Category Archives: wicca
The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting. The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood. There are ghosts walking.
I am at that age where parents die in clusters. This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy. I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”. I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more. It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.
This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled. Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time. Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent. They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once. And I take those phone calls. I listen. I witness. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’m looking for comfort too. I want to escape in a good book. I want a fire in the fireplace. I want a pot of soup on the stove. For my ancestors those things were just part of the days. Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured. (I didn’t, but I can.) Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones. Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.
Baking is part of that comfort factor as well. A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell. Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.
There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives. We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”. Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time. In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday. How are you going to use it?
In Frazer’s The Golden Bough there is some exploration of the notion of the sacred king. There are a number of components to this idea. One is in the Divine right of kings to rule, and subsequently that they are the representatives of the Divine on Earth. Then there is the belief that the kings are connected to the land. As the king succeeds the land thrives, as the king fails or falls ill the land is depleted. In a system that holds these principles to be true, the logical outcome is to demand the sacrifice of the king to relieve a drought or natural disaster. Frazer took that philosophy and connected it to the agricultural cycle of reaping and sowing – death and rebirth.
I came back from spending a long weekend on the land to see my Facebook full of images of our Secretary of the Interior assessing National Parkland for its value to sell to industry for development. Moving from visiting a Prairie reclamation project at the height of success to a clearly out of control consume and profit narrative was disheartening to say the least.
On the way home I noticed the corn was starting to come in from the fields. The corn harvest is the mark for me of the Lammas celebration, John Barley Corn is dead, long live John Barley Corn. This is the representation in Wicca of the sacred king mythology. The grain God is sacrificed to feed the people.
It’s been difficult to sort out the sacred from the political. Police are shooting people, healthcare continues to be threatened in spite of an overwhelming majority who clearly want to have coverage, and our sacred lands are being sold out from under us – again and still.
I see spiritual representatives from around the world being dismissed by Big Oil at Standing Rock. I see a spiritual leader in my hometown, trying to help a neighbor in distress, being shot by police. I see places that I’ve stood in awe of nature being looked upon as a feast for mining, logging and manufacturing industries.
Included in the sacrificial king mythology is the Arthurian story of the Fisher King. This is part of the grail quest. The sacred chalice, that has magical qualities including the ability to heal, is apparently in the possession of the Fisher King. The king has a grievous wound and is failing, as is his land. Somehow he doesn’t have the wisdom, moral integrity, or desire/belief to use the grail. Percival, who was raised by a single mother in the forest away from the society of men, sees the solution but fails (out of politeness?) to ask the question that will heal everything.
We need to ask the questions. We need to keep asking until we get answers that go beyond pats on the head and being told we can’t possibly understand. Why can’t we get along? Why does the notion of “equal rights” always seem to have an “except” clause? When and how much is enough? Who has the vision for our future? Does that vision include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For everyone?
Previous blogs about the holiday season:
Happy May Day! We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season. I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond. But you all have Wikipedia for that.
In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility. Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about. In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.
The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer. There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways. But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.
Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory. In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual. Our “late frost” date is May 15th. But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.
Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area. It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all. It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.) In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring. The ground has been thawed for some time. In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming. Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.
So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place. Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures. Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation. That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees. To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not. At least not today.
I have actually put some things into the garden already. Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas. I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again. Tomatoes and basil are still a month out. The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week. That will be a celebration in itself! In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.
Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:
It was a grey and cold and rainy week. I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out. I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.
This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples. The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived. Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation. Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning. 60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.
I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things. The little delights and surprises in my days. I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?” YES! I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend. I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine. I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect. Hmmmmm……..
I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood. It made me smile, after all it is the season. I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.
This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social. What a treat to have breakfast made for me. This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other. The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack. He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.
Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it. He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer. He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally. Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.
That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late. It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general. Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around. How are you coping?
Halloween on a Monday! It’s been a weekend of ghouls and goblins and I’ve still got a lot to do to be ready for the little ones knocking on the door tonight. Of all the scary things we’ve done in the last week I think the top one was voting.
This has been an election season wrought with emotional ups and downs, no matter who you prefer. We have the option of voting early and have found it’s much easier for Orion and me. It feels like a weight off to have it done, although the election results are still a bit Sword of Damocles. I’ll say it again next week – the day before the actual election – but if you have the opportunity, please exercise your right to VOTE!
Karina threw her first big party in the new house. Halloween Housewarming. (Oh, and incidentally her boyfriend’s birthday). It was a smash. She entertained kids, visited with relatives, partied with old friends and stayed up until the wee hours with the dependable hold outs.
I did my part the day before. We shopped and tidied up decorations and got the food prepared to go. She still has most of my chairs. Of course I put in an appearance at the party as well. It was fun to see all the kids all grown up.
Halloween is a mixed bag because it’s also a high holiday. The honoring on the ancestors happens all year round, but at this time of year it is done formally. Sharing remembrances is a little bittersweet, but it can be very heartwarming as well.
Here are a few posts I’ve written in the past about Samhein celebrations.
My Dad has been home from the hospital for over a week now and they are starting to find their routine. I on the other hand am struggling to get back to my regularly scheduled life.
Anyone who’s ever been through a trauma knows some surprise at finding that, although for you time seemed to stop, the rest of the world didn’t. It’s not that I’ve had my head in the sand. I’ve done some grocery shopping, some reading, some cleaning, some laundry. Orion is going to his day program bathed, dressed for the weather, and with a packed lunch.
I’ve kept up with my blog. I’ve officiated at the coven’s Lammas circle. I baked a pie. What I haven’t done is pay the bills, return library books before they’ve become overdue, and turn in the end of the month time cards. The lawn really needs mowing. Weeding is not even on the list!
Daily practice for me is often my cue to pay attention to my choices. It’s an opportunity for me to accept the responsibilities I’d rather avoid and reframe them as part of my spiritual practice.
Paying the bills may not seem like a particularly spiritual pursuit. However, “a witch’s power is her word” so if I’ve incurred a debt that obligation is tied to my personal power. I also recognize money as a form of energy, it ebbs and flows. As I send it out I hope it will return three-fold (in value anyway).
Maintaining good financial practices does pay back. I got a call from one of my creditors. I’ve had a long-term relationship and always paid my bills on time. They didn’t get a payment and wondered what happened. I’m pretty sure I sent it, but maybe not. In any case it’s taken care of now, and because of the history I wasn’t charged extra.
So I’d best get on my ritual gear. I should pull out my magic wand (pen) and get writing. Visa isn’t going to wait!
It is that time of year when it becomes really apparent that the days are getting longer, light is returning. Groundhog’s day may be a big deal in some places, but here we are pretty well guaranteed another 6 weeks of winter. Usually we see a “midwinter thaw” around this time of year. With climate change it seems that thaw is coming earlier. Much of our snow cover melted a few weeks ago with temps in the 40’s. Now it’s cold again.
I’ve written blogs in previous years about the light and about seasonal celebrations. I’ve written about our long winters and how easy it is to get cabin fever. What I haven’t written much about, at least not here, is hope.
This is a time of year when hope is in short supply. Historically, stores are starting to deplete and some household rationing sets in. In the natural world food is scarce. It is not uncommon to see herd die off in this late winter season, before the new shoots sprout. Likewise, in a harsh year predators will struggle to find enough calories to continue to hunt.
In the British Isles and in the Southern and Eastern United States this marks the time of year when there are signs that spring will come again. Siberian squill, crocus, magnolia – the early bloomers are sprouting. None of these first blossoms are food plants. They are precursors. Signs of hope.
In an interfaith analogy I liken our northern climate Imbolc to the story of the rainbow after the flood. There was no land in sight, but there is a promise of hope in the light. It is a time to prepare, a time to invite hope in. The cleaning that goes along with this time of year is a little like Field of Dreams. “If you clean it, spring will come.”
There is a metaphor that circulates in the Sufi and the Buddhist communities about hearts breaking open. The notion is that it takes experiencing true heartbreak to be open to compassion, to shared human experience. If you’ve never felt it, you are not fully human. Those breaks, those scars, become the windows in your heart and soul that allow the light of the sacred to shine through you. By allowing the pain, and not resisting, you also allow the opening.
The midwinter thaw is like that for me. The days are so dark and so cold and everything is frozen into ice. And then the ice breaks, and the light seeps in and the warmth can begin to reach the waters. It is a moment. The ice will come again, just like heartbreak will come again. But it is also an opening to hope, that after the ice there will also be spring.
It’s a good time to have that reminder of hope in the world.