parenting

Interdependence Day

As we approach U.S. Independence Day and I continue to work through the Womanrunes course, some themes of interdependence emerge. There is so much strength in interdependence or being in-dependence together. How do we balance the twin forces of separation and connection?

For me, I spend a LOT of time in direct connection with my immediate family. It is rewarding, but I also crave time alone. I am introvert and I need time alone to restore my soul! The Two Circles remind me that I need to carve out the solitude my soul needs for restoration and renewal—and, I need to stop apologizing for that. I’ve cobbled together a solution of sorts, that in itself is an illustration of balancing the twin forces, in that when my baby takes his nap, I retreat with him to my bedroom. I sit next to him while he naps (he wakes up otherwise!) and write, work, and sometimes I even journal and read and make art. I usually set up a mini altar on the bed next to my laptop–sculpture, stones, salt lamp, cards. It isn’t “perfect,” but it is what sacred space looks like for me right now. Most of the course was developed while sitting next to a sleeping baby or even nursing the sleeping baby and typing with one hand! I’ve come to see this intensive time of baby-mothering as a peaceful sabbatical, rather than a denial of myself/what I need.

When we reaching the Two Circles in the course, I felt stressed at the beginning of the day—torn between the needs of kids, baby, students, myself. I was fretting over this seemingly eternal struggle for “balance” and criticizing myself with an old, tiresome story of not being a good person, what’s wrong with me, etc. I decided to listen to some old saved voice recordings from my Woodspriestess experiment that I never transcribed. Interestingly, the first one I listened to (from 2012) was practically verbatim the “tape” that was replaying for me at that moment–balancing the needs of connection with the need for solitude, separation, and independence. And, interpreting my own, legitimate need for time and space on my own, through the lens of being “selfish” or somehow inauthentic as well as not being able to meet everyone’s needs for my attention and time. I told my husband about this and he said: “how old was Alaina then?” I paused and realized that she was almost exactly the same age Tanner is now. Suddenly, we realized that this sensation is probably related to having an eight month old baby, rather than a personality “defect” to be corrected! It was actually really freeing then to realize this is not a new experience, but is situational.

July 2015 011(Body paint is left over from our summer ritual on July 1, but it decided to hang around just a little longer to give me another reminder!)

My favorite quote about the concept of existing in the context of relationship comes from another of Christ’s books, She Who Changes:

“[According to] Martin Buber, there can be no ‘I’ without a ‘thou,’ no self apart from relationship. Martin Buber said that before speech is developed, the hand of the infant reaches out for its mother (or other nurturer).’ In other words, before Descartes could formulate a thought, and certainly before he knew that he thought, he reached out his hand in relationship. The existence of the other is as certain as the existence of the self. Long before infants learn to speak, they come into relationship with others besides the mother, and with the physical world, with cribs, toys, sunbeams, shadows of leaves blowing in the wind. The existence of a world and the existence of others can be doubted only by someone who imagines that he or she could exist apart from relationships. According to process philosophy, a person who imagines he has no relationships is to be pitied-or committed to a mental institution. His thoughts on this matter certainly should not have become the foundation of modern western thought.” (Christ, 74)

via The Central Value of Relationship | WoodsPriestess.

Today, we reached the Crowned Heart, Rune of Unconditional Love. I knew right away this morning what this rune was going to remind me about. I think that the most unconditional love I’ve experienced is from my babies TO me. I’ve never been loved so intensely wholeheartedly as my babies love me. I know that might sound weird and that we think of parents as the ones having unconditional love for their babies, not vice versa, but the depth of the mother-baby attachment is extremely profound and incomparable. It is also feels so simple and uncomplicated. I had the same depth of attachment with all my children, but with each one I feel more aware of how short-lasting this period of intensity is and I just love how much my baby loves me. While we’ll always love each other deeply, right now we are a motherbaby—a single psychobiological organism and there just isn’t anything else like it…

Let’s celebrate in-dependence together!

 

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(Everyday) Wonders of the Earth (#30DaysofMay)

May you know the warmth of sunshine and of smiles
May you celebrate friendship and solitude
May you open your arms to someone’s first step
May you cry well, laugh often, and feel much
May you feel the deep connection between past and future
And may you dwell in all the fullness of your days.

Most of my posts for the 30 Days of May have centered around nature. Today, I’m centering on the “wonder” in the prompt. Two things have given me cause for wonder today. The first was my feelings of sheer joy after our Red Tent Circle last night. I listened to the recording I made of the Dance in a Circle of Women song we sang and I am just so very grateful to have women to share experiences like this with. I am so fortunate that I can hardly believe it. The second is that my mom brought over some old home movies that were recently digitized by my aunt. These are not just any home movies, but are silent movies taken over 60 years ago of my own mother as a baby crawling and then toddling around with her parents holding her hands. All four of my maternal great-grandparents are in the footage, my great-great uncle, my uncle taking his first steps into my grandpa’s arms, my grandma smiling and eating watermelon, my aunt and my mom playing at the beach. There was a terribly beautiful poignancy to watching them and thinking about how much is lost to memory and to time.

My own little girl set up a “tiny tent” today in the bedroom. She wanted very badly to go to the Red Tent with me last night and was disappointed not to be included. She said we could have a “Goddess Day” today and she got things all set up in a little Cars-movie red tent that we have. Along with the goddess sculptures she collected to set up with candles in the tent, she also dragged in a family of robots. We sat in the tent together and I was watching the baby practicing standing up and looking at my daughter’s smiling face and I could feel the link—the watermelon, the smile, the beach, the tiny tent, all the babies. It is all so real. It was all so real. I appreciate the movies, I don’t know very many people who have seen videos of their own moms crawling around the floor as babies, but it really struck me painfully that none of those moments matter as much as they do when they’re actually happening. No one will ever care about my little baby practicing his standing as much as I do right now (whether recorded or not). No one cared as much about my uncle’s first steps as his parents there in that moment over fifty years ago. I can’t even really explain what I mean without sounding trite. There is a so much to pay attention to, all the time.  Right now, I’m nursing somebody’s grandpa, someone else’s history. Right now, I’m nursing my baby…

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Coming home to beauty (#30DaysofMay)


“…In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. We find that we slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.”

— John O’Donahue

Today I had a thoroughly beauty-full day in its own simple, every-day way–it was my approach and mindset that really made a difference. I spent time today working on my art journal and doing the meditations and projects for my Sacred Year class. I had things spread around my bed while I was nursing my baby to sleep for nap and I felt a moment of distress to be piling books and projects on my bed instead of being in “sacred space.” It wasn’t “perfect” enough or pretty enough or organized enough or altary enough. But, then I realized, very clearly that this cluttered bed IS my sacred space right now. Having books spread out around me that enrich my life, my purple bag of art supplies by me, sharpening colored pencils with one hand, sleeping baby on my arm. This is sacred space. 

What peace it was to realize this. 

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An offering for the Fae (#30DaysofMay)

IMG_4547Something that keeps coming up for me lately is the concept of creating a container for an experience. I feel like this is what I do with my women’s circle and Red Tents and also what I do with my students. And, this is what taking the 30 Days and my Sacred Year class does for me. Today, it was taking an “offering for the Fae” down to the woods. This is not something I would have done on my own, but I’ve made a commitment to responding to the prompts, so by golly, I did it! It was a very sweet experience. My little girl and I went out and searched out some tiny flowers and put them in a blue glass bottle. She was so cute talking about the fairies and picking flowers:

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We took our little offering down to the woods and placed it on the rock and then said a blessing together.

IMG_4549IMG_4548When I was a little girl myself, I remember often feeling like I could see glimpses of or feel the presence of fairies in the woods—like if I could just be still enough and look hard enough, I would be able to interact with them. It was fun to bring a little bit of that magic back into our lives together today.

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Happy Earth Day!

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

~ John Muir

10393683_966266540092282_368902411858611733_nHappy Earth Day (and happy birthday to John Muir)! This morning I enjoyed reading a lovely post by Jodi Sky Rogers (I also borrowed the Muir quote from her e-newsletter):

…mosses are a whole unknown world, in fact, a whole Universe of wisdom. They say that ‘rolling stones don’t gather moss.’ So to drink in great worlds of wisdom we must be still just like ancient rocks and boulders who rest in peaceful presence for eons and then allow the insights that rise from the Universe and from the quiet stirring within us so grow like moss on the moist edges of our consciousness.

via Dreamland and Drifting in Between | Jodi Sky Rogers.

I also enjoyed reading about this simple and powerful Earth Day Ritual from Peg Conway:

Let us bless the source of life that brings forth bread from the earth.

Let us bless the source of life that ripens fruit on the vine.

A beautiful sunset provided a perfect closing rite.

Amen!

via Ritual for Earth Day | Sense of the Faithful.

I signed the new Pagan Community Statement on the Environment:

…We are earth, with carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus making up our bodies one day, and incorporated into mountains the next. We are air, giving food to the trees and grasses when we exhale, and breathing in their gift of free oxygen with each breath. We are fire, burning the energy of the Sun, captured and given to us by plants. We are water, with the oceans flowing in our veins and the same water that nourished the dinosaurs within our cells.

We are connected to our families, through links of love, to their relatives, and so on to the entire human species. Our family tree goes back further than the rise of humans, including all mammals, all animals, and all life on Earth. The entire Earth is our immense and joyous family reunion.

We feel these connections in a spiritual way. The web of life includes strands that tug on our hearts, thread through our essential nature, and weave us into a spiritual whole. As part of the body of life on Earth, we care about the health of all parts of the body.

via A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.

My kids and I spent hours this morning outside building houses for trolls the way I used to do when I was a kid. We laid on our backs on the earth and admired the way the tree branches make patterns against the sky. We delighted in tiny flowers, found a magical patch of moss, ate a few pinches of oxalis, and had a picnic.

IMG_4385Yesterday we planted a buckeye tree and this afternoon we planted lavender, motherwort, white sage, calendula, and evening primrose. Life feels sweet and full of growth.

 

Categories: family, nature, parenting, resources, seasons | Tags: | 1 Comment

Gratitude

Gratitude for the way words twine around my tongue
April 2015 110 And through my fingers
Gratitude for sacred space
Sacred sisters
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. April 2015 118
Gratitude for co-creation
For courage
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 holy
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.

April 2015 103

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. The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_KindleDuring 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. April 2015 001

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Day 27: Milk (#30DaysofBrigid)

IMG_2908Magic mama. She who transforms body and blood into milk. Into life. Into the heartsong of another. Maternal sacrament. Shared freely. Flowing sweetly. Uniting. This thoroughly embodied stuff of motherhood. This physical commitment. This body-based vow to our young. She holds her baby. And she holds the world.

Mammal mama. Liquid love. Cellular vow. Unbreakable, biological web of life and loving.

She’s just feeding her baby. Is she? Or is she healing the planet at the very same time?

Milky smile, fluttering eyes, smooth cheeks, soft hair. Snuggle up, dear one. Draw close. Nestle feet to thighs, head to elbow. And know that you are encircled by something so powerful that it has carried the entire human race across continents and through time for thousands upon thousands of years on its river of milky, white devotion.

via Nursing Mama, Magic Mama | Talk Birth.

This 30 Days practice keeps me on my toes! If I had known that today’s theme was milk, I would have used yesterday’s picture for today! Instead, I’m re-visiting this reading that I wrote at my other blog about my breastfeeding goddess sculptures.

I am also completely, 100% in love with my baby’s tiny tuft of “long” hair that is puffing up on the back of his head today. I feel a pang for his little duck fluff “messy hair” of the newborn days that is already gone and I tried really hard to take a good picture of his current “messy hair” so I remember. I feel this intense and primal urge to try to capture and preserve this time with him, but I know from my other kids that these moments pass by and become old memories, particularly because the current version of each child is right here in front of me, a baby no more. Their babyselves are faded, though my body carries the memories of each of them…

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Day 26: Shield (#30DaysofBrigid)

IMG_2855What does a sleeping nursling have to do with a shield? Well, I’m his. When I read the prompt for today, I was thinking literally, like a sword and shield. However, when I sat down to nurse my baby for his nap, I looked down at his face and realized that I am his shield. Not only is my milk his shield against infection, and so forth, but my actual self is his shield—the lens and medium through which his world is interpreted, felt, and experienced. One of my favorite things about having a baby is how they look right into my eyes to assess a situation. Let’s say a loud noise happens: The baby’s eyes come to mine to see how to gauge, interpret, and react to the situation. If I am happy and calm and smile reassuringly, the baby is no longer alarmed by the noise and resumes kicking and looking around. If I was to express horror and shock at the noise, the baby would cry and be distressed. Not only do I hold him and feed him and get him when he needs me, I show him with my eyes and face what the world is like—safe or scary, comforting or isolating. While he will go on to forget what this intense mother-baby symbiosis feels like, it will still be there at some level, forming his basis for understanding the world around him. And, I will never forget what it is was like to have his eyes meet mine in this way. His shield.

The journal prompt was about experiencing the protection and companionship of Brigid. While I do not usually encounter Brigid in a literal way, one day last year when I was in the woods, I did a recording that felt too personal to share here. In it, I noted that Brigid is not a goddess that you meet while meditating in the forest, she is in the sweat on your face and the heat of metal. She is the goddess who says, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

This morning though, I awoke from a dream about Brigid in which she said, “don’t worry about me, nurse the baby.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but reading the lesson for today, I thought of a past dream I’d blogged about:

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Day 20: Healing Water (#30DaysofBrigid)

IMG_2650I’ve been feeling a little short on self-care or physical care lately as well as short on relationship care. It feels like we’re constantly “running out of time” for the things we need or want to do in a day and simple things like hugging each other get shuffled aside. My husband has been having a problem with his leg that is making us worried and I feel like I’m so busy with the baby that I have trouble making time for quality time with my other kids. Today, when I read the prompt, I knew I couldn’t work in a full bath, but I thought it would be fun to do footbaths. Following the inspiration (as is one of our year’s mottoes) before dinner, even though it wasn’t particularly good timing and there were other things we could or should have been doing, I set up footbaths for my husband, our daughter, and me. We used salt from the salt bowl ceremony at my mother blessing and “magnify your purpose” essential oil blend. My daughter picked out a crystal to add to each bath—rose quartz for my husband, amethyst for me, and snowflake obsidian for herself. Though I didn’t expect them to be interested, after we settled in, my older boys came running out and said, “hey, we’re doing footbaths!” and so we got one set up for each of them too (using drawers from a little plastic dresser! Another reminder about following the inspiration rather than waiting for “perfect”). We sat there enjoying ourselves even though our rolls for dinner got cold while we were soaking. After the baths, I gave each of the kids and my husband a foot massage and reiki with mandarin orange lotion. I tried to skip my own foot massage because we needed to get back to dinner prep, but my husband did mine and it was lovely. This was a really nice, healing, loving mini-ritual and I’m glad we did it.

As I read today’s lesson, I also thought of two “healing water” experiences I had last year with ceremonial baths:

Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth

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Day 14: Forge (#30DaysofBrigid)

For me, the profound shaping event was the experience postpartum with my first baby. I have never had an experience that shaped me and impacted me and SHOOK me more profoundly than adjusting to life with my newborn son. That was my journey. That was my struggle. That was my challenge. That is what dissolved me and burned me into ashes and let me rise again as someone the same but also brand new—a mother. I was not “born” when my son was born, I was forged. Made, in the intense weeks that followed his birth.

The most important event shaping my life as a mother? | Talk Birth.

The above passage was written about the birth of my first child. Now, my fourth is three months old and I am still being forged. I find each new baby serves as a smith, prompting life changes in the crucible of parenthood. I am better aware now than I used to be about the swift passage of time and how quickly the baby-season of life passes and winds into something new. As such, I made some decisions today to postpone some of my ideas for 2015 into next year instead. I realized I need to underplan for this year and be pleasantly surprised by bonus pockets of time as they arise, rather than overplan as I chronically do and then be distressed and upset when my equilibrium and delicate balance of tasks for the day is thrown off by my little babysmith. In the sacred pause from 30 Days of Brigid today was a quote from a forthcoming book by Lunaea Weatherstone:

The blade is put through fire, hammered and shaped, then cooled in water. It is the repeated process of stressing and blessing — pushing to the next level of refinement — that creates an excellent blade, strong and flexible, able to withstand resistance.

I thought about it several times today as I thought about how I need to re-shape my life and my plans and expectations for this year. After some intense conversation with my husband today and a “Holy No” meditation in the woods, I realized that if I really tune and listen to what I want and need this year, I actually know exactly what to do.

Returning to the idea of being forged by motherhood as well as to today’s prompt, I share this photo of my brand new pendant cast by my husband after originally being sculpted in clay by me. In her belly is a placenta jewel made using one of the placenta capsules from my youngest baby’s birth.

IMG_0519May I continue to forge and be forged…

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, art, birth, family, parenting | Tags: | 2 Comments

Day 10: Child of Poetry (#30DaysofBrigid)

…For I am child of Poetry;IMG_2365
Poetry, child of Reflection;
Reflection, child of Meditation;
Meditation, child of Lore…

–adapted from the Carmina Gadelicac

(via 30 Days of Brigid)

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Day 7: Praising (#30DaysofBrigid)

IMG_2219Today we had our family Brigid’s Day celebration. Our baby turned three months old on the 30th and so we also had a little three-month birthday ceremony in the woods in which we touched his feet to the earth for the first time.

Here are some pictures from the day (click for captions). We painted prayer flags (based on the “seeking” prompt from an earlier day’s sacred pause email) and then took them down to the woods to tie to the oak. We drummed and sang as the sky spit some freezing rain and a few snowflakes. We wrapped the baby in the silk painted “welcome” banner that we painted for him during the summer. I offered him a blessing and we touched his feet to the rock, to the leaf-strewn Earth, and to a tree. Then we hurried through the cold back to the house where we were cooking “hobo dinners” in the barbecue (I swooped him by the fire briefly to bless him with the flame also, but it was too cold to stay out longer). Inside, we made bread snakes and then enjoyed our dinners. We then had a Brigid/Imbolc ritual with a body blessing, house blessing, and “three blessings of Brigid.” We ate our traditional “fire and ice” trifle and then had a family drum circle! We also experimented with wax divination (dripping wax into water and reading the result). I had hoped to also do metal stamping on copper disks and art journaling, but we ran out of time.

As I’ve mentioned, ritual with kids is a challenge, but I think it is worth it. In case you think I am merrily sitting in the woods with my drum and then effortlessly priestessing my delightful family in harmonious ritual, know that my daughter mixed the sacred salt and sacred water from the body blessing into a paste and spread it all over the kitchen floor. The baby cried when a cold gust of wind caught his face suddenly. The boys made fart jokes at dinner. And, both my husband and I ended up briefly yelling at the kids about various frustrations. (Like doing one-handed cartwheels on the couch and almost kicking over candles, suddenly grabbing iphones and starting to play games, the list goes on!) It is always more wild and discordant and frustrating and stressful than I envision when I’m happily typing up my plans! Guess what? I do it anyway. Therein lies the mamapriestess lesson for me.

Oh! And, today I finished the final two assignments in my final class at OSC. I am now ABD (all but dissertation). I can hardly believe it! I’ve been working on this degree for a long time and I actually expected it to take me several more months from now to finish my final classes. Finishing my dissertation project is one of my biggest goals for the year (I have several others too). Today, I was reminded in multiple ways that I did just have a baby three months ago. It is okay to pace myself and to take my time. So close though! So close.

I have all the time I need.

(right? I made this one of my mottoes for the year in my Shining Year workbook…)

Categories: #30daysofBrigid, blessings, family, Goddess, holidays, nature, parenting, priestess, ritual, spirituality | 2 Comments

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 is 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!

December 2014 075

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

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