Top Ten Books of 2014

I keep track of the books I read each year using Goodreads and in 2014 I read 100 books. In the past, I’ve done blog posts with all 100 books listed. That is cumbersome and not very interesting to the reader and simply too long! So, this year I’m offering a list of my top 10 reads in 2014. I’m running short on time lately and normally I would want to link all of these books to the right pages on Amazon and include cover photos, etc., but I’m just going to let go of doing that.

  1. Women Who Run with the Wolves–this one took me almost all year to read and was really a treasure once I let myself sink into it.
  2. Women, Writing and Soul-Making–this was the text we used in my Women Engaged in Sacred Writing class at OSC. It is a very good book and I quoted it in this post: The Women’s Hearth | WoodsPriestess
  3. Daring Greatly–I checked this out on audio from the library and really enjoyed it. It is about vulnerability and was very powerful in many ways. (Side note: I am over the moon about how very much fun it is to be able to “read” and do something else at the same time. It is like a miracle. I wish I would have gotten a library card for this purpose a very long time ago!)
  4. Lean Inanother library audio book read, this book by Sheryl Sandberg is about women and work. Very good!
  5. The Leader Within and Ritual Facilitation–both of these books are by Shauna Aura Knight whose blog I love reading and always learn from.
  6. Stepping into Ourselves—I absolutely loved this anthology of writings by priestesses (I also love Anne Key’s memoir, Desert Priestess). I recently had the opportunity to beta test the first of a series of priestessing classes based on this book as well. Top notch resource!
  7. Rituals of Celebration—an impressive exploration of the art of ritual. I wrote a little about this book in this post: Offering… | WoodsPriestess.
  8. Keep Simple Ceremonies–this book was recommended to be by one of my blog readers and I just adore it. This was my second reading of the book.
  9. To Make and Make Again—required reading for my ritual theory class at OSC, this book was difficult to get into, but then included all kinds of interesting gems about the power, purpose, and value of gathering together in sacred circle.
  10. Candlemas: Feast of Flames—I’d actually almost forgotten about this one since I read it almost an entire year ago! But, it was an excellent resource specifically for Imbolc and celebrating Brigid. I’m going back into this book now to get ready for our Brigid’s Grove anniversary celebration and family Imbolc ritual.

I would recommend all of these books as excellent priestess resources!

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Categories: books, feminist thealogy, liturgy, priestess, resources, reviews, ritual, women's circle | 2 Comments

Womanrunes Second Printing!

IMG_1361We received the second printing of our Womanrunes book last week! They arrived a week ahead of schedule and look beautiful! I’m thrilled to move forward with promotion and distribution of the book. It was a true labor of love and it feels really powerful to share this work with others.

The book has been available via Amazon domestically and internationally since August, but this week we added a separate listing for book and card sets on Amazon. We sell the sets in our etsy shop, but the books sold on Amazon ship directly from Amazon itself which means only books have been available there, since the cards are printed by a different company. However, for those shoppers who prefer to use Amazon, we now have a fresh Amazon listing that is for book and card sets.

You also still have time to get our free digital “Womanrunes Starter Kit” by signing up for our newsletter at Brigid’s Grove. We are also hard at work on a new freebie for our February newsletter, so make sure you’ve signed up and you will automatically get our free “How to Draw a Calamoondala” handout when the newsletter is finished.

I’ve been really delighted to get some great messages about women using Womanrunes in their Red Tent circles. The Red Tent in Lawrence, KS sent me a picture of the Womanrunes there:

January 2015 002And, speaking of Red Tents, I registered with Red Tents in Every Neighborhood as a sisterhood tent in preparation for our first Red Tent Circle in February. So, now we have an official member badge ;)

RedTent Member Badge

If you are local and would like to join the Red Tent Circle, you can find us on Facebook here: Rolla Red Tent.

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“…the business is just a vehicle for sending out my stuff into the world. The real thing, the real magic… is in the creating.”

–Leonie Dawson

“The only domain where the divine is visible is that of art, whatever name we choose to call it.”

–Andre Malreaux (quoted in The Art of Ritual)

Categories: art, community, priestess, Womanrunes, writing | 1 Comment

Priestess Year in Review (2014)

Mollyblessingway 211

“Lifelong priesthoods were typically held by married women leading ‘normal’ lives, complete with husbands and children. Greek religious offices were enormously practical, enabling women to serve at each stage of life without sacrificing the full experience of marriage and motherhood.”

–Joan Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess, p. 18

“When words are inadequate, ceremony and ritual help us express our profound thoughts and feelings….rituals are symbolic activities that help us, together with our families and friends, express our deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s most important events.”

–Dr. Alan Wolfelt (quoted in The Art of Ritual)

When I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess in July of 2012, one of the commitments I made as part of ordination was to be of service in some way to the organization and to document my service to my community through the year. So, in keeping with that commitment, I made a year-end summary post at the end of 2012 and another at the end of 2013. It was helpful to me personally to see everything grouped together in one post and see that I’m truly doing this work. I enjoying sharing my post with the rest of the GG community in hopes of encouraging others to keep a record of their own. In 2014, this was my service in the capacity as ritualist/ceremonialist:

January: winter women’s retreat, spontaneous family morning ritual, family full moon ritual.

July 2014 036

Nature mandala at summer ritual.

February: family Brigid ceremony and Imbolc ritual, seventh Rise Up class, birthday blessing, help planning house cleansing, mini family full moon ritual.

March: invocation to the north during opening ritual at Goddess Weekend in St. Louis, Spring family ritual.

April: spontaneous family gratitude ritual, spring women’s retreat.

June: helped with sister-in-law’s blessingway, Rise Up class.

July:  summer ritual for the members of my women’s circle and their families.

August: Red Tent event, tenth Rise Up class.

September: temple priestess at GGG, Womanrunes presentation.

October: Gave birth to new baby!

November: family full moon ritual for baby, Sealing ceremony for self.

December: full moon ritual, Rise Up finish and ceremony, family solstice ritual, mother blessing ceremony.

I took an online training program in circle leadership from Chrysalis Woman and I wrote this post about why Gathering the Women matters to me: Gathering the Women | WoodsPriestess. (I also finally finished reading Women Who Run with the Wolves!) I wrote 47 posts for this blog in 2014, which was a dramatic reduction from previous years, primarily because I diverted a lot of my attention to finishing my M.Div, writing a book, and working on art, sculpture, and jewelry for our co-creative business, Brigid’s Grove (and we had booths selling goddess sculptures and jewelry at five events sprinkled through the year).front-cover

We published a book about Womanrunes! This was an incredibly huge project. We also published a digital Ritual Recipe Kit and a book of earth-based poetry. I sculpted more than 27 new designs for pewter pendants and 7 for resin goddess sculptures (and we fulfilled more than 540 orders for these items!)

I completed 7 more classes at OSC, finished my thesis project, and completed my M.Div degree! I only have two classes remaining for my D.Min. In the last days of 2014, a new idea for my dissertation was born and I completed and submitted my prospectus for my dissertation project (and it was approved).

I continued to host a (not very active) Priestess Path group on Facebook and started one for women interested in a Red Tent in our community as well. I also maintain my Woodspriestess Facebook page and one for Brigid’s Grove.

In keeping with the commitment I made upon my ordination, I contributed articles to 5 issues of The Oracle, the online journal of Global Goddess: Winter Solstice, Samhaim, Beltane, Spring Equinox, Imbolc

I wrote 6 posts for Feminism and Religion: Mollyblessingway 116

I also wrote 23 posts for my blog at SageWoman magazine.

And, finally, I wrote 15 posts for Pagan Families earlier in the year before decided I was spread too thin with blogging commitments and needed to let something go.

(I also wrote 100 posts at my birth/motherhood blog, but that doesn’t directly connect to my priestess year in review theme!)

I have several relevant goals for 2015:

  • Finish last two D.Min classes!
  • Finish dissertation (and therefore finish D.Min degree)
  • Begin facilitating regular New Moon Red Tent Circles in the local community
  • Continue holding monthly full moon rituals with my own family and broaden that to include a couple of friends as well
  • Present at Goddess Weekend and Gaea Goddess Gathering
  • Expand our Ritual Recipe Kit into a longer printed book
  • Promote and distribute Womanrunes more widely, especially to the Red Tent community, since it is a perfect oracle for use in Red Tent events.
  • Work on several new book and online class ideas!

As also occurred last year when I wrote my year-in-review post, when I read this over, it comes up for me to wonder if writing a post like this looks “smug” and self-congratulatory in some way. Am I too focused on numbers and hours and quantifying something instead of presence? Too much do-ing and not enough be-ing? But, in truth, the intention with which each year’s list is created is simply as an accountability thing—both in terms of the vows I made to my community as well as to myself. It is so I can see, collected in one place, what I’ve offered as a priestess this year. It is to allow me a moment of pause, reflection, review, and a sensation of a job well done, rather than immediately rushing off to the next thing, as I tend to do. I continue to struggle with issues of “who does she think she IS?” with regard to priestess work (this forms an element of my dissertation project, actually!) and in reviewing my year, I am able to see that yes, I am doing this work. I am not just talking about it or imagining it, I am walking the path.

Happy New Year!

 

Categories: art, community, OSC, priestess, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle, woodspriestess, writing | Leave a comment

Seed Corn Ritual

I dream of a sacred fire December 2014 127
where a family circles,
arms linked
as one.

Shared dream,
shared harvest,
shared blessing,
of family, spirit, hearth, and home.

Light the fire
with your children.
Sing with your partner.
Create a temple
of your hearts,
hands,
and bodies.

A simple seed corn ritual is a lovely addition to your New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day celebration. It can be completed with a group, a family, or on your own. After reviewing your year and celebrating your accomplishments and successes, consider what you would like to save from this year’s “harvest” to plant in the new year. Take a piece of corn from a pretty dish, close your eyes, and let the seed corn share its dream with you. The above lines are what my seed corn (actually, a piece of unpopped popcorn) had to share with me.

What have you harvested to plant in the new year? What dream are you dreaming?

Categories: blessings, family, holidays, ritual | Leave a comment

A Solstice Blessing

May you have a warm heart, December 2014 093
open hands,
a creative mind.

May you experience inspiration and brilliance,
clarity and focus.
May you laugh richly and deeply.

May you circle and celebrate,
may you change and grow

May that which waiting to be unlocked
be freed.

And may you soar with the knowing
that you are carried by a great wind across the sky.

Just a quick post to share some pictures from our family solstice celebration last night (mouse over or click for captions). We didn’t do everything I had planned and trying to have a ceremony that includes children can be a chaotic, frustrating, and wild experience (separate blog post about this on another day!), but I enjoy our traditions and I’m pretty sure it is worth it…

Bright blessings of the season to you!

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Categories: blessings, family, holidays, parenting, ritual, seasons, spirituality, woodspriestess | 3 Comments

Winter Solstice Meditation

When the wheel of the year turns towards fall, I always feel the call to retreat, to cocoon, to pull away. I also feel the urge for fall de-cluttering—my eyes cast about the house for things to unload, get rid of, to cast away. I also search my calendar for those things which can be eliminated, trimmed down, cut back on. I think it is the inexorable approach of the winter holiday season that prompts this desire to withdraw, as well as the natural rhythm of the earth which so clearly says: let things go, it is time to hibernate.

Late autumn and the shift toward winter is a time of discernment. A time to choose. A time to notice that which has not made it through the summer’s heat and thus needs to be pruned away. In this time of the year, we both recognize the harvest of our labors and that which needs to be released or even sacrificed as we sense the promise of the new year to come.

This year I cocoon with my new baby. Though I have three other children, this new baby was the first child whose development and arrival December 2014 106perfectly mirrored the wheel of the year. Conceived during the first month of the new year, taking root in the darkness of winter’s end, beginning to bud during the springtime and coming into full bloom during the summer. And, then, with the season’s spiral turn into fall, when many beautiful things are harvested, his birth: October 30, into my welcoming hands in the sunlight bright morning in my living room. Now, with the steady progress of winter, we curl together in a small, new world. We cocoon in the cave of our own home, the size of the world re-sized to the size of my bed, kitchen table, and rocking chair. This is the fourth trimester, the time in which the baby continues to develop his nervous system and continues to live within the context of the mother’s body. I am his habitat. His place. His home is in my arms.

This sinking in, this cocooning, this safe, small world is perfect for the call of winter. While my to-do list has again begun to clang in my ear and the clamor of my other children surrounds me, the early nights, cold temperatures, and gray skies, remind me to nestle, remember, and grow. Beautiful magic takes root in dark, deep places.

Winter solstice.
Deep, long, dark night.
Cold cracks
brittle branches,
icy stone.

Winter’s song December 2014 004
echoes in skeletal treetops
and crackling leaves.
Rest time.
Hibernation.
Silent watchfulness.
Waiting hope.

Sink down.
Open up.
Receive and feel.
Hold peace.

May you enjoy a rich, peaceful solstice with your family and loved ones! May you be blessed by light and may you find wisdom and solace in dark, deep, places. And, may you remember not to be so distracted by the promise of the light to come that you forget the great value to be found in endarkenment as well.

December 2014 211

 

Categories: blessings, endarkenment, family, holidays, parenting, poems, spirituality, theapoetics | 1 Comment

Family Winter Solstice Ritual Outline

IMG_0545“Only in the deepest silence of night
the stars smile and whisper among themselves.”
–Rabindranath Tagore

(quoted in Dear Heart, Come Home page 52)

As I prepare our family’s winter solstice ritual for this Sunday evening, I feel moved to share our family’s tradition and ritual process. I’d love to hear from readers in the comments with their own family traditions! We have celebrated the winter solstice together as our primary family ritual for the last eleven years. There are several elements that remain constant from year to year and other elements that vary based on new ideas or projects that we decide to incorporate for that year.

The following is a brief explanation of three of our core traditions, which is then followed by a full ritual outline for this year’s ceremony! Make sure to read through to the end of my ritual outline for links to even more posts with further ideas and information.

Bell-ringing ceremony: it is common to use bells to ring out the old year and ring in the new. We gather together outside at dusk, each holding our bell. We turn to each direction and ring the bells together to honor the connection to each sacred quarter. Then, we ring them up to the sky, down to the earth, and at chest level for our hearts (or the divine within). We then each speak a one or two word wish for the Earth in the coming year and all ring the bells together to affirm each wish.

Goals review: Each year during our family winter solstice ritual we review our lives from the past year—things we’re proud of, things we’d like to let go of—and then set new intentions for the coming year. We write these down on pieces of paper that I then roll up together and put in a box. The following year, we each open our papers and read what we wrote the year before and see how/if these intentions manifested over the year. It is very interesting to see how we rarely remember exactly what we wrote and yet, how often those things have come to pass. After this goals review process, we all get our candles and walk the solstice spiral in turn to symbolize the setting forth of our new intentions and the goals we would like to carry forth into the light of the new year to come.

Solstice spiral: the highlight of our ceremony is a walk through the solstice spiral. It is based on the Waldorf tradition of an “advent spiral,” which is often made outdoors using evergreen branches. During the first year we tried the spiral, I did decorate the outside of our spiral with evergreen branches, but since then I’ve simply opted to lay out a spiral shape on the floor using silver and gold tinsel garlands. It is simple, but once ringed with candles and the household lights turned out, it becomes magical!

Ritual Outline:

  • Group hum–in my community, we have a tradition of casting our opening circle in a very simple manner: we stand together in a circle and place our hands on each other’s backs. Then, we hum in unison at least three times to pull our personal vibrations and rhythms into a sense of physical and literal harmony. I do not find it necessary to symbolically draw the circle with any kind of object. I have a very body-based personal practice and find that our bodies and voices very effectively cast a circle without any need for additional objects.
  • While drumming a basic rhythm, sing Circle Casting Song together (by Reclaiming)
  • Introduction: We are here to celebrate our connection to each other, to recognize our accomplishments of the past year, to welcome the coming year ahead, to bless our paths in life, our chance to grow and learn, the sacred cycles, our loved ones, our health, our creations, our home, where we live, what we have, and who we are.
  • Go outside for bell ringing ceremony (see above).
  • Returning indoors, shut off all lights and take a minute to sit together in a dark room to think about past year. Then simple toast and candle-lighting.

The winter solstice happens in nature around us.  But it also happens inside of us, in our souls.  It can happen inside of us is summer or winter, spring or fall.   In the dark place of our soul, we carry secret wishes, pains, frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, worries.  Darkness is not something to be afraid of.  Sometimes we go to the dark place of our soul, where we can find safety and comfort.  In the dark place in our soul we can find rest and rejuvenation.  In the dark place of our soul we can find balance.  And when we have rested, and been comforted, and restored, we can return from the dark place in our soul to the world of light and new possibilities.

–John Halstead, Family Winter Solstice Ritual

  • Year review and new intentions.
  • Make manifestation ornaments together: rosemary (for protection in the new year), sage (for cleansing) and cinnamon sticks (for activation). Put new year’s goals inside.
  • Solstice spiral—read following as we each enter with our ornaments and unlit candles.

Surrender to the Dark and Nurture your Dreams …

The dark season challenges us to surrender to our dreaming, to trust that the strength of the earth will support our weight as we sleep.

It is out of the darkness that flowers eventually emerge, babies are born, and inspiration for poetry and ideas are nurtured toward the page and through our voices.

In the deep, dark places in ourselves, we find the inner truth about ourselves. In this winter season of so many people prematurely rushing toward the light, remember to slow down and do Winter’s inner work.

Celebrate the dark, where the inner life is honored and nurtured. One is made confident that the seed of light, sown in the womb of the dark, will grow, and in its appropriate season, bloom.

via Global Goddess | Goddess Women Helping Women

  • Sing We Are Circling (see: http://ourchants.org/songs/we-are-circling) while we each walk spiral with candle and light from center candle. Upon return to outside the spiral get animal oracle card (or other guidance/divination card) and a small gift (pocket totem, stone, charm, etc.)
  • Stand together and do responsive reading:

Inviting Our Light to Shine (responsive reading. Modified from: John Halstead, Family Winter Solstice Ritual)

When you celebrate the winter solstice,
            May your light shine. Solstice spiral. We shut the lights out and walk it with candles.
When you share love,
            May your light shine.
When you work for peace,
            May your light shine.
When you teach someone,
            May your light shine.
When you comfort someone,
            May your light shine.
When you create works of beauty and love,
            May your light shine.
When you laugh together.
            May your light shine.
When you grieve a loss,
            May your light shine.
When you are challenged to change,
            May your light shine.
When you (add your own intention here), December 2013 042
           May your light shine.
Bless yourself with the light.
            Your light will shine.

  • Take candles to Yule log:

Upon this Solstice season night
I burn these candles strong & bright.

Abundance and blessings grow and flow,
As comes the light, it is so!

via The Nine Nights of the Winter Solstice Hallowing.

  • Any other words or blessings participants have to offer…
  • Closing reading

A Solstice Blessing
(written by Shiloh Sophia)

Blessings upon your hope for your today.
Blessings upon your healing of your yesterdays.
Blessings upon your continued dreams for your future.
Blessings upon the Loved ones you have today.
Blessings upon your ancestors who made the way.
Blessings upon you and yours for the next seven generations.
So that your light continues to shine in the darkness.
So that you may show us the beauty within your soul.
So that our world might be made brighter because you are.
May you be kept warm in the arms of Love.
May your harvest grant you a season of rest and renewal.
May the return of the light remind you of the goodness
that is waiting within to be born

  • Make large Sun Wheel decoration together (see link below)
  • Drumming & divination.

Additional links:

Information about solstice spiral: Teaching Handwork: understanding the spiral walk for advent.

Information about bell-ringing ceremony: Winter Solstice: Ritual, Ideas & Celebrations

Sun wheel project: Let’s Weave a Giant Sun!

Manifestation ornaments: Yule Prosperity Ornament

More celebration ideas: Winter Solstice Ritual Ideas

Crossposted from my SageWoman blog.

Categories: family, holidays, liturgy, parenting, priestess, readings, resources, ritual, spirituality | 1 Comment

Rise Up Completion

In 2010, I bought the Rise Up and Call Her Name curriculum and imagined working through it with a group of women. At the beginning of 2013, I started the program in what was intended to be a monthly class. Well, here we are almost two years later and today we finally finished the curriculum! As we read the final poem (We Hold Hands) and sang our final rendition of “Listen, Sisters, Listen,” I felt a real sense of exhilaration and triumph. I made the commitment to do this for these women and they made the commitment to work together in this way and we DID IT.

Earth-based/winter solstice altar space.

Earth-based/winter solstice altar space.

Mask-making project.

Mask-making project.

Closing ceremony--after having created a web-weaving, we "birthed" our mask project into the sacred circle.

Closing ceremony–after having created a web-weaving, we “birthed” our mask project into the sacred circle.

Yesterday afternoon, my M.Div diploma finally came in the mail (I actually finished the degree on July 1) and so I feel a sense of completion and fulfillment there as well. I asked my husband to take a picture of me with some of my finished projects of 2014 (yes, the baby counts too!) and I feel very satisfied and proud right now.
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(I typed this post on my iPad and couldn’t easily include links the way I usually do and I’m just going to be okay with that!)

Categories: community, friends, OSC, priestess, retreat, ritual, spirituality, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 4 Comments

Women Who Run With the Wolves

“Remember, there is a natural time after childbearing when a woman is considered to be of the underworld. She is dusted with its dust, watered by its water, having seen into the mystery of life and death, pain and joy during her labor. So, for a time she is ‘not here’ but rather still ‘there.’ It takes time to re-emerge.”

–Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves (p. 441)

I’ve spent years quoting Clarissa Pinkola Estes and yet had never read one of her books. My favorite quote is this one and I’ve returned to it again and again at various points in my life:

Be wild; that is how to clear the river.”

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Interestingly enough, I finally began reading Women Who Run with the Wolves while literally sitting in the river this summer while my kids played. One of the remaining items on my Leonie Dawson 100 Thing list for 2014 was to finish this book. And, now here in this “underworld” time with my new baby, I finally did it! In the afterword to the book, she mentions that this is a book meant to be read in small doses. She explains that she took twenty years to write it and that it is meant to be read in sections, thought about, and then returned to again. So, I guess I did exactly the right thing in how I read it this year—it took me more than six months to read it (I also read 90 other books this year in addition to this one!).

One of the quotes I quoted before reading the book was this classic one:

I am wild.

Wild Woman.

When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may become ghosty from neglect, buried from over domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her; we know she belongs to us and we to her.There are times when we experience her, even if only fleetingly, and it makes us mad with wanting to continue. For some women, this vitalizing ‘taste of the wild’ comes during pregnancy, during nursing their young, during the miracle of change in oneself as one raises a child, during attending to a love relationship as one would attend to a beloved garden.As sense of her also comes through the vision; through sights of great beauty. I have felt her when I see what we call in the woodlands a Jesus-God sunset. I have felt her move in me from seeing the fishermen come up from the lake at dusk with lanterns lit, and also from seeing my newborn baby’s toes all lined up like a row of sweet corn. We see her where we see her, which is everywhere.

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves, quoted in Celebrating Motherhood by Andrea Gosline and Lisa Bossi

via Celebrating Motherhood: The Wild Woman and Sacred Business | Talk Birth.

Photo: "Remember, there is a natural time after childbearing when a woman is considered to be of the underworld. She is dusted with its dust, watered by its water, having seen into the mystery of life and death, pain and joy during her labor. So, for a time she is 'not here' but rather still 'there.' It takes time to re-emerge."</p> <p>--Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves (p. 441)

I also love this quote about doors:

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” 

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D (Women Who Run With the Wolves)

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While many quotes caught my attention upon this complete reading of her book and spoke to where I am, in addition to the one with which I opened this post, there are two in particular that really grabbed me. The first was about rage and creation. I love the idea that there is a time to show your incisors:

“…there is a time to reveal your incisors, your powerful ability to defend territory, to say ‘This far and no farther, the buck stops here, and hold onto your hat, I’ve got something to say, this is definitely going to change.'”

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes on rage and creation in Women Who Run with the Wolves, p. 363

IMG_0920And, this powerful thought on creativity and the call to listen to the whispers of our own hearts:

“She may feel she will die if she does not dance naked in a thunderstorm, sit in perfect silence, return home ink-stained, paint-stained, tear-stained, moon-stained.” –Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Photo: "She may feel she will die if she does not dance naked in a thunderstorm, sit in perfect silence, return home ink-stained, paint-stained, tear-stained, moon-stained." --Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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I just love the way my sweet little baby (now six weeks old!) holds onto my goddess necklace while he is nursing.

Categories: books, quotes, readings, womanspirit | 3 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Come into my lap and sit in the center of your soul. Drink the living waters of memory and give birth to yourself. What you unearth with stun you. You will paint the walls of this cave in thanksgiving.”

–Meinrad Craighead

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This year I’m thankful for my sweet new baby as well as for my other children, a husband who is home with us, the opportunity to pursue creative work together, my parents who live so close and who are so helpful, our first nephew who is so smiley and cute, my friendship with my sister-in-law, and our “tribe” and community of friends. This year has been a really formative year for us and one in which we have completed a lot of significant projects and focused our energy in building our creative business together.

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IMG_9836As a thank you to our Brigid’s Grove customers, we’re offering free shipping for United States customers in our etsy shop through December 1st. For our international customers, we have a thank you discount code for 10% off: SMALLBIZSATURDAY.

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Categories: family, holidays | Leave a comment

Book Review: Naming the Goddess

namingthegoddess

“On any spiritual path, and most especially on one that is simultaneously a path of magical practice, our real progress and growth is measurable largely in the capacity to pass the challenges that are set before us. The easy parts of the journey are not the most important.”

–Philip Kane (in his essay on Laverna, Naming the Goddess, p. 232)

Naming the Goddess, published by Moon Books, is a collaborative work bringing together essays written by over eighty scholars and practitioners of Goddess Spirituality, including contributions from Selena Fox, Kathy Jones, Caroline Wise and Rachel Patterson. A unique aspect of this book is that it is a two-part project with the first part of the book containing a series of contemplative and scholarly essays and the second part serving as a “gazetteer” of different goddesses, making it useful both as a reference book and as well as one that encourages reflective spiritual thought.

The perspectives and thealogies explored in the first section are pleasantly diverse and engaging. I do wish this section was longer, because I felt like it was still getting going when the focus then shifted to the second, larger section of the book.

I confess I didn’t expect to particularly enjoy the gazetteer portion because I have a variety of goddess “dictionary” type books already and I expected much of the second part of the book to be a repeat of information I already have. However, the approach in Naming the Goddess was decidedly different. First, because many of the seventy goddesses included were uncommon deities with whom I was not familiar. Second, because the entries were written with a personal flair, often by women or men who directly work with the goddesses profiled, rather than solely being a generic overview of the mythology or cultural lore associated with the goddess. Having so many voices represented in one book also means that I found a number of other books to add to my wish list as well as diverse authors and bloggers to follow online!

Another enjoyable element of this volume of essays was the “bite-sized” nature of each piece. Most of the essays are 2-5 pages long, meaning the book can readily be digested in a stop-and-start manner that is very compatible with a busy life that includes four small children!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

November 2014 136

Categories: books, feminist thealogy, Goddess, readings, resources, reviews, thealogy | 1 Comment

Simple Full Moon Ceremony for a New Baby

IMG_8557On October 30th, I gave birth to a new baby boy. He was born at home in water, my fourth homebirth, but my first waterbirth (his birth story is available here). On the full moon of his one week “birthday,” we took him outside for the first time in his whole life–to meet the world, to feel the fresh, cool air, to be introduced to the moon and the Earth as a member of our family. Here is an outline of the very simple ceremony of welcome we held for him. While we did this with just our other children present, it could easily be expanded to include additional guests.

Each family member carries a candle outside into the full moon’s light.

Circle up, hands on each other’s backs, and hum in unison three times to cast the circle (this is our tradition in our local circle–the hum quite literally unifies and harmonizes our energy and centers us in time and space together. Very simple and effective).

Placing our hands on the new baby:

Welcome to the spinning world, baby boy!
(family repeats)

Welcome to the green Earth!
(family repeats)

We’re so glad you’re here!*
(family repeats)

Each family member chooses a piece of corn from a chalice and makes a wish aloud for the baby, tossing the corn into the moonlight. November 2014 066

(Our kids love tossing corn so we use this during many full moon rituals.)

Hold the baby out under the moonlight. (Our baby stared right at the moon with solemn, wide eyes.)

Join hands and say closing prayer:

May Goddess bless and keep us,
may wisdom dwell within us,
may we create peace.

November 2014 061
*Adapted from the children’s book On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier

Closing prayer adapted from unknown source.

Crossposted at SageWoman.

Categories: birth, blessings, family, night, parenting, priestess, ritual | 4 Comments

Of Chainsaws and Change

October 2014 168Sometimes you have to let dead things go
sink back into the body of the Earth
from where they came.

Let them re-enter the cycle of life.
Let them breathe again into the rustle of fall leaves.

Sometimes when the sheltering arms that have surrounded you
have dropped away.
Your horizons are broadened
Your eyes opened.
And you breathe deeper, climb higher, and run freer.

There is a time for gathering in and drawing close.
There is time for opening up and letting go.
Softening the grip that demands that nothing ever change.
Letting go of the way things used to be.
And just watching, to see what grows anew.

One day there will something here
that has never been here before.

October 2014 169

What now remains of my favorite maple.

During the drought we experienced around three years ago, a lot of the trees in our woods died. Some of them died that year, but we weren’t absolutely sure they were really gone until they got no new leaves the following year. Some of them died the following summer, probably due to having been weakened so much by the drought conditions that they couldn’t rebound. This year, we decided to cut some of them down—both because we heat with wood and winter is approaching and because some of them are so close to the rocks I visit that if they were to fall, they could hurt me. It felt, and continues to feel, like a “selfish” decision by me though to have cut them, like we should have just let the cycle of the forest continue its life and rhythm unimpeded by human interference. It was hard to evaluate the variables of good woodlot management, firewood procurement, and personal safety while also feeling like I was betraying my sacred spot in the woods, betraying the relationship I built there. I still don’t know whether we made the right choice. I do know that the landscape in the woods has changed now.

While my husband and the friends that helped him were as careful as possible not to damage anything unnecessarily and to only October 2014 164 cut trees that were most certainly dead, one of those trees fell on a plum tree that I enjoy very much and split off the top part of the plum and several branches. I can hardly stand it. This is the tree for which the strongest feeling of betrayal comes, since it is very much still alive. I know this tree. I know how it starts to blossom early in the springtime, how the petals of the flowers fall onto the rocks like snow when an early frost comes, how its leaves are the first to fall in the autumn and to carpet the rocks with their even, nearly round shapes. It is by far the biggest plum tree in the woods—I rarely see them as big as this.

One of the things I learned from my whole woodspriestess experiment was that it is completely possible to create a deep, rich, full, complex, genuine relationship with a physical space and the non-human life forms within it. As I looked at the damaged tree, I thought though, this relationship now is NOT a mutually rewarding for the trees. I’ve gained so much and learned so much in this space and what I have now returned to it is destruction. I cried over the plum. But, tears do not heal broken trees. Nor do apologies re-grow broken limbs. I have to sit with that. I put my hands on its trunk and told it I was so sorry. I felt my heart beat in my palms in this rhythm: I am strong. I am strong. I am strong.

And then, look what I’ve already been through. October 2014 166

I looked at its trunk then, how to emerges from a small space between two rocks—pushing its way up through very inhospitable, rocky terrain—and how it grows at nearly a right angle to the rocks themselves. This is not a tree that grows straight and tall, this is a tree that arches over the rocks in its own, powerful, individual manner of survival.

I had taken an altar bowl my mom made down to the rocks with me to photograph and after I was done with my pictures, I carefully poured the water from the bowl around the base of the plum and while I did so, I started to sing the Hoʻoponopono song that I learned about from a friend.

I am sorry
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Thank you.

It was still a betrayal of this plum tree. I’m not making excuses about that. However, I will wait and watch and see if it can rise again anyway.

 

 

Categories: death, nature, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 4 Comments

Fall’s Return

September 2014 004

I love the last roses of summer as the wheel turns towards fall.

Weed it out
cast it off
let it go.

Let it sink
into the body of the Earth
where it will be recycled
renewed
refreshed
reborn.

Let the seeds drift where they may
let your fear drift where it may.

Roll your shoulders
Tip back your head
Open your hands

Let it all fall away
unclench your life.*

September 2014 010

And, my love affair with tiny flowers persists throughout any season that blesses me with them.

Open your heart
be vulnerable
say, oh well
keep going.

It is time to sit on the rock
watch the leaves change colors
feel the winds shift into winter

It is time to let go
to recognize what has dried up
what is falling down
what can be chopped into firewood
and burned.

The spiral twists of the wheel
the turn of the stone
the rhythm of the seasons
which care not a thing
about your to-do list.

It just happens.
It unfolds.
It blooms and withers
takes root again
grows something new, but familiar
and surprises us
with the consistent,
wildly mysterious
Return.

I have been traveling this month and very busy. I am 35 weeks pregnant and I feel overbooked, overwhelmed, tense and taut more than like to feel at this moment. This morning, I woke up before the rest of my family and headed for the solace of the woods, this place that never fails to soothe me and bring clarity. I found myself pulling up a bunch of fuzzy-headed weeds, clearing them away where they had grown up between the rocks. Yes, I was trying to weed the forest, even though my list for the day was very long. As I did so though, I realized I felt good. Calm. Mind stilled. The ache I’d been feeling in my sacrum disappeared and the tears that I keep feeling stinging behind my eyes did too. I remembered that this is a common feeling in the fall for me–the sensation of needing to “stop the world,” the sensation that I’m spinning too fast and trying to do too much. I have documented these feelings for at least the last five years. It felt comforting to recognize the turn of the wheel of the year right there in my own life and to know that the woods simply don’t care whether I cross items off my list or not, the leaves keep falling, the squirrels keep running up the trees, and the sun rises and sets every day.

September 2014 067

*from a poem by Andrea Potos.

Crossposted at SageWoman.

Categories: family, nature, seasons, spirituality, theapoetics, woodspriestess | 1 Comment

Dance in a circle of women…

Dance in a circle of women
Make a web of life
Hold me as I spiral and spin
Make a web of my life…

Marie Summerwood

Apparently, it takes me a complete year to finish “processing” my annual Gaea Goddess Gathering experience and finally writing a blog post about it! At the moment, I’m embroiled in packing and preparations to go to this year’s event beginning later in this week and don’t really have time for in-depth posts…but, here I am. I’m traveling this year with two friends and meeting my mom, sister-in-law, and another friend there (as well as friends made at past events too). One of the things I realized last year was how much I appreciated the sense of connection and community with a larger circle of women than just our own small local group.

One of the songs we sang, danced, and drummed to around the fire at GGG in 2013 was Dance in a Circle of Women. I’ve been humming to myself as I pack for this year’s event. I created the pewter pendant design shown above based on the song and also this one, which we’ve had trouble casting properly and thus only a very small quantity exist (traveling with me, not available online yet!):

photo(23)

At this year’s festival, I am vending as well as giving a workshop on Womanrunes. I’m also going to be 8 months pregnant, but I won’t be bringing any kids with me this year (other than the one inside!), which hopefully means my attention will be less fragmented than in years past. I’m a little worried that the twin demands of my merchant booth and wanting to go to the various good happenings will create a similar sense of fragmentation though.

One of the things I enjoy about the GGG is collecting resources to bring home to my own community. I jotted down lyrics to these songs from the 2013 festival and have used some of them locally:

Make sacred space
Remember who you are

–Shawna Carol

(we sang this one during the main ritual on Saturday night and it was lovely in the darkness, surrounded by candles and be-robed women!)

Oh woman
Oh sister
She is me

Holding me
That I may hold you

Forever goddess

(we sang this one in the rain during the dedication of the 2013 temple to Brigid)

I am alive
I am beautiful
I am creative
I am…
I can do anything
I put my heart and mind into.

(this one is a raucous and delightful experience when shouted out in call-and-response format by the fireside. I’ve used it several times since experiencing it at GGG with Priestess Kim.)

So, as I described in a past post, the morning after our 2013 return, I’d typed up a list of fabulous insights gleaned from the experience and my ipad “notes” feature experienced a bizarre glitch never experienced before or since and deleted my entire list. I was able to remember some of them and re-type them, but after that moment they never made it into another post of their own:

…After my unbinding ritual, I walked slowly back to the house feeling light and contemplative. Inside, before anyone else woke up, I typed up all of my reflections and insights from this year’s [2013] GGG. I felt integrated, settled, whole, and at peace. I went to do laundry and when I was in the room, I thought of something else to include in my list which was going to be a later blog post. I returned to my screen where the insightful note had been waiting for me and it was gone. Never to be recovered. I could NOT believe it. All my insights! All my wisdom! Gone! I have to start over…But, then I really just had to laugh and cry a little, because here was another insight, another lesson, another hiccup in my story. And, not everything has to be a blog post after all….

via Be Still | WoodsPriestess.

Since it is time for 2014’s event already, I decided to just put up my unfinished, unformatted, incomplete, re-created list from last year and here it is…

  • I find it is hard for me to have “spiritual experiences” in a group, vs. alone. I do not necessarily know how to create that atmosphere for others. I know how to create a “retreat” atmosphere, but not really a “spiritual experience” atmosphere.
  • I was way too attached to past experience and therefore had difficult appreciating the experience in front of me.
  • I had to stare right in the face that I’d come primarily to collect, rather than share. I found myself feeling disappointed by certain elements on multiple occasions and realized that part of it was my own fault for wanting to collect rather than share.
  • I had a disquieting sensation of the women there not knowing who I am—and, I didn’t show them. I felt like I kept what I am capable of and good at hidden. I realized I feel taken for granted a little in own community. I came wanting to “receive” again, but could have/should have given. I unbound my 2012 medicine bundle when I got home and I absolutely should have done so before (literally and metaphorically). Released ties that bind…
  • Context matters and brings compassion
  • Unlike the preceding year, I had several experiences in which I felt encouraged to be less—to dim my shine…

[from 2013 post on my other blog]

…When I attended the GGG this year, one of the realizations I came home with is that sometimes I feel like people are trying to get me to be less (more about this some other time). And, I remembered a session I had with a healer who did a somatic repatterning process with me—one of the beliefs she tested on me was, “I am not enough.” It got a marginal response, but then she tested, “I am TOO MUCH.” And, THAT is the one that tested as true. I wonder how much about myself that I try to change or that I struggle with actually comes from the fear of being, too much. Too intense. Too active. Too talkative. Too much thinking, too much writing, too many ideas, too many projects, too much waving of my hands and pacing when I talk. Too, too, too, too much.

via Blogging, Busyness, and Life: Part 1 | Talk Birth.

Previously quoted here: via The Warrior-Priestess | WoodsPriestess.

  • As referenced above, not everything a story or blog post.
  • Also as referenced earlier, my attention felt very split by having my toddler daughter with me. I very much look forward to the experience of going alone this year, while I also look forward to eventually taking her with me again when she is a little bit older.
  • I still lack confidence/standing in personal power in a variety of settings/contexts.
  • The experiences that were the most potent were those unanticipated or planned for, like a misty morning walk around the lake with my sister-in-law, or watching the full moon rise over the ritual circle.
  • It is possible to forge a connection with the land somewhere other than where I live.
  • I like new experiences—fresh surprises. Unexpected experiences hold most power. What I was looking forward to/expecting was a letdown, what I did not have preconceived notions about was rewarding.
  • I very much appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to spend quality time with my sister-in-law and before this experience had never spent time with her one on one without my brother or my mom also around.
  • Another unlooked for and unexpected experience was when I was volunteering as as temple priestess in Brigid’s temple and the main altar caught fire. I beat the flaming vines and tablecloth and candles out with my sandal while wearing my toddler daughter in a baby carrier asleep on my chest. It was a fiery initiation into service to Brigid and I think was actually the beginning “spark” of our business dedicated to her (I heard in the woods during a woodspriestess experience last year that Brigid does not need/want me as a priestess [that service is to Gaia], but she wants us as “dedicants.”)
  • Being a merchant was really fun. It was also a significant expenditure of energy.
  • I had several experiences and conversations that told me I might be overlooking the capacities of those around me.
  • I noticed that while being an excellent bonding and sisterhood experience there might also be an inhibiting factor to be present with existing friends and relatives (both in the sense of me possibly inhibiting them and them me), because we have such history and past, established means of interacting with each other/what we expect from each other, etc., so perhaps we were embarrassed to “let it all hang out” (emotionally and literally!), because we have an existing friendship rather than a festival only relationship/friendship. However, at the same time, it was also an opportunity to deepen, grow, and know each other better and I’d much rather have that than a once-a-year-festival-based friendship, that is likely less whole and authentic, though also perhaps less complicated too.

I also made a lot of observations about the role of non-facilitating members during rituals as well, previously explored in part in this past post:

…I witnessed how easily a ritual can lose power when the co-circlers do not take the ritual seriously. It is easy and simplistic to point to the Priestess as the one who “failed” to hold the energy of the circle, but the responsibility for the circle belongs to all its members. Ruth Barrett in Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries explains the responsibilities of circle participants as such: “Ritual Priestessing is not for the faint of heart. If you fear chaos, the unexpected, or the unforeseen, choose another vocation. A ritual facilitator regularly finds herself in challenging situations that are not at all what she originally planned. In order to facilitate others, you first need to know how to be a good participant. I don’t believe that it is possible for a woman to priestess/facilitate a ritual effectively until she first knows how to truly participate in one…

I would also add “avoid heckling.” What does this mean? In my observations at the GGG, I noticed a trend for circle participants to call out different comments in a joking way, either across the circle or to the woman facilitating the ceremony. While it seemed to be done in a light-hearted way and perhaps was the local custom of this group of women, the effect on the group as a whole was striking. The “heckling”—at least to me—led to palpable energy “leaks” in the ritual container and resulted in a commensurate drop in the power and focus of the circle.

via Co-Circling & The Priestess Path | WoodsPriestess.

Continuing my jotted notes:

  • No heckling
  • The middle of ritual matters—a successful ritual has to have a working phase
  • It is easy to be critical and when you’re just watching.
  • Low energy? How do we contribute to that? Group members hold powerful responsibility too!
  • Leadership matters and is big responsibility and sacred duty.
  • Letting go of self-pressure, perhaps in the name of “self-care,” can have a definite negative impact on others (this is more a judgement by me of others, though I want to take heed of what I noticed so I don’t do the same thing to other people—I noticed that phrases like, “cut yourself slack” or “be flexible” or “go with the flow,” or, “don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” can be used as excuses for doing a bad job, letting other people down, and failing, basically).

And, some pictures (captions will show if you click to enlarge):

Related past posts:

Gaea Goddess Gathering: Listen to the wise woman….

I make the effort

The Warrior-Priestess

Co-Circling & The Priestess Path

Be Still

Moonpriestess

Woodspriestess: Brigid

 

 

Categories: community, friends, GGG, Goddess, night, priestess, retreat, reviews, ritual, self-care, spirituality, thealogy, womanspirit, women, women's circle | 1 Comment

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