I just found this information at Goddess Mandalas:
I really like this idea. As I live with a non-Pagan, I will have to find something that she won't find clashes with our "decor" but still has meaning for me.
I finally took a solo vacation.
I drove up the coast to a little bayside town that had already pretty much closed for the season.
I rented a charming and rustic little cottage just a short walk from the bay.
Around the corner, a house in a wooded lot was demolished to make room for a condo/retail space.
Over the last week, I've seen the bulldozed remains of several ancient trees--pine, alder; huge, tall, shady-- now nothing but bark-stripped segmented bones strewn over the plowed-up earth. The central tree, a conifer, had a trunk at least three feet across. How old was that ancient giant? How many summers and winters had it stood through? How many families of creatures made a home in its welcoming branches?
The sight affected me viscerally, I feel devastated, horror-stricken, as though I've been looking at dismembered human corpses.
Early this morning, as I drove past the mall near work, I saw the local flock of crows gathering in the empty parking lot and along the top of Macy's. This flock is composed of hundreds, possibly thousands, of crows. Not all of them were on the ground; many already flew overhead already on the way out into the day on their corvid business, but there were easily a hundred or more gathered there.
I pulled into the lot, cut my engine, and sat with the door open for a few minutes, listening to them talk to each other. A few became curious and hopped a little closer. I got out of the car slowly and stood there, watching them, just enjoying being with them.
Sticking my hands into my coat pockets, I found a small bag with a few leftover walnut meats from a past snack. I broke the pieces smaller and started tossing them out into the crowd. Before long, several crows dared to come as close as four or five feet to me.
When I ran out of nuts, the crows didn't run away. In fact, even after I got in the car, they didn't spook, just hopped out of the way of my moving auto.
I feel like it's a good day if I can spend some of it among the crows.
I keep falling in love with my religion over and over again.
When I first came back (officially) to Paganism, I thought, "Well, I accept the word Pagan, but I don't do magic." Then I did a spell for a new job.
I thought, "I can't really relate to the pentagram anymore; that's Wiccan and represents a goddess I don't experience." Now, I wear a pentacle every day as a reminder to walk my true path and honor the elements that make up the universe.
I don't worship gods or goddesses but there are deities whose aspects and attributes I feel a resonance to and want to honor in some way. I pray to the Universe; the totality of all things, not as a being but as an immanence all around me. I honor life, and death, and the rhythms of nature.
I'm still building my practice day by day. Sometimes I forget to do my evening devotion, but it's easy to remember my path and my joy: all I need to do is step outside and look up at the trees and the sky. Crows follow me and bring me messages to be mindful. Everywhere I look I can find beauty. I measure time by the turning of the Wheel and the upcoming Sabbats. This feels right, right, right.
I think maybe my religion is in love with me.
I felt really sleepy and tired today, so took a walk down to the local park alone. The weather was brisk, to put it mildly; very chilly with a bit of a breeze, and cloudy. Bare branches reached to the grey sky and twisted trees looked like they had secrets to keep.
I wandered among the sparse trees and watched finches, robins, and a Stellar's jay twittering and scattering over the grass and back up into the branches on my approach. I collected a small bagful of deadfall alder seed cones and small pine cones still on their stems to dry and decorate with for winter. I also picked up several lovely long, thin branches to put in a vase in the living room.
I need solitude every day. Solitude in nature is the most spiritual experience I can have, followed by listening to music or singing. I wish I lived closer to some natural place where I couldn't hear the sounds of traffic. I miss quiet places like that; in the desert or the mountains and in small towns. For the last 15 years I've lived near busy streets and freeways. Local parks are also near these urban/suburban hubs and it's not easy to get away from them. I could do it; I just need to take the time and plan a day to drive some distance.
I got what I needed today, though. I felt much better when I got home. I had touched the natural world and brought some of its magic indoors with me to keep me company through the rest of winter.
Walking the dog today yielded a willow stick for another wand. I had hoped for this. :)
Walking the dog in the park yesterday, I found a perfectly sized, almost completely straight stick of wood lying under one of the trees. It came into my hand easily, and is nicely balanced. I thanked the tree, and when I got home, looked it up to determine what variety of tree. Turns out I've been gifted with a new thinleaf alder wand. All I need to do is carve, clean, and consecrate it. :)
Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. This night will be the longest of the year.
Today, I bade farewell to autumn. I cleaned my altar and prepared for the change of season by replacing the Sere offering of dry twigs that rested there from Samhain on with a white stone to represent the winter season of Sleep; quiet, rest, and introspection. The brown candle burned away over the season, and now a blue one waits for tonight's evening devotion. I changed the color of my altar cloth as well, from brown to blue. These colors I chose because they are representative to me; they aren't prescribed by any tradition I'm aware of.
I said a farewell to Autumn at my back door and welcomed Winter at my front door. I used my Sere altar cloth to dust my altar pieces and then shook the cloth out three times toward the West Gate to return the autumn essence to the elements. The cloth will be washed and stored until next Samhain.
I made other preparations; adding dried evergreens to my decor and putting up red candles. I am preparing a roast with celery and root vegetables for a dinner feast. At sunset, I lit candles in the house.
Tonight, when I have solitary time, I will sit before my altar and perform a candle ritual to welcome the spirit of Winter into my my mind, heart, and soul and ask for the wisdom of the season to be made known to me over the next 45 days. I will "light" a flameless candle and let it "burn" overnight to bring the sun back from the longest night.
I will rise early tomorrow, and welcome the sun's return at dawn from my back porch. I will "extinguish" the candle and go on with my day.
Sere is the season of austerity. Trees become bare, birds and animals have to look a little harder for bits of food to keep them going.
Thinking about austerity, I realized that it's difficult to understand what it's like for people who have to do without if you have an abundance. I have a good job, a car, can pay (most of) my bills, and always have enough to eat. I have health insurance and can see a doctor if I need to. I can afford to feed my pets. I even have discretionary money to spend on things I just want, not even need. So how can I come to some understanding or empathy of people who have to do without?
I decided that I would observe an austerity practice similar to Christian Lent, where I would voluntarily give up something I really love but don't need. I vowed to refrain form eating chocolate from Samhain, November 6 this year, until Yule, the winter solstice on December 21st.
It's been an interesting practice. I have managed to keep true to my observance and have not eaten any chocolate. I've definitely missed it, and the winter holiday season is a difficult time to abstain, as sweets are everywhere right now. At the same time, I feel a certain amount of shame that I find it so hard to give up a frivolous luxury for 45 days when there are people living on the streets with no food, blankets, shoes, etc., etc.; for whom that deprivation is neither voluntary nor welcome. I have so much, and how tenaciously I hold onto my privileges.