Back from SpiritCon

The last weekend of March was UT’s first convention-style pagan event. It took place is Layton, just a few minutes north of downtown Salt Lake City. I was graciously invited to present, so I prepared my Beginning Devotional Practice session for sharing.

The event had just over 100 attendees, which seems pretty good for a first-time event. The planning committee is already planning next year’s event; I’m looking forward to being a part of 2019’s SpiritCon in one way or another.

I spent several months preparing my vending table; I had so much stuff to sell that I couldn’t fit it all on the tables allotted to me. I sold tarot wraps, tarot pouches, altar cloths, shrine boxes, linocut prints, wraps, skirts, and my books. I didn’t sell as many things as I hoped to but this just means that I have a substantial Etsy shop update that I can make.

 

Advertisements

New shop listings!

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally made a shop update. You can find new tarot wraps and pouches; more things are being added throughout the week, so check back to see what’s new.

damask cloth

I have several new tarot wraps for sale. These are great because they unfold to become and spread cloth, then wrap up securely to protect your deck. They’re useful when you need to travel light and don’t want to mess with lots of boxes and bags. I’ve made several for myself and use them often.

black bag

If you prefer a more traditional way of storing your cards and divination tools, you can choose from the many drawstring bags I have for sale. This one is made with high quality pure black velveteen; all pull closed with a satin ribbon and several are trimmed with braid and other details.

In it together

Several weeks ago I received a blow to my personal life that left me emotionally unbalanced. Though I’ve gradually come to grips with this change it has left me seeking answers – why did this happen? how do I fix this? what help can I ask for? I turn to my gods and Powers because, aside from all the practical measures I’ve taken, I don’t know what else to do.

As a polytheist, I don’t demand omnipotence of my gods. I don’t require them to have authored everything in my life. This also means that I have to accept certain limits on their influence – there may be things that they can’t (or won’t) influence. Even so, I’ve seen firsthand just how perfectly things can work out thanks to Their presence in my life. I tried begging and bargaining for things to go back to the way they were, but that didn’t happen. Perhaps they didn’t want to help in this manner, or couldn’t influence the situation to any further degree, or felt it wasn’t in my best interest. I don’t know. It doesn’t much matter.

Some people pursue religious engagement when things are going well. They are grateful for the status quo and express that gratitude in prayer or ritual. When things get rocky, they abandon their practice, preferring to focus on other ways to solve their problems. Maybe they feel let down and abandoned by their Powers, and so don’t want to speak with Them until things are smooth again. Other people don’t bother with the Powers unless they are in frightening circumstances, and then the prayers and worship become a priority.

Although I don’t like admitting it, I have a tendency to be the second type of person. I’ll let my practice slide when things are going well because, well, things are great and I don’t need to do anything except show up to life. When things get rocky my prayers get a little more heartfelt. While sitting at the altar a few weeks ago trying to cope with the stress of my newly-uncertain circumstances, I looked into the sweet painted eyes of one of the murtis and felt such tender compassion.

If I wanted omnipotent gods I suppose I could have them. Some of the traditions that influence my practice and belief have omnipotent deities. And I suppose I believe in that omnipotence but it’s a divine quality that’s far removed from my perspective. It doesn’t much matter to me. What matters – now and in that moment at the altar – is not that the gods stretch out their hands to fix my problems, but that They are present to suffer with me.

Solutions to life’s problems are great, and I do feel that the Powers offer these but there is too much suffering and anguish for me to believe that any meticulous omnipotence is at work on the smallest level. (Even if I trust my teachers and think that there is, this isn’t an understanding that I grasp very firmly at this time.) Right now omnipotence isn’t a major concern. Compassion, suffering with me, is. I need gods that share my life and struggles, that are responsive to my tears, and that show their care through sacred presence freely given. Suffer with me, Beloveds; let me know that I’m not alone in these things. This is something worth believing in.

The interior stance

In my writing and conference sessions I sometimes talk about how devotional practice is essentially an emotional experience – it is something that flows from the interior world to the exterior world via the expression of emotional sentiments. However, the activities we adopt as expressions also act as stimulants for emotions we wish to have; that is, we can aspire to the emotional experiences characteristic of the devotional path – we aren’t expected to come fully loaded with everything we have the capacity to feel. The expressions are containers for both what we already feel and what we hope to feel.

I’ve struggled with my practice for a while now and I finally hit on what was challenging me. I’m not feeling the interior sentiments that I hope to feel. Even though I’m doing the same things, I’m not feeling the same things. I keep hoping that the same actions will evoke the same emotional reactions and they haven’t.

My personal solution for this (and it’s not the only solution or the only correct solution) is to simplify my actions a little bit and focus more on correcting my interior stance. I’m going to focus more on being grateful for the opportunity to worship and practice, and less on what I’m actually doing. There are times when perhaps the right course of action is to lean into the doing and take refuge in the repetition, but right now I need to work on my interior stance. I need to get my heart and head back in the right place.

There are so many potential containers for sentiment; indeed, we are limited only be our imagination and ability to see potential containers. Our entire lives are filled with the opportunity to recall, experience, hope for, and share the sentiments of the devotional path. Sometimes that takes us in front of the altar, but that’s only one possible venue of expression among countless. For me, my time in front of the altar is a very important venue of expression because this is such a private setting. It’s just me and my closest Beloveds, free from the pressure of other factors in my life. Sometimes I talk to Them, sometimes I just sit. Sometimes I take a lot of time, sometimes less. I need to work on making sure this time is a genuine and as honest as I can make it. This way, hopefully, I can learn to see my interior world with greater clarity and honesty in turn.

Upcoming conventions

It’s February, which means it’s PantheaCon season! I have the pleasure of presenting Beginning Devotional Practice and Advancing Devotional Practice at PantheaCon this year. Both sessions are quite close to my heart and I’m very happy to be sharing this information with people. If you’ll be at PantheaCon (San Jose, CA), I hope you’ll come see one of the sessions or just find me and say hi.

A few weeks later I’ll be at SpiritCon, a new regional pagan community event taking place just north of Salt Lake City. I’ll be presenting Beginning Devotional Practice and vending some of my prints, spread cloths, and other goods. If you’re in the SLC area or beyond, consider making this part of your spring. spiritcon banner

Private moments

Last night I was sitting at the altar and thinking about how important these moments really are to me. I struggle more when my practice flags; the light and fire and sound and scent of my worship activities sustain me on a deep level, and they provide a shelter and succor that nothing else really seems to. It occurred to me, for the nth time, that this moment can’t be bought or sold or packaged or advertised; it was free from the commercial reality that I find so oppressive in my daily life. Although devotional experience can’t be commodified, plenty of people try to leverage it in the service of their own agenda, trying to position themselves as gatekeepers to genuine experiences, to Real Devotion(TM).

There’s a reason I teach and share information the way I do: I want to empower people with the confidence that helps them have the devotional experiences they are entitled to by virtue of having a spiritual reality. That is, because people have a natural, inherent, and real spiritual reality, they are entitled to devotional experiences if they want them.

So many of us – myself included! – lack the confidence to seek these experiences on their own terms because we worry about one sort of insufficiency or another. We don’t know enough, aren’t pure enough, aren’t committed enough, aren’t devoted enough. And none of these things are true. This is the truth that I want to convey to others, not because I’m some kind of expert or professional, but because I’m here struggling too. I’m haunted by my own feelings of insufficiency, and I often feel paralyzed because of them. I know how hard it is to simply show up at the altar with all my imperfections and hope to have a moment of communion with a reality that feels entirely perfect. That moment doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s just me sitting in the heap of doubt, sadness, and failure that I carry around with me and saying, “here I am. This is who You’ve chosen to share love with.”

I get it. I know how much this sucks. I don’t want others to get stymied in their relationships and in their practices the way that I so often do, so I aim to help people trust themselves in devotional matters. It’s possible to learn from ourselves; it’s possible – necessary, even – to become an expert regarding our own devotional life. Even though we’re continually learning and seeking refinement of our knowledge, we can gain confidence enough to trust ourselves first and best of all.