I walk the crescent moon Plant the seeds and wait to bloom.
I dance the crescent moon Change is coming, making room.
I sing the crescent moon Weave intention with her loom.
Tonight I was out walking with my baby and the crescent moon was bright in the sky. I found myself singing a song to him as he fell asleep and so I thought I’d share it here too.
Lots of good things happening this week. The workbook that we prepared to go with my upcoming Divination Practicum course turned into a gigantic, 340-page tome and so we’re having it shipped directly to the class participants. I’m thrilled with it and I hope they all will be too. It is important to me in my classes to go beyond pdfs and actually provide tangible materials.
I also have big news in that we now have a dedicated portal for online classes at Mystery School of the Goddess! Even though it is really close to the start date, Divination Practicum Registration is live there now as our first official class. I’m in the process of developing several more classes (some with fees and some free!) that will have longer lead-in times. Taking the leap and signing up under Mystery School is a brand new decision and we moved the existing class (which was scheduled months ago to start on October 27th) to the new class platform, even though there isn’t really much time left to promote the offering. I also developed a Womanrunes 101 mini-class there that is totally free!
And, I wanted to share that if you’ve ever wanted a priestess robe like mine, you can get one of your own from my friend’s etsy shop during her fall special (make sure to read the shop note for a discount code!). She is a real-life friend of mine and she is immensely talented. Priestess robes are available here: Goddess Garb by GoddessRobes on Etsy
Today, I spoke at the memorial service for a wonderful friend of mine. She was an influential LLL Leader and mentor to many and though she wasn’t an elder in years, she was one in wisdom and guidance. Before leaving for her funeral, I drew a Womanrunes card and got The Dark Moon. This is the crone’s rune. The rune of wisdom and the unknown.
“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.”
(Traditional Native American saying)
One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:
“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”
Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?
“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”
Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?
“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.
Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?
Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:
We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.
From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…
As I noted in my review, one of the things this book was helpful for to me personally, was in acknowledging myself as a cyclical being and that these influences are physical and real:
Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .
The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.
We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are anintegral part of our fertility.
From there, another relevant quote:
“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”
Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?
In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives through gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.
“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”
Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?
To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.
I’m off the actual theme for today, but I’m delighted to be home again! Tomorrow is my birthday. When we visited friends on the way to our mini-vacation, my friend surprised me with this beautiful print of one of her paintings! In the painting are several sculptures I made. I love it so much and I was very touched to receive it. Then, on the way back home today, we stopped to visit a different friend who made us lunch and then had surprise birthday cupcakes for me. It was nice to be remembered. 🙂
I happily anticipate the dogwoods each year. Today, the 30 Days* photo prompt was to photograph a blooming tree. The dogwoods are already waning, the edges of the flowers browning a little, spots on the petals, the centers yellow instead of green. Looking back at previous years’ posts shows me that this happened earlier this year than the two prior years, with early May sometimes holding the full splendor of the dogwoods. We’ve had a warm spring so far and that must be why.
I spent today at an all-day spring retreat with my women’s circle. It was just what I needed. While I was feeling rushed packing everything up to bring and lamenting about my to-do list and upcoming busy week, I really enjoyed myself and felt like it ended up being really important to have given ourselves this time together.
Art journal project from today.
New mini prayer flags.
Teeny, tiny wish bottle necklace.
“The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”
Gratitude for the way words twine around my tongue And through my fingers
Gratitude for sacred space
And sacred solitude.
Gratitude for warm spring evenings
Setting sun and moonrise
Gratitude for hope and inspiration
The opportunity to follow a calling
The beat of footsteps
On beautiful earth.
Gratitude for babies
Fuzzy heads and sweet breath
For dancing daughters
For smiling sons.
Gratitude for supportive partners
The opportunity to walk alongside another.
Gratitude for co-creation
For stepping into personal power.
Gratitude for tasting fear
For letting it roll around inside familiar grooves in the brain
And then doing it anyway.
Gratitude for the real
The potently ordinary
The powerfully mundane.
Gratitude for sacred space to which I may return
Again and again
As inexhaustible and powerful
As the sweep of wind through branches
The river’s song
And the silent watchfulness of stone.
Today while I was uploading some song recordings from last night’s new moon Red Tent Circle, I found a recording a did a couple of weeks ago and forgot about. One of the assignments for March for the Sacred Year class I am participating in was to write a gratitude poem. Even though I spoke-wrote this poem several weeks ago, it felt very true to read it again today. After last night’s Red Tent, I am feeling grateful to circle with other women in real life rather than only in virtual space. Recently, I’ve also been feeling grateful for the women who have been participating in my dissertation research group. I’m so glad I chose to do a dissertation research project with the input of others, rather than working alone. My exploration is already much deeper and more nuanced than it would have been without the women who have been willing to share their voices, wisdom, experience, and perspectives with me. Very grateful!I look forward to continuing to spiral together (my research is about contemporary priestessing and my research group is still open to additional participants). People have offered extremely thoughtful and well-considered responses to the questions I posed so far, as well as led me to explore new questions and lines of thought.
At last night’s circle.
I’m grateful for spring flowers too and modified some prior posts into this one at SageWoman: Ode to Tiny Flowers.
I also decided to gift myself with 30 Days of Bringing in the May for my birthday this year. It is on my 100 Things list to do another month-long daily woodspriestess blog-experience and I thought my birth month would be a good opportunity to do so. Might as well layer it into this ecourse too! I enjoyed the Brigid course in February so much. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently about how one of the primary tasks of ritual and ceremony is in creating the container. This is what I do with women’s circles and retreats. The Sacred Year class and the 30 Days courses do the same for me—create the container and give “permission,” in their way, for an experience to unfold. It is incredible how easy it is to rush through the day without taking needed pauses, time outs, or stillpoints. I’m working on developing two courses myself, one about Red Tents (and women’s circle work in general) and one a Womanrunes immersion ecourse (to be followed by a divination intensive course late this year or early next). I also have several other courses in mind to be worked on (not to forget the dissertation! Oh my!), but I have to focus. Having another baby has really made me pare away a lot in my life, including very basic self-care things like regular showers! I’ve done it before, so I know it isn’t permanent, but it is still hard to feel like I’m trimming away so much that matters to me, while also having so much I want to offer, and constantly having to prioritize and choose. I’ve been looking at it as a sort of “sabbatical.” While I might not be able to do as much face to face projects as I envision and dream of, I can lay the groundwork, I can write, I can prepare and outline and imagine, while also sitting in my bed holding my sleeping baby. Maybe I won’t get to the woods every day and maybe I have to choose between the shower or yoga, since doing both in one day seems like too much to ask sometimes, but I can use this baby time to incubate new visions and grow while appearing stationary. During the Inner Mentor visualization we did last night, we traveled in time to meet ourselves twenty years from now. The first thing she/I told me is that my baby is now twenty. It felt like a shock to consider that, since right now is so real.
When planning a ritual involving children, I always have to remind myself to keep it short and simple! Just in time for Spring Equinox, I’d like to share the simple ritual of spring welcome that my family and I enjoyed over the weekend with a group of our friends. This ritual is designed to be done at night around a campfire and to be followed by a drum circle…
Spring Family Ritual
• Before the ritual itself, make manifestation/intention/commitment bracelets together setting one creative goal to accomplish by July. We used Job’s Tears seeds, puka shells, and watermelon quartz strung on elastic cord.
• Practice song, We Are Circling*, together until participants feel comfortable.
• Go outside to fire circle
• Group hum—this is our community’s usual means of casting a circle. 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.
• Call and response reading (modified from one in The Pagan Family by Ceisiwr Serith). Children respond well to calling the lines back, rather than just listening to someone talk.
We are here to awaken with the spring (group repeats) Here in front of us, the fire leaps up Reaching from us up to the sky Up to sun, up to the moon The sky looking down Looking down to where our fire is burning Fire of the Sun Burn in our midst (group repeats) Fire of our Spirit Burn in our midst (group repeats) Fire of the Spring Burn in our midst (group repeats) Warm us and the world As the season turns to spring We awaken with the Earth! (said loudly and energetically together!)
• Group sharing of intention bracelet goals
• Sing We Are Circling
We are circling; circling together We are singing; singing our heartsongs This is family; this is unity This is celebration; this is sacred
I suggest singing the song multiple times through, because the group tends to increase in enthusiasm, confidence, and skill with repetition!
(*Song from Nina Lee’s The Deep Drink CD. Listen online here.)
In my college classes, I often tell my students that in working with people, we need to learn to think in circles, rather than in lines. Circles are strong. Circles are steady. Circles hold the space, circles make a place for others. Circles can expand or contract as needed. Circles can be permeable and yet have a strong boundary. Linked arms in a circle can keep things out and show solidarity. Linked energy in a circle can transform the ordinary into sacred space. Hands at each other’s backs, facing each other, eye level. Working together in a circle for a ritual, change is birthed, friendships are strengthened, and love is visible.
Recently I have noticed a lot of offerings for sacred circles and sacred temples and councils of women that are all online or virtual. The websites advertising such programs often have beautiful photos of firesides and dancing and I find myself thinking, where is the REAL fire? If we spend all of our time at computers enjoying virtual sisterhoods and looking at pictures of fires, where are our real opportunities to dance by the fire hand in hand? Today, against all odds, I managed to have a meaningful conversation with friends at the skating rink. We talked about the difference between online and face-to-face connection and why online connections can feel “cleaner” and less messy or complicated than face-to-face. It reminds me of my experiences in creating rituals for my family. In the books it looks so easy and fun. In real life, babies have poopy diapers and my sons make fart jokes and my papers blow away and I speak in a snappy tone of voice and things take longer than I expect. It is same with women’s circles. Online, we can look at pretty pictures of flower crowns and crystal grids and flower mandalas and daydream how wonderful it would be to have a real women’s circle, but in real life people don’t always like each other, we interrupt each other, we talk too much or not enough or about the “wrong” things. As the facilitator of a ceremony in real life, portions might lag, people laugh at the wrong times, guided meditations might bring up painful experiences, people stop listening to each other, or they might forget something they were asked to bring. I might lose my place, sing off-key, or get distracted when someone is sharing something important.
As a priestess, I have to engage in what is called a process of “self-facing” that can be uncomfortable and sometimes stressful—the looking at my own shadows and shortcomings and then doing it anyway. Because it matters. Because it is real. I’m not saying that online connections aren’t real or valuable, they can be tremendously so. And, I love that in writing I can carry my thoughts all the way through and develop an idea completely.* What I am saying is that there is simply no substitute for standing hand in hand with flesh and blood women in a sacred circle. (Even if someone makes a fart joke.) Our hands matter. Real hands. Reaching out to one another. Our fingers may be too long, too short, too wrinkly, too skinny, too fat. Our hands may be too cold or too sweaty. We may be too loud, too quiet, too anxious, too confident, too self-conscious, too distracted, too intense. But…we can show up. We can offer what we offer and give what we give. Our whole, actual selves. Separated from the screens and other shields. Touching each other’s actual hands and offering actual hugs rather than (((hugs))).
My plans for a Red Tent Circle later this month have been on my mind lately and I’ve been feeling a little insecure about my plans for our first event, primarily because I’m hoping to attract a broader group of women than the women who regularly circle with me. As I explained to a friend, I want it to be nurturing, and celebratory, and fun and contemplative…somehow all at once! Oh, and not alienate anyone. And, not have it be lightweight chatty OR heavy and tearful. Serious, but not too serious. No pressure!
What I forgot until I got home is that I’m pretty good at doing this. I’ve been working with women and priestessing women’s circles for a long time, not to mention having trained and studied and read and written and studied and trained. However, I’m also real. And, in the end, that is what I have to offer. There is a vulnerability and risk there as well as a courage.
Here’s my hand.
(*All this said, our hands can also reach out virtually via typing blog posts or sending supportive Facebook messages too. I’m not discounting the role and value of using our hands for that connection. I love that a post that I wrote 3 years ago can still reach 300 people a day, that my other blog can speak in some way to 700 people a day, and that my book can essentially last “forever.” That feels like a magical power of my hands and words!)
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.
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.
(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!)
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!):
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
(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
(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  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….
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.
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.
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):
My Brigid medallion arrived just in time for me to wear!
This is what a packed van prepared for GGG looks like!
Detour to Target.
Triple Goddess banners on the main stage.
It was raining and so the temple dedication ritual was held inside the pavilion rather than the temple.
Lovely gemstones from one of the presentations.
Fell in love with this cherry quartz sphere.
Those stairs again!
One of the beautiful, unexpected experiences was watching the full moon rise over the ritual circle.
The temple at night was a magical place!
Dance in a circle of women…
The next day we experienced a full moon sunrise, which felt pretty special.
Some of my booth wares.
The fire damage at the temple.
My little maiden has some tea from Brigid’s temple
In 2012, when we held our first Mamafest event in my local community, my eye was caught by this room within the beautiful setting of Tara Day Spa:
I wanted to have a Red Tent in this room! I could just feel it calling to me. The next year, when the time came to plan the event, I was dealing with a lot of different things and I knew I did not have the energy to also pull off a Red Tent event and so I tabled it again, but still, I saw that room that year and I wanted it.
The following year, we started planning even earlier for Mamafest and I had been seeing posts and updates from the Red Tent Movie (Things We Don’t Talk About) and I decided I wanted to host a screening and a Red Tent event during our Mamafest this year. While there are things I would do differently in the future, notably that having a screening at the same time as another event was simply too much, I still feel so happy and pleased that I did it. I scheduled the film based on past experience in which the final half of Mamafest slows down in terms of traffic and so it seemed like the film screening would be a good way to keep people involved with the entire duration of the event. However, this year was so busy and vibrant and successful and energetic, it felt like it was actually disruptive to the flow to try to pull people away for the screening and the “calm” and contemplative energy of the film ended up not matching the celebratory, exciting atmosphere of the rest of the event. If I had it to do over again, I would absolutely do the screening separately and then offer the Red Tent space and mini-ritual during Mamafest itself.
Anyway, back to set up. We arrived at Tara Day Spa almost three full hours before the event was scheduled to begin and we needed every single minute of it, plus some. I am so grateful to my husband and my friend Amy who took over most of the actual hanging of the red fabric in the Red Tent space. When I saw the finished entrance, I knew I’d fulfilled my dream!
We set up the inside in an inviting manner with several little stations: a refreshment station with chocolate, tea, and bindis, a henna tattoo area, and a free jewelry making station. Due to size constraints, we actually had to make an “emergency” decision to move the screening of the film itself to the upstairs room at Tara. It was a little stressful to make this transition, but I think it was the right call. We did a mini ritual to open the film (had some technical difficulties getting the film equipment set up and I was extremely flustered to have to make this last minute switch, so that was not ideal for the mood I had wanted to create), we watched the film and then closed by circling up and singing a song together. We ended right on time and then it took more than another hour to dismantle and repack everything. This type of event is not for the faint of heart! Nor is it for pregnant women unless they have husbands and good friends to pack up most of their stuff for them!
Some additional commentary and more pictures are available at Talk Birth.
Rather than repeat all of that post’s content as a crosspost, I decided that on this blog I’d like to share the simple mini-ritual I created for the Red Tent event.
Women receive bindis as they arrive
Welcome and purpose of screening, as well as some background on the documentary.
Water self-blessing bowl—I explaining this is a symbolic cleansing and opportunity to settle into sacred space. We also rang a table chime as each woman entered and took her seat.
Group hum—this is our tradition within our ongoing women’s circle and it felt important to carry it over into this experience. The women stand in a circle with hands on each other’s back or hand-in-hand and we hum in unison three times. This “casts the circle” so to speak with just our bodies and presence and it is a very centering experience that literally pulls us into harmony with each other and into the present moment.
Sing modified version of May All Mother Know song (see below)
Scarf dance (with film and Sacred Blood Song) to close (we ended up running out of time for this part).
Circle up and sing Woman Am I
Welcome them to sign up for future Red Tent events and to receive a red stone and goddess charm as they leave.
I dream of a sacred fire where
a family circles
of family, spirit, hearth, and home.
Light the fire
with your children.
Sing with your partner.
Create a temple
of your hearts
This afternoon we had our tenth session of Rise Up and Call Her Name. The focus was on Mesoamerica and we looked at the Virgin of Guadalupe and at the Sacred Corn Mother.
As the year has progressed, I’ve gotten much better at the process of intentional altar creation. I used to always include basically the same items and the process of laying out the altar items was often somewhat rushed and also rote. I’d put the altar items out as one of the last tasks before people arrived. Now, I make the altar creation process a priority much earlier in the day. I center and focus and choose items specifically and intentionally to reflect the theme or focus of the class or ceremony. I let the items “tell” me what wants to be included, rather than including what I think should be there.
Our group was small today, but our discussion was robust! At the close of the class, we did a seed corn ritual in which we considered what we would like to save from this year’s “harvest” to plant in the new year. We also closed our eyes and let the seed corn share a “dream” with us. The above lines are what my seed corn (actually, popcorn) had to share with me. Ever since our summer ritual, I’ve been thinking of ways for the upcoming year to include my family more in my rituals and events and how to welcome/include the families of the women I circle with. A lot of the reason behind having women-only rituals at this point in my life is purely logistical. It is difficult to impossible to have a full “retreat” with kids also present. Someone has to take care of the kids during said retreats…hence, single-sex rituals/ceremonies make the most sense! However, shorter and simpler rituals are possible with kids, though they have a completely different feel and even function and so that energetic output needs to be balanced with the renewal and restoration we often need as mothers and women. In our conversation today we talked about how to “change the world” for women and my mom mentioned that perhaps one of the biggest impacts is how we raise our sons. So, I’m not surprised my seed corn dream opened with a fire and a family surrounding it.
“A peaceful revolution is going on, a women’s spirituality movement, hidden in plain sight. Through circles of women, healing women, might the culture come around? . . . When a critical mass—the hundredth monkey, or the millionth circle—tips the scales, a new era will be ushered in and patriarchy will be over.”
– Jean Shinoda Bolen
“The calling a woman feels to gather in Sacred Space with other Sisters starts first as a low and slow warmth that begins to burn. If left unfed, it rises quickly to a raging fire of desire. It will not be denied and can only be quenched by the nourishment of Truth, Candlelight,
Song And Sisterhood”
–Ayla Mellani (Founder of Chrysalis Woman)
Nature mandala from our summer solstice ritual this year.
I forget if I ever posted that I did officially finish my M.Div degree this year! July first was my “priestessaversary.” It is also my husband’s birthday AND his “quitzaversary”—the anniversary of his entrance into self-employment and a home-based life. When I got my M.Div diploma via email (physical copy coming later), I was completely surprised to see that the date on it is….July 1st.
While I wait for the remainder of my doctoral courses to begin in the fall, I’m working on one of my elective courses: Women Engaged in Sacred Writing. A recent lesson was to: Discuss the concept of the hearth as it refers to creativity. Our texts for this class are Sisters Singing, an anthology edited by Carolyn Brigit Flynn, and Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine by Peggy Tabor Millin. The following post is some excerpts and quotes from one of my lessons for this course
Chapter 2 of Women, Writing, and Soul-Making struck me with its exploration of the role and power of a circle. While I do not participate in a writer’s circle, I’ve been involved in my women’s circle for about four years now. I have a tendency to be other-directed and service-oriented and have to remind myself often to, “tend my own hearth first,” rather than caretaking for others at the expense of myself or my family. With the women’s circle, it is intensely important to me that I plan and facilitate things for it that I want to do myself. Often, the safe container of the circle allows me to do or explore things that I otherwise do not afford myself the time to do. The circle is about both nurturing myself and the women around me, rather than be exclusively other-centered as has been a lot of my previously volunteer efforts and group experiences.
For the authors of the class texts, the new “hearth” for women IS the women’s circle.
“It is true that the loss of the hearth is linked to a change in the roles of women, and it follows that women can also provide a hearth from which the new model will evolve..
We are forming circles in which to listen, speak our truth, lead, and follow. In the safety of circles, we learn to respect silence, create safety, build trust, set boundaries, resolve conflict, and laugh—at ourselves and at the vagaries of life. Circles include and have no hierarchy. They allow us to see one another face-to-face. Circles of women support, uplift, encourage, protect, and inspire. They also share, instruct, and guide through example. Through circles, we find the courage to fulfill our potential to teach peace and justice. Through circles, we can hold sway over the table of the earth without “waging a war on poverty” or “fighting for peace.”
She goes on to further explore the process of discovering and co-creating a new hearth…
I believe this “hearth” to be sacred and to be present in circles of women who gather for a common purpose. Because the purpose in writing groups is writing, defining the sacred nature of the circle too specifically by aligning with any specific spiritual practice can discourage diversity among participants. The formation of a circle of women automatically includes the sacred if the leader invites this energy and holds the space for it. Even a short silence within which members focus on the breath will center the group. When a circle is centered, its purpose is clear, and the energy of the circle radiates out to attract members who will be most served by it. The result is a circle of women with diverse personalities, backgrounds, spiritual practices, and belief systems who are able to unite for the purpose of writing and the sharing of stories.
I posted a couple of weeks ago about “gathering the women”:
I’m in the middle of my Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader training program and enjoying it very much. As one of our assignments we were supposed to create a priestess collage as well as a new circle leader/priestess altar. As I prepared the altar, I found myself singing the little song that follows. I later googled it just in case, but it looks like I did actually make it up in that moment at my altar. That is what I do with my work: gather the women. And, I want them to feel welcome in the circle. Sometimes I feel discouraged though and I wonder if this work matters. I wonder if people really can work together “in perfect love and perfect trust,” I wonder if people like me and I them, and I struggle with wanting to reach “more” women, rather than being completely satisfied with the small group of beautiful souls who do regularly show up to do this work with me.
Gathering the women
gathering the women
gathering the women.
You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.
Come join the circle
come join the circle
come join the circle.
You are welcome here.
You are welcome here…
“A Women’s Circle helps you to find the river of your life and supports you in surrendering to its current.” –Marian Woodman
“The ripples from a women’s circle are not only magical, they are miraculous.” –Peggy Tabor Millin
At the center of my Chrysalis Woman priestess altar, I put a pottery bowl that I made during one of our retreats and painted during another one. It felt like a symbol to me of gathering the women. Inside of it, I actually ended up putting some little gifts different friends have given me, but first I put in a tiny hummingbird feather as a reminder that these circles and relationships are delicate, surprising, and beautiful and need to be treated with care.
Come to the hearth. Join in the circle. Hug. Love. Dance. Laugh. Cry. Stomp. Drum. Howl. See and be seen. You are welcome here.
Our summer solstice ritual welcomed husbands and children to come join the circle as well!
Gathering the women
gathering the women
gathering the women.
You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.
Come join the circle
come join the circle
come join the circle.
You are welcome here.
You are welcome here.
I’m in the middle of my Chrysalis Woman Circle Leader training program and enjoying it very much. As one of our assignments were were supposed to create a priestess collage as well as a new circle leader/priestess altar. As I prepared the altar, I found myself singing the little song above. I later googled it just in case, but it looks like I did actually make it up in that moment at my altar. That is what I do with my work: gather the women. And, I want them to feel welcome in the circle. Sometimes I feel discouraged though and I wonder if this work matters. I wonder if people really can work together “in perfect love and perfect trust,” I wonder if people like me and I them, and I struggle with wanting to reach “more” women, rather than being completely satisfied with the small group of beautiful souls who do regularly show up to do this work with me . So, I really appreciated Lucy Pearce’s recent blog post on the subject of, if what I do is women’s work, why aren’t women interested?
I had just done a book reading of my #1 Amazon Best Selling book, The Rainbow Way… to an audience of one.
I had just led a red tent circle with 14 women… most of whom had travelled 40 minutes or more to be there.
I am about to lead a workshop… a free women’s workshop… and am aware that numbers may well be small.
Where are all the women?If this truly is women’s work… then why are they at One Direction in their tens of thousands… and not here? Why are they reading 50 Shades… and not Moon Time?
I often apologise to people that my work is niche…
But how can something which is accessible to 50% of the population be “niche”?…
Once at an LLL meeting I mentioned wanting to start a group called “mothercraft” or “womancraft.” Another woman there said it sounded interesting, but if that is what it was called she would never come. I surmised because it sounded too much like “witchcraft.” I think many women retain a deep-seated, historically rooted fear of being labeled witches. Maybe that sounds silly, but I think it is real.
I am very, very carefully planning for my Red Tent even in August without including the word “Goddess” in any chants/rituals, because I want to make sure to speak to the womanspirit within all of us, rather than being associated with any one framework of belief. My observation is that Red Tent spaces have this ability to transcend any particular belief system and welcome women of many backgrounds, inclinations, and beliefs. They aren’t specifically “Goddess circles,” though they honor the divine feminine through their very being. I hope I am able to hold this space as well.
“A Women’s Circle helps you to find the river of your life and supports you in surrendering to its current.” –Marian Woodman
Someone commenting on Lucy’s post said maybe women don’t need her work because they don’t feel “oppressed.” I thought about this and realized that I haven’t ever felt particularly oppressed personally, but I still need womancraft for celebration AND because even though I haven’t been directly oppressed, that doesn’t mean countless women around the world are not—I take a stand and lend a voice in my work for a different, healthier world for women. Another observation I’ve made is that women have a lot of trouble viewing women’s circle activities as something other than an “indulgence” or something frivolous and so it is easy for them to talk themselves out of it or not be able to give themselves the time/space for it, even though they are deeply intrigued and interested.
In the article I wrote when I originally turned over the question of whether it matters, I included this poem:
Finished priestess collage for CW training.
hold your babies
hold your friends
refuse to give up
when defeated, rally once more.
Persist in a vision of the way things could be
and take action
to bring that vision into reality….
“…But it is exactly the same thing. You cannot have male dominated spiritual practices and leadership without the subjugation of women. And the subjugation of women equals a rape culture. A rape culture equals women and children being used and seen as objects to possess. As former President Jimmy Carter put it: “The truth is that male religious leaders have had—and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.” –Jacqueline Hope Derby #YesAllWomen
And, I remembered some thoughts I’d shared from one of my posts last year in which I shared our summer women’s retreat ritual recipe:
…I’ve been feeling a little discouraged about my retreats lately, primarily because there are a lot more women on the email list than actually show up and so I always feel like I’m doing something “wrong” or am not planning interesting enough things to attract them. I also take it kind of personally—there is a vulnerability in preparing an offering such as this and each time I do it I actually feel like I’m preparing a gift for my friends. When they decline the invite, it feels, in part, like a rejection of the gift I’m offering. Cognitively, I know (or, I hope!), this isn’t true, but emotionally that is how it usually registers. This summer retreat was a beautiful experience that felt just as I wish for these retreats to feel—nurturing, affirming, and celebratory—like a blessingway for all of us with no one needing to be pregnant!
Things I was reminded of after this experience:
There is nothing like having friends who are willing to lie on your living room floor and listen to a shamanic drumming CD without laughing or saying you’re ridiculous.
Small IS good—I already know from my years as a breastfeeding support group leader that I’m a sucker for bigger-is-better thinking (I tell my own students: don’t let your self-esteem depend on the size of your group!!!!!). When the group is small or RSVPs are minimal, it starts to feel like a personal “failing” or failure to me somehow. However, the reality is that there is a quality of interaction in a small group that is not really possible in a larger group. At this retreat there were seven women. While there was an eighth friend I really wished would come and who we missed a lot, the size felt pretty perfect. I reflected that while some part of me envisions some kind of mythically marvelous “large” group, ten is probably the max that would fit comfortably in our space as well as still having each woman be able participate fully. Twelve would probably be all right and maybe we could handle fifteen. I also need to remember not to devalue the presence of the women who DO come. They matter and they care and by lamenting I want more, it can make them feel like they’re not “enough.”
At the center of my Chrysalis Woman priestess altar, I put this bowl that I made during one of our retreats and painted after another one. It felt like a symbol to me of gathering the women. Inside of it, I actually ended up putting some little gifts different friends have given me, but first I put in this tiny hummingbird feather as a reminder that these circles and relationships are delicate, surprising, and beautiful and need to be treated with care.
Earlier this month I received a lovely surprise birthday gift from a talented friend and it is perfect for all the Red Tent plans afoot for August! I’m working on collecting red fabric and cushions as well.
A few weekends ago, we made prayer flags for a friend and I used different quotes from the Amazing Year workbook on mine (I also presented about this workbook at a conference last week).
After I got home from making the flags, I sat at my Chrysalis Woman altar space and drew a card from the Gaian Tarot deck and it felt incredibly perfect:
In other good news, I received my M.Div thesis feedback at last and it was this: “It’s beautiful. I don’t see how you can improve it or change it. It’s wonderfully articulate, moving, and elegant.”
And, I found out just today that my Womanrunes workshop was approved for this year’s Gaea Goddess Gathering in Kansas!
Check out this Rise Up video from the Red Tent Movie: