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Tues. Dec. 5, 2017: St. Nicholas Day

December 5, 2017

chocolate santas

 

Actually, St. Nicholas DAY is tomorrow. Tonight is the night — the night where we put out our shoes, and tomorrow morning, discover them filled with treats. Before you say “ewww” — sometimes there are special shoes (I have actual wooden shoes bought in Volendam, Netherlands), or, at the very least, the treats come in little bags. So, no, they’re not all sweaty and gross.

St. Nicholas Day is a family tradition that I’ve chosen to keep and celebrate in my own life, even thought I’m not much on saints and what they represent in organized religion. It’s something my family celebrated ever since I can remember, something my parents celebrated when they grew up in Europe.

Nikolaos was actually a Greek bishop in Myra, Turkey, and buried in San Nicola, Bari, Italy. He was called “The Wonderworker” and known for helping the needy.

The whole “filling stockings” came about as the legend of a poor man with three daughters who hung their stockings by the fire. St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and it landed in a stocking, providing the dowries for marriage. From then on, any gift from an unknown giver was attributed to this bishop. He was also known at the patron saint of children and sailors.

As a living man, he was exiled from Turkey by the Emperor. In 1087, his bones were stolen by Italian sailors and reburied in the church bearing his name in Italy.

It’s likely sailors took the legends with them when they returned home, and that’s how the stories spread through Europe. In some traditions, Sinterklaas (as he’s known in the Netherlands) has a sidekick, the dark-skinned “Black Peter” helping him deliver toys, candy, and oranges to those deemed “good.” And coal to those deemed “bad.” Remember, in those days, oranges were rare in many parts of the world, and sailors depended on them to stave off scurvy. Another indication that sailors contributed to the evolving legends.

That evolved further into travelling by sleigh, and horses transformed into reindeer who then began to fly. The UK started calling him “Father Christmas” and moving his gift-giving to later in December.

There are dozens of conflicting legends from which to choose. It’s fun to read an array of them to see where they differ, what’s similar, and how they are a snapshot of what was needed by the people of the time.

Our family celebrates St. Nicholas and Santa Claus as two different figures. St. Nicholas comes on the night of December 5th and fills the shoe left out for him. Santa Claus (who I consider the personification of the Spirit of Giving), delivers the big stuff on the night of the 24th.

Both figures are a reminder that there is still kindness in the world, how it is important for each of us to personify the Spirit of Giving whenever we can, and that we need to remember to give thanks.

Next post will be for the Winter Solstice, December 21.

Blessings!

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Nov. 16, 2017: Night of Hecate

November 16, 2017

Nov. 16, 2017
Day Before Dark Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Reed

Before we get into the Night of Hecate, just an aside pertaining to Kami of the Hearth. When I opened my book of daily meditations for Nov. 8, it named Oki Tsu Hime as the Japanese goddess of kitchens for that day’s meditation! I love synchronicity.

Back to Hecate.

I think of this time of year as the “Season of Hecate” starting on October 1 and going through mid-November. This is the time of the Crone, the time to put the yard to bed for the winter, the time for divination and to honor the dead (when you’re in the Northern Hemisphere).

Also, as I’m getting older and preparing to enter Cronehood myself, I find myself turning more to Hecate. She’s a Triple Goddess, but known best for her Crone aspect, and often called “Queen of the Witches.” It’s not just about the oft-touted “wisdom of age.” It’s also about hitting a point where you’re tired of dealing with other people’s crap. It’s about boundaries. It’s about turning inward. It’s about sharing and supporting others, but at the same time, not wasting time on those who want someone to do it all for them and not put in any work themselves.

Hecate is honored at the crossroads, both literally and metaphorically. I have quite the crossroad a quarter of a mile from where I live — even has a graveyard on one corner. Of course, should I try to leave something there, I’d be hit by traffic!

Hecate is also connected to keys, and is considered to give the gifts of knowledge, intuition, and magic. (I choose not to spell it “magick”. That’s a personal choice; others do to differentiate it from the type of magic done by illusionists. I just call that type “illusion.” Again, personal choice).

I started some key magic on the full moon that I will complete tonight, in honor of Hecate, and with her assistance (I hope). No, I’m not discussing it publicly at this time — part of the whole “be silent” part of the work. Not because there’s anything hinky about it, but I have to give it the time it needs to prepare and to manifest, and to take my own actions to make sure it does. Discussing it in a tender stage, unless you’re brainstorming with those with whom you’re doing the ritual, is counter-productive. It’s like talking too much about the book you’re going write — if you talk about it too much, the energy dissipates, and you don’t write it.

So, as I pass each crossroad in my travels today, I will honor it. I will visit the astral crossroads in meditation tonight, LISTEN to anything Hecate decides to share with me, and complete the ritual from there.

Then, I’ll take the actions I need to take to make sure it manifests. I’ll let you know when it does!

I wish a blessed Thanksgiving next week to all who celebrate it.

Tomorrow is Dark of the Moon, which we’ll discuss in a future post. Saturday is the New moon, which we’ll also discuss in a future post.

The next full moon is on December 3. I will post a meditation over on Cerridwen’s Cottage to build on the work we did last month. It’s most likely to go up the Friday prior to the moon.

The next post here will be on December 5, when we talk about traditional holidays and ideas to update and or align them with changing beliefs. Why December 5? It’s one of my favorite celebrations — St. Nicholas Day!

Blessings.

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Kami of the Hearth and Experiences with the Two of Pentacles

November 8, 2017

Kami of the Hearth
According to Z. Budapest’s book, The Grandmother of Time, November 8 is a day to celebrate Kami of the Hearth. I’d never heard of Kami of the Hearth, but I like working with hearth and kitchen energies, so I thought I’d add her into my personal calendar.

I did some research. According to the Japan Talk website, there are eight million kami. They are spirits honored in the Shinto religion. Another site I visited said it can take up to ten years to learn certain Shinto rituals, because they must be performed perfectly.

Well, that makes it a little more complicated to decide to honor Kami of the Hearth a week before the designated day!

Looking at the Japan Talk site again, it seems Inari is the closest Kami to what I consider the hearth — she takes care of “rice, tea, fertility, and worldly success.” The fox is her totem — which also happens to be one of my totems. Patricia Monaghan has similar information about Inari that in her Book of Goddesses and Heroines.

The debate then became, do I honor Inari or a nameless “kami” of the hearth? Could I possibly honor both? Could I create simplified rituals to honor them, and then grow those rituals over time?

That’s what I’m trying to do today. I’m going to give thanks to Inari and to the unnamed hearth kami. I’m keeping my eyes open — when I visit Asian stores in the coming months, I will look for Japanese fox figures and small shrine buildings that I can use creating a larger, more permanent shrine to Inari/kami.

I will read more about Shinto practices, although I won’t train for ten years or be able to learn the “perfect” ritual. I will honor the spirits as best I can in the tradition I’m creating, and it will be, as life, a work in progress.

Two of Pentacles in the Tarot
Every Samhain, I do a reading using three decks whose layout mirrors a clock face. November is twelve, December one, January two, and so forth, with the thirteenth lunation in the center.

I use the Goddess Oracle, pulling one goddess to work with during the month. Then, I choose one deck as the “action” for the month and another deck as the “energy” for the month.

Last year, the Steampunk Tarot was the Action Deck and the Celtic Dragon Tarot was the Energy Deck. The upside is that you get to work intimately with those decks all year. The downside is that you can’t use the decks for any other readings that year (at least, in the way I’ve set up my altar and energetic work with those decks).

This year, I’m using the Witches’ Tarot as my Action Deck and the Medicine Woman Tarot as my energy deck.

When I did my reading on Samhain, my November goddess was Kuan Yin (Compassion). But both the action and the energy card were the Two of Pentacles. And, in my daily advice reading, the Two of Pentacles keeps coming up (I’m using the Tarot of the Four Elements for that).

Obviously, I need to balance this month.

That is absolutely correct. I’m working with two new clients, and my schedule has changed to accommodate them. I thought I was on a steady track with some other writing, and that’s been thrown into jeopardy.

Even though each card is a Two of Pentacles, each is a slightly different shade of meaning. Each image is different and striking.

In the Witches’ Tarot, the figure is a buff man holding a barbell with two pentacles painted on it, being offered green cash by several hands. It deals very much with physical force, energy, work. Which makes sense, since it’s the “action” card for the month.

The Medicine Woman card, called the “Two of Stones” shows a woman kneeling by flowing water, washing stones. It’s about one’s relationship to resources and reciprocity. Again, it makes sense as the “energy” card for the month. Redefining my relationship to the material work, neither giving too much, nor holding back and being untrue to myself.

And Kuan Yin reminds me to have compassion, as much for myself as for others.

The Two of Earth in the Tarot of the Four Elements deck shows two growing trees, each with a pentacle in the middle. It reminds me of the need to work together, and not rush into a new business relationship or make decisions too quickly. Find the kindred spirits and work slowly. Based on the disappointing news that changes the direction on a good many things received Monday evening, that, too, makes sense. A reminder not to make long-range decisions when upset, but work with others, review options, and make informed decisions.

Digging deeper, Gail Fairfield’s Choice-Centered Tarot tells me I am choosing a new physical, financial path. That is certainly true with the new work coming in, and with the decisions I have to make based on Monday night’s information (not trying to be cryptic, just can’t discuss it yet). It’s also a reminder to conserve energy, to use it wisely, not blow it all out or hold it all back. Again, ties in to the positional meanings of the cards for the month.

Janina Renee, in Tarot: Your Everyday Guide goes even further, pointing out the need to take on additional responsibilities, and the sense that we often feel pulled between our inner and outer lives.

Some other decks depict the Two of Pentacles as someone balancing on a tightrope, or holding one pentacle aloft and the other closer to the ground. Those would be different shades of meanings.

The decks I’m working with turned up cards that have the direct shade of meaning that makes the most sense in the situation. That’s why I believe, when faced with choosing decks in a reading situation, you are drawn to different decks at different times, and the deck with the most relevance has the strongest pull.

These cards are a comfort, that I can work my way through the month’s challenges in a positive fashion, while also reminding me that it will take work. In other words, much as I’d like to curl up in bed until the New Year, that is not an option on any level.

The next post will be on November 16, Hecate’s night.

Namaste!

 

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Full Moon – Nov. 4, 2017

November 4, 2017

Forest Lake

This month’s full moon is interesting, because it comes close to Samhain. It’s the first full moon of the new cycle, yet its seeds were planted in the cycle that just ended.

I’m considering this a “Transitional Moon.” The ritual I’m doing tonight will incorporate the elements of what I worked on in the Samhain ritual, intentions for the coming year (personal ones, and also ones that encompass joy and justice on a larger scale) with transitions from the old cycle to the new cycle and the fulfillment of what I started on the last full moon, and what I continued to work on while the moon increased.

The longer I do this work, the more I’m grateful for the strict training I had early on, and yet the more I do spontaneous ritual. That means that I think through the shape and what objects, colors, scents, et al I want to incorporate into the ritual, but I don’t actually write down the ritual and memorize it ahead of time. I speak in the moment of ritual. I do write it down later, in my Book of Mirrors (which is different from my Book of Shadows — that’s fodder for a different post).

Because I’ve been doing this work for nearly two decades, my practice has evolved where spontaneous ritual works well for me. Without the grounding of my previous training, I doubt it would. The imagination and creativity can flow because it has a solid foundation.

Rather like writing. If you don’t build a solid craft house, your imaginative work can’t fly.

If you’re interested, there’s a full moon meditation over on Cerridwen’s Cottage. I’ve been talking for years about posting Meditations for Gaia. Instead of starting at Imbolc, which is always my intent, I’m starting with this, the first full moon after Samhain. Enjoy!

My next post will be on November 8, where we celebrate Kami of the Hearth.

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Samhain 2017: Endings and Beginnings

October 31, 2017

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 Tues. Oct. 31, 2017
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

This blog has been fallow for quite awhile now. I quieted down because I had trouble articulating the inner work I did. So much of a spiritual process is experiential rather than theoretical when you attempt to live your path.

I’m starting up again in an attempt to articulate this particular part of my personal journey. The writing journey is tied to it, and yet, in some forms, separate.

When will I post? I hope to post on turns of the moon and particular days that have meaning for me. I can’t promise it will be “every” day of a particular week, but I hope to post once a week or once every two weeks.

Since I moved from New York City to Cape Cod, many things have changed (understatement). As of March, I will be ready for my Croning Ceremony. I don’t mind many things about aging, although I resent losing physical strength. A good deal of that is on me, since I haven’t maintained weight training that would have helped. I need to add that back into my routine.

But my yoga and mediation practices have grown in beautiful ways. They have provided ballast through difficult and frightening times. I hope both continue to grow as I enter this new phase of life — chronologically, I am an “Elder,” yet I feel I know less (in some respects) then when I was much younger. Or maybe I’m wise enough to know how little I’ve always known!

But at least I’m curious enough to find out.

I suspect I’m in my second Saturn Return (the first hit early, and I think the second has, too). That would explain a lot of 2016 & 2017! I would have to re-run the transits in my chart and overlay them on my birth chart.

I have a garden here, which I couldn’t have when I lived across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the Deuce in New York. I’ve learned a lot about gardening (although never enough), and grown many of my own vegetables and herbs. My herbal knowledge has grown, although not as fast or as wide as I anticipated.

I moved here with certain expectations. Living here was my goal for years before I actually did it. At first, it was Wonderland. It seemed the reality of living here far surpassed the fantasy. But, gradually, they moved further and further apart.

Much of that is on me. I’d never been a civilian before. I spent my entire working life in the theatre. What did I know about the world outside of the arts? I only visited when I had to. Far too much of my dissatisfaction with my life here has been because I worked hard to be a “good sport” and to try to fit in (which makes no sense; I didn’t try to fit in during grammar school or high school or college, so why now?), and to meet other people’s expectations instead of my own. I capitulated far too often when I should have negotiated harder for a compromise.

NONE of the capitulations paid off. Not emotionally, not creatively, and certainly not financially.

I’m in the process of changing that. It makes certain people around me uncomfortable. Too bad for them.

I achieved many of my dreams throughout my life, especially on a creative level, because I wouldn’t capitulate. Or, sometimes, even compromise. I need to take back some of that youthful determination and meld it with some of the life lessons I’ve learned in the interim.

That is my focus for the next cycle. To use garden terminology, I have hacked away many parts of my life that are no longer working, and mulching, fertilizing, and preparing the ground for new plantings. Some will work, some will not. That’s all okay. Because I have every intention of enjoying every moment of the process.

Today, at this time of closure and fresh beginnings, let yourself release what no longer works. Remove clutter from your life — the human clutter and the object clutter. Make room for something fresh and new that can improve your life on all levels.

I will do my ritual tonight, and preparation for the coming year. I will cut away and put forth new desires. I will give thanks for all I have learned, and ask for blessings to use it wisely.

I’m planning my next post for November 4, the Full Moon.

Blessings on this night of Samhain and for the coming year!

 

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Blue Moon

December 30, 2009

December 30, 2009
Moon: Almost Full
Retrogrades: Mars and Mercury

On New Year’s Eve, we will have a Blue Moon. That’s the second full moon within a calendar month (at least, that’s been the popular interpretation for the past 50 years — there are some recent disputes), and for it to fall on New Year’s Eve is even more unusual. Because it’s so unique, it also has power. So, even more than usual, be careful what you wish for! Be very, VERY specific. Think through the consequences. The likelihood of fulfillment is higher on a Blue Moon — but the consequences are also stronger and faster.

I’m also designating this a “Wishing Moon”. “Wishing Moons” come around every three months; you make a list of wishes for the coming cycle, and then you go out and you take steps to make them happen. When the next Wishing Moon comes around, you take out your list, see what you’ve accomplished, what’s still in progress, what you had to let go. You burn the list, and you create a new one for the next cycle.

This is a PRIVATE list. If you want to share it with people in your circle, or a trusted friend, go ahead. But the Wishing Moon list is not something you post on the internet or discuss publicly, the way you do goals when you work publicly for accountability. These are the goals and dreams of your heart, the things that need to be kept close and private and nurtured as they take form.

So — tomorrow’s Blue Moon is also a Wishing Moon. Take some time to reflect and make choices to make the coming cycle, the coming year, the coming decade the best ever.

The next Wishing Moon (by my calculation) is on March 29.

May you have a peaceful and joyous New Year, and may it usher in a decade of abundance of all good things.

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Winter Solstice

December 21, 2009

On this Winter Solstice, may you embrace your Dark Night of the Soul to come out to light and joy on the other side.

May the new decade we are about to enter be one of renewal, joy, and abundance of all good things.

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Loss

November 19, 2009

J4 and Maine 022

Moon Phase: Waxing
Retrogrades: Uranus

Today is the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. She was in her 90’s, had suffered from a long and debilitating illness, and it was time for her to go. That didn’t make it any easier — she was the glue for many things, and, in spite of all the comforts of “moving on” and “she’ll always be with you”, it’s not the same as being able to pick u the phone and talk to her or drive up to visit. It’s still painful, almost every day.

That’s not to say that our relationship was all sunshine and roses. Quite the contrary — it was tempestuous, to say the least. She disagreed that my decisions differed from hers. Her decisions included going straight from family to marriage to moving in with her brother to “do for” him after they were both widowed. She was a brilliant artist who always put her art last and “sacrificed” for everyone else, especially men. She was exceptionally strong and talented, but believed that a woman’s job was to seem subservient, even though she was the one actually doing all the work.

I made a decision early in life that my writing would be a priority, and anyone who expected to retain a permanent part of my life had to deal with that. Yes, I sometimes put my own plans on hold to be a “helpmeet”. I quickly found out that was not the path for me, and I was not willing to keep pushing my own work to the back in order to help/promote/support the work of someone else’s to the exclusion of my work. I wanted an equal partnership, not a constant battle for control, and I was certainly NOT going to take the traditional “woman’s” role.

We frustrated each other, because my grandmother believed my choices were “wrong” and I believed she’d sacrificed her talent for people who weren’t as talented as she was. We learned from each other what did not work for us.

We were on the same page, literally and figuratively, when it came to books and a love of reading. She had an entire wall of books in her dining room, floor to ceiling. An architect had to build support posts in the basement so the floor didn’t sag. It was in her bookcases where I first became enamored of Dickens, Austin, and Poe, and where I got my first exposure to authors like Daphne du Maurier and Somerset Maugham. When, many years later, I travelled to Cornwall and took photos of many du Maurier haunts, including Lantaglos Church, only 1/4 of a mile from my rented farmhouse, where du Maurier was married, my grandmother delighted in living the trip vicariously through me. Neither of us were whiners, and we shared contempt for those who whined. Something needs to be done, you go and do it without a fuss. We also shared a love of travel and a curiosity about the world.

She was far more gregarious than I am, comfortable in any social situation. She once travelled to Europe with my mother, visiting family land friends in countries where she couldn’t speak the language. She’d go out to parties until 2 AM and find ways to communicate when my mother went to bed early, exhausted.

She was an extraordinary woman who chose to always put herself last, and then got frustrated when people took it for granted. She could be harsh, judgmental, and yet, if you were in trouble, she’d fight like a bear to help you out.

I learned a lot from her on many levels. I miss her and salute her.

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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

IMG_0672

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.