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Let me be clear before I start posting these stories that the point of this little Lessons in Love experiment was not to rehash old wounds or dredge up old drama. I had a few reasons, the main one being that we don’t always see how these things change our lives until those wounds have healed and we have seen what something better looks like. Some of these experiences were the same lesson, but sometimes you have to repeat a mistake to realize what it was that was wrong. Another reason for this series was to show that there’s nothing wrong with faith, because there’s always a new lesson out there, but there’s also always a new adventure.
After any one of these relationships, or any others I’ve had, I could have stopped trying. I could have buried myself in work, friends, life, and never let another person into my heart. Why didn’t I? Because I have faith in love. Because I enjoy the act and emotions of loving. Because even if the love isn’t real there’s still something to be gained from the experience. Likewise, I have applied for the same job thrice. Even though I felt like giving up, I tried again and got it on the third try. I start training in two weeks.
As the new growth of Imbolc begins to take root we begin to feel cabin fever and a need to emerge from the hibernation of the dark season. We have taken the time for introspection, and our soul searching and demon dancing is done. We are ready to emerge from the darkness renewed and ready to test the lessons we have learned from our time inside.
This year Brighid has taught me many lessons. She has taught me how to be strong enough to be patient, but how to be strong enough to walk away when the optimism that fueled that patience has run dry. She has taught me when to be calm and when to speak up for what I need. She has taught me when to be a caregiver and when to say no in situations where the burden has simply become too heavy. She has taught me to stand tall and be confident no matter how ugly, stupid, foolish, or hopeless I fee. She has taught me when to sit still and listen to the darkness and when to light a candle and push through it. She has taught me to dream when the world tells me that dreaming is illogical.
At Yule we celebrated the return of the light and the faith that the spring would return. At Imbolc we begin to see signs that our faith has not been wasted. So it is with life and love. The dark is never permanent unless we believe it is so. There is always light on the other side. That has been the point of this experiment. Yes, have had some rough relationships and some serious heartbreak, some that were even my fault, but I have come out of every single one of them with some amazing stories to tell. It is these stories that make me who I am, these stories that make my life wonderful, and these stories that will sustain me in the dark as I await the sun.
Go now, light a candle.
I posted back at Sammhain about keening as a part of a ritual I had been accustomed to doing at Yule, a ritual that emphasized letting go and moving on as we welcome the light of new dawn and the new beginnings that come with it. While it seemed unseasonable at the time, this season has brought me a very important lesson about healing. What the Yule keening missed is that starting over is not an overnight process.
After my initial keening ritual I went through a lot of emotional turbulence. I felt extremely free for a week. Then I felt detached, as if my emotional responses were getting lost somewhere in the absence of what I had torn away. For a few weeks it was a relief not to have to navigate feelings before I made decisions or started conversations, but something was missing. Earlier this week that scar tissue began to heal, and with it came an entirely new experience, mourning.
Today I found myself grieving pain I couldn’t even place anymore. In order to truly heal we must actually let go not just go through the motions. This is going to result in some feelings of loss. We become so comfortable with our demons that losing them can cause some grief, and only once we get over that grief can we be completely healed and whole again.
My focus for this Yule and the ritual we have planned is facing the void left behind and making peace with it, because that’s the second half of this process. Before I can begin to fill it with the things I choose to have in my life I need to be able to accept it and coexist with it for a while, or it will end up full of whatever happens to fall in. It’s hard for us sometimes to feel a void and let it be, because we associate it with emptiness and the unknown. Instead, these voids are open space, full of potential for growth and new life within us, space we can only heal once the initial mourning has ended and we have truly let go and moved on.
Go now, mourn your demons and move on.
I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me
I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me
They say wake up wake up, they say wake up wake up
-Voices of the Grandmothers chant
* please note: I didn’t write this, but there are conflicting sources online as to its original writer, and it has been shaped and changed by the many communities who have used it. My apologies for not properly sourcing it. *
I was once told during a Mabon divination ritual to plant my seeds in the winter instead of the spring like most, and it has rang true that I am generally more inspired and fruitful in the darker half of the year. Maybe it comes from the introspection that comes in the colder seasons. I am less distracted by the light energy and vibrating dance of the spring and summer. It could also be that I find my inspiration in the darker portions of myself, those places that we often try to ignore or change.
In the story of Persephone we see an eventual balance of light and dark. In embracing the darkness and joining Hades, Persephone sets in motion the events that create a separation between the light and dark times of the year. It is her journey that brings the world balance.
It is important that we too have this balance in our lives to reach our full potential. Persephone doesn’t just travel to the darkness, she loved it. She takes it in and tastes it, and in the end she returns to it again and again as a part of her self. We too must learn to experience and love our darkness as a part of who we are.
When we use the word “darkness” we think of frightening and unwelcome things. We think of violence and negativity. We think of anything dark as a blight, but true darkness can be a thing of beauty. The dark is “scary” because that’s when our imaginations take over, but some of life’s most magical things come from the imagination. The dark is the unknown, but the unknown gives us endless possibilities if we can get over our fear of it. From the dark we pull courage, strength, and inner calm. If we use what the darkness can give us to create and grow as much as we use the light we can be unstoppable.
Inner darkness is a place of deep emotion, sensuality, and survival. A place of transformation and rebirth. Each of these aspects of our personality holds immense power and potential that can be tapped into if we can take the steps to make our own journey to our own Underworld. I won’t say it’s not a little daunting. Steps are unsure and footing is loose. At first it can be terrifying, but once you’ve mapped the route and made peace with the darkness it can be a place of solace and quiet comfort.
Loving your darkness is about balance, but it is also about releasing fear. Once you are fearless you are free.
Go now, embrace your darkness.
(This post is a little later than I wanted it to be, but it fits with the overall theme of the topic. See, I’m not a procrastinator; I’m a demonstrator.)
We live in a world of five year plans and college prep pre-schools, a world where, at 30, I am considered too old to make new plans or pursue unmet dreams and goals. Now, were it my dream to be an Olympic gymnast I’d agree with that sentiment, but I believe those things to be the exception, not the rule.
At Mabon we celebrate the late harvest and the beginning of Autumn. This brings two very important things our way.
The late harvest is our last chance to stock up for the coming cold seasons. We must decide what we can and cannot use and rid our valuable space of anything that isn’t useful or that takes up too much room in order to keep what will help us thrive through the winter months. Setting goals and following our passions can sometimes require sacrifice and tough decisions. There may be people who don’t support us and hold us back. There may be other activities we have to miss and other interests that must be set aside to focus on those goals. Dreams take time, money, and effort to be viable. In the meantime we must be able to feed, clothe, and house ourselves. This generally leaves little room for anything else. What are you willing to give up to store your dreams?
The beginning of Autumn is also the beginning of the dark half of the year, which is generally a time where we turn inward. Introspection is always my first step when reaching for a goal. Why is it something I want? Is it really what I want, or am I trying to fill some other void? Is it something that can actually be accomplished? What will it take to get me there? I cannot begin to make real plans until my head and heart are in the right place to do so. Imagine trying to write a novel with a litany of other things on your mind. You will most likely end up distracted, frustrated, and incoherent. Clearing your thoughts and structuring your life to be conducive to writing a novel before you begin is going to give you the clearest path to that end result, and your novel is more likely to reach its full potential. When you are strong and healthy so are your dreams. The same is true when you are cluttered and not in top form. Take the time if you need it to prepare during this time of introspection so that you’ll be fresh and vibrant when the light returns and it’s time to plant again.
The key components here are dedication and optimism. In today’s disheartening economy it can sometimes be hard to imagine having the opportunity to reach out of the rut of keeping ourselves alive to even attempt to touch our dreams. Many people my age are still looking ahead to owning our first homes or having a family simply because it is not yet feasible to do so. Many more who have attempted it are struggling to keep it all afloat or have given up. We take jobs that pay some of the bills, and we work ourselves to exhaustion to pay a few more. We have become accustomed to debt and failed credit checks, because we simply don’t have a choice. It’s hard to see past the daily struggle sometimes and imagine being able to do something that makes us passionate, and the idea that we have missed our chance at a good life is prevalent. I’m here proposing the alternative that while the conditions might not be ideal, and while it won’t be an easy task, it’s not too late to keep trying. It’s not too late to make plans and set goals.
It’s Mabon, and it’s time to embrace the late harvest!
Go now, set a new goal!
At Imbolc we prepare for and rejoice in the coming spring. It’s a time of clearing away, planning, and preparations. It’s a time of promise and hope. There is still cold to be endured, but the darkest parts of winter are over.
Over the last year our family has been through Hell more than once. While it has fortifies us, it has also left us with a thick layer of ash and detritus of things that no longer serve us, those things we had to burn before we could move forward. A few weeks ago Hubby and I began the process of cleaning out not only the emotional litter and clutter, but the physical as well, and it really has made a lot of difference in our strength as a team.
One of the deities most associated with Imbolc is Brighid. I have dedicated myself Brighid for many years now. I have made offerings and called to her in times of celebration and need, and she has become a very important aspect of my spirit, but lately I have felt the need for a better connection to my inner Brighid, the part of me that has seen me through the times of greatest fire. This year my Imbolc celebration and personal work centered on making this connection. I have a litany of ambitious goals for the coming year, and if there is to be any progress then I will need her with me in all her forms.
The maiden to keep a creative, whimsical optimism to lead me through the most mundane tasks with the knowledge that something magical and truly happy awaits at the end.
The mother and midwife to help me give birth to my ideas and passions and nurture all my undertakings, and to help those around me do the same for theirs.
The crone to have the wisdom to succeed where I can and let go of what just can’t be done.
The warrior to be strong even when I am weary and outnumbered.
The blacksmith to fortify those around me who may feel weak.
The healer to keep myself and my family healthy and tend to them when sickness or uneasiness settles upon us.
The poet to keep the words flowing, the inspiration lighted, and communication smooth.
Never before have I felt the heat of Brighid’s dancing flame and the depth of her healing waters, and never before have I felt so empowered. I spent this Imbolc alone with my thoughts, my soul, and my words, and I was able to finally make a connection to the goddess that has been waiting inside me. All she needed was a spark.
When you plant a seed you have an idea of what it will grow into. You hold that picture in your mind as you watch the seed sprout and move through all the crucial stages of development, until one day it is right there in front of you in full bloom. Sometimes the end result is exactly what you expected. Sometimes you get something completely different, and you can choose to either appreciate it for what it is or feel disappointed. Either way you have invested time, energy, and patience to watch your seed grow.
That’s what it takes to be the farmer, but what does it take to be the seed? What does it take to possibly have no idea what you will become or how long it will take? What does it take to have faith that you will grow into a boon not a burden and trust the one or ones tending to you to know what you need and keep you safe and healthy? What does it take to truly know that all the stages of your growth are important and that the end result is exactly where and what you should be? What does it take to be confident in your knowledge of how to grow and be strong, when to push that growth, and when to let nature take its course?
At Mabon we celebrate the harvest as we reap the rewards of patient tending and take a lesson from the patience and dedication it took to sustain that which will sustain us through the cold season. This year my message has been a hard and heavy one about no longer looking at myself as the farmer and instead accepting my place as the seed. Where I would generally shape I must let myself be shaped. Where I would guide I must let myself be lead. This doesn’t mean I stop trying, it simply means I try differently. Patience, intuition, and introspection. Only then can I grow into something that will sustain and reach its full potential. Only then can I nourish the world.
It has been over six months since Hubby and I were released from a coven that had once felt like our family. At the time I was hurt, but I moved on, only to now discover an inescapable anger at not ever getting the chance to discuss any of it before it was taken to the Elders of our tradition, never getting the chance to explain or defend myself against things that had been either blown out of proportion or just plain made up. This lead to feelings that I was broken in some way. Maybe I was delusional and this other version of reality was the truth. I was confused, but now it dawns on me that I honestly have no idea where any of it came from.
The first big sign that there was a problem was being told my attendance was an issue. Up until that year I had only missed one event, one that had been rescheduled for our moving day after it had been set . Up until that year I had been to more events in my tenure with the coven than the High Priest, who always had a creative excuse, and was never questioned. The only reason I started missing events was a change in work schedule that meant working on Sundays, the day most of our events were held to accommodate people who worked on Saturdays. I was even content to bid for a schedule I hated to get Sundays off, but the seniority based bidding system was not in my favour. Not knowing if I could get the shifts covered made it hard to commit myself to jobs for these events, which would leave the coven in more of a bind if I couldn’t make it. To make up for this I would be the first to volunteer day of and first to support coven mates in any other way I could.
We were also told we didn’t answer emails on time, something I admit I’m terrible at, but I detest Yahoo groups as it seems to hate smartphones, and it had honestly never dawned on my to send messages via Facebook until it was angrily thrown in my face that I could and should have done so. I Hoot Suite my status updates. That’s about as far as my internet communication goes when I’m at work or sleeping on couches on work nights. I assumed anything pertinent enough would warrant a phone call or text and gave input I had as soon as I had the means. Never did I read in any charter that I was required to be glued to Yahoo. Along that line, whenever I did have anything I felt would actually enrich the conversation in any way I posted it, and it was usually ignored, blown off, or rejected anyway.
Which lead to the next journey in lack of perspective, my attitude and behaviour at events. I can be talkative, but when I’m processing or thinking I’m quiet. It’s not an attitude. I’m not sad or angry or miserable. I’m contemplative. I’m quiet. I also have Fibromyalgia and have learned how best to reserve my energy for when it is really important, so I’d store it during meet and greet in order to have it during rituals. Still, I was told that my “unpredictable” behaviour had been addressed several times and had not been corrected. Wait, what? When did this happen? Was it on a Sunday, because I probably was not there. The best part was the claim that I brought a “dark energy”(scary, I know) to rituals with me, that it was questionable whether or not it was to the benefit of the coven that I be sharing it, and that it had also been brought to my attention before, again not to my knowledge. That’s when I saw the tell-tale signs of a loophole. Dark energy? Really? Because I had asked for a little support and help, which was subsequently met with silence on a good day and rejection on a bad day, or because I brought that fact to their attention?
While a meeting was set to discuss these things it was never held. Our fate was simply decided, our reputations sufficiently smeared to people who had no connection to our coven, and honestly, who knows what anyone was told. Probably the same things we were, which were horrendous. For a long time I wondered at their validity and was distrustful of both myself and my abilities as a witch. Maybe I was bad.
But this, my friends, has not been written to smear my former High Priest and Priestess. It has been an exercise in looking back and realizing that even people who are supposed to guide and teach us can be misguided no matter how well they mean, but even that was not the point.
The point here was what I believe started the road to our release. Our High Priestess meant well when she took Hubby’s girlfriend at the time aside and told her she didn’t belong in our marriage. As true as that statement was, it wasn’t for the reasons she believed, nor was our marriage any of her business. I had gone to her for emotional advice a few times, and her only answer had been to leave my husband or stop being poly. That’s not what I needed, and it wasn’t was we needed. We were still navigating the rocky road to polyamory, and mistakes were being made almost daily, but the answer was not to give up or to have our High Priestess mettle in our affairs. When Hubby approached her about it she immediately cooled to us both, and whenever we spoke it was all business. She and our former High Priest became judgmental, and we always felt like they were trying to catch us doing something wrong. It was the beginning of the end, but it lead us to re-evaluate our choices and how we run our poly relationship.
Hubby and I have moved on, and while we don’t practice as regularly as we did as part of a coven, we still have our faith. We are stronger, more united, and more at peace. Our marriage is happier, and we are still poly and loving it. Do I miss my old coven? Of course I do, though I can’t imagine what any of them think of us based on last year’s events. I mostly miss having a group to work with and being a part of a larger collective. I miss our elders, but I know the time will come when Hubby and I will be able to sit and speak with them again.
What have I learned? I’ve learned to write more meaningful solitary rituals. I’ve learned to listen to myself and my results for guidance instead of always turning to someone else for help. I’ve learned to handle large-scale rejection, how to assert myself, but also when to let go and let people have their realities. I’ve learned to have faith in myself and not let anyone’s judgment of me bring me down, that no one lives my life but me, and that no one knows how to live my life no matter how much older or wiser they may be in other areas.
I don’t know where I’d be had I left Hubby or insisted on going back to monogamy. One burnt cookie doesn’t make the whole batch a failure and that particular relationship was not typical or a portent of where our path would lead from there. It was what it was, an opportunity to grow and learn.
We were never given a chance to clarify our position and defend our actions because their judgmental hole of negativity had been dug too deep already. Maybe they had tired of us. Maybe we had outgrown them. In any case, it was time to take the next step, and we have in many ways, but we have many more to go.
This is me, letting go of the anger that’s been hiding inside me. Forgiving, officially forgetting, and in some ways even thanking.
“miles to go before I sleep” – Robert Frost
Go now, stop taking it all so seriously.
Litha, the longest day of the year, a day of potency and joy, and a celebration of opportunity.
This is the first summer solstice I have spent covenless, yet it comes in a year that has been more substantial and blessed than most. I feel more powerful, more healthy, and more driven than I have in years. Still, this has always been one of the celebrations in which I surround myself with friends and loved ones, and this year it seems to be lacking.
As the day approaches I find myself on several precipices at once. I am on the verge of being a licensed driver for the first time in my life, I am taking huge steps with both my personal and professional life, my health is ever improving, and though we are in a time of change within our family we are still in a very positive and healthy place. My first focus will be to empower my final push in all of these areas.
My second focus is the present. There is no coincidence that summer represents celebration, flirtation, and youthful abandon. It has become abundantly clear to me that I let myself keep my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, and that much of my energy and frustration is spent on the next step instead of the current one. A recent conversation reminded me that this was not, and should not, always be the case. I need to embrace the spontaneity that once fed my spirit and let myself live in the moment a little more. I need to enjoy the now and not worry about where it leads. I also need to stop letting past experiences hold me back. I am not who I was, and I have wrung every drop of lesson I can from those memories. I can no longer let myself hide behind apprehension in the guise of self-preservation. I need to live my life rather than always planning the next minutes of it or fearing a rerun of my past. Tomorrow will come whether or not I’ve put it in my Google calendar, but today will never come back.
My solstice ritual this year will be unplanned. I will find myself a spot near the river or in a park somewhere and let it happen however it feels right. I will most likely be alone, and more and more I’m content with that. I will have a few basic items with me, but for the most part my spirit will be my ritual tool. This will be an exercise in flow and living in the present, tapping into a place from which I used to draw all my strength, blending it with the energy I’ve found elsewhere and honed over time, and using my drive and determination for the future to fuel the fire. Only by finding and combining all three tenses within myself will I truly be using my full potential, and it’s time.
No matter what your plans are for the solstice this year, I want you to enjoy the day for the day, not just for what it leads you toward. I think you’ll find a lot more power and meaning in it as a moment than as a stepping stone. I know I will.
Go now…be now.
It’s that time of year again. Well, it’s several “that time of year”s again, but I mean one in particular. As witches, it is our 15 minutes of fame. Suddenly, we’re everywhere. We’re in movies, cartoons, the costume aisle at Target (what exactly is a Future Witch anyway?), and all sorts of mass media. The History Channel starts running documentaries about everything from the Salem Witch Trials to the rituals of the Knights Templar. For a couple of weeks no one has any problems with us. Now, I realize that’s a grave simplification, and there are still people who make their displeasure with the pagan community known, but for a short time every year we are a flamboyant commercial cliché. In a few months we will see the same thing as Christians everywhere fight their own “Jesus is the reason for the season” battle, even going as far as the ever more popular image of Santa bowing over the baby in the manger. This image alone is why I write on this particular topic, because it illustrated something poignant about holidays, the innate fact that they are both sacred and secular in nature does not have to be a negative thing.
There seems to be a belief that Jesus Christmas and Santa Christmas cannot coexist. I believe that they can, and do, as two separate pieces of a celebration. In some ways the two have become two unique holidays, as some people celebrate one but not the other. I don’t believe it is disrespectful, and I don’t ever believe a day that brings people together in a spirit of joy and hope is wrong. Pagans have been doing it since before it was Christmas, calling it Yule, and we didn’t complain when new holidays with suspicious similarities started cropping up.
All snark aside, there is nothing wrong with secular celebration. As little witches our kids learn to honor their ancestors on Samhain. In time, they will learn the Wheel of the Year and what the sabbats mean. They learn Samhain traditions and correspondences in the same way we know and celebrate them. They learn to respect and revere the holiday as something sacred. They also get to dress up in the costumes of their choice, go trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, and all the other fun stuff that Halloween brings. In that same vein, Santa will visit our house on Christmas, but we will have had our Yule fire.
It is also important to note that when the kids are older they will also know the history of the traditions for both sacred and secular holidays, as one is just as important as the other. We must know about our history and how our cultures have evolved over time. We must know how people of the past have celebrated and why to really appreciate the seasons now. Yes, we add our modern touches, which are also important, as holidays must grow and evolve with us, but nothing can grow without roots.
There is nothing that says that celebrating a secular holiday takes anything away from the sacred holiday that generally accompanies it. We are complex and beautiful creatures, and it is that multi-dimensional capacity that makes us unique. While the sacred days bring us together in the spirit of faith, the secular days bring us together in the spirit of community no matter what our beliefs are. The more fundamental reason for the season is joining in celebration, no matter what you call it.
So, yes, this weekend I will be partying in costume, handing out candy dressed as the most cliché witch I can muster (don’t judge me, the costumes are all in storage), and honouring my ancestors in both private and group ritual. I will watch the same rerun documentaries on the history channel, and I will giggle every time they use the same outdated clip of some Samhain ritual from the 70s. I will meet with friends and family of all beliefs and traditions, and we will find a few moments of joy and laughter in a time when there is so much negativity and uncertainty flowing about us. This, my friends, is the reason for the season. Well…this and giant bags of candy.
Go now….smell my feet, give me something good to eat…