Tag: paganism

Life Betwixt – Wanna-Blessed-Be

Bunch of wannablessed-be’s. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she’s a sister to the dark ones.” – Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

I love that quote. It speaks to every judgment that can be made, one Pagan to another, that there is a right and wrong way to “do” Paganism, and that we all think we’re better for our way. Not to mention how it characterizes non-Pagans…

I’ve been mostly sitting back and watching the upheaval around public Pagan figures publicly questioning their Pagan paths over the last year, starting with Star Foster, and now Teo Bishop. There may have been a Facebook status or two, though for the most part, I’ve been silent, taking it all in.

Public personas aside, I’ve been seeing a lot of Pagan-bashing within the Pagan community, of late. I’ve received it, as I’m sure many who remain actively engaged with the wider world audience, have.

I’d like to say it’s disturbing. I’d even like to say it’s in direct opposition to all the things that make the Pagan path… Pagan. Mostly, though, what’s foremost in my mind is that it’s familiar.

Many of us weren’t born into a Pagan tradition; rather, we found one, after having been organized into a mainstream religion. And most of us who fall into that category have very clear reasons for why we left that confining spiritual path. While many don’t tend a particular flavor of Paganism, we gravitate to its freer pastures, its open landscape of possibility and connection.

The freedom to do just that is what made Paganism so accessible. Why, then, would any Pagan give grief to someone seeking out a more defined path, even if that path is defined by the strictures of a different religion?

Is it that neat and tidy for some, that it all fits perfectly into a single container, never to spill across the borders of other perspectives? Maybe. Apparently. I don’t think that’s the rub, though. I think it’s human nature to go off-road now and then, and frankly, to observe how others are faring in their adventure. Getting stuck in the mire of judging their religious choices is another thing, entirely.

As animists, we work the personal experience through the observation of and connection with all things around us, including other people. It isn’t about what spiritual path we’re on, or that anyone else is on. What matters is how well we’re working the tenets of whatever path we choose, perhaps particularly as Pagans. How true to our spiritual convictions can we be if we’re comparing ourselves to others? When we begin to personalize what everybody else is doing, how present are we in tending our own process?


Observe. Form opinions, then lay them at the altar of the ego, and move on. Ultimately it isn’t about being Pagan, another spiritual path, or some threatening, unidentifiable tract between. It’s about being a compassionate human.

Originally published at PaganSquare.

Weekly Rune – Berkano

Weekly Rune - Berkano, Intentional Insights by S. Kelley Harrell, Soul Intent Arts
Berkano – Tree – The forces of birthing hard work into manifestation are with us this week. Indeed, Berkano is about dues paid, and the rewards of that process.

Of course, we all know that satisfaction rarely resembles what we imagined when we began its process of creation. Specifically, while the outcome of a project or undertaking may be exactly what we set out to do, we, ourselves are not. During such progressions we grow. Our desires change, our needs, and maybe more than any of those, our perspective changes.

So while we are likely putting into place exactly what we meant to this week, we may not still want it. There is a trickster element to Berkano, in that it deals with deep feminine power, primal chaos that alters the manifestation process as we grow with it, as it becomes. In this way, this Rune ties to Loki’s mother, Laufey, the fir tree.

Through that connection, shades of Winter Solstice flicker in Berkano, interesting foresight, given that we are upon The Dark Time. Berkano is the spark to keep in mind as we enter the coming time of stagnation, processing, and allocation of resources.

Truly potent things are brewing. Stay with the process of their development, and carefully tend their needs, as well as your own.  Likewise, bless the path behind you, and realize that all of new life is ahead.

Weekly Rune – Laguz

Weekly Rune - Laguz, by S. Kelley Harrell, Intentional InsightsLaguz – Water – Growing up, my mother used to say, “Water always seeks its own level,” meaning, no matter what distance or depth, turbulence or change, water always takes up the amount of space it needs. No matter what the circumstances, water will always flow to its lowest point, then distribute itself to maintain a balanced surface. Symbolically speaking, its inherent ability to adapt is its gift to us.  In that light, Laguz isn’t just about water, but flow.

Anytime this Rune comes up in a reading, there is an emphasis on honoring the natural pace of things. Sometimes it can be hard to do that, as we tend to keep ourselves artificially busy with work, entertainment, distraction, etc.  Many of us aren’t in touch with our natural rhythms at all, and some of us who are may not want to go where life is leading us.

Consider the source of hesitation, the places in life where flow is held back. What feelings pool in those shadows? What fears dam awareness from breaking through? The message in Laguz is that it will come through; however, when we don’t go with the flow, a torrent will carry us away. A message that often underlies the Runes is that we can create change for ourselves, on our own terms, or the Universe will make it for us.

Take some time to stand in Nature this week, barefoot if possible, and regardless of the weather. Going with the natural flow means finding the places within that feel comfortable expressing the rhythm sensed without. That rhythm is always “right.” It may feel odd and awkward at first, particularly if it’s been a while since such intimate contact with the elements. One thing is certain–Nature knows right direction, and the element pointing it out right now is water. Connect with trust in that wisdom, and let go. Follow.

– Contact Kelley for a personalized Rune Reading.

Weekly Rune – Uruz

Weekly Rune - UruzUruz – Auroch – Anytime the wild things show up, it’s about to go big.  An initiation is upon us. When we encounter this Rune, we are not only engaging base primal forces, we embody them.

Part of the mystery and responsibility of being human–soul in form–is realizing our power. New Age culture has put great emphasis on honoring the soul, somewhat the mind, though significantly less the sacred nature of the body.

In reality, because we are in bodies, we have the greatest possibility to create impact as a soul.  After all, we chose to come here. We chose to engage in this frustrating, amazing, beautiful, intense way, and that creative tension is no better presented than in Uruz. We can circle personal life purpose from every direction, probe it from all vantage points, and core truth will always be the same, every incarnation, every being, every path: we exist to create ourselves as we truly want to be.

The work is only in figuring out who, perhaps what, that is. Therein lies our greatest responsibility.

How we imagine ourselves determines perhaps everything we do. What we do impacts everything, every thing. Such is the truth of animism, karma, the Law of Attraction, All Things. This is the level of power of Uruz.

Give deep consideration to how you create yourself this week. Are you who you want to be? What are your other options? Are the obstacles to being who you want to be limitations of your own imagination, or are they fear that the people around you won’t permit you to change? Whatever challenge impedes how you manifest yourself, this week universal forces collude to inspire Everything That You Are.

Contact Kelley for a personalized Rune Reading.

Weekly Rune – Laguz

Weekly Rune - Laguz, by S. Kelley Harrell, Intentional InsightsLaguz – Water –  Fascinating that Laguz visits as mere miles from me Chapel Hill is flooded with more rain to come, while across the country in Arizona, wild fires blaze out of control. In that light some greater bid for balance comes to mind, and the ever-humbling knowledge that humanity is but one tiny component of Nature.

Weather shamanism  is all about balance–not controlling rain or shine, but coming into concert with Nature in a way that the atmosphere isn’t just predictable, but the inner scape healthily adapts to it. Thus, when the inner being is tamed, surrounding elements rally in support. Balance is attained. Indeed, Laguz reminds us of the fact that it is our nature to go with the flow, a feat more challenging than just ego surrender.

In order to go with the flow we must be in balance internally, as well as externally. We must be able to release and trust the elements to carry us, without controlling where we go. How many times can we reinvent ourselves along the passage to faith? How many shadows, insecurities, and fears can we confront in the narrow gap between the realization that change is needed and the acceptance of it? A whole lot more than most of us would care to admit, I’m certain.

The surrender Laguz brings isn’t in masterminding a needed outcome or reaching a coveted conclusion, but in letting go in order for it to find us. Laguz reminds us keenly that it isn’t about the destination, but the journey, that when we let go, what we need is already there.

This week consider your relationship to Nature, and honestly assess how well your inner processes surrender to those seeking to provide support around you. Stop fighting the current. Whatever the circumstances, regardless of the weather, let go of what does not serve you and let it carry you.

Honoring Cycles

S. Kelley Harrell's Gift of the Dreamtime - Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma For years I thought I had reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I never felt particularly down in the gloom of winter, but in the overwhelming bright sunlight of summer. Funny acronym, SAD. I knew deep down, though, that’s not what it was. This time of year for me is a collusion of cycles ending and beginning, by which I specifically mean birthdays, anniversaries.

Just as there are the micro cycles we see and know throughout our lives all the time, also are bigger ones we aren’t so familiar with, until something happens, until something demands that we respect them.

However sad or appropriate it may be, the last time I was abused was the night before my 7th birthday, which is to say that I remember it vividly. There were candles, a pool party that wasn’t, rallying of troops, and a dire negotiation with the Multiverse–which for whatever reason worked out on my behalf. The juxtaposition of that event with my birthday, the most hallowed of holidays any of us can ever have–the opportunity to stand in the presence of the Multiverse and say, “I’m Still Here…” Well, let’s just say that for a very long time, I wasn’t convinced of that, and even when I was, it wasn’t easy.

I reached a point of quiet on that front some years ago, in my mid-thirties. The sting was gone, though a dull nothingness took up its place. Then something truly miraculous happened, again. On my birthday in 2001, I first held in my hands my memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime. The irony wasn’t lost on me, though I didn’t shrink to that. I realized as I thumbed through those crisp new pages that a new era was beginning. I had to bless the old, take up its weary bones, and let new being take form.

So it has. This year I celebrate my birthday, honor the child who brought me to it, and the support of people from around the world who first read about the crossroads of my birthday in Gift of the Dreamtime. It has become more than my memoir. In the true sense of the ancient healing story, it has inspired many others to listen to their own, to tell them, to share their truths.

This ninth year of its being, you can download the ebook from Amazon for free 28-29 June.

Thanks so much for giving it your blessing on its amazing journey around the world!

Weekly Rune – Ehwaz

Weekly Rune - EhwazEhwaz – horse – In the year that I’ve written the Weekly Rune feature, Ehwaz has never visited before now. For its introduction, safely fall back on our common understandings of the horse: it is transportation, taking us from one place to another. In that light, the horse allows us access to accomplish what would ordinarily be beyond our capabilities. It works for us, yet despite domestication maintains a wildness of spirit humanity admires and can never touch. In all, the horse allows humans power. It gives us strength greater than our own, and provokes questions of our own domestication.

That’s enough insight to derive compelling meaning for why the horse would visit us at this time. The last few weeks have focused on personal empowerment, encouraged us to be aware not only that our process is happening, but to be actively involved with how it manifests. Where, then, does the horse carry us? What work is it empowering us to journey more deeply into?

Few know that in Nordic mythology the horse was humanity’s fylgia, or “spirit guide,” one who fetches us to wisdom. This totemic image becomes particularly significant coupled with that of Sleipner, Odin’s eight-legged horse, who carried him to traverse the realms of the Yggdrasil–the World Tree, from which he gained insight into the Runes. This movement between worlds, torment of enlightenment, then inability to return to every day life the same hearkens shamanic death.  This metaphor of traveling from the everyday into an etheric expression of it is the original healing story, the ouroboros shamanic narrative we all participate in.

What we need to remember at this time is that initiation is upon us. This time means a piercing of the heart with insight from which we cannot turn away will bring us to a more suitable awareness, that which we crave at our deepest levels. Our travel on the back of awakening is in the process of depositing us on the doorstep of new wisdom.

Let it be. Don’t try to manhandle the rein and control the outcome. This is neither the time to enslave a beast of burden, nor to glide obliviously through scenery without being active in the journey. We are being called to be aware and engaged, to see this journey through to the end. Remember, when the Aztecs and Incas first saw a mounted conquistador, they interpreted it as one animal, a kind of “two-headed centaur. ” [1] While we know the miraculous technology of riding horseback comprises human and horse, let us not forget the animistic bond of seeker and totem. We’re not alone, and we’re not without guidance.

[1]Sagan, Carl. Cosmic Connection, Cambridge University Press, p. 42; 206; 216.
Subscribe to the Weekly Rune feature via Huffington Post.

Weekly Rune – Uruz

Uruz - Intentional Insight's Weekly Rune by S. Kelley HarrellUruz – Auroch – I always pay close attention when Uruz turns up in a cast, as something wild is about to happen. Through the Rune story of the last few weeks, we’ve been on this course of taking things deeper, a quiet time of culling resources to support the true self, and learning more about who that is. With the advent of Uruz, we’re standing right at the threshold of impeccably knowing hidden truth.

Ordinarily when Uruz visits, I’d say we’re about to  greet deep personal insight evidencing who we are and what we’re doing in our lives. Emerging from the pattern we’ve seen over the last month or so, the Runes have been telling us this consistently. No news there. However, a component of Uruz that often goes missed in many interpretations is that of seeing Nature’s mysteries. We’re all pretty familiar with the process by which we create ourselves, however active in it we choose to be. Most of us, though, don’t take the time to realize when we’re at a threshold, not just about to step into another expression of self, but being aware of that fact, as we are doing it.

That time is now, and the realization is that we are both the mystery and its wisdom. We are the summation of the work of our lives, and how we carry that into new experiences, all at once.

Take a moment to bless where you are in life at this time. Look back at what brought you here and bless every step, every stumble. When we can look back and see our past without charge, we can move into the mystery of our present with faith. So step on through, and know this new place is the effort of your work, the sandbox of new creation.


The Myth of Teen Violence and Spiritual Paths

What does it take to decode teenage America? How can we understand the confluence of factors behind rising crime rates involving our youth, changing sensibilities toward bullying, and violence in our society? Better yet, how do we inform ourselves and support young people in finding the facts? Every day I read articles asking these questions, and a San Francisco woman has devoted the last few years researching their answers.

2013-05-13-BethWinegarner.jpg A passionate supporter of social causes, a civic voice sounding our shifting cultural landscape, a wonderful mother, and a brilliant writer — meet Beth Winegarner. Creator of Backward Messages, a forum openly discussing social elements that feed violence in teen culture, and the media that perpetuates myths around them, Winegarner doesn’t hold back. She takes on sacred cows that have always clouded adult judgment where youth behavior is concerned — heavy metal, video games, the entertainment industry, and the occult. Her work deconstructs every façade that informs our policy, parenting, and perspectives on teens. Not stopping to just debunk socially accepted truths about teens behaving badly, her platform goes on to highlight the real issues creating problems. Among them she cites lack of mental health support, parenting, and in some cases, healthy social communities.

Having interviewed people from all walks of life to understand what creates the cultural myths of violence surrounding teens, a big trend noted in her work is young people turning from organized religion to earth-based belief systems. According to Winegarner, teens by nature “break away, to seek their independence and try on new things, because they’re in the process of learning who they are.” She noted that often those raised with a specific religion may strike out from that religion simply because it’s been a part of their lives and their families for so long. Teens raised without a specific spirituality may seek one out because they want something new.

Her research revealed more specific drives toward open spirituality than just innate rebellion. Drawing from the work of David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in their book unChristian, of the majority religion, Winegarner noted that a lot of teens have “lost respect, because they find [Christianity] anti-homosexual, judgmental, or hypocritical.” However, this transition to a nature-based religion only reinforced a seeming turn to the dark side.

Winegarner cites common fear as the base reason that Nature religions are shunned by the overculture, a ‘what-we-don’t-know-will-hurt-us’ reaction. She also states that the presentation of various pagan faiths as scary or harmful in daily news reports and horror movies contributes to confusion around esoteric beliefs, tenets, disciplines, and rituals. Of them she says, “It can be tough to know what to believe.”

Of course, it’s anyone’s guess as to the intentions of such media influences, though their effects often work as deterrents. “You have religious leaders claiming that the Internet makes kids more prone to demon possession just by dint of the fact that it makes information about non-traditional religions more readily available.” That said, she noted that media such as books, films, or TV shows don’t necessarily change someone’s belief system or spiritual path. Her studies showed that while such may introduce young people to new possibilities, they were already open to change.

“I don’t know that they have much of an influence on shaping most teens’ beliefs, though they can be a catalyst in opening them to different modes of spirituality. A book like The Mists of Avalon or a show like Charmed might introduce someone to Wicca as an alternative path worth exploring.” She goes on to say that media certainly can play a role in spiritual change, and everyone’s got their own opinion whether that’s a good thing or bad thing.

In all, Winegarner is breaking into old territory in a poignantly new way. While she realizes the challenges in conveying her work and research, her commitment to redeeming teens and their unique culture are solid. “I strongly believe that there is good in all these so called ‘negative influences,’ and that the kids who seek them out know that. They know exactly what the benefits are and what they’re getting out of their interaction with these things.”

As a result, her view on these influences is more flexible, and her expectations of the overculture more stringent. “We need to stop trying to limit teens or take away the sources of culture, entertainment, reflection, and solace that hold so much meaning for them. When it comes to teens and violence, we need to stop blaming the wrong causes, because that prevents us from being able to stop teens from harming themselves or others.”

Learn more about Beth Winegarner and her publications at bethwinegarener.com. Arm yourself with information at backwardmessages.wordpress.com.

Celebrate the Small Things – Gratitude

Small Things Photo credit: Shermeee / Foter.com / CC BY

My weekly gratitude post, in the Celebrate the Small Things [ongoing] Blog Hop.

Had a great Mother’s Day weekend.

Sustained my workout schedule this week, making me three-fer.

Reached the half-way point on a huge day job task.

Figured out how to make excellent gluten-free onion rings.

Made acupuncture a priority, despite having a crazy week.

Great quality time with the kids this week, and a great date with my love!

What are you grateful for this week? How will you show thanks?

This post is part of VikLit‘s blog hop, Celebrate the Small ThingsParticipate by following the link and adding your name to the Linky list, then post your gratitude every Friday.  Easiest blog hop ever!

Click here to hop on… the hop, and thanks for coming with me on this journey of self-empowerment.

Photo credit: Shermeee / Foter.com / CC BY