Monday, January 27, 2014

B is for Betting on Myself (finally)

I am a writer. There, I've said it. Not, "I want to be a writer" or "I'm going to be a writer" anymore. I AM a writer. I spend so much time planning on doing that I never actually do. I tell myself that I'm not as good as others so I don't even try. I have so many ideas bugging me, so many stories waiting to be told. I am doing those ideas a disservice by fearing, doubting, and procrastinating. My life has been a long series of putting off my dreams for just one more thing to do before I take the risk and trust my art. As soon as I move, as soon as I finish school, as soon as I find a better job...

Last summer, a friend and I had a brainstorming session about a series of Pagan eBooks we want to write. Between health issues and holidays in retail our list still sits untouched. I created an outline for a Pagan cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo 2013. I even started the first chapter. Then I started what will possible be a Pagan science fiction story. I have a general idea where I want that story to go. It, like all of my other ideas, sits all sad and neglected. I have a very hard time letting go of insecurities. I'm getting older and starting to worry that where I am is where I'll always be.

I work retail, selling used books. I've worked for almost 19 years selling other's stories. It's something I'm very good at. Always have been. But it no longer makes me happy. And it leaves me so tired and sad at the end of the day, sapped of the energy to create. While I know a retail establishment is supposed to worry about profits, some of them used to care how they treated their employees. We were considered a valuable resource, an asset to company. Now we're just cogs in the moneygrubbing machine. And completely interchangeable. Individual knowledge of a subject has been replaced by keyword searches in a database. I won't even go into how the attitudes of the customers has changed. It wasn't until I started working on this post that I realized exactly why I stay even though the job is not what it used to be. It is simply because I am so good at the job. It was the one thing at which I felt absolutely confident I could succeed. It was my "sure thing" to always have a paycheck. As a Taurus I got comfortable in my rut. Now I spend my time fearing I'll never get out.

I've consulted my Tarot deck, my pendulum, and done spells for guidance. Then ignored the answers when they seemed too scary. My deities have all let me know that I need to take the risk, to trust that if I follow my heart as well as my head that the means to pay the bills will come. I hear it. I do. Then I freak out at the idea of not being able to feed my kitties. So I stay at the miserable retail job. Not anymore. One last "as soon as" and I'll take the jump. It is time to bet on my heart instead of my finances. I put my hands in my fictional Pagan graphic designer living in a small town (and in the broomcloset) in Texas. Sophie's stories need telling.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book reviews

I should have known better than to make a specific plan about posts. That usually means something else will come along and beg to be written instead. I will try to post about music once for each letter, but will no longer make promises. ;)

This week I'm making good on a promise made months ago. As a bookseller, I like to keep up with what's new and popular. I signed up on a site called Netgalley to receive advanced reading copies (in eBook format) to be reviewed on my blogs. Llewellyn was one of the first publishers to give me automatic download rights to any books available on NetGalley. I was very excited and chose several books that seemed interesting. Then nothing. I've read a couple and never blogged about them until now. I'll try to post reviews in a more timely fashion (and not only Llewellyn titles). This time I'm reviewing one book I received free and one I purchased., I'll talk about Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life through the Wheel of the Year by Jane Meredith. It is like others in that it talks about all of the Sabbats; their histories, what they mean, and ways to celebrate them. A major difference here is that the author starts each with her own experiences. She talks about her most memorable ritual with each Sabbat. Then she includes a full group ritual and activities. Her rituals are described in a way that you almost feel like you are with the group, celebrating as well.

I will admit that I didn't read the entire book, though not due to poor quality. It is geared to covens or group rituals and I am very much a solitary, rarely including more than a couple of people in my magick. I would still gladly recommend this to fellow Pagans who love to work in groups. The whole book gives the celebrations a very intimate and personal feel.

The other title is Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences by Sandra Kynes. I learned about this title through an e-mail I received from Amazon about upcoming books I might like. They don't always get those right. I immediately added it to my wish list and bought it shortly after it was released. I LOVE this book. The subtitle, a Comprehensive & Cross-referenced Resource for Pagans & Wiccans, is exactly what this book is. I'd recently been trying to compile for myself and my website a list that gave all the different correspondences for the intentions I use the most; candles, incense, herb, stones, deities, and more. Now I have that and more in a handy resource that I access regularly. The seven chapters each cover the different correspondence lists, starting with Intention. This is the perfect first section, as we tend to have a reason for a spell and then search for the perfect tools to help. The cross-referencing goes way beyond that. It includes sections on the plants, minerals, animals, deities, astrology and time, and other miscellaneous options. If I want to know what to use when working with Artemis, my primary Goddess, the chart will show everything from element and Sabbat to herbs, animals, and intentions. Or I can see the way to use my hematite or patchouli incense. It is indeed the most comprehensive list I've seen.

I do have my own ideas about some correspondences, some that make more sense to me. And I think everyone should choose what feels right to them. A wonderful example of this is a blog post I read recently when looking for tree correspondences for a novel I'm working on. The author adjusted her use of certain trees to reflect her local area. Like me, she's from Texas. We don't have some of the trees typically suggested for certain correspondences so she revamped her list for her location. The state tree of Texas is the Pecan, so naturally that will have more significance for a Texan than it might for others.

This is book is a great starting point and what every beginner could use to try out tools and see which ones work best for them. It puts lots of information in one easily-accessed location.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Awakening 2.0

Last year, I talked about not feeling energies. A friend talked with me about it and helped me to realize that maybe I do feel the energies, simply in a different ways than others. Because my experiences were not like the ones I've read about, I assumed it was something wrong with me. I do still believe that I am missing something, but it can be fixed. Looking back on my path, I figured out that I took many shortcuts. Simply reading about practices and rituals is not the same as actually putting them into action. I thought I could skip the "easy" steps and move onto the spell work. I tried to build a Pagan practice without creating a foundation on which to build. And now I'm paying the price.

So, time for Awakening 2.0, the right way. I kept a few of my beginner's books and plan to work through those again. This time without skipping the important basics. I am learning the deities I'm meant to work with and how to work properly with Artemis, the goddess I've been drawn to since childhood, long before I knew I was Pagan. I will build proper altars and use the tools. I will try other forms of divination aside from tarot, though I will continue with it as well, starting with the pendulum. It is something I can practice anytime, anywhere as long as I have on my pentagram necklace. My main pendulum will be a moonstone point I bought to honor Artemis. And a friend and I are working with "Empowering Your Life with Wicca" by Sirona Knight. It has twelve steps of empowering to reach my goals of love, health and prosperity. We'll take a week for each step (unless more are needed) and hopefully take control of many pressing issues.

While I know I can do the occasional quick spell for small things, I'll take the time on important work to call a circle, to work with all of the elements. I can only awaken my gifts and potential if I'm willing to do the work. All of the work. No whining that it's not working. No shortcuts. I'm very excited to begin to get to know my deities and what I can do with (and for) them. Another post last year mentioned a MAJOR problem I want to work on; the fracking in my area. That problem is too big for me alone. I will need to call on all who will listen, human and Goddess alike to repair such damage on a global scale.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A is for Arkona and Amorphis

Last year I wrote a post about music and how little Pagan music I really know. I think this year I'll do my music research along with the Pagan Blog Project. I'll learn new artists for each letter of the alphabet for the two weeks we post that same letter. I plan to try out all kinds of genres and music from all around the world. My choices for the letter A are both metal bands.

I think I'll like Arkona a little better than Amorphis, but I've only sampled a few songs from each group. I can imagine using some of their songs in spells that need a bit more passion and energy than I can muster on my own. Arkona is a Russian Pagan metal band whose lyrics are influenced by Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, using some traditional instruments to create a unique sound. Amorphis is a Finnish death metal band and while not specifically Pagan that I can tell, they use the Kalevala as inspiration for a large portion of their lyrics. The added bonus to learning about new bands is that I get not only a new kind of music in my already eclectic mix, but I'm picking up new cultures and mythologies. Very cool!