Posts filed under ‘How-To’

Ignore the Bullies, and Keep Being Awesome

The Bullies Don’t Actually Know You: A Vital Reminder in How Crowd-Sourced Jerks Work

Over the years, I’ve seen various people with eloquent and well thought out opinions and positive contributions retreat from online spaces because they couldn’t take the bullying and the obnoxious comments. Some people just make their blogs comment-free. Others retreat completely. This is all an individual choice, but the problem just gets worse whenever we do this- we cede more territory to the nasty people. Remember, they are a relative minority- the loudest, most obnoxious, often unemployed for a reason (nothing against unemployed people- I’m one of them after all!) They are not a true reflection of the entire community or subculture that they participate in online.

Now, building face to face, in person community is important, and I try to use the Internet as a tool for doing that- I sometimes hear from people in a particular community who poo-poo it all and think that they are better because they managed to find each other in (insert decade here) the old-fashioned way. Well, that’s nice, but not everyone happens to be in the right place to just stumble across other people of a particular religious, sexual minority, disability, hobby group or what have you. Sometimes you are dealing with people that are more in the closet about various things, and you have to find a way to lure them out- at least into a space they feel safe. For some folks, that space will continue to be primarily online. Some people are geographically isolated. They may not be able to afford to go to Pagan festivals, science fiction conventions, or bisexual conferences. They may have complex health needs, businesses to run or young children or elderly parents to take care of. They may even be homeless or living in a group home or mental institution, but Tumblr or Twitter are places they can reach the outside world on their smart phone and get support and information. For some people, this can be a life or death connection. So let’s not tell them that they are just “slacktivists” and lazy homebodies when we don’t know their situation.

These are the folks I’m thinking of who keep me writing online. I try to get past all the drama, just transcend, and remember why I’m here and what I’m doing. Moderate your comments- delete the abusive ones, the derailing ones, the ones that just don’t add to conversations. Write a FAQ or a “How to Be an Ally to Group X” (or link to either) so you don’t have to keep answering the same questions, but at the same time, don’t bite people’s heads off for asking them. Just say “Good question- please read the FAQ/101 Masterpost, and let me know if you want to know more”. When people tell you “your interpretation of feminism/queer theory/Norse mythology/Star Wars canon is WRONG!!! Tell them, OK then why don’t you make your own post/essay/ritual/interpretative dance/fan fiction/workshop and do it your way. Some people just want attention, any attention even if it’s negative. Sometimes we can re-direct them in a more positive direction. Sometimes they will just sit in the corner and pout and try to cause trouble another day. Sometimes they’ll surprise you, because you’re the first person to consider their pet theory/idea/project (even if you think it’s totally out there/impractical/silly) But if they are willing to create their thing and follow their groove while playing well with others, I’ll give them a shout-out, even if it’s not my cut of tea.

But I love the internet, because it’s a giant marketplace of ideas. Many of them are bad. Some of them are harmful. Some of them are good- and even really cool. So keep coming up with new ideas and developing them and sharing them with like-minded people. Keep Being Awesome.

Your Fandom’s OK, my Fandom’s OK

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August 27, 2015 at 12:30 am 1 comment

Frugal & Eco-Friendly Pagan Decor & Ritual Gear

A lot of metaphysical/magical/Pagan ritual tools and statuary etc. are expensive, and cheap alternatives are often not very eco-friendly.

The ever-amazing Ozark Pagan Mamma (Tressabelle) has some great ideas for crafting Pagan decor

Crafting with Salt Dough– make simple (or complex!) wall plaques, deity figurines, beads etc.

Misc. Thrifty Craft Formulas

Lupa also has lots of suggestions for eco-friendly ritual tools, including how she gathers ethically sourced animal parts and other items for her own artwork.

More links on an earlier post of mine- Practice- Simple & Frugal

July 30, 2015 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

Getting Started in Various Polytheisms

If you aren’t sure what tradition you will be following (or creating!) this is a nice way to compare things a bit before you dive head-first into something! Remember also, that polytheist and animist practice doesn’t have to be based on a particular cultural tradition- either historic or living. One example of a modern, polytheistic religion is the Otherfaith, involving worship of eight Gods and a multitude of spirits. Though I’m not a follower myself, I find it fascinating to watch the development of the Otherfaith, the reflection of human diversity in their Gods (or rather are we reflections of the Gods?) and my discussions with Other People has added a lot of insight in my own attempts at finding modern inspiration.

General

A list with lots of resources- Pagan 101

Polytheism 101: Building a Shrine, Offerings, 

Devotional Primer– advice from an eclectic heathen

Keeping a Daily Practice: 7 Keys to Success by Dagulf Loptson

Daily Devotions– suggestions for each day of the week. On the main blog page, she posts each day the day of the week activities as well as hymns for deities/spirits associated with that day of the month, festivals etc.

Indo-European Polytheisms

Guide to Gaelic Polytheism

Longship– Beginner’s Guide to Heathenry- pan-Germanic

Roman Polytheism

Non-Indo-European polytheisms

Natib Qadish– Canaanite polytheism

Daily Prayer

Kemetic Polytheism (Egyptian)

Kemetic Starter Guide

Ritual

Hinduism

Super Simple Daily Puja

Shinto-

Shinto Resources

Non-historically inspired polytheisms

The Otherfaith

Modern American Polytheism– this can be combined with various other pagan/polytheist traditions.

June 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm 7 comments

Caer’s Devotional How-Tos

Caer Jones has a bunch of great articles on her blog about developing devotional practices that can be useful for people of many traditions- or even folks who haven’t yet figured out what path they are on yet. Even if your practice ends up being totally different than what she does, it gives you some ideas to work with.

Growing Devotions

Part 1 Understanding Devotions

Part 2 Finding Your Center

Part 3 Connecting with the Land

Part 4 Embracing the Ancestors

Part 5 Knowing the Gods

Part 6 Returning to the Center

Striking the Spark: Oil Lamps- What, How to Make & Use Them

Part 1 History of Oil Lamps– symbolism, fuel options, types of oil lamps

Part 2 Constructing the Standing Wick Oil Lamp

Part 3 Constructing the Floating Wick Oil Lamp 

Part 4 Using Oil Lamps

Building Woo Spaces

Altars & Shrines– How are they different?

Personal Shrines 

Working Altars

May 24, 2015 at 9:25 am 2 comments

Unpacking/Repacking Your Baggage

Before we go exploring Paganism(s), we need to be prepared by unpacking and repacking our spiritual and emotional baggage from our philosophical, and/or religious upbringings. We need to make sure we aren’t bringing things along that will drag us down, and make sure we are equipped with the right tools for what we might find!  Even if you have been practicing Paganism for a while- or many years, sometimes it’s good to take a look at what you are carrying around, sort thru it and repack!

Initially I was dividing this up into questions for people who had a religious upbringing vs. a secular one but it felt like a rather artificial division- so just answer whichever questions seem relevant to you!

What religions or philosophies are dominant in your country, region and/or cultural background(s)?

Is there any status, privilege or social advantages that go with belonging to those religions?

If you were brought up with a minority religion or philosophy (this can include a secular/nonreligious one) how did this affect you and your family?

Are there customs and traditions you were brought up with that have religious origins? What personal and family meanings do they have?

What attitudes did you learn about people of different faiths or non-religious people? People in or from other cultures and countries- or even regions of your own country?

What attitudes did you learn about gender and sexuality?

What kind of ethics, morality or value systems were you brought up with? From what sources do these values come?

Views of death and the afterlife- importance or lack of- as compared with the value of this life?

Important for Repacking and Setting Off to Explore:

How have your views on these various issues changed over time, and what influenced them to change? (Education, talking to people with other views, reading/watching/listening to media, your own thoughts, experiences, etc)

Do you have any feelings of anger, guilt, frustration towards your upbringing, family members, clergy or religious communities? What work do you need to do with those feelings so they don’t get in the way of your spiritual explorations?

What positive things did you learn and experience from past religions you’ve participated in? What worked for you or didn’t? What helped you grow spiritually and emotionally?

May 16, 2015 at 12:55 am 3 comments

Approaching Pagan Religions

Now and then after I mention my religion on Facebook, Meetup or heck, in person someone asks me to tell them more about Pagan religions, simply out of general curiosity or because they are interested in exploring it themselves.

I’ll start with Pagan Pride’s definition which I feel is broad enough to be inclusive, but not meaningless as non-Abrahamic religion tends to be.

A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:

  • Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
  • Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
  • Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
  • Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
  • Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.

Ironically, after sharing that, I’m going to make the suggestion of backing away from the word Pagan/Paganism, since as you can see it is so broad- don’t worry for now, what label applies to you if any. I’ve been on my rambling path for 16+ years, and have use many different labels!

What do you want to *do*? One thing I can generalize about, is that Pagan religions are generally more about what you do than what you believe. Personal and communal spiritual experience matters more than the words of a holy book.

Who do you want to *be*? Pagan practices also give us many more choices than simply being a clergyperson or a layperson- sometimes there are no clergy, sometimes everyone’s clergy, sometimes there are many different spiritual roles- even ones that change throughout our lives- becoming an elder, for example. It isn’t as simple as decided you want to be a Druid, Witch, warrior, priestess of Bast and so forth however, you need to find what path is right for you, and learn to listen to what calls you, rather than what seems cool and glamorous!

There are many different approaches- even within the same tradition.

Here are some of the different approaches we’ll explore in following posts-

First Steps: Unpacking/Repacking Your Spiritual Baggage

Culture-Based Religions

Magic & Religion

4 Intro to Syncretism

Earth/Nature/Eco-spirituality Isn’t Always Pagan

6 Mystery Traditions

7 Shamanism Part 1: Origins, Spread in Use of Term, Part 2: Is “Cultural Neutrality” Possible? Part 3: Other Words, Other Worlds

Getting Started in Various Polytheisms

9 Patron Deities

10 Spiritual Specialists vs. General Practitioners

11 Vocational Paths- Warrior, Priest, Bard etc.

Pop Culture Influences

Related post of interest:  Jenett’s Seeker’s Guide (amazing set of resources put together by a professional librarian, of course!)

Recommended book (general not Pagan-specific) Finding Your Religion by Scott McLennan

May 15, 2015 at 7:40 am 5 comments

Project: Making a Polytheist Prayer Book

Way back when I read Ariel’s great series of posts on How to Make a Polytheist Prayer Book. I thought what great ideas! And then of course like most devotional ideas, it was forgotten about. Often I find when someone writes a long series of posts, it’s hard to find them all, so I’m linking them all here in order with some descriptions. I also am copy/pasting all them into a Word document to print off, and highlight parts to help me navigate it. (for my own use- do not re-post Ariel’s stuff- respect her copyright!) I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to post summaries here or not, so I will discuss my journey thru the steps and comment on how well they work for me, and note any variations I come up with as I go.

Step 1– Pick out a notebook- suggestions on what to consider

Step 2– Setting up the working notebook

Step 3– Finish set-up- Title, Table of Contents, Index

Step 4– Choosing a Spirit of Inspiration

Step 5– Make notes about the spirit of inspiration (epithets, attributes, symbols)

Steps 6, 7,8, 9– Write or adapt a prayer for inspiration for the project, make offering to spirit of inspiration and read/recite prayer

Steps 10, 11, 12, 13– Adapt invocation for inspiration prayer into a smaller prayer for more regular use. Consider when, where and how to worship on a regular basis. Shrine permanent or portable? What holidays will you celebrate that will need special prayers? Look for another notebook to use as a final prayer book.

Step 14, 15, Conclusion– Make a worship/devotional plan- with a list or chart. Choose a book to use as the long(er) term prayer book.

May 12, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

Thinking Creatively about Ancestors

(Belated post) Happy Samhain, and Happy Halloween! Today I will mostly be celebrating Halloween, American-style, feeding the munchkins that come to the door, and playing board games with my partner & his brother. This weekend and next, I’ll be attending 2 different Samhain events. This is the time of year when we focus on honoring the dead, and I often hear from people of various paths, that find this to be a stumbling block. Often this is because they had (or still have) difficult, painful and abusive relationships with their family members, both living and dead (or the dead are “guilty” by association with the living relatives). This has often been a topic of discussion on the ADF lists, and people who were adopted often express awkwardness surround this. I am lucky in that I have a great relationship with my own family and a cordial one with my partner’s family.

Adoptive Family– if you were formally adopted, your adoptive family’s ancestors are yours. Adoption (especially by relatives) did happen in various ancient cultures, and all those stories about foundlings and orphans being adopted are not just stories 😉 Informal “adopted” parents, grandparents and aunts & uncles can also be honored. Search for your birth parents & ancestors if you so desire, but remember that it is not required to feel like a “Real Pagan”. If you were adopted from another country or ethnic background than that of your adopted family, adding symbols of that country or culture to a physical or online shrine and honoring cultural ancestors would be good ways to honor your heritage.

Ancestors by Marriage/Partnership– Your partner or spouse’s ancestors are also your own. Personally I find this can be a nice way to share one’s spirituality with a non-Pagan spouse and even their broader living family- you can gather pictures and mementos together to create an ancestor altar, without announcing to everyone that This is a Pagan Thing! It’s not just a Pagan Thing! Many cultures and religions honor their ancestors, and respectfully listen and learn if your partner’s family has its own ancestor-honoring traditions- Jewish, Mexican Catholic, Chinese Confucian, etc.

Spiritual Ancestors– in some traditions such as Feri, they are referred to as “the Mighty Dead” founders or influential practitioners of your tradition, or other thinkers that have been influential on your path. They can be part of a recent revival, or priests and shamans of long ago. This is a good category to focus on in ritual, since our groups are usually made up on unrelated people. Many people also see their coven, grove et al as being like a family.

Ancestors of Place– people who lived before you in your house, the land it sits on, the general area. This may blur with non-human spirits of place as well.  In the U.S. and other colonized lands we often find it easier to acknowledge and honor European founders of our cities and countries, while steering clear of discussing the many victims of genocide and forced relocation. Understandably, if some of these spirits are present they may be angry with us. I’ll expand on this another time, as we get closer to Thanksgiving, but in short, dwelling on guilt is pointless, but acknowledging the wrong-doing of the past is important. I think what would be best in honoring these spirits, is to pray for healing and reconciliation between Native and non-Native peoples. Do not say prayers that “thank” the Native peoples for the land, when it was not much of choice for them to sell it. I would also suggest avoiding doing rituals near or on Native American burial grounds.

Ancestors of Trade/Profession/Calling– if you have a trade or profession, be it mundane, spiritual or a combination, you can honor deceased accomplished members of that trade, along with patron gods or saints, or perhaps the founder(s) of the company or organization you work for, or your union/trade association. Honoring activists of the labor movement would also be cool- I think this category would be even more appropriate for Labor Day (in September in the U.S.) or May Day, or a special day associated with your profession. If you are a student, trainee, or job-seeker of a particular field, you can also honor people of related professions. You can also honor deceased alumni of your college or high school, if you feel a special attachment to the school, especially at homecoming.

Queer Ancestors– If you identify as queer, GLBTQA+, or otherwise have an interest in queer history, cultures and civil rights, there are all kinds of cool people throughout history you can honor. Something to keep in mind however, is that the concepts of sexual orientation and transgender/transsexual are modern constructs, however gender fluidity/nonconformity and same-sex love and sexual behavior have existed throughout human history throughout the world. This is another reason I like the word “queer”- it is inclusive of anyone who has a relationship or gender identity that does not fit with the norm. Pinterest shrine here. Nornoriel has an inspiring tribute to Harvey Milk (one of the first openly gay politicians in the U.S.)

Disabled and Neurodiverse Ancestors– as with queer history, the history of people with disabilities is also quite hidden, there are many famous people who had disabilities that we don’t talk about, and people who are not remembered because they were shut out of society in institutions. (Sometimes even members of our own families!) “Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that suggests that diverse neurological conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome.”-Wikipedia I like to use the term neurodiverse, because there are many historical figures that people try to post-humously “diagnose” with various mental conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome or bipolar disorder, and while we can make educated guesses we will never really know the truth. Thus we can include people with various diverse ways of thinking without giving them a specific label. Pinterest shrine here, Nornoriel has a lovely tribute to Helen Keller here.

Deities as Ancestors– Last but not least, in many traditions deities are our literal or metaphorical ancestors, and specific deities are said to be the ancestors of particular countries, tribes and clans. Illustrious ancestors are also often deified, or at least get a hero or saint-like status.

See Tutelary Goddesses post

Some people will of course fit into multiple categories! I will be writing more posts about these groups of ancestors, and individual ancestors as the Muses move me, and adding to the shrines, while trying (probably in vain) to not get too sucked into Pinterest!

October 31, 2014 at 10:40 pm 2 comments


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