When a God Appears

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I have hiked a certain mountain consistently for an entire year now. During this time I have been longing to see a physical manifestation of a particular deity of mine. In the wider culture he is known more popularly as Cernunnos, or perhaps Pan. Almost a year to the day since I started traversing this particular landscape, I saw him. A rustling of leaves was the first clue. Oh, I thought, surely a squirrel. And then, at the side of the trail,  I came nearly face to face with the huge dark eyes and majestic antlers of a buck. We were close enough that I could see he had what looked like spider web filaments hanging from his horns, and that they were festooned with leaves. We regarded each other motionless and in silence for several minutes. Eventually I bowed to him and carefully continued on my way.

I felt lucky to have been granted this meeting. Because the gods don’t have to grant you anything. At all. Ever. It took an entire year for me to see him. It takes patience and alertness, a thing we lack in the modern world, where devices, instant gratification and empty surface culture constantly howl for our attention. For gods’ sakes, put down the smartphone, get off of Facebook and resist the temptation to take a selfie everywhere you go! Not having a picture of it does not make it any less real, any less valid.  Listen to the rustle of leaves, the wind in the treetops. See the shining kaleidoscope of a spider’s web in the sun. Track the curve of the moon across the sky. Cultivate the inner listening you have, the instinct, the intuition. And come face to face with that which moves you.

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Just Honor It

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I am not tied to any tradition in particular. I lean towards animism, but I do enjoy a quote attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright that goes like this:

“I believe in God. Only I spell it NATURE”

I don’t dwell on what other people do or do not do, although it interests me. I don’t care if anything is particularly fashionable or not. I’m not a Wiccan, but I like Scott Cunningham’s view on rituals and offerings. While he did do some things in a more “official” way, he was also big on sudden spontaneous rituals/offerings wherever he happened to be with what he had at the time. I have been moved to make mandalas or other “pictures” with materials at hand, pinecones and leaves and such, when I am out practicing spiritual wandering. This is neither a better nor worse offering than say, getting special cakes or a bottle of wine to pour out. It is in the moment, though, which can sometimes make it more powerful.

One thing I think is important overall, however, is to just stop with all of the extraneous stimulus of the politics and policing of polytheism, and its cousins, and just honor it, whatever “it” is to you. Getting lost in the labyrinth of community kerfuffles, or appointing oneself as policer of practices and groups is an excuse of sorts to not get on with the Work. While a person is expending energy on making other people measure up to certain standards, that person is neglecting the very thing that brought them to the community in the first place. Honoring it really should be first on the list.

And that is my judgemental moment for today 🙂

 

 

Going the Back Way

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Lately I have had a practice of hiking up a difficult mountain for the cardio benefits and then using the coming down time for spiritual wandering. Today I set off on my path upward but had ill-timed my ascent—a 20 something couple was also hiking up. I am a bit self-conscious (it’s the puffing and wheezing, really) and so was not enjoying having them behind me. And indeed, the girl barked at her male companion “where is your cardio!!” and pushed on past me, shooting me a disparaging look as she went. I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses—then almost gagged. This girl would never be attacked by a bear or cougar; the amount of perfume she was wearing would stun any animal from 5 feet away. I held my breath and slowed down, waiting for the guy to pass me.

He did and I figured they would push on ahead of me and I would be free of them. Instead, he received a call on his cell phone, which he answered, and then proceeded to hike slowly, while loudly talking on his phone.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time he hung up his cell phone. “Now we are getting somewhere” I thought to myself. They would get on with it and leave me to my slower, wheezing ascent.

But no, now they had to stop and start taking selfies.

Okay, I realize this is common behavior in our culture. And it’s not limited to millenials. And, I should probably not even pay attention to it. But something about this couple clicked something in me and with a huff of irritation I veered off on a side trail and started hiking the mountain the less popular back way.

And it was glorious. The mall-perfume miasma of the girl was replaced by the gorgeous scent of warm pine needles and hot blackberries. The slanting light of the sun as it started to dip behind the mountain made the pale, late summer grass glow. And I saw something I had never noticed before—the path was glittering. For a second I thought someone had gotten crazy with glitter out in the woods, but no, a closer look revealed that it was likely mica flakes. And here and there were chunks of quartz stuck in the dried mud.

Indeed, it does pay to take the less trodden path.

Knocking…

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A friend recently wrote a great post about saying “yes”, and it got me to thinking about accepting, seeking and knocking. My own form of spirituality is most frequently practiced while wandering in natural areas. Doors have opened to me there of their own volition. But sometimes, a person has to knock. Is it always a good idea to knock on a door? It’s a gamble, isn’t it? And when we are talking elements, spirits and gods, who knows what may be behind the door—one thing is probably for sure, though. We may not know who or what is behind the door we knock on, but it is very likely that the entity knows who we are.

Lately, in a stretch of forest I frequent, I have heard knocking. And the creak of opening doors. In an outer sense, these sounds are probably woodpeckers and tree trunks in the wind. In an inner sense I feel it’s a call. A call to knock on some doors myself.

When Sh*t Gets (Un) Real

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“Shit just got real!”.

People often say that when something intense happens in their life. I always thought that was funny and kind of nonsensical. The way I look at it, when something intense and potentially life -changing happens, well, then, shit just got unreal. “Real” is your mundane, day-to day-living. When something crazy happens, you are thrown into a temporary state.

Shit just got liminal, in other words.

Whenever something nutty or intense happens to me, whether it be illness or getting a sudden amazing opportunity, I know that I am hitting the liminal target with a bull’s-eye. That target has a lot of potential, but also, a lot of pitfalls. Its a chaotic neutral state, a kind of misty, time-suspension zone. Day to day thoughts and actions aren’t going to apply. There can be a lot of joy, but also, a great deal of pain. Decisions will be made and new pathways will open, oftentimes whether a person wants it or not. These are the rites of passage that life, and the gods, throw at us.

Even if you are not a religious, mystical type, you will have these liminal moments and they will probably change you. If you are a mystical type, then these unreal moments open up a whole kaleidoscope of opportunities to interact with your gods and pathways. There is often an intensity and clarity that you will not have in your day-to-day dealings.

So, next time shit gets unreal, know you are in the liminal zone and that it will pass, but while you are there, you can really get some work done—and pass into the real with a new outlook.

Soul Cipher

I ran across this story about paper notebooks and how, although their place in society has changed somewhat, they still remain relevant in the digital age.  The author points out that for “digital natives” , “paper is a curiosity” and it draws some people for that reason. For those of us considered “dinosaurs”, we remember a time when everything was on paper and every artist or writer had paper notebooks. We dinosaurs cling to our paper notebook/sketchbooks out of nostalgia, but, increasingly, for privacy and sanity as well.

I met with a friend last night and over drinks, she drew out a small sketchbook filled with her wonderful line drawings. “I wanted you to see this” she said in hushed tones. “I showed them to another friend and he just kept saying I should put them on the internet”. She shook her head. “I can’t do that. They are mine!”

She is an astonishingly good artist, has exhibited publicly before, but also has expressed her continuing reticence to release her things to the Internet. “People will just screenshot them and next thing I know my drawings will end up on a shirt being sold from whoknowswhere. It’s a piece of me, so I can’t let that happen. And the only way to do it is to not upload them to the internet.”

And so just like that, the ubiquitous sketchbook/notebooks of the analog age have attained a more important part of something they already somewhat were — a personal grimoire of the spirit, of sorts.

Sure, you can keep notes on your various devices and make digital art and never show it to anyone—but human nature is strong and the temptation to just post it to the internet will always be there. From the other side, you can always take pictures/scan your work from your paper notebooks and then upload them—but that is probably less likely.  And, the benefit of using paper notebooks has been revealed in the concept of “desireable difficulty”, which is explained in the article I cited above. In short, the act of having to write something down in an analog fashion when doing something like taking notes, results in better learning and retention and enhanced creativity. Clearer perspective. A more relaxed state. As a woman interviewed in the article says “It’s this thing that is so intuitive. It’s between you and paper and a pen. It’s kind of meditative.”

I am convinced that the real cultural rebels of the future will not purposefully have much of a presence on the internet at all. It’s already starting to happen in dribs and drabs and it’s not all older people, either. We’ve had some 20 odd years of people just blaring out their lives and feelings in various social media—it’s like a great catharsis that had to happen, but now we get to move on. And, as the internet monetizes more and more and relies on the ever- present irritant of advertising and wilts under the pressure of government and corporate control,  some people will move on more quickly and thoroughly. The majority will still use social media, but there will be significant pockets of social-media-resisting people. And those people will be using the time they used to use on social media exploring their precious personal ciphers and sometimes sharing them with the people that matter most.