Category Archive for 'Paganism and Spirituality'

Rant – They Never Give Up

Friday, September 14th, 2007

(Disclaimer: Anything said about the Christian group mentioned in this blog does not necessarily apply to every Christian. There must be some nice ones out there who aren’t trying to impose their beliefs on others.)

Okay, as part of my role as Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC, it is my duty to find a replacement at the end of my term. That I’ve done. Then, of course, I get this brilliant idea to take my successor to the Hamilton Pagan Pride this year taking place the day before the Toronto Summoner Changeover. “This should be a fun day for us”, I’m thinking. The idea is that we would act as backup, and we aren’t expecting much to happen.

Could I be more wrong…

Apparently, the Hamilton Pagan Pride day was so successful last year that (of course) it got the attention of a local Christian evangelical group called “By The Way Ministries” who plans to attend this year’s Pagan Pride in the hopes of “saving” (more likely, harassing) our “lost” pagan souls. Apparently, other religions aren’t allowed to have a nice little public festival (one day out of the whole year) without it being construed as some kind of “battle” against Christ’s faithful “oh so innocent” followers.

Here’s what By The Way Ministries has to say about the event (see link above):
“We need faithful prayer warriors. During this event, there are dedicated Pagan believers who are praying against Christian homes, leaders and labourers. Even though this event seems harmless, be prepared that there is major spiritual warfare taking place.”

Supposedly, By The Way Ministries has some former druid or witch acquaintances who claim that “Pagan Pride Organizers are prepared for opposition by religious groups and have dedicated themselves to prayer for such an event.” Uh-huh. Sure they really were druids or witches? Last time I checked, pagans spent most of their time not even thinking about Christians, and we certainly don’t bother fighting some “spiritual war” with other religious followers. In fact, I’d bet that most pagans spend more time trying to keep their own lives in balance and at peace than fighting some “spiritual war”. Are these Christians so self-centred and desperate for attention that they assume everything in the world revolves around them? Sorry, but the center of MY universe is me (me, me, ME!) and not them. What is with all this drama? Seems to me that some Christians need to grow up a bit – the world isn’t high school. I suppose though that if you’re so scared of other people fighting a spiritual war against you, the world probably seems like a big scary monster about to bite your head off. (*Chomp!*)

Okay, seriously though. We pagans just want one nice day to have a little festival and fun, and to let the public know that we aren’t really that scary. We’re normal people too and we certainly aren’t intent on harming anyone (but I will defend myself if physically attacked). Last time I checked, peaceful gatherings were allowed in a public park. Just because we’re pagans or a religious group that’s not Christian doesn’t mean that the gathering is suddenly dangerous and that we’re all of a sudden mobilizing our forces to attack in some great “spiritual war”. Sheesh. Go home and watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ or something – just leave us pagans (and other religions) alone.

I’m hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I’m hoping that all this group is going to do is walk around trying to hand out brochures and pamphlets. I’m hoping that they won’t be rambling at every pagan (or non-pagan who’s pagan-friendly) and scaring them away from the event. I’m hoping that this group will know the line between freedom of speech and harassment before crossing it. However, I don’t expect anything less than a group of Christians intent on ruining what should just be a peaceful and fun day for pagans and non-pagan pagan-friendly people. Guess some people are so unhappy with themselves they never give up trying to make others unhappy.

Okay, time for me to go meditate some more and pray against these Christians… just kidding! I’m going to meditate on the notions of peace, harmony, and fundamental human rights (i.e, the right to free speech and the right to practice our own faith – visit the Amnesty website linked on the right menubar and read about other human rights issues).

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Books, books, and more books

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Most recently, I’ve been reading astrology books since The History of the Horoscope re-kindled my interest in the “ancient study of the stars”. After some searching I settled on buying a book called Aspects in Astrology by Sue Tompkins. It’s quite informative and provides a decent guideline of interpreting various aspects in a horoscope – always good to have a starting point. Another good astrology book is Robert Hand’s Planets in Transit. Like Tompkins’ book, Planets in Transit is a good guideline for interpretation, except for transits. Both these books describe the basic idea and theories behind interpretation and then give you interpretations with the caveat that you will always need to custom your interpretations to the individual horoscope.

Spending so much time studying (Western) astrology, I decided to study Chinese astrology in more depth. Years ago, I read Peter Shen’s The Traditional Art of Chinese Fortune Telling, which is quite amusing and practical. Recently, I picked up Derek Walters book, The Complete Guide to Chinese Astrology, which is about the best book on Chinese astrology you can get in the English language. Sadly though, I noted a few things in the book that were either incorrect or dubious. Most of the book was informative though. (I will recommend that you acquire the the 1992 edition of the book by Aquarian Press if you can as the appendices in the later editions of the book have been changed and instructions for their use are not clear. I also note that the missing line on page 64 reads “…the I Ching (see table opposite). Of the eight creatures allotted…” since the author has not cared to note this misprint in his own book.) I shall note also that this book by Derek Walters is lacking any real instructions on how to cast a Chinese horoscope. Of course that’s what his other books are for – you will want to read The Chinese Astrology Workbook and Ming Shu.

Chinese astrology is interesting because there are actually different branches of it – all of which are based on your birth time and date (according to the Chinese calendar, solar or lunar birth date – see my previous blogs about the complexities of the Chinese lunisolar calendar). One branch of Chinese astrology uses the I Ching. The Astrology of I Ching is the book that introduces this branch of Chinese astrology. The book consists of a translation of the “Ho Map Lo Map Rational Number” manuscript by W. K. Chu along with commentaries by W. A. Sherrill. It includes instructions for this branch of Chinese astrology along with the predictions. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the I Ching and wanting to learn something of Chinese astrology.

After reading The Astrology of I Ching, I found a copy of The Numerology of the I Ching by Master Alfred Huang at the city library. It is an informative book and provides some interesting insights into the I Ching probably not found in other books. Based on this book, I would recommend getting his translation of the I Ching as I’m sure his insights have helped in translating the meanings of the I Ching hexagrams into English.

Then, after all the studying I decided to take a break. A change of reading material was in order and I was in need of something fun. I recently finished reading two children’s novels.

The first was a little book by Tolkien called Roverandom. The book is an amusing fantasy tale of a little dog who is turned into a toy by an impulsive (and perhaps thoughtless) wizard. The journey the little dog takes while a toy should bring you some cheer on a dismal day. Of course, the ending is a good one.

The second children’s novel was the first book in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old millionaire genius and “criminal mastermind”. In this first book in the series, Artemis Fowl challenges the minds of none other than… fairies! Of course, we mean fairies of all sorts, goblins, trolls, and elves included. Fowl’s devious plan unwittingly involves a spit-fire of a fairy called Holly Short. What happens when you’ve got these two together, you will just have to find out. The first book in Artemis Fowl is definitely an imaginative introduction to the series.

Now, I have set myself the task of finishing book six (Lord of Chaos) of The Wheel of Time and book one of The View from the Mirror. Three other novels I started reading as well are Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, and Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – all of which are well-written. Titus Groan and Gravity’s Rainbow are classic novels, and I’m betting Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell will become a classic in the years to come.

Okay, back to some fun reading…

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

July rituals

Monday, July 30th, 2007

July 1, 2007

Canada Day – we were outdoors. I have no idea what the ritual was about. It was a small gathering. The participants did a spiral dance – from a distance, that dance does look like a neat spiral. Guess that’s what it looks like when the Priestess knows what she’s doing.

July 8, 2007

Thunderstorm watch all day. Thus, we moved indoors for ritual – good thing too because it rained the whole night. It was nice to be in the temple again, although it was hot and humid. Some nights I don’t feel like dealing with the mosquitoes or any strangers in the park.

July 15, 2007

We had the Interfaith Group as guests for this ritual. Although it looked like it might rain, ritual was outdoors. Luckily, it didn’t rain. It’s interesting having the Interfaith Group at ritual – people always have lots of questions and are curious. Hopefully, we made a good impression.

July 22, 2007

This was a public Betrothal ritual for two members of the community. They specifically asked for a public Betrothal because they thought it might be nice for people to have the opportunity to see one and because they felt like sharing with the community. It looked like a nice ritual. Hopefully I get to see one when I’m not busy being Summoner.

July 29, 2007

Lughnasadh/Lammas sabbat ritual. It was a little quiet for a Sabbat night. The ritual looked interesting – something about looking in the woods for “blue succulent sweetness”, which was just someone in blue carrying a basket of blueberries.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

A reflective moment

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The gods have a way of reminding you of the important things in the world.

I went to a party on Tuesday. Amidst all the silliness, you learn much about the people around you. You learn something of yourself as well, such as a seemingly unexplainable attraction to a new young male in the community. (Though astrologically, my Moon conjuncts his Sun and his Moon trines my Sun.)

Perhaps my instincts have improved over the years. Having met this person briefly a few nights earlier, I thought he seemed intelligent and thoughtful. Tuesday at the party I observed his interactions with people. I introduced him to Nathan who’s a good judge of character, and a little party shy unless he’s talking with someone bright and interesting. They got to talking about acting and writing while I admired both of them from a distance.

What am I reminded of, you are wondering?

I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have someone like Nathan in my life. We have a totally open and honest relationship. We tell each other everything, even our little “crushes”, our admiration of other people. We are honest about this because it is natural. It is inevitable that you will find other people attractive or have some bond or something in common with someone else besides “your one and only”. We don’t think of each other as objects to be possessed (although I like to joke about him being all mine). We just value the time we share together. We value the fact that we like being together. As Nathan likes to put it, he’s just glad I’m here.

Relationships take work. Part of that is honesty, with yourself and each other. Otherwise, it will just fall apart. Relationships are not about limiting yourself – they are about expanding yourself. Relationships nurture and should allow you to learn more about yourself. I’m reminded of the things that have happened in my life that Nathan has been there to witness – all things that have helped me grow and expand as a person.

First, I was Handmaiden for a semi-private women’s group, and I was in six months of physical therapy after recovering from knee surgery. I tested and received my first dan black belt in taekwondo in the summer of 2004. I had my Dedication in March 2005. (After years of already knowing I was a pagan, I finally decided to have a Dedication.) After about five years at one do jang, I switched do jangs – not an easy thing to do once you’re a black belt (you have to get used to the new do jang and its internal social structure). I tested and received my second dan black belt at this new do jang in the summer of 2006. In September 2006, I was given the chance to be Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC. In October 2006, I was Neophyted into the Odyssean tradition of Wicca.

These are all major life events that Nathan has been witness to in my life (he had to deal with my grumpiness while fasting for my Neophyting ritual). Through it all, he always encouraged me and never held me back. He encouraged me to write more (something I knew I should be doing) and to pursue my goals. No one has done more for me than he has – ever. I am eternally grateful for all he has done for me. (And yes, it is a bonus to be able to admire other attractive young men without him being jealous and possessive. Although, he is protective of me – a big difference to being possessive.) He even encourages me to have fun when life gets too serious and a tad stressful (even buying me an Emily the Strange comic book 😀 ).

For some reason the gods have decided to bless me with him in my life. I love him dearly. What would I do without him in my life, I do not know. I imagine I’d feel more lost than I already occasionally feel at times. He keeps me grounded and yet promotes my dreams and aspirations (as I also try to do for him). For those wondering what love is… well… if this isn’t love, then I’m not sure what really is.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Chinese ancestor grave ritual

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

In Chinese culture, there is an emphasis on ancestor worship. There is a national holiday in China where everyone must perform a ritual at the grave sites of their ancestors (Qing Ming which takes place around April 4th). There are also other important days in which one must perform these rituals.

Recently, I went with my mother to the cemetary where my paternal grandmother is buried. I hadn’t gone with my mother to the cementary in a long time and thought to go this time where I helped her with the ritual for the ancestor.

At the grave site, we first cleaned up the area around the headstone. Since the headstone was not upright but put into the ground, the grass can grow over it. Thus, it is important to trim the grass around the headstone and ensure that the ancestor’s name is completely visible. Incense and flowers are placed in front of the headstone. In front of the incense and flowers, is a tray holding three small libation bowls each with a set of chopsticks and a big bowl of food. The bowl of food consists of a large portion of cooked pork, two eggs cut in halves, three pieces of traditional Chinese sponge cake, three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with sweet bean paste, and three pieces of Chinese dough stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and vegetables. To the right of this setup near the headstone is a cauldron for burning “hell money”. After some time, rice wine is poured into the three libation bowls. Then paper with gold foil (not sure what these are called, may be symbolic for gold) and “hell money” is burned. This is burned so that the ancestor has money to pay off demons in the otherworld. After burning the gold paper and hell money, some time is spent quietly with the ancestor at the grave site. Then finally, before packing up, one must bow to the ancestor’s grave three times with hands held together in front. After everyone has bowed, only then can you pack up. The food laid out for the ritual may then be taken home to eat.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Rituals in June

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

June 3, 2007

Public ritual was inside as thunderstorms were expected. The ritual was an experiential ritual. The participants were blind-folded, then they held hands as they walked carefully around in a circle while the presiding Priestess and Priest read something akin to a meditation to them.

June 10, 2007

Out in the park again – I got mosquito bites again. What a pain! I should never listen to anyone – mosquitoes bite through my clothes. I had pants on and I still got bit on the legs. It might be because the legs are close to the damp grass – the mosquitoes just crawl up my legs – eek!

At least the ritual didn’t take very long.

June 17, 2007

Public ritual involved making a community portrait, a”Portrait of Summer”, to be hung at the church. The portrait is to remind us of the warmth of summer during the winter months when we are indoors. We signed the back of the portrait before ritual started. During the ritual participants were to glue flowers to it on the front. I placed my flower before ritual started. Overall, it was a simple, nice ritual. The portrait looked lovely.

June 24, 2007

Midsummer was a ritual play based on the story of Diancecht, a healer deity in Celtic mythology. Afterwards herbs were given out as a form of divination as well as for personal uses. Since Nathan was there, I asked him to grab a herb pouch for me. I had a feeling I was going to get something significant to my role as Summoner. I got tarragon, a herb associated with Mars. The description says “Promotes care and compassion for others. And also protects against unhealthy self-sacrifice, promotes strength and independence.” What’d I say? Significant, huh? 😉 Note the “protects against unhealthy self-sacrifice” – very important to a Summoner!

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

TTWG moon ritual

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

May 31st was a full moon. I ended up doing a ritual for TTWG. Actually it was supposed to be a combined ritual with my group.

It was fun to do a full moon ritual. I did a ritual to Hekate and Hermes. The ritual was about magic since it was a blue moon. A full moon is considered powerful for magic. A blue moon is the second full moon in a month, happens about every 2.5 years, and is thus more powerful than an ordinary full moon. The ritual was fairly simple. Some brief words about magic, and then we spent time absorbing the power of the blue moon.

Unfortunately, it rained earlier that day so the ground was wet and damp and there were lots of mosquitoes. I got uncomfortably bit on my hand and on my legs (where the repellent rinsed off when I was cleaning up afterwards – have to be more careful with applying the repellent; otherwise it works).

Overall, it was fun to do a ritual for a small group. There were five of us in total, and I was happy to do a public ritual – good practice for me.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Reminder – Reiki Level Two course starts next Saturday (June 9th)

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

A week and a half left to register for this course! I will be taking registrations up to 48 hours before the course start time. If you want to register, please call or email me by the morning of May 7th.

LEVEL TWO (OKUDEN)
Saturday, June 9, 2007
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(one-hour lunch break at 1 p.m.)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(one-hour lunch break at 1 p.m.)

Please see http://www.brigidsflame.com/reikicourses.html for course description and contact information. You will need to contact me for fees and location (located near Yonge and Bloor).

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Rituals for the month of May

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

May 13, 2007 was Mother’s Day. Keeping that in mind, public ritual was about motherhood and the nature of being a mother. We had to move our location in the park that day because some people were using our normal spot (probably left right when we would have to start). Priesthood wasn’t around by 8:15 that night, so I decided to find another location. We got a little spot just off the main clearing where there was an apple tree. We then formed a circle around the tree. I thought having the tree in the center was a nice idea. In any case, I got lucky and didn’t have to do ritual. The Priestess was running late and showed up just in time.

May 20, 2007 – Yay! We got our park location back. Really didn’t think the same people could be in the park every Sunday for the whole spring-summer season. The ritual that night was one dedicated to Athena. That is about all I know. I spent most of the night hiding in the trees keeping an eye out. I’m starting to get used to being in the park by myself there. Really, I’m not alone because there’s a group of people in the distance. Amazing how well you can hear at night in the park.
athena ritual

May 27, 2007 – It was raining, so public ritual was moved indoors. It cleared up by the time ritual started, but it is likely that the park had some large puddles. The ritual was an “Eldering” ritual, that is, we acknowledged someone as the community’s Elder, in this case Rod aka Tarostar. The ritual recognized the contribution he has made to the community. It was a lovely ritual and Rod was dressed in Elder gear. I note that looked very much like the hermit in tarot cards carrying his staff and dressed in a robe (although the robe was red). People really look different in ritual some nights.

My private group did a spring cleaning ritual this month. This consisted of burning down remnants of past rituals such as papers and leftover candles. I had a good pile of leftover candles to burn down, mostly because they were large pillar candles that didn’t burn down well. Hehe… I made the fire grow quite big. Think it scared the Priestess that night though – not used to the big fires yet even though a big wok contains fire quite well. I thought it was still fun though – didn’t even get cold that night. 😀

This Thursday I will be Priestessing a semi-public ritual for TTWG. It’s a blue moon that night, that is, the second full moon in May and also, the third of four full moons in spring (a season usually only has three full moons). Blue moons happen about 2.2 years. (If you understand the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the reason for this is the same as for a leap month in the Chinese calendar. Although the blue moon isn’t necessarily at the same time as the Chinese leap month – the Chinese calendar involves different calculations.) Because the blue moon doesn’t happen every year, I wrote a simple ritual involving blue moon magic. Hopefully it will be fun for people. If you know about TTWG, you know that the full moon rituals are always held in the park year round – rain or shine. So far, it looks like rain, but warm. Hopefully, we will still have some fun on Thursday.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame