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What’s the Downside of Your Religious Experience?

The religions and spiritual approaches here at the Cauldron are varied and, by mainstream standards, unusual; presumably we each get something important from them, or we wouldn’t be doing this.

But as important as these religious paths/spiritual experiences are to us, what’s the downside? What’s the part of the experience that presents the greatest difficulty in life, perhaps in comparison to more mainstream religions?

For me, it’s feeling disconnected from others: having a lack of religious community. Which is ironic, because my nature-based paganism stems from and strengthens a deep and fulfilling connection to the natural world. But unlike, say, my Christian family members, there’s no weekly gathering of like-minded folks to bond with…and while my finding my own gods and writing their myths remains perhaps my most personally important and fulfilling undertaking, it remains exactly that–personal–and only intensifies the gap I feel with others, who have no understanding of the gods as I do. How could they?

I think, along with my fondness for a good debate, it’s the need to try to forge a connection on religious matters with others that keeps me coming back to the Cauldron.

Working with wilderness in cities and suburbs

wilderness photoThe current circumstances of my life have me wondering about the place of “the wilderness”–as physical locations and also as a set of ideas conceived by humans–in modern neopagan practice.

Over the past year and a half, while living on my own in the suburbs of Seattle, I’ve developed an eclectic personal practice. One of the cornerstones of this practice is my “hidden shrine”–a small outpost between my apartment complex and an overgrown lot that I use as a shrine to Hekate and other Powers. I go into more detail in the post linked about the meaning of that specific shrine, but one of its key features is that it marks a boundary between orderly areas inhabited by human beings and the ignored, unexamined wilderness. In my practice, that wilderness symbolizes a liminal space between here and the underworld/otherworld, which is very important as a symbol.

In less than two months, I’m hoping to move into the city of Seattle itself. I’ve been to the new apartment and had a look at its location–right on the waterfront, in the middle of downtown. This is wonderful to me–I’ve always wanted to live in the middle of a thriving city. But now that I’m working with this concept of “wilderness” as a meaningful liminal space, it poses a problem for me. There are no overgrown lots or lonely backroads here on the edge of multiple tourist traps in the heart of a major city of the Pacific Northwest.

So how do I adapt my practice to my new circumstances? I have a few ideas, but I’d like to see what others on the board have to say. More generally, how does working with wilderness, in whatever way you conceptualize it, figure into your practice, if it does? How have you had to adapt because of that?

Cautions and Precautions?

cautions photoI’ve been working to get back into my spirituality and practice, and in doing so have finally stumbled across something that I think, through causing me anxiety, has been restricting my progress. When I first started my path a year or more ago, I did a lot of varied research and looked for advice from a lot of different places on starting out in Paganism and the occult. One big piece of advice that I now realise impacted me quite heavily was that there are dangerous spiritual entities to be cautious of (I think the author referred to them as shadows or demons). My family has a history with the occult, and there have been some horror stories past down that aren’t exactly soothing to hear when starting out without much tangible guidance. Ultimately, I think this scared me off a bit from every practicing, or really enjoying the witchcraft that I was learning about, despite feeling naturally drawn to it.

So, I suppose what I really want to ask here, is what should I be cautious of when (re)starting my Pagan and occult path? I’m looking more for general advice and opinions. Should I be scared witless, or just extremely cautious? I know there are always risks involved, but the thought of any of those horror stories being true kind of puts a damper of the excitement of learning new skills and finding peace in my path. I want to hear from those with reason and experience (hence why I come to this forum specifically) what I should be cautious of, how to protect myself if necessary and what I need to know in consideration to the dangers and “darkness”.

I’m sorry for any ignorance on my own part. I’m going off of family stories, random internet information and that one freaky thread that scared me witless that one time, but unfortunately as a solitary practitioner and a student I have limited time and resources – reaching out to the community seems to be the most logical and direct resolution, even if only temporarily until I can gather more resources.

The Critter Year

As a nature-oriented pagan, I’m always looking for ways to connect with the wild; here’s one that will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, but might be a fun thought experiment: If you had to define the time of year by the bug or beastie that most epitomizes it, what would your critter calendar look like?

For example, here in NYC, I just this second heard my first cicada of the season; this to me signals the beginning of high summer, the latter half of that season. Fireflies epitomize early summer (but that wouldn’t apply in the west of North America, where fireflies don’t exist; so yes, geography matters in this). And perhaps, because their migration is so remarkable, I might choose the monarch butterfly as the standard bearer for early fall.

Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?

The apotheosized and the apotheosizing: working with deified mortals

A few months ago, I thought my gods were calling me to ancestor worship; it turned out they were telling me to look into actually worshipping certain deified mortals. I’ve been working that out ever since, and I’ve gotten an amazing amount of spiritual and personal mileage out of it. But it’s left me with a few questions.

One–has anyone else had similar experiences, wherein a known Power or set of Powers points them at worshipping the apotheosis of a historical human being? In my case, I was following gods who had very clearly previously identified themselves as Dionysos and his wife Ariadne when I got told to do the new thing as well–I have a suspicion these particular gods may do it more often, since they’re so associated with the process of apotheosis (see various studies of Dionysian imagery on funerary art; the one that’s stuck with me most is Kerenyi’s discussion of it in Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life). But I don’t know.

Two, and it’s a bit more complicated…how do you handle it when one of the deified mortals you’re naturally being led to is more apotheosizing than already apotheosized–that is to say, still alive? For a while I was simply ignoring that question, but I strongly suspect my life actually needs the energy of this particular Power-to-be, and I’m not sure how to approach that.

New Grimoire-thing

So I have ADHD and this means I can never decide how I want to do things. I get very excited about a notebook, but sixty pages in I realize I don’t want to take 200 pages of notes on Tarot cards in that book, or I don’t like the paper color, or now I want to paint meditations on goddesses… or heck, I just lose the notebook, or don’t want to carry three notebooks and a planner around with me, even though I often want to study/journal when not at home.

Well, I had an early birthday, and this is what I got:

It’s called a traveler’s notebook, and it’s the indecisive person’s journalgasm. If you’re not familiar, basically, it’s a cover, and you can add from one to seven or more little notebooks inside, and it’s easy as hell to make your own notebooks.

A lot of people use them as planners. Mine is my planner, but it’s also where I’m going to keep Tarot notes, notes on spells, my goddess work and studies, nature sketches, meditations, other spiritual stuff, etc.

It’s also fat, and I love fat leather-bound notebooks:

It has pooockets!!! (That’s not my info on that card. It’s a card for a yoga studio I picked up somewhere.)

A bit of cover art:

Just thought I’d share! I’m super excited about having a flexible place to keep notes on my practice and spiritual explorations since it’s ever evolving and I have the attention span of a lobster. And I figure if something is working for me, it might work for somebody else. I love the idea of a gorgeous illuminated book where I keep all of my deep magical and spiritual wisdom (that I definitely don’t have at this point), but the odds of me ever completing such a thing are nil and would paralyze me anyway at this point in my spiritual journey. (Btw, the original Midori traveler’s notebooks are kinda expensive, but mine is from Amazon, and if you live in the US Michael’s apparently has a super cheap faux-leather version if you’re poor like me and don’t have a convenient birthday coming up.)

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More on: The Cauldron’s Web Site

The Cauldron’s web site sprawls over two domains and many subdomains. The material on ecauldron.net is older and the material on ecauldron.com is newer.

Ecauldron.net holds material from 1998 to 2010, with several styles and page designs — some of them dating to the turn of the century. We tried to update this site in 2010 to bring it up to more modern HTML standards and improve the design. However, as each of the thousands of pages needed to be redone by hand, the one person trying to do this was soon overwhelmed and gave up. In 2011, we decided to leave ecauldron.net as it was and simply start a new site — this site — on ecauldron.com. Our sites have a common front page and all the material on the old site is linked to from the new site so we really have one big site spread across two major domains. If the site design shifts from something new and modern to something old and poorly designed, then you are on our old site. We apologize for doing things this way, given The Cauldron is a hobby with no budget for updating thousands of old pages, we figured it was better to keep the old material available in its old and not very beautiful form while placing new material in a modern state of the art in 2011 web site. Thanks for putting up with this.