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.

February 27, 2011

Reclaiming my Womanhood (a ritual)

I recently had an experience where I felt that my womanhood had been lost--or at least lessened. The specifics aren't relevant, because I think a lot of women have experiences or situations where they feel that they are broken, or damaged, or suppressed in their womanhood. Perhaps infertility or a miscarriage; perhaps a traumatic birth experience or a cesarean-section or hysterectomy; perhaps some form of abuse, or mental illness, or physical disability...or maybe something else altogether. Whatever it is, I think most women have times when they feel that they are less of a woman than they wish to be.
When I had my experience, I was down for a couple of days before I realized that this one specific thing was the source of my grief. Once I identified it, I was able to talk with a couple of friends about it, and that helped at the time, but after the conversations ended I came back off the high and was grieving again. I realized that if I was going to feel like a whole woman again, I would need to take matters into my own hands.

So I did.

First I determined what it was that I felt my womanhood was missing, and then I tried to find a way to refill that hole. In my case, it related to my fertility and my potential for procreation. Since the womb is one of the things that makes a woman distinct and separate from a man, (and since many of our situations tend to be fertility/birth related), I think the womb is a reasonable point of focus for this ritual. Depending on your specific situation, you may choose another part of yourself.

I chose a time when most of my family was away from home so I could be alone.

I chose a song that resonated with me in the moment. It is on the angsty side, and unfortunately the title is a word that many find offensive, but the song felt appropriate to me in the moment so I went with it anyway. Perhaps you'll be able to think of something gentler...or perhaps not. But the song I pulled up on youtube to play during my ritual was Meredith Brooks' "Bi*ch" I chose it because it talks about many aspects of being a woman, and about being ok with all of them. The chorus says "I'm a little bit of everything all rolled into one. I'm a bi***. I'm a lover. I'm a child. I'm a mother. I'm a sinner. I'm a saint. I do not feel ashamed." Later lyrics also mention being a goddess and an angel. ☺

While the song played (on repeat), I sat in the sunshine, pulled up my shirt and rolled down my pants, and exposed my belly--my womb--to the light. I took deep breaths, drawing the clean air all the way deep into my uterus, and then exhaling all the negativity I had been feeling. I rubbed my belly, observing the roundness, sagging, and stretch marks that my pregnancies have left. After a little while of making peace with my body, I got out my henna and drew a goddess symbol below my navel, approximately over my uterus. (A pen or marker would have sufficed in the absence of henna.)

For those unfamiliar with the symbolism, the symbol for the Goddess shows the moon in its three phases (waxing, full, and waning) symbolizing the three stages of womanhood (maiden, mother, and wisewoman). It is a reminder that each aspect is as important as the others, and that all--especially all in combination--can define womanhood.

I continued to sit in the light while my henna set up. I made a mental list of the many womanly attributes that I maintain--in spite of the loss I had been feeling--and continued with my deep breathing until I felt better.

The henna will last a couple of weeks, so for that time I will have an ongoing physical reminder of my reclaimed womanhood.

February 21, 2011

Ritual for Healing

Here is a 'ritual for planetary healing' that I found in The Art of Ritual. I thought it was beautiful, and might inspire those of us who are creating rituals of our own. While this particular ritual is designed to seek healing on the grand scale of the whole planet, I think it could easily be adapted for emotional or spiritual trauma or loss at a personal or familial level.

This book always does rituals in four parts--state why you're doing it (intention), the setup (preparation), the actual process of the ritual (manifestation), and then the closure/follow-up (grounding).

Intention: to restore the earth, the environment, and all living things to a state of health (or balance).
Preparation: A few of us gather weekly at noon, the time of the most light. We sit quietly in a circle, focusing on our breath, allowing distractions to be released while exhaling and strength and centeredness to enter when inhaling.
Manifestation: The leader for the week lights a white candle in the center of our circle and states our intention: that we gather to promote healing on and of our planet earth, for the good of all. We stand and join hands, and the leader guides us through a meditation in which we each become filled with light, acknowledging our individual wounds and imbalances, then imagining ourselves well and whole. We let the light expand from us and fill and embrace our circle, and we speak the names of those people we know who need healing, imagining them in the center of the light circle, seeing them move toward balance. We pray in this way for world leaders, global areas of strife or injustice, pollution--each time imagining the way things are now and then the way they can be. After this, we life up our arms and send this globe of healing energy out into the universe, asking that it be used where it might best be of service. We close by giving thanks to Spirit and hugs to one another.
Grounding: The sense of peace and healing from the ritual is carried home with each of the participants. We can call on it throughout the week to help those qualities become part of our daily activities.
The ritual often leaves us feeling in love with the world, and definite similarities exist between healing and love. They are not things we can create, but things that happen to us and through us, states that we are blessed to experience. Love and healing are energies that exist, awaiting access, and when the proper avenues are created for them, these energies pour through and grace us with their expression. Ritual can be such an avenue.

February 19, 2011

The Art of Ritual by Beck and Metrick

I recently read The Art of Ritual by Renee Beck and Sydney Barbara Metrick. I liked this book quite a lot, because it doesn't spend so much time laying out ready-made rituals as it does discussing symbols and ideas and processes, and essentially giving the reader all the tools (even work pages) to create their own rituals. (There are a few specific rituals described in the book, covering events ranging from family dinner, to a wedding, to a group healing ritual that the author was part of after 9/11.)

The book begins with some background about the role of ritual in our lives, including myths and symbols that feed ancient and modern rituals. Next it discusses types of rituals and the process of designing a ritual (the steps that are typically included). Finally the book goes into applying the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit or 'essence'), and the creation or use of altars and other tools that can be used in rituals.

One thing I particularly liked about this book was that it sorted rituals into five types. Rituals can be done for many reasons, and the authors gave categories which I found helpful for determining not only whether to do a ritual, but also what sort of ritual might be appropriate. Rituals are good for marking:
  • Beginnings (births, new jobs, new homes, coming of age, etc)
  • Mergings (marriages, new roommates, etc)
  • Cycles (birthdays, anniversaries, seasons, etc)
  • Endings (death, divorce, retirement, menopause, loss, etc)
  • Healings (balancing things--physical or otherwise--that are imbalanced)
Beginning rituals help balance the fearful transition between an old and a new way of being. Merging rituals help balance and enlarge the relationship between two separate entities. Cyclical rituals help us balance our lives by increased understanding of our relationships with time and with other larger forces. Ending rituals offer us a way to deal with the polarities of life and death; they provide us am approach to understanding questions fundamental to human nature and of existence. Whenever we touch the energies that fuel and direct life, healing can happen... Healing rituals offer a time for you to be fully present with the pain as well as a means to finding acceptance of it. (p 53)
I was familiar with all the types of rituals except healings...for whatever reason, I had just never thought about utilizing ritual in that context. However the book described a couple of beautiful healing rituals, and it is something that I am beginning to incorporate in my life (albeit in a much simpler and less-formal form than in the book!)

I mentioned in my review of the other ritual book that it was not one I would particularly recommend to someone looking for a good starting point sort of book. This book IS the one I would recommend. ☺

February 11, 2011

Our Feast Table

I really like the idea of acknowledging the elements (especially when it's all FIVE elements: earth, air, water, fire, and Spirit aka Deity). I didn't feel comfortable with invoking guardians or anything like that though. In conversing with my husband however, we settled on an idea that we both really liked.

We have a wooden ring advent wreath in which we burn candles at Christmastime.

We decided to remove the trees (they come out easily) and put in candles in the colors to represent the elements, and then use that as our table centerpiece at our Sabbat feasts.
(White = air, blue = water, green = earth, red = fire, and purple = Spirit)

I also found some silver candles, so I will be using them for our Full Moon feasts (we missed the January full moon because the whole family was sick so we didn't do any feasting...but we're looking forward to it this month!)

You might have also noticed the table runners. I found the full moon fabric and was enchanted, so I went looking and found the aurora borealis fabric as well (which was perfect since we live in Alaska). So I bought them both and made a reversible table runner which will go on our table with the candles on Feast Days.

February 7, 2011

Our Imbolc

I spent a lot of time on Feb 1 and 2 making candles (I made them from tallow we rendered ourselves from a half a cow we bought last fall). We didn't use all of them for our Imbolc Feast, but we did use five.

These are our element candles--air, earth, water, fire, and (in the center) spirit. (Underneath you can also see our Sabbat table runner.)

We had cream of cauliflower soup (for the milk and butter, and also it seemed like an appropriate seasonal vegetable), and almond-poppy seed muffins (for the seeds).

When I first told my 4-year old that we were going to turn off all the lights for dinner he got very concerned and said "but mommy, we can't do that, we have to see our food." I told him we would light so many candles that we would be able to see and he said oh, well then that would be ok. The next night, he asked if we could turn off the lights and light "so many handles" again. ☺

February 3, 2011

Vision Moon

I have decided to name each moon this year, according to my hopes and intentions for that lunation. Last month I began with my Purification Moon, and today is the new moon of what I am calling my Vision Moon.

I've been thinking about Imbolc and Candlemas, and something that keeps coming to me is that this is a day that falls within the darkness, and yet celebrates the light that we put out into the world. Candles are an obvious metaphor, and I am reminded of Matthew 5:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Candles and light are not just a metaphor for testimony, they are also a metaphor for vision I think. For our focus. The light of one candle in a darkened room will draw the attention of all who enter. We see the flame and cannot help but go toward it. Even an infant, who does not know what the candle is, will immediately focus that direction.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Even if the darkness does not comprehend the light, the light still comes, and cannot be ignored. In this month where the darkness still has hold over our earth, the little lights of our candles are standing up and being seen, and cannot be quenched.

This lunation, I will ponder and meditate on Vision: what I am focusing on, where I am going, and also what kind of light I am putting out to the world.
During this new moon, my fast (I'm planning three days) will be from the I'll see ya later. ☺

As a closing, I wanted to share this song:

Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

If you are unfamiliar with this psalm, and want to hear it--words and music--try this link. If you just want to hear the melody, or want something to sing along with (especially if you've adapted the words for your own purposes), here is a lovely, simple, instrumental version of it from youtube

February 2, 2011

Celebrating Midwinter

I'm not trying to be rebellious by calling Imbolc Midwinter but for some reason Midwinter is more captivating of a concept for me. The last few days have been mainly reflective as I observe and quietly celebrate the signs of spring. Tulips and hyacinths are sending up their stems and leaves outside my apartment. On trees, I'm seeing buds of leaves, even some flowers. Its the time for singing Popcorn Popping with my children, though I've always seen the blossoms more like cotton candy than popcorn.

I've noticed how the days are getting slightly longer and the sun shines a little more brightly when it makes its appearance. The last two days I've been able to glimpse the mountains of the Olympics and Cascades on the horizon. The clear days have done wonders to aid my optimism and hope for the coming spring.

Midwinter is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Equinox is viewed as the start of spring but most people of the Northern Hemisphere recognize that the signs of spring come much earlier than the actual equinox. That is why celebrating Midwinter makes so much sense to me.

There is still the anticipation and hope for brighter days and new growth and life but its more real now. Instead of the dark of the Solstice with only the promise of the returning sun to tide us over, at Midwinter, we have seen the evidence of seasons beginning to change. Its really happening and the signs are all around us.

Midwinter is also the time for planning gardens, clearing messes, organizing, starting new. Its even where the idea of spring cleaning comes from!

This Midwinter, I'll be doing a more involved form of spring cleaning. I'm preparing our new house to move into! I've got paint in my fingernails, in my hair and even all over my feet. Today I discovered the perfect place to plant our garden and the brainstorming has begun.

This year we hope to grow in our new perfect garden space that gets full sun most of the day:
Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale
Fruits: Strawberry and elderberry
Herbs: Echinacea, Basil and Calendula

Of course, the challenge will be to start seeds and prepare the garden plot while packing/unpacking and organizing a new house for 5 people.

Another interesting aspect of Midwinter to note is what gives Imbolc its name: "Ewe's milk." Its is the time of year when ewes (female sheep) are pregnant with their lambs and their milk begins to develop (called colostrum). In humans, colostrum generally begins to be present around the 5th month of pregnancy. I find significance in this in two ways.

First, as a breastfeeding mother, I experience a feeling of solidarity with the ewes as they grow their babies inside. I appreciate the importance of that first milk to babies' development as well as the neccesity of breastmilk as infants grow and develop. In fact, it is near Imbolc each year that I can celebrate my initiation into motherhood and the start of my own career as a lactating mother. My first child was born on January 27 and this year on Imbolc, I celebrate the milestone of lactating continuously for 4 years!

Second, Christ is known as the Lamb of God and in Latter-day Saint tradition as well as supported by scholar's investigations, it is believe that Christ was born between March and April. If one were to look at Imbolc at the time of Mary's pregnancy that her colostrum began to be present in preparation for the birth of Jesus, we could see Midwinter as a time to celebrate the coming of the Savior to the earth. We can celebrate the Christ comes to bring us goodness and light and new life at the time of year when we see light and new life all around us.

Because of all of the busyness in our lives lately, my family and I will not be able to participate in a formal ritual on the day of Midwinter (Feb 2) but we will observe in greetings and in conversation the significance of the day. Indeed, it will be a festive day as we continue our preparations with our new home.

If we are able to take a break from things and stir ourselves for a social engagement, we will attend a local Wiccan's Church for their Imbolc ritual on Saturday. Wish us luck!

February 1, 2011

Chinese New Year -Year of the Rabbit

My husband and children are Vietnamese. Chinese New Year, or new year to us, is a great time of celebration in our home.

When I decided to join the other women authoring this blog I didn't know much of anything about the moon, its phases or the Pagan wheel of the year. I felt a bit like I had jumped in the deep end of the pool without my floaties! Since then I have been reading every recommended book I can get my hands on - I must have 5 inter-library loan requests out! I never thought my study of the moon cycles would tie into a holiday we already celebrate.

Before there were calendars there were no 'years' and no 'new year'. The calendar is the longest lasting invention of any culture. The first calendar was lunar. In approximately 2637 B.C. after watching the moon's changing appearance, or phases, the Yellow Emperor Huang di and his scientists developed a "system of cyclical characters." In this system, ten days equaled one week, and three weeks made one month. A day paired a sumbol from the Ten Heavenly Stems with one from the Twelve Earthly Branches. Six repetitions of the Ten Stems and five of the Twelve Branches completed the cyle, a total of sixty days. These cycles were used to name the years during the first century. Later during the 1711 century B.C. the Shang dynasty made a lunar calendar based on months - the time between one new moon to the next. Each month was between twenty-nine and thirty days long.

One legend created in ancient China to help explain the mysteries of the universe tells of Heng-O and the twelve chinese moons. People thought there were twelve moons just as there were twelve months in one year. They also thought there were ten suns, just as there were ten days in the Chinese week. The mother of the twelve moons was also the mother of the ten suns. At the beginning of each month, the mother, Heng-O washed her children in a lake at the far western side of the world. Then each moon made of water, one after the other, traveled in a chariot for a monthlong journey to reach the opposite, east side of the world. There, the suns started their journey.

During the Shang dynasty the perpetual calendar was invented. By measuring the length of shadows during the year with a gnomon -the raised part of a sundial -and the length of each day using a water clock, astronomers were able to note the longest and shortest days of the year revealing two solstices and two equinoxes.
*The Chinese alendar is solar and lunar. It is based on the positions of the sun and the moon.
*The new moon is the first day of a lunar month.
*The chinese New Year falls between Jan 21 and Feb 20, the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Chinese New Year 2011, year of the Rabbit is February 3rd (there is some discussion that due to double months and moons in the Chinese calendar the new year doesn't actually begin until Friday the 4th). So we will have our new year's eve celebrations and our new moon observance all in one week!

Traditions our family has:
*We eat out at our favorite Asian resturaunt
*Each kid gets their own red envelope with as many dollars as they have years.

*Making paper lanterns.

Activities I am adding this year:
*Ancestral Altar - Pictures of deceased relatives nearby. On New Year's Eve, flowers, food and candles are placed on the altar for the ancestors to show respect to them and to unify the family.
*Haircuts for the boys before the new year so as not to cut away good fortune during the year.
*Lantern Festival with friends - begins the first full moon of the Chinese New Year, February 18 (some celebrate the 15th day of the month).
*Door God posters - from the legend of two generals who served the emperor and protected his doorway at night. We will use a Goddess and God symbol. A goblet and an athame most likely on either side of our door.

Happy New Year and Blessed Be!