A practical, sometimes skeptical Witch based in Toronto, Canada.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Essential Oils

Yesterday I went to a class on essential oils. This is the first time that I have ever really delved into this topic. As a witch I'm really interested in using natural remedies to help heal people. I took this full-day introductory course with a spiritual healer that I felt comfortable with and I learned a great deal. I was most impressed with the fact that she let us try the oils during a meditation session and had us give our impressions of the oils. She emphasized that each oil would create different responses in all our bodies. I could relate to this information when comparing it to candle magick or tarot. I've heard various witches say you should make colour associations or card associations as you see fit. That if a colour doesn't represent to you what someone else says that it does, then you should do what feels right to you. This was obvious as we moved around the room talking about our experiences with the different fragrances. Some of us had interesting reactions to an oil like coffee, while others, such as myself did not feel anything.

The two that we tried that I related to most were rose oil and chamomile roman. Rose oil, when placed in my aura, did all kinds of wild things. I would see bright lights, shapes and colours. At one point she sprayed a diluted amount above my head and I felt like a cone of light (or something) opened over my head. It was a very neat experience. The chamomile roman caused my heat chakra to spin . . . and it went on for a quite a while. When she asked our experiences with the oils and I explained that one to her, she asked me if I was a "workaholic", to which I answered "yes". I'm not sure what she was getting at but perhaps when I do some more research I will figure it out.

She stressed the importance of buying oils from reliable sources where they weren't using chemicals to extract them. I understand what she was getting at because the vibrational qualities of the oils would not be as high. My problem is that a small bottle of an oil like rose would cost over $100. I simply cannot afford that, especially when you would want to buy several oils to use for different healings. I must confess that today I went out and I bought two oils and a diffuser. They were the cheap ones . . . lavender for $12 and rose for $25. I figure that I'm going to try them for myself and see how I feel about it. I once heard a witch say that the reason the oils work is that they trigger a healing process in the brain. I can appreciate the vibrational argument but I question whether the other oils would help in some way . . . even if it is not as good.

Any opinions?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Buddhist-Christian Experimentations

Part of this blog is to share how I came to Wicca. In some ways I think I had some good training within two different religions. Two religions I don't reject now, but gave me a basis to start. For a while I was trying to blend them and I was quite open about it . . . even while working in a church! That got me some funny looks!

I grew up as a Roman Catholic in a very Italian neighbourhood . . . although I'm not Italian. In Catholic school we were taught "Christian values" --most of which I think are quite good, however, I didn't always see people or the Bible living up to those standards. I didn't understand the male God in the bible that would punish people or test them by asking them to kill their son for his glory!! When it came to grade 8 in school, I was asked to confirm my religion in ceremony. I said, "no". I told them that I didn't understand Christianity well enough to confirm my faith in it. I wanted to explore it further. I was the only student that didn't and I'm quite proud of myself for that. The priest didn't like me very much for it but my parents supported me and my teacher told me that God was everywhere and I should go out and explore it for myself. Great teacher!

When I was in my 20s I discovered Buddhism. I learned meditation on my own and studied Buddhist philosophy and tried to incorporate it into my life. I found some aspects of it difficult but I liked the intellectual challenge. I took some classes at a Zen temple but I don't think the Zen master liked me asking questions when I was just supposed to follow. I'm not very good at that. I loved that Buddhists look inward to themselves for answers . . . and I knew I could feel the presence of God in my meditations. That was clear to me for the first time! . . . and to make it clear, I felt God as energy and it was not separate from my own being . . . which was even a more exciting discovery but I don't think that the other Buddhists really liked that way of thinking but they didn't really judge me.

So, then I was combining the two religions and doing it quite openly calling myself a Buddhist-Christian. The two don't clash in my mind. I love that one is very introspective while the other preaches charity and reaching out to others. In my mind it was a nice balance but it wasn't completely working for me. While I might have been on my path to nirvana, I still hadn't found Jesus (I even looked under the couch!) While I thought Jesus was a cool rebel, I didn't really relate to him or want to worship him . . . and I certainly didn't understand or appreciate the whole Trinity thing!

I was also missing a really big key component . . . THE FEMININE DIVINE! I would refer to God as "She" in protestant churches and people would freak out. Well, not all of them but quite a few did and they made a really big deal out of it. I also discovered, while attending a Anglo-Catholic Church that missed my old Catholic prayers to Mary. Those were important to me.

I'm leaving out some key components but they are stories onto themselves which I will tell later. But essentially, I slowly fell into Wiccanism as it just seemed so logical! I held certain beliefs and values but I didn't know where they fit--not that I felt I needed a label for my faith. My mother always joked about being a witch and had visions . . . so it was never a taboo subject and she's very supportive now. The big turning point was when I figured out that I was an empath. I can physically feel people's auras! Once I realized how much that had been affecting me all my life and not understanding my moods (which weren't mine) I started researching ways to rectify this. A lot of my research brought me to Wicca . . . and as I researched it something suddenly clicked in my head, "Oh, this is it!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Out of the Broom Closet (Book Review)

In an attempt to figure out how "out of the closet" I should be when it comes to Wicca, I bought a book called Out of the Broom Closet; 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft. What a great treasure of short stories! Before I went to bed every night I read a couple of them. Some were incredibly touching and other were quite straight forward and what I would expect. The nice part, being a Canadian, is that many of them were based in Hamilton or Montreal. Some of those people had eventually started the Montreal Pagan festivals or Hamilton's Pub Moot. These are events that I actually know about and have heard about. So often these books are American and I have no idea what they're referring to if they mention events or places.

Recently I started wearing a pentacle ring all the time. I was nervous to do so but I thought, "what the heck!?" I used the example of one woman in this book, when she was approached in a bathroom by a co-worker and asked if her symbol was satanic. She simply responded that Wiccans don't believe in the devil. So, when I was in a similar situation and someone asked me if I worshipped the devil (I'm still quite offended by this, as most of my work is to help people) I used the same line . . . but then I got all these questions about, "How can you not believe in the Devil? If there is a God there must be Devil." I simply explained, "Yes, there is evil in the world but it doesn't have to take the form of a Christian Boogeyman." I understand that I was probably challenging this person's core values but why do conversations around religion always have to be so awkward . . . especially with some Christians.

There were quite a few very touching stories in this book. Some to do with death or illness and one in particular dealing with a boy who had a horse that dealt with mental and physical abuse from his father. Both the boy and the horse were abused and they bonded because of this fact and when the boy grew older realized that he felt the love of the God and Goddess through this horse named Dan. It was a very sad story but I'm glad to hear that people find places of strength through extreme violence in their lives.

It was also nice to hear of stories similar to my own where people grew up in the Catholic church and had to work through all of the dogma they were brainwashed with . . . mind you, many Catholic traditions grew out of Paganism, so that' part is okay, I got ahead there. I would highly recommend this book if you're contemplating being more open about your spiritual beliefs and want to quit hiding them. I found it quite motivational!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Burning Times (Documentary)

There is an amazing documentary called The Burning Times that I wanted to share that perhaps many of you will know because it is about 20 years old now, produced in 1990. It was put out by the National Film Board of Canada and the entire documentary has been put on YouTube. I first saw it in a Women's Studies class where I was amazed at how the Catholic church had become so successful at destroying women's power. Now as I watch I'm amazed at how within 200 years they managed to take Europe and change it from a pagan goddess-centred community to a predominantly Catholic continent where a priest was supposed to be your mediator between you and the divine.

Having been raised a Catholic, I now am surprised how much of what I had been doing was very pagan and was probably established that way to keep them from revolting. I feel I have a deep connection to Mary and I speak and pray to her as part of my diaspora of Gods. However, this would be a blog entry onto itself.

I'm sure you came to my blog looking for a quick read and may not have time for a documentary (if you have not seen it already). Put this one in your back pocket if you don't have time . . . bookmark it . . . it is well worth the watch. I'll warn you that the end is a little hard to watch when they start to describe some of the torture methods. The good part is that it has music by Loreena McKennit . . . and interviews by Starhawk!

Part2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZie-CLJsY&feature=related
Part3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejYTgFr_gqI&feature=related
Part4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQb_YLz9qtU&feature=related
Part5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR2dHbA-orw&feature=related
Part6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF8-XxbQ3EA&feature=related

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meeting Dead People

I had a dream last night . . . although I'm not sure this was a "dream." One of my good friends who I went to grade school with and then high school lost her mother about 10 years ago. I sort of knew her mother because I spoke to her when I used to visit my friend. She was pleasant, often blunt and to the point but had a nice sense of humour. A few years before she died my friend donated a kidney to her mother. So, I'm safe to say that they were quite close as mother and daughter.

Last night I saw my friend's mother in this "dream" state. I bumped into her and was shocked to see her. I told her that her daughter missed her very much. I then told her that she should spend more time with her daughter. My vision was very vivid although it was hard to look my friend's mother in the face. Her face seemed distorted or blurry.

I haven't talked to my friend in years but I have her on Facebook. I decided to look at her profile today and her status read, ". . . the dreams need to stop. I feel like I am going insane . . ." I wrote to her right away and asked her what that meant. She sent me a private message stating that her mother sometimes shows up in her dreams and gives her messages that manifest in the mortal world. She wanted to know what to think about these dreams. I reassured her that her mother is still around and looks after her. I let her know that it not a bad thing at all and she should continue to converse with her. I also told her about my meeting with her mother. I wasn't going to tell her because you never know what people think about that . . . my friend and I went to Catholic school together and I think she still holds some of those beliefs. She also told me that she had a dream where all her dead relatives were at a dinner that looked like the Last Supper and they wanted to meet her dog. I thought that was nice.

Usually my dreams come in symbols . . . I don't usually converse with dead people . . . or at least I haven't since I was a child. I've been doing some chakra meditations . . . perhaps my third eye is opening.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Meditation Inspiration

Much of witchcraft deals with visualization. Visualization of objects, colours, ideas in your mind or a visualization of how you would like the future to be. I do have a meditation practice which remain somewhat Zen (a clearing of the mind) but when it comes to certain visualization techniques I have some difficulty. You see, I'm one of those people who has a difficult time visualizing things clearly in my mind. I also relate it to the fact that I seem to have difficulty with "spatial intelligence." I cannot tell if furniture will fit in my home by just looking at it. I cannot tell how far a car is down the street and if I should wait for it or cross the street now. So, I do find visualization exercises or techniques somewhat challenging. It is something I'm working on.

I'm currently reading Kerr Cuhulain's book, "Full Contact Magick". A complete review will come later but I wanted to share a visualization technique that he suggests from Dr. Jonn Mumford, a doctor of Eastern medicine and yoga which is called "CASE". CASE is an acronym which spells Colour, Action, Size, and Emotion. What you can do is imagine the brightest and most vibrant colours, objects that move and have action, huge objects that are much larger than the size of our brains, and objects that we might have some emotional feelings toward.

I often try to meditate on the chakra system to open them and move the energy through my body. Sometimes I'm successful but sometimes I find this difficult. In this type of meditation you are supposed to start at the base or root chakra and open all of them moving up through the spine until all the energy moves up through the body and out through the crown chakra. To open each chakra you are supposed to see the related colour and open it. This I have trouble doing. I meditate in lotus position with my eyes closed, as I am most comfortable, but I cannot always see the colours. I think I will take the advice from Dr. Mumford and Cuhulain and try applying it. I think it may also help to visualize actual objects rather than a simple sphere of colour. I was thinking that fruit may be helpful, as it comes in a variety of vibrant colours. We will see what happens and I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Divine Shopping Intervention

Ever walk into a store and find something unique and figure that it was put there just for you? I was shocked to walk into one of my favourite spiritual stores in the Annex, Toronto and find a pentacle, surrounded by Celtic knots and the Tibetan Buddhist endless knots in the centre. Now, if you don't know anything about me, being a Irish Wiccan that has studied and incorporates a lot of Buddhist thinking and works with a lot of Tibetans, I very much appreciated this. This is the kind of intercultural-interfaith mixing that makes me excited! I like pulling meaningful ideas and concepts from various traditions and combining them. It was apparently made by a Toronto artist.

I've put it together with other Buddhist, Christian and Wiccan items in my living room . . . including one of my favourite statues of Buddha in, what I like to call, the "Jesus pose." Nice to see him with his hand open on a lotus, rather than meditating, reclining, or decapitated.

Do you have any unique items that you feel were left for you to see, pick up or buy?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beltane Growth--Mysteries of Life

Seeds really are a mystery of life! I wonder if people take for granted how amazing it is that a tiny seed when planted in the ground and given water just knows how to grow. I wish I knew more about the science of it. How does this tiny little seed know when to start growing and how does it even start to move? Why doesn't it start growing the in package? What triggers its movements? It's these simple miracles that excite me as a Wiccan.

I've posted some pictures here of the sunflowers and chives that I planted in my apartment as part of a Beltane ritual. It's only been a week and I'm amazed at the growth. When I moved to downtown Toronto after my separation I gave up a huge balcony where I did a lot of container gardening. I grew all kinds of plants and vegetables; in many ways it was a lot like having an outdoor garden. I'm currently trying to find new ways to bring that back into my life. I feel a need to foster that positive plant energy!

I recently downloaded a series of Wiccan podcasts and I was listening to Ellen Dugan being interviewed. She specializes in plants and herbs and has written many books. I was motivated by her attentiveness to the small details of living in nature. She really encourages people and particularly pagans to pay attention to what is growing around them. There was a funny little story she told of being outdoors at a Pagan ritual during a very hot day. She said that some people were complaining about being outdoors and she wanted to say, "HELLO!?! This is an Earth-based religion!" She wants people to commune with nature and figure out what kind of trees are around them, what the bark feels like, what to the leaves smell like, etc. . . . don't walk past nature, delve in and become a part of it! We truly are animals of nature, even if it sometimes hard to believe living in the city!

I've bought Ellen's book "Natural Witchery" which I would like to review soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We All Come from the Goddess

This is one of my favourite chants! I've been using it in meditation and trance. Enjoy!

Beltane Celebrations

As a solitary witch I enjoy my meditation practice and my solo circle casting but at feast celebrations like Beltane I like to step it up a bit. This year I invited another "witchy"friend over and we celebrated together. For the evening I came up with a series of rituals and activities that we could participate in. We also included my partner, who is not a Wiccan but I wanted to share this with him.

Not being tied to any particular tradition, I developed my own ideas based on research and suggestions from other online witches. I built my altar on my circular dining room table with Mary (my main Goddess) at the centre. More to come on Mary in future blogs. I bought two bouquets of flowers and set out a circle of candles with a few green candles for growth and healing in larger holders. We started the evening by baking Beltane cookies that are meant to awaken your passions after the long winter. The recipe for Beltane Passion Cookies was found on the web and I highly suggest them. When I make them again I will add more crystallized ginger and stir it well so that it is evenly distributed.

We then coloured eggs with crayons and dyed them in food colouring. I haven't done this type of activity since I was a kid for Easter . . . but it was so much more liberating to draw pentacles and the sign of the Goddess on them! We did this all while listening to some brilliant Pagan/Wiccan music that I downloaded of iTunes. Then we planted sunflower and chive seeds. You can't do Beltane without getting your hands dirty in the soil.

To end our ritual we wrote our intentions and wishes for this new season on paper and burned them in the cauldron in front of the Goddess. We hope She helps us find new inspirations in this blooming new season! The evening ended with some fresh fruit, wine, and tarot card reading.

Having grown up with very prescribed Christian traditions, I must say that developing your own Wiccan rituals and activities based on the intentions of the season is more meaningful and satisfying to the soul.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Merry Meet! Welcome to a New Start

Merry Meet! Here is a new start to blogging. This is the second time that I've maintained a blog; the first blog I had was quite popular, if I do say so myself. However, I've just erased it as I had not updated it for several years. I let it go after my separation from my ex-husband . . . but my life is much different now. Time to create something new in my life! :)

I want to share my thought around something I feel strongly about. Having grown up a Roman Catholic and spending time as a Zen Buddhist I've realized that this has prepared me for Wiccanism! Intrigued? I feel that I've learned a lot in both those religions (and I haven't left them behind completely) but I have always held a set of values that align with Wiccanism. It just hasn't opened itself up to me until now. It's a little hard to explain but I now have a whole blog to explain myself and explore my thoughts. I've become excited about the faith and I'm trying to get my hands on as much information as I can.

Within the last few years I've realized I'm a witch (and could have possibly been one in a past life) and I've finally found a faith that aligns with my beliefs and values. It started to come to me as I came to the realization that I'm an empath and can sense others' emotions. In a sense, I don't see auras, I feel them! I didn't realize that that was what I was doing and how it was negatively affecting my moods and thinking. I needed to find ways to protect my energy. Hence, Wicca offered me a way to channel energy and protect my own . . . but that's only a start :)

Join me as I explore Wiccanism and withcraft. I will share what I learn, read, study, and the other interesting witches that cross my path. My challenge, I live in the city . . . not always the easiest place to practice the craft!

Blessed Be!