Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ancestors & Angels

One of the things most cultures have in common, especially earth centered ones, is a reverence for the ancestors and Judaism is no exception. Numerous times in liturgy Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are brought to mind as are the Imahot, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. These, among others, are invited into the sukkah and we are invited every Pesach to join in spirit with our ancestors who witnessed the plagues and the parting of the sea by being reminded that these things were not just done for them but for us as well.

For those with greater sensitivity it is a short step from intellectualy recalling the Ancestors to actually feeling their presence. In the invocation to my Rosh Chodesh ritual I invoke the Foremothers and most of the time I actually feel their presence. One of the greatest experiences I had was at my wedding where I felt the sprits of the Ancestors attend almost as if a nomadic tribe had come to celebrate with us complete with their goats and all that would have traveled with them. This should have been of little surprise since the opening blessing the rabbi did was an invitation to the Ancestors. It was thrilling especially since my dream was to have my spiritual community join in celebrating with my beloved and myself.

The Ancestors aren't the only spiritual beings I've experienced. Even back in the days when I was a good Catholic girl I had expereinces where I'd be praying alone in an empty church and I'd feel a presence or 2 in specific places in the church. Then there are the times I've been leading synagogue services and standing on the bimah I have felt myself flanked by 2 presences of the same nature; these I believe are angels. Why I should be so graced I don't know - it's not like I'm extra virtuous or anything but Judaism believes that there are angels and spirits all around us so I guess it shouldn't surprise me that they would join me in prayer.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Stones have energies that many witches learn to work with, myself among them. That is not to say that I'm an expert by any means but I do have my favorites. I learned very young about the energies of stones; my mother used to border her flower beds with field stones and would complain how some stones just didn't want to sit next to each other. I get to experience this every spring as I rearrange the stone borders around my own beds that the winter sprites have tumbled about under the snow. How 2 stones could sit comfortably next to each other one year and it be unfathomable the following spring how that could be the case I don't know. Like I said, winter sprites and ground fairies.

And then there is the monument to Earth that I am still trying to construct in my meditation garden - mostly a pile of local sandstone with a 100 lb crowning 'jewel' of white granite. The whole thing is supposed to be about waist high but I can't seem to get the supporting stones to interlock to support the piece of granite. Methinks it might have something to do with the fact that I have tried to impose my will on the stones rather than being receptive to their energies - I had the whole thing together once and then moved it more to the edge of my garden to balance out the placements of Fire (a hanging candle) , Water (a fountain) and Air (windchimes) and since then it hasn't wanted to go together. Time to go commune with Mother Earth.

Another stone related project of mine is a stone path the I'm putting in through garden and experiencing first hand how some stones just will not sit nicely nest to other ones. Either the shape is wrong or the color or something so since I have to gather all my own stones, sometimes from quite a distance, it's been taking a while. Well, between that and that fact that I redesigned it last year to lead from the main artery through the garden to Water; it would help if I could quit messing with stuff.

More artistic creations include most notably my staff (which I use instead of a wand) and my athame. My staff has a crowning piece of a quartz point and inset cabachons of 4 black opals, 2 labradorite, 2 leopard jasper, 4 onyx, 2 garnets and 1 each of amethyst, lapis lazuli, malachite, citrine, amber and carnelian all of course chosen for traditional properties which I'll expound on more in another post about my staff. The handle of my athame has been inset with a large cabachon of labradorite bordered by twisted gold wire.

Labradorite is my favorite stone despite not being all that traditional in magic working. It is the dark companion to moonstone and is held to be sacred to the Crone. Legend has that the aurora borealis was captured in labradorite and freed by a hunter to occupy the skies where we find it today. One of the things I love about it is how that aurora effect is still there and it seems to hint of mystery and things to be captured just beyond the veil.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Wandering Jew . . . Again

Why is it that some people can come across a belief system or philosophy and feel so totally at home there that they don't feel the need to engage in spiritual seeking outside that framework? This is not to say that I think that they stagnate but rather that they delve only further into their chosen path and do not look beyond to other belief systems either to the similarities or just in an analytical sort of way. This assumes that one examines their spiritual beliefs and grows within their spirituality or religion (which are not necessarily the same thing) at all which I know many people do not. Frankly, I can't wrap my head around that one as I have always been insatiably curious and perhaps a bit discontent with religion and where I happened to be in my spiritual journey and spirituality has been so very important to me.

Life lately hasn't permitted too much time or energy to contemplate or engage in spiritual matters with myself being physically and emotionally exhausted, the husband being in and out of the hospital and fall and subsequently winter, which blessedly has been mild thus far, being upon us. Then there's been the 2 equines that beamed down this fall and Dad to take care of and all the other things that life can throw at you to deal with. I have developed a close friendship with a very Christian woman though over the last few months and it is quite an experience. It's nice to find somebody who is just as spiritually engaged as I am but the avenues she has for expressing that spirituality and the grounding she gets from it leaves me a bit envious. Between one thing and another it hasn't been possible for the husband and I to get to synagogue services or for me to make it to the gatherings of the Goddess based women's group around here and I'm finding that I'm feeling ungrounded and somewhat adrift. Judaism puts so much emphasis on the communal structure that there isn't really anything out there for the essentially solitary Jew and as much as so much of the magical community is made up of solitaries and there are resources out there to deal with that they don't seem to give me what I need to feel part of the community. It's like I'm still wandering, trying to find my ideal spiritual home. Perhaps this is why my 2 favorite magical tools are my staff and my cloak.

It seems strange to think that it's been almost 20 yrs since I realized I'm not Christian and found myself wandering over the spiritual landscape of Judaism. One of the things I have always loved about Judaism is it's breadth which is why I don't feel like I'm betraying it as I turn to more nature based and Goddess orientated ways of worship. Conventional it's not but perhaps I am just the type of person who will find times and places to spiritually rest but at heart is always a spiritual Seeker.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

So Much Has Happened . . .

. . . and I haven't had the time to write about it from a spiritual perspective. Most of my time has been orientated towards our 2 new horses and all it takes to take care of them. You can read about them and other aspects of homesteading here.

From the time of my last post we've gone through Equinox, the Days of Awe, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and most recently Samhain. Being a Jewitch I try to celebrate all of them with some sort of earth based ritual, Sukkot being my favorite although in this climate normally spending any significant time in the sukkah is impractical. This year though no sukkah got built, no pumpkins got carved, Simchat Torah got missed, I spent Equinox stringing electric fence line and the Days of Awe were somehow lacking in spirituality this year.

I've always been independant in my spirituality but it seems that with the lack of an active local community, either Jewish or Pagan, or a Jewish family, both paths have somehow lost their lustre and I just go through life trying to remember to find spirituality in the changing of the leaves, the majestic starkness of a naked tree, in the mud I slip and slide around in and the seemingly neverending rain. Perhaps that is where true spirituality lies - not in the holidays and the artificial demaracation of the seasons but in being able to seeing Shechinah all around us - the Indwelling Presence of the Divine in every tree, in every rain cloud and in the people we share a smile with when the days are so gloomy.

OTOH, holidays are important because they do remind us that we are bound to tradition, to culture, to like minded people and that we are not alone on the spiritual paths we walk. It is so much easier though when there are others to celebrate with and when you have the inclination to celebrate with others. Perhaps my withdrawing into myself as summer turns to fall which proceeds into winter is the greatest celebration of this part of the natural cycle of the year - a time for examination and preservation of that which is important to us, including our ancestors and their ways, a theme found in both the Days of Awe and Samhain. This year Winter Solstice will come 2 days after the end of Channukah and, as usual, will probably have more meaning for me than Channukah in it's traditional practices. Does this make me more of a witch than a Jew? Certainly more witchy than traditional Jewish.

Spirituality is where you find it. In my heart I am Jewish in that I FEEL the connection to Avraham and Sarah and in that I recognize there is only One diety - albeit with many, many facets. In my heart I am also a witch in that I see the Divine in nature, every fiber of my being responds to the natural cycle of the year and my natural inclination is to celebrate the changes with rituals involving the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Sometimes those celebrations coincide with dates on the calendar that have been designated for celebration and sometimes they don't. So the tension between the connections created by holidays and the individual spirituality of experience goes on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bats & Spiders & Snakes, Oh My!

This is the week of weird happenings. Besides the unexpected horse, which Mark gets introduced to later today, he and I just spent a half hour chasing the 2 cutest bats out of the room. It's been raining for 2 days now and been in the 60s so we lit off a small fire in the wood stove. Apparently a pair of bats had moved into the attic over the summer and with the heat from the stove made it too uncomfortable for them and they came down through a hole in the ceiling that we never bothered to cover. 2 years ago we chased a bat out of here and that one left a whole lot more easily than this pair did. Maybe it was the fact that this was a pair. I felt bad about chasing them out into the rain but with Purrim (cat) and Daphne we wouldn't have been able to get any sleep and the poor things probably would have gotten themselves killed. As it was, I was afraid that we were going to injure the one that was really flying around while we were chasing it with brooms and a net that it kept flying through. I wouldn't have had any problem with letting them hang out in a corner by the ceiling, which is where it kept retreating to, until daylight when they would theoretically been easier to catch but they weirded Mark out too much and like I said, Daphne and Purrim probably would have raised a ruckus.

It was kind of strange, normally I have good luck with getting animals that I'd really rather not having share my living space to listen to me when I tell them that I'm trying to help them so that they don't get hurt, but the bats weren't hearing it. OTOH, the poor bat that we were chasing was probably frightened out of it's wits; I felt so sorry for it. I'm somewhat afraid of spiders but there's no way to keep them out of here and besides being other living creatures, I value their removal of bugs; that doesn't mean they don't freak me out though and I won't remove them if I can. I've explained to the spiders in the room that if they surprise me I'm likely to kill them and so far I haven't had any problems; when I tell a spider that I'm trying to catch what I'm doing, I find it normally stays still and lets me put a glass over it and slide a piece of paper over the glass. Sometimes they are so accomadating as to run into the glass so I don't have to worry about catching their legs as I cover the glass and then they leave very nicely when I put them outside.

We had a similar situation a couple of weeks ago with a snake. We were driving down the road and Mark felt something brush his leg, looked down and saw a not small garter snake looking back at him. Needless to say, he was a bit startled. When we got to town and he was in the bank I tried to find the snake since it already had almost caused an accident and Daphne had torn apart the vehicle the previous evening trying to play with it - at least that what we figure. I couldn't find it but did explain that it was not being wise and did have to leave and if it wouldn't let me find it then it should come over to the other side where it wouldn't cause so much of a problem. It was really weird but as soon as we got to our next stop and I opened the passengers sidedoor, it slithered out and went on it's merry way. Apparently it made it's way to nearby wooded ravine and I hope it has a long and happy life.

I wish the same for our 2 recent winged guests and hope they stick around; there's enough places for them to hang out. I know the possibility of bats getting and passing on rabies but it's not terribly likely and they have their valuable place in the local web of life. We did close up the hole in the ceiling though; more nocturnal visitors we don't need. Now to get some sleep before the sun comes up

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Never Thought The Day Would End Up Like This

Sometimes there are days that seem just too weird for reality. When I woke up this morning the major thing on my agenda was my weekly Bible/Torah/religion/spirituality study with a friend. Actually we start out studying Torah etc but end up ranging through many diverse topics but always come back to how this relates to the Almighty and how to live a life of holiness. Well, I think God/dess decided to see if we were all talk or what today and we had barely gotten into the real discussion (the most fun part) when my friend got a call saying that her hay needed to be gotten in since it was threatening rain. So much for our study.

I figured I could do something useful even though it's been a long time since I baled hay so I went out with her. Fortunately, today I have muscles, aka the fibro is behaving itself, and I was able to help haul bales into piles while we were waiting for the hay wagon to show up. (I'll probably pay for it tomorrow) When her husband and kids showed up he suggested I drive the truck saying he was giving me the most difficult job. I though he was joking. How hard could driving across a field be? He wasn't. I'll tell you, hauling a wagon across a bumpy field at walking speed trying to keep moving and not make any moves that would topple the already gathered bales is an art form. With an extra set of hands it took much less time than expected, the rain held off, baruch Hashem, and we were able to get the hay under cover before dark.

That was only the first surprise of the day. When I set out this afternoon I never thought that I'd be coming home with a horse. Yes, a real, live, hay eating, horse apple making horse. She isn't here quite yet but she's as good as ours. She's an Arabian/Quarterhorse cross standing about 13.5 hands but she's got some problems. It seems that life hasn't been too kind to her and consequently she's difficult to work with. My friend has been trying to find homes for this one and her companion since their owner basically abandoned them. She can take the other one but Windy is destined for the glue factory unless a home is found soon. Nobody in the area wants the hassle but my friend think that Windy is rehabilitatable with a lot of work and a firm but loving hand and is willing to basically donate her time to do so.

Mark and I have discussed for years keeping horses to help with the heavy hauling, besides the fact that I like to ride, but the last time I really worked with horses I was a kid 25+ years ago. Between that, the cost of the horse and the upkeep expenses we had kept putting it off as untenable. When a free horse falls into your lap though with trainer and contacts intact and looks to be a whole lot less expensive in upkeep than previously figured and you just happen to have an unused outbuilding suitable for housing the horse, one has to wonder if the convergence of factors wasn't divinely ordained. This situation just has that feel about it. This is liable to be an adventure, one which can be followed on our horse blog. I figure we're doing a mitzvah for the horse, my friend, the previous owner and probably each other as the longer we can be self sufficient, not the easiest thing up here, the happier we'll be.

One of the things I love about both Judaism and Paganism is the idea that the Divine can be found in the everyday. Isn't it a shame that so many people miss it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Making Lemonade

Fibromyalgia officially sucks. Ok, so I have made it plain in several posts that I’m not appreciative of it’s effects on me and how it messes with my life but I haven’t talked about the very valuable things I have gained from it. It has taught me gratitude. That may sound strange but when you can’t do things you learn to appreciate the times when you can do them. There is a bracha in the morning prayers which reads:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-meichin mitzadei g’veret.
Source of Blessing are You, Adonai, our Source of Powers, Sovereign of the Universe, Who makes firm my steps.

When you spend a few weeks not knowing if your legs are going to hold you when you take the next step, and have no idea of what’s going on and no insurance for those expensive tests to find out, you become grateful for every step that you take without hitting the floor. When the strength in your legs returns to the point where you can count on it, as suddenly and mysteriously as it left, a wise person remembers not to take anything for granted.

Being 1 of the 3 people living in this house and the 3 of us equaling between .75 and 2 able bodied people on any given day, I am grateful for the ability to do simple things when I want or when I need to like making a meal, washing dishes, carrying 5 gallon buckets of water or soil across the yard to tend the gardens or livestock; there are days I can’t carry a gallon of water in each hand or reach above shoulder height without my arms feeling like they’re going to fall off - or rather that I’d like them to. I’d like to blog more often but too often my forearms and hands are screaming at me after too short a period of time working on the computer regardless of mice, keyboards, supports, gloves etc. The inconsistency of abilities and lack of control over the situation is enough to drive someone batty. ARRRGGHHH!!!

One of the things that drives me nuts about how American society views disability is that there is this expectation that one’s condition is a constant thing - in some cases it is but in other cases one can be debilitated one day and not be hardly able to get out of bed or lift anything or type for more than a few minutes and the next be able to garden all day or clean the whole house or type pages and pages of material or carve hard maple with no apparent change in conditions. Now of course, one forgets to take it easy and pace one’s self and overdoes it on the good days partially because you feel guilty for not being able to do stuff at other times (and society expects one to be able to get certain things done regardless) and end up paying for it. Baruch Hashem for affordable strong pain meds and a doctor who trusts your use of them but sometimes the meds just aren't enough and don't do anything to deal with fibro-fog or fatigue.

I can’t find it in myself to condemn people who get end up getting caught by the dragon, otherwise known as addicted to prescription pain meds, because I dance with that dragon. If it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t enjoy being high, except on a rare occasion, and develop a tolerance to pain meds very easily and value having something to kick the pain in the butt when I really need it to, it would be too easy for me to join those ranks. I am grateful for the God/dess given willpower and insight which allows me to dance with the dragon but mange to stay just out of reach of it’s talons.

I have also come to acknowledge and value the strength the Holy One has given me to deal with things and the fact that my symptoms from the fibro, the seizure disorder, or the depression, are not as bad as they could be. That’s not to mention being consistently reminded of those who are there when I just can’t do something or it gets to be too much or I need an understanding ear or a good swift kick to the rear. There’s also the fact that I live in a country and time where I actually have access to care and meds that make life easier, not that life couldn’t be a whole lot better but I’m grateful it isn’t worse than it is.