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Tapped on the Shoulder

November 16, 2009

Met June 07 014

Moon Phase: New
Retrogrades: Uranus

Many of us who walk this spiritual path have patron goddesses/spirits/saints with whom we work. We develop relationships over the years. Sometimes we drift away from one, only to return. Sometimes our work with one is done, and another chooses us. There’s a great deal of debate as to whether one can or should mix pantheons; what I’ve discovered is that, when you get a tap on the shoulder, you need to pay attention, no matter what the pantheon. In other words, yes, I mix pantheons, but it’s more “that’s the way it worked for me” than something I set out to do.

When I was first studying the path, I wanted to work with a very particular, strong, warrior-type goddess. Unfortunately, she let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn’t ready. I sulked, I pouted, I raged, but that’s the way it was. There were other guiding spirits with whom I developed close relationships that have deepened over the years.

A few months ago, working through a rough patch that involved a lot of conflict and something where I had to be strong, reasoned, and, at times, extremely aggressive with a take-no-prisoners attitude. I fretted, having a few minutes of the whole “why me”? experience.

“Ahem.” It was an almost audible cough. But, as I sat there, contemplating the situation and how I had to respond (because gentleness, kindness, and diplomacy had only escalated the situation), I realized that the goddess with whom I’d wanted to work so many years ago was very much a presence in the current situation. A guiding force, so to speak. I’d gotten what I wanted – -just not in the way I expected! I had to laugh at the irony of it, and was also grateful.

And yes, I’m still working with her. I haven’t lost any of the others, but my spiritual tribe is expanding.

Last week, I stopped on a whim at a library sale. I’m a bibliophile, borderline bibliomaniac. I adore books, libraries, bookstores, all of that. Always have. I was working on a story set in 1898. I happened to pick up a large, hardcover biography for 50 cents, simply because it sounded interesting. I got home and started reading. Not only was it well-written and parts of it relevant to my short story, it was also relevant to three other WIPs. Talk about luck — and a tap on the shoulder from Seshat, the goddess of libraries and scribes.

I’m in the process of gathering images and objects to build an altar to Seshat — on top of a bookcase. She’s been guiding me quietly from the background for a long time. Now she’s stepped forward and asked for recognition. I shan’t refuse her.

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Daily Chakra Cleansing

November 13, 2009

Here’s an exercise to help you if you feel out of sorts, or to help keep you sorted. It takes about ten minutes or less. I usually do it after I finish my morning yoga, but before I do my meditation sit.

Cast an informal circle just large enough to contain you. (By “informal”, I mean you’re casting it while sitting, not walking the circle three times or calling in the directions).

Starting at the top of your head, open each chakra, one by one. When you reach the bottom take a deep breath, and work your way back up doing the following:

Starting with the root chakra, at the base of your spine, imagine a swirl of red light moving through it, cleaning it. When it feels clean and bright, disperse the light, and close the chakra. Move up to the next chakra, do the same thing, but this time with orange light. Work your way up, chakra by chakra (third=yellow, fourth=green, fifth=lapis, sixth=indigo, seventh=violet or white, depending on your practice).

Clean and balance each chakra with its corresponding light, and, once it’s clean and the light dissipated, it’s very important to close it. You don’t want to wander around with open chakras. You’ll make yourself sick.

Once all the chakras are clean and closed, take a minute to let white line run through them, from the crown to the root, and make sure everything feels centered and aligned. Ground, take down your circle, and you’re ready to meet the day from a much stronger perspective.

Anytime you feel out of sorts during the day, find a place where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes and either run through the whole line of chakras, or just open and clean the one feeling the most out of whack. Cleansing when you feel good helps build strength for the more difficult days.

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Flexibility

November 9, 2009

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Flexibility

I thought I had Samhain all planned out — big ritual as the launch of a year’s worth of Gaia-focused rituals. It seemed perfect timing, especially since our landlords slaughtered all the gorgeous, mature trees on the property.

And then, friends took ill. Very, very ill. So the ritual had to be re-fashioned, the day it was to take place, with the focus on healing.

One could argue that the original ritual had to do with healing as well, the healing of the desecrated land, and that the desecration of land is connected to illness. All of that is true. But the focus of the ritual shifted to dealing with the practicalities of physical illness in humans.

Was I angry? Did I resent having to change the ritual at the last minute? Five years ago, the answer would have been a resounding ‘yes.” This time, it was a clear “no.” You do what needs to be done WHEN it needs to be done, not when it’s convenient to do it.

Did I see the connection between illness in people and illness n the land and feed one into the other? Yes. Do I feel that it strengthened the ritual? Yes, because it reconnected to the land, and that’s part of what we do.

Did it mean long hours on an already over-scheduled week, rewriting, running out to buy last minute items, re-configuring? Of course. But it was worth it.

Had I stuck to the originally planned ritual, it would have felt wrong, and lost potency. Had I limited myself to simply switching rituals, I would have felt that I short-shifted the land on which I live for people who are far away, in spite of my connection. By finding connections between the two and seeing how they could support each other, I was able to create a ritual that served both needs and was stronger for so doing.

The reminder in this is that we live in a web, not on a linear path. When we lift our heads from what is directly before us, look around, and see how it connects and is interdependent, we learn to integrate different facets of our life to create a stronger and more unified whole.

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Careful Notation

October 26, 2009

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How often have you created something — either in ritual or messing around with herbs and oils — where you’ve been delighted with the result, but could never re-create it because you never wrote it down?

Keeping good notes will help you keep track of your work, your progress, and help you develop your recipes. Getting into the habit of taking good notes is one of the hardest habits to develop, even if you’re a meticulous diarist.

Part of that, in my opinion, is that so many of the books that offer guidance into the creation process have such an intricate system of planning and note-taking BEFORE your actual ritual or recipe starts that you’re so exhausted from the preparatory notes that you never get any farther.

Whether it’s a ritual or a recipe, there’s a much easier starting point:

Purpose and Correspondences.

Yes, that’s it. Know your purpose. Jot it down. Find correspondences that fit your purpose. Jot them down.

If you’re creating a ritual, you can then slot the purpose and the correspondences in to the way you work. That’s why it’s called a “ritual” — it’s a series of specific actions in a specific order. You have a set way of working — a template, so to speak. Each ritual is individualized to serve its specific purpose within that template. It doesn’t have to be twelve pages long and contain 96 steps. Simple and focused tends to get better results than pretentious and meandering.

The other thing to remember after the ritual is over, you’ve cleaned up and you’ve thought about it for a bit, is to write down your experience of the ritual, what you feel did and did not work, changes that happened organically within the ritual, and, overall impressions. That helps you in the future — if you do a particular sequence from ritual to ritual and it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t work or you can never remember it, you can see that pattern over time and make decisions to change it to something that works better, and brings you more in sync in your communications with the Divine.

If you’re creating a recipe, notating as you work is very important, the same way it would be if you were developing a new recipe for bread dough or a cake or whatever.

Write down each ingredient as you add it.

Note how you mix it in — clockwise, counterclockwise, if you use a specific number of strokes.

Note how it smells or any other sensory details.

Then note any changes you make — do you add a little more of this, find it’s too much, so you have to adjust with a little more of that?

It’s a good idea to make a clean copy of a successful recipe, but don’t throw out the notes that set out the process for getting there. You learn from the process just as much as you learn from the finished product. There will be times when the ratios from an earlier version of the recipe-in-progress will be useful in the creation of another recipe.

And, within a couple of hours, the details of the process will flee, so the sooner you wrote them down, the sooner you can refer to them in the future and save yourself time, energy and frustration.

Take it from one who learned the hard way!

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Fashioning Ritual

October 22, 2009

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This is my busiest time of year — not that I’m complaining. I usually teach at a conference in mid-October. Often, I’m prepping for Nano (although I’m skipping it this year due to deadlines). And we’re getting close to Samhain, which means ritual and more tarot readings than usual.

I’m doing different rituals with different intents for a variety of clients, as well as creating the ritual for Cerridwen Cottage’s Rituals for Gaia, which will be a posted series of sabbat rituals for the coming year. And, I’m working on my personal rituals for the year, which include the days of Tending the Dead and the Ceremony for the Ancestors. (If you want more information on the way I Tend the Dead, please click here).

It’s a unique challenge to work on different rituals simultaneously. Usually, I have plenty of time to create a ritual, perform it with the client, , rest up, move on to the next. But, this year in particular, I’ve ended up with more ritual bookings around Samhain. Since the individuals are different, the ritual is different.

Each individual’s needs and intents are taken into account, and the unique ritual is fashioned with that in mind. The use of pantheon, guardian, etc. is factored in; the supplies necessary; how many will participate. While seasonal rituals with similar intents can contain similar elements, using too much of a boilerplate dilutes the impact of the ritual. So every ritual has to be fashioned carefully and uniquely.

This year, they have to happen simultaneously.

How does one do that? My way is only one way; I don’t want to pretend it’s “the” way. I take notes when the client and I talk about the ritual. I make sure I know patron, pantheon, comfort level with ritual work, experience with ritual work, and any allergies, which is just as important as need and intent. If you’re using incense or oil in the ritual to which the client is allergic, it’s going to negate the ritual.

Then, I take some time meditating/visualizing the result for which the client hopes, and work from there. Obviously, it’s an intent that harms none and doesn’t interfere with free will, or I wouldn’t agree to do it.

I start with the basic structure: Casting the circle, calling in the directions, the actual work of the ritual, thanks, and closing. Then, I fill it in, according to the specific purpose of the ritual and affinities of the client. Usually, it percolates for a few days, and then suddenly, it’s as though a veil lifted and it becomes very clear. I rush to write it down while it’s still clear, and then put it away and edit it over a few days, much the way I do with any piece of writing. You want it to be succinct and focused. It needs to be something in which the client can participate (because you’re not there to perform For the client, you’ are working WITH the client) without feeling lost and without needing weeks of preparation.

Also, once the ritual is written, go over it and make a list of what each participant needs to bring, and what the client should have on hand (cups, dishes, etc. to hold things) so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Try to get the list to everyone four or five days before the ritual, and run through the checklist when you set up the space, and before you cast the circle.

Sometimes, looking at a full calendar can cause anxiety, but once you start to sit down and work on specifics, you feel the internal shift, and you feel it when you’re on the right track.

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Return to the Journey

October 19, 2009

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October 19, 2009
Moon Phase: Waxing
Retrogrades: Neptune and Uranus
Weather: Moving into winter with barely an autumn

I’ve been away from this blog for nearly two years. Sometimes, internal work is so confusing that you can’t discuss it outside a personal journal. Sometimes exterior forces push you and test the limits of your strength, and there’s not enough strength to talk about it with others.

All of these things have contributed to my time away.

And then yesterday, I was blindsided by some news that just proved what my gut told me about the other party, but which sets me back because I cut too much slack and hoped the other side would have the ethics to “do the right thing.” Lesson learned, yet one must be careful not to punish anyone else for a different individual’s choices — always hard. In the long run, it will prove to be the best possible outcome, but the transition will not be pleasant.

On the plus side, I am writing full time. Making my living with my pen, a scribe of sorts. Of many sorts, actually, because I cover a wide range of topics under a wide range of names. I have a daily (and often nightly) yoga practice, and I’ve found a wonderful weekly meditation group.

I enjoy my 2010 calendars from Llewellyn — I am not scheduled in any of the 2011 annuals. After 15 years of writing for their annuals, I feel I need to restock the creative wells. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot in 15 years, but sometimes, one just needs to be quiet for awhile, as I was quiet here.

I continue to work with the Tarot and let it teach me, and I’m spending the next several months going deeper into the Runes, which should be an interesting journey. My European heritage is tied to Runic cultures, so it’s time I paid attention to the ancestors.

This is also the busy time of year for me, with Samhain approaching, not just for myself, but creating and performing rituals for house blessings, ancestors, the coming year, and, of course, a plethora of tarot readings.

Interestingly enough, the last post was about baking bread. And, yesterday, I baked bread. Well, Hestia is one of my patrons!

Not a circle in this case, but a spiral.

I look forward to picking up the journey here. I hope we can take it together and learn from each other.

Cerridwen Iris Shea

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Sacred Baking

December 17, 2007

We’ve moved into the dark half of the year, now. The nights are long and cold, the days short and brittle. The harvest happened months ago, and we live off it.

One of the most comforting things to do during the cold days and nights is to bake. The smell of bread, cookies, or cakes scents a home and makes it feel warm and cozy like few other things. That’s why companies even peddle candles that claim to smell like “Christmas cookies”!

Why not add an extra layer to your baking, and bake with sacred intent? The more intent you put into the food, the more nourishing it is when you eat it. If you bake cookies and cakes to give as gifts during the season, bless the ingredients and the batter, as you stir, with intentions of love, health, and abundance for the coming cycle. Visualize the foods you bake filled with loving nurturance.

Bless each ingredient before adding it. While I often bless the ingredients as soon as I buy them, before storing them in the cupboard, re-igniting the blessing as it’s added to the mix never hurts.

Stir clockwise (in the Northern Hemisphere) to grow abundance and nurturance. Count your strokes, using multiples of 9 or 13. Add a blessing before placing the dough into the oven.

You’ll experience the well-being in your entire home as you prepare the food, and those receiving it will experience the blessings upon eating it.

What better way to spread peace and joy over the holidays?

–Cerridwen Iris Shea