Looking for Some Help with Empathic “Gifts”

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The basic gist is this – my mom’s mom was an empath. So was her grandmother. And sadly, so am I. (Got another wallop from my dad’s side of the family, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.)

And frankly, it’s becoming a problem. As in I’m well on my way to shut in with a load of cats and my knitting status. It manifests itself in 2 ways:

1) People tell me things. Pretty much all the time, anywhere I go. I’ve had people burst into tears at the grocery and begin to tell me their husband is cheating on them, that they had a few too many to drink and clipped a car and left without telling, they think they might be gay, their hamster died, whatever. The running joke in my family is I should go get a job down in Langley. Forget waterboarding – me, a pot of tea, maybe some cookies? I will have the location of the bomb, the members of their cell, their mom’s middle name, and the girl who broke their heart in the 4th grade in under an hour. I seem to generate this “Traveling Confessional, line starts here” field.

2) Part of it’s my own fault – but it’s not that I care that I ask people, that I reach out through the noise. If you lock someone who really doesn’t like kids (but also isn’t a psychopath) in a room with a screaming baby, they will pick the baby up and try to figure out how to calm it down. Not because they suddenly are filled with maternal instincts – but because they are getting a raging migraine and want. the. screaming. to. stop.

So much noise, so much… weight behind things. People just scream their emotions out it seems anymore and I’m… frankly, I’m struggling. I need to learn how to, if not shut it off, them at least turn the dial down. Learn how to use it when it’s honestly time to do so. In situations where folks really truly need to talk something out and it will help, I want to help. I can’t NOT help. It causes physical pain if I don’t help. It’s just there is so much… clutter and so many people who just grab hold and try to use me as their personal emotional trashcan. I attract a lot of emotionally greedy people and things would be a lot worse without my husband – he’s as close to a null as I think a person can be. He’s my mountain to hide in. My wall. But even he struggles under the tide lately, he’s becoming a lot more aggressively protective and I know it’s tough on him. I just don’t really know where to look to learn how to deal with this ‘Gift’.

Any suggestions, directions, shoves, or comments would be greatly appreciated. I tried going to a local coven after being invited by the head of the group. But by the end of the night, after wave after wave of out of nowhere revelations and secrets, she tried to pull me aside to talk about how to start handling thing. In the midst of that, the conversation began to shift, until she was talking about a fight she had with her husband and how her daughter has this cough she is worried about…. she stopped talking suddenly, looked totally freaked out, and then told me as nicely as it could be stated that I really needed to leave. That she was sorry, and I was a nice person and all, but I needed to leave. And not come back. That I would be a disruption to the rest and that I wasn’t to return. Or contact the people in the coven. Which… yeah. Kinda needing some guidance here.

Vengeance and Justice?

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon - Justice and Divine Veng...
PJustice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished a sci-fi novel by John Scalzi called Fuzzy Nation, and it got me thinking about the idea of vengeance and justice. To sum it up, there were a handful of characters in the novel who committed some completely unforgivable act, and I’ve never felt such indescribable rage against a fictional character before. All I wanted was for horrible things to happen to them, and was incredibly unsatisfied by the consequences for their actions.

All that said, I was wondering how others here feel about the ideas of vengeance as justice. I know that Christian culture emphasizes the values of forgiveness and judgement being God’s domain, but pagan history is filled with characters motivated by righteous anger and quests for retribution. Essentially, I was just wondering how other pagans let these emotions effect them, and the role you allow them to take in your personal philosophy.

Personally: When it comes to law/justice, I tend to be fairly liberal. I understand the kinds of circumstances that can lead one to crime, and I think law should focus on reparations to victims first, correction of criminal behavior second, and punishment a distant third. However, some crimes (particularly crimes that affect the defenseless or are completely motivated by greed) make me just want to squeeze people’s heads until they burst. Other than that, I can’t really put my feelings on the matter into words yet.

So, yeah. What do you all think?

Why Bother with Gods?

The crown of Cybele represents the walls of th...
The crown of Cybele represents the walls of the city she protects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s all sorts of ideas about what a god is, and why to worship them. I’ve noticed that a lot of neo-pagans see it in terms of a personal relationship of sorts, a friends with cosmic benefits, you could say, I suppose.
While there’s parallels with this relationship in ancient religions, it wasn’t the norm by any means. Gods were more often involved in a business type situation with humans, the whole do et des. I know in ancient Greece, Babylon and Rome, gods were worshiped because they were communal benefactors and “mascots”, for lack of a better term lol.

What this has me wondering is, why exactly should one be involved with deities at all? No one lives in a city-state with a patron god who is expected to be venerated simply due to custom. The existence or importance of a particular god is not a given, and not really encouraged. So what does one get from the relationship at all, since it’s no longer communal identity? Material benefits? “Spiritual”? Or are they just big life coaches and therapists? heh.

I’m genuinely curious, because I’ve worshiped several deities throughout the years, on a semi-regular basis, and have never experienced any kind of tangible contact – tangible in the sense that it couldn’t be said that it was where I was simply looking for confirmation or messages, therefore attributing coincidences to something involved with a deity. And the subsequent theistic-leaning agnosticism I’m now in has made me wonder what the point is to begin with.

Thoughts? Outbursts?

Is this Syncretism?

Syncretism (Photo credit: Drpoulette)

I understand the basic concept of syncretism. Some cultures have had natural interchanges that have resulted in syncretism. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Romans and Greeks had this kind of relationship.

I have also seen the word “syncretism” to define paths of individuals who blend different traditions or perhaps worship deities of multiple pantheons, honoring each one according to their own tradition as best as possible.

I wonder if syncretism might describe another combination. Let’s say a person practices a traditional path, like Buddhism, but the person has created other rituals and concepts relevant to hir and has maybe even written rituals and stories for entities that don’t come from any mythology or culture or religion but are based purely on personal experience. These additional beliefs and rituals are added as a supplement and commentary on the person’s religion, creating a worldview complete in itself.

This is largely my own situation. Is this syncretism or is it something else since it doesn’t involve borrowing from other cultural traditions?

Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift

The simplified relation between the languages ...
The simplified relation between the languages Dutch, English and German. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Languages evolve, and populations that once spoke the same language will end up speaking different (although related) languages given enough time, if those populations become distinct. For example, English is a Germanic language, but an English-only speaker and a German-only speaker couldn’t converse with any understanding. The English word for the stuff in oceans, lakes, and streams is “water”; in German it’s “Wasser”. Different words meaning the same thing.

So what about deities? Are (for example) Odin and Wotan the same god, and only the name changes, depending on the people? Or are they different, if similar, gods? How does one make that determination?

Invariably one’s understanding of the nature of deity comes into play in this. It’s relatively easy for soft polytheists like myself to answer this question, but I’m interested in what hard polytheists have to say too.

Interpretations of Animism?

Animism (Photo credit: Max Braun)

I’m hoping to get a good discussion going on animism here and our experiences. I’ll provide a little background on where I’m coming from.

First off, I have to say that I haven’t read a great deal on traditional animistic cultures at this time. Of course, I do need to learn more about that aspect of it to broaden my perspective, but the reason I haven’t looked into other cultures much yet is that I had an encounter in the middle of the night in the woods near my house and came back home an animist. I can’t really go into details here, but it was beautiful, terrifying, and very dangerous. Before that point, I accepted animism intellectually, but I hadn’t really experienced it myself.

I am coming to animism strictly based on my own experiences, not based on what I have read of other cultures, so I know that I could be completely different from traditional animist beliefs. In a way, I’m a clean slate when it comes to this — until I can broaden my studies all I have are my own experiences to go on. I’m okay with this, though, because it grounds my beliefs in my own local reality, culture, and worldview. I feel like it is good for me to get a grounding based on how I experience the world before I delve too deeply into other cultures. It gives me a good context, and it’s exciting!

I don’t really have all the details of my emerging worldview worked out, but I do have some tentative ideas. For instance, I have a shrine in my living room for house spirits. Some of the spirits I can tell are local and may not move with me when I go, some of them I know will go with me. The shrine is decorated with objects from around my house or from garage sales, etc., which feels appropriate for house spirits. Some of the pieces I really believe the spirits animate when I interact with them, others like the goats on my shrine represent any spirits in my house in general or nature spirits near me, but not specific entities.

My approach to getting to know the spirits is this: if I see a statue or something that resonates with me, I’ll put it on the shrine. Over time, as I make offerings, I will get an idea of a spirit that has connected to the symbol. Depending on how deeply that spirit impresses itself on me, I may give it a name and create devotions. For example, I have a statue of a topless woman with red pants and black skin. Over time I have come to call her the Black Mother. I associate her with the night sky (or a stormy sky in day time or night) and chaotic elements. When I have to move pretty soon, I’ll move her symbol (I personally refer to it as an emblem) since the night sky will go wherever I go.

I’m a little hazy as to the origins of the various kinds of spirits. I’m really unfamiliar with this outside of my own experiences. But I do have a general idea. I think the universe is ultimately chaotic based on my encounter. That’s kind of how I look at my house spirits. When I move to another house, I’m sure the shrine will look different, I might meet new spirits, some may come, some may go. I think in some real sense my experiences will focus how these spirits emerge out of the chaos we all came from. I believe these spirits are still evolving and changing, just like everything else. Ultimately I believe everything is one. I am not separate from rock or the earth. Ultimately my consciousness emerges out of nothing. I can’t separate myself from a rock — we are both mostly empty space. My consciousness emerges out of nothingness — it is at least an extension of everything else in the universe (or I wouldn’t exist at all).

Outside of my home, I do visit the woods where I had my experience often. Sometimes I make little offerings of bread and water or bird seed, and I usually bring a bag to pick up trash. I can feel spirits there, but I get the sense that they stay there, so it’s a little different from my house spirits. My house spirits are more familiar to me as they seem to live in the house with me and we have a closer connection, but I’ll continue to work on my relationship with the others since they are the ones who brought me into this new perspective to begin with.

I’m wondering if anyone else has a take on this subject. If you are animistic, how do you interpret it? Is your perspective more based on personal experience, studying animistic cultures, or maybe a little of both? Are there any ways in which you think your animism is different from traditional animistic cultures and religions? Did you have an encounter that led to your animism?

I’d love to hear some other perspectives! Thanks.

On Deity, or Where the (Really) Wild Things Are

Deity (Photo credit: Mabacam)

I would like to raise a discussion about the nature/experience of deity; I welcome any input of course, though I am also particularly interested in hearing from individuals who write, roleplay, act, and/or otherwise create fictional characters.

I am just beginning my study on pagan based religion, after a long standing interest. I am very drawn towards the concept of multiple, distinct deities, though I haven’t settled on whether I take a hard polytheistic stance, or a softer “all are facets of the one” stance yet.

What I am struggling with is how to discern experiences of deity from experiences of imagination, archetypes, the subconscious, etc. The reason I specifically asked for input from individuals who create fiction, is because as someone who very casually roleplayed in my younger days, I have nonetheless had the experience of a “living” fictional character in my head. While I am sure I used some archetypal personality structure for these characters, they had their own experiences in the roleplay, and seemed to exist as distinct individuals in my mind. If I wanted, I could have a mock conversation with them, as well as being aware that their advice or opinions on specific issues may differ from mine, or from other of my characters. Being creations of my mind, their input was almost always available on a whim – of course with more nuance and detail the more I had been thinking about the roleplay and that character.

I am given to understand this is not an unusual experience for individuals who roleplay or write stories. I would think this is also similar to how individuals can internalize close relationships, such that they can almost “talk” with their mother, or best friend, etc., in their own mind. What I struggle with is whether (and if so, how) this can be differentiated from the process of actually getting to know specific, individual, pre-existing deities?

So, my question for all: How do you discern between the voice and experience of deity, versus the voice and experience of any other internalized character (e.g., the internalized voice of your mother, your fictional character, your best friend)? In particular, for individuals who have created very nuanced or detailed character types in their head, how are interactions with those characters different from your interactions with deity? How are they the same?

Thank you all kindly for reading, and for any answers you’re willing to provide! I am guessing the answer to this will be different for everyone, so I’d love to hear any points of view – from hard and soft polytheists, as well as individuals who work with more universal deity concepts, archetypes, land spirits, other forms of self, spirit guides, anything!

Gaulish Polytheism/Paganism

Relief of Nantosuelta and Sucellus from Sarrebourg
Nantosuelta and Sucellus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first looked into Paganism, initially, I gotta admit my first reaction on Gaul was Gaul = French…eww! I explored other cultures and pantheons, however as time went on I found a strange attraction to Gaulish deities that I never expected or seemed to have with the others that I looked into. I do not have any French ancestry (that I know of) and have mostly Irish and Danish ancestry, so it puzzled me initially. But the more I think about it, the more it just feels right. The gods I feel close to are Belenus, Rosmerta, Grannus, Sucellus and Epona. Does anybody work with any of these deities? If so, how do you see them?

The thing is, information on Gaulish Paganism is scarce and there seems to be very few Gaulish Pagans out there. Is there anybody on the forum who is a Gaulish Pagan? I was wondering if there was any books/websites/anything else you could recommend that I look at.

The Watchtower Ritual: Is It Necessary?

English: A chart of the Enochian alphabet with...
A chart of the Enochian alphabet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve done a decent amount of reading and research into Ceremonial Magick, and a common denominator has been this massive Opening and Closing by Watchtower, involving elemental weapons, Enochian calls, a “tablet of union” and all manner of pomp and circumstance. Only after performing this ritual could anything practical, be it charging a talisman or evoking a spirit, be attempted.

So my question: Is it really as necessary as it seems to be portrayed as being? I like Ceremonial Magick (I’m a witch first, don’t get me wrong, but I have varied interests) but I frankly don’t have the physical materials to make the Watchtower possible. I’ve read that it was supposed to replace the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram, which is less material-intensive. Would that work instead?

Am I barking up the wrong tree here? Am I over thinking things? I just feel like I have to leave my studies incomplete (which I hate doing) because of this one thing. What would you say is the bare minimum of preparatory rituals for a ceremonial operation?