Changing Times ~ Changing Worlds

Offering

Offering

I love it when you’re sitting around with friends and one of them starts a conversation with “Wouldn’t it be amazing IF……” One dream I have heard many wish for and wonder about is how great it would be to have lived in a time and place where there was a reciprocal relationship with nature and each village had its share of herb women, medicine men and spiritual elders who consulted with spirits for the benefit of all.

Imagine if all of your neighbors were weavers, dreamers, stargazers, ceremonialists, fire keepers, storytellers, craftspeople, herbalists, poets, singers, dancers and on and on and on.

I’ve often thought it would be great if someone attempted to recreate, in these modern times, a retreat weekend or something similar that would give us a needed glimpse of the old spirit-centered world that helped, healed and unified all involved with the powers of heaven and Earth.

I was most delighted to learn from my friend Cathy Kane that someone started a “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…” conversation and just kept going until the Changing Times ~ Changing Worlds metaphysical conference came to be.

After looking over their website and listening to Cathy describe her experiences at these conferences, I’ve decided to write up some workshop proposals and attend the event.

I totally pulled away from public gatherings and group efforts of any kind about five years ago. I needed the time alone, spiritually speaking, to make some decisions about my path and practices.

Since I resurfaced I am particular about what sort of spiritual events or gatherings I will attend. I don’t want to publicly associate myself with a person, group or event without being confident that those involved “walk their talk.”

I don’t mean that to sound condescending. It’s just that I’m not young anymore and I don’t want to waste my time with people who are just playing around. Every minute matters to me.

Cathy’s recommendation of the character, sincerity and ethics of these folks carries a lot of weight with me. So here I am, writing workshop proposals for the first time in years and looking forward to being in spiritual community with this group of people come November.

Maybe you’ll join me………………..

Nov. 7-9, 2014

ChangingTimeschangingWorlds.org

A Day in the Life

St Peter

St Peter

“Trust is built with consistency.”  Lincoln Chafee

It is difficult for me to define my path but I wanted to offer an explanation beyond the one page description on my website. I mostly refer to myself as a practitioner of American Folk Magic but that is not entirely accurate as what I believe and do encompasses more than that.

When I initially stopped attending church and began exploring magic and alternative spiritual disciplines there, largely, was no such thing as self-initiated Wiccans. This was back in the 60’s and 70’s so there weren’t any new age shops with endless shelves of books as we have today. A self-taught, self-initiated solitary practitioner of Wicca or magic was almost unheard of back in those days.

I point this out to make younger readers aware of the limited pool of information and resources that were available back then. My understanding of “magic” is using ritual to focus ones will to achieve a desired goal. This, within itself, doesn’t work for me as I envisioned my path as being led by faith and humility, with a lot of reliance on spirits, personal gnosis and an ever-deepening relationship with the natural world.

I still feel this way. I have faith in the Divine and in the unseen powers that exist all around us. I feel that I am in “balance” when I am in conscious partnership with heaven and earth. I look at the power in nature and the miracles I have seen and it’s truly humbling.

And so, to keep this part brief, my version of magic is to petition, to pray, to ask for mercy and blessings and to do so in a ceremonial way as I LOVE ritual and ceremony.

American Folk magic and Folk Catholicism work for me in several ways. For one thing, they involve magic coming from a Christian perspective and as Catholicism is my foundation and the spiritual path of my ancestors, I feel comfortable with most of the practices.

You’d be surprised by how many Christians don’t realize that the Bible is full of magical references such as the spiritual benefits of cleansing oneself with certain herbs, the use of particular types of wood or stone in making ritual objects and the list goes on and on.

American Folk magic recognizes a divine power and the God-given power of nature and also satisfies the need for ritual practices in ones life. This is what got me more actively involved and led me to where I am now.

In terms of day-today practices: I maintain a variety of altars and just to keep them clean and physically tended requires a substantial commitment on my part. I have two ancestral altars, a rather large personal altar that has plenty of space for personal work, and a community altar where I pray for my clients and do altar work for them. I keep a devotional altar for my patron saint, Josephine Bakhita. Additionally, we keep several gardens with outdoor shrines.

My Patron Saint

St Josephine Bakhita

When a spirit responds to a petition for help made specifically to them, I will create a gratitude altar in their honor to thank them for their help. This is true whether the prayers or petitions were for myself, a family member or a client.

Every morning, I visit my personal altar before starting my day. I do a brief self-blessing ritual and dedicate my day to Spirit. Saint Peter is an important saint to me so I always make sure there’s a 7-day glass candle burning for him and I generally burn incense for him or make some other type of offering.

I check the other altars and if I have any active prayer work for clients, such as a Novena or a 4-day health petition, I do the prayers and any offerings then. All of this takes place before I’ve had my coffee and started the more mundane aspects of my day.

I work with herbs and roots and also use a lot of flowers as devotional offerings. So I maintain an herb and wildflower garden in addition to my organic veggie garden. This means a lot of time outdoors during the gardening season and I consider this an extension of my spiritual work.

In terms of the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms, my thinking is allied with the Doctrine of Signatures, meaning that God has placed Her/His “signature” in the visual appearance of certain plants, roots, herbs, etc., to indicate to the practitioner their intended (or at least possible) use.

Doctrine-of-Food-Signatures

Here’s a LINK about the Doctrine of Signatures as it relates to food. And here’s another LINK which outlines the history of the Doctrine of Signatures. Practitioners of Folk Magic are generally aligned with the Doctrine of Signatures as it relates to the spiritual attributes of plants and other aspects of nature.

Folk magic, or should I say SUCCESSFUL folk magic, is more about relationships than the actual practices. Ones relationships with their ancestors, helping spirits, Saints, angels and the spirits in nature are the priority. The efficacy of ones prayers and rituals depends upon these relationships and upon proper respect and gratitude being shown to ones spirits.

This emphasis on relationships, humility, respect and gratitude are what makes this path fulfilling for me. It took a long time for me to arrive here but I’m glad I finally did!

Many blessings to you!

Developing Psychic Talent is NOT Necessarily “Spiritual”

This is the first in a series of random posts about mistakes I’ve made over the years with regard to my spiritual path.

When I was young, I walked away from the church and immediately began running here, there and everywhere to obtain information on how to develop my psychic ability. This was before the New Age so I did not have the New Age shops and bookstores as a resource. I was also interested in a variety of topics from unexplained phenomena and hauntings, to world cultures, etc.

As we moved into the 1980’s, more resources became available. I have a lot of time and money invested in psychic development workshops, books, lectures, etc. If you had asked me, at the time, why I was doing all of this I would have told you that it was my “spiritual path” and that I was trying to develop my gifts and increase my knowledge so that I could “help people.”

The issue is, when I was in these learning modes, there really wasn’t much spirituality in it at all. I wasn’t actively praying or humbling myself to any higher power at all. I was on a path of self-improvement, strengthening my talents and gaining knowledge. The Divine did not have a lot to do with it but I would have been offended if someone pointed this out to me back then.

In my previous post, I stated that my spiritual mentors were able to distinguish between intellectual knowledge and spiritual knowing. I was well along in my path before I made that distinction and I am sharing this in hopes that one day it may benefit someone else.

I love books! I’ve been a voracious reader and an almost compulsive collector of books since I first learned how to read. But they can only take you so far.

Back in the early 1990’s there was a young girl in our community who developed Leukemia. Some of the neighbors got involved with the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training program in which you train to run in a marathon to raise money for Leukemia research–each runner participates in honor of someone who has the disease.

I decided to sign up! It was just after the new year and I had nine months to prepare for the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC that fall. I was in terrible shape and I had never been a runner.

Of course, being the queen of reading, I ran out and bought half a dozen books about training to run, training for marathons, fitness and nutrition programs for runners, etc.

I’m not kidding when I say that I would sit on my couch with a bag of Doritos and a can of Pepsi READING about becoming a runner! I did this for a couple of weeks before I finally had to face the reality of putting on a pair of WALKING shoes and taking a walk around the neighborhood as that’s all I was capable of when I started.

As the weeks went by, I walked farther and faster until the day came when I bought my first pair of running shoes. Then I started adding short bits of jogging to my walks until I was completely jogging.

By that fall, I was running about 50 miles a week and was in the best shape of my life. The point of this story, of course, is that reading about runners never could have made me a runner. Only walking until I could run accomplished that.

Reading about running made me knowledgable about running. Walking until I could run made me a runner. This applies to spiritual disciplines as well. Reading about ceremonies cannot take the place of actually participating in them.

Just a simple walk alone in the woods can bring one to profound encounters with Spirit. I still enjoy books but I’ve definitely become someone who prefers to learn by direct experience.

Thanks for reading! Spend some quiet time with the Divine today!

Exploring the Qualities of Good Spiritual Mentors

A few years ago, I felt that I was not living up to my potential and not fully realizing my spiritual calling. I made a list of the people in my life who had been great mentors and I thought about what they all had in common.

This list was diverse, but underneath their mundane and seemingly ordinary identities were certain qualities that they all had in common. I’ve listed a few here!

Spiritual Presence: They were all people who put the Divine and the spirit realm before anything else. My ability to sense Divine presence was magnified when in their company. Just to sit with them was comforting and brought me back to myself when I was feeling scattered.

They walk their talk: The actions of a spiritual person are always in harmony with their words. They speak only what they truly believe in. They let their actions and lifestyle speak for them. They Lead and teach by example and with authenticity

They Distinguish Between Intellectual Knowledge and Spiritual knowing: Seeking after books and lectures makes one knowledgable. Seeking after Spirit makes one spiritual. While my mentors had great knowledge in a variety of topics such as plant medicine, indigenous ceremony, divination, etc. — they never labored under the illusion that knowledge gave them spiritual power. Their skills were often a useful vehicle for the expression of spiritual power and those who spent time around them eventually figured out this distinction.

They have great humility: My mentors gave all credit to the Divine. They never boasted of their healing abilities or psychic talents, nor did they brag about their skills. Most of my mentors worked directly with the spirit realm and gave all credit to the spirits and their higher power for the efficacy of their work and practices. They all had a servant’s heart and a desire to lift others up. They were humbled and awed that spirit would choose to work with them and they dedicated themselves to being worthy of that partnership.

They are not materialistic: They either did not charge for spiritual services or charged a reasonable fee.Spirituality dominates their life because it is a divine calling, not a career choice. They recognize that they are serving something larger than themselves and their own objectives.

They lived, breathed and taught gratitude: Good spiritual leaders influence more than they direct, and they inspire more than they instruct. No where is this more apparent than in the gratitude they ceaselessly express.

They don’t cast pearls before swine: Anyone who truly works with spirits has certain obligations to them. If they teach you their practices and ceremonies they become accountable to the spirits for what you do with that information. Therefore, they’ll want to know about your character, ethics, history and spiritual inclinations before they teach you anything about the finer points of their practices and the details of their ceremonies.

They’ve worked hard at their relationships with the spirits and they aren’t going to jeopardize that for money or for the ego-stroke of having others fawning all over them and asking them for mentoring.

This list of attributes can have us walking away from the very people who have the most to offer. How many times have we mistakenly assumed that a spiritual speaker who doesn’t offer a lot about their personal practices must lack real experience? Or at a psychic fair, picked a reader based on how they looked?

A powerful mentor can be an uneducated old man with bad teeth or an unassuming granny who doesn’t care much for appearances. While looking for your next teacher, look with the eyes of the heart and strive to be the kind of student that teacher would want to work with!

Vintage St Joseph Statue from St. Joseph School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Saint Joseph

I have not visited eBay in quite some time and suddenly had this inclination to check it out yesterday. I was lucky to find this vintage, Italian plaster saint that was recently restored by a professional conservator.

This is a wonderful piece of old New Orleans nostalgia as it is from one of the most beloved Roman Catholic schools in the Crescent City. This statue was often used by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in classroom “Saint Joseph Altar” celebrations, a time honored Italian American tradition in New Orleans.

It was made in the 1920’s. I love the energy of old things that have been prayed with many times over. They represent an existing path to Spirit made with love and devotion over many decades.

I can’t wait to add Saint Joseph to my altar. He should arrive by the end of the week.

Saints Alive ~ Another Perspective on Catholicism

Like many people raised in the Catholic church, I walked away as a young adult to explore other paths and interests. I was definitely a pantheist at this point and had interests in magic and the paranormal.

I was young and searching for meaning and purpose in life, to become a more self-aware and enlightened person and to find answers to all of the unexplained phenomena I had witnessed thus far. I didn’t see the Catholic church as the right vehicle for my journey to discover my life’s purpose. My spiritual questing and hunger for information brought me here, there and everywhere.

When you have a strong Christian background, especially Catholicism, but you are also earth-honoring and magically inclined, you can start feeling like you belong in the land of misfit toys. Both Christian and Pagan friends are uncomfortable with some of your beliefs and practices. Although most of them claim to be non-judgmental and ecumenical the truth is usually that they like to see themselves that way but aren’t able to put it into practice in actual life.

In 2010, I really felt the need to get away–not to think, as thinking hadn’t gotten me anywhere, but to pray without distraction. I hadn’t been out to Pine Ridge since 2007, so when my friend Bernie asked if I wanted to come out and support him in Sun Dance, I jumped at the chance.

I had a lot of experiences there that I can’t write or speak about, but there was one conversation I had with a friend of the family that really had a huge impact. It was, in part, about my Catholic upbringing and since this is a difficult subject for a lot of people I thought that I should share.

We were talking about the spiritual power that you can feel coming off the Sun Dancers on the last day of their ordeal. My friend pointed out that one of the reasons they are such effective vessels for spiritual power is the fact that they employ pathways that were forged by their ancestors for generations.

He also pointed out that white people often do the opposite– turn their backs on their family and their more recent ancestors and their religion thereby giving up the power of their spiritual and blood lineage.

I felt like I was hit in the head with a hammer. I knew that I was meant to hear this! We talked about how wide and deep spiritual paths become with repetitive prayers and practices, and how each generation can tap into the roads forged by the ancestors who came before them.

Catholics especially, because of their belief in Saints and Guardian Angels, are already accustomed to petitioning spiritual intercessors and already have practices (rosary, novenas) that keep the pathways open and strengthen ones connection to spirit.

I totally understood what he was telling me about spiritual legacy and inheriting the keys to the spiritual highways paved by your ancestors, but I come from a very dysfunctional family with a lot of alcoholism and other issues, so I didn’t understand if this would work for me.

We talked at length about what I might do for my ancestors and myself and I got started as soon as I returned home. Here we are almost four years later and I am more grateful for that conversation than I could ever express.

I LOVE where I am now and will post more about that another time.