Samhain – Walking Through the Gates

Beloved love within
Let my thoughts become thy thoughts
Let my wish become thy wish
My actions, thy actions;

Let thy love become my love
Let thy love become my love

– Hazrat Inayat Khan

Every year for Samhain I do work on manifesting what I want in the coming year.  Along with this work I draw a tarot card to gain insight on what kind of energy I can expect to work with until next Samhain.  This year I drew the three of wands.

On my initial look at the card, it seems to echo the work I invoked in my ritual – to manifest the Beloved within.  I chose this work because of a recent, near overwhelming, desire to be in partnership.  I feel I am finally ready to fall crazily in love with someone.  I find myself wanting to meet the person who will walk with me through life, hand in hand.  To this end, a friend suggested that in the meanwhile I continue the deep work of cultivating the Beloved within, noting that when we work on ourselves and become our own beloved we tend to attract the partner we had been so deeply desiring –someone who sees the Beloved within us and becomes our beloved embodied in another.

To do the working of manifesting the Beloved within I decided to create a poppet of myself.  This is a big deal.  I don’t typically do crafts like this and have been blocked from these sorts of projects in the past.  I usually do spell work through collage.   This work needed something else, collage just didn’t feel right.  . It needed to be able to really take on a form that would I could charge to represent myself.  So, I gathered supplies to sew a poppet.

I took longer than I usually do setting the altar up.  I set out tea for my spiritual ancestors, cream for the Fae, a small offering of fruit for all the spirits, a skull to represent my ancestors of blood. Along with honoring ancestors I also honored where I come from: a rock carried from my favorite swimming hole in Arkansas with me to Florida sat in the center with the Star Goddess candle on it, antlers set behind it, a crystal dug up from the Arkansas mud by my aunt, and buttons given to me by my still living grandmother were scattered on the table to represent the women of my line.  I also set a stemmed glass on the table, one of two remaining from a set of 5 given by a then coven sister some years ago at Yule. This glass representing chosen family lost not through death, but through choices of diverging paths.  I also placed a yoni made from clay by another previous coven sister to represent the gate of life.Then there were the usual items of candles, athame, black mirror, singing bowl, tarot cards along with craft supplies for the poppet.

Across from the altar I placed a huge silver mirror with candles at the base to give some light. This simple act speaks volumes for me.  I’ve struggled with body image my entire life.  Yet, I chose to place a huge mirror across the altar.  I do my Samhain work wearing only the cords from my mystery school.  To see my image reflected in this way during this particular work was very powerful…and beautiful.

After casting the circle I called in the guardians, my ancestors of spirit, blood, and passion, and the Fae.  I felt called to name one ancestor of blood who has been on my mind lately though I never met her and know nothing about her – my grandfather’s grandmother.  I plan to ask him about her when I go home for Christmas.  Then I began to work on my poppet.

She’s simple and took hours for me to hand sew despite being so simple.  My first attempt was a body complete with arms and legs.  It was a flop.  I realized poppets don’t have to look exactly like the person, it’s okay to be more abstract.  While sewing, I reflected on what the notion of the “Beloved” means to me, the idea of divine love, the love of GodHerself. I occasionally wrote a few words down that seem to capture a piece of the essence I hope to cultivate: grace, faith, compassion, love, passion, and so on. When I opened the bag the yoni was stored in, an old key I’ve never seen before fell out.  I took this as a sign and the key went inside the poppet, along with rice and the words I had written down.

Throughout this process I spoke with my ancestors and Gods about my intention.  I named how easily the desire for finding a partner can turn into obsession and asked for their help to ward against that.  I also asked for information from them about how to work with cultivating the Beloved within.  4 hours of conversation, singing, dancing, meditation, and sewing.  I had no idea so much time had slipped by.  I didn’t feel tired until after charging my poppet.  Then, exhausted I drew my tarot card, opened the circle, and went to sleep.

I am still not very good at interpreting the tarot.  My above reflection that going solely by my feelings on seeing the image that it reflected the work of manifesting the Beloved within was my only insight.  Today I looked up the card and found it confirmed, especially here.

The interpretations seem clear – the journey was alone, strength, success, and virtue are present and one has learned to rely on oneself.   There is a firm foundation after a long climb and an expansion and bright future.

The work continues, as always.  One ritual does not suddenly manifest the Beloved within me.  It’s a relationship, and like all relationships they take time, effort, and appreciation.

Fall Equinox Swim

Fall Equinox, the first Holy Day in my new home here in Florida, was marked a bit early tonight.  A woman at church/work extended an invitation to her home for dinner to “celebrate the equinox.”   The only things I knew about her was that she is the board President and a Pagan.  I accepted, knowing pushing myself to network with others is what I need right now and that it would feel good to mark the Holy Day if only by a shared meal.  The Fall Equinox ceremony, for me, has largely been about breaking bread with others.

I immediately felt a little embarrassed when I realized she intended to provide the entire meal and asked me what my dietary restrictions are.  Right now there are pretty serious.  I sent them to her and she happily came up with something quick and easy that would be a nice meal.  We had roasted chicken, salad with a light fig flavored oil dressing, and plantains.  It was delicious.

I am so grateful I went.  As the evening unfolded it became clear I was in the company of another witch and one who walked her talk.  After our meal we did some candle magick to invoke balance in whatever areas of our life we wished.  I taught her the triple soul alignment from my tradition and she shared the bits of magick on her altar, telling the story of her croning and the items her friends gave her.  Then, we went into the middle of her cul-de-sac with our little bowl of candles to sit in the very center and lit sparklers and danced around until they went out.

Just when I thought it was coming to an end, she said, “How would you like to go for a swim?  I know a place where we can skinny dip and it’s totally private.”  We went to her friend’s house, currently sitting empty and up for sale and dove naked into the big beautiful pool surrounded by trees on three sides. It was my daughter’s first time to skinny dip.  She was quite certain she didn’t want to until we got there, upon seeing  the water she changed her mind!  We swam for well over an hour, talking about life, magick, community, practice and integrity.  I feel I may have found a friend.

So, on the eve before the Fall Equinox I broke bread with a stranger, cast a spell for more balance and harmony for myself and others, and swam naked under the dark velvet night sky.

Fire Ceremony: A Release on Lughnasadh & the Full Moon

“You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy.” – Black Elk

We circled in the backyard, each one of us on the edge of a life changing moment in our lives. We laid the fire with intention, gratitude, and faith. Praying over the sticks that would begin the fire, we spoke invocations and prayers as we set our intentions and grounded in our work. I looked across the circle at the woman who broke my heart last fall and felt the last thread of bitterness I had been holding start to loosen.

It was no coincidence I was standing here with these women, for this particular ceremony, in this particular moment in my life.  As I looked at her across the flames I thought of all the roles she has filled for me; lover, protector, guide, teacher, and friend.  On my left sat her girlfriend, my unlikely sister, who has extended to me trust, love, and sisterhood.   The woman on my right is a stranger to me, but has opened her heart in front of me in this sacred ceremony.   I rolled in to town just hours ago, a stopping point on my way to my new life in Florida.

We took our time with this fire.  We called on our ancestors and teachers here and beyond.  We called our best, highest, most sacred selves to the present.  We needed to be fully on board for this release.  Standing in this circle we were together, but separate as well, engaged in our own deep working as we wove together this ceremony.  We were here to release what has been standing in our way.  We were here to release that which doesn’t serve us anymore or causes us harm.  We were there to clear the way for the new lives we were all walking into.

One by one we threw things on the fire and called out what we needed to burn away and release.  At times, we called out what we needed brought in as well.  We piled logs on the fire and sacred herbs were burned.  We sang, and cried, and screamed at times into those flames.

I untangled so much at the fire.  Things I have been carrying for months, even years- my need to be perfect, my need to know the future, my attachment to outcome, and my desires to have the relationships in my past be differently than they were.  When I began that piece of releasing internally, silent, the woman I had just met shared about why she could have never done this before tonight.  She said she had needed the fire release for so long but wasn’t ready.  She would have come in anger.  I looked across the flames to my ex and let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.  It felt as though I had been holding that breath since our break up.  Yes, release the anger, the bitterness, the resentment, the fear that I won’t be loved like that again.  As I let those things go I found my heart getting bigger, capable of holding more love.

Susan Piver says crying is simply love running freely with no attachment.  The longer I sat in the circle the more love ran down my face.  I felt so much love in that circle both pouring out of my heart and being received as well.

The next morning I had a slow and easy morning with my ex and her girlfriend.  We had breakfast, sang songs, played music and just let our new way of being together as chosen family and friends unfold.  It was hard to leave.  Finally we rolled away at 2pm loaded down with snacks for the road my unlikely sister put together for us, a mug of coffee, and some cash to make sure we arrived safely.  We shared a three person hug on the porch and I drove away feeling the space we had cleared and the power of connection and love flowing all around and within me.  I am living a Life Uncommon and I thank Spirit every day that I have found the holy place where the good road and the road of difficulty meet.

River Baptism

I woke up with images of the river in my mind.  More precisely, images of my grandmother’s photo albums, the old ones with the sticky sheets the photos cling to and the clear pull back film that protects them, filled with photo after photo of baptisms.  In every photo there is someone standing waist deep in the water with the preacher, while others are gathered on the bank with a picnic basket of fried chicken at their side.  There are three photos of each baptism.  A photo of the preacher praying over the person, one of the person being dunked into the water, and one after they come back up; a sort of before and after collection of cousins, aunts, grandparents, great-grandparents, and close friends of the family.  These Ozark rivers have been cleansing the souls of my line for generations.  So when I woke up with this in my mind, I knew I could not leave this place without being baptized in these rivers.

I wanted to honor the importance of the Ozarks in my life, my Southern heritage, and my early years of going to church services with my grandmother where she would often speak in tongues and was nearly just as often the guest preacher.  My own spiritual path diverged from my family’s early on, around age 11, when I began reading books about Paganism and witchcraft.  My path took another turn, deepening, when I discovered Unitarian Universalism at age 21.  Recently my path has started expanding, at the age of 31, with the discovery of author Anne Lamott, the impact my best friend has had on me, my exposure to Buddhism, and befriending liberal Christians who believe, like I, that love is the most important value and practice we can hold.  As I write this, I find it interesting that every 10 years I’ve experienced some shifting and growth with my spiritual practice.  I look forward to 41.

I don’t believe in the need of a preacher to commune with God, but I do believe in the power of gathering with those with whom you share a spiritual bond and holding ritual together.  Seven of us met on Friday the 13th at a local river spot, one of my favorite swimming holes where I’ve shared a lot of good memories with the women in my former coven.   In addition to these 7, there were 6 others across the country holding space at the time we gathered, all sharing in singing “Down to the River to Pray” together across the miles.  We sang this as we waded out into the water.  One of us hung back to the edge of the river to take photographs for me in the tradition of my family.  The rest of us waded out waist deep and cast a circle together.

There was an amazing blending of traditions in this ceremony.  Among those gathered were witches, Pagans, atheists, Christians, and Unitarian Universalists. A heron flew, nearly continually,  over head calling out every so often as if taking part.  A frog went leaping across the river and of course countless fish, minnows, and probably a snake or two were also about.  The energy of the owl and the hellbender felt very present as well.  We called on the spirits of the land, our ancestors, guides, and our Gods into that space.  Then one of my circle sisters said a few words in prayer, dunked me under the water in full immersion, and helped me stand back up.

The trust I felt as I fell back into the water was incredible.  The trust in my sister who was dunking me under, the trust that the River Spirit was indeed going to cleanse my soul, the trust that I was in alignment with my highest self and highest good in that moment and that God was with me.  Trust and Faith filled me completely.  The whole thing took only moments.  I came out of the water feeling refreshed as if my soul had drank from a deep cool well.

Here I am fully immersed in the waters with two sisters on either side of me.  This is my favorite pictures from the event because it captures the moment I felt cleansed and filled with faith and trust.