Monday, April 25, 2016

Prepping for Beltane

It seems I'm scheduled to spend the big ones away from home this year. You might remember my Samhain post about being on the road and not having a patch of grass to go to for ceremony. Traveling on holy days seems to have set the tone for the year - on Beltane I'll have a lot of grass to go to as I'll be at a campground.

It's not a year for actually going to a Beltane rite gathering, although I think that'll be next year. I'm feeling the call again. No, this year I'll be with my friends spending the weekend focusing on learning dance and laughing and feasting. It should be glorious. We'll be at a campground and it will be no problem for me to walk into the treeline at dawn to honor the Goddess and hold my usual rite. It's a Sunday, but even so it's the last day of the festival and we all have to be off site by noon so I won't be watching the full sunrise - I'll have too much else to do helping close down the festival.

My candle this year will be an electric one, so that it can stay lit all day. My chalice will be a pottery mug. I'll still be wearing white, and I'll be barefoot if the ground allows me. (if there's broken glass or the like, I won't be barefoot and everyone can just forgive me - personal safety is a thing)

I was out two weeks ago with my camera, and got a few shots of Spring returning to our area. It was lovely to see, and cold so close to the water, but worth it - the colors are returning and soon the bare trees will be lush again.

This has been a hard spring for me. It was a hard winter, and it will be a hard summer and fall as well. The loss that my family suffered in September last year is still a pain that I feel acutely, and will be for some time. The loss of a loved one is not easily recovered from.  Marking the Wheel is helping.

Wherever this Beltane brings you, let it bring with it a smile and a return to the light and warmth of Spring. Appreciate the budding plants and wet earth. Plant and thank the Gods when you do. Bake and make foods for your family and friends. Appreciate the life that you live, the breaths you take, the sights that make you smile even now.


Monday, April 18, 2016

How sacred my altar

Something that was instilled in me from a young age was the sacredness of an altar. I was raised Catholic, and anyone who's ever been in a Church knows that the altar isn't somewhere you just go. Only certain people are allowed up there, and those people usually aren't you. I got involved in the Church when I was younger, and in high school started reading at Mass. I was allowed close to the altar then, and sometimes even behind it, (gasp!) and it inspired awe in me.

They weren't just at Church though. My Grandmother had two - one in her room with a Cross and one in the living room with a statue of Mary. Both had lace doilies, silk flowers and greenery, candles, and a little crystal dish for holy water. My mother had an altar too, and a holy water vessel and candles, but no silk flowers. These spaces we knew were sacred spaces, and we were careful around them.

So when I became Pagan, and stopped going to Church, I was already out of my Mother's house and there wasn't an altar in my apartment to anyone. It didn't occur to me to go set one up to a deity (or two) now that I was polytheist. I just was, and when I wanted to talk to them I went outside, found a tree, and talked. It wasn't something that happened in a building.

As it happens, I took up with some other Pagans eventually and the question of "what do you mean you don't have an altar at home?" came up, with the sort of questioning looks that accompany comments of "what do you mean you haven't ever heard of Star Wars??" So I went looking into altars in Pagan space, and figured out how to do the thing.

So there I was, setting up a sacred space in my bedroom because I had nowhere else to put it. I burned the incense, called a Circle, did the walk, said the words... and then never touched it unless I was specifically doing magical work. It was on a pedestal that I couldn't reach unless my mind was clear, the room was quiet, the incense was burning, and I was skyclad. I never leaned on it, bumped against it, touched it in passing... There were shields up as far as I was concerned, not to be interrupted unless absolutely necessary for a rite.

This went on for *years* despite the fact that my altar is on the top of my dresser. I'd use the drawers, but I wouldn't touch the top unless there was a reason, and that reason had to be ritual.

Well, about a month and a half ago I broke my own rule. I leaned on the top as I took my socks off. I was exhausted and the bookcase that used to live next to the dresser is in another room being useful there. Without thinking I placed my hand on the top of my dresser, leaned and removed socks from my feet.

And the strangest thing happened.

I smiled. The feeling of warmth on my hand from touching that sacred space was gentle and inviting - like a friend who hugs you as you both say "it's been too long." And that's what it was, exactly. It had been too long. The pieces laying there, my book, chalice, blade, incense, offering bowl, bessom... they're all friends that I have had long conversations with, that have been in my life for many years. What I was doing wasn't revering them. I was neglecting them, coming to them only in times of great need and not when I just wanted to visit. That's no way to be a friend.

Now I touch my altar all the time. I spend a few minutes in the morning as I chose my underpinnings smiling at the carving on the wall hanging there, looking through my book, jotting notes and filling the pages as I once did regularly. Now, at the end of the day, I smell the sage in the bowl and run my fingers through the ribbons on the bessom. I touch my altar all the time now, and it thanks me for it.

Since I started this, I feel more attached to my path.  My altar hasn't become less sacred, and it hasn't become more sacred - it's just as it was, ever waiting to visit with me, help and guide me, listen to me.

So think about your altar - how often do you visit? Only when you want to hold ceremony or ritual? Do you go only to ask for something? Or do you visit just to touch it, just to see how things are and to know yourself to still be connected?


Monday, April 4, 2016


I love words, the way the roll and drop and pull at your mind and tongue. 

Shelter is a great word. It has so many means, so many uses... and so much emotion no matter who says it. 

I picked Shelter today because it's snowing again. Yes, it's April 4th and it's snowing - and sticking. Not just melting as soon as it hits the warm pavement... no no, it's sticking and building up and I'm going to have to use my scraper and brush to clear the car so I can run errands in a few hours. 

So, Shelter. I live in a house - it's warm and dry and I have groceries in the fridge and pantry. I made bread yesterday, and had the leftovers for breakfast. I realize how lucky I am though, and how not everyone has these options available to them. I didn't always have this sort of life to be honest. There were winters and springs in West Virginia when I was lucky to have my rent paid and the electricity still on... barely.... I remember what scraping by means, and how it feels when you don't quite make it. 

Not everyone has shelter from the roller coaster our weather patterns have been on lately. I hold ceremony indoors and beseech the Goddess and God to care for those who cannot get out of the cold or rain or snow. But that can't be the only thing I do. 

Now is the time to make donations of clothing and foodstuffs to shelters, food banks, etc - now is the time to think about someone other than ourselves. 

We don't all have time to go grocery shopping and drop it off at the food bank. That's fine - they take cash too. Why? Because everyone will go buy a few canned goods and drop them off but they need milk and eggs and perishable goods. They need cash to buy grocery cards that can go out with the dry goods, so these people can buy the stuff they need. 

Greater Boston Food Bank: -- donation button is really big and on the front page. 

Feeding America: - that goes straight to the donation page.

There are so many more options out there, but these are two that I've used and feel comfortable donating to - they're very straightforward about where their money goes, and what their costs are. I really feel like they're doing good. 

And if that's not your thing, that's fine too. Big Brother Big Sister is always accepting donations, and there are plenty of clothing resellers that you can donate to that have better stances on what "help everyone" means than Goodwill or Salvation Army. Go ahead and clean out your closet. You'll feel better once it's done. ;) 

So, in this snowyness, think about the people who can't get out of the weather. You can do something about helping them, and you should. We all should.