Sep 22, 2017

Death: the Eternal Other & the Secret Order of Priesthood

12: Delve into “Afterlife” or “Ancestors”. How do those ideas play out in your worldview? In your spiritual practice?

Death, like God, is a Great Unknowable.  I have, therefore, personified it as part of god--an aspect of the Eternal Other.  The Other encompasses several aspects of deity commonly feared:  Death, the Devil / Adversary, and the Trickster.  This archetype takes the form of Trickster in our youth, teaching us; Devil as we grow into adulthood; and Death as we near the end of our lives.  It is ever all three aspects, only the way we interact with it changes as we grow.  As Death, the Other is psychopomp, ruler of the underworld, and even the underworld itself.  If there is an afterlife, it is communion with the Other.

The secrets of death can only be revealed to those who have experienced it.  For me, the "afterlife" is the promise to earn this knowledge--what I have called the Secret Order of Priesthood.  For every divine archetype, there is an "Order of Priesthood," each with its own priests and rites--though these orders are less formal that an be found in most ecclesiastic traditions. Following this metaphor, an ancestor is a priest of this Order--having the authority to perform on our behalf those rites and rituals which we are not yet prepared to know or understand.  While not every ancestor seeks such an ordination, we cannot know which have or have not.  Therefore, we must treat all ancestors as priests.

In my book of shadows (lowercase because this is not a proper noun for me), I have a page early on entitled "The Family Departed."  Here, I have a list that includes: two great-grandparents (whom I did not meet, but are connected to me through my given name); four grandparents (only two of whom I met, one of which passesd away recently); a nephew who passed in infancy; a friend who took his own life; and a beloved pet.  These are the "ancestors" that I honor, and the ones I feel have authority to intercede on my behalf in whatever afterlife is to come.  I have considered adding elder ancestors to the list as well--in particular two patriarchs of my surname.

I do not claim to have any knowledge of what is beyond death.  I cannot know that.  Nor can I truly know the role our ancestors (or any other of the dead) could play in that scenario.  What makes sense to me is that this inability to know is paramount--and I respect that lack of capacity to understand.

Sep 21, 2017

Three Concepts

#10:  Discuss offerings.  What does that look like for you?
#11:  Engage with the theme of “sacrifice”  What does that mean to you?
#20:  ... Does “gratitude” have a role in your practice?

I choose to tackle these three prompts at once because, in my past, these concepts--Offerings, Sacrifice, and Gratitude--were all all connected with each other.  Coming from a conservative, [quasi-]Christian background, these terms have very particular meaning.  Because of this (at least in part), I have not considered these concepts much as they relate to my current path.

While preparing a personal/household communion a few days ago, I began to hum a hymn I used to sing in my youth.  Not only does this hymn embody all three concepts as they relate to the faith of my upbringing--humming it when I did drew attention to the fact that I was engaging in an act of offering.

"Because I Have Been Given Much" 
Because I have been given much,
I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty Lord,
Each day I live;
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me. 
Because I have been sheltered, fed
By thy good care;
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share;
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
my roof's safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted. 
Because I have been blessed by
thy great love dear Lord;
I’ll share thy love again
According to thy word;
I shall give love to those in need,
I’ll show that love by word and deed;
Thus shall my thanks be thanks in deed. 
Music by Phillip Landgrave (1975)
Lyrics by Grace Noll Crowell (1936)

As part of my personal path, I have adapted the "Sacrament" rite of the Mormon faith (called "Communion" by mainstream Christian tradition).  I use prayers modified to my archetypes to bless consumable emblems (usually bread and wine, but could just as easily be cookies and Kool-Aid), which I then partake of to forge a connection between me and the divine (and occasionally, my household community).  The portion which remains uneaten is left on the altar for a few days as a reminder of the rite--but could also be considered an offering to the Divine.  Offerings, for me, are therefore tied to communion.

As we are all reflections of the Eternal Child-becoming-Hero, this communion is also symbolic of the "Brotherhood of Humanity."  Here, the concepts and gratitude and sacrifice come to play.  To show gratitude to the universe for what I have, any excess should be shared with (scarified to) those in need.  Excess is an important distinction here.  I am responsible for seeing to my own needs and the needs of my family first--and if I cannot are for them, then I must seek assistance myself.

There are other forms of gratitude and sacrifice, ones more specific to neopagan practices, that I have not yet formalized as they relate to my path.  I do not harvest must from nature, so do not always  have a need to thank the spirits of the forest for their own sacrifice to my work.

Sep 15, 2017

"Zoramite" Spirituality 101

#8:  Recommend 3 books! 

I've already name-dropped several books in my response to #2.  For anyone interested in understanding me and my path, I would certainly recommend checking out the books mentioned in that post, as well as the following.  These could be considered the "texts" of an Introduction to Spirituality course in my personal tradition--or at least the direction it has taken in the last year.  I do not know if they are classics or even if they are respected in any way.  Heck, they even seem to draw from different traditions of witchcraft.  I do know that they helped me, in whole or in part, in discovering my current path.

Penczak, Christopher.  City Magick: Spells, Rituals, and Symbols for the Urban Witch. Weiser Books. San Francisco, Cali.; 2001, 2012.

While it opens as any other introduction to magick primer, it does so to establish a foundation for the hypothetical tradition to come.  The Worldscraper cosmology and the series of streetwalking meditations capture well the essence of the urban environment--as does Penczak's exploration of common city locales as magickal places.  My biggest takeaway from this book is that one's tradition can be personal--that it can be based on what has gone before, but still be tailored to one's own, preferred imagery.

Tyson, Donald.  The New Magus: Ritual Magic as a Personal Process.  Llewellyn Publications. St. Paul, Minn.; 1988.

The opening chapters of Tyson's "Macrocosm" section speak very closely to my understanding of the nature of the universe.  While I don't completely agree with everything Tyson says, there are alterations that he makes to "traditional" magic (based on his personal understanding) that just make sense to me. I'm still processing this book, reading it one or two sections at a time, so that I can appreciate his way of expressing perspectives that we share--and to at least understand those perspectives I do not agree with.  

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon.  Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.  New Page Books.  Franklin Lakes, N.J.; 2004.

Though geared for younger spell-workers starting their journey, there is a lot of information in this book.  It is the first place I saw a break-down of a full circle ritual--not just how to cast the circle, but but the peripheral and core stages of the ritual as well.  It serves as both a lesson manual and a reference book--kind of like a boy scout handbook for witches.  It collects in a single volume the random information that I otherwise find scattered across the internet.

Special Honorable Mention:

Crapo, E. N., ed.  The Salt and the Light.  Available online at:  Apr 2012 - Dec 2015.

This prose poetry project includes a lot about my thought on the nature of spirituality, as well as insight into my take on channeling and revelation.  Not every section should be taken as seriously as others. I am currently working on a compilation and revision of these "revelations" called the Unorganite Testament.  In this revision, I am removing those sections which were written solely to prove one point or another, and I am leaving those portions which I consider relevant to my current path.  Some sections will be in their own "books," the rest will be renumbered in relatively the same order (as the "Book of Hoteph"), and new revelations are being added. Such a revision and compilation is consistent with the tradition I originally chose to mimic.  Spiritually is fluid, and revision of divine revelation reflects that.
Please keep in mind that I do not believe that I have a unique, personal relationship with "GOD" that allows me to act as "his" mouthpiece [for anyone other than myself].  Indeed, many of these sections have no revealing entity at all.  They are automatic writings edited from my own experiences. 

Sep 13, 2017

Primer on Accentual Meter

#7: Teach/Describe a craft or skill that's tied to your spirituality.

Language is an important aspect of ritual--both the words that are spoken, and the way in which they are said.  By manipulating the rhythms of language, you can produce powerful and memorable passages.  My personal meditative practices include mantras, which are (basically) short prayers that are repeated for the purpose of calming, centering, grounding, charging, and so forth.  As I use a mantra, I modify it over time to be easy to remember, recite, and repeat.  These modifications take the form of word substitutions, grammatical elision, and minor expansion to make the words naturally fit into a rhythmic meter.
I taught Introduction to Poetry for several semesters at Chester College of New England and Introduction to Creative Writing on occasion at Southern New Hampshire University.  What follows is an adaptation of a handout I produced for my students.
Poetically speaking, English is an accentual-syllabic language--having inherited its accentual nature from its Germanic roots, and its syllabic nature from its Romance roots.  This means that modern English poetry is analyzed not only in terms of its syllable count, but also on the frequency of stressed (or accented) syllables.  The oldest English poetry is purely accentual, however; it was written with a regular number of stressed syllables per line.  I tend to call these syllables beats.  In regards to chants, mantras, and similar ritual language, accentual verse is ideal:  it keeps lines feeling uniform in length (making then easy to recite), while allowing freedom of expression.  So long as each "line" of your text is regular in terms of beats, you can use as many filler syllables as you need to convey the appropriate meaning.

All words of two or more syllables have at least one that is stressed (sometimes said to be emphasized) more than the others.  This syllable could be louder, longer, or at a different pitch (higher or lower) than the other syllables of a word.  When words collect into sentences, these syllables remain more "important;" but some one-syllable words can be elevated to a relatively stronger stress, too.  Together, these are the beats of the sentence.  To demonstrate, here is an exercise to help you recognize beats:

Take your favorite pre-written spell, chant, prayer, or passage of poetry.  Using the guide below, mark the syllables as noted (use pencil, several marks will change as you go step by step):
The font on my blog is small.  The symbols you will be using above your syllables look like:  U for unstressed syllable, / [forward slash] for primary-stress syllables, and \ [backslash] for secondary stress syllables.
  1. Mark all unimportant single-syllable words (such as articles, prepositions, and conjunctions), without stress [˘].
  2. Mark all semi-important single-syllable words (such as pronouns [personal or demonstrative] and conjugations of the verbs to have [have/has/had/etc.] and to be [am/are/is/was/etc.]) with secondary stresses [`].
  3. Mark all important single-syllable words (such as verbs, nouns, and interjections) with primary stresses [´].
  4. Consider each word of two or more syllables:
    1. Mark the predominantly accented syllable in each word with primary stress [´]. The primary stress of a word usually (but not always) coincides with long vowel sounds.
    2. In words of three or more syllables, mark any secondarily accented syllables with secondary stress [`].
    3. Mark the remaining syllables of the word without stress [˘].
    4. If you cannot hear a word’s accent, consult the pronunciation guide in a dictionary.
  5. Look for syllables that are rhetorically stressed by means of italics, capitalization, or some other typographical or grammatical ploy. Mark these with a primary stress [´].
  6. Look for any string of three or more unstressed syllables; mark the one (usually in the middle) which has the most prominent accent with secondary stress [`].
  7. Look for any string of three or more primary stressed syllables; mark the one (usually in the middle) which has the least prominent accent with secondary stress [`].
  8. Look for any string of two or more secondary stressed syllables; mark the one which has the most prominent accent with primary stress [´], and mark the rest without stress [˘].
  9. Convert remaining secondary stresses:
    1. If a secondary stress precedes or follows a primary stress, convert it to an unstressed syllable.
    2. Convert all other secondary stresses to primary stresses.
  10. If there is a rhetorical pause in the middle of a line, mark it [||].
    1. Pauses typically occur at punctuation--often periods (.), [non-list] commas (,), or semicolons (;).
    2. The end of a clause not marked by punctuation could also be a pause; mark the pause in the space after the end of the clause. 
What patterns do you recognize?  Are the pauses at about the same place in each line?  How may beats are before an after each?  Generally, a line a text will naturally have a pause approximately halfway through--with the same number of beats before it in each line, and the safe number of beats after it in each line.  These beats and paused create the rhythm of the line.  Lines with regular rhythm are easy to pronounce and easy to listen to--which make them ideal for ritual use.  The next time to craft your own text for a spell or mantra, keep its rhythm in mind.

* * * * *

Here are a few extra thoughts to consider when composing lines of ritual text:
  • A line does not need to be a sentence.  It can be part of a sentence, more than one sentence, or even a full sentence with part of another.  Lines may break after natural clauses, or may be broken within clauses for artistic effect.
  • Rhyme is another complicated issue (that I would like to write about in the future); lines do not need to rhyme.  If you are comfortable with rhyme, go for it--but do not feel obligated to.
  • You can slow down a line by adding extra unstressed syllables; or speed it up by removing some (popular candidates for removal are articles [a/an/the]).

Sep 11, 2017

Ooh! Squirrel!

#9: What do you do when it is hard to continue your spiritual practice or feel connected spiritually?

Honestly, I just stop trying.  I don't give up.  I just accept that might mind is not in a place to deal with spiritual matters.  If I cannot focus, then no spell I work or meditation I try could accomplish anything.  So I don't force it.  My mind will always do what it wants, so I let it.  I let it run wherever it wants to run; I let it learn whatever it wants to learn; and I let it create whatever it wants to create.  Eventually, my mind will tire itself out, and my spirit will take over to work whatever recovery that needs to be done.

You may notice that this answer is being posted out of order ... and a couple days after the last. My mind is on a journey right now, but it will come back.  There will be time for my spirit once again, I'm not worried.  I'll keep looking back on upcoming prompts, and see which one my mind wants to let my spirit explore.

Sep 10, 2017

The Eternal Hero as Self

#6: Delve into your relationship with a deity, or why you don’t honor deities.

Godforms are archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.  Many have been passed down from our ancient roots, some are more recent creations, and others are even nearly forgotten.  All godforms, whatever names we choose to associate with them, are emanations of a single source of divine energy.  This source, this ONE is unknowable and unnameable; so we have created the godforms to be able to interact with the smallest, conceivable portions of It.  One may choose to connect with historic godforms or fictional ones, because it is the faith and ritual of the supplicant that summons and manipulates the divine energy and not the image of the chosen godform.

There are five godform archetypes that resonate with me personally.  They are drawn from the godforms I was fed in my youth, but my understanding of them has evolved through my study of Egyptian mythology, Hinduism, Wicca, and even Satanism.  I prefer to use their archetypal titles instead of names, for each has many names that could be appropriate.  These archetypes are my Eternal Mother (Goddess of Withcraft), my Eternal Father (God of Priesthood), my Eternal Self (Personal Hero God), my Eternal Companion (God[dess] of Sexuality), and my Eternal Other (God[dess] of Mysteries). My relationship with each is unique to that godform and the traditional deities I associate with them.

By recognizing the godform of Self as an integral aspect of my own being, I also recognize it as integral to all beings.  It is the potential to achieve "Christ-consciousness" or Buddhahood.  It represents all hero deities of the past, and the divine potential of each one of us to be heroes ourselves. Indeed, it is the Hero With a Thousands Faces. My relationship to this godform is central to my path, for I strive to unlock the divine within me; and, if possible, help others do he same.  I have associated this godform with Jehovah/Jesus, Horus, Harpocrates, and Atman.  More recently, I have come to call this godform Zoram.

I am Zoram and I am Eric.  There is a power in my given name that I cannot deny; and power connects to the archetypes that I have borne my name in the past.  My mother did well in crafting that name for me.  However, the power of my given name is the power of my Ego and my Persona.  Is is my living, daily power.  The power of Zoram is my Id, my Libido, and my Self; he is the higher, primal, powerful being whom I tap into when I focus on spell work.  I had struggled to find a "craft name" because I didn't at first understand who/what I was naming. Once I did understand, I did not need to give him a name, but instead realized that I had already known it--for both components of his name have been with me since childhood.

The power I carry within me is the first deity toward which I owe my allegiance.  Knowing and honoring him are my principle charges.

Sep 8, 2017

#5: Record a recipe relating to a holiday you celebrate.

Holidays and I have a fairly strained relationship.  I have yet to find a cycle of celebrations that I can really connect with.  The only time of the year that I feel a sense of universal Spirit is secular Halloween through New Year.  I have tried to build a personal "wheel of the year" using this season as a template, but have yet to truly connect with it--though I get something a bit more "right" with each revision.

There is one recipe that I have come to associate with this common Holiday Season:  chocolate custard pie.  I will make this for my family at least once during the season--for one holiday gathering or another.  My family and friends have even come to expect it.  I imagine they do not like it as much as they tell me they do, but the emotional energy surrounding the pie and serving it is fulfilling in its own way.

Over the last two decades, I have experimented with this recipe.  Crust and garnish are the most often varied components.  Below, I present my "ideal" version.

Chocolate Custard Pie

  • 2 cups Almond Meal
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Oil, melted
  • 1 large Egg

  • 6 oz semi-sweet Chocolate; I have used baker's chocolate, but find I get better results with milk chocolate
  • 2 cups whole Milk; I have used cream (both heavy and light), but the whole milk grants the best consistency.
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp dark Coffee
  • crushed Hazelnuts to taste

Prepare the crust first.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Place flour and salt in food processor and pulse briefly
  3. Add coconut oil and egg and pulse until mixture forms a ball
  4. Press dough into a 9.5 inch glass pie dish
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes
The custard is more time consuming.
  1. Melt together milk, chocolate, and sugar on low heat
  2. Lightly beat eggs
  3. Temper eggs with about 1/2 cup of chocolate mixture
  4. Add eggs to the chocolate, stirring quickly
  5. Stir constantly on low until custard visibly thickens.  May take 45 – 90 minutes, or even longer.  Be patient.  Mixture should feel like pudding.
  6. Pour into crust
  7. Sprinkle crushed hazelnuts over top of pie
  8. Chill for 1 – 2 hours
This pie tends to be rich, and is best when served with whipped cream.

#4: Discuss a plant or place that is important to you spiritually.

I love to see the temple.
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
This is the opening of a song I sang in church as a child.  The temple in question is not a place I was able to spend much time in before I fell away from the faith.  I was not able to participate in its more solemn, secret ("sacred") aspects because my sexual orientation and lifestyle prevented me from being worthy of the necessary initiation.  The aspect that was most appealing to me was access to a place of quiet contemplation that is rich in spiritual, divine energy.  There are other places that this energy can be experienced, however; other temples that are not shaped from the same mold as those of my youth.

Image result for boston massachusetts temple  VS  Image result for nichols memorial library kingston nh

For much of my adult life, I have pondered the idea of temples, and where I could experience their spirit.  And yet, for much of that adult life, I had already known the answer--I just couldn't articulate the thought.  Temples can be found in almost every town in the United States.  Every school has one, and even some hospitals.  A lot of large churches even have them, too.  The place I have gone for quiet contemplation and too feel the grand uniting Spirit of the world has always been a library.  Long before I fell into retail, I was happily employed in library services; I have spent countless hours in the stacks, absorbing the peace and energy of the written WORD.

Two libraries have held particular significance in my life:  Nichols Memorial Library in Kingston, NH and Wadleigh Library at Chester College of New England (formerly White Pines College) in Chester, NH.  Sadly, neither of these exist any more:  Nichols moved its services to the new Kingston Community Library, while Wadleigh was shut down when CCNE closed its doors.  Not only had both of these libraries been my local retreats (having grown up in Kingston, and gone to college at CCNE), they were also my places of employ.  I not only had the pleasure of experiencing these libraries, but also facilitating the library experience for other patrons.

Libraries are houses of knowledge, learning, art, opinion, study, and intellectual gathering.  They are fortresses of the mind, and of the mind's potential.  It was in the Nichols library that I first found resources on divination, psychic powers, homosexuality, and poetry.  It was at the Wadleigh library that I furthered my education on these matters, and expanded my horizons to photography, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics.  With a library, you do not need to know everything--you  just need to know how to find the information you need.  Librarians are high priests of this information, and library pages are their acolytes.

Bookstores (not during peak shopping times, such as the Holiday Season) are a close second to libraries in this respect.  They contain the same volume of information and knowledge, though not as readily accessible.  The bookstore is a more social experience than the library, however.  Going out with friends, for me, usually involves a trip to a big-box bookstore.  There, we can gather among the written word, and sup on coffee and pastry--the sacrament of academics, artists, poets, and dreamers.

Sep 7, 2017

#3: Teach/Describe one of your key spiritual practices.

Since I was young, personal revelation was a doctrine I was taught.  I was told that if you I was worthy, God would reveal directly to me his plan for my happiness.  This extended to any responsibilities I was given as a result of that path:  I would receive revelation for my family, for any class I taught, for anyone I led in any projects or work, and so on.  In my adult self, this means that we are each responsible for coming to our own understanding of our spiritual, emotional, and worldly needs--and that we have a right to those answers. This "Spirit of Revelation," whatever it may be, can provide advice on how to live our lives if we know how to tap into it.

As a youth, my preferred method was bibliomancy--thought I didn't realize that's what it was as the time.  I would work myself into a spiritual state via prayer (and sometimes fasting), stating my purpose as a question.  I would then wait for inspiration as to whih volume of scripture to pick up (the Holy Bible or my Triple Combination), flip to a page at "random" (usually aiming for a particular section), then scan that page or surrounding pages for a passage that seemed to mean something.  A part of good-little-Mormon-boy-me knew I was practicing divination ("soothsaying"), but it felt okay because I was using approved, holy works.

As a teenager I also experimented with cartomancy using playing cards.  I had a deck of X-Men playing cards with illustrations on every card that I liked using.  I later graduated to a baseball themed tarot deck, and then on to more "serious" decks that I had a spiritual connection to.  The decks I use most often are: Winged Spirit Tarot (my first deck, commonly used for high-concept or abstract readings), Gay Tarot (commonly used for personal & relationship readings), and of course Rider-Waite (commonly used when reading for others).  I also have other decks, too--but these are the ones I use most commonly.

For me, tarot is a tool for introspection; it is a gateway to the unconscious mind.  The key phrase in reading tarot is "What do I/YOU see?"  Since the images of the tarot are based on centuries old archetypes, traditional meanings can help to trigger a thought process--but in the end, its the querent's personal associations with that images that are more important.  When I read tarot for someone else, I tend to ask a lot of questions about what certain images mean to querent--I don't rely I my own interpretation, but on how my querent associates with the images. Reading tarot is a conversation.  It is about asking questions, and pointing out what thoughts seem to be repeating.  Its about reading not only what is in the cards, but also the thoughts of the querent as they struggle to understand.  I feel like a therapist guiding a patient.

Related image  Image result for celtic cross spread tarot

I most commonly use a Three-Card and the Celtic Cross spreads, though just as often will I lay out cards as they feel right.  The layout is just another image layered on top of the cards. The position of a card on the table might have a "traditional" meaning in a spread--but the images on the card will interact with other images in the spread however they like.  With practice, all of these images together can be read fluidly.  I don't like reading with fewer than three cards because there isn't enough context to get that grammatical statement.  In a way, tarot is still bibliomancy:  The "Book of Tarot" has five chapters, one with 22 (or 24) verses, and the other four with 14 verses each; and through a spread, I am just assembling the passages in the order I need to read them.

Over the years, I have recorded some of the spreads that I have designed on the fly. I hope to post them over on my Tumblr.

Sep 6, 2017

#2: How did you come to your path?

I have variously described myself as: a cultural Mormon; a Fraggle; and a solitary, eclectic witch.  These identities are each partly true, but do not entirely describes who I am, where I came from, or where I am going.

I was born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to parents who were also born into the church.  On my father's side, I an trace my lineage in this tradition back to the construction of that group's first temple in Kirtland, Ohio.  While not exactly a strict upbringing, it was still devout.    In contrast to this, I developed at an early age an interest in psychic powers and crystals.  I had acquired a quartz point on a school field trip in 2nd or 3rd grade (in NY), and took it with me wherever i went until I lost in on the playground in 4th or 5th (in NH).  I would try to find a replacement stone, but have yet to encounter its equal (at least not emotionally).  To child me, the power of that rock and that of the rituals of the LDS church were no different.

I lived the life of the good, little, Mormon boy until I was 19.  By that point, I had developed an interest in church history, and began my first real analysis of their modern scriptures.  What were touted as "minor corrections" proved, in my eyes, to be major alterations of doctrine.  It was about this time that I was approached by my Bishop (what other sects called pastors) about serving a two-year mission; instead of challenging history and doctrine, I took the easy way out:  I came out as gay.  No more was I considered a candidate for a mission, and I slowly became "inactive" with the church.  The principles, rituals, and god-forms I was taught, however, would prove to stay with me.

I received my first "revelation" when I was coming to terms with my sexuality and my place in the church of my youth.  My Bishop all but called me a heretic and encouraged me to bury what I had written.  And it remained buried until I re-wrote what I could remember as the inaugural installment of my Salt and the Light project--part poetry, part spirituality, part vanity, part prophecy.  Soon after that initial revelation, I wrote my first Affirmation--which was little more than a personalized re-write of the LDS "Articles of Faith."   Over time, revising the Affirmation became an integral part of my personal path, and I have done so once or twice a year for over a decade.  (Its "Articles of Faith" roots an still be found in scattered phrasing.)

As a college freshman and sophomore, I explored other Christian (and Christian-like) denominations, and began to question what I believed.  Through the Belief-o-Matic quiz, which would become a another recurring practice, I became aware of Unitarian Universalism, New Age and Neopaganism.  It would seem that elements from these faiths were already a part of my basic belief structure.  I explored a handful of faiths around this time, and even became ordained via the Universal Life Church Monastery--adding to the ordinations I already held from the Mormon boy youth.

My first three boyfriends, whom I'd dated over the course of about four years, were all self-identified witches in their own fashion.  Through them, I learned about the basics of Neopagan religion, and Wicca specifically.  I began to try witchcraft out for myself.  Two boyfriends led me to the works of Christopher Penczak, a local queer, pagan teacher.  I chose his Sons of the Goddess as my first textbook on witchcraft.  I would later move on to Scott Cunninham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner; and then on to Michael Thomas Ford's The Path of the Green Man.  For good measure, I kept a copy of Penczak's Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe nearby as well; though I would only ever read excerpts from it.

I developed an interest in candle magick and tarot early on, adding them to an expanded understanding of crystal magick.  For years, those were enough for me.  My interest in New Age led me to Hindiusm, particularly the meitative practices of Eknath Easwaran--The Mantram Handbook and Classics of Indian Spirituality.  These were added to the path that I had started with Sons of the Goddess.  Personal interests in Egyptology, therianthropy / otherkin subculture,  psychology (Erik Erikson & Carl Jung), and even Joseph Campbell (via speculative ficction courses in college) would later collide and layer on top of each other.

Recently, the longest-standing relationship of my life (with an athiest) ended after sixth and a half years together.  I decided to revisit the parts of myself I felt I may have put aside during that time.  I picked up my decade-old, red-leatherette bound, quad-ruled, Miquelrius "book of shadows" and found I had developed a personal religion.  It was only then that I accepted myself as a "witch," and began to refine and fill out what was detailed in my notebook.

I found that other witches were already in my life--ones even connected with the witches of my past.  I embraced them, and they brought even more witches into my life.  My spiritual journey came full circle when I met another gay Mormon witch--one whose own path began with Wicca and Lutheranism, and later drifted into Mormonism. A personal Renaissance began, and it is within that Renaissance that I currently find myself.

31 Days of Spiritual Journaling

In an attempt to invigorate this blog, I'm going to try my hand at the 31 Days of Spiritual Journaling, a writing challenge of prompts from Tea & Rabbits on Tumblr.

I'm not going to try to complete all of these in a month, but I will (for the most part) complete them in order.  The main exception here is #1, which I will not revisit again until the end of the list.  This is primarily because my last post here was last year's re-visitation of my Affirmation.  While I have already begun a new revision of this recurring post, the process of this project may inspire me to revise it further.

The prompts are:
  1. What do you believe?
  2. How did you come to your path?  (your spiritual journey)
  3. Teach/Describe one of your key spiritual practices.  (mindfulness, meditation, grounding, prayer, ritual…….)
  4. Discuss a plant or place that is important to you spiritually.  Why is it meaningful to you?  
  5. Record a recipe relating to a holiday you celebrate.  How do you use this food/drink/mixture?
  6. Delve into your relationship with a deity, or why you don’t honor deities.
  7. Teach/Describe a craft or skill that‘s tied to your spirituality.
  8. Recommend 3 books! 
  9. What do you do when it is hard to continue your spiritual practice or feel connected spiritually?
  10. Discuss offerings.  What does that look like for you?
  11. Engage with the theme of “sacrifice”  What does that mean to you?
  12. Delve into “Afterlife” or “Ancestors”.  How do those ideas play out in your worldview?  In your spiritual practice?
  13. Have you had experiences meeting or working with other pagans/witches?  Elaborate!
  14. Discuss imagery or symbols that are important to you.  What are they?  Why are they important?  How do you use them?
  15. Make a ‘beginners guide’ or ‘field guide’ for an important element of your practice (stones, weather, herbs, gardening, tarot, camping…)
  16. Engage with the theme of “love”  What does that mean to you?  
  17. Take notes on a book, article, video, or guide about something you’d like to do soon.
  18. Did you have experience being pagan/witchy in school?  Advice for kids who grow up in a pagan/witchy home?
  19. What are your core values?  Challenge yourself to list them and explain your choices.  (Need help? get started by looking at formalized lists like Catholicism’s 7 Heavenly Virtues, the Wiccan Rede, The Nine Noble Virtues, the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism…)
  20. Create a page just for Gratitude Journaling. Does “gratitude” have a role in your practice?
  21. Record quotes that are deeply meaningful for you.
  22. Has there been a time your beliefs (pagan, pre-pagan, other…) have been deeply challenged?  What was that like?  What did you learn?
  23. Are there any songs you find spiritually meaningful currently?
  24. How would you describe yourself?  Perhaps attempt a self-portrait.  How have your self-views impacted or been changed by your spirituality?
  25. Describe an intensely spiritual experience you’ve had.
  26. Advice to New Pagans/Witches: What is a mistake you made, or a unnecessary challenge you faced, which you wish you’d been able to avoid?
  27. What does the theme of “courage” mean in your path?
  28. What is your dream home, future-self, or vacation?  Can you identify aspects of your spirituality that impact that dream of yours?
  29. Record a dream.  Do you find any meaning or significance in it?
  30. Do you have any experiences with tarot/runes/divination? What are your beliefs around that?  If you enjoy divinatory work, do you have a theory regarding how/why it works?
  31. If someone was to honor you as their ancestor, what would be a meaningful and loving way for them to do that?

Since this was originally posted on Tumblr, I will be posting links to me entries on my blog there, too.