Learning prayer : Inspired by Praying with Body and Soul by Jane Vennard

How I Pray

When I think of the format of a pray, I think of how a ritual is created. First, I ground myself and clear my mind in order for my highest voice to emerge. Then, I acknowledge the sacred place and time. I invoke the energies I want to speak to such as the Goddess, Divine love, etc depending on my currents needs or temperament. Then, I simply speak from the heart, my most urgent desire or gratitude. However, prayer often comes to me without  planning or structure. There are times when I simply close eyes and  words pouring out as if I am a vessel. I often wonder if I am talking to the Divine or is  Divine talking to and through me. Mostly, prayer is my way of letting go of barriers and letting my natural wisdom flow through.

My Definition of Prayer

Prayer  is a creative expression of  one’s connection to their inner spirit, their world and the Divine.  I use prayer to get to know myself again.Prayer reminds where my passions are, where my fear lies and the places within me that are longing to be healed. Prayer helps me to come out of hiding to face my demons, wounds and seemingly hopeless dreams. There is a feeling that this is between me and “God” therefore I am free to be fully me. It was the descriptions of a nonjudgmental God in Praying with Body and Soul that challenges me to use prayer as a fearless gateway to self honesty. Jane Vennard states about her own practice that, “ Prayer has become for me the practice of bringing all of who I have been, all of who I am, and all of who I am becoming into relationship with God.” (2)  Her words removes the secrecy and shame from faith and allows prayer to finally be real. In this way, prayer becomes about true love. We, not only, give ourselves completely to the Divine, we also remove our masks  learn to love ourselves through that union.

Prayer can center us in a way that we developed the capacity to send our compassion out into the world. Through prayer we are reminded of the interdependence of life and  the blessings of  our world.  We remember that we are all God’s children or we are all the Goddess. It is through this realization that many of us develop a longing help ease the suffering of others and come into communion with our world. Vennard highlights interdependence of our world by recounting an praying exercise that challenged her group to say “ that is God” is every situation. That story reminds me of one of my favorite prayers from a the Wiccan book:  The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan:

“Thou art Goddess

Thou art God

 I grant you from a place of love

 I will honor us both

We breath the same air,

we the same pains,

 do are best with what we know.

 It will honor us both.

Thou art Goddess.

Thou art God.

 As am I, As are we all.” (176)

Here prayer is use in a way that allows us to engage more deeply in the world with others. I see prayer now as a tool for courage. When I am able to see everything as Divine, everything with purpose and know that I have the Goddess within, then I am more readily able to face tough situations and people. Also, when I realize that Divinity of people and creatures through I am called to service. As  Jane Vennard asserts, “ Service becomes prayer when we serve our sisters and  brothers  with love and compassion that comes from God.” (108 ) What I appreciate most about Jane Vennard is that she believes that service is prayer. She believes that prayer is not simply speaking or being quiet but also action, moving and living. I completely agree that prayer should have no creative limits. After all, there are times when I express myself with dance, yoga, through crying, screaming and laughing. There are times when talking is not enough and words will not express my joy or pain.

            The area where Vennard and I may differ is on the definition of the Divine. While she uses prayer to bring herself “into relationship with God.” (2). I pray to bring myself into relationship with everything. I believe that people can define the Divine as they see fit. The Divine is whatever makes as feel whole, balanced and fully union in my mind, body, soul and in the world. The Divine can be God, Goddess, nature, music, dance,etc. The Divine is unlimited therefore prayer for me is an art that allows me express the endless possibilities of a human life and spirit. I also believe prayer can be about communicating with the within, the without or both. A person who does not believe in outside entities can still pray for their own natural healing or  pray to their own inner wisdom.  For example,  A Book of  Pagan prayer offers a simple pray to geese for healing:

“Wild Geese  flying overhead on journey south, bear  away with you on your thundering  wings the cares  that have made  my summer weary. Cry out my pain,passing over  the darkened land,until the air  ocean you sail  washes  it away.” (172) This prayer does not use any lofty supernatural beings. It suggests that we can find spirituality in the moment and in everything.  Prayer can be an avenue to embrace the wonders of everyday existence, and loving all that is around us and within us. In this way  prayer, no matter who it is addressed to, is about seeing and experiencing the Divine qualities of our own being.

Through out this process of praying and reading Vennard’s book, I have learned to accept my whole self. I have learned that my spiritual being includes more than my sweet side. My spiritual self is no longer separate from my anger, my activism or my silliness. I have learned that prayer is about unifying all the part of one self and offering your wholeness to your world and the Divine. Prayer is an art of courage that invites the universe to look into the deepest depths of our being. 

What is Buddhism?

* Just a quick overview of Buddhism from my point of view. Remember that  there are many traditions under the Buddhist umbrella. This overview comes from my understanding /education of Tibetan Buddhism.

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.

On Defining my Magick

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.

Tarot History: Well Kinda

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.

Sources:

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)

http://jducoeur.org/game-hist/seaan-cardhist.html

http://l-pollett.tripod.com/cards3.htm

The Everything Tarot Book (Alexander, Skye)

http://trionfi.com/0/b/

Happy Ostara: Correspondences

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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

 Zodiac: Aries

Other symbols: flowers, vines, seeds

Direction: East

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

What is Sin? One Wiccan perspective

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).

Do I believe in reincarnation? One Wiccan View

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.