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.

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.

Your personal correspondences for spell-work

On YouTube I recently started to watch the videos of CharmingPixieFlora, mainly about paganism, and I was caught by this video.

Thinking back of my own limited experience with spells, I remember feeling so awkward following the instructions from a book, learning that spells involving love have to be done on Friday, preferably with the moon nearing full, lighting a pink or red candle whilst invoking these specific deities… And I didn’t know anything about it or felt that it was appropriate. Feeling that way, I don’t think any of my early spells worked. As Flora says, if you don’t believe what you do will work, why bother? If you can’t perform the spell wholeheartedly, it won’t work.

So basically, when you want to do spell-work or want to use some sort of symbolism, you have to find the symbols that resonate with you. Find out what you feel when looking at red, blue, yellow and the other colours. Thinking of earth, water, fire and wind, what symbols come in your head? Do you want to incorporate the chakra system in your workings, do you want to work with specific deities or pantheons etc. So many choices to make. Obviously, the correspondences with colours have been based on what people feel when seeing those colours, so chances are they are also quite similar to your personal correspondences. But find out what YOU want to work with, what YOU feel comfortable with and use only that 🙂

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

 

What makes/breaks religion?

My in-laws are Christian, and I believed them to be quite strict. That is to say: they regularly attend services, and most of them have done something for the church community (baby-sitting, an energy-saving group, a discussion group for youthful believers, selling fair-trade products, musicals etc). I am not out of the broom closet with them, because I previously believed them a bit too rigid to accept my views. Not that they aren’t nice or friendly or whatever, and they are by no means as strict as some families I know, but I was simply afraid. I still won’t tell them about my personal belief any time soon, but I’m more confident now they will understand when I do decide to come out.

Tonight, after dinner, my parents-in-law talked about a book-discussion they joined about believing in this century. One of the people who was also there was very clear about his view of Christianity: if you don’t believe the stories told in the Bible, you are not a true believer. While I didn’t expect them to hold the same view, I was amazed to find out they actually opposed this view! My mother-in-law claimed she told the rest of the people ‘she was one of the people who believed the least’. She holds the view that the Bible may be a good story and there is definitely truth in there, but in these modern times there are many other ways to be a Christian other than to believe the Bible to the letter.

The Bible has been written by people, and as we know, people are flawed. I do not know where the stories originally came from, whether someone made them up or whether it was divine inspiration, but they remain stories. Naturally, we can draw valuable lessons from the Bible. These lessons are about compassion and forgiveness, especially in the New Testament.

My in-laws and I agreed upon this: the lessons you have learnt and the way you put them into practice are way more important than following writings to the letter. That is what constitutes the essence of religion, what can make or break it. Fundamentalists, following the Bible or the Quran to the letter, hating people from different religions, are often in the news, but they are not the people at the core of their religion. No, people at the core of their religion understand that  taking care of nature and helping others are much more important.

Pagans and Christians alike try to preserve nature. Christians might do so to take care of God’s creation, whereas Pagans such as myself do so because we believe nature itself to be sacred or something to be grateful for. Community service is done by many people, and society can’t exist without it. My mother-in-law started working with people with starting dementia, walking with them, lunching with them and helping them in general. She may not go to church very often, or belief the words of the Bible, but she lives her religion by helping others.

This sounds very exaggerated and of course it somewhat is. People aren’t all good, we all have our ‘dark’ sides, but the way we act in life is the most important part of being human. It’s what can make or break a religion. Not what the Bible or any other religious book tells us, not what is in the news, not what we are told during services or by the ‘wiser’ people, but how we apply the lessons religion teaches us. It’s what we do that counts.