A Little Love Dissection

Unconditional love.  It sounds like such a wonderful thing, instinctually we know we want to stretch out and bask in it, but what actually is it?

Well, unconditional tells me that it can’t have any conditions on it. Ergo, no limitations, no boundaries.

What if I and my loved one are separated by distance? Doesn’t matter, says unconditional love.

What if I and my loved one are separated by time? That we haven’t seen the other for many years or more? Doesn’t matter, says unconditional love.

What if my loved one hurt me? Doesn’t matter, says unconditional love.

What if my loved one is lost to me? Doesn’t matter, says unconditional love.

Unconditional love does not contain the other types of love, though they may often be present at the same time. Unconditional love transcends the other types of love. It is cosmic. It encompasses all. It knows no boundaries, no rules, no exceptions.

All other loves have their own edges. Times when they are present and reasons when they are not. They are not and never will be unconditional.  And this is good.  One is not better than the other.  They are different and they serve different needs.

When other loves are present, the potential for unconditional love exists. Whether it will manifest is dependent on too many factors to predict.

~Abysmal Witch

What Matters in Your Moment?

Every once in a while, usually when in the midst of a really good moment I’m not paying enough attendion to, I notice what’s important.

Lying on my couch, my fuzzy girl on my chest, I realize that I’m focussed on the television, on some movie or tv show that is already hard to recall.

And not on her, warm, purring and relaxed on my chest, one paw up to touch my cheek.

She’s getting old, my baby girl, over fourteen.  And she may have many years left, but also may not.

So I pulled away from the tv show, hugged her a little closer, focussed all my attention on all I felt with her curled up on me.

I took that moment into me.  Because she matters to me, far more than some generic entertainment.

What’s important in your moment?  Where is your attention?  These are the questions I hope to remember to ask myself more often.

~Abysmal Witch

With Justice to Ourselves

Today’s random reading selection was from Dion Fortune’s Estoteric Orders and their Work and the Training and Work of an Initiate.

In it one phrase caught hold of me, hard:

“with justice to himself”

The sentence it was from, for context, was “Upon this plane…man must function as a master; he cannot, with justice to himself, meet its entities upon equal terms.”

With justice to himself.

These days we are pretty good about self-entitlement and have something of a handle on justice for others (and more prevalent among women is the sublimation of self to others, but that’s a blog for another day).  But justice for ourselves?  Doing ourselves justice?

As I type this my thoughts want to slide over into the “what we’re owed” concept.  Again, what we are entitled to.  And kiddies (I’m one too, btw) I can tell you that we’re entitled to jack shit.  No guarantees in life.  No promises.  Nothing that we’re intrinsically, cosmically owed.  Many things that we may end up owed amongst our own community and culture, but there is no cosmic justice saying that I’m entitled to be set for life.

The only cosmic entitlement once we’re born is to have some fleeting time in life, however long or short that might be.

I think it is very easy for us to feel entitled for ourselves.  Just see my rant on the how Christmas has turned into the season of buying things for ourselves.

But this is not what Dion Fortune was talking about.  It wasn’t about being owed, it’s about owing ourselves.

What we really need is to ACT with justice to ourselves, our full Selves.  This is not about a liscence to shop.  This is about doing right by ourSelves.

What actions do we owe our Selves?  Which behaviours are truly in service to our Selves?  And which are convenient, easy or unconsciously distracting?

I had a lovely day out at Vancouver Pagan Pride Day today and so while I would like to ramble more on this, the sun (and sunburns, oops!) are getting to me.  Hopefully what I have gotten down makes sense to more than just me.

Sometimes I feel alone on my own Wonderland Island in the Sea of Communal Insanity.

Do your Self and your Life justice today and I’ll try and do the same.  Deal?

~Abysmal Witch

Paganism 101

Firelyte from Inciting a Riot made a facebook post that inspired this train wreck of a thought.  😀  Though to be fair, it really had nothing to do with what I’m planning to talk about.

What he said that got me thinking (and we know how hard that is!) were the words “paganism” and “101” in a related sentence.

And I end up thinking “is it possible to have a Paganism 101 book?”

I don’t think it is.

We have Wicca 101s and Heathenism 101s and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see Druirdry 101s and there are tarot 101s and rune 101s and herbalism 101s.  Or in other words, there are intro books to all kinds of topics that are of interest to pagans.

And oh gods, I’m going to do it.  I can’t believe it, but I am going down the road that all sane pagans should avoid:  defining paganism.

My gods, there are almost as many definitions of paganism as there are paths within it.  With nuances and blatant differences, arguments and bickering.  It’s a point that pushes us away from each other rather than drawing us together (funny, isn’t it? given that it is a community term?).  But I’m going there any way.

This is my opinion.  It is endorsed by no one by me.  YOUR WORLDVIEW MAY VARY.  And that’s perfectly grand and fine.  However, if you end up agreeing with me, I can’t help but think that’s a little grander and finer, but then, we’re all egotists at heart.

My definition is born out of what I witness as being included by those within and without the practices that get lumped under that poor maligned umbrella.

There are two components:  magical practice and spirituality.

Only one is required for falling under the pagan umbrella.  Yes, I am saying that you do not have to be spiritual to be pagan.  You also don’t have to be a tree-hugger.  Neither do you have to believe in magic.

Magical practices that tend to get lumped into paganism:  hermeticism, occasionally alchemy, thelema (yes, that’s the Crowley stuff), hoodoo (though this one is frequently debated), witchcraft as craft, not religion.

Spiritual practices that tend to get lumped into paganism:  wicca, druidry, heathenism, voodoo (sometimes but debated), goddess-worship, reconstructionist religions (particularly of Europe)

Some magical practices have a spiritual component.

Some spiritual practices have a magical component.

Any and all of these get lumped as paganism.  It’s no wonder that my paganism isn’t like anyone else’s.  And neither is yours.

Stage 2 of my definition of paganism.  How a person is identified.  You can be a) self-identified or b) identified by others.

We generally allow for self-identification of paganism…and not.  But you know what?  That’s only half the battle for me.  If you self-identify as pagan but your behaviour is that of a muslim, I will disagree with your self-assessment and do not consider you pagan.  If you do not self-identify as pagan but your spiritual practice revolves around goddess-worship, nature-worship and seasonal celebrations, well, then, you can deny it as much as you like but I’m still going to view you as pagan.

Not that I discount the self-identification.  But frankly, it alone doesn’t do it for me.

Now coming back for a moment to the spiritual component, obviously it is more complicated than just a simple list.  How do we decide which spiritual practices count as pagan?  Well, if they are european reconstructions or descendents, excluding Christianity, we tend to include them.  If they are nature-based, we tend to include them.  If they have goddess worship (but not Mary), then we tend to include them.

If a practice has a strong connection to one of the “big” religions, then it ain’t paganism.  But still, it’s not like we’re everything that’s left over.  Some people like to include First Nations practices in paganism.  I personally consider paganism to be a european creation, but I’m willing to negotiate on this one.  And that, my dears, is the fun part of paganism.

It is a communal fictional dream.

There is no one practice that constitutes paganism.  You can’t even say that a magical component is required because it isn’t!  You can goddess worship and nature worship and old god worship without ever touching magic.  Yes, many of the spiritual practices under the label do have a magical component but that’s cuz we like to have a combined world rather than a segregated one.  But when you look at what we include under the umbrella, it is most definitely NOT an AND situation.  It’s an either/or/and situation.

So given all this, how could there possibly be a Paganism 101 book?

To have an intro book on how to do something, there has to be a single, DEFINABLE practice that is done.  All of the 101s I listed above are definable and separable from the topic herd.  Paganism is its own topic herd.  You’d have to cover a dozen different items in a Paganism 101 book and even then, none of them would have to be included and you wouldn’t cover every possible pagan contingency.

None of them would have to be included.  Doesn’t that say it all?

I can’t think of a single requirement that applies to all groups that can be considered pagan.  Not one.  Okay, not one that can’t also be applied to any other major religion.

There is not a unique identifier to paganism.  Not one thing you can point at and go, absolutely, ALL pagans have that.  There are things that you can point to and will think ‘well, hell, ya, that’s pagan all right.’ but nothing that applies to everybody.

I’ve been in pagan groups with the hermetic, the thelemite, the druid and the wiccan, and the self-identified pagan who adheres to no particular path (but who embraces some of the components listed above).

Oh, those pesky “i’m pagan” people.  They make it extra tricky.  They’re not in one of the handy dandy defined categories listed above.  They’re comfortable as being just pagan.  Their spiritual practice may be earth-based, it may be goddess-based, it may not be.  But you watch them in their behaviour and you’ll either agree with their statement or not.  If you do, well they self-identified and you agree, ergo they’re pagan.  If they do, and you don’t, well they may not be.  They may be inappropriately using the label.  It does happen.

So given all this, do you think it’s possible to do a Paganism 101?

If it is, what would it look like?

Honour the seasons?  Hugs some trees (I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, I’m just enjoying saying it…now I want to go and hug a tree, either oak or willow I’m thinking)?  And don’t forget that if you’re interested, there’s this magical thing that’s possible to?

So, again, no, I don’t think it is possible to have a Paganism 101.

HOWEVER, none of this means that I don’t believe in the pagan label.  I do.  It unites us with people who also seek to elevate themselves, who celebrate the same things we do (mostly), with people who make the best conversations.  By banding together in a larger group we become a greater force.

And by allowing such fabulous diversity amongst our ‘bigger’ group, we help to keep ourselves open minded and flexible.  And that is a recipe for health in my book.

And with that, my beloved crazies, I have reached the end of this ranting tale.  Til next time, live strong!

~Abysmal Witch

It’s Your Life

It is, you know.  Just yours.  No one else’s.

You decide when to get up and when to sleep (don’t try that “I have to get up for work” shyte on me because working is still a choice, making it your decision ultimately to get up.)

You decide who to love.

And who to hate.  (You may be influenced by other people, but your emotions belong to you, and no one else.)

You own your life.  All of it.  Every scrappy, crappy, happy piece of it.

So sink your hands into it!  Go deep, into the wrists, the elbow, the armpits.  Sink down deep into your own life and wrap it around you like the smoothest fabric, the softest embrace, the best, most tangled, wrapped up, caught up, cuddled up enfolding of yourself into yourself.

Take hold so deep, so hard, that no one can ever separate you from yourself again.

Grab hold of your life and love it, hate it, feel it, share it, f*ck it, dream it, OWN it.

It’s yours.

Not your friends’.  Not your parents’ or your family’s.  Not your boss’s and not even your kids’, pets’ or fern’s.  It’s bloody well yours.

And absolutely no one can tell you otherwise.

Not even yourself.

You can try and toss away your life, your responsibility, your choices and decisions but in the end such actions always fail because no one owns your life but you.

Which means no one can ever take it away from you.

It’s your life.

Live strong.

~Abysmal Witch

The Not Lost Art of the passing Head Nod

As I was out walking today (and there will be another post later because there are pictures to be had!), enjoying the sunshine and mildly envious of the crowds out picnicking and bbq’ing (how I love bbq’d food), I cheerfully nodded to many of those I passed.

Not really a big deal, it’s jut a head nod.  So how does it rate a blog post?

Because I have a feeling it’s something that just isn’t done that much anymore.  And it makes me feel good and connected, and therefore I want to share it and give others the opportunity to enjoy it (assuming all of you aren’t already doing this and I’m the late bloomer of the crowd).

The first time I really noticed it was many many years ago when I first started to play in the SCA  (Society for Creative Anachronism – recreating the middle ages as they should have been, similarish to a ren fair).  Several hundred people at the festival site, dressed up and not very appropriately for the weather, all of them strangers to me (I knew 3 people on site).  And everywhere I went people nodded to me.  The nods tended to be slow, stately, and accompanied with a smile.

What a wonderful feeling they gave me.

I was connected suddenly with all of these strangers.  I was alone and knew no one, but I felt welcomed in and accepted, all by a boatload of simple head nods.

When I got home from that weekend I noticed that the head nodding continued.  It was a very quickly acquired habit.  So there I was, the very next day, on a walk on my lunch break, and nodding at every person I passed.   Okay, not all, but those that made eye contact with me got themselves an actual, certified, Saturn head nod.

And you know what?

Those people nodded back.

I’ve been doing it ever since.

It is the smallest thing ever.  Just this little movement of the head.  And with it you acknowledge the other person as a fellow human being walking on this planet, just as you are.  And you are acknowledged in return.

It is a most remarkable affirmation that costs nothing, not in money, not in time, not in effort (if you consider a head nod effortful, you seriously need to get moving more).

And you might say that the result is equally small.  But give it a try first.  See how you feel as you walk along, meet someone eye’s and nod your head at them with a little smile.  And they do the same back.

Okay, sure, not everyone will meet your eyes, not all people nod back (though most who make eye contact do nod), but enough that I, at least, start feeling connected again.

And it’s not just ‘the older generation’ that nods back (though I guess they probably are more likely to), but people of all ages react positively to this small courtesy.

If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot.  Let me know how it works for you.  If you’re also a head nodder, high five!  With a head nod.  😀

~Abysmal Witch