Spirit Branch

So, I was supposed to be super productive today.  I was going to finish my Full Moon Offering incense, write about my 5th patron deity, maybe write a bit more about my complicated relationship with Inanna, clean my side of the room, bathe the doggies, maybe even collect some cherry blossoms.

It didn’t work out that way.  I’ve been having quite the fibro flare for the past few days, and it culminated in a lot of pain when I woke up.  So I already knew that things were going to work out a little differently.  Sometimes I have to pick and choose where I spend my energy, especially when it’s limited with a flare up.

So first, Bear and I spent some romantic adult time together.  We don’t get a chance to do that often these days, what with work, our other work we take on, our hobbies, and my health stuff.  It was tough for me to talk myself into it today, hurting as I was, but SOOOO worth it.  It always is.  We need to reconnect, and that needs to be a bigger goal than what it is sometimes.

Josef and Amie Ravenson

Josef and Amie Ravenson

Afterwards, I was struck with the inspiration to start a project that I’ve been noodling for a while.   I wanted something that was rather simple and beautiful to reconnect with my spiritual practice, and with the full moon in particular.  So I was thinking about something that would be creative and meaningful, and maybe even something that Bear would want to participate in.

Thus was born the idea of the spirit branch.  It will not only be beautiful, but it will give us a focus for each lunar cycle.

So we spent the next hour or so searching for the perfect branch to use.  (We have a lot of branches around, as our yard is heavily wooded in the back.)  I found a really pretty maple branch covered with lichen, but I couldn’t bear to damage the pretty lichen with what I wanted to do.  I found an ash branch, which I liked because it would tie to Yggdrasil, the World Tree.  But it was old, and I didn’t know if it was already rotting.  So after looking around, I was drawn to a section of a dogwood branch that was leaning near our woodpile.  The energies of dogwood are good for love magick, protection, and also WISHES.  Bingo!  It’s also prevalent here in the South in the Spring, and I thought that was fitting.  It will tie our wishes to our home, and also to the time of year when we started this practice.

Cornus florida inflorescence, showing four lar...

Dogwood magick- Cornus florida inflorescence, showing four large white bracts and central flower cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the idea is that on every full moon, we raid my (considerably large) yarn and ribbon collection to find something that represents what we want to manifest for this lunar cycle.  For example, this cycle I will choose a purple yarn, maybe some purple beads, and I will tie it around a quartz crystal, because I want to bring more ritual and a spiritual practice back into my life.  Then, I will tie the yarn to our spirit branch, maybe light a candle, and meditate on the significance.  Bear will do the same, probably without all the meditation, etc.  But in the end, a wish is a wish, positive energy is positive energy.

I will also tie charm bags, dried herbs, stones, etc to the spirit branch on each full moon, and over the years it will become more and more beautiful with all of our wishes, focuses, etc. there for us to see.  I’ll post an after pic once we’ve attached our first wishes.

Blessed be! 🙂

English: Lunar libration. see below for more d...

English: Lunar libration. see below for more descriptions Français : Librations de la lune. Voir une description détaillée en dessous. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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My patron deities- Inanna (Fire)

The Backstory

Inanna came to me at a very pivotal time in my life.  My partner of 7 years had just dumped me to go live with her new girlfriend the next state over, and my world was turned upside down.  We had experienced lesbian bed death about 3 years in, and my self esteem suffered due to it.  When I finally asked her for an open marriage, not to end our marriage, but save it, she agreed.  Then she met someone and dumped me.  I was devastated.  But I was also a little exhilarated.  Here, I finally got the chance to be happy.

So I dated.  A LOT.  I learned that I was again interested in men, even after being a lesbian for about 10 years.  I also spent some time exploring kink and BDSM, and found out that I was quite good at it.  I transitioned from thinking I was a submissive bottom to learning that I was a Dominant switch.  It was a lovely time of exploration, and there were quite a few boys and girls I took along for the ride.

I began a podcast called Fleshvine’s FemDom Experiments, and that led to a partnership with a friend I had previously been seeing.  We called our joint podcast Kinky and the Geek.  It was through that podcast that I met most of the friends I have now, and also my Bear.  That first tentative podcast I recorded, alone in my room, lonely and bored, completely changed my life for the better.  It’s weird how that one pivotal moment can change our lives forever.

During this time, I was fixing so many things that my ex had broken in me.  When I was with her, I felt unfuckable, and therefore unlovable, and that nobody would ever want to fuck or love me.  My subsequent dating and playing activities proved that that wasn’t true.  And it was then that I began to really feel alive again.  As my body woke up, as I began to experience a healthy sex life again, I felt the stirrings of something deeper.  I began to experience Inanna.

The Queen of the night, relief, 1800-1750 BC.

The Queen of the night, relief, 1800-1750 BC. (Photo credit: Bochum1805)

Journey to the Underworld

Perhaps the best known story of Inanna is her descent to the underworld.  Inanna was known as the Queen of Heavens and was also associated with Venus, or the evening star.  When she married a mortal king (and proto vegetation God), Dumuzi, she also established herself as an earth Goddess here on earth.  Not one to be easily satisfied, she decided to also visit her sister Ereshkigal, who is queen of the underworld.  Ereshkigal is immediately threatened and becomes very angry that Inanna would dare to visit her there in the underworld, so she devises a plan.  She sets a guard at each of the seven gates of the underworld.

As Inanna descends through the 7 gates, she is instructed to remove a piece of clothing or jewelry each time.  So to go to the underworld (which can be seen also as a woman’s journey within herself), she must remove some piece of her facade.  Eventually, she faces her sister alone and naked, kneeling on the ground.  Her sister is not appeased, and kills her, hanging her from a hook, where she hangs for 3 days and 3 nights.

Inanna had secretly spoken with her high priestess, Ninshubur, saying that if she didn’t return in 3 days to find help.  Ninshubur goes to the Gods for help when Inanna doesn’t return, and Enki finally helps by creating two beings from the dirt under the Gods’ fingernails.  They intercede on Inanna’s behalf, and Ereshkigal agrees to release her, as her presence is causing Ereshkigal some pain.

Inanna is revived and allowed to leave, but Ereshkigal’s demons follow her up through the gates back to the surface world.  There, they demand that someone else must take her place.  They try to take several of Inanna’s servants, but are refused because her servants mourned her while she was in the underworld.  However, Inanna’s husband Dumuzi didn’t seem to mourn her at all, so he is taken in her stead.

He is kept for 6 months out of the year, and that is the time that Inanna mourns, which is the cause of Winter.

Foundation tablet from the Temple of Inanna at...

Foundation tablet from the Temple of Inanna at Uruk, dating to the reign of Ur-Nammu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goddess of Love

Inanna was one of the original love Goddesses, and a lot of the mythos of Aphrodite, Venus, Ishtar, Astarte, and Isis stemmed from her tales.  She was worshipped primarily in her city of Uruk as early as 4000 BC.  Her temples were places where sacred prostitution occurred, and a lot of her clergy consisted of asexuals, hermaphrodites, and ‘feminine men’.  (I especially love ‘feminine men’.)  Her high priestess would also enact the Great Rite (ritualized sex meant to ensure fertility) as a part of her worship practices.

Her holy day was the Spring Equinox (a good day for fertility rites), and her symbols were lions, owls, and an eight-pointed star.

My most vivid vision of Inanna, however, occurred during meditation one night.  I saw her not as the wanton Goddess of love and sex, or the serious Goddess, stripped bare and descending to the underworld.  I saw her hovering over a field of grain, dancing, while blessings of fertility and rain fell from her skirts onto the field below.  People on the ground danced with her as they were showered with her grace.  To me, she is that golden grain Goddess of fertility, as that is the face that she showed me.

English: Wheat field

English: Wheat field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Here is my Inanna Pinterest board, and my Inanna Spotify playlist.  Enjoy!  🙂

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My patron deities- Sarasvati (Air)

Creativity can be a double-edged sword. On one side, dreaming up and making beautiful things is wonderful, right? Whether you dream in poetry, write your truth, sing the song of your people, or bring a vision to life, you’re tapping into a process as old as humanity, and perhaps older.

However, what happens when you’re a manic creative? What happens when your ideas keep you from sleeping at night? What happens when the ideas come faster than your productivity?

That’s what happens to me when I get into a serious creative phase. Which I’m in now, incidentally.

(Speaking of, while I will continue to do what I’ve been working on- aka incenses and other goodies, some knitting/crocheting projects will be showing up as well.  I also have 2 short story ideas I’m noodling.  :-))

Dried green paint

Dried green paint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s the call of Sarasvati in my life. While she’s typically known as the Goddess of knowledge, writing, and music, to me she will always embody creativity in ALL endeavors including arts and crafts. Traditionally, Brigid’s affiliations with craft might have been a better fit for the things I do, but as I said in my last post, I felt called by the Lakshmi/Sarasvati rivalry. It’s a struggle I feel continually in my own life.

Do I want to be true to myself and be broke and creative? Or do I want to take time away from my creative endeavors to pursue enough money to live off of? I know there’s a solution where I can have both, but in 39 years, I haven’t found it.

Lakshmi and Sarasvati came to me when I was in my mid 20’s.  I had just left a very lucrative, but soul-crushing, job, and I was embarking on my first business.  It shouldn’t be surprising that it was an aromatherapy company.  It was called SmellyGirl, and it had a bit more Riot Grrl flavor than the things I tend to do now.  I was experiencing the joy of giving my ideas form with the aim towards making a living for the first time.  And I found it imperative to balance my creativity with enough practicality and gumption to actually make money at it.

What happened instead is that my very obsessive personality took over.  I surrounded myself with essential oils and bottles and bathsalts, and I made my own labels, and my own order forms, and did all my own graphics, and my own website, and promotion, and, and, and…  I worked 12-16 hour days with no rest.  I would go to bed at 4 am reeking of peppermint oil, and that is the LAST thing that will help you go to sleep.  So when I did try to sleep, I would just dream about what I would do tomorrow for the business.

Basically, SmellyGirl crashed and burned, and I did too.  I began to hate it and hate my life.  There needed to be a balance between my creative and my practical sides, and while I was burning myself out, I wasn’t able to bring it down to a practical enough level to make any money.  I made a few sales, but quit before anything could take off.

I’m still obsessive with Ravenson Reagents, but the fibromyalgia is forcing me to take it easier on myself.  It’s like my body has given me an internal alarm for when I start getting too type A about things.  That’s when the pain starts.  So, while the ideas continue, I don’t tend to try to do everything all at once anymore. There’s a balance to be found there too.

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But back to Sarasvati.  She is associated with water in Hindu legend, and there has been recent satellite imagery that has uncovered the path of the enormous and ancient Sarasvati river, which was thought to be a myth.  The idea is that knowledge flows like water, and while I do like that analogy, as a Western Pagan, she represents air to me.  She is the very embodiment of communication, inspiration, knowledge, and all things air in the traditional Wiccan element alignments.

She is usually clothed in white, and has 4 arms, representing mind, ego, intellect, and alertness.  She usually holds a veena (a musical instrument similar to a sitar), and manuscripts.  She usually has a swan at her feet, and is near or floating on a river.  Her festival is the Sarasvati Puja, and is celebrated at different times depending on which part of India you’re in.

Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi...

Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As always, here is my Sarasvati Pinterest board, and my Sarasvati Spotify playlist.

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My patron deities- Lakshmi (Earth)

Lakshmi came to me at the same time that her sister, Sarasvati, did.  She is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, luck, and family.  To me, she has always been the Queen of Pentacles, and all the groundedness and abundance that embodies.

She’s often portrayed seated or standing in a lotus, hovering over a river which flows as wealth flows, with coins dripping from one hand while the other hand is raised.  She is usually surrounded by elephants, (her son is Ganesha), though she is also associated with owls.

Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, I can’t find the legend anywhere now, but I read at one point that the sisters Lakshmi and Sarasvati were bitter rivals for the attention of the god Vishnu.  Lakshmi won him in the end, and Sarasvati was married to Brahma.  The legend then went on to say that because of their rivalry, and continued jealousy of each other, they cannot be in the same place at the same time.

Sarasvati is the Goddess of knowledge, music, poetry, and she’s always represented creativity in general to me.  So, for that reason, we have the starving artist/scholar model.  You can have wealth with no creativity or deep knowledge, or you can be a creative person or a scholar, but wealth will always flee you.

That legend spoke to me, and still speaks to me, and so I try to honor both Goddesses.  It’s always been my dream to be able to make a living as an artist, writer, or other creative type, but I always end up settling for a boring, mundane job to pay the bills.  I’m a practical goat.  But the hope is still there.  Perhaps my work on Ravenson Reagents will help me to achieve that balance.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with money.  In my family, money either came with strings or judgment or control attached.  When I was a kid, and then later in college, I learned not to rely on anyone else for money as I worked 2 or 3 jobs to get myself through school.  Then, when I graduated, I felt like it was all worth it when I got my first serious job.  I made a lot of money.  5X what I make now.  But I was also miserable.  My creativity was dying, I was angry all the time, and the stress was overwhelming.   The things I had to do for that money, and the compromises to my personal ethics just ate away at me until I couldnt’ stand it anymore.

After a series of layoffs, I have taken less and less pay, but each time I do, I end up with more personal freedom and feeling more myself.  Right now, at age 39, I’m in a job that hurts me physically, but otherwise isn’t that terrible.  I have ‘regulars’ that I genuinely care about, and I also like the people I work with.  However, again, it’s crushing me physically and financially.  So this obviously isn’t the answer either.

In the back of my mind, I know that there’s a way to make a living that doesn’t require so much compromise on either side, but I feel like I just keep missing it.  Other people seem to get it.  They seem to understand how to survive while staying true to themselves in a way that I’ve never really figured out.

That’s why one of my most common spells/rituals is the ubiquitous abundance/prosperity spell.  I have so many green satin bags filled with stones, herbs, parchment, and oils stashed around this house that I shudder to think what someone would say if they excavated the ruins in a thousand years.  In fact, I often wonder how much money I’ve spend on prosperity spells.

As with other spellwork, your outcome depends heavily on your willingness to put the work in as and after you’ve sent the energy out into the universe.  And I do work.  I work and work and work, but it seems like there’s an essential tidbit that I’m missing.  Some important piece of knowledge that would make it all work out for me and for my family.

The important thing is that I keep trying.  And I keep honoring Lakshmi.

India, Princely States. Arcot (Arkat). Muhamma...

India, Princely States. Arcot (Arkat). Muhammad Ali. 1751-1795. ::AV Pagoda (11mm, 3.38 g, 3h). Arkat mint. :Three Swamis standing :Arabic ‘ain in granulated field :::KM 14; MWI -; Mitchiner, South India II, 988 (under Umdatu al-Umara, 1795-1801). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s also the Goddess of spiritual wealth and of family wealth.  Those I have in abundance, and I’m incredibly grateful.

I enjoyed putting together a Lakshmi playlist on Spotify, but a lot of the hymns began sounding alike after a while.  So I also added in some abundance meditations.   I also have a Lakshmi Pinterest board where I’ve collected images that remind me of her.

Her holy festival is Diwali (aka Deepavali), which is celebrated in the New Moon between mid October and mid November.  It’s a festival of lights, reminiscent of Yule or Imbolc, where candles are prominent, and are displayed in windows during the long, dark night.

Diwali, Trafalgar Square

Diwali, Trafalgar Square (Photo credit: Paul Carvill)

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Concocting- What to do when your sources disagree?

Meanwhile, over on Ravenson Reagents…

Ravenson Reagents

I’ve mentioned before that research is one of the most important parts of how I create an incense blend.  But to be honest, sometimes I get stuck.  Like, really stuck.

Let’s take myrrh for example.  I’ve always used it to represent the feminine principle, as opposed to the sharp masculinity of frankincense.  I wanted to use it as a base for my full moon incense for that reason, but I decided to go through some books and websites to see if I could confirm that that would be appropriate.

Handful o' myrrh Handful o’ myrrh

Basically, I opened a research wormhole for myself.  For example, in Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick Series), Scott Cunningham attributes myrrh to the very male Sun energies, but also to (traditionally feminine) water.  In Wylundt’s Book of Incense by Steven Smith, it is attributed to Sun and fire, both male.  These…

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My patron deities- Yemaya (water)

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing about my patron deities.  I have a few, you see.  5 to be exact.  Actually, 6, but one is a special case, and I’ll talk about him last.  They’ve all revealed themselves to me at different times, and I intend to talk about them in that order.

My first spiritual experiences as a budding witch were by the ocean.  I have always felt deeply connected when at the beach, and that’s where I first practiced drawing circles in the sand in which to connect with deity, and also meditation.  I also learned to appreciate the gifts of nature picking up seashells, listening to the roar of the oceans as a soundtrack for my exploration, and feeling how the wind caked salt into my hair and onto my lips.

The ocean has always represented all the typical traits of water to me: emotion, ebb and flow, being pulled by tides and learning to surrender to deeper currents.  But I always felt like there was more to it than that.  There was the deep nurture/destroy dichotomy that reminded me so much of motherhood. Not the connected, personal experience of motherhood between one mother and child, but on a larger, global scale.  She truly is the mother of us all.  From the earliest beginnings of life, the ocean has birthed us, fed us, and her salty waters even flow through our veins in the form of blood.  She is also scary as fuck when she wants to be.

I felt this all one day as I was at the beach with a friend’s family.  We were there for 2 weeks, which was long enough for us to realize that we liked each other, but we didn’t have to spend 24/7 together either.  My friend and I had seen some enormous mantarays from the overlook in the backyard of the house we were renting, and we rushed to the beach to see if we could see them.  She soon got bored and went back to the house to watch TV.  (Who watches TV when by the ocean?  Such a waste.)

I spent time at the place where the water meets sand, watching the ocean, meditating.  (I had read books on meditation and hypnosis before I became interested in Paganism, and that was where I learned how easy it is to slip into alpha with the sound of ocean waves to ride along with.)  I was deep in trance, feeling the water as it washed over my legs, and I got the sense that there was some consciousness at work there.  It wasn’t just water anymore, it was a container for so many consciousnesses.  There were things out there that lived and died and they were held in her salty embrace, just as I was just then.  She was truly my mother then.

Back then, there was no Internet.  I’m very old, you see.  So I spent time when I got back home at the library, and researched as much as possible until I found Yemaya.

Virgin of Regla is the syncretic form of Yemaja

Virgin of Regla is the syncretic form of Yemaja (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It felt really right to me that she originated in Africa, where we did.  She is connected to the earliest primordial mother of the earliest people.  She is our source, and even the most landlocked of us sometimes still hear her siren’s call.

She is one of the Orishas (deities) in the Yoruban religion.  She has evolved into Yemaja, Yemanja, La Sirene, Watra Mama, and Diosa del Mar.  The Yoruban religion has spread and been incorporated all over the world, most specifically African, Caribbean, and Latin American areas, and the Orishas show up in altered forms in Vodun, HooDoo, and Santeria.

So I set out to make a playlist for Yemaya, and it wasn’t at all difficult.  I typed ‘Yemaya’ into the search function of Spotify, and was rewarded with HUNDREDS of songs.  I’m not kidding.  I gave up about half way through, but it just goes to show how she’s inspired so many.  The music is mostly Cuban, African, or a mixture thereof, (with some new age ocean sounds mixed in) and this is now easily one of my favorite playlists.  Enjoy it!

Cowrie shell

Cowrie shell (Photo credit: Gerry & Bonni)

 

EDIT 2/25/2014: I forgot to mention my Yemaya Pinterest board, my Water Pinterest board, and that Yemaya’s feast days are February 2nd, December 8th, and New Year’s Eve.

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