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.
As a practitioner of a religious path that is both utterly modern, but that has roots in the ages, obviously, I think the answer to this question is ‘yes’. Though I am not sure if ‘reviving’ is exactly the right word, because religion, like all things, must change and adapt with the passage of time if it is to survive.
There is great debate within the Pagan community as to whether or not Pagan practices (if not entire Pagan paths or traditions) are truly continuations of the Old Ways, or if they’re modern revivals and interpretations based on what limited information we can glean through history and archaeology. I tend to think the latter, but I suppose that some Pagan traditions may go back further than others relatively in-tact. Please let me be clear here; I do not mean ‘Wicca’ when I say ‘Pagan’; I think it’s widely accepted that Wicca is a modern religion. When I say Pagan, I include folk religions from the United States stemming from Africa and Haiti, as well as European and Germanic Pagan traditions, indigenous religions from the American continents, and tribal religions from the Americas, Africa and Australia (which may *actually* be continuations of older/ancient practices).
Some practices may have existed and may well have been handed down through the generations from parent to children (behind closed doors when necessary), but I feel like almost all of them, through various forms of persecution combined with the societal Christian indoctrination we tend to have in this country, have been eroded or tainted what would have otherwise been ‘pure’ Pagan traditions and practices. Part of that was systematic; other parts of it was purely due to the passage of time and the necessity of change to preserve the spirit of the tradition if not the path as a whole.
Back to the question at hand … is reviving the religions of the ancients even compatible with modern life?
In a word, yes. I would even go so far as to say that as our society and world becomes increasingly ‘high tech’, the fundamental connection with Nature and the Spirit World that most Pagans enjoy will lure others to seek out a similar connection. As the song says, “The Earth is our Mother“, and without an intimate connection with the ground we walk upon, we lose something of ourselves.
So how, in this high tech age, do we maintain that connection? If you’re Pagan, then you likely have a good handle on that already. In some form or fashion, you’re probably honoring the Turn of the Wheel each year, Observing the Cycle of the Moon each month, and Marking the Change of the Seasons. You may also, depending on your path and preferences, maintain a garden, meditate, work spells (pray), invoke deities and otherwise interact with either/both the physical Earth and the Spirit Realm. But if you’re not, then the answer is simple: go outside. That’s it; that’s the answer. Go outside. Be IN Nature. Look around and marvel at the wonders of the natural world. Look for signs and symbols, instances of hierophany, that move you to appreciate that the Earth is a Living Thing and it is our privilege and responsibility to be here on Her.
If you’re inclined towards a Pagan path, you’ll find the right steps as you go, but the main thing, I think, is the connection to the natural world.
What do you think?
‘Hierophany’ is a word that I’ve heard a few times over the past few years, and every time I hear it, it strikes a chord within. It’s a lovely word, and one that isn’t used very often, so when I do hear it somewhere, it definitely stands out. Hierophany is defined as ‘a manifestation of the sacred’, but this simple definition doesn’t quite measure up. I’ve found that hierophany is something that you experience, not necessarily something you can define, or even point to as ‘other’.
For me, it’s come at different times, but usually when I least expect it – this feeling like I’m not alone; like there’s a thing being shown just to me – a private thing between me and The Divine. It might be a feather floating to the ground, a butterfly (or moth of firefly) appearing out of nowhere, or a beam of sunlight that crosses my path just so. Oh sure; it’s as likely as not that these things are coincidence, or happenstance, and that I was just in the right place at the right time to see such a thing, and I’d probably agree with you most of the time that it was just a cool little thing that happened. But sometimes, there’s a definite feeling of Other to the Thing That Happens that just feels like more than that, and I think that’s really cool.
Recently, I came across some notes I took from a conference I went to a few years ago. I saw the word again, and it made me determined to look for those moments to see if I could find them just through the course of a normal day. The day turned into the week, turned into the month, and surprise, surprise – I can’t. Something about the act of looking makes them impossible to find, apparently. I mean, yes – I’ve seen butterflies, and sunbeams and rainbows and other things that ‘could’ be heirophany but clearly aren’t – because the feeling isn’t there. So now I’ve decided to top looking so hard and wait and see. I’ll report back when I have one of those moments of hierophany again!
What about you – do you know what I’m talking about? Have you experienced it?
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?
When 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!
Last year, Bridey and I went to a retreat for Pagan Women, and our hostess had this amazing bowl of stones on the counter. Literally every time I passed by it, the urge to bury my hands in the stones was too overwhelming to resist, and so I indulged. After the retreat was over and participants started posting pictures from the weekend, I saw that I wasn’t the only one – virtually all of us, at one time or another, were caught with our hands in them.
It was there that I decided that I had to have a bowl of grounding stones in my house. Last week, I ordered several sets from Fire Mountain Gems*, and they arrived today! I bought several packets of mini – large nugget and small to medium chips, plus several bags of individual stones that I wanted for my bowl. You can use whatever you like, but those are perfect or my purposes.
You may have some questions, like:
- what are grounding stones?
- why do you need them?
- how do they work?
- how do you use them?
Basically, grounding stones are just a big bowl (of whatever material you want; I like wooden bowls – they’re charming), filled with semi-precious stone chips. The stones can be whatever size you want, and you can use whatever kinds of stones you want, from commercial pea-gravel to semi-precious stones. I like semi-precious stones and crystals because of the correspondences and variety of energies and attributes that stones and crystals have within themselves; your preference may vary. Size-wise, they need to be small enough to flow freely; you want to be able to dig your hands in without the stone clinging to your skin (so not too small or fragile) or getting under your fingernails, and not so large that you bruise yourself while handling them. Mine average about the size of my pinkie fingernail, with some chips larger and some smaller. I had one stone that was about an inch long and half an inch wide that was ‘too big’ for the rest of the stones, so I took it out – but the rest seem to flow well.
Grounding stones have different meanings and uses for different people. First of all, they’re incredibly fun to play with. If you’ve ever been to a playground with gravel to cushion the play surface, then you know how appealing it can be to feel the stones flow over your hands. Aside from the sensory delight that small stones offer, the rhythmic feel of pushing your hands through the stones keeps them busy and gives your mind the opportunity to wander. It’s a great thing to do while you’re reading, or meditating, or even watching TV.
I find that anything dealing with the Earth is a great way to ground – either after Ritual or spell work, or just as a way to de-stress from the day’s activities. Lying prone on the ground, letting the Earth support your whole weight and absorb your cares and worries is awesome, but so many factors can interfere with that, from inclement weather to pests (fire ants!) to just not having the time to go lay in the grass. Having a little bit of Earth easily accessible – even if it’s just for a minute or two, can really help you let go of whatever’s on your mind and re-center.
If stones aren’t your thing, or you have an affinity for water, water marbles (polymer beads) might offer an alternative that works in a similar way. We found several containers of them at the $1 store, and they always have them at craft stores and online.
Do you use grounding stones?
*Just for the sake of disclosure, I am not affiliated with FMG or Amazon, nor do I receive any sort of payment or product for recommending them; I just buy my things from them.
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’?