Monday, October 22, 2012

Skyclad, Body Issues, & Opinions

What do you see when you look at this picture?

Click here for a bigger picture.

If your first thought was "A Pagan ritual", you are probably a female and/or Pagan practitioner with a few years under her/[his] belt.

If your first thought was "Are those women naked? *shock*" or "Damn, those women look good!", you are probably a man and/or a novice Pagan or not a pagan at all.

(If, by chance, you noticed right away that there was a clothed woman inside the dolmen/Faery Gate, I don't know what to make of you. If, by chance, you noticed that this picture was shot in Scotland, or that this is a scene from The (original) Wicker Man, congratulations, you have too much free time on your hands. Also, I <3 you.)

Skyclad is the principal of being "clad with the sky" -- or in other words, naked. It is supposed to allow the practitioner to feel like s/he is completely natural, that s/he is presenting hirself* to the Gods without omission or reserve, and moves past the body shame that our culture has cultivated.

Within a group, it is supposed to foster Perfect Love & Perfect Trust, a feeling of total openness among coven members in which they can see all your flaws, all your faults, the whole of your self (spiritually, physically, mentally) and still accept and love you. Keep in mind, this is supposed to be without lust, longing, or sexual desire. Now, I have not heard of a coven that is skyclad and abuses it unless the entire group or the leaders are there only for sexual gratifications, and I definitely have not heard of coven orgies (cuz I would do that in a heartbeat! Kidding. Maybe.). However, predation in our community does happen, and let's not sugarcoat that or dismiss it.

I want to comment that Perfect Love & Perfect Trust are misnomers in the English language. Nothing in life or death is completely Perfect. Our Gods are not Perfect, we are not Perfect, even Nature and the Universe are not Perfect. From
A few usage guides still object to the use of comparison words such as more, most, nearly, almost, and rather with perfect on the grounds that perfect describes an absolute, yes-or-no condition that cannot logically be said to exist in varying degrees. The English language has never agreed to this limitation. Since its earliest use in the 13th century, perfect has, like almost all adjectives, been compared, first in the now obsolete forms perfecter and perfectest, and more recently with more, most, and similar comparison words: "the most perfect arrangement of color and line imaginable." Perfect is compared in most of its general senses in all varieties of speech and writing.

Note the fourth entry on Perfect. We can use a host of other, better suited (but poetically shattering) terms such as defectless, faultless, matchless, supreme, unblemished, unequal, untainted, or untarnished. Unblemished Love and Untarnished Trust. Hmm.... Point being, it is not about being perfect, but about a quality that cannot be matched elsewhere. Your coven is your family; they are sometimes thicker than blood and know you as well as or better than your birth family. That is your safe place, your refuge, your one space that allows you to be completely yourself without reserve. Being skyclad in front of your covenmates is the physical representation of this bond and relationship. It is supposed to be the highest form of worship.

They are pissed off about body shaming assholes
But this brings up whole new issues, specifically body issues. I know people who do not undress unless for showers and cannot even begin to take off their clothes in front of a mirror, let alone other people. How many of us can undress in the locker room without going and hiding in the stalls to get dressed? I am comfortable in my own skin and still have trouble with that. I used to torture myself over imagined comments about how my body looked when I was in middle and high school. How are we supposed to feel good in our bodies when we are told over and over and over again that we shouldn't be viewed, that we are less than, that we even don't deserve to live? And, do we bring this shame to our Gods?

Can you stand in front of your Deity completely natural and feel absolutely no shame or embarrassment when They look at you? I personally felt embarrassment the first time I presented myself. It is a conditioned response. It is the same feeling one gets at undressing in front of a lover; timidity, shyness, and apprehensiveness. Almost like waiting for another shoe to drop, for him to say something that you "always knew someone would cruelly say." Of course, it never happens, esp since the Gods don't care out how your body looks. It is a vehicle in which your spirit resides.

Skyclad rituals are completely and utterly your decision. Whatever you feel is best for you is what you should do. Try it once, see how you like it. Try it once more just to confirm your feelings. If you like it, Yay! If you don't, Yay also. All I can say is blessings upon you, my friend.

*(note: I like to use gender neutral terms like s/he and hir because I don't want to omit any gender and believe that inclusion is important. I don't like "it" because it is too impersonal.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Divine Sex and Labels

Freyja and the Dwarves
Recently there came across my Facebook page via Coven Avalon (I recommend liking the page, by the way. Really good info there) a very interesting point that I had not seen in the Pagan community before that was discussed on another page I frequent (also a good place to hang around). Apparently, some pagans call some Gods "horny buggers," "bums," or "alcoholic" while they call Goddesses "sluts" and "hookers" that have "nice tits." It was noted that Christians don't do this with Jesus or Mary. Of course, some of these labels are true in their core, but is there a line?

First and foremost, Paganism (the broad range of nature religions) is a sex based religion. We openly state that fertility centers around the majority of our teachings, beliefs, rituals, and life. The stories of all the Gods and Goddesses various sexual adventures are well k
nown, from Aphrodite's promiscuity behind Hephaestus' back to Freyja's payment to four dwarves for a gold necklace to Zeus' many, many consorts to Loki's many children. 

However, that doesn't mean that we should disrespect those deities by calling them sluts or whore mongers. Even the gods themselves demanded respect. Remember: no matter what, even the least powerful deity can still whip your ass.

Don't get me wrong, however. I totally agree that we should be able to pal around with the Gods and give them a "good rubbing" every now and then. I didn't sign up for snobbish deities who can't take jokes, but there are some jokes that you just don't tell. Considering that a good bit of our faith emphasizes honor -- cultivating it and respecting it-- it seems disingenuous to insult our Gods and Goddesses like that.

Secondly, I think that a good bit of this kind of thinking stems from our society that views sex as a bad thing or something for reproduction that should only be preformed by two couples (typically one male and one female). When a counterculture like ours meets the mainstream culture, there will always be friction until either the counterculture disintegrates or the mainstream accepts the different thought process. Already we are seeing a different attitude about sex than there was in the 1960s, abet the attitude towards women is just a different type of objectification but more on that in a sec.

Meanwhile, many Pagans believe that sex isn't some sinful thing, that everyone deserves to have it and enjoy it, that it isn't only for procreation, and it isn't something to be afraid of. (Some even believe that everyone should have equal access to birth control and planned parenthood and equal marriage of consenting adults of any gender or number.......) Sex is something that even our Deities participate in with relish. In ancient Rome, sex and sexuality was viewed way differently than we see it today. While Ancient Rome is not an exact model we should use today, what with our matriarchal/egalitarian religion and their strict patriarchal system, it is worthy to note that there is no Latin word for the concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality and that many ideas of sexuality are starting to crop up again in our society.

To specifically address the issue of slut shaming our Deities; if it is acceptable for one of our own community members to slut shame our own Goddess, what do you think that says about the way women in our community are thought of? Do you think that person gives two shits or even thinks about how his/her words affect the attitudes and views of women in general? Does he/she recognize the damage that is being continued by relegating a supposedly Divine being to being something like a second class citizen which therefore puts women "in their place?" What about the objectification of women that is so rampant in our society?

From the SlutWalks
Then again, if we want to see the flip side of this, by labeling a powerful Divine being a slut who has also been known to reject the negativity of that word and revels in Her own Sexuality freely regardless, we (women) in essence reclaim the word "slut" and our own sexuality. We take the word and construct a new meaning that doesn't involve shame, sadness or bitterness but evokes power, happiness with ourselves, and acceptance of others.

Which then do we as Pagans want? Do we want to empower the Feminine or do we want to tear her down and disgrace her? Do we want to degrade the Goddesses that Christianity has for so long done already?

Do we cave to the patriarchy and dissolve our egalitarian religion or do we push back with unyielding resolve?

What do we want for our daughters and sons?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nice Change of Pace

First I wanna say SQUEEEEE over this picture! Serious love, man. Anyone have the artist for this?

Second, I swear I'm working on some posts, it is just taking forever. Something soon, I promise!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

College Pagan Tips

For those of you who are in college, it can be tough juggling your school work, your job, your family, and your spiritual life. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or just going back to college after years in the workforce, college is a stressful time and nothing to snuff at. Grades you make now will haunt you forever, and we aren't even talking about the possible flak you will get from family if you snub them in favor of better grades. There seems like there is never time for your own spiritual growth, or any of the things you previously were doing. Astral projection, meditation, rituals, Esbats. Maybe you still squeeeeeeze in time for the Sabbats, but soon that won't be enough.

How do you do it? Nothing is simple, and there will never be an easy answer. If you find one or are given one, immediate doubt should be cast upon it. So, here are a few suggestions that might help anyway.
(source, which happens to be a very interesting article.)

First, sit down at some point and make your weekly schedule. If you are stable enough to plan a whole month, or even three months, ahead, do it. Make an hourly breakdown of your activities. Include study time, homework hours, chores, physical exercise of your choice, class times, work times, sleeping (8 hours or more) and naps if you can, and anything else that may eat your time up. Don't include any spiritual time yet. Study time should be as long as, or twice as long as, your class runs. If you have a one hour class, expect to study for two hours. Time management is a MUST.

(Side track here -- don't think you are going to study for that whole two hours. You must take breaks or your retention of the information will decrease steadily.  Study for 30 mins at a time, and then take a complete 10 min break. Trust me, you will get way more out of your studying if you do so. Also, do NOT procrastinate and wait to get things done on the day something is due. You will burn yourself out very quickly. This is coming from a lifelong procrastinator, so I know what I am talking about.)

Once you have your "available" times, you can either plug them with much needed down time, or start filling the gaps with spiritual time (or both!). I would suggest carving out 30 mins each day to sit outside and just soak up what you can. You can sit in the morning or night and drink some warm tea, stay silent and listen to the sounds that you hear. Touch the bare ground, if you can, with your feet, hands, or whole body. If you want to spend some time with the Elements, make a day where you make efforts to connect with that Element alone. You can also have a day for the God and one for the Goddess, and one more for all of them. I suggest making the last one on a day where you can do a ritual. Here is a general outline you can do:

Sunday: Sun's day. Make an effort to greet the Sun as He rises in the morning. Before you grab your tea or coffee, try a quick Sun Salutation. While you are preforming the salutation, you are welcome to think about the role of the God, where He is in His stage of life or death, and how it applies to your own life. Afterwards, you can go get your drink and bask in the Sun until you are done or have to leave.

Monday: Moon's day. Go outside at night when you have some quiet time and commune with the Goddess. Drink some non-caffeinated tea (but not coffee, because it will keep you awake) and bask in the rays of the Moon. When you are done with your tea, you can preform Shavasana, which will help with sleep. While you do this meditation, you can either keep your mind clear or you can think about the Goddess, Her role and what stage of Her life She is at, and how it applies to your life.

Tuesday: Fire's day. Fire is the warmth in our homes, the flame that cooks our food, and the spark that is our spirit. With Fire, anything can be transformed. Paper turns to ash, water turns to steam, and metal turns into a sword. Fire is connected to sex, light, and the soul. Fire lights the way to the Otherworld, is the spark in ourselves that attract spiritual beings, and burns away darkness. A great devotion for fire is flame meditations. Since I can't find the one I want, I will just write it here.
Light a candle and get comfortable. Sit where you can still see every bit of the flame, but your eyes will also naturally fall on the flame when you relax. Notice that the very outside of the flame is red, which represents your outer body or your skin. There isn't very much red, but when you go past that you see orange. This is your outer projection, what you put out into the world and what other people see. It is a facade to your overall being. Moving past this sliver, you find the bulk of your being, the white. This is your ego, your conscious mind that voice all your thoughts. As you wade through this part, you come to the yellow, which is the preconscious part of you which bridges your conscious and unconscious mind. Past this door is the blue of your unconscious mind, your soul, the inner most part of your being. This is the heart of who you are, and where your thoughts and dreams originate. Slowly expand the blue into the yellow, and then into the white, into the orange, and finally into the red. Your soul touches each part of your body and is not separated from it. Feel the power and energy that is you. Stay there for a moment before withdrawing the blue from the red, leaving just a little bit behind. Withdraw from the orange, the white, and the yellow, all the while leaving just a little bit of the blue behind. Finally, the blue is back and it is time to withdraw your conscious past the yellow, past the white, past the orange, and finally the red. Ground, and you will be done! 
Yoga pose: Warrior III and Humble Warrior.  

Wednesday: Air's day. Air surrounds us very second of the day. It keeps us alive by driving many energy cycles within our bodies and every other being on this planet -- animal and plant alike. Air is connected to thought, knowledge, and our breath. Singing, dancing, laughter, and being aware of your breathing are great devotions. Go outside and throw your soul into the wind. Feel the wind pass through your body and sweep up your spirit. Air is almost never serious, and will take you up and play around. It will make you want to laugh and feel light-hearted. REMEMBER, keep a spiritual tether between your body and your spirit, because Air is similar to the Fae in that it will lead you astray and can get you lost. Don't worry, though, keep your head on and you will be fine. Yoga pose: Cat and Cobra.

Thursday: Earth's day. Earth is around us, always. It is what we stand on, what our buildings are made of, and where we get our food and clothes. Earth is connected with the body, wealth and prosperity, and our roots. Earth is grounding, which is a good devotion. Go outside and sit on the bare Earth. Bend over and smell the dirt, touch the grass, feel the energy that comes from it. Sit up with your legs crossed and begin the Tree of Life meditation. Do the chakras if you feel like it. Another good devotion is connecting with a tree. Approach a tree that you wish to connect with and ask it if it minds helping out. If you get a yes or positive vibe, then continue by sitting with your back on the tree. Clear your mind and reach out towards the tree, feeling its entire body. Feel up the tree and into its leaves. Feel the life that lives on or in that tree, and the movement of nutrients. Follow it back down into the roots and notice how large and expansive the roots spread. As you get to know the tree, you can ask it to share any memories it may have. The older the tree, the more it knows. Do NOT lose yourself in the tree. Yoga position to try: Tree and Eagle.

Friday: Water's day. Water is connected with emotion, the astral realm, and blood. Water flows and keeps moving, going from the seen to the unseen. Scrying is a good water devotion. Another one is taking a cleansing herbal bath or taking a shower outside at night (if you have a privacy fence, a water hose with a water nozzle that sets to something soft, and some guaranteed alone time. Make sure you bring a towel with you outside!). If you take a bath, set out candles and make it like a ritual. Have music if you want, or make your own. Think about what water means to you and how it affects your life. Think about how water is the Universal Solvent, that with enough time everything dissolves into it, including your own negative emotions and bad vibes. Let water was it away, and thank it. Yoga position: Triangle and Half Moon.

Saturday: Ritual day. Do something special this day, anything you can think of. Place offerings, sit and commune, or go and volunteer somewhere. Do something nice and random: for instance, if you go shopping and you see someone struggling to pay their bill, you could help out. Or perhaps look out for another person. If you are going to do a ritual, I suggest you make your own. The more personal, the better.

Most of these ideas shouldn't take more than 30 minutes or so. If you have more to spend, great! Do it!! But if not, these will help you start. Remember that time management in college (and in high school too) is very important. Of course, no one is perfect and slip ups should be expected. Don't berate yourself. It happens.

If you have your own suggestions, feel free to put them in the comments! The more, the merrier. 

Blessed Be.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Be Fat for a Day

Today I feel horribly fat. Terribly, awfully huge. I felt like a big sack of nothing up fat with a little bit of bones stuck in for support. And you know what? I feel great.

I feel fucking fantastic. I am digging this fat feeling. Why? Because I can. It isn't because I don't care about myself, or because I am being lazy (I am totally being lazy this weekend though, after a rough week of finding work). It is because I don't care about what other people think anymore.

But even that isn't entirely true. I don't care about the preconceived notions of what fat means. I don't care about explaining myself away like I am some sort of subhuman. I don't care about remarks that are said or dirty looks that are given.

I do care about how I look, clothes wise, and I do care about whether I am clean. I care about my self and the impressions I give other people. But I do not care about how big or small I am. I don't care, so who the fuck else needs to? No one, that's who.

Honey Badger.
So I am going to sit here and be fat. And happy. I might even sing and dance around. Everyone needs a day to feel fat, and not give a shit. Start not giving a shit today!!