Becoming Scrub by Sara Wright

In the precious hour before dawn I walk down to a river that no longer empties into the sea – the circle of life has been broken – the earth’s veins and arteries are hopelessly clogged by human interference (stupidity) – the birds and animals that used to be able to rely on the river waters for food and resting places can no longer do so because dams control the water flow and westerners “own” the water. This morning black stone sculptures appeared overnight because the water level has been dropped another foot. And yet, acknowledging the flowing waters in their death throws seems like an important thing to do. For now, at least, the river turns crimson, reflecting the raging beauty of a pre dawn sky, and I am soothed by water rippling quietly over round stone.

I open the rusty gate to enter the Bosque, a place of refuge, for the cottonwoods and for me. Now I am surrounded by desert scrub and graceful matriarchs arc over my head. As I traverse the well  – trodden path I enter a meditative state without effort. Soon I am walking in circle after circle passing through the same trees and desert scrub hearing voices.

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A Midwinter Ritual by Barbara Ardinger

Midwinter, the winter solstice (December 21), is the shortest day and longest night of the year. I like to think of Yule, an old pagan name for the solstice season, as a time when we get to take a nice, long, peaceful nap between all those holiday parties. For this ritual, you need two candles (silver and gold), a blanket, and a small gift for yourself.

santaSanta Claus is really a shaman. He wears red and white and black (the three sacred colors of the so-called ancient triple goddess) and he’s fat because he’s well-fed. (A traditional shaman once told me never to trust a skinny shaman; if his people don’t provide for him, he’s not doing his job.) Santa flies from the frozen north, where the Saami (or Lapp) shamans still wield their full traditional powers. He’s drawn through the air by magical reindeer whose antlers symbolize the surging force of life. The Christmas tree is the world pole. From Mongolia to the American Southwest, shamans traditionally ascend the world pole to make their astral journeys. Santa knows everything, especially if we’ve been good or bad, and like karma itself, he brings us our just desserts. His gifts are the gifts of the spirit made material. His attendants, the toy-making elves, are the Old Ones who help the deserving and play tricks on the undeserving. Santa is not a god, but let’s honor him along with the solar gods and goddesses in our midwinter ritual. Continue reading “A Midwinter Ritual by Barbara Ardinger”

Entering Winter, the Season of Darkness by Barbara Ardinger

Halloween used to be spelled “-e’en,” with the apostrophe replacing the V in “eve.” The N was probably added so the word ends in a consonant and we don’t have “hallow-wheee.” But people get lazy, and since the late 20th century, both the V and “eve” have disappeared. This holy day is the true beginning of winter. In pre-Christian Europe, it was celebrated by the wild Celts, who called October 31 Samhain (pronounced approximately SOW-un). Today it’s a major sabbat, or holy day, celebrated by most modern pagans. Although religious fundamentalists keep trying to convince us that Halloween is an evil pagan festival (emphasis on the evilness of pagans) and pressuring retailers not to sell little collectable witches, the name of this day is in fact Christian: it’s Hallowed (or Holy) Evening, or the Eve of Holy Days. In the olden days and still today in, for example, the Jewish calendar, a holy day begins when the moon rises on the evening before. October 31 precedes All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Like Christmas Eve, it’s a holy (but seldom silent) night.

All Saints Day, the Catholic Encyclopedia informs us, was instituted in the fourth century when dioceses began to divide up and exchange the relics of martyr-saints. At first, only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were recognized, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyr-saints. The theological basis for All Souls Day is the doctrine that “souls that have not been perfectly cleansed from venial sin are debarred from the Beatific Vision.” With prayers, the living can help the dead pass through purgatory. To commemorate “the faithful departed,” the Catholic Encyclopedia further tells us, the priest recites the Office of the Dead and celebrates a Requiem Mass. The vigil for All Saints, or Hallows Eve, was also first celebrated in the fourth century. The Mexican version of this holiday is Día de los Muertos, which is also celebrated on November 1 and 2. That’s when we see the wonderful costumed skeleton figures and the sugar skulls. Like similar festivals in cultures around the globe, this is a celebration of family and ancestors.

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