Monday, December 27, 2010

Genius Loci

My friend The Druid of Fisher Street just posted a great blog on the great topic of land spirits. I began my response in his comments block but decided I needed more room. It began like this:

Great topic, great post!

I have had these same thoughts. Having a background in Native American traditions has greatly influenced my American Pagan path, without the cultural appropriation.

When I was in Oklahoma I found my spot to commune with the local land spirits, which turned out to be an old Native hot spot, and I took it as confirmation.

When I moved to the Central Valley, again the first thing I did was put up the antennas and scan for a place, which lead me the Three Rivers, another native hot spot. Later I found the area riddled with mortar holes of the Potwisha Indians, which I now use as prayer bowls where I leave my offerings (hence the card selection).

I personally appreciate your concern for cultural appropriation issues, as I am sure the natives do. But there is a difference between *cultural" appropriation and inspiration. It is no coincidence that I/we have been dawn to the same areas as the first nations. As Pagans we seek to develop and maintain a connection with the land and our attunement naturally draws us like magnets to those same areas, for the same reasons. I often explain Paganism to the muggle/cowan folk as "Indian stiff for white people" or the return to Indigenous European Traditions, and this is a perfect example of why.

I have come to identify land spirits as Genius Loci which fits quite nicely within my tradition and practice. And again no coincidence, that I was just reading a great article by Lupa (luv her) on the topic in Llewellyn's 2011 Magical Almanac, titled Connecting to the Land: Modern Paganism, Bioregionalism, and the Genius Loci. (if you go to the link, you can read the article on page 26!)

Thank you Lord and Lady for great minds thinking alike.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Idols of the Marketplace

Time flies, the Eclipse and Solstice have already come and gone, and I have already received my books for the coming semester. I am pleasantly surprised how much I have learned from a Baptist seminary. Being raised Pagan I never had an in depth understanding of Christianity, nor was I ever interested in one.

But as challenging as it has been, I have gained an appreciation for the religion and realized there's some pretty good stuff in there. It's not the religion I have a problem with, its the followers of that religion (who aren't actually following the religion).

But I love theology! And I loved my Humanities class! I really learned a lot. It gave me so many ideas and I wanted to write on some of those before I lose them in the avalanche of new classes...

Sir Francis Bacon wrote Novum Organum or New Instrument, in which he writes about the Four False Idols: of the Cave (mind), the Tribe (all humans), of the Theater (schools of thought) and of the Marketplace (language). False Idols being false beliefs. My long time readers know how I am about personal challenges, so I am embarking on a brave (Non-Scientology) self audit of my false idols. But I thought I'd warm up with the idols of the marketplace I've seen and work my way into the Cave. For this installment, I came up with three idols, hold on let me get my soapbox...


THE REDE

The Rede has become a Meme: "an it harm none, do what ye wilt." But it's so much more than that, there is actually 26 (or more) lines (depending on which version), and it embarrassing how many "Wiccans" I've met who didn't know this. I've seen so many people leave Christianity and come crying to Paganism, but ironically that have not left the Christian mindset and dogma behind. They have drug it kicking and screaming into Paganism. They have let go of the safely and security of the Bible only to clutch the Rede with white knuckles. But they've only switched addictions, the Rede is not Gospel, it's guideline. There is actually some really good stuff in there, which like Masonry, the greatest lessons are only alluded too. It wouldn't hurt to read into it a bit before adopting or rejecting it. I'm just saying...

Recommended reading: The Wiccan Rede, Couplets of the Law, Teachings, and Enchantments by Mark Ventimiglia, Citadel Press 2003.


THE WHITE HANDLED KNIFE

This is another Axiom of the Wiccan community, if you Google "white handled knife" you will get results explaining that it's also known as the Boline, and visa versa. But there is a difference between the two: the Boline is used expressly for harvesting herbs and other plants whereas the white handed knife is used to cut, carve, mark and engrave other objects for use in the craft such as cords or candles. However there is yet another tool called a "Burin" which is specifically used for marking candles. I don't know how this ever developed into a full blown axiom, but what the hell, apparently I don't pronounce Athame correctly either...


SELF INITIATION

As a Freemason I have come to place a high value on initiation as a rite of passage. It is a life changing, consciousness altering experience, that you CANNOT do to yourself. There is a big difference between a "Dedication" and an "Initiation." You can perform a (self) dedication ritual to mark your commitment to a particular path, in fact I recommend it. But an initiation by definition is "a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society."

"A group or society..."

I knew someone who came to me asking about initiation, she told me about the Coven she was in before and how when she asked to be initiated she was told to write the initiation ritual, and they would perform it on her (writing the ritual was part of her test). ???????!!!!!

While the phases of initiation may vary from tradition to tradition, there remain a few necessary elements such as the chamber of reflection, the shock of entrance and the guardian of the threshold. And depending on the mystery there's probably a death and a resurrection or rebirth. None of these things can one do to ones self, nor should one attempt to do alone for the sake a safety.

Not knowing who they are or what they are about to do to you is a necessary part of the process, it forces you to question your own motivation, "what did I do to get myself into this situation? What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" Some of the biggest secrets of mystery schools, traditions and the Craft are revealed through the sacred dramas like initiation, they are an experiential necessity for unlocking the wisdom within.

I can go on for hours about the value of initiation, which is always over emphasized for the wrong reasons, but that's another idol...

Thank you Lord and Lady, here's your soapbox back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Changing Lanes

I have often said my life has been like a Forrest Gump movie. I'd like to amend that statement: it has been more like Slum-dog Millionaire. I have lead an unusually charmed life full of incredible experiences. What makes them so incredible has often been the impossible sequence of coincidences.

Within the Cauldron of memory there are departments. One of those departments contains memories that "mean something." I may not know what or why at the time, but they register as significant, and I hold them in a separate area.

Then things like Iraq happen. And finding myself in absolutely absurd circumstances they suddenly become relevant, significant and lifesaving. Because of some seemingly random bit, I am the only one who knows what to do, acting without hesitation. Small significant things in my life were "preparation" for "Who wants to be a survivor?" The result has been described as a miracle. I call it Magic.

Events like these, prompt the question of a Grand Design: does everything actually happen according to some divine plan? Or are we just looking for a pattern to feel more secure about our place in the universe?

I have always believed that things do happen for a reason, or at least they happen to me for a reason. Even the bad, in fact the worst things that even happened changed my life for the best. While in Iraq, my (ex) wife developed a several drug habits and several relationships which resulted in her getting pregnant and attempting suicide.

That was my Hero's Welcome, a red cross massage about a pregnant, drug addicted wife. When I walked in the door, there were three men in my home. One was in the bedroom. Things were about the change.

So I divorced her, got custody of my children, got out of the Army and start over. Went home to help run the family business and met her the day I rode into town. We have been together ever since. She is the most amazing women I have ever met, I didn't even know women like her existed. She is the best thing that ever happen to me and I almost lost her at five o'clock this morning.

She gave a client a ride to work in the early morning rain, and on her way home someone ran a red and caved in the drivers side door. She walked away a little sore, but unharmed. She came home and we both cried. The reality of life's frailty can do that from time to time. But out of the tears came laughter: well my sachets worked!

We travel a lot; I make weekly trips to prisons and state hospitals, weekend trips to the national forest and we make monthly trips to friends, family and lots of rock concerts. So she made protection sachets for every vehicle to keep us safe (and make me wear my seat belt).

My wife has never opened a door for herself in my presence since the day we met, and she never will. you'd be amazed how much attention this can draw, apparently its a bit unusual. Every once in a while I like to ham it up for the audience and bow "your chariot ma'lady..."

We had spent the last few day talking about getting a new chariot, and she spent Friday window shopping hybrids. I told her she didn't need to do this, I was already planning on buying her a new one. Laughter is the best medicine.

We talked about the Grand Design. It wasn't bad Karma, or a the third fold of some spell, shit happens (for a reason). We don't always see the bigger picture, especially when Dryghtyn throws overhand. It's been my experience that we're usually looking to closely to see the bigger picture. But I know there is one, I've seen.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the Chariot, sorry about the dent.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Community Service


One of my favorite archetypes has always been the Trickster. Always misunderstood and unappreciated for what they really are and the valuable service they provide. The "Trickster" is the mask of the Sacred Clown, in some Native (mystery) traditions these clowns possess a respected, revered and feared power few understand or even recognize.

Next month I will be speaking at the 2011 Conference on Current Pagan Studies. The focus of this years conference is "Sustaining a Pagan Community" and I will be addressing Rites of Passage and have the honor of speaking along side Selena Fox and Patrick McCollum.

I've been working on a three separate writing projects, and have trouble keeping them separate and they all seem to bleed into one another. One of those Pagan community topics that has been on my mind is Metaphysical shops. Many places I've been they always seem to be the hub of the Pagan community.

I know that the Enchanted Cottage in Bakersfield is for its Community, just as the Crystal Barn is for Visalia. A few weeks ago we were in Oakland to see Shakira and while we were in town I finally got to visit Ancient Ways, which started PantheaCon. It was a really great shop, a real "Pagan" shop. I especially liked the "Candle Dressing Policy" posted on the wall, that's when I knew I was in the right spot, and sure enough I looked up a saw the altar statuary set I've been searching for, for over three years. They have been out of production for some time, but everyone online still advertises that they sell them, until you try to purchase them. I'm on six different waitng lists, for when they become available again, and I found them both.

Grin.

So, I've my new book sales have been awesome! I can't believe I sold over a hundred copies! I didn't know I was that popular, or maybe it was the foreword from Raymond Buckland, or maybe people are just trying to help out. Whatever it was, thank you.

But despite the online sales, I still sell books in several local shops here in central California. At every store I have introduced myself as "Chaplain Nichter," and explained that I am a volunteer Wiccan Chaplain, that I wrote a book on Wicca for inmates, and that I send inmates free copies. I explain that for every single book sold I make enough to buy more two books and send them to inmates for free, and it even covers the two bucks for shipping.

"Charity Fund Raising"

Then I ask if they would be willing to carry a few copies for me, and they all have, and I get a call when one or two sell. Today I went by the local Fresno shop. We've been patrons there for over four years and have easily spent over six hundred dollars there in statuary, wall plaques, books, and very expensive hippie clothes, which I find ironic, but my wife loves her outfits.

So, I go through the exact same intro-explanation, with the owner, who knows me. And to my surprise, she conplained that the price of the book was too high.

"you don't understand...your selling these books at retail, you're suppose to sell them at whole-sell... other wise I can't raise the price to make anything out of it"

I told her I DID understand, and repeated ...charity fund raiser... after a moment of silence I asked her what price she recommended, and she replied:

"Well for starters, you need to find a cheaper publisher! You need to print at a much cheaper price so you can sell at a much lower whole-sell price, or no ones ever going to make any money! Second you need to learn about proper marketing, promotion and advertisement"

She took the books out of my hands and looked at them. Making a wry face she said "I guess I could try to sell them but no ones going to pay any more than the fifteen your already charging."

Now bear in mind that I only offered her three small copies, add a few bucks for each and we're talking about what? Ten bucks tops.

I gently attempted to take the books backs and said "you know what....never mind, I'm sorry to have bothered you." But she actually tightened her grip on them and said "I SAID I WOULD TAKE THEM!"

I pulled them out of her hand and said "No no that's ok, never mind... but couldn't resist telling her her "you know, I'm selling these books in six other shops and no one else is trying to make any money off of this non-profit-charity- fund raiser but you, I don't keep a dime, I'M GIVING THE BOOKS AWAY."

I left the area and went to find my wife so we could leave, and the owner came after me a cussed me out, "I didn't know her, who was I to give her attitude, I think she doesn't do charity work, I have some nerve being so disrespectful to her, She has rent to pay and who's going to pay for the space my book takes up on the shelf?"

So, once we got back into town, we made a stop by our beloved Crystal Barn. It's like Cheers, everyone knows your name, even the dog comes out to play with you and get petted. we weren't in the store more than ten minutes before the owner came out and gave us a gift wrapped Yule present!

One of the powerful things about Sacred Clowns is their ability to break all the religious rules and social taboos. That's actually their job, they violate and desecrate all we hold sacred and holy with humor, it's an art form, it's magic. By doing so they provide a contrast, we cannot have the light without the dark. The trick to is recognizing them when they come dancing into our lives.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the statues and the clowns. Blessed Be.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fiat Fortuna

I'm a big fan of Gus diZerega's A Pagans Blog, and his last post on preparing for Yule inspired this post.

One of the things I've noticed in the Pagan & Magic community is that many of the celebrated personalities both historical and contemporary, have tried to define Magic(K).

While I have my own ideas, I have only gone so far as my signature tag line: Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge, and Magic is the result.

Other than that I liken it to the pornography quote: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

Our Coven hosts monthly open community circles and has for over a year now, and the circle has slowly grown into a community. Last month members proposed we actually did some magic, and cast a spell together.

I have had these ideas and interests myself, but was concerned with the subjective nature of the topic and the potential for conflict when it comes to the ethics of spell craft.


But thankfully we managed to address the concerns without conflict and decided to focus on prosperity, which is a topic everyone could get behind. Our ritual space comes complete with an old fashion chalk board which we used to facilitate our Spell Craft. We used my patented sure fire spell craft technique (found in my book) and everyone contributed to each phase of the process.

It was so awesome to see people taking an active role, and I could see the spell taking shape. Starting with one person rolling a small pebble down a snow bank, slow at first but quickly gaining mass, momentum, energy. I had every confidence that we would achieve our goal in the limited time allotted, but was still impressed with how quickly and efficiently we all worked together.

We circled up and prepared to cast, one by one each person declared their love and trust before joining hands. The circle complete, everyone began chanting the title of this post, while I stood in the center reciting the spell over and over. Each time I did the chanting got louder, and the energy got higher. I could feel it hitting me in wave after wave, first I got what my friend calls the "chicken skin," but then broke into a sweat and felt something more. When it was time to call the declaration statement, I was shouting near full blast, and with a single toll of the bell the energy was released. The voided space filled with a pleasant silence.

One of the neat aspects of our tradition is interfaith. While we have initiations, degrees and priesthood for those drawn to it as a primary path, our tradition is for most, a secondary. The idea is that eclectic solitaries each have their own ways, but all use a secondary tradition in order to function as a group. And it works.

In an hour and a half, eleven eclectic Witches joined in ritual, celebration and fellowship, collaborated on a spell topic, contributed to the spell craft and successfully cast a spell of prosperous blessings.

That's Magic.

It may seem odd how Gus's post about Solstice cards and preparing for Yule prompted this post, but I'm getting to that part, we'll come full circle, I promise.

As is just so happens, a few weeks ago I stumbled into a website called ZAZZLE.COM. I love personal designs, we have our own custom jewelry, degree rings and pendants. So when I found the site I had to try it out and test the product quality.

It only took me six minutes to upload our emblem, design a post card, and order a poof set. The cards came in a surprisingly timely manner and the post cards are awesome! Its a good quality of the card stock, the the images came out great and with a nice glossy finish. If I was to put them on the rack with other cards, your wouldn't be able to tell the difference. So I'm giving them five stars, one for *Accessibility (easy to use) and another for *Versatility, I have complete control over the design aspects. One for *Quality, one for *Time (speedy delivery) and the fifth one is for *Price.

So in preparation for Yule and the rest of the Wheel, we will be designing our own cards.

(front cover)

Yule Tide Blessings from The Witches of Mill Creek

(inside cover)

With Love and Peace and Bounty Known
With Friends and Family our Fellowship sown

From your Hearth and from your Home

May these Blessings never roam


Thank you Lord and Lady for such a Magical life, blessed be.