I have news for you.
The sun sets every day
The hollow tree is beginning to tip over
Wind chimes sing
Bushy tailed squirrels sit on rocks
Deer have walked in the driveway
There are bluebirds in the vineyard.
I step from stone to stone
To keep my baby happy
His head smells like vanilla.
The woods are brown and skeletal
There is a sound in the branches,
And a taste in the air
That dreams of spring.
Babies can drum with the forest.
This is my news.
I have news for you.
I love Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot deck. It is one of my top favorites for morning inspiration and intuitive guidance. It is also the deck we used to do our annual oracle this year. So, when I got an email about her simple ecourse, 30 Days of Brigid, I was intrigued! This is the description:
30 Days of Brigid is an ecourse for those who want a daily inspirational touchstone during Brigid’s season of the Prelude-to-Spring (known as Imbolc or Candlemas).
On the surface, it’s about beautiful photos, art, quotes, and journal/photo prompts landing in your inbox every day for 30 days.
But really? It’s about connecting more deeply with the creative fire of the Celtic Goddess Brigid as she begins to awaken the land from its winter sleep.
The course is designed for people who don’t have much time, but still want to take a sacred pause each day to find a fresh breeze of nature, art, and poetry wafting into their inboxes.
I signed up for multiple reasons. The first is because Brigid is our business namesake. We celebrate the anniversary of Brigid’s Grove in February and doing this course felt like a wonderful way to honor that connection. The second is because of the “don’t have much time, but want to take a sacred pause,” part. With adding a new baby to our family and the increase in our business activity, I feel like some of my spiritual practices and sacred pauses have fallen away. In 2015, we would like to take more sacred pauses and spend more focused energy on spiritual development and connection. So, taking this course felt like a great way to begin the year–building intentional pauses and sacred connection into the daily round, rather than only on “special occasions.” After doing the first two days of the course, I realized that this course could also neatly tie back into my (near) daily Woodspriestess time, since most of the pictures I take for the ecourse are taken in the woods. So, I plan to share a quick post here every day, usually photo only, as we move through 30 Days of Brigid. I really like the integrated feeling I have with this plan!
Edited to add: This is my 300th blog post on this blog! So, that also feels like an auspicious connection/beginning to this new sacred pause project.
I keep getting a STRONG “let go” message from all kinds of places, but I persist in arguing with reality and my tendency to be controlling. Also, I think the “let gos” can be interpreted in many different ways. My husband says it can be seen as a “let go and soar” type of reminder. I see it sometimes as being told to surrender and also to “give up” (and that makes me wail and gnash my teeth). Sometimes it is a gentle reminder to sink into the moment and breathe, feeling the weight of the baby on my shoulder, sniffing his head, looking out the window at sunlight and shadow. Sometimes it is permission to literally let go of something—possessions, tasks, adding something else to the calendar. Sometimes it is a mental “unclenching” and letting go—ideas, should dos, possibilities for later. I also find a connection between the let go message and our word of the year, which is “Grow.” So, let go in order to grow.
This reminder is also helpful:
“Would a weight lift off my shoulders if I realized that it’s normal to feel pulled between choices, that it’s normal to want to do more than I have time or energy for, and that it’s normal to have to choose between two equally wonderful things, that it’s actually a sign I’m a fascinating, amazing person?”
–Jennifer Louden, The Life Organizer
I always say that I want to live well and wisely my one wild and precious life and to me that means making conscious decisions every day to pull my actions into alignment with my values. It is an ongoing process. I live in a rich and fascinating world full of endless possibility and promise. Letting go can be about wise discernment as well. (I joke that my other word of the year is “ruthless.” Ruthless discernment about how, where, and why to spend my time and energy.)
I went to the woods a few days ago feeling taut and tight and pulled between choices and right in front of me was yet another lesson from the forest, the big tree I so enjoy had let go of one of its large branches. I walked down to look at it more closely and noticed the bark on the trunk is starting to decay and I anticipate that in the next two years or so, I will need to let go of this tree’s companionship in the woodspace, because it is letting go of its life here on the hillside.
I come to the woods to let go and to be cleansed. To sit with myself. To uncover truths. To salve wounds. For clarity, focus, for the feeling of the sweet wind blowing it away, the solid earth absorbing it. The grand sweep of the sky from horizon to horizon like a bowl. To look at the leaves on the ground. To notice the fallen branch of the tree. To feel the coldness of rock under my bones. To make contact with the wild sweeping majesty of it all and the size so vast that my own little feelings and concerns become dust and the well-worn, unhelpful thought processes that wind their way through my brain and twist me up can become unkinked, unknotted, and released to drift away on the breeze, dissolving, unclenching, letting go.
Postscript: I originally started this post ten days ago and have had to repeatedly let go of publishing it! ;)
“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.
February: family Brigid ceremony and Imbolc ritual, seventh Rise Up class, birthday blessing, help planning house cleansing, mini family full moon 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.
October: Gave birth to new baby!
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).
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:
- Winter Solstice Meditation
- Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual
- Thealogy of the Ordinary
- The Outraged Ancestral Mother
- Pap Smears I Have Known
- Echoes of Mesopotamia
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!
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
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Weed it out
cast it off
let it go.
Let it sink
into the body of the Earth
where it will be recycled
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.*
Open your heart
say, oh well
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
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 blooms and withers
takes root again
grows something new, but familiar
and surprises us
with the consistent,
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.
*from a poem by Andrea Potos.
Crossposted at SageWoman.
What are you unearthing? What are you digging up? What are you uncovering? What is causing sweat to drip from your brow, your cheeks to flush, and your heart to beat faster? This work can be dirty. It can be long, it can be hard. But, you can do it. You ARE doing it. Keep digging.
Remember too that others are doing their own hard work, unearthing their own riches, discovering their own treasures. What might you be missing in other people and how can you work side by side, turning over your deepness together?
Slightly ahead of schedule, our Womanrunes book and cards sets are now available! The sets are available directly from us via our etsy shop. The book alone is also available via Amazon, Amazon UK, CreateSpace, and Etsy (print and digital).
While it was intense and challenging, this work was an incredibly fulfilling co-creative process between my husband and me and it used both of our strengths to the fullest. When the decks of cards first arrived, I drew one and it was The Tool: Rune of Labor. How extremely appropriate! While I’ve been a writer for many years and have published a number of journal articles, magazine articles, countless blog posts, and even three short social service booklets and a miscarriage memoir, I completely underestimated the expenditure of energy required for a book project like Womanrunes. I am still in disbelief that I did it. It feels like a fulfillment of a promise to myself as well as a carrying on of Shekhinah’s powerful legacy.
I took the cards and book with me to the woods and thanked them for giving this to me. This book was conceived of and “written” in the woods, on the priestess rocks. I say “written” in quotes because it many ways it feels like something I received instead of wrote. Each interpretation was first spoken and then later transcribed. And yet, the result was still a book!
We did it! After an 18 months process of working with Womanrunes and developing my interpretations of them, we’ve published our book! It took much longer and was a much more significant birthing process than I imagined, but it feels so good to have completed it.
I’m interested to now witness the fear that has come up for me in the last two days though as we’ve approved the final proof and ordered the first copies—what if no one likes it? What if it is too much? What if in “stepping out” like this, I open myself up for “attack” of some kind? Anyway, regardless, it is here!
This book is a collaborative effort between my husband and me. I wrote the text and my husband did all the illustrations, layout, and formatting. At present the book is available in two formats: in paperback from CreateSpace and in digital pdf version from Etsy. A version that includes a professionally printed set of Womanrunes cards is forthcoming by September 1st.
In 1988, women’s spirituality foremother and wayshower, Shekhinah Mountainwater, experienced a “goddess-lightning” strike of inspiration and created a set of 41 woman-identified rune symbols for divination and personal growth. Twenty-four years later, I discovered Womanrunes and created an expanded means of interpreting, using, and exploring these powerful, magical symbols.
Discover and explore…
*the herstory and development of Womanrunes
*how to interpret Womanrunes
*how to make your own Womanrunes
*how to lay out and read Womanrunes
- Publication Date:
- Aug 19 2014
- 1500761214 / 9781500761219
- Page Count:
- Binding Type:
- US Trade Paper
- Trim Size:
- 5.5″ x 8.5″
- Black and White
- Related Categories:
- Body, Mind & Spirit / Divination / General
I took the book down to the woods with me, of course, because that is where it was conceived of, gestated, and birthed.
- In gratitude.
Summer is a time when you both wrestle with what isn’t working and celebrate the fruits of your labors. When you peek under leaves only to discover bugs in your cabbages, whether literal or metaphorical. When you bask in what is growing well, what has taken root firmly, what is beautiful in the sunshine, what you can trust, taste, enjoy and savor. In the summer, we see both weeding and harvesting. Planting and tending and maintaining. We see withering. We see giving up. We see what is dying and what is thriving. This is the balance of the year. The wheel turns and turns and turns and before we know it, we are holding a palm full of blackberries once more. Older, different, changed and yet, right there, again. That juicy bite of summer.
Heat and light. Growth and transformation. Bearing fruit. Spreading open in the sun. Digging up by the roots. Weeding out. Composting. Turning over. Turning over. Turning over.
Last year, I expressed similar thoughts in my summer solstice poem. It is interesting to see how the wheel of the year is reflected within my own mind and thought processes. In the late fall, I turn inward and feel like retreating and pulling away from commitments. In the winter, I incubate and make plans. In the spring, I emerge again and feel enthused with new ideas. In the summer, I start to make decisions about what to keep and what to prune away.
It feels fitting that I am gestating a new baby right now and making decisions about what I need to wrap up or change before he is born in the late fall. Then, we’ll be ready to cocoon through the fall and winter together.
Crossposted at SageWoman.
The dogwood trees have been beautiful again this year. Last year at this time was very stressful. After noticing and taking pictures of the dogwood flowers again this year I re-read one of my old posts and it brought back the memory of finding solace in the dogwoods, strung through the woods like lace:
I am a little taut and overextended and perpetually “out of time” again lately (always?!). It seems like no matter what I cut out of my schedule, something else oozes into that spot and I’m right back at the same point and making decisions about what to trim and what to keep. You will notice this blog has been very quiet lately and that is because I’ve been trying to direct my writing energy into three projects: my M.Div thesis project, a poetry book freebie for our spring newsletter for Brigid’s Grove, and finishing the content for my Womanrunes book (to launch in September). I also have several new classes at OSC that just opened for the spring semester and I’m eager to work on all of them. However, what has really happened, is I haven’t written much of anything and I’m struggling with that. Trying to remember that I’m hitting a busy part of the session with regard to teaching and that grading papers eats up free writing time, but it is NOT permanent and I do myself no good by becoming despairing about how I have “no time,” because the time will come back (not for at least three weeks though!). I was planning to do another month of woodspriestess posts for May since it is my birthday month, but luckily before I even I got started, I realized that was a fairly ridiculous expectation to consciously add to myself!
Anyway, maybe I just need to take a ramble through the woods and look at dogwoods…
Happy Beltane! (a little late)
It is my favorite time of year again! The bright new promise of springtime, the pretty weather, the sense of discovery as new flowers start to bloom. This evening I headed down to the woods and saw that my baby’s memorial magnolia tree is just about to bloom! That always makes me so happy!
And my grandma’s memorial hydrangea is coming back too!
Today my new Red Tent on the Go arrived via ebay! I’m planning to use it to vend in at the Gaea Goddess Gathering (“it is like a sacred temple of Brigid!” my ten-year-old said), but maybe for some other things too. I love it!
Last weekend I finished transcribing the 40th and final Womanrunes interpretation (which included having to do two new recordings for the stones I’d overlooked and never done!). It is a lot of work! I’m so excited about what I’m doing though. I submitted my workshop proposal to the GGG as well and plan to have my little book finished by then.
I warned my friends that The Pap Smear Diaries was coming and I did it! My most recent post at Feminism and Religion is Pap Smears I Have Known:
One afternoon at the skating rink for homeschool playgroup, a few of my friends sit in a hard plastic booth and the conversation turns to pap smears and pelvic exams. Later, I read Michele Freyhauf’s post about her hysterectomy experience and the skating rink pap smear stories come back to me with vivid clarity. Being a woman is such an embodied experience and we have so many stories to tell through and of our bodies. During my conversation with my friends, I warn them: watch for my new show–Pap Smears I Have Known. At the time, several other friends are preparing for a local production of the Vagina Monologues and I have a vision: The Pap Smear Diaries. But, really, how often do we have a chance to tell our Pap smear stories, our pelvic exam stories? Where are they in our culture and do they matter?
This week, I finished my first assignment for my Women Engaged in Sacred Writing class at Ocean Seminary College (how lucky am I to get to take classes like this?!) and my theme was (surprise!): story power!
“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story.” –Jean Houston
I’ve gotten several questions about OSC lately and I hope to do a blog post about it soon. My short tip is that you do have to be extremely self-motivated to be a student there. There is not a lot of feedback and can be long delays in communication. So, lots of self-discipline, self-motivation, and self-starting is very key to actually making progress! Alas, I must heed my own advice when it comes to my thesis project. I’m just not doing it! I have a long file on my computer (300+ pages), but every time I open it, it feels overwhelming or like the wrong time and I end up going away without making any significant changes.
Tomorrow morning I’m going to a workshop and then to our spring women’s retreat. This is what planning a ritual looks like for me: it starts with a general idea and some books and turns into a little scribbled outline with arrows and question marks and then eventually moves into my laptop where it becomes a four page ritual recipe!
Each casts its shadow
on the rest
making patterns on the ground
patterns on rock
arms of branches silhouetted
against the sky
shadowing across a carpet of those gone before.
We all cast shadows
and create cool places
in which others may sit.
When you draw this stone, take a minute to put down anything else you are carrying, doing, or thinking about. Let your shoulders relax and release. Let the breath move easy down into your belly. Then smile. Smile from your roots up through your branches. Feel joy suffuse you, filling you, bathing you, and laugh. Laugh from your belly. Laugh from your heart. Laugh with the wild abandon of freedom and release.
This is a stone of letting go. This is a stone of release and freedom. This is a stone of trusting oneself and what makes you smile. Are you afraid to laugh? Are you scared to let go? Do you fear the loss of control that comes with hilarity? It is time to shake that off. Don’t be afraid. Laugh, sister, laugh. It is time to have some fun!
Know that you are as free as you allow yourself to be.
This month I’ve been steadily working on the final handful of Womanrunes that I had left to interpret. I’m actually working on a little book to hopefully unveil during a workshop I plan to offer at the Gaea Goddess Gathering in September. The remaining 18 interpretations that I wrote over the last two months are probably going to be saved for first publication in that booklet! However, this one was the very last stone remaining in the bag and it felt significant for a couple of reasons. One, because it was actually the stone I drew to place on our New Year altar when my husband and I started our biz and life planning work with Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Year Workbook. When I drew it then, I knew it was a message that I needed to have more fun this year. Two, when I drew it this second time in order to do the interpretation for my book, I found myself experiencing a huge amount of reluctance and resistance about actually doing the interpretation. I drew it an entire day before I actually took it down to the woods with me. I found myself making excuses about not going and worrying about somehow not being able to “do” this one. And then I heard: Are you afraid to laugh? Am I…?