Category Archives: Day in the Life

going veg

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Over the past few months I’ve been going through a major transformation in lifestyle. It started as a diet. In my younger days I never would have thought I’d go on a diet; I’ve been skinny most of my life. As I’ve been getting older though, my metabolism has been slowing down. And even though I wouldn’t consider myself overweight, I was still heavier than I’d ever been while not pregnant, and wasn’t happy with the heaviness and bulk of my stomach. So I started my diet by just counting calories and did have some success.

Then a few serendipitous things happened that led me to try vegetarianism again. The first of these was that my grove was going to meet at a center that was hosting a Thanksgiving vegetarian potluck, and they were letting us meet there only if we could help clean up from the potluck that was happening right before. So I decided that I might as well attend the potluck if I was going to help clean up, and then stay for my grove meeting. I looked up a wonderful vegetarian recipe to bring and all the food there was great.

Well, the next week was the actual date of Thanksgiving, and upon learning that my girls weren’t coming down for the holiday and it would just be the three of us, I decided to sign us up for the UU church potluck. It just so happened that the only slot still open to bring was for vegetarian mains. I brought the same chickpea dish I had made for the other potluck. There was a lot more people and food there than what I thought there would be! With so much to choose from, I decided to just go with all vegetarian for my Thanksgiving plate. I ate my fill and had a big plate of dessert too. And guess what, I actually lost a pound that day instead of gaining. It was then that I decided to begin a transition to a vegetarian diet. Over the next couple of weeks as I phased out meat, I lost ten pounds. The last time I ate meat (or ever will again) was at a Yule celebration I attended in December.

In my enthusiasm, I began looking up vegetarian videos on youtube, to keep myself motivated and on track, and perhaps get a few pointers. What I found was a myriad of reasons to go all the way vegan. Needless to say, I got my eyes opened about factory farms, and the milk and egg industries. All the old arguments that I ever heard (and used myself) against veganism/vegetarianism, were very logically shut down. The most compelling of these was a video titled 101 Reasons to Go Vegan. I began to become motivated, not so much by weight loss, but more for compassionate and environmental reasons. So now I’ve been transitioning to vegan, and it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would. After about a week, I didn’t crave cheese anymore.

I tried vegetarianism two other times in my life. The first time, I was married to someone who was strongly (and angrily) opposed to it, and the second time didn’t last very long because I didn’t have the information and motivation necessary to succeed. Now, I can look up any kind of vegan recipe I could ever want on pinterest, and find tons of motivational videos on youtube. I’ve already been vegetarian longer than I was the other two times I tried. And it’s been easy.

So now I’ve been thinking about all the non-vegetarian recipes I’ve shared on this blog. I’m in the process of taking most of these down, but veganizing he ones that can be veganized. I cannot in good conscious leave them up and contribute to what I no longer believe in. I only regret having not done all of this sooner. A song has been going through my head lately–
I Was Wrong… and I’m so so sorry.

hidden practice

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Over the years I have had a few people tell me that they can’t practice their Pagan spirituality because of their circumstances. Usually it is because of living with a conservative family member. While I have never really experienced this myself, I do get the feeling it is a common problem that affects not just the young. For some folks, hiding their true spiritual beliefs may be a matter of survival if they are dependent on others for home and shelter. Whatever your reason for not being able to practice openly, I hope the following ideas and insights may be of help to you.

church
For those of you who not only are restricted from openly practicing Paganism, but are also required to attend a mainstream church, here are a couple of strategies for you…

Before entering the church, remember this silent prayer-

“Whatever way my words may stray, it is to the Old Gods I truly pray.”

Also, when reciting prayers or singing hymns, you can quietly, or in your mind, add an “s” to the end of words like god, spirit, and lord. Likewise, replace the word “one” with “the” in things you may have to recite such as the Nicene Creed… “We believe in the Gods, the Father, the Almighty, makers of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen…”

And if you go to a church where all kneel to pray, think “this I do not to submit myself, but to dwell closer to Mother Earth”.

Adopting some form of soft polytheistic viewpoint may help ease inner conflicts as well; thinking of saints and other figures as avatars/versions of older deities, for example. Adopting some form of Pagan Gnosticism as a world view may help resolve some issues as well. Some would consider Christianity but another form of Paganism.

If you’re expected to wear a cross, find one that incorporates a tree emblem, or get a Celtic or equal-armed cross, to make it more meaningful to you.

altar
Of course, one need not have any kind of altar to practice Paganism. A person could actually do everything mentally, visualizing devotionals, rituals, energy work, everything. However, it is beneficial to have some kind of touchstone in the physical world (especially if you can’t get out in nature as much as you’d like), to prevent a feeling of disconnect or “being in one’s head” all the time. If you have a small space to yourself, preferably the top of a bookshelf, then you can establish a discreet altar. You can use animal figurines to represent gods and goddesses, as most deities have animal associations. The Yule season is a great time to find altar items with a hidden meaning: a regal reindeer figure could represent Cernunnos or other antlered gods, you may find angel figurines that remind you of certain goddesses, and some rustic or unusual “Santa” figurines are reminiscent of Pagan gods.

9th night of YuleYou may even want to adopt Christian statuary for use on your altar. How can one not think of the Star Goddess when viewing one of those statues of Mary crowned with stars and standing on a globe?

Santa Marija Assunta
daily devotions
If you don’t have a lot of privacy, you’ll have to get creative with how you commemorate even day to day devotions. There are Pagan prayers that can be used with a traditional rosary, and doing so can be a ritual in itself. Also, there are traditional rosaries that have a tree for the crucifix. Prayer for your Druid Beads by Sarva Antah is a very easily memorized set of song prayers that honors nature spirits, ancestors, and deities. Yes, doing the prayers silently counts, as does simply meditating on the spirits, and no one around you would be the wiser.

holidays
How lucky we are to live in a culture that still retains so many of the older Pagan customs. We can light candles on a Yule log or decorate an Easter egg, and no one bats an eye or even thinks about how these customs relate to Paganism. Relish the special meaning these things have for you, even as those around you give them little thought. When you light a candle, or enact any of these customs, quietly or in your mind say something like, “This I do, in honor of my gods.”
You may not have a space or privacy to give offerings, but you can eat symbolic foods as a way of showing honor. Quietly or in your mind, say this blessing:

“Spirits (or Kindreds/specific deities), taste as I taste,
and let this sacred food of (name of holiday) be as an offering to you, through me.”

Some simple ideas for symbolic foods that can be easily obtained to commemorate the holidays are: an apple slice for Samhain, pork or gingerbread for Yule, a dairy food or honey for Imbolc, an egg for Ostara, a strawberry for Beltane, an orange slice for Midsummer, bread or berries for Lammas, and fruit salad for Harvest Home.
symbolic foods of the holidays
magic
Here is where you may feel the most limited if you are of a mind to make magic a vital part of your lifestyle. Yet, it can be done. Use ordinary objects for your “tools”, and ordinary actions as your “works of magic”. Kitchen magic can be very subtle, using a wooden spoon as your wand and the entire contents of the kitchen as materials. Don’t forget about the subtle use of color magic and visualizations. You can simply send your energy out in accordance with your goal, and that requires no materials nor spoken words at all. Yes, every little thing you do (with intention) is magic! In your mind, dedicate whatever you’re doing, toward your goal.

divination
There are a number of divination methods that require no special tools. Divination of Nature requires only your observance and intuition and includes the interpretation of dreams. In bibliomancy, one flips open a book, and reads a randomly selected passage. It is possible to use an ordinary deck of playing cards for divination. Pendulum divination can be done with only a key on a string.

learning
If you are just starting out and seeking a way to learn all you need to know, I would recommend that you first learn all you can from trusted internet sources. (See my recommendations on book and internet resources.) Try to memorize what seems important, then clear your browser history. It may be tempting to obtain a lot of books, but if you have access to a good library, reading up on mythology and philosophy will give you a better foundation in the beginning. Some libraries will even order Pagan books if you put in a request. You can read them at the library if you feel it isn’t safe to bring them home.

If you are embarking on a hidden practice, take heart. Know that the circumstances holding you back are most likely temporary as are all things in life. You may even learn and grow from the experience.

semi-daily devotionals

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Here lately, I’ve felt the need to revamp my daily spiritual practices. For a long time, I was only doing an adapted version of Sigrdrifa’s prayer at my bedroom window upon rising every morning. But you’ve got to change things up now and then, and I wanted to start using my den altar space more often. So I came up with a simple devotional that has a light touch of ADF structure. My aim was to do this once a week, but I’ve made it simple enough that I often do it several times a week, thus the title “semi-daily”.

I actually have started using a Gatekeeper in my personal practice (something I only did for group rituals or dedicant rites before), and I call upon Raven for this. I think of the spirit Raven as one of Odin’s birds, but I like the idea that ravens are sacred birds of many other deities from other cultures also. My hearth culture is mainly Norse/Anglo-Saxon but I call upon Celtic deities sometimes as well. So calling upon Raven as my personal Gatekeeper seems right and fitting and has a timeless feel. For offerings I usually use incense, and blessed or herb-infused water.

I Beginning
Fire Hallowing (I only do this periodically, the effect is very long lasting.)

•“Water, make me pure, that I may reach the infinite.” (Forehead anointed with water.)

•“I’m here to honor the Kindreds. Earth, Holy Mother, may you receive my offering of love and bless my time with the Spirits.” (Bend to touch the earth and send love.)

II Cosmos
Tree of Life Three Realms Meditation
“I am at the center of the worlds, and I light a sacred flame.” Light central candle, and from this, a stick of incense.

•Gatekeeper “Raven, you who fly between worlds, messenger of gods, wise and clever bird, I offer you my friendship and love.” (Anoint bird figurine with blessed water. Circle incense around it three times.)
“May you share your magic with me, guide and ward me as I open the ways.”

“Kindreds, I open the Fire Gate of my mind that I may know you.” (Hands at temples.)
“I open the Well Gate of my heart that I may feel you.” (Hands over heart.)
“I open the Tree Gate of my body and soul that I may experience you.” (Arms outstretched.)

III Worship
•Kindred Invocation: Sing “Prayer for your Druid Beads“, circling appropriate altar figures with incense for each verse. (I’ve changed some of the wording for my personal tastes, but use the same tune.)

•Personal prayers; this is my general formula for any personal prayer–
“Beloved Kindreds of my heart, (name personal deities/spirits)
I thank you for all you have given, (name examples)
May you continue to bless and guide me and mine.”

IV Blessing
•Omen of the day: draw a tarot card or rune, first asking the Kindreds what they wish for me to know today.

V Conclusion
•“My love and thanks to all beings.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”

semi-daily devotionals

home and hörgr

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Earlier this year I posted an article about moving and settling into the new place. Lately, I’ve been feeling a renewed sense of contentedness and belonging, of gratefulness.

Last year, we spent several months house hunting. Each time we found a house in our price range that we liked, it either had too many repairs, or it was bought up before we could make a bid. We began to get very discouraged. At one point, I planned out a home-finding spell to do at the next full moon: I was to make house-shaped cinnamon ginger cookies and mark them with the rune othala, making them with intention and sharing them with my family. If any of you readers are house hunting, you can use that spell and let me know how it works, because I didn’t quite make it to the full moon…

One day, I was inspired out of the blue to just pray to Odin and Frigga that they would lead us to our true home- not a fancy shiny new home, but our true home, one that suits us, a place where we belong. A few days later, I got onto one of the real estate websites that I frequented, and saw a new listing, one in our price range and with the main things I wanted (a fireplace, wood floors, and a porch)- and it was in our son’s school district. Looking at the pictures, my heart leapt. This may sound a little crazy, but I marked an othala rune over the computer screen with a saliva dampened finger and said some spontaneous spoken charm that I no longer remember. We went to see it that day, it’s first day on the market. It didn’t even have a real estate sign in the yard yet. We made an offer and had the house inspected. As the house is over 50 years old, it had some issues. We negotiated an allowance for certain things to be fixed. We moved in at the turn of the year.

It felt like home right away and I wasted no time in unpacking and getting everything set up. As time goes on, I’ve developed a rhythm to my days and a feel for the rooms. I love the way the wood floors feel under my feet, and the way some of the boards creak. I love the old stone fireplace. It has a (non-functional) gas starter, installed when such things were popular; the inspector thought it was a gas fireplace, so I was very disappointed until I learned that it actually burns real wood and is no longer linked to a gas line. I’ve placed Three Hallows symbols on the fireplace mantle and set up altar items on shelves next to it. The house is old and patched up strangely in places. It has the original roomy hardwood kitchen cabinets with old fashioned handles, and extra large utility room that doubles as my craft room. It is quirky and imperfect like us. It is our true home and I thank the gods for it.

stalli

Now, as the weather is turning warmer, we are becoming more familiar with the yard and starting a garden, an herb patch, and a flower bed. One day after gardening, I had noticed a lot of large stones laying in various places. Before we moved in, I had decided that when the weather was warmer, I was going to find a large stone to use as a small hörgr to place offerings. But I was finding many large stones, so I figured I could make a proper sized hörgr. I built it on a hilly place in the yard close to the garden and close to a line of tall pine trees. I found the large square stone last. A hörgr doesn’t usually require a flat top (as libations are usually just poured over the top to trickle down over all the rocks), but I was delighted to find it, as now I can use it as an altar surface. Through touching each stone and balancing them with each other, I feel that I have come closer to the land. In shaping this hörgr, I have crafted a deeper level of belonging.

hörgr

embracing beautiful imperfection

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The last few weeks have been pretty busy. We moved at the first of the month, and about a week ago we decided to have a house warming/blessing party and set a date for it this month. I’ve never had a lot of get-togethers at my home. I’m not naturally outgoing or extroverted, so I rarely entertain or even have friends over. However, I feel that my nature is changing as I grow older, and as a result of leading an active Pagan group. So I look forward with more excitement than nervousness, I suppose.

We settled in and unpacked rather quickly because I don’t work outside the home, so I was able to get a lot more done. Then began all the little home improvement projects and decorating. I really enjoy this type of work, and I started picking up the pace on it when we set a date for the housewarming, because I wanted everything to look nice for the party. There are many things that won’t be done on time though. There are things that we will have to put off for the sake of finances, or because warmer weather is needed, or just because things like painting the concrete den floor would need a lot of drying time, etc. So we will be having our housewarming with our house in sort of an unfinished state. But I think that’s exactly the right way to do it. Housewarmings need to be soon after the move in date, when the transition still seems fresh.

We chose an older house to live in, just like we chose so many imperfect things in our lives deliberately. There is something about imperfection that makes me live more fully, to dig deeper into the work of life. It just makes everything more interesting. Also, it lets me be more relaxed and comfortable. I want my friends to feel relaxed and comfortable too when they come over. I think sometimes I give the impression that I’m some kind of Pagan homemaker-craftster-supreme. While I have had a lot of neat ideas that I’m proud of, I’ve also had a lot of inactive days and not-so-successful projects. Sometimes I plan out things and blog about it, and then in real life it doesn’t come to fruition, or at least not in the kind of detail I aimed for. But that’s okay. I accept that life isn’t perfect and that the idea of perfection is unreal.

I’ve always rooted for the underdog. It occurred to me recently that maybe the reason is because celebrating and choosing imperfection in others (and in things/situations) is a way of fully and lovingly accepting my own inner imperfections.

beautiful inperfection

moving house

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My little family has started out the new year with a big change. We’ve bought a house! It’s not a new house, it’s over fifty years old, has had a bit of updates done already, and will need more over time. We are excited about the change, for we’ve been living in apartments for far too long.

I got all the items on my house wish list: wood floors, fireplace, and a porch. However, I also got a lot of fix-up projects, but I’m excited about those as well. We were a bit disorganized with the move; we started moving stuff before completely packed, and not having gone through and organized/ thrown stuff out enough ahead of time. However, before moving anything, I did make a trip out to the house to clear and claim the space. This is what I did:

Before even going in, I stood at the front of the yard and lit a candle in a glass holder. I announced to the spirits of the land that this property is under new ownership, that I am the matron of the family, and that we seek to live in harmony with the landvettir of this place. I also announced that all baneful spirits must go in peace for we are under the protection of the gods. Then I walked sun-wise around the property with the candle singing the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.

At last it came time to go inside. I made sure that bread and salt were the first items to be carried across the threshold. I then repeated a similar announcement to the one I did outside, this time for the house spirits. I did the Hallowing Charm again, walking from room to room all around the house, this time with the candle and a bell. I went another round, censing with juniper and sage. At last I did a third round asperging with water. Thus completed the ritual cleansing and claiming. Further blessing is yet to come, and I hope to do it with friends.

Though our move was chaotic, we are all unpacked now and settling in rather quickly. It already feels like home, which tells me we’ve chosen well.

moving house - Ozark Pagan Mamma

early group struggles and finding self confidence

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A few years ago I started an ADF study and discussion group. We were just three ADF members getting together in a coffee shop. Membership and attendance remained small, but we kept on meeting, taking a small break in the winter for bad weather. After a while we became a Protogrove, and I volunteered to be the Grove Organizer because no one else was volunteering for the position. There was one other member farther along in the study programs than me, and who took a leadership role in meetings, but due to a chronic illness, he would not take the position. So I became the organizer, but all of us really looked to him as our leader. We carried on as we were for a while, having coffee shop meetings, and a few others joining us as time went by. Sometimes we’d talk about having a ritual for this or that High Day, but it would always get canceled a few days before the date due to fore mentioned person’s illness. We were essentially a discussion group, and I was fine with that.

Then suddenly, this person I mentioned stopped showing up. I was a nervous wreck. I am a lifelong shy introvert and suddenly it was all on me. Attendance dropped down to just three; myself and a married couple I’ll call Sue and Sam. Sue and Sam were not ADF members and seemed not too interested in ADF. I believe they attended because they couldn’t find an open Wiccan group. Sue was a real talker. So there were no awkward silences. There was also no structure to the conversations. Sometimes I would try to interject something Druid-y into the random conversation, but most of the time I would get interrupted so many times that I would forget what I was going to say. Since there was consistently only three of us at these meetings for months, and I was the only ADF member there, I became very discouraged. Sometimes a new person would come to a meeting, not say much, and then not come back. At the time I wished that I had that option, but I knew that my role was all too official for me to give up, and I couldn’t think of a way out of it.

Then a new person came to a meeting. I’ll call him Andy. Andy was already a member, and committed to ADF. He told us all about himself, was witty and interesting, and became a regular attendee and member of the Protogrove. I tell you, he was the Protogrove’s saving grace. So then it was four of us; me, Andy, and Sue & Sam. For some reason, Sue didn’t seem to like Andy all that much, and when we started talking about having one of our twice monthly meetings in a neighboring town, Sue and Sam left the group. That’s when more members gradually started trickling in. Before I knew it, we had seven active members, and several non-member attendees. We outgrew our location and starting meeting at a park and having rituals there too. Conversations at meetings were not difficult anymore. I didn’t need to steer the conversation toward Druidism because, with that many ADF members, it naturally went in that direction.

As for rituals, I was really nervous at first. Historically, when I have to speak in front of a group, I would get a feeling of dread for days, then when it came time to speak, my voice would shake. That’s how it was leading these rituals at first. Then people started volunteering to take on talking parts or even lead a ritual themselves. I grew really at ease with the group. We had great conversations. I stopped being nervous about meetings. Then, one day, I stopped being nervous about rituals as well. My voice evened out. The dread and worry disappeared. I started enjoying speaking in ritual, and if you know me in person, you know that’s really saying something.

So how did this change in confidence happen? I think a lot of it had to do with my getting to know the group through our discussion meetings. I gradually became at ease with talking to them. I also changed the conversation with myself in my head. The last time I got nervous before a ritual, I was able to stop feelings of nervousness and dread by reminding myself that they’re all my friends. I told myself “This is just like when we have discussion meetings. I’m talking with my friends in the park. Its going to be fun, as usual.” Those words were like magic, and have lasting power! (Also, it didn’t hurt that I asked Odin for good speech, and Thor for strength.)

So if you’re wanting to start an ADF or other Pagan group, and think you are too shy and/or introverted, think again. Finding self confidence is more about practicing social skills and getting comfortable with other people than about trying to impress. If you are struggling with a small group with poor dynamics, hang in there! Sometimes you have to face what you dread, and wait out the bad times, to get the community you want.

If you are thinking about attending a local Pagan group, but are having second thoughts or thinking that it wouldn’t matter if you show up or not– just show up! You might be some group’s saving grace, or at least play a very important part of the dynamic. Do not under-estimate the value of belonging to a spiritual community.