Thursday, August 30, 2012

Advice to a New Pagan

First, see what is. Feel it, notice it, observe it in your mind's eye. Know what is true, whether or not you understand it. You will observe many things without understanding them, or before understanding them. Know them anyway.

Some in this world will call you a liar for daring to declare that two and two make four. Maybe they were raised to believe otherwise. Maybe they never thought about it before, or someone they love insists the answer is five. Pity them, recognize whether your feelings are hurt, but go on knowing what is. They may hold the keys to lock you out, but they are only locking themselves in.

Trust your gut. Do not confuse it with another area just below. This mistake is common but avoidable.

If you have a problem, see whether it can be solved on a physical, non-magical level first. It's usually the easiest and most convenient way by far. Magic works, but it could be a Rube Goldberg machine when a Phillips head screwdriver was all you needed.

Your magic has the potential to be as good as anyone else's, in or out of any book, published or handwritten. Learn from others when appropriate, in person or in print, but create something original. In time, you will learn what to create and how to create it. For now, just be specific. Make sure it's something you want, exactly what you want. Don't include a meaningless extra in your spell just because it rhymes or the cat wants to participate. Go for the essentials.

Remember your morals, whatever they are. If you do magic, you believe that your actions have results. If you believe 'Do what thou wilt' and interpret it to mean 'Do whatever,' you won't be very powerful in any sense, spiritual or otherwise. Focus. Care.

Your kitchen might look like you're quite the cook if you have food splattered all over the pots. Really, it just means you did a lot of cooking and made a mess. The proof is in the results, not in the resemblance to some sappy 'art' about a cook's kitchen. The same goes for your magical workings. You don't have to put on a big show (unless you want to). Clean up your mess, or don't make one in the first place. It's not about the splatters.

You are probably not a fluffy bunny, so don't worry about it. Just learn stuff and get stuff done.

And whatever else you may do, keep knowing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What's In Your Sandwich?

If I could give just one bit of advice to the world, it would be this: look carefully at your sandwich before you eat it.

Let me begin by saying I love sandwiches. Peanut butter and banana, roast beef and cheese, cranberry Tofurkey. I don't care. They're great.

And then there's the bread. The texture and maltiness of a pretzel roll. Some nice crunchy multigrain on a tangy tomato sandwich. Even plain old squeezy white bread will do in a pinch. But my latest favorite, thanks to local culture, is the crusty Cuban bread on a hot pressed Cuban sandwich. Preferably eaten on the beach and guarded carefully from seagulls.

And before anyone asks, I'm not even talking about the kind of 'sandwiches' discussed on How I Met Your Mother. I mean the kind you EAT (although of course I will be speaking metaphorically as well).

My point is, I have had so many wonderful sandwiches over the years that I have come to expect that every sandwich will be good. So it's tempting not to bother investigating a little and just assume.

Assuming is what I did one day years ago, when I had an appointment I was very enthusiastic to make on time. I had just my own strong legs to carry me from the bus to the building and very little time. I stopped into a gas station and bought a croissant sandwich with ham in it, or some kind of related meat. Actually, to this day I am not sure what was in it, and therein lies the problem.

I paid for it and started munching briskly as I walked just as briskly down the road to my destination. It wasn't the best sandwich I'd ever had. I wondered if they just used cheap meat or something. Whatever. I was hungry, and it was food--right?

By the time I'd eaten half of the sandwich, I looked at it closely in the sun and saw something that does not belong in any variety of sandwich. The croissant was shot full of blue streaks of mold.

Naturally, I stopped right then. The mold did not end up making me sick in the slightest, and I got to my event on time. And yet: I ate mold!

Now, you could theoretically say that it's not so bad. Perhaps I should be grateful for the hands who prepared the sandwich and sold it to me. Perhaps I should remember that under certain controlled circumstances, penicillin can save your life.

I don't buy it. I draw the line here.

There is a difference between seeing the best in a situation and seeing little bits of goodness left in the middle of corruption. I have heard the latter called silver mining. I don't believe in silver mining. I believe in looking at life in the sunshine instead of the dim fluorescent lights of the store and seeing what I can see. If it is good, great! If not, I don't have to eat it.

What a freeing thought: you don't have to eat it. As a charter member of the Clean Plate Club, I am amazed at what this revelation has done for my life. I don't have to stay with abusive 'friends' like I did when I was a kid. I don't have to participate in activities that do nothing for me just because they're popular. I don't have to date someone who does me wrong just because some of what the person does is right. That sandwich I don't want is not the only sandwich in the world.

Where's the Pagan connection? It's right there in your tarot deck.

My friend Byron, who has probably been reading tarot since she was in diapers, says we are living in Tower Time.  In other words, what has been previously taken for granted as The Way Things Are is coming down, sooner than later. However, it's not time to panic. It's time to see what you can see and do what you need to do. Her neverending refrain is to ground, center, and shield. Good advice.

When someone points out to you that the Tower you live in is crumbling--or when you discover this for yourself--don't take it personally and don't be afraid. It's the alarm going off, and it's there for a purpose.

It's okay to get out, whether this is a drill or not.

It's okay to put down the sandwich.