As Christmas approaches once again, I find myself wondering, wandering in a liminal space. Asking myself how to teach children that realizing their own inner Santa Claus is infinitely more challenging than believing in some unlikely literal jolly-old-elf, and infinitely more rewarding. Asking myself where I belong, where we all belong, and how we belong to each other. Asking myself how I can tell the stories of my ancestors, pagan and Christian alike, to the children of my partner. What can I say that will be meaningful and relevant for them, that will share with them the "spirit of the season" that I have come to know and love and value? What will I say when they come singing, a penny for my thoughts?
Category: Rite & Ritual
A Ritual to Greet the Land
Keystones of the Sacred Land is in beta, and my guinea pigs have been plugging away at some pretty challenging exercises (and doing great, I might add!). We've been delving into an exploration of our local landscapes and preparing to meet the guardians and guides who will walk with us for the rest of this journey together. We concluded this week's work with a simple ritual to honor the land and to state our intention to seek our deepest soul, what wilderness guide Bill Plotkin calls our "truest place" in the world. In honor of the summer solstice (and the super moon), I wanted to share this simple little ritual with all of you.
7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane
A Pagan friend of mine mentioned recently that Beltane isn't really a holiday they celebrate; being single and not all that interested in sex, they don't connect with a lot of the symbolism associated with the holiday. I can totally relate. Surely, Beltane isn't just a holiday for horny lovers. As part of the ever-spiraling dance of the seasons, there are a lot of blessings that this time of year brings that can be enjoyed by those of us who are chaste, single, or otherwise just not that interested in turning everything into a metaphor for girl-parts and boy-parts. So in the spirit of the season, here are seven things to love about a sex-free Beltane!
By Candlelight: Celebratory Ritual
When we light a candle in our ritual space, we ignite a flame within ourselves. When we pour water or burn incense as offerings, we offer ourselves as well, to soak into the earth or rise in gentle wisps of smoke towards the sky. Imagining these things is not enough — the work demands that we engage not only with our minds and hearts, but with our bodies. This is the original meaning of celebration: a gathering, a time of coming together. We've come to think of celebration as an occasion for happiness and enjoyment, because this sense of wholeness that we find in company with ourselves and with others is deeply nourishing and joyful for us. But celebratory spirituality also means being fully present to sorrow and suffering, and giving our whole selves as much to hard work and discipline as to pleasure and delight. Celebratory ritual is about our willingness to be fully present to the world and its gods.
Light a Candle to Begin
Christmas eve night, about nine o'clock. Basket slung over one arm and bumping into my hip with every step, I trudge through the snow. The ribbon wound around the basket's slim handle glistens in a hint of milky moonlight, gold thread woven in elaborate patterns through the deep red cloth. In the basket, a red pillar candle and two tapers — scented "seasonal berry" — jostle in a nest of intertwined greens, bits of douglas fir and blue spruce smelling sweetly of bent needles and dried sap; wedged among them, the frankincense sticks, the crystal bowl full of dark sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, the small jar of spring water decorated with silvery snowflake designs and curled bits of blue string. The snow crunches as I feel my way along the un-shoveled path through the park, some of it falling onto the tops of my moccasin-like shoes and slipping down inside to melt against bare skin.
Sincerity, Competence, Integrity: Readers Respond
My last post has generated some fantastic conversation both in the Meadowsweet Commons and elsewhere online. I'm still sweltering at my parents' house and will be traveling home again this weekend, so although I'm in the middle of composing a response exploring some of the ideas readers and commenters have shared, that post probably won't be up for another few days at least. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight some of the many insightful comments my last post has inspired. There is so much more to say on this topic, and it's one that I think lies at the very heart of not just Pagan leadership, but also Pagan spirituality in general. What do we emphasize in our rituals and spiritual work, and why? How do different forms of ritual shape our approach to these questions? How do we choose our leaders, and just as importantly, how do we support them in ways that allow them to continue to grow, explore and take risks? What are your thoughts on the relationship between sincerity, competence, and integrity?
Why Pagans Don’t Respect Their Elders: Sincerity, Competence and Integrity
The process of cultivating real integrity is sometimes messy and sometimes ugly. Fostering community is not about learning to be a good actor or an appreciative audience, but about learning how to take the messiness and clumsiness and ugliness in stride and discover the beauty within all the chaos. It's about learning to recognize the grace of intimacy and the power of integrity, when inner experience and outer appearance are brought into more authentic communication with each other. I can't help but wonder if this is why elders and leaders in our community are sometimes not very well respected, and why those who are sometimes choose to step down out of the spotlight. Have our leaders become so focused on the outer appearance of competence, professionalism and legitimacy that they've foregone the difficult, messy work of authenticity and integrity?
The Gears of Chance: Steampunk Magic
We turn through a world of tension and pressure, movement and poise. Cycles within cycles that turn together, their teeth in rows — the still center of being, that emptiness around which every gear circles. This is the clockwork of the universe, a shining mandala of interconnection and interrelationship. The delicacy of craftsmanship expressed through the primal forces of the elements: forged metal, fire, water, steam and space. All these have their place, turn their way, in an intricate dance with one another. The steampunk shaman knows the intricate patterns of the dancing world. Her wisdom penetrates the delicate work of friction and force, knowing exactly when to introduce the slightest pressure, and where, and how hard. No brute or bully pushing her will onto the world, she turns, she gives way, she waits in the center of stillness and open space, waits for the gears to shift into alignment. When her work is done, you might say it was all just coincidence, the wheels of fortune spinning out through inexplicable chance. This is the work of the steampunk shaman: she turns the gears of coincidence. Through creative nonaction, all action is done.
Altars: A Showcase
I've created many altars, shrines and ritual spaces over the years. Each expressed the unique needs and aspirations of who I was at the time of its creation, and each balanced the limits of my living space with the potential for aesthetic and spiritual engagement. For these have all been living spaces — spaces that were alive with their own energies and moods, spaces that shaped my understanding of myself and sculpted me into new forms even as I organized and cleansed and decorated and invariably made a mess of them in an ever-repeating cycle. House-hunting in Seattle has put me in mind of these many different sacred spaces, and what new altars I will craft as I make a home for myself on the shores of a new ocean. So, while I'm nursing my jet lag and scrambling to pack, I thought this week might be a good opportunity to take a look back at some of those altars of old as I dream of inspiration for new ones yet to come.
Blessings of Sunlight
This past Alban Heruin (the Druid holy day of the summer solstice) I had the pleasure of attending the local ADF grove's ritual to greet the sunrise — and though the rain and thunder put a bit of a damper on the event, our greeting the lightening dawn with offerings, song and prayer was inspiring all the same. Afterwards, I returned home and spent the day in meditation and creative work. Specifically, designing a tattoo in honor of my relationship with my goddess, Brighid, in her solar/stellar aspect. The original plan was to design a small tattoo as a expansion for my shoulder where I have a older and very faded design in desperate need of being touched-up. On my other arm, the Celtic armband weaves in rolling waves in honor of my relationship with Manannan Mac Lir, as well as my ancestors who traveled "beyond the ninth wave" into diaspora on this new continent.