“A new heart I will give you . . . “: Part Two by Beth Bartlett

You can read part 1 here.

Hope: What is a heart transplant if not hope? In granting the possibility of new life out of death, it is the essence of hope. Yet, hopefulness is also knowing death is imminent and finding a way to live well into that knowledge. The impulse of hope encourages us to go on despite the odds. Hope indeed seems to spring eternal. In my darkest days, something would come along and lift me up. Hope is a testimony of the human spirit, lifting us up, refusing to refuse us. This new heart brought hope to me, and I believe that in our going on together, we carry the hopes of my donor’s loved ones as well. 

Continue reading ““A new heart I will give you . . . “: Part Two by Beth Bartlett”

Hawaiian Adventure Shamanism by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Plumeria, one of the fragrant flowers often used in leis.

While my experience of Hawaiian spirituality isn’t explicitly feminist, I am attracted to it because of its loving and gentle nature. It doesn’t feed the patriarchy. It is a philosophy that doesn’t use dogma but rather principles. It doesn’t work as a top-down power system but rather as an internal power extending to the external world. This is reflected in one of our principles: “all power comes from within.”

I was ordained as an alaka’i (spiritual guide) in October 2016 by Serge Kahili King the founder of Aloha International. He teaches Hawaiian Adventure Shamanism or Huna for short. Huna means secret. It isn’t a secret in the sense of something that can’t be shared but rather something that is esoteric or hard to see. You can think of it like the mists of the sea, hard to distinguish and even harder to hold on to. But all real nevertheless.

Continue reading “Hawaiian Adventure Shamanism by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

A Fable for the Season by Marie Cartier

Once upon a time there was a person who only saw themselves in the mirror—even if someone else was passing by in the background, and they certainly never saw the shadows of all the people who had helped them in their life swimming in their eyes. That’s the way it is sometimes—we just don’t see what we don’t want to see.

 And every day this person would look into the mirror, adjust their hair or their jewelry or their collar and then go off to work—never seeing anyone besides themselves.

Until one day they fell. The fell hard over a “stupid, goddamn tree trunk root that some goddam someone should have cut or shaved or done something with –goddamn it.” They said a version of this over and over on their way to the hospital.

And because of that they had to be fed by a nurse. And they had to have their bandages changed. And they had to have a cast put on—several. And they had to have a lot of things happen because it had been a nasty fall and they broke both wrists and their right leg.

Continue reading “A Fable for the Season by Marie Cartier”

From the Archives: Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw

This was originally posted on October 25, 2020

In the United States turkeys are equated with Thanksgiving. But there is so much more to Turkey – a gentle creature who forms strong attachments. Reputed to be dumb, Turkey is in fact quite intelligent and curious, with the ability to solve problems. Turkeys have an excellent understanding of the details of their location which makes them so successful at feeding themselves. They also love to play and to cluck along with music.

photo by Tony Castro

Turkeys, indigenous to North America, evolved over 20 million years ago and share a common ancestor with grouse, pheasants and other fowl. Two species of wild turkey exist today – the wild turkey of eastern and central North America of which there are 5 sub-species and the ocellated wild turkey of the Yucatan.

Yet why is turkey named turkey? Strangely enough it was a mistake. English colonial settlers thought turkeys were a type of guinea fowl which England imported from Turkey – thus the name. The Spanish word for turkey is guajolote which is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name huexolotl.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw”

Seeding up at the Turning By Sara Wright

The forest is bursting with berries, blue lily beads are just one of a multitude of seeds…Astonishing pearl bells adorn mounds of shining wintergreen that shimmer across the forest floor. Soon those berries will blush, bead up, cry scarlet. Three leaved trillium wear peaked red caps. Deep orange bunchberry clusters surprise the unwary -who is expecting this bountiful feast on a woodland floor? Partridgeberry beads are lime green except for those from last year. Soon too these will be adorned in flaming berries that will last all winter… I’m waiting for the cucumber plants to show their colors. Lemon lime whirls catch the slightest breeze. Cattails, and milkweed pods are sending puffs of cotton on the wings of the slightest breeze. Bull frogs call from the rushes; fish intent on the next meal, break the surface of the beaver pond creating a ripple that spreads across the still waters circles upon circles widening into blue glass. Blue headed vireos, red eyed vireos and the hermit thrush sing from green bowers hidden from sight. Hemlock cones have dropped their black microscopic eyes under each parent carrying the knowledge that kin will look after their own. Acorns are dropping a bit too early; their caps still green, but some creature will have a feast, or the microbes will devour these seeds enriching the soil for next year’s sprouting.

Seeding up…. Thousands of years ago women began gathering forest bounty – always asking for permission they took only what they needed. That the forest will return the favor is a given – gratitude the exchange – Seed Saving is an ancient practice that women originally learned from dreams, animals, and the trees that were their neighbors. At that time all were kin….

This year I collect hemlock seeds, the beaked hazelnuts that edge the forest are ripening – almost ready to split…I rattle wild columbine spires releasing the seeds, collect salmon rose hips for a nourishing tea… scatter wild poppy seeds. I am still waiting for elderberry to grace the ditches with deep purple berries. The birds and I keep an eye on ripening clusters and share the bounty between us.

My cultivated garden takes care of itself these days…. Planting vegetables gives me no pleasure – too many years of work, giving to others – too much work that restricted my freedom to come and go. The forest floor is medicine now. Appreciation of every gift grieved or given never goes unnoticed…but it is the joy of watching each plant offer its prayer for the future that keeps me returning … home.

Continue reading “Seeding up at the Turning By Sara Wright”

My Father’s Daughter by Xochitl Alvizo

Me with my aunt, my dad’s eldest sister.

I was sometimes told I look like my grandmother on my dad’s side, and although it wasn’t meant as a compliment, I always welcomed it as such. I wanted to be like my grandma. She was a tough, no-nonsense woman who was light-hearted and spunky to the very end of her life. She had a serious expression on her face most of the time but would playfully and unexpectedly stick out her tongue at neighbor-friends when they passed by her house. She had well-developed patterns of good-natured banter with most people in her neighborhood. She was well-known and well-liked, and people also knew not to mess with her. So, if I could be thought to be anything like her, I was good with that.

She lived in Mexico and my family in the United States. In Mexico, even as a younger kid, we were allowed to move around town on the bus if my older cousin was with us. We always landed and stayed with my mom’s side of the family and usually only went to visit my dad’s side for an afternoon or two during the course of our time in Guadalajara, where my parents were from. I couldn’t wait to surprise visit my dad’s side of the family – my grandma, aunt, and grandpa who all lived together. We never announced our visit in advance; so it was fun for me to get to walk into the patio of their apartment complex and find my grandma, as usual, standing in the doorway of her front door, smoking. She was a businesswoman, always running a small business, selling basic grocery items from home, so her door was always open. And she was almost always right there, standing just outside her door, a serious expression on her face, and a smoke in hand.

Continue reading “My Father’s Daughter by Xochitl Alvizo”

Summer Magic, by Molly M. Remer

We take a slice of honey cake
and a pottery cup of grape juice
and leave it by the rose bush
as an offering,
arrayed on a bed of petals
and topped with a single daisy
and a ring of wild raspberries.
We make some wishes
in the dusty air,
kneel down
with our palms upon the warm earth

and sing for rain.
We walk under
a half-moon sky
beside a blood-red sun,
the sound of coyotes
rising into the night
as a silent deer watches us,
head a triangle of alertness,
black eyes staring across
the heat-weary field.
We catch fireflies,
above the wildflowers
sparks of yellow-green,
and find a plump brown toad
waiting in the path.
Then, we stand quietly together,
mosquitoes beginning to cluster
around our legs,
our heads tilted back
watching carefully for fairy
silhouettes against the deepening gray
of the midsummer sky. 

It is summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Deep summer. Dusty summer. Thirsty summer. Humid summer. In central Missouri, it is the type of thick, wet heat that soaks into you and saps your strength and enthusiasm about life. Life can feel faded, dull, and magic hard to see. The woods, where I find such solace, renewal, and enchantment, become closed to me as poison ivy, thorns, ticks and chiggers, resolutely bar my way. So, I walk on the road these days, in the mornings and at sunset, seeing what I can see from my vantage point on a dusty gravel road. Deep summer I find offers an opportunity to look around to see what flourishes of its own accord, to see what grows without tending, to see what rises wild and unfettered from the natural conditions in which they thrive.

Sometimes as humans we become used to controlling as much of the world as we can control and as much of ourselves as we can control. Sometimes we get focused on what we can cultivate and grow and intentionally tend. So focused on this conscious tending may we be, that we may even rip up or destroy or change what is naturally growing in our own little ecosystem, our own little biome, what is growing right where we are. We may even pull it up and put something else in its place that we think is prettier, or nicer, or even more beneficial or useful. I encourage us to consider summer as a time in which to pause with, appreciate and look at, savor and explore, learn about and discover, what really grows right where you are, what thrives right where you stand, without the need for you to manipulate or control or change it. And, I invite you to also consider how this might apply to the growing and thriving in your own personal life? How or what are you perhaps trying to manipulate or change or control in yourself or with the people in your life? Perhaps it is time to take a step back, to sit back, and to see what is already growing. What is already there? What is thriving in your world? What is thriving for you that doesn’t require wrestling with or changing or trying to make it fit in a certain way? I encourage you to soften and see. Perhaps the mulberry trees are green and spreading in your world. Perhaps the clover is in bloom. Perhaps there are daisies. Perhaps there are monarch butterflies still bravely persistent on the milkweed in the field. Perhaps there are wild onion scapes, with their little purple heads. Perhaps there is yarrow, white, and waiting, and interwoven in its own curious way with the health of your own blood and body. Perhaps that book you want to write is bubbling right behind your fingertips, waiting for your pen to be set against the page. Perhaps that project that sings your name is waiting for you to pause to see it.

We doubt sometimes our place in the natural world. And, yet these plants that surround us, that spring up around us, that grow right where we are, are here and growing, just like we, ourselves, are growing where we are. These plants are intertwined with the health of our own bodies. That is amazing and enchanting and wondrous to me.

My youngest son, Tanner, is six and we are working together on an earth science class, studying planets and the earth and geology and the universe. He came to me saying: “Mom, did you know, there’s real iron in us! There’s real iron in us.” And I replied, “there’s real iron at the core of the Earth too. Isn’t that amazing? The earth has iron in it and so do we.” He looked at me and asked then, “is magic real?” And I replied, “yes, honey, we walk around inside of it every day.” I pause here in the hot exhaustion of summer to marvel that so it is. In truth, it is not only that we walk around inside of it every day. We walk on top of it every day. We walk with it every day. It beats in our veins every day. We live with it every day. If we carry an awareness of this embodied magic with us, then every day becomes enchantment. Every day becomes sacred space in motion. Every day becomes the opportunity to fully inhabit our own living magic as we literally walk around within it each and every day.

So, what is growing for you? What is blooming for you? What is flourishing and healthy, just of its own accord, asking nothing else from you, but witnessing?

The earth is made
of days
beyond count
and roots beyond question.
The fire in your belly
is that which whirls worlds into being.
There is iron in your blood,
iron at the planet’s core,
iron in the stars,
iron in beak of hawk
and eye of crow,
and iron in the red rocks
beneath your feet.
This air you breathe is
river woven,
lightning laced,
tear salted,
iron eyed,
earth kissed,
raven winged.
let this breath expand
your chest
and know:
here you are,
with all things.

Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess, writer, and teacher facilitating ritual, making art, and weaving words together in central Missouri. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of nine books, including Walking with Persephone, Whole and HolyWomanrunes, and the Goddess Devotional. She is the creator of the devotional experience #30DaysofGoddess and she loves savoring small magic and everyday enchantment.

Meditation in July – Weekend of July 4th by Sara Wright

I offered up morning prayers at dawn this July morning to the song of cardinals, rose breasted grosbeaks, and just barely rippling waters. The air was sweetened by water. Peace filtered through the green – seedlings, lichens, mosses, grasses, ferns, trees, clear mountain waters. Silence, except for the birds’ benediction.

 I honored my body with a poem. I also repeated my hope that my house will get the necessary structural help she needs, that the work will be completed. At the brook I experienced my body rooting into forested soil…  I am loved here; I belong here – at least for now.

 The drought drones on, although today at least we have light rain falling, for which I am profoundly grateful, especially because the dreaded 4th of July weekend is ahead – if only the rain will continue the deafening explosions might be tempered. In case this does not happen the dogs and I are going to retreat to the silence and peace of the woodlands to spend our nights in the car, the back of which has been turned into a comfortable bed.

Continue reading “Meditation in July – Weekend of July 4th by Sara Wright”

BFF – Or, The Delicate Dance of Female Friendship by Joyce Zonana

Like so many others, I learned this jingle, actually the opening of a lovely poem by Joseph Parry, during a brief stint in the Girl Scouts when I was nine or ten. I’m not sure I understood it then—what was wine, after all? what did it mean for it to “mellow and refine”?—but the words stayed with me, echoing unbidden through the years and shaping many of my choices.

Joyce Zonana   

     Make new friends, but keep the old;

        Those are silver, these are gold.

     New-made friendships, like new wine,

        Age will mellow and refine.


Like so many others, I learned this little jingle, actually the opening of a lovely poem by Joseph Parry, during a brief stint in the Girl Scouts when I was nine or ten. I’m not sure I understood it then—what was wine, after all? what did it mean for it to “mellow and refine”?—but the words stayed with me, echoing unbidden through the years and shaping many of my choices.

I’m sure it was thanks to these words that, three years ago, I found myself dancing at the wedding of my childhood best friend. Deb lives in Southern California; I live in New York. Yet I never had the slightest hesitation about saying “yes,” I’d attend. This was to be her second marriage, after a painfully failed first. For years she’d sworn she would never remarry; the wonderful man she’d been living with for two decades finally persuaded her. Clearly, a moment to celebrate. And although we’d missed all the other milestones in each other’s lives, I knew I had to be there for this one.

At Deb’s San Diego wedding, 2018

I’ve known Deb since we were seven; we’re now both in our seventies. For nearly forty years we had no contact—different cities, different lifestyles, different choices. But when Deb sought me out after Hurricane Katrina (I’d been living in New Orleans and somehow she knew that); when she came to see me in New York and we revisited our childhood haunts; when she took to phoning me regularly on Jewish holidays—I was irresistibly drawn back into this relationship that linked me not only with her but with my own self over time. (“For ’mid old friends, tried and true / Once more we our youth renew.”)

Continue reading “BFF – Or, The Delicate Dance of Female Friendship by Joyce Zonana”

Finding the Antler, by Molly Remer

May you witness
a growing trust
in the guidance around you.
May you allow magic to find you
where you are.

Seven years ago, I did a drum-guided meditation in which I journeyed deep into the forest. On my head as I walked, antlers grew, curving above me. As I followed the sound of drums and the glimmer of firelight, I kept raising my hand to check to see if they were still there, firm beneath my hand. I reached the fire and met the Goddess there, she reached up and took the antlers off my head and cast them into the flames, where they twisted and glowed until they became a golden ring, which she removed and placed on my finger, antlers now wrapped around my index finger. In waking life, I scoured etsy and two years later located a bronze antler ring extremely similar to my vision, which I bought and placed on my own finger in the woods as a symbol of my earth based path, my priestess vows, and some kind of unspoken dedication, felt within but not able to be fully verbalized at the time.

Continue reading “Finding the Antler, by Molly Remer”

Good(?) Grief by Esther Nelson

The current pandemic has kicked our collective butt by putting a huge dent in our ability to maintain relationships so necessary for keeping our social gears greased and running smoothly.  Grabbing coffee with a friend or meeting up for lunch in order to “catch up” with one another are activities that in times past we took for granted.  Meetings nowadays (both work related and social) are done primarily via Zoom.  Even a doctor’s visit can be accomplished electronically—a mode that, in my opinion, leaves much to be desired.

Besides feeing socially deprived over the past year, I’ve experienced a number of other losses.  I’ll mention a few of them, but am not prepared to write about the ones that sting the most. I gave up my house in Richmond, Virginia, and moved to a high-rise condominium just down the road.  I’ve yet to make it “home.”  Halfway through the Spring semester, all classes at the university where I taught went online. The Fall semester followed suit, delivering classes (mainly) online.  I didn’t want to box myself in on a screen.  I find classroom interaction meaningful in a way that I cannot replicate on Zoom.  I gave up teaching.  In August, I drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico, and have been here ever since except for a brief visit in September to New Jersey for my brother’s funeral—another loss. Continue reading “Good(?) Grief by Esther Nelson”

Homebound by Joyce Zonana

When my parents left Egypt, they left behind everything they’d grown up with, all the objects that carried their deepest associations and memories. They taught me to scorn such “things”—what others value as mementos or souvenirs—rightly reasoning they can be lost in a moment. But while we have them, it is lovely, I’m learning, to let the spirits embedded within them, the memories and feelings they evoke, surround and comfort us. As I move through this house, I feel bound to my own and others’ histories, embedded in a rich and complex life that nurtures and sustains me. And as I sit still and knit, I sense that I am knitting (knotting) up the by now long, loose threads of my own life, shaping them into a coherent and satisfying whole.

Joyce ZonanaWhen I was growing up, home was the last place I wanted to be. It’s not that ours was an abusive or angry household: both parents loved me and my mother labored to create a calm, clean space to contain us all. It’s just that I felt suffocated.

Part of the problem was that we were immigrants. My parents were struggling to find their way in an alien culture, and, with little else to hold onto, they clung to their customs and traditions. I wanted to be “American,” to mingle with classmates, to venture into the vastness (New York City!) just beyond our door. The Middle Eastern culture from which we hailed had strict rules for women and girls, and my mother expected me to follow them. She herself was an excellent cook, a creative seamstress and scrupulous housekeeper, a devoted and dutiful wife. I rejected all of it, refusing to cook, ripping out seams, balking at my weekly chores of dusting and vacuuming and ironing. Instead I dreamt of life as a writer, a renegade, an outlaw. My role models were hobos and witches and gypsies; more than anything, I yearned to be free, longing to “walk at all risks,” like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.

Continue reading “Homebound by Joyce Zonana”

Gratitude and Hope: With a  Lot of Help from My Friends by Carol P. Christ

Last Friday my oncologist gave me the best birthday present I could have imagined. (My birthday was 7:30 pm last night December 20, California time.) Without going into details, my latest CT scan was so much more positive than the last one that it feels like a miracle. I have reason to hope.

Today I am full of gratitude. I am grateful to my doctor Dimitrios Mavroudis who is the head of Oncology at the University of Crete and at the Pagni Hospital in Heraklion. I am grateful to medical science for the chemotherapy that is healing my body.

I am grateful for the national health system of Greece that is covering the cost of my treatment because I am a Greek citizen even though I never contributed to the national health insurance.

I am grateful to the nurses at the Pagni hospital who are unfailingly kind as they take my blood and regulate my chemotherapy.

I am grateful to Vera Dervesi, my cleaning lady and now friend, who with her husband Eddie, took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed, and who has helped me finish unpacking and moving in to my new apartment, and for her sweet presence in my home that soothes my soul. Continue reading “Gratitude and Hope: With a  Lot of Help from My Friends by Carol P. Christ”

Maternal Gift Economy: Webinar Gifts by Carol P. Christ

In the 1960s and 1970s, American-born Genevieve Vaughan was living in Rome with her husband, philosopher Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, and their three daughters. When Rossi-Landi, using Marxist models, began to write about language as a form of “exchange,” Vaughan was inspired to articulate her alternative theory based on the idea that language was developed and is learned through the gifts of the mother to the child. From that beginning, Vaughn developed an alternative theory of culture based on what she calls the “gift economy.”

We are born into a Gift Economy practiced by those who mother us, enabling us to survive. The economy of exchange, quid pro quo, separates us from each other and makes us adversarial, while gift giving and receiving creates mutuality and trust.

According to Vaughan, the “exchange economy” is based in the gift economy, while at the same time it denies the gifts it has received from mothers and mothering figures and disparages mothers and their work. Mothers rear children who enter into the exchange economy, but these children would not be alive to enter the exchange economy unless they had first been nurtured by the freely given gifts of mother. Vaughan writes that prior to patriarchy, cultures and societies valued the gifts of mothers and were organized around the principle of gift-giving. Vaughan states that gift-giving economies are based in the idea of meeting the needs of others, while exchange economies are focused on the enrichment of the individual self. She believes that re-valuing and re-instating the gift economy is the only path to creating and restoring peace and justice in the world. Continue reading “Maternal Gift Economy: Webinar Gifts by Carol P. Christ”

A Thanksgiving Litany for Living through Fractious Times by Alla Renée Bozarth

Alla Renée Bozarth, Philadelphia 11, Philadelphia ordinations
All things being relative, remember
that collective and individual histories
are cyclical but open-ended, and discern
the kind of moment you are in and part of.

Remember how to make it better
by holding on to all that is dear in life,
and becoming more prayerful and thoughtful.

When deprivation comes, return to what is essential—
first, beauty, so look for and create beautiful behavior 
and encourage it.

Continue reading “A Thanksgiving Litany for Living through Fractious Times by Alla Renée Bozarth”

The Legacy of Wisdom by Karen Leslie Hernandez

My Aunt Sophie passed into another realm last week. Not from COVID, but, from a life well-lived.

At 98, she lived a remarkable life. She wasn’t famous, nor did she ever strive to be, but what she was, was what love should be, can be, and is.

In her 98 years she played trumpet in the high school marching band, she had a mean left hook, and she was a Rosie the Riveter, where she actually worked as a welder on ships being built for WWII in Richmond, CA. More, she was a devoted wife, she was a sister and caretaker, she was an incredible grandmother, and, she was a mother. Not just to her seven children, but to her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, neighborhood kids, and to my sister and me, her nieces. Continue reading “The Legacy of Wisdom by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoIn the United States turkeys are equated with Thanksgiving. But there is so much more to Turkey – a gentle creature who forms strong attachments. Reputed to be dumb, Turkey is in fact quite intelligent and curious, with the ability to solve problems. Turkeys have an excellent understanding of the details of their location which makes them so successful at feeding themselves. They also love to play and to cluck along with music.

Continue reading “Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw”

October Magic, by Molly Remer

In was in October that my last grandmother died, my last living grandparent. As the leaves turn to red and gold once more, I wake thinking of her each morning. I wake thinking of my maternal grandmother too, who died seven years ago, in springtime as the iris bloomed. I dream of my husband’s grandfather, he stands shoulder to shoulder with my oldest son, white hair and smile flashing as he compares their heights and laughs.

We’ve just returned from a two week long trip to Florida and have arrived back in Missouri to a life in full swing, books to write, projects to plan, new products to develop for our shop, old requests waiting for our attention. But, the leaves will only be this color for a moment. The air will only be this sweet and pleasant for a moment. The sun will only glint across the cedar branches in this way that brings my soul to life right now, the colors of the day so sharp and vivid, clear and bright to my eyes, that it is almost like stepping into another reality. We have only this moment to join hands and slip off into the woods beneath the early morning sun, stepping past pools of slowly dripping water, over sharp and uncertain stones, soft green moss, and carpets of fallen leaves. It is only this moment in which we will hear the hawk’s cry ring out across the trees. Only now in which we will turn over leaves and discover shining mushrooms, gleaming in the October sun.

I stepped into the woods holding memories of my grandmothers next to my heart. The leaves were lit gold from within and below, forming an enchanted tunnel into the trees near where we have built our new work studio. As I moved into the clearing, I heard two crows raise an alarm call. I stood silently and looked, curious about the source of their alarm. They called again sharply, once, twice, and right in front of me a quiet brown deer, previously unseen, lifted its white tail and leaped gracefully away through the trees. It took a breath, a beat of time, for me to realize that it was me, my own small form standing relatively motionless among the trees watching the morning sun illuminate the yellow leaves, that was the cause of the raised alarm, this communication between species, sharing the same ground.

We set off along a stony gully that bisects the land of my parents, pausing by a series of small pools and gazing through the backs of dogwood leaves turning to rich red with veins of green still lightly tracing through their round centers. Suddenly, the scent of cedar filled the air and I crouched beneath the tree to see the ground beneath it littered with small snippets of evergreen, strewn across a thick blanket of brown oak leaves and yellow maple, glowing in a stained glass impersonation in the perfect touch of the sun upon their surfaces. My breath made a fog in the air and I looked up into the tree to see that it, too, was breathing in this cool morning, steam lifting off its trunk and rising into its thin fingered branches. There are small blue juniper berries brightly laid against the wet green moss beneath the tree and I turn to see the peachy-rose globes of persimmons hanging on thin branches against the sky. I have the sensation that they are watching me there, kneeling on the wet ground, caught between rays of sunlight and enchantment.

We continued picking our way carefully across the lichen-laden gray stones until we came to fallen tree, carpeted with a beautiful array of fungus. Small brown knobs that look like new potatoes spring from what was once the top of the trunk and a panoply of beautifully spiraled whorls of turkey tail mushrooms form small cups which hold last night’s raindrops.

As we descended into the gully, the view opened up before us, slabs of stone forming a naturally terraced series of platforms dropping lower and lower into the round stone pools. The trees are yellow here, sun gleaming on the leaves, forming a temple bower of golden branches. I felt full of delight and joy, so pleased that we had chosen to lay aside the to-dos and come on this ramble together. I asked my husband to take a picture of me in the trees and stones telling him with a smile that this is the only moment in which the leaves will be this color and in which I will be this fabulous.

Being in the world, noticing what blooms and breathes and flows around us, is the fullest expression of my spirituality to me. Seeing what emerges, what fades, what rises and falls, this is a living magic. Honoring the passage of time, the turn of the wheel, the cycles of the land, the earth as an ensouled presence, and my own footsteps on her an act of devotion, these are the cornerstones of feminist spirituality for me. Look. Learn. Listen. Feel. Care. Act. Goddess worship and the symbol of the Goddess plays an important role in re-conceptualizing and restructuring the role of women, the value of nature, and the social order. In her book Ecofeminist Philosophy, Karen Warren writes: “Many spiritual ecofeminists invoke the notion of ‘the Goddess’ to capture the sacredness of both nonhuman nature and the human body…the symbol of the Goddess ‘aids the process of naming and reclaiming the female body and its cycles and processes.” Rather than something to dominate and control, the earth becomes the body of the Goddess and is acknowledged as both literal and spiritual home and is something inseparably linked to personal well-being—planetary health and personal health become synonymous—and both are treated with reverence and respect.

I have wondered if I try too hard to make my life be magical, to make it meaningful and then I realize, if you look for evidence that the world is made of magic, for evidence that your life is magical, that you will find it everywhere. This isn’t wrong. This is beautiful and powerful and real. Yes, my life is magical. So is yours. The whole world is magical. We need only step right up to it and look, to see that we are surrounded by magic, woven right into the threads of it.

The stones were slippery with water and moss as we skirted our way carefully to the bottom of the gully, where a wide, curving, bowl-shaped basin has been formed of rock and rain and time. Gazing at it, tranquil and still, gently rippled rocks forming the sides and leaves filling its bowl, I said aloud:  “When I die, you can leave me curled up here and I’ll be happy.” For a crisp moment I could clearly see my own bones lying nestled, smoothed and ivory, across this bed of leaves and sunbeams.

Something bright red caught my eye then, looking at first like the domed half of a large cherry tomato partially covered by brown leaves and I squatted down to discover a burst of crimson mushrooms grouped together and bright against the decaying foliage.

Mark didn’t answer me, but he laid his hand across my hip and together we scrambled like mountain goats past the crimson mushrooms and up the steep slope, the oak leaves giving way to a carpet of pine needles as we climbed, the now bare stems of lowbush blueberries catching on our socks and pants. At the top of the hill, we sat on the stones, chests heaving, breath fast from our ascent, smiling silently as we looked at the sunshine through the pines.


Molly Remer’s newest book of poems, Sunlight on Cedar, was published in March. 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 a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and more at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayerthe Goddess DevotionalShe Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, Feminism and Religion, and Sage Woman Magazine.

Loss of Good Friend and Elder Claire French by Glenys Livingstone

image of author - Glenys Livingstone
Dr. Claire French was born in 1924, Claire Anna Maria Margaretha Wieser, “in the backwoods of Bavaria” as she has described, where “pagan beliefs and superstitions were rife” and “so was Communism amongst the factory workers who lived in her neighbourhood.” She described her mother as “a staunch Lutheran”, her father as “a freethinking artist from the Tyrolean mountains”, and her paternal grandmothers and aunts as “bigotted Catholics”. She has said that she received some of all these ideologies right from her earliest childhood, and that “to this were added the experience of fascist and national socialist authoritarianism during her school years.” In early years she was educated by nuns in Italy. For high school her education was in Germany, where the teachers were partly nazi and partly anti-nazi. She has described her education as “pluralistic in the extreme”.

During the war she was conscripted to the German paramilitary organisation for women working for Tyrolean mountain farmers and later in the military hospital. That year of paramilitary service was conditional for enrolment of women at any German University: educated women were seen as dangerous … the authorities wanted “incubators”, as Claire named it. After the war she studied modern languages and politics at the University of Austria, and in 1945 she was conscipted as interpreter to the military government first by the American and then the French Army Forces. She has said: “In 1951 she finally had enough of Europe and embarked for Australia, where she worked as a housemaid, grape picker, and interpreter and finally as a secretary at Melbourne University. There she started her studies from scratch again as a part time student, graduating in 1956. In that year (an Olympic year she noted), she married Jack French, with whom she had a daughter and two sons. Continue reading “Loss of Good Friend and Elder Claire French by Glenys Livingstone”

To Bless One Another, by Molly Remer

May you allow yourself to
taste your longings
and to bravely honor them.
May you make wise sacrifices.
May you trust in abundance.
May you savor the many flavors
of this sweet life before your eyes,
beneath your feet,
below your skin,
within your soul,
around your heart.

I had imagined making beautiful loaves of herbed and flowered breads, but instead we hold scraps of plain white biscuits in our hands. Homemade, yes, but not as seasonally resplendent as I envisioned. It is Lammas, the festival of First Fruits, a celebration of sacrifice, gratitude, abundance, and renewal. I remind my four children of these themes as we stand in our small family circle on our back deck at sunset. There has been rain and the air is cool and beautiful, unseasonably delightful for August. The mulberry trees are broad leaved and heavy, leaning over the rails of the deck, where the last of the blackberries also hang, black and red beneath rusted red, gold, and green leaves, spotted with last month’s heat, brambles twined through the railings in a way that delights me—the wild’s insistence on creeping steadily closer and closer to enfold our home.

I have made four extra little biscuits, round and a bit lumpy, an offering for each of the four directions. I extend my hand into the center of our circle, cupping one small round biscuit at a time. My children and my husband extend their hands over and under mine and we offer our gratitude into each morsel in turn, one for each direction and each element. For North, we speak of stability and strength, the health of our bodies, the safety and security of our foundation, the earth on which we live. For East, we speak of air, our mental states, how we will be mindful of how we speak and think and focus our energy and time. For the South, we speak of fire, of tending the flames of our inspiration, nourishing our passions, and watching for burnout. In the West, we speak of water, of being emotionally stable and loving. In the last seventeen years of parenting, if there is one thing I have learned is that rituals with children need to always involve action. The kids are eager to toss the biscuits into the air, in the directions we are honoring.  In past years we have tossed pinches of cornmeal, at other times of the year grains of corn or flower seeds or dried herbs or petals, at the Winter Solstice we toss pieces of our annual golden “sun bread.” This bread, washed with egg and laden with butter is one we make together on solstice morning, shaping the smooth dough into a large sun face with a spiraled corona of rays. After it has baked, we offer scraps to the sun at noon, tossing them high into the air as we shout “Thank you! Thank you!” again and again into the crisp winter air. Last year, my garnet bracelet, a symbol of the path I walk with the goddess Persephone, flies off as I toss my sun bread and disappears into the waving stalks of wild grasses. We are never able to find it and the unexpected symbolism of Persephone becoming joined anew with the amber waves of Demeter’s grains delights me.

On the summer solstice this year, I made a cake in the shape of a honeycomb, decorating the hexagons with wild blackberries and rose petals. And, now on Lammas, there are these small white biscuits in our hands. My oldest son is almost seventeen. He is nearly as tall as his father, six feet. He has the biscuit for the south, which from where we stand on the deck is our house. He winds up his arm and lets the biscuit fly up, up and over the roof.

We offer our own small personal pieces of biscuit next, pinched as the first bite from each of our servings at dinner, as representative of a sacrifice we will make this season. And then, we cup our open hands close to our hearts and one by one we speak of what we are grateful for and what abundance we are welcoming, what we are making space to harvest in our open hands.

We join hands and sing, our six year old son requesting “We Are a Circle,” and following his lead, we sway from side to side as we sing, eventually all kicking our legs back and forth into the center of the circle and laughing. We say our closing prayer next, as we do each time we celebrate together: may goddess bless and keep us, may wisdom dwell within us, may we create peace* and then I extend my arms and gather them to me, for a large family hug. There is a sense of connection and renewal around us as we laugh and smile and I tell them thank you for participating.

This ritual was largely spontaneous, all I knew when I stepped outside was that we wanted to offer our gratitude symbolized by our four tiny loaves of biscuit-bread and that we wanted to acknowledge this next turn on the wheel of the year.

Several years ago, when I was still teaching at a local college, one of my students objected to the fact that material on working with LGBTQ clients was part of my class outline. She went through my personal Facebook page and those of my family members, where she noticed photos of the wedding ceremony I performed for my brother and his wife. A message arrived in my email: “by whose authority do you think you have the right to perform marriages?” she inquired. By my own authority, I thought, though in my reply I also cited that I am a legally ordained priestess and as such am recognized by the state of Missouri as capable of solemnizing legal marriages. Not much later, she dropped my class explaining in writing that to continue taking it would be to turn her back on Jesus Christ.

At mother blessing ceremonies, we often sing a song called “Call Down a Blessing.”** After one ceremony, I was asked, “but WHOSE doing the blessing?” and my answer was simple: We are. We are blessing one another.

These are radical acts. These are feminist acts. This is feminism and religion. To express gratitude for the earth, to name the elements as holy, to honor the cycles of the seasons and our lives, to design our own ceremonies, to hold our own circles, to be our own authorities, to bless one another and the spaces between us.

I have two teenage sons now, one seventeen and one fourteen. We have lifted our arms to the rising moon, tossed scraps of bread to the noontide solstice sun, and dabbed sweet spring water on one another’s faces in blessing since they were born. This is what they know.

And, even though they are now teenage boys, each night without fail they come to me and to their dad in turn to be kissed on the forehead in our nightly ritual, a benediction of love. Good night, sleep good, I love you, we each say. My seventeen year old usually drops his return kiss on the top of my head in my hair, speaking the familiar words back to me, good night, sleep good, I love you. Sometimes as I’m getting ready for bed, brushing my teeth in the bathroom, I look up to see him standing in the doorway, “mom,” he says, “did I forget to kiss you?” and I proffer my forehead, just in case we’ve forgotten. The boys each kiss their dad goodnight too and he them—on the forehead, a kiss, and the words, spoken and returned, good night, sleep good, I love you. Sometimes I think this is most potently feminist act of all, these two boys rapidly becoming men beneath our roof, going to bed each night with a kiss and the affirmation that they are loved.

Molly Remer’s newest book of poems, Sunlight on Cedar, was published in March. 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 a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and more at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayerthe Goddess DevotionalShe Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, Feminism and Religion, and Sage Woman Magazine.

*Thanks, Carol Christ! We’ve used this family blessing to close our ceremonies for about ten years.

**Originally by Cathy Barton and Dave Para.

Pandemic Grace: A FAR Message from Xochitl Alvizo

Xochitl with hairHello FAR friends,

I hope you are each doing well – that you are holding up ok during these trying times. It’s Xochitl here. I’m the behind-the-scenes co-weaver keeping things afloat (to varying degrees!) on this collaborative endeavor we call Feminism and Religion.

You may have noticed some gaps in our postings these last couple of months; I want to reassure you that it’s all ok. The gaps are an indication that we are giving one another a lot of pandemic grace. These are tough times and we are all doing what we can to make it through.

FAR will keep publishing as our contributors are able to submit their pieces. We always also welcome new voices and contributions to join in. I will do my best to keep up with the correspondence, but I do appreciate your patience. We are an all-volunteer project and everything we do is done out of our heartfelt commitment. And for all of it, I am grateful.

May we all be well, may we be safe, and may we find our peace.

Rage on, friends!

~ Xochitl

P.S. I’m growing my hair out! I figured quarantine time was a good time to experiment…we’ll see how it goes :)


Seven Days in a Greek Hospital by Carol P. Christ

I was released from a national hospital in Crete on Friday afternoon after a seven day stay. During that time, I had over fifteen tests, including several ultrasounds, two CTs, a colonoscopy, a gastroscopy, and an excruciating forty-five minute MRI.

The cost: nothing. As a Greek citizen, I am fully covered under the national health, due to a change in the laws initiated by the SYRIZA government a few years ago.

I had not been feeling well for a few weeks. I had little appetite, no energy, and my tummy was sore. I chalked it all up to the stress of moving from Lesbos to Crete, not to mention the stress of quarantine that preceded the move. When I was taken to the emergency room by friends, I expected to be given a few pills and sent home. Continue reading “Seven Days in a Greek Hospital by Carol P. Christ”

Nourishing Wholeness in a Fractured World, by Molly Remer

List for today:

Rescue tadpoles from the evaporating puddle
in the driveway.
Look for pink roses in the field.
Look for wild strawberries
along the road.
Listen to the crows in
the compost pile
and try to identify them
by their different voices.
Plant basil and calendula
and a few more rows of lettuce.
Examine the buds beginning
on the elderberries
and check blackberry canes
to see if the berries have set.
Watch the yellow swallowtail butterflies dance.
Wonder about action and apathy
and what bridges gaps.
Refuse to surrender belief in joy.
Listen for faint echoes of hope.
Feel the tender beat of humanity
pulsing in the world.
Feel the sun on your face
and water seeping
into your jeans.
Remember that even if you have to
move one tadpole at a time,
change is always possible.

It is easy to become exhausted and overwhelmed by the volume of things there are to say, the things there are to think about, to care about, to put energy into, to love, to be outraged about. I want to invite you, at the moment of this reading, to breathe it out, to let yourself come into your body right where you are this second, and put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Remind yourself that you’re whole right here, right now. There is suffering and there is fear and there is pain and there is joy and there is beauty and there is life, and we can hold it all. Let yourself settle and feel, present in this moment, in this unfolding. And, with whatever you feel, whether you feel hopeless or joyful or angry or happy or thrilled or enthusiastic or creative or drained, whatever it is, with your hand on your heart, accept those feelings as okay right now: how you feel, is how you feel; where you are, is where you are; who you are, is who you are. Continue reading “Nourishing Wholeness in a Fractured World, by Molly Remer”

Look for the Helpers: The Sikh Community by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteI struggled with what to write about for my May post. Would I write about the ridiculous notion which has countless Americans buying into the idea that COVID19 is a hoax? I could write about how it is fool hearty for us to even consider lifting stay at home orders when the number of infected patients are still rising daily. The list goes on due to the rising pressures, frustrations, and anxieties that are surrounding each one of us.

Yet what I really want to talk about is a shining example of the goodness and compassion of humanity. During times of utter sadness, fear, and the unknown, we need to keep talking about things that warm our hearts, remind us there is beauty and happiness in life. So, for the next few monthly posts of mine, I am going to be highlighting specific communities, organizations, and peoples that are doing extraordinary things during these uncertain and challenging times. The first community that I want to talk about is the Sikh Community.

Continue reading “Look for the Helpers: The Sikh Community by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Moments of Beauty by Sara Frykenberg

Last week a friend of mine started a post asking people to share something that they’ve enjoyed or appreciated since shelter-at-home orders began across the country and globe. This friend was in no way trying to minimize the very difficult situations that so many of us find ourselves facing during this pandemic. Rather, the list she elicited and generated helped to create, at least for me, a moment of hope or peace—a moment that I suspect many of us need right now.

Inspired by my friend (who has quite a talent for pointing out the potential for joy or happiness), I would like to add to her list here by sharing a couple of my “moments of beauty” in the hopes I can share this hope or peace. Continue reading “Moments of Beauty by Sara Frykenberg”

When Life Hands You Lemons… by John Erickson

“When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make applesauce.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about something my grandmother would always tell me: “When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make applesauce.” I know, it sounds crazy, but life right now appears to be more on the crazy than the sane side.

We’re all in a state of uncertainty right now. The news is scary. Twitter is scary. Heck, even TikTok is losing parts of its humor. Everywhere we seem to turn, it’s more information about COVID-19, new cases, new lockdowns, and new things that we shouldn’t do for the foreseeable future. Continue reading “When Life Hands You Lemons… by John Erickson”

Mess and Magic, by Molly Remer

Maybe beautiful things 77381912_2495811250631082_8017831208572420096_o
don’t only grow from peace,
maybe they grow from the
soil of living,
which holds both
blood and tears
muck and magic.

Last week I tried to work on my book while the household debris whirled around me. We are supposed to be leaving for homeschool co-op in just a few minutes, I still need to take a shower, there are orders to fulfill and I really, really want to format this title page, add two attributions, and re-upload the digital file.

The toilet has a ring of water around it, or is it pee, the children come to report.

There’s a weird smell in the kitchen.

I can’t create like this, I yell.

I want to be inspiring, not so messy, not like this.

I gesture frantically, almost crying, my hair wild, my eyes frenzied.

I only have nine minutes before it is time to leave and I still need to take a shower and I haven’t finished my formatting. I stare at the screen and shout:

I only want to make things
from a place of beauty and peace.

But, then I say:

maybe beautiful things don’t only grow from peace,
maybe they need this too, this mess, in order to flourish.

I abandon my book file, left open on my screen, photo half placed and words askew and I take my shower with my heart beating too fast, my mind spinning with to-dos, and agitation thrumming through my veins.

I hastily dry my hair and we pack the car. We will be late, I know. As fly down the road there is a big buck in the road.  It is hunting season and I stop the car on the hill to watch him. Our eyes meet for a moment, he is still, his antlers are wide and beautiful, some of the nicest I’ve ever seen. His shoulders are broad and brown in the early morning sun.

Run free, big guy, I say, run free. If you go up the hill, you will be at our house and it is always a safe place.

This feels both true and beautiful.

A week passes and it is still hunting season, rifle now instead of bow, so my husband and I put on our orange vests before we go out for our morning walks, so that no one will shoot us. I have lived in a state where hunting is an established part of the culture for my entire life, so deer season is “normal” to me and I understand the purposes of it, though I cringe every November to hear the gunshots in the early morning, the wild eyes and swiveling ears of the deer whose home has been invaded with fear and risk after a summer of grazing on wild grasses and berries.

Today, as we walk, we reach the crossroads and something tugs at my attention. I turn back and look into the woods where my eyes catch on the body of the beautiful buck, lying motionless at the base of an oak tree. He has been murdered and then left behind, his large body still and silent, his beautiful antlers against the leaves, the sun glinting on a stripe of white along his belly. His legs are folded against his body, relaxed, this is not a very old kill.

My thoughts of my work and my doing and all the everything that needs my attention fall away and I am struck with grief at this senseless death. I think about his antlers and how I’ve always wanted to find some and I know that someone will come back and cut off his head to remove them. I think for a moment that it could be me who does this, but I don’t have the heart or stomach for it. I imagine taking rosemary and lavender petals to scatter over his body, I imagine laying my hands across his fur and thanking him for being here. I think perhaps that after the vultures and coyotes have done their work I will creep back through the woods and look for him, for his bones, and perhaps I will collect the antlers then, if they have not been chewed by rats or carried off by dogs. I hate that this has happened. It tortures me to walk back by and leave him there, disrespected and alone.

I leave a message for our closest neighbor asking if perhaps he shot a deer that got away and later died in our woods. I message another neighbor and ask if he thinks there is anyway the meat could still be used. The first neighbor calls me back a half hour later, I am surprised to hear his voice on the phone, as we don’t talk often. He is agitated and yelling, not at me, but about the men he found in the road yesterday who killed this animal. He heard the gunshot while cleaning his own deer from the morning and flew down the road to confront them, where he found them standing in the road, truck parked at the crossroads, the deer dead beneath the tree. This is illegal and it disgusts him, his voice shakes as he recounts the story. He tells them that he will always know what they did and they are the ones who have to live with themselves and their actions. They deny it, claim someone else must have done it and drive away, leaving the body behind. He expects they will sneak back in the night to take it, but they have not, and there he lies in the dappled morning sun.

Our employees have arrived to work and the house is full of voices and questions and people waiting for me to do things. I take a shower anyway. Showers are one of those things I occasionally withhold from myself as I desperately try to keep up with everything people need and want from me in a given day, but I take the shower and try to let the adrenaline, the anger, the sense of waste and loss wash away from me. I keep thinking about the deer, his life, my mind turning it over and over, my body filled with sorrow.

As I am putting on my lotion and simultaneously also answering calls from our bank 73292554_2486141391598068_5135782722731507712_oabout a new account, feeling rushed and out of breath, there is a knock on the front door. I quickly dress and go out to the living room, my hair still wet and ragged, and find our other neighbor standing there. He is holding two white skulls in his hands, long antlers curving between his fingers. We talk about the buck, about the waste of his life, about the disrespect and senselessness of this action. He is a hunter too and he says he has been watching this deer for more than a year and that you get to know them when you live here, that you see the same ones, sometimes every day, that there are only so many in a given range, and you get to be a part of their lives. We ask him if he knows Limpy, the doe with the broken leg that healed crookedly, but that we see almost every day, sometimes twice a day, in the field across the road.

She raised twin fawns this year, he says.

We look at each other quietly for a moment. I feel a wave of gratitude that I live somewhere where the neighbors, too, know Limpy and her babies.

I hurt my ankle in June of this year and when I could finally walk on the road again, taking my first real walk in six weeks, I saw Limpy and her twins at the end of our driveway. She looked at me for a long time and I felt a sense of kinship with her, two mothers with injured legs, trying our best to keep going.

My neighbor holds the antlered skulls out to me and says he will call the buck in to the conservation department as you are supposed to do. He says this deer has sentimental value to him and he will make a mount with his head and he is offering me these skulls in trade. I take them with gratitude, though it isn’t the same as finding my own. The antlers are whitened and smooth. One has small chew marks along two of its spikes, the others has knobby ridges along the base. They are beautiful. I hold one skull in each hand, antlers curving along my arms. They feel like precious treasures to me, something given, something received, a moment of genuine respect for a needlessly slain creature of these woods we all love.

When Mark and I walk the next morning, the buck’s body has been moved deeper into the woods, out of sight, and there is only a heavy flattened place stained dark red in the carpet of oak leaves across the forest floor and the thick smell of blood in the air to indicate that he was ever there. We know though, we shared this home ground, and I leave rosemary, lavender, and thyme scattered across the blood-soaked leaves.

Molly Remer has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, 65317956_10219451397545616_5062860057855655936_nand 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 a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, mini goddesses, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, the Goddess Devotional, She Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon, Brigid’s Grove, and Sage Woman Magazine.


To Light a Flaming Pumpkin: The Inexact Art of Family Ritual, by Molly Remer

Our bounty is inIMG_7695
the myriad small adventures
of everyday.
We tell of magic
and moonrise
and listening to the pulse
of the earth beneath our feet.

Ah, October. Fall has settled into the trees and air. Last year on Samhain (Halloween), as the sun was setting and the full moon was rising, my family stood together in the dim light on our back deck, lit a fire in a hollowed out pumpkin and offered handfuls of herbs into the flames as we celebrated our blessings, our harvests, and our bounty, as a family and as individuals. As we spoke aloud our blessings and our bounty, our words got deeper, broader, and more authentic. My twelve year old son stepped forward to say how thankful he is that he gets to live with his best friend, his fifteen year old brother, and they embraced over the flaming pumpkin. My fifteen year old son offered his thanks for a family that has “cool IMG_7387rituals like this” and my four year son offered his blessings for the “energy we feel together.” My seven year old daughter offered her gratitude for pandas and for toys.

The next week, we returned the seeds to the pumpkin and released it to the outdoors to grow next year.

Seventeen years ago, I held my first Winter Solstice ritual. I wrote my wish for a baby onto a small piece of paper and rolled it up into a “seed” of my dreams that I planted within a special wooden box. On the autumn equinox the following year, I gave birth to my first child, a son who now stands inches above me, but who joins hands with his family each month to sing “Dance in the Circle of Moonlight” together on the back deck under the full moon.

After having this first baby, it became increasingly important to me that we celebrate holidays and traditions that reflect our spiritual values and worldview rather than the packaged version of the holidays offered by society, or the religious observances of dominant faiths that do not match our own. While we have celebrated the wheel of the year together in a variety of ways in what has now been sixteen years of parenting and twenty-one years of marriage, it wasn’t really until last year that I felt I finally, truly hit my stride in planning fulfilling, nourishing family rituals. Perhaps it is because I am no longer trying to juggle nursing a baby or changing a diaper while simultaneously also guiding a ceremony. Perhaps it is because I’ve loosened up and accepted the myriad imperfections possible within a multi-age celebration. Perhaps it is because when one of the children wanders off during circle or interrupts me while I’m talking, I accept it as part of the flow, and continue our work without breaking my stride. Perhaps it is because I now laugh too when someone makes a joke during my careful ritual, and continue to roll with it, instead of feeling like it is disrespectful. Perhaps it is because I consider a 15-20 minutes family ritual perfectly sufficient instead of trying to plan for a full-fledged, retreat-style “program” of activities. Perhaps it is because we’ve joined hands in family circle in so many ways and for so many years that we all now trust that I’m not giving up on doing this together.

In the course of the year we’ve anointed one another’s foreheads with fragrant oils while standing in the freezing water of a freshwater stream. We’ve felt the raindrops kiss our faces and the rays of the sun peek in and out of the clouds as we celebrated the summer solstice by releasing wildflowers into the river. We’ve howled at the moon together, built a green man face from leaves, stones, and sticks in the field, created flower mandalas, thrown pinches of cornmeal into the woods as a symbolic sacrifice, soaked our feet in warm water laced with rose petals and then massaged one another’s feet with lotion, walked through a spiral of candlelight, and offered handfuls of herbs into a flaming pumpkin.

As we notice the changing seasons and honor the call of nature within our lives through ceremony, celebration, and song, we make visible the interconnected dance of life. We reaffirm our commitment, our relatedness, to each other and to the natural environment around us. We communicate with and are in relationship to that larger force of life and spirit that we call Goddess. And, we bring our spiritual beliefs into our bodies, hands, minds, and hearts in an ever-spinning Wheel of celebration, attention, observation, enjoyment, communion, and love.

 “We can think of ritual as the container we weave in which we can be carried away by magic and ecstasy.”

—Starhawk and Valentine, The Twelve Wild Swans

For your own flaming pumpkin ritual, choose a large, round pumpkin, cut off the top 42311806_2188101348068742_1038582461505732608_oand hollow it out. Keep the seeds to plant with the remnants of your fire later. You may start the fire with paper and a lighter and then keep adding herbs to keep it burning, or you may stoke it by putting some alcohol in the bottom of the pumpkin to begin with. Alcohol burns cool and can create a longer lasting, less smoky flaming pumpkin. Offer your autumn bounty into the pumpkin with herbs sprinkles/handfuls—these can be spontaneous spoken aloud declarations of your harvest, your celebrations, your gratitude, etc. What are you thankful for?

  • Optional: offer any sacrifices/releasing on slips of paper into the flames
  • Optional: Sing “Hallowed Evening” chant (by my kids and me)

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

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Movement of Moving and Spiritual Journey by Elisabeth Schilling

It looks like it is time again for me to pack up and drive a few hundred or more miles to a new destination, a place I will finally try to plant roots, this time offering commitment + endurance, hoping to build a life of more balance and authenticity. I assume I will need a constant reminder of gratitude, quelling the entitlement that can bubble up when I think “this should be easier.” I’m not sure when, why, or where I’ve picked up that refrain, but I see it in others and myself and wish for an alternative.

With the help of several people, I’ve secured a full-time college teaching position on a beautiful college campus of a kind of institution I am certain is doing its part to heal the world. At least that is what I feel when I serve at a community college, a place where I feel inspired and challenged by students who have a diversity of needs. I’ve been teaching in such institutions for so long, I’ve fallen in love and know, by experience, that I can help in such spaces.

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Gift-Economy in a Time of Lack by Elisabeth Schilling

Carol Christ wrote about gift economy on this blog in 2013, and I am taken by her story of the woman who brought raisins or cracked nuts to the group even though she had very little. In beginning to encounter the literature on gift economy myself, I am wondering how it all works, especially wondering, perhaps outside of such a conversation if it doesn’t relate or misses the point, what someone who feels they have nothing to give can give.

When Genevieve Vaughan wrote about gift economy in Ms. Magazine in 1991, she wrote, “where there is enough, we can abundantly nurture others. The problem is that scarcity is usually the case, artificially created in order to maintain control, so that other-orientation becomes difficult and self-depleting.”

I think we start to look for other ways of existing when we experience the brokenness of a current existence. The exchange economy under mindless capitalism does not honor equal, fair exchanges. If we could keep from manipulating and being deceptive about what a product is worth, if we could more generously assess the contribution of workers, then some of us might not be bothered. Of course, for that work which is never compensated by money, mostly women’s work, that is the other issue that might not be solved by more equal exchange, and probably more the point of Vaughn’s.

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