Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Questioning Everything....again

If you had asked me this time last month what path I followed, I would have told you that I did not know, but that I was fairly certain that it wasn't Wicca and that I was leaning towards some other path. Ask me now, and I'd tell you I don't know.

As per my previous posts you will be aware that I was at the Gathering in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside this past weekend, and at this event I attended a lot of different talks and events. A lot of what I attended were rituals. Not through my own accord, it just so happened to be the talks I went to ended up being ritual based. Through the rituals I felt a connection, something deep down inside was feeling comfortable and at home. Most of these rituals were Wicca based, though not all, but I felt at home almost. I loved seeing them performed properly by people who knew what they were doing. It's not something I've really been able to witness.

So am I Wicca? I don't know. I'm certainly willing to consider it again, I'm going to focus on some of the books that are recommended reading when following a Wicca based path, see if I feel it still feels as good as it did when the rituals were performed in the field.

I guess practice might be good too, work towards the general rituals - take what I can from solitary books or adapt group ones. I'm going to re-re-read Scott Cunningham's Wicca and go from there.

The other thing that I had started to consider was the notion of covens. I don't know if I could work within a coven, I think I am too stubborn and independent, but the thought intrigued me and it might be something I'll entertain in the future. If not a coven then certainly check out the moot that's near by, I need some form of connection beyond the internet, I think.

These new notions of mine, however, will help me with another idea I have. I want to plan out and hold some talks on Children of Artemis' SecondLife Sim based on Finding a Path. I wrote an article which I sent to them for their magazine, Witchcraft and Wicca. I don't feel like I know enough on any other subject but I might be able to help on this aspect and to let people know not to jump at one path and hope it fits, but to take the time.  Going back to Wicca just shows that I didn't necessarily take the appropriate time to consider it, or at least didn't have enough experience to think it might be the right path. Either way, I'm looking forward to starting to plan this out. Hopefully these classes will start on SecondLife by mid-September where, hopefully, they will get decent enough feedback to fuel the next part of my plan, but that bit is underwraps for now, and you'll need to wait to find out where I'm going with that.

So, old directions and new directions being head into, this is exciting for me and I'm sure it's just the beginning of what the aftermath of the Gathering has in store for me.

The Dark Goddess

I wanted to write a separate post for the Dark Goddess talk at the Gathering. This talk was far more involved than some I went to, it was also a longer session that the rest of the talks there. The talk was held at Witchfest in 2012 but she felt that a longer session would have benefited, and I have to say I’d agree.

By means of introduction, the Dark Goddess talk was held by Jane Meredith. She is Australian and apparently her talk was first heard at the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury where, thereafter, it became one of her most requested talks. To me the purpose of the Dark Goddess talks is to show that it’s alright for life not to go ok, that life isn’t all love and light and sunshine and roses and snowdrops on kittens or whatever else and that the Dark Goddess can have a profound effect on our lives but also that we can move on from the dark periods and come into light.

What I intend to write here is breakdown of the whole talk, some bits will be omitted which I will explain why when I get to them but it is largely a matter of confidentiality.
Jane welcomed us and went through a little bit about the Dark Goddess and her own experiences with working with her. She went into a bit about Inanna and a little bit about the other Dark Goddesses but thought that we’d spend most of the time in ritual.

I haven’t done loads of ritual, so I was jumping at the chance of anything, particularly new stuff and this was very new. So we started by invoking the Dark Goddess. We did this through lots of changing and invoking her by 4 names, Persephone, Kali, The Morrigan and Ereshkigal, the latter I had never heard of before today and need to look into. Once invoked we spoke a bit more, then we split into groups where we discussed the aspects of our lives where we felt that the Dark Goddess had been present. This is where I won’t go into detail in the name of confidentiality, but I will share my own.

What I shared with the group was that after I got married, happily so, I felt like I didn’t have much to look forward to. Ignoring the far future, the near future beyond my husband was looking bleak. I was stuck in a job I wasn’t happy in, I had no career prospects, and I got pretty depressed. I didn’t want to be where I was. I’m not going to lie, I don’t think those feelings have entirely gone, not by a long shot, but I’m working on them.

Then we looked at how we felt that we had overcome the dark aspects. I was honest, I said I didn’t think I had gone through it yet, but I was getting there and spirituality was one of the ways I felt was helping me cope.

After this we approached the Dark Goddess. We did this through another part of ritual where we walked symbolically into the underworld chanting:

“I am beneath the earth, I am inside of you,
You are in my heart, I am in yours too.”

We walked in a circle, clock wise, with a chair in the middle where the Goddess was to sit. During the walk we were, if we wanted to, to approach the chair in the middle and ask the Goddess a question we wanted help with. Then we were to sit in the chair as the Dark Goddess and view ourselves and listen to what she had to say, if anything. I’m not going to go into too much detail here again, on my part this time. But I did connect with her, and I got an answer, whether it was the one I was particularly looking for I don’t know, but it was an answer, I received it and it kinda went with everything else over the weekend in a roundabout way, but more on that later.

Once we had met the Dark Goddess, or made the decision not to, we were to walk in the opposite direction to mark us coming back up from the underworld.

Afterwords we bid farewell to the Dark Goddess very similarly the way we began.

It’s not very often that I feel opened up in a ritual; I think I still hold a degree of scepticism with regards to certain aspects of the occult. This weekend held a lot of interesting moments for me where I could feel the energy or the presence of something more, and this talk and ritual was one of them. I have no doubt that the Goddess was there listening to us and that the answer that came from within was from her. It’s made me interested in her dark side and to look into it more. I did buy Jane’s book on the same subject matter and I really look forward to reading it. I think I can connect with the Dark Goddess more than I thought.

Later in the evening, after my arrow breaking and firewalk, I thought bought to the Dark Goddess workshop. I thought of what I had offered up to the Goddess and noted how they were the same things I gave up to the fire in the ritual before the firewalk. A change has been spurred inside of me, and I know I am not the only one to feel the same. We all experienced a change, it’s a common theme in comments surrounding the event from both attendees and even those given the talks, the initiated, we all sensed something different.

I want to know where the future is going, I can tell that I am not going to be where I am this time next year, in what terms I can’t quite tell. But for now I’m comfortable being me, and wherever this fire magic takes me, I’m quite willing to go.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Artemis Gathering 9th-12th August 2013

It's been a while since I went near my blog, for various reasons but I'll go into them separately another time.

This past weekend I have been at the Artemis Gathering which is run by The Children of Artemis which holds a host of Workshops and Talks and events and its fab. This was my first year and I really didn't know what to expect, I had been to their other event Witchfest but I was told the Gathering was quite different.

The weekend got off to an interesting start when I ended up camping with friends Tom, Hannah, Hywell and Kevin. Kevin is a speaker at COA events and camping with him meant we ended up camping with some other speakers. Mostly initiated Wiccans who were really interesting and made for interesting listening for most of the weekend. They also ran the rituals that were heard at the event. That night was full of conversation, making friends early on and the beautiful music of Cephlalodidge and Damh the Bard. I'm already a massive fan of Damh and it was lovely seeing him play live again!

So the first day the first thing I attended was a talk on Oils, Incense and Brews. Not mediums I have really worked with beyond stick incense, but it was interesting. We got to make our own oils and after looking mine up I have noticed that their attributes are very relevant to an issue that I have at the moment, so that was a massive bonus. I've called it Artemis Oil after the weekend.

Next I went on a nature walk by Tylluan Penry. Now I am a massive fan of Tylluan's work, I have three of her books (although admittedly not all read), and I've gone to many of her talks in the past. The talk was interesting as she actually asked us what we would use individual plants for and pointed out that we don't all use them for the same things and that that is absolutely fine. There are, I'm sure, many who would disagree with that and that X plant has X attributes and that is that. Anything else is nonsense. She brought light and laughter to the talk too which was brilliant. I feel like I've learnt to open my eyes a bit more too!

Then came what was advertised as the opening ritual. It turned out that the opening ritual was the handfasting of Merlyn and Cath who run Children of Artemis. It was beautiful and I feel so blessed to have been included in the ceremony. It was overseen by Tam Campbell, a man I hold in high esteem as he damn well knows what he's talking about and is willing to help others. A lot of the speakers were involved in this as well and it was beautiful seeing them all come together. I wish Merlyn and Cath every happiness in their future and that the God and Goddess bless them many times over!

After a short break and vaguely listening to most of the ritual team again in Meeting the Witches I headed for three hours straight of Tylluan Penry. It made my bum most numb as I was sat on the ground but she had lots of interesting things to say from Magic for finding a Phallus and losing it again, writing and on creating a personal mythology. As ever I learnt lots from her and have bumped Stephen King's On Writing up my reading pile. I hope I have the opportunity to work with her in the future on writing and possibly a book.

The rest of the day was taken up with food, a burning dragon, a slight near injury experience, good company and a relatively early night and might have actually got some sleep too!

Sunday brought one of the best workshops for me. Jane Meredith spoke on The Dark Goddess and myths and how she can touch our lives. It was really really interesting and  I really enjoyed it. A lot of it was a doing workshop, and we connected with others and looked at the dark aspects from our past etc. It was very opening and trusting. We also came face to face with the Dark Goddess in another later part of the ritual. The dark aspect of the Goddess is not one I have worked with but I think I might as it's a really interesting look at another side of my spirituality and also at myself and the moments where I have actually probably come across her without knowing it and knowing I can connect with her to get out of those moments. I bought her book later on which was kindly signed for me, and I spoke with her and she is a lovely lady. I look forward to reading it. I will probably do a more in-depth blog on this workshop later.

After yet another break, unfortunately missing Kevin's talk on Energy Work Based Healing due to Hannah and Hywell leaving early I headed to Steven Ward's Intro to elemental ritual work. In that he did a brief talk and then we did a ritual of what was basically the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. It was interesting as I've never done one before, it was quick and easy and it was a really nice thing to do.

I went to another talk by Pandora who did the one on Oils, this one was on Talismans where we created our own. I'm not so happy with mine but I know I can make another one! The information was given to us in an easily readable format so will be working on this in the future.

After a dinner break was the closing ritual. Once again I really enjoyed this, being with people who are all on similar paths working towards one goal was beautiful. The woman who lead the ritual seemed a little nervous to begin with, I am guessing it was her first on such a large scale but she did it wonderfully. At the end of the ritual we were each given a crystal as a memento, we had done a spiral dance to put energy into it to take away it was was brilliant. I ended up with mine in my bra until about Monday night so it now has a lot of personal energy in it too.

Then was the one thing I really wanted to do and was really looking forward to. The Firewalk Workshop. It was run by Oona McFarlane, a lovely Scottish lady who I could really connect with. The only things I have seen about firewalks have involved a lot of mental preparation before hand in an almost self hypnosis kind of way. Now imagine by "delight" when Oona said she didn't do that and that yes, we would be walking over hot coals, not imagining that we're walking over cool wet grass. Gulp! The first part of the workshop was a bit of a talk about how she got into fire, then we had a walk up to start the fire and putting in it things we wanted to be rid of or putting love and joy into it. And I can tell you, that fire was hot!! We threw incense on it next for another part to work towards or to gain from the fire such as peace, knowledge etc. The incense was amazing and I'm definitely going to need to get the recipe! We headed back to the lodge where we had a bit of paper and wrote down our goals, our vision of what we would be walking towards as we crossed the coals. Then came the arrows. The arrows were something to break through, with our necks. It was an odd thing to watch but when I realised there was no harm to come from it, I went and broke my own arrow to overcome aspects I don't like about myself. Then we headed up to the fire. It had burnt away a lot by now, and as they raked the coals I kinda wondered what I was getting myself into. I wasn't even sure if I was going to do it at that point but when I saw a friends 12 year old daughter practically dance across, I thought "well, why not." I walked the coals three times. And I got such a buzz from doing it. Definitely doing it again next year!

The night was filled with more socialising and a very late night. In the end I got 4 hours sleep on the last night. I went home exhausted but full of so many memories and laughs, knowledge and enlightenment and spiritually awakened.

Only 88 days until Witchfest in November when I hope to meet many of the same friends again.