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This Ostara comes on the heels of an extremely trying winter. A breakup, health issues, household stress, and the constant feeling that nothing I attempted to nurture would ever thrive made it almost impossible to focus on much of anything at a time of year that is generally when I’m the most productive. As we approached Imbolc things began to lighten just a bit, but it was enough to give me enough hope to ride the waves that seemed to be carrying me way deeper than I thought I could find my way back from.
Then I was asked to be a voice. I was invited to speak to a small group of women about my experience and the lessons learned doing Good Girl and how my life has been changed by it all. I talked for a long time, and I’m sure I said a lot of useful things, but the one thing that stuck out in my mind was the very first bullet point.
Healing is not a one time event.
Let me repeat that. Healing is NOT a one time event.
Well, hell, guys. For a year I’ve been beating myself up because I thought I was failing, convinced that all the progress I thought I’d made was a lie, when really I was learning how to live again in a whole new way. I needed to cut myself a little slack and acknowledge how far I’d actually come, even if it seemed like I’d been stumbling and bumbling my way through most of it.
I tried to keep that in mind as Ostara approached, and yesterday as the sun rose around my plane I felt it filling me with a new energy I’ve never felt before, and it dawned on me. I haven’t been failing all winter. I haven’t been fallow. I haven’t neglected my seeds. For the first time in my life I went deeper into the dark season than ever before, and when I emerged I was truly transformed. I was taken to the brink, and yeah, I had to die a little to really complete my chrysalis. What Ostara brought me this year was not just new light or new growth but new life, new eyes, and new breath.
Is all the stress and pain gone? No, that’s real life. Healing and lessons and growth don’t wait until it’s convenient for mundane life, but the choice is mine to focus behind me on the cold darkness of winter or look ahead of me to the bright warmth of the coming seasons. The dark will return as the wheel turns, but I know I can not only survive it but pull from it the lessons of my deepest fathoms.
No, healing is not a one time event, and I don’t in any way believe it’s all over, but along with that healing I have grown to a new level of awareness and empathy, of intuition and intensity, of passion and power. I have claimed my place in the universe. I am ready to use the stardust with which I was born.
This year Imbolc was very quiet and subtle. I’ve been sick and healing from several setbacks, but I’ve also met an unmatched capacity for love and serendipity, creeping in from the balance of solstice. I chose not to do a set ritual this year. I didn’t even journey, I merely put on some music and began to dance and stretch. I had originally felt that the aspect of Brighid that would come to me would be the poet or the smith, as I’ve finally started writing again, and I’ve felt forged by the events of the last several months. What I was not expecting was Brighid the warrior. Don’t get me wrong. I’m strong; I’m a survivor. However, I’ve never been known to be on the frontline. I’m the healer that comes in afterwards. I’m the strategist who finds ways to avoid the fight. I’m the wife who stays at home and supports her soldier, and I always have been, but in this moment it was just me.
Our family is facing some tough choices, and I’ve felt like nothing I can do will protect us from failure. For the first time in a long time I don’t have any answers, and it’s not just me surviving this time; it’s us. Our country is under attack from within, not for the first time, but people are coming together and marching and making our voices heard as a country. I’ve felt bad that I’ve been sick or working when these big events happen. I want to stand up. I want to shout. I wanted to speak up against the men who stood in my workplace spouting hateful words, but my family depends on me to keep this job, so I kept quiet and wrote poetry in my head. I felt defeated, so when Brighid the warrior came to me and called me her child I felt like a disappointment to my goddess. For years she’s provided for me, and in this aspect I have not given everything I could have, but she wrapped me in her warmth and gave me a very important lesson.
There is a time and place for action, and this is going to be a long fight. It’s ok to let the people who are out there raising their voices now stand for me, and when they need to rest and recharge, those of us who have watched on the sidelines will be able to take over and keep the momentum going. Sometimes the loudest voices are the ones who whisper quietly on pages and surreptitious pipelines while the fires and the crowds distract attention. The quiet warriors are powerful, like a silent rage that flows under the surface of this resistance. We are the veins of the revolution, keeping the blood pumping and the tides churning. We are the spirit of America. We are Brighid the warrior.
The past few months have been rough, and I haven’t been alone in my struggles. It seems like everyone around me has gone through family problems, major depression, personal crisis, medical or financial hardships, or some combination of those things since Beltane, enough that I had to stop and wonder if there was any significance to it. Today I started to get the whispers of an answer.
This Litha is particularly strong, as it coincides with the full moon. This is the day of the Sun. It’s the time for harvesting the herbs we’ll use for healing and rituals, making it an auspicious day for work yet to come. That raw, masculine energy is high, and we are full of powerful potential.
At Ostara the world was bright, and we watched each other build cocoons with visions of being beautiful butterflies, looking forward to the day we would spread our wings and soar on the sunlight. We waited patiently, and little by little we began to change. This is where the transformation began, and we needed that time to be at full strength for what came next.
As I’ve written several times, transformation is painful. In the second half of this process, our entire form changes, and the cocoon has to be broken. Our safe little world has to be opened up to an exciting, but terrifying, sky. It’s bloody. It’s traumatic. Everything about us must change. The caterpillars we were, and the cocoon we used to shield ourselves during our transformation must be cast aside in order to become what we are meant to be. Those cocoons may have felt safe, but they were dark and restricting. We weren’t meant to live there.
These battles we’ve been fighting for months are necessary for the transformation we’re each undertaking. They’re making us stronger, moving us towards who we really are instead of the mere possibilities we have been, but only if we’re willing to let go of the caterpillars and the temporary shells they built around us.
So, back to Litha and the sun we meet as we emerge. Sun means fire, and the fires of Litha burn hot, hotter this year than I have ever felt. For many of us that fire has raged internally. It purifies and transforms us, but it can be destructive if we fear it instead of dancing with it. I’m feeling change I set in motion years ago, and I have felt it in every cell in my body for the past three months. It has tested my faith in myself. It has tested my relationships. It has tested my ability to function at mundane tasks while every part of me feels torn apart, but in the end I…in the end we all…will emerge from the darkness that has surrounded us. I feel it happening a little more every day. I see it happening around me. It may not be over for some, but it will get better. I know we will all pull through this and fly together in the sunlight.
Go now,be who you were meant to be
It has never been planned this way, but between Yule and Brighid every year the seeds are planted for what will become the focal point of that year. Last year I interviewed for the opportunity of a lifetime, a flight attendant position with the airline I have worked for for almost a decade. I got my acceptance call on Brighid in the middle of a blizzard.
It has taken nearly a tear for me to adjust to the lifestyle change. The traveling and the service were easy. The hard lesson was one of isolation. Accustomed to the support system around me, I had to learn to get over my own inertia and face the intimidating silence of being alone.
I’ve had to handle my frustration, my sadness, my fear, and even my happiness on my own, and though it’s been one of the most difficult periods of growth I’ve ever faced, it’s given me more faith in myself as a result. Last week, after a round of cancelled plans, I walked into a poetry slam not knowing a soul and got on stage as a stranger. Taking up a chair at a table for four was a bit painful, but as the room filled people would sit and chat for a moment or two between poets, and by the time I knew it the night was over. I had done it. I had gone out alone.
From that experience came a voice from within echoing a push I’ve felt since the beginning of the year to take some big strides with my creative work. Now that I feel fulfilled and content with my career and confident in my abilities to hold my dreams in my hands and know what they feel like, I feel inspired to pursue other goals with the same passion.
Passion. The one thing that has always driven me no atter what held me back. When I’ve been sick, broke, broken, and desperate. When I’ve been fallow and lost. When I’ve been alone. Passion has always kept me pressing forward, and it is that passion that I find when I call for Brighid this Imbolc. As her fire burns within me, it fuels the passion that dries me. Her flame gives heat to my words, movement to my music, and life to my art. Last year was my year of water and fluidity. This year is my year of fire. My year of Passion.
I know this is a couple of weeks late, but life has a way of getting chaotic around Lammas every year.
As with any harvest festival, at Lughnasad we tend to focus on celebration and gratitude for bounty. Indeed, we should be extremely grateful for the boons bestowed upon us and celebrate the rewards of hard work. There is, however, a much more important side to this harvest. This is where we begin to tear up the plants that are no longer producing fruit in order to plant late summer crops. This is where we sort the unusable from the produce worth keeping. This is where we make decisions about what we can store and what needs to be thrown away.
We tend to be a modern culture of acquisition and fear of loss, which leads to hoarding, surplus, and waste. We do it with physical possessions, people, and emotions that no longer have a place in our lives. It’s hard to let go for fear of starving, but holding on to everything indiscriminately means risking the whole lot being spoiled or there not being enough room for what’s good and healthy. This can be a painful process. The wrong choice can be devastating, but even the right call can be tough at first.
This year has been one of, quite frankly, too many goodbyes. What started as a fruitful year all too quickly fell fallow and began to rot, and the only way to survive has been to make some terrifying sacrifices. I pared down my commitments, simplified a lot of my personal life, and cut ties with people who were detrimental to my growth. There have been deaths that touched me personally and a second chance that blossomed into a beautiful friendship only to be pulled from the ground like a weed and left for dead.
All of these things have weighed me down when there are so many things for which I should be grateful. All of these things have cast a shadow on a season that should be full of light, music, and celebration. There is too much rain, too little sunshine, and no way to know what will survive enough to see me through the dark season. I imagine this is how Lugh felt throwing a funereal feast for his mother who became an agricultural goddess. Imagine mourning the loss of a parent while exalting her gift to the Mother Earth and her people.
As anyone who suffers from depression knows, there’s a constant dichotomy at play. We must try to keep pushing forward, We must try to keep finding joy in the every day. We must feel our sorrows, move on from them, and keep looking for sunshine. On Lughnasad I am reminded that this is only the first harvest. There is more to come. There is more to eschew, but there is also more to grow and store in my heart and spirit. Not everything is lost. Not everything has dies. Not everything is gone, and that which is probably needs to be. These fields will not be fallow forever unless I stop cultivating.
Go now, cultivate and know the sun is shining, even if you can’t see it.
This Ostara, despite weather in the low 40s, Hubby and I attended the first Ostara ritual we’ve been to in, I’m ashamed to admit it, a couple of years. When the invitation came through I felt it was something we had to make happen. Our family has been extremely blessed this year, and I needed to offer some of that fertile energy back to the earth to show my gratitude.
“Spring”, the High Priest started as I stood in the circle on a close-to-freezing March afternoon and tried to wrangle the sun’s warmth to sustain me, “is a work in progress. It’s not summer. It’s not there yet.” Nothing could have exemplified his meaning quite like my own breath visible in the air around me, when just days before I had been in sandals and a skirt eating ice cream in the park.
His words struck a very strong chord this week. After five weeks of training and a week of recuperating, I started a job that has been a personal goal for over six years, to become a flight attendant. I knew I had all the training, but I was terrified. Would I know it all at the right time? What if I really messed up? Would I be ok? The confidence that had pushed me onward in training quickly deteriorated around me the night before my first day, that morning, and well into my first flight. Just before landing my crewmember looked at me and said, “Breathe. You’re doing just fine”. The ice in my nerves melted, and as we got through each flight over the next few days I began to feel more comfortable.
On my last day of the trip I made a mistake that I considered pretty big. As much as my crew told me it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, I beat myself up about it for the rest of the day. The ice returned, but so did the words from our ritual. A work in progress. I, too, am a work in progress. I am not yet the flight attendant I will be. The nerves will subside, but they also may return sometimes, and that’s OK. I am OK, and I will continue to be OK. I’ll get there, but the only way to do so is to keep moving forward.
The summer will come. My summer will come. Hail, and welcome.
Go now, push forward.
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!