Project Conversion

Project Conversion


What my Backyard Taught me about Wicca

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Yesterday, it happened. It happens every month: A glimpse of understanding, a moment of Satori when suddenly, I connect and chaos briefly resembles order before dispersing again.

The first week of every month is about rituals and practices. Here is where I set the tone, establish a rhythm, that way I can break free later. I had a hard time with that so far this month because of the initial difficulty earning the trust of some within the Pagan and Wiccan community. Now that those fires have cooled some, I am able to focus and slip into the groove of my practice.

If you’ve followed me on Project Conversion for a while, you may notice a pattern. Although I have a Mentor each month, I typically wander off, inch by inch, from their overall particularities and explore the faith more independently. This is where the sparks fly and the magic (no pun intended) really happens. In my experience, this it one of the most crucial times for any spiritual explorer. This is when one sees truths and concepts for themselves instead of relying on what they are told. What’s so amazing about the numerous Pagan paths (particularly Wicca) is the concept of exploration.

Call upon the Goddess and God to protect you and teach you the secrets of magic. Ask stones and plants to reveal their powers – and listen.” –Scott Cunningham, Pagan and Wiccan author

Ask stones and plants…and listen. Wicca appears to be a spiritual path based on profound interaction between the God and Goddess, nature, and the learner. At some point, the practitioner might come to understand that there is an eternal bond between all three in the form of quantum energy. I’m not sure, but so far it looks like we can ask this question directly.

I have one Mentor but many teachers each month. Most of them are from the Congregation on the Facebook page, but I have never thought of the “stones and plants” themselves being teachers as well. Just as I pondered this idea, a Pagan friend and long-time follower of Project Conversion sent me a wonderful lesson plan for working with the elements. Much of this included not just recognizing and respecting the elements…but communing with them–most notably–a tree.

“Ask the stones and plants…and listen.”

Okay, I’m listening.

I thought this would be a great time to visit the Temple at the river. After all, this is where my most profound experiences have taken place this year. Trouble was, I didn’t have the fuel to get to the river and we’re pretty stretched financially right now (big reason all of my items are handmade this month), so I couldn’t even afford to go. Frustrated, I walked out into my back yard wondering what to do. Then, I looked up…and it happened.

 

The Blackjack Oak in my backyard saying, "Wassup?"

According to many sources, the oak tree is considered a symbol of the Horned God, a name common to Wiccans and the greater Pagan community alike. This tree towers above all others within a few blocks of our house and one of its branches shades a good third of our yard. I got the message. I don’t have to travel to a far off grove, temple, shrine, or so-called “sacred” place to commune with nature, the God, or the Goddess. They were right in front of me the whole time. Everything I needed to learn could be found within this half-acre lot. I ran inside, grabbed my camera, and spent the next two hours watching, listening, and tripping out over the enormity of such a small, seemingly insignificant space. Here are some of the lessons I learned…

Beauty is both simple and complex and can be found in every space, if we but stop for a moment, look and listen.

Can you spot the three insects in each of these photos? I had to get uncomfortably close to capture these, but would have never noticed these busy creatures had I not stopped cluttering my mind with noise and simply paid attention. What could we all see and be a part of within our own micro-environments if we acted as if we were a part of them?

Barriers are an illusion. In these two photos, plants break through the walls mankind sets up in order to “control” nature. There are few lines in nature, only curves, and by their nature curves bend around everything. To live as if we are nature’s master is a grave mistake and as these plants display, time and even the most gentle of consistent pressures surmounts any barrier. How can you become closer to your natural environment today?

See the squirrel? How about the lizard? I didn’t notice them until long after they noticed me. With the clutter and noise of our everyday lives, so much knowledge and beauty slips away. How much could we learn, how much more fulfilled might we be if we learned to reconnect with our natural space? We’ve convinced ourselves that we are somehow apart from nature. This is why we go camping or watch nature. At what point did we reach a place where we had to leave one space in order to be part of the natural world? What would our lives be like if we understood that we never left?

See the tiny mosquito on the middle of my knee? Just as I started getting a little too philosophical, a little too serious, this seemingly tiny, insignificant creature pulled me away from my daydream. The trip was over, but the lessons continue. This mosquito reminded me that no matter what we do, no matter how “advanced” we become, we will never be apart from nature. Our very bodies comprise of thousands of micro ecosystems–worlds only powerful microscopes can show us. We are a universe within a universe, and the God and Goddess are part of the rhythm and orchestra of life and nature which plays all around us, and within us.

From this point on, much of my posts will be about Wicca in general, however any aspects specific to a particular tradition will be noted as such. Fey Wicca then, becomes my base of exploration. This is how I am able to explore each faith each month without getting caught up with one particular sect, tradition, or denomination.

A wee child toddling in a wonder world,
I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens 
where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds,
the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers
If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.
–Zitkala-Sa



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abowen

posted October 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm


KoraKaos,

Ditto, my friend. Gorgeous.



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abowen

posted October 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm


Jenni,

Nice!



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KoraKaos

posted October 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm


Hi there Andrew.

Back when you were doing your Fringe month, I sort of fell away from the internet, not having it at home and also becoming more involved with “irl” activities- at first, mainly, the Hollywood Fringe Festival :) Therein I kept myself close with my friends and family, that is, the Fringe of society. Later, I come to look at how you had chosen that month to explore “Fringe” religion.

In my last post on my blog, before I had taken my little sabbatical, I posted about the Fringe festival, and my personal experience with it- which is invariably connected to my own personal religious experience. In said post I discussed something that you discussed in a post about cults: That ALL religions are cults. The word cultus, of course, is merely a Latin word describing choice of religion. I mentioned that, when someone asked me if I belong to a cult in that I belong to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I said no, but I do belong to Catholicism! And I thought to myself as I read your post, ah, if only everyone knew that the world “cult” meant any religion… instead of using it so negatively and hatefully. But you only learned it recently. And I do not think learning is a bad thing!

What I said exactly was, “Those are the sorts of fears that fearful minds get up to about any sort of group’s party (I actually had someone ask me if we were a “cult” in the skewed modern negative fashion; I answered that the only cult of which I am a member is Catholicism)- Bacchantes, Christians, Jews, more cults besides those to which those three groups belong, and certainly non-religious groups, all have been blamed for seekrit Satanic baby-eating rape rituals. Who knows how often that really happened; certainly far less often than was accused. But really, that stuff’s no good at a party.”

And now I see that you are exploring Wicca. And you are learning about Wicca. And that is good. We must all begin completely ignorant, and then learn.

And then I see Star Foster’s post. Lololol. “Foster’s Law: when any person attempts to give a shallow overview of any Pagan tradition they will inevitably proclaim we don’t worship Satan, don’t drink blood or don’t sacrifice babies. Because Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all start off talking about their faith with this disclaimer, right?” – Star Foster. Well…….. as you can see, as a Christian, and whatever else, I have done so!! But. I hardly think that matters as being at all the most important thing about a faith.

Don’t listen to Star or anyone else who tells you that you’re not being honest with religion. I have seen nothing to indicate that you are not doing a stand-up job. So she thinks you’re shallow; so what. Our lives as humans are short, wherein we are given to explore whatever we will. I do not think it is bad of you to explore so many religions, rather, the opposite: I admire you for it. Do not listen to her or anyone else of any religion who thinks you are shallow. So WHAT if you did not at first understand the intricacies of Wiccan vs. Pagan? You are LEARNING, as I learned, years ago. Who cares if you do not yet know the significance of certain heirloom tomatoes, haha? You are LEARNING.

I have plenty of Pagans tell me still today that I am not “Pagan” because I believe in an “Abrahamic” god. Whatever. (I have also literally had more Pagans than Christians call me heretic; curious! I have met more moody Pagans than Christians, I guess.) I do not bother myself overmuch with defining myself by a singular label. I will continue to call myself Catholic, Pagan, Yogi, whatever I think fits, others’ opinions be damned, because I know in myself that I am on a genuine spiritual path, connected validly and incredibly with the Divine, and that I follow a real truth, even if I am always LEARNING. And I do not think it is shallow to LEARN!

Namaste and God Bless always, Andrew.



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Jenni

posted October 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm


For the record, the Tree of Life (which may be a willow or just a generic/non-species-specific tree) is associated with the Goddess. :)



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abowen

posted October 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm


Marysu,

Cool! Thanks!



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abowen

posted October 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm


Jessi,

Amazing what we learn if we just take the time to watch, be patient.



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abowen

posted October 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm


Lopez!

Thanks for reading. Pentacle pic up today!



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abowen

posted October 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm


Beth Irwin,

Good question. The altar can be anywhere. I will keep mine inside, however I’m sure to create a space in my yard (simplified) and even at the Temple by the river.



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Jessi

posted October 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm


Although I don’t have any specific spiritual tradition tied to it, one of my favorite things to do when I really need to clear my head is go out into our yard (which is essentially being retaken by the wooded areas nearby, because we’re not much for landscaping), and take my camera with me which has a decent macro lens setting on it and see what I can find poking around in the grass and trees. You notice whole worlds you forgot existed when you’re crawling around on the ground trying to get a closer peek at what’s going on under the grass. I almost always find something interesting. Yesterday I found an ant hill where the new queens and drones were emerging, stretching their wings and taking off to start their own colonies. That was something I’d never gotten to see firsthand before, and something I’d not seen had I not been looking for it.

There’s just something very grounding about these experiences. I think I’d lose my mind without them :)



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J. Lea Lopez

posted October 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm


Very nice, Andrew. Then again, I’m a sucker for anything with nature pictures lol. I haven’t commented much the past few months, but I’ve been lurking and reading, and enjoying the journey.

Question: did I miss the promised pics of your homemade pentacle necklace? Inquiring minds want to know… :-)



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Marysu

posted October 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm


I love that you found your own backyard!! Even in the middle of cities we can find bits of nature calling us out. I am a follower of Avatar Meher Baba and he dictated a lengthy song/poem “You Alone Exist” which attributes to all things and beings what I call godliness or sanctity, including your pal the mosquito. I believe you can find this poem on the web;if you’d like to hear it sung go here: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/2245/You-Alone-Exist



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Beth Irwin

posted October 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm


Looks like you’re getting a refresher on meditation. Question from a practioner of another faith: Why not move your altar outside?



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