Rule 8: Sing every day

When I was little, one of my favourite movies was Dinotopia. A movie about a Utopian society where dinosaurs are not extinct and co-exist with humans. Amazing! I loved dinos at the time, but what I came to enjoy even more about the movie was precisely the way their Utopia was shaped, the foundation of their society. The code of Dinotopia consists of 11 rules, that all make perfect sense to me and that are followed by every inhabitant of the island. Amazingly (well, not really, the writer has done this intentionally), the first letters spell out SOW GOOD SEED. Perhaps the essence of the code, and not unlike the rule of three.

  1. Survival of all or none.
  2. One raindrop raises the sea.
  3. Weapons are enemies, even to their owners.
  4. Give more, take less.
  5. Others first, self last.
  6. Observe, listen and learn.
  7. Do one thing at a time.
  8. Sing every day.
  9. Exercise imagination.
  10. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
  11. Don’t p… (thought to mean ‘Don’t put out the light’)

Now, I said that all rules make perfect sense to me, the way I interpret them. But I had never truly realized the strength of rule 8 (sing every day) till a week ago. Let me share my experience with you.

I was visiting an open evening at the university of applied sciences to gather information about studying to become a waldorf teacher, and there was a workshop about music. Curious, I entered. What we did? Well, sing, obviously, an African song with magical words, simply because we couldn’t understand them. We also accompanied the singing with clapping, stamping our feet, pretending to cradle a baby (because I thought the song might be a nursing rhyme) and various other movements. Describing what we actually did together is kind of easy, but accurately describing what I felt? Near impossible. It was a long time ago since I sang a capella together with others. At first I felt anxious, because I wanted to get it right, especially with other people listening. But I realized that wasn’t necessary: nobody was going to judge me or keep score of how well or bad I did. We were all there to experience how it might be as a waldorf teacher in training, we weren’t there to audition for a choir or whatever. Even though it was a music workshop, it wasn’t the music itself that was important. That realization hit me so hard that it shattered my restraints. I was able to sing freely, move with the others and let go of my fear of being judged. And as I did, I felt a warm joy spread through my body, a warmth I now know to have missed for quite some time. There are other things that warm me up, such as reading a good book or having an evening off with my husband, but as these are different experiences, the warmth is also different.

I cherish this memory, and the memory of my first Red Tent, where we also sang together, around a fire. And I will find opportunities to experience this amazing warmth again, basically coming down to this one simple rule: sing every day!

Red Tent Movement

If you are a woman and you move around in pagan circles, chances are you will have heard of the Red Tent Movement. The first time I heard of it was about half a year ago, on Pagyptian’s vlog, and I instantly set out to research it (because that’s what I do with everything).

The Red Tent Movement is a movement empowering women by bringing them together at full or new moon, often in a candlelit place draped with red curtains and clothes. It is a place where no judgement is passed, and every woman is welcome to ask for what she needs at that moment. The movement is based on a book called the Red Tent, where the literal red tent was a place for women to stay during menstruation.

Often it was interpreted that women were pushed away during this time, that they were filthy in some way, but it is turned around here: women are very powerful because they menstruate and can bring forth life. I believe there are tribes where the women were taught this during their time in a red tent of sorts. That is also the power of the modern Red Tent Movement, that started in America, but has reached the Netherlands and my hometown as well.

Last week, I went to my first Red Tent and it was amazing. Yes, I was somewhat scared at the beginning, because I didn’t know any of the women, but that faded away quickly as we sang to the fire, invoking the fire spirits to help us burn away things we would prefer to be gone. And then inside the Red Tent, we each lit a candle and passed on the matches, honouring the fire inside each and every woman there. So much happened that evening, all concentrating on one purpose: to let us feel both our strengths and our needs as women and to let us experience the power of sisterhood in addressing those needs. In addition, it made me feel the power of performing rituals together, even though that might not have been the purpose.

All in all, it’s an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the Red Tent in February. If you are curious, as was I, just google ‘red tent’ and your place of residence (or a larger city nearby) and you will probably find one close to you as well. I hope you will go there and feel empowered, as do I.

Presenting myself… to the gods

Let me start by saying that I have no problem with standing in front of a group and hold a presentation. I have no stage fright whatsoever regarding presenting. Preparation really is the key, so when I’ve designed my presentation (I use Prezi, an online presentation tool) and looked it through a few times, I know what I want to say and am confident it will go just fine.

Presenting without a visual audience, able to respond directly, is an entirely different thing. I am shooting videos for a new YouTube channel I want to host about sustainability, and I am nervous every time the camera is on. Yet I’ve prepared this better than my average presentation! Rediculous actually, but I haven’t been able to shut my nervousness down. Perhaps that will come.

One of the pros of shooting these videos and practicing to present without an audience yet without feeling awkward, is that perhaps it will help me address the Gods in ritual. I find this incredibly difficult, because I want to do it out loud, but feel very uncomfortable doing so. What a paradox… So there I am at my altar with a beautifully prepared speech to call upon the God and Goddess. I utter my first words… And then grow silent as I realize I am talking and I can’t see anyone listening. That’s not to say they aren’t there, but I just don’t perceive them. Resuming the speech in my head, I still finish it, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Next time, I will try a diary-ritual, writing down what I intend to say during the ritual. Since I am taking up journaling as a somewhat spiritual practice, that fits right in. Perhaps in time I can do what I would want most: speech out loud.

So I’ll just keep practicing with the YouTube videos and hopefully I will be able to present myself to the Gods before long!

The value of possessions

One of the things I have pondered over recently, is the actual value of possessions. I am aware that some people live very minimalistic, almost foresaking ownership of everything. Even though this is way too extreme for me, I did notice two very important things:

  1. Products require material and energy to make – both of which are NOT endlessly supplied on Earth
  2. Products require energy to keep and use them

The Earth is in danger, and we all know it. We are using more and more resources and pollute the environment whilst transporting and using these resources. Even though we, as consumers, are only the final users of such products, we need to be aware of what these products do to the environment. And to ourselves! We currently have more toxins in our bodies than ever before, coming from plastic products we use, car emissions and the food we eat. Yes, I am painting this very black and white, but that just makes clear what this is all about 😉 I could tell you much more about this, but I know people who can do that so much better than I.

Annie Leonard is the spokesperson for the Story of Stuff. This is a community and a movement that sees what is wrong with current consumerism and tries to make people aware. And of course take action, because that is the only way to change things.

In June, one of our local TV stations aired the documentary Bag It. In this documentary, Jef Barrier tries to discover what plastic does to us and eventually (yes, spoiler, but I think it’s predictable) decides to cut down on plastic use in his house. It’s just a bit over an hour long, so no excuse to skipping it!

My second point is also something I am discovering now that I am trying to go paperless (one baby step at the time). I already threw away some paper manuals because I downloaded the pdf version. And with throwing them out… came relief. Then I realized that when you own stuff, you get attached to it, you make room for it. Physically, in your house, taking up space. But also mentally, because you have to keep track of everything you own. I read about Green Evelien, a Dutch blogger living in Belgium who has experienced exactly the same. She tries to live a happy life, as ecologically as possible. After tackling both evergy and water consumption (they already eat vegan and biological), she is now tackling the stuff she has. Throwing away stuff that you barely use is actually a liberation, because it clears up space!

This is very hard for me, though. Yes, I do try to purge my clothes twice a year (though that might be getting less now that I know how to dress myself :)). But I keep amassing books… I love books 😀 Just the feeling of paper in your hands and the worlds to explore. I do own an e-reader that I am using increasingly, but I still have quite some books and keep buying more. But: that stops now. I will use my e-reader for classics and start buying and borrowing e-books more (as soon as it’s back from repair). And no, I will not throw out all my books. My favourites can remain 🙂 That means I will only have books I am certain I will want to read again and again. The other books I currently own will go on my to-read shelf and once I’ve read them, I will decide whether I want to keep it or purge it. So I’ll probably end up donating many of my books and selling some of the prettier ones.

My basic rule about posessions: keep only those items that you regularly use and try to replace these with eco-friendly alternatives when you can. But hey, you might have a completely different take on this! I’m interested to hear 🙂

Re-inventing yourself and your craft

Every now and again, it’s important to stand still and take a look at how you are doing. Yes, really. Not only health-wise, but much, much broader and deeper. Starting with ‘do you still like the way you look’ and ending… I don’t know where yet, but I’ve arrived at ‘what would you like your spiritual practice to look like’. Along the way, I am effectively re-inventing myself and the way I work. Because I take my time for it, I’m convinced it will work better, making me happier as a result! Who wouldn’t want that? In the meantime, though, you might have noticed the blog being somewhat silent. With taking a look at yourself, you also uncover things you are not happy about at all (like my current job-status…). In my case, I didn’t feel like writing during this period. However, most of it is now over and back on track, so I’ll start posting again!

I’d like to give you three examples of what I did and how it helped me. You might also want to try out some these options 🙂

Shopping for clothes can take me forever, because I don’t know what suits me, and I have often bought clothes that either didn’t really fit or that eventually didn’t really suit me. Since that is quite important, both for my feelings of self-esteem and for my job interviews, I decided to change this! I took an online colour-analysis to discover what colour clothes I would probably look best in. Turns out that with my blond hair, light blue eyes and skin that easily gets sunburned, I am a light summer type, so I look best in soft pastels (yes, I tried it and it’s actually true). Anything but hard, clear colours, actually. I also looked at my body type, which is athletic with quite broad shoulders. I might be able to tone this down by wearing drapey clothes or soft-shouldered clothes. Since my wardrobe needed some new additions for autumn and winter, I went shopping and put this new knowledge into practice. I got a bordeaux tunic that I love, and a blue-ish sweater that hugs my body and shows of my waist. I also decided to get a few good, fitting bras. Turns out I’ve been wearing the wrong size for ages (though this is what the tests used to say). So I am perfectly happy now with how I clothe myself and I love seeing myself in the mirror in these new outfits!

My days were jumbled, with email overflowing, no clear structure to my days, notes in notebooks all around the house. I am now working on a routine so I can get this all in check. Recently, I rediscovered Evernote, a note-taking app that stores your notes in the cloud and lets you access them from all kinds of devices. I am using it now to try and go paperless, clearing the mess from notes all over the house. The papers I do still need are filed in organizers that I can easily find, so I don’t have to go searching for one particular note anymore. I either pick up the right organizer or use Evernote’s search functions. I am trying to create a daily planning in Evernote as well, not exactly like Getting Things Done, but something similar that I think will work for me. Each day, I want to produce several notes: one dealing with how I slept, for how long, whether I had any dreams and how I feel when I wake up, another with all my meetings, to do’s and planned time for self-improvement, and a third with stuff I want to remember or track over time (number of steps I walked each day, what I ate, what fitness things I did, what I really enjoyed today etc.). I will keep a paper diary as well, but Evernote will provide me with prompts, so I know something to fill my diary with. And I can always take a picture of the diary pages and put that into Evernote. This will also include some blogging prompts 🙂

Spirituality is somewhat important to me. As a witch, I want to celebrate nature, honour the Gods and Goddesses and get to know (and improve) myself to enhance my spiritual practice. But in reality, I barely have a spiritual practice. I very much like my altar, but I have it in a room that we barely use, surrounded by clutter and it is not directly visible from the hallway because there is a desk chair in front of it, which actually annoys me most. This again makes that I do not go and sit at my altar and meditate, do spells or rituals or that I am reminded of my path. And I dislike that feeling. With Evernote, I am challenging myself to enhance my spiritual practice and make it how I would like it. This means I want to meditate every week, speak out gratitude daily, craft something (and cook something special) every sabbat and esbat and observe nature daily. And, most importantly, I want to learn more and create my own knowledge base. 

By doing these three things and more, I am getting back on track. It takes some hard work, but it’s good to re-invent yourself every now and again. And as you meditate and get to ‘know thyself’, you might realize you are at the crossroads again, with the possibility to stray from the path and change yourself.

“Song of the earth” book review

Het lied van de aardeSong of the Earth (Het lied van de aarde) by Flemish writer Anne-Marie T’sas (unfortunately only available in Dutch) tells the story of a young theologist, Myra, going to a symposium about christianity and holistic spirituality, but finding nobody when she arrives at the castle the symposium is supposedly held. Curious, she enters the building on her own and finds that, somehow, she does learn about experiencing energies and how she might relate that to the christian religion.

I found the writing style not quite to my taste, it was a bit to much turned inward and.. vague. Normally I enjoy magical realism, but the style did’t quite allow that. But the subjects, wow! I can imagine Myra struggling to combine them with her western spirituality. The existence of chakras and auras, working with the energy for holistic healing and divination, the power of the earth and of rocks as energetic things (for a loss of a better word), even energetic beings. Realizing that even our thoughts and feelings carry energy and can transform the world. It resonated greatly with me. I believe everything is energy, including simple mass. The gods and goddesses are manifestations of specific energies, with which they are often associated (Freya as a goddess of love, for example, and Mars of war). God, the christian God, that is, is associated with unconditional love here. When we practice magic, it works because our intentions and emotions are energy, they carry power. This is also why you might get a different result than what you anticipated if you perform magic angry.

It really is a pity the book is only available in Dutch. With the things Myra goes through, you can nearly imagine it to be an initiation, a shamanic way of learning by experience as I’ve also come across in some books about druidry and shamans. Some things I might adapt to use myself… For one thing, I’ve enrolled myself for the crash chakra e-course from About.com, to start learning more about this from of energy. I’m looking forward to it!

Easing the passing to the next world

Today was supposed to be a happy and fun day. I would join my cousin to view coffins of the Amun priests at the museum of antiquities, and blog about that. Unfortunately, she had to work unexpectedly, filling in for an ill collegue. We’ll go next week, but I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.

On a more serious note, the mother of one of our closest friends was hospitalized today. She has been fighting cancer for some time now and is about to lose the fight. The doctors estimate she has days, weeks at the most. Our friend, my husband’s best man at our wedding, has dealt with cancer before, but a compatible donor saved him. He has been clean for over 10 years, but has to face a far more likely, negative outcome with his mom.

I feel deeply for them. As you might know, I lost my mother to cancer as well, which means I have some idea of what they’re going through. Nothing, however, can be done to cure her now. I wanted to do something anyway. So I turned on some soothing music, lit a candle and prayed for her. Then I made something to put on my altar for her. I did not have many conscious thoughts about what the picture should look like, but this is the end result. I chose the runes not for healing per sé, but more to ease her passing into the next world, which seems inevitable.

imageUr for the strength to face what is coming, both for her and her family.
Berkana for reincarnation, or afterlife as she is Christian and believes she’ll go to heaven (which is undoubtedly a soothing thought), and for easing of her pain as well.
Dagaz for the light of the days she still has left, enabling her to make the most of them.
Eihwaz for life and death, as she is now on the edge.

I will not tell that I have done this, though obviously I’ll be there for them whenever they need me and they know I feel for them. They would probably not feel very comfortable if they did know. But I just hope it helps, if only to ease her pain.

What would you do in a situation like this?

 

Habemus Papam

Let me begin to say that no, I’m not a Catholic and as such do not believe in the Pope as God’s representative on Earth. One cannot deny, however, the major influence of the Pope in the religious world. Look only at the number of people on St Peter’s square, waiting for the white smoke to appear. And look at the joy on the faces of all those Catholics after the new Pope has been announced.

File:Saint Francis statue in garden.jpgHabemus Papam, the traditional Latin phrase indicating a new Pope has been elected. Habemus Papam Franciscum, as cardinal Bergoglio has chosen the name of the holy Francis of Assisi. He once assisted the poor and needing, was very tolerant of the Islam and even lived with the Saracens during the times of the crusades. Francis of Assisi was a very loving man, believing that service to God meant sharing the lives and work of others.  Even though he was definitely Catholic, there are some more Pagan or even worldly aspects to his beliefs and practice. He believed personal development was very important and placed great value in nature as God’s creation. He even wrote the Canticle of the Sun:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

Pope Francis the first seems likely to follow a similar path. He is the first Pope since the 8th century from outside Europe, coming from South America, where approximately 30% of all Catholics live. In his hometown, he was known to travel by bus, mingling with the people, sharing their lives. He washed the feet of AIDS patients, caring for them. Most important perhaps: even as newly elected Pope, he remains a simple man. Many people have commented on his humble “Buona sera” used to greet the collected people on St Peter’s square, which, in my opinion, shows his connection to ‘ordinary people’. The traditional “Urbi et orbi” (for the city [of Rome] and the world), where the second part often meant only the Catholic world, has been restored by this Pope to include everyone. So Catholic or pagan, black or white, homo- or heterosexual…

Habemus Papam