Borealis Meditation S04E03 Personal Calendars

Show Notes:

Hello Everyone! In this episode I talk about calendars, holidays, festivals and localizing you wheel of the year to where you live. This was a last minute change of topic so we can always revisit it later. I also have created a worksheet for you to use if you want to jump right in and work on customizing your wheel of the year.

Worksheet:

Listen to the episode here:

Or on itunes (trying to figure out getting it other places….)

Follow me on twitter and instagram @katborealis
Like the facebook page for updates related to the podcast

Or just drop me an email borealis (dot) meditation (at) gmail (dot) com

And I made a discord chat channel you are free to join here

Hope everyone is surviving 2018 and if I don’t get anything else out before then happy Yule and New Year! Much love!

~ Kat

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Introduction: a sense of place

I am moving. Paperwork isn’t set in stone so I am trying not to jinx it, but no matter what we are headed for new scenery by the end of the year (we hope). I thought this would be a good time to distill my ideas about connecting to a place and with nature and the environment down into written form so I can do what science has trained me to do: test the ideas. So, I am going to start here with a short outline of these ideas, and then explore them with stories from previous leaps into the unknown. Then I can revisit each one with my new experiences when I get where I am going. When I connect to a new place there are three steps and three layers that need to be examined, explored, and understood.

The first layer is the human layer. This is the most obvious and where we as an individual fit in. This includes human history, culture, and our impact and expression in the environment. There are historical cultures of a place, and the modern culture. There is also the history of human habitation in the area, and the type of settlement that exists there now. Modern history, and ancient history. All this has an influence on the human expression of a place at any point in time, and I think is very important in understanding the current culture of a place.

The second layer is the flora and fauna of the area. This includes the current “invasives” as well as the native and endemic species. There is a natural history of each place, and a history of introduction of different species. The history of the changing balance of different species in an area can have a huge impact on its current state.

The third layer to be explored is the geologic and environmental layer. What is the climate type, geologic setting, and local hazards? The world isn’t frozen, everything changes and moves. This layer can pop up in unexpected ways in the other layers. The layout of streets might be influenced by an old stream channel, or area that was a swamp.

When you combine knowledge of these three layers you start to see how they all connect and feed into each other. That is when you start to really know a place. When I come to a new place I approach it with an insane amount of questions. And of course with each answered question comes 10 more. The best thing you can do to feel more connected to where you are is be curious about it, but always remember you can never know it all, there is always more to explore!

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The science behind the Mercury/Silver Dime Charm

I was inspired to look into and share the chemistry behind the silver dime charm this week. The first flash of  inspiration was my lesson in powders (I have been taking very informal classes in hoodoo recently and love it), and the  second was a post by Candle Smoke Chapel that they had a new etsy listing of silver dime charms. So thank  you both for the inspiration! Now on to the science!

The science behind the Mercury/Silver Dime Charm 

The mercury dime, or silver dime charm, if you are not familiar with it goes like this: If you wear a silver dime around your ankle and if you walk through a powder (ex: hot foot) the dime with absorb the hit and tarnish, keeping you safe.

Image from Lucky Mojo

For the sake of example let’s look at what happens if you are wearing a silver dime and walk through hotfoot powder. Hot foot powder is made primarily of sulfur and crushed hot peppers with the option of other nasties. The key ingredient here in terms of what is going to physically happen to your silver dime is the sulfur.  The sulfur in the powder will react with the silver on the surface of the coin, causing it to “tarnish” in a RedOx reaction. I found this awesome old school video about the reaction:

For the sake of repetition here is the reaction again:

2Ag(s)+S(s) -> Ag2S(s)

Sulfur (S) basically wants two more electrons… wants them REALLY BAD, and Silver (Ag) has an extra that it isn’t too attached to. Sulfur takes one electron from two silvers making it S(2-) and each silver Ag(1+) causing them to  the  two silver and the sulfur atom are now sharing, and create a black solid Ag2S, which is the tarnish you see on silver.

Silver doesn’t need solid sulfur to tarnish. In fact Hydrogen Sulfide gas that can be found in the atmosphere can also react with silver. H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas) can be the result of the decomposition of plants and animals, or some industry of some sort. In fact just about any sulfur compound can cause tarnishing including hardboiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and even rubber bands. If you have ever worn silver jewelry into a hot springs you will have also seen this same reaction.

In conclusion:

The roots of this charm seem to be the fact that several popular powders that are used when throwing against someone ( crossing powder, goofer dust, and hotfoot powder) have sulfur as a main ingredient. This sulfur reacts to the silver worn at the ankle by tarnishing through the reaction 2Ag(s) + S -> Ag2S(s).

This reaction is an example of an oxidation and reduction  (RedOx) reaction. For more on this type of reaction here is another video:

More Reading on Silver Dimes (and references)

–  Conjure Blog: Mercury (Silver) Dimes

New World Witchery: Coins

– Silver to Black – and Back (abstract) J. Chem. Educ., 2000, 77 (3), p 328A DOI: 10.1021/ed077p328A Publication Date (Web): March 1, 2000

Lucky Mojo: Silver Dimes

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My thoughts on the Us Vs Them problem with Science and Religion

Today I am writing as a scientist. I wanted to comment on the Bill Nye Vs Ken Ham debate that I did not watch. I don’t want to comment on the debate itself but the mentality that this debate comes from. First of all I want to say that I blame both sides for the following problem.

There is a very pervasive “Us vs. Them” mentality when it comes to science and religion (and, for that case, science vs art). This is the mentality everyone is divided into two categories the “us” and the “them” and there is no room for anything else. It is a very black and white mentality. When we look at how this relates to science and religion we see this manifested in the division between “science people” and “religious people”. These two categories have also grown to encompass more stereotypes as well.  If you are a “science” person then you are a liberal atheist and likely live in an urban area. If you are a “religion” person you are a conservative and Christian and live in a rural area.  I think this mindset is very damaging and dangerous to our society. It breeds a reactionary mindset and makes every debate personal and full of emotions. It creates boxes that we put people in, and they are not allowed to be anything but the box we put them in. I am a scientist and therefore if you are not, and you are religious, you are a “them”, and the “thems” don’t like us. Just like “Christians” have become a group “scientists” have too. We are not taken as individuals and certainly are now allowed to disagree with each other. If we do then it reflects badly on all of us, and we all have no idea what we are talking about and can’t be trusted on any matter. In the science community religion is a dirty word as well and is very looked down upon.

Using this Us vs Them mindset means that we have made an artificial black and white world out of a gray one. First of all, you can be a Christian and not believe in creation, just like you can be a scientist and not be an atheist. In fact, I know Christian-scientists and I even know a geologist who IS a creationist. It is not all black and white. I think it also helps to point out, that the Catholic Church accepts evolution, so you can’t even group all Christians together.

The problem I have with the “us vs them” mentality is that both parties start off defensive. That is no way to have a conversation. My personal view is that religion does have a place in a rounded education, but only because it has had such a huge impact on human history and art and other intellectual pursuits. Also a fun exercise is the history of thought on the age of the earth and the different ways it has been calculated. How did the Romans decide what year Jesus died in, and were they right? How was the age of the earth calculated from the bible? How else has it been calculated in the past? What method do we use today, and what are the errors associated with that calculation? That discussion is valuable in a science classroom. It’s like doing a proof and showing all the steps in math, and even talking about the different ways it was tried in the past. I have always loved talking about the changes in scientific thought through the ages.  I think it is fascinating and valuable to understand how we know what we know today. It also reminds us that just because we think we know something, does not mean we won’t later learn something else is true. Plate tectonics itself is a relatively new scientific idea. Also, let us not forget that many of the founders of modern science (if not all) were religious.

So now let us return to the debate and why I can’t watch things like that. I have personally been attacked before simply for saying “I’m a geologist” when someone asked what I am studying. I was polite about it, but since the other party didn’t listen to me it felt like talking to a wall. There was no back and forth (which I would have enjoyed). This mentality backs people into their respective corners. I am not an atheist and that is something I tend to not discuss with my friends and colleagues because of the us vs. them. I’m too close to the situation and it makes me too upset. So I didn’t watch the debate because I don’t think there should need to be a debate.

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liminal space and names

I am in love with the word liminal these days. I just adore it. Liminal spaces and places, I just love it.

lim·i·nal
/ˈlimənl/
1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

Mandorla or Vesica piscis

I like it because most of the time I feel like I exist in a liminal world, halfway between science and magic. I have one foot in each but stand not totally in any. I like thinking about liminal time as well. Like right now, the sun just set but it is not yet night. There is still light in the sky in one direction and in the other the stars will soon start to pop out. It is not day, and it is not night. This is my favorite time, dusk. I think these spaces are important. You can’t tell how dark it is unless you have light to compare it to, and liminal spaces are the perfect places to look at differences. 

I am getting to names. The reason I am combining these two topics is because of the name I used many years in my magical work. I have many names, and I tend to collect nicknames. As a practical matter I have my given name, my common nickname, the name I use for this blog and podcast, and then my magical names as well as a new Hawaiian name.

I have 2 magical names that I have used for many years. I can only tell you one. I have a name that I use between me and spirit only. No one else knows this name. It is really more a syllable and I’m not even sure I would be able to write it. I call that MY name. It is how I identify myself to spirits, and cannot be confused with anyone else. My other name is my magical name in the traditional sense. This is a name that I have used around the community before, and likely will continue to use. I know it can be confusing but since every time I have moved somewhere I get a new nickname it feels totally normal to me. My craft/magic name is Dusk. It always has been.

Dusk is my favorite time of day. You are stuck between the world of the Sun and the world of the Moon. Between a blue sky (or gray because I am from Seattle…) and inky black. It is the time of day I feel most alive. I love dusk! The light slowly drains from the sky and if you are not paying attention the night sneaks up on you. I had a Greek myth book as a kid and I was always fascinated with Nyx and Selene. I loved the images of both, one pulling night over the world like a blanket and the other riding the moon across the sky. When the clouds are just right in the evening sky it seems like I can see the edges of her cloak as Nyx covers the world in night.

Somehow I managed to write about two things at once leaving you in a liminal place between subjects. I hope you are prepared for an over use of the word liminal until I find a new favorite word!

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The gap between ideal daily practice and reality

Meditations on the Path of Knowledge

I think we all have an ideal daily practice that we all fall short of. For a long time I had the attitude that I had to always try for that ideal. Recently I gave up on that ideal and opted for “do-able”. Doing this has been very freeing and I no longer feel like a bad witch when I can’t do something. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and as a scientists I am trained to be complete and precise in my work, and I had to give that up in my spiritual practice (not easy!).

Ideal: My ideal is morning and evening meditation, morning and evening yoga, daily journaling and divination, and/or reading and studying. (I’m lucky to get out of bed without hitting the snooze button 4 times by the way….)

I talked with SilverShadow a while ago and he suggested starting working more with ancestors. I wrote a little bit about my Mom yesterday. She keeps what I consider our family ancestor alter. She has a table covered in photos of loved ones (from both her family and my Fathers family), and a mini dias de las muertas alter (its so freaking cute). We also have an ancestor hall (a hallway with more photos). I have a few photos but I am definitely going to need to get more for my family and I would also like to get some for my Husbands family. Even with these limited photos I started a very quick and easy (but still meaningful) daily practice.

Do-able every day: I have ancestor incense that I bought locally, and two containers I feel comfortable lighting tea lights and not having to sit and watch them. I light my candles and incense and say thank you for all the blessings in my life.

Simple, and fast. Some days I can manage more from my list but at least I can do my one simple thing. It is very freeing to find that simple act that I can do.

I would be interested to hear what you all do every day or what your ideal practice looks like!

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My mother is a pantheist… I am a Jedi?

Meditations on the Path of Knowledge

I have trouble with the differences and exact definitions between pantheism and animism. My mother describers herself as a pantheist and when I was younger I looked it up to see what it was she meant.

pan·the·ism – /ˈpanTHēˌizəm/ – noun
1. a doctrine that identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God

My mother was raised Christian but, her belief is more that God is in everything, and her church was nature. This is mostly how I was raised. We went to Church maybe twice a year, and almost never the same one. I am not sure what it was my Mom was looking for in a Church but she never found it.

I do not consider myself a pantheist, maybe because I don’t require the existence or non-existence of a specific “God” or “Gods”. I have always felt that there was something, that wasn’t explained in the physical sense that was all around and incorporated in everything. Like everything that has mass has gravity, everything has this essence. It is my personal belief that we do not have the tools to explain or understand whatever this is, but it doesn’t keep us from trying. I also in my belief allow for this thing to be “found” characterized and explained. I like to use the term “spirit” or “essence”.

My husband is an atheist and the first time we had a discussion about my views he started laughing and then quoted the following scene.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YQJsbbWNA]
So now, forever, he just tells me I believe in The Force. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. All of this is to come around to what I consider myself, and that would be an animist. 
 an·i·mism – /ˈanəˌmizəm/ – noun

1. the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
2. the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.

Now I am always very careful to define my terms, and I don’t like using ones that have a precise and physical meaning. Force is an influence on an object. F = ma right? You grab a physics text book if you want to look up how to describe a force. The same goes for Energy, energy is a basic property of an object and again I go back to physics books. You will rarely find me using these terms for anything other than their physical description (obvious exception The Force). I also don’t like the term “soul” since it has a very specific cultural meaning for us of Western European ancestry. Because I am not good at making up my own terms, I use “spirit” and “essence” but mostly “spirit”.

I don’t discount entirely the existence of one or more deities. It could just be that I have not been made totally aware of them in my work. Most of my work deals with the spirit of place. Different physical locations feel very different to me.

Back to my topic, pantheism vs animism. I am never happy with the definitions I have found, and I am not an anthropologist. This is personally how I define the two. Pantheism is the belief that everything is or is part of A God or set of Gods. Animism is the belief in a spirit that runs through everything and doesn’t require a “God” but doesn’t discount it either. I remember when I first looked up pantheism thinking that it was close to what I believed but not exactly it. My Mom believes in GOD, I don’t, and there had to be something to describe that distinction. Like I said in the beginning I always struggle with the exact definitions of these two words. Maybe that is why I find just saying “I believe in something like “The Force” to really be the quickest way to get my point across.

So does that make me a Jedi? Of course there are Force Witches, but they are dark side…. maybe I am just Force sensitive.

P.S. When I play table top Star Wars I somehow always get Dark Side points… I get too excited about everything including critical hits. Also I never understood how just killing someone doesn’t get you Dark Side points…. even if they are a Sith, you still killed someone…

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I am not ready for the darkness

Meditations on the Path of Knowledge

I want to talk a little bit about the idea of light and dark. The world is all about two things in my mind, cycles and balance. There is light and there is dark. I think there are three attitudes towards darkness in a path that is pagan bent, the first being acceptance and use of the darkness, the second being acknowledgement but not use of the darkness, and the third is ignoring it. I have always been in the second group. To me I am impressed by those who roll up their sleeves and dive right in. I have had a rocky relationship with the darker aspects of life.

I lived in fear for a few years when I was younger (it’s a long story I don’t want to share, but believe me my safety was not something that was a given at that point in my life). This led me down a very dark mental path for many years. I struggled with things beyond my years while my friends talked about boys. I remember even as young as I was the feeling of not wanting to drag them down into my darkness. I put on a happy face and did battle myself. I have always been a very do-it-my-self person and part of that extended into not wanting to burden others with my problems. I have learned to lean on these same friends now, but it took me a while.

I have spent so long trying to free myself of this unstable relationship with the darker aspects of my mental well being that I very strongly stayed away from the darker aspects of my spiritual path. This is not to say that everything was always rainbows and sunshine and fluffy bunnies, but I have never really worked anything that could be even slightly considered negative.

Why this reluctance to explore half of the universe? I think it has to do with not feeling like I have my own darkness under control. I have a wildly explosive temper, and when I am angry I am very deeply and violently angry. I develop strong hatred towards people as well. I know these are not healthy. I know I do not have these emotions under control. I don’t like them. I don’t do workings when my emotions are high. There is a reason I haven’t done much this past year. There is a situation that came up in March that I am still very, extremely angry about. I have considered actions to take magically but when I write them down and come back to them, even when they seem reasonable at the time, I can tell they are over the top. To balance out this darkness I have what I call a creamy center. I am the person who can’t watch uncomfortable comedy like The Office because I feel so bad for the characters. It’s not funny it is painful. Because of this dynamic I often regret and feel horrible about things I do when I am angry. As gleefully as I come up with evil plans, a few minutes later I can be horrified.

Until I learn to control the darkness in me I don’t trust myself working with the darkness. I consider myself an acknowledger of the darkness, while not feeling ready to work with it. Maybe soon I will and I will start down a road of discovery. Sending positivity into the world is something I feel comfortable that I can’t over do and hurt someone. Working anything darker is something I am afraid I will over do, because I know myself.

I recognize flaws in myself, but this I consider a strength, knowing when you are not yet ready for something. I don’t like the way negativity takes over in me sometimes, but I am proud that I have enough control to not do something I will regret later. As I continue to struggle and learn and improve on control of my darker aspects, I feel myself coming closer to exploring the darkness I’m just not there yet.

So I’ll stay in the light, spreading positivity and being contagiously enthusiastic about everything I love!

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I don’t belong here… shhh someone might find out!

“Meditations on the Path of Knowledge”

I guess I set the bar a little high for myself. When I said I was zombified from work yesterday…. that was nothing. I spent my day arguing with a computer that won. I don’t have a huge topic for tonight so I am going to introduce you to a concept that I will hopefully be able to expand upon tomorrow. I was going to write about fear in general tonight, but that would be a longer post than I am capable. But I said WRITE EVERYDAY and code doesn’t count so here I go.

IMAGES.COM/CORBIS
Impostor Syndrome

This is the feeling that it was a fluke that you got accepted to/or hired at someplace, and the fear that someone is going to find out that you don’t belong. This runs rampant in science, and is something I suffer from. Although it is technically not a “disorder or syndrome” it has became popularly known as such. Partially I think my issue with it comes from the “jack of all trades, master of none” saying. I have always identified with that. I have always liked to try many different things. For a time I was a musician, and then I was interested in anthropology, found out I am horrible at economics, and have only ever been “OK” at math. I have never felt that I excelled at anything. Although now that I think about it, I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to make it on the classical music scene and quit out of fear.

PhD Comics is always spot on!
As I have continued on my path both spiritually and academically to understand the world around me, I started to notice the phenomenon pictured above. The more I studied the less I thought I knew. I think that is what I really liked about Fire Lyte’s Project Pagan Enough campaign. I felt like I knew nothing, and that I was going to be “found out” for not being pagan enough. I felt like I wasn’t coming from a place where I could even talk to the people I had found and looked up to as being CRAZY smart on the pagan front. I felt like worse than a beginner because I knew I knew nothing, and that anything I asked would sound stupid and I would be found out.
In science though I think the stakes are higher since I am employed in my field. I felt like I didn’t deserve to get into grad school. That I was in no way smart enough. I felt like I didn’t deserve to work with the people I did, and I definitely still feel like I don’t deserve the degree I got. Almost on a weekly basis I run into something that is intellectually challenging enough that it stops me in my tracks. My boss and coworkers are brilliant and I feel stupid compared to them. I come home feeling that I am not qualified to even walk in the door at work. 
I would like to say that this is all in the past tense, but lets face it. I am giving a talk at the biggest conference in my field, in front of people I have always looked up to as WAY smarter than me and I am terrified. I started writing my thoughts down and have been SHOCKED that these posts (few as they are) have been so well received. I have almost a visceral reaction to the praise from them. “They must be joking, these are shit. Why would they say they like something that is so obviously simplistic and nothing new?” See?  It takes me a lot to get rid of this thinking. I have to remind myself that I have high standards for my work, and that is a good thing. But, sometimes you just have to let go and trust other people, and your own work.
I think everyone suffers from the impostor syndrome to some extent. I think it is worse when the stakes are high. I think we need to put more faith in ourselves and the people around us to be able to judge our ability better than our self. I also don’t trust anyone who tells me they are smart, or knows everything, total red flags in my book. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. —Aristotle is another favorite quote of mine, and I think that simple fact leads down the impostor syndrome road. If you look around and everyone else seems to be getting something you don’t (because you can see the complexities) you feel stupid. But sometimes, that’s just because you are the smart one. 
Fear and negativity have been major factors in my life, so I guess you can say “to be continued…” I do not work with the darker aspect, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know it is there. I think its dangerous with the wrong mind set, and I don’t think I am ready. 
Until next time… (I’m going to pass out now….)

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Damn my subconscious is smart!

“Meditations on the Path of Knowledge”

My topic for today is dreams. You will have to excuse the zombie like writing since I feel like my head is full of mud and not brains. That is what happens when I try to reason with computers all day. I have strange dreams sometimes. I have dreams that hint at truth, and I have dreams that are like movies.

Sleep is one of those important things, that when you think about it evolutionary make little to no sense. When we sleep we are vulnerable, so why did we evolve to need sleep? This is a question tackled by Radio Lab and I think they did an excellent job. There was a study published in Science last month that might have answered some of this question. It appears that our brain cleans itself. This is all very interesting (and I encourage you to explore more on this topic) but that is not my topic for today.

If you aren’t already listening to RadioLab why the hell not!?

Dreams. There is a long tradition of prophetic dreams. I am no stranger to this phenomenon. A few weeks ago I had a dream that an ex-coworker (who moved to Europe) stopped by the lab. It was short and comical (I told him to go back outside and knock like a normal person). I told one of my current coworkers this dream while we were hiking. He went home that night to an email from this co-worker saying he would be in town in November. Coincidences like this, and strong Deja Vu experiences have always seemed to happen.

It seems to me that there are at least to ways one can approach the “what are dreams” like this question. The first is with magical thinking, and the second is more rational that your subconscious picks up on cues that your conscious brain doesn’t. I lean on the second approach, but there is always a sliver of magical thinking. There have been cases where I had a dream about a conversation with someone, only to have that conversation YEARS later. I have recognized people out of dreams from years before as well. It could be my brain playing tricks on me, or it could be something more. While it is pleasing to think that I can see through time, and that I am having prophetic dreams, I’m not sure that jumping to that conclusion doesn’t take something away.

Once you give something an explanation and put it in a “box” you stop trying to figure out the problem. Where is the fun in that!? I personal like the thinking that time doesn’t have to be linear and that I might be experiencing a bit on non-linearity of time in my sleep, but I also like waking up in awe of how smart my subconscious is. What environmental triggers made me think about my ex-coworker, and conclude that he was due to come back for a visit? I have no idea. But my brain might have picked up on some pattern that my conscious self hasn’t seen.

Wouldn’t nonlinear time be fun? For a while… 
then I bet it would get annoying….

My subconscious also likes movies. I refer to my sleep state as “Sleep Kat” and she is very different from me. She is a total bitch, and will hang on to her dreams with both hands. I posted on social media recently that I had a very vivid dream that was very linear like watching a movie. I wrote down this dream and 6 pages later I have an outline for a much longer story. I think I will write that one up in January in full. This is far from the first time I have had this happen, and a collection of stories from “Sleep Kat” might be a fun project.

Why I picked dreams today is due to a dream I had last night. I tend to have very vivid dreams. There are times that I wake up unsure if that was a dream or not… This morning right before my alarm went off I dreamed that a colleague of mine posted a photo of a beautiful dark red candle with a heart carved on the snow into it with a caption that insinuated that she was also pagan. It was so vivid that I checked my facebook three times this morning to see.

(not what it looked like but the closest thing google images came up with)

It made me realize that while I know they are dreams I put a lot of stock in what my dreams tell me. I don’t take it at face value, but I question if it really happened or not. I guess I don’t have much in the way of concluding remarks besides saying that dreams have a funny way of sticking to you and making you question reality. And I love it!

P.S. My brain feels much better now! I knew this writing thing was a good idea! 🙂

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