Ritual Smoking

Note: This post discusses the smoking of tobacco and other legal substances (such as mugwort) by adults. I do not condone the smoking of anything by minors. It is not intended to promote illegal actions of any kind.

I normally abhor the smell of tobacco smoke. I had asthma as a child. The act of smoking anything never appealed to me, despite the fact that I love incense. Tobacco use has led to health problems with some of my family members. Even knowing that non-tobacco substances like mugwort can be smoked in a pipe, I never considered that it might be something I could or would do until recently.

I have begun to wonder more about ritual smoking in the last few years. I have a lot of respect for most things done for ritualistic purposes, even or especially if they aren’t things I could see myself doing. I am often curious about how others practice and interact with their gods and spirits. I have been able to witness practitioners include it in their practice in some way.

I once had a roommate who had a very curated taste in cigars. She didn’t use smoking as part of a ritual practice, but she had a lot of knowledge about and respect for the act of enjoying a good cigar. The way she smoked made it a ritual of sorts. She offered to let me smoke a bit of a cigarillo to try it out. When I finally came around to the idea of trying, I found the mechanical aspect of sucking in but not inhaling to be a bit of a challenge. My curiousity was sated. I determined that it was not a practice for me

Cut to recently. I found myself sharing in the process of smoking clove cigarillos for the ancestors and spirits. There were one or two natural tobacco cigarettes being smoked as well, but I was not put off by the scent. I was pulled in, drawn in. Perhaps the ancestors were pulling me in a bit, perhaps it was just the general atmosphere. This experience showed how it feels to smoke as a sacred act. It was much more visceral than I was expecting, connecting with the spirits through breath.

I don’t know if ritual smoking of any sort will become a part of my practice. I do know that this experience has shown me there is more to explore with it. Whether I choose to engage with it again or not is uncertain, but the book is still open.

Pushback

I’m popping around on discord servers, wanting to express something, but nothing seems quite right. Thus I have come out to the front porch swing for a bit of fresh air and a bit of centering.

Last night was some unexpected spirit work that thankfully popped off at time that I had already set aside. There is some of my own spirit work that still needs to be done, some of which I had intended to do last night and some that I just keep pushing back.

Part of me seems to be pushing back against the doing today. I feel intensely that certain things need to be done in a spirit work sense, yet I’m rebeling against myself. I suppose that through writing this, in expressing it outwardly to myself (and to whomever else is reading), I am trying to determine what that rebelious bit needs in order for all of me to move forward.

Attending Mass

I attended Roman Catholic Mass on May 22 of this year. One of my partners (Sarenth Óðinsson, blog) who is also a former Catholic felt the pull to attend as part of his ancestor work. He invited me to accompany him. I agreed almost immediately, knowing how emotional attending Mass can be. He discusses his experience (among many other things) on this podcast AGF 92 (Around Grandfather Fire, Ep. 92).

Here is a little background. I was born and raised in a practicing Catholic family. I went to Catholic school from 1st through 12th grade. My father attended seminary, but he never took vows. The weekly sermons were discussed across the Sunday lunch table growing up. Priests were never seen as infallible. Discernment, critique, and questioning were encouraged to a certain degree. My parents and siblings are still active Catholics. When I say active I am referring to prayer before meals, attending Church on Sundays and holy days, tithing et al.

As a Catholic, I usually found Mass to be a very moving ritual. There were definitely times I wanted to hurry it along, but overall I enjoyed going. As a former Catholic, I tend to find Mass uncomfortable and emotional. There are responses and prayers I will say and others where I stop short. I often feel like I am tripping over my own feet.

Sarenth and I did some simple divination for each other to make sure our gods and spirits were in favor of us going. The results were affirmative, though my spirits stipulated that I was not to receive communion.

Although I mainly went as a support for my partner, I was curious to observe how it would affect me. It was the 6th Sunday of Easter time, so triumphing over death was a theme. The phrase caused whiplash. Triumphing over death? Where was the usefulness in that? Be it metaphorical, spiritual, or physical, death is necessary. Trying to go avoid death leads to overgrowth or stagnation. I thought of Norse goddess Hel. Death is never easy, but it contributes so much to thriving life. I realized then how far my beliefs have diverged from the Roman Catholicism of my childhood.

The word sinner was used a number of times during the Mass. Though the soft-spoken priest included himself in this categorization during his sermon, the pain of the word didn’t sting any less. As a former Roman Catholic who is divorced, bisexual, polyamorous, and a practicing polytheist, I am acutely aware of how many ways I qualify as a sinner in the Catholic context.

I grew up with the definition of sin as “to turn away from God.” I don’t know why it bothers me when I have actively chosen to turn toward other deities and spirits. Perhaps it is the idea that existing as my most authentic self mark me as a wrongdoer and outsider in the religion that so much of my family loves.

I have no plans or desire to return to Catholicism. I do still maintain connections with some of the spirits from that religion. I am glad to have been raised as I was in Catholicism. I hope to make more peace with it through time and healing work. The healing might include attending Mass again. Perhaps working with my ancestors. Perhaps specific work with Mary, saints, or the Trinity would help. I simply hope to heal enough to fully support my family in their spiritual journeys as I would like them to support me in mine.

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