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.

July 28, 2011

Preparing for Lammas



Recently I have decided that our families Wheel of the Year will focus mainly on the Scottish, Pectish, PectiWita, versions of the old nature-based, seasonal, holidays. This narrows it down a bit, keeps it a little simpler ...


...I'm known for overdoing things! LOL


And also it celebrates our family's heritage (as both my husband and I have Scottish roots) as well as being the fist version of the Old Ways I read about as a young girl. 

From time to time I will throw in some American folk magick ;-) Especially as it pertains to Mormonism (and boy does it ever pertain!)

So, we are just days away from Lammastide. Also known as Loaf-mass day, Lughnasadh or Lambress.

Celebrated on August 1st in the North or Europe, this holiday marks the beginning of the harvest (the festival of Samhuiin marking the end of the harvest in preparation for winter.) It also marks the midway point between summer solstice and Fall Equinox.




This is the beginning of the season of hope. The seeds, ideas and intentions we planted in the spring are just now beginning to ripen but we have a lot of hard work ahead of us as we collect and store our food for the winter.






"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
 Matt. 9:38

Lammas has always been a personal favorite of mine. No season is better than fall and Lammas marks the beginning of the end of summer, my least favorite season.

I grew up in the hot deserts of the American Southwest. Summers were harsh and unrelenting, fall marked the beginning of  the break from the heat that was the late fall-winter-early spring trinity. 

But I digress.... back to Lammas.





Baking of bread from the newly harvested grain was customary and is where the holiday draws it's name. As Christianity came to Europe people practiced the tradition of bringing their Lammas loaf to church. In the Old Religion the grain of the earth was sacred and was the body of God. When it was harvested for the winter it was as though God had died and they honored this prized grain, knowing their God would be reborn next year.

Lammas can be a good time to reflect on the sacrifice, death and rebirth of our Savior Jesus the Christ. The death, and rebirth of the grain is nature's way of retelling this story to us. Just as the grain nourishes our bodies the atonement nourishes our souls.

But it wasn't all about bread. The holiday was also the time when new fruits were blessed as they ripened as well. Big bowls of fruits are customary on this day and make a delightful addition to the Lammas loaf.





"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: "

Lev. 23: 10

I would love to pause here and draw upon the Word of Wisdom for a moment.

"Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving." 

DC 89:11

I think that verse would make an excellent blessing over the first fruits!

"All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—"

DC 89:14-16

Of course in our modern day and age our grain has been so corrupted by Big Agriculture that it is more like grain-Frankenstein's monster then it is the grain that God once gave to man as the staff of life.

For those concerned about grain there are a few alternatives. 




First, for me, and alternative way to look at the Word of Wisdom is this; a staff is a walking stick that aides one in hiking or long travels.The staff of life could therefore be seen as something you use when you cannot make the journey on your own two feet. So grain can be seen as something you might want to put in your food storage or something to eat when there is nothing else available, but not something you would want to eat every day.

If you do choose to eat grains you can soak and ferment them according to the Nourishing Traditions diet which would have been how the early Mormon's would have prepared their bread in the traditional fashion.

You can also prepare a grain-free loaf of bread for Lammas which is made of coconut flour or nut flour (see my links below).




As with many holidays of the Old Religion, Lammas was adapted into the Christian tradition. The holiday is celebrated in conjunction with the feast day of St. Peter in Chains also known as the Liberation of St. Peter. This part of the holiday celebrates the apostle Peter's release from prison. Peter was imprisoned by King Herod but an angel appeared to him and miraculously granted his release.



Being a late summer holiday Lammas made the perfect gathering time for people (think our modern day BBQs, picnics, fairs, etc. held in summer time) Traditionally games of strength and agility were held at this time. Local tribes and villages would get together and hold games and competitions. It's not a stretch to imagine that this may be where our modern practice of county fairs comes from, where people complete in all sorts of games, sports, arts and crafts.






Ideas for Celebration:

- Bake bread of course! This is almost a must for Lammastide. As promised, for those grain intolerant, here are some links to grain free bread. This one looks yummy, and I'm dying to try this one this Lammas.

- OK, now you have your bread so take it to Church! Our Church holds semi regular pot lucks after third hour but if yours doesn't you can always take your bread with you to share in Primary, Young Women's or Relief Society.

- Bake a double portion and bring some to a nearby neighbor.

- Play games as a family, neighborhood or with church families. Some great games that are easy include, kick ball, Frisbee, tag, hide and seek, a sack race, a three legged race and charades.

- If you have a garden, local farm or wild bushes from which to harvest, do so. This is a great way to teach everyone in the family to work by the sweat of their brow to earn their food.

- First fruits are now cheap in the store, buy in bulk and set to canning natures miracle’s for the winter. Peaches, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and even watermelon rind are all easily preserved. If you’ve never canned here are some websites to help you get started: www.wikihow.com/Can-Food and www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm

- Gather grains, fruits or wild grasses to decorate your nature table.

- Glean from wild edibles in your area. Blackberry bushes, plum trees, grapes, peaches - whatever you have. I know our summer season has been set back this year by late spring rains so our gleaning will have to wait.

- Host a thanksgiving style supper of local foods, say a blessing of thanks over them.

- Gather wild herbs or flowers.

- If you don't go regularly, get out to your local Farmer's Market.

- Make a list as a family of what you are grateful for; give thanks to the Lord for your blessings!

- Bake gingerbread men the perfect representation of the sacrifice of the grain.

- If you have a local farm to visit, do! See the corn stretching high, the berries ripe on the vine.

- Read stories about the Apostle Peter.

- Read about the Atonement.


This Lammas my family is celebrating by going up to my father-in-laws garden and having a picnic of Lammas bread and first fruits by the pond. We will be reflecting on what we are thankful for this season and what preparations we will be making for the coming fall and winter.




It seems to me not a coincidence that Pioneer Day falls shortly (just days) before Lammas. Utah Mormon pioneers knew of the hard work required for a bountiful harvest. They named one of their early towns Bountiful, UT where they kept communal grain storage bins.

In the book of Mormon we find reference to the harvest in Alma 17:13 "..that they seperated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken."

What work have we undertaken this year? What awaits us at harvest time and have we put our faith in the Lord that we shall reap what we have sewn?

We see reference to the Lord of the harvest in Alma 26:5; "Behold the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with you might, yea, all the day long did ye labor: and behold the number of your sheaves!"

Alma 26 goes on to say in verse 7; "But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day."

What are you doing this Lammas? What do you think about this ancient holiday? How does celebrating the seasons effect you and your family?

Cross posted at my personal blog; A Wise and Glorious Purpose.

July 7, 2011

Fasting: the aftermath


I weighed myself this morning, and found that I had lost six pounds.  Fasting for a full twenty-four hours cleansed me in different ways than I was expecting.  I haven't done it in so long, and I've never given myself permission to drink water along with my fast.  It was the perfect combination, and this whole week I've been feeling much less inclination to drown emotional difficulties in food.  I'm excited about this new development, and true to my character, I'll probably try to go overboard with it and fast every week until I lose momentum.  Or possibly I'll just stick to phases of the moon.  I like the idea of fasting with the new moon.  It's a sort of empathetic connection--the moon hides her face and gives no light, no nourishment, and so I participate in the darkness by refusing nourishment from other sources until she begins to turn back.  (I am taking artistic license with this--I am well aware of the scientific realities of the phases of the moon...)
My phases, while not in sync with the phases of the moon, deserve to be recognized.  A true connection to the nature around me, with the spirits that inhabit every last molecule of this earth, is my ultimate goal.  I seek to know the Parents by fully embracing Their creations.  Fasting has become a surprising way for me to accomplish that.  I almost look forward to another day of hunger.  I just have to decide how often I want to torture myself.  I mean, cleanse myself.  ;)

July 5, 2011

Creating my sacred space


Originally I had been opposed to a prayer/meditation altar but over a few months, I realized I could really benefit from the centering that comes from having visual representations and elements to guide my thoughts. The items I have put on my altar give me a focus on the aspects that I feel are most important to me right now--what I'm working on, where I want to go, what I value.  I realized in my altar I wanted to have a visual image of the Goddess and God. I really love the concept of the triple goddess because as I ponder a divine woman, she's not just a mother, not just a grandmother, but she has a complete knowledge and understanding and encompasses all the aspects of womanhood. In my Mormon.org profile, I describe how I see the Goddess.

I wanted to find something to visually depicted that. I searched for images using the term "triple goddess" and the artwork pictured below is the first that showed up. I like it more than the other pieces of goddess art that I've seen because it shows the dimensions of womanhood so well. The intensity of maidenhood, the softness and passion of motherhood and the calm wisdom of the wise woman all show how women are capable of all of those things at the same time. The wise woman has been all of those things and does not cease to be what she once was and she matures and progresses through the stages of wisdom.
By Wolfnixie13
I then turned my eyes to the male deity. Since I love the idea of a complex ageless and at every age woman, I thought viewing the Lord God as the Triple God. The concept is not as common as that of the triple goddess though you can search and find some discussion of it. However, the concept does not seem as well developed in people's minds and it was virtually impossible to find a visual representation of God as a youth, father and wise man. You'd be really surprised to hear where I found it though: in the First Vision.

Available at Deseret Book
Its not perfect, but if you remember the Mormon doctrine that we can gain all knowledge and become gods ourselves, Joseph acts as the youth who has the capability, potential to (and maybe has already) attain godhood. Then, Christ is the appropriate age for father (and I believe he was a biological father in his mortal life, AND the Book of Mormon teaches us that we become the children of Christ at our baptism) so Christ can be perfectly viewed as a divine father. Then logically, God the Father is the wise man who has attained all knowledge and wisdom. So there you go, in the most familiar visual representation Mormons have of Elohim, I see the Triple God.

At first I had my eyes set on this representation of the Triple Goddess but I'm not at a point where I can spend that much on such a beautiful statue. Perhaps the time will come that I will replace both of frugal choices with the more expensive representations that I first considered. Besides, I'd love to find a bronze statue of the First Vision rather than marble or plaster.

OMIT_S10__44863_zoom.jpg













I printed out both of pieces of artwork shown first and framed them. I placed them on a carved wood table that had belonged to my great grandmother. Above the table, I have a metal work tree that to me symbolizes the tree of life and the progression to Godhood, Heavenly Mother, my ancestors and family tree.
The Tree of Life above my prayer table

Between the framed art, I felt prompted to put a wedding photo of my husband and I. It reminds me of the good that can be found in the temple endowment--that women are promised to become queens, priestesses, and goddesses (I basically ignore the "to your husbands" part because I reject the notion that women need an intermediary to relate to their Mother and Father. I just cannot believe that principle comes from God). To me, our wedding photo reminds me of our ability to progress and possess all the knowledge, power and ability of our Father and Mother. That's my goal in this life: to maintain the focus of where I want to go. It is my hope and my faith that together my husband and I can attain those blessings.
Our sealing at the Salt Lake Temple

But that leads into what is basically a need of mine: to remember that I am out of balanced when I think too much of the afterlife and the future. I need to find ways to be present in the hear and now. That's where Buddhist mindfulness provides me important lessons. I've also found in paganism, the ability to connect with the earth and value my time on it. I have an advent wreath placed in front of my framed pictures. The advent wreath is bronze and shaped with Celtic knots which connects to my Irish and Scottish heritage. I also decided to put in the colored candles with associate with the pagan earth elements (earth, air, water, fire and in the center spirit). I also have candles that are associated with the chakras (click on learn about more chakras and a pop-up page will come up) because I find focusing on which part of my seems out of balance is really helping in finding that balance. I've been focusing in the abstract spiritual world for so long that I need some concrete aids to help ground me.

This advent wreath is available from Terra Sancta Guild
In learning about the elements and their associated colors, I learned something very interesting. The colors for each element are pretty stable and logical: blue for water, red for fire, green for earth, yellow for air, purple for spirit. However, I learned that depending on your geography, which direction you associate with a certain element will be different. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, I associate water (the ocean) to the west of me, fire (the desert) to the south, earth (the mountains and expanse of thousands of miles of land) to the west, air (the cool, crisp air of Canada, snow and high altitudes) to the north.

Last thing on there is my aromatherapy diffuser. I turn that on with essential oils in it based on the needs at the time. Sometimes it for emotional stability, balance or comfort (lavender, rose or jasmine) but most often lately its been medicinal to help me get over the viruses and infections floating through the house. It would be more typical to use incense but I find I need the cooling water vapor to comfort me. I'm such a fiery personality that adding more fire is not a good idea and I'll be honest, I find incense smoke irritating to my lungs. The cool water vapor is so cleansing and healing, I much prefer it.

The table is really small so I kneel in front it using a small stool. Its actually a breastfeeding stool but I find its perfect to sit on. Its like using a yoga block to sit on one's feet and I find its the most comfortable position for me that I can sit in for long periods. Kneeling the Christian way just never worked for me without causing cramps and discomfort after a while which resulting in my prayers being cut off or less focused. Being able to relax into prayer and meditation goes a long way to having that time be sacred, meaningful and productive.

With the stool for kneeling
I love how well its come together. I love the layers of symbolism and how each thing reflects a love or need of mine. It helps me stay focused in the moment. Given the many years my life was engrossed by death, suffering and the hope for the afterlife (which is a terrible way to live when you are in your twenties!),  its a huge step for me to be so connected to the material world. The world is a beautiful place, symbols are powerful and I love feeling the freedom to implement symbols that are appropriate and meaningful to me.  I don't feel the need to sit in front of my meditation table everyday but its my calming place when I need it or feel like I could benefit from the full sensory experience.  It really helps me to focus. I end up  feeling more dedicated and connected to both my body, my life and to my parents in heaven. All at the same time, I know who I am, I know where I'm going and what I'm doing here.
The close-up 

July 3, 2011

In case you were wondering....

The correct way to pronounce Samhain is "shavnah".  If you're female, it's supposed to be "havnah", though these days most Gaelic-speaking people just use "shavnah".

Thanks to the post on this link for the information: http://www.paganspace.net/forum/topics/1342861:Topic:2464593


New Moon Fast

Like Jenni, I haven't fasted in quite some time.  It stopped being necessary to skip it a long time ago, but I got lazy.  The truth is, I hate fasting.  I hate thinking about food all day and wishing I could drink water so bad that I can't focus on anything else.   I never got any spiritual nourishment out of it.  I did it out of sense of obligation and guilt, and tried to pray extra hard for something while I was starving.
This time is a little different.  I couldn't really decide on something to focus on--though spiritual clarity is something I really need right now, and my husband could really use a decent job--so it's more of a "can I do this?" experiment.



Adding the lunar phase into the equation gave it more ritual for me, and made it more... doable?  I do better with things when there's structure and beauty added, even if neither is necessary for an action to have results.  Prayer doesn't need to be formal, but I can focus better if I'm lighting a candle and consciously thinking of the Deity I pray to after ritually purifying the area with salt or water or anything, really.  It doesn't make a difference in what God/dess hears, but I am focused and intent.  I am praying with purer intent than if I just get to my knees at the side of the bed and ask for stuff while hoping I don't fall asleep.  Or even falling to my knees and weeping because something is horribly wrong.  That is not praying with intent, it's crying out with barely any faith that I'm even being heard.  (at least for me--please don't take this as judgement on the way ANYONE else prays because I know it's different for everyone)

I have found that the ritual found in pagan traditions helps me to focus and ground myself before worshiping and praying and just living my life as a 'good Mormon'.  Some people may be uncomfortable with me calling a circle or purifying my house ritually with salt or seawater because it's not a necessary thing.  But it's necessary for me in order to calm my mind and spirit to the point where I can be receptive to inspiration and guidance from above.  I am still figuring out how to go about it, and how far to go with certain things, but I am feeling definitely guided to this path.  I feel joy in my heart when I contemplate adding ritual to my life, and I feel a deeper peace when reading on how to find what I truly believe in my heart.  I've spent so many years on borrowed light, that even some time in the darkness is a good thing because I will be able to light my own path soon.
So I've made it 22 hours with no food so far, though water was compromised on because I'm pretty sure I actually can't function without it.  At least not mentally, which is sorta necessary when I'm supposed to be focusing on something.  My focus has been on my behavior and mental and spiritual awareness as I do this.  This morning I could have been much more impatient with Sprout, but even though I was tired and hungry I was able to treat him with more respect and gentleness.  I was expecting more of an internal fight because I usually swing toward the hypoglycemic side of things, but it took very little effort.  And that made this whole thing worth it, no matter what else I may get out of it.

Clarity Moon

I have not written at the new moon for several lunations now. This is more or less because I have not been doing anything to mark them. Life has gotten busy as we prepare to move for a new job. This month, however, Dryad and I are observing this time together. She may share her thoughts separately, but here are mine...


The first Sunday of the month is "Fast Sunday" for LDS members. We traditionally abstain wholly from two meals. There are multiple purposes for this--first, the money saved can be donated to the needy; second, denying oneself in this manner is an exercise in self-control, of spirit over body. This spiritual 'tuning-in' can help us focus our prayers for greater efficacy as well.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, my body needs the nutrition of not skipping meals. So I have not fasted regularly in years. Although it has been months since my baby started eating enough solid food that I could skip a meal or two, I am simply out of the habit, and usually forget about fasting.

This month, the new moon was on Friday, and I began my fast on Saturday night. For 24 hours I am not eating (I am drinking water for the sake of avoiding dehydration, but only water). In January (right after winter solstice), during my Purification Moon, I cleansed my body by abstaining from sugar for several days. Now, six months later (right after summer solstice) seems a good time to cleanse my spirit. So as I fast, I am praying for spiritual clarity. As we all do from time to time, I have been struggling with some matters of faith in the last few months. So today I put my body under subjection to my spirit, and ask the Divine to help me see things more clearly.

July 1, 2011

Book Review: Paganism

        Paganism    
                                    An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions

                                    By Joyce and River Higginbotham

I went to the library a few days ago, armed with a list of books I wanted to read about women and pagan religions and goddesses.  I couldn’t find any books on my list, but I did a search for paganism, and this one popped up.  So I took it out and started reading it.  In between nursing Sprout, cooking dinner, hanging laundry to dry, and occasionally sleeping, I finished it in two days.  I couldn’t put it down.
The book is divided into seven chapters: What is Paganism?, You Are What You Believe, A Pagan View of Deity, What About Satan?, The Living Universe, Magick, and Ethics and Personal Responsibility. 
The first chapter dispels myths about witches and paganism and the people who practice any of the myriad of religions that fall under the umbrella of paganism.  The book is generalized toward the type of people who consider themselves pagans without focusing on one particular religion.  Some of the religions mentioned that fall under said umbrella are Celtic paganism, Druidism, Ceremonial Magick, Santeria, Voudon, Asatru, Shamanism, Eclectic paganism, Solitary paganism, Blended paganism, Wicca, and Family Traditions.  There is a brief description of each and its roots.
The rest of the book mainly focuses on finding what you believe.  It has exercises in each chapter—journal writings, meditations, group discussion questions, etc.—designed to help the reader find her way to whatever practice and/or religion fits what she believes.  There is a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, accountability, the sacredness and interconnectedness of Earth and all her living creatures, and ethics.  While different religions come to light in different sections, it gives a very interesting objective view of them and mainstream religions. 
My favorite part of this book is the emphasis on personal worship.  The meditations and exercises are designed not to ‘convert’ one to paganism, but to unlock what you truly believe in your heart and to remove limitations that keep you from practicing those beliefs.  The chapter on Magick compares spells and rituals to what other religions call prayer and divine inspiration—after reading the chapter, I agree!  Sending a thought or intent or ‘spell’ out to the ‘universe’ and expecting things to happen while going about doing everything you can to help it along is just about exactly the same as sending your prayer to Heavenly Parents and having faith in your righteous desires.  The authors even specify that if the inspiration you receive during meditation (or prayer, or whatever you want to call it) involves hurting someone else, or breaking the law, or hurting yourself, it’s not true inspiration and you should ignore it.
I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to know more about paganism in general, or is seeking to bring more pagan ritual into her life but is concerned about the implications for church activity, or even anyone who is lost and looking for any religious or spiritual path.
http://www.amazon.com/Paganism-Introduction-Earth-Centered-Religions/dp/0738702226 (please go through The Amethyst Network if you want to buy this book, as they get a percentage of each sale: http://theamethystnetwork.org/  just use the amazon link on the right of the page)


Dryad



I was born into a conservative LDS family with convert parents.  I remained conservative for quite some time after I left the nest, and went through what I thought was a crisis of faith.  Really, it was just me not wanting to follow the rules and realizing that it made me miserable.  I went back to being conservative.  In the meantime, I got married to a brand-new convert who only stayed active for about a year.  My dear husband walking away from my precious religion was at first traumatic, but then it gave me permission to ask questions.  It also gave me permission to really dive into the strong connection I’ve always had with nature—water and trees, in particular.  I always had a strong desire to learn about paganism, but my conservative upbringing always stopped me.  I was terrified that I’d stray from the straight and narrow, join in pagan sex orgies, and completely lose my testimony and my soul.
Having a husband who doesn’t care about religion allowed me to search for myself for answers.  I recently became much more of a feminist than I ever thought possible, and I have been searching diligently for a Heavenly Mother that I never thought I had to know.  Thanks in large part to Jenni (my new permission-giver ;) ), I am finally embracing who I am, and I look forward to raising my toddler son with knowledge of the traditions and rituals that I am learning to enjoy. 
I am still an active member of the church, but my methods of worship are evolving so that I can comfortably walk the middle ground.  I’m excited to be here!

I blog at http://spiralgrove.blogspot.com/