Ritual for understanding inheritance using the Ten of Pentacles

The traditional Ten of Pentacles card shows a family scene with multiple generations. It represents fulfillment and completeness in the realm of Earth, meaning especially inheritance. In this ritual we will work with the idea of inheritance in a sense that includes a lot more than just money and physical possessions. For this ritual we take time to see ourselves as occupying a present moment between past and future, where we understand how the past has shaped the present and also how we have the opportunity to affect the world that we will pass on to those who come after us.

Materials: For this ritual you will need ten pennies and the Ten of Pentacles card from your favorite Tarot deck or an image printed out from online. Ten small stones would also work, but pennies are a better representation of the pentacles in the card.

Ritual:

Ground and center yourself.

Cast the circle:

I cast the circle in this time and place to acknowledge the wisdom of the past.
I cast the circle in this time and place to do my work in the present.
I cast the circle in this time and place to prepare the way for the future.

Call the Quarters:

Powers of the East, Element of Air, let me hear the wisdom of the past, speak my own words, and listen for what is yet to come.
Powers of the South, Element of Fire, help me to consume what has been, to transform it in the moment, and to use it to light my way forward.
Powers of the West, Element of Water, wash through me with the love of those who have been, help me flow with my own emotions, and continue the current into the future.
Powers of the North, Element of Earth, you hold the bones of our ancestors, you give form to our bodies, and out of you will grow the potential of what is yet to come.

Invite the Goddess:

Goddess, ever-present one, you have ever been and ever yet will be. In this moment, help me connect with what has been and what will be. Steady me as I understand my place in the ever-moving flow of time.

Sit in the center of your circle and arrange your materials: put the Tarot card in front of you and pile up five pennies on the left and five pennies on the right. The center space represents the present moment, the left the past, and the right the future.

Reflect on what you have received from the past. What can you consider part of your inheritance? This is not just things you have received, or what you have gotten from your blood ancestors. Think about people who have been mentors, elders, resources, or guides for you: what did they gift to you? Think about what you’ve received even from people you never met; many of us honor our forebears in the Goddess movement, for example. What about the experiences you have had with your family of choice?

As you reflect on these things, choose one thing you have inherited, name it out loud, and move a penny from the pile on the left onto the card. Repeat until all five pennies representing your inheritance from the past are on the card.

Hold your hands over the card and pennies and give thanks for what you have inherited and how it has shaped your life.

Now reflect on what you can pass on to others. Will you give them love, physical care, teaching, something you make, or simply your presence? How will you do things that will be remembered, even by one person, or even by people who do not know your name?

Choose one way you will shape the world for others to inherit, name it out loud, and move a penny from the pile on the right onto the card, stacking it on top of one of the ones already there. Repeat until all five pennies representing what you will give to the future are on the card.

Hold your hands over the card and pennies and give thanks for the opportunity to pass on your gifts, and ask for Goddess’ help in doing so if you wish.

Ground and center yourself again.

Thank and release Goddess:

Goddess of the waxing and waning moon, present in all moments and moving through all our times, thank you for your help and love tonight. Let me always use the present moment to continue the chain of transmission of gifts.

Thank and dismiss the Quarters:

Powers of the East, Element of Air, I honor your wisdom; help me pass it on. Go now with my thanks and praise!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, I honor your transmutation; help me to do the same. Go now with my thanks and praise!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, I honor your current of love; help me to move it forward. Go now with my thanks and praise!

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, I honor your shaping of our very substance; help me to use it well. Go now with my thanks and praise!

Open the circle, and ground and center yourself again.

You may wish to do something special with your pennies, whether that is keeping them for future use, giving them to charity, or giving them to your landbase. You may also wish to journal about your reflections and commitments in this ritual.

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Expanded Chakra System

I wrote previously about the seven chakra system, but there are several variations possible. I currently work with an expanded system of nine chakras which includes additional chakras above and below the original seven.

The seven-chakra system is the most common one, and as I understand it, also the most common one in the Hindu roots, but there are many, many different expansions and contractions and other variations. This is complicated by the fact that in Hindu views chakras as energy centers existed in other parts of the body, like major joints (think hips, shoulders, knees) and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Some systems of explaining or understanding the chakras include some or all of these.

Many of the variations on the chakra system want to adjust the number of chakras in order to match some other important or sacred number besides seven, especially nine or ten. At least a couple of different ways to attribute or associate the chakras with the Kabbalistic system of sephiroth exist, for example. (Creating coherence between two fundamentally different symbol systems from two fundamentally different cultures is a common problem of syncretic or multi-source spiritual and religious work – but I’ll save that conversation for another time.)

Unlike additional chakras found within various locations in the body, the addition of a “transpersonal” chakra (described as floating above the head) is, as far as I know, wholly Western.

Over time I have found it more productive to work with a nine chakra system which I was introduced to by Ivo Dominguez Jr in his book Spirit Speak. This system includes an ancestral chakra below the feet and a transpersonal chakra above the head. (Please note that the descriptions below are my own, and not Ivo’s, though I give thanks for his teaching.)

The Ancestral Chakra

The ancestral chakra, below the root chakra, is lower than the body by about 8 to 12 inches, and thus is anchored firmly in the physical world which supports us. In my experience, this chakra is a place of connection to the immanent spirit, or spirit made manifest in the physical world. This is the location of connection to the land base, to the spirits of place, and to our sources of stability and grounding.

As the name implies, this chakra also has a connection with the past as that which anchors and grounds us in time as well as place. This is a connection to the ancestors, meaning both our direct ancestors, known and unknown, but also the deep unconscious which extends beyond ourselves.

This chakra is associated with the color black, and it is important to understand that nearly all of the work that goes on here will be highly symbolic and instinctive; this is a space that responds well to rhythm and imagery, but doesn’t really make sense of language.

The Transpersonal Chakra

The transpersonal chakra is similarly located outside the body, floating about 8 to 12 inches above the head. I would almost rather describe this chakra as the transcendent, because in counterpoint to the ancestral chakra’s connection to immanent spirit, this uppermost chakra is connected to spirit as it transcends and exists outside of space, time, and matter.

The name transpersonal reflects the fact that since all beings are connected to spirit in this transcendent sense, working with spirit in this way strengthens the connection between oneself and other beings. But as I mentioned above, the ancestral or immanent chakra is also “transpersonal,” meaning that it connects us to others. The big difference is whether we are working with our connections to others as immanent, inside the physical, material world, or outside, in the transcendent sense. I think both are equally important but different ways of working with our connections to spirit and to each other.

This transcendent connection is the realm of the Higher Self or Deep Self, if you work with the Three Selves image. (More on that at another time!) This is the area of the superego, the wisdom that takes into account the individual but also seeks to take into account many individuals, and more than one time and place, in finding what is good or right or best. This is where we usually think of gods and goddesses residing, as opposed to the land spirits or cthonic and immanent manifestations of spirit.

This chakra is associated with clear or white light and can be a source of tremendously energizing feelings.

Benefits

Personally, I like the way this nine chakra system extends outside my physical body and includes explicit connections with the immanent and the transcendent world around me. It reminds me to check how my grounding and my connection to the upper Powers are functioning when I’m assessing my internal state, and gives me additional tools in working with my metaphysical understanding of well-being and healing.

One particular benefit is that a nine chakra system divides neatly into three groups of three. This particularly makes sense with the idea of a tripartite self – the lowest three chakras represent the Younger Self, the middle three chakras are the Talking Self, and the upper three chakras are the Higher Self or Deep Self, to use Starhawk’s terminology. Even if you don’t use that image of the self, the three groups do seem to fall together and it can be helpful to examine how each group of three interacts and balances itself.

Ultimately, whether you want to characterize these connections above and below as additional specific chakras or not, they are natural extensions of the seven chakra system which can help us pay attention to our grounding and centering, to our connection with the divine, and other parts of our metaphysical makeup. Spending time trying out these ideas and deciding whether to incorporate them into your own practice can be very rewarding.

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Invocation for spouse’s retirement

This is the invocation that I delivered at my dear husband’s retirement ceremony last week.

As we work through the many Halfway Out of the Dark holidays at this time of year, I hope you and yours have wonderful celebrations and are able to respect the traditions of others.

Throughout his career, my husband has endeavored to uphold and defend the values enshrined in the Constitution to which he swore his oath as an officer. One of the most important of those values is the freedom of religion.

At this time it is traditional to have an invocation to hallow the conclusion of a military career, but we are acutely aware that no invocation can adequately include the diversity of spirituality represented here or in the broader fabric of American society which he has so faithfully served.

Instead we invite you to join in a moment of silent reflection and, if you wish, to invoke the blessings of divinity.

Together we acknowledge his service, we are grateful for all that it has encompassed, and we lift up our hopes for the future.

Posted in civil rights, religious freedom

Yule – Sustaining Rebirth

I am continuing to republish a series of essays originally written in 2011.

Six months ago, I told a story of Litha being destruction averted, because although it is easy to associate warmth with the very energy of life, it is important that we not be overwhelmed by it. [1] Yule, by contrast, is a celebration of life being created anew, and created again, even in the midst of cold and darkness. It is a time when re-creation leads, appropriately, to recreation.

People in temperate climates have a long, long history of celebrating the days when the sun seems to stand still, halting its northward journey and then turning southward again, promising longer days and an end to winter, even if it is a long way off. [2] Midwinter solstice heralds a fresh start, and the promise of the whole world coming back to life – not miraculously restored after just a few days, but gradually reborn through the more mundane magic of germination and gestation.

Of course, this isn’t the only time of year we talk about new life coming into being, but it is one of the most poignant and symbolic times. I’ve seen so many rituals, both at Yule and other holidays, that speak to people’s desire for rebirth in their everyday lives. It’s easy to want a fresh start, a sudden and dramatic change – just like magic! – which will remove our obstacles and change our bad habits in one fell swoop. It’s easy to create a ritual that panders to the most unexamined form of this yearning for a quick fix, to assure people that if they simply want it hard enough, or light enough candles, it will happen. Worst of all, it’s too easy to let this devolve into the idea that the universe is a vast wish-granting machine, and that if you don’t get what you want, either someone is out to get you or it’s all your fault. A similar idea is at work in the secular custom of New Year’s resolutions, and they are famously ineffective.

The natural world doesn’t work that way. The sun doesn’t suddenly spring back to its position at the height of summer – and it’s a good thing, too, because that kind of transformation without transition would be incredibly traumatic. This is true for humans, too. Sudden changes and fresh starts do occur, but they’re not always something to be yearned for, and they’re seldom as easy as we would like to imagine. More often, rebirth is not an instantaneous process. Usually it arises not just from our wishing but from our working. New life and ways of life usually require that we make choices day after day, again and again, choosing anew and working in support of that choice.

We experience this in our relationships, too; they have to be nurtured on a regular basis. A marriage vow, for example, isn’t something that magically forges a lasting, loving relationship between two people. It’s choosing to live out that vow, again and again, choosing to love, to forgive, to be patient, that keeps the relationship alive, helps it be reborn day by day. It’s not that every single choice, or word, or action has to be perfect, but that enough of them are good enough to tip the balance. It’s not the making of the vow but the keeping of it that provides the warmth of love in the heart of the family, just as it’s not the single moment of Yule but the gradual lengthening of days that warms the world for springtime.

This kind of gradual progress can be frustrating. The day after Yule isn’t noticeably longer, and it’s going to go on being cold for quite a while. In the face of that, it’s important to celebrate the magical moments, like the days when the very sun stands still and then changes course. But often, our culture puts too much weight on the single moments, with unrealistic expectations leading to inevitable disappointments: the big dinner must be a time of jollity and familial love, the long-awaited present must be perfectly surprising and satisfying all at once, and so on.

Instead of trying to force Yule, or New Year’s, or any other single moment, to give me instantaneous transformation, I try to follow the Sun’s pattern. On this shortest day, I take time to pause, to stand still and just be present. Then, when I want to renew or re-create my life in some way, I do it gradually, gently, a little at a time. That kind of sustained rebirth, a daily, incremental newness of life, has a name: growth. Growth, and the precious knowledge that it continues, even in the cold and dark of winter, is what I celebrate in this season.


[1] At this time, the Northern Hemisphere is approaching the winter solstice, while the Southern Hemisphere is approaching Litha, or summer solstice.
[2] Solstice comes from the roots “sol,” meaning sun, and “sistere,” meaning to come to a stop. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=solstice

Posted in nature, Pagan | Tagged , ,

Donations in memory of Jean

In keeping with my mother’s wishes that people donate to libraries, I invite anyone who is interested to donate to the New Alexandrian Library in her memory. Please consider this as part of your holiday or end-of-year giving! Donations earmarked in her name will go towards funding a memorial plaque on a sculpture to be created for the library.

Donations can be made through PayPal to the address nal@sacredwheel.org

Or checks can be mailed to:

New Alexandrian Library
P.O. Box 582
Georgetown, DE 19947

Please earmark all donations in memory of Jean Anne “Cameo” Laing.

One of the things that made my mother so amazing was her willingness and desire to keep learning and growing throughout the duration of her lifetime. With these gifts, we will extend that blessing manyfold.

Posted in announcements

Ritual for committing to daily practice using the Eight of Pentacles

The 8 of Pentacles is an image of an apprentice practicing a craft. The message of this card emphasizes that progress and rewards come from repeated, enduring practice. In this ritual you will commit to practicing a single action every day for the next week and a day.

Your commitment to practice does not need to be a big one. In fact, it’s important not to make it too big to start out with. It could be something as simple as “I will take a deep breath.” It could be brushing your teeth. (Since we’re working with the suit of Pentacles, choosing to do something good for your body would be wonderfully appropriate!) It could be deciding to put a dollar in your savings. It could be a commitment to name three things for which you’re grateful. You get the idea.

Make this commitment specific, measurable, and realistic. Specific means that you name exactly what you will do – instead of “I will work out,” say “I will walk a mile.” Measurable means that you will be able to tell for sure whether you’ve achieved it. Instead of “I will be grateful,” say “I will name three things for which I’m grateful.” Realistic means that this needs to be something you can fit into your existing life in the next week. Every day. No exceptions. That’s why I encourage you to pick something small. Tiny. Just one thing!

Oh, and this should be a specific action you will do, not something to refrain from doing. This isn’t giving up X or refusing to do Y. This is a positive action for you to practice.

For materials you will need eight tokens. I suggest pennies, because they neatly reflect the theme of the card, but you could use stones or beads or slips of paper or anything else you like.

You may want to use the Eight of Pentacles from your favorite Tarot deck. If you have an object or tool that you will use in your daily practice (a candle? a mug for your cup of tea?), it would be beneficial to include that as well.

Ritual:

Ground and center yourself.

As you cast the circle, think about the repeating nature of the circle.

Call the Quarters:

Powers of the East, Element of Air, blow through me with a fresh breath as I (re)commit myself to this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, burn in me with the dedication to carry this practice through every day. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, flow through me with the commitment to this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, ground me in the stability of this daily practice. Hail and welcome!

Invoke a goddess if one is appropriate to the practice you have chosen, or simply ground and center and commune with your landbase as you commit to yourself with this work.

Sit in the center of your circle. Arrange your tokens in front of you, but not on your altar. Reflect on why you have chosen this practice, at this time. Meditate on it, and consult your intuition and inner guidance to be sure that this is what you want to pursue for the next eight days.

Formulate your practice into a simple statement. Build a visualization of yourself doing it: what does it look like, feel like, mean to you? Will it be at the same time every day, or will it be something you do when you remember to? How will you make it work on days when it’s hard? Ask all your allies to help you commit to this single, simple daily practice for the next eight days.

When you are ready, bless your tokens to help you. For each one, pick it up and draw an invoking pentagram over it (starting from the top point down to the lower left) as you state your daily practice. Place it in a pile on your altar.

When you have blessed all eight, put your hands over the pile and send any extra energy into them as a whole.

Ground and center yourself again. Thank your landbase and any goddess that you called.

Thank the Quarters:

Powers of the North, Element of Earth, I will do what I have said! Let me gain strength from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the West, Element of Water, I will do what I have said! Let me gain equanimity from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the South, Element of Fire, I will do what I have said! Let me gain energy from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Powers of the East, Element of Air, I will do what I have said! Let me gain insight from it. Go now with my thanks and praise. Hail and farewell!

Ground and center yourself again.

After the ritual, put your tokens in a place where you will see them as you do your daily practice, if at all possible. Move one from the pile to a new pile every time you do your practice. At the end of the eight days, take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t about this practice, and what you’ve learned and gained from the experience.

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Ritual for creating stability using the Four of Pentacles

The 4 of Pentacles is traditionally seen as depicting a miser, someone who clings to possessions and physical objects at the expense of all else. For the purposes of this ritual, I would like to propose an alternate interpretation: someone creating stability.

In Mary K Greer’s wonderful book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, she suggests physically taking the position of the person depicted in a card. When I did this with the traditional Four of Pentacles, what I felt was that the person was holding the pentacle in front of herself almost as a shield or protection. The image also looks like a castle, and fours are typically about stability and balance. For myself, this fall has been a time of tremendous upheaval, and the whole Samhain season can feel that way to others as well. In response to that, the intent of this ritual is to help us create a sense of stability even while experiencing change.

I have written this as a largely silent ritual, but you may add words wherever you feel moved to do so.

Materials: Four stones – any stones will work, as long as they feel strong and stable; you can use your most precious crystals, or four stones found in your local landbase. I find that slightly larger stones give me a better sense of grounding, and you may actually prefer darker colored or ordinary stones for their grounding nature.
You may want to use the 4 of Pentacles from your favorite Tarot deck.

Ritual:

Ground and center yourself.

Cast the circle by walking it, imprinting your intention on the earth with your feet as you move.

Sit in the center of your circle.

Take the first stone, face East, and call the Powers of Air with your mind. Blow across the stone, and place it on the ground.

Take the second stone, face South, and call the Powers of Fire with your will. Warm the stone in your hands, and place it on the ground.

Take the third stone, face West, and call the Powers of Water with your heart. Lick your finger and touch it to the stone, then place it on the ground.

Take the fourth stone, face North, and call the Powers of Earth with your whole body. Feel the weight of the stone, and place it on the ground.

Meditate about what makes you feel stable or unstable, safe or unsafe at this time. Think about the ways you seek stability for yourself. What is working well for you and what is not working?

Reach out to the stones surrounding you and feel their stability, their fixed nature. Ground yourself more strongly into your landbase and know that it is always there for you.

Take up the position of the person in the traditional Four of Pentacles card, holding an imaginary disc in front of your body with one arm below it and one arm above it. Now instead of a coin or a shield begin to see this disc as the full moon, shining between your hands, glowing directly in front of you. How does the Goddess guide you to stability, even in the face of change?

When you are done, thank the Goddess and thank your landbase.

Touch each of the four stones in turn and silently thank the Powers of the Elements.

Open your circle by walking in the opposite direction.

Take time to reflect on your meditation over the next few days; you may wish to journal about it.

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