Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sharing space with animals

They've become such good friends
We have two dogs sharing our home, as well as two guinea pigs and three gerbils. Lots of traditional and pagan belief systems talk about animals as guides and companions, and I definitely think that letting animals into your home has enormous benefits, although I don't really incorporate them into my spiritual practices in any way. Unless, of course, you count letting the dogs sniff and otherwise interfere with my tarot spreads (they are really quite interested in the cards).

Interestingly, I remember being told by a psychic at a fair once that there was a spirit dog circling my legs and keeping me safe from negative energies. The dog she described was my childhood pet, who was a mongrel so it wasn't an easy guess...

The smaller animals really belong to the kids, and they are largely responsible for their care. Looking after a dependent creature is a valuable lesson for them, and a responsibility that they have really stepped up to (well at least our older daughter has - she has had gerbils since the age of ten and has been really good at caring for them; our younger daughter - 9 at the moment - has had less opportunity for full responsibility so far). In the picture, two of the gerbils have rushed down the ladder to investigate a treat made for them by the girls.

The first dog we got, a Patterdale Terrier cross (bought as a rescue from Dogs Trust three years ago) is the family dog. She immediately enriched our lives enormously. Suddenly, getting the kids to go on a walk was not as tough as it had been :) She's also very sensitive and brilliant at comforting you by snuggling up on the sofa just when you need it. She also loves to play in water, as you may be able to see here. In the picture, she's waiting for someone to come in after her and play (it hasn't happened yet, but hope springs eternal).

The second dog, also purchased from Dogs Trust, was bought for our older daughter. He is a lurcher and we've had him almost 18 months now. He's also loving, but mostly what he brought into our lives was fun. Watching him run for the sheer joy of it is a genuine pleasure that can't fail but brighten your day. Here, he's enjoying the sun on a Cornish beach, having captured the Evil Frisbee Ring of Doom and wrestled it to the ground.

I feel that having pets - the dogs in particular - has massively improved our lives. Our fitness levels have increased, due to the need to walk daily and that regular exercise, as well as the pleasure we get from the dogs themselves has definitely been good for us emotionally and mentally.

Do you share your space with animals?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

When Life Gets in the Way

It happens to us all: we just get busy, or something specific comes along to take up all our energy. At times like these, it's easy to neglect the very things that nourish us, those things that would help us to keep going and to weather the storm.

Unfortunately, this can so easily set up a vicious circle in which we can't get everything done (or can't concentrate enough to get anything done thanks to the current crisis), and our lack of self-care makes this worse while at the same time we feel we can't afford the time for self-care - as though it's some kind of luxury that we only deserve when everything's perfect. Sound familiar? I think it's true of many of us, and can certainly recognise these tendencies in myself.

Spiritual practices such as meditation and rituals can be - should be - part of this self-care and shouldn't be neglected, no matter how desperately we feel the time should be spent on something 'important'. The truth is, if we're neglecting ourselves, everything else will not be, cannot be done satisfactorily. I'm not saying that we should all spend hours a day in meditation or visualisation - that level of practice definitely sounds like a luxury! But actually, once you've established the habit, a few minutes can lift you out of your hamster wheel enough to give you a recharge.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My Top Three Tarot Decks and What I Use Them For

I have quite a few decks by now, but still there are a few firm favourites that I use most regularly. Some other time, I'll share some of my more unusual decks with you, but for today, I thought I'd introduce the decks I use most often. Decks do tend to have a character, so they are suited to different kinds of readings, much as different friends will give you advice with a different tone or flavour.

Deck Number 3: The Gilded Tarot

This is my favourite Rider-Waite based deck. It's beautiful and luminous with jewel-like colours. In terms of readings, this is a good one for straight talking. I always know if someone chooses this one (I usually give querents a choice of decks), then they need some straight-up advice. It's also quite easy to read, as the images are pretty clear and representative, so it's good for face-to-face readings as the querent can see I'm not just making it up or going from hunches.

Deck Number 2: The Druidcraft Tarot

This deck, fusing druidry and wicca, is gorgeous in a more gentle, less showy, way than the Gilded. I find it works well for both practical and spiritual questions. I particularly like the re-presentation of The Lady and The Lord for the Empress and Emperor, and found that the pagan sensitivities in this deck have added to my general understanding of the cards. Querents generally respond well to the gentle images on these cards, although they are huge and difficult for most people to shuffle (I turn them 90 degrees and shuffle them lengthwise).

Deck Number 1: Songs For the Journey Home

I love this unusual round deck. I find it beautiful and also incredibly gentle and supportive in its readings. It's good for any topic but works particularly well with emotional and psychological issues . This is a really special deck to me; I was fortunate enough to meet and have a reading with its illustrator. It's a non-traditional deck in many ways - the suits and court positions are renamed, as are many of the Majors, often revealing a slightly different slant on more 'standard' decks. Those who choose it often are in need of its warmth and non-judgmental approach to their concerns. I also find for personal readings it's great for pointing out the things I'm ignoring. Finally, it's a very woman-centred deck (as are many of the round decks - rejecting the black/white opposition of upright/reversed seems to be a feminist approach, interestingly).

So there you have it - the straight-talking Gilded, the pagan-themed Druidcraft and the warm and supportive Songs - my top three decks for reading.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pendulum divining

Dowsing with a pendulum is simple and quite often shockingly effective. I have several pendulums on single chains, made and bought specifically for dowsing (see the lovely amethyst and moonstone ones), but I also sometimes use the wand pendant in the picture if I'm wearing it as a necklace.

I always dowse by holding the chain between thumb and finger of my right hand (some say it should be the left as left = intuitive side), and rest my elbow on a flat surface. I begin by asking the pendulum if it can help me. There are three main ways I use a pendulum: for yes/no questions; to choose between things and with more complex pendulum dowsing diagrams.

Yes/no questions

This is clearly the easiest way to use a pendulum. Some books/people will tell you that a certain way means yes and another no, but I find it easiest to ask the pendulum  "show me yes" etc.. I first dowsed this way without reading instructions and 'my' way for yes and no isn't what the books say. I get side to side for yes, front and back for no and round for 'not telling/don't know/you shouldn't be asking that'. It is also possible to gauge the strength of the answer from the range of movement - it really does swing more strongly and definitively for some answers than for others.

Choosing between things

I've used this for things like "which tarot deck would help me most for this question" or "which aromatherapy oil do I need most right now", and I simply lay the things out and hold the pendulum in the middle. Although it seems like it would have to swing back as far as it swings out, and therefore indicate two things, this is invariably not what happens. I've seen many people amazed that it will seem to swing out a long way one side and then barely pass the middle point to go in the other direction.You can use this for choosing between two things, placed left and right to the pendulum, or you can lay several around it in a circular pattern. You can also dowse over each of several things with "should I use this?" or a similar question and go with the one with the largest positive answer. I've also done something like this for essential oils - selected three or four to make a blend, and then dowsed for how many drops of each (using a diagram as below). Inevitably, this results in a blend which also treats something I wouldn't have thought to include otherwise (e.g. a 'help me concentrate and work' blend with anti-anxiety oils in it).

Dowsing diagrams

Years ago, I bought a book called "The Pendulum Workbook" (now sadly out of print) which is full of complex diagrams to be dowsed over to select things. The basic principle revolves around circles. Imagine you wanted a complementary therapy for a condition, but you don't know which to choose. Draw a circle and around the edge list the possibilities (homeopathy, aromatherapy etc etc - depending on what's appropriate and available to you). Then you hold the pendulum over the very centre of the circle and ask it to indicate what you should choose, and it will swing out to the right choice. Again, you would expect it to not be able to avoid indicating two things which are positioned opposite one another on the circle, since you begin in the middle, but again - amazingly - this is not what happens.

Another diagram that I learnt to use with a pendulum diagnoses the flow of energy in a person's chakras. You draw a simple (stick figure if need be!) outline of a person and put a dot at each chakra position. Then hold the pendulum over each spot in turn and draw onto the diagram what the pendulum did at each point. A closed or very low energy chakra will result in no movement, one that's just opening (or closing) will give you a diagonal oval and an open chakra gives you a circle. It's worth recording which direction round the pendulum went (they should alternate between clockwise and counter-clockwise). Further questions can be asked to find out whether a certain chakra is opening or closing, why there's a problem at a certain point etc, using yes/no questions or setting up another diagram if you have several possibilities to explore.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Affirmations: the chakras and the elements

Here are two sets of affirmations that I use regularly. I wrote them quite specifically to help me, so some of the ideas may need tweaking for your circumstances.

Yoga all chakras and chakraserpentThis first one I recite while focusing on each chakra in turn:

  • I am grounded: a child of the earth.  Energy flows through me into her warm darkness.
  • I am vital: a creature of impulse.  I am free to express my sexuality without fear.
  • I am comfortable: a being of value.  My existence enriches the world.
  • I am loved: a woman of warmth.  I have the power to reach out to others.
  • I am vocal: a person of confidence.  My truth is worthwhile for the world to hear.
  • I am open: a soul of clarity.  My wisdom is welcomed by others.
  • I am connected: a spirit of light.  Energy flows through me from her bright openness.
If you're new to working with chakras, this is a good introduction.

This second one I use with my four elements prayer beads bracelet, as a kind of gratitude prayer, helping me to focus on the blessings I receive through each element:

I earn the means to live comfortably in the world.
I share my knowledge with others.
I experience a connection with the divine through all things.
I feel the love of those around and before me.

These four lines run through Earth, Air, Fire, Water. I conclude on the pentacle with a reminder that "I am blessed".

I hope these help somebody. I certainly find them useful in setting my thoughts to 'positive' :)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Reading: revisiting an abandoned project

As a writer, I have various bits and pieces of ideas and half-completed things lying around and there's this children's project which I've been poking at for a while now. I had a complete first draft, then really shifted things around (added two new main characters, changed the perspective, constructed a new setting - no small thing) but failed to finish that rewrite. So, here I am with an okay-but-not-outstanding first draft and a half-completed rewrite. Do I return to that rewrite? Start fresh using some of the same ideas? Draw a line under it altogether? This seemed a good question to ask the beautiful Druidcraft deck.

It presented me with the following three cards:
What is the best course of action to take? Six of Pentacles
What is the likely outcome of this course of action? Rebirth
What have I been overlooking? Seven of Wands

The Six of Pentacles is about generosity and giving. As a Pentacle, it's also about work and there is no hint of a new start or going back to the beginning - and of course, as a Six, it's a good distance along the path of the minors, reminding me perhaps that I have already gone quite some way with this project.

The card of Rebirth is more traditionally Judgement, but the representation here is much more clearly about entering a new phase, rather than the ending which is quite clearly connoted in the traditional, Christian-influenced presentation of the day of Judgement. Maybe completing a new version of this story would help me shift up a gear in my (fiction) writing?

My final card, the Seven of Wands, is a rather familiar card - I've been getting this one quite a bit recently. This is always a card about determination and persistence. If I'm honest (and why not be here, right?), I struggle to keep focused on the writing I want to do. I've been quite successful of late in getting writing work in terms of educational materials and teaching resources, but it's very easy to neglect the fictional stuff which I want to write but which (at the moment) no-one is paying me to do. Maybe this card is here to remind me to stand my ground and defend my fiction writing against the other pressures on my time that threaten to push it out. Otherwise, I can't keep claiming that it is what I really want, right?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A-Z Reflections post

Well, I did it: one post for each letter of the alphabet, all posted within April. Yes, there was a 'Grr' moment in the middle due to what they may call 'technical difficulties', but as far as I'm concerned, I did complete the challenge of 26 themed posts in April.

So what did I gain? I found several cool new blogs to read, and I had some nice visitors here, and I also learned that I can blog every day, but would probably not choose to do so normally :). I also discovered that my overall blog theme - my personal experiences of paganism in my daily life - works and provides me with plenty of scope for posts, so I'll definitely be continuing.

At the moment, I've said I'll post here weekly, but that may yet increase as time allows. I've really used this challenge as a way to test out blogging, having only had a couple of posts before the challenge. I wanted the challenge to kick-start my blog, making sure I'd have a good few posts up on a range of topics, and I also wanted to test the waters and see whether I had things to say. I *think* I've established that I do!

Thank you for visiting and for making the challenge fun!