Ze End

So this is it, my last post for the 2012 Pagan Blog Project. You may say I’m cheating a little with my topic, Ze End, but you know what? I posted every Friday for an entire year and did not miss it, not once, so yeah, I feel that gives me a little wiggle room to cheat the last topic just a bit. Especially because I think this is going to be the end of my blogging experience and I want to say goodbye.

I took on this project for a few reasons. One, I wanted to hone in on my spirituality and spend time thinking about my particular brand of Paganisim. I thought the project would help me get in touch with what Paganism means to me, and how I express that in the world. Two, I wanted to take on the challenge of writing and posting something on a weekly basis. Writing is a not something I enjoy, so I was looking to take on something that would not come easily to me. Three, I wanted to be a part of a Pagan community and hear what others had to say about their spiritual beliefs and practices.

Well, this project definitely satisfied my desires, but it has not been easy.

The project really gave me the chance to develop and put into words my beliefs and practices. Consider my spirituality honed! And my blog certainly took on a personal quality, and it was a new experience for me to share that with people I’ve never met, and probably never will meet. For some posts I sat here and cried as I wrote, and some posts share information that I’ve never shared with anyone. So again, it was a very interesting experience to be so open and put that information in a public blog for all the world to see.

And about that writing challenge…well, this project definitely made me a better writer. And it was informative to put my creative juices into writing which is something I have never really done before. But you know what…I just hate writing. I really hate it, so I can’t see myself becoming a regular blogger. However, I did stick to it and boy I saw this project through to completion, although the last few weeks in particular have been rough. My Capricorn moon was what saw me though. It just would not let me quit. My sea goat screamed at me, how can you quit now? You’re almost done! Why would you dutifully get every post in on Friday for almost a year and then bail with only a few weeks to go? So I stuck it out and got those posts done.

And I’ve loved reading people’s blogs. I feel like I’ve made some friends and I’ve learned a lot reading other people’s ideas and thoughts on their Pagan practices. Even though I won’t be writing in 2013 I will still be reading the blogs of the participants.

I honestly would love to be in the 2013 project, but I just can’t commit to the writing part anymore. I’d really love to post a little dance each week (or every other week) pertaining to the letter we’re on. And I will do that if I can figure out a way to easily upload the video. Currently I can get the video uploaded but it is a very cumbersome process so I know better than to commit to that. Hopefully I can think of some way to stay with the project without writing…tricky since it’s a blog project…so if I come up with something before next Friday I’ll add my name to the who’s blogging list.

But in the mean time….

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read my blog. And a huge thank you to those who actually decided to follow me. It warmed my little heart to have followers and comments and likes and visits to my site.

I feel like I gained momentum on this new experience and I don’t want to just drop it, but again, I’ve just had it with the writing. I really am going to try for a picture or a dance each week, so it may be interesting to see where that goes…

One thing I know for certain is that I am going to continue exploring and developing my spirituality as a happy little solitary. And I know I’ll be out there reading the blogs. Hopefully I can create a way to continue actively posting in the project.

But no matter what happens, I want to end the 2012 project by saying thank you once again to everyone who ever cared to read what I had to say. I appreciate you so much, and I can’t thank you enough for stopping by The World According to ChinaCat.

Zabat

And so we have arrived at the letter Z….

I’m a little hung up on this one, and I’m in the middle of holiday travel. But once again Barbara G. Walker’s “Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” has come to the rescue. This time she got me with the very first Z entry: Zabat.

Her description:
Berber name for sacred dances performed in groups of thirteen, in connection with the magic ceremony called “an occasion of power”; possible origin of the so-called witches’ sabbat.

I looked it up in Webster’s dictionary, but it was not there. The Internet also had almost no information, but it did offer this from an artist describing a series of photographs titled “Zabat”: ‘a sacred dance,’ ‘an occasion of power’ or ‘a black women’s rite of passage’.

Interesting.

I think I am most intrigued by whether these Zabats did indeed become the Witches’ Sabbat. But the Internet is completely barren on information regarding this topic. I suppose I have yet another fascinating research topic on my hands. And in my mind probably no one thing became the Sabbat. Although the Zabat may have been a strong influence I imagine many events, ceremonies, and beliefs had to combine to become what we know as a Sabbat.

I also like the part about the Zabat being sacred dances performed in groups of thirteen. That’s pretty specific, but the number thirteen does carry a lot of power. And if there is documentation about these sacred dances of thirteen then my research needs are out there, I just have to go to the good old library.

And just what were these “occasion of power ceremonies” anyway?

So here I leave you with a couple things to ponder. We can think about the ancient Berber dances performed in groups of thirteen. What were the dances for? Do the Berber today still have these sacred Zabats? And did they become the Witches Sabbat? And just how did that process go down over the decades? And just what were these “occasion of power ceremonies” anyway?

And finally, let us all keep in mind the power of dance as it is through the release and repetition of dance that we make our desires known to the universe.

Yerberia- the magic store alternative

This post comes with a disclaimer….I am about to write on a topic that is outside my culture and something I really know very little about. My intent is simply to share my thoughts on the subject and I do not mean to offend or speak as an authority on this topic.

So I want to talk about the Yerberia. In simple terms, a Yerberia is a store with Hispanic roots that sells herbs, stones, books, icons, and all kinds of wonderful Pagany items. I honestly knew nothing about them until a few years ago when I lived in San Antonio, Texas. Although growing up in Arizona I’m sure they were everywhere and I just didn’t notice.

I first discovered Yerberias when I was at a total loss for a good magic/pagan store. I had always lived in places like Arizona and Colorado that were full of crystal shops and metaphysical bookstores. Then I moved to Cleveland, Ohio. I had always taken the availability of magic stores for granted, but Cleveland showed me that in much of the country a good magic store is hard to find.

After Cleveland it was on to Huntsville, Texas. No magic stores there. Next up, San Antonio, a city also lacking in magic stores. It was here that I was introduced to the Yerberia or Botanica, another name for these wondrous little stores. But it was not until I moved to Houston that I began to visit the Yerberia on a regular basis. Houston does have a few fantastic magic stores, but they are not close to my house. Being an active Pagan I often need items like herbs and stones and I’m not into driving 40 minutes to go to the Magic Cauldron, what I consider to be Houston’s best magic store. So the Yerberia it is.

But going to the Yerberia as a lilly white girl with no Spanish vocabulary takes some bravery. The Yerberia is very different from the sparkly metaphysical bookstores and crystal shops I am used to. Yerberias are most often located in the Hispanic areas of the city. They are usually small and honestly a little dingy looking from the outside. Sometimes they practically blend into the surroundings and you really have to be on the look out to spot them. Once inside be ready for anything, and be ready to conduct your business in Spanish, although sometimes the clerk speaks English.

Most Yerberias have a huge variety of herbs, although you need to know the Spanish name for some of them. The good ones also have stones and crystals, fetishes, books, and a whole plethora of magical items. My favorite one is an amazing smorgasbord of Pagan items and their collection of books on Voodoo is beyond compare. The shop is tiny but packed to the brim with every goodie you can imagine, and the owner speaks really good English. I have found that this Yerberia has everything I need for whatever I may be up too, and also features items I have never seen before in the most witchy of stores.

And thus I have become a haunter of the Yerberia. Whenever I check out a new one the people working there seem a bit surprised to see me walk in, but they have always been very nice and friendly. I would recommend visiting the local Yerberia to anyone as an adventure in Pagan shopping. I am so glad to have found them, and thank goodness they’re out there as they have beautifully served all my Pagan needs.

Yin Yang

Being a Gemini, I have always been attached to the concept of duality. That being said, it would only make sense that I love the concept of yin and yang. I think it’s safe to say that we all recognize that symbol, and it’s pretty common in pop culture and as a graphic on tee-shirts, bags, posters, and what-not. Although I do not have a bunch of yin yangs in my house or on my clothing I do love what the symbol represents.

Duality and balance…..so important. We can’t have night without day, male without female, hot without cold, love without hate…..I could go on forever. But the point is we need those opposites. If we didn’t have cold how could we appreciate the heat, and vice versa. That’s the duality part.

And balance? Well all those opposites need to be in balance in order to achieve harmony. But let’s get real. How often in your life are all your oppositions in perfect balance? At least for me the answer is almost never. But I think that’s the lesson of the yin yang. We are striving for that balance, yet never able to achieve it with 100% accuracy, and that is what keeps us going. That gives us a goal, something to work towards to become better, more spiritually fulfilled people.

Of course the yin yang symbol shows us perfect balance. There is just as much black as there is white. And within the black swirl there is one white dot, and the white swirl has its black dot. The yin yang has achieved the elusive perfect balance.

I always keep my eye out for the opposites in my life and I try to bring them into balance, but that is very hard. This practice works very well as a spiritual and self betterment exercise. Am I spending too much time sitting around on the couch? Time to focus on the opposite and get myself moving outside. Am I stewing in a pot of negative juices? Time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and find something to be positive about.

I’ve found it also works like this. When I’m going through a low point in life I know that things will get better and I am able to have complete faith in that. If you are a follower of duality and balance it’s easy to understand that things will take a swing for the good. You have to have those low points to balance the high ones, and when you have had the bad the good becomes so much sweeter.

My advice for what it’s worth- look at the opposites in your life and strive to find the balance between them. It’s a lesson that will never be completed and is always evolving and changing, but it’s so worth the effort.

X in and of itself…

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the letter X. And really it carries so many varied meanings just on its own, one little letter. I stated in last week’s blog that I was going to discuss another deity with an X name, but this week rolled around and it just wasn’t speaking to me. But I had been spending a lot of time thinking about the letter X and how strange and different it is from the other letters of the alphabet. It really carries it’s own magic, and it’s positively ripe with symbolism.

The one phrase that keeps screaming in my head is X marks the spot. X is one big spot marker alright, and how many treasure maps have you seen that mark the treasure spot with some letter other than X? X can clearly show us the way to something special, and it marks the spot where mystery and adventure lay hidden.

But a big ol’ X can also mean that something is off limits, or no longer available. So there’s a nice little dichotomy….X can mark the spot of something valuable and special, but it can also warn us to stay away or designate that something is off limits or gone completely.

And I can’t help but think back to algebra class when more often than not we had to solve for X. Yeah, sometimes we solved for Y or Z or some other variable, but the most common is definitely X. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that’s a great phrase, solve for X. In the equation of your life, what is the X you need to solve for?

How about when cartoon characters die? Their little eyes become Xs. Back to the image of X representing something bad, something that is now gone or off limits.

Of course there’d the X-ray, a ray capable of seeing through our clothes and skin all the way to our insides. That’s a pretty deep, metaphorical concept if you stop and think about it. What if we all had X-ray eyes and could see into inanimate objects like buildings as well as people? What if we had X-ray vision that could see into people’s souls? Would you want to see all that? Do you want to know people’s most intimate thoughts? Do you want to always know what’s going on behind closed doors?

Finally, how about the X rating? If it’s an X rating you know it’s gonna’ be dirty. But just one X sometimes is not naughty enough, and we have to go to XXX. Now that’s REALLY dirty. But why does it jump from one to three X’s? Why is there no XX? And how did the letter X become the rating for porn or at least really explicit material anyway?

So that’s what’s been in my head all week. While wracking my brain trying to think of X topics I realized that the letter X is really a topic in and of itself. It is truly a magical letter that holds symbolism and is rich with meaning…many different meanings. I’m thinking now how to incorporate X into spell work. Since it can represent so much my brain is spinning with the myriad of ways it could be used in magic. But I have to keep in mind that since it does represent so many different concepts it would have to be used with care. I don’t want to send any XXX rated spells out into the world.

Xikum

So here we are at X….this should be interesting for all us bloggers in the project. As for me, of course I started with Barbara G. Walker’s “Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, and there were a couple interesting entries for X. One I will save for next week. The other is very short and sweet, but it intrigued me so I want to share it.

Xikum- the Babylonian Tree of Heaven, or Tree of Life. It is an emblem of Ishtar and symbolizes her spreading her branches above into the heavens and sending her roots down into the underworlds. The Mosleums attempted to demonize this Mother tree and in the Koran refer to the tree as Zakkum, the Tree of Hell.

The Xikum is a fig tree, and Jesus was also allegedly involved as well. The fig is a female symbol and associated with Ishtar and other goddesses, and this probably did not sit well with early Christians. Jesus cursed the fig tree and made it forever barren (Mark 11:13-22)… Is this a way to express dissatisfaction and hostility to what was a well known Goddess symbol?

Whatever the case may be I could not find much information on Xikum, but Walker’s very short entry in her encyclopedia did catch my interest. My web search did not produce much and my best bet would be to follow Walker’s cited references provided in the encyclopedia. Wow- that would leave me to go out and find an actual book! Remember those days? Thumbing through books, feeling, hearing, and smelling them? I do actually still spend a lot of time perusing books….. I love books…. But I digress…

So there’s my two cents on Xikum. I hope it brought a little thought about the Tree of Life into your day!

Meet the Wilis

In the ballet Giselle there is a fantasy creature that I have never encountered outside of the ballet world, so I decided to go on a search. This creature is the elusive Wili. In Giselle, the Wilis are the spirits of betrothed women who were betrayed and died before their wedding day. At night they rise from their graves and lure men into their haunted forest where they proceed to dance them to death. The catch is, the Wilis can only come out at night, so if the man can make it to daybreak he survives to tell the tale. Nice revenge, but I’m not sure how this sits in the feminist camps.

I’ve seen Giselle a million times, and these Wili characters have always held a fascination with me. But I must admit, I have not researched these creatures outside of the ballet until now.

Turns out there are Wilis in Slavic folklore. They are a female vampire of sorts, and like Giselle, they are the spirits of girls who died before their wedding day. In a poem by Heinrich Heine that was allegedly based on Slavic legend, he describes the Wilis as being unable to rest in their graves because they had to satisfy their passion for dancing naked, in particular, dancing naked in the town square. Now I’m not sure how dying before your wedding day causes you to yearn to dance naked in the town square, but who am I to question folklore. Also according to Heine’s poem, the Wilis like to gather on the road at midnight with the purpose of luring in young men so they can dance them to death.

And yes, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges did use this poem as inspiration for the Giselle libretto.

Among the Slavic cultures the Wili appears in a few different varieties. In Serbia they are unfortunate maidens cursed by God, in Bulgaria they are girls who died before being baptized, and in Poland they are beautiful female spirits in atonement for frivolous past lives.

One of my personal favorites and best known are the Rusalki from Russian lore. The Rusalki are fish women who live at the bottom of rivers and lakes. These spirits come out of the water sometime around midnight and dance in the meadow. If a handsome man happens to pass by the meadow at this time the Rusalki will mesmerize him with their dancing and lure him to the river to drown.

Interesting…. I think I feel a dance piece coming on…

So there you go- the Wilis, betrayed maidens forever doomed to haunt the forest looking for young men to dance to death. A happy tale.  And yes, these spirits are behind the phrase, “it gives me the wilis.”

I love when these lesser know mythical creatures appear in ballets, and they appear somewhat frequently, especially in the Romantic period. It’s interesting to me that choreographers and librettists used these myths and tales to create ballets. This demonstrates to me that these creators were more in touch with their Pagan roots than they may have cared to admit.

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