Monday, February 28, 2011

Learning to Be a Witch

Another posting idea from Pagan Blog Prompts!

I heard a joke a while back (I can't remember where):  How many Wiccans does it take to change a light bulb?  Answer:  Just one, but she has to read 20 books about it first.

I don't know if that stereotype is true of EVERY Wiccan, but it was certainly true for me.  The first six months or so after discovering Wicca I must have bought thirty books or more on that subject alone.  And I continued doing so for quite a while.  And there's still plenty that I WANT, but don't want to buy at the moment.

It makes sense.  Since the vast majority of us come to Pagan paths from Christian upbringings, we have a LOT to learn as we seek those paths--not only one new religion, but often many new religions, not one god, but many, and that includes goddesses, too!  We also have new holidays, new philosophies, new moral compasses, new everything!  (I didn't realize just how much I actually knew about Catholicism, most gleaned from just growing up with it, until I started learning a new religion from scratch.)

And while it's relatively easy to find teachers on the 'net, it's generally very difficult to find real live people in real life to with which to interact and from whom to learn.  I'm lucky--the Wiccan Church of Canada has two locations fairly near me--in Hamilton and in Toronto.  If I wished, I could attend weekly classes at either of those locations.  (I don't, but that's a whole other story.) I am also unlucky in that they are so close--I haven't been able to find a small local coven which I do want to join because searches for such things in this area tend to bring back only the aforementioned Wiccan Church of Canada.  Which leaves me with books and the internet.

Not that I'm knocking the internet.  I've found many wonderful places to learn on it, met many great Pagans (and non-Pagans), and made some really good friends besides.  I'm currently enrolled in three classes at The Magical Circle School. (And I'd be learning a lot more there if I didn't have a personal problem with self-paced and semi-self-paced classes, but that, too is another story.)  And any halfway decent search will find at least dozens of other such locations, some free, some not.

But my first love is still books.  Actual paper books that I can hold in my hands, stick notes in (DH HATES highlighted books, so I don't do that anymore), and refer to just by walking over to a bookshelf.  So I will probably continue to do most of my learning on my own, through those books.

I think I'll go do some reading right now.  :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

To Garden or Not To Garden

Something to blog about from last week's Pagan Blog Prompts:

I loved my potted herbs last year, I really did.  But keeping them going inside over the winter didn't work--the house is in general too dark for houseplants, and the puppy gates we have up to protect both our puppies and our stuff (not to mention the cats) make watering where there IS sunlight extremely difficult.  Add to that the fact that I have at best a brown thumb, and it spells failure.

Oh, that I had even a touch of my late aunt Juana's green thumb.  She could grow anything, and I mean ANYTHING in her South Texas garden--and she made it look easy!  The only thing I ever really tried growing on my own when I lived in Texas was a fern, which I killed.  LOL.  (DH and I (mostly DH) did have a small vegetable garden there once.  We (he) had a successful crop of tomatoes and jalapeños.)

I guess I didn't really like gardening until I became a Witch.  Or until I realized I was a Witch, that is.  At that point, as I became more and more aware of the cycle of life around me, and wanted to be outside more and more, I realized that I did actually WANT a garden.  I changed from a few flowering plants, grown mostly to "pretty-up" the house, to a combination of flowers, vegetables, and herbs.  I even got to where I didn't mind dirt under my fingernails, at least not much!  And I did pretty well at it--nothing died!!!

I did have problems, though.  I had to restrict myself to container gardening--the ever-present possibility that we will be able to put the house on the market keeps me from digging up the now-disliked lawn.  And I had to place those containers where they wouldn't get knocked over or otherwise damaged by two rambunctious, rapidly-growing puppies, which limited the amount of space with a proper amount of sunlight.

I got around those problems last year, but I don't think I'm willing to struggle with them again this year.  DH and I have talked about using fencing to cut the yard in half--one side for the dogs, the other for a garden--but there's that ever-present "what if the market improves" feeling.  And we're looking at a community garden plot, but we're not sure we'll be able to swing it financially in time to actually get a plot for this year. 

All of which makes me think that this year maybe I should be thinking about gardening, researching plants, and planning for next year instead of actually trying to garden.  The dogs will be older, and presumably calmer by then, our financial situation will hopefully be better, and maybe, just maybe, we will have sold the house by then, or maybe even decided not to do so.

Anybody know how long it takes grass to grow and re-establish itself in Southern Ontario?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free Stuff

Since I've re-injured my knee AGAIN (this time with swelling and everything), I spent last week on the couch with my leg elevated.  Fun, fun, fun.  Not.  Working with a laptop actually on your lap is not the best way to work, and I got so sick of watching tv that I wanted to pull my hair out.

The knee is much improved this week--I can actually get around pretty well with a knee brace on it.  And, even better, I can sit up at the table for long periods of time, especially if I alternate elevating the leg on a chair and putting it down.  This means I can actually work and play on the 'net with relative ease.  Yay!

I've spent the last couple of days downloading free stuff off the web, from the Kindle Store over at Amazon, and from Microsoft.  The Microsoft stuff was pretty basic--I just discovered the joys of Microsoft OneNote, and I was busy downloading tons of notebook templates for it.  (And a bunch of Powerpoint and Word templates, too!)

The Kindle Store, however, was fabulous!  A friend of mine pointed out over Facebook that you could get Kindle for PC for FREE!  (Thanks, Sue!)  I also found out you can get a Kindle app for your iPhone or your Blackberry or just about anything else you can think of, all free.  The best thing, however, was all the free books you can download.  Most of them are older (like cookbooks or classic literature), or the first in a series, or some such, but still--plenty of reading material, and some really useful volumes besides!  (For you preppers out there, I found some great TEOTWAWKI materials.)

A word of warning to Canadians and anyone else not residing in the U.S.--You can only get the books at the U.S. Amazon site, and the prices are in U.S. dollars.  Also, not all volumes are available outside the U.S., and some of the ones that are available are at different, usually higher, prices.  Most particularly, some of the books that are free in the U.S. are NOT free if you live elsewhere.  All in all it wasn't too bad, though.

Especially worth it if you're somewhat bedridden, and not sick!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Other Worlds, Adventure, An Oddball Group. . .

Since I'm not doing anything noteworthy in my own life at the moment, I thought I'd mention a webcomic by a friend of mine: 

By Marie Tary

It's a sci-fi/fantasy story about a group of adventurers in a future time when several worlds/universes have collided with our own.  The writing is terrific and the art is AMAZING.  (And she's only on the fourth chapter, so at this point it won't take you very long to catch up!)  If you have any interest in comics, science fiction, fantasy, roleplaying, manga, art, fiction, ongoing stories, or if you just want something new to read, check it out! (I swear I'm not making any money on this endorsement, btw, I just like the story!)

Put a little fantasy into your life!

Monday, February 7, 2011

C is for Craft

Whether you call yourself a Wiccan, a Witch, a Pagan, or something else entirely, chances are you practice some form of Craft, although you might not call it that.  I'm talking about The Craft, of course, what some call witchcraft.  (Although tons of Witches seem to practice arts & crafts, also, though not being crafty in that way I've never really understood the correlation.)

At any rate, The Craft can cover a huge scope of topics--divination, herbology, and spellcasting, to name but a few.  And even within those topics, the variety is endless--tarot cards or pendulums or scrying (fire, water, or mirror); healing with, growing, or becoming expert in the properties of herbs; candle or hedge or knot magick, the list goes on and on and on.  Or perhaps your Craft is a simple matter of ritual, or of praying to your Goddesses/Gods in whatever way you see fit.

A cast circle and a formal altar, or a tree stump and a rock--it matters not.  Meditation to look within or cooking with intent, it matters not.  A spell to heal the earth or one to heal your heart--it matters not. 

It is The Craft.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhogs, Blizzards, and Spring

Welcome to the Groundhog Day Storm of 2011! 

February 2 is an interesting day for DH and I, even without a blizzard!  Imbolc is often celebrated on the 2nd, as is Groundhog Day and the stolen Candlemas.  My DH and I celebrate not only the day we met, but also the day, a year later, when we married on the 2nd.  This year, it also happens to be the eve' of Chinese New Year (Year of the Rabbit, or so I've heard).  And, just to add a little interest, today there is, of course, the storm.  Whew!

I'm pretty sure we all know about Groundhog Day.  But how many of you know it has Pagan origins?  I'm not kidding!  See for yourself--Google "groundhog" and "Pagan". 

Imbolc is also a Pagan holiday with roots in fertility, weather divination, and looking forward to Spring.  Those who know much more about etymology than I will tell you that the word itself comes from a Gaelic phrase for "in the womb".  This phrase refers to lambs, which are now or will shortly be waiting to be born, as we are waiting for Spring. The Earth herself lies in wait, preparing to burst forth with new life in a few weeks.

Most of you don't know that DH and I met on the internet, long before it was actually cool to have done so.  We met face-to-face when he drove from Dallas to Austin in an ice storm on February 2nd, and we were married a year to that date later on a rainy one.

I don't know a whole lot about Chinese New Year, so I'll move on to the storm.  A blizzard was forecast for last night and this morning, but I haven't checked if we actually made it.  I've seen snow falling harder since moving here, and I've seen higher winds, but the criteria for a blizzard are the durations of both.  The media is calling it the GroundHog Day Storm, and I admit it's a catchy title.  DH and I have never been in a blizzard before, and with our love of winter and of weather, we loved it!

Whatever you're celebrating today, I hope you've had and are having a great one!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meditation, My Way

I recently read a post on meditation, and I thought I'd add my 37 cents on the topic.  Why?  Because when I started out I got so frustrated and upset that it was totally defeating the purpose of doing it at all.  I felt the situation was hopeless, that I couldn't do it, that I'd never be able to do it, that there was something wrong with me!  Then I figured out what worked (for me), and it just all came together.  You could say like magick, lol! 

I started out trying a few years ago by reading books and internet articles.  All of them said "THIS is how you do it," where THIS was their own particular formula of counting breaths (or not), staring at a flame (or a color, or not) and so on.  Also, apparently, you had to sit in as close as you could get to full lotus position on the floor in a totally silent room set up for meditation practice.

Perhaps needless to say, I, with no form of yoga training whatsoever, could get nowhere near full lotus position, or even partial lotus position.  Sitting on the floor for even the suggested beginning 10 minutes was awful on my back.  Total silence just made me notice every small sound in the background, amplified about 100x.  And preparing a room specifically for meditation?  The very idea of taking the time (and money) to do it was enough to send me into full procrastination mode.

Fast forward about a decade, and now I'm joining groups and taking classes that strongly encourage, if not actually require, one to meditate, even to do guided meditations.  Meditate?!  Not me!  I can't do that!  And I certainly can't take the next step and do a guided meditation!  That's downright scary!

But I really wanted to do these things--be a part of these groups and take these classes.  And there was now SUCH a buzz about how healthy meditating is, in so many different ways.  And I'd recently been introduced to the concept (through Wicca) of "do what feels right."  All these factors contributed to my decision to try again.

I started by trying out the old way again, but this time sitting in a comfortable chair.  Still not really working.  I moved to the sofa, lit a scented candle, and let the dog (Merly)  in to the room.  Closer.  I tried a guided meditation.  It was actually MUCH easier for me than trying to "empty my mind," but I still wasn't there.  Then, right there on the sofa, I tried an extremely relaxed lotus position.  It wasn't much more than crossing my legs up on the sofa and holding my hands in the correct position. 

BOOM!  I fell right into it!  It's was like I'd been doing it all my life!  It was freeing and balancing and mind-opening and WONDERFUL!  I saw things and relieved stress and learned things about myself and my relationship to everything and everyone around me--everyday life, the Divine, my Craft, the world at large--everything!

I still don't have a daily practice, but I'm getting closer.  Two huge puppies instead of one medium-sized older dog can be a bit of a challenge, but I'm learning (and they grow calmer everyday).  I've found that my posture is much more about my hand position than whatever I'm doing with my legs, so that's gotten even easier.  I don't usually pay attention to my breathing, or to trying to clear my mind.  I've also found that normal household noises or background noises don't interfere. I can now fall into meditation pretty much anywhere that I'm physically AND psychologically comfortable. (I have to be in a place where I feel safe closing my eyes and not paying attention to my surroundings, for example.)

And all by doing what feels right!