The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
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?
Houston’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.
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.
Over 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!
A friend of mine recently game me a name for something I’ve been making for a while, but calling something else. I’ve been making art shrines – little boxes full of paint, decoupage, paper, miscellaneous bric-a-brac, shiny and glittery things, handwritten notes, printed bits of paper, old torn up books… all arranged in some way that pleases me, but with a definite thought or concept tying the whole thing together. Her name for them, intent boxes, makes perfect sense, because that’s what they are – not so much ‘spells’ or ‘altars’, but similar to both and yet not quite either.
Well, she says ‘boxes’, I say ‘shrines’. Boxes, I would think, are more a home for a collection of things that you may gather and store for a purpose – things you can get out and touch and physically experience while meditating or to re-focus on your path when you may have wandered. I can see the value in creating such a box, with tangible reminders designed to be taken out and savored, or contemplated, on the path towards a goal. I have keepsake and ‘remembrance’ boxes that serve a similar function. Even my kids’ baby books have grown to the point of needing a box to keep them in because there are so many things filling them and falling out. For a tactile person, holding the physical memento or symbol of a goal can be a very powerful tool.
My version is more an art piece with intent built-in. This box, for example, is along the lines of ‘being kind to myself/yourself’. The mirror, with its persistent requirement of looking oneself in the eye (to see the ‘truth’ of yourself) is a prominent addition, with banishing oil in a vial (for banishing negative thoughts); a butterfly for transformation, Stella Maris for mercy and forgiveness, the key to unlock a brighter future… each element has both meaning and adds to the visual whole.
Another aspect of such a creation is the time and energy both spent on and invested in the box, itself. Energy work is a major part of my path, and it’s one of the reasons I choose to try to make most of my own tools – the energy I put into creating the tool literally makes it the tool I need it to be. My focus and intent and will imbue the tool or object with whatever my goal is, and I believe that makes it all that much more effective. There’s also the placement of the tool, whether on my altar or tucked away for use only in Ritual observances; this box, for example, is still tucked away in my art cabinet, because I am not quite ready to have it placed just yet. I’m still waiting for a final bit of inspiration to call it ‘done’ and figure out where it lives.
I have created others; one that I made several years ago still hangs on the wall by my bed. It’s focus is on both unlocking and honoring the creativity that I rediscovered during an art course I took. The shrine was the final project, presented at the end of the class. It is one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning, and it’s been very inspiring.
Do you create similar ‘boxes’?
A few weekends ago, Bridey and I went to a retreat called W.O.M.A.N. – ‘Women of Magick and Nature‘. I’d learned about it earlier this year, and had been looking forward to going for some time. Despite how ‘connected’ I tend to think I am, it always surprises me to stumble upon some gem of knowledge or activity or event that is totally new to me. WOMAN has apparently been around for years, though it’s gone by several different names and changed leadership over the years – but the spirit of the gathering is in tact (at least I hope so – what I brought home from the experience was absolutely wonderful).
Over the course of the weekend, I got to meet so many bad-ass Texas witches – who have been around for years and both been instrumental in shaping the Pagan community in Southeast Texas and guiding the women who will come after them. I love that the traditions that started within Texas are being passed on, and at the same time, new life and vitality and ideas are breathed into them as new ones learn and adopt and grow. It felt good – being part of a group that, with each change of name and hands, both honors what came before while accepting and facilitating the changes to come. It’s a process that’s on-going… not without moments of frustration and sadness for what was lost, I’m sure, but overwhelmingly with love and excitement for that which is yet to come.
One of the things I was surprised to find is how much I enjoyed talking with the older women at this retreat. Having a community with a more diverse mix of ages is something that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mother and grandmothers and aunts and great-aunts (both those by blood and those by choice) would sit around talking and shelling peas, or playing cards. I always assumed that I would have that when I grew up, and I suppose in some ways, I do – but there were often elements of faith discussed in those kitchen-table gatherings and that’s the part that’s been lacking. It was energizing to be in an environment where spiritual ideas and concepts were so openly discussed and considered.
In my friend group, I am one of the oldest there – my kids are older, I’ve been married for the longest… I don’t have anyone to learn from. That’s not to say that I know everything, or that those with less time on the clock can’t or don’t have things to teach me – they absolutely do, and I eagerly accept their teaching just as readily as I do that from elders – but it’s not the same as being taught/mentored by an older woman. There’s something about the way an older woman imparts her knowledge – not universally, of course – personalities are what they are, but in general, the wisdom of years has something unique to offer, and I’ve missed it.
It was lovely being around so many women who wanted to teach and to learn from them. There’s something about the Pagan community, about the willingness to teach and be taught, that I don’t see in other religious communities. Whereas other communities all look to a single leader or group of leaders, at events like this, the floor is open to anyone who has something to offer. We had classes and workshops all weekend long, from divination, to crafts, to astrology… it was really interesting and fun to be part of. I felt like there was plenty of room for everyone’s time and differing opinions were heard and no one was belittled or told that they were ‘wrong’… it was such a great atmosphere.
One of the things I learned that I just love is a style of stone divination. Basically, you choose small stones, one for each planet in the solar system, plus ones for the sun and moon, and (to start with), a stone to represent yourself. Using either traditional or personal correspondences for the planets/stones, cast the stones within a circle (a 3’ loop of leather cord, or on a cloth or other surface with a defined edge). Depending on your preference, you can read the stones with the center point as the present, moving outwards for a timeline, or as the edge of the circle closest to you being the present, moving further along the timeline as you move away form yourself. Stones that are closest to ‘you’ (your signifier in the spread) have more of an effect, or their influence is in play, while those farther away from you have less influence. That’s a very (very) simplistic explanation, but gives the gist of the method. It’s also highly adaptable and open to various personalizations. We were left with the instruction, “Make it your own!”, so I did.
And then, there were the rituals. I won’t go into detail, simply because I feel like those were special times to me, and private. But these ladies went all out for planning and preparation, and it was really just awesome to be part of it.
I am so glad that I went. I struggle with anxiety issues, and as a child, I’d have passed an opportunity like this up. I’d have wanted to go, and been regretful for bowing out, but the stress and dread of meeting new people and participating would have been too much, so I’d have declined or bowed out when it came time to leave. I am so glad that I’ve worked through a lot of those issues. It was still hard to walk into a room in progress (we arrived mid-class), but without a doubt, this was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time and I am so glad that I got to share the experience. There’s another retreat in the Spring, and I am hoping that I get to go!
This picture was posted on Old Ways Facebook page this morning, and I have been thinking about it all day.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been off-and-on actively going to a group meditation practice at a local Buddhist Temple. Last year, the community decided to center more on the native Vietnamese community and so the English-speaking Buddhist community moved to another location. I’ve been meaning to get over there since they moved, and just have not been able to get myself together and join the group in the new location… until last week. I was finally able to go, and I hate to say it, but I was severely out of practice. I was fidgety, and distracted. There was ambient noise that was very ‘loud’, and I just had a really hard time falling into a meditative trance. I don’t remember it being that hard – it wasn’t when I was in good practice. So that’s one thing I really want to get back into on a more regular basis – group meditation.
I also have been neglecting teaching/leading/encouraging the kids in their meditation practice. A couple of years ago, I made meditation jars with the kids. There are literally tons of tutorials on Pinterest, but we used mason jars, water-based hair gel, water, food coloring, glitter and gorilla glue (to seal the jars) for ours. The kids’ jars calm after being shaken in about 7 minutes and mine takes closer to 14. The more gel, the longer the jar takes to clear. If your kids are new to meditation, you can use smaller jars, or less gel so that they clear a bit faster. I was thinking that making several with different calm times (5 min./10 min./20 min. etc.) would be a cool way to expand the time the kids meditate for.
Imaginations by Carolyn Clarke also suggests teaching children to lay down, relaxed, with an eye mask (lavender? chamomile?) to aid them in letting go, and also to block distracting visual stimuli. My boys lay on their stomachs with chin on hands when they use their jars usually, though they have used them at their desks as well. We also sit criss-cross-apple-sauce style with knees touching and eyes closed on occasion, but that’s more often when we need to re-connect with each other. As a connectivity tool, meditation is an amazing alternative to ‘time out’. Some see that as a ‘non violent’ method of discipline (and being raised in a house/religion that insisted that spanking was the only/best way, I saw time out that way for a long time. Even though I used it sparingly, it still wasn’t ‘comfortable’, but I lacked the tools to do anything else when mine were very small).
With age and experience comes wisdom, and now I liken the ‘time out’ method as similar to the practice of ‘shunning’ that some religions endorse as a corrective method. Having experienced that several times myself, I now see the practice (both of them), as somewhat extreme. I feel that children need to be held a little closer in times of trial, rather than exiled. Rather than isolating an immature child to think for themselves and draw what conclusions they may, drawing them closer and having some time to reconnect physically and spiritually, without the burden of conversation, for a bit eases the way into a productive conversation where redirection can be effective. It’s very difficult to touch someone you love and maintain anger and irritation – the physical connection somehow short-circuits the negative emotion. I need to take my own advice more! So that’s something I also want to work on – meditation practice with the kids and physically connecting with them instead of distance when I am frustrated with them.
Another thing I have started doing is copying and printing the kid crafts that we do and add them to the kids’ Shadow Books. There’s not a huge population of Pagans who have grown up this way, and as a parent, I often have a hard time finding ‘traditional but modern’ new crafts or esbat/sabbat-specific activities. I figure by documenting the things we do, they will have their own ‘tradition’ handed down to them to use with their children if they so desire. My path is pretty eclectic, and constantly adding new elements as I learn them, or modifying old ones. It’s also neat to have a record of my path as it progresses. I used to be really diligent about filing my papers into the correct Shadow Books (binders) and have gotten lazy about that, too. I started re-arranging my shelves and cabinet the other day, so I want to finish that as well.
How about you? Have you tried meditation with your kids? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?
This week, I am combining my Pagan Blog Project post with Pagan Blog Prompts. It works, because the letter I am on is ‘O’, and the topic at blog prompts is ‘offerings’… I was struggling with finding a topic for ‘O’, so that worked out well.
We were asked:
For those who perform rituals, do you give offerings? If so, what kind?
What is the meaning/purpose of offerings?
Leaving offerings is something I do pretty often, both in ritual, and just in general. Our Lughnasadh ritual was last week and during it we made sacrifice dolls (decorated corn dollies) to burn at Mabon. In the meantime, mine rests on my altar, collecting bits of things I will offer at Mabon in the fire. This is fairly common in my group’s rituals; at Yule, we each decorate Yule Logs to burn – the idea is that the effort that goes into making a beautiful Yule Log is the offering to the Gods. We also generally leave flowers, bits of cakes and ale or wine, pretty things (seashells, nuts, and other Nature goodies) on the Circle Altar when we leave for the evening.
In my personal practice, I leave offerings as well, especially when hiking or walking in the woods. A couple of years ago, I came across a video featuring offering stones made from cornmeal. The kids and I have made several batches and we keep them in a bag in the van. When we go walking or hiking, we grab the bags, and choose a place to say a prayer and leave a stone. The stones are all natural, so they dissolve and nourish the ground and animals around the area we leave them in.
I also keep an offering bowl on my altar. I have made several goddess bowls, and have a few in my etsy shop, Exoptable Thaumaturgy. I have them all over – in my bedroom on my main altar, in the kitchen window, on my desk… they collect coins, feathers, shells, bits of paper (fortunes from fortune cookies), beads – all kinds of small, pretty things.
The idea of leaving something for those unseen appeals to me. Deities, faeries, guardian spirits – each of them traditionally ‘require’ something different and paying homage to their preferences is usually a matter of minutes in terms of real time, but the effort to take the time can be monumental. It’s a small token of thanks, appreciation, acknowledgement… it’s hard to define, but all of those things, and more. The practice of making offering stones, of decorating an item to throw into the fire, of finding something pretty and leaving it in a special place all keep my mind focused on deity. It keeps me in constant connection by providing a tangible way to interact with Them.
Offerings also help me teach my kids about being thankful, and about mindfully going about their day. It’s easy to take a walk or go on a hike without really appreciating the cycles of Nature and the Seasons that make each moment so. By intentionally taking the time and making that connection, the practice of making and leaving offerings provides me with a ready-made teaching tool.