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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.

Aloha

Go now…be now.

 

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As I mentioned in my last wedding post, our day was beautiful.  It was also a full Wiccan ritual handfasting before a group of Catholics, Lutherans, and other various and sundry people unfamiliar with our faith.  When we started planning our ceremony we put a lot of thought into how we would present the ritual and how much we wanted to show our guests.  The goal was to stay true to our spirituality while not alienating close friends and family.  Aside from losing our first several officiants, this was the biggest hurdle we faced.  It was imperative that our wedding reflect who we are, but were all of our guests ready for such a candid display?

While we are not a closeted family we are also not always obvious in certain company, so for some this would be the first taste of any of it, and for some time we worried about reaction.  Would people walk out of our ceremony?  Would there be scandal if I danced with my boyfriend or girlfriend?  Would there be concerned lectures about how  marriage should run or how our souls were troubled?  I’ve heard these lectures before, but I didn’t want them to stain my wedding day.

Therefore, we had two choices.  One, try to disguise our ceremony as something ecumenical, or, two, not care about the reaction.  Option one fared several failed attempts, but it the end it went down in a glorious flaming show of self-destruction.  There were just too many things we weren’t willing to compromise.  This is when we both realized it didn’t matter anymore what the reaction would be.  It was vital to us to be bound using our spiritual traditions and no one else’s, and there was no way we could honestly do that by trying to camouflage the parts that might make people feel uneasy.

At that point we set our charts to education rather than placation.  I put basic information on our wedding site, and we did our rehearsal in the comfort of our bridal suite with immediate family present.  We mitigated surprise wherever we could, even putting a  blurb in our program encouraging participation.  As we began to let go of our trepidation the ceremony began to write itself.  The final  result held all the facets that were meaningful to us with no ambiguity or shielding.  While still slightly nervous, I couldn’t imagine our ritual being any different, so we took a deep breath and stopped revising.

The morning of the wedding the magick really began.  As we set up the alters most of the people helping we at least mildly familiar with pagan symbolism and correlation, but I found that those who weren’t were observing.  Some even asked questions.  I felt a sense of pride and peace as I explained the qualities of each elemental alter to my dad, realizing he understood and accepted that part of me as he has with every new curveball I throw his way.  I started to feel we’d made the best decision by being true to ourselves.  If anyone was going to judge us it wouldn’t be anyone who mattered.  I had finally let go of that last shred of feeling like I had to be someone else in certain circles.  That day I was all me, and it felt good.  I mean ecstatic first breath of new life good.  If they couldn’t accept me the way I finally have in recent years I had no apologies.

It was with that thought that I joined my bridal party at the entrance to the garden where a hundred people were sitting, waiting for the celebration to begin.  I could feel Hubby and his men at the other end.  He felt it, too.  There was a buzz in the air, tangible to everyone.  When the music started all the rushing to get ready and worrying about what wasn’t done left me as I grounded and prepared to take the next step in my journey.

The ceremony was exactly what I wanted and more than I could have imagined.  A last-minute rain storm had turned the lawn originally planned for the ceremony into a swamp, so we arranged our guests around a fountain in an adjacent garden bordered by tall trees.  A good friend played an enchanting cello as Hubby entered to the Imperial March, which relieved whatever tension still lingered.  My ladies processed to “Kiss to Build a Dream On”, each one alternating her direction around the fountain.  Even the flower girl and ring bearer acted as if they were born for that very day.  All of this reaffirmed that we had done well.

I couldn’t help but beam as my dad took my arm and we walked.  I know every bride says this, but at that moment I felt beautiful.  I felt free, and loved, and nothing mattered but the man at the other end of the aisle.  Guests took pictures as the priest cast the circle.  They joined in singing our chants and passed the flame with which we lit our unity candle.  No one seemed offended or traumatized by the symbolic Great Rite, and aside from a few curious comments and the bride leaving her vows behind and having to improvise, everything ran smoothly.

It was a moving experience, full of acceptance and celebration of not only the love Hubby and I share but also who we are as a family.  Not only was our ceremony well received, but for weeks people remarked how beautiful it was and how our happiness and love made it memorable, and I was happy I had followed my heart and my spirit.  I had put together a wedding that resonated within me and stayed true to our path.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, going way beyond September 4th, as we joined two families and laid the foundation for a future where we can raise a family and live openly in our faith, in our way, with no regrets or apologies.

I feel blessed, relieved, and loved to have such an amazing group of family and friends.  While they may not always understand or agree with our lifestyle, I am not confident we will always find love and acceptance when it matters the most.  That’s what it means to be family.

Go now, be yourself.

Namaste

My tradition’s yearly installment of a ritual honouring Cernnunos always hits me somewhere deeper than I walk in expecting, but this year his message may as well have come with a gift tag with my name on it.  It was one I wish I’d been able to hear a week sooner, but one I may have needed a little pain with to really absorb and appreciate.

He spoke of hard times, both ones we’ve endured in the past year and those yet to come.  He spoke of the fight we must be willing to put up to keep our spirits alive.  He spoke of enjoying life despite hard times, using the light and energy from those memories to recharge us when life seems bleak.  Sometimes it’s not the moment of the belly laugh we need as we’re short of breath with tears streaming from our eyes.   Sometimes it’s the memory of that laugh, with whom it was shared, or how it felt not to care who heard or saw us or what they thought about it that inspires us in the moments when we most want to scream, cry, and give up on life.  It’s these moments that make that laugh a beautiful gift.  Our ability to remember and relive is magickal and transformative, but only if we use it.

My four-year old stepson is in crisis mode every time he leaves our house.  In his mind the world is ending.  He’s leaving us, and that thought takes over his young mind.  It’s a heartbreaking routine, but every week we remind him of all the fin we shared that day and assure him he’ll be back to do it all again before he knows it.

Oh, how we adults have convinced ourselves we have grown past this type of behaviour.  Frankly, we haven’t.  In fact, we have made it all even more complicated with complexes”, excuses, addictions, and people who enable and feed our negative outlook.  The four-year old moves on with life.  The :mature adults” dwell, hold grudges, and give up on those “fun” moments.  We forget how to live and begin to merely survive, or worse, give in to self-defeat and stop worrying about survival altogether.  I won’t let the four-year old handle my “good china”, but I will take a lesson from him on what’s really valuable.

This leads me to wonder why adults tend to use our ability to remember only to dwell in the negative past.  Why do we readily dig up abuses and even the most petty arguments we had as children but not remember the hug or kind word we received just yesterday?  Furthermore, why do we forget how far this fight to keep the spirit alive has brought each one of us?

Yesterday I stopped myself short of complaining about lugging my overnight bag to and from work everyday.  Merely two years ago I would not have picked the bag up, let alone carried it for 20 minutes.  I realized then how much I fall prey to this mentality.  Had I forgotten the long road I’ve taken to get here?  Had I forgotten that I could not walk to the bathroom let alone the thirty blocks I walked today to run errands?  Had I forgotten the days I spent bracing myself against counters so my customers would not notice I was unable to stand on my own?  Had I forgotten that up until recently I had been one sick day away from derailing my career path?  I am not functional, working overtime, planning a wedding, and thriving.  I found the fuel to learn, research, and execute a plan, all while stuck in a constant fog of confusion and exhaustion.

In the worst days of my illness I had never given up, but a little stress was going to break me?  Why?  How?  The memories flood back to me even now.  On my darkest days, when I was tired and weak, I was reminded by everyone around me that the sun was still shining, I was still loved, and there was still joy to be found in life.  Every time Hubby tried, with tears of helpless frustration in his eyes, to make me smile and laugh, every time a friend took me to the mall or sent me a silly text message, or every time I had a rare good day and was able to forget the pain gave me fuel to keep going, keep fighting, and keep growing.  I never lost faith, and I never let the spirit die.

That fact, above all else, is what hit me when I heard Cernnunos speak to me.  I had forgotten the long arduous road behind me.  I had forgotten the scars, the landmarks,a nd the victories that were no small feat to overcome.  I had forgotten every moment I had been a warrior, and I had dismissed the belly laugh, the sunny day, and the touch of a lover for insignificant everyday hassles and annoyances.  I was throwing a tantrum over a broken crayon.  I certainly would never accept this behaviour from the four-year old.  Why on earth was I accepting it from myself?  It certainly wasn’t helping my in any way?  Help, not hinder, Autumn!

The message Cernnunos gave was not a bubble wrapped, candy coated assurance that everything will be copacetic as long as we think happy thoughts and keep a firm hand on the pixie dust.  It was to remind us of the reality that bad things will happen, probably to you and me, and we will be miserable and strained if we refuse to find some reminder that those bad things do not rule our lives, nor can we relinquish our responsibility to the earth because we’re tired of the bad days.  The message was, you might as well find some enjoyment in it and let that enjoyment get you through the rough spots.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many more of these recharging moments you begin to recognize once you start to acknowledge and appreciate them.  They’ve always been there. You’ve just been too wrapped up in a tantrum to notice.

Go now, whistle while you work.

Namaste.

Since its inception eight years ago my coven’s Mabon ritual has gained a reputation for being particularly poignant to most in attendance.  The ritual includes a guided meditation to the underworld for an audience with Hades and Demeter, essentially taking over the role of Persephone.  Sunday marked my second season participating in this ritual, and it had no less of an impact on me as last year’s audience.  Last year spoke of choices, some I  have made and some I that have yet to present themselves but are nonetheless imminent.  This year Demeter blessed me with courage and told me to weed out those things that no longer serve to my benefit as a follow up to her advice last year to plant my seeds.  This courage came after hades assured me that I am strong enough to weather the difficult path I have chosen, as it was my choice, as long as I tread wisely and without fear.  Hades called me a Warrior.

In my high school sophomore english class we read and discussed The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston.  At the time I was already on a slightly prematurely rocky road, and i was just starting to understand what it meant to not just survive, but to live life despite turmoil.  Still, I had not yet fully come to understand just what it means to be a Warrior.

When Hubby asked me to marry him he told me I was the woman he had always been looking for to walk beside him, fight along with him, and lead in his stead.  In the last year this bond has been significantly and repeatedly tested.  We have experienced loss, illness, financial troubles, and unemployment, but we have persevered.  Those struggles are not yet over, and we continue to do our best not to let these things affect our relationship.  Sometimes, however, the roadblock is our relationship itself.  This is when fighting for the good of our household becomes difficult.

Any strong woman can push through personal hardship, and I have.  My survival story started young.  At five years old I took full ownership of my parents’ faltering marriage and stared into the night’s oncoming headlights considering walking straight into them like an insect on the highway.  From there I learned to suppress things children aren’t supposed to know, hear, or feel.  I pushed from my memory the “tickle game” played by my mom’s one boyfriend and the “intimidation” and “which drug dealer is calling to threaten all our lives now” games played with subsequent men in her life.  My mom’s sickness and death, as well as my own inner struggles, gave me constant occasion to revisit the thoughts I’d had of “joining the night” years before.  I tried several times, lost myself several more, and eventually tried running away from it all.  Half grown but still scared, I was a survivor still fighting for her life against her life.
Like most things in this world, you can never leave the past behind, but you can use it to strengthen yourself for future blows.  In Philadelphia I’ve found myself up against hurdles I never imagined I could clear, but none I let defeat me completely.  I’ve kept my soul in the wakes of death, loss, intrusion, emotional and physical abuse, sexual assault, sickness, grief, and a storm that still rages inside me at times.  There were times I just wanted to stop fighting it and let life take its course and swallow me, and there were times I gave up and it almost did.

All these things were easy in comparison to fighting for our good when it may mean giving up a piece of myself, but a good Warrior knows there are times when the only course of action is to fall.  Sometimes our benefit lies in me accepting ideas or options I cannot fathom living with or welcoming into my home.  Sometimes what is best for us hurts me or comes as a detriment to my goals.

I continue to meditate on what it really means, at this juncture in my life, to be a true Warrior.  Do I know when to make peace and when to fight for what I need?  Do I know how to mediate?  Do I know how to heal?  Do I know how to preserve myself while striving to help others?  Do I know how to recognize the honour and worth in myself?  What else is there for me to discover about myself before I can call myself a Warrior, and at what cost will I gain the knowledge I need to continue my path?

I leave you with this, dear readers.  Look deep inside yourself and find and redefine the Warrior within you.

This is my first post about a day of celebration, and it seems fitting that it would be about Mabon. This will be both an informative and introspective post, as many of them will be that center around sabbats and celebrations. Astrologically, Mabon is the Autumn Equinox, the first day of Autumn. The day is balanced, half day half night, and we are preparing for the end of the year. As Wiccans, we celebrate the Goddess as she ages from Mother to Crone and the God as he prepares for death and re-birth. This is a day to draw family close and celebrate the harvest and tie up loose ends as we prepare for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection. This is a time to enjoy the fruits of our labour and give thanks for the bounty that will sustain us throughout the winter. Some common workings at Mabon include prosperity, security, and balance, and we adorn ourselves and our homes with the colours of Autumn, apples, pomegranates, nuts, and breads. At Mabon we give offerings to the land in thanks for the harvest, dry herbs and vegetables for use during the cold season, and make wine (or mead for us mazers). The children make corn and apple dolls and help with baking breads. As a parent, this is often the time when we start planning indoor activities, as the time for hours spent in the park and yard is coming to a close. I can generally feel the changing of the seasons about a week before the wheel officially turns no matter where in the country I reside. Being a native of Northern California, my sense of the seasons has always relied on intuition since San Francisco has a slightly different seasonal schedule than the traditional wheel has. The air smells, feels, and moves differently, and I always start to grow more introspective. For me, Mabon is a time to be thankful for friends, family, and all the blessings they bring to my life, and this year is even more special. One year ago was the first celebration Hubby and I spent with our current coven. Without this new family in my life the last year would have seemed insurmountable. No matter how hard the year’s path has been I have always had tight-knit support system to make sure I knew I was not walking it alone. Too often we are quick to reflect on the negative memories of our past, but this Mabon I am taking the time to remember the special times, learn from the trying times, and let go of the times that were just there to challenge me. Last year I was advised to plant my seeds in the winter instead of the spring and see what sprouted. Somehow I feel, and Hubby has mentioned as much, that the messages we received last year may be more appropriate this coming winter. We both have various irons in the fire, both individually and together, and this winter may be the time to actively pursue those irons and see which ones progress. The ritual we participated in last weekend told me I had too much on my plate. Maybe this is the time to see what really does not need to be there and what will be most beneficial to keep. This weekend, dear readers, is Mabon. If it moves you, take the time to pull your family close, however you define family, and think for a moment about what you have worked for and what you are thankful to have been blessed with in the last year. Above all, know you are blessed and loved. Brightest Blessings and a Glowing Mabon!

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