windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Grow)
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This week, I'm reading Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience by pagan theologist Gus diZerega. It's the kind of book that I'm slowly reading with pencil in hand, circling passages and writing notes in the margins. I love the way that he insightfully and sensitively distills both religious traditions into some key essentials that explain the many barriers of understanding between us. There have been a lot of "a-ha!" moments where I realize that something he's saying makes so much sense but that I'd never thought of it in those terms. There's been something sweet and healing about those discoveries while I'm hosting so many Christian houseguests! :)

This passage, though, from a section on living within a pagan worldview, has been my favorite thus far:

Of all the world's peoples, we moderns have traveled farthest from the harmony of the world and spirit, and a daily perception that our world is sacred. We are almost completely surrounded by our own artifacts, and we see them through the lenses of our own preoccupations with power, profit, and pride. We also feel the emptiness that results.

Our situation is not really so bleak. While our society has obscured the sacred with everything it touches, we moderns can still reconnect with Spirit, with the sacred and divine, in honoring and pondering the lessons contained within what is most timeless in nature, and therefore least susceptible to our manipulation. It is here that Wiccans, and most other Pagans, find their scripture, a scripture that is renewed with every seed that sprouts, every droplet of rain that falls, and every day that dawns.

In seeking to experience genuine spiritual value we are increasingly drawn outside human society, into the timeless cycles of nature, and of life, in order to grasp that which is larger than us all. Doing so puts the frantic hustle and bustle of our lives into a different, and more fitting, context. So long as we are infatuated with the promise of technology and power, we remain largely deaf to the realm of Spirit. We are entranced, instead, by the narrow realm of ego, a fragment thinking it stands alone and seeking endlessly to be a whole while simultaneously turning its back on that from which it manifests and which sustains it.

Once we realize the ultimate emptiness of seeking power and possession, we are open once again to the more subtle but infinitely deeper truths graspable through nature and nature's cycles. We discover the true and sacred context which gives meaning to our lives. This context encompasses not only the cycles of nature where in many cases they are most apparent, but underlies all existence, even enobling and lifting up the secular world as well.

As a manifestation of Spirit, Nature becomes a source of wisdom. The cycles of the seasons are owned by neither corporation nor government. The phases of the moon are unrelated to either Madison Avenue or Washington, D.C. No human purpose mediates our encounter with them. They are available to all. They directly manifest value, and we need no access to copyright or cash in order to perceive it.

...

For us, it is in and through nature's processes that we most directly find our inspiration and our home. Those of us who have been blessed by the Goddess's presence know beyond doubt that this world is sacred, that it is permeated by Her love, and that this path can be one of shining beauty and profound wisdom.


Reading that is giving me a kick-in-the-butt. Like, "I should shut off Netflix and the Internet and de-activate my iPhone, avoid all non-essential shopping, and spend the entire summer outside somewhere!" The call of the Walden Ponds of the world is strong. <3

What's inspiring you lately? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (everything changes stars)
On Sunday morning, there was no mistaking the fact that it had shifted into autumn. I'd arrived, Friday afternoon, wishing I'd packed bug spray and shorts and now it was misty and cold and everywhere I was seeing the first glow of color on the changing leaves. The night before, walking to ritual, there had been something like diamonds winking from the dark grasses beside the path, little landbound fireflies sending a few more messages out into the night before the seasons turned. I had never seen anything so amazing in the natural world as those motionless, pulsing stars at my feet.

Others were awake before me, and everytime the cabin door by my headboard opened and hissed closed, a draft of damp, chilly air wafted over me and tempted me to abandon my warm bed. It finally succeeded. I got dressed, packed my things into my carry-on bags, and then took my camera out into the land one more time. Everything was cloaked in mist, still and quiet, restful and contemplative. All was well with me, truly well.

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I walked the path up to the main house for breakfast. Someone had a deck of tarot cards out for a morning card draw with the question of, "What are you bringing home from Diana's Grove this weekend?". I drew the Five of Swords, or in this Celestial Tarot deck I was pulling from, the constellation Pegasus. Not sure what to make out of it, as it certainly didn't feel very comforting or welcome a gift to bring back from the Grove with me. :)

After a final session with my Circle of Support, the whole group got together for a fare-thee-well check-out. Everyone got a few minutes to share a memory from some time at the Grove in the past and a memory from this weekend in particular. I felt just overwhelming gratitude. The community there is extraordinary, the women who founded it inspirational, the commitments that people have made to keep it growing and vibrant remarkable. I am lucky to have found Diana's Grove while it existed in this incarnation, on this land. I can't help but wish I'd arrived sooner, somehow, that I'd been able to go through the leadership training programs, but that is small potatoes compared to the blessed sense of gratitude I was feeling. I loved every person in that room. My soul was perfectly content--at peace, at home.

After hugs and goodbyes and another delicious lunch, I had a few hours to myself before it was time for me to leave for the airport. The Grove got quieter as cars rumbled down the gravel roads and away. The bunks in our cabin were stripped, one by one. I decided to go and walk, by myself, the big labyrinth mown into the meadow. I have walked by that labyrinth so many times and never stepped in. I never really understood what, beyond a meditative aid, a labyrinth was meant to deliver. I overheard someone say that you must consider what you're looking for in the middle before you begin the walk, so I stopped on the threshold and considered what it was that I needed to find in the center of that winding coil. There was only one thing, and I didn't consider it to be related, at all, to my letter to Persephone. (Though I realize now, they very much were.)

In the center of the Labyrinth, I hoped to find self-esteem... )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (everything changes stars)
I was anxious on the walk to ritual that night. I should have gone ahead without my cabinmates, but they had the flashlights and parts of the road were muddy, so I waited as they layered and relayered their ritual wear for warmth and made last minute stops at the outhouses on the way. The road was empty, we were the last to make the walk and I was pretty sure at the pace we were making, we'd be not only the last to arrive but also, quite unmistakably, late. All of my anxiety, my hurry, my worry about being rude jarred me out of what is usually for me a very solemn walk. I was pretty miserable.

I arrived, at a speedwalk, to Carter Shay where a double ring of chairs was arranged around a small fire that was burning blue and green and sunset colors, popping sparks up into the circle of sky among the towering trees of the grove. I found, and took, one of the few remaining chairs in the back row and watched the fire for a few moments before we began. It was cold out and I was wearing, pretty much, everything I'd brought with me. Jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, fleece zip-up jacket, hooded ritual cape, and butterfly shawl. I was so bulky, I felt like a linebacker and felt comfortable but disconnected from my surroundings. Sitting in the back row gave me a feeling that I was observing, more than participating, in the event as the ritual began. Watching the majority of the group leave their chairs to move closer to the fire, I wanted to cry. Really cry. I was feeling terrible about myself. I felt like, I have no business being within this community, and all sorts of other uncharacteristically unkind thoughts. It was tempting to stay in my second row chair, watch the backs of the participants, and cry. I felt like the perpetual outsider. I felt profoundly alone.

In my pocket, folded up, was the letter I'd written to Persephone. My plea. That part of myself I wanted her to walk into the Underworld with. The seed that needed to be buried, out of my hands, so that the transformative powers of the earth could allow it to sprout. The part of me I wanted her to embrace and heal. It wasn't worded this way, but in the days following, I can tell you what my letter was all about. I feel worthless. Ineffective, unimportant, small. I don't see the positive impact of my actions. I think that if only I had a clear vision, a detailed Calling, of where I should go in life that I could then work towards becoming that worthwhile person. I could feel good about myself if I was utilizing my skills in making the world the proverbial 'better place'. But I don't know where to go and I don't see a clear vision of my own best self and so I circle around, uncertain, in this whirlpool current of low self-esteem. So I'm sitting in the back row of ritual with that letter in my fist, watching the fire, watching everyone moving in the firelight, and thinking to myself with hot tears in my eyes, I don't have anything worth contributing here.

It was awful. Low self-esteem isn't new to me, but it hasn't ever intruded before into my ritual life. In ritual, I feel I have something to give. In ritual, I am comfortable in my skin. In ritual, my voice has value. So it was taking this one realm of power and opening the door between it and my self-doubt. (Misery!)

At some point, I forced myself out of the chair and forward into the group by the fire. The fire was really a marvel of fire-building. There was a central fire, small and dynamic, and it was contained within a circular low-wall of heavy logs, stacked like bricks in a wishing well. At some point, that fire was triggered into the outer wall and slowly, the flames extended around the entire circle, creating this incredible cauldron of fire, a portal or empty space just past the walls of flame. We were each given the chance to drop in our letters. I went early and dropped my letter into the center. It disappeared, immediately, out of my sight.

I had time to watch the fire and feel gratitude for its architect, the Grove's resident cook and man of many talents, as he stepped forward again and again, almost entirely unnoticed, to feed or adjust something. We were chanting, solemnly, and I felt this yearning for Persephone to hold me, to heal me, to take away the mental anguish I was feeling.

Deep Calls to Deep
and Deep Calls to Deep.


Again and again, we sang those lines. Dozens of letters were thrown into the fire. I remembered, as I sang, something that had been said during Ritual Conspiracy when the chant was introduced.

Deep Calls to Deep


The place where my deep passions meet the world's deep needs.

and Deep Calls to Deep


The World wants, needs, me to be me, to become me.

We go down as She goes down
We follow her under ground

Hail to Persephone!
Who heals the souls below.

Deep calls to deep
and deep calls to deep.


Persephone can heal anything but what I put into her hands, like burying a seed, I must let go of. I am the seed I must let go of. I cannot predict or control what I will grow into. I don't even have to know what sort of seed I am. I just have to trust the process, relax into the earth, and know that every day I am undergoing my own becoming. I am a work in progress.

Deep calls to deep
and deep calls to deep.


At the end of ritual, I stayed behind at the fire with many others for some additional singing and voice work. I sang my heart out and shifted my chair back, bit by bit, as the fire got hotter and hotter. I felt something cold strike my face and thought maybe I'd been burned by a spark from the fire. It happened again, though, and was distinctly cold. I looked up, into that circle of sky that the fire was sparking up into, the vault of stars and indigo sky and a wind picked up and in a spiraling cascade, the trees at my back released a sigh of leaves that surfed and settled into the fire, into Persephone's portal, across the ritual space and the participants still standing and seated within the circle. It was absolutely magickal. Fall, quite unmistakably, had arrived and it felt almost palpable that Persephone had descended with our letters into her kingdom under the earth. I felt a quietude, a sense of awe, an overwhelming sense of well-being as drops of water and whispers of leaves fell among me. It was time, for me at least, to make the walk back to the cabin.

Ahead of me, robed figures walked in the light of hand-held lanterns. Others, like me, made their way in darkness. I thought of how many people had made this walk at Diana's Grove and how many people felt transported into a timeless spirituality the way I did. I could be anyone, anywhere, anytime as I walked down the road of torches and starshine.

It was autumn, my own season of sovereignty, and I felt peaceful in my own skin. I skipped the dessert and companionship in the barn and chose, instead, to curl up in the warmth of my bunk and sleep a healing sleep.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink heart birds)
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At the new moon, celebrating the end of my month with Pink, I went to take down my pink-themed altar and to clear the space for Silver's work. The area had gotten cluttered with found treasures and gifts that seemed to pour in to acknowledge my achievements and breakthroughs. From my mom, as a get-well gift, there was a pair of necklaces, one pink and one purple, from a charity in Africa that employs AIDS/HIV affected women in meticulously rolling beads from colorful magazine paper. The other, a small statue of a white-robed girl with her face buried in a bouquet of pink flowers. It is as if she knew, precisely, what I would need to affirm, the girl who bought herself flowers for the first time this month. In the mail yesterday, a card from a virtual stranger with an exquisite image of a pink lotus blossom. Chunks of pink stone, kicked underfoot in a Chicago alley, a multi-faceted bead found sparkling amongst the trash in a tree planter at the exact moment when I said to myself, mentally, "Wow, every breath is a moment to model love in the world, isn't it?" Winged seeds my son handed over, with great excitement, because they were faery wings and rosebuds dried from my bouquet, that enshrined a compassionate moment to myself.

Isis came to watch my progress, looking radiant and modern. Her hair, normally braided and weighted down with a crown, was flowing in waves of rainbow black over her shoulders. She'd traded her pleated linen for a gauzy, Grecian floating sleeveless pink gown, fixed with silver clips over her sun-brown shoulders. She's sitting, uncharacteristically domestic, with a large piece of fabric draped over her lap and a needle and embroidery thread in hand.

There's nothing to mourn, she said with a warm smile my way, you are leaving nothing behind. The thread she stitched with was silvery-pink and iridescent, making small bits of color in the fabric as she sat and sewed conversationally.

"Mama, are you Lady Pink?"

I can be.

"This has been such a hard month. I thought this would be one where I'd really shine and now with it ending, I feel like I've only started to get it, that I'm seeing Pink, really seeing those lessons, starting to transform about three weeks too late. It has been hard to decide whether I need to devote to another Pink Month. I could learn a lot more if I did."

Every month of your life has been a Pink Month. Why do you think that next month will suddenly be different just because you will be studying another color? The Silver will be Pink, the Blue will be Pink, every month you will grow more into yourself and you were always meant to be Pink. Your compassion, your desire to serve, your goodness and love will shine through everything you do and will color everything you learn. You lose nothing by growing in other areas. Each month, you will find the way to give it away, to make a gift of it for someone else. That is your Pink work.

I cried, unsure what to say to such kindness, such compliment, such reassuring guidance. She finished her stitching, knotting and snapping excess thread away.

"Thank you. I needed to hear that."

You are devoted to living your life as a Song to Isis, are you not? Have you never stopped to listen to yourself sing it to me? Can you be so deaf, Rachel, to the music you are making? Beloved girl. Sweet, beloved girl. Sing your heart out. Every day, you serve me well.

It was time for her to go. She stood up, arms laden with her sewing project.

"I didn't know you were a seamstress."

I am not. You are. All of you are.

The room tilted, she spun, the cloth that she was holding floated down and spread itself out against a wall where I could see it. It was a work-in-progress, no doubt, and bigger than I could even take in all at once. Close up, I could see it was made of stitched hearts, both miniscule and fairly large in a rainbow of colors and textures and heart-like shapes. And together, though not entirely filled in, I could see the suggestion of a gigantic heart made up of all those smaller, individual hearts taking form. There, in one space, was a small over-round heart in a silver-pink iridescent thread that I recognized--Isis' latest stitches.

This is the song of your life. Everyone has one, but few see it before they die. Sing the song that only you can sing. Love, for me. Believe, for me. Live, for me.

And she was gone and only a faint ghostly memory of that embroidered field was left. The brilliance, the light, the sparkle, the warmth that had poured out of it was dazzling even still. Had I stitched that miraculous, infinitely detailed image? Of course not, She said from some distant place behind my ear, you sew, always, for others.

And I saw it! I saw friends and family and loved ones and strangers and passers-by I smiled at taking their turn to sit at my Song, stitching hearts of gratitude, hearts of acknowledgment that said, "Thank you" and "You don't know how much what you did meant to me" and "You wished me a good day on the worst day" and "You made a difference in my life". I saw myself sitting to weave a few stitches of thread into others' Songs, marking the places where they treated me with kindness, gave me the advice I needed, bandaged a wound, cheered me with their presence, inspired me to believe in myself, met my eyes and encouraged me to keep going, held a door open for me when my arms were overloaded. My Song is recorded by others, added to with every kindness I do, every act of compassion, every word and action that positively impacts someone else's life here. It is the feedback, the acknowledgement, the record of my Life lived.

A Goddess sewed one of the hearts, a token of my work's loving impact on her immortal existence, and I begin to feel, again for the first time, that my case is not so hopeless after all.

I do the work of Pink in the world and it is beautiful.

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windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (witch's circle)
As many of you know, on July 17th Glamourkin returned from a sixth month hiatus with more one-of-a-kind art pendants made from dilapidated books and bamboo. The shop, which has become a love song from collage muse [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden to her wife [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin, is only a handful of sales shy of the one thousand mark. Each pendant carries a little bit of magic and an empowering message, so that's really a lot of beautiful spellcraft winging out into the world.

I bought my first pendant on June 9th, 2008. It was a black and white illustration of a priestess with a crescent moon on her brow. The collaged text read, "her book of spells was love". I still remember the jolt when I spotted it in the crowd of pendants that was Glamourkin's first commercial release. It was my story. My hands, literally, shook as I waited for etsy.com to confirm that I'd successfully purchased it. It was as if Sarah saw down to the heart of me, saw everything I was and everything I most aspired to be, and poured it into that affirming pendant. It proclaimed a Truth about me and also challenged me to live up to that revealed Essence. Every last pendant, the past two years, has had a similar story. Now they all live together in a magical triple moon box, my box of spells, and each makes me better, more aware, more grateful, more daring, more something when I choose to put it on. Their magic grows.

In two years, I figured out, I've bought 26 items from Glamourkin, given and received them as gifts and still I have 35 Glamourkin pieces (pendants large and tiny as well as two necklaces) in that sacred box of mine. Thirty-five!

They say a lot about me--both what I believe and hold dear as well as what others see within me and choose to honor as a gift. Most of my favorites, I realized this month, are very much channeling the messages of Temple of the Twelve's Lady Pink. Love, compassion, care, service. Here they are:
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I have quite a few that suited my Black month's studies, too. It'll be interesting, as I go through the months and get to know the Colors, to see if my Glamourkins are predictive of what Colors I'm most in-tune with, what I'm most painted by, what Colors most claim me. What do you think? :D

Below the cut, images of the rest of my Glamourkin collection. )
What about you? Do you have a Glamourkin--or an entire collection of them? What have they taught you about yourself? What is it that catches your attention, that tells you which was meant to be yours?
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
Saturday, at dusk, [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and I dressed for the final ritual of the weekend at the Grove. Sarah looked like a dream twirling across the grass in the hand-dyed, hand-sewn ritual robe she'd bought from the Grove's ritual garb store. This ritual, unlike the others, we as participants had been invited in to co-create the elemental invocations. I'd been chosen by Center, and so while I helped set up some final candles at the Barn and took photos of Sarah's happy twirling, I was preoccupied with my obligations. What would I say?

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Just before ritual, I and the other three women who'd drawn Center as their element to call met for one last powwow. I'd had a strong vision of Center as the dark nothingness a breath before the cosmic Big Bang, that expectant moment of Pure Possibility. I was asked to speak for the group in the invocation, to stand in the Center and convey what I saw. We were invoking Center as that place, at the center of everything, at the center of ourselves that contains All That We Are, All That We Need, All That We Can Be. That core reserve of infinite potential, waiting power, and pure, divine essence. The others would orbit around me, whispering All That We Are, All That We Need, All That We Can Be as I stood in the center and twined it together. Marilyn Sue, our facilitator, asked if I wanted to do a dry run before ritual. I had to say no, frankly, because I had no idea what I was going to say. Not one clue, five minutes before. :D

Oh, ritual was beautiful, with each small group performing a different, empowering, inclusive invocation of their chosen element. When it was time for me to step into Center, the hairs on my arms stood at end and I knew what to say. It was that electrical-charged feeling of connection, that pure-fire flow of channeling. It worked and Center, as we'd conceived it, was there.

The beauty after that moment was that my working role was over and I was able to fall back into ritual, be surprised and embraced by the work of the other priests and priestesses, and have an emotionally rich experience within the genius ritual plan.

One by one, four priestesses stepped into the center of the circle. Each one held a bowl aloft and were there to carry the challenge of one of the four elements. Each stood in the center and gave their qualifications for being able to hold that element's challenge, sharing a story of one challenge of that type they had met in life. The sharing was extraordinarily brave and vulnerable and sobering. The heroics of those priestesses! I was openly crying. They were, indeed, capable of holding that challenge for us all.

We were each then called to take a rainbow ribbon, the string of our lives, and to visit the four priestesses, as we felt appropriate, to claim beads from their bowls representing the challenges of those four element types we'd met in our own lives. There was drumming and singing and candle light, slow movements and sacred exchanges between hero and priestess. Hands shaking, I reached into the bowls of colorful beads and strung them, one at a time, upon the string of my life. A challenge for fire, a challenge for water, a challenge for air, a challenge for earth. I whispered to each priestess and they met my eyes, unflinchingly. Some witnessed silently and others said, "Good Work, Hero" or something else to acknowledge my victories. I took one bead from each element, tied to a specific challenge I'd faced, but also representative of all the acts of heroism I'd undertaken in the same elemental way.

I sat and cried, running my fingers over the beads in the dark, drawing the ribbon through my hand and finally acknowledging not only the pain of those times, but my own role as the hero in getting past them. We were given time to meet with one other person, to share the stories of our beads one-on-one. A man I know, somewhat, crossed the circle to sit beside me. He held his string of beads out to me on two hands, a precious, precious object, the physical symbol of his entire life, and asked if I would hold it. I took it, reverently, and held his life as he leaned close in the darkness and whispered the secrets of those seven beads. I watched his eyes, transfixed by his story and the raw depth of sharing. I loved him. This was not a public face but the voice of his brave, struggling, beloved Soul. Who would not love this man? No face of the Divine wishes you harm. Every face of the Divine loves you. We are all so flawed, so beautiful, struggling to complete a set of impossible tasks in the pursuit of our true selves. It is all about Love. We are all heroes, all of us, but do we feel Loved? Do I believe that Venus is challenging me for my own best interests or do I believe that She is spitefully punishing me for my human beauty? Do I believe that I am a hero for simply surviving the tasks or do I never take a moment to breathe and acknowledge that what I am doing so magnificently is both impossible and hard? Will I love the hero that I am as well as I love the heroes that I see in this Circle around me?

That man cradled my life in his hands as if it was the most precious, dear, fragile thing in the world. He leaned close to hear as I told him the stories, crying, of my four representative challenges--instances I would have said before today were tales of failure and grief and loss. At the end, I could tell that he Loved me for them all. I felt it. I took back the string of my life, thanked him for holding it, and he slayed me by saying, "I would have held your beads twice."

We returned to the priestesses and added beads, unknown beads, for future challenges. They will eventually have their own stories to tell of my heroism, of my Life.

Regrouping, we began to sing the night's chant.

I Will Be
I Am Me
Pure Possibility

Here and Now
There and Then
I Can, I Have, I Will Again


Can you celebrate your life's story as a series of successes instead of a series of failures? Can you honor the self that has made wise choices, survived the unsurvivable, been transformed and stood their ground? Good work, hero. We are all heroes. We have all done impossible things throughout the challenges of our lives. What next impossible thing will you do?

I Will Be
I Am Me
Pure Possibility

Here and Now
There and Then
I Can, I Have, I Will Again


I stand in the Center, in the darkness before the beginning, in the moment that exists in every moment, of Pure Possibility.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
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Saturday morning, with the sun lending me ample light for scanning my path and a company of Grove dogs surrounding me everywhere I went, I felt better about snakes. I am smart and capable and cautious--I wouldn't stumble upon one unannounced so long as there was light to discern my path. Still, I was feeling ripped out of the myth of the weekend and no longer connected to the work we were there to do. In the morning, my Circle of Support, that had been facilitated by the snakebite victim, was folded into another's group. We were able to talk about our experience of ritual the night before and in my case, about the snake's disturbing contributions to the ritual experience. I didn't come to any great conclusions about my unrest, but I was at least able to voice it completely and address the elephant in the room for me--that after the snakebite, my mind had gone from assisting the ritual's mood and message to full-time survival mode. I worried that I wouldn't be able to reengage with Psyche. My full and complete attention was on the level of physical reality. Good news was that the man bit by the snake had come back from the hospital in the pre-dawn hours with a lot of medications to combat the swelling and a pair of crutches, but otherwise with a good prognosis.

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At morning session, the heavy-lifting of the weekend, as I saw it, was unveiled. Pan and Psyche spoke, after Psyche made her fateful decision to accept the path of challenges in pursuit of Eros. In traditional tellings of the myth, Venus was motivated throughout with feelings of waspish, petty jealousy and revenge. At the Grove, though, Cynthea smiled knowingly at the thought that the Goddess of Love and Beauty would ever be jealous of "just a pretty girl". Instead, she told us, Psyche offered herself as a dedicant to Venus. No face of the Divine wishes you harm. Venus, tutoring and pushing, said, "To become a Goddess, you must become more than you think you are. You must do more than you think you are capable of. You must take on a series of challenges that seem almost impossible. At the completion of each challenge, each impossible task conquered, she turned to Psyche and said, "Thank you and now...." and the next impossible task was set before her. There was no time for rest or reflection or celebration, just a never-ending climb up a sheer rock face. Imagine that first task, when Psyche managed to sort the seeds of the granary. She'd achieved something that had seemed impossible! Yet, without acknowledging the weight of that triumph, 'impossible' had become the new minimum-standard, the new form of normal. Did she ever own her own heroism in meeting each successive challenge?

The path of challenges, the road to becoming our true selves, is not a glamorous one. There is no praise, no hero's welcome, no ticker-tape parade. You arrive back, scratched and dirty and breathless with the golden fleece and are swept directly, unceremoniously, into the next challenge. As Cynthea put it, "Following your bliss isn't blissful."

Our task for Saturday, the work of our final ritual of the weekend, was to take the time to breathe and honor our own heroic selves for all the impossible things we'd done, all the challenges we'd successfully passed in life unsung. We are all Psyche, all Breath and the Soul, all heroes already. Could I reframe my self-perception enough to see all the things in life that I could not have done and yet somehow did? Could I acknowledge that just because I had managed to get through something did not diminish how difficult it had been? Could I see myself as the hero in the story of my own life?

Based on the four elements, we were given four types of heroism to consider:
Challenges of Air- the heroism of speaking the Truth and intellectually, strategically solving the problems before me.

Challenges of Fire- the heroism of confrontations and transformations, the times when I throw myself into the fire.

Challenges of Water- the heroism of surviving the unsurvivable, of simply going on, of living another day.

Challenges of Earth- the heroism of taking a stand, standing for something, standing my ground

So the question isn't whether you are a hero or not (you are) but what sort of heroism you have used throughout your life when you met challenges. Oh, this work spoke to my greatest sense of wounded self. I know, intimately, every detail of every wrong decision, hurtful thing, and spectacular failure of my life. My victories, too soon, are forgotten and discounted and belittled. I don't count myself and I certainly don't count myself as a hero. The people around me, I see their glory and myself, I only know how uncertain and small and making-it-up-as-I-go I feel inside. That does not feel like the stuff of heroes! Throughout the session, I was writing madly and doodling stars in the corners of my notes. I was drinking it all in and yet, still, I wanted to go find a private place to curl up and have a cry. Was I an unsung hero? Had I never given myself credit for my accomplishments? Did I never breathe and reflect and honor myself as courageous and strong and capable of achieving impossible things, of surviving impossible pains? Oh, it hurt and it healed and mostly it stopped me dead in my tracks. I'd never considered such a thing.

There was incredible wisdom and strength and beauty among the heroes of that room. Some shared stories of their challenges. Others shared insights they'd had on the topic. I resonated most with a few snippets and so I'm just going to rescue them from my notes and leave them here, the wisdom of staff and participants alike. Maybe you'll resonate with these truths, too.

~Anything I know I must do but don't, I label 'impossible'. Anything I know I should do, but haven't yet done, I say is 'impossible'. (Of course, once I do this 'impossible' thing, I then bury its importance with a shrug. Afterall, if puny me managed to do it, it wasn't such an achievement after all.)

~No face of the Divine wishes you harm. Sometimes, though, catastrophe is the only way for the Gods to get us to move. How much worse do we want to make it for ourselves by choosing, stubbornly or out of fear, not to change, not to act when we know we must?

~We compare our insides with everyone else's outsides. They look so brave and accomplished and put together and we feel scared and inadequate and flawed. Everyone else looks like a hero to me, but inside, I don't feel like a hero myself.

~Virginia Satir was quoted, "I own me, therefore I can engineer me. I am me and I am okay."

~Everything you've done up until now has worked. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here. That's okay. Good work. Now the trick is, for the next challenge, to strategize to get to the other side without paying such a high price.

~What if, instead of seeing your life as a string of failures, you insisted on seeing it as a string of victories? Remember, one type of heroism, the challenge of water, is simply surviving another day. What does your life look like, that Path of Challenges, if it is retold from the knowledge that you are already a hero and that you've accomplished/survived/overcome one impossible thing after another? What does that change?

We had the afternoon to let these truths percolate, to sit in the cleansing flow of the stream and then to step into ritual one last time. A ritual gathering of heroes...
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underwater mermaid)
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Friday, after our sessions and lunch, we had the afternoon to ourselves to explore the land and try to find respite from the summer heat. Sarah and I were of a mind, so we changed into lightweight clothes and headed to the creek. The water level varied from a few chilly inches to a couple feet, so we found a comfortable little dip mid-channel to plunk ourselves down in to cool off, chat, and let the currents sweep our troubles downstream. It was a decadent experience. Little fish started congregating around us, hiding out in the shade under our legs, darting impishly away from [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden's attempts to pet and hug them underwater.

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(This photo was taken the day before, but I don't care! :D It's [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden, working her Earth Goddess mojo. :D)
~*~

We showered and dressed and got all sparkled up and jewelry-laden for ritual. The ritual began in the barn, where we met in the moonlight clutching our love letters to Life. We were back into Psyche's story, her choice to follow the Song of Life and to exit the Underworld. At some point, most of the ritual staff disappeared from the barn and we were instructed, at long last, to begin our silent journey from this dark Underworld and back into the full riot and color and light of Life. We were told to go out into the world and to listen to the love songs, the songs of Life that were so audible in the night-dark woods and grasslands. Singly and in unintentional pairs and triplets and small groups, we left the drumming of the barn behind us for the dirt and gravel footpath outside, flanked with occasional tiki torches, as it wound through the bottom of the meadow for some long minutes to an area of the Grove that is called the Water Path, a clearing with a firepit near the creek bed. In the woods, here and there, there were snatches of an instrumental guitar and maybe the call of a pipe or flute. The ritual participants walked in silence, scattered along the path, the crunch of feet and the rustle of robes the only counterpoint to the roaring cry of the cicadas. At long last, I turned a corner in the darkness and the ritual site came into view--a vision of priestesses waiting to welcome us in white dresses and capes and an abundance of candlelight and tiki flame. A ring of chairs was open on one side and in the opening, priestesses there to give us cups of cool water and bid us relax and rest ourselves after our journey. I found a seat in the circle and was sipping my water as other journeyers arrived from the dark path. Whispers and clumped ritual staff members around the circle edged into my awareness. There was something strange in the chaos and I cast my eyes Sarah's way to see if she was catching on to the unsettled feeling in the circle. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and the welcome I'd felt at the lights of the clearing dissolved away into a sense of uneasy tension and squirminess. I didn't want my cup of water anymore. I didn't want to be sitting in that chair. At last, all the journeyers arrived and Patricia, one of Diana's Grove's founders stepped into the center of the circle and announced, with great calm, that one of the ritual staff members, intending to aspect Pan, had been bitten by a snake and was going to be carted off to the hospital. There he sat in the center of one of the whispering clumps, his instep in his hand and several staff members crouching by his legs. Patricia assured us that everything would be fine, that the snake had been asked to leave and had (without harm) complied and then River stepped into her priestessing role to resume the ritual.

The thread was snapped for me. Growing up in South Florida, snakes are serious business. There are coral snakes, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths. We have six poisonous snakes and they are all pretty serious business. I wanted to know where the snake was when he was bitten, what kind of snake was involved, if it was poisonous, how long it would take them to get him to a hospital, how the snake had been asked to leave, how far away that snake had been compelled to leave, and what would keep him or her from returning. I'm an air sign, I wanted to intellectually exhaust the topic before moving on and instead, here was the ritual team getting us to start tonal singing work while the guy is actively being loaded into a hastily rounded up car directly behind my chair. I found it physically impossible to harmonize. Everything was coming out in minor, dirge-full moans.

The ritual text moved on to talking about the life around us, the songs of Life around us, and all I could do was creep and shiver and suppress nervous giggles about hearing the songs of snakes all around me, twining silently up my chair legs or sidling ever closer to my feet in their totally-impractical sandals. At one point, we were each invited to the fire pit which had been transformed into a candle-studded altar where we were each able to retrieve a lit votive by which to read our Love Letters to Life.

As we reread the words we'd written, in a fabulous twist, we were told to mentally replace each instance of the word "you" in the letter with "I". For, in truth, we'd not written love letters to Life as we'd thought--we'd written love letters to ourselves. My love letter had been in poem form, so the cool and fabulous twist didn't work nearly so well. And really, I was all out of joint and off-step and thinking of snakebites, so maybe nothing in ritual was destined to work well for me that night. Here I'd gone out of the safety and comfort of the Underworld into the challenge and sensation of Life and this snakebite had me feeling completely unsafe, exposed, imperiled. I thought to myself during the ritual, "Why do I need this message? Couldn't I have babystepped into a welcoming world? Instead I'm sitting in the dark and practically barefoot with snakes?! Who would be so cruel to me when I'm already feeling vulnerable just in rejoining life?"

At some point, we moved to our chant for the evening and clustered around the firepit-candle altar to sing it.

Let the beauty we love
be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground.


I was forcing it, unfortunately, while others genuinely seemed moved by the chant and the ritual and were even physically kneeling and kissing the stones and logs and earth circling the many-candled altar. Meanwhile, I'm safely perched up on my chair or standing back three feet and thinking to myself, somewhat obsessively, "Snakes live in woodpiles and they live in rock piles and what are these people doing on the ground? Holy crap they're crazy!!"

After ritual, we had a short little jam session, pulling chairs up or sitting on the ground directly around the altar area and having a little re-sing of the main (Rumi text) chant. Sarah was sitting on the ground, I think, sorta in front of my chair and she lifted one hand, mid-note, and pointed to a spot between candles. There, a couple feet away from a dozen singers and weaving swiftly between the votives and pillars and other candleholders, was a two foot patterned snake. Right under her silently pointing finger.

I, and my lawn chair, was ten feet back from the firepit within two seconds. The song halted and singers scattered back, particularly when the words "Copperhead" and "poisonous" were sounded by someone in-the-know. The snake moved quickly, unpredictably, and someone said we should clear a path out of our circle for its safe exit. Well, I didn't want to let that snake out of my sight, it was in the only area of light in a hundred acres of darkness, so I watched it like a hawk and jumped up onto my chair for good measure. I can't believe I was the only person who didn't want my bare feet so close to the ground but really, I think I was the only one up on a chair and I got some good-natured ribbing for it later.

Some people came up with the grand idea of making a break for the barn's safety and so whole groups of ritual-goers abandoned their chairs and headed for the gravel path. Never has a long, dark path seemed so sinister and dangerous to me. I was watching my feet in the feeble moonlight and praying, really, really praying, that I would not accidentally step onto a snake. It seemed like a real danger--two snakes in one ritual! Maybe the whole Grove was writhing with poisonous snakes and the small one we'd seen eating a fish on the banks of the creek that afternoon was, with some reflection, a third copperhead.

OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG.

Southern Copperhead, east Texas(illustrative photo by TomSpinker of Flickr)

I have no animosity towards snakes, you must understand, but I don't know them. Their habits, their moods, their signals are alien to me and so they seem unpredictable. I'm snake-dumb. I'd rather avoid a miscommunication entirely by not running into any and not, please Goddess help me, force one to bite me by stepping on them, unintentionally hurting them, or making them feel endangered by my presence. I've never been bit by a snake, never known anyone bit by a snake, so it all seemed pretty overwhelming and horrible. Walking back there was a lot of laughter and snakes-are-good conversation around me and I was wound tighter than a spring, praying to every Deity I have ever served to protect my naive, blundering self from crossing the path of all the snakes laying invisible on the path.

I didn't much feel like the after-ritual dessert party at the barn. I was feeling shocky and ungrounded and bizarre after the interrupted and reinterrupted ritual energy and wanted nothing more than to reset myself, and my outsized fears, with the remedy of a good night's sleep. (I'm a Libra--given time the scales always settle down into calm, even-keeled, rational thought and big-picture perspective.) The dark minute or two's walk into the woods to the outhouse at night felt like blindly praying my way through a minefield. The Grove felt dangerous for the first time ever and I felt stupid for not having respected those dangers in the past. Following the call into Life wasn't looking so attractive anymore!

(Don't worry...by the end of my next installment, I get a grip on myself but in the dark of night, with copperhead snakes afoot, I was a mess. An "I don't even know what to do with myself because there isn't even an emotional label to put on this" mess. :D)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (sacred)
Friday afternoon, we worked with the concept of there being four levels of reality that we define ourselves (and everything around us and everything that happens to us and, I guess, just everything) by. The levels are: physical, emotional/psychological, mythical, and essence. The idea, as I vaguely understand it, is that we create our reality in layers. There is physical reality that well-focused observers could agree upon or measure. (On Friday morning, just after 6:00am, I went for a walk.) The other three levels, though, are products of our fascinating powers of creativity. We are all storytellers and our minds are constantly scripting the unfolding tale of our lives. There is a emotional/psychological track where I set the mood and there is a mythic track where I ascribe great importance to my morning walk. I cast people into roles in my tale--there are heroes and villains and innocent bystanders and magical guides. And down at the essential level, there is the core of everything--innate qualities, talents, perspective. So in real-time, physical reality is unfolding in a series of events without meaning and then we power up our amazing story-telling minds and dip the proverbial quill in the proverbial ink and get to work with all the rest of it. It can become so elaborate that I almost lose sight, entirely, on the physical reality of what occurred.

Now, the Grove philosophy seems to stress that this is normal, empowering, and good. It sounds delusional, but this is where we find meaning in everything. There is a power in knowing the process, though, because there are pitfalls to all these layers of reality. For example, there is a boy from Middle School that tormented me. One of his favorite tricks was to flip my skirt up in the hallways, flashing my underwear for all and sundry to see me. To this day, I don't want to wear skirts because of what this guy did to me when we were 11 years old. I have cast him, mythically, as THE VILLAIN! He's not even human, he's a cardboard cutout of THE VILLAIN in any story that includes my school experience. My senior year of high school, after years at another school, he became our class president. He approached me, all smiles and kindness and struck up a conversation in the halls one day about a big class trip he was hoping to plan. THE VILLAIN was acting completely out of character. It didn't make sense to me, at all. He wasn't trying to humiliate me. He wasn't taunting me like an eleven year-old terror. He was just nice and friendly and talkative. It didn't jive with my mythic reality. Other VILLAINS from my school days are now adding me as "friends" on Facebook and cheerfully commenting on how beautiful my profile picture is. They, too, are shattering their cardboard roles because they've aged and matured and changed and mythic portraits of people that we create never do. So that's where the reality I've created is probably nothing like their own perspective, their own reality of the days we spent in school together.

Well, anyways, as little seeds of potential and change, we discussed the levels of reality as a place to go to effect true, lasting change within ourselves. We were challenged to consider that in order to change we must first change our essential selves. Changing just the physical issues or altering our mood rarely works longterm. We must instead put our storyteller selves at work for a good cause and tinker at the essence/essential self level of reality by undergoing an "essential reclaiming". This is changing the very unquestioned essence of who we are, how we understand and define our talents and basic qualities, the gifts we feel we have as part of our birthright. At this level, at essence, is where we tell our unique life's story.

To help us to chart some of these essential self waters, we had two writing exercises for the afternoon. All you need to follow along is a few minutes and two pieces of paper. :)

Essential Self (The key is to not spend too much time with any one task. Go with your gut!)
1) Divide a piece of paper into three columns.

2) In column A, list ten nouns describing yourself. These are labels that you feel can be attached to you. Some examples would be (woman, mathematician, couch potato, athlete, mother, lover, blogger, priestess, student, etc).

3) In column B, list ten adjectives describing yourself. These are qualities you feel you have. Some examples would be (bold, colorful, lazy, talented, artistic, skeptical, passionate, etc).

4) In column C, list ten descriptives/adjectives that your best friend (who is not your partner) would say about you. Chances are this list will differ somewhat from the list you made of your own qualities.
Complete these steps before moving on behind the cut. )

The second writing exercise we were given was to write a love letter to Life. We weren't given much time to dwell on it, just ten or fifteen minutes with a sheet of paper to pour out a love letter to that Life that calls us out from the Underworld, that Life that encourages us to engage, that Life that sings that song that lifts our head from our grief and our isolation. Everything about Life that calls us yearning towards it--craft a love letter. This letter we were told to bring with us to ritual, to read it privately again to ourselves in the safety of sacred space. Will you write a love letter to Life?

:)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (joy fae)
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Friday morning, I woke to the misty, cool enchantment of dawn. After the battering heat and humidity of the day before, I was eager to take advantage of cooler temps. I grabbed my camera, slipped my feet into my clogs, and took off on an early morning walk of the land with the companionship of one very friendly, very adventuresome beagle that I found waiting outside the cabin door.

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Butterflies were out in dancing, laughing clouds of color. Goldfinches dove and banked among the wild echinacea. Brilliant, milky moonflowers glowed in a scatter of magic around the meadow and fenceline. In one perfectly fragile blossom, a camoflaged snowy spider held court. Dew sparkled everywhere and the morning sky was a watercolor wash of pastel pinks and purples and blues. The pathways were sealed, in spots, with iridescent webbed barriers and I felt like the only human alive in a world of bountiful, busy little creatures. Everywhere I looked, the Earth was bright with life. Grasshoppers skipped ahead of my shoes and great black butterflies drifted down to investigate the bright surface of my hat or the amber pattern of the freckles on my bare shoulders. I found my way down to the rock-bottom creek and walked into its icy, shallow current. Oh, it was glorious standing mid-stream and watching small moonstone-scaled fish and chubby little tadpoles race past my shoes. The rocks glowed underfoot, reflecting all the colors of the sunrise, of the wildflowers, of my heart. Oh, to be alive and alert and awake and aware, to be fully present in the magic of a summer morning in nature!

Photos from my morning hike under the cut )
~*~

By 9:30am, it was time for everyone to meet up at the main house and split up into our respective small support groups. There were four of us in my group and I welcomed the opportunity to get to know the others better. The facilitator of our group was a guy I'd met back when I first joined Mystery School but didn't fully recognize until the second day at the Grove. Life or magic or presence or something had utterly transformed the way he looked and carried himself. It was eerie and interesting--I tried not to stare. After our group broke up, it was time for a morning Breath and Song, Prayer and Trance work session. It was really an amazing demonstration of skill and spontaneity. It started with clapping, rhythm, breath and then a handful of facilitators beginning to hum and tone and wordlessly sing. Others joined in. I joined the building song, adding my own melody, my own complementary rhythm, soulful rise and fall, and soon the room was filled with a yearning, magical, entirely improvised, wordless song of prayer. Each individual was singing their soul and yet together, somehow, it worked and together, somehow, we all made a beautiful, coherent, rich and dynamic whole. It was one of the most incredible, empowering, all-out-abandon experiences of song in my life and it was essentially an unplanned morning tune up and gathering-of-the-tribe. Phenomenal. Every hair on my arm raises just remembering the song of that room, the light in everyone's eyes, the glow and power and rock-em-sock-em gorgeous group of people I was surrounded by, singing with, singing to.

We moved into breath work and I closed my eyes and found a comfortable, grounded place to sit on the floor as I was coached through the Breath of Wind, the Breath of Rising Embers, the Breath of Rolling Waves, the Breath of Growing Trees, and the Breath of the Divine and Mysteries. By the time the morning session was ready to begin, I'd experienced a breath/energy/body/spirit connection in a completely new, immediate, impossible to ignore way. It was terrifying and challenging and energizing and enervating. Just a glimpse into an entire world of ritual tools I'm unschooled at.

~*~

At our morning session, we went back to the story of Psyche and her choice to pursue the path of challenge. I don't remember if it was River or Cynthea or somebody else who led the discussion, but what struck me from that session was that the path of challenge leads us to our very self. It is tempting, so temptingly easy, to settle for the other option--easy success and the approval and admiration of others. The harder path is less glamorous! Why, on the easy path, everyone can look like a star because they are doing the things they are naturally gifted at. The path of challenge, however, is littered with opportunities to look foolish, experience complete failure and silly mistakes, and to be viewed as unlikable or different. Psyche could have remained, forever, a beloved princess to her people. They loved her for just who she was! She could fill the role with ease and looked graceful every step of the way. Imagine, then, when she chose the path of challenges, how absurd and clumsy and out-of-her element she must have appeared before she battled through and grew from her experiences! Hadn't I just admitted to myself, this month in Temple of the Twelve work, that one of my three greatest heart wounds was that I didn't try things for fear of looking ridiculous, embarrassing myself, and failing? Here, in morning session, I was hearing that was a pretty common reason why people stick with what comes easy to them--why so many women like me might choose life as a princess in comfort instead of a life of fighting to be acknowledged as an equal to a God. I'm scared to show my loving public that underneath the smooth, princess exterior lies a bumbling, make-it-up-as-I-go girl prone to failure, mishap, and absurd pratfalls!

So here's the part that hooked me right through the chest. Knowing all that, knowing that there is a choice between the easy path of doing what you're good at versus the challenging path of becoming fully who we were meant to be--the very purpose of life isn't to sail through gracefully, masquerading as someone put-together and worthy of a pedestal. The purpose of life is in our own, individual process of becoming. A forest is magnificent in its diversity, when the many varied seeds become their intended selves. We are all born seeds in that forest. Born seeds. Not blank-slate seeds but specific seeds. I don't know what I will grow into, I fret and worry and flail around because I don't know how to become the shape I'm supposed to be because I wasn't born with a seed packet description or a photo of my fully mature, realized state. I don't know what kind of seed I am! How can I grow into something without that information?! This has bothered me for years now, because Mystery School talks a lot about souls as seeds growing and I always draw the blank. I don't know what my vision for myself is. I don't know what I am meant to become. I don't know who I truly am, at core, and that is perhaps expected as that is a life's work and more to get to the bottom of. But what blew me away was the thought, finally, that seeds don't have to know what they are growing into. When they grow, they are also becoming, and no forethought or blueprint is necessary. I am a seed and what I have the potential to become is set. A Mystery to me, but not something I have to figure out. I don't have to wait to figure it out in order to grow--I need to allow myself to grow and see what I grow into becoming. I'm already a certain kind of seed. All I have to do is grow. There is no need to know anything beyond that. Once I figured that out, totally accepted the reality of that necessary blind faith, in the hospital a little voice said with great loving charity to me: You are a sugar maple. I don't have to know how that translates into a human life. I don't have to know where I'm headed. I just have to grow and trust that the essence of myself, that seed of me, will direct me into my best, intended shape.

The Sugar Maple (photo by realkuhl on Flikr)

~*~
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (witch's circle)
The weekend before my surgery, I flew to St. Louis with [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and drove from there to Diana's Grove for their July Mystery School weekend. The theme of the long weekend event was Playing for the Song. The temptingly vague registration catalog promised, "This weekend celebrates the creative spirit. To enter the innermost sanctum of your soul requires a leap of faith. Challenged to step into your own power, what will you create? Are you ready to let go of yourself and bring your sacred gifts to fruition? This weekend will be devoted to unleashing your own art… whatever form that joy may take." As a singer, the very mention of song drew me in and I was sold, completely, on whatever spiritual challenges, transformative experiences, and path-shifting surprises the ritual team had in store for me. There was that frisson of anticipatory bracing, though, wondering what I had gotten myself into and if the Universe would smile on me and my kidney stone out in the middle of nowhere for a weekend. :D The magic of the Grove is that it changes everyone it touches. My story is my experience. Though we may have gone through ritual and meals and meetings as a group, the other magic of the Grove is that everyone is having their own private transformations, confirmations, inspirations. We are all there alone, together. So this is my story of my weekend the way I heard it, experienced it, and was changed by it.... :)

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Our meadow-view cabin--we had the Moon(right) side. :)

A longtime Mystery picked us up at the St. Louis airport and drove us out to the Grove. We arrived late afternoon and had a few hours to ourselves to sort out our luggage, set up our bedding in the cabin, and walk the land together. I think something like thirty people were at the Grove for the weekend, but Sarah and I were still fortunate enough to be given our own cabin that would normally have housed four more campers. It gave us full license to have long slumber-party talks about things together without feeling like we were excluding anyone else around us. And, dorm-room style, it gave us plenty of room to strew our belongings around, hang wet towels and creek-swimming clothes out to dry, and otherwise take over the little lavender den as our own little retreat from the sun. :)

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Our little cabin kingdom!

Myth, Ritual, and a Call into Life )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink lotus candles)
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Separating my experiences at Diana's Grove the weekend before my surgery, the hurt and healing of the surgery saga itself, the month of working on compassion and other "Pink" topics in Temple of the Twelve, and everything else that has been unsaid for so many weeks is impossible. It is such a tangle! Everywhere, lately, I've been discovering wise words about wounds and compassion in such a synchronous flood that it is impossible to ignore how important the lesson must be for me to learn. I'd love to be able to compartmentalize it into neat single-topic entries here and yet I can't cut it cleanly apart. So, eventually I'll talk about Diana's Grove and how some of those moments fold back into some of my surgery moments and my healing moments and my Temple of the Twelve moments. For now, though, as best as I can, I wanted to tell you what I learned about my third, and greatest, heart wound.

I don't count myself.

This month, my Pink Month with Temple of the Twelve, I accepted a few challenges. I agreed to dig for and uncover my three greatest heart wounds. I vowed to take steps to heal those wounds and to develop, in particular, a long-range strategy for the healing of the largest of these. I intended to act in a mindfully compassionate manner every day. I dared to stand my ground, at least, and stop running from love in all its forms as it made its way towards me. I would do (and record) one kind thing for someone else each day of the month. Tall order, all of that, from such a gentle color! :)

Following my surgery, I was doing some mid-moon musing on all the ways that this month has changed me and I have risen to the challenges Pink set before me. I've realized that I was shorting those around me by giving generously but carefully avoiding having to receive love/gifts/favors/encouragement/compliments/you name it in return. I wasn't allowing people to really connect with me, to know me beyond my surface layers. I've learned a lot about wounds--the way they stick around only because I feed them, the way that they can be honored by me and yet not sustained, and to appreciate their making as opportunities for compassionate growth within me. I've enjoyed the feeling of gifting myself with flowers for the sheer beauty and enjoyment of the act or surprising loved ones and strangers with tokens of appreciation and magick. I've affirmed for myself how inseparable my compassion and my service of priestessing are intertwined. There was one thing, though, that I had not done. I did not record my daily acts of kindness. Two days ago, I was quite certain, I would be repeating my Pink month in order to meet that obligation fairly.

It isn't that I didn't share a smile or a kind word, an encouraging note, a meal, or a gift with someone every day. Chances are good that I did. I left small "Believe" cards behind on bus benches and subway seats with random quotes about faith and accomplishment. I contributed uplifting, beloved books to the neighborhood free book exchange box. I called a rescue organization and did my best to aid a young pigeon in peril. I bought a meal and extra groceries for a neighborhood homeless man I've sailed past apologetically in the past. I poured my heart into the natal chart readings I did for people. I gave away gifts both small and large. I made a point to cheer all the people who crossed my path--nurses, cashiers, bus drivers. I wrote thank you notes in my hospital bed to the staff who delivered my food, checked my blood pressure, wheeled my bed from place to place. What I didn't do, though, was record any of it. I had failed in that obligation, completely, and would have to start over again next new moon.

On Lammas, all the things I had to mentally unpack wove together into one all-encompassing sense of insight. One part of that new knowledge is that my not-recording my good deeds is actually a symptom of my greatest heart wound--I do not count myself. I think that everyone around me is so beautiful, so heroic, so worthy of praise. I love the spark of the divine within their eyes and watch with sheer admiration the loving work their hands do in the world. They may not see their strength, their light, the difference their lives are making in the world--but I do. Me, though, I do not count myself. What I do is ordinary and flawed and always-too-little, so I do not count myself. When I achieve things that make my soul sing, they are soon forgotten. When I fall short of my expectations for myself, however, I remember those things forever.

At Diana's Grove, we were encouraged in ritual to string beads of challenge onto a string representing our life. Instead of counting our lives as a series of failures, we were pushed to rewrite those challenges into victories--even if that victory was merely surviving the hard time. I cannot tell you how much I wept. I see everyone for their victories, for their purest motives and most untarnished qualities, and myself I sketch in negative space. Here's where I fell, chose badly, stepped awry, took too long, wasted potential, wasted time, wasted space, did not do that which I knew was right. Here is where I screwed up my Pink Month's endeavours by not writing something down each day.

So slowly and finally, the messages are starting to sink in from the month. On Lammas, it all came together in one knowing--I am deserving of an equal share of compassion. It is a given that I am flawed, that I am challenged by this life and that I don't always respond in the way that I would wish. It is a given that I act sometimes out of fear instead of love, out of pain instead of wisdom. This is a given for everyone. This is not why I don't deserve compassion but rather why I require it. I must begin to count myself. I am as beautiful, as important and immortal and precious, as those who catch my eye and my heart and my admiration around me.

I must count myself, number my victories instead of my failures, and lend myself the compassion I need to truly thrive and grow and dare.
~*~

photo(33)
This month, I ran across two phenomenal pink items from a catalog of inspirational gifts for women. They made me weep with joy and soul-deep longing, so I bought them. There would be women aplenty in my life that I could gift them to. That is my way, when I see wonderful things, I want to give them to wonderful people. One, a small blank journal, reads on the cover, "She just had this way of brightening the day." The other, a portable folding picture frame, read on the outside cover, "She makes the world a better place." For Lammas, as an act of compassion to myself, I gave those gifts to myself. I will not redo my month of Pink, unless my New Moon time with Lady Pink convinces me otherwise, but part of my long-term task of healing my wound of not-counting-myself, I am keeping track in my little pink book my kindnesses of the day--for myself and for others. Into the picture frame, I slipped a photo of myself and a trimmed down card from the same "She..." line that reads, "She listened to her heart above all the other voices."

It feels too extravagantly, embarrassingly kind to myself and yet also, I know soul-deep, true. I have trouble holding onto the knowledge in the midst of all my self-criticism, but I am good and loving and compassionate and influential. The less I doubt myself, the more impossible, world-changing things I can achieve.

We are all necessary, irreplaceable, glorious lights in this life, finding the places where our unique abilities are cried out for, altering forevermore the lives of those we touch, shaping the world with our love and compassion--and I-Am-Counting-My-Self!

(I hope you will, too.)

photo(32)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink lotus candles)
My second wound is simple and yet profoundly limits my life. I do not want to look foolish and so I avoid trying things that I think I won't be good at or that I don't already know how to do. I allow myself no time for beginner's mistakes and learning curves. I, too often, choose not to take the risk because embarrassment and the potential for ridicule looms larger in my head than any potential benefits. That is no way to live. That's that squirrely intruder again, making past embarrassments seem monumental and potential future embarrassing moments even worse!

In the past, this afraid-to-look-ridiculous has kept me from:

-auditioning for solos, despite having a very good voice
-dancing where anyone could see me, outside of those show choir group performances
-playing table games at a casino with a real, live dealer
-teaching classes
-playing sports
-attempting art
-yoga
-going to the gym
-aerobics/fitness classes
-celebrating my birthday
-cultivating friendships; inviting people I don't know well to get together
-wearing skirts or other pretty and/or impractical clothing
-interviewing for better than minimum wage jobs
-inviting people into my home
-cooking for an audience
-answering the phone
-parading around naked
-wearing shorts that show off my uncommonly pale legs
-wearing sandals
-doing my hair or makeup
-going someone I might get lost
-parallel parking
-learning to drive a manual transmission car
-changing a tire/adding air to a tire
-practicing my foreign language skills in the hearing of others
-admit, where I fear strong debate or backlash, being a witch
-go to the spa
-go swimming
-(I'm going to come back, edit, and add more to the list as I think of any).

My inhibitions would love for me to sidestep this issue entirely, but I know that I have some unearthed talents in all these things I've never attempted. Just imagine, I finally learned at age 31 how to hula hoop! It was fun and I might have looked laughable but who cares? (Okay, I care.) But if I get over the wound of insensitive people from my past making fun of me and tormenting me, then maybe it would start to not matter if people giggle when I don't quite get it right the first time. Maybe. I need to start doing things that feel emotionally risky to me. It is the only way to put those demons of self-doubt to rest. What's the worst that can happen, realistically?
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (pink heart birds)
photo(24)


Lots of rose quartz, the vintage floral saucer I received at the Midsummer Faerie Celebration from Sarah & Jenn, pink candles, rose buds from the bouquet I bought myself, a decorative pink egg-shaped sculpture (sometimes in life, change is necessary and sudden--the egg is meant to crack and so, perhaps, must I). A glittery spin-art that Graeme made me a couple weeks ago. A heart-in-hand plaque that reads, "To the world, you may be just one person but to one person, you may be the world." Red and pink stained glass butterfly, other stones and whatnot, pink fabric.

photo(23)

Lady Pink, help me to remember to be compassionate to myself so that I can be limitlessly compassionate to others. Help me forget my pain, my troubles, my fears by focusing on the ways that I am always capable of improving someone else's day. Show me where to give and open my heart to feeling worthy to receive.

Blessed, Blessed, Blessed Be. <3
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
IMG_0701

For the last time, I've lit my black pillar candle, the one so cheaply made that it is only a whisper of black coating on an unabashedly white candle. Earlier this month, I knew it to be a metaphor for our embodied existence. It is so much more than that.

I've pulled out my collaged self-portrait, that archetypal image of the Goddess, of air and water and magickal heart. Making it, digging down through all my layers in order to accurately, honestly represent them, I expected to have to overcome shame at what I found. I knew I'd have to just bare it and steel myself for the response from friends and family and myself. Who would still love Me, the dark and the light, the public and the private, the hidden and the obvious together in one complex person? I had no idea.

I am that candle. I dug through the dark parts and you know what I found this month? My Soul. My whole, shining, good, Divine, immortal and evolving Soul. The heart of me is big, it is filled with the infinite possibilities of perfect love, true connection, and the potential for complete healing. I chose this embodied life to learn more, to grow more, and in so doing I pulled on a flawed mantle. I trip up on silly things and skin my knees. I worry about my flyaway hair and let insecurities lock me away from other people. I am human, imperfect, a work-in-progress and that's just the thinnest most inconsequential surface layer. If I dig, I don't get to darker places within myself--I scrape off the daily-life detritus that obscures my soul from view. I am as beautiful, as perfect, as shining and loving as everyone else is in their depths--for we're all bits of radiant godstuff poured into flawed temporary housing.

I have spent so much time worrying about the time I was wasting, anxious that my life didn't meet some arbitrary standards that I had set for it, shameful at how ineffectual and unimportant and invisible I felt. I have been so hounded by the looming sense of my eventual death that I've been paralyzed and self-hating. That's short-sighted one-life thinking.

At my birth, the moon was in Taurus. Physical things make me feel safe. It is a stubburn, fixed sign for me, at odds with the rest of my air and water chart. I feel safest when I've dug in. When I'm anxious, I ground my emotions with food and material accumulation. I abhor change. Well, what greater change can there be than death? New existence, new chance, new set-up. I value it spiritually and intellectually, but my little warm earth body wants to stay just this way, unmoving, forever. Without change, though, the egg never cracks, the seasons never shift, the seed never sprouts, and my soul cannot continue to evolve.

By doing nothing, by vacillating for years, I've been making a daily choice. I can choose, instead, to change and to allow my life to change and evolve along with me.

"It is free will that lets us choose what we eat, our cars, our clothes, our vacations...similarly, we can choose to increase our capacity to love or be compassionate; we can choose to perform the little acts of kindness that bring us internal satisfaction; we can choose generosity over selfishness, respect over prejudice. In every aspect of our lives we can choose to make the loving decision, and by doing so, our souls will evolve." ~Dr. Brian L. Weiss in Same Soul, Many Bodies

I am not on track to cure cancer or govern the nation, become Miss America or a fashion model or do any other exceptional and ambitious and societally applauded life undertakings I may have once dreamed of. That has poisoned my self-esteem for so long, measuring my accomplishments against that impossible yard stick. My soul doesn't need that to be bettered. None of it. My month working with the color Black in the Temple of the Twelve was bookended neatly by volunteer shifts at a neighborhood homeless shelter. Six hour shifts, without break, interviewing families and seniors teetering on the brink of complete financial disaster. I could have done it, tirelessly, for days. Both times, I came home with such a sense of completion and presence and inner satisfaction and divine glow that I felt, quite fully, that I could die a happy woman in those moments. I let my heart lead and I shined and watched others shine around me and I was in an almost otherworldly state of Perfect Love and communion. I was doing what I'd entered this world to do--to Be Love. What more than that could I possibly aspire to? It's all about love and I have that, naturally, in spades.

My gift isn't small after all--it has the biggest potential of all.

"All of your roads will end in death. Not all roads lead to life." ~Cynthea Jones (Diana's Grove Mystery School)

I will love to my best, most fearless ability. I choose to hold a candle in the dark so that others may catch a glimpse of their own divine soul. I trust that change, while not always easy or safe feeling, leads me to greater spiritual evolution and healing. I know that under this very thin veneer of flaws and uncertainty, that I am truly a "whole, shining, good, Divine, immortal and evolving Soul" and I will look for it sparkling in the eyes of those around me.

Lady Black sent me a token. It is a Glamourkin, the image of a castle tower on an utterly black night with light in just one window. The text, clipped from an old book and reassembled, reads "a candle burns, as bright as stars". We are the candles, little embodied bits of godstuff and starshine, immortal and growing and exactly where we are supposed to be on this learning path. Love shines in the darkest of nights and connects us, not only to each other, but to our own immortal, divine cores.

I read the words I collaged together as part of my self-portrait's heart one last time.
We all have a role mothering. Witch, help connect all our broken pieces together.

Hail and Farewell, Black.

photo(18)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
IMG_0684

IMG_0797

The words read:

Witch
Healing the Power of Loneliness with inner Light and Sound.
Air is cooler. calm and serene.
finding comfort--family--on the path.
We all have a role mothering, help connect all our broken pieces together.
Beautiful
GOOD
More, More, More, More, More Thanksgiving.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
Yesterday afternoon, I completed my (spiritual) self-portrait for this month's work with Black within the Temple of the Twelve. The finished product feels good to me, I have a sense of accomplishment with it, but the process getting there was cathartic, energy-shifting, and surprisingly enlightening. What I started with is not at all where I ended up.

I lit the black candle on my black altar and turned on a music mix I made last year that is as much a portrait of me as this will ever be. I pulled out scissors and Mod Podge, a box of words and phrases and images I'd spent two weeks clipping from magazines and junk mail, and Graeme's crayon, color pencil, and marker collection. I knew, from the beginning, that I didn't want to try and represent my physical self. At the beginning of the month, I'd taken a photograph for that. Instead, with what skill and insight I have, I wanted to draw my energy anatomy, to represent how I feel, what my aura's like from the inside out, and to get at the Light and Dark halves of me.

There's an emptiness inside her, and she'd do anything to fill it in, but all the colors mix together--to grey.

I started with the corners of the paper. The marker should have been black but came out a dark, midnight blue. I am separated from things around me. Observing from a dark place that gives me perspective and calm but leaves me feeling alone in a crowded room. Underworld energy gives me power and wisdom and connection to the beyond but also leaches away immediate, material joys. Everything comes through that dark filter to get to me--I could win the lottery and not do more than smile, mourn a lost friendship or a death in the family with little more than intellectual introspection. I see the big pictures and by doing that, I'm a distance away, almost unreachable. It is a trade-off I'd gladly make again and again and again, but there are times I wish I could shine, too. I don't have that leonine fire and sparkle, that vitality. I serve Death and in that capacity, I am detached in many ways from life's immediacy and twisting currents of emotion.

And no Message could have been any clearer--if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change.

I went back to start at the center--what's at my center? I drew a large heart, black-framed, with a core of purple, an outer area of pink with threads of blue-green. My spiritual life is at the very center of what fires me, inspires me, shapes my energy anatomy. Every part of my life is informed by my belief in the divine nature of everything and everyone around me. That is the root of my compassionate spirit. I'm hematite and rose quartz--cool and strong, loving. I keep my place on dry ground, removed from the emotional river most of the time, but I have a no-nonsense, calm in a crisis way of pulling others out without having to jump in myself. Like Death, I love everyone who comes my way, though I very rarely cry over their plights. I have a different perspective and yet, unquestionably, I have a big, beautiful, pure heart.

You gotta swim, swim for your life, swim for the music that saves you when you're not so sure you'll survive. You've gotta swim, swim when it hurts...the currents will pull you away from your Love, just keep your head above.

While Air dominates my chart, myself, I have a lot of Water in me, too. I moved on to that, sketching a watery, radiating energy around the heart. Spirals and coils and waves of Water, my connection to the world around me, the only thing that anchors me here and keeps me present. Love. Family. Compassion. I stepped back, looking at that shapeless blue aura, and saw the beginnings of a Goddess, entirely unplanned. Filling in some areas, adding detail to others, within a minute or two I had uncovered that archetypal Goddess shape, arms overhead and curled towards a spiral face, bountiful, watery body below. How had that happened? One arm, I saw, was my Airy side, the other, my Water. What was going to be just a field of color to collage upon had become an image in its own right and one that hooked me right in the chest. What was this becoming? I added more hearts, scattered within the body, because there is a lot more of love, compassion, care within me. It is in my fabric.

We're all staring down the barrel of a gun, so if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would have done? Gotta live like we're dying.

I finished the background by coloring in everything not watery-airy blue as a solid black. I am aware, at every moment of my life, how short and fleeting my life is. I am aware of death, of the limited amount of time I have to make an impact, and that is a two-edged sword. I am grateful for everything, one of my greatest strengths, but I am also at times overwhelmed with a sense of not-doing-enough-fast-enough. I want my life to matter and so far, I'm not content that it has. How many more days before my last? What am I here to contribute, what need can only I, in this body, help fill? That drives me, surrounds me, at times haunts me.

IMG_0713

~*~
IMG_0718

With my background completed, I moved on to the intuitive collage portion of the project. I spread out all the words and phrases and images that I'd clipped over the last few weeks, being delighted and surprised with some of what I found that I hadn't remembered ever reading, seeing, cutting out. With music still playing, inspiring me, I just let myself move words around on the background, piecing them together, moving them away, cutting them apart, until I felt the right words were where they wanted to be in the image, part of the messages they were intended to fulfill. Even as I went to work gluing each word in place, there were times I stood back and realized I needed to move more words around, away, getting rid of the things I had added instead of the simpler message the Universe was trying to share with me, through me.

By the time I was done, I was in tears. It was more than I'd expected, more loving, more worthy than I'd expected my self-portrait, myself, to be. The largest words on the page and the most difficult to permanently affix to myself were "GOOD" and "Beautiful". I accept that I am both good and beautiful, but it seemed very hard to incorporate that, so boldly and unapologetically, into my self-image. Where were my flaws? In finishing the self-portrait, I realized that my flaws, the things I mourn and hate myself the most for, are also the trade-offs for my greatest talents and attributes. The Black balances the other colors and makes me who I am, as a whole, a being of heart and goodness and gratitude, yes, as well as loneliness, feeling inadequate, and maintaining a cool distance in life. That is me and taken as a whole, when I allow myself to acknowledge my talents and abilities, it makes for a beautiful, unique, perfect Me. I am made, ideally, to fill a need in the world that only my collection of bright and dark attributes can fill. I am what I was meant to be and I'd lost track of that in my self-criticisms. I am what I was meant to be, all of it.

IMG_0800
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
This past weekend was the Full Moon, the half-way point of our Black Month. How has your work with Black been going? Are you unearthing secrets? Dark sides to your personality that you hide from everyone, including yourself? Have you begun honoring your talents by using them in the world?

In the book, Caroline arrives at her Full Moon with a crisis of faith. She hasn't even started her true self-portrait and she is certain it is a task she won't complete in time to move on to the next color. She feels unequal to the challenge she's been presented with. Under the Full Moon, she performs a ritual and is given something she needs--a teacher to help guide her efforts. It is only then, with the reassurance that Lady Black would provide all help necessary, and a newfound determination to do her best, that Caroline's work drawing herself as she truly is can begin.

How did the Full Moon's power change your relationship with Black, with the work, this month?

~~~*~~~

For those of you who signed up for the June/July token exchange, have you both sent and received a token package?

Mine waits for me on my altar and I know I have a lot of work to do to earn it! I hope to devote quite a bit of my free time this long weekend towards my portrait. One of the themes for the month for me has been the consequences of fear, of living with my eyes stubbornly closed so I don't have to risk seeing what's in the dark with me. It has manifested, in one way, as a medical phobia. I avoid the ounce of prevention, like seeing the doctor, because I'd rather not face what scares me (being not in control and some unknown life-changing diagnosis) and then down the road I have to pay for it with the huge, even scarier consequences of neglecting myself. It's like, I can spend $30 on an oil change every 3000 miles or I can wait and then kablow!! spend $2000+ on repairs. I can keep up with the dishes every day or I can wait and then wham!! I've got too much to manage and a sugar ant infestation to boot. What is it within me that invites the worse? Why do I continuously choose to ignore something until it reaches crisis stage? That theme is everywhere I look this month for me. I need to keep my eyes open and honestly look at what's around me, what's within me.

On the other side of the token, my talents, I had a tarot reading that addressed a lot about that. For me, the entire reading was about water and emotion *except* for the work of the month. That, it said, was the Ten of Swords. One of my talents is my logical ability to step back and see, dispassionately, the big picture. In order to use the rest of my talents as part of a meaningful, service-oriented life, I realize I must prune and trim both what I choose to utilize and how I spend my time. That's something that must be done intellectually and deliberately. So I will be doing a lot of thinking and list-writing about where all my time goes now, what my best talents are, and what few interests I should pursue in the future. I can't do it all. By not choosing, I'm just in idle, wasting both the days of my life and my Goddess-given talents, and I recognize that's not acceptable. I have been waiting for a Call, for Someone to make the hard decisions for me and that's being chicken. I must make decisions, narrow my focus deliberately, and get to work on my life's work. I must dictate what that life's work will be. So, yeah, I have a ton of work to do in the next two weeks and I, like Caroline, doubt my ability to honestly complete so much heavy-lifting and hard, scary soul-searching.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (underworld fae)
Saturday night, after eating cupcakes and hula hooping and declaring war on any mosquitoes that so much as looked cross-eyed at us, we dressed for a starlit ritual. I traded my all-white faerie costume for an all-black ritual gown and a red hooded cloak. Sarah showed up, equally transformed, in all white. We both kinda laughed when we saw each other. She joked that we looked like the priestesses from that L.J. Smith trilogy, The Secret Circle, with good Diana in white and selfish, dark magick Faye in black. :p Thanks, Sarah. :D

A few weeks ago, Sarah and I had powwowed about the ritual logistics. We discussed a few themes and we knew that we wanted to leave people with a physical token of the departing Sun's energy. Neither one of us knew where we could get that much citrine on short notice, but I remembered this amazing bead and jewelry-making shop nearby that carries a lot of semi-precious beads. Maybe they'd have something we could use as a charged token? Walking in with Graeme one afternoon, it seemed like a grin from the universe to find a bowl of rough citrine immediately by the front door, for sale by the gram. I stocked up and we were set. :D Other than that, and the suggestion of a walking candle meditation, we didn't solidify anything. Sarah said, "Well, how good are you on the fly?" and I said, "I'm really good on the fly" and so we went into ritual with some idea of what Midsummer meant to us, the intention of distributing citrine, and not much more. At ritual conspiracy, element callers had volunteered themselves and we got to talk about what Midsummer means to us, what this Midsummer means to us as a group. Heart stuff.

Objectively, I can say that some things worked and some things didn't quite get there. )

Sarah and Jenn's backyard is big, but not as big as it feels. With some creative mowing and pruning, they created paths and sacred spots in the midst of wild meadow and pine stands. Thistle and blackberry bushes and wild grasses head-high make the winding paths seem mythical. So in the dark, we walked down a little side path out of sight of the house that curved into a sudden small circular clearing for ritual. At the center of our circle, two tin mosquito-warding candle buckets threw light across the faces of the participants as we sat in circle with drums and soundmakers, coming into sync with each other. I beat my palms happily into the bottom of a spaghetti pot made sacred, feeling like I could drum my very heart's happiness up into the star field. The song naturally ended and we moved to ground and begin with the circle casting and calling of the elements. Sarah and I fell into an easy double voice, back and forth, meeting the needs we felt and trying to stay in touch with the energy of the circle.

Really, I haven't the foggiest idea what was said. I wasn't really the one talking, frankly, so the words came easy from another place that I was more spectator to than anything. The bounty of Midsummer giving us all that we needed, both physically and metaphorically, for the dark days ahead on the Wheel. The bittersweet sensation of being both at the peak of the light season and a step away from the dark, of feeling that life was shifting and we were to shift along with it.

Everyone got a lit white tealight, including me, and we scattered in the darkness of the woods and the meadow and the tent city beyond to have our moments of walking meditation. I found a curve in the path I liked, from where I could see lone candle flames flickering in the distance in many directions, and yet ahead of me nothing but wild, untamed plantlife. I held that flame up and thought how small and mighty that light was. How comforting to see the tiny lights of others, faint floating faerie lights, who without the candle I'd have never known surrounded me in the night-silent woods and fields beyond. I was not alone, though I could have easily felt that way if I hadn't looked around. I had enough light for me to see by but not much idea of the landscape around me. At one point, the cup of the tealight tilted and my palm was scalded in one white wax wash. I hissed in pain, immediately fixating on the experience and wishing it hadn't happened. The light, though, unhindered by a pool of liquid wax, was flaring brighter, bigger, bolder as a result. How often in life do I try to rewind and wish away sudden dark moments instead of seeing the way the light in me can grow because of the experience? Hasn't all my most valuable personal, spiritual growth been the gift of dark times that changed me, that cleared out what I didn't need, and helped me breath a little? I was meant to spill the wax. I cannot control the candle, the Wheel, the world. I am not in control of what happens, only how I choose to view and respond to what does happen.

The wax spills, the flame grows, the wax builds again.

I have been given all the supplies I need for the days ahead. The Sun's light may be waning, but the light within me is waxing in counterpoint. Around me, in community, the Sun's light has become internalized and we'll all, as a tribe, get through the season of darkness together. I need only open my eyes and see the lights around me to know that I'm never alone.

We are all moving through the dark together, separately, and we are all carrying light with us. Enough to share, enough for us all.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (joy fae)
This past weekend, I flew to New York to take part in Sarah [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden and Jenn [livejournal.com profile] willow_cabin's First Annual Midsummer Faerie Celebration, an outdoor costumed tea party the hostesses had been dreaming up for awhile. I can't imagine a more perfect community in which to celebrate Litha, the turning of the seasons from growing light to growing darkness.

Friday, after a day spent in a Rosemont hotel entertaining Graeme while Daniel spoke at an expert witness conference, I got all glammed up and went to the airport. I *love* flying to New York because it is the quickest flight, just an hour and a half, so travel doesn't take all day the way a lot of our destinations do. I had on some high heeled espadrilles, though, and the miles-long walk through O'Hare was less then comfy. Oh, vanity! :D I just loved knowing I wouldn't have to carry a toddler around, so it felt like I could get away with all kinds of things. :) Getting to Buffalo, I was pretty distracted. I'd arranged Rhiannon [livejournal.com profile] rubymulligan's flight to arrive around mine but I couldn't remember if she was coming in a little ahead of my schedule or a little behind. Should I try to find her gate and wait there, or go out and get my bag at the baggage claim? She wasn't answering her phone and I was feeling very responsible for her. I wasn't even sure who would be picking us up! I figured I'd head out to get my luggage. And there, already waiting just outside security, lined up and grinning and waving with great excitement were Sarah and Jenn, as well as Lena [livejournal.com profile] lenaperry and Karyn [livejournal.com profile] belladonnastrap, the first guests who'd arrived earlier in the day. Lena even had a bakery box with two vegan cupcakes for us in her hands! Ha! In a movie, I'd have run crying down the hallway and thrown myself in their arms, but instead it was like, "Oh, hey, good to meet you/see you again. Have you heard from Rhiannon? What should we do? I'm worried about Rhiannon. I wish I'd printed out her flight information. Do you know her flight information?" while blocking the exit from security. :D In time, Rhiannon resurfaced, my luggage circled around on the claim belt, and we piled ourselves into two cars for the drive to Sarah and Jenn's house.

Friday night, Saturday's party, and tons of photos under here. )
Such a wonderful day! In future posts, I'll write about the ritual and the rest of our weekend. There is so much to cover!! In the meantime, many many many more photos from Saturday are up on my Flickr site.

PS- Oh, another little thing. During the weekend, Sarah and Jenn passed around a wooden box filled with a tumble of crystals and minerals in every color. We each picked one randomly as a divination/intention/gift of the weekend. Mine, a marbled thing I'd never seen before, was fossilized fern, which Sarah said was for remembrances. Pretty awesome. :) I know my memories of this weekend are fixed in stone.

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