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 25, 2011

The Sunrise shall visit us from on high...

Winter Solstice is a wonderful time for my family and not just because it cozies up next to Christmas so well but because in our small community we are blessed to have a Winter Solstice Spiral Dance hosted at our local grange each year.

It basically means I don't have to plan or prep anything! We put on our coats, head out the door and enjoy the performances, the cookies, the stories, the dancing, the singing and all the talent our community has to offer in the midwinter!

This year our oldest was a youth leader. He danced, handed out Saint Lucia cookies and crowed for the roaster in the story of the Goddess Amateratsu.

Here are some pictures of our special night...


Waiting for the light


The sun emerges


This little light of mine...

I'm gonna let it shine...

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Our community by candle light
The next morning, we woke to greet the sun's first raise and drum him up!






Our view of the sunrise

Luke 1:78
...because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.

Hope you had a great Solstice! :)





December 24, 2011

Reclaiming Yule



I am in Northern California, soaking up the tree magic as fast as I possibly can.  I'm lounging at Milk and Honey, contemplating spending too much money on fairy dust or books or jewelry.  I'm shopping at stores that sell rotisserie chicken that was pastured and happy.  I get to spend time IN REAL LIFE with a dear coven member.  And I got to go to a reclaiming ritual for Yule.  (All of which I am doing barefoot, btw.)



Let me start by saying that I feel sorry for celebrities.  The ones that sit patiently while their fans swarm around them, fawning over them, trying to convey a life story in a few words before the next eager follower pushes into their personal bubble.  I met Starhawk, and she looked so exhausted.  I wanted to share my feelings as well, but I settled for a quick thank-you and a book signing.  I hope she got to go home after that and get some deep sleep.  She has done so much for the Pagans of the world, and her eco-feminism is a model of the activism in which I hope to become more involved.


The evening began with dancing and mingling.  When we walked up to the giant hall, the sounds of drumming and laughing spilled out from the door, and a cloud of warmth and happy magic embraced us as we walked in.  Sprout immediately started dancing, stomping his feet with the drumming and shrieking in delight.  He was one of only two toddlers that I could see in the room, the other being a small girl who was also delighted with everything but who fit much more nicely and quietly in a baby carrier.  There was a table as we walked in with books and cds written by Starhawk for sale.  Some of the proceeds for the sales went to programs and classes that Starhawk started up.  The ceiling was criss-crossed with strings of lights, and there was a mirror ball that got turned on during the spiral dance (cue Sprout shrieking about bubbles and trying to chase bits of light).  The altar (at one end of the hall) was a bunch of long tables put together, with a huge jumble of eclectic decorations to represent Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and Center.  There were colors and lights and evergreen everywhere.  
The lights were dimmed, and a woman began to tell the story of Yule to two fairies who were skipping around (Sprout was totally enthralled and talking and pointing).  We were taught a couple songs and then the ritual started.  There was grounding and meditation that I mostly missed because I was trying to keep Sprout quiet, but it involved the tree visualization.  Then everyone walked in a large circle, slowly, while chanting.  More songs and stories were told, and the four elements invoked by people specially dressed as the elements--red for fire, white with feathers for air, earth colors for earth, and blues for water.  Then the man we call Pan jumped in to invoke the center of all things.  He was playful and dancing and running about through most of the ritual, and paid special attention to Nikolai whenever he could.  Towards the end of the ritual, the drumming was started up again and we did a spiral dance, long lines of people circling each other and spinning into the middle of the great spiral and then back out again to face those coming the opposite direction.  We sang this song:

We are the rising sun
We are the change
We are the ones we are waiting for
and we are, dawning...
We are the rising sun..

It was beautiful, and inspirational.  I attended a large coven gathering for a sabbat once before, where the theme seemed to be Pagan Pride FOREVER, but this reclaiming was about loving the earth, welcoming back the sun, honoring the spirits of nature and learning to live with them in harmony.  It was about being a force for change, and love.  I actually felt the power and energy raised by the circle of smiling people.  
The circle was opened with a sweet farewell to the elements, and then more drumming! Sprout loved it, and danced until he was quite exhausted.  Pan danced with him, and then we all had a merry chase trying to keep him off the stage that was behind the altar.  And then we had to keep him from tearing the altar apart to play with it.
I stood in line after buying a couple books, including the beautiful The Last Wild Witch, and Starhawk exhaustedly signed my books for me.  I am eager to look up the reclaiming chapter in Phoenix and try to find that same spirit.  It is still my intention to find a deeper spiritual connection with the desert, and accept all of my mother Earth, whatever climate she hosts.

December 21, 2011

Sunrise Solstice

Last year at Yule, I got up early, made a cake and we ate it and said "hello" to the returning Sun.  I kinda forgot about it until a friend commented on what a cool tradition our family has.  I must have had a deer-in-the-headlights look because she laughed and explained that my oldest son had been explaining our "annual tradition" just moments before.  Oh!  Good thing, because he never said a word about it to me!  Fortunately, it gave me enough time to prepare.  :)
So this year, I again rose early enough to bake a cake, set out candles and greet the rising sun.  I love this observance because with 3 young kids, I have absolutely no desire to stay up all night to keep vigil.  I stay up all night keeping vigil often enough over sick kids, kids with nightmares and other fun nighttime adventures!
It is also very simple.  I set out the cake, we light candles, sing songs that remind us of the sun and talk about the successes of the past year and hopes for the coming year.  Then we eat cake and say, "Welcome back, Sun!!"
Here's our solstice cake recipe if you'd like to make one too.

RasJane's Solstice Cake
Free of gluten, dairy, soy, nuts and sugar
1 c sorghum or rice flour    
1 c tapioca starch      
3/4 c millet flour or fine corn flour
2 tsp each: xanthan gum, baking powder and baking soda
2tsp cinnamon or fall spice blend
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c coconut oil
1 c apple juice concentrate
1 c orange juice concentrate
5 eggs
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 325F and grease and flour 2 - 8"round cake pans
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cut in the coconut oil until evenly crumbly.  Wisk together the eggs and juice concentrates and add the zest.  Pour all at once into the flour mixture.  Mix quickly until just combined.  Divide batter between the 2 cake pans and bake in the center of oven for 25 minutes.  Cool in pans for 5 minutes then turn onto cake rack.
We ate our cake warm.  I got up early, but not that early!  Place one cake face down on a platter.  Thinly slice the orange you took the zest from and peel.  Arrange the slices on the cake.  Top with the second cake.  You can either frost with your favorite frosting, spread with jam or serve as-is.  This is a very moist cake.   Especially if it's still warm.
Enjoy the sunny goodness while you celebrate the re-birth of the light.

December 19, 2011

Heavenly Mother in Young Women's: What you hadn't noticed about the personal progress program

The LDS young women's organization (for girls aged 12-18) has something called Personal Progress, which is a program in which the girls complete a series of experiences (small) and projects (larger) designed to help them increase their faith and skills. The experiences and projects are in 'values' (categories) such as faith, individual worth, good works, and integrity. The booklet has a list of suggestions, but girls can also design their own experiences. When a girl has completed the designated things, she is awarded a medallion.

When I was a young woman, there were 42 experiences and 4 big projects (20-30 hours each), and it had to be completed over the course of all six years, because the girl could not start on the next portion until her next birthday. At the end of every two years, if a girl had completed everything for those years she could earn one of the class medallions. If she completed everything, she could earn this "Young Womanhood" medallion --->
A pretty lady standing by some flowers. (Here I could make all sorts of comments about symbolism of juxtaposing a girl with flowers, or the apparent focus on the outward appearance of the girl depicted...but I don't really want to. I will just note that this is the old medallion, the one I got, but which very few of my peers did.)

A few years ago they revamped the program, and now there are 48 experiences and 8 (10 hr) projects--6 experiences and 1 project in each of the 8 value areas. They also took out the timetable, so girls are able to work through all of the goals at their own pace, no waiting for birthdays (and losing momentum). They have done away with the intermediate medallions, and changed the final medallion (more on that in a moment!) and they have now added honor bees.

An honor bee is a charm which the girl can earn after she has earned her medallion. She can actually earn as many as three bees, and does so by doing more goals, or helping other girls complete their experiences and projects.
It's a lovely idea, the extra charms for going the extra mile, but what I particularly noticed was that it's a BEE. You know, a symbol of Mother Goddess.


Better still is the new medallion. It is a combination of several symbols: the temple, the beehive, the laurel wreath, the rose, and the ruby. Young women are divided into three classes: Beehives (12-13), Mia Maids (14-15) and Laurels (16-17). Bees and beehives are a symbol often found in the church as a symbol of industry. The symbol for Mia Maids is a rose (something about purity or beauty I suspect, though I'm not certain). Laurels are named for laurel wreaths, as the ancient greeks used to crown champions. The temple is where a young woman wants to go, and a ruby reminds her of Proverbs 31, which says that a virtuous woman's worth is far above rubies.
This medallion is also available in the girl's choice of gold or silver, which is just nice, because some of us prefer silver (also, aside from my personal preference, silver carries female energy while gold carries male, so silver is more appropriate than gold anyway).
However
The temple is a symbol of Heavenly Mother.
So is the bee.
So is the ruby.
And trees (like laurels) and flowers (like roses) are often seen as symbols of the Divine Feminine as well.
In other words, this new medallion positively GLOWS with Heavenly Mother. It is FULL of Her. She is everywhere. When these girls earn and wear this medallion, it is not just a symbol that they have completed a set of projects (though that is notable): it is a symbol of their potential to become like their Heavenly Mother. To become goddesses like She is.

Now we just need to teach the girls what it is that they are wearing.

December 17, 2011

Blessed Yule



Triple Moon in tree Pictures, Images and Photos

As we near Yule, and the turning of the season from old to new, dark to light, and cycle into a new year full of possibility and opportunity, I want to reflect on this past year.  It has been full of so much heartache and fear, worry and guilt, and stress that never seems to go away.  But it has also been full of magic.  I have searched for and  am starting to find my Mother, my Goddess, the other half of my Creator.  I have formed new friendships and forged strong bonds with those who  think and feel so much like I do.  I've made local connections with wonderful people in this desert land that I never thought I could love.  I have embraced my own power, and I have largely cast off the fear of my blended path.  I am making it work, and I am feeling guidance in unexpected places that lead me nearer to Christ.  An empty spot in me has started to fill with warm and wonderful things.
My new perspectives on the gospel have led me through some doubt-ridden and twisty paths, but I am finally starting to heal my testimony, to grow a fantastic new one that has room for all the joy and none of the guilt.  I am eager to serve my brothers and sisters, and I am finding the patience to deal with flaws I find in the structure of the church.  My perspective on repentance has changed from one of fear of disappointing my Parents to one of pragmatic progression.  I know my Parents love me and accept me the way I am, and they already know my every weakness.  If I walk too close to the edge and fall, They will catch me and guide me to a better way as They look on in love and encouragement.  My search for passion and authenticity is no longer a forbidden road that causes anxiety.
I am using my magic without shame, and finding scientific explanations and wild speculation in the realm of quantum physics to see the magic and possibility in everything.  There is so much for which we can hope and dream. The beautiful women in my area that I have started to consider family have held my hands as I have ventured from my safe and warm cocoon of checklists and fear-inspired close-mindedness.  I have moved from a place where I cried in desperation to feel any kind of real spiritual connection, to a place where I have found that connection in fire and water and wind, in the voices of the trees around me, in the touch of the gentle hands of an energy worker who has nothing but love in her heart. 
The Sunday school lesson on the pure love of Christ sinks into my newly opened and joyful heart, and I run to share it with my dear friends who were not there to hear the wonderful news of an empathetic and loving Savior who wants to carry us and heal us so we in turn can heal those around us as we become sources of His light in this world.    
Many of the hardships of this year will not be going away any time soon, and there are more to come.  As the moon wanes into the end of the year, I will be purifying my heart, and inviting Christ to reside there more permanently as I symbolically cleanse the anger and resentment from the past year from my soul.  The new moon on Christmas Eve will be a time of new beginning, of self-love, of power, and courage.

Blessed be, and Happy Yule!    

December 15, 2011

The Divine Feminine and the Ruby

My birthday is in July, so my birthstone is the ruby. It's a pretty gem, intense and dark, and very expensive (more expensive than diamonds actually, last I heard). It is a very sturdy stone, second hardest on the rating scale after diamonds.
And it's red. My favorite color is pink. I almost never wear red. So I never really wanted anything with my birthstone on it...
And then I learned that the ruby and the sapphire are actually the same stone on a molecular level, they just come out in different colors. Actually they come in a wide variety of colors, but for some reasons the red (or sometimes pinkish) ones get called "rubies" and all the other colors are called "sapphires"...the blue ones are plain "sapphires" and the others are "green sapphires" or "orange sapphires" and so on.
these colors are all sapphires/rubies


This year I was reading about the properties of various gemstones. I have never really believed that a rock could have power, but the more I learn about the universe, the more I believe that the whole energy field notion actually has some merit. And so I decided to read up on the ruby, and see if I could make friends with it.
I found some interesting things.
The ruby

  • brings integrity, devotion and happiness 
  • brings and increases love
  • very protective of home and children
  • is a stone of high energy and power that promotes healing on all levels [link]
  • is a stone of nobility 
  • brings love, confidence, loyalty, and courage
  • instills stamina, vitality and strength
  • re-energizes one after exhaustion 
  • helps to reduce negative thought patterns
  • is a good stone of protection. 
  • helps you feel more like giving to others and doing so with love and joy in your heart. There is no room for resentment in ones heart who is being of service to others and this stone does not allow that to be a part of your heart. it helps you relax as you caretake others because you can trust you will not be trapped in any way in that role. It helps all to be warm, caring and help out with the needs of others. it also helps one with devotion to others. [link]
  • considered to be the most powerful gem in the universe
  • the symbol of vitality and royalty
  • contentment and peace [link]

I most frequently found the ruby associated with motherhood, home, service and healing. For these and other reasons, I and others have come to feel that the ruby's energy field is a reflection of mother, or, more accurately, of Mother.
I thought also of the fact that ruby is also the most expensive gemstone--more than diamonds--which puts me in mind of Proverbs where it asks "who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is above rubies." I have thought much on that, and about the idea that equating virtuous women (us) with rubies is actually equating us to Heavenly Mother and our potential to be like her.
Making this connection has been powerful for me, because of the ruby being MY birthstone, I now feel an additional connection to the Divine Feminine that I hadn't before. Not just a connection in terms of being more interested in Her, but a connection in terms of seeing Her in myself.

star ruby
You know something else interesting? The ruby (aka sapphire) is the only stone which may have a star in it. I haven't reached any conclusions about deep meanings in that, except I bet that there is one. (What do you think?)


Depending upon which type of gold you have the ring set in, (yellows or silvers) the ruby would bring with it these healing properties as well. The yellows carry the energy of the Sun or a masculine energy, while the silvers carry the energy of the Moon or a feminine energy. [link] Ruby rings should be worn on the left hand so as to receive the life force and have protection. [link]
It seems that I should be in the market for a left-hand, silver-set ruby ring. Don't you think?

November 9, 2011

Celebrating Martinmas and Samhuiin!


"The sunlight fast is dwindling.
My little lamp needs kindling.
Its beam shines far in darkest night
Dear Lantern guard me with your light."

-Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large

Winter is here! Commence sledding, drinking of hot chocolate and cider. Hang evergreen along your entry way, light your candles, gather with family, and enjoy the indoor festivities!

November 11th is Martinmas, also known as Martinstag and the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours. 



Saint Martin was a Roman solider from France born in 316. As an adult he converted to Christianity and became a monk. He was known for being a kind man who lived a quiet and simple life. 


Saint Martin, like all Saints, has a wonderful story to tell. Before he was baptized, while he was studying Christianity, he was on his way home when he passed by a beggar on the side of the road. 



It was a very cold night and the beggar had hardly any clothes on. Saint Martin took his battle sword and cut his own cloak in half. He then gave half of it to the beggar.



Later that evening Saint Martin had a dream or vision that Christ appeared to him wearing the half cloak proclaiming to the Angels, 

"Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me." 



I cannot begin to describe how much I love this story and how thankful I am to the work of Rudolph Steiner and the Waldorf method for introducing it to me.  

Saint Martin begins his adult life as a solider for Rome. I cannot imagine the torture, the bloodshed and the horrors he must have witnessed in such a world. Instead of crawling into a cave and wishing the evil world away (which is what I am tempted to do in hard times), Martin strove for more and in this striving found Christ.

Once Martin had found Christ he had access to that wonderful Christ light. Even though he had not yet completed his studies to become baptized he was able to stop in the dead cold of a winter's night and share half of his cloak with a total stranger in need.

Martin wasn't caught up in himself and what his hardships or history were. He let grace fill in his gaps, he trusted completely and without hesitation served the Lord through giving to the most poor.

That thought can pull me through just about anything, and in the dark of winter either literal or metaphorical - you need that light to guide you.



In Ireland the tradition of Martinmas is to kill a cockerel, bleed it, and sprinkle the blood in the four corners of one's home. They also did not use a wheel of any kind since legend has it, Saint Martin was killed with a wheel.

In Northern Europe children make paper lanterns and go from door to door singing Saint Martin's Day songs for sweets. The Nordic tradition has been carried on in Waldorf schools and among Waldorf families. A lantern walk on the evening of Martinmas is traditional.



Singing for sweets may remind you of Halloween and the dates between the two traditions are not far off for good reason. The Old Scottish or Pictish form of Halloween is called Samhuinn (pronounced Sow-un) and it falls on November 11th. 

In the Old World this was the start of the new year and a return to wintertime. Fire was key to Samhuinn rituals celebrating all night by a large bonfire was common. Like the more modern lanterns of Martinmas this symbolism of fire as we descend into winter was meant to bring us comfort as the days became very cold and the nights very long and dark.

A popular chant heard on this night would be..

A null e; A nall e; Slainte!
Welcome to the new year!
May it teach me as well as did the old.
A null e; A null e; Slainte! 



Sitting by the fireside and meditating or sleeping all night was a popular way to spend this New Years night. The Pects also marched through their community singing songs and carrying sparks to light the new years fire. 

Precautions were taken at this time against bad luck to human and livestock. Juniper was burned, mountain ash decorated the house and doorposts, walls, and cattle were sprinkled with wine. 



No matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere your days have become cool and the night has grown darker, earlier - pressing us to use our sparks (fires, lanterns, electric or solar lights) on our journey through the winter. 

And in life we all experience dark times, we just need to remember to carry our light with us.
 
Come check me out over at a Wise and Glorious Purpose!

 


November 7, 2011

Everything is Holy Now

I heard this song recently, and it has struck a resonating chord with me.



(and if you are the sort who doesn't want to watch a 5 minute video, in spite of the powerful message that I promise is in it, the lyrics are the italicized parts throughout this post.)

Of course I have always known that sacredness, and communion with the Divine can be found in nature; that was one of the things that drew me to paganism. Prophets throughout the ages have gone into the wilderness, upon the mountaintops, or into the forests to talk with God. Obviously assorted locations and objects have been deemed holy or sacred by various religions over the centuries too.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now


I asked my 11 year old son how much of the world he thought was holy. He thought about it for a few minutes, and said "well, there are a lot of shrines in Japan and stuff, so maybe 0.05%"
I told him about how trees are an ancient symbol of the Feminine Divine. He thought for another minute, and then said "so maybe 10-15%, because they have cut down a lot of trees, plus there are deserts and stuff."
I asked him if he thought God could be in the ocean. If he thought God could be in the mountains. If he thought God could be in the wind.
"Oooh," he said "holiness can be everywhere huh."

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Indeed, I believe so.

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

My son  has been studying biology this year in school. He loves to chatter on to me about mitosis and photosynthesis and the other things he is learning about. I have always found these things impressive, but when they are presented in a textbook they seem mundane...just another vocabulary word to learn for the test. But take a step back and think about what they really are. Indeed, they are miracles.


When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

It is not just that we can sense the holiness of Deity when we see that glorious sunset. The sunset itself can be holy. It is not just that we can feel a closeness to Deity when we sit in the forest, listening to the birds and streams and smelling the dirt and pine needles. The birds and water and dirt and pine needles themselves are holy. It is not just feeling a closeness to heaven when we look at a new baby, but the baby himself is holy. In fact it is not just nature and babies and "good people," but we are all holy. We all have a godseed in us, the potential to become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. For small times (or lifetimes) we may not live up to that potential, we may not let that holy spark shine, or we may not know how to let it shine (some of us may not even realize that it is there), but that does not change the fact that it is there.
The sunset is holy.
The sea is holy.
The trees are holy.
The animals are holy.
Our children are holy.
We are holy.

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done


Obviously this is probably a bit of a paradigm shift for you, it was for me. But to perceive everything as inherently holy, everything as inherently a miracle, that adds a whole new richness to my life and to my spirituality. When holiness and sacredness were things that had to be found, or sought, they seemed "too special," like the china that my Mother in law keeps in the cupboard 363 days a year, and only gets out for Christmas and Easter. But when sacredness surrounds me every day, it does not cheapen the holy, rather it raises my everyday to a higher plane.

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now

November 1, 2011

Our Samhain

One of the things I love about living in Alaska is the wild meat we're able to hunt and butcher ourselves. It was actually on Mabon that we got a call from a neighbor who had some caribou they had shot but could not fit it all in their freezer, and they asked if we wanted some. So we spent our Mabon evening butchering and freezing caribou.
Since Samhain is a time of giving thanks for the harvest of meat (and showing gratitude for the animals' gift of their lives for our sustenance), I thought it was appropriate to eat some of our caribou tonight.
We had actually had a caribou roast just a few days ago, so instead of cooking another one, I chopped up the leftover meat, added in carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and peas, and poured over the leftover gravy to make a savory caribou pie.

Samhain is also a time to ponder on death, and to remember our loved ones or others who have died. I had planned to make "dead bread" but we had a last minute shuffle (something came up and with very little notice we ended up celebrating a night earlier than planned), so that fell through and it was just the pie.

The boys drawing their pictures
you can see our element candles and the remainder of the caribou pie...
However, we did do something to remember our departed loved ones, and that was to write messages or draw pictures for them, and put them in the fire so that the smoke could carry our love and thoughts to them. My husband wrote to his granddad who passed away this last year. I wrote to my babies who died before I was ever able to meet them. My sons all drew pictures.

October 31, 2011

Samhain FHE



Tonight our family did Family Home Evening instead of on the night of Halloween. Tomorrow will be our activity for the lesson: Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Of course, the activity will be trick or treating in the neighborhood and setting out our carved pumpkins, and this evening we discussed the origins and meaning of Halloween, and how it connects to the LDS understanding of the gospel.

The lesson went something like this:

My 4 year old was asked and answered the question; Why do we celebrate Halloween? His answers centered on getting candy (big surprise). He did have some creative answers to why people started giving out candy in the first place, however.

I went on to explain about that Samhain is the Sabbat half way between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. We are starting to notice the days getting shorter, we are moving into times when it seems like there is more dark than light each day. Its an indication that we are heading to the darkest day of the year. We can observe this change in the season by recognizing this change and participating in the ancient celebration. Our Halloween pumpkins are lit with candles to light up the night.



Its also the time of year that it is believed that the veil is thinnest between the living and spirit world. Its the time of year when we can remember our deceased loved ones and ancestors. We then mentioned the people in our lives who have died in our lifetimes: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, great grandparents, neighbors and how we look forward to seeing them again when we are in the spirit world with them. Until that time, sometimes we experience dreams when they visit and talk to us. Both my husband and I have experienced this so we have stories to tell.

Those spirit we know and love are not limited to those we knew on earth but also include our ancestors. My husband described what we know about our lineage and nationalities. Having completed family history on both sides of the family pretty far back, we know stories of some of our ancestors which we hope to teach our children over the years.

We then closed with the children's song "Family History- I Am Doing It!" from the Children's Songbook.

I love the lyrics of the song. They are perfect for Pagan Mormons to connect this time of year to temple work and ancestor reverence, especially the second verse:

"Fam’ly living now and the ones who’ve died
Can all be sealed to me,
And someday I’ll meet ev’ry one of them,
I’m sure as I can be.
Oh what joy we’ll have when they say to me,
“We’re all a family.
I am yours and you are mine now,
Through all eternity."


My ward choir had been planning to sing this for their October performance but unfortunately scheduling and illness prevented it. What a wonderful way to teach children and the many modern day people who not realize that the origins of Halloween are so compatible with gospel principles.

Tuesday, I hope to do more on remembering our ancestors. That would probably be the perfect night to do the National Genographic DNA test kit I was given for my birthday... I'm open to ideas. How do you teach your children about their ancestors? What special things can you think of to do on All Hallows Day or Dia de la Muerta with your young children?

October 15, 2011

Walking the Blended Path (no really, you can)


It's hard. At times it feels near impossible. The doubts, the questions, the loneliness... Come to think of it this sounds an awful lot like parenting outside the mainstream, or even in general. So shouldn't we be accustomed to this? Shouldn't this be an easy thing to slip into? Not quite. As Mormon women we are use to community within our faith. We are use to having like-minded people all around us, to having some place to turn (physically and otherwise), to having our beliefs and practices accepted and understood by the masses more or less and even spoken about on TV 4 days out of the year. But now? Now that we have added, shifted, become something else? Now what?

Photo credit.

I think the doubt is what plagues me the most. I look around me and I don't see very many people at all combining these beliefs and practices with their Mormondom. A handful, tops. And it worries me. "What if I'm all wrong? What if this is bad?" as if more people being involved would make it all the more legitimate. But it wouldn't, so why am I doing this to myself? Plain and simple- it's change. In change we grasp at anything to make it familiar. Community, as Mormons, would offer just that.

But this isn't a post about the need for community or a call to gather more fully together. Believe it or not this is a post about making it on one's own. Because at the end of the day who do we answer to but ourselves and God? We're the odd ducks, the "different", the "others". The key to walking the blended path is to embrace that. To own it. To love it. Not to say we shouldn't ever have community but just that we can't look to others to validate our ways.

But how can we manage this?

Dig deep. Get to know (and love) yourself. Enjoy your own company. Build confidence.

We are blessed in this day and age and from where we stand now, open to so much more, to have the tools necessary to do all of the above right within our reach. Meditate. Chant. Dance. Sing. Gaze into your own eyes infront of a mirror. All of these are simple rituals that could be made more elaborate if you wish or just treated as a 5 minute addition to your day but powerful rituals that bring you into yourself, that bring you home.

Something clicked in me a little bit ago that knocked me into self-acceptance. It has been a long time coming- lots of work to not working on it at all to even marinating in my own self-loathing for who I am. I fully admit I didn't come to this on my own. There are wonderful people in this world with a gift for helping you to reach down into your soul and pull yourself to your feet and one of those people is Francesca DeGrandis. I first heard about her when I saw her book Goddess Initiation at my local Waldon's bookstore. That was near 10 years ago (my goodness, I feel old!) and since then I have used the tools she had given me in both GI and Be A Goddess through many spiritual journeys. From being Wiccan to Dianic to a devout Mormon to a crisses of faith to where I stand now. I realized the other day why that is- because Francesca is all about the blended path. She doesn't say it outright, she doesn't offer a how-to on walking the blended path specifically, she merely challenges us and teaches us to be us. Live fully as who we are and that has stuck with me.

In her latest book Share My Insanity (which I highly recommend for anyone who is an "oddity") she opens with this:

"Just trust your own definition of innovative. Originality can be an inclusive—not exclusive—concept. For example, your uniqueness might express itself in the way you manage the family’s household budget, get the kids to school on time, and raise happy children. “Us plain folk” have plenty of our own special ways." 
(emphasis added by me)

My point is that though we have to learn to stand on our own this still does not happen in a vacuum. Open your eyes, ears, and heart to the experiences and advice of others. Take what you can use and leave the rest and make sure to be aware of what it is you can use, what does work for you. Trust yourself, your own understanding of things. Don't place that same trust in others because, in truth, they don't know what it is you need. But don't shun them, either. There is a balance that has to be struck but it's in that balance that the real magic happens- when the light goes on and we begin to grow into ourselves, fully.

All of this rambling to set out a personal "how-to" on walking the blended path. Or, more accurately, what I have found to work for me...

Know yourself.
Love yourself.
Respect yourself. 
Understand that you are alone yet joined by many in that. 
Be humble enough to learn from others.
Be confident enough to learn from yourself. 
Realize the paradoxes all around you and let them work with and within you. 
Embrace your "crazy".

These aren't my rules as much as they are things I remind myself of as often as possible. And it works wonders, if you can believe it.

October 1, 2011

Light in the Sky

Thank you my little one.

I know you did not want to be awake any more than I did last night, but I also know that the time has come for you to nightwean and learn to sleep through the night, and so I was holding and rocking you as you cried, rather than just nursing you back to sleep.

And because we were awake, and because we were in the living room (due to your crying, and my desire to let everyone else sleep), I saw light outside in the sky.

And because I saw light, and because I knew what it was, I put on our coats and hats and bundled you inside my coat and took you outside.

And we walked over by the water, where we could feel the wind and smell the saltwater and hear the rolling surf and be out of the yellow glow of the streetlights.

And we looked up, in the glorious darkness of this week's new moon, and we watched the greens edged with purples of the northern lights as they danced in the sky.

photo from here, no I didn't take it, but it was taken here in Kotzebue and it is what they looked like last night

As I walked home, I fell to wondering:

If the Sun shows us Father God and the Moon shows us Mother Goddess, what is the Aurora? Is it the Spirit? Everywhere and moving and bright to see if only we can free ourselves of the little earthbound lights all about us?

And I also remembered that in one of my college literature classes we read an (otherwise horrible) book where one of the characters said that an orgasm was like a rainbow all over inside of her. As I was watching the lights move and change I was thinking how they were very sensual, and that maybe they're like a cosmic orgasm, a visual representation of the hieros gamos, you know? God and Goddess joining to create balance in the universe and make lights fill the sky!

I don't know which interpretation of the aurora I like better. Perhaps I will hold on to both. I do know that when I see them I feel a sense of awe and wonder that assures me that there is something Divine out there, and that we can touch it.

September 30, 2011

Our Mabon

Life has been busy and I did not do anything very fancy for this feast, but I did cook up a sausage squash special with these cute little squashes from our CSA box. (It's just what it sounds like, sausage, squash, and cheese smooshed together with a little egg to hold it together and baked for a while.)
And I made an apple pie.
Apples + squash = good harvest food, right?

Mabon is a time of giving thanks for the harvest, and for all our blessings. I had grand intentions of doing something with writing things we were grateful for, and maybe putting them in the fire to carry our gratitude heavenward in the smoke...
But then we got a phone call from some neighbors who had extra caribou and asked if we wanted some. We said sure. So they brought it over (and the rest of our plans got put aside for processing the meat).

It was about 4 whole caribou (that piece of cardboard the quarters are laying on is about the size of a door...)

We butchered about 2 1/2 of them and passed the rest along to someone else. ☺
My husband and the neighbor working away


Hubby and a different neighbor who also came to help...
yes of course we shared with them

September 29, 2011

Our Annual Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Fest

Cross posted on my personal blog here :)

Mommy dressed as Sir George for story telling.



A chilly wind makes my toes curl, my heart skips a beat at an amber colored leaf - in short, I’m an Autumn addict. Every year I try and find new and improved ways to celebrate this time of year. Last year we had so much fun with this plan!

Autumn Equinox falls the week prior to the Waldorf celebration of Michaelmas. These two holidays are often celebrated in similar fashions, with harvest feasts and various fall merriment.

Michaelmas adds the exciting adventures of Sir George slaying the dragon through the spirit/guidance/help of the angel Michael. Michaelmas is a fun way to look toward our inner selves for bravery and guidance as the days grow shorter and winter descends.

This is our second year holding a week long Fall Equinox and Michaelmas bash! The first ingredient in the fun is the story. Told in eight parts the story brings to life the changing of the seasons and weaves these changes into an empowering narrative of one boy’s defeat of a mighty dragon.

To join our celebration simply read the eight parts of the story guide and then expand the story line as long or short as you like. Add places, names, descriptions and details. Be sure to tell the story to your children without reading it from a page, look at them, really engage them.

I dress up as Sir George with a knitted knight hat and red silk cape when I tell the tale. Be sure and tell the story early on in the day so you have time for the craft or activity I have suggested to accompany the narrative.

If you’re artistic use paper and crayons, paint, chalk or whatever to create a picture to go along with each day’s story. Encourage your children to create impromptu artwork about the story as well.



Ronan on a dragon hunt.


I’ve also created a list of things you will need for your week long celebration, don’t worry, it’s all very simple!

Supplies for the Week:

Local vegetables (to bake or steam)
Local, grass fed meat
Candles and candle holders
Leaves (don’t worry if they haven’t turned yet, that’s OK)
Paper and crayon for leaf rubbings
Clay Ingredients - Baking soda, corn starch
Silks, scarves or blankets for a cape
Cardboard, scissors, tape
Cookie ingredients - 2 cups almond butter,  2 eggs, 1 TB vanilla extract, three tablespoons of sweetener like raw sugar or stevia


Nykki by the glow of candle light during story time.

Friday, September 23rd, Autumn Equinox

Story guide: All the people in the land (Mother Nature’s Realm, Avalon, Zion, God's Kingdom, or ?) are harvesting their crops and hold a big feast.

Activity: Simple Harvest Dinner using your local veggies and grass fed meats. Talk about where the food came from.


Saturday

Story Guide: Father Sun says he’s tired of shinning all day when the people no longer need him to grow their food. He asks the Angels to make the days shorter.

Activity: Set out candles in your home in anticipation of Father Sun’s long naps or carve gourd lanterns.


Sunday

Story Guide: Sister Wind grows chilly without the sun around all day. She blows and blows and makes the leaves cold. The cold leaves try to warm up by turning the color of fire.

Activity: Leaf rubbings


Monday

Story Guide: But it does no good, they are still cold so slowly they drop one by one to the ground. Some fall upon a huge mound of earth and they become the scales on the back of a mighty dragon.

Activity: Rake up some leaves into a pile, pretend it’s a dragon. Give him a scary name. If you don’t have leaves work with what you have; straw, a mound of dirt, a tree stump or a pile of laundry. To get even more creative make a head or tail.


Tuesday

Story Guide: The dragon frightens Mother Night and she is too scared to let the moon come out. The people know that without the fall moon there will be no winter and without a long winter nap the animals and seeds will not have energy to grow next spring. So the people ask their angels to help them.

Activity: Make clay angels using this recipe. Bake them with ribbon inside and a loop at the top. Hang your angels on the trees outside to protect you from the dragon (or inside if your dragon is a pile of laundry).


Wednesday

Story Guide: The Angels agree that something must be done. They send a magic cape and sword to a young boy named George and knight him, Sir George, the brave knight of Mother Nature. He is afraid but he accepts the challenge to fight the dragon.

Activity: Make a cardboard sword



Thursday

Story Guide: George chases the dragon all around the earth, up into heaven and back. George prays and asks for strength.

Activity: Make a cape. You can get fancy and use silks that you dye naturally or simply use a cut up sheet, blanket or scarf.

Friday

Story Guide: God sends Michael and Michael tells George about the war in heaven and how he cast out Lucifer. George gains new strength to slay the mighty dragon. All the people are happy and bake good things to eat and give them to the brave George.

*Don’t be tempted to think this tale as too violent for young ones. Children view the world and death differently than we do as adults. The simple triumph of slaying the dragon will not translate into violent animal murdering adults, I promise. Fairy tales speak to the soul and part of that magic is the death of the evil in the story. This empowers children to believe they can conquer their own woes, putting them to “death.”

Activity: Dress the family up and act out the whole story, bake almond butter cookies (see recipe below), shape them into dragons, leaves, trees, etc.

Hint: If you’re Christian you may want to read Revelations Chapter 12 at some point in the week.

Happy Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas!



Almond Butter Cookies

2 cups of almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar or stevia
2 eggs

Blend everything together in a bowl, drop onto ungreased cookie sheet, shape as desired, cook at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes

September 21, 2011

Celebrating Mabon


Background:
Mabon is the second of the three harvest festivals. Lammas celebrates grains, berries, and other early foods. Samhain celebrates the meat harvest of hunting and slaughter time.

Mabon was not an authentic ancient festival either in name or date. The autumn equinox was not celebrated in Celtic countries, while all that is known about Anglo-Saxon customs of that time was that September was known as haleg-monath or 'holy month'. The name Mabon has only been applied to the neopagan festival of the autumn equinox very recently; the term was invented by Aidan Kelly in the 1970s as part of a religious studies project. Previously the festival was simply known as the 'Autumnal Equinox', and many neopagans still refer to it as such.
The name Mabon was chosen to impart a more authentic-sounding "Celtic" feel to the event, since all the other festivals either had names deriving from genuine tradition, or had had names grafted on to them. The use of the name Mabon is much more prevalent in America than Britain, where many neopagans are scornfully dismissive of it as a blatantly inauthentic practice. The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.
Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter's Night, which is the Norse New Year. [source link]


Also called Harvest Home, this holiday is a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the Earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and God during the winter months.

This time of year also coincides with Michaelmas (Sep 29), which celebrates the Archangel Michael's victory over the Dragon (the devil). For more on that, visit Ayla's neat posts from last year: part one, part two, and the dragon hunt!


Symbols:
  • red, orange, rust, brown, maroon
  • apples, nuts, squash, gourds, pomegranates
  • pinecones
  • vines (grapes, ivy, etc)
  • corn stalks

Symbolism:
  • Gratitude for the harvest
  • Gratitude for everything else
  • Balance (the balance between light and dark, also between life and death as plants are giving fruit at the same time they are dying. It is appropriate to recognize all forms of balance at this time.)
  • Harmony
  • Self-reliance 
  • Wisdom 
  • Old age (including the transition from "mother" to "crone/wisewoman," or from midlife into old age)(here is a great site about the crone archetype)


Activities:
  • Sing songs of thanksgiving and harvest home (see below)
  • Pick apples
  • Dry apples to make little wrinkly 'faces' and then add corn husk bodies to make little harvest people
  • Write down things you are thankful for on little pieces of paper. Read each one aloud, and put it into the fire to let the smoke carry your gratitude heavenward.
  • Make cider, juice, or wine
  • Make applesauce
  • Gather seeds from dying plants to use for next year 
  • Gather nuts
  • Gather herbs and dry them
  • Make grapevine wreaths (or buy grapevine wreaths and decorate them)

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
 
All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

(You can hear the hymn here.)


Food:
  • Have a lavish feast!
  • Apples
  • Apple cider (there is a recipe to make your own here)
  • Apple pie
  • Squash
  • Beans 
  • All vegetables that are in season, including root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions
  • Grapes & wine
  • Nuts and nut breads

Resources:

September 5, 2011

The Magic of Faith



Moon  Night Sky


Two nights ago I lit ritual candles and drank milk out of a special cup.  I meditated on angels and
stars.  I spent hours talking to friends close enough to me to be called a coven, as we designed rituals to bond us and use our energy for mutual benefit.
Two nights ago, I got on my knees and prayed for each of my coven sisters by name for help in supporting them in specific trials they are facing.  It wasn’t a whiny prayer or a begging prayer, but a solid prayer of faith and expectation of help.  I prayed in the name of Christ, and imagined my Brother kneeling next to me with His arm around my shoulders, approving my words and desires.



Two nights ago, I acted as a Pagan Christian.                       

Many Christians cannot reconcile the two paths I tread.  They don’t see how I need the extra ritual and mysticism to bring my mind and spirit to holy places.
Many Pagans shun Christianity because of the guilt-saturated traditions and the strict moral codes that they feel are harmful.

Here’s one way I make this work: prayer.  There are piles and piles of articles and books on the law of attraction—how to make it work and make all your dreams come true.  And there are piles and piles of spells and rituals that involve sending your will into the universe.   I certainly believe in that, and I believe that anyone can get anything they desire on this earth.  But that’s only half the story.

There are scriptures that explain you only need ask for something and believe that you’ll receive it, in the name of Christ, and it shall be given you.  How many Christians can actually pray with that kind of faith?  Too many of us shoulder unnecessary guilt or over-indulge in appropriate guilt.  We feel unworthy, blemished, imperfect, unlovable.  Our prayers are begging and pleading for things while deep down we don’t truly believe we’ll ever get what we ask for.  I've been that way, myself.  I don’t want to be that person anymore, and Pagan rituals are strengthening my Christian faith.

My prayers are mostly short: I ask for guidance in my path, I express my deep gratitude for the blessings that never cease, and then I’m done.  Throughout my day, I expect that guidance because I know my Heavenly Parents love me and want me to be happy.  You could say I have a prayer always in my heart.  Then I’ll do rituals that involve lighting candles and feeling the strength of my power and will to create something or heal someone.  I hug trees and find stillness in nature to quiet my mind so that it’s open to divine influence.  Then I go and do the work I feel pulled to do—whether it’s schoolwork, playing with Sprout, making feminist comments at church, writing she scriptures, or talking for ridiculous amounts of time to a coven member when she is in crisis.

So here is my testimony: Jesus is my Savior and Redeemer.  God and Goddess are my Parents, and they bothwant to hear from me.  The earth has a spirit, as does everything upon it.  There is a life force and energy that we have the power to manipulate, and the responsibility to manipulate with caution, generosity, Divine guidance, and courage.  We are all connected, and loving the weirdos and freaks; the gays and homophobes; the socially inept and the smooth politician; and your family, warts and all, is the only way to find the path to true happiness, whatever your religion.
These are the things I believe, and strive to live in accordance with.

Blessed be.



Tranquil Beach