Category Archive for 'Paganism and Spirituality'

Recent rituals – first week of May

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

MM,

I had a private group ritual last week. We celebrated Beltane. I was asked to Priestess it – I didn’t write it, but was happy to Priestess it. I was thinking recently that I needed to Priestess more rituals that I didn’t write to get more experience. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get enough experience if I was Priestess for only the rituals I wrote. It was an honour to be asked of course, and it should always be. We were making clay figures of things we wanted to work on in the home. I was having trouble deciding what to work on, and realistically, I just need a bigger place. I ended up making something to represent a yacht. Hey, why not aim big? Well, it looks more like a boat with a mast, but it’s the intent that counts more. I put me and my better half on it, and of course, my three kittens. Since I had some clay leftover, I also made a mini-cauldron. I need one. It would help with some ritual work. Since it was also a Beltane ritual and we were playing with what the Priest that night kept calling “essentially Play-do”, a little silliness was to be expected. Yes, we got a little silly while working on our clay. 😉

Sunday public ritual was an air related ritual. We ended having to move our ritual location because of some people playing soccer in our normal location. A pity, but it is a public park, and I was told that they appear to be the same people as last year in the park who didn’t want to be nice and move. Thus, there was no point in asking. Besides, presiding Priesthood seemed fine with moving the ritual location because we moved to a cliff area overlooking the riverbed – definitely more appropriate for working with the element air. As it was a small group that night, it was fairly easy to move everyone and to get them back down the hill afterwards. Unfortunately, anyone who showed up really late would have missed ritual. We had someone run back down to the normal location to look for any latecomers and bring them up, but we couldn’t rightly have them run back and forth all night. Moving the ritual to an alternate location was probably good for me as it requires me to get to know the park a little better. I’m finding that being outdoors as Summoner gives me a real connection with nature. I’ve participated in rituals at the park before, but even then you are surrounded by other people and you don’t quite feel alone with nature. The Summoner is often alone and that makes a difference.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Recent rituals in April

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

MM,

I ended up writing and performing the last ritual for my group. Two of our members were moving away, so I wrote a little ritual for them. It involved giving them some tokens as blessings to take with them, as well as talking about how we met them or what we remember most about them (fun!)

The ritual for the women’s group was a dedication ritual for a wonderful woman. I love watching the dedication ritual – almost want another one myself! Ah, I just have to get a hold of the ritual so I can read over the meditation again. I just think it’s a great reminder of why I got dedicated to the gods to begin with.

Public ritual on April 22 was the “Ceremony of the Magical Eucharist” by the OTA as mentioned in my previous post. The ritual format was significantly different than Wiccan rituals, but some aspects were the same. If you know your history of Wicca, you will recall that Gerald Gardner based many of his rituals on the Golden Dawn and other ceremonial magical traditions. The bare essentials of opening, purifying, consecrating, and then closing ritual space was done. This was done using the OTA methods, which are based on the Solomonic and Golden Dawn Tradition. The following ritual outline, which the OTA calls a “ritual precis”, was handed out that night to inform people of what to expect (I’ve highlighted in bold the main part of the ritual):

Preliminary Preparations
OTA Standard Temple opening on the Outer Plane:

  • Proclamation and Traditional Questions
  • Qabalistic Cross Ritual
  • Lighting of the Quarters
  • Rite of Preparation
  • Rite of Purification and Consecration
  • Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram

Declaration
Statement of Ritual Intention
Celebration of the Magical Eucharist
OTA Standard Temple Closing on the Outer Plane
Declaration

I note that they had a specific method and order in which they perform each section of the ritual. The “Qabalistic Cross Ritual” and the “Lighting of the Quarters” was particularly interesting. The ceremony of that alone is worth researching into. The “Rite of Purification and Consecration” was fairly close to the Wiccan standard purification and consecration. Involves essentially bringing the elemental tools around the circle intending that the sacred space be purified. Consecration was done after that in the east quarter. The “Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram” comes from the Golden Dawn, and a comparison with the Golden Dawn could be made. The main part of the ritual included sharing the wine in the chalice. Overall, it was quite interesting to watch. It reminds me that I have to get a copy of the Golden Dawn book published by Llewellyn.

Public Beltane was this past Sunday (although Beltane is officially today, May 1st). It being one of the more popular sabbats (the most popular undoubtedly being Samhain) attracted more people to come to the ritual in the park. It was a good crowd. Unfortunately, Beltane is also the sabbat where afterwards people tend to get a little more silly, a little more rowdy, and occasionally a little easier to upset. What’s a party if you don’t have to stop an argument/fight from happening? Ah well, that’s what the Summoner is for, and that’s what I had to do. Glad I had some help though. It’s hard to stop a bull charging (not literally, of course) much less hold one down. I suppose I’m not surprised that happened. My whole Sunday was a really bad day – things kept going wrong right from when I woke up. I decided I must have a Beltane curse because I’ve never had a great one. I think I must avoid Beltane at all costs unless I absolutely have to be there. It must be a side effect of having a patron goddess who is associated with Samhain (the sabbat directly opposite to Beltane). Beltane is just not her time, and she must have been flying around all night (it was a beautiful night, waxing moon out) screeching and wrecking havoc. *chuckle* I think she’s calmed down now though.

Anyway, that was my first full night as Summoner in the park. It’s always Beltane that’s the first night out (unless it rains, and then you’re a lucky Summoner). Hopefully, the rest of the rituals in the park will be much easier. It really is only on Beltane that people stay around to celebrate after the ritual (though technically the celebration is part of the Beltane ritual). Okay, knocking on wood with my fingers crossed. Only two sabbats left that will be out in the park and the rest are regular ritual nights. In another month or so, I will have to start looking for the next Summoner to succeed me. *sigh* The final decision lies with Priesthood, but I still have to provide a list of candidates.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Recent rituals

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Public ritual on the 8th was about organ donation. If you plan to be an organ donor upon your death, you should discuss this with you family members so they understand your wish. Otherwise, the law states that the family decides what to do with your remains.

Public ritual on the 15th was a ritual about the community again. This time we made a community chain. Everyone was given a link in the chain and then were required to attach it to another link until every piece was linked together. A rather lovely ritual.

This week we’re having guest Priesthood perform a ritual. It will be the “Ceremony of the Magical Eucharist” by the Order of the Temple of Archallem (OTA). “Eucharist” means “gratitude” and “thanksgiving”, so I’m guessing that is the theme of the ritual. It will be interesting to compare this ritual with what we normally do in Wicca. I will have to take mental notes.

BB,
Cassandrah

Public ritual – April 1

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

MM,

Ritual last Sunday was a beautiful dance and music ritual dedicated to waking up the goddess as it is now spring. It has been a little cold lately, so perhaps the goddess needs some encouragement?

The whole ritual was done by dance or music, in particular drumming. Beautifully put together and performed. The Priestess portrayed the goddess who was asleep during the winter months, then she woke up to the sound of our music and dancing.

The only criticism I have about the ritual is that the drumming was too loud for an enclosed area. The drumming was sustained at 100 decibels during a few parts of the ritual. Now concerts reach 100 decibels, but those are held in a much larger enclosure. Our temple fits comfortably thirty people. I don’t really think for thirty people in a small room we need drumming at a 100 decibels.

If they can manage to control the volume of the drumming next time this particularly ritual is done, it will be one of my favourites.

After the ritual, I was reminded of the Korean sword dancing. As Summoner, I couldn’t dance that night. (Oh well, that’s my sacrifice this year!) I ended up thinking about how I could dance with a staff, if it was made for my height. Then, I thought of the Korean sword dance. Hopefully someday I have time for that.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Rituals in March

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

MM,

It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been crazy busy as usual, but I’m finished working on something important, so hopefully things should ease up for me.

Public ritual on March 11th was a song and music ritual. It reminded us of how we learn from music and song. Ah, the stories you can tell with just one song.

Ritual on March 18th was public sabbat – spring equinox. Yay! It’s finally spring. Is it warm enough yet? Time to stop hibernating? The ritual was dedicated to Artemis, Greek maiden huntress.

My private group met only once this past month. It’s been crazy for everyone lately. We met up for a spring equinox ritual where we blew eggs and then coloured them. We made something yummy with the eggs, of course. Mmm… the wonderful taste of blessings from the gods.

Public ritual on the 25th was dedicated to the community. We have at WCC a stone which we call the “Teutates stone”. Teutates is a Celtic god of the tribe and the people – very much a community god. The stone was found years ago in a riverbed. It was half buried in the riverbed, and the other half was not even in the river. This is very significant because the Celtic worldview consists of land, sea, and sky. A place that featured land, sea, and sky was held to be very sacred. This stone came to WCC already sacred and was thus named for Teutates. The ritual gave people a chance to hold and commune with the stone for a bit. A nice ritual. It is often nice for people to be reminded that they are still a part of the community, even if they only come out to public ritual once in a while.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Korean Sword Dance

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

MM,

In light of a recent ritual involving dance and music, I’m reminded of something I still want to study one day (assuming I ever get the time) – Korean sword dance.

Here’s a video of probably the best Korean sword dancer:

Sword dancing seems to be a tradition in Korea, as there are quite a few movies featuring it. One of my all-time favourite movies, The Duelist (Hyung-sa) which happens to be Korean, features a beautiful dance/”fight” scene between the two main characters. The man is using a sword and the woman is using two daggers. A beautiful scene – best understood in the context of the whole movie.

I might just have to return to gumdo classes, if I can’t find a Korean sword dance teacher.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

What I Am Studying

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

MM,

Aside from reiki, Wicca, and martial arts, what else am I studying you may be wondering.

It’s funny how following a spiritual path leads you in all sorts of directions. For one thing, I seem to have gone full circle and I’m studying more about my heritage and genetic roots. Thus, I’ve been studying a bit of China’s history and culture as well as Cantonese.

Cantonese is the dialect of Chinese most similar to my own (there are reportedly hundreds of dialects, but they are probably dying out as the Chinese government made Mandarin the official language, which is taught in school), and is the one most commonly spoken amongst North American Chinese people. Mandarin is being spoken more often by the next generation in China since it is forced on them in school. Basically, Cantonese was the most common language in China before the rise of communism there. With the upheaval in China in the mid-twentieth century, many Cantonese speaking Chinese left the country and went to North America. Thus, Cantonese is what you are likely to hear amongst the older generation North American Chinese – those who immigrated here as well as the first generation North American Chinese like myself. However, there are also many Chinese who left who spoke one of the hundreds of different dialects, like my family. My mother speaks Cantonese but in the home she speaks what I just call Toi San, after the name of our hometown in China (the town is now a small city called Taishan, which I hope to visit one day). Because the town of Toi San was fairly large, there are quite a few speakers of Toi San as well. Cantonese is very similar to Toi San, the major differences being the consonant sounds at the beginning of a word or syllable. Since I do hope to visit China one day, I thought I should learn to speak the more common dialects, plus you really can’t learn any other dialect of Chinese unless you grew up with it. Since Cantonese is closer to my dialect, I decided to learn that first and then Mandarin later. This is just the spoken language. The written language for Chinese is the same. The written language for Chinese (composed of characters) is unique in that each syllable is written not as it sounds like, but as the idea. Thus, the characters do not inform you as to what word needs to be sounded. You read Chinese as if you were looking at multiple pictures. Because the written language for Chinese is the same regardless of the dialect spoken and nowadays you can only learn to read and write using Mandarin, I will have to learn Mandarin just to make the learning to read and write Chinese easier.

Cantonese is both difficult and easy to learn. The easy part is that there are few actual sounds in Cantonese. There are only six consonants that may be used at the end of a word/syllable, and there are many homophones (words that sound the same). However, because of the many homophones there needs to be a way to distinguish between them. This is done by using tones, though you might be able to determine the correct word by the context. This is where the difficulty lies. The ear needs to be trained to hear the difference in tones. Those who are tone-deaf will definitely find Chinese challenging, and I’m not sure if there is sign language for Chinese – I imagine that would be difficult.

However, it is said that is easier to learn Mandarin once you know Cantonese, but it’s harder the other way around.

Writing Chinese is fairly easy. There are rules for how to write the characters. Each character is comprised of a “stroke”, and each stroke must be written in a specific order. These rules for stroke order are fairly straightforward. Once you have that writing Chinese is easy. It’s the reading that is difficult. Because each word/syllable is represented by a different character and the character does not give you any idea of how the word sounds, you have to be able to see the idea the character represents. It is said that to read a standard Chinese newspaper, you need at least 1000 characters. About 3500 characters are probably used. A well learned individual should know about 5000 characters. A good Chinese dictionary consists of about 50,000 characters. For someone new to reading Chinese (and I am despite being Chinese, I grew up in an English society so I never had any need to read in Chinese), it’s quite a feat to learn just 1000 characters. The neat thing though is that the characters were based on images of what the characters represented. Thus, if one studies how the character for a word came about, it’d be easier to remember. Yay for me, loads of studying to do still.

I’ve also picked up a book on hieroglyphics, which is about reading and writing in Egyptian and Mayan. Hieroglyphics is commonly associated with Egyptian, but since hieroglyphs just mean “carved writing” it applies to Mayan as well. Egyptian hieroglyphs are like Chinese characters in that they depict the idea. However, Egyptian hieroglyphs also represented a sound. But they represented the sound that was part of the Egyptian word that is depicted in the hieroglyph. Ah… interesting. Because some hieroglyphs represent both sounds and an idea, there is a hieroglyph that indicates which it is – sound or idea. This is called a determinative. There are quite a few hieroglyphs, but surprisingly it’s fairly easy to read Egyptian hieroglyphs once you get used to it. You just have to get used to the different hieroglyphs and you can just use a reference book to look up the ones you don’t know.

Languages are interesting. They tell you much about the culture you are studying, and part of the reason I’m studying the different languages is because of this. I also find written language can be artistic, especially Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese. The other language I would like to learn is Irish Gaelic. It would give a more authentic and personal feel for Celtic rituals to be able to read the Irish texts without translating.

Speaking of art, I’ve decided to study up a bit more on drawing and painting techniques since I’d like to experiment a bit more with my watercolour pencils and crayons. Art takes a lot of patience and time because it takes a while to get used to a technique. Plus, there’s also the fun of experimenting and seeing what you can personally make up. I can spend a good night just playing around with the colours – mixing and blending just to see what comes out.

This is just what I’ve been studying lately – and I still haven’t gone through my reading list and work load yet.

Okay, back to reading… oh, um… yes, the Spartans and King Leonidas.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local renaissance woman
Brigid’s Flame

Movie Time!

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

MM,

I’ve been hankering to see another movie again lately. According to my horoscope, transiting Neptune trines my Ascendant until next February, which means that I will be tempted to escape and withdraw from the world during this time. Since this period is long, I can’t realistically withdraw for that whole time – not unless I plan on finding a monastery I can stay at. However, this astrological aspect provides a “spiritual cast” (I use www.astro.com for my forecasts) which means that it is a good time for me to focus on my spiritual studies more than ever. This also means that I’m tempting to absorb myself in certain movies (a way of withdraw from the world) lately – perhaps something that jives with my spirituality.

This time, I’ve decided to see 300, which is a movie version of the graphic novel by the same name. The graphic novel in turn is based on the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, a decisive battle during the Greco-Persian War. According to historical sources, three hundred Spartans participated in the battle against a Persian army consisting of millions. It was the willingness of the Spartans to give their lives up for a greater cause (than themselves) that helped turn the tide of this war. Supposedly this battle gave the Athens time to come up with a naval strategy that would hold off Persian invasion of Europe. (Imagine how different Europe would be now if the Persians won that war.) The movie and graphic novel tell the story from the view of King Leonidas of Sparta. In the end though, all three hundred Spartans including King Leonidas are killed.

The Battle of Thermopylae is referred to as the “most famous last stand” (see above link to the “Battle of Themopylae”). It is especially notable because although the Spartans lost the battle, they succeeded in diminishing the Persian army more so than normal considering the odds (three hundred Spartans against millions of Persians). Basically, the Persians lost more men than would be expected against such a small army. The reason for this is simply effective strategy. I find this battle to be notable because the Spartans display a sense of honour and duty – they stayed and fought although they knew they’d be slaughtered in the end. They did this because they believed in their cause. They knew that their actions and their ultimate deaths would mean something. Of course, they were right as history records this as such. The famous Oracle at Dephi was even consulted regarding this battle that the Spartans would engage in. From this, King Leonidas knew he was following his destiny.

I find movies like this touch me more than interpersonal dramas, probably because they move beyond our own selfish lives. Astrologically, I can explain my attraction to such movies by my Mars in Aries in the 11th house. Mars is the planet that represents aggressive action (such as war and battles). Aries is the sign that Mars rules, which means Aries also represents aggressive action. The fact that I have Mars in Aries in my horoscope means that aggressive action is doubly represented. The 11th house represents associations, acquaintances, and humanitarian issues. Thus, Mars in Aries in the 11th house for me represents aggressive action (war, battles) within the realm of associations, acquaintances, and humanitarian issues. Epic stories about the struggle and fight for the good of all definitely fit this description! (This also explains why I love Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Stargate so much. I liked Battlestar Galactica at first for this reason, but the writers for that show seem to have forgotten the appeal of the main story. See my previous post on that.)

Well, if I get the time I might do a review of the movie later. For now, I think I’ll read a bit more about the three hundred Spartans, King Leonidas, and the Battle of Thermopylae.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Recent Rituals

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

MM,

The past month has been quiet for me, at least concerning rituals. I’ve been in study mode mostly – you may have noticed less frantic posting as of late. 😉 Eventually, my brain just fills up again with too much and I have to start writing again!

Since February 18th was Chinese New Year’s and I also had to be out of the city that day, I had the night off as Summoner. (I just wouldn’t have made it back in time to get to the temple.)

Ritual on the 25th of February was based on the Roman festival, Lupercalia.

Ritual on March 4th was a simple ritual calling on the goddess and god and providing participants a chance to connect with whichever deity they normally associate with. As of late, there has been many rituals that are based on something more complex – perhaps a bit too intellectual too often for some. Sometimes, it’s nice to do something simple. I thought though that the ritual was nice just for that alone because as a participant you get a more personal feel in ritual.

The women’s group had their changeover this week, which is the installation ceremony for the Gatekeeper (aka Summoner), Handmaiden, and Bard. This is always a lovely ritual as it honours those who have willingly given in service for the past year and those who are stepping into service for the upcoming year. A ceremony like this is often important so people don’t forget how important they are to others. The three ladies did do a wonderful job the past year, and I expect that will continue in the new year.

As for me, I’m about halfway through my term as Summoner. It’s been good so far, I’m happy to say. I love being the first “Stick Chick” for the Toronto Temple – it’s a big honour. I actually can’t wait to be out in the park in the spring and summer (we go out in the park starting on Beltane in late April or early May, depending on which Sunday it falls), but my counterpart, the Hand, hopes it’ll rain every Sunday in the spring and summer! On rain days, we hold ritual inside instead. Frankly that would make my job too easy, as part of the challenge for me is to be out in the park at night standing guard alone. I think most people in today’s society grow up afraid of the park at night – kind of like wandering into the woods at night like in those horror movies. 😀 Well, it’s just a park, and in the summer it’s still light when we arrive there. Walking out of the park at night isn’t as terrifying as walking in there at night! In any case, we have a policy that no one shall leave the park alone at night. Since I normally walk into the park, I’ll shall accompany anyone out of it after ritual.

BB,
Cassandrah (“Stick Chick”)
Brigid’s Flame