The Short Version of this blog can be found at http://virtualchaplain.tumblr.com/
Last year, when I learned of my father’s passing, I went into spirals of confusion and shock. Due to complex family issues, I was not able to go to the funeral and have my last goodbyes. Without any closure, it was obvious what I had to do when Samhain came around a few months later. I was not in the mood for the happy Wiccan Halloween costumes and fall celebrations. I used Samhain as a time to mourn. I dedicated my whole ritual to saying goodbyes. I did a mini funeral with burying symbolism and decorated the altar with things he loved. The decorations even included his downfall, a bottle of beer. I did not do this mourning ritual truly for him. He was not the best Dad and maybe he did not deserve a great goodbye. I did it because I deserved to be able to say goodbye regardless of our estranged relationship. I deserved some peace.
Peace, of course, when you are in that grieving cycle is hard to come by if not somewhat impossible. Once the shock left me, I spent the next year circling anger. Enraged on Father’s Day and every day that reminded me of fatherly love. I was mad that his family left me out of the mourning process. But I was madder at my father for leaving me fatherless. In my mind, it was his fault for never really taking care of himself. It was his fault for being a careless, semi- dead-beat father. It was his fault that I would never get that happy-ending you see on TV when the bad father reforms. I will never have that unconditional supportive fatherly love. He died without resolving anything; just left a void, and it was unfair.
As you can read, I am still mad. As Samhain approaches, I am in the state of thinking how to honor my family and ancestors. A year ago, what I needed to do was so clear but now I am left to wonder how to include my father in celebrations when I am still so angry at him. How do we honor the troublesome ancestors? The ones that abandoned us, betrayed us, lied to us, or we just did not like when they were alive. Do we leave them out of our ancestor and family worship rituals? In many spirit based traditions, not honoring our ancestors can serve to be detrimental. We are asking for trouble by not honoring all aspects of our life, history and experiences. By denying the energies around us, we run the risk of inviting tricks from spirits determined to get our attention. So, how do we keep the communication to the other side open when supposed loved ones cause us conflicted emotions?
While some of the more abusive deceased family maybe too triggering to work, I think there are a lot of benefits to working with the less painful spirits. In both African and European Pagan traditions like Voodoo and European, there are difficult and tricky spirits that we venerated. We have our trickster Gods such as Pan or as in Voodoo any spirit can be a savior or a vengeful deity. When working with Papa legba, I have to watch out for his lovely jokes and much like my father he enjoys the gift of a good drink. In many Pagan traditions, spirits and Gods are not perfect or angelic. They came with both their wisdom and their downsides. Either way, we can learn something from all types of beings. We learn from ancestor and spirit communication that human experience and personalities are multi-faceted. We learn that the universe has its blessings and obstacles. We learn that life is not simply good or bad but a mix of gray. We learn that the people we love (God or human) can both hurt and heal us. We learn to be careful with our trust but open to lessons of elders and spiritual guides.
Besides, learning to walk in gray areas, working with complex ancestors can be a healing journey. After all, we cannot learn to move forward in our lives without facing our past. In some cases, like mine, that means facing past daddy issues. It means, accepting where and who I come from. It means accepting what I lost and the relationship I may never have. This time around, for Samhain, I will be adding symbols of my father alongside my spiritual ancestors such as Yemaya and Papa legba, combining my mundane relationship experiences with my higher spiritual ones. Instead of a grieving ritual, I am looking to find ways of incorporating my father into my regular spiritual observances. I am looking to have a regular conversation with my father, something I was not able to do while he was living. This Samhain, I hope to end the denial, and start our new relationship with bold honesty. Perhaps, this means yelling, crying and asking all the unanswered questions. Whatever the ritual ends up looking like, it will be raw and real. After all, there is no greater benefit to working with those troublesome spirits than learning and facing who you really were, are and will become by facing your wounds and fears, and coming up on the otherside.
Buddhism is a group of various traditions that follow the Dharma ( teaching of the Buddha and wise beings). It involves rituals, meditations, contemplations and guidelines ( such as the eight-fold path) in order to either achieve enlightenment or to work towards the betterment of all conscious beings. The Buddhist Dharma is not a closed cannon. In other words, it applies to material within and outside of sacred texts(Buddhist sutras). Buddhist cannon can included any teaching that helps establish mindfulness or that are geared towards the betterment of humankind. Therefore, the cannon includes Buddhist teachings to books on science, psychology,environmentalism from ancient times to current popular works.
Buddhist teachings and schools are often broken down into three categories: Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna and Vijñāna. Hīnayāna is sometimes considered a disparaging term as it literally means lower wheel. These categories are created mainly by Mahāyāna and Vijñāna schools.
However, it is best to think of Buddhist teachings or schools of thought as a Wheel with first teaching ( first turning of the wheel), the second and the third. The teachings are a circular as opposed to hierarchical and each serve as an aid to the other teachings.
Buddhism is also a karmic religion. Understanding karma is considered to be a a lifetime task or even lifetimes. But this simplest definition is cause and effect ( though I was taught that karma is cause and effect is the results of karma.). Therefore, Buddhism is a karmic religion because it analysis how causes, conditions, consequences, thoughts, actions and emotions effect our daily lives, our minds and our next lives. It poses that karma determines how we view the world, and act within in and it determines the path of our next life.
Reincarnation is an important aspect of Buddhist thought. Each Buddhist sees reincarnation in different ways. Some view it as the constant death and rebirths in one’s current life and might not believe in an actual next life. But the traditional view is that fueled by karma, each person reincarnates in different realms of existence until they reach enlightenment or Buddhahood. However, enlightenment beings are no longer controlled by karma and do not have reincarnate. Unless they have vowed to do so ( such as the reincarnations of Dalai Lama or Karmapa)
General speaking the purpose of Buddhism is either to achieve self-enlightenment or to help all beings achieve enlightenment. Therefore, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and wise teachers have developed tools from Buddhist debate to meditation in order to aid humans in free oneself of conflicted, unmindful and harmful patterns. They can see enlightenment as being uncluttered emptiness that allows us to see ourselves or the world as it truly is.
What is my magick? I used to do a lot of spells when I was younger. Spells for love and happiness and money. But the older I would get, the less spells I would do. Magick become less about what I could attain. Magick became about my connection with nature. I wanted mystical relationships. Marriage to the sun and moon. An affair with the waters. A deep secret friendship with the air. The earth as a my protector. Old, grumpy and wise earth. I wanted to understand how everything worked. And how I was apart of it. I did not want to create magic, I wanted to discover that I was indeed magic.
Surprise. As I got older still, magic took on a new meaning. I wanted to heal. Not with spells. They seemed too easy and fleeting. I wanted to heal people. Heal the inner pains with hard work. By helping them see into their own hearts and minds. Helping them to see their own wisdom. Help them see they are also magic.
I wanted to heal the human relationships. I wanted to heal our relationships with nature. With creation. I wanted to teach that we all were married to each other. Interdependent. We were all the sun, moon, earth, water. And then I grew older and came down to earth. I wanted to experienced the true magic of family and friends. I wanted to heal my own wounds and disconnection from loved ones. I wanted to feel not the sun or reach the stars. I wanted to dig through the earth, pull up the dirt and find the bones, the bodies, the skeletons of my ancestors. I wanted to discover my roots. How could I know magic if I don’t know where I come from, and who I am.? Magic is now honoring the past, the spirits and ancestors. Seeing and receiving their healing messages. Passing on what I learn. So that many other people can take this journey into magic too.
In my pursuit of relearning how to interpret tarot , I decided to read up on the history of tarot. This turned out to be an exhausting and somewhat fruitless endeavor. As there are not many known facts about the history and origins of tarot. Most of what is written is debated theories. Of course, history is always filled with more stories, opinions than fact especially when we are dealing with ancient and medieval times. What is also debatable is whether learning about tarot history is needed for becoming a great tarot reader. The argument for researching tarot history is that one can develop more understanding of its symbolism, message and purpose. For myself, I have decided to simply touch the surface of the background of tarot in hopes of enhancing my understanding and connection to the cards.
The origins of Tarot
Theories around the origins of Tarot are highly debatable, sometimes controversial, sometimes eurocentric and even racist. Some English speaking scholars and writers focus on when Tarot and playing cards first appear in European history. While, some attribute Tarot in Europe to “ G**psies travelers. These writers are clearly unaware that G**** is an ethnic slur. But pushing away, eurocentrism. The leading theory of the origins of Tarot in the west is they were evolution from playing cards. There are some theories that tarot appeared before playing cards ( brought in by Romani people or other migrations into Europe). However, legal documents around illegal gambling insert playing cards into Europe history well before the first mention of tarot. According to historical documentation, playing cards appeared in Europe in” 1370-1380″. (wopc.com) While divination cards were not mentioned until “ the second half of the 19th century.” (tarothermit.com) So we can at least concluded that Tarot cards grew from playing cards that turned into divination tools.
Scholars and Tarot enthusiasts believe that playing cards originated in Egypt, China or India and was then brought to the West from immigrants from one of these countries. It is entirely possible, considering the age and sophistication of these civilizations that playing cards and various divination systems were created by all of them. Furthermore, it is not unusual for inventions to be made around the same time by various peoples. I would guess, that playing cards were introduced into the West by many groups.
Tarot Symbolism origins
While many believe that Tarot came to the West already infused with symbolism of Arabic culture, Egyptian, Indian or Chinese symbolism. Others believe Tarot in West fully formed out of Italian Catholic culture. “ The Tarot deck was invented in Italy around 1440, based on the existing card decks of the time (not the other way around, as popular legend has it). The idea that G*psies introduced cards to Europe is contradicted by the fact that cards were known in Europe for about 40 years before the first appearance of G**sies.” (G-Slur censured ( http://jducoeur.org/game-hist/seaan-cardhist.html)) Theories of the origins of Tarot do influence how scholars and reader interpret the symbolism of cards. Some believe that the common symbolism derives from Egyptian or Arabic culture including the name “ tarot.” While others see the symbolism as Italian Catholicism. Either way, Modern western Tarot invokes the symbolism of the church and the biblical messages of Italian artists who created the oldest “ known” decks but it also has been greatly influenced by African, Jewish, and Asian culture.
Many modern and older artists have focused on specific culture in creating their own interpretation or rendering of the cards.One of the oldest recorded decks was commissioned by The Duke of Milan,Filippo Maria Visconti as celebration of his only heirs’ birth, shows the symbols of the Italian renaissance, journey of Christ and the religious message of the bible. Yet, there are now many decks that now focus on Non-Christian religious and philosophical journeys.
Attributes of Tarot:
Tarot originally started as Trumps deck only featuring the only major arcana. Then the minor arcana was added on later. Perhaps the major arcana is an unique invention but the minor arcana most likely stems for playing cards. A modern deck consists of 78 cards. Tarot cards are most used for divination through the use of spreads. Spreads are a layout of pulled tarot cards that help answer a question or offer guidance in some way. Tarot cards can also be used to do meditation, rituals, spells and aid in various forms of spiritual growth.
Regardless of original culture influence, Tarot involves various symbolism from astrology, numerology, color theory and various religious symbols include the tree of life from Judaism. Modern decks will often emphasize one or more symbols. For example there are astrology decks, religious decks, cultural decks, etc.
It would see that modern Tarot incorporates all of its supposed and actual early influences. Further study into any of these school of thoughts, cultures and religions can only serve to help advance one’s reading skills. The most important task is finding a deck that symbols speaks to one’s own intuition, culture and path.
Introduction to Iconology of the early tarot: The origin of Tarot Cards by Robert Oneill.http://www.tarot.com/tarot/robert-oneill/iconology-of-the-early-tarot-introduction ( according to Oneill, tarot was created in 15th century Italy, using the artistic expression of Italian to deliver the deeper meaning behind the Church ’s message.)
http://tarothermit.com/tarot/tarokarten (overview of tarot history and use readers intrepet based on symbolism, subconscious and concertnation)
http://www.tarotpassages.com/mkgtimeline.htm ( timeline)
http://www.wopc.co.uk/history/earlyrefs.html ( orgins of playing cards)
The Everything Tarot Book (Alexander, Skye)
Here is just a quick list of Correspondences:
Other related or close holidays: Easter, St. Patrick’s day, Passover
Aspects and symbols: fertility, birth, new life, balance,light ,becoming warmer, rebirth, renewal, new ideas, good fortune
Gods: Eostre/Ostara, Ariadne, Athena, Minerva, Persephone, Attis, Cernunnos
Animals and Mystical beings: chicks, bunnies, magical hare, hawk, sparrow, snake and Merpeople
Myths: “ magical hare and magical eggs” and resurrection of various God/desses.
Foods: chocolate, eggs, green foods, seeds, salads and “Spring foods”
Activities: spring cleaning, egg hunt, egg art, gardening, new projects.
Flowers, Trees, Plants: ash, birch, maple, daffodil, lily, rose, violet, honeysuckle,lavender, tulips, lilac
Stones and gems: moonstone, clear quartz,rose, garnet, agate
Other symbols: flowers, vines, seeds
Tarot: Chariot, 7, Magician, eight of wands
Resources and Further reading:
Towards a Wiccan Circle:A Practical Introduction to the Principles of Wicca by Sorita d’Este
Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences: A Comprehensive & Cross-Referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans by Sandra Kynes
Tarot for all seasons: celebrating the days & nights of Power by Christine Jette
The question of sin was a heated conversation in my religious studies classes. We were Buddhists, yogis and a Wiccan who did not believe in a God outside of creation ( or did not believe in God at all), who did not believe in punishment or damnation.
Sometimes, the aversion to the concept of sin would make it difficult to relate to Christian text. Eventually, it became clear that we had to think differently about sin in order to really engage the texts. We began to think about what sin meant from our own religious perspectives.
In my case, I had already lessened my anger around the term. It happened when I was introduced to the idea that sin was “whatever takes you away from God”*. Boom. It was a miracle. That one phrase was like poetry to me because it took out all the damnation and punishment. It also made rejecting sin sound like a daily practice. You do what brings you closer to God to avoid sin. It was also so much more relatable. While someone Christian might take that to mean do not have sex before marriage because it takes you away from God. I could relate it to when I am not doing practices that bring me closer to the Goddess.
When we substitute God for divinity or sacredness, then sin holds a whole other notion of personal responsibility and wisdom. In the Buddhist tradition, we can likely “sin” to what leads you away from enlightenment, service to others or a healthy mind. An example of this would be virtuous or non-virtuous karma. These are not a good/bad reward system. They are not a punishment system. Instead, non-virtuous Karma is what is created by and leads to unhealthy emotion patterns (Kleshas). Kleshas stand in our way of having a healthy mind (somewhat like that sin that keep us from God).
In Wicca, God is Divine Immanence. God is and is in nature. God is in us and all creation. So what would be sinful in Wicca. To me, Wiccan “sin” would be whatever causes imbalance in nature and whatever makes us experience disconnection from The Goddess, The Divine, Nature and Humanity. If I did a spell that causes an imbalance or was against nature or if I was cruel to an innocent human, I would see that as “sinful.”
With all that said, Christianity, Buddhism and Wicca are not completely comparable if at all. Also, sin is unique to certain religions like Christianity. The theology of sin does not really work in religions like Wicca. However, it is so helpful to ponder religious concepts that challenge us, to translate into our religious words. In this case, the concept of sin can be a doorway into to thinking about what is important in our Wiccan practices. And what makes us have regret, fear or imbalances. What do we “punish’ ourselves for. And what can we do to be closer to The Goddess and Nature.
* I do not remember where I first heard this but it seems to be a take on " Sin separates us from God" (Isaiah 59:2).
Wicca thea/theology confirms reincarnation and afterlife though its fascination with seasonal changes, life and death cycle, and communication with Spirit realms. With that said, Wiccans do not agree on the particulars of reincarnation or after life.
For me, Wiccan practice and theology is not so much about what happens next. It is about how we treat ourselves, each other, and the Natural World in the here and now. It is about how we connect with our Ancestors, Higher Self, Spirits and the Divine in every present moment.
Unlike some religions that focus on what can we do in order to ensure a better time after this earthly life, Wiccans are usually pretty in love with our earthly existence. We tend to not be considered with ensuring a perfect next reincarnation, in ending reincarnations or getting into “heaven”.
Even when Wiccans do Spirit communication, we are talking to them in the here and now. They are not in so far off place. We are simply pushing away the veil between two realities. To the Wiccan, Spirits are all around us and a part of our current lives. We are simply not always open to seeing and experiencing them.
Now, some Wiccans may choose to do past life regression or delve deeper into what reincarnation is. I, on the other hand, only experience the idea of reincarnation through watching the turning of the seasons, or in conversations with my Spirit Guide. My Spirit Guide has at least once been incarnate as my husband. I have had some visions of our past life.
Really, all this tells me is that reincarnation happens. Nothing about the ends and outs.
On that matter, I would have to guess. My idea would be that there is either a waiting period between incarnations or that one’s spirit could be simultaneously existed in multiple realities and times. This seems a big possible since one can communicate with one’s higher self. It would serve to reason, that we can communicate with our Ancestors’ higher selves even if they have reincarnated.
I am borderline on whether I believe humans can reincarnated as everything. Can we be rocks? or insects? I am not sure. I figure once you experience one form of life, you would reincarnate into something else. I see reincarnation as an opportunity for growth. So, I doubt one goes from a human to an ant.
I do not believe that reincarnation is bad or good. That ones does something bad and therefore has a lower birth. I think we choose our reincarnations based on what we need for spiritual growth.
I think that there is no end to reincarnation. Again, Wiccan theology poses reincarnation as a natural recurrence like the changing of seasons. It is not the same as religions that see reincarnation as negative. Regardless of how spiritually realized you are, I think change is the natural state of things. I think we are always reincarnating even in one earthly life. Reincarnation is the merely a process of impermanence.
With that said, I do not think about it often. There are far too many mysteries in this current life, for me to be too considered about what happens next. I am more of a journey not the destination type.