Friday, December 30, 2011

Some endings and some beginnings

Eldest son finally noticed I had unfriended him on facecrack and decided on Christmas Eve to challenge me on it.  As I had deleted his inappropriate response, his reasoning was that I couldn't complain about it since I couldn't prove he said it.  He also started handing out ultimatums and insisting that I'm the problem, not him.  I know he's a very unhappy person who has deep-seated feelings of abandonment due to something I did in the past but he's an adult now and either needs to get professional help or something in order to deal with it all.  I just know that I will continue to reach out to him but I won't be his doormat anymore.  And I won't friend him on facecrack again.  I won't end our relationship but there is definitely an ending of the nature of it.  I am his mother, not his friend.

I've been doing some studying, reading and general spiritual stuff, lots of new and exciting things.  But last night my fountain stopped working and I thought it needed water so I poured some in only to completely soak my entire altar cloth and Greek afghan underneath it.  Needless to say I didn't do ritual on the altar last night although I did read some prayers from bed and felt perfectly comfortable doing so.  I haven't done anything with the wet altar yet because I did soak it up with a towel last night and I'm hoping that will be enough.  If not, I should have the dryer working by tonight and can dry it properly.

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately that talk about what constitutes a Pagan and who is or isn't one.  It's beginning to remind me of the whole "not a real Christian" shit I encountered most of my life (and even now it continues.)  On one level I can see that Pagan has come to mean the nature religions, particularly Wicca and Druidry.  And that some other religions don't like to be called Pagan, like the Norse Heathens or the Hindus.  And even my own discipline has started to distance itself based on the affiliations that seem to dominate the definition of the word.  Frankly I just don't care.  It seems to be just an exercise in semantics to me.

Another blog talked about how it was good that people were so sure they were in the right religion that they wouldn't accept that someone else might be in their own right religion.  That one surprised me a bit as the blogger was talking about a Catholic insisting that her religion was the one true one and everyone else was worshiping false gods.  In light of all the evil that has been done under that kind of philosophy, I can't find any good in it, even if the blogger thinks that it means that she's not wishy-washy about her faith as some Pagans seem to be.  Because they think that other religions have merit for other people.  And of course there are posts out there about people who have experienced many different religious paths until they found the one that was a good fit for them.  As if this was a bad thing.  Like you wouldn't try on clothes before you brought them home on the off-chance they might fit.

But mostly I've been reading good things that sometimes make my brain hurt, other times make me think, and most times make me smile because I can relate to what the blogger is saying.  It's been interesting reading Hellenic blogs because I've found that most aren't reconstructionists at all, but tend to practice in a Hellenic manner without being dogmatic about it.  Which is where I am.  Although more and more I'm finding my path leading toward the ancient practices, I'm not being forced into it by intimidation or through arrogance.  Nor am I finding that I need to do things by the book.

I haven't decided on any goals for the year, but I think I might set up some kind of plan where I can make some short-term goals to work toward.  I believe that's the best way for me.  By doing that I end up achieving the result I had intended all along.  Baby steps.  Still.

I briefly thought about going back to church but quickly decided against it when I realized I didn't miss the ritual anymore as my own rituals more than fulfill me.  I thought maybe it was because of the social aspects but I also realized that I had nothing in common with anyone there anymore so that was sort of beside the point of it all.  No, I need to move forward, find new avenues for social connections, like the library knit night or maybe some of the environmental/nature groups around here.  And maybe the montly meetup in Madison with other Pagans.

But for now, I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve when I will light a candle to Janus and the other gods as they open the door into the New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Can't wait for Solstice

The Solstice falls on our anniversary this year so we'll celebrate that as well as Solstice.  Well, I'll be celebrating Solstice.  My intentions are to celebrate the astronomical festivals in addition to some of the Hellenic festivals as well.  I love the dark moon celebrations and the various festivals to the gods each month.  Not that I'm good at keeping them just yet, but I do love the idea of them.  And I'm building up to being comfortable celebrating them.

I've decided that my focus on the Winter Solstice will be Apollo, since I think of him when I think of the Sun.  I haven't decided on a ritual yet, and I might just wing it anyway, but I am excited about it, moreso than Christmas in fact.  We'll exchange a gift on the 22nd but mostly because it's our anniversary.  Still, I would do it anyway because I would rather the focus be on the Solstice than Christmas but that will take time.  Zach is keen on it, but Tom still is a little kid and since he gets that day off and not the Solstice, that's the day we'll celebrate.  But I won't celebrate Christmas on that day.  For me it's just another day of Solstice celebrations.

I generally like the Hellenic calendar of events although I don't pay that much attention to most of the festivals because they just don't fit into my perspective.  I love the dark moon celebrations to Hecate, the monthly observances to the daimons of the household, much like the household spirits who take care of things for you.  And I do like the monthly observances toward the gods.  It helps a bit to compartmentalize these things so you make sure they get their due rather than trying to wing it.  Full moons aren't on the Hellenic calendar but I love them so I pay particular attention to Artemis on that day, rather than Selene. 

I haven't done the studying I had intended but I still feel pretty good about what I have accomplished so far.  I'm more and more confident that I am on the right path and that the celebrations, rituals and observances are becoming more a part of my daily, monthly and yearly life.  In a way that didn't come naturally when I was focusing on Druidry.  I haven't looked back with regret at all.  In fact, I grow more excited each day when I wake up and see my altar.  It is becoming more a part of my life to honor and worship the gods.  I've started reading my book on Greek mythology on a daily basis.  Mostly.  I'm still not sure what to do with mythology, but I do love it.  More than I ever loved reading the Bible.  Seriously.

I really do intend to focus on divination, herb-lore and spellcasting.  I feel drawn to folk magic more than any other kind of magic.  I've been trying meditation again although not in a formal way.  I just focus on the candles and the gods after my nightly ritual.  It's calming at the least even if I don't accomplish anything else from it.

All in all, this has been the most productive year for me spiritually.  I feel more confident and more balanced than I have in the past.  And that's good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unexpected company

As you all well know, I'm not very sociable and tend to be much of a recluse except when I go out to shop or something.  My home is my haven, my sanctuary and besides that, it's very small.  So today a woman from my old fundie church dropped by for a visit right around the time Tom was leaving for work.  She didn't call first, just showed up.  I suppose if we were close, it wouldn't be a big deal to just drop in on me, but I haven't seen her in over 4 years and then it was at the store.

She's a minister (her "degree" obtained through a correspondence course by Ken Copeland, I believe) involved in prison ministry and wanted me to be a part of her group.  Much to my surprise I told her I no longer believed and that I couldn't be party to something I didn't believe in.  She was far less judgmental than I assumed she would be although she did tell me how sorry she was.  I told her not to be, that I was much happier and less stressed out now than I ever was as a Christian.

Then we got into the reasons we both left that church.  She left because of the blatant lectures from the pulpit on who we should vote for and after confronting the pastor's wife about it, who told her it was the church's place to tell people how to vote, she left the church.  We left for many reasons, but that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It was all over the Gay Marriage Amendment that I had no intentions of voting for, but apparently S did in spite of not liking them telling her to vote for it.  I let her know how I felt about gays being allowed to marry and she let me know that her daughter is involved in that evil "lifestyle."  Now, Zach was in his bedroom, able to hear this whole conversation.  I firmly told her it wasn't a lifestyle, that people were born gay and there was scientific evidence to support that, that gays shouldn't be forbidden the very basic needs we all have:  to love, have affection and family.  She muttered something about science not trumping the Bible, but all in all it wasn't a bad conversation.  No one was angry and no one got in anyone's face. 

Although Zach was gritting his teeth and clenching his fists in his room.

I didn't tell her I was Pagan.  I had closed off my "bedroom" with the curtains because I didn't want to explain it to her so I suppose she's going to assume I'm an atheist at this stage.  I don't really care.  I don't feel like I need to justify or explain anything about my life to anyone else.  But at least she didn't preach to me.  Although she kept making the assumption that I believed in the bible like she did.  Old habits dying hard, I guess.

I'm just glad it's over and I hope I don't have to run into her again for a long time.  It was pleasant but stressful.  Especially on Zach's account.

Also I stopped counting after a while, the number of times she used "Lord" or "God" in her conversation.  I lost count after 50.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Solstice plans

I still don't have the Christmas tree up.  It's not that I'm not enthusiastic about Christmas, it's that I'm not enthusiastic about decorating for Christmas.  I bought a $1 sign you stick in the ground that reads Happy Holidays and you can only see if you're standing a foot away from it.  It's still on the bookcase.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll get the tree up. Which is funny since all I every do after Christmas is wrap the already decorated tree in a black garbage bag and store it upstairs.  All I have to do is take the bag off and plug it in.  And I still can't be bothered to do that much.

I have other decorations, like my crocheted candles, my Frosty-the-snowman that my dad made.  And the reindeer he made, too.  And tons of garlands.  And this year, Zach asked for a new tree-topper since he doesn't like the star we've got.  It's for a full-size tree and ours is a table-topper so the tree tends to lean.  So I made a new God's Eye for the top of the tree.  He really liked it and since it is more in keeping with our perspective than a star, will make the tree a bit more meaningful.  I got rid of all my religious Christmas ornaments over the past couple of years...with Tom's consent, of course.  I wouldn't try to rob him of his perspective toward the holidays but since he's a fan of Christmas but not a fan of the religious aspects of Christmas, he didn't have any problems with it.

I'm still not sure what to do for Solstice but Zach and I decided that we'll exchange one gift each on the 22nd since that's mine and Tom's anniversary.  Our 25th this year, actually.  At one point I never would have given odds we'd last this long but I'm leaning toward the long haul now.  Anyway, this way we can celebrate the season of the Solstice without feeling like we're going through the motions or just moving Christmas to another day.  We'll open the rest of the presents on Christmas morning because Tom is the biggest kid of them all and wakes us up at ungodly hours so we can do that. We're also going to attend the family Christmas party for the first time in maybe 10 years.  I lost interest in them during my chemo period and just stopped going.  But now that I'm a Pagan, I'm feeling more like family since most of them aren't religious at all.  And one sister-in-law is eager to sit me down and find out about my journey.

I expect Solstice will be a nice meal and some kind of ritual welcoming back the sun.  I'm woefully behind on my reading so that might be a good day to set aside time for that.  I'm still finding my way, picking up things that merit saving, discarding things that no longer fit.  And not worrying about it; just going with my instincts.  I'm quite content with the gods I worship and the way I worship them, although I could do better.  But I'm not beating myself up about it.  Just letting the path unfold before me.

Today was a really blah day for me.  I had been productive lately, getting lots done at home, cooking better and being more frugal and attentive to my responsibilities.  It's been years since I've had that much energy, in fact.  But alas!  Today I woke up drained and spent the day in bed.  I should know those days will still be there and not feel bad about it.  I did manage to fix supper and do up the supper dishes.  I've never been able to accomplish that much before, not on a day like this.  I didn't manage to do much more than light my hearth candle and give a wave off to Hestia before crawling back into bed.  She seemed fine with it.

And I think a nice hot shower will make me feel more human, too.  Especially since tomorrow is an errand day.

More and more I'm realizing that my Pagan path is simply walking through each day, honoring the gods however feels right to me and being myself.  My true self. 

I like it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When the ones you love try to suck the life out of you, unfriend them

Things finally came to a head again with firstborn on facebook where he once again insulted someone in response to something I had posted.  That this person he insulted was his cousin didn't make any difference to me.  His main purpose in life seems to be haunting my posts and ridiculing my beliefs and attacking the people who agree with me.  So I've ended my facebook relationship with him.  Period.  There will be no fourth or fifth chances on this.  We can take our relationship to another place or not at all.  I really don't care at this stage.  Since finding his birth father he's made it clear that they and they alone care for him and fuck the rest of us.

I can only take so much of this shit before I explode and do something irreversible.  So, eliminating him from my facebook friends is the path of least resistance.  Trust me.

I don't know why families have to be so dysfunctional.  Sure, people make mistakes but why is it so hard to maintain relationships with people you love.  And I do love him.  I just don't particularly like him.  My sister jumped in to tell me how much she appreciates the things I post but as it was her son he went after, I really didn't expect any less from her.  I also discovered that two of his cousins have also unfriended him because of his antagonistic attitude toward them.

I've taken the blame for my contributions to his dysfunction but for fuck's sake, he's nearly 40 and needs to grow the fuck up now.  Sure, I have problems with my extended family but I don't treat them like shit because of it.  I limit my time spent with them to what is comfortable for me and treat them with the respect I think they deserve.  And it's okay to bitch about what a rotten childhood he had but there is no advantage to wallowing in the past and using it as an excuse.  I admit that many things from my past make the palette my world is colored with but I hold the paintbrush now.  When I talk about things from my past I don't use them as an excuse, just as an explanation for the way I am.  I don't hide behind the past.  I hope I'm learning from it.

It's time to sever this relationship until he decides to let me live my own life, with my own ideas and opinions and stop trying to change me into who he wants me to be.  I'm through with the emotional blackmail and the guilt trips.  And the attacks on people who don't line up with his political and spiritual beliefs.

I'm finally moving forward emotionally and spiritually and I'll be damned if I'm going to let anyone interfere with that journey.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'm feeling better today.  Ritual helps heal a lot.  I think just doing something instead of passive prayer or worship makes me feel more connected to the gods. It's probably why I had longed for liturgical worship when I was a Christian.  Something I resisted for so long because I had been taught that it was mindless worship and near-idolatry.  And once I had it, I no longer believed in that deity so the next step was to take the ritual to a place where I did believe.

It's just been a journey finding ritual that completes me.  I tried to force it for so long that I had despaired of having that feeling of completeness again.  But finally I feel like I'm getting there.  I doubt I will ever "arrive" but as the journey is what makes it all interesting, destination isn't critical.  I don't have any real defined ritual aside from some candle-lighting and some pre-written prayers, which I really love as I tend to stumble around and worry more about what I'm saying than what I should be saying.  I feel a connection that seems stable, yet powerful and fulfilling.

I'm looking forward to Winter Solstice.  There is a modern Hellenic ritual that someone has designed that, while structured, is still very adaptable to one's own desires.  I may take what I like out of it and discard what I don't.  It's not overwhelming; it's just long...9 days long, if I remember correctly.  An alternate 2 day festival has been designed based on the 9 day one, which is more in keeping with what my intentions are.  It's not that I'm lazy or anything, but at this stage, I'm not ready for the commitment a 9 day festival entails.  I do well to remember my daily rituals.

I'm also looking forward to Christmas as this year we're making more of an effort.  Definitely a secular or Pagan Christmas though.  I've gotten rid of all my religious ornaments and Zach has requested a new tree topper instead of the star we've got.  I suggested a God's Eye and he loved the idea so I need to think about which colors to use.  That will be my new ornament for the year.  I always add a new one, usually something I find at the thrift store or one I make.  Last year I made a new tree skirt instead of an ornament and it worked out well.

This is the first time in years I've looked forward to this season instead of dreading it.  I must be healing.  Asklepios really knows his stuff. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

The past bites me again

Unfortunately I ran into our old pastor at StuffMart the other day.  Fortunately my pentacle was hidden inside my coat so I didn't have to feel awkward around him.  We did the usual polite catching up and he told me that Walk through Bethlehem had been canceled because of a "God thing" that happened last week at church.  I, of course, expressed polite curiosity.  Then he let me know that a woman I knew from there had lost her husband to an industrial accident.  I had seen it in the paper but didn't know it was her husband.  And our former youth pastor and his wife had lost their year-old daughter to an apparent crib death.

A "God thing?"

Forgive me for not seeing how a "loving" god would rip a year old baby from the arms of her parents or a husband from the arms of a wife, especially right before the celebration of his "birth."  I came away from this conversation feeling a great deal of anguish for D & M having lost their daughter and for R losing her husband, but also a huge amount of anger that a system would force people to look upon these situations as a "God thing,"  I hated, hated that we had to swallow any outward grief and put on a face that praised a deity who committed these heinous acts against his people as an act of love.  Always we were told that God was in control and he never would give you more than you were able to bear.

Well, guess what!  "He" does give you more than you're able to bear.  Frequently.  It's just that you're not allowed to admit it. You're not allowed to question why he would kill some people and let others have miracles.  Or why there were abused children anywhere in the world.  Oh, yeah...supposedly he was there with them, hurting right along with them, letting them know they weren't alone and that was supposed to be enough.  Bull-fucking-shit!  They hurt alone, feel abandoned by the world and have no concept of a "loving" God who is supposed to be there comforting them.  In fact, some of them are being abused in Christian homes.

It boggled my mind how there was some kind of popularity contest when it came to prayer.  We were supposed to pray for people.  Often.  And get more people to pray, too, because the more people praying, apparently the more likely God was to do something for the person being prayed for.  So if you were alone and had no one, then it was only your prayer and apparently that wasn't enough since God needs numbers of people praying.  And why does he require people to pray over and over again for the same thing.  It's like he expects people to beg for his assistance.  Some "father" he is.  Some relationship that is.

So, yeah, I'm a bit angry again.  I don't get how suffering makes people better or stronger or helps them to grow spiritually.  I know of several people out there in blogland who treat suffering as something to be desired.  If you're not suffering, you're not trying hard enough.  If you're not suffering, God isn't testing you.  And if you complain about suffering, you're committing a sin.  I remember one Bible study lesson about how complaining was a sin as big as adultery.

So..."God" rips your life in two, makes your life a living hell but if you complain about it, you're not being grateful.

I am so glad I escaped that destructive and evil religion.  And yeah, I'm aware that some Christians out there distance themselves from that kind of teaching and claim that those people aren't focusing on God's love, but they are fooling themselves into leaving out all the parts about massacres and killing of innocent children, the raping of women and such by that same "loving" God.