I’m hussling a game of catch-up here, so what follows is the answers to weeks 10 through 15 of the YouTube Pagan Challenge. To prevent you from having to scroll through all of this to see if there’s anything of interest to you in this post, the 5 questions and answers that follow are:
- What do the moon phases mean to you?
- What does the sun mean to you?
- What does this time of year mean to you?
- Do you use divination; what types?
- What does magic/k mean to you?
- Do you perform spells on a regular basis?
Week 10: What do the moon phases mean to you?
I used to follow the moon phases religiously (heh – funny to use that and it’s actually not an exaggeration). After a few years, my practice seemed to move away from it, though. Not that the moon has no place at all in my practice these days, but it’s no longer the focal point it once was.
I will forever be enchanted and delighted at the full moon. There is something unspeakably special about it. Although we know more than ever about the science of what the moon is, how it changes in the sky, and the affects it has here on Earth, there seems to still be some ancient part of my brain that is captured by the magic of seeing and observing our nearest celestial neighbor.
To me, as a person who thinks scientifically in a lot of ways, a decent portion of my religious practice is consciously a practice of tradition. For readers who may not know, I studied anthropology in undergrad. I asked one of my professors who taught a class in religion how he could remain a practicing Irish Catholic, given all that he knows about the history of religion and the church. How could that not taint his religious experience? His response was interesting, and very anthropological! He said that when it comes down to it, religion isn’t really about the gods and the beliefs. It’s about community and identity. “You’re one of us, because you believe and do as we do. ” And when it came down to it, in a very sort of mundane, day-to-day way, Irish Catholicism, the religion he was raised with and that his whole family is a part of, is who he is, and where he belongs. That’s his “clan”. He doesn’t agree with it all, or believe in it all – but that group of people, is his group of people.
As a pagan I feel this way sometimes. But being pagan, by nature, broadens the scope of that community almost beyond comprehension. I think that’s why so many pagans struggle with finding a sense of community. We often have to find it on the internet – in forums and blogs, but we continue to grow and change and new spaces come up all the time. My point is – intellectually, I know the moon is just a rock in the sky. Just like my professor knows that the Catholic church is full of lies and made up bullshit. But it’s almost all made up. This reality we know here in the physical realm is but an inkling of a vastness of unknowns. I feel compelled, for whatever reason, to look to the moon, and it’s changes, and to honor it’s place, and it’s stories, and the lessons in those stories. Because my ancestors did. Because that’s my clan’s ritual and mindset and way of seeing the world, and it gives me a sense of purpose and rooting, so I do as they did, and I look up to the sky, and I see the glowing space rock, and I feel a connection, and I go with it.
Week 11: What does the Sun mean to you?
You can kind of take most of what I said about the moon and carry it over to answer this question as well, with one major exception.
I do a lot to connect with the four elements in my practice. In the beginning years of my practice, it wasn’t a huge focus for me. I didn’t really get it. I was a feminist from early on in my life, before I had a word for it, and honoring the Sun did not come naturally to me. I first chose to focus on the moon and the Triple Goddess in Wicca (when I identified as Wiccan, which I don’t anymore).
In the past several years, the elements taken center stage in my practice, in a whole new way than ever before. I often do short meditations on the elements, and during phases when I’m really on top of my daily devotionals, meditations on the elements always takes center stage in that practice. The sun gets a special place as part of my visualizations of fire. The sun allows us to exist. It’s there, every day, all day, even when we can’t see it, feeding us and all that feeds us on earth. Honestly, I don’t think we (although maybe I should just speak for myself) do ENOUGH to honor the sun. In fact… with Spring here and Summer Solstice approaching, I think I just decided I’m going to try and make this Solstice something extra special. But more on that later.
Week 12 – What does this time of year mean to you?
It’s Spring. I used to closely observe the sabbats, but in the past couple of years my celebrations have seemed to wane somewhat. In many ways my spirituality has grown in day-to-day ways, but sabbat observations aren’t hugely important lately. This does seem a little odd to me, because I always thought that once I had my own home I would make a big to-do about celebrating holidays. Now that I have had my own apartment for 3 years, that hasn’t actually been the case. In fact, in the 3 years I’ve lived here, I think I’ve only had 1 or 2 formal ritualized celebrations. I’ve never been huge on ceremony and ritual anyway, but I’d at least do something small that resembled a ritual.
Anyway, I’m getting away from the question… Spring to me is a time of returning life, vitality, growth, freshness. The sun’s strength is growing, green is returning to the trees, color is returning the world after the long, grey winter. It’s a time of awakening, stirring, shaking off the cold and standing up, stretching out, and getting ready for action. Here in northern Illinois, the seasons are very pronounced. Definitely more so than the desert and Southern California where I grew up. All the seasons feel special here, especially when they’re starting out, and spring always feels magical with all the visible changes. It’s an inspiring time, that’s for sure.
Week 13 – Do you use divination; what types?
I use tarot. For a while it was part of my daily practice, but late last year my daily practice sort of faded and I started to just pick them up just once in a while. They’re really the only form of divination that’s stuck with me, and I’ve tried many forms. I could say more, but I think I’d get very long pretty quickly and I can save that for a separate post.
To briefly describe how I use tarot – usually I just shuffle them a few times while focusing on some topic, and then draw three cards, sometimes 1 at a time or sometimes all 3 at once – or sometimes I just draw one card. How I draw the cards is usually determined by what I feel is appropriate based on the topic at hand.
This is really the only kind of divination I use regularly. In the past the main phases I went through were using scrying of different sorts, and pendulums. I actually resisted tarot for a long time, but I’ve concluded that’s because I never really understood it. Now that I’ve made a connection with it, I don’t feel any need to add anything else to my practice. I feel that tarot, in the way I use it, adds a lot to my practice and feel pretty satisfied with it alone. Pendulums do come in handy on the rare occasion, however.
Week 14 – What does magic/k mean to you?
Magic is the shaping of energy in accordance with one’s will. All that is – is energy. And this physical realm is but one of many realms of energy. Witches practice gaining access to the essential energies of creation, and manipulate that energy by drawing it down into the physical realm in some manner. Anything that can be, already is – somewhere. So it’s a matter of “reaching” into or “tapping” into these different, and what I consider “essential” realms of creation, and drawing it closer so it may manifest in some way we can recognize in this physical world we exist in. Some witches do this with the aid of correspondences, or deities, or guides/spirits/whathaveyou…
I know a lot of witches practice witchcraft without any sort of religious affiliations. I myself have not been able to do that. I need some sort of understanding of where magic comes from, and how it works, and for me that involves a spiritual understanding of things. As a pantheist, I believe that we ARE divinity, manifest in this human form and in everything else we know here. The goal of my magical practice then, is to tap into the creative energy innate within me, that I AM. So it’s a spiritual as well as magical practice for me, witchcraft.
A lot of dictionary definitions of magic use the word “supernatural”, and those same dictionaries define “supernatural” as a “force beyond scientific understanding” or “beyond the laws of nature”. I think a lot of witches would disagree with this – if not most or even all.
To break down the word “supernatural” – “natural” means to be caused by nature, NOT humankind. This definition is useful in some contexts, but I don’t like that it assumes an inherent separation between humanity and the natural world. Humans are part of the natural world. So but, the word “super-natural” means that this power is even beyond the realm of the natural world – if you take the definition of the word “nature” to be “the phenomena of the physical world collectively”, then I suppose the term supernatural has some bearing on this topic. Most witches would probably agree that we access something beyond the physical world – that is actually exactly what I just argued at the beginning of this response. So, in THAT particular sense, are we doing something ‘supernatural’? I suppose so… sure. But that word also has some connotations that I don’t agree with, mainly being the fact that I already mentioned – that I don’t agree with the implied separation of humans from nature or the connotation that what we access and aim to manipulate is somehow not natural.
I hope this all made sense to readers. I’m happy to answer questions.
Week 15 – Do you perform spells on a regular basis?
No. I perform less spells now than at any other time in my practice. I suppose as I’ve gotten older I’ve found less things in my life seem to compel me to act magically, but also in other ways, magic has become ingrained in many ways in my daily living. My assumptions about the world and existence are rooted in a magical understanding of things, so I naturally act in ways that are in line with that – most of the time.
I assume that when a lot of people use the word “spell”, they’re referencing some sort of formal act of magical practice. That I do rarely. Small acts of magic are part of how I live – how I clean my home, make a cup of tea, close up the house at night and open it up in the morning, massage someone I care about, interact with a stranger, cook a meal, etc. These all can be made into magical acts, and often are such in my life, often silently but powerfully nonetheless.
That’s all for now. I’ll continue with catchup, and maybe even a video eventually, soon!