All We Need to Make Magic by Molly


November 2015 059

Photo taken by my 12 year old son this month.

“The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”

–Starhawk

As November drew to a rainy close, we had a small family full moon ritual on our back deck and incorporated a simple gratitude ritual into it. The sky was overcast so we couldn’t actually see the moon, but my four-year-old daughter wanted to get out glow sticks left over from Halloween. We had so much fun dancing around with them and making patterns together in the dark night. We sang a chant I recently made up:

Hallowed evening
Hallowed night
We dance in the shadows
We offer our light.

We did a simple gratitude practice by placing corn kernels in a jar, one for each thing we are grateful for from the past month. We started out slowly and taking turns and then we sped up and the gratitude offerings came tumbling out, over one another. Even the one-year-old added corn, rapidly yet with great concentration to make it actually go in the jar. We drummed and called out, “We are ALIVE! We are GRATEFUL! We are POWERFUL! We are CREATIVE!” When we finally decided to close our ritual and go back inside, the moon peeked out from behind the clouds to briefly say hello and it felt like a blessing on the magic we’d just created together.

As we went back inside, I felt relaxed, happy, and connected. For being something very simple, not particularly pre-planned, and semi-chaotic, it felt like one of our deepest and most connected personal family rituals. The quote above from Starhawk floated back into my mind and I reflected that when I try “too hard” to get things ready for a perfect ritual, I often end up feeling a disappointed. Sometimes I feel like giving up on holding ceremonies with my children entirely. Last year, as we prepared to walk our Winter Solstice Spiral, the baby had a poopy diaper that extended up his back. I often end up snapping critically at whomever isn’t doing it “right.” My boys make fart jokes. My husband gives long-suffering sighs. Our circle looks more like a lopsided peanut. Our humming together discordant and off-key. As we lie on the ground together on the Spring Equinox to do our “Earth Listening” practice together, the kids wiggle and fight, pushing one another off the blanket and exclaiming in loud voices so no one can hear what we’re listening for. We listen to a shamanic drumming CD, but the only one to reach a trance state is the baby as I pace back and forth with him in a baby carrier. The four year old ends up crying because she doesn’t see anything and she wanted to see something cool. Martyrpriestess emerges to complain that she doesn’t know why she even bothers trying to do nice things for anyone if this is how you’re all going to act.

I recently finished reading Under Her Wings: The Making of a Magdalene, by Nicole Christine. A theme running November 2015 007through the book was the concept of “As Above, So Below and As Within, So Without.” I read this book as part of my research for my dissertation about contemporary priestessing and as I read, I kept thinking, I want to hear from the Mamapriestesses, from the Hearth Priestesses! Where are the other practicing priestesses with children at home? I noticed in Christine’s book that the bulk of her work took place after her children were grown and, to my mind, she also had to distance or separate from her children and her relationships in order to fully embrace her priestess self. I notice in my reading and my research group that many women seem to come to priestess work when the intensive stage of motherhood has passed, or they do not have children. Is there a very good reason why temple priestesses were “virgins” and village wise women were crones? Where does the Mamapriestess fit?

As I read Christine’s book and witnessed her intensive self-exploration, discovery, and personal ceremonies and journeys, I realized that in many ways personal exploration feels like a luxury I don’t have at this point in my parenting life. How do we balance our inner journeys with our outer processes? Christine references having to step aside and be somewhat aloof or unavailable to let inner processes and understandings develop, since our inner journeys may become significantly bogged down in groups by interpersonal relationships, dramas, venting, chatting, and so forth. For me, this distance for inner process exploration isn’t possible in the immersive stage of life as a mother. And, yet, I also know in my bones that I’m not meant to give it up. How does the As Within and the So Without actually work?

I return to our Full Moon gratitude ritual. My oldest son, 12, whose height is rapidly extending into manhood, totes his tiny brother on one hip with practiced ease, offering his own glow stick and helping my little one hold his into the air. He expresses gratitude for the fun he’s been having this month with his new video game and, “I’m grateful for you for doing things like this with us, Mom.”

My second son, 9, my bravest child, crawls willingly into the darkness under the deck to retrieve lost glow sticks, poked purposefully down porch cracks by the one year old. He returns, triumphant, holding the bundle of sticks aloft.

My daughter, nearly five, tips her face back, looking up at me with eyes alight, “I’m glad to be a Goddess Girl!” she calls out…

November 2015 001

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is an ordained priestess who holds MSW and M.Div degrees and she is currently writing her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly’s roots are in birth work and in domestic violence activism. She has worked with groups of women since 1996 and teaches college courses in group dynamics and human services. Molly is the author of Womanrunes: a guide to their use and interpretation, Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. She has maintained her Talk Birth blog since 2007 and writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at her Woodspriestess blog. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original birth art jewelry, figurines, and goddess pendants at Brigid’s Grove.

Note: If you have children at home, I’d love to hear from you about the Mamapriestess topic! If you do not have children by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work? If you do not have children and that is not by choice, how does this play into your spiritual work?

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Categories: Childhood, Children, Earth-based spirituality, Family, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Magic, Motherhood, parenting, Spiritual Journey, Spirituality, Women's Spirituality

21 replies

  1. Thanks for this. Though I am not a mother, I fully support your intuition and intellect which are telling you that spirituality belongs in life and relationships. Glad you had a good one. Nothing has to be perfect. Obviously the less than perfect rituals were taken in by your children too. My suggestion is always, keep it simple. HIgh ceremony is not necessary. Keep on keepin on. Blessings.

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  2. When I read your paragraph about “rituals gone wrong” vis a vis the reality of family life, tears of laughter were rolling down my cheeks. There is a magic going on there too, once you give yourself some distance.

    Everyone needs some alone time to stay sane. As a busy mother, this is tough, but even 15 minutes can make a difference on some days.

    A lot of these spiritual rituals were designed by adults for adults. I think the challenge at this stage in your life is to design rituals that incorporate the energy and awe of childhood, to some extent, to tailor the rituals to what children can appreciate and then let it go from there. It sounds like you were able to do just this with your November gratitude ritual.

    Thank you so much for sharing your family experiences!

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    • Thanks for your comment! I’ve been creating ceremonies for my family for 12 years and I’m still learning how to create something that “works” and fulfills each of us. :) I do monthly women’s rituals and they’re much easier!

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  3. Wonderful! It’s true that what we need to make magic is ourselves. A finger makes a dandy magic wand. Yes, it’s hard to find time for ritual with small children, but when you involve the children, time expands. Magically!

    Thanks for writing this. It’s good to be reminded of basic principles. Bright blessings to your children.

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  4. 12 year old boys do like those fart jokes! After I wiped my spray of coffee from the computer screen … :-) I wondered if perhaps your family is there to teach you to relax, to have fun with ritual, to let life, including poopy diapers and smelly jokes, “be”. And I suspect, from their statements in the end of your post, that they are much more aware than you realize.

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  5. To know that there are women such as yourself raising their children up learning and participating in the rituals and ceremonies such as you are doing fills my heart with joy and light! So many of us were raised in strict, organized religions and have found it extremely difficult to break away from that brainwashing. It took me years. So, however the rituals you do with your family turn out, you are doing a fantastic job teaching your children in this way from an early age. Thank you so much for your wonderful post; it made me smile and filled me with joy.

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  6. Everyday life is always the best from of ritual, if we see it that way. And I love this insight:: “The moon peeked out from behind the clouds to briefly say hello and it felt like a blessing on the magic we’d just created together.”

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  7. I love what you talk about and what you ask about in this post.

    My daughter is long grown, but I did rituals with her as she was growing up. I am not a priestess, just someone who wanted to incorporate spirituality into our lives.

    I think one of the things that helped was using the book “Motherwit” which included rituals for doing with children. (I think I’ve remembered the right book.)

    It never occurred to me not to do something with my child b/c there had to be a “right” way.

    I think it’s great and really important that you do ritual with your family. Yes, it’s hard, but the gift you give your family and the Earth is invaluable.

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  8. Oh, Molly, I loved your article! Reminds me to be grateful for my crone-hood. I have often thought it would be very difficult to be the busy High Priestess that I am now if my children were still small. And even those of us without small children find the imperfections annoying and frustrating. You are doing a fabulous job and making a much bigger impact than you realize. Thank you!

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  9. As a practicing mother of 6 I find it difficult to locate mothers who practice or families that unite for ritual. Most find that children are a distraction during any ritual or celebration which is truly a shame. Children bring their own magic that is pure and beautiful. Many would more readily embrace the call of the divine if they were not forced to relinquish their motherhood in exchange for spiritual fulfillment.

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  10. This is so beautiful! I am the mother of a 22 yrs young son, he lives independently and a 7yrs young daughter who lives with me. I am a single mother who broke free from Domestic violence. I want to become a Priestess! Me and my daughter practice most of the ceremonies and rituals I make together. I love to see her doing things freely from her beautiful heart. Infinite love and gratitude to you Molly.

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Trackbacks

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