Friday, January 31, 2014

Cemetery Work--Part 1

Entering and Exiting the Cemetery

At the entrance of every cemetery there is a guardian, sometimes synonymous with the Guardian of all cemeteries or even Death itself, depending on who you ask. Regardless of how you see this guardian, there should be a proper acknowledgement and/or payment upon entering its guarded territory in order to successfully carry out anywork you wish to do there. Otherwise, you are simply a visitor or guest, and it would be considered rude or insulting to start conducting business in a host’s home without proper permission. Just like it would be considered theft to take or collect anything from the cemetery without paying for it. Also, it’s considered a bit sketchy to sneak into a cemetery from an opening other than the main entrance or another entrance, almost like coming into someone’s home through an open window, rather than the door. Proper respect should always be given to the cemetery and those who guard it, as there are consequences that await those who do otherwise even if those consequences are not immediately experienced; Death has a way of sneaking up on you.
Upon approaching the gate or entrance, have three coins in your hand and mentally make a connection with the guardian, sending a very brief introduction of yourself (this can be as quick as a thought). State that you wish to do business or you have come to collect grave dirt or whatever you need to do, but you don’t need to go into detail. Then, knock three times on the gate, the gatepost, or, if nothing else is available, the ground. At this point, you enter the cemetery either face-forward or backward. If you are there to do something innocuous, such as collecting grave dirt or herbs growing within, then walk in facing forward; however, if you are there for more sinister reasons, walk in backward. (This is to protect your identity from those spirits who stand just inside the cemetery and keep track of who enters and leaves the cemetery, and if you are there for sinister work you want as little record of your actions as possible.) Which ever way you enter, drop the three coins as you cross the threshold. You have now acknowledged, honored, and paid all those concerned with the guardianship of the cemetery and are now free to carry out whatever business you have come for.
To leave the cemetery, just walk out the same way you walked in, either forward or backward. Some say you have to pay on your way out, also, but I’ve not found that completely necessary. You may say a mental word of thanks to the guardian, if you feel lead to do so. Older cemeteries tend to have older guardians who don’t really care, but if you intend on regular visits to the same cemetery, you may want to establish a relationship with that particular guardian. However you leave, just make sure to keep walking forward and don’t look back.

Baba Yaga~The Black Goddess

Baba Yaga~The Black Goddess
The story of Baba Yaga is prime among many images of the Black Goddess. The Black Goddess is at the heart of all creative processes and cannot be so easily viewed. Men and women rarely approach her, except in fear. Women are learning of her through the strength and boldness of elder women who are not afraid to unveil her many faces.
Sofia as wisdom lies waiting to be discovered within the Black Goddess who is her mirror image. Knowing that, until we make that important recognition, we are going to have to face the hidden and rejected images of ourselves again and again.
As women, we are confronted throughout our lives with unavoidable body messages regarding the uniqueness of our form and the inevitable changes that characterize aging and the passage of time. Although aging presents difficult challenges for both men and women, women confront some specific difficulties because of their gender. In traditional narratives, the end of biological fertility has relegated women to the status of "old women" who are stereotypically viewed as poor, powerless, and pitiful in our sexist and youth oriented culture. Baba Yaga, often referred to as the Black Goddess, and Vasalisa, often representing Sophia (Matthew's 1992, p. 289-90), are intrinsic to the psyche of girls and women because they shows us that the illusion of form can hide wonderful qualities within.
One of the cruelest of stereotypes that older women face is the "menopausal woman." These are accentuated by the very fact that younger women are often rejecting or distancing to older women in society, unwilling to identify with women older than themselves. These experiences are painful confirmations that the aging woman no longer meets the social criteria of a physically and securely attractive woman. The common result for most women is the activation of shame -- as if becoming/looking older means that something is deeply and truly wrong with oneself.

Conscious femininity is a cyclic process (Woodman 1990) and involves an awakened awareness of the triple form of the Goddess - Mother, Virgin and Crone - and how she exists simultaneously and continuously in all of our psyches, each taking center stage in awareness at different moments. These archetypal patterns are considered intrapsychic modes of consciousness in the individual, and the primordial image of a powerful and integrated woman, crowned with wisdom gleaned through real experience, is again reemerging through both the individual and collective psyches of humanity. First, however, women must learn to embrace, respect and honor their changing bodies, abilities, capacities and WISDOM. We can learn a lot from Baba Yaga!

An archetype is a universal symbol, an inherited mental image to which humankind responds, and which is often acted upon as an unconscious reaction to human experience. These stories are no different and the story of Baba Yaga exemplify this phenomena. The female experience is symbolized by and archetypally corresponds with the ancient Triple Goddess as the creator and destroyer of all life -- "the ancient and venerable female divinity embodying the whole of female experience as Virgin, Mother, Crone" (Mantecon 1993, p. 81). The archetypal figure representing the end of a woman's childbearing years, or the "third age" for women, is the third aspect of the Triple Goddess, the Crone.

At the climacteric or menopause, women are often forced to stand precipitously between the culmination of past experiences, to realize that youth is left behind, and prepare a new space within whereby a fresh image will coalesce as she envisions her future. This is real labor. The traditional constructs that are available to women are largely influenced by patriarchal standards of youth and beauty and we need fresh constructs that honor the diversity of life in all of its forms.

When a culture's language has no word to connote "wise elder woman," what happens to the women who carry the "Grandmother" consciousness for the collective? Prejudicial (prejudged) attacks throughout history against older women symbolized patriarchy's feminization of fear: the ultimate fear of annihilation, to be nonexistent (no existence). Centuries-long indoctrination limits our imagination so that we see this ancient aspect of the feminine only in her negative forms. We see her as the one who brings death to our old way of being, to our lives as we have known them, and to our embodied selves.

Our fear of the unconscious makes the Crone or Baba into an image of evil. The prevalence of paranoid masochism finds its expression through feminine perversion. Kristeva (1986) writes from "Stabat Matar" that: "Feminine perversion is coiled up in the desire for law as desire for reproduction and continuity, it promotes feminine masochism to the rank of structure stabilizer" (p. 183).

Structure stabilizer! Natural death is to be feared, hidden away, certainly not recognized as part of the natural rhythm of cycles of birth, death and rebirth? Only when death becomes projected does it become a monster to be feared. There is an unconscious belief that a woman who has outlived her husband has somehow used up his life force. Walker (1985) claims that the secret hidden in the depths of men's minds is that images of women are often identified with death. Women have also bought into this mindset largely because of lost connection with their own spirituality and the natural cycles of nature!

To be sent to Baba Yaga was tantamount to being sent to one's death, but Vasalisa was actually helped by Baba Yaga. By facing her own worst fear -- death itself, Vasalisa became liberated from her previous situation and immaturity.

The myths of our society tell us much about the attitudes and world view of the myth-owners (Kaufert 1982), and these attitudes are the products of women's roles within the wider society. Myth arises out of the collective level of humankind's experience, which is presented through images and symbols that resonate within our psyche. It is something we inherit from our ancestors and it is expressed through our genetic, racial memory. Kaufert (1982) reminds us however, that "myth is a system of values presented as if it were a system of facts" (p. 143).

The symbol of the Crone is unique to a feminine worldview where the face of the Virgin and the fecund Mother, the Virgin Mother Mary, was absorbed in Western tradition into Judeo-Christian imagery. Likewise, we see the image of Vasalisa embodied as this innocence. The Crone has retained much of her pre-patriarchial character where she has haunted the fringes of Western culture, largely ignored, unacknowledged and rejected; one that often strikes fear into the hearts of men and some women because she has tremendous power and cannot be confined (Hall 1992). "Wise women," in the past, were literally seen as having the power of life and death. They symbolized maturity, authority, attuned to nature and instinct. They were women whom men could not bind by making pregnant. They personified, as Hall (1992) writes:
"That aspect of life that men would most like to control but against which they are powerless: death. The Crone was healer, seer, medicine woman and, when death arrived with inexorable certainty, she was the mid-wife for the transition to another life (p. 170)."

Over time, and in recent history the Crone became associated with the dark side of the feminine; the withered old hag, the witch. Ironically, the word "Hag" used to mean "holy one" from the Greek hadia, as in hagiolatry, "worship of saints." (Starck 1993). And during the middle ages hag was said to mean the same as fairy.

In deconstructing these familiar images of the older aging woman, we must first identify their symbolic roots and challenge them in order to allow for potent, vital images that energize women's potential creative spiritual evolution. In this quest it is crucial to find valued female images that present creative and spiritual power, that offer a paradigm of ongoing formation and integration. If we do not do so, we risk encountering images of women that reinforce stereotypical models and moreover, can only alienate us from our own truest selves.

The Crone is a figure who incorporates both dark and light, life and death, creation and destruction, form and dissolution. The doll [Vasalisa's doll, given to her by her dying mother] becomes the symbol of the Sibyl, a figure of inspiration and intuition. She acts as a guide through the great passages of life, leading a woman into her own inner knowing.

We see this in the story of Vasalisa and Baba Yaga, the innocence of the maiden coming of age through a series of tasks. Baba Yaga forces Vasalisa to look within through intuition (the doll) and she awakens to the illuminating light that is carried in her heart. Within the simple limits of a folk story, the interactions of Sophia (Vasalisa) and the Black Goddess (Baba Yaga) are demonstrated. Baba Yaga or the Crone also embodies the inner archetype of Sophia, feminine wisdom. Hall (1992) writes:

"Sophia is a Wise Woman, one who epitomizes feminine thought. This thought is of a particular kind. It is 'gestalt' or whole perception; it synthesizes and looks at the overall pattern; it is logical but empathetic, and combines acute observation with intuition. It is relational (taking account of the past in order to project forward into the future), and it arises out of care and concern for man and womankind. It uses both the left and right brain modes of thought. It is creative and concerned with vision and solutions -- attributes which are an integral part of the Wise Woman (p. 179)."
Sophia plays, hides, adepts, disguises, and brings justice. Interestingly, we see these very same qualities attributed to the wise woman as being Vasalisa's, only not fully formed. Thus affirming the feminist perspective of the Goddess in all of her aspects and that all ways to wisdom are valid paths. Girls and women are encouraged to rely on their own subjective experience or on the communal experience of other women This is a very important point!

From a feminist perspective, the entry into the third phase of women's life is seen as a time of spiritual questing, renewal and self-development. It is a time where women are encouraged to explore themselves through interaction with other females who are providers of friendship, support, love, even sexual satisfaction, rather than a woman's family.

Likewise, the young girl growing into maidenhood needs the guidance and wisdom that elder women can provide. She must receive the gifts that the wise ones can give her. Baba Yaga may appear as a witch, yet she is instrumental in folk traditions. She aids heroes to find weapons, simplifying tasks and quests when she is treated with courtesy. Her transposed reflection is none other than Vasilisa the fair - the young righteous maiden who defeats her opposite aspect by truth and integrity (Matthews 1992)

The older woman is the keeper of the wisdom and tradition in her family, clan, tribe, and community. She is the keeper of relations, whether they be interpersonal or with all of nature. Every issue is an issue of relationship. It is assumed that she has a deep understanding of the two great mysteries, birth and death.

Another quality is the ability to be mediator between the world of spirit and earth. She is emancipated from traditional female roles of mothering and is free to make a commitment to the greater community. As a result of this freedom, there is an abundance of creativity unleashed in this phase of life; often expressed through art, poetry, song, dance, and crafts, and through her sexuality as she celebrates her joy (Joussance).

This elder time must again become a stage of life revered and honored by others and used powerfully in service by women themselves. The elder "Wise-woman" can represent precisely the kind of power women so desperately need today, and do not have: the power to force the hand of the ruling elite to do what is right, for the benefit of future generations and of the earth itself.

Like Baba Yaga, the Crone must help us by her example and "admonish us to revere all peoples and all circles of life upon this earth . . . not only important for the dignity and self-esteem of each woman, but vital for the countenance of life on our sweet Mother Earth" (Eagle). Since men define power as the capacity to destroy, the Destroying Mother Crone must be the most powerful female image for them, therefore, the only one likely to force them (us) in any new direction.

A woman who denies her life process at any time in her development, clinging desperately to outmoded images, myths and rituals of her past, obscures her connection with Self, the Divine, and therefore, with her spiritual heritage, the natural universe. The same holds true for our daughters, maidens who are coming of age. There is a kind of internal balance and sense of holiness available to us when we accept ourselves as part of a world that honors cycles, changes, decay and rebirth. It is time for women to reflect and give form to the authentic self in its evolving, formative process. The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last. She must bear herself, her third self, her old age with labor. There are not many who will help her with that birth. To Crone is to birth oneself as "Wise-woman," and see the world through new eyes.
We have not had the safety valve of feminine metaphor in our spiritual understanding; consequently, the Feminine, both Divine and human, have appeared monstrously contorted, threatening and uncontrollable.

The Black Goddess lies at the basis of Spiritual knowing, which is why her image continuously appears within many traditions as the Veiled Goddess, the Black Virgin, the Outcast Daughter, the Wailing Widow, the Dark Woman of Knowledge.

The way of Sophia is the way of personal experience. It takes us into the realm of "magical reality," those areas of our lives where extraordinary vocational and creative skills are called upon to manifest. Those treasures of Baba Yaga and Vasalisa lie deep within each of us, waiting to be discovered.

Matthews, Caitlin. (1992) Sophia Goddess of Wisdom: the divine feminine 
from black goddess to world-soul. London, Eng.: Thorsons, p. 289-90)
Starck, Marcia. (1993) Medicine ways: cross-cultural rites of passage. 
Freedom, CA: Crossing Press.
Tijerina-Jim, Aleticia. (1993) Three native american women speak about 
the significance of ceremony. Women and therapy: a feminist quarterly, 14 (1/2), p. 33-39.
Eagle, Brooke Medicine. Grandmother wisdom: lessons of the moon-pause. 
Guerneville, CA: Harmony Network Productions
Author of text is unknown.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

B is for Beltane

Beltane is a Celtic word which means 'fires of Bel' (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.
Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.
Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.
Other festivities involved fire which was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.
Today Pagans believe that at Beltane the God (to whom the Goddess gave birth at the Winter Solstice) achieves the strength and maturity to court and become lover to the Goddess. So although what happens in the fields has lost its significance for most Pagans today, the creation of fertility is still an important issue.
Emma Restall Orr, a modern day Druid, speaks of the 'fertility of our personal creativity'. (Spirits of the Sacred Grove, pub. Thorsons, 1998, pg.110). She is referring to the need for active and creative lives. We need fertile minds for our work, our families and our interests.
Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.
Although Beltane is the most overtly sexual festival, Pagans rarely use sex in their rituals although rituals often imply sex and fertility. The tradition of dancing round the maypole contains sexual imagary and is still very popular with modern Pagans.

This year, Beltane is Thursday, May 1st.
May is the time of fertility and new beginnings after a long winter. The Faeries are afoot! They dance in the hills and roll in the grass, reveling in the joy of warm May breezes. Our spirits are high with the lust and heartiness of spring. New life is stirring and appetites are keen. -Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth
In Celtic tradition, the two greatest festivals of the solar year are Samhain and Beltane, celebrations of death and rebirth, respectively. Love is in the air at Beltane. In our rituals, we celebrate the union between the Great Mother and her young Horned God. Their coupling brings fresh new life on Earth. Some form of this Great Rite is enacted on this sabbat in nearly every modern pagan circle. The Great Rite symbolizes the sacred marriage, or sexual union, of the the Lord and Lady. Often the rite is performed symbolically by a male and female who place a knife (a phallic symbol) into a chalice (a female or yonic symbol). In Old Europe, whole villages would celebrate May Day by slipping away into the woods for indiscriminate sexual encounters. Any children conceived during this occasion were known as "merry-begots" and were considered children of the gods. These "greenwood marriages" were acts of sympathetic magick believed to have a positive effect on their crops, animals, and themselves. (In this age of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, however, we must exercise responsibility -- by means of safe sex, monogamy, or even abstinence. Use your better judgment.)
Crop fertility was a strong theme at this sabbat. Besoms were ridden hobbyhorse-style through fields by women in symbolic fertility rites. Menstruating women ran and danced naked in the newly-sown fields. Cows were led to the fields to calve, and ritually consecrated chalices of sheep's blood and milk were poured on the crops, as were ashes from the balefire.

Herbs:  All-heal, blessed thistle, broom, curry, daffodil, dogwood, coriander, dragon's blood reed, fern, fireweed, nettle, flaxseed, hawthorn, marjoram, paprika, radish, rue, snapdragon, mushroom, almond, meadowsweet, rose, woodruff, tansy, elder leaves.

Incense: Rose, jasmine, ylang, ylang, peach, musk, or vanilla
Stones: Malachite, garnet, rose quartz, emerald, beryl, tourmaline

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New Year, A New Me.

Is this really A good start? Can I actually use the letter A for my word? Well I am! Because this post will be some random ramblings about me!! 

I've decided to do the old cliche thing since it's a new year---I'm going to try and make a new me. Over the past few months, I've made so many promises to myself as to what I was going to do with the spiritual side of my life and I never really followed through. I also made promises to the higher ups that I need to follow through on. A dear friend of mine knows exactly what I am referring to as I've come to her more times that I should have with my issues. Well I got to thinking about everything going on and I've come to two realizations---- stagnation and too much.  

#1. Stagnation.
       My life, spiritual and mundane, has become stagnant. Day in and day out it's the same old shit, just a different Monday. Although my spiritual life really isn't stagnant so much as just not there. It just decided one day to leave me. That's what happens when you make promises to someone and don't follow through. I spend too much time worrying about how much sleep I can get to I can supposedly function the next day when I know exactly how the next day is going to go. So I need to buck up and suck up and start making my life what I want it and need it to be. And no one but me knows what I need to do. No one can tell me to do this or do that. 

#2. Too Much. 
       Too much of everything....weight, books, junk, stuff, obsessions. Anyone who knows me knows I've been struggling with my weight. Doctor ordered to lose 20 lbs by March. He thinks it will help my high cholesterol, which I am currently taking meds for. So I am working on that. Yes, too many books. But they just need to be organized better. I won't even get into the junk and stuff part of it. Obsessions---I am a nerdy fangirl and my obsessions run from Loki and Sherlock to Marvel and Doctor Who. I spend too much time with them and I need to scale back to I have more time for other things.

Oh then there is Too Much Stagnation. Too much of nothing going no where. And I finally figured out why....I have all these...things...running around in my life and in my head. Nothing knows where to go or how to work properly. It's like all the forks of the river hit a beaver dam in the main river and everything is just spilling over each other, trying to fight for space to make it over the rocks and broken trees. So I've decided to start removing some of the rocks and broken trees. But slowly. Because I don't want everything to come crushing down at one time and drown me. I want to slowly remove it so the river has a slow but steady trickle. And when I remove the final rock or limb, it's a slow steady stream flowing. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A is for Apathy

Apathy as defined by Merriam-Webster online:


noun \ˈa-pə-thē\
: the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state

Full Definition of APATHY

:  lack of feeling or emotion :  impassiveness
:  lack of interest or concern :  indifference 
This has been me lately. Well for the past 6 months or so, when it comes to being a Pagan. I can't really put a finger on how exactly when it happened. All I know is that I've had no desire to light a candle, cast a spell, or do whatever it is I'm supposed to do as a Pagan. Is there really things I have to do to be considered one? I suppose not. But whatever is supposed to be there hasn't been. And I have no idea why. So I'm hoping by doing this Pagan Blog Project that maybe things will change for me. I'm hoping it will help out my focus back on the way things used to be for me.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Blogging again...maybe..Pagan Blog Project

Hello again! My last post was August 2012! Obviously I suck at blogging! So I've decided to try a new route this year. I've signed up to be a part of the Pagan Blog Project. If you don't know what it is, it's basically a years worth of blogging through a Pagan alphabet! Each week, I am supposed to write up an article here in my blog. The catch is I am given a specific letter and I have to chose a word that begins with that letter and it has to be a Pagan entry. Hopefully it will help me to get back in touch with my spirituality.

Wish me luck!