Thursday, 30 April 2009

Changing Daily Practice

I change my daily practice on Beltane and Samhain in order to keep it fresh and not merely habitual. My daily practice for the next 6 months will be as follows:

  1. Star Goddess candle and Star Goddess prayer
  2. Grounding and gathering Feri fire in the belly
  3. Short form casting of Circle
  4. Acknowledging of Guardians
  5. Prayer to the seasonal Gods of the Lemniscate
  6. Prayer to the Twins
  7. Opening statement of intention
  8. Awakening of the body and souls
  9. Ha Prayer
  10. 3 soul affirmation
  11. Sitting practice
  12. Blessing pentacle
  13. Thanking Beings and closing Circle

The Currential Nature of Feri

Tomorrow is Beltane and while the Earth in my neck of the woods seems to be waking up, with the sunlight hanging around for a little longer each day, my personal energy is in conflict. On one hand, I feel more awake and alive, yet on the other my sexual energy has been on the wane. Usually the increased sun and light and heat get my juices flowing, but not this year. Now, normally it’s not that difficult for the juices to flow anyway (so to speak), but I haven’t tapped into the energy of the Wheel just yet. However, I feel so grateful that I can actually recognise that fact. The deep practice of daily self-awareness has helped me to recognise shifts in my energy. It doesn’t happen all the time (I’m nowhere near Adepthood!!) but I’m glad that I can observe such shifts on occasion.

This tapping into of energy has made me appreciate the importance of having a living, breathing teacher in Feri. Although I have learned a lot from books and the Internet, the interaction with a teacher has been the most important facet of my training. Feri tradition, as I understand it, is neither an orthodoxy nor orthopraxy, not defined by beliefs or practices. Rather, I have come to see it as a currential tradition. The transmission of the tradition is in the current of energy passed at initiation. Nevertheless, I do class myself as Feri even if I haven’t yet been initiated. I feel that being in a regular circle with initiates allows some of the Feri current to transmit via some sort of etheric osmosis, one which gives me a monthly preview of what’s in store after initation…which is when the real work begins. 

Monday, 20 April 2009

Infinite Mystery

During the last two days’ sitting practice, during which I try to empty my mind other than focussing on my breath, the infinity symbol, the lemniscate, has popped into my mind.

The first time, I just saw a stationary lemniscate symbol and a huge tunnel. I could peer through the tunnel and I caught a glimpse (only momentarily) of infinity, or at least the version of infinity that my finite brain could comprehend.

Yesterday’s sitting practice involved the lemniscate symbol but this time the lemniscate was flowing and flowing until the mid point grew in energy. This point then exploded and expanded into a disc that bisected the two halves of the lemniscate and carried on whirling. This then further grew into a sphere, which I saw as the universe.

Anyway, I can only barely understand what it all means but it sure is interesting stuff.

PS Oh yeah, and today I was walking past a woman with an infinity symbol tattooed on her neck. Cool.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Of Sacrifices and Offerings

In modern Paganism, the concepts of offerings and sacrifices are a bit of a muddy area. Of course, there are the traditional offerings of ‘Cakes and Ale’, but the reasons for this are not normally explained or gone into much depth. (NB I first came across the importance of offerings and sacrifice in Deborah Lipp’s fantastic book “Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water and Earth in the Wiccan Circle” and that’s where my inspiration for this post comes from.)

So what are offerings and sacrifices? Normally, these terms are used interchangeably, but I think there are several important differences. Firstly, offerings are given freely, whereas a sacrifice is something you give because you have been told to by the Being to whom you are offering. Secondly, a sacrifice should cost you something, whereas an offering is often given in order to celebrate plenty.

Furthermore, to me, sacrifice implies the giving of the life force. We give sacrifice in order to take part in the cycle of life and death, more specifically the death part, which we don’t often work with in modern Paganism. Ok, we recognise it at Samhain but that’s pretty much it. Most traditions don’t consciously work with Ancestors either. By taking part in the death part of life, we learn to fully embrace all of ourselves. (I would know myself in all my parts…)

By ‘giving of the life force’, I actually mean ‘taking’ of the life force, or taking life. In my practice, this doesn’t mean taking an actual life, as it would in Santería or other similar traditions. Rather, I use substitutes. The main substitutes for an actual life include eggs (which held the potential for life), flowers (which were alive and are dying), or bodily fluids (which helped to continue life). I often sacrifice these items with the following prayer, or something like it:

“I sacrifice this (item), in honour of the life force. For even as we celebrate life, we recognise death. For without death, life would have no meaning. Life is precious, because it shall ultimately end. We take part in that cycle, and learn to love all of life.”

Appropriation of the Orishas?

Over the past few months I have been reading about Santería and I have been impressed with how much followers of this religion embed their beliefs into their lives. The Orishas are consulted over every aspect of the adherents’ lives; there are strict rituals to follow, and etiquette to respect. I have had several dreams involving the Orishas. The first such dream occurred a few months ago and it involved Chango, in his form of Saint Barbara. This was a very powerful dream, and I remember seeing St Barbara clearly surrounded by fire and lightning, holding her cup toward me. More recently, I have had two dreams during which a couple of Santeros were debating over which Orisha crowned my head. This was very interesting, given that followers of Santería believe that everybody has a mother and a father Orisha, with one being the primary Orisha, even if that person doesn’t follow the religion or believe in Orishas.

There is a lot in Santería that I would like to adapt and incorporate into my own practices. However, I am worried about cultural appropriation. My main concern is this: if I wanted to invite the power of the Orishas into my life, is there a legitimate way of doing this? Obviously I could try and train in Santería but there are, as far as I know, very few Santeros (if any) in the UK and I am satisfied with Feri being my primary tradition. Also, there are certain things that I do not find appealing about the religion, namely animal sacrifice. Aside from that, is it appropriate to work with the Orishas without observing their traditional rituals? We do it all the time with other pantheons, so why not with the Santos? I would argue that given that Santería is a living religion, unlike Greek/Roman/Egyptian religions, the beliefs of followers should be taken into account, and I’m sure they wouldn’t agree with a Witch working with the Orishas.

But what would the Orishas think?