Devotion to Pets and Honoring the Goddess

Pets, Love, and the Goddess

Pets–dogs, cats, and other animals–are not just companions: they are family. They are a gift from the Goddess to be loved and cherished, to be protected from illness and harm. They lift the spirits of their human counterparts.

An upsetting event happened this weekend. A neighbor who views dogs more as property than as family threatened to kill our dogs. His dogs had started digging underneath the fence and coming into our yard. When our dogs started reciprocating, the neighbor became upset (not with his dogs–with ours). We spent several days reinforcing our side of the fence by burying rebar strategically along the fenceline; this proved an ongoing challenge, as my pet, a beagle, did what beagles were bred to do: burrow. As we were working actively, and proactively, on a solution to the problem, the neighbor kept complaining; one evening, with questionable sobriety, he threatened to kill Emma, my pet, and any other dog that continued to dig underneath the fence.

The fencing problem has been solved, as of this weekend; however, the damage of the neighbor’s threat lingers. He threatened members of the family: the fact that these family members have four legs instead of two is entirely beside the point. I am filled with a sense of moral outrage, shock, and disbelief. I have to keep reminding myself that actions, good or ill, will revisit a person in the form of the Threefold Law  and to let the Goddess take care of any karmic retributions, and that while binding the undesirable behavior is acceptable, cursing or wishing ill upon this questionable excuse of a human being is not.

May the Goddess grant me wisdom and patience.

Emma

Emma, my pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Focus on Hestia

Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth

This week I have been invoking Hestia while making jams and chutney, as well as freezing and drying any fruit left over from these endeavors. Hestia, Goddess of the hearth, the magickal place where the season’s bounty is transformed by fire and by intent, is the Deity of honor this month.

Hestia is a virgin goddess (virgin, meaning that she is not mated with any male), daughter of Chronos and Rhea, who rules the hearth–both the private hearth and the community hearth (today’s closest equivalents would be city hall as well as any local organizations that fight hunger, such as soup kitchens), architecture, and the domestic family. The proverb “Home is where the heart is” certainly applies to this goddess; one could also say “Home is where the hearth is” with equal accuracy, since the hearth and family bliss are intricately linked.

By Daderot (Own work (I took this photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Hestia

By Daderot (Own work (I took this photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hestia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hestia is associated with cooking, certainly, but she is also associated with overall warmth and the family gathering around the hearth for quality time. This goddess is also associated with the sacrificial flame, as the fire often originated from her hearth. Traditionally she would receive a portion of every sacrifice to the gods. At the individual hearth, it is customary to make a sacrifice to her with each meal or special dish prepared.

According to myth, Hestia’s own sacrificial animal is the pig. This is appropriate: what invokes the feeling of a warm, cozy hearth more than the image of a roasted pig, with the apple in its mouth? Many grains, vegetables, and fruits would also be an appropriate sacrifice.

Some other deities, such as Aphrodite, Apollo, and Zeus, may bask in the limelight and are known by their many sexual exploits and fits of extreme emotion, such as jealousy or pride. Hestia, unassuming though she may appear, provides an important foundation both for the individual and society; according to Greek mythology, without Hestia, the other gods would be rootless.

What is your relationship with Hestia? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Blessed Be.

 

The Hestia Tapestry "Hestia full of Blessings" 44 x 53 inches Egypt, 6th century Scan from 1945 book Documents of Dying Paganism Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Washington D.C. In the public domain

The Hestia Tapestry “Hestia full of Blessings” 44 x 53 inches Egypt, 6th century
Scan from 1945 book Documents of Dying Paganism
Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Washington D.C.
In the public domain

Wiccan Rede and Making Mistakes

Wiccan Rede: No Silver Bullet against Making Mistakes

The Wiccan Rede, with its admonishment “An it harm none, do what ye will” is sound advice to follow each and every day. This advice puts the onus on the individual to think out as many ramifications of his or her actions, or inactions, as possible. Following the Wiccan Rede will reduce many errors in judgment; however, it is no guarantee that a person’s life will be completely free of mistakes.

Sometimes, in spite of a person’s best intentions, a consequence that he or she never considered will happen as a result of the action, or inaction, in question. It happens. Other times the best possible outcome may still involve a bit of harm in the short run–the idea of “tough love” comes to mind here– in order to bring about a desirable result in the long term: this is where weighing the advice of the Wiccan Rede truly becomes interesting.

The Wiccan Rede makes no guarantees against failure–nor should it. Making mistakes and hitting our heads against the wall of failure provide a valuable education in this lifetime: how else are we to learn our life lessons in this incarnation, if not a future incarnation? That is why we are here on earth, after all.

In our society failure is seen as a fearsome spectre, second only to death itself in striking fear in the hearts of many. We are told that “Failure is not an option.” Of course it is, and failure, including the arena of making mistakes, comes with the territory of striving for success, whatever one’s personal definition of success happens to be. Making mistakes, and risking failure, should not be shunned: it is a natural process. And when mistakes do happen, it is best to acknowledge them and to learn from them.

What are your thoughts about making mistakes and facing occasional failure? Please feel free to share your insights in the comments section. Blessed Be!

 

By Hapesoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Mistake

By Hapesoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mistake

Recent Pet Deaths: The Goddess Reclaims Her Own

Death of Two Cats: Passage to the Rainbow Bridge

It has been a traumatic week, one of death and sorrow, as two of our cats, Hope and Penny, have rejoined the Goddess and have journeyed to the Rainbow Bridge.

My cat, Hope, died last week: I accidentally ran over her while backing out of the driveway. From what we can guess, she was chasing who knows what and happened to dart either underneath or right behind my car. It happened so quickly. I saw her dying, and there was nothing I could do to help her: I felt horrified and helpless as I saw her shudder and then die within a matter of minutes. I still see this image flash in my mind’s eye: the image comes unbidden, with startling frequency: I guess this is post-traumatic stress–who knows how long it is supposed to last?

Everyone tells me that Hope’s death was not my fault, that I am not to blame. Nevertheless I am working through feelings of grief, tremendous guilt, anger, and profound sorrow. A week later, my heart is still broken.

Penny, a seven or eight week-old kitten, died yesterday. Two roommates found her last month in the parking lot of Fry’s Electronics, in the middle of a hot day. They brought her home, rehydrated her, and nursed her back to health. She seemed fully recovered, but last week she became sick–nausea, vomiting, diarrhea–and declined quickly. One roommate, who was especially close to Penny–he was his baby–had to make the painful decision to put her down. We remind one another that while Penny’s time with us was short, she was surrounded by love: she did not face death alone in a hot, scary, dangerous parking lot.

Even now, we are facing the impending death of another cat, Teddy Bear, who has FIP, or Feline Infectious Peritonitis: he has a week or so left. We are waiting to ride the emotional rollercoaster again. I want off this ride for a while.

 

Rainbow-Bridge-heaven.jpg ‎(360 × 240 pixels, file size: 52 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Created by Maris stella, reference Death and Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow-Bridge-heaven.jpg ‎(360 × 240 pixels, file size: 52 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Created by Maris stella, reference
Death and Rainbow Bridge

 

Rant: Caged or Chained Pets

Mammalian Pets Imprisoned?

Not long ago I went briefly to a friend’s acquaintance’s house. This individual, a hoarder, is also, unfortunately, a cat hoarder (or, known politely as a “cat collector”). What particularly upset me was that he keeps his cats caged, indoors: the cats are physically taken care of , and the cages may be relatively roomy, but they are still metal cages, prisons for these poor animals. The thought of these pets being cooped up, unable to run around or to play–what many consider normal feline activity–is nothing less than heartbreaking: Any interaction with humans must occur through the metal barrier. The cats looked at me with pleading eyes, begging to be released from their cages; I felt there was nothing I could do–an extremely frustrating feeling. It was all I could do not to open the cages and release them.

I am saddened. I am heartbroken. I am offended.

This is no better, in my opinion, than the practice–of some calling themselves dog owners–of chaining a dog outdoors and leaving that dog outdoors most of the time, not interacting or bonding with the dog; the mentality of people who do this seems to be along the lines of “Well, it’s my dog, so I can do whatever I want to him or her”–which I find morally reprehensible. Ideally, dogs need a fenced backyard, with plenty of room to run and play. Even so, dogs need loving human interaction; after all, they do have a pack mentality and are social creatures.

Pets (or, if you prefer, animal companions) are meant to be cherished and loved. Cats and dogs in particular need that quality time with their humans: time to play and time to cuddle. They are not meant to be put on display or to be warehoused. Pets are gifts from the Goddess and the God, and these gifts can make us better humans.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to give my animal friends a hug. Blessed Be.

How do you feel about caged or chained pets, especially cats and dogs? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

AlexanderY [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Caged pet

AlexanderY [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Caged pet

Lughnasadh 2013: Early Harvest

Lughnasadh: A Celebration of Early Harvest

Tomorrow is Lughnasadh, the first harvest festival of the season. Also called Lammas (“loaf mass”), August Eve, Festival of Green Corn, Cornucopia, and Raccolto, this festival is a celebration of anticipated abundance: gathering in the first fruits (and vegetables, and grains) of the season. In modern times, this fire festival is also a time to celebrate the beginnings of figurative harvests: a new job, or new responsibilities at an existing job, gaining a new skill, learning lessons, harvesting the benefits of a new life change.

In the Wheel of the Year, Lughnasadh marks the point where the God is beginning to weaken and to prepare for his eventual sacrifice, even while the unborn God grows in the belly of the Goddess.

Lughnasadh is named after the Celtic god Lugh, a solar deity (more about Lugh in this week’s upcoming post).

In Lughnasadh ritual, I usually meditate and focus on all of the successful harvests so far in my own life. I start with the literal, through my garden, and then work to the figurative–personal goals made to improve life for myself and others. If a harvest has not happened yet, or has withered, or has become infested by insects or doubts,  I make a plan to replant the seeds for a later harvest in the season.

For altar decorations, you cannot go wrong with a bouquet of yellow daisies or even sunflowers. You can also create corn dollies and/or sprigs of wheat to use as adornment for the altar.

For Lughnasadh, bread making is traditional. Any kind of bread is appropriate: I prefer to make cornbread on this Sabbat. Another traditional food associated with Lughnasadh is blackberry pie (or, in my area, blackberry cobbler is also popular). Any fresh produce from the garden, or otherwise in season, such as summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, and beans, are also appropriate for this day. To toast the gods, beer, wine, and grape juice are all appropriate.

How do you celebrate Lughnasadh? Do you make it a solitary celebration or a family affair? Please feel free to share your insights in the comments section. Blessed Be.

 

By Mountainash333 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Lughnasadh Corn Doly

By Mountainash333 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Lughnasadh Corn Doly

Deity, the All, and a Horrible Interview

Notions of Deity, in View of a Trainwreck of an Interview

This weekend, I saw, as many others did, a video –now gone viral–of a closeminded attack on faith and Deity, in the form of the abysmal interview between Lauren Green of Fox News and Reza Aslan, who was promoting his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. From the outset, it was clear that Green was more focused, even  obsessed, about Aslan’s religion, Islam, than about the book itself. She seemed to find it unfathomable that a person of another faith, who worships another Deity, could write about, and be an expert in, Christianity and Jesus.

Here is the first cringe-worthy exchange:

Green: You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?

Aslan: Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus; I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions.

Instead of taking the hint, Green pursues the religious bias claim further; I love his response:

Green: “But it still begs the question though of why you’d be interested in the founder of Christianity?”

Aslan: ”Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’ss what I do for a living.”

The rest of the interview revolves around quotes of (negative) critics, rather than on the book itself. At one point, Green accuses Aslan of hiding this faith; he points out that page two of his book as well as other published interviews, contradicts her claim: he then calls her out for not reading the book ahead of time.

Reza Aslan beautifully defends himself, his book, and academia in general, but what does all of  this have to do with the Pagan and his or her relationship with Deity? This interview reminds us of the divisive nature of some people who assume an “us vs. them” mentality and who tend to compartmentalize religion. However, Paganism believes in the All, that the Goddess and the God interact with us through the archetypes or aspects that resonate with each individual worshipper. Whether the God appears as Thor, Apollo, Pan, Shango, Quetzalcoatl, Great Spirit, or Jesus, they are all part of the All, a supreme spiritual entity. All travelers on a positive path will find the various roads lead to the same destination: this is what makes the horrible interview that Reza Aslan endured a moot point.

What do you think about this interview? Please feel free to share your thoughts, as well as your thoughts on Deity, in the comments section.

By Arivumathi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Symbol of Deity

By Arivumathi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Symbol of Deity

Lakshmi: Deity of the Week

Focus on Lakshmi

Today I am starting a new feature: Deity of the Week. This week I would like to start things off by taking a special look at Lakshmi (from Sanskrit Laksme, literally “goal”), a beloved Hindu goddess who is a multitasker extraordinaire. Lakshmi is a goddess of beauty, agriculture, wealth, and prosperity; if you think about it, all of these qualities are intricately linked. She also plays the role of diplomat, especially with her husband and consort Vishnu: she will intervene on the behalf of worshippers if her husband seems overbearing. She is also the embodiment of the devoted, graceful, loving wife. Lakshmi and Vishnu symbolize the idea of a blissful, harmonious marriage.

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Lakshmi

Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Lakshmi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is portrayed as a beautiful, full-figured woman with four arms–each arm represents a cardinal direction (North, South, East, or West). The four hands represent the possible end goals of human life: Purusharthas. She wears red, a vibrant, sexual color that reinforces also the idea of prosperity. She is sometimes flanked by elephants, a symbol of prosperity. Lakshmi usually sits or stands on a lotus, which represents beauty as well as enlightenment.

By Bazar Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, 1940, Lakshmi

By Bazar Art [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Anonymous work, 1940, Lakshmi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lakshmi is a goddess to turn to in order to increase your own prosperity and wealth–spirtual as well as monetary; however, she is not the goddess of the get-rich-quick scheme. Anyone asking for her help should be willing to do his or her part: go back to school, if necessary, put in more hours, and/or take a temporary second job. Lakshmi will not help those who are unwilling to put in the sweat equity or the effort.

For an inspiring mantra to invoke Lakshmi, click here.

Do you have a close relationship with Lakshmi? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments section. Blessed Be.

Principles of Wiccan Beliefs: My Thoughts

Principles of Wiccan Beliefs: A Starter Set

In the early 1970s, the Council of American Witches, a now-defunct group, met to set up a list of ethical guidelines for Wiccans, as much a message to non-Pagans to dispel misconceptions as to offer validation for Pagan worshippers. Below I have listed these principles, along with my thoughts of these principles (the latter are in bold).

Principles of Wiccan Beliefs, from the Council of American Witches (1974)

  1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarter. We are intimately connected with the changing seasons, the Fire Festivals,  and the Moon’s phases.
  2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept. The earth is our church as well as our home; if we do not protect the earth’s environment, we lose ourselves as well as a sacred space.
  3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called supernatural, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all. We tap into elemental and divine energy, which is natural, not supernatural–contrary to what the movies and television shows maintain.
  4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity — as masculine and feminine — and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship. Deity is male and female; neither is seen as more important than the other. Sex is sacred, not profane, as it honors the Lady and the Lord.
  5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. — and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment. All dimensions are important, not just the physical plane. Science and spirituality need not be mutually exclusive.
  6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership. Each Wiccan is her or his own leader: there is no cult of personality. However, we honor those who teach the Old Ways.
  7. We see religion, magick and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it — a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft — the Wiccan Way. Magick goes hand-in-hand with spirituality and wisdom; magick can be a holy act.
  8. Calling oneself “Witch” does not make a Witch — but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature. Dedication to the Craft and in lifelong learning about this spiritual path makes one a Witch, not a badge or a title. This status comes from within.
  9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal role within it. Life, ever-evolving, is sacred.
  10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the only way” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief. No one religion is right for everyone. Those who follow a positive path end up connecting with the Divine, no matter what form the Divine takes.
  11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future. Learning from the past is important, but so is living in the here and now and considering the future: this is an integral part of the life lessons we learn while here on earth.
  12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as “Satan” or “the Devil”, as defined by the Christian traditions. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another. We do not acknowledge an evil entity, let alone worship it: why give it a name and thus power? We live through the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do what ye will.”
  13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and wellbeing. We and nature are mutually beneficial allies: this relationship, in the words of the closing line of the movie Casablanca, should be “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Blessed Be.

What are your thoughts about the Principles of Wiccan Beliefs? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

By Fer Doirich (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons A Wiccan Altar

By Fer Doirich (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
A Wiccan Altar, representative of Wiccan Beliefs

Spiral as Sacred Symbol is Everywhere

The Spiral: Divine and Ubiquitous

The spiral is a symbol of the divine cycle of birth, death, and rebirth; this symbol figures prominently in Pagan faiths. We see this symbol as the spotlight of the triskele,  and as part of Reiki’s cho ku rei symbol, but we also see this figure, the Fibonacci Spiral and the Golden Spiral, accentuated thoughout nature.

In plants we find the spiral in spirogyra (a species of green algae), seeded head of sunflowers, red cabbage (halved), pine cones,
Fiddlehead fern, pineapple, cauliflower, broccoflower, members of the daisy family, including coneflower, chrysanthemums, and many rose species such as tea roses, as well as many more examples of the plant kingdom.

By Just chaos (Aloe Plant) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons  spiral

By Just chaos (Aloe Plant) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons spiral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the animal kingdom we find the spiral in the chambered nautilus, in the snail, and in the spider web. The horns, teeth, and claws of some animals, such as the spiral-horned antelope, feature this symbol. The cochlea in humans, as well as fingerprints, feature this pattern, as do developing embryos; even the fetal position is based on this figure.

 

By Image by Mad Max, Kirkland, Washington. [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons spiral

By Image by Mad Max, Kirkland, Washington. [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
spiral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other places this symbol is found in nature include the Milky Way galaxy and similar galaxies. In weather systems, we see this figure in the form of hurricanes, typhoons, whirlpools, and waves. And, of course, the spiral has long represented the sun.

By R. Hurt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Spiral

By R. Hurt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Spiral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spiral represents life, or different lifetimes, coming almost full circle–offering a vantage point of seeing the past and being able to avoid repeating it if necessary. It also represents the path towards the Goddess and the God: the process of looking within is inherent with this symbol. Perhaps that is why this symbol is sacred.

What are your thoughts on the spiral as divine symbol? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.