Thursday, May 9, 2013

Springing with Spring's Energy

Beltane morning just before sunrise: the world is still, quiet, and cool, but a new warmth is in the air. On a branch amid dogwood flowers, a Robin sings a joyous melody as the Pleiades star cluster rises on the eastern horizon.

Beltane's bird song and blossoms usher us into the light half on the year and we are all very grateful for the end (or near end!) of cold weather.

Named for Bel, a Celtic sun god, and "tine" (fire), Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals (the others being Imbolc and Ostara). 

Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (it's opposite,  Samhain is widely celebrated as Hallow'een). Celebrated approximately halfway between the Vernal (Spring) equinox and Litha/Midsummer (Summer Solstice), Beltane traditionally marked the arrival of summer for the ancient Celts, but heralds Spring for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Like Samhain, Beltane is a time when the veils between the words are thin. On the night before Beltane, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, to ward off unwanted otherworldly occurrences.  

As we move into the season of growth, we find renewal and joy in rising earth energy as nature stretches towards light and warmth. 

Our peas are just beginning to twine up their posts and at this early stage of development, they still need protection.Those of us who have planted and nurtured seeds of intent are now seeing our projects, both spiritual and material, manifest; still, we must continue to support and nurture what we have brought forth.

One way to manifest and celebrate spring energy is a May Day or Beltane gathering.

At last year's Beltane gathering, each participant chose a brightly colored ribbon and danced around a Maypole. Weaving in and out with much laughter, we raised enlivening energy as we twined the ribbons tightly  until they twined the pole creating a new, bright  weave.

During this year's Beltane gathering, we lit a small fire symbolizing the sun's warmth and power to renew life and bounty to the land. We circled, sang, pounded on drums, enlivening ourselves as the earth is enlivened; some of us even jumped the Beltane fire--literally and figuratively traversing barriers and moving ourselves and our goals forward.

As the Earth around us is enlivened, may each of us be blessed with new  energy to make our heart's desires manifest.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring not quite sprung...

All of my nine children will tell you (probably with a groan) that at some point  in their lives--when they were positively bursting for some wonderful event to happen--I informed them that "patience is waiting without complaining."  That they'd, "appreciate it all the more,"  when the marvelous treat arrived.  

The marvelous treat for  all of us this year will be honest to goodness spring weather. Good-bye winter-- hello spring with no chilly ifs, ands, or buts

Thanks to a warm air mass over Greenland--the possible result of climate change--spring is taking its time to arrive in the Brandywine  Valley and environs.  But the potential is here-- curled tightly in the fists of buds, in early robins singing on bare branches, in worm castings on the muddy soil, in the dark green leaves and sunny yellow petals of lesser celandine that carpets the side of the path beside  unploughed cornfields.

Our spring chicks are fully feathered. Tiny pink combs emerge between their eyes.  Although they still peep like chicks, The Girls are becoming pullets and  will soon need the space and bugtacular adventures of free range chickens.  But the icy drafts would put an end to them; so inside they will remain until milder weather arrives.  We've finally spread compost on part of the garden and planted  the peas that usually go into the ground around St Patrick's Day,  but the flurry of activity must wait.

For me this delay is akin to waiting for the miracle of birth; life with all its  beauty and adventures is held within each womb until the time is right.  There is great power and beauty in this potential. With hope and expectation, we observe and enjoy each small movement--are more mindful of each transition. This cool spring teaches us patience. As we wait, it teaches us to be observant. It provides us with opportunities to experience each transition from potential to action--from bud to blossom--from hope to joyous welcome. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seeking Balance at the Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox!

Here in the Brandywine Valley the air is cool, well cold actually. And after days of  gloomy, rainy weather, the sun is shining in fits and starts. Nasty cold weather aside, this time of balance means that the days will (finally!) be longer than the nights--that our region of the Earth is in the time of birthing and rebirth.

Last year's plants and discarded carrot and potato peels have turned into rich fertile compost.  This weekend we'll turn the earth and spread it on the garden to enrich new plants. Despite unseasonably cold weather, the green spears of daffodils bend in the chilly breeze and nine growing chicks peep and peck in the big brooder box in the corner of our living room.

As the spring equinox marks a brief space of balance  (when the Earth is pointed neither away from or towards the sun),  this is is a great time to examine what may need balancing in our own lives. 

This year our family project has been to balance our debt to Mother Earth by reducing, reusing and recycling as much as we can. For the next two weeks we are monitoring our daily water use to get a better handle on just how much we use wisely and how much we use wastefully. Our longer range project involves raising nine pullets (hens) to aid in our effort to reduce what goes into the trash can.

The chicks are part of our effort bring our family's consumption more in balance with our environmental concerns.   Sometime towards the end of April the "young ladies" move from their brooder box to their outdoor digs.

Besides providing eggs, their contribution to our recycling effort, involves consuming any food scraps that we can't compost. 

On a more personal level, this is the time of year when I seek balance.  Like most people following a nature based spirituality, I try to incorporate the spiritual into my mundane life  as much as I can--i.e. cleaning with positive energy, being mindful of my daily actions.  But there are activities like meditating, yoga, walking in the woods and writing--that are essential to my well being.

Yet the activities that feed my soul are the ones I'm most likely to neglect.  I have to shop, clean,  do office work, run kids to activities and do the all of the regular necessary activities that crowd ours lives.   A good mother always puts her family first...right?  But what does  that really mean?  If I  don't balance my needs against the needs of my family what  we all get is a tenser and lest healthy person.  Where's the balance in that?

This  Spring Equinox,  as our family strives for balance,  I will also strive to even out the scales and attend to my physical and spiritual needs so that I can attend to the mundane with  more vitality and enthusiasm.

May we all find the balance we need in our lives to carry us into the light.

Springtime blessings!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Brigid/Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhog Day!

The maiden comes to bring us light,
The winter dies and all is bright,
The frozen ground shall disappear,
All shall sprout for Spring is near.

We are  still in the grip of winter yet we stand on the threshold of spring. The deepest darkness is past! 

I like to imagine Brigid the Bright stepping from Tír Tairngire , the Land of Promise, to light the darkness and set our thoughts and resolve towards spring.  In her hand is the white birch wand that brings the light of spring to the dark of winter. She invites us to stand with her on the threshold of what is and what is to be--between "now" and "know."  Are you and I ready to join her? 

Brigid is( among her many roles) patroness of the hearth, poets, smiths, craftspeople and healers. With an Irish chimney-sweep husband whose very job is  tending hearths (plus we heat our home by wood stoves so we really do gather round the hearth on cold nights!), a daughter who is both a blacksmith and sculptor (we have a forge complete with anvil in out garage), and multiple musicians and visual artists among our ranks, Brigid is our natural patroness. Of course,  Brigid informs and inspires  my artistic collaborations with my daughter Ellen and it's  no surprise that I named our publishing business Brigid's Hearth Press.

Falling on February second, the  cross-quarter and greater feast of Brigid/Imbolc is better know as Groundhog Day to most people. In fact, the  Puxatony Phil tradition of  weather divination is the part of the holiday that survives in secular society. Brigid was a significant turn of the Wheel for my Celtic ancestors. Usually translated as "in the belly," or "ewe's milk," for first lactation of pregnant ewes, Brigid is a time of first stirrings. 

The sun sets a little later each day, and spring bulbs begin to stir and reach for light; some brave, or foolish, green spears have already pierced the cold earth in my front garden.  

We too begin to stir out of winter's darkness and introspection  and carefully plan and foster new goals even as we plan spring gardens yet to be. 

It is our job to manifest our dreams as well our gardens in the months to come.

May we all find the gifts of firm resolve and true purpose as we foster our spiritual and mundane goals in this time of  first stirrings.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Winter Walk at the Turning of the Year

4 PM Christmas Day 2012: My husband, nineteen year old son, and seven year old daughter take a walk across the fields and woodland just before sundown. Apart from the honking chorus of a flock of geese, the woods are  still, but not silent.


A chickadee natters in the brambles and a crimson cardinal and his drab mate flit across the trail and into the lower branches of a maple. Up the hill, a buck and his doe bound uphill white tails flashing. I look through bare limbs down the sweep of the hill to the stream that flows at its base and to the rising sweep of land on the other side.  Above bare limbs, a waxing moon emerges from the clouds and sails above us.

This land is like a chalice--holding the trees, the animals, the sleeping life within roots and dens between its slopes. And as I pause and give thanks, it holds me as well.


A few months ago in the glory of fall and summer foliage, all of these small and beautiful details would be hidden. But in the Croning months, the time of severity, all that has fulfilled its purpose has been swept away and repurposed in the earth. Winter gives us the space to be still, to note the small details, to see more deeply and with greater clarity to the roots and depths within and without.


May this season of returning light bring you all the warmth of friends and family and the invigorating clarity of the winter woods. Blessings!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Samhain to Yule: Light in the Darkness

My coven celebrated Little Yule in a joyous ritual held at my home during which we welcomed two new members. The Yule tree sparkles with ornaments and multi-colored lights, and the house is perfumed with the aroma of holiday baking. The winter solstice and Yule are almost upon us. With the coming light, three months of shadow work is drawing to a close.  

 This season's shadow work began with an icy wake-up call from the Crone on Samhain night when I found myself in my very own bedroom confronted by a messenger dressed in black who tore chunks out of the  door to a very real crawl space behind my bed, then told me to "wake up." (See, When the Crones Pay A Visit, You Better Pay Attention) 

About a week ago, I performed a chakra cleansing meditation, felt marvelously calm, had a good night’s sleep and took a day trip with my children.  When we returned, happy and fresh faced, I ordered Chinese, put my feet up and thought, “Wow—a whole night and day has gone by—without at tap or a nudge.”  Later that night, as I boiled water for tea, I decided to open the last fortune cookie.  The message inside read, “Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness.”    If I’d known what was around the corner, I would have stopped chuckling.

 The shadow work that I have been engaged in since Samhain has led me deep into my personal darkness with the ultimate aim of nurturing the light within me.  I have meditated, read, journeyed, journaled, and attended illuminating workshops and transformative rituals at Between the Worlds, an interfaith esoteric conference.    In The Gates of Yesterday and Tomorrow, a powerful ritual held at the conference, I promised in sacred space to let go of what I didn’t need and to move forward.

I returned from the conference feeling energized and enriched. School’s almost out! Yule is almost here!  I’d been working hard! Surely, I’d delved deeply enough, changed enough, moved forward enough. But the shadow work I’d chosen to perform wasn’t finished.  I had to demonstrate that I had the strength of will to go beyond my comfort zone and deep clean the house of my spirit. All that work had certainly opened me up for a test that made me dig into the core of my being on many levels. It was a test that I could only pass by casting away self-doubt—it was a test that I almost failed.

Just after Samhain, I’d prayed for fruitful vision quests hardly aware of what was ahead but willing to accept the Crone’s charge to “wake up.” I am not typically a lucid dreamer.  Therefore, when I have a dream where I see with clarity, speak with authority, feel the sensation of being pulled from the soles of my feet to  the skin of my back, I’m pretty sure that I’m being spiritually PMed.

I walk barefoot through the dingy rooms of a dilapidated Victorian house at the top of a steep barren slope with several narrow sets of dirty, old concrete steps.  It is an unpleasant house, upon the drab silent outskirts of a faded disagreeable neighborhood.

The rooms are dim-- the kind of twilight that greets you on a cold, dreary day. I feel squirming underfoot and shudder with revulsion as I realize that I am walking upon tiny mice and insects. Vermin infest every room. 

The house is filled with rusting—whispered secrets, scampering, evasions, and shadows. I know that I need to “wake up” and pay attention to details.     I want to destroy this infestation because I realize with disgust they infest my house.  It may be shabby, dank and inaccessible, the steps to the road may be treacherous and far below—but it is mine nonetheless. I know that it’s my job to clean it.  The job is so huge I want to run away, but I can’t.  Either I clean house or give up and accept defeat.

I feel a very real physical tug like the pull of tide. My body tingles with energy. The room darkens. Just ahead is swirling pulsing vortex of red light.   I know that place is not meant for me—that it’s not a safe place for me. I no more want to enter that vortex than I want to put my hand in an InSinkErator garbage disposal.  But this is my opportunity to get rid of all the psychic vermin once and for all.  It’s my choice.  . Words come to me. I speak them with authority and conviction. I speak from the center of my will and push energy through my solar plexus, “I banish you! Back! Back! Back!”   The darkness and vermin resist.  I push harder.  I feel and see the vermin coalesce and begin to stream away from me into the vortex.

I wake and reach for my husband’s warm, anchoring presence.  I snort softly.

Of course what I want and what I need are at odds. If I were a house—I’d want the world to see me as accessible, well kept, and full of cozy warmth. What the Crone has shown me is a structure far from this virtuous vision.  My outward self—my conscious effort and in fact a good deal of who I am and want to be and become is invested in being this welcoming home. But the Crone sent me farther inward, to this shadowed structure, to fulfill my promise and evict (if I so willed) pain and burdens that I need no longer carry. After the darkest night, the light waxes—in the heart of the shadows my own compassion and will to move forward create light. As I fall into true sleep, I feel a toddler’s delight in her first steps.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Samhain to Yule

  Samhain to Yule --The Journey Inward

Soul-searching N: A penetrating examination of one's motives, convictions, and attitudes.

A deep or critical examination of one's motives, actions, beliefs, etc.

Adj: displaying the characteristics of deep or painful self-analysis.

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003



In my last post, “When the Crone Pays a Visit, You’d Better Pay Attention,” I related my Samhain experience of a mandate from the Crone and a deceased  family member to “wake-up” and start the new year with a difficult and necessary spiritual house cleaning.  As anyone who has found themselves in my predicament knows, this is no easy task.    Shadow work, which could also be defined as soul-searching, is really a quest to find, acknowledge, and/or root out doubt, guilt, baneful thoughts/intent, self-loathing, and old grief  (just to name a few lurkers in my own dark places).  


Soul searching is fraught with danger and sacrifices, but also with self-knowledge and positive transformation.  As in any quest, the goal is to grow from the chosen initiate and become a hero/heroine.  We are, in a sense, on a quest to save ourselves from all that holds us back and keeps us form realizing our potential and doing the work we are called to do in this incarnation.  It’s hard to make spiritual progress.  It hurts to forgive and to ask forgiveness.  It is hard to commit—to become the hero/heroine of your spiritual quest.

 In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the central character’s primary purpose is to separate from the ordinary world and sacrifice him/herself.  To answer the challenge, complete the quest and restore balance.   The balance I restore (see, I’m thinking positively here!) within myself will be reflected in my words and deeds and will (in a small way) resonate across many planes of existence.  My personal shadow work will involve ritual, meditation, and journeying to speak to my totem spirits and guides.  It will also involve reaching out and making changes in the way I interact with the physical world.

Quests also involve mentors, guardians, and guides. My mentor is the goddess as The Crone.  From our first encounter, she has provided motivation, insights and training.  The Crone is a tough coach. She  tets me, and expects hard work and commitment. But she also believes that her guidance will have positive results.  

Soul searching is a transformative process involving many steps.  Much to my solar Leo’s chagrin, my Virgo ascendant insists on asserting itself here.  Stripped down to bare process these steps are: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and closure.  Because linear time is irrelevant to beings from other planes—and a mandate from a goddess is a very big deal--I have a strong, feeling that this quest is likely to be cyclical in nature and go on for a very long time.  As I continue on this journey, I will share my progress.  But for now—what I share involves: initiation--my  recognition that I have been selected to complete my quest; selection--my selection of an area I need to address; exploration of the sore spot in order to gain new personal knowledge; and formulation, when the seeker starts to evaluate  gathered information and a focused perspective begins to form. 

 For me, walking in nature is a meditative process.  I learn a great deal by being attentive to what I see and perceive physically and spiritually. I look for synchronicity (another Jungian term describing the alignment of universal forces with one's own life experience). I take in what I can and, later, meditate upon "co-inciding" events or alignment of forces in the universe to create an event or circumstance. Part of my quest involves becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces.


The wrath of Hurricane  Sandy and the cold fury of the nor'easter that followed has --ironically-- been followed by mild, spring like weather--much nicer weather than we will experience in March and April. But the silence of the woods, the barren limbs, and the shorn stubble, and the sun setting before five o'clock in the extreme southwest reminds me that the Brandywine Valley is locked in The Crone's embrace. 

It is a Saturday in mid-November when I walk into our woods.  The woods are so still!  The breath of plants, birdsong, and the powerful energy of growth has stopped.  On the surface, like a blanket of snow, the earth is still.  A flock of black birds   perches upon bare limbs--dark, silent silhouettes.  Two women on horseback greet me and bemoan the overcast.  I rather enjoy the muted sky and the silence.  This is an excellent atmosphere for the shadow work which The Crone has charged me to complete. 


I clamber over the tree brought down by Sandy that keeps most people from taking this path; walk on past unharvested soybean fields where I stoop to pick up the blood-red and pumpkin orange berries of Bittersweet. Attentive to the changes of this cycle, I ground and center before turning a sharp left and walking down the steep path into the heart of the woods. Into the now barren womb.  This is the realm of The Crone.  The wise woman who understands the reality of letting goes of stripping away. The leaves are all but gone. The forest floor is carpeted with their fading golden and ruddy glory. 

As I walk the leaf strewn path I  speak softly of all that I was lost--my mother, father sister, brother--of all the old wounds that cause me to wake and cry silently in the middle of the night. I say, “I acknowledge you. I loved you. But you are gone." or "You hurt me," and   (most difficult) "I am guilty of inflicting this wound."  There is grief I must release or be forever chained to the past,  hurt that  I must acknowledge and release like leaves that flutter to the  earth to be renewed in soil and new life.

I walk and touch old griefs.  If I have done all that I can to heal a painful event—I must let it go.  If there is something I can still do—some swallowing of pride—some contact that would help heal a wound—I must think about how I can accomplish that task. Are these hurts monsters to be defeated?  Some are for sure.  Some, like my estrangement from my only brother, are griefs that I must acknowledge and accept.


There is beauty and truth in the severity of this season, as there is beauty and truth in the severity of self-examination. Bare, smooth silver limbs of beach and the rough, scored limbs of  huge tulip poplars are exposed. But there is harmony and stillness after the great storms of November passed.



Here is rest. Here is silence.  Every curve, knot, and twig--seemingly dormant--yet here too is life!   The silence is palpable as I leave the path and walk up the rise to the majestic tulip tree.  This is my friend.  Its deva calls to me. I place my offering of Bittersweet on a cairn of stones that I have built up over the years as an offering to the nature spirits of this sacred land. I run my hands inches away from its surface and feel its heat --the energy it has stored deep within. As I run my hands downward toward its roots and feel the pulse and energy increase.  Here is the hidden treasure--the heart and source of the tree's life.  It beats deep beneath the earth and deep within the bole of the tree. I place my hands upon its rough, deeply scored bark, close my eyes and feel and visualize the pulse of life--steady and deep.  I hail the presence of Tulip Tree and ask its blessing. As I open my eyes I feel the air pulse and shimmer. Rarely have I felt so at peace--so lightened.  My offering has been acknowledged.



I walk up the hill, turning once to look back--knowing that I have to move forward. I climb the rise leading out of the woods. As I reach the woods borders and look toward open meadow--I freeze. My eyes lock on the eyes of a solitary white tailed Buck who stares at me as intently as I stare at him. Is the buck a new totem animal that I need to journey to for guidance? He is the Horned God. -- The God of joyful virility, radiating power and life force--even here in the Croning months. But he is also cautious, poised to recognized and avoid danger. As he turns and bounds back into the woods, he reminds me that the life force is never far from us—but we must be poised and aware. I will take all of this in meditate, and journey, journal and continue on my quest