Pagan Blog Project #6 – The ‘F’ Word

In Western society there’s this weird taboo around words. Some words can’t be said in polite company because they’re offensive. Why is Feminism such a dirty word in our culture? If I claim to be a feminist at a party I know that at least one person will have an issue with that and try to convince me that being a feminist is about hating men and if I really wanted equality for women I shouldn’t be fighting for us to have more rights.

So, let’s set the record straight: Feminism is about equality for men, women and all those who identify as both, neither or somewhere in the middle. It’s about getting paid the same amount of money for doing the same job, it’s about turning up for work or college and not getting harassed, it’s about being able to choose who get’s to stay at home with the children instead of that role expected of the woman (even if she earns more than her partner), it’s about feeling comfortable enough to claim that I’m a feminist without the backlash. It’s about speaking up for those women in other countries who don’t have voices. I can’t understand why it’s seen as a controversial subject, even those closest to me stop listening when I say the ‘F’ word. Why wouldn’t you want 100% equality for your mothers, daughters, sisters and friends?

I could rant about the patriarchy – but I feel like that’s another one of those taboo words.  So, let’s move away from these words and talk about the concept instead because feminism is for men too.

We have these stereotypes and labels that are harmful for both men and women. Our leaders are usually ‘manly’ men; they are intellectual and value materialistic things but when a woman displays these characteristics and finally becomes the leader of our country she is shut down again and again, not only by the opposition leader but also by radio hosts and the like. Valuing masculine characteristics like individuality, competitiveness, etc then hating women when they start displaying these characteristics is just as hypocritical and wrong as telling young boys to stop crying and ‘be a man’, for example. You are effectively telling young boys that emotions don’t matter. This perpetuates this idea that feminine characteristics and values such as emotions and ‘crying’ are bad things. Does that mean women are bad? It sure as hell makes me feel like it sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t think everyone should stop being masculine and start becoming feminine. The human species is probably the most successful on Earth at this point in time and we have the masculine qualities such as competitiveness, independence, more logically focused and rebellious behaviours to thank for that.

However, we have devalued and tormented the Feminine qualities in the process. Qualities such as creativity, intuition, empathy, compassion, etc have been mocked for being ‘illogical’ or ‘not real/proven’. It is because of this that I believe we have lost the respect for our home (Earth) and that has caused complete devastation of rainforests, oceans, rivers, etc. We’re seeing major problems with food all around the world including the unsustainable practice of Big Agriculture, poverty, eating disorders, massive food wastage, etc. Our medical systems have become so advanced that we are seeing a decline in our own innate immune systems – the rise of anti-biotic resistance and food sensitivities are evidence of this. We’ve also turned pregnancy and labour into hyper-medical events, in the process dis-empowering the feminine even further. Our lives are usually filled with work that a majority of us could say we dislike or even hate – why?

There have been archeological evidence of women led societies in the past, but as a majority men have always been in a place of power within human society. This makes sense from a biological point of view; we are mammals and a wide majority of mammals have a social hierarchy centered around the males of the species.

So I guess you could say that I’m encouraging a type of evolution within our species. We should stop mocking feminine qualities as ‘weak’ ‘unnecessary’ or ‘illogical’. We should accept that in every person there is both feminine and masculine qualities (regardless of sex or gender) and I truly believe that if we balance them we’ll see our species furthering even more and at the very least avoiding a societal collapse.

 

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Pagan Blog Project #5 – ‘E’ is for Empathy

Introduction

For me, Empathy is a hard topic (but then again, every topic I’ve written on has been hard at the beginning). I guess I find it difficult because I’ve only really just started working with my Empathic skills about 2 years ago – but they have seemed to have improved in leaps and bounds since then. A book I read by Karla McLaren called “The Language of Emotions” was what made me first realise I have Empathy… because, well, everyone does!

Empathy vs. empathy

There are two types of empathy-
1. empathy: sympathy. “Intellectual identification with or experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Every human being possess’ empathy – it is how we’ve been able to structure ourselves socially and communicate to one another.
2. Empathy (ie. Being Empathic): It’s “the ability to actually, physically, feeling the emotions of others”. It can’t be turned off, it can only be managed.
(click here to read a great blog written on this subject by bonesofaphoenix on tumblr).

Empathy

I’m an Empath and have been for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only just recently put a name to it. Previously I thought that I had something wrong with me as I would usually be able to pick up on things that others hadn’t told me about or be so invested in someone else’s emotional life that I would get submerged and would lose track of my own emotions. Once I started studying Bach Flowers I realised that I had a deep connection to emotions and went looking for more information – that’s when I came across Karla McLaren’s book.

Exercises to Help Manage Empathy

McLaren’s book mostly talks about emotions and what they’re trying to tell you, she is a very skilled Empath herself, but it doesn’t talk much about Empathy – only her own experiences with it in the Introduction. A few of the exercises in there have been able to help me control my Empathic skills. I can now distinguish between my own and others’… I can also lessen the waves that I used to experience by using visualisation techniques. I’ve also been practicing holding space for people to unload which I’ve found works very well.

1. Grounding Yourself: – Sit or stand comfortably and breathe into your belly. Imagine you are gathering light and warmth into your belly and as you breath out imagine that your breath (and the light/warmth) is traveling down through your body and into the Earth.
– In particular I like to imagine big, thick tree roots extending themselves from my body. McLaren talks about ‘grounding the circuit’ of emotions – they ‘neutralise’ once Earth absorbs them.

2. Defining Your Boundaries
– Get comfortable and Ground yourself.
– Now stand up and reach your arms straight out to either side of you (or imagine you’re doing this).
– Imagine that you fingertips are touching the edges of a lighted bubble that emcompasses your private, personal space. – Stretch your arms above your head and in front of you. Feel how far your personal boundary is from your body. It should be an arm’s length away from you at all points; ever under the ground.
– Now imagine this ‘bubble’ (it can be made out of anything you want) is a very bright colour, a clear sound or distinct movement. Make it really obvious and yours, in whatever way you want.
– I like to imagine a bright blue fire boundary that glows brighter whenever I breath in. I maintain it everyday but do a big ‘clean’ at yoga whilst meditating.

3. Burning Contacts
– Ground yourself and light your boundary.
– Imagine yourself rolling out a big piece of paper or parchment then put whatever you want onto it. Any emotions that are bothering you, things people have said, things that have happened… just express yourself.
– Remember that you can do or say whatever you want on this parchment as you are inside your Boundary and you are protected.
– I tend to just spill my mind onto this. At the beginning it was harder and sometimes all these emotions would come forward (and sometimes they weren’t my own) but now it’s easier. Once I’ve filled up as many of these sheets of parchments as I want, I get out a cool bow and arrow then light up my boundary so it’s burning red hot. I then tie the parchment to the arrow and shoot it out of my boundary. It catches on fire or explodes in the sky (depending on the intensity of the emotion).

Conclusion

I found this information extremely helpful when I was first feeling my way around Empathy but I would highly recommend reading The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren as there is heaps more information regarding these exercises and the theories behind it.

Pagan Blog Project #4 – ‘D’ is for Doula

What is a Doula?

To me a doula is the wholistic version of a midwife. They offer non-medical support and information to parents in pregnancy, childbirth and the post natal period (the differences between Midwives and Doula’s is outlined here). The Australian Doula College says that a Doula “…believes it is a woman’s rite of passage to birth her baby where, with whom, and how she wishes. The Doula is knowledgeable in comfort measures such as relaxation breathing, massage and positioning, managing labour sensations using water, hot packs and aromas. Doula’s specialise in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or foetal heart rate monitoring. Doula’s do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. A Doula is skilled in supporting the birthing woman and her partner to meet the challenge of labour one contraction at a time.”

How is this Relevant to my Spirituality and Practice?

Well, everything I do in life somehow relates back to my spirituality but in particular, Doula-ing (I don’t think that’s an actual word but we’ll run with it) is something I see as a very spiritual act for me and the parents I’ll be caring for. I will be facilitating their rite of passage into parenthood, especially the mother who is giving birth. As well as becoming a Doula I will also be trained by the School of Shamanic Midwifery – which I believe will focus more on the spiritual side of pregnancy and childbirth as opposed to the emotional side (but both are important!).

“Midwifery is the practice, art and science of being a midwife. Midwife means ‘with woman’ and the classic role for a midwife is to be ‘with woman’ during and around her childbearing. To midwife is to facilitate, to assist someone’s learning [by guiding] the person to discover their own inner knowing through asking questions and ‘holding the space’ for them to travel within to do this.” – School of Shamanic Midwifery

In this respect along with my duties of midwifing the arrival of new life onto Earth I’ll also be trained in midwifing death and change within others eg. young girls beginning menarche, menopausal women and even those who are close to the void. I believe these skills and duties come hand in hand.

The Important of Women’s Spirituality

Under all this is the realisation that in our modern age we have neglected and to some extent tormented, the feminine in nearly all ways. Traits such as creativity, intuition, empathy, compassion, etc are seen as feminine qualities (but are not secluded to just women – remember ‘feminine’ =/= female) and are mocked as ‘weak’ ‘unnecessary’ or ‘illogical’ and therefore useless. If I may be so bold – I believe that this could be a lot of the reason why we have so many problems in our world. The domination of masculine energy within our species is, basically, initiating our ultimate downfall (extinction?). Masculine qualities such as competitiveness, independence, more logically focused and rebellious behaviours have, up until this point, been very successful methods for the survival of the species. At this juncture in our evolution however I believe that the feminine qualities need to be respected and nurtured to a point where they are valued just as much as what the masculine qualities are in our modern society.

I believe that in becoming a Doula and Shamanic Midwife, I’ll be able to help facilitate the integration of the Women’s Mysteries into our culture – creating a safe space for the feminine to emerge. In particular I hope to encourage women and girls to feel safe and important. To acknowledge the power of emotions and intuition more will, I believe, facilitate a new consciousness for humankind. One that is sustainable and fulfilling.

Pagan Blog Project #3 – ‘D’ is for Deity (or lack thereof)

I’m an Animist which means that I believe that “natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.”

Whilst a Deity is classified as:
1. A god or goddess.
2. Divine character or nature, especially that of the Supreme Being; divinity.
3. The estate or rank of a god: The king attained deity after his death.
4. A person or thing revered as a god or goddess: a society in which money is the only deity.
5. The Deity, God; Supreme Being.

[Definitions obtained from dictionary.com]

I don’t really worship any particular Deity as such. I acknowledge a God and a Goddess on my altar but they do not have names and are mostly a representation of the masculine and feminine energies present in us all. I’ve always felt that this idea of worshiping a being a bit dangerous – and maybe that’s stemmed from my experience of Catholicism and Christianity. I don’t think that any one being should be given that much power

I do however worship the Earth and maybe you would class that as a Deity. I hold extreme reverence for everything to do with the Natural world. We live in such a beautiful place that holds such wonder and amazement – I can see why people would assume some magical, all powerful being could be the explanation of it all.

Earth – or Mother Earth – is not a she nor a he, she is both and neither and everything in between and beyond. There is no classification or group, no feelings or thoughts or anything of that matter. Earth just IS. She is there, just being. Everything in the universe is just being and it is incomprehensible. We try to personify everything into these deities and giving them all jobs which leave it all neat, tidy and all packaged with nice little bows. For me, this isn’t how it is. For me it is all chaos; everything is created by complete chance and circumstance – our Earth and us included.

We were not created by anything or anyone, we evolved like everything else and by pure chance we developed the ability to think about ourselves and go beyond our instincts to question the purpose of everything. I believe that the reason for this isn’t metaphysical, I believe it’s the reason for every other adaption – survival and reproduction.

–> I’m going to leave it there for now as I feel I’ve said everything I can at this point in my studies (I also feel like going a bit off topic so will leave that for another post). Feel free to comment with any questions.

Also I’m sorry I’ve been a bit MIA. Check out my tumblr for an explanation and follow to keep track of my thought process.

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Peak Moment 138 Starring John Micheal Greer



A video that relates to my last post for the Pagan Blog Project ‘C’ is for Children (and Culture).

Peak Moment 138: In his book, “The Long Descent”, John Michael Greer observes that our culture has two primary stories: “Infinite Progress” or “Catastrophe”. On the contrary, he sees history as cyclic: civilizations rise and fall. Like others, ours is exhausting its resource base. Cheap energy is over. Decline is here, but the descent will be a long one. It’s too late to maintain the status quo by swapping energy sources. How to deal with this predicament? He lays out practical ideas, possibilities, and potentials, including reconnecting with natural and human capacities pushed aside by industrial life. [www.thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com]

John Micheal Greer puts into words what I can’t. Of course, he speaks from a non-spiritual perspective but if you refer to his blog – he is a spiritual person. This supports my theory of culture and spirituality needing to be intertwined for a civilisation to be successful and sustainable – of course it is still just a theory (and everyone’s spirituality is different).

Pagan Blog Project #2 – ‘C’ is for Children (and Culture)

I’m ‘creating’ a culture for my children.

How do Children relate to my spirituality or to paganism for that matter? Well, my children and my children’s children continue to be the inspiration for a lot of the choices I make, including why I study Druidry and worship the Earth. It became important around the time I begun learning about Global Warming and the damage humans inflict on nature – how will that effect future generations and is there a way we can change our lifestyle now to improve that?

I’ve never really had much of a culture (unless you call bigotry and alcoholism a culture) and in my study of nature, culture seems to be a key element in achieving a sustainable and successful civilisation. It’s also effected me on a personal level as I’ve always felt out of place and that there was something missing – Paganism filled that void temporarily but the relocation of my bloodline to a place completely different from my ancestors and everything that I relate to spiritually continues to make me feel like an intruder. I decided that trying to lay an entire Earth worshipping religion over a land that’s completely different to the land where it was originally created is a band aid solution to a problem that needs to be fixed from the inside out – it seems to be the only way to permanently fill this void. In a nutshell; I’m personalising old traditions and applying them to a new land and set of deities. I will then use that as a foundation to ‘maturing’ the culture that we already have. White Australian’s do have a culture it’s just not very accepting nor is it beautiful – it’s rough as guts, intimidating, and exclusive (even if you were born into it, if you don’t like drinking ‘X’ beer, watching ‘X’ sport and just being a general asshole to people then you are excluded or tormented).

To me culture and spirituality should be intertwined but not to the point where we confuse fact and imagination. Spirituality and imagination aren’t bad things but they should be developed on an individual level – not forced down children’s throats before they’re old enough to ask the questions themselves. I want to teach my children about art, I want to tell them stories about mythical creatures and Gods/Goddess’, I want to teach them about dreams and how to celebrate without having the adults they look up to getting drunk. These things for me are spiritual but I don’t want to force my particular beliefs on my children and I don’t want them mistaking what I believe as fact because it’s not – it’s just the way that I see the world.

I want my children to feel like they have a purpose and that they belong here. I want to teach them to have respect and a reverence for the Earth that we don’t experience in our current culture, so that they can be conscious of how they treat her and every being that lives here. I believe that practicing a form of spirituality that regularly worships nature can do that – it’s not the only way but it’s the only way that seems fun to me. Then I can develop a culture, using those principles, that I will feel comfortable raising my children in.

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Pagan Blog Project #1 – “C” is for Cannabis

Yep, I don’t do things half-assed – my first topic for the Pagan Blog Project will be about one of the most controversial substances of our time.

Introduction

Out of curiosity I did a bit of my own research on Cannabis and it was extremely hard to find any unbiased information on the plant – on one hand there are people saying it should be legal and other people who think it should stay illegal. Both parties had their extremists and, as a studying herbalist who has been taught to do research upon more research, nothing I’ve been able to find has really convinced me that either side is right or wrong.
Again, as a studying herbalist, I disagree with the amount of control the government holds over us – it seems a little bit hypocritical when I see doctors handing out prescription only medication like they’re lollies. But I know it’s not every doctor and I understand the reasons behind the scheduling of a wide majority of substances, not just cannabis. In my personal opinion I think cannabis should be offered as medication and treated like any other medication, but I also believe that more power should be given to qualified herbalists. We should be able to prescribe cannabis to people who would most benefit from it eg. cancer patients going through chemotherapy.3
Personally, I use it in spiritual ceremonies, recreationally and for anxiety – particularly social anxiety. I use it to allow an opening of my mind whilst also allowing inner dialogue to come through without over thinking it (which I have a habit of doing if you haven’t already noticed). A lot of my close friends and family use cannabis – a few of them being highly addicted. But I also have friends and family who are extremely against it and just from talking to them I know that they’re uneducated about the whole situation.

I don’t see it as a drug – I see it as another herb that allows me to change the body, mind, emotion and spirit of an individual. Just like any other medicinal herb. Of course if you abuse it you can get into a lot of trouble, but you can abuse anything. This is why I think it’s important that a qualified practitioner such as a Herbalist or Naturopath be given more power.

General Information

*Botanical Name: Cannabis sativa & Cannabis indica. Subspecies sativa is used for it’s fibre and seed oil (among other things) whilst subspecies indica is used for medicinal and recreational purposes.1
*Medicinal Properties: Intoxicant, sedative, analgesic, anti-emetic. Traditional uses include the treatment of pain, rheumatism and asthma. The herb has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine and TCM since ancient times. In the 19th century, marijuana was popularly used as a pain killer especially for menstrual cramps. Nowadays it is used for nausea caused by chemotherapy, depression and lack of appetite in AIDS patients and to lower intra-ocular pressure in cases of glaucoma. Seeds are still used in Chinese medicine as a mild treatment of constipation in elderly people and as a superfood for a nutritional boost.1 4
*Parts Used: The female flowers, associated leaves and the resin which contain the highest amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC has been the only chemical found in the plant to cause the hallucinogenic effects on the central nervous system. However, in my research I have come across the drug Marinol which contains the synthesized version of THC and has had many side effects including death.1 2

Ritual

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As stated previously I use cannabis as a way to open my mind – this can be extremely useful when I’m meditating for a particular purpose that I don’t think I can accomplish on my own. On numerous occasions I’ve heard cannabis being referred to as a ‘teacher plant’ – one of the many actually (Ayahuasca being another).
This I completely agree with because when I first started smoking, one of my friends from high school died in a car crash. It felt like after that that someone had shaken up my brain and all the information that was stored in there was out of place. The reason why I liked it was because it taught me how to get past the grief and sort everything else in my life out at the same time. It’s also taught me things about other plants and many other things besides.
I started using it in ritual about a year and a half ago after I meditated a few times high and learnt some amazing things about myself and the people around me that I would never had if I was sober – things that I use in everyday life now.

I set up the ritual as usual then roll a joint (1 part mugwort, 1 part damiana, 1 part lions tail, 1 part cannabis). Ideally I would have it sitting on my altar for a couple of days before I smoke and keep a majority of my herbs on or next to my altar. Whilst doing this I think about the purpose of the ritual and what it is I want to learn during the meditation. Of course, you still want some sort of intuitive flow so it’s important you don’t become too rigid with the question or intent. It’s also equally important to have a bullshit filter to avoid your mind going in circles or latching on to every tiny thought (meditating for 15 minutes before smoking or my Meditation flower essences can assist with that).
Next Cannabis will usually take me to the place I need to go this can be in the form of an overwhelming desire to walk down to the park or art gallery or to simply sit on the balcony. When I’m in the right space physically and mentally, I will meditate. Guided meditations are extremely helpful for me, however I’ve only come across a couple that I like it’s important that you look around a bit (music, movies or being in nature can also assist).
Next I will usually draw, paint or write what it is I see, hear or experience. Once I have what I need I usually have something high in protein to ground me again (plus some flower essences and water). Having a shower or bath or simply taking a nap can also be effective – this is why it’s important I have an entire day or night to conduct such a ritual.

Note

In my experience Cannabis needs to be smoked with respect and reverence – even if it’s just recreationally. Being educated on the herb itself and being aware of where it’s come from (hydro or bush) is also important so that you can gauge how much you will need. Of course everyone is different so it’s essential for your first time smoking to be with someone you can 100% trust, in a place that you know and that you know how to meditate effectively. Generally, it’s extremely harmful to smoke cannabis with tobacco – this is usually how people develop an addiction to cannabis. Do yourself a favour and chop up with some other herbs that can enhance the effects or offset the potential side effects.

Conclusion

It’s a bit of a riskay post but I use it a lot in my practice and I thought it was appropriate to document on my spiritual blog. Of course there is a lot more to a ritual or ceremony than meets the eye or that can be recorded in words. If anyone has any questions or comments I encourage you to come straight to me with it and I will answer or listen to the best of my ability.

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