Tales of a Southern Pagan Mom

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Litha Spring Cleaning

AA016479 Litha, or Midsummer, is the mid-point of the year – the Summer Solstice – a time of balance and transition from the light half of the year to the dark. One of my favorite myths is that of the Oak King and the Holly King, and Midsummer is the counterpart to Yule (or Midwinter). At Litha, the Oak King is slain and the Holly King rises up to lay claim to the latter half of the year. That’s not really relevant to this post, because although I love the retelling of that story at the vital points during the year, this Litha is all about housekeeping.

I have been remiss in my home-blessing duties; however much I try to re-frame ‘chores’ into ‘home blessings’ or ‘creating sacred space’, the fact is that I am just not a great housekeeper. There are always more interesting things to do than scrub the cabinet fronts or clean the ceiling fans… and so every once in a while it gets so bad that to not take the time to do some deep cleaning is just… well it’s just time to clean. And so this is where I have found myself now,coming up on Litha.

I really felt the need to ‘brighten’ things up – it felt dark and gloomy, and I know it’s my lack of attention to the space that’s allowing those energies to pile up, so I started in our living room. I went through an intense decluttering phase a few months ago, and though I did very well with cleaning the stuff out of the places it was cluttering up, I never got so far as to actually take the things out of my house. So they’ve been sitting in a corner, sucking up space and energy. Much of that’s actually, truly gone now, either out into the proper closet/storage spaces or tossed out into the rubbish bins. A few things made their way into the car to be taken to new homes, but the end result is amazing – so much brighter and cleaner and ‘light’ feeling! Sadly, even knowing how amazing ‘clean’ feels doesn’t help motivate me to be a better housekeeper much of the time… but I digress.

I also spent some time in the kitchen, enlisting the kids’ help in deep cleaning everything from the ceiling (and fan) down; cabinets, appliances, counters, organizing drawers, floors… all of it. Our table sits in a corner, and the actual corner tends to be a catch-all spot (for my things, especially) but even that’s now clean and tidy. There’s a little left to do; we’re supposed to clear out the living room and get a new sofa and coffee table soon, and I have a feeling paint will soon follow, depending on the colors of the new furniture, but even just those few changes have really shifted the feel of the space.

Litha and the Full Strawberry Moon both fell on Monday, so I did a simple ritual with the kids. I bought new Goddess and God candles and a new working candle for my altar, and changed the decor to reflect the warmer colors of summer. We also did something new; we set up a family altar in the living room. We have had a shelf with a smaller, less conspicuous altar space in there, and directional candles have always been at the cardinal points of the room, but now there’s an actual, dedicated altar there too, and set for Litha with deity candles and a family offering bowl. After our morning routine, we tidied things up, then smudged the house inside and out and laid new salt barriers on the windows and doors, walked the boundaries and left offerings for the border spirits. Afterwards, we spent a little time on Intentions and spellwork for the waning half of the year, celebrated the Moon, and had strawberry shortcake with sweet red wine.

How are you celebrating Midsummer this year?
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New Moon Names – Part 1

new moon names

Most of us are familiar with the various names for the Full Moon, but when I went looking for the names of the New Moon, I was a little surprised to find that there weren’t any. It seems odd that such a notable recurring event wouldn’t also have names to mark the passage of time, especially pre-calendar. I’ve talked before about non-traditional elemental associations and since this is one that I am making up, I thought I’d share my thought/creative process. For each month, I looked up several things, ranging from the history/origin of the month’s name and the deity(ies) they were associated with, as well as properties and other associations that go along with them. I also considered my own personal feelings and insights. Since this is a slice of my personal practice, how I interpret the months and times of year as the cycle turns plays a role in how I chose their names.

Because it’s the first of the year, let’s start with January. Even though, for many Pagans (myself included), January isn’t the beginning of the magickal year, it’s still ‘a’ beginning. I orient myself in the years’ planning starting in January, so for me, it is a beginning. Because I typically print of create my Moon Calendar by calendar year, and because my almanac runs from January through December, this is a logical starting point to me.

The Latin word for January is ianua, or door, since January is the door to the year. January’s deity is the Roman Goddess Juno. There’s some contention with that; apparently Janus was the original deity associated thought to be associated with January as He is the God of Beginnings and Transitions, but more recent research suggests it was, in fact, Juno. Because I am a woman, happily married and mother, the association with Juno speaks to me more. She is generally thought to be linked with protection of the state and of women, love, youth, fertility and vital force, marriage, and other complex roles. In particular, Juno’s name is associated with the Latin words iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, which could potentially connect her to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, which suggests that she may have been revered as a moon goddess. I like that idea. The word for January, or door, fits because in a way, Juno – and thus, January – can be seen as the guardian of the new year. She holds the doors to the year ahead, and as a gatekeeper, creates the way for the new path. For me, January is a time of beginnings – it’s when I reset my calendar, I’ve filed away things from the previous calendar year and get ready for the new year ahead. It’s a time of starting fresh, of making plans and setting goals and intentions – it’s sloughing off the previous year and starting anew. Because of those ideas and concepts, I’ve decided to call January’s New Moon the Renewal Moon.

Because of the potential length of this post, I am breaking it up into several parts. I will come back and edit the list below with the links to the other posts as I make them. For now, subscribe and you’ll get future posts in your inbox!

  • January – Renewal Moon
  • February –
  • March –
  • April –
  • May –
  • June –
  • July –
  • August –
  • September –
  • October –
  • November –
  • December –
  • Black Moon (2nd New Moon in a month, also called the Secret Moon or the Finding Moon)

Do you have names for the New Moons? I’d love to read about it!
Brightest Blessings,
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Mind, Body, Spirit

mindbodyspiritWhen I think of nurturing myself, both within and outside of my spiritual practice and path, I tend to think of three areas that need attention: mind, body and spirit. For me, this is a very clear, easy to understand and relate to concept, but I recently had a conversation with a friend that helped me understand that it’s not for some people. In her situation, coming from a charismatic Christian faith as a child and moving into a less-defined, secular world-view as an adult, the term ‘spirit’ was a loaded term, and brought up associations with the supernatural that don’t work for her. I thought that was an interesting take on it, and wanted to explore that some in this post.

The idea of nurturing my mind is both simple and complex. At its most basic, nurturing my mind can be as easy as reading an article about something I am interested in, or watching an educational show or video with my kids, or even just having adult conversations with my husband or friends. It could also mean meeting someone new, or learning something new, or something new about an old friend; trying a new game or practicing music or planning something. Anything that engages my brain in learning or organizing or thinking works for me in this area.

Nurturing my mind can also mean quieting it. I try to make time to look inward, examining my thoughts or motivations and contemplating where I have made progress and where I still need to make changes. My meditative practice is an important part of both my personal Pagan practice and just general self-care; the mind directs the rest, so keeping my mind healthy and active is important to me.

The concept of nurturing my body is similarly multi-faceted. Movement is a big part of nurturing my body. Taking a walk or going on a hike is a great way to ‘move’. Dancing, whether it’s silly dances with the kids, ‘exercise’ dancing like Zumba or belly dancing, or more meditative ‘dancing’ like Mandala or Shiva Dance all have value in different ways. Anything that makes me sweat counts, from hula hooping to martial arts or other sports, swimming, biking or skating… it all works for me.

Tending to the basic needs of my body also factor in, from getting enough rest to eating healthy foods, or even indulging in a nap or slice of chocolate-chocolate chip cake. Taking/Making the time to shower and moisturize, and indulge in skin care and makeup or hair styling rituals can also satisfy the ‘body’ aspect of this triad, as can basic interaction and touch, from therapeutic touch like massage to cuddles on the couch with my kids. What I look for is often a release of endorphins, adrenaline, oxytocin or dopamine – those things that are released with exercise, contact or feeling good!

Somewhat less hard to define is the concept of nurturing my spirit. Even defining what one means when they say ‘spirit’, as I learned in conversation with my friend, can mean different things to different people. For me, the concept of ‘my spirit’ has to do with the inner-most part of me; the core ‘me-ness’ that makes me, me. It is the sum of all the things I am and do and feel and believe and that which animates me. It is the unspoken thing in me that makes me whole and unique. In that context, the idea of ‘nurturing my spirit’ means doing that which sparks joy in my heart, gives me energy and satisfaction, and fans the vital flame of my existence… and there are a great many ways that I can go about doing that. My ‘spirit’ things change daily – one day, I might feel the need to read purely for pleasure. Another day might see me creating art. A different day, I might need some romance or date night with my husband. Still another day might mean connecting with friends or spending time with my family. Sometimes, it’s sitting on the beach, or under the Full Moon, or smudging my house. They also change and have changed according to both the physical, earthly season (decorating for Samhain or Yule), and the season in my life I am in. Before I had kids, I had spirit things that I loved doing that were impractical with small children, so I tucked them away until they were more feasible as my kids got older. Some things I never picked back up again, and others, I’ve relished being able to add back into my routines.

Another aspect of ‘spirit’ for me does relate to my path and practice. My connection to deity, the sacred spaces I create within my home, and the practice part of my spirituality feeds my inner flame. Sometimes, my ‘spirit’ overlaps with a ‘body’ or ‘mind’ thing, especially in Ritual observances or meditative practice. Celebrations usually include all three of these areas!

In curious how you define ‘mind, body & spirit’, and what nurturing them mean to you. If you have time, post a comment and tell me how you nurture yourself!
Brightest Blessings,
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Arts and (Witch)Crafts

CAM04040Houston’s Pagan Pride day is coming up soon, and my Circle-mates and I are planning on having a vendor’s booth set up, which means that I am going into arts-and-crafty-mode very soon to prepare. I’ve been thinking about what kinds of things I have typically seen for sale at events like this and considering what I might want to make. As a consumer/practitioner, I don’t typically buy tools for my personal practice because I prefer to make them myself (for various reasons), but there are some things I can’t make, and some things I want to purchase because they have a level of craftsmanship that I lack. So in that vein, I’ve been considering what kinds might be attractive as a customer, what skills I have as a craftsman, and how the two might merge.

I have an Etsy store, but if you’ve ever clicked on the link, it’s usually closed; I don’t craft with sales in mind, so this is kind of a new thing for me. The only reason I started the store was because I went through a period of sculpture and thought the little figurines I made were cute, but I didn’t need quite so many of them! I ended up giving them away, and then lost the inspiration for sculpture, so my store has been closed for a long time. My next crafty endeavor was wood burning. Turns out I love doing that, so I started making spirit boards and boxes and other burned art projects. I kinda ran out of things I need personally, so that may be a great way to blend my talent with what someone else may be seeking.

But I am getting off-topic of what I really wanted to talk about, which is art. Yes, crafting is art, but I mean meaningful art. The argument could be made that all art is meaningful, but I am specifically talking about art with a purpose. In this case, Shadow Books (or Books of Shadows/Light/Mirrors or Grimoires – whatever you choose to call them individually or collectively – I call them all Shadow Books because it’s easier and I’m too lazy/busy to make the distinction).  I love art journaling; I’ve been an avid fan for several years now. When I first started, it was just art for arts’ sake – nothing particularly meaningful behind it. But as I progressed, it took on new forms; I found myself working through personal issues through my art journals, and eventually that spread to my practice. CAM04037 (1)

I was looking back through a few of my old journals, and came across these – a couple of Shadow Books in art journal format. They’re both fairly old, from around 2012. The one on the left is a more personal reflections journal (Book of Mirrors) and the one on the right is more path-based (Book of Shadows). It was interesting to go back through and read what I had written. Some of the things in the Mirror Book were dream logs, which was fun to go through. I don’t write my dreams down as often anymore and it’s actually something I miss doing now that I have had the opportunity to read back over how detailed my log was – I don’t remember that much anymore!

There is a lot of drawing in both of these books – something else I don’t do nearly as much anymore. I just don’t have the time – more to the point, I am not making the time to work on these kinds of reflections that I used to.

CAM04038Over the next few weeks, I will be working on creating arts and crafts to offer to my local Pagan community. I do take pride in my work, and I put a lot of time and effort into making sure that anything I make that is to be used in practice is mindfully and intentionally made. I am grateful for both the skill and the opportunity to create beautiful things hat will serve its bearer well, and I love the thought that something I make might be passed down to a future witchling.  I think this stroll back through my older books is also a wake-up call that I needed as a reminder of what I loved and to make time for that style of reflection and note-booking. As a Pagan, I like having the progression of my practice – how it’s changed and evolved over the years, and I think it will be an interesting keepsake to pass down to my children one day.

For now, I encourage you to try art journaling as a way to take notes and record how your practice looks and feels. Even if you’re not particularly ‘artsy’, it’s still a really great way to convey more than just words. If you’re raising witchlings, art journaling is a great thing to introduce to them – something you can do together!

Brightest Blessings,

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Witte Wieven

witte wievenI’ve been seeing quite a few posts on Facebook lately that talk about ‘women’s wisdom’, and the idea that all women have something of a witch inside them. That notion feels right to me; any woman who has children (be they born to her or only close to her heart) has an innate sense of them – sometimes reaching far beyond what science would consider reasonable – and yet she KNOWS when her child needs her. This sense too can be applied to her partner or spouse, siblings or even close friends – many of us have either experienced it firsthand or know of a woman who has. I don’t think that this applies only to women, of course; many men are very sensitive to the vibrations or cosmic twinges or whatever it is that makes your spidey-senses tingle. That intuition is there, if only we care to listen to it.

It’s more than just an awareness of your kindred though; it’s the connection to the moon, and the cycles of life that are inborn in women that connect us to each other and to the earth. I’ve been spending some time contemplating these connections and it’s led to some interesting thought experiments! Since I’ve been exploring Germanic paganism more of late, and I came across the witte wieven which are (depending on which source you’re looking at), either the spirits of the ‘wise women’ of a village, or the women themselves. It could also be referring to folklore and elven healers, but in the historical context, I tend to think of them more as the wise women or healers… the witches, if you will.

Wikipedia says:

Witte wieven in modern Dutch literally translates to “white women”, but originally meant “wise women” in dialects of Dutch Low Saxon. Historically, the witte wieven are thought to be wise female herbalists and medicine healers who took care of people’s physical and mental ailments. It was said they had the talent for prophecy and looking into the future. They had a high status in the communities, and so when they died ceremonies were held at their grave sites to honour them. According to mythology, their spirits remained on earth, and they became living spirits (or elven beings) that either helped or hindered people who encountered them. They tended to reside in the burial sites or other sacred places. It was thought that mist on a gravehill was the spirit of the wise woman appearing, and people would bring them offerings and ask for help.

My interest in my Germanic roots, and the arrival of  Spring has brought all of this together. Spring is the time of year that I start checking the medicine cabinet and preparing for fall and winter, so I thought it was interesting and appropriate that I look to the witte wieven, in my case, my maternal ancestors, to help me with that task this year. The connection of the witte weiven to traditional folk healing (so-called ‘white witches’) is an easy one to make, and so I thought it quite appropriate!

 

I’ll be making another post on what’s in my medicine cabinet, so be sure to check back for that!
Brightest blessings,
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Beltane 2016: Self-Care is Worship

ab15850a1ffcccb2633f5b2dd4efea26I’ve been a bit absent over the last few weeks; it seems like every time I get into a good groove, something happens to throw it off. It’s often that I lament the fact that the Universe doesn’t run according to my plans. However out of whack things get, they do always seem to find their way back to the course, but not without some action on my part.

I’ve been focusing on self-care for the last month or so; something I tend to neglect when I work a lot or get wrapped up in being busy. I love being busy, but it does catch up with me now and then, and I’ve been in a slump lately. Something I have noticed is that as I have become better at being in-tune with myself and meeting my own needs, I am able to recognize the beginnings of the down-slide sooner and respond more quickly to correct the course, which makes these little lapses much more tolerable. I wouldn’t say that I have a handle on it, exactly, but things are much improved, in any case.

This is where I am now – in the ‘action’ part of getting things back on track. The pattern seems to be:

  1. things are going well
  2. something happens and things are shitty
  3. I feel bad; wallow in bad feelings; complain and wish things were better
  4. recognize that things CAN be better; I am the key to making things BE better
  5. develop a plan; pay attention to self-care; start making things better
  6. things are going well

Whereas I used to get stuck in stage 3, I find that stage 4 and 5 come somewhat easier the more adept I become at managing step 5. No one wants to feel bad, but I think a lot of us just get caught in the loop and don’t know how to break out of it. For me, the cycle stops when I focus inward.

This has become my focus for Beltane this year: the idea that self-care is worship. The idea that I am a representation of the Divine Mother, and care of myself is care of Her go hand in hand for me. If the Divine Spark in me is a part of Her, then it would be negligent to allow that spark to be snuffed out. There are a lot of ways that the Spark can be extinguished, from a shift in focus or being distracted by everyday things, to something big that happens that rocks you to your core, like a loss or something catastrophic. I deal with chronic depression and anxiety, and sometimes I struggle to feel Her flame within just because the darkness is overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of things – but when I take a break and focus inward, it’s always there; I just have to look for it and coax it back to roaring life again.

What are you focused on this Beltane?

Brightest Blessings,
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Yemaya: Mother of All Creation

They say that the Universe works in mysterious ways. It’s always been fascinating to me when things just ‘fall into place’. Not only things, but also people, and even deities that appear just when you need them.

Every once in a while, I will find myself drawn to a certain thing – an image, an animal – and find it popping up over and over again, only to discover later that the thing in my view is the symbol of a deity with an attribute that I am in need of. Some might say that it’s a sign of a deity making themselves known. Recently, it’s been mermaids. I have always loved mermaids – what little girl hasn’t? But over the last few weeks, it’s been near obsessive. I even decorated a box with a mermaid motif a few weeks ago, and spent hours on the creation and design, getting it ‘just so’.

In conversation with a new friend, I mentioned some health issues I am currently recovering from, and she spoke of Yemaya; that she’d keep me in Yemaya’s Healing Flow. That’s a Goddess I haven’t heard of before, so I started reading, and what do you know? Mermaids…. as in, She is often depicted as a mermaid. I found a couple of pages devoted to Her, one at A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery, one page at About Santeria, where She is traditionally kept in a porcelain soup tureen (which I thought was great – so many of them are absolutely beautiful works of artistry); and GoddessGift.com, where the story of Her waters breaking at her death gave birth to the 7 oceans.

One of my favorite places to be is the beach, especially when I need an extra spiritual boost. The feminine energy of the sea is very healing to me, plus the wind to carry away my troubles makes for a very peaceful and restful place to recover. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get to the beach for a couple of weeks yet, but I am planning on spending Friday in the water, so maybe I can channel some of Yemaya’s energy poolside!

I just wanted to take a few minutes to remind you that the thing you need may be closer than you think; you just might have to get creative in how you’re looking for it!
Brightest Blessings,

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