my tea is tepid

my tea is tepid and my toast, too dark;
even so, today will be a walk in the park!

tho’ the cobblestones may be slipp’ry
and the flowers past their prime,
amidst the trees I’ll escape the frippery
of the young mods who pass their time

always texting and phoning, their conversation vacuous;
finding refuge from it is nothing short of miraculous!

thank the Goddess for her gifts of glorious Nature bestowed
upon me as I trip lightly this most pleasing road!

To Know; To Will; To Dare; To Keep Silent

Magick is the art of transformation, of taking circumstances as they are and — through focused Will and Intention — altering a pattern, shifting energy and generating change, specifically, the change you desire. For change to be effected, there are some requirements. First is consciousness — of the need for and the desirability of an alteration of circumstances — and of the patterns that manifested the current conditions. Then comes resolve — the determination to effect a change in the pattern. Next is to move from passivity to action, committing yourself to taking the necessary (but ethical) steps in favor of your desired outcome using the tools available to you. And finally, but critically important with regards to magick, is choosing to keep your perceptions and activities to yourself.

At the heart of all this lies belief — that you are innately empowered by your own intelligence and the Intelligence from which you originate — to manifest change. Without this belief, nothing can be achieved, whether you are of a magickal inclination or not.

These concepts comprise what is often referred to as The Witches’ Pyramid: To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silent. And these are the foundation of effective spellcasting.

To Know

Knowledge of yourself is key, because memory, emotions, desires and fears inform action and inaction alike. And it isn’t enough to simply know why we want something. To discern whether getting that something is in the interest of our higher good is just as important. Our life’s journey is a tapestry of choices that may either foster or hinder the spiritual advancement of ourselves and others. And to discriminate between what might serve the highest good or oppose it is essential if the work we undertake is to promote meaningful change.

An understanding of the Law of Attraction is important, too. However unconsciously we may generally operate, each of has experienced serendipity and synchronicity — episodes of fortuitous meetings; of the unexpected convergence of people and places and events that present us with valuable information and assistance; and the delight of having our most urgent need met at the eleventh hour by unexpected means. There are no coincidences; the energy and intention we send out, purposefully or not, manifests only what is complementary. To the extent that we believe ourselves deserving and empowered, the Universe will return its support. But if we harbor misgivings or reservations; have feelings of ambivalence or unworthiness; or if, deep down, we desire something contrary to what we claim we want, the Universe will respond in kind.

Finally, a Knowledge of Correspondences is necessary. There is exquisite orderliness and precision in the Universe. Likewise, our workings should directly reflect our desires, our worthiness and our chosen path. The components comprising a spell should form an harmonious web. Words and visualizations are the most potent drivers. Casting with consideration to moon phases and the Wheel of the Year can enhance effectiveness. And thoughtfully chosen colors, plants, oils and the like can be valuable supportive elements. Know, however, that the only real tools you need are your belief, your creative intelligence and your Will.

To Will

The Will is a tool. Just as a hammer or rake can be neglected, resulting in a rusty, unreliable and unwieldy instrument, personal Will can suffer from neglect. This habit of neglect often begins in childhood, were conformity and passivity are seen as virtues and choice may be a luxury. Dependence upon family, along with a natural and wide-ranging desire for approval (parents, teachers, religious authorities, etc.) can foster feelings of powerlessness. Many who typically abdicate their own power do so, not just out of habit, but in an effort to maintain peace at all costs or out of a refusal to accept responsibility for their own lives. Develop your Will: by considering all avenues available to you to find the one most likely to nourish you intellectually, creatively and spiritually and discarding those options which will likely not satisfy your spirit; by considering consequences and accepting responsibility for the choices you make; and by striving to make your workings align with the highest good.

The effective exercise of the Will demands that one be resolute, certain of what is desired and committed to that end. It requires focus and a refusal to entertain failure. It is not a refusal to see that there may be factors in opposition to your desires or circumstances that may, rightfully, impede your efforts.

Keep in mind that personal Will can also be misused or misdirected. To impose our Will on another individual, in an attempt to circumvent that individual’s own Will, is a terrible violation. And it will backfire on you, as a loss of self-respect and the respect of others, and a loss of the cooperation of the Universe. Each of us must examine our motivations, needs and desires and weigh these in light of our responsibility to conduct ourselves in an ethical fashion, upholding the right to self-determination that all individuals possess.

To Dare

On the surface, this speaks to exercising one’s Will, moving beyond the stage of thoughtful examination of desires and the formulation of a plan. But it also means being true to yourself — to your intuition and instinct — in the work you do. After researching correspondences and examples of spells, and after finding inspiration in the methods offered by others, you should dare to create something uniquely personal. Composing the words of your spell infuses it with your energy. And if something suggested by another doesn’t feel as if it belongs, then change it to what has meaning for you. Just as an artist may make preliminary sketches of his vision, refining it until at last he puts paint to canvas in his most aesthetic effort, so too will your efforts be refined. As you expand your knowledge and gain experience, your spells will evolve as ever greater and more effective expressions of your Will.

To Keep Silent

Spellwork is among the most deeply personal aspects of your practice and is therefore deserving of special respect. By keeping silent, you shelter yourself and your work from the scrutiny of others whose opinions, criticisms and advice might erode your confidence in your own power and the efficacy of your spell. Consider, also, that in casting a spell you have raised energy and sent it out into the Universe to work on behalf of your desires. To this projection of your focused Will, the Universe will respond. Resist the urge to dwell on your spell, wondering if has been effective or wondering if you could have done something better. That dissipates the energy you invested in the working, calling it back to you. Think of it as recalling your most competent diplomat back to Washington at the height of a crisis, before he has had a chance to do anything.

Keeping Silence also entails protecting yourself. The ‘Broom Closet’ aside, keeping your work to yourself helps to ensure that you continue to benefit from the freedom to explore your path, secure in the knowledge that you are not subjecting yourself unnecessarily to influences that may undermine your intuition, your inner knowing of how your unique path should evolve. Preserve that most vital element of belief — in yourself, your power and your path!

‘Success’…or is it?

When watching an Internet rebroadcast of the evening news, I heard an interesting comment about retirement readiness. The reporter stated that Generation Y seems to be on track, with a practice of saving an adequate percentage of their income while Generation X (that would be me) is perilously behind the eight ball. Reason: those of us in our 40s fully expected to be working in jobs that provided pensions.

Really?

I never expected to have a job with a pension. Did you? That was our parents’ generation. By the time I was in college at 17, the idea of working for one company for 35 years seemed like a recipe for stagnation. And how many of us could say that any employer we’ve experienced could sustain us that long, be it financially, intellectually, creatively or ethically?

Corporate culture has for decades focused on fiscal expediency above all else. And in recent years, the growing trend is towards contract and short-term employment in an effort to maximize gain with a minimum of investment in personnel. But is this trend a bad thing? Change brings opportunities. If anything, it is an invitation to run a cost-benefit analysis on the way we spend most of our waking hours.

What is your workday like? Many employers demand absolute devotion in exchange for the privilege of affiliation. Increasingly, that devotion takes the form of 24/7 accessibility to YOU, via email, smartphone, pager or even the dreaded drop-by, and a willingness to place that company, its managers and its agenda as your first priority. What time, then, is left for you to pursue that which enriches your experience of living?

If I were a graphic artist, I would put what follows into an eye-catching infographic entitled, ‘Success?’ (Picture a haggard Gen X-er, smartphone in one hand, delivered pizza in the other, standing atop a 3 story house disgorging, out of doors and windows and garage, all the stuff that advertising executives have decreed indicate a life well spent, and all of it illuminated by the last rays of the sunset behind him):

  • Sell your soul to your employer so that you may have purpose, social legitimacy, increasing responsibility, increasing income, and enjoy ‘job security’ — HA! like there IS such a thing;
  • Sustain (barely) the body with meals from the fast food drive-thru or the microwave because time is money and there’s (supposedly) no profit in sitting down with your family to enjoy home cooking and face-to-face conversation;
  • Participate in conspicuous consumption. Buy lots of stuff — on credit, if necessary — so that your neighbors will assume you are wildly successful. Don’t let yourself feel any hesitation or misgivings because sustaining this illusion, we are told, is good for the economy;
  • Stay abreast of technologies, specifically mobile ones, and participate enthusiastically in social media so that you won’t feel awkward and left out when you are on your own at Starbucks;
  • Indulge your child’s every desire and interest, even if it means you can’t be with him. After all, it’s important that he be envied by his peers, and all those extracurricular activities may be a boon to getting him accepted into an elite college or university;
  • And don’t be surprised if, in order to remain committed to this way of life, you must sacrifice your dignity, your morality, your marriage, your family, your friendships, your health, and your emotional stability. Oh, yes…and your financial well-being, too.

This cycle is self-perpetuating for every person who, by ignorance or preference, has bought into this picture of ‘success’, because nothing is or ever will be enough.

It generates wants that are mistaken for needs, driving individuals into servitude to creditors and employers. It promotes the persistent division of society into haves and have-nots, helping to fuel the growing imbalance of power and exploitation of natural resources by a fraction of the human population. It stifles creativity and intellectual curiosity, and relegates human connection to professional networking and superficial associations by robbing the individual of precious time and by painting solitude and relaxation as unproductive. It is a daily, soulless, spiritually bankrupt grind that the corporate engine and social media are fueling, managed largely by preying on fears of not having enough, now and in the future. And it’s spreading outward from the West like the flu. So, what is the antidote?

To begin, some questions deserving honest consideration:

Who, exactly, are you? Or put another way, what defines you?

Are you your job? Your credentials? Your income? Your neighborhood? The car you drive? The clothes you wear? The clubs and organizations to which you belong?

Are any of these indicative of your character? Of the state of your spiritual health? Of your capacity to love yourself and others and accept that love in return?

If you were to pay off that new car and drive it until the wheels fell off, rather than trade it in for a new one every couple of years, would you feel less attractive, less important, less intimidating at a stop light? Would that bother you?

If you chose to live in a more modest house with an equally modest mortgage, rather than make the leap into the next best homeowners’ association enclave, would your colleagues think you less of an achiever? Would you care?

If you were to resist ‘upgrading’ your gadgets each time the hottest new tech came to market, would you feel out of the loop, less savvy, uncool?

If you asked your child to choose the one extracurricular activity that is really important to him so that all the rest of the busyness could be discarded in favor of time — to be a child, to be with you, to just BE — would it be a deprivation? Or would it be a gift?

Are you really better off with all that stuff? And all that responsibility? With being so accessible to all and sundry? Do you feel more secure or do you feel overwhelmed? Would some simplification make life more pleasant and more meaningful? Can you be content with what you truly need and perhaps just a little left over for the fun stuff?

Think: Spring Cleaning for the Soul. Evaluate your lifestyle to determine what serves you and take steps to eliminate what compromises your dignity, undermines your happiness and holds you back from investing in those relationships which nourish you and teach you and bring love into your life. Invest in YOU. Rediscover your creative fire, your intellectual curiosity, your family, your free time. Support local entrepreneurs or become one yourself, because it’s the entrepreneur who, by supporting communities and not being a cog in a corporate giant, keeps the American Dream from dying altogether. And set boundaries that preserve time for self-reflection; learning a new skill ‘just because’; reading that book you’ve put off for a year; exploring nature; making love to your partner; playing ball with your child; and any number of other adventures you’ve denied yourself. It’s time to live life on your terms!

Bon Voyage, Shirley Temple…

That amazingly talented gal who grew from America’s sweetheart into a legend and wasn’t consumed by it, Shirley Temple Black, has passed at the age of 85.

I remember watching her films throughout my childhood. I grew up with my mother and her parents, who had weathered the Great Depression, so I had a certain appreciation for the magnitude of her contribution during such tumultuous and uncertain times. Winsome dimples and curls, genuine sweetness and talent, and a bubbly personality are medicine when economic collapse, hunger, poverty and the stirrings of war are the day’s news.

She had the good sense to leave acting behind when it no longer served her and lived life on her terms — as a wife, a mother, a diplomat, an activist, and an altogether pretty savvy, compassionate and intelligent role model for women the world over.

Even today, I sometimes find myself humming, On the Good Ship, Lollipop, when tidying the bungalow.

Truly, a woman to celebrate. She had a pragmatic, upbeat fearlessness about her. And those are qualities worth emulating.

Shirley: you will be missed!

What Moves You?

For every one of us who refuses to be made ‘comfortably numb’ (yes, nods to Pink Floyd) — by overwork, by substances, by consumerism, by social media, by television, by gaming or whatever else — there is at least one thing that truly moves us. That thing that brings us back to our core and sparks in us that sensation of freedom and promise and shiny newness that is the natural habitat of young children. That something that distills the essence of what it is to be alive and aware: it dissolves our ruminations on the past and extinguishes our fantasies for the future and parks us squarely in the present moment. And reminds us that we are not hamsters on wheels but are instead gifted with purpose even if we aren’t quite sure how to articulate that purpose.

What generates that spark in you? Is it something that has evolved over time and are you able to recreate the conditions necessary to generate that spark? Are these moments spontaneous, a ‘bolt out of the blue’? Do they present themselves as a part of a spiritual practice or creative endeavor? Do these moments require solitude and contemplation? Or are they a part of something ecstatic, be it music or dance or sex?

Welcome

…to my Boho bungalow at the intersection of SheWasaStrangeChild Avenue and TheCreativeLifeKeepsYouSane Boulevard. A smattering of this, a smidgen of that, the art of words and maybe, down the line, a recipe or two.

On Spirituality

I’ve been peeling the layers of the onion…

While I will not chronicle every step of my journey here, I will share the occasional epiphany or amusing anecdote. You are most welcome to follow along and if anything here is even remotely useful to you, please do comment.

A bit of backstory…

I was and will always be a child of nature, intrigued by the play of light on water and leaves, the shifting of the seasons, the tumult of storms and the immensity of the night sky. The whisper of the wind on my skin, the warmth of the sun, dirt beneath my feet. None of it is mundane. None of it is taken for granted. All of it nourishes me.

As soon as I was able, I spent most of my time in the forest or the creek or the garden. As a very young child, I had a favorite tree in which I would pass hours and hours, weaving flower garlands, hanging baskets and ribbons from branches, and munching my grandmother’s wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I would sit out gusting wind and driving rain under the front porch with the family dog, awed by the forces of nature. Everywhere I wandered I found beauty and imagination and wonder. Idyllic? Entirely!

And then we moved from that idyllic Upstate New York village to the Bible Belt. Gone was my forest, my creek, my favorite tree. Gone was my wonderful school and the coolest Kindergarten teacher ever and the music room and the kiln. I was heartsick. A new chapter was beginning. And along with boxes of housewares and garden tools and braided rugs came, unfortunately, my mother and grandmother’s religious affiliation. Sadly, keeping that was natural and expected for them, as it was the only continuity afforded them, a shared history with parents and grandparents. But while the northern village’s contingent was quite benign (or seemed so), the southern group was anything but. Anti-Yankee resentments, barely concealed racism, divisive cliques, heavy-handed administration and arbitrary application of the ‘rules’ were the order of the day.

I am, in a word, a survivor, of what I have come to refer to as a ‘psuedo-christian cult’. I was alternately lauded for my public speaking abilities and made the subject of repeated interrogations over spurious allegations of misbehavior. Throughout my adolescence and most of my teenage years my only refuge was my writing, my books and music. Denied the freedom to choose my friends, pursue any outside interests or question anything about that bizarre cult and its teachings kept me wholly isolated. (Thank the Goddess that my mother respected my intellect and privacy enough to never censor what I read or listened to! Or maybe she was just afraid to find out, as that would have necessitated a confrontation and she wasn’t up for that. Either way, I thank her.)

I cut ties with the cult at seventeen. By twenty-six, I was back in earnest, as a promise to my dying mother. And that was a necessary step for me, as it enabled me to see the cult in all its sinister glory, how expertly it utilizes fear to isolate and control its followers, how it attracts and exploits those who are depressed or chronically ill or who have experienced painful losses of loved ones and dreams. Four years and some ugly experiences later I celebrated my departure with a bonfire. Every book and pamphlet, every ledger full of assembly notes in my mother’s meticulous hand, every cassette tape…whoosh! up in flames they all went. That was a ritual of letting go, the first of many.

A couple of years and a new marriage later, I found my way into the welcoming arms of the cult’s favorite target – the Catholic church – which, incidentally, is the religion I would have been raised in if my great grandparents hadn’t been snagged by the cult. My husband had been raised Catholic and we attended together. In short order, I completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and experienced Christian baptism.

In retrospect, it seems a natural next step for someone accustomed to inflexibility in matters of faith and seeking a mainstream spiritual ‘home’. But what held the greatest attraction for me was the ritual of the Mass and Marian devotions. Always learning, I delved deeper into the historical record and the unassailable truth of it, along with the modern Church’s tenacious resistance to change, demanded that I reassess the spirituality that I was offered.

There are people like me aplenty. The details of their backstories are, of course, as unique as they themselves are. But the common thread is how pervasive the suppression of the authentic Self is and how much of that suppression originates in mainstream fundamentalist religion. Whether it is the call of one’s native spirituality or creative voice or sexuality or all those aspects combined, mainstream religion is so often employed more as a means of enforcing conformity and promoting docility and far less as a tool for enlightenment or discovery of peace-promoting commonalities. For some, the inherited affiliation is adequate, for not everyone is a seeker of deeper truths. But for the rest of us…

There is a Polaroid of me, age five, standing on my swing with a wide sweep of early autumn forest beyond me on the other side of that creek. And in my expression there is such seriousness, as if some part of me divined what was to come. But along with the gravity I see laughter and promise. Those old-soul eyes that look back at me across the years remind me that there is work to do. Good work. Necessary work. The work of a lifetime. The work of uncovering and remembering and discovering the authentic Self.

Exposing and dismantling the barriers, dusting off the dreams, opening to the magick and reclaiming the path that was always mine.