Vacation Reflections: Water Spirits

Reflections and ramblings from my 2016 vacation in Florida.

I’m at the point in my practice as a spirit worker that my senses are pretty much always on or are very easy to access. Sensing spirits is like turning on a switch for me. There are instances where I turn off my senses, either out of respect or for my own safety or both. However, since I was on vacation, I figured that I was allowed a bit of sight seeing of the spirit variety.

My first day, or rather evening, in Florida made it very clear that I needed to respect nature in this place. I had landed after a delayed and turbulent flight, not exactly in a decent mood. However, it is tradition that we go out to dinner on the beach the day someone arrives. The restaurant was on the beach, and looking out towards the ocean. I have never seen such a picturesque image. The full moon was rising and was an unobscured beacon of light. Behind it large thunder clouds produced heat lightning. All of this was reflected on the ocean waves, rough because of riptide conditions, crashing against the pier. It was perfect and it was a reminder of who was in charge here.

The next day, we rented a boat and traveled along the inner-coastal. Canals weave together like alleyways in the city with rather expensive housing on either side. Soon after we left the docks, I spotted some merfolk. The looked more annoyed at us than anything, likely preferring the quite now that tourist season is mostly over and the canals mostly empty. Later in one of the areas where you were allowed to speed up, I spied water horses swimming to keep pace with the boat. I don’t think that they were hippocampi but I’m not familiar enough with water spirits to know one way or the other. I think that they mostly enjoyed the large wake of the boat more than anything.

Another day we went to the Everglades. I did not see any specific spirits here, but I did feel something. I have felt dying plant life before. I once made the mistake of trying to connect with a dying tree and the experience has stayed with me years later. The Everglades….felt a bit like that. They felt like decay, but not in the natural way. It was a reminder that nature can only take so much. Places that are considered natural wonders are not immortal. It was a somber reminder that I will not soon forget.

My final encounter with water was towards the end of my vacation. I have noticed that when I am outside and deeply connecting with nature, that I start singing and humming a song that was sung at a Lakota sweat lodge I participated in. I don’t remember much of it except a general tune but it’s a signal all the same. We had gone to the beach around dusk. I left to walk the beach on my own for a bit and began humming that song. I noticed that this beach had more tumbled stones than it did shells. One of my goals had been to find hag stones. I try to be aware of the environment in my craft though. I am teaching myself to only take what I need, and not what I want. I had picked up a fair few stones when I heard a spirit say “No more.” I agreed with them and stopped searching. Oddly enough, my grandmother, who had caught up to me and was actually combing the beach a ways ahead of me, also stopped looking at this point. On our way back I looked out toward the ocean. The spirit I saw could only really be described as a genius loci, a spirit of place. I feel like he was the spirit of the beach rather than of the ocean itself though. He was giant, easily a mile shoulder to shoulder. He was also very serious. I gathered that he was not happy with all of the people that took too many shells and stones, or left their trash in the sand to float out to sea. We didn’t talk much, this spirit and I. I doubt he has much interest in humans. Out of respect for his domain and a general respect for the land as a whole, I kept my word to take no more. I was tempted a few times and sternly reminded.

That was my last distinct encounter with water spirits on my vacation. Overall they left me with a clear message. One needs to have the highest respect for the land, wherever they are. It is not our role to take until there is nothing left, or to ignore the consequences of our lifestyles. The land is not immortal and it is not infinite. We need to be aware and be active in sealing the wounds we have torn open.

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Vacation Reflections: Catholic Mass

Personal reflections and ramblings based on my 2016 vacation to Florida

This past week I was on vacation at my grandparents’ home in Florida. They are the side of the family that is very firmly in their faith, that being Catholicism and for younger members Evangelicalism. Now as I have briefly discussed in other posts, my relationship with my Catholic upbringing was complicated. For much of my teen years I hated everything that had to do with the church. However, my stance has since softened for several reasons: interfaith work, biblical study for my degree, Pope Francis, and even magical practitioners using Catholic traditions. This past Sunday though, was my first time attending a Catholic mass since my more hateful days. This service is what I will be talking about in brief here.

I should note that to my extended family, I identify as agnostic/spiritual. It saves me headaches and they tend to not ask further questions, believing me to just be the scholarly type. My reputation for adoring the fantasy genre since childhood serves to take care of any odd imagery I might be wearing as well. So I was not going to this service with them expecting me to participate as if I had never left. They understood that I was going in as a neutral observer, which was true.

In my nostalgia I have often said that if I were to ever return to being Christian, I would go back to being Catholic. Now, this does not mean returning to weekly mass, as community in religion has never really appealed to me regardless. I’ve often enjoyed remembering the mysticism that Catholicism holds and I was a bit disappointed that this church was more modern in design. However, it was the content of the service that had me interested.

I like to joke that being Pagan has made me much better at Christian theology. I really think it has though. It is easier to pick out the weight behind what is said during mass and the oaths that make up prayers and songs. As a pagan, you tend not to take omnipotence and omnipresence as a given with deities. You are usually taught (or learn the hard way) to watch what you say and who you make promises to. Deals are carefully considered matters and it is not assumed that the gods will take care of you. Having this perspective and being so used to being aware of my words truly made me appreciate all of the devotion behind a Catholic mass. It made me appreciate the praise they sing to their God and the oaths they renew weekly.

The transmutation of bread and wine into body and blood reminded me of many of my own personal rituals, such as the consumption of spent offerings that make me feel a closeness to my own god. Catholics wearing their crosses and crucifixes remind me of how comforting it is to wear my own devotional jewelry. Finally there was a call not to proselytize, but to make their community a healthy and welcoming enough place that people may find a relationship with God and comfort within their walls. I am oathbound to Loki because of the home I have found with Him. It has impacted me so much in such a positive way that I sincerely hope that people can have that relationship with a deity or faith. I saw the same urge reflected in that church.

This Catholic mass turned out to be a private exercise in interfaith for me. I saw much about what I love about my own faith reflected in the essentials of Catholic mass. Their passions were much like my own. Though I have no intention of ever returning to the Church, I believe this experience served as a reminder that religions do not need to be considered completely alone in every practice and that my own paganism does not exist in a bubble. It has been very much influenced by my Catholic roots. Different religions do not need to be wholly alien to each other.

 

Wheel of Time Pop Culture Work (Part 2 of ?)

Part 2: Post The Eye of the World Reflection

It has been a few days since I finished The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series. I’m holding off on the next one until I am on vacation and have some very long plane rides. There was a lot of note taking about how the magic system in general seemed to work. However, that wasn’t really the focus of this book, but I know it comes up more in the second.

The most practical technique I got from The Eye of the World was the Flame and the Void exercise that I mentioned in my previous post. I’ve been using it fairly frequently. It has been helping me clear my mind before I astral. It has also been helpful in just generally clearing my mind and helping me focus. I have a really bad wandering mind and the Flame and the Void has been helping me get back on track big time. I find it so helpful that it really makes up for the lack of detailed information on the Aes Sedai and the One Power in the first book.

I’m looking forward to finding more inspiration in the next Wheel of Time book. I remember there being some meditation related things in the second book that I am really looking forward to analyzing.