It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner

My daily practice isn’t what I’d like it to be these days what with working two jobs, raising three teenagers, and going to grad school. I am clocking about 60 hours of work and school every week, which doesn’t leave very many spare hours for formal ritual, prayer, or meditation.

During previous phases of my life, I’ve had a daily devotional practice that’s taken on many different forms as my spiritual studies  deepen. I’ve learned to use new tools, and gone from singing other people’s chants to writing my own and creating my own prayers. As my path unfolded, my practice evolved. But last autumn, life shifted when I went back to school and shifted again a couple of months ago when I added a second job to the mix. My spiritual practice over the last month has been sporadic, random moments stolen from other obligations to say a rushed prayer, a chant sung on the drive to work, or an energy center balancing done in the shower before bed.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind was the fact that I had committed to attending a 4-day training intensive within the Avalonian Tradition, followed immediately by a 4-day leadership retreat for the Sisterhood of Avalon. A couple of weeks ago, with my daily practice in what felt like utter shambles, I suffered an bout of extreme self-doubt. What was I thinking committing to this training intensive and leadership work when I couldn’t even manage to find 15 minutes every day to engage the practice of my faith? How on earth could I think I was ready for this? Should I even still go? Continue reading “It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner”

Refrigerator Poetry by Kate Brunner

I am at such a loss over the state of things these days. What’s left for me seems to be a process of assessing where I have agency at this exact moment and of taking refuge in small things.

After a terrible drought year and an awful fire season, it is raining once again in the mountains. This morning, I look out my kitchen window – thankful I have a kitchen – and gaze lost in thought at wet aspen leaves, kelly green at their centers and ringed with autumn gold. What do I want to convey today?  Continue reading “Refrigerator Poetry by Kate Brunner”

The Forgotten Art of Integration by Kate Brunner

Woad (Isatis tinctoria) by echoe69

It’s suddenly mid-July. I’m in the throes of managing my library’s Children’s Summer Reading Program. My own children are galavanting about through the swirling, time-bending vortex that is summer break. My grad school program starts in 22 days. Each sun-soaked hour seems to both last forever and zip past at the same time. The calendar is packed, the laundry & dishes are overflowing. We’re constantly running out of something. There are endless balls in the air at work, at home, within and around me. I worry I am going to fail to catch and release one (or more) at just the right time. There is so much in motion, I often feel poised on the brink of.… Well, I’m not even sure what of, but it certainly feels precarious more often than not.

My life is bountiful and blessed right now. It is also chaotic and anxiety-producing. And I’m trying to get a handle on myself somewhere within all that. I have learned, after just shy of a decade’s worth of practicing the Avalonian Tradition as a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon, that what I need right now is a little dash of Integration. Continue reading “The Forgotten Art of Integration by Kate Brunner”

Leadership and Community: Continuing to be Teachable by Kate Brunner

Over the last several years, the North American Pagan community at large has been engaged in an often turbulent process of self-examination. A lot of allegations of abuse, bigotry, and oppressions are surfacing very publicly as the greater Pagan culture is forced to face its own shadow wounds. Debridement of such wounds is rarely a pretty or painless process, especially when that process reaches a plenary level.

As I’ve watched these events unfold, learned more about the horrific abuses committed by community leaders, and gone through my own inner process of razing the metaphorical pedestals upon which I had placed some of the authors and leaders whose teachings I drew on passionately while beginning to venture down a Pagan path, I have often come back, over and over again, to the question of what makes for a safe, positive, healthy Pagan leader and a safe, healthy organization, to include one that exhibits characteristics I believe are inherent to good feminism, as well. Continue reading “Leadership and Community: Continuing to be Teachable by Kate Brunner”

Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham

Like so many women, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and got caught up in her vision of the Holy Isle and the priestesses who knew how to navigate those mists and travel between the worlds. Like so many women, I wished Avalon existed still.

In fact, Avalon does exist, because Jhenah Telyndru did more than wish. In 1995 she founded The Sisterhood of Avalon. Twenty-two years later, the Sisterhood is going strong and growing, attracting members from all over the world. I urge you to explore their website where the Sisters speak eloquently about their vision, structure, and purpose.

Continue reading “Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Every Moon Is Different by Kate Brunner

When my doula clients would share with me that the pregnancy they were going through was not like the previous one, I often gently reminded them that they weren’t the same women anymore. Their bodies were starting from a different baseline. They were older. They carried the history and experience of any previous pregnancies in their bodies now. They carried the experience of motherhood. Perhaps they practiced different self-care or a different spirituality, ate differently, moved their bodies more or less often, lived some place new. All of those factors could add up to a completely different baseline when the current babies were conceived. And the babies were all different too — different, unique combinations of miraculous genes, different fingerprints forming, different minds, spirits, & personalities coming into being. So, of course, this experience was different than the last. It was its own unique ritual beginning from a new and unique place.

When an Avalonian woman comes before the full moon every month and once again commits to the work of a lunar cycle, every Moon is different, too. Every moon is different because we are different. Every moon is different because She is different. It is its own unique ritual. Continue reading “Every Moon Is Different by Kate Brunner”

Moon of Liberation by Kate Brunner

“I stand firmly between the worlds of who I am and who I shall become, celebrating my wholeness. I celebrate my Sovereignty and I do not fear my Shadow, for together they hold the seeds of wisdom:
as they grow, I earn my freedom.”

~Affirmation for the Moon of Liberation from The Avalonian Oracle by Jhenah Telyndru & Emily Brunner~


What gives us courage in the face of potential loss?
What makes the changes worth it?
Is the pattern we are weaving one that pictures liberation?

~from T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting A Daily Practice~


The Red Clover beside my house is blooming just in time for tonight’s Moon of Liberation. This is the full moon where my fellow Sisters of Avalon and I hope experience the liberation of celebrating the renewed wholeness that comes with the early days of Resolution in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing. Red Cover is the herb we honor at this time.

At this particular point in our Cycle, I seek to celebrate just that much more manifestation of my true essence, continuing to break free from old patterns, bring about further change in my life, be it immense or infinitesimal. This is the celebration that comes before the hard look forward to the next quest in Cycle to come.

And yet, in working with the Principle of Polarity and living in opposite hemispheres of the globe, I’ve gained some personal experience in coming to understand that the All always contains the extremes of a polarity and everything in between. So while I exist in the Liberation of Resolution as the Light Half waxes, others still exist in the Dark. In my practice, I strive to remember that the opposite aspects of Cycle are always co-existent on this earth. The whole of the planet is always in two places, operating from polarize perspectives, at the same time. And still we keep spinning. For now.

This seems particularly relevant as I look around at my country and my culture, as well as, at my world. As the manifestations of Sovereignty & Shadow ripen all around us, the challenge becomes finding ways to acknowledge that harvesting the seeds of wisdom from both Light & Dark is probably necessary for true liberation. Perhaps this is why walkers between worlds make for such powerful peaceweavers — if they manage not to be rendered complete madwomen.    Continue reading “Moon of Liberation by Kate Brunner”

Choice Feminism & Celtic Pagan Spirituality’s Quest for Sovereignty by Kate Brunner

Years ago, in an early postpartum blur, I took a crack at writing a piece on an old personal blog about the question of an at-home mother’s claim to the feminist label. The process of writing it was really an opportunity for me to work out some of my own thoughts about my lived feminism within the framework of my life at that moment as a mother who was at home full time with three young children; a toddler and a brand new set of infant twins. I was completely unprepared for what happened in the comments section of my personal online musings.

While many self-identified feminist mothers seemed to resonate with the underlying personal themes of my post, many, many other feminists felt the need to comment on what they saw as my harmful attempt to justify choice feminism; a feminist theory they felt needed to be forcefully shouted down. While some of the comments were jarring, to say the least, they did serve to introduce me to the concept of choice feminism and the critiques surrounding it. I did not necessarily agree with the style or content of many of those comments, but they did deepen my thinking around reconciling my lived experience of at-home motherhood and my ethical commitment to feminism.

My twins will turn eleven this summer and I am still mulling this all over; especially now that I belong to a spiritual tradition that holds as probably its most important thealogical tenant, the sacred nature of a woman’s quest for Sovereignty. Continue reading “Choice Feminism & Celtic Pagan Spirituality’s Quest for Sovereignty by Kate Brunner”

Radiant Brow: Fire in the Head & How to Light It by Kate Brunner

KateIn the middle of a deep, dark lake, Ceridwen, gifted enchantress & devoted mother, set to work to brew a potion for Her disfigured son, Afagddu, in the hopes that the wisdom & talents the mixture would give him would make up for his unfortunate appearance and still grant him a successful life. While She gathered ingredients, mixed & measured, She employed a young boy from the nearby village named Gwion Bach to stir Her cauldron.

For a year & a day, She devoted Herself to the creation of this elixir of Awen; of divine inspiration & understanding. When the final ingredients were added, She sat back to rest as the potion bubbled. She closed Her tired eyes, but only for a moment. She was awoken suddenly when She heard a thunderous cracking noise. Leaping to Her feet, She surveyed the scene– broken cauldron, dross oozing everywhere, Her son off to one side, & in the center of the mess, Gwion Bach, alight with the radiant power of those three precious drops of Awen.

Gwion did what any sensible kid would do in such a situation. He ran for his life. And so begins the initiatory chase as he & Ceridwen transform themselves through the elements becoming hare & greyhound, salmon & otter, wren & hawk, and finally a kernel of grain & a devouring hen. Ceridwen consumes Gwion as seed & falls pregnant with him, facilitating his rebirth as Taliesin, legendary Welsh bard & he of the Radiant Brow.

In the Sisterhood of Avalon, this is our last of four moons to work with Ceridwen, this Cycle. Working with Ceridwen deepens my understanding & experience of the foraging, brewing & distillation processes that takes place during the Station of Confrontation in order to create my very own Graal of Wisdom. Working with Her, I gather up all the little bits & bobs I need to examine by foraging in my own history. These give me the ingredients I need to surrender to Ceridwen’s Cauldron. All the ingredients collected from this dark corner of my inner forest to that dim shoreline of my own lake within– petals of memory, seeds of discontent, branches of my family tree, the bones of the creatures I have been at different points along my timeline– are what I need to give over to Her to be dissolved, devoured by the steaming hot brew in order to distill the wisdom I will need to imbibe for the chase. Continue reading “Radiant Brow: Fire in the Head & How to Light It by Kate Brunner”

Great Mother, Mercurial Child by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner at Llyn MorwynionI am not a boy-mom. As much as I wish I was, I am just not. I gave birth to three wondrous little things; first, a girl and then later, boy-girl twins. I have a son, but even after years of shared life, he remains, in so many ways, a complete mystery to me.

With my eldest, I could feel she was a girl with absolute certainty from the moment we created her. Everything about a girl child guiding me across the initiatory threshold of motherhood felt perfect and holy to me. She was typical in her baby and toddler needs for the most part, but she also had a quiet independence about her that permeated our days together. She gave me the precious gift of simple confidence that comes sometimes much more hard-fought to first-time mothers. 

From early on in my second pregnancy though, my twins carried such a different energy with them as they grew, changing and stretching first my body and then my heart, mind and spirit past every preconceived limit I’d ever held. They were riotous, intense, restless, filled with joie de vive and an impatience to run free. They were, they are, in a word—wild. They shook down the tower of my confident motherhood, bursting into life, huge and hungry, literally clawing at my breasts for the sustenance they craved from me. They challenged me in labor, in infancy, in toddlerhood, and still.

But as they’ve grown older, the emphasis has become less on the survival of two small creatures the same age and more on nurturing the development of two separate beings. I’ve felt the bond with my younger daughter become more intimate, strengthened by our shared femininity. At the same time, a sense of helplessness sometimes steals over me as I witness the gulf that widens between me and my son. I am not a boy-mom. How, I find myself praying, does a girl-mom properly mother a boy?

Continue reading “Great Mother, Mercurial Child by Kate Brunner”

Rhiannon: Lady of the Other(world) by Kate Brunner

Kate close up at Llyn MorwynionAgain and again, I keep cycling back around to a deeper and deeper exploration of how easily we Other individuals or groups, halting any progress towards meaningful relationship, potential friendship, and peaceweaving. While there are endless examples to be held up in today’s media, in this moment I find myself taking my questions to my altar instead of my newsfeed and to the mythos of the Ladies of my chosen Tradition.

For The Sisterhood of Avalon, this is the season of Rhiannon, Great Queen of the First Branch of The Mabinogion. When we first catch site of Her, She is riding out from Gorsedd Arbeth, portal of the passage from the Otherworld into our world. Confident, self-assured, She comes into our world of Her own volition to pursue Her sovereign path in lieu of the life Her father wants to set before Her. She chooses to marry Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed (in southwest Wales) and together they build a life and rule a kingdom. For many years, all appears to be well. But when Rhiannon bears a son who mysteriously disappears hours after his birth, we see that the people of Dyfed have not forgotten that Rhiannon is Other to them– a foreigner, a stranger, mysterious, dangerous even, and not to be trusted.

The precious child is gone. Rhiannon, exhausted by the labor, is asleep. And the nurses charged with the child’s safekeeping panic. Fear takes over. They slaughter a puppy, litter the bones around the sleeping mother, and smear Her hands & face with the poor creature’s blood. They know this strategy of framing Rhiannon for Her own son’s death will save them from blame & punishment. Why? Because they know the court of Dyfed has never stopped Othering Rhiannon. Continue reading “Rhiannon: Lady of the Other(world) by Kate Brunner”

Holidays and Holy Days Down Under by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerEven though we are not a Christian household, my family celebrates Christmas. In a manner of speaking. When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere, this was not all that challenging to reconcile. We held onto the traditions of cultural and seasonal celebration that were meaningful for us from our familial legacies or unique, personal belief systems and we let go of the rest. We connected with cultural heritage and with assorted Yuletide traditions. We explored the history; the evolution of the bits and pieces that make up “The Holidays” in our home culture and just plain had fun with the festivity of it as a family.

A few years ago, the kids and I conducted a month long unit study of December/Winter festivals around the world as a part of our homeschooling adventures. During that month, we talked about Hogmanay, Hunting the Wren, the Mari Lwyd, the Feast of St. Nicholas, Mother Holda, Mordanicht, the Solstice alignments of Carnac, Notre Dame & Newgrange, Tante Arie, La Revellion, Las Posadas, the Feast of St. Lucia, Kolyada, Ded Moroz & the Snow Maiden, Svyatki, Ukrainian wheat traditions, the Yelka, the reemergence of Yuletide traditions in the former Soviet Union after 1992, Babouska’s story, Diwali, Kwanzaa, La Befana, the Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Mawlid, & more. I encourage you to look up as many of those terms as you can to find at least a somewhat decent online summary of their significance because, as the kids & I learned, they are all worth knowing about this season. Some are traditions & celebrations based on non-Gregorian calendars and therefore vary in exact date from year to year, but do often pass close to other December observances. Knowledge & understanding of the common threads of seasonal celebration across cultures and traditions expanded our sense of connection with the world around us during December & January. But primarily only the north half of the world, as we later came to realize.

We moved to the other side of the world, The Holidays rolled around, and things got weird. Continue reading “Holidays and Holy Days Down Under by Kate Brunner”

Bringing Back the Boon: Life After Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerI made it. Last month, I actually made it from Australia to Wales and back on an official Sisterhood of Avalon/Mythic Seeker Pilgrimage called The Priestess and the Healer. I also overnighted in Brisbane, passed through the Netherlands for a couple of days to see an old friend, and even managed to squeeze in a day trip to Glastonbury, England, in addition to my itinerary that had me trekking all over Wales. But all of it- every stop- turned out to be an integral part of my Pilgrimage experience. Much more so than I could have predicted when I first set out. And now I’m back. Back home with my children and my partner. Back at work with my writing. Back to chores, bills, & daily rounds where life is bright, loud, and busy– even as it is joyful & beautiful. What now, then? While the life I’ve returned to is virtually unchanged, something has subtly shifted under my feet in the fortnight it took me to tread those distant lands.

Traveling is always a great learning experience for me, but a mindfully undertaken Pilgrimage is a different creature than a casual holiday. In his fantastic work, The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau breaks down the pilgrim’s journey into phases: the Call, the Departure, the Arrival, & the Return. He relates this journey to the walking of a labyrinth, something Dr. Lauren Artress also explores at length in her book, Walking a Sacred Path. My experience resonates strongly with this metaphor. In retrospect, I can indeed pinpoint the moment of Arrival. (I sat down to eat a nourishing meal at a long, wooden table full of fellow Avalonian pilgrims in front of a window looking out on a late summer sunset in Dyffryn Nantlle.) The realization of that moment, small and simple as is was, shifted and opened my experience even deeper. The ritual of a labyrinth within  a physical Pilgrimage is a special encounter. Those who manage to carve out the resources to engage in it undergo an intense experience, whatever their spiritual tradition or destination. But what happens when it’s over? What comes next? This is where I am left now. Continue reading “Bringing Back the Boon: Life After Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner”

Finding Sovereignty in the Move from North to South by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerThe Sisterhood of Avalon is not a huge organization. We probably have less than 500 members, all told. Most of our membership are women living in North America; primarily the US & Canada. In addition, there are a handful of us scattered across Europe, and even less of us currently living in Australia, & New Zealand. We are a Women’s Mysteries Tradition rooted in the Celtic Archetype (specifically the Welsh/Cymric.) So it is no surprise that as a whole, we ride a Northern Hemisphere-centric, seasonally-based annual Cycle. As autumn descends into winter, the Station of Descent moves us to Calan Gaeaf. Through the darkest nights of the year, the Station of Confrontation culminates in Gwyl Mair. When springtime emerges from under the earth, the Station of Emergence brings us into the light at Calan Mai. And at harvest time, the Station of Resolution celebrates our inner work at Gwyl Awst. For Sisters practicing in the Northern Hemisphere, the lunar observances of these Holy Days usually take place roughly in October/November, January/February, April/May, & July/August. This was the energetic and seasonal rhythm of my spiritual practice before moving from the US to Australia.

It did not take long after making the move from North to South to comprehend the initial & abrupt rhythmic impact of changing hemispheres on my cyclical practice. I made the jump in June and it felt as if I dropped right through the center of the Cycle itself. In a mere 20-some hours of travel, I went from climbing towards the apex of the Light Half of the Year to sliding back down towards the nadir of the Dark Half instead. Continue reading “Finding Sovereignty in the Move from North to South by Kate Brunner”

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