Z is for Zoisite: Pagan Blog Project 2013

Z is for ZoisiteYears of working with stones has taught me that the commonly accepted metaphysical uses of a stone aren’t the whole story.

If you google “metaphysical uses of zoisite” you’ll find a variety of answers, from enhancing psychic abilities to preventing mood swings. Any of those uses can be the correct one, depending on the circumstances.

When you’re looking at the ways a plant or stone affects a persons spirit, there is no one correct answer. If you think about it, it’s not that surprising–consider how fragrance, color, flavor affects each person differently. The effects of a fragrance goes beyond informing us about the physical qualities of the scent; each smell can trigger memories and emotions that have nothing to do with the present moment. I think the way stones and plants work in metaphysical healing and spellwork is like scent–it evokes different spiritual and energetic responses in each of us.

For me, zoisite is a soft, soothing, comforting stone. Zoisite with ruby inclusions radiates that soothing energy right to the heart. In times of heartbreak, I often find myself reaching for a smooth piece of ruby in zoisite and fidgeting with it until I feel calmed and comforted.

I’ve never found a reason to use it in magic, but I imagine it would be a wonderful addition to healing spells and elixirs. And it’s so beautiful, I tend to keep it on my altar so I can see it whenever I wish.

Z is for Zinnias: Pagan Blog Project 2013

I took these pictures of Zinnias in late summer in my neighborhood. Our neighbors planted a row of them next to the sidewalk, and I loved walking past their bright colors.

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I haven’t read about Zinnia in any magic books, but I think their magic is pretty clear–they are all about happiness and cheer.

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Zinnias remind us that sometimes magic is very simple. Just give someone a bouquet of Zinnias and see how fast he or she smiles.

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Native to an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, they would be wonderful offerings or altar flowers for a deity with origins in that region. Or really, any altar where beauty and happiness is part of the agenda.

Y is for Yarrow: Pagan Blog Project 2013

I first met Yarrow when I worked in a flower shop during the summers while I was in high school. It has become one of my favorite herbs. Delicate in appearance but easy to grow and extremely hardy, it’s a very useful plant for metaphysical purposes.

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Yarrow is an herb of love and happiness, with folklore tying it to marriage ceremonies, and is known as a cleansing and purifying herb.

Another of Yarrow’s uses is as a tea to open psychic perceptions. There are many plants used for this purpose, and all of them operate differently. Where Wormwood or Mugwort are powerful aids to intuition and visions, they can be harsh (and Wormwood especially shouldn’t be used by the novice herbalist). Yarrow works much more gently than many of the third eye opening plants, and is a good plant for the beginning journeyer.

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And Yarrow brings with it’s psychic magic a strong energy of courage and love. When doing vision work, our own attitudes and fears shape our experiences. It seems like having an ally who gives us love and courage would help us to create a positive experience as we learn about navigating the world of dreams and visions.

Y is for Yule: Pagan Blog Project 2013

I feel like I should make some kind of disclaimer. This post is seriously all over the place–it’s basically a bunch of my random thoughts about Yule. So, sorry, bear with me. I have no real point, just a lot of thoughts.

Also, I seem to be a day late every week. Sorry. At least I’m posting, right? So anyway.

I loved Christmas when I was a kid. LOVED IT. The lights, the music, the snow, the treats, baking and wrapping presents and decorating the tree and Christmas specials on TV. I believed the cultural myth that magic happens at Christmas, that miracles are possible. I watched The Grinch, and A Christmas Carol, and believed that people could be transformed by the power of the season.

As I got older, I got too tired to celebrate much of anything. After discovering paganism my holiday changed from Christmas with it’s focus on baby jesus to Yule with it’s focus on the returning light, but my enthusiasm never returned after my mid twenties. The holidays were something to endure, a time of disruption and expectations that left me feeling exhausted and anxious. January would always come as a huge relief, a sort of Thank God THAT’S over, now I can go back to trying to pretend I’m not deeply depressed.

But somehow this year feels different. Maye it’s that I was just laid off from my job and I know I’m going to have an awful lot of free time while I search for a new one. Maybe it’s that I’ve fallen in love with someone who helps me feel more happy and content and safe than I’ve felt before. But whatever it is, I’m stupidly excited about Yule, and Christmas. Since December hit I’ve been listening to Christmas music on Pandora, bugging my sweetie to watch Christmas movies, and craving eggnog. I want to put up lights outside. I want to decorate a tree. I want to make paper snowflakes!

Yeah, I’m a Pagan, but to me this season isn’t necessarily about my religion. Or it is, but not in the way you might think.

See the thing is, I feel like the whole purpose of spirituality is to make us better people, and to help us be better to each other. In that way, the most important spiritual work is building bridges between different people–finding ways to understand each other, finding ways to be kind, finding ways to respect even those you don’t agree with. I’m not super great at this–I was raised by fundamentalists, remember, and fundamentalist habits were ingrained in me at an early age. I have to work consciously to not be all judgy and hatey.

But the holidays are such a great opportunity to work on this. There are so many different ways of celebrating. But also, there is so much overlap. And one thing all the winter holidays seem to share is hope.

Hope for a savior. Hope for the return of longer days and warmer weather. Hope for transformation. Hope for renewed closeness with our families, hope for peace at last. I celebrate Yule, but I also celebrate Christmas with my girlfriend and her mom because they’re part of my family now. You can wish me Merry Christmas and I won’t get mad. If we let it happen, the December holidays can bring us all closer as we celebrate the same thing: hope in the middle of the darkness.

Of course this kind of unity means that there also needs to be space for the ones who can’t or won’t celebrate. I’ve had plenty of years where I wanted to ignore the whole thing, and I was fortunate to be surrounded by friends who let me do what I needed to do without judging. I’ll try not to be annoying with my enthusiasm for the sake of others who are in that place.

For the rest of you . . . let’s drink spiked eggnog and watch The Grinch.

But don’t you dare try to make me listen to that Amy Grant Christmas album.

X is for Xenia: Pagan Blog Project 2013

Xenia is the Ancient Greek virtue of hospitality.

Notice the word virtue. Xenia is more than making sure there are clean sheets and accommodating your guest’s food allergies. The concept is connected to the idea that the gods mingle among us and sometimes disguise themselves as humans. Sometimes they disguise themselves as outcast, lowly humans–beggars, ugly old women–and therefore any stranger could be a god in disguise. In such a world, the stranger is sacred: treating a stranger poorly could get you turned into a mushroom or something.

I like this way of looking at things–not really because I hope for a reward at the hands of a cleverly disguised god, but because the idea that any stranger could be a god in disguise sets us up to look at strangers with curiosity and reverence rather than with distrust and hostility.

I think Xenia as a pagan virtue makes a lot of sense. Even if I don’t believe that the gods might show up on my doorstep as a magazine salesman, I believe that everything is sacred. Everything has a spark of the divine in it. By that theory alone, offering hospitality to others–good food, kindness, a safe space for self expression–becomes more than just a nice thing to do. It becomes a sacred act.

Another way we can see how our spirituality is part of everyday life.