When Your Pet is More Than A Pet – Familiars and Avatars

When Your Pet is More Than A Pet – Familiars and Avatars

Author: Bronwen Forbes

As a prologue to this, you need to know that Herne has been my patron God since I was nine years old. You don’t need to know, but you’ll probably figure out by reading this (if you haven’t already) that sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.

A few months after adopting my red and white beagle mix Herman, I was trying to sleep in one Saturday morning when I began to idly wonder, “There are so many Goddesses with dogs as part of their symbolism. I wonder what Gods are associated with dogs, too?” And then it hit me like a two-by-four to the forehead. Herne, Lord of the Wild Hunt, is very much associated with dogs, especially red and white hunting dogs, than you very much. (I warned you I’m a little slow sometimes) .

Needless to say, sleep was no longer an option. I sat up and looked at Herman (who had spent the night, as he usually did, asnooze at my side) who was already staring at me with a definite, “took you long enough to figure it out” expression.

And just like that, I not only had a familiar, I had an avatar.

I’m defining “avatar” here not as a recent hit movie or a small picture that represents you on various blogs or discussion boards, but as the earthly representative of a deity. And for the love of me, I hadn’t a clue what to do with mine.

Four months later, we adopted a German Shepherd mix named Katie – and lo and behold, she was also what my husband likes to call a “God-touched” dog. But unlike Herman who was also my familiar (notice the past tense; I still miss him) , Katie let us know pretty quickly that she had no interest whatsoever in being my husband’s familiar, but would happily attend her Goddess Nehelennia’s tasks of safe travel, healing and commerce. Period.

Since acquiring Herman and Katie in 2001, I’ve alao gotten the clue what to do, not just for my special dogs, but for anyone else who may wake up one morning and see deity shining through the eyes of their pet.

First and foremost, and I know this sounds obvious, you have to keep treating your pet like a, well, pet. Your animal companion is your spiritual and or magickal support (familiar) or a little bit of deity (avatar) but he still needs proper food and water, adequate shelter, regular veterinary checkups, exercise, training, vaccinations, etc. After all, it’s not like the Gods can or will take care of your pet for you.

But once the regular, responsible pet ownership duties are taken care of with your familiar or avatar, there are still some things you need to think about to keep your relationship with your animal companion – and your deity – as smooth and fulfilling as possible.

1. Remember that, despite her spiritual role in your life, your pet is still going to act like an animal. Herman used to drive me crazy with this. He was a daily reminder of my relationship with my patron deity, helped me work through some serious ritual issues, was a whiz at helping new students ground and center simply by sitting in their laps during ritual – and he was also a master escape artist. He could climb or dig under any chain link fence, and did so on a pretty regular basis.

Katie, a born healer, is also a big dog and an unrepentant counter-surfer. I can’t begin to count how many times I packed my lunch, left the kitchen to get dressed for work, and came back to find my lunch bag and food containers in Katie’s crate and my ex-lunch in her stomach. She may be God-touched, but she’s still a dog!

2. Give your familiar and/or avatar full autonomy regarding ritual attendance. This includes personal workings, small group rituals, festivals, and rites of passage. Shortly after my Saturday morning revelation about Herman, my husband and I took him with us to visit my parents for the weekend. While we were there, I helped my parents bury the ashes of our old family cat in the side yard garden – an understandably emotional activity. Herman was in the back yard, separated from me by a picket fence. He could see me through the fence, but couldn’t get to me. As my father dug a hole for the ashes, Herman went nuts, for want of a better word. Instead of pursuing squirrels (his usual pastime in my parents’ backyard) , he was throwing himself against the fence and barking frantically, trying to get to me. I should have stepped over the fence, opened the gate, and allowed Herman to join the small ritual. After all, he only wanted to do his job.

There have also been instance and rituals where Herman or Katie did *not* want to attend a particular ritual, and we quickly learned to “listen” to their opinions – rather like knowing that it doesn’t feel right to take a certain tarot deck with you when you go do readings at a community event. We learned this lesson the hard way when we took Katie to a ritual she clearly didn’t want to go to and she had a seizure.

3. Give your pet enough down time. Just as you can’t be in ritual 24/7, it’s unrealistic to expect your pet to be “on, ” i.e. actively acting as a divine representative or helping you with your spiritual work all the time. Don’t bug him to help you if he clearly doesn’t feel like it – the fact that he’s asleep or ignoring you are clear signs that he “doesn’t feel like it.”

If you find yourself needing extra protein, water or sleep after a working or ritual, offer some to your familiar or avatar as well.

If you have a pet that also enhances your spiritual practice or connection with your deity, you have been given a gift beyond price. Very few animals, at least in my experience, can do this, and if you get one or even two in a lifetime, you have truly been blessed. It’s also not something you can actively look for; it’s like love (actually it *is* love) – the more you try to find that special animal, the less likely you are to succeed.

Be patient. If and when you’re ready, the right animal will come.


Gnostic Paganism

Gnostic Paganism

Author: Howard Winkleman

“We do not know what God is. God himself doesn’t know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.” ~ John Scotus Erigena 840 AD

What’s this then? Am I about to declare some sort of absolute truth? In the same mold as those I have been unable to commit to my entire life? No, I don’t think so. It’s just not that easy.

I have tried on numerous occasions to choke down dogma for a couple of different faiths; ultimately however it always comes right back up! Truly and sincerely, I had given Catholicism, Wicca and Asatru a real effort, as well as Catholicism for my lovely mother who I always trusted and wanted to please.

Wicca was my next spiritual interest (between the ages of 12 to 19 and after Catholicism) , seeing as how one is bombarded with the subject when perusing alternative faiths and I already being a lifelong occultist of sorts. To me, having been raised in a family of Catholics — who fascinated me with some of their superstitious practices that I did not recognize at the time as being candle magic (lighting prayer candles to petition the saints) and divination via playing cards — Wicca seemed like home. Then finally I gravitated toward Asatru for the sake of my ancestors and myself as I wanted to honor my blood, and folk soul through the revived religion of the Germanic people.

I however knew” there was, for me, something ‘not quite right’ about them… and all other established religions. I felt that I had to keep searching. And as it turns out, that’s what Gnosticism is all about: the search for “gnosis”, or knowledge.

What kind of knowledge you ask? Well, that is a very personal knowledge of god and the creation. The true Gnostic seeks to discover for himself, through mystical means, the true relationship between himself and the creating force.

Knowing that the gods are immeasurable, incomprehensible, and beyond all mortal grasp, arcane, and occult knowledge is used to pursue the loftiest of all purposes: light. Light is the only way to see in the darkness of this world. To seek this light is to seek the keys to the kingdoms beyond.

And what are we left with? Truth? We have hopefully by this point ascertained that truth is truly obfuscated in its subjectivity, so we pursue light in an attempt to see.

So what are all these religions people are on about? Well, considering what I have just said, I am certain of the existence of a grand architect of the universe — the all father, progenerator of that first spark, the one to start the first domino fall leading through the aeons to this day — as well as a whole host of lesser deities, arch beings, spirits etc.

The various pantheons known to men are composed of these forces, some by different and varied names, some ancestral and unique to a people. Do I feel that all the established religions are rubbish? Certainly not. Their elitist, pompous, only what they say is ‘right’ mentality is the rubbish.

Men have written ALL the books. Some have had divine inspiration, and or, intervention, so the authors say. I choose Odian paganism as my personal path, yet I am well aware that all religions simply put the truth into a cultural context, which resonates for them.

Gnosticism is a perspective that can be incorporated into any worldview as a philosophy, Thelema being the best example of this. Paganism is the lens through which I choose to view things.

While Gnosticism is at the heart of my beliefs, the model in which I choose to work and bend from are Heathen, British isles, and heretical Christian all at once. While Gnostic is at it’s core, that aspect should never even be considered except on rare moments of reflection. One should be able to be a good pagan and know the gods are real and active in one’s life.

While the gods are unique individuals, you will find many correspondences across the board from one system to the next, hinting to me, at the underlying, ultimate truth: the All-Father — creator, that ancient unknowable entity, beginning of mankind and all worlds seen, and unseen — the thread that runs through everything, connecting us all to truth, to him. He is the spark of life that unfolds into men and gods, who merely play at existence atop this slumbering giant. The ancestors know the secrets; you will only discover after you join them.

So embrace your particular version of the gods, be it a Celtic perspective, Asatru, Hindu, Cthulhu or what-have-you! If you find it difficult to stick to a pantheon, then don’t. It should not be a challenge; it should feel as natural as what I have just shared with you does for me. We just need to know in the old way.

To know you need light. If you cross a room in the dark, you may believe your keys are here or there, yet with the lights you see them and know. We should all seek light until we one day KNOW. Know where we stand, who we are, and why… thus granting us the ultimate relief, peace and wisdom. No religion required there.

I have a strong belief in the “other world” as it were. I believe that within this world reside spiritual beings who are hierarchical in the sense that some are more powerful than others, just as some men are more powerful than other men. The most powerful among them could be deemed gods. I am comfortable doing so. Knowing this, I also know that these forces are unknowable in the mundane sense of knowing.

All things considered, I believe gods to be representations of cosmic forces, timeless and nameless. If you were to invoke the archangel Michael for example, you would truly be invoking the protective force he represents. The same force may be invoked by another tongue in other words.

Know they are there and powerful. Just don’t try to pin them down. You will be run about in circles trying to catch them. I have tried to no avail.

To Advance …Or To Go Within

To Advance …Or To Go Within

Author: Sarrestia

Several years ago I was on a mission to find what books, what outlets, existed that went into the Advanced arts of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, etc. I didn’t succeed very well, in fact, after several days of religious online searching and bookstore hopping I became rather disenchanted by the whole concept of advancement. I did learn, however, that I am not alone in this. Hundreds if not thousands of pagans that enter into our respective paths reach a point where the 101 books are not only redundant, but become rather irritating with the same replicated material.

I realized, and constantly have to remind myself, that looking for advanced methods, an advanced teaching is the wrong approach. It isn’t about how to advance in one’s path, but how deep you have gone, and could go. And not just how deep into your path, but how deep into yourself.

With the massive amounts of books, websites, groups, etc. throughout the country I have noticed one thing: they all teach you the basics (which are bloody necessary in the beginning and throughout, for many concepts) but they don’t really teach you to stop looking out and start looking in. I have read Silverwolf’s books, Grimassi’s books, Cunningham’s books, Buckland, Conway, Morrison, Penczak, Andrews, etc. I have read their books, their 101 and branched-off books. They are all wonderful authors in their own right, and amongst each other. But their books are all about them, what they have learned, what they have done (Well, duh, you say, how else would they right a book, if not about what they’ve done?) , which is great! Many do have their little disclaimers stating that what they’ve done might not work for everyone, with a slight passing sentence stating that you need to figure out what is right for you.

In this day and age, when the young and the middle and some of the old are always looking for assistance, especially when they do not have the ability, in any way, of being around people with experience and with the knowledge and wisdom to pass on, that someone could hint or blatantly tell them that: you need to STOP reading this, and look at what YOU believe, what feels right to YOU and base your path, your actions on what YOU have learned about YOURSELF.

Which brings me to another point that I would like to mention: the lack of depth from the very beginning. Everyone who identifies himself or herself under the umbrella term of Pagan knows, if not in the beginning then later on, that the paths that we choose are not easy; they are bloody difficult. There are immense ups and downs, trials and errors, good times and bad times; but no matter what, at the end of the cycle when you stop and look back at what happened, what you overcame, you are damn proud of yourself, and even better you learned a lot about what it is you can do in your life. Even though the books and websites may say that it is hard, they don’t explain what that means. They don’t teach how hard it is and how much work you really have to put into it. Most of all, they don’t teach that the focus of your intentions, the focus of your work isn’t the world around you, but YOU.

I have always found it interesting when I see people performing Reiki, or some other psychic healing who are just as traumatized by their past as the people they are trying to help. How can you help anyone when you have done nothing to help yourself? Everyone wants to pick up on how to work with the many cool things that Pagans have at their disposal (which is one of the things I love about being Pagan!) , but they don’t want to stop and fix themselves first.

I also see, overwhelmingly, what happens when someone who has no concept of just how deep our paths can get see with their own eyes…and then freak the bleep out. Which is also probably the reason that I see so many young people coming into Wicca for a brief amount of time. They see some real sh*t, and then disappear.

I also find the ‘hidden’ seriousness of our paths is the reason that people have come up to me and said they had ‘dabbled’ in Wicca or one of the paths, before returning to their previous religion. [By the way, the following will be a severe digression from the above and below: these are the people who see the tattoo on my left arm (which happens to be a very personal symbol – that I created – of the goddess, triple moon with a pentacle in the full moon and the triquetra being help up by the goddesses’ arms) and feel the need to impart that they were ‘once Wiccan’.]

The discussion usually stems from my interest in talking with someone who knows about the different paths. But then I become irritated with these people when they inform me that they scared themselves by delving into the black arts. At which point, I want to ask them if they are truly racist and see the world only in black and white. At which point they call me a witch and walk away. But that is a whole ‘nother essay on my feelings towards Black vs. White…oooh, I’m leaving it at that.

I know what I am saying because I did the same thing. I came into this walk in my life bumbling along until I experienced my own Shamanic Death, which forced open the layers in my life and forced me to see why I do the things in my life that I do. And quite honestly, I did not handle it well: It took two AWOLs from the military and nearly cutting off all ties to my family and friends before I found the brass bra to start picking myself up out of the chasm I threw myself into.

All I am saying, really, is that maybe we should try to not surprise the new ones with the depth of what really takes place along these paths later on, but let them know in the beginning that there is a deep level of seriousness that underlies the laughter, parties, and joviality that are far more apparent by sight. That, while they are learning the basics of herbs, incense, the elements, the casting of the circle, the gods, they should also be working on their own lives, their pasts, their wounds and, also, what part of what they are learning actually means to them.

And if it is too late to learn this in the beginning, then to say: instead of looking for advanced concepts and practices, how about deepening yourself in your path, deepening your knowledge and wisdom? Instead of going out, go in.

Faith: A Measure of Courage

Faith: A Measure of Courage

Author: Phoenix Forestsong

Trials of faith are perhaps one of the most difficult and seemingly impossible to beat, truths of life. Do you believe because you want to? Do you believe because you need to? Do you believe because you’re afraid not to? Do you believe firmly, and with utter conviction from the fiery furnace that is your soul, simply because you do?

Being the over-analytical and opportunistically studious Witch that I am, combined with the convenient timing of a test of faith (I’m an optimist) , I began to wonder exactly what Faith was. Exciting stuff I know, in fact, it is so exciting that from the earliest days of mankind, we nearly instinctually segregated ourselves based on the unquantifiable attribute of Faith. Man has been gleefully and gloriously engaging his fellow men to kill, rape, hunt, sacrifice, maim, torture, enslave, debase, dehumanize, corrupt, ostracize, ignore, discriminate, and in every other way demean anyone whose beliefs differ in any way.

Faith. It led an entire nation of people who valued their beliefs above all else, their core ideals all based on the same essential beliefs, into the very example of Devotion. From the very earliest of times it was faith that led these people from a nomadic and pastoral way of life, into a Mecca of civilization and legend. From freedom to power to bondage, into one hell of a bad road trip and back into a great nation again, it was Faith, Devotion to their God that has held them together throughout time.

This group of people, their common beliefs uniting them, marched straight into battle for the very land of their new nation. Not only have these brave and noble souls won and lost their land, their nation, their very lives have been hunted in genocide. Even during those times, when the sky looked the darkest, when it looked like the curtains were just about to close and nothing mattered anymore; it was Faith that made the difference. Faith, with its immeasurable and intangible set of life altering philosophies and values, brought them back from the terrifying depths of extinction into the glory of nationhood once again…and again…and again…

Faith – A Test of Time

It is said that Time is the ultimate destroyer, that nothing and no one can ever defeat the ravaging and eroding effects of Time. I beg to differ. Read the following excerpt from an AP article that I found on space.com.

“Current estimates for the construction of the pyramids, based on surviving lists of the pharaohs, are believed to be accurate to within about 100 years.

But Cambridge University Egyptologist Kate Spence said that by analyzing the relative position of Earth and two stars, she has dated the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — to within five years of 2478 B.C.
That means the Great Pyramid is 4, 478 years old — or 75 years older than one commonly accepted estimate.”
-Stars tell the age of the pyramids, researcher says:
Alex Dominguez – Associated Press Writer posted: 11:18 am ET 17 November 2000

Scientifically, I get it. If you read the full article it states that the Pyramids were built with their north and south sides facing precisely north and south. By mapping the orbits of stars and calculating it backwards, two stars in the little and big dipper were always facing north and south. Thus, if you date it backwards and find where, thus when, those stars would have been aligned with North and South, you find the year! Ingenious!

It’s all Math! The universe, life, all of it and everything can, at some level, be quantified in an equation or counted in an audit. Everything except the spiritual…or can it be? I’ll leave the answer to that question to paranormal scientists, who I do believe are doing some good scientific work in expanding the science of the paranormal, to measure and prove. Until then, I’ll use my senses to detect Spirit, to feel faith, and to live in Devotion.

Faith – The Mouth of the Cave

Upon having our eyes opened with, oh…I don’t know, mankind’s rapid advancement in technology for example. There was once a time where men and women would willingly wait inside a forest for lightening to strike a tree in order to borrow fire. Mankind at this very moment now has the amazing ability to incinerate selected nations, or the entire world with the push of a button. How stupid are we?

Primitive humans understood at a feral level the patterns of the natural world. In fact, these primitive people thrived by living in harmony with their world. If I were a primitive human, I would like to think that I would have enough common sense to stay away from things that obviously attract lightening!

“Enlightened Man” has left the comfortable embrace of the Mother and ventured out into the wilderness to visit her gorgeous daughter. Man has traveled into space, landed on the Moon, split the Atom, and discovered infinite possibilities and solutions to problems and ideas not yet encountered. Humanity, in only the past hundred years, has learned to fly without wings. He has decoded the message of DNA and broadcast a message of peace to anyone who is listening in the rest of Universe via intelligent machines that he built.

Our “Golden Age of Humanity” who has created new worlds via Computers and the Internet, who will shortly fill that world with a new form of life, has discovered many secrets and realized many dreams. Yet still, as we discover incredible Life-Giving techniques and technologies, we for some reason still stand in the forest amidst one hell of a lightening storm.

Personally I don’t seem to recall, but at what point did we decide that actually building many something’s that could potentially have the ability to blow up the planet was a good idea? Yet one wave of humanity passes over the horizon and realizes “Gee, that probably wasn’t such a great idea huh?” another wave is right behind assembling their weapons as they run to catch up. As a species, we haven’t really advanced all that much have we?

Humankind has traversed uncounted miles and topped many horizons, each time discovering and dreaming just a little bit further and further ahead. In the days when life consisted of finding the nearest cave for shelter and the weakest deer for food, minds did not stray from survival. Thinkers were born who were a little brighter than the rest of the herd. Eventually new ways, safer ways, better ways were discovered, dreamt up, imagined and manifested into reality, and were learned by the whole of society. Thus, mankind has advance one step at a time from the cave and onto the shores of other worlds.

Yet still, even with the realization that the bounds of knowledge and discovery are limitless, mankind refuses to believe in what he cannot measure. The allegory of the cave is an example of this, for once you have left the cave, wouldn’t you want to see what else exists? For time and time again has history displayed the arrogance and folly of those who refuse to dream. I can quantify a tomato because I can see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and perform numerous measurements on it. It is real because I can see it. Photons are light particles, a strange hybrid mixture of substance and energy that moves like a wave and a particle. The great inventor, Leonardo da Vinci, dreamt of some of our modern technology. Would the Photon, immeasurable in his day, be thought of as fantasy and magick? When I raise power, when my mother prays for one of her clergy, when I experience the divine, is that too not real?

Jules Verne, the great author, wrote works of fantasy and fiction. In his day his books were the stuff of dreams, a demented mind with too much time on his hands. It’s funny the way it is, how just a short time ago the works of fantasy are the stuff of our history. There are very few people who still live today who were never born into a world without flight. It’s commonplace. Hell, we have frequent flier miles!

If you were to go back in time and speak to the greatest minds of their day, a lot like two surfers’ excellent adventure, and tell them of our world and our dreams, how would that go over? Explain the mathematics involved behind thermonuclear fission to Socrates and then explain the very same thing to Thomas Jefferson. Which one will have the greater understanding? The more we advance, the further we see, and greater our dreams, which urge us onward over the next horizon…and the next….and the next… Why then, does our scientific community, people who were executed for their beliefs in provable science, and thus the “official world” still refuse to at least consider that which has not yet been quantified?

Our most brilliant minds have been able to prove, to the world of science, the existence of Black Holes. Black holes have no mass, thus no “weight”, their gravitational pull is so great that they eat stars and not even the light escapes. The only problem is this; no one has actually seen a black hole with his or her own two eyes. We have detected them based upon mathematics and theory, yet they are not really a physical object, rather a paradox of logic of and existence. Yet it is a scientifically proven and accepted fact that, yes indeed, black holes do exist.

I stand in a circle of power and I can feel my own energy. Seven nodes of light are mine, my chakras. I balance these energy centers and grow roots to ground. I feel the power, center my energy, and begin to raise power, attuning into the mighty torrent of Divine energy, spiritual energy. I focus my will into this power, this mighty and ever increasingly growing ball of energy, programming it with my intent. The time is right and my focus changes, I now direct this energy onto situation I am trying to better. I feel exhausted and must rest, but the wisdom gained from the brief communion with My Gods and the knowledge that the situation will be changed make a joy rather than a burden. I rest and I wait. Within weeks the situation begins to change, shaping itself to outcome, if not the imagined manifestation, of my will.

Everyone has this ability. Faith or faithless, it does not matter, for energy is energy, and energy is that which can be neither created nor destroyed. It is our Faith in our spiritual connection, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, or even in the all-mighty spirit of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everyone can experience it, we can’t see it but we can feel it and its effects. X-Rays were accidentally discovered in 1895, but in 1894, or 4 for that matter, If a person were to be exposed to high doses of X-Ray radiation, that person would be just as dead whether X-Rays were “real” or not.

We Are Spirits In A Material World and Other Law Enforcement Sayings

I really like the name of that song, because we are Spirits in a Material world. Science is the study of the world of the physical and learning the secrets of how things work in order to make newer and better things. Magick is the study of the world of Spirit, of energy, and learning the secrets of how to manipulate the physical world through the spiritual. It is impossible to find a person who has not had a spiritual experience, for a spiritual experience is not the same religious experience. The brief moment of peace and feeling of oneness with the local park during your morning jog is a spiritual experience. The feeling of love and acceptance from a parent while you were very young, all these are spiritual experiences as well.

Even the most devout science-loving atheist, who believes in nothing but the physical, has had the same or similar experiences. Some people are afraid of the spiritual while others disregard it. Regardless, Atheists, Christians, and Wiccans choose their own paths and personal beliefs based upon whatever makes that spiritual connection for them. So, if it can’t be quantified and personal experience is not scientifically acceptable, where can the materialist look to find some proof of Spirit? Something that is real will leave an impact on the physical world, the world of measurement, while something that is unreal, will leave no mark for it does not exist.

There is a way in which to see firsthand the mark that Faith has had upon the world. Look to Egypt, the great Pharaohs and their great tombs, built so long ago that their civilization has passed beneath the sands of time into myth. Their monuments remain, those great tombs, standing tall and proud amidst the stinging erosion of flying desert sand. We look to these monuments of our ancient brethren with awe and wonder, amazed by the incredible precision and craftsmanship involved in an age of bronze, stone, leather, and rope.

Look now to the people of Israel, the people of God, a group whose faith, whose belief in their spirituality runs so deep, that it predates the pyramids. For over two thousand years of recorded history the Jewish people have been repeating the tale of their enslavement in Egypt, where they were used to build pyramids. The official judgment is mixed, because there were some Hebrew names that were involved in the pyramids, but in any case just remember that at the time of the pyramids, the people of Israel were plentiful.

Today, the pyramids have cracked, crumbled, fallen, and deteriorated from the time of their construction. Some of these great tombs have vanished below the sands of time, leaving no mark of their existence. Israel is a nation once again, for its history is turbulent but infinite. While the Pyramids are aging and falling, and time is taking its cruel toll on them moment by moment, the Jewish faith is still alive, well, and having babies! Their culture is still largely intact and their faith still runs as deep as ever before. From slavery to power to genocide to being scattered, the people of this faith are what keep the faith strong.

Mass and Energy – Science and Spirit

Which is stronger, Material or Faith? Stone and steel are the tools of the material world, which are those things that can be created and destroyed. Energy, Thought, and Will are the tools of the spiritual world, which are those things that cannot be created or destroyed; however, they can still manipulate the material world. Which is stronger, the stone or the soul? Which of the two choices takes more courage; to grow and transform into something better or to be that which simply is and always will be until it is ground into dust?

As a race, we have evolved from the feral animals of our forefathers, to a deeply spiritual people rooted in nature. We then moved from the realm of spirit to the realm of science, where human understanding blossomed. Spirituality and science are not mutually exclusive, so as one blossoms, the other withers. It is time for humanity to take the blinders off and see the many beautiful vistas that await us. Leonardo da Vinci knew his helicopter would fly, just as his submarine would work along with his tank and his glider. He didn’t have to even build them but I’m sure that Leo knew that one day his ideas of fantasy would be manifested into reality.

Blessed Be,

-Phoenix Forestsong

-Stars tell the age of the pyramids, researcher says:
Alex Dominguez – Associated Press Writer posted: 11:18 am ET 17 November 2000

The Rise of Wicca and Neo–Paganism in the United States

The Rise of Wicca and Neo–Paganism in the United States

Author: Govannon Thunderwolf

Wicca is becoming the fastest growing religion in the United States. This statement was something I was hearing and reading more and more. Being a member of the Pagan community, I didn’t really notice any of this growth happening. The more books and articles on the Internet that I read, the more I kept seeing this statement. The research into this declaration became my focus of interest. What fascinated me the most about this account was the fact that Wiccans and neo – Pagans do not go around with the specific intent of finding converts. In the teachings and ideas of Wicca and Paganism, the idea of looking for converts is not encouraged and is looked down upon. Anyone seeking converts into Wicca or Paganism is breaking a cardinal rule.

Even though Wicca is generally a female dominated religion, there are men involved as well. Wicca is a religion that recognizes women and men as equals, but it does put a slight emphasis on women and the Goddess. Female witches out number males two to one in the United States, according to the Covenant of the Goddess’s estimates. Covenant of the Goddess is one of the oldest and largest Wiccan groups in the United States. They also state that much of the recent growth in Wicca and neo – Paganism has been among women. (Sanders xiv)

Where would someone look to find followers of Wicca and Pagans? They can be found anywhere and everywhere. The actual number of Wiccan and Pagan followers in the United States changes constantly, but in 1999 Helen Berger, a sociologist who spent ten years as a member of the neo – Pagan community, estimated that there are between 150, 000 and 200, 000 Pagans in the United States. It is suspected that there are many more among the ranks of Pagans today. Berger’s census also found that California has the highest amount of Pagans living within its boundaries at 15.7 percent, followed by Massachusetts at 7.6 percent, and New York at 7.3 percent. (Sanders xiv)

While there were many contributors to the construct of Wicca since the 1890’s, there was one man, who in 1954 wrote and published Witchcraft Today, and that man was Gerald Gardner (1884 – 1964) . Even though Druidism, Witchcraft, and other forms of Paganism were originally oral traditions, their revival is attributed to written text. (Clifton 14 – 15)

Very little is known about Gerald Gardner except for what is public record. He was a civil servant for the United Kingdom, and spent most of his career in Britain’s Asian colonies before he retired and settled in southern England. Gardner was one of the many who thought it more prestigious to have learned the “craft”, a term used for Witchcraft, an elder of one’s own family. Gardner didn’t claim to have learned Wicca from an elder of his own family, but did claim to have learned it from elders with family ties that went way back many generations. For most people in the Pagan community, it was well know that Gardner was considered a bit of a pervert due to his tendency toward bondage and ritualized punishment. It came through in his writings and ideas of practice, but the resurgence of “the craft” is mainly attributed to him. The people of Britain have always made changes to religions to try and make them their own, but Wicca is the only religion that originated in the United Kingdom. (Clifton 14 – 15)

Wicca is generally a solitary religion and seventy percent of its followers are solitary, taking personal responsibility for their own religious practice, rather than following an authority figure. Without a strict set of beliefs, “each practitioner can add or subtract beliefs at will, ” this is a part of what makes Wicca so popular. (Sanders 5)

Now I will continue this paper on three main reasons that I found the most compelling reasons for people of all walks of life to be drawn to Wicca and Paganism, beginning with a concern for the Earth.

The fear of Global Warming and preserving what we now have for future generations is a major common concern among contemporary Pagans. Most of modern society has lost an important connection with nature. In some cases there is even a fear of nature. To be fearful of the natural world, in which we as human beings came from, just as all life has, is quite a cause for alarm. When the system of Wicca was originally developed, its focus was on fertility, just as the ancients were focused on fertility. As history has shown, fertility was a main concern for all people in ancient times.

Life was hard for our ancient ancestors and fertility of the land, animals, people, etc. was the only way for them to continue life and surviving. With human fertility becoming less of a concern in modern times because of improvements in science, the focus has now shifted to nature. This change is another way in which Wicca and Paganism can remain a positive religion. It is a religion that recognizes change and changes with it. If something can’t change with the times, it will get left behind and become history.

The American mainstream religions have done very little to foster concern for nature. Never, have I heard of any sermons given on how people should be encouraged to care for the environment, be good caretakers of nature, and preservation of natural resources. This again, leads many to view Paganism and Wicca more approvingly. (Sanders 22)

Paganism also acknowledges nature by following the cycles of the seasons and life. Pagans and Wiccans are encouraged to live their lives by looking to nature as their guide. They live in the here and now as opposed to living and planning for the end of life. Through this view of nature, Wiccans and Pagans acknowledge their connection to all life and the greater cosmos. Many mainstream religious writers believe that honoring nature is not enough for religion or life because it contains violence and brutality. (Harvey 187) This worldview on life and nature is the basis for Wiccans and Pagans to believe in no absolute good or evil. All things in nature are good and evil at the same time and therefore it applies to life as well.

The second reason for the attraction to Paganism and Wicca is empowerment for women. The Christian church has treated women like “second – class citizens” for much of its history. This treatment of women is also prevalent in much of the Western world as well. (Sanders 22) Many women have become quite discontent with the Christian church. When women have expressed an interest in becoming more involved in the church, they are usually directed to make coffee and teach Sunday school. With the concerns of equal rights coming more and more to the forefront in our society, how do the patriarchal religions expect women to remain subservient? (Sanders 22)

For the last several thousand years of patriarchal religions domination of the Western world, large numbers of women have been searching for a spiritual existence free from the patriarchal dogma. With Wicca’s emphasis on Goddess worship, it attracts those women who want to find a spiritual side to their feminism. (Adler 207 – 24)

The feminist views of women have been the main driving force pushing Wicca to be accepted as a religion. Not all Wiccan groups are feminist though. Most Pagans and Wiccans have a more moderate view of the feministic ideas. Feminist Wiccan groups have dropped a lot of common beliefs in the Pagan community in favor of an all female belief system. By doing such things as only recognizing the female deities and eliminating the male deities, they are alienating themselves from the rest of the Pagan and Wiccan community. (Adler 180 – 81)

Many women have become quite discontent with the Christian church. When women have expressed an interest in becoming more involved in the church, they are usually directed to make coffee and teach Sunday school. With the concerns of equal rights coming more and more to the forefront in our society, how do the patriarchal religions expect women to remain subservient? (Sanders 22)

One doesn’t need to look very hard to see the atrocities that have been committed against women in history by patriarchal societies. One common saying in modern Pagan communities that can be found imprinted on t – shirts and bumper stickers is, “Don’t forget the burning times.” This refers to the days of the infamous witch-hunts. Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Evildoers) published in 1486/87 by Jacob Spenger and Heinrich Krämer was the authoritative witch hunter’s manual. One key phrase from this manual that modern Pagan writers like to quote is: “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.” (Clifton 100) This “authoritative” work also stated that women were created from the bent rib of Adam, therefore women are “imperfect animals” if they are even animals at all. (Pearson 302)

In the Malleus Maleficarum, inquisitors, the ones who were authorized to verify involvement in witchcraft, were informed that guilty women would make sexual pacts with Satan. Therefore, after this pact was made, any event in the local community that disrupted the well being of the people was most certainly caused by a witch in their ranks. (Pearson 302 – 3)

When the inquisitors were in search of a “witch”, one could be found quite readily. More often than not, the accused was just a woman that someone had a grudge against. Many also speculated that these “witches” might have been highly learned women, such as early scientists. Because of the ridiculous information contained in the Malleus Maleficarum on how to proceed with the “trials” of the accused, there generally was “no mistake” of finding them guilty. Guilty women and a few men as well, were relatively few in the colonies of America. On the other hand, in Europe the numbers of the accused were astronomical. Imagine the amount of people that lost their lives due to the feelings of resentment of some sort or other, such as the amount of land they owned or a person’s general success. Many Wiccans and Pagans feel that the amount of people who were actually true witches during these “trials” was closer to none. (Gibson 112 – 18)

The final main reason that I would like to point out for the attraction of Wicca and Paganism is the attraction of the supernatural. While Pagans and Wiccans accept the belief in an unseen world, forces, and entities, many, if not all, Christian churches, in these modern times, ignore this belief. In many cases, a person could stir up quite a bit of trouble for themselves by stating a belief in an unseen world in the Christian church. (Sanders 23 – 26)

Reading ones future by using tarot cards and runes are very popular forms of divination among Pagans and Wiccans. There are many other popular forms of divination and occult sciences such as the use of crystals. Even though many of these beliefs forms were allowed by Christianity in their early years of development, now these systems have no place in Christianity. Many people have speculated when and why this shift occurred. Modern science has been trying to validate these occult sciences for quite some time now, but with limited success. The simple fact that the occult sciences are being tested gives valid support in their existence. (Handbook of Contemporary 425)

There are still many things in the world that can’t be explained by modern science. In the acknowledgement of this fact is where modern Pagans revel. It still gives room for belief in the ideas of fairies, mythical beings, and other such beliefs.

Discussions of the supernatural will quickly conjure up visions and ideas in relation to recent popular movies such as Harry Potter, The Seeker, Lord of the Rings, and many, many other movies. While these movies and books quickly catch the imagination, their similarities to actual supernatural occurrences are very, very limited. For the most part, these movies and books are purely fantasy. Even so, there have been some Christian based groups that are in opposition of these forms of entertainment. They believe that it sways people, especially children, to take an interest in Wicca and Paganism. (Handbook of New 459 – 60)

As Catherine Edwards Sanders, a Christian journalist, points out, “most Wiccans [and Pagans] have thought more seriously about spirituality and some of life’s big questions than many in the secular and even Christian cultures. They have not been content to skate through life seeking the gods of fashion, peer pressure, or materialism, reserving religion for weekends and special holidays.” (30)

Most Pagans and Wiccans actually view their lives as being interconnected with the rest of the world as a whole. They realize that there are, in fact, fewer events in their lives through this interconnection with the rest of the world.

With the impending end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, there have been many theories in reference to the end of the world. In fact, recently the “dooms day” movies have been coming out more and more frequently. One can only speculate that as 2012 draws nearer, the apocalyptic world movies and theories will by coming out at a frantic pace.

In the Wiccan and Pagan groups though, ideas of the world coming to an end are not so prevalent. Many think that the date of 12 December 2012 will be a beginning of a ‘New World Age.’ Many experts believe that this will be an age of peace and interconnection with the rest of the world and beyond for the next 5, 200 years. The experts are also saying that the ‘veil’ that separates our world from the spirit world will be lifted. The descendents of the Ancient Mayan’s say that we are already in the twenty – five year timeline of this change. (Rennison np.)

This information of the coming change according to the Mayan calendar is something that modern Pagans and Wiccans are looking forward to.

In conclusion, is there a rise in the Wicca and Pagan belief system? Given the research, the answer would definitely be a resounding yes. The movement is very broad and difficult to pin down, but it has been noticed. Many authors and professionals are calling on others to try and do research on the subject. With others taking an interest in the movement, maybe someone or maybe a group of individuals will come forward with some new views or theories on this movement. With these new views and theories we can only hope to find a definite reason for this shift.

Until then, there will be many I’m sure who will take on this daunting task. There are hundreds of theories already studied or in the process of being studied. I’m sure that there are many other ideas out there that have not yet been discussed or found in the public forum. With the case of the ancient Mayans, their descendants have said that there is plenty more information that they are in possession of, but have yet to let the rest of the world know about it. Whether there is more information yet to come remains to be seen.

I’m sure that there other ancient civilizations out there that have possessed knowledge or information, now lost. Unfortunately, just as these civilizations have disappeared, so has their immediate knowledge of this information. They did leave behind recordings of information that are in the processes of being deciphered and theories investigated. The only problem is that many individuals in the modern world have a very difficult time believing what the ancients were saying. This in turn leads to very different ideas in what is being told, many times the information is right there, but many misinterpret the information only because the obvious is just too difficult to comprehend.

Works Cited:

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics) , 2006. Print.
Berger, Helen A., Evan A. Leach, and Leigh S. Shaffer. Voices from the Pagan Census A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States (Studies in Comparative Religion) . New York: University of South Carolina, 2003. Print.
Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: the Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham: AltaMira, 2006. Print.
Gibson, Marion H. Witchcraft Myths in American Culture. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Handbook of New Age (Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion) . New York: Brill Academic, 2007. Print.
Handbook of Contemporary Paganism (Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion) . New York: Brill Academic, 2009. Print.
Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism Listening People, Speaking Earth. New York: NYU, 2000. Print.
Pearson, Joanne. Belief Beyond Boundaries Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age (Religion Today-Tradition, Modernity and Change) . Grand Rapids: Ashgate, 2002. Print.
Sanders, Catherine. Wicca’s Charm Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality. Wheaton: Shaw, 2005. Print.
“Susan Rennison’s Website.” Susan Joy Rennison’s Website. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. .

So Precious Pet of the Day for Jan. 17th

Smokey, the Pet of the Day
Name: Smokey
Age: One year old
Gender: Male
Kind: Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
Home: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
My rabbit Smokey is very special to me for many reasons. This rabbit came from the breeder to the store, and had never been touched by anyone but me. He was so cute, I decided to get him right away. This is his picture from last Easter, didn’t he make the cutest Easter bunny?

That night I got him my whole life changed. This rabbit is super soft and cute. We named him Smokey because he’s grey. This rabbit likes to cuddle and play anytime. And he can really sense your emotions. For example, if I’m sad he’ll come up to me and put his head on top of my shoulder and sit there for ever until I feel better. If I’m happy, well let’s just say I can’t get my hands on him. He can go so fast when he’s jumping around, and running and leaping and turning! You would not believe it. He’s very special to me.

Are We Cleaning Ourselves to Death?

Are We Cleaning Ourselves to Death?

  • Eden, selected from AllThingsHealing.com

by Victoria Bender, All Things Healing contributor to Aromatherapy

We buy products to clean, deodorize and freshen our homes that have ingredients also used as pesticides and fertilizers among other things. Many of these chemicals are known and classified as poisons, carcinogens and toxins, but are not even required to be listed as ingredients on product labels since they are not considered consumables.

In fact, neither the state nor federal government regulates indoor air pollution, only outdoor. This means that common household products are not tested for whether or how much they degrade the air inside. We know that the olfactory nerve in the sinus cavity is the only opening on the body directly connected to the central nervous system and yet the FDA does not consider what we inhale or smell as a consumable. According to the National Research Council, “no toxic information is available for more than 80 percent of the chemicals in OTC household products. Less than 20 percent have been tested for acute effects and less than 10 percent have been tested for chronic, reproductive or mutagenic effects, and most have not been tested for their effects on unborn children.”

It is not uncommon to feel tense, tired and exasperated after cleaning even though you may be satisfied with the appearance of cleanliness. Have you ever considered the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals that you may have been inhaling and even absorbing transdermally throughout the process? According to the article written by Deborah Halverson, BA RA in the 2006.2 Issue of Aromatherapy Journal, “The chemicals and synthetic fragrances in commercial household cleaners contribute to a myriad of health problems, including multiple chemical sensitivity, headaches, allergies, and asthma; and studies done by the EPA show that indoor air may be anywhere between three and seventy times more toxic than outdoor air.” She goes on to expose that EPA studies contribute a major factor as the volatile organic chemicals found in cleaning products, and that pesticides and herbicides used in the home and garden are even linked with higher incidences of childhood leukemia.

My great grandmother was not only a dedicated farmer, gardener and lover of animals; she was also a fanatic about cleaning the house, after all – cleanliness was next to Godliness. She used vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda like there was no tomorrow, and I can remember her saying that she just didn’t trust those store bought cleaners and that when she smelled them she felt that, “They are trying to steal my breath away.” There were many things about the modern world that she did not seem to trust. At that time I saw her as an old fashioned and lovable eccentric. It wasn’t until several years later when I had my own home and set up an environment for my new Cockatiel parrot that I began to wonder whether my wise old grandmother might have been on to something. She had been in the habit of trusting her instincts and relying on her own innate responses to the natural environment rather than by being seduced by marketing techniques that eluded her by virtue of her media refusal.

The wonderful “Bird Lady” at the avian sanctuary where I rescued my new feathered pet warned that I be very careful about the use of household cleaners around my bird. She was very specific that I never spray air fresheners and especially to avoid carpet powders and cleaners around my bird cage or the results could be devastating. I am happy to report that I took her advice and many years later, I still enjoy not only the company of a very happy healthy bird, but many other vigorous plants, animals and extremely healthy children too.

And now as an Aromatherapist, I know that there is no limit to the simple, natural and effective recipes that I can concoct within minutes that not only save me money, but also serve to protect the environment and the health and well-being of my loved ones. I may have to scrub a bit more for some of the tough stuff, but isn’t it worth that?

With the use of essential oils that have proven antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, I can make my environment clean, my home and business smell fabulous and I can also rest easy knowing that I am avoiding the harsh chemicals and toxic synthetics that can lead to not only nausea and headache, but could also very well be contributing to other devastating health issues.

13 Natural Ingredients to Clean Almost Anything!

13 Natural Ingredients to Clean Almost Anything!

  • Jessica Kellner

Everyone wants a clean home, but clean these days means more than no dirt and grime. It also means no potentially toxic chemicals. Clean up your cleaning act by ditching toxic commercial cleansers in favor of homemade versions. With this list of grocery store basics, you can clean just about anything.

Shopping List

With these easy-to-find items, you can clean just about anything.

Baking Soda: scrubbing, whitening
Use baking soda to eliminate odors and to whiten. A paste of baking soda and water can help whiten sinks and bathtubs, and a box of baking soda in the fridge, bathroom or cupboard helps absorb odors.

Beeswax: polishing wood
You can forgo oily wood polish in favor of all-natural beeswax. Find a local beekeeper, and you support your local economy in the process!

Cornstarch and Club Soda (or any unflavored fizzy water): lifting stains
For a quick treatment to stains on carpets or drapes, cover the stain with absorbent cornstarch. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, then pour fizzy club soda to lift the stain. Also try cornstarch on oil dripped on clothing.

Hydrogen Peroxide: disinfecting, removing stains
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant. To kill mildew, combine baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to create a paste, put on mildew and allow to sit for a few minutes before wiping away.
Lemon: removing stains and odors
Lemons are a great all-purpose odor remover in the kitchen. Run half a lemon over a dirty cutting board to help remove odors such as onion or fish. Put half a lemon (chop it up if your disposal has trouble with large objects) down the disposal and grind it to remove odors from the kitchen sink. Lemon juice adds cleaning power to all-purpose solutions.

Liquid Castile Soap: sudsing power
Liquid castile soap is an all-natural, olive oil-based soap great for all-natural dishsoap, floor cleaner and more. For a floor or wall cleaner, combine a cup of vinegar with a gallon of hot water and a few drops of soap.

Olive Oil: polishing wood
Olive oil can naturally condition wood, as well as skin and hair!

Pine Oil: cleaning soft wood floors
Pine oil is naturally conditions wood floors, and it smells fresh.

Plant Essential Oils: chemical-free fragrance
Although they are chemical-free, pure essential oils are strong. Always do a sniff test before buying to make sure you’re not sensitive to the fumes, and use caution when handling pure essential oils. A few drops of essential oil can add antibacterial and antifungal power to a cleaning solution. Most important? They leave behind a fresh scent. Look for pure, undiluted essential oils in dark brown or blue bottles. Store away from sunlight.

Salt: scrubbing
Thick kosher salt gives power to your elbow grease. To clean stubborn soap scum, combine baking soda and kosher salt and scrub.

Washing Soda (sodium carbonate): scrubbing, removing stains and cutting grease
Washing soda is a powerful cleaning ingredient that acts much like baking soda but stronger. Use washing soda to clean toilets, or mix with water for a powerful all-purpose cleaner. Many natural cleaners recommend borax, but recent studies by the Environmental Working Group have found that it’s overly harsh. You can replace borax with slightly milder washing soda in nearly any recipe

White Vinegar: disinfecting, removing stains
White vinegar is a powerhouse of cleaning. Disinfecting and deodorizing, vinegar is a go-to product for germ-ridden spots such as countertops, door handles and telephones.