Crawl Across the Sacred Circle and Take My Hand by Caryn MacGrandle

On Winter Solstice, I hosted a Return of the Sun event at the local healing arts center where I do my Circles. We had offerings and presentations all night long. It was the first time I have ever done anything that large or public, so it was a stretch for me.

At the end of the night, a friend said, ‘Oh my, I needed this. Let’s do it once a month.’

And I thought, ‘yea, right.’

And then I thought, ‘Yea. Right.’

I’ve already started thinking about ways we could do it better and things we could change.

I feel a bit like when I first started hosting Circles nine years ago. I’m tired and judging whether or not it was worth the stress and effort.

But this time around I know it’s worth the stress and effort.

Continue reading “Crawl Across the Sacred Circle and Take My Hand by Caryn MacGrandle”

Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft

How ‘at one’ are you with your body, and what reasons might there be if your body-sense got separate(d) from your soul-sense?

This piece starts with the difference between feminine and masculine spirituality, and introduces a few reasons why living in a physical body isn’t always easy.

It then invites a shift to the beloved body and how we can start to re-instate our body as a sacred place and love it from within.

Continue reading “Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft”

Equinox amongst the Stones

A Modern Pilgrimage to the Isle of Lewis & Harris, Part 2

In the previous post of October 14th, I introduced my recent pilgrimage to meet the Goddess, honour the physical and psychological changes that have happened inside me recently. I described the different mountain ranges that resembles the bodies of sleeping women, and an ancient well dedicated to the Celtic goddess Brighde. 

If I was traveling over the body of the goddess, the Callanish Standing Stones would be her navel. It seems as if energy is flowing out from there to all edges of the island. The shape of the site resembles a Celtic cross. Unusual is that the site consists of one large, central standing stone, surrounded by 13 stones, and with stone avenues to the cardinal directions. With its solar alignment, paraphrasing Jill Smith, the configuration looks like a cosmic dancer who juggles the sun from east to west. The “arms” are aligned exactly with the sunrise and sunset at this time of year. 

Model of the Standing Stones as seen from above, in Callanish Visitor Centre

Callanish 1, the main stone circle, is connected to 11 other sites across the island, some circles, some solitary standing stones. Together they are called the Callanish Complex. I visited Callanish 1 many times that week, and I was lucky to spend the Autumn Equinox there. 

I’ve never come across stones that were so alive and expressive. Light would bounce off differently at different times of the day, accentuating irregularities, dulling, or sharpening edges, emphasising different aspects. I saw lion and wolf heads, young maidens, hooded wanders, gargoyle and dragon-like creatures, dolphins and even a Horned Dancer… Most importantly, it felt like in each of the stone circles in the area (Callanish 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8), there was at least one stone resembling a woman’s body, and I came to think of them as the Grandmother Guardians. They had a real living presence, that became even stronger as the day-visitors disappeared.

Usually there were 2-5 people there, sometimes I found myself alone. The sunset of the Equinox, however, drew many more people. There were about twenty tourists, who were taking snapshots of this magnificent light show, leaning, or pushing against the stones, talking, and giggling. Several professional photographers tried to capture a magical moment. And there were 5-7 fellow pilgrims, whom, like me, would stay long into the night. Everyone was so focused on the sunset, was I the only one who noted the rainbow in the east? 

The below images were literally taken a minute apart – rainbow to the east, sunset and silhouettes to the west.

Rainbow during the Sunset at Callanish 1, on the Autumn Equinox, September 22, 2022
Sunset at Callanish 1, on the Autumn Equinox, September 22, 2022

Eventually the tourists and photographers disappeared, and the rest of us gathered at the heart of the circle, in the remains of an ancient burial mound. With African and shamanic drums, a whistle, a singing bowl, an old man tapping his walking stick to the bottom of his tin mug, and some rattles, we improvised a rhythmic invocation to the spirits of the stones. With the rain becoming heavier, I soon found myself alone with the stones. Now I could finally sing, dance, weave between the stones without disrupting anyone, lean into the stones, close my eyes, and pray.

I felt very aware of the ‘balance’ in the year, the point of equally long days and nights. I asked for guidance on balance in my own life: between work and leisure, between doing and resting, between the first and second half of my life, between gathering wood for the fire and sharing it, between birth and death, and how I can better look after my body and energy living with an invisible auto-immune condition in these fast and demanding times.

After the rain departed, the clouds tore open, revealing the clearest and most brilliant night sky I’ve ever seen. The silhouettes of the stones reaching up into the night was truly magnificent. Moving, weaving, pausing, I made my way clockwise around all the 13 stones in the circle. I stood at either side of the stones, outer and inner, and took my place in between them, as if I was a moving stone myself. I reflected on centre and circumference, on axis, on direction, on the wheel of life, turning, turning, turning, turning… and felt connected to similar circles across Europe lighting up in the darkness, as a radiant hub of energy-places.

Photo Collage: Impression of Night Sky, by Eline Kieft October 1, 2022

After having completed my weaving of the circle, by which time I had enjoyed half of my ginger tea for a warm kick, I decided to return to our cottage – also an act of balance. Having a cold already, I did not quite have the proper gear to stay out in the windy and rainy night. My lovely bed was calling! On my way home I saw three deer next to the road. I stopped the car and could be with them for several moments before they wandered off.

I had been so attuned to the rhythms that I woke up well before the alarm. I laid in the comfortable darkness, until it was time to return to the stones to witness the sunrise. My mom came along this time. Again, there were several photographers ready for ‘the moment’ (no tourists at this hour!). I just HAD to dance, and chose my spot at the far western end, out of line of any cameras. A dance of ground, earth, mountain, honouring the mother and my mother, weaving the light, the turn of seasons, changing, praying, calling, giving thanks, celebrating, welcoming, and letting go. Strong, soft, vibrant, still… 

Both Images of Sunrise at Callanish 1, on the Autumn Equinox, September 23, 2022

Standing against the central menhir, looking east, we finished the last of the ginger tea. So special to be able to share this together. Mother and daughter in a circle of ancient Grandmother Guardians, witnessing the sun rise on a new day. Sacred land, ongoing cycles of time, and a modern-ancient pilgrimage… 

It will take many moons to fully digest and integrate the richness of this journey, but I already know this precious experience seeped deep into my bones. 

May the magic of the land touch you too, wherever you are.

Mother and Daughter – this photo was in fact taken at another moment, against another stone, mid-afternoon on 22nd

I’d love to invite you for my series of Embodied Spirituality Masterclasses that are going to start today, 21st October! Have a look if you’re interested in reconnecting body and spirit, re-anointing the body as sacred, nature as a temple, contemporary ceremony and much more… You can still join until Christmas, so don’t worry if you can’t make the first session live, it will be available in replay!

Jill Smith is a deep well of goddess lore on Lewis:

  • Mother of the Isles (2003)
  • The Callanish Dance (2000)

Bio

Eline Kieft danced from a young age, including rigorous classical and contemporary training to become a professional dancer. She then studied anthropology, deepening her fascination with worldwide similarities between indigenous traditions regarding intangible aspects of reality and other ways of knowing, including embodied epistemologies and shamanic techniques. 

She completed her PhD in dance anthropology at Roehampton University, trained in depth with the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies and the School of Movement Medicine. Eline worked at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University for five years, where she created a Somatics Toolkit for Ethnographers, and pioneered soulful academic pedagogy. Her recent book Dancing in the Muddy Temple: A Moving Spirituality of Land and Body was well received as a unique blend of theory and practice and a medicine for our times. 

She is now a full-time change-maker and facilitates deep transformation through coaching and courses both online and in person. Her approach The Way of the Wild Soul offers a set of embodied, creative, and spiritual tools to re-connect with inner strength and navigate life’s challenges with confidence. 

Website: https://www.elinekieft.com

Also on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn

Taking it to the Cauldron, by Molly Remer

If I squint,
I can almost see steam lifting
from a cauldron in the forest
and smell change
drifting through the air.
I am looking at the shards
of the year,
some new-broken,
some re-collected,
some shining with possibility,
and I feel the call,
the urge,
the promise,
to tip them all into that bubbling vat
and see what She will steep me
into next.

Each year, in August, I honor what I call a “Cauldron Month” for myself. This is a month in which I “take it all to the cauldron” and let it bubble and brew and stew and percolate. I pull my energy further inward to let myself listen and be and to see what wants to emerge. It is a month in which I delete my social media apps and mindfully, intentionally draw my scattered attention inward in order to listen to my inner wisdom, to take all of my bubbling ideas to the metaphorical cauldron of my own being and see what is brewing, what is stewing, and what is ready to be dished up. I clarify goals for the remainder of the year, my next word of the year usually finds me, and I take time to consciously “steep” in my own flavor. It is a time of clarity and renewal for me, a time when I withdraw from outer life and re-collect my energy in order to determine where to put my focus for the remainder of the year.

It may seem strange to withdraw energetically at such a ripe and burgeoning time of the year, when life is bursting with things to harvest and ideas to share, but that is exactly why I do it—because when life feels the most full, is when I known I most need some dedicated time of discernment. August, I find, is always a crucible of change and choice for me. It is when big projects are birthed, when new doors open, and when I reach metaphorical crossroads of change—crossroads in which I decide what to harvest, see what has withered, and come to understand what to sacrifice.

We are held between
summer’s fatigue
and summer’s fire,
there has been a blooming
and a ripening,
and now a harvesting and a fading,
as the time comes
to turn the page.

Cauldron Month dates back to 2016, a year in which my pace of living became unsustainable and I experienced a persistent and inexplicable cough that lasted for six full months. After this experience, I came to clearly see a pattern in myself, of speeding up and revving harder and harder through the spring and summer, until I reach an annual point of having taken on too much, in which I must make choices about what to let go of and what to pursue. It helps to know it, to name it, to say to myself: oh, yes, this. Cauldron time is here again. The understanding of this pattern has helped me to prepare for it, when I feel the familiar tension, the drive to push and speed, I step back instead. I sit down. I shut things off. I get still and I listen.

That first year, feeling overwhelmed by commitments and at my physical and temporal limits. I did a guided meditation called the Moon Goddess Ally Journey. During the meditation, in the temple in which I met the moon goddess, right as the meditation was coming to a close, the Cauldron from the Womanrunes oracle card system appeared quite clearly etched on the floor of the temple–it was very large, covering the whole floor, and felt like a dramatic and powerful wake-up call. I knew in this moment: I need to take my life into the Cauldron. I need to see what is brewing. I need to steep in my own magic. August has never been the same since.

Future Cauldron Months after have held varying experiences—some rich and powerful and some painful and challenging, what they all hold in common is that they illuminate the next steps and invite me into the next chapter. Some years I’ve joked with friends have been “Slow Cooker Months” instead and some years—like 2020—have felt like Cauldron Years, in that the whole year is a process of transformation and re-emergence. I have written some more about these experiences in a past post for FAR here.

Each year, I do what I can to honor the call of the Cauldron—persistent and insistent—and in so doing I remember that it is often in the mess that the story lives. What sometimes bubbles up from the Cauldron during this period of incubation isn’t particularly pretty, it can even be hard to confront, and yet, we continue to let it bubble, we continue to breathe and bear witness to our own interior lives, beyond the clamor and confusion of so many other voices that may fill our lives and days.

The Cauldron is a rune of alchemy and change, but also of centering of containment and contemplation—a marrying of what might seem like opposites, but that which really co-exist. During this month or another one that feels right to you (a lot of people choose December or January), consider taking it all to the metaphorical Cauldron of your life…what are you cooking? What flavors do you want to add? What do you want to create? What needs time and focus to bubble and brew? Can you allow yourself to steep in your own flavors? The Cauldron asks us what we’re cooking, but it also offer boundaries, containment, a safe space in which to stew up our truest magic.

May you be inspired by some time in cauldron,
may you be inspired by time with yourself,
may you be inspired by that which surrounds you,
connected to Goddess,
connected to the earth,
connected to the animals, plants,
the wisdom of the wind,
the song of branches,
and the symphony
of river, stone,
leaf, and breath.


Take it to the Cauldron and listen to the deep within.

Last year, I also made a free toolkit for sacred pauses which has lots more Cauldron Month info in it for you.

Sending you all love. Glad to share some of the miracle of being here with you.

There are days when the sky
holds its breath
and dreams seep up
from the skin of the world
and into my feet.  

Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess, mystic, and poet facilitating sacred circles, seasonal rituals, and family ceremonies 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.

In Memoriam – Carol P. Christ by Joyce Zonana

“thea-logy begins in experience” –  Rebirth of the Goddess

It is hard to believe that Carol P. Christ – Karolina as she dubbed herself in her beloved Greece—has been gone for a year. She remains such a vivid presence in my life—in all of our lives. I think of her and draw strength from those thoughts daily, the way so many women say they think of and feel close to their deceased mothers. For Karolina was indeed a mother to me—a nurturing spiritual mother who initiated me into the ways of the Goddess she adored and, whom she so beautifully defined as “the power of intelligent love that is the ground of all being.”

I first met Karolina in June of 1995 on a bare hotel rooftop in Athens. I had just flown there from New Orleans to join the Ariadne Institute’s Goddess Pilgrimage Tour, a leap of faith inspired by my reading the previous year of Weaving the Visions: Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, a pioneering anthology edited by Carol and her long-time friend and collaborator, Judith Plaskow. That book, along with Carol’s Diving Deep and Surfacing and Judith’s Standing Again at Sinai had spoken to me more deeply than anything I had ever read before. I had grown up in a Middle Eastern Orthodox Jewish family. drawn to spirituality, I had never able to find a place for myself in the deeply patriarchal structures of synagogue or even family rituals … Carol and Judith offered me a way in, and I wanted immediately to embark on the paths they were clearing. I wanted to meet them, to know them,  to learn from them, to share with them. Boldly, I decided to join the Pilgrimage, signing up for my first trip overseas trip, the most costly vacation I had ever granted myself. How could I have known that it would transform my life and bless me with a miraculous, deep friendship?

Continue reading “In Memoriam – Carol P. Christ by Joyce Zonana”

From the Archives: Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana

This was originally posted on April 30, 2020

Very early in Henri Bosco’s 1948 novel Malicroix, a young man, Martial de Mégremut, living placidly amid fruitful orchards in a tame Provençal village, receives a letter informing him he has inherited “some marshland, a few livestock, a ramshackle house” from a reclusive great-uncle, Cornélius de Malicroix. Against his family’s strenuous objections–with alarm they speak of “marshes, mosquitoes, miasmas”–Mégremut resolves to travel alone to the remote Camargue to claim his “wild” Malicroix inheritance. The house is on an island, and to reach it Mégremut must cross a rough river, at night, in a frail wooden boat piloted by a taciturn old man who meets him at dusk in the middle of a vast plain.

So begins a deeply internal quest narrative, an initiatory journey that forces Mégremut to come to terms with himself and with the elements–earth, water, wind, and fire–that are ever-present, sometimes terrifyingly so, on the island. For once he arrives, he learns that he must remain there alone for a full three months if he wishes to obtain the inheritance. Torn about whether to stay or leave, he finds that the decision to stay is made of its “own accord,” unconsciously.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana”

From the Archives: A Handy Spiritual Practice by Barbara Ardinger

Originally posted on February 7, 2021. You read the original comments here.

Here’s a simple spiritual practice that I’ve been doing for longer than I can remember. During the regime of the Orange T. Rex, I started doing it at bedtime to calm my mind so I could go to sleep. We’re hopefully living in a more optimistic and peaceable time now, but that’s no reason not to add a new spiritual practice to our lives. I hope you’ll like this one and will try it for yourself.

We’re accustomed to seeing people praying with rosaries or reciting mantras and counting repetitions with strings of beads. We can do that, too. But how about using a simpler “tool” to keep track of our mantras and affirmations—our own hands?

Continue reading “From the Archives: A Handy Spiritual Practice by Barbara Ardinger”

Days Like These, by Molly M. Remer

Sometimes the best rituals
are those we cannot plan,
requiring only pine needles and wind,
open eyes
and a long, slow-sinking sun
settling gently into shadows.
Sometimes the best magic
of all is made with
what is exactly right now,
bluestem grass and gray feathers,
raccoon footsteps
between the trees,
laughter and joined hands,
a faith in the cycles of retreat
and renewal.
This is what we are here for,
days like these.

One crow behind the house greeted me on a frosty solstice morning. Five more slid across the road in front of me as I reluctantly left home to go to the dentist. A red-shouldered hawk glided across the road next and I spotted a kestrel perched on a wire. I drove and sang, memories of our bright candles and solstice spiral the night before behind my eyes, sun bread left rising golden on the counter at home. The dentist has devised a pulley system to hang bird feeders by each of his second story windows and I watch house finches collect sunflower seeds as I lie in the chair. I spot a vulture circling in the distance slow and graceful above the trees. The sky is blue. When I leave the office, I hear a crow’s voice call from across the street and as I drive back home to my family and our winter holiday celebrations, another red-shouldered hawk swoops in front of me, while a red-tailed hawk sits solemnly in a tree by the field, watching the ground. I’m amazed how birds, so unbound, tether me so reliably to the magic of place, to being present with the ensouled and singing world as I move within it and I am grateful.

In the late afternoon on the solstice, my family and I carry the sun bread we have made out to the field by our studio. We join hands and sing and then toss small bits of our golden bread to the sun, calling out our wishes for the year to come and offering our thanks to the spinning world we walk on, beneath this burning sun.

The kids go inside and my husband, Mark, and I walk down the road to finish watching the sun set. It sinks low and slow behind the bare oak trees, growing larger and redder as it goes. It seems to be one of the most drawn out sunsets of this year and we sit down in the frost-crisped dittany by the side of the road, our backs against the oak trees, watching. I turn to look at Mark smiling and say: this is what I am here for, days like these.

I decided to take social media break as 2021 drew to a close, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, something I’ve needed to do for a long time, and yet, something I’ve always talked myself out of. I need this for our business, I think. It is part of my work. How else will I reach people? I will just post a few more things. While, inside, the hunger to really listen, to de-fragment my mind and re-collect my soul continued to build to a peak of fervency and desire. The blessing and the curse of social media is that everything is in one place. Convenient, yes. Holds you hostage, also yes. Exposes you to more information than you can reasonably hold and process, also yes. The first day of my break, I was amazed how often I was tempted to cheat, how many ways I came up with to sneak around the limit and to just do one little thing anyway. I was also surprised to discover how much extra space there is in my mind and how liberating it is to step away from the clamor of so many other voices. As Cal Newport explains, we all need time each day when we are outside of the influence of other minds. And, I was surprised by how invisible I felt, how unseen and unheard. As the days passed, I felt it though, my scattered pieces coming home. I knew that social media was affecting my focus and my brain functioning, could feel it fragmenting my thoughts, and making my focus and attention jumpy and scattered. In these days of silence, something began to heal inside. I feel a bit invisible, yes, but I also feel whole. I feel like I am coming back online, to my own life.

What was intended only as a ten day break over the winter solstice, extended through the first month of new year and while I’m not saying I’m never going back, I find I am in no rush to re-engage, certainly not in the way I had before.

In the reclaimed attentional space within, I discovered the soulsong of a new book walking up to me, hands extended and eyes wide.

We walk again under long wings of twilight, last vestiges of day sinking purple and mauve into the horizon. Somehow we end up talking about cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Give me dirt and give me stars, I say, as our feet crunch across the brown gravel, our shoulders hunched slightly against the wind. Give me life, right here, where it is.

As we come back up our driveway, we spot a doe at the compost pile, she watches us silently as we turn to make one more lap down the dusky gravel road.

Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess facilitating women’s circles, seasonal rituals, and family ceremonies 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.

Note: this essay is excerpted in part from a book in progress, tentatively titled Walking with the Goddess.

The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas

, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

As I rediscover my connection with the earth, my eco-consciousness inspires me to transform. As I go back to nature, I re-awaken my ancient cellular memories of living in harmony with the earth. I feel called to dance barefoot, play drums, make offerings, bathe in moonlight, harvest with my own hands. As I move forward on a path which is both new and old, it is my beloved elders who have shown me how to find my way.

What is an Elder?

The word elder comes from an Old English word which also meant ancestor or chief. A lot can change in a thousand years and many of us no longer honor older people or seek out them out for advice.

In my experience, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

My first wise woman teachings came from my family. My mother, and her mother, taught me to be myself, to love being outdoors and the importance of having a garden. Feeling the joy of flowers, cooking with fresh herbs, planting a tree to honor the dead. These are a few ancient traditions of my ancestors that have survived even in a modernized and urban setting.

Continue reading “The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas”

What is an Elder?

The word elder comes from an Old English word which also meant ancestor or chief. A lot can change in a thousand years and many of us no longer honor older people or seek out them out for advice.

In my experience, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

My first wise woman teachings came from my family. My mother, and her mother, taught me to be myself, to love being outdoors and the importance of having a garden. Feeling the joy of flowers, cooking with fresh herbs, planting a tree to honor the dead. These are a few ancient traditions of my ancestors that have survived even in a modernized and urban setting.

Continue reading “The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas”

Natural Ceremony, by Molly Remer

This morning,
I walked around the field
and discovered
three soft white breast feathers
of an unknown bird,
two earthstar mushrooms,
sinking quietly back into the soil,
one tiny snail shell,
curled in spiral perfection,
and the fire of my own spirit
burning in my belly,
rekindled by elemental magic
of the everyday kind,
the small and precious gifts
of an ordinary day.

Every January, we rent a house on Dauphin Island and spend the month at the beach with our kids. Usually, we pack our business along with us and work from the rental house, though this year my sister kept it running from our home studio in Missouri instead. My husband describes this month away as the “weekend of the year,” and this is, in fact, how it feels, except for unlike most normal weekends, we walk five miles by 8:30 a.m. each morning. We joke that this is one of the best ways to know we’re on “vacation.” During one month of walking, we will log more than 300,000 steps together, this time away from home allowing us to pare back the layers of to-dos that build up each year, to re-prioritize our goals, to re-sync ourselves with what we most value, and to breathe deeply back into ourselves again—our hearts, our hopes, our dreams—after the hectic holiday season. Since we are self-employed, we never wake to an alarm clock at home, but while on our sojourn away, always motivated by the prospect of finding good shells, we set the alarm for 5:00 a.m., rising to the voice of Kellianna singing “I Walk with the Goddess” as we set off in the darkness to the uninhabited beach down the road. This year, due to hurricane damage and the resultant road work and beach restoration work in progress, the only way to reach our favorite walking spot is to rise before the road crews do and get out and back before the access road is closed to traffic for the work day.

We walk before dawn, our faces glimmering palely beneath a full moon. Our shell finding has been slender on this trip, the beach often swept clean by waves, but on this day, lit only by full moonlight, I finally catch sight of a big brown moon snail shell, half-buried in the sand. My favorite type of shell and, discovered on a full moon, no less! My husband’s foot comes down upon it as I grab his arm to stop him, but then I seize it with glee, undamaged and smooth in my hand. Though I have previously written that I expect no reward for devotion, sometimes it is, in fact, delightful to receive a reward anyway, especially on a dark beach with only moonlight as my guide. We spot two glowing eyes a few feet away and a fox keeps pace with us, pausing to sit and watch as we make our steady way along the shore. The sky lightens to rainbow stripes as the first flares of dawn begin to glow with eastern fire. I stand with my arms extended, the fingertips of one hand reaching for the moon while the other hand reaches for the sun, the waves lapping at the shore, the wind at my back. I feel held, suspended in eternity, small and rapturous, balanced at a centerpoint of time, inhabiting the liminal, poised within a living strip of space between land and sea, earth and sky, wind and sand, dawn and dusk, motion and stillness. Behind me, the fox moves swiftly away across the sand under a rainbow sky. 

I reflect as I continue to walk, murmuring the Charge of the Goddess below the moon, that these are my favorite kinds of rituals, the most powerful kinds of ceremonies, the truest expression of magic in my life and days.

On the winter solstice this past year, I carried a blanket out to the field in front of our house. I brought along my Womanrunes cards so I could do an annual oracle card layout for the year. I carried my journals and my planner and some of our small goddess figurines. Rather than sit on the blanket and dream about the year to come, busily scribbling notes and ideas in my planners as I had envisioned, instead I lie flat on my back on gazing at the sky. I became aware as I was lying there, breath slow in my belly, that I could see the moon on my right hand side and I could see the sun getting closer to setting on my left hand side. Then, I became aware that the birds were at my feet at our bird feeder by the studio building. Next, I became I aware of the cedar trees above my head, at the far side of the field. Lying there, feeling the earth beneath me, the sensation struck: I’m surrounded by the elements. I’m surrounded by all these aspects of magic, right now, no elaborate solstice ritual required. Though I made sun bread with my children and we held our traditional candle lit winter solstice ceremony and spiral walk, these moments lying on my back in the field were my ritual, my ceremony, the fullest expression of a living spirituality for me. Magic need not need to be fancier or more elaborate or more planned out than this, I think. It can mean lying on your back in a field and feeling the presence of the living elements around you, carrying you, holding you, supporting, nourishing, restoring, revitalizing, and, in a way, rebirthing you into awareness.

When I rose from my blanket to work on my plans, I noticed the way the rapidly setting sun was peeking through the trees and I decided to take a picture of one of my goddesses there with the last rays of the solstice sun shining behind her. As I squatted down to take the picture, I saw that one of the sunrays was extending through the trees in such a way that it was literally pointing exactly at my blanket, right at my little pile of books and my little plans, an affirmation of sorts: this is where you need to be, this is what you need to be doing. Since it was the Winter Solstice, of course this ray of light reminded me of light coming through Stonehenge and striking the exact right point, and it thrilled me to know that if I hadn’t decided to be outside exactly at this exact moment with the sun at this position, I never would have seen the ray of light illuminating my blanket. I’m not suggesting that the sun did that for me, it was rather that I allowed myself to witness what was already there, as if the ceremony was in place, it was unfolding, it was taking place, whether I was going to step into it or not, whether I was going to notice it or not, whether I was even aware of it or not. While this may not sound like a ceremony or a ritual in the way that many people describe ceremony and ritual, for me, it was one of the most powerful rituals I experienced that year.

Ceremonies of earth and being are unfolding around us all the time and we can either be present for them or not.

I could not have planned or designed that solstice or the full moon, fox-accompanied beach walk. I could not have planned or designed these rituals of living. I stepped out into the world instead and saw what ceremony was already underway, and then took part in it. Perhaps this sounds too simple or too small. There are many books with plans and outlines, ceremonies and correspondences, the right colors of candle and the right invocations to choose. And, those things are all wonderful too. I love setting up a fulfilling ritual space and creating a ritual atmosphere for people. I love candles and singing and choosing just the right words. I write today to remind us that there are many rituals of the everyday, there are many ceremonies of everyday magic, natural magic, that are already unfolding around you. I invite you to consider stepping into them and receiving them as a gift rather than trying to harness the elements or shape the setting to your own will. I encourage you to savor and see the unplanned, small magics of living unfold as they will. These elements of the holy, these sacred sites, can be alive, within you, beneath your feet, and around you every day, waiting (or not waiting) for you to notice that they’re here, carrying you along.

May you celebrate, savor, and sink into the magic of your life right where you are.

Sometimes,
the world creates
ceremonies for us
and we just have
to show up
for them.

 

A Handy Spiritual Practice By Barbara Ardinger

Here’s a simple spiritual practice that I’ve been doing for longer than I can remember. During the regime of the Orange T. Rex, I started doing it at bedtime to calm my mind so I could go to sleep. We’re hopefully living in a more optimistic and peaceable time now, but that’s no reason not to add a new spiritual practice to our lives. I hope you’ll like this one and will try it for yourself.

We’re accustomed to seeing people praying with rosaries or reciting mantras and counting repetitions with strings of beads. We can do that, too. But how about using a simpler “tool” to keep track of our mantras and affirmations—our own hands?

How to use your hand? Make a fist and extend each finger as you say its affirmation. If you’re seated, lay your hand on the arm of the chair or in your lap and tap one finger at a time. Or just find your own way to keep track.

In the next paragraphs, I interpret what the affirmations in the illustration mean to me.

Thumb: All seems well. Yes, this is ambiguous, but consider what we’ve been living through since 2016, especially in 2020 with the pandemic and the election. Perhaps things have improved now. Perhaps some things do seem well. This ambiguity is the baseline upon which the rest of the handy practice is built.

Pointer finger: All things shall be well. This and the next finger are my paraphrases of the writing of Dame Julian of Norwich (ca. 1314-1416), a medieval English anchorite. Dame Julian lived through the Black Death and the Peasants Revolt and was the author of Revelations of Divine Love, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelations_of_Divine_Love which is the first surviving book in the English language written by a woman. An interesting note about the conjugation of English verbs: the declarative (everyday) mood is I/we shall, you will, he/she/it/they will. Note that when the “shall” and the “will” are reversed—I/we will, you shall, he/she/it/they shall—we get the imperative mood. It’s emphatic. “All things shall be well” means that’s how it’s gonna be. When you say this affirmation (aloud or silently), say it emphatically.

Long finger: All manner of things shall be well. Again, my paraphrase. (What she really wrote is what she heard Jesus say in a vision: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”) Let’s look more closely at my version. “All manner of things”: not just a few things, but many things. What do you see as “all manner of things”? Your own welfare? The welfare of your family and friends? What’s happening in your neighborhood, city, state, nation? Think as personally or as generally as you want to when you say this. (You can of course change what things shall be well every time you repeat this affirmation.) Emphasize “all manner” as you think about what you want to be well. Then also emphasize “shall be well.” We’re not giving orders to the universe, of course, but we can shout if we want to.

Ring finger: All can only be well. A typical metaphysical affirmation. As you repeat it, see it as a universal goal. Try saying it five times, stressing each word in turn. ALL can only…. All CAN only…. All can ONLY…. Et cetera.

Pinkie finger: Om tare tuttare ture soha. Because I took refuge with Green Tara during a weekend workshop taught by Dagmola Jamyang Sakya many years ago, I use the Tara mantra. Translation: “I prostrate to the Liberator, Mother of all the Victorious Ones.” (Well, I don’t do the proper Tibetan prostrations. It takes me forever to get up off the floor.) Another goddess mantra is Vishwa Shakti Avaham. Translation: “Universal energy of the Divine Mother [Shakti], be present in my life.”

You can of course make other choices for your pinkie finger affirmation. Here are half a dozen ideas. Use them and/or make up new ones. Let your littlest finger be strong enough to hold a big intention.

  1. Deena Metzger’s Goddess Chant: “Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna.” You’re invoking seven powerful goddesses into your life.
  2. “We are the flow, we are the ebb. We are the weavers, we are the web.” (Probably composed by Shekinah Mountainwater.) We are active parts of the benevolent universe.
  3. A Beatitude. Here’s one I like: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I have long believed that if Christians paid more attention to the Sermon on the Mount there would be less conflict in religious discussions.
  4. The opening line of a Psalm. Here’s Psalm 19 (AV): “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Open your own Bible and select the Psalm that speaks to your heart.
  5. These lines spoken by the exiled Duke in the Forest of Arden in Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “And this our life…/ Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,/ Sermons in stones, and good in everything./ I would not change it” (II, 1, 562-65). As we’ve seen in many posts by the FAR community, we can find much good in and learn much from Mother Nature.
  6. The first line of this Jerry Herman song from La Cage aux Folles: “The best of times is now.” Here’s the whole song from the 2010 Tony awards broadcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBZLCnF4KC0 as sung by Douglas Hodge (who won the Tony that year) and the whole cast. It’s enormous fun to watch. (Those are the Cagelles dancing in the aisles.) For a cheery and inspiring conclusion to your handy spiritual practice, learn and sing the whole song.

[Note: Many thanks to Jennifer Ardinger for turning my sketch of the hand into real art. Many thanks to Meloney Hudson for teaching me the Shakti mantra.]

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every DayFinding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Clean Tent Ceremony for Imbolc by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie

The Clean Tent ritual[1] is done among the Samoyed peoples of northern Siberia. It is a group ritual invoking blessing and protection for each of the participants, traditionally all the inhabitants of a camp or village. You may choose for whom this work will be done.

This is best done outside but can be modified for indoors. Needed in your circle:

Fire – it can be in a cauldron
A mound of dirt
5 – 2″ strips of ribbon and a 3″ red cord
Rocks to create a circle
2 large rocks for gate in the South
Pitcher of milk and ladle
Your drum if you wish
Any vows you wish to make

This ceremony is normally be done during what is called the White Moon.  This is the lunar cycle closest to the time of Imbolc. It also coincides with the Chinese New Year.  It is called the Clean Tent Ceremony because traditionally a special tent is erected for the ritual. In some cases, this ritual is performed outside using a stone circle to enclose the ritual space in lieu of the tent, which is what you will do. Continue reading “Clean Tent Ceremony for Imbolc by Deanne Quarrie”

Navajo Night Chant – Part 2 by Sara Wright

Picture of Sara Wright standing outside in natureRead Part 1 here:

The original Night Chant involved four teams who danced twelve times each with half-hour intervals in between-a total of ten hours. The dance movements involve two lines facing each other. Each of the six male dancers takes his female partner, dances with her to the end of the line, drops her there, and moves back to his own side. The chant itself is performed without variation and has a hypnotic effect on the listeners. The only relief is provided by the rainmaker-clown named Tonenili, who sprinkles water around and engages in other playful antics.

The medicine men who supervise the Night Chant insist that everything-each dot and line in every sand painting, each verse in every song, each feather on each mask-be arranged in exactly the same way each time the curing ceremony is performed or it will not bring about the desired result. There are probably as many active Night Chant medicine men today as at any time in Navajo history, due to the general increase in the Navajo population, the popularity of the ceremony, and the central role it plays in Navajo life and health. Continue reading “Navajo Night Chant – Part 2 by Sara Wright”

Glimpsing La Vièio ié Danso – “The Untouchable Wild Goddess” – in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s Beast of Vacarés by Joyce Zonana

Nearly a century later, d’Arbaud’s words still have the power to startle and delight, vividly evoking Earth’s sacredness.

 

Early in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s 1926 Provençal novella, The Beast of Vacarés, the narrator, a 15th century gardian or bull herder, describes how in summer la Vièio ié danso—the Old Dancer— “can be glimpsed on the dazzling salt flats” that surround the Vacarés lagoon in the Camargue region of Southern France.

In a note, d’Arbaud explains that la Vièio is how locals refer to mirages in this liminal landscape where earth, sea, and sky merge. “Mirages are common in the Camargue,” he tells us:

They begin with a vibration in the air, a trembling that runs along the ground and seems to make the images dance; it spreads into the distance in great waves that reflect the dark thickets. How not to see in this mysterious Vièio, dancing in the desert sun, a folk memory of the untouchable wild goddess, ancient power, spirit of solitude, once considered divine, that remains the soul of this great wild land?

The untouchable wild goddess . . . once considered divine . . .”

Nearly a century later, d’Arbaud’s words still have the power to startle and move us, vividly evoking Earth’s sacredness. Here is a man, himself a bull herder in the region he so lovingly describes, who seems to have been a devotee of the Goddess, the “ancient power” he venerates and bring to life for his readers. Indeed, in an early poem, “Esperit de la Terro” — “Spirit of the Earth”— d’Arbaud explicitly dedicates himself to the old gods sleeping below the earth, vowing to “defend” and “aid” them. How extraordinary to discover this writer making such a commitment, well before the rise of our recent feminist spirituality and ecofeminist movements. D’Arbaud speaks directly to our current environmental, theological, social, and political concerns.

Continue reading “Glimpsing La Vièio ié Danso – “The Untouchable Wild Goddess” – in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s Beast of Vacarés by Joyce Zonana”

Ancient Mother by Sara Wright

 

On the path
through the pines
I see clumps of
moss scattered,
an old tree trunk
is raked as if
with claws;
clumps of downed bark
food for the earth.
My heart soars.
Wild hope pours
through me like honey.

Continue reading “Ancient Mother by Sara Wright”

Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana

All along, I’ve believed that Malicroix had something important to offer English-speaking readers: an embrace of solitude, a profound connection with nature, a bold exploration of dream-states. And right now it seems to resonate with our current moment of introspection and reassessment of priorities.

202002_Zonana_JoyceVery early in Henri Bosco’s 1948 novel Malicroix, a young man, Martial de Mégremut, living placidly amid fruitful orchards in a tame Provençal village, receives a letter informing him he has inherited “some marshland, a few livestock, a ramshackle house” from a reclusive great-uncle, Cornélius de Malicroix. Against his family’s strenuous objections–with alarm they speak of “marshes, mosquitoes, miasmas”–Mégremut resolves to travel alone to the remote Camargue to claim his “wild” Malicroix inheritance. The house is on an island, and to reach it Mégremut must cross a rough river, at night, in a frail wooden boat piloted by a taciturn old man who meets him at dusk in the middle of a vast plain.

So begins a deeply internal quest narrative, an initiatory journey that forces Mégremut to come to terms with himself and with the elements–earth, water, wind, and fire–that are ever-present, sometimes terrifyingly so, on the island. For once he arrives, he learns that he must remain there alone for a full three months if he wishes to obtain the inheritance. Torn about whether to stay or leave, he finds that the decision to stay is made of its “own accord,” unconsciously.

Continue reading “Answering the Call by Joyce Zonana”

Let’s Talk About Shame by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: This post includes content about rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, violence.

The recent, meaningful discussions on this forum about how so many of us feel broken due to our own personal histories have fortified and inspired me. I’ve marveled as women have spoken up so honestly and even brutally about the effects of trauma, rape, cold and dismissive mothers, abusing fathers and so on.

Some of you know my own story. I am a survivor of my father’s childhood abuse and then a rape at knifepoint in my early twenties. I carry a deep and abiding sense of shame. This feeling has always flummoxed me. Why should I feel shame when I didn’t do anything to create my own abuse? Shouldn’t my father have felt the shame? The rapist? Why did I get saddled with it? I was the victim (and survivor), not the perpetrator. But shame is indeed the feeling I carry and I’m not alone. Why is this feeling so pervasive? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some clues about where to look.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Shame by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Rejecting TMT: Protecting and Protesting the Sacred for Mauna Kea and for all by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteRoughly 3 ½ years ago my FAR post was about the struggle that the Hawaiian people were facing with the proposed building of a Thirty Meter Telescope on the most sacred mountain in the Hawaiian Islands, Mauna Kea. When that post was published, there was a large social media presence and protests that helped cease construction of the telescope and sent the issue to the Hawaiian Courts. I am writing this post because Mauna Kea is again under threat. The Courts ruled in the favor of the telescope and for the last two months, large scale protests have gone under way on the road up to Mauna Kea.

Continue reading “Rejecting TMT: Protecting and Protesting the Sacred for Mauna Kea and for all by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Nourishing Your Caring, by Molly Remer

Take time 60107979_2326071390938403_2921363486892097536_o
to nourish
your caring.
It is needed.

Last month it was raining heavily on a Saturday morning and I spent time coloring letters to fairies with my younger children and baking a cake. Before I knew it, the day had slipped away into the rain and I didn’t get to make my daily visit to the woods behind my house as I like to do in the morning. While the things I did instead were fun and loving, I found myself telling my husband, once again, that I am feeling burned out in my life in general and like I’ve lost my caring. I sometimes worry that I don’t care anymore, that I’ve used up my care, my inspiration, my passion, that I’ve fueled magic for others for so long, that my own has evaporated and I’m finished, extinguished. I listed off the things I need to refuel my soul and restore my care so that I can be there for others, for our work. My list was simple and short and my husband pointed out that I get the things on it almost every day:

  1. Go to the woods.
  2. Write and journal.
  3. Walk and discover things.
  4. Create/draw/take pictures.
  5. Read.

I need to nourish my care, I tell him, because I can’t stop caring.

Caring is what holds life together.

What do you need to nourish your caring?

This year, I have found myself struggling with recurrent episodes of feeling like I don’t care. I feel careworn, care-overloaded, care-burned out, care used-up. Sometimes I even feel like I actually can’t care anymore, like all my care is used up, spent, extinguished, exhausted. I have also found myself feeling a little sad and wistful remembering how much I used to care, about everything, but at times I also feel liberated by owning the “don’t care” sensation. Sometimes it sets me free. The world is stained, strained, and brittle from so much lack of care from so many people. We must keep caring, we must care, even when it is a strain. I suppose the secret may be not to care too much about things that don’t require our care, not to overload ourselves with cares that are not our own, or that don’t actually require our attention and are, frankly, quite fine without us and our meddling.

After the month’s Pink Tent ritual with my local circle, a friend tells me that she has been 58639012_2319362924942583_1704575264542949376_o(1)going to yoga class and every time she lies on the floor at the end of class, she thinks of me. I consider this a compliment. If I could be known as a lay-down revolutionary, that would please me. At least two years ago, I put on my list of “100 Things to Do this Year,” to lie on the floor for at least three minutes every day. I have kept this up more or less every day since then, even setting my phone timer for three minutes at the end of my personal yoga practice each morning, so I know I’m actually giving this to myself. I wonder what might change for many of us if we allowed ourselves three minutes a day to lie on the floor? Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? One hour? Another friend tells me she needs a time out to refill herself until she is overflowing, instead of just refilling her cup a tiny bit and then draining it over and over again. I feel this too. I have the sensation that I been coasting on my reserve tank for at least a year and my reserves are now becoming depleted too. It takes more than three minutes to fill the tank, so that it carries sustained and lasting energy to fuel my soul.

In the woods the next day, I sit with my eyes closed in the sunshine, basking in the warmth. I hear the sound of birds from each side of me, ping-ponging off of one another into the sparkling green air. I listen to them until my mind softens and I am no longer tormenting myself with questions of how to be better, be more, fix it all. I am very still on the rock and when I open my eyes, I see a vulture coasting towards me. It swoops very low, skimming the treetops, possibly checking to see if I am actually breathing there on the stone, it circles once, twice, three times, above my head, at each pass coming very low, low enough that I can see its red head turn from side to side, looking at me.

Hey, buddy, I say. Yes, I’m still breathing!

My floor-lying friend has spent the night at my parents lodge and I go to visit her and to paint with my mom, my daughter, and my friend and her family. My head is throbbing with the headache I often get following an intense ritual and I don’t feel very present, but we paint anyway, the colors swirling and mixing and the freeform nature of the pour painting meaning there are no mistakes, only magic. When we finish, I help her load a weaving loom into her car and we speak briefly about group dynamics and ritual etiquette, and priestessing energetics. As we speak, I look up to see nine vultures this time, circling in the wide sky above the large open field surrounding the lodge building. They dance in the air and they whisper, It is okay to let go. It is okay to soar. It is okay to be free. It is okay to clean things out and away. That is how you can keep caring.

Recipe for Rebuilding a Soul:

1 weary heart61445954_2342336385978570_2975037873578835968_o(1)
2 open arms
1 large flat rock
As many tall pine trees
as you can find
1 empty book
Many pens
Lots of water
2 scoops of sunlight
An infinity of starshine.

Mix together patiently and wait in the shadows. Let rise in the sun. Let rise with the moon. Check for delight. If still soggy and deflated, expose on a hillside or soak in the ocean. Sprinkle with laughter.

Submerge beneath a stream of inspiration.
Drizzle with dreams and a generous helping of time.
Steep with incredible slowness.
Dust with flowers and need well.
Let become exquisitely tender and soft.

When fully risen, warmed throughout, and glowing with strength and satisfaction, enjoy with a tall glass of moonlight, a side of magic, and a handful of enchantment.

Create regularly for best results.

Additional audio poem: Careworn Soul

This essay is excerpted from my book in progress, The Magic of Place: Rebuilding the Soul Where and How You Are.

Molly Remer has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, and 61538890_2344169199128622_8199673458095816704_oshare 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 WomanrunesEarthprayerShe Lives Her Poems, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.

Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier

Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

There is a saying, “Take time to smell the flowers.” Attributed to many different sources, it means among other things–  take time and be grateful. Take time and relax. Take time.

 

Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

In that spirit I am sending along pictures from the amazing “super bloom” California is experiencing this spring. It is the most magnificent we have ever had, I think. It happens once a decade, but we are lucky to have had a super bloom in 2017 and now this year as well.  California had an extreme drought last year and then extreme rain this past winter. And now we have flowers…and flowers. Poppies are the state flower of California and they are being celebrated—all over. And people dropping in by helicopter and influencers ruining some of the poppy beds by laying in them for Instagram pics. Yes, it’s been crazy. But, when we were there (my wife and I) on a past Sunday, it felt so magical that so much of Los Angeles it seemed was out to smell the flowers. You can see a picture of folks lined up (my wife at the end in the picture below) photographing the flowers. Flowers suddenly are the new super star!

Continue reading “Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier”

Making it Mine: An Un-Orthodox Passover by Joyce Zonana

Passover is a holiday of remembrance, of ritual re-enactment: this, we say, is what our ancestors experienced. This is what they felt and knew, what they tasted in their blood. The movement from slavery to liberation, from the soul’s winter to spring. We must never forget, we say, we must always remember, be thankful for our freedom, never take it for granted. “In each generation,” the Haggadah enjoins, “we should feel as if we personally had come out of Egypt.”

jz-headshotThis year, I celebrated the Jewish feast of Passover on March 31st–almost three weeks before the holiday’s official start on the evening of April 19th, the 15th of Nissan. It turned out to be my best Passover yet.

Because I’d been accepted for a residency at an artists’ colony beginning on April 17th, I had known since last Fall that I would not be home for the holiday. Given Passover’s importance for me–a Jew who left Egypt in her own lifetime, part of what some have called the “Second Exodus”–I had thought I might postpone the residency and even considered turning it down. But the colony could not change the dates, and, after much deliberation, I decided that my work as a fledgling translator was worth missing my usual gathering of family and friends. I told myself I could mark the arrival of Passover internally.

Continue reading “Making it Mine: An Un-Orthodox Passover by Joyce Zonana”

The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer

53850207_2292227257656150_5800641319395131392_o“Please prepare me
to be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
sanctuary
for you.”*

Beautiful Chorus (Hymns of Spirit)

In March, my husband drove our daughter into town to work at her Girl Scout cookie booth and released me to prepare for an all-day Red Tent retreat for my local women’s circle. After I packed my supplies for ritual, I set off on a walk in the deepening, rain-dark twilight. As I walked, I sang a song of sanctuary over and over, until I felt transported into a different type of consciousness, my feet steady on muddy gravel, the leafless branches stark against grey sky, moss and stones gleaming with sharp color against the roadside. A fallen tree absolutely carpeted with enchanting mushrooms caught my eye and invited me off the road and into its arms. As I stood there, feeling as if I had stepped out of ordinary reality and into a “backyard journey,” the spring peepers in the ephemeral pool in our field began their evening chorus. It has been so cold out with below freezing temperatures, snow, and ice for days since first hearing them in early March that I actually wondered if they would survive to continue their song.

Mercifully, though, it is not a silent spring. Continue reading “The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer”

Part One: The God Ayyappan and The Sabarimala Temple by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteThe Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, India has been recently thrown into the news. It has made world news due to the two centuries long tradition of denying females from the age of 10-50 entrance into the Temple. As of September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing women entrance into the Temple. Needless to say, this ruling was met by both large numbers of supporters and protestors.  But what makes the Sabarimala Temple so controversial?

Continue reading “Part One: The God Ayyappan and The Sabarimala Temple by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Devotion by Molly Remer

There are things that ask
50237778_2257311164481093_3090053013251817472_oto be remembered
or, is it that I ask to remember?
The everyday enchantments
of our living
words forming slices of
memory.
A white squirrel watching
from a sycamore tree
the sounds of black
crows calling
from within the secret
passages
between oak tree
and neighborhood
footprints of a shy orange
coastal fox in the sand.
Rays of sunlight
forming individual white rainbows
stretching from cloud
to water.
I no longer feel like I have anything
to teach
I just want to tell you about the
shell I found today
the sandy pink color
of its wave-shaped spiral
the way the pine needles
form a canopy under
which orange monarchs dance
the surprising softness and bright
green hue of thin fingers of grass
the pretty purple pollen cones
of a longleaf pine.
The colors of a morning woven
into a tapestry of devotion.
That is the word for this feeling
in my chest.
Devotion
to noticing.

Devotion is not a word that I have previously felt particularly inspired by or connected to. Perhaps it is too heavy, too responsible, or even “too religious”—carrying connotations of dogma or roteness. However, in the last month or so, something has opened up for me to consider the word, and the process, in a different way. Continue reading “Devotion by Molly Remer”

Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer

“Beginnings and endings are so very sacred, to give honor to all that has transpired, every experience, every joy, every pain, is a doorway to the magical. Hold your entire year between your hands, every day, every thought, every breath. Now bless it with gratitude, love and humility. You have done more to transform this new year than a thousand resolutions.” 

 –K. Allen Kay

Two years ago, at the end of the year, I was supposed to hold a closing ceremony for a year-long Ariadne’s Thread study group I had been guiding throughout the year. Every member of the circle ended up backing out of the closing circle at the last minute, but I held the ceremony in full anyway, alone in my front yard, just for myself, and expanding it to include acknowledging and appreciating all the work I had completed in 2016, including my D.Min degree. People’s reasons for backing out of the ceremony were very valid and while on a cognitive level I understood why they couldn’t come, on an emotional level I still felt let down and disappointed at being “abandoned” by them. Holding the closing ceremony for myself anyway and acknowledging that I kept my own commitment to doing a full year of this work in circle, felt like a powerful declaration and affirmation of my own worth. In fact, it was such a validating and powerful experience that I continued the practice with a personal year-end closing ceremony for 2017 as well and I will do the same for myself this year too. Continue reading “Honoring the Completion of the Year, by Molly Remer”

Saying Goodbye to my Grandmother, by Molly Remer

Part 1: The Question

Ipad Pix 107
Four generations at my brother’s wedding in 2012.

It is October,
the veil is thin
the year is waning
the leaves are turning
I am trying to say goodbye
to my grandmother
she is dying.
I do not know what to say.

The leaves are red
the sky is blue
I saw a crow in the tree
behind the house.

The threads of this year
are becoming thinner.

The threads of her life too
are becoming thinner

What do I say to the one
who breathed life into my father
who wove his cells into being
who cradled him as a baby
who wept into his hair.

22491500_1732319350410950_3353887520077221870_n
Twyla with my dad, Tom, in 1953.

Carrying the cells
of the generations

The chain of life
continuing to spiral

through time, and place,
and distance

and falling leaves.

What do I say as life thins,
as breath fades

What do I say
when all that remains
is the space between us

What do I say
when I catch a glimpse

of the swift unraveling of time
the wrinkles in eternity

What do I say
as time folds in on itself

and now it is me in the bed
and my son, gray-haired, blue-eyed
is reading to me in a quiet voice 

May 2017 020
Grandma Johnson with her great-grandchildren in April, 2017.

as the chapter comes to a close.

Part 2: The Answer

That night, 
I dreamed of my grandmother
she shrank to the size of a small child
I picked her up and held her against my body
We looked in the mirror cheek to cheek
and smiled together
I kissed her face and told her:
“You are wonderful.”
Then we danced around the room together
her head against my shoulder
I kissed her again on her white hair
and no more words were needed.

Part 3: The Memorial

At this time last year, as the leaves fell and the wheel of the year dipped into darkness, my last grandparent died. I recognize that I am fortunate in having reached nearly forty while still having a living grandmother, but there is still such a sensation of finality and ending in saying goodbye to the final grandparent. Twyla was my paternal grandmother and I was not as close to her as I was to my maternal grandmother who died in 2013, but she is the woman who wove my father’s bones into being, and her death left a hole in our family and a sensation of an ended section in the tapestry of generations.

After the dream I write of above, I went back to see her a final time, five hours before she took her last breath. This time, I sat with her alone. I kissed her on her white hair and told her she was wonderful. I played her a song (Beyond the Gates by T. Thorn Coyle and Sharon Knight). I spoke to her of her good work in the world, that she had done it, that she’d finished her work, and that she had given so much and done so well. As a mother myself, the sensation of how powerful it is to have seen all your babies through to adulthood and into grandparenthood themselves filled the room. My dad, her second child and only son, has teenage grandchildren now himself. My grandmother’s youngest child of her five children is in her mid-fifties (and also a grandmother to teenagers). Sitting in the darkened room, listening to the song play, I was staggered by the magnitude of having seen each of your own children through their lives and into grandparenthood. While there are many ways to leave a legacy and it is not a “failure” by any means to not see all of your children into grandparenthood or to not have children yourself, what a gift it must be to bear witness to these generations if it does, in fact, unfold in that way, and to see your own tiniest baby have grandchildren of her own. This is something I hope to see for myself.

October 2017 139
My dad holding his youngest grandchild at the memorial.

I then had the blessing, the honor, the privilege of being asked to prepare a memorial service for my grandmother.  Five years ago, I was also asked to facilitate the memorial ceremony for my other grandmother. The unique, uncommon blessing of fulfilling this role for both of my grandmothers is not lost on me, as I know no one else who has had the experience of serving both sides of their family of origin in this way. I felt so honored to be trusted to help guide my family through both of these experiences of loss and grief. I spoke to my husband of how humbled, grateful, and fortunate I feel that I have a family who would let me do this, not just for one grandma, but for both of them, and he said, “you know, honey, maybe we should all be grateful to you that you’re willing to do this for us.” So, I received that recognition into my heart with appreciation as well.

October 2017 143
My daughter, then six, keeping the candles lit and tended on the altar space during the memorial.

It is powerful to create ceremonies that acknowledge transitions within the life of your family. During this ceremony for my grandmother we each had time to speak of her, I had poems I had written, and readings to share. We had a centerpiece with flowers, floating candles, and photos of her, and we each held handfuls of herbs that we offered into the bowl of water as we shared our stories and memories. Each person took time to do so and spoke with care, tenderness, love, and laughter. Sharing this time and space together and creating a container for people to be heard in their grief and love rather than participating in the type of “canned” or impersonal memorial service that may be more commonly offered by religious groups, was what we needed to say goodbye to this woman who wove a part of our souls. My aunt said: this is the kind of send-off that everyone needs, and that felt very true and real.

My extended family is not pagan or liberal or alternatively religiously minded and as I planned the memorial I was conscious of not wanting it to be “too much” for them. As I typed my outline, I’d first included a song and other practices common to other rituals and retreats I lead and when I heard that my aunts and cousins were coming, I’d removed the song and some ritual elements, fearing making them uncomfortable. They then said they weren’t coming, so I added the singing back in. On the day of the memorial, they did in fact come, and I decided we would sing anyway, whether October 2017 102comfortable and familiar or not. We sang the same song to begin and to end the memorial (“We Are a Circle”) and when I looked around the circle the second time we sang and saw that everyone there holding hands, their faces wet with tears, were all singing too, I knew that it had worked.

If you have the opportunity to create ceremonies and rituals of personal meaning for your own family, please do it. It holds so much value, such life and power and love, in a way that is difficult to create by someone outside of the family. A small group of people who really care and who are willing to connect with each other in a meaningful, connected, vulnerable way, births so much real magic together. This container can be created by you, for you, and for the ones you love the most.

“Everyone can do the life-changing, world-renewing work of magic…the Dalai Lama said, October 2017 160‘It’s not enough to pray and meditate; you must act if you want to see results.’ We are called to offer real service to others, to the Goddess. That service may take many forms: mopping the floor after the party, priestessing rituals, healing, planning, teaching, carrying the heavy cauldron from the car, sitting with a dying friend, writing up the minutes for a neighborhood meeting, organizing a protest to protect a sacred place from development, writing letters to Congress, training others in nonviolent civil disobedience, growing food, or changing the baby’s diapers. All of these can be life-changing, world-renewing acts of magic…”

—Starhawk and Valentine, The Twelve Wild Swans

There is a companion audio recording available about this memorial service preparation, the death of my grandmother, and about how to weave a strong “ritual basket” to carry a ceremony. The first part is an audio ritual for my online circle with thoughts about claiming your magic, fear of the label of witch, etc., so if you want to skip past that only to the memorial information and ritual theory, skip to 16:20 in the audio:

 

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. editMollyNov 083She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. 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, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.

The Exclusion and Embrace of Trans-women within Feminist Spirituality by Kelly Palmer

Women-only circles have long existed within the Goddess movement, the Red Tent movement for example exists as an inter-faith, grass-roots movement for women only to come together to claim safe and sacred space. But too often ‘women-only’ in fact means ‘cis women only’. Trans women are not allowed. This has been the topic of much heated debate in recent years, culminating last year in the publication of ‘Female Erasure’ an anthology of essays on gender politics and feminist spirituality that has led to calls for the editor Ruth Barrett to be expelled from her thealogical seminary on grounds of transphobia. Barrett and many of her contemporaries openly call for the exclusion of transwomen from women-only Goddess circles and respond to criticism by saying that asking for ‘women born women only’ space is not meant to be antitrans but simply carving out a space for people with similar life experience – in the same way that people of specific ethnic minorities may gather, or LGBTQ people. Surely, they may say, the answer is for trans women to create their own spaces?

There are two problems with this. Firstly, trans women are in a significant minority, making access to groups of other trans women practicing Goddess spirituality difficult. If a local woman’s circle is their only means to practicing their religion with others, and they are excluded by this on the basis of their genitalia, this exclusion is incredibly hurtful and undermines not just one’s ability to practice a faith but one’s very identity and esteem. Secondly, it is not just local, personal groups that are practicing this exclusion, but large and public gatherings, making very public pronouncements that trans women are not welcome. They have been excluded from womens rituals at PantheaCon in 2011 and Michigan Womyns Music Festival has a policy of excluding trans women from the entire event.

Continue reading “The Exclusion and Embrace of Trans-women within Feminist Spirituality by Kelly Palmer”

Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer

37880751_2142186212660256_8002693145366102016_nI touch the earth and offer gratitude
for this land I call home.

I reach towards the sky and offer gratitude
for sun, moon, and stars.

I place my hand on my heart
and breathe deep, offering gratitude

for all that I am and all that I have
and for the many blessings of my life…

June 2016

I am finishing my last semester of college teaching. I have four children ranging from 18 months to 12 years and a thriving home business. I am exhausted. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and on the edge of collapse. My dominant fantasy, the one that pops unbidden to my mind as I work through my never-ending to-do list is to just lie on the floor, flat on my back. I tell my husband, “this isn’t a sustainable pace for me. If I keep going like this, something bad is going to happen to me.”

I keep going.

Continue reading “Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer”

A Nurturing Environment is Not a Luxury by Lache S.

There are two tarot card decks that have accompanied me on my trip overseas this summer: Alana Fairchild’s Rumi Oracle and Lee Bursten’s Tarot of Dreams. In recent readings, I have been presented with messages of place, thus the topic of my post.

But first, Seneca, Stoic philosopher born around the time of Jesus, cautions that people traveling to escape their difficulties are sometimes no better when they have arrived to a distant land because they have not become rid of themselves. Likewise, zen philosophy suggests that it is not our circumstances that matter so much as the peace and calm we create in our inner landscape. Nhat Thich Hanh or Ram Dass or Pema Chödrön (maybe all 3) have a metaphor for the tumultuous ocean – that the sea is often rocky, but it is always calm in the deep beneath. Yet, I see all this as a reminder to be mindful about the added layers of suffering we can create and advice for difficult times when we can’t leave yet. Regardless, I think any wisdom cannot discount the need for a nurturing, healing space when at all possible.

Continue reading “A Nurturing Environment is Not a Luxury by Lache S.”

Wild Snail Festivals by Molly Remer

“It’s a wild snail festival out here!”
—Tanner (age 3)

This spring we took a family mini vacation to Table Rock Lake, about three hours away from home.

At its best, working and schooling from home with our family of six feels like a beautifully seamless integration of work and life—there is no need to compartmentalize or draw distinctions between “life” and “work,” because it is ALL just life and living. At its worst, it feels like the work bleeds into everything else in an all-consuming way and the to-do list just never ends and something or someone is always getting overlooked or shortchanged. We find that it is helpful for us all sometimes to just all step away and be somewhere else, while the to-do list stays at home! We try to take at least five family adventures/trips a year (some of them small and some more involved).

Continue reading “Wild Snail Festivals by Molly Remer”

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