“The Goddess is Maiden and Mother and Crone; Her children surround Her; She is never alone.
She lives in the moment, knows no grief or uproar, ‘til Harvest rolls ‘round and brings death to Her door.
Then Her bright colors fade and Her glitter grows dim, For Her son lives no longer; She’s mourning for Him.
He’s fallen upon Her body of Earth- Oh, how can it be deadly, which once gave Him birth?
She buries Him gently, and follows Him down, And She casts off in grief all Her robes, jewels and crown.
There is no need of finery where now She sets foot, Down in the darkness of loam and of root.
Her heart is bound tightly, no peace stills Her mind.
She is cold and bereft; She is angry and blind.
She stumbles and staggers; ever weaker She grows, But then hears a voice She is certain She knows!
“My Mother, My Lady, why have you come here?” ‘Tis the voice of Her lover, Her Son, in Her ear.
“Why have you left me?” She cries out in grief. “Why must I bear you to be my joy’s thief?”
He has come here before but She does not recall, And He touches Her hand, to explain again, all:
“It’s age and fate, Lady. There’s naught I can do, Save promise by rebirth I shall rejoin you. You are ever my Lady, my Mother, my Dear, And I swear that in death there is nothing to fear.”
Now She remembers: the grave’s but a womb And a promise of rebirth brings light to the gloom.
There’s peace and reunion to follow each death, As a moment of stillness will follow each breath.
And the Goddess emerges each time She withdraws, And the Wheel turns to freedom, and rolls without pause.”
This past weekend we gathered to celebrate Samhain and to honor those who have gone before us in a quiet & reflective way. We initially intended to do so outside, but with the fickle SE Texas weather were relegated to the indoor sanctuary once we realized the wind and rain wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. It was as it should be. The atmosphere was serene, peaceful and calming.
I went into this ritual with an open mind willing to honor whoever came to me. I thought that I knew who would be most prominent in my mind, but it turns out who I expected isn’t who weighed heaviest on my heart. It was my Grandpa Turkey (Dad’s dad) and I wasn’t expecting him to move me to tears, but grief has a funny way of revealing itself long after you think you are past it. Maybe having him suddenly taken from my life is what made his return rush over me like it did. Whatever the case, I was happy to revisit memories of him and think about him after so long. I spent many summers and holidays visiting him growing up so once we sat down to try our hand at divination I sat with Rowan’s prayer beads in my lap and let my mind wander through the many thoughts of my childhood spent at his home. Playing billiards. Swimming in the pool and having him chase my cousins and I with the water hose. BBQ’s on the back patio. Early morning wake ups with him reading the paper and handing me the funnies to read. Butter pecan ice cream. Many hours of Legend of Zelda together. Cocktail hour where I’d get my virgin drink with extra cherries. My mind had no shortage of cherished memories.
This was the first time I attempted meditation with prayer beads. At first I was a bit clueless as to how to begin or what to do to use them. This is probably something that a former Catholic would be fantastic at because of experience with rosaries, but I had none of that. So I asked Rowan what she had in mind when she made them. She quickly showed me that they were Maiden-Mother-Crone prayer beads and counted them out with me once to show me how she used them. That’s all it took and I was off.
Counting… 1… 2… 3… fingers sliding over the beads one by one with subtle pauses to reflect, breath and allow the memories and any message to come to me. I gave each message some space and time to really sink in before moving on. Once I was satisfied with the messages I received and was sure it was time to move on I decided to attempt to use the prayer beads as a pendulum and they worked beautifully. I was a bit surprised at how quickly the responses came to my questions, but thankful. By the time I was set the prayer beads in Rowan’s lap I was feeling quite pleased that I had accidentally forgotten my intended divination tools for ritual. Turns out that the divination tools I needed that night weren’t my own.
My last divination was with a 3 card tarot spread. It told me that my hearts desire was fully acknowledged and would come to fruition when the time was right. Ugh… you mean I have to wait?!? Patience is something I have been working hard at getting better at. Sometimes I can be extremely impatient and get very grouchy when what I want and what I get don’t match. It’s a struggle at times to know that something good is on it’s way, but not know when it’ll arrive. This is also why I am terrible at surprises. I don’t dislike surprises, but I dislike knowing one is on it’s way. So if you plan on surprising me with something don’t tell me “I have a surprise for you!” That’ll drive me crazy! Hopefully the subject matter I was inquiring about prior to this card spread will manifest sooner rather than later… I’m ready universe!
Samhain seems to always bring out emotions in those who could otherwise usually conceal them. If you thought being moved by a spiritual entity was something you’d take in stride, you soon realize you were mistaken. Even though I know what to expect now after so many years of celebrating Samhain in ritual, the profound truth of sharing space with someone who has crossed the veil always brings out emotions in me. It’s a jolt to your system, not only to sense a presence, but to literally feel it. I am never really prepared, no matter how much I think I will be. Reaching through the veil to greet loved ones is taxing both physically and emotionally. This is why I can only handle ancestor work at this level very infrequently. While it is greatly rewarding, it is equally draining. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye when the time comes.
As we crossed back through the veil with a candle to light our way into the dark half of the year we closed the portal behind us. Once we had all reached the other side we watched as each candle was snuffed out one after another… it was as if someone had gone down the line and blown them out with heaving breath. It was startling, but not scary and we all looked at each other with dazed expressions having shared the experience together. There in the dark we shared soul cakes, listened to the Lyke-Wake Dirge and honored our loved ones and each other with great big hugs and heavy hearts. No matter the time that has passed since the loss of a loved one, when grief is released into the universe in shared ritual space, we all feel it… we all share it… we all carry it a little while. It’s that short distance of carrying the grief for someone else, that gives us each the space to breathe and let go.
May your burden of grief be light through the dark half of the year.
Last year for Summer Solstice I made my way to Hillsboro, Texas to participate in a Summer Solstice festival being held on the property where Middlefaire Renaissance Faire is held. Initially it was going to be a girls retreat, but many of the women invited weren’t able to come… it ended up being a mother & daughter retreat for mom & I. That’s how I sort of think that it was supposed to be. We needed the time away to reconnect and let loose a little together. Believe me, we did! It was hot as Hades out, but we managed to have a good time and tried to keep cool. It was our 1st Pagan festival in Texas & we were determined to make it memorable!
Much of our time was spent chatting with merchants & patrons there. I quickly befriended a musical group called Dublin Doubles comprised of Teresa, Trey & Lala. For 2 days they were our surrogate family of sorts. They were very welcoming and friendly so it was easy to hang with them and get the lay of the land… plus I really enjoy their music and it gave me lots of time to listen to them play. Next to them were the lovely couple Denise & Mel, who felt like kindred spirits to me the moment they opened their mouths to speak. Something about them just felt very familiar and comforting. Mom & I both bought some fantastic loose incense & burners from the business they run called Practically Magick. When we weren’t buying stuff and mingling with the people… we were off by the stage finding our spiritual groove…. in drum circle with a really cool guy named El Lobo. This was obviously not his first rodeo because El Lobo brought a bunch of drums and noise makers for everyone to play with. We spent hours both days we were there getting lost in the rhythm of the drum beats… it was a lot of fun and very relaxing.
This Summer Solstice when Akasha & Indigo started talking about what we needed to bring with us for ritual, I was excited to find out that we’d be drumming. On our Litha craft day I made a little hand-held drum to bring with me for ritual since Jay was going to be playing my doumbek. I’m not sure how long we drummed, but it was a fantastically freeing sensation. I felt very tranquil drumming and swaying to the beat. Prior to that we were encouraged to dance with abandon, Akasha described it as “mad monkey dancing”… so we did. Danced, spinned & jumped the fire. It was a lot of fun. Probably the most free I’ve felt dancing in circle in a long time.
The tone of the ritual felt very playful & fun… like the sort of ritual a faery would want to attend. What with the flowers, fire, drums, poetry & dancing… who could resist?
Here’s the poem I wrote:
‘Round the wise oak
Spin & prance
Rhythmic beat of the drum
Twirl and whirl to the hum
Summer’s warmed air
Flicker of fire
Cleansing water mists their hair
Energy grows with desire
Solstice sun high in the sky
Joy & merriment as they fly
Longest day has arrived
Blessed Litha they all cry!
We also went on a guided meditation to visit “Ancient Ones” who told us about whatever it was we were seeking. We were told to envision ourselves riding a white mare and when we came upon the opening in the rocks we spoke to the Ancient Ones who talked to us about perception. From our end it appeared to be an opening only large enough to peer through, but on their end it was an opening large enough for us to ride through on the mare. That meditation sat with me even after ritual was concluded, the concept of perception and the need to reevaluate how you look at things. I thought it was a really insightful meditation.
It has helped me focus some attention on some of the things I perceive in my life as “not right”… I have too little time, too little money, too many responsibilities, too many chores, etc. You know, when it comes right down to it, none of that is correct at all. Sure, I wish I had more time to do the things I enjoy, but with good time management I can do most of what I want with my leisure time. I wish I made more money, but who doesn’t? With good budgeting I can afford the things I truly need and even a few of the things I want. Responsibility is something I should welcome & appreciate because that means that I am trusted and counted on, things that only come to someone who is tried & true. I’d much rather spend my time visiting with friends, writing, crafting, reading… really anything other than doing chores, but they’re one of those evil necessities in life. What a drag to have to do laundry, dishes & vacuum the livingroom, but I’d much rather do that than live in a dirty, unkempt home. Perception is important. It helps you to look at the very same thing from a different vantage point to gain a broader view.
That’s what Summer Solstice was for me. Drumming until my hands hurt. Dancing with abandon like a “mad monkey”. Writing poetry. Leaping the fire. And reevaluating my perception. So, what was your Summer Solstice?
Rowan & I lead this ritual. It was our first time to lead together & was a lot of fun! We had so many ideas when we were brainstorming that it was hard to narrow down what all we wanted to do, but we managed to do nearly all we had planned. As with any ritual, we realized a little modification & improv was needed in order to get done so that the CUUPS group could hold their ritual after us. So the river stones we intended to decorate for the fae had to be put off for another time. Instead, we offered cookies, sweet wine & flowers.
The ritual was really beautiful. As I said, we made sure to make offerings to the fae (so not to anger them), danced the Maypole & paid homage to the nine sacred woods by utilizing the re-vamped nine sacred woods that Rowan came up with for our area. (Check out her post on it here!) Some of the things we did to make this ritual special were: using a besom to “sweep” the circle doused in peppermint oil, starting the fire in the pit with pieces from each of the nine sacred woods, having our circle mates enter the circle after ritual cleansing of their hands in magnolia, sweetgum & jasmine infused water and we raised energy not only around our usual circle, but incorporating the circle around the Maypole as well dancing a figure eight. This time in order to invoke the elements we used a guided meditation and the sounds of earth, air, fire & water, which was lovely. All of these things were fresh ideas Rowan & I came up with. They made the ritual feel very sacred and connected… exactly what we were hoping for.
The highlight of the ritual though, was definitely the Maypole! We couldn’t get enough photos of us by it, draped on it, kissing it… it was a lot of fun. Not to mention dancing it was amusing to say the least. With many first timers, it took us a little bit to really get a good rhythm going, but once we did… we were unstoppable! We had the ribbons woven so well that it was hard to find enough slack to weave the flowers in between the ribbons, but we found a way to make it work (as evidenced by the photo above!). It turned out really beautiful after we were done decorating it. I think everyone was pretty proud of the collaborative work it took to dance the Maypole together and the symbolism wasn’t lost on anyone.
As with many Pagan circles, ours is predominately women, but we do have a few men and they were feeling REAL close to the Horned God standing next to the Maypole. There were many hilarious displays of channeling the Horned God on the part of the men in circle. Much to the delight of Raven (who’s love is on the left) and I (my Jay is on the right), as we knew they would certainly need to properly release some of that carnal energy. I don’t know about Raven, but I was happy to oblige Jay since they he was full of playful energy.
Here’s to bringing in the May with loved ones! Wishing you all a fertile year full of prosperity & amazing sexual energy!
Ostara is named after the Saxon goddess, Eostre (from whose name we get the direction East and the holiday Easter). In common depictions of Eostre, her familiar is a hare & she carries with her a basket of decorated eggs, which she gives as gifts to those who cross her path. This is a time of cleansing, fertility & renewal. Just as the dawn is the time of new light, so the vernal equinox is the time of new life. Day and night are equal, this is a time of balance, but Earth teeters on the edge… waiting to tilt fully towards the light.
Last night our circle gathered to celebrate the first stirrings of Spring & honor the Goddess Eostre. Although it wasn’t the actual date of the Sabbat, we choose to gather a little earlier to accomodate the availability of our group. It turned out to be a small group this time and was very calming for me. I enjoyed the ritual very much. We decorated the huge oak that stands in the north quarter of our circle, made an offering of spring flowers and stood hand in hand around him drawing on his deep rooted energy. It was so lovely I had to wrap my arms around him and give him a big hug afterwards. Sometimes those stories about us Pagans being “tree hugging hippies” are true. (Hehe!)
We did a few other things like make spring cleaning lists and shared them with each other. Once I started writing things down I began to realize all of the things I need to get done. I’m hoping that writing it down & having a physical list will help me to accomplish the things on it. One of the things I put on my list was cleaning my car out, trunk and all. That might take me until Beltane by itself. (Not really, but it’s a friggin’ mess!) I have been seriously neglecting to take care of my car like I should. The members leading ritual challenged us to get as much of our list accomplished as we could by Beltane. So, if I can clean my car this week & maintain its cleanliness until Beltane I’ll be super proud of myself.
I think it’s good to take an inventory of all of the things you have in your closets, attic & garage around this time then make an effort to purge your home of anything broken, unused, ill fitting or taking up space that could be used in a more efficient way. Spring cleaning always results in me making a trip to the Goodwill to make donations. Chances are if I haven’t seen it, worn it or used it in the passed 6 months… I don’t really need it. I encourage everyone to take this time to do some spring cleaning. Get rid of the old & make room for the new!
As a gift, our ritual leaders gave us herb plants to take home & care for. I ended up choosing rosemary & pineapple sage plants. This afternoon I spent several hours replanting those plants along with the lemon thyme & oregano gifted to my mom and my love in addition to the other plants that found their way home with me from the garden center. Those included an aloe vera, standard sage and banana pepper plants. My porch is starting to look as if a witch lives here.
Tending an herb garden has become a bit of an obsession for me, so having more herbs to care for is right up my alley. In the past I’ve had small gardens, but never had such an inclination to specifically incorporate them into my practices. Many of the herbs I decided to grow this go around, I’ve done so with the full intention of using them in magickal as well as culinary & medicinal capacities. I am looking forward to growing and harvesting my own herbs again after such a long time without them.
Little by little, with the help of my circle and my own conscious decision to make my spiritual enrichment a priority in my life, I feel like I’m finding a balance. What better time to discover that and offer up thanks to the Goddess!? I can’t think of one.
I hope your Ostara was as balancing and calming as mine was.