“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.
The thought of superstition brings to mind all sorts of things. Black cats. The number 13. Mirror safety. Finding pennies. Sidewalk cracks. Fingers crossed. Walking around, not under ladders. Knocking on wood. The list really goes on and on.
Superstition is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition as:
1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
- excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural:he dismissed the ghost stories as mere superstition
- a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief:she touched her locket for luck, a superstition she’d had since childhood
Well that seems less harsh, but still definitely defined for those who are not magically minded. I don’t think that I’m particularly irrational, but I suppose there are many who would.
As a child I knew several little jingles that went with the superstitions, but have no idea how or where I learned them. “Find a penny, pick it up… all day long you’ll have good luck!” and “Don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s back!” come to mind for me. I don’t really know that I even knew they were superstitions, but as a child I jumped every crack I saw in the sidewalk and collected every face up penny I encountered. Even as an adult now I catch myself intentionally stepping over the cracks more often than not. Funny how those things stay with you like that. Just the other day the youngest of Jay’s boys, Huckleberry, found a penny on the ground and sang the little jingle I know. I had to ask him “Where’d you learn that?” and he replied “I don’t know. Do you know it too?” When I told him that I did he thought it was cool and went about his business. So I decided to research that particular superstition, along with a few others, because I am genuinely curious where they all came from.
According to wikipedia, “Finding a penny is sometimes considered lucky and gives rise to the saying, “Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.” This may be a corruption of “See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck” and similar verses, as quoted in The Frank C. Brown collection of North Carolina folklore and other places.”
Well who in the world is Frank C. Brown and how would I have learned a saying from North Carolina folklore living in California & Tennessee as a little girl? Who knows… what I do know is that the Frank C. Brown collection of North Carolina folklore has 7 volumes that I could find and that they go back as far as 1912. They’re packed full of games, rhymes, beliefs, customs, riddles,proverbs, speech, tales, legends, folk ballads from North Carolina, folk songs from North Carolina, the music of the ballads, the music of the folk songs, popular beliefs and superstitions from North Carolina. Interesting. One superstition solved… now on to the next.
Stepping on cracks has long been subject to superstition. In addition to the danger of breaking your mother’s back, a 1905 book, Superstition and Education, lists several other grim superstitions: that if you step on a crack, you will have bad luck, or that you will not get a surprise at home that you otherwise would.
Many claim that the original rhyme was “step on a crack and your mother will turn black,” and that the superstition went that stepping on a crack meant that you’d have a black baby. Indeed, Iona Opie noted that one was fairly common in parts of the UK in the 1950s, but there’s no real reason to think it’s the original, not just another variation that came and went. At the same time, kids were saying that if you stepped on a crack, you’d be chased by bears. This idea was invented by A.A. Milne in his poem “Lines and Squares,” but, from Opie’s description, was a more widespread superstition than the racial one. So I guess that one has various versions.
Fortunately, stepping on a crack has never resulted in a broken back for my mom or anyone else’s mom that I know of. What a strange superstition!
As for the rest of them… black cats crossing your path being bad luck, I should never have a day of good luck because I had a black cat for 8 years and the number of times she crossed my path… I have no idea. I personally LOVE black cats. They’re pretty. I don’t like when my mom has one because she always seems to pick the most insane paranoid black cat of the bunch, but generally my personal experience with black cats has been good.
The number 13… well I noticed this most in the hospital. There was never a room 13 and I wondered why… people never had an answer except that “they never had it”. Some buildings don’t have a 13th floor. Well they HAVE a 13th floor, but they number them from 12th to 14th skipping the 13th floor entirely. To eliminate an entire floor based on a superstition seems silly to me, but some people take their superstitions seriously. I wondered if maybe it’s associated with the scary movies Friday the 13th, but the fear predates the movies. The fear of Friday the 13th (as an actual day) has it’s very own phobia name: friggatriskaidekaphobia.
The fear of Friday the 13th as a phobia seems fairly new since it only dates back to the late 1800s. Friday has long been considered an unlucky day (according to Christian tradition, Jesus died on a Friday), and 13 has a long history as an unlucky number. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina, about 17 million people fear Friday the 13th. Many may fall prey to the human mind’s desire to associate thoughts and symbols with events. Crazy, huh? I think it’s safe to say I don’t fear Friday the 13th since I was handfasted in 2000 on Friday, October 13, 2000 on the full moon. I will be sure that I don’t repeat that same mistake, but it had nothing to do with the day… it was the guy.
I’ll admit it, breaking mirrors freaks me out a little. I don’t like it. It probably has a lot to do with the superstition, but I also hate to hear the sound of glass breaking. Besides, if the superstition is accurate… 7 years is a long time to be unlucky! Interestingly enough, this superstition comes from something I consider kind of silly. People used to believe that mirrors didn’t just capture your physical image, but also captured a piece of your soul. This is why many people in the south would cover all of the mirrors in their home when a loved one passed on… to prevent them from getting trapped in the mirrors of the house. I just make it a point to be careful around mirrors and I cannot remember having ever broken one. Which leads me to… I better “knock on wood” to make sure it stays that way.
Well, I’ve always heard it was supposed to ward off bad luck or evil spirits that mean to cause mischief or strife. It’s just one of those things that I have seen my parents do and other people I trust or respect do… so I just automatically adopted the custom myself. Whether or not I think it’s accurate… well I don’t know, but I’m okay with knocking just to stay on the safe side. From Romania to Italy to Spain to England and right here in the United States, knocking on wood has been used to ward off evil spirits, keep bad luck and the Grim Reaper at bay and keep positive/favorable or good things in the path of the one knocking. I think here in the US we use a little bit of all meanings when knocking on wood. You know, because we don’t want to jinx anything. This is one that I often see others do too. I haven’t ever asked them why they do it, but I can almost guarantee that the majority of them do it because that’s what their parents did and it seems better to be safe than sorry.
One thing that really strikes me as odd is that so many Christians are superstitious. If most Christians see the occult, the spirit world and the supernatural as dangerous and scary, why do some of them take part in so many superstitious customs? It makes sense that Pagans might be superstitious because we acknowledge the existence of a supernatural world out there and accept it for what it is. In my opinion it is neither good nor bad, it just is. Maybe that’s why so many people believed in these customs to fend off evil, bad luck and the like. Believing in the ability to do simple gestures like knocking on wood or jumping cracks in the sidewalk shifted the power from the unknown to yourself.
Superstition is not anything I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, however… I trust that my instincts and experiences have been accurate in proving to me that the supernatural is a very real entity. It is not “out there” somewhere, it is right here sharing the same space and time. For the most part I believe that spirit entities leave us to our living and rarely have the ability or the inclination to reveal themselves in even the smallest ways. On the rare occasion that they do, I don’t see any harm in keeping in their good graces. So does superstition affect me? Not particularly or on a regular basis, but occasionally it does. It is usually in such a small way that I don’t even realize when I carry on with the traditional custom and go about my day. Being a magically minded person I don’t see the spirit world as scary or daunting. On the contrary, it’s quite fascinating and interesting to me. I don’t mind mingling with the spirit world on occasion so long as they are playing nice. So far, my superstitious customs seem to have kept any interactions pleasant. For that I am thankful.
So tell me, are you superstitious? If so, how does superstition affect your life?
The very thought of talking to or communing with plant spirits might seem strange, odd or downright delusional to the average person. Fortunately, I don’t consider Pagans, occultists and witches “average”, not by any stretch of the imagination. Our very existence flies in the face of average, mundane and status quo. Most of us live a life that is immersed in magic, beauty and mystery. We live for those moments of connection… to each other, to the divine and to other living beings.
This weekend I attended the Houston Pagan Conference hosted by Blackberry Circle. The featured speaker was Raven Grimassi and he spoke a lot about communing with plant spirits. How to do it, why to do it and what you can expect if you do it. I was mesmerized by the idea of being that in touch with plants to have them actually appear to me in spirit form. How cool would that be?! He told us a story about getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and returning to his bed in a bit of a sleepy stupor. There he found 2 mandrake spirits about mid-calf high, standing next to his bed looking up at him. His initial thought was “I don’t remember leaving my boots here.” and as he rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes and saw their little faces he said all he could muster was a weak “Hello.” as he climbed into bed. He jokingly said that when plant spirits appear to you at 3am for the first time “Hello” is about the only thing you can get to come out. He went on to talk about them disappearing and reappearing at the foot of his bed in full human size. They started to dance, shuffle and sway. Initially he thought “This is really creepy.”, but after a few moments of watching them what seemed creepy soon became beautiful to him. Their dancing and swaying was calming and as they carried out their little routine he started to receive a message from them. He had wondered why they appeared and they told him telepathically and given him a sense of calm. Just as quickly as they had appeared, they disappeared leaving him with the message they wanted him to have. It was a lovely story… one that stood out for me.
I’ve never had a mandrake plant spirit appear to me to dance and convey messages, but I have felt a sense of connection and knowing
with plants and trees. I have felt an overwhelming wash of calm come over me in certain places. I have felt a sense of being remembered in others. Some of my earliest memories of feeling connected to the divine, to nature and to my authentic self have not been in the presence of other people, but in the presence of the giant redwoods in Muir woods, under the wispy branches of the willow tree in my Gram’s backyard and lying on the soft needles of the pines with nothing but earth below me and sky above me. Those moments are the ones I often try to recapture in my current surroundings. They brought me peace, serenity and a greater sense of self.
So what does any of this mean to you? Well, it means that if you want to feel close to the divine, find a way to connect to the life around you whether big or small. Don’t be afraid to stand barefooted in the grass or to put your hands in the soil. Lie on the damp ground and listen to the hum and chatter of nature around you. Be open and willing to accept even the most unexpected messenger. Whether that’s a talkative little robin or a dancing mandrake… this life you’ve chosen (or that may have chosen you) isn’t meant to be ordinary. Magic doesn’t reside among the ordinary… it’s the unbridled possibility of what if’s in this world that makes the life of a witch extraordinary. So don’t be afraid to truly live it out loud.
The next time you are tending to your herb garden, rose bushes or house plants… whisper to them that you are a witch and that you mean them no harm. Tell them that you are thankful for all of the amazing things they are capable of. Name their uses and properties one by one. Touch them, praise them and nurture them. You will be amazed at the ways in which they will communicate with you and how much closer to the spirit of the land you find yourself.