I am heading off to Fertile Ground Gathering to celebrate Beltane. Before I go, I have a short reflection on desire and change up at PaganSquare.
Bright blessings of love in all its forms to everyone!
I am heading off to Fertile Ground Gathering to celebrate Beltane. Before I go, I have a short reflection on desire and change up at PaganSquare.
Bright blessings of love in all its forms to everyone!
May Brigid bring healing to all who need it – including the caregivers.
May Morrigan help us understand what happened so that we can respond appropriately.
May Manannan help us steer through this storm.
May Lu show us his bright sun again when we are through.
I was going to post something else today, but events have overtaken me.
This week the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about striking down DOMA and Prop 8 in favor of marriage equality. I concentrated some of my Ostara work on this subject, and I will be taking part in an interfaith event to show support for marriage equality. There will be another event the night before. If you can come out and show support, that’s wonderful. If not, please consider directing some energy to this important event. Here are three ways you might join in this work:
Include support for marriage equality in your intention for either Ostara or the full moon:
The world is poised at the turning of the year towards increasing light, with warmth that will nurture many new lives. Let our symbols of new life in seeds and eggs remind us not just of physical fertility, but the possibility of new life brought about by love. In our own lives, let our love make space for new arrivals and open the way for new possibilities.
Pray to Columbia:
Hail Columbia, matron goddess of your district and of our government! You represent our highest ideals of freedom and liberty, calling us to fuller expression of equality. Columbia, help us change our laws to honor all forms of partnership, giving all acts of love and pleasure equal status under law.
Pray to Justice:
Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze to discern the ill intent of those who would rule over us with theocratic mandates full of hate. Redress the wrongs and balance the scales to provide equal recognition for all partnerships formed in love.
Bonus: as Hecate suggested, if you’re in the area, you might also consider visiting the Cyrus Cylinder, one of the first human rights documents in history, and empowering it as a symbol of the progress we’ve made and hope to continue making.
I haven’t developed this into a full ritual yet, but here’s an idea you might try: an Ostara salt scrub. Why not try a little “spring cleaning” on your body as well as around the house?
Seriously, though, when I look at the imagery of Ostara, all those eggs and seeds, there’s a piece of the story that is seldom told. The first thing a chick does is break out of its shell. The first thing a seed does in order to sprout is split open. My beloved cherry blossoms start as buds that burst open to unfurl their tender petals.
And for all that vigorous language – breaking and bursting – it’s often made possible by a softening. We see this in the plant life. With many seeds, with many kinds of buds and blooms, the prerequisite is a change in the surrounding tissues, which become thinner and softer, so that the opening is more gradual and gentle.
A salt scrub is a simple way to experience this in your own body. Take relatively coarse-grained salt, like kosher salt, and mix it with a little oil, just enough to make a paste. When you start your shower or bath, before you turn on the water, rub the paste gently across areas of your skin that you want to exfoliate and soften. The coarser the grain, the stronger the scrub will be, and you can scratch yourself with this, so go slowly. When you’re done, wash with soap and water, and the skin should be refreshed – it might even be tender.
That tenderness has something to teach us. Think about how the new buds feel when their coverings are peeled away for the first time – they are tender and delicate, easily hurt. The transformation of Ostara isn’t just a process of scrubbing away or breaking through, it’s a process of softening into the change, and continuing that softness, that gentleness, afterwards as part of nurturing the new things that are coming into being.
If you want to make this into a ritual, I suggest you do it for your hands and feet. You might want to soak your feet to soften the calluses, then dry them off and do the scrub. Think about what you’re scrubbing away, but also think about how you can soften, how you can open to new possibilities in gentle ways. Take care of your softened, renewed skin by putting a little moisturizer on it, and think about how you’ll need to care for whatever this new thing in your life is.
When you’re done, ground and center – and if possible, go outside and put your scrubbed feet on the ground to do it. Feel how the refreshed, softened skin is much more sensitive. Maybe you’ll feel a new ability to root down into the ground, growing a few more tentative tendrils like the new shoots of springtime seeds.
Feel the new sensitivity in your hands, too. Think about the new possibilities available there. What are you aware of when you touch the world around you that you couldn’t feel before? Maybe you will put your hand to a new task. Maybe you can reach out in a new way. Whatever you do, be gentle with it. Remember the tenderness you feel; remember that other kinds of new life, new possibilities, new alternatives, feel just as tender and tentative in their own way.
Ground, gently, and renew yourself. Reach out, gently, and nurture the newness around you. Blessed Ostara!
My landbase told me that spring arrived last Tuesday.
On Monday, I was walking in the rain, and I thought about something
Michael Smith mentioned at Sacred Space, alluding to the way a
religion that recognizes the divine immanent in nature has sacred
times not just marked by the predictable things measured on calendars
but also unpredictable sacred times that arrive in nature’s good time.
I was reminded of the way my friend Hecate is a keen observer of her
garden’s time, and how she wants to have impromptu parties to
celebrate the organic events that mark the times of the landbase.
One of my favorite of those organic timekeepers has been the first
flurries of snow. If I were to borrow and rewrite some of the
religious language I grew up with, it might read: “It is right and
salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and
praise to you, o land, and especially to honor the first snowflakes by
dashing madly outside, running around with our mouths open to try to
catch a snowflake with our tongues, all of us, not just the
On Monday I realized that there is another of these childlike (but far
from childish) observances that I had forgotten, though. The rain on
Monday was the first rain that felt like a spring rain. It felt
different because it was the first time I hadn’t felt so bitterly cold
that all I wanted to do was bundle up and hide. I could keep my head
up, and look around me, appreciating the way the rain and wind played
together, pattering down gently enough to seem like a call to the land
Comparing the two observances, and the way snow is coming less often,
but more dramatically when it does, make me worry about how these
organic timekeepers are affected by climate change. Will the next
generation of children have the memories of gentle snowflakes as
harbingers of winter, or only as the very wrath of winter’s teeth?
Will they appreciate the first warm rain as a respite from winter’s
cold, which is what makes it magical for me, or will they see is as
the harbinger of summer’s dreaded onslaught?
Now, I have no doubt that if there are people, and there are people
who are paying attention to the land – and there will always be
children who are paying attention to the land while they are playing,
because they haven’t learned to do anything different yet – then
people will find their own sacred organic time markers. I am not yet
such an old stick in the mud (although I may be becoming one) that I
will say that my time markers in this place are the only right and
good ones, and anything different that comes after me is a decay. But
I am afraid for these children of the future, because I am afraid of
the pain and heartache that are here now because of climate change,
and which will get worse before they get better.
But enough of my maunderings…on Monday, I felt the cool-warm rain,
and I remembered enough of my misspent childhood and listened enough
to the land’s sigh of relief that it was a time marker for me. And
Tuesday was supposed to be more rain all day. One of the consolations
of losing the wonder at every moment that is a hallmark of childhood
experience is the gain in perspective; “April showers bring May
flowers” was nothing more than singsong when I was splashing through
the puddles that I remembered on Monday, but now it is a statement of
promise, a different kind of wonder at the cycles of the year. But
Tuesday afternoon there was a break in the rain, and the sky opened,
and it was warm enough to go out with only a light coat.
That’s when I discovered that the cherry blossoms in the park near my
home are blooming already. Not peak bloom, and I’m sure they’re ahead
of the Tidal Basin, but enough and more than enough to fulfill all the
hope and promise of the rhyme. And the land – oh, the land was awake,
pattered into spring’s rising by the fall of raindrops as gentle and
persistent as a mother’s kisses on the forehead of a sleepy child.
And what a good reason to awake! The sun and sky made love to the land
with warmth after the rain that was enough to make the drowsiest
plants send out new shoots to savor the freshly-washed world. Some of
the cherry blossoms were knocked down by the rain, of course, but
plenty remained, and they were being nurtured with what they needed to
Those that fell were a gift of grace, from the land to the land, and
to the people who live with the land. The land whispered, “Spring is
coming…spring is here!”
I would really like to get more material that engages with the idea of journeys from a deliberately Pagan perspective. Can you retell a myth about journeying in an interesting way? What do stories of journeys mean to you as a Pagan? Does your practice or tradition lead you to recognize journeys in unexpected places and times? How do you live out the idea of a sacred journey in your life and practice today?
Submissions can be sent to email@example.com.
Sacred Space lives up to its description as a conference for intermediate to advanced esoteric and magical practitioners. That’s pretty high praise, when you think about it.
The draw at Sacred Space is the presentations and rituals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing chance to connect with old and new friends from around the region and more, and the interactions and chance talks or meals together are fantastic, but an introvert who didn’t know very many people could go to Sacred Space and get a lot out of it without any of that happening, if she was interested in intermediate to advanced ideas and practices.
What you won’t see, by and large, at Sacred Space, is the kind of lazy intellectual “recycling” that keeps us awash in Wicca 101 part the kajillionth and yet sparsely prepared for Wicca 201 or practicing in the real world. Many of the presenters at Sacred Space are deeply involved in their subject material. As an academic myself, I especially appreciate it when people have a deep intellectual grasp of their subject, whether that’s reflected in reading ancient texts or assimilating a breadth of current material, or serious study across traditions.
When Gwendolyn Reece presented on Athena, for example, her strong grasp of the ancient texts was synthesized with her own perspective through Kabala, resulting not just a skilled retelling of some of the myths, but some interesting suggestions for alternative possible meanings, and she took care to differentiate one from the other.
I can also see and appreciate that most presenters at Sacred Space have a richness of experience measured not just in years of practice but in the ways they’ve put their ideas into action in the world. You can be fairly sure that a presentation at Sacred Space will not be someone’s rehashing of just one book they read, or a mismash of someone else’s blog posts half-digested and regurgitated at random.
Christopher Penzcak’s presentation related to his book on the 12 Gates of Witchcraft, for example, showed the way he worked to synthesize the breadth of his experience. He explicitly said that he encourages his students to cross-train outside their natural comfort zones in terms of magical techniques, and he shared a lot of comparing and contrasting ideas in different areas. The only downside was that he spent so much time on the background of his topic that he really only touched on about half of his 12 categories; I wish he had gauged his use of time better in that talk.
Sacred Space also tries to be fairly broad in its coverage. Having Luisah Teish as a featured presenter this year brought in an emphasis on the African Diaspora traditions, for example. They bring in featured presenters from outside the region to give us in this area a taste of Paganism from other centers, which makes it a great opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn’t get to see West Coast teachers, for example.
There are usually a fair number of folks from the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel; I get the strong impression that ASW deliberately fosters the kind of intellectual engagement with Wicca and the Western mystery traditions in general that prepares its members to present here, and they do credit to their tradition when they do, but this is not “ASW’s conference.” One of the things I have very much enjoyed, though, is when ASW pulls people together to do rituals, because they put a lot of work into presenting good rituals, and I encourage you to check them out if you ever attend. Maggi Setti’s ritual to Brigid drew on lots of different pieces of symbolism, and I think a lot of the benefit to me from that ritual is going to be returning to those symbols and contemplating them at different times and in different contexts.
Another amazing ritual is the Conjure Dance. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy wonderful drummers and chants and to see and make offerings to deities and powers from all over the world. That in and of itself would be both a good party and an education. This setting, though, is the foundation for a powerful possession ritual. It’s very difficult to describe, but well worth experiencing.
One of the things Sacred Space does not focus on is vending. Don’t get me wrong – there are vendors, and quite good ones, at Sacred Space. I get more interesting and unusual high-quality stones there than just about anywhere else, and there was some amazing art. But shopping opportunities are secondary to providing a solid conference in terms of quality presentations, so if you think you’re coming to Pagan Ren Faire, you’ll be disappointed.
My only real frustrations at Sacred Space had to do with the hotel hosting the conference. Just like any conference-at-hotel situation, there are apt to be bottlenecks at mealtimes as everyone tries to squeeze in breakfast or lunch during the same time period. The Holiday Inn we were at did not handle these things very well, and since it’s a distinctly suburban location, the only alternatives require a car. I would encourage people attending to plan ahead for those issues, pack some snacks, and do a lot of deep breathing. The influx of several youth hockey groups on Friday and Saturday also led to some interesting dissonances; that wasn’t even the hotel’s fault, and from what I heard, they tried to communicate between the groups where needed, mostly requests for quiet.
On the whole, Sacred Space is a well-crafted, high-quality regional conference that draws featured presenters from across the country to present on topics of interest to intermediate to advanced magical and esoteric practitioners and to create engaging rituals.
NB: I am obviously not objective, since I also presented at Sacred Space this year. I did my best to leave that out of consideration.
I’ve been very busy preparing and refining my presentation on nonlinearity and magic, which I’ll be giving tomorrow afternoon at 1pm. There’s a whole slate of terrific workshops and rituals set up! I look forward to seeing a lot of friends old and new there. For those who can’t make it, I’ll post some reflections on the conference next week, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath. Have a great weekend!
Pantheacon was a lot of fun. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with the large West Coast concentration of Pagans and people from all over the country. I met people in person who I’d “known” online for a while, and while I knew this intellectually, it was interesting to see how different it was to encounter them on two feet, instead of on a computer screen. Jason Pitzl-Waters said in his talk that large community events like this “humanize” these kinds of connections, and I think that’s a very good word for it. That alone makes the conference worthwhile.
I also heard some great talks. Starhawk on the magic of story was interesting; I think that’s something I’m going to have to work with a bit more. Sam Webster’s presentation on theurgic sacrifice was fascinating; I love to see the kind of academic-applied fusion he brings to his work. Other top moments included:
Jason on Pagans and social media: “Facebook may be a wretched hive of scum and villany, [audience laughs] but it’s the only place we’re going to find a smuggler to take us to the Alderaan system.” I’m not sure whether I agree with all of that statement yet – the first part is beyond doubt – but it was an interesting talk overall. The importance of preserving our past and creating infrastructure to preserve our present is especially dear to my heart as a researcher who wants to study things. Where can I find all the copies of the Green Egg ever produced, for instance? Some of them may not even exist any more. I’m glad Jason’s doing this kind of broad-ranging thinking and sharing it with the community.
Renna Shesso on the magical night sky: “I’ve said vulva enough now, we can go on to Mars.” Nuff said.
And last but not least, during a fascinating talk on polarity, Ivo used the metaphor of the “astral squeegee.” This is the magical improvement on brain bleach, and I’m going to shamelessly use it whenever appropriate. His comments on polarity are going to keep me thinking and experimenting for a while, too.
And to all the other wonderful people I met, it was so good to see you in person!
I’m looking forward to next year already.
Some discussion of my trip to Pantheacon will be forthcoming, I promise, now that I’ve got my body back in its accustomed time zone and my feet underneath me and all. In the meantime, I want to share the word about a healer in the local community who’s doing great work: Adam Miramon.
He’s hosting an acupuncture open house today in Takoma Park. There will be free acupuncture mini-sessions and a chance to learn more about acupuncture and Adam’s work overall.
Adam is also currently running an Indiegogo campaign to help launch Ix Chel Wellness, his own acupuncture and Reiki practice. Check it out – he’s got a focused budget, but even trying to start on a shoestring, professional healing takes money.
I’ve been having acupuncture with Adam for a few months now, and it’s having remarkable benefits. He is a skilled practitioner. But above and beyond that, he’s a good healer.
Adam is extremely professional. He does an amazing job of creating and holding a healing space for every session. This differentiates his work from many other experiences of alternative treatment I’ve had, and allows it to be much more effective on a mental and emotional level.
He also has a passionate commitment to strong ethical standards, especially patient privacy. I’ve been studying Reiki with him, and he emphasizes this material in his classes as well, showing that it’s a core component of his identity as a healer.
Donating to the Indiegogo campaign is a way of helping someone from our own community in pursuing his dream in a way that will enable him to serve others. And if you want to experience exemplary complementary medicine for yourself, book an appointment.
(FYI, Adam did not ask me to post any of this, nor am I receiving anything from him in exchange.)