Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Using Bach Flower Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies are a series of natural remedies derived from flower essences. They treat a variety of emotional and spiritual difficulties, and are surprisingly easy to use.

The Meaning and Classification of Bach’s Flower Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies have the ability to bring emotions into balance, but often the question becomes: "Which remedy do I use?" Hopefully, the following presentation will assist in answering that question.

The 38 remedies are divided into seven traditional groups, based upon what emotional difficulties are treated. These groups are: fear, uncertainty, insufficient interest in present circumstances, loneliness, oversensitivity to influences and ideas, despair, and over-care for the welfare of others. The Rescue Remedy, which is a combination of five remedies, is not considered to be in any of these groups, and so is covered separately.

Within each group, the individual remedies have very different effects. With that in mind, it is very important to first determine which emotional difficulty, or difficulties, are present before beginning treatment.

The group that treats fear contains five remedies:
  • mimulus — fear of unknown things/shyness
  • rock rose — terror/panic
  • cherry plum — fear of the mind giving away
  • aspen — fear and worries of an unknown origin
  • red chestnut — over-concern for others
The group that treats uncertainty contains six remedies:
  • cerato — seeks too much advice and confirmation from others
  • sclerathus — indecision
  • gentian — discouragement/despondency with a known reason
  • gorse — hopelessness/giving up
  • hornbeam — that “Monday morning” feeling
  • wild oat — uncertainty as to the correct path in life
The group that treats insufficient interest in present circumstances contains seven remedies:
  • clematis — dreaminess, lack of interest in the present
  • honeysuckle — living in the past
  • wild rose — resignation/apathy
  • olive — lack of vital energy
  • white chestnut — unwanted thoughts/mental arguments
  • chestnut bud — failure to learn from past mistakes
  • mustard — sadness with no origin
The group that treats loneliness contains three remedies:
  • water violet — proud/aloof
  • impatiens — impatience
  • heather — self-centredness/self-concern
The group that treats oversensitivity to influences and ideas contains four remedies:
  • agrimony — mental torment behind a cheerful face
  • centaury — weak-willed and subservient
  • walnut — protection from change and outside influences (past and present)
  • holly — hatred/envy/jealousy
The group that treats despair contains eight remedies:
  • larch — lack of confidence
  • pine — self-guilt
  • elm — overwhelmed by responsibility
  • sweet chestnut — extreme mental anguish
  • Star of Bethlehem — experiencing mental/emotional shock
  • willow — resentment
  • oak — exhausted by struggles
  • crab apple — self-hatred/sense of uncleanliness
The group that treats over-care for the welfare of others contains five remedies:
  • chicory — selfishly possessive
  • vervain — over-enthusiasm
  • vine — domineering/inflexible
  • beech — intolerance
  • rock water — self-repression/self-denial
Bach’s Rescue Remedy is probably the most famous of all the remedies. In fact, it’s not a remedy at all, but a combination of five different remedies: cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rock rose, and Star of Bethlehem. This combination helps to deal with any emergency or stressful situation. It is good for students taking an exam, public speaking, or before a job interview, among many other uses.

In a true emergency, the Rescue Remedy can be taken straight from the bottle, four drops at a time, as needed. However, it is better to place the four drops in a glass of clear, natural water, and to sip as required.

Proper Application and Dosage of Bach Flower Remedies

Before applying Bach Flower Remedies, first there must be a clear identification of which remedy is required. This is done by deciding which feelings and emotions need treatment. Up to six remedies may be used at once, counting the Rescue Remedy as one remedy.

Regardless of the remedies chosen, the procedure for preparing the remedies will be the same. For occasional use, place two drops of each remedy in a glass of clear, non-gasified natural water. The exception to this is the Rescue Remedy, of which four drops should be added. This solution should be taken up to four times per day, as needed.

For chronic conditions, place two drops of each remedy (or four drops in the case of the Rescue Remedy) into a dark glass 30ml bottle with non-gasified natural water. Take four drops of this solution four times daily. Take this until a relief of the emotional stress is reached. Depending on the seriousness of the condition, this could take several weeks.

Understanding and using Bach’s Flower Remedies is simple and empowering. They give a method to controlling emotional stress, and they are readily available at most health food stores, and many local drug stores. In short, they allow the general public to get a sense of controlling their own emotions.

Exploring Bach Flower Remedies

The Bach Flower Remedies, discovered by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, are a series of natural remedies derived from flower essences. These remedies are designed to treat emotional and spiritual health, including depression, anxiety, and fear.

What are Bach Flower Remedies?

There are 38 Bach Flower Remedies, each one designed to treat a different feeling or emotional state. Of the 38, 37 are derived from wild shrubs and trees. However, rock water, one of the essences, is prepared with pure natural water of a fountain with healing properties.

One of these 38 remedies is very special. It is called the Rescue Remedy. It is the combination of five of Bach Flower Remedies. It is designed for those difficult situations that simply demand too much of people, and is still commonly used today.

Bach Flowers can aid in the managing of the emotional demands of everyday life. The Bach Flowers, as many natural medicines, treat the person, and not the disease or its symptoms. They act specifically on the emotional condition of the affected person. This being the case, two people with the same condition could benefit from two different Bach Flower Remedies. It is mostly dependent upon the emotional reaction to the disease.

As an example, two people could be suffering from arthritis. However, one may be resigned to the disease, while the other may simply be impatient with the disease. Therefore, a different Bach Flower Remedy would benefit each case.

It is important to note that the Bach Flower Remedies are not homeopathic in nature. The Remedies do not follow the fundamental precepts of homeopathy, including the law of similars, which states, in general, that like can be cured with like. In other words, that a symptom may be cured be the ingestion of a substance that can induce a similar symptom. This is not the case with Bach Flower Remedies.

How Do Bach Flower Remedies Work?

The idea behind Bach Flower Remedies is not to suppress negative attitudes. Rather, it is to transform these negative attitudes into positive attitudes. The Bach Flowers stimulate the body’s own ability to heal itself, fully and completely. The Bach Flowers help to rebalance the emotional state, freeing the body to fight the illness itself, instead of the stress and related emotional difficulties related to physical illness.

People don’t need to be physically ill to benefit from the effects of the Bach Flower Remedies. Fatigue, depression, and negative feelings are a part of life. When experiencing these feelings, Bach Flowers can be of much use in restoring emotional equilibrium before any specific physical symptoms appear.

It is important to note that the use of Bach Flower Remedies does not take the place of medical treatment. The Bach Remedies work subtly, across the psychic body. If a physical problem exists, it is important to seek medical advice.

The flower essences that make up the Bach Flower Remedies can be used in conjunction with other complementary or conventional medicines, without negative effects. Combining Bach Flower Remedies with other therapies can be an effective way to fight illness.

The use of Bach Flower Remedies to treat emotional and psychic stress is both effective and powerful. These natural remedies offer a wide range of treatments for almost any emotional difficulty, from fear and uncertainty to loneliness and despair.

The Method of Meditation

Meditation, when done properly, is an extremely effective method of relaxation, mental discipline, and spiritual connection. But often this question is asked: “How do I meditate?” There are many different methods of meditation. This article discusses a popular and effective technique, one which can be broken down into the following stages: position and relaxation, breathing, focus and visualization, and finally the awakening period.

Positioning and Relaxing During Meditation

To begin meditating, the body should be in a comfortable position, but keeping the back straight. The exact position isn’t important for this method of meditation. Sitting, standing, or even lying down, (provided sleep doesn’t immediately follow), are all perfectly acceptable positions for meditation.

The body must be physically relaxed while meditating. The muscles in the neck, which are so often the seat of tension in the body, are also the easiest to relax. Slowly circling the neck, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Circle the neck several times in each direction, until the neck muscles are warm and supple, no longer tense.

Breathing During Meditation

Breathing is essential during meditation. The breath should flow evenly and softly. It should also be consistent throughout the meditation session. Start by slowly inhaling through the nose, to the count of four. Then hold for the count of four. Exhale to the count of four as well. Continue this count until this method of breathing feels comfortable.

While inhaling, the stomach should balloon outward as the lungs are fully inflated. During the exhale, the stomach should flatten once more. This forces the stale air from the bottom of the lungs out. As the four-count becomes more comfortable, this can be increased to five, then six, and beyond. A feeling of lightheadedness indicates that the count should be reduced.

Focus During Meditation

Once relaxed and breathing properly, thoughts must be focused. This can be accomplished in many ways. One of the most popular is to imaging the entire body surrounded by a sphere of white light. This white energy charges the entire body, and can be used to relax the body even further.

Further relaxation begins at the toes. Focus on the toes, allowing the tension to disappear completely. This process should be repeated with the balls of the feet, the heels, the ankles, and continuing on up the body. This includes the calves, knees, thighs, and on up through the torso, not forgetting the arms and hands, and ending with the entire head, piece by piece.

At this point, focus should move inward. Allow the eyes to roll upward to direct the focus to the third eye. Let go of the physical self, allowing the focus to shift to the higher, spiritual self. It is not necessary to visualize anything at this stage. Relax and allow whatever sensation manifest itself, whether it be sight, sound, or feeling. Move towards and into this sensation. Keep the mind still and calm.

Maintaining this may prove difficult at first. The conscious mind often had difficulty staying still, and will wander if given the opportunity. The mind must be disciplined before the true positive effects of meditation can be realized, such as the deepening of intuition, self discipline, and general well being.

Ending a Meditation Session

The end of a meditation period should be the reverse of its beginning. Pull the conscious mind back from the third eye, and down the rest of the body. Allow each part of the body to reawaken in succession, from the top of the head to the toes. Each part should be healthy and rejuvenated. The body should be physically refreshed, while the mind is mentally and emotionally refreshed.

Meditation can be difficult at first, with the body wanting to fidget and the mind trying to wander. However, with time and persistence, mastery over mind and body will come. Ignore the itchy nose, no matter how tempting it may be to scratch; it is simply the conscious mind demanding attention. Keep disciplined, stay with it, and the body and mind will learn.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Sabbat of Ostara: The Origins of the Easter Egg Hunt

The annual hunt for hidden eggs has become a popular spring activity in many cultures around the world. Popularized by Abraham Lincoln in the late 1800s, Easter egg hunts are now anticipated each year by children all across the globe. However, many people are unaware of just how ancient this tradition truly is.

The Ancient Origins of the Easter Egg Hunt

Egg hunting, in some form or another, has existed for at least 2,000 years. Hunting for hidden eggs in the spring was a common practice in Asia and India. It was symbolic of the belief that we are all responsible for our own actions, and that each of us must find a way to renew our own life. The egg was seen as representing reincarnation, so the annual egg hunt was a time to reflect on our own inner balance and decide how best to improve our position in the next life.

The egg hunt also had a deeper meaning, particularly in the East. Searching for eggs was a symbolic representation of the soul’s eternal quest for renewed life. It was thought that the soul might have the opportunity to perfect itself, and so reach the ultimate goal — union with the divine.

Both Germany and Scandinavia had their own egg traditions. Eggs were offered to the Goddess in exchange for blessings or wishes. As Christianity gained power, and Pagan practices were declared illegal, these egg offerings had to be hidden so that the authorities could not find them. An ‘egg hunt’ ensued as those in power sought to find these eggs. This eventually became a game for children.

Historic Egg Hunts in the United States

It was First Lady Dolley Madison who hosted the first ‘egg roll’ on the lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. She did this in 1812 in an attempt to garner support for her unpopular husband, President James Madison.

In 1862, while the horrendous Civil War was ravaging the South, President Abraham Lincoln tapped into the ancient and archetypal symbol of the egg, a real-life representation of new life and hope. He ordered decorated eggs and festive treats to be hidden on the White House lawn. President Lincoln then invited the children of Washington, D.C. to come and search them out on Easter morning. This practice has been upheld by most American presidents, and the tradition was quickly picked up my the rest of the nation.

Egg hunts, with the Easter Bunny, are an ancient and respected practice that was been adopted by many different religions and cultures around the world. Today, many Wiccans and Pagans enjoy the practice of the egg hunt each and every year around the time of the Spring Equinox.

The Sabbat of Ostara: The Legend of the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny has become a staple of the Christian holiday of Easter. However, few realize that this legend has its roots in the Pagan practices of the Anglo-Saxon people. Their celebration of the goddess Eostre gave rise to the modern legend of the Eostre of Ostara Bunny, also called the Easter Bunny.

The Origins of the Easter Bunny Legend

Eostre was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. Her festival was the Spring Equinox, and it was around this time that many of the local animals gave birth or entered their reproductive cycles (called ‘estrus’ periods in honor of Eostre). The woodland animals, devotees of Eostre, would bask in the warmth of spring and feast on the season’s bounty of spring greens.

Among these animals was a small hare who wished to present his goddess with a gift, but he had nothing of value to offer. One day while foraging for food, the hare came upon an egg. He much desired to eat this egg, for it had been some time since he had feasted on anything better than grass. Just before he cracked the small object, the hare thought that the egg might make a nice gift for the goddess Eostre.

Upon reflection, however, he realized that, as a goddess, she could have eggs any time she wished. His egg was nothing special. It was not fit for a goddess. The hare took his egg home, determined to make it beautiful. He began to decorate it, painting it in Eostre’s colors and adding symbols sacred to her and to spring. When he was satisfied, he presented his creation to the goddess.

Eostre was so impressed by this small gift that she wanted to share it with the children of the world. Children were the greatest symbol of new life, and so of spring, so she felt it was only appropriate that they be the ones to share in her gift. She ordered her hares and rabbits to deliver decorated eggs to the world’s children every spring. Eostre’s Bunnies, as they came to be called, did this with joy.

The Enduring Legacy of Eostre

Today, children around the world decorate Eostre’s Eggs, or some variation thereof. Many followers of the world’s Christian religions create Easter Eggs to celebrate the resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ. Wiccan and Pagan children decorate Ostara Eggs to welcome warmth back to the earth. There are dozens of other similar traditions around the world.

All of these have a common theme — the celebration of life, death, and rebirth. Eostre and her Bunnies , as well as the Easter egg hunt, have become a part of spring throughout the world, sometimes even for those who do not realize it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Techniques for Meditation

Many people fail at meditation because they lack the proper technique. Outside the meditation itself, there are several that affect the success of a meditation session. These include focus, posture, surroundings, and the time of day.

Focus During Meditation

Many masters of meditation suggest that focus and concentration during meditation should focus on the third eye chakra, located on the forehead. By focusing on this location and its energies, it is possible to become aware of the higher self, to leave physical and mental difficulties behind. With the attention focused on the third eye, both conscious and subconscious cares can fall away.

Focusing on the third eye has the effect of drawing the eyes upward. This is important during meditation, since eye position does have some effect on the state of mind. When the eyes are pointed downward, the focus is on the subconscious. When the eyes are straight, the conscious mind is the focus. However, when the eyes are drawn upward, a connection to the higher self is much easier to establish.

By focusing on the third eye during meditation, the higher self becomes active. This technique is called the third eye meditation technique, and it simply uses the natural tendencies of the body to shift the mind’s state of consciousness.

Posture During Meditation

There are many different opinions when it comes to the proper posture for meditation. Most of them are right in some respect. Very few are wrong, unless they are painful or uncomfortable.

Meditation should feel comfortable and secure. Any position that meets these requirements is fine, as long as the spine is kept straight. In other words, no slouching. A popular position is to sit cross-legged on the floor, or to kneel, with the spine straight as an arrow. These positions, well fine, are not good for those who are less limber.

An alternative is to sit in a chair that has a straight back, feel flat on the floor. For additional comfort, the chair should have arms. Meditation can also be performed while standing or lying down (though this can lead to sleep). The chair, ground, or other surface should be soft and comfortable, but still allow the back to remain straight.

Surroundings During Meditation

On of the largest mistakes made regarding meditation is the place in which meditation is performed. The space must be quiet, free from outside distractions, such as the phone, children playing, or the dog barking.

From a ceremonial and ritualistic standpoint, the best place for meditation is in a cleansed and consecrated area, such as a church, temple, or circle. Some practitioners will insist that facing the east is critically important. While this may make some slight difference, it is more important to be comfortable.

Before meditating, it is important to take a look around the room and anticipate what, if any, sounds may be distracting. Unplug the phone, feed the dog, or whatever. Nothing interrupts meditation like a sudden sound. Some people like to use headphones, playing soft music to drown out any potential distractions.

The Best Time of Day to Meditate

From a metaphysical standpoint, there are several ways to decide what time of day is best for meditation. There has been some evidence to suggest that the hour closest to a person’s time of birth is the best. And astrological influences are always important, and should be taken into account.

However, for some, these times may simply not work. Ultimately, the time chosen must work in some fashion. Early morning before everyone awakens, or late evening once everyone is asleep. For some, those who are home during the day, afternoon may work well, since no one has come home yet, including those potentially noisy neighbors.

In the end, the key to successful meditation is consistency. The place and time of day should be the same or similar every day. A minimum of fifteen minutes once a day is required to really see the benefit of meditation, but twice a day is better. Without persistence and consistency, the benefits of meditation cannot be fully realized.