Tag Archives: Ritual

It’s OK to be Selfish


You read that right.  Read it again, just to be sure.  Yes, you read that title correctly.  Now, repeat after me:

It’s OK to be selfish.

Read once more.  Say it out loud.  Get the flavor of those words in your mouth and embedded in your mind.  It’s OK to be selfish.

image of a button reading

Image found through Google Image search

This is a hard lesson for many people to learn.  We’re told so often that we should think of others, that we should stop being selfish, that what we do or say helps no one but ourselves.

You know what?  Sometimes, it really is OK to be selfish.

This is important not only for mundane life, but for magical practice as well.  In everyday life, most of us are surrounded by people: on our commute, at our jobs, at home with family, etc.  And how many times have you heard “Stop being so selfish” or “you shouldn’t be selfish, you should share,” or any other variation?  My guess is, most of us have heard it many times over the years, and usually when someone wanted something from us, whether that something was our time, our attention, our services, or our toys.  (And don’t even get me started on sharing books . . . that’s another topic entirely.)

It is ingrained into us early on.  Selfishness is bad.  Selfishness on any level is bad.  Being selfish is horrible and negative and ugly.

After 26 years of life, my response is a big “screw that.”  Because I have finally learned it’s OK to be selfish.  It’s OK to take time for myself.  It’s OK to not waste my time and energy helping other people solve their problems when they don’t really want to solve their problems in the first place.  It’s perfectly alright to say no to someone’s request or demand.  It’s OK to not want to share certain things, especially if they’re special to me.  It’s acceptable to be selfish and place my wants and needs first.

Now, I’m not saying we should all turn into selfish brats that never share, never consider other people, and never place others’ needs first.

I am saying that there is a balance.  But first and foremost, you must take care of yourself first.  Otherwise, how can you possibly help anyone else?  If people are asking too much of you and you feel run-down and drained, it’s OK to step back and say you’re not going to help anyone else for a while until you’re back on your own two stable feet.  If people want money from you, but you have bills to pay, it’s OK to say that you have to pay your bills first and don’t have money to spare right now, but that maybe later on you would be able to help.  If people are invading your space and you’re trying to concentrate/study/sleep/relax, it’s OK to request that they leave or quiet down.

image of a button reading

Image found through Google Image search

It’s easy to overextend yourself, especially if that’s already in your basic nature.  I used to give so much of myself away to other people without even thinking about what that meant for me.  Then I would feel exhausted and drained and wonder why.  Eventually I figured it out: I was spending so much time and energy focused on others that I had stopped caring about myself.  And that’s when I discovered how pernicious and corrosive the never-be-selfish mindset truly is.

Magically speaking, I think it’s almost necessary to be somewhat selfish.  You have to make sure you’re not too drained, for example, so that you have enough energy to do whatever working or spell you want to do.  Protection spells are all over the place, but some people (myself included) never think to work one even when they need it.  Why?  Because you aren’t necessarily thinking about yourself first, you’re thinking about the other person or people who has posed the threat.  And in much of Paganism, the path is what you make it.  The right path for you is what feels right for you.  No one else.  If that’s not selfish, then what is?  You have to place your feelings and your intuition at the forefront of your mind, because that is what tells you if something is wrong or right.  Someone else could say such-and-such ritual is practiced all the time or so-and-so is a widely respected individual in the community, but if something doesn’t feel right to you, then for you it’s not right.  This idea of going with whatever works best or feels right for the individual is often spoken of in the wider Pagan community, but has anyone stopped to consider how selfish that notion really is?  It’s selfish in that in order for it to be true, each person must put themselves and their feelings first in their world.  And that’s perfectly OK.  You have to know what it is you want for your life in order to go after it, and what you want likely will not mesh with what other people want, or want for you.

It’s OK to put yourself first.  It’s OK to be selfish.  Just don’t get a big head about it!

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Book of Shadows, Part 1: What is a Book of Shadows?


(This is part one of a three-part series)

The topic of a Book of Shadows seems to come up fairly frequently among Pagans, especially Wiccans.  But the majority of people don’t know what a Book of Shadows (or BoS for short) really is or how to use it.  I recently had a friend (general Pagan with Wiccan leanings) ask me what a BoS is, how to use it, and how it’s different from a Book of Mirrors, and I found myself explaining all of these things in general terms–so let’s go more in depth!

What is a Book of Shadows?

A BoS is a book of some type that a person can use to record spells they have used, the outcome of spells, what worked and what did not work, different rituals, etc.  In general, a BoS is used predominantly by Wiccans, as the concept of a Book of Shadows originated with Gardner and Gardnerian Wicca.  However, this does not mean that those outside of Wicca can’t use a BoS.  Nor do you have to be in a coven.  You can be a solitary general Pagan like my friend and still use a BoS.

How Do I Use a Book of Shadows?

It’s really up to you how you wish to use this book.  The most common use and form seems to be like a journal.  You update it whenever you want, or whenever you have something to add, but you don’t need to do it every day.  When you do a spell, write it down in the BoS exactly as you said it.  Leave room at the end of the page or on the following page to write up what happens after the spell is cast.  After about a week, or however long if you specified a time period in the spell, then write if the spell worked, if it worked well or kind of or not at all, whether it’s something you would use again or not, etc.  This can apply to meditations or chants as well as spells and rituals.

Say you just got a new guided meditation cd and you want to record how effectively it works for you so you won’t forget, or you want to record what happened during the meditation.  You can put that in a BoS.  Use the cd, see if anything changes or if it’s effective, and record the outcome in your BoS.  I used a guided meditation that could take the listener to meet spirit guides.  I wrote down what I saw, what I felt, and how effective the meditation and cd were for me and if I would use them again.

This differs from a Book of Mirrors (BoM) in that a BoS is not generally used for reflection.  It is used to record actions taken in terms of spells, rituals, prayers, meditations, chants, etc., or actions you would like to take, such as writing down a meditation for future use to try out later.  But generally, you don’t reflect upon life or your actions; you record whether a spell worked, didn’t work, and leave it at that.  Reflections on how these things then affect your life and what changes are effected go into a BoM.  That being said–like much else in Paganism–these books are highly personal, and you can make them into whatever you want.  My friend, for example, found that she was actually writing a Book of Mirrors after I explained it to her, but her’s is probably going to end up being a combination of a BoM and a BoS.  Nothing wrong with that!

Now, if you’re a part of a coven, they will probably have guidelines and such on how to format and use both of these books, but if you’re in a coven, you probably already know that anyway.

Part Two: Formats for a Book of Shadows
Part Three: Books of Shadows, Then and Now  Coming Soon!

Question of the Week: Imbolc


Hey everyone!  Imbolc is coming up this week, and so this week’s question focuses on the holiday. I know that some people prefer to celebrate alone, or with a group, with a public gathering or ritual, or even not at all.  So my question is:

What is your favorite way to celebrate Imbolc?

As always, answer in the comments below!

Outsourcing Religion


While I was at work today (I’m an editor), I read an article called “Outsourcing Religion.”  It was all about how some people in India were creating businesses designed to handle ritual and religious duties for expats and emigrant Hindus who couldn’t necessarily find the time or the money to travel to India and take care of any religious obligations themselves.  The article detailed how the Internet and video conferencing could be a means to conducting those rituals and rites, such as honoring the ancestors of your homeland by proxy–for a fee, of course.

It got me thinking.  The author of the article stayed away from most of the religious implications and debate of such an action, preferring instead to focus on the hows and whys.  But what would be the implications of letting someone else conduct the rituals that, according to your religion, you are duty-bound to do? And not only that, but these people are giving money to someone else to handle their business for them.

To me, that is almost like a slap in the face to the ancestors and the gods.  While at first I thought the article was funny and I laughed, I thought about it some more and decided I didn’t like the notion of letting someone else conduct my religious duties for me.  It’s a means of escaping responsibility.  Sure, some people may not be able to afford a trip across a continent or an ocean to be in their homeland for such rituals, but isn’t that where the idea of saving comes in?  Isn’t that a part of being responsible in not only religious but mundane life?  Provide for your family first, and then set money aside to be able to take  trip back home to honor your ancestors, even if it’s only a brief trip.

In Paganism, I think most people would agree that there is no handing off of religious duties like this article is talking about. We couldn’t have someone else take our place for us at circle, or conduct the ritual for us and say we did it.  We can have people cast a spell on our behalf or send us good energy, but that’s not the same thing.  That’s asking someone else to do what you can’t or to help support your own efforts.  But having someone else take over a religious duty, for whatever reason, seems wrong and disrespectful of the ancestors or the gods to whom you are professing to honor.  The gods don’t want someone in your place going through the motions, they want you.  Your ancestors don’t want some stranger paying lip service for a fee, going through the motions of a rite that is supposed to be heartfelt, they want you.  It’s almost worse in the case of the ancestors–you wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for those who came before, and sending a proxy to do your duty is like telling them you don’t care about their lives, their sacrifices, their spirit.

Obviously, you can tell where I fall on this issue.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to use a service like that, or to give over a religious responsibility to someone else when you should do it yourself.  But what do you think?

*Please note: I am not critiquing or bashing the Hindu religion. I am critiquing the people who created these services and the people who use them.*

Ideas for Clearing a Space


If you read my previous post, you remember my difficulty in deciding whether to use “cleanse” or “clear”.  Well, in this instance, I’ve decided to use “clear”, since I think it better describes what my intent was in clearing my bedroom.  I still think these words are fairly interchangeable, but it never hurts to be aware of what you are saying during a magickal working.

 

Removing negative energy from a living area is often overlooked.  I know that when I moved into my previous two apartments, it didn’t occur to me to do a clearing/cleansing ritual.  I had just checked to see that the cleaning staff had done their job and the area was in fact clean before I began to unpack.  I wish now that I had done some kind of ritual, not because I was unhappy with the space or felt any lingering energy, but because it would have made the space more “mine” and gotten rid of any latent energy from previous inhabitants.

 

It’s a good idea to cleanse/clear a living space when you first move in and when you move out, as well as periodically.  Many people combine such rituals with spring or autumn cleaning–and if you live with family who don’t know your Pagan-minded, spring cleaning makes for an awfully good cover when doing a room cleansing.

Image from Janet's Diary blog

 

I decided I needed to clear my bedroom.  I live with family at the moment, thanks to the horrid economy and job market, and the bedroom has been used as a guest room for numerous cousins and relatives for the last few decades (Grandmother has owned the house for 50 years).  I could almost feel the built-up negativity and stagnation in the room after living in it for a few months, and it was very depressing.  So I asked for advice and did a clearing of my bedroom while Grandmother was out of the house on a Sunday morning for church.

 

However, if you do live in a place that someone else owns (I’m not talking about an apartment company or a townhouse rental association type of deal, I’m talking about living in someone else’s home on sufferance), it’s not a good idea to perform a cleansing/clearing of common areas without their knowledge or consent.  These kinds of rituals can drastically alter the energy composition of that space, and what you do will have an effect on the other people who live in that space.  It’s generally considered acceptable to do such a ritual on your own space–for example, your bedroom–but not necessarily acceptable to do something so drastic in shared space without taking the other people into consideration first.

 

Having said that, there are some ways to get around this just a little bit.  The following suggestions are things that can help to change a room’s energy gradually and a little bit at a time, so that the change is not so sudden.  Such dramatic shifts in energy can make people ill, you know, and if you have any elderly people in the house, that is not what you want.  These suggestions can help to slowly dispel negativity and input positivity, and are things that most people will enjoy seeing and won’t mind you putting up:

 

  • Wind chimes
  • Sun catchers
  • Glass colored balls (aka witch balls)
  • Peaceful pictures

Image from Google Image search

 

As for your own space, some suggestions to use in a clearing are:

 

  • Burn incense or herbs that promote protection and the dispelling of negativity.  Fill the room with it and chase the negativity out of the room via a window. Burn herbs or incense that promote positive ideals.
  • Play a song or two that you feel a connection with and makes you happy. This is especially good for instrumental music, without words, because it is transmitted into pure emotion, which then is transmitted to the rest of the room.
  • Put up a picture or an object that is peaceful to you.  This can be a picture of a garden, the ocean, etc., or it can be a figurine, a stuffed animal, a windchime, etc.  Just something that you can see everyday that brings you joy and peace.
  • Raise a ruckus in your room.  Get pots and pans and bang them together and shout and literally chase the negativity out with noise.  This is good for a whole house clearing, too, especially if you have young kids that like to make noise and run around.

 

An important note follows all of this, however.  Nature abhors a vacuum.

 

When you remove the negativity of a space, you then are left with a void.  Unless you fill it back up, Nature will fill it for you, and that could mean the return of the negativity you just chased away.  This is why it’s important, when doing a cleansing or clearing, to invite positive emotion into the space once you’ve cleared out the negative.  This is why I suggested the peaceful pictures or upbeat music or things that make you happy.  If all you do is clear out the negativity in the space, you leave this big open area ready and waiting to be filled with anything and everything, because you’ve put nothing into it to replace what you took away.  If you want the best results from a clearing or cleansing, you must put the positive emotion into that void.