Saturday, March 1, 2014

To Eowyn Cara

I recently got an email from a Lady named Eowyn, her email address that Witches' Voice provided is not working. In hope that she may get this I will post here:

Hi Eowyn

Thank you very much for your kind email. I'm afraid I cannot take very much credit for that article. The lady who came to speak to us spoke so well, so movingly, with such gentle strength her words seem to have imprinted into my very soul. The article was far more her voice than mine. I am, however, more than happy to be able to share her story, and have it's power touch as many as possible!
I'm not on too much social media, I have a twitter account (that I often forget I have), a facebook page: and my regular blog (much of which is on Witche's Voice)

Thank you again for taking the time to write! I always am happy to hear that my words are appreciated! I hope wherever you are in the world you are staying safe and warm (here in Central Alberta we are having a nasty cold snap).
Yours Humbly
The Redneck Pagan

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When the Spell and/or Ritual Flops

Picture this, a quite, beautiful full moon night in September. The air is warm and the leaves are changing and you can hear them rattle against each other as you step outside into the night. You have your list in hand, your supplies have been gathered and you have learned the ritual inside and out. You go to a spot in the yard, and set up your altar and prepare yourself. You cast your circle, you follow the script to perfection, not omitting a single word. You then close your circle, leave your libation and pick up your tools. As you walk back to the bright lights of the house you frown because you have a nagging little thought in the back of your head "Did the dang thing work?"

Sound familiar yet? It probably does, but do not feel bad if this reads like a ritual you have done because it has happened to me as well! In all honesty I would wager that this has happened to everybody at least once in their witchy career’s, and probably more than once! And if someone says that it has never happened to them then I call BS because we are all human. Being human means we are going to make mistakes, have off days and sometimes our rituals will flop and we will feel nothing! This also goes for our spells

So why do our rituals flop? Well there can be a lot of reasons; I have yet to go through them all myself. Let’s start with the scenario I gave, the full moon solo ritual. There are a lot of reasons that ritual or spell could have failed. A major one is mental state. Did your day at work suck and all you can think about is the crappy day? Do you have a huge project to do that is looming over you? Did you just have a fight with a loved one? Did you just loose someone you love? Are bills piling up and have you worried out of your skull? Are the kids being brats today? Do you have a high stakes meeting the next day at work? In my humble experience fatigue and mental stress are the biggest ways to tank your ritual.

In a ritual or a spell it is our intention that determines the outcome, and if you are worrying about something then you are not focusing your intent, you are gnawing at the problem like a dog with a bone. I can personally think of a handful of rituals and spells I did that failed because I was too distracted to perform them! This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you, it just means you need to either sort the problem out in your head before a ritual or find a way to set it aside before the ritual. If I have a problem that is going to last a while I take a piece of paper, write it down and put it somewhere outside of my ritual space. I tell myself that I am putting this down and will pick it up after the ritual. I then find I can shift my focus to the ritual.

The next thing you want to look at is your medical health. Did you have a headache before the ritual? Were you really hungry? Did you get enough sleep this week? Are you getting over a cold or a flu? Did you eat something that made you feel off? Are you taking any prescription medication? Did you take an over the counter medication? Are you feeling healthy and well or run down and blah? Working a ritual does take up our energy, and if you are sick then your body is pulling that energy to heal itself and might not be able to spare any for a ritual. I once tried to do a Samhain ritual right after having the flu, it was a terrible idea. I spent the whole ritual feeling too hot, too cold, my head was pounding and I felt queasy. Half way through the ritual I apologized to the gods and shut the circle down. I lit a candle, said a prayer to the dead, I left an offering outside and went to bed.

Any kind of medication is going to play havoc with your system and can even play with your mind. When I take cough syrup I often will feel dizzy and sleepy, and cold tabs make me feel rather stoned. I am not functioning at 100% on those medications and will avoid rituals when I am taking them (and as I take them when I am sick I know from experience working when sick is not always wise). Prescription medications are a touchy subject, and one I do not have enough expertise to fully address. I would advise that if it is a short term medication, such as an antibiotic wait until you are finished the medication. You are taking it to get well again and you want to conserve your energies for that purpose. Long term medications are a different story, you might be on them for weeks, months or even years and I am not a medical expert. I would advise that you seek out an elder or a very long time practitioner for their expertise and assistance. They would be able to help you learn your own boundaries with how your body and mind interact with the medications and ritual workings. I would also advise you use good judgement. If a ritual is making you feel terrible and out of whack while you are on medications stop the ritual and ground yourself immediately.

Ok, so your mental health and intentions were set, but the ritual still flopped. Is it possible you missed something? Maybe you forgot a part in the ritual, or didn't have your correspondences fine tuned, maybe you mixed up something. It could be that the time of the day was wrong for the intention of the ritual, or perhaps you selected a Deity that didn't quite match up with what you were doing. There are a lot of ways that we can make a mistake in our ritual planning and execution. Maybe it was a ritual you read in a book that looked cool, but didn't mean much to you so you weren't able to get the right frame of mind. There are lots of things that can throw a ritual off or throw a monkey wrench into a spell.

So what do we do? Well step one is going to have to be not to panic! The first time I felt nothing in one of my rituals I freaked out and tried to redo it three or four times. Guess what, that didn’t work. I felt less and less power each time and more and more fear and panic. Finally I got bright and wrote down what happened and walked away from it. A few weeks later I was able to look back and figure out what went wrong. In that case I was getting over a bad flu and my body was not really ready for the ritual.

Once you have talked yourself out of the panic of "Oh my Goddess, it didn’t work, I’m going to lose my broom! I’m not a witch because it didn’t work". Take a moment, sit down and write out everything you can. Write what you ate that day, what the weather is like, moon phase, what did you do over the last day or two, what your health is like and for women where in your cycle you are. Then walk away from it for a few days. No really, walk away from it for a few days, forget it ever happened. A few days gives you a clearer perspective and can let you see if there were any mistakes made, if your health was off or if your mind wasn't in the right place. It also gives you some time to watch your life unfold and perhaps see your ritual or spell working. Maybe you cast a spell for abundance and a few days later you got a raise at work, or a friend gave you an old table she didn't need, or you got an unexpected cheque in the mail. These are results that take some time and you won't see them right after the ritual/spell.

Or to your amazement, it might have worked! When I was a very new witch I would perform a ritual and then sit back and wonder if it did work or not! I was a solitary for years and had nobody to ask if it worked or not. I eventually came across a book that a friend lent me (and I wish I could remember who wrote it so I could credit the author!) and in the book the author spoke about rituals and spells. The author explained that there is no Hollywood effects, no lightening in the sky, no booming voices, or sudden wind storms. The author explained that it would be far more subtle. You might feel calmer, more relaxed after ritual. Other people might feel pumped up, full of energy and happy. Others might get chills and tingles across the body while another person might feel a sense of accomplishment at the end.

So your ritual might not have flopped at all, but you just haven't learned how your body and mind reacts to the ritual. After I read that I made a note of it on a sticky note and left it on the front of my notebook I was using as a book of shadows. The next full moon I went along and performed my ritual. I recorded everything as I have recommended above, and included how I was feeling. I did this for a few months, rituals and spells alike. I discovered that after a successful ritual I often feel really relaxed, peaceful and a bit tingly inside. After a spell however, I feel pumped up, like I could run to the nearest town (25kms away) and a sense of accomplishment. After I learned this about myself I was able to gauge when a spell or ritual worked or failed.

So when your ritual or spell goes flop do not panic, treat it as a great chance to learn something new and to grow. You might discover that you need a certain type of ritual to set the mood right, or that you are just no good at working a spell when your workload is stressing you out. You might discover that certain Deities don't work out well for you, or that a certain format makes your works tank every time. Either way it will only lead you to self discovery and better understanding of the path you are walking on!


Yours Humbly

The Redneck Pagan

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Leaving a Group - Part 2: Leaving, Healing and Moving Forward

Welcome to part two. Last time we were talking about the reasons why one would leave a Pagan group. As you may recall there are many reasons, some very serious threats to mental and physical well being such as incidents of abuse or assault. Others leaned towards the more mundane (and most common) such as job or family commitments, changes within the group structure, changes in your own path and just plain growing apart. So for the sake of this article let's say you have joined a group and are now ready to leave, what do you do? Well I would have to say that it will depend on the reason why you are leaving. There is no "one size fits all" solution to this.

 Let's start with the most serious case, you have been sexually or physically assaulted by a member of the group. There are a few options available for you, but my advice in every case is run! Get out of the situation, get away from the abuser right now. The very next thing you must do is go to the Police. Not an easy thing to do but that person has committed a crime and will do it again if not stopped. Criminal behaviour is habitual, meaning that people who assault you are far more likely to have done it before and will not stop until we as a society step in and stop them. This is why we created laws and law enforcement in the first place.

I would also advise that once you are safely away from the abuser you inform the other members of the group about this abuse, you might not be the only one, and the leaders of the group must be made aware of this person. I am not a fan of keeping something this serious hush hush between you and one or two other people, this is a situation that calls on lots and lots of sunlight to disinfect it. Any group worth the wands they are waving would immediately step up to resolve the problem. If they do not then you do not want to give these people your trust! And in the case of the greater Pagan community I would wait and see what the rest of the group does, then if you are asked and are comfortable sharing some of your experiences do so, this will keep other safe!

After you have left the group, gone to the police and told the rest of the group why you left it's all over, right. Well not really, trauma like that does not go away overnight. This was never once your fault, but it’s hard to forget it and how it makes us feel. In cases of assault I cannot stress the importance of seeing a professional Psychologist or Psychiatrist, especially one that specializes in victims of trauma. These people will be able to help you process this event and find your way to healing. Take the time to find the right therapist for you, some therapy techniques may not match your needs. I would also recommend that you consider doing some rituals, and due to the nature of this event I strongly advise you get a trusted Pagan friend to help you with this.

The first ritual would be a good cord cutting ritual to rid yourself of any psychic ties you hold to the group and this individual. From there cleansing and grounding rituals to help cleanse yourself and help you keep your feet on the ground. At some point in time you may feel the need to do a ritual of release. Again get a friend to help you here. A great resource on rituals I have found is Steven Farmer's "Sacred Ceremony: How to Create Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrations". Mr. Farmer has a background in Shamanism and Psychology and I personally found this book to be a valuable tool in my ritual arsenal.

As for the groups that seem to have some shady dealings, such as the pressure to be at every event, the "you are so dumb you’re lucky we took you in", disappearing group money trick, or the "you must do the Great Rite with me to advance in your training" trick are another batch to run like heck away from. This one is a bit more of a murky group to leave. There is often either no criminal activity, or it is so veiled that it is really hard to see it, and even harder to prove it. This one has no real clear answers as to what to do when you leave it.

If you are suspect their activities are criminal then take whatever evidence you have to the police. They have the investigative abilities to look into the matter further and the experience to determine if there is criminal activity. If the activities are not criminal but make you incredibly uncomfortable get up and leave, and do not look back. Once again do a battery of cord cutting rituals and cleansing rituals. This is another case where you might also want to look into seeing a Psychologist or other counselor. Even though this is a less serious case than an assault, it is still a serious breach of trust and will make you feel very hurt and vulnerable. Again a good licensed therapist is trained to help you work through these issues.

I would still advise that you tell the members of the group why you left, with either a letter or an email. They have a right to know why you could not longer stay and again you might not be the only one who is having these problems. Outside of the group is where things get dicey. My personal advice would be that if you have some pagan friends you trust you can let them know. If others who you are unsure of ask you can very easily say "I was very uncomfortable with the way things were running and so I left". Its up to you if you want to speak further or not. This area is a fine line because it has the potential to save others from harm, or it can open the floodgates to harassment to you. You are going to have to decide if the level of harm you are keeping people from will outweigh the harm that you could be exposing yourself to.

In the case of the group changing their dynamics or their focus and it no longer lines up with your personal motivations, morals or direction feel free to gracefully bow out. This also goes for if you are having to move. Go to the leaders of the group and tell them honestly that because of the proposed (or actual) changes that the group is going with it no longer lines up with your spiritual goals and directions and therefore you resign (or conversely you can state that "because of the changes in my living and/or work situation I can no longer live up to the commitments and needs of the group and therefore I wish to resign"). Tell them that you wish them well and if they ask you to return anything, such as books or tools that belong to the group do so politely.

Stay positive and friendly with the other members as you leave and be sure to thank them for the time and effort they spent working with you. . You will once again want to take the time to do some rituals to cleanse and cut the psychic ties to the group. This will free both sides to move forwards. You might even want to talk to the group about having some kind of a final ritual together to help both sides heal from the move forward.

Once you have exited give yourself a break! This is a very sad time in your life and treat yourself with kindness, give yourself time to grieve this loss. Do not join or form a new group right away, this is like going on a rebound date and that is not fair to you or the others in these groups. Also keep the secrets of the group you left, do not share their rituals and spells with every pagan you see on the street. These are still sacred to that group and doing this disrespects them and  all the trust that you once shared with them. Continue to be respectful to the members and the group at all times.

Last, but not least, the group itself decides that it needs to fold. The first step obviously will be to make sure that this is a step your group really wants and really needs to make. Does the group want to completely dissolve and go their separate ways, or do they want to dissolve for a time and then reform with a new direction and focus? If you decide to completely dissolve and go your separate ways just not decide this at a meeting and then all walk away! This is going to cause you more headaches than it's worth. All your ties to the group, as well as the group identity you have created are still going to be there, so you need to shut this down and cut your ties. As a group design a closing ritual where you lay the group identity to rest, gently cut your magical ties to each other and take the time to say whatever you want to say (respectfully of course). Once again do not join a new group for some time, let yourself grieve properly and take the time to practice your own way and reaffirm your personal connection to the Gods you follow.

If the group decides to stand back up in a different format still have the closing and cord cutting ritual to make sure that you are not brining the old group into the new. After this ritual decide as a group a time in the future to meet. Give yourselves a few months to make sure that there is a clean break from the old group. After this time has passed meet together to decide how you want this new group to run, and make sure it is completely different from the first group. You closed down that first group for a reason, don't start up as if nothing has happened!

The bottom line is that leaving any group is hard, it takes an emotional toll on anybody. You need to take the time to do whatever you need to do to heal. You want to make sure you cut the psychic ties you have to the old group and thoroughly cleanse yourself so that you are able to move forwards with a fresh start. Finally the biggest step is going to be mentally, you have to want to heal and move forwards in order for any of this to be successful. You have to want to take whatever steps necessary to move forwards and be successful in your magical life.

Yours Humbly

The Redneck Pagan