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A Bellydancer’s Ramadan

Blessed Lughnasadh! That, however, is not the holiday I’m here to talk about today. Rather Ramadan is the topic of the day (of the month, even) and how it factors into my bellydance community.

For those unfamiliar with the month of Ramadan – it is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calender, so it changes dates every year. To the Muslim community, it is a month of fasting from sun-up to sun-down. Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.

Because bellydance comes out of the myriad of cultures in the Middle East, many dancers choose to respect the month of Ramadan in some way or another. The most common practice that I’m familiar with is abstaining from performances, particularly paying gigs (this is what my troupe does). I think perhaps it’s better to think of it as abstaining from public performances – we still dance together and perform at bellydance community events (haflas and the like) but not for the public at large. No fairs or stages, but rather dancing for dancers – coming together as a community to celebrate what we do for ourselves and for each other. If for Muslims Ramadan is a time for introspection and improvement, perhaps that is what we dancers should focus on as well.

And how do I, as a Pagan feel about this? Just fine. All too often we (as a society) get caught up in fighting for what we believe in and trying to keep it pristine. I think some inclusiveness and experience is a far better practice. “Fasting” within the bellydance community for the month of Ramadan makes sense – and it’s not a requirement. Some dancers/communities pay no attention while others simply acknowledge it and go about their business. To each their own. Personally, I feel my life is enriched by “observing” Ramadan in this fashion.

P.S. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Lughnasadh – Enjoy my favorite jam for this Sabbat:

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Waking Up

This week has been full of nothing but wake-up calls. It figures that this would happen around Midsummer – the time when the earth is fully awake and totally alive.  Aside from these clear signs to pay attention, Spirit is also giving me a big push, energetically speaking, to move forward – onward and upward, shifting and changing – GO!

Speaking of Midsummer – we here in the Midwest were treated to a different version of the solstice then usual. Generally, it’s a hot sunny day; great for really feeling the fire of the sun, the power of the Sun God. Today, however, was rainy in the morning and stormy in the evening – a different sort of power, but power nonetheless. Washing away any stubborn bits of the past season (of the earth and your life, of course) and leaving a ready field for new growth.

P.S. This is my Midsummer jam this year.

Reflecting on Imbolc

I hope everyone had a beautiful Imbolc – I did.

I thought I’d share some videos that I’ve fallen in love with:

Anni (MIRTHandREVERENCE) share a bit about her understanding of Imbolc – I adore her videos

My personal Imbolc incense is loosley based on what Flora presents here

The Maiden Goddess

The Maiden Goddess before the spring

Seeing as we are nearing Imbolc, it’s only fitting to talk about the Maiden Goddess. At this time of year, the Goddess has given birth (at Yule) and now renews herself, preparing for the coming Spring. The Maiden is the bud of creation, she is raw potential ready to create or to destroy. She is youth, energy, and possibility. She is often a virgin goddess in many mythologies – do in part to her innocence, but also her fierce independence. The Maiden is strong, charismatic and likes to provide for herself. Being virgin, however, does not mean that she rejects her sexuality. Instead she is comfortable in her sexuality; understanding it as an important part of herself.

Some examples of Goddesses usually categorized as Maiden are: Pandora, Arachne, Kore, Tana, Flora, Athena, Brigid, Gaia, Blodeuwedd, Ostara, and Persephone (though I don’t really put her here).

As we draw nearer to Imbolc, I’m sure I’ll have more to share about the Maiden.

A Pre-Imbolc Ritual

Something I like to do every year before Imbolc (or Candlemas) is to physically clean and bless my candle holders. The physical cleaning is a little different for each – depending on the material/shape/size. I personally don’t cast a circle or anything like that for the physical cleaning, though you certainly could.

My "Goddess Area" seen through some of the candle holders being blessed.

I like to do the ritual blessing as near to the full moon before Imbolc as possible. Here what I do: I gather all my candle holders and a bright smelling oil like lemon or peppermint. Then, I cast the circle as usual and take a few moments to soak up the feeling. I trace a pentacle in oil on each candle holder, while saying something along the lines of “I purify thee, and sanctify thee, in the name of the reborn God and the renewed Goddess“. When I have finished with all, I close the circle put the candle holders away until I need them – also, I wipe the oil off if it might ruin or react with the material.

Generally speaking, I do this separately from my Esbat ritual – but certainly could do it as a part of a larger ritual.

A Year and a Day

Now, I’ve been a practicing Wiccan for a long time – over 10 years, in fact. Most who come to Wicca go through a dedication period, either alone or with a coven. The generally accepted period of time is a year and a day. Mine was much different – there were 7 years between my dedication (age 9) and my self-initiation (age 16). I never have worked with, or been interested in working with a coven, so I wasn’t really confined to a year and a day format – obviously. During this time, I focused first on Esbats. Like many Wiccans, I found the Goddess to be fascinating. My first year, I actually didn’t formally celebrate any of the Sabbats. I just wasn’t ready for that. Eventually, I added the Sabbats as I became more and more comfortable and familiar with their meanings, their symbols, and their importance.

Timothy Roderick's year and a day guide

I began to wonder if I missed something by not using a year and a day format when I was maybe 14. After watching a few videos recently by ladylunaskye‬‎ I went back to wondering.

Well, I just decided to do it. I found a copy of Wicca: A Year and a Day from Amazon for pretty cheap. It showed up today in the mail and I’ve started diving in. I don’t know if I’ll write an entry for everyday, but I’ve started a hard copy journal. I’m excited to see what I can learn from this journey and to see how it interacts with the 2 year shamanic apprenticeship I’ll be starting in a few months.

So, I’ll be deepening my understanding of my path and I encourage everyone to do so from time to time – to go back to basics, so to speak, and remember the things we so often take for granted.

~Take care and Blessed be

Yule 2010

This year, I decided to try something different for Yule. I usually do a simple ritual involving a reflection on the darkness and lighting a candle, letting it shine through the long dark night. This time ’round, I’m holding a vigil – watching the sky and waiting for the sun to rise. During this, I’m reflecting on the darkness and it’s purpose and preparing for a little celebration when the sun does rise. It’s only right to celebrate the return of the sun, even if we are heading into the coldest part of winter. We are coming out of the darkness.

Dawn of the Winter Solstice as seen at Stonehenge.

When the dawn comes, I’ll don my coin belt, grab my drum and encourage the  coming light and see the Goddess through her labor. Where I live, dawn (the beginning of twilight before the actually sun rise) occurs around 7:40 this morning and the sun will rise nearly 35 minutes later.

I find active ritual that includes dancing, chanting, singing and the like to be the most amazing experience. For many years I planed out my Sabbat rituals meticulously, which isn’t really a bad thing to do at first. This allows you to truly understand the purpose for the Sabbat and the symbols often used; but, I think I’m ready to try out new things and experiment. If I don’t like what I do this year, I can always do something else next year.