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Now, many groups are created online (or members find each other there), but just because we can find each other easier via the Internet doesn’t mean we’re any better at staying together.”

An excerpt from another throwback blog post. Read more about the ups and downs of building Pagan community today.

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It’s been more than a month since Imbolc, so this seems a good time to reshare this post from last year. Enjoy!

Source: • Keeping Brigid after Imbolc

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I rarely reblog, but this is such a great message that we all need to hear, no matter if we are Pagan, Christian, Jewish, or whatnot. Maybe this is the year to simplify. Blessings!

“Commercialmass is false jollity powered by spending and guilt. It’s the pressure to make a big day, even if you are tired, and worn and could do with a rest. It’s the time honoured tradition of pulling threads out of people who were already threadbare.”

Druid Life

Let me start by saying that if you are celebrating a festival over the winter, as a spiritual festival, then I take no issue with it. If you are, in a more communal way, celebrating family, and friendship and planning things that will make people happy – yourself included – I take no issue with it. All power to you. Winters are gloomy, often depressing times and a bit of warmth and good cheer goes a long way.

Commercialmass is none of those things.

Commercialmass is about spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need – quite possibly to appease people you don’t even like. Commercialmass is false jollity powered by spending and guilt. It’s the pressure to make a big day, even if you are tired, and worn and could do with a rest. It’s the time honoured tradition of pulling threads out of people who were…

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Good day! Quick question: Do you enjoy the daily oracle card?

If you follow Parting the Mists on Facebook or Twitter, you know that an oracle card is pulled every day. It started as a Samhain season thing, so I picked my beloved Halloween Oracle deck for this. Followers seem to resonate with this deck, but lately I have felt that a change up was needed.

And yes, I had only planned to do the daily card from September through November, but I’ve enjoyed posting the card and would like to continue.

Anyway, here are three decks that feel like good options:

Druid Animal Oracle

Authors Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm with artists Will Worthington

This was my very first deck when, as a solitary Pagan, I was brave enough to go into a New Age/Witchy shop and buy a deck! Being drawn to Druidry at the time (and that’s never gone away though I went in another direction as a tradition) and having a lifelong love of animals, this was the perfect choice for me.

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Though I don’t consider this a “wintry” deck, I tend to think of it as an all-around good deck, particularly for those with strong animal associations.

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Wildwood Tarot

Authors Mark Ryan and John Matthews with artist Will Worthington

You might notice a trend here – I also love decks with artwork by Will Worthington (I have a third and gave a fourth to a friend). However, this is a tarot deck that’s not like traditional tarot, so I think it would still work well for a daily drawing. It draws much on Celtic myths and achetypes.

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Oracle of Oddities, 2nd edition

Author and designer Claire Goodchild of Black and the Moon

OK, this is brave of me to offer because this deck is pretty new to me (I just won it during the Great October Book Giveaway over at Rue & Hyssop – thanks, Jen!). On top of that, it is quite a unique deck and doesn’t have a book. If there was a short write up with the daily card, I would be the one writing it. This would be new for me, but I also think it would be a good push for my intuition.

Take a gander at these dark and lovely cards. Also stay tuned for a review of this deck soon.

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So which is it? Druid Animal Oracle, Wildwood Tarot, or Oracle of Oddities? Or, do you really want to say with The Halloween Oracle? Please let me know in comments!

Blessings,

Thistle

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Looking for more Samhain-related posts? Here’s some past posts: Honoring the Ancestors, Embracing the Wise Crone, and Herb or Rembrance, Herb of Samhain.  

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Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain to all of you! It’s been a while since posting something other than the Halloween Oracle Card of the Day (on Facebook), but this time of the year always makes me want to get back to the keyboard.

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My Beloved Dead altar for 2016

Of course, I’m not alone and I’read many blog posts and articles about this beautiful season and what we learn from it. We see how others deal with loss, and Heron Michelle from Patheos wrote how we as Pagans should do more than honor and celebrate the dead but also prepare for own death even in practical ways. It’s an excellent and honest article.

I lost my Mom a little over two years ago, and I do know that Michelle’s words ring true as my Mom had taken care of everything for her funeral and burial except her head stone, which she always said she would leave for us kids to pick. When an undiagnosed liver disease finally became known, we had precious little time with her and it was a blessing to not also worry about her medical wishes, funeral expenses and so forth. Planning all of that years ago was a gift my mother may not have even realized she was giving.

However, I my biggest Samhain lesson from losing the most important person in my life is this: Don’t wait to live the life you want.

Mom was one of those who worked hard at underpaid and underappreciated jobs all her life. She raised four kids and showed great resourcefulness in keeping us fed, clothed, and sheltered on a tight budget. Even after retirement, she had to work to make due. With undiagnosed illnesses (for him, it was dementia) affecting their personalities, my mom and stepdad divorced when she was in her late 60s. What little savings they had was split. They had to lower the price of their home to sell it, losing money in the process. Her last year was stressful as her tight budget, her medical issues, and mental confusion combined to make life very difficult, even with three daughters hovering over her.

Mom’s “golden years” had become pretty tarnished. All her life she had planned to travel and relax in retirement – that dream mocked her as she struggled to get by.

Sadly, I see so many people go through this same thing. They focus all their energy on work or professional goals or doing the things they “ought” to do, thinking they can work on their real dreams or just take time for themselves later. So many have their retirement dreams cut short illness. For others, it’s financial surprises that ruin their plans. The fact is that even careful planning can be for naught in some situations. We simply don’t control as much of what happens to us as we think.

It reminds me of a picture I once took where a sign warned about falling rocks, but a log was falling in the background instead. Life is like this: prepare for one thing and something different will happen.

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And as I put up my Beloved Dead altar every year, I’m reminded of this lesson.

This is why I don’t work overtime. Yes, I have what many consider a good job, but the fact is that the company really cares more about its bottom line than it does about me. And while it’s a good job, it’s not exactly a dream job. So I’d rather spend my extra time for me or with the ones I love.

This is also why I saved some of the insurance money leftover from Mom’s final expenses to travel to Ireland next year. We have some Irish heritage, so I know my Mom would have approved – but it’s the place I’ve longed to go to for the longest time.

This is why I allow myself the really good chocolate and time to write.

This is why I took up an old hobby that brings me joy.

It’s why I try to focus on smiling and laughing with friends and family rather than getting too involved with things that bring a lot of unneeded stress.

Many Pagans quote the “live in the moment” philosophy and yet are often as bad as the rest of Westerners about taking time for themselves and honoring their real life goals and dreams. We are not immune to the disease of just getting by or wasting time on things that don’t fulfill us.

No matter who we are, the fact is that life is much shorter than what we imagine. Let’s not waste it.

Blessings!

 

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camp fire horzLast fall, I attended the Gaia Goddess Gathering near Kansas City with several friends as I have done for six of the last seven years. It’s a great little women-only festival that is affordable and recharges my spiritual batteries.

One night the small group of us who came together – ranging from 14 to 40-somethings – huddled around a small campfire chatting. Most of us have a connection to a specific women’s group, and one of the ladies around the fire was preparing to be inducted as a member. Mentioning how she needed the structure, another friend was shaking her head.

“All we need,” she said, emphatically gesturing to the ground on which our humble fire and group sat, “is this. Right. Here.”

I got what she meant. I think.

We Pagans/Earth-loving folk often try to find groups of like-minded people. Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other religions have their churches and temples, but most Pagan types don’t have an organized community like that. And though many of us are drawn to the strong individualism and lack of dogma of Pagan and Earthy traditions, it’s always nice to know you’re not alone.

I remember when finding community was so stinking hard! I began my Pagan journey in 1997 and the only connection with others I had was a subscription to Sagewoman magazine. To learn of a practicing group in the area, you might have found one close to you on the Witch Vox website, but you usually had to learn about them by word of mouth. If you were lucky enough to have a Pagan Pride Day or Pagan Picnic in your area, you could meet folks that way.

Now, many groups are created online (or members find each other there), but just because we can find each other easier via the Internet doesn’t mean we’re any better at staying together. There are some reasons for this, some of them come from the core of Paganism and some from the core of being human. In many cases, they can be overcome with self-awareness and thought.

For what it’s worth, I’ve outlined a few issues I’ve noticed over the years in case it helps any groups out there having difficulties.

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I’m Pagan and You’re Pagan, so We’re Good, Right?

Well, maybe and maybe not. It’s really not enough, in most cases, for everyone involved to simply be Pagan or Pagan-friendly. There’s no dogma or religious rulebook for us, so what Pagan means can be different to every single one of us. In other words, just being Pagan isn’t necessarily a unifying concept.

I’ve seen many groups – online and in person – fall apart or flail about because they tried to be too inclusive and had no guidelines of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior (or just very weak guidelines) for the group.

While being all-inclusive sounds like a wonderful thing, the sad fact is that there is always a troll, narcissist, or energy vampire waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Groups like this are chum for those types.

Rising Numbers of those Intolerant of Focus – or a Challenge

With information readily available (either as online content or as books for sale online) about different traditions, more people are doing a smorgasbord approach. And I’m not saying this is bad – I have gone this way somewhat too, as you may remember.

However, I’ve found that the more Pagans there are who have never worked within a specific tradition for any real length of time, the fewer Pagans there are that have learned to have patience or respect for those with different opinions and practices. You present them with something they disagree with and they’re gone. Or they simply balk whenever they are challenged spiritually or mentally, which is often something mentors and teachers do to help us learn. I know my primary mentor in the Avalonian tradition challenged me plenty – and grow I did!

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Can’t We All Just Stop Bickering? (AKA: Group Dynamics)

I’ve been blessed to have many opportunities to work within several group structures – from highly structured and organized groups with a mission statement to small and casual social groups.

The first group I was a part of met weekly but had no unifying identity other than being some type of Pagan. It fell apart in the typical “witch war” situation. Then there was three years coordinating the local Pagan Pride Day and then several more years as a PPD volunteer. There was a very short stint in the Sisterhood of Avalon, and then almost nine years of being highly involved (and I’m still involved but to a far lesser degree) with the structured Daughters of the Sacred Grail.

Then, there’s the online folk magic group that went gang busters for a year or two and then petered out to nothing (actually, there were several online groups like that). There was also a long-lived social group that met in our local bookstore’s café once a month – and it would probably still be going if the bookstore hadn’t shut down.

Currently, the only Pagan/magical group I really meet with is a small group of friends that occasionally gets together to do a study or to celebrate holy days. This is my spiritual family, and I’m a bit bulldoggish in guarding it because of the drama I’ve seen in the past.

From these 19 years of experience, there are things I’ve noticed working against groups of any kind:

• Absolutely no rules or guides – As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been part of a group that really had no direction or guidelines. Most people seem to need a focus or tradition to avoid issues like different camps in the group from going to battle. And if you’ve ever seen the love-and-lighters trying to philosophically battle the left-hand enthusiasts, you know what I’m talking about. Even a few basic rules outlining an expectation of behavior is a good thing.

Then there’s the other extreme.

• Rules gone crazy – Sometimes group leaders dislike the behavior of some members of the group: poor attendance, showboating for attention, etc. So, they create rules. Mind you, I’m not opposed to a few rules myself, but sometimes leaders can get on a kick thinking every problem in the group can be solved with a rule. They want the group to move forward in unison and be productive.

But they forget to listen and to see the deeper issues at hand and to solve them in other ways. Instead, their rules sow more division between the “good” members and the “bad” members. They forget to keep their own egos in check when they believe they are all right and the others are all wrong. Sometimes, these folks start feeding off this power to control others, which is never good. And they also:

• Forget the Pagan individual – Forgetting that many Pagans are drawn to the individualism of our spirituality is a big problem for groups on a mission to grow, develop structure, etc. Much of what makes Pagan group ritual effective and beautiful is the creative energy of those members who know when to throw a scripted ritual to the wind and work with spirit. What makes a Pagan study group so interesting is hearing from those who come from different perspectives and paths.

With us, you cannot sacrifice the individual spirit for the good of the group – you must learn to balance the two. After all, we are not sheep to be herded.

Further, you cannot forget to feed ALL the members spiritually. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of sabbat celebrations, full moon rituals, and studies, but some people need things to be shaken up now and again. Some people need deeper studies to stimulate their spiritual minds while others are perfectly OK going over basic information with new members every time. Again, there must be a balance to make sure everyone is fed. Too many groups (and even churches) have groups splinter off because of this very issue.

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All Bickering Aside, What Do You Really Need?

Now, back to my friend’s statement by the campfire.

When all is said and done, all we really NEED for community is this: a small group of people who have your back and who you can trust to share your experiences. The campfire is optional, but sharing lunch or teatime or an informal ritual is equally satisfying. We may WANT more structure – this is often attractive, especially for those that have trouble with motivation or have been out of practice for a while – but we don’t really need it for spiritual community.

All we need to do is to find our people and treat them with respect and love. To share when it is helpful. To make your limitations clear and don’t feel bad for having some – if they love you as a brother or sister, they will understand. To support them in whatever ways you can, but to never forget to add to your own spiritual stewpot so you’re not running on empty. To be fucking nice to each other. Yes, I said that, and I mean it. A real community built with love and honor won’t as easily default into gossip and battles.

Until next time, I wish everyone the warmth of community in whatever way you connect with it – and, of course, blessings of Avalon.!

Thistle

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Happy September, everyone! I love the fall months, and I enjoyed the daily card readings from the Halloween Oracle last year so much that I decided to start it early.

When I drew this card this morning, I almost giggled – what an appropriate draw for the day of the dark moon! Also, don’t forget most readings will be posted directly to this blog’s Facebook page. Enjoy!

SCRYING

Intuition

HO Scrying

Soften your eyes

Being the trance

Whole worlds are opened

Begin the dance

Scrying is the divination technique of seeing unconscious images (or images from the diving or supernatural) appear upon or within a surface. People scry into a crystal ball, a black mirror, water, even the surface of ice. It is a very ancient technique and one traditionally enacted on Samhain (Halloween).

The keys to effective scrying are being as relaxed as possible, minimizing possible distractions, softening our gaze and allowing.

The enemy of effective scrying is distraction, both from inside and out. Turn off the phone, electric lights anywhere you can see them, any music, and if you are srying out doors, take the time to settle into the environment and listen to all the noises so that your mind will not need to break your focus later It is also vitally important to settle the mind as much as you can.

If you regularly mediate, you may wish to use those techniques or otherwise you can simply shut your eyes and focus on your breath – this is usually very effective. If you have a specific question for the scrying medium, state it up front. Then, once you feel relaxed, turn your focus inward. Imagine pulling your energy within you, and then focus on the third eye point (the chakra point on the center of the forehead, just above the eyebrows) and imagine opening it. Then gaze in a soft, unfocused way at your scrying surface and simply allow images to from and observe what presents itself to you. Do not engage your rational mind – this is about receiving, not thinking!

Should you pull the Scrying card, I suggest you try scrying for starters. It also indicates that you may wish to develop your intuition further and not rely soley on the logical part of your mind for all the answers. True wisdom takes a balance of logic and imagination for true wisdom.

The Halloween Oracle by Stacey Democrat

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