Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Candle Magic & Mabon

I took this Picture of our Harvest Altar last Mabon and I am still very proud of it. (the picture & the altar)

One of my favorite things about being a Pagan is our Holidays. Growing up my family didn't observes the normal holidays or rather we didn't observe the holidays normally. I always thought it was just us.

Now I understand the difference between "Normal" holidays and "Natural" ones. We did participate in the casual observances with extended family and I was allowed to participate in school activities unlike the children of Jehovah's Witnesses.

I all ways felt bad for them, they were just kids and they just wanted to be kids. But their parents wouldn't have it. Now that I am a parent I remember those lessons I learned at the expense of my classmates. As much as we may want it, our children are under no obligation to participate in any of our religious beliefs and practices, which makes it so rewarding when they ask us when is the next Sabbat or Esbat. That tells me were doing something right.

Thank you Holy Mother & Holy Father.

But I can't really blame them, I ask too. We all look forward to the next gathering, knowing it will be as enjoyable as the last. Our Covenant is essentially several entire families, each Sodalis brings their whole house, spouses, children and a great contribution to the feast. I am an Uncle to every child of our Covenant and they are all Aunts and Uncles to ours.

Just like any other family holiday, the men hang around the BBQ pit and watch the kids play in the yard, the women take over the kitchen until we all end up in the living room singing rock band together. We talk about the last gathering and we talk about the next. We share our joys, confess our concerns and we care about each other.

Traditionally we're not supposed to do CraftWork on a Sabbat, but we made candles. I'd been saving two blocks of bees wax I bought from the local farmers market for a while. I started the double boil once everyone started laying food on the counter. My daughter harvested flower pedals from her own personal garden. And everyone stopped and gave some attention to the process while chasing the little boogers through the house. The magic of the moment, the perfect love and perfect trust we share, the very spirit of the holiday was caught and cast in wax.

This is Candle Magic.

The Craft yielded nearly fifty candles and everyone went home with a bag. We celebrated this past Saturday but we light our candles tonight. I knew it was Mabon when I first opened my eyes this morning. It was still dark then and the shadows of my trees still touch my neighbors yard across the street as I write this. The wheel keeps turning and I can't wait to see them all again.

May your Mabon be as blessed as mine.

Blessed Be.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head...

Had yet another great day at the Prison today. It was a nice ride out on the Harley this morning, listening to Cadence on my iPod. Its crazy how loud you have to be to hear your own voice on a bike going well over the posted limit.

On one yard the training wheels came off a while ago and the guys have really developed into a good strong circle. Each of them taking an active part in the ceremonies, learning to perform each of the acts of magic within the ritual. Every time I go, I do less and less. Grin.

On another yard, one of the other things I do is nothing, which I like to call "Facilitation". A naysayer once told me I wasn't qualified to "speak on behalf of the Pagan community". I agree, in fact I consider myself qualified to do very little. But that's not what I do, what I DO is speak on behalf of Pagan inmates who have requested me to speak for them, and only them.

The same goes with religions, rituals and ceremonies. I am a Wiccan Priest yes, but I am a Veritas Wiccan Priest, which only qualifies me to instruct within the bounds of my own tradition. As for established groups inside the Prison walls I provide the simple service of supervision.

The Prison will not allow the inmates to perform large group rituals without a religious supervisor, so for them I make the drive out there, just to watch. But there's is more to it than that, I bring the candles, incense and lighter they can't have either and I participate in their services. And I enjoy it, it's worth the ride.

So today on that yard I was acknowledged and honored for my service to them. I was awarded my very own copy of the Stone Wall Circle Book of Shadows. Over a hundred hand written pages of the spells and rituals of their tradition. They told me that there had been a unanimous vote to initiate me, but that would violate several prison and correctional policies. I was deeply honored to receive my "Honorary Membership" and very touched to be considered accepted.

When I got home there was an email from an old friend about "The Big Idea". I was tired from the all the yelling on the way home (more cadence) and I was hungry, so I just blew through the message, ate and took a nice nap with my baby who had an adventurous day of her own.

She woke me up with a nice dinner, shes such a great cook. Much later after the food and rest I revisited the website and realized what it was all about. I loved it, yeah I'm one of those people. Go ahead and roll your eyes but I've been performing the Big Idea on a smaller scale for years. I am very experienced and have become very talented in accessing altered states through drumming trances.

The Big Idea called for four beats a minute which might sound like a lot but it's not really. Specially for me, I play a Bodhran with a Tipper, meaning I use both ends of the drumstick, really fast. In fact its actually difficult to play slowly. One of the secrets of Shamanistic trances is hidden within the Singing and chanting. It's the polarity.

When we sing, chant and drum we send out an active signal. Once we establish contact we experience a resonance, and shift into a passive mode. Our signal becomes a carrier wave to receive "incoming messages from the big giant head".

I took part in The Big Idea, and drummed for the full hour. I sent out my signal and the resonance was simply incredible, faces flashed through my mind, somehow attached or accessed by drumbeats. The primitive digital technology. Then I remembered the goal and intention of the idea and started pumping out compassion, which was pretty easy I had been doing it all day.

When I go to the Prison, I combat negativity all day. I fight it at every gate, with every guard who sees me standing there waiting to be let in and ignores me. It's like a contest to see if I will loose my patents, they wait to see me start yelling and waving and getting mad. But I don't. I never do. I wait with a smile. I watch them ignore me, I wonder why they do it and I feel sorry for them. I know this is not what they wanted to do with their life. I know they are as miserable as the inmates.

Disturbed people disturb other people. Don't let them trick you into it.

So instead of using magic, cursing them or casting on them, I heal them. I send them healing loving energy. After all I am a priest right. I pray for them, and bless them when they finally let me in. I smile a big genuine smile and say thank you, and we all win. What a big idea...

I tapped into this tonight and sent it out through the drum signal, and the resonance was overwhelming. We are each a small piece of the Dryghten, the divine union of the God and Goddess. And when enough of us get together magic happens.

...ending transmission in... three... two... one... Ahchoo!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Singing to the Gods of War

My last post really got me thinking about the power and magic music. For many years I was an active Pipe Carrier in the Lakota tradition, I say "active" because you never get to put that Chanupa down.

What I loved most was the songs, which were actually prayers. At first is was just neat singing in another language. It was just neat to sing. I will never forget the first time I heard them singing in the darkness of the lodge, and I will never forget the first time they heard me.

Later I was taught a very general understanding of a few songs, which just wasn't enough. So I read and studied various books on the language and was later criticized by other members of the sweat lodge. I was accused of "breaking tradition" by people who had been "followers" for over ten to fifteen years, yet still couldn't explain the songs or anything else for that matter. Yeah.

When ever I asked why something was, I was told "because that's how it has always been done, you don't have to get it, just know that this is how it is done, learn to do it this way and don't change it." Which was the stupidest fucking thing I ever heard.

"Mystique is a beautiful and popular falsehood, a shallow substitute for those unwilling, unable or otherwise incapable of exploring the depth and substance of Truth. " That's mine, quote me.

It's funny that this would prove me worthy to be given a collection of Xerox copies of copies of copies of some Xerox copies of some songs and their word for word translations. Knowing what I was saying was important, and once I did everything changed. Singing is an emotional release, and when you sing religious songs or sing prayers and mean it, something incredible happens. Now give that intangible happening a value and multiply it by a million for every other person singing with you. Yeah.

The only other thing that ever felt like that was singing cadence in the military. It's one of those things about the Army that's not in the brochure, but everyone one knows about, even civilians. Just like the Lakota ceremonial songs, anyone can sing them but not everyone can "call them".

Running cadence is the divine union of the physical, mental and spiritual warrior. a few days ago I found these cadences on iTunes and downloaded a few of them. I thought it would be fun to listen to some "oldies" on the machine at the gym...

Some time ago I had posted about the Echos of Cadence and about "it" still being in me. Well the music woke it up and I had one hell of a work out. Every song activated a memory of a country, a base, a platoon, or a cadence caller on our run through the Egyptian Sinai. Yeah.

I felt like Forrest Gump again, calling cadence on a ten mile run down memory lane.

And I realized how much the Army meant to me, and still does. I realize the effect it had on me, I loved it. I am a fighter and I enjoyed that Warrior culture. When I posted here about Counting Coup I realized how much I missed being apart of that culture.

I received a few private comments about how crazy it was to touch that trailer, but it wasn't. Not to me, not to us. Not after all the shit we've been through, not after all the shit we've done. I realized some other things too. Too private to post here. So I started a new Blog called "The Echos of Cadence".

It will be a place to write about those things we've been through and those things we've done. It's a private Blog reserved only for those few who have sang to the Gods of War and regret having their prayers answered.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Own Yellow Submarine

It must have been the fourth or fifth grade, I don't remember which. But I remember feeling quite clever for figuring out how to play my parents records and record them on the tape deck, remember those old ones that were the size of a cake box with all the indicator lights and extra buttons.

I had spent a whole weekend converting classic rock from Vintage Vinyl to "modern cassette " for my state of the art Walkman for the very long bus ride home.

I will never forget the first time in my life anyone ever asked me what I was listening to. For two reasons; first because she was so cute and I had a massive crush on her. Second and more importantly because when I said "the Beatles" she said "WHO?"

Crush terminated...

I had always stammered a bit whenever we made conversation during the long ride home. Usually because I was nervous, but not this time. This time I hesitated, and stammered because I had never met anyone who didn't know who the Beatles were. Where had this poor sheltered girl been living?

As it turns out, I was the one who was out of touch with current events and popular culture. Apparently the Beatles were not within the acceptable boundaries of my generation. For the rest of the ride home and several more to come, we fired band names and song titles back and forth trying to find a common ground. As it turned out I was only into "her parents kind of music".

But it made sense, as I had learned everything I knew about music by my parents extensive record collection. My mom would open all the doors and windows and turn up stereo way too loud for someone her age. Later I spent hours going through every single record, song by song and finding so many gems that touched my soul.

They don't make music like that anymore.

When we first got Rock Band for the kids I wasn't interested. Not really into video games and I was in a real band once and that was enough. But they would always come a ask me to help them out with some "really old song" no one in the house had ever heard before and of course, I always knew it. Well that was all it took, I was hooked and blew off chores for a couple of days until I got my fix.

But it turned out to be a really fun family activity and we were able to share music with our kids, we have our own family band, now we all play and sing songs together. It reminded me of the way my parents were. Music was a big part of daily life, it always has been and always will be.

Claudia is not your average Mexican chick which is why I love her so much. She loves music as much as I do, maybe more. That argument continues. But not only did she know and love the Beatles but all the old school classics. Even ones like John Fogerty, James Taylor and CCR.

So I married her.

The whole family was eagerly counting the days till the Beatles Rock Band was released, and now playing those old classics was a flashback to my childhood, some really really good memories. The idea that my kids like these songs as much as we do and now we're all singing and playing them together, making new childhood memories is just so incredibly special.

Perhaps the most powerful hereditary magic there is.

Coo Coo Cachoo.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Book of Revelations?

Contrary to popular belief, Freemasonry is NOT a religion. In fact religion is one of two restricted subjects within a Masonic lodge. The other being politics, for obvious reasons. They divide us as Brothers, causing conflict and often derailing the true purposes of the Craft.

However, there is a Bible on the altar, representing "the volume of sacred text" or volume of law. To be a Mason one must only believe in a supreme being and the immortality of the soul. But we never said which supreme being, for a reason...

The idea that we worship a Baphomet is just a hilarious example of how the evolution of urban legends knows no bounds. I would guess it was the "Goat" in the Goat of Mendes that started it. But for the record it's the "G.A.O.T.U" or the Great Architect Of The Universe that we speak of, which is a really slick way to acknowledge a supreme being without using any name that would assert any one religion. That's what Masons is all about.

So here's a shot of my "Masonic Bible" which is nothing more than an Old King James (Master Mason Edition) with a "Lodge Blue" cover complete with a square and Compass. It starts out with a "presented to" page for Mother Lodge, York and Scottish Rites and after that the first hundred or so pages consist of experts from Morals & Dogma for each degree and a Biblical index to Freemasonry. Other than that its a Standard Bible.

In a conversation about the Golden Dawn, someone once said that it was not a religion, but he did it religiously. I can say the same for Masonry. I use my Masonic Bible, Square and Compass in my own personal rituals. There's something to be said about giving the due guard and sign, and starting each day "on the square".

But I never thought I would be pulling it out to read it from start to finish, but here I am taking a break from my Old Testament class to share some interesting finds. I have written before about the old Masonic Tracing Boards a few times, and know them quite well and that's where it started.

Many of the Tracing Boards include navigational orientations along the outer borders. N, S, E, & W giving clues and symbolism to direction. Today while completing research and homework on the book of Exodus, I was reviewing plans of the Tabernacle Complex and saw the same thing, which gave me the right perspective to see some very interesting things in the Christan teachings of the symbolism of the tabernacle, its parts and contents. This is something we are taught in Masonry about King Solomons Temple.

My recent shift in awareness has really helped me appreciate spirituality during my Bible study as much as being a Mason has aided my Academic studies and assisted in a few personal "revelations".

Thank you Holy Mother & Holy Father.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If You Build It...

Wow the last week has really blown by. Between my regularly scheduled work day, continuing education classes, college classes, Masonic homework, Wife, Kids, Prison programs and Mill Creek Church, it leaves little time for idle hands.

We started the official Church to insure our religious rights and freedoms and assist in several aspects of Carcer Via Prison Ministry. But also in hopes of building a Pagan community here in the bible belt of California. So we set up shop at the Local Metaphysical / New Age supply and book store "THE CRYSTAL BARN". They're great people there, it's our home away from home. Our church rents a temple space there every month for Wiccan services, which are open to the public.

We thought positive...If we cast a circle....they will fill it...

And they have. To my surprise this weekends service had a record breaking turnout, and we had to get more chairs from storage. It was so great to see so many Pagans gather together in fellowship. The service went well and there was an open discussion on the subject of Initiations that was really enjoyable. It was great to see so many get together and GET ALONG.

Thank you Holy Mother, Holy Father.

The Prison Ministry is going well, and I have made the leap from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health. Last week I met with the Administrators of a local State Hospital to go over plans for my "Exploring Alternative Spirituality" program.

I was so surprised by the warm reception and the willingness to accommodate the various needs of my program. I was given the Grand Tour and a choice of locations; including two different Chapels, I opted for the smaller of the two for simple reasons.

I remember the way it was when I first started at the Prison, whispers and jeers from staff and inmates. I got messed with, mostly by guards. But I never said anything about it, I never complained. I just took it with a smile, never letting them trick me into getting mad and taking every opportunity to remind them that they were messing with a Priest by responding with a "Bless you" or "you have a blessed day".

Fighting back with "kindness" is a somewhat foreign concept to me, but as a combat veteran I recognize what powerfully effective weapon it is on them and on myself. It has taken nearly a year, but I can say I have earned the respect I now receive.

But something else has changed. Facilities I have never been too before are welcoming me as a Wiccan Chaplain with open arms, there has been no battle for basic rights and the respect is given freely from day one.

The tides of social acceptability are starting to change, what we are doing is working and I now have very good reason to believe that I will see my labors bare gainful fruit, very soon.

Thank you Holy Mother, Holy Father.

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Counting Coup

I'm not sure if there is a word for it in English, but I would describe it as a combination of the Japanese Satori, a flash of sudden pure awareness and the Aboriginal Dreamtime.

It usually happens too the mundane on their way down the roller coaster, but for some of us it happens more often than that. I think "Why" is an age old argument of nature Vs nurture.

But it either way it happens to me a lot, body surfing the rapids of the Kaweah River, washing lettuce in the sink, riding my motorcycle or in prayer. There's a state of pure awareness, you feel everything all at once, you feel AT one with everything and it all seems like slow motion.

I think that's why people are so attracted to sports and other similar physical activities, there is a "Zen Zone" within it. But only if you can truly let go. Let go of the fear and just live completely in that one single moment. I was there today, for the first time in a while. It was nice to be back.

Part of my job as a state licensed administrator, requires continuing education classes to re-certify every two years. So I've been buzzing around racking up my forty hours on top of everything else. So my last few classes are in Fresno and I was running behind this morning, which is torture for someone as OCD as I am.

The commuter traffic really made me appreciate my live-in job as I ride white knuckled through traffic, taking every "advantage" of riding a motorcycle. Yeah, I'm "that guy" but only when I'm really late. But then everything started getting clearer, sharper and slower. The morning sun shined brightly on the chrome and I watched my shadow glide along beside me.

I thought about all the times I have been here in the moment, all the roads I've been on and all the shadows I have cast from helicopters, humvees, horses and now a Harley. I thought about the all those warriors of the past and my time in Iraq.

Among my collection of tattoos is a shoulder piece, three lines and some dots, (sorry but its symbolism is personal) but I came around that semi truck & trailer like a barrel racer on a tetherball. Curling my thumb and pinkie like a boy scout I drug three talons through the thick layer of dirt and exhaust that coated the side of the trailer leaving three bright white gashes nearly three feet long.

Once we Veterans are denied the Satori of War and the Dreamtime of a Warrior, all that's left is Counting Coup.