Summer of the Mares

Deity, Horses, Processing 2 Comments »

My calf injury seems to be a way of slowing me down — as if to say, hey you need to look at this other thing… Instead of always being the one putting out energy, I should let my own energy be replenished by the horses

Suddenly I find myself with five mares to play with. So this summer, my horses are my teachers. I have these gifts in the pastures and they are my opportunity to learn more.

I started reading again. I’m several chapters into Zen Mind, Zen Horse. It is so nice to feel excited about reading and learning and knowing I have this great adventure awaiting me this summer.

This summer of the Mares.

Insights when gimpy

Deity, Horses, Processing No Comments »

I had a very interesting discussion with the barn owner last night. I explained how I felt about teaching and that I felt conflicted because I want my former students to have the training they deserve (even if I’m really not the right person to teach them any more).

The barn owner kept me company while I was treating my mare’s back for the nasty case of rain rot she had. Because I injured my calf a few weeks back, I was gimping around and my poor mare was cringing from me washing her back.

The barn owner noted that she thought that there was a connection between my calf injury (which inhibits my mobility and causes me to slow down), what was happening with the horses (which means I can’t ride or do much with them), and what was happening in NorthWind.

She said that she felt that I needed to focus on the horses. I suddenly have Mom’s mares at the barn plus my own. And that I needed to enjoy the energy of my horses and let them replenish me.

I can be so stubborn some times that I don’t always hear the message She is giving me. It takes talking to someone and hearing another perspective for the light to click on.

And the light did click on in a big way. I’ve had this large stack of books to read but haven’t started reading. It was as if I was blocked from reading, like I didn’t want to take on another project.

It’s coming together for me now. I am blessed with three of my own mares and two additional gorgeous mares to learn from this summer.

By the end of the evening at the barn, I hadn’t worked any of my girls, I had only tended to their rain rot and talked with a friend. I felt refreshed and like a weight had been lifted.

That night, I read several chapters in Zen Mind, Zen Horse.

Why not Wiccan?

Personal practice, Processing 4 Comments »

I’ve mentioned on other posts that even though I started on a pagan path as Wiccan, my personal path eventually diverged from Wicca. So what does that mean? According to Northwind’s About Wicca page here is a brief description of Wicca:

In summation, Wicca is a nature religion the adherents of which worship a deity who is divided into male and female aspects. The adherents of Wicca attempt to attune themselves with nature and to see themselves and all life as a part of nature. The Religion does not have as a component, a personification of evil, such as the devil but; believes in personal responsibility for one’s acts.

There are other components too, like the Rule of Return (whatever you do returns threefold) and the Wiccan Rede (And it harm none, do what you will). I mostly honor these.

NorthWind specifically honors Native American aspects. For example, the Cherokee were in the area of Tennessee where NorthWind originated. NorthWind uses the Cherokee names for spirits associated with each element. Using these names (with respect and understanding of the original context) is a way of honoring the people who know the land and have deep ties with them. Honoring their connection — not trying to claim any part of their culture. It’s an important difference to me. Something I always liked about the group rituals. I never used any of the Native American parts in my own practices.

In my personal practice, I do not believe in a deity who is divided in to male and female aspects. I honor one deity and acknowledge the existance of others, which is called henotheism. Wikipedia defines henotheism as “the belief and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be worshipped.”

Grey Cat said this about the view of deities within NorthWind:

Whether or not the God and Goddess are viewed as “real”, “the concept of the God or Goddess, that is personification of the gods, is the means to make contact with divine reality.” (Weinstein) And it is noteworthy that deity, as nature, is in all life, all of the world seen and unseen, including being manifest within each person. So to contact the deity, He/She must be awakened within oneself. This means that Goddess is always with and all around each being, Our Gods are very much a part of our everyday lives.

I still very much hold with this view. In order to have a strong connection with deity, you reach inside to connect to the Divine. I do believe that each person can connect with their deity(ies) if they do the work and listen. (That’s the big trick. Listening.)

So the big difference for me is that I am dedicated to one deity. One deity who isn’t part of or a manifestestation of a great godhead. She is who She is. Following that connection with Her is what lead me farther away from a Wiccan path. The more I learned about Her, the more the details about my personal practice changed.

I tend to do informal ritual. I do daily offerings each morning. My altar doesn’t have quarter candles or elements represented. No god candle. No goddess candle. There is a working reproduction of an oil lamp found in the ancient Roman empire. Other items on my altar include resin stick incense, wooden offering plate, vase with fresh roses, and my depictions of Her (statue, painting, sculpture).

As for the eight general sabbats, I may go to open rituals sponsored by local pagan communities, but I don’t generally do anything to mark the sabbats’ passing. Maybe a nice meal. My main holy day during the year is December 18, the one known feast date for Epona (even if the date only comes from a single inscription from Guidizollo, Italy).

Moving away from Wicca wasn’t something that happened over night. It was years a gradual evolution. I’m glad I had the training and the experience. It’s a good framework and background. It’s just not where I am now.

Evolving paths and Wiccan degrees

Personal practice, Processing No Comments »

When I first became Pagan, I was lucky to find NorthWind Tradition and to have the opportunity to train in an excellent program with some amazing people. NorthWind is a teaching tradition that provides a solid framework — a starting point. When NorthWind members are together, we use the NorthWind frame which doesn’t name a specific god or goddess. We all have different personal practices so I often thought that we use our own connections to our particular deities to invoke god and goddess. This freedom to both be part of the group together and have your own path was something I always liked. It seemed okay that I didn’t incorporate some aspects into my personal practices.

I knew from the initial First Degree class that I would continue through to Third Degree. Because it felt like something I needed to do. It would be important. It was, at the time.

People evolve and so do their spiritual paths. My focus changed from honoring a Wiccan view of the God and Goddess (Maiden, Mother, Crone) to one solely honoring Epona. The more I learned about Her, the more my understanding of Her changed. She wasn’t one aspect of a multifaceted Godhead. She is one deity of many. Over the years, I listened to my intuition (also inspired and informed by research). The Wiccan elements fell away and I slowly realized that a Wiccan wouldn’t recognize anything on my altar as Wiccan. An ancient Roman, however, would recognize most of the items.

For over a decade, I was one of the online First Degree class teachers for NorthWind. (We had an awesome group of people who met online once or twice a month for many years.) As my personal beliefs changed and I grew away from Wicca, teaching the tradition felt strange because I was teaching a path that wasn’t one I followed in my every day life. How can I be a good example when I wasn’t walking the path I taught? I worked around part of this by inviting guest speakers for topics where I didn’t know enough or personally follow. When I moved in 2007, it was a good opportunity to step away from teaching. Having an excuse like the move to stop teaching was a huge relief.

My participation in NorthWind was also minimal at the time I moved out of state. The tradition, like my online classes, had wound down its activities. The internal conflict I felt over teaching or belonging to a tradition that didn’t match my own personal practices was minimized and set aside for a while.

So long as I was participating as myself I didn’t feel the conflict. I was fine participating in local pagan activities and rituals. I was just another pagan helping organize events and meet other interesting people.

I’ve always felt that it is incredibly important to be true to yourself and to live a life so the spiritual and mundane parts are integrated. Sena at a pagan event is (mostly) the same Sena at work. Who I am at core stays the same, even if the topics I talk about are different depending upon the context.

I stayed as a member of NorthWind because it had been my home. Even if I felt like I didn’t fully belong because of how my personal beliefs had diverged from NorthWind’s core teachings, I still stayed a member. So long as I wasn’t asked to teach, the specific conflict of teaching that which isn’t my personal path didn’t come up. Since I moved in 2007, I’ve taught informally — call it mentoring — by helping people develop a personal relationship with their deities.

While mentoring is fun and helps improve my own understanding, it isn’t as challenging as having to understand something when learning something new. I wanted to be challenged. To be able to talk to peers (instead of people who were still learning the basics). I missed having people who were farther along in their paths.

And then last year I found out that Cat was sick and that I needed to drive out to see her. She was a wisp of who she had been. She was still there mentally, but physically she was half way to the other side. She had such dignity and grace in her transition. It was inspiring and amazing and so very sad to see the person who had been the cornerstone almost dissolving before my eyes. It was her time. (Some times it’s only when a person is gone that you realize how much they meant and how much of an impact they had on your life.)

NorthWind rallied around Cat and pulled together after she passed away. I was so elated to see so many old friends at her memorial last year. It was like a family reunion with people I hadn’t seen in years. So amazing.

It highlighted how much I missed having a community. Having that sense of belonging to something like NorthWind. I didn’t want to leave Cat’s memorial because I knew it was the last time my “extended family” would be together. Cat was the charismatic leader who brought all of these people together.

I wanted that connection. I wanted that sense of shared path and sense of community. So I tried really hard within the remaining NorthWind members to rebuild.

Last night, two of former my First Degree students asked me to continue their education for Second Degree. And I panicked. I felt conflicted because I’m not Wiccan any more and I also felt obligated because they have been my students. Second Degree is like getting a Master’s. It’s clergy and leadership training. Both of my initiates are amazing women and are very interested in the Native American elements for the areas where they live. These aspects of NorthWind are not an area I have ever used in my personal practice. Honored, yes; respected, yes; actively done? No. I feel like these students deserve to have the best teacher they can have. I’m not it because I can’t teach the class topics for Second Degree with conviction. It’s not my path any more. I’d be more of a guest speaker on deity relationships instead of the primary teacher.

How do you tell two very dear people that you can not be their teacher? Gently and with love, and hopefully help them find another person to be their teacher within the tradition.

Maybe it is time to consider truly stepping away and not just being inactive.