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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.
Mabon, the second and middle harvest, is a day of balance, sharing, and “reaping what we sow”. It’s the time for contemplation and awareness of the thin line between light and dark. It’s a time for valuing and conserving.
We celebrate, but we also start to look towards what needs to be completed. What is reaching a natural end? What projects need to be wrapped up? What ones have run fallow and need to be let go so that we have enough to make it through the winter?
Quite often our rituals focus on celebrations to fuel us as we wrap up the tasks of our fruitful seasons. In my case, I’ve always planted my seeds at Mabon, and the dark season has become my fruitful season.
This year Mabon hits us at the tail end of what has been an extremely rough Mercury Retrograde for most people close to me, heightening the need for balance and contemplation. It’s hurt a lot, even by my standards, and I’ve felt all week like many of us are being set up for some pretty serious trials, but out of it I can feel the rich soil I’m cultivating for the months ahead.
As always, my Mabon solitary celebration takes a closer look at balance. This time it’s opening me up to just how much the dark side of that light/dark balance affects me. I’ve been meditating on how it can aid me instead of holding me back and how to go about using it properly. Because of the retrograde I’ve been extremely raw and emotional. Miscommunication is rampant. Relationships are teetering. Plans are failing. My world is burning to the ground, and while it took more than one match, I’m holding one of them. There’s very little light left to cling to for the season, and what there is is blinded by the conflagration. Fire. What is fire but light in the darkness? What is fire if not the transformation we started at Lughnassad. What is fire if not a chance for rebuilding. Still, there has to be balance. I cannot just let uncontrolled fires rage, and while the ones on the outside might be out of my control, the ones on the inside are my power and passion, and the key to not being consumed by them is to use their light to create that balance.
I decided weeks ago that the period between Mabon and Samhain would be a period of stepping back and contemplating my life and all the questions Mabon asks of us. The results of retrograde may have shouted them in my face, but the quiet creeping darkness of the days to follow will help be find the dark places I need to reconcile myself with. The fading light I feel around me gives me just enough to see the outline of the trials before me, but not enough to know where they’ll lead me, and that’s part of the lesson.
Mabon is a twilight. It will help me let go where I need to in order to preserve my energy for the storms worth weathering this winter, because they’re coming. The twilight reminds us that the deep dark is coming, and we can’t avoid it. We must embrace the chaos of the storm to survive it, and we must embrace the unseen in the darkness to navigate it. I have to have faith that I can.
Go now, find your balance.
Lughnasadh always brings an interesting energy with it. While Lugh won a lot of trials in his life through sheer skill, some of that skill was humour and wit, and there is never a shortage of humour or wit in the messages that come through this time of year. But what else? In honouring Lugh we remember the funerary games he organized for his foster mother, Tailtiu. We play games of skill and celebrate our respective talents. We dance, sing, enjoy the life energy of summer thriving around us. Now let’s incorporate the celebration of Lamas, the first harvest. Traditionally the first grains would be used to make bread to bless the occasion as the community came together to enjoy the bounty of harvest. Sometimes bread was baked in the shape of the Green Man in honour of the sacrifice he gives so that we may thrive. In all of this there is a theme of both celebration of the light and recognition of the dark as we begin to notice the days shortening, reminding us to be thankful for the harvest that will sustain us in the coming winter.
In my practice I’ve used it as a time to cleanse and bless my hearth and home, fortifying our household for the year to come with the rich energies of summer. This year I took a deeper look at that practice. Yes, I will probably still cleanse our home and reinforce our crystal grids, but the more meditation I’ve done the more thought I’ve given to the “hearth” in my life. While my tangible household is a brick and mortar place, my home is transient, my family scattered between the coasts, farther once I incorporate metamours. So what of this tribe? What of our hearth? How can we be cleansed and fortified for the year to come?
The beautiful thing about our Ohana is that everyone, no matter how far away or how little involved, brings something to the tribe. We each have our strengths, skills and talents that enrich the energy of the whole. There is not a single one of us who doesn’t work hard and strive to really experience life in their own way, and this energy finds its way to the core of what makes us strong as a unit. Those skills and strengths become our grains, and with some nurturing and encouraging, those talents flourish. Through their harvest we begin to manifest our best selves, and we become the bread men of Lamas, ingested to feel the blessings of the very earth that grounds and holds us. So, the hearth? The hearth is community, fired with our dedication to each other. It’s love, support, and solidarity, but it’s also sacrifice. We each give at one point or another so that the others may thrive. When each of my partners’ family becomes my family, and we weave a web of compassion and love, we become a strong tribe. Through that web we feel each other’s joy and pain. Through that web none of us can starve no matter how cold the winter might get, and because we’ve got Lugh on our side we do it with the flare of laughter and maybe some smartassery. Ok, a lot of smartassery.
Aloha, and Blessed Lughnasadh
Go now, celebrate your talents!
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
Yesterday was Beltane, and I didn’t have sex once. In fact, I turned it down for physical reasons. Later that day an acquaintance posted how hard Beltane was for those who are single or otherwise unable to have sex, and I realized just how many people miss the point. Yes, the lore of Beltane centers around sex, but like any lore, there are layers and layers of meaning, and no one meaning is correct. I’ve always had issues with events that center around kink and sex in relation to Beltane, because I feel like so much is lost in the need to free the libertine, especially in a group setting.
Let’s step back a moment, and I’ll tell you a story.
Two years ago I started running. My first focus was consistency. Making it happen on a regular basis was a struggle, but last year I began to focus on theat first mile. How was it improving as i went? How was I feeling after each new time landmark? Was I keeping that time and endurance consistent? Last week I hit a pretty big deviation in my mile. It wanted more. Not just faster, but it wanted more….something. Today I threw it all off course. Instead of the straight timed distance run, and int he spirit of the season, I chose a multilevel course on the elliptical that mimics a run through a state park. Despite the extra complexity, it shaved a noticeable chunk of time off my first mile, and an internal check begged me to keep going. By the time i was done with the second mile I was ready for more. Unfortunately I had more to accomplish today, but the energy raised by that second mile was powerful.
So, back to Beltane. Yesterday I recognized the energy of the season manifesting differently. There were primal urges, yes, but there was so much more beneath it. You see, Beltane isn’t about what fuels us, it’s about the spark that ignites us to push to heights we didn’t know we were capable of. It takes us out of a comfort zone and tell us to quit limiting ourselves to what we think we’re ready for. It reminds us we are beings of powerful energy and awe inspiring abilities. That we can make change and manifest our lives in ways even we can’t imagine yet. Yes, many people find that inspiration and raw power in sex, because it’s one of the most primal ways we have of letting go and letting our real power surge inside us. Sex makes us, for an instant, a different being all together. It allows us to step outside of our physical existence and experience the world around us, the universe, and yes, other humans, in ways the body cannot.
So no, this Beltane I didn’t have sex once…..but the spark of Beltane was very much alive inside me.
Go now, feel the spark.
The last several months have brought a lot of change to Carnival Clifford. Most have been good. All have been necessary. It means I’ve had very little energy and even less cohesion to actually write a blog. I would like to say I’ll be back on a schedule, but honestly I am no less frazzled and stretched thin than I was in April. I can only promise you I haven’t forgotten about Pearls and Pentagrams.
If last year was the year of career, and this year the year of creativity, I feel very much like next year has already begun to have its seeds planted in spirit. Year of coven? Maybe. Year of community? Definitely.
I’ve felt drawn for a while now to find a new group with whom to practice. While my personal work has gotten exponentially powerful and my spirituality has become more rooted and vibrant than it has been in a long time, I feel a need for community, and that’s not something I’ll get anywhere else.
Last week I attended the first group ritual I’ve been to in way too long, and it was fitting that the deity invoked were both Carnival Clifford patrons. We’ve all been so exhausted by even the good changes that family practice has fallen by the wayside, and while I have not forgotten the work I put in with Brighid to get me where I am at this moment, I’d lost a lot of steam when it came to working with her properly to keep up the momentum.
Being in sacred space with my family and feeling the buzz of community did in less than an hour what I thought would be a long term goal. My spirit returned to me. I know there’s a lot of muck yet to trudge through, but I know this is where I’m meant to be, and i am certain there’s a brighter place for me and my family on the other side.
Go now, feel the spirit of community.
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.
This year has been rough, for many of us. I don’t mean ” I stubbed my toe and had to get a pretty serious ingrown toenail removed” rough; I mean “my soul got ripped from my very core and turned into mashed potatoes and taken to some sinister potluck in Hell, and had to go find it and figure out how to make it a soul again” rough. You may have noticed a lot of radio silence this year, as I’ve spent a lot of time inside myself trying to sort out what I wanted it to look like. What better time to remodel than after a pack of demons has rampaged through your inner temple and torn it to shreds from the inside out. Ok, maybe that’s a bit histrionic, but that’s what it felt like most of the time.
At Yule we are prompted to give up what no longer serves us, what harms us, and what stands in our way. We keen, we burn, we eschew what we can no longer afford to hold in our lives. People, things, sentiments, everything must go! As we say goodbye to this darkness within we invite the new light that grows with the seasons. We accept the sunlight into us to shine bright with hope and renewal, and we celebrate that we have survived the longest nights.
This year I have enough friends who have opted out of the holidays to feel it in my heart. Some have lost loved ones. Others are having health or financial hardships. Still others have just become jaded for their own personal reasons. This is not a new phenomenon, but it has been a bit more pervasive this year, but it always reminds me of my own holiday spirit and the lessons that come to be from the holidays. I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating, so excuse me while I wax a little Hallmark Special on you all.
My mom loved Christmas. Every year, without fail, we had the tree that almost grazed our high ceilings covered in lights and ornaments. We had garland, worn from years of use, strung around the beams and banisters and enough light up animatronic scenes and characters to confuse the cats enough not to touch any of them. Some years the nativity scene would be almost buried in presents, but some years it would not, but I hardly noticed.
The warmth and joy that filled our house was tangible, and it instilled in me a Christmas Spirit that goes far beyond commercial messages or expectations we place on ourselves, beyond the stress and the worry, and beyond all the jaded skepticism and religious bickering I see every day on the internet or the news. No, this Spirit is about love and togetherness. The memories we made decorating the tree have outlasted any gift I’ve ever been given. The snuggling on the couch watching Prancer and Miracle on 34th St is something I can still feel when I miss my mom around this time. The love I felt at Christmas just from the time we spent as a family is something I’ve carried with me and tried to emulate in my own family during the holidays no matter what our situation might be.
Here’s a story I have not yet told:
The second Christmas Hubby and I spent together was a bit bleak. We were i our first apartment together. I had just started having fibro issues and hadn’t worked much. All I wanted was a tree. The fake one my father in law had given us was in storage, and it was locked up until the 1st of the year because we were behind on our rent. Hubby’s grandparents had just replaced their tree, so they had an extra, which they offered to us. It was bigger than the space we had for it, and it shed like a nervous chinchilla. After an hour of measuring and furniture scooting I gave up. I was sad, but we had tried. Hubby, on the other hand, was not going to let me concede to a fake pine tree so easily.
I watched the wheels turn as he surveyed our kitchen and dining area, then we put the resulting plan to work. What we ended up with was a quarter of a tree. We had stood the base of the tree against the wall behind our kitchen table and only used the branches for the top three sides we could see. It was a bit of a stretch, but we decorated the hell out of that little patch of tree, and we laughed and sang the entire time. I knew then that there would never be a dark Christmas at our house even in the worst times. There have been years that have tested us, but we have managed to find ways to make every one special.
The point? I’m getting to it.
The point is that Yule isn’t about eradicating the darkness, it’s about finding hope and joy in the light. It’s the stars and moon at night, just as we must also embrace the shows and shade in the daytime. It’s about approach and soul building. When I eventually found my soul, it wasn’t really any different than it had been before. I merely had to scrape off a layer of negativity, pick out some things that made it seem spoiled, and put it back where it belongs. The darkness didn’t ruin it, and the light didn’t do anything but show me what was already there.
This year has been rough, and we weren’t sure we’d be able to even afford gifts for the kids. When I left work with a flight bag full of small handmade gifts I never imagined I wouldn’t make it all the way home, but a few days later I returned to California feeling deflated. I hadn’t even send cards. We just hadn’t had the money.
I put everything in a box and sent it to Hubby and his girlfriend hoping it would at least make him smile for Christmas. The rest I carried with me on trips I picked up for the time I was supposed to be home. The cards, I sent. I figured that was the end of it. Then I saw the smiles on the faces of people I saw on my trips and the happy Facebook messages from people who were surprised by my cards. I heard Hubby and Mouse’s voices when they called me after opening their gifts on Yule, and they were so full of joy that, while I was still homesick, my spirit was renewed.
Yesterday as I placed a blue and while Yule/Christmas bouquet at my mom’s headstone, full of her favorite flowers, I caught the scent of pine that rose from it and was immediately reminded that I get to spend the holidays with family I haven’t seen on Christmas in many years, that I have been able to spend the better part of this year with people who are no longer with us and that I have been able to be a part of the lives of the children in our family again.
This was my first home, and it remains a very special part of me and my Christmas heritage. When I got back to y room I set up an impromptu alter, some festive things my grandma had left as a surprise for me, and the cards Hubby had brought me on a surprise overnight visit, and my heart was immediately lighter.
Light. There it is.
Light of hope. This doesn’t mean suddenly everything is better. This doesn’t mean all the injuries we’ve sustained this year are gone. This means there is hope. This means a light has been shed on our strength and our resilience. This means a light has been shed on those around us who love us, so we know we’re not in this alone. That light means guidance and a promise that if we are growing we are alive.
Light. Light reminds us that there is more than darkness. The fact that we recognize darkness is, in part, due to the very light we hail, as we are reminded when we speak to balance.
Aloha, Light. Aloha, Darkness. Aloha Christmas.
Go now, be joyous.