Merry Meet and Welcome!

Merry Meet and Welcome!

We hope that you will find our content to be uplifting and educational. Please keep in mind that this is not a space for debate or criticism but rather a place for respect, curiosity and learning.

You are encouraged to take what you can from what we share here. If you want to know more, do not look to the contributors of this blog to teach anything beyond what we post. Seek out what feels right for you, trust the Spirit to guide you and have faith in our heavenly parents who are the givers of all pure knowledge.

December 30, 2010

Preparing for the January New Moon

The beginning of the new year is a time of beginnings and so it is for our blog. Coinciding with the public debut of Mother Wheel, is also the January New Moon. Just in time for New Years and Mother Wheel going public, the moon is starting to reappear in the sky for us.

It just seems fitting that our new endeavor would be linking to a lunar observance. Though the Wheel of the Year that we are following has different "New Years" based on the tradition, it is perfectly legitimate to observe January 1 as the beginning of our New Year. 

If we think back, we remember that our last full moon was just before the Solstice and also coincided with a lunar eclipse. The moon continued to wane until the new moon which will come on the night of January 3rd for us (as we are all USians).

To observe the beginning of a new moon and in order to celebrate our new beginning as a virtual coven here on Mother Wheel, I find that the ritual (observance) from Circle, Coven and Grove is very fitting.

The author offers up a ritual of establishing a pagan practice (tradition) either individually or as a family or communal group. She suggests that the January New Moon is a good time to begin a Book of Shadows.

A Book of Shadows is the name given to a book where a witch or group of witches records their rituals, recipes or anything else In a way this blog Mother Wheel is our Book of Shadows for the year. This is where we will plan, prepare and share what we do as individuals and families to connect with the cycles of the earth and celebrate nature.

At the New Moon, this may be a good time for introducing the blog to our families and showing them what it is that we will be doing. We could use it as a time to introduce our fellow bloggers and talk about them as families and friends who are sharing this special endeavor with us. We can join together across the country and think of each other and ask in prayer to for each participant to be blessed with knowledge and gratitude for nature and all that it provides to us.

For my young children (3 1/2 and 1 1/2 yrs old), just this and a trip outside to observe the absence of the moon in the sky, may be all their attention spans can handle. It won't need to be elaborate or drawn out, but the lesson will be there that we value the earth upon which we live, community, and seeking knowledge. Its also somewhat fitting that this also is Monday night, the evening Mormons traditionally set aside for Family Home Evening.

Descent's Wheel of the Year Guidebook

As a guide for my family as we start this endeavor to observe the natural cycles of the year, we are using the book "Circle, Coven, and Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice" by Deborah Blake. Its offers a ready-made ritual for each seasonal observance of every month of the year. The reader can use it to get ideas and can be adapted to meet their circumstances, needs and practice style.

I have been enjoying the flexibility but also the basic guidance so I can learn the basics of ritual and make it work for my comfort level and what would be developmentally appropriate for my children. I consider it a starting point and then from there I can take what inspiration I can glean from it and then develop something that I'm happy to do.

In fact, I based my winter solstice observance off of the ritual shared in the book though what I did was very different than the book, but like I said, I was glad for the guidance it gave me as it stimulated ideas.

The book is organized by month and each chapter covers a little bit about the season relating to that month and background into any of the 8 sabbats that might be occuring in that month. After the introduction and description of that month, rituals are provided for the New Moon in that month, the Full Moon as well as Sabbat. Often in months where there is a Sabbat, ideas for a celebration and gathering are given in addition to the ritual.

I recognized that I needed a crutch to help me as I committed to learning about the Wheel of the Year and each seasonal celebration. I had been wanting to do this for a couple of years but always was thwarted in my intention because of losing track of the times of the year and not having enough time to prepare, or missing it all together. This year, I'm being more intentional about it and recognizing that I likely will not have a great deal of time to learn and prepare something from scratch.

If you follow my posts throughout the year, you'll see what sorts of ideas I generate from using this book as my guide. Though I will warn you that many of our observances may bear little resemblance to what is contained in it. And other times, you may find that I completely steal from it, perhaps because I ran out of time to prepare anything more personally suited to me, or because I find that what was written was already perfectly suited to me and my family.

December 29, 2010

Book Review: Drawing Down the Moon

I just finished reading Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and other Pagans in America by Margot Adler. It was recommended to me as a source that thoroughly covered 20th century NeoPaganism in the USA (and somewhat in Britain too actually), and that is definitely accurate. There is a LOT of information there, and  I think this book is an excellent resource for dispelling myths about witches and other pagans.

Nearly half of the book is devoted to Wicca and it's many traditions, but since that is one of the most common (if not the most common) Pagan religion, it seems appropriate to give it the space, and the author certainly did not ignore Druidism, Asatru/Heathenism (Nordic), the Church of the Eternal Source (Egyptian), the Church of All Worlds (inspired by Heinlein's and Rand's books), as well as several smaller traditions that I had not ever heard of before.

I appreciated the authors objectivity. While she occasionally mentioned things that indicated her own spiritual practices, she never suggested that any path was better than another, or even that paganism was necessarily better than better known mainstream religions. She just wrote about her experiences and observations of people and groups, and shared things she had learned via interviews and questionnaires. I read the third edition (2005), and the author has added and edited information in each edition to reflect the changing landscape of paganism over the 35 years since the first edition.
In places I found the book to be very dense and could only read slowly, but other portions had more of a "can't put it down" feeling. I am not sure if that was because of different content in various parts (historical exposition vs recounting a wedding ceremony for example), or if it was because some topics interested me more than others. Regardless, I was glad to be able to renew it twice, because it did take me a while to finish the book.

One of the most valuable things this book has is an extensive appendix with references, websites, and contact information of dozens (maybe hundreds) of pagan organizations around the country. The second appendix has several sample rituals (in addition to the few described within the text), one of which I adapted and shared here on Mother Wheel. While the text of the book discusses the basics of paganism, the appendices make a helpful resource for someone who is interested in actually practicing paganism.

December 27, 2010

Self Blessing

This ritual is adapted from the Self Blessing ritual found in Appendix II of Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. The book states that it was written by Ed Fitch in the late 1960s, and designated to be an introductory ritual for those who are searching and investigating the Pagan path.

This ritual might be performed during the new moon, or at any other time that the practitioner feels a need for it. The book says that "there is real power in the Self Blessing; it should not be used other than in time of need and should not be done promiscuously. The purpose of this ritual is to bring the individual into closer contact with the Godhead. It can also be used as a minor dedication [of oneself]. This self blessing ritual may also be used [to] banish any evil [or negative] influences which may have formed around the person.
"The result of the ritual is a feeling of peace and calm. It is desirable that the participant bask in the afterglow so that he may meditate and understand that he has called the attention of the Godhead to himself, asking to grow closer to the Godhead in both goals and in wisdom."

The ritual should be done in a quiet place, without distractions. The book recommends doing it nude, but this seems optional. I think this could also be done between spouses, or parent-to-child.

You will need the following:
  • Salt, about one quarter teaspoon
  • Wine, about an ounce, mixed into water, about one-half ounce (you might substitute this with water, olive oil, or water with some essential oil in it)
  • Candle, votive or other
Sprinkle the salt on the floor and stand on it, lighting the candle. Let the warmth of the candle be absorbed into the body. Mix the water into the wine (or whichever anointing liquid you are using) while meditating upon your reasons for performing the self blessing.
Read the following aloud (or adapt it for your personal preferences):

Bless me, Father/Mother, for I am your child.
(Dip your fingers into the liquid and anoint the eyes)
Blessed be my eyes, that I may see your path.
(Anoint the nose)
Blessed be my nose, that I may breathe your essence.
(Anoint the mouth)
Blessed be my mouth that I may speak of you.
(Anoint the breast)
Blessed be my breast, that I may be faithful in my work.
(Anoint the loins)
Blessed be my loins, which bring forth the life of men and women as you have brought forth all creation.
(Anoint the feet)
Blessed be my feet, that I may walk in your ways.

Remain, and meditate for a while.

December 26, 2010

Descent


At the age of 13, I embarked on a journey of religious exploration. My parents raised me in the Unitarian Universalist Church and one of the religion's guiding principles is that each person is encouraged to be on a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." I didn't know at the time when I set out to honestly seek to find and embrace truth that I would end up a Mormon with pagan leanings. Before I joined the LDS Church, I learned and loved a great deal about Wicca. I loved the emphasis on nature and the beauty of the earth as well as the recognition and honor of a female deity. Though I found a portion of truth I was seeking there, I did not feel it was complete and continued my search.

In 2001, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love the doctrine of Mormon theology that families can extend beyond the grave, that life is but a short while of our existence, that there is a grand plan that extends beyond what we know and love here. The goodness of life and love continue on. Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, and prophet of the restoration of the gospel, taught that Heavenly Father is an exalted man who in order to be exalted must be married and that his wife has also been exalted and inherited the powers, dominions, thrones and principalities of divinity. God the Father and God the Mother rule together as equal partners . In our dominant culture. very little is known or understood about God the Mother, but as a mother and woman myself, I have a desire to seek after the goodness and truth that I can know of Her. One of the concepts I love about Mormon theology is that truth is embraced wherever it can be found and that we are encouraged to seek after the things that are good, virtuous and praiseworthy because all good things come from God.

Now, 10 years after my conversion I am coming full circle. After 10 years of looking towards a better world and securing my knowledge of the afterlife and my faith and hope in being reunited with deceased loved ones, it is time for me to connect with the earth and my life here. My children are young and just starting to learn about their purpose here on the earth, part of which is to "replenish the earth" and use the bounty of the earth for the benefit and use of humankind. For my children, I want them to secure the blessings promised to them in the Word of Wisdom:

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."

In teaching them to honor the cycles of the earth, I believe that they and I will learn some of those hidden treasures, that we will find beauty and joy in the world around us, strengthen our family bonds here and in the afterlife and live gently on the earth making our home here a heaven on earth.

I am looking forward to this year of celebration and gratitude for the blessings of nature and the love of God that is manifest in them.

December 25, 2010

Halfway Out of the Dark

x-posted on our family blog.

We are a Sci-Fi loving home and no Sci-Fi loving home is complete without Doctor Who. Tonight, Christmas night, my husband and I cuddled up on the couch to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special which aired for the first time in the states on Christmas night instead of months into the next year. This episode, being the Christmas Special and all, came with a Christmas message. I could go into it all but that's not the point of this post. In the beginning of the episode the narrator, who most of us know as Dumbledore, sums up the reason behind the joyful Christmas/winter season- about this time of year we all get together and say "Well done, everyone, we're halfway out of the dark!"

My family celebrates both the Winter Solstice and, later, Christmas as Christ's birth* among other Christian and seasonal holidays (or holy days). Over the past few years I have pondered the meaning of this time of the year both from a Christian point of view and a Pagan point of view. I don't think it's any surprise that the symbolism found in both Christmas and the Winter Solstice observances are very similar; after all our Christian ancestors stole many Pagan holidays and made them their own. I do think that the underlying message of both is a universal one- hope.


The light is returning.
We are halfway out of the dark.

In times long gone, and maybe even not so far in the past, the winter was a hard time of the year to make it through. The cold was overbearing because the sun seemed to retreat and food was scarce because the earth lay barren. The light, the warmth, was needed in order to bring life in the form of plants and animals and that life was needed to sustain our lives.

No light of thine can raise our fallen sun,
And we are dead, because his light is gone.
Thy light as well must dim for want of breath,
Yet enter: share our darkness, and our death.

In the winter in most parts of the world our ancestors sat waiting for the return of the sun, of the light, to save them from the barren cold and darkness. Return they knew it would.

The sun is living still! Nor did he die:
His strength is only hidden from this sky,
But where I watch, from Sirius' flame,
I see him burning evermore the same.
None die but thee, and only by thy will 
Can autumn wound and bitter winter kill.
I bring thee vision, fire, and this word:
That from his ashes, like a wakened bird,
Shall sun leap upward, bearing on his wings 
The hue of every earthly bird that sings. 

Last night on Christmas Eve with our house smelling of the frankincense and myrrh burning in my cauldron by the Nativity, our family gathered in the living room, turned off all of the lights (except the Christmas tree's) and lit as many candles as we own in the room bringing light into the darkness. We then read Luke chapter 2 and emphasized Christ as the "light of the world". We related his birth, the coming of the light, to the rebirth of the sun on the Solstice just days earlier. He came to us just as the sun- as guide, as sustainer, as saviour.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Regardless of what we observe and celebrate this time of year our blood sings as the Earth sings: Well done, everyone, we're halfway out of the dark!

Blessed season to one and all and an added Merry Christmas to fellow followers of Christ!


*(yes, we are aware this is not the time of his actual birth) 

December 24, 2010

Moonprysm


Like Ayla, I came to paganism before becoming LDS. I was born Baptist and I started studying religions when I was fairly young. Originally I found that Wicca seemed to resonate with me. As my religious study continued and my faith matured, I moved to the more general title of Paganism. But after several years of that path, I found it too unbalanced. The general tendancy was to provide only lip-service to our Father, while reserving worship mostly for our Mother. In an attempt to regain balance in my life and to reconnect with both my Father and Brother (Jesus), I began to try out different churches.

When someone suggested I check out the LDS church and I began doing my research, I couldn't believe there was a church out there where all of my beliefs fit - my Heavenly Parents, a reverence toward nature, and an inclination to a more natural way of life - all were in perfect harmony.

I do not like to say that I converted, because my beliefs really did not change much. I do at times struggle with the church as an organization - after all, people are imperfect, and it is an organization run by people - however my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and my Heavenly Parents is always strong. I feel that outside of "rules", outside of "have to's" and "should's", there is a place of true peace and meeting of Spirit. When we expect to get all of our answers from our leaders, there is no reason to go directly to our Heavenly Parents. Spirituality must start in the home - connection must start from within us. I am striving to reach a deeper connection with my Parents, with Spirit, and with the world that was made for us.

My husband is a Pagan who never "converted", and therefore it is important in our family that our children recieve a balanced religious education, covering all sides of our family faith. My husband and I have been married since November of 2003, and together we have 3 boys, born in 2006, 2009, and 2010.I am excited to share our family's journey to balance and connection with everyone here. :)

December 23, 2010

Moon Phases for 2011

Here are 2 calendars I found that may be useful in planning your Esbats this year.
This one is in traditional calendar format, which may be easier if you are looking at a specific date and wondering what phase the moon will be in then.
This one is organized by phase of the moon.  So, if you are wanting to know when to schedule full moon celebrations, you can go down that column and see the date and UT for each full moon.

Ayla



I'm the reverse of most of the moms here. I'm a pagan who became Mormon. I wasn't raise LDS. I grew up in Southern Nevada and Southern Utah but I was born into a fairly inactive Episcopal family. I was deeply spiritual in my childhood, I read, questioned and prayed for answers to my burning questions.

I practiced Judaism for a few years when I was 12-15, but soon I went on to pursue other interests. I began exploring my Native American heritage which led me to question my Irish ancestory. What were the Irish before St. Patrick? That's when I encountered what would be called "Paganism."

I explored Picti Witta, then Celtic tradition Wicca, and so forth. I studied under Revered Susan Quails at the Church of the Phoenix Rising in Boise, ID. I went on to participate in the Goddess Temple ceremonies and education classes at Temple Sekhmet in Nevada.

After earning a BA in German with a minor in Anthropology I went on to earn a Master's degree in Women's Spirituality from New College of California at San Francisco. (The program has since moved to ITTP Palo, Alto). In my two years of study there I was honored to study under such wonderful women as Luisa Teisch, Vicki Nobel and Judy Grahn among others.

These courses opened up for me the Divine Feminine in many cultures and religions across the world. This broadened and deepened my personal understanding of the feminine aspect of God.

Personally during this academic journey I had given birth to my sons, unassisted, at-home. I had breastfed them and really gained a testimony of our Heavenly Mother and the divinity within the Spirit of motherhood. This testimony led me to the Mormon Church where the founder Joseph Smith had revealed that we have a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father.

I wrote part of my graduate thesis on Mormonism and it's connection to magick and the Divine Feminine. You can read my thesis; Heavenly Mothers and Plain Goddesses; A Look at Magick, the Divine Feminine and Homebirth in the Mormon and Amish Communities of North America HERE.

A year or so after writing my thesis I presented at Sunstone Symposium and was turned-on to some of the writings of Brigham Young concerning Adam-God theory (which to me was akin to pagan ancestor worship) as well as Brigham Young's quotes on the nature of God and the importance of homebirth.

"Nature is the glass reflecting God, as by the sea reflected is the sun, too glorious to be gazed on in his sphere."
- Brigham Young

...“Would you want Doctors? Yes, to set bones. We should want a good surgeon for that, or to cut off a limb. But do you want doctors? For not much of anything else, let me tell you, only the tradition of the people lead them to think so; and here is a growing evil in our midst." - Brigham Young

"It will be so in a little time that not a woman in all Israel will dare to have a baby unless she can have a doctor by her. I will tell you what to do, you ladies, when you find you are going to have an increase, go off into some country where you cannot call for a doctor, and see if you can keep it."- Brigham Young


 I had questioned who should have been the Prophet following Joseph Smith's murder and now I had a firm belief that Brigham Young was the next prophet and seer of the Church.  This led me to join the LDS church and even though I occasionally struggle I know that the LDS church is the true church of our Heavenly Parents on earth. I know Jesus Christ was my Savior and I know that the gospel has made my good life even better. 

I still retain a deep connection to paganism. I don't consider myself  "not pagan" I simply consider Mormonism, at it's heart, to be very pagan. The paganism in Mormonism to me comes from...

The "God" and "Goddess" in the revealed knowledge of Our Heavenly Parents 

Concept of Universal salvation, no fire and brimstone Hell, no salvation through grace

The magic and ceremony of the LDS Temples

The Prophet Enoch communing with the Earth Mother in Moses 7: 48-49

That our Savior lives, in flesh and bone and that our Heavenly Parents too, our beings of flesh and bone just as the ancient pagans believed


I could go on and on. 

In our family we attend church regularly and we follow it's teachings. We also celebrate the Wheel of the Year, the old holidays, of Paganism to keep that connection with our Earth that is so important and can be so easily lost in our modern world. 

I am the mother of three beautiful boys born in 2003, 2007 and 2009. I'm a crunchy homebirther who breastfeeds, practices elimination communication, child led weaning, attachment parenting, etc. I am a passionately committed wife, mother and keeper of the home. I Waldorf homeschool, cook meals from scratch in the tradition of Dr. Weston Price and Sally Fallon and rant a lot about the injustices of the world. I blog over at A Wise and Glorious Purpose  and I was the author of the SageWoman column "Peaceful Mom" from 2006-2009.

I believe in the much needed radical revolution of our current society. I strive everyday to come closer to the United Order dreamed of by the early Mormon founders, a world of peace and social justice, of communal living, equal worth and opportunity, and intense local sustainability and in the sacredness of the family unit- I believe in Zion.

 

December 22, 2010

Jenni



I was raised LDS and have been active in the church my whole life. My family was a little bit 'hippie' and so I was accustomed to questioning the status quo about things like nutrition, medicine, and social habits, but it was not until I was an adult that I began to appreciate that some of what we do as mormons is more tradition than doctrine. (There is no doctrine about jello or funeral potatoes, nor about Relief Society handouts or tablecloths, nor even about which hand to use for taking the sacrament.) That was eye-opening to me, because if a thing is just a tradition, then it's not essential, and it's ok to make adjustments for what works best for you.

When I was in college I did some initial research into Wicca as part of an assignment. I was fascinated by what I learned, and my husband and I have said for years that if I didn't have a testimony of the gospel, I would probably be Wiccan. Recently I have been reading up on more branches of Neo-Paganism, and I continue to be fascinated. I think that some of their ancient traditions have residual truths from Adam's (true) religion, and I see many bits of gospel within pagan teachings. The gospel and the temple teach us that all truth comes from God, and that all truths fit together; so as I find these bits of truth in paganism, I feel that they are as valid as the truths taught in official LDS sources.

The biggest thing that draws me toward actual pagan practices are the symbols and rituals. For example, the spiral is an ancient symbol for eternity. I find it aesthetically more pleasing than the sideways 8 used in mathematics, and have several pieces of jewelry with spirals in them. It may be a 'pagan' symbol, but I wear spirals because they can mean 'eternity' to me too, and since I believe in eternal marriage and eternal families and eternal progression, I like wearing the symbol that reminds me of those things.
A ritual may be something as simple as raising ones hand or lighting a candle, or as complex as a lengthy liturgy. In my perception, rituals have precisely as much (or as little) meaning as is felt by the participant. I find that the simplicity of lit candles, awareness of seasons and cycles, and repetition of simple mantras enhances my spirituality. I feel closer to nature and closer to the Holy Spirit as I tune out the world with these things. Aspects of these 'pagan' rituals work for me as a Christian. I may adapt some and ignore others, but the source is undeniable. (In fairness, any moderately literate person is aware that many modern 'Christian' practices were originally pagan, from the Christmas tree to the Easter egg...again, it's not what the ritual is that matters so much as what it means to the practitioner!)

It was when my family moved to Alaska--land of the midnight sun (in summer) and almost-all-day darkness (in winter) that led me to the decision to start actually formally celebrating the equinoxes and solstices. As I learned more about the Wheel of the Year I wanted to start celebrating those other days as well. We have been doing some informal observations of these holidays for a couple of years now, but I am excited to take it to a more formal level.

I also blog at Mindful Serenity (and several other places!)

RasJane

13 years ago, I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I distinctly remember the feeling I had upon completing my reading of the Book of Mormon. It was a warm feeling of belief. I was not a convert who was found by the Missionaries, referred by a friend or who joined because of an interest in genealogy. My husband was raised in the church, but was inactive when we met. I started reading his Book of Mormon, asked to talk to the missionaries and was baptized after a year of investigating. I greatly appreciated the family focus of the church, but for me it has always been about the gospel.
In studying my scriptures to find answers on how to help my oldest child who bears many burdens, the scriptural admonition such as that found in Moses 2:14 stood out to me. "And I, God, said: Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons,for days, and for years;"
This has been the small pill that is hard to swallow. I have known that this is important to my family, but I have not been diligent in finding a way to implement it. The culture of the church does not support relying on the "lights in the firmament of the heaven" to guide us through the year. Our modern society barely acknowledges the existence of them outside purely scientific inquiry. Yet our ancestors devoted significant time to the study of the stars, the moon and the sun, as well as their motion through the sky.
It has only been through some very difficult trials this year that I have turned to the study of Wicca to supplement my study of the restored gospel. Suddenly my inspiration of many years ago seems very clear. This year, I am dedicated to observing the lunar cycles and the 8 traditional Sabbats. By so doing, I hope to begin to restore my and my family's connection to Nature. Through that connection we will be able to follow the rhythms our bodies crave, increase our understanding of this world and our place in it, and gain a more balanced view of God and Goddess.