which is good for me.
2. I didn't have to use fossil fuels to get the work done.
3. I didn't have to fill the neighborhood with the screams of a blower and my hearing wasn't damaged by a machine.
4. I am able to scratch away the thatch in the lawn so it can grow healthier.
5. I am able to pay attention to the insects and herbs that live in my lawn -- things I wouldn't see if I wasn't putting so much attention on the ground.
6. I was able to stomp back into place all the feeding raceways left by the mole that visited by this summer for a feeding frenzy.
7. I was able to focus my thinking undisturbed for about 3 hours on spiritual feelings and strengthen my connection to nature.

Turning mundane work into sacred moments can rewarding and fun if you have the right perspective.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crafting the Spirit

Most of the projects that I do with my hands help me to deepen my connection to the spiritual forces around me. I am lucky because every moment of my life has the feeling that the sacred is present. When I am involved in craftsmanship, that feeling is amplified tenfold.

One of the most important activities in which a shaman can engage is establishing and deepening one's connection to Nature and their environment. I won't explore the details of why at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all. But I think it's safe to say that a shaman isn't a shaman if he doesn't know and have a good working relationship with the spirits of his environment.

This week's entry at my craft blog, Craft Harder, is about trees, plants and deepening my connection to my environment. If you are interested, you can read it here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Half Asleep

I spend most of my waking hours in a state of half-asleep. Though I'm conscious, I'm not quite alert. There was a time when I was alert at all time during waking hours, but that was several decades ago when I was in school. All the worries of an adult life were handled, I lived alone without a partner (or the desire to have one), and I had all the friends who understood me that I could want. Basically, I wanted for nothing and worried about no part of life. I kept a very regular sleep schedule consisting of exactly 8 hours of sleep at the same hours of the night and I took a 30 minute nap after eating my lunch every day. My sleeping periods were deep and restorative. When I was not asleep, I was awake and alert like no one else around me. During that time, lucid dreams occurred every day, my memory was impeccable, and my immune system was impenetrable too.

Today's shamanship practice was more a matter of fighting to stay awake. Most of my practice is like that. Without the soundness in my sleep, my sleep is not as regular or restorative as it used to be, so my waking hours are a bit drowsy. This makes practice very difficult. I try very hard to find a practice time when I feel rested so I will not be inclined to just drop into sleep the moment I lay down. But it seems like there are no moments anywhere during the day when I am not prone to sleep. Yes, I could exact more control over my sleep schedule, but there are things I can't control, like a partner who thinks the cuteness of his romping dog is more important than my sleep. I'm going to try to take control of this, yet again, to see if he and I can agree on a regular sleep schedule from which I can benefit. It's the only way my practice will find any alert time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stuck in the tunnel

Recently, I went along with Casey so he could meet a local pagan gentleman who wanted to seek some guidance. Casey offered to meet with him and answer whatever questions he was able. I went along with the prospects of meeting a nice person who wasn't a total flake. Tim turned out to be a godsend.

Tim is in the same place I am. He is a long-term solitary student and is doubtful if solitary is right for him anymore. I've had that same feeling for a while, but it has been very difficult for me to come to terms with the idea that I may have to accept the bullshit of group work. I have an uber-low tolerance for bullshit and I hate being invalidated by someone who thinks they know more than me. It sounded like Tim had the same issues.

As I listened, much of what Tim said rang true for me. It was clear that it was time for me to get out of my own way and start some regular practice. For too long I have been functioning on the fringe of my spiritual path. I have learned a great deal over the years because I am an active reader and I quickly understand concepts. But none of that means I can do what the concepts describe. What I need is daily practice at some of the things I wish I could do.

Tim and I differ in one major area. Whereas he is a strong empath able to both receive and project emotional energy, I can only receive. I am strongly earthly connected. Though it makes me great with herbal medicine and relating to animals, I am nearly incapable of crossing the astral threshold with my memory intact. More likely I have done it but didn't know I was doing it. My attempts at journey-work has shown that.

Today I tried again to journey. My biggest problem is that I don't know what to expect - what it will feel like - so I don't know when I've done it. Today, I felt some energy moving around in my body, but my mind wouldn't let go. I had to try to stop active watching of the mental movie behind my forehead. It was clear that the journey was not going to be a movie, it was going to be a play in which I was cast. It wouldn't be a case of me watching a screen, it would be a case of being moved around in another place. I had to be open to all of my senses producing information. I had to stop trying to notice what I was feeling and just let it feel. In a way I had to just trust that it would happen and that I would be okay It reminded me of the way my mind wanders when I'm reading but not really absorbing the words. I get through a paragraph and I have no idea what was written. It was also like relaxing my vision when my eyes are trying hard to focus on an image. Sometimes its difficult to overcome that automatic operation of the body. I my case, My mind was trying to automatically focus its attention. I had to tell my mind it was okay to be inattentive. It felt like when I was a kid; I used to go underwater and allow my body to completely relax and drift with the water currents.

I'm making progress because I'm learning to let go. I think this lesson will carry much further than just journey work. I'm going to focus my attention on just letting go. When I can succeed at entering the proper state without my mind mucking things up, I will then focus on directing my journeys to one of the dreamtime realms.