Friday, May 20, 2016

Exploring Lost - Religion Envy

Being lost when it comes to religion/spirituality is a really odd place to be in sometimes. On the one hand it’s driving you crazy. You feel kind of stupid and small, wandering around in circles. You spend time with people you know from those circles and some of what they say sinks in and feels right and true and like home… but then other things remind you of how alienated you are from your own spirit.  Not because they have said something wrong, but because they are so sure of themselves that it reminds you of how unsure you are.
I find the more I look around as I am lost the more I notice other people and their faiths. And, much to my chagrin, I have discovered that I am suffering from a horrific bout of Religion Envy. I don’t know if this is just me, or if this is something that is common to those that are lost. I could be the only freak out of this but it’s another aspect of being lost I find myself pondering within my heart.

As I have said before I grew up somewhat Christian with a very Catholic Grandmother. For part of my elementary and middle school I went to a Catholic school and occasionally attended mass. I still have a place in my heart for some parts of the Catholic faith system. I feel a strong tie to Mother Mary and I keep an old Rosary that my Grandmother used to teach me. I can still remember her showing me how to hold each bead, the Hail Mary’s and the Our Father’s. She had a tape with some soft music and a gentle voiced nun reciting the prayers that she gave me a copy of. I can still remember listening to it at night, my fingers on the beads until I slipped into sleep.

Looking back I find I have some envy in my heart towards Catholics. I envy their rituals, handed down for generations. I envy their great cathedrals. I remember as a teenager going to Montreal and seeing the Cathedral of Notra Dame. I remember the feeling of holiness as I walked in, a holiness created by the reverence and prayers of thousands. I remember being transfixed at the Altar to the Blessed Mary and seeing some of her titles (Mother of God, Our Lady of Mercy, Our Lady of Sorrows etc.). I couldn’t tell you how long I stood there until somebody in our group had to lead me out. I envy their history and they way in shaped the world I know today, good and bad. I still find much beauty in their path, although there is much I do not agree with.

In thinking on this envy I realize that I envy much of the Jewish Religion and culture as well. I envy their history and traditions, over six thousand years of traditions, cumulating in their own language. I envy their power of memory, their ability to keep the past alive and make it a lesson to their lives. I envy the fact that theirs is a whole culture built around a religion and I have heard of people being a cultural Jew, in that they are part of the culture without necessarily believing in the religious side.

I also find myself envious of some of the Muslim bloggers I read about. How certain they are in their faith, their devotion to prayer (5 times a day! Your lucky if I remember 5 times a week!). I envy their ability to put their trust in Allah and their utter conviction in the Koran and the life of The Prophet Mohammad. The surrender in the will of Allah must take a tremendous amount of trust and faith that I have never seemed to have.

The list I have of religion envy stretches on and on. The more new religions I read about, and the more I read of the faith and practices of their followers the more my envy grows. In each of these religions there is a solid foundation of traditions and writings going back centuries. They have established prayers that are adored and used the world over. Their churches, mosques and temples are beautiful in both design and the sense of community it gives their followers. I also find the utter devotion people have to be awe inspiring. I always seem to be filled with doubt, with questions that burn into my soul and there is no water to quench it. While I have no desire to follow any of those paths, I still am haunted by the power they have for people.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Side Project!

I have been toying with the notion of running a blog just for the items I like to take pictures of... and decided to hell with it, I'll just do it! Introducing my side project: The Wandering Photographic Mystic! Give it a peek:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Exploring Lost - Ideal Images

So as I sit here musing about the fact that I am still really lost when it comes to my faith and what path I am supposed to be on, or want to be on… I don’t know. I’m stuck with one resounding question; How the hell did I get this lost in the first place? I’d like to think I’m a smart person, I have two college degrees, work in a job that requires intelligence, have always done well in anything I have set my mind to (well ok, maybe not math, but I did pass so that counts). And I set my mind to being a good witch.

I read, a lot! I have read Cunningham and Buckland, Starhawk and Z. Budapest, I read Dugan and Ravenwolf, I read the Farrars and Gavin Bone, I read the first modern witch, Gerald Gardner and books by his High Priestess, Doreen Valiente. I read books by witches, druids and heathens. I have read Christian writers, Jewish writers and Muslim writers. I have even looked at atheist writers and grappled with the question of atheism myself. All of these bright cookies who have been passionate to write about faith and here I am in a mess of them, resonating with a piece here and a piece there.

Ten years ago I was so eager to be the best witch I could be. I devoted myself to readings, to gathering tools and practicing the rites. I planned and created some beautiful rituals and altar spaces. I even have a room in my home devoted to magical workings, although lately it’s turning into a crazy catch all for random stuff I find around the house. I have a black cat that seems to love cards and stones and watches every working I do with intent interest and focus. She’s been very affectionate of late, lots of cuddles and purring, as if she knows how lost I am.

I keep thinking to the image I have of the perfect witch in my mind, and how short I fall from it. I mean I fall really short. And that sucks, because I have built this image of the perfect witch in my mind for years and I am very attached to this image. This witch is beautiful. It’s a female witch, I’m not saying the perfect witch cannot be male, I just identify more with female because I am female. I don’t have a clear idea of where her house is, but it is a house with some yard.

Her yard is amazing (think like, practical magic yard and garden), with lots of flowering plants in perfect health, with a beautiful garden full of rich soil and blooming herbs and vegetables, ready for her to add to her magic. She has little altars set up with offerings for the fairy folk and the nature Gods. She works in her gardens daily, always in a flowing skirt and never seeming to get dirty. Always cheerful, happy with a peaceful and generous heart. She has a cat or two or three, all perfectly groomed and never stray far from her side.

The inside of her house is absolutely magical. She has little charms and magical concoctions tucked into every room. Her house hums with magic as she has perfect altars honoring the Gods and the ancestors everywhere. It is a clean and tidy space, with her herbs, parchments and candles well organized in cute little cupboards and bookshelves. Her furniture has a Victorian feel to it and every one of her items is a unique piece of art. She makes all her own skin care and health products by hand, using very little manufactured products. Her clothes are all flowing beautiful dresses and skirts and she has dainty magical jewelry for every occasion.

Her Book of Shadows is a beautiful and well organized volume, well written in a graceful elegant script by hand, from a fin nib feather pen of course. She is well loved and respected in the community and everybody loves to get little goodies and treats from her. She sits in meditation and yoga on a daily basis and has beautiful rituals that connect her to the Gods and help direct her. She can read any deck of cards she wants and even can read tea leaves and palms. She gives wonderful advice and has the allure of magic in every step.

She has done her fair share of ritual works and teachings. She has taught little kids the basics of herb and stone magic and has helped usher teenage girls into adulthood. She has done baby blessings on newborns and requiem rites for the dearly departed. She has stood in a circle of witches, her hands thrown high on a full moon light as the power of the Gods descend into her body, giving out wisdom and encouragement. She has initiated hundreds into the old ways and has helped start many on the path to magic.

It’s a beautiful image isn’t it? I wonder how many of us have this image in our minds of witches? How many of us has built up this image of the perfect witch in our minds, and have been disappointed when we didn’t find her (or him). Even worse, how many of us have compared ourselves to her and berated ourselves for falling short. We cannot seem to help it; it is human nature. We have to have an ideal, something to put on a pedestal. The problem is that image.

I have built that image, day after day, in my head. I put that image up as the ideal, the end goal and you know what. I am nowhere close to it. My yard is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but my gardening is really hit or miss. I have a busy life so it often gets a little… well… weedy. Plus, my climate means that some things just will not grow. My house is more of a crash pad some days so there is stuff everywhere. I’m not always the best housekeeper and there is probably dust on my altar and shrines as we speak. I have several half-finished Books of Shadows and other books scattered everywhere, some I have not touched in years.

I am nowhere close to being an elegant woman. I tend to wear lots of jeans, swear too much and t-shirts and my writing is atrocious. I’m not overly physically attractive as I am short and a bit overweight. I can’t wear dainty anything or I will break it and when I garden I usually come back in covered in dirt. My writing is atrocious and my furniture is an odd mix of hand me downs from family and new items here and there that my dogs have caused some form of damage to.  While I would love to make all my own products I don’t seem to have the time to devote to it so I end up with a lot of Supermarket specials for cleaning and hygiene products.

I am not initiated into any traditions and cannot honestly say if I have ever talked to the divine or if it’s all in my head. I can barely meditate and fall down a lot when I try to do yoga and there is nothing in my house that is organic, free range, or whatever. I have talked to a few people here and there as new pagans, and don’t mind sharing my experiences, my likes and my dislikes but I am nowhere close to being able to teach. And on my one public ritual I got so nervous I cast the circle the wrong way and used the word “incest” instead of “incense” not even two minutes into the ritual.

I love my image of the perfect witch, absolutely love her. But I’m beginning to think she is not healthy for me. Actually I'm not sure this is even a realistic ideal for any person to try and become. Maybe I need to re-evaluate this image...