beyond division

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“..scales fall from your eyes.. resurrection, rebirth.. beyond division.. innocence and experience become one..” – Judgement card, the Mary-El Tarot

I’ve always liked the idea of working in cycles.. the fool making his journey to find oftentimes that he is back at the beginning, the seasons moving through time, the imagery of the serpent swallowing his tail. It all speaks to me of cycles and of revisiting things from a new point further along the path.

I often draw a card around Yule-ish to help figure where I want to start my work in the coming year.. what I need to be paying attention to. This past card was Judgement. It brought to mind that cycling back to things previously discarded and of which I am currently working on. She has visited me before on other matters and no doubt she will visit me again.

Early one evening, post equinox celebrations and plant fondling with friends, Lola and I found ourselves discussing earlier discussions.. and Judgement popped in to remind me of more work needed. As I said, she tends to do this every now and again.. only this time it was a little more personally.

I tend to be a very judgmental soul – at least in my own spiritual. I strive very hard to work through it, to be honest and vocal about it in my path. It’s important to me that although there may be times when my words are twisted, that I am upfront in such matters. I strive even harder in this said vocal to impart the point that I am applying it to my path – just mine, and beyond that it is of no matter. Everyone must judge for themselves the path they wish to tread.

Somehow though, I seem to (mostly) unintentionally squash some toes.. which generally isn’t my intention at all. My intention is and always has been to keep things open and (sometimes painfully) up front.. to be clear in my words. I am not so sure I always succeed. This is where, Judgement whispered, I had done Lola an injustice. I had not done so well at explaining our working relationship.. my response tends to be that I’m working with someone and honestly I tend to ignore most outside rabble.

It’s no big secret that I have a long standing dislike for rigid structure in my spiritual.. that mentor-student, priest/ess-initiate, syllabus-degree, insert-whatever-here thing that works so well for most is just not my cuppa. I am a terrible teacher and an even worse student. Shiny things distract me constantly. To be clear, I am not saying there is no value in the system but that for me personally I prefer an even exchange.. no one above another as everyone old and new I think brings something to the table, a free flow of discussion, a sharing of information. Luckily I don’t work in huge groups so it isn’t a difficult thing to accomplish.. this is what Lola and I base our practice around.

We did put together a very loose structure around those cycles of what we wanted to incorporate within each wheel turn and revisit it every season to decide on a focus. Sometimes we stick to it and other times spirit calls us in a different direction. Sometimes we compromise. Always we collaborate to make sure it is something that works for both of us.

We entered into this partnership with baggage and tangle. Make no mistake, we lost much and had lots of ugly bits to work through. Many things were loosed along the way to get to where we needed to be but we did it. We worked hard on those shadows and made those painful choices to come out with something beautiful. Owl had called us forward and spirit tied us tight as we stepped forward, took each other’s hand that day and on even footing, we answered her call. I doubt either of us take it lightly. We shouldn’t.. it was hard work.

“Scales fall from your eyes.. resurrection, rebirth.. beyond division.. innocence and experience become one..” Who here holds the innocence and who holds the experience? We both do.

the ring of fire

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The midpoint between winter and spring came in threes again for me this turn. Many associate this time with the goddess Brigid and the parting of the winter crone Cailleach’s rein. Brigid is of the hearth.. of fire and healing.. of prophecy and light.. of cow, ewe, cockerel, and snake. I tend to embrace the serpent aspect of cycles at this time and the coming light.

Dolls, crosses, and beds are traditionally made to honor Brigid. Offerings are left in hopes that she will bless one’s home with fortune and well-being. Feasts are made. Fires are lit.. all to bring in the new and to celebrate the first stirrings of the approaching spring. I’ve never really been one to make the dolls, crosses, and beds. I usually light candles throughout the house. My feet during this time are planted firmly in the realm of honoring fire and serpent.. of the coming warmth and the shedding of skin.

Sometime before this turn of the wheel, I spoke with Lola. I told her how I felt this turn was bringing a solid break in many things that we had been working to release. She felt it too.. the slow and steady climb.. the joy sneaking in. The cards spoke of a definite close to said things.. the wind carrying them off with a heavy sigh of a great weight lifted.

My first celebration was a simple candle lighting at the hearth.. I am a big fan of simple. It involved a cup of tea, some cat cuddling, and much quiet contemplation. Later in the week, I went to dinner with some old friends. Lola and I left honeyed milk out in the garden. Cin lit the fire pit and we burned away those things left unsaid.

My third found me with those closest, all of which have become family to me.. spirit has tied us pretty tight over the past year and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was to there that I carried my first Brigid’s cross that I have made in ever. On it I wrote our names.. these are the people who stand with me to weather the storms and they are home to me.

We danced a silly, happy dance around the tree to silly, happy music.. to wake the serpent and honor these cycles. We drank and feasted. We tossed our offerings into the fire.. for me it was tobacco, the heart stone gifted to me by Blau so long ago, and the Brigid’s cross. It was a goodbye to that which was broken and a call for prosperity for us all in this new growth to come.. and it ended with some very wise words from the Dudiest Dude- “fuck yeah!”

and we ended with owl

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(part 2 of a weekend of spirit)

Air, fire, water, earth, spirit.. what do these mean to us? We all had a voice and in turn called to what that element represented. Wendy sang in soulful song intermittently as she guided us on each separate journey. We discussed their presence, what they were bringing, and ideas on how to balance them within our lives. Surprisingly, air was very prominent in the meditation for me, as of course was water. I walked with Bear on both.

I took the forms of many birds as I left the meadow, the air rushing through my feathers.. falcon, sparrow, crow, raven, pigeon, and then finally owl. I soared through fairie mounds to take her form settling in a forest tree further away to overlook Bear.. her strong presence felt even from my distance as she wandered below near the river’s edge. Soon I was off again, shifting through the many forms to settle as crow on the old woman’s shoulder.. who whispered to me words I could not hear before I headed back to the meadow to become owl once more. I was quickly sucked back to my form and then to my body in the now. Air for me was swift and changing.. the cleansing rush of forceful movement.

Hawk’s feather and red cord binding; and the things left unspoken.. this was fire. It was the ecstatic sway of responsibilities calling in battle with heart’s passion, and the laughter of those surrounding me. I bound it tight within my chest but could not find the release needed.. maybe it was just not time. Then water came and I let spirit move me from my body.

I approached the ocean with Bear at my side.. waves crashing and the smell of salted air. As I waded out, Bear became one with the waves and carried me out to the lulling of calmer seas. Her strength and comfort enveloped me as my body dissipated. A mermaid swam through, swishing her tail through the water that once was my solidity. I became part of that great body and traveled far.. becoming river and then rain. I ran in great rivulets down an ancient tree before making my way onward through the land. I saw Hare out in that wildwood before I made my way back to the ocean. There I flowed back into physical form. Bear, once again in the waves, carried me to the shore where the feeling of the warm sand beneath my feet brought me back to myself. Wendy spoke of allowing ourselves to become one with our emotions, to hold space with them.. I realized that work was needed there.

Earth was the pounding of my heart and my feet connected to the ground. I stayed very much in my body with earth. I felt every breath as earth held me solid and brought me a sense of home.. breath and bone and connection. It was sustenance and the friends who are my family, the spirits of the land and those witches who walked the path before; and the call of my ancestors over time that was liminal. Spirit expanded that connection out and reminded me of all that I had in the now.

The next day brought pagan pride and a real sense of that community. From the many altars set to the varied paths welcomed.. it was a humbling experience. That afternoon we saw Wendy in concert. Hearing her sing is beyond any words I can give but to me she will always be that beautiful soul guiding my journey into places needing to be seen.

That evening in ceremony we broke bread with everyone calling to their own path.. my heart sung at the diversity that was represented there. We made our way down to the water’s edge, chanting the elements and sharing this feeling of one. A prayer was said for the healing that was needed.. not just in the area but as a whole. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe our feeling of togetherness would grow across this great nation, if we did the work needed. It ended with the release of a rehabilitated owl.. full circle for Lola and I. I hope our prayer was carried off on its great wings.

 

we started with owl

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(part 1 of a weekend of spirit..because I’m wordy)

Our weekend past equinox started with owl and ended with owl. Lola commented later that it seemed as though we were on the right track.. after all, our journey together had begun with owl as well. We started our visit at the Carolina Raptor Center. As we walked among the wooded setting, quiet except for our murmuring and the occasional chatter of the birds, I felt very at peace. We pretty much had the place to ourselves as dusk set in. It seemed a perfect opening for the weekend ahead.

That evening I met a joyous witch named Gabi, who was the source from which flowed the most beautiful house of spiritual bits that I have been lucky enough to set foot in – Laughingbrook Spellcrafting and Ancestral Arts. Everywhere to be found were objects of pagan artistry.. of someone’s creative soul and hard work. Their site states, ‘Pagan-made ritual tools and supplies carry a more profound love and beauty’.. yes, and the store sang with it.

I was struck with that familiar feeling of place when I first approached the hearth area.. the image of crone singing to me in lulling tones of Baba. Tables of somethings shiny, wardrobes of books and bobbles, and the hum of the many tarot decks urged me forward. I came upon what I could only describe as “the wall of bones” to my friends later. They were tucked away with other speaking things in this gorgeously twisty piece of wood that covered a good portion of the wall. I gazed at them lovingly.. you know how I feel about dem bones.

I wound my way even further into another room which housed a beautiful altar. I was told one could leave things there to retrieve at a later date. It whispered to me but I restrained myself from touching anything on it out of respect, it was an idea that I loved.. and still there was yet another room calling to be explored. There I found many jars of lovelies.. a snake in particular caught my heart and I may have to go back for him. I feel sure he is curled up waiting still for my revisit. And speaking of heart, remember my earlier mention of that joyous soul? She said to me later, with sincerity wrapped around every word that I had a home there now. I feel like our world needs more souls such as hers, and yes.. even though I live quite a bit away, it did feel like home.

 

 

la bella luna dea

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I was there to find the crows, I thought as I wandered this place that was once home.. and I had to go to the bathroom. Nearing the edge of the neighborhood, a couple I did not know let me into their house to do just that. I was walking out when I saw the huge raven, his glossy black feathers stark against the ground. He was dead and I needed to take him with me. I knew this, but I had no gloves to protect me.

A large green caterpillar crawled out of his neck and I hesitated a moment before setting myself to the task. I decided to take his wings and his head.. which was being stubborn. I snapped it forcefully to the side and twisted it off.. sometimes it’s best just to get these things done as quickly as possible.

As I was leaving, I noticed the birds clustered in what looked like a large raised garden bed. There were too many to register. They were smaller and black with bits of white spots on their feathers. Their beaks were yellow and one was staring at me with great piercing eyes. What was he hoping to see, I wondered?

That week my dreams were full of small creatures, small creatures made large, and places that were once home. One morning my path was crossed by two cats, there but not there, and more whisperings than usual. I spoke that which seemed to be needed and wondered what all this activity was for.. that day, I heard from her.

La Bella Luna Dea and I share crow. We don’t often talk but when we do, our conversations are precious to me. This one was all about the shifty moonstone, friendships, the loss of, the whisperings of spirit, and her creative soul. If not for her artistry, those lessons I hold most spiritual may never have been set to rest. I look upon her work every day and am reminded of why I serve spirit. She was working on something for me, she just needed to have it realized and I could not wait to see.

She said that she had felt the need to make contact and I am glad that she did. I told her that only one thing lay heavy on my mind, tough choices and the longing of what was lost.. words that became truer as the weekend progressed. Later that night I was restless. I held her in my mind’s eye and pulled three cards.. instruction, protection, and the journey. I saw the instruction of ancestor, the image very paternal. I saw the need to protect the spiritually wounded. I saw the cyclic change that is the journey. It was time to let the bones be laid bare..

**beautiful artwork by Caroline Hedgepeth**

 

at the altar of baba

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Sometimes she slides in quite silently, and it takes me awhile to realize.. bone mother of cycles, death, and wisdom. She speaks to me in layers, and teaches me of shadow in light. Her greatest lessons can be found in this darkness where so many fear to tread.. those hidden stains in the deepest corners of your soul.

Sometimes, it is but a simple matter of paying what’s due. Sometimes it is a bit more complicated. Always, though, the work must be done.. to slip would offer up more of my soul than I care to, and I know she will devour it. I can smell the promise of death on her.. rich, earthy, and tinged with the decay of that which has been left for too long on the forest floor.

notes on the red meal

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“Retire to a suitable place (ideally) in the twilight or night when the moon is high, such as the roots of a great faerie tree, an ancient well, the side of the hidden spring, or an isolated graveyard or ancient burial mound..” — Robin  Artisson

When the veil is thin and it is a time for the fae.. and the burning away of things.. this is when I share the red meal. It is both an offering and a way to bond with other. My ritual was adopted from Artisson’s ritual in The Resurrection of the Meadow.. but much simplified. If I cannot seek a natural place, I perform it at the hearth.

A hex is drawn out using water from a natural body..

North to South – for the seen and the unseen, the ghost road from beyond the hedge..

Northwest to Southeast – for the spirits

Northeast to Southwest – for the good folk

Set the incense to smoke. A triangle is made around the invisible hex in white or yellow flour, powdered egg shells, hawthorn branches, beach sand.. whatever works for the place and the occasion.

Red, for our blood filled life – I pour the offering of wine..

White, for our timeless force – white candles are lit at the triangle’s base..

And Nelia, my stang, to bridge the three.. earth, sea, and sky – I push her into the ground at the top of the triangle. If I can’t use Nelia, I draw what I’ve come to think of as the sigil of the faery tree in her place. .

An offering of food and flowers is made. If there are petitions written, things to be released.. these are set to fire in the candles and the ashes buried.

 

 

 

a quiet stabbing

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..something was being put to my direction, like a quiet stabbing..

I woke up after a day spent in anger still angry. I just could not find my Zen. The old reading popped into my head.. yes, there was a quiet stabbing and now I had a smarting back.

five of arrows, frustration – a goat with long curving horns and a wildly tangled coat leaps upward into the sky.. around it are four arrows, none of which strike it.. unfocused energy leads to the archer releasing inaccurate arrows or lashing out in an uncontrolled manner..

As it was, it turned out that I was indeed both the goat and the archer (see – sometimes I do follow up on my writings).. the arrows of my words sent out and also being fired back. Thankfully, I spoke my truths long ago and I stand by their original context.

..take a deep breath and steady your mind.. see the futility of games played against you and go about your business.. cocoon yourself away from outside influences.. the trees act as a reminder to follow your path..

Nothing had changed really, except that I now held more knowledge and a clearer perspective. If you walk your path with integrity and truth, there should be no need for these things.. that was my first response.. pre-Zen. However, thought reminded me, we are but human and can only do our best.

My truths for today (before they escape me) – We don’t have to agree, but we can learn from our differences. Our diversity should be a strength. Your fellow is not a tool to be used, or worse.. persecuted. Yes, I will stand up for them. You should too. Learn from one another. Strive to be kind. Extend that kindness to yourself. Do your best. I will do mine. Be true. Speak those truths when necessary. Breathe.

I lit the candles and steadied my thoughts. “And now?” This I asked, knowing the question was not very specific. I shuffled the threes..

eight of bows, hearthfire – on the edge of a sparse winter forest camp, lit with the warm dancing flames of a large log fire, we see eight figures gathered around a roaring hearthfire.. the merry band raise goblets, shake hands and laugh, bathing in the shared bonds of fellowship and harmony created by the true loyalty of lifelong friends..

Ironic, that was my first thought.. but then if not for this situation, this card would have spoken to me of another. Soon after, I heard from said other.

four of stones, protection – the newly risen sun brings hope and renewed vitality to the vulnerable..shelter and protection for the weak or the spiritually wounded is the responsibility of us all.. for those who have weathered adversity and known loss, the light of life and love will always burn brightly within them.. by building on a foundation of ethical beliefs, boundaries and skills, we can be assured that when the test comes we are secure in our self-knowledge and confidence.. the human ability to recognize and feel compassion for those who need help is just as important..

To the lost, may you know my hut is ever open.. even if you choose to burn me in the hearthfire..

 

little town of the sea

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I am walking through the seaside town, this place is where I will live. There are no huge beaches but a bit of a small one.. more shell and rock than sand. It is backed by a forest. There is a bit of a larger rocky cliff to be seen in the distance. I walk out onto a little jut of land to where the tree is growing. There are many beautiful speaking trees in this place but this one is my favorite. I lay my hands and face on it as I dig my toes into the sodden earth around its roots. A man approaches to speak to me about starting my job, apparently I already have a place here. We exchange pleasantries and then he is gone. I head back through the town.. it looks very much like a downtown and feels like home. I am at peace here. I see a brick apartment window high up in one of the buildings and realize that I had been there before. I was here with the horse once and I’m pretty sure that bit of beach is where I buried the bones.. found the bones.. or both. I pass a tiny house, the front is all glass like a shop but I know it is a house and I will live there. I head back to rejoin my party.. it is the husband and my mother. They are the best and the least of my life thus far. On the way out I pass an old lover of mine I once cared greatly for and he smiles when he recognizes me. As I look back, I am thinking that he doesn’t look like himself. I am falling behind because I am not wanting to leave. I realize that I have a seashell in my hand and I am happy for what is to come.

Over the years, I’ve dreamed of the outskirts of this place, never seeing in.. or so I thought. This was my instance of realizing I was in all along.. finding many familiar dreamland places within this place by the sea. It is here where I sometimes seek others, bury bones, and visit the waters with Bear. Here is where I’ve met the red eyed horse.. my beast of burden. Here is where the shape shifts and I listen to the pounding drums. I am curious to know if the hyena and the old woman can be found somewhere in that forest..

the burning away

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Much to Lola’s amusement, the rain continued to beat at us as we wound our way down the path.. her choice of time specifically moved to avoid just this such thing. I blamed the twisted bitches, as they must have felt a cleansing was in order and were having way too much fun with it. Earlier in our little adventure, a turtle brought us to three turkey vulture feathers and so we decided to take it as a sign to stick with the plan.. we would each keep one and the third would go up for offer at the close of the meal.

I sang the Raven song as I collected water from the stream, not bothering to spare Lola as she already knew I couldn’t sing. The water was to be used to draw the sign of crossing, forging a connection between the seen and the unseen. We then climbed up the ledge, struck Nelia into the ground, and drew out the sigil at the base of the Hawthorne. Offerings of food and red wine were made, and then each of us set fire (as best we could) to some unneeded things.. burying what was too wet to catch for the earth to finish.

Once we settled down to share the rest of the meal, covered in mud and stinging from our blood sacrifice to the horse flies, we decided that we very much enjoyed the rain.. and it was definitely needed. A snake wandered over to see what the fuss was about and so we decided it was time. I laid the feather down right before we headed out. By the time we had left the wood, the skies had cleared and another turtle came to bid us farewell.