Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thoughts Inspired by Reading about Feraferia

This weekend I read the new book by Jo Carson, Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path.  Reading it was a strange and magical experience and showed me some things about myself that I needed to see.

Although I had heard of Lady Svetlana, I didn’t know anything, really, about Feraferia – a path named “celebrate wildness.”  This text is an interesting invitation into the spirit of Feraferia.

Here is my honest reaction.  For the first forty or so pages, it vaguely annoyed me.  It felt kind of like a childish hippie free-love fest…or at least, what I imagine a hippie free-love fest might have been like had I been alive to experience the counterculture.  I was kind of intrigued that they were using a lot of Hellenic pieces but the tone wasn’t appealing to me. However, the art was starting to work on me.

This book is filled, FILLED with inspired, visionary art.  I didn’t always “like” it (I often did), but it started to move me.  And as I read on, what unfolded and affected me is that there is a reality embedded in this book that is a glimpse of one version of Paradise and that parts of it seep across the edges of the page and into this world.  Through this beautiful, art-filled book written by people who are living this version of reality, I was touched with wonder.  It was that kind of innocent, authentic response to beauty that doesn’t lay a bunch of interpretive content over it.  It just experiences.

I experienced this soft and subtle wonder while looking at this art, reading this book, and mentally walking along beside the beings discussed and I felt my heart opening a bit more and I had a feeling of lightness.  As someone who habitually runs on duty, this is the type of experience I need to cultivate more.  I don’t know if I will necessarily take on any of the practices in the book (although if I had a yard, I would probably seriously consider a Faerie Circle henge), but it is an important wake-up call for me that I need to seek out more experiences that evoke that type of reaction…especially as I take on more and more and more duty.

It also made me realize that at this very moment, if someone asked me to describe my vision of Paradise, I’m not sure that I could articulate it anymore…and I think that is a problem.  I don’t think my version would match the one articulated in this book, but as a magick-worker, I should be able to have a pretty good form of how my vision of Utopia would be constituted.  It certainly is a worthwhile exercise.  And one of the oldest methods of a certain type of spiritual development is to determinedly live as though one is in Paradise – which requires a clear vision of what you think Utopia is.

So, I am glad that I read this book.  I had an interesting experience, learned about an area in my own life that needs more balance, and will look at the art again later.  Many of the paintings really deserve to be the subject of meditation.  However, I cannot be honest in talking about this book without pointing out a few things that were potentially problematic.

The founder and artist, Fred Adams, is a visionary who was inspired by research into ancient cultures and then bent history to serve contemporary ends.  Now, I don’t actually have a problem with people doing that that so long as it is clear that is what they are doing and don’t portray what they are doing as accurate historical representation.  The lines here are mushy and there are things in this book that are of questionable historical accuracy.  I am particularly sensitized to the Hellenic elements.  When one of your main sources of inspiration is Robert Graves, please recognize that Robert Graves himself is an “inspired” source.  He work is notoriously historically inaccurate.  Again…if it WORKS – if it gets you in touch with the Great Ones and your magic works, then that is fabulous and since we are practitioners, that is our ultimate goal.

The other thing that  kind of bothered me and make it clear to me that this vision of utopia is not my vision of utopia is that it felt like the gender roles were really strong and, even though there is throughout a palpable celebration of the Divine Feminine, it felt like the female was always in relationship with the male.  To be fair, the same thing could be said about the Divine Masculine.  However, as a woman who is Parthenos, I have ALWAYS had difficulty relating to the Maid, Mother, and Crone archetypes because I can’t identify with any of them…they are all defined in relationship to their reproductive status and that doesn't resonate with me.  In philosophical terms, it essentializes attributes that I consider to be accidental because I experience them as accidental.  In fact, like Plato, I include human categories of gender as accidental rather than an essential attributes.  I’m not really female and I’m not really whatever age I am at the moment…I’m just temporarily presenting myself as such.   The sexual aspects of Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft are poweful and positive for me me unless everything gets reduced to sex.  Then it bothers me a lot because it is reductionism. I also find this reductionistic propensity to be really boring.  This book doesn’t reduce everything to sex, but it is prominent and sometimes, for me, on the border of overpowering everything else.  Others for whom this worldview is in stronger alignment may find fewer barriers to appreciation than I had.

All of this being said, Celebrate Wildness: Magic, Mirth and Love on the Feraferia Path truly is a beautiful book and the art itself makes this a worthwhile purchase.  There are also some lovely gems in terms of technique and visions, as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Saving Enough of Yourself for the Work

Time is the ultimate scarce and valued resource for mortal beings.

I think I should repeat that.  TIME is the ultimate scarce and valued resource for mortal beings.

This leads to many challenges for those of us who have a vocation as a witch, as a worker of magic, as a priest/ess.  What we know is that almost all of us have to work a full work week in order to pay our bills.  And then there is all of that "business of life" to which we need to attend....laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and hopefully having some time for building and maintaining important relationships.  This is enough to tax almost everyone in our society, but for those of us who have another vocation - a calling- the reason that we are in this time and in this place, for us, there is a whole other life to lead in the same 24 hours.

I know that I find this to be a significant challenge.

I think that one of the things that we all have to do - and I know I am working on it - is to both get very clear about what *exactly* is and is not our work.  As Byron Ballard has said in numerous places, what are your two to three things that are your work?  Your themes.  Your focus.  Not just for this year, but what are the themes for this incarnation?

Based on observations, it is my belief that our Work has two parts and that we need to be clear about and make time for both.
These two parts are the areas of your service and the areas of your growth.

1.  What are those things that you have to give to the world that are your areas of Service?   This is often your "Mission."  Sometimes you may have great clarity about what that portfolio is, but it is often a long discovery process.  At some point in time, you have to say "This is the scope of my Work."  I know it sounds cheesy, but I would encourage people to write a mission statement/vision statement for themselves.

If you don't have any idea about where to look, I am going to repeat something that was once said to me by a couple of friends, Swamis Jyotir Vakyananda and Abhipadananda.  "If you want to know what your dharma is, look at what your friends come to you for."  I found this to be a deeply important and inspiring meditation that I conducted over the course of several months.

2.  What are the lessons you need to learn or areas of growth you need to undertake?  This may or may not be directly related to your Service.  However, if you die without having grown, you have wasted an incarnation and none of us can afford that.  This really requires undertaking a serious analysis that is compassionate (with yourself) and complete.  I have found some very good insight can be gained by getting a good astrological reading here.  My limited understanding is that both Saturn and the 12th house often reveal a lot about where you have "growth opportunities."  

It is really important to balance these two and make sure that attention is given to both.  Sometimes it is tempting to focus on the first, because that is usually where your excellence lies.  That is usually where you shine.  If you are like me, it is also where you perceive your "duty," and duty can be all-consuming

On the other hand, we are in a culture that really encourages us to be very focused on ourselves and our own "growth," often at the exclusion of paying attention to service.  Within Contemporary Paganism, I think we often under-emphasize service and when people talk about their Work, they often exclusively mean their growth.

So, as I attempt to manage my time with the aim of ensuring that there is enough left of me to also undertake the Work, these are some of the methods that I am trying to use.
1.  I am trying to be increasingly rigorous about not taking on commitments that are not directly related to either my Service or my Growth.  There are many worthy things and worthwhile activities - that may be somebody else's work.
2.  I am conducting an inventory of my time and effort and looking at what things get regularly neglected and what can I do about them.  I can tell you thus far that what gets neglected for me are two things:  My physical reality/health and my relationships....both of which are foundational to the success of everything else.
3.  I am trying to outsource as much that is necessary work in terms of the business of life that I can to reduce ego depletion and recapture some time.  This includes: I have decided to have someone clean my house once a month; I am now experimenting with Diet to Go, which is where I pick up pre-made low-carb meals - because I need to be on a strict diet, but I just realistically am not managing to do it.  The barrier is time and energy.  I could beat myself up about not staying on my diet - but a better solution would just be to have the food I'm supposed to eat handed to me.  For that work that is necessary that I cannot outsource, I'm trying to find efficiencies for it and get it as routinized as possible.  I already, for example, have a virtually brainless way of choosing my clothing.  It's not quiet the Obama two suits, but it's not far off.
4.  I am really trying to inventory my decision-making and eliminate unnecessary decisions and interruptions.  For those who are not familiar with the concept of ego-depletion, get familiar with it.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_depletion  There is no point in raging against our natures.  It is wise to just accept and work with them by making our lives human-friendly.
5.  I am trying to get the specific work for my vocation both onto my calendar (I will do X and Y every new moon;  magical and psychic purification work on the first of each month; and schedule specific workings in advance).  I am trying to book myself into the times in which I will be writing, or studying or working on specific projects.
6.  I am also trying to figure out how not to let my daily practice get out of control where it gets too long and then I end up breaking the pattern.  Realism is good.  It is better to meditate every single day for 10 minutes than to meditate every now and then for 30.  I use timers.
7.  I am trying, as much as possible, to schedule commitments and events where I am spending time with people I love doing things that feed my spirit.  I need to get better about this, but I do have season theater tickets with some friends and have some things that I do with some people I love every single year...so those things get on the calendar.  I need to try to create similar structures with some others who I love and don't see often enough.  It just must get on the calendar and preferably in a regular rotation.  Otherwise suddenly it has been over a year and I haven't seen or talked to some good friends because I've been done in.

Anyway, these are some initial thoughts.  I would be really interested in hearing what other people are doing to manage these situations.  The older I get, the more I am aware of the limitations of time.