Saturday, June 27, 2009


As part of International Pagan Blogging Values Month, I thought I would lay down some riffs.

To me, the following values flow from one another through one another until they are one river of conduct, but to break them down-


Self-knowledge/self honesty




Courage- As a friend of mine wrote once, courage is not A virtue, it is THE virtue from which all other virtues flow. Courage to face all challenges both internal and external is vital to any kind of meaningful spiritual practice. Courage enables us to look deep into our inner darknesses and learn. Courage enables us to be honest with ourselves even when we don't want to. Courage enables us to call ourselves and others on BS and walk away from it. Courage enables us to be independent when all around us people are clamoring for us to be part of the herd. Courage enables us to manifest joy. Courage also enables us to stand up and model what we believe in.

Self knowledge/self honesty- Know thyself. If you don't know yourself, it's hard to be honest with yourself about what drives you, what frightens you, what angers you, what you love, what weird prejudicial land mines that live in your mind and heart. It should be an ongoing process, because no one knows everything about themselves always. We are too changeable as human beings. And be honest. There are unpleasant messes in the best of person's psyches.

Discernment- When you are brave, self knowledgeable and self honest, then the little BS detector that every thinking adult must have is in place. Use it. It's like a tuning fork, someone tells you something and you listen for the pitch. Does it resonate with you or fall flat? Be responsible for your own discernment, rather than relying on the thoughts and words of others.

Independence-Many heathen constructs are community based, putting the welfare of the many over the welfare of the few. And I'm a believer in community. But if you can not stand on your own and stand up for your own opinions, then you are not living to the fullness of your potential. Independence in thought, word and deed is a good thing.

Joyfulness- There is so much energy, work and time expended in a spiritual practice. If your spiritual practice doesn't lift you up, inspire you, fill you with joy and great gladness, STOP DOING IT. Move on, find something else that does. Now, not every spiritual practice is happy-happy-joy-joy all the time. Some life lessons are hard and painful. But it doesn't have to hurt to be meaningful. And if it hurts more often than it heals, look elsewhere.

In my experience. Your mileage will most certainly vary.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Practical Magic: Severing the Ties that Bind

Everyone has relationships that don't work out, that for whatever reason have gone awry and cause pain and suffering.
And at some time in the heat of the moment, everyone wishes they never met that other person. Everyone wishes they could do something that would make the pain go away.

But that doesn't mean everyone should sever the tie. Because severing a tie between you and another person is serious and permanent. Let me repeat, SERIOUS and PERMANENT.

Instead, there are two intermediate steps, knotting off and filtering.

Knotting off entails envisioning the tie between you and that other person(I have people visualize a cord or a thread that runs between) and tying a knot in it to restrict the flow of energy, emotions and thoughts between you and that other person.
A helpful focusing chant for me is "I knot away from me all energy that is negative and harmful to my well-being".
You can also use the Isa rune to freeze the connection.
This will give you the time and space to figure out how to solve the problems in the relationship without the constant negative energy input/output between you and the other person.

However, this is only temporary. If you leave a knot too long, a form of soul-gangrene will occur, just like if you left a tourniquet on your physical body too long. So find a way to solve the problem as soon as possible.

Filtering entails envisioning the tie between you and that other person and installing a screen. I like to think of window screens, but I've had people use force field and engineering imagery as well.
A helpful focusing chant for me is "No thing negative or harmful will pass this way. Only that which is positive and helpful will pass to me from thee and from me to thee."
You can also use the Nauthiz or Eihwaz rune as a focus.

Unless you add more negativity to the relationship, this is enough for most bad/painful/toxic relationships.

However, there are some ties or some relationships that are so toxic to your heart and soul that to continue them would do you massive,on-going harm.
I advise that anyone contemplating such a drastic step visit a psychological professional or spiritual advisor to help define this level of toxicity.
I also advise that anyone contemplating such a drastic step first try other steps to correct the problem more gently, whether it is knotting, filtering, negotiation, counselling, self-help work, etc.
If all of these things have been defined and tried, then severing is appropriate.

Severing entails envisioning the tie between you and the other person.
Through that tie, you take back all that you put into the relationship. This takes the form of a list of material things you gave, emotional experiences you shared or thoughts you had about this person.
Then through that tie, you give back all that they gave you in the relationship. This is a pile of material things they gave you and a list of emotional experiences you shared.
In both these instances, it is important to be thorough. Both positive and negative things must be taken back and returned.
Then, envisioning that tie between you and the other person, you cut it three times. I use a scalpel visualization usually, but I have used scissors and in one very nasty case, an axe.
A focusing chant I use is, "Once I cut, to break the tie, Twice I cut to for the pain to fly, three times I cut for the bond to cease, from this life to the next, let there be peace."
You can also use Kenaz to burn through the tie.

As with all things I write here, this is in my experience. Your mileage will most certainly vary.

Friday, June 12, 2009

" TV Cowboy" Definitions

I grew up in Montana in the 1970's, when the last of the last of the cowboys had grown old and sat around telling stories. That self-deprecating, humorous recital of horrific injury and deprivation riding the range, stories of courage and cowardice told like a joke.

So when I watched cowboys on TV, they confused me. "That's not like so and so, " I would say to my father, who would sing me his rendition of the Bonanza theme, "Nobody ever does any work on Bonanza! Sit around all day, don't get paid, Hop Sing does all the work!" My wise father's code for, "Honey, it's not like they've actually talked to real cowboys. It's pretend."

As I read Stephen King's Gunslinger series, I got the same, "Honey, it's not like they talked to real cowboys. It's pretend."(Not that I didn't like the series BTW, but it was definitely based on what someone had seen cowboys and lawmen on TV and in the movies, rather than real life).

So recently I was a reader of a discussion about shamanism on an Asatru list, prefaced with the question "Is it Asatru?".

BTW, this discussion was part of one of those discussions that makes me angry to the bone, the defining of us vs. them with the idea if they are not us, how should the community condemn them. I find this argument pop up in Asatru thought every once in a while, especially from those that have a personal anti-mystic bias, usually because they were brought up in a faith with an anti-mystic bias and despite conversion to Heathenry, they carry that bias still.

And after years of comparative religious theory, my first thought was," This is someone's TV cowboy definition of shamanism."

"Personally, I feel that people who are into mysticism and such belong on the outside of society. And I think naturally they gravitate towards that. As we get closer to the inngarth of society and social mores, we find laws, customs, and taboos. As we get closer to the utgardth, we find the opposite. You can't run a society of Shamans. A society of people who are in constant contact with the Gods, constantly in Shamanic practice, by definition would not be able to enforce rules, customs, or have taboos. This distorts the purpose of society and the purpose of Shamanism. Both are degraded by their integration. Either you try to apply rules to a Shaman, which destroys the project of Shamanism, or you try to have a society without laws, rules, customs, or mores (which would resolve itself into a kind of dystopia). You can't run a society this way. Shamans need that kind of freedom to do what they do. Society at large can't have that.So, while I can respect the project of Shamanism, kind of like I appreciate the project of the Punk Rocker, or the Dadaist, I do not feel that we can build up a religion around it. It would also be impossible to "reconstruct" Shamanism, since by definition, Shamans can't operate at their fullest within any "construction" . The way that people have described it to me is that they see all Nine Worlds at once, and all Time at once. Try forcing a person like that to draw a map, or make a watch, which circumscribes their experience. It's impossible. This is all my opinion on Shamanism. I can appreciate the project, but I can't see it as a religion in and of itself. "

The writer is correct about a couple of things.

Shamanism is not a religion, with a set of gods and goddesses, a cosmology, narratives and beliefs. It's a practice, which is puts one in touch with the gods/spirits/wights/ancestors as part of an existing worldview. It is a job similar to mystics and prophets, those that talk to and interact with the universe in a direct way.

And as a result, those people do gravitate to the outskirts of society. It's hard to be the voice of other worlds. It makes demands on your time, health and sanity in a way that makes just hanging out with your people a difficult thing.

But after that, I differ greatly with the author.

-Mystics do not belong outside of society.- I realize that's more of a personal preference for the writer rather than a stated fact, but ALL religions have a mystical component. Christian mystics such as Julian of Norwich or many monks in the Greek Orthodox tradition, Hebrew prophets like Isaiah, Buddhist Tibetan mystics, Sufi masters, Hindu yogis etc. inspire the people of their community to a closer relationship with their deities of choice, healing those people, prophecy etc. Shamans are a kind of mystic.

-Shamans can't operate at their fullest in any construction-Shamans are constructed and defined by service to their community, not how they define that community, but how that community defines THEM. Shamans can't just call themselves shamans, their community calls them shaman, with all the inherent rights and responsiblities that comes with that.Some societies have their shamans in the middle of the village, some on the edges, but there is no question that they are a vital part of that community. They are the bridge between this world and other worlds.

I am not a shaman. My practice has elements of the shamanistic practitioner(using the methods and models of shamanistic practice to achieve results) because they work. And deep down, whether you are reading accounts of shamans in the Amazon, or Inuit healers or Sami weatherworkers, shamanism is about what works, not the worldview/religion/philosophy trappings, but the energy/ psychology/practicality of practice that gets results for their community.

In my experience. Your mileage will most certainly vary.