Pagan Hotel-ing

Many times, my job requires me to travel, and that means hotels.  I currently do a (mostly) daily practice, and this becomes a lot more challenging when I’m in a hotel. I don’t have access to my altar, or my stash of offerings, or my space. I usually can’t light a candle or incense and am limited by the considerations of whatever space the hotel has.

Portable Altar
Portable Altar

I have a traveling altar that I bring with me – it’s small enough to be stored in a Korean rice bowl that has a lid. I usually put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and leave it there for the whole time – unless I’m there for more than a week and then I’d like clean sheets and towels – so I don’t have to worry about maids disturbing my altar.

My offerings and practice change too. Instead of making physical offerings, I will usually brew a cup of tea and share it with the Kindreds.  Sometimes I bring tea bags with me, and sometimes I will use the tea that is in the hotel. Because I don’t leverage the maid service, I usually end up having to buy some tea if I didn’t bring some. My choice of tea is because I’m not a fan of coffee.  Feel free to use your beverage of choice!

So, I brew a cup of tea and share it between 2 cups or mugs – whatever the hotel provides. The Kindreds’ cup gets placed next to my little portable altar as I say “Hail to the Kindreds” or something similar. I take my cup and stand by the window and connect with the city or space I’m in. I try to be present in the moment, feeling the energy of the city and of the hotel. I’ll usually also say a prayer, sometimes it’s pre-scripted, but often it’s ad-hoc.

If for some reason you can’t have an altar out – you’re sharing a room with someone who wouldn’t understand, you can still spend some time in the mornings in quiet contemplation of the world around you as you enjoy your cup of tea.

So if you’re ever stuck away from home, maybe this little ritual can help you stay connected.

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On Protecting Ritual Spaces

A spell for protection
A spell for protection

Over my many years as a self-identified Pagan, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of different ways of protecting ritual spaces.

While many Wiccan circles define a firm boundary to the ritual space, there are many other traditions that don’t.  Even the traditions that do have the firm boundary sometimes don’t have it all the time.

So, why do you define the boundary or not? Well .. there’s a lot of “it depends.”  In most cases that I’m aware of, the firm boundary is designed as much to hold IN energy as to keep negative influences out.  When you’re doing focused magic or intense work, this can be very useful.  However, there are other times where it’s not as important to hold the energy in .. or even preferred to allow the energy to spread out gradually. In public rituals especially, it can be very useful to have a flexible or permeable boundary. Parents feel more comfortable bringing their kids if they can quickly leave if the kids don’t want to be there, or people can go if they need to go to the bathroom. And if you’re at an outdoor festival, not having to worry about the adults or children who wander late to the ritual crossing your boundary is very useful!

In ADF, our public rituals don’t have firm boundaries.  Since our public rituals are mostly devotional, this works out great.  We want the natural world to interact with us during the ritual. We do, however, make sure to protect the space that we’re working in – while we want beneficial, or even neutral, outside influences, we do want to keep out the negative influences. As part of our rituals, we call upon a Gatekeeper – an other-worldly being who we call, make offerings to, and ask to protect the space. Also, many of our rituals make an explicit call to these negative influences – what we sometimes call “Outsiders” to leave us alone.  Ritualists in other traditions will often do similar things for rituals where they don’t have a firm boundary. They will either call upon an other-worldly being or will take other specific actions to protect the space without requiring the firm boundary.

There is no “right” way to protect the boundary of your ritual space.  The type of protection that you should use is very dependent upon your physical, magical and spiritual circumstances. Sometimes you really want that firm boundary, sometimes you really don’t .. and most of the time you’re somewhere in the middle.  Think about what you’re doing, and experiment.  Find what works for you.

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Caring for Charity

A while ago, I made a blanket for charity as part of an offering to Freyja. I asked for something pretty big and it worked out – so something pretty big was returned. So I made the blanket, and then left it out at a train station with a hand towel, a bar of soap and a note that someone who needs it should take it. I have no idea who took it, or if someone even tossed it in the trash, but the next morning it was gone. It felt so great to make something that I would just send into the world.

Since then, II’m currently working on 2 blankets for Project Linus and am on the lookout for additional charities to make items for. It’s one of the ways that I can help people outside of my little space. Each of the blankets are worked with a spirit or god in mind so that the spirit of the being is infused into the yarn.  One of the blankets is focused on the Harry Potter world – with each of the houses represented – focusing on working together even if we’re different.

Charities provide care and help for people in need – both for the people that they give items to and the people who help out and work at and with the charities. As we consider gifts for our fiends and family, perhaps we can also consider gifts for those who are in need.

 

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Offerings and gifts

A rather full mortar of offerings being mixed for the Kindreds
A rather full mortar of offerings being mixed for the Kindreds

As I mentioned in my last post, I make a lot of offerings in my daily practice 🙂  Five or six times a week, I make devotional offerings to various Kindreds.  Most of the time, I’m making offerings to the gods that I work with more closely, some of the times it’s to my ancestors or to the local nature spirits.

Offerings are not intended to drive you broke, or be a huge sacrifice all of the time. Offerings are more like when your friend comes over and you offer them a drink, or some food.  Much of the time it’s something that you can easily afford, but you still pay attention to your guest’s needs and desires.  I wouldn’t offer salami, cheese and crackers to a vegetarian, for example, but something more appropriate for them like carrots and hummus. Larger sacrifices are appropriate sometimes, but not every time.

I think that it’s very important that the offerings that you make come from you in some way.  Maybe you purchased the offering, maybe you made it from purchased components, maybe you grew them … the idea is that you put some of your own energy into it.  This energy can come in the form of money, time or attention – and is most commonly some combination of the three.

Much of the time, I make offerings from combinations of dried plants (sometimes from my garden, sometimes not), gemstones and incense. These kinds of offerings are most often gathered in a dish on my altar then later are scattered on the ground or offered to the fire. Other times, the offering is in something that I have crafted – usually these are donated to charity, but sometimes they go to the fire. When it’s appropriate, I will often also offer drinks – alcoholic and not, home made and not.

The key thing about offerings is that it’s personal. What you give must have meeting to you and to the being to whom you are making the offering. If you’re ever wondering what offerings to give to a being – ask them, do some research, do some divination or trance work, and see what feels right.

If you’d like to dig further into the idea of Sacrifices, I recommend “Sacred Gifts: Reciprocity and the Gods by Kirk S Thomas. Thomas goes into the history of offerings and sacrifices and why we would want to do them.

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Letting go of the old

Burning OfferingsOn Samhain night this year, I took the offerings that I had made over the last season and burned them in a cauldron on my grill. The grill itself is a gas grill, but I was using it for a safe space to burn my offerings.

Multiple times a week, I make offerings in my practice. They’re usually dry offerings, but sometimes include oils or resin incense.  Since I make these offerings on my indoor altar, it’s difficult to burn them as I’d prefer.

Before my grill, I’d take my cast iron cauldron and burn the offerings on my concrete patio that’s a bit hidden from my neighbors. I put a layer of Epsom salts in the bottom of the cauldron, and soak it in a bit of rubbing alcohol then light the flames.  Using tongs I’d place the offerings onto the flame in bits to burn. Because the flame was pretty open, I’d have to watch it the entire time.

Now that I have the grill, I have the option of closing the lid and letting it burn.  I do like to watch the flames just in case.  I will also sometimes sing songs to the Kindreds while I’m burning the incense to make it more spiritual and not just practical.

As you can see from the cauldron, I have a decent amount of offerings to burn! I think I’m going to get a bigger container to burn them in for the future.

If you live in an apartment and are allowed to have a grill – of any kind – it’s very useful for burning offerings in addition to cooking.  The key is to have a safe place to have a fire. The more contained the fire (like on a tray or in a pot) the better to make clean up easier. Don’t put anything toxic on it and make sure to clean the grill well before cooking food on it again.

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Perry the Dream Guardian

Perry the PlatypusMy husband and I enjoy watching cartoons – especially those that are designed for adults to enjoy as well as kids. One of the cartoons that we enjoy is Phineas and Ferb by Disney.

In the cartoon, there’s a character called “Perry.” Perry is a platypus who is a pet that doubles as a secret agent. I’ve got a stuffed Perry on my bed. He’s fierce and kind, understanding and respectful but still gets the job done … and there’s a point to me talking about a cartoon.

In my class on the Process of Magic by Taylor Ellwood, we talk about using thought-forms and other beings to help us. A few weeks ago, I had the idea to leverage all the energy and attention that had been given to Perry to help me with an issue I’ve had sleeping. I took the stuffed Perry toy that I have and talked to it. I asked him to help guard my dreams like he guards the boys in the cartoon. Every night I ask for what kind of dreams I’d like to have that night. It’s usually something like “restful” or “good” or “pleasant” but I have occasionally asked for “none.”

Phineas sleeping with PerryIt’s been working decently overall.  My dreams have not left me overtired, or waking up frustrated or angry.  Dreams that would normally have me end up frustrated have somehow avoided the emotion – like someone was defending me from it (Thanks Perry!). Asking for no dreams didn’t work though .. I still got random dreams, although without the level of frustration that I normally get when stressed so it was an improvement.

Next, I think I might try a sigil and empower my Perry to help out a bit more with deeper sleep and remembering my dreams.

It’s an interesting experiment in pop culture magic.

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How do you Journal

Creating a Book of ShadowsFor years I tried to keep journals – separate journals for different things – and I rarely wrote in them. I would always find a reason not to journal. I was never sure why.

Recently I discovered the bullet journaling community and all the different options out there! I’ve started journaling again – this time in one journal.

I find that having everything in one journal really helps. Right now my journal is a bit small, but it’s working so I’m going to keep using it until the book is full. There’s monthly pages where I keep everything key for that month, and daily pages where I track my to-do list, and sometimes the phase & sign of the moon and the sign of the sun. There’s also pages to track my coursework through the ADF Clergy courses.

Some weeks I journal more, some weeks I journal less. There are pages for meditation journals, and pages where I put my thoughts from my readings.

I’m almost through my first journal, and have purchased a new one from The Book Roadie for my next journal.Journal

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Spirituality When You’re Sick

An interesting thing about spirituality, I find, is that it’s easy to do when I have time; it’s harder to do when I am busy; and it tends to get forgotten when I’m sick. The irony is that I need that connection so much more when I’m not feeling well, but I let it fall to the wayside. I’m sure there are other people out there who manage to maintain that connection even when feeling ill, but I’m not one of them. Or at least not without reminders.

In my most recent bout of post-travel illness, I was reminded by my shrines. I have shrines in my bedroom and in my craft/brew/Work room. Yet, while I kept telling myself that I would go and make offerings or do a devotion … I just curled up under a blanket and coughed. I was aware of the gods and spirits. I did go outside to feel the sun on my face and tend to my plants (some of which are dedicated to spirits). But doing more than that was … not happening. It was not until I was on my way to feeling better that I started to do stuff. I did the bone breathing, I did some trance work, I did some devotions and made offerings.

I don’t know what to do, how to train myself, to actually keep the connection better when I’m feeling ill.

Then again, maybe it’s enough for now.

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Many Gods West 2016

Olympia WA
View from the hotel

A couple weekends ago, I went to Many Gods West in Olympia, WA. It was my first time at the conference, and I was very happy that I went. Nikki and her crew put on a wonderful, educational weekend filled with new information, new experiences, and great community.

The hotel itself had just completed a renovation, and they did a great job. The rooms were huge, and the bar was lovely.

I arrived on Thursday evening, after my roommate, Brendan, picked me up from the airport. Thursday night, we were both tired and ended up eating dinner in the hotel bar. It was a great choice as we met a couple of wonderful people who we continued to get to know through the weekend.

Friday morning was mostly devoted to finding friends and getting registered. A few folks who I knew from California came up, and I got to meet a few more friends from California who I hadn’t met before! It’s funny how you end up meeting people at conferences – when those people live just 30 or 40 minutes away from you ☺

The Opening Ritual was lead by Sean Donahue – and I knew that I was in the right place. Although Sean’s opening prayer and ritual were not in the tradition that I practice, there were a lot of overlaps. There were enough overlaps that it felt familiar and welcoming. Here were a group of polytheists who were coming together in community and learning. And that was amazing.

Next up was the Plenary session of a panel discussion on building pagan community. The panel was chaired by Druid and Blogger John Beckett and included ADF’s Archdruid Emeritus Kirk Thomas, Heathen skald and co-founder of the Golden Gate Kindred, Ryan Smith, and the co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and Gods & Radicals, Syren Nagakyrie. It was great to hear everyone’s different perspectives on how to build community. In general respect for each other, a clear path to address disagreements and troublemakers, and a whole lot of work goes into building pagan community.

That evening was a double ritual for me. The first ritual was a ritual to the goddess Rhiannon by Phoenix LaFae and Gwion Raven. The ritual was about handing off the stories that are told to us, about us but aren’t us. We were offered to hand off these stories to Rhiannon – she can help us get rid of them, or at least to carry them for a time.

The second ritual of the evening was the Dionysian Revival ritual by Jason and Ari Mankey. I’ve only been to a Mankey ritual once, and this one was different but just as impressive. We started out with a traditional Hellenic invocation and ended up with a bit of a dance party …. And a trip to the underworld in the middle. It was a great ritual and a lot of fun.

That night I managed to stay up until 5 am talking with people. There were so many great conversations! As a result of the excessively late night, I slept through my planned morning session, but the rest of the day was great.

Saturday, the vendor hall was open, and I got a new rune set, a new journal, talked with a few folks from the Olympia/Seattle area about different Heathen practices and just had a great time talking with everyone in the vendor room. I also spent time in the Community Tea Room hosted by Emily and Raye with tea donated by B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle and Radiance Herbs. The teas were awesome, and I’m looking forward to trying more of them in the future.

This day I attended a talk on multi-traditional practice by Willow Moon where he talked about balancing the Witchcraft and Buddhist traditions. Although I am generally pagan, I do work with multiple traditions so understanding how he did it gave me some ideas.

One of the sessions that were planned got canceled due to the presenters being unable to attend, so Alf Herigstad hosted a Sumbel. It was my first Sumbel, and it was a cool experience. After the toasts, a few of us stayed and chatted and drank mead.

The next session that day was the ADF Ritual. The ritual was hosted by Cascadia Grove, and they very kindly let Kirk, Sean and myself have parts in the ritual. Kirk Thomas was the presiding clergy for the ritual. It was a great ritual where we invoked Tailtiu.

That evening consisted of dinner with friends old and new, and an evening of mead and snacks and conversation.

Sunday was the last day of the convention, but the schedule was still pretty packed. The first session was one of the most moving sessions of the convention. Alf Herigstad presented his views on Animal Sacrifice. The workshop included a good grounding in the historical context of animal sacrifice. Alf then went on to describe how his Kindred performs animal sacrifice – from raising the animals to their final moments and how they are honored. It was a very moving workshop, and Alf had most folks in tears at least once.

Mural in Olympia, WA
Mural in Olympia, WA

The second session that I went to that day was a workshop on Gnostic Polytheism and Animism by Sara Star. The workshop started out with the question “Who writes the Myths?” By the end of the workshop, the response was “me!” Each of us has a responsibility to communicate the UPG that aids the community and helps to unwrite some of the harmful stories.

I stayed through Monday and walked around Olympia to check out the cute little town.

Overall the event was awesome, relaxing, educational and all around success. Nikki, Sean, and the Warding crew did a fantastic job of keeping the energies balanced and the convention going well.

I’m looking forward to going to Many Gods West next year.

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