Dec 29, 2015
Well, Yule was a long time ago, but it's been busy (surely one day Yule will again fall on a day I have off, and I can actually take some time to do the thing properly?) and I didn't get it written up soon enough.

Once again I used the ritual text from the Crane Breviary and found it entirely adequate but underwhelming. (It also leaves out some of my favorite bits of the one group ADF ritual I attended, such as the offering to the Outsiders, which means I forget about them until after it's too late.) I'm afraid this means I'm going to have to write my own for Imbolg. Which means I'm going to have to plan ahead a little better for that one.

Yes, once again I was woefully underprepared - worse this time than Samhain. I also realized partway through the ritual that the text made much more sense for the day *after* the solstice, whereas I was doing ritual at night just a couple of hours before astronomical solstice. Preparation, preparation.

But I did have offerings for everyone - oil and wine for the gods and the ancestors, nuts and pinecones for the Good Neighbors, a mirror for the sun, grain for the Earth Mother. And the ritual itself went fairly smoothly, although it lacked that particular ineffable quality that I associate with really good ritual. I called Manannan as Gatekeeper again, and that relationship seems to be going fairly well, so I suspect I should do something else to strengthen it between holidays.

I did run into a small snag with logistics - my printer stopped working, so I had to read the text of the ritual off my tablet. I didn't like it. Of course, I don't particularly like reading text off paper either, so maybe the answer is just that I need to memorize the liturgy before I become really satisfied with my rituals. More preparation.

For omens I drew the Queen of Cups, the Page of Swords reversed, and the Two of Cups reversed - emotional security, undelivered promises, and a misunderstanding. (To dramatically oversimplify.) I can't help but think about the job I didn't take at the beginning of December, the move I'm not going to make after all. I'm sure I made the right decision, but it is a loss of opportunity. If nothing else, it means I'm going to have to work harder to make sure I take advantage of the opportunities I do have, the ones I didn't lose by not moving.

I also can't help but compare the amount of time I spent on Christmas, a family and social holiday, versus Yule, a religious and personally meaningful holiday. Granted, there were far fewer people expecting things from me for Yule - but those people were the gods and spirits. I'm going to have to think about priorities too, it seems. And work on my preparation.

Io Saturnalia!

Dec 21, 2015
I am a little surprised to discover that Yule appears to be my favorite holiday. For the longest time it was Samhain - because it's witchy, I guess, and because liminality appeals to me. But for several years now I've been finding the liminality of Samhain and Beltane to be more of a drain on my energy than anything else. Then it was Imbolc, being as it was the holiday of my patroness, but we are not going to talk about how long it's been since I've properly celebrated Imbolc. But Yule - well, I always know when the Solstice is coming. The others depend on my awareness of the calendar, but I can feel Yule in my bones.

I grew up in a Christian household, and we celebrated Christmas. Still do, for the most part - I'm going back to Iowa to see my family in just a couple of days. I have an artificial Christmas tree up in my living room because my lease forbids real trees, but it doesn't say anything about wreaths, so I have a pine wreath on the door which I'll cannibalize for my altar decorations this evening. I have already spent too much money on presents, and I'm planning to go out today and spend more. Christmas is still a big part of this season for me, and I'm sure that's part of the reason I haven't traditionally thought of Yule as an important holiday for me: I was trying to get out from under the Christian influence.

It's a terrible cliché of pagan writing, but nevertheless it is true that Christmas is in December because of Yule. There is a reason everyone has a party on the winter solstice, and even all our modern conveniences can't change the fact that the sun has been gone, and she is coming back.

The sun is coming back.


Alone in my mind

Dec 15, 2015
Last week's homework for the Dedicant Path was to begin a program of mental training. I, er, have not been particularly rigorous about this.

I started meditating regularly - which, for purposes of this discussion, means at least once a week - a few months ago, when I started going to therapy. My depression seems to be at its worst in the summer, for some reason, and I was trying to head things off at the pass. "At this point I would suggest meditation, except everyone always tells me they're doing it wrong," my therapist said more than once. "They're not. That's how it works." I don't know if she was using reverse psychology on me or what, but I finally threw up my hands and decided to start meditating.

I've never been very good at seated meditation. I get self-conscious and begin to be convinced that I'm breathing wrong. But walking meditation hasn't worked well for me either, so I scrounged around for an app that might work. I settled on Stop, Breathe, and Think, an app that has a soothing, friendly-sounding narrator and enough guided meditations that I haven't gotten bored yet. Between this and The Mindful Way Through Depression, the book that finally convinced me that I wasn't meditating wrong after all, my mental health has improved drastically.

So I kept up my meditations last week, but I'm not quite sure this is the thing I want to be doing for my religion. The guided meditations in Stop, Breathe, and Think are very Buddhist, and I still don't do terribly well with un-guided sitting meditation. But it can't hurt for going on with, and perhaps with luck I'll stumble upon a good alternative soon. It's much easier to stumble upon these things when you're looking for them.


Dec 6, 2015
I've had a hellishly busy week, so I was relieved to see that this week's Dedicant Path work was simple: build an altar. I already have an altar; how hard could it be to transition it to an ADF style?

Harder than I thought, actually, and also simpler.

The altar was in the back of my mind all week, churning around, and I could never come up with an image I liked. I knew, though, that I wanted it to be in the living room. I live alone, finally, so there's no reason for it to be tucked away. I want to use my altar for more than just high day rituals, and making it easy to reach makes that easier.

main altar

But what to include? I've been pagan for about fifteen years now, and I've accumulated a lot of Pagan Stuff. You know the kind. Candles in every color, bowls and jars and oils and bits of natural debris, athames and wands and divinatory tools of every kind.

In the end, I went for simple, not only because I was pressed for time in the chaos of this week but also because I just found out I'll be moving by the end of the month. I'm an overdecorator by nature, so in my new home I'll probably end up loading a table down with witchy nonsense, but for now I've settled for using my houseplant as the Tree, my cauldron as the Well, and my tripartate candleabra as the Flame, plus my offering cup. It's the bare bones of an altar, and I like it for now.

traveling altar - packed
traveling altar - set up
And then, since I'm getting ready to move and may not have a new home until February, I decided to overhaul my traveling altar, too. I've had this for years, a carved wooden box full of everything I think I might need to do ritual or magic if I'm away from my home altar. This box was cluttered too, so I stripped it down to the basics: a piece of felt for an altar cloth, a broken branch from the trees where I've been doing my nature practice for the Tree, a small dish for the Well, and a candle for the Flame. I added a tiny clay bowl for offerings, a serpent/flame talisman I made that represents Brigid, and a mini Tarot deck for casting omens. (It's handy to have a divination-tool addiction, sometimes.) On second thought, I'll keep my primary Tarot deck on the main altar, too; it's been out, as I do some studying, but there's no reason it can't rest there instead of on the coffee table.

It's a small thing for me, building a new altar, but I'm glad it's done. I could use an excuse for some peace and quiet in the next month.