A Return and a Blessing

You may have noticed I have not been around for a bit (which is a bit of an understatement, since I’ve hardly posted all year). So, I’ll get right down to it:

I have cancer.

We discovered it in mid-February, and since then my life has been a whirlwind of surgeries, repeated hospital trips because of complications, chemo, and more medications than I can keep up with. Plus, there’s that little thing of facing one’s own mortality at only 46 years old.

(My Stage IIIb  colon cancer has a pretty daunting survival rate; it’s better than Stage IV, but it’s serious. By the way: GET YOUR COLONOSCOPY!)

I’ve been out of work on disability since March, and have found myself with so little mental and emotional energy that I spend most of that time just lying in bed, watching a gazillion hours of Food Network. At least, I’ll be a great cook when I have the energy again.

But, slowly, surely – with the help of my family and my wonderful house mates – I’m settling into this new reality. I’ve always said that ‘I bloom where I planted’, and while I usually mean that in reference to physical location, I’ve decided it now means where I stand in the universe, too.

I’ve been doing this with the help of my patron god, Mercury, and a return to shamanic journeying. Which brings me to the blessing.

Trigger warning: If you have issue with spiders, you may want to end here.

In shamanic work, it’s always a good idea to have a guardian during your journeys. This usually manifests as a totem animal, and my totem has always been a spider. Specifically, a tarantula. He has been my guardian and my friend, and has stood beside me through many worlds.

Today, I was lying back in my chemo recliner, staring at the boring ceiling tiles, waiting for everything to start when I pointed out to my housemate, Ryan, a black spider on one of the tiles. He was hanging out, peeking in and out from the metal rail.

He made me smile.

My chemo lasts a long time because of the amount of meds I get, so after we eat our takeout lunch together, Ryan goes home before returning to pick me up. While he’s gone and the poison medicine is dripping into my veins, I curl up on my side and sleep. Today, I woke up suddenly…

…to find the black spider sitting on the white blanket that covered me. It skittered across my body and disappeared.

My eyes filled with tears.

I felt protected and safe.

Someone was watching over me.

Now, I get that most people wouldn’t have been too thrilled to wake up to find a spider on their shoulder, but for me, it was a blessing…and a message from my old friend:

I’ve got your back.”

 

A Different Take on New Year’s Resolutions

I’ll be back to posting more regularly after the holidays, but wanted to share a different – and, I think, more positive – approach to the yearly resolution bit.

The truth is, I don’t really do resolutions.

As an adherent of the Law of Attraction, they seem a recipe for failure. What message are you sending the Universe ?

What you think you’re saying: “I am overweight and haven’t lost the weight I want. I must lose weight and this year will be different; I will make myself lose weight, I swear.”

What the Universe hears: “I didn’t lose weight before and therefore I won’t lose weight this year.”

Instead I’ve replaced resolutions with two annual habits that help me enter the year with an air of acceptance and gratitude, and that truly set me up for success.

Habit One: The List
On the last day of the year (or as soon as you can), take a few minutes to sit quietly and make a list of 25 things you accomplished this year. They can be big or small. (Some years, getting through a rough year in one piece is an accomplishment). The only rule is that these have to be things you did, not that were done for you, and – while you can go higher if you like – you must get to 25.

I’ve never not reached 25, and even in rough years, my list is always more impressive than I thought it would be. It’s a good, neutral look at all you really accomplish during a year, and if that doesn’t put you in a grateful spirit for the upcoming year, nothing will.

Habit Two: January Challenge
While I’m absorbing the lessons of The List and thinking about what I want to apply from it to my year, I do a January Challenge.

This can be anything. Two years ago, I went vegan for January. Last year and this, I’ll be doing a “No Spend January”, using up everything I have already and cutting out unnecessary spending.

Unlike normal “resolutions”, these monthly challenges work because they’re “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Reachable
  • Time Bound

Say “I resolve to lose weight in 2016” and see how far you get. But say “I won’t eat meat in January” and you’ve got a much better shot.

A “cheat” here and there doesn’t have the resolution-ending impact it might otherwise because your goal has boundaries; if you’re doing your challenge 90%, you can still have a very successful month.

Besides, you can do anything for a month.

End of January
At this point, I reevaluate my list and see what I want to start, stop, or continue. Then I launch into the New Year with an air of gratitude for the year past, and one major accomplishment already under my belt. Strangely, I find it much easier to keep improving.

This year, I invite you to try something a little more gentle than “I RESOLVE TO BE BETTER” and see where it leads you…

Use Yule Bells For Positive Energy

Clearing negative energy from your home is a basic housekeeping duty of any witch, particularly of the hearth witch variety. Smudging with sage, sprinkling salt and burning clearing incenses are all great ways to “clean up” the energy in your home.

But sometimes people forget that that’s just the first step. Once you’ve cleared the air, so to speak, you have a clean energetic slate. And naturally, you’ll want to fill that up with something positive.

This season gives you the perfect tool for that: jingle bells!

You can use any bells you can get your hands on; even a single bell will do, but I think more is more in this case. You can string a few on a brightly colored ribbon, maybe in a color to represent your intention. I have a long strand of extra large, rustic bells on twine and tied with rag ribbon that I use both as holiday decoration around this time and the perfect tool to ring in the energy I want.

Here are some basic steps to follow, but as always, you should let the energy guide you.

  • Take a cleansing bath, or at the very least, wash your hands to get ready for the clearing. Call in your spirit guides and helpers, or say a prayer to the deity of your choice.
  • Focus on the intention you want for your home: Peace, Joy, Abundance, Friendship…whatever positive energy you wish to attract.
  • Use whatever clearing method you prefer, though smudging with sage is tradition. Don’t forget to smudge yourself!
  • After the space is clear, start at the entrance to the room, with the bells in your right hand.
  • Move slowly around the room in a clockwise motion, ringing the bells in a light but quick rhythm, allowing them to sound as they will. At the same time, voice your intention loudly, joyously, or however the bells and your guides lead you.

You’ll find the energy changes dramatically as the bells lead you around the house, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they can not only change the way the home feels but how they seem to help manifest your intention.

Obviously, this technique can be used anytime, but what better time than now?

Freeze Out Charm Using Yule Ornaments

I’ve posted this before, but this is a good time of year to dust off this great little charm for “freezing out” someone who is giving you grief. I like to collect shiny ornaments at this time of year (especially toward the end of the season, when they’re on sale!) for use in this charm all year round.

I learned this charm when I was going through a tough time with a former friend who was making my life miserable. I didn’t want to hurt them, but I wanted to end the relationship clean, so I could get on with my life. Another friend taught me this:

You start with a simple holiday ball ornament meant for your tree. The color doesn’t matter (though you could probably use green for healing, or red for protection), as long as the interior of the ball is “mirrored”.

  • Remove the hanger.
  • Focus your intention on separating yourself from the person involved, without wishing them harm. You simply want to “freeze them out” of your life so you can move on.
  • Write their name on a thin slip of paper in red ink. Roll the paper up and put it inside the mirrored ball and replace the hanger.
  • Say a prayer of thanks for the good things in the relationship, but state – out loud – that you’re no longer affected by this person.
  • Put the ball in the freezer, and walk away.

The freezer will help to “freeze them out” of your life. The mirrored ball will reflect back on them any negativity they send out to you without it hitting you. This will not harm them (unless they mean real harm to you), but it will protect you and allow you to move on.

As with all charms of this nature, it doesn’t work if you’re doing it to be vindictive (in that case, it might come back to haunt you) or if you obsess over the ball in the freezer.

Let go.

Walk away.

Move on.

25 Traditional Holiday Songs for Pagans

Nothing quite gets me in the holiday spirit the way music does. And while I love and support pagan musicians, around this time of year I really want to hear those traditional songs of my youth.

Unfortunately, traditional “Christmas music” is just chock full of Emmanuels and hallelujahs and other things that – as a pagan – kind of skeev me out. Even lists of “secular” holiday songs tend to center heavily on Christmas itself.

So the last couple of seasons, I’ve been looking for recognizable, fun and memorable songs for the Yule season that don’t feel so Jesus- or Christmas-focused, and there are more than you think!

Here’s a handy list of 25 songs I’ve found to help you build your own Yuletide playlist.

Secular Classics
There are plenty of songs, particularly from the 40s and 50s, that are very familiar as holiday songs, but have no mention of Christmas at all. 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Sleigh Ride

Let it Snow

Deck the Halls

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bell Rock

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Happy Holiday

Fun Songs

These songs don’t take Yule too seriously. Though still pretty agnostic, the last three refer to Christmas or take place Christmas Eve, so you’ll have to decide how much Christmas reference you can handle!

Frosty the Snowman

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Because nothing says “the holidays” like spiders in your soul…

Santa Baby

Santa never sounded so sexy…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake

Instrumental Pieces
Some songs may have Christian lyrics, but are just as recognizable – or more so – in their instrumental form.

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo (The Carol of the Bells)

While I can’t recommend The Carol of the Bells with lyrics for a pagan household, the instrumental versions are classic and none more so than this striking rock version by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Fur Elise

If you grew up with Charlie Brown, this Beethoven classic just screams “the holidays.”

The Nutcracker March

 

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies

Honorable Mention

 Here are a few that are on the cusp, mostly because they either reference  Christmas or God, have Christian undertones (though with pagan messages) or they’re just a little unusual. Still, these make the cut for my Yule playlist, and might for yours, too.

Good King Wenceslas 

There’re a lot saints here, true, but the message of compassion and kindness is pretty universal.

Here We Come a Wassailing

This old carol does ask God to bless you, but otherwise it’s very pagan. I personally adore Kate Rusby, and think she does this one better than anyone.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Just one mention of Christmas in this one!

Louisiana Christmas Day

Now, this Aaron Neville song may not be all that familiar to some of you, but as a Louisiana girl far from home, it’s a perennial favorite of mine, so I thought I’d include it.

Such a Night

Another not-particularly-Christmasy Christmas song from Aaron Neville.

And last but not least…
Dar Williams’ anthem to tolerance should be on every pagan’s Yuletime playlist.

The Christians and the Pagans

If you download all of these songs, you’ll have over an hour of Jesus-free holiday tunes!

Note: If you have Amazon prime music, nearly all of these are free. (I think I paid about $3 total for the whole list.

Do you have a favorite that should be here? Let me know!