Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

A Personal Dilemma


A personal dilemma has come up for me in the last 24 hours.  And since it concerns religion, I figure the blog might be the perfect place to explain and ask for advice.  (Since this concerns family, no names or identifying characteristics have been used.)

I got a letter yesterday from my family.  The letter turned out to be from my younger brother (allegedly from him–I’m thinking it’s probably my very religious, evangelical stepmother who really wrote it) asking for money for a trip to Peru this summer.

Normally, I’m all for supporting travel.  I think it’s important to travel around the world and see different cultures and places.  It’s a very eye-opening experience.  However, this trip my brother is planning is not a fun lets-learn-about-culture kind of trip.  No no, this trip is a missionary trip organized, I assume, through their church.

Here’s my problem: I want to support my brother.  If it weren’t a missionary trip, I would have forked over money without hesitation.  But it is a missionary trip, and spreading the word of God is the main focus.  He says in the letter that the group will take part in serving a needy community and reaching out to children in need by providing children’s programs the kids can attend.  But he also says that they will organize and fund a group of local students to travel through the mountains to spread the word of God with them.  “I’m very excited to be able to help children far less privileged than me by spreading the word of God.”

And that is the crux of my problem. How can I support something I very much disagree with, even when it’s my own brother?  I don’t agree with missionary organizations or people, and I cannot agree with or support their goals of spreading the word of God, especially when they do so while ostensibly giving aid to others.  In my opinion/belief, aid to these communities should be offered freely and from all for all, without any strings attached.  I believe it is the duty of all to help those in need, not for ulterior financial or religious motives, but from the goodness of our hearts and because it is the right thing to do.  It shouldn’t be a requirement or hurdle that in order to receive aid, you also have to put up with preaching and proselytizing.  And to proselytize to children strikes me as reprehensible and shudder-worthy.

I admit that not all missionaries are bad.  Some are very good people who genuinely want to help others.  They can bring much needed aid, supplies, and so forth to poorer communities, and not all of them inject extraordinary amounts of religion into their interactions with the communities.  But others are rather despicable and withhold aid unless the people convert or otherwise express a religious affiliation with the missionary.  Some missionaries take pains to turn a community against the non-believers in their midst in order to gain more followers.

It is possible that I’m being too close-minded about this.  I don’t have a very good opinion of missionaries, and I freely acknowledge that.  The idea that my brother might be turning into that type of person makes me cringe.  But I don’t think my brother is really into this.  I think he just wants to go to Peru, and is doing the church trip because it makes his mother happy and gives him the opportunity to travel.  Still, I have a serious personal conflict with giving money in support of such a trip with the goals that it has.

And I don’t know what to do about it.  Not contributing something means likely causing a family uproar once my stepmother finds out I didn’t send something. She will hold it against me and use it against me at some point.  She is that vindictive (some Christian she is).  I thought about writing to my brother and explaining why I won’t contribute toward the trip, but I don’t have his number or email, and he doesn’t have Facebook–so my only option is mail, and I don’t want his mother to open the letter, which she might very well do.  But saying nothing seems wrong; I don’t want him to think I don’t care or something like that.

And now I’m doing that Virgo thing where I over think things and look at all the different possibilities…

What do you all think?  What would you do in a situation like this?

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Question of the Week: Questions About Paganism


I’m a bit late in posting the question this week, but I hadn’t come up with a good one until this morning after I read yesterday’s Wild Hunt article on the Pagan bubble. (It’s a very interesting and thought-provoking read, I suggest checking it out.)  So this week’s question is geared for those people who have questions about Paganism in general.  You don’t have to be Pagan, or a certain subset of Pagan, to ask questions and receive an answer here.  Although my blog is written primarily for those who are involved with some kind of Pagan or metaphysical path, I encourage interfaith involvement and activity here as well.

Do you have any questions about Paganism?  What about a subset of Paganism, such as Wicca or Asatru? 

Post your questions in the comments section below!

(Or, if you’re shy and would rather ask a question privately, email awitchylife@gmail.com)

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Pathways Natural Living Expo


Today, I spent most of the day at the Pathways Magazine Natural Living Expo in Bethesda, MD.  It’s not a Pagan expo by any means, but since it’s New Age/metaphysical, I thought some of my lovely readers would be interested in hearing about it.

This was my first time attending the expo, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I don’t attend many conferences/fairs/expos, etc., though I plan on changing that in future (I’m going to Karmafest in May, for example).  What I found was a lot of booths offering metaphysical services, natural products, jewelry by the bucketload, gemstones, clothes, and aura photography.  There were also 80-something workshops throughout the day.  I chose not to attend most of the workshops so I could roam the tables more, but I did attend a 1:00 meditation.  More on that later.

The aura photography was one of my favorites.  I was literally the first customer for it, I was so excited.  The last time I’d had my aura photographed was in Sedona, AZ in 2011, so I was curious to see how it had changed.  I was rather surprised by the result.  It’s very red now, when before it had been red with a mass of yellow.  This seems like a huge change to me, and I’m not entirely certain of what it means.  Because of the large line that had already formed behind me, the photographers couldn’t offer very much insight beyond a quick look at the picture and a few words of their initial impressions.  That’s fine, I understand that at an event like this, everything is going to be more abbreviated than a normal session.  If you’ve never seen what an aura photo looks like, here are two of mine:

My aura photos. The one on the left was taken at The New Age Center in Sedona, AZ in 2011. The one on the right is from today at the Pathways Expo. I've covered my face for privacy purposes.

My aura photos. The one on the left was taken at The New Age Center in Sedona, AZ in 2011. The one on the right is from today at the Pathways Expo. I’ve covered my face for privacy purposes.

The picture above isn’t very good, since I took it with my crappy cell phone, but you can clearly see that my aura today was very red with a hint of pink at the top. And it’s much smaller than it was in 2011 (pic on the left).

I’ve always believed in the existence of auras, but the aura photography has seemed a little more sketchy at times.  I’m a skeptic by nature, so it’s a bit of a habit to doubt things.  However, this being the third time I’ve had my aura photographed, my skepticism has (mostly) been laid to rest.  Especially since the first two times were done by the same reader in Sedona, but nearly ten years apart, so there was no way she could remember me.  She gave me a lot of the same information the second time as the first, but more than that, what she saw confirmed a number of things about my personal life and helped me get clear on a direction to follow.  Anyway, while I know there are frauds out there (as there are in just about everything), I think aura photography is a fun thing to do and share.  I don’t necessarily think that if a photographer tells you they see disease or something like that in your aura that you should take their word for it, but perhaps consider going to the doctor if you’ve had any symptoms, etc.

[By the way, I apologize if this is a bit rambling.  I’m rather tired from spending the day in a crowd of mostly unshielded people.  It’s always draining for me, and the meditation I attended didn’t help in that respect.  So I’m a bit tired!]

After the photography, there was a table of polished, raw, and geode stones.  I was in heaven. I adore stones.  I’m always happy to go through stones and feel their differences and just appreciate these natural beauties.  This particular merchant, Mahalo Minerals, had a lot of different stones on display, and very reasonable prices.  I found a table of celestite geodes for very decent prices, and I ended up buying one.  It’s so happy to be home with me, and I’m so happy to have it!  Celestite is one of my favorite stones, for both its beauty and its properties.  Mahalo also had a number of beautiful stone spheres, some very clear.  They had spheres of selenite, which I had never seen before, and I ended up buying one of those as well.

Luckily that was the only money I spent!

After that, it was one booth after another.  My particular favorites were Sranrom Urban Wellness and Melissa Feick’s table.  At Sranrom Urban Wellness, they make natural products such as hand lotions, body cream, room mists, candles, etc.  They don’t use animal ingredients, parabens, glycol, petroleum derivatives, or synthetic colors or fragrances.  I tried the hand lotion and wanted to buy some on the spot.  It left my hands feeling so moisturized and soft without the oilyness that usually happens with other products I’ve tried.  And it lasts a long time–it’s been seven hours since I tried the hand lotion, and my hands still feel super soft!  Sadly, by that time, the representative had already sold out of the lotion, so I didn’t get to buy any, but I am definitely wanting to get my hands on some of their products.  They also have a men’s line, if any male readers are interested.

Melissa Feick is an excellent reader, and I was so happy to meet her in person today.  I’ve had two readings with her in which she connects to my guides and passes to me the information they have (and answer my questions, of course).  Both readings I’ve had with her have been spot on, and I would definitely go back to her in future.  She teaches a number of classes and workshops, and also runs a webinar about ascension.  I had never met her in person–my readings had been done over the phone for convenience, but she is such a warm and loving person, I felt immediately comfortable in her presence (and that doesn’t happen easily for me!) and just felt so welcomed by her.  She’s a lovely person and I have great respect for her work.  If you’re looking to go to an intuitive reader for a reading, I can suggest no one better and encourage anyone interested to explore her website. As I said before, I attended a meditation workshop this afternoon that she led, and the meditation she guided the class through was excellent.  It’s difficult to do in that sort of setting because people want to come in and out, and I have to say, there were a number of rude and inconsiderate (and pushy!) people at the expo today, who thought it was acceptable to try to come into a meditation workshop more than halfway through the hour.  I don’t understand people like that.  Anyway, I’m glad I went, because I felt clearer and better at the end than I had been feeling when I went into it.

I should’ve taken more pictures through the day, but I was too busy looking at everything.  The amount of jewelry was phenomenal, and I nearly spent more money than I had budgeted for the event because of the jewelry alone!  Clothes too, but I just stayed away from those booths.

I can’t wait for next year’s expo!  This was fun and exciting, and it was lovely to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who just want to live a better life, reach their individual potential, and share their experiences and learning with others.

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A Response to Fox News’ Story on Wiccans


For a video and partial transcript of Fox News’ broadcast about the University of Missouri allowing Wiccan and Pagan holidays, click this link: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/02/17/fox-news-attacks-wiccans/192713

There is also a text article on the same subject, but which does not feature any quotes by the news anchors who broadcast the subject on Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/02/17/university-missouri-guide-asks-professors-to-accommodate-wiccan-pagan-holidays/

What follows is the letter I sent in to the show.  I don’t know if it will have any effect, but I figure it is better to speak up and not be heard than to not speak up at all.

UPDATE: The original link seems to no longer work. You can find a new posting of the video here: http://wiccanink.tumblr.com/post/43397679203/apparently-the-link-i-posted-up-earlier-doesnt

UPDATE 2/19: Well, Tucker Carlson sort of apologized.  Emphasize the “sort of”.  https://twitter.com/TuckerCarlson/status/303998789834903552
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Dear Fox News,

I have a few comments in response to the story about the University of Missouri including Wiccan and Pagan holidays in the school’s holiday list that aired on February 17, 2013:

From the very beginning of the segment, it is clear that the subject is only brought up in order to 1) boost ratings and viewership and 2) degrade and belittle a minority group.  The only one of the three anchors to treat the subject with a bare sliver of dignity is Clayton Morris, while Tucker Carlson and Anna Kooiman immediately begin cracking jokes and belittling the beliefs and traditions of a subset of the American people.  However, I say that with a grain of salt, as Morris also later treated the subject with as little respect or seriousness as the other two.

There are a number of inaccuracies and falsehoods in your telecast.  What follows is a list of what was incorrect and why.

1.) “Wiccanism” is not a word.

2.) The “bad side of Wiccanism is, obviously, that it’s a form of witchcraft.”  This is incorrect.  Wicca is a religion.  Witchcraft, sometimes known as magic among Pagans and Wiccans, is not a part of the religion unless the practitioner wishes to practice magic.  Witchcraft can be practiced by any number of people, including, but not limited to, Wiccans, Asatru, atheists, Christians, and Jews.  Wicca is the belief system while witchcraft (i.e., magic) is a practice or set of actions, such as casting spells.

3.) “But the upside is, you get a ton of holidays, 20% of all school holidays … are Wiccan holidays.”  So the anchor is saying the only upside to Wicca is the holidays, yes?  Not only is he incorrect in stating that 20% of the holidays are Wiccan holidays, but he is incorrect in stating that the holidays are the only upside.  Is the only upside to Christianity the holidays, which the federal government gives preferential treatment?  To my knowledge, every other religious group must take personal time off in order to take a religious holiday, unless they are lucky enough to live in a county that allows for those days.  Are you saying then that Christians are the only group to whom holidays off should be given?

4.) Morris states that Wiccans get 20 holidays because we have 20 holidays.  This is very incorrect.  Wiccans do not have twenty holidays, but a mere 8: the solstices, the equinoxes, and what are called the cross-quarter holidays of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain.  And some holidays are more important than others, just as some holy days are more important to Christians, Jews, and Muslims than other holy days.  It should also be noted that these eight holidays are not exclusive to Wicca, but to many other Pagan groups as well.  You see, Wicca is a subset of Paganism.  Not all Pagans are Wiccans. So, based on this, there could be more people than just Wiccans who may require these days off for their religious practices.

5.) “If you’re going to pick one, go with the one with the most holidays.”  Technically speaking, if a person is choosing a religion based on number of holidays (or holy days), then they should go with some version of orthodoxy, as orthodox faiths tend to keep more holy days than others.  This sentence also ignores the fact that people who follow Wicca and other Pagan paths have genuine religious feeling for their practices.  To say that we only belong to this religion because the perks are better than what other religions offer is ignorant and depreciating.

6.) The most sacred holiday is not Halloween.  Halloween is a secular holiday that grew out of the traditions of many religions that celebrate a holiday around this time, including the traditions of Day of the Dead, All Saints’ Day, and All Soul’s Day, as well as the Pagan holiday of Samhain.

7.) A Wiccan or Pagan certainly has the capacity to name all eight holidays.

8.) Tammy Bruce is incorrect as well, as there are schools in the United Kingdom that have allowed for Wiccan and Pagan holidays.

9.) And, finally, the final statement that puts the icing on the cake: “Every Wiccan I’ve ever known is either a compulsive Dungeons & Dragons player or is a middle-aged, twice-divorced older woman living in a rural area who works as a midwife. And likes a lot of incense.”  Clearly, these people have met very few Pagans and Wiccans.  We come in all shapes and sizes, just like in any other religious path.  If you want a better idea of what an average Wiccan is, I’ll list myself as an example.  I am an average Wiccan, although I better identify as just Pagan.  I graduated from high school with honors and among the top of my class.  I was active in my school’s orchestra, SADD club, Natural Helpers, and Key club, I rode horses for years, and was a Girl Scout for ten years.  I also earned my Girl Scout Silver Award.  I have never played Dungeons and Dragons, although I do play video games sometimes.  I graduated from the University of Maryland with two degrees and now work as an editor and project manager for a respected institution—you’ll understand, I’m sure, if I decline to name where I work.  I am in my mid-twenties, have never been married, and live in an urban area.  I have never worked as a midwife.  In fact, I wouldn’t know the first thing about that respected job.   I burn candles, but usually not incense because of my allergies.  I wear jeans and t-shirts most of the time, or business casual when at work.  I drive a truck.  I do have a cat, but she’s not black.  I am an average Pagan and an average Wiccan.  The only time I might dress up in what is now considered stereotypical dress for a Pagan is if I were attending a festival, or if I wanted to.  But it’s certainly not how I dress every day, or even frequently, as it’s entirely impractical.

I hope this clears up the gross factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations of your broadcast.  I also hope the anchors will take the time to read this response to their highly bigoted and prejudicial remarks.

It would also behoove the station to issue an apology.  A sincere apology.  This “news report”, in my mind, was clearly aired in order to stir up a segment of the population and to incite outrage, which it certainly has.  However, this is not news at its finest, nor would I even call it news, and all persons involved should be ashamed of mocking peoples’ beliefs in order to boost their ratings.  It is despicable behavior not suited for any true journalist or news outlet.

Sincerely,

Sita

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(PBP) The Letter C: Craft Name


**This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project. Weeks 5 and 6 are the letter C. For more about PBP, check out their website here.**

I haven’t really written about craft names much here on the blog.  Most likely because I don’t use one.  “Sita” isn’t a craft name, it’s a pseudonym I use specifically for writing on this blog.  I never chose a craft name because I never felt like I needed one.

Craft names can come from a wide array of places.  Names inspired by the natural world are pretty common.  Animals, birds, plants, trees, stones, etc. are probably the most common source to pull from.  The two most popular names I can think of are Raven and Willow.

Another popular source is mythology and drawing from a specific mythological tradition.  Using the name of a god or goddess is less popular but also often used.  Some of the more popular names I’ve seen are Athena, Rhiannon, Arianrhod, and Brigid.

The key to a craft name (a.k.a. magical name) is to find a name that feels right to you.  It should resonate within, maybe strike a chord in your being, that says “yes, this is who I am, this is who I am becoming.”  Sure you can choose a super cool name like Silver Athena Stormlord or something, but does that show who you are?  Does that name sound like the inner you?  Yes, it sounds cool to say, but is it the right name for you, or are you caught up in the flashiness?  I think some people do get caught up in the flash of craft names and don’t choose the right name for themselves, and then there are other times where someone has a flashy name and it really is right for them.  Sometimes it’s hard to say which is which.

If it feels like the right name, then go with it.  Chances are, it’s right for you.

Often I’m told that a craft name will find you.  You don’t find it.  The right name reveals itself to you.  I don’t know how true that is, seeing as I don’t have a craft name.  But for the past two or three years, I’ve been feeling a strong pull to a certain name, and it’s not one I would have chosen for myself had I sat down and tried to come up with a name for me.  But this word just pulls at me and envelops me in warmth, and makes me feel more complete–so I have a feeling that a craft name has found me after all.

Another concern with names is the energy behind the name.  A name, a word, has power.  When you speak the name, you are calling on the energy of that word.  “Willow” calls on the qualities of the willow tree and brings those qualities closer to the person who bears that name.  “Raven” can call in the qualities of the raven and the qualities of Raven, the deity.  Both are tricky and cunning.  When using a craft name, it’s my opinion that you should also look at the qualities of that name and what kind of energy you would be calling in when you use it.  For example, I see people name their pets Loki or Hecate because they think the name is cute for the animal, and then they wonder why little Loki or little Hecate are such a handful.  It’s because the name calls on the energy of the name, just as our daily/mundane names have energy.  The difference between our birth names and a craft name is that the craft name is chosen by you and may feel more like your real name than your birth name does.

Craft names can be useful, but they aren’t a requirement for a spiritual or magickal path, at least not until you get into the higher levels of a coven or other similar type of group that uses craft names.  Then a craft name may become necessary, for a variety of reasons.

Craft names, like pseudonyms, can also be used as a barrier between the mundane world and the magickal world, and can provide a measure of protection.

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