I love peonies, I know that they are garish, showy and a little bit vulgar but I don't care.  Today on my Great Spirit Walk I saw my first one of the year and it was gorgeous!
Today I tried a new magical technique for the first time thanks to the Goddess Circle's Creativity Course.  A sort of spirit walk (an idea I don't really know anything about and could well have go.  I centered myself and connected with the divine and asked to be lead to those things I needed to create my artwork and whilst I did find some interesting physical things, something else happened, several somethings actually.

Firstly the process was really interesting and useful and pretty wonderful.  I walk a lot, but always to either get somewhere or to exercise, I always wear my Ipod headphone (shutting out the world a bit) and although I do notice my surroundings on these walks I don't really notice them in a very deliberate and "conscious" way.  So going on a walk without a particular purpose other than a vague plea to the universe to show me what I needed to see was very different.  Very quickly I found myself in a very calm, spiritual headspace which kept up for the whole hour of my walk, despite the fact I was mostly walking in suburbia through some busy roads.  In fact I had to work very hard to ground myself after the walk and ate something as soon as I got back home because it was actually a little difficult to stop being in that headspace. Definitely a powerful technique even in the way I was doing it.  In fact it reminded me an awful lot of a technique a friend once described to me about 10 years ago.  They said that when they came to live in a new city, they would always go for a long walk in the city to attune.  Each city having it own rhythm and until my friend had attuned themselves to the rhythm then they could quite "get" the city - would find themselves getting lost perhaps or not finding the opportunities they were looking for.
A little over halfway through the walk it suddenly became very apparent that amongst the items I was picking up and the photos I was taking  a message was trying to come through.  Some truth or idea that the universe maybe thought I should know.  Since the point of the exercise was to listen to whatever I needed to hear I let the idea just flow, even though it didn't fall in the category of a feather for me to stick on my artwork.  The message built up slowly though, in layers until I felt I had an amazing idea, an idea which I could translate back into art...somehow.

I began by being drawn to little leaves and veins within them. Noticing that sometimes the colours of the veins was in a stark contrast to colour of the leaf, and sometimes less visible.

Then I saw the cracks in the pavement and the cracks in the asphalt. Cracks which I knew were caused by the roots of trees, breaking through the concrete cages we have built for them.
I thought about the roots of other plants around me all stretching out, connecting and growing unseen in the soil all around me, carrying information, drawing in water and nutrients.

I heard the songs of bird piercing into my mind carrying, messages and connections.

Eventually when I was sitting in a park somewhere I noticed

I had this sudden clarity of vision, of interconnectedness with this little seams of gold running from me to the bird, me to the person mowing their lawn and I thought about this planet we live with with all these precious little roots, veins and seams of interconnectedness and how we connected a million or more times a day without even realising it.  Like the person mowing their law and how they didn't know I was there, hearing them mowing but they made the connection nonetheless.

It was all so joyful and lovely...but that wasn't the point of the message.

I left the park and started for home.  No sooner had I shut the gate behind me when a couple of cars went past.  The noise of their engines was a connection with me.  But not a single clear note like a birdsong, or a deep conversation but a sort of scatter-gun of connection - throwing out the noise of their engines out into the universe with no purpose and not a care in the world about who and how many people might hear it.  This started me thinking that really the seams and veins and roots of the unseen connections in our world have become distorted, instead of these rare and precious moments we are actually deluged with connection all the time;  whether we like it or not. Advertising, TV, Radio, car noises and so many other things are like a tidal wave of connection which both drown out the important things and make it all a lot less precious. Seams of gold, become cliffs of gold and suddenly they are not that valuable anymore.
Now partly this is because I was on a spirit walk and had deliberately opened myself up to hear all this.  But the noise is going on and even if we tune it out, it is still there and we are probably using energy to tune it out.  I am not sure what this means I have to do (at this time), other than write a blog post, create some art and sent this message out into the world for people to ponder on.  I don't think becoming a hermit is the answer, those connections are really precious and we shouldn't run away from them. So I would love to hear any other interpretations of this!
So today I set about my work project in the same sacred spirit of reverence and joy that I put into the Antara Project.  I set up a beautiful working space in my sunny garden, I lit incense to feed my creative juices, I lit a candle, I drank in the atmosphere and connected deeply to the universe and...then I worked on my work project.

The result...it wasn't too bad.  That sounds like faint praise and I really don't mean it to be.  I didn't experience the same depth of joy I feel when working on the Antara Project (and I didn't really expect to - the work project is still a bit dull compared to that).  But the work itself was so much easier,  the ideas seemed to flow better and I didn't resent the time anywhere near as much as I thought I would (and as I have in the past). I am still looking forward to getting the work project done and submitted but I am less stressed, more at one with the universe and feel I have done a much better job today. 

The lesson - I'll stop treating work as a total chore and less deserving of my spirit than other things.  Because when I give it the spiritual treatment, I get a lot more out of it.
I think very few Witches get to enjoy a true integration of all parts of their lives in one joined up tapestry.  Most of us compartmentalise our lives a little bit because there are lots of people in our lives who are probably not very supportive or understanding of the witchy stuff.

I am definitely in that camp.  I have a day job in a successful but very traditional career.  I knew from a young age I wanted that career and so even though I was a pagan before I was a lawyer I had already began to separate out bits of my life, because being a lawyer is hard enough without being labeled a crank.  Fast forward to today and we have a case in point. So I have a spiritual life and a mundane life and they are not integrated at all.  Not one little bit.

I had two projects to work on today.  One is a work project which is a bit dull and I am committed to for the next 18 months.  One is a creative project for my Antara life which I am committed to but is lots of fun and doesn't really have a end date (lets call that the Antara Project - since it is closely connected to spreading my Antara wings). 

For the work project I stuffed myself in my attic study, powered through it, resented the fact it took longer than I'd hoped, felt worried that the middle section wasn't very good and then realised I'll probably have to spend a few more hours working on it tomorrow (which I wasn't expecting) and got really stressed, frustrated and annoyed.

Then I did a bit of work on my Antara Project. Before I started I set up a table and umbrella in my sunny garden, centered myself spiritually, lit powerful incense, lit a candle and with joyous abandon wrote 1500 words like there was no tomorrow.

When I write it down so starkly the difference is clear. I am honouring and in control of one of the projects and it isn't the work stuff. I think if I approached my work projects with the reverence and acknowledgement of spirit I harness when I engage with my creative projects then life might be a little be easier for me.  That is tomorrow's goal - I'll let you know how it goes.
Today was a great day.  The Witches Circle Squared had its first (of many, I hope) Stitch & Witch sessions.  We all had little crafty projects we wanted to work on and we spent a great afternoon in the stunning sunshine (26 degrees) talking and talking and stitching and eating lunch and talking.

I sometimes think that these relaxed easy events in the Witches Circle are the best ones, the ones where we just share our thoughts and idea and make vague (and not so vague) plans for the future.  I have been in many magickal groups over the years and in my experience the best ones were always those where we spent some downtime together talking and sharing our thoughts and experiences.  That is probably why, although I used to be a solitary I far prefer group working...the whole being more than the sum of its parts and all that.

I broke a knitting needle towards the end of the day, lost a load of stitches and am going to start from scratch again having to re-cast on 326 stitches.  Sigh.  I think it is a testament to the day that I only really started to get annoyed about it when I got home.  Because I was so relaxed and having such a good time that when it happened I just didn't worry about it, I just let it wash over me.  I wish I could have that level of zen all the time!

I am totally uninspired and not magical at all today.  I had no idea what to write and was thinking of just not blogging at all.  Then I remembered that not every blog post can be perfect because not every day can be completely fulfilling and if I don't mention those trying days then I am setting an unrealistic view of the world for others.

Not every day is filled with profound spiritual insights.  I try and make everyday as perfect as it could be but I don't always succeed and I am ok with that.  You should be ok with that too.

Several years into my path I began to feel a yearning for a more intense relationship with a single Deity rather than the more abstract honouring of the Lord and Lady which had been my main experiences.  But I was stuck – there was no particular God or Goddess I felt particularly drawn to so I started reading about the different pantheons trying out ideas for size.  I was really unhappy about this approach at the time.  I felt like I couldn’t just dive into a book, pick an option that felt right and then go off into the sunset happy for ever more.  That seemed to contrived, too mundane almost.  I wasn’t helped by the experiences of those around me.  Of those who had ties with a particular patron Deity, everyone seemed to have been called, approached or chosen by a that Deity at some time in their lives. Well I wasn’t getting any of that, no-one was choosing me, and I really thought I was doing something wrong. I had a period of intense questioning, questioning what I was doing, what I believed and what I really wanted.

Most of the time everything was fine but there was a prolonged and very real period of self-doubt.  Through that doubt I came to the conclusion that as difficult as this path was, I didn’t want to be chosen.  That implied a lack of free will, as if some God came down and scooped me up -  rather than a mutual coming together.  Over the course of the next few years various small signs started to point the way and I found a Deity I was comfortable with.  I read all about them, meditated on them and eventually ended up contacting them.  Even then, there was no fanfare or a definite sign that this was “meant to be”.  More years passed and the relationship just grew slowly and organically until one day I had turned around and realised that I had what I'd been seeking all those years.  That relationship crept up on my without my really noticing, I had a real euphoric moment at that point but it was all the more precious because it was so hard won. It wasn’t an overnight experience which overwhelmed my mortal emotions.  It was a long, slow road which was full of self-doubt, misinterpretation and days when I felt like nothing was working.  Only by continuing to persevere did I get what I wanted, and after all that I was at least certain it was what I wanted.

So this is a message of encouragement to all the Unchosen ones.  I wanted to write this because, this it the post I needed to be reading about 8 years ago to give me some sorely needed confidence and determination. If you are not chosen by a particular God or Goddess then Don't Depair!There is a relationship out there for you.  It may not come easily, but just because no-one melts your mind in a meditation and calls you by your name the first time you contact them, doesn't mean you won't end up having a meaningful relationship.  Sometimes you need to work hard to get someone's attention!

I am polytheistic and firmly believe in a range of deities.  Not as simple reflections of my own subconscious but most certainly as entities who exist outside of me.  Some Deities I have a close relationship with, others of whom I just acknowledge and we go our separate ways for now.  But it has very long journey getting to this point. 

I believe that you can have brief encounters with Deity for singular encounters or magic working, you can have life long relationships with some Deities and others you work with them for a specified time and for a specified purpose.  This makes it sound as though I am advocating having a smorgasbord of Deities at your beck and call and this is not true at all.  Some of these encounters may be initiated by you, the Deities themselves or by taking part in group or coven work where others in the group are in a relationship with Deities and make an introduction. By far and away the most rewarding experiences in my interactions with Deities have been those which were part of a life-long relationship, in the way that long term romantic relationships are usually more rewarding than one-night stands.

All of these ways of interactions have their benefits (and sometimes challenges and trials) and can be important experience on any path.  I would suggest being open to opportunities to take part in these.  You will find out which Deities you have a connection with and which you do not.  As long as you are respectful this is unlikely to be problematic.

I have carefully avoided using words like "worship" in this post for two reasons; for many people (especially pagans) the word has bad connotations, reminding them of a time they perhaps felt trapped by a monotheistic religion.  Secondly because this is never how I have experienced my Deity relationships.  Powerful, mind blowing, complex, yes - demanding of worship, not really.  My relationships have been as sage mentors, ancient friends, challenging teachers, inspirational leaders, and sometimes even parental.  They always involved an exchange of energy and definitely respect; but worship, in the usual sense of the word, has never been on the table.  They have not demanded it and I have not felt moved to it - what I do give in such relationships is far more complicated than simple worship.

I will be coming back to the subject of Deities and relationships with them again and again I am sure, but for now please post with your comments and views - this is such personal ground and everyone experiences it differently.

This post is brought to you by sunshine and temperatures of 24 degrees C - not usual for April round here.
In the beginning this circle was purely a place of protection – covered in magical fire to stop anything disrupting or interrupting me (or even attacking me when I lived somewhere particularly scary).  Then it was a place where I totally controlled the energy and could intensify it as I wished without it dissipating.  Then it was a portal to another world as eventually, within the sphere, a door appeared and through that door was my subconscious, my Gods and Goddesses, my spirit guide and a million worlds to explore and find wisdom within.  But establishing the sphere was always the first step.

Sometimes within the circle I work magic purely within my mind, magic of thought alone.  Sometimes I perform physical rituals. It is a flexible and useful thing.

But when I do a personal practice, even a simple meditation casting my blue sphere is always the first thing I do and this is because it has well outgrown its original purpose.  After using this technique for 11 years it is now a powerful psychological trigger.  Beginning the through processes to cast my circle are deeply ingrained in my psyche so that I hardly have to think about them.  The simple act of going through the motions alone signals to my mind that it is time to get focussed and drop into that particular headspace needed for working magic. 

I would recommend any magical practitioner to get a regular magical practice, something that you could do for the next 20 or 30 years, something simple you can keep coming back to because the discipline of the practice alone is invaluable – regardless of the other purposes of the practice.  Attaining the ability to switch into your magical head state as easily as possible is probably the most important thing I have achieved so far.

One of the first and most consistent magical practices I still use is a variant on the casting of a circle.  The reasons why I use this casting have changed a lot over the years; but the beauty of circle casting is that is has so many applications and uses.  This is probably why this practice has never left me and the nuts and bolts of it have changed little in 11 years.

Everyone has their own needs and style, mine is deliciously dramatic (because in my own private practice I have allowed myself to be as over the top as I feel like) but it starts with my sitting or lying somewhere comfortable and then doing a step by step visualisation.  Firstly I envisage two iron bands encircling me, horizontally and vertically so that they create a spherical space around me.  At this stage I always here an audible “ker…chunk” when the bands lock into place.  Then the rest of the sphere bursts into life with licking tongues of blue fire which I hear hissing and spitting.  Finally bolts of blue electricity arc around the iron bands crackling as they go.  Inside I am snug and tucked away from the world.