My digital Book of Shadows

A BoS is different for everyone. Some people prefer to split it up in several books, such as a notebook specifically for sabbats, a dream journal etc. Others keep it all together and add all bits and pieces. I’ve seen Pixie Flora’s one on YouTube, and it’s this massive binder with printed rituals, notes on lined paper and what not. It’s very impressive, but nothing like what I would want.

I’ve tried several formats now, including a notebook where I would just document whatever new information I had learned, describe my rituals and spells and plan my sabbat celebrations. More recently I have used a binder, because that is more organized. I really like my binder, because I can jot down whatever I want and also because I’m used to taking notes whilst listening to colleges or reading articles. That’s still just easier on paper. In addition, it’s nice to be able to add notes to something already in there and not having to move back and forth through a notebook continuously.

Insert Evernote. Like I already explained, I started using Evernote for going paperless. Nice thing about Evernote: it’s extremely organized! It works with notes in notebooks, and you can tag the notes with topics, making it super-simple to find stuff. Just as good as a binder! Or perhaps even better, because you can easily add content from the web. Since that currently is my primary source of information, it saves me from either printing the stuff or copying it. Or putting it in a folder on my computer that I will then never use again (do you have that as well?). You simply use a Web Clipper, and once you see an interesting article, you can copy it to your notebook!

So what does my digital Book of Shadows consist of? Well, I have a notebook called ‘Book of Shadows’ that holds all of my pagan-related notes. I use very simple tags, namely ‘deities’ and ‘sabbats’ (remember: I’ve only just started, so these are the only topics I currently have in my BoS). I will probably add stuff about divination, correspondences and more, but since I’m almost over my upload limit, that will have to wait. I still have the basic stuff in my binder, and the pretty stuff will just be scanned to Evernote 🙂 Evernote can also hold video and audio files, so I might start taping rituals or spells! As you see, I’m getting pretty organized, removing clutter from my home and head and documenting my spiritual practice 😀

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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.

Imbolc blessings

I want to wish you all a very happy Imbolc! 

Imbolc is one of the smaller, more intimate sabbats. As opposed to Yule, for example, or Beltane, I feel that Imbolc is a very personal sabbat that doesn’t require other people around you. I know that for many solitary witches it works like that for many of the holidays, but even though I’m solitary, the contact with others is a vital part of my celebrations. Just not for Imbolc. That is between me and the God and Goddess.

This afternoon I will walk to a birthday (okay, yes, others are involved, but that’s just a matter of timing, not ritual). I’ve already spotted snowdrops and some bright new leaves on trees and bushes and will be looking for that. Tonight, in the spirit of Candlemas, I will light a candle to symbolize new beginnings. I’ve already started the new year well with some goals for the new year and have become way more organized. Lighting a candle will give that a new boost and remind me of the times ahead of me.

I’m curious though. How do you celebrate Imbolc? And do you, like me, get the urge to start the spring cleaning as soon as Imbolc is upon us?

However you may (or may not) celebrate Imbolc, I hope you have a blessed day!

Online pagan community

We all like to have a feeling we belong somewhere. In earlier times, this would be easy: you were born into a family of peasants, worked and lived your days in your neighborhood, in your own little community, until you passed away and your children continued this line. Even before that, during the hunter-gatherer times, you were strongly dependent on the people of your community to provide food, clothing and shelter for all, and a natural sense of belonging was inevitable. Nowadays, it’s not so easy.

Most of us do not have the same job for a lifetime. With the changing of jobs, you might also live somewhere else, and for your education, you might need to study in a different city. You could even choose to migrate to another country! We are way more mobile now and the connections with the place we were born are (for many of us) not that strong. I don’t particularly feel that way, though, if I had my way, I would get a job close by and we could continue to live in our hometown. So physically, the place where we live and work or where we entertain ourselves is prone to change.

But then… (imagine drums ruffling) there is also the possibility of community not bound to where you are physically! The Internet is vastly expanding and offers tons of possibilities. Based on your interests, you can find like-minded people and form a community of your own. You form a group, a family, and can really feel you belong there and you know the people, even though, perhaps, you’ve never spoken with them face to face.

In my daily environment, I know only a handful of people even remotely interested in paganism (as far as I know… it’s not a topic for light conversation at my korfball club). It’s so incredibly weird, because in paganism, interconnectedness between everything and everyone is so big, and here, I have nobody to share it with. Not here. But HERE I do! Online, I can connect with all of you and get that feeling of belonging. The international pagan community is strongest online, on various places. Blogging is the way I choose right now to be a part of that community, but in the past I’ve been active (not very) on Witchforum and I’m also checking out YouTube (and thinking of perhaps starting my own channel for Dutch pagans, but that’s a whole other chapter). You might know even other places for pagans to meet. And we all come out stronger, BECAUSE we feel we are part of a community.

I feel empowered being part of the online pagan community, and I hope you do too.

Life long learning

In about half a year, I will hopefully finish my research project and obtain my master’s degree in science. It will mean the end of my school career, and frankly, that scares me. Since I was 4, I’ve only known school and homework and learning. Since I was 4, I’ve had my holidays at set times and school structured my world. I don’t know anything else yet.

Formally, you go to school so you can learn. That’s the goal of the entire institute. But, it is not the only place to learn, and that’s why I should’t be frightened. Somehow it feels that after my formal education stops, learning will stop and I will statically remain where I am now. That’s not the case!

Did you realize that learning starts before birth already? Fetuses practice the movements they’ll need after they are born, showing breathing patterns, hiccups (though nobody knows what those are about), grasping and more. Remarkably, through their mother they also learn food preferences. So if you are pregnant: your current diet already influences your baby. In addition, singing or talking to the unborn baby already teaches it what voice to trust. Your baby gets accustomed to you.

Then, when you are born, there is this whole world to discover. By view and touch and smell and taste, which is the way babies examine their surroundings. They learn at an amazing speed: crawling, walking, talking. And once we can talk… So many questions! Why is the sky blue? Why is there a rainbow? Where do babies come from (most wonderful question, the answers are so varied :P)? And then formal education starts.

But there’s so much more than what they teach you in school. You develop your own interests, and that will keep you learning for the rest of your life. I can remember a holiday spent by summarizing a book about the Rosecrucians, just because I was interested in that. I have spent hours and hours online, learning more about my sport, I went to conferences to learn more about human movement sciences. And the library is a treasure where everybody can find something to their liking.

Especially when you’re a pagan, learning never stops. So many cultures with different pantheons to investigate, learning how to use meditation techniques, learning correspondences, using different systems of divination. No matter what particular branch of paganism you feel drawn to, there is always more to learn. I can’t remember who said it, but I read somewhere that Christians, Jews and Muslims are people of the book and that pagans are people of the library. Loved this saying, simply because it’s so true. There’s always more to discover.

So if, like me, you’re troubled about what comes next, into what hole you will fall, don’t worry too much. You’ll find a job, an occupation you like, and you’ll continue a life long learning process that already started before you were born.

Lammas preparations

Lammas is just around the corner! And what better way to celebrate a harvest festival than with food? Today and tomorrow will be entirely about making food and during a BBQ on Friday we can actually enjoy what I’ve made. And to set the scene, the weather forecast is sunny with 32 degrees Celsius. A perfect summer setting.

As the first harvest festival, for me it’s about summer fruits and veg, seeds that spread to enable new growth during spring and the celebration of the bountiful earth in general. I’ve taken a walk earlier this week as part of my walking challenge, seeing cornflower, poppy and chamomile together (planted there), making a wonderful mosaic of colours. I hope I’ll be able to collect some seeds and grow some of my own next year! On my table is a vase with (to me) enormous sunflowers as a sign for spring and my fruit basket is filled with apples, pears, peaches and mango… strawberries I keep in my fridge, obviously.

Contrast in bloemen Schaduwspel Wandeling polder Leiderdorp Wesp op bloem

I love the sweet summer fruits the first harvest brings and plan to use them optimally: fruit skewers with mango and peach, peach and strawberry salad and compote made of pear and apple. Lammas or ‘loaf-mass’ is also a festival of corn and grain and the bread you can produce with it. Even though I have some corn for the BBQ, I’m planning to make the bread for the BBQ myself. It’s been quite a while since I last made bread, because I need almost the entire day for it, but the smell alone makes it worthwhile, not to mention the satisfaction of eating home-made bread.

Many people don’t feel comfortable with chanting individually, and I am one of them. I tend to feel insecure – am I doing it right – even though I know there is no right and wrong and there is nobody to listen to me. It feels weird because I’m not used to it. So rather than talking or chanting out loud, I say what I want inside or write it down, and conduct my own little rituals. Even though making the meal is already ritual, I read something very nice on a BBC blog, by someone who spent some time on the island of Mull in Scotland and celebrated the sabbats. It is a food altar! You make an altar on the ground with food, making patterns or a picture and leave it there, returning something to the earth.

lammas food alter

I’m planning to do something similar, though it may not be done exclusively with food, but perhaps also with some of the small stones I recently brought back from my father’s house.

For now, I wish you all a blessed Lammas and hope you may enjoy the earth’s bounty once again.

Pagan e-books

As you already know, I have recently bought an e-reader, mainly to be able to read articles (instead of having to print all of them). After I saw Sammiwitch offer her short story ‘The Magician’ on her blog The Life and Times of a Forever Witch, naturally, I have also been looking at other e-books to put on the reader. Most classic stories are freely available through the Gutenberg organization. They have made many books that do not have copyright on them anymore into e-books, such as Pride and Prejudice (Austen), Pygmalion (Shaw) and Alice in Wonderland (Carroll). These three were already on my e-reader, but there are over 40,000 e-books available! Some of the books are pagan related, mainly about mythology or about religion in Greece and Rome.

Then someone directed me to Smashwords, a great site where anyone can publish their e-books. Looking for free e-books about pagan-related subjects I came across some nice books! A Pagan ABC for kids, a book about Avalon as home of the Fae, some poetry books… Just go to Smashwords and search in the New Age section, or for books with ‘pagan’ in the title. There are some nice fantasy books as well, but beware: the fantasy section has over 150 pages, so you would do good to specify what you want to look at…

Obviously there are many regular books available in e-book format as well, so looking on Amazon, you can search for e-books. In addition I found this article on the blog Pagan Bookworm (which isn’t really posting anything new since 2011, unfortunately), sharing some thoughts on pagan e-books.

So, enjoy reading! I certainly do 🙂