Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Wiccan Rede: Speak little and listen much

(This is a continuing discussion line by line of the full Wiccan Rede.  See the first post in February for the full rede and beginning of the discussion.)


Soft of eye, light of touch, speak little; listen much

Soft of Eye

Soft of eye is exploring perception.  It is plumbing our own inner depths, and achieving something more than a static model of looking at the world. 

All of us are consciously aware, when we focus our vision.  Honing our gaze to a fine point, to discern what we are looking for.  Such as searching for an item within a puzzle.  This type of fine focus, is used during periods of high concentration.  It also references a person who is overly critical or judgmental.  Such as the metaphors stemming from " long hard gazes" or taking a "hard look".  During this type of activity, the eyes tense, the body develops a rigidity, and everything perches upon on edge.  Careful someone doesn't tip you over!

Soft of eye, on the other hand is a different way of viewing the world.  In "The Second Ring of Power"  Carlos Castaneda writes  that his teacher Don Juan , taught him to open his view, and flood his awareness, by taking the focus off of any particular object, and keeping them unfocused just above the line of the horizon. In doing this he had to feel with his eyes, everything in the 180-degree range in front of him.

Tai Chi and Aikido Masters also teach this same lesson. Through use of a softer focus, the ability to stay calmly aware of all of ones surrounding, and take and easier, less judgemental viewpoint, Masters were able to counter attack after attack from all directions. We all have seen examples of this from martial arts demonstrations to movie magic.  It seems that the master is moving in slow motion.  He is.  The magick to this, is the change of focus, which in effect changes the master' s perception of the world, allowing him to entered into an altered state of consciousness.  All things are visualized and realized, allowing for thoughtful right action, as opposed to hurried reaction.  Starhawk defines magick as the changing of consciousness at will.  Welcome to Magick 101.

Parker Palmer in his book "The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner  Landscape of a Teachers Life"  wrote that he made a conscious effort to help himself and his students develop soft eyes when confronted with something new.  " I believe it will allow all of us to have more authentic responses and think new thoughts."

Parker also went further writing that soft eyes were an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality.  Our eyes are now open and receptive, able to take in the worlds greatness and the grace of great things.  "Eyes wide with wonder we no longer need to resist or run away when taken by surprise.  Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery."

Another perspective of Soft eyes, is the counter to the more critical hard looks, and fine focus.  Soft of eye is also a gentler, more open and accepting way of looking at the world.  Putting aside our overly critical and judgmental viewpoints  and accepting people for who and what they are, in all their glory.   We are each human with our own idiosyncrasies, rather than divide and separate, we should explore, accept and embrace.

Soft of eye, is that ability to blur our focus while heightening our awareness.  Allowing us to take in everything.  It is not harsh, critical or judgmental.  It is open and accepting.  This blur of our focus allows us to take our eyes from the distractions and instead see what is of importance.  Bringing ourselves into tune with nature and the divine, allowing our conscious to slide back, and our unconscious to begin it's work.  Each moment a lifetime of it's own, allowing for thoughtful right action and authentic responses.  It is a new perception, fresh and refreshed.

Light of Touch

Light of touch is a more familiar concept to most people, or should I say it's opposite.   The metaphors of  "heavy handed" , "firmly under control" and similar  ones, all demonstrate a method of control.   Most of those connotations are negative.   Much the same as "hard look" , the relate a critical and judgmental nature. In truth, have we not all been guilty of doing so at one time or another.  

One who is heavy handed, is a micro manager.  They do not trust others to be able to perform , even simple tasks without direct supervision. To further insure that the  projects are seen through to their perceived correct completion, heavy handed folks will add stiff penalties for failure to comply, with their general direction.   Yes we all know them, and perhaps are them.  In truth when we look in this particular mirror, it is not always something we like to seeing looking back!

Light of touch, is much like soft of eye.  The tension accompanying it's opposite, flows out, and the individual is more relaxed. Physically, the individuals voice drops low,  the body language is open and accepting , action is taken, thoughtful right action, as opposed to reaction.  Actions are more fluid and their touch is light, only to reassure. As opposed to heavy driven by purpose.  Light of touch in an individual is the manifestation of perfect love and perfect trust.  Nothing is hurried, all things are seen, understood, and trust in the abilities, intent and thoughtfulness of those around the individual is accepted, as well as that of nature and the divine.

Carried further our light of touch is also about the imprint we live behind us.  Both with those who we interact, nature and the gods.  It is about treading gently upon this earth.  Taking out position as stewards of this magnificent living planet seriously.  Living, walking and working on it, with reverence, honor and grace.  She is our mother, we should honor her accordingly.

Remember when we first began our journey with the rede, we spoke of ancient laws being laws governing personal interaction and magick. The rede spends a great deal of time on the importance of right personal interaction, be it with people, nature, other entities or the divine.


Speak little; listen much

When was the last time you listened to someone when you were talking?   Seriously think about it.  Talking actually require a great deal of attention, to yourself.   When you are in discussion, and speaking, you pay attention to your words, order your thoughts, so that you can make your point.  You are also observing to a smaller extent to see how your words are received.  When you are in a conversation and not speaking.  We half listen to the other speaker, and relate their words to ourselves, and determine what course we wish to take the conversation, when our turn comes again.  So are we really paying attention?

Lemur, my mentor, pointed out long ago, that observation is one of a Witch/ Wysard's greatest tools.  Speak little and listen much is as much about observation as the act of listening.

Active listening is a skill taught in many medical institutions around the world.  Active listening involves giving the recipient (the person you are listening ) your complete attention.  Your body language should reflect your mindset, open and accepting. (Does any of this sound familiar yet?) A gaze can be soft, relaxed.  Critical and very focused gazes, can send mixed signals on judgment.  You should hear everything they say, as well as those things they do not.  This is the perfect time for observation.  Notice the recipients body language, their surroundings, even their clothing.  Each part is a piece of the puzzle of the person with who you are speaking.  In active listening you are engaged in the conversation, with very little talking.  You may repeat what the recipient has said, to verify to them, that you are indeed listening and what they have said is important to you.  A light touch to reassure the recipient of your engagement is also encouraged.    Active listening very much distills all of the concepts we have been addressing in this post.

Advice of the ancients you say?  From my perspective it is timeless. Soft of eye, light of touch, speak little; listen much, is very much the epitome of right personal interaction.  It includes all facets, from all  of our senses, and integrates them together. I would say it is fine advice indeed.



References:

Casteneda,  Carlos ; The Second Ring of Power, 1977
Palmer, Parker; The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner  Landscape of a Teachers Life, 1997

(Next blog:  By the Lady Blessed Be.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Wiccan Rede: Fairly Take and Fairly Give

(This is a continuing discussion line by line of the full Wiccan Rede.  See the first post in February for the full rede and beginning of the discussion.)

Live ye well and let to live; fairly take and fairly give.

Living Well

Many websites, commercials, and books are dedicated to the art of living well.  Our consumer driven society is obsessed with it.  What does it really mean?  From a material point of view to live well, might be to live comfortably from a financial standpoint,  have a few things that make you happy.  Have a few people with whom you are close to and  exist  in a somewhat enjoyable manner.

Lets look at this from a different perspective.  Living well, can also be a standard to which to hold yourself.  We as wiccans and pagans, actively work to create a better life for ourselves, better communities and a better world.  In doing so, we take on the role of the steward, the caretaker.   As stewards we have a responsibility to our charge, namely the earth, our communities, families and selves.  Thats a heavy burden!  We are taught that one person CAN make a difference.  It is true.  As a single individual, there is a finite amount of work we can complete.  We have a short life (this incarnation) and can physically only effect so much.  How much can we effect as a spiritual being.  By living well, holding ourselves to our highest standards, and living according to them.  We do not even need, to shout our ideals from the highest mountains, it would fall on many a deaf ear.  Instead we need to simply live our highest ideals, and let them radiate from our beings.  In doing so we become illuminators, and much like our butterfly effect, both our illumination and our physical work, will leave a far more profound effect on ourselves, families, communities and world, then we could have otherwise.

Let to Live

As easy of a concept as this would appear to be, most people have a difficult time simply letting others live!  How often has the well mean local religious proselytizer ended up on your door step touting the salvation of their paths?  Perhaps the well meaning co-worker who is a bit to nosy on your personal life?  The friend who feels that they can best advise you on a course of action with your personal life.  How often have you done these same things?  Ahhhhh the mirror is not as comfortable is it? 

We each have our own paths to trod in this life, our own lessons, our own successes and failures.  This is part of our acknowledged lessons before our incarnation, and it is the playing out of our respective karma's.  While each person comes into your life for a reason, and you into theirs.  you are each part of the others lessons.  There does come a point, though, when your will, to help, assist, teach, overrides the person with whom you are interacting.  At this point, the lesson becomes lost to them, and you instead interject yourself into their lesson, and possibly into a karmic cycle similar to theirs.  Wisdom is to know when to share yours, and when to step back and let them walk on their own. 

What of more serious lessons, such as drug abuse or alcoholism, as an example?  We have all seen the shows like intervention, and the profound effect someone can have stepping in.  Sadly, I will say as someone who has worked with those suffering from addiction.  Your intervention, may free the person for a time,  the addiction never goes away.  From my experience , addictions are incurable.  We can, however find ways to live with them.  they will continue to be a battle fought for the rest of our lives. That is a lesson I think everyone should understand.

The take away lesson here, is that we all teach, effect and influence each other.  The wisdom of the rede is to understand that we have to let each person experience and work through those lessons to fulfill their growth potential.

Fairly Take and Fairly Give

Ah yes, we can all be greedy little bastards can't we?   Everyone loves to receive things.  We do love to give as well, there is a satisfaction, a joy  and yes we get something in return when we give.  What the rede is talking about here, is setting up flow.

Think for a moment about a river, lets say the Nile. The Nile would flood each year, bringing in silt-laden waters; when the waters receded the silt would stay behind, fertilizing the land,the silt would be helpful for growing crops. If a flood was too large it would wash over mud dykes protecting a village. A small flood or no flood at all would mean famine. A flood must be of just the right intensity for a good season.  You can see flow on several levels here.  The flow of nutrient rich  silt, which is important for the growth of the crops. The growth of the crops and the ability to feed the people directly corresponds to the growth of the population, and thus to the civilization.  the ebb and flow of the Nile corresponds to the ebb and flow of the people who draw sustenance from her shores.   

Now what would happen, if we put a dam in that river?   We horded our resource.  there are points of the river bed which would revert  to the desert, It would dry out, farmlands would die out, and the people would dwindle or migrate, as would the wildlife.  The areas of water held by the dam, would flood and override the shore, covering valuable farmland, and creating new farmlands and marshes.  The dam, or hording would stop or hinder the flow of the river.

Now apply this to your life.  You take fairly, never more than you need.  that which you need to live comfortably and exist in this world of ours.  Then you let it flow from you.  Money is usually the best example, since we are a consumer driven society.  However, the same may be said of our skills, time, energy, and power.  Power ?? 
That's an interesting thought.  Back to flow, when it is coming in, it moves through you unhindered and out to those who are in need,  The flow out making room for more to flow in.  So we really like our time, money, energy, power ....... we want to keep it!  Now we decide to horde it!  My precious!  Because we have halted the flow out, the flow into our lives will dwindle.  As it dwindles, so does the opportunity for lessons, growth and development.  Until we stagnate, and die.  Ouch!  Doesn't sound like silly advice does it?


(Next Blog : Speak ye little!)

The Wiccan Rede: Ancient Laws, Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

(This is a continuing discussion line by line of the full Wiccan Rede.  See the first post in February for the full rede and beginning of the discussion.)

Bide the Ancient Laws ye must, in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

Advice of the Ancients

Bide the Ancient Laws ye must,


Wait a minute, what the heck is an ancient law?  We are talking about a religion that has officially been around since 1950.  Even though we understand that the concepts and practices have been either handed down through time, reconstructed from information available,  drawn from the collective unconscious or "downloaded" from the Divine.   I haven't seen any scroll hanging out with ancient laws!


Ancient laws are not the laws of man, but more specifically the laws of the universe or universal laws. 
The Universe uses natural and moral laws combined with regulatory vibrations to maintain balance.  Just as with current, when you work within the flow of a current (such as swimming), your actually expend less energy, and generally attain a positive outcome,  within a smaller space of time.  (think swimming in a river with the current) Now think about working against the current.  As a swimmer it is harder, if not impossible, to move forward, and if it is done, it is with considerable energy cost, and outcomes are not always as positive.  It is not to say that you can never work against a current, simply that it is much more difficult.


There is much debate on how many or what all the actual universal laws are.  A few that you may or may not be familiar with would include Karma, Harmony ( Balance), Manifestation, Resistance, Attraction, Magnestism etc.

Ancient Laws are laws of interaction, more specifically personal interaction and magick.



In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust


"Perfect", where did that word come from.   Perfect as a concept, that we are taught from child hood, is unattainable.  The highest form, most correct or beautiful state. That's an interesting idea .  Lets dive into this a little more. 

What is perfect:  As defined by Miram- Webster perfect is:
a : being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond> b : satisfying all requirements : accurate c : corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept <a perfect gentleman> d : faithfully reproducing the original; specifically : letter-perfect e : legally valid 2: expert, proficient <practice makes perfect> 3a : pure, total.
There are some big and scary words in there when we look at doing something in perfect love or trust.  Flawless comes to mind first.  Thinking on perfection, and periods of perfection in your life. do they exist?  A point at which things have just come together and fit, result in a STATE of Perfection!  That's the idea!  Perfection, comes in periods, bursts, more like the AHHH! moment, the epiphany.  It is transient and in it's transience, it motivates us to work towards achieving that state again and again.  So by it's very nature perfection,  perfection propagates itself by motivation, through desire.


What about Perfect Love?  Erich Fromm, a psychologist and social philosopher, in his 1956 book The Art of Loving,  observes that real love "is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him. All his attempts for love are bound to fail, unless he trys most actively to develop his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one's neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement. Or anyone can ask himself how many TRULY loving persons he he known."  Fromm goes on to state  that the " active character of true love involves four basic elements: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge". That is a bit interesting to see from a pagan standpoint!  It also correlates to our elements; care (water), responsibility (earth), respect (fire) and knowledge (air).  Each of these elements will vary  markedly from person to person, based on the people involved and circumstance within their lives at any given time.  Seen in this way we find that love is hard work, however it is the most rewarding type of work!

 Fromm also addresses self love.  To love one's self, applies the same elements: caring about   oneself,  taking responsibility for oneself, respecting and knowing oneself. For example, be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses.  To ever truly have the capacity to love another, first one needs to be able to love ones self in this way.

"Love is an active power in man, a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity. "  Fromm

Well this is all fine philosophy, but what does this have to do with hoping into a circle with Perfect Love?  One of Fromm's points is that modern humans are alienated from each other and from nature, I will go on to conjecture, from the Gods. .  We tend to seek refuge from our aloneness in romantic love and marriage.  From the point of view of a Priestess,  when we enter circle, most of us will go through the motions of Perfect Love, however, it is truly something for which we long.  We long to be united with others, the elements, the gods, to have our sense of aloneness and alienation drop away, and feel the magick and power in our unification.  Perfect Love is that active power of love.  It is each one of us stepping into that circle with care, respect, responsibility and knowledge of our fellow circle mates, the elements and the Gods , as well as ourselves!


So we have love down, what about trust?  Mirram-Webster defines trust as an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength and truth of someone or something. One in which confidence is placed, as well as responsible charge or office, and care or custody.  Any of this sound familiar yet?  Perfect trust "blossoms" from love.   Through our active power of love, the ability to trust springs forth.

We step confidently in our circle, knowing that our ability to love, frees us to unite with our circle mates, the elements and the Gods.  Through our power to love and unite we are assured that the strength and truth of those will act in our best interest, and that they as well, are working towards perfect love.  Because our of care, responsibility, knowledge and respect we have the foundation upon which to lay our trust, as we come together to work in the most intimate way, to touch each other with power and magick, to join and become one.


So mote it be!


( Next Blog: Fairly Take and Fairly Give)
References:
Fromm, Erich;  The Art of Loving , circa 1956
Sutphen, Dick;  Lighting the Light Within May 1997, Vally of the Sun Pub. Co.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Wiccan Rede - A Study In Ethics

Advice of the Ancients

Bide the Ancient Laws ye must, in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
Live ye well and let to live; fairly take and fairly give.
Soft of eye and light of touch, Speak little: listen much.
Heed ye flower, bush and tree. By the Lady, Blessed Be.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name, let Love and Trust be our guides again.


Cast the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out;
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme.
Deosil go by the waxing moon; sing and dance the Witches' Rune.
Tuathal go, by waning moon; chanting out the baneful rune.
When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to her times two;
When the Moon rides at her peak, then your heart's desire seek.


Nine woods in the cauldron go; burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might; in the fire brings the God's insight.
Rowan is a tree of power, causing magick and life to flower.
Willows at the waters's edge stand, ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify, and draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel, the tree of wisdom and learning, adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of the Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the Vine, giving us both joy and wine.
Fir marks the evergreen, to tell what does immortality mean.
Elder be the Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed you'll be.


Four times the Major Sabbats mark, in the Light and in the Dark.
When the Wheel begins to turn, let the Samhain fires burn.
When the time for Imbolg shows, watch for flowers through the snows.
When the Sun King rules again, dance the Dance, it's now Beltaine.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night, power is brought to the magick rite.
Four the minor Sabbats fall; use the sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned at Yule, Light and Joy as the Horned One tules.
In the Spring, night equals day; Eostar has come our way.
When the Sun has reached its height, Oak and Holly then shall fight.
Harvest comes to one and all when the Mabon Sabbat falls.


Heed the North Wind's mighty gale; lock the door and drop the sail.
When the Wind blows from the west, departed souls will have no rest.
When the Wind blows from the south, Love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the Wind blows from the East, light the hearth; enjoy the feast.


True in Love ever be, lest thy lover be false to thee.
Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone if truth you'll know,
With no fool a season spend, lest ye be counted as his friend.
When ye have and hold a need, hearken not to others' greed.
When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow.


Merry Meet and Merry Part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart
Mind the threefold Law ye should; three times bad and three times good.


Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill-
An Ye Harm None
Do What Ye Will.


In our tradition,Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding or "Unfolding" as we like to call it,  we teach a class on the Wiccan Rede and Ethics.  I recently revisited this subject in our "seekers" class. While there is some information available on the Internet regarding this subject,  I feel that a good discussion on the Rede  is never a bad idea!  While we may feel we have a good grasp of it's meaning.  There is always a new perspective or something fresh that we can take away from the Rede.

Before launching into our task at hand, I do want to add, due to the length of the discussion, this topic will be broken into several blog posts.  So I would advise you to "stay tuned" as we explore the Rede together!

Most of pagans and wiccans are familiar with the last stanza of the Rede ;  "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill- An ye harm none do what ye will. "   While the Rede is a powerful statement in and unto itself, it can also  be a bit like taking biblical passages out of context.  While they give great meaning, we sometimes lose site of the bigger picture, or lesson, by failing to read or understand the rest of the book or chapter.

The above rede is the full version as acknowledged by our tradition.  There are several different versions of the full  rede, yes we are aware of this.  I will not go into the discussions of why this one versus that version, here.  Those are best saved for our seekers classes.

What is the Wiccan Rede exactly?  The word Rede is derived from Middle English, meaning advice or counsel.  The short version of the Rede "Eight words the ...." is considered to be a statement which provides a key moral system to Wiccans.   So with the rede we have advice on morals, or a written code of ethics.   The "full rede" is that and more.   Before getting into all it's glorious intricacies,  it is best to have an idea, from where we draw the rede.

History of  The Rede
The rhyming couplet of  "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill- An Ye Harm None  Do What Ye Will. " publication is attributed to Doreen Valinete in 1964, quoted from a speech given by her.   However, there are earlier hints at it within the works of Aleister Crowley;  "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law", appears in Crowley's 1904 work in The Book of the Law. Crowley adopted this line from Fran├žois Rabelaiss, who wrote, in 1534,, "Do as thou wilt because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor". Les aventures du roi Pausole (The Adventures of King Pausole, circa 1901), contains the motto of  "Do what you like as long as you harm no one." There are several also  other authors who are believed to have influenced portions of the rede, either through conceptualization or wording.  Native Americans, have also been recognized as possible as contributors, with similar concepts existing in their belief systems.

 "The Wiccan Rede" was published in the neo-Pagan magazine Earth Religion News in 1974 as a complete twenty-six line poem.  Shortly on it's publications heels followed another, slightly different, version, entitled the "Rede Of The Wiccae",  which was published in Green Egg magazine by Lady Gwen Thompson, as taught to her by her grandmother Adriana Porter. Lady Gwen Thompson further claimed that the earlier published text was distorted from "its original form". From that time the poem has since been widely circulated with additional or variant passages. This form of the Rede is referred to as the "Full Rede" or "Long Rede".

(Next Blog:  Perfect Love and Perfect Trust!)


References
  1.  Robinson, B.A. "The Wiccan Rule of Behavior: The Wiccan Rede. Origin of the Wiccan Rede: Updated: 27 September 2007. Available Online at: Religioustolerance.org, Visited 28 December 2007.
  2. "The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey – Part 3: Eight Words". http://www.waningmoon.com/ethics/rede3.shtml.. 
  3.  Robert Mathiesen and Theitic, The Rede of the Wiccae: Adriana Porter, Gwen Thompson and the Birth of a Tradition of Witchcraft, Olympian press, Rhode Island, 2005, pp.68–70.
  4.  Valiente, Doreen. c.1953. Available Online at Ceisiwrserith.com. Accessed 28 December 2007.
  5. Crowley, Aleister.  Liber AL vel Legis (1904),
  6. Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding, teaching circulclum, "Advice of the Ancients"