Many moons ago, I had an encounter with the goddess, Kuan Yin. It was the first such divine encounter that I could remember in my adult life. I became aware of her compassion and unending love, her grace and acceptance and her gentle encouragement for me to live into my possibilities. I remember tears streaming down my face, and a sort of ache because it was almost painfully beautiful. How often have we ever experienced this kind of no-strings attached love? Her presence opened a place in my heart that I could no longer deny. I wanted more of this love and more of these kinds of experiences with the Divine. I knew that I had the capacity to grow and transform my life and aide others on the journey. And thus began my formal training in the service to the Goddess.
I’ve heard from other people many similar stories about Kuan Yin, being a sort of gateway Goddess, a Divine being that brings us to our inner truth. My moment with her allowed me to say, “Yes” to what was always there inside of me and just beyond my memory. And once I said yes, the flood gates opened. I started making connections to past events. I was beyond thrilled to see my spiritual story had been unfolding my whole life. The Goddess has always been with me.
Since that moment with Kuan Yin, I have encountered many Goddesses on my eclectic path, helping me to learn and transform. Each face of the Goddess has encouraged me and challenged me. Today, I am a priestess of Avalon and the Goddess Nehalennia. She is an abiding presence within me. She is my protector, my steady guide. She has no trouble sharing her temple with others, and so Kuan Yin remains with me, reminding me when I falter or doubt or make mistakes that I am still worthy of love.
Love is ultimately the greatest transforming tool we have. As is said in the Charge of the Star Goddess, “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” This includes self-love, love for others, love for those maybe we don’t like so much. A mentor and friend of mine taught me about the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness, a meditative visualization very much in the spirit of Kuan Yin’s compassion and unending love. It begins with a recitation and reflection of these words:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
To continue this practice, you send loving kindness to someone beloved to you, repeating the words and visualization of these words:
May they (or the person’s name) be safe.
May they be happy.
May they be healthy.
May they live with ease.
A third round is recited for someone or something that you feel neutral towards, and finally, a fourth recitation is given toward someone that you are having difficulty with, or maybe have hostile feelings towards.
It is this fourth round of loving kindness that I struggle with, but calling upon the compassion of the Goddess, I do it. My heart does feel lighter after this practice, and perhaps I can grow to become more like Kuan Yin. It begins by loving myself, and then loving others.
What do you do to show yourself compassion?
Who or what could you send loving kindness towards?
What goals might you accomplish if you knew that you were so loved?
In mirth and reverence,
My spiritual journey has been one of many ups and downs, and many changes. And at one of these bends in the road, I came to the conclusion that I no longer fit into a box, did not have a label, and was really okay with that.
When we begin our spiritual path as a Pagan, some people, myself included, latch onto a word such as Pagan, Wiccan, or Celtic and use that word to define themselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that. When you take on an endeavor that is as life altering as religion is, you need an anchor. And by choosing an anchor of your choice, you have a starting place. Words such as Pagan or Wiccan are not merely words, they are labels and boxes. They give us parameters to measure our practices against, and they give us a label to organize us. Without the guidelines of Wicca, how would many of us starting out on this type of spiritual path know what to do, or when to do it? Where would you begin looking for information or help, if you can’t identify what you are pursuing? Boxes and labels can be good things. And from observation, taking on a label when you begin a new path is actually conducive to learning and growing. It gives you that starting point.
But what happens when you outgrow that box, or that label feels confining? For the most part, we pick a new label that comes with a bigger box; giving us more room to grow. As this evolution progresses though, it seems like we end up changing labels (and identities) more than we’d like to. This can lead us to feeling like we don’t know who or what we are, and can make others question our sincerity.
And this is the journey that I have been on for the past few years. When I first learned of earth centered religions, Wicca was it. Any information I could gleam was Wiccan based. And when I identified myself, it was as a Wiccan. The first spiritual organization I ever joined was a Wiccan church.
But I am not Wiccan. It took me a while to figure that out, too. Wicca is a great path to walk, but it is not for everyone. But if I’m not Wiccan, then what am I? For the most part, I just say that I am Pagan. Many people have heard the term Pagan and generally it saves me from explaining (badly) what my religion is about. Anyone else who walks an earth centered path understands the term. Pagan is for me the big umbrella term for my brand of spirituality. It’s like a person saying they are Christian. You get the gist of their beliefs without the details of how their denomination differs from others.
So saying I’m simply ‘Pagan’ works in my life. It gives people a broad idea of my values, and keeps my personal practices just that – personal. But it also works because I can’t find a label under that Pagan umbrella. I’m not Wiccan because I do not believe that all Gods and Goddesses are aspects or faces of The Lord and The Lady. In this regard, I am what is known as a hard polytheist. "Hard" polytheism is the belief that Gods are distinct, separate, divine beings, rather than psychological archetypes or personifications of natural forces. Hard polytheists reject the idea that "all gods are one god." Generally, I am okay with this label because in its definition this concept describes me. But if you investigate the Pagan community, many who claim the title of hard polytheist or just Polytheist, also practice a Reconstructionist path. Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, recreating ancient rites and modes of worship in favor of Neo-Pagan syncretic movements. I admire Reconstructionism but it is not a path that I yet walk. So when I tell people that I am a polytheist, there is a chance that they will assume I am a Reconstructionist.
My personal practice takes a very Shamanic approach. I worship my deities with prayers, offerings, sharing of myself, and learning about them. Yet when I want to work with them, this experience usually takes the form of a journey or messages received during a mediation. I spend as much time with my Spirit Guides and Animal Totems as I do with any of my deities. And yet I would not claim to walk a Shamanic path.
What path do I walk? For each of us, the real answer is “my own.” But as a human being, my nature seeks out labels and ways to organize not only people and things in my environment, but also myself. And when you can’t explain or define yourself, how do you explain or define your environment? What are your parameters for measuring things? What are your boundaries?
As the New Year begins, and we approach Imbolc, I invite you to ask these questions of yourself. Imbolc is a time of rededication, initiation, and starting a new cycle. Which makes this a great time of year to re-evaluate your own spirituality, goals, and practices. I plan to use the coalescing energies of 2016 to get a better grip on my concept of a “label” and see where my ever evolving spirituality guides me this year.
With wisdom and empowerment,
There’s nothing better than a dream becoming a reality. As Wiccans, we believe in the power of transformation and the personal responsibility to will our ideas into being. With “Mote it be” we seal our desires and propel them into the universe. But that’s not simply enough. We must work with the universe, listen to our Gods and Goddesses, and call upon the elements and spirit guides to help us as we toil and sweat to make it all come true.
The Fellowship of Avalon began as a dream, grew into a steady coven, and now we are blessed to announce that we are a legally recognized church, affiliated through the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. This wonderful reality is the result of tremendous learning, hard work, and deep commitment. We arrived at this place because we believe so confidently in having a sacred space where all are welcome to experience this nurturing and powerful spiritual path.
Because we are an eclectic tradition, we recognize that individuals will have their own nuanced journeys to make. Being Pagan or Wiccan offers many amazing experiences. There are a delightful number of teachers, elders, and wise people in our community and we welcome them to share their knowledge with the Fellowship. We welcome the novice to our community, folks who are curious, people who have questions or are looking for something more in a spiritual community. The Fellowship of Avalon is a haven for those who need support, for those who are looking for a community of acceptance, and for those who want to live fully through deep (and often fun) ritual experiences.
It has become a tradition of The Fellowship of Avalon to host a toast, boast, and oath, in the early part of the secular New Year. Drawn from the tradition of a Sumbel from our Asatru sisters and brothers, we gather to make merry, reflect upon our recent past, and make promises for our futures. We take the opportunity to honor the Goddess, God, friends, and teachers, celebrate our accomplishments, and to speak aloud our promises towards the continuation of our journey of transformation.
The Fellowship of Avalon toasts the Goddess and God for their aide in bringing our dream of forming a legal Wiccan church into reality. We honor all those who helped us to build up to this moment and we honor those who are here now. I share in boast how proud I am that Stephen, Emily, and I are able to serve this community as clergy. And I make the oath that we will do our best to guide, inspire, and comfort all who share this journey with us. Let us continue to build upon the dream.
In reflection, I ask you to consider these questions:
Who or what might you wish to toast and honor for their recent contributions in your life?
What accomplishments are you most proud of, that you would boast?
How can you grow through an oath of transform in your life? What promise do you wish to make?
In mirth and reverence,
A spell is a spoken or written prayer or decree which is used together with the projection of our intention. Spells are intended to initiate or influence a situation, event or circumstance. They are petitions for specific outcomes. Belief in and the use of spells or prayers are universal and have been an integral part of man’s spiritual experience since ancient times. Spell casting methods may vary according to ones culture, tradition and beliefs.
The word ‘spell’ generates some odd looks from Christians who are uncomfortable with the term when really, it is very similar to prayer. A spell is a more direct projection of intention rather than what most prayer has become today, which is a request for permission or "please, please do this for me." Spells operate from knowing what we want and what is acceptable within the Wiccan Rede “and it harm none”. Spells are a natural projection of what we know to be true and within our rights to expect of the universe.
We may use astrological and lunar timing, herbs, crystals, candles, colors and other items to enhance our spells. These can be boosters as they focus energy and our will but can also be seen simply as “prayer with props.” They focus our mind on the work at hand. They put us in a frame of mind to be in the presence of Deity and make a request or demand that the laws of the universe perform as expected.
The law of return and the law of attraction are no less valid than the laws of quantum physics. As laymen, we cannot explain them in absolute terms or grasp their total concept. We just accept and expect them to work. Wiccans use ritual and its visual, audible and sensory cues to take us from the mundane to the spiritual, from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
In various Christian denominations and practices, you may see special clothing and vestments, music, incense and seasonal altar colors and decorations. During a service, you may stand, kneel or raise your arms to God. You may hear responsive liturgy or acknowledgments such as "Amen", or "Hallelujah". This is not so different from Pagan or Wiccan ritual robes and clothing, our seasonal altars, chants, prayers or the sound of a “So mote it be” or ‘blessed be” in our circles.
Please don’t look at we pagans as though our circles and traditions are strange and exotic. Accept our expressions as paths to the God/dess expressed in a manner that resonates within us. We approach our Deities with thankful hearts and a desire to be their expression in the world around us.
When Your Christian Friends and Family Ask About Spells
You say, “but there are no spells in the Bible! You witches and pagans make that up.”
Really? Did Jesus need to spit on the ground and make magic mud to put in a man’s eye to heal him (John 9) ? Maybe he was using a ritual and cues to focus the man’s mind on what he was receiving and to put him in a place he could accept it, by expecting things to be different when he washed off the mud himself and he could see.
The following is a great Bible story about a spell Jacob (one of the patriarchs) used to increase the payment of animals he received from his father-in-law, Laban. This is in Genesis 30. You probably have never read this story as most Christians only know the “greatest hits” and haven’t really studied the very thing they say they believe.
[Careful study of the Bible is what leads me to dismiss it as fallible and not the exclusive way to God/dess. There are some valuable teachings and metaphors in the Bible. I simply do not accept it as the only way to enlightenment.]
Here is the tale:
29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”
31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.
“Don’t give me anything, ” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”
34 “Agreed, ” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.”
Did God tell Jacob to do this? No! Jacob used his own will and intention to focus on his goal. He focused the animals on his goal. No one was harmed. He did not take any of Laban’s animals, only created a better increase among speckled and spotted animals that were his by prior agreement. This fulfills all of the requirements for good spell work.
1. Clear intention: Increase my estate, provide for my family.
2. The use of the branches as boosters or triggers to make his intention clear to himself, the animals and the universe
3. He was due this for his honest hard work.
4. No one was harmed. The increase did not come out of someone else’s property.
There are other stories and examples as well but I wanted to illustrate that spells can be simply prayers with props. Spells are honest, organic and come from our own desires. Don’t be afraid.
So, make list of things you need to influence and get to work. Work for good. Do not harm anyone with your workings. You can start with simple candle magic and as you learn, you may then begin to incorporate herbs, crystals, incense, astrological and lunar correspondences and more.
As above; so below. As it is my will, so mote it be!