This moment, now, is the most sacred you will ever know, but then so was the one ten minutes ago or two years ago or next time you wash the dishes. The sacred is never more than half a thought away. Some things inspire the awareness of the sacred; a sunset, the sound of drumming, a stream in a forest, a birth, the way the cat wrestles with something unseen. Each of us is different and it should be for each of us, while similar, have unique experiences that have shaped us.
However we do not need sporadic places or times to feel that mystical connection. It takes some practice to bring that feeling of universal connection to something like cleaning the house, but its not hard either. No harder then cleaning the house in the first place, that is. Lets start with something simpler. Right now you are reading this. In a very mundane way you are connected to my thoughts at a certain time through my writing and connected by who knows how many computers across how much space to make that connection. In a more mystical sense you are connected to everyone else who has read this and to me, and through that connection to all the people who shaped my thinking, which led to me writing this.
Next time you eat a meal out try thinking of the connections that meal brings you. That meal is connected to all the people who serve the food, prepare the food, deliver the food to the restaurant, the management that keeps the restaurant running, the farmers who grow the food, even back to the source of the seeds, and the people who grew those seeds, back through time to first people to harvest the wild seeds that were then grown intentionally, breed, and have changed over time to make new strains. (The debate over genetically modified food is for other blogs). You are also connected to the animals that wandered the fields, the rain that fell, the trees that border the fields, etc.
Now you may be thinking that its easy to think about these, but you aren't really feeling it. Fair enough. For me it is a matter of balance. Sometimes the feeling is inspired by something random, which leads me to think about the connections, and other times its the thought that leads me back to the feeling. Meditation often helps. However, meditation does not have to be limited to sitting in a quite place. Meditation can be done while cleaning the house or going for a walk. Its really about being mindful of the moment, of your thoughts, of your breathing, of the clouds, etc. Just take the time to see the world as it is and except it. This does not mean you can not try to change things for the better; just be mindful that changes have consequences. Some things like cleaning the house have the consequences of better organization, more efficiency, more peace of mind, and and possibly better health. However on the other end of the spectrum it uses energy and takes time. These are easy choices and not that far reaching. However, little choices add up and as we change our lives, the lives of those around us also change because of the connections we have to them.
A ritual for our favorite morning ritual. I am one of those people who try to incorporate the everyday things into my spirituality. Part of that probably comes from a book I read in the mid 80's called Chop Wood, Carry Water by Rick Fields. So in the spirit of the everyday sacred moments I shall now endeavor to combine two of my favorite things... coffee and ritual... this will be a semi-serious Pagan humor philosophical experiment. I'm going to include the whole thought process of developing this. That way you also get a sense of how to put together a ritual. See it's humorous and educational... REAAALLLYYYY. lol
Why coffee? I'm well known for my coffee, for example... an 11 year old who had only known me for a couple months, bought me a bumper sticker saying "There is to much blood in my caffeine system." That should give you an idea how much coffee I drink! Speaking of which my cup is empty, so I think I'll get another...
Why ritual? Simply because it pleases me to mark the moments of life. Some people mark their lives with music or art or poetry or with a job well done... me? I do lots of odd and seemingly random things that interrelate different parts of my life.
Where to begin? Maybe I should combine the process of brewing the coffee, with a simple invocation.... ah I know... a ritual to make the coffee pot a ritual tool, sort of a blessed and charged item which turns the act of brewing into a sacred act with a simple daily prayer to recharge it as it recharges you.
So what do we need?
Well a coffee pot, obviously...
some coffee, I prefer whole bean and grinding it when I make a pot, so I'll include those...
a way to define sacred space, this could take many forms... I'll go for the four classical elements and a simplified ritual form. For me the kitchen is sacred space anyway. It is where the alchemy of cooking takes place.
I will write this rite the right way for a solitary practitioner.
For the sake of consecrating the coffee maker, I'm going to assume you have a outdoor place you prefer to do ritual, if not, then modify accordingly.
Materials required will vary according to the type of coffee maker you use: On the altar there are coffee scented candles, coffee maker, coffee grinder (if you have one), small bowl of used coffee grounds, and whatever containers you would put out for the sugar, cream, chocolate, etc even if you only keep a little on hand for guests.
CLEANSE THE SACRED SPACE:
(Take the small bowl of coffee grounds and sprinkle around the circle)
Grounds of coffee past
purify where thou art cast
Let only good things come to me,
And as I will So Mote It BE!
(Take the milk and sprinkle around the circle)
Milk where thou art cast
Give protection that will last
Let only good things come to me,
And as I will So Mote It BE!
by the air of the peculator and the drip, the fire that heats it, the water that transforms and the grounds of earth, bound together to bring forth the sacred coffee, come now and join me in this rite.
Hail and welcome Lord Java... keeper of the hidden secrets within the dark depths of the coffee cup, watch over us and give us the strength to get through our days.
Hail and welcome Lady Caffeina... who comes to us in many forms, watch over us and guide our thoughts to that which allows efficient use of our time and energy.
I bring forth these coffee supplies to be blessed and sanctified in your names. As the grinder takes the whole beans and reduces them to smaller useful part, so to shall the large issues of the day be made smaller more manageable part to make things run smoother. Let the carafe be a symbol of the cauldron of rebirth, so that it may bring forth a brew that will renew my body, mind and spirit with each new day. Allow the symbolic and chemical alchemy of the process that turns these separate elements into a glorious cup of coffee so that the air that is my breath, the fire that is my spirit, the water that is my blood, the earth that is my body will be renewed each day.
Lord and Lady and Elements of air, fire, water and earth I honor you with each cup I drink. Stay if you will, go if you must and visit often to join me for a cup of coffee.
Remember that where ever you set up your coffee station, you have dedicated it to renew your spirit. Take care of it and keep it clean. Create your own little saying for the morning while making your coffee. Keep it pre-coffee simple... like "Good morning lord and lady. Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit"
If you are fortunate enough have a coffee maker with a timer, you can make the ritual a little more involved if you so desire.
Well that is it for now. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings.
May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.
Cats... mysterious creaturesHistory has been full of stories linking cats to the bizarre and unusual. People love them, hate them, worship them, call them tools of the devil, keep them as familiars, and generally don't know what to really think of them. They are loving companions, yet proud individualists. Even as I type this, a cat has come and sit on my lap and is watching me type, purring away.
Here are a couple of personal stories involving cats...
One of the cats tripped me out the other day. I was sitting on the porch when Sheba walked up and under my chair. I reached down to pet her, there was a loud thump, I looked down, looked at the railing, looked all over the porch and yard... no kitty anywhere, after hunting for about 5 minutes I sat back down, 10 minutes later... thump and Sheba launches from under my chair onto the railing. Blink what the heck?
When I was about 12 years old I came home from school and plopped down on the couch. My cat was sitting near by and I swung my arm toward the TV and told the cat to turn it on... well it walked up to the TV, bit the nob and pulled. Sadly I freaked out a little. I loved that cat, but it never again showed quite so much understanding of what I was saying.
I had one cat that always joined me when I did religious rites. I would not bring him or do anything to call him. Sometimes I wouldn't even see him that day and then he would show up for ritual.
So are they smarter then we often give them credit? Do they know secret things about the working of the universe that we have yet to discover? I have had friends tell me about their cat that would pick catnip and plant the sprigs so more would grow... Cats that herd other cats to go on hikes with their human family... cats who mysteriously escape being locked in a room... a cat that somehow threw a machete across the room and nearly hit someone...
There are thousands of books on the cats in art, history, magic and culture. What is this fascination. All I know for certain is that even though I have a few scars from playful kitties, I love them.
Pumpkin soupThis is one of my favorite fall foods. I make it often for guests and at events. It is always a hit and I even get requests for it.
1 large onion, chopped
one pound of bacon, chopped
two 29-ounce can of pumpkin
2 cup water
3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 cubes chicken bouillon
2 apple, chopped and unpeeled
crystallized ginger chopped, to taste
Sauté onion and bacon lightly in large pot. Add pumpkin, water, apple cider, brown sugar, chicken bouillon, apple, and crystallized ginger to the pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir frequently.
I hold that being open minded is a wonderful thing, but one should also not be so open minded their brain falls out. Being spiritual or religious or whatever term you prefer come with a duty to think, analyze, make judgments between what is right and wrong, and also a duty to fight to the best of your ability against those paths that are wrong. What do I mean by that? Well, lets take the paths of the thugee and the inquisitor and the crusader and the jihadist and a host of similar ideologies that have and continue to exist in the world. Do you really want to call those valid? Now that does not mean you lump entire categories together. A rabid cat does not mean you should stop all cats. That is where the thinking and analyzing comes in.
There are many broad categories; Pagan, Buddhist, Christian, etc. However each of those categories break down to small categories; for example Christian breaks down into Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and a host of others. Even then if you look at a single denomination, say Methodist, look at it closely and you will find a host of conflicting paths under that same umbrella.
So this breaks down to the specific paths of the individuals, as it always should. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because something is making the water murky. Some ideas are easier to make decisions about; murdering in the name of your path most can agree is not good, though obviously not all would agree. A quick look at the current world and world history shows many have found that to be a valid path for them. Does that mean we should simply accept that? I don't think so. Every religion once held that slavery was good, but even within each of those cultures there were people who followed their own path are found that wrong and fought against it clear up to today whee the official standing of every country is that it is wrong. I say official, because it does still exist. However, through thousands of years of people fighting against it, we have made progress.
You may be thinking “those are just extreme example.” Well, yes they are. I hold that extremism is bad. However, saying “all paths are valid” is an extreme view. In fact it is a view that prevents you from fighting for what is right and good in the world. By saying you can't make moral judgments about other peoples paths (though lets not micromanage the whole world please), you leave the door open for the types of extremists mentioned above. If you do not actively do your best to fight those types of thing, then you are giving them free pass to perform them. You must make decisions for yourself, especially about where you draw the line. The extremists are making those same decisions and fighting for what they believe to be a right path. You can not fail to do the same. Most of the people who would read this blog would probably agree that any path that supports murder or slavery or racism or gay conversion therapy is not a good path. However, the people on those paths have thought about it and decided it is a valid path. It is up to you to educate people and get them to think as much as possible about these things. Question everything.
The hard part are those not so good paths that are less extreme and more insidious. For instance, what about the path of religious belief and practice where one person collects millions of dollars off countless people, many of who are living in poverty? Where do you personally stand on that? What can you do to make people think? What can you do to make people question and not just blindly accept?
These debates will continue for all time, and they should. Hopefully over generations we will progress. But remember, the arguments against slavery took thousands of years and it still exists. No answers will come over night, but choosing to not fight the things you believe to be wrong is to leave those forces unopposed. The reason it is called a spiritual path is because it is a journey. One where you will have to make countless decisions and continue to learn and grow. If you are not making those decisions you are no longer on the journey.
Learn more about the depth of your path. Learn more about other paths. Realize that sometimes paths that seem very different, say Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Kali worshiper, etc; can run closely parallel each other, such as the Crusaders, Jihadists, the current Buddhist terrorists, and the Thugee. At the same time, paths that people actually associate with each other, say all Christians, include very diverse paths from the Crusader to the pacifist and from the engineer who is deeply Christian to the Amish who shun most technology. Each path is an individual one, even though we tend to join up in groups.
Never stop thinking, learning, making judgments on how the world could be better. We may not agree on what better is, but keep the thought process active.
While this conversation over all must of course be about degrees of authority, I am going to talk about more absolute basics. I've had a great many conversations of people who say this author or that is authoritarian says "this is the way things are done", but that they prefer this other author. Which is fine as far as it goes and is a surprisingly authoritarian perspective to have. Stay with me a moment.
First, an author or lecturer or teacher of any kind must start with the most basic premise; there are either rules or there are not, if not, the conversation is already finished. There is nothing more to say at that point. If there are rules, well first you have to make sure you and the person you are communicating with are talking about the same thing. There is Traditional Wicca, eclectic Wicca, NeoPaganism, Asatru, and so many, many other versions and ideas. So this is actually trickier than you would think at first. many people use the same words, but actually mean very different things. This is also a step that many people have problems with not only writing, but understanding in reading. Scholarly books more often use this technique, but are not nearly as popular with readers.
Second, something I have found fascinating about the countless conversations I have had about this, is the simple fact that what people are really saying, without realizing it is "this author is good because they say what I agree with, but this other author is authoritarian because the way they say things is not what I agree with." Why do I say that? Simple. Every Pagan author I have ever heard of has been described by one person as not authoritarian, but authoritarian by another. They all say this is the way, very few say this is the only way, unless they are saying this is the only way to do what I do, and that is entirely correct. There are individuals who DO take things to extremes, but usually they loose followers on a regular basis. That is hard to maintain over people in the long run.
Third, any time you say "this herb (or stone or what have you) does this" you are speaking from an authoritarian point of view. You are claiming that there are in fact rules and they are this particular way.
Hopefully I will revisit this topic in the future and deal with the more dangerous sort of authoritarianism that crops up with some sorts of individuals.