Nominated for “Very Inspiring Blogger” Award!

My blog was just nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award thanks to l6mmeleht. Thank you, very much for such an honor. This inspires me to get back to writing on a more regular basis.

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The rules are:

1.) Display the award logo on your blog.
2.) Link back to the person who nominated you.
3.) State 7 things about yourself.
4.) Nominate 15 bloggers for this award.
5.) Notify those bloggers of the nomination by linking to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by ping back.

OK, seven things about me.

  1. I am a Reiki Master. Healing is an integral part of my plans for the future.
  2. My home is graced by the presence of two elder dogs, a husky mix and a terrier mix, and a muted calico cat. All of them are rescues.
  3. I am a licensed pilot, although I have been inactive for many years due to a partial hearing loss.
  4. In the past 3-4 years, I have discovered a growing talent for doing card readings and also occasionally channel messages from the other side of the veil.
  5. I teach classes about various metaphysical subjects, including dream interpretation, meditation techniques, communicating with spirit guides, and the essentials of spell-casting. My classroom is in Charleston, WV, but I hope to be able to offer classes online sometime later this year. 
  6. I love daffodils. They are my favorite flowers.
  7. I have written two novels, but neither has been published yet.

The bloggers I would like to nominate for this award are:

  1. Witches of the Craft
  2. Diary of a Pagan Dork
  3. The Elemental Witch
  4. Celestial Labyrinth
  5. Green Froggy Fae
  6. Octopus Dance
  7. Crow and Valentine
  8. Spiritual Analog
  9. Whispering Fields
  10. New Age Spiritualist Books
  11. Way of the Witch
  12. These Light Footsteps
  13. Crystal Whimsy
  14. Coming to Bloom
  15. A Witchy Life
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Goddess or God, Both or Neither? What’s Right for You?

“He who seeks God has already found him.” -Graham Greene

An issue was raised recently that is fairly common among people who are new to the Pagan path. This person asked how she could find her patron god and/or goddess? Should she ask to be accepted by one that she felt drawn to, or would they come to her? If so, how would she know? Did she even have to have a patron god and/or goddess and, if so, why?

Like so many subjects in this area, there are way too many answers to be able to offer a single, definitive solution. So let’s take a little time and look at the subject of deities.

1: Do I even need a patron deity?

The quick answer is no, you don’t. You can get by just fine without ever aligning yourself to any specific goddess or god. If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ve probably noticed that I often refer to the Universe where many would say “god”. That is mostly because I recognize and respect the fact that my readers have many different concepts of deity and this is one way to honor that.

There are plenty of people who are strict pantheists. That is to say, they identify the larger concept of god as the Universe. They either don’t accept the idea of a personal deity or simply don’t feel the need for one. Pantheists tend to be very in touch with nature and to rely solely on their own personal capacity to deal with the world and its wonders. I heard the concept of pantheism described beautifully and regret that I can’t recall who said it, but the phrase was: “God is not in the whirlwind; God is the whirlwind.”

2. What if I happen to prefer a personal deity?

It’s probably safe to say that most Pagans are polytheists — they believe in more than one god. So it is not unusual for a person to have a patron god and a matron goddess. For some, it is important that both belong to the same pantheon. For example, if you follow a path such as Asatru, your god and/or goddess will be from the Norse pantheon. If you adhere to one of the Egyptian mystery schools, your deities will be from that pantheon. Or you may prefer to stick with the Celtic, Roman, Greek, Native American, African or Slavic gods and goddesses.

On the other hand, many people today are perfectly comfortable mixing pantheons. It is often the case that the deities and their stories seem to be the same from one pantheon to the other; only the names and cultural details change. This is because they are archetypal figures who speak to the basic psycho/socio issues that are common to the entire human race. So if you are drawn to a mother archetype from one pantheon and a craftsman archetype from another, that’s not usually a problem. There is a codicil, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

3. Is it OK to ask for a specific patron and/or matron?

It’s perfectly acceptable to study the various deities and choose the ones who appeal to you. Then when you are satisfied that you have found a god and/or goddess who can help you grow in the areas that are important to you, do a ceremony to ask that deity to come into your life.

I highly recommend only asking one at a time. Keep in mind that these are extremely powerful beings and one at a time is really all anyone can work with properly. If you are asking a god or goddess to become part of your life, he or she deserves your undivided attention. And here comes the codicil: Pick the one who is most important to you first because after you have worked with that deity for a while, you will need to ask his or her permission before inviting another.

For example, say you decide to work with Brigit and she agrees to become your matron goddess. If you then want to ask for a patron god, you would be well advised to make sure that your goddess is open to working with that particular god before inviting him in. Remember that, as your matron and patron, they will be working with each other as well as with you. Gods and goddesses can get prickly when riled. That’s not something that will help you to grow and progress. In fact, it could get downright nasty. And you do not want to become the battleground for bickering deities!

4. Can I expect a god/goddess to choose me?

Hmm…the answer to this is a big maybe. This is one reason why if you take the route of asking to work with a specific deity, you should not make it a lifelong pledge. Ask them to work with you as long as it serves both of your interests. That gives you the opportunity to work with multiple deities over the years as your needs change. This can provide fresh perspectives and new avenues of growth that you might not even be aware of when you first embark on your journey. It also leaves you free to end that bond on a positive note (always with deepest thanks and honor) if you should be called or chosen by another deity.

Being called by a god or goddess is not super rare, but it does not happen for everyone. And it is one of the most special things that you can experience. It can happen during meditation or in your dream time. Generally, you will begin noticing signs that point toward that god or goddess before you are actually aware of being singled out. If you’re running into owls in unusual circumstances or situations, you might be called by Athena or Minerva.

If you are chosen by a god or goddess, it can be very difficult to say no, but you certainly may do so if you are not comfortable with that deity or with the circumstances under which you are contacted. It is highly unlikely that you would be called by a god or goddess with whom you are completely unfamiliar. Chances are you’ve done something to attract their attention. Usually, that includes studying about them.

If this happens, it generally is a lifetime commitment, so do not enter into such an agreement lightly. It is perfectly alright to ask the deity if you can have time to consider the offer. Think about whether you feel capable of serving this being, what they can offer you and if you are sufficiently committed to your path to make such a promise. They will certainly give you the time you require, but it may be more time that you expect. In fact, they will generally give you the traditional year and a day to mull it over.

No matter which path you walk, or who you walk it with, the rewards will be rich. And they will be yours alone.

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Mapping the Path to Your Dreams

Earlier in the year, I promised to write about dream maps and now is definitely the time. So fire up the old creative juices and let’s get going. A dream map is one of the simplest magickal tools you will encounter. You can’t buy one, you have to make it. And it’s only good for one year, so you have to make a new one every year. More on that in a minute.

A dream map is just exactly what it sounds like: a pictorial guide to the things you intend to manifest in your life during the coming year. The first week in January is the traditional time for creating dream maps because it is the beginning of the year, as it is culturally observed in our society. Frankly, I think it would be more appropriate to make your dream map in late October or early November as the New Year energy is actually shifting. But January works — especially early January — because that is when most of us are actually focused on resolutions, ambitions and intentions for the coming calendar year. It is also still early enough in the New Year energy cycle to be effective.

Your dream map will be as individual as you are. Most people use construction paper as a base, but I’ve known people who used canvas, cardboard or simply a piece of paper. One woman even used a corkboard and just tacked on the images she wanted to include. I’ve seen dream maps that were crowded with a multitude of magazine pictures, others with a single image repeated over and over again, some that were mainly words, some with abstract drawings. The form your dream map takes will be absolutely unique to you, because it embodies your vision — your dreams.

To get started, as with every magickal undertaking, spend some time in meditation and really think about what you need and want to manifest in the coming year. Perhaps you want to change jobs, or just get a job. Maybe you need or want a new car or a new place to live. You might have a goal of losing weight or getting into better shape physically. There may be a project you hope to get off the ground. Or you might want to find true love or improve your psychic abilities.

It’s also OK to put material things on your dream map. If you have your eye on a piece of jewelry, a new refrigerator or a video game system. If so, put it on the map. Try not to be too specific about models or designs because that places limits on your ability to receive what the Universe might offer you. At its root, this exercise is all about the Law of Attraction.

Once you’ve worked out what is most important to you, put some thought into the form you want your dream map to take. It needs some structure, but it doesn’t really have to make sense to anyone but you. For a few years, I based mine on the chakra system, with the colors of the seven major chakras running down the middle of the map. I’ve also used the four seasons in the corners to indicate that I wanted to manifest my dreams within one turning of the Wheel of the Year. Last year, I put images amylong the bottom of my map that symbolized my roots, the base of my spiritual path and my core goals of security and happiness. (See the photo that accompanies this blog.) The big number five in the middle indicates that I was in a five year and the central image symbolized the mind set I hoped to regain in which my life was less complicated and my spirituality was once again the center of my focus.

If you look closely, you might notice that I wrote in the upper right corner “My Dream Career” and drew some images that symbolize the benefits the job should offer. That was done in late summer or early autumn. And that’s another nice thing about dream maps: you can modify and update them as things change during the course of the year. You can also remove things if they aren’t working out quite the way you planned.

A lot of people, especially when they make their first dream map or two, tend to fill every available space. My first dream map had images overlapping one another and words written in wherever any space was left. By the end of the year I was completely exhausted. It seemed like my life had become so hectic I couldn’t find time to take a breath. The next year, I did the same thing, but part way through the year I wised up and pulled off enough images to leave some space. Sure enough, things slowed down a bit.

Since then, I’ve been very careful to leave plenty of open spaces on my dream maps. This not only gives me time to rest and step back from all the activity, it also leaves space for new things to come into my life. I highly recommend leaving some open space on your map. Remember, the more minor things you want to call in can be saved for your New Moon List.

Good sources for dream map images are magazines, catalogs and calendars. You can download images from the Internet. If you are into the language of flowers or the symbolism of crystals, you could incorporate those into your dream map; either images or actual stones or dried flowers. You might make color copies of tarot cards that are significant to you. I once punched holes in my dream map so I could tie on an old-fashioned key with a ribbon. Some people include sequins, glitter or other sparkly items. If you’re very artistic, you can draw images that embody your goals. You probably noticed that my dream map has a lot of words on it. I’m a word person — I write and edit words for a living and writing is my first love, so it is only natural that my map would be as language-oriented as I am.

Make your dream map exactly what you want it to be. Then hang it in a place where you will see it every day. I place mine over my altar so that I see it every morning and every evening during my daily devotions. Other people put theirs in their bedrooms or bathrooms. If you work in a place where you can personalize your space, you could put it in your office, but I don’t really recommend that for people who work in public places, primarily because it attracts other peoples’ energy that can easily interfere with your own. And make no mistake, this is a spell. We undertake it with intent and dedication, and feed the energy every single day in order to manifest our goals and desires. It is not just a cute poster to hang on your wall.

When the year is up, dispose of your dream map in an appropriate manner. Burning or burying it are preferable. But if you are not in a position to do that, you can smudge the images and remove them one by one, giving thanks for the things that have manifested in your life. Then, if you have no choice but to put the materials out with the trash, wrap them in a piece of clean cotton and place that in a bag to keep it segregated from the rest of the trash. You don’t want to be throwing old coffee grounds on top of your spell materials.

It is also not a good idea to keep old dream maps (although it is perfectly acceptable to take photos of them to remind yourself of what has worked and what has not). At the end of the year, the energy is old. It is the energy of the year past and the whole point of a dream map is to work with the energy of the new year. If you want to put the same thing on your map, feel free to do so. Sometimes it takes more than a single year to fully manifest what you hope to achieve. But do not keep the old dream map around because that will cause your own energy to stagnate and go stale. It’s kind of like keeping a dead plant in the house — it may not hurt anything, specifically, but it’s certainly not bringing any positive, fresh energy to the situation.

So there you have it. Making your dream map is simple and can be a lot of fun. Looking at it can bring you hope and renew your resolutions when you’re feeling down or losing hope. So dream big and let the Universe know about it!

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Celebrate the Return of the Light at Yule

Yule is a feast day observed by Pagans around the time of the Winter Solstice. This Sabbat is rooted in the mid-winter celebrations our ancestors held to honor and encourage the return of the light after the darkest day of the year.

In many cultures the rites, offerings, prayers and feasting would last through several days. Their shamans, healers or wise men and women of the village may have possessed the knowledge to mark the day the light returned, but most considered their gods to be somewhat fickle or touchy, so they would continue their Yule observations in order to make certain their gratitude had been duly noted so that the light would continue to grow and increase each day.

Long before the Christians co-opted the holiday, the story of the birth of the sun god at the time of the Winter Solstice was known in many corners of the world. It is the tale of Mithra, Dionysus, Baldur, Hermes and Horus. It is the reason for the ancient celebration known as the Saturnalia.

The basic story is that of the virgin goddess who becomes pregnant through some celestial or mysterious encounter. At the very darkest moment of the year, she delivers her boy child, who comes to return light and hope to the world. Later in the year he will be required to lay down his life for the good of his people. One can see how easy it would have been for the powerful emissaries of the “Church” to persuade the uneducated masses to adopt its practices. The story was the same; only the names had changed.

Today we decorate with lights and candles and celebrate with bonfires as we await the dawn and the increase of the light that will begin tomorrow and grow stronger every day until June 21. So, whatever your tradition, honor the return of the light by letting your own light shine.

Happy Solstice! Joyous Yule! And may 2012 bring a New Year of unlimited dreams and possiblities for each of you.

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Imagination or Inspiration: How Can You Tell the Difference?

I know it is time to write about a subject when the same question starts popping up from several different sources. The question that has arisen over the past couple of weeks is “How do I know that the guidance I’m receiving isn’t all in my head?” Short answer: it is all in your head, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

This issue generally comes up when people are very new to meditation, magickal ceremony or other activities that tend to increase their psychic awareness. It pops up again when there is a significant increase in your awareness (often referred to as moving up a level) and you begin to experience a shift in the way you perceive the world beyond the veil. In each of these situations, you receive information, guidance or inspiration in a new way, so you may not be certain where it is coming from, which leads to questions and doubt.

The information could be from your spirit guides, especially if you’ve been making an effort to work with them. It could be from your intuition — your subconscious mind. It could be from your higher self, or you could simply be experiencing a particularly creative phase in your development.

The long and the short of it is that it really doesn’t matter where the ideas are coming from as long as they are positive and helpful. If you are coming up with solutions to problems, give thanks to the Infinite and keep doing whatever you’re doing. It’s working.

The information could be coming from your spirit guides. If so, keep in mind that they operate on a higher level and are not ego-driven as most humans are. If they give you guidance, they don’t really expect to get a gold star for it. Providing guidance is the reason they are with you in the first place, and simply fulfilling their duties is enough for them. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to say thank you to a fellow traveler who is so very dedicated to your growth and progress.

If you’ve been asking your guides to communicate with you and you believe that they have done so, you should thank them and acknowledge that you have received their message. It’s rather like returning a phone call or responding when someone says hello. They will continue to do their work whether you acknowledge them or not. After all, they were working right along with you before you even became aware of them. Just remember that common courtesy is important in the spirit world because gratitude contributes to the balance of energies.

It is possible that the information is coming to you via your intuition or in your dream time, which are both ways that your subconscious mind communicates with you. If it is coming in your dream time, you’ll know it because … well … you know when you’re asleep and dreaming. If you believe that this is the case, acknowledge the link with your subconscious mind and strive to keep the link open. If it is happening while you are awake, observe what you are doing, the state of mind you are in and any other circumstances that might contribute to promoting this connection. Does it happen during meditation while you are in alpha state? Does it happen while you’re doing a repetitive chore? You’d be surprised how often we slip naturally into alpha state while doing simple, repetitive things such as folding laundry. People who do repetitive movement crafts such as knitting are quite familiar with this phenomenon. Observation and a desire to continue and improve the link are the keys to continuing to receive this type of information.

The same goes for inspiration that comes to you from your higher self. This is the spark of the divine in your soul that leads you to seek spiritual growth in the first place. Your higher self is not likely to send you guidance about mundane, everyday matters unless you are involved in making a major decision such as a career change, marriage or course of study that will affect your path in the long term. Matters that are likely to draw the attention of your higher self are those that pertain to your spiritual advancement or life-altering choices. It will always encourage you to take the higher path, even if it may seem illogical at the moment. This is a situation in which you have to choose the path that feels correct even if when it may be at odds with your desires or with what makes sense. It is seldom a snap decision.

Are you feeling very creative? Everywhere you look you see some way to improve things or raise the vibrational pattern. Clearing the clutter from your counter and bringing in a vase of fresh flowers can raise the vibrational pattern of a room. Maybe you discover a shortcut that makes part of your job easier or you devise a routine that simplifies getting the kids to school in the mornings. We all go through cycles. At one point you may find yourself taking charge of the world and coming up with all kinds of clever solutions. Or you may express yourself in an artistic venue by writing, painting, gardening or inventing. That element of the cycle inevitably ends with a plateau that leads to a time of dormancy, so enjoy it while you can.

Before I close, let’s jump back a bit for one more thought about information that comes from your dream time. I know I said that you can tell when you are asleep and dreaming, but that’s not always true. The exception is astral travel. Many people, especially those who are exploring their psychic awareness or doing energy work, spend time out of body while they are sleeping. However, not all of them are aware of it because it can be difficult to distinguish between astral travel and particularly vivid dreams.

I will write about this subject in depth at another time, but I want to point out one thing now. If you are having exceptionally vivid dreams, especially if they are disturbing or seem to involve other people or entities who make you uncomfortable, you need to place protection around yourself before you go to sleep each night. This is as easy as asking your guides to surround you with light and to keep you safe physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally while you sleep. Envision white light surrounding your body and know that the light will remain in place until you awaken. That should keep you protected from any negative energy throughout the night.

The way you receive and perceive inspiration will change as you grow and become more and more aware. At some point you will realize that you can instinctively tell the difference between information that comes from your subconscious mind and that which comes from outside influences such as your guides. Just remember that true inspiration is always a gift, no matter where it comes from. And we should always show gratitude for gifts received.

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Hi! My Name is Keith, and I’ll be Your Spirit Guide Today.

OK, it may not be as simple as meeting your waiter, but there’s really no big mystery about learning to work with your spirit guides. On a number of occasions, people have come to me looking for advice on some kind of life issue and I’ve often suggested that they might want to ask their spirit guides to help them.

One day not too long ago, I suggested just that to a man whom I’ve known most of my life. “I don’t understand all those things,” he replied. “How do I learn to contact my spirit guides? I’m not even sure what they are.”

Ever since that conversation, I’ve been trying to craft a response. So often it seems that the simplest things are the hardest to explain. Think about it. How would you explain standing up and walking to someone who had never done it?

There have been whole books written on this subject, and I’ll probably recommend one or two to my old friend. But I owe him an answer, and it is also a good thing to share here. Just to get started, let’s break it down into something that might put things into perspective. If you are familiar with the concept of guardian angels, that’s pretty much the basic idea we’re working with here. If you ever had an imaginary friend when you were a kid, that could well have been a spirit guide. Children are always more open and receptive before they become bogged down in the fear and denial that causes most people to shut off their innate sensitivity to the world of spirit. If you want to communicate with them, it can be as simple as saying hello.

Deeper communication — as in two-way communication is a more complex matter. And what makes it complex is that there are so many different methods. Much like meditation, you really have to just try different approaches until you find the one that works best for you. Speaking of meditation, no matter what ultimately works for you, meditation is going to be your starting point.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you are in a quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. As always, I recommend working in a consecrated circle, primarily for the sake of keeping your own energy focused and shielded from outside sources (family members, pets, your own daily worries and concerns) that might prove disruptive. As we’ve discussed before, bring in any tools or talismans that you want to use to help you enter and maintain alpha state consciousness. If you want to use music, incense, or candles, arrange them before you cast your circle.

Once the circle is cast, state your intention clearly. Say something along the lines of “I am here for the purpose of communicating with my primary spirit guide. I know that you are with me, even when I am unaware of you. I want to increase my awareness to more fully recognize and understand your guidance.”

Begin your meditation. During this quiet time, become aware of any sensations that come to you. for example, when I first began to be aware of my guides as an adult, I would often feel as if someone was gently touching the back of my head — rather like a parent caressing a child. It always gave me great comfort. You may feel a touch, catch a scent in the air, hear a voice, or even see a light or a mist.

Your guide may manifest through a sensation in one of your chakras. If so, pay close attention to which one and how the contact feels. This will tell you a lot. For example, if you have a warm, glowing feeling in your heart chakra, it could mean that your relationships are well balanced. Or it might simply be your guide saying, “I’m here and I care about you.” On the other hand, a tightness or burning in your root chakra might tell you that your guide is here to help you work out issues that linger from your formative years.

This is very similar to what I wrote several months ago about learning to recognize and use your intuition. In fact, you may even mistake a message from your guide as part of your intuition or vice versa. This is easy to do , but nothing to be concerned about. As long as you get the intended message, it’s fine. Your guide is too evolved to be concerned about getting credit for the message.

So, who are these spirit guides, anyway? The short answer is that they are beings who have agreed to work with you in order to help you accomplish what you came here to do. Their mission is to help you grow.

The longer answer covers a lot of ground. Sometimes our guides keep us safe. Other times — if it is to help us grow or if it is part of a contract we agreed to when coming into this life — they may actually put us in harm’s way. Or, at least, allow us to bumble into trouble on our own.

They may be souls who are ancestors from your family in this life. They may be loved ones from previous lives. They could be entities who will learn as much from your situation as you will, or even more. Any particular guide may be with you for life or only for a few years. Generally, whenever you evolve to a new level of awareness your primary guide will change.

You can have special guides who come to help you through a specific situation; usually a major personal transition. For example, my current primary guide will be with me until Pluto fully transits Capricorn. I’m a Cappy and this planetary aspect marks a significant time of growth and change, much of which will likely be very difficult simply due to the nature of Pluto. What would normally be a 12 year transit will actually stretch out to 16 years due to retrogrades and “stops” in the cosmic movements. This particular guide has signed on for the duration.

Healers and teachers usually have specific guides who assist them in their work. If you are working through a particularly difficult challenge such as addiction, mental illness, a physical handicap, or extreme poverty, you can be fairly certain that you have at least one special guide who is specifically focused on helping you to learn the lessons that are available from your circumstance, which will allow you to rise above it and/or achieve your highest level of spiritual development.

Our guides may manifest in such a way that their energy comes across to you as either masculine or feminine. They are, of course, spirits who possess both aspects in balance. What makes them seem male or female are your perception and expectations. If you work more effectively with female energy, your guide’s energy may feel quite feminine. On the other hand, it may come through feeling very masculine in order to challenge you to learn how to work more actively with the male aspect. While some guides may often seem quite comforting, they are all charged with challenging you in some way.

Eventually, after you become comfortable working with your guides, you will come to see this amazing relationship as the creative partnership it is meant to be. And remember, getting started is as simple as saying hello.

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Seek Ancestral Wisdom at Samhain

The Wheel of the Year steadily turns. As the daylight hours dwindle and the darkness lengthens, the new year energy grows stronger with each passing day. Do you feel the changes in the air? They swirl around us and permeate the energy field of the very Earth itself. When you still your mind and open your focus to the greater Universe, you can clearly feel the subtle shift.

If you pay attention, you can also feel the thinning of the veil between the worlds. The veil that separates us from the spirit realm will be at its very thinnest on October 31 — Samhain. This is no accident, but is part of the greater design. So let’s consider what it means to have this opportunity for close contact with spirit just as the energy of the new year is beginning to set and form a more recognizable pattern.

Samhain marked the beginning of the new year for our agrarian ancestors. To people who lived off the land, the end of harvest was the end of the year. They were very aware of the fact that we are in close proximity to the spirit realm at this time of the year. As they ended their year and the hours of darkness grew, many people claimed to be visited by their long dead loved ones.

Before the monotheists began fostering fear of the spirit world as a way to control and convert the country people, visits from ancestors were generally considered  to be blessings. People would seek knowledge from those who had passed beyond the veil. They might ask about the outcome of a pregnancy or about friends or family members who had recently died. They could seek guidance about how harsh the coming winter would be and whether they could expect and early or late spring. Those people were not constrained by the notion that there was any reason why they could not or should not speak to their ancestors when the opportunity arose. Therefore, they were free to take advantage of a source of information that was not available to most of them during the rest of the year.

There were, of course, some who knew how to access the world of spirit at any time, but that is not the subject today. What I want you to understand is that this is the time of year when those in the spirit realm find it easier to communicate with us and vice versa. If we take the time to do it properly, we can speak with our ancestors just as our ancient Pagan forebears did.

Each person will have a way of reaching out to spirit that is comfortable and effective for them. Your way may be completely different from mine, and that’s fine. If you are already practiced at spirit communication, use the method that is right for you and take advantage of the natural ease of contact that exists in these last days of October. However, if you haven’t done this before or haven’t been successful, here is a good way to get started.

I highly recommend working within a circle of protection because it helps to keep your energy focused and is also a good way to set boundaries to control who is allowed in. If you don’t know how to cast a circle, go back and read “Salt, It’s Not Just for Pretzels Any More“. The instructions are utterly basic, but they work just fine.

A candle in each of the Cardinal directions will give you plenty of light to work by. Most of us find it easier to maintain alpha state for a longer period in lower light simply because there are fewer visual distractions. If you need a focal point such as a crystal, a candle flame, a bowl of water or a mirror, bring it into the circle with you. Once you create your circle, it is best not to leave it until you are finished. If you disrupt the energy, you’ll have to start all over again. (Yes, there are ways around this, but if you need instructions to cast a circle it’s probably best to leave that as a lesson for another day.)

Cast your circle, focus your energy and enter alpha state. Ask your personal spirit guides to join you within the circle and tell them that you want to contact your ancestors who are interested in helping you with your spiritual growth. Instruct them to turn away any other spirits or entities who might try to enter the circle.

Remember that there is no place for fear within a circle, and no need for it. So leave all your negative programming about the spirit realm outside its boundaries. You are in a safe, protected space, guarded by your guides. The only entities who will be invited into this circle (and they can only enter by invitation) are your personal guides, who are here for the specific purpose of serving your best interests, and the ancestors who love you and want to help you.

Now for the seriously witchy part — you tune in and wait. There are times when it is appropriate to dance and wave your arms about. There are times when you’ll use various magickal implements and materials. But the simple truth is that most serious magick takes place during periods of quiet, concentrated focus. Much of what people perceive as power or magickal accomplishment is the result of long sessions of patient attention to our own awareness and perceptions.

So you wait and listen. Depending on your personal gifts, you may feel, see or hear those who visit. Or you may simply become aware of knowledge being imparted intuitively. If nothing else, you will certainly feel the love and encouragement that your ancestors will share with you.

If you have the opportunity to practice this several times between now and the first couple of days of November, when the veil becomes dense once more, do so. Any time we practice a skill it becomes easier. You want to practice the Craft? Then remember what the word practice means. You may have immediate results or it may seem as if you’ve come up dry. Don’t be discouraged. The contact is happening, but you may need to learn how to recognize it, especially if you are new to this type of practice.

During this time of year you should also pay close attention to your dreams. You may find that they are more vivid than usual. Write them down, even if you can only recall feelings or scattered images. Your ancestors may choose to send you messages during your dream time. Ask your guides to help you remember dreams and messages from the spirit realm. You can do this any time, but your dreaming will likely be much more active than usual around Samhain.

One word of advice: DO NOT take part in seances or screw around with Ouija boards. Not ever, but especially not at this time of year. If you know others who are considering doing so, discourage them as strongly as you can. These are open invitations to trouble. When you send out an unstructured, unprotected call to any entities who might be floating around, it’s the equivalent of leaving the front door to your home wide open in a really bad neighborhood. Who do you think will be most likely to come through that door? It ain’t the Great Pumpkin! And if they claim to be your dear Aunt Gracie or your childhood puppy, remember that in that type of situation spirits can and do lie. And if you are in a stage of strong spiritual development, they will be very attracted to you and may well try to attach, which can cause more grief and trouble than you can imagine. It’s not hard to play it safe as long as you use common sense, even in the world of magick.

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