Cloverleaf and Roundabout

Like last year, this year I got to Paganicon via a road-trip, and while I didn’t happen to see The Rider on my journey, I did unravel a piece of the web that I’ve been staring at for what feels like ages but has probably been around six months.

But I should probably back up a bit, and explain a couple of things before diving down the hole in front of me and urging you to follow, shouldn’t I?

2015 was a horrible year for many people, and for me it was filled with family tensions, work tensions, and religious community tensions that eventually drove me to leave the place I considered my religious home for six years.  And, after all that, came the time of No Computers, and I was driven to seeking out those I wanted to stay close to via Google Hangouts from my work laptop in between doing the things that comprise my day job, which is heavy on pointless meetings with people I don’t want to hear, much less see.

(Okay – done with the self-pity now.  I swear.)

At the time of the upheaval (last October, or therabouts), I was staring at a problem I’d been tasked to address – the untangling of a particular set of threads in the Web in front of me.  Staring wasn’t getting me anywhere, and I couldn’t figure out where I need to start, and then things blew up and I put the task aside where it sat.

And sat.

And sat, until I was smacked in the head by a not-so-velvet paw and reminded that the tangle was still there.  And, that I hadn’t said “No” when I was asked to deal with it.  And that it was going to stay right there until I figured it out.

I like to put my gods in the category of “tough but fair”, but they don’t always like to stay in that category.  This time, though, everyone took on that label, and everyone reminded me that there was a THING that needed DOING, over and over again until I finally decided to get off my ass and look at it again.  Which, I did.  I looked at it.  I walked around it, and looked at it from a number of angles, and tugged on a few things, and pushed a few more, and then sat down and stared at it again.

And then, I took a 21 hour (round trip) road-trip with my sister, and we talked the whole way.  Sometimes it was serious, and sometimes it was silly, and sometimes it would have made no sense at all to anyone listening in, but it was in the talking on the way there, and in Paganicon itself, and in the further talking on the way home that I figured it out and the threads unwound themselves as prettily as anyone could hope to see…and now they’re connecting just as they should.

It took two things, really: the realization that I am very very good at asking questions, and that the sigil I created in Thorn’s workshop is meant to remind me to Speak Up.  And once I connected those two things everything else fell neatly into place.  I am not meant to be a Hammer – I am meant to be a Lever.  I am meant to move things from passive to active.  What once I called a cul-de-sac, a parking lot, where we stop and wait and try to figure out which way to go is now a cloverleaf, or a roundabout, with exits that are there.   We’re just waking up and wondering where we are, how we got here, and why we’re in a hand-basket.

This, then, is the Introduction.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

I’m behind in The Cauldron Blog Project again, and so I am trying to catch up by writing several posts at once.  This…is not an easy task, as I’ve been trying to stick to a theme of pop culture paganism this year focusing on The Elder Scrolls, and while the series itself is named with an E, there are no deities in any of the games that also begin with E.  And, did I mention that there are 87 total deities in that series?  Anyway, now I have to write two posts with the theme of E, and since Paganicon 2015 is winding down and I happen to be in a hotel in Minnesota after attending it, I started trying to think of things that came up during ‘Con that I could address.  Which led me to something I saw a lot of this weekend: earnestness.

It’s not easy to be earnest, especially when surrounded by others whose beliefs are different than yours, but the majority of people I met at Paganicon 2015 did it with aplomb.  They, as the definition goes, showed depth and sincerity of feeling for their path(s) and practices, and were happy to share what they thought without stomping on the toes of anyone else.  Or, if someone was mistakenly stomped, they were happy to apologize in a way that did not lay blame on the other person.

I find the earnest fascinating, mostly because my own inclination is to be, well, not-so-earnest in public.  That’s not to say that I hide my beliefs, exactly, or that I am not serious about anything, but I am more likely to hide myself from strangers.  I like to be camouflaged to a certain extent – to keep my counsel unless it’s asked for, to put on an outward face that resembles what people expect to see in a given situation.  In the case of Paganicon, I’ve been pretty successful so far – I wear what I consider to be ordinary clothing (usually jeans and t-shirts), wear simple devotional jewelry, keep my hair in a basic style, and offer opinions among those I don’t know only when it is appropriate.

I’m completely different among my friends, of course – I am outspoken and forthcoming about what I believe and what I don’t.  I don’t know if I’d call it being earnest, though.  I can be serious, and I certainly hold serious beliefs and do serious things, but the word earnest has connotations to it that I don’t think are characteristics of myself, and I also don’t think it is one of those words worth reclaiming or slapping with the Words Mean Things label.

(Wow – I never thought I’d say that.  Maybe I need to regroup.)

But, anyway, the earnest are fascinating to me because they neither hold anything back, nor try to laugh away their intensity.  They’re committed to their path and practices in ways that I admire, and have sometimes wished I could emulate…and it makes for interesting conversation.  I always learn something from the earnest, and since learning new things is one of my joys in life, I welcome spending time with those who have this trait even though I know it is likely I’ll never be quite like them.

After all, differences are what make the world go ’round, and that’s a good thing.

Presenting…the Puzzle of Life with Religion Worksheet!

I’ve received a bunch of feedback from the talk I did at Paganicon 2014 (and the recap post here on Fluid Morality) that included people wanting a worksheet version of the whiteboard exercise.

So, without further ado, I present…the Puzzle of Life with Religion Worksheet!

Puzzle of Life with Religion

This worksheet can be downloaded for personal use.  Use outside of this (republishing, duplication, etc.) requires express permission.  The worksheet may not be modified from its original form without express permission from the creator.

*Note – the version of the file has been updated to correct a typo.

 

Baby Steps – Paganicon 2014

I mentioned, in an earlier, post, that I would try and do a recap of the talk I gave at Paganicon 2014…and I’m going to try to convey what we discussed and how it went.  Before I do so, though, I do want to thank everyone who attended despite it being at 11:00 AM on a Sunday morning after much drunken hedonism the night before.  Would that I’d participated!

(Not really – I seriously needed not to have a hangover.)

The topic of the talk was, of course, Baby Steps.  To be more specific, I presented on bringing religion into everyday life and actions rather than separating the two things.  So many of us do this – we have LIFE, and then we have RELIGION, and we keep them as separate as possible.  In order to be true to our spiritual selves, however, I believe we need to be able to integrate the two…and this is what I presented.

I, personally, divide my LIFE into four parts  – job/school; family; personal time; community – and I drew a square made up of four puzzle pieces labeled with these things.  I then put a circle around it with an R (for religion) on the outside to mark the separation.  Upon suggestion from the participants, I added a circle in the center of the puzzle that touched all of the pieces (like a Venn diagram) labeled “Health”.  And then, in the name of examining how we could bring religion inside the circle and incorporate it into each of the pieces, I told this story:

Once upon a time, I made a promise to the goddess Nut that I would work through Her cycle over the course of one year, meditating on a different one of her gates, in sequence, on each Jubilee of Nut that occurred after Wep Ronpet in 2013.  On the first Jubilee after Wep Ronpet, I had the house to myself and was able, through dancing and consumption of an entheogen (absinthe in particular) to enter an altered state and meditate upon the First Hour of the Nut Cycle.  It went well.

On the second Jubilee after Wep Ronpet, my husband was at home, so I took my dancing and absinthe upstairs to our bedroom.  Again, things went as planned, I was able to enter an altered state and meditate upon the Second Hour.  I was in great spirits.  On the third Jubilee, however, things went awry.  There were enough people in the house to make doing the entire ritual impossible, and so I excused myself briefly to go upstairs.  Once there, I cried out to Nut that I couldn’t do the work I promised, and that I had failed her.  I then got a response back, “Remember Me.  That is all I ask.”

I realized at that point that while I’d needed the kick of formal practice to begin work with Nut, I didn’t need to continue the grand gestures in order to honor Her, and that honor and remembrance is what She wanted.  This is not to say that I do not need to work through the Nut Cycle – I do, and will.  However, Nut knows that I am imperfect and is not offended by this.  So now, on every Jubilee, I take ten minutes or so to honor Her – I pray, and sing hymns to her and, if it is on a work day, I use my 40 minute one-way commute as Her time.

After telling the story, I moved into incorporating religion into sections of LIFE, starting with Personal Time.  I spoke of my commute to and from my current job (26 miles one way = 40 minutes without traffic) and how I can use that time to pray, or rejoice, or reflect.  I then moved on to Community, and spoke about Shopping Cart Theology and how I modify it when I need to due to health reasons.  And then, I asked the participants to talk about ways in which to incorporate religion into the other two categories: Job/School, and Family.

Here is the list they came up with for Job/School:

  • Use passwords for systems that have religious meaning (I call this “password with intent”)
  • Use wallpaper or screen savers for your computer that have religious significance (doesn’t have to be overt – nature images are often used, or words with meaning.  Example – I’ve a friend who has Dune’s Litany Against Fear as a scrolling screen saver.)
  • Breathe and/or center between interactions with people
  • Bless or ward your personal space
  • Dedicate the work you to do a specific deity, if you work with deities (Example: my work in pharmaceuticals is dedicated to Sekhmet as patron of physicians and healer)
  • Choose your clothing to have significance – color choices, accessories, and the location of jewelry can all play a part

Then, we moved on to Family.  This one is tough, I admit, especially if you are like me and not out about your religion to your entire family.  I gave the following example: my mother and father are Christian, and my mother evangelical leaning enough (although she’s Episcopalian) that finding out I wasn’t Christian would hurt her heart.  However, I’m able to incorporate my religious beliefs into my interactions with them by going above and beyond what is expected.  When they went away recently, they needed someone to feed their cats.  My youngest brother lives 10 minutes from my parents, while I live 26 miles away.  However, three of their four cats are only comfortable with my parents and with me, and my mother worried they wouldn’t eat.  So, I stayed at their house while they were gone.  In addition, my current job is in their business and, as such, I will sometimes bring work home to do it if there is a deadline rather than waiting until a scheduled work day.  I arrange my hours to accommodate this type of thing,

Some of the things the audience came up with were:

  • Studying family culture and history as a devotional act
  • Looking into geneology
  • Cooking for family
  • Parenting either children or, in some cases, other family members
  • Devoting shared interests to deity (My father is a frustrated archaeologist who is the one who introduced me to Ancient Egypt.  I can geek out with him about various things without the religious connection being overt.)

When this part of the talk was complete, I then erased the circle I’d drawn around LIFE and drew arrows from the R into each puzzle piece.

From the response I received when I was finished, I know I gave some people food for thought.  I hope, that by sharing this here, that I’ve done the same for you, and I’d love to hear from you if you either attended the live talk, or read the recap here, and have thinky thoughts.

Thanks!