Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dancing in the Rain!


I've been reviewing my B.O.T.A. lessons each morning, pouring over old lessons from years past, trying to glean the jewels.  I have taken a break since last spring - and now I am ready to pick up the lessons again, but I felt a review was in order.  It's been an adventure, reading things I had forgotten, having awesome "oh yeah!" moments.  I love these lessons and encourage anyone who is interested in progressing to take the 13 years of coursework.  You can find them at www.bota.org

This morning, I took a long look at The Magician card in the Tarot Fundamental coursework.  In the B.O.T.A. course, this card represents Self Consciousness, the transformer. It speaks of the fundamental magic practice as being CONCENTRATION and of our body as being the fundamental tool.  This is Magic 101, right? But how quickly we can forget it!

Over my lifetime the one thing I've consistently learned is that we create our own reality. Someone once said, "If you say you CAN, or if you say you CANNOT, you are right!" and that has proven true for me, again and again.

When I say we create our own reality, what exactly does that mean?
The lesson lays it out simplistically.

First, we formulate seed ideas by our WORDS.  "I'm so happy!" or  "I'm so sad!" or "I'm so angry!" or "I'm so fat!" or "That person hates me!" or "I'm useless" or "I am a great artist!" or  "That person is (fill in the blank)" or "I feel like crap" or "I'm getting better every day!" or ... well.. you get the picture.

Next, Subconsciousness accepts these suggestions and elaborates on them by the process of deductive reasoning.  "I ache all over therefore I must be dying" OR "My body is intelligent and wants to function properly, therefore I know I must be getting better every day!"

Subconsciousness then carries out modifications of your mental and emotional attitudes:

"Oh, NO!  I'm dying!  I'm so depressed! There is just no hope. What will I do? I better tell everyone I know how crappy I feel. At least I'll get some sympathy. Then I can wallow in it. Nature must be working against me. The whole world just sucks if this is really what life is all about. I'm just going to curl up in a ball and die. Nobody cares. Nobody loves me. I'm pitiful. I'll just go into the garden and eat worms."


 OR...

"I believe I can feel better. I've done it before and I can do it again! My body is a miraculous bundle of intelligence that knows how to heal itself. I BELIEVE I can get better! There are things I can do to help my body heal. I can eat better foods. I can exercise and move, and make the blood flow so it will carry away the toxins. I can smile instead of frown. I can find things to be grateful for. I can watch comedies that make me laugh and by doing all these things, my body finds it easier to heal and I know that even though some days will be difficult, in the end, I AM getting better!"


Last, based on those mental and emotional images and attitudes, your bodily function and structure CHANGES into the thing you have created... whether positive or negative.

The story you tell is the way your life unfolds.

If you don't like what you are or what your life is,
then tell a NEW story and watch things change.

It's all about attitude.


Here is the example given in the lesson:

Two people wake up to find it is raining. The first person gives attention to unhappy associations and expectations connected with rain. He will think how dreary the sky looks. He will cringe from getting wet. He will stimulate subconscious processes associated with depression and hopelessness. It will have a deleterious effect on his bodily condition as well as emanating forces which make for poor relationship with his environment.

The second person gives attention to happy associations and expectations connected with rain.  He sees the rain washing the faces of the flowers and trees. He rejoices that the plants are drinking from the water of Life and that the condisions for the sustenance of all creatures is herein provided.  As he goes outdoors, his heart is lifted in gratitude to the gods. The raindrops caress his cheeks. He is stimulating subconscious processes associated with richness and joy and it will have a healing effect on his bodily condition.

The second person is emanating a force, the SAME force,
but in this case it brings harmony and fulfillment.

Which person are YOU?





Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pagan Prayers


How often do we, as witches and pagans, pray?
What does it mean to pray?

We might define prayer as 
"a solemn request for help or expression of thanks 
addressed to a god or goddess or object of honor."

A request for help from the Universe.
A request for help from our Higher Self.

An expression of thanks... 
I like that even better.

We have so much to be grateful for, 
especially at this time of year, 
when the harvest has been taken in, 
and the time of rest approaches.

Daily prayer or meditation uplifts us.
 It connects us with the Divine in a way nothing else can. 
It helps us sort through our problems.
It helps us connect with the Earth.

Although we often stop at the Sabbats and Esbats to honor the gods, 
it's helpful to take a few moments each day to pray.
 It can be the difference between feeling frazzled 
and feeling grounded.  

There are many ways to pray. 
One might bow

Or open arms wide!

A simple gesture of openness might be used

Or a specific posture
Tools might be useful in prayer. 
Some people use beads, 
like rosaries or other prayer beads, 
to count or keep track of certain prayers.




Some prayers are carried to the gods 
with prayer wheels or flags.






Sometimes it just feels right to DANCE your prayers!











Or, you may enjoy singing your prayers!










Whatever makes your heart happy... 
whatever helps you to connect to the Source. 

Just do it!

PRAY!


The Mystic's Wheel of the Year 
provides a nice guideline I'd like to share with you. 
I've taken the liberty of changing this to fit a witch's life.  
Feel free to re-make this to fit your own life and schedule.  

There are two parts to this guideline.  

One is a guideline to the phases of the Moon, 
and what type of prayer you might do. 

The second is a guideline to WHERE your prayers might be done, 
according to month, 
in order to help you connect more with Nature.

MOON PHASE

Waning Moon:  Pray alone and at mid-day. Think about endings and ask for help ending and ridding your life of the unwanted or the outworn.  Do your filing and clean your desk. Give thanks to your god(s) for all you have.  Meditate on sustenance and justice for all beings.

New Moon:  Pray alone at night.  Be mindful. Sit still and be silent. Try to experience Deity with all your senses. What can you see, smell, hear, taste, and touch?  Recognize and honor the ONENESS of ALL.  This is the time for new beginnings.  Meditate on personal transformation. 

Waxing Moon:  Pray alone at mid-day.  Ask for help with and think about current projects. Brainstorm. Chant names or aspects of Deity or play gentle, wordless music while you move gently.  Meditate on peace and healing for all.

Full Moon:  Pray alone at night.  Sing sacred songs of love and praise or play FAST wordless music while you dance exuberantly! Meditate on respect and compassion for all. 

WHERE to PRAY

JANUARY:  In a dark room or cave
FEBRUARY:  In a dark room with a single lit candle
MARCH:  In a grove of deciduous trees
APRIL:  Near a body or water or on a rainy day/night
MAY:  In a flower garden
JUNE:  On a hill
JULY:  In a wheat or corn field
AUGUST:  In a windy or stormy place
SEPTEMBER:  In a vegetable garden or fruit orchard 
OCTOBER:  In a grove of deciduous trees
NOVEMBER:  In a cemetery
DECEMBER:  In a grove of evergreen trees

There is another great little book called
  Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim: A Personal Manual for Prayer and Ritual 
by Edward Hays. 
It helps provide a pattern for prayer according to the season of the year. 
You can use his prayers 
or write your own using his as a guideline to give you ideas.  
This is a good resource for coven leaders 
or solitaries in writing their own seasonal ritual.

I hope you will begin taking time to pray.
Remember, 
there are no rules.
Just do what feels right.

So Mote It Be!












Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nature's Gifts: Chanterelles




Two weeks ago, in Portland, Oregon, we had a LOT of rain.
The past week, we have had chilly but sunny days.
A few days of fall rain followed by a few days of sun = Chanterelles!

Cantharellus formosus, the Pacific golden chanterelle, was designated the official mushroom of the state in 1999.  It is a separate species from the golden chanterelle mushroom.  The Pacific's physical appearance is distinguised from the other chanterelle mushrooms by its long, graceful stem tapering to the base, tiny dark scales on the cap surface, pinkish orange-yellow cap colors, and a pinkish hue in the false gills.  

In wet conditions, the scales and pinkish colors are sometimes absent. 
They are also often absent in young mushrooms.




There are many varieties of Chanterelle found in the Pacific Northwest forests. 
Most are excellent eating!

Chanterelles are among the easiest mushroom to identify.
They are bright orange.
The gills on the underside don't end abrubtly, but travel gently down the stem.



And the fragrance, well... 
it's a lot like fresh apricots to some.

You would think that the bright orange would make them easy to spot in the forest.
That's not always true.
Chanterelles love to hide...
under the edge of logs, 
under similar colored fallen leaves...
and mostly under moss.


Oregon's Chanterelles are mycorrhizal. There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between them and the trees beneath which they grow. Often, you find them under Douglas Fir and/or Hemlock trees. The mycelia coat the roots of the trees, helping to protect them from disease. It also helps retain water in the dry months.   The mycelia, in turn, derives nourishment from the trees without harming them. In fact, Chanterelles are a prime indicator of a healthy forest.

Look-Alikes:  Here are a few look-alikes. It's easy to see the difference when they are side by side:
Hedgehogs have TEETH instead of gills.
But the good news is Hedgehogs are a choice edible also!

Jack-o-lanterns have free, parallel gills. 
The inner flesh is ORANGE when you slice them.
They will give you a belly ache. Learn to i.d. them!

Chanterelles have attached FORKED gills that run down the stem of the fruit.
The inner flesh is WHITE when you slice them!

I'd suggest you go with someone who knows mushrooms the first few times you pick.
Another option is to join your local mycological society and go on forages with a group.

Cleaning:  Do not wash your chanterelles!  When you get home, brush off the dirt with a soft brush, like a watercolor brush. Then put them in a paper sack, loosely closed, in the fridge, where they will keep around a week.  If you get a LOT, you can pressure can them in jars and they keep quite well. They must be pressured for 75 minutes. Find instructions online.  

Chanterelles do not dry well, in my opinion. They lose their flavor. Best to use them fresh or can them.

Cooking:  There are tons of recipes online. The simplest way to eat them is to sautee them in butter or olive oil. You can add the sauteed shrooms to omelettes or meat dishes, or just use them as a side dish. You can bake them, make soup, or add them to pasta. They are a lovely mushroom with a sweet subtle taste. A bit of heaven!
Chanterelles and Shell Pasta

Cream of Chanterelle Soup

Chanterelle and Egg Noodles
Chanterelles on Toast

Chanterelle and Egg Sandwiches

Chanterelle Tarts
 I do not suggest you eat chanterelles raw. 
They are peppery and can cause serious stomach upset.

Here is the basket of chanterelles I picked today!




Description:
Ecology: Mycorrhizal with western hemlock and other conifers; growing alone, gregariously, or in small clusters in old-growth and second-growth forests in fall and winter; British Columbia, Oregon, and northern California.
Cap: 2-14 cm; convex with an inrolled margin, becoming broadly convex, flat, or shallowly depressed with an inrolled, uplifted, or irregular-wavy margin; the center not becoming perforated; fairly smooth, finely suede-like, or slightly roughened; bright to dull orange-yellow, with a grayish to brownish pigment layer that is nearly invisible in wet conditions but becomes more prominent with drying or with age in dry weather, appearing as tiny, darker scales; often bruising and discoloring yellowish.
Undersurface: With well developed false gills; pale orange-yellow, with a pinkish cast in most collections.
Stem: 4-8 cm long; to 2 cm thick at apex; usually tapering gracefully downward; more or less smooth; colored like the cap or paler; often bruising yellow near the base; fleshy.
Flesh: Whitish to very pale yellowish.
Chemical Reactions: Possibly pale green with iron salts, but this reaction is recorded for one Oregon specimen only, "after refrigeration for several days" (Redhead et al., 1997), without specification of the precise location (cap surface, false gills, flesh, etc.) of the test--and iron salts solutions themselves can appear greenish, depending on how they are prepared. I stupidly did not test the Cantharellus formosus specimens I have seen.
Odor and Taste: Taste mild; odor weakly sweet.
Spore Print: Whitish to pale yellowish.
Microscopic Features: Spores 7-9 x 5-6 ยต; smooth; more or less elliptical.

* * *


If we witches are truly stewards of the Earth,
shouldn't we KNOW the earth?
Shouldn't we be able to identify the foods 
she so generously provides us?
The medicinal herbs?
The remedies?

I suggest you start a notebook,
and begin looking around you.
Take some time out of each day,
or each week,
to open your senses and to explore the Mother.
Then keep notes.
Notes about what you see, taste, hear, smell, and feel.
Notes about your thoughts,
your body changes,
the changes in your neighborhood.
Keep a record of the changing seasons.
Keep a record of where and when you find gifts from the Mother.
Doing this will help you reconnect with Nature.
Instead of watching the clock,
watch Her.