SpiritsCast 101

Nov 25, 2009
I've just started listening to Feithline Stuart's new SpiritsCast 101 series of lectures on deepening your daily spiritual practice. Longtime readers of this blog (if there are any of you still around) will recall that this is one of my long-term goals, and one of the ones I have the hardest time with. A new year-and-a-day program on exactly that subject, starting at roughly the same time that I realize it's happening? Genius.

I already enjoy it. I'd always meant to listen to Feithline's old podcast, Dark Side of Fey, but the files are still sitting on my hard drive, unlistened-to. She's got a friendly voice, which is always key for a podcast but especially for one that's asking you to do spiritual work, and the audio files are of good quality. The first episode was mostly introductory stuff, as you'd expect, but she offered a list of four elements she tries to incorporate into her daily practice: light, listening, expression, and offering.

I love this idea of having approaches to daily practice instead of single activities. My difficulties always arise from the fact that I don't have a set schedule, so I have a terrible time doing the same thing at the same time every day. Thinking of daily practice as an approach instead of a task eliminates that problem -- and it feels better to me, too. It incorporates a little more creativity into the process, which can only be a good thing.

And, to be honest, it bears no small resemblance to what I've started to do myself in the weeks since Samhain. This time of year my thoughts always turn to my old association with Macha and the war goddesses; their birds, the ravens, have taken over the bare trees everywhere I go, and I feel their protection when I walk home in the dark. I started dedicating my archery practice to Macha a few weeks ago, and it's a remarkably satisfying feeling; each arrow that strikes home carries just a little more weight with it.

But I think the best thing Feithline is doing with this series is encouraging a community to build around it. In addition to the podcasts themselves, there's a discussion forum, and she's encouraging everyone who participates to blog about the process as well. The community-building makes it a shared project, not just a lecture from authority -- and Feithline emphasizes that the only authority she has is experience, and all of us have at least a little of that, too. I'm just getting started blogging about it and playing around in the forums, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.


Nov 12, 2009
I've recently discovered that my school library has the full run of the Irish Texts Society, and I've been enjoying having the actual texts in front of me, something I've found hard to do with Irish mythology. It's a little late in the season for Cath Maige Tuired – the battle happens on Samhain – but then, timing has never been my strong suit. Turns out most of what I kind of generally know about Irish myth comes from Cath Maige Tuired (what isn't from the Táin, of course) – Dían Cecht and his son; Núada Argetlam; the Mórrigan and the Dagda; Balor of the Evil Eye; and, of course, Lug.

For some reason I find Lug very compelling. When he comes to Tara, he is asked what his art is, for no one feasts at Tara who is not the master of some art. Lug tells the gatekeeper his talents, but for every art he lists, Tara already has a master. Finally Lug tells the gatekeeper to ask the king if they have one who is a master of all these arts, and he is admitted.

I wrote last year at Lugnasadh about learning that I do not have to be all things to all people; Lug already has that covered. Reading this story again I found myself thinking about the other side of that equation. Tara is a community where every member has a place, a role, a task that they and they alone fulfill for the community. Everyone has something that they contribute, without which the community would not function (or at least wouldn't function as well).

I have never thought of myself as a person with a community; I'm an outsider at the best of times. But in the past year, I've found myself settling in more and more. I have friends in the SCA who will offer me places to stay and loan me gear and open up their homes for parties or house-sitting or just casual time. I'm making inroads into a professional community that I really, really love to be a part of. It's not something I'm used to, and it's making me think about my responsibilities to the people I surround myself with. My community. My people.

And part of that, of course, is trying to figure out what I have to offer these different communities. At a student organization meeting last week, we got to talking about religion (which is what happens when your student organization meetings are Friday afternoons in the bar), and I explained Paganism to three very interested technology librarians. I'd never dream of casting myself as an expert on the subject within the Pagan community, but this was something I could happily share with my fellow students, book recommendations and all. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise, to find my interests accepted and valued, and it started to make me wonder about what else I have to provide to the rest of the communities I belong to. This blog is something, surely (even if I don't manage to update it as often as I'd like). My skills in the job market are something else (which turns out to be a much less stressful way to think about jobhunting than the traditional desperate panic). And utility to the community is something to think about when I start to expand my skills and research. Turns out that's a whole lot easier when you actually have a community to begin with...