What the Water Gave Me

In honor of a new blog theme, the spring thaws, and the overwhelm that so often comes with the creative process.

“What The Water Gave Me”
Florence and the Machine

Time it took us
To where the water was
That’s what the water gave me
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us
Oh, my love, don’t forsake me
Take what the water gave me

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

And oh, poor Atlas
The world’s a beast of a burden
You’ve been holding up a long time
And all this longing
And the ships are left to rust
That’s what the water gave us

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones
Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

‘Cause they took your loved ones
But returned them in exchange for you
But would you have it any other way?
Would you have it any other way?
You couldn’t have it any other way

‘Cause she’s a cruel mistress
And a bargain must be made
But oh, my love, don’t forget me
When I let the water take me

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the over flow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

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Writer’s Hole

16261170314_a15fbe845bIs it a cop-out to write a post about not being able to write a post?

Writer’s block. It’s a cute name.  Gives you feckin’ hope, to paraphrase Robin Williams, that there’s something you can do about it. Maybe go around, or climb over, or maybe there’s even a secret door there somewhere.

It doesn’t really describe the experience of being unable to write, however.  The part of your brain where the words live–it’s empty. You’re scraping the dirt sides of your word hoard with a rusty spoon, hoping that something is left down there. But there’s nothing.

When a major part of one’s spiritual path is the cultivation of Awen, something like writer’s block takes on an extra layer of anguish. There’s a sense that “if you were doing it right” you wouldn’t lack for inspiration.  The “if you just”s swarm and guilt flows like molasses.  If I had more discipline, if I made more time, if I weren’t mediocre. The more you grasp, the less you have until all there is, is a righteous pity party of one.

And then come all the well meaning comments about fallow periods, and “it happens to everyone,” and “just keep doing the work and it will pass.” Yeah, I know. The thing is, when a farmer leaves a field fallow, he does it on purpose. There’s a set time and a set season.  Writer’s block has a will of its own, and like a bad roommate, it’s not sharing its schedule with you.

But, here I am, tired of not writing, not feeling that I have anything worth writing about. So I’m going to write something. I’ve managed to spew almost 300 words here. It’s not great art, but it’s something.

Why is the first sensation after numbness always pain?

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Process

16043315844_201ba67481_nIt’s always something of a question as to whether to let someone look behind the curtain at your creative process.  It’s messy back there–blobs of ink, half-formed words, trailing threads, and heavens forfend those dangling participles.  Words themselves have been slippery fishes of late, and I find myself turning to solid crafts that satisfy my hands, like knitting, drawing, and beading.

Still, take for example the sigil crafted for Crow this month.  You can get a pretty good idea of it from the picture at the head of this post.  Yes, it’s still rough, but it’s showable, particularly for an article dealing with artistic process.  Sigil work, at least as I see it, isn’t just the tracing of lines over a witch’s wheel.  Sure, you can start there, but if there is to be any spark, any soul in the magical anchor, there has to be more than that.

To paraphrase Jason Miller, the most powerful sigils are the ones wrested directly from that Beyond space and brought into being on this plane.  That jujitsu match is ugly. There are many false starts, no little dismay, and often a feeling that this sigil is always going to look like crap and there’s nothing you can do to tell it otherwise.

This is where a child comes in handy. Inner, outer, literal or metaphorical–let the kiddies out to romp.

Stop wrangling and start playing.  Tussle, cross things out, let colors cohabit that would make Andy Warhol wince. Sigil crafting is a protean art.  Hold onto it too tightly and Awen slows to a trickle, left with nothing more than a madwoman’s scrawl across a restaurant napkin. Let go and see the lines swell with color and form, twisting around your mind until you know there is no other way for them to be.

It sure as hell ain’t pretty, but it’s process.

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Here's what a real live book of Ovate field notes looks like--messy huh?

Danger: New Thought Processes Ahead

Here's what a real live book of Ovate field notes looks like--messy huh?

Here’s what a real live book of Ovate field notes looks like–messy huh?

I’ve been undecided about what to do on the New and Full Moons each month for 2015. Last year was spent courting Cerridwen and cultivating Awen through the Cauldron Born ritual.  As I’ve said before was an absolutely invaluable experience. Now I find myself asking, “What comes next?”

One of the things that came out of my final ritual for Cerridwen was working with the 12 winds of Irish tradition. Despite my Sun sign being the ever earthy Capricorn, the most predominant element in my natal chart is in fact Air. It seems like a logical extension to incorporate that nature as much as possible into my practice. The Irish winds, which I first read about in the OBOD bardic course, provide a non-Golden Dawn derived structure for laying out ritual space. I want to try shaking up my paradigms a bit, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit too comfortable to be ritually creative in some ways.  This would also be incorporating some more Irish flavor in my work, which has not been a culture I found myself particularly drawn to beyond Lugh (ALLTHETHINGS!) and possibly Macha. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about poking about the Irish lore, partly because I have little to no known heritage from that land, and partly because I’ve been trying to stick to a Welsh-focused practice of late (despite some academic dabbling in Powwow). But it’s also true that gods and spirits seem to come and go as they please with little regard for maintaining the purity of their culture of origin (hello, Hekate!). So, in the long run, is incorporating a bit of obscure Irish color correspondence a grievous offense? I don’t think so, and I’ll have to count on the Winds letting me know if it’s otherwise.

I’ve also been trying to work more with the animals that actually live on my land. I spent quite a while working with what I term the Ancestral Tribal Spirits, but now it’s time to sink myself more deeply into the ecology of the Assabet River bioregion. Because I was trying to make a triple set of correspondences with the Irish winds, colors, and local animals I settled on 12 beasties that can be found if not in my backyard then within my town. These are: bobcat, fisher, crow, bluejay, sheep, snake, coyote, skunk, swan, toad, pig, and turkey. I’ve slowly been gathering skulls or other bones from all of these creatures, in order to deepen my connection and eventually create focus bottles/boxes for them.  During the last dark moon, I worked heavily with a fisher skull, painting it and devising a sigil to capture its essence. This month will be crow.

But now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t break apart these two tasks–the task of meditating on and learning the nature of the winds, and also then reaffirming my relationships with the local nature spirits.  Initially I was going to paint the bones in the color of the corresponding wind, but in some cases this just doesn’t seem to gel properly–for instance, bluejay definitely resides in the Spring/East, but the Wind Corcair (translated as crimson or purple) really doesn’t seem to suit.  So having talked all this through with you, dear readers, I will likely be focusing on the winds for the full moons, and doing the bone work for the dark moons.  I have a bit of catching up to do with the Winds, namely Temen (NNE) and Alad (ENE), but I think it’s doable.

And with any luck, there will also be some degree of blogging for your reading pleasure.  These may just be pictures, as many of the Cauldron Born posts were, but I hope it proves interesting nonetheless.

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Creeping Tendrils in the Mind

15901326063_22481140d5It’s that time of year.  The time when the fog of depression begins to creep out of the snow and wrap itself around the winter-weary.  Things will be better by May Day, but purgatorial Equinox still looms distantly.  Despite being magically inclined, it’s not a tool that I’ve ever wielded against depression until a few weeks ago.  I don’t know why it’s taken me so long.  Maybe pride, maybe denial, that false optimism of I-can-beat-this-on-my-own.  I’m “fortunate” in the sense that my melancholy comes and goes, but getting it to disperse in the winter can be a monumental effort.  Of course the little spell pouch helped–not a panacea by any means, but it did make a difference.

I tossed this spell together with minimal fuss and little regard for astrological timing–probably it would be best done on a new moon or failing that on a Sunday in the Hour of the Sun or Moon.  There was no formal incantation, but I performed extemporaneous prayer to Brigantia as I assembled the components.  The pouch was nearly worn through in places, but it released the scent of the herbs nicely, serving as a tangible reminder to be kind to myself and breathe deeply.

Pouch to Ease a Melancholy Mind

Lavender–calming
Tansy–against depression
Agrimony–brightening
Lepidolite–balance, calm
Quartz–clarity, power boost
Rose quartz–self love
Pentacle charm–protection
Sigil (this one is personalized for me, you should probably make your own)
Pouch colored lavender or white

Please note that the following accompanying behavioral changes will enhance the effectiveness of this working: getting my ass outside for exercise (yes, even in winter), more leafy greens and fruit, journaling, and seeking out neighbors and friends for social stimulation.

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Books Read 2015: Miranda Lundy’s Sacred Geometry

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A couple of weeks ago, I came down with one helluva fever, and was desperate for something short and sweet to distract me.  As Sacred Geometry by Miranda Lundy was the thinnest volume on my “To Read” shelf, I grabbed it and settled into a lavender and eucalyptus bath to try to steam out some of the sickness.

This may be a short work, but it packs quite a bit of information into its 64 pages.  It is beautifully produced with lush illustrations that really inspire one to grab a compass and straight edge and begin doodling away. You read a passage and constantly refer back and forth to the picture on the opposite page until the concept takes root and one can truly grasp it.

The book is well organized, and the presentation proceeds logically from a single point to a line, to a circle, triangle, and square, and from there to the first three basic Platonic solids: the sphere, the tetrahedron, and the cube.  Most importantly, Lundy encourages a sense of play in the reader, at every turn challenging you to try with compass and ruler of your own to re-create her shapes. Her excellent sense of humor also peeks out now and again, my favorite quote by far being, “There is indeed something very sixy about circles” (Lundy 2011, 8).

By the end of the book, the reader is exposed to a number of quite sophisticated geometrical procedures. It may have been the results of the fever, but the last few pages kept me gazing at them for long stretches of time, watching how the lines and points built upon each other to produce sinuous and complicated designs. It should be noted, however, that some reviewers on Amazon (who would seem to have a stronger background in math than I) find there is erroneous information in several places. Checking out this review in particular may be of use to people wanting to dive deeper into the subject.

Sacred Geometry is one of those introductory works that initially presents as being simple and straightforward, but that doesn’t mean the information is necessarily easy to understand fully. I’m very much looking forward to reading some of the other titles in the Wooden Books series, which promise to hold more in-depth discussions of some of the topics covered in Lundy’s book, such as the Golden Section and Platonic and Archimedean Solids.

*Lundy, M. 2011. Sacred Geometry. New York: Walker Publishing Company.

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Books Read 2015: Peter Paddon’s Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk

I am making a concerted effort this year to keep better track of all the various books I read that are relevant to my Druidic path. With any luck not all of these are going to be from the new age section of the bookstore; as most people on a Pagan/Polytheistic course of study will tell you, 201+ books are often best found exploring other disciplines.  Still there will doubtless be many selections from authors in various fields of spirituality, including Druidry, Traditional Witchcraft, and the different strains of Polytheisms.

16348174665_3fb075fa1d_nI will be starting things off with Peter Paddon’s Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk.   I do feel a little awkward writing this review, since Mr. Paddon recently passed away, but it was the first book to make it out of the “pending” pile this year.  Grimoire will prove most interesting to those practitioners who already have a good bit of magickal/ritual experience as it gives one something to compare and contrast.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read, but is a very comprehensive introduction to Paddon’s own brand of cunning craft. For anyone who has either a CM or “Wiccanate” background, the variations in ritual and worldview are both novel and intriguing.  There are times when it seems as if the author “doth protest too much” about the differences between “traditional non-Wiccan witchcraft” and Wicca; if I had to hazard a guess, I would say this is because of Paddon’s own Alexandrian background. Still, it’s a small quibble in an otherwise fascinating text.

However, as interesting as the subject matter can be, this is a far from perfect publication. Parts of the work read as if they’ve been directly transcribed from one of Paddon’s podcasts, and while he is a very eloquent speaker, that doesn’t necessarily translate smoothly to the written word. Paddon has admitted to self-publishing, and I fear it shows in the quality of the editing and the illustrations (which can be rather pixelated). (Please also bear in mind that I edit for a living, and therefore may have less tolerance for small mistakes.) I wish there been another set of eyes on this text as clearing up a few typographical errors really would have enhanced the quality of the publication.  Also, the organization of the book is somewhat whimsical, and it is not always clear what is the intent of the overall structure. There also is very little in the way of concluding thoughts to tie the often disparate pieces of the work together.

All of this aside, I’d recommend this as just the right tool for breaking some of the ironclad correspondences that have grown out of the Golden Dawn-influenced paths, especially in regard to both magickal implements and establishing ritual space.  There are several interesting pathworkings/mediatations, and a nice rundown of how to apply the Eightfold Wheel in a non-agrarian context.  Paddon’s focus on Welsh deities is welcome, though sometimes his spellings are a bit odd.  If you want a little shakeup for your standard Pagan practice, this book is a great place to start.

Paddon, P.A. 2011. A Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk. Los Angeles: Pendraig Publishing.