Monday, March 30, 2015

Still cold, still snow, still time to be thankful for warmth

Ostara just happened, our dyed eggs are still in the fridge, and our seedlings are still in starter sets inside the house.

We think about Spring, about warmth and sun and light weight clothing.  Our coats seem to weigh a ton, our scarves strangle us... and yet we walk outside our homes to freezing temperatures.  We look at the calendar, we check the dates - and yes, it is the last throes of March.  It is almost April Fools and snow is (no joke) still in piles on the ground.  The wind is still an icy blade on our cheeks.  The rain, frozen as it is, sounds like a thousand bits of gravel falling.

Where are the warm breezes of Spring?  We stand at dawn, screaming against the cold in the glow of the sun at 6am.  We wait at noon, glaring eyes out of our office windows at the freeze and slush that accumulates on roadways and walkways.  The sun sets and we hide inside, steaming mugs in our hands instead of the cool teas we long to drink on the decks we stare at from heated rooms.

It is in these times, trying as they are, that we must draw up from the Earth and pull that warmth that we know is there to the surface.  Will this do anything to warm the air outside?  Maybe.  Probably not.  It will warm the frozen parts of our souls though, as we push the cold away from us and embrace Spring however we find it.  The tulips are starting to peek through, and the crocus are blooming somewhere.  The Earth knows though the Winds won't let go, and the Water stays icy - Fire wants to dance in the dimming twilight of evening and send smoke to the heavens, not stare forcefully out of the fireplace, filling a brick tunnel with scent and ash.

This is one of those moments were we all have "Senioritis".  If you haven't heard this term before (and I'd be kinda surprised, but however) it describes the desire to leave the current situation for the wonderful thing to come next.  This is that feeling you get at 4pm on Friday when your quitting time at work is 5pm.  You feel it the day before you leave for a big trip, when all you want to do is GO! but you're stuck at work for another however many hours.  We all have it right now, for Spring as we are trying to rage-quit Winter.

In this season of transition, be kind to Winter.  Remember it has it's place and while we may think that place is behind us, it is still relevant for a reason, it is still with us for a reason, and listening is what's needed, not screaming.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the power of a good deep breath

somewhere in Virginia

I long for skies that look like this, when you can look up and really see the element of Air moving solid objects, when you can feel it on your skin.  

I work in an office, and it's a small basement office at that, so getting air flow down here is difficult at best.  Doors open, fans in place, it still does little to help.  This is an old building, not old in a way that it has amazing character to help you celebrate the age but old in a neglected, patched over, barely cared for sort of way.  Old in a way that makes you long to knock it down and build something more practical, more useful and more malleable to the changing needs of the times. 

So when I'm able (which should be every day but most certainly isn't) I escape the confines of the office at lunch and go out into the world.  Sometimes it's just to sit in my car and eat, sometimes on errands with the windows down and the air streaming in.  And honestly, no matter the weather, I go outside.  Rain, snow, sleet, torrential downpour... doesn't matter.  The air outside is always better than the staleness of the office.  

One deep breath can be the change in your whole day.  

One deep breath can mean the difference between sadness and joy. 

One long, slow exhale can bring you back to center. 

One long, slow exhale can be the remedy. 

I can tell you it worked today. :) 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Throwback... Friday...

Should put this up yesterday, but today is good too.

This is from a post I put up on my previous blog, and being nostalgic on the holy days as I often am, decided this is a good day to post.

There are things in this world stronger than wands, stronger than potions or curses and it is love that binds them, that holds their power. It is these things that, when used properly, have the abilities that are only read about in books. Ordinary objects until someone loves them, until someone believes in the strength of the bond that ties that item to a person or idea - but when that power is called on, it is more magical than anything you could dream in a book of wizards and fae. It is more than a spoken word in latin or a phrase that rhymes. It is pure magic, the magic of belief and of love, of honor and of fate. That is what the mistake is - to think that magic does not exist is to say that belief does not exist, that faith does not exist. Magic is love, pure and simple. Magic is seeing beyond the visible, looking to the unseen to be your guide and to allow everything in it's time to be revealed as such. No cards are needed, no special books bound in ancient leather, no stick finely adorned, no robes with runes at the hem. Magic is power from within, the power of knowing you have the ability to do what it is you are called on to do and then doing it without ceremony, just doing it as you are called on.

Yes, there are things in this world stronger than what some see and it is magic or belief or trust or faith or whatever name you wish to call it by. It is not the stuff of legend for it lives now, in the present. It breathes through those with the courage to look, to see and to act on it - those who call it out, grab it and make it their own. It is within us, waiting for the moment it's needed and hoping that we have the strength to call it by name so that it may weave through us and aid us in all the amazing ways it can. It is not something you learn from an old woman in the woods, or from a man with a trailing beard and wrinkles - there is no pointy hat unless you happen to own one and feel like wearing it. Magic is real, it is alive and it is that thought that binds us all to something greater than ourselves. Whether you choose to own it or live to it or revere it in your own way is up to you - whether you feel you can call on it or you must pray to it is your choice and it is how your particular vein of magic reveals itself but we all have it.

The true question is will you call on it? Or will you deny it?

I choose to call on it.


Is it really here already?  The piles of snow on the ground don't tell me it's here - neither does the dull grey sky or the threat of more snow later today.

What tells me that Ostara is here (other than my calendar) is remembering the fat little robin a few days ago, and the hawks that I've seen protecting nests.  What tells me is the sun that hangs longer in the sky in the evening, and the glow I see in the morning as I drive in to work.

I'll be dying eggs this weekend, and putting in my bulb order next week so I can start planting and invite more color to my yard.  I love this time of year, as I imagine all the things I'll see blooming soon, and the wealth of color that comes with it.  Sometime in the next month or so (closer to Mother's Day as, honestly, bulbs are about the only thing that you can plant till then) I'll go to my local greenhouse and get the plants for my deck railing planters.  It's a tradition with my love and I, we make a day of it and it's always fun.

So how do you celebrate Ostara?  Around my house, we'll have lemon raspberry pie, quiches, and some roasted chickens.  I usually make honey cakes as well and for as messy as they are to make, it's very, very worth it!  On Sunday the ladies and I will get together for sewing circle, and there will be more dishes and desserts with a Spring theme - lemon bars, shortbread, deviled eggs, and brownies. (because, brownies.)

As a solitary I have choices when it comes to Ceremony.  I'll put on my boots, a white shift, and my heavy wool cloak and venture out into the falling snow to welcome Spring back to my sacred space.  I'll carry with me a flower in bloom, some wine, and some honey on shortbread as gifts.  I'll carry with me also a flame, to represent the warmth flowing back into the land. The ceremony will be short, but it will be meaningful and I will listen more than I speak.  I will sit at the foot of the Goddess and I'll listen for her wisdom and take it to heart.

Bright blessings to you and yours on this Ostara.  Carry warmth with you today and find ways to spread that warmth to all you meet.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It's a trust thing

We trust a lot of things in our lives. We trust that the sun is coming up tomorrow.  We trust it'll set tonight and the moon will rise.  We trust that technology will work as it's designed to and we trust that people around us will obey the laws of man.

We trust a LOT.

So when trust is broken, that betrayal we feel is unlike anything else.  It's a pain that lasts, no matter how "over it" you think you might be.  When we feel that trust slipping, it's almost worse - we can see the slope, and the edge, and the nothingness beyond that... and we can see the trust we hold dear teetering like a baby on unsteady legs.

When trust is forced, either by situation or by interaction, it's never easy.  That nervousness we feel, that rumbling pit in our stomachs, will color our whole day.  But when we have to place supreme trust in strangers is when we are the most tested.

We're having a team work on our basement, and those two men are at our house alone.  They have to be - neither of us can be there, and beside - they're using jackhammers and air hammers and saws-alls and other power tools of loud and painful sounds, so who really wants to try and work from home through that?  Neither of us, that's for certain.  But in reality, what we're doing is trusting them explicitly to do what they said they're going to do - stay out of the upstairs, work quickly and efficiently, be polite and respectful of our home, and to leave all our things undisturbed.  That is a lot of trust.

We give it, because we want the services they render done in the timeframe we want them done.  We can't wait on this till one of us has the vacation time to be there all day.  So it's being done, and hours are sacrificed at work, and we do what we have to so that we can have this completed before the rains start in earnest.  This is already a wet Winter - so many, many feet of snow, and the groundwater is already high in our basement - and Spring threatens to be wetter still with rains and melting for months. So, we have this done, and we trust the men doing the work.  It's a trust that doesn't sit easy, but is necessary so we don't fight it.

So... trust comes, trust goes.... and somewhere in there we are decidedly uncomfortable for some length of time.

We trust the Gods and Goddesses too... and they trust us in turn. We look to them and trust that they are our teachers, guides, mentors, leaders - we trust the advice they give and we trust their intentions. Likewise, they trust us as students, that we will use their teachings well, that we will listen, that we won't abuse their interaction with us.  They trust our intentions.

Be thankful for the trust you have, and don't abuse it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day...

It's that day again, when green everything is everywhere and when everyone is Irish for a day.

I'm not Irish, I'm Scottish and to be honest, I'm not even that - I'm just an American with Scottish roots and no matter what day it is I'm not claiming anything else, no matter how generous some might be with bestowing their heritage on others.  

But that's not what I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about the vitriol I already see on my Facebook page - and it's not even noon yet.   I've heard so many us vs them arguments (Protestant vs Catholic, Irish (really) vs Irish for a day, Pagan vs Catholic, Pagan vs Protestant... the list goes on...) that I really have to wonder what people think today is about.

There are more books on the market aimed at Pagans of every flavor that all seem to reinforce how put upon we are as a people.  They seek to remind us every 3rd page that we ought to hate the others who have oppressed us and stolen our heritage and holy days.  They call us to arms, magically speaking, to "gird our loins" against these hatemongers who will, at any opportunity, seek to burn you alive for being Pagan.

Be honest here - how many of us have really, actually feared for our lives when someone we didn't know well found out we are Pagan?  How many of us have honestly, truthfully thought we were going to be harmed by someone we know well when the found out we are Pagan?   I do know lots of people who have suffered because their path was found out, and there have been deaths as a result - this question is not to trivialize their suffering.  This is to point out that for every tragedy there are 5 who are accepted freely.  This is to show us all that for every death there are those that live.

I've come out of the broom closet to many, many people - including Born Again Christians, Roman Catholics, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses (my boss at one time), and Mormons.  I'm still here.  I wasn't hit or harmed in any way.  The most I got is that they'll pray for me.  I smiled and walked on - no reason to be hateful to someone who isn't physically harming me.

This is the crux of what I think we need to move toward as Pagans - peacefulness.  So they don't agree with us!  So what??  If they're called to this path, we'll help them walk it happily.  If they're not, then it's not for them and who are we to tell them this is the right way?

I was once asked why I didn't try and recruit for Paganism.  The question was to the effect of "aren't you required to get more followers too?", based on the tenants of some faiths to spread the "good word" and bring more followers to the faith.  I answered honestly - no.  It's not my job to convince people to become Pagan.  I'll answer questions to those who are interested, and teach classes and workshops on topics and techniques of Paganism, but I'm not going to stand there and throw leaflets at you in an attempt to win you over to the Goddess.  It won't work, and I'll just get a sore throat.

So this 17th day of March, look around and smile at people.  Be open, and helpful and hospitable.  Be kind and loving and caring.  Be nice to everyone.  And then do it again tomorrow.  Don't draw dividing lines between you and someone else because of the creed they follow.  And ignore those lines if they're drawn against you.

Instead of looking at the world in compartments, look at the world without lines of division and see how much bigger the horizon looks that way. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I wasn't sure yesterday, but this morning I saw it - the grass in my front yard!

As much as I love watching snow fall (and I do, even after this winter) I also love watching it recede.  I love watching the blanket pull back and reveal earth we haven't seen in months.

It isn't always easy to see the turning of the Wheel in our daily lives.  Day to day things look much the same and we, being busy people that we are, often rush through on our way to offices and appointments and dates.  It's easy to overlook the little changes when our focus isn't on the present.

So very much is said about "being in the present" and "keeping our focus on the here and now" that it seems there is little left to be said on that point... and yet, do we listen?  Or is this now just a message that we read and nod and smile and move on without absorbing?  I'll admit - it's hard to be in the here and now.  It's not always fun.  It's not always exciting.  Sometimes it's downright disturbing or painful... but always important.

I won't put on a smile and tell you that I'm always present, and always in the here and now.  That'd be a lie and you know it.  I will tell you that I make a conscious effort to be though - and I'll tell you why.  It's for the sparks.  Yup - I do it for the sparks.  The spark of memory that seeing the first buds of spring brings me.  The spark of enlightenment when I feel close to the Gods.  The spark of creativity that seeing the changing color of the sky brings.  The more my attention is on the present, the more sparks I get and the better off I am.

Noticing the little things often gives you a smile that nothing else can, and don't we all need a few more smiles in our lives?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Madness of Spring

This day started great for me, see my post about Robins for more on that awesomeness, and got better when I went out for lunch today in the blessedly 58 degree weather.  I went out without a coat on even, in my lightweight knit and short sleeves!

The warmth of the sun was more welcome than the smile of an old friend today, for I've seen my friends recently and the sun, well, the sun has been hiding for bit hasn't it.  However, driving today has been rough by any definition.

People seem to go mad when the weather warms up - and even more so after such a long period of such awful weather.  The sun is bright again and the breeze doesn't rip your face off with its cold... so naturally, everyone is driving, and everyone has their windows down, and no one wants to do anything close to the speed limit because there isn't ice to worry about anymore, right?

(nevermind the water on the roads, the still present tall piles of snow and slush, the ice dripping and breaking and falling off everything...)

I've heard of many injuries today - some in the city, some on the roads, some at residences - and none of them will end happily; some are fatal.  Someone told me when I was young that the lure of Spring is like a drug, lulling you into a sense of security and leading you to your doom unless you keep your head. "Mind your head in the spring" they used to say.  When I was little I thought they were talking about allergies.  Now I know the truth of it - it is a drug that lures you, tendrils of desire that reach out and grab you, playing fast and loose and calling for you to do the same.

Sometimes it ends ok.  Sometimes it ends in death.

So, dear readers, I ask that you keep your heads in this Spring weather, lest you hear the siren song of an ambulance coming for you.

It's the little things that make you smile

I'm not a morning person - ask anyone who's met me and they'll answer with "yes, kinda, well, not till after coffee."  It's fact, I'm just not a morning person.  But, because I have responsibilities and all that, I get up and start my day at 6am, whether I like it or not.

Today was better than some mornings - the coffee was hot and plentiful, my outfit came together easily and I didn't run into a lot of traffic on my commute in to work.  There's one section of my drive that takes me through a residential section, and I love that part of the drive the most - not because I'm sitting in a long line of traffic (because I am) but because the houses are lovely, and it's fairly wooded.  The houses have been there long enough that the landscape has grown back around them, and it's seamless again, unlike the areas of new construction that are so scarred and barren once the earth movers and demo teams are done ripping things away to make room for a huge new house.

So as I'm sitting in that long, slow line of cars, I creep around the bend in the road and sitting on the low stone wall is a robin.  Just sitting there in a slice of sunlight, puffy and fat as you like, blinking at the cars rolling past.  I smiled and laughed a little, and if the traffic had stopped just then I might have tried to snap a picture with my phone but as the traffic wasn't stopping, that wasn't happening.  So I kept my eye on it for as long as I could, and thanked the Goddess for that sweet bird and the promise of Spring that it brought to my day.

the little guy I saw looked like this beauty
The Native Americans see the Robin as a sign of rebirth and growth, and a teacher that change comes through joy and happiness in your own heart.  The robin also is a sign to trust your own intuition, to be your own drummer and to move forward to your own song.  In all traditions the Robin is most powerful in the Spring.

The snow is slow to melt up here in New England, but even still, there is grass peaking out from the edges of the snowbanks around my house.  The days are significantly warmer and adding to that this lovely, fluffy messenger... well, my morning is so very much brighter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hinting at Spring, and keeping Nature out

It's March now, and as much as we might wish for warmer days (and are getting them in some places) the snow is not receding quickly enough for most of us.  We want clear roads and yards of grass. We get mud and saltwater instead.
there are plants under there, somewhere... 

so very dark, we are all so tired
As the melt comes, and it is coming, we have that ever winning element of water surrounding us, even in the most land locked of places. Rivers appear where there were once mountains of ice and we think, passingly, of the icecaps and the glaciers that are melting in other parts of the world.  We curse driving through the same water we pray doesn't refreeze into waves of treacherous road hazards.  It's a love/hate relationship this time of year, and we can't wait for the daylight that brings us out of the dark of winter.

So the water comes, the dripping barely ceases and becomes the soundtrack for our days and nights, and we are left still wanting the light, still wanting spring, still looking for the sun to replace the lantern.

Travel, travel, travel... and bringing your space with you

I won't try to hide the fact that I adore traveling.   I love flying, I love trains, I love long car trips... just being out in the world, seeing things I haven't before, wandering places that I don't know - it's one of the reasons I like the job I have now; I can take time off without a lot of issue and travel.

Recently I gave a lecture on bringing your sacred space with you to work, and incorporating your practice to your daily life.  So how do we do that while traveling?  You're in hotel rooms, airport gate areas, train cars, rental cars... a myriad of places that have hosted a myriad of other people.  How do you protect yourself? How do you honor the sacred and not open yourself up to the excess of other people?

There are a few different methods, but for me having a pouch of blessed items with me has worked the best.   Native Americans call it a medicine bag.  Other traditions call them gris-gris, charm bags, spell bags and the like.  Name it what you will, but they're very useful tools to keep your head on straight and your energy going the correct direction.  The contents are very personal, and (as with many other things) it is impolite (and sometimes dangerous!) to ask what is inside.

Creating them is a ritual unto itself - and keeping them is easier than you think.  A simple ritual to create one is below... and as with other how-to's that I've posted, this is general and should be personalized as you go.

Creating a Charm Bag
 You'll need:
-- a drawstring pouch in the fabric and color that calls to you that's about the size of your hand OR fabric of the correct size to make hand sized drawstring pouch (and the needle and thread to sew it)
-- a white candle (I like short pillar candles, votive candles, or tea lights in plastic cups not metal) 
-- representatives of the 4 elements
-- items for your bag, such as
    - stones
    - shells
    - string
    - charms or pendants
    - sage/ resin/ etc (star anise is a good thing to add to these.  See Cunningham's Herbal for descriptions) 

Focus on the pouch, placing your intent for safe travels and all the hope for safe and careful handling of your bags into the fibers of the fabric, seeing it weave in and around and through until the pouch is complete with it.  

Place, one by one, your items into the pouch and while you do, think about why you chose that item.  Recall a story about the item, or a reason that the item is important for protection.  

Light the candle and let the wax pool for a bit.  As you draw close your bag, picture the protection sealing itself.  Tie a knot in your drawstring and then dip the knot in the wax.  Don't soak it, that's not necessary, but just let it get a little wet with wax and let it dry without touching it. As the wax cools, see the seal form and meditate on the completeness of the protection encased there.  

Carry it with you when you travel.  

I have three of these - one that stays in my checked bag, one that stays in my purse and one that stays in my car.  They're all a little different, and they're all very effective.