priestessing

The “Pagan Community”

“…there is no such thing as the ‘Pagan Community'”

“a Pagan is someone who believes (xyz).”

“The pagan community is full of haters and people spewing negativity.”

“The pagan community is full of fluffy bunnies and ignorant New Agers.”

These notions and notions similar are being played on continuous loop around me these day. There is just a few things I would like to clear up, in respect to this blog, my tumblr, and really any sort of interaction you may have with me. Because I do talk about “the Pagan Community” here and elsewhere. So evidently I do believe that there is such a creature. More than that I have a lot of investment and care for the Pagan Community, it is the main ingredient in my public priestessing. Without it I would not be a priestess. I mean sure, I’d still do what I do, and honor my gods, and honor the spirits and ungods, and work my craft, and live my life. But the pagan community, and the needs it has is in part what keeps me to being a public priestess. I will attempt to show you what I mean when I say “the Pagan Community” and what I think of when I hear it.

Recently my High Priestess pondered aloud to me whether or not “Pagan” was the right label, as it is such a mixed bag of cats. And really as an umbrella term it really doesn’t describe anything, since those who fall under it are not of the same religion. I agree with this, and I think is the first step towards the community actually becoming more useful to itself. The definition of “pagan” in the “Pagan Community”, really only is: that you are someone who identifies as a pagan, usually a follower of a minority faith or secular path that falls outside of the identified acceptable norm. It doesn’t really signify anything else. There is no inherent doctrine tied into the word, and to date even the notion that it is a religion that is not Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic is outdated and un-useful.   I know. Now we are wandering into the land where words can grow past their origin and finite dictionary meanings, but that’s how things work for me.

So if the ‘pagan’ in Pagan Community is so broad and without boundaries, where no one believes the same thing then what is the ‘community’? The community is one of interfaith. It is countless different paths, traditions, religions, faiths, individual people, who all believe different things, but who all willing identify with one another in order to help move forward in the Judea-Christian religious dominated society that we live in. Minorities within a minority choosing to help each other out and dare I say, possibly learn something from one another. Not for any dogmatic code of spreading “the good word”. Just out of the shared experience of purposefully choosing one of the paths least traveled and all the complications that come with that.

That’s it. That’s all. That’s the entirety of it for me. It is all that I need to understand to want to put my shoulder under this yoke and help plow the field for a new cultural shift. It is the simple connection that allows me to speak to so many people who may not even know what they believe but want information and be able to point them in various different directions to the amazing people that I have the privilege to call friend, to call community.

Ultimately, the Pagan Community is a diverse and unboxable as the American community. There will never be able to be a story that full captures all the opinions and sides, never a quote that covers the immensity of it. There will never be enough “leaders” or “elders” to speak on it’s behalf (and that’s a good thing). It is a community where participation guides it’s direction. Where homogeneity is never going to be the answer or the goal. Where understandings have to be met from different playing fields. And above all where respect for fellow man is needed.

Are there still going to be people who adamantly refuse the label “pagan”? Of course, and that is their right. There will still be people who think it’s a bad idea, and that there is no room for them. The thing about the Pagan Community, is that you get to identify with it or not. We’ll still be doing the same work (even when none of us are doing the same thing at all) and I pray that it will make a positive impact on the cultural of our society for everyone. Even those who want nothing to do with it.

-A Pagan American Gaelic Polytheist witch

The Parts of Priestessing

There are times when I get so surrounded in what I’m doing. In my single minded bull headed focus on the things immediately around me, that other layers and context just fade away. Sometimes this is a good thing, it gets shit done. Sometimes this is a bad thing, in that I forget very important lessons. But as with all things in my life eventually the tide comes round and I can see the other side. Remember what I had forgotten, see the forest for the trees, whatever colloquialism is in vogue at the hour. Herein is where I relieve a little bit of how my convoluted, multi-streamed practices work for me.

There are three parts to my path. This is not a surprising revelation, but I just never thought of it till recently. It makes sense, as my daily blessing ends with the line “All three are in me.” My personal path, wherein I have been charged by my Gods to live the values of a culture long past in a modern age. Where I worship my Ancestors, where I tend the spirits and beings of the land around me, where I worship the Gods who have seen me thru this life and past lives. This in and of itself is a fair amount of work. It’s a constant learning experience, study course, at some point (soon-ish) I will need to learn Gaelic. There are big major, long term plans on this path. They involve me owning a house on a fair amount of land. On studying the construction of stone circles and creating a modern one on some scale. They involve outdoor shrines, and eventually a cairn. In short a lot of work.

These goals and that path have been with me from the beginning of my consciousness of the spiritworld. What I did not see coming, where the other parts. Almost five years ago (I can’t believe I just typed that. I mean for normal people five years is not a long time but for the girl who moved every two years since birth five years is a lot) situations where bad at home, and my gods guided me that part of my path (of their path) is community. I was a lone Celt, and that’s just an out of balance thing. The culture is about community, there is a pride and integrity that was inherently missing. Especially since at the time I was having family issues, where it became clear that a large part of my blood family did not hold the same values. So I went out looking for some people to call my own. I looked at Celtic Recon. groups, I looked at ADF, I even looked at Asatru. But the latter didn’t seem to actually hold public events, the middle was not my flavor in congruence to my deities, and the latter just not my people. On a whim I went to a group’s full moon circle. The group was Come As You Are Coven (and what can be more inviting than that?) they said they were an eclectic drop in coven. I figured that I’d probably be the lone CR (which is what I identified with at the time) but I desperately needed to get out of the house and be around people and something just told me to go. So I did and it was lovely. Completely different from anything I’d ever seen or heard or anything (casting circle, calling directions, all that was all new to me). And I kept coming back when I could. They worked with different deities than I did, but I’ve always followed a strict let people worship what gods they will, and more importantly they had the same values of integrity, community, and so on that drew me to the people. Through a series of events and reasons that I do not remember (I never remember how important things in my life began with the exception of how I met the Lumberjack) I applied for and was accepted into their Clergy initiation path. Thus cementing the second path of my spiritual life. Community. It is part of my spirituality to provide, aide, and be an active part of my people. To strive to create a space of sanctuary for those who need it, to help where I can, to believe in the power of community of give and take as needed. I have met so many amazing people within this path. Friends that I will keep for all my days. Friends, family, who are connected to me even tho we worship different gods. It is vital, and it is a lot of work lol. And that my goodly people is how I can be a Gaelic Polytheist and belong to an Eclectic Coven. The key is also finding a coven that adheres to the “let people worship what gods they will” method. I believe that we maybe the only one lol.

Where is the three you ask? Well the three is perhaps the most unexpected one of the bunch. You see with this initiation came an ordination and the title Priestess. Then came another initiation and an ordination and the title High Priestess. These things where and are things that I struggle with in their collective understanding seems is a bit murky. Remember “let people worship what gods they will”? That also means that I believe the only person fit to tell you what is right and proper for your soul is you and your gods. I continue with this line of thinking now, with the understanding that many people find it helpful to talk to people who are sure of their own path in order to discover the path that is right for them.

My personal understanding of a Priestess has come to evolve a bit, thus the reason for this post. In that I see two aspects of Priestessing (or Priesting as you will), both are important, and it’s the finding and rediscovering of balance that I need to do. There is the Priestess of the spirits. In another time and place this would be tending the temple, making the sacrifices, reading the omens. In the now it means the same thing, for me it means tending to my house spirits and beasties, courting the local spirits, making offering and sacrifices to the gods, remembering and honoring the ancestors, all of that which I do in my personal practice. With the added caveat that I also am vested to perform blessings, cleansing, and other sacred rites for my community. Those things fall under the other part, the Priestess of the people.

We live in a society that has ostracized ritual with the exception of a select and privileged few. Yet the human need for ritual for connection to the divine has not diminished. So where then to people go? How do people who have never seen anything other than a select few forms of spiritual connection , that do not resonate with them, how do they find what does? Moreover how do we as a culture make it acceptable to have people worship what gods they will? Those of us that can, that know how, must hold the space and make the platform for other kinds of spirituality. I had forgotten that bit. For many months I was consumed with work and devotion to my gods, the spirits of the land and so on. They still need that work and that devotion, they are hungry for it. My work in the public arena made me more, upped my standards, and so too did the spirits and the Gods up theirs. It’s all a balancing act.

It took a trip far away, being surrounded by people who don’t necessarily believe like I do, putting on ritual for energies and deities that I have no connection with, to make me realize the impact and importance of bringing ritual to the people is again.

Because we’re human beings, and we learn through experience. Because we’re a society where sometimes we don’t know that things are an option until we see others doing it. So being a Priestess to me is being one of those people who gets out there and does it. Who shows one way, several ways that it can be done, and encourages others to find more. And a High Priestess? A High Priestess makes sure there is a stage for that to happen. Puts in the time and effort to make sure that the rituals are that have impact and meaning. Keeps the standard and keeps upping it.

Not too long ago I posted about carving out more worship, that is still true. As I said the Gods and spirits have upped their standards, there is more work to be done and on a grander scale than before in order to fulfill one part of my path and one part of my Priestesshood.  I am however thankful for the reminder that though their goals and means are different the two parts are equally important. This upcoming year I have the opportunity to by a High Priestess to the people, and specifically to the women of my area. That is precious to me and I am excited and dedicated to providing as many spiritual epiphany, soul lifting rituals in as many different ways as only my coven can provide.

That’s it. Just a little ramble on the things in my head. On how paths can multiple and get muddy. On how sometimes you just have to be mindful and look up from your work every once in a while. On how this one American Gaelic Polytheist witch is also a Public High Priestess in an Eclectic Coven, and sometimes makes it work. On how in the end I just wish that we all may worship what gods we will.

Warding a Ritual

One thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that there isn’t a whole lot of information on Warding Ritual. And being a High Priestess of a public coven I feel that it’s kinda important information. So here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth, may it be of some use to some people.

While it is my personal belief that every ordained “preist/ess” and practiced witch should be able to ward a basic public indoor ritual, it is common trend that certain people will be more drawn to the work than others. Usually these are the people who take safety as the highest priority, tend to be grounding energies to be around, may very well lean toward the Warrior path. But it’s a skill that is worth the work and effort to getting good at. As it helps in all manner of situations in life and in magical work.

What is the difference between Warding and Shielding?:

These two words get interchanged a lot and there tends to be confusion about them because when talking about one you usually talk about the other. As a general rule of thumb, shielding is something you do for yourself or a person and warding is something you do for a place/location group of people.You ward your house. You would ward a ritual. You shield yourself or the person next to you.

It is my general belief that in order to be a competent warder you MUST have your own competent shielding, but I’m sure there are some cases to prove me wrong. Shielding is one of those basic energy workings that I’m sure you can find tons of articles and information on the web, so I’m not going to bother at the moment. Just like I’m going to pass over warding your house, lots and lots of different ways to do it and lots of people talking about it. What people aren’t talking about is warding ritual. 😉

Warding Ritual:

A lot of warding is pure preparation. Preparation is your first line of defense, gathering all the facts, identifying likely (and unlikely) problems/situations and developing strategy to handle them.

Where is your event taking place?
In a park?
In someones backyard?
At a Festival?
Indoors?

Wherever the location of the ritual is, will dictate the needs and ease of warding. You need to know your surroundings.

If it’s a park, how well populated is it? Will you need to have someone intercept stray soccerballs, and children? Someone to run interference on bystanders deciding to whip out their camera phones?

In someone’s backyard, is there a fence? If not, the same questions as above stand.

At a festival, is it outdoors or indoors? Who or what activity is going on before you or beside you?

If you are not on your own land, then you need to know the rules and wishes of your host/ess for the space you are using. It is the Warders job to ensure that these rules and wishes are respected.

Warding in space that is not your own: 

And how often is this not the case? As stated above you should always respect the wishes and rules of the owner’s of the space that you are using. If this means no burning of incense, then you find other means to cleanse the space (bell ringing, water asperging). If this means certain statues and areas are sacred and off limits, you make sure everyone is aware of that.

The more open a space, the more chance for chaotic and unwanted energies to try to get into your ritual. Being indoors, on a mundane level, means you can shut/lock doors so people who weren’t invited can’t get in. On an energy level it provides already made channels and structure to charge and keep a energetic container as closed or open as you see fit.  Fences and other physical borders can be used in the same way.

If you are outside with no fence, it is much harder to make the container, physically and magically.

There are things you can do to make it easier.

  • Mark off a boundary with warding charms (energetically charged rocks,crystals. I’ve been using nuts recently but more on that another time). Use as many or as little as you’d like, I use a minimum of three. It is also good to have one of the charms on you, that can feed your energy easily into the circuit of all the charms.
  • Meditative walk around perimeter of ritual (Prior to beginning): In outdoor rituals I’m a big fan of walking the perimeter during ritual when at all possible, but this technique takes place before the ritual starts. It involves mentally noting and imprinting the boundaries in your mind, and physically laying down your energies through walking. Animals do this all the time walking the and marking the boundaries of their territory. Just like trails become more visible and easier to tread the more they’ve been walked, the more you walk the boundary ahead of time the easier it will be for you to sense weakening/intrusions and send more energy out to bolster the container.
  • Asking for help from your guides/totems or Deities. Depending on the size and heaviness/appropriateness of a ritual dictates who I will ask for help for. Obviously at a women’s full moon ritual I’m not going to be asking Dagda to help me keep an eye on people’s energy. But if it’s some heavy shit we’re dealing with where people are likely to maybe stray too far into the veil, I might ask Morrighan. Otherwise I kept it to my animal guides. For me that’s the raven and the wolf pack. They make an excellent team energetically. The raven is a scavenger by nature and easily can pick out and devour unwanted energy if there is call for it. And the wolf being a pack animal hones in on people’s emotions and whether they are in need of help or not. If you don’t know how to ask your guides for help while warding then I suggest you not attempt it and leave it till you get to that point in your path.
  • Visualization, this is the basic technique used in personal shielding and can be applied to “shield” and ward a public ritual. Instead of focuses on seeing your shield around just you, your would focus it around the ritual itself. Visualization I mention last, because while it is the most well known of technique it is has several disadvantages.
  1. First being if you are not properly grounded centered to a greater energy force then you run the risk of burning out your own energy.
  2. Even if you are fully and properly grounded and centered you are still essentially acting like a circuit, and depending on how long and large the ritual you are warding for can & most likely will at the end feel like you’ve been completely worn out from the inside out.
  3. Sometimes the atmosphere and energy that you are warding off is just too much for your currently level of mental visualization.

This is not to discredit visualization as a warding technique, it can be used very effectively. Having more than one Warder certainly makes is more applicable technique. And in cahoots with the other techniques makes for excellent and sound warding practice.

An important note about warding in space you don’t own, it’s your job to make sure that the space is as good or better than when you came in. It’s your job to take down all your wards, help/make sure it’s all cleaned up. If you brought it in energetically make sure you take it out.

You’re prepared, ritual is about to start now what?

Warders, are the gatekeepers and guards of the fortress that the ritual is taking place within. Like all good guards they must be prepared for WAR.

Watch
Analyze
React

Cheesy huh? But it’ll stick in your head and that’s the important part. And that my friends is the job in a nutshell. Warding means you are not going to be fully engaging in the ritual. If it’s a very major ritual you might be standing outside/walking the parameter for the entirety of it. If it’s not so major then you might be following along, but your mind will be on the people and not magical working. Scan the crowd, note where the families are, where the children are. If there was someone who came in giving off an on the verge of tears vibe keep an eye on them.You’re looking for fluxes and voids in people’s energy and the container of the ritual. You’re also making sure that physical things don’t interrupt the ritual. Like if there are sirens outside the building you should go see what’s that about. Make sure that candle doesn’t light things on fire. That’s the watching part.The Analyzing part is calculating whether or not what you see needs. Is it something you can fix energetically from a distance? Do you need to get up and go get the Tender for someone, or can you just use eye contact to let them know someone is on the edge? Is someone being TOO disruptive? This is where knowing the rules of the space, the wishes and rules of your ritual or group, and you’re own common sense come into play.

Then you React to that. It’s your job to do something. Whether that something is to send the energy, or get up and show someone to the door. As a warder it falls to you.


The Little talked about aspect of Warding: Appearance:
I’m not saying it isn’t possible for you to be a 5’4″ 135 lbs woman dressed as a flower maiden and be a Warder. As a lady who resembles those statures and has been bedecked in flowers it would be hypocritical of me to think so.What I am saying is that we are visual creatures, and that collectively we react to visual social cues. This affects Warders specifically because, part of your job is being VISIBLE. High Priest/ess wear crowns and BAM! everyone automatically knows to listen when they are talking. I am an advocate of Warders being given a physical indicator of authority (an armband, a sash, a belt, a big ass stick) at larger formal events, but on a more subtle casual note a Warder should just give off a presence of confidence and control.

What this means personally, is that you need to be in a state of complete comfortable confidence in your abilities to Watch, Analyze and React.

I am a personal believer in the power given to adornments to help you get into this state of mind. Be that a necklace/tailsman of your deity, armor/boots/charm/belt/superman underwear/jacket/outfit, if it helps you feel confident and in control, wear it.

This goes deeper than the obvious though. Yes, the lady in the black leather corset and multiple knives would give anyone pause to cause trouble just as much as the 6″+ brick wall of a man in the trench coat would. But it is as much about the way they carry themselves as what they look like.

They aren’t hiding, they’re vigilant even in conversation scanning the room, head turning towards commotion and ruckus. They head over to the group that might be getting a bit too wild with steady steps and diffuses things before they even get to a low boil. They move the candles before someone’s skirt can brush the flames, they watch as people come in and as they go. Their energy is present, firm, and strong.

You may not even notice these things consciously but you will subconsciously, and should you have a problem you will be able to find them to ask for help.

Here’s a little homework assignment, next time you’re at a that ritual, or even a party. Stop for a moment and just look around, see if you can identify who is Warding. Yes even at a party you’ll be able to spot someone who is, without even being told to (or maybe without realizing it). They’ll be doing all the things I listed above. Scanning the crowd, noticing when the doorbell rings, or a phone goes off. They’ll be the one making sure the people who have had too much to drink are getting home safely.  That’s what warding is. Keeping an eye out and making sure everyone leaves the ritual at least in as good of condition as they came to it.

After Ritual:

After ritual you may feel a bit lightheaded, or heavy limbed (or any number of physical attributes that comes with moving/holding/filtering a large amount of energy). Make sure that you take care of yourself. Drink water before ritual, during ritual and after ritual. Make sure you eat something before ritual and have something to eat after ritual. Know your body. If you get serious headaches from lots of energy work, take something. Take a few moments after ritual to re-ground yourself, stretch and relax.